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Protecting the Child, Preserving the Family, and Honoring Life

Welcome to the Blog page of the American College of Pediatricians.  Each issue of the Blog is intended to assist parents, encourage children, and enrich the family.  Read our most recent issue below, and scroll to the bottom of this page to read earlier issues.

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Why We Shouldn’t Yell at Our Children and How to Stop

It is easy to become frustrated with our children when they are misbehaving, or when we have had to instruct them multiple times to do something. It’s tempting to raise our voices to let them know that we’re serious about obedience. However, the issue with yelling is that it leads to obedience due to fear.

Why is staying calm as a parent so important? For starters, we shouldn’t want our children to do something we tell them to do because they are afraid us. While this technique may work for a while when they are little, as they get older they may rebel. The care effect will begin to wear off, and the dynamic of the relationship will change. Yelling can be addictive since it can yield results. However it is not the best way to encourage good behavior because yelling comes from a place of manipulation and force.

Yelling is an easy way to gain power over a situation, by turning to anger, rather than identifying the true struggle.

Of course, refraining from ever showing anger isn’t going to be easy. Sometimes anger gets the best of everyone. However, if we want respect, respect must be given. Respect is not earned through force and fear.

To help you refrain from yelling at your children, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind as you begin new approaches to enforcing good behavior:

  • Don’t take it personally: Don’t take it personally when your child misbehaves or does not listen. Children have bad days the same as we.
  • Listen to your children: Listen to what your children have to say. There could be a deeper reason why they are not listening. If we listen to them, they will listen to us.
  • Consistency is key: Make your expectations clear. Although you are no longer yelling to correct behavior, you must still discipline your child.
  • Use do’s instead of don’ts: Don’t make a threat about what will happen if they don’t do something. Rather, excite them about a reward if they do. Instead of “If you don’t finish your lunch, you can’t have play time”, change it to “If you finish your lunch, you can have play time with your friends!” Keep things positive.
  • Walk away and take time when needed: If you need a second to cool down, take that second! Excuse yourself to another room and take some deep breaths. Then decide how to calmly approach the situation.

These difficult changes can take time to make. However, these changes can lead to a more healthful relationship with your children.

If these steps feel overwhelming, start small. Make a goal not to yell for one day. Gradually increase the time as you succeed. In the comments below, let us know how less yelling works for you.

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References:

The information for this article is taken from Ralphie Jacobs, the creator of “simplyonpurpose”, which focuses on using the influence parents have to create a purposeful life. For more information from her, visit her website https://linktr.ee/simplyonpurpose.

Jacobs, R. [@simplyonpurpose]. (2018, July 20) No Yell Challenge. Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/p/BldsSr2nuX8/

Image from www.flickr.com

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How to Raise Grateful Children

Everyone loves to feel appreciated. So we should try to instill gratitude within our children. Happy people are grateful people. Raising happy kids has both immediate and long term benefits.

Gratitude takes time to develop. While we can teach our children to say “please” and “thank you” when appropriate, true gratitude goes deeper.

Here are some helpful tips to help your child understand and practice gratitude:

  • Lead by example: Kids look up to their parents. If you make it a habit to express gratitude, it will be more natural for them to follow in your footsteps. Also, express gratitude to your children when they do something you appreciated.
  • Talk about gratitude and emotions: Make your expectations clear and consistent with your children. Help them understand what gratitude is, and how it can make people feel. Have them recall a time when someone expressed gratitude to them. Ask them how it made them feel.  Then, explain to them how they can make others feel good by expressing gratitude.
  • Everything has a price: It is natural for children to desire material possessions. However, it’s important to raise them to have gratitude for everything that they already have. On top of this, gratitude can be beneficial if your child is responsible for earning their possessions. If your child has a list of toys that they desire, start by pointing out all the other awesome toys they already have. Then, ask them to make a list equally as long of things they are willing to do in order to earn their toys.
  • Help others who are less fortunate: Find places where you and your children can volunteer and give back. Volunteering can be very fun and fulfilling. It also shows them that there are many who are less fortunate than they. Volunteering will help them develop compassion for others.
  • Instill daily gratitude: If your child has a rough time transitioning from sleep to wakefulness, use this time to have them list three things for which they are grateful. If they are having trouble, list your own three things. What a wonderful way to start or end the day!

For more information on helping your children learn gratitude:

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References:

Child Mind Institute. (2019). 10 Tips for Raising Grateful Kids: How to help kids show (and feel) appreciation. Retrieved from: https://childmind.org/article/10-tips-raising-grateful-kids/

Image from flickr.com

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3 Ways to Improve Your Health Literacy

It was 9 pm on a Sunday night when my friend *Alex called. “Can you take me to the emergency room?” she asked. Wanting to be a helpful and supportive friend, I of course agreed.

As we drove there, I found out that this was the fifth time she’d been to the emergency room that month — and the second time that day. While Alex certainly has severe health challenges, several of those emergency room trips could have been addressed by a doctor during regular office hours. But because of Alex’s lack of knowledge about her own health and the healthcare system, whenever something went wrong, the emergency room was her go-to solution. Not only this, but not knowing some health basics exaggerated the health problems she did have, sometimes making the emergency room necessary when it could have been prevented.

It’s easy to see why Alex has a hard time understanding health and healthcare. With complicated health terminology and rapidly progressing medical knowledge, Alex isn’t the only one who struggles to understand!

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Bonding With Your Newborn

 

When my first child was born, they immediately placed her on my bare chest for an hour of uninterrupted skin-to-skin time. At that particular hospital they call it the “Sacred Hour”. The doctor informed my husband and me that the sacred hour meant keeping the room quiet for the baby to hear only our voices. She would be placed on my chest with no testing, cleaning, or interruptions for a whole hour. It allowed us to promptly begin bonding with our baby. “Skin-to-skin contact helps your baby stay warm, relax, transition, breathe easier, as well as promote breastfeeding” (Labor & Delivery). For us, this was a wonderful start to our bonding experience with our daughter. However, bonding does not stop after that hour ends. It is an ongoing process that happens every day you are caring for your child. “You may not even know it’s happening until you observe your baby’s first smile and suddenly realize that you’re filled with love and joy” (Ben-Joseph, 2018).

With the birth of my second child, they too, placed him immediately on my chest. However, he was not breathing correctly and was quickly rushed into the NICU. We were not able to have the bonding benefit of the sacred hour. For three days, I was only able to visit him and usually if he was sleeping I would just watch him from inside the isolette. This separation was a setback on the start of our bonding journey. Although we had this setback in the beginning, I was still able to talk to him and allow him to start recognizing my voice. I would sometimes reach my hand in and hold his through a window on the isolette to familiarize my touch. Eventually, I was able to implement skin-to-skin contact through breastfeeding to help promote our relationship even further.

The bond between parents and their children is so critical to a child’s emotional, social, and cognitive development. Infants brains undergo so much growth in the first few years of life and they absorb so much of what is going on around them.

According to Robert Winston and Rebecca Chicot, “There is increasing evidence from the fields of development psychology, neurobiology and animal epigenetic studies that neglect, parental inconsistency and a lack of love can lead to long-term mental health problems as well as to reduced overall potential and happiness” (2016). When babies are born, they are so limited to the things they can do on their own. They depend on someone else to feed, cloth, wash, change, and entertain them. Showing your child you are there for them by loving them and doing these small, yet significant tasks will grow your attachment and strengthen your bond.

Even years later, the bonding journey with my children continues. We bond daily as we cuddle, make eye contact, or even facial expressions at each other. Usually our bonding is unintentional, such as a diaper change that quickly turns into a tickle match. “Bonding is a complex, personal experience that takes time. There’s no magic formula and it can’t be forced” (Ben-Joseph, 2018).

For moe information on the parent-child bond, view the following ACPeds resources:

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References

Ben-Joseph, E. P. (Ed.). (2018, June). Bonding With Your Baby (for Parents). Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/bonding.html

Labor & Delivery. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://lluch.org/mother-baby/our-services/labor-delivery?rsource=childrens-hospital.lomalindahealth.org/our-services/total-care-birth-center/sacred-hour

Winston, R., & Chicot, R. (2016, February 24). The importance of early bonding on the long-term mental health and resilience of children. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5330336/

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Children’s Mental Health

When it comes to mental health, children are often not at the forefront of the conversation. There are many reasons this is true. For example, children have not yet mastered coping strategies, so when they are expressing how they feel, they can sometimes exaggerate and over-dramatize. To an extent, this is true, but does not mean that a child’s responses and behaviors should not be addressed with utmost thoughtfulness. As a parent, it is important to know what certain behaviors could be indicating and the impact on children whose mental health has not been managed well.

Common mental health disorders include anxiety, depression, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

  • Anxiety: It is typical for all children to have fears. We are there to show them the realities in the world of what is actually harmful and what is not.  When a child is unable to cope with fears and worries, they could be experiencing anxiety.
    • Signs: Unrealistic fear of certain objects, animals, or situations, such as going to the doctor or going into social environments.
  • Depression: Of course, all children will experience emotional highs and emotional lows. In the case when a child shows consistency in being uninterested in activities that should make them excited and happy, it could indicate signs of depression. If you have concerns, you should always contact your health care provider.
    • Signs: Not being interested in activities that should be fun for a child, constantly feeling sluggish, and expressing feelings of insecurity.
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Children who are not able to stay on task for a longer period of time could suffer from ADHD and require additional support. It is important to remember that a child can be extremely intelligent, but unable to focus long enough to receive given information. ADHD can have a substantial impact on a child’s ability to learn and develop cognitively. If it is not managed, ADHD could impact emotional development as well, since children may feel incapable. (See The Scoop on ADHD)
    • Signs: Does not follow instructions on given tasks or school assignments, unable to give focused attention, forgetful, or resistant towards activities that require cognitive effort for a longer period of time.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is widely recognized as the need for organization and cleanliness; however, this is    not completely accurate. OCD refers to having unwanted thoughts (i.e. obsessions) that lead to the need to do something repeatedly or a certain way (i.e. compulsions). In learning more about OCD, you may realize that there is more to a child’s need to put on a jacket a certain way or wash their hands over and over again.
    • Signs: Repeated unwanted thoughts, repetition of certain words or thoughts, feeling the urge to constantly repeat an action such as hand-washing or arranging items in a certain order.

Remember that all children are unique and will have a personality that is contoured specifically to them. However, when certain behaviors reach beyond the boundaries of the norm, it is always a good idea to at least get a second opinion from your child’s pediatrician. Prevention is a key component to preserving mental health, which is vital to overall wellness. For more information on children’s mental health, please view the following ACPeds resources:

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Teaching Children To Wash Their Hands

Hand-washing is one of the simplest and least expensive ways to prevent illness and the spread of infections.

It is crucially important for children to wash their hands during every season of the year, but especially when the common cold, flu, and other viruses are being passed around more frequently in the environment. Flu activity increases beginning in October and usually peaks between the months of December through February.

It’s a good idea to teach children fun ways that encourage them to wash their hands so that they can create a habit of hand-washing early, having established the habit already once they are older. Children should also be taught times when it is especially important to wash their hands and know the hand washing procedures that best benefit one’s health.

Peak times when hand-washing is critically important according to the CDC:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

Correct hand-washing procedures:

  • Wet hands with clean
  • Apply soap and rub hands together, making sure to lather all parts of the hands with the soap: back of hands, palm of hands, between fingers, around and under fingernails.
  • Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse hands completely under clean water.
  • Dry hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Ways to encourage hand-washing practices in children:

1. Hand-washing song

The song used doesn’t have to be one specifically about hand-washing. It can be any song your child enjoys singing and knows well enough to sing all the way through (a couple times for shorter songs, maybe). Hint: the “Happy Birthday” song is 20 seconds long when sung twice completely.

2. Show your child visually how many germs are left on our hands, even after we’ve washed them.

Local health departments will sometimes schedule demonstrations for children to see what the germs look like on our hands using a special gel and a UV light. The gel is simply applied to a child’s hands and after washing them, the gel can still be seen on the child’s hands using the UV light, especially if they were not washed for a long enough time. If this resource is not available in your area, these items can be purchased online.

3. Display visuals in the bathroom to serve as reminders.

Visual cues help remind children the order in which they should wash their hands. There are many steps to washing hands correctly. When children are first learning to wash their hands by themselves, the order of steps can be difficult to remember. Many free, informative printables can be accessed through trusted resources online, such as the CDC. Some examples are below.

As in many cases, one of the best ways to show your children the importance of hand-washing is through modeling. When your child is nearby, announce whenever you wash your hands and why you are washing them at the particular time, such as before preparing a meal. Hand-washing practices are simple and do not take much time out of the day, though its benefits do make a big difference in one’s health.

Preventing illness by washing hands can keep children from having sick days out of school and keep their immune system strong.

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Don’t Let the Media Control the Stage for Teaching Your Children

We are entering an era in which our children may spend more time with the fictional or real people on the TV or tablet than they do with us.

“In 1970, children began watching TV regularly at about 4 years of age, whereas today, children begin interacting with digital media as young as 4 months of age.” By the time children are approaching adolescence, they are viewing various kinds of digital media around 8-10 hours a day on average, often using two or three electronic media devices at once (Radesky, J.).

It is very unlikely that the high amount of media use will go away. It is a fundamental way of interacting and finding entertainment for most children and teens in our society. Children need parents to teach them how to use the media as a tool to achieve positive goals, interactions, and learning.

One way to teach this is making sure to hold frequent discussions with children about what you and they are watching. This requires that sometimes you play the games your child is playing and watch what they are watching so you can pay attention to what they are an audience to and how it influences them afterwards.

When you see things on the screen that are not in harmony with your family’s values, talk to your child about it and explain why. Talk about possible consequences of the negative choices that some characters make, and the positive consequences of good character traits. Help young children see the difference between fantasy and reality.

Studies show that parents play an important role in their children’s social learning, but if a parent’s views are not discussed explicitly with children, the medium may teach and influence by default” (Ford-Jones & Nieman, 2003).

Embrace every chance you can to make your child’s media use an interactive activity with you and other family members participating, even with small, hand-held devices.

Never feel pressure from someone else or popular online opinion to refrain from blocking or removing a show/movie/game that you feel is detrimental to your child. Follow your intuition and personal awareness of your children.

Pay attention to what kind of “role models” your children are spending hours with on the screen. According to Common Sense Media, “Negative role models — especially ones who don’t suffer consequences for their actions — can encourage anti-social behavior, stereotypes, and even cruelty. Help your kids choose positive media role models who embody the values you want to pass down.”

Teach your children to be critical thinkers about what they watch. CommonSenseMedia.org advises that older children should make some of their own decisions about what movies to see, but that parents should discuss with their children about how movies portray different values. Encourage teenagers to think for themselves about what values they want to maintain and what to filter out.

Consider having a family movie night every week, or whenever works for your family. You might let family members take turns picking movies that are appropriate. Choose movies for your family that present new educational, cultural, or historical exposure to your children. After the movie take time to talk as a family about what you thought and felt about the movie. Some good questions to ask could be:

  • How do you think this character felt after ____ happened?
  • What do you think will happen next to this character?
  • Was there anything that confused you or surprised you about the story?
  • What do you like best about this character?

http://www.teachwithmovies.org/talking-and-playing-index.html is a website that provides resources for how parents can apply enriching learning activities and conversations to various movies.

For more information:

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Resources

Ford- Jones, A. & Nieman, P. (2003). Impact of media use on children and youth. Paediatrics & Child Health8(5), 301–306. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2792691/

Knorr, C. (Oct 4, 2015). Why media role models matter. Parenting, Media, and Everything in Between. Retrieved from: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/why-media-role-models-matter.

Radesky, J. (May 2017). Kids and digital media. Retrieved from: http://www.mottchildren.org/posts/your-child/kids-and-digital-media

National PTA. Watching movies with your children. Retrieved from: http://www.pta.org/programs/content.cfm?ItemNumber=1119

TeachingWithMovies.org, (2009). Index to talking and playing with movies for children ages 3-8. Retrieved from: http://www.teachwithmovies.org/talking-and-playing-index.html

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Making family meals a priority, and a possibility, again

In Part 1 of Family Dinner (Are family meals worth it?) we learned about different views to family meals.  For the most part we have seen that family meals are still good thing to strive for.  Many of us still have a hard time making it a routine part of the day or week.  Sometimes, it doesn’t even seem like a possibility! To help parents out, here is a list of things to help make family meals a possibility again.   

5 Ways to Bring Back Family Meals

1) Change your mentality about family meals: For some, dinner can be extremely stressful.  If this happens to you, stop and look around. Think to yourself, “What would make family meals good for MY family?”  For many families, this is the ONLY time to be able to talk as a family (2).  If you think negatively about family dinner, chances are that’s exactly how it will turn out. Keep the dinner table a positive place.  If we keep a positive mindset, problems can become opportunities.

2) Schedule it: Set a specific time for your family meal.  For some families work schedules make dinner improbable.  Is it possible to have family breakfast instead of dinner? Or try to go for as many members at the table as you can over the course of two meals.  Set a time, and stick to it, even if it changes daily. It is never too late to start. Keep trying if you miss a few nights. The best part is, humans need to eat food everyday so you can try again every day.  

3) Share Responsibilities:  There are people that say family dinners can be bad for individuals, and they are right.  It can be a very negative experience for mom (4) or dad if she or he is doing all the work.  The solution is to have the family help. A study found that when parents and children were responsive to one another, meals were better and children learned healthy behaviors more than families that didn’t have family meals (5) (6).  What better way for children to learn healthy eating habits than them helping make dinner?  They can see what it takes to feed the family and feel the satisfaction that come from it as well.

5) Meal plan: Picky eaters? Dietary restrictions? Plan for it.  Find favorite family recipes. Find some time saving, or easy meals, like crockpot recipes. It’s much easier to have dinner when you already know what you’re making and have all the ingredients.

4) Remove Distractions: Leave phones, games, and toys off the table.  If you have a television in the kitchen, try a few nights with it off and see if your family conversations improve.  It may take a few nights to adjust. Do what is best for your family.

What does your table look like?

My table often looks like a black hole for random objects, but sometimes it looks like a dinner table.  I have trouble getting us to eat at the table, but my family likes it when we do. These tips are helping me take back my table, and I hope they can help your family too.  

 

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1) Yi, S., Poudel, K. C., Yasuoka, J., Palmer, P. H., Yi, S., & Jimba, M. (2010). Role of risk and protective factors in risky sexual behavior among high school students in Cambodia. BMC Public Health, 10(1), 477-484. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/10/477

2) Diamond, A. (2010). Family meals are good for hearts and waistlines. Nursing Standard, 24(24), 28.

3) Part D. Chapter 3: Individual diet and physical activity behavior change: Family shared meals. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/08-chapter-3/d3-4.asp

4) Kinser, A. E. (2017). Fixing Food to Fix Families: Feeding Risk Discourse and the Family Meal. Women’s Studies In Communication, 40(1), 29-47. doi:10.1080/07491409.2016.1207001

5) Santarossa, S., Ciccone, J., & Woodruff, S. J. (2015). An evaluation of the Kinect-Ed presentation, a motivating nutrition and cooking intervention for young adolescents in grades 6-8. Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism, 40(9), 945-950. doi:10.1139/apnm-2015-0110

6)  Litterbach, E. V., Campbell, K. J., & Spence, A. C. (2017). Family meals with young children: an online study of family mealtime characteristics, among Australian families with children aged six months to six years. BMC Public Health, 17(1), 1-9. doi:10.1186/s12889-016-3960-6

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The Importance of Motherhood

Abraham Lincoln is famous for saying, “All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”

There were two women he called mother, his own “angel mother”, who died when Lincoln was 9 years old, and his step-mother who also had a powerful, uplifting influence in his life. It wasn’t prestige, wealth, or social prominence that caused the deep feeling of reverence and respect Abraham had for his mothers. Though uneducated and illiterate herself, his step-mother Sarah Bush Johnston, helped nurture his love of reading. After marriage to Abraham’s widower father, Thomas Lincoln, she turned their shabby, dirt floor house into a home by immediately setting to work on arrangements for flooring and infusing hope into their lives. Abraham and Sarah shared a tight bond throughout her life. To him, she was the person who saw who he could become and ever encouraged his success.

“All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother”- these weren’t casual, meaningless words for Abraham Lincoln. But the general feeling of love and appreciation for mother is , of course, not unique to the president.

Mothers are a powerful influence for good, a strength and bulwark for society.

Studies consistently show that having a mother who is present, nurturing, concerned, and involved does a world of good in a young child’s life. A 2012 study from Washington University School of Medicine actually  found that children who received warm, maternal nurturing in early childhood ended to develop a larger hippocampus- the learning, memory, and stress response center in the brain (Dryden, 2012). A mother like this holds many jobs. She acts as a teacher, a comforter, a nurse, and a mediator. Her job requires an understanding of medicine, psychology, math, management, cooking, cleaning, interior design, exceptional leadership skills, and undying patience to name a few. No mother is perfect, and this too can benefit a child, as they learn to deal with struggles and imperfections in life.

Whether a mother can stay home full-time with her children or works during the day, her job as a mother has a moral importance that stands above the roles that any source of money can offer. So many mothers know how it feels to sacrifice and work tirelessly for the love of their child. They deal with the tedious and heart-breaking moments, but they do not see raising children as a burden. To them it is a matter of love.  

There are activist groups that don’t support the value of mothers to children and society or even agree with the existence of mothers in the traditional role. Despite the knowledge from child development research on the necessity of an attachment with a nurturing parent, there are those who believe that children are nothing more than a burden to women. The care of children, they assert, deprives women of the chance to reach the “real” important positions in life and levels of comfortable living. In doing so, they discredit the impactful and noteworthy qualities that women uniquely have and the fundamental role of a mother in every child’s life.

Women feel that the majority of society does not recognize the position of a “stay-at-home- mom” as a real job. Some of society views it as selfish on the part of the mother, or even degrading to a woman. However, as almost every person who babysits for a long period of time soon learns, working a job may likely be easier. Women who decide to stay home choose to do so because of their desire to provide the best nurturing and education of their young children, as the woman who is most important in their child’s life. Many mothers whose situation does not allow them to do this and must work a job, still center their focus on their home and the raising of their children- to their life-long benefit.

When the main priority is the wellbeing of children and the happiness of the family as a whole- the unpaid but rewarding job of a mother becomes much more crucial. We must see the roles of “stay-at-home” mothers as perfectly equal to the role of the breadwinner in achieving that priority.

Motherhood is a role, and in some opinion’s a calling, that is sublime, essential, and profound. How much we all owe to our “angel mothers”.

For articles and research on mother’s essential role visit:

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References:

Dryden, J. (2012) Mom’s love good for a child’s brain. The Source: Medicine and Health, Retrieved from

https://source.wustl.edu/2012/01/moms-love-good-for-childs-brain/.

MacLean, M. (2012, Oct 28). Sarah Bush Lincoln. Retrieved from: http://www.civilwarwomenblog.com/sarah-bush-lincoln/

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3 Reasons Why You Should Exercise During Pregnancy

It’s 6 AM and your evil alarm is screaming, “Wake up, wake up, wake up!” You groan internally, remembering your new exercise goal. “But do I have to exercise?” you ask no one in particular.   

Finding motivation to exercise can be hard. With so many things to do in a day, exercise isn’t always a favorite item on the to-do list.  

Once you add pregnancy into the mix, exercise can seem near impossible! With less energy, morning sickness, and all sorts of physical changes, exercising may feel like the last thing you want to do.

But what if exercise could actually help?

Here’s the good news: It can! In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that healthy women get 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week during pregnancy.1*

But why is it that exercise during pregnancy is so important? And how can it affect you and your future baby?

1. Physical Benefits

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