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Archive for September, 2009

Understanding your partner’s parenting style

Monday, September 28th, 2009 by:

We get a lot of advice from well-meaning friends and family before baby is born. Some of the advice is excellent, and some, well… it’s a little off. Like my grandmother, for example, who suggested that I let my four-month-old (who she thought was too pale) get some sun to “brown him like a turkey.”

Here’s what I wish people would have had shared with me instead:

I wish someone had told me how much a new baby can challenge your relationship with your spouse. We could have used that knowledge to help us plan and understand one another. There are many similarities between mothers and fathers, but also many differences. These differences can leave you both scratching your heads.

For instance, moms tend to pick their babies up and pull them face in towards their hearts while soothing and cooing. Moms seem to know as if by magic when baby is over-stimulated and just how to cuddle and calm when needed.

On the other hand, dads will more typically hold babies facing out so they can see what’s going on. They are more likely to swing her up high, bounce her around more, and show her the world from different angles. (With mom in the background saying, “Not so high! Don’t spin her, be careful!” )

Moms tend to feel a sudden and intense bond with their babies–it can be so powerful that virtually nothing can compete with it. Research shows that dads tend to bond with their infants more intensely as the baby gets older. He loves his child, of course, but doesn’t always experience the intensity of the relationship right away.

Some dads report feeling a little displaced and unsure of their roles, or even their usefulness, in those early months. Moms often feel overwhelmed. Sometimes after a day of feeding and cuddling, moms may be so exhausted that just when dad wants some time together, mom is asleep.

Here’s what my husband and I learned: I am not a very good dad, but I’m a great mom. He is not the best mom, but he’s a wonderful dad. We learned to value our own (and each other’s) contributions to our children, and to let our kids experience the best in each of us. We learned that these busy baby days go really fast. That there will be time for each other eventually and that you can find your way together by respecting each other, communicating and not trying to make your partner do everything the way you would do it.

Two teenagers and a five year old later, we’ve also learned to take time for ourselves—walks, dinners, even date nights at home. Remember, this time when your children are young is fleeting; these really are the years you will look back on and miss.

Jennifer Kolari is a child and parent therapist, and founder of Connected Parenting. For more information you can contact Jennifer at or visit

YouTube for kids

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 by:

Watching elephants jump on trampolines or grover sing his ABC’s is a great way to keep our toddlers busy. But YouTube isn’t intended for kids and the “related video” links are often inappropriate. What if you accidently click on a deadly elephant stampede thinking it’s zoo footage?

That’s why I love (and my 2-year-old Bode is hooked too). Kideos is basically a child-friendly filter for YouTube. Videos are classified by age from 0 to 10 and also by category. Personally, I like the old-school Sesame Street clips like The Beetles sing Letter B (“Let it Be”).

And you thought you were just playing peek-a-boo

Thursday, September 17th, 2009 by:

You know those delicious moments when you and your child are locked into each other’s gaze–laughing, smiling or just making faces? Those moments when the rest of the world disappears and you’re the parent of the most adorable child on the planet? Few things in life can touch those times, and they are much more than just feel-good moments. These interactions are critical to the parent/child bond and to your baby’s health and development.

All that cooing, copying of your baby’s facial expressions and mimicking her sounds lets her know that she is deeply treasured and understood. We reflect that understanding back by copying and imitating our babies in a wonderful back-and-forth dance throughout our day. Babies love and crave this interaction. All this mirroring calms and soothes them and helps them to feel safe with what is happening around them.

In fact, chemicals are being released in the brain that make your baby feel wonderful and elated, which has a profound impact on her brain. Science now shows that the more pleasant experiences she has, the more her brain specializes for resilience and happiness. Most of the brain’s circuitry is developed after birth, and it is through these intimate connections that neuropathways develop and babies learn to organize and regulate emotions. These are also the building blocks for the development of empathy and social skills.

To be honest, these games of face making, cuddling, and cooing are better than any toy or video you could ever buy for your child. This is what your child craves and needs from you. (You don’t have to be in your child’s face every minute of the day, though. That would overwhelm and annoy your baby–rest assured, she will look away or fuss when she’s had enough!)

While there is also nothing wrong with mobiles, smart toys, and videos, remember it’s your beautiful face your child needs most. And keep up the baby talk and silly faces with your toddler, she still needs it. These mommy love games are the best emotional nutrition you can give your child–building security, as well as emotional and intellectual intelligence.

And you thought you were just playing peek-a-boo!

Is Froot Loops really a health food?

Saturday, September 5th, 2009 by:

Some parents know more about nutrition than others. But for those that really don’t know what foods are a healthy choice for their children, there’s Smart Choices. The program places a front-of-pack nutrition label on items that are healthy food and beverage choices.

To qualify for the Smart Choices Program, a product must meet a set of nutrition criteria that limits saturated and trans fats and added sugar, while boosting vitamins. Sounds good, right?

In theory, yes, but some of the items that have earned the Smart Choices seal of approval are questionable. Froot Loops, Cocoa Krispies and even Fudgsicles carry the Smart Choice label. The chairman of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, Walter Willett, says the criteria used by Smart Choices is seriously flawed, making the program uncredible.

How can Froot Loops be considered a health food? Froot Loops qualifies for the Smart Choices label because it has some Vitamin A and C added, is low in fat and has the maximum amount of sugar allowed under the program for cereals (12 grams per serving). However, in this case that is also equal to 41% of the product–more than in most cookies.

Is Smart Choices really helping consumers or is it just a way for large companies to pass off junk food as healthy choices for our children?