How to Be a Low-Stress Parent

Person overlooking pond

By Mary Pulido, Ph.D.

Parenting is the biggest responsibility you will ever undertake as an adult. Why didn’t someone tell you it would sometimes mean you’d feel old before your time, exhausted by 7:00 p.m., too stressed out to think straight—and you still have to help your kid with his homework?

Don’t stress your own stress. Plenty of parents feel just like you do. The key to surviving and thriving is taking care of yourself. As they say on the airplane, put your own oxygen mask on first, then assist your children. Too often, self-care for parents is the first thing we let go of. So, here are a few tips to help you keep your calm, balance the competing priorities in your life, and feel energized.

1. Make time for “me” time. This means taking time to care for yourself both physically and emotionally. Find even a few minutes every day to exercise, read, nap, or work on a special project to recharge your batteries. Your role as a parent can be overwhelming. Sometimes just having an hour to go to the gym or walk outside can lift your spirits and can change your perspective. And simply having a cup of coffee with a friend can help you unwind.

2. Cut yourself some slack. There may be days where you get everything done on your to do list. But some days (maybe even most days), everything that you planned to do falls by the wayside. It’s okay to leave the laundry for another day, or skip the vacuuming, especially after a long work week. This is particularly true for new parents, who find their routines turned upside down. Abolish the word “guilt” from your vocabulary. Instead, think about all of the wonderful things you do for your child each day.

3. Shore up your support system and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many parents are unused to asking for help. Sometimes we think, “I should be able to manage this infant/child on my own.” But often, the people around us are happy to help out. If they don’t ask, make your needs known, to your spouse, significant other, friend, or neighbor. You’ll be surprised how many of them will jump at the chance to watch a baby while Mom or Dad runs to the grocery store.

4. Get the sleep and nutrition you need. Sleep deprivation makes all problems loom large. Health experts recommend at least seven hours a night, but this is probably challenging if you’re the parent of an infant or small child. Grab sleep when you can—naps revitalize too. Also, remember to eat healthy meals; you’ll feel more energized. Pack a nutritious lunch for work the night before so you’re not depending on fast food.

5. Accept that on some days, parenting will be challenging. If the baby won’t stop crying and you are exhausted and feel like crying too, put the baby in a safe and secure place and leave the room for a few minutes. As long as you’re sure it’s not a medical emergency, the baby will stop crying— truly, she will.

Your older children may simply not listen to you at all or break the rules you’ve established. The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children encourages the use of effective discipline techniques with children. Discipline is more effective and more nurturing when parents know how to set and enforce limits and when they encourage appropriate behaviors based on their child’s age and level of development. To be effective, discipline needs to be consistent, perceived as “fair” by the child, age-appropriate, and should teach the child how to act in the future.

6. Make friends with other parents. It’s good to have other parents to commiserate with, as well as share the happy stories about your children. It also helps to break the isolation that new parents can feel as their old lifestyle disappears with their new 24-hour responsibility as a parent. Set up a regular get together and perhaps a time to watch each other’s children, too.

7. Make time for your spouse or partner. Just as you need to make time for your children, you need to make time for your parenting partner. Nurture this relationship too. Date nights should be scheduled—or any time that works for you both. Hire a sitter. Spend time talking to each other, about each other!  Keeping the bond strong will benefit your entire family in the long run. On the flip side, if you are single, try not to depend on your children for your emotional needs or companionship; children simply do not have that capacity to act as substitute partners. It’s best to seek out other adults.

8. Have an emergency support plan. If you think you are going to “lose it” and find yourself getting angry or frustrated with your baby or child, reach out for help. Ask your spouse, friend, or neighbor to take care of him while you regroup. If you think you are depressed, and it’s quite common, talk to your doctor about what can help. The demands of parenting can be fierce and draining, but they pass. Call the parent helpline at 1-800- CHILDREN (1-800-244-5373) or the National Parent Helpline at 855-4A-PARENT.

Photograph by Joshua Earle via

How to Have Actual Fun on the Family Road Trip

Cars stuck in traffic

By Meghan Khaitan,

Pretty much every family takes a road trip by car with their kids during the  holidays. And whether those kids are toddlers or teens, the actual trip itself  can be a wonderful bonding and learning experience for the entire family.  With a little forethought and preparation, you can sidestep the dreaded travel  fiascos and keep everyone content through through those stretches of  highway!

1. Make it a Fun History Lesson. Build some excitement around your trip by getting together as a family a  couple of weeks beforehand to plan your road trip path with an old-school paper map. Talk to kids about  the different cities and states you’ll be driving through. Then jump online together and do a little research  on a few that look interesting. Learn about their history and pick some prime sightseeing destinations.  This opens your trip into a journey of exploration—all the more inspiring if you give kids a disposable  camera they can later use to make a trip scrapbook.

2. Expect the Unexpected. Keeping a first-aid kit and tools for a flat tire in your car is a no-brainer, but also be sure to bring along items like a flashlight, garbage bags, paper towels, big pack of wet wipes, and cell phone car charger. If you have young children that are new to potty training, it’s a smart idea to also pack a portable plastic potty in case your little one can’t wait for the next rest stop. Kids also tend to rest better with a few items from home, like a stuffed animal and blanket. You can also pick up an inexpensive travel pillow to make car-sleeping more comfortable.

3. Pack Healthy Snacks & Drinks. Truck stops, gas stations and fast food joints are okay in a pinch, but if you bring a cooler filled with your own healthy foods, you will save time and money on the road. Think granola bars, sandwiches, fruit and nuts, yogurt tubes, pretzels, cheese and crackers, baby carrots, packs of sliced apples, cereal bars, and any of the (non-sticky) foods your family usually likes to nosh on.

4. Create a Road Trip Adventure. Instead of just looking at the trip in terms of its end destination, make the whole trip an adventure. This will give the kids something to look forward to and break up the travel time. Take a family selfie in each city or state in front of a sign with its name or something it’s famous for. Also look for rest stops with playgrounds where kids that can burn off some pent-up energy.

5. Make Each Child a Travel Activity Kit. To help pass the time, buy inexpensive totes and pack them with things like new crayons, coloring books, story books, white boards, magnetic travel and card games, and other small games or toys, like Matchbox Cars and small dolls. Anything that’s inexpensive and new to your kids is sure to please—both of you.

6. Check Out At Your Local Library. Before you embark,  head to your local library and check out DVDs, books on CD, and chapter book collections for your older reader. They’re free! You’ll have new movies to watch that your kids haven’t seen yet, and when quiet time becomes mandatory for saving your sanity, put in a book on CD for the entire family to enjoy.

7. Don’t Forget the Electronics. If ever there was a perfect time to bust out the electronics, the  car trip is it. Load up iPads and Kindles with new apps, books, and movies, making sure you put different apps on each child’s device so they can swap with for more options. And whatever you do, don’t forget the headphones! A few of my family-favorite apps: Waze (the superhero of navigation apps for parents), RoadsideAmerica (find the weird and wonderful across the U.S.), (the Netflix of audio books), MadLibs (old school road trip fun meets the digital age), and VisitedStates (kids can mark the states they’ve been to and upload photos they’ve taken).

8. Pack Classic Travel Games. Electronic games are fun, but don’t forget about the old school travel games to help fight boredom on the road: I Spy, 20 Questions, The Alphabet Game (work together as a family to find things along the road that start with each letter of the alphabet), Who Am I? (take turns trying to guess the famous person in history or pop culture), and the good old License Plate Game.

9. Pick Mile Marker Treats. If you’re okay with a little bribery, plot a few places on the map for the kids to get special surprise treats. Among other things, this will encourage them to learn to read a map. The treat can be something small, like sweets or a little something they can play with in the car. The only requirement to earning them is that kids be kind, get along with each other, and be patient for the trip. You might be handing out fewer of these than you’d feared!

10. Consider an Overnight Stay. If the trip is long enough, consider an overnight stay halfway through at an affordable hotel with a pool. If you book the stay right before you leave or on the way, you’ll find the best deals.

Photograph by Nabeel Syed, via Unsplash

10 Tips for Feeding a Picky Eater


image via Fit Kids Healthy for Life
image via Fit Kids Healthy for Life

No matter how sophisticated your palate or how much you appreciate good food and proper nutrition, you may be or may become the parent of a picky eater.

Feeding a child with strong feelings about what he will or will not eat is a tiring, frustrating battle, but the experts tell us the behavior is pretty darn common and is often a normal part of your child growing up and gaining his independence.

Here are 10 tested tips for getting your child (or the one you’re babysitting) to eat a more balanced, nutritional diet without losing your cool.

1. Realize that kids need less than you may think.

Children’s appetites go up and down. They naturally eat relatively little some days and some days feel much more ravenous. Serve smaller portions so you don’t overwhelm them, and understand that a few bites of the veggie they may refuse is often enough to provide benefit.

2. Limit snacks and sugary beverages.

Kids will readily fill up on snacks and have no room in their bellies come mealtime. Provide small, healthy snacks at a routine time, likely mid-morning and mid-afternoon, and have them hold off on eating any more until the next meal. Food is much more appealing when they are hungry.

3. Teach them to eat a rainbow, everyday.

Even little kids can grasp the concept: Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables – something from every color of the rainbow – everyday. By using a rainbow as a guide, you can ensure that your kids are getting a wide range of vitamins and minerals. One food can’t do it all.

4. Don’t be afraid to hide fruits and veggies.

Jessica Seinfeld made a bestseller out of the idea of hiding healthy food in more kid-friendly recipes, such cauliflower in macaroni and cheese and spinach in brownies. While we don’t agree that it’s always best to trick your kids into eating well, it’s a not a bad idea to sneak a bit of extra nutrition in wherever it works. For instance, add some finely chopped carrots and zucchini into a well-loved pasta sauce or sneak some greens into a smoothie. Kids will likely never know the difference, and you’ll stress less about their diet when you know they’ve had an extra does of nutrition here and there.

 5. Get them involved with food.

Research proves kids are more likely to eat foods they help select and prepare. Let your kids help make a grocery list, find items in the store, and help to prepare a meal by cleaning, prepping and cooking with you. Make the tasks age-appropriate so they don’t get injured or overwhelmed. In addition, take kids on a trip to the farmer’s market or farm and use the outing as an opportunity to talk about healthy choices. The next time you’re grocery shopping together, show them the beautiful array of local produce and let them choose something new to try at home.

6. Work up an appetite.

Your kids will eat more and better when they are hungry. Help them work up an appetite each and every day by ensuring that they get at least an hour of physical activity and whenever possible, fresh air.

7. Make peace with condiments.

As much as you may cringe at the thought of smothering lovely, fresh veggies in dressing or dunking a nice bite of fish in ketchup, let your kids do whatever it takes to make their food appealing to their young palates. Consider making fresh condiments, rather than clunking a big bottle of high fructose loaded ketchup or bottled Ranch dressing on the table. It’s quick and easy to make your own condiments, and the taste is far superior.

8. Respect mealtime.

You can teach kids the value of eating well by teaching them to respect mealtime. Outlaw all electronics, yours included, from the table, and whenever possible, eat together as a family. Make meal time enjoyable, talking about your day and things you look forward to doing together. Avoid fighting about what your child will or will not eat. Keep it positive time together.

 9. Make “good for you” good.

Transform ordinary foods into special treats. You can turn berries into an easy cobbler, a freeze fruits and yogurt to make handfuls of frozen grapes, cups or sticks of yogurt, homemade juice pops, and fruit smoothies.

 10. Don’t prepare a separate meal.

We don’t want our children to starve and after a long day, the last thing we want to do is go to battle with them over food. It’s tempting to avoid the battle and ensure that they eat by making them a separate meal. Resist the temptation. You don’t have time to be a short order cook, and you’re really only reinforcing your child’s will to refuse what the family is eating.

Instead, stick with healthy recipes that are reasonable for a young child and occasionally introduce new sides or variations to gently expand their palate. Mark Bittman, the esteemed food writer and home chef, recently said in a column in the New York Times that he never made separate meals for his kids when they were young, but allowed them something simple that they could make themselves – think a peanut butter sandwich, bowl of cereal or toast – if they did not want to eat what was cooked for dinner.

Whichever tips work for you and your picky eater, remember to be consistent. Don’t forget to share your tips and rules with your babysitters and make sure your kitchen with well stocked with healthy treats and meals for them to serve your kids while you’re away.

5 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Give Thanks

Giving thanks and helping others isn’t just for Thanksgiving Day. You can incorporate simple, daily ways to instill and cultivate in your kids a sense of gratitude and a readiness to help others throughout the year. Before the holidays throw you into a frenzy, adopt these 5 everyday ways to practice thankfulness in your house.


1. Make “thank you” mandatory
Kids need constant reminders before a desired action or response becomes automatic. Continue to remind your children to always say thank you and explain to them that the response is expected whenever necessary. Similarly, make writing thank you notes a mandatory part of receiving a gift or a way to express appreciation to anyone who has gone out of their way for them. Little kids who can’t yet write can benefit from talking about what they like about a gift and why it was thoughtful, and can help you create a note by adding a personal drawing or even signing their name to it.

2. Model grateful behavior
Show your kids, each and every day, that you are grateful by making it a point to express your gratitude in simple statements, such as “Look what a beautiful day it is!” or “We are so fortunate to be together today,” or “That was so nice of your babysitter to take you to the park.”  Also remember to always say thank you to the people you and your children encounter throughout your day, including the checkout clerk at the grocery store and the mailman who brings your mail, rain or shine.

3. Give to others
Routinely giving to others provides opportunities to talk to your children about the needs of others and to instill and nurture their compassion and sense of giving back to their community. Have the kids help with grocery shopping by having them choose a few canned items to donate to a Thanksgiving food drive or a food bank, or choose personal care items to donate to a shelter. Prepare for the holidays by cleaning out closets and encouraging your children to donate toys they no longer use or clothes they’ve outgrown, explaining that they can make a difference by sharing.

4. Volunteer as a family
Volunteering teaches social responsibility and helps children develop empathy and a belief that one person can make a difference. Research from the United Way shows that volunteering can benefit a child’s psychological, social and intellectual development. What better way to spend time together as a family than by working together to help others in your community? There are ways to volunteer as a family including, but not at all limited to helping at food banks, shelters, environmental clean-ups and visits to the elderly or those who are hospitalized. Organizations such as Idealist or Volunteer Match can help match your family to a need in your community.

5. Create holiday traditions that show thanks
Holidays are a wonderful chance to show thankfulness. Creating holiday traditions around gratitude and giving ensures that your kids see the holidays as special for reasons beyond the commercial. Make kids part of Thanksgiving celebrations by having them share what they are thankful for, and make their own decorations to show thanks. A thoughtful project to do together is to create cards for your holiday guests that include a simple statement about why you are thankful for them. Take it a step further by showing your appreciation for those outside of your family, including teachers, sitters and your neighborhood police and firefighters. A wonderful tradition is to take a plate of homemade cookies to your local fire station each holiday season or to bring treats to a children’s hospital or nursing home.

According to the experts, showing gratitude is a critical factor to building compassion, empathy, and even to overall happiness. Grateful kids tend to be much more satisfied with their lives, do better in school, are less materialistic and less envious. As if you needed convincing that teaching your kids to feel and express gratitude benefits everyone involved!

Tips for Helping Your Teething Tot

Teething can be a difficult time for both babies and their caregivers. You can help a little one through the process by knowing what to expect, how to spot the telltale signs and by following helpful tips for easing discomfort.

image via mass distraction, flickr
image via mass distraction, flickr

What to Expect

Since babies can’t tell us what’s going on, parents are often left wondering why their normally content baby is cranky or fussy. Knowing when to expect new teeth will help to know if teething is to blame for the discomfort.

Teething typically begins as early as 3 months with your baby’s first tooth starting to push through between 4 and 7 months old. The first teeth to appear usually are the two bottom front teeth, also known as the central incisors. They’re usually followed 4 to 8 weeks later by the four front upper teeth (central and lateral incisors). About a month later, the lower lateral incisors (the two teeth flanking the bottom front teeth) will appear. Next to break through are the first molars (the back teeth used for grinding food), then finally the eye teeth (the pointy teeth in the upper jaw). Most kids have all 20 of their primary teeth by their third birthday.

Signs to Watch For

When your baby is cutting a tooth, she may experience any or all of these symptom and sometimes none at all.

  • Drooling more often than normal
  • Desire to chew on things, such as your finger, a toy, blanket or clothing
  • Periods of irritability or crankiness
  • Crying spells
  • Disrupted sleeping or eating patterns
  • A slight rise in temperature due to swollen gums

According to the experts, some babies feel no discomfort at all while teething and others are quite uncomfortable throughout the process. If your baby is unusually fussy, talk to your doctor.

Tips and Toys for Easing Teething Pain

  • Wipe drool to prevent skin irritation.
  • Offer a cold, wet cloth for baby to chew on. While a few minutes in the freezer will make the cloth cold enough to provide some relief, freezing it too long can cause irritation to your child’s gums.
  • Gently massage gums with a clean finger.
  • Give baby a chilled teether, such as this one MAM that has a handle that won’t get too cold to hold.MAM BPA Free Cooler Teether, Toys R Us
  • Offer a teething necklace. Chewable necklaces and jewelry, such as Chewbeads have been popular. The latest trend in teething necklaces is Amber Beads, reportedly safe and naturally soothing for gums.Chewbeads, Amazon
  • If she’s eating solid food, offer frozen food, such as a banana or peach. Munchin Fresh Food Teether allows you to put the frozen food in an enclosed mesh bag so you don’t have to worry about your baby getting too big of a piece in her mouth.

Munkin Fresh Food Teether,

  • The famed Sophie the Giraffe. Why is this rubber toy so popular…and why pay $20 for a chew toy? Sophie is made of all-natural rubber that feels great on the gums, squeaks to keep baby entertained, and even comes in a Vanilla scent that is said to sooth.Vulli Sophie the Giraffe Teether, Amazon
  • Try more than one teething toy, as all babies are different and may find toys some more comforting than others.
  • Ask your doctor about giving baby pain reliever, such as Advil or Tylenol for babies.

Teething is no fun for babies or those who care for them, but knowing what’s coming and how to ease the pain can make the process a lot easier on both of you. Make sure you tell your sitter if your child is cutting a tooth, and share these suggestions for soothing a sore mouth.

Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is an exciting holiday and especially fun for kids. If you’re having a trusted sitter celebrate the holiday with your family this year, you’ll want to share these important Halloween safety guidelines before sending her trick-or-treating. They’re also helpful reminders for you, even if you’ve led the candy collecting charge many times before.


Practice Mindful Trick-or-Treating

  • Use a flashlight to see where you’re going and take advantage of reflective tape or glow sticks to make kids visible in the dark. This protects them from cars and also makes it easier for you to keep an eye on them in the dark.
  • Choose well-lighted neighborhoods with sidewalks and easy accessibility or opt for an organized trick-or-treating event at a local school, park or shopping center.
  • Use crosswalks or cross at corners and remind kids to always look both ways before crossing the street. They should know never to dart out into the street.
  • Have a Do Not Enter rule for houses and cars.
  • Always stay in a group.
  • Keep a cell phone on hand for emergencies, but make sure you aren’t glued to it instead of keeping an eye on the kids.
  • Remind kids to stay away from candles and jack-o-lanterns with open flames.
  • If no one is home at your own house while you’re out trick-or-treating, opt for a jack-o-lantern with a battery-powered candle.

Choose Smart Costumes

  • Test make-up before Halloween night to make sure your child is not allergic to it.
  • Make sure costumes are safe and easy to walk in. Have kids wear comfortable shoes instead of unprotective slippers or dress- up shoes that can cause blisters and pinched toes.
  • Avoid masks or costumes that block or hamper vision. Make sure hats don’t slip over their eyes.
  • Check to make sure store-bought costumes are flame-resistant.
  • If kids’s costumes include swords, wands or other hand-held props, make sure they are short and not sharp.

Be Selective with Treats

  • Feed kids a healthy, satisfying meals before they go trick-or-treating to discourage them from filling up on candy.
  • Examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them.
  • Limit kids from eating too many sugary sweets.
  • Avoid homemade treats.
  • Don’t allow young children to have hard candy or gum that could cause choking.
  • Devise a plan for dealing with the loads of candy your child will bring home. Many families have kids choose a certain number of pieces, and trade the rest in for a toy or special activity.

You can make sure your family has a safe and fun-filled Halloween by taking a few minutes to remind yourself of these safety guidelines and to share them with your sitter. 

Achoo! Keep Your Family Healthy & Avoid the Flu

Tis the season! October marks the official start of the dreaded cold and flu season. Summer is hardly over, and schools, daycare facilities and medical offices across the country are already reporting a spike in cases of flu and viral infections.

The media has parents especially anxious about the rise in super viruses, such as the Enterovirus D68 that is causing severe respiratory problems in infants and young children. You can help to keep your child safe from the virus and other nasty bugs by taking proactive efforts and having back-up childcare plans to avoid spreading viruses your child may catch to others.



Tips for Staying Healthy and Preventing the Spread of Infection

  • Washing hands frequently is the number one thing you can do to help your kids avoid getting sick, especially before eating. Use soap and water.
  • Remind kids to avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Teach them to cough or sneeze into their elbow, rather than their hands.
  • Clean and disinfect your home regularly, especially places touched often, such as door handles, light switches and surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Keep your child home from school or daycare if he is sick and has a fever. Most facilities require a child to be fever-free, without fever-reducing medications, for at least 24 hours after he’s had a fever.
  • Be sure to have a back-up plan in place in case your child does get sick and is unable to go to school or daycare. Urbansitter makes it easy to find a sitter when you’re in a pinch, and some sitters are willing to care for an infant or child home sick. Also talk to your employer and know your workplace policies for taking time off to care for a sick child.
  • Don’t forget to get your child vaccinated against the flu. Everyone over the age of 6 months is advised to get a flu vaccine. This year, the CDC recommends the nasal spray vaccine for healthy children 2 years through 8 years of age when it is available and if the child has no contraindications or precautions to that vaccine.
  • Remember to ensure that your child has a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, stays hydrated, and gets plenty of exercise and sleep.

Symptoms of the flu and dangerous viruses like the Enterovirus often mimic those of a cold, including runny nose, coughing, fever and aches. If your child does get sick and has these symptoms, keep an eye on her and contact a doctor if she experiences breathing difficulties (wheezing, difficulty speaking or eating, belly pulling in with breaths, blueness around the lips) or high fever.

While the spread of dangerous bugs is always scary, you can help to keep your family safe by being smartly proactive and well prepared for sick days.

12 Tips for Fantastic Family Photos

Whether you’re the family photographer or you plan to hire a professional to capture your kids or the entire family, you’ll want to check out these helpful tips for getting incredible photos that you’ll cherish for years to come. Improve your chances of getting the shots you want with these effective tips that help you plan ahead, prepare your kids, and assist your photographer.


1. Let kids be kids. One of the hardest parts of getting a great family photo is getting the kids to cooperate, especially if there are little kids in the bunch. Rather than stressing over getting them to sit still and smile at the camera, let them be themselves – laughing, wiggling, poking at the baby or hanging on your leg. You might not get the perfect, posed photo you thought you wanted, but you’ll get one that truly speaks to who you are as a family.

2. Capture the time of your life. This goes along with letting kids be kids. It’s helpful and really effective to choose a tone and feeling for a photo based on the stage of your life. If you have a newborn, consider a close-up, quiet photo that captures emotion as much as it does tiny fingers and toes. If you have toddlers and your everyday life is a constant whirl of activity and silliness, why not go for a shot that’ll help you remember the wild and silly days?

photo via Ants Magazine
photo via Ants Magazine

3. Be original. Rather than pose the family in front of the fireplace or on the steps in front of your house, find something really unique, such as an amazing silhouette shot that captures the family’s similarities and differences and shows how they all fit together.

photo via Babble
photo via Babble

4. Bring everyone close together. Having everyone posed close and tight together gives the photo an affectionate feel.  Professionals often overlap family members or siblings to show a loving family. Interestingly, they also often group a family on the side or corner of the photo’s frame for a more interesting photo than the dead center shot.

5. Stay indoors with tiny babies. Outdoor photos are wonderful, thanks to the natural light and surroundings that make for pretty backdrops. However, new babies are better captured up close and without several layers to keep them warm.

6. Consider creating photos that will make for fun, unique holiday cards. Snapfish suggests out-of-the-box ideas for fun holiday cards, including shots of school pageants, family vacation photos, action shots of kid sporting events, and family reunions. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the photo for your holiday card taken care of, well before Halloween!?

photo via Love the Schultzes
photo via Love the Schultzes

7. Consider how traditional you are or aren’t. If you’re a traditional family, go for matching or coordinated outfits. Otherwise, let everyone express their style (and age) with colors in the same color family with a matching accent color.

8. Consider black and white. Black and white photos are timeless and take care of the worry over coordinated clothes. They can look crisp and contemporary, classic and sophisticated. They won’t, however, capture the steel blue eyes of a newborn or the baby blond hair that may change as she gets older.

photo via A Complete Life
photo via A Complete Life

9. Consider how you’ll display photos. If you plan to hang the photos in your home– maybe as a gallery wall collage – think about the colors in your home and choose clothes to coordinate, or at least not clash.

10. Plan around naps. Attempting to photograph a tired, cranky child is no fun. If you’re shooting indoors, choose a time that works with the nap schedule. Outdoor lighting is best during the hours near sunrise and sunset, so if the photo will be taken outside, consider adjusting your child’s schedule accordingly.

11. Bring a well-stocked diaper or tote bag and an extra set of hands. To keep kids happy, bring a few mess-free snacks and drinks and a favorite toy or lovie. Make sure they get plenty of breaks to eat, drink, burn energy and blow off steam. You might also want to bring along a helpful grandparent or sitter to help you pose more than one child and keep everyone focused and happy. Treats or rewards for cooperation and good behavior won’t hurt, either!

12. Do your prep work on Pinterest. Pinterest is chock full of awesome photos of babies, kids, couples and families. Poke around for photos that appeal to you, considering the tone and emotion of the photos, poses, setting, colors and clothes. Don’t forget to check out our board Photographing Babies and Kids to see our favorites!


Send us your favorite family shots! We’d love to see them.  

Helping Your Child Adjust to Preschool

You’re a few weeks into the new school year and your preschooler is still struggling to adjust to school. It’s heart wrenching and frustrating to leave your child sobbing at the door of the classroom each morning, even if you know he’ll soon recover and have a fun time without you. Here are helpful tips to help ease separation anxiety and make the transition a bit easier on both of you.



Prepare yourself for leaving your child at preschool.
Children can pick up on nonverbal clues, and will sense your anxiety or uncertainness about the classroom, teacher or decision to leave him at school. Portray a sense of calm and confidence. You are making the right decision. Preschool is a wonderful place for your child to grow, learn and develop new and fulfilling relationships with caretakers and friends outside of the family.

Create a consistent routine.
Children thrive on routine. They need to know what to expect and what is expected of them. Create a consistent morning ritual – having breakfast together, packing his lunch, preparing for school, happily departing home and saying hello to the new teacher before saying goodbye to each other.

Make a prompt departure.
The first few days of school, you may have stuck around a little longer to help ease your child’s anxieties and help him to feel safe and comfortable in a new environment. Now that he has a few days or weeks under his belt, it’s time to say a prompt goodbye. Give a loving hug or kiss, assure your child that he’ll have a wonderful time at school and that you will return shortly… and promptly leave. Your child will soon come to accept that that’s how the separation plays out. Sticking around to comfort your child only prolongs the goodbye, making it tougher on everyone involved.

Don’t sneak out.
Leaving without saying goodbye with hope of avoiding a tearful farewell or a full-on meltdown, only makes the separation worse. You don’t want your child to feel abandoned or tricked. You also want them to know what to expect, including a loving goodbye.

Send along a little love.
Some experts recommend giving a child a transitional object to take to school for comfort. This may be a picture of the family, a favorite stuffed animal, doll, a lovey or blanket. Make sure your child’s teacher is ok with bringing things from home before you commit to sending in a favorite. Some teachers have a policy of leaving the item in a cubbie or school bag and allowing your child to visit it when needed.

Involve the teacher.
Talk with your child’s teacher about his reluctance about going to school or his anxiety to leave you. If she knows how your child feels, she’ll be ready to help you with the separation and provide extra comfort. Teachers have lots of effective strategies for helping little ones adjust to the goodbye, such as having a special activity ready for your child, putting aside a favorite toy for him, having a helper on hand to provide extra attention or creating a ritual for starting the day at school.

It’s reassuring to remember that starting school and being away from a parent is often a tough transition for preschoolers and their parents. Kids adjust to the change at their own pace, some needing a little extra time to feel comfortable and excited about their time away. Your patience, reassurance and consistency will help them to make the transition and embrace a rewarding new experience.

How to be an Awesome Room Parent

image via flickr
image via flickr

You’ve signed on as room parent for your child’s class. Huge props to you! Your willingness to take on added responsibility is admirable and your mad organizational skills appreciated. As a classroom parent, you’re charged with serving as the main source of communication between your child’s teacher and all of the parents in the class.

Your duties likely include keeping everyone informed and up to date on class news and events, coordinating class parties, collecting money for teacher gifts, and recruiting volunteers to help meet the teacher’s needs. It’s a big responsibility, but you can do a stellar job and keep it manageable by following these helpful tips.

Don’t go it alone. Rather than handle it all, recruit another parent as a co-room parent and split the duties. One of you can handle email communication and calendar updates, and the other coordinate parties, field trips and events. Having a partner will keep you from becoming overwhelmed with ongoing tasks.

Have a sit down meeting with the teacher to synch expectations. This is your chance to understand the needs and responsibilities of the job, get a list of events for the calendar, obtain a class contact sheet and agree on how you and the teacher will communicate. Ask about any allergies or special needs in the class that you need to be aware of. Also get a sense of her style and ask about her favorites and preferences so you’ll be ready to choose the class gift.

Go digital. Keep an updated class calendar, whether it be on the classroom blog, school website or a site such as Shutterfly. Also make use of volunteering services like Volunteer Spot for communication. The sites will keep everything up to date and allow you to recruit volunteers, request things like extra supplies or snacks, and collect money for field trips and group gifts without sending countless emails. Using these services also helps to eliminate the dreaded Reply-All communication strings.

Help families get to know each other. One of the nicest things you can do for your child’s class is to help their families build relationships with each other. Sometime at the beginning of the year, long before holiday chaos consumes us all, send a welcome letter and schedule an informal meet and greet. There’s no party planning involved. Simply invite whoever is interested and available to meet somewhere local for coffee after school drop-off or for drinks one evening. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get to know your child’s friends’ parents, put faces to names, and compare notes on how the year is shaping up. You may end up finding a new carpool buddy, and you’ll certainly improve your chances of recruiting volunteers later in the year.

Make it a family affair. Involve the kids and your spouse by sharing duties. Your child will get an up close view of what you are doing for his classroom, and come to appreciate the work that goes into having a well organized and fun filled school year. It’ll also help take a lot of work off your to-do list.

With a little planning and upfront work, you can take the stress out of your duty as room parent and turn the experience into a rewarding opportunity for you to contribute to your child’s education and build lasting relationships with other families in the school. Congrats to you for stepping up to the job!