TIME Education

Meet the Mother-Daughter Team Set on Saving Cursive

It's not as loopy as it may sound

A mother-daughter team is fighting a battle that should inspire bands of ruler-wielding teachers to join them in the fray—and will lead others to accuse them of being out of touch with the modern student. Linda Shrewsbury and Prisca LeCroy want America’s future generations to learn cursive, and they’ve just finished publishing their first book on the subject, which Kickstarters gave them over $33,000 to design and produce.

It’s easy to make the argument that class time would be better spent teaching kids to type 80 words-per-minute (or to code for that matter). In this digital age, isn’t giving cursive pride of place in the curriculum the didactic equivalent of teaching teens to ride horses instead of drive cars? After all, the Common Core standards being adopted by states around the country don’t waste any space on laying out penmanship goals.

Courtesy Linda ShrewsburyLinda Shrewsbury, left, and her daughter Prisca LeCroy are on a mission to preserve cursive.

The ladies have plenty of retorts to this line of thinking. Chief among their scientific missiles are studies that show cursive fires up areas of the brain that tracing, typing or even printing letters does not. “They’re doing some studies that seem to suggest there’s something special about cursive,” says 34-year-old LeCroy, who was home-schooled by Shrewsbury before becoming an attorney and is now a full-time stay-at-home mom in Dallas.

Teaching kids old-fashioned penmanship, proponents like her argue, helps refine their fine motor skills and their visual cognition, while beefing up the lobes known to underline successful reading. One study found that students who handwrote rather than typed on writing assignments tended to write more and come up with more ideas.

Then there is the cultural ammunition. Only kids who can read cursive will make a jot of sense out of the original copy of the Constitution on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.—where the two of them recently gave a presentation on this very topic. “Do we want them to actually have the capacity to be historians?” says LeCroy. “Or do we want them to be lemmings?” For Shrewsbury, cursive is a proud old vehicle for fostering artistry and individuality in people, as well as a line the ties us to the past.

“My strongest feeling about cursive is the idea you can capture individuality and personality in a signature and have it be preserved for generations,” says Shrewsbury, a 63-year-old who has taught government to students in Tulsa and English to students in Africa. “I think about the fact that I know the handwriting of members of my family. The idea of throwing away a tradition that powerful and simple makes no senses to me.”

Shrewsbury got started on this mission while volunteering to tutor a 23-year-old student named Josh in a local literacy program. He had learning difficulties, but as they bonded over improving his reading skills, he confessed to her that he had never learned cursive and wanted to be able to sign his name. While it might not make a difference in a legal sense whether one prints or loops their autograph on a contract, to him there was a sense of dignity that he was missing (and, it’s worth noting, printed signatures are easier to forge). So Shrewbury tried to figure out a simple way to teach him the letters and noticed patterns in how the letters are formed—four patterns to be exact: an oval, a loop, a swing and a mound.

These, for instance, are letters that are all formed using a move they call “over oval, back trace.” If you trace the movements, you’ll see what they mean:

CursiveLogic

Using these insights, Shrewsbury says she was able to get Josh writing in cursive in about 45 minutes. “I hear all around me that cursive takes too long to teach and is too hard to learn,” she says.

Unfortunately, TIME cannot reveal all their secrets because rather than tackle this issue through lawmaking—as many would-be saviors of cursive have—these ladies are trying to win the battle through business. The book on their method is called CursiveLogic, and in Shrewsbury’s dreams, these guides will sell like such hotcakes that she can eventually use the proceeds to start local education programs in Tulsa for African-American boys and men who, like Josh, “have fallen through the cracks” of the educational system.

The ladies aren’t arguing that teaching kids cursive should displace typing classes, but not be lost in the dust of progress. LeCroy says that with even the suggestion that it might have benefits—in an era when we’re making more things with pixels and fewer with our hands—cursive is a craft worth preserving. “Wouldn’t it be bad if a generation if kids didn’t learn it?” she says. “Why would we want to strip away that little bit of creativity?”

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Kids Are Unhappy With Their Bodies as Young as Age 8

TIME.com stock photos Weight Loss Health Exercise Scale
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

By age 14, 39% of the girls in the study said they had dieted in the last year

Boys and girls as young as age eight can experience dissatisfaction with their bodies that can predict their risk for eating disorders later in life.

A new U.K. study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry followed about 6,000 children until they were 14 years old and discovered a pattern of poor body image at a young age and eating disorder behaviors later on. The researchers found that at age eight, 5% of girls and 3% of boys were unhappy with their bodies. When the children reached age 14, 39% of the girls said they had dieted in the last year and 8% said they had binged. Among boys, 12% had dieted in the last year and 3.5% had binged.

“We were surprised about how body dissatisfaction at that young age tracked into eating disorder behaviors at 14 years,” says lead study author Nadia Micali, a senior lecturer and honorary consultant psychiatrist at the University College London Institute of Child Health.

Other factors seemed to influence a child’s body image and eating patterns; the study shows that nearly a fifth of girls reported feeling “quite a lot” or “a lot” of pressure from the media to lose weight. A mother’s history of anorexia, bulimia or both was also predictive of high levels of body dissatisfaction among girls and dieting behaviors among boys. The researchers also found that the among boys, high levels of body dissatisfaction and high BMI were linked to a higher prevalence of eating disorder thoughts and behaviors.

The researchers say the findings speak to a need for interventions early in life. High self-esteem was linked to lower levels of eating disorder behaviors, and the effect was stronger among boys. The researchers write that their findings suggest that some children might be more vulnerable to feeling pressure from media, family and peers than others.

Intervention won’t look the same for all children, Micali says. “The findings suggest that a blanket approach focusing on all adolescents or children might not be best, and that targeted prevention that focused on boys who are overweight/obese rather than all boys might be more useful,” says Micali. “I think that it is important that we adapt our interventions for younger children appropriately, as there is some evidence that for example ‘healthy eating’ classes that are not designed for younger children might be harmful, especially for those who do not have the cognitive ability to adequately process the information.”

More research is needed to understand the best approach. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), research is continuing to discover that eating disorders are highly complicated and can be caused by an interaction of genetic, biological, psychological and social factors.

TIME Parenting

How to Help Your Kids Be Better Travelers This Summer

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Pramod R. Mistry—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images Children play at the feet of the world's largest dinosaur in Drumheller.

It's more than learning a list of local dos and don'ts

Summertime means travel. With kids, that can give a simple trip to the beach all the complexity of a year long arctic expedition.

But travel is also a great way for families to bond—and for kids to learn about the world, and themselves.

So how can parents start good conversations with kids to help them get the most out of travel?

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At any age, it’s important to be a “good traveler,” says Tamara Gruber, a family travel writer who has crossed continents with her own family, and writes about those travels at we3travel.com. “As you’re researching a place, it’s good to know your cultural norms, which sparks a bigger conversation of different cultures, and understanding that not everything is done the way that you are accustomed to.”
But being a good traveler is more than just learning the lists of local “dos” and “don’ts,” she says. “It’s about teaching kids to be more resilient, and more open to new experiences.” Lessons, she says, that they can apply “throughout life.”

At elementary school age, Gruber says, parents can encourage kids as travelers by starting local: “local museums, local historic sites, local parks, hiking trails, wherever you live.” This gives kids a sense of “how beautiful the world is, and what fun things there are to do.” It’s also a good age, according to Gruber, to start talk with kids about places they may someday see. If parents have had conversations with kids about the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower, or even the Taj Mahal, “it’s so much more meaningful when they see it in person.”

Middle school kids, says Gruber, can start to contribute to planning trips themselves. “They have a little bit more knowledge of the world and studied different places in school.” So it’s a great time, Gruber says, to get them “involved with the process, looking through the travel guides,” and asking what places they’re interested in, and what they’d like to do there.

High school kids probably have some memories of travel under their belt, Gruber says. So parents can look back with them over the places they’ve been—just remembering the good times together, or thinking more deeply about what kids learned by being there. And as high school kids get ready to step out into adulthood, parents can also encourage them to think about where they might like to travel one day—all on their own.

TIME Crime

Detroit Mom Who Killed Her 2 Kids and Stuffed Them in Freezer Gets Life in Prison

Mitchelle Blair during a custody hearing in Detroit on June 4, 2015.
Clarence Tabb Jr.—AP Mitchelle Blair during a custody hearing in Detroit on June 4, 2015.

She admitted to killing her 13-year old daughter and 9-year old son

A Detroit mom who killed two of her kids and stuffed their bodies in a freezer has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Mitchelle Blair pled guilty to the murders of her 13-year old daughter Stoni and 9-year old son Steven, and told the court she killed them because she believed they had sexually abused one of her younger children.

She told the court she “definitely meant to kill” Stoni, but murdered Steven by accident. “If I had killed Steven intentionally I definitely would be proud to say I did, but I didn’t,” she said in court last month. “I don’t feel no emotion for the death of them demons.”

The judge told Blair she “imposed the death penalty” on her own children according to the Detroit News.

The children had likely been killed in 2012 or 2013, but their bodies were found in March while bailiffs were evicting Blair and her two surviving children from their Detroit home. The kids were home-schooled, which is one reason why their deaths went undiscovered for so years, according to the Detroit News. Prosecutors say neither of the surviving children were sexually abused.

Blair expressed no remorse during her sentencing hearing Friday. “As horrendous as everyone thinks I am, that’s fine. But I’m the only one not lying about anything,” she said according to NBC.

[Detroit News]

 

TIME Research

Crash Course: 8 Ways to Discipline Your Kids

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Getty Images

We surveyed the experts on what to do when they just won't behave--presented in rough order of escalation.

Whether you’re a parent or babysitter sometimes you need a go-to trick or two—or three— when it comes to discipline. All families develops their own approach when it comes to doling out punishment for bad behavior, but in case you need a little inspiration, we’ve rounded up some expert opinions on the most effective strategies.

These are listed roughly in order of escalation. Remember, you’re playing the long game here. You need to immediately stop violent or dangerous behavior (experimenting with the stove or a sibling’s eyes), but for other infractions, bear in mind that you’re trying to create a new human with a sense of right and wrong, empathy and decency. So sometimes, it’s worth trying something a couple of times before moving on, especially since kids really respond to consistency.

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Each of these methods has its upside and downside and, for the most part, we are not debating the merits, so much as suggesting the approaches a parent might like to try. Discipline is never less work for parents than it is for kids, so choose your battles wisely.

Let natural consequences play out: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is a fan of teaching children through natural consequences. For instance, if a child is tossing her crackers on the floor, don’t pick them up. At a certain point she will learn that throwing her food on the floor means she no longer gets to eat it. Throwing toys against the wall could mean that they break, and a child can no longer use them.

Try some logical consequences: When natural consequences are not doing the trick, stepping in to create a consequence of your own can work well. For instance, removing the toy being chucked at the wall and locking it up for the rest of the day. Try to be as consistent as possible when you choose consequences or when reacting to behavior that needs to change.

Guide the child to better behavior: Dr. Ben Siegel, the immediate past chair of the AAP committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child & Family Health is an advocate for positive parenting, which includes guiding a child toward better behaviors. “Discipline means to teach,” he says. According to Siegel, kids do not cognitively understand or remember the rules of the house until age 2.5 or 3 and around that age, kids can be stubborn. Siegel recommends guiding children to appropriate behavior by giving them choices. For example, if a child doesn’t want to put in their jacket, a parent could say, ‘fine, but you have to carry it.’ Or insisting a child can have dessert only if they finish their dinner.

Other experts have created techniques around a similar idea, arguing that decisions should be made collaboratively with a child and that children should be empowered to suggest their own solutions to behavioral issues they are having. For instance, does the child have any ideas for what would make bath time less onerous?

Withhold a child’s privileges: You know the drill. When a child is acting up, they lose something they like. Experts recommend taking away privileges or cherished items immediately, and choosing something that’s not a necessity; depriving them of a meal would be a bad idea. Depending on the age of the child, canceling a playdate that wasn’t going to happen until the evening may allow too much time to pass for the message to stick.

Scold strategically: The AAP isn’t a big fan of yelling, but at a certain point, raising your voice may be necessary to get a child’s attention or to simply be heard over their own tantrums. Experts suggest avoiding screaming things that are humiliating or are physical threats because they don’t appear to be that effective. And because kids are great mimics. When parents totally lose their cool, which can certainly happen, recognizing and talking about any mistakes or regrets in that interaction can be a learning experience for both child and parent.

Use non-negotiable arguments: When the inevitable “It’s not fair” argument arises, some experts suggest using firm responses along the lines of “No it’s not,” or simply, “I know.” It’s an easy trick for stopping a fight in its tracks. Parents can offer some sympathy by acknowledging they understand the child is upset, but that their decision is still final.

Enforce an effective time out: To pull off a successful time out, experts suggest sending a child to a pre-designated corner or to a chair. Avoid sending a child to their room, where they are may be more distractions and toys. Some recommend assigning a minute for every year in the child’s age. What if they just refuse? You may need to sit with the child, or remain nearby to monitor them. Other experts even recommend having a “time-in” rather than a “time-out” which consists of sitting with the child to talk and reflect about their behavior.

What to do about spanking: The AAP says don’t do it, arguing it teaches aggression and is not very productive. Yet statistics suggest many parents do so anyway. A 2013 Harris poll for instance showed 8 in 10 people surveyed thought spanking was appropriate at least “sometimes” and 86% reported being spanked themselves when they were a child. For the low-down on spanking, read TIME’s recent feature on the behavior.

TIME public health

California Governor Jerry Brown Signs Mandatory Vaccine Law

Law abolishes exemptions for personal beliefs

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a mandatory school vaccination bill into law Tuesday, abolishing the “personal belief” exemption that many parents use as a loophole to avoid vaccinating their children.

Now, under California law, which is among the strictest in the country, children would not be able to enroll in public school unless they have been vaccinated against diseases like measles and whooping cough. The law includes an exemption for children who have a medical reason to remain unvaccinated (like an immune system disorder) and can prove it with a doctor’s note. Parents who decline to vaccinate their children for personal or religious reasons will have to home-school them or send them to a public independent study program off school grounds.

Students who are unvaccinated because of “personal belief” who are already in public elementary school can stay until they’re in 7th grade, and then the parents will either have to vaccinate them or home-school them. Daycare students can stay until kindergarten, when they have to be either vaccinated or home-schooled. In the fall of 2014, almost 3% of California kindergartners were unvaccinated because of personal belief. Preschools in the most affluent areas are also the least likely to vaccinate, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The bill was proposed after a measles outbreak at Disneyland infected more 150 people, and many needed to be hospitalized. Supporters of the law argue that it is based on medical consensus that vaccinations improve public health. Opponents—who have been picketing outside the California legislature—argue that it’s an attack on personal freedom.

TIME Internet

How To Keep Your Kids Safe Online This Summer

Kids Online Safety
Mike Kemp—Getty Images/Blend Images RM Children using a tablet.

School's out for summer — meaning there's lots of time for web surfing

For kids, summertime is a brief window of freedom they yearn for all school year long. Parents, meanwhile, look at it a little differently. Sure, pool parties, camping trips and sleepovers are full of laughter and fun, but they also provide parents with lots to worry about.

But that’s just offline — the Internet, where parents have even less of a view into their children’s activity, can be a troublesome hotspot in the warm school-less months. These five tips can help keep your children safe online in the summertime, even though they really ought to be outside playing anyway.

1. Have a conversation about using the Internet. This might seem like a no-brainer to some, but in today’s busy world, parents should be careful not to leave anything unsaid. Specifically, be sure to cover what kind of information kids shouldn’t share online, like their real names, where they live, or other identifying information.

“We try to get parents to start these conversations and lessons early,” says Ju’Riese Colon, the executive director of external affairs for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. For parents who don’t know where to begin these conversations, the center has a program called NetSmartz that’s designed to help kids ages five to 18 stay safe online, whether that’s on a smartphone, in a chat room, or while gaming.

2. Figure out what your kids’ devices can do. Almost everyone knows smartphones can take photos and videos, and computers can do, well, almost anything, but parents are often surprised what other devices can do.

“If you’re going to put it in your children’s hands, get to know it a little bit, get to know its abilities, whether it’s a gaming device, a cellphone, something that streams music, or an e-book reader,” says Colon. For instance, parents who aren’t very tech-savvy may not know that Kindles can surf the web, or that Xbox One gaming consoles support Skype video chatting.

In fact, gaming consoles have progressed a long way from the Nintendos of our youth. “Almost every game allows you to interact with others,” says Colon. This is problematic because it’s providing a new forum for people to reach children. Colon doesn’t necessarily think parents should ban their kids from online multiplayer games, but she does recommend making sure the online conversations in those games — whether they involve voice or text chats — stick to the topic at hand. So, if you’re on a co-operative mission, strategize around how to capture that flag. If the talk extents beyond that into real-world information, children should say “game over.”

3. Follow your kids online. Gaining independence is part of growing up, which is why parents have such a difficult time with their kids hanging out unsupervised with friends. But just as you wouldn’t send your children outside without knowing where they are, you shouldn’t send them out into the virtual world unmonitored either, says Colon. For instance, parents should create accounts on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networks their kids want to use, and supervise their activity on those forums.

But before doing that, check to see if your children — at their particular ages — should even be on these sites. For instance, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube require that users be at least 13 years old. WhatsApp requires its users to be 16; Vine allows users who are 17 and older.

4. Know who your kids are connecting with. In addition to joining the same social networks as your child, it’s a smart plan to friend their friends, too. While some might find this to be the kind of thing a helicopter parent would do, it’s really just responsible parenting to know what your kids talk about on- or off-line. Of course boys will be boys and girls will be girls, but it’s important that they learn among peers, not amidst strangers.

That’s why it’s important to follow the accounts that follow your child. To begin with, if they are strangers or people posting inappropriate content, you can see what your child sees and tell him or her to block them. Or, if they are your kids’ friends, you can have talks about whether what they’re posting online is appropriate and about what’s happening in their world in general.

5. Set some limits. Everything is great in moderation — especially the Internet. But that doesn’t just mean parents should limit the time their kids spend on the web. Parents should also communicate where children can and cannot visit.

It’s impossible to keep track of every app or site that’s appealing to teens or kids, says Colon, so she recommends getting some help. One place to start is with your Internet Service Provider — they may have parental tools and filters designed to keep some of the more prurient online content out of your home. Secondly, look to the device your child is using to access the web. Linking app stores to your credit card (and not giving the password or card number to your little one) will ensure they need your permission before they can install new apps. The Parental Controls preference on Macs and Windows computers can also keep children on the straight and narrow, as well.

Parents reading this who feel like there’s a lack of quick tricks and shortcuts to keeping their kids safe online may be overlooking the common thread throughout these five tips: communication. The biggest key to keeping your children safe online isn’t walling off the Internet or crippling their computers (though a little bit of that can help), it’s helping them understand how big the world is, and which places within it are safe to roam.

“They’re inquisitive — that’s what children are, and that’s what makes them so wonderful,” says Colon. “But at the same time, we need to guide them in the direction in which they need to go.” And that’s never more true than in the summertime — even if the best place for them is outside.

TIME Parenting

What to Tell Your Kids about Water Safety

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Jordan Siemens—Getty Images

Drowning is leading cause of accidental death for children

Summer means a lot of us will head for the water.

But when we do, says Tom Griffiths, founder of the Aquatic Safety Research Group, and former Director of Aquatics and Safety Officer for Athletics at Penn State University, we need to be alert. Because, depending on their age group, drowning is consistently the first or second leading cause of accidental death for children.

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Most of the wisdom of the past, Griffiths says, focused on paying close attention while kids are in the water. But no parent can be alert enough to fully protect a child. In fact, some cognitive psychologists have come to the conclusion that “lifeguarding is really an impossible task,” he says. A busy waterside, filled with lots of kids, is just “too much stimulus for the human brain.”

His solution?

At all ages, he says, kids should be in Coast-Guard approved life jackets–ones that fit. “No one has ever drowned in a properly fitting life jacket,” Griffiths says. So until they can pass a standard swim test, Griffiths says, kids should be wearing one.

And while parents may worry that kids will resist, his research shows that when pools offer life jackets, attendance actually goes up–probably because both parents and kids feel safer with the extra protection. Even more important, the number of water rescues plummets, by as much as 90%.

In elementary school, Griffiths says, parents should begin by helping kids view life jackets as a standard safety measure, “like buckling up a seatbelt, or wearing a helmet on a bike.” Having to wear a life jacket can also give kids an incentive to learn how to swim, according to Griffiths: “now the prize is they get out of their jacket.”

Middle school kids should be encouraged to do whatever it takes to get comfortable in the water, whether that’s formal swimming lessons, or just spending time in water sports or activities. But Griffiths also encourages parents to help kids avoid risky behavior in the water. One that’s especially popular, and dangerous, is breath-holding contests. Instead, parents can encourage kids to concentrate on breath control and relaxation.

High school kids may get overconfident, Griffiths says. Many teenagers overestimate how good they are at swimming, even though studies show that almost half of Americans can hardly swim at all. That kind of bravado is especially common under peer pressure. So parents can talk with kids about being realistic about their abilities. Another warning Griffiths suggests parents give to older kids: never dive until they know how deep the water is, because “95% of injuries resulting in paralysis are in less than 5 feet of water.”

The good news, according to Griffiths, is that, with the right strategies, “drowning is so easily preventable.” And as more and more parents rely on a combination of life jackets and swim lessons, he believes the rate will decrease even further.

MONEY First-Time Dad

3 Financial Lessons For Dads on Father’s Day

Brightcove:

You may want a tie, or a car. But you should know these three things this Sunday.

One day last August, my then six-month-old son fell face first from his swing onto the wooden floor half-a-foot below. Luke was a mobile tyke even then and I had forgotten to strap him into his seat, despite repeated instructions from Mrs. Tepper who had left him in my charge an hour earlier.

Panic ensued. I rushed into his room after I heard the thud and consoled my understandably miserable infant. A bump quickly rose on his forehead and I phoned our doctor thinking I had caused serious and permanent injury. The pediatrician asked me (in that tone doctors have when you call them off-hours for questions apparently beneath their dignity) if Luke was vomiting or unconscious. No. Any kind of bleeding? No. Keep an eye on him, but he’s probably fine. Which he was.

But I spent the rest of the night in silent terror as the bump deepened. When he finally went to sleep that night, I snuck into his room and put a finger beneath his nose. Yes, he was still breathing.

Fast-forward to last month. Luke had determined to test the limits of his physical universe and ran headfirst into the side of our bathtub. He came away with a bloody, swollen nose. Mrs. Tepper called the doctor for instructions (and a dose of vague condescension), while I tended to Luke. But there was no panic, no unease, no nagging fear that our son had endured some critical blow. I didn’t feel the need to check his breathing in the middle of the night. Parenting, like most things, improves with time.

The same is true of your ability to deal with money. I had just started at MONEY when Mrs. Tepper became pregnant, so it’s not as if we had ample time to set up an emergency fund or sketch out a meaningful budget before his birth. Over the course of our first full year as parents, we’ve had to learn the finances of parenting—even if one of us writes for a personal finance brand.

Here is some of the hard-won wisdom I’ve gleaned from my sometimes beautiful parenting grind.

You’ll Spend More Than You Think

There’s a strange cognitive dissonance that new parents must embrace. The decision to bring a child into the world, at least in my case, tends to be uninformed by finances. Are we ready to care for children is more of a question of values and love than a cold calculation of what you can afford. We didn’t estimate the weekly cost of child care, how long Mrs. Tepper would take off for maternity leave, how much of that was paid, and how we’d afford rent and food without her paycheck. We didn’t look into how a newborn would inflate our insurance premiums, which of our policies should cover the tyke, or how much a delivery would set us back. And we were completely ignorant of the price tag on all the day-to-day items, from strollers and cribs to diapers and wipes, that he would need. We both had jobs and figured we’d figure it out.

But bearing a child is an intimately financial decision, especially since our society does so little to palliate the pocketbooks of new parents (whether it’s paid leave, child or health care.) We’ll likely spend a quarter-million dollars on Luke before he hits college-which could easily cost another quarter-million dollars. How is it even possible to spend that much?

Experience informs. Putting aside child care, which cost us more than $15,000 over the past 12 months, it’s not terribly difficult to see where the money goes. Not only did his stroller run us close to $1,000, but we just spent another $50 on something called the Parent Organizer, a device that attaches to the stroller and holds the coffee you need to drink to stay awake because you haven’t slept well in over a year, and some fabric cleaner that removes spilled milk (and coffee) from the stroller. We spent about $1,000 this year on diapers and wipes and creams that make him happy and don’t cause his skin to break out in hives. Our credit card statements are filled with hundreds of similar purchases.

I’m glad we didn’t budget out our lives before we decided to have Luke. Parenting shouldn’t be a decision based solely on affordability. Life is too short. But, in case you were curious, this is why your friends with kids aren’t particularly enthusiastic about your two-week excursion to Lisbon.

Be an Equal and Honest Partner with Your Spouse

Couples tend to obfuscate when it comes to discussing money and finances. Most avoid the topic, as an American Express survey found, while others lie to their partners about money. While you may know that you need to chat about budgeting and debt and spending, as a recent MONEY survey found, the actual process of doing so can be less than enjoyable.

In the grand scheme of things, Mrs. Tepper and I haven’t been adults for all that long. We’ve been out of grad school for about three years, married for almost two, and parents for 17 months. Crafting budgets that account for all of the expenses surrounding Luke is hard enough, not to mention the difficulty coming up with a plan for saving for college without going broke. For a few pointers, I turned to CFP Board consumer advocate Eleanor Blayney.

First and foremost, says Blayney, learn what money means to your spouse. “For some it means security, so they’re looking to save, while for others it offers prestige.” If your husband or wife is a hoarder or a spendthrift, there’s often a reason why. Knowing where your partner comes from can help decrease tension and clarify his or her point-of-view.

Next Blayney recommends you and your spouse go into separate rooms and estimate how your after-tax income is being spent. That is, each of you should write down how much you believe you’re putting toward three buckets: 1) fixed, non-variable expenses (like your mortgage and child care); 2) non-discretionary, variable expenses (food and transportation, for example); and purely discretionary expenses (like entertainment).

After you’ve complied your list, Blayney suggests, “pour a glass of wine and compare notes. Identify real discrepancies in your outlook and find common ground.”

Everyone should be involved in financial decision-making. When the dynamics of a family evolve, spouses often take different domains of domestic responsibility, from managing the children’s homework to paying the bills. If one spouse is completely removed from any understanding of financial decision-making, or appreciation for long-term goals like retirement, conflicts can metastasize with time.

Therefore, be completely transparent about your financial choices. Both spouses should appreciate the savings rate and investing choices that are being made and what benefits this long-term planning will produce. Think of it as “marriage insurance.”

“Focus on common goals—whether it’s a boat or retirement, “says Blayney. “You’ve got to decide as a couple how much to save together.”

Consider Your Mortality

If you have a child and a spouse who depend on your income to support their lives, you need life and disability insurance. The concern for a lot of parents can revolve around which type of insurance to get and for how long. (Not to mention confronting your inevitable demise.)

“I’ll have clients who have gone to buy insurance and the broker asked how much can you afford?” says Dallas-based financial coach and planner Katie Brewer. “They’ll come away with much more than they need.” That’s money that could be put to better use elsewhere. The best route is to buy a 20-to-30 year term policy that covers about 10 times your income. You should only worry about covering your income for a certain period of time, and term insurance is the cleaner alternative. You can most likely to find low cost options through your employer, but you may be restricted in the amount you can insure. Check out Mint.com’s life insurance calculator for more coverage selections.

When you sign-up, don’t forget disability insurance. Like life insurance you can generally find low-cost options in your benefits package. If you can’t, look to reduce the price on an individual policy by delaying the period before you receive benefits – from three months to six. Brewer also recommends looking for a group discount through an alumni or professional group – she’s insured through the Financial Planning Association. Keep in mind, whatever Social Security disability benefits you receive will be subtracted from your payout, which is also subjected to taxes. That’s why maintaining a robust emergency fund is so vital.

Read next: The 3 Most Important Money Lessons My Dad Taught Me

MONEY freebies

Here’s How to Get a Free Jurassic World Lego Toy

150612_EM_LEGO
vn-thanh.vo On Saturday, Toys R Us is giving away mini LEGO Jurassic World gates. For sets like the one seen here, you'll have to pay up.

This promotion is dino-mite!

To get your child hyped to see Jurassic World—not to mention eager to buy Legos and other toys—Toys R Us is hosting a big “Make & Take” Legos event this weekend.

From 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at all Toys R Us locations, kids ages 5 and up are welcomed to build a mini Lego Jurassic World gate and then take it home, free of charge.

Oh, and wouldn’t you know: Toys R Us currently stocks several other brand new Jurassic World Lego sets, and these are most certainly not free.

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