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Beyond Thanksgiving: How to Cultivate Gratitude in Our Families

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thanksgiving presents families with wonderful opportunities to express gratitude. The traditional Thanksgiving meal offers a pause from the everyday and a rare chance to gather with the express purpose of giving thanks. But what happens when Thanksgiving is over? In the U.S., the holiday season officially begins, and with it often comes a great deal of pressure and stress. We mean well, of course. We yearn to create the perfect holiday for our families, complete with a plethora of gifts. But at what price? Gratitude? Meaning? Joy? Much of that is forgotten soon after the turkey has cooled.

How do we cultivate a spirit of gratitude in our families, during the holidays and year-round, and ensure that it is not just something we proclaim during Thanksgiving?

What is Gratitude and How Does it Benefit Us?

It might help to take a step back to explore gratitude and its benefits. The Greater Good Science Center defines gratitude as having two components. The first is an affirmation of the gifts and benefits we have received. The second is an acknowledgment that the sources of those gifts exist outside of ourselves, that we have benefited from other people—or even higher powers, if that fits your belief system.

That second part is key, say the folks at Greater Good, because its social component heightens meaningful connections with others and stimulates our circuits for pleasure and reward. It also helps with entitlement issues by reinforcing to kids that happiness is a gift from others, rather than an inherent birthright.

People of all ages who practice gratitude consistently report a range of physical, psychological, and social benefits, from stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure to more joy, optimism, and compassion, and less loneliness. Cultivating gratitude, and the happiness that results, is a skill we can teach our children.

10 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

  1. Keep a gratitude journal
    The simple act of recording our gratitude in writing has been linked to benefits such as better sleep, fewer symptoms of illness, and more happiness for both adults and children. Have family members keep individual gratitude journals, or keep a list as a family. Write thee to five short items weekly, naming the things you are grateful for. One exercise is to imagine what life would be like without those components. According to the Greater Good Science Center, journaling one to two times a week is actually more powerful than journaling daily. Focusing gratitude on people is more effective than focusing it on things. You may want to start journals on New Year’s Day and try to write in them throughout the year.
  • Practice expressing gratitude
    Journaling won’t work for your family? Take time before or during meals to share things you are grateful for. The items can be profound or trivial. As with journaling, sharing needn’t occur everyday. The important thing is that kids get into the habit of expressing gratitude regularly. Parents can model gratitude by letting other family members know that they are grateful for them and their specific actions.
    Mornings and bedtimes also present abundant opportunities to express gratitude. Have young children greet the day by thanking the sun for rising, the air we breathe, the beautiful trees, and their family members, teachers, or neighbors. You may wish to sing a thankful “Good Morning” song. Many parents use bedtime as a quiet time for cuddling and asking children to name three things they’re grateful for.Seeking another way to help kids express gratitude for others? See below for a fun gratitude craft.
  • Slow down and create family time
    Studies show that play timedown time, and family time are vital to kids’ and families’ well-being, benefiting every area of physical, psychological, and emotional health. Children who have unstructured time and play are more creative, collaborative, flexible, self-aware, and calm. Families who have unstructured time and play are joyful and close. Slowing allows families to savor the positive feelings and events that are a hallmark of gratitude.
    At holiday time and throughout the year, try to leave some down time in the schedule. That might mean reducing the number of activities each family member participates in, or turning down the occasional invitation. It may take practice to put the same value on “down time” that we do on organized, goal-oriented activity. It may be uncomfortable at first to be idle. If you have to schedule this time in a calendar, do so.



  • Be a tourist in your town
    Have you ever noticed how tourists are usually delighted? Granted, they’re on vacation together and they have come to their destination to have fun. But they also see everything with fresh eyes. Even if you’ve lived somewhere your whole life, there may be new things to see or do if you decide to do so like a tourist. This is a particularly wonderful activity and mindset for school breaks, when kids are home. As a bonus, there are often special holiday events and activities, like decorated store windows and homes, skating rinks, free music performances, and other things that are joyful, without impacting the family budget.
  • Find adventure in your daily rounds
    At any time of year, you can cultivate gratitude and stimulate positive social emotions by helping your kids see daily life as an adventure. Get up early one day and visit local businesses – watch produce and eggs get delivered to markets and restaurants, see bakers bake bagels and decorate cakes. Or take a walk and stop and say hello to neighbors, shopkeepers, mail carriers, and others who are on their own daily rounds. Feeling a part of the neighborhood and community is very important to children’s senses of security and feelings of gratitude.
  • Along with thanks … giving
    Service is a tremendously enriching act, for ourselves as well as for others. Studies show that people who engage in “pro-social spending” are measurably happier than those who do not. It’s not difficult to find an agency, event, or individual in your area who would welcome your help, whether for one time or on an ongoing basis. Many people especially need our help over the holidays with meal preparation and delivery, toy and book drives, companionship, and other needs. Jewish Family and Children’s Services offers many volunteer opportunities for individuals and families.
  • Create a culture of giving in your family
    Instead of giving traditional gifts, consider gifting in a recipient’s name to a nonprofit or other organization. Research organizations as a family and involve your children in choosing the most worthy and meaningful to them. Have your kids cull their rooms regularly for toys and clothing that can be donated to someone less fortunate, or have kids request that birthday party guests bring new or used toys or books for donation to the charity of their choice, and then deliver those items together. Consider setting aside a portion of your children’s allowances or gift money and having them choose a recipient for a donation. You can even give to Parents Place to help families who may not be able to afford the full cost of clinical services.
  • Get outdoors
    At any time of year, and especially in winter, outdoor time tends to be low on many family’s priority lists. It shouldn’t be. Research shows that nature play has been linked to improved imagination, cooperation, academic achievement, and numerous aspects of physical and psychological health. Nature also provides a terrific setting in which to slow our paces and have new and meaningful experiences that can enhance family bonds, as well as the feelings of awe and wonder that lead to increased gratitude and inner peace.
  • Celebrate the winter solstice
    The winter solstice (December 21 this year) provides a special opportunity to slow down, count our blessings, and experience the turning of the seasons during the hectic holiday time. Mark the year’s longest night by taking a walk, preparing a special meal, or having a family game night. Celebrate the sun’s return by eating oranges or hollowing out the center of an orange and placing a tea light or candle inside. If you have leftover Hanukkah gelt or other chocolate coins, place them in bags and surprise children with them. Take a family walk on December 22 to greet the return of longer days.
  • Create an appreciation “recipe” for a special person
    This craft helps kids convey a special relationship and feelings in a fun, creative way. Help your child create a recipe for a “marvelous mom” or a “delightful dad” or a “fabulous friend” or any other combination using an adjective and the person’s name or role.
    • You’ll need: a piece of construction paper or poster board, markers and crayons or colored pencils, a ruler.
    • Think about the attributes of the recipient that make him or her special.
  • Write a heading on the paper: Recipe for a (fabulous friend or other).
  • Using a ruler, draw six or more lines on which to write your various ingredients.
  • Write the “ingredients” for the person, in recipe terms, such as “6 cups kindness,” “5 tablespoons love,” or whatever else you can think of.
  • Leave space at the bottom to write out your instructions, also using recipe terms, like mix, add, fold, blend, and so on.
  • Decorate the rest of the paper, as desired.
  • My daughter did this wonderful project with her fourth grade class. Here is her “recipe”:

Susan Sachs Lipman (Suz) is the author of Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which grew out of her blog, Slow Family Online. Slow Parenting and the book were named a 2012 Top 10 Parenting Trend by TIME Magazine. Suz has written for the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, the Christian Science Monitor’s Modern Parenthood blog, and many other outlets. She is the Social Media Manager for Parents Place, as well as the Children & Nature Network and Bookboard digital children’s library.

posted with permission from Parent's Place

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Fall Bucket List for You and Your Kids

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Monday, November 13, 2017

The crunch of leaves beneath our feet, the rich colors and the delicious flavors of pumpkin and apple are just a few of the best parts of fall! There is so much to enjoy and experience in this short window before the cold and rain of winter is upon us.  Let’s take a moment and enjoy the season with our kids before the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  Check off some of these items on our fall bucket list!


  1. Take a drive to view the colorful foliage.
    Try Filoli Gardens 86 Canada Road Woodside, Ca Online:
    Or Rancho San Antonio Preserve

  2. Bake an apple dessert (apple crisp or pie)

  3. Go on a color walk, gathering outside "treasures" in yellow, orange, red and brown.

  4. Roll down hills and listen to crunching leaves beneath you.

  5. Visit the turkeys at Ardenwood Farm (or Hidden Villa is also a good option)
    Ardenwood Farm: 34600 Ardenwood Blvd, Fremont, CA 94555, 10 am- 4pm Closed Mondays, Children 4 and under are fee
    Hidden Villa 26870 Moody Road Los Altos Hills, CA 94022, 9 am- dusk Closed Mondays, $10 parking fee

  6. Have an apple taste-test. Choose different varieties and see which ones are yours and your kids' favorites!  

  7. Make personalized Thanksgiving placemats for your whole family.

  8. Have an apple cider "tea" party.

  9. Paint and decorate pumpkins with glitter, stickers and markers.

  10. Rake leaves for your neighbor (jump into a pile while you do it)

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Raising an Emotionally Resilient Child

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Monday, November 6, 2017

Parents strive to support their children through life’s ups and downs but sometimes it’s hard to know how to help. The following suggestions are based on research from the evidence based Triple P Positive Parenting Program.

In order to raise resilient children we need to first understand what emotional resilience is. It is the ability to manage feelings and cope with day-to-day disappointments, as well as major life stressors. How naturally resilient a child is depends a lot on their temperament, but it can also be taught and encouraged.

mother talking to son

When a child’s temperament varies greatly from his or her parents it can leave parents at a loss as to how to respond. If you feel overwhelmed by your child’s big reactions to seemingly small issues try and remind yourself that your child’s intense feelings are very real to them in that moment even if you can’t relate.

Teach how to recognize, understand, and accept feelings

A key part of emotional resilience is teaching children how to recognize, understand, and accept feelings. Very young children often struggle to identify the different feelings that wash over them and an important first step is for parents to teach children to identify their emotions. This can be done through reading picture books about feelings, discussing the feelings of characters in shows or stories, and role playing different facial expressions and body language.

Teach how to express feelings appropriately

Beyond identifying feelings we need to teach our children to express their feelings appropriately.This takes practice, practice, practice. While you might feel like a broken record, remember you are building neural pathways and that takes time. Those discussions are a worthwhile investment.

  1. Start by asking your child how they feel. Whenever possible stop what you are doing and give your child focused attention.
  2. Once they’ve spoken, summarize back what they’ve shared to make sure you’ve understood them correctly and to help them feel heard. (e.g., It sounds like you felt left out and hurt when you saw Sarah and Tessa leave without you).
  3. Acknowledge their feelings. Don’t try and talk them out of their feelings or minimize their feelings.
  4. If your child seems open to it, encourage them to be curious about others’ feelings and perspective.

Help to develop coping skills

Help your child develop coping skills. By teaching our children the steps of problem-solving we can reduce being overwhelmed and encourage a sense of competency. Notice if your tendency is to fix the problem for your child. While that might be what is requested, remember it’s important that your child learn how to function independently.

  1. Help your child clearly identify the problem.
  2. Brainstorm possible solutions and review pros and cons of each.
  3. Pick one approach and try it out.
  4. Afterwards review how the solution worked and make necessary adjustments.

Be a good model

Expressing your own feelings appropriately is also key. This is where most learning happens as children are always taking their cues from us. The more you can vocalize your own feelings rather than storm around the house, yell, or withdraw, the better role model you’ll be for your child.

What NOT to do

There are several “parent traps” that can accidentally encourage emotional dysregulation.

  1. Talking too much about your own feelings and experiences. Thoughtful, short examples from your own life can be helpful; over-sharing can result in children feeling burdened.
  2. Over-reacting to small injuries or conflicts or dwelling on a child’s upsetting experience.
  3. Showing too much interest in a child’s feelings to the point that they get excessive attention when they are sad or upset.
  4. Encouraging avoidance.
  5. Not giving sufficient attention when your child is content, coping effectively, or being courageous.

Teach Positivity

Encourage optimism and a positive mindset. Optimistic children are more likely to let things roll off their back and not be easily discouraged.

  1. Model optimism for your children. Recognize that what you say in front of them, not only to them, counts.
  2. Help your child identify helpful and unhelpful ways of thinking about a situation (e.g., all or nothing thinking, “shoulds”).
  3. Encouraging early awareness of how thoughts affect feelings is a powerful step in building a resilient child. Encourage your child to develop a short personal mantra to fall back on during times of stress (e.g., “I’ve got this” or “I am strong.”).
  4. Before pointing out what your child could have done better or differently focus on what they did well.
  5. Build in family traditions that encourage appreciation and gratefulness (e.g. at dinner have each family member share something they are grateful for that day).

Recommended children’s books

“Ahn’s Anger” and “Steps and Stones” by Gail Silver

“Cloud’s Best Worst Day Ever” by Kimochis

“When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry” by Molly Bang

“Feelings” by Aliki

Rebecca Wood, LCSW, is the Director of Parents Place in Marin County. She is trained in the Triple P Positive Parenting Program and has a particular interest in helping families learn concrete parenting strategies so parents can focus on enjoying their children and not just managing them. Rebecca holds her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Bates College and her MSW from the University of Michigan, where she focused on interpersonal practice with children, youth, and families. Most importantly she has been “schooled” by her two daughters (ages 7 & 5). She can be contacted at or by calling 415-419-3609.

This article first appeared in the Southern Marin Mothers Club Crier.

Posted with permission from Parents Place

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Meet Our Board Members: Member at Large, Nicole Pollock

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Monday, November 6, 2017

Having joined PAMP a year ago “to be in the know” when she and her family moved to Menlo Park from San Francisco in 2016, 2017-2018 PAMP Board of Directors Member At Large Nicole Pollock hopes to utilize her general role to pitch in wherever needed and help out with all aspects of running the organization.

“I have a background in startups and launching small businesses,” she says, “and I hope to help with the growth of PAMP.” She’s also interested in being part of expanding PAMP’s member engagement and retention.  She has spent the last 12 years at Adobe, SalesForce, OpenTable, and most recently Google with a proven track record of scaling sales organizations, collaborating with product and Engineering to build what users want, and driving new product adoption. She is Looking forward to the great opportunity to contribute to the success and growth of the outstanding PAMP Community.

She joined PAMP in August, 2016 when my family moved from San Francisco to Menlo Park after 13 years. We have a 1 year old and 4 year old and wanted to be in the know. PAMP has been a wonderful resource for our young family. When not traveling, cooking, spending time with friends and family or working on growing her small business, Nicole and her two children, Benjamin and Natalie, she loves watching Raffi concerts on TV and signing along.

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Help Your Child Adjust to Daylight Savings-Fall Back

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Monday, October 23, 2017
Updated: Friday, October 27, 2017

As a parent of young children, your mornings are already early enough!  The lazy mornings of snuggling in bed and reading a good book are long gone.  Long since replaced by coffee and the park, or some Caillou.  Added to your early morning suffering… day lights savings time and fall back.  The promised extra hour of sleep totally lost on our kiddos.  Not to mention the DST change aftermath which can leave kids having trouble falling asleep and more likely to wake up at night for days to follow.

As if 6 am wasn’t early enough!   Now that will read 5 am on the clock.  *shivers*  Way too early.

Your baby’s internal clock will continue to wake up at 6am, even though your clock now says 5 am.  

You have two goals to adjust to “Fall Back”.

  1. Gently shifting your child’s schedule. Don’t do it all in one false swoop, as that will backfire with sleep disturbances.

  2. Gently shift the schedule to avoid your child from becoming overtired. When a child is kept awake too long before bedtime, or nap time, it can be harder for her to settle and she’s at risk for short naps or night wakings.   Which is why you can’t just keep your child up one hour later at bedtime.  

Here are a few tips to help you adjust your little one’s schedule:

For Babies:  

  • Start by shifting your nap schedule later in 15 minute increments, over 4 days to adjust to the hour.

  • Start with the first nap of the day, keeping her up 15 minutes longer so the nap is later in the day.

  • This will have a cascade affect into the rest of your day.

  • If she was napping at 9 am old time, this is now 8 am new time, so put her down for the nap at 8:15 am new time.

  • Do the same thing the next day.  Over 4 days, you will have shifted the schedule the full hour and be back on track.


  • Toddlers are less susceptible to becoming overtired than babies, you can push them a little more without the risk of them becoming overtired.

  • Shift the nap time by 20 -30 minutes later for 2-3 days in a row.

  • By 2-3 days your schedule will have shifted the full hour and be back on track.

The worst case scenario is that your child has trouble breaking her body’s clock of waking at 6 am, which is now 5 am.  This can become an issue if your bedtime is now 1 hour later, your child has just lost 1 hour of night time sleep, which is significant.  This lack of sleep can lead to increased fussiness during the day.

If you are having trouble breaking that habitual wake up, you can try a technique  called “wake to sleep”, where you enter your child’s room 1 hour before the habitual wake up and gently touch her.  You’re not trying to wake her up, but rather disrupt her sleep cycles so she starts a new sleep cycle.  You’re looking for her to flinch, sigh, or move a limb, to indicate she’s surfaced and has gone into the next sleep cycle.  Sometimes just opening the bedroom door can cause this, and other times, you’ll have to touch her.  This can take 3 attempts to be successful.

Try and see some good in day lights savings time, in that it is a gateway to the holiday season!

Dr. Sarah Mitchell is a sleep consultant and can be found at

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Public or Private Elementary School: Make the Best Choice for Your Family

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Monday, October 16, 2017
Updated: Monday, October 16, 2017

Choosing an elementary school for your child can be a daunting process. In the Bay Area, we have many choices, which is good and bad news. The good news is that there are many options and types of schools in both the public and private arenas. The bad news is that it takes a lot of time to research the options, many private schools are selective, and you don’t always get your first choice.

Here are a few tips that will help you get started in the process and make a decision that will work for your child and family.

  1. Know the deadlines and start early! If your child turns 5 by September 1, 2016, NOW is the time to be exploring your options. Even if your child is younger, it doesn’t hurt to begin your research.

    If your child’s birthday falls between September 1 and December 1, he may have the option to attend transitional kindergarten in your public school. There may be some private schools that will accept him, but there are others that expect children to be 5 by August 1 or even earlier.

    The application or registration process for kindergarten starts a year before your child could start school. The summer is a good time to begin to research your options. The fall is when private school open houses take place, applications are made available, you can schedule school visits and testing dates, and preschool teachers should be given recommendations to write.

    Some public school districts have informational meetings in the fall. December is a good time to work on completing private school applications because most are due in early January. Registration for public schools begins in January and February. To register for kindergarten, you will have to show proof of residency in the district and your child’s birth certificate to verify age eligibility.

    If you live in a school district where there are choices about what school to attend, you will probably have to fill out an application form and enter a lottery. Acceptance to private schools and public school lottery results usually come out in March and April, and you will need to make a decision about your child’s school relatively quickly. Private schools will require that you send in a deposit to reserve your child’s space in the incoming kindergarten class. Information about openings that are available to children on public or private school wait lists can come out anytime between May and early September. Public school district and private school websites are the best sources for information about dates and deadlines. It’s very important that you follow these schedules.

  2. Think about what you are looking for in your child’s education. Consider what you can handle financially, the distance from your home or work to the school, and what type of learning environment your child will thrive in, such as class size, teaching philosophy, academic rigor, level of teacher/child interactions, the school’s subject specialties (language immersion, science, math, music, the arts), and homework policies.
  3. Look at your options. Some public school districts have many options; others have only your neighborhood school. Check your school district’s website to learn about them. Make sure you know to which neighborhood school your home is attached. The GreatSchools website offers a list of public and private schools in your area. The National Association of Independent Schools offers information about private Independent Schools.
  4. Think about how your family will fit into the school community. Elementary school is the longest period of time that your child will spend in one school, so view it as membership in a club for your whole family. You and your child will want to feel comfortable. Look at the school’s ethnic and socioeconomic make-up, the opportunities for parental involvement, and the ease with which you can participate. Your child’s educational experience will be enriched if your family feels a connection to the school community.
  5.  Learn about individual schools by studying their websites. Attend tours and open houses, talk to other parents with children in the school or of similar age, and read statistics about test scores and ratings on websites like is no one resource that will give you the complete picture. Your first-hand experience visiting schools is probably the most important, but other information will round out the entire picture. Test scores and Internet ratings should not be considered the main criteria for quality.
  6.   When evaluating a school look at:

a. Class size and overall school size
b. Accreditation for private schools
c. Leadership/ public school board dynamics
d. Faculty credentials and background
e. School mission, culture, and teaching philosophy
f. Curriculum design, implementation, and homework policies
g. Parent involvement and sense of community
h. Tuition fees and fundraising expectations (public and private)
i. Distance from home and transportation options
j. Funding sources and financial solvency
k. Facilities and permanency of the school site
l. Extra-curricular activities
m. Before and after school care availability (if needed)


7.  During the application process, assess your child realistically. Pay attention to his temperament and learning style thus far. Try not to get caught up in the frenzy of getting into only the most popular schools. Find a few—both public and private—that could be a good fit for your child and family.If you are only considering public schools, but hope to go to an alternative school that enrolls via a lottery, be sure to register for your neighborhood school as a back-up.Register for at least one public school as a back-up in case your child is not accepted to your first-choice private school. If she is being interviewed for private schools, don’t coach her. Just make sure she gets a good night’s sleep, has a good breakfast, and is prepared to have a good time. Try to avoid getting into any major power struggles in the morning at home or on the way to the visit.


8. Make your choice. When the time arrives to select a school, ask your child what he thinks of your first choice, but remember a 4- or 5-year-old really can’t make a decision like that himself. It’s your decision. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll know what is best for him and your family.If you feel like you want more help in making this important decision, call Parents Place. We are here to help! Below is a list of upcoming programs that can give you even more information. We also provide individual consultations during which we can help guide you more specifically in your application and decision-making process.

Reposted with the permission of Parents Place



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Get to Know Our Board: Secretary, Sarah Mitchell

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Monday, October 16, 2017
Updated: Saturday, October 14, 2017

Having been a PAMP member since 2014 when she and her family relocated to Mountain View from Canada, 2017-2018 PAMP Board of Directors Secretary Sarah Mitchell wanted to join “to contribute to a valuable organization that made an impact on me during times of relocation.” We joined PAMP on our arrival and I was very grateful for the PAMP playdates to help us make new friends and learn about the area.  PAMP has been a great resource for all things family related.  Over the years she has volunteered at various PAMP events and now hopes to increase her involvement in this resourceful organization.  She has had a unique career which will bring a different perspective to the board.  She is trained as a chiropractor, has worked in business to business sales, and has now found my true passion of empowering parents to teach their children to sleep.  She looks forward to contributing to the PAMP community as a board member.

In addition to being responsible for sending out the meeting agendas, taking minutes and organizing the overall communication of the board, Sarah hopes to bring her background in small business sales and marketing to reach new members.

Sarah believes her organization skills and ability to keep track of things will be major assets in helping the board reach its goals this term.

As the mom of a 4- and 6-year-old, Sarah says that even though finding free time can be difficult, her family loves exploring the Bay Area and cites The Lego Movie is a family favorite film. She also really enjoys attending PAMP’s Family Day.

“I love the Family Day in July, as there’s so much for the kids to participate in,” she says. “It’s also a great way to meet small businesses in the area and the food is soooo good.”

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Four Reasons Why Women Need Life Insurance

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Sunday, October 8, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, October 10, 2017

4 Reasons Why Women Need Life Insurance

Women make up nearly half of the US labor force, and in close to 40% of US homes they’re the primary breadwinner too. Yet when it comes to life insurance, women are often significantly under-insured, or not insured at all. In fact, it’s estimated that only 52% of US women have life insurance coverage — and that those who do actually have life insurance commonly carry only a quarter of the coverage they actually need.

Why is life insurance so important for women? Here are four of the most compelling reasons:


1. Single mothers are the center of their family’s universe

It’s said that more than half of single mothers don’t have life insurance, but if you’re the only parent of a dependent child or children, then having life insurance in place is nothing short of essential to secure their future. If something unexpected were to occur, your life insurance could provide for your children and could cover everything from everyday expenses to a college education. Getting life insurance in place can also provide you with another serious benefit: the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your family will be fully taken care of, no matter what.


2. Stay-at-home moms do the work of multiple people

Life insurance isn’t only for the family breadwinner. It’s a smart move to have stay-at-home moms covered as well. Taking care of your family in this capacity is more than a full-time job, and has estimated that all of the roles you play and your contribution to the household are equivalent to a nearly $115,000-a-year job. So, if something unexpected should happen to you, and your family needed to hire a housekeeper, childcare professional, driver, cook, and others to take care of even just a fraction of all you do (didn’t someone once say “it takes a village”?), it would be very costly. That’s why having your own life insurance is such a wise decision.


3. Married women working outside the home may need more life insurance

With most families needing two salaries to pay the bills these days, it’s more important than ever for women to be covered. When discussing life insurance with your partner, you should consider whether or not your family would be able to maintain its same standard of living on just one salary. If the answer is “no”, then that’s a strong indication that full coverage is the right approach for both adults in your family. Note that even if your employer provides life insurance, it’s may just be 1-2 times your salary, which simply isn’t enough for the long-haul. As much as 10-20 times salary is sometimes needed if you forecast out the costs you’d need to cover, especially if you have young children.  If the life insurance offered by your employer is free to you, you should absolutely take advantage of it, but don’t let that stop you from getting what you really need to be fully covered.


4. Family caregivers need to provide for their special people 

If you’re someone who provides care for ailing elders or special needs family members, you’re a candidate for life insurance. If you weren’t able to care for your family member, your life insurance could be used to cover the costs of their care, including things like adult day care, wheelchair-enabled transportation, occupational therapy, out-of-pocket medical expenses, and more. The cost and logistics of caring for someone who needs a little more attention can be significant and the caregiving relationship can be difficult to replace. If you want your loved ones to be well taken care of, should you not be able to play your caregiving role, it’s important to have a financial plan on which you can rely.

One important benefit to keep in mind for women is that life insurance policies are usually significantly less expensive for women versus men. On average, women have a longer life expectancy than men, which makes them less risky for life insurance companies to cover. Lower risk translates to lower payments, and the younger you are when you buy life insurance, the lower the payments will be.  

Convinced and ready to consider your life insurance options? Follow these simple steps:

  1. Understand how much coverage you need. The best way to estimate your coverage is to use a life insurance calculator and answer a few quick questions. It only takes a few seconds, and it’s extremely helpful to see how cost effective life insurance can be.
  2. Get a quote. Request a free, no-obligation quote in seconds. It will show you how much you could expect to pay each month for coverage.
  3. Get covered. If the estimated monthly payment works for you, the process to apply for coverage can take less than 10 minutes and you’ll get an instant decision. If you accept an offer, coverage will begin immediately and you can cancel your policy at any time, no questions asked.  Also worth noting is that Ladder’s life insurance is dynamic — so you can apply to ladder your coverage (and payments) up or down as life evolves and your needs change.  

Life insurance is important, and it’s especially critical for women who play such an important role in their families’ lives.  Get a quote and see for yourself how affordable it can be to have life insurance in place.  We think you’ll be surprised at just how easy it is to fit the monthly payment into any budget.

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3 Ways to Calm the Chaos and Be the Mom You Want to Be

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Sunday, October 1, 2017
Updated: Monday, October 2, 2017

As I picked up my phone to silence the alarm reminding me about school pick up, the text message from my friend caught me by surprise. “I’m at the school with the girls. Can K come home for a play date?” The message was normal…but the timing was off. She sent it 30 minutes before school was out. Why was she there with them?

Then it hit me. It was Wednesday. She was there for the Mother’s Day celebration. And I wasn’t. My heart started beating faster and my shirt dampened as I scooped up my younger daughter, threw on some shoes and ran out the door. It was already too late. The party was long over. But I felt a need to get to the school as quickly as possible.

I was prepared for tears. She’s my sensitive one. But when she saw me, I got the biggest hug in the world. She was genuinely happy to see me. I started in on my apology, and she assured me it was ok. There were no tears—at least from her. I, on the other hand, was a sobbing mess as she told me about all the things I had missed.  Apparently I was the only mom who wasn’t there. Of course.

And the worse part? There was absolutely no excuse. I work from home. The whole point of which is so that I am able to be there for my kids when they need me.  And I wasn’t. I let my little girl down. I let myself down. Outside forces and too many other things crowded my brain, making me scattered. I lost control of my schedule, and I’d forgotten.

So now what? As I was sharing my tragic tale with a friend, she wisely suggested that even though it was terrible and heart breaking, that there had to be something to learn. Something so that it isn’t for nothing.  

Here are 3 Ways to Calm the Chaos and Be the Mom You Want to Be:

  1. Set up Boundaries. You can’t keep saying yes to everything and everyone, even if it sounds fun or you feel obligated.  When you have too many things going on, there will be casualties and it’s often in the area that’s most important to us—at home. There have to be boundaries and qualifications for the things on your schedule.  

But…how do you get there?

  1. Focus on What’s Important Now.  There are so many good things vying for our time and attention, it is hard to choose where to focus and what will have the most impact. As a woman who constantly has several things going on at once between work, children, church, family, home, school, community etc. it is impossible to do everything at once. Which means you will have to do some soul searching to figure out the areas that are most important to you and your family. Sometimes you just need to cut out the non-essentials. At least for a while. You can usually come back to it later.

  2. Get It All Out!  Write out all the things that are taking up space in your brain that you feel like you have to remember. Make the doctor’s appointments, write that thank you note, pick up the birthday party present, pay the phone bill etc. Because even if you have a calendar or a schedule, there are often things we just keep up there, rattling around trying to not be forgotten and it takes so much energy. Write it down—piece of paper, in your notes app, whatever. Then, organize the list by things you can do quickly, things you can delegate, things that take longer or more steps, or what you can delete. Then—plug it into your calendar. This makes it more likely to be done and not forgotten!


  1. Everything Will Be OK: Realize you’re only human and you will make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up too much if you lose your patience, forget to make the lunch, miss soccer practice or your house is not Instagram or Pinterest worthy. As long as you’re trying your best, and loving your little ones, you’re good enough! They’ll get over the small stuff.

When you put these principles together, and practice them daily you’ll be able to banish “bad mom” from your vocabulary and be on the path to being the mom you want to be.

Kirsten Reeder is a mother of three,  best-selling author, and parenting/motherhood coach. She’s on a mission to help busy moms eliminate the day to day chaos so they can be the mom they’ve always wanted to be. She hosts workshops and classes and online, as well as working with clients 1-1 and in small groups. You can find her at, @vibrantmomsociety on Instagram and Vibrant Mom Society on Facebook.


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Picture Book Reviews

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Sunday, October 1, 2017
Updated: Sunday, October 1, 2017

Panda pants by Jacqueline Davies, 2016

Pants or no pants: that is the question! “I want pants”, says a little panda to his father. “You are a panda”, answers the father. “Pandas do NOT wear pants.” And so begins a hilarious battle of wills when a young panda tries to convince his father why pants make perfect sense… –Publisher’s summary

Not so much a battle of wills, as a delightful example of a parent patiently reasoning with a live-in–the-moment child, whose transitory passion for an unnecessary object will soon give way to the next desire. Along the way, little Panda’s imperturbable, cheerful demeanor demonstrates a character that is not easily squashed—and is resourceful enough to come up with a novel solution to that little problem of the snow leopard who is stalking the father and son pair through the jungle.—Menlo Park Library Staff

Who, what, where? By Olivier Tallec, 2016

Each page asks the reader a question about the lineup of characters featured on the spread. Sharp eyes and keen observation are necessary. There's only one right answer, and it's not always easy!—Publisher’s summary

This visual who-dunnit with its combination of animal and human characters—all wearing comically dead-pan expressions—will give parents and preschoolers a good laugh together. The cognitive process of identifying the culprit on each page will help hone visual discrimination skills.—Menlo Park Library staff

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