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5 SIMPLE WAYS TO MAKE LIFE EASIER FOR YOUR SENSITIVE KID

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Sensory smart parenting made easy.

Jayden, an active preschooler, loves the playground. After a few minutes, he’s so revved up that he starts running around, bulldozes over other children in his path, and then digs into the sandbox, spraying his little sister, Jenny, nearby. Jenny starts crying because she hates sand on her skin, and it’s sticking more than usual because she refused to let you properly rub in sunblock. She can’t stand that either. You manage to calm both kids down and head to the supermarket because you forgot to buy frozen spinach cakes, the only vegetable they’ll eat. You bribe them with cookies to behave and grab another brand of spinach cakes because they’re out of the usual one. Maybe they won’t notice? Fortunately, your spouse bathes the kids so you can make dinner, turning up the music to tune out the complaints:

“The bath is too hot!”
“You’re pulling my hair!”
“My pajamas hurt!”
“That music is too LOUD!”

Then you serve dinner. The kids are pleased with the mac n’ cheese at exactly the temperature they like but … the spinach cakes are WRONG. Jenny starts to wail and Jayden calls her a baby. And the nighttime battles begin.

Quirks vs. Sensory Issues?

Do your child’s likes and dislikes make you feel like you’re catering to a cute but impossible dictator? All of us have preferences and intolerances. But there’s a big difference between the endearing quirks that all kids have and sensory issues that make living with children SO very difficult at times.

We all learn through our senses, both the familiar ones—touch, sight, sound, taste and smell—and some that are less well known: vestibular (our sense of movement), proprioception (our internal body awareness), and interoception (our sense of physiological well-being or distress). Sensory processing refers to how we transform all of these sensory messages into useful information so we know what’s going on in the world and with our bodies so we can respond proportionately.

Some of our kids, and some of us, are wired differently. When people have sensory processing issues, their brains do not interpret sensory information accurately and reliably, so their responses may be out of proportion. They may overreact to certain sensory experiences that don’t seem to bother anyone else. They might be hypersensitive, feeling things too intensely and thus overreacting to a tiny scratch or to getting messy with glue or paint. The hypersensitive child might be fussy about clothing or food textures. A child can also be hyposensitive (underreactive), needing a lot of input for it to register in his brain—stuffing his mouth with food to feel it in there, sprawling on the floor during circle time to feel the floor beneath him, or playing too roughly at recess. Many kids have sensory meltdowns when there is too much input to process, as can happen in a busy classroom or crowded store. Fortunately there are “sensory smart” parenting hacks you can use to minimize the effect of these sensitivities.

1.Keep a journal to help you predict and prepare for sensory-related problems.

Write out where the problem happened, what preceded it, the problematic behavior and what seemed to help.

2. Create a visual or written list of the day’s events so your child knows what to expect.

Children (and many adults) feel more confident and capable when they know what’s ahead. If a disliked activity is planned, collaborate on ways to make it more tolerable such as downloading favorite music on your smartphone for your child to hear while she’s sitting in the doctor’s office.

3. Bring a bag of tricks to help your child stay on an even keel.

If you know your child gets fidgety when waiting in line, keep a supply of calming items: an unbreakable show globe, a container of putty, chewing gum and so on. If your child is sensitive to noise, bring sound-reducing earmuffs, noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs.

4. Get them moving! Kids need to move, some more than others.

If your child is bouncing off the walls when it’s time to sit down for dinner, plan ahead and have him get intense movement before dinner such as climbing a few sets of stairs, jumping on a mini-trampoline with a safety bar (or a mat on the floor), running laps and so on. If your kid loves screens, put on a gonoodle.com or other online activity that encourages movement. Exercise keeps kids healthy and also generates those feel-good chemicals that keep kids happy too.

5. Take breaks and don’t over-schedule.

We’re all overworked and overbooked these days. We mighy be used to it, and lots of kids thrive on being busy, but sensitive kids need downtime. Keeping it together at school all day among active kids and all of those academic, social and behavioral demands is a lot to ask of a sensitive child. Taking a short restorative break in a quiet, softly lit room or taking a peaceful walk in a park after school can make all the difference!

When to Get Help

Some kids, teens and adults have sensory challenges so significant that they interfere with learning, playing, working—and the ability to parent confidently. Somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of children have what’s called sensory processing disorder (SPD), including those diagnosed with autism and attention deficits, as well as kids who do not have any other developmental issues. The Sensory Checklist in Raising a Sensory Smart Child, which you can also download from sensorysmarts.com, will help you better understand your child’s sensitivities. A pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in sensory challenges can help you create more sensory-friendly environments and routines while, even more importantly, building your child’s ability to better process everyday sensory experiences.


Lindsey Biel, M.A., OTR/L, is an occupational therapist with a private practice in New York City. She is co-author of the award-winning book, Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues.

 

This article was written by Lindsey Biel from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCredpublisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 FAST WAYS TO SUBDUE YOUR CHILD’S WORST TEMPER TANTRUM

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Help your kids calm down without losing your cool.

Tantrums occur when a child’s system of managing her feelings and thoughts collapses. It’s an expression in external action of internal feelings over which the child is seeking control. The best thing you can do as a parent is learn to understand the reason for the tantrums, to face the outburst without losing your composureand to help your child find a better way of displaying her intense emotions.

Temper tantrums may look similar, but the reasons for them vary considerably. A typical sign of a problem is when the child has trouble tolerating being told “No” in response to something he wants. This is often seen as the cause, but it’s usually evidence of inner difficulties that need to be deciphered in order to help the child. A tantrum that follows a parent or caregiver saying “No” is usually just the tip of the iceberg. Internal and external stressors prior to that have paved the way for the tantrum. Look for meaning beyond how the child reacts to the word “No.”

Children with ADHD, learning disabilities or sensory problems deal with additional frustrations compared to other children, so they’re more likely to have tantrums. Similarly, children with anxiety, phobias, depression, experiences of traumatic events or a tendency to feel over-stimulated may fall apart when they’re overwhelmed with excessive worries and fears.

Use these tips to help interpret and subdue the emotions behind your child’s temper tantrums:

1. Help your child name feelings. Early on, teach youngsters feeling language, like happy, sad, mad and glad. As they grow older, give them the nuances of anger, such as irritated, frustrated, disappointed, annoyed and hurt. Vocabulary is important in helping the child to assess how angry he feels and why. Naming the emotions gives him the opportunity to express himself in words rather than physical actions when he’s upset.

2. Acknowledge the anger. It’s important that you tolerate angry feelings and not try to dissuade your child or teen from having these feelings. Your child or teen shouldn’t feel that you’re afraid of his emotions or that you’ll judge him harshly for having them. A child or teen needs to know that having and expressing anger doesn’t make him a bad person.

3. Remain calm amid the storm. As a parent, the best way to help your child during a tantrum is to remain calm. Children need to know their tantrums aren’t so powerful and scary that you can’t withstand them. It’s important for the child to know that her anger doesn’t overpower you and that you’re able to hear and endure the anger. Experiencing anger can actually frighten your child, and she needs to know that having and expressing such emotions doesn’t frighten you, too. This will help her to know that she can share her feelings with you.

4. Teach self-regulation. When the tantrum behavior slips outside the home, embarrassment becomes a part of the equation. You may need to take fast action in order to prevent humiliation for both you and your child. If possible, attend quickly to what the child needs or remove the child from the situation. Leaving a public place is not a way to punish the child—it’s a way to quickly reduce the 
stimulation and stop the outburst. Later, when everyone is calm, speak to your child about the situation. If the child is very young, her attention span is likely to be short, but a quick description of the problem along with a simple and easy rule like this can work: “Being upset belongs at home where we can solve problems.” Containing her anger and delaying its expression until a more appropriate time can only be internalized by a child if the parent also follows the tenets of self-regulation.

5. Help to ease transitions. Children who have difficulty with unexpected or planned transitions between activities may tantrum at those times or immediately afterward. You can prepare a younger child for a planned transition by advising him there are five minutes left before the change. You can give an older child an idea of the sequence of activities for the day so he feels prepared for what’s ahead.

Tantrums that last more than half an hour and are unusually intense with flailing limbs and shocking shrieks where the child or teen seems to be unaware of the world around her may end in the youngster being exhausted, falling asleep, and later not remembering the tantrum. These actions and emotions, especially in children four years and older, are not typical and need special attention. Some young people who have tantrums, particularly later in life, may have a neurological disorder such as a bipolar disorder.

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D, is a psychoanalyst with specialized clinical training in infant-parent, child, adolescent, and adult psychotherapy a unique practice that covers the life span. Dr. Hollman is widely published on topics relevant to parents and children such as juried articles and chapters in the international Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, The International Journal of Infant Observation and the Inner World of the Mother. She is the author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence—Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, winner of the Mom’s Choice Award, and the Busy Parent’s Guides series of books: The Busy Parent’s Guide to Managing Anxiety in Children and Teens—The Parental Intelligence Way, and The Busy Parent’s Guide to Managing Anger in Children and Teens—The Parental Intelligence Way (Familius, Aug. 1, 2018). Learn more at lauriehollmanphd.com.

 

This article was written by Laurie Hollman Ph.D from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

6 DIY HALLOWEEN KIDS’ COSTUMES THAT YOU CAN MAKE FASTER THAN AMAZON CAN DELIVER

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Halloween is fast approaching, and you had so many grand ambitions of making that complicated Where the Wild Things Are costume from scratch. But while you may not be up for a huge project, you can still DIY it. Here, six clever ideas you can throw together practically overnight.

@Primarydotcom/Instagram

An Aerobics Instructor

It’s as simple as putting the pants under the pastel-colored onesie you already own. And you can make the leg warmers by cutting off the feet on a pair of kid-sized socks. 80s genius.

Get the look: Primary babysuit ($8); Primary baby legging ($12); Gymboree socks ($7); Suddora headband ($3)

@LoveandLion/Instagram

Harry Potter

The scarf is the key item in this magic (vs. muggle) inspired look, dreamed up by Leah and Jenni over at Love & Lion. Peep your local Good Will store or comb through your closet to find one—anything in a burgundy(ish) hue will do—then throw on a white tee, casual black hoodie and oversized glasses. The true marker of Harry Potter is that penciled on forehead lightning bolt, after all.

Get the look: Cat & Black hoodie ($8); Fruit of the Loom t-shirt ($8 for 5); GrinderPUNCH Kids wizard glasses ($9); Elope scarf ($25)

@Primarydotcom/Instagram

Eleven

Yep, the Stranger Things character is still totally on trend. All you really need is a pink dress, blue cardi and knee socks. Oh, and a box of Eggo Waffles.  

Get the look: Primary dress ($20); Primary cardigan($16); Rocky tube socks ($16)

@cheerfulandco/Instagram

Bubble Bath

Dress your kid all in white and affix white (or transparent) balloons to his clothes. Done and done.

Get the look: Primary legging ($14); H&M t-shirt ($5); mikimini showercap ($10)

@ArinSolange/Instagram

Arthur

Yep, the aardvark—and star—of the PBS Kids TV show is also one of the easier Halloween costumes to pull off. All you need is a denim bottom, mustard-colored top, oversized glasses and paper ears, according to blogger Arin Solange.

Get the look: Old Navy shirt ($10); The Children’s Place skirt ($13); FancyG glasses ($2)

@primarydotcom/Instagram

Belle

To pull off this Beauty and the Beast ensemble, just pair a sleeveless yellow dress with white above-the-elbow gloves. Oh, and the ultimate prop to finish the look: a rose.

Get the look: Primary dress ($15); Party City gloves ($9)

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

15 EASY SCHOOL LUNCHES YOU CAN PREP IN AN INSTANT POT

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Getting our kids out the door in the morning is tough enough. But then you expect us to pack lunch, too? Enter these meal prep lunches, which keep in the fridge for up to three days and actually save a bunch of time—thanks to our favorite appliance, the Instant Pot.

The Cookie Rookie

Instant Pot Potato Salad with Dill Pickles

Pair with baby carrots.

Get the recipe

A Pinch of Healthy

Instant Pot Chicken Breasts

No reheating necessary.

Get the recipe

Foody Schmoody

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs in the Instant Pot

Be sure to pack extra napkins.

Get the recipe

My Crazy Good Life

Instant Pot Mini Frittatas

Presenting, the portable version of scrambled eggs.

Get the recipe

Tornadough

Instant Pot Taco Pasta

Serve it cold and it counts as pasta salad.

Get the recipe

5 Dollar Dinners

Instant Pot Chicken Broccoli Cheddar Rice

Bento box-ready.

Get the recipe

Sweet and Savory Meals

Instant Pot Tomato Soup

This calls for a Thermos.

Get the recipe

 

Pressure Cooker Recipes

Instant Pot Applesauce

Brilliant.

Get the recipe

The Foodie Eats

Instant Pot Ranch Chicken Salad

Tip: bagels don’t get soggy.

Get the recipe

Meal Plan Addict

Instant Pot DIY Sandwich Meat

No more waiting in line at the deli counter.

Get the recipe

Damn Delicious

Instant Pot Chicken Burrito Bowls

Wrap it up in a tortilla if you see fit.

Get the recipe

Crunchy Creamy Sweet

Instant Pot Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

Pair with your kid’s favorite dipping sauce.

Get the recipe

Recipes to Nourish

Instant Pot Paleo Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

It’s so easy.

Get the recipe

365 Days of Crockpot

Instant Pot Broccoli Chicken Mac and Cheese

Pretty darn good eaten straight from the fridge, too.

Get the recipe

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

6 WAYS TO MOTIVATE YOUR CHILD FOR GOOD

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It can be a challenge to motivate children to do hard tasks whether it be schoolwork or chores. Too often, these interactions turn into power struggles or flat-out bribery. Receiving the right motivation and attention will transform your child’s attitude towards difficult tasks. As a parent, you can help your child develop intrinsic motivation that will allow them to become driven and resilient adults.

If your child is having issues at school or around the house, check out these tips for some ways to motivate your child without yelling, bribery or meltdowns.

1. Focus On Mastery

It’s completely understandable that parents want their children to succeed in school, including getting good grades. However, it’s important to understand that grades are a poor reflection of actual knowledge. Children and students quickly get in the habit of learning something just until the test, then forget it once the test is over. This is counter-productive for learning and curiosity and frequently results in poor motivation.

As a parent, you can combat this by focusing on mastery and learning instead of grades. Ask about something they learned that interested them that day instead of asking what score they got on their spelling test. Engaging your children in the actual material of the lesson, appealing to their innate curiosity about the world, develops a lasting, internal motivation that lasts.

2. Always Encourage

What comes naturally to adults takes time to develop. In other words, rather than being nit-picky about how smooth the bedsheets are, take time to thank and encourage the child for going as far as making the bed.

By focusing on encouragement, your child develops initiative when it comes to work that needs to be done. Eventually, sloppiness will sort itself out as your child gets older and learns.

3. Have Clear Expectations

Let’s be honest: kids today have more on their plate than previous generations. From ridiculous amounts of standardized testing to social media to helicopter parenting- children often feel as though a million things are being thrown at them at once. Even children burn out.

To help your children remain focused and motivated, be clear in your expectations for them. Don’t say you’ll be proud of them for trying so hard in school but wrinkle your nose at a B. Nothing frustrates a child more than constantly moving goal-posts. Instead, be consistent with your expectations so your child knows what to do.

4. Competition Without Comparison

Competition can be an extremely motivating force. Encourage these feelings in a healthy way to make children feel pride in their accomplishments by rewarding success and giving feedback.

Just a note: try to avoid competition and comparison between siblings or other family members. Family is a place where each child is accepted just as they are, so never compare one’s strength with another’s weakness. Competition can create motivation- just don’t go too far.

5. Create The Right Environment

In terms of schoolwork, sometimes the materials in the classroom just aren’t right for your child. Everyone has a different learning style, but in a classroom it’s downright impossible for the teacher to cater to each student.

Consider tutoring and specialized social studies textbooks that focus on making content engaging to children who struggle in those areas. Focusing on making learning accessible and fun reduces any resentment or frustration a child feels that might cause them to misbehave.

6. Communication Is Key

When I was in middle school, report card day was a day of panic. I remember classmates passing around a bottle of white-out, frantically trying to forge grades to avoid punishment for getting a B. Unfortunately, that attitude is all-too common today.

For parents, that type of underhanded behavior hurts but try considering it as a symptom of a larger problem. You need to create trust and kindness towards your child. To keep your child motivated, try to reframe failure as a way of learning rather than a harsh punishment. When a child feels safe coming to you when they’re having issues, you encourage a resilient attitude towards failure and a lasting motivation.

 

This article was written by Natalie Bracco from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCredpublisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

HOW TO FIND A SPORT TRUE TO YOUR CHILD’S NATURE

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Before signing your kid up for ALL the activities, take a look at these recommended sports based on your child’s personality.

When you think of your child and sports, do you feel a little bit of dread? Weekday practices or long game days on the weekend are a commitment when you don’t know if your kid will even enjoy the sport you choose. Plus, it takes time to research which classes or leagues in the area to even sign up for. You might just pick the sport that seems easiest or that you’re most familiar with—or hesitate to sign up your child at all.

But what if you could find the perfect sport for your youngster, without having to invest a lot of extra energy? You can.

Although every kid is unique, there are four energy types among children—and a good sports match for each that fits their needs and personality. Your child’s type, which is the general way they move through the world, affects everything they do: playing, talking, eating, sleeping, and even playing sports!

By reading the types below, you can find which sports are most supportive to your kid.

The Type 1 Fun-Loving Child

This kid needs to keep things light and interesting. They may prefer a wide variety of sports. If the sporting experience gets too serious, the coach is too serious, or the parents are too serious about it, this pressure causes them to be in a heavy, stressful state. They will resist wanting to participate. My Type 1 son loved all sports, excelled at team sports like baseball and football, and enjoyed the social aspect and cheering on his teammates.

Sports a Type 1 child would excel in more naturally: baseball, soccer, gymnastics, short-distance running, cheerleading

The Type 2 Sensitive Child

This youngster needs to keep things comfortable. If the sporting experience or coach is too intense, or the parents are too intense, a Type 2 child will shut down, and his or her ability to perform successfully will be affected. My Type 2 daughter would have benefited the most from me knowing her energy type when she was in grade school. I made the mistake of putting her in girl’s softball. She felt so much pressure when she was at bat that she couldn’t even swing. She would have performed much better in dance classes.

Sports a Type 2 child would excel in more naturally: dance, swimming, martial arts, road cycling, basketball, climbing, table tennis, equestrian

The Type 3 Determined Child

This kind of kiddo needs to feel like they can win! If the sport has too much of a learning curve and they are not seeing results consistently, if the coach does not acknowledge their progress with enthusiasm, or if the parents are not interested or not making a big deal about their Type 3 child’s sporting accomplishments, it will hinder this child’s experience. The lack of enthusiasm for the results a Type 3 child is achieving will cause them to be disinterested and bored with the sport. I did not raise a Type 3 kid, but reflecting on my own childhood, I would have loved participating in sports. I now give that to myself as an adult with competitive tennis.

Sports a Type 3 child would excel in more naturally: football, basketball, baseball, snowboarding, downhill skiing, cheerleading

The Type 4 More Serious Child

This child needs to feel they can be their own authority and have support for perfecting their sporting performance. They may prefer to focus on only one or two sports that they can hone. If they are feeling like they don’t have a say, that they are being told what to do by a coach or a parent, or if they cannot see their improvement in their performance, this type of kid will lose interest. They may even rebel by not wanting to be a part of the sporting experience. My Type 4 son loves the outdoors and sports that require technical skills and fine-tuning! He currently competes in mountain-bike racing.

Sports a Type 4 child would excel in more naturally: long-distance running, mountain biking, road cycling, tennis, martial arts

3 Tips for Supporting Your Child’s Sports Experience:

1. Let your son or daughter show you which sport is best for them.

In the world of professional sports, I see all types of people succeeding in all types of sports. There are some tendencies for certain types to be drawn to certain sports, since they match their true nature, and they can use their natural gifts in their sport to create successful outcomes.

For example, in the world of pro tennis, there are more Type 4 pro tennis players than any other type. It’s not a constant though, as there have been successful pro tennis players of all types.

So rather than letting your child’s type determine the sports they might succeed in, let your kid teach you what sports are interesting to them. Just make sure to support them in creating the experience to be true to their nature from these tips.

2. Realize not all children will want to play sports.

That’s OK! Not all boys and girls will want to pursue music either; every child is different. Remind yourself that the goal of a kid in sports is to support the healthy development of their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self. It’s not to prepare them to be a collegiate athlete or professional athlete.

When we remember this, we can show up to help them create a positive experience that is perfect for that child, and it won’t look the same as the next kid.

3. Get behind your child’s desire to pursue a sport and see what they do with it.

I recently had a young man—about the age of 13—come to our home selling discount coupons to a local restaurant. For every coupon he sold, he kept a portion of it to devote to his junior car-racing pursuits. He had a beautifully printed postcard with a picture of him and his car, and an explanation of what he was raising the money for.

It wasn’t a restaurant I would probably go to but I just had to support this young man. I applaud his parents, who did not shut down this boy’s dream to pursue a sport, and allowed him to find a way to finance it.

It’s important to be attuned to the sports and activities your kid may enjoy and find ways to support your child’s energy type as they pursue their interests, sports or otherwise.


Carol Tuttle is the CEO of Live Your Truth, LLC, and author of the best-selling parenting book, The Child Whisperer: the Ultimate Handbook for Raising Happy, Successful, Cooperative Children, which has sold over 75,000 copies worldwide. She also hosts an immensely popular parenting podcast that hits weekly on important parenting issues commonly experienced by families of all backgrounds. For more information, please visit, thechildwhisperer.com.

 

This article was written by Carol Tuttle from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCredpublisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

COMMON PRESCHOOL HALLOWEEN MISTAKES

As a child psychiatrist, school consultant, father and grandfather, I’ve seen a lot of All Hallows’ Eve’s involving preschool children – more unsuccessful than not. I’ve come to the conclusion that successful Halloween experiences contain the same traits: the children are old enough, the celebration is short, too much candy is avoided and it isn’t scary.

Parents intend to delight – and delight in – their preschool child’s playful participation in this fall ritual. But less is more when it comes to keeping a preschooler comfortable and entertained. Here are some guidelines:

Age

Halloween is really meant for school-age kids and adults who have no trouble telling fantasy from reality and whom are way past being afraid of the dark and of scary masks. The preschooler is less likely to laugh and more likely to anxiously ask the mask-wearer a question – cute, but neither funny nor entertaining.

Length

Tying Halloween into dinner plans often stretches the evening out beyond your preschooler’s stamina, making all the other strange stuff inherent to the event harder to manage and understand. Plan to stick to your routine, and celebrate well before bedtime so your preschooler has a chance to settle down.

Sweets

Candy is the antithesis of your normal bedtime snack, giving your child a sugar rush. So, keep them away from the candy bowl. You may want to reconsider having them stay home to ‘help hand out the treats,’ tempting though it may be to have them ‘safe’ with you at your own front door.

Scariness

Because the preschool mind is just mastering the difference between reality and fantasy, things that slip back and forth over the edge of that distinction – like Halloween itself – aren’t very comfortable training grounds for this kind of learning. Older children can see the joy in being scared because they understand the difference. A preschooler is not quite ready for this kind of ‘fun.’

For your young ones, then, I suggest you make it a dress-up party without the gore, leave the trick or treating to the grade school professionals, check your favorite parents magazine/Web site for some simple games to play with peers and get them to bed at a reasonable time. Giving them and yourself a few more years to get ready for the delightful weirdness will be deeply appreciated by them and you.

3 SECRETS TO A STRESS-FREE DINNER WHEN NO ONE LIKES THE SAME FOOD

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Because your kitchen is not a restaurant.

Working moms barely have time to coordinate one meal for everyone in the family let alone multiple different entrees to please everyone’s palate.

Currently, in my extended family of eight, we have one who doesn’t eat anything with a face, one who is cutting down on carbs, one who loves meat but hates seafood, one who will not touch anything with cheese, one who will not eat vegetables or beans, one well-rounded individual, and two babies, who primarily eat toast with various toppings.

And we’re not alone. There’s a cultural shift afoot that can largely be attributed to a growing “restaurant mentality,” says Anne Fishel, Ph.D., co-founder of the Family Dinner Project, author of Home for Dinner, and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

“Americans eat at least 50% of their meals outside the home,” says Dr. Fishel. “We’ve come to expect that we can make individual choices at home just as we can at restaurants. I think of this as the Starbucks phenomenon—‘I’ll have a triple soy latte and she’ll have a cappuccino with lowfat milk.’”

Although multiple studies have shown that eating together provides profound health and psychological benefits, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get your group around the table when everyone wants or needs to eat something different.

Kids aren’t trying to make your life harder, says Dr. Fishel. “Food preferences become expressions of identity, particularly around adolescence when they experiment with veganism or as when my boys suddenly started to want to eat meat when I mainly produced vegetarian meals.”

Trying to understand your family’s food preferences can help lessen feelings of irritation, but it still begs the question: what’s a time-crunched and increasingly frustrated cook to do?

Dr. Fishel suggests the following time-saving tips to help families with diverse food preferences sit down together without forcing anyone to morph into a short-order cook:

1. Create build-your-own main dishes.

Customize add-ons around one main centerpiece—tacos, fajitas, pizza or flatbreads, pasta or salad, for example. Toppings can be prepped and frozen in advance or buy them pre-prepped, such as chicken or shrimp from the prepared food aisles, pre-cut vegetables, pre-shredded cheese, store-bought or frozen servings of sauce and packaged nuts and cheeses. The idea is that the main cook only has to come up with one central dish. Added bonuses: there’s only one pot or sheet pan for quick cleanup and smaller kids are likely to eat more when they are part of a fun process.

2. Agree on three go-to meals that everyone can eat.

These do not have to be favorites, but if it shows up for dinner, people will eat it. This list will need to be renegotiated periodically as kids’ food preferences are constantly in flux.

3. Share the cooking duties.

This way the vegan in the family, for example, gets a turn to show off a dish one night a week—say, brown rice and vegetables. Then, the main cook just has to make fish or meat, but the side dish is done.

Dr. Fishel also advises families to remember that “the benefits of eating together don’t come from the food that is served. The benefits come from creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere at the table.”

 

This article was written by Amy Fries from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

9 REAL WORKING MOMS REVEAL HOW THEY GOT THEIR BACK-TO-SCHOOL ROUTINE DOWN PAT

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Read and learn from these seasoned pros.

As summer winds down, many working moms are thinking (fantasizing?) about school starting in just a few weeks (or today, if you live in some parts of the country).

As exciting as a new school year can be, the change in routine from lazy summer days to tightly-packed schedules can lead to more than a few tears—and I’m not even talking about the kids.

We asked real working moms to share their ingenious tips for making the transition back to school as smooth as possible. Here’s what they suggest:

KEEP THE SAME ROUTINE, NO MATTER THE SEASON.

Some parents relax the rules in the summer. Not Ann Holman, who is in the Navy and lives in Jacksonville, FL. “I keep the same bedtime every day (even weekends), the same Internet/video game rules (only on the weekend), and the same diet (we don’t do random snacks at home),” she says. Consistency makes for an easier back-to-school adjustment, she says.

STREAMLINE SCHOOL-SUPPLY SHOPPING.

 

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Buying in bulk is your friend.

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When it comes to back-to-school, some things are worth paying a little extra for. “If your school has the school supply packs that you can pre-order, it is worth every penny,” says Annette Fontaine, an engineer from Austin, TX. Many other moms we surveyed echoed this tip.

PRACTICE YOUR NEW ROUTINE IN ADVANCE

 

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And head off meltdowns.

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As we all know, young kids can be finicky about their routines—a seemingly minor change can totally throw them off. This is especially true for that most emotionally fraught of rituals: the morning drop-off. Elyssa Morrison, an advertising executive in Hillsborough, NJ, makes things easier for her kids with this trick:

“My husband is a teacher and is always gone before I wake up,” she explains. “He helps out a lot when he’s home over the summer, but about a week before he goes back, I take it back over. I get myself up, get the kids up, do breakfast, and most importantly, do the daycare drop-offs. I find that this helps my kids get adjusted to Daddy not being there in the morning.”

OUTSMART THE BROWN BAG.

 

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Go for a washable container—with compartments—instead.

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There is perhaps no task working moms dread more than packing school lunches. (Or is it just me?)

Rachel Margolin, who lives in New York City, runs a consulting and publishing business with her husband and co-authored Balancepreneur, a book on work-life balance, says the key to easier lunches is in the container: “I got a set of Tupperware with three sections,” she says. “It makes packing a healthy lunch very easy, and there isn’t a bunch of Tupperware for your kid to try to keep organized at lunch, or for you to have to wash at the end of the day. And I think kids for some reason are more likely to eat the veggies out of the three-section Tupperware than to open a separate veggie cup.” (I plan to test out this theory ASAP.)

SHOP EARLY AND OFTEN.

 

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You never know when you’ll catch a good sale.

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When a new school year looms on the horizon, it’s not just pencils and notebooks working moms need to shop for. There are tons of other odds and ends to buy, often in different stores. An early start to shopping reduces the risk your child shows up on day one without a much-needed item.

“My daughter starts kindergarten August 1,” says Beth Newberry Gurney, a grant project manager from Shelbyville, KY, “so [in July] I ordered a backpack and lunchbox for her from Lands’ End and shoes for her from Amazon. I stopped by Staples on my way to work for supplies and put the rest on our Kroger ClickList.”

PREP THE KIDS FOR EARLY WAKE-UPS.

 

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Rise and shine, kiddos.

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If you’re not one of those aforementioned parents who keeps summer and school-year routines the same, you may be faced with the daunting task of getting your kids up earlier for school. (I don’t have first-hand experience with this yet, but I hear this is a particularly unpleasant chore with teenagers.)

Here’s how Grace Barbarino, a teacher from New York City, tackles the problem: “Since I’m a teacher, I go to work two days before my kids start,” she says. “They start getting used to the early wake-up times then. I wake them, dress them and get breakfast ready. By the time their first day rolls around, they are better adjusted to the wake-up time.”

GET EVERYTHING ON THE CALENDAR ASAP.

 

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If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t exist.

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This scenario probably sounds familiar to many working moms: You schedule an important meeting at work, only to realize it conflicts with a “Professional Development Day” (i.e. day off) at your child’s school.

Here’s how Alison Zvolanek, who works in marketing and lives in Dallas, TX, avoids that headache: “I just went through the district and PTA calendars and added all the important dates to my calendar—meet the teacher, parent night, school holidays, early release days, etc.,” she says. (This is going to be the year I actually follow this tip!)

DO EVERYTHING THE NIGHT OR WEEK BEFORE.

 

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Then just grab it and go in the morning.

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Lynn Little, a group home manager from Bristol, CT, is the kind of working mom who leaves nothing to chance.

“Use Sunday to plan for your week,” she advises. “Put outfits on hangers separately from the rest of the clothes. Put a bag on the hanger with undies and socks. Pack a week’s worth of lunches. Pack separate bags for each night to have all of your stuff for each activity. Put snacks if needed in the bag ahead of time. If you need something from the fridge for an activity put a label on it in the fridge and clip a note to the bag. At night, have the kids pack their school bags and set them up next to the door.”

OR … JUST WING IT!

 

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A risky but sometimes necessary strategy.

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Stacey Hawes, a boiler operator from Addison, MI, prefers to embrace the chaos: “I just like to go at it unprepared,” she says. “Makes it exciting.”

Here’s hoping for an exciting—or, for those who prefer, unexciting—Back to School 2018!

 

This article was written by Jennifer Richler from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

17 Genius Shortcuts to Help You Save Time While Cooking

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Real Simple readers reveal how they make mealtime less of a chore each day.

I live by the words “It’s never too early to start prepping dinner.” Whenever I have a few minutes during the day or on the weekend, I do something for dinner ahead of time, whether it’s chopping an onion, throwing together a quick salad, or making pasta or quinoa. —Emily Smith, Greenville, South Carolina

I use what I have in the kitchen and create meals that are loosely based on a recipe, or no recipe at all. —@paulajsheldon

Make sure the tools, pots, and food items you use the most are the most accessible items on every surface and in every cabinet and drawer. While you’re at it, put everything you haven’t used in a year up high. —Liora Seltzer, New York City

Keep your staple ingredients on hand at all times. Fresh herbs, good olive oil, lemon, Parmesan, capers—if the pantry is stocked with versatile and quality ingredients, you are guaranteed a good meal every night of the week. —Tig Filson, Cumberland, Maine

While I’m cooking, I keep a “garbage bowl” on the counter (for veggie scraps, wrappers, egg shells, etc.) to cut down on trips to the trash can. I put everything in something that’s already dirty, like an empty spinach container or gently used Tupperware, so I’m not adding to the dirty-dish pile. —Ariana Lake, Stephentown, New York

Rotisserie chicken. I take it home and repackage it: It’s ready when I need to make quiche, chicken soup, chicken salad, you name it. It saves so much time and is easy and economical! —Amy Tooley Radachi, Dayton, Ohio

I have my two teenagers each cook one night a week. They have to include a vegetable, and dinner can’t be takeout. During the school year, it’s typically some variation of pasta or tacos. But it doesn’t matter—I get to come home to a fully cooked meal. —Janet Kinard, Atlanta

Meal delivery services. It’s the new date night! —Katherine Mooney, Sedona, Arizona

I always fill the sink with hot soapy water for cleaning as I go. I can wash and reuse utensils, and when I’m done, the kitchen doesn’t have to be cleaned. —Helen Bouslaugh, Woodland, California

While prepping meals, we chop extra onions, garlic, or tomatoes and store them in small, lidded containers. For the next few days, we can use them for omelets and garnishes without having to prep again. —Tina Hom Chen, Redding, Connecticut

I married a man who loves to cook. —Megan Waite, Fredericksburg, Virginia

I use two Instant Pots: one for the main or meat dish and the other for the side or dessert. They cook quickly, and clean- up is a snap. —Chris Stephens, Luttrell, Tennessee

I’ve accepted that I’m in a season of life when I need to spend a little bit more money to buy the prechopped produce. My prep work is minimal, and I can spend time with my son and husband instead! —Kristin Jones, Turner, Montana

I’ve learned to turn leftovers into something completely different. Meatloaf becomes taco meat; chili becomes tamale pie. The trick is to add fresh elements and stay within the same flavor family. —Mary Pielenz Hampton, Bozeman, Montana

Whoever gets off work first has to cook dinner. The kids clean up afterward. This works well for our family because my husband and I work various shifts throughout the week. —Brandy Biswell, Puyallup, Washington

I do the shopping and the prep, and my spouse executes the meal! —Caitlin Zinsser, Oak Park, Illinois

I order groceries online and pick them up at my local store. —Nancy Harris, Mansfield, Texas

 

This article was written by Real Simple Staff from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.