Science Says: Eating THIS Could Change Your Kid’s Social Life

Mom confession:

The idea of sending my kid to school terrifies me. You guys, it’s still four years away, and it’s stressing me the heck out.

And it’s not because I’ll miss him—though I will.

It’s because kids are mean, and the day my son comes home heartbroken because of another child’s cruelty is one I dread beyond description.

Heavy, I know.

BUT, guess what—there is one thing I do every day already that could be helping prevent those grade school problems well in advance. And that’s feeding my son fruits and veggies.

Say what??

A study done in Europe is telling us that not only can a well-balanced diet increase your child’s physical health, but it could help foster better mental and emotional health as well—peer relationships included.

Researchers found that after studying over 7,500 children ages 2 to 9, and then following up again 2 years later, the kids who practiced better dietary habits (like eating fruits and vegetables, limiting sugar intake, and eating fish multiple times per week) scored better on psychosocial well-being assessments. That meant that self-esteem was higher, parent/child relations were better, and that emotional and peer problems were fewer at baseline as well as follow-up.

Um, I’m on board.

Now, while the research didn’t exactly prove causation—meaning that existing mental and emotional health could have an influence on one’s diet to begin with—I’m thinking there isn’t much to be lost by playing it safe and serving up another scoop of roasted cauliflower.

Because even if my kid is bullied at some point (haven’t we all been??), I’d like to hope I’ll have given him every opportunity to handle it with emotional strength and grace.

 

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Guilt-Free Ways to be a Less Distracted Parent

My daughter loved the classic Curious George books when she was about two. Those stories are from another time when parents apparently had nothing to do. Each runs at least fifty pages. Fifty pages. To make matters worse, she had memorized the stories, which meant I couldn’t fudge it and skip over large swaths of text.

We’ve all been there, I’m sure, stuck doing the repetitive stories or imaginary scenes dreamed up by our kids. I have a love-hate relationship with these moments: sometimes I really need to get something else done. Other times, I am happy to spend time in a child’s silly world. But what was the difference? I wanted to figure out how I could enjoy that playtime more and still get dinner on the table in time.

 

Figure out what your child is asking for

All kid needs attention, affirmation, and love from their parents. Each kid is different in how they need to feel that love, though. Some children love being physical—wrestling, cuddling, or touching. Others need verbal encouragement. Still others want you to watch them as they accomplish something.

You know your kid best. When does she light up when you watch her draw? Does he keep asking for tickles? It doesn’t matter if it’s as mind-numbing as another round through Curious George. Choose to share a period of time when you play in their world, instead of asking them to live in yours.

Plan ahead to play

I know there are demands at work and home. But giving unfocused attention to your children is just as important. It’s also limited: I will be doing laundry for my entire life (ugh) but I only have a handful of years with these small kids who want to make messes of paint and playdough.

It sounds silly, but I schedule playtime with my kids. Doing so allows me to commit to focusing on them for a portion of my day. If I don’t designate protected time, my unending to-do list starts breathing down my neck. Other tasks seem so much more productive, seem so much more worthwhile than throwing a tennis ball on the roof. But when I pre-decide to play, I can shut up my to-do list for a little while. I’ll get back to it eventually.

 

Give 100% focus, and then go do your thing

The act of giving a child our attention is a generous gift. We can buy a toy or send them to a great school, but we can’t outsource sharing our attention with our children. But we have actual tasks that need to get done—dinner doesn’t appear magically at my house, either.

Once I given my child that pre-decided, focused time, I give myself permission to do what needs to be done. Too often, I have found myself giving 50% focus to my kid and 50% on what I’m trying to accomplish. That split focus leaves me irritated and unproductive. (I also tend to burn things.) My two-year-old tends to act up when I’m distracted, forcing me to give him my full, but negative, attention. When I have chosen to give him 100% focus, he feels loved. Then, thankfully, he is more likely to play on his own while I cook dinner or send an email.

Parents know, deep down, that they are often distracted while spending time with their kids. Sometimes it feels like we don’t have any other choice. Ultimately, though, we can choose to carve out specific windows of time during which we participate with our kids in their world.

This doesn’t happen accidentally. Deciding ahead of time becomes a commitment on my planner. Instead of my kids getting the scraps of attention that I have on the edges, they get all of me for a deliberate part of the day. The result? They feel loved and I feel like I am becoming the kind of parent I want to be.

About the Author
Laura Thrasher is the co-founder of HeartPlanner.com, a tool for parents to make small wins in the most important areas of life. She is passionate about helping others make the most of their time. Laura is a writer, marketer, and mom of two. Feel free to connect at laura@heartplanner.com.

 

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3 Reasons Why You Need to Be In Photos Now

Mother’s Day is the perfect time to make a point to get in the family photos. Here are 3 Reasons Why You Need to Be In Photos Now, along with inspiration from our latest Mother’s Day photo shoot.

Mother’s Day is the perfect time to make a point to get in the family photos. Here are 3 Reasons Why You Need to Be In Photos Now, along with inspiration from our latest Mother’s Day photo shoot. Photography Session with Sue Bryce. #mothersday #photography #livinglocurto

You might think this article is just about a Mother’s Day photo shoot with my daughter, but I want to make it clear that this is much more important than pretty photos.

What I am writing today is a powerful reminder for you… yes, I’m talking to you!

Last week marked the two-year anniversary of my mother’s death. This weekend, we found out that my husband’s mother died unexpectedly. Now both of our moms are gone, and many years before we expected to lose them. A few days before finding out about my mother-in-law’s passing, I received these beautiful photos from our Mother’s Day photo shoot with the amazing Sue Bryce.

Here are 3 Reasons Why You Need to Be In Photos Now, along with inspiration from our latest Mother’s Day photo shoot. Photos by Sue Bryce

I thought out of respect for the recent death in our family, I would not share my Mother’s Day photos right away.  But, then I thought about you and the other women reading this. I decided to share my story and photos in hopes that you would be inspired to get IN THE PHOTOS with your kids, your mother, father or other family members who are dear to you. I know my mother-in-law would approve of this message. So here I am writing to let you know that YOU are beautiful, no matter what size of clothes you wear, how old you are, or if your teeth are crooked or straight.

This message is important for you to hear. I hope you keep reading…

3 Reasons Why You Need to Be In Photos Now

 

1. It’s The Best Gift You Can Give

3 Reasons Why You Need to Be In Photos Now, along with inspiration from our latest Mother’s Day photo shoot. Amy Locurto and daughter. Photos by Sue Bryce

With Mother’s Day coming up soon, I encourage you to get in the photos with your kids. Give your kids the gift of you! Please listen to someone who has had both of her parents and in-laws die at a young age. Photos are an important part of your children’s memories. Without them, it’s often hard to conjure up memories. Isn’t it crazy how as soon as you look at a photo, memories come flooding back? Getting beautiful photos taken of yourself is not silly, it’s not vain, its not a waste of money. It’s a cherished memory captured forever. It’s important.

My daughter and I will NEVER forget our trip to California for these photos. It was worth every penny to have this special time with my little girl. You can bet I’m going to be nagging my teenage son to take photos with me soon. (I can picture him running away right now. ha!)  No worries with this one, she RUNS to the camera!

 

2. Someday You Will Wish You Did It Sooner

 

3 Reasons Why You Need to Be In Photos Now! Inspiration from a Mother’s Day photo shoot. Amy Locurto and daughter. Photos by Sue Bryce LivingLocurto.com

I always tell people, 10 years from now you will look back at photos of yourself and wish you looked that young, that skinny or that healthy again!  I hope by sharing my Mother’s Day photos today that you will be inspired to get in a photo and not worry so much about your appearance. I bet you look pretty darn good!

3 Reasons Why You Need to Be In Photos Now! Inspiration from a Mother’s Day photo shoot. Amy Locurto and daughter. Photos by Sue Bryce LivingLocurto.com

My mom was a gorgeous woman, yet she never wanted to be in our photos. I wish I had more photos of us together now! No matter how much I might dread photos, I make a point to get in them with my kids as much as possible. I may not be happy with the way I look, wish I was skinner, younger, etc, but my kids don’t care, they love me for who I am.

 

3. A Good Photographer Can Perform Miracles

 

3 Reasons Why You Need to Be In Photos Now! Inspiration from a Mother’s Day photo shoot. Amy Locurto and daughter. Photos by Sue Bryce LivingLocurto.com

This is no joke! A good photographer knows how to pose you to look your best, and will use lighting that performs miracles! I’m glad I didn’t put this off to lose a certain amount of weight, I just got in the photos and trusted that the photographer would make me look amazing! When you have photos taken by the fabulous Sue Bryce, that is a no brainer! Seriously, if you have a great photographer, plus hair and make-up, you will feel like a princess.

I want to walk around in this pose all day with someone holding lights and a fan on me, because I do NOT look like this in person. LOL!!! Miracles I tell ya!

3 Reasons Why You Need to Be In Photos Now! Inspiration from a Mother’s Day photo shoot with Lifestyle and Food blogger, Amy Locurto and daughter. Photos by Sue Bryce LivingLocurto.com

Don’t wait to book a photo session with a photographer, because some have very long wait lists. Find someone who can help you with your hair and make-up if you aren’t sure what to do. You deserve to feel like a queen for a day! Remember you are giving this gift to your children. They will cherish photos of you long into their old age and be happy to pass them down to generations. Make time for this… it’s important, just like you.

Thank you Sue, Gerson and the Sue Bryce team for giving us these memories to frame and cherish forever!

3 Reasons Why You Need to Be In Photos Now! Sue Bryce, Amy Locurto and daughter.

Please Share Your Photos!

If you take photos with your kids, please share them with me! I’d love to see!!

Here are four ways to share your photos:

  1. Use the hashtag #LivingLocurto on Instagram
  2. Share on my Living Locurto Facebook Page
  3. Share in our Private Facebook Group
  4. Send photos via e-mail, sign up for my emails here if you don’t already get them.

Our Moms

Here are photos of my mom, Virginia and my husband’s mom, Carol dancing at our wedding. May you both be dancing, smiling and taking lots of photos now in heaven. We miss you both so much!

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5 Things Parents Should Know About End-Of-Year Testing

By Hilary Scharton, Vice President of K-12 Product Strategy for Canvas by Instructure


Every spring, schools across the nation give students millions of standardized tests.  Students sit for hours, filling in answer bubbles with their number two pencils for an exam that may span days.  They’re told the tests are “important”, they need to “do their best”, and that they have “one chance” to show what they’ve learned.  For any child–much less one with test anxiety, ADHD, or learning disabilities–it can be a painful process.

Should we let our students take these tests?  In 2015, over 650,000 students1 nationwide opted out of standardized tests. In some parts of the country, up to 20% of students did not participate.  What can a test tell us about how our kids are doing? Here are five things parents should know about end-of-year testing:

 

Tests don’t measure what we think they do

We expect tests to tell us how much students have learned.  However, significant evidence shows tests aren’t great at figuring out what you know or what your potential is.

Consider the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).  For many of us, it was a rite of passage that evaluated your entire school career and gave colleges a way to predict whether or not you’d be a successful student.  However, the best prediction you can make from an SAT is how much money your parents earn.2 Your score will go up 30 points for every $10,000 in your parents’ yearly income.  

In addition, scoring well on the SAT has almost no correlation with success in college.  The best predictor is high school grades.

 

Tests are designed to be efficient and compare groups

Most tests are designed to make efficient comparisons between groups, not tell us about individuals.  Group comparisons are valuable because they give us data about curriculum efficacy and how to allocate funding.

However, if we want efficient group measures, there are limitations.  These tests won’t cover every topic students learned and will need to be easy to give and grade.   

That means test authors have to use questions like multiple guess choice and leave out questions that might get at more important skills like critical thinking or creativity.  If you’re only doing multiple choice, you’re rewarding passive and superficial learning like memorizing facts or formulas.  When the last time was your job let you pick the right answer from a list?

 

Test prep is often antithetical to learning

In states where testing is king, it often comes with an emphasis on “accountability.”  The idea behind the accountability movement is that we, as taxpayers, should be able to ensure we’re getting the highest educational value for our tax dollar.  If that’s our ultimate goal, it makes sense to set up rewards (and penalties) so teachers and districts get the best performance possible from their students.

In these states, we see more time devoted to teaching test-taking skills.  Teachers and students learn which kinds of questions and topics are covered and dedicate class time to practice.  That’s not intended to game the system, but to give students tips about how to be a good test taker. (Ever learn that if you don’t know the right answer, pick B?  How often have you used that knowledge since you left school?)

The positive is that it usually works.  Students score a little better on the state exam.  However, research shows that states that focus on accountability perform much worse on nationwide and international tests than states that place less emphasis on accountability.  It turns out the time your teacher spent in class talking about answer B and #2 pencils would have been better spent teaching you more academic content.

 

Different tests tell us about individual learning

So if our current tests aren’t telling us what we need to know about individual students, what can we do?  In short, we need to do more testing, which sounds crazy.  We need to make sure we’re doing different kinds of testing so we get good group data AND good individual data.  We can best measure individual growth with authentic tests that are integrated into learning. Assessment is authentic when it asks students to apply their knowledge to real-world, meaningful problems.  

Imagine you’re back in geometry class and need to learn about volume.  Would you rather have your teacher tell you the formula and give you a worksheet to practice (how we’d learn if standardized test grades were the goal) or could you learn more if your teacher gave you a project to come up with a better juice box that minimized shipping costs and maximized profits?  

Likely the latter would not only make you more interested in learning about volume (“When will I ever use this?”), but you’d also have the opportunity to work on other important skills.  Project-oriented, goals-driven group learning is an engaging way to teach students how to apply what they’ve learned, while also giving them practice working cooperatively, being creative, and dealing with messy problems that might not have one “right” answer.  It gives students opportunities to apply their knowledge and a glimpse into what adults do in the workplace.

Teachers do this kind of assessment almost reflexively, whether students are raising their hands to answer a question, working in small groups, or doing independent research.  One of the difficulties with this kind of assessment, however, is that the rich experiential data in classrooms is often lost. Fortunately, schools more often have access to technology that will help teachers do assessment, quickly see results, and then make important decisions about what students know.  

 

How can I make sure my child is doing well?

Be involved.  Districts are great at letting parents know when and how students will participate in standardized tests, but the only way to know about what’s happening in the classroom is to talk with your child’s teacher.  

Teachers are experts–they know how important assessment is and how to do it well.  Don’t be afraid to ask how your child will be graded on what they learn, what success looks like, or how much time will be spent preparing for standardized tests.  

If you live in a state that emphasizes accountability, let your local representatives know that you care about more than test scores.  Ask for teacher and school ratings to connect to other metrics like college acceptance, AP completion/pass rates, or student engagement.  We, as parents, know what’s best for our individual children and must feel empowered to ask for it.

  1. http://www.fairtest.org/more-500000-refused-tests-2015
  2. http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/2013/TotalGroup-2013.pdf

 

About the Author

Hilary Scharton loves education and has worked in it, in some form or another, for her entire career. She currently serves as the Vice President of K-12 Product Strategy for Canvas by Instructure, the open online learning management system (LMS) that makes teaching and learning easier. In her role, she sets the strategic vision for how Canvas makes its products even more awesome for students and teachers across the globe, while focusing on leveraging technology to support improved instruction and equitable access for all students.  

 

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4/20 and the Mainstream Brands Jumping on the Weed Wagon

By Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media

Do you know about 4/20? If you have a tween or teen, chances are they know all about this celebration of marijuana that occurs every year on April 20. And it’s not just from whispers in the hallway or the pothead group at school. Popular, mainstream brands, including Ben & Jerry’s, Chipotle, Totino’s, and even Denny’s tweet, snap, and ‘gram ads that subtly — or not so subtly — show support for 4/20. Who’s most likely to get a chuckle out of a family restaurant joking about the munchies? Kids. And since these ads only run on places like Twitter, SnapchatInstagram, and Facebook, it’s kids — not grown-ups — who are the ones most likely to view them.

Photo by Shot by Cerqueira on Unsplash

However you feel about grown-ups using marijuana, you probably don’t want companies piggybacking on pot to make kids think they’re cool. It’s worth repeating: Marijuana remains illegal for kids and has proven risks to developing brains. But try getting your kids to listen when their feeds are filling up with references to 4/20. Consider these from last year: “It’s high time for some Pizza Rolls” (Totino’s); “Sometimes you need a huge bowl to get you through the day” (Chipotle); and “Secret stash” (Burger King).

It’s no surprise then that pot use by kids is on the rise again. A Colorado Children’s Hospital saw four times as many stoned teens land in the ER after that state legalized marijuana. Promoting 4/20 Day may not be the reason for this trend — but it isn’t helping.

Raising drug-free kids in an era of legalization, widespread acceptance, and overt marketing of marijuana is one of the biggest challenges of parenting today. Attitudes are changing, as evidenced by big-name brands capitalizing on the shift. But you can’t laugh it off. Normalizing pot use among kids — which is what happens when brands hitch their wagons to 4/20 — poses real health risks to kids. You can lecture about how bad pot is for growing brains and try to get kids to wait as long as possible to try it — and that may work. But also consider helping kids think critically about the content they see online. Asking questions and seeing where they lead may make 4/20 and the brands that support it not look so groovy after all.

teens marijuana weed

Follow the money. Kids may not realize a tweet or a meme (an image that goes viral) is actually an advertisement. But if it’s from a company, it’s promotional. Ask kids about the tricks marketers use to disguise what are really ads — for example, tweets, memes, and filters on Snapchat that actually promote brands. Does it make a brand cool if it can fool you? Or does it make them seem desperate to seem like a cool kid?

Talk about age gates — and how easy it is to get around them. You’re supposed to enter your birth date to see online content that’s intended for adults, such as sites that sell vaping equipment. But age gates are easy to get around. Ask kids if they or their friends are more tempted to buy drug paraphernalia online because no one is checking their ages.

What’s missing? From movies such as Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle to memes that treat marijuana as a joke, it’s all fun and games until you overdose, have a bad experience, become demotivated, or hurt yourself. Talk about the real aftermath of getting high and how the negatives are never represented online.

Remember, companies don’t care about you. They may be funny, clever, cool, or witty. But if they’re using pot as a vehicle for promoting their product, they don’t care about your health and well-being. They’re just using a convenient hook to appeal to their demographic.

Impart your values. Teens are still listening to you, despite much evidence to the contrary. Discuss what’s important to you: good character, solid judgment, and belief in a bright future — all of which are compromised by pot use.

 

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This is Your Child’s Brain on Music

I’m not expecting my son to become a concert pianist. He’s one of the most okay-ist 11-year old piano players around. And that’s just fine with me.  So why do I keep paying for lessons and nagging him to practice every day? I think his music lessons do far more for him than I can measure and research backs me up. A comprehensive longitudinal study, (German Socio-Economic Panel, 2013) found, “Music improves cognitive and non-cognitive skills more than twice as much as sports, theater or dance.” The study described kids who take music lessons  as having “better cognitive skills and school grades and are more conscientious, open and ambitious.” Personally, I’ve seen great things from my son as he has studied piano and now violin. When asked, he said that the greatest thing about studying music was that he was proud to be developing a talent. That alone gives me incentive to encourage him to continue and to give my other kids the same opportunity. Want to know what other benefits learning music can give your children?

Improved grades

Probably the most noticeable improvement you’ll see in your child’s academics is the increase in your child’s reading and verbal skills. Your child will also see improved mathematical and spatial-temporal reasoning and raised IQ. Learning to read music is akin to learning a new language and your child will see benefit when learning other languages. Plus, kids that study music are better listeners. Anything to get your kid to listen to you, right?

Slow the effects of aging

With the benefits of improved working memory and long-term memory for visual stimuli. Some studies suggest that music engagement may delay cognitive decline. You’ll be setting your kids up for a life-long skill which will benefit them for the long-term. It may not seem like something to worry about right now but slowing the effects of aging is an immeasurable benefit.

Strengthened motor cortex

There is no question that fine motor skills are important in all aspects of a child’s life.  Virginia Penhune, a researcher at Concordia University said, “Learning to play an instrument requires coordination between hands and with visual or auditory stimuli. Practicing an instrument before age seven likely boosts the normal maturation of connections between motor and sensory regions of the brain, creating a framework upon which ongoing training can build.”

Social-behavioral

The social-behavioral benefits can’t be ignored. My son was a very anxious child. Around the time he began studying piano, I saw that his anxiety began decreasing significantly. I was working hard in other realms to decrease his anxiety but I feel like it certainly contributed to an improvement in my son’s ability to manage his anxiety. A study by researchers at the University of Vermont College of Medicine found that a child’s musical background appeared to contribute to enhanced self-confidence and self-esteem and those children were better at managing anxiety.

There is a whole lot of research supporting the claim that music benefits your child’s brain. It’s almost difficult to point out all the benefits. Hopefully, your child’s school has a music program and you’ll be able to look on the bright side of your kid playing the recorder non-stop. But even in early-childhood, unstructured play with musical instruments is great exposure. And if you’ve been on the fence about music lessons, consider the many benefits it can provide your child. If you don’t have the resources to provide music lessons, don’t write it off completely. Consider getting a Ukulele and learning alongside your kids – YouTube has a plethora of instructional videos. Consider it time well-spent and reap some of the awesome benefits learning music can have on your child’s brain.

 

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Can Goat’s Milk Help Toddlers with Sensitive Tummies?

As a mum, you naturally want the best for your child when it comes to care and nutrition. So, it can be devastating when you find that, despite your best intentions, your baby is not coping with certain food stuffs or has a bad reaction after feeding.

Of course, breast milk provides all the natural vitamins and minerals that your little one needs to develop their body and mind and provide immunity. But it is not always possible for mums to provide (all of) the milk needed, which is when many mums supplement or replace feeds with formula. But what if your child reacts badly to cow’s milk formula?

 

How do you know if your toddler needs to change to goat’s milk?

For some toddlers, cow’s milk can prove hard to digest and can cause mild to moderate symptoms such as colic, constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, chronic congestion, recurrent ear infections, and eczema when they first start drinking it.

If you recognise some of these symptoms, you may want to consider switching to goat’s milk formula which may assist with relieving many of these common concerns.

Baby drinking goat's milk

 

Some of the main benefits of goat’s milk

As well as often being gentler on your toddler’s stomach and easy to digest, goat’s milk also offers the following benefits:

  • Naturally high in Prebiotic Oli’s, these prebiotics are proven to assist the growth of beneficial bacteria and reduce the incidence of pathogens like E. coli
  • High in phospholipids, a fat that assists with brain development
  • Naturally high in many essential vitamins and minerals including
    • Vitamin A for vision and sight
    • Magnesium for development and growth
    • Vitamin C for development and growth
    • Calcium for teeth and bones

But what about the taste?

Some mums may be concerned about switching to goat’s milk as they associate goat’s milk with the strong smell and taste of goat’s cheese. However, most goat’s milk formula has a clean, and natural taste. It also smells very natural unlike many cow milk formulas Experts recommend transitioning your little one gradually over a period of a week rather than in one go, so they can get used to the new product and you can monitor any changes. Here are some tips for transitioning your toddler to goat’s milk.

Mum holding baby drinking goat's milk

 

Why choose Oli6?

Oli6® is a dairy goat formula that has been developed in direct response from talking to Australian mums who are looking for products that are as natural as possible to help their little ones’ growth and development. Oli6 toddler formula has a high percentage of goat milk solids, which makes it naturally rich in many essential vitamins and minerals like magnesium, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as other beneficial substances like prebiotic oligosaccharides, or Oli’s for short, which assist with gut health and digestion.

As well as providing formula that meets all of Australia’s stringent health and food safety guidelines, you can take advantage of security of supply and a wide range of resources for parents who are considering switching to goat’s milk formula. Handy trial sachets, advice on how and when to introduce the new formula, and much more can all be found on the website to help you make the switch and know that everything you are providing for your toddler is designed to help his or her welfare.

Oli6 goat's milk logo

Want to find out more about the benefits of goat’s milk for your toddler’s tummy? Then take a look at the Oli6, where you can find a lot of information about the various formula products on offer.

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A Harvard Doc Says My Son Doesn’t Have ADHD

Jerome Kagan, one of Harvard University’s dominant psychologists is making quite the rounds on the internet. In a 2012 interview, he shared a very controversial opinion regarding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder — he believes it doesn’t exist. If you’d like to read his entire interview here, feel free, but let me spoil it for you: He believes we are over-medicating our children and ADHD, an invented disorder, could be dealt with through tutoring and paying more attention to our children.

Should I have started with the disclaimer that my oldest son is diagnosed with ADHD?  Probably. I think it matters because my point of view in raising a child with ADHD verses a psychologist who merely studies them may garner different results.

With that said, I do agree with quite a bit the good doctor stated in his interview. For instance, when asked about the difference in numbers between mentally ill children (aka kids with some sort of mental disorder attached to them) now and in the 1960s, Dr. Kagan replied:

“We have a 7-year-old child who is bored in school and disrupts classes. Back then, he was called lazy. Today, he is said to suffer from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). That’s why the numbers have soared.”

However, he then goes on to say he believes ADHD to be an invented mental disorder.

“That’s correct; it is an invention. Every child who’s not doing well in school is sent to see a pediatrician, and the pediatrician says: “It’s ADHD; here’s Ritalin.” In fact, 90 percent of these 5.4 million kids don’t have an abnormal dopamine metabolism. The problem is, if a drug is available to doctors, they’ll make the corresponding diagnosis.”

Here’s where we disagree a bit. I completely believe our human race, as a whole, to be over medicated. I believe there have been man-made inventions which are preferred for instant reward. Headache? Pain reliever. Sore muscles? Muscle relaxer. Heart Burn? Antacid. You get the idea.  I also agree these “issues” are symptoms to something greater; more often than not, we don’t want to take time in discovering the cause of our symptoms–we just want the problem fixed. Now.

 

SEE MORE: Parenting ADHD: 6 Things I Wish I  Had Known

 

Essentially Dr. Kagan is saying this is exactly what happens with ADHD. He believes that doctors and pharmaceutical companies drive prescriptions. And they may.

But…

My doctor didn’t drive me to medicate my son.

In fact, my doctor preferred to try everything else before meds. Once on medication, he strongly advocated for the lowest possible dose.

Additionally, we spent many times in the office where our doc made sure it was very clear to my son that his meds would not solve all of his issues in school.

This doesn’t sound like a doctor being courted by a pharmaceutical company. And my monthly budget certainly didn’t want to add meds to the shopping list.

Are there families and children that are victim to greedy doctors and drug companies? Sadly, I believe there are. But for Dr. Kagan to make such a blanket statement regarding any and all children with this diagnosis is, well, dangerous.

Luckily he is just one doctor. One believer. One man. Forgive me if adding Harvard to the end of his name doesn’t impress me much.

Let me introduce you to Dr. Amen. The first thing I loved about Dr. Amen is he deals with disorders in children within his extended family (nephew) and his own daughters. I beg of you to watch the video below from its starting point to minute 37:15–about 5 minutes.

This man has been in the trenches and watched, lived with and loved children who have “abnormal” brain function 24 hours a day. This is a man whose opinion I value.

In watching many of his lectures, my biggest realization has been this: My ADHD son is not mentally ill. I will not refer to him as having a mental disorder or brain disorder.  What he does have is a brain that works differently than majority of humans.  Does this mean he’s abnormal? It does not. This means that instead of having blue eyes, he has brown. Instead of having freckles, he doesn’t have any. It means he functions differently from you and me.  Does everyone love studying frogs in the rain forest? Nope. Does loving to do that make them abnormal? Heck no. And maybe this is what Dr. Kagan is trying to say…but his wording simply doesn’t sit right with me. Rather than saying ADHD is an invention, let’s understand that ADHD is describing the way in which my son’s brain functions.

One more thing I will agree with Dr. Kagan about is that our current state of society and expectations makes it hard with someone (like my son) to function in the expected manner. Tutoring and more one-on-one time would help tremendously. It would resolve some of the “issues” those with this invented disorder have, but certainly not everything.

 

SEE MORE: Don’t Give Up On Me Because I’m ADHD: A Letter From My Son

 

If we were in the 1800s, my son would most likely have been milking cows and doing hard labor starting at 4am. After chores were done, he’d be in a classroom with 20 less kids than today, for a shorter amount of time. His diet would be significantly different and then he’d be back outside until dark doing more chores or playing until his legs dropped dead. So yes, Dr. Kagan, our society is different now. Our lifestyles have changed in a way that is not friendly to those who need to keep busy and function in an “abnormal manner”. But guess what? The ADHD diagnosis allows my son to get the extra tutoring at school you say he so desperately needs; without this “made-up invention” he can’t get exceptions in school with his 504.  Instead he’d be stuck in a classroom of 32 kids drowning.

If you want to get to the root cause of over-diagnosing ADHD, I’m all for it. The first order of business isn’t to look at the kids who are struggling, but to look at the environment they are struggling in. This very well could be one of those moments where the problem isn’t them — it’s us.  Let’s find ways to understand those who struggle, how they work, and what we can do to help them be successful.

Until our entire society can change together instantaneously, please be understanding and respectful to those who actually have brains which function differently than the average person. These are the ones who need to be labeled ADHD;  they need extra help, even if that extra help includes labeling them with what Dr. Kagan would call a “made-up invention” so they can get medication, or therapy recommendations, or exceptions in school…and the list goes on.

I am okay with medical professionals labeling the way my son’s brain function as ADHD. It’s not made up. Dr. Amen’s lectures and thousands of brain scans have made it very clear that my son’s brain is special, unique and needs a little bit of help to fit in to our societal boxes.  I just hope everyone else out there who runs in to a kid (or mom, or co-worker, or spouse) with ADHD can fully understand this and love these wonderfully special people we call ADHD.

 

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Dear Anxiety, You Are Paralyzing.

The post A Harvard Doc Says My Son Doesn’t Have ADHD appeared first on TodaysMama.

Tips for Talking About Difficult Subjects With Your Kids

By Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media

One of the toughest jobs of parenting is talking to your kids about difficult subjects. It’s hard enough to explain when Mr. Teddy Bear gets eaten by the washing machine. Or how their bike got stolen at school. It feels impossible to put into words the really big issues, such as violence, racism, drugs, and other weighty topics. But in the age of cell phone notifications, streaming video, and 24-hour news coverage — when even little kids are exposed to really serious stories — it’s important to face this challenge head-on. Addressing the tough stuff makes your kids feel safer, strengthens your bond, and teaches them about the world. And when you show them how to gather and interpret information, ask questions, and cross-check sources, they become critical thinkers. It’s always sad to confront the issues the world hasn’t been able to solve. But by investing our kids with knowledge, compassion, and strong character, we can give them all the tools they need to make things better.

When your kids learn about something scary or unsettling — say, a mass shooting, a suicide on a popular TV show, or graphic porn via an innocent Google search — most parents get that deer-in-the-headlights feeling. But it’s always a good idea to use your kid’s age and developmental stage as a guide to starting conversations, because kids absorb information differently as they grow from babies to teens. For example, young children are very literal. If you tell them a monster is under the bed, they’ll fly across the room to avoid getting their ankles munched. Try that with a teen, and they’ll tell you to take a flying leap. Understanding a bit about how kids perceive the world in each phase of their development helps you deliver information about it in the most age-appropriate way. Of course, every child brings his or her own sensitivities, temperament, experience, and other individual traits to any conversation. A talk about the Holocaust, for instance, can go in a million directions depending on the kid. So use your best judgment as to how your child tends to takes in information to determine how deep to go.

Photo by Janko Ferlič

There are far too many difficult subjects in the world. But most of us wouldn’t want to give up our dynamic, information-rich culture. The trade-off is frank, yet compassionate conversation that helps us all make sense of things that seem senseless. The tips below are general guidelines for discussing any difficult subject with kids age 2 through teen based on childhood-development guidelines. Additionally, we offer guidance on explaining the news to kids and talking about sexual harassment to young kids and tweens and teens.

Age 2–6

Young children don’t have enough life experience to understand some of the elements involved in complex, difficult topics. They also don’t have a firm grasp on abstract concepts and cause and effect. Because they and their primary relationships (Mom, Dad, siblings, grandparents — even the family dog) are the center of their world, they focus on how things affect them. They’re very sensitive to parents’ emotional states and can worry that they did something to make you upset. All of this makes it challenging to explain big issues. On the other hand, you’re better able to manage their media exposure, and they can usually move on fairly quickly.

  • Keep the news at bay. Do what you can to limit small kids’ exposure to age-inappropriate subjects by turning off or muting the TV and choosing media that’s targeted to their age.
  • Reassure with both words and gestures. Say, “You’re safe. Mommy and Daddy are safe. And our family is safe.” Hugs and snuggling work wonders, too.
  • Address feelings — yours and theirs. Say, “It’s OK to feel scared, sad, or confused. Those feelings are natural and we all feel them.” Also: “I’m upset, but not with you.”
  • Find out what they know. Your kids might not understand the issue very well. Ask them what they think happened before giving them any imagery.
  • Break down issues to their simplest terms. For violent crime, say, “Someone used a gun to shoot people.” For hate crimes, say, “Some groups of people still aren’t treated equally or fairly.” For rape, “A man hurt a woman.”
  • Catch your own biases. We all have them. Say, “man,” “woman,” “girl,” and “boy,” not “fat guy,” “homeless lady,” “pretty little girl,” or “black boy.” Avoid describing a person’s ethnicity, sexual identity, weight, financial status, and so on unless it’s relevant to the issue.
  • Use vocabulary, ideas, and relationships that they’re familiar with. Recall a recent, similar situation from their lives that they can relate to. Say, “A man stole something. Remember when someone took your lunchbox?”
  • Use basic terms for feelings such as “mad,” “sad,” “afraid,” “happy,” and “surprised.” Young children understand emotions, but they don’t totally understand mental illness. You can say that someone was angry too much or confused too much and needed extra help. Avoid idiomatic expressions such as “blew a gasket” or “flew the coop.”
  • Communicate that someone’s in charge. Say, “Mommy and Daddy will make sure nothing bad happens to our family.” Or, “The police will catch the bad guy.”

Age 7–12

Because kids in this age group can read and write, they get exposed to age-inappropriate content more often — but younger kids in this range are still a little shaky on what’s real and pretend. As kids gain abstract-thinking skills, real-world experience, and the ability to express themselves, they can grapple with difficult subjects and understand different perspectives. Because tweens are separating from their parents, entering into puberty, and interacting with media more independently, they come into contact with violent video games, hard-core pornography, distressing news like mass shootings, and online hate speech. They need to be able to discuss things without feeling shame or embarrassment.

  • Wait for the right moment. At this age, kids are still very likely to come to you if they’ve heard about something frightening. You can feel them out to decide if they want to discuss something, but if they don’t bring it up, don’t feel you have to broach difficult subjects until they ask.
  • Find out what they know. Ask your kids what they’ve heard, or if their friends at school are talking about something. Answer questions simply and directly — but try not to overexplain (because you could make them more scared).
  • Create a safe space for discussion. Say, “These topics are hard to discuss — even for adults. Let’s just talk. I won’t be mad, and I want you to feel free to ask anything you want.”
  • Provide context and perspective. Kids need to understand the circumstances around an issue to fully make sense of it. For a mass shooting, you can say, “The person who committed the killing had problems in his brain that confused his thoughts.” For race-based crimes, say, “Some people wrongly believe that light-skinned people are better than dark-skinned people. Without the correct information, they sometimes commit crimes they think are justified.”
  • Address their curiosity. If your kid stumbles across grown-up material online, it might be time to find content that will let them learn about more mature subjects age-appropriately. Say, “Online pornography is something that some grown-ups look at. But it’s not about love or romance and it can give you the wrong idea about sex. If you want to learn more about sex, I can give you some books to look at and we can talk more if you have questions.” Or if your kid wants to explore serious topics in more depth than you can provide, say, “Let’s find some news sources that offer current events written for kids.”
  • Be sensitive to kids’ emotions and temperament. You never know what may trigger your kid. Check in by sharing how you feel and ask them how they feel. Say, “I feel angry when I know that someone got hurt.” Or, “It makes me feel sad to hear that someone didn’t get a good education or the right treatment to help them.” And, “What are you feeling right now?”
  • Encourage critical thinking. Ask open-ended questions to get kids to think more deeply about serious topics. Ask, “What did you hear?,” “What did it make you think?,” and “Why do you think that?” For older kids, you can ask, “Do you think families from other backgrounds would view this the same way as us?” And, “The news media hypes up stories so more people will pay attention. Why do you think this story is getting so much play?”
  • Look for positives. There may not be a silver lining to every cloud, but try to be optimistic. Say, “A lot of people acted like heroes at the crime scene.” Or, “Let’s find ways that we can help.”

Teens

At this age, teens are engaged in media independently — reading it, interacting with it, and even making their own and sharing it in the form of comments, videos, and memes. They often hear about difficult subjects in the news or from other places, such as in video game chats or on social media, without your knowledge. They’re much more interested in what their friends or online folks think about an issue than in your opinion — often scrolling to the bottom of an article to read user responses before they even read the whole story. They bristle at lectures — because they think they know everything — so encourage them to find media that can enrich their knowledge and ask questions that prompt them to think through their arguments.

  • Encourage open dialogue. Teens need to know that they can ask questions, test their opinions, and speak freely without fear of consequences. Say, “We may not agree on everything, but I’m interested in what you have to say.”
  • Ask open-ended questions and ask them to support their ideas. Say, “What do you think about police brutality?,” “What do you know about it?,” “Who do you think is at fault?,” and “Why do you think that?”
  • Admit when you don’t know something. As kids move into the teen phase, it’s OK for them to see that their parents may not have all the answers. Say, “I don’t know. Let’s try to find out more.”
  • Get them to consider the complexities in difficult subjects. Forces including social issues, politics, tradition, and more all contribute to making some problems seem incurable. Ask, “What makes difficult issues, such as rape, violence, and crime, so hard to solve?,” “What key things would need to change to fix certain issues, such as poverty?,” “How do policymakers get to the bottom of an issue to correct tough problems?,” and “Should we accept tiny changes that help a problem little by little or insist on big changes?”
  • Share your values. Let your kids know where you stand on issues, and explain why you hold certain values. If you want your teens to be respectful of others’ differences, for example, explain why you value tolerance and acceptance.
  • Talk about “their” news. Prompt them to consider how different sources put their own spin on the issues and how that influences an audience’s opinion of an issue. Social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat tend to serve up content from friends — with stories that tend to confirm one point of view. How do these stories compare to supposedly objective news broadcasts on TV? How about sources designed for millennials such as Vice and Vox that feature reporters investigating stories in the trenches? Ask, “Does a reporter have to experience heroin dependency to be able to report a story on opiate addiction?”
  • Ask what they would do if they were in a really difficult situation? Teens are figuring out their own identities and can seek out risk. Considering how they would act if confronted with a terrible reality appeals to their own sense of adventure and is a way to get them to grapple with ethical dilemmas and see themselves making good choices. Say, “If you were caught in a political demonstration that turned violent and you saw people being mistreated, what would you do?”
  • Get them to consider solutions. Teens can be cynical, but they can also be idealistic. If anything is going to get better, it’s this generation who’s going to do it. Show them that you trust them for the job. Ask, “If you were in charge, what issue would you solve first and why — and how would you do it?”

 

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The post Tips for Talking About Difficult Subjects With Your Kids appeared first on TodaysMama.

Science Says: Don’t Tell Your Kids What To Do!

To structure or not to structure…that is the ever-pressing question for parents prepping for those seemingly endless summer months. Do you let the kids roam wild and free or keep them busy with a schedule of swim lessons and summer school?

There are pros and cons to either side of the argument, for sure. Those in the pro-freedom school of thought tout more imaginative play and less pressure for the entire family, while pro-schedulers see a chance to keep kids out of trouble and opportunities for meeting goals outside of the classroom.

Well, a study done at the University of Colorado Boulder may sway the structure lovers to free up the calendar a bit this summer.

parenting kids schedules

Researchers gathered data from parents of children ages 6-7 regarding their daily, annual, and typical schedules, specifically their structured and less-structured activities. For an activity to be categorized as less-structured, the child had to be in charge of what to do and how to do it, as opposed to more structured undertakings like formal sports practice or music lessons.

What they found was that the children involved in more structured activities performed worse on a test that revealed how well they used their executive functioning, “the cognitive control processes that regulate thought and action in support of goal-directed behavior.” In other words, the children’s abilities to perform tasks that would lead them to accomplish a goal were hampered by the very activities that were pushing them towards one.

The study even went so far as to say that two children who performed the same tasks in a day, where one was directed and the other wasn’t, the latter would actually learn more having been given the opportunity to decide for themselves what to work for and actually choose to accomplish it.

Pretty impressive, right? The real question is, does the same theory work on husbands…

 

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