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9 Situations In Which a 529 Plan May Not Make Sense

Posted By Communications Manager, Wednesday, March 30, 2016

As a parent, you’ve probably by now heard the conventional wisdom: If your children plan on college (or you’re planning on college for them), a 529 college savings plan is a great way to save for tuition and expenses. In many states, contributions to 529 plans win you a tax deduction for state tax purposes, and the earnings are federal and state tax-free.

That’s the conventional wisdom—and it may be right in some cases. But changes in the investing environment and the high fees of some 529 plans have made two key alternatives, Coverdell plans and Roth IRAs, more attractive alternatives than they once were. A 529 plan can also affect your kids’ chances of receiving financial aid.

Here are 9 situations in which a 529 plan may not make sense:

1. High Fees Bug You
529 plans can be broadly grouped into two categories: prepaid tuition plans, which lock in tuition costs at particular colleges and universities, and college savings plans, which are more like tax-free savings accounts that can be used for a broad range of educational purposes. College savings plans often are sold through brokerages and offer a range of investment options within the tax-free accounts.

The SEC’s primer on 529 plans includes a good explanation of the fees, but the bottom line is that college savings plans sold through a broker may be loaded with commissions and fees,just like other investment products. You’ll have to do the math to figure out if the tax deductions outweigh the fees. Or you can look into prepaid tuition plans, which have lower fees and are easier to understand.

2. You Want Control Over the Investment Strategy
The IRS rules say that you can only adjust the investments in your 529 plan once a calendar year. That’s a significant downside in a volatile market. In addition, college savings plans often offer a fairly limited selection of investment options.

3. You Can Only Save a Few Thousand Dollars a Year
Along with the state tax deductions on the contributions, another big attraction of 529 plans is that there is no annual limit on the amount you can contribute. If you don’t have that much money to put aside, a 529 plan loses some of its appeal. Two other savings vehicles, Roth IRAs and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts offer powerful tax advantages, and more spending flexibility. You can save $2,000 a year in a Coverdell, and use it for pre-college education costs as well as that big college tuition bill, and $5,000 or $6,000 annually in a Roth IRA depending on whether you’re younger or older than 50.

4. If You Want to Maximize Your Child’s Financial Aid
One of the downsides of a 529 plan is that it, if it is owned by the student, it counts as an available asset when the federal government and individual schools calculate financial aid. This is a situation where using a Roth IRA also makes sense because parent-owned retirement assets are entirely ignored by financial aid calculations.

5. If Your Child is Independent or Married
Money in a 529 plan owned by the student is counted as a parental asset if the student is considered a dependent of her parent for tax purposes. But if the student has declared independence or is no longer a dependent for other reasons, the 529 plan is counted as her own asset. Any asset the student owns can seriously affect financial aid. Some schools will consider students to be independent if they are married as well.

A student who has decided to save her 529 assets for graduate school, or who is going back to school later in life, might be shocked to find out how much it will negatively impact her financial aid eligibility. In other words, if you want to help fund the education of an independent student, contributing to her 529 could actually hurt more than help if she’d otherwise qualify for substantial aid.

6. If You Have More Than One Child
Because beneficiaries can be easily changed on 529 accounts, most schools will count the value of all 529 accounts within the family as being for the benefit of the student applying for aid. If you have multiple children who each have their own 529, the balances of all the 529 accounts will be considered as parental assets.

You may want to consider having grandparents establish 529 accounts for the benefit of younger children, or transfer ownership to them if the transfer of plan assets won’t incur gift taxes. You’ll only want to do this, however, if you have a tight relationship with grandparents and trust them with your children’s education money.

You can alternatively invest in assets not counted in financial aid calculations, such as increasing principal payments on your mortgage or investing in an insurance policy for the benefit of your child. This helps to avoid bumping up 529 balances and penalizing the child who is currently seeking financial aid.

7. If College Is Coming Soon
529 plans are intended to be long-term investments that allow funds to grow and be withdrawn tax-free when used for education. If you open a 529 account just as your child enters college, you forego many of these tax advantages since the account won’t have much time to produce earnings. You’ll also have limited your options both in terms of investment choices and what you can use future earnings on.

For example, if your child decides to join the ROTC or gets a merit-based scholarship halfway through school, you won’t be able to withdraw earnings for something else without a penalty being assessed. Further, investment options in a 529 plan are heavy on long-term investments like stocks and mutual funds, but have limited offerings in the way of short-term investments like money markets and CDs.

8. If You Live in a “No Income Tax” State Or A “No Deduction” State
If you live in a state that doesn’t assess income taxes, or a state that doesn’t currently allow deductions for 529 contributions, you won’t get that nice tax break for contributing to your child’s 529. For more information, see this list of states that allow deductions. California currently does not offer a deduction from state income taxes for contributions to any 529 plan.

9. If Your Child Is Planning on an Alternative Education
Not every child has their sights set on college. For example, they may prefer to develop skill at a trade for which traditional education would be inappropriate. Withdrawing money from a 529 account without spending it at a qualified educational institution can mean incurring a 10% penalty, plus paying income tax on the earnings. That can add up to a significant amount, especially if you’ve invested over a long period of time.

If you want to allow for flexibility and not create a “college or bust” situation, complement a 529 plan with other savings vehicles, such as a Roth IRA and ordinary brokerage accounts with long-term investments. In this way, if college costs are less than expected or non-existent, or if an alternative education needs to be funded, you won’t need to worry about incurring a penalty for withdrawing 529 funds for “non-educational” purposes.

529 plans are helpful and appropriate in many situations. But in some cases like those detailed above, there are better ways to invest that don’t reduce financial aid, limit investment flexibility, or result in high fees and taxes based on tax calculators and estimators. Consider your situation and goals to best determine which approach makes sense for you and your family.

Kira Botkin contributes to the Money Crashers personal finance blog and specializes in financial topics like saving for retirement, finding commonly overlooked personal tax deductions, living a frugal lifestyle, and getting out of debt. A version of this article appeared on The Upfront Blog, produced by Weathfront; The Upfront Blog answers questions from investors about finance and investing. Questions for the blog can be addressed to Editor Betsy MacBride.

Tags:  finances 

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Late to School . . . Again

Posted By Communications Manager, Friday, March 25, 2016
I laughed at a first grader who knocked over a row of bikes this morning.

She was late to school, walking her bike the last few steps before parking it in front of the principal’s office. “Come ON!” her mom begged. “The bell just rang!” Their footsteps tapped along the sidewalk in a familiar, choreographed dance. I was on the last eight-count of my own uncoordinated morning performance, having nudged and prodded and rushed my five year old into his kindergarten class just seconds before.

I had already walked past Little Miss Tardy when I heard the crash. Caught up in the rush of the morning, she had flung her bike into the carefully arranged line of bright colored handlebars and carefully hung Elsa helmets. They fell like dominos, and when the last bike landed (at the foot of someone else’s dad, who was just as surprised as Little Miss Tardy was), I started laughing.

I laughed.

Not to embarrass her (though I may have infuriated her mom), but because mornings suck. I feel ya, six-year-old ponytailed sister. If I had a bike and an Elsa helmet, you could be damn sure I’d throw them into the bike rack and hope they fell over, too. That would be my early morning “F-you” to a world that moves too fast, expects too much and doesn’t accommodate for five year old boys who say “I just need to stretch my body a little bit moooooore…..oh wait, look at this Lego ship!” every.damn.morning. Oh wait. That’s my house.

Every single morning my husband and I fight over the (completely ineffective) morning routine that we have developed. “We HAVE to figure out a better plan,” I hiss at him as I yank Max’s shirt over his head and steer him toward the bathroom to brush his teeth. We’ve seen a parenting coach. “You need to find what motivates him,” she sang in that “this is super simple if you only pay attention” voice that all experts seem to have.

So we tried.

There should be a law against sticker charts in the morning. Five year olds don’t give a rip about sticker charts when they are determined to squeeze every last ever-loving drop of goopy toothpaste out of the tube and onto their toothbrush. You know what else there should be a law against? The clock. Having to be anywhere at a decent hour when you are in charge of small humans. Potty, underpants, pants, shirt, socks, I can’t find my shoes. Brush teeth too much toothpaste wrong color toothpaste spit your water all over the counter. Comb hair yell that it hurts smoosh it back because MOM THAT’S HOW I LIKE IT. PJ’s in the hamper please not on the floor in the hamper. Make breakfast argue about breakfast spill breakfast make another breakfast yell something about being hungry eat breakfast whine about breakfast yell something else about refusing to eat breakfast clean breakfast off of face. Wash hands. Make lunch (Really. Who does this the night before? No one.) Fill water bottle. Throw everything in backpack. And that’s just for ONE of the children.

Every morning we screw this up. The kids move like the sap that crawls down tree branches in the winter. I yell like the crazy mom at the park who is terrified that her kid is about to fall off of the play structure. Frantic chaos. And that’s on days that I don’t even shower. Or put makeup on. Every morning we are out of time. Out of patience. Out of motivational ideas worthy of the pages of glossy parenting magazines. I don’t have a bike to throw, but I’d toss my cup of coffee at something if I didn’t need it so much.

I get that we are trying to raise our kids to be good citizens. Worker bees. Responsible for their own time management. Accountable. Aware that their behavior affects the world around them.

There are hundreds of articles that have been written about how to do that. This is not one of them. This article is an invitation to the “Glad You Made It” club.

Mornings suck. They suck at my house, and they suck at yours. So parking lot attendant lady, instead of clucking your tongue and yelling at us that “The BELL just rang! Hurry! Hurry!” when we arrive at school, from now on I’d like you to take a different approach.

On behalf of tired, frustrated, frazzled parents everywhere, I’d like for you to greet us with “Good morning! I’m glad you made it!”

“I’m glad you made it” when you see the mom with a wet ponytail dragging the baby out of his carseat and grabbing her kindergartner’s hand in the parking lot. “I’m glad you made it” when the first grader throws her bike into the rack because mornings are so frustrating. “I’m glad you made it” when a five year old with bed head slides through the classroom doorway at 8:34 am. “I’m glad you made it. I see how hard you’re trying. I know that you are learning to move through this world, and that most of the time you don’t do it quickly enough. We will learn together.”

We have all the time in the world to berate ourselves for how quickly the minutes pass. When we tuck our children in at night, and their bodies are finally calm and still. We count the seconds between breaths, and count the books before their eyes close, and count the minutes before they are asleep and we can disappear into the sofa and Netflix and a glass of wine. We count the hours that they sleep until waking up again, count the years that have passed that we can never get back, count the days that we are grateful for and guilty of and hoping will never end.

Don’t rush us. Not yet.

Our children will spend the rest of their lives feeling responsible, and berating themselves for not being fast enough. We know this better than anyone. Mornings suck. If I could play with Legos on my way to the bathroom, or throw my bike into the rack in front of the principal’s office, I would.

Sometimes we do get points just for showing up. So tomorrow, when your daughter drops her backpack in a puddle and my son stops to pick up every stick on the playground, I’m going to catch your eye and laugh with you. We can hurry later. This morning, I’m glad you made it.

Reprinted with permission from

Kim Simon blogs at MamabytheBay. She’s mom to two boys, which means that the Legos have won. Being a mom has taught her the importance of slowing down, jumping in and trusting her instincts.

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Learning Styles – Why it’s Important to Know How Your Child Learns

Posted By Communications Manager, Friday, March 25, 2016
Math has traditionally been taught through verbal and written methods. The problem is that in a typical classroom, there are more students that are visual rather than verbal learners. This misalignment in the method of teaching math can lead to low grades and frustration for students.

Everyone has a different learning style
Classrooms are composed of diverse students with many talents and passions. Student behaviors, like doodling, tell us about a child’s preferred learning styles. There is no single theory on learning styles. However, knowing one’s preference can guide the way we learn as we tend to express and remember experiences, information, and emotions.

The problem is that the American educational system is biased towards linguistic and mathematical modes of instruction and assessment. The shocking part is that in the average American classroom more than half the students are visual learners. Too often a child’s learning style is never discovered. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Jason’s story
To give you an example of how different learning styles can affect a child’s ability to understand math, let’s look at Jason’s story. Jason is 9 years old and has always struggled with math class. He procrastinates with his math homework and his teacher has voiced her concern that he doesn’t pay attention in class. Looking for answers, his parents checked his math notebook and found it full of drawings with barely any equations. His math notebook looked more like an art class notebook.

Jason’s parents scolded him for drawing by telling him to, “work on his math homework, and to stop doodling.”

Apparently this didn’t work. His grades in math didn’t improve and his parents thought, “Maybe he just doesn’t have a talent for math.”

One day, the breakthrough came. Jason’s parents sat down with him to help with math homework. They noticed that he was drawing and counting at the same time – he was using a visual way of learning mathematical concepts. Jason’s parents built on this and cut shapes out of cardboard. Fractions, decimals and percentages started making sense to Jason once he could see them right in front of him.

What Jason and his parents stumbled upon are math manipulatives. Instead of pencil and paper, math manipulatives consist of colorful cubes and shapes specifically designed to teach math to people who learn visually.

Do you know your child’s learning style?
If you find your child struggling to complete his or her math and writing homework, explore multiple ways of expression. Math and writing can be exciting if the students connect with the lesson with their learning style. Here are 3 activities to try.

Observe your child as they do their homework.
Do they procrastinate and doodle like Jason? If they do, they might be visual learners.
Use math manipulatives. These can be purchased online or made from scratch at home. Use Play-doh or cut and color cardboard shapes.
Solve math problems by grouping objects according to color, size, or shape. The objects will visualize numbers through sets. Touching objects connects kinesthetic learners to the math problem.

Gigi Carunungan is the co-Founder and Chief Learning Architect of Young Outliers, a design entrepreneur summer camp for children in Palo Alto.

Tags:  education 

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5 Fashionable Tips for Moms

Posted By Communications Manager, Friday, March 25, 2016

The mornings can be rough as we attempt to get lunches made, kids dressed, coffee down our throats, teeth brushed, back packs on, etc. But what about us? Don’t forget about us Moms/Mums!

Here are five super easy tips to help you rock it out the door. Tips to help you feeling and looking good — from the inside out.


1. Lipstick
I have always believed that lipstick is like a magic wand. It can truly turn any frown upside down. A shot of color, however bold or subtle you desire, can perk you up – it’s like a shot of espresso. As winter comes along, your moisturized lips will thank you. Muah.

2. Celebrity sunglasses
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to make eye contact until I’ve had a chance to grab my latte on the way home from my school run. So, along with my signature red lips, celebrity sunglasses are a great touch. Hide yesterday’s make-up, the rough night with the baby, the late night watching House of Cards. No one will be the wiser!

3. A funky tracksuit

An outfit you can throw on in a New York minute should be a staple in any wardrobe. A tracksuit allows you to layer as we transition from fall to winter, and back into spring.

4. Fruit-infused water bottle

You will thank yourself later if you begin water intake from the moment your feet hit the floor. Your system will kick-start with the burst of fruity vitamins. Have this ready the night before and waiting in the kitchen for you upon rising. (Tip: I use a straw throughout the day and it really makes difference in the amount of water I drink).

5. Bike or walk to school
It’s a reat chance to hit two birds with one stone. By the time you get back from the school run, you’ve got some air in your lungs and will be feeling more pumped to get into your day.

I hope these 5 tips will have you feeling more ready to take on the crazy school mornings. If we feel good on the inside, it will show on the outside.

Melissa Menzies is a Australian Mum to three young ones and lives in Palo Alto. Her fashion blog YummoMummo states that style and fashion should be affordable and accessible to anyone and that every woman deserves to feel great and honor herself. 

Tags:  fashion 

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Tips for Air Travel with Small Children

Posted By Communications Manager, Friday, March 25, 2016
Updated: Friday, March 25, 2016
Air travel with young children isn’t always easy, and some of the struggles start before you board the plane. I hope these simple tips can help you manage your child and gear before, during and after you board the airplane and make the entire air travel experience more pleasant.

If possible, aim for direct flights so that you can avoid changing planes. If you have to make a change, avoid short layovers that give you too little time to get from gate to gate, and avoid long layovers that require lots of idle time in airports.

If your child falls asleep easily and stays asleep, try scheduling travel during your child’s nap or sleep times. If you have a finicky sleeper, on the other hand, avoid traveling during usual sleep times, as your baby may just stay fussy and awake.

There’s a lot of stress when packing for flying, but be reassured that babies thrive in a new environment. Everything will be new on the airplane, and they’ll most likely be so busy checking out all the new faces and scenes that you won’t have as much entertaining to do as you expect. Ask for the bulkhead (front row) and request a bassinet.

Toddlers will be more mobile, so prepare for frequent trips to the bathroom and if you can, walking up and down the aisles whenever available. The bulkhead doesn’t work as well for toddlers who like pulling things out of the seat in front. Without under-seat space or seat pocket, you’ll have to store all your toys and supplies in the overhead compartment. Also, in the bulkhead, the food tray pops up from the armrest, effectively trapping you in your seat when your table is laden with food. A window seat may give you a little more wiggle room. Not as easy to get to the aisle, but they can lean up against the window instead of another passenger! If you have a choice of seats, sit near other moms and children. The moms will be sympathetic and may even help you out and the children can entertain each other.

Both babies and toddlers require you to have your bag of tricks ready, just in case!

The right carry-on bag can be a lifesaver. Make sure that your bag is easy to lift or roll, and that it falls within the airline’s size limitations. Consider a large backpack. It is easy to carry when your arms are otherwise occupied, and holds diapers, snacks, boarding pass, identification and even a spare outfit for baby. Most importantly, a backpack holds plenty of baby gear and still meets most airline requirements for carry-on baggage size. Pack an organized bag that carries:

New toys that require time to unwrap or open and rattles, sticky notes, sticky books, plastic animals, cars, or dolls, playing cards (Go Fish or other games that feature interesting cards) , laptop with kid music or books on tape, books with lift-a-flap, plastic necklaces are fun for placing them on the head and off again. If you’re strapped for something new, let Baby unload the diaper bag, or the seat pocket in front of you for a while. Destroying that free, in-flight magazine is a great activity.

Bring Cheerios, lollipop, crackers or other finger foods that your baby can practice picking up and lifting to her mouth. The TSA allows for milk and formula. Don’t forget bottles, sippy cup, pacifiers and wet wipes.

Decide whether you are taking a light weight or regular stroller. If you opt to take your regular stroller, you can usually check it at the gate or right at the door of the airplane. Alternatively, a sling or soft-pack carrier can be very helpful if your child still likes to be carried and is light enough for you to carry this way for long walks through the airport.

Should you bring your car seat? If you opt for less stuff, you can rent a car seat when you pick up a car rental. If staying with family, you may choose to bring it with you.

Before and During Takeoff
Avoid feeding your little one just prior to boarding. Save food and drink for when you’re on the airplane, as these carry great entertainment value. Try to plan it so that you can nurse during these altitude shifts. It helps keep the ears popped and reduce any ear pain your baby may have. Plus Baby might nap for half the trip.

On the Plane
Change your child’s diaper before boarding the plane.

For crawlers or walkers, it’ll be a harder job to keep them confined. Standing in your lap and bouncing helps, as does taking some strolls through the airplane cabin and checking out the bathroom. You can set a blanket on the minimal floor space in front of you and let your toddler sit down or practice standing down there. Don’t be afraid to walk up and down the aisle if need be, just make sure it’s a safe time to do so.

Keep calm. The more agitated and frustrated you become with your baby’s crying, the more your child could continue to cry. If you need to, go to the bathroom and allow them to cry it out.

De-boarding the Plane
Unless you have to, don’t rush off the plane. Let your child play until most of the passengers have disembarked. This will prevent you from standing in the slow-moving line in the aisle while carrying an armload of luggage and trying to keep your baby happy.

Hope these tips help! And happy travels!

Janada Clark MA is a parent educator and parent coach. She teaches Love & Logic throughout our community. She is also a Toddler and Baby Instructor at DayOne Baby in Palo Alto.

Tags:  travel 

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Membership Tips — PAMP Yoga Classes!

Posted By Communications Manager, Friday, March 25, 2016

Are you the parent of an active kindergartener? Have you recently brought home a new addition to your family and your older child could use some special one-on-one time with their parent? Then look no further than PAMP’s Buck-a-roo Yoga class! This special activity is designed specifically for children ages 4-7.

If your child loves animals and being active, then Buck-a-roo Yoga is the perfect outing for them. You and your child will be out in the fresh air at a local farm, connecting with nature and quieting your mind. During Buck-a-roo Yoga, your child will:

Experience the joy of connecting with a horse
Get outside, breathe fresh air, absorb vitamin D
Play with horses through smell, touch, sight and listening
Learn how to use their senses to gather information
Practice deep breathing
Exercise their bodies through a variety of basic yoga poses that build core strength, increase flexibility, and improve balance
Come home smelling like a horse
A parent is required for every child who attends.

As with all of PAMP’s paid events, PAMP subsidizes half the cost of Buck-a-Roo Yoga, so PAMP members pay only half of what they normally would if they went directly through the business.dfsdf

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Member Musings: Declutter Your Space

Posted By Communications Manager, Friday, March 25, 2016
I am embarrassed to say my house was very cluttered. My closet was overflowing — it was a struggle to physically access the clothes that were hanging. I could no longer see the floor in my home office. I had piles of things in every corner; I felt like I lived in a flea market. My shelves and flat surfaces were filled with Legos. I was one step away from being featured on an episode of Hoarders.

Then in spring, my husband purchased “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo for my Kindle. I had not heard of the KonMari method described in the book and was unaware of the popularity and hype around the book. The book was an easy read. I read the book twice but was scared to take action. The method is so extreme but if you follow through and thoroughly tidy your space, Ms. Kondo alleges that you will never relapse and have to do a thorough tidying again.

Her purging process is very simple. She gives you an order for purging — clothes, books, household items and then mementos. You basically go through each item and throw out (or donate) those that do not spark joy. What an easy subjective standard, right? For those items you purge, you are supposed to thank them for the memories and then dispose them guilt free. Gifting your discards is also a “no-no”. You are not supposed to transfer your “burden” to another person.

While the method was really straightforward, I found it very hard to start the purging process. For clothing items, you are supposed to unhang each item, put it in a big pile, touch each item and then listen to how your body reacts. It is supposed to be obvious if the item sparks joy. With a lot of encouragement from my awesome mommy friends, we decided to “group” KonMari. We encouraged each other, shared our before and after photos and my friends even offered to come over to gauge my joy sparks.

So I did it. It took about 12 hours with help from my kids but I managed to clean out my closet and dresser and those of my 3 kids. I even folded the clothes in my dresser so they were visible at a glance (they sit vertically stacked against each other). I untucked my socks and instead put them in a relaxed sushi roll to minimize their stress. I questioned my pants as to whether they were more comfortable being hung or folded. Since I work full time and have 3 kids, the 12 hour task involved working when my kids were asleep and being up an entire night. Once I started it was easy to skip sleep and finish.

The process was exhausting and I can see why her method requires that you unhang all your clothes. It is so much effort to rehang everything. After I thought I was done discarding my clothes, I realized in the hanging process that there was even more to discard. If I am too lazy to hang it, it probably doesn’t meet the joy threshold. In the end, I yielded 5 yard waste bags full of clothing. I am now selling some items on ebay and the rest will be donated.

I have also KonMaried my Lego collection. This took a lot longer. Maybe a week to sort, rebuild and sell. Most recently, I am working on my household supplies and home office. I don’t know if I will relapse, but I do feel happier and much more together when I am home. Many testimonials in her book note that KonMari will change your life — causing one to want to be surrounded only by things that spark joy. As a result of the process, some changed careers, lost weight and even dumped their spouse. I haven’t experienced anything so dramatic but I am happier and am excited finish the purging. I also find that I shop less. I contemplate purchases much more carefully before purchasing. Overall, it was very freeing! Most of us live with too much stuff, anyhow.

I highly recommend the book and the method. If anyone has questions or need moral support or ebay advice, please email me at I found myself stuck at certain times. For example, I found myself repeatedly asking if clothes that no longer fit can spark joy? In the end, I decided yes! It brings hope that one day you may fit and I realized that my favorite pieces were the teeny tiny ones that make me feel so happy to look at.

by Big Bunny

PAMP gladly accepts member blog submissions, including anecdotes, advice, confessions, recipes, outing suggestions and more! Want to join in the fun? Submit your own musings.

Tags:  musings  organizing 

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Best of the Forum: What to Do About Hitting?

Posted By Communications Manager, Friday, March 25, 2016

I would love advice from those who have been there: my 2.25 year old nephew has recently (last 2 weeks) begun hitting (hard) his mother and occasionally babysitter at unexpected times (during a hug, getting him out of his crib, as well as while playing). My brother and sister-in-law have responded with consequences in the moment (taking away his toy) and by stating consistently “hands are not for hitting.” They have also read the book “Hands are not for Hitting” to him. They feel they are reacting unemotionally and consistently.

My nephew does not seem particularly emotional or upset when hitting. He hit his baby sister (9 months) on one occasion. Any advice on what to do? Have others experienced this, and how long did it last?

Other factors are: new baby (but 9 months old), and about 6 months ago began to say only wanted to be with daddy or show preference for daddy. His parents are also upset by this and taking it a bit personally.

Thanks in advance for advice that I can pass along to them!

Hi, this is very common behavior for a two year old. Even if the parents are not currently reacting emotionally to the behavior, I’m guessing at least initially they did which is possibly why it’s continuing. He’s doing it because he’s getting some interesting reaction. (Hey that’s cool! I hit and then they get upset!) Consequences don’t tend to work with very young children, such as taking toys away. They can’t logically understand it because they aren’t developmentally able to. I would suggest moving him away from the person he has hit without saying anything and redirecting his attention to something else. When he’s a little older, if it happens again, you can talk to him about it. We experience this with both our kids and the less you react the better. Ignoring and redirecting works best because they aren’t angry, they are just experimenting. Hope this helps!

Agreed kids go through phases and hitting (or biting) is a pretty common one. And it is so frustrating that there isn’t much that can be done. I like the idea of just moving away. Kids want to interact with you and in a calm way making space between the caregiver and the kid sends a clear message. On preferring one parent over the other – also a very typical phase! It can flip flop at any time. My kids are often all about me and I know that was really hard for my husband. Now when they go into daddy phases I try to enjoy the “break.” But it’s a moving target!

Hand in Hand, a parents resource based in Palo Alto; with easy, clear and practical information in short articles, they provide well founded advise and suggestions for parents facing this and more other issues with their kids.

I agree with the other folks who posted. It’s partly a phase and also can be due to other factors like new baby and parents reacting in ways that don’t work. When a child hits you should stay calm, but I wouldn’t say to react without emotion. On the contrary. Help the child understand that hitting hurts. When my kids hit me at that age I might make a sad face and gently say to them. Ouch! That hurts. Please be gentle with mommy. You want to avoid saying things like no hitting, because the brain just hears the word hitting which reinforces the hitting. I probably said please be gentle for 6mos before the phase wore off. You can also do things like hold his hand as he starts to hit you and then gently use it to stroke your arm and say gentle please. Always reinforce gentle, always stay calm and then redirect. Don’t spend more than 10 seconds on the behavior max and stay positive. This approach works for everything actually. Things I’ve said to my children today (instead of) …..Please close the door gently (Don’t slam the door)Please close the door (Don’t leave the door open)Please keep your feet on the ground (don’t jump in the house)Please pick up your toys (Don’t leave your toys out)Can you wash your feet before you go into the living room? (Don’t walk with dirty feet onto the carpet)
Keep the ball quiet please

Hold the ball please

Gentle with your sister please

Use your words please

And on and on and on forever…

We had that phase and I always tried to follow the “2 yeses for every no” doctrine. Kids have the NEED to hit and to bite and to push and to climb. They are exploring their body’s capabilities and the world around them. So you need to give them something that’s ok to hit or to bite or to push or to climb. So you say, “We don’t hit people, but we can hit this pillow, or we can hit the couch cushion” (2 yeses for 1 no.) We had a designated hitting pillow that she would eventually ask for when she felt the need to hit. If she bit me, I would say “Do you need something to bite? And I would get a teether out of the freezer, or offer her a bagel. “We don’t bite people but we can bite teethers or food. For pushing we said “We don’t push people but here’s a stroller to push, or a truck to push.” I even know people who had an indoor climbing structure so they could provide an alternative to climbing on the couch or up the bookcases. These activities are not necessarily aggression but are often a natural behavior at this age.

Tags:  child behavior 

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Overwhelmed as a Mom of Multiples

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

My babies were three days old when my husband offered to get take-out from one of our favorite restaurants. I said, “Yes,” just as I would have before the girls were born. But as soon as he left, I realized this was my first time alone with my twins. In the small, silent room, I whispered to them, “Okay girls. It’s just you and me. Be good for mommy.”

Everything was quiet for a while, until one started crying. I picked her up and rocked slowly side to side. Just when she calmed, the other started crying. That got the first one crying again, this time louder and more distressed. I had one baby crying in my arms and the other crying in a bassinet, and I didn’t know what to do.

Was it five minutes? Ten? It seemed like eternity. I tried putting them on the bed next to each other and leaning over to hug them both at once. They hated it. Unable to choose one over the other, I found myself choosing neither. I felt absolutely overwhelmed.

Finally, an early Beatles song came to mind, and I sang it softly to them. “Tell me why-y-y-y you cry…” When I saw how my singing quieted them, suddenly the tears started pouring out of myeyes, but I didn’t dare stop singing: “Is there anything that I can do? ‘Cause I really can’t stand it, I’m so in love with you.”

“Hello!” My husband returned with the take-out. My face was red hot, my eyes half blind from crying, my nose uselessly stuffed, my throat caught. I was a mess. And I was still singing – badly. But my babies weren’t crying anymore.

That’s when I knew – I mean really felt – that I was their mom. I could hardly believe that I had ever felt so alone and helpless before, even for a moment. Their dad took one baby, and I took the other; we fed them, we changed them, we tucked them back to sleep. And after it all, the food was still warm.

The day-to-day challenge of multiples is simply this: there are multiple of them, but there’s often only one of you. Sometimes your babies need more of you than you have to give. You love them equally and you don’t like having to choose one to take care of first while another waits and cries for you. You will envy the single moms of single babies who complain that they must hold their baby all the time. You wish you could hold your babies all the time – the best you can do  is take care of them one at a time.

Every time you get on an airplane, the flight attendants remind you that you must put on your own oxygen mask before you attempt to help another. As a general principle, this applies to everything, and parenting is no exception. You, as a parent, have an obligation to take care of yourself, not just because your well-being is important in and of itself (which it is), but also so that you can be in any shape to care for your children.

The first few months with multiples can feel like a non-stop crisis, but you’ll get through it by taking time for yourself once in a while, by being as rested and as centered as you can be. If you have friends or family members who will give you breaks, take advantage of their help. Finding a newborn support group is also a great way to connect with other parents, hear from experts, and share ideas for coping with the stress of parenting newborn multiples. But even if your friends don’t know how to change a diaper (mine don’t), your relatives live thousands of miles away (mine do), and your local support groups aren’t a good fit (mine weren’t), don’t worry: take it day by day and get as much rest as you can. Eventually things settle into a routine.

My babies are almost a year old now, and they still can’t tell me why they’re crying, but I’m better at figuring it out, better at doing something about it, and better at managing the moments when I feel overwhelmed. And their mommy’s version of “Tell Me Why” is still one of their favorite songs.


This is the third installment of a 3-part series on multiples. 

Amy Letter is the mom of twin girls Sagan and Tesla, and a writer, artist and professor of English at Drake University. She is a frequent blogger for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

Tags:  expecting  multiples 

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Five Questions for the Development Manager

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Jacqui Marchessini is the Development Manager for PAMP. In this role, she is responsible for securing sponsorship and locking down advertisers. She says, “I manage and cultivate existing relationships with sponsors to secure and expand recurring revenue streams.”

On a day-to-day basis, Jacqui answers questions about PAMP’s sponsorship offerings to interested potential new clients. She works with sponsors to ensure creation of a sponsor/advertiser package that works within their marketing budget and needs.

Acting as a PAMP ambassador, Jacqui also works closely with the board of directors in their community outreach role. “I like the flexibility and the opportunity to meet local small business owners interested in reaching out to our membership of families and parents,” she says

About her latest accomplishments, Jacqui excitedly exclaims, “We were able to secure eight key sponsors for Family Day!”

Jacqui lives in Mountain View and is a proud mom to an amazing seven-year-old daughter.

  1. What is the last non-kid movie you saw? Pitch Perfect 2.
  1. Are you a Bay Area native or transplant? Native.
  1. What’s at the top of your to-do list? Return calls.
  1. Who is your favorite Sesame Street character? Cookie Monster.
  1. Why are you a PAMP volunteer/staff? I like working with local small business to help them enhance their marketing strategy and get their product or services in front of a targeted market.

Each month we train the spotlight on someone who works behind the scenes for PAMP. Interested in joining the ranks? Browse our open volunteer positions and apply today!  

Tags:  spotlight 

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