Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Thinking outside the lunch box

My son is in Kindergarten, and he is excited. He is excited about all the new classrooms, books, children and fun to be had. But he is more excited about one particular part of Kindergarten, more than anything else: He can bring a lunch from home.

Up until this point, he has eaten the provided lunches at his daycare. Or at least he has eaten part of them - there have been lots of frustrating talks at the dinner table over what he might have been served for lunch that day, since most days he claims not to remember.

But he loves the idea that he now (like Wednesday dinners) has control over what he will be eating for lunch. The problem is that he is at that magical age when he isn't interested in trying a whole lot of new foods. Since my rule is that he can't eat peanut butter and jelly more than twice a week, I've found the quickest solution was to make him partially responsible for what goes into his lunch box.

And because he is now partially responsible, he has become inventive: Grilled cheese sandwiches with macaroni and cheese in the middle, DIY pizza squares and fruity cream cheese rollups are all items that he wants to try. But before I stack all those cute little containers into his super hero lunchbox, I have to remind him of something very important:

Eat until you are full. You don't have to eat everything.

This has not always been my stance. I have been a very much "just a few more bites" Mom up to this point, But a new study from the University of Minnesota Medical School has found evidence that children who have pressure or restrictions on their eating habits often develop eating disorders or obesity later on in life.

Clearly, I do not want that. So, it's time to make sure that any comments around how much he eats or how much food he brings home uneaten at the end of the day is a conversation that takes place only in my head.

I'm up for trying the experiment and seeing how it goes. My goal is to make sure he is getting nutrition while we are both having some fun, regardless of how many bites he takes.

What lunch box tricks do you use to make lunch more appealing? Share them with me in the comments.

    Tuesday, September 1, 2015

    Team Suck - For the Win!

    Last week one of my fantastic coworkers finagled a way for our team to go bowling together. She and I were incredibly excited to get the time away from work to do some team building - even though we both suck at bowling. We suck at bowling so much, that we happily dubbed our team, Team Suck.

    On bowling day everyone had a blast. It was a chance for all of us to get together, relax a bit from the plethora of emergencies that had hit our team that morning, and cheer each other on. My coworkers and I clapped for everyone - on our team or not - and cheered each other over every knocked down pin.

    And this week I learned that cheering for everyone is also the way I will need to cheer my son if he wants to play sports.

    In an article by the Wall Street Journal, experts weigh in on how to not be "that" parent - the one yelling instructions, getting way too passionate about errors on the field or singling out their child from the sidelines. Rather, we should all strive to be the type of parent who cheers for every child and the whole team. Even innocuous remarks such as "keep your eye on the ball" or any criticisms heard from the sidelines have been found to embarrass children in front of their teammates, or make them focus on what their parents are saying instead of what their coach wants them to focus on.

    Another idea from the article that I liked was for parents to take mental notes on small areas of improvement - getting up quickly from a fall or following a coach's directions on a play - for discussion later. (I am always looking for dinner table conversation and celebrating those small wins, seems like a great addition.)

    My son doesn't play any organized sports yet, but I'll see where his interest lies as he gets older. In the meantime, I look forward to my next time bowling at work. (For the record, Team Suck didn't win, but we didn't lose either.)

    What sports do you get passionate about watching from the sidelines? Tell me in the comments.

    Monday, August 31, 2015

    Another reason to fear the blue light

    I am typing this post three hours before my bedtime. I normally do not work on blog posts at night (I write the majority of them in the mornings on the weekends), but it has been a busy weekend, so I am writing this one a few hours before I go to sleep. It is a Monday post, but that is not the deadline that I have in mind. My deadline is actually to be done with my computer an hour before my bedtime.

    We've talked about blue light before and how screens that emit the light affect our circadian rhythms and make it harder for us to go to sleep. This is true of children and adults, which is also why it is so important to give your devices a bedtime.

    New research, however, makes another leap in studying the effects of blue light on young bodies. In a study conducted by Brown University, researchers found that there is an increased sensitivity to light emitted by devices in pre-pubescent children. That sensitivity increases a child's risk of not getting a good night's sleep and elevates the possibility of hormonal imbalance throughout the day.

    And, I don't know about you, but the last thing I would want is to cause a hormonal imbalance in an early pubescent teenager. (And while we are on that topic - Sorry, Mom!)

    So now you have another reason to remove devices from your child's bedroom at night: Hormones.

    (Hey look - I finished this post with more than two hours to spare. I think I'll email my Mother.)

    What's the curfew for electronic devices in your family? Share with me in the comments.

    Friday, August 28, 2015

    If you're happy and you know it, tell your Mom

    There are certain questions that I ask my son frequently:
    • Did you know that you are very special to me?
    • What questions did you ask today?
    • Did you flush and wash your hands?
    • What did you do today?
    • Seriously, did you flush and wash your hands?
    • Are you happy?
    It's that last question that has been on my mind lately. Because sometimes, it is really, really hard to tell.

    The Journal of Experimental Child Psychology recently published a study trying to determine if parents could accurately report on how happy their children were.

    And we suck at it.

    Researchers had tweens and teens assess their own happiness and then asked parents to assess their children's happiness. It turns out that parents were overestimating the happiness of their tweens (ages 10 and 11) and underestimating the happiness of their teens (ages 15 and 16).

    Furthermore, parents tended to mirror the perceived happiness of their children to their own happiness levels. This bias (if I am happy, then my child is happy) is hard to overcome.

    It turns out that the best way to determine if your child is happy or not is to ask them.

    How sure are you that your tween is happy? Tell me in the comments.