TIME Family

Why Not Having Kids Makes Some People Crazy

Ray Kachatorian—Photographers Choice

It's less about the children and more about thwarted dreams

The great, worldwide, international jury is still deadlocked over whether having children makes people happier or not. On the one side, there are chubby fingers and first steps and unbridled joy and on the other side, there’s sleep, money and time. But an intriguing new study from the Netherlands suggests that not having children only makes infertile women unhappy if they are unable to let go of the idea of having kids.

It sounds obvious, but here’s the twist: women who already had children but desperately wanted more had worse mental health than women who didn’t have kids and wanted them, but had managed to get over that particular life goal. So it’s not just whether they had kids that made people depressed or content, it’s how badly they wanted them.

The study looked at more than 7,000 Dutch women who had had fertility treatments between 1995 and 2000. They were sent questionnaires about how they were doing and what caused the infertility and whether they had kids. Most of them were doing fine, except for about 6% who still wanted children even a decade or more after their last infertility treatment.

“We found that women who still wished to have children were up to 2.8 times more likely to develop clinically significant mental health problems than women who did not sustain a child-wish,” said Dr Sofia Gameiro, a lecturer at the School of Psychology at Cardiff University in Wales. True, the women who had kids but had undergone fertility treatments for more were less likely to have mental health issues than those who didn’t have kids, but they were still there. The kids hadn’t cured them. “For women with children, those who sustained a child-wish were 1.5 times more likely to have worse mental health than those without a child-wish,” wrote Gameiro. “This link between a sustained wish for children and worse mental health was irrespective of the women’s fertility diagnosis and treatment history.”

The women most likely to be laid low by wanting a child were those with less education and thus probably fewer options for fulfillment. Similarly, if the fertility issues were on the husband’s side or if they were age related, women were more likely to be able to get over it, possibly because they felt there was nothing they could have done. Those most set back by their inability to conceive were those who had started young and found that the problem was with their reproductive system, not their spouse’s, women who in the ancient days might have been called “barren.”

“Our study improves our understanding of why childless people have poorer adjustment. It shows that it is more strongly associated with their inability to let go of their desire to have children. It is quite striking to see that women who do have children but still wish for more children report poorer mental health than those who have no children but have come to accept it,” said Gameiro.

The paper, which was published online on Sept. 10 in Human Reproduction, recommends sustained psychological counseling for people who did not conceive after fertility treatments and a lot of frank talk about the possibility of failure during the treatments. The author also throws some shade on those “I-can-do-anything-if I-try” types (cough, Americans, cough). “There is a moment when letting go of unachievable goals (be it parenthood or other important life goals) is a necessary and adaptive process for well-being,” said Gameiro. “We need to consider if societies nowadays actually allow people to let go of their goals and provide them with the necessary mechanisms to realistically assess when is the right moment.”

TIME Parenting

7 Things Parents Need to Know About the Apple Watch

Apple Watch is seen during an Apple event at the Flint Center in Cupertino
An Apple Watch is seen during an Apple event at the Flint Center in Cupertino, Calif., Sept. 9, 2014. Stephen Lam—Reuters

You'll buy it for health and safety reasons. They'll use it to chat with their friends and go on shopping sprees.

From the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad, Apple has a knack for creating devices that kids love. So if the Apple Watch catches on, it won’t be long until your middle schooler is begging for her own. And though you may not be prepared to drop $349 on a birthday gift for your kid anytime soon, the price of the Apple Watch will likely drop in the next few years.

“Smart watches are a train that are leaving the station no matter what,” says Jim Taylor, author of Raising Generation Tech. “They’re the next big thing. It’s not whether it becomes a part of the culture but when and how.”

So what does a future in which kids and teens are sporting smart watches look like? Parents will be able to use their children’s smart watches to track their location via GPS and even monitor their exercise. But for those parents who already hate how much time their children spend looking at their phones, the smart watch could be their worst nightmare.

“Often parents are purchasing for certain reasons, but the technology ends up getting used in other ways by the kids,” says Mimi Ito, an anthropologist at the University of California at Irvine who studies how technology affects young adults. Educational computers were repurposed as gaming devices and “in case of emergency” smartphones as social media tools.

So here are the seven things you need to know about smart watches before jumping on the next kid-friendly tech trend:

1. Kids will become even more connected

Vibrations from the smart watch will notify wearers when they have an email, text message or social media notification. Until recently, there was always the possibility that pings from a smartphone would be muffled in the bottom of a backpack. But kids will now be physically attached to their devices.

And Apple is inventing even more ways to distract users. Teens can now add new animated emojis that are customizable to the touch — they can raise eyebrows or turn smiles into frowns — to every text message they send. And there’s even a new way to sext: teens will be able to send their heartbeats through the watch.

“At least before kids would have to take their smartphone out of their pocket,” Taylor says. “It’s another level of ease of access, in a bad sense. I think kids just need to look up more, and that won’t happen here.”

2. For better or worse, you’ll be able to track your child’s every move

Family tracker apps that allow parents to see a child’s location via GPS on their smartphone are already popular. Which means that a GPS device in the form of a smart watch is even more appealing because it’s less likely to be forgotten in a car or purposely left behind at a friend’s house.

But as parents who use tracking apps can attest, following your child’s every move can cause family tension. “It just gives parents another level to express their fears and paranoias,” says Taylor. “And it really demonstrates a lack of trust in their children.”

Scott Steinberg, author of The Modern Parents Guide, believes that if you are going to track your kids, you should have a conversation with them about boundaries. “It’s tremendously important to know what your children are doing in case of an emergency, but that doesn’t mean having to hover over their shoulder every minute of every single day,” he says. “A big piece of it is establishing ground rules and trust. Let them know you are going to be monitoring them and why you’re doing it. Often knowing that you’re checking in as a trusted presence is sometimes enough to help them make better decisions.”

3. Paying for things will be easier than ever, so watch your credit card

The Apple Watch (like the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus) will be compatible with Apple Pay, a service that allows people to buy products with the push of a button. So now instead of ‘borrowing’ your credit card before heading to Forever 21, your teen can just present her watch (assuming it’s linked to your iTunes account, and therefore your credit card) at the cashier to purchase those cute new flats.

“The easier it is to purchase anything with a swipe, the more temptation you’re putting in front of children,” says Steinberg. “It comes down to discussing responsible spending habits.”

4. Smart watches will factor into the classroom

Smart watches have the potential to be a major distraction from school work. Many schools have already banned smartphones from the classroom.

But these new devices have could also help augment the classroom. “There are interesting potential uses: Monitoring activity in P.E., being able to communicate with your classmates or teachers or interesting apps that allow you to gather information inside the classroom or outside of school,” says Ito. “There are just a lot of cultural barriers to getting personal devices into the classroom.”

But that means you should still prepare yourself for another debate on tech in school.

5. Kids will be able to track their activity levels

Tech companies are betting on fitness trackers to battle the country’s childhood obesity problems: 75% of American children aren’t getting the 60 minutes of physical activity per day recommended by the CDC. Devices like LeapBand, KidFit and iBitz aim to make working out more fun: the new LeapFrog device, LeapBand, features customizable cartoon characters that guide you through activities and challenges.

But since Apple sets the status quo of cool, the Apple Watch could make fitness tracking for kids go mainstream. There’s the potential for information overload: will a teen already prone to eating disorders use the device to excess? Perhaps.

But overall, experts believe the effects will be positive. “I think it has the potential to make fitness more fun for kids,” says Steinberg. “One of the most challenging things for a kid trying to eat healthier or exercise more regularly is getting the sense that they are making progress, and I think having that information at their fingertips can be very helpful and inspiring.”

6. It’s just one more screen to monitor

Parents are already scrambling to keep tabs on their children’s online activity. It’s hard to tell if they are being cyber bullied, sharing inappropriate images on social media or talking to unsavory folks via text message. “The more devices you introduce, the more things parents have to keep track of,” says Steinberg.

And it only gets worse when the device is actually affixed to the child’s wrist. “When we did studies of teenagers, we found they’re living at home but have romantic relationships or friendships that they feel most connected to. So the kids would almost literally wear their phones on their body. It would never leave their side,” says Ito. “The watch will just accelerate that tendency. It will force families to develop better strategies for disconnection.”

7. There will likely be parental controls

Before parents panic about their children being able to make outrageous purchases on the Apple Watch or find porn using the device, know that Apple has probably already thought of all these issues. “I think Apple is pretty savvy to the fact that a lot of their users are going to be kids,” says Steinberg. “So they’re usually pretty good about implementing good parental controls on their devices. If they don’t, I’m sure they will be very quickly and loudly reminded of that given how many of their users are parents or children.”

TIME Television

Watch How Anna Faris Pranks Her Mom

Faris says her pranks annoy her conservative mother

Scary Movie star Anna Faris said on Conan Tuesday that she loves to anonymously send sexy 80’s-style postcards of scantily-clad women to her mom, whom she says is quite conservative.

“I know that as he’s putting the postcard into the mailbox, I see my mom envisioning that, and I can feel her getting annoyed, and I delight in that,” Faris told host Conan O’Brien.

Faris plays a mom herself on television in her show Mom. The show will have its second-season premiere on Sept. 29.

 

TIME Love and Money

Wealthy Kids Are More Affected by Divorce Than Poor Kids

wealth family divorce
Getty Images

And study says it's not just because they suddenly have less money

Children of wealthy families that come apart have a bigger spike in behavior problems than children of poor families who experience the same thing. But wealthier children benefit more from being incorporated into stepfamilies than poorer children do. So says a new study in the latest issue of Child Development, which also noted the kids’ age when parents separate plays a key role, with the most vulnerable stage being from 3 to 5 years old.

The study was conducted by researchers at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C., and the University of Chicago, using a national sample of nearly 4,000 children from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Researchers divided the kids into three groups by income and studied the effect of a change in family structure on each group.

“Our findings suggest that family changes affect children’s behavior in higher-income families more than children’s behavior in lower-income families — for better and for worse,” says Rebecca Ryan, assistant professor of psychology at Georgetown University, the study’s lead author.

Why do children of high-income parents act out more after separation than children from low-income parents? Ryan isn’t sure. “To be honest, our study finds most conclusively that they do act up more, but says less about why that might be.”

But she has some guesses. The first is that dads, who are usually the breadwinners, often move out of the home so there’s a big dip in household income. Or it could be that the kids have to move to a new neighborhood/school/friend group and the instability takes a toll. Or maybe less-wealthy families don’t take it so hard. “Parental separation is more common among lower-income families,” says Ryan. “Parents and children may perceive family changes as more normative, more predictable, and, thus, less stressful.”

However Ryan says, it’s not just about the money. “Changes in income itself did not seem to explain the increase in behavior problems, which surprised us.” Moreover the changes in behavior were only noticeable if the kids were younger than 5 years old. “We found no effect of parental separation on children ages 6 to 12,” says Ryan.

Another surprise was that wealthier kids older than 6, who were blended into stepfamilies had improvements in their behavior. Ryan and her crew first noticed this when she did a prior study back in 2012, but was still surprised to have those findings confirmed. That study also suggested that parental separation affects kids whose parents were actually married more than those who were cohabiting.

Ryan cautions that the differences between kids whose parents were separated and those who were together was not as strong as the differences among low-, middle- and higher-income families. “These results suggest that many factors other than family structure influence children’s behavior, particularly for children in low-income families. For them, the quality of the home environment, regardless of family structure, mattered most to social and emotional well-being.”

She even wades a little into the debate on whether fixing marriage will help fix poverty or whether you need to fix the poverty to have a shot at saving marriage. She’s on the side of the latter. Programs designed to save marriage, she says, will not be as effective as programs that “enhance the quality of the socio-emotional or educational environments in the home.”

MONEY Kids and Money

The Financial Challenges of Solo Parenting After 40

Single mother in her 40s at grocery store
Slobo—Getty Images

More single women over 40 are choosing to have children, a new study finds. Why taking on that cost on your own can be daunting.

Monica Kipiniak doesn’t think of herself as a statistic. She just thinks of herself as a doting mom.

The 46-year-old attorney from Brooklyn, N.Y. is indeed part of a societal trend: Single women by choice having kids past the age of 40.

“It used to be seen as such a radical thing,” says Kipiniak, mom to a 10-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter. “But now it’s almost commonplace. If somebody’s not married by the age of 40, and they want children, they just go ahead and do it.”

Indeed, the numbers bear out her observations. Birth rates for unmarried women over 40 have been heading up in recent years, according to new data compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control.

In fact, in 2012, the rate was a full 29% higher than just five years earlier.

The reason why that figure leaps out: In other age groups, the rate of births to unmarried women has been heading in the exact opposite direction.

“The gist of the report was that nonmarital childbearing has declined recently,” says Sally Curtin, a statistician and the report’s co-author. “For all women under age 35, rates are down.”

A Costly Endeavor

To be sure, ‘unmarried’ can mean a lot of different things. It can mean single and never-married, or divorced, or coupled and co-habiting but not yet hitched.

What is common to many over-40 single parents: the financial challenges involved.

“There’s no question that raising two kids by myself in New York City is a struggle,” says Kipiniak, who had children via anonymous sperm donor. “Often I’m flying by the seat of my pants, waiting at the end of the month for checks to come in.”

After all, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a middle-income family having a child in 2013 will lay out more than $240,000 before the kid turns 18. And that’s not even including college.

Such costs are obviously towering, even for married couples comprised of two earners. For single parents who are raising a child on their own, the challenges can be even more formidable.

Financial planner Carolyn Ozcan of Ithaka Financial Planning in Mattapoisett, Mass. helps many clients in this position and has tabulated some of the costs.

  • In-vitro fertilization, for moms who choose that route: $15,000 per cycle, sometimes requiring multiple cycles, which may or may not be covered by insurance.
  • Adoption: between $10,000 and $40,000.
  • Daycare or nannies, since working singles may not have partners to help cover childcare gaps: between $1,000 and $2,500 per month.

That means many single-mothers-by-choice are facing unique and significant costs right out of the gate. As a result, Ozcan says they need to be hyper-vigilant when it comes to planning and budgeting.

“A woman planning for single motherhood should have a sizable emergency fund,” Ozcan says. “I would recommend a year’s worth of living expenses, including childcare expenses in case of job loss or extended illness.”

Another tip from Ozcan: Secure disability insurance. It tends to be inexpensive if acquired through a workplace plan, and rather pricey for individuals ($200 to $500 per month), but well worth it in the long run.

“The worst nightmare is for the mother to get an illness or injury that prevents her from working,” Ozcan says. “If she could not work for years or ever again, she needs to have to have income protection to provide for herself and her child.”

What’s Behind the Numbers

So what’s behind the baby blitz among over-40 singles? A combination of medical advances and lessened social stigma of having a baby outside of marriage make middle-age childbearing more prevalent than in the past.

It’s also true that those who feel prepared for such a challenge are those who have been able to accumulate some financial resources, and are still in the prime of their careers.

“There is now less stigma overall linked with births outside of marriage,” says Jennifer Manlove, a senior research scientist at the Bethesda, Md.-based research center Child Trends.

“Nonmarital births are becoming increasingly normative,” Manlove says. “And some of the largest increases have been to the most advantaged women – older women, white women, and more educated women.”

Even pop culture has been helping to expand traditional images of motherhood, with boldface names like Sandra Bullock and Charlize Theron raising kids as single moms.

One key difference: Hollywood stars tend to have massive financial resources at their disposal. For regular folks like Monica Kipiniak, to achieve her dream of motherhood, it’s been much more of a financial hill to climb.

“But one of the great things about becoming an older mom is that you’re so grateful for it and love every moment,” Kipiniak says.

More on the cost of raising a child:

TIME Parenting

When Parents and the State Disagree Over a Child’s Medical Treatment

ASHYA KING
Five-year-old Ashya King is accompanied by his parents Brett, left, and Naghmeh King, right, on his arrival at the Motol hospital in Prague on Sept. 8, 2014 Filip Singer—EPA

A British couple prevails after a long fight for access to alternative medical treatment for their son, but the debate over parental rights goes on

It almost sounds like the plot of a dystopian novel: a British couple was arrested in Spain and thrown in jail after they took their 5-year-old boy, who has a brain tumor, out of a British state hospital to seek alternative treatment abroad. The wrenching case has unleashed an international debate over parental rights, medical ethics and who should have the final word when it comes to the fate of an extremely ill child.

The boy, Ashya King, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in July. After a surgery to remove the tumor at Southampton General Hospital, in southern England, doctors recommended that Ashya undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy. (The hospital told TIME that with such treatment, Ashya’s survival rate was between 70% and 80%.) But Brett and Naghmeh King weren’t comfortable with the idea of chemotherapy and began asking the doctors about proton-beam therapy, which is believed to target tumors more precisely than radiotherapy and is thought to be less physically devastating than chemo. According to Brett King, Ashya’s doctor told him that the treatment “would have no benefit whatsoever.” Yet the Kings, who had researched proton-beam therapy and had contacted a clinic in the Czech Republic that offered the treatment, felt differently. So, on Aug. 28, the couple took their son from the hospital and traveled to Spain, in order to sell their property to raise funds to pay for Ashya’s treatment privately.

Unbeknownst to them, the British hospital then contacted the authorities and notified them that Ashya’s life was in danger without proper medical supervision and the Kings were nowhere to be found. (Brett King later said he had told doctors he planned to take his son abroad.) Britain’s Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) issued a European arrest warrant for the couple on suspicion of neglect and cruelty to a child. It wasn’t long before the Kings were found and arrested by Spanish police, while little Ashya was placed alone in a hospital near Málaga, without his family to comfort him.

The ordeal made headlines across the U.K., where a lot of emphasis was placed on the family’s beliefs (they’re Jehovah’s Witnesses), and more than 130,000 people signed an online petition calling for the boy to be reunited with his parents. It was three days before the couple was released and CPS dropped their arrest warrant. The hospital has also suggested that they would now support the family’s decision to seek proton-beam therapy for Ashya.

On Monday Sept. 8, the family was able to transfer the boy to Prague’s Motol hospital where doctors will assess his condition before a potential move to a proton-therapy center. But the family’s ordeal has set raised a spate of questions. How did this happen? How did this couple — who are, by most accounts, loving, devoted parents that only want the best for their desperately ill child — end up being pursued by the authorities in not one, but two countries and thrown in jail? Why did a small boy find himself alone in a foreign hospital without his parents or siblings to comfort him? It’s a murky, complicated case and, for many reasons, it’s not clear just where the blame lies.

Despite the international police search and the arrest of the worried, loving parents of a sick child, British authorities have now admitted that Ashya wasn’t facing much danger. Though the CPS’s spokesman insisted in a statement that at the time the arrest warrant was issued authorities were convinced that there was a “serious risk of threat to [Ashya's] life,” he also noted that investigators had later found that:

[Brett and Naghmeh King] did take certain steps to safeguard the health of Ashya, for example it appears they had ordered specialist foods to care for Ashya, and had managed to charge [his] food pump using their car battery. Also, evidence from two independent medical experts indicated that the risk to Ashya’s life was not as great or immediate as had been originally thought. Accordingly the necessary element of wilful neglect to support a charge of child cruelty could not be proved to the required standard.

As for University Hospital Southampton Trust (UHS), which runs Southampton General Hospital, they stand behind the decision to alert authorities about Ashya, saying in a statement that it was “in line with Trust policy.” Michael Marsh, the medical director at UHS, also said in a statement on Sept. 1, “We very much regret that the communication and relationship with the King family had broken down in this way and that for whatever reason they have lost confidence in us.”

It’s clear that there was definitely a breakdown in trust and communication between the Kings and the doctors. What’s less clear is how that breakdown occurred. For his part, Brett King has said, in a series of YouTube videos posted online, his son’s doctor didn’t appear to be willing to discuss alternative treatments. “He said, more or less, that if I questioned him in anyway regarding his treatment they would get an emergency protection order and take [Ashya] away from me.”

Peter Haughton, a senior adviser in medical ethics and law at King’s College London, tells TIME that in most medical cases, “the law and the ethics are very clear. Both the parents and the doctors have a duty of care [to act in the child's best interests] and the law backs that.”

But in this case, when the parents and the doctors weren’t seeing eye to eye about what was best for the boy, things spun out of control. Though Haughton maintains that the hospital was in line with “their duty of care” in alerting the police, he adds that it’s typically only when it “can be demonstrated that [the parents] aren’t acting in the best interest of the child that society steps in. One thinks of that [in terms of] neglect and those sorts of things, but this wasn’t neglect. This was actually the parents desperately trying to find the best treatment which they thought they were being denied.”

“Normally these things get resolved with a conversation, you find a common perspective,” he says.

Many have suggested that both the police and the hospital overreacted and stepped out of line. (Court disputes over the medical treatment of minors are rare in the U.K., let alone a full-flung police investigation.) Several high-profile figures have also spoken out in support of the Kings, with Prime Minister David Cameron going so far as to publicly state via a spokesman that he believed they were trying to “do the very best for” their son.

Others have suggested that prejudice might have played a part in the incident. Suzanne Moore, a columnist for the Guardian, wrote on Sept. 1 that the Kings “have been effectively criminalised for their distress. And possibly their faith.”

That’s a view shared by British author Ian McEwan, whose most recent novel, The Children Act, is about judge who has to decide whether to force a child to have a blood transfusion against the wishes of his parents, who happen to be Jehovah’s Witnesses. McEwan weighs in on the case in an interview with TIME, calling it an “almighty screwup” and adding, “I’ve got a strong suspicion that when the hospital and the police overreacted, it was influenced by the fact that the parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Though there was no indication that the Kings’ faith played any role in their decisions, the clash between doctors’ wishes and the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are generally not allowed to accept blood transfusions, has made headlines in the U.K. in the past. For their part, Southampton General Hospital denies that the King’s beliefs factored into their decision to alert the police.

Despite the arrest warrant being dropped, Ashya still remains a ward of the British court system and any subsequent decisions about his treatment must be approved by authorities. On Monday, Sept. 8, there will be a hearing in the U.K., where a judge will have the final say in Ashya’s course of treatment, if the Kings and the medical authorities are still in dispute. It seems likely that the Kings will be able to try proton-beam therapy in the end. But no matter the outcome, it’s hard not to feel that the intervention of the hospital and the state — all in the name of Ashya’s best interests — have worked against him and his parents all along.

— With reporting by Belinda Luscombe

TIME Parenting

6 Things the Happiest Families All Have in Common

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Hero Images—Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Tolstoy was right—all happy families are the same

Family life is hectic. Most of us play it by ear and hope it works out well.

Or maybe you haven’t started a family yet but when you do you want to do it right.

Aren’t there some legit answers out there about what creates the happiest families? Yes, there are.

To get the facts I called Bruce Feiler, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Secrets of Happy Families.

When writing his book, Bruce knew there were answers already out there — but not necessarily where we’d expect.

He found solutions to common family problems in business theory, Harvard negotiation techniques, and even by talking to Green Berets.

Below you’ll learn:

  1. The #1 predictor of your child’s emotional well-being.
  2. The #1 predictor of their academic achievement — and behavior problems.
  3. And the simple thing that steers kids away from drugs, toward better grades and even improves their self-esteem. And more.

Here’s what makes strong, happy families:

1) Create A Family Mission Statement

I asked Bruce what he would recommend if he could only give one piece of advice.

He said: “Set aside time to talk about what it means to be a part of your family.”

Ask: “What are your family values?” In business-speak: Develop a mission statement for your family.

Here’s Bruce:

Initiate a conversation about what it means to be a part of your family. Sit down with them and say “Okay, these are our ten central values.”

“This is the family we want to be. We want to be a family that doesn’t fight all the time.” or “We want to be a family that goes camping or sailing” or whatever it might be.

When my family did it, it was literally a transforming experience. We ended up printing it and it hangs now in our dining room.

Does “defining values” seem too big and intimidating? It’s really nothing more than setting goals.

Here’s Bruce:

Did we do every one of those things every day, every week, every month? No, that’s not that point. But the point is, when it goes wrong, you have that goal out there. “We want to be a family that has fun together. Have we made time to play recently? No, we don’t. So let’s make time to play. Let’s go bowling or hiking or roller skating.”

You have goals at work. You have personal goals. Why wouldn’t you have goals as a family?

(For more on the science of happy families, click here.)

So you and your family discussed your values and came up with a mission statement. What other thing did Bruce say was vital?

Like the mission statement, it’s another story. But it’s not about the future — it’s about the past.

2) Share Your Family History

Research shows whether a kid knows their family history was the number one predictor of a child’s emotional well-being.

Here’s Bruce:

…researchers at Emory did this study that showed that the kids who know more about their family history had a greater belief that they could control their world and a higher degree of self-confidence. It was the number one predictor of a child’s emotional well-being.

And research confirms that meaning in life is all about the stories we tell ourselves.

But here’s what’s really interesting: recounting your family history is not just telling kids, “Our family is awesome.”

Recounting the tough times, the challenges your family faced and overcame, is2 key.

Here’s Bruce:

Understanding that people have natural ups and downs allows kids to know that they too will have ups and downs. It gives them the confidence to believe that they can push through them. It gives them role models that show your family’s values in practice.

(For more on how to make your kids smarter, click here.)

Mission statements, family history… that’s a lot of talking. When is all this supposed to happen? Whenever you get around to it? No way.

3) Hold Weekly Family Meetings

You’re not mom or dad anymore — you’re now co-CEO’s. To find the way to keep a family improving Bruce turned to the world of business.

Your family needs a weekly board meeting with all the shareholders present. Sound cold and clinical? Wrong.1

Bruce’s wife says it’s one of the best things they’ve done to make their own family life happier.

It’s not complicated and it only takes 20 minutes, once a week.

Here’s Bruce:

We basically ask three questions. What worked well this week, what didn’t work well this week and what will we agree to work on in the week ahead?

And if the kids meet the goal, they get to help pick a reward. And if they don’t, they get to help pick a punishment. They don’t do it without us, but we all do it in consultation.

Bruce did a TED talk explaining in detail how techniques from the business world, like meetings, can improve our families

(For more on how to raise happy kids, click here.)

So your family has a mission, a shared history and you’re meeting regularly. This is great because everyone is talking, which is crucial.

But what inevitably comes with talking a lot? Arguing. It’s normal and natural and that’s okay.

But you have to have rules so it isn’t a path to hurt feelings and homicide investigations. What’s the proper way to argue?

4) How To Fight Right

Bruce wanted to find the best way to resolve disputes — so he didn’t turn to books about families, he turned to a pro.

Bill Ury is co-founder of the Project on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and co-author of the classic, Getting To Yes,

What can one of the best negotiators teach families about resolving those inevitable everyday squabbles of life?

Bruce outlines three key steps:

Number one, “Separate everybody.” In negotiation speak; this is “Go to the balcony.” Take a moment where you look back on the fight as if it were on a stage and you’re on the balcony and say “Okay, what’s really going on here?” This reduces emotions like anger.

Second, we ask our kids to come up with three alternatives. In negotiation speak; this is “Expand the pie before you divide the pie.”

Bruce admits this part can be tricky. But you need to make it clear nobody is leaving the table until there are three options.

The third stage is “Bring people back together.” In negotiation speak; this is “Build the golden bridge of the future.”

Have the kids pick one of the three that they like best. What’s key is that the children created the alternatives and agreed on the best solution.

As Bruce explains in his book, when kids get a say, it works out better for everyone. Don’t be a dictator unless you have to.

(To learn how how you can resolve conflict with lessons from FBI hostage negotiators, click here.)

So mission statements, family meetings and fighting right are great — but what keeps a family together day to day?

5) Have Family Dinner Together… Any Time Of The Day

Research shows having dinner as a family makes a huge difference in children’s lives.

As Bruce writes in his book, The Secrets of Happy Families:

A recent wave of research shows that children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, commit suicide, and develop eating disorders. Additional research found that children who enjoy family meals have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets, and higher self-esteem. The most comprehensive survey done on this topic, a University of Michigan report that examined how American children spent their time between 1981 and 1997, discovered that the amount of time children spent eating meals at home was the single biggest predictor of better academic achievement and fewer behavioral problems. Mealtime was more influential than time spent in school, studying, attending religious services, or playing sports.

I know what many of you are thinking: Our schedules are crazy. It’s too hard to get everyone together. We can’t do it every night.

And that’s 100% okay. “Dinner” isn’t the important part. All that matters is that time together, whenever it is.

And it doesn’t even have to be that much time. How much real conversation happens at family dinner? 10 minutes.

As Bruce likes to say, the rest of the talking is “Take your elbows off the table” and “Please pass the ketchup.”

What’s the best way to make use of those 10 minutes? Here’s Bruce:

So number one, the first big thing to be aware of is that parents do two-thirds of the talking in that ten minutes. And that’s a problem.

So your first goal should be to flip that and let the kids do more of the talking. So that would be issue number one.

Number two, I would say a great thing to do in that ten minutes is to try to teach your kid a new word every day. There’s a tremendous amount of evidence out there that one of the biggest determinants of success in school has to do with the size of vocabulary.

(For more research-based parenting techniques, click here.)

Mission statements, family history, meetings, fighting right, dinners… That’s a lot to do. Heck, it’s a lot to just remember.

What’s Bruce’s recommendation to the family that’s already strapped for time? What overarching theme can we see in all of these tips?

6) Just Try

Ask anyone if they want to make their family happier and, of course, they’ll say yes.

Then ask how many hours they’ve actively invested in that goal over the past month. I’m guessing the reply is going to be “Ummmmm…”

Reading about improving your family is only the first step. But the second step isn’t all that much harder: Try.

Here’s Bruce:

We know if we want to improve in our career, we have to work at it. And yet, we don’t do that with our family life. We sort of say “It’s the end of the line, they’ll always be there. It’s always going to be stressful. I’ll just deal.” Well, no.

If we work with our families and take small steps to try and make them better, we actually can make our families happier. And in the process, we can make every member of our family happier. So what’s the secret to a happy family? Try.

And the research backs Bruce up.

Studies show improving any relationship is as easy as actively showing interest in the other person or sharing with them.

In fact, pretending time with your romantic partner is a first date makes it more enjoyable for you and for them. Why?

On first dates we make an effort. And that’s the secret here too: don’t just think about it, invest time and energy.

(For three of the most counterintuitive lessons on being a great parent, clickhere.)

So how do we tie all this together?

Sum Up

Here are Bruce’s 6 tips:

  1. Create A Family Mission Statement
  2. Share Your Family History
  3. Hold Weekly Family Meetings
  4. Fight Right
  5. Have Family Dinner Together… Any Time Of The Day
  6. Just Try2

Families come in all different shapes and sizes these days and the world moves a lot faster than it once did. But don’t fret.

Research shows that anyone can have a happy family.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families:

Researchers have found that a loving family life can be created among any group of people. Long-term studies comparing adopted children to children raised by their biological parents find little difference in the children’s feelings on family life, and no difference in their ability to enjoy good relationships with peers.

– Neiheiser 2001

Share this post with your family. Start a conversation. Hold that first family meeting. And more than anything else: Try.

A PDF of my extended interview with Bruce will be in my next weekly email. In it he’ll explain:

  1. The magic phrase that parents can use to increase children’s self-esteem.
  2. The thing dads do that make kids smarter — which moms need to know.

To get the PDF join over 100,000 readers who receive my free weekly update. Sign up here.

Related posts:

How To Raise Happy Kids – 10 Steps Backed By Science

Good Parenting Skills: 7 Research-Backed Ways to Raise Kids Right

How To Have A Happy Family – 7 Tips Backed By Research

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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 ideas@time.com.

TIME

The College Transition: How to Parent When Your Child Leaves Home

College move-in
Chloe Bradley, left front, and Logan Laney, right front, help Tori Bradley, middle front, move into campus housing on Aug. 14, 2014, at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in Chattanooga, Tenn. Angela Lewis Foster—AP

There has never been a more emotionally challenging time to be a college student in the United States, especially for freshmen.

College is supposed to be the best four years of a child’s life, a time with few responsibilities and maybe mom and dad footing the bill. All your kid has to do is learn and maybe hit a party or two, right?

Not exactly. Every year at the college orientation programs I run in New England, I watch parents idealize an experience that is actually filled with huge anxiety and change for teenagers on the brink of adulthood. If you want to parent effectively through the transition, take some time to understand what your child’s life is really like at school.

Launching a kid into college is about more than having the money to pay for it. Parents invest so much of their time and identities in the process that it can feel like a part time job. For many parents, the college your child ends up attending becomes a parenting grade. It’s far from easy to hear that your child is depressed, unhappy or failing, especially when many have sacrificed so much to get their kids across the finish line. Ask almost any adult, and most will say college sure beats working.

But that attitude ignores the fact that there has never been a more emotionally challenging time to be a college student in the United States, especially for freshmen. Nearly half of all college students reported feeling hopeless at least once over the past year, according to the 2013 National College Health Assessment. In 2010, a study by the University of California at Los Angeles found the highest-ever recorded levels of stress among first year students, especially women.

I run skills-building programs focused on healthy risk taking, failure resilience, and self-care for undergraduates around the country. Like any life change, college is filled with anxiety, insecurity, social misfires and the occasional crying in one’s bed at night (I wouldn’t personally know anything about that).

In a much talked about new book, Excellent Sheep, former Yale professor William Deresiewicz calls foul on a system that turns its most elite students into robotic, failure-avoidant machines, hell-bent on success but disconnected from a genuine desire to learn or contribute. “Look beneath the façade of seamless well-adjustment,” he writes, “and what you often find are toxic levels of fear, anxiety, and depression, of emptiness and aimlessness and isolation.” He calls for a wholesale change in how we educate young adults: more service learning and character building, less resume stuffing and wealth obsession.

If your child is the first in your family to go to college – there are about 4.5 million of them starting at universities each year — they are less likely to be academically prepared, understand the financial obligations involved or even graduate. If your child comes from the bottom quarter of income distribution, college is a place where she’s in the extreme minority: In a survey of the top 100 schools, Deresiewicz reports, only 3 percent of undergraduates came from families in the bottom quarter of the income distribution, while 75 percent were from the top quarter.

Besides, the right school still might not make a child happy and, according to new research, students aren’t even learning very much anyway. Last week, authors Richard Arum and Josipa Roska released an update of their shocking book, Academically Adrift, in which they revealed many students had “limited or no learning at school.” In a new follow-up study, the researchers found the now graduated students unable to settle on careers because of a lack of critical thinking skills.

We hate seeing our kids in pain. But trying to fast forward through a child’s struggle can have the opposite effect. “Pain and struggle build muscle,” says Julie Mencher, a psychotherapist in Northampton, MA who consults with colleges on mental health issues. “They are part of the college process. You wouldn’t want them to sail through. They won’t be prepared for life.”

Remember when they were learning to walk? They would face plant, then look right at you. If you freaked, their faces crumpled. If you said, “Oopsie, you fell! You’re okay,” and helped them up, they toddled right on. All these years later, little has changed. The right mix of empathy and optimism will teach your children how to respond to their new experiences away from home. “You have to model the ability to cope with feelings,” Mencher says. “Your reaction will influence theirs.”

Taking full advantage of all that college offers can be tough for teens facing a major life transition under pressure to perform. Perhaps we should all lower our expectations and let kids find their way. You can give them the opportunity to thrive, but when it comes to finding happiness or success, kids are really on their own. The good news is that an adolescent’s emotional roller coaster comes with one plum benefit: feelings pass and shift quickly. Last night’s despondent text can turn into tomorrow morning’s happy hello. Kids also reserve their foulest feelings for parents and most college students don’t want to get pegged a downer by their new friends. That leaves you as the receptacle for their anger and frustration.

If your kid seems happy, godspeed. But just because she rocked college last year doesn’t mean she won’t minor in heartbreak or identity crisis next semester. Be prepared. Look your kids’ struggles in the eye, and don’t blink. They’ll thank you for it – and text you more often.

TIME People

The Royal Baby’s Relations: William, Kate — And Shakespeare?

TIME, July 5, 1982
From the July 5, 1982, issue of TIME TIME

The new baby will also be a descendent of Count Dracula's

With Monday’s news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child, it was Royal Baby Fever all over again. But, though big brother Prince George is recent history’s most famous recipient of such fervor, he’s far from the first. When father-to-be Prince William arrived on June 21, 1982, TIME commented that even the most anti-royal publications — like the French Communist paper L’Humanité — were glad to celebrate the news.

And TIME was no exception to that rule, as seen in the birth announcement above. The magazine, in its longer story about the news, commented on the as-yet-unnamed baby’s likely nomenclature — “George,” his future heir’s name, was the odds-on favorite; “William” had 5-to-1 odds and “Elvis” was a longshot at 1,000-to-1 — and well-documented lineage. Some history buffs had hoped the baby might be named “Arthur,” after that most famous British king, but pulling a sword from a stone would be unnecessary:

His lineage is exhaustively, and sometimes imaginatively, chronicled, and dazzlingly diverse. The boy who will be the 22nd English Prince of Wales is descended not only from William the Conqueror but also from Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon King, who died fighting William at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and from Llywelynap-Gruffydd, the last native Prince of all Wales. Other ancestors include Count Dracula and King Cole, Genghis Khan, as well as Vladimir Monomakh, Great Prince of Kiev in the 12th century, Charlemagne, St. Louis (King of France), and on the Queen Mother’s side, a plumber’s daughter named Mary Carpenter. The pre-Norman Anglo-Saxon Chronicle maintains that he is a descendant of Woden, the Germanic god who gave his name to Wednesday. He is related also to Shakespeare (perhaps), Melesende, Queen of Jerusalem, the Danish Kings Sweyn Forkbeard and Ulf Sprakalegg, George Washington, Jimmy Carter and a 9th century buccaneer named Rollo the Ganger. Nevertheless, he is the most purely British heir to the throne since James I. Some genealogists, sounding like truth-in-labeling analysts, noted happily that he is all of 58.8% British.

Which means that the new baby will also be a descendant of Count Dracula’s and a relation of Shakespeare’s and George Washington’s.

And, with few details about the new baby available yet, it’s also possible that the new baby will be something different, too: a girl. Though royal-baby-watchers in the ’80s got their fill of the lineage of Ulf Sprakalegg, that’s been an element missing from the royal baby mix for six decades, and one that observers even then were eager to see.

The birth of a healthy, wanted baby anywhere in the world is always cause for rejoicing,” wrote a TIME reader in a response to the magazine’s coverage of Prince William’s birth — but something was still missing. “The maudlin delight that the new royal baby in England was male is sickening,” she continued. “England’s greatest decades have always been in the reigns of its Queens.”

Read the full report on Prince William’s June 21, 1982, birth here, in TIME’s archives: Rejoice! A Prince Is Born

TIME Education

The Difference Between the Ivy League and Football? There’s No Crying In Football

Blue Hills Vs. North Shore In Small Division Vocational Championship
Blue Hills football player Brandon Gordon (#34) powers his way into the end zone to score the third touchdown against North Shore Tech for a 22-14 lead before the extra point in the Massachusetts Vocational Small School Division Football Championship at Braintree High School. Boston Globe—Boston Globe via Getty Images

A game that knocks you down over and over teaches you how to use that spirit for other things in life

There’s a new ideal for children growing up in America: let’s call it the Achiever Ideal. The Achiever Ideal is first and foremost about academics. The young achiever is supposed to ace every test, perfect every report, never flub a problem set, never mess up a lab. The Achiever has to get all As, naturally. The Achiever has to be perfect.

The Achiever needs extracurricular activities to get to the Ivy League: there’s no doubt about that. So The Achiever becomes president of the Classics society, serves on the prom committee, gets to school early for leadership training, and on Friday nights, as a special treat, The Achiever takes photographs of the football game for the student newspaper and the yearbook.

The Achiever photographs the game—but he doesn’t play in it. Football takes too much time and, really, it’s for poor kids, the sort of kids you steer clear of in the hallway. Football is for tough guys—and a few tough girls, too. And Achievers aren’t tough.

It also takes up a lot of time. Football takes up time you could use to bone up on your weakest subject, or to start writing your college essay two years before it’s due. In the time it takes to practice football and play the games, you could pump your grades up two more notches and maybe get three or four plum activities listed on your resume.

Plus, the game is rough. The game is violent. You might get slammed in the head. You might get hurt.

Brains are what matter now. You need to develop your mind if you want to succeed. You need to enhance your intelligence by mastering all the subjects that you can. Don’t waste your time on a football field; don’t hurt your head. That’s for the slow kids; that’s for the dopes.

Is it? Is it really? I’m all for the development of intelligence. I’ve been teaching for 40 years, at Yale, at the University of Virginia and at a wonderful high school in Vermont called Woodstock. I’m glad that kids are developing their minds. But in the rush to finish first in the cerebral Olympics, kids—and their parents, too—are missing something.

People who really achieve with their minds are not just smart and well educated—though those things matter. They have something else that matters too: they are spirited. They possess a quotient of what Plato called thymos. They are lively, determined and very hard, sometimes impossible, to discourage. Lawyers who get their innocent clients out of jail are smart, sure. But they possess a strong measure of spiritedness, of thymos. They strive and strive and they don’t give up. Scientists out to cure a disease need potent intellect, but just as much, they need the capacity to try and fail, try and fail, and then finally try and succeed (if only part way). Writers who matter know how to revise their work endlessly to get it where it needs to be.

In a provocative book called The Smartest Kids In the World and an influential essay in The Atlantic, Amanda Ripley comes out against sports. They waste too much time, she says. They get in the way of academic pursuits. They rob kids of what matters. It’s better, Ripley tells us, in Finland, better in Poland. But this way of thinking misunderstands where real achievement comes from. You’ve got to develop the mind, sure. But if that’s all American kids develop, we’re going to have a generation of sterile drones. (Is that, maybe, what some people half-want—quiet, productive serfs for the corporations of the future?) We’ve got to pay attention to spiritedness, too.

There are a number of ways to wake up and learn to aim your spiritedness. But I believe that football is one of the best. It’s a game in which you get knocked down over and over and have to get up and start again. It’s a game that awakens your passion and then can help you direct it at a worthwhile object: getting better at the game and maybe helping your team to win. When you have that model for how to deploy the spirit, you can use it for other aims in life.

Football is dangerous, sure. But there’s plenty to do to make it much safer—beginning with making sure that coaches and the league do all they can to limit concussions. Football should be cleaned up, then made available to all young people who want to play, girls and boys alike.

If we Americans continue to create generations of stolid Achievers, we’re going to lose what edge we have. We’re going to become blander and more bureaucratic, less daring and less adventurous.

Intelligence is marvelous. But Plato insisted that the leading citizens in his ideal state, the Republic, were both smart and highly spirited. And if a republic is going to be worth anything, they have to be.

Mark Edmundson teaches at the University of Virginia. His book, Why Football Matters: My Education in the Game, is out from Penguin.

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