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Steps to a Safe Sleep Environment for Your Baby

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016

There is more to baby proofing your home than just setting up gates and locks. You can start your baby proofing off by making sure your baby has a safe sleep environment. Newborns sleep an average of 16 hours a day. We want to make sure that your infant’s sleep environment is a safe place since they spend most of their time there. Taking the time to consider these important measures could help ensure the safety of your child as well as the health and happiness of the family.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death in infants 1 to 12 months of age. To help keep your baby protected you can follow these simple guidelines:

Welcome Home Baby
To set the safest scene for your newborn’s homecoming be careful when choosing the type and placement of your baby’s sleeping area.

  • The space between crib bars should be no more than 2-3/8 inches, so that the baby cannot get his/her head caught between the slats.

  • There should be no more than 2 finger widths of space between the mattress and the side of the crib. This helps prevent risk of suffocation after falling in between.

  • Remove all toys and loose blanketing from the crib when the baby is inside to avoid choking and suffocation hazards.

  • Remove all toys that are strung across the crib when the infant is 5 months old or can push up onto his hands and knees, as they create a strangulation hazard.

  • Do not put the crib or any other furniture near windows. Windows pose many dangers, including climbing and falling hazards. Place cord wind-ups on all window cords to decrease strangulation hazards.

  • Avoid putting the baby to sleep in an adult bed. Bed sharing does create a risk of parents accidentally rolling too close or onto their child.

Sweet Dreams
As you may know, the more rest your baby gets, the more rest you get. It is important to take the necessary precautions when getting ready for bed, to secure a good night’s sleep for the whole family. When you put your baby down to sleep:

  • Always place normal healthy newborns on their back to sleep. Research shows the risk of SIDS is higher for babies who sleep on their side or stomach.

  • The baby should sleep on a firm/flat surface. Soft mattresses are prone to sinking and can create a suffocation hazard.

  • Babies do not need pillows, sleep-positioners or wedges, loose blanketing, stuffed animals or bumpers. All of these products are possible suffocation hazards.

  • The baby should sleep in a separate bed from his parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a separate but proximate sleeping environment.

  • Avoid over- and underdressing infants. Babies should wear only one more layer than you are wearing, and ideal room temperature is between 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

And Many More
There are steps you can take inside and out of the house to provide the means for your baby to live a full and happy life. Many of these measures will help reduce the risk of SIDS.

  • Do not expose babies to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke will introduce harmful chemicals that could prove fatal to an infant’s immune system.

  • Breastfed babies have a lower incidence of SIDS than formula-fed babies. Breast milk contains many essential nutrients that provide health benefits including improved breathing/swallowing coordination and immune strength to fight infection.

  • Consider giving your baby a pacifier. Some studies have shown a strong link between pacifier use and lower risk of SIDS. If you are breastfeeding make sure that the feedings are going well, before introducing a pacifier. It usually takes 3-5 weeks for breast feeding to go smoothly for both mom and baby.


Kira Nickel is a perinatal educator at El Camino HospitalFor more information specific to childbirth and parenting, El Camino Hospital offers a variety of classes to support new and expectant parents. To find an upcoming class, search or call 650-940-7302.


Tags:  parenting 

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The Reason Every Kid Should Talk Back to Their Parents

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The parent in me wants to squash every little insurrection as quickly as possible. But the psychologist in me is glad when my children say “No.” This is why…

Sunlight is dawning across the living room floor, and the dollhouse is full of Lego Star Wars action figures. They’re sleeping in beds, sitting on toilets, cooking breakfast, and one rogue Jedi is standing on the roof. On an early autumn morning, my daughter and I play dollhouse as the rest of the household slumbers.


Her older brother wakes up, walks into the room rubbing his eyes clear, and sees his new birthday presents defiled by a dollhouse. A look of horror takes over his face—like his dog is lying dead in the road—and he pushes past us to snatch up his action figures.


I hold out my hand and try to be patient. “Give them to me.”

He looks at me, and his horror becomes an oppositional “No!”

The parent in me feels like a failure because I’m not being respected. The parent in me gets angry because I feel out of control and I’m supposed to be “in charge.” And the human in me feels just plain sad, because the morning just got a whole lot harder.

But the psychologist in me is secretly thrilled he said “No.”

Because the inability to say “No”—the inability to set personal boundaries—is one of the most common, insidious causes of human suffering.

When we can’t say “No:”
we become a sponge for the feelings of everyone around us and we eventually become saturated by the needs of everyone else while our own hearts wilt and die,

- we become a sponge for the feelings of everyone around us and we eventually become saturated by the needs of everyone else while our own hearts wilt and die,

- we begin to live our lives according to the forceful should of others, rather than the whispered, passionate want of our own hearts,

- we let everyone else tell us what story to live and we cease to be the author of our own lives,

- we lose our voice—we lose the desire planted in our souls and the very unique way in which we might live out that desire in the world,

- we get used by the world instead of being useful in the world,

- we give in to the pressure of a friend and we drink and drive and we endanger lives,

- we cave in to a persuasive boyfriend and we end up pregnant,

- we get taken in by a sales pitch and we bury ourselves in oppressive debt,

- we get abused by a boss and end up with long hours at work and a short fuse at home,

- we cater to our kids’ every need and we begin to resent their demands and we fantasize about a deserted island in the Caribbean,

- we submit to unhealthy partners and they keep drinking or working or gambling or flirting and we end up in the backseat of our own lives.


There is no end to the ways our lives are diminished by our inability to say “No.” And when a client of mine is being wrecked by porous boundaries, I will often ask this question: “How did your parents respond when you said ‘No’ as a child?” And I will almost always hear this answer: “Oh, you wouldn’t dare say ‘No’ to my parents.”


So, on an early autumn morning, I’m faced with a decision. Do I squash this little rebellion? Raise my voice? Demand that he share? Threaten something? Threaten anything? Or do I take a deep breath and remember the reason it is sometimes good to say “yes” to the word “no:”


Our families are where we first learn how to say “No” in a safe, supportive environment. If we don’t learn to do so there, we won’t learn to do so anywhere. If our children can’t say “No” to us, they won’t say it to anyone.


When my son is offered a bunch of pills or my daughter is offered the backseat of a car, I want my kids to have had a lot of practice at saying “No.” Someday, there will be more at stake than a bunch of Lego action figures and, by then, I want them to know their worth isn’t jeopardized one iota when they don’t give themselves away to everyone around them.


I want them to know their voice matters.


I want them to know they are the author of their own story.


Do children need to learn to set boundaries assertively rather than aggressively? Yes. Do they need to learn the art of compromise? Definitely. Do they need to learn to wisely choose moments of submission? Absolutely.


But all of that learning begins with a “No.”


Because the truth is, you can’t truly say “Yes” until you can say “No.” We need to know we have a choice in life. The freedom to say “No” is the very beginning of our ability to say “Yes.” To ourselves. To life. And to love.


So, on an early autumn morning, I can come down on him, or I can bend down to him. Some days the “parent” in me wins. And I think that’s alright. Sometimes our kids need a parent who won’t bend. But on this particular day I bend, because I figure anyone who looks like his dog just died may have a little more to say.


And what does my “obstinate” son have to say?


“Dad, they’re mine and I get to decide if she can play with them.” As he picks out several of his new action figures to return to his sister.


A kid in charge of his own sharing and giving. A “No” that reminds me it’s good to ask before you take. A “No” that teaches me his heart is young and restless and messy, but also full of charity. A “No” that lays the foundation for an authentic “Yes.”


Because, in the end, we can’t truly say “Yes” to our own voice and the language of love it is speaking, until we’ve been allowed to say “No” to the voices all around us.


Which is why, more and more, I’m happy to say “Yes” to the word “No.”

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a clinical psychologist and a writer. He is married with three children, and enjoys reading and learning from his children how to be a kid again.


Tags:  child development  parenting 

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Navigating Holiday Dinners with a Picky Eater: A No Stress Holiday Guide

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Holiday dinners can be stressful, even for the most experienced parents. They are many times more stressful if you have a picky eater at your table. What you need is a foolproof plan that takes the stress out and puts the fun in.


Never is there a greater focus on food than at the holidays. And for parents of picky eaters, holiday meals can be immensely stressful family situations to navigate. If it wasn’t bad enough that you have to endure the never-ending playback of family stories from Great Aunt Bea, fate deals you a bum hand and you’re trapped at a linen-lined table with hot dogs hidden in your purse—poised to pounce when your toddler refuses everything on the table except the dinner rolls. Layering stress upon stress is a recipe for a meltdown, for both you and your child.


I know, because I’ve walked more than a mile in those shoes.


I’m here to tell you that there’s a simple solution to your picky eater problem. And it’s counter-intuitive. To get your kids to eat what’s good for them, you need to take a page from the junk food marketing playbook. Stop talking about “healthy.” Take the focus off the food and make it fun.


After years of testing, experimenting, tweaking, researching, gathering feedback from and cooking with thousands of parents of picky eaters across the country, I’ve distilled my experiences down to a few simple principles you can follow to take the stress out of mealtime and get your kids to actually eat the wholesome foods you make. And there’s more good news: what works for your standard, run-of-the-mill weeknight meals can be applied just as easily to your holiday meals, with a few small modifications.


Set Expectations Over Time

Holiday dinner isn’t the time to expect your kids to be healthy eating rock stars. It’s too much pressure—on everyone. Instead, think small steps, big changes. The key to creating a deep and lasting change in the way that your family eats is to take it slow and be consistent. Take the pressure off the big holiday meals and focus on your longer-term goal. No single meal is going to make the difference; it’s a series of consistent, positive experiences around food that will.


Explore Together

In the weeks leading up to the holiday, plan to explore a few new foods together. Try one each week. You don’t want the first encounter with a new food to be at a high pressure holiday dinner. Holiday regulars that can be super fun to explore with kids include Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, butternut squash, pomegranate and persimmons. Instead of concentrating on eating, focus on fun adventures that the food inspires, like figuring out how to get the seeds out of a pomegranate, peeling Brussels sprouts (and finding the Fibonacci sequence inside—a fantastic math adventure), and scouting out a bunch of different varieties of pumpkins at a local farm. Let your kids lead your new food exploration. Prompt them with open-ended questions like, “I wonder if the color on the inside of a pumpkin changes depending on the color on the outside?” Follow their questions with more questions, like, “I’m not sure why Brussels sprouts grow on a stalk. Let’s explore together to find out.” Remember, it’s about the journey, not the food.


Reinstate the Kids’ Menu (With a Twist)

The more you can involve your kids in everything, from choosing food for your meals to preparing the dishes, the faster you’ll be able to make progress changing the way your picky eater eats. An easy way to do this during the holidays is to enlist your kids to help create the menu. It is even better if you cook the recipes together and then let them serve. Do not have a separate kids menu. It’s fine to prepare dishes in a way that allows everyone at the table to assemble to their preference—more or less onion, sauce on the side—but it’s important for everyone to be eating the same meal. Invite your kids to help make the menu, and create names for each dish featuring the person who voted for it: Mom’s Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Catherine’s Brussels Sprouts Chips, James’ Jumpin’ Green Beans, Gram’s Classic Roast Turkey, Dad’s Downhome Quinoa Stuffing, Papa’s Poppin’ Pomegranate Sauce. When you give thanks, invite each person to share why they added their dish to the menu. It’s an easy way to get everyone involved, and your kids will beam with pride when the time comes to serve (and eat) their signature dish.


Don’t Say the H Word

There is one word that parents should never utter. No matter how many battles there are over broccoli, if you want your kids to eat wholesome food, and build a lifetime of good eating habits, don’t dare say it’s “healthy.” When Great Aunt Bea pipes in with, “Eat your greens, James! They’ll help you grow big and strong,” you have my permission to tell her to zip it. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research confirms what junk food marketers have known for a long time: telling kids a food is healthy will make them eat less of it. In a study of preschool-aged children, researchers found that when you tell kids a food makes them strong, a perceived health benefit, they’ll conclude the food is not as tasty and consume less of it. It turns out you’d be better off if you said nothing at all. Instead, talk about the deeply delicious flavor of the Brussels sprouts sautéed with bacon, or the sinfully savory flavor of the homemade butternut squash soup. When your kids see you thoroughly enjoying the food you’ve made together, they’ll be many times more inclined to give something new a try.

A mom of two, Jennifer Tyler Lee is the author of The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year and the creator of the award-winning series of healthy eating games, Crunch a Color®.

Tags:  food  parenting 

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Holiday Structure for Families

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016

OK, if you are like me, you look forward to giving your kids some downtime when the end-of-year holidays hit. But let's face it. Having school-age kids home for a two-week break is certainly a blessing -- but it can also be a little bit difficult.

This is often due to a need for structure. Busy and overscheduled kids, when faced with two weeks and nothing planned, may go a little nuts. The transition and its aftermath could stress the whole family out.

My three kids are not immune. They, like the majority of children, do best with predictability and a set routine. So, what do we do in our household?

I’ve found that a calendar or visual schedule is helpful. Whether a child is excited or laid back in nature, we need to manage their expectations. This doesn't require scheduling every second. Instead, we aim for balance. This means maybe a little computer time, maybe some free choice, maybe cleaning their room and maybe a shopping trip. Putting these activities into a schedule and creating some structure can help kids regulate their body and emotions.

It’s all because a certain amount of predictability is very good for developing minds. (Come to think of it, it’s good for adults, too!)

For our family, we love hikes. Certainly we’ll schedule some shopping and visiting friends over the holidays, but what works best in our home is knowing we are doing something together that is healthy and fun. This type of physical activity provides a grounding for the kids -- sort of an anchor, and one that’s very life-affirming.

Of course, if you celebrate Christmas, there’s that post-holiday crash. The kids are all revved up, which means that putting together an after-Christmas schedule is extremely important. The excitement and emotion of the big day can be overwhelming, and most kids need a schedule that brings them back to reality soon after.


Dr. Trenna Sutcliffe loves kids, families, pets, travel and hiking. Discover more about her work here.

Tags:  parenting 

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Kickstart Giving with Your Kids

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Updated: Saturday, December 3, 2016

My friends have been asking for simple tips on how to encourage giving with their kids. As with most things in life, there’s no magic formula. There’s also no shortage of online advice for teaching generosity and kindness to kids. I’ve summarized some of my favorite sites below for your scanning pleasure.

My biggest piece of advice as a mom of a three- and five-year-old is just start doing
something. Remember, kids have hawk eyes . . . so one day, when you least expect it, they just might model the behavior you’re trying to teach.


Let’s Talk About Giving

As we all know, kids believe the world revolves around them. So talk to them about how their actions will impact others. Keep it simple, though. There’s no need to be preachy about it. For example, you could say, “When we raise money for XYZ nonprofit, the money will go to kids who need medicine so they will get healthy.” Or, “When you donate your toys to kids who don’t have any, they will be able to have fun like you did when you played with them.” Being specific will have more of an impact than saying, “We’re giving because it’s the right thing to do.” Both are true, but it’s best if you can help your kids relate.


Side note: If your kid appears to be unphased by your efforts to spark giving (i.e., there are no empathic, teary eyes or follow-up questions), don’t worry. This doesn’t mean they’re uninterested or uncaring. Giving can be a foreign concept at first. . . . Just keep at it. (Try to avoid guilting them into it, though, and keep it fun!) Like many things in life, consistency leads to lifelong habits.


For more tips and information about how to talk to your kids about giving, here’s a link to a great PBS article.


Get Them Involved

If they are old enough, let your kid(s) pick the nonprofit they want to help. Brainstorm ideas with them and see which one sparks an interest. (For example, if they are obsessed with animals, pick an animal shelter, or if they are into geography, pick a country like Peru and sponsor a child.)


Family volunteering, as logistically complicated as it might seem, is totally worth the effort. Kids remember it. Whether it’s a clean-up drive or planting trees, there’s something out there for your crew.



This generation of kids is all about the visuals. That’s why they foam at the mouth to get access to our phones and iPads. Use videos as a learning tool, especially when you’re trying to illustrate issues or needs in other countries. For example, this simple water project includes a smart video that shows how similar kids are—despite being several airline flights away.


Six Easy Giving Ideas for Kids

I borrowed a few ideas from this awesome list from Generation On called 65 Ways to Make a Difference. It’s all simple stuff. Try one out if you haven’t already.

  1. Instead of birthday party gifts, ask your friends to bring books or art supplies that you can donate to a local homeless shelter or other local youth nonprofit.

  2. Love baking? Bake cupcakes or cookies, sell them to friends and neighbors, and donate the proceeds.
  3. If you have a membership to a science museum or zoo, and have extra passes, invite a friend who might not financially be able to visit, to come with you.
  4. Feed your furry friends . . . and then drop off an extra bag of food at the local animal shelter.
  5. Got old sports equipment? Bring it to your local parks and recreation center or another nonprofit that works with youth.
  6. Before Santa comes, gather old toys and donate them to make way for new ones. Or, even better, encourage your kids to limit their wish list and then adopt a family in need with the money you’ll save. Your kids can pick out a toy for a child who’s a similar age.

For nearly two decades, Stefani Jacobsen Willis of  Give Greatly has been learning, growing and contributing globally to the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. She has raised money for nonprofits, strategically given away money to nonprofits, launched initiatives in collaboration with foundations and inspired community to be more generous with their time and money.


Tags:  parenting 

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Election Season and Kids

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, November 1, 2016

It’s another presidential election season. This time, the whole process seems a bit louder and more difficult to digest than normal. The dialogue among the candidates is angry and hostile.

What do we tell a developing child? The overwhelming amount of media, plus a constant public dialogue, can guarantee that most school-age children, and even younger, have heard about the election. And they may be very confused by what they hear and see.

How do we guide them through this?
I think it’s best that we ask them what they know. If they have heard nothing, but you feel they are old enough to comprehend, then it’s OK to provide simple information about the process and its importance. You may want to briefly explain the role of an American president, and talk about how they will learn more about this throughout their school years.

But what if your kids have an opinion? What if they have heard some harsh and unfriendly statements about candidates? And, what if they are openly repeating these things?

It’s something I am having to deal with. My 8-year-old and 6-year-old certainly know what’s up, mostly from newscasts heard in the car and plenty of comments out in the public. What is a parent to do, especially since they are both very interested in the election these days?

First, find out what they have heard.
Ask, “Why do you feel that way?” It’s healthy to uncover thoughts on how they arrived at a view -- but not in an effort to dictate their thinking. Instead, you are helping them process and problem solve what they have heard.

Second, discuss your family’s values.
There is a lot of conflict in the way our politicians talk and interact, and these are not model behaviors for raising children. That’s why it’s a good idea to discuss your family’s approach to conflict resolution. In the context of what a child has heard, perhaps you ask, “Is there a different and better way to discuss these differences? How would we solve these differences within our own family?”

Third, create a conversation.
This opens the door to discussing the traits and characteristics that your family wants to display when there are disagreements. Making it about “bad” or “good” people should not be the focus. Instead, create a conversation that is about right and wrong behaviors among people of all ages. And by showing a respect for differing opinions, you can really have an impact on a child’s development and behavior.

In the end, a not-very-nice political season may be the perfect time for a family to model empathetic words and actions in all disagreements. Doing so may guide children not just in political discussions, but also help them gravitate towards politicians and people who most reflect these important values.

Dr. Trenna Sutcliffe loves kids, families, pets, travel and hiking. Discover more about her work here.

Tags:  parenting 

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In Sync Rather than Sinking: How to Deal with Change

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Updated: Monday, November 14, 2016

If you are like most Bay Area parents, you have researched your options when it comes to preschools and schools. You have chosen a program that fits your lifestyle values, the family schedule and seems like a great fit for your child’s personality. Friends and family have reassured your choices and you are optimistic about your child’s ability to adapt to inherent changes.

If you are caught by surprise with your child’s behavior when going back to or starting school, join the club of parents around the world are baffled by the cute and not-so-cute things that children do when they are facing unexpected change. While the change is inevitable, here are some tips for dealing with the disruptions and eruptions that may help you stay in sync with your child, your parenting values and the flow of change.

1. While setting the bar high, keep the big picture in mind.

We all want our children to have opportunities and hopefully enjoy their daily activities. Sometimes we can get carried away in having our kids “measure up “ to other kids at a young age.  Sometimes we get carried away when there are so many great activities, groups and lessons for our kids. Keep in mind that kids develop at their own rates. All kids need down time to explore, process and assimilate information and express emotions. Does your child have enough unstructured play time everyday? Try to build in some unstructured family time if you don’t already have that.

2. Let your child share their experience when they are ready -- don’t grill them.

As parents and caregivers, we are curious about what happens when we are away from our child. A habit can form of picking up the child and immediately request they tell us about the day. When I ask a child, “What happened today?” or “What did you learn?”, I mostly get “I don’t know…nothing”. Instead of asking about your child’s day in a way that an adult might be able to respond to, greet them let them know with your actions that nothing has changed since they last saw you. Perhaps even share a bit about your day. Maybe talk about ideas for the after school plan and then give them some free air space, leaving time for your child to open up at their own rate.

3. Expect some chaos to ensue: tears, tantrums, sleep schedule delays -- prepare for the worst.

When kids are thrown into a new routine with new people, new toys and a new environment,  they might feel challenged. We all communicate through our behavior, and this is even more true for kids under five. If your child unexpectedly thrashes, screams and throws their shoes when you answer your phone or pick up another child, remember they are going through a lot of changes. Whatever your disciplinary style is, take into account that it takes time for children to adjust. They are likely tired and overwhelmed even if Mary Poppins turns out to be their teacher.

4. Commiserate with your child and the difficulty of being around new people, new activities, strange places and constant stimulation.

If your child is having a hard time and is expressing it behaviorally or verbally, acknowledge that what they are going through is tough. Help them work through the changes by validating difficult feelings and fear they may be experiencing. Stay away from reassuring them. Contrary to popular belief, it often backfires and does not help your child to feel safer or understood. It rather complicates those feelings.

5. Inform your child of some of the changes, and prepare them as much as possible.

As changes occur, continue to remind your child of what to expect. Acknowledge it is difficult and remind them of the people they can go to for help. Tell them who is going to drop them off or pick them up and answer their questions as they emerge.

Adjusting to preschool or school is one of those times when our imagination can get ahead of us and set both parents and kids up for disappointment. While it may certainly take some time for parents and kids to adjust, it is possible to go with the flow by expecting difficulty, keeping the big picture in mind and building in down-time.

Remember this whole playgroup and school thing is about raising healthy children. Part of creating health is coping with challenge and change from an honest, realistic and supportive place.

I hope these tips will help you ease the pressure as parents. Always remember that parents set the pace. This is a great opportunity to be more in sync with your child and support their growth in a way that will support them far beyond their younger years.

Find out more about 
Esther Krohner here.

Tags:  education  parenting 

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You Are Your Child’s Life Coach

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Updated: Monday, September 19, 2016

So many young adults come out of high school and head to college after years  of being overwhelmed by activities, homework and barely sleeping to make the grade. Because of this, Harvard is now offering a new course to incoming freshmen. It’s pretty much life-coaching 101. The university wants them to identify their core values and learn how to make choices in their daily lives which align to their values. They want them to start managing their time as college students in a way that will support them to live their adult lives with balance rather than overwhelm.

I believe, however, that parents are their child's life coach, teaching them values, time alignment and choice-making from a very young age. In fact, the way that parents reflect upon and answer big life questions are what really teach a child of any age the same kinds of lessons this class at Harvard hopes to impart.

Here are 5 ideas to help you be your child's life coach, to support them in living a life of balance, alignment and meaning:

1. Create a Family Mission Statement. Detail core values that you hope to impart in raising your family. When making decisions related to discipline, activities, community building, schooling, hard choices and limit setting, use this Family Mission Statement as a guide to help support clarity and alignment.

2. Slow down and take time for reflection. If you question the job you're in and find yourself in a constant state of stress, it's time to re-examine your own life thoroughly. Making the changes we need in our own lives to decrease stress, increase connection and live with integrity are the best ways we can support and serve our kids to become the types of adults who can do this as well.

3. Engage in the activities and interests that you truly love. Do this for the sake of experiencing joy. When is the last time you played an instrument? Spoke the foreign language you love? Played a game with friends? Made a piece of art or a new invention for the fun of it? Took a cooking class? Learned something new that truly engages your curiosity and desire to experience being alive? If you've sacrificed these elements of your own life, it will be hard to model to your children that joy, curiosity and love of learning are essentials to a life well lived. Get out that class catalogue and sign up today for a learning experience that will help bring you totally alive.

4. Spend time with people who are positive. Spend time with those that prioritize the same values, interests and curiosities that you do. If you find yourself around people who you don't truly resonate with, it's time to do some social reflection. Get out your Family Mission Statement and spend time looking at the people, experiences, traditions and activities that really resonate with who you and your family.

5. Have weekly Family Meetings. Share appreciations, celebrations, scheduling and problem solving. Plan activities and discuss questions together to help build your family culture as one that is balanced, aligned, positive and inspiring -- life coaching at its best!

Kiran Gaind is a life, leadership and parenting coach who owns The Connected Family. Please drop her a line to comment on this article, ask questions and share your ideas for bringing the art of life coaching into your daily parenting role. She can be reached at or by phone at (415) 377-6791.

Tags:  parenting 

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Why Kids Learn More When They Don’t “Share”

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2016

As soon as children are old enough to walk, we expect them to share. I prefer putting “share” in quotes, since this type of sharing is usually forced by the adult. Our goals are noble: kindness, generosity, awareness of others. Unfortunately, our approach backfires.

Of course, sharing squabbles happen all the time between kids. Here’s a typical scene: One child is busily engaged with a toy when a new child comes up and wants it. A nearby adult says: “Be nice and share your toys,” or “Give Ella the pony. You’ve had it a long time.” What happens? The child is forced to give something up and her play gets interrupted. She learns that sharing feels bad. It’s the parent who’s sharing here, not the child.

Traditional sharing expects kids to give up something the instant someone else demands. Yet we don’t do this ourselves. Imagine being on your cell phone when somebody suddenly comes up and asks for your phone or takes it from you. “I need to make a phone call,” he says. Would you get mad? As adults, we expect people to wait their turn. We might gladly lend our phone to a friend or even a stranger, but we want them to wait until we’re done. The same should apply to kids: let the child keep a toy until she’s “all done.” It’s turn-taking. It’s sharing. But the key is it’s child-directed turn-taking.

Positive Assertiveness
Here’s what it looks like in real life. Instead of YOU saying “Five more minutes, then it’s Ella’s turn” or “I’m going to set the timer,” teach your child to say “You can have it when I’m done.” This teaches positive assertiveness. It helps kids stand up for themselves and learn to set boundaries on other kids. What a terrific life skill. How many of us as adults have trouble saying “no?”

True Generosity and Awareness of Others
When the first child drops the toy and moves on, remind her that Ella’s waiting for a turn (a great lesson in courtesy and awareness of others). The best part of all is when the first child willingly hands over the toy—it’s a joyous moment for both kids. That’s the moment when your child experiences the rush of good feelings that comes from being kind to others. It’s true generosity. It’s a warm feeling. One she’ll want to repeat over and over – whether a parent is watching or not.

Emotional Impulse Control
What about the waiting child? Waiting is hard, especially for impulsive 2-6 year olds, but just like assertiveness, waiting is an excellent life skill. It’s OK for the waiting child to feel frustrated, sad or angry for a time. Don’t be afraid of a few foot stompings or tears. Learning to control behavior and express intense feelings appropriately is really the main job of early childhood. Impulse control (waiting for a toy and not grabbing) is a vital part of brain development and gets stronger through practice. The more practice kids get, the better. Sharing through turn-taking provides excellent practice.

Life is much more relaxing when you stop playing referee. Throw away your timer. Kids pick up the new method quickly, because it’s fair and simple. Let kids keep a toy until they are “all done.”

Words You Can Say

Positive Assertiveness
– You can play with it until you’re all done.
– Are you finished with your turn? Max says he’s not done yet.
– Did you like it when he grabbed your truck? Tell him to stop!
– Say: “I’m not done. You can have it when I’m done.”
– She can have a turn. When she’s all done, you can have a turn.
– I see Bella still has the pony. She’s still using it.
– You’ll have to wait. I can’t let you take it out of her hands.

Waiting and Awareness of Others
– Oh, it’s so hard to wait!
– You’re so mad. You really want to play with the pony right now!
– You can be mad, but I can’t let you take the toy.
– Will you tell Max when you’re all done?
– I see you’re not using the truck any more. Go find Ben. Remember, he’s waiting for a turn.

Reprinted with permission.

Heather Shumaker is a national speaker on early childhood topics who’s been writing professionally since 1996. She started writing for radio and her publications include New York Post, Organic Gardening, Parenting, Pregnancy, Huffington Post and others.

Tags:  child development  parenting 

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Tips for Newborn Sleep

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Updated: Monday, August 8, 2016

Understanding how to best prepare a newborn for quality and consistent sleep may not be something many of us already know.

When baby arrives, not only will she need to adapt to her new environment, you will also need to learn learn how to recognize her needs. Creating positive sleep associations (any behavior before baby falls asleep) very early on will greatly facilitate the process later.

Keep in mind that if there are older siblings involved, it's probably best to have them sleep in a separate room if possible until baby develops a sleep routine. It is not unusual for siblings to experience some interrupted nights. Quality one-on-one time with sibling during the day and applying a consistent bedtime routine will help resolve this episodic regression.

So how can I create the best sleep habits?

During the Daytime:
-Have baby be part of your daily routine.
-Observe and listen to the different kind of crying of your newborn. Talk to him, learn to understand his needs and what he is expressing through his cries.
-Expose baby to normal light and noises during the day. During naps, keep the room with daylight and normal daily noises this will start teaching your baby about the difference between days and nights.
-Massage baby after a bath.
-Wake her up (gently) after a 3-hour nap.

Bedtime & at Night:
-Start a bedtime routine (bath, massage, dim light, lullaby, calm ambiance).
-Swaddle baby -- it will help with Moro reflex and avoid some undesirable waking up.
-Put baby down when she is drowsy but still awake.
-Don’t talk during night feedings and keep the room dark and quiet. Use a flashlight with minimum light or a dimmer switch.
-Don’t change diapers unless necessary -- use one size up diaper for the night.
-Keep the room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees.
-If breastfeeding, keep feedings short (no longer than 15 minutes). Try to not have baby fall asleep while feeding. Very gently stimulate him by touching his feet.
-Don’t rush to your baby at the first cry -- give her a chance to self-soothe and learn to go back to sleep between sleep cycles. Note that she will make some noise while sleeping, which is very common.
-When baby reaches about 12 to 13 pounds, he is physiologically (but not always emotionally) ready to not be fed at night. He is also ready to develop consistent sleeping patterns. A consistent routine with cues is important.

Newborn Sleep Patterns
-The first stage of sleep is called REM (Rapid Eye Movement), which is an active sleep phase that lasts about 25 minutes). During this stage of sleep, the brain activity is high which explains why Moro reflex (jerky movements) is observed as well as fluttering eyelids.
-Then NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement represents a deep sleep that lasts another 25 min). During this stage, muscles are relaxed and breathing is regular. Energy is restored, and growth and development occur.
-Babies do not differentiate between day and night.
-Babies need 16-18 hours of sleep until 4 weeks old, and then around 14 hours per day.
-Between 3 and 4 months, babies first sleep cycle is going to change to deep sleep followed by active sleep like adults’ sleep.

If your baby develops colic, always consult a doctor first to make sure that there are no other medical conditions. Colic is characterized by long periods of crying that appear on healthy babies around 2 to 3 weeks after birth and can last until 2 to 3 months of age. Late afternoons and evenings are usually when the crying is at its pick and it can last sometimes for a few hours. Keep in mind that colic doesn't last forever and will eventually disappear.

Things to try for colic:
-Warm bath and massage with baby oil.
-Leg cycling (to help release gas).
-White-noises like fan, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, etc.
-Walking with baby in a sling.
-Car rides.
-Hold baby in your hands on his belly and rock him gently.
-Stay relaxed and calm to diffuse calmness to baby.
-Ask for help if nothing works that day.

Patricia lives in Palo Alto with her husband and two teenagers. She is a Pediatric Nurse and Sleep consultant for The Sleeping Infant, she helps families get better nights using a holistic and individualized approach.

Tags:  parenting 

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