TIME Family

Children of Same-Sex Parents Are Healthier: Study

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Children of same-sex parents have above average health and well-being, research by the University of Melbourne shows.

The research was based on data from the Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families, which involved input from 315 same-sex parents and a total of 500 children. Of these participating families, 80 percent had female parents while 18 percent had male partners.

“It appears that same-sex parent families get along well and this has a positive impact on health,” said Dr Simon Crouch from the Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program, Centre for Health Equity at the University of Melbourne.

Read the rest of the story at NBC News

TIME health

Study: Even Elementary School Kids Are Unhappy With Their Bodies

About half of Australian kids of average and below average weight are dissatisfied with their bodies

A study released Tuesday by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that children as young as 8 were unhappy with their body size and that the majority of 10-and-11-year-olds tried to manage their weight in the past year.

The longitudinal study surveyed over 4,000 children between the ages of 8 and 9 and then again between the ages of 10 and 11. The results showed that children were more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies at a younger age, between 8 and 9.

“There are some concerns there, that at that age, children are already feeling bad about their bodies,” AIFS Executive Manager Dr. Ben Edwards said. “What we are seeing is that kids are starting to think about this far earlier than people had realised and the implications of that on psycho-social development also seem to be occurring much earlier.”

Edwards and his team also found a connection between a satisfied body image and the child’s physical and emotional health. Fortunately a higher proportion of children were happy with their body size by the time they reached 10 or 11, but this increase only occurred among normal and underweight children while satisfaction continued to decrease among overweight children.

The research also applied to both sexes and showed a higher prevalence of body weight management among young boys than young girls. “While there were no differences [in the percentages of] boys and girls trying to lose weight, more boys tried to gain weight and less did nothing to control their weight compared to girls of the same age,” said AIFS researcher Galina Daraganova.

Similar studies on children’s body image in the United States have focused exclusively on young girls, such as Girl Scouts of America’s 2010 “Beauty Redefined” study that surveyed 1,000 girls between the ages of 13 and 17. Their results found that 31% of girls had starved themselves or refused to eat in order to lose weight.

But, for some specialists, the early onset of these issues should be of the highest concern. “I find it really disturbing that we are finding these statistics at such a young age,” said Eve Reed, a pediatric dietician. “I think it is important to communicate the very strong message that children are loved, whatever shape and size they are, and that everybody is different.”

 

TIME Books

Read to Your Baby, Say Doctors — But Which Books?

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging members to encourage reading to newborns

When her son was very small, Dr. Pamela High noticed something funny: she would come home and find the babysitter in the rocking chair with the boy, reading out loud from whatever book she happened to be working on herself at that moment. As her son got older and began to respond more to the words themselves, the babysitter switched to reading children’s books — but the image made an impression on his mother.

Now her son is grown up and High is the lead author of a new policy paper released by the American Academy of Pediatrics that recommends pediatricians advise parents to read aloud to young children “beginning in infancy,” to encourage word learning, literacy and positive family relationships. The report notes that reading to children is correlated with family income level — and, as the New York Times reports, Scholastic is donating 500,000 books to the literacy advocacy group Reach Out and Read, which works with pediatricians to get books to low-income families — but even in families that make 400% of the poverty threshold only 60% of children are read to daily.

But what exactly should they be reading? If your one-day-old baby doesn’t understand the words, does it even matter?

“I don’t think that there’s a huge amount of information on that,” High tells TIME, noting that her own experience with the sitter reading to her son is just an anecdote, not research. “The research is primarily about reading children’s books.”

Part of the issue is that it’s hard to measure understanding, to say that at some number of months of age it begins to be important that you’re not reading a kid something totally inappropriate like 50 Shades of Grey. Language is acquired gradually, and High says that she’s personally seen evidence of understanding even before the 1-year marker at which most children can point to pictures that correspond with spoken words. Plus, she says, “I think [babies] understand the emotion in the words that are being read to them very, very early.”

But there are some things that parents should keep in mind, she says. For example, it’s developmentally appropriate for children to chew on books, so you shouldn’t read to a baby from a valuable and rare manuscript. Colorful illustrations can help keep a child’s attention, but even so you shouldn’t expect a very young infant to concentrate on the book for longer than about 90 seconds. And finally, it’s important that the parent not think the book is annoying. “It starts with the parent’s enjoyment and then becomes a shared enjoyment,” High says.

With that in mind — chewability, enjoyability and calm or positive emotions — here are a few books parents might consider reading aloud to their newborns:

For actual newborns: Can’t & Won’t by Lydia Davis. This short story collection, which came out in April, is a book for grown-ups, by Man Booker International Prize- and MacArthur grant-winner Davis. But it’s great for tiny babies because the short stories are, in some cases, very short. If your kid doesn’t understand the words yet and you can only sneak in a minute of reading a day, and it’s perhaps a minute out of the precious few moments of “me time” you have, you can get up to date on a buzz-worthy literary release. Plus, if the baby’s too young to do too much damage to the book, investing in a hardcover isn’t such a risk.

For slightly older babies who will one day get English degrees: Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Because emotion is more important than content, a nice big collection of lovey-dovey poems that take about a minute to read is perfect. As High points out, reading is often used to help a baby wind down at the end of the day, and the regular rhythm of a rhyming sonnet can’t hurt. If the baby can’t understand Shakespearean words, that’s no big deal; if a word or two does sneak into her brain, there’s nothing inappropriate to worry about.

For kids old enough to touch the book: Farm by James Brown. This picture book made the 2014 Best Books for Babies list, an annual list put together by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Company (as in, Mr. Fred Rogers). The selection committee commended the author for his use of interesting textures to “add tactile appeal” to the book.

For kids who are already growing up too fast: The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey. The classic tale of a lollygagging dog was once ranked by Publishers Weekly as the top-selling children’s book ever, having sold nearly 15 million hardcover copies between 1942 and 2000. That means parents are likely to remember reading it themselves. Help your infant’s future literacy and reminisce about your own childhood, all in one place.

For kids old enough to laugh : Toot! by Leslie Patricelli. Yes, this book is about farts — but it was also, just today, named Amazon’s top book of the year so far for babies age 0–2.

MONEY Careers

7 Ideas That Could Make Life Easier for Working Parents

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Experts gathered Monday at The White House Summit on Working Families to discuss ways to reduce the conflicts between the office and home. One working mom thinks these seven ideas would make for a good start.

All that “girls can, too” stuff that was popular when I was growing up seems to have paid off.

Women now comprise 47% of U.S. workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 6 in 10 women are now the sole, primary, or co-breadwinners for their families—echoing the results of Money’s own recent survey.

So great, we did it. Kudos to us. We are a new generation of women on top.

But for those of us who are also moms, working a double shift—at the office for the big cheese and then at home for the little bosses—doesn’t give us time to rest on our laurels. Or rest at all. Life is a constant juggling act, and one in which the balls are always dropping and the audience is booing.

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg may make work-life balance sound like a cakewalk, but a $800 million pay package buys flexibility that’s not really available to those of us with less made-up sounding salaries, not to mention workers making the $7.25 federal minimum wage.

For most working moms like me, work and home are in near-constant conflict. While your family gets that you need to work in order to put dinner on the table, your employer may not make it easy for you to make it home in time to put that healthy meat-and-veg casserole in the oven. (Pizza again?) Or pick up your fifth grader from school. Or take care of a sick baby. (Did I mention that my son is home with a fever today? Insert mommy guilt here.) And then there’s child care, which presents special challenges this time of year when school lets out for summer. (Check out some ideas for saving here.)

Only 14% of Americans think our public policies and workplace policies are keeping up with the changes in the workforce, according to a Center for American Progress survey.

On Monday, the White House and the Center for American Progress convened an event—The White House Summit on Working Families—aimed at finding solutions for the challenges working families face. At the plenary session, Claudia Goldin, a professor of economics at Harvard University; Mark Weinberger, CEO of professional services firm EY; Makini Howell, owner of Seattle’s Plum Bistro Restaurant; and Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union; came together to offer their thoughts for what could help. These seven ideas caught my eye:

1. Make the school day more reflective of the work day. “There’s no reason school begins with a six-year-old,” said Goldin. “There isn’t any reason why it can’t start at three or four years old. There is no reason why school ends at 2 or 3 o’clock. And there is no reason—and sorry to all the kids—why it ends in June.”

2. Get parents at the top to set a standard. “When I was offered this job, I asked my kids, ‘Should I do this?'” recounted Weinberger, CEO of EY, which surveys its employees annually on flexibility. “My daughter asked ‘Will you still be able to keep the commitment to us?’ And I said absolutely, I was a father first.” Three months later, he said, he was in China giving his first speech as CEO when he was asked if he would be attending that evening’s dinner. Weinberger responded by saying that he had to leave for his daughter’s driving test. “Not a single person remembers my great speech, but I got hundreds of emails from people telling me what that freed them up to do.”

3. Require paid sick leave. “If I have a worker who dedicates five, 10 years of their life to my success and my small business, my question is why not pay a sick day?” says Howard, who helped pass paid sick leave legislation in Seattle. “When you care enough about your employees to provide a safety net, they don’t abuse what you offer…and if I can’t trust you to tell me when you’re sick, I should have more issues than you having a paid day off.”

4. Make paid maternity leave a must. “If someone who is working has a child or has a disability and has to leave that job, and then has to search for another job, that’s a cost for everyone in the system,” said Goldin, pointing to California’s law, which pays 55% of an employee’s base weekly wages for up to six weeks.

5. Boost wages for caregivers. “Childcare workers are building the brains of the next generation to be globally competitive,” said Henry. To that end, caregiving needs to be better rewarded as a profession, she said. “These need to become jobs people could raise their families on. Home-care and childcare workers could be the autoworkers and steelworkers of the future.”

6. Bump up minimum wage. “The number one issue is how do we drive wages up at the bottom of economy so that wage pressure on jobs in the middle can increase,” said Henry. “It’s not about whether we can make ends meet with one job, it’s about families doing three jobs and becoming ships passing in the night to care for children.” Howell, who was involved in helping bump Seattle’s minimum wage to $15, echoed this sentiment. “We have this race-to-the-bottom mentality in wages,” she said. “But raising the minimum to $15 puts more money into the economy since my workers are another business’s consumers.”

7. Encourage companies to invest in flexibility. “Many industries have become more flexible,” said Goldin. That’s in part due to technologies that allow employees to work remotely, she added, noting that she hopes other industries will follow.

TIME Syria

Watch: Syrian Children Talk About Life As Child Soldiers

Recruited under the guide of education programs, child soldiers have been acting as snipers, soldiers and even suicide bombers in Syria, a new report says.

Before the ongoing conflict in Syria began in early 2011, Majed, 16, used to farm tomatoes in the fields near his hometown of Inkhil, Daraa, in the country’s southwest.

But when the Nusra Front, which has been labeled a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department, came to his town, he and other children as young as 12 years old started to spend time with members of the group in a local mosque, Majeb told Human Rights Watch.

“They would bring a car and go around to houses to pick up children. They taught children how to read the Quran, then taught us about weapon(s),” Majed said. “They taught us how to take apart and put together a weapon, they put up a target for us to practice shooting outside the mosque. Anyone who hit the target got a reward.”

Majed ended up fighting against government forces for three months. Another boy, Amr, 15, who fought with an extremist Islamist group in northern Syria, said his unit’s commanders encouraged children to volunteer for suicide bombing attacks. He reluctantly signed up, but he was able to get away before his turn came up, he told Human Rights Watch.

Majer and Amr are just two of many children who have been recruited as combatants by non-state armed groups involved in the Syrian conflict.

It’s not clear exactly how many child soldiers are fighting in Syria, but groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot aligned with rebels fighting against forces aligned with Syrian President Bashar Assad, as well as the Nusra Front have encouraged boys as young as 15 to fight, at times recruiting them through free schooling campaigns, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Monday. While the report focused on use of child soldiers by rebel forces, the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on Syria has documented the use of child soldiers by pro-government forces as well.

As Syria’s civil war is set to enter into its fourth year, human rights groups have been able to document that boys and girls were recruited to fight in battles, act as snipers, participate in suicide bombing missions, treat the wounded on battlefields and carry ammunition to and from the front lines. A Syria-monitoring group called the Violations Documenting Center documented 194 deaths of “non-civilian” male children in Syria from September 2011 until June of this year, for example.

In the video above, Zama Coursen-Neff, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Children’s Rights Division, said that armed opposition groups in Syria across the political spectrum are using children to fight.

“It’s bad enough that the Syrian government is dropping bombs on children, armed opposition groups in Syria should not in turn be sending children into harm’s way,” Coursen-Neff said.

Under international law, armed group leaders who recruit child soldiers can be tried as war criminals. The United Nations estimates that hundreds of thousands of boys and girls, some as young as 8 years old, are used as soldiers in numerous conflicts in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

 

 

TIME Opinion

Jenny McCarthy Doubles Down on Deadly

McCarthy's ad may have been pulled but the images have gone viral
McCarthy's ad may have been pulled but the images have gone viral

The legendary anti-vaxxer becomes an e-cig peddler, once more endangering children

Jenny McCarthy is apparently determined to be present at the birth of every possible bad idea. Let’s pretend–pretend—for a moment that there was anything at all to the dangerous junk McCarthy has been peddling in falsely linking vaccines to autism and a host of other ills. Presumably her goal would be to protect children, to keep them safe and well.

And so what does McCarthy now propose to do with that generation of kids whose welfare she’s ensured? Why, hand them over to the tobacco companies, of course.

In a jaw-dropping bit of make-a-bad-thing-worse reputation management, McCarthy appeared in a cringe-inducing commercial for blu eCigs—which has since been pulled from the company’s website—peddling the increasingly popular product. Shot in what is meant to be a club, McCarthy appears in a skimpy dress with a silent piece of beef-cake by her side, going on about the virtues of e-cigs, including the fact that “I can whip out my blu without scaring that special someone away—know what I’m sayin’?”

But here’s the thing McCarthy isn’t sayin': e-cigs are way, way too young a product for anyone to be able to say with certainty how safe or how dangerous they are. They may well be a gateway out of smoking for some people, a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes. But they may certainly be a gateway in too—particularly for kids.

A study of electronic cigarette advertising from June through November of 2013 by the American Legacy Foundation found that Lorillard Tobacco Company’s blu brand spent more on marketing than “all other brands combined,” and that blu’s advertising was the most commonly viewed by teenagers, “with 73% of 12- to 17-year-olds exposed to blu’s print and TV ads.”

Worse, as my colleague Eliza Gray reported, advertising for e-cigs jumped 256% from 2011 to 2013, and more than 1.78 million middle school kids have tried them. No surprise since “last year 14 million kids saw ads for electronic cigarettes on TV [and] 9.5 million saw them in print.” And with e-cig brands sold in sweet tooth flavors like cherry and vanilla, it’s hard to pretend they’re not being marketed directly to consumers with immature palates—otherwise known as, you know, children.

At this week’s hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, e-cig makers got blowtorched by lawmakers who had already been through the lies and obfuscations from tobacco executives denying their deadly products were addictive, and are now hearing the same dissembling from the new generation of nicotine peddlers. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) was the most blistering, saying, “I’m ashamed of you. I don’t know how you go to sleep at night.”

It’s impossible to say how they do, but Jenny McCarthy, if her own words are an indicator, sleeps like a baby. “Now that I’ve switched to blu I feel better about myself,” she said. As the legendary U.S. Army counsel Joseph Welch might have put it, at long last, Jenny, have you left no sense of decency?

TIME

Yes, You Could Forget Your Kid in the Car—I Did

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Another sad story of a child dying from being left in a hot car should remind us of one thing: it could happen to any parent

“Oh my God, what a horrible parent. I would NEVER let that happen!”

This is a common refrain shouted across the Internet when summer inevitably brings a smattering of tragic stories involving young children who die after a parent forgets they’re in the car. This time it was 33-year-old Justin Ross Harris of Georgia, who apparently forgot to drop his 22-month-old son off at daycare on Wednesday, leaving him in the searing backseat of his SUV for seven hours while his dad was at work. Harris has been charged with murder.

Perhaps it’s human nature to automatically assign blame, or the simple power of denial in convincing yourself you would never forget your child – which is understandable. But it’s also inaccurate. I can tell you in brutal, intimate honesty, because it happened to me.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 25 kids every year die from similar incidents; this year, that count is already at 13. There is of course no stat on the number of kids who get forgotten, but then remembered in enough time to survive. If you have the emotional fortitude to read Gene Weingarten’s Pulitzer Prize-winning piece on the subject, you’ll see it happens to moms, dads, parents young and old.

I won’t sit here and tell you I’m a great parent, but I’m not a bad one. I love my kids and they are my world. I take great pains to make sure they are kept safe and out of harm’s way, and yet… I’m human. That’s what we are. Our perpetual capacity to make mistakes is innate, and should be reason not to judge.

Six years ago, when my oldest was born, I was his primary caregiver. I worked full time but my schedule was flexible, and my wife made most of the money. That meant I had the privilege of making him breakfast, getting him ready, and doing all the drop off/pick up from daycare. And I had my routine that went like clockwork every day.

Every day except Wednesday.

I had Wednesdays off, and one of my relatives was nice enough to come down for a few hours and help me out by watching Will. I used this time to run errands, go to the gym, and decompress from the standard pressure of raising a 10-month-old.

But on this specific Wednesday, she couldn’t come. And since errands wait for no man, I had to take Will with me to all the stores on my list. I remember feeling very grateful he fell asleep just before we left, and even stayed asleep as I transitioned him into the car seat. Then, just like every other hump day, my mind wandered to the litany of things I had to do and places I needed to be.

It was winter in Massachusetts, and temperatures were in the single digits. As I parked the car I was more intent on bracing myself for the arctic blast of cold air than anything else. I took a deep breath, pushed the door open, and hustled out into the deep freeze. As I got to the door of the grocery store—roughly 50 feet from the car—I kicked myself. I had forgotten my shopping list on the passenger seat.

Oh, and one other thing.

When I realized what else I had forgotten, I learned the true meaning of “panic attack.” I just stood there, paralyzed by a deeper fear than I have ever known. I could try to sugarcoat it by saying I was sleep-deprived and out of my normal routine—factual statements—but there was no denying another fact: I simply forgot about my son. If not for remembering the grocery list, there is a very good chance my boy would’ve been frozen to death upon my return.

I’m a writer. More specifically, I’m a parent blogger. That means I’ve detailed some very personal and often humiliating stories. Yet it wasn’t until yesterday that I told my wife this happened, and it’s taken six years to get the courage to post it publicly. The shame was just too great.

There are times when parents leave kids to die in cars because they’re doing drugs. With cases of clear neglect I have little difficulty joining the masses in summoning righteous anger and outrage. (And in Harris’s case, the investigation has not at this time been completed.) But when well-meaning parents have a tragic memory lapse that leads to a lifetime of guilt, shame, and blame, I can’t help but muster up some sympathy and recall that day six years ago.

The day a missing grocery list was the only thing that prevented me and my son from becoming a headline. And I’m willing to bet I’m not alone in the close-call department.

 

Aaron Gouveia is a husband, father of two boys, and writes for his site, The Daddy Files.

MONEY Shopping

School’s (Almost) Out! Just In Time for Back-to-School Sales

BSIP SA / Alamy—Alamy

If you thought now was the time to relax and celebrate the end of the school year, J.C. Penney, Walmart, and Lands' End have a back-to-school sale for you.

Last summer, retailers raised eyebrows by rolling out back-to-school sales in early July, within a week or two of when kids escaped the clutches of teachers, principals, and algebra homework. “In seven and a half years, I’ve never once seen so much emphasis put on back-to-school before July 4,” National Retail Federation spokeswoman Kathy Grannis told AdAge at the time.

Fast-forward to June 2014, and retailers are at it again, pushing back-to-school sales earlier than ever. Consumers are getting the message that the time to purchase gear for the upcoming school year is before the current school year has ended. Like, now.

J.C. Penney began promoting back-to-school sales last weekend, according to Consumerist. Walmart already has a back-to-school web page for student fashions, backpacks, and other school gear, as well as another page devoted to back-to-college apparel and tech. Target just introduced a college registry program, so that students can try to get other people to buy them stuff. Apple’s back-to-school promotional deals are expected to be announced any day now. And Lands’ End? It started zapping customers with e-mails a couple of weeks ago, pushing the idea that early June is a fine time to buy school uniforms that kids won’t wear until around Labor Day.

It’s totally understandable why retailers try to move back-to-school shopping earlier and earlier each year. Families generally have finite resources they can allocate to back-to-school fashion and paraphernalia, and once the pencils, protractors, glue sticks, notebooks, and a few new outfits are purchased, their back-to-school expenditures are done (in theory). Retailers want to beat the competition to the punch, before the family’s back-to-school budget is depleted.

“Retailers are going to do what they can to try to get consumers into the stores to shop, but the fact of the matter is they might not have much luck,” Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, explained to CNBC. “There aren’t any parents that I can find who have even thought of back-to-school shopping, because for most kids, they haven’t even gotten out of school yet.”

Still, even if shoppers don’t actually buy back-to-school stuff in June, the enticements may get them thinking about their needs for the upcoming school year. Panic sets in for a lot of overwhelmed parents, and they’re more apt to want to cross all of their children’s back-to-school items off their list as soon as possible. How can you relax on a summer vacation when you know there will be dorm rooms to decorate and Number 2 pencils that need to be purchased?

What’s more, early-season promotional efforts are limited mostly to the digital world. It’s much cheaper and easier for a retailer to send out an e-mail blast or put up a back-to-school web page than it is to rearrange shelves and create promotional sections inside thousands of stores. That’ll happen soon enough, of course, during the especially puzzling period when you’re likely to encounter Fourth of July, back to school, Christmas in July, and plain old summer sales in your local megamart, perhaps mixed in with the odd early Halloween aisle.

Of course, retailers risk some customer backlash by taking the expansion of shopping seasons too far. So-called “Christmas creep,” the phenomenon in which the Christmas shopping season kicks off in September and Christmas ads air within a few days of Labor Day weekend, has caused many an observer to groan in exasperation.

When the calendar says one thing and retailers are telling consumers something very different via sales and promotions, the result can be jarring, even off-putting. Yet retailers assume shoppers have short memories, and they hope that whatever bad feelings a too-early sale produces are outweighed by deals that are just too good to pass up.

TIME Television

We’re Getting a Half-Hour Version of Sesame Street

12th Annual Sesame Workshop Benefit Gala
Many of the Sesame Street characters at the 12th annual Sesame Workshop Benefit Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on May 28, 2014 in New York City. Robin Marchant—Getty Images

They will air in the afternoons and stream online

Famed children’s show Sesame Street has finally succumbed to our shortening attention spans. PBS will begin broadcasting and streaming a half-hour version of the show this fall, the company said Wednesday.

For almost 45 years, Sesame Street has run only hour-long episodes, even as other children’s shows got shorter. But a jump in use of the PBS Kids Video app last year and slumping broadcasting ratings convinced the network to design a mobile-friendly version of the show.

“30 minutes is about as long as you can get [for mobile],” Lesli Rotenberg, PBS’s general manager of children’s programming, told the New York Times about the new format. “The hourlong show didn’t lend itself as well to that.”

The new half-hour shows will join PBS’ afternoon lineup starting Sept. 1. PBS will also stream more than just clips from the show for the first time in Sesame Street history: some episodes will be streamable via the PBS website, its mobile app and its Roku channel.

Hour-long Sesame Street episodes will continue to run in the mornings.

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