Parenting Teens & Tweens

What Every Parent Should Know About the Growing Trend of Slut-Shaming

Written on February 17, 2015 at 12:02 pm , by

Leora Tanenbaum, author of the newly released I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internetsheds light on some dark and dangerous behavior. By APRIL MCFADDEN

While boys are often encouraged to explore their sexuality, girls must usually toe the tricky line between being alluring but not lewd. These days that sexual double standard is more difficult than ever to navigate. In this Q&A with Family Circle, author Leora Tanenbaum, who coined the term “slut-bashing” back in the 90s, helps us understand the struggles girls encounter today and explains how every parent can more responsibly raise a kid in the Internet age.

You break down the difference between slut-bashing and slut-shaming in your book. Why is it important for parents to know the difference?
Because the effects of each get played out differently. Slut-shaming isn’t necessarily repeated—it could be a one-time thing and the intent may not even be negative. I haven’t met any female in the United States under the age of 25 who has not been called a “slut” or a “ho” in some context, usually more than once. But slut-bashing is a very specific form of harassment that takes place over time and the intent is to hurt. Slut-bashing makes life horrible for a girl. What they have in common is that regardless of the intent, at the end of the day female sexuality is being policed and the sexual double standard is being reinforced and hammered in. We need to pay attention to both experiences.

How can parents allow their daughters to experiment with femininity without letting them fall into harmful categories?
You don’t ever want to tell her or make her feel that she is a slut. You want her to feel good about her body, her sexuality and her clothing choices. If you strongly believe that her clothing is inappropriate for her age or for the occasion, you need to talk with her about it. Say something supportive that gives her space like, “Wow! You look fantastic in that outfit, but there are so many people out there that aren’t as enlightened as we are about girls revealing their bodies. And unfortunately there are people who may treat you like a sexual object if you wear that outfit.”

 

What critical lessons should parents teach their sons about this?
Talk about consent with your children, boys and girls, and explain that consent is never present unless it has been verbally communicated. I think that’s really essential. It’s probably the most important thing many parents aren’t doing that we should be doing that better. It’s never ever too soon to talk about sexual consent.

What is your opinion about the recent campus sexual assault movement, including It’s On Us, Know Your IX and Carry That Weight?
I feel invigorated by the movement. It ties into this culture of slut-shaming where so many people—including women—believe that it’s acceptable to have sex with a girl even if she hasn’t actually said yes. They think, “Well, because she’s a ‘slut’ or a ‘ho’ it doesn’t matter what she says.” And this is certainly true in high schools too.

What can parents learn from stories like Jada’s from the #IAmJada campaign?
I do find those individual examples of girls talking back and raising awareness really great, but they’re kids and that should not be their responsibility. That should be our responsibility. We need to be the ones orchestrating that and helping the young people in our lives.

What is the most shocking thing you discovered while writing I Am Not a Slut?
How people hate the “slut” so much—even if she’s somebody they don’t know—that they will tell her she should kill herself or that she shouldn’t be alive.

What is one thing you would ask parents to change when it comes to slut-shaming?
Never, ever use words like “slut” or “ho,” even in a lighthearted or joking way. Just never use them, because our kids look to us as role models and if we make it acceptable then it becomes acceptable to them.

 

Leora Tanenbaum is the author of the newly released I Am Not a Slut: Slut-Shaming in the Age of the Internet. She is also senior writer and editor at Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a mom of two boys.

 




When It “Takes a Village,” Here’s How to Create Yours

Written on February 10, 2015 at 10:03 am , by

It’s one of the most common parenting slogans we hear, affirmed by everyone from politicians to pediatricians: “It takes a village.” On the face of it, that’s true. But when you really think about it, there are a lot of assumptions going on here. Like, that everyone in the village agrees about the way to raise children. Or that everyone in the village is a mature adult who knows how and when to get involved in children’s lives.

I don’t know about your village, but in mine there are all sorts of people. Some of them I definitely want helping me out with my kids. Some of them…not so much. Plus, I’ve seen countless times when we actually have a problem involving our kids that also happens to involve other people (teachers, coaches, other parents, other kids) in our village.

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself: Do you trust your village or not? Why do so many of us assume the worst of our village’s intentions? And how do you define your village? The first two questions you’ll have to answer yourself. But the last I can help with. Here are the top three ways to create your village.

1. Identify the most important characteristics of your “villagers.” Mine are:

* treats kids with dignity,

* is comfortable calling children out when they do something boneheaded,

* is warmhearted (they can still be tough on the outside) and not a pushover

* laughs when kids make “foolish” mistakes

* and—most important—knows my children and still likes them.

2. With these characteristics in mind, try to identify two people who have most of these attributes in each of your smaller villages: at your child’s school, in your neighborhood, among your friends, your family and adults in your children’s extracurricular activities (that includes coaches, of course).

3. Make a list for yourself. You don’t have to go up to each of these people and tell them they’ve officially made your list, but write it down so you don’t forget it when you need it most.

The next step in the process is considering how you’ll use them when the moment comes. Read this letter from a mother who recently emailed me and see how her village worked.

Just as my 15-year-old son was supposed to get out of the car to go to school (already 5 minutes late), he mentioned he was being bullied there. He went on to school. I watched him walk in so he couldn’t ditch. Then I called his counselor at school, who checked on him today. When I picked him up I asked if he wanted to talk and he said, “Not now.” In the past I would have pushed him to talk right away, but I gave him space and he came to me later in the afternoon and we talked.

This is a difficult moment for any parent. Her 15-year-old son (a group not known for talking about their problems) drops a bomb as he’s getting out of the car. He did that on purpose. He wanted to tell her, but he didn’t want to talk to her about it.

She could have run after him. She could have run into the school assuming that the school would do nothing about it unless she broke into the principal’s office. But she didn’t. She thought about what would work for her son. She didn’t let her emotions get the best of her. She reached out to her (and, most important, her son’s) village by contacting his counselor and asking him to check in on her son. She trusted that the process would work. Then she gave her son a little bit of space, and her son reacted by telling her what happened—when he was ready.

Who’s in your village? And do you trust them? Post a comment and tell me. 

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.

 

 

Modern Life: The Joys and Challenges of a Three-Generation Household

Written on February 3, 2015 at 9:55 am , by

Photography by Amy Postle

Necessity is the mother of reinvention. Jennifer Conlin and Daniel Rivkin, foreign correspondents with posts in Europe and Africa until 2010, felt it was time to return to the States with their children. But after two decades of living abroad, they realized that the transition would be tricky—especially in the middle of a recession. A move to Michigan with Jennifer’s parents and brother turned out to be the winning solution. Jennifer shares her multigenerational you-can-go-home-again experience.

Describe your family in three words.
Hilariously thriving together.

How did your living arrangement come about?
The simple answer? It was a combination of being homeless refugees dodging a revolution and returning somewhat jobless to America to ensure our family’s safety.

We moved in with my parents full-time in late August of 2010, having lived in Cairo, Egypt, the previous year. We sensed the country was about to go through a difficult transition by the increasing restrictions being imposed on journalists working there (our livelihood), and decided to leave at the last minute before the next school year started. Six months later, the first revolution occurred.

My children knew Ann Arbor well, having spent part of every summer of their lives at my parents’ rambling colonial home, so they felt comfortable in the house and already had bedrooms here, as did Daniel and I.

Harriet was starting her first year of college in England, so she didn’t move in with us. Daniel didn’t arrive until late October, since he had to move us out of our home in Egypt and finish up his job there.

How do most people react when you tell them about your situation?
Shock. They tell me that if they lived with their parents there would be a homicide within months. But then, after they come over and see us all together they get very jealous. They see the wisdom in it, the love, and what a great time we all have together.

What was the transition like?
Enormous. We were used to living overseas, as we had for 20 years (the children had never lived in the States and were mostly raised in London). As a result, we were accustomed to having zero family nearby. Suddenly, we were all under one roof, my older sister was just down the street, and I also have dozens of cousins in town. At first it felt rather smothering because we were so used to being fiercely independent. But we needed family.

Our transition was harder outside of the house, where we were all trying to adjust to living in the U.S. for the first time as a family. Inside the house, we could break down when we faced difficulties. My parents and brother gave lots of hugs and advice during those first months when we all felt like complete foreigners despite all being American.

Have you reverted to old family dynamics now that you’re living with your parents and your brother?
Yes, but in a good way. I have always been close to my mother and father, and we never argued much when I was growing up and still don’t. Also, because I lived so far away, our visits usually lasted about a month, whether they were coming to visit us overseas or I was going to stay at their home with the kids. But I do find myself tiptoeing into the house if I come in late, like a teenager, not wanting them to know I stayed out past midnight. My brother and I were close growing up, but we also always teased each other a lot and still do—I tease him about women, he teases me about staying in shape because we were always very athletic together.

Photography by Amy Postle

What is the biggest reward you get from your arrangement? What is the most challenging aspect?
By far the biggest reward is that there’s always someone here to help out, whether it is cooking, babysitting, dog sitting or helping with homework. My mom and dad both still drive, so they helped pick the kids (now just Charles) up from after-school activities when I had to work. I never have to turn down a work trip with them here to watch the children, and they have us to help them take care of the house, get to doctor’s appointments and entertain. They love having people over but it was getting too tiring for them, as was keeping up the house. My husband and I love to entertain, so we have a lot of multigenerational parties and dinners now. 

The most challenging part is that we ended up buying their house three years ago, since we decided our living situation made us all better off economically. But Daniel and I would really like to make some decorating changes. Given that my mother was an interior decorator, she has a lot of opinions on how the house should look. She is pretty classic in her style and a lot of our things are fairly exotic because we’ve lived all over the world, so we don’t always agree. We only finally got our belongings out of storage six months ago, and a lot of them went straight to the attic. It still looks more like my parents’ house than our house.

How do you divide the household duties?
My brother always takes out the trash; my father orders all of us around the garden, telling us what to cut back and weed; my mother is obsessed with vacuuming the house and dusting. I do most of the cooking and shopping, and my husband is like Mr. Clean. He sweeps through the house every night, putting everything away and making sure the house is spic-and-span for all of us in the morning. The kids do next to nothing, I hate to admit. But they have zero time. One of the biggest shocks we had moving to the States was how full-on American childhood is: sports, extracurricular activities, community service and then huge academic pressures. They clean up their rooms….once in a while.

What does dinnertime look like?
This year we’re eating together less often, with everyone busy, but we still sit down at least twice during the week for dinner—and nearly every Sunday night. My mother acts as sous chef for me, chopping things and setting the table. I love to cook so we eat very well, but it’s not always to everyone’s liking. We have serious food issues here. My dad thinks every meal should be meat and potatoes, Florence is a vegetarian, Charles hates tomatoes, my mother has lots of allergies (including garlic!), and my brother is slim but eats a TON of food (though, thankfully, anything). Daniel and I like grains and fish and eat lots of trendy health foods, like quinoa and farro, that my father thinks taste like dust. But I don’t cater to anyone—what you’re served is what you get!

How are your children benefiting from living with their grandparents? And how do their grandparents benefit?
The children are now so much closer to their grandparents, obviously, but they are also wiser for the experience. My dad is a World War II history buff and my mother was an English major (she won the same fiction writing prize at the University of Michigan that Arthur Miller won while he was a student here). Between them they are great homework helpers. They also love to tell stories of their childhood to my kids. Charles, an avid piano player, has learned to play Cole Porter, Gershwin and a million musical theater songs thanks to my parents, who bought him a book of their favorite tunes. My mother has had her granddaughter, Florence, in town and learned all about modern feminism from my activist daughter. She will soon have her other granddaughter, Harriet, here direct from England, as she is moving into our home in January. My mom is a huge Anglophile, so having Harriet around to watch Downton Abbey with her will be a treat. My parents have little time to feel old with so many of my kids’ friends around all the time. And their friends love my parents. I came home the other day to find two of Charles’ friends sitting watching football with my father. Charles wasn’t even here! They stayed anyway to hang out with my dad. It was the cutest thing ever. And my parents have 24-hour tech support, since they can barely operate a television, let alone the computer.

What is your advice to others for making it all work?
You have to have a sense of humor, lots of patience and be able to compromise. But you also have to communicate well and say what you feel when you feel it so things don’t boil over into an explosion. You have to really love each other but also give space when it’s needed. Sometimes we need time alone with our kids, and my parents have to leave so we can have our own family time. And sometimes they need time alone and need us to go out so they can relax without chaos.

Privacy can be the hardest part. As my kids say, they will never be able to throw a party we don’t know about. For that to happen they’d have to have five adults out of the house all at the same time. Good luck with that!

What is the most surprising thing that you’ve discovered about living in a multigenerational household?
How economical it is—we can all live so much better together, sharing costs, than apart. And how mentally helpful, not harmful, it is—all of us are there for each other if someone has a bad day. Plus we have lots of different viewpoints on how to solve problems if someone is facing something difficult.

Please share a funny moment that has come out of all this.
When we first moved in, Florence had a new friend over and her mother came to pick her up from our house. I answered the door, having never met her before, and could see her looking around at all these antiques, floral couches, chandeliers, etc., wondering about my old-fashioned taste. But it was my mother’s taste, of course. I’m more Pottery Barn than Laura Ashley.

Then my brother suddenly came up behind me. She assumed it was my husband, and I had to tell her it was my brother. Then my parents waltzed into the room and she was even more confused.

“Whose house is this?” she suddenly asked.

My face went red and I had to say for the first time, “All of ours.” She soon became a great friend and we laugh now at how awkward I was admitting for the first time that I was living in a multigenerational home.

 

Is It Ever Okay to Cheat?

Written on January 30, 2015 at 11:00 am , by

One of the greatest lessons that parents try to teach their children is honesty. Winners never cheat and cheaters never win. There is no game or test or outcome that is worth going back on your word or compromising your integrity. So when I hear revered sports figures acknowledge or minimize their role in cheating, it’s disheartening. Winners never cheat? Try telling that to the New England Patriots and their fans. They’re going to Superbowl 2015 while still defending themselves in DeflateGate. For those of you unaware of DeflateGate, it basically involves a preponderance of deflated balls for one team that provided an unfair advantage. The situation begs the question: Is it ever okay to cheat?

Just the other day, in a BBC interview, Lance Armstrong was questioned about his infamous ban from racing after doping. When asked if he’d do it all again, in regards to doping, he said: “If I was racing in 2015, no, I wouldn’t do it again because I don’t think you have to . . . If you take me back to 1995, when it was completely and totally pervasive, I would probably do it again. People don’t like to hear that.” With all due respect to Lance Armstrong, I have a question: Huh? Did he actually say that he would cheat again? Yes, he did.

I have wiped tears from the cheeks of every single one of my four daughters because of a game that was hard fought but lost and other disappointing outcomes. As competitive athletes, they didn’t just learn to win, they learned to lose in spite of their best efforts. Cheating was not an option or part of the game plan.

To reinforce that message with our kids, it may be time to take another look at what cheating really is. One definition of being cheated is to be deprived of something valuable by the use of deceit or fraud. We often look at the victim with pity. Why not flip the script? Perhaps it’s time to look at what the cheater loses as we teach our children the lessons of playing and losing fairly. How sweet could that victory truly be? Let’s show our kids who the real winners are.

What lessons do you teach your children about cheating? Post a comment below and let us know.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet. Read more of her posts here.

 

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

How to Avoid Your Kid’s Video Game Meltdowns

Written on January 22, 2015 at 10:15 am , by

Video games have come a long way since the days when we were just trying to gobble up dots and steer clear of four pesky ghosts. Now they’re 10 times as complex—just look at all the buttons on the joystick, ahem, controller. Story lines are far more elaborate. And a kid’s desire to play just a little bit longer? Infinite. So how do you get your child to put the controller down? Our parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman received an email from a concerned school official dealing with just such a dilemma. Here’s Rosalind’s advice for putting playtime in its place.

Dear Rosalind:

I am an elementary school counselor, and so many parents have asked me for guidance on enforcing rules about video games. They don’t have problems setting the rules, but with enforcing them without meltdowns. What’s your advice?

Maybe some of you reading this have kids who follow your rules about games. Maybe some of you have kids who never argue or, worse, pretend not to hear you, when you say, “Your game time is up.” But for those of you who don’t, this is what I try to keep in mind.

Meltdowns are going to happen when your child stops playing a video game. As a parent, expect it and don’t take it personally. Don’t get annoyed. Don’t think your child is insane. He’s going from fighting monsters or competing in a world championship sports event to… sitting on the couch listening to his parent nag him about going over his screen time limits. Come to think of it, maybe our kids get into fights with us in these moments to continue the adrenaline rush.

When my boys disconnect, I give them about 10 minutes to be grumpy, rude, butt heads. They don’t get a free pass to be brats or say something personally horrible to me or about me. (“I hate you” doesn’t count as horrible. That’s a standard thing for your children to say and also should not be taken personally.) You should expect that they will lie (or be in denial) about how long they’ve played or argue with you about how much longer their sibling has been playing and how unfair the whole thing is. This is because they truly feel that they have been playing for only a few minutes and that their sibling(s) has hogged the controllers. Their passion fuels their justification about how unfair the situation is, which in turn fuels their belief that they are justified in being obnoxious brats.

Here’s how I try to manage myself so they don’t drag me into their tantrums: When I come into the house and they’re gaming, I try not to greet them with, “How long have you been playing?” (which, to be honest, is not a question—it’s an accusation) or “You better get off in 10 minutes” or “Have you walked the dog yet?” (again, an accusation). Instead—and this is very hard—I go in, say hi and let them play for 10 more minutes. Then I come back, tell them to pause the game and ask them about homework, the dog, cleaning the kitchen, etc. If they don’t pause the game after one warning, I do turn it off because that’s in our rules. (Rule #7: “I’ll pause the game within one minute after being told my time is up. If I don’t comply, I understand that my parent will turn off the screen so that any unsaved progress I lose will be because of my actions, not because my mom turned off the screen.”)

I have found that no matter what rules I have about food, leaving dirty socks on the floor or placing the cushions back on the couch, my kids still violate all of them. I don’t think I have ever come into the room where they play games and not found several dirty socks lying around. But when they stop playing, they have to clean up the space. Nothing happens until they clean up that room.

Bottom line: Don’t take their behavior personally. Don’t think they’re insane or game addicts. And don’t let them get you into a bad mood, stomping around the house resenting them. Stay strong, keep calm, and when in doubt you can always hide the controllers in the laundry room.


What rules do you place on video games in your house? Post a comment and tell me. 

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.

Learning from Loss: Why We Need to Embrace Goodness

Written on January 16, 2015 at 5:41 pm , by

 

Being blessed with four daughters means that I never had to have the “driving while black” talk. (For those who don’t know, that’s the conversation parents with black sons must have about the extra precautions you need to take should you be pulled over by a police officer.) Now, let me say up front, I respect, defer to and have admiration for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep our citizens and communities safe. However, as a mother my heart has been broken over the recent events involving innocent black youngsters and black men who have died in police encounters in Missouri, New York and Ohio, to name a few.

Just because these events happened in 2014 doesn’t make them any easier to manage emotionally in 2015. Last month, on the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, my heart was broken again as I saw images of the sweet, innocent smiles of victims contrasted with video of the ongoing pain of their surviving family members. A brave mother who lost her outgoing, curious and beautiful daughter stated: “You have bad days and even worse days…but you go on step by step.”

Yes, you go on, but how? Maybe the answer is closer than we imagine. The same ability that allows us to feel our own and others’ pain gives us the power to recognize that hope is all around us. We just have to make a conscious decision to see it, believe it and state it out loud. Our children need to hear us talk about the good in our lives—good people, good actions, good hearts and good words. That goodness connects us. It connects the people of Sandy Hook and the diverse group of people who are marching together for justice.

The new year provides a prime opportunity to teach our children with renewed spirit about giving, loving and being kind…just because. We can teach our children that the most important aspect of the recent holidays were not presents but presence. Interact in a gentle caring way, share history, swap stories and dole out tight hugs. Grief and heartbreak are part of life, but so are hope, goodness, love. And love heals.

How do you move forward from losses you’ve experienced or watched others experience? Post a comment below and let us know.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet. Read more of her posts here.

 

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

 

Modern Life: The Joys and Challenges of Raising a Child with Cerebral Palsy

Written on January 15, 2015 at 1:13 pm , by

Photography by Amy Postle

Flexibility is one of the cornerstones of sane parenting, especially when you have a child with special needs. 
As the parents of 9-year-old Sabrina and 12-year-old Max, who has cerebral palsy, Ellen Seidman and her husband, David, have become flex masters—they don’t let challenges dictate how they live their lives. This attitude keeps the family strong and acts as a source of inspiration for Ellen’s award-winning blog, Love That Max. We talked with 
Ellen about going with the flow.

Which three words best describe your family?
Down-to-earth, adventurous, fun-loving. 

How has having a child with special needs changed your outlook on life?
I’ve always been a person who likes to be in control, which has come in handy for making sure Max gets the services he needs. But having a kid with cerebral palsy, a condition for which there is no cure, has given me a roll-with-it sensibility. He can’t catch the softball? Okay, so we’ll just play a batting-only game of T-ball. Can’t get him to go into a restaurant because it’s too loud for him? Okay, we’ll try another one. You have to be flexible when you have a child with special needs, or you will drive yourself up the wall. 

How would you describe your parenting styles?
Me: Disciplinarian. Husband: Marshmallow-like—and he’ll readily admit it too. 

What is dinnertime like at your home?
First, I have to rip the kids away from the TV. At the table, we’ll talk about upcoming activities and how school is going; Max uses an iPad with a speech app to help him communicate. A lot of times, Max will try to get us to hold the spoon and feed him, but we tell him he has to do it himself—we’re all about encouraging independence. 

What is your family’s favorite activity?
Traveling of any kind—road trips, plane trips, train trips, wherever and whenever!  

How does Sabrina relate to Max and vice versa? Has being his sister made her a more empathetic person?
In many ways, my kids are typical siblings: They squabble, they’re competitive with each other, and they want to make sure they get the same size of birthday cake. But because Max has physical challenges, Sabrina has to help him sometimes—say, with holding the Wii remote or drawing something he wants. As the years have passed, she’s become more likely to instinctively help him without my asking. Ultimately, I can imagine that this will translate to her having a hearty sense of empathy for others with disabilities—but because she can also see Max’s abilities, she’ll know that even though people with special needs have their challenges, they are capable in so many ways.   

What is your pet peeve about how people treat Max?
The staring. It’s so rude. Hello, didn’t your mother teach you any better?! I’d much rather people come up to us and engage in conversation rather than gawk. Or even just say hi.

Photography by Amy Postle

Your biggest concerns?
They’ve changed over the years. When Max was a tot, I was anxious about his development and what he would and wouldn’t be able to do, and when. While he’s doing really well for himself (he walks and has some speech), I’ve come to accept him for who he is, keep hoping for progress, and keep getting him therapy up the wazoo! My biggest concern, which I’d venture to say is shared by every parent of a child with special needs: What will happen when my husband and I are gone?  

How has your blog, Love That Max, helped you?
I started my blog to inspire and inform parents of kids with special needs. I’d been through so much grief after Max was born, and I wanted to help others who were in that dark place. I know from comments and emails that parents find comfort in my writing, which does me good. But I also get so much in return: new perspectives on handling Max’s challenges and practical information too, like the best kind of sneakers to fit Max’s foot braces. It’s also been extremely satisfying to show people who don’t know anyone with special needs how absolutely awesome they are. I don’t want pity for my son—just inclusion and respect. When I hear that I’ve changed the way people view those with disabilities, I’m damn proud. 

What is the most important thing you’d like people to know about special-needs children?
It’s best for parents to explain to their kids early on that children with disabilities are more alike than different from them. They should teach them to not be afraid of those who don’t act, talk or move like they do. Please encourage your child to say hello to children with special needs at the playground, the park, a party, wherever.

What surprises you most about parenting?
How cute your kids remain, even as they get older! They are as yummy and adorable to me now as they were when they were roly-poly babies. I still can’t stop kissing them. Only now, they’re getting embarrassed about it. 

Any New Year’s resolutions for you and your family?
We don’t make formal ones, because the second you make them they are doomed to fail, so I’ll just say that our unofficial resolution is: Find more time for fun!  

Modern Life: A Dual-Faith New York City Family Juggles Christmas and Hanukkah

Written on December 4, 2014 at 12:45 pm , by

CATHERINE COPPOLA, 57, MUSIC HISTORY PROFESSOR, RIC FRANK, 63, LOWER SCHOOL MUSIC TEACHER AND BAND LEADER, AND CELIA FRANK, 15, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT.

 

For this Manhattan family, December means a holiday double-header: Christmas and Hanukkah. Catherine Coppola, a Catholic, her husband Ric Frank, who is Jewish, and 
their daughter, Celia Frank, pull off this dual-religion feat by combining old and new traditions in “roll-with-it” New York City style. They treated us to a glimpse of their particular winter wonderland, where Christmas ornaments and a menorah mix and mingle.

Questions answered by Catherine unless otherwise noted.

What do you like most, and least, about raising a child in New York City?
It’s great to have the incredible opportunities available here, especially for music and arts education. But it can be difficult for a child to be surrounded by high-end stores and all kinds of food and products that may not always be affordable. The flip side of that disparity, though, is the learning experience of growing up among many different kinds of people and levels of wealth, and the awareness that we are lucky to be in the middle, which can give a kid a healthy perspective.

How would you describe your parenting styles?
I try to talk things through, and accept the fact that the talk may go south, in which case tomorrow is another day. Sometimes you just have to leave it for a while and come back fresh.

My style is changing and evolving. The main thing I do is pick and choose my battles, and try to stay supportive. —Ric

What are some of your family’s Christmas and Hanukkah traditions?

For Christmas, tree decorating includes a goofy version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to go along with a set of ornaments that was given to me by some very good friends, and then we’ll drink eggnog, attend church and have dinner with my extended family. For Hanukkah, we light the menorah and sing the blessing, which Celia knows in Hebrew.

Have you found any challenges to living in a dual-religion household? If so, how have you dealt with them?
I was a church organist for many years, and Celia attended many services with me while Ric practiced his music, so it was natural for her to become part of that community. It also allowed Celia to participate comfortably when we attended church on holidays with the larger family.
Ric was not raised with synagogue attendance except on high holidays, but he always reads the services at home on the holidays and has tried to engage Celia in that way. So for us it has always tilted more toward the Christian side, and that can be a challenge for Ric, whose extended family is not on the East Coast. The challenge is that even with the best intentions, exposing Celia to both traditions can leave her confused as to which religion she is.

How did your friends and family react to your marriage?
We were introduced by a friend of Ric’s, and both his and my friends were happy for us. I had been married before, and about my first husband my father had raised the very legitimate question of why was he divorced. With Ric, my dad asked, “At 44, why has he never been married?” Parents will always have some trepidation until their child’s mate proves that they are a good person who will share your essential values. Once it was apparent that that was the case, my parents were fine with Ric. The only objection came from my very traditional Italian uncle. When I visited him in Bensonhurst and told him I had met a good guy, he asked, “What nationality is he?” When I said Jewish, he put his head in his hands and just shook it back and forth. Once he got over the surprise he was fine. With Ric’s family there was really no issue—his parents liked my cooking!

What song best captures the spirit of your family?
“My Girl.” It was our favorite early in our relationship as a couple, and it captures our love for Celia.

What do you love most about Celia?
I love that she is able to assert herself when necessary but that she seems to know the difference between assertiveness and aggression. I’m actually a little jealous of the way she is able to make her needs and feelings known—and this is true whether they are feelings of anger or of love, with which she is very generous. I also admire the way she can hold her own in conversation, whether with peers or adults, and I am very proud of her honesty and her work ethic.

In addition to Cathy’s thoughts, I really love how Celia stands up for equality across the board whether related to gender, age, race or religion. —Ric

What’s the biggest challenge for your family?
We need to remember how good our life is and keep the trivial things that we argue about in perspective so they don’t weigh us down. And when it’s not so trivial, we need to put a priority on communicating clearly what we feel and need from the other person in the situation. Sometimes that seems even more challenging in a family of three, where the triangle of emotions can be very intense.

Any tricks to keeping sane while trying to do the whole work/life balance juggle?
Yoga and meditation for Ric, Pilates for me and creative work for both of us in performing and writing; it’s also important not to be too hard on yourself. Allow yourself some shortcuts, like a take-out night. Eating together feels good even if you didn’t cook the meal!

When Friends Turn to Foes

Written on December 3, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

Two’s company and three can be a crowd when it comes to tween girls and friendships. So how can a mom help her daughter smooth things over when an expanding circle of friendship starts to wreak havoc? Our parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman received an email from a worried mother dealing with just such a dilemma. Here’s Rosalind’s advice for keeping the peace.

Dear Rosalind,
My 8-year-old daughter (I’ll call her Alexa) has known another 8-year-old girl (let’s call her Becky) since they were 4 and they’ve gone to the same school. Last year a new girl (let’s call her Jamie) came in halfway through the year and my daughter befriended her. Jamie has a difficult home situation and lives with her great-grandmother. Sadly, Becky is one of several people—including Becky’s overprotective mom—who don’t like Jamie and are giving my daughter a very hard time over the friendship. They’ve begun excluding Alexa. Becky used to cling to Alexa like glue and Alexa never pushed her away. I can’t understand why this girl has become so unkind to my daughter.

As hard as this is to believe, I’d bet any amount of money that the overprotective mom thinks she’s in the right—that in her mind she has a perfectively justified reason for supporting her daughter (Becky) in excluding your daughter’s (Alexa’s) new friend. So let go of “understanding” this woman’s perspective or why her daughter can’t accept the new friendship and focus on supporting your daughter and her new friend.

The only time I would talk to the nasty mom is if she confronts you or something happens between the girls that necessitates you speak with her. If that does happen, I’d say to her, “My daughter likes this new girl and we support the friendship. Our daughters don’t have to be friends, but I would like your support in allowing the girls to go their separate ways without being hurtful to each other.” Then get ready for this woman to be defensive or tell you the reasons why the new girl is a bad influence. Don’t get sucked in. The most you should say in response is, “That’s not been my or my daughter’s experience with this girl and I hope you would respect that.”

You also need to talk to your daughter. Tell her that you’re disappointed that her old friend isn’t being nice to her or the new girl. Maybe she’ll turn around one day but for right now, ask your daughter to give her some space until she can be a good friend.

If the old friend continues to be mean to her or the new girl, she needs to tell you and/or the person she thinks is the smartest adult at school what’s happening. But at base, this is an opportunity for your daughter to learn an important lesson from you: Sometimes good friends do things that make it impossible to continue the friendship for right now. Maybe later things will change. But in the present, it’s important to have friendships with people you actually like who allow you to be friends with others as well.

How would you handle a girl (and her mom) putting friendship pressure on your child? Post a comment and tell me. 

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.

 

Is It Okay for a Mom to #BreakTheInternet?

Written on November 25, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

Celebrity provocateur Kim Kardashian hoped to create an earth-shattering event when she posed for naked pictures in an attempt to #BreakTheInternet. (Warning: That hot link goes to her Paper Magazine spread, which includes nude photographs.) Her ample derriere was widely posted throughout cyberspace. Reactions seemed to range from disinterest to disbelief and astonishment.

Many people voiced concern about her seeming lack of seriousness related to her role as a mom and the potential long-lasting effects of images like this on her daughter. “Why would a mother want to pose like that?” some asked.

Yes, she is a mother. She is also being mothered by a woman who is her manager and obviously supportive of her recent photo spread.

For me, the underlying issue is not about her being open to displaying herself as a sexual being. She has the right to pose in any way that she chooses. There has not been any suggestion that she is abusive or negligent to her adorable daughter. The exhaustion of motherhood, with its additional responsibilities and time demands, can impact intimacy and sexual desire. Those are two situations that require process and communication—not a photo shoot.

The real issue is the way the media drives our consumption of knowledge around individuals who seemingly do not inject any sense of purpose or additional meaning into our lives. Enough. How great would it be if we could #BreakTheInternet with examples of kindness, generosity and overall goodness?

The positive news: According to the Wall Street Journal, the Rosetta spacecraft’s landing on a comet had more tweets then a champagne glass landing on Kim Kardashian’s rear. Score one for the comet and zero for Kim Kardashian. And that is really big, big, big news.

What do you think about Kim Kardashian’s attempt to break the Internet? Post a comment below and let us know.
 Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet. Read more of her posts here.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

 

The Most Important Thing You Can Teach Your Daughter

Written on November 21, 2014 at 12:02 pm , by

Being the parent of a teen girl has never been easy. But being a parent of a teen girl in this gadget-driven, video-vixen, text-versus-talk culture can be monumentally difficult. In this guest post, Sophia A. Nelson, author of The Woman Code: Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life, explains how to rise above pop culture, catty friends and blaring headphones to give your daughter the tools she needs to succeed.

As an aunt of one tween (age 12) and a bona fide teen (age 16), I take some pride in being very in touch with this new generation (Generation Text, Generation Connection or, more fondly, Gen Y) of young ladies. As a speaker, the author of two successful books about women, and a coach for women in corporate America, faith-based communities and universities, I cannot stress enough how important it is for us as moms, aunts, mentors and role models to boldly and honestly take back our girls by teaching them to know their value.

Of all the modern things we struggle with as women of our time, variations on one age-old question still determine how far we will go in life: “Am I good enough?” or “Can I be enough?” or “Am I worth enough?” Our girls struggle with this even more. They are constantly bombarded with images of beauty, overt sensuality and celebrities who make it to the top by way of YouTube—or worse. They experience the world far differently from us. And it’s up to us to be the bridge over turbulent waters to help keep them centered and focused on what matters most: their value.

How? you ask. It’s really simple.

We have got to reengage in old-fashioned conversation (that means speaking and eye-to-eye connecting) with our daughters. Make them put the gadgets down. We have to talk, not text. We have to stop trying to be a friend and start being what our moms and grandmoms were to us: teachers, advisors, protectors and disciplinarians without apology.

Here are five keys I use with my own nieces, and that I write about in The Woman Code. When put into practice, they shift the energy in our relationships as older women connecting with the next generation of young women.

1. Value yourself. Yes, we can tell our girls, daughters and nieces that their value is not defined on a TV set, a YouTube video or social media. We can drill home that it is defined from within. But know that they are also watching how YOU value yourself. So make sure you are teaching and leading by example.

2. Dare to engage in courageous conversations. Don’t duck the hard issues young girls face today. Be open and be willing to listen. You are the adult. Make sure they know you are there to protect and love them, and that you actually were their age once. It’s all about connection and conversation.

3. Teach your daughters to be authentic. Let them know who proper role models are: women like first lady Michelle Obama or singer Carrie Underwood. Teach them to live from their gifts from the inside out, not to be part of a crowd or a follower.

4. Share with your daughters the power of choosing the right friends early in life. I call it “know your front row.” If you see your daughters with the wrong crowd, intervene. Explain why these friends are not going to help them to win in life. Stress the importance of not engaging in gossip, bullying other girls or allowing themselves to be bullied. This is a favorite pastime of girls—tearing down other girls. And it causes great damage for years to come.

5. Prepare them to guard their hearts—not gate them, but protect them so that they will love the right men, surround themselves with the right friends and honor their deepest desires for marriage and family later in life.

 

Sophia A. Nelson is an award-winning author and journalist. She is a noted TV personality and thought leader on all things women. Her new book, The Woman Code: 20 Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life, is now in stores everywhere. You can tweet her @iamsophianelson.

Putting an End to Negative Self-Talk in Kids

Written on November 11, 2014 at 5:51 pm , by

A little negativity can go a long way. So when you’ve got a kid who is constantly down on himself, getting him to listen to a positive perspective can seem like an impossible task. A few days ago, the following email from a parent with just this problem landed in the inbox of our parenting expert, Rosalind Wiseman. Here’s her advice for silencing negative self-talk.

 

Q. My 10 year-old son has such a defeatist attitude. He’s always saying, “I’m no good at this or I’m no good at that.” His so-called teammates and friends blame him when they lose games and they never invite him to anything after school. I always struggle to think of the right things to say that my son will actually take to heart. How can I help him?

A. I understand how frustrating this is for so many parents. You feel like there’s nothing you can say to make it better. And if you don’t say, “No honey, you’re great!” you worry that it sounds like you agree with him. So here are my suggestions.

1. Stop using “You’re so great” as your go-to response. It comes across as not listening to your child. Instead, what I find more helpful is to say something like this:

You: I’m really sorry. Will you tell me a little more about why you’re feeling this way? Are there specific things you’re feeling down about?
Your child: I’m so slow. I get teased all the time because I’m the slowest kid in the world. No one has ever been as slow as me in the history of my school.
You: Wow, that’s really hard. I can imagine how annoying that is because it’s not like you want to be slow, and then the kids who tease you make it even worse. There are a couple of things I want you to just consider, not necessarily agree with, but just consider. No one can be good at everything. But the same is true the other way. No one is bad at everything either. I want to make a list of the things you’re good at and the things you’re not so good at. Then you can choose if you want to work on something on your list you want to get better at. Like if you want to get better at running, you can work on that.

2. Consider who’s inspiring these comments. Since classmates or other kids on the team are feeding negative comments to your kid, you might add something like this:

“I know it’s a lot to think about but I want to talk about what’s happening with your friends too. If other kids are mean to you, there are two ways I think you can handle it. Maybe you can think of more. You can laugh it off. Like, if kids on the basketball or track team are teasing you because you’re not as fast as them, you could say: ‘Yes, I’m really slow.’ Sometimes admitting it takes away some of the teasers’ power. Or you could choose not to run in any races or play in any games until you feel more confident. What do you think is a good way to handle it?”

Then listen to your child as he thinks through what he wants to do to have a little control and dignity in this situation.

3. Think about the benefits of being left out here. On the issue of those boys not inviting your son to things: take a step back. I know it feels bad when other children don’t include your child. However, in this case, do you want your son to be in a situation where they could easily ridicule him under the guise of joking around and playing? Overall, what he needs to do is work on the things he identifies for himself that he wants to get better at and then choose genuine friends who make him feel good instead of tearing him down. Even having one friend who treats him well is way better than hanging out with a group of kids who make him feel bad.

How would you handle a kid who’s down on himself? Post a comment and tell me.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.