Lynya Floyd

Cross Your Heart: Four Healthy Promises to Make Today

Written on April 7, 2015 at 9:56 am , by

Despite all the negative headlines, there’s actually good news when it comes to the top health threat for men and women. “In the past decade, there’s been a dramatic drop in the death rate from cardiovascular disease,” says Alexandra J. Lansky, MD, director of the Yale Cardiovascular Clinical Research Program. Women, however, need to take special care when it comes to their hearts. “We still see an excess mortality in women,” laments Lansky. “We’ve come a long way in terms of early detection, education and therapies, but we still have a ways to go.” Here are four promises you can make to yourself to take better care of your ticker—today.

1. I will never delay a 911 call.
“Women tend to brush off their symptoms,” says Lansky. In fact, they wait longer to call emergency medical services than men do, according to a new study released by the American College of Cardiology. Women, on average, let an hour lapse before picking up the phone. Men averaged 45 minutes. “Fifteen minutes can make a massive difference,” explains Lansky. “If you’re in the middle of a heart attack and you delay by 15 minutes, you could go into cardiac arrest.” This tendency to wait before calling 911 is just one of several factors experts suspect contribute to women’s poorer outcomes with heart attacks. Save your own life by recognizing the warning signs and getting to a hospital ASAP.

 

2. I will eat better, bit by bit.
Listen, we know you’re not going to overhaul your—and your family’s—eating habits overnight. But could you commit to making one healthy change this week (like no more  soda in the house), another next week (eating fish twice a week) and so on? “When preparing meals, you want to go high protein and low carbohydrate,” suggests Lansky. “Skip the soda and get the sugar out of your diet as much as possible. Consuming excess sugar can lead to blood vessels going from nice and pliable—which you want—to hard and stiff—which you don’t.”

3. I will exercise, every single day.
We’re not talking about running 10K every morning, but how about clipping on a pedometer and getting your 10K steps in? “Any type of outdoor activity is key for you and your family to stay fit,” says Lansky. Just 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week, for example, lowers your risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

4. I will talk to my doctor.
When you head to your PCP for a visit, always ask if there’s anything you can do to improve not just your overall health but disease states you may be concerned about. For those with symptoms of heart disease, for example, there’s a new blood test that can help your doctor rule out obstructive coronary artery disease. It’s called the Corus CAD test. “It’s more accurate at excluding a severe blockage than a nuclear stress test,” says Lansky. “It’s a game-changer.”

While there’s always more we can do, these promises will get you—and your family—on the road to better health. “Women are in a unique position to impact so many people around them—husbands, children, parents,” says Lansky. “And a healthy lifestyle is the most important thing you can commit to.”

Alexandra J. Lansky, MD, is director of the Yale Cardiovascular Clinical Research Program, Yale School of Medicine. She is also associate professor of medicine and a practicing cardiologist at Yale-New Haven Hospital, in New Haven, CT. Dr. Lansky has authored and coauthored over 500 academic peer-reviewed manuscripts and book chapters in the fields of interventional cardiology, angiography and women’s cardiovascular health. She is a fellow of the European Society of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, the Society of Angiography and Intervention and the American College of Cardiology.

 

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Should You Switch Your Parenting Style?

Written on March 20, 2015 at 2:43 pm , by

Mom and daughter talking

Have you ever heard of “lighthouse parenting”? If not, it’s about to change your world. In his new book, Raising Kids to Thrive: Balancing Love with Expectations and Protection with TrustKenneth Ginsburg, MD, introduces the uninitiated to this surprising concept. The vision: Be a stable force on the shoreline that your kids can always look to (no matter what they’ve done this time). Make sure they don’t crash against any rocks, but allow them to ride the waves. (That’s for you, helicopter parents.) Master this technique and you’ll decrease anxiety, boost school performance and generally have a happier kid, says Ginsburg, a specialist in adolescent medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia whose new book was published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In this Q&A, the author explains exactly how to be the lighthouse your kid needs.

Parenting books focus on every topic under the sun, but you homed in on two key actions: giving unconditional love and protecting your child. Why did you pick these?
Because they define the struggle of modern-day parenting. When we love our kids unconditionally, we give them the security to face the world. But how do you love your kids unconditionally when you also have to hold them to high expectations? Those two points seem in opposition. Second, kids have to fall down so they can learn how to get up. But you want to protect your kid. I wanted to put in one place the science, logic and strategies behind how to strike a balance for your child.

There’s a great part of your book where you list a series of things parents should stop saying to their kids, like “How did you do on your test?” Why is that not the right question to ask your kid?
When we praise the outcome or the result, people become very anxious about what they’ve done. When we notice the process and effort they put in, then they understand they’re in control. So instead ask, “What did you learn today?” Another example: Don’t say, “You’re so smart in math.” Then kids will be afraid to explore history and they’re going to be anxious about getting that B+. Instead say, “You worked really hard to study and complete all your math problems. That’s why you’re doing well.”

How about a parent getting frustrated and telling her kid, “Your grades are slipping. Sometimes I wonder if you even care.” What damage does that do?
When our kids don’t perform to our standards, we think they’re lazy. So often it’s the opposite. It’s that the kids care deeply and feel deeply. They worry about disappointing us. And as a result they choose to get off the playing field. It’s hard for a kid to say, “I care so much. I’m feeling insecure all the time.” Saying “I don’t care” or feigning indifference is easy. Allow yourself to step back and wonder if this kid is feeling too much pressure.

You have a section in the book where you offer a series of questions parents should ask themselves. There’s one I wanted you to talk about a little more: “Was love given to you unconditionally while growing up? How might that have affected you?”
If we felt that we had to perform for love instead of just being given it as kids, chances are we’re never going to feel good enough as adults. We’re always going to be anxious, trying to gain favor from other people. If you ask yourself that question and the answer is “I never knew how [my parents] felt about me” or “They seemed so angry when I didn’t _____,” there’s a good chance that as an adult you’re still paying for that emotionally. Rather than repeat that cycle, understand the importance of full unconditional love of your child. It doesn’t mean you approve of every behavior, but it means you’re not going anywhere. The kid can always rely on your presence, wisdom and affection.

You talked about the countless emails you’ve received with the subject line “Code Words Saved My Child’s Life.” What are code words, and why should parents use them?
We have to remember that our job is to protect our kids, but our bigger job is to raise kids to be healthy 35-, 40- and 50-year-olds. Let them go out into the world, but have a safety net so they can call you at any time and get out of any situation. Code words allow kids to call or text and put in a phrase the parent knows means “I’m in trouble; get me out of this,” like “I forgot to walk the dog.” And that triggers you to demand they come home or insist you pick them up or give them an excuse to leave.

Why did you put so much energy into weaving teen voices throughout the book—including your daughters’?
Kids are the experts in their own lives. But the truth is our own kids push our buttons. What this book allows you to do by including 500 kids from all over the country is to hear their voices in a way that doesn’t push your buttons. And you can imagine what your children might think based on what these kids say.

Would you try lighthouse parenting with your child? Post a comment below and tell us.

Kenneth Ginsburg, MD, is a specialist in adolescent medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He is also director of health services at Covenant House Pennsylvania. He is the author of numerous scientific papers and five books, including the award-winning best seller Building Resilience in Children and Teens. Most of all, he’s a dad.

 

 

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Three Myths That Have Misled You About Meditation

Written on March 9, 2015 at 3:27 pm , by

With dedicated centers popping up nationwide and stacks of studies touting its health benefits, there’s no doubt: Meditation is the new yoga. So what’s holding some of us back from trying it? Despite the promise of everything from improved mood to an immune system boost, there are still many misconceptions about the practice of relaxing your mind. “I’m trying to demystify meditation for people who say, ‘That’s not for me’ or ‘I can’t do that,’” says Barb Schmidt, a mom of two and author of The Practice: Simple Tools for Managing Stress, Finding Inner Peace and Uncovering Happiness. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and the more I explain it to people, the more they think: ‘Oh, I can do this! I can try this.’” If you’d like to be one of them, consider taking some time to get centered after reading the facts behind these three meditation fictions.

Myth #1: “I Don’t Have Time to Meditate.”
Got 60 seconds? You’ve got time to meditate. In fact, Schmidt recommends that beginners start with a small daily time commitment. “Spend one or two minutes before you get out of bed with your eyes closed just focusing on your breath,” says Schmidt. “You’re learning how to focus your attention on your breath even as it occasionally goes down a path of what’s for breakfast or what time you should pick up your daughter from school. You’re strengthening your resolve.”

Myth #2: “I’ll Probably Do It Wrong.”
Like trying a new recipe or helping your kid with the New Math, worrying we’ll do something incorrectly can stop us from doing it at all. But that definitely shouldn’t stop you from getting centered. Trust us: Just say om. “There is no right or wrong way to meditate. All of that is false,” says Schmidt. “It’s simply sitting with yourself. You’re connecting with yourself. Be with you, not trying to do anything or get anywhere.”

Myth #3: “I Have to Think About Nothing.”
While practice may eventually make perfect, right now you’re just training yourself to be in the present. Your mind will wander. That’s where mantras, like “I choose peace” or “This too shall pass,” can come in. “A word, phrase or passage can bring your attention back when your mind wanders,” explains Schmidt. “It’s the tool that brings you in the meditation back to the present moment.”

Have you given meditation a try? Post a comment and tell us why or why not below.

Barb Schmidt is an international speaker, philanthropist, spiritual mentor and best-selling author of The Practice. She has devoted more than 30 years to her studies with inspirational leaders such as Deepak Chopra, Thich Nhat Hanh and more. Believing that “outer peace begins with inner peace,” in 2011 Barb founded Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life to further serve those who seek to live a meaningful, happy life, and to fulfill her passion to bring peace to the world. Through this nonprofit, she teaches The Practice—a three-part guide to practical spirituality in today’s modern, and often chaotic, world.

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The Best Christmas Gift I Ever Got from My Child

Written on December 15, 2014 at 11:18 am , by

Attention moms: This is a post you’re going to want to share, forward, copy and paste.

You see, right about now, plenty of little kids are wondering: What’s in Mom’s letter to Santa? And, well, bigger ones are pondering which treasured item Mom secretly hopes to find wrapped under the tree, too.

Contrary to all the commercials on endless repeat for the rest of December, you told us it’s not really diamond earrings or a luxury car. (Although we must admit those would make pretty fabulous holiday gifts. And if anyone out there has already put in an order for the VERY BIG BOW, don’t cancel it on our account.)

So what does Mom really want? Hundreds of them wrote in to tell us about the best present they ever received from their kid. The overwhelming majority of these gifts didn’t come in a box. The presence of loved ones was especially treasured, as were things like having an argument-free day. There were also a few items created, coordinated or purchased by their kids that were big hits. So without further ado, here are the gifts that were a huge hit:

1. HANDCRAFTED MASTERPIECES

“My daughter made a heart on canvas with pictures of our family.” —Annette S.

“Twelve handmade coupons from my adult son promising one day/afternoon together each month, just the two of us.” —Linda S.

“A hand-painted Santa egg by my son who is 28 and has been creating one each year for 12 years. I treasure each one.” —Janice W.

“The rocking chair I rocked all my kids in—refurbished. Such a special gift!” —Millie U.

“Our son passed away in April 2008 at the age of 16, and my daughter had a memory book made for us by having different family members and friends email her a memory of him. Priceless!” —Michelle T.

2. A HELPING HAND

“They decorated my tree, put up my lights and cleaned my home for Christmas.” —Pearl M.

“An IOU for keeping his room clean for a year!” —Sharon K.

“I was sick for the week leading up to Christmas, and my two daughters planned and prepared the whole Christmas meal. My sons cleaned up afterward. All I had to do was come to the table and then go back to my room. I was never so grateful for their help. I didn’t even know they knew how to do it. They even baked the pies!” —Ginny S.

3. TREASURED ITEMS

“Nail polish in my favorite colors.” —Linda M.

“Some of my favorite perfume.” —Petra M.

“A really soft throw blanket with a tiger on it. Tigers are my favorite animal.” —Robin N.

4. A LATE START

“Waiting until 8:30 a.m. before coming out [of the bedroom]. Yay!” —Heidi C.

“She slept in. First time in 11 years I’ve gotten a shower in before opening gifts” —Leeann A.

“A sleep-in. Our five kids all decided to sleep in Christmas day and we had to wake them up.” —Kylie B.

5. A SHOW OF SUPPORT

“My eyesight. They paid for me to have cataracts removed.” —Donna C.

“I’m going through chemo for breast cancer, and when I walked into my daughter’s house for Christmas dinner, everyone had on pink kerchiefs!” —Anita K.

“I was crying because I couldn’t afford to get them a whole lot. My 10-year-old son was in the room and asked me why I was crying. I told him I was afraid he and his sister would be disappointed with their gifts. He said, ‘It’s okay, Mom. That’s not what Christmas is about! Anything you got we’ll be happy with!’ That made me so happy and relieved! It was the best gift I could have ever been given!” —Allison B.

 

 

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Losing It!: The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet

Written on August 19, 2014 at 10:30 am , by

For the feature “Losing It!” in our October issue, writer Sheryl Kraft chronicled the weight-loss journeys of Family Circle staffers who agreed to try out six popular diets. But we put more than six plans to the test! Check out how one of our editorial assistants fared on a doctor-approved detox.

 

The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet

Best for: Moms who are committed to change and can afford the essential supplements required

Tester’s Weight Loss: 5 pounds

Reducing insulin levels is the key to losing weight, says Mark Hyman, MD, creator of this “reboot” diet that claims to bring your metabolism back into balance and activate your body’s ability to burn fat. Sugar and carbs are enemy territory, causing everything from type 2 diabetes to sexual dysfunction, he explains. Based on whole foods high in fiber and low in sugar and starch, the diet—which asserts you can lose an average of 8 pounds—eliminates gluten, grains, dairy, alcohol and caffeine. Instead, it stresses good-quality grass-fed animal protein, nuts, seeds, tofu, fruits and veggies.

Typical Meal: Skinless, boneless chicken encrusted with red chili pesto; sautéed spinach

Shopping List Surprises: Raw nut butters, tahini, Kalamata olives, almond milk

Supplements: Our friends at The Vitamin Shoppe helped Lauren pick out the best brands for all the pills the diet required, including vitamin D3, alpha lipoic acid, green tea catechins, PGX fiber and more.

Star Ratings
Ease of Use: 3     (5-Very Simple, 1-Just About Impossible)
Taste Factor: 4    (5-Every Meal Was Great, 1-It Was Barely Edible)
Time Factor: 3    (5-Putting Meals Together Was a Snap, 1-It Was Too Much Work)
Hunger Factor: 1  (5-Very Satisfying, 1-Stomach Always Growling)

Although our editorial assistant Lauren knew she needed this “kick starter” to lose the extra weight she’d recently gained, her admitted lack of self-control made her a bit nervous. But Lauren’s motivation to improve her overall health and get back in shape helped her stick with it, even though that involved spending lots of time in the kitchen. “Everything needs to be homemade,” she notes. Lauren liked the idea of detoxing both her mental and physical health with this plan, but in the end found some requirements—like eliminating caffeine, alcohol, gluten, dairy and sugar —too restrictive. “I am a firm believer that moderation is key,” she says.

Biggest Hurdle: The expense of the supplements

Simplest Challenge: Prepping the lunch salads

 

Special Delivery! Could a Little Purple Box Change Your Love Life for the Better?

Written on July 2, 2014 at 11:50 am , by

 

After we posted on Family Circle‘s Facebook page that we were looking for readers to try out a romance kit, my email inbox didn’t stop dinging for the next hour…plus. So many readers responded! We selected several moms from across the country and asked them to await the arrival of the Bedroom Chemist—a subscription service that delivers a discreet box of intimacy-enhancing products specially curated for, well, a good time. Every six weeks you get a bundle. No one knows what’s in the box—not the mailman, not your kids and not you—until you open it. We asked testers to try the products out and tell us what happened. Here, two testers share their stories.

Tester #1: “This Was One of the Most Romantically Fun-Filled Nights We’ve Had in a While.”
With a house full of kids—and all their various activities—there’s not too much time for romance. My husband and I made a decision that we were going to really make this past Valentine’s Day special. Our older daughter was in charge of taking her two younger sisters and her daughter to the movies. I made a nice romantic dinner for two with candles, wine and chocolate-covered strawberries. My husband even helped with the cooking!

After we enjoyed our dinner and having the house all to ourselves, we decided to try the kit. I lit the candle and left it on the nightstand for a bit to let the wax melt. This was our first time experimenting with a candle and it was so much fun! We massaged each other with some of the warm wax, which made our skin so smooth and soft. It also had a wonderful fragrance and made the bedroom smell really good.

It was also our first time using a vibrator, which was fun and interesting. We would probably try it again. We did not need to use any of the lube and with all the fun we were having, we forgot we had the sexy scratch-off cards. This was one of the most romantically fun-filled nights we’ve had in a while. Can’t wait until the next date night—we will definitely be using our kit again.

Tester #2: “I Would Recommend It to Anyone Just for Something Different.”
The biggest challenge that my husband and I have to intimacy is timing. We’ve been married 22 years and have two teenagers. I never would have thought that finding time to make love would be so hard once the kids got bigger.

I loved the idea of the romance kit just to make us make the time to be together. The kit came in the mail on a Thursday. I told my husband to reserve one hour on Friday for me. We eagerly anticipated the next morning. What happened? I got called in to work, so scratch that plan. It took a few days, but we finally got to try out the items.

I was excited about the candle. I love a massage. The problem with the candle is that it took a really long time to melt…Like, we got tired of waiting so we never used it. But it still sits on the nightstand for another day with better planning. The lubricant was the best of any we’ve ever used! But I’m guessing my husband applied too much of the “sensation-enhancing” balm—he couldn’t tell how many drops were coming out—because it was like I was on fire. The little vibrator was really cute and I liked the feel of it. But it just didn’t have enough power for us. Even though we didn’t love everything, all in all it was a great time and I would recommend it to anyone just for fun—and something different.

Want to spice things up between the sheets and try out this kit yourself? Check out the BedroomChemist.com ($50 or less per package) and let us know how it goes!

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The Most Vulnerable Time for College Kids

Written on May 8, 2014 at 12:59 pm , by

“She swears up and down they used a condom,” says Meghan,* 48, a mom of two from Missouri. But three years ago, Meghan’s 19-year-old daughter became part of the 11% of 18- and 19-year old girls who get pregnant each year.** What’s more, nearly three out of 10 girls in the U.S. get pregnant by age 20. During National Teen Pregnancy Prevent Month, Family Circle shares Megan’s story and offers expert advice every parent needs to know.

Three years ago, Meghan Davis’ life was in flux. “I was on my own,” she says. “I had just filed for divorce, left our big house and moved into a two-bedroom apartment with my youngest daughter, a high school junior.” It was Thanksgiving break and her 19-year-old daughter, Emily, was home from college and had swung by the apartment to check in. “She just sat down in the living room and didn’t say anything,” recalls Meghan, who had a weird feeling once her daughter arrived. “Then Emily just started bawling. She just cried and cried. And once she was done, she said, ‘I’m pregnant and I don’t know what to do.’”

A whopping two-thirds of teen pregnancies occur in 18- and 19-year olds, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. That’s older kids whose parents may be experiencing life changes themselves as their kids enter the workforce of head off to college. One of several factors that might put these older kids at greater risk is the fact that they’re entering a brand-new world.

“The most vulnerable time for kids on a college campus is first semester freshman year,” reveals Deborah Roffman, a sexuality educator and author of Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ “Go-To” Person About Sex. “They’re starting all over again. They’re wanting to fit in. They’re figuring out how to make decisions that will help them fit in—as opposed to how to make decisions in their own best interest.”

No matter how old your teenager is, you can still have a significant impact on the choices they make. “Even though you are losing a lot of direct power and control as they get older, what you gain is influence,” says Roffman. “Parents need to be involved in talking to their kids, no matter how old they are, about what their hopes and dreams are for themselves.”

Indeed, 39% of teens ages 13 to 17 say they have never thought about what their life would be like if they were to get pregnant or cause a pregnancy, according to new research from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Never. “It’s our job to reality-test them,” says Roffman. “Say, ‘If you make that choice, what will happen?’ Help them think critically about their choices by asking great questions.”

Conversation starters for older teens may not be intuitive, so we’ve created a list of them here, and Meghan adds to it. “If there’s one thing I could tell other mothers, I’d say get your daughter to think about herself,” she asserts. “Your daughter can’t just expect the man to be providing the protection; she has to take charge of her own life. I would’ve preferred that my daughter had taken care of birth control closer to the 100% effective mark herself.”

Getting as close to 100% protection as possible—if not through abstinence then by using two methods of birth control—not only protects against sexually transmitted diseases but can compensate for imperfect methods and imperfect users. “We do know a lot of young people are using contraception. They just might not be using it consistently or correctly,” explains Marisa Nightingale, senior media advisor for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “And if you’re not actively planning to prevent pregnancy, you’re essentially planning to get pregnant.”

After her daughter stopped crying, there were actually smiles. “My thinking was that there’s nothing to be done about it now. I’m not going to boo-hoo the whole nine months,” says Meghan. “Once Emily calmed down, I said, ‘Well, you’re pregnant. Are we going to be happy about it?’ And that made her laugh.” She admits that the timing was difficult and there have been some tough moments, but they came through them to better days without regret. “This is my first grandchild,” says Meghan of her now-2-year-old grandson. “Neither I nor my daughter would change a thing.”

* Names and identifying characteristics have been changed.
** Most recent data is for 2009.

Lynya Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine. Read more of her posts here.

Have you had a pregnancy scare with your older teen? Post a comment and tell us what happened.

Sex 102: 5 Questions to Consider Asking Your Older Teen

Written on May 6, 2014 at 11:12 am , by

You might think there’s nothing you can tell an 18- or 19-year-old about sex—well, nothing that they’ll actually listen to. But that’s not the case. “More and more studies say parents do have influence over their teens in terms of delaying sex and using protection when they have sex,” encourages Leslie Kantor, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. And with 11% of 18- and 19-year-old girls becoming pregnant in 2009 (the year with the most recent data available), sex talks are critical. “As high school comes to an end and transitions to adulthood begin, it’s important to have conversations with teenagers about both birth control and condoms so they can protect themselves against unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease,” says Kantor. Try these opening lines that go way beyond the birds and the bees.

“How do you feel about LARCs?”
If talking about birth control is on the table, be sure to bring up all forms that are available to teens. LARCs—Long-Acting Reversible Contraception—include options like the IUD and Implanon, and they mean your teen doesn’t have to remember to take a pill daily for pregnancy prevention. “Not all parents know there are really highly effective methods of birth control out there that are appropriate for teens, like the IUD and the implant,” explains Kantor. “New studies show they’re extremely protective.” Not only is this a good conversation starter for you and your kid, but it’s one he can spark with his partner and she can begin with her ob/gyn as well.

“Are you comfortable talking to Dr. Williams?”
“I’ve heard from young people that they’ll lie to a doctor if that doctor is being judgmental,” reveals Marisa Nightingale, senior media advisor for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. If your teen doesn’t have a good relationship with their doctor, it’s time to repair it or find a new person they can relate to and won’t be embarrassed to go to for help. Allowing younger teens a few minutes alone with their MD—instead of monitoring the whole appointment—helps build that relationship.

“So where exactly is the campus health clinic?”
If your kid’s in college, waiting until Thanksgiving or spring break to see a doctor at home isn’t always the best idea. If they need faster care or have pressing questions, they should know where to find answers at school. Again, being at ease speaking with an MD is critical. “It’s not just knowing where the campus health services are, but helping to give your kids a confidence booster to handle themselves in a clinic setting too,” explains Nightingale.

“How do you know if someone wants to have sex with you?”
Chances are they’ll be conjuring up images of a movie scene while you’re about to drive home a much more real message about consent. “I think giving consent is something young people are not getting enough information about in their school sex education programs,” says Kantor. “We have to help young people understand that if someone is drunk or high they can’t consent to have sex in a number of states. The absence of no doesn’t mean yes.”

“Do you think you’ll want to stay in our hometown after graduation?”
This isn’t about your desire to turn their bedroom into a crafting corner. It’s about getting them to imagine their future, like with this app. “What profession are they interested in? Where do they want to live? Really considering these things makes them think about how becoming a parent as a teen would get in the way of that,” explains Kantor. “When teenagers are ambivalent about pregnancy, they’re more likely to take risks. So just getting young people to think, Is this something I’d want? gets them to delay sex and use birth control.”

One last, critical message that experts want to drive home with teens: “You can always say no to sex—even if you have said yes before,” explains Nightingale. “That’s really important for young people to know.”

Lynya Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine. Read more of her posts here.

Have you taken the “sex talk” to the next level with your older teen? What messages were important for you to share? Post a comment and tell us.

Who’s Most at Risk for Teen Pregnancy? (You’ll Never Guess)

Written on May 5, 2014 at 11:47 am , by

“Nothing shook our family like my teenage daughter’s pregnancy,” says Andrea*, 53, a Washington-based mom of three. And she’s not alone. Even though there have been tremendous declines in teen pregnancy, almost three in 10 girls get pregnant in the U.S. before age 20. As part of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, Family Circle will shine a light on sex stats that will surprise you, offer expert advice every parent must hear and share stories of the most vulnerable group of teens—they’re not who you think—starting with Andrea’s daughter.

 

One August morning, Andrea Richards, a mom of three, climbed out of bed and made her way downstairs to find a letter sitting on the table. It was from her daughter, Kate, and the message would send her frantically rushing back upstairs to wake her husband.

Kate was three months pregnant. She didn’t know how else to break the news to them. And she had packed up and left home in the middle of the night.

“I was devastated,” says Andrea, who was 45 at the time. “Kate was an honor student. All the hopes and dreams of her going to college were gone.” Those dreams were just weeks away from being realized: Kate was 18, working a part-time job in retail and slated to start community college in the fall.

STILL AT RISK
Two-thirds of all teen pregnancies occur in 18- and 19-year-olds, according to research done by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (TNC). That’s right, older kids. “Many people find that surprising because they might be more accustomed to seeing images of girls in the media who are 14, 15 or 16 and pregnant,” says Marisa Nightingale, senior media advisor for The National Campaign. “But the average age for sex is 17 for boys and girls. So 18- and 19-year-olds are more likely to be sexually active. And nothing magical happens overnight when someone turns 18 that makes them less likely to get pregnant or better at using contraception.”

Before you start to wonder if the numbers are skewed toward teens who get hitched after graduation, let’s dispel that notion. The vast majority (86%) of all births to 18- and 19-year-olds were to unmarried women, according to the Centers for Disease Control. So we’re talking about teens who have just nabbed their first job or already gotten an acceptance letter from college, or they may be making their way through freshman year. But in one pivotal moment, the blank slate of their future—and likely yours, mom, as well—now has something permanently written on it. For Kate, that pivotal moment was on prom night.

“I didn’t suspect this with her at all. We had everything in order,” says Andrea, who shares that her daughter was “in love with love” and dating a boy she and her husband didn’t approve of. They kept close tabs on her. “We drove Kate to prom. We knew where she was going to be. She even called me at midnight and asked if she could spend the night at a friend’s house. I said no. Curfew was 2 a.m.,” remembers Andrea. “So whatever decision Kate made between midnight and 2:15 a.m., when she walked in the door to our home, changed her life forever.”

 

FINDING THE WORDS
“I told Kate that I hoped she wouldn’t have sex with someone until she was old enough and ready. I was never going to take her to get contraception because it was never okay to have sex before you were married,” explains Andrea. She says she had plenty of “sex talks” with her daughter, who was raised with the family’s Catholic beliefs, and was devastated that she and her husband were the last to find out their daughter was pregnant. “Other kids knew. Other parents knew. No one said anything. Things would’ve been quite different if someone had told us. We would’ve sat down and talked to Kate. She didn’t have to leave the house. We wouldn’t have wanted her to do that.”

Not only does the “sex talk” need to be an ongoing conversation with your child, experts suggest that it also needs to be a broad conversation. “You’re trying to build sexual confidence,” explains John Chirban, a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of How to Talk with Your Kids About Sex. He points out that this isn’t about just having the strength to say no, but also accepting all the potential consequences of saying yes…and what can happen next.

“It’s role-playing, talking about incidents and teaching your child to direct and manage their sexuality. As a parent, it’s incredibly important to own your point of view and be true to what’s spiritually or religiously correct,” says Chirban, a father of three. “But just saying no doesn’t respond to what a teenager is feeling in the heat of the moment in a relationship.” At the same time, saying yes has consequences that extend way beyond those two teens.

GOING FORWARD
Today Kate lives in another state and is engaged to be married—but not to the father of her now-8-year-old daughter. Andrea’s relationship with Kate is much improved and she absolutely adores her granddaughter. Still, everything that’s happened since she found that note hasn’t been easy. “This isn’t a club I would’ve wanted to join,” says Andrea. “But things are turning out okay today.” One message that she wants other moms to hear: “It’s a hard road, but believe me, you have enough love for your daughter and grandchild to pull through.”

*Names have been changed.

Lynya Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine. Read more of her posts here.

Has your child ever had a pregnancy scare? Post a comment and share what happened.

 

My Birthday Bucket List

Written on April 7, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

On my special day, I asked Facebook friends for something out of the ordinary. When you’re careful what you wish for, amazing things come true.

You know that moment when you’re in the midst of doing something…and then suddenly, vividly recall why years ago you stopped doing that thing? (Think: generously inviting a clingy neighbor to a girls’ night out.) Well, I had one of those moments last November.

I was staring at myself in the mirror of a studio at New York Sports Club. The instructor queued up a hip-hop song I’d never heard before and started counting down 3-2-1 until a group of us would knock out a 46-move combo. Ah, cardio dance classes. I’ve always been horrible at them, much preferring the two-step of the treadmill. I fumbled my way through the shoulder pops and sideways slides, sneaking cheating glances at the rest of the class. Why was I putting myself through the wringer at 11 a.m. on a Saturday? Because of my Facebook friend request.

A few years ago, I started asking my friends to skip posting on my wall the simple (but appreciated) “Have a great birthday!” Instead, I made specific requests for my big day. One year, it was to share a favorite time together. (“Dinner at Emeril’s flagship restaurant in New Orleans,” wrote a former coworker.) Another, it was to share the best piece of advice they’d ever received. (“If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain,” a friend declared. I love that.) Last year, though, I was craving adventure. And something that would deepen my relationships with my friends, coworkers and relatives. People may complain about how technology distances us from those we love, but I’m pretty adamant that it can actually bring us together.

So I posted:

“Dear Friends: I’m marking tomorrow as my Bucket List Birthday. As I celebrate another year, I humbly ask you all a favor. If you leave birthday
wishes on my page, please note one epic adventure that we haven’t been on that you hope we will have one day soon. It can be anything: Running a marathon  together. Crafting an award-winning  story. Anything. And I promise I’ll  spend the rest of my life trying to make  it come true. Love you all!”

Flash-forward to me at 11 a.m. one Saturday in a hip-hop dance class with my friend Jeffrey. And—surprisingly enough—the Saturday after that as well.
You see, when Jeffrey left a message on my wall about the class, he was just hoping we’d spend time doing something he loved. But after failing pretty miserably at the first class, I realized that while my body was willing, my brain was weak. My muscles had gotten a good workout; it was my mind that was lagging behind. I’d had the dance equivalent of talking on your cell phone while pedaling on an exercise bike. Next class, I brought my Dancing with the Stars A-game and recalled three times as many combinations. When I high-fived Jeffrey at the end, you would’ve thought I’d scored a touchdown at the Super Bowl.

Admittedly, some of the escapades on my bucket list may take a lifetime to achieve—so I’m glad I gave myself that long. One friend asked to co-author a book together, another wants to kayak in Maui, and a third hopes to host a reunion concert by our favorite band from the ’80s (Guns N’ Roses) with a red-carpet guest list including, well, our friends from junior high.

The very first reply to my birthday request was about a recipe—no surprise, considering the number of culinary successes I’ve posted. Apparently I had uploaded pictures of some homemade Oreos to my feed no fewer than four times in the past year, and my friend was tired of the mouthwatering tease. Okay, okay, whipping up Oreos isn’t exactly an adventure, but it did lead to quality time together when I dropped off a tin full of the cookies.

A few of the requests helped me hone serious negotiating skills. One friend wanted us to run the San Francisco Marathon. Ever since my first marathon, which was hilly and slow, I’ve had two requirements for the course of my next one: flat and fast, two things the City by the Bay’s course most certainly is not. As thrilling as the idea of booking it through Golden Gate Park and past Fisherman’s Wharf sounded, the idea of all those hills had me mentally pulling the covers over my head. The elevation chart for the race looked like a 26.2-mile EKG chart—pun intended. I countered with the Chicago Marathon, she came back with Philly, and for now, we’ve agreed to run the More Magazine/Fitness Magazine Women’s Half-Marathon in New York.

Other friendly posts required an arsenal of planning tools, from vision boards to travel guides. I’m not sure when CBS is taking applications for The Amazing Race, but I know who my partner will be and we’ve got to start working on our audition video. I’ve also been asked to plan an epic night of cocktail-bar-hopping in Manhattan. I don’t know if that means the entrance has to be hidden behind a phone booth (yes, that does exist here) or the drinks need to arrive on fire, or something in between. But either way, I’m sure it’ll be a night to remember. Every time an encounter gets crossed off my list, I write about it on Facebook. As with any to-do list, it feels like a pat on the back when you check off items. But I’ve also noticed that each “task” has me challenging myself in a new way, learning more about myself and encouraging my loved ones to dream big. A friend once told me, “You have to take the journey to know where the journey will take you.” I couldn’t have asked for better road maps than last year’s birthday wishes.

 

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How Much Do Food Labels Matter?

Written on December 31, 2013 at 1:21 pm , by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t feel like winter until the temperature dips below freezing and I whip up a big batch of chili that makes my house smell heavenly—but is still healthy. Instead of ground beef, I use ground turkey which cuts, among other things, the fat and calories. And because I like to know it’s organic and antibiotic-free meat, that usually means a trip to Whole Foods.

It’s not cheap, but there are some health splurges I’m willing to make and this happens to be one of them. My chili recipe is heavy on cholesterol-fighting kidney beans and I needed two cans, so, on this particular day, I decided to save some time and pick them up at the same supermarket. What Whole Food had to offer cost a few cents more than what I usually get (hmmm), was in a small box (interesting, no can) and had a label stating that this was not a genetically modified food (wow!). No GMOs?

Australia, Italy, the United Kingdom and 61 other countries require labeling of genetically engineered foods. But while the overwhelming majority of Americans say they’d like labeling (and our Family Circle Facebook poll even showed 99% of you want labeling), the numbers don’t work out that way in voting booths. This winter, Washington state’s Initiative 522 (which would have required genetically engineered foods to be labeled as such) failed to be passed with 54.8% of voters saying no thanks to GMO labeling. Perhaps concerns about additional costs and unclear legislation turned the tide in a different direction?

It may surprise you to know that we’re probably already consuming a fair amount of modified foods. “Most soybeans, corn, canola and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are genetically modified for herbicide tolerance and insect resistance,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It: How to Decode Food Labels and Make the Healthiest Choice Every Time. That means everything from your breakfast cereal to your taco shell to your soda could contain GMOs.

Experts continue to debate over whether you should or shouldn’t be concerned about GMOs. They also go toe-to-toe over whether you should or shouldn’t care enough to see them labeled. There are certainly pros and cons, with a great rundown here. If you choose to go the non-GMO route, there are options out there to make it easier. Whole Foods, for example, has pledged that by 2018, all products in their U.S. and Canadian stores will be labeled to indicate whether they contain GMOs. And already, a great number of them do—like those red kidney beans that I did end up buying.

Increasingly, it seems that we live in a world where you need to vote with your dollars. It happens with what we listen to: Opposed to that racy song they’re playing on the radio? Don’t let your kid download it for $1.29. It happens with what we watch: Upset about all the violence in flicks these days? Make sure the next $100 you drop on family movie night goes to a comedy. And it appears that it’s happening with what we eat.

Are you concerned about GMOs? What percentage more in price, if required, would you be willing to pay for non-GMO foods? Post a comment below and share your thoughts.

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What It’s Like to Be Blind

Written on October 10, 2013 at 2:30 pm , by

Would you be able to tell cayenne pepper from chili powder in a grocery store—with your eyes closed? Could you sense if traffic were moving or at a standstill by just listening to the flow? While these scenarios may give you pause, they’re the everyday reality of the 285 million people worldwide who are visually impaired or blind. And while complicated, many would tell you these situations are more manageable than you fear. “I don’t hear any better than you,” a legally blind mom of two once told me. “You just don’t use your senses. When you can see a bus coming, you don’t have to listen for it.”

Today marks World Sight Day, which brings awareness to visual impairment and blindness across the globe. But rather than ask you to close your eyes and imagine what life might be like for the blind for a moment, I’d like to tell you what life was like for me for an hour.

A while back, I went to “Dialog in the Dark,” an exhibit that has been traveling the globe and stopped at New York City’s South Street Seaport two years ago. At the start, you’re given the appropriate mobility cane for your height. Then you enter a room that’s pitch-black—and remain in complete darkness for the remainder of the exhibit.

A legally blind guide takes you from one pitch-black room to another, each of which simulates the sounds, vibrations and temperatures (but not sights) of iconic locations in New York: a bustling train that you have to get on and off. A grocery store where you open a fridge to locate a container of milk. A city park where you feel for a bench to sit down on. All in complete darkness.

Some people panic and have to leave the exhibit. Others embrace the experience while they try to discern lemons from oranges in a supermarket setting or listen carefully for conductor announcements to make sure they get off at the right train “stop.” Regardless, you’ll never interact with a legally blind person the same way again.

On this World Sight Day, I want to encourage you to go get your vision checked—especially if it’s that appointment you’ve been meaning to get around to but haven’t in forever. Eye diseases (like macular degeneration and glaucoma) are silent but cause significant damage and vision loss if untreated. And 80% of visual impairment is readily treatable and/or preventable. But, most important, I’d like to influence how you react the next time you encounter a legally blind person with some advice I got directly from legally blind people.

Offer but Don’t Be Offended. “Don’t hesitate to ask a blind person if they need help crossing the street, for example,” one of the “Dialog in the Dark” guides told me. “But don’t be offended if they decline.” It may sound simple, but I’ve seen people get rubbed the wrong way when a blind person declines their help. There’s no need. Know you were available for a good deed and keep going.

Follow Their Lead. I was recently traveling from Philadelphia to New York by train when a woman with a Seeing Eye dog sat near me. The couple standing in front of her sparked up a conversation, asking multiple questions about the dog and their routine. I have no doubt that they meant well, but it was a bit invasive and her brief answers should’ve been a cue to cut the conversation short. When the train stopped, I offered to help the woman find her way to taxi stop. As we walked, she confided in me how awkward it is when strangers recognize her dog on the street and call it by its name. Imagine if a stranger you couldn’t see came up to you while you were walking somewhere with your child and started interacting with your little one by name. There’s nothing wrong with being just as friendly with a blind person as you’d be with a sighted person. Just field their reactions the same way.

Act Normal. “A lot of sighted people treat the visually impaired as if they’re mentally impaired,” that mom of two I mentioned before shared with me. Think about it: Have you ever spoken louder or slower when communicating with a blind person? “People have the misconception that just because you’re visually impaired, there must be something else wrong. Just because I don’t have sight, doesn’t mean I don’t have vision.”

What will you do to mark World Sight Day? Book your next eye appointment? Donate to a local charity? Post a comment and let me know.

Lynya Floyd is health director at Family Circle magazine. Read more of her posts here.

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