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4 Key Strengths of American Parenting

February 11, 2015

By Nikki Cecala

4 Key Strengths of American Parenting | Tolerance, Engaged Parenting, Pregnancy, Education | A family poses for a photo, wrapping themselves in an American flag.

One common goal in every city, state, and country is that parents want to raise healthy and happy children. I’ve talked to you about parenting styles in other countries, but what are some things that Americans do that other countries don’t factor in? After much research, I’ve found four key strengths of American parenting.

Tolerance
American parents encourage their children to develop and understand tolerance, likely because we live in a very diverse country. Because of this diversity, children and adults are able to recognize and respect different ways of being, so that as we interact with others we can build bridges of understanding, trust, and respect across cultures. Furthermore, this diversity makes our country a more interesting place to live, as people from different cultures contribute language skills, unique ways of thinking and knowledge, as well as new experiences to our collective culture.

Engaged Parenting
American parents tend to be more active in their children’s school and academic life than parents from many other countries. For example, in Japan it is uncommon for the parents to be engaged with school events and activities. Whereas in America, we have the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), regular parent-teacher conferences, chaperone field trips, and even participate in fundraisers for the schools.

We are also more involved in and spend more time on other things, like birthdays. Unlike in Ireland, where parents simply theme birthday parties as birthday, in America we spend lots of time planning the perfect party for our kids, complete with themed cakes, decorations, and more. It might be seen as excessive in other countries, but it makes our kids happy, and sometimes even the parents, too (I’m one of those moms).

Pregnancy
Just in the last 20 years, pregnancy care in America has improved significantly. When I was pregnant with my son two years ago, I had multiple ultrasounds to check both his and my health. My mother (who had five children) would tell me how lucky I was because she never received ultrasounds. She didn’t even know any of our genders until we were born!

While my mom’s story seems odd now, to this day most women in Norway won’t see an obstetrician during their pregnancy—just a midwife every once in a while. And thank goodness for payment plans in the States. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, if you do not pay your clinic bill the day you are in, you are put on a hospital lockdown and may not leave or receive proper prenatal care.

Education
We take education very seriously in the United States, but some parents have different opinions on the best education style for their kids. Luckily, there is an array of education options for American children, from public to private school, Montessori, and even homeschooling. According to a 2012 report released by Education News, the number of children being homeschooled in all states has increased by 75 percent since 1999. The report shows that homeschooling is becoming more popular due to safety concerns, academic advantages, and cost. It’s not an option in all countries, though. Germany and Brazil are just some of the countries that have banned homeschooling.

No matter the location of where you parent, everyone can agree that they want to provide the best environment for their child. Are there things American parents do that you think other countries should try? What are they? Tell me in the comments below.

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Old Wives’ Tales in Parenting

October 9, 2014

By Ana Vela

Old Wives' Tales in Parenting | Baby Mariana has a red thread on her forehead to stop the hiccups.

I recently had my first baby, and I must admit I didn’t know what I was getting into. Fortunately, my mother flew in from out of state to help me care for my baby for the first three months. I was so desperate and grateful for her help that I pretty much believed and followed anything she said. I mean, she had three kids of her own and has helped raise my two nieces. Why wouldn’t I?

I started sharing some of my mom’s guidance with friends. They questioned, and even laughed, at some of the things I shared with them. That’s when I started to realize that they might just be parenting old wives’ tales. Perhaps my vulnerability as a new parent caused me to believe anything she said at the time.

Out of curiosity, I posted some of these on my Facebook page and asked people if they believed in any of them. I was amazed with the feedback I received. Many people grew up with these same stories and believe in them. Of course, there were many who were skeptical, regardless of the fact that their own family members follow them. There were even people correcting each other in how the tales go.

These are a couple of parenting old wives’ tales that I have encountered since becoming a parent. I’ve since learned that these are prominent in the Latino culture.

Ojo or Evil Eye
My mother was very serious when she sat me down and talked me through how to cure “ojo,” because my baby was sure to experience it one day soon. Ojo is sort of like the evil eye. The story varies, but generally it occurs when someone really admires and/or is envious of your baby. If they don’t touch your baby then the baby will develop a fever and will cry uncontrollably when you get home. It could last for days if you do not perform the cure, which involves rubbing an egg on your baby, reciting prayers, and cracking the egg open to release the ojo.

My mom even said I constantly contracted ojo as a baby (apparently I was quite adorable), and at some point she would avoid taking me out in public to not deal with it anymore. I later learned that there is a special bracelet you can have your baby wear that will block them from ever getting ojo. Sounds crazy, I know. And yet, I grew up with family and friends swearing that their babies had ojo and that the cure worked.

Curing Hiccups
This one came from my husband. Our baby had hiccups that wouldn’t go away. He asked me in a serious manner if I had tried using red thread to cure her hiccups. I had no idea what he was talking about. My mom overheard jumped in, agreeing that red thread cures hiccups. She couldn’t believe she had forgotten about it. My husband found red thread in our drawer, cut a piece, placed it in his mouth to wet it with his saliva, then stuck it onto our daughter Mariana’s forehead. And then we waited. After what seemed to me like a very long time, the hiccups went away. My husband proudly claimed that the red thread cured the hiccups. Sounds crazy, I know. And yet, several of my friends swear it works, too.

Others
And there were more! Do not have the baby roll her eyes back at me or she will become cross-eyed. Do not eat eggs, beans, or pork while breastfeeding for the first month or else my baby will get sick and become colicky. Don’t let the baby see my dogs poop or pee because she will get red eyes.

For the most part, these old wives’ tales are harmless. They were likely pure coincidences that were then declared factual, and were passed down from generation to generation. As crazy as some of these old wives’ tales sound, when you are a parent, following these tales can make you feel like you are helping and protecting your child. As long as we are not risking harm, whatever makes us feel at ease is worth following. So although I don’t believe in these tales, you won’t find me ignoring an opportunity to help my baby by using any of these!

What old wives’ tales have your heard from your family and friends? Tell me in the comments below or start a thread in the forum. 

 

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My Story: Postpartum Recovery

September 19, 2014

By Ana Vela

My Story: Postpartum Recovery | The author, Ana Vela, holds her newborn baby, Mariana, against her chest.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Shaffer Photography

I spent so much time planning for my first baby, from reading books and articles to talking with my doctor to talking with friends and family. Yet I didn’t take the time to learn about the postpartum recovery process. Perhaps it was because I was a bit scared. Or perhaps it’s because I assumed I was stronger than most women and would recover quickly. I completely underestimated the challenge this recovery period would be.

The postpartum recovery period is defined as the six weeks after delivery. An article in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health discusses postpartum effects lasting until 18 months after delivery. A woman will experience physical, emotional, and mental challenges during this time.

As someone who was unaware of what to expect during postpartum recovery, here are some tips I would like to offer for anyone about to go through this process:

Focus on your physical recovery.
Pregnancy and delivery was hard work for your body, and there is a whole list of symptoms you will experience afterward. Although you want to take care of your baby, it’s important that you focus on your own physical recovery.

At first, I felt very guilty that I was relying on my mother and husband to care for the baby so much in order to sleep (my mother stayed with us for the first two and a half months of our daughter’s life). Do not feel guilty. If you do not take care of yourself, you will not be able to care for your child later.

One of the ways you can take care of yourself is to avoid going out to public places with your baby during the first weeks after giving birth, as you are both vulnerable to getting sick. Although I was going crazy from being indoors, knowing that my child was healthy at home was worth it.

Learn to ask for and accept help.
If you are like me, independent and in need of being in control, be prepared for the opposite. I have never felt so helpless before. I needed assistance with everything: bathing (extremely embarrassing for me), cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, getting groceries, and taking care of my pets. Family and friends will offer to help, and it’s okay to accept it and depend on them. Although it was difficult for me to feel so vulnerable, I realized that it was more important for me to spend my energy on what mattered most—the baby.

Prepare to continue feeling emotional.
I wasn’t very emotional during my pregnancy, but certainly was during my postpartum recovery. I wasn’t expecting to feel such a range of emotions—sensitivity, sadness, anxiety, regret, anger, impatience, etc. Once I even cried with my baby in my arms because I couldn’t help her get rid of her hiccups.

It’s okay to feel this way. In fact, 70 to 80 percent of women experience these types of symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you experience more serious symptoms that prevent you from caring for your baby, as these may be signs of postpartum depression.

Acknowledge that everything will change.
I was obsessed with wanting to be the same person I was prior to having a baby. I wanted to continue being dedicated to my career, my social life, my hobbies, maintaining my household, and even my weight and active lifestyle. Everything changes when you have a baby. I became stressed out that I couldn’t balance everything in my life anymore, and didn’t want to be criticized for it. After talking with friends and family, I learned to come to terms with these changes. Reconsider your priorities in order to enjoy your new life.

Follow all your health care provider’s instructions during the recovery process to ensure you avoid complications to your health, and enjoy the time with your new baby. Keep these tips in mind to help better prepare for the postpartum recovery process, and good luck!

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Nursing Troubles

July 29, 2014

By Jennifer Eckert

Nursing Troubles | A baby nurses from his or her mother.

Before my son was born, I had his feeding regimen all planned out: I would nurse exclusively for the first few weeks and then introduce a bottle of pumped milk so my husband could participate in nighttime feedings.

Of course, nothing went according to plan.

Because I had gestational diabetes during my pregnancy, my son had to drink a bottle of formula right after birth to regulate his blood sugar. A few hours later, he started having breathing problems and had to be rushed to the NICU where he was hooked up to all kinds of machinery.

In the meantime, I started pumping to build up my milk supply and tried to nurse during my visits to the NICU. Every time I tried to get my son to latch on, the poor little guy would get tangled up in wires and howl. Frustrated, I’d give up and feed him a bottle of pumped milk instead. I quickly realized that this most “natural” activity was a skill that both my son and I could not grasp.

According to a 2012 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately two-thirds of mothers who intend to exclusively breastfeed do not meet their goal. Many, like me, encounter nursing difficulties in the hours and days immediately after delivery. Thankfully, there are resources available to help a mother who desires to nurse but is having trouble:

  • Postpartum Nurses. Many of the nurses who care for you in the hospital after labor and delivery have additional training in breastfeeding support. They can show you different nursing positions and provide an extra set of hands to guide your baby to a proper latch.
  • International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). If you need additional help, consider seeing a lactation consultant. These health care professionals have the highest level of training in breastfeeding support and can help with a wide variety of breastfeeding problems. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, their services may be covered under your insurance plan. Most hospitals and even some pediatricians’ offices have a lactation consultant on staff. Or, if you’d feel more comfortable in a private setting, you can find a lactation consultant who will come to your home. Check out the International Lactation Consultant Association to find a consultant in your area.
  • La Leche League. Founded by a group of Illinois women in 1956, this international nonprofit organization strives to help nursing mothers through support, encouragement, information, and education. Accredited La Leche League Leaders lead breastfeeding support groups all over the world and provide assistance via online forums.
  • Other Mothers. Don’t forget this valuable resource! Mothers who are currently nursing or have recently finished nursing are full of strategies and techniques that worked for them.

As for my son and me, we ended up having a lactation consultant come to our home so she could work with us in our own environment. She was wonderful and also included my husband in the nursing process. For a while, nursing was a three-person activity. My husband would help support my son while I focused on getting him to latch. Eventually, though, my son and I got the hang of it and it became second nature.



Jennifer Eckert is a supervising editor at National Geographic Learning and a freelance writer. She lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and three cats.

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Breaking Up After Baby

July 10, 2014

Did you know that 13 percent of marriages end in divorce within five years of a first child’s birth? That’s just for couples who were married when the baby was born. For couples who weren’t married but were living together when the first child was born, that rate jumps to 39 percent.

It’s not news that having a baby is tough work. Aside from the physical demands, both on a pregnant woman’s body and on both parents from lack of sleep after the baby is born, there are countless emotional demands on a couple. And I’m not even getting into the effect post-partum depression can have on the relationship, which is an entirely different and very real beast.

Babble.com’s ChaunieBrusie spoke with a clinical psychologist about why couples break up after having a baby. In the article, she also offers tips on how to better sustain your relationship after his or her birth. Read the article for more information and those helpful tips.

Tags :  parentingbabypregnancymarriageinfant
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