What's a 529 college savings plan? What parents need to know

These savings plans are designed specifically to help pay for college and are a great investment option for families who want to see their money grow, tax-free, over a stretch of time.

What's a 529 college savings plan? What parents need to know

As you dream of your child's future, you might have this question looming over your head: How am I going to pay for my child's college education? As parents, we know that the earlier you start a college fund for your kids, the better.

If you're not sure what other ways you can financially prepare for the coming college years, a good place to start is a 529 college savings plan. These savings plans are designed specifically to help pay for college and are a great investment option for families who want to see their money grow, tax-free, over a stretch of time.

Here are answers to common questions around 529 plans so you can be fully equipped to start saving for your little one's bright future:

What is a 529 savings plan?

A 529 is a state-sponsored college savings plan that allows parents to invest money towards educational expenses. The 529 is beneficial for many reasons, but most importantly, the savings plan is tax-free. Once the beneficiary of the account is college-bound, they're able to withdraw funds free of federal and state income taxes.

By the time college rolls around, the recipient can use the money towards a variety of schooling necessities, such as:

  • Tuition
  • Books
  • Laptops and related technology devices
  • Room and board

Additionally, as of January 1, 2018, families can now also use their 529 plans to pay for private elementary, middle and high school tuition.

What kind of 529 plan should I get?

There are two types of 529 plans:

  • College savings plans: This is the more popular of the two 529 plans. The plan works by establishing a savings account specific to schooling expenses. Contributions are invested, tax-free until the beneficiary is ready for college.
  • Prepaid tuition plans: The prepaid tuition plan allows parents to pre-purchase all or part of tuition costs for an in-state, public school. The investment can then transfer to one of the 250 private or out-of-state colleges sponsored by the plan. This plan is great for locking in current tuition rates, but make sure to consider all the terms, as some schools come with high premiums and are not always guaranteed to be covered.

How do I contribute money to my child's 529 plan?

There are two approaches to contributing to a 529 account:

  • Static funds: Static funds include stocks, bonds, real estate funds or money market accounts. This is a customized plan that tends to be more appealing to investment-savvy folks.
  • Dynamic investment: Dynamic investments are based on the beneficiary's age, which starts off by investing in stocks and higher-risk options. As the child ages, the investment automatically shifts to a steadier, low-risk option. This approach is better for those who prefer a hands-off approach towards investing.

Where should I open my 529 college savings plan?

Although every state offers at least one 529 plan, their investment options and fees look a little different.

You can invest in any state's 529 plan, even if you don't live there or your child won't go to school there. With that said, some states offer tax deductions based off of 529 contributions, so it's worth shopping around to see what plan works best for your current situation.

Starting a 529 college savings plan requires some time and research and before you dive in, it's important to know where you stand. With tools like Intuit's Turbo, you can gain a holistic view of your financial profile and see your income, credit and loan details in a single account dashboard.

Will this impact my child's ability to file for financial aid?

Financial aid takes family income and additional assets into account, but when a student applies for Federal Student Aid, there's a section of the application dedicated to Expected Family Contribution, where the student will note family income and assets, such as the 529 plan.

Fortunately, a 529 is weighed far less than other areas of wealth, which means that it will not greatly impact a student's eligibility for financial aid nearly as much as if the child comes from a wealthy family.

When it's time for college, how does my child access their 529?

Assuming that the 529 plan was open in the parent's name, you would allocate the funds in its totality or on an as-needed basis, on behalf of the recipient. Parents can also transfer the account into the beneficiary's name, when their child is prepared to take on that responsibility. This is also a great time for parents to have the real money talk with their child as they head off to school, so they understand what these funds are used for.

Is my 529 plan tax deductible?

When it's tax time and you're getting ready to file all you'll have to do is answer a few simple questions about your education tax benefits associated with your 529, and you'll be eligible for relevant deductions. If you run into any jams during this process, you can connect with a tax pro or CPA to answer your questions.

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In This Article

    How one company is making a huge difference for LGBTQ youth

    Take notes, all you other brands, this is how it's done

    Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

    This article is sponsored by H&M. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    We spoke to Chris Bright (he/she/they), Director of Public Training at The Trevor Project, who works closely with H&M. Chris shared with us the Trevor Project's important mission, and what all brands should do to best support LGBTQ youth today.

    1. For those that do not know, what is The Trevor Project's mission? What is it all about and its impact on society?

    The Trevor Project is the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people, and LGBTQ youth are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight or cis peers. Our mission is to end suicide among the estimated 1.8 million LGBTQ youth under the age of 25 in the U.S. who seriously consider suicide each year.

    Founded in 1998, The Trevor Project launched TrevorLifeline, the first 24/7 national lifeline supporting LGBTQ youth in crisis alongside HBO's broadcast of the Academy Award-winning short film Trevor. The first calls were answered that night. Since then, we have grown from reaching several thousand LGBTQ youth per year to becoming the preeminent resource for LGBTQ young people in crisis, directly serving over 200K LGBTQ young people in the last fiscal year alone. We work tirelessly to save young lives by providing support through our free and confidential crisis programs on platforms where young people spend their time — online and on the phone. In addition to TrevorLifeline, we offer 24/7 digital crisis services including TrevorText and TrevorChat, as well as TrevorSpace, the world's largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ youth.


    H&M + The Trevor Project

    2. Can you describe the nature of the relationship/partnership the Trevor Project has with H&M?

    Our collaboration with H&M has been remarkably successful, with H&M driving awareness of The Trevor Project and our services among its audience while also demonstrating its strong support of LGBTQ young people. H&M first partnered with us in December 2020 during our "Every Single One" holiday campaign, where they donated $250K in matching funds for Giving Tuesday. This helped The Trevor Project have our best-ever Giving Tuesday moment.

    Our work together has had extensive impact, allowing H&M to engage employees, customers, and community members in conversations about LGBTQ Allyship through Trevor's resources and mission. We're thankful for H&M's support, which helps us continue to operate and improve our 24/7 life-saving crisis services so we can serve more LGBTQ young people.

    3. Why was H&M the right company to partner with?

    H&M is an established yet relevant brand that has the attention of young people, and we're always so thankful to partner with youth-facing brands that can not only spread messages of love and support, but also can increase the awareness of our crisis services and resources. We know that H&M genuinely cares about creating a better future for LGBTQ young people.

    4. What do you see as the biggest challenge or struggle for LGBTQ kids today?

    LGBTQ youth are incredibly diverse, with so many intersecting identities and unique experiences — making it difficult for me to pinpoint what might be the single biggest challenge or struggle for all LGBTQ youth today.

    What I can say, however, is our research reveals numerous challenges or struggles that may be more prevalent across the board for LGBTQ youth. According to our 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, which captures the experiences of nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 24 across the U.S., nearly 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. Over 94% of LGBTQ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health and more than 80% of LGBTQ youth stated that COVID-19 made their living situation more stressful.

    What's clear is that while there is no single biggest challenge or struggle for our LGBTQ youth today, it's critical that we find ways to uplift and support each and every LGBTQ young person that we can.

    5. Since it's back to school time, are there stressors or situations that are uniquely heightened for LGBTQ youth, other than the standard new school year jitters, that people don't necessarily know about?

    Our research has found that LGBTQ youth who reported having at least one LGBTQ-affirming space had 35% reduced odds of attempting suicide in the past year, with LGBTQ-affirming school environments having the strongest association with reduced suicide attempts. Since the onset of COVID-19, the volume of youth reaching out to us has significantly increased, at times nearly double our pre-COVID volume. Feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety have been heightened as a result of the pandemic, further emphasizing the need for LGBTQ youth to have access to spaces that affirm their identities, such as gender-neutral bathrooms, trans-inclusive sports, and positive extracurricular activities such as Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs).

    LGBTQ youth who reported having at least one accepting adult — whether it be teachers, coaches, or counselors — were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year. The Trevor Project created the Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention, which includes requirements for teacher training, mental health instruction for students, and policies and procedures for suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that as in-person learning returns, schools provide LGBTQ students with safe learning environments where they can feel empowered, supported, and accepted by their peers and educators.

    H&M + the Trevor Project

    6. In what way is the support that The Trevor Project provides crucial to LGBTQ youth, especially as it pertains to suicide prevention?

    The support that The Trevor Project provides is so crucial because suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people — and LGBTQ youth are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight or cis peers. LGBTQ youth reach out to Trevor because we are LGBTQ-affirming and a trusted provider of crisis services. All of our volunteers are highly-trained to answer calls, chats, and text from LGBTQ youth 24/7 when they are feeling suicidal or need a safe, non-judgmental place to talk.

    Almost three-quarters of youth stated that they either would not or were unsure if they would have another service if The Trevor Project did not exist. We aim to be there for every young LGBTQ person in crisis with a clear message: you are loved, your life has value, and you are never alone.

    7. What do you think the responsibility is for brands to be involved in pro-social, activism-related work?

    Everyone can play a role in creating change and building progress in our society. Brands — especially those with large platforms and influence — have a responsibility to fulfill that role as well. We recognize H&M and our other brand partners for helping spur progress on important issues, and we encourage others to follow suit. Beyond the essential financial support that brands can provide to nonprofits like The Trevor Project, there's also a direct benefit for the community when brands are loud about their support of Pride; we've found that more than half of youth said brands who support the LGBTQ community positively impact how they feel about being LGBTQ. Finally, it's important to remember that Pride doesn't begin and end in June — the opportunity to support Pride is 365 days a year. We are thrilled to have H&M as a year-round partner for The Trevor Project, demonstrating their authentic support for our work.

    8. What is one of the biggest impacts or positive results you have seen come from the partnership between The Trevor Project and H&M?

    We wouldn't be able to do the work we do and make the progress we've made without our brand partners like H&M. The Trevor Project has experienced significant growth in the last few years with the implementation of our five key program areas: crisis services, peer support, research, education and public awareness, and advocacy. Since 2019, we've been working to scale our volunteer training to increase the number of crisis services counselors on a yearly basis. In addition to original, intersectional monthly research briefs, our research team launched the world's largest survey of LGBTQ youth mental health in 2019, and has released a total of three national, annual reports. We've ramped up Trevor's advocacy work on the local, state, and federal levels to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, including bills to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy that have been in introduced in 40 states. H&M's partnership helps us advance this work by raising significant funds and awareness for our mission. During June 2021, when H&M served as one of our key Pride Partners, our crisis counselors served over 19,500 crisis contacts with free, confidential support via phone, chat, and text.

    9. How important is it for LGBTQ+ youth to see allies in popular culture, be it a celebrity or high profile person, mainstream brand, etc.?

    LGBTQ representation in the mainstream media is extremely important as it makes LGBTQ youth feel seen, validated, and confident that they are not alone. Over 80% of youth said that celebrities who are LGBTQ positively influence how they feel about being LGBTQ, and more than half of youth said brands who support the LGBTQ community have a positive impact on their LGBTQ identity. As we continue to see increased visibility for marginalized communities in popular culture, diverse images will become normalized, which in turn creates a safer, more accepting world for all of us.

    10. For people who want to get involved with a cause like The Trevor Project, what is the best way to make a difference?

    There are a number of ways to get involved with The Trevor Project – from making a donation (TheTrevorProject.org/Donate) to applying to be a volunteer (TheTrevorProject.org/Volunteer) to spreading the word about our resources.

    Affirming spaces and support systems work to save young LGBTQ lives. People can be active in their communities to ensure that more safe, affirming spaces are available and thriving. Even making an effort to respect someone's pronouns and encouraging those around you to do the same can make a huge difference. Our research has also found that LGBTQ youth who report having at least one accepting adult were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt. If you get the opportunity, be that one person for a young person in your life.

    If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project's trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat www.TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678.

    Our Partners

    This incredibly soft comforter from Sunday Citizen is like sleeping on a cloud

    My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

    When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

    One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

    I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.


    Honestly, it's no wonder. Originally designed as a better blanket for luxury hotels and engineered with textile experts to create this uniquely soft fabric, it has made my bed into the vacation I so desperately want these days.

    The comforter is made up of two layers. On one side is their signature knit "snug" fabric which out-cozies even my most beloved (bought on sale) cashmere sweater. The other, a soft quilted microfiber. Together, it creates a weighty blanket that's as soothing to be under as it is to flop face-first into at the end of an exhausting day. Or at lunch. No judgement.

    Miraculously, given the weight and construction, it stays totally breathable and hasn't left me feeling overheated even on these warm summer nights with just a fan in the window.

    Beyond being the absolute most comfortable comforter I've found, it's also answered my minimalist bed making desires. Whether you opt to use it knit or quilted side up, it cleanly pulls the room together and doesn't wrinkle or look unkempt even if you steal a quick nap on top of it.

    Also worth noting, while all that sounds super luxe and totally indulgent, the best part is, it's equally durable. It's made to be easily machine washed and come out the other side as radically soft as ever, forever, which totally helps take the sting out of the price tag.

    My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

    Here is my top pick from Sunday Citizen, along with the super-soft goods I'm coveting for future purchases.

    Woodland Snug comforter

    Sunday-Citizen-Woodland-Snug-comforter

    The bedroom anchor I've been looking for— the Snug Comforter.

    $249

    Braided Pom Pom Throw

    Because this degree of coziness needs portability, I'm totally putting the throw version on my list. It's washable, which is a must-have given my shedding dog and two spill-prone kiddos who are bound to fight over it during family movie night.

    $145

    Lumbar pillow

    sunday-citizen-lumbar-pillow

    What's a cozy bed without a pile of pillows?

    $65

    Crystal infused sleep mask

    sunday citizen sleep mask

    Promoting sleep by creating total darkness and relaxation, I've bookmarked as my go-to gift for fellow mamas.

    $40

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

    The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

    We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

    All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

    And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


    Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

    Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

    Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

    Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

    When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

    Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

    Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

    You've got this.

    Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

    The Motherly Birth Class

    pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

    Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

    $79

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


    Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)

    $139

    Secret Agent play set

    Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    Stepping Stones

    Stepping-stones

    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

    $99.99

    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

    $30

    Sensory play set

    kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $19.95

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Foam pogo stick

    Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

    $16.99

    Dumptruck 

    green-toys-dump-truck

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

    $22

    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

    $14.99

    Pull-along ducks

    janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $16.99

    Rocking chair seesaw

    Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

    $79.99

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $79.99

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $24.75

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    10 ways to strengthen your kids' mental health

    Now that school is back in session, there are new stressor to manage. Here's how to deal, mama.

    ksenia_she / Twenty20

    Summer is over, the new school year is in full swing, and we are all adjusting to our new routines. Whether you're over the moon or an anxious mess, let's face it... returning to school is yet another major change for our kids in a year already filled with uncertainty. From wearing masks to the rise in COVID cases, we just don't know what this year is going to look like. But what we do know is that this past year and a half has taken a toll on our kids' mental health.

    It's no surprise that you're wondering: "How the heck do I protect my kids' mental health, when I'm also struggling to hold everything together?"

    Now, I won't be able to completely ease your mind; however, I can outline 10 proven strategies that may help your family.


    I'm Dr. Mercedes, a child psychologist and parenting expert. I run the clinical team at Manatee, a virtual mental health clinic that helps families thrive and overcome the mental health challenges during these tumultuous times.

    I've had a front row seat to the amazing resourcefulness, patience, flexibility, and determination of parents. It's not an easy task to make your kids feel safe, secure, and confident during a pandemic that has left us all trying to ground ourselves again. Which brings me to a key point; there is a lot of pressure on this school year for most parents and kids. We all ask ourselves, "How can we make up for lost time?" "How can I ensure that my kid is thriving and performing in school AND feeling ok?" "Can they make friends again?" "How much anxiety is normal?"

    Well, if we've learned anything during the Olympics from Simone Biles (and many other athletes), it's that mental health is the foundation for anything we want to accomplish. Similarly, kids cannot excel if they are emotionally and mentally struggling. So, if we want our kids to thrive in school, in their social lives, and with their families, we must focus on setting their mental health up for success.

    10 ways to strengthen your kids mental health

    1. Stay positive AND realistic

    Kids will have ups and downs. We all have ups and downs. Make sure you ask open-ended questions about how they are feeling in general, then about school, with their friends, and about life. Avoid being overly optimistic by saying things like: "It's going to be a great year!" "You'll be fine!" Instead, be supportive and realistic. Let them know that some days do feel easier than others, but they can do hard things and will be able to overcome challenges. If they have bad days, it doesn't mean that the entire year will be difficult. Some key questions to get the conversation started:

    • How are you feeling about being back in school? How is it going with your friends?
    • What have you enjoyed the most?
    • What has been the hardest so far? What has helped you on the harder days? How can I help you?

    2. Create a family wellbeing manifesto

    A family manifesto communicates to your kids, "this is what we value as a family". It shows unity and helps emphasize your values and goals. This is a great way to practice point #1. Stick it on the fridge door or somewhere else that's visible, so kids and parents have a daily reminder. For inspiration, take a look at Manatee's family manifesto that we love and use with our own kids!

    3. Listen to your kid

    Prioritize connecting with your child. Listen to what they are interested in, what is bothering them and what is exciting. Try to not ask too many questions, but listen and watch how they respond. This will help you pick up on any mood changes quickly. Research shows even 15 minutes dedicated to connecting and learning about your kid or partner's world makes a huge difference (e.g., catching up in the car, asking for input on a work project, extra snuggles before bed or cooking together). You do not need to schedule something extra in, it's all about being truly present and making your kid or partner feel seen.

    4. Focus on gains, not losses

    We know kids are probably a little behind academically and socially. We know kids have missed out on opportunities, and for many of us our social skills have taken a hit. Some kids have regressed, and lost skills that they had previously mastered. Focusing on the losses will only teach your child to do the same. Instead, what have they gained? What growth can you celebrate? Are they more independent learners now? Were they able to spend more time with siblings or parents? Did they get better at using technology? Did they discover a new interest or hobby at home? Did they learn how to be flexible and adapt to new situations? Have they gained confidence after overcoming these challenges? Highlight these important lessons!

    5. Praise effort

    ... and not grades or outcomes! This is always recommended, but particularly this year when parents, kids, and teachers may be extra concerned about "falling behind." If your kid is trying their best, they are doing great! Focus on their hard work, practice, positive habits and continued discipline. These skills are the cornerstones of success. Marry the process, not the results.

    6. Stick to a routine

    Many of our routines went out the window last year, however, morning and night routines are very important, even for teens! It doesn't have to be clockwork everyday, but a schedule helps your kids create healthy habits and avoid the dreaded daily arguments. In fact, routines help kids get more sleep (vital to learn and develop social emotional skills), build confidence and independence, and reduce stress and anxiety!

    7. Relaxation, exercise, nutrition and sleep

    I know. Easier said than done, but these "four pillars of health" are vital to maintain mental health and should be considered as you build your family's routine. Brainstorm creative and fun solutions with your kids, for example; make a weekend family activity rotation that gets you outside or introduce a fun mealtime schedule like 'meatless Mondays' 'taco Tuesdays' 'veggie Fridays', etc. The key is to make it work for your family, and though you may get some crazy suggestions, letting your kids have a say will likely get them excited.

    8. Don't over-schedule

    Most of us are no longer used to being in a social setting for many hours a day. School is likely EXHAUSTING for many kids right now and so are the emotional waves that come with a new school year. Avoid overscheduling kids or yourself! Allow an hour of downtime after kids come home from school. Us humans need that mental relaxation to perform well. Whenever possible, keep 2 hours of 'unscheduled' time in everyone's days. Time for your brain to decompress and be bored are very important for brain development, creativity and problem solving skills.

    9. Make a 'Coping Toolbox' together

    Create a list of tools with your kids that they can use when they are upset (e.g. going for a walk, calling a friend, listening to music). For inspiration, check out our self-care tool. When we are upset, we have a very hard time thinking of what may help us, so building one ahead of time can be helpful. If they use one of their 'coping tools', be sure to praise your kid. For example, if your child is angry and goes outside to kick a soccer ball, you can say; "That is such a great way of letting your feelings out. I'm proud of you!" You can also ask what you can do to help when they are in a funk. Let your child complete this activity to give you (or any other trusted adult, like a teacher), a lot of clarity on what is actually helpful for your kid.

    10. Build a community

    For you and your kid. No one understands what you are going through like people in the same situation. Whether it's a new school, or going back to school, it is important for kids to feel connected to their teachers and other students. Help them have a sense of belonging. For example: Can they join a club? Volunteer to help younger students? Can you volunteer for school activities? Schedule a monthly activity with other school parents?

    But most importantly, pay attention to your kids as they adjust. Notice any changes and learn the mental health warning signs. Too many kids struggle for too long before their parents notice. If you aren't sure if your kid may need more support, talk to their school counselor, a therapist, or book a free 20 min session with a family expert at Manatee.

    Check out Manatee's back to school checklist for other tips and ideas to set your family up for success now that school is in full swing!

    Want to get more parenting tips on topics like this? Follow @getmanatee on Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook or learn more about us at getmanatee.com.

    Parenting

    It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

    A fascinating study explains why.

    When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

    "Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

    Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."


    This is even more proof that, as daunting as motherhood is, our hearts and bodies already know so much of what to do. From the way we talk to babies to our "spidey senses" when something is amiss, these things we do without second thought come from deep within us.

    In the case of standing with babies, the researchers concluded the "infant calming response to maternal carrying is a coordinated set of central, motor, and cardiac regulations and is a conserved component of mammalian mother-infant interactions."

    So why do babies stop crying when we stand up? Because being carried induces physiological responses that calm and soothe babies. Being carried by mom induces "central, motor, and cardiac regulations" that have a calming response stronger than rocking or other kinds of movement. Our babies evolved to want to be carried (which is good because sometimes mama has to do things that can't be done from a rocking chair).

    In other words, it's an example of us working perfectly in sync with our babies. So, on a day where everything feels really, really hard, it can help to remember you know what you're doing. Even, or especially, when you don't pause to think about it.

    Keeping your little one happy by standing up is easiest with a comfortable carrier. Check out some of our favorites.

    BABYBJÖRN baby carrier mini

    BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Mini

    This structured but lightweight carrier is ideal for the first months when your little one just wants to be close 24/7. Designed to easily put on and sneak baby off once they doze, it works to carry in multiple positions from birth to 12 months.

    $100

    BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier One

    BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier One

    This easy-to-wear design is equally comfortable for mama and baby. As your little one grows, the carrier adjusts to properly support their hips, back, and head at each stage of development.

    $190

    Tushbaby carrier - gray

    Tushbaby Carrier - gray

    From 8-44 pounds, this hardworking carrier lets you ditch the complications of sacks and strap-ins. A simple, memory foam-lined hip seat evenly distributes your little one's weight and takes the stress off mama's back.

    $79

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      Its Science