The True Weight of 300 Pounds

More fit people look at me when we’re at the park with our kids and their glances to me feel like 1000 pounds of judgment.

I haven’t always been the size I am now. Currently, according to the the scale in my aunt’s and uncle’s bathroom,  I am EE, which I assume is an acronym for Extremely Eloquent. Nailed it!

I weigh 300 pounds – 304.1 to be completely accurate.

It’s important to note that I have been fighting the urge to write this post for weeks because of my own insecurities. It seems contradictory (read: painfully hypocritical) since I remind my high school students all the time how important it is to be proud of yourself at every stage and to own your insecurities. I explain how much my husband loves me and how powerful my body is for having brought two children into the world.

All of that is true. I believe every word. However, I had to accept the realization that hiding behind layers of clothes and not being my true, authentic self regardless of what the scale read wasn’t going to make me any less overweight. People need to put a face to obesity. We need to be responsible enough to educate ourselves and our children so they can understand and begin to be sensitive to people’s struggles. We teach this with racism, sexism, and even poverty-sensitivity, but somehow it’s still acceptable to gawk and stare at a person who is overweight eating at a restaurant like they are some circus sideshow. Maybe if my story can be heard, people can begin to see that we aren’t monsters.

This is 300.

It should be noted that, while I am using my number so that I can begin to own it, many who echo my feelings are much smaller. Every person’s prison looks different.

My weight gain started in about fourth grade but, back then – before the instant spread of information – it was much easier to be blissfully unaware of one’s shortcomings. I had no idea I looked any different from my friends until sixth grade when I found out a boy in my class was paid in a bet to ask me to be his girlfriend and then give me a pack of Slim Fast as a Valentine’s gift…in the hallway…in front of all of my friends. Yeah, not one of my finer moments. (Sorry if I never told you that, Mom.)

To be honest, it wasn’t really the end of the world for me. I’ve never been like most girls who fawned after boys and wanted to be trendy. While I totally rocked the curled forward/curled back and feathered bangs of the 90’s, Guess jeans (which were from Goodwill and I eventually tore the business end out of during gym class), and silk shirts (mine were from the men’s department), I didn’t do makeup and boyfriends, Barbies or dress up. I did goals and involvement, jobs and volunteering. (Seriously, how did I manage to have friends?!)

It occurred to me later in life that I must’ve had some kind of awareness that I wasn’t physically acceptable. In the fifth grade, I wrote a fan letter to my 90s heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas (don’t act like you didn’t buy his issue of TeenBeat) and I asked my beautiful, cheerleading best friend to send her picture as my own. I must’ve known that I had no chance to hear back from him with a picture of myself in the letter.

Fast forward through high school and college where I tried billions of diets, fad plans, all natural pills, drinks, meetings, calorie counting, and starvation (for those who know how next-level mean I get when I’m hungry, picture how that last one must’ve gone). None of it worked.

The crazy thing is that, like most of you, when I look back at the pictures from those formative years, I would pay good money to look like I did then. At the time, I wanted to crawl in a hole during most social settings because I felt like the biggest cow in the room. I put on a super-believable front of confidence and hilarity but it was painfully isolating to feel that way about myself. I hid behind books, jobs, sports, and layers of clothing, because obviously a tank top and three t-shirts convinced people that I was only wearing that fat suit from “The Nutty Professor” instead of it being my real body under there.

Somehow I got along by being the guys’ gal. I played football with the boys, was a soccer goalie in college, and was usually one of the first picked for intramural teams because I wasn’t afraid to get dirty, but I really just wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere. How could I fit in while simultaneously feeling like I was watching it all from the outside?

I killed it in the gym before getting married and walked down the aisle, slaying it (if I do say so myself) at a solid 175 pounds. Anyone who was there would have been shocked by that number, but guess what? American people are idiots. We are so insanely naive to what real numbers look like spread across bones and muscle that we all assume 175 is the size of a grown man. Not always, my friends. I rocked a bikini on our honeymoon at 175 and would do it again in a hot minute if I still looked like that!

I then packed on 50 pounds in our first year of marriage because, well, marriage. I gained 80 more pounds with my first pregnancy since, as a lifetime over-eater, this was a license to eat donuts for every breakfast and wear stretch-pants to work because no one could say anything to me. Herein lies my greatest regret in life. No kidding.

The bounce-back from my post-wedding weight gain and two near-death childbirths hasn’t been the rebuilding year(s) I thought they’d be. I mean, how long is it acceptable to wear maternity clothes after your baby is born, really? Like, will anybody really notice if I rock a nursing bra to my daughter’s graduation?

This is 300.

What most people fail to recognize is that when you’re overwieght, you have to think about things differently every single day. It isn’t only the obvious considerations like seat belt extenders on airplanes or choosing a van over a compact car. Please understand what we see when we look at the world.

When we were deciding to downsize our living arrangements and go tiny, I was nervous because of my size. Could I navigate a ladder if we had a loft bedroom? Would I have to turn sideways in the hallways because, giiiirrrlll, these hips don’t lie? Would I even fit inside the shower or on the toilet? Turns out, it’s perfectly fine and we make it work.

In a movie theatre, music venue, or restaurant, I have to consider how wide the arms of the chairs are because slamming my hips into them is like pouring Play-doh into one of those spaghetti-making factories, if they have plastic seats because those babies don’t stand a chance, or if they have tables instead of booths because those suckers were made for infants. I refuse to eat at buffets because, even though my large frame consumes small meals at a time, I feel like I’m on display. It’s as if I am loading my plate at a feeding trough and all of the average-sized patrons are watching and snickering to themselves about me getting seconds, failing to notice the first plate had only a small salad and vegetables.

This is 300.

At home, in our tiny bathroom, the teal rug is flecked with white. This is the remnants of baby powder to ensure that everything goes smoothly throughout the day because, without it, the chafing that can happen behind the scenes is horribly painful. My husband asked me the other night if I somehow had gotten deodorant on my pants. I lied and said yes, but it was baby powder.

More fit people look at me when we’re at the park with our kids and their glances to me feel like 1000 pounds of judgment. Why isn’t she jogging instead of walking? Why did she wear a tank top in public? Why is she pouring her dumps over that bike seat so we have to all look at it? While their stares may be innocent, I feel the shame of a guilty verdict.

To say that my body is a prison would be a gross understatement. The analogy does no justice to my daily life because prisoners, even those doing time for crimes they didn’t commit, have no freedoms and little idea of the world outside. I’m forced to watch it pass by while my mind tells me I should be able to run, go, play, but my aching joints, bad back, and post-baby belly flap suggest otherwise. If you haven’t lived this life-sentence, please accept that you cannot possibly understand what we are going through. Additionally, we wouldn’t want you to feel this. It is painful…all the time.

This is 300.

When weight loss success stories begin with rock bottom moments like when their kid told them their friends called their mommy fat, or when they were made fun of in public, or when the scale would no longer register their weight, I smile. Good for them! Inside I somehow accept that I can never accomplish what they have. On some level I wonder if I self-sabotage because I feel like I don’t deserve to be successful. I have gone through every one of those scenarios…most more than once, but here I am.

To those of us who need to loose 100 pounds or more, it seems unachievable. We’re told, “Set small attainable goals. Exercise. Take in less calories than you’re burning.”

“You don’t say! Well that is brand new information! Why didn’t I think of that?!”

If you’re fit, or even one of those blessed with freak-show metabolism that burns off your fourth Taco Bell meal so you still make it into your size nothing skinny jeans, I applaud you. But I don’t understand your life. I can smell your burrito and wake up four pounds heavier for it.

This is 300.

I hate shopping. No, seriously. It’s the worst. I’ve always hated it because 10 years ago, when I was 175, it was even less acceptable for females to be larger. My size range of 10 to 14 may as well have been special order Big-and-Tall catalogue items. Now I shop exclusively online and happily pay the fee to return my items instead of awkwardly finagling my way around a fitting room only to leave disappointed and feeling even worse about myself.

It kills me that stores have started changing their sizing from 14/16, 18/20, 22/24, and 26/28 to 1, 2, 3, and 4. While I appreciate your attempt at sensitivity, I know if there are any single digits on my clothing tags, they better be followed by an X. Get serious! Nobody believes this shirt is a size two! The day my pants are a size anything below a 16, that long, narrow sizing sticker is staying on this leg, honey! All. Day.

“Ma’am, did you know your tag is still on your pants?”

“Why yes, innocent bystander at Starbucks. What is that number? Read it out loud. Tell your friends!”

When you’re larger, it’s difficult to feel like you look good in anything. Many have been told their entire lives that they are different, gross, or wrong. So when a well-intentioned friend pays us a compliment, our sensitive minds distort it into some kind of back-handed joke or slight about our looks.

Just because we had a grandpa who made crass comments about our size or a boy in grade school who bought us Slim Fast as a prank doesn’t mean the world sees us that way. Some do, but that is our reality. They are obviously inept. We are people. We have feelings, and families, and hopes for the future.

Just as smaller people should learn to walk a mile (okay, like a block) in our Sketchers Shape-Ups, we need to learn to let it go. Laugh so you don’t cry, call it what you want, but loosen up! Odds are you won’t wake up miraculously killing it in a supermodel frame, so we need to embrace it and decide where to go from here. As we do, let’s at least agree to enjoy the journey, even the bumpy, cellulite-filled parts.

This is 300.

Unlike other addictions, we need food to survive. Our reality is that we know our bodies shouldn’t run on a steady stream of cream-filled coffee, donuts from the office, and the Taco Bell Happier Hour dollar burrito we bought on our way home from work and trashed the bag so our family members didn’t know we ate it. We have to be honest with ourselves before we can be honest with anyone else.

“Oooh that girl is wearing one of those step counting watches! She’s probably on her way to eat kale and run at the park in some trendy yoga pants and one of those tank tops with the built-in bra!”

My Fitbit ain’t fooling anybody! I bought that burrito and ate it like a boss! What even is kale, other than the name of a kid who I imagine has friends with other pretentious names like Heath and Talon? I don’t even attempt Spanx, much less spandex yoga pants. Those shelf bras? HA! They hold up nothing and just spread over my back fat so I look like I am smuggling a pack of sausages.

It’s up to us to decide how we move forward from here. Some of us will continue to wallow in our self pity. Some may choose surgery, starvation, or a reality show in which you work out 12 hours a day. It’s a trick to make real people feel like it is attainable. (You know, those of us watching enviously as we devour an entire bag of chips and imagine what our life would be like if we lost our excess weight.) Many of us will continue to struggle. This is a lifetime sentence, even if you are successful.

I still don’t know my choice. I don’t want to just see my kids grow up, I want to be a part of that. I want to climb and race and do the crazy things I used to be able to do when I thought I looked like a monster.

8 Common Parenting Phrases That Backfire

If you’re a parent, chances are you’ve used some or all of these phrases at some point or another.

If you’re a parent, chances are you’ve used some or all of these phrases at some point or another. Here are some research-backed reasons why these eight common parenting phrases often backfire in ways we wouldn’t expect.

1 | “Don’t cry”

It can be so tempting to tell children not to cry because we deal with crying all the time, but telling children not to cry invalidates their feelings and teaches them not to openly share their emotions with you. Instead, try naming their feeling by saying, “You are so sad/scared/upset right now.”

By giving them words to describe their emotion, you validate it while also giving them the language they need to describe that feeling the next time they have it.

2 | “Stop _____”

Stop running. Stop yelling. Stop throwing things. Any time a parent uses this kind of directive, research shows that children are actually less likely to stop their behavior. Children’s brains are programmed to do what they hear. So if you say, “Stop running,” the last thing they hear is “run.” By saying, “Remember to use your walking feet,” you are telling them exactly how they should be moving. It also frames the directive in a more positive light.

3 | “Say sorry”

Young children are being taught to say “sorry” long before they’re actually developmentally capable of feeling sorry for their actions. The act of saying sorry appeases adults because it’s the polite thing to do, but research shows that saying sorry isn’t what causes children to become empathetic adults.

Instead, it’s much more productive to teach children to take action to help the person they’ve offended. For the child that breaks down another child’s block tower, have her help fix the tower. For the child that bites, have him get the other child some ice. By teaching our children that their actions have real consequences and require more than an un-empathetic “sorry,” they’ll become less likely to do these things again and become more empathetic in the process.

4 | “We don’t hit”

Or “we don’t throw,” “we don’t bite,” etc. This one is tricky because the purpose of this phrase is to show the child that they’re a part of a group that has rules to keep us safe. Unfortunately, for many children that are “repeat offenders” in terms or hitting or biting or any other negative behavior, this phrase can make them feel like an outsider of the group.

A much more productive approach is to say, “It is not okay to hit,” and to express how it made you or the other child feel. Follow up by having the child take action to help repair any damage that was done. 

5 | “See?”

This is the classic “I told you so.” You tell the child to stop jumping on the couch; she doesn’t listen, and ends up falling off the couch and hurting herself. You respond with “See, I told you not to jump on the couch.”

This response shames the child and doesn’t provide her the opportunity for problem solving or reflection. It’s best to wait until the child is calm, and then have a conversation about what happened and ask her how she will make a better choice the next time.

6 | “No whining”

Whining is a challenge. It’s so annoying that you just want it to stop – and quick! But telling kids not to whine doesn’t stop their whining. Instead, try saying, “Use your strong voice,” or ask, “How can we solve this problem?” By tapping into the child’s problem-solving capabilities, you empower him to have some control over the situation.

You can also try parenting expert Lynn Lott’s “Asked and Answered” strategy. When your child has asked a question and you have responded with “No,” and yet he keeps whining, you can say, “Asked and Answered.” Once the child understands this phrase and it’s used consistently in the home, the child will be less likely to whine, nag, or negotiate.

7 | “How many times do I have to tell you?”

This phrase backfires because it sends a message that you’re willing to tell your child something more than once. If the child hasn’t responded the first time, it’s likely that she either 1) didn’t hear you or understand the direction the first time, or 2) is avoiding the direction. How we deal with this situation varies based on which category it falls into, but saying “How many times do I have to tell you,” sends the wrong message and doesn’t get our children to do what we’ve asked.

8 | “Wait until your father gets home”

This classic phrase does two things: it builds fear for the reaction of the parent that’s not present, and it sends the message that you aren’t going to take action in the moment. Consequences for young children must happen in the moment in order for them to be effective – waiting for Dad or Mom to get home makes the consequence ineffective in the long run. Additionally, when children build up a fear of their parents’ reaction, it makes the child less likely to come to the parent when he’s done something wrong for fear of punishment.

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What Moms of Kids With Invisible Disabilities Want You to Know

Parents of kids with invisible disabilities want the world to know it’s only okay to assume one thing: They and their kids are doing the best they can.

While some disabilities demand recognition via a wheelchair, hearing aid, or portable oxygen tank, others are more subtle, but that doesn’t make them any less real. Known as invisible disabilities, these affect 96 percent of people who have a chronic medical condition according to one estimate. Caring for a child with any disability presents extra challenges. For the parents of kids with invisible disabilities, those challenges often include the misperceptions of their communities – including friends, family, neighbors, and teachers – that are uninformed at best and hostile at worst.

I talked to moms of kids with invisible disabilities including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Avoidant and Resistive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), hemophilia, and many others, to find out what they wish more people understood about their experiences. Here are some of them.

Sensory processing issues are not discipline issues

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, sensory processing affects virtually all aspects of a child’s daily life, including motor coordination, school performance, and relationships. A child with sensory processing disorder could have 20/20 vision and perfect hearing, but when he’s in a crowded mall, his brain is not able to manage all of the auditory and visual information he’s receiving through his eyes and ears. While each kid reacts differently to overstimulation, some will scream or become physically aggressive. What may look like defiance is just a kid doing his best to manage a stressful environment. The assumption that a lack of discipline indicates a failure by the parent is totally without merit. Here are few of their stories.

Jaime has a five-year-old son with level one high functioning ASD. She says, “Discipline will not prevent him from being overwhelmed by his environment.”

Lainie Gutterman, the mom of a seven-year-old boy with ASD agrees. She says when her son is having a meltdown, “Staring, pointing and offering your two cents is not helping the situation and will most likely cause my son or myself to feel worse and [his] behaviors to escalate.”

Similarly, Jennifer Lynn, whose son has ADHD, wishes people understood she’s not being rude or indulging her children when she leaves a party abruptly. “It’s just that we see the warning signs and are trying to help our kiddo avoid a meltdown.” She says events like family gatherings or vacations, which are fun for most people, “are stressful for our family because it’s just too much everything.”

A little compassion goes a long way

Regardless of their child’s diagnosis, virtually every mom I talked to described the pain of receiving judgment instead of compassion. Sarah Cottrell, whose son has hemophilia, is tired of challenging people’s assumptions about his diagnosis. She says, “He doesn’t have AIDS and hemophilia isn’t caused by incest. Enough with the wild theories, because we need compassion and empathy for the unseen pain issues and unending fear and anxiety over covering his insurance.”

Most parents I talked to, particularly those of kids with sensory processing disorder, described organizing their days around their kids’ strict routines. Every parent understands how easily the best-laid plans for meals, naps, and bedtimes can implode. What many parents don’t understand is how much higher the stakes are when your special-needs child depends on predictability for a sense of safety.

Lisa Rosen, who wakes up 90 minutes before her kids in order to prepare for the non-stop mental and physical energy her son requires, says, “When adults look at my child, they see a happy kid…. But I know that if one thing is off in our routine, I’m dealing with Hiroshima.” Her son Ezra, age three, has sensory processing disorder and is speech delayed. According to Rosen, something as seemingly minor as the smell of a classmate’s detergent could cause him to melt down to the point where she must carry him out of the classroom – regardless of whether she’s carrying her 15-month-old baby as well. She describes her family’s disappointing absence of understanding when she couldn’t attend the funeral of a family member due to a lack of childcare coupled with Ezra’s regimented schedule and complex needs. “Who knew compassion was so difficult to come by?” she asks.

The predictability some kids require doesn’t just extend to schedules and environments, but also to food. Brianna Bell and Jennifer Gregory each have a child with sensory processing disorder that makes them intolerant of many foods. Because of this, Bell hates sharing meals with friends. She says, “There is so much pressure from others for her to eat this and that and not be so picky. I feel rude bringing my own food but she starves if I don’t. And people just don’t understand and assume she’s spoiled.”

Gregory asserts that her family frequently eats separately. She serves alternative meals and allows screens at the table, and this works for them. She wants people to understand that for her family, “Mealtime is chock full of stress and anxiety and the goal is to get food into our son’s belly because he doesn’t eat enough. If an iPad distracts him from smells and texture and allows him to eat more, so be it.”

Parents described not only a shortage of kindness from other parents, but also from other children. Lisa Beach recalled her son’s adolescent years as being particularly isolating. He is now 20 and has Asperger’s. Beach’s advice to parents is simple: “Teach [your] kids to reach out and include rather than label and judge.”

Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there

When a parent is struggling to find a diagnosis, pay for therapies, or just get through the day with a kid who has an invisible disability, it is not helpful to insist nothing’s wrong because their kid looks so “normal” or that her IQ is so high. What may be intended as a compliment may come as a slap in the face to the parent who has committed precious time, energy, and money to her child’s disability.

Samantha Taylor’s 13-year-old has high functioning autism, generalized anxiety disorder, and an eating disorder, while her ten-year-old has dysgraphia and anxiety. Although Taylor is open with her friends and family about her kids’ diagnoses, because they appear “normal,” she says people are often shocked when her kids say something inappropriate or react in a way that is out of proportion to the situation. Says Taylor, “While it might look to everyone in our lives that we are holding it all together, I worry about my boys every single day. I wake up thinking about what I can do to make their day easier, and go to bed wondering if I did enough.” In search of a supportive community, Taylor ended up creating a thriving Facebook group for moms of kids with special needs.

One mother (who prefers anonymity) describes feeling frustrated when people judge her for coming to her son’s aid. He is in his early 20’s and has high functioning Asperger Syndrome. While she may appear overprotective, that is not the case. She says, “High functioning individuals are acutely aware that they are different and sometimes have self-confidence issues. Shaming them for needing help is not productive and can contribute to anxiety and depression. Thoughtless comments can sometimes ‘undo’ progress that has been made.”

You’re an advocate

Parents of kids with invisible disabilities are not just responsible for feeding, clothing, loving, disciplining, and teaching their kids. They must also advocate for their kids in a system that does not always have their best interests at heart.

One mom, who preferred to remain anonymous, described the challenge of having a 12-year-old son who has ADHD and a learning disability. She described his teachers’ low expectations, recalling an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting where a teacher was clearly impressed with her son’s “C”, “and how great that was ‘for a kid on an IEP.’” To compensate for his teachers’ low expectations, she says she always reminds her son that “[he] is smart and his IQ reflects that. There is no reason he shouldn’t be able to get an ‘A’ … if he is provided with the right services.” She also described a general lack of understanding of her son’s ADHD diagnosis among his teachers, which she feels causes them to set unreasonably high expectations of him in other areas, such as his ability to get organized or follow a schedule.

Delaina Baker, whose son is dyslexic and has auditory processing disorder, described similar struggles with her son’s school. She says she wishes teachers were more accommodating of his IEP. Says Baker, “It is my right to fight for my child and if you challenge my knowledge of his disability, I can assure you, I’ll have a spreadsheet, charts, and back-up data to prove it.” She says she is grateful to have found an ally in her son’s Exceptional Student Education (ESE) coordinator, whom she feels is her son’s only advocate beside herself.

Parenting is hard enough without adding other people’s assumptions to the equation. Parents of kids with invisible disabilities just want the world to know that it’s only okay to assume one thing: They and their kids are doing the best they can.

14 Ways "Black-Ish" Normalized Postpartum Depression

A recent episode of the ABC sitcom “Black-ish” focused on postpartum depression and mental health. This is incredible progress.

I was very pleased to watch television this week and see a mental health focus for an entire episode of the ABC sitcom “Black-ish.” This is incredible progress. As a licensed mental health therapist, I understand well the stigma facing mental health and how much awareness and education is needed.

In the “Black-ish” Season 4 Episode 2 – Mother Nature, Bow is feeling overwhelmed after the birth of her son and learns she is suffering from postpartum depression. Dre urges her to get help and stands by her side while she works through it. Meanwhile, the kids baby-proof the house in an effort to help their parents out.

Here are 14 ways this episode of “Black-ish” normalizes mental health for new mothers experiencing postpartum depression.

1 | Honoring mothers is not dishonoring fathers

In the first two minutes of the episode, we see Andre Johnson Sr., or Dre (played by Anthony Anderson), recognizing the pride a man feels when having a newborn baby. He also honors women for the feat of carrying a human being inside their body, and now holding and nurturing that child for the rest of their lives.

“Mother nature has given women everything they need to sustain life with comfort and ease.” A man honoring and praising a woman for her motherhood does not take away from his honor or manhood, it enhances it.

2 | Your family may notice you acting differently but may not understand you are dealing with a mental health issue

Dr. Rainbow Johnson (Bow), played by Tracee Ellis Ross, is visibly showing signs of depression – easily distracted, lack of motivation, frequent crying, low energy, insomnia, etc. As narrated by Dre, the family is aware that something is “wrong” and take steps to help Bow, but are initially unaware she is struggling with a mood disorder.

3 | Having a mental health diagnosis is not a sign of weakness

Dre’s mother, Ruby Johnson (played by Jennifer Lewis) makes the following statement when referring to Bow’s change in behaviors, “This is what new motherhood looks like…she’s just weak.”

There’s often a perception that acknowledging the presence of a mental health diagnosis or even getting help or treatment is a sign of weakness. It is not!

In the last scenes of the episode Ruby ends up apologizing to Bow and tells Bow she’s not weak. Ruby admits being weak for not being there to help Bow through this experience.

4 | Having experienced postpartum depression during a previous pregnancy is a risk factor, but is not the only indication

Dre makes the statement that Bow didn’t experience the symptoms she’s displaying presently after the birth of her other children, and he doesn’t understand why this pregnancy is different.

While previous experiences with postpartum depression are a strong indication of present or future indications, they’re not the only factor that must be considered. Factors such as previous experience with depression, a family member who’s been diagnosed with depression or other mental illness, medical complications during childbirth, mixed feelings about the pregnancy, whether it was planned or unplanned, and others. In Bow’s case, the fact that the baby came early, Bow’s age (meaning it was a high-risk pregnancy), and other factors make experiencing postpartum depression very likely.

5 | Postpartum depression is not the same as having “baby blues”

One of Dre’s co-workers attempts to diagnose Bow as having the “baby blues,” which is used to describe the feelings of unrest, tiredness, worry, and fatigue many women experience after having a baby. It’s normal for a mother to experience worry or concern over being able to provide care for the newborn baby, and this is present in approximately 80 percent of mothers.

However, postpartum depression is extreme feelings of sadness and anxiety that affect the mother’s self-care or that of her family. This affects approximately 15 percent of births. A new mother should not try to diagnose herself but consider speaking to a mental health professional to get an evaluation if she or another family member is concerned.

6 | New mothers can experience postpartum depression and not know it

Dre takes the advice of his co-workers and reads through a magazine targeted to women where he discovers his wife may be experiencing postpartum depression. The suggestion from the magazine encourages Dre to be gentle with his approach in discussing this with his wife.

While magazine or online questionnaires are no substitute for mental health treatment or assessment, the advice given in this occasion was helpful. Having a discussion with a new mother about the possibility of her having postpartum depression should be done very delicately and in a supportive manner.

7 | Mothers should not try to self-diagnose themselves

Bow makes this statement, “I do not have postpartum depression. I am a doctor and I would know.”

While the character of Rainbow Johnson is a medical doctor, she does not specialize in mental health or psychiatry. Postpartum depression doesn’t discriminate in race, profession, socioeconomic status, or anything else. A diagnosis of postpartum depression is not an indication of weakness or failure in the new mother; rather, it’s an indication of something that affects many women. Luckily, there’s help for it.

8 | A woman experiencing postpartum depression is not someone who needs to be fixed

In one scene, Dre asks Bow over and over if she’s okay and tries to engage her in activities. Bow responds, “Please stop trying to fix me.”

It’s important to recognize the new mother not as something that has been broken and needs fixing, but as a human being who is experiencing a mood disorder and needs lots of support. This mindset of the mother being “broken” may cause her symptoms to worsen. She may feel like her body is failing if she can’t breastfeed, or her skills as a mother are failing if she is unable to console her child, or any other self-defeating thought.

9 | Just because someone else did not seek treatment after giving birth does not mean this is healthy for everyone

Dre’s mother, Ruby, discusses Bow’s ability to parent with Dre, comparing Bow’s present actions with her own experience after giving birth to Dre. She says, “I didn’t go to some quack doctor because I was mentally ill with some made-up disease.”

Dre quickly corrects her and explains that postpartum depression is not made up, stating that many women experience it. The Center for Disease Control estimates 11 to 20 percent of new mothers experience postpartum depression. Just because your mother, sister, grandmother, aunt, best friend, or whomever didn’t receive treatment for postpartum depression doesn’t mean that is the best course of action for you.

10 | Recovery from postpartum depression is not instantaneous, it takes time

One of Bow’s children asks, “Why isn’t she getting better?”

Sometimes the expectation for the new mother, or her family and friends, is that she will get better quickly. This process takes time and can be incredibly frustrating for the new mother. Support, encouragement, and space will be vital to her during this time. The best thing family and friends can do is to keep communication open and provide the new mother with what she asks for.

11 | Experiencing postpartum depression is not a reason to allow people to walk over you; establish and reinforce boundaries

One of the scenes shows Ruby and Bow discussing why Ruby made the decision to give Bow’s child baby formula instead of the breastmilk Bow had pumped. Bow assertively tells Ruby she has crossed a line.

It’s important to seek the counsel of a mental health professional regarding healthy behaviors and practices, but at the end of the day you are a mother and it is your child. No one should ever make you feel bad for wanting to raise a healthy baby and no one should violate your wishes as the child’s mother. This may mean setting boundaries with your family, in-laws, friends, significant other, or other people.

12 | The new mother needs support and unconditional love from her significant other

If the new mother is fortunate to have the support of a significant other, that person should be prepared to fully support and love the new mother unconditionally.

In the scene when Bow tells Ruby to get out of her house, Dre supports his wife, even to the point of asking his own mother to leave their house. Bow needs this support during this time. Ruby also calls Bow crazy and says she is overreacting.

Name-calling and unrealistic expectations will only backfire and make things harder for the new mother. The feelings the new mother is experiencing are real, and they should be honored and given space to be worked through.

13 | Everyone around the new mother will feel powerless to help and that’s okay, because it’s not about them

Dre is speaking to his father, played by Lawrence Fishburne, about Bow’s seemingly lack of progress. He states, “I feel powerless.”

It’s not uncommon for men to feel like the woman needs fixing and it’s their job to fix her, but the new mother just needs time, support, and unconditional love to help her during this time. Let’s us not forget this woman just carried a human being inside her body and now that human being is a newborn baby who is crying and solely dependent on the new mother for everything. No pressure at all, right?

14 | Counseling or therapy and medication management are proven treatments for postpartum depression

There still continues to be a stigma around mental health. It is everyone’s responsibility to become informed and to inform others so we can break the stigma.

In the last few scenes of the episode, Bow talks about the therapeutic homework her therapist assigned to help her through this experience. Bow also expresses initial frustration at her therapist, which is normal for anyone entering therapy. Bow’s continuation with therapy and her medication helps her eventually work through and improve her mood.

If you or a loved one may be experiencing postpartum depression, please contact a mental health professional for an evaluation.

Surviving the Common Cold: What the Research Says

While everyone has a cold treatment they swear by, scientific research has its own favorites. Here are a few therapies the data does (and doesn’t) support.

As soon as you touch the door handles in your child’s classroom, you can almost feel the germs latch on. Your partner mentions her secretary has the sniffles, and you immediately notice the back of your throat starting to scratch. Your cousin posts to Facebook his kids are just getting over a bad cold, and even though he lives across the country, you know it’s coming for you anyway. Getting sick is nearly impossible to avoid when you’re parenting youngsters with underdeveloped immune systems.

But at the very least, you can avoid ineffective cold remedies. While everyone has a cold treatment they swear by, scientific research has its own favorites. Here are a few therapies that the data does (and doesn’t) support.

Elderberry

Elderberry is the most recent trend in cold and flu remedies, but don’t overlook this newcomer. A small study of flu patients found that those who took three teaspoons of elderberry syrup four times a day for five days were symptom-free four days sooner than those who took a placebo. Another small study found that air travelers who took elderberry supplements were less likely to contract colds, and those who did had less severe cold symptoms.

Zinc

Zinc won’t stop a cold in its tracks, but it’s still one of your best bets. Research has shown that taking zinc within the first 24 hours of symptoms, and continuing through the length of the cold, can reduce the length of a cold by an average of one day. Sure, one day might not be much, but if it’s the day that you have to coach your kid’s basketball game or nail a big presentation at work, it might be worth it. 

Other studies have even found colds to be reduced by as much as 35 to 40 percent.The downside of zinc is a potential for bad taste and nausea. Be sure to take zinc on a full stomach.

Echinacea

Echinacea is often touted as a way to prevent colds but the jury is still out on this one. A study found that taking 900 mg of Echinacea a day did not reduce the likelihood of contracting colds or the severity of symptoms. Other studies, however, found the opposite. A meta-analysis from University of Connecticut claims that Echinacea can reduce the chance of contracting a cold by 58 percent, and reduce the duration by an average of 1.4 days. Echinacea is ineffective for children.

Nasal irrigation

Your sister-in-law swears by it. Your mom keeps calling you to ask if you’ve tried it yet. But it’s just so dang gross. Can you really shoot water up your nose to make the gunk come out, and is it even worth it?

Yes, yes it is. Researchers believe nasal irrigation, often referred to by the brand name “Neti Pot,” may help relieve symptoms of acute respiratory tract infections with minimal side effects. If you can get your child to do it, it’s effective for them also.

Over-the-counter medicine

For children, the dangers of over-the-counter medications likely outweigh the benefits. Several studies have found that antihistamines and decongestants are no more effective than placebos for treating coughs or promoting sleep in children, but are in the top 20 substances leading to death in children younger than five years of age.

For adults, cough medicines with dextromethopran modestly decrease cough severity and frequency compared to a placebo.

Honey

The easiest remedy to convince children to take might also be one of the best. Buckwheat honey is more effective than placebo for reducing coughs and improving sleep for children, but should not be used in children younger than one year due to the risk of botulism.

Vitamin C

Put down the glass of orange juice. If you are already sick with a cold, it’s too late for Vitamin C to do you much good. Research has found that taking 200 mg of Vitamin C before getting sick can help reduce the duration of cold symptoms by an average of one day. For most people, however, taking the vitamin did not reduce the likelihood of getting a cold.

Essential oils

Peppermint, eucalyptus, teatree – when it comes to cold and flu season, are these potions essential or another brand of snake oil?  Unfortunately, research on the effectiveness of essential oils remains pretty weak. Eucalyptus and peppermint oil, however, have long been used as decongestants. Neither should be used on children younger than two; in fact, peppermint oil can cause life-threatening breathing problems for infants.

If sleeping with Vicks VapoRub and socks on your feet sounds like a sweaty and sticky torture, feel free to skip this remedy. There is no evidence to suggest that it works. A study in the journal Pediatrics, however, notes that parents have found it effective in helping their children get a better night’s sleep when applied to the chest. However, camphor oil – a main ingredient in vapor rubs – can be toxic to children under two and should not be used on infants.

Sleep

“When you’re sick, rest is best, rest is best,” our friend Daniel Tiger loves to remind us. Of course, for a parent, resting is far harder than taking a vitamin supplement. But research shows that sleeping six hours or less a night can makes it four times more likely an adult will catch colds compared to those who slept seven hours per night. Those who regularly slept less than five hours of sleep had a nearly a fifty/fifty shot at catching a cold when exposed to a virus, compared to an one in six chance for those who slept seven or more hours a night.

Antibiotics

Quite simply, there is no way an antibiotic will help the common cold. Colds are viral infections, and antibiotics treat bacterial ones. Research backs this claim up. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also cautions that antibiotics are not needed for sinus infections caused by viruses.

If your favorite remedy didn’t make the list, don’t discount the placebo effect. Snuggling up with your favorite tea or your grandmother’s chicken noodle soup will do you good even if they don’t decrease cold symptoms by a statistically significant amount.

Moms-To-Be, You Should Still Get Flu Vaccines

A clickbait article is spreading like, well, the flu, and is likely to significantly impact pregnant women’s behavior at doctors’ offices this flu season.

A study published in the journal Vaccine has identified an association between the flu vaccine and miscarriage. The finding of the study is quite narrow: women who had a spontaneous abortion (SAB) were more likely to have received flu vaccinations during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 flu seasons. The study’s authors are cautious about their conclusions: “This study does not and cannot establish a causal relationship between repeated influenza vaccination and SAB, but further research is warranted.”

That disclaimer isn’t stopping needless panic in pregnant women as this is a finding tailor-made for clickbait. This article is spreading like, well, the flu, and is likely to significantly impact pregnant women’s behavior at doctors’ offices this flu season.

Some analysts have already offered good reasons not to panic. Emily Ramirez at Pregnant Chicken suggests that the 2010-2012 flu vaccine, which was developed in response to H1N1, was a unique vaccine, so findings based on miscarriages during that period might not be applicable to other years. Lena H. Sun at the Washington Post notes that the median age of miscarriage recorded in the study was seven weeks, a time when the risk of miscarriage is high and when many women don’t even know they are pregnant. Sun hypothesizes that the flu vaccine-miscarriage link could be explained by some women’s overall use of health care. The women in the study who had miscarriages were enrolled after seeking medical treatment for their miscarriages. Women who seek treatment for miscarriage are also more likely to pursue other preventive health measures (like flu shots), which might explain the association discovered by the researchers.

One more reason not to panic has nothing to do with the specific study findings, or with the particular time period that was studied. It’s where the article was published.

What does a journal say about its articles?

When a scientific finding gets reported in the news, the title of the journal is often an afterthought. In sparse Associated Press Style, the journal isn’t italicized or underlined, so it often doesn’t even stick out to readers. But the journal titles often offer helpful clues to readers trying to interpret a study’s findings.

One of those hints is a journal’s “impact factor,” a number that shows its importance relative to other journals in its field. A journal’s impact factor is calculated by totaling all the citations of articles from the previous two years and dividing it by the total number of articles published in the journal during that time. The result is the average number of citations each article in the journal receives.

Impact factors are not without controversy. Averaging the citations for a journal’s article makes it appear as though all articles are equally influential, when of course there is often great variety of impact. Furthermore, practices like publishing literature reviews (summaries of the known scientific literature about a topic), tend to up a publication’s impact factor because they are widely cited.

Although it is an imperfect measurement, a journal’s impact factor offers a sense for the journal’s prestige. The higher the impact factor, the more prestigious the journal. The 2016 impact factor of the Journal of the American Medical Association is 44. For The New England Journal of Medicine, it’s 72.

The 2016 impact factor of Vaccine is three.

Does this mean the articles in Vaccine are not credible? Not at all. It just means that they are not frequently cited by other medical researchers.

There could be many reasons for lower citation rates. A low impact factor could be an indicator that the journal’s articles are not considered credible by other researchers. But a low impact factor could also indicate that the topics studied by the journal are for a narrow audience of specialists.

Although an impact factor can’t tell you whether an article in a journal is good or even true, it does tell you that it is expected to be a field-transforming article. Both the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association frequently run articles about vaccines. You can bet that if the authors of this article had identified a causal link between the flu vaccine and miscarriage, they would have published in one of those journals.

The New York Times interviewed Vaccine’s editor-in-chief Gregory Poland about his decision to publish these findings. Poland asserted that the piece was well-designed and raised an important question. But when asked if he thought the flu vaccines caused the miscarriages, he answered “Not at all.” The Times piece also mentions that this article was rejected at two other publications before being accepted at Vaccine, but that fact should not be taken as a marker of quality. Scientific researchers regularly submit multiple times before receiving an acceptance.

Who is vaccine research for?

The authors of the study assert that the findings should not change vaccine policy. The editor of the journal that published the study thinks that the flu vaccines were not the cause of the miscarriages. And yet, the reporting of this article is leaving readers with exactly that interpretation.

This brings us to an important question. Who are the results of scientific research for? Should the public be reading the tentative conclusions of scientific journal articles? Should journalists be reporting on them?

This study does not suggest any behavioral change for pregnant women. Instead, it poses an interesting question for future research: is there something different about that 2011-2012 vaccine that is not yet understood? Could further study of that vaccine contribute to increased vaccine safety?

These are great questions for “the pre-eminent journal for those interested in vaccines and vaccination.” These are terrible questions for pregnant women, or soon-to-be-pregnant women, or women who experienced miscarriages who are now blaming themselves for getting vaccinated.

Perhaps that’s why, ahead of Vaccine’s publication of this article, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a preemptive “warning” to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, not about any dangers posed by flu vaccines, but to “help them prepare for a potential wave of worry from expectant moms.”

It would be unfair to expect scientific journals not to release their results to the public; in fact, doing so would slow the pace of scientific discovery. It would likewise be unfair to expect journalists not to report on those findings. But it’s even more unfair to drop such findings in front of readers – readers who will make health choices based on those findings – without providing appropriate context for interpretation.

I Teach at a University and I Unschool My Kids

Unschooling rejects the idea of replicating the school environment at home in favor of self-directed learning through engaging fully with the world.

I’ve been in school almost my entire life. I started preschool shortly before turning three, I started elementary school at age six, I followed the standard path through middle school and high school, and then went directly to college. After college I earned two Master’s degrees and then a PhD. Even after that I didn’t want to leave. I now teach at a university.

As you may have guessed by now, I love school. I’m good at school. I’ve learned a lot through school. So it comes as a surprise to some people that I have chosen not to send my kids to school. Instead, we’ve embraced the philosophy of unschooling. Unschooling is a form of homeschooling that rejects the idea of replicating the school environment at home in favor of self-directed learning through living and engaging fully with the world. Below are eight of the biggest reasons why we’ve chosen unschooling for our kids.

 1 | I want them to learn how to learn

In traditional schooling, there is a heavy emphasis on following directions. It starts in kindergarten and often continues through high school. Even in most college courses, the recipe for success is laid out for students: Do the assignments as directed and get an A. Congratulations. You’ve succeeded!

I can follow directions like a champ, which is one reason I did well in school. Give me an assignment and I will follow instructions to a T. Unfortunately, I’ve found that this skill is next to useless in the real world (aside from tax filing). It also becomes less and less useful as you progress in school. In fact, the further along I got in school, the more schooling began to resemble unschooling.

Once I started working on my dissertation, there were no more assignments to complete according to instructions. It was suddenly up to me to ask questions and then answer them. This was a big shift for me and I spent a couple of years floundering with lack of direction before figuring out how to handle self-directed learning. An unschooled person will have a huge advantage in this regard.

 2 | I want to raise leaders, thinkers, innovators, and entrepreneurs

Anyone can raise a future employee who shows up on time and does what he’s told. It’s a much bigger challenge to raise a future employer — the one with the vision and drive to make things happen in the world. Of course, my kids may not grow up to be business owners. That isn’t the goal. The goal is to raise motivated thinkers who find a place they can put their passion to work, not just execute steps according to someone else’s plan.

3 | I’ve seen the power of being passionate about one’s work

Academia is full of people who are passionate about their work. Really passionate. Not “I enjoy my job, but look forward to kicking back on the weekend” passionate. I know many people for whom their job is not only their job, but also their hobby and their life. These people are wildly successful, not just by traditional standards of having prestige and money, but also by the more important standard of loving what you do and looking forward to doing it every day.

4 | I don’t want them to be afraid of math

Unschooling parents are often asked, “How will you teach your children math?” The fact that this question pops up so frequently shows that many people believe math to be arcane form of knowledge that can’t be obtained the same way that reading, writing, music, or biology is learned. I don’t think that’s true at all. I think the only thing that sets math apart is that people are afraid of it.

As a math major in college, I quickly got used to seeing pained looks on people’s faces when I told them what I studied. Once I was doing my homework on an airplane when a flight attendant glanced over said, “Is that math? I hate math.”

The school system is clearly doing a rather poor job at instilling a love of math in its students. Given the extremely strong correlation between loving a subject and learning it, I want to keep the love of math alive and well in our household.

5 | It will prepare them better for college

Some unschooling families don’t view college as a goal for their children. Some unschoolers start lucrative businesses, do apprenticeships, embark on their careers, or continue to educate themselves outside of institutions between the ages of 18 to 22 when many of their schooled peers are off to college. I believe these are worthwhile ways to spend your time, but I also believe that college is a very valuable experience due to the wealth of opportunities it places at your fingertips. The key is to be prepared to make the most of those opportunities. In my experience, homeschooled students clearly understand that they are in charge of their own education and professors are merely there to act as facilitators. That’s what it takes to be successful in college.

6 | It will prepare them better for the workforce

When you were a kid, you were probably asked at some point what you wanted to be when you grew up. What did you answer? Social media coordinator? Canine and equine massage therapist? Birth photographer? Mobile app developer? I suspect the answer was none of these, because some of these jobs didn’t exist when we were kids. Others may have existed but were hidden from most of us. We have no idea what the world will look like in 20 years or even in 10 years. Traditional schooling prepares kids for today’s jobs. Unschooling prepares them for future jobs.

 7 | They will know that preparing for college or the workforce isn’t the point

Becoming a knowledgeable and productive adult citizen is important, but there’s more to life that that. As someone who grew up as a “good student,” I admittedly sometimes forgot to seek out fun and adventure and even put building meaningful human relationships on the back burner. I’ve been slowly unlearning that since becoming a parent.

The greatest beauty of unschooling lies in the time we have together as a family enjoying each other’s company. We don’t have homework battles, we have adventures together. We don’t set an alarm clock, we sleep until we’re not tired anymore. We don’t leave early because it’s a school night, we stay out late with friends. We don’t just prepare for life, we live it now.

8 | I know that no one has all the answers

Being in the company of some very smart people on a regular basis quickly shows you how little you actually know. After a while, you realize this applies to everyone. No one knows everything. My kids ask me questions I don’t know the answer to every single day. There is no shame in not knowing something. In fact, there is great value in realizing that you don’t know something and then going to find out.

Like anyone else, unschooling parents don’t have all of the answers, but we ask a lot of questions and we dig deep, past common assumptions and social norms. I can’t think of a better example of a true education than that.

This was originally published on Pocketful of Pebbles.

Date Nights in the Parenthood Era

I want to feel like my husband and I have left our date nights like we used to before we were parents.

“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

This is not the opening exchange at an Indecisives Anonymous meeting. (I’ve never actually been to one, I can’t decide if I should go.) This stimulating conversation is the exchange that begins date night with my husband.

A long time ago, in the land of skinny jeans and carbs, my husband and I could ponder the, “What do you want to do tonight?” question for hours and still come up with something fun to do and have a great time doing it. Since we’ve become parents, this question has a pressure for which I was unprepared. We’ve got to figure out what to do with our precious date night time right now. We must connect! We must have fun! We must make our Golden Time remarkable!

These days, my brain is too overworked from answering tough questions like which brand of kids’ fruit snacks is less deadly, and will our toddler’s Spiderman costume turn him into a spider. For date nights, I’d like to suggest a romantic evening of staring at the wall, but I know my husband and I need time to connect, so I’m not sure that’s going to suffice. The best plan my tired noggin can think up is dinner and movie. Admittedly, this is not very creative or exciting. Unless it’s a movie with Chris Pine, then it’s very exciting! (My husband loves Chris Pine.)

Dinner and a movie gets us out together, but oftentimes we find ourselves rushing through the dinner portion of the evening only to find me falling asleep through the movie portion of the evening. It feels hurried and forced. I only have a limited amount of time to prove to my husband that I’m still that fun gal he married – that I can totally stay up past 9:30, laugh at his jokes, and use words like “gal” easily in a sentence. I’m scoring very high on using words like “gal” in sentences, but I keep falling asleep in the middle of his jokes. Our Golden Time in not very golden.

I want to feel like my husband and I have left our date nights like we used to before we were parents – full of each other, the kind of happy-full I feel like after I’ve eaten that ridiculously enormous chocolate cake from Claim Jumper (don’t ask me to share). Mostly, though, I leave our time together feeling hungry like I’ve eaten my toddler’s portion of vegetables (ask me to share). I want more him. I want more us. I want more chocolate cake.

In an effort to help us connect more, I started trying to come up with different ideas for our date nights. Maybe the dinner and a movie thing just wasn’t conducive to connection. We tried staying home and catching up on TV like we used to. We tried going out for long dinners with no other plans like we used to. We tried heading out the door with no specific itinerary except maybe to get dessert like we used to. None of these helped me feel more in tune with him. Now that we were parents, was this just the new norm – me falling asleep face down in our appetizer in the middle of his punch lines? Had we changed that much?

I’ve definitely changed, and it isn’t just my wardrobe. Yes, elastic pants have replaced tight-fitting jeans and 9:30 PM is my new midnight, but I feel my insides have shifted, too. As a stay-at-home mom, my days are filled with my child. My focus is all-kid-all-the-time with only an occasional adult-alone break to use the bathroom, and even then I occasionally have a toddler-sized chaperone. I’m constantly a mom, always tuned into that mom-channel within. Maybe the problem isn’t with us, the problem is me.

I keep looking for time with my husband to be like it was, and that’s the true problem. I’m not the same person I was before I had a child. Why would our date nights feel the same when I don’t? I was slow to figure it out (I’ll blame that on lack of sleep for over a year), but once I stopped expecting our Golden Time to feel the same, an immense amount of pressure dropped away. Our time together began to have a lightness that sparked that connection for which I’d been searching.

Date nights with my husband aren’t what they were, but I am cool with this. Releasing the heavy expectations of our previous time together has freed up space to allow them to be what they are: a reflection of us now. Sure, my husband might prefer I stay up later than 9:30, but we are a couple with a kid. I may not get there. However, this doesn’t make me any less great of a “gal” or us a less fun couple, it just makes us partners with a kid. Enjoying our time together for what it is has made all the difference. That and starting our dates at 4:30 pm.

Practice for Discipline and Enrichment, Not Perfection

Practice is only one of many other personal factors that predict how much kids learn.

Practice makes perfect as the old adage goes, yet cases of failure abound, despite copious practice. Science now suggests that while practice will definitely make your kid better, it won’t necessarily get him to perfection.

A recent study analyzed the performance of more than 11, 000 participants in music, games, sports, and educational and occupational domains, and found that those who regularly practiced performed better than those who did not. However, the researchers also found that practice was only one of many other personal factors that predicted just how much was learned. Here are a few tips to help your kid make the most out of practice.

1 | Practice, yes, but the right way

Practice will always produce results. There is no doubt that practice will improve your kid’s performance. However, the type of practice makes a lot of difference.

A recently concluded study suggests that how we practice matters as much as how often we practice. The study examined over 800, 000 gamers to determine how practice affected their gaming performance. The researchers found that, despite practicing for the same amount of time, some players performed better than others. In other words, these players learned more efficiently than others. It was found that high performers spaced out their practice better and used more varied approaches to practice.

A different study came to the same conclusion. It found that kids performed better in math when problems were spaced out and mixed. In other words, learning was optimal when students were presented with problems drawn from different lessons rather than practice problems on the same topic. According to the study, mixing problems (many practice sets and problems on different topics) helps kids learn better because it’s more demanding and requires that kids pay greater attention to the problems presented.

2 | Don’t forget the “space effect”

Spacing out practice sessions also helps, as many studies have demonstrated. Evidence suggests that spacing reduces the rate of forgetting over a wide range of ages, settings, and tasks. Spaced practice improves retention, problem-solving skills, and the ability to assimilate new knowledge more easily. Instead of scheduling two-hour practice sessions, schedule four 30-minute sessions over a longer time frame.

3 | Not everyone will be perfect in the same thing

In a recently published study, neuroscientists examined the brain activity of 15 young adults and found that practice did not account for all learning. In other words, the researchers found that individual talent had a significant impact on how much was learned. After examining participants’ brain structures, the researchers were also able to accurately reveal those who learned quickly and those who didn’t, irrespective of practice. The study found that participants’ predisposition largely affected how they learned.

A different study came to similar conclusions. After analyzing chess players and musicians, the researchers found that it takes more than deliberate practice to become an expert, and that practice accounted for only about a third of observed differences. In other words, hard work can make us good, but it will not necessarily make us great.

The researchers suggest that accurately assessing people’s abilities and whether or not they are able to achieve their goals given their abilities gives them a realistic chance of becoming great. In other words, working from your kid’s abilities and interests will lead to greater success than forcing kids to consistently practice for something they have neither the skills nor the interest to undertake. Although encouraging your kid to practice her violin lessons will improve her performance, it will not make her perfect if she’s not inclined to the violin.

4 | Work on your kid’s self-confidence

A study published earlier this month examined the extent to which kids self-perception was linked to their performance over time. Drawing from a large-scale data set, the researchers found that kids who had a positive view of their ability in math and reading performed better in these two domains. In other words, the kids’ concept of their ability had a significant impact on both their motivation and performance. (Self-concept is defined as the perception of the capability to succeed.)

Much evidence suggests that kids who are confident in their abilities generally perform better than those who aren’t. When kids are motivated, they also perform better socially, academically, and psychologically. Motivating your kid is, therefore, the first step toward helping him develop his self-concept of ability. What does he know? What is he capable of doing? How do you set reasonable expectations? How do you ensure those expectations are being met? These are some of the issues that can help you guide your kid toward greater performance.

It's Easy to Ask Why I Didn't Leave the First Time

I said it only takes one time for him to lay his hands on you for you to know he is abusive. Until it actually happened to me.

I never understood how anyone could stay in an abusive relationship. I was independent and strong. I said if a man ever laid a hand on me, even once, I would be gone, no matter what.
I was unapologetic and unforgiving towards victims because I was sure I would never let it happen to me, just like anyone who’s never been abused is sure they wouldn’t let it happen to them.
I said it only takes one time for him to lay his hands on you for you to know he is abusive. I said you should leave right then and there. Until it actually happened to me. You have no idea what you would really do until you are in that situation.
The first time won’t be a hit or a punch. Sometimes abuse is never a hit or a punch. It can be pure emotional and psychological abuse. Sometimes the abuser won’t lay a hand on a woman until she tries to leave. And then he will kill her.
I have been in an abusive relationship for four years. It began with psychological abuse, and then with him breaking inanimate objects. For the first two years, he never laid a hand on me, and to this day, he has never actually hit me.
But he has broken my rib, left bruises up and down my arm, and thrown me onto shattered glass, among many other abuses that weren’t actually outright punching me. He has made it easy for me to defend him and say it was an accident.
But I am not ignorant. I am a smart, educated woman who knows the signs. I can look inside my relationship and see it. I can hear my husband spout off the stereotypical lines of an abuser verbatim. He would tell me it’s my fault, that I shouldn’t have provoked him, that I made him this way, that he used to be a nice person.
Colleen Hoover said in her book “It Ends With Us” that you lose sight of your limit. There’s a limit of what you are willing to put up with before you are done. With every incident, you stretch your limit further and further until you lose sight of your limit altogether.
They say it only gets worse, he will never change. I fully believe that, but I don’t want to.
My partner hasn’t laid a hand on me in three months. Sometimes I think maybe he really is changing. I am a stay-at-home mom to our children. We own our home, our car, and everything is in his name. I have no money and nowhere to go. So I want to believe he is changing.
If you think you would leave right away, you’re wrong. It takes time to leave.
Why, when people hear a woman is in an abusive relationship, do they say, “Why didn’t she leave?” and not, “Why did he hit her?”
It is dangerous for people to have these expectations of victims of domestic violence. It is dangerous for people to make victims believe that it isn’t common, that they are alone in not being able to leave. The truth is you never leave the first time.
People condemn women for staying, but so many circumstances in our society make leaving feel impossible. Sometimes there is no help to be had by the police or court system. The abuser controls everything and will destroy you if you try to leave.
Victim shaming needs to end.
Just because I’m not leaving my children homeless or taking the life they know away from them doesn’t mean I’m not the person and mother that I thought I would be. I am still the same strong person that I was before. Strong comes in many different forms.
Right now, I am doing anything it takes to survive. I do what I have to do for my children.
If you suffer from domestic abuse, you are still beautiful, strong, and capable, no matter what anybody tells you. You are no less because you have stayed, or because you will stay again. You have been through more than some people could imagine. Going through something others haven’t is what makes you strong – not the opposite.
That does not mean you should never leave. Sometimes it means you need to prepare beforehand to leave safely.
I’ll say it again. It takes time to leave. And when you find a way, you will come out even stronger.
If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, please consider getting the help you need. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline or consult the resources at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.