How to talk about what happened in Charlottesville with your kids

As a Black mother, here’s what I want all parents to know.

How to talk about what happened in Charlottesville with your kids

I wish I could say I was surprised by the events that transpired in Charlottesville, but sadly I’m not.


On Saturday, August 12, 2017, the Virginia town—home to the University of Virginia—became a headline and a hashtag virtually overnight. White nationalists, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists gathered in the town to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. What followed were violent clashes between protesters and counter-protesters, including a brutal car crash that left one person dead and 19 injured. First-person accounts, along with photos and videos, detailed the horrifying scene.

Beyond the violence, Charlottesville was filled with symbols of hate, from Nazi symbols to the Confederate flag. With each update, I was more disturbed and disheartened.

As a 35-year-old Black woman, I’ve lived through my fair share of racial strife in the United States. But it wasn’t until I became pregnant with my baby girl that I started to think about how I wanted to teach my future children about race in America.

Over the past few years, several events have prompted me to think about how I would talk about race and current events with my future children; most notably, the death of Philando Castile, which happened just 10 miles from the home I share with my husband and daughter.

As a mother, my first instinct is to protect my children, but I know that raising Black children in America means that I have to also prepare them for life in the real world, which includes discussions of race and racism.

I was raised in a pro-Black home, taught to love my history and heritage. Through my adulthood I’ve experienced racism (both overt and covert), but the lessons from my childhood continued to resonate with me. My husband and I plan to raise our 7-month-old the same way: to love her Blackness and take pride in it.

We also want to instill in her a respect for all people, and we plan to provide her with opportunities to interact with all types of people, diverse in color, culture and religion.

My baby girl is too young for a conversation about Charlottesville—but I can only imagine the types of questions I’d get if she were 7 years old instead of 7 months old. I have many older children in my tribe—a tribe made up of family, other children of color and also the children of allies—and I know at some point we’ll have to discuss the events in Charlottesville.

Here’s my game plan for how I’ll answer their questions and ease their fears:

Share a high-level and age-appropriate version of the truth

A 5-year-old isn't going to understand the history of racism in this country, but simply saying "some people don't like other people" isn't enough. We owe it to our children to tell them the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel. There are people in the world who hate others because of their skin color, religion or nation of origin. It’s our duty as parents to prepare our children for the real world. Sharing the truth helps build trust with your child, as they’ll know they can come to you to answer the hard questions with honesty.

This conversation can be difficult if you yourself don’t feel prepared, but there are resources available, such as Raising Race Conscious Children, an organization that hosts workshops and provides strategies to parents for talking to young children about race. In this conversation, allow your child to ask questions. Your child’s questions can also be a great segue into learning about the history of civil rights in the United States, social justice or other topics.

Let them know they’re safe

Graphic photos of the violence at Charlottesville have dominated the news and social media these past few days, and your child may have seen them. Even overhearing conversations about the event could spark your children to question their safety, or the safety of their friends. Reassure them as much as you can that they are safe—remind them that it’s a parent’s job to protect them—and instruct them on what to do (such as find a police officer or other adult) if there’s an emergency or some type of violence.

Talk about what you can do together

If your family is able, use this as an opportunity to explore ways you can make an impact in your community. Marching in rallies isn’t for every family, and that’s OK. Check out community events or groups that will allow your child to interact with different types of people. Organizations such as the Points of Light’s HandsOn Network host volunteer opportunities for all ages in a variety of locations.

Head to your local library to check out books related to the civil rights movement or current events. For younger kids, read picture books about different cultures, like Let’s Talk About Race or Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story. For older kids, encourage them to check out young adult fiction or nonfiction to help broaden their learning.

Keep talking

The events at Charlottesville aren't isolated and the conversation shouldn't be either. Children learn by our example, so it’s incumbent on us parents to incorporate lessons about diversity as we teach our children. Books, movies, community events are all great ways to keep the topic current for your kids. Even a simple dinner out to an ethnic restaurant can be an opportunity to get your kids thinking and learning about other cultures.

Buzzfeed Parents produced an excellent video and companion piece that outlined why parents should talk to their kids about race, which is a great starting point for parents who have been apprehensive.

While this past weekend in Charlottesville was an ugly incident, it’s also a learning opportunity—not only for our children, but for us as well. We have the ability to shape them into the adults we want them to be and it starts with honest communication and dialogue.

Although I’m saddened and disappointed that such an event could take place in 2017, I’m encouraged that so many people have stepped forward to denounce and reject the messages of hate.

This is also a wake-up call for me to be more active in my community and more deliberate in the messages I give to my child and the other children in my tribe. We have an opportunity to shape the future into the type of place that’s welcoming to all. And that starts with what we share and teach our children now, especially after an event like Charlottesville.

I’m up for the challenge and I hope you are, too.

In This Article

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    When you ask any two mamas to share their experience with breastfeeding, you are bound to get very unique answers. That's because while the act of breastfeeding is both wonderful and natural, it also comes with a learning curve for both mothers and babies.

    In some cases, breastfeeding won't be the right path for everyone. But with the right tools, resources and social support systems, we can make progress toward the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation to continue breastfeeding through the first year of a child's life. After all, breastfeeding helps nourish infants, protects them against illnesses, develops their immune systems and more. Not to mention that mothers who breastfeed experience reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

    With National Breastfeeding Awareness Month this month, it's a great time for mamas (and expectant mamas!) to gather the supplies that will support their feeding journey—whether it looks like exclusively breastfeeding, pumping or combo-feeding.

    Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

    Designed for regular use, this double electric breast pump allows mamas to customize the cycle and vacuum settings that work for them. The 100% SoftShape™ silicone shields on this pump form-fit to a wide range of breast shapes and sizes—which means more comfortable, more efficient pumping. And every pump comes with two complete Dr. Brown's Options+ bottles, giving you everything you need to go from pumping to feeding.

    $159.99

    Dr. Brown’s™ Breast Milk Collection Bottles

    There's no need to cry over spilled milk—because it won't happen with these storage bottles! Make the pump-to-feeding transition simpler with Dr. Brown's Milk Collection Bottles. The bottles adapt to Dr. Brown's electric pumps to easily fill, seal and transport, and they work with Dr. Brown's bottle and nipple parts when your baby's ready to eat. (Meaning no risky pouring from one bottle to another. 🙌)

    $9.99

    Breast Milk Storage Bags

    With an extra-durable design and double zip seal, your breast milk will stay fresh and safe in the fridge or freezer until it's needed. Plus, the bags are easy to freeze flat and then store for up to six months, so your baby can continue drinking breast milk long after you are done nursing.

    $9.99

    Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump with Options+™ Bottle & Bag

    Here's something they don't tell you about breastfeeding ahead of time: While feeding your baby on one side, the other breast may "let down" milk, too. With this one-piece Silicone Breast Pump, you don't have to let those precious drops go to waste. The flexible design makes pouring the milk into a bottle stress-free.

    $14.99

    Dr. Brown’s® Manual Breast Pump

    No outlet in sight? No worries! With this powerful-yet-gentle Manual Breast Pump, you can get relief from engorgement, sneak in some quick midnight pumping or perform a full pumping session without any electricity needed. With Dr. Brown's 100% silicone SoftShape™ Shield, the hand-operated pump is as comfortable as it is easy to use. Complete with Dr. Brown's® Options+™ Anti-Colic Wide-Neck Bottle, a storage travel cap and cleaning brush, consider this the breastfeeding essential for any mama who has places to go.

    $29.99

    Options+™ Anti-Colic Baby Bottle

    With the soft silicone nipple and natural flow design of these bottles, your baby can easily switch between breast and bottle. Clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to the vent, your baby can enjoy a happy tummy after feeding sessions—without as much spit-up, burping or gas! By mimicking the flow and feel of the breast, these bottles help support your breastfeeding experience.

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    7 hacks for simplifying after-school snacks

    Prepping delicious and nutritious foods shouldn't take all day.

    When you're in the middle of the school year and managing a family, each minute of time becomes very precious. Sometimes that means healthy food choices in the household can take a backseat. But don't stress it, mama. Prepping delicious and nutritious choices for the kids to munch on doesn't need to take all day.

    Remember to keep it fun, simple and interactive! Here are tips for simplifying after-school snacks once and for all:

    1. Prep snacks on Sunday

    This simple trick can make the rest of the week a breeze. Tupperware is your friend here, you can even write different days of the week on each container to give the kids a little surprise every day. I really like storage with compartments for snack prep. Personally, I slice apples, carrots or cucumbers to pair with almond butter and hummus—all great to grab and go for when you're out all day and need some fresh variety.

    2. When in doubt, go for fruit

    Fruit is always a quick and easy option. I suggest blueberries, clementine oranges, apples, frozen grapes or even unsweetened apple sauce and dried fruit, like mixed fruit. It's fun to put together a fruit salad, too. Simply cut up all the fruit options and let the kids decide how they'd like to compile. Prepped fruit is also great to have on hand for smoothies, especially when it's been sitting in the fridge for a few days—throw it in the blender with some nut milk and voila.

    3. Pair snacks with a dip

    Hummus is a great dip to keep on hand with lots of versatility or you can grab a yogurt-based dip. Easy and healthy dippers include pre-sliced veggies, baby carrots and multigrain tortilla chips. Plain hummus is a great way to introduce seasonings and spices too—shake a little turmeric, add fresh basil and you'd be surprised what your kids will take to.

    4. Have high-protein options readily available

    Snacks with high protein, like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs and jerky will fuel kids for hours. One of my favorites is a turkey stick, which is a fun addition to the hummus platter. Just slice into bite-sized pieces. I love cottage cheese because it can go savory or sweet, use as a dip with your prepped veggies, or drizzle pure maple syrup and sprinkle with berries.

    5. Always keep the pantry stocked

    Monthly deliveries keeps the pantry updated without a trip to grocery store. Many kids are big fans of popcorn, granola and pretzels. We like to DIY our own snack packs with a little popcorn, pretzels, nuts and whatever else is in the pantry so there's always something different!

    6. Make cracker tartines

    I love the idea of replicating popular restaurant dishes for kids. Here are some of my favorite snack-sized tartines using any crisp bread, or favorite flat cracker of your choice as the base. There are no rules and kids love adding toppings and finding new combinations they love.

    • Avocado crackers: Use a cracker and then layer with thinly sliced avocado, a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese topped with roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds.
    • Tacos: The base for this is a black bean spread—just drain a can of black beans, rinse and place into a wide bowl. With a fork or potato masher, lightly smush the beans until chunky. Spread onto your cracker and top with tomato, cheddar cheese and black olives. Try out a dollop of super mild salsa or some lime zest to introduce some new flavor profiles.
    • A play on PB&J: Smear peanut butter, almond or a favorite sun butter on the cracker. I like to get a mix it up a bit and put fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries and tiny diced apples) and a little bit of dried fruit sprinkled on top.

    7. Pre-make smoothie pops

    The easy part about meal prep is the prep itself, but knowing exactly how much to make ahead is tricky. Freeze a smoothie in popsicle molds to have a healthy treat ready-to-go snack. They're super simple to make: Add any fruit (I like apples, berries, pineapples and mangoes) and veggies (carrots, steamed beet and wilted kale) to a blender with your favorite nut milk until you have consistency just a bit thinner than a smoothie. Pour into your trusty reusable popsicle molds and then into the freezer to make an ice pop so good they could eat them for breakfast.

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    15 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.


    Stomp Racers

    As longtime fans of Stomp Rockets, we're pretty excited about their latest launch–Stomp Racers. Honestly, the thrill of sending things flying through the air never gets old. Parents and kids alike can spend hours launching these kid-powered cars which take off via a stompable pad and hose.

    $19.99

    Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

    Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

    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

    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

    B. toys Wagon & Beach Playset - Wavy-Wagon Red

    For the littlest ones, it's easy to keep it simple. Take their sand box toys and use them in the bath! This 12-piece set includes a variety of scoops, molds and sifters that can all be stored in sweet little wagon.

    $17.95

    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

    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

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    Even 5 hours of screen time per day is OK for school-aged kids, says new study

    Researchers found screen time contributes to stronger peer relationships and had no effect on depression and anxiety. So maybe it isn't as bad as we thought?

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    If you've internalized some parental guilt about your own child's screen time usage, you're not alone. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to significant amounts of screen time in children leads to an increased risk of depression and behavioral issues, poor sleep and obesity, among other outcomes. Knowing all this can mean you're swallowing a big gulp of guilt every time you unlock the iPad or turn on the TV for your kiddo.

    But is screen time really that bad? New research says maybe not. A study published in September 2021 of 12,000 9- and 10-year-olds found that even when school-aged kids spend up to 5 hours per day on screens (watching TV, texting or playing video games), it doesn't appear to be that harmful to their mental health.

    Researchers found no association between screen usage and depression or anxiety in children at this age.

    In fact, kids who had more access to screen time tended to have more friends and stronger peer relationships, most likely thanks to the social nature of video gaming, social media and texting.


    The correlations between screen time and children's health

    But those big social benefits come with a caveat. The researchers also noted that kids who used screens more frequently were in fact more likely to have attention problems, impacted sleep, poorer academic performance and were more likely to show aggressive behavior.

    Without a randomized controlled trial, it's hard to nail down these effects as being caused directly by screens. The study's authors analyzed data from a nationwide study known as the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD Study), the largest long-term study of brain development and children's health in the country. They relied on self-reported levels of screen time from both children and adults (it's funny to note that those reported numbers differed slightly depending on who was asked… ).

    It's important to remember that these outcomes are just correlations—not causations. "We can't say screen time causes the symptoms; instead, maybe more aggressive children are given screen devices as an attempt to distract them and calm their behavior," says Katie Paulich, lead author of the study and a PhD student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Also worth noting is that a child's socioeconomic status has a 2.5-times-bigger impact on behavior than screens.

    Weighing the benefits with the risks will be up to you as the parent, who knows your child best. And because we live in a digital world, screens are here to stay, meaning parents often have little choice in the matter. It's impossible to say whether recreational screen time is fully "good" or "bad" for kids. It's maybe both.

    "When looking at the strength of the correlations, we see only very modest associations," says Paulich. "That is, any association between screen time and the various outcomes, whether good or bad, is so small it's unlikely to be important at a clinical level." It's all just part of the overall picture.

    A novel look at screen time in adolescents

    The researchers cite a lack of studies examining the relationship between screen time and health outcomes in this specific early-adolescence age group, which is one of the reasons why this study is so groundbreaking. The findings don't apply to younger children—or older adolescents, who may be starting to go through puberty.

    Screen time guidelines do exist for toddlers up to older kids, but up to 1.5 hours per day seems unattainable for many young adolescents, who often have their own smartphones and laptops, or at least regular access to one.

    Of course, more research is needed, but that's where this study can be helpful. The ABCD study will follow the 12,000 participants for another 10 years, following up with annual check-ins. It'll be interesting to see how the findings change over time: Will depression and anxiety as a result of screen time be more prevalent as kids age? We'll have to wait and see.

    The bottom line? Parents should still be the gatekeepers of their child's screen time in terms of access and age-appropriateness, but, "our early research suggests lengthy time on screen is not likely to yield dire consequences," says Paulich.

    Children's health

    It's science: Your blood pressure *before* you get pregnant could determine your baby's sex

    It's not just chromosomes that help determine whether you're having a boy or girl.

    Maskot/Getty Images

    For centuries, mamas have been trying to predict the sex of their baby by assessing how they look, feel or carry. And then there's food—some mamas might believe their pregnancy cravings can either reveal or sway the result. But as far as accuracy is concerned, the interest is equal to the debate. (Spoiler alert: Absolutely none of these have been conclusively supported by robust scientific evidence.)

    However, a more dependable way to predict a baby's sex was recently discovered.


    While studying the health of prepregnant women as an indicator of a population's boy-girl ratio, researchers found a connection between a mama's blood pressure in the weeks before conception and the sex of her baby. Higher systolic blood pressure tended to result in boys, while lower blood pressure resulted in girls.

    Systolic blood pressure is the top number in the reading that indicates the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries each time it beats (diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number that indicates the force in between beats).

    In this new study, led by Dr. Ravi Retnakaran of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and published in the American Journal of Hypertension, 1,411 women in China who were planning to get pregnant were examined at about 26 weeks prior to getting pregnant.

    The study results revealed that, for the women who went on to become pregnant, the higher their systolic blood pressure was at 26 weeks before pregnancy, the higher their chance was that they would deliver a boy.

    On average, the 672 mamas who delivered girls had a systolic blood pressure of 103.3 mm Hg, versus the 106.0 mm Hg of the 739 mamas who delivered boys. The data also revealed that if a mama's systolic blood pressure got as high as 123 mmHg, her chance of having a boy was 1.5 times higher than of having a girl.

    According to Dr. Retnakaran, "[This] suggests that a woman's blood pressure before pregnancy is a previously unrecognized factor that is associated with her likelihood of delivering a boy or a girl."

    3 ways higher maternal blood pressure before pregnancy has emerged as a strong independent predictor of delivering a boy:

    1. Statistically, the difference in blood pressure was big (almost 3 mm Hg)—both before and after researchers adjusted for age, education, smoking, body mass index, cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose.
    2. As a predictor of a baby's sex, no other maternal characteristic was nearly as significant or consistent as systolic blood pressure before pregnancy.
    3. The difference in systolic blood pressure between future mothers of boys and girls was easily observed before mamas got pregnant—but was not evident during any trimester of their pregnancy.

    Keep these limitations in mind:

    • The findings do not indicate that higher systolic blood pressure causes a mama to have a boy, but merely suggests that there is an association.
    • The study was performed in young, healthy Chinese women with normal weight and may not be applicable to other populations.
    • It has not been demonstrated that a mama can increase her chance of delivering a boy by deliberately raising her blood pressure (researchers caution against this).

    No one actually knows how blood pressure may affect a baby's sex, but other studies indicate the early process in how the placenta is formed seems to be different, depending on the sex of the baby. Changes in a mama's vascular function are needed in early pregnancy to accommodate the increased blood flow required by the baby and placenta combined, so a mama's blood pressure potentially may be relevant to the early development of the placenta in a sex-specific manner.

    Who knew when they set out to understand what underlies the human sex ratio that the researchers would discover a previously unrecognized factor associated with the likelihood of having a boy or girl? Only time can tell what implications this discovery may have on the future of reproductive planning.


    Sources:

    Brown ZA, Schalekamp-Timmermans S, Tiemeier HW, Hofman A, Jaddoe VW, Steegers EA. Fetal sex-specific differences in human placentation: a prospective cohort study. Placenta. 2014 Jun;35(6):359-64. doi:10.1016/j.placenta.2014.03.014

    Retnakaran R, Wen SW, Tan H, Zhou S, Ye C, Shen M, Smith GN, Walker MC. Maternal blood pressure before pregnancy and sex of the baby: a prospective preconception cohort study. American Journal of Hypertension. 2017 Apr 1;30(4):382-8.doi:10.1093/ajh/hpw165]

    Rosenfeld CS. Periconceptional influences on offspring sex ratio and placental responses. Reproduction, Fertility and Development, 2011;24(1):45-58. doi:10.1071/RD11906







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