Here's the best way to calm kids' fear and anxiety over Ebola
Even Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden admits it: “Ebola is scary.” But for kids seeing alarming headlines without understanding the context of the disease, Ebola can seem like a looming and personal threat.
TIME spoke to Dawn Huebner, a clinical child psychologist and author of the book What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety about the best way to talk about Ebola with your kids—without scaring them silly.
What should I say to my child who is really scared about Ebola?
Let them know that it’s important to think about proximity—how close they themselves are to the virus. Which is to say: not very. “It’s really important to underline that we are safe in the United States, and that people who have contracted Ebola have been in West Africa or were treating patients with Ebola,” says Huebner. “Not only should parents underline how rare Ebola is, and how far away the epidemic is occurring, but also how hard the disease is to contract.” Huebner says parents can tell their older children that direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids like vomit or diarrhea is necessary to spread Ebola. “This has been reassuring to the children I see, as they know they are not going to be touching that,” she says.
By ages 7 and up, kids begin to grasp that their worries and fears aren’t always rational. “Parents can talk to kids about how one of the ways worries and anxiety get their power is by making us think about things that are very unlikely,” says Huebner.
Should I keep my child away from the news?
Your kids can watch the news to stay informed, but media overload is not always a good thing. “The news is often sensationalized and gives kids the idea that they are at an imminent risk,” says Huebner. When kids see endless stories about Ebola on the news, they don’t always realize they’re hearing the same thing on loop. “I’ve had kids come into my office who are under the impression that there are hundreds of people in the U.S. with Ebola.”
How do I know if my child is reacting appropriately to the news?
“An appropriate reaction would be to feel nervous and ask some questions, but to be reassured by the parents’ answers,” says Huebner. Psychologists distinguish between questions that are information-gathering, and questions that are reassurance-seeking. If a child asks reassurance-seeking questions—like “Are we going to be ok?”—once or twice, that’s normal. But asking the same questions over and over signifies that a child is really dealing with anxiety and that their concern is not being curbed. At that point, parents may need to sit their children down for a longer conversation to address their fears and concerns.
My kids don’t want to fly on an airplane over the holidays. How do I convince them they are safe?
It’s important to emphasize that the vacation destination is one that is safe, and not at great risk for Ebola. Parents can also stress that no one in the United States has yet contracted Ebola from a plane ride. However, parents should avoid making comparisons, like “It’s more likely to get in a car crash than to get Ebola.” That will only stress a child out more.
Ebola freaks me out too, and I accidentally overreacted in front of my child. How do I fix this?
“One of the wonderful things about children is that you really can revisit things that didn’t go so well the first time,” says Huebner. If parents slip up with an overreaction, they should have a conversation with their children and reference the moment. She suggests a conversation opener like this one: “I was thinking about when you overheard me on the phone with my friend. I was really overreacting. I got nervous when I heard about Ebola, and you saw me when I was nervous. Now I’ve gotten information and I’ve calmed down, and I’ve realized this is a very sad thing that’s happening far away. It’s sad, but it doesn’t have to be scary for us.” Rational, calm conversations will help ease a child’s fears about Ebola.
In a spectacularly bad bit of judgment, the big box store puts a meth manufacturer on its shelves.
Human history is often defined by its very worst pitch meetings. Take the one in 1812, when one of Napoleon’s generals told the Great Emperor, “I’ve got an idea. Let’s invade Russia—in the winter!” Or the one in 1985, when the anonymous product developer at Coca-Cola said, “How ’bout we take a product everyone loves, quit making it and replace it with a different formulation no one is asking for! What could go wrong?”
So too it must have gone in the executive suites of Toys R Us, when someone made the compelling case for stocking a brand-new line of action figures based on the wildly successful Breaking Bad series. After all, nothing quite says holiday shopping like a bendable, fully costumed figurine of Walter White—the murderous chemistry teacher turned crystal meth manufacturer—and Jesse Pinkman, his former student and current bag man. And you want accessories? We’ve got accessories—including a duffle bag stuffed with imaginary cash and a plastic bag of, yes, faux crystal meth for White. Pinkman comes with a gas mask, because the folks at Toys R Us are not the kind to forget about corporate responsibility. If your kids are going to grow up to run a meth lab, it’s never too early to teach them basic safety.
It might not surprise you to learn that Toys R Us has faced a teensy bit of blowback from this curious marketing decision. Florida mom Susan Schrivjer has posted a petition on Change.org that has just exceeded 2,000 signatures, demanding that the company pull the products. She also appeared on The Today Show to make her case more publicly.
“Anything to do with drugs is not doing the right thing,” she said. “I just think they need to look at their vision and values as they call them.”
The part that’s more surprising—but sadly only a little—is that even after being called on its appalling lack of judgment, Toys R Us has not responded with the quickest, loudest, most abject oops in corporate history. Instead, it is standing its ground. Why? Because the dolls are sold only in the “adult section” of the store, of course—the ones intended for shoppers 15 and up.
OK, let’s start with the fact that Toys R Us has an adult section at all—something I never knew and I suspect many other parents didn’t either. So what will they stock there next? A line of Toys R Us hard cider? Toys R Us adult literature? A Toys R Us edition of Fifty Shades of Gray—which is really OK because hey, it actually comes with a set of 50 gray crayons? If an adult section must exist at all, at what point does full disclosure require the company to rebrand itself “Toys as Well as Other Things Not Remotely Appropriate For Children But Don’t Worry Because We Keep Them in a Separate Section, R Us”?
More important, let’s look at above-15 as the dividing line for the adult section—a distinction that makes perfect sense because if there’s anything 15 year olds are known for, it’s their solid judgment, their awareness of consequences, their exceptional impulse control and their utter imperviousness to the siren song of drugs and alcohol. Oh, and they never, ever emulate bad role models they encounter on TV, in the movies or among their peers. What’s more, kids below the age of 15 never, ever run wild in a sensory theme park like a big box toy store, finding themselves in departments not meant for them and seeing products they shouldn’t see. Toys R Us, you’ve thought this one out to the last detail!
What the company’s consumer researchers probably know and if they don’t they ought to, is that the brain’s frontal lobes—where higher order executive functions live—aren’t even fully myelinated until we reach our late 20s, which is why young people can be so spectacularly reckless, why soldiers and political firebrands tend to be young and why judges, heads of state and clerical leaders tend to be old. The adult fan of Breaking Bad might actually enjoy the new toys as collectors items–something to be bought or given as a gift with a little twinkle of irony, a this-is-so-wrong-it’s-right sort of thing. But that kind of nuance isn’t remotely within a child’s visible spectrum.
Really, Toys R Us, there is absolutely no surviving this one. Back up the truck, pack up the toys and send them to a landfill. And if you’re even thinking about following this one up with a Boardwalk Empire board game complete with a Nucky Thompson plush toy, stop now. Or at the very least, invite me to the pitch meeting.
TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We're struggling with the same issues working moms face, says MONEY reporter and first-time dad Taylor Tepper.
Sometimes I feel like a bad dad.
Doubts over my parental savvy often correlate with how long I’m at the office. When I call to tell Mrs. Tepper that I’ll be here until 7:30 p.m. working on a magazine feature—and won’t be home to put our son Luke to bed—the soft disappointment in her voice stays with me like a faint ember.
The same guilty feelings apply to my job, too.
I’m 28 and now is the time to work long hours, take on more responsibility and show my bosses just how willing I am to immolate myself for the greater good. Every time I leave the building at 5:30 p.m., a part of me thinks I’m sacrificing future promotions, raises and glory.
What it means to be an American father, and the responsibilities therein, have changed radically in the last few decades. In 1975, 45% of families consisted of a male breadwinner and a stay-at-home mom; today 31% do. And now, men are taking on more chores and spending more time with their children than their dads spent with them.
But this blending of gender roles has done much to confuse the male mind. We want to spend more time with the kids and earn accolades on the job; we want to attend the soccer game and become senior management; we want to be Bill Cosby and Steve Jobs.
Many of us feel—just as working moms do—that we’re succeeding at neither.
The Research Backs Me Up on This
According Boston College’s Center for Work & Family, 86% of dads agreed or strongly agreed that “my children are the number one priority in my life.”
That’s well and good.
At the same time, though, more than three in four fathers wished to advance to a position with greater responsibilities and three in five demonstrated a strong desire to reach senior management.
Half of working dads say they find it very or somewhat difficult to balance the responsibilities of work and family, according to Pew.
And on the whole, we don’t feel like we’re living up to the dad role either. Almost eight in 10 dads want to spend more time with their children on an average workday, and one in two say they spend too little time with their kids. (Only 23% of mothers feel that way.) From first-hand experience, there is nothing quite as enervating as coming home from work to an already-sleeping son.
In Boston College’s research, you also see dads grappling with perceptions of what they want and the reality of how things are.
While today’s fathers also recognize that parenting is a two-person job—65% say they believe that partners should take care of a child evenly—only one in three say that they actually split the work in half. Women typically spend more than three times as many hours per week solely looking after the child than men.
Even on weekends, men fail to live up to their ideal. On Saturdays and Sundays, moms spend 1.2 more hours on housework and childcare than dads do. When it comes to time spent on leisure activities, dads out-loaf moms by an hour.
While Mrs. Tepper and I have something of a modern marriage—split chores, female breadwinner—she almost certainly watches Luke more on the weekends, especially when sports are on.
In spite of my few hours more on the couch, however, I’d still argue that achieving and maintaining true work-life balance is impossible. You can’t achieve these competing goals—working at the top of my game, being the best dad and husband ever, and getting in a few NBA games to recharge my own engine—within a finite number of hours in the day.
So, What Is a Modern Dad to Do?
I put that question to Sara Sutton Fell, the CEO of FlexJobs.com, a job search site focusing on companies that allow for flexible schedules and telecommuting. Her advice: to think of work-life balance as more of a journey than a destination.
“As a working parent with two young sons, I believe that work-life balance is often mistaken as an end-point that we reach eventually,” she says. “In my experience, it’s more of a balancing act—shifting your weight back and forth between your various responsibilities.”
Some days you’re going have to work long hours at the office to close out a project or meet a deadline, in other words; and some days you’re going to work from home to take your kid to the doctor.
Try to find an employer that will embrace that flexibility, Fell says.
This makes sense.
But we’ve also got to try to overcome our own guilt. That means accepting our limitations as parents and workers and people, and setting realistic expectations for ourselves.
It’s difficult to remember, but today’s dads spend more time with their kids than their fathers spent with them by a factor of three. Today’s fathers are by and large more engaged in their kids’ lives than previous generations. So we’re definitely doing better, if not up to the standards we’d hold for ourselves.
When I’m stuck in the office until dark, maintaining that perspective is difficult. But I try to remember that the next morning I’ll be there when Luke wakes up, and with any luck, arrive home in time to help his mom put him to sleep.
And if not, there’s always tomorrow.
Taylor Tepper is a reporter at Money. His column on being a new dad, a millennial, and (pretty) broke appears weekly. More First-Time Dad:
It's no joke. As part of its rebranding campaign, investment firm Voya will give money to the newest of new parents.
Lucky for you if you’re in labor right now.
A company called Voya Financial has announced that it will give every baby born today—Monday, Oct. 20, 2014—500 bucks.
The promotion, timed to coincide with National Save for Retirement Week, is part of a marketing campaign to alert the public that the business that once was the U.S. division of ING is now a separate public company with a new name.
Get out the castor oil and order in Indian if you’ve already hit 40 weeks, because the offer is only available to those who exit the womb before midnight tonight—though soon-to-be-sleep-deprived new parents have until December 19 to register a child.
Voya estimates that it may have to kick in as much as $5 million, since there are about 10,000 babies born every day in the U.S.
While the company has promised that families will not have to sit through a marketing pitch to get the money, and that the baby’s information would be kept private, this special delivery still comes with a catch.
The money is automatically invested into Voya’s Global Target Payment Fund, which according to Morningstar has above-average costs and below-average performance.
Regarding the fees, Voya’s Chief Marketing Officer Ann Glover says that the funds Morningstar uses as comparison are not apples to apples. In any case, Glover says families are free to sell out of the fund if they so choose. “Of course, we would hope people would hold on to the investment,” she adds.
But hey, money is money, so if you’re due, you may as well take what you’re due.
And for those mamas and papas whose progenies aren’t quite ready to make their debuts? While you won’t get money from Voya, you may have other opportunities to get big bucks for your little one.
Start by checking in with your employer to see whether the company helps with college savings. A growing number do. Unum, for example, offers its workers with newborns $500 towards a college savings account.(Our Money 101 can help you find the best 529 college savings plan.)
Also, in several communities around the country, charitable or government programs seed savings accounts for kids. For example, residents of northern St. Louis County in Missouri can get $500 through the 24:1 Promise Accounts. Babies born in Connecticut get $100, plus $150 in matching funds by age four, thanks to the CHET Baby Scholars program.
“This is gaining significant momentum nationwide,” says Colleen Quint, who heads one of the nation’s most generous free savings program, the Harold Alfond College Challenge. Started by the founder of Dexter Shoes, the charity gives every resident newborn in Maine a $500 college savings account.
In fact, Mainers can get the most free money for their children according to a survey of such programs by the Corporate for Enterprise Development, which has gathered details on at least 29 free childrens’ savings programs.
Besides the $500 college savings account, a state agency will match 50¢ for every $1 parents contribute each year up to $100 a year and $1,000 over a child’s lifetime. So Mainers can, in theory at least, get up to $1,500 in free college savings money on top of any additional freebies they can get from companies.
That should be more than enough to buy a chemistry textbook in 2032.
"She flies in the clouds, and she gives us water."+ READ ARTICLE
Real heroes don’t necessarily wear tights. But they do have superpowers.
Here’s how kids in some of the toughest places on earth describe their heroes, the aid workers who bring relief from hunger, disease and illiteracy:
“She flies in the clouds, and she gives us water.” “He came and destroyed the mosquitos.” “They did something magical, and the maize grew from the ground.”
For “Superheroes: Eyewitness Reports,” Save the Children sent a documentary film crew to three continents to ask children about the heroes who swoop into their lives. The kids respond joyfully in their own languages making this PSA a sharp departure from more traditional international aid organization spots that feature silent children with big eyes and swollen bellies.
By Robert Pondiscio in Flypaper from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
By David Biello in Yale Environment 360
By Anna Clark in High Ground News
By Paul Farhi in the Washington Post
By Norm Ornstein in The Atlantic
The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.
TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email email@example.com.
Two Silicon Valley giants now offer women a game-changing perk: Apple and Facebook will pay for employees to freeze their eggs.
Facebook recently began covering egg freezing, and Apple will start in January, spokespeople for the companies told NBC News. The firms appear to be the first major employers to offer this coverage for non-medical reasons.
“Having a high-powered career and children is still a very hard thing to do,” said Brigitte Adams, an egg-freezing advocate and founder of the patient forum Eggsurance.com. By offering this benefit, companies are investing in women, she said, and supporting them in carving out the lives they want…
Peace Prize laureate said she and co-winner Kailash Satyarthi will use the shared award to strengthen the relationship between India and Pakistan+ READ ARTICLE
Updated 2:19p.m. ET
Pakistani education rights advocate Malala Yousafzai said Friday her Nobel Peace Prize would motivate her to redouble her efforts on behalf of girls’ education and children’s rights.
In a short speech reacting to the award, the 17-year-old Nobel laureate also said that she and Indian co-winner Kailash Satyarthi would use the shared award as an opportunity to build peace between India and Pakistan.
“I felt more powerful and more courageous, because this award is not just a piece of metal… its really an encouragement for me to go forward and to believe in myself,” Malala said. “This is not the end of the campaign I have started. This is only the beginning.”
“I want to tell children all around the world that they should stand up for their rights, they shouldn’t wait for someone else,” she continued. “This award is for all those children who are voiceless, whose voices need to be heard.”
Malala also said that she and Satyarthi, an advocate against child labor, had spoken on the phone after winning the award, and had discussed working together to fight for the rights of children in both India and Pakistan:
We are the two Noble award receivers, one from Pakistan, one from India, one believes in Hinduism, one believes strongly in Islam. It gives a message to people, it gives a message to people of love between Pakistan and India, between different religions. If we both support each other it does not matter the colour of your skin, what language you speak, what religion you believe in. It is that we should all consider each other human beings and respect each other and we should all fight for our rights, the rights of children, or the rights of women and the rights of every human being.
She said they also agreed to request that their respective Prime Ministers, Narendra Modi of India and Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, attend the Nobel Prize Ceremony in December, in order to build a stronger relationship between the two nations.
President Obama, who won the award in 2009, congratulated the winners in a statement. “In recognizing Malala and Kailash, the Nobel Committee reminds us of the urgency of their work to protect the rights and freedoms of all our young people and to ensure they have the chance to fulfill their God-given potential, regardless of their background, or gender, or station in life,” he said. “Even as we celebrate their achievements, we must recommit ourselves to the world that they seek — one in which our daughters have the right and opportunity to get an education; and in which all children are treated equally.”
For hours, my almost-4-year-old gets lost in play in his room. Would he act the same if he knew I was watching?
I’m acutely aware of how much time I spend fretting about my kids. I’m an admittedly nervous mother – all hell breaks loose in my house if someone dares to give my toddler a whole grape or a hot dog that hasn’t been halved down the middle. Stories about choking or children who go to bed and never wake up haunt me. I sometimes wonder if all parents watch for the rise and fall of their child’s chest when they peek in on them at night. I also wonder if that is something I will ever stop doing.
If we didn’t raise our first child in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn where we were forced to share a bedroom, I probably would have invested in one of those video monitors that have become so popular among parents like me – the ones who worry. I always assumed that’s who those monitors were for, but a New York Times Motherlode blog post opened my eyes to another type of parent who likes to use them–the observer. In the piece, Thanks to Video Monitors, Parents are the New Big Brother, several admitted to holding on to infant video monitors once their children were well into toddlerhood, because they enjoy peeking into their kids’ world:
Beyond the peace of mind and potential safety benefits that come from extended use of video monitors, many moms and dads would agree that “it’s more fascinating” to watch your child via a video monitor than to listen to him or her via audio, said Alan Fields, co-author of the baby gear review book “Baby Bargains” and the “Best Baby Monitors” online guide. The early audio monitor was a way for parents to hear remotely when their baby woke up, but video monitors let parents see what their baby is doing when they’re not there.
I never really thought about the concept of toddlers and privacy, but if I stop and examine how I feel about it, is it ridiculous to say that I believe they should be afforded some? I think all parents love to peek in on their sleeping children or sneak up and look in unnoticed when their child is lost in play. I certainly understand why parents would be drawn to making a habit of it by ogling a video monitor nightly. But there are things I remember about my childhood – and a lot of my best memories were solitary ones.
I was a private child. I loved playing alone. I see my almost-4-year-old doing the same thing I did as a child—getting lost in play in his room for hours. Would he act the same if he knew I was watching? I don’t think so. I happen to know he is not too young to crave privacy; for one, he’s very adamant about having the door closed when he uses the bathroom. Sometimes when I walk into his room when he’s playing he tells me to “Leave, Mommy.” One child in the New York Times article admits to knowing when she is being watched; her mother hushes her through the monitor when she and her brother play too loudly. “On a recent Saturday morning, Abby pointed out the camera in her room. ‘It’s used for Mommy and Daddy, so if I bang, they are going to talk through the camera,’ she said.”
We’re observing our children more than ever before. We may be raising children to believe – from a very early age – that they’re not entitled to their own space and privacy. As they grow, we hammer this idea into their heads a little more, through a device most of them beg for: the cell phone. Everyone’s favorite accessory isn’t necessarily surveillance, but it is performing the same function—enabling parents to track and observe that their children are okay, without the need for blind trust.
Recently, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio vowed to end the cell phone ban in schools to a collective sigh of relief from parents everywhere. He admitted that his own son violates the ban and called it a “safety issue” for parents to be able to keep track of their kids. Raising children in the city is potentially worrisome, but is having a direct line to your child at all times really a safety issue? When I was growing up and a parent had to reach a child in an emergency, they called the school. Perhaps we have more emergencies now, or are we just so used to being on top of our children that we truly believe they can’t make it to school and back without being able to reach us, immediately?
In our attempts to protect our children, we may be crippling them instead. Learning how to move through the world without a direct line to your parents is an important skill for older children. We’re demanding our kids be reachable at all times for their own good. Or is it for our own good? “On the one hand, being able to reach our children at all times gives parents a sense of security and it gives kids a sense of security,” says Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a Princeton, New Jersey psychologist and professor for the new video series, Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids. “But I think also that it can be an easy out – to immediately call a parent if they struggle. If we leap in too quickly to solve problems that our kids can figure out on their own, we steal their opportunity to develop important coping skills.” What’s more we let them think they need our help. “Of course we want to take reasonable steps for safety,” says Kennedy-Moore, “but we also want to give our children the message that ‘I have faith in you. I believe that you can handle this.’ That’s a very empowering message.”
In addition to putting kids in a position to constantly outsource problem-solving to their parents, cell phones are effectively putting our children on call – all day long. Imagine forfeiting the freedom you had as a child, to leave the house and be absolutely free of your parents until you returned. One mother who grew tired of having her calls seemingly ignored, even went as far as creating an app that will shut down your child’s phone if he doesn’t answer it. Does that sound like someone who is worried about safety, or control? I’d say the latter.
Tonya Rooney, an Early Childhood Education lecturer at Australian Catholic University, has done a lot of research on the repercussions surveillance has on children. In her research article, Trusting children: How do surveillance technologies alter a child’s experience of trust, risk and responsibility, she concludes:
Without a surveillance gaze, children have the opportunity to be trusted, to learn how to trust others, and perhaps to show others they can live up to this trust. Once the surveillance is in place, this opportunity is greatly reduced… if surveillance is applied as a response to fear rather than a more balanced response to any actual risks involved, then arguably both adults and children become reactive agents, contributing to a cycle of suspicion and anxiety, robbing childhood of valuable opportunities to trust and be trusted.
I stomped through Europe in my early twenties without a cell phone and with only a promise to call my mother once a week. If I observe my child secretly in the days of his young life and hand him a cell phone to track him as soon as he’s old enough to leave the house on his own, am I setting him up for the same independence I enjoyed? Will he be able to handle it? It’s a trajectory that we have the power to stop if we realize it may not be in the best interest of our children to raise them to think it’s okay to be watched and tracked.
But, our kids will probably never know the freedom we did, so they won’t know what they’re missing.