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10 random acts of kindness your family can do for #GivingTuesday

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After the consumer madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it's nice to take a step back from the shopping and consider ways to give back to our communities. That's why #GivingTuesday was born, and today parents all over the country are taking a moment or two to use random acts of kindness as a teachable moment for kids who are growing up in a consumer-driven, me first" culture.

Here are 10 simple ways you can help your kids participate in #GivingTuesday:

1. Pick a charity and donate

If your child loves the local animal shelter or has known the pain of a stay at a children's hospital, today's a good day to help them drop off, email or mail a donation. Whether it's a couple bucks from your kid's piggy bank or a larger amount from your bank account, Giving Tuesday is about teaching kids that money doesn't just buy things, it also helps other people.

2. Pull off a random act of fast food kindness

In the line at Starbucks? Getting Chipotle? Offer to pay for the order of the people behind you. Use the moment to have a conversation with your kids about how it's nice to be randomly nice once in awhile.

3. Get crafty

Pull out the construction paper and help your kids make thank you cards for the people in their lives who don't hear it enough. A teacher, bus driver or coach might be on your kid's list. Maybe you will be, too.

4. Send a surprise

Far flung grandparents and aunties in other states will be expecting parcels a few weeks from now at Christmas time, but they're not expecting flowers at work today or an Amazon delivery waiting for them when they get home.

5. Bake for someone

Bring your kids into the kitchen and get out the mixer (or scoop out store bought cookie dough, there's no shame in that) and bake up a treat for a friend or family member who could use some cheering up. Just don't let the kids eat all the kindness before you have a chance to deliver it!

6. Talk about the importance of saying thanks

Take an extra moment to say thanks to the clerk at Target today, and talk to your kids about why it's important to use their manners. Especially during the holiday season, retail workers don't always get to see people doing that.

7. Buy some diapers for your local food bank

Even if your kids are out of diapers, today's a good day to buy some. Many parents struggle with the financial cost of disposable diapers and don't have the resources to use reusable ones. You're going to Target today anyway, right?

8. Involve your kids in thoughtful donation

Sometimes donations don't do as much good as they could because people donate things organizations don't actually need. Your local food bank may be overrun with canned goods right now, but might not have any milk. Assist your kids in calling up a charity and asking what they really need. Then, whether it's milk, food, diapers or cash, you and your kids can make it happen.

9. Brainstorm

Ask your kids for their ideas about random acts of kindness and help them act upon the ideas that seem the most reasonable. ("No, we don't have time to paint our neighbor's house, but yes, we can bring him a coffee.")

10.  Smile

Smile at everyone. Your kids will catch on and it will be contagious. Happy giving!

[Originally published November 28, 2017]
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A powerful and thought-provoking viral video is calling out the ridiculous expectations women everywhere deal with when it comes to beauty, their bodies and behavior.

It's called "Be a Lady They Said," and it's honestly pretty hard to watch without getting angry. The video—featuring actress and activist Cynthia Nixon narrating a piece from the writer Camille Rainville—calls out the impossible standards women are told to aspire to, and how often those standards contradict each other.

"Don't be too fat. Don't be too thin. Eat up. Slim down." Those words might feel chillingly familiar to any woman who's ever had to deal with unwanted comments about her figure (which is basically every woman, right?)

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The lines in the video prove that women are hit by competing messages constantly when it comes to personal appearance, sexuality, work and nearly every facet of life.

It is so similar to what mothers hear every day. We're often told to parent like we don't work, but show up at the office as if we aren't parents. We're told to exclusively breastfeed, but then denied the time and places in which to do it. We're told we should want to stay home with our kids full-time, but also criticized for not working. We're told to practice self-care, but also expected to do what amounts to a second shift after we get home from work.

The impossibility of womanhood is so clear in Nixon's viral video.

"Go on a diet. Watch what you eat. Eat celery. Chew gum. Drink lots of water. You have to fit into those jeans. God, you look like a skeleton. Why don't you just eat? You look emaciated," Nixon says.

She continues: "Dress modestly. Don't be a temptress. Men can't control themselves. Men have needs. You look frumpy. Loosen up. Show some skin. Look sexy. Look hot. Don't be so provocative. You're asking for it...

Don't talk too loud. Don't talk too much. Don't take up space. Don't sit like that. Don't stand like that. Don't be intimidating. Why are you so miserable? Don't be a bitch. Don't be so bossy. Don't be assertive. Don't overact. Don't be so emotional. Don't cry. Don't yell. Don't swear. Be passive. Be obedient. Endure the pain. Be pleasing. Don't complain. Let him down easy."

"Lift your face, lift your tummy, perk up your boobs. Look natural. You're trying too hard." Are you angry yet? Visceral images (some of the NSFW) flash by on the screen as each bit of "advice" is relayed—women bearing their bodies, undergoing cosmetic procedures, looking seductive, looking sweet. There are also flashes of men—like President Trump and Harvey Weinstein—who've become flashpoints in the #MeToo movement. While it may be women who are subjected to ever-shifting rules about how they should present themselves, the video reminds us that it's powerful men who have largely shaped those rules.

The video has wracked up more than four and a half million views since it hit Vimeo just a few days ago. While it's certainly a difficult watch, it's an important one, well worth the roughly three minute time investment. "Just be a lady they said," it ends—after showing us the utter impossibility of following that direction.

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As coronavirus ( COVID-19) continues to spread, health officials are driving home the importance of hand washing, but sometimes it is hard for parents to convince kids that washing their hands is important. After all, they can't see the germs, so it is hard to understand why this matters so much.

That's why we love how some creative teachers have used bread to show kids just how germy their hands can get.

"We took fresh bread and touched it. We did one slice untouched. One with unwashed hands. One with hand sanitizer. One with washed hands with warm water and soap. Then we decided to rub a piece on all our classroom Chromebooks," teacher Jaralee Annice Metcalf writes in a now-viral Facebook post.

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When the bread was left in sealed plastic bags the slices that had been exposed to more bacteria via laptops and unwashed hands grew the most mold.



The bread that had been rubbed on those Chromebooks might be the grossest piece of bread we've ever seen, and really underscores Jaralee's point: "As somebody who is sick and tired of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. Wash your hands! Remind your kids to wash their hands! And hand sanitizer is not an alternative to washing hands!"

The CDC agrees with this elementary school teacher: Handwashing reduces the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illnesses (like COVID-19) so it's a good idea to teach kids to do it properly and often.

Jaralee isn't the first teacher to go viral for incorporating this experiment into her classroom and she probably won't be the last. Full instructions for this project are listed on the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital website and are easy to replicate at home.

Her Facebook post has been criticized by people questioning the conditions of her experiment, but as she notes on her Facebook page, they're kind of missing the point: "We are an elementary school. Not a fancy CDC lab, so relax a little and WASH YOUR HANDS."

It's good advice from a caring teacher and a reminder to wash our hands (and sanitize our laptops!)

[A version of this post was originally published December 13, 2019.]

News

If you've turned on the news this week you know that Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is making headlines around the clock. The situation is constantly changing and it's hard to know what to expect.

Reports that a Coronavirus patient in California wasn't tested for the virus for days and that the same state is monitoring 84,000 people for possible cases have many parents alarmed, but as we said earlier this week, now is not the time to panic—it's the time to prepare.

As the possible first case of "community spread" coronavirus in the U.S. is investigated, the first impulse on hearing the news is to run out and buy as many face masks as you can, but according to the CDC that's not what we should be doing. Instead of panic-buying random supplies, be strategic in how you are stocking your home and your pantry, and how you are preparing your children for potential interruptions to daily life.

On Thursday the director-general of the World Health Organization said, "This is not a time for fear. This is the time for taking action now to prevent infections and save lives now."

Now is the time for action, not anxiety, Here's what you can do, mama.

1. Prepare your home for coronavirus outbreaks

Rebecca Katz, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University told NPR that the best place to start is with general emergency planning. This "means not only contingency planning but also good old-fashioned preparedness planning for your family," says Katz.

If an outbreak happens, you won't want to be running to Target for toilet paper and might not be able to order food. If you have prepared for a hurricane or another natural disaster, this won't be much different. It's like Disaster Planning 101, but instead of planning to evacuate our homes we're planning to stay indoors for a significant amount of time.

2. "Store a two week supply of water and food" 

how to prepare for coronavirus

www.fema.gov

There's no reason to panic, but you might want to do a Costco run soon and stock up on non-perishables.

FEMA and other agencies recommend packing emergency preparedness kits to make possible outbreaks of COVID-19 safer and less stressful for your family.

Here is what FEMA recommends parents do to prepare for a pandemic:

  • "Store a two week supply of water and food.
  • Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
  • Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
  • Get copies and maintain electronic versions of health records from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other sources and store them, for personal reference. Get help accessing electronic health records.
  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home."

Check with your insurance: You might have to get approval extended supplies of medication from your insurance provider, so make those calls sooner rather than later.

3. Make a childcare plan

The Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, wants parents to prepare for the possibility that schools could be closed.

Having school close would be very disruptive for many families, but we can start getting ahead of it by doing the following:

  • Talk to your school and childcare providers about their plan for a possible outbreak or closure.
  • Talk to your employer about whether telecommuting or remote work is an option for you.
  • Discuss contingency plans with your partner or co-parent if you have one and how you will divide parenting duties if schools close but your workplaces remain open.

4. Be wary of scams

The snake-oil sellers are using the pandemic to fleece consumers, says the Federal Trade Commission. "They're setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information," notes the FTC's Consumer Education Specialist, Colleen Tressler.

"The emails and posts may be promoting awareness and prevention tips, and fake information about cases in your neighborhood. They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments," she explains.

Some scam emails are claiming to be from the CDC, but parents should know that the most up-to-date information is actually on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the World Health Organization (WHO) websites.

5. Don't panic

The Coronavirus an be very serious, especially for elderly individuals, but "there is no evidence that children are more susceptible," according to the CDC.

"In fact, most confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported from China have occurred in adults," the CDC notes.

The CDC just wants people to be prepared for disruptions to daily life that might occur If there is a case in a community. When the virus is spreading the best way to stop it will be to close schools and businesses, even though that will most certainly be inconvenient.

In short, the experts aren't telling us to be ready for the apocalypse, they just want us to be ready to stay home for as long as a couple of weeks. Stocking up on supplies now isn't an over reaction, it's just good emergency planning.

News
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