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All of our children hit bumps in the road at some point or another.


Some of the challenges kids face are intrinsic. These might include heightened emotional sensitivity, attention/hyperactivity problems, or learning struggles. Other challenges are shorter term – but can still be profoundly disruptive. These can include peer rejection, moving to a new school, failing in a sport, or not liking a teacher. Other problems like defiance or substance abuse can grow over time.

Whether your child’s struggle is temporary or longer lasting, the truth is that struggle is a part of life. It’s how we all grow and mature.

But let’s face it, these struggles don’t just affect our kids. They also affect us. Many parents feel emotional pain when their children face discomfort or emotional pain. Parents instinctively want shield their children from emotional pain, because they’re also trying to shield themselves.

If parents approach children’s struggles mindfully, rather than reactively, they may notice that their children grow as a result of hardship rather than looking to for an emotional rescue.

This is an understandable process, yet it can interfere with children’s ability to be adaptable in the face of discomfort and challenge. Parent’s hovering can actually prevents kid’s emotional maturation. I believe the most important factor in how kids handle life’s vicissitudes is how we respond to and frame struggle for our kids.

If parents approach children’s struggles mindfully, rather than reactively, they may notice that their children grow as a result of hardship rather than looking to for an emotional rescue.

To do this, keep in mind these 5 things:

1 | Stay present with your child instead of fixing, changing, or rescuing

The most common response from parents today is to come to the rescue when their kids are struggling, facing a challenge or simply upset. Parent become their children’s problem-solvers, managers, and advice-givers. Parents feel that it’s their job to run interference on their child’s life, so he or she has a smooth path ahead.

What if I told you that this is actually disrupting your child’s ability to develop his or her own coping skills? That the only way kids learn to problem-solve, face discomfort, and manage their emotions is to face life’s obstacles.

Instead of fixing, parents can be present, stay supportive, but not to take the problem on their own lap. Our children need to face their own problems of childhood so they are equipped to face bigger challenges in adulthood.

2) Allow your child to feel

The best way for kids to be emotionally resilient is for them to feel all their emotions. So if your child is happy, sad, worried, bored, frustrated – allow your child to be with and feel their emotion fully. You can say things that are validating and normalizing – so kids don’t resist their emotions, and instead learn to accept them. For example: “That is sad.” “I imagine that is frustrating.” “Bored is ok, it is a normal feeling we all have.” “I get worried about that too.”

When parents validate and allow kids to feel, there is no need to fix or change their emotions. Instead you are creating space for feelings. All emotions are ok and all emotions are transient. So there is no need to react or resist what we feel. The most naturally way to process emotions is to allow ourselves to feel all our feelings until they pass. We can teach this to our children.

3) Value and embrace struggle

Kids are constantly reading our signals and cues of how to respond to things. It is amazing how much my daughters mimic my responses and reactions to life (good and bad!). If we value struggle and see struggle as necessary and important, kids will more likely see challenges this way as well.

All growth, learning and emotional development comes from struggle. No one matures from a place of comfort. So we can set an intention to embrace struggle and challenge in our lives and in our children’s lives.

4) Normalize set backs, failures, discomfort as part of life

In our culture today we think we should be happy all the time and if we are not something is wrong. Unfortunately many kids then direct this wrong at their own self – “something is wrong with me.” But in reality life is in a constant state of flux. It is normal for emotions to be continually coming and going – not for us to feel happy at all times. When we normalize this pattern then there is no sense of something being “wrong” when we face a challenge or setback or discomfort.

When we frame struggle and setbacks as normal, we are teaching a lot of resilience to our kids. What better lesson is there?

5) Rather than fixing, encourage your child to problem-solve

Problem-solving is not just something for math class. In fact I believe problem-solving is like a muscle which only becomes stronger through repetition. In addition to normalizing struggle and allowing your child to feel, you can also put the problem back on your child, “You’re really good at problem-solving, how do you want to problem-solve this situation?” “What is the best thing to do?” I notice when I say this to my daughter, she looks and me sideways and then smiles and goes off to solve the problem. Kids want to be empowered and feel that they are capable.

For many problems, like peer rejection, there is no simple solution but staying present and available and encouraging your child to solve it, is a great way for your child to build these muscles. Of course we can give advice, but I would really suggest you wait until your child asks, “Mommy what would you do.” So often we rush in with advice when our kids are upset and when they never asked for help or advice.

Reframing Struggle

Although struggle can bring up emotional pain, we still have an intellect and can remember that struggle is the only way we learn. The good thing about emotional struggle is that if we can calm ourselves down enough – our rational minds can see that life is a series of lessons disguised as obstacles. We will not get to where we want to go unless we face all these various obstacles.

When we know that struggle is the only way to learn then instead of resisting obstacles we can move towards them and embrace them and know that there is some essential learning that will happen.

We don’t become wise from life always going our way. We become wise from living in the current of life which involves both big rapids and calm water. We can teach this to our kids.

 

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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

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

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Mamas have a hard time carving out time for themselves. Our families almost always take priority, meaning things like skincare can easily fall by the wayside. Even though studies have shown the benefits of caring for ourselves also benefit our babies benefit our babies, it often feels just one more task to add to our to-do list.

Fortunately, it's possible to skip extensive routines and start small. If you have just five minutes (or more!) to spare for yourself this week, try these self-care products you can sneak during nap time or after you finally get the little ones down for the night.

If you only have 5 minutes: Remove your makeup

One of the most important ways to care for your skin at the end of the day is removing your makeup. Start with a cleansing towelette to easily wipe away even stubborn mascara and eyeliner so you can go to bed with a clean slate.

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, Amazon, 2-pk $8.97

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If you have 10 minutes (or more): Use a jade facial roller

After cleansing, use this jade roller to gently massage your face to boost collagen, flush out toxins and improve circulation in your skin.

Jade Facial Roller, Amazon, $11.99

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Chrissy Teigen has been very open about the ways pregnancy has changed her body. Mom to 2-year-old Luna and 4-month-old Miles, Teigen—a former swimsuit model—has famously embraced her postpartum body (stretchies and all), while noting that she's still, at times, insecure about it, but she's not ashamed.

That's why, when a man on Twitter commented on a photo of Teigen's red carpet look for the Emmy's to ask the whole wide world (and Teigen herself, he tagged her) if she was pregnant again, Teigen was quick to shut down the shamer.

"I'm asking this with the utmost respectful [sic], but is @chrissyteigen pregnant again?" The man wrote.

"I just had a baby but thank you for being soooo respectful," Teigen replied (from the Emmys).


Fellow moms were quick to jump to Teigen's defense. Many pointed out that Teigen actually looks incredible for any human, let alone one who is four months postpartum. Other mamas were quick to chime in with stories about their own lingering baby bumps.

For a lot of women, our bodies are different after having a baby. Sometimes that means we're a little rounder in the middle than we used to be. It happens to almost everyone, even red carpet-walking A-listers, like Teigen and actress Jennifer Garner, who once told Ellen Degeneres that she would have a bump forever.

"I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump," Garner explained in 2014, after paparazzi photographs fueled speculation that she and Ben Affleck were expecting a fourth child. "Forever and ever, not another baby. Just a bump like a camel. But just in reverse," Garner jokes.

Like Garner, Teigen dealt with the pregnancy question with a sense of humor, but she shouldn't have had to defend her body from the Emmys. As many, many Twitter users pointed out to the man who asked, it's never cool to ask a woman if she is pregnant.

It's not polite to ask, and it's no one's business whether a woman's bump is a pregnancy, some fabric, a burrito, a weird shadow or (as in Teigen's case) basically a figment of someone's imagination.

A lot of mamas online last night chimed in to say that while Teigen's stomach doesn't look like it did in her Sports Illustrated days, it still looks pretty freaking amazing.

Yes, after two kids, Chrissy Teigen doesn't look like a swimsuit model. But she shouldn't have to. She's not a swimsuit model anymore. She is a cookbook author with her own Target line and she hosts a hilarious TV show. She's also a mother. She is so much more than her midsection.

"Honestly, I don't ever have to be in a swimsuit again," she recently told Women's Health. "Since I was 20 years old, I had this weight in my mind that I am, or that I'm supposed to be. I've been so used to that number for 10 years now. And then I started realizing it was a swimsuit-model weight. There's a very big difference between wanting to be that kind of fit and wanting to be happy-fit."

Teigen is happy with her body, and we're happy she spent Emmy night educating the internet about respecting women.

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As parents, we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure our babies' brains are developing as quickly as possible. But the irony is, for many years the best way our little ones can learn and grow is through play. In fact, research has shown that reading stories, playing simple games, and engaging with toys is one of the best ways to boost baby's brain development for years to come.

It's those kind of findings that fuels the work at People Toy Company, a Japanese-based toy company that believes in encouraging the natural development of children through research-backed toys. Every toy in their line is developed to make playtime engaging for parents and children alike while helping little ones achieve developmental milestones through play.

Here are 10 of our favorite toys for engaging little minds and encouraging motor development from baby's first weeks and beyond.

TOYS TO STIMULATE LITTLE BRAINS BEFORE 6 MONTHS

1. Mochi Double Pendant Necklace (newborn on)

It's a fact of life that babies love to explore their world with their mouths. Save your jewelry by swapping in this teething necklace made from rice. Babies will love the easy-to-hold shape and textured design—you'll love the neutral color palette that goes with any outfit.

Mochi Double Pendant Necklace, Amazon, $15.99

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TOYS TO STIMULATE LITTLE BRAINS AFTER 6 MONTHS

1. Magic Reflection Ball (6 month)

Encourage independent play from six months on with this constantly changing reflection ball. Use the suction cup to attach it to different smooth surfaces to encourage pulling up and standing later on.

People Magic Reflection Ball, Amazon, $8.99

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

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