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Family life can thrive or falter depending on the strength of our routines. As any parent will tell you, we face fewer missed buses, fewer hangry tantrums and more happy kid smiles when critical parts of the day unfold predictably. Too often, we forget that the same routine that makes family life manageable—the rituals and phrases we repeat day after day (after day, after day)—create the framework for who our children will become. Our kids will remember these little moments as the general feel and flare of their childhood.

Over the years, I've watched for ways to work kindness and compassion into my family's daily routines. These small, day-to-day changes have helped me live my values even during the hectic weeks when we're too busy to volunteer and too tired to get creative with little acts of kindness.

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Here are nine daily habits that help raise kinder kids:

1. Make room for an early morning pause.

The scientific foundation for a daily moment of mindfulness is as expansive as it is overly-cited. According to the Scientific American, the one thing nearly all studies on mindfulness can agree upon is that "tuning into the world around you may provide a sense of well-being."

Even those of us who are night owls can recognize the difference a good morning makes. The world feels less hostile when our family builds in a few moments to pause together. You don't need to mediate for ages or share a three-course breakfast each morning. Some families I know simply wake their kids up a half hour earlier than necessary to allow for a slower pace and a few sleepy-eyed snuggles before the normal morning routine unfolds. At my house, we make it a point to arrive a little early at the bus stop, early enough to take a few deep breathes together and share our goals for the day.

2. Adopt empowering refrains.

The way we speak to our children shapes the way they understand themselves and ultimately the way they live in the world. Research demonstrates that teaching children to speak and think positively about themselves improves their self-compassion and pro-social behavior.

Here are our favorite phrases to empower kind kids. Remember to use them as specifically and honestly as possible. Kids are incredible at detecting insincerity!

Empower kind kids with these big-hearted phrases

  • You are such a helpful kid.
  • Your kindness (or your big heart) makes me proud.
  • Your kindness takes a lot of courage.
  • Your kindness makes a real difference.
  • I'm proud that you are the kind of person who treats others with compassion and respect.
  • I love how curious you are.
  • That's interesting. Tell me more about that.
  • Fixing your mistakes means you are learning.
  • Every problem has a solution. Let's try again.
  • You're a good problem solver. How do you think we should do this?
  • I'm impressed with how hard you have worked.

3. Celebrate acts of kindness in a concrete way.

Research confirms that accountability is a key way to foster new habits and reach difficult goals. By letting your family know that kindness and helping others is a priority, you're setting high expectations for follow through.

Try making a visual display with this Kindness Quilt printable from Doing Good Together, a national nonprofit that features many creative ways to share kindness as a family. Or simply make time each day to ask, "Who did you help today?" and "Who helped you?" By sharing your acts of kindness each day, your kids will begin to watch for ways they can be helpful, partly so they have a story to share.

4. Move together daily.

We all know the physical and psychological benefits of exercise. By reserving a half hour or so after dinner to move together, playfully, you give your family a chance to shed the day's stress and reset your minds and bodies for tomorrow.

At my house, this looks different every day. Last week, we took a flashlight walk through the trees behind our house. Last night, we played a raucous game of stuffed animal tag. Whether you're walking through the park, playing soccer, or dancing wildly, this moment of joyful movement will make it easier to share compassion tomorrow.

5. Add a recurring volunteer effort to the calendar.

Of course, making small daily changes doesn't replace the benefits of regular volunteering with your child in your community. Regular volunteering gives kids a strong sense of empowerment, as they see themselves as helpers. When they notice a problem, they tend not to wait for someone else to step in with a solution. This self-reliance and empowerment translate into the courage to stand up for others when social conflict arises.

6. Cut down on unsupervised weekday screen time.

The science behind screen time is still evolving, but a growing body of research is declaring play to be the most essential and most diminishing learning tool of childhood.

If you think about how much time kids spend at school, in transit, and in extracurricular activities, they only have a couple of hours a night to be kids.

Outside climbing trees.
Inside building epic Lego towers.
On the swings arguing with siblings and neighbors over what to do next.

It's incredible how much energy it takes to say no to screen time, but watching the creativity and camaraderie (more or less) my children develop away from their gadgets has been worth it. Plus, I've stuck to this rule often enough that I'm basically the family hero when I agree to break my own rule from time to time.

7. Seek out one good news story to share each day.

As more people feel emotionally depleted by alarming news stories, they begin to feel a greater sense of apathy and cynicism. The Guardian recently reported, "Research by Dr. Denise Baden, an associate professor at Southampton Business School, the University of Southampton, has found that the more negatively people feel after consuming bad news, the less likely they are to voice an opinion or take action to improve the world around them."

Thankfully, solutions-based journalism is becoming more and more common. Visit the magazine Positive News or the Washington Post's Inspired Life for some beautiful examples. Make it a habit to track down and share a newsworthy story of hope and courage. Your whole family will feel more inspired to become change makers when you make time to notice the important, world-improving work happening right now.

8. Lean into your evening routine.

Research has found that the way an event or experience ends determines the way we feel about that experience. Let's show our children the compassion of a soothing bedtime routine. It's too easy to rush through the bedtime transition with your mental focus already collapsed on the couch in a heap of parental exhaustion. We all do it. We all have had those long days that drive us to just want to be done. When possible, let's resist the urge to rush.

Instead, if we allow ourselves to enjoy the last part of the day, we may all feel more connected, more grateful, and more prepared for the day to come.

I discovered the power of this last year when my daughter asked for "snuggle tickets" for Christmas, so she wouldn't have to beg me to stay a few extra minutes. Ouch, and awwww.

9. Reach for great reads.

Emerging research is demonstrating what book lovers have always known instinctively: reading is an incredible tool for developing empathy, compassion, and insight into the world of others.

One study found that literary fiction, as opposed to popular genre fiction, develops empathy in readers of all ages. So we do need to stretch ourselves and our young readers to read extraordinary books. Not exclusively, but regularly. Up your reading game by seeking out great reads to enjoy as a family.

With persistence, these solid roots of kindness will help our little ones grow into compassionate, helpful, curious, and empowered adults who we'll delight in knowing.

This article originally appeared on Doing Good Together.

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Caring for young children can be challenging enough on a perfectly normal day, but during an emergency those challenges are magnified. Natural disasters and emergencies—such as earthquakes, storms, fires, power outages, flooding or outbreaks that affect a wide community—obviously present a major operational challenge for childcare programs.

That's why childcare providers need to have preparedness plans for emergencies and natural disasters that are likely to occur in their communities. Be sure to discuss emergency planning with your day care, childcare program or after-school care provider.

Here are a few helpful questions to ask to make sure that your child's day care or childcare is ready for emergencies.

1. Does the parent handbook cover emergency planning? Is it up to date?

The parent handbook should serve as a guide for everything that takes place in a childcare program, from drop-off protocols to nap schedules, and it should also include information about the program's emergency plans, response, and recovery. As situations change or arise, the parent handbook should be updated accordingly.

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2. What is your communication plan for emergencies or disasters?

While 90% of childcare providers have written emergency response plans, only 70% have plans to communicate with family members during an emergency. Your provider should outline its plan of communication in its parent handbook.

3. Do you perform drills for disasters that are likely to occur in our area?

Ask whether your day care or childcare program has practiced its emergency response plans in a calm, safe environment—in other words, before it's necessary.

4. What is your evacuation plan?

In the rare event that an evacuation is necessary, it's important for providers to include up-to-date evacuation drills and protocols in the parent handbook. Caregivers, staff, parents and children should all know the designated meet-up point during a community evacuation.

5. Do you have a safe, designated evacuation spot in the event of a community evacuation?

Once staff and children calmly evacuate the building, there needs to be a safe shelter-in-place spot nearby. This location should be kid-friendly and have plenty of food, water and ways to keep young children occupied. The location should also be able to accommodate children with special needs and those with medical requirements.

6. What is your shelter-in-place plan?

During an emergency where parents are unable to access roads or public transportation, childcare programs need to have a shelter-in-place plan. Whether children stay at the facility or evacuate to a safe spot nearby, providers need to keep at least 72 hours worth of food, water, and medical supplies up to date. The program should also have parents write notes in advance letting children know that everything is okay.

7. Do you have post-disaster plans?

According to FEMA, more than 40% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster. If childcare programs close, parents cannot return to work and recovery cannot begin. Also, young children need a safe, secure, and familiar place to return to after a disaster.

8. How do you discuss emergencies in an age-appropriate manner with children?

A great way for care providers to introduce the concept of emergency plans to children is to have them help create emergency kits. This way children become familiar with emergency response items. Teachers should also let parents know how they plan to talk to children about emergencies in advance.

9. What are your policies for closing?

Childcare providers must give advance warning to parents about closures if there is an impending weather emergency. If roadways near the childcare program are typically out of use during an emergency, both parents and staff need to map out secondary pick-up plans in advance.

10. Are you in touch with local preparedness organizations?

Local emergency organizations can provide advice and tips to prepare for an emergency or natural disaster. Parents, care providers and community organizations should meet regularly and have the most recent copies of the parent handbook.

According to FEMA, in 2019 alone, there were 59 declared disasters in the U.S. These emergencies include earthquakes, tropical storms, fires, floods, severe storms, tornadoes, landslides, mudslides, extreme wind, and snowstorms. But basic advance preparation can go a long way toward helping parents and caregivers feel ready for emergencies and disasters, and can ensure that families and care providers stay safe.

A version of this post was originally published at the Institute for Childhood Preparedness

Learn + Play

The transition to motherhood is tough, and you deserve a little love! Join us March 28th for Motherly's Becoming Mama event in NYC for a day filled with conversations and connections that will leave you feeling inspired. Get advice from expert panels, indulge in a little pampering, and meet other local mamas IRL for a day of empowerment and support.


Register now for early-bird pricing, and access to limited VIP tickets with exclusive gift bags.

Here's what you can expect:

  • A mindful mama meditation to start your day.
  • Interactive panels and workshops focused on the hottest topics for new moms and moms-to-be. Check them out below!
  • A healthy lunch + delicious snacks
  • Pregnancy + postpartum pampering
  • Personalized gifts for you + your baby
  • The chance to test the hottest baby gear on the market
  • A swag bag filled with surprises
  • Amazing giveaways from our brand partners

Sat, March 28, 2020
10 am-2:30 pm
SECOND.
849 6th Ave
New York, NY 10001

REGISTER NOW

Here's what we'll be talking about on our panels:

Navigating the Fourth Trimester: Self-Care for Mom
While having a baby is a joyous occasion it often involves mom putting her own health on hold and speeding into overdrive to care for baby. Here postpartum experts will discuss the importance of postpartum mental wellness, and the importance of asking for help and finding support.

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The Motherhood Advantage sponsored by Medela
Motherhood brings so many advantages to the workplace, and yet, it's still a topic often talked about in hushed voices. We'll invite Medela to sponsor this very important panel that will evolve this working mom conversation. Together we can work to erase the Motherhood Penalty, support moms with the proper tools and lift each other up in the workplace.

Parenting in Partnership: Learning to Share the Load
There's never been a more equitable time to be a parent, and yet so many mothers still feel like they're carrying more than their fair share. Let's talk about how to create a parenting team from the start, with tips, tricks and expert advice on leveling the playing field between parenting partners.

*While many of Motherly's events are family focused, there will not be specific activities or play spaces for babies or kids. This event is more mom-focused. Babies under 1 are welcome at this event, but a baby carrier is suggested. Please use your discretion.

Thank you to our sponsors buybuy Baby and Medela.

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When I think about Meghan Markle, her effortless style is usually one of the the first things that comes to mind. Whether she's traveling, taking her dogs for a walk, or attending a royal event, her outfits always look timeless and put together. Yet somehow she still manages to wear outfits that feel way more accessible (even when she is donning a gorgeous—but expensive—coat we've had in our cart for much longer than we care to admit).

While I can't quite afford a personal stylist yet or drop a few thousand on a bag, I did do a little digging and found that a few of her wardrobe staples are items that I can add to my closet, with a little investment. And, if you're not in the market to invest this much, don't worry—I found dupes that will do the trick!

Here are our favorite products to achieve Meghan Markle's classic mom style:

Meghan's pick: Rothy's flats

rothys flat

Confession: I own a lot of shoes. But I wear my Rothy's at least once a week and they're the first shoe I toss into my luggage when I'm traveling because they're so comfortable and can be machine-washed. The Point is my (and apparently Meghan Markle's) favorite style because it elongates the legs and goes with literally anything you wear. I love that they're made from recycled plastic water bottles, too. And, they just launched the Mary Jane—it has a bow!—if you prefer a more dainty look with a fun twist.

$145

Our dupe: ASOS ballet flats

asos black pointed toe

This pointed pair will give a similar elongated look at just $23. They come in half sizes and if you're unsure which size is best, ASOS offers a sizing recommendation. The material isn't machine-washable (like our prized Rothy's) but you can wipe these clean with a damp cloth to keep them looking like new.

$23

Meghan's pick: Wool wrap jacket

meghan markle wool coat

There's just something so elegant about this coat. Maybe it's the wrap waist that flatters any body type. Or, it's the way the collared neck drapes (seriously it'll even make wearing pajamas look chic). It's become one of the most recognized pieces from Meghan's wardrobe and we are obsessed.

$750

Our dupe: Tahari wool blend coat

tahari wool blend cape coat

Looking for something more affordable? This coat is marked down to $83 from $360 at Nordstrom Rack. While we haven't personally tried it, at 77% off, we can bet the quality is pretty up to par with a higher-end jacket. Plus, we're obsessed with the pale blue and port wine colorways. The removable waist tie belt and shoulder cape overlay will have you feeling like Meghan Markle in just about anything.

Bonus: We love this Amazon dupe that's just under $80.

$82.48

Meghan's pick: Longchamp bag

longchamp bag

On the quest for a bag that holds just about everything you need (without having to be a diaper bag)? Say hello to the Longchamp 'Le Pliage' tote. It's water-resistant, has durable leather straps and folds up into a square for each storage or packing. I've had mine for more than five years and it's still going strong—and it's schlepped a lot of heavy things over the years. Plus, it just looks nice with everything!

$125

Our dupe: Amazon shoulder bag

longchamp knock off bag

This dupe on Amazon has 59 great reviews and the large size is under $30! With three sizes, you can pick whatever best fits your style. Each bag comes with a zippered main compartment and interior pockets and yes, it even folds up just like the real thing.

$27.99

Meghan's pick: Birdies slippers

birdies slippers

Are they house slippers or the most comfortable flats you've owned? Spoiler alert: They're both. Meghan has been spotted wearing The Heron style (I've been spotted wearing the slides around my apartment all day) many times and we think the velvet detail dresses up just about anything, even leggings. The no-slip rubber sole and 7-layer support means you can run around in these all day long without missing a beat.

$95

Our dupe: Chase & Chloe pointy loafer

pointy toe loafer

While you won't experience the cloud-like softness of Birdies, you can achieve a similar look with this pair from Nordstrom Rack for under $20. Both black and tan pairs come with a padded footbed, grip sole and a flexible construction (so hopefully no blisters even from day one).

$19.97

Meghan's pick: Madewell denim jacket

madewell denim jacket

I didn't own a denim jacket until last year and since then, I've worn it in just about every season. Over summer dresses, paired with a T-shirt, over a blouse, you name it. It add just enough extra warmth without having to put on something bulky and is machine-washable. For an extra-cool and Meghan Markle factor, roughly roll up the sleeves twice.

$118

Our dupe: Old Navy denim jacket

old navy denim jacket

Grab this $30 distressed denim look at Old Navy. I'm not sure how they do it, but their denim jackets are *so* soft. This one is slightly fitted so size up if you're looking for a more oversized look. Just like the Madewell one, this hits right below the waist, making it great to pair with pants or dresses.

$35

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