Smart Parenting
Practical advice about raising children


3 Tips to Model Good Mental Health for Your Kids

Mental health is a growing medical and social issue that's affecting millions of Americans. In fact, according to research collected by Mental Health America in 2017, 18 percent of adults have a mental health condition — equivalent to roughly 43 million Americans — and in the last five years, rates of youth depression have increased from 5.9 percent to 8.2 percent.

So what can you do to ensure your kids remain mentally stable and are well informed? As parents, kids are prone to looking to you for inspiration, so leading by example is often the quickest and most effective way to help your children. Whether it's how you act, what you say or just your everyday schedule, there are a few things you can do to give your kids the best setting in regards to mental health. Let's take a look at a few quick tips.

mother and daughter walking to school

1. Demonstrate a Positive Outlook and Key Life Skills

A key part of mental health is the bad habits that an individual can fall into from repetition. Start shaping your child's state of mind and attitude toward the world by having a positive attitude toward situations yourself. Instead of constantly complaining around them or repeatedly mentioning how tired or stressed you are, repeat the good things in life such as a home, food and family. This will help train your kid to look at the glass half full.

It's also a good idea to demonstrate some key life skills that could help them battle dark thoughts or feelings of instability. Highlight the importance of good social skills, conflict resolution and being able to solve problems by utilizing these skills in your own life, and ensuring your children are around to see how it's done.

2. Commit to Regular Physical Activity

Exercise and physical activity have a direct relationship with your mind — by releasing necessary endorphins, exercise can assist in battling negative thoughts and lethargic behavior that leads to different forms of mental illnesses. The best way to show the importance of regular exercise is to do it yourself and to show that it can be fun and fit easily into everyday life. If you approach exercise with a positive attitude and demonstrate that it's something to get excited about, most likely your kids will grow up with the same mentality, rather than viewing it as a chore. You could always just make it part of their everyday schedule by signing them up for a sports team or dance classes. Try to encourage group activity as this is great for self-esteem and social skills. You can also provide health and lifestyle products in conjunction with their exercise; take a look at Amway's blog for tips on health-focused products and mental health in general.

3. Encourage Education and Awareness

For many years, mental health has had a somewhat 'taboo' in which people are afraid to discuss their issues. This can often lead to conditions getting worse for mental health patients. To avoid your child hiding their own feelings or trying to avoid dealing with any issues they suffer from now or in the future, encourage open discussion and acceptance. Check in with your child on a regular basis and get them in the habit of being expressive about what's going in their life and how they feel about it. Making them aware of various mental illnesses can also be a great idea, so they are aware it's normal and able to fight it, should they ever notice symptoms.

Mental health can be a scary thing to think about when it comes to your children. However, if you start demonstrating a positive outlook and provide your child with the tools to fight it, the likelihood of them suffering from a mental illness decreases.


Naomi Bagga is a young Australian native living in Los Angeles. She has worked in television, media, marketing and sales, and is passionate about music, entertainment, writing, entrepreneurship and the changing media landscape. In her spare time, Naomi loves photography, fashion, travel and a good cup of coffee.

Encouraging Inclusiveness in Your Family

No one likes to feel left out, but unfortunately, it's a common experience in early childhood. Kids can be excluded from activities on the playground and in the classroom, and sometimes they can also be inadvertently excluded at home. Even worse, if your children are not taught inclusion from an early age, they may accidentally or purposefully exclude others.

It's important to encourage inclusive behavior at home in order to foster healthy relationships and promote good mental health. Plus, being inclusive is an essential part of kindness. Read on to learn why inclusiveness is important and how you can encourage it within your family.

family with baby
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Why Teach Inclusiveness?

People need to feel a sense of social belonging to be happy, and this especially applies to children and teenagers. Because of this need, social exclusion is often used as a way to bully or manipulate other people. Exclusion, in this way, is a form of relational aggression, which is defined as a type of behavior that aims to wound others by damaging their relationships.

Though not all exclusion is intentionally aggressive, the pain of being left out feels the same. Social rejection processes similarly to physical pain in the brain, and exclusion could have lasting impacts on mental health, sometimes leading to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and aggression.

With these negative outcomes in mind, it becomes clear that teaching and encouraging social inclusiveness should be a part of every child's education. It's difficult to control whether or not other children are excluding your kid from activities, but at home, you can practice being inclusive in order to teach your children that you value them and that they should treat others with equal kindness.

Encouraging inclusiveness is something that can be best done by family members. However, it may take more effort than simply reminding your child to share. People of all ages can exclude others, and this exclusion can be intentional, unintentional, verbal, nonverbal and even ideological.

The good news is that working on inclusiveness can make everyone in your family happier and more socially content, so taking steps to become more inclusive is definitely worth the effort.

How Can You Encourage Inclusiveness?

Encouraging inclusiveness is not difficult to do. Here are some ways you can put it into practice at home.

  • Set Ground Rules and Expectations: Social exclusion often happens with children during unstructured, free playtime. Though free play is important and necessary for healthy child development, you should watch to make sure your children aren't excluding others. Check on your kids from time to time. If you notice a pattern of exclusion emerging, talk with them about why and how they should avoid it. Challenge your kids to come up with creative ways to include others so they can make their own rules without sacrificing kindness.
  • Encourage Empathy: Accidental exclusion might happen when you are simply not thinking about other people's feelings. For some kids, it is difficult to understand how much exclusion hurts until they've experienced it themselves. Model empathy and help your child understand what they're feeling. By practicing and encouraging empathy, it will become easier for both you and your children to consider the feelings of others.
  • Communicate Openly: At home, it's easy to exclude young kids from your family's decision-making processes. Sometimes it's just not possible to let everyone have a say. However, if your family doesn't encourage open communication, your children could begin to feel excluded and undervalued. Try including every family member in the decision-making process. Allow everyone, including kids, to share their opinions respectfully without being interrupted. Then, discuss perspectives and try to find common ground. Though you may not come to a perfect compromise, this sort of involvement can help kids feel understood and included and be more likely to try similar strategies on their own.
  • Model Good Behavior: Part of teaching kids to be inclusive is to model good behavior yourself. Think about ways in which you might exclude people in your day-to-day life and make efforts to reach out to others. Approach families you don't normally talk to at school functions and be welcoming to people of all backgrounds.
  • Don't Be a Bystander: Sometimes adults can be nasty to each other. If you aren't careful, you might end up teaching your children that it's OK to stand by while someone else is bullied. If you hear other people using prejudiced language or actively excluding someone else, intervene if you are in a position to do so. Supporting people who are being excluded is a great way to practice and teach inclusiveness.
  • Provide Supervision: A lot of exposure to exclusion and bullying today comes from social media. Even if your kids aren't directly involved, it's important to remind them that just because it's happening online doesn't make it any less hurtful. Furthermore, if your kids are exposed to discriminatory or violent language either on television, online or in person, make sure to address it and make it clear that kind of behavior is exclusionary, too.
  • Seek Understanding: Finally, remember that a large part of empathy and kindness comes from being able to understand others. Encourage your kids and your family to seek people who are different from you, read about their experiences and make new friends.

Encouraging inclusiveness in your family is a great way to help your kids develop the healthy social skills they need. It can remind them, and you, that kindness should always be a priority.

All-Natural Summer Health Tips for Expecting Mamas

Staying relaxed and trying to beat the heat threatens your shifting mood—it’s too much effort. Can’t you grumpily eat your ice cream in peace? The next person who tells you to chill out automatically gets the call for craving duty. Send them out for extra water bottles and ice cream.

Here are a few other all-natural summer health tips for expecting mamas.

pregnant woman in sun in orchard
Photo by Mickael Tournier on Unsplash

1. Drink More Water

You need all the water you can get, feeling like a beached whale in the hot season. Moving around in the heat as you tow your baby bun will get you sweating extra fast.

Invest in a large travel cup and fill it with water. Most moms drink 10 cups a day when expecting, so when you feel parched, start with water. Dehydration can lead to a risk of preterm labor and contractions. Listen to your body, and drink water or juice when you feel dizzy or lightheaded.

2. Wear Light, Layered Clothing

Your temperature shifts throughout the day, and the hot sun doesn’t help with that. One restaurant feels like an icebox, while the produce aisle of the grocery store feels like a sauna.

Keep your body cool by wearing light, layered clothing. Natural textiles feel soothing against your sensitive skin, and the light fabric allows you to sweat more effectively. When faced with awkwardly shifting temperatures, the layers let you adjust yourself to the environment.

3. Accessorize Your Summer Mama Look

Get into the summer vibe and wear long flowing maxi dresses with diva sunglasses and an elegant wide-brimmed hat. If you’re going to be out and about, you might as well feel glamorous, darling.

Sit under a beach umbrella while you get waited on, hand and foot, and sip your mocktail.

4. Care for Your Teeth

Your teeth should shine like the sun and reflect your happiness at expecting your little one. Your dental health status also reflects your overall health, which should be in tip-top shape as a mom-to-be.

Pregnancy can increase the risk of gingivitis—a risk factor for periodontal disease, which elevates the potential for preterm delivery and heart disease. Do your gums bleed after you brush? Do you brush twice a day? Gingivitis is a condition you can reverse if you catch it early. Your oral health care habits may be fine, but pregnancy itself increases the risk of inflammation due to hormone changes, which can affect the onset of gingivitis.

That’s why it’s essential for expecting moms to at least keep up with routine dental visits. Caring for your teeth is another preventive measure that puts your mind at ease as you enjoy the summer.

5. Guard Against Food Parasites

Sadly, you can’t have many summer foods while pregnant. Some of your favorite dishes might be too risky to consume because of the dangers of food parasites and their potential ill effects on the developing fetus.

Wash your hands each time you handle raw meat. Better yet, let someone else do the prep work for the grill. Let the food get piping hot, and reduce your intake of deli and other ready-to-eat meat products.

Throw out food you left sitting out for over two hours to practice food safety standards. On super-hot days, never leave food out for more than an hour.

6. Exercise and Play Mindfully 

Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you have to sit around the house all day. Moderately intense activity, such as running, golf and swimming, poses little risk to your developing child. Stay away from high-level activities, and drink extra water while outdoors.

When nearing the end of your pregnancy, avoid activities that may cause falls, such as horseback riding. Let others water-ski and jet-ski, since the pressure can force your bloodstream up when you take a fall. That puts the baby at risk.

The only key when getting active is to exercise and play mindfully. Listen to your body, and stay cool. Always stretch, warm up and cool down.

7. Wear Natural Bug Spray

Do mosquitoes love to eat you up? They carry harmful diseases, such as the West Nile virus. So, wear long pants and sleeves, and put on natural bug spray.

Citronella oil is helpful, but make sure you apply it every hour. Other natural bug sprays last longer.

8. Indulge in Tasty Cold Foods

You’re pregnant and hot, which means you get to indulge in tasty cold foods. Make delicious fruit smoothies and popsicles. Demand homemade ice cream. Greek yogurt contains natural probiotics that build good gut health.

Enjoy cold entrees, such as gazpacho made from scratch.

Summer threatens to make a pregnant woman feel more like a beached whale than a Bahama mama. That doesn’t have to be the case.

Expecting mothers should get out and about and enjoy a day in the sun. Moderate exercise isn’t harmful to the baby, but moms should take extra precautions in the sun, by wearing sunscreen, wearing light and layered clothes and drinking more water.

Now, send someone off to get ingredients for homemade ice cream. You deserve it.

How to Comfortably Fit Children’s Things Into a Tiny Home

When we began exploring the possibility of moving into a home that was approximately 15% of the square footage of the house we were currently living in, we kept our children involved with every aspect of the move that they could understand. Although we expected to be met with some resistance, our children did not have any trouble with getting rid of some of their toys.

If you are considering a move to a tiny house or perhaps just looking to downsize in some way, here are some things that we did that you may want to consider to help make the transition smoother.

kids toys
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

1. Downsize toys and only keep the open-ended toys. Most children have more than enough toys and most likely have many that they never play with. There will be a large amount that should be easy to clean out. For the rest, use the trick that we used, tell your children they can have the money for any of the toys they sell!

2. Consider what clothing is truly needed. Does each child really need 15-20 shirts? A good rule of thumb is to keep enough clothing for a week or possibly up to two, depending on how often you are able to wash laundry. We keep enough regular clothing for a week for each child (tops, bottoms, pjs) and then also have a few extras, such as a couple of nicer shirts, a pair of nice pants, and heavy and light jackets. All seasonal clothing is put away in a plastic tote until it’s needed.

3. If your children have a lot of books, have them pick out their favorites to keep within their space in your new home. If they are too young to do this on their own, pick the ones that you know they enjoy hearing over and over. Remind your children that they can always borrow any number of books from the local library.

girl outdoors making bubbles
Photo by Maxime Bhm on Unsplash

4. If your children are worried where they will play, remind them that they are always able to play outside. A home is just a place for s to gather and rest our heads, the great outdoors is what we really need for play and exploring. Having some kind of defined outdoor space can help with this, even if your tiny home is mobile. A large rug can work if you have very limited space or create a playhouse haven for your little ones in your yard.

5. Create a small, indoor space for each person in your home. Even if your children are sharing a room, make sure that they have their own bunk, or at least their own corner of the home that they can retreat to when they need to.

6. Have a plan for the rainy days. There will be plenty of rainy or snowy days unless you live in the desert so be sure and make plans for those days. Have a list of places that you can visit outside or home, or perhaps have a special stack of movies/books that only get pulled out during those days.

Moving into any new home can be a big transition. Moving into a tiny or small home can be overwhelming, especially if you are coming from a home that is the typical American square footage. Since everyone will have to make sacrifices during this time, it’s important to include each family member in the process, even the ones that we think might be too little to understand. Doing this can help prepare their minds (and yours!) for what is to come and will remind everyone in your family that you are all in this journey together.

3 Valuable Life Lessons Children Can Learn From Gardening

Children can learn valuable life lessons by gardening. They can use these skills throughout their childhood and into their adult lives. Let's learn what these life lessons are.

nicole's daughters
Photo by Nicole Cagle

Life Cycle

In my beliefs, I think that if you give a child a plant of their own they will learn how delicate life is. They will take care of it by watering it and nurturing it. Often, they see plants grow into beautiful, healthy-to-eat vegetables that they can provide for their family. However sometimes due to weather, poor soil conditions, or neglect they will die.

This death will be heartbreaking, but it will teach them about death in the least heartbreaking way possible. Some time in their lives, they will have a family member pass away. Watching their plant shrivel away and die will prepare them for when they lose someone extremely close to them. It will help lessen their pain a little bit because they will understand that lives cannot go on forever. I believe that by gardening small children will learn about the grief process.

Responsibility

When they garden children learn responsibility. They realize that they provide their family with food if the plant fully develops. They also are responsible for checking it every day. If they neglect it, they will notice it being droopy and starting to die. They can fix their mistake by watering it as soon as they notice their error.

They will be responsible for homework, money, and even possibly a family when they grow up. Gardening allows them to gain a sense of responsibility beforehand. Even a small child can care for a plant and can begin around the age of three with a parent’s assistance. This is a great way for any child to learn responsibility.

Food Source

Many small children, living in an urban environments, don’t know where their food comes from, or have access to healthy fruits and vegetables. This is a devastating fact, which could lead to them to develop an unhealthy diet that could lead to obesity, diabetes, or even heart disease.

By gardening, they can learn that food is grown from a seed in a garden. They will want to taste the veggies that they have grown. This will lead to a healthy diet, full of enough nutrients to grow into healthy adults.

The future of children's health depends on knowing where their food comes from. If they know where their food is coming from, children will want to choose healthy food sources. They might enjoy the crisp of peppers and the sweetness of strawberries. Each child has their own favorite fruits and pepper and you can assist them in discovering their favorites.

You may not think it is much, but gardening is one of the best things you can teach your children. They can learn how to overcome grief, learn responsibility, and provide healthy food for their family. They may even develop healthy eating habits. If you are a parent, please consider teaching your children how to grow a garden.

12 Ways to Get Outside with Your Family This Spring

Your family has been cooped up indoors for the past few months, waiting for cold weather to pass and for the sun to return. That moment is just around the corner — at least, according to our calendars — so it’s time to start planning ways to take full advantage of the warm weather. Here are 12 of the most fun outdoor activities for you and your family to try this spring and beyond.

cutting pie at picnic
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

1. Pack a Picnic

It’s the outdoor version of dinner in a restaurant: grab a blanket and pack a cooler with sandwiches, drinks and snacks for the whole family. You can make it a spring tradition by visiting different parks each week, exploring them, and finishing with a family picnic.

2. Take a Hike

Another way to explore and appreciate nature is on a family hike. The sights might surprise you in your hometown: Even if you don’t live in the mountains, you can still find walking trails through local parks, woods and other natural areas. If you want to make a weekend out of it, load everyone into the car, and head to your nearest national park or trail.

3. Set Up a Sports Competition

Your driveway and backyard could become the backdrop for an intense family sports tournament this spring. You could go with a good old game of basketball, dividing your brood into teams and playing for an exciting prize, like choosing what’s for dessert later. You could buy and set up a badminton net in the backyard. Or, you could play classic playground games, like foursquare or kickball, if you have space.

4. Go to an Extra-Large Playground

You could probably drive to the local playground with your eyes closed because you’re there so often. Mark the start of spring by mixing things up and heading to one of the world’s largest playgrounds, most of which are in the United States. If the trek is too far — and if you’re up for making a pretty substantial investment — you could surprise your kiddos with a play-set in your backyard instead.

5. Play 18 Holes

Your little ones might not have the strength to play grown-up golf just yet, so we propose taking the family for a round of miniature golf in the interim. Just like an at-home sports competition, you can up the ante for winning — ice cream or dinner on the way home, as chosen by the winner?

6. Pitch a Tent

Warm weather means you can spend your days — and nights — outside. This could be the year your kids are old enough to try camping. Pack up all of the supplies you need and head out for a night or weekend to give it a shot.

If they’re a little too young for a full-on camping experience, there’s always your backyard. Set up a tent out there, make s’mores and tell stories, just as you would on a normal campsite.

7. Watch Baseball

Spring marks the start of baseball season, and your kids will love the experience of watching a game in real life. Not only will they learn about the sport and its rules, but they’ll also get to watch the wacky games and mascot appearances that take place between innings. Plus, what child doesn’t love stadium food? Hello, hot dogs, cotton candy, and popcorn.

8. Plant a Family Garden

Spring is, of course, the time of year when plants start growing post-winter chill. Take advantage of the perfect growing conditions by planting a family garden of your own.

It’s up to you to choose the type of garden you’ll cultivate. You might go for traditional flowers in pots or beds leading up to your front door. Or, you could go for a fruit and vegetable garden that’ll feed your family throughout the summer. The latter will also teach your kids a bit of responsibility if you enlist them to help you water your plants and pick the ripe produce once it’s grown. Plus, you’ll have the freshest ingredients for family meals, and everyone will appreciate that.

sister giving brother piggyback ride
Photo by Jenn Evelyn-Ann on Unsplash

9. Feed Backyard Wildlife

Even though spring brings them plenty of food to eat, your kids will still love to make feeders for the birds, squirrels, and other wildlife living in your backyard. This is a fantastic indoor activity for you to save for a rainy spring day. Once the sun’s shining again, let your brood choose where they want to hang their creations — they’ll be so excited to see animals enjoying the snacks they’ve left behind.

10. Dance in the Rain

April showers tend to force you indoors, but you could also use a warmer rainstorm as an excuse to play outside. You already know, because you’ve been a kid before: there’s nothing quite as fun as dancing, playing and splashing in the rain. We promise you’ll love to watch as your kids discover the joy of that experience.

11. Fly a Kite

Springtime breezes are not only refreshing, but they have the right amount of power to get a kite flying. So, grab a kite at your local toy store or make one with just four simple supplies. Then, find a nearby sports field or otherwise open stretch of land and teach your kids how to fly a kite. They’ll love it so much that you might just find yourself grabbing your kite every time you feel a spring — or summer, or fall — breeze roll into town.

12. Ride Bikes as a Family

Your kids are used to you supervising their bike rides. Now that they’ve mastered the art of cycling on four wheels or two, it’s time to try a family bike ride. Choose somewhere with plenty of protected, car-free pathways, like the local park. Strap everyone into their helmets and give it a go. And, if your little ones are still too little to keep up with their parents’ pedaling, you can always strap them into a seat on the back of your bike and whiz them around town.

Get Out There

With these 12 ideas, you can get outside and fill your family itinerary with memorable spring activities this year and beyond. Don’t be shy about your creativity, either: There are countless fun times to be had, and you could plan the most fun to-do of all. All you have to do is get out there and enjoy the season with the ones you love most. 

Eat Your Crusts!

One of my eleven-year-old’s tasks in the morning is to make his own breakfast. As a parent, handing your child responsibilities sometimes means allowing them to do things their way as we work towards the greater goal of independence. This morning, however, I couldn’t step back. After pouring his bowl of cereal, he removed the almost, not quite, empty carton of milk from the refrigerator and casually tossed it on the counter. When I strongly suggested that the first carton be emptied before the second carton opened, he shrugged his shoulders in his pre-teen sort of way, ignored my suggestion and went along his merry way. I decided this was a good time to talk about waste.

Ryan recited several reasons for this habit of leaving almost, not quite empty containers of food. “It’s been sitting there too long….it’s probably sour…there’s barely anything left anyway.”

I flashbacked to my own childhood when my Dad would scold me for the uneaten crusts from my sandwich left on my plate. “There are starving children in Africa,” he would say. “They can have my crust,” I would tartly reply. Respect for the earth and its resources (not to mention a parent’s wallet) is not something we are born with; it is something to be learned.

And so went my lesson on this particular morning. I began with my Dad’s “starving children in Africa” argument. We need to be grateful for the plentiful food that we have, I explained.It is something that we middle class Americans take for granted. Aside from the vast number of people in third world countries who don’t have enough to eat, many Americans go without nutritious food. Despite the safety net in the U.S. not found in some countries [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)] 41 million people in the United States struggle with food insecurity including 13 million children, according to the nonprofit organization, Feeding America. Cultivating gratitude for one’s own food could lead to creating a society that shares its resources with one another.

In addition to gratitude, maintaining a sustainable lifestyle is something that I want to teach my kids. Though I have my extravagances, I do attempt to consume only what I need, I told Ryan. This means using what we have and being thoughtful in buying only what we need.

It was at this point that my husband chimed in. Sustainability is a lifestyle, he repeated. Throwing away something such as a small piece of aluminum foil seems insignificant, but multiplied by thousands, millions, those small pieces of foil would bloat a landfill. The waste we create does make a difference because we are part of a larger community.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2013, Americans recycled and composted approximately 87 million tons of material while sending about 254 million tons of material to landfills.  This equates to a 34.3 percent recycling rate. We could do better, and it all starts at home.

rsz_hermes-rivera-265412-unsplash
Photo by Hermes Rivera

Back to that carton of milk. John explained the resources needed to feed the cows who produce the milk, the energy needed to sustain the farm, the fuel needed to transport the milk. I put it in eleven-year-old terms. Cows make poop. Lots of cows means lots of poop. In fact, livestock emit 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gases and over half of that comes from cows. If we care about reducing our carbon footprint, we need to be cognizant of using only what we need and reducing our waste.

rsz_ryan-song-339249-unsplash
Photo by Ryan Song

Each generation considers themselves caretakers of our planet. Yet for our youngest generation, the challenges have never been so consequential. The habits and values we instill could lead them to take on the imperative role of environmental stewards.

As Ryan watched, I put the almost not quite empty carton of milk back in the refrigerator. At some point I heeded my Dad’s advice and began to eat my crusts. If there is hope for me, Ryan may learn too.







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