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What is Scaffold Parenting and is it Right for Your Family?

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Helicopter parenting — you know what it is, you’ve seen it in action, maybe you’ve even been a victim of helicopter parenting yourself if you grew up as a millennial. And if you have kids of your own, you probably mentally tell yourself that helicopter parenting — aka hovering, hovering, hovering and worrying, worrying, worrying over your kid — is a bad thing.

What Parenting Style Are You?

But not helicopter parenting can be easier said than done. After all, how do you just stop yourself from freaking out about everything that could potentially go wrong in your child’s life? Unfortunately, the knowledge that doing so could hurt your child more than help your child isn’t always enough to stop a concerned mom.

But, there is another way. Scaffold parenting is a step back from helicopter parenting and it may provide you with peace of mind, while giving your child the tools they need to not end up in those worrisome situations that you find yourself thinking up in the middle of the night.

What is Scaffold Parenting?

So what is scaffold parenting?

Put simply, within the boundaries of scaffold parenting, parents provide structure and support for their children, the scaffolding to their building, if you will. This support keeps children from tumbling into dangerous circumstances, but doesn’t smother them completely. And then, when the child has proven that they’re capable of standing upright on their own, the scaffolding is removed until the child needs it again.

Scaffold Parenting for Older Children

Going with the construction metaphors, you might provide a bit of scaffolding, aka support, to your child when they first leave the nest and go off to college. You might give gentle reminders about turning in assignments or might send them an article on the risks of STDs to hopefully prod them to visit their university’s health resources center to pick up some birth control. But when they’ve proven over a semester that they can get straight A’s, pay all their bills on time and not end up with an STD or unwanted pregnancy, you back off. The scaffolding is removed because the building can stand on its own.

In contrast, a helicopter parent might actually pay the child’s bills for them; buy the birth control for them and put it in their nightstand; and then call up the child’s professor to see how their child is performing in class (it seems ridiculous, but it happens more than you might think).

Scaffold Parenting for Younger Children

But what about scaffold parenting before your child leaves the nest? Can you scaffold parent your adolescent or toddler? Absolutely! It may be a little harder, but it can teach your child resilience and persistence.

As an example, say your toddler is learning a basic skill — like how to put together a toy made up of multiple parts. If you’re watching them play and they’re struggling and struggling and struggling, and getting upset as a result, you can step in and put the toy together for them, but that would be a form of helicopter parenting. You just fixed your child’s problem in order to make them happy, but they didn’t learn the basic skill they needed.

From a scaffolding standpoint, you could, instead, suggest your child try putting the pieces together a different way, or you could put two pieces together to show them how it’s done, and then take the pieces apart so they can fix the toy on their own. You’re providing that support, or scaffolding, but also allowing your child to learn things on their own, which will benefit them in the long run.

The Key to Scaffold Parenting

The key to scaffold parenting is to provide your child with the encouragement, structure and guidance they need to succeed. They should always know that they can come to you with issues, but they should also know that they can try things on their own without you rushing in to save the day. They should feel empowered, but still feel like you have their back.

Learn More About Scaffold Parenting

You can learn more about scaffold parenting — because like every child psychology concept or parenting tool, it’s always a lot more complex than it is on the surface level — through books like The Scaffold Effect: Raising Resilient, Self-Reliant and Secure Kids in an Age of Anxiety, as well as via various parenting and psychology publications, such as Psychology Today.

7 Healthier Summertime Treats for the Family (That Aren’t Ice Cream)

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As summer approaches, so do all the calorie-laden sweet treats. Ice cream! Pie! S’mores! While all of these things are good in moderation, if you’re watching out for your and your family’s health, you may want to avoid the super-sugary summertime treats on a regular basis.

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But when the ice cream truck rolls by every day, what’s a mom to do? Instead of giving in to the pleas (and your own cravings), whip up a few of these seven healthier summertime treats that the entire family will love.

1. Grilled Bananas

Already have the grill heated up for your hot dogs and hamburgers? Throw some bananas on there, too. No, really!

This grilled banana dessert gives you the fun and flavors of a banana split, only without the ice cream. It only needs a few ingredients and it’s both upscale enough for the parents and fun enough for the kids — everyone’s going to love it. 

2. Oatmeal Cookie Fruit Pizza

Who doesn’t love a treat they can eat with their hands? This healthy-ish dessert starts with an oatmeal base and then is topped with a mixture of low-fat cream cheese and Greek yogurt, plus an array of colorful, fresh fruit.

To make this dessert even more fun, take the kids to the local farmers market and let them pick out their favorite in-season fruits for the topping.

3. Watermelon Slushes

water, fruit, juice
Pure fruit juice is another great way to drink enough fluids each day!

If your family loves the taste and texture of ice-based summertime treats, but you hate the added sugar and fake flavors and food colorings, try these watermelon slushes. It takes only a few minutes to prepare — just puree your seedless watermelon and then freeze it overnight. Let it thaw a bit before serving and then dollop it out into cups for an entirely fruit-based, all-natural sweet treat.

4. Strawberry Chocolate Yogurt Bark

Did you know that you could make bark out of yogurt, just like you might make bark out of chocolate around the holidays? Well, you can! And it all comes together in this delightful strawberry chocolate yogurt bark recipe.

All you’ll need is Greek yogurt, maple syrup or honey, vanilla extra, strawberries and mini chocolate chips. This is an easy treat that you can make with the kids and, when it’s frozen and firm, take on the go for a quick snack.

5. Mini Blueberry Lemon Cheesecakes

Cheesecake is delicious. Blueberries are a taste of summer. Lemon brightens up any dish. But when you want something healthful for your family’s dessert, you likely steer clear of the cheesecake and blueberry cobblers. But why not try these miniature blueberry lemon cheesecakes?

The size is smaller, so you’re not so tempted to eat half an entire cheesecake on your own, and the recipe uses part-skim ricotta cheese and reduced-fat cream cheese for more calorie savings.

For extra family fun, take the kids to a pick-your-own farm to pick your own blueberries.

6. Frozen Greek Yogurt Blackout Pie

If you’re trying to watch the calories this summer, you may think pie is out of the question, but that’s not the case with this frozen Greek yogurt-based pie. Decadent and delicious, it combines Greek yogurt and chocolate with an oat-based crust, for an adult-approved cold pie that doesn’t even require oven time. Kids can help with the easy assembly and the pie is sure to become a favorite at all of your family potlucks.

7. Yogurt Granita

Why eat out of a regular bowl, when you could eat out of a melon? This fun dessert piles all of the goodness into a hollowed-out cantaloupe, a fun method of delivery that’s sure to wow your kids (as well as your guests). This recipe comes together in a snap with only a handful of ingredients — yogurt, milk, honey, cantaloupes and raspberries — and all of those ingredients are ones you can feel good about feeding to your family.

Make Summertime Snacking Fun Again

Your summertime snacks don’t need to be filled with guilt! Make summertime snacking fun for the entire family with no-guilt treats that are both healthy and happy.

What are the Most Common Illnesses to Look For in Your Newborn Baby?

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The brief period after you bring home your newborn baby from the hospital can be a scary one. You’re getting accustomed to having a baby in the house and, even after reading all of the parenting books, you still aren’t sure what exactly to expect.

Your worst fear? That something will go wrong. Whether it’s your fault or not, something could go horribly wrong and your baby could fall dangerously ill — or at least that’s the thought, right?

But calm your new mom anxiety. The best thing you can do when you bring home a newborn from the hospital is to simply be prepared, at least as prepared as you can be as a new parent. You won’t know everything, but you can know some things — like the most common newborn illnesses to watch for and what to do if you think they may be impacting your child.

1. Colic

Colic isn’t always a serious issue, but it is one that can cause both you and your baby a severe amount of stress. They’re experiencing gastrointestinal distress but can’t really tell you what’s going on, and you just know you’ve got a baby who won’t stop crying.

If your baby is continuously crying and you can’t find a culprit, it may indeed be colic, in which case you’ll want to talk to your doctor about changing your baby’s diet.

2. Abdominal Distension

“Abdominal distention” is just a fancy phrase for what’s basically a food baby. After eating, your — or in this case, your baby’s — stomach extends and gives you a little extra chub. But if your baby’s food baby isn’t going away or if it feels firm to the touch, it may be a sign of a larger issue, from gastrointestinal distress to something more. If you notice this, paired with changing bowel movements, call your doctor.

3. Blue Baby

The name is cute, but the condition is not. Newborns are often a little off-colored anyway, at least compared to your own skin color, and it’s not uncommon for newborn babies to look a little blue around the hands or feet, especially if they’re cold.

But, if your baby is crying and that blue hue is creeping into their face or lips, it could be a sign of a serious issue. Call your doctor, but go a step further and pay a visit to your emergency room as well.

4. The Common Cold

Everyone gets them, even newborns. It’s something you’ll just have to get used to — children contract seasonal colds far more often than adults, including babies. Your child will likely have a cold every few months for the first year of their life. Symptoms are exactly what you’d expect — sneezing, runny nose, maybe a cough.

If you notice any of these, check with your doctor. While usually not serious, you do want to take the proper precautions and use the right cold medicine.

5. Jaundice

On the opposite end of the spectrum from blue baby, jaundice turns your child’s skin a yellowish hue, usually in the face and eyes. Typically, a mild case of jaundice is nothing to worry about and it’s often seen in children who are having trouble breastfeeding. However, it’s still important to let your doctor know if you suspect this in your child, as worsening cases can cause serious issues.

6. Ear Infections

Just like with the common cold, children are more likely than adults to wind up with an ear infection. Your infant may have an ear infection if you notice them pulling at their ears and crying more often. Usually, ear infections are nothing to worry about. All you’ll need to do is alert your pediatrician and use the prescribed antibiotic as instructed.

Talk to Your Pediatrician

Every newborn is different. Talk to your pediatrician about certain illnesses you may want to be on the look out for, as well as any general, overall signs that you should give them a call. Since a lot of the symptoms for minor and major infant illnesses are the same (general crying vs. excessive crying, spitting up vs. vomiting), don’t feel bad for contacting your pediatrician regularly. They’re there to help, no matter how small a symptom may seem.  

How to Gauge Your Child’s Mental Health

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Most parents probably have gauging their child’s physical health down to an art. Out-of-place behavior usually means something’s wrong or about to be, whether it’s the common cold, a stomach bug or seasonal allergies.

But what about mental health? Do you know how to best check and ensure your child’s emotional, mental and psychological needs are being met, too?

Here are a few things to do, look for and ask your child, so you can better gauge whether their behavior is just plain teenage moodiness or an adolescent tantrum, or something more serious.

Know the Mental Health Disorders Your Child is at Risk for, and How to Recognize Them

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are a few mental health disorders that are common in children, including anxiety, depression, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, ADHD, Tourette syndrome, OCD and PTSD. You can learn more about the individual symptoms and causes of these disorders in children, on the CDC website.

However, beyond actual mental health disorders, just like adults, children can experience overall, general poor mental health, if they don’t receive the proper care and outlets.

Look Out for Signs of Poor Mental Health

Do you notice your child isn’t sleeping well? Are they complaining of stomach problems or headaches? Is their attention span shorter than normal? Are they having more outbursts than normal?

If you notice one of these signs of poor mental health, it may be a signal that something deeper is going on, or just that your child is having a general overall period of poor mental health (it happens to all of us).

Ask the Right Questions

Even if you don’t notice any of these signs, you can do a simple check in with your child, to see if you uncover any potential problems.

Ask them if they feel particularly worried or scared about anything. Ask if they feel sad or upset. Ask them how their relationships are going, at school or with friends. Ask them, in general, how life is going and if they’re happy. Ask them what they’re excited about currently, or if they’re looking forward to anything.

If your child is older, you might ask them their feelings on current events. You might also ask them what they think of others’ behaviors or feelings, whether that’s a family member you both know is having a rough time, or a favorite celebrity that may have opened up about sensitive topics, from sexuality to substance abuse.

You may need to get more specific in order to uncover a root issue, but these questions are a good place to start. If you find that your child is having difficulty opening up, begin with commenting on your own feelings and thoughts. Sometimes just hearing a parent say, “You know, I’ve been feeling kind of sad lately and I’m not sure why,” is enough to prompt a child to speak up, as they realize talking about those kinds of feelings is okay.

Make Sure You’re Doing Your Part

Even if you determine your child’s mental health is likely fine, you still want to ensure that you’re doing your part to support their mental health, regardless of their age.

Do your best to create a home life environment that puts acceptance, love and compassion first. Make it clear that your child is safe and supported when at home. Model proper coping habits and self care in your own life.

Look into your child’s school and recreational environments and ensure that they’re as safe and nurturing as possible, too.

If you worry that bad family habits — from inactivity to too much screen time to poor diet — could be affecting your child’s mental health, do your best to break those bad habits for the entire family.

Reach Out for Help When You Need It

But sometimes a parent just can’t do it all on their own. If you need more help, reach out to the professionals. You can likely find experts in adolescent mental health at your child’s school. You may also find it useful to speak with a therapist or simply your child’s pediatrician, to discuss any concerns and get more advice.

Whatever you do, don’t leave your child’s mental health to chance. You can have a positive impact and help set them up for success now and in adulthood.

How Much Screen Time is Unhealthy (For Both You and Your Child)?

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Between remote learning, streaming entertainment, and Zooming with family and friends, we’re spending more time than ever with our faces glued to screens.

While, on one hand, it’s awesome that technology means you can find just about any educational resource and form of entertainment online, and it’s easier than ever to form communities with like-minded individuals anywhere in the world… it’s also a bit concerning that we’re spending more and more time with butts in chairs and screens in faces.

So how much is too much? Do the limits differ for your child? How can you make sure both you and the kids are getting enough time away from the computer, phone, TV and tablet? Let’s take a look.

How much screen time is too much for children?

Researchers for a 2017 study found that children’s mental wellbeing fluctuated with the amount of screen time enjoyed over the course of the day, and that not all screen time is equal. The study found that, in certain amounts, screen time was beneficial for children, but after a certain time limit was reached, those benefits declined and the screen time started to negatively impact kids’ mental health.

During the weekdays specifically, the study found that children benefitted from video game play up to 1 hr and 40 minutes per day; from smartphone use up to 1 hr and 57 minutes per day; from watching television or videos up to 3 hours and 41 minutes per day; and from general computer use up to 4 hours and 17 minutes per day. The time limits were greater over the weekend, indicating that more screen time on Saturdays and Sundays wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

However, even with these data-derived time limits, the researchers still made note that the impacts on mental health weren’t that substantial. Other daily life factors that impacted mental health more than amount of screen time per day included things like getting enough sleep and eating breakfast regularly.

So, in other words, while you, as a parent, don’t want to allow an exorbitant amount of screen time and you want to ensure your child is still getting plenty of exercise and social time, there are larger factors in their lives that you could probably focus on.

How much screen time is too much for mom?

When it comes to adults, researchers find that measuring your screen time by hours and minutes is a little unhelpful. After all, you probably spend 8 hours per day on just your work computer. That’s not even including the scrolling Instagram on your lunch break or while dinner’s cooking, or watching your fav reality TV shows in bed.

For adults, experts recommend a healthy balance. Ensure you’re not neglecting other important parts of your life for the sake of the screen, and try to limit screen usage to things that actually help you, not hurt you. If you can’t stop looking at Facebook at the dinner table or your kid’s soccer match, you may have a problem.

How can you make sure everyone gets enough off-screen time?

It’s incredibly easy to allow screen time to completely overtake your life. School, socialization, entertainment — when it’s all at your fingertips via a screen, it’s the simplest option.

But it’s worth the effort to get your family away from the screens and out in the “real” world. Rather than having a family movie night, start up a regular family game night. Instead of challenging your kids to a video game dance-off, challenge them to a race on your nearest bike trail or hiking trail. Instead of watching an educational video on a famous work of art, head to your nearest museum.

While there’s definitely nothing wrong with any of the above screen time, you don’t want every aspect of your life dictated by tech. It’s all about striking a balance.

The one thing you don’t want to do?

The one thing you don’t want to do? Ban tech time completely or make the removal of screen time a punishment for your kids. That’s just teaching them that screen time is a reward and something to try to get more and more of.

Instead, make getting away from the screen fun enough and rewarding enough that they start enjoying it, no coaxing or coddling required.

And the same goes for you, too. Rather than looking at ditching your fav TV at night for a book as a punishment, find non-screen time things that you’re actually really excited about, so it’s an easy switch, rather than a difficult one.

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