Category Archives: Uncategorized

We love the US Postal Service! But, with the election less than a week away, make sure you bring your ballot to a dropbox instead of mailing it starting today.

Voting has never been more important. We hope you have made a plan to vote! If you requested a mail-in ballot and you still have it in hand, please make sure to bring it to your polling site or put it in a dropbox. With the election less than a week away, your ballot may not arrive in time if you send it via USPS. Since recent federal changes have been made, on-time mailing rates are lower than expected. Please don’t risk your vote not being counted!


The USPS is an amazing service!

The USPS does a lot more than just deliver letters, says Michael Pignone, a doctor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas’s Dell Medical School. It allows for the delivery of prescription medication and helps doctors do testing and notify patients—it’s part of the healthcare system, Pignone says, and not only is the mail system crucial at present, but its healthcare roles have the potential to be expanded as America’s population ages and the pandemic rages on. 


“You can think of the post office as just this incredibly well-distributed last-mile logistics network,” Pignone says. “There are all kinds of possibilities of what the postal service can do.” 


While you might associate the post with mail from elderly relatives and regular fliers, the post office already plays important roles in the health system, especially in rural areas. 80 percent of prescriptions filled to veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs are delivered by USPS, according to a recent letter sent to Postmaster Louis DeJoy by a number of concerned United States Senators, serving more than 300,000 patients. 


Since restrictions slowed the movement of mail, “we have received many troubling reports from veterans waiting weeks for their prescriptions to arrive due to delays at USPS,” the letter reads. Prescriptions expected to arrive in three to five days are taking weeks. Some of the most common medications dispensed by the Veteran’s Affairs pharmacies, according to a 2013 government study, are intended to treat chronic conditions and should not be taken erratically. For example, Clopidogrel reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke in high-risk patients, and Gabapentin, an anticonvulsant, is used to treat nerve pain and PTSD. Then there’s Metformin to treat Type 2 diabetes, and Tramadol, an opioid pain medication. If these prescription drugs arrive late, or even not at all, it puts patients’ health at risk. 


In the general population, 20 percent of US residents over the age of 40 get prescriptions delivered by mail. They are also seeing delays because of mail slowdowns, reports National Nurses United, the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in the U.S. The American College of Physicians has also expressed concern about these delays, noting in a press release that mail-order prescriptions are particularly important during the pandemic for people with chronic conditions like diabetes or asthma, who are already disproportionately vulnerable to COVID-19.


“Any prescription medication can only be as effective as a patient’s ability to access it. We need to ensure that patients can continue to rely on the U.S. Postal Service to receive their critical medications,” the ACP release states.


The postal service also sends and returns numerous medical testing kits for many deadly conditions each year. In a recent opinion article, Pignone highlighted his institution’s use of mailed fecal immunochemical tests for colorectal cancer. Mailing these tests increases efficiency all around—it decreases the use of nurse and doctor time for routine screenings as well as reduces travel needs for treatment, which is particularly important for rural patients, he writes. And because of the USPS’s high penetration of the country and the relatively low cost of sending and receiving tests via this national body, it’s far preferable to using private couriers, he says. 


Similar initiatives exist elsewhere in the country, usually focusing on fecal tests. The FDA has also designed a protocol for mail-in COVID-19 tests. 


But beyond these interactions with the health system, the USPS also plays a role in shaping the social determinants of health. A recent brief from the Institute for Policy Studies identifies that 14.5 million people living in rural areas don’t have access to broadband internet, which seriously limits their ability to communicate without the mail. “This suggests that rural residents make up a disproportionate share of the estimated 18 percent of all Americans who pay their bills by the mail,” the IPS writes.


If people can’t receive and pay bills on time because of delays in the mail service, access to essential resources like housing, electricity, and telephones becomes unstable. Cuts to the mail service “[threaten] the public with more stress,” says Jean Ross, president of National Nurses United, “which leaves them a sitting duck for illness.”  


Rather than defunding the Post Office, we should focus on what new roles it can play, says Pignone—for aging Americans, those suffering from chronic conditions or getting tested for COVID-19, and for better serving the rural U.S. “This is a really rich resource that we need to preserve.”

Written by Kat Eschner for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

I hope you saw our earlier posts about USPS. I have been using the USPS since I launched my business 10 years ago. They have been incredibly good to me. As a small business owner, I can not afford to use UPS or FedEx. Please make sure to advocate for and defend the USPS to friends, family, and your local representative. It is critical to our nation. XO, Kirsten

The Bittersweet Moment You Realize Your Baby Isn’t a Baby Anymore

I had to admit to this reality quite some time ago, since my boys are now 15 and 12. The crazy thought about that is that it means that I came up with the idea for Kleynimals almost 12 years ago! I admit that I ended up getting a little dog a few years ago, mostly as a way to help eliminate the baby pangs. It was a warm being that I could still carry around and cuddle. LOL. If only we could stop time. ~Kirsten

At some point we are all done having babies—even if we don’t want to be.

A few days ago I met a pregnant friend for lunch, and I couldn’t catch my breath as I walked to the restaurant. My car was filled to the brim with baby gear I was giving her: a crib mattress, a jumper, bodysuits and baby rattles. It was the last of the baby items in our house to be passed on. I realized I was entering a difficult new stage of motherhood: the end of having babies.

I did keep a few sentimental items, but ultimately, I knew the remaining ones should go to families who needed them. Because let’s face it, you need a lot of stuff when you have a baby, and it certainly isn’t cheap. Plus, it’s an established rite of passage to pass on and share baby items with other moms—some of the goods I was giving my friend I had received from other moms, myself. It felt right to pay it forward.

Nevertheless, there is no better way to describe the feeling of giving away the last of your baby stash than completely bittersweet. It occurred to me that nearly every mother goes through a range of emotions when the end of the baby phase occurs, but for me, it was slightly more bitter than sweet.

My husband and I always wanted to have more than one child, but we unfortunately experienced secondary infertility. After several years of failed fertility treatments, we decided to move on and embrace that we were meant to be a family of three. Our almost 4-year-old son, Alexander, would be an only child, but we were grateful for him; he would be loved, and we would enjoy the perks of having only one child.

I would be lying if I said it was simple for me to give away the baby items and move on. It wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t easy, but it becomes more bearable with each day that passes. Occasionally, I struggle with reconciling the family structure I had always imagined and the petite family of three we are today. But then I decisively shift my thoughts on to acceptance and gratitude for my beautiful life at the present. Letting go of the last of the baby items was a big step in accepting our circumstances and living in the present.

Either way, the end of having babies is universally bittersweet for all moms, because at one point we will all be done having babies. We reflect upon the time past, and we worry we did not treasure it enough. Our once squishy, cooing babies who used to fall asleep in our laps are now tall, little monsters who never want to go to sleep and always want to talk about poop and farts. We ponder: Did we stop to grab the baby rolls enough?

Working mothers may take the end of this phase even harder. We question our choices and whether we weren’t present enough. A perfect example: I missed my son crawling for the first time while I was out of town at a work conference. Should I have been at home, so that I didn’t miss that moment? But then, logic hits me. I could have been at the grocery store or the post office when he crawled, so I couldn’t blame work. I still believe we need to have independent pursuits and passions outside of parenting, to be the best version of parents we can be.

As I exit this phase of motherhood, with my heart full of memories, and step into the next phase, I’ve realized:

The end of the baby phase is bitter.

There is something that is purely magical about a baby’s first year that can never be replicated in a child’s later years. The first few months of feeling pure awe and joy. The baby’s first noises, eye contact, smiles and coos. The first time they recognize your voice. The first snuggles. The first steps. These are the most wonderful moments that you will never forget, and we will miss it.

But, the end of the baby phase is sweet.

Sleeping is so wonderful. My child understands me when I speak to him. He laughs at my jokes. He feeds himself (mostly). He attempts to wipe his own butt, and we are no longer putting Mr. Pampers’ kids through college. Travel is much more feasible, and we can order him almost anything off a menu instead of having to worry about making him a bottle.

It is all bittersweet. My little man has become just that, a little man, and I’m loving each step of this adventure in motherhood.

Written by Heather Schwartz Sanderson for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Dads Three Times as Likely as Moms to Receive a Promotion While Working From Home During COVID

This pandemic has revealed so much inequality in our country, it’s disappointing to add one more thing to the list. A shout out to all Mom’s… Here’s to you and the incredible job you do juggling everything! ~Kirsten

While the COVID-19 crisis has ushered in an array of unsettling changes, one outcome has been touted as overwhelmingly positive and long overdue: the shift to remote work.

Freed from the burden of commuting to an office, employees are more productive and have more time to manage family obligations, or so the thinking goes. But in a world where domestic duties typically fall to moms—as the pandemic has made painfully obvious—does working from home really leave mothers and fathers on equal footing? Not even close, according to the results of a new survey from theBoardlist and Qualtrics.

Men and women have vastly different takes on how working from home has impacted their careers. The poll surveyed 1,051 US adults between the ages of 18 and 65, including 685 respondents with children. Almost half of men (42 percent) believed that working from home for an extended period of time would have a positive affect on their career progression, but only 15 percent of women said the same. Nearly half (49 percent) of female respondents believed it wouldn’t have an impact either way, versus 20 percent for men. Twice as many women as men believed it could have a somewhat or extremely negative impact on their careers (19 percent vs. 9 percent, respectively).

A deeper dive into the data proves that women are right to be wary of remote work: Over one-third of men with children at home (34 percent) say they’ve received a promotion while working remotely, while only 9 percent of women with children at home say the same. On a similar note, 26 percent of men with children at home say they’ve received a pay raise while working remotely, while only 13 percent of similarly situated women say the same. Dads were also far more likely than moms to have taken on additional leadership, been given responsibility for important projects, to have received praise or recognition inside the company and to have received a positive formal review while working remotely.

“Because women often earn less than their male partners, women more often choose to leave their careers at the height of their advancement and earning power in order to raise children and keep their households running. The hardest part of that equation is that employers often judge female employees as less dedicated to their jobs as a result when often it is the farthest thing from the truth,” said Shannon Gordon, CEO of theBoardlist.

Other recent studies confirm that moms have scaled back their working hours lately. A study published in the academic journal Gender, Work & Organization revealed that mothers have reduced their work hours four to five times more than fathers in heterosexual couples where both the mother and father were continuously employed and have children under 13, reports The New York Times.

Even when we are working, it’s not always easy to focus. Dads are also far more likely to say they’ve been more productive working from home (77 percent) compared to 46 of moms who say the same, according to the survey from theBoardlist and Qualtrics. Similarly, an English study found that dads get twice as much uninterrupted work time during the day (5.1 hours) compared to moms (at 2.6). Nearly half (47 percent) of moms’ paid work hours are split between work and other distractions.

You can probably guess just what those “distractions” are: making lunch, dispensing snacks, helping with school assignments, putting away dishes… the list is infinite. And while research shows men are pitching in more around the house during the pandemic, there’s simply too much work to be done without the army of caretakers and teachers parents typically rely on. Working moms simply don’t have time for it all. Something has to give, and too often the answer is paid work. A recent analysis by the Center for American Progress, analyzing data collected in the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, found that three times as many out-of-work Millennial moms (defined as those born between 1981 and 1996) cited school or childcare closures as the main reason they weren’t working right now, compared to only 11 percent of Millennial dads who said it was why they weren’t working.

Experts have long hoped that remote work would lead to a more diverse workforce, and there are good reasons to believe they’re right. “If someone can work remotely for their position, that removes one financial barrier to entry by eliminating relocation fees and paying for housing in a more expensive city. It also creates geographic diversity by opening up an entirely new pool of talent because the candidate can be located anywhere,” said Manon DeFelice, the founder and CEO of Inkwell, in an op-ed for Working Mother.

But this most recent survey seems to confirm what economists have feared: that the pandemic could have a long-lasting negative impact on women’s advancement in the workforce, and working from home might not be a panacea for our problems, after all. “Our study findings would indicate that women are cognizant that their careers could be impacted more than men if they were to work from home often,” Gordon says. “This discrepancy should be a red flag for employers.”

Written by Audrey Goodson Kingo for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Are Sound Machines OK for Babies?

I was definitely hoping the answer to this article would be a resounding “Yes, and they are amazing for adults too,” as I now can not sleep without one myself! I read Dr. Harvey Karp when my kids were babies, and took his “shhh” suggestion to the extreme, implementing sound machines for the whole family. Now I can’t seem to break the habit! 🙂 Enjoy! ~Kirsten

The biggest thing that parents of newborns complain about is lack of sleep.  Your baby might be past the waking up to eat every few hours phase, but he may still have trouble falling and staying asleep throughout the night.

Most pediatricians recommend soothing activities before bed such as warm baths, rocking and baby massage to help newborns sleep through the night.  If these techniques don't work parents may turn to alternatives like using a sound machine to soothe their colicky baby to sleep.

Are Sound Machines OK for Babies?

Are sound machines safe for infants? Several studies suggest that sound machines may do more harm to your baby than good. Although, one study conducted in January of 1990 and published in the Archives of Diseases in Childhood concluded that sound machines may help mothers settle difficult babies.  The scientists found that 80 percent fell asleep within five minutes while using the sound machine compared to only 25 percent in the controlled group (without the sound machine).

Using a Sound Machine Can Block Out Background Noise

If your baby is having trouble falling asleep due to noise from older siblings a sound machine might help. Sound machines produce white noise which can cover up household noise.  White noise is the sound you hear when all the audible frequencies of sound are played at the same time at the same volume. Some examples of white noise include, fans, hair dryers, or running water. Sound machines are soothing and may include a heartbeat setting mimicking the mother.

Other benefits of using sound machines to help your baby sleep include:

1. The sounds help reduce stress.

The stimuli babies get every day can be overwhelming.  They are exposed to bright lights, new faces, new sounds and sensations. Repetitive sound can make babies feel safe by shutting out background sounds.

2. Sound Machines Help Babies Sleep.

Background noise can prevent your baby from falling asleep. Things that are familiar can help infants nod off quicker.  You can incorporate the following into your nursery to help your baby sleep better:  dim the lights,  use a favorite blanket or a toy, pacifier, nursing and a sound machine. Repetitive sound causes them fall back asleep after waking that happens each 20-45 minutes during sleep time.

3. Children Cry Less When Exposed to White Noise

The shushing sound that you use to quiet down a crying child is really background noise. It is like the whooshing clamor made by blood coursing through the veins around the uterus. Utilizing the shushing static clamor of radio can likewise quiet down infants to help them sleep.

4. Sound Machines Reduce the Risk of SIDS

One ongoing investigation demonstrates that a running fan in the room essentially brought down the danger of SIDS in children.  Fan circle the air well producing a repetitive sound. Using background noise from a sound machine will help your baby sleep lighter reducing the risk of SIDS.  If a sleeping individual isn't getting enough oxygen it is important to be woken quickly.  Being slow to respond to this loss of oxygen makes babies at a higher risk of SIDS.

5. Background noise Helps You Sleep Better

Background noise can calm your infant to sleep and parents are also known to rest better with it. As children regularly wake up from sleep each night, parents can also have trouble getting back to sleep. Repetitive sounds help adults get to sleep faster as well.

6. Children can Wean Off of Sound Machines as They Grow

The best time to stop using a sound machine for your baby is after the first year.  By this time your child should have developed good sleep habits. You should be able to reduce the amount of time and frequency you use the sound machine. If your child sleeps through the night a sound machine may no longer be necessary.

Safety Tips for Using a Sound Machine to Help Your Baby Sleep

Many parenting websites and blogs encourage the use of sound machines to help babies sleep.  Even Dr. Harvey Karp author of "The Happiest Baby on the Block," states that, "White noise is a great tool to soothe fussing and boost sleep."  Parents must take precautions to make sure the noise level is safe for their baby.

In a study published in Pediatrics, the Official Journal of the Academy of Pediatrics on January 21, 2014, the doctors measured the maximum sound level outputs of infant sound machines.  They concluded that many of these devices are capable of producing levels that may be damaging to infant hearing and may be detrimental to auditory development. Hospitals and nurseries recommend a noise level limit of 50 A-weighted dB.

The doctors tested the the maximum noise levels of 65 sounds in 14 different infant sleep machines. They were placed in 3 different distances: 30 centimeters (to simulate placement on a crib rail), 100 centimeters (simulating placement near a crib), and 200 centimeters (to simulate placement across the room). All 14 machines exceeded 50 dBA, the current recommended noise limit for infants in hospital nurseries, and all but one exceeded the recommended noise limit even from 200 centimeters away. The findings also determined that regular exposure to white noise through an infant sleep machine on a nightly basis can affect hearing, speech, and language development.

Below are the safety tips the authors of the study suggest for parents who use infant sound machines.

  1. Place the sound machine as far away as possible from the infant and never in the crib rail.
  2. Play the sound machine at a low volume.
  3. Operate the sound machine for a short duration of time.

Healthy Moms Mag Recommended Sound Machines for Infant Sleep

Sound machines do help babies sleep better as long as parents use them safely and know when to ween their child off.  Here are a few sound machines that we endorse.  Some of them are simple, free and can be found in every household.  Others are high tech. We have also found an inexpensive small sound machine that may suit your needs better.

  • Ceiling fans.  Most homes have ceiling fans installed in every bedroom.  They provide a nice cool breeze and a repetitive swooshing sound that is soothing to babies.  Make sure your fan has a decibel level of 50 or less.

  • Alexa Sleep Sounds. If you have an Alexa enabled device this skill plays calming sound loops to help you fall asleep faster, sleep better, relax, meditate, or drown out distracting noises. By default, Sleep Sounds will play your selected sound until you say “Alexa, stop”, but you can set a custom timer while a sound is playing by saying “Alexa, stop in 3 hours” or any other time duration. Sleep sounds has 45 different sounds you can choose from.

  • Baby Snooze App. Available for Apple devices only, this app is a sleep inducer created with totally authentic womb sounds, to help ease the transition from the calm & peaceful neonatal world to the relatively noisy, chaotic world outside the womb.

  • The Galaxy Clock. This clock is more than just a sound machine.  It includes a relaxing star projector, seven calming nature and white noise sounds, high quality audio with volume control, alarm clock and temperature monitor.

  • Infant Sleep Soothing Machine.  Several different brands sell and market this device on Amazon. We counted six different companies marketing this product. After some research we also learned that anyone can purchase this soothing machine wholesale and customize it with their brand name.   An infant sleep soother

is designed to help your baby fall asleep using different sounds.  You can adjust the volume and there is a built in 30 minute timer.  This sound machine includes six different sounds: lullaby, shush, fetal heartbeat, rain, white noise, ocean. It is compact and easy to use.  This sound machine also has a small cord with a hook so parents can fasten it to car seats, strollers or cribs. It also includes a port for USB charging which eliminates the need for replacement batteries. Fully charged baby shhh machine can last about 10 hours continuous playing.

Conclusion

Sound machines can help babies fall asleep quicker.  They reduce stress on both the infant and parents.  White noise blocks out background noise from other household members and activities.  After the first year it is recommended that parents stop using a sound machine for their baby.  Make sure you are using safety precautions to avoid hearing damage when using sound machines. Decibels higher than 50 is harmful for infants.  Keep your sound machine's volume at a low setting or place it further away from where your baby is sleeping.  Baby soothing apps can also help your baby sleep better.

Written by Cascia Talbert for The Healthy Moms Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

How COVID-19 is Grounding Helicopter Parents, and Why That’s a Good Thing

More tips on parenting during a pandemic… something most of us never contemplated until last March. Can you believe it’s been over 6 months of living in this different world? ~Kirsten

Over the last several months, as working parents have had to take on roles usually performed by teachers, coaches and school nurses—all while working full-time—we have become overextended and overwhelmed. Even those of us who never considered ourselves helicopter or lawnmower parents have found ourselves hovering over every aspect of our children’s lives. Even most of us who have always been hoverers would like nothing more than to have our co-pilots back.

During this pandemic, I’ve been continually inspired by parents who have taken the opportunity of increased time together to bake family bread and plant family gardens. It made me think that, as our parenting culture seems to be evolving, we might also take this opportunity to change the flight plan on our helicopter habits.

When our children are around us 24/7, it can feel impossible to manage every moment of their lives. This is a good thing! Once our children are safe and well cared for, we need to be able to get our own work done and enjoy some alone time.

With the following tips, course correcting your parenting style doesn’t have to be painful. And it might be just the thing that helps you achieve the balance you’ve been seeking.

Let it go.

Allow your kids to learn to self-monitor by letting go of strict rules around screen use, bedtime, eating and diet. This means you can stop being the Screen time-Homework- Bedtime-Food Warden.

So, in the case of screen time, ask your child how much screen time per day they think is appropriate and how they plan to monitor it. Whatever their response is, say: “Let’s give it a try and see how it goes.”

This new navigation is a process. You’ll have to back off of peppering them with “How long have you been on your tablet?” and “Only one more hour!” types of questions and comments. If their own monitoring doesn’t work out, you can suggest they enable “Screen Time” if they have an Apple device, or hear their own ideas on how to make their system work better.

You are teaching your child a skill, and like any skill development, it’s going to take some time. But once they learn to keep themselves in check without you constantly on top of them, they’ll be able to apply that valuable skill to a host of other situations, making life a whole lot more manageable for you and them.

Give kids more responsibility.

Sometimes it can feel easier to just do things yourself, but we’re not doing kids any favors by denying them the opportunity to take on responsibilities. Giving your kids a “longer leash” allows them to feel less controlled, more capable and more respected. So what does that look like?

If you’re like most moms, you hear “Mom, can you make me a snack?” countless times in a day. New course: this helicopter does not need a flight attendant. Children are perfectly capable of managing when, how much and what they eat. Older kids can learn to prepare their own meals, but even young children can open up the fridge and grab a snack. The key is to leave them some options (little baggies or containers work great for this). That way, they still have some choice and control over what and when they eat.

Have family meetings.

Especially as you make changes, it’s important to talk with your children about them. Discuss with them what more lenient rules might look like (e.g., Mom won’t enforce a bedtime, but kids will be responsible for setting an alarm and being ready for school on time). Establish expectations and boundaries together to create buy-in. It’s important that all family members feel included in the process.

Then, learn what works best for all of you through trial and error. Ask your kids for their feedback (“How is this working for you?”) and continue to involve all family members as you adjust your flight plan to fit the needs of your family.

Sue Groner

Stop second-guessing every parenting move.

If you’ve ever lain awake at night convincing yourself you’re a terrible mother, you’re not alone. At one time or another, most of us have been harder on ourselves than is warranted. It’s OK to make mistakes. In fact, it’s important for your children to see the adults around them acknowledge their errors and see how they go about correcting them. By remaining fluid with rules, you know that if you’re veering off course, you can quickly re-right yourself.

When you second-guess every parenting decision you make, you’re robbing yourself of the joy of parenting.

Backing off from helicopter parenting helps kids to develop important skills like self-reliance and problem-solving. And, as the parent, you’ll get to watch from a distance and take pride in their growth and accomplishments. Maybe a new flight plan will help you in grounding the helicopter altogether.

Written by Susan G. Groner for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

The Benefits of Letting Your Kids Do Nothing During Quarantine, from an Early Childhood Education Professor

My kids are older, so my struggle is having them do “nothing” instead of being on technology. I hope you have better success that I do in encouraging your kids to be okay with being bored!

I have given a lot of advice to parents during my career as a New York City classroom teacher and professor of early childhood education. About five days into the COVID-19 quarantine, I found myself answering work emails with one hand, holding a baby with the other and pointing to a map with my toe while trying to teach my other child geography. It was a defining moment for me as I understood how exhausting, unsustainable and unhealthy it was for everyone involved. I realized more parents needed real-world advice that was also research-proven and practical. Here's mine: It’s OK to do nothing sometimes

So what does “doing nothing” mean exactly? Doing nothing is breaking away from the notion that you need to schedule every second of the day for your child. It’s healthy to have significant gaps in the day instead of moving from one lesson to another. Focus more on setting up a safe environment that promotes opportunities for exploration (without your participation) and the idea that preserving the long-term love of learning will beat filling out all those worksheets any day.

They will get bored… for now.

Yes, they will get bored. That is OK. It might be a sign of initial withdrawal from their constant need for you to provide them with something to do. Boredom is healthy and a natural transitional phase that everybody needs to experience. It’s a reality check that life will not be full of playdates and one scheduled event after another. However, if you allow these moments to play out, children will eventually look for things to do and their imaginations will ignite. Early childhood experts agree that allowing for these unscheduled/unstructured periods of time promotes creativity, imagination and independence.

Embrace multiple possibilities.

“I’m finished! What’s next?” We have all heard those words. Evaluate toys (concrete and digital) that you are providing for your children and ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • Can they use these toys independently?
  • Do they require adult supervision for safety?
  • Are they within reach of the child?
  • Are there multiple ways to use these toys?

Certain toys have more possibilities and allow children to express themselves in different ways. Coloring sheets are fine, but they don’t have as many possibilities as a blank sheet of paper and crayons. Stuffed animals are cute to cuddle, but they don’t have as many possibilities as a set of blocks. Consider creating a makerspace in your home with everyday materials such as recycled food containers, newspapers, and empty toilet paper rolls. Digital learning platforms like MarcoPolo World School promote more independence and allow your child to create a learning experience that is paved more by interest and possibility.

Think long-term.

Most likely, you are not a teacher, and even if you are, teaching your child at home is very different from teaching in a school setting. Academically, what is going to make a difference in the long run, is that you preserve their love of learning. The anxiety that comes from being overscheduled and the pressure to finish every single task, may leave children associating these negative feelings with school and learning. Instead, provide them with the space and time to discover and learn about what they are interested in and love doing, and this will instead cultivate a passion for learning that is more beneficial than any worksheet at this time.

My favorites items that foster independent play and interest-led learning:

Digital: MarcoPolo World School, part of the MarcoPolo Learning platform is a STEAM and literacy digital learning platform with more than 500 premium video lessons and 3,000 interactive learning activities designed to nurture curiosity about the natural world. MarcoPolo Learning has announced free access for 30 days.

Book: Not a Box by Antoinette Portis is a book that asks children to imagine all of the playful possibilities of a simple brown box and a flexible imagination.

Toy: Magnetic tiles are full of possibilities and challenge your child to think about creating shapes, 3D structures and more. The tiles are easy to manipulate, safe for young children and the possibilities are endless!


Nermeen Dashoush, Ph.D., is a mother of two and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Boston University. Nermeen was a classroom teacher for over 10 years in New York City. Nermeen serves as a curriculum developer for MarcoPolo Learning and helped create World School, an Emmy-nominated digital learning tool for children.

Written by Nermeen Dashoush Ph.D. for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Why You Shouldn’t Stress Right Now About Stress If You’re Trying To Get Pregnant

These are stressful times. I hope that, if you are trying to get pregnant, you find this helpful. Sending love and light, Kirsten

Q: What’s more stressful than experiencing infertility?

A: Experiencing infertility during a pandemic.

It’s never a good time to be diagnosed with infertility—the inability for a woman to get pregnant for a year (if you’re under 35) or six months (if you’re over 35) or to carry a pregnancy to term. But as COVID-19 spread across the globe, many fertility clinics stopped or limited treatment, leaving those who were trying to get pregnant to forgo their dreams of becoming parents or of having another. Even as many clinics reopen and resume treatment (in full protective gear), the jury is still out on how the coronavirus impacts women who do manage to get pregnant.

Talk about stressful.

I thought infertility was stressful when I was going through four years of infertility (nine rounds of IVF and four miscarriages) before I had my daughter, but I learned some important things about stress that I hope will help moms who are trying to get pregnant now.

First, forget about the people who say, “Just relax and you’ll get pregnant.” I mean, literally forget they ever existed. Like, if that’s their starting gambit, it won’t get any prettier. They’ll regale you with stories of their best friend’s veterinarian’s aunt’s lover’s niece who had been trying forever—she did forty-five rounds of IVF! Drank witches’ blood! Took a vow of celibacy! And when she stopped everything, stopped thinking about it, lo and behold, she got pregnant.

When someone said, “just relax,” I thought: Now you’re telling me that my own stress is causing this lack of a baby? Are you saying infertility is my fault? That if I weren’t so GODDAMNED STRESSED OUT ALL THE TIME I WOULD BE @#$@# PREGNANT???? (They usually ran for the hills at that point, planning not to return till I gave birth.)

Listen: When I was interminably single, people kept telling me to “stop focusing on finding the one and it’ll happen…” You know what happened when I stopped focusing on dating? I got off all the dating websites, hung out with my girlfriends, read lots of books and grew cobwebs down there. It was only when I decided to leave Los Angeles and move to New York to find a husband that I met mine.

So I don’t buy that simply “not focusing” on conceiving is the magic pill.

Still, I want to investigate the science behind stress and its relationship to infertility.

“The relationship between stress and infertility has been debated for years,” begins a study in Clinical Neuroscience. “Women with infertility report elevated levels of anxiety and depression, so it is clear that infertility causes stress.” DUH. The study goes on to say that women who struggle to conceive are twice as likely to suffer from emotional distress than fertile women.

“What is less clear, however, is whether or not stress causes infertility,” the authors note, saying it’s impossible to prove the causality because it’s based on people self-reporting, and also because people feel really optimistic at the start (as you should!). So is the stress causing the infertility or is the infertility—and its failure—causing people to feel disappointed… and stressed?

Some studies show a physiological relationship between stress and time to pregnancy, and one study notes that “interventions to reduce cortisol prior to commencing IVF could improve treatment outcomes.”

“You need a healthy body and a healthy mind,” says Dr. Amy Beckley, creator of the at-home progesterone test Proov. “Our cortisol steals from our reproductive system, so if you’re too stressed, your body says, ‘We do not believe you can carry a child to term,’ and turns the needed progesterone into cortisol, a stress hormone.” She hates when doctors say, “Just don’t think about it.” She says, “You have to take actions to manage your stress.”

But can we really moderate our stress levels?

I spoke to Tamar Ben-Shaanan, a microbiologist and immunologist studying mice with tumors. In a study published in Nature, Ben-Shaanan and her colleagues found that “activating the reward center” in the mouse’s brain reduced the tumor, and concluded that “a patient’s psychological state can impact anti-tumor immunity and cancer progression.” Some recurrent loss specialists concluded that this would be a good line of treatment for people who fail IVF cycles: “It may be a great first step in a new protocol for IVF patients to focus on creating an environment that would lead to activation of this reward system,” they write, encouraging patients to do “activities that create enjoyment” and establish a “positive environment.”

Ben-Shaanan, who was not involved in that repeat loss study, told me, “It’s not a one-to-one ratio: The way our neurocircuitry reacts to our situations in life can perhaps have an impact. It may be hard-wired.” In other words: We may not have as much control over our stress as we want.

Of course, there’s also a lot of research showing stress has no effect on fertility. As I always say: Correlation is not causation. Yes, of course infertility causes stress. How can it not? Everyone telling you to “just relax” should try living a normal, happy life while waiting every second for a much-wanted event that hasn’t yet happened and they can’t be sure ever will. Of course infertility is stressful. Just please don’t tell me it causes infertility.

“While infertility causes stress, research shows it’s not vice versa,” says Dr. Janelle Luk of Generation Next Fertility. “Everyone’s stressed out, so it’s a silly statement,” she says. “It’s like saying, ‘Don’t eat without biting the food.’”

In fact, total fertility rates are often highest in countries that experience the harsh conditions of war, poverty and famine. In an analysis of 14 studies of 3,583 infertile women, researchers concluded: “Emotional distress caused by fertility problems or other life events co-occurring with treatment will not compromise the chance of becoming pregnant.”

Dr. Luk says, “Going through infertility treatment can be a high-stress event for most women, especially if they have been trying for a while.” She notes that while stress can cause menstrual and hormonal changes, “these changes are usually self-correcting and do not have any permanent impact on fertility.” So if, for example, you’re so stressed that you’re not ovulating, that can be fixed. If you’re so stressed that you’re not sleeping, eating properly or exercising—well, that can be fixed, too. And fixing those situations will probably help your fertility.

While you can’t fix a pandemic, you can fix your response to it.

And that’s why if you’re trying at home—or even back to your clinic—don’t worry that the added stress of our current isolation situation will negatively affect your chances of conceiving. We already have enough to worry about—stressing about stress shouldn’t be one of them.

Written by Amy Klein for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

How We Raise Liars and What to Do About It

No parent wants to consciously and purposefully raise a child who lies, but the truth is our kids lie. They lie often and they lie well. Dr Victoria Talwar, a leading expert on children’s lying behavior, has proven that as parents we only do slightly better than chance (60%) at telling whether our children are actually lying to us. Where do these lies come from, and what are we, as parents and adults around them, doing to promote this behavior?

First of all, let me reassure you. All kids lie, even yours, no matter what you might think. In fact, by their 4th birthday, 9 out 10 children will be experimenting with lying. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a developmental milestone to lie. Think about it, a kid has to know the truth, be able to invent a lie that is an alternative to the truth and then deliver it convincingly to the right audience. It’s an impressive accomplishment.

Kids start lying for two reasons: they want to avoid punishment or they want to make you happy. As they get older, lying becomes a way to vent frustration, gain status at school or cope with life’s stressors.

Some kids grow to be lifelong liars while others eventually stop. How do they develop into liars and why? The short answer is, we train them into it.

Sometime back I was sitting at the American embassy waiting to get a new passport for my son. The family behind me had a boy who looked to be 7 or 8. Old enough anyway to have some logic. I guess they’d been there a while because the child was getting restless and telling his parents he wanted to leave. As a response to the constant nagging his father told him ‘look, look our number is coming up!’ The kid could obviously read the numbers and as he pointed to the screen, he told his father no, there are still 4 people before us! The father, denying completely the fact that numbers are called in order and the fact that his son could actually figure out the calling system, insisted that their number was going to be called next.

More recently, I took my daughter to the pediatrician’s office to have her shots. She’s only 4 and was terrified. As the elderly man came closer with the needle, she cringed and started to cry. To reassure her, he blatantly lied: ” Don’t worry you won’t feel a thing. It’s not going to hurt at all.” He pinched her arm and inserted the needle. Her eyes widened with surprise as a scream tore from her throat.

What these kids are learning, is that adults lie to them, and that if those adults are in positions of authority, like parents and doctors, then lying is clearly acceptable.

Parents are masters of the mixed messages to kids. We tell them not to lie, then we angrily whisper at them to be polite about a present they hate; we claim they’re six when in actual fact, they haven’t celebrated their 6th birthday yet (unless we’re trying to get them in to an event for free in which case they’re under 6 long after their 6th birthday!); we encourage them not to tell on friends or siblings when someone does something wrong, teaching them that withholding the truth is in actual fact honorable.

We obviously have the best intentions. We are being empathetic, approximating, and using teachable moment to develop their integrity. They don’t see out intentions. To them, we are just blatantly lying. We don’t realize is that it takes the same emotional acuity to tell white lies as it does for the bigger lies and by modeling it for them, we are training our kids to be really good liars.

To make matters worse, when our kids are obviously lying to us or use flimsy cover ups, we find it funny or cute and we let these little lies slide (honestly, it’s exhausting to stay on top of house, kids, life and then to nit pick and how we react to a lying four-year-old).

“Did you spill chocolate milk everywhere?” You ask the child with chocolate milk dripping from her chin and covering her dress.

“No!” she says. “It fell by itself”.

“Ah! It must be the chocolate milk monster then” you reply. Which makes you much cooler than launching into a lecture. But our kids don’t recognize the coolness. They just get the message that some lies are ok.

The fact is, kids actually lie more as they get older, not less. We punish bad behavior and we let the little lies slide, so they practice telling us what we want to hear and they get better at it.

According to Dr. Bella De Paulo who studied adult deception, as parents, the way we react to our children’s lies can affect lifelong lying. So if you don’t want to raise liars, here’s a quick list of what to do and what not to do!

  1. Don’t enforce sweeping punishments for your child’s behavior. If they tell the truth, reward that over all else.
  2. Reinforce the importance of truth-telling over making you happy. They may not tell you what you want to hear, so fix your face and make sure your reaction doesn’t tell them you’re angry. Help them not repeat their mistakes instead of showing them when to lie.
  3. Applaud them when they do tell the truth and let them know you’re proud of them for that.
  4. Never turn a blind eye on the small lies they make up. Don’t laugh and dismiss them. Make sure you address the tiniest lie by letting them know lies are not acceptable.
  5. Try not to lie in front of your kids. Remember, kids do what you do, not what you say.
  6. Don’t try to entrap them or test their honesty. That will just degrade your relationship.
  7. Attenuate your tone of voice so it doesn’t carry a threat of consequences. For example, instead of, “Who on earth got red marker all over this wall?!?” try “Hey honey, this looks like your red marker on the wall. Shall we clean it up because you know we don’t write on walls.”

Written by Kat Shalhoub, PHD for The Healthy Moms Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

6 Easy Holiday Decorations Kids Will Love to Make

Boost creativity along with family togetherness by getting your children in on the decorating action.

Children develop an understanding of the world through the senses. The changing seasons provide a great opportunity to engage them through the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and feels of fall and winter, as we decorate our homes to reflect the seasons. This year, don’t resign your little ones to school crafts and jack-o’-lanterns—get them involved in decorating your home. Whether it’s baking cookies, hunting for leaves or planting evergreen branches, there are plenty of opportunities for the entire family to get involved in your home’s holiday decor. Here are some inspiring decoration ideas that are kid-friendly and family-approved.

1. Hang Autumn Leaf Wallpaper

Go on an outdoor trek with your children and collect bunches of colorful leaves around your yard, street or even at the park. Press them under a book overnight, then glue them to cut squares of textured paper. The result will be stunning enough to stay up year-round.

While you’re out collecting leaves, grab a few extra to adorn your mantel. Twigs and leaves add a natural, whimsical element to existing fall decor and give your children a fun way to put their stamp on your home.

2. Arrange Decorative Pumpkins and Gourds

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. Working Mother

Let your kids have fun and pick out their favorite pumpkins.

Photo: Julie Ranee Photography, original photo on Houzz

These lumpy, bumpy gourds add festive fall color, and the unique textures make them fun and interesting for little kids to check out. Decorations that engage the senses are always a plus.

3. Explore the Wonder of Japanese Washi Tape

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. Working Mother

The designs are endless with this versatile tape.

Photo: Pullga, original photo on Houzz

Washi tape—decorative Japanese tape made of paper—is a great tool for kid-friendly decor. I love how this homeowner made a simple vignette with a washi tape tree on the wall. It is easy to use, is incredibly affordable, makes a big statement and comes down without a fuss. There’s no need to stop at a tree with this stuff—encourage your kids to create snowflake, star and present shapes out of washi tape, too.

Encourage your children to go beyond traditional holiday colors. Give them free rein and see what creative color schemes they can create with a little low-VOC paint, some supervision and a few tree branches or blank ornaments. Who knows? They could come up with the star of your home’s holiday decor.

4. Get Creative with Classic Candy Canes

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. Working Mother

Make sure to save one for a treat after you’re done.

Photo: Michelle Edwards, original photo on Houzz

Some of the best holiday decor is the simplest. Give your children some candy canes (maybe one or two extra for snacking) and craft glue to turn something as simple as a white candle into a colorful holiday accent. This easy DIY project satisfies both the taste and smell sensory categories—once you light the candle, it’ll give off a slight peppermint scent.

5. Pick a Bunch of Branches

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. Working Mother

Perfect for your favorite ornaments.

Photo: Planet Fur, original photo on Houzz

This decorative branch makes me think of adventure! Just imagine the fun you could have while hunting for the perfect collection of twigs or branches with your children. Add simple store-bought or homemade ornaments, or let your children paint it with kid-friendly paint.

6. Create a One-of-a-Kind Christmas Tree

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. Working Mother

No watering needed!

Photo: Julie Ranee Photography, original photo on Houzz

Spur children’s creativity by encouraging them to use everyday items in unexpected ways. This holiday tree made of straw hats is a great example. I love how this clever display can be dressed down (as with the straw hats in this photo) or dressed up (by using top hats, bowlers or other fancy hats).

Some other fun ideas:

Fill the Front Porch With Festive Gourds
Sketch Out DIY Ideas on a New Drawing Table
Stylish Plant Stands to Hold Holiday Arrangements

Written by Summer Baltzer for Houzz for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

6 Holiday Backdrops for Taking Family Photos at Home

Give that mall Santa the year off—these photo ideas will make your holiday cards highly personal and truly memorable.

Sure, you could make the trek to the mall or a local photo studio, but if you feel like taking things into your own hands this year, we have nine fun, easy and creative ideas for taking holiday pictures at home. Enlist a friend to help (offer cookies as a bribe) or teach yourself to use the self-timer, and you can have Christmas card photos done in an afternoon—without leaving the house!

1. Deck the chalkboard wall.

Have a chalkboard wall at home? Consider it your personal photo booth—drape it with a festive garland or strand of lights, and write your holiday greeting right on the wall. Then all you have to do is smile.

2. While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads…

Have the wee ones pile into bed with festive jammies on, and snap a picture while they pretend to sleep. It’s even cuter if they peek.

3. It’s lovely weather for a wagon ride together.

Load a tiny tree into a red wagon, and have your littlest one either sit in or pull the wagon.

Outfit suggestion: holiday pajamas, plus an extra-long red and white striped knit scarf. This would also work with a pretend truck or car.

4. Baby, it’s cold outside.

Bundle up and haul the troops outdoors to your front porch or backyard. Have a fire pit? Light it up! If not, stack some firewood behind you to set the mood. Warm your hands with mugs of hot chocolate or apple cider with cinnamon sticks. Definitely invite the dog.

5. I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus.

Grab your sweetie and drape yourselves in a strand of old-fashioned Christmas lights—the multicolored kind with extra-large bulbs. Set up your photo shoot near an outlet so you can actually have the lights on. Santa hat optional.

6. Silent night.

Want the focus to be on your house? Take a photo in the early evening, from the outside looking in. Wait until after dark and the contrast in lighting will be too great—aim for early dusk. Focus through a window on the big indoor Christmas tree or place a smaller, potted tree outside, draped in twinkling lights.

Written by Laura Gaskill for Houzz for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

6 Holiday Backdrops for Taking Family Photos at Home
6 Holiday Backdrops for Taking Family Photos at Home