How Using Mindfulness Can Help Your Kids Now

Mindfulness has become mainstream. The InnerKids Foundation in LA has been teaching mindfulness to inner city kids since 2001. The Goldie Hawn Foundation sponsors a program called MindUp that has trained thousands of teachers. In all likelihood, mindfulness is coming to a school near you, with very good reason. Mindfulness works.

MindUP has shown a 90% increase in children’s ability to get along with other children; an 80% increase in optimism; and a 75% improvement in planning, organizational skills, and  impulse control when kids practice. Several studies have shown that mindfulness practice brings a sense of well being and decrease in stress.

Our world has gone crazy, and our children are having problems with anxiety, stress, depression, and the resultant physical symptoms: stomach aches, headaches, and chronic tiredness. Anxious, stressed out kids build stories in their minds that circle, grow, and separate them from what is real and manageable. Mindfulness can help.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a meditation practice that we in the west have stolen from the Buddhists and warped to our own purposes. Through mindfulness practice a child can achieve a state of mind where they aware, focused on the present, and calmly accepting of  themselves and the world around them, without judgement.

Does this not sound like exactly what we want for our kids? Kids who learn to practice mindfulness have in their arsenal a tool that will help them deal with anxiety, stress, impulsiveness, and any number of damaging emotions–with no side effects and at the bargain price of free. No need to join a religion, and anyone can learn it.

How do we do it?

There are many internet sites that can lead you through mindfulness practice with your kids. I particularly like Renee Jain, MAPP, but there are many out there. There is even an iPhone app! The basics are really very simple:

  • First and most important, do it with your child.
  • Find a peaceful, quiet place, sit comfortably (the crossed leg/hands on knee thing is optional).
  • Focus on awareness of one thing.
  • Notice that thing–a sight, or sound, or feeling-any one thing.
  • Acknowledge that thing, then let the thought drift away, without judgement.

Babies are naturals at mindfulness. Stick mushed peaches in their mouths and they will taste them, look at them on their hands, rub them all over their faces, and smell them. They are in the moment and focused on those peaches. We can learn a lot from babies.

Older kids need to be brought back to that sort of focus. Sit with them in a quiet, comfortable place, and guide them to think about one thing. Use something they can hear (a bell or a shaker?) or taste, or smell. Teach them to notice that thing, then let that notice float away. Be aware and focused, but don’t try to conclude anything about what they are focused on and don’t pass judgement. Just hear, or see, or smell-and then let it go.

As kids get older, they can learn more traditional meditation techniques: breath coming into and going out, awareness of their bodies and of passing thoughts, and letting go so that they can be in the next moment, without attachment to what is passed and gone.

There is no one right way to meditate: the point is to be peaceful and live, for that time, in the present without attachment and without judgement. People meditate by arranging sand, by doing yoga, by coloring, by going fishing–whatever works for you and your child.

Why practice mindfulness?

Meditation can teach kids how to break the spiraling cycle of anxiety; how to develop a more positive and optimistic viewpoint; how to live without pronouncing judgement on everything they encounter, and on themselves. It can help them feel better about themselves and learn to regulate their emotions and impulses.

Imagine your child coming home stressed because someone was mean, they have too much homework, or they are last picked for a team. Imagine if they could find a quiet place, trace that stress to its origin, transform it into a color or a breeze in their minds– and let it go.

Better than sitting, stewing in the stress, and letting it spiral and grow until it takes over their evening, yes?

Create a habit of daily meditation.

Take a few minutes every evening and make meditation a routine–maybe right before homework or bed? Reward them for practicing with a hug or a few minutes more of your time, as you reward any behavior of which you want to see more.

Mindfulness is a skill, like riding a bike. If your child practices every day, when he or she needs it they won’t have to think about how to get their feet onto the pedals and make the bike roll forward. It will just be there for them.

Mindfulness works. Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve kids’ coping skills and their sense of well being. It can improve memory and learning by teaching them to pay attention and focus. It can teach them to be aware of their feelings, accept them, and then let them go, so that they can make wise decisions with their minds rather than poor ones based on overwhelming emotions. They can learn to self regulate and control their own emotions and actions.

Give it a try. Everyone can use a few minutes of peace in their day.

FREE Fun & Educational Activities for Kids Stuck at Home

Coronavirus got you stuck at home with the kids out of school? I have an idea for you!

You can find challenging and creative educational activities at Education.com. The site was built with the contributions of thousands of teachers, and they have FREE activities for kids from preschool through 6th grade–activities that help them succeed in science, math, reading, writing, and social studies.

They teach with games, songs, worksheets, interactive exercises, hands-on activities, and more.

For example, Education.com let me use the printable word search below to celebrate St. Patrick’s day. Doing word searches helps kids with reading and writing skills, which are at the heart of learning–they apply to all other aspects of education whether that be understanding analytical math texts or practicing creative expression through poetry. Kids learn while they think they are just playing a game.

Check out Education.com while you’re stuck at home for great resources for every age child, from helping kindergarteners create stories to geography challenges for sixth graders.

And no, they are not paying me to write this–it’s just a great site.

word_search_clover

Childhood Obesity: Consequences, Causes, and Prevention

This week I am happily building trellises in my new garden and I am feeling very lazy. Thankfully Kids Car Donations sent me this really cool infografic on childhood obesity, so I can pretend I did some work on the blog.

You can also check out Child Obesity: Why it Happens and How to Have an Impact for more information.

If you’d also like to join me in the garden, check out last week’s How to get Kids to Eat their Vegetables: Time to Garden!

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How to Get Kids to Eat Their Vegetables: Time to Garden!

little baby gardener lost in the moment with the sun shinning in

In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy wrote “Spring is the time of plans and projects.” Plans and projects keep children out of trouble!

Not to mention that one of the best ways to coax kids into eating what is good for them is to involve them in its preparation. They are far more likely to eat the lunch they prepared with their own two hands than one you slaved over. If they help you peel and cut up carrots for dinner they will try them, and brag about their contribution while chewing.

Extend this a bit and you reap the miracle of children eating their vegetables because they grew them in their very own garden. They planted the seeds, watched over them, watered them, and cared for them. They will proudly eat the fruits of their labor and proclaim their tastiness.

Children need a variety of vitamins and minerals in order to function and grow, and the best place to get those nutrients, along with carbs for energy and fiber for bowel function, is in fruits and vegetables. Some, like beans and peas, are even excellent sources of protein. Many of them can be grown in small plots or in containers on a porch.

  • Carrots can be grown easily from seeds bought in your local garden store, and are very high in Vitamin A. Vitamin A helps with eyesight–especially night vision–which is why your mom always told you to eat lots. Watermelon, peas, peppers, beans, and tomatoes also have bunches of Vitamin A.
  • Tomatoes, peppers, and beans are high in B complex vitamins. B vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, thiamine and folic acid are tiny machines that allow your body to function. They help with everything from making blood cells, to generating energy from carbohydrates, to scavenging free radicles and protecting you from cancer.
  • Strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are high in Vitamin C, which is necessary for collagen synthesis and wound healing and is an effective antioxidant. Without Vitamin C, people get scurvy.

Minerals are also easily come by on the plant side of your plate.

  • Calcium to build strong bones can be found in beans.
  • Potatoes, beans, corn, and mushrooms are high in iron, which helps carry oxygen around your body.
  • Potassium, necessary for muscle contraction and to maintain your heart rhythm, is present in potatoes, berries, peas, beans, and peppers.
  • Essential minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc are all available in fruits and vegetables.

I’ve never seen a child turn down a pea fresh from the pod, or a strawberry plucked from the plant. Find a plant catalogue, pour through it with your child, pay attention to what will grow in your area and how much room the plants need to grow, and choose. Consider what you have room for: will these be container plants on the porch, or can you spare a patch of yard? Do you have space for a tree, or are we looking at a mushroom kit in the closet?

Some of my favorite kid friendly plants are peas, beans, peppers, tomatoes, and the ever popular carrot. Melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers are great if you have a little more room. Berries come in all sizes, from tiny strawberry plants fit for containers with pockets down the side, to raspberry vines best grown on trellises, to fat thorny blackberry bushes. Tires can be stacked up and filled with dirt in a tower as potato plants grow, then harvested by taking off one tire at a time.

Growing a few plants allows you to spend time with your children, get some exercise, and build some vitamin D of your own from all that sunshine. Have a conversation about science and nutrition while you are digging in the dirt. Money can be earned and financial lessons taught by naming the watering and weeding of those plants “chores.” Other lessons can be taught without any conversation: responsibility for life, the fruitfulness of hard work, and pride of accomplishment. Don’t miss this opportunity for spring plans and projects!

Doc’s Top Ten Reasons to Let Your Child Fail

boy with baloon2-01In honor of the start of a new and sometimes painful school year, here are my top 10 reasons why standing by and watching your child fail, without offering help, can be a good thing.

Even the possibility of failure is anxiety provoking.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could just do everything right the first time?

Need me to do that radio interview? No problem–bring it on! I’m not scared of that microphone, and the questions for which I might not know the answers, and the fact that I might sound like an idiot or give someone the wrong information… cue the heart racing, chest clutching, palm dampening anxiety.

If you haven’t experienced the fear of failure you haven’t pushed past your known limits and tried, and without trying you will leave possibilities on the table.

We want our children to catch their dreams, so when it is safe, and when failure does not have lifelong consequences, we need to let them try.

It is hard to sit back and watch our children fail–yet failure is good, and essential to success. Below are ten things to think about as you stand aside and watch your child drop that ball, and learn lessons the hard way–through personal experience with bruised knees and lost friendships:

  1. Failure is on the job training–a learning experience in what does not work and what not to do. Fail that test? Next time they will study.
  2. Failure is an arrogance tamer. Arrogance will not attract true friends.
  3. Failure teaches empathy. Empathy does attract true friends.
  4. Failure is proof that your child is trying. Good to know they got off that couch, right?
  5. Failure gives us direction. If we are lost, we look at a map; failure draws the route on that map. If our child was terrible at hitting or catching a ball, but loved running the bases? Maybe we should sign him or her up for track. Failure gives us a better idea of who we are and what we are actually good at.
  6. Projects are more likely to succeed if preceded by a series of failures. All those errors make us more careful, so we pay attention and catch mistakes before they happen instead of pushing through and assuming all will go well.
  7. Life’s hardest, most important lessons can only be learned through failure. People truly do “not know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”
  8. Lessons learned through failure stick. We joke about how our children always have to learn things the hard way, but such is human nature. We can give them our knowledge and experience, but it will never be as memorable as a moment of abject embarrassment in front of their classmates.
  9. Success feels so much better after failures. ‘Nuf said.
  10. Experience teaches that failure is not fatal. John Sinclair said “failure is a bruise, not a tattoo.” It’s good to have learned in childhood that you really can try again, and perhaps succeed. Failure is not permanent until you give up and shut that door.

It is better that they learn these lessons in childhood while you are still there to catch them when they fall. Break out your box of bandaids, security, and absolute love and acceptance. Even though they might not make the team, they know that you will love them anyway and they will be secure enough to try again.

Every single time your children fail, they have overcome fear to try, and how amazing is that? Even if they have not succeeded at acing that interview, they have succeeded at beating fear to give it their best. Their dreams await.

Limitless Learners Contest! Prizes!

Astronaut child

Child daydreams and plays to be astronaut

Education.com is my personal favorite site for kid’s learning opportunities.

The site was built with the contributions of thousands of teachers, and they have FREE activities for kids from preschool through 6th grade–activities that help them succeed in science, math, reading, writing, and social studies.

They teach with games, songs, worksheets, interactive exercises, hands-on activities, and more.

And now they have a brand-new program: they are offering $9,000 in prizes as part of their Limitless Learners Contest!

The contest encourages kids in/entering K-5th grade to think creatively about what education means to them and use their art, writing, and language skills to express their ideas. A winner will be chosen from each grade level to receive $500 for college and a free lifetime membership to Education.com for their parent or educator! The winning child can also choose to nominate their school or local library to win a $1,000 donation as well.

Here is the link to the contest details page.

How to Keep Your Child from Drowning

GrahamAt the beach last weekend there were lots of small children playing happily in the waves, parents up under their umbrellas reading and relaxing, everyone enjoying their vacation.

I was terrified. They had no idea how quickly things could change, forever.

So, water safety:

Stats:

Drowning is probably every pediatrician’s worst nightmare. It is currently the fifth leading cause of accidental death. An average of 700 children drown each year: about 2 each day. Most are under 4 years of age; 80% are male. For every death, there are 5 more who drowned but survived, commonly with irreversible damage to their brains.

How does it happen?

Infants and toddlers drown in bath tubs, buckets, toilets – all you need is about an inch of water, just enough to cover their nose and mouth. Older children drown in pools, rivers, lakes, and oceans.

How do I keep it from happening?

Never, never, never leave any child alone for even a moment near open water, whether it is an ocean, a bathtub, or a water bucket. All it takes is one moment of inattention for a child to slip away.

If there is open water, you need to be within touching distance and focused on your child. The story I have heard over and over is, “We were right there, just talking, but nobody noticed anything until we realized he was gone.” Keep your kids in sight, and don’t let yourself get distracted (The child in the picture is my grandbaby, and I had to crop because his dad was just there to the left.)

Be especially careful at the end of the day, as the water empties and people are gathering up their belongings and leaving. Children will want to swim just a minute more, or will attempt to go back for that last toy floating in the water.

Pools should be fenced in and closed off with a self-latching gate at the end of the day, and all the toys should be put away. Life vests are fabulous for a parent’s mental health and relaxation (swimmies and floaties are not life jackets). Life preservers and a shepherd’s crook should be placed obviously nearby wherever kids are swimming in a pool.

Evelyn2Sign your kids up for swimming lessons, even if you are afraid. A middle schooler or teen will never admit to their friends that they don’t know how to swim. They will fake it, sometimes unsuccessfully. Don’t, however, trust a young child to remember his or her swimming lessons when they need them. If they are startled or scared, they will forget everything they learned and just sink to the bottom.

(This is his twin. Big ocean, right?)

What do I watch for?

Know what to look for. In real life, drowning does not look like it does in the movies. It is not impossible to miss someone drowning right in front of you if you do not know what you are seeing.

They do not shout for help and wave their arms. They tire, and panic. A drowning child might never make a sound, but quietly slip under the water. An older child might keep themselves above the water for a while, but their head might be low in the water, with their mouth at water level, or perhaps with their head tilted back. Their eyes might be blank or closed. They will sometimes hang vertically in the water without paddling their legs, or appear to paddle with no purposeful movement.

A drowning person is very easy to miss if you are not vigilant; and easy to help if you are.

Somebody should know CPR—why not you? Your local fire department or hospital will have classes. Knowledge and the ability to act can save a life.

Swimming is a necessary skill, fun, and excellent exercise; it is also a time for close observation and care.

If you would, please share this blog and the information within. Thanks!

All the Answers about Sunscreen: Why? Which one? How much? How do I pronounce Octocrylene?

little cute girl near the pool with a circle for swimming

Octocrylene. Octo (like the lady with 8 kids) – cry- lean.

Hmm.

Sunscreens have been around forever, mostly in the form of plants and dirt people rubbed onto their skin. Not terribly effective, sadly. Ancient Egyptians used aloe vera, extracts of rice, and pounded out calcite and clay to protect their skin. In the Philippines borak was used – made from water weeds, rice and spices. Zinc oxide has been around for thousands of years.

The first synthetic sunscreens were created in the 1920s, and were made commercially available by L’Oreal in 1936.

Sunscreen became more popular after WWII, when we sent a bunch of pale skinned soldiers to the Pacific Islands. Ouch.

These original sunscreens are estimated to have had an SPF of about 2. Also not terribly effective.

 

Why do we use sunscreen?

We use sunscreens to prevent sunburn, skin cancer, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation.

The incidence of melanoma has increased in the 15-39 year age range by 3% per year since the 90’s. It is the 2nd most common cancer for women in their twenties, 3rd for men. Dr Sophie J. Balk (Former Chairperson, AAP Committee on Environmental Health) writes that this was caused by the thinning ozone layer, the fact that people are wearing less clothing, intentional tanning, and tanning beds.

Skin cancers like squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, and possibly basal cell carcinoma can be prevented by using sunscreen – if you use the right one in the right way.

 

Who should use sunscreen?

Everybody.

It is especially important for children and people with fair skin, fair eyes, freckles, sun sensitivity, moles, or a family history of melanoma.

But really, everybody.

 

The Science: What Does the Damage?

Sunlight has wavelengths between 290-3200 nm; the light that we see, or “visible light” runs between 380 to 740 nanometers. Wavelengths in the top, violet part of the rainbow are 380-450 nm, so the wavelengths shorter than violet are called “Ultraviolet.”  UVB rays are the 290-320 range (about 5% of the total); UVA rays are 320-400 (95% of the total).

UVB rays burn, leaving you with redness and pain, and these were traditionally the rays we tried to block. UVB does contribute to skin cancer but since it does not penetrate as deeply as UVA it seems to not be the cause of the most deadly of skin cancers, the melanomas.

UVA light does not cause reddening or pain, and most conventional sunscreens do not block it. It does however penetrate deeply into the skin to cause the damage to DNA in cells (melanocytes) that can lead to melanoma.

UVB is more intense midday (from 10AM – 2PM), in the summer, closer to equator, and at high altitude. UVA light is constant through the day and year.

Window glass absorbs UVB, not UVA.

Both reflect off water, sand, snow, and concrete to increase exposure.

UVB and UVA penetrate water to a depth of about 60 cm (about 3 feet).

 

How to protect yourself from these evil rays?

Best, of course, is to avoid them. Stay out of the sun, especially between 10AM and 4PM.

Cover up. Light weight, long sleeved shirts and long pants are protective while they are dry. There is a UPF rating for fabrics, from UPF 15-50. Above 30 is considered sun protective, and more is better. There are swim shirts for kids that are protective even when wet.

Wear a hat with a brim.

Wear sunglasses with 99% UR protection.

Use sunscreen. Sunscreens absorb or reflect the sun’s ultraviolet rays, depending on the ingredients.

  • Sunscreens come in lotions, gels, or sprays.
  • They generally last about 3 years on the shelf.
  • SPF should be 30 or higher.
  • The words “broad spectrum” should be on the label, since only these have UVA protection that is proportional to the UVB protection.
  • The only chemical sunscreens available in the US that protect from UVA are avobenzone (which can be irritating and allergy producing) and Mexoryl SX and XL, available only from L’Oreal (they have a patent). Outside of the US, Tinosorb S & M and Uvinul A Plus block UVA. Mineral sunscreens also block UVA.
  • Look for “water resistance” on the label as well, especially if you will be swimming or sweating.
  • Apply sunscreen 20 min before exposure so that it has time to form a thin, even, protective film.
  • Apply 2 mg/cm2: this is about 2 tbsp for the average adult (about a shot glass, per the Dermatology Association), and about 1/4 tsp for the face. If you put on less, you get proportionately less protection.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hrs or if you sweat, swim, or rub it off; stronger sun screens do not last longer and while newer sunscreens are very photostable, they do still rub off.

Sunscreens come in two basic forms, and combinations of the two forms.

Mineral (physical, inorganic) sunscreens include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They are usually better for sensitive skin, but they can leave a white cast and tend to be thick. They work more by reflecting sunlight, although they do absorb some. They do block UVA as well as UVB – zinc oxide more effectively than titanium dioxide.

The second type is Chemical or Organic sunscreens. They apply more like moisturizer and don’t leave a white cast. They work by absorbing sunlight’s high energy rays, although they do scatter and reflect some in the same way as mineral sunscreens.

Common Chemical/Organic sunscreens in the US:

  • P-Aminobenzoic acid
  • Padimate O
  • p-Aminobenzoic acid
  • Cinoxate
  • Dioxybenzone
  • Oxybenzone
  • Menthyl anthranilate
  • Octyl methoxycinnamate
  • Sulisobenzone
  • Trolamine salicylate
  • Avobenzone
  • Octocrylene
  • Octyl salicylate
  • Ecamsule
  • Homosalate
  • Mexoryl SX & XL

Common questions about sunscreen:

For much of this information I have to thank LabMuffin, because I am no chemist. She is a PhD chemist who educates on the chemistry behind skin and beauty products. She is amazing, and I highly recommend checking her out!

Don’t kids need sunshine to make vitamin D?

Yes, but they only need 5-30 minutes in the sunshine about twice a week, depending on their skin tone. Also, vitamin D is in milk and comes in pill form.

Should we worry about nanoparticles from mineral sunscreens?

The nanoparticles made from grinding up the mineral sunscreens (so they don’t look white on the skin) are too big to penetrate the stratum corneum and get to live skin cells.

What ingredients are the most irritating or allergic?

  • Avobenzone
  • Octocrylene
  • Oxybenzone
  • PABA
  • Padimate O
  • Enzacamene

Which ingredients are the least likely to break down in sunlight?

  • Tinosorb S and Tinosorb M (not in the US yet, hopefully soon!)
  • L’Oreal’s Mexoryl SX and Mexoryl XL
  • Mineral sunscreens

But don’t sunscreens have hormonal effects?

Yes, some of the chemical/organic ones do, but very little. One of the worst is oxybenzone, and to have a hormonal effect we would have to use it continuously for 277 years. Enzocamine, Padimate O, octinoxate, and homosalate also have hormonal effects in minuscule amounts.

Don’t some medicines make people react more to sunlight? 

Yes. A short list of meds on which you should avoid sunlight:

  • NSAIDS (ibuprofen, naproxen)
  • tretinoin (retinols)
  • tetracyclines
  • phenothiazines
  • psoralins
  • sulfonamides
  • thiazines

Aren’t there plants that make people burn more easily?

Yes. Plants that produce furocoumarins, like limes, can cause a burn and hyperpigmentation when exposed to sunlight.

Can I use a sunscreen/insect repellent combination product?

The AAD recommends purchasing and using these products separately — sunscreen needs to be applied generously and often, whereas insect repellant should be used sparingly and much less frequently.

Are sprays safe and effective?

Current FDA sunscreen regulations do not apply to sprays, so I don’t know. They should not be used near heat or open flame (no smoking!), and should not be inhaled.

What will the UV index for tomorrow be? Check out www.weather.com.

 

What those labels mean:

SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor,” and measures sunburn producing UVB rays. The number is how much burning radiation penetrates through the sunscreen. An SPF of 20 means that 1/20th of the rays reach the skin. Above an SPF of 50 you don’t see any real difference.

SPF Equivalence requires UVA protection of at least 1/3 the SPF for UVB. This labeling is seen more in Europe.

PPD is “Persistant Pigment Darkening.”

Star ratings are used in UK and Ireland, between 1 and 5 stars.

PA is “Protection Grade of UVA”, used in Asia, between PA+ to PA++++.

If “Water resistance” is on the label, it should say whether it is resistant to swimming or sweating and for how long.

 

If you can, please share this blog. The sun is shining outside and sunscreens can be very confusing!

 

Summer Activities to Enrich Your Child’s Learning

Today’s blog is brought to you by Sam Casteris, a freelance writer in Phoenix, AZ:

little cute girl near the pool with a circle for swimming

When school gets out and parents are on the hunt for kids’ activities that encourage learning (while still encouraging fun, of course!), there are tons of enjoyable, enriching things to do, from being outside and going on trips as a family to enrolling your kiddos in camp or other special summer programs. Here are some of our favorite activities to enrich your child’s learning in the summertime.

1. Get outside and learn about the great outdoors

Today, many school-age kids have jam-packed schedules that allow for little to no downtime spent outdoors (it’s school, extracurriculars, homework, rinse, repeat!) This is why one of the best, most enriching activities you can do as a family is to simply get out in nature. Go for a family hike, go camping, and just enjoy being outside together. Or, if you live near one of our country’s national parks, you could enroll your child in a Junior Ranger Program. The NPS Junior Ranger program is designed for kids between the ages of 5 to 13; by completing a series of activities, kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge and certificate. This is a fantastic (and fun!) way for youngsters to learn more about their environment.

2. Sign the kids up for music lessons

If your child has shown an interest in music, summer is the perfect time to sign them up for music lessons. The benefits of learning music from a young age are astounding, really. Learning an instrument can improve a child’s memory and concentration, expose them to culture and history, and nurture their creativity and self-expression. Most of all, though: Music brings kids (and everyone!) joy.

3. Head off on a road trip

Road trips are wonderful for seeing the world, yes…but they’re also a wonderful way to learn about cars! If you want to teach kids the ins-and-outs of car mechanics and care, a family road trip is a prime time to do so.

4. Grow plants in a garden and learn about the natural world

It’s never too early, or too late, to teach children about the beauty of the natural world. One of the best ways to encourage a kid’s inherent curiosity and interest in nature is by growing a garden together. Giving children the opportunity to grow and harvest their own food has all kinds of benefits, from improving academic results (talk about a great way to learn about plant science!) to improving their overall health and well-being. Plus, this is such a fun activity to do as a family.

5. Enroll in a summer camp

The sky’s the limit when it comes to summer camps. Is your child interested in science, horses, making movies, art, writing, math, music, or any number of other activities? Enroll them in a summer camp that aligns with their interests. If they’re not sure what they’re interested in or they’d prefer something a little less specialized, there are dozens of traditional camps out there to pick from—ones where kids can do water sports, land sports, arts and crafts, performing arts, and other broad-based activities. No matter which type you choose, sleepaway camp is always a great way for kids to explore, make new friends, enjoy a little independence, and have fun.

6. Volunteer and be an active citizen

It’s crucial to instill a sense of civic duty and gratitude in your child, and there’s no better way to do this than through volunteering. Getting involved in their community helps kids to understand that their world extends far beyond what they see and know, and to appreciate what they have. Pick a cause that your family holds dear and sign up for a few volunteer slots this summer—not only will you be teaching your kids an important lesson, but you’ll truly be making a difference together.

 

Why I Care About Women’s Reproductive Rights

 

Young Teenage Girl Standing And Looking On Empty Picture Frame

My grandmother came to the United States from Ireland as a young woman in 1911. She was already married with five children, my mother two years into her future, when women got the right to vote in 1922. She worked her entire life and everything she worked for – her money, her home, her children, even her own body – was owned by her husband.

My mother was born in 1924. The youngest of six living children, she was expected to become a nurse so that she could care for her parents as they aged. Her older sister had taken the Nun option, so her choices were nurse, teacher, or wife. She ran away and married a young man in the Army Air Corps in the middle of World War II, and was promptly disowned by her family for a decade.

She gave birth to three children in the first three years of her marriage, two living and one dead. She was Catholic, and birth control was not permitted.

She was losing her mind. She went to her priest and begged for a dispensation to use birth control because she couldn’t bear the thought of becoming pregnant again and she did not have the right to refuse her husband sex. The priest told her no, that God wouldn’t give her more than she could bear.

She found herself pregnant again in the forth year of her marriage.

She was at the beach in Cape Cod that summer with her two small sons. She told me once that she remembered thinking that if she swam out as far as she was physically able she would not be able to make it back, and it would be over. She was in the middle of doing that when she looked back and saw her sons playing alone on the beach.

She came back in.

I was born in 1959. My options as a child were the same – nurse, teacher, mother – but times were changing. The world was opening up.

Birth control was available, and with it came possibilities.

Back then, women fought for every breath of freedom, every tiny kernel of respect. My father told me he “wasn’t going to waste his money educating a girl”? I could work 3 jobs. My teacher told me he’d never given an ‘A’ to a girl in math and I “sure as hell wasn’t going to be the first”? I could fight. The dean at UVA med school told me he wasn’t going to waste his time interviewing a female? There were other schools.

If we were strong enough, and determined enough, and angry enough, there were possibilities, now that we had control over our own bodies.

It’s hard to fight when you are pregnant with two small children clinging to your skirt.

My father frequently joked to my brothers that women should be kept “barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.” Not much of a joke, really. If you have no resources, are having babies every year, and are overwhelmed with responsibility, you will never have any possibilities in your life.

It is 2018 now.

I thought we were past this. I thought women were believed, at least on the surface, to be equal. But now we are limiting access to birth control, shutting down women’s health care centers, and trying to outlaw abortion.

We are pretending this is a religious issue, that we are doing it because we believe abortion is wrong–when what it is really about is control over women. If we truly wanted to prevent abortions we would strive for easily accessible, free birth control and sex ed in schools. We would punish rapists in the court system. We would respect women’s voices. We would not strive to take away their control over what is happening inside their own bodies.

Amendment 2 on the Alabama ballot on November 6th outlaws all abortion–with no exceptions for rape, incest, or to protect the mother’s life.

Outlawing abortion only outlaws safe and legal abortion. Before abortion was made legal, hundreds of thousands of women had illegal abortions every year. Between 200 and 2700 of these women died, depending on the year. Hospitals had abortion wards that would fill up on Monday mornings with women dying from trauma and sepsis, leaving children behind.

When it was illegal women still had abortions, because sometimes there is no other choice and it is worth risking death. Just ask my mom, swimming out to sea.

The best and most effective way to control women is to keep them barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. Just ask my dad.

Then vote No to Amendment 2.