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The perfect family is a myth. In fact, every family experiences stress-provoking changes time and time again. But, some families are better able to cope with tough times—science defines these as “strong families."


Several studies have found that strong families share similar characteristics. Here are five things strong families make time for every day.

1. Spend time together

Families that spend time together are more likely to build stronger ties than those that don't. However, that time doesn't count if it's spent sitting passively together in front of a screen. It also doesn't count if it's spent arguing. In other words, quality trumps quantity.

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Reaching an ideal work-life balance is often a challenge for many parents. However, installing simple family routines can ensure that you get to hang out as a family even when you're busy parents. Simple everyday activities such as playing games together, taking walks together, sharing meals, sharing household chores, watching a movie together, etc. help strengthen family bonds. There is evidence that having everyday or regular routines provides family members with roots and helps families overcome moments of stress.

What you can do:

  • Little pieces of time matter, too. Take advantage of the moments spent in the car or in traffic to talk to your kids about your day and ask them about theirs.
  • Create your own family rituals.
  • Schedule “hang out time" in your to-do list.

2. Foster optimism

Positive psychology research has proven that strong families have positive emotions. They have a more optimistic outlook and believe that they are equipped to adapt to change. Strong families are able to “withstand and rebound from disruptive life challenges" and are also more ready to accept the things that cannot be changed.

What you can do:

    • Focus on solutions rather than on problems.
    • Considering challenges as opportunities to strengthen family bonds can make it easier to overcome life's challenges.
    • Explore all possible options when a problem arises.

    3. Work on their emotion regulation skills

    There is evidence that strong families consider stress and change normal and set up processes to help children adapt to changes and distressing situations. These families do not attempt to shield their children, but give them the skills to adapt to everyday situations as well as to traumatic life events. When families learn to regulate their emotions, there are more likely to respond effectively to traumatic experiences.

    What you can do:

    • Develop your family's emotion regulation skills. Emotion regulation means knowing how and when to express emotions in a respectful manner.
    • Provide your child with tools to manage his/her own strong emotions.
    • Teach your kids that while it is normal to experience strong emotions such as anger and anxiety, each individual is responsible for how he or she reacts to those emotions.
    • Teach your kids to respond appropriately to emotions by modeling these reactions yourself.

    4. Promote open communication channels

    Multiple studies have highlighted the importance of promoting open communication channels. A common characteristic of strong families is that they adopt an authoritative parenting style. Authoritative parenting requires parents to hold high expectations, but to also be flexible and attentive to their children's needs. Children raised in such family settings are less likely to turn to drugs and also have better academic, social, and psychological outcomes.

    What you can do:

    • Set realistic expectations for your kids. Expect neither too little nor too much.
    • Clearly communicate your expectations to your children.
    • Foster mutual respect.
    • Be flexible. Remember that you too were once a child.
    • Listen, then react.

    5. Show their appreciation for each other

    We are all the best versions of ourselves when we feel appreciated. In strong families, the members know that they are appreciated. They know that their family would not be the same without them. Showing our kids we appreciate them is also likely to reinforce positive behavior and it may even help them develop a positive sense of self.

    What you can do:

    • Focus on your child's positive behavior.
    • Give praise where praise is due.
    • Celebrate your family's accomplishments.
    • Establish gratitude routines to celebrate family members.
    • Show your children you think they're awesome.

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    As the saying goes, "failing to prepare is preparing to fail," and that seriously applies to parenting. With no fewer than one dozen items to wrangle before walking out the door on an ordinary errand, mamas have plenty on their mind. That is why one of the very best gifts you can give the mamas in your life this year is to reduce her mental load with some gear she can depend on when she's out and about.

    Although it may be impossible to guarantee completely smooth outings with kids in tow, here are the items we rely on for making getting out of the house less of a chore.

    1. Bugaboo Bee 5 stroller

    This stroller is a dream come true for any mama on the go. (Meaning: All of us!) Lightweight, compact and easy to maneuver with just one hand, this is made for navigating busy sidewalks with ease—or just fitting in the trunk without a major wrestling match. It's designed for little passengers to love just as much, too, with a bassinet option for newborn riders that can be easily swapped with a comfy, reclining seat that can face forward or backward for bigger kids.

    $699

    2. Bugaboo wheel board

    This wheel board will let big brother or sister easily hitch a ride on the stroller if their little legs aren't quite up for a full walk. We love the smart details that went into the design, including a slightly offset position so Mom or Dad can walk without bumping their legs. And because toddlers have strong opinions of their own, it's brilliant that the wheel board allows them to sit or stand.

    $125

    3. Nuby Keepeez cup strap

    If you know a little one gearing up for the major leagues with a killer throwing arm, this is a must-have so parents aren't buying new sippy cups on a weekly basis. Perfect for tethering to high chairs, strollers, car seats and shopping carts, it allows Mama to feel confident she'll return home with everything she left with in the first place.

    $6.99

    4. Bugaboo footmuff

    For those mamas who live anywhere where the temps regularly dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, this ultra-soft, comfortable footmuff is a lifesaver. Made with water-repellant microfleece, it keeps little ones dry and cozy—whether there is melting snow, a good drizzle or simply a spilled sippy cup.

    $129.95

    5. Bugaboo stroller organizer

    Because we know #mombrain is no joke, we are all for products that will help us stay organized—especially when out and about. With multiple zipper pockets, a sleek design and velcro straps that help it easily convert to a handbag when stepping away from the stroller, it helps keep essentials from spare diapers to the car keys within reach.

    $39.95

    6. Bugaboo Turtle car seat

    It may be called a car seat, but we love that this one is specifically designed to securely click into a stroller frame, too. (Meaning there is no need to wake up a sleeping baby for a car-to-stroller transfer!) More reasons to love it are the lightweight design, UPF 50+ sun protection shade and Merino wool inlay, meaning it's baby and mama friendly.

    $349

    7. Chicco QuickSeat hook-on chair

    This hook-on baby chair will almost certainly earn a spot on your most-used list. Perfect for dining out or simply giving your baby a space to sit, it's portable and beyond easy to install. (Plus, it's a great alternative to those questionably clean high chairs at many restaurants!)

    $57.99

    8. Bugaboo stroller cup holder

    Chasing after kids when out and about can work up a thirst, just like neighborhood strolls in the chillier months can get, well, chilly. So we love that this cup holder will help mama keep something for herself to drink close at hand. Designed to accommodate bottles of all sizes and easy to click onto any compatible stroller, it's a perfect stocking stuffer.

    $29.95

    9. Bugaboo soft wool blanket

    Fair warning with this luxe stroller blanket: It's so cozy that you might want to buy another one for yourself! Made with Merino wool that helps it stand up to any elements parents might encounter during an outing, it will help baby stay warm during the winter and cool enough as the temps start to pick up.

    $109.95

    10. Munchkin silicone placemats

    Made to roll and stow in a diaper bag, these silicone placemats will make dining out a (relatively) less messy experience. With raised edges that will help contain spills and a grippy bottom, they will stay in place on tables so that parents might be able to enjoy their own meals, too.

    $8.99

    11. Bugaboo Breezy seat liner

    Designed to keep baby warm when it's cool and cool when it's warm, this seat liner will minimize fusses during all seasons—which is one of the very best gifts you can give a mama. Because accidents of all types can happen on the go, we also love that this seat liner is reversible! With a number of colors, it's also a fun way to help a stroller to stand out at the playground.

    $79.95

    12. OXO Tot Handy stroller hook

    If you ever catch yourself thinking it would be nice to have another hand, these stroller clips are the next-best solution for when you are out and about. Perfect for lugging a bag or anchoring a cup, you'll want a set for every stroller you own.

    $14.99

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

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    It's so interesting how the popularity of baby names ebb and flow over time. Think about the most popular names when you were growing up—chances are, you probably don't see too many new babies being given those monikers in 2019. Khaleesi overtook Brittany in terms of popularity, for example.

    But if you're noticing that names like Charlotte, Henry and Amelia seem to appear in a lot of your friends' birth announcements, you're onto something: These are three of the most popular names from 2019.

    BabyNames.com has released a list of the top baby names of this year, and you may find a few of them (but not necessarily all of them!) a little surprising. 2018's biggest boy name, Atticus, dropped off the top 10 list. Also missing from this list? Sophia, the beautiful female name that has dominated on a global scale in previous years.

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    But some names have held their popularity: Liam, Owen, Olivia and Violet are a few of the names that trended both last year and this year.

    RANK

    BOYS

    GIRLS

    1

    Liam

    Charlotte

    2

    Oliver

    Amelia

    3

    Theodore

    Violet

    4

    Declan

    Aria/Arya

    5

    Henry

    Aurora

    6

    Owen

    Ava

    7

    Finn

    Olivia

    8

    Caleb

    Vivienne

    9

    Emmett

    Hazel

    10

    Benjamin

    Nora

    The top name for baby boys probably won't come as a surprise to most. It's Liam, which has been a consistent powerhouse for a few years now. It's easy to see why—Liam is one of those names that everyone just loves. With that being said, if you're hoping to avoid giving your child a very common name, you may want to cross this one off the list, along with Oliver and Theodore (these were the top three boys' names). And if you're expecting a girl, forget about Charlotte, Amelia and Violet, which took the three top spots.

    "It seems there is definitely a royal influence to baby names this year," says BabyNames.com founder and CEO, Jennifer Moss. "Both Liam and Charlotte are linked directly to the British Royal Family. Liam is a shorter version of the name William, like the Duke of Cambridge, and Charlotte is the name of his daughter."

    Classic names that have always been incredibly popular are expected to become less common as well. "For 2020 and beyond we see some traditional Biblical names like David, Michael, and Luke dropping off the top 100. This is almost unprecedented," says Moss. "Those are being replaced with more unique Biblical names like Josiah, Gabriel, and Elijah."

    Expect lots of nods to nature and flowers to become more popular in common years, with names like Violet, Iris, Juniper, Rose, Daisy and Dahlia gaining speed. Want to see how your child's name stacks up? Check out the full list of 2019's top baby names at BabyNames.com.

    News

    In a culture full of consumerism and competition, it can be difficult to remember to feel grateful and not stressed when preparing the "perfect" holidays for our kids. After all, we create the magic. But how often do we stop to think about what is really good in our lives? Probably not often, mama. Days are spent worrying about what we have to do next, what we haven't done yet, what we did do, but not well—especially during the holidays.

    This stress can make us tense and anxious. Our bodies think we are in flight or flight and our nervous system kicks into overdrive, releasing adrenaline and cortisol to ensure we can deal with this stress. Adrenaline increases our heart rate, elevates our blood pressure and boosts our energy and cortisol, the stress hormone, increases blood sugar and enhances our brain's use of all that energy. This response is all well and good if we are really in danger, but too much for too long can weaken our immune system, affect our digestive system and weight, impair our reproductive systems, and may lead to heart problems.

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    This natural alarm system also communicates with the parts of our brain that control mood and motivation—a sure formula for no fun when combined with the pressure of creating the perfect holidays.

    Instead of feeling burdened, what if we choose to be grateful for all we have to do? We get to shop. We get to wrap. We get to decorate.

    Psychologists say that we can switch or replace one thought with another. It takes practice—like all good things do—but taking a moment to switch from I have to, to, I get to, can make all the difference.

    Research at UCLA's Mindfulness Awareness Research Center found that having an attitude of gratitude can actually alter the molecular structure of our brain, making us healthier and happier. And the effects of practicing gratitude are long-lasting. In a study out of University of California, Berkeley, nearly 300 adults participated in an experiment that involved writing gratitude letters and reported significantly better mental health for up to 12 weeks after the writing exercise ended.

    Need more reason to practice a little more gratitude? A study at the University of Southern California found that our brain is full of the love hormone, oxytocin, when we experience gratitude, which may account for those positive effects of being thankful has on our relationships, well-being and mental health. Bonus: The beneficial effects are likely to be amplified with more gratitude, producing a positive feedback loop that serves to create more gratitude.

    Bottom line: By switching our perspective from "I have to" to "I get to," we can change our perception and affect positive changes in our lives. What a great thing to model for our littles during the holidays—and always.

    Life

    As part of my training to become a Montessori teacher, there was a big emphasis on building relationships with the children. When a child walked into the classroom, we would get down on their level, shake their hand and make eye contact (if they were open to this) and say something like, "I'm so happy you're here today."

    This is because Montessori focuses on the whole child, including their physical and emotional well being, and also because it is much easier for a child to succeed academically if they feel comfortable and connected in the classroom.

    So amidst the busyness of life, how can we make sure we're showing our kids enough affection? How can we make sure they feel our love when we're racing around being mamas?

    Try these phrases and adjust them to fit your own style and family so your precious little one doesn't get lost in the shuffle:

    1. "I'm happy to see you."

    When I became a mom, I said this every morning in the classroom and made it a part of my morning greeting to my children each day. It can be hard not to start the day on a grumpy note when young children wake up (SO) early, but it's important to let them know that we're happy to be here with them, taking care of them, each and every day.

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    2. "Let's snuggle."

    Maybe you set the alarm just five minutes earlier every day and build in a little snuggle time when you wake your child up for school. Or maybe that sounds horrible and you opt for a Saturday morning weekly family snuggle party instead.

    Whatever works best for your family, find a way to include regular opportunities to relax and snuggle together even as your child gets older. Some children need more physical affection than others, so make sure to follow your child's lead.

    3. "I love that you are so generous."

    One part of my Montessori training that really stuck with me is acknowledging "qualities of greatness." This is a strategy that can be particularly effective with a child who seeks negative attention. Catch them when they are doing something right, no matter how small it is, and make a big deal about it.

    Does your child always take toys from their younger sibling, but then you catch them in the act of sharing a favorite book? Let them know that you see it. Say something like "I love seeing you be so generous with your sister! You are a really giving person."

    This lets our children know that we see them as good people, and it also helps shape their perception of themselves.

    You can extrapolate a quality of greatness from almost anything.

    Your child put their own shoes on? "I love that you're so independent!"

    They picked up their Legos without you asking? "You sure are conscientious!"

    Find a way to give them a meaningful compliment and it will stick with them.

    4. "Do you want to know one of my favorite things about you?"

    Especially if you have more than one child, it's important to let them know that you love them for who they are, uniquely. The more specific the compliment you offer them, the more it will mean to them.

    "You're a good boy" doesn't really mean much but "I love that you take good care of your things" is specific enough to matter.

    5. "Come sit with me."

    Sometimes affection looks like a big bear hug and kind words and sometimes it's simply a quiet moment together. Especially for young children, it's not always clear what their love language is, but quality time together is always important to our children.

    It's easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself and think "quality time" has to be a special one on one date to an unforgettable place, but it can be as simple as a few cozy minutes together on the couch.

    6. "Is there anything you want to chat about?"

    I often ask my 3-year-old this at bedtime (well really after bedtime, when he's called me back into his room for "one last song"). He usually doesn't come up with anything in particular at this point, but it's important to me that he knows I'm there to listen.

    I imagine that one day he'll surprise me with an answer that gives me a little window into his heart, but even if he doesn't, what matters is that he knows he can talk to me and that I always have time for him.

    7. "You give the best hugs."

    One day when I was in my Montessori classroom, a little 3-year-old girl walked up to me and randomly gave me a hug. As she walked away I heard her to say to herself, "I give the best hugs," and it brought the biggest smile to my face.

    I am sure her parents tell her this all the time. There is a big difference between "Do you need a hug?" (which is also a great thing to say) and "You give the best hugs!"

    Let your child know that you're hugging them not just because they want to be close to you, but because you want to be close to them, and value and treasure their affection.

    8. "Did you get my note?"

    I'm not entirely sure why, but one of my earliest and most clear memories from my young childhood is of receiving notes in my lunchbox at daycare from my mom. I couldn't even read yet, but it meant the world to me to have a little note from my mom in the middle of the day.

    It doesn't need to be every day, but writing little love notes to your child lets them know you're thinking about them.

    9. "What would you like to do together?"

    Try letting your child lead the way in choosing what to do with your quality time on occasion. Even if it's only for 30 minutes, they will get the idea that you want to spend time with them doing what they want to do. Showing interest in your child's hobbies, even if you have little interest in them yourself, pays off over time because you learn so much about what your child is thinking and feeling through watching them play.

    10. "I love you no matter what."

    It's easy to show your child that you love them when they're being fun and adorable, but it's a bit harder when they're getting in trouble at school or yelling at you. Even, and especially, amidst the tantrums and notes from the teacher, make sure to let them know that your love for them is unconditional.

    At the end of the day, you have to find a way to show your love that feels natural to you. Experiment with different types of affection and you will be able to tell what resonates the most with your child.

    Maybe you're a snuggler and they're not, maybe you're not big on compliments but they crave your words of affirmation. That's okay. Just becoming a little more aware of how you show your affection will help you make sure your child is really feeling the love you send them each day.

    Learn + Play

    We can't lie to you—the idea of matching family holiday pajamas gets us all sorts of giddy inside. They're the perfect early holiday present for kids to wear on Christmas morning and the best excuse to wear loungewear all day long.

    So snuggle up next to the fire 🔥, grab some hot chocolate ☕, and get ready to rock these comfy, cozy matching PJs this holiday season. Shop our favorite looks below!

    1. Hearth & Hand with Magnolia

    matching family pajamas target

    Matching family PJs designed by one of our fave design couple powerhouses Chip & Joanna Gaines? Yes, please. Even the family dog can get in on the fun. Starting at $9.99.

    $9.99

    2. Hanna Andersson Deer Collection

    hanna andersson pajamas

    Iconic brand Hanna Andersson pretty much wrote the book on matching family PJs, and we could not love them more. There are so many Insta-worthy styles to choose from, you're going to have trouble choosing just one. Plus, they're on sale right now! Prices start at $28 for kids.

    $28

    3. Feliz Navidad Collection

    feliz navidad matching pajamas

    However you say Merry Christmas, celebrate in style with this gorgeous green set. Prices start at $8.39.

    $8.39

    4. Sleepyheads Holiday

    matching pajamas

    Made for lounging, Sleepyheads' pajamas have the cutest polar bear designs. These would make the most adorable Christmas morning pictures! Infant pajamas start at $16.99.

    $16.99

    5. Hanukkah

    hanukkah family pajamas

    You don't need to celebrate Christmas to get in on the matching family pajama game! We love these coordinating Hanukkah PJs to kick off the Festival of Lights. And, yes, there's a matching piece for your pup! Pieces for your little ones start at $10.49.

    $10.49

    6. Wondershop Winter Wonderland

    matching family pajamas

    Nothing adds to the magic of the holidays like mama and a little winter wonderland. How gorgeous are these colors? Prices start at $8.39.

    $8.39

    7. Harry Potter

    harry potter matching family pajamas

    Add a little extra magic to the holidays with this Harry Potter set. Mischief managed by mama, of course. Prices start at just $9.09.

    $9.09

    8. PajamaGram Snowfall Plaid Set

    matching family pajamas

    These comfy plaid snowflake-filled PJs will keep everyone nice and warm this season. The snowflake theme isn't holiday specific and can be worn all winter long! Prices start at $29.99

    $29.99

    9. Plaid Collection

    matching family pajamas plaid

    The perfect pair for your holiday Instagram photo. Prices starting at $8.39.

    $8.39

    10. Gray Striped Collection

    gray striped matching pajamas

    If you're not into the holiday colors, or want sets that work outside of the season, we love this minimalist gray striped set. Perfect for cozy days all year long. Prices start at $8.39, mama.

    $8.39

    11. Jammies for Your Families

    khols matching family pajamas

    How fun are these festive fairisle prints? There's something everyone in your family will love. Prices start at $19.99.

    $19.99

    12. Hanna Andersson Stripes Collection

    hanna andersson stripe family pajamas

    For a classic look, these stripes would be adorable on any family. And, we can't resist that elf hat for your littlest family members. Prices start at $20.

    13. Burt's Bees Baby Family Jammies

    matching family pajamas burts bees

    Made of 100% organic cotton, you won't believe how soft these jammies are. Plus, they're breathable so if you're the type of overheat at night, these are a great option. Prices start at $16.95.

    $16.95

    14. SleepytimePjs Fleece Deer Plaid

    matching family pajamas

    You can never go wrong with buffalo plaid and this set doesn't disappoint. The baseball tees offer a more modern look and the deer head is such an adorable touch. Prices start at $6.99.

    $6.99

    15. Frozen Pajamas Collection

    matching family frozen pajamas

    If you prefer to have a little Disney on your Christmas morning, we love the classic look of these pajamas. The cold won't bother anyone in this set. Prices start at $9.09.

    $9.09

    16. Red Buffalo Check Collection

    buffalo check family pajamas

    There's nothing more classic than buffalo check during the holidays. This one even has nightgowns available! Prices start at $8.39.

    $8.39


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