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Raise Healthy Eaters by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, Ms, Rd - 16h ago

Most parents understand, intellectually, that the kitchen table should be a happy place. But then reality hits: crazy schedules, complaining kids, and nutrition standards that seem impossible to meet. The truth is there is a lot that can get in a way of creating enjoyable family meals.

Why even try? We know frequent family meals are linked to improved health and well being of children. But making those meals enjoyable makes everything better: connection, nourishment, and food learning. Not to mention, the atmosphere at the table helps shape a child’s emerging relationship with food.

So I’m listing out what I believe parents who are successful at creating mealtimes don’t do most of the time.

1. They don’t focus on nutrition negatives

Parents who stress enjoyment don’t harp on the nutrition negatives — or the latest food trend — so ever-present in our food environment. That doesn’t mean they don’t manage foods with sugar or trips out to eat, but it’s not an all or nothing attitude.

Instead, they keep a big picture view of diet and focus on all the goodies they want to include. These goodies include everything from upping the plant-based foods to balancing it all out with yummy desserts. In short, they put thought into what is served and enjoyment is stressed above all. For kids, this sets the tone that good nutrition is a positive part of meals, not a negative.

2. They don’t try to control what they can’t

Parents who aim for enjoyable meals don’t attempt to control their child’s eating. There’s no you need to eat more veggies before dessert. Food is not used as a punishment or reward. Meals are put on the table and kids are allowed freedom within those choices.

But no parent is perfect, and the times parents do try to control kids they quickly realize how negative it turns the table. It reminds them why that it’s their job to get that meal on the table, and it’s the kids’ job to eat (see Satter’s Division of Responsibility).

3. They don’t stay inflexible about meals and cooking

There’s so much that goes on before the meal is served, from planning to shopping to cooking. Doing the same thing even when it’s clearly not working makes the whole process drudgery, which can’t help but contribute to the attitude at the table.

The family cook will be happier when she finds a way to get meals on the table that work for everyone. This might mean making changes from what worked before kids, or deciding it’s time to alter the current routine. Either way, flexibility is key when it comes to family cooking.

4. They don’t aim for perfection

The expectation that kids should eat perfectly and every family member needs to love every meal blocks joy from reaching the table. Parents who stress joy at the table understand that not everyone will be pleased with every meal and that kids’ eating is by nature unpredictable. If they don’t do this, most meals end up a big disappointment. Instead, they focus on connection and look for the small successes and changes that add up to bigger ones later.

5. They don’t go it alone

Having one person do all the cooking, shopping, dishes, and table setting often result in a crabby cook (I should know). It makes it that much harder to accept those meals that don’t turn out or to stay patient with little ones at the table.

Happy cooks learn to delegate duties, making it a win-win. Kids gradually learn cooking skills and the head cook feels a bit lighter and less resentful of the work that needs to be done.

Finding the source of the stress

Although every meal at my house is far from blissful, I do try pinpoint what needs fixing when mealtime feels like more of a slog. Are we connecting at mealtime? Am I trying to control the kids’ eating? Am I asking for enough help?

Are your family meals enjoyable? And if not, what do you think is getting in the way?

Got a picky eater? Get the latest research and tips in my e-book From Picky to Powerful

The post 5 Things Parents Who Create Happy Mealtimes Don’t Do appeared first on Maryann Jacobsen.

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Raise Healthy Eaters by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, Ms, Rd - 16h ago

I hope you had a good 4th of July (for those in the U.S.). Every year we run the race in our town, see the parade, and go to the pool. It’s always a good time but we end up too tired to go see fireworks.

Since we’ve gotten back from our vacation in late June, I’ve been less structured with dinners. I’ve been planning a few meals ahead of time with the goal of emptying out my fridge. I’ve tried to go as many days as I can without going to the store. I usually go grocery shopping on Sunday. But with kids home, I realize I don’t have to be on such a tight schedule.

Now seemed like the right time sit down and plan our summer meals. Mondays will stay Mexican and Tuesday I’ll be focusing on easy pasta dishes with lots of fresh vegetables. We are planning to grill on Thursdays and go super simple on Fridays with whatever’s left in the fridge. Weekends are simple square meals that can also move to the grill. The name of the game is flexibility because you never know what might come up.

Here are some newish recipes I’ve been enjoying:

Instant Pot 1-minute Quinoa and Veggies

New restaurant-style salsa recipe I’m making weekly

Garden Turkey Meatballs with Spaghetti

Roasted Veggie Couscous (add chickpeas and it’s even better)

Our Second Cruise

We took our summer vacation two days after the kids were out of school. We went on a Caribbean cruise for 7 days. Our last cruise was almost 6 years ago and we wanted to try it again. Last time I worked much of the time (book edits) and we all got the stomach flu.

But this time we really wanted to disconnect (“we” is me and my husband). So we did not get the Wifi package. I didn’t bring any work or writing (although last minute I did try to bring my laptop but my husband gently reminded me of our plan). The kids brought iPads but only for the plane (and no Wifi). We brought lots of books and one card game called Apples to Apples.

This was one of our better vacations. We had lots of quality family time. The ship had tons of excellent entertainment every night after dinner. The ports were fun (except for one excursion we wouldn’t do again). And the food was tasty. This was a big ship so there were lots of food options but we always had dinner in the main dining hall.

During the last cruise, I remember the kids ordering off the kids’ menu. They were 3 and 6. This time, at ages 9 and 11, they didn’t. The first night we sat down, no one offered us a kids’ menu. I kept thinking “please don’t let there be one, please don’t let there be one….” After a few minutes, we were finally asked if we wanted the kids’ menu. Both kids looked at us and said “no.”

For dinner, we got the choice of an appetizer, main meal, and dessert. Big A even had the idea of sharing bites of each person’s food so we would know what’s good for the next night. Little D liked the spaghetti Bolognese and the NY Strip Steak. Big A was also a fan of the steak and the salmon. I do think by the end they got a little tired of the fine dining, but it sure was nice enjoying these meals together.

Spaghetti Bolognese The well-liked NY Strip Steak Little D messing with my new phones portrait mode

Of course, there was other food offered for breakfast and lunch including buffets which had a little bit of everything, a pizza place and soft serve ice cream near the pool (kids got it every day!). But the best part was not having to shop and prepare food. This food break was way overdue and I returned home wanting to cook more than ever!

Free ice cream anyone?

That’s what I love about traveling. It gives me fresh perspective on my life and I always come back so motivated. Plus, I read three books and got to truly relax. I will never bring work on a trip again. I hope to carve out a little time for reading and relaxing this summer.

But now it’s back to life, work, and kids at home.

The Summer Plan

After a few days back it was time to figure out what summer would look like. I know that if we don’t have a flow for our day it will be A) hard for me to get work done and B) too much screen time and C) we may not do everything we want to do.

So I sat down the kids to ask them what they thought. When should they have screen time, read, do house jobs (aka chores) and cook? I feel very strongly that when kids have extra time, they need to pitch in more. We talked about it and came up with the following:

In the morning they give me time to work. That means they make breakfast and afterword do any practicing (like piano) and house jobs I assign them. Little D likes to read in the morning since he gets up early. And Big A prefers to read before bed since she now falls asleep later. After some trial and error, we’ve decided that they get 2 hours of screen time and that they keep track of this themselves. If they get less one day due to being out etc, they can add it on the next day if they want. If they played with a friend that included screen time that doesn’t count unless that’s all they do.

Dinner time we congregate and they help as needed. Then after dinner, with more daylight hours, they can ride bikes or scooters, we can play family games or they can play with neighborhood friends. If it’s hot, we hit the pool.

We also joined Raddish, a cooking club for kids, so they have some cooking to catch up on. Every month they send a package that includes a cooking tool like a spatula, recipes, a patch (for the lesson), cook info and games. Each box usually has a theme, like our first month was Greece so there’s info about Greece, the type of food from that region and recipes. We made Greek chicken, Tzatziki, and spanakopita (pictured below). I plan to blog more about this — including recipes — in a future post! Thanks to my friends Krista and Rochelle for turning me on to Raddish.

The hardest part of our summer schedule is my own work. I got used to working out early morning but now I need to get work done so the two feel in competition. So I’m struggling with how I find enough time for myself and what I need to do, writing, and keeping the kids on track. If you work from home, let me know how you’re handling it all.

I’d be lying if this summer plan is perfect. Some days are good, some not so good, and others in between. I’m trying to keep the lines of communication open so we can make changes where need be and re-evaluate.


A few quick reads to leave you with:

New research showing that sleeping late on the weekend may help when you can’t get enough during the week.

Being called fat in early teen years ups eating-disorder risk in girls

Respectful Parent: 5 Reasons Kids Lie (and What to Do About it)

New research showing certain foods may delay menopause

Karen Koenig: The Importance of Knowledge in Making Healthy Choices

Want to create your own dinner rotation? Check out Maryann’s book The Family Dinner Solution.

The post Summer Dinner Rotation 2018 appeared first on Maryann Jacobsen.

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This is a guest post from Ron Stefanski founder of www.JobsForTeensHQ.com

What comes to mind when you think about “jobs for teenagers?” You’re probably thinking of part-time positions at the supermarket, the pet store, or your local fast food joint. While these part-time positions are great for learning responsibility and earning some pocket money, they don’t always translate into skills or work experience that will serve our children later in life.

Teenagers don’t often put too much thought into their summer or after-school job selections. Flexible hours, hourly pay, and proximity to school or the house are usually the top three issues that teens take into consideration when choosing which job is right for them.

There is a better way, and that’s what this post is all about. Teenagers, especially those who are already in high school, should seek out employment that will give them skills they need later in their professional life and open their eyes to what working in their dream job is like.

For instance, if your teen thinking about becoming a vet…

Encourage them to seek out a part-time job at the local pet store or at a nearby veterinary office. Not only will this serve as value resume fodder, but it can help them figure out whether or not a career working with animals really suits them.

When your teenager is looking for a part-time job, encourage them to consider the following:

1. Value Real Work Experience

If your teen is hoping to study agriculture, a seasonal job at your local plant nursery may be more useful down the road than weekend shifts at a grocery store.

Encourage your teen to think ahead and try and find a job that relates to what they think their ultimate career goal may be. I feel that even kids as young as 14 years old are old enough to begin thinking about what kind of job they’d like to do in the future.

Not only can this help them figure out what they want to do in life (experience is often the best teacher), it can also serve as a wonderful addition to their resume.

2. Build Your Resume

Most hiring managers aren’t just looking for work experience, they are looking for relevant work experience.

While hiring managers are less likely to be stringent with entry-level workers, having relevant work experience may help set your child apart from the rest when they are applying for sought-after positions.

3. Make College Count

With tuition rates climbing at a truly daunting rate, we should encourage our children to think carefully about their college major before committing to it, both emotionally and financially.

It’s not uncommon to hear of teenagers switching their college majors multiple times (I did this twice myself) throughout their college career. While switching majors isn’t always the end of the world (many teens make these decisions while they are still satisfying their general education credit requirements) this sort of behavior can get very expensive very quickly if it involves completely restructuring their course load.

It’s a better idea to test the waters as teenagers before they enroll in college. If your child majors in marine biology, only to discover they can’t stomach the smell of fish, it would have been better to discover that while working in the pet store as a teenager than after 2 years of an expensive college education, right?

4. Learn to Think Ahead

Apart from the potential financial savings, the resume building, and the exposure to relevant work experience, encouraging your teen to find a job that may translate into a career is a great way to get them thinking about and preparing for their future.

Along with the practical side of things, teens who work in a variety of sectors before college are more likely to make a decision based on their own interests and skills, rather than simply following the crowd or choosing a major because “it earns money”.

It may be helpful to explain to your teen that choosing a career path isn’t just about making money but that they will spend a great deal of their adult life at work, so they should try their hardest to make sure it’s doing something they enjoy or are, at the very least, truly interested in.

5. Drop The Pressure

While there are tons of great reasons to encourage your child to think carefully before accepting a part-time position as a teenager, you also run the risk of unnecessarily freaking them out.

We want our teens to grow up to be well-rounded adults with rewarding careers and the ability to learn and grow, but putting undue pressure on them sometimes produces the opposite result.

While we want our teens to make well-thought-out decisions, it’s also important to remember that the teenage years are made for exploration, mistake-making, and discovering who they are and what they want out of life.

If you have this conversation with your child and they still want to work at the local pizza joint, let them do it! No matter what they eventually decide, every job has its benefits and will teach them valuable lessons about responsibility, accountability, punctuality, and money management.

Ron Stefanski founded www.JobsForTeensHQ.com and has a passion for helping teenagers find jobs.  He founded the website because he feels that teenagers need to focus on their professional passions much earlier in life and aims to teach them how they can do it.  When he’s not working on his website, Ron is a college professor and loves to travel the world.

Photo by Venveo on Unsplash

The post 5 Things Every Teen Should Consider Before Finding a Job appeared first on Maryann Jacobsen.

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There comes a time we need to help our kids deal with wanting something that is out of their reach. Maybe they didn’t test well enough to get into advanced classes at school, their body is shaping up to look different than the norm, or they fall short to play a sport in high school. As kids get older, these can all add up.

Of course, parents know their kids have many talents, some yet to be developed. But sometimes kids want to be where culture shines it lights brightly saying “you’re good, accepted and loved!” This is what I call a “Cultural Fave.”

We could say to our kids “don’t worry about it, X doesn’t matter.” But this does little to remove the seed that is planted saying they are not good enough. If not addressed, this seed has the potential to grow out of control. There’s only one way to be sure it doesn’t get out of hand and that’s to explain to kids about Cultural Faves.

What is a Cultural Fave?

I define cultural faves as specific preferences of a culture that aren’t right or wrong. For example, we know exercise is good for us but some types are considered better than others, like running over walking. Kids and adults can unknowingly aspire to these preferences even when they are not right for them.

Let’s look at a place kids spend lots of time: school. If a child doesn’t test into a gifted program they might think they will be less successful than those who did. I think it’s great for the kids who test well and I’m sure that means they will excel in certain areas. But that doesn’t mean that those are the only abilities that matter for school and more importantly, for life. It’s just something our culture of school looks at positively. For example, if the test was on creativity or social skills, other kids would do well — and maybe some of those same kids who scored high on the other test wouldn’t.

So cultural faves aren’t right or wrong, they just are. And in some cases, they are always changing, like with preferred body types.

Cultural Faves in health and body shapes

Nowhere are cultural faves more present than within female body shapes. In the 1800s plump and curvy women were considered the picture of beauty in the US and Europe. Peter Rubens was a 17th-century Flemish painter known for his paintings of full sized women. Because of his popularity, “Rubenesque” was a term to describe women who fit this ideal body type. In addition to having curves, women wore corset’s cinched waist, which was a garment tight around the waist used to create an hourglass figure.

In the 1920s curves went out of style and “in” was having a flat chest, short bob hairstyle, and curve-less boyish figure. This was the roaring 20s. From 1930 to 1950, the curvy look came back (without the cinched waist). The most notable celebrity to embody this look is Marylyn Monroe. Curves and large breasts were considered the ideal. There were even ads to help thin women gain weight.

In the swinging 60’s, with models like Twiggy, wearing miniskirts and being tall and slim became “in.” This didn’t last too long as in the 1980s the fit and toned look came in as health became more of a focus (remember Jane Fonda?). But fast forward to 1990 and thin returned with models like Kate Moss. The body shape preferred in women after 2000 was a bit of everything — fit, toned, thin (but not too thin) and airbrushing meant that media images looked more unrealistic than ever.

No matter what trend in body shape and size comes, someone is going to feel left out. That’s the thing about cultural faves, they can make you feel bad just for being you. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Rewards are Real

I’ll never forget what Linda Bacon said when I interviewed her for this post on teaching kids about body weight and shape:

 “It makes sense that kids would be concerned about being fat in this anti-fat culture, and I think it’s important to honor these fears. Telling them what we know to be true — that weight stigma is wrong and kids can be beautiful and healthy at every size — isn’t enough to help them change their attitude and behavior, when they can see the real rewards people get for being thinner in this culture. It’s important to be real with them and acknowledge that.

I didn’t know this when I got to high school so when I saw the rewards thin girls got I thought “I want that too.” And my drive for thinness began. But with the knowledge about cultural faves, an inner wisdom can be born instead.

There will be certain ways our kids will be rewarded for fitting into cultural faves and other ways they won’t. What’s most important is that they don’t spend their lives striving to be something they aren’t just to get a stamp of approval. And when they do fit a cultural fave, they shouldn’t feel like their acceptance as a person rides on that fit (like the achievement-oriented kid who thinks his value only comes from how he does at school).

It comes down to this:

Regardless of how kids do on tests, all of them can benefit from learning and find exciting careers that fit their aptitudes.

And every “body,” no matter how it comes packaged, can be a healthy “body.”

When kids understand these realities, they can embrace who they are. That will instantly make them healthier and happier because they will be free from letting culture dictate who they should be. And then they can get to the important job of discovering their true selves and the positive impact they can have in the world.

If only that was a cultural fave.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

The post How to Keep “Cultural Faves” From Ruining Your Child’s Health and Well Being appeared first on Maryann Jacobsen.

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Over 50% of families reporting picky eating problems at home. Not knowing what to do, parents may bribe, force and pressure their child to eat. The connection between parent and child can go south, eating often gets worse, and tension at the table grows. And it’s not just children but older teens and adults who struggle with picky eating.

One thing is for sure, we all need to know how to respond to picky eating and remove the shame associated with it. Only then can we see real progress.

To dig into this topic we have two featured experts: Katja Rowell, MD, and Jenny McGlothlin, MS, SLP. Katja is a medical doctor with expertise in relational and responsive feeding, and Jenny is a Speech Language Pathologist whose responsive feeding program at the UT Dallas Callier Center combines oral-motor and sensory treatments with parent education. Together they wrote Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating and their recently released book, Conquer Picky Eating for Teens and Adults.

The show starts from the very beginning (infancy) and touches on every stage including adulthood. You will discover the best way to respond and support the picky eater in your life, even if the picky eater is you!

Highlights from the Show
  • How both Jenny and Katja became interested in childhood feeding, how they met, and how they learn from each other.
  • How pediatricians get very little training with feeding difficulties and where parents can turn when they need help.
  • Why feeding in the first two years has the power to shape the entire feeding relationship. And why it can be hard for parents to let go of early challenges.
  • The typical picky eating stage (2-5 years old) and how to avoid common pitfalls.
  • What’s usually behind a school-aged child that isn’t expanding their intake.
  • Why older teens and adults do not usually need therapy and what can empower them to change.
  • The key drivers that lead to adult picky eating.
  • Normal vs. extreme picky eating: Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) signs and symptoms and why there’s still no gold standard of treatment.
  • How to find the right therapist if you suspect your child has extreme picky eating.
  • The problem with pressuring picky eaters and why it slows the process of food progression.
  • The role anxiety and sensory experiences play in picky eating and what to do if your child hasn’t added a new food in a long time.
  • The lasting effects of early food trauma and why it doesn’t have to dictate how someone relates to food forever.
  • Why picky eaters have better health than people think.
  • Why it’s so important to remove shame from the eating experience.
Quote from the Show

You do not have to sacrifice your relationship with your child, that trust and that attachment, for growth and nutrition goals – Katja Rowell


Katja Rowell and Jenny McGlothlin’s website, Facebook page, and books
Extreme Picky Eating Website
Extreme Picky Eating Help Facebook
Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating
Conquer Picky Eating for Teens and Adults

Show Mentions
Parents on Demand App
Lean Green Dad Radio Podcast
Satter’s Division of Responsibility
Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense
Marsha Dunn Klein
Susan Evans Morris
Mealtime Hostage Support Private Group
Born to Eat: Whole, Healthy Foods from Baby’s First Bites
The Happiness Option at Mealtime
Jackie Lamenzo Story: All Eyes on Me
Nancy Zucker’s work on eating disorders
What Forcing Kids to Eat Looks Like 20 Years Later
Study regarding drop out rate for ARFID

Duration: 1:10
Download episode
Subscribe via ITunes, Stitcher or RSS

Podcast Music: Corporate Uplifting by Scott Holmes

Like the Healthy Family Podcast? Help spread the word by subscribing and rating/reviewing it on Itunes

The post How to Empower the Picky Eater in Your Life with Katja Rowell and Jenny McGlothlin [Podcast] appeared first on Maryann Jacobsen.

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A friend of mine who doesn’t live near me mentioned she was going to see the documentary Screenagers with her 11-year-old son. Having not heard about it, I looked it up and was intrigued. Then, not too long after that my kids’ school alerted us to a screening nearby. I brought my 11-year-old daughter.

The story follows doctor, mom and filmmaker, Delany Ruston, on her journey to raising kids in the digital age. Her almost 13-year-old daughter wants a cell phone and her son is into video games. The movie highlights her struggles managing technology in the home. She interviews experts to find out how to proceed. The experts provide insight on the effects of technology on the growing brain, activity levels, well being, and socialization (or a lack thereof).

The documentary showcases the ways in which different families struggle. You see a young college student miss his classes to play video games until the wee hours. Then there’s the girl who sends pictures of herself on her phone to a boy and has to deal with the backlash. And one grandma is unsure what to do about her grandchild who spends his afternoons fixated on a screen instead of playing. It shows the variety of ways technology can be misused by kids. It also touches on school policies around cell phone use, and how they differ from school to school.

As a solution, Screenagers recommends an authoritative parenting style in which parents set limits but stay warm and responsive to their kids. Also, explaining why the rules exist, bringing kids into the decision-making process, and listening to kids’ views. Most of the issues presented get resolved and it helps to see how they play out.

The show ends by focusing on parents’ overuse of technology, especially their phone, and how managing screens should be a family affair. Ruston and her family decide to have “Tech Talk Tuesdays” at the dinner table to keep the conversation going.

A Kids Take

I asked my daughter what she thought and she said while it made her more aware she thought it was a bit much for her age group (it’s recommended for kids 10 and older). She felt it only showed the negative sides of the argument. And she feels it will make kids who use technology feel bad about themselves.

When I went online to look at kids reviews it seemed many kids felt the same way.

“The movie continues this theme: parents are more important than kids and children have no say in anything.”

 “…it focuses on the downsides of electronics and never positives. This is the movie’s main flaw, and is present enough in it to ruin the whole experience

“Overall it was extremely one sided and most of its arguments against technology can’t be taken seriously.”

“They make it sound like cooling off with a video game after school and homework is the worst crime a person could commit.”

My Take

Despite the kids’ reviews, I felt like Screenagers was decently balanced, although it did focus more on the negatives than the positives. It would be better if it pointed out the ways in which technology can enhance the lives of kids and parents. There’s a brief mention of some benefits to gaming and technology, but it kind of falls flat. And I don’t think kids respond well to fear-based messages.

Thanks to technology, there have never been more opportunities for self-directed learning and entrepreneurial pursuits. Did you know that MIT’s full curriculum is online? If kids are motivated, they can learn almost anything online. And odds are they are less likely to have traditional jobs like we had starting our careers. It is estimated that the number of solopreneurs will grow from about 30 million in 2014 to about 42 million in 2026.

So this movie is mostly about the watch-outs, and I think parents need to be aware of those. They need to teach these watch-outs to their kids and abide by them too. But let’s not make the mistake of painting technology as all negative or it will become the forbidden fruit. No, we also need to help kids take advantage of all the opportunities growing up in the digital age gives them. Like it or not, we all have (or will have) a screenager at some point. Let’s make the best of it.

I recommend watching this documentary because it will get a much-needed family conversation started. Find a screening of Screenagers in your area, or host one yourself. If you saw Screenagers let me know what you thought in the comments.

The post Helping Our Kids Manage Screens: A Review of Screenagers appeared first on Maryann Jacobsen.

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Raise Healthy Eaters by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, Ms, Rd - 16h ago

You’ve been there, haven’t you? Your child strikes out at a baseball game, bombs a test or messes up at her dance recital and acts like it’s the end of the world. It seems in today’s world, moving away from the limelight for even a second can stroke fear in kids.

The self-esteem movement took our culture by storm in the 1990s. Now experts realize this movement had some serious holes in it. We are finding out that striving to “be our best” 24/7 is not only exhausting but ultimately robs kids and adults of living authentic and healthy lives.

The antidote to the shortcomings of self-esteem is self-compassion. Like self-esteem, self-compassion generates a positive feeling about oneself but it has nothing to do with performance. It’s about being kind to yourself no matter what — especially when things don’t go well. Teaching self-compassion is a must in today’s world of ultra comparison-itis and competition. Plus, research shows its really good for us. It’s one of those tools like gratitude, that boosts emotional health and well being.

On episode 19 of The Healthy Family Podcast Karen Bluth, Ph.D. explains the benefits of teaching self-compassion to adolescents. She is Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a certified instructor of Mindful Self-Compassion. Karen has been a mindfulness practitioner for almost 40 years and frequently gives talks, conducts workshops, and teaches classes in self-compassion in educational settings and in the community. She is co-creator of the curriculum Making Friends with Yourself: A Mindful Self-Compassion Program for Teens, and author of the book The Self-Compassion Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness and Compassion Skills to Overcome Self-Criticism and Embrace Who You Are.

Today Karen Bluth is sharing with us what it takes to raise resilient kids who treat themselves the same way they’d treat a good friend.

Highlights From the Show
  • How Karen’s interest in self-compassion started by listening to poems on self-compassion in the car.
  • The biggest myth about self-compassion and why it holds so many families back.
  • Why people with self-compassion are more motivated, take more risks, and ironically perform better than those who are hard on themselves.
  • The real reason preteens and teens are so hard on themselves, even when parents do not pressure them.
  • Karen details the key components of her Making Friends with Yourself 8-week program for teens.
  • Key differences between self-esteem and self-compassion and why it matters.
  • The most important thing parents can do to raise self-compassionate kids.
  • The vital role social media plays in how children come to view themselves and what parents can do to help.
  • How self-compassion protects against mental health issues and even suicide, all of which are increasing at alarming rates in teens.
Quote from the Show

On advice she’d give her younger self
I would tell myself not to worry so much and not to try so hard. You’re a really good person, you’re a very kind person. You’re strong. Everybody else is going through what you’re going through. And it might not seem that way. It may look like everybody else has it together. But everybody else is struggling just the way you are.— Karen Bluth


Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens
Center for Mindful Self Compassion
The Self-Compassion Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness and Compassion Skills to Overcome Self-Criticism and Embrace Who You Are.
Other books by Karen Bluth as contributing author
NY Times Article — The Promise of Self-Compassion for Stressed Out Teens
David Whyte — Poetry of Self-Compassion
Greater Good Article — How to Help Teens Become More Self Compassionate
David Elkind’s Imaginary Audience (summary on Very Well Family)
Kristen Neff’s book — Self-Compassion: The Proven Power to Being Kind to Yourself
The Headspace App
Self Compassion vs. Self Esteem
William Damon’s book — The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life
Screenagers Movie: Growing Up in the Digital Age
The Benji Project

Duration: 37.13
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Podcast Music: Corporate Uplifting by Scott Holmes

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The post The Power of Self Compassion with Karen Bluth [Podcast] appeared first on Maryann Jacobsen.

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I was walking alongside a caregiver telling a child that if she didn’t eat at least half her sandwich at lunch that day, she’d have to eat it when she got home.

And while waiting to get flu shots, I overheard a mom tell her son that due to his weight he now has to make healthy choices and exercise.

There is a status quo for raising healthy kids. Get them to eat healthy foods. Make sure they exercise. It’s all about getting them to “do” healthy activities.

But this misses the mark time and time again. And here’s why.

The doing can bypass listening 

I understand why it’s tempting to make kids eat or nag them to make healthy choices. But when we do this, we actually teach them not to listen to their body. In so many words we are saying — it doesn’t’ matter what you are feeling do what I say anyway.

In other words, when we solely focus on the doing it increases the risk kids will disconnect from their bodies. Problem is, their body holds all the answers for the doing. When we can’t find the real answer then another problem is created like food battles and weight issues. And guess who becomes the bad guy?

The child’s body.

Listening leads to appreciating

There is a reason kids don’t eat “this” or too much of “that.” Maybe a parent finds her child isn’t eating her lunch because she’s still full from snack time. Maybe a big eater is dealing with stress at school so he turns to food for comfort. Or he’s going through the adolescent growth spurt and is more hungry.

In every one of these scenarios, the body is trying to tell these kids something important and parents can help them discover what that is.

In fact, our bodies are talking to use all the time. In the case of physical health, it talks in the form of hunger, fullness, satisfaction, dislike, low or high energy, alertness and general mood. Emotional health comes in the way of feelings. We welcome the positive emotions but what about the difficult feelings of anxiety, shame, disappointment, loneliness, and anger? We want those to go away but they provide vital information too.

As Karen Koenig says so eloquently in her book Food and Feelings: “Feelings are the portal to your inner world, the key to your deepest yearnings and desires, the compass that guides you through life.”

Appreciating leads to self-care (but you need the listening first)

The research is pretty clear that body appreciation results in healthier habits, while body dissatisfaction doesn’t. I used to think this came straight from the appreciation piece, but just telling kids to love or appreciate their body doesn’t work. It’s simply more of telling them what to do.

We teach kids how to appreciate their bodies by encouraging them to listen and use that feedback to create a healthy and happy life. This is what leads to body appreciation and the years and years of self-care we want for them. So instead of fighting kids with more doing, we can encourage them to decode what their bodies are trying to tell them.

For example, low energy might mean they need to move. A tummyache might signal stress or too many goodies. Disappointment helps them figure out what is important to them. Fear of food might simply mean they need more information and experience with food.

This is so powerful because children get to experience the benefits for themselves. And once they learn the language of the body — and how it enhances their lives in every single way — they’ll never go back to second guessing it or thinking it’s the problem.

Check out Maryann’s books, all sold on Amazon. The book she’s currently working on is aimed to help tween girls understand, listen and appreciate their changing body. You can sign up here to be alerted of her new posts and book releases.

From Picky to Powerful: The Mindset, Strategy, and Know-How You Need to Empower Your Picky Eater

How to Raise a Mindful Eater: 8 Powerful Principles for Transforming Your Child’s Relationship with Food

The Family Dinner Solution: How to Create a Rotation of Dinners Meals Your Family Will Love

What Does Your Tummy Say?

The post Set Your Child Up for a Lifetime of Healthy Choices with This Powerful Strategy appeared first on Maryann Jacobsen.

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Raise Healthy Eaters by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, Ms, Rd - 16h ago

When little D was around two, I struggled parenting him. He had trouble communicating and had major meltdowns. He went to a half-day preschool two days a week and every day there was bad news. One time he scratched another kid and many other times he was difficult to deal with.

Like most parents, I tried the timeouts and other negative consequences for his actions (no spanking), but it always made his behavior worse. But then a friend gave me a book entitled “Becoming the Parent You Want to Be.” I don’t remember the exact details, but I do know it helped me to start using a different, more positive approach with him. I no longer gave him timeouts and started explaining why I didn’t like his actions and what he could do instead.

His behavior improved and so did our relationship. I realized my old way of parenting didn’t really work with my older child either. She was just better at changing her behavior to avoid the consequence or get the reward. And I thought: do I want kids who only act a certain way avoid a consequence or get something? What will they do when I’m not around?

And so started my conscious parenting journey. This was also the time I wrote my first book Fearless Feeding. I read research about feeding and parenting styles (feeding is a big part of parenting). I learned more about an authoritative style of parenting and its benefits while researching and writing How to Raise a Mindful Eater:

A strong body of evidence suggests authoritative parenting produces the most positive childhood outcomes. Again, it’s this mixture of structure and high expectations with warmth and sensitive responsiveness that leads to a secure attachment between parent and child. This secure attachment improves children’s physiological response to stress, and results in a high-quality relationship between parent and child.

Parenting Styles Elements
Parenting Style Structure/High Expectations Warmth/Sensitive Responses



Discipline is teaching

Discipline is about teaching kids. I’ve become curious why we feel the only way to teach appropriate behavior is to punish and reward? We don’t use punishment when kids have trouble learning to read or any other skills. No, it takes time, repetition and breaking steps down. If our kids need extra help, we give it to them.

As kids get older, the emotional piece gets tricky too. Kids come home with friend problems, teacher issues and challenges learning or paying attention. If we are lucky, they ask us for help. But some kids may bypass their parents and instead act out by begging to play video games, misbehaving in school or eating goodies.

What parent doesn’t need help in the parenting arena, especially given today’s complex environment? That’s why when I was asked to be part of A Fine Parent’s Positive Parenting Conference, I said yes immediately. I was honored be included with top-notch experts such as Dr. Laura Markham, Dr. Tina Bryson, Dr. Becky Bailey, Dr. Michele Borba, Patty Wipfler, Amy McCready, Rebecca Eanes, and Lenore Skenazy.

Because picky eating is a common parenting issue, I was asked to come and talk about tips for helping parents feed their kids.

The FREE Online Event You Don’t Want to Miss

Positive parenting isn’t about staying positive all the time, which is impossible. I see it as learning the art of authoritative parenting. It’s learning how to stay connected to your child even when you’re not happy with them. It’s about communicating effectively so kids listen and learn. It’s about teaching without yelling (and apologizing when we mess up, which we all do). It’s about understanding the why behind development so you realize your kids aren’t trying to drive you crazy.

The Positive Parenting Conference covers everything from connecting with children, child development, life skills and solutions for modern-day challenges. It’s broken down into the following 5 tracks. My interview is incuded in track #4.

Track #1: Connection-Based Parenting with talks by Rebecca Eanes, Dr. Laura Markham, Alissa Marquess and Patty Wipfler on May 01 – 02.

Track #2: Solutions for Modern Day Parenting with talks by Amy McCready, Dr. Victoria Dunckley, Dr. Peter Gray and Lenore Skenazy on May 03 – 04.

Track #3: Research Guided Parenting with talks by Dr. Becky Bailey, Dr. Michele Borba, Dr. Tina Bryson and Dr. Melanie Greenberg on May 05 – 06.

Track #4: Habits & Life Skills (Part 1) with talks by Dr. Deborah Gilboa, Maryann Jacobsen, Leeza Steindorf and Holly Reid on May 07 – 08.

Track #5: Habits & Life Skills (Part 2) with talks by Katie Hurley, Susan Greenland, Amy Morin and Douglas Haddad on May 09 – 10.

You can see all of these experts in one place for FREE* — you don’t even have to leave your house. You can register here now to receive emails when the talks are published.*

Trust me, you don’t want to miss this!

*Between May 1st and 10th, you get to watch all talks for free. If you want to access the talks outside this timeframe, there will recording packages available for purchase. I get commissions for any purchases made through links in this post. My opinions are my own and I only endorse programs/products I believe in.

The post Why I Parent with Purpose appeared first on Maryann Jacobsen.

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From the moment we are born food and emotions are intertwined. We get fed milk while being held and enjoy connection at the family table. But as time marches on, food can all too easily be used as a way to distract us from difficult emotions or fill an emotional void. This results in dysregulated eating — eating too much or too little, and spending way too much time thinking about food and weight.

The problem is our quick-fix culture searches for answers by making up food rules, tightly controlling goodies, and “thinking positive.” Our expert today says it takes both a mindful eating approach and tuning in to our emotions to get back to what she calls “normal eating.”

On episode 18 of The Healthy Family Podcast we have on Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed., licensed psychotherapist specializing in the field of compulsive, emotional and restrictive eating. She is co-founder of the Greater Boston Collaborative for Body Image and Eating Disorders and a former member of the Professional Advisory Committee of the Multi-service Eating Disorder Association of Massachusetts. She is author of several books including The Rules of “Normal” Eating, Outsmarting Overeating and The Food and Feelings Workbook.

She will forever change the way you see food and emotions, and that’s a good thing.

Highlights from the Show
    • How Karen’s journey from chronic dieter to normal eater lead to her career choice.
    • The biggest myth of what it takes to eat a healthy diet, and why it’s so harmful.
    • The difference between wanting more food and pleasure/taste.
    • Why most people don’t think that much about their emotions (hint: we are never formally schooled in handling feelings).
    • The true purpose of emotions and how they guide people to a healthy and happy life.
    • Why food and emotions are hardwired into our brains as babies and the common mistake people make when eating.
    • Why mindful eating and intuitive eating are helpful but not always enough to prevent or treat emotional eating.
    • The most important thing parents should focus on to help prevent emotional and dysregulated eating in their children
    • The one thing every parent needs to do at the dinner table.
    • Why it’s so important to label, connect, and reflect on feelings to make good choices.
    • How to discover the important piece of information difficult emotions are trying to tell you or your child.
    • Why so many people have an “enough disorder,” meaning they don’t know when to stop eating, exercising, drinking, working etc. And how to learn how to recognize when enough really is enough.
    • The 7 emotions most related to emotional eating (and the most common one according to Karen)

Emotions scare, puzzle and confuse us. They drive us to eat, shop, drink, starve, gamble, work, exercise, talk nonstop, live dangerously, and take drugs in order not to feel them…Although we receive training in everything from driving a car to taking SATs, nowhere are we formally schooled in how to handle feelings. — Karen Koenig, The Food and Feelings Workbook


Karen Koenig website

Karen Koenig’s books

Connect with Karen on Facebook

Suzie Orbach “Fat is a Feminist Issue”

Tracy Mann’s “Secrets from the Eating Lab”

Bruce Perry’s “The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog”

Gottman Emotion Coaching

Maryann Jacobsen’s “How to Raise a Mindful Eater”

Duration: 1:00.13
Download episode
Subscribe via ITunes, Stitcher or RSS

Podcast Music: Corporate Uplifting by Scott Holmes

Like the Healthy Family Podcast? Help spread the word by subscribing and rating/reviewing it on Itunes

The post Food and Feelings. How to Prevent or Curb Emotional Eating with Karen Koenig [Podcast] appeared first on Maryann Jacobsen.

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