Life After Birth: 5 Ways to Take Care Of Yourself

Check out part one and part two of our series of frequently asked questions on postpartum mood disorders. We are offering an exclusive discount to Today’s Mama’s readers. Enter code HMHBLOVESTM to take $40 off a lifetime membership to our program. In our two-part series on postpartum mental health, we mentioned the idea of upping your self-care game if you have the baby blues. (Please note: the baby blues is not a postpartum mood disorder. Read our previous posts for a clear explanation and check out this post about baby blues vs. postpartum depression.) Self-care is often neglected during the blur of new motherhood, so we hope these fun ideas will tempt you to treat yourself and indulge in some much deserved YOU time.

Enjoy Some Water Therapy

Budget: Ask your partner, a friend, family member or sitter to take your little(s) for an hour of uninterrupted time. Fill up your tub and add your favorite bubbles, oils, or salts (we love these Ancient Minerals bath salts). Light a candle, and turn on your favorite Pandora station loud enough to cancel out any potential baby/toddler noises. Make sure to lock the door, so your zen isn’t interrupted.

Splurge: Consider checking out a float tank (get approval from your provider first!) in your area. Float tanks (sometimes called sensory deprivation tanks) are large, light- and sound-free chambers concentrated with Epsom salt so your body floats to the surface. It can be used as a tool for stress and pain management. If you don’t have any float tank companies in your area, consider getting a day pass to a local spa that has a hot tub. Either way, you’ll still get some deep relaxation and restorative time alone.

Find A Supportive Community

We were designed to mother in communities. Reaching out for help is life skill that you can start practicing today! Sometimes a good laugh or venting session with a friend can help do the trick. Other times, you may need a more experienced professional to step in.

Budget:  Set up a babysitting swap with another mama friend. You watch her kid(s) while she enjoys some alone time, and next time she’ll watch yours. Don’t have any close mama friends? Ask anyone you trust to watch your little(s) and you can “repay” them with a coffee or have them over for dinner once you’re feeling up to it. Don’t want to be alone? Strap the baby in the stroller, grab a friend, go for a walk, and allow yourself an hour to just vent on how freaking hard motherhood is. Once you’re done releasing, discuss ways you can troubleshoot the difficult situations. Need professional support? Check out Postpartum Support International’s free, live “Chats With an Expert” which are facilitated by licensed mental health professionals. You can also see if your insurance covers visits to health professionals, such as a behavioral health and marriage and family therapists.

Splurge: Hire a personal trainer, registered dietitian (this may be covered by your insurance), life coach, or business coach who can offer you personalized strategies to reach your unique goals, whatever they may be.

Streamline Your Beauty Routine

I mean, you’re absolutely stunning without makeup, but sometimes it just feels nice to spend a few minutes brushing your hair and taking care of your skin. Take some time to figure out a quick beauty routine that works for you. If you know you can breeze through your beauty routine in under 10 minutes with products you love to use, you’ll probably make regular time to do so.

Budget: We all have that one friend who has fantastic hair and makeup. Ask her if she’d come over to take a look at your makeup drawer and help you figure out which products to keep; which products to toss; which products to invest in; and how to organize everything. She’ll be honored to share her tips with you, and you’ll get some girlfriend time in!

Splurge: Consider going to a local Ulta or department store make-up counter and have them give you a quick make-over. You’ll likely have to purchase a product and/or pay a small fee for the service, but it can be a fun, new way to recreate your style. Ask for a simple routine to keep it reasonable! Or, you can try Beautycounter’s 5-Minute Face Kit. You could also go to a nice salon and get a great new haircut. Ask the stylist for some tips for fabulous, low-maintenance style!

Channel Your Inner Bookworm

I’m talking fiction — dramatic, juicy, “I can’t put it down” books. I’m NOT talking sleep training books and the other millions of baby books that make you doubt your mama instincts. Pick a new favorite tome and find some time to read each week.

Budget: Head to your library and find something that will take your mind off of mom-ing for awhile. You may be able to time it just right to join the library’s mommy and me group while you’re there! Or, you could also borrow a book from a friend, family member, or neighbor who has similar interests. Consider joining a book club. You might be able to find a local one on Meetup, or you can join an online book club on Instagram, like Belletrist, Book Bento, or RWBookClub.

Splurge: Consider getting a Kindle or Audible membership to keep your personal library fresh with new options.

Get Help with Grocery Shopping and Food Prep

Budget:  Consider a time-saving grocery service, like Instacart. Some popular local grocery stores also offer this service, and Amazon Prime Now delivers groceries in specific areas. You could also host a  weekly meal swap with your neighbors/community, where you each make a few batches of your favorite meal. Then you can “trade” batches of your meal for other meals so you get a variety of meals throughout the week, with less work and prep time.

Splurge: Let meal-delivery companies do the cooking for you! There are plenty of Whole30 Approved options out there. If cooking relaxes you, but you’d like help with some of the prep work, consider a service like SunBasket. Maybe meal planning gets you down. In that case, a subscription to RealPlans might be the ticket. It will save you tons of time planning and you’ll find delicious, new recipes to keep your meals exciting.

Bonus ideas from our HMHB Community:

“Tiara time” Dedicate at least 5-minutes to yourself.  You can designate this time by literally putting on a toy tiara, or by sitting in a certain spot in your house. When your partner or (older) kids see that, they’ll know that you need a minute to recharge and that they can’t interrupt you until it’s over.

Purchase a new coffee mug with a fun slogan Choose something to make you smile every morning. I like mugs from Brim Papery and The Love Bomb Company.

Start a new hobby or rekindle an old passion. Strap on your dusty rollerblades, learn how to kickbox, decorate cakes, play piano, color, or dance. The options are endless!

Walk around Target without a child or a time limit What else is there to say?

Recognize Yourself

The simplest way to take care of yourself? Remind yourself that you’re still you! It’s important to “put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.” In order to be the best version of yourself, you need to have your own needs met, and this includes taking time for self-care. When you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re more likely to pick arguments with your partner, yell at your kids, and emotionally eat. Simply taking a few minutes for yourself each day can make all the difference. Give it a shot, mama! What do you have to lose? What’s your favorite way to take care of yourself? Join the conversation on Instagram or send us an email.


Steph(hi)-6Stephanie Greunke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition who specializes in women’s health. She is a certified personal trainer and prenatal and postnatal corrective exercise specialist. Stephanie guides and supports women locally and globally through her web-based private practice, RockYourHormones.com.

 

 

Note: Some of the links contained in this website are affiliate links. This means that we may receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase from the affiliate. We only recommend products and services that we know or trust to be of high quality, whether an affiliate relationship is in place or not.

 

Apps You Need If You’re Traveling Over the Holidays

By Christine Elgersma, Common Sense Media

Traveling with kids is always an adventure. And anything longer than a trip across town requires some strategic planning to keep kids entertained, civil, and — ideally — learning along the way. In the mix of homework, books, music, and of course actually talking, apps can be super helpful when you’re trapped in a car or a plane. Whether you want to listen as a group, have the kids play together, or let them get their thinking caps on, check out these apps and our other travel lists to find what works best for your family.

All-Together Audio

Tales Untold, 4+. These short audio stories are in perfect bite-sized bits to get you from one rest stop to the next. With fiction and nonfiction, there’s something for everyone, including a magical adventure story, a mystery-based series, and a fact-based nonfiction series, among others. The first episode in each series is free, but you’ll have to pay for the rest. Also check out Pinna – Audio for Kids.

Leela Kids – Best Audio Content for 3-15 Yr Olds, 7+. Instead of providing original content, this app curates the best podcasts and audio content for kids, so you don’t have to do the legwork. You can choose topics based on your kid’s age and the categories that interest them most, like Animals, Music, and Space. Leela Kids is free and the quality of the content varies. But you can always switch to something else without worrying about the price. Also check out This American Life.

Backseat Bonding

RelationShapes, 3+. RelationShapes (get it?) allows for more than one finger to match shapes and solve puzzles at the same time. So if you have two kids playing on the same device, they can practice playing cooperatively and helping each other. Not only do kids match and construct shapes into pictures — a bit like Tangrams — they can make original creations as well. Parents can also set up multiple profiles if kids want to take turns playing instead of working together. Also check out Duel 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade Math Games for Kids.

Heads Up!, 7+. This classic guessing game is still one of the best co-play apps around. The person who’s “it” holds the phone or tablet at forehead level with the mystery word facing out, and the other player gives hints. After each correct answer, the player tilts the device to get the next answer on the screen. Kids can easily play while seated, but it’s better for the car versus the plane or bus because it can get rambunctious. Also check out Trivia Crack.

Off-the-Grid Good Times

Monument Valley 2, 8+. This mind-bending adventure through a surreal landscape tests your spatial sense. And its soothing, sensory environment is ideal for those who like problem-solving without pressure (who needs more of that when you’re traveling?). Once it’s downloaded you can play offline, and there are lots of levels to keep kids occupied. Though it’s not really a co-play game, kids can help each other figure things out if there’s one device to share. Also check out Zoombinis.

The Room, 11+. This creepy puzzle-based app has an involved story and lots of mystery. As kids solve complicated and beautiful puzzles, they move along in the story — and to the next puzzle. Once you pay and download, you no longer need to be connected to play. If your kid loves it and wants more, you can invest in parts two and three of the series as well. Also check out Lifeline.

Low-Key Learning

Busy Shapes & Colors, 2+. This great problem-solving app has kids sorting colors and shapes while solving simple puzzles (it can also be played offline). The difficulty increases as kids progress, which will help beat back boredom. If there’s an older sibling in a generous spirit, it’s also an opportunity for some gentle guidance and instruction. Also check out Artie’s Magic Pencil.

codeSpark Academy, 5+. codeSpark introduces the basic concepts of logic and looping in a fun game, and it’s great for kids who aren’t reading yet. Parents can include up to three profiles, so siblings can all use the app on their own. It’s free to download, but if you subscribe, kids can get new content every month. Also check out The Robot Factory by Tinybop and Thinkrolls: Kings & Queens.

Weirdwood Manor, 8+. Half book and half game, Weirdwood Manor reads like a digital book but with lots of interactivity and puzzles to solve. And the atmosphere is mysterious and eerie without being too scary. Kids can try the first chapter to see if it’s a hit, then parents can purchase one chapter at a time or the whole collection at once. Also check out Device 6.

 

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My 12 Year Old Was Blackmailed for Nude Photos

As a mom, and a communications professional in the technology space, I’ve heard some pretty scary stories about kids’ use of social media. Predators lurking on Facebook, bullying happening via Twitter and even suspicious activity occurring on Minecraft.

As parents, we try to stay on top of what our kids are doing, but the technology seems to be outpacing our ability to monitor. And there seems to be a new breed of apps out there that are wreaking havoc on our children. SnapChat and ask.FM seem to be particularly problematic. Well, at least that was before a friend — someone I have no doubt is an engaged mother — wrote the following words to me:

“I want to share my story to as many moms as possible, so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

I thought she would share a bullying story gone wrong, but it was much, much worse. My heart ached for her — but even more for her 12-year-old daughter.

girl blackmailed for naked photos on snapchat

You see, we continue as parents to try to give our kids an inch of technology so they can feel accepted and part of their generation. We often complain that we see only the tops of our kids’ heads because their noses are always in their phones — but we don’t take them away or limit their use. We think we have explained the rules, controlled the mechanism, established boundaries — but then a new company comes along with a new “app” that is better, faster, easier in every way, and it probably is. Until it’s used for evil and not its original intent.

And we don’t even know it’s happening.

Enter Kik (and several other messengers that fly under the radar of parental controls because they are apps. And oh yeah, kids can delete the messages so they are no longer on their device –although they can remain on the recipients.)

Kik Messenger (launched in late 2010, but gained a lot of popularity in 2012) is an instant messaging app for mobile devices. The app is available on most iOS, Android, and Windows Phones operating systems free of charge. It uses a smartphone’s data plan or WiFi to transmit and receive messages, so kids that have limited texting or no cellular texting at all love it — particularly because we now live in a world where free wi-fi is everywhere.

But kids really love Kik because it is more than typing messages. They can add videos and pictures to their text. They can also send Kik cards, which let them include YouTube videos, GIFs, or their own drawings in their conversations (these also fly under the radar of most parental controls.) The problem is some kids share their private Kik username on public social networks, or can find other users, usually with “cute” photos as their profiles. Kids post their username on their Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr pages and once someone knows their username, anyone can send them a message — and sexual predators are using it to contact minors ALL THE TIME.

According to an article from The CyberSafety Lady: “There are no parental controls for this messaging app of course, this app is designed for adults. And the usual parental controls on your child’s device won’t work within the Kik Messenger app. So blocking YouTube for example on your child’s iPod, won’t disable the YouTube app within Kik Messenger. Some parents are sharing messaging apps with their children to supervise their interactions. This can be especially helpful for younger users. Kik Messenger doesn’t enable this ability. The moment you log into the same Kik account on another device previous messages and conversations are deleted from the account. Logging out (resetting) of Kik messenger also deletes all previous conversations and messages, which for many parents makes parent supervision quite unreliable.”

So, if you are like me, this is where you say: “This wouldn’t happen to me. I’d monitor my kids’ devices better. And they understand the dangers of talking to strangers.”

And then I read this from my friend, and realized that if placed in a situation like this, I’m just not sure my daughters wouldn’t act the same

The below is a first-hand account of the incident. It is abridged for privacy and publication:

I picked up my 12 year old from summer camp one day, and her counselor made a joke about my daughter with her “phone” during a fire drill. Oddly enough, she doesn’t have a phone, but she does have a Galaxy Player. It’s an android device like the phone, just without the phone components. She is strictly forbidden from taking this device to camp, so, I took it from her right then and there as a punishment.

When I got home, I started investigating what was on the device to see what was new and what she was so interested in. She started sobbing dramatically and announced through hysterics, “Mom, please don’t be mad… I got a Kik account.”

Because I try to keep up with the latest in social media for tweens/teens, I was furious with her. I knew that these sorts of apps were bad news. I pulled it up and sure enough she had deleted the conversations as she went so I had no idea what she had been doing on it. I sent her to her room, and started looking at other things on the device to see what else was on it.

I pulled up the photo gallery section of her device, and when I saw the Kik file, my heart just broke into a million pieces. Photos of my daughter in her underwear posed in sexy selfies in front of her mirror. I started sobbing and my knees gave out.

daughter blackmailed for naked photos on snapchat

I immediately thought she was sending these photos because she thought all her friends were doing it. But then — amongst the sexy scandalous selfies — were photos of her crying. Like she was trying to send the photos but mis-angled the camera and it showed her face instead. The million pieces of my heart broke into a million more. Something was really wrong.

We called her to the living room and had a very serious discussion with her. She said she downloaded Kik at camp (free wifi) on Thursday. Then, on Friday she “kik’d” some cute guy (reportedly a teen boy) who posted a photo with the comment, “Kik me,” so, she said she did exactly that. He asked for a simple photo of her, and she complied. Once she gave him a harmless photo, he started demanding more scandalous photos, like the ones in her underwear.

She didn’t know how to make him go away, and he kept telling her he would “upload her picture” and “ruin her life” and her “friends and family would disown her if they found out” if she didn’t comply with his demands. This all happened in two short days of her having a Kik account.

She told us through tears that she had deleted all the conversations that would back up her story, so of course, I had my doubts. We told her if the story was true, we needed to call the sheriff, and she surprisingly agreed.

The officers came to our house and had no idea what Kik was. Initially, they told us because she wasn’t “nude” or in pornographic acts that the photos and such were harmless. We felt they were merely implying that we needed to get a better handle on our kid.

Frustrated, heartbroken, and confused, I downloaded Kik to MY phone and logged into her account. She showed me the name of the person who was blackmailing her, and told me who was who on her list of people she talked to. I just wanted some idea what she was exposed to.

 

SEE MORE: Bill Gates Reveals Minimum Age For Kids To Get A Cell Phone

 

That night, the app buzzed all night long from her “friends” at summer camp, all wondering why she wasn’t replying. Then the next morning, while I was at work, it happened.

Him: “(daughter’s name)” “Answer me” “What are you doing”

Me (as my daughter, trying to talk like she would): “Go away”

Him: “No sorry. You don’t get to tell me that.”

“I will upload this photo.” (One of her in her undergarments.)

“You want your friends and family to see these photos? “(then proceeds to post each and every photo she’d sent him)

Me: “Wat do you want?”

Him: “Let me see you. What are you wearing. You can take a photo.”

Me: “wat kind? wat kind of pic do u want?”

Him: “Show me what you are wearing.”

I thought it was now or never, so I went to the Sheriff’s office to show them the exchange.

I replied: “Busy”

Him: “Photos you have to take: (here he goes down a list of 5 photos – ranging from a fully dressed to “fully body naked in front of the mirror.” He also included some inappropriate graphics.) You do all that I want and I won’t ruin your life.”

Him: “Do you understand?”

Me: “U need to wait. can’t now. busy.”

Him: “I give you one week to do all those photos. If not next Wednesday I start to post your photos online. Do you understand?”

All this is happening while I am sitting with a Sheriff’s deputy from the Special Victim’s unit. The officers had a meeting while I waited. They discussed the points of the case, and what was being said in conversation while we were watching it happen.

They decided to pursue the case, because the demands of the 5 photos took the event from “a family scandal” to an assortment of felonies. The police seized my phone as evidence, then followed me home (without allowing me to call my husband and let him know we were coming), interviewed my daughter, took all the internet devices that accessed Kik and left.

A week went by and we finally heard from the detective. He said pursuing this guy was a long shot. Kik normally doesn’t cooperate with US Law Enforcement (it’s a Canadian-based company,) and he also said there are 10 cases just like this on his desk. He would keep the case active though.

Another long week in and the detective contacted us again about using our account for a Sting operation. We immediately agreed, and were anxious to hear what the police would tell us next. About three weeks later, the detective said in a surprise move Kik complied with his U.S. Warrant. They got all the information about the user, and surprisingly, he was a minor himself — a 16-year-old boy in London.

Because he’s a minor, the U.S. won’t prosecute him since the crime committed is no longer a felony when both people involved are minors. It’s more like a speeding ticket.

But you know why this was ALL good news to me? Because this month of hell is finally OVER. I don’t have to drag my daughter to depositions or a trial. We know who he is and know we won’t be seeing him. We have closure and know that it wasn’t a trafficking ring or an adult predator, although it is disturbing that there are young kids out there doing this and they most likely have disturbing futures ahead.

 

SEE MORE: Parents, Stop Teenage Privacy NOW

 

My daughter’s photo is now in the database for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. If the photos are to surface, ever, law enforcement agencies around the globe can use facial recognition software to identify victims of internet exploitation.

I keep telling her camp counselor that I owe her a lunch, for if she had she not joked about her “phone”, I wouldn’t have checked her Galaxy for another week. If she had gotten those messages (the 5 demands, sent 12 hours after we discovered the incident) she likely would have done it out of desperation. She truly felt like she had no options because this guy said so.

I am so thankful this story had what cannot be described as a happy ending, but at least a safe one. The fact that this young girl was so scared of getting caught that she engaged in even more desperate and unsafe behavior is so troubling, but yet so understanding. Who among us hasn’t tried to avoid getting caught by our parents when we knowingly go against the rules? But have the stakes ever been as high?

I did some research of my own, and found some extremely disturbing trends in the way kids are using this app, as well as a few others, and why Internet predators find these such an easy way to get in touch with potential victims.

It literally scared the crap out of me.

I am still searching for the appropriate way for tweens and teens to use the Internet and engage in social media, but I become increasingly convinced that the development of technology far outpaces the maturity of our children.

I encourage you to share this story with your friends and if appropriate, with your children. I encourage you to have meaningful discussions about Web-based behavior and treat it like drinking and driving — there is no instance about social media where they should be scared to tell you what they have done or contact you to help get them out of trouble. And I encourage you to hug your kids tight tonight.

I know I will.

 

About the Author

Whitney Fleming is the creator of the “Playdates on Fridays” (also known to adults as her wine plyagroup) blog and keeps all of us moms laughing on her Facebook page. She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, and has additionally published work with Scary Mommy, In the Powder Room, Coffee + Crumbs , and Lies About Parenting among others. If you would like to connect with Whitney, or simply enjoy a good laugh and dose of reality, visit her Facebook page here.

 

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9 Ways to Raise a Reader

Photo: Josh Applegate, Unsplash

By Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media

Kids become lifelong readers for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes there’s one key book that captures a kid’s imagination and opens him or her up to the exciting world of fiction. Other times, a teacher who assigns great books in class sparks a hunger for more big ideas and fine writing. In some cases, parents influence kids’ appreciation of books by sharing their own love of literature and modeling reader behavior — always having a book to read, taking books on vacation, reading before bedtime, making regular trips to the library and bookstore, etc.

Here are our best tips for nurturing a love of reading that can last a lifetime:

Read aloud: This comes naturally to lots of new parents, but it’s important to keep it up. Kids will enjoy it longer than you think. When reading to babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and kids in early grade school, it’s wonderful to have a kid on your lap, snuggled next to you on the couch, or drifting off to sleep in bed as you enjoy picture books together. You may have to read your kid’s favorite a hundred times, but just go with it. Your kid will remember the closeness as well as the story. And try nonfiction for those who are curious about pirates, Vikings, robots, castles, history, sports, biography, animals, whatever. For second through fifth graders, read those rich and meaty books that might be missed otherwise, maybe classics like Treasure Island or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

raising readers

Many parents think that as soon as their kids learn to read on their own, they no longer need to be read to. But kids still love it and benefit from it as they hear the rhythm of the language, learn correct pronunciation, and get to relax and just take it all in. Kids will get the idea that there’s something worthwhile in books and that there’s something special about time spent with a parent.

Savor the series: It’s common for kids to become book lovers for life after getting hooked on a series. And there are lots of good ones that keep kids hungry for the next installment. Some reliable prospects: Ivy and BeanJudy Moody for beginning readers; Harry PotterA Series of Unfortunate Events, and the Percy Jackson for middle graders; and The Hunger GamesSisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and The Raven Cycle for older kids.

Grab onto a genre: Kids go through phases of genres they’re passionate about, from girl detectivesto science fiction and fantasy. Don’t get hung up on whether it’s considered great literature (although some genre books are). Be happy that your kid is devouring books one after the other.

 

SEE MORE: 9 EXTRA GENTLE TV SHOWS FOR PRESCHOOLERS

 

Feed the favorite-author addiction: Once your kids find a writer they love, they may want to read all of his or her books — a great excuse for a trip to the library or an opportunity for book swapping among friends and classmates. Here are some good bets for favorites. Younger kids: Dav Pilkey (The Adventures of Captain Underpants), Beverly Cleary (Beezus and Ramona). Middle grade: Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn-Dixie), Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book). Tweens and teens: Judy Blume (Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret) and Sarah Dessen (Just Listen).

Count on the classics: Books are called classics because they continue to engage readers generation after generation. There are no guarantees, but you could try introducing your kids to books you loved as a kid and see which ones click. Some good ones to try are the Dr. Seuss and Narnia books, Charlotte’s Web, and The Secret Garden. Check out our Classic Books for Kids list to find more.

Find books about the things your kid loves: If your kid adores horses, try Black Beauty or any of the titles on our list of best Horse Books. If he’s wild about cars, trucks and trains, check out our list of Vehicle Books. Librarians, booksellers, and Internet searches will help you find books on any favorite topic.

raising readers

 

Funny is fine: Some parents wrestle with letting their kids read Captain UnderpantsDiary of a Wimpy Kid, and other edgy humor books about kids getting in trouble. Talk to your kids about the content, but keep in mind that kids like these books not because they want to imitate the characters’ actions but because they can live vicariously through their bad behavior. Humor is a great pathway to book loving.

Comics are OK: Graphic novels are among the hottest trends in children’s publishing, and they can get kids hooked on reading. Kids may start with Squish and Babymouse and move on to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. But these series can also lead to more sophisticated fare such as El DeafoBoxers and Saintsand This One Summer. Find other titles in our list of best Graphic Novels.

Engage with ebooks: Kids can cuddle up with a Kindle, Nook, or iPad before naptime or bedtime. Some recent studies say more than half of U.S. kids are reading digital books at least once a week. The electronic format has proved to be especially engaging for boys and reluctant readers, and you can download or access many books on an ereader, which make it a great choice for air travel and car rides.

 

SEE MORE: A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO BOOKS

 

But note that some studies show that book apps and interactive “enhanced” ebooks, while fun, can be distracting and inhibit reading comprehension. So to promote reading skills and encourage your kid to be a frequent reader, you might want to stick with ebooks that have the look of a bound paper book. Some even have animation that mimics turning the pages.

Make reading a family value: Actions speak louder than words. Take your kids to the library once a week or once a month to get new books, make regular outings to your local bookstore, hunt for low-cost books at used bookstores or second-hand shops, and show kids that finding a good book is like a treasure hunt.

Fit reading into your family lifestyle. Set aside time for reading only — turning off the TV, computer, and cell phone. Encourage focused reading time, either for independent reading or reading aloud. Take preschoolers to story time hours at libraries and bookstores. For older kids, a parent-kid book club can be fun. Read to kids at bedtime. Provide time and space for your kids to read for pleasure in the car (if they don’t get car sick!), on vacation, after homework is done, on their own before bed. Warning: It could be habit-forming!

 

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Moms, Get the Big Stuff Right

Every mom worries about failing her kids. We wonder what we will do if our kids turn against us, grow up to hate us or end up disliking their lives. These are natural worries, but these fears can drive us crazy. 

They can also drive us to focus on minor details, hoping that if we can control the small things, the big stuff will fall into place. But, posting the perfect “first day of school” picture on Instagram or making sure that our son gets the right football coach won’t improve our parenting. It will just give us a false sense of control.

So, I have a suggestion. Why don’t we forget the multitude of small parenting details and start focusing on getting the big things right. I believe that when we do this, life goes a whole lot better for moms and their kids. Here’s where we can start.

Be Kind. I’ve pulled the car over a few times in my life with a backseat full of fighting kids. I know firsthand how hard being nice can be. So I think that it’s important to train ourselves to be nice.

moms get big stuff right parenting

Personally, I need some alone time in order to keep myself calm and less irritable. Some moms need to work a little, exercise, pray more or go out with friends periodically. These aren’t selfish things. They are important because they help us be kind, and being patient with our kids is crucial to good parenting.

Speak Well. We often spend more time with our kids than anyone else, so they hear everything we say. They hear us talk to friends, our husbands, parents, and neighbors. And of course, they take to heart what we say to them.

Words are powerful. They can heal relationships or crush them, shape the identity of your children or deeply injure it. Pay attention to your words and the tone that you use.

Love Unconditionally. As much as we’d like to believe that we are good at loving our children unconditionally, the truth is, we’re not always very good at it. We always want more from our kids. We want to show them that we love them, but we also want them to succeed and love us back. 

Loving them when they’re flunking fifth grade, not liked by any of their friends or doing things to embarrass us is tough. But loving them when no one else will is what being a good mom is all about. That’s where we shine. 

Be Tough. The kids who I see in my practice who get in trouble aren’t the ones with strong mothers. They are the ones whose mothers have no spine.

parenting moms get big stuff right be tough

Forgoing discipline, failing to stick to rules and blurring boundaries makes kids crazy. Kids need to look at their moms and see stoicism. They won’t listen to a mother who is a pushover, who can’t make up her mind or who has no convictions. But they will listen to a mother who knows who she is and makes no apologies. 

Assert who you are, and your kids will stay close by your side.

Moms, you’re doing a great job! Hang in there, focus on love, kindness and discipline and most of all, don’t sweat the small stuff.

 

About The Author

Pediatrician, mother and best-selling author of six books, Dr. Meg Meeker is the country’s leading authority on parenting, teens and children’s health. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, certified by The American Board of Pediatrics and serves on the Advisory Board of The Medical Institute. She lives and works in northern Michigan where she shares a medical practice with her husband, Walter. They have four grown children and one beautiful granddaughter. To read more from Dr. Meeker, visit her website here.

 

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How to Spot Fake News and Raise Media-Savvy Kids

This just in! Breaking news! You don’t want to miss THIS!

If you get your news online or from social media, this type of headline sounds very familiar. What’s real? What’s fake? What’s satire? Now that anyone with access to a phone or computer can publish information online, it’s getting harder to tell. But as more people go to Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and other online sources for their news and information, it’s even more crucial that all of us — especially kids — learn to decode what we read online. (Learn more about how kids get their news and how they feel about it in Common Sense Media’s report, News and America’s Kids: How Young People Perceive and Are Impacted by the News.)

There’s so much fake news online that Google and Facebook are starting to actively crack down on publishers of false or misleading news. But ad-supported networks are in somewhat of a bind, since they get money when users click on these stories — so the crazier the headline, the more money they make. Most kids and teens get their news from their feeds, so they need to learn how to view stories critically (and they should learn that skill anyway!). Even little kids can start to think about some key media-literacy questions. And as kids get older, parents can help kids become more sophisticated critical thinkers. (If your kid’s school is tackling media-literacy issues, consider sharing this with their teachers.)

Here are a few basic questions to consider whenever you and your kids encounter a piece of media:

  • Who made this?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Who paid for this? Or, who gets paid if you click on this?
  • Who might benefit or be harmed by this message?
  • What is left out of this message that might be important?
  • Is this credible (and what makes you think that)?

(Thanks to Project Look Sharp for these questions.)

Older kids especially might enjoy learning tricks to spot fake news. Here are a few things to watch for:

  • Look for unusual URLs or site names, including those that end with “.co” — these are often trying to appear like legitimate news sites, but they aren’t.
  • Look for signs of low quality, such as words in all caps, headlines with glaring grammatical errors, bold claims with no sources, and sensationalist images (women in bikinis are popular clickbait on fake news sites). These are clues that you should be skeptical of the source.
  • Check a site’s “About Us” section. Find out who supports the site or who is associated with it. If this information doesn’t exist — and if the site requires that you register before you can learn anything about its backers — you have to wonder why they aren’t being transparent.
  • Check Snopes, Wikipedia, and Google before trusting or sharing news that seems too good (or bad) to be true.
  • Consider whether other credible, mainstream news outlets are reporting the same news. If they’re not, it doesn’t mean it’s not true, but it does mean you should dig deeper.
  • Check your emotions. Clickbait and fake news strive for extreme reactions. If the news you’re reading makes you really angry or super smug, it could be a sign that you’re being played. Check multiple sources before trusting.

By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media Executive Editor of Parenting Content and Distribution

(Thanks to Professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College for some of these tips.)

Watch “5 Ways to Spot Fake News”

 

KinderPerfect is the New ‘Cards Against Humanity’ but for Parents (You WANT This!)

KinderPerfect is the new Cards Against Humanity, but for Parents.  If you need something to keep you and your fellow parents entertained through the holiday get-togethers, cabin trips and late-nights, this is the game for you!  This game was inspired by sleep deprivation and too many episodes of freaking Dora the Explorer.

Party Games for Parents, Kinderperfect is the new Cards Against Humanity like Apples to Apples

KinderPerfect is simple and hilarious.  A person selects a red card and the players submit from their hand a white card that they think the red-card holder will like that ideally somehow matches the phrase on the red card.  The holder of the red card selects a winner from the white cards, and that winner gets to keep the red card.  The object of the game is to win the most red cards.

 

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Party Games for Parents, Kinderperfect is the new Cards Against Humanity like Apples to Apples

KinderPerfect was created by Washington DC-based husband and wife team Amy and Wayan Vota. The couple was inspired by their daughters — nine-year-old Hanalei and eight-year-old Archer — to put a parenting twist on Cards Against Humanity. “My wife and I loved playing Cards Against Humanity but we felt the cards didn’t really speak to our experience as parents,” Wayan tells Scary Mommy. “What are the true reasons why Mommy drinks? I’m going to put puke, pee, and Calliou.”

Party Games for Parents, Kinderperfect is the new Cards Against Humanity like Apples to Apples

The couple started creating their own parenting-themed cards to mix in to their Cards Against Humanity deck. Soon their parent friends were having so much fun with the made up cards that the group found themselves playing exclusively with their own cards. After a super successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $20,000 from 800 backers  you can now order KinderPerfect on Amazon, without even making the trip to Target.

Party Games for Parents, Kinderperfect is the new Cards Against Humanity like Apples to Apples

 

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Vota says thanks to the Kickstarter campaign, they had no problems coming up with hilarious question and answer options for the original 210 card deck. “We had over 800 parents give us 7,000 card ideas — it was crazy,” he says. “Ask parents, ‘What drives you mad?’ and they’ll have a few answers.”

Party Games for Parents, Kinderperfect is the new Cards Against Humanity like Apples to Apples

Using actual KinderPerfect players as sounding boards for ideas, the Votas worked to come up with new cards that could create answers that aren’t just funny but “perfectly cringeworthy.” Vota explains that the game is so fun because these cards echo the natural humor we parents deal with day in and day out. He says his goal was to create cards that would have players saying, “‘Oh dear God, let’s stop and have a conversation about the time I had to deal with a poop mural.’”

Party Games for Parents, Kinderperfect is the new Cards Against Humanity like Apples to Apples

You can grab the original deck right now, or you can pre-order the brand new 400 card deck that drops next week and have it arrive in time for Thanksgiving Break!  I know what we’ll be playing at our annual Eat-All-the-Thanksgiving-Leftovers-Now Feast!

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2nd Grader Might Want to Be A Cop For The Most Hilarious Reason

Sometimes when you’re mindlessly scrolling through Facebook you find PURE GOLD. 

Meet my good friend’s son Elliot. He’s in the 2nd grade. He might want to be a cop when he grows up. Here’s why:

I might want to be a cop when I grow up . . .

This little guy has this whole thing worked out.  Most importantly:

#2 – I like my phone number as 911. 

Makes sense. It’s 3 numbers. I can see that Elliot values simplicity . . . and a side of JUSTICE. 

Dear Anxiety, You Are Paralyzing.

Dear Anxiety,

 

I see you.

 

In the last two years I have gotten to know on a pretty close level. You have come in and out of my life. We are not friends. To be honest, I kind of loathe you, actually. More recently, you have become a daily battle for me. You can take any moment, any situation, and use it to bring some of the greatest panic and fear I have ever experienced. It’s been a tough season for me as a Mother. I am trying hard to be strong, to be brave; to find my value in who I am as Mom. There are times I feel lost in raising tiny humans, but I know I am doing a good job. I know that Motherhood is not having the right answers. It is sometimes simply winging it and not having a clue what you are doing.

However, if I am being entirely honest, the days you sneak up on me I have a pretty hard time seeing just how good of a job I am actually doing, especially when I feel like I should have the right answers. I should know how to handle tantrums. I should have a well behaved children. You are a master at speaking lies to me. You are crippling. You instill fear. You cause me to worry about things that may never even happen. There have been days when I can’t even take my kids to the park because I am afraid they will be kidnapped.

You are paralyzing.

dear anxiety hate you

I first encountered you after the triplets were born. You used sleep deprivation to suffocate me. I had no amount of energy and could never catch up on my sleep. The panic attacks kicked in and swallowed me whole. At the time, it was hard for me to even recognize and admit how difficult things were for me as a new Mom. I wasn’t enjoying the season. I waited for so long to become a Mother and you hijacked my heart with guilt and told me lies about who I was as a Mom. You stole moments I could have shared with my babies. I felt so lonely, so misunderstood.

I hated you then like I hate you know.

Eventually, I saw what was happening to me. My husband, friends and family-they saw it too. And I got the help I needed to learn how to manage you.

And yet, here we are, two years later, and I see you trying to poor the physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion over me once again. You are using the terrible twos to make me question myself as a Mom and if I can even handle this tiring and often thankless job. You use tantrums to suck every piece of patience right out of me. You constantly steal the grace I should have for myself as a Mother and exchange it with panic and guilt. You use Mom-shamers to steal my confidence. You know all the tricks to make me believe untruths about who I am as a Mom.

However, the difference between two years ago and now is, now, I know how to face you a little better than I did before. I know the importance of being vulnerable even when it is hard, even when I don’t want to. I know that I have to talk about the fact that right now, I am having a hard time enjoying this season of Motherhood; and that it is okay. I have to cling to the people I trust most in my life; the ones who don’t judge me when my kids are throwing yogurt across the room during breakfast and enjoying a lollipop before 9am. The ones who still love me even when I lose my temper. The ones who know I am just as mortified when my kid bites theirs. The ones I can share my secrets with and know they are safe there.

dear anxiety

I know when my husband says, “Go to target. Buy a new dress. I will get the kids to bed tonight,” I need to let him because he means it. I see you and so does he. I have been incredibly impressed by the actions he took to ensure we could walk through this season together and find solutions to help me through some pretty tough days. He made the big moves. He was willing to be there for me however I needed, to help me through this strangling season.

I know that I have to be willing to face you even when I am ashamed of the events of the day and how I responded to the whining, biting, fighting, crying, and hitting (And yes, sometimes all of that happens within minutes of each other). Those are the days when my Mom anger kicks in, guilt takes over, and I am entirely ashamed of who I have become and how I have responded. Any kind of grace I could have had for myself is gone. Those are the hardest days. I have learned how important grace is. I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t have all the right answers. I fail every day. And that is okay. That is grace. I have to pray. I have to pray hard and know that God chose me to a be a Mom to my babies because He knew I could handle it.

dear anxiety parenting

I know when it is time to make a Doctor’s appointment and talk about medication to help. To be honest, this step was probably the hardest for me. It is hard to walk into the Doctor’s office and admit that you don’t have it all together. However, I know that sometimes going on medication is just the best way to manage you. There is no shame in that. And this time around, I knew I needed to take those steps to get the help that I needed in order to get through my days a little better.

I am in the trenches of Motherhood trying to hold onto every bit of patience I could possibly have for my kids. My days spent with three pretty active testing your limits two year olds are filled with all kinds of challenges. The days are getting better and you and I aren’t as close as we used to be, but it is still hard. However, the beautiful thing is, is that God always makes beauty out of our ashes. It is seasons like this that change you. They allow to grow and become a stronger, wiser version of yourself. They give you hope and remind you just how great of a Mother you actually are. And that is what I will choose to take away from this incredibly exhausting, yet entirely empowering season of Motherhood.

Sincerely,

The I still don’t always have it together Mom

 

Desiree Fortin is a Mom to almost 2 year old triplets. Her journey to become a Mom was not easy, but it is one of hope and beauty. Desiree is a blogger and photographer.  You can read Desiree’s blog, visit her on Instagram, or visit her Facebook page to learn more.

 

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The 10 Most Violent Video Games of 2017 (and What Your Kids Should Play Instead)

By Jeff Haynes, Common Sense Media

It’s a dark night. You’ve just escaped from a sprawling mansion deep in the Louisiana bayou. You’re terrified. You’ve been shot at, bludgeoned, and stabbed as you try to escape this life-or-death situation. What’s worse, it looks like you’re on your own, because a sheriff’s deputy was killed in front of your eyes. You take a break in an upstairs bathroom to catch your breath, but something doesn’t feel right. You should go, but as you get to the door, it swings open, and you’re face to face with the man you killed minutes before. How is he still alive, and worse, how are you ever going to escape if you have to kill him again and again?

This is only one of the many nightmare-inducing, pulse-pounding, and incredibly violent moments from the horror-survival game Resident Evil 7 Biohazard. RE7, as it’s known to fans, tosses an ordinary guy into a macabre setting full of monsters and mayhem that terrifies even the most hardcore horror gamers. But it’s more than just jump scares and shrill music that’s designed to make players uneasy. Sometimes, the content of the game itself can be too much for many gamers to handle.

Every year, game graphics become more realistic and immersive, bringing players closer to the action and story than ever before. With violent video games, this realism ratchets up the brutality. Despite that, video game promotions target kids way younger than the games’ age rating. Trailers, demos, blogs, and more air on TV, go viral on social media, and are discussed endlessly on game sites. Marketers advertise the excitement, the depth of realism, and the cool gameplay — but they often don’t tell you exactly how violent the games are. The truth is, the majority of the hyper-realistic, hyperpopular games are best left to mature players. The impact of violent media on kids is still being studied — especially as game violence jumps from the screen to virtual reality. But research shows that heavy exposure to violent media is associated with aggressive behavior, desensitization, and violent thoughts.

Many parents whose kids ask for these games (or set up a line of credit on game sites such as Steam) may know that the games are violent, but not the specific kinds of violence they contain. Here’s where you can find out. Below, we’ve gathered 10 of the most extreme titles to come out this year. A lot of them are well-designed gameplay experiences, but they’re definitely not for kids. The thing is, instead of saying no all the time, we think you’ll be more successful if you say, “Wait,” and offer kids alternatives in the same genre that are a little less violent and more age-appropriate. Note that we offer two alternatives for each game, one for younger players and one for older players.

 

Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition
Few sci-fi action games push the envelope as much as Bulletstorm, which focuses on players using guns, kicks, and an electric whiplike device to destroy their opponents. There’s plenty of blood, gore, and dismemberment, and players get points for killing enemies in extreme ways.
Alternative sci-fi action: ReCore: Definitive Edition (12+), Gravity Rush 2 (14+)

Conan Exiles
This massively multiplayer online role-playing game is full of bloody, gory hack-and-slash action that includes decapitations and dismemberment. Other game events highlight the brutality of Conan’s world, its environment, and its subject matter, which includes cannibalism, torture, and human sacrifice.
Alternate MMOs: Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns (12+), Marvel Heroes 2016 (13+)

Dark Souls III: The Ringed City
The end of this incredibly difficult action role-playing game franchise doesn’t skimp on the blood, gore, or shock factor, as fantasy creatures moan and gush blood when struck by medieval weapons. Bodies are frequently seen scattered throughout the environment, and players will slash, impale, and smash enemies to pieces.
Alternate action RPGs: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (10+), Horizon Zero Dawn (13+)

Dead by Daylight
In this slasher game, a remorseless killer hunts down survivors to sacrifice them to an evil entity, using a variety of weapons to hack, stab, and impale characters. Injured players may crawl on the ground leaving pools of blood behind and can be hung on meat hooks in brutal death sequences.
Alternative scary games: Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 (12+), Darkest Dungeon (16+)

For Honor
Combat between three factions plays a major role in this action fighting game set in a medieval fantasy world. Each entity tries to assert its dominance over the others using melee weapons, such as swords, pikes, and spears. Kills are frequently shown in close-up with large splashes of blood, while plenty of arenas show severed heads on spikes and other gruesome imagery. Players also slaughter dozens, if not hundreds of computer-controlled enemies wholesale with no ability to negotiate peace.
Alternate multiplayer action games: Portal Knights (10+), Fortnite (13+)

Friday the 13th: The Game
Like a digital version of the horror movie franchise, this multiplayer slasher game places one player in the role of Jason hunting down and killing opponents, who assume the roles of different camp counselors. Adding a sexual angle to the violence (a potentially harmful combination for tweens and teens), the female characters are scantily clad or skinny-dipping while they are being hunted down. Grisly violence abounds as characters are killed with weapons, environmental objects, or even Jason’s bare hands. The cut scenes and gameplay feature tons of blood and gore.
Alternative action games: Cuphead (10+), Alan Wake (14+)

Outlast II
Gory scares run throughout this bloody horror game, which forces players to try their best to escape from cultists wielding weaponry and farm implements. These enemies only want to catch and torture the player in bloody, gruesome ways, and multiple scenes of viscera and stabbing are frequently shown, as well as the violent birth of the Antichrist.
Alternate scary games: Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (9+), Zombie Vikings (13+)

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
Gamers try their best to be the last one standing in this online shooter, which throws up to 100 players into a constantly shrinking arena. Whether using firearms, cars, melee weapons, or bare hands, you have to try to kill everyone you come across to ensure your safety. Even alliances between players can quickly be tossed aside in favor of points and survival, undermining the concepts of cooperation, loyalty, and teamwork.
Alternative shooters: Hard Reset Redux (10+), Destiny 2 (13+)

Resident Evil 7 Biohazard
Scares aren’t the only thing to shock gamers in this violence-packed game that glorifies cruelty as players use shotguns, chainsaws, explosives, and other weapons against human and inhuman creatures. There are plenty of disturbing images of open wounds and injuries, and characters are dismembered, impaled, or killed in brutal ways.
Alternative survival action games: Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 (10+), Adr1ft (13+)

Sniper Elite 4
War games frequently highlight massive casualties, but this World War II shooter casts the player as a sniper. Using knives, explosives, and a variety of firearms, you travel to some of the most dangerous locations of the war to conduct stealthy attacks against Nazi soldiers. Unfortunately, there aren’t any nonviolent attack options, so these strikes are simply ways to kill enemies without poking the ant hill of enemies that scour the grounds looking for you once they’ve detected something’s amiss. On top of this, some kills are slowed down and highlighted with graphic X-ray visuals indicating the brutality of the damage inflicted on its target from a fired bullet.
Alternative shooter games: Splatoon 2 (10+), Overwatch (13+)

 

For more information and tips about managing violence in the media, check out Common Sense Media’s dedicated content hub.