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Any parent of a toddler knows it isn’t easy to teach them social skills. That’s because even though toddlers want to have happy, friendly, interactions with others—their own fears and desires get in the way.


They can’t help wondering—Will that child grab their toy? Can they get the truck before the other child? If they push the other kid off the trike and speed off, will they get away with it?

So the first step in helping toddlers develop social intelligence is helping them learn to manage their emotions, which is the foundation of interpersonal relationships. The second is helping them develop empathy for others. The third is helping them learn to express their needs and feelings without attacking.

This skill set will be more critical to your child’s happiness in life than academic success, financial success, or any of our other conventional measures. In fact, emotional intelligence—defined as the ability to manage one’s own emotions and relate well with others—will be a crucial factor throughout your child’s life in his or her eventual academic and career success, probably more important than IQ.

So how do you help your toddler learn social skills?

1. Empathize, empathize, empathize.

Kids who receive a lot of empathy for their own feelings from the adults in their lives are the earliest to develop empathy for others, and research has shown that empathy for others is the cornerstone of successful interpersonal relationships.

2. Stay close during playgroups.

Many kids hit during social interactions because they get overwhelmed and they just don’t know what else to do. If you’re there, you can say, “Yes, Ryan took your bucket....is that okay with you? No? You can say ‘My Bucket!’” If your child knows you’re there for backup, hitting won’t become a habit.

3. Dont force toddlers to share.

It actually delays the development of sharing skills! Kids need to feel secure in their ownership before they can share. Instead, introduce the concept of taking turns.

“It’s Sophia’s turn to use the bucket. Then it will be your turn. I’ll help you wait.”

4. Let the child decide how long his turn lasts.

If kids think adults will snatch a toy away once the adult’s random idea of “long enough” has passed, you’re modeling grabbing, and the child usually becomes more possessive. If the child is free to use the toy for as long as he wants, he can fully enjoy it and then give it up with an open heart. If the same child uses the same toy every single time, you can either buy a duplicate toy since it’s such a crowd-pleaser, or alternate turns visit by visit.

5. Help your child wait.

If your child has a meltdown waiting for her turn, it’s an indicator that she’s got some big feelings to let out and is using this handy opportunity. Kids often get rigid about possession in an attempt to shore up their fragile equilibrium—just like adults!

Empathize: “It’s hard to wait...You wish you could use the bucket now...” and hold her while she cries. You’ll be amazed to see that after “showing” you those pent-up emotions, she probably won’t even care about the toy she was crying for, and will happily move on.

6. Intervene with compulsive grabbing.

Sometimes when kids grab, the other child doesn’t even care. So don’t rush to intervene. Instead, observe. Maybe they’re playing a game. Most of the time, you don’t need to interfere unless one of the children is unhappy.

However, if one child is grabbing constantly, then you probably do need to intervene. Often kids will grab anything the other child has, then drop the toy and go on to the next one, to stave off their own unhappy feelings. They need help with those feelings.

So summon up all your compassion, put your hand on the disputed toy and say “You want the truck?” Then look at the child using the truck. “Is that okay with you?” If it is—great. You don’t have to be the arbiter of fairness.

If not, say “Cole’s still using the truck...Cole, will you give the truck to Trevon when you’re done? Great, thanks! Trevon, let’s find something else to do...Do you want to use the snowplow to make a road for the truck?” He may well fall apart—especially if he was grabbing to hold himself together. Nurture him through the meltdown. Afterwards, he’ll feel so much better, he won’t need to grab.

7. Teach assertiveness.

If your child often lets other kids take things from him and then seems unhappy, say, “You aren’t ready to give that up, are you? You can say ‘I’m still playing with this.’”

Practice acting this out at home with him, and demonstrate it with teddy bears. Until he develops the language skills, you’ll need to be his “voice” when he plays with others.

8. Instead of praising sharing in the abstract, help her discover what’s great about it.

Research shows that when we praise sharing kids do it more—but only when we’re watching! When we aren’t, they actually do it less, because our praise doesn’t give them any reason to share except that moment of attention from us. Instead, empower her to make the choice to share in the future by helping her see the effect of her choice: “Look how happy Michael is that he gets a turn with your train.”

When you adopt the policy of letting kids have a turn for as long as they want, they happily give the coveted item to the other child at the end of their turn. They get to experience how wonderful it feels to give. So letting kids control their turns is the best way to promote sharing and generosity.

9. Before friends come over, toddlers should have a chance to put away their most special toys

...if they don’t want anyone else to play with them. Use this ritual as an opportunity to explain that the visiting child will of course expect to play with Junior’s other toys, just as Junior plays with his friends’ toys at their houses.

10. Set clear limits on physical aggression.

“You can tell us and show us how mad you are without hurting. Come, let’s tell Henry how mad you are and I’ll help you.”

“You can yell NO and you can stomp your foot as hard as you want. You can yell ‘MOM!’ and I will always help.”

Kids are entitled to their feelings, which have a way of just showing up in human beings, like our arms and legs. But all humans, even little ones, are responsible for what they do with their arms and legs and feelings. Our job as parents is to teach them healthy self-management techniques without being punitive, which always makes kids more physically aggressive.

11. It’s never too early to give children language for their feelings.

Labeling emotion is the first step in the brain’s ability to process it verbally instead of physically.

“That big dog’s bark is scary, but you’re safe on this side of the fence and I would never let it hurt you. You don’t need to be afraid.”

“It’s so frustrating when you work hard on your tower and it collapses like that. No wonder you’re angry.”

The exception to this is when children are in the throes of big emotion, when too many words can take them out of their heart and into their heads. At those times, just reassure your child he’s safe, and save the words for later.

12. Remember that underneath anger is usually hurt or fear.

Acknowledging those feelings is always more effective to diffuse anger than simply labeling the anger, which just seems to reinforce it. “I hear you’re very angry at Jimmy. I wonder if you’re hurt that he wants to play with someone else right now.”

This is even more important when kids say “I hate him!,” because hate is not a feeling; it’s a stance.

“You feel so angry at your brother right now that you feel like you never want to work things out with him. That’s what the word hate means. Sometimes when we are very, very angry, we feel that way, even toward people we love. We are a family and we will always work things out. Let's go tell your brother how hurt you are that he pushed you off the swing, and how angry that makes you feel.”

13. Begin introducing the concept of noticing how other people feel as early as you can.

“Look at William. He’s crying. I think you hurt his feelings.”

“That little girl is sure mad. I wonder why?”

“Imani hurt herself. I wonder if we can do anything to help her feel better?”

14. Stay calm.

Research shows that one of the most important things parents can do to help kids learn to manage their emotions is to stay calm themselves. Kids need to experience their parents as a “holding environment”—a safe harbor in the storm of their turbulent feelings. If you can stay calm yourself, and soothe your child, she will eventually learn to sooth herself, which is the first step in learning to manage her feelings.

15. Remember they’re kids.

Just because James bites a playmate doesn’t mean he’ll be an axe-murderer. It’s important not to permit bad behavior toward others, but that doesn’t mean you don’t offer understanding—and the confidence that your child will learn. “All kids get mad at their friends sometimes. It will be easier, as you get older, to remember how to control yourself when you get mad, so you can work things out.” Kids need to hear from you that they aren’t bad people.


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Just because new moms aren't hitting the gym doesn't mean they aren't doing one of the most demanding workouts of all: It takes about 20 calories to produce one ounce of milk. So, with babies who down ounces upon ounces each day, that means breastfeeding mothers can easily burn hundreds of calories almost literally in their sleep.

All that hard work can result in quite an appetite, which can have new moms reaching for whatever is most convenient. But convenience doesn't have to come at the cost of good nutrition, taste and lactation-boosting powers—as proven by the delicious Booby Boons Lactation Cookies from Stork and Dove.

"Nourishing your body is just as important now as it was when you were pregnant. Not only are you recovering from pregnancy and birth, you are making milk to sustain your baby—and all the thousands of other things you do for them every single day," says Diana Spalding, Motherly's Birth Expert, midwife and pediatric nurse. "You are working so hard, mama. You deserve to fuel your body with the best—and it doesn't hurt when the best also happens to be delicious."

Here's why these little cookies are such lactation powerhouses:

Oats

The natural goodness of oats does so much more than make for tasty cookies. Considered to be a top galactagogue—or a substance that helps boost milk supply—oats are rich in iron, fiber and protein. Because low iron can reduce milk supply, mixing a scoop of oats into lactation cookies is a tasty way to give your body the boost it may need.

Nutritional yeast

For generations, nutritional yeast has been a remedy suggests to mamas looking to boost their milk supply. And for good reason: With protein, phytoestrogen and B12 found in fortified versions, nutritional yeast can provide nutrients to stimulate milk supply—while also offering a boost of energy.

Flax meal

Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed is good for the brain health of mothers and babies. Not to mention that with a nice nutty taste and great protein profile, they make nice additions to lactation cookies by helping you stay full longer.

Chia seeds

When it comes to lactation cookies and promoting brain development, varied sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are so helpful—and chia seeds deliver there. Found in some of the Booby Boons Lactation Cookies, chia seeds also deliver protein, calcium and magnesium.

Probiotics

Few things can take a toll on milk supply like when you're under the weather. Booby Boons+ Lactation Cookies provide a probiotic boost, keeping your immune system up and digestive health in check for better production—and a healthier-feeling mama.

Bonus: A sense of relaxation and ease is clinically proven to aid in milk production.

Even better, the cookies are wheat-, soy- and preservative-free! So grab a cookie, take a moment for yourself and boost that supply. Grab your cookies HERE or at Target and other fine retailers.

This article was sponsored by Stork and Dove. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Baking Christmas cookies together is a family tradition for many, but the Centers for Disease Control is warning parents that if your recipe contains raw flour or raw eggs, you really shouldn't sneak a bite before it is cooked, and neither should your kids.

The CDC is warning people not to eat raw cookie dough, cake mix or bread as we head into prime baking season.

The agency acknowledges the appeal of a spoonful of chocolate chip goodness but asks that we "steer clear of this temptation—eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick."

Salmonella from raw eggs is, of course, a concern, and so is the raw flour. According to the CDC, flour needs to be cooked in order to kill germs like E.Coli. That's why the CDC is asking parents to "say no to raw dough," not just for eating but even for playing with.

"Children can get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay, too," the CDC posted on its website.

On the Food and Drug Administration's website, that agency advises that "even though there are websites devoted to 'flour crafts,' don't give your kids raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with." Health Canada also states that raw flour should not be used in children's play-dough.

The warnings follow a 2016 E.coli outbreak linked to contaminated raw flour. Dozens of people got sick that year, and a post-outbreak report notes that "state investigators identified three ill children who had been exposed to raw flour at restaurants in Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. Restaurant staff had given them raw dough to play with while they waited for their food to be served."

The CDC worries that with flour's long shelf life, products recalled during the 2016 outbreak may still be in people's pantries (although the CDC notes that any raw flour—recalled or otherwise—should not be consumed).

If your kids do have flour-based play dough, don't worry.

Some parents are still choosing to use flour-based craft dough to make Christmas ornaments or other crafts this holiday season and are reducing the risks by A) making sure the kids aren't eating their art, and B) thoroughly washing little hands, work surfaces, and utensils when the dough play is over.

Other parents are choosing other types of craft clay over flour-based dough.


During the 2016 outbreak, the FDA called for Americans to abstain from raw cookie dough, an approach Slate called "unrealistic and alarmist," noting that "the vast, vast majority of people who consume or touch uncooked flour do not contract E. coli or any other infection."

Two years ago, 63 Americans were made sick by E. coli infections linked to raw flour, according to the CDC. We don't know exactly how many Americans ate a spoonful of cookie dough or played with homemade play dough that year, but we do know that more than 319 million Americans did not get sick because of raw flour.

Are there risks associated with handling and consuming raw flour? Yes, absolutely, but it's not something to panic over.

Bottom line: Don't let your kids eat raw dough when they're helping you bake cookies for Santa, and be mindful of raw flour when choosing crafts for kids.

(And if you have just got to get your raw cookie dough fix, the CDC notes that cookie dough flavored ice cream is totally safe as it "contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria." Sounds like mama's getting Ben & Jerry's tonight.)

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Twinkling lights are everywhere I look, and the magic of the holiday season is filling our house. The kids are growing more excited each day anticipating Santa's arrival and gifts are accumulating, ready to be wrapped in beautiful paper and bows.

Elf and The Grinch have been playing on repeat and the nativity scene has found a safe spot among our decorations. It's one of the busiest times of the year and it can be hard to catch your breath in the hustle and bustle of it all.

But then something stops you.

Maybe it's a pang in your heart or a memory of someone dearly missed. Maybe it's a familiar feeling of emptiness—of wanting this person to be a part of this magical, joy-filled time of year.

It's so easy to forget that many people are struck with sadness around the holidays and are longing for someone who's missing from their lives. We give and give to our families and friends and communities this time of year—food for dinners, and toys for less-fortunate children—but people don't always realize that another type of giving is needed.

The gift of comfort.

Because someone who is missing their mother, father, brother, sister, child, friend or spouse needs your connection and warmth. They need a reminder of their loved one is not forgotten, and maybe above all—just needs a hug.

Family traditions are wonderful and cherished, but they can also feel incomplete when someone is missing.

For me, I love the holidays, and watching my kids experience all the joys this season has to offer truly fills my heart. Yet, not a Christmas goes by that I don't think about what Kendrick (my first child lost at 2 months old) would have thought of this time of year.

Would he have loved hot cocoa like his sister and brothers? Would he have gotten into all the ornaments on the tree as a toddler? What toys would he have asked Santa for? What Christmas wishes would he have made for others?

I am left to wonder these things without answer. And even though I fully embrace this time of year and relish the holidays, I can't help but miss him.

I wanted to share my story as a reminder that even though your holiday cup may be filled with joy, someone you know may be wrestling with sadness. With all the merry and bright and cups of cheer, it's important to be mindful of this and to treat people with extra care. Reach out to someone you know who has lost someone, and let them know you're thinking of them. It won't go unnoticed.

Many of us have dealt with loss at some point in our lives, and we've learned to carry these special people in our hearts so that they are always with us. But missing someone never goes away. There are so many experiences in our lives we wish we could just snap our fingers and have them right by our sides—the holidays being one of those.

So as you check off your shopping lists, make your donations, trim your tree, or light your menorah—please don't forget to show care to those who may be hurting a little this holiday season.


They're certainly in a position where they could buy every item on their kids' Christmas lists, but Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher aren't planning on piling up the presents under the Christmas tree this year.

"So far, our tradition is no presents for the kids," Kunis said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. Mom to 4-year-old daughter, Wyatt, and 2-year-old son Dmitri, Kunis says she and Kutcher are determined to not raise entitled kids—and are learning from the mistakes of Christmases past.

“We've told our parents, 'We're begging you: If you have to give her something, pick one gift,'" Kunis said. “'Otherwise, we'd like to take a charitable donation, to the Children's Hospital or a pet... Whatever you want.' That's our new tradition."

The minimalist Christmas that Kunis and Kutcher embrace makes sense on a lot of levels: It teaches kids how to be more mindful consumers, removes the emphasis on material goods... And saves you from those chaotic trips to the mall.

Going without presents doesn't mean going without

Putting a halt on presents these upcoming holidays is one way to reinforce what the season is really about: Spending quality time together as families and cherishing what we already have. But "no presents" doesn't mean "no fun," either.

Some of our favorite non-material gift suggestions include:

  • Experiences
  • Lessons
  • College contributions
  • Coupon booklets
  • Piggy bank donations
  • Gifts for others

Or you could take a cue from Kunis and Kutcher without going all the way: Maybe you only focus on one or two quality gifts. Or pass on anything that will likely get discarded to the bottom of the toy box before next year's holidays.

Think of Christmas gifts for kids kind of like eggnog: A little goes a long way.

[Originally published October 11, 2017]

After feeling alone and suffering silently for years, Gabrielle Union has been very open about her struggle with infertility since her memoir, We're Going to Need More Wine, came out last year. She surprised many by writing about how she'd suffered "8 or 9 miscarriages" while trying to conceive with husband Dwyane Wade, and just over a year later the couple surprised the world again by announcing they'd just welcomed a baby girl via surrogate.

Union's story is incredible, and one so many women needed to hear, and that's why Oprah's OWN network just aired a sit-down interview special with Union and Wade: Oprah at Home with Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade & Their New Baby.

(The audio version of the interview drops in two parts on 'Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations' podcast on Monday, December 10, and Wednesday, December 12.)

The interview, which first aired over the weekend, saw Union open up about how the years of IVF treatments and disappointment left her questioning everything she knew. "I've just always been of the mindset — because this is what people tell you: 'You work hard, you do the right things, you're a good person, it will happen for you,' eventually," Union, 46, told Oprah.

"I could not let go of this idea of creating this life within me," Union explains, adding that she felt the "need to be pregnant for everybody, including myself."

As the medical interventions escalated, Wade became worried. "I'm watching her do things to her body and to herself that it's getting to the point where it's not healthy," he told Oprah, adding that he always told Union that he wanted a baby as much as she did, but that he married her and that she was the most important thing to him.

"So it came to a point where, you know, I started to feel a certain way about that because I didn't want something to happen to her," Wade told Oprah.

So when the couple decided to explore surrogacy, Wade was pleased to see the medical part of his wife's journey come to an end.

When the couple surprised the world by announcing the birth of their daughter, Kaavia James, Union was puzzled by comments that insinuated the skin-to-skin photo she used in the birth announcement was an attempt to "act like" she'd been pregnant herself, or that she really had been pregnant herself.

She notes she never tried to make it seem like she'd been pregnant, as she explained her daughter was born via surrogate in the caption for that photo, which was taken after the surrogate had a C-section.

"Our surrogate went into recovery, and we were able to go immediately into another hospital room," Union told Oprah. "I had one of my New York & Company sweaters on, but skin-to-skin was kind of hard. And because the doctors kept coming in…it was easier to have skin to skin in a hospital gown."

Wade said he found the comments painful. "I think for me the most hurtful thing was once we had the baby, and everyone started talking about why is she in the bed holding the baby, why does she have a gown on, why is she acting that she just had a baby," Wade said.

Union and Wade say they hope talking about their story will help others tell theirs, and know that they are not alone. "So many people are suffering in silence and every time, when we're candid and transparent about our journeys, no matter what those journeys are, you are allowing people to be seen and heard and empowered in ways that they've never been," Union told Oprah.

She may have felt alone during her journey to motherhood, but by telling her story, Union is making sure other mamas don't.

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