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You don't have to be a parent to know that the general consensus around raising teenagers is "Hold on to your hat, it's going to get bumpy" or perhaps something a little blunter than that. There is this universal understanding that the teen years are hard (I mean—love interests? Sleepovers? Social media?).

I see it every time someone learns that I have a 14-year-old daughter and they respond with raised brows and a big grin and say, "Oh boy, you're in the teen years!" or "Phew! I remember those years, hang in there!" or even, "God bless you, teenage girls are so hard!"

I've heard it all, and I've even said these things. I've joked with other parents about needing prayers to get through the teen years, or about the extra grey hairs growing on my head, and they've laughed or nodded knowingly. Because adjusting to each stage of parenting as your children grow up is hard.

But here's the thing I've learned since we entered this phase of life nearly two years ago, the surprising truth about raising a teenager: It's actually the most extraordinary stage of parenting I've experienced.

Why?

Our relationship is starting to shift. My daughter's needs have changed. She doesn't call me mommy anymore and she certainly doesn't need me to hold her hand when crossing the street, pick out her clothes, or even pack her lunches.

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She is becoming increasingly more independent each year, and while that may sound sad at first, the reality is that it has created space and allowed for a new dynamic that I don't have yet with my younger two.

She doesn't need me in the same ways as she used to, but she does still need me. Often for something really important like someone to just listen to her when she's struggling with a particular friendship or obstacle.

She needs me to set boundaries and then step back and give her the freedom to try new things, even fail, within those boundaries, while remaining close enough to help her up when she falls.

She needs me to know that sometimes a good cry, for no particular reason, is cathartic and part of life. But a hug and chocolate can make it all seem better.

She needs me to speak truth into her life, about how I need and rely on my faith every day so she may learn to do the same.

She needs my advice about decisions that will shape the rest of her life — big decisions and character-defining moments — but as I've learned, only when she asks for it.

She needs me to recognize that she is not a little girl anymore, but also that sometimes she still needs her mom. I need to be ready and available for those moments, without hovering or complaining when they pass.

I'm not saying this is always easy. And I most definitely get it wrong sometimes! I criticize, nag, and yell. I have a tendency to be sarcastic when I should be gentle. I ask too many questions when she doesn't want to talk, and sometimes offer advice before it's solicited.

But I'm still learning. Just like when I was trying to figure out how to swaddle her and soothe her cries or when I was figuring out how to help her take her first steps. Motherhood is truly one of life's greatest teachers.

And in my daughter's eyes, sometimes I am the best mom ever and she will thank me 100 times for something little, and other times I am the enemy or invisible woman who she takes for granted. She's still learning, too.

But even with the parts we get wrong; even on the days it's really hard and one or both of us feel angry, scared, or disappointed in the other—this new relationship is nothing short of phenomenal.

Parenting a teenager is like getting an exclusive preview of the adult this child is going to be. It's like reading a book about your favorite character and actually getting to play a role in influencing some of their story.

Because you know them more intimately than anyone else. You know where they've come from. You know what they're afraid of, and what they hope for. You get to see all the good in them and the potential that is yet to be realized..

I'm still fairly new to this parenting a teen stage. And maybe it will get more challenging in the coming years, or with my other children. But what I want to say to every other parent who is worried about the day you wake up and realized they're grown: Take heart! Because while it might come with some really difficult moments, it's also so much better than anyone ever tells you.

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It's 5 pm. You just got home from a busy day at work, dinner is nowhere close to being started, and the afternoon shenanigans have taken ahold of your little ones. They need some time to decompress from their busy day and, let's be honest, you need a few moments to transition into the last part of yours, too.

Your child asks, "Mooooom? Can I watch a show?"

Cue parenting inner-dilemma.

You want to say yes, but you also have fears about technology. How much is too much? Is it bad for my children? Will it isolate my children from me?

Sara DeWitt, the vice president of PBS KIDS Digital, said in her TED Talk that this last question is a big concern for parents. We desperately want to be connected to our children, and for our children to be connected to the world.

Unfortunately, she says, the "fear and skepticism about these devices hold us back from their potential." The truth is, high-quality educational screen time can actually build connections (more on that in a minute). Even more exciting, did you know that the right screen time can help your child develop empathy?

Empathy is a skill, but as a society, we are losing it. A shocking study found that empathy drops by about 40% by the time kids get to college. In a world fraught with inequities, divisiveness and conflict, rebuilding empathy is paramount. Motherly mamas agree. In the 2019 State of Motherhood survey, you told us that your top priority was to nurture kindness with your children.

But how do we do this? Telling our child to "be a kind person" is great, but in order to truly understand, they need to see empathy in context. By using digital content as a prompt for communication and conversation, it becomes one of the many tools we have at our disposal to help guide our children on the path to becoming empathic, kind people.

Enter PBS KIDS.

Raun D. Melmed, MD, FAAP, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, and author of the Monster Diary series told us that, "our children have unprecedented access to wonderful educational opportunities through digital media. Interactive, nonjudgmental apps can enhance cognitive development (processing and organization, visual-spatial awareness, pattern recognition and even reading), social and emotional awareness, and even moral development."

When we control technology—and not the other way around—the potential is enormous.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that "media can have educational value for children starting at around 18 months of age, but it's critically important that this be high-quality programming, such as the content offered by Sesame Workshop and PBS."

Researchers looked at the impact of watching PBS KIDS' series, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, and the results were pretty inspiring. Children who watched the show for 30 minutes each day for two weeks demonstrated improved empathy, the ability to recognize emotions and increased social confidence.

But, here's the catch: In order to experience this growth, children needed to have recurrent conversations about what they saw with their parents.

Nicole Dreiske, Executive Director of the International Children's Media Center and author of The Upside of Digital Devices: How to Make Your Child More Screen Smart encourages parents to utilize screen time "in the same way that they would use story time: to build trust, emotional intelligence, and empathy." By spending just 10 minutes discussing what happened in a show, children can experience significant benefits.

Knowing the science behind the benefits of screen time is great. But when that afternoon struggle hits, it can be hard to remember exactly what to do, so DeWitt encourages parents to make a plan—here's how.

How to make a screen time plan for your family

Ask yourself the following two questions:

1. What do I want my kids to get out of their digital media time?

Do you want them to have an opportunity to be creative and think outside the box? Pull up PBS KIDS ScratchJr. Is there something going on at home or in school that requires learning about sharing? Share the "Daniel Shares his Tigertastic Car" episode of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood with them.

Consider your goals, and then choose media accordingly.

2. What do I want my kids to get out of their digital media time? How can it support our family schedule and priorities?

It is okay to factor your needs into the equation, mama. Deriving benefit from your child's screen time is no need to feel guilty. Go ahead and start dinner, or send that email, or yes (gasp), put your feet up and relax for a bit.

Once you've figured out your 'why,' it's time to consider the 'how.'

1. Communicate the plan to your kids (and be clear about limits).

Kids do best with clear boundaries and expectations. This will be especially important if you are implementing changes to how screen time is done in your home.

You could say, "You can play the Wild Kratts game for 30 minutes while I work on dinner, and then we are going to go outside and flap our wings as bats do! Do you think we should eat mosquitos for dinner like they do?!"

Before you start the show, Dreiske recommends planting the communication seed: "Today we're going to notice what we're feeling and what the characters are feeling."

2. Discuss what your kid played or watched.

When screen time is over, strike up a conversation. Dreiske suggests open-ended questions that help to "[create] a special space in which your child feels safe enough emotionally to confide in you about their experiences. Let the child's emotion or feelings 'lead' the talk rather than being obscured by your feelings." You can try the following starters:

  • How did you feel when… ? Why?
  • How do you think that character felt?
  • What if that happened to one of your friends?

3. Find a balance of activities.

Like everything in life, screen time is best in moderation. It is important that children know that screen time is one of the many options they have for activities. Exercise, outdoor play, reading, coloring and more are also incredibly important.

If there is a show or game your child particularly loves, DeWitt suggests finding the non-screen time version of it. "For example, if the kids in Dinosaur Train start a nature collection, suggest a nature walk through your neighborhood after they've watched. If your child likes Ready Jet Go!, use the Ready Jet Go Space Explorer app to look at the stars together and then continue exploring the night sky away from the screen. In other words, we can make digital media as a jumping off point for family fun!"

Sara DeWitt writes, "It helps to remember digital media is simply a tool, just like books, toys and art supplies. As parents, we have the power to decide how and when to use these tools with our kids."

When used thoughtfully, and with love, high-quality screen time is an incredibly powerful way to foster empathy and kindness in the next generation.

This article is sponsored by PBS KIDS. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's been a hard week of hard news. It's tough to hear about what is happening to the detained immigrant children and feel helpless (but you're not—you can help, mama) and sometimes our brains just need a break.

We have been updating information on this situation all week long, and so we totally understood when Chrissy Teigen took to social media on Wednesday asking for a feed that would only let you see happy posts.

"I would use that today," Teigen wrote.

Don't worry Chrissy, we've got you covered. Here are seven adorable video posts from our archive to make Chrissy and all the other mamas happy today.

1. Viral video of dad helping daughter hula hoop

#dadgoals 😍

(via parents @mayaturnipseed + @djkingseed)

This video has been viewed so many times on our Facebook page because it is just that good. Watch this and try not to smile, we dare you.

There is nothing sweeter than a dad playing with his baby, and there is a ton of scientific evidence showing that when dads are involved like this father is, kids reap all kinds of developmental benefits and can even end up with higher self-esteem as they grow.

One of Motherly's Facebook commenter's said it best: "This is the best video ever. The bond between father and daughter is priceless ❤️"

2. Adorable video of little girl meeting Mickey Mouse

This little girl's reaction to meeting Mickey will make your day. 💕

Seriously, turn the audio up because this is the cutest thing. We all get a little star struck when we meet a celeb and this 2-year-old is no exception.

"Hi Mickey!" she shouts (over, and over).

She just couldn't get enough hugs from the famous mouse (honestly, we would be super excited, too) who was a really good sport and sang to his little fan, making her day (and ours).

The Magic Kingdom really is magic.

3. Viral video of a dad adoring his newborn daughter

She's definitely going to be a daddy's girl. 😍

This is going to melt your heart. If we've said it once, we've said it a thousand times: There is nothing sweeter than a man loving his child, and this proud dad obviously can't get enough of his baby girl.

"You're the best thing that ever happened to me," he coos at her, making her smile.

"You're my best friend," he tells her.

A study found when parents chat with their babies like this it can help infants recognize people, places and things.

Another study found that when parents use baby talk, babies may learn to talk faster.

This is a daddy-daughter duo that is going to be having a lot of these conversations for years to come. This baby is beautiful and so is their bond.

4. Hilarious video of babies that scoot, slide and army crawl

Check out these babies who are just figuring out how to get where they want to go, by any means possible.

Whether it's a scoot, a slide, or a crawl that's not quite a crawl, these babies are finding creative ways to get mobile.

"There is a big age range for when babies start to crawl (and some never do), so don't worry if yours has not started," notes Dr. Tovah Klein.

She continues: "Being mobile is very exciting—[your baby] can move on her own and that is an enormous shift for her. Soon she will be able to pull up to standing, which is thrilling as well. She has more control of her world and being upright gives her a new view of her world."

These moves in the video may not be true baby steps, but they are baby steps to baby steps, if you get what we mean.

5. Viral video shows NICU 'graduate' in cap and gown

After 160 days in the NICU, baby Cullen Potter was carried by his primary care nurse, Jewel Barbour, as he "graduated" from the NICU, in attire fitting of such a momentous milestone: A tiny cap and gown.

The little graduate, Cullen was born weighing three ounces shy of a pound.and was no bigger than a can of soda. Over the next five months, the Potters went back and back and forth from their home in Florida to the hospital in Mobile, Alabama to be with Cullen.

Getting to graduation day was a big achievement for Cullen, his thankful parents and the amazing medical team who took such good care of him.

"It was an overwhelming sense of joy. It didn't feel real. We were going to walk out with our baby after five long months. We can never say thank you enough to the nurses and doctors as staff at the hospital. They saved our baby," Cullen's mom, Molli Potter told Motherly last year.

6. Viral video of a baby in a dinosaur costume will make your day

BRB, ordering all of our babies Dino costumes for Halloween.

Did you know that your kid's dinosaur obsession is really good for them? This little baby could be crawling toward an obsession that will serve them well.

A 2007 study published in the journal Developmental Research, found about 1 in 3 young children will develop an "intense interest" at some point, and dinosaur obsessions rank really high in what they are interested in.

"It makes them feel powerful," paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara told CNN. "Their parent may be able to name three or four dinosaurs and the kid can name 20, and the kid seems like a real authority."

This baby can't say "dinosaur" yet, but they sure are a cute one.

7. Adorable video of dad pretending to have a conversation with his baby goes viral

Baby breaks the internet babbling to dad 😍

Motherly recently caught up with proud parents DJ Pryor + @Shanieke Pryor—about their adorable 19-month-old son Kingston who has warmed all our hearts. 💕

"I know every parent probably thinks this—but seeing his growth every day and how he interprets what he sees—it's thrilling to me," DJ told Motherly.

These two cuties went viral and then they booked a Denny's commercial! Talk about an adorable grand slam!

[Correction: A previous version stated that we had rounded up four viral videos, when in fact there were seven. We've corrected our error and regret to admit that we've never been good at math.]

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My oldest has been expressing herself with clothing, shoes, costumes, hats, jewelry, gloves and bows (lots of bows) for two years now, and I don't see it slowing down any time soon. She's five, but her love for styling herself independently began around age three. She loves colors and patterns and prints. (Especially when there are lots of different ones together in one outfit.) Mixing and matching and over-accessorizing is her love language.

She will come out of her room and declare herself ready to go—in the MOST creative concoctions I have ever seen. Truly. Lady Gaga's got nothin' on this 5-year-old fashionista.

There was the time she wore her green frog dance recital costume (including the hat and gloves) with a Christmas Rudolph sweater over it and mermaid leggings under it—to the grocery store.

There was the time she wore a furry unicorn onesie with heart-shaped sunglasses that looked like they came straight out of Elton John's closet and clip-on earrings—to music class.

And then there was the time—oh wait, it's most of the time—when she layers (there are always so many layers). Because, honey, a t-shirt and leggings are just the base layer! After that, you need to add jean shorts over the leggings, a dress over the t-shirt, a cardigan over the dress and you must always remember to pack a small carry-on size back of backup outfits anywhere you go.

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Then, and only then, will you be ready for the day.

This place we are now—where my kids dress (mostly) however they want—took some time to get to. I have not always been comfortable with the layering (is that tank top really necessary over that long-sleeved shirt?!) and the mixing of colors and patterns makes my inner-perfectionist want to shout, "THAT DOESN'T MATCH! NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT!"

But, over time, I've trained myself to say instead, "You look awesome! Nice outfit!" as long as it's weather appropriate.

Because, it's their body they're dressing—not mine.

It's their way of expressing themselves—not mine.

It affects their mood—it should not affect mine.

I don't have control over their bodies and choices, and I don't want that. I aim to be their guide, helping and assisting when necessary. I have let go of aiming for or wanting control.

If it's good for them. It's good for me. They are learning how to make their own choices, how to dress and get ready for the day independently, and it takes one thing off of my very long to-do list. It's a win-win for everyone, really. (Let's skip the topic of dealing with meltdowns over not being able to wear your swimsuit and flip flops when it's snowing out for another essay…😂)

So to the mother who has let their child dress themselves today—I FEEL you. I see you. I am you.

I see that your child also has 5+ bows in their hair and a layer of leggings, shorts and a skirt on.

I see that your child has a Spiderman costume on with a shark sweatshirt over it and a PJ Mask cape attached to the back.

And I see that your child has every color of the rainbow on, plus their shoes on the wrong feet.

My friend, I salute you.

I know that your kiddo dressed themselves and I want to give you both a big high five. I know this life well. And I know you too might wonder, What are people going to think with this outfit on? That I'm not teaching my kids to look presentable? That I don't care enough to tell them that their shoes are on the wrong feet?

I know that's not the case.

I know you're showing your child what having control over their own body looks like.

I know you're allowing them to feel free creatively in their expression of themselves.

I know you're helping to shape them into confident humans.

I know you're choosing your battles wisely.

And I know you told them that their feet may be more comfortable if they switched their shoes around, but they swear they like how it feels that way.

We've learned over the past few years from my kid's favorite movie soundtracks, Annie, that "you're never fully dressed without a smile"—but little did those lyricists know they should have added, "and also at least three layers of various items of clothing, three bows and three additional accessories of your choosing!" (That doesn't have quite the same ring to it though, now does it?)

Happy dressing! 😉

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Life

If there's one day a year we can't wait for, it's Amazon Prime Day. We love a good deal (one of our editors *just* got through the dish soap she ordered last year!) and we prefer to do our shopping from the comforts of our home.

That's why we're even more excited about the news that just released—Prime Day 2019 will be two full days, starting on midnight (PT) Monday, July 15 through just before midnight on Tuesday, July 16. 🙌

Amazon announced that it'll feature more than one million deals, and some have already started. You can browse all of the Prime Day launches here. Amazon released these deal sneak peeks:



How to get the most of Prime Day 2019:

1. Check your membership

If you're not a Prime member yet, you can sign up here for a 30 day free membership to get in on the deals on Prime Day 2019! The annual shopping event is reserved for members so make sure you're logged into a Prime account to shop.

2. Browse Amazon products

While all of the deals aren't available, Amazon's products typically always go on sale so take a look ahead of time to know what you'd like to add to your list. We love the Echo Show for video calling grandparents, the Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet for indestructible devices for kids, and the Echo Dot for asking all of the questions.

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3. Track products + lightning deals

There are only a certain number of items that qualify for the deal and they can go fast. You can use the Amazon App to track upcoming deals and set it to notify you when that deal is about to begin. Sold out? See if there's a waitlist option—if an item becomes available, you'll be added to the line to be notified.

4. Make a list

It can be tempting to order all of the things because they seem like a good deal, but remember that deals happen throughout the year, too. To avoid having a million boxes showing up at your doorstep (guilty 🤷♀️) make a list of what you really need for the year. Think: Birthday presents, holiday shopping, household goods you always use, that item you'd love to treat yourself to, a stroller you desperately need. If it's on the list, don't hesitate to buy so you don't miss out.

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