Thursday, November 29, 2012

How Family Environment Influences Teens

Many parents, after years of hearing how horrible raising a teenager can be, are surprised when they find that living with teenagers is not just a pleasant experience, but a fulfilling and wonderful adventure. Teenagers can be very enjoyable to be around!

According to a recent study conducted by Child Trends and the National Adolescent Health Information Center, there are plenty of parents who enjoy their teens. In a national sample of mothers and fathers, more than 75% of parents reported having very close relationships with their adolescent children. Their teens seem to agree as a majority of teens (68%) reported being able to talk to their mothers about things that really bother them. The teens that were studied found it more difficult to talk to their fathers, yet about 50% said they were able to do so.

According to the research, family structure also makes a difference. Teens with two biological parents living at home were among the largest group reporting very close relationships with their parents at 82%. The numbers drop, but still remain healthy with 78% reporting very close relationships with their single mothers and 72% are close to one biological parent and one stepparent.

Other family factors influence their adolescent well-being including parental health behaviors. For example, foreign-born teens are more likely to eat family meals together, parents who don’t smoke are less likely to have teens that smoke, and parents who exercise are more likely to have active teens as well.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Baby Boomer Family Life

The first of the baby boomers are getting a lot of press lately as they turn 60. Researchers have been exploring how this large generation impacts not only our political and cultural climate, but our families as well.

First, boomers have paved the way to more diverse family lives. They have "delayed marriage to a degree never recorded in the United States" and, as young adults, were more likely than any other generation to leave home and set up their own households before marriage. They are also more likely to "live together" outside of marriage. So many boomer couples have done this that we tend to forget how rare and frowned-upon this once was.

Second, boomers have looked for marriage based on a strong emotional bond and room for each person to develop as an individual. These demands on married life can make it unstable. Boomers' high rates of divorce and common remarriage have reinforced a family pattern of "serial monogamy."

Third, boomers have transformed family roles and relationships: "Boomer women have redefined the role of mother to 'working mother' by combining motherhood with work outside the home". Fathers have also become more involved in family life, spending more time with their children and in sharing the housework.

Because these arrangements and roles are new, boomers have had to develop their own ways of doing things and, some suggest, "have often been confused by their own lives". But boomers really are paving the way for new ways of family life in the larger U.S. society.

Suzanna Smith, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Television and Babies' Sleep

There are a number of video and television programs that have been made for children under the age of three. At times it may be fun to watch your baby or toddler bounce or dance along with the characters on the screen. Many busy caregivers also use these shows to give themselves a little time for a needed break or to prepare a meal or tidy up. However, watching television may not be best for your baby or toddler's sleep.

New research has found that children under the age of three who watch television are at risk of having an irregular sleep schedule. This means that the child's naptimes and bedtime vary daily, and this can lead to other problems. Irregular sleep schedules can result in your baby or toddler not getting enough sleep and to sleep problems that can affect your child's mood, behavior, learning and health.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two should not watch any television, and children over the age of two should be limited to two hours of television a day.

A great alternative to turning on the television for your baby or toddler is to provide them with a safe place, such as a playpen with age-appropriate toys, or to put on some music and sing and dance with them. Watching you is just as fun to your child as watching a character on television, and it is a good way to play or spend time with your child. Plus, the exercise and laughter can be a stress reliever for you too

Suzanna Smith, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Adult Children of High-Conflict Marriages

Most of us have probably heard someone declare that they had remained in their marriage "for the sake of the kids." Research suggests, however, that this logic may not hold up. In the long run, children whose parents are in high-conflict marriages may not be any better off than children whose parents divorce.

While divorce has been shown to create significant negative outcomes for many children over the course of their lives, new research shows that conflict in marriage can have lasting effects into adulthood as well.

Researchers from Penn State University compared adult children of low-conflict and high-conflict intact marriages and adult children of divorce. They found that adult children of high-conflict marriages had poorer relations with parents, experienced lower self-esteem, and reported less happiness or satisfaction in key life areas than those adult children from low-conflict marriage or divorce.

Even as adults, the children from high-conflict marriages felt caught between their parents—forced to choose sides in a hostile environment. Both sons and daughters of high-conflict marriages had weaker ties with their parents as a result of their parents' conflict.

Surprisingly, adult children of divorce felt less "caught in the middle" than those who had chronically conflicted parents who did not divorce. The researchers conclude that "unlike children of divorce, children with parents in conflicted marriages (who do not divorce) may be unable to escape from their parents' marital problems – even into adulthood".

Donna Davis, senior producer, Family Album Radio, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Grandmother Hypothesis

Whether making family trips across country or simply traveling down the street to grandma’s house, many of us know how important grandmothers can be in their adult children’s and grandchildren’s lives.

Although in the modern Western world, grandmothers may sometimes seem to play a less central role in family life than in traditional societies, historically grandmothers have taken care of grandchildren, gathered food, and taken care of housework while their adult children were busy working in the fields or market place. In some countries today, grandmothers continue to provide these important functions.

In fact, researchers studying human evolutionary behavior proposed the “grandmother hypothesis”, suggesting that after menopause, older women continue to benefit families by supporting their children and helping their grandchildren survive.

While some scientists question this hypothesis, researchers in The Republic of the Gambia found that “between the first and second years, the presence of a maternal grandmother” significantly reduced child mortality. Another study of Canadian and Finish villagers showed that adult children had more children and raised more to adulthood when they had a living grandmother present.

In Ethiopia, where grandmothers “relieved their daughters of heavy domestic tasks” they had a positive effect on child survival.

And while worldwide we continue to discuss how to care for the growing number of older adults, the grandmother hypothesis reminds us that the flow of help is often from older to young generations..

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How Do you Teach a Toddler Good Manners?

With Thanksgiving and Christmas, just around the corner, how do you get your two to four year olds to say “please and thank you”? It’s never too early to teach them good manners. Try the following steps:

1.    Begin with two or three nice words such as "please" "thank you" and "excuse me" and then introduce more as your child begins to grasp their understanding.
2.    Be persistent and consistent. It may take time, but young ones are smart and will get it. Teaching manners early in life will help your children once they leave the house.
3.    Lead by example. Teaching good manners begins with you. You must “walk the talk and talk the talk” yourself. If you do it first, your children will mirror your actions, so you want it to be a good reflection!
4.    Give positive feedback when they use the right words or when they show you how to wait in a line patiently or help a friend put away toys. Let them know how polite and thoughtful their actions are to others.
5.    Have fun with it. Teaching manners is the first step in getting your child to think beyond himself. The first time you see the benefits could be when you’re out of the house, around others, or visiting Grandma and Grandpa.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Overworked Families

Most weeks, as I breathlessly try to keep up with my family responsibilities and the demands of my job, I often lament, "There just aren't enough hours in the day!"

I know I am not alone because many of my friends who are working parents are singing the same tune. When both parents work outside the home, as is usually the case these days, even a 40-hour work week can seem too long.

To understand the family time squeeze, researchers look at the combined work time of family members in the labor force. Research shows that married couples are working more hours—and while professional positions demand even more hours, on average couples worked a combined total of 63 hours a week in 2000, compared to 53 hours in 1970.

The reason is because married women are far more likely to work than they were 30 years ago. In 2000, three-fifths of all married couple families had two wage-earners, compared to only one-third in 1970. In 2000, only one-quarter of families had a husband-only breadwinner, compared to half of couples in the 1970s.

Another group that is "truly caught in a time squeeze" is single parents, who are working "as much as possible to support their family," often without "a partner's help in meeting their children's daily needs". Single mothers equally match working fathers, working an average of 37 hours a week.

Finding the right balance between work and family becomes increasingly difficult for many American families.

Suzanna Smith, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Appropriate Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Many people these days are concerned about weight gain. Pregnant women often share these concerns; however, it's important for pregnant women to understand that weight gain during pregnancy is critical to their babies' health.

According to registered dietitian and author Judith Brown, most women need to gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy, while those who are underweight need to gain more: about 28 to 40 pounds. Overweight women should gain not more than 25 pounds and obese pregnant women should gain at least 15 pounds, but not much more.

Appropriate weight gain can be achieved by eating an average of about 300 extra calories per day during the second and third trimesters. The best way to know if your calorie intake is appropriate is to follow your pattern of weight gain with your doctor.

 If a mother does not gain enough weight during pregnancy, her baby is at risk for low birthweight and future health complications. On the other hand, gaining too much weight puts her at increased risk for obesity later in life, especially if she keeps the weight on long past her baby's birth.

Breastfeeding is one way to begin losing weight gained during pregnancy. Breastfeeding mothers need to consume adequate calories to ensure adequate milk production, so strict "dieting" is not appropriate. Eating a variety of healthful foods and being physically active also will help new moms get back to their pre-pregnancy weight or a healthier weight at a reasonable pace.

Linda Bobroff, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.