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In parenting news, 2015 was all about free-range kids, Scandinavian child rearing, and screen-time flamewars. 2016 will be all about the rise of millennial parents, caregiver rights, and the positive influence of technology on kids’ lives.

Like all other types of news, parenting headlines are dominated by trends and fads. Yesterday’s latchkey kids are today’s screen time addicts. Buzzwords like “dad bod” and “tiger mom” come and go.

But these trends aren’t necessarily shallow. They reflect the hopes and fears of our diverse culture.

Based on data from our site, Google Trends, sentiment research, and our experience as news curators, here are ten parenting topics that will dominate headlines and newsfeeds in 2016.


1. Debate About Outdated Family Polices in the US

The United States has the worst family leave policies among developed nations.

These policies push working parents onto a tightrope. Tip one way, neglect your children. Tip the other, fall behind and lose out at work.

In the US, maternity leave is only protected for 12 weeks. And those limited protections don’t apply to many low-income women. That’s partly because the US is the only developed nation without paid maternity leave policies. This despite the fact that 96% of single mothers say paid leave is the workplace reform that would help them the most.

The US also has zero mandated paternity leave. (Again, unlike most developed nations.) There’s ample evidence of positive outcomes for fathers and the family when dads can spend more time with their kids, especially when they’re babies.

Read: Amanda Levinson’s review of “Unfinished Business” 

In 2015, publicity around Anne-Marie Slaughter’s best-selling book “Unfinished Business” put a new focus on caregiver rights. In 2016, expect much a louder debate about how our laws limit working parents and harm families. The presidential election will play a large part in this, but we also see more and more parent-focused media outlets carrying the banner on this story.

2. Automation & Our Kids’ Future Job Market

Here’s a scary statistic: 47 percent of jobs in the United States could be automated within “a decade or two.”

That’s precisely when our kids will enter the workforce and start families of their own.

As noted on the NASDAQ site, “Historically, technology has created more efficiency, productivity and even higher living standards.”

Read: “A World Without Work” from the Atlantic.

But the exponential pace and sophistication of automation, artificial intelligence, robotics, and deep learning mean that we’re entering a new era in job displacement. Both white and blue collar jobs are at risk.

In 2016, many more parents and teachers will comprehend this reality. Expect a lively conversation about how we might prepare kids for a job market in extreme flux.

3. Respect for Kids’ Digital Privacy and Rights

81 percent of Millennials (who make up 90 percent of all new parents) have shared a photo of their kid on social media. But Forbes reports that those same millennial parents are rapidly becoming more concerned about digital privacy. These concerns spike after parenthood.

Read: Protecting Kids Digital Privacy from NPR

For example, when Facebook launched Scrapbook to help parents share photos of their kids, it was rejected as a ploy to create digital identities for kids.

Parents are starting to take their kid’s digital identities seriously. It’s a new responsibility of parenthood.

Read more about digital privacy and safety for kids on Common Sense Media.

4. The Nuances of Screen Time

Parents (and teachers and grandparents and, well, just about everyone) are concerned about the impact of screen time on kids’ healthy development. The topic is usually portrayed in absolute terms, pro or con.

Articles like “Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children” scare and scold parents who let their kids use screens while other articles argue that “Our Kids Aren’t Using Too Much Tech. They’re Not Using Enough.”

The reality is that most parents believe screen time is beneficial in moderation. Parents know that most kids need to use computers and smartphones to play a role in our economy. They also know that too much of anything is bad.

On the internet, extreme opinions get clicks. “Moderation” doesn’t go viral. But in 2016, expect the screen time extremists to fade.

5. The Economic Necessity and Societal Benefit of Encouraging Curiosity in Kids

Curiosity is trending as educators and business leaders advocate for its utility and strategic importance.

Albert Einstein famously said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Curiosity has long been dismissed as a minor soft-skill.

Read “Why Imagination and Curiosity Matter More Than Ever” in the Wall Street Journal.

However, as computers take over information processing, and as we increasingly rely on Google for storing knowledge, the human value of curiosity becomes critical to economic success.

Empathy, imagination, creativity, and innovation are tightly connected to curiosity. They are also signature human traits that (so far) can’t be reduced to computer code.

6. Despite Massive Student Debt, Fewer Doubts About the Value of a Four-Year Degree

One of the biggest issues in education from 2015 will carry over into 2016: student debt.

Millennial parents (90 percent of all new parents) are the ones most saddled with this debt. It’s crushing their ability to save money, invest money, and buy first homes.

Read: Student Debt is Worse Than You Expect in the New York Times.

For years, it’s been trendy to doubt the value of a four-year degree. And it’s true that, for Millennials, the pay gap between college graduates and those with a high school diploma is smaller than for past generations.

However, that same data also shows that the gap is still quite large: Millennials with a college degree earn $17,000 more than those with a high school diploma on average.

In 2016, expect many headlines like “The Rising Cost of not Going to College” as fresh emphasis is placed on the quantifiable benefits of a four-year degree.

Other educational trends for 2016:

7. Everyone Will Understand That New Parents = Millennial Parents

Millennials get a bad rap — depicted as entitled, coddled and narcissistic. They’re also seen as tolerant, civic-minded and entrepreneurial.

Read: 5 Ways Millennials Are Changing Parenting Forever

They’re the biggest generation in US history. They make up the largest share of the American workforce. Millennials are dealing with low incomes and poverty more than previous generations, but they’re still an economic powerhouse.

Advertisers have been intensely focused on Millennial parents for years. That’s because:

  • They account for 90 percent of the 1.5 million new mothers in the US.
  • There are now more than 22 million millennials parents.
  • One in five moms is a millennial.
  • Millennials have 10,000 babies per day

Millennial values will shape the following generation, just as boomers shaped Generation X.

In 2016, there will be a lively national conversation about what, exactly, that means. There are some hints. For example, Millennial parents share parenting more equally through the traditional division of work and home responsibilities persists (Read “Millennial Moms Still Run Households.”) And 50 percent of Millennials purposefully purchase gender-neutral toys.

In 2015, Time ran a feature called Help! My Parents Are Millennials (paywall). Expect many more stories about how Millennials are raising their kids and how that might shape the future of America.

8. Minimalism as a Family Lifestyle Choice

Driven by some of the trends mentioned above, the wider cultural interest in minimalism will resonate as a lifestyle choice for families.

A minimalist family lifestyle has less clutter, fewer possessions, more shared family experiences, a lighter schedule, and is guided by a less-is-more parenting approach.

Kids fashion will even be affected by this trend, as companies like Primary grow rapidly by offering simple, unbranded essentials at reasonable prices.

We’ve seen this trend grow over the past year on this site, as some of our most popular articles were about the Marie Kondo method and Minimalism: A Key to Mental Health as a New Parent.

9. A Return to Tactile Experiences

As the novelty of our digital devices wears off, parents and kids are finding novelty and joy in real goods. Print books (especially used books) board games and arty coloring books were super popular in 2015. This will only accelerate in 2016.

The popularity of app, internet and AI-enabled toys like BB-8 and Osmo represent a version of this trend (even though the creepy Hello Barbie doll was hacked).

10. Decline of Team Sports – Especially Baseball and Football

Almost all team sports for kids are losing popularity. Not only will this continue in 2016, but a widespread conversation will ignite on the matter.

Read “Why Is Baseball Losing Children” in the Wall Street Journal.

However, expect an uptick in team sports participation in another few years, as millennial parents bring back the tradition. (Just like they brought back PBR.)


“Designer Babies” 

There are about 30 people in the world today who came from a genetically engineered embryo. Researchers in China have modified the DNA of human embryos. Quartz reports that gene therapy is making genetically engineered humans acceptable. In the UK, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Agency (HFEA) determined that modifying human mitochondrial genes in humans embryos were both safe and sometimes desirable for fighting disease.

In 2016, more people will become aware of the reality of gene therapy. Genetic enhancements to humans are still some time away — but they are on the horizon. Your kids might choose your grandchildren’s eye color, skin tone, and more.

Read more: Engineering the Perfect Baby from MIT Technology Review

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.

Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

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

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"

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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)


Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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