Plus: a Snapchat primer |


May 06, 2016

There comes a moment in every parent’s life when they begin to suspect that they might have inadvertently brought into the world a human being who is just a truly horrible person. I don’t have any particular advice for those moments, except to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and cross your fingers that this too shall pass. Also, sometimes it helps to blame your co-parent remember that you and the child’s other parent are in this together. Meanwhile, I’ve been getting a lot of great parenting conundrums from readers, which I hope to help find answers for and am encouraging more. It’s easy to reach me; I’m at or @luscombeland on Twitter. You can also follow me on Facebook, if that’s more your sort of thing.

I’m not a huge fan of Mother’s Day. Kids should not be forced by custom nor greeting card companies to tell mothers they love them. I have relented a little over the years, however. I have a dyslexic kid and one year he wrote me a perfect card with gorgeous penmanship and no spelling errors. I was overwhelmed: “Yeah, our teacher told us you would probably cry,” he said. And I enjoyed doing this Mother's Day quiz, from which you can figure out how much time you spend on various motherly activities in any given year. If nothing else, it explains where the time went. TIME

Of course, nobody is actually calculating what it costs to raise kids in dollars. But if you were, and you did want to tell your kids why they couldn’t get a raise in their allowance, then this little piece of accounting from Money might be a useful tool.

In case you missed it, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote a heartfelt post about how things have changed since she became a single mom. "I will never experience and understand all of the challenges most single moms face," she writes, "but I understand a lot more than I did a year ago." Facebook

“Today, the national average annual cost of child care for an infant and a 4-year-old combined is $17,852 ,” says a new report. That’s expensive for anyone, but completely out of the reach of low income parents. “Child care assistance should, in theory, help working parents better balance the demands of work and family,” writes the author, Judith Warner. “But for many parents, trying to access child care assistance only increases their daily burden of worry and frustration. When our leaders do not invest in child care to support working families, many low-income parents are essentially set up to fail.” Read the full report here: Center for American Progress

The 2-minute warning, that cherished parenting institution, might be making things worse, at least when it's applied to kids' screen time, according to this interesting new study. TIME

When we bought our daughter proper running shoes at a proper running-shoe store, where the folks know what they’re doing, the guy who sold them said the next few years in our 11-year-old daughter’s life would be make or break time for running. I bristled at the time, but he might have been right; a lot of girls give up sports when puberty hits. Now a new report suggests that it might have to do with self-consciousness about the chestal area. New York Times.

Find something on your kid’s phone that makes you wince? You’re not alone. There are so many parents who have experienced this that we got an expert from the Child Mind institute to weigh in on what to do when your kid has used his or her digital communication device to make mischief. TIME

The U.S. is making exactly zero progress in battling childhood obesity, according to this new research paper. “Our study suggests that more than 4.5 million children and adolescents in the U.S. have severe obesity,” said Dr. Asheley Skinner, the paper’s lead author.  Obesity.

A father injects his son with HIV-infected blood. It sounds like the beginning of a really sad story. But actually, the kid survived, even thrived. If you need to read a refresher on the resilience of kids, their ability to overcome the lousy hand they have been dealt, this is a good one. GQ

What if a parent who yearned for a child met a kid who had an imaginary friend nobody could see? In the slightly dark mind of these Dutch animators, there could be some crossover potential there. This short film (which, although animated, is not for kids) blends the quirky world of childhood make-believe with the magical thinking that sometimes accompanies a loss like infertility. The New Yorker.

What do new moms of the current age look like? How are they different from the new moms of yore? What habits and attitudes are common among this group? What will anthropologists note, when the history of this era of early motherhood is recorded? I have two words that will answer all these questions: Chrissy Teigen. TIME

How to Talk to Your Kids About Snapchat

Illustrations Of Popular Mobile Apps And Social Media Sites
Bloomberg via Getty Images

If your child isn't on Snapchat, he or she probably will be. It's one of the most popular apps for teens and tweens and the fastest growing of all the social networks. Why do they like it? Snapchat basically offers a Mission Impossible messaging system: any photo or video sent over the popular mobile app will self-destruct within a few moments of viewing.

For parents, this can be a relief: it means that whatever crazy thing your kid is up to now won’t live forever on the Internet.

On the other hand, it creates a whole realm of communication for kids that is virtually impossible for parents to monitor.

So how can parents have start good conversations with kids about how to stay safe on Snapchat – and beyond?

At any age, says Donna Rice-Hughes, president and CEO of the internet safety organization Enough is Enough, parents need to help kids understand that the digital world is very much like the real one: it has lots of good places and people—but also bad ones. Problems in the digital world arise, Rice-Hughes says, because we don’t have “healthy boundaries instinctively in the digital world.”

So from elementary age, Rice-Hughes says, parents need to help kids set healthy digital boundaries. Today’s elementary students were born into a world in which “the internet has become an extension of our physical lives.” So one of the most important things to get across to them, says Rice-Hughes, is that “the internet has not always been here. We can live without it.” She encourages parents to encourage kids to unplug regularly, and to begin to use parental controls on all technology when they're young, so that when kids are older, parental involvement in technology use—like Snapchat—just feels like a part of normal life.

Middle school is the age at which most kids are legally allowed to join services like Snapchat, which has an age limit of 13, along with many other popular apps, like Facebook and Instagram. But on Snapchat, Rice-Hughes points out, that age limit isn’t verified, which means younger kids can easily lie and join. So even before 13, parents need to be diligent about monitoring what apps kids are using. Rice-Hughes suggests that parents have the devices set up to get approval on all apps that children are using, which can be a good time to start conversations about why kids want to use an app and what they plan to do with it—and to investigate security and privacy settings for each app together with kids.

High school students may be less inclined to talk with parents about their own lives. And it’s also important for parents to respect their privacy. So it’s a good age, Rice-Hughes says, for parents to start asking what kids see their friends doing on sites like Snapchat—and what they think about that. Those conversations can help kids form opinions about what they do and don’t want to do—and about what might not be safe. For Snapchat in particular, Rice-Hughes says, it’s important for parents to get the message across that “Nothing’s really private,” especially in a world of screengrabs and reshares. “Anything that is shared can always be reshared.”

It’s also crucial, Rice-Hughes says, for parents to realize they can’t just “have that Internet safety conversation once,” because today’s kids are always online, and always finding new opportunities—for good or ill. So conversations with kids about their digital lives should start early, and continue on a weekly or even daily basis.

And despite the daunting complexity of the digital world, Rice-Hughes’ advice on how to be “a good cyber parent” is simple: “extend all their parenting skills to the online world.”—by Carey Wallace

PFFT: Parenting From Famous Types

Ali Wentworth, writer, actress, comedian and mother, writing to her two kids:

"... as you chart the very confusing waters of what you want your life to be, remember that you can do and be whatever you wish. I’m not pushing you to be President or asking you to conquer the world. But inventing an anti-wrinkle cream that actually works would really make me really proud!"

—From Letters From Mom, a series of prominent women's letters to their children on Mother's Day

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