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MOTHER Mom fights for safety standards
10 November Adventures
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Massachusetts’ Premier Magazine For Families Since 1996
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Finally Forever Editor’s Note Herding Goofballs
MOTHER Mom fights for safety standards
8 Good to Know 16 Easy, No-Bake Thanksgiving Treats 13 Very Special People 17 Goose’s Goodies: 23 Take Eight Thanksgiving Cheeseball
Cyber Savvy Mom
Fifteen years after daughter’s death, mom still fighting for safer furniture standards
A loaded question: asking about safe gun storage before playdates
How to be a happier parent
Nutrition: Why Kids Should Help with the Cooking
on the agenda 19
The List: 7 Ways to Volunteer From Home
Family Gratitude Activities
No-Bake Thanksgiving Treats
on the cover: Sterling’s Kimberly Amato continues fighting for safer furniture standards nearly 16 years after losing her 3-year-old daughter, Meghan, in a tip-over accident. Ashley Green photo
November Adventures 4 Family Gratitude Activities
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10 November Adventures
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November’s Child: Meet Aleenah
Hi, my name is Aleenah and I have a great sense of humor! Aleenah,13, is a fun, outgoing girl with an enormous amount of charisma and great sense of humor. Some of Aleenah’s favorite activities include bowling, roller skating, going to the movies, drawing, and singing along to the songs on the radio. Aleenah does especially well with younger children; she is always willing to help out in other classrooms, read to younger kids, and/or mentor them. Aleenah feels important and takes great pride in building these relationships. Legally free for adoption, Aleenah is in need of a family that can provide a structured, loving home. She would do best with a single moth-
er or a two-parent family with or without other children. Interested families should be comfortable maintaining contact with Aleenah’s siblings and her birth mother, who she visits with twice per year. Can you provide the guidance, love and stability that a child needs? If you’re at least 18 years old, have a stable source of income, and room in your heart, you may be a perfect match to adopt a waiting child. Adoptive parents can be single, married, or partnered, experienced or not, renters or homeowners, LGBTQ singles and couples. The process to adopt a child from foster care requires training, interviews, and home visits to determine if adoption is right for you, and if so, to help connect you with a child or sibling group that your family will be a good match for. To learn more about adoption from foster care, call the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) at 617-6273 or visit www.mareinc.org.
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My s g n i h T Fa vo rit e To celebrate National Thank You Letter Day on Nov. 14, children are being encouraged to express their gratitude after this unprecedented year. Award-winning author Carew Papritz has organized a rolling, letter-writing movement through Dec. 1 to thank the heroes of 2020 and to teach kids the importance of saying thanks. To get involved, go to nationalthankyouletterday.com.
How sweet is this idea for a Thanksgiving tablecloth spotted on social media: At your family meal, use a plain white tablecloth and have your guests use fabric pens to write their name, a memory, something that they’re grateful for, or even draw a doodle. Each year you can add to it until it's full… and reminisce on years past.
editor’s note Sure, this month brings Election Day and Thanksgiving, but did you know November is also Child Safety and Protection Month? It can be easy to scoff at some of the more obscure “holidays” and observances on the calendar – this month also brings National Brush Your Teeth Day (silly me, thought that was every day), and National Pizza with the Works Except Anchovies Day (yes, for real, it’s Nov. 12). But a reminder to consider our children’s safety is probably worth a second thought. I know what you’re thinking… when are you not worried about your kids? It is normal, instinctive really, to worry about your child’s safety. From the moment they are born, we feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to keep our children safe. And that’s only been magnified this past year, as we’ve done all we can keep our kids healthy. For the most part, that’s meant keeping our children safe at home. Over the last eight months, our homes have become more than just where we live – they have become our offices, classrooms, and playgrounds. Experts have warned that the threat of home injuries looms large as we’re all spending so much time at home, and as parents may be otherwise occupied and stressed. SafeKids.org has some helpful resources for ensuring the wellbeing of children at home. Their Safety at Home Parent’s Checklist has a room-by-room guide for things to double check around the house. In this issue, you’ll also find some topics on child safety. Read about a mom who’s on a mission to strengthen furniture safety standards after losing her toddler daughter in a tip-over incident, how you can create your own Child ID Kit at home, and find out the important question you should ask before every play date – that you’re probably not. No one wants to think about these things, especially when, as parents, we have so much on our minds as it is. But the aim of these stories isn’t to make you more anxious; instead they serve as reminders that there are things we can control when it comes to our kids’ wellbeing. And that can offer some much-needed peace of mind. On a lighter note, you’ll find plenty of fun stuff in this issue, too. Check out Bites (page 16) for some adorable Turkey Day treats and recipes. Then, turn to The Agenda (page 19), for our favorite fall family adventures, and ideas to bring some happiness and gratitude into your daily life this month. Here’s to a happy, healthy, safe and fun November!
If the arrival of a certain red elf is already stressing you out, consider this more laid-back tradition this holiday season. Reindeer In Here is an adorable plush reindeer that comes with his own Christmas story about celebrating our differences. Kids name their reindeer and take everywhere with them throughout the season (including to bed!). Each night, the reindeer communicates kids’ wishes to Santa, and on Christmas Eve, they put it under the tree so Santa can take it back to the North Pole until next December. Easy and cute? Yes, please!
A recent study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by the age of 5. By the time they’re 11, grateful tweens report more satisfaction with their schools, families, communities, friends, and themselves. As an adult, I know I feel happier when I’m actively practicing gratitude, but sometimes it takes some effort. Turn to page 22 for ideas on starting a family gratitude practice this month.
Presidential Circumstances BY JOSH FARNSWORTH ILLUSTRATION BY KIRA BEAUDOIN
s a parent, it’s the ultimate brag, right? The crème’ de la braggy crème. Imagine your child as President of the United States. Oh, the annoying amount of stories you will tell everyone for the rest of your life. It’s a projection we all float out there for our kids. We want them to know they can be anything if they work hard and set their minds to it. This job, however, comes with its fair share of hurdles to clear, but it’s a fun one to think about. The qualifying age for this job is 35, which puts my oldest on a trajectory for the 2048 election cycle, while my youngest will have to wait until 2052. Plenty of time to preorder the lawn signs and bumper stickers. But with so much animosity and tension with our two-party system, maybe we consider them right now for a write-in campaign. You’ll need to know where they stand on many of the important issues of the day. So, I asked them. May I present to you, your alternate candidates’ platforms… First 100 Days As president, what would be your first decision? Cooper: I would buy a dog and take it to love at the White House. Milo: I would want to learn about the states. Analysis: I think a dog brings a certain sense of stateliness and responsibility. Nice way to set a tone. As for the states, we all need to know who we govern, right? Let’s figure out Montana a little more, am I right? Gun control Cooper: Lots of Nerf guns for everyone. Milo: Yeah, what Cooper said.
Analysis: Statistics have yet to show if foam weapons can curb crime, but maybe a fun afternoon with these toys can bring people together and forget about turning to a life of crime. Foreign policy How would you work with other countries? Cooper: I would take over the other countries and boss them around. That way we can all work together. Milo: It would not be fair to other countries to boss them around, Cooper! Analysis: Whoa, whoa Coop, maybe a tad too aggressive. If running against each other, this would make for a very interesting debate topic to sink our teeth into. Not sure how I feel about strong-arming Belgium into a single policy, but the heart is all there. I promise it is, Belgium. Party affiliation Cooper: The President’s Party Milo: Iron Man Party Analysis: Cooper’s party name is a little on the nose, but the marketing writes itself. As for Milo, just go ahead and vote against Iron Man and call yourself an American. He dares you! Health care What is the most important thing about the health of Americans? Cooper: If they get sick, take care of them. Milo: Call the doctors and tell them to please take care of people who get sick. Analysis: Isn’t it nice when two candidates can directly agree on an issue? Sometimes the answers are simpler than we make them out to be. Economy What would you do to make sure the economy is working well?
Cooper: Buy 151 video games for everyone! Milo: Have everyone eat together and then have a pie fight! Analysis: Going to think all the video game companies are going to be voting Cooper big time in 2048. Smells like a special interest group to me (Super PACMAN?). I do believe breaking bread together more often would help mend relationships. When you start throwing baked goods, though, lots of good will be going ‘splat’. Fun times, though. Education Cooper: I want to make sure kids learn about things like slime, how to raise the Titanic and stuff like that. Milo: Have the kids learn about the states. Analysis: I have to say that a pro-slime, pro-doomed-ships platform shows some range in terms of exploring science and history. And yes, if you cannot
guess by now, my youngest is very interested in what states are, what they are called and onward. It will be in his talking points for sure. If truth be told, answers from 4- and 7-year-olds will be honest more than anything else. Maybe they won’t get enough votes by the time the election is finalized this November. That said, they are two of the millions upon millions who will inherit positions of leadership over the following generations. That means me, as a parent, modeling as much honesty, character and taking responsibility from now until Election Day will be crucial presidential bid or not. To Cooper and Milo: if you fall short of this job, no worries. If you develop honesty, character and responsibility, you will become leaders. And that is something to brag
about. To my readers: Didn’t like what these candidates had to offer? First, how dare you! Secondly, get out there and vote this time and next time and every other time. After all, one vote may be the difference between a slime-filled curriculum with unexpected pies in your face and what you want. Vote Farnsworth 2048 and 2052. I’ll have the lawn signs ready. Josh Farnsworth is a husband, father of goofballs Cooper and Milo, goofball himself, and awardwinning writer and columnist living in Worcester. He can be reached for column ideas at josh. farnsworth@ yahoo.com.
cyber savvy mom
‘Real talk’ from kids on Internet and technology use
As children’s screen time increases, new series teaches safe tech use from their perspective understanding of technology’s potential – and its pitfalls. And that is rarely the case in our experience. So we wanted to explore -- with kids using their own words -- what they understand and how they use these ubiquitous devices. As each video plays out we hope we show the benefits of using mobile devices and help kids avoid some of the challenges – such as being fooled by misleading information they may find online.
Short videos starring a cast of young internet users show viewers the different ways they can use smartphones - from catching up with grandparents to separating fact from fiction on the web - in Search It Up! PHOTO COURTESY WGBH
BY JOAN GOODCHILD, CYBER SAVVY MOM
he internet is central to just about every child’s life now that COVID-19 has recentered education around remote learning arrangements. For some families, the web was already a big part of their day. But for others, the need to rely on the internet has been a massive adjustment. As the internet becomes increasingly key to children’s education and play, public media producer GBH has a new program called Search It Up!, a lighthearted digital miniseries that teaches healthy screen time skills from everyday kids’ perspectives. The series features nine short videos starring a cast of young internet users that show viewers the different ways they can use smartphones - from catching up with grandparents to separating fact from fiction on the web. In each episode, kids demystify the internet, discussing in plain
language how the internet works, GPS, video chat, safety tips for smartphones, taking selfies, web ads and more. Each episode runs no more than four minutes. CyberSavvy Mom caught up with GBH Senior Executive Producer Bill Shribman to learn more about the program. Tell me about the focus of Search It Up. We designed Search It Up to pilot ideas around kids’ everyday use of media and technology. The project is an extension of other work by the same team, Ruff Ruffman: Humble Media Genius. That was an animated series but for this, we wanted to hear from real kids. With so much learning now happening online amid the pandemic, do you think the information can help kids navigate online tools better? Parents may equate children’s interest and affinity with the devices with their having a full
How did you choose the topics you cover in the episode and why were they chosen? Although the series was two years in the making at GBH, it was completed and launched since COVID-19 took hold and forced us into a “new normal”; a world where our children are now increasingly dependent on screens. Our videos about finding information online, about sharing photos, and about communicating with family at a distance are more relevant than ever. Having been working in the media literacy space for many years, we were aware of the broad topics we should cover. But we first brainstormed new topics as a production team, especially ones where we felt we could get great engagement from the kids we would be filming. This was to be an unscripted video and so a key aspect was picking topics our young video subjects would be able to engage in spontaneously. We then field tested these topics with fifth graders at a local school and solicited more topics from them also. We got all kinds of magical and wonderful surprise directions from the kids we filmed and so we focused on those for our subsequent shoots as we grew each video. The best example of this is our Ask an Expert video: we could never have pictured this before we began filming. But we ran with it and think it’s simply charming.
What are you hoping families can take away from the series? We know that families are under so much pressure right now, and that screens are a big part of family life. But we hope parents can see the value of supporting their children’s technology use and can be together on these devices with their kids - creating together, searching together, and sharing together.
Families can watch episodes of SearchItUp! on the GBH website today. Do you have a question or a story suggestion for Cyber Savvy Mom? Contact me at joangoodchild@cybersavvymedia. com.
LEARNING FIRST CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOL NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR THE 2021-2022 SCHOOL YEAR
Learning First Charter Public School (formerly Seven Hills Charter Public School) is a free independent public school that offers challenging academic programs for children in grades K through 8.
OTHER IMPORTANT FEATURES ARE: • Two outstanding educators in each • A commitment to family involvement K-5 core classroom • An appreciation of diversity • An emphasis on college and career readiness • Comprehensive programs for students • An enriched curriculum including character with special needs or English language education, integrated arts and technology learning needs Applications are available in our Main Office and online at learningfirstcharter.org starting September 1, 2020. Application deadline: March 3, 2021. Lottery will be held on March 5, 2021. Location: Learning First Charter Public School, 51 Gage Street Worcester MA
EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR CERTIFIED TEACHERS
The Learning First Charter School is a tuition-free public school serving Worcester’s children. With no admission test, the school serves a student body that is representative of Worcester’s diversity. Learning First Charter Public School does not discriminate based on gender, race, religion, gender identity, cultural heritage, linguistic background, political beliefs, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, marital status, or national origin. In the event that there are more applicants than seats, a lottery will be used to select students.
good to know Massachusetts is the best state to have a baby, according to a new study. WalletHub ranked all 50 states based on 32
factors related to cost, health care quality and accessibility, and baby- and family-friendliness. The Bay State, which earned the highest score for its parental leave policy, topped the list, followed by Minnesota and Vermont.
63% of parents say their teens’ use of social media has increased during the pandemic. That’s according to a recent
Ann & Robert Children’s Hospital of Chicago, in which 45% of those parents were appreciative of social media during the crisis, while 43% are increasingly concerned about it. The most concerning platforms to parents? Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook and YouTube, respectively.
Parents are paying attention to race and discussing it with their children in ways that they haven’t in recent history. New findings
from the 2020 American Family Survey show that Americans of both party affiliations are talking about issues of race in higher rates. When asked “Since March have you discussed Black Lives Matter or police brutality with your family?” More than 75 percent of parents answered yes.
What to know about Child ID Kits, and how to make your own No parent wants to think about their child in an emergency, but being prepared can save time. A child safety kit is a helpful tool for parents and law enforcement when the unexpected happens. Basically, it’s a packet to store all of your child’s identifying information in the event that you have to report your child missing, said Rick Musson, a law enforcement consultant for the life insurance site QuickQuote. com. “If your child is missing, it’s very stressful and it can be difficult to even answer the simplest questions. This completed kit contains information to help answer the investigating officer’s identifying questions and includes fingerprints and DNA that can be used if needed,” he said. “Most police departments offer these kits to parents for free, and each kit will come with directions for how to complete it properly.” To create your own, include: • Child’s name • Age • Hair color • Eye color
• Height • Weight • Address • Special medical needs or medications • Your child’s fingerprints (with the help of a washable ink pad) • Hair follicle for DNA purposes You can find free downloadable Child ID Kits from these resources: • Ready.gov • MissingKids.org • PollyKlaas.org Check with your local law enforcement office to see if it offers to take fingerprints for a child safety kit, said private investigator Angelica Brooks, founder of The Silent Voices Project, a nonprofit dedicated to research and education about human trafficking and investigating missing persons and cold cases for families with limited resources. Store your child safety kit somewhere safe and secure but easily accessible, such as in a home safe, Musson said. Update the photograph and information every 6 months. The Better Business Bureau
advises parents to be aware of a child safety kit con where scammers offer free kits as a way to get their hands on sensitive information that can be used to steal a child’s identity. Watch out for scammers who insist that to receive your kit you need to tell them sensitive personal information about your child, including their full name, address, birthdate and Social Security or Social Insurance number.
Children’s Museum ‘Milk Bottle’ gets a facelift The iconic Hood Milk Bottle that welcomes guests to the Boston Children’s Museum recently got a facelift. The 40-foot-tall bottle has a revamped facade, new windows, awnings, exterior lighting, and new HVAC system. Built in 1934 by Arthur Gagner of Taunton, Mass., to dispense the homemade ice cream he produced, the 15,000pound milk bottle was one of America’s first fastfood drive-in restaurants and an authentic example of the “Coney Island” style of architecture. It’s sat at the doors of the Children’s Museum since 1977, a destination landmark that delights millions of people from around the world and the city of Boston. If real, it could hold 58,620 gallons of milk.
New picture book helps explain Alzheimer’s to children Alzeheimer’s and dementia can be a difficult subject to discuss, especially when talking to a child. Watching a loved progress through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease can be frightening, even for adults, so imagine being a child struggling to understand why grandma is acting so strangely or can’t remember who you are. A new picture book created by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America can help parents introduce the subject to children. “Dancing with Granddad” takes young readers on an age-appropriate learning journey with Nia, a 7-year-old girl, whose grandfather has Alzheimer’s and will need to move to a new home where he will be safer. The book gently introduces Granddad’s behavior changes (such as retelling stories, wandering, and confusion) while sharing the constant of the wonderful relationship between Nia and Granddad and her loving parents who are caring for him. The book also includes a message from AFA about how to introduce a conversation with children about Alzheimer’s disease. “Young children, in particular, may sense that something is amiss when a family member has Alzheimer’s, but not be able to understand the subtle changes that are occurring early on in the progression of the disease,” says Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, AFA’s Director of Educational & Social Services. “The best time to talk to children about Alzheimer’s or any dementia-related illness is as soon as you can. This conversation is about nurturing and maintaining the bonds between the family members while also helping to eliminate the fear of the unknown for the child, educating them in an age-appropriate way, teaching them how to be compassionate, and learning new ways to communicate.”
The book is available at the AFA e-store at shop.alzfdn.org or by calling 866-232-8484. All proceeds go toward AFA programs, services, and research for treatment and a cure.
ADVOCATE like a
Sixteen years after her daughter’s dresser tip-over death, Sterling mom still fighting for safer furniture standards
Called to action Every day, nearly 40 kids are injured when a piece of furniture, an appliance, or a television tips over, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC). And on average, a child dies in such an incident about every two weeks. The CPSC’s most recent report attributes furniture tip-overs to the deaths of 556 people from 2000 to 2018. Most victims were between the ages of 1 to 3 ½ years old, and nearly all of them were under the age 14. And at least 210 people— mostly children ages 6 and younger—have been killed when dressers or other furniture that store clothes have tipped over. Still, regulations and safety standards remain unchanged. In fact, there is no mandatory safety standard for the stability of furniture like dressers. Instead, there is only a voluntary standard, which states
that a clothing storage unit taller than 27 inches should stay standing with 50 pounds of weight hanging from an open drawer, while the other drawers are closed.
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down a stable-looking piece of furniture that took two adults to move. Marketed for children’s rooms, Amato figured the dresser had been vetted for safety. It is a common assumption, according to a recent Consumer Reports survey. Ninety-six percent of Americans believe that home goods costing $75 or more, such as dressers, adhere to a required safety standard. But that wasn’t the case when Meghan died on Dec. 18, 2004 – and it still isn’t true today.
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imberly Amato still has her daughter Meghan’s Christmas outfit from 2004. A red velvet skirt with white embroidery and a black turtleneck sweater, it’s tucked away with some other tiny toddler clothes – the tags still on it. Meghan never wore the sweet little outfit. Sixteen years ago, a week before Christmas, she died under a dresser on her bedroom floor while the rest of her family was asleep. No one in the house heard the dresser fall. Meghan’s little body prevented it from hitting the floor hard, and she was unable to cry. She suffocated as a result of airway compression by a drawer. Before the nightmare unfolded, Amato, of Sterling, had never heard of a dresser tipping over onto a child. At the time, she was a childbirth educator and birth doula with a 6-year-old boy and 3-year-old year twins – Meghan and her twin brother – who had carefully childproofed everything in her house. “I was often accused of being overly-protective and over the top with the childproofing. I had even removed the furniture from the living room so they couldn't jump off of it,” she said. “I was teaching infant care classes and this was not something that was part of the curriculum. It wasn't in parenting magazines or classes. Furniture anchors were not sold in stores with other childproofing supplies, so no one knew they existed.” Amato never imagined the short, 100-pound dresser in her daughter’s room would, or even could, tip over. She never imagined her blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl, who weighed just 28 pounds, could somehow pull
BY AMANDA COLLINS BERNIER Manufacturers have the option to meet this standard or not. “The more I learned, the more angry I became,” Amato said of realizing the safety standard deficiencies. “The industry expects the consumer to finish making the furniture safe by anchoring it to the wall, however studies have shown that even if parents are aware that dressers can tip, many still don't anchor them, either because they don't think it will happen to them,
Kimberly Amato continues fighting for safer furniture standards nearly 16 years after losing her 3-year-old daughter, Meghan. ASHLEY GREEN
because they don't have the tools or know-how, or they rent and are afraid they will lose their security deposit.” Since she lost Meggie, Amato has been working to change this. The very night Meghan died, Amato wrote an email to her loved ones to inform them of the tragedy, and implore them to anchor their dressers to the wall. Within weeks, she founded Meghan’s Hope, an organization to raise awareness of furniture tip-
gainng the attention they believe the tip-over issue deserves. Then, they went to Washington. A federal standard PAT families are among dozens of groups lobbying for stronger standards and advocating for the passage of
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overs. She shared her story with local mom groups and day cares, exhibited at safety fairs, asked pediatric offices to post or share flyers and brochures. In 2014, she became a spokesperson for Nationwide's Make Safe Happen Campaign, and the following year, helped inform the CPSC’s Anchor It! campaign. The advent of blogging and social media helped Amato reach more and more people, but still, she wanted to find a way to move beyond awareness, and drive change. Two years ago, Amato and six other families from across the nation who had lost children in tip-overs formed Parents Against Tip-Overs (PAT). “We'd all been doing a similar thing, trying to educate and raise awareness in our local area, and were all having trouble reaching the people we knew we needed to reach and to do so nationally,” she said. Partnering with other consumer advocacy groups like Kids in Danger, Consumer Reports, and the Consumer Federation of America, PAT created a plan for
the STUDY Act (Stop TipOvers of Unstable Risky Dressers on Youth), which would require a mandatory safety standard for dressers within one year of its enactment. “The industry’s standards are completely voluntary and don’t
protect enough children,” said William Wallace, manager, Home and Safety Policy for Consumer Reports. “Right now, there’s no easy way to simply look at a dresser and tell whether it’s likely to tip over—so it’s critical to put a strong standard in place that consumers can trust.” Where the voluntary standard falls short – not accounting for situations like a child climbing, sitting or standing on drawers, or even the dresser being on carpet – the STURDY Act calls for testing stability for real-life scenarios on all free-standing clothing units. That would include loaded drawers and multiple open drawers, accounting for the impact of carpeting on stability, and simulating the dynamic forces a climbing child would cause. The law would also mandate strong warning requirements and labels. The STURDY Act passed the House with bipartisan support last fall, but has been sitting in the Senate Committee of Commerce, Science and Consumer Protection for over a year.
If it doesn’t pass the Senate by the end of this year, advocates will have to start over with the next session of Congress in January. Frustrated, Amato blames “bitter partisanship” for the failure in moving the bill forward. “I assure you that furniture falls equally on children, regardless of whether their parents are Republicans or Democrats,” Amato wrote in an op-ed published last month in USA Today. “This is not a partisan issue.” What you should do Parents aren’t helpless as they wait on lawmakers or the furniture industry to make changes. Families can dramatically reduce the risk of tip-overs by properly anchoring items that can tip or fall to the wall. “The No. 1 excuse I hear is ‘I'm always with my kids,’” said Amato. “You aren't. You sleep. You use the bathroom. You look at your phone, the TV, or a computer while you are ‘watching’ your kids. You are human. It’s OK.” Amato reminds parents that no one thinks “it” will happen to them – whatever “it” might be. Tip-overs happen every 24 minutes, and about every 30 minutes, tipped furniture or a
falling TV sends an injured child to the emergency room. More than half of tip-overs happen in a bedroom, but it’s not just dressers that can fall: shelving units, wardrobes, televisions, and appliances can all be dangerous. “What I want to say to parents is this: You cannot tell by looking at a piece of furniture if it will tip. It doesn't matter how tall or short it is, how heavy or light it is, how old or new it is, how expensive or cheap it is, who made it or where you bought it. Physics is what causes furniture to tip,” said Amato. “You can be in the same room and be powerless to stop it.” AnchorIt.gov has tips and how-tos for securing furniture. Anti-tip straps or anti-tip kits are sold online and in-stores for as low as $5 and take as little as five minutes to install. “The money it costs to anchor everything is a small price compared to a funeral,” said Amato. “I know that sounds harsh, but I buried my beautiful little girl three days before Christmas. I share her story so you don't ever have to walk in my shoes.” For more information about Meghan and for tips on how to avoid furniture accidents, visit meghanshope.org and www. stoptipovers.org.
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A loaded question Asking about safe gun storage before playdates Don’t let stigma stop you from ensuring your child’s safety. Find out how firearms are secure and stored in a new friend’s home. BY JOAN GOODCHILD
f a child is planning to spend time with a new friend, there are many questions parents should ask before dropping off for a first playdate. Will an adult supervise play? Are there any pets in the home? Do you have a pool and is it locked? Do you have any rules about screen time or eating treats? These are all important to gauge your child’s level of health and safety while visiting a new home. But there is one question often left off the list – and it is a critical one. The question is about guns and safe firearms storage. “An estimated 4.6 million children live in homes where they have access to an unlocked or easily accessible gun. Maybe even more concerning, over 70 percent of kids know where that gun is stored in their home,” said Kyelanne Hunter, the Sarah Brady Fellow at Brady United, a national gun violence prevention
organization. “That’s why you should ask about firearms, and how they are stored when leaving your child with another family.” Hunter notes that during the COVID pandemic, gun sales are up. Numbers from the Brookings Institute find almost 3 million more firearms were sold in the months following the start of the pandemic in March than would have ordinarily been sold during those months. And with many families creating so-called educational and social “pods" to keep the virus from spreading, these conversations are more necessary than ever. There were at 241 unintended shootings by children in 2019, causing more than 100 deaths and nearly 150 injuries, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. “When everyday an estimated eight children or teens are shot as a result of family fire, a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun found in the home, simply asking about firearms can save your child’s life,” said Hunter. The Center for Gun Violence Prevention at Massachusetts General Hospital aims to prevent
firearm-related violence and to promote safety in homes and communities. The center is led by pediatric surgeon Dr. Peter Masiakos and Dr. Chana Sacks, both of whom have been personally impacted by gun violence in their lives. Masiakos urges parents not to feel uncomfortable broaching the topic of firearms in a home. “The fundamental problem here is the resistance in asking so you don’t upset someone. But it becomes moot if a child is injured or killed,” he said. Masiakos said storage practices for firearms vary widely from home to home and parents should assume, regardless of location, that the potential for a gun exists in just about any house. Everyone, from gun owners to concerned parents who want to ensure their kids’ well-being, should be open to a discussion about storage and safety. “You own a gun, you have to talk about it,” said Masiakos. “You need to talk about safely owning a weapon. Children in the home need to know they are around. The same adventurous kid who is looking around for Christmas
presents can find a gun. Have the conversation.” Masiakos also recommends that parents talk to their children about gun safety before leaving them with another family. Advise them not to touch a gun if they find one. To avoid parental bedrooms because that is the area where guns are typically kept. These pointers can go a long way in helping the child stay safe. “I think the question needs to be asked as you would ask any other safety question,” said Masiakos. “It is unusual for people to get offended if you ask them. I think we have to rethink this whole phenomenon of being uncomfortable about asking questions that provide safety.” “Talking about firearms in the home should be like asking about food allergies or other, general care questions when dropping your children off,” added Hunter. “Also, if you are a gun owner, proactively share that your guns are safely stored to friends who bring their kids over. Saying ‘just so you know, we own guns, but they are locked securely and the ammo is locked in a separate safe’ will normalize the conversation
and encourage others to ask the important questions in return.” The American Academy of Pediatrics says you should talk to your children, too. Remind your kids that if they ever come across a gun, they must stay away from it and tell you immediately.
5 questions to ask before a playdate Visiting another family's home exposes your child to a new environment. Before a playdate, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents ask these questions. Who will be watching the children? Will a parent be home, or will another adult caregiver be home? Will older siblings, other adults or relatives be there? Do you have a swimming pool or trampoline (or any other things that are potentially unsafe)? If swimming is planned, ask who will supervise. What are the parents’ rules for safety on a trampoline or other activities where children can be injured? Do you have any guns in your house? If so, how is it stored? Roughly one-third of U.S. homes with children have a gun. Tragedies have occurred when kids found guns that parents thought were hidden. What are your rules about screen/media use? If you don't want your child to watch movies that are rated higher than PG or PG-13, or to play a video game rated higher than E, let the other parent know. What pets do you have? If the family has a pet, ask if it's friendly. Let the parent know if your child is nervous or scared around animals.
Dyslexia: What to do after a diagnosis
BY MELISSA ERIKSON
hen a child is struggling in school, a diagnosis of dyslexia can be a sign of hope. “Believe it or not, the first piece of advice is to be grateful. Having a name for the reason a child is struggling is an important first step to getting services and support,” said Sheldon H. Horowitz, senior advisor of strategic innovation, research and insights at the National Center for Learning Disabilities. “The next important step is to start talking about dyslexia. Children should be helped to understand that their frustration with learning does not reflect a lack of interest or effort, that they are not less smart or less capable than their peers, and that there is no shame in needing a different type of instruction when it comes to reading,” Horowitz said. Learning and attention issues are more common than many people think, affecting 1 in 5 children.“The vast majority will have difficulties in one or more aspects of reading,” Horowitz said. Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder that impacts reading, Horowitz said. It is not a disease; it’s not contagious. It’s not something a child will outgrow. It is not the result of watching too much TV, laziness, vision or hearing problems, or low intelligence. “The medical community refers to it as a disorder, and the educational community refers to it as a specific learning disability. Others are dyscalculia, if the area of weakness is math; dysgraphia if the problem is writing and written expression,”
Horowitz said. In recent years, new developments have led to greater understanding of the benefits of early recognition of risk and the benefits of early detection, Horowitz said. “We’ve long known that ‘waiting and watching’ to see if and how literacy challenges evolve into a reading disorder is irresponsible. The good news is that a greater number of educators, especially those who teach children pre-kindergarten to grade three, are learning about structured literacy and the importance of ensuring that children have the essential building blocks needed to develop competencies in reading, spelling and writing,” he said. Real breakthroughs in identification and intervention are on the horizon. Researchers at a trio of universities have designed a mobile app that teachers can use to screen children for whom learning to read appears to be a stumbling block to their success, as early as age 4. “Working with a Boston-based nonprofit (Curious Learning) the app is played like a game, with colorful little animals that need to be fed by the correct answers and tasks that test skills such as decoding and working memory,” he said.
Parents can help their child by establishing close working relationships with school personnel. “Make sure that instructional goals are targeted to the specific needs identified in the child’s evaluation, and that progress is being monitored so that adjustments can be made without delay,” Horowitz said. Encourage reading at home. Think about reading like a braided rope with each strand representing an important component of reading development. “Parents can help by practicing the many skills that children need to master, such as phonological awareness and vocabulary learning, all of which take time and require lots and lots of practice,” Horowitz said.
WhenYour Family Asks HowThey Can Help Consider establishing a Family Special Needs Gift Trust. It enables extended family to set aside part of their estate for the benefit of a family member with a disability. In this season of giving, it’s a wonderful way to help. Contact Meredith H. Greene, Esq. firstname.lastname@example.org
Art by Dominic Killiany, an artist living with autism
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How to be a happier parent BY MELISSA ERIKSON
eing a parent is incredibly rewarding but also challenging, stressful and exhausting. There are plenty of ways to be a happier parent and enjoy the experience, no matter how overwhelming it may be. Focusing on being a happier parent is especially important during the pandemic, because a happy parent is more likely to have happy kids, said Dr. Murray Zucker, chief medical officer at Happify Health, a digital therapeutic wellness platform that includes the Happify mental health app. “Nobody is always happy. To be happy all the time is unreasonable,” Zucker said. During these hard times we should embrace happiness where we can, and that starts with ourselves. A happy parent is one
who has a sense of meaning and purpose, Zucker said. He or she is goal-oriented and has a support system of family and friends. “They’re involved, not isolated. They’re realistic about their sense of control and have good boundaries. They know how to say no,” Zucker said. All parents want to be good at parenting, but they should also aim to be happy parents, he said. You’re No. 1 “You will not feel calm, happy and resilient without paying attention to your physical self, nutrition, diet, exercise and sleep,” Zucker said. But allowing yourself some alone time is necessary to be happy, but not always possible as a parent.
This is a really challenging time as parents juggle the many issues involved with the pandemic, from virtual learning and working from home to financial stresses and insecurity over COVID-19. “Take time for yourself through meditation, mindfulness
or activities that are focused just on you. Don’t give up your interests, friends and hobbies. If you start to do that it wears away at you,” Zucker said.
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We know — there’s too much stress and too little time. But these tips can help you make the most of it.
Connect with kids Remember that your children are under pressure as well. “Schedule fixed quality one-onone time with your children. It gives them a sense of security, support and the opportunity to express themselves,” Zucker said. Be sure to stay informed about parenting and child-care resources so when issues like eating disorders, bed-wetting or hyperactivity pop up, you will know where to turn for help, he said. “Look for signs of your kids not doing well and reach out for help when needed,” Zucker said. That may include scheduling a doctor visit, contacting school officials with questions or attending a support group. Schedule a meeting Scheduling regular family meetings helps kids learn accountability and trains them in communication skills, problem solving and conflict resolution,
Zucker said. Everyone from toddlers to teens can take part. Start with gratitude statements. Have an agenda and time for discussion. Rotate the leadership of the meeting between parents and children. “It’s OK to share with children that these are tough times, and in tough times double down,” Zucker said. “Double down on the structure in your lives. Double down on the self care. Increase communication and one-on-one time.” Don’t forget to work on your relationship with your partner, husband or wife. If there are problems there, kids will pick up on it, Zucker said. “Use introspection to take a look back at your relationship with your own parents,” Zucker said. Are there certain tendencies that you should watch out for or ways that you would like to emulate their parenting? If you’re still looking for ways to add happiness, try to make someone else’s life happy, Zucker said. “Giving to others makes us feel better. When you include your children you’re modeling this good behavior for them,” he said.
Adoptions go virtual Agencies, families adapt during pandemic to COVID-19 world BY DEBBIE LAPLACA
hile the pandemic has complicated the work of finding temporary or permanent homes for kids in care, one agency is reporting that “people with more time on their hands” are showing a greater interest in both foster care and adoption. November is National Adoption Month. This year, many of the ceremonious court proceedings that finalize adoptions have been moved to ZOOM with the official documents arriving later in the mail. Susan and Wilson Molano received the adoption papers for their 7-year-old daughter by mail on May 29. “We were thinking March or April to finalize the adoption but that’s when the pandemic hit, and everything shut down,” Susan said. “We were given the option of waiting or process through the mail. We wanted to get that uncertainty settled so we chose the mail.” The Northampton area couple talked about adoption on and off for years. When their two biological daughters reached their teens, talks turned to action. After considering the options, the Molanos chose adoption
from foster care and contacted the state Department of Children & Families (DCF). “Private adoption is very expensive and there are a lot of restrictions,” Susan said. “We really wanted to help someone who was in the system to have a different fate.” DCF cares for children from infancy to age 18 and from all ethnic and economic backgrounds. When called upon, the agency arranges shelter for children in need. Placement with relatives is the preferred outcome but when that isn’t possible, children enter foster care or residential homes. According to the DCF, most of the children in such care are ages 6-12. DCF continuously recruits to maintain a large and diverse community of foster parents so children can be matched with families they relate to and who can meet their needs. While the advent of COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented circumstances for everyone involved, the work has continued by transitioning to virtual operations. The agency contracts with 10 nonprofit adoption organizations to help facilitate the adoption process. Additionally, DCF works with Newton nonprofit Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange. MARE holds the only contract in the state to
conduct child-specific recruitment of adoptive parents for children in DCF custody. In other words, MARE is a matchmaker and is credited for bringing the Molano family and their daughter together. “Our focus is on adoption from foster care and we try to have an influence,” MARE Executive Director Lisa Funaro said. “You don’t need to go to China. We have 1,200 kids who don’t have an identified family right here in the Commonwealth, and it’s our responsibility to take care of our kids.” During the pandemic shutdown in Massachusetts from March 13 through October 1, Funaro said, 220 Bay State families have adopted kids virtually. “Overall, the interest among the public for foster care and adoption has actually increased during the pandemic,” she said, adding, “People with more time on their hands are thinking about the important things in life such as starting a family. Plus, the virtual process has become timelier and more sensible.” While the number of finalized adoptions in the state has increased by 31% since 2016, the COVID-19 riddled fiscal 2020 saw 400 fewer adoptions than 2019. The most significant downtime was from mid-March to mid-May, when state agencies were figuring out how to safely handle the “kids in care.” Today, according to MARE, more than 3,400 of the 8,400 or so children presently in foster care are seeking adoption. The path to adoption differs for every prospective parent but the regulatory requirements are the same. In Massachusetts, it begins by undergoing a home study by a licensed professional. This essential early step in the process is to ensure children are placed into safe and
During the pandemic shutdown in Massachusetts from March 13 through October 1, 220 Bay State families have adopted kids virtually.
prepared homes by verifying the adoptive parent is mentally, emotionally, financially, and physically ready to raise a child. Once approved, it’s time to select one of three adoption options: from foster care, a domestic infant, or intercountry. When adoption from foster care is the path, MARE offers pre-placement and postplacement services. They provide personalized matching of children with families across the state. “We are often the first contact for families considering adoption. We help families navigate the process,” Funaro said. As for the most difficult foster children to place, Funaro said those who wait the longest are over age 13, have special needs, are in sibling groups, or are children of color. DCF services and those of its nonprofit partners, such as MARE, are at no cost to the adoptive family. The private adoptions associated with the two other options carry fees. Those seeking to grow their family with a domestic infant would work with a private agency to adopt a newborn. The chosen agency would provide all the services associated for the prospective parents and the pregnant women considering adoption, including working with the attorney involved. On this path, there are varying
degrees of openness between the adoptive parent and the birth family. The fees also vary but may include birth parent expenses. Intercountry adoption also involves working with a private agency. Families must meet the Massachusetts adoption requirements, those of the foreign country, and the U.S. Immigration Service. This method entails fees that could include travel expenses. November also holds National Adoption Day. In years past, more than 100 kids in Massachusetts were formally adopted during a ceremony at Bay State courts. This year, National Adoption Day will be celebrated on November 20, but COVID-19 restrictions will move the former in-person proceedings to ZOOM, or to administrative processes in driveby fashion. To add a bit of pomp and circumstance back to the time-honored tradition, MARE is hosting a virtual National Adoption Day celebration for 58 or so of the families who are unable to have that special day in court. More information may be found in MARE'S waiting child profiles, a resource for getting to know some of the children and teens awaiting adoption, are also online here www.mareinc.org/waiting-childprofiles#gallery To learn more about becoming a foster parent visit mass.gov/fostercare.
LOOKING FOR PARENTING SUPPORT? UMass Memorial Medical Center and New England Prenatal and Family Education offer virtual classes for expecting women, new moms, their families and support persons. Call 855-366-5221 or visit umassmemorial.org/healthymoms
Easy, no-bake Thanksgiving treats No mixing, measuring, or baking required for these too-cute Turkey Day treats. Using all storebought ingredients, these festive goodies are easy enough for kids to make all on their own.
4. 1. Turkey Oreo
3. Fruity Feather Turkey
5. Acorn Treats
Create feathers by stuffing four or five candy corns into the Oreo’s filling, point side down. Create the face by using cookie icing or frosting to attach candy eyes and a candy corn beak. Finish it off by piping on a gobbler with red cookie icing.
Using scissors, cut a Fruit Rollup in half crosswise (we used the Tropical Tie Dye flavor), then, cut a scalloped edge on one the longer edges of the rectangle. Gather together the side opposite scalloped sides. Separate cookie; place gathered side on one cookie half to make tail feathers. Top with remaining cookie half and press lightly together. Use icing or frosting to attach candy eyes and a candy corn beak. Finish it off by piping on a gobbler with red cookie icing.
Squeeze a dot of icing or frosting onto the bottom on a Hershey Kiss. Press the Kiss lightly onto the flat side of a mini Nilla Wafer cookie until they stick together. Allow to set. Then, using frosting or icing, attach a mini chocolate chip to the rounded top of the cookie.
2. Nutter Butter Maize In the microwave, melt one package of white chocolate candy melts according to directions, then stir in two tablespoons of creamy peanut butter. Stick popsicle sticks into Nutter Butter filling, then dip the cookies into the candy/peanut butter mixture to coat completely, and place on a sheet of wax paper. Press Reese’s Pieces candies into the dipped cookies in two rows. Allow to cool completely. Create a “husk” by cutting a green Airhead or piece of taffy into a leaf shape, and affix it to the back of the popsicle stick with a little melted white chocolate. 16 NOVEMBER2020
4. Pilgrim Hat Cookie Pipe white frosting around the top rim of mini Reese’s peanut butter cup. Place the peanut butter cup, frosting side down, on the center of the chocolate side of a fudge striped cookie (we used Keebler’s but any brand will work). Press down lightly to stick the two together. Cut the yellow top off a candy corn, and affix it to the white frosting as a buckle.
6. Caramel Pretzel Turkey Place pretzels on a sheet of parchment paper, and top each with Rolo candy. Microwave for about 15 seconds. Working quickly, press two candy eyes and a Reese’s Pieces nose onto the top of the softened Rolo, then insert three candy corn, point side down, into the top of the candy.
Thanksgiving Cheese Ball This festive cheesy turkey is the perfect Thanksgiving appetizer. To create it, try this classic cheese ball, or use your favorite recipe! Ingredients 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 1 green onion, chopped ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce ¼ teaspoon garlic powder ½ teaspoon dried parsley ¼ teaspoon dried oregano Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste About 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped 2 candy eyes or craft googly eyes 1 Slim Jim 1 candy corn 1 Whopper candy A few teaspoons of melted chocolate melts to adhere the eyes and "beak" Pretzel sticks Directions In a large bowl, mix together the cream cheese and cheddar cheese until smooth. Add in the green onion, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, parsley, oregano, and pepper and mix completely. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and gather the mixture into one lump. Lightly grease your hands, or use a piece of plastic wrap, and form the mixture into a round ball. Cover and place in the fridge to chill for 20 to 30 minutes. Place chopped pecans on a plate, and roll the cheese ball into the nuts on all sides, pressing lightly. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. To make the turkey head Cover the end of a Slim Jim stick with melted chocolate, and hold Whooper onto the end until chocolate cools and Whooper sticks. Add melted chocolate to the Whopper for eyes and nose. Attach the two eyes and candy corn. Place the Slim Jim face in the fridge to cool completely. Stick the Slim Jim face and pretzel “feathers” into the top of the cheese ball just before serving.
Laurie Silva Collins, known affectionately as Goose by her grandkids, is a nurse, mother and grandmother who is happiest when she’s in the kitchen, cooking and baking for those she loves. She learned to cook from her parents, and has perfected her recipes over the years while raising three daughters… and spoiling seven grandchildren. BAYSTATEPARENT 17
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Why kids should help with the cooking
hat parent doesn’t want a little extra time and for their family to be healthier? The Kids Cook Mondays initiative aims to give you both. When kids pitch in to help make a meal, not only are they more likely to eat the food being prepared, they are freeing up a parent’s time in the kitchen, said Erin Comollo, program development administrator with the Healthy Kids Initiative in the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health at Rutgers University. Spending time working together in the kitchen allows parents to be good role models while encouraging children’s confidence, independence, selfesteem and pride, Comollo said. As a child gains skills and has the opportunity to experience new things he or she is contributing to the functioning of the household. Being able to contribute makes him or her feel more confident, said Peggy Policastro, nutritionist with the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health at Rutgers University. Helping chop, pour and mix not only increases a child’s motor skills, it boosts nutritional culinary skills, Policastro said. Teaching children simple, everyday skills such as washing fruit and peeling vegetables
translates to healthy eating habits in later life when they will be cooking for themselves and their families, Comollo said. Working side by side in the kitchen is a great time to check in with children’s lives and see what’s going on with their day. It presents a great opportunity to boost social, emotional, organizational and problem-solving skills, Comollo said. Kids have to cooperate, plan, coordinate, execute orders, use sequencing, weigh, measure and more, she said. TheKidsCookMonday.org is filled with family-friendly recipes and video demonstrations. Here are some tips from Comollo and Policastro: • Use age-appropriate tools and utensils. • Let preschool-age children cut soft foods like strawberries with a child-safety knife or tear lettuce with their hands. • Practice food safety. • Show little ones how to wash their hands so they can also wash fruits and vegetables. • Refine skills as they age. • While a preschooler can add a pinch of salt to a recipe, a secondgrader can measure an 1/8 of a teaspoon. • Role model and give explicit directions. Don’t just say “cut the tomatoes,” direct a child to cut the tomato in half. • Don’t be overwhelmed. It’s worth it to cook together. For example, buy a cooked rotisserie chicken, have children shred the meat with their hands and help cut vegetables for a stir fry.
ways kids can volunteer, even from home
It’s the season of giving, but this isn’t your ordinary year. When life gives you coronavirus, you have to make do with a different approach to helping others. There are still plenty of ways to involve your children in giving back, while keeping everyone safe. Here are some ideas for how families can volunteer, even from home. Family Table: Make Cards for Isolated Seniors
Serving more than 100 towns across Greater Boston, the North Shore, and the South Area, this organization is currently helping more than local 500 families each month with groceries and connections to other services. But it’s not just food people need at this time. Children can help bring cheer to isolated older adults with a “thinking of you” card. Before getting started, find the card making directions at jfcsboston.org/volunteer/card-making-project, which has specific guidelines and tips on what kind of messages to include. You can mail the cards, or drop them off at the JF&CS headquarters in Waltham.
Project Giving Kids: At-Home Service Projects
Cradles to Crayons: Sort Essentials at Home
Serving over 200,000 children a year, this nonprofit provides resources such as school supplies and clothing to homeless and low-income children. While volunteers ages 10 and up are still needed at their Giving Factory, the organization also has opportunities to help from home. With the COVID-19 crisis exacerbating the need for essential items for many families, you can replicate volunteer stations normally facilitated in the warehouse that are sorely needed. Giving Factory At Home activities require picking up donations from the Giving Factory in Newtonville, then sorting and sizing clothing, or creating outfit or underwear, pajama and sock packs for kids. Once you’re done, you’ll return the items to the Giving Factory. Sign up at cradlestocrayons.org/boston.
ProjectGivingKids.org is like Boston Cares -- a database of local volunteer opportunities at -- but even better for families because all projects are youth-friendly. You pick a cause (aid the animals, aid the elderly, help fight hunger, comfort the sick, or support the troops are some of the options) and the site will give you a list of opportunities to give back that align with your interests. In response to coronavirus, Project Giving Kids is offering six weeks of family-friendly service project ideas to help fill the extra hours of the “school days” during these long weeks at home, with a daily book suggestion, activity, and discussion question. Also, check out “Be The Change Week” (Nov. 7-15), which will feature live Zoom workshops for kids, teens and families and fully guided service projects to do from home.
Wigs for Kids: Donate Hair
Providing Hair Replacement Systems and support for children who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, Alopecia, Trichotillomania, burns and other medical issues at no cost to children or their families, Wigs for Kids is continuing to accept hair donations throughout the pandemic. The organization does not require certified specialists to cut ponytails for donating hair to Wigs for Kids; you can go to any salon or cut the hair yourself at home. If your child is interested in donating his or her hair, go to wigsforkids.org for information or instructions. Or, kids can set a goal and start growing their hair out.
Boston Cares: Find a Virtual Project
BostonCares.org is a site that aggregates volunteer opportunities in the Greater Boston area. To become a Boston Cares member and begin signing up for projects online, you must attend a brief, one-time New Volunteer Orientation. From there, you can search for family-friendly opportunities on their calendar or by “impact area,” such as culture and environment, health and wellness, youth success, etc. The overall minimum age for all Boston Cares programs is 5 years old, but each agency partner determines the age restrictions for their projects. Responding to COVID-19, there are opportunities to volunteer alone or virtually.
NEADS: Play with Puppies
Giving back by playing with puppies? Yes, for real! NEADS, a Princeton-based nonprofit that trains service dogs, is always seeking Puppy Raisers, families who open their homes to a puppy-in-training. Puppy raisers make a 12- to 18-month long commitment to raising a puppy in their homes, either full-time or just on the weekends. If you can’t commit that much time, your family can be a weekend puppy sitter, taking puppies out of the NEADS Early Learning Center during the weekends to expose them to life in a home. To learn more about the programs, go to neads.org.
Birthday Wishes: Build a Birthday Box
This Natick-based nonprofit brings a little hope to children experiencing homelessness through the magic of a birthday party. While the monthly in-person birthday parties held at 204 shelters across four states are on pause due to the pandemic, the organization has a growing demand for their Birthday-in-a-Box program, in which brightly wrapped boxes are packed with everything needed to celebrate a birthday like party and baking supplies, decorations, and wrapped gifts for the birthday child. You can find box theme ideas and a printable supply at birthdaywishes.org/service-projects and create a box at home with your kids. But note: Birthday Wishes asks that you contact them before creating a box to confirm their real-time needs and to remain in compliance with current health and safety regulations.
November Adventures the list
family fun things to do this month
Fall Lantern Walk Anywhere Sunday, Nov. 1, dusk Free
As we turn the clocks back and cross the halfway point between fall and winter, Tinkergarten’s 8th annual Fall Lantern Walk continues as a tradition to help kids embrace change and connect to nature. Join families across the country in making homemade lanterns and heading out for a walk at dusk. Sing and enjoy the glow of your lantern against the new darkness of fall. You can take part in this year’s walk from anywhere; visit page.tinkergarten.com/lantern-walk to sign up and get free lantern making directions, how-to guides and special updates. tinkergarten.com.
Gnomvember Tower Hill Botanic Garden, West Boylston
Throughout November Adult admission $16, youth $6, children 5 and under and members free Enjoy the beautiful Tower Hill gardens and be on the lookout for cheeky resident elves this month. It is said that gnomes inhabited the Tower Hill property long before the botanic garden was built, but strangely, over the past two years, gnome activity has been on the rise. Why? Perhaps the gnomes are tired of hiding. Or maybe they are curious about the visitors, or the new garden, staff says. Ever since they started showing up, things have been going awry: horticultural staff finds pots turned over, tools missing, and muddy footprints in the Visitor’s Center. Help locate all of the mischievous gnomes, including the Head Commander, a special golden gnome. towerhillbg.org. 20 NOVEMBER2020
‘Go Out Doors’ Art Project Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, Concord Throughout November Free
Enjoy some fall foliage and visit the Umbrella Arts’ Go Out Doors exhibition of doors painted by nine artists and installed on the West Concord section of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail between Route 2 and Powder Mill Road. Discover inspiration, whimsy, connection, curiosity, and more in this public art project, which will be up until Nov. 30. Take it in with the kids on a leisurely walk or bike ride. theumbrellaarts.org.
Pizza and Hayrides Appleton Farms, Hamilton & Ipswich Fridays through Nov. 21, 4-6 p.m. Nonmember families $30, members $25
Explore the historic farm and all its spectacular grounds and animals on a hayride tour. Rides will take place every 20 minutes during Friday evening Pizza Picnics. Before or after your hayride, grab a pizza baked-to-order in their wood fire oven, and spread out for a picnic. thetrustees.org.
The Pigeon Comes to Boston Mo Willems Exhibit Museum of Science, Boston
Harvest Season Pizza Picnics Appleton Farms, Hamilton & Ipswich
Throughout November Adult admission $29, children $24, kids under 3 and members free
Caramel apples and cider donuts. Pumpkins in the field. Enjoy all the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of autumn during Appleton Farm’s weekend Harvest Season Pizza Picnics. Family-friendly activities including wagon rides, historic tours, pasture walks, and hay bale parkour offered. Grab a pizza baked in the wood fire oven, made freshto-order by hand. Beer, cider, and other snacks available. thetrustees.org.
Visit the whimsical world of beloved children's book author Mo Willems and his cast of lovable characters, including best friend duo Elephant Gerald and Piggie, faithful companion Knuffle Bunny, and The Pigeon, the wily city bird best known for his antics in Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! In this temporary exhibit, recommended for preschoolers through fourth graders, young learners can watch Elephant and Piggie dance with old-time animation, spin a washing machine to look for Knuffle Bunny, and launch foam hot dogs at The Pigeon. Simple stories inspire play and reveal the rich, emotional lives of Mo's characters. The challenges of growing up, like learning to make yourself understood, or figuring out what it means to be a good friend, are gentle themes throughout this interactive exhibit. mos.org.
Saturdays & Sundays throughout November, 12-4 p.m
The Great Pumpkin Chuck and Family Hike Chestnut Hill Farm, Southborough
Saturday, Nov. 7, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; 12:30-2 p.m.; 2-3:30 p.m. Nonmember adult $20, children $15; members $12/$9 Work off all that candy and chuck that soggy jack-o-lantern! Take an easy, guided family hike around the farm trails, then gather at the farm’s catapult to watch staff launch your old pumpkins. Children will get a kick out of watching their old jack-o-lanterns fly through the air and smash to the ground to become compost. Whose pumpkin will fly the farthest? It’s always fun to see! Enjoy a campfire, pumpkin bowling, children’s crafts, hot cocoa, hot cider, s’mores and popcorn. Registration required by emailing email@example.com. thetrustees.org.
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Fire Pit Fridays Fruitlands Museum, Harvard
Fridays, Nov. 6, 13, 20, 7-9 p.m. Nonmember families $75, members $60
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Don’t let the chillier weather keep you cooped up inside. Head to Fruitlands on Friday evenings for a cozy night under the stars. Reservations include a private fire pit for up to six people, s’mores fixings and roasting sticks for your group, hot chocolate and hot spiced apple cider. thetrustees.org.
Meteor Madness Family Hike Rocky Woods, Medfield
Saturday, Nov. 14, 4-6 p.m. Nonmember families $30, members $24
A hands-on museum for families that blends science, nature, and play.
Enjoy a guided night hike at Rocky Woods during one of the season’s meteor showers. Hike by flashlight over moderate terrain to the summit of Cedar Hill, and hopefully, see lots of shooting stars. Even if you don’t, it’s a great chance for a night hike in a beautiful area. Pre-registration required. thetrustees.org.
Boston International Kids Film Festival Virtual Nov. 20-22 $55
This online three-day film festival will feature 70 films representing 17 countries. The films will be broken up into nine blocks with a live Q&A session after each block. The BIKFF introduces young people and their families to the best that the world of independent filmmaking has to offer, screening both professionally and student-made films from around the globe. Filmmakers present documentaries, animated shorts, and short narrative films appropriate for children of all ages. Access for $55 includes all nine blocks for a 7-day period; single program tickets are also available for films streaming during the event. Links to view the film blocks will be provided upon ticket purchase. bikff.org.
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4 family gratitude activities
Thanksgiving comes Thursday, Nov. 26, but there’s no reason the gratitude can’t start early. Finding and focusing on the good (especially in years like this), is good for families, and kids in particular. A daily gratitude practice has science-backed benefits: according to research, being grateful decreases stress and negative thinking while increasing happiness and social intelligence. Check out these four fun ways to introduce a gratitude practice to your family, and start counting your blessings.
This couldn’t be easier… all you need is a pumpkin and a sharpie! Have each family member name something they’re thankful for everyday, and write the answers on the pumpkin. By Thanksgiving, you’ll have a pumpkin centerpiece full of happiness.
Grateful Snaps Gratitude Tree
This one is particularly fun for little ones. Go outside and collect some sticks to put into a small vase, mason jar, cup, etc. (If you want, you can fill the vase with rocks or acorns for a more finished look.) Cut leaf shapes out of colored construction paper (we hunted for leaves outside to trace, too!). Punch a hole in the top of each leaf, and loop and tie a piece of ribbon or twine to each. Each day, ask your child something they’re thankful for. Write their answer on a leaf, and let them hang it from the branches.
A photo challenge is great for teens or tweens who are attached to their phones. Encourage them to take a photo every day for a month of something they’re thankful for. It could be their coziest blanket, best friend, backyard treehouse, etc. Each week, look at the photos together and talk about what makes them grateful. At the end of the month, you can print the photos and make a gratitude album or poster.
Wreath of Thanks
Wrap ribbon around a styrofoam wreath and secure with it ballhead straight pins. Cut leaves out of colored paper or cardstock. Each day, ask kids to write what they’re feeling grateful for on a leaf, and pin it to the wreath. To hang, pin a loop of string or twine to the back of the wreath.
A GOOD PARTY IS ALWAYS IN SEASON!
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take eight with
Parenthood can cause even the most patient person to lose it sometimes. With that in mind, Dr. Carla Naumburg, a clinical social worker based in Newton, had two goals when writing the book, “How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Calmer, Happier Parent” – to teach parents how to stay calm and patient in challenging parenting moments, and to reduce the shame that parents feel around this totally common parent/child dynamic. Here, she shares some advice on how we can keep our cool around our kids.
Dr. Carla Naumburg Author of “How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids”
Why a book about parents losing it? We parents are losing our shit, and that sucks and we all want to do better but we don’t know how. Also, because staying calm when everything is falling apart is the key to eternal happiness. Ok, maybe not eternal happiness, but it is necessary to get the chaos under control rather than contributing to it. I loved what you said about there being no such thing as a bad parent. Can you explain that? Don’t get me wrong. There are parents who make less-than-ideal parenting choices. But rather than calling them “bad parents,” I think we should call them “human parents” or perhaps “every single one of us parents” or maybe “parents who don’t have the right support, resources, and information.” The one thing I don’t want to call them is “bad parents,” because that sort of label is shaming and shitty and leaves parents feeling isolated and stuck and that’s not helpful for anyone. Explain a little more what you say in your book, that “calmer parents make for calmer kids?” Look, we’re not responsible for our kids’ shenanigans. But we don’t want to make everything crazier than it already is. And whether we like it or not, our kids are totally tuned in to how and what we’re doing. It’s a survival mechanism that evolved over generations because we are literally the adults who keep them alive. The bad news is that if we’re falling apart, our kids are going to take their cue from us, and ramp up their stress. The good news is that the opposite is also true. Now, we’re not Jedi’s and we can’t mind-trick our kids to calm down, but the calmer we get, the more we’ll send the family energy in the right direction. You mentioned that too much information and too many experts are making parenting harder. What do you mean by that? I know this is a bit rich coming from someone who has written three parenting books, but hear me out. The right advice can be helpful, but there comes a tipping point where we’re getting too much advice and that makes us crazy. It can increase our stress, anxiety, and self-doubt and set us off on unhelpful paths to change aspects of our parenting that may not need to be fixed. All of this makes us more likely to lose it with our kids, which is the opposite of awesome.
How can understanding brain science help people parent their kids? In the moment when your kids are pushing your buttons and you’re about to explode, it can be hard (if not impossible) to keep things in perspective. Why can’t they stop hopping around the freaking kitchen and just put on their shoes, which you’ve only asked them to do twenty-seven times? Sometimes, our kids’ shenanigans can feel like personal attacks; after all, you can’t get more personal than your own kids. This is when the whole brain science thing can be helpful. When we can remember that our kids literally don’t yet have a prefrontal cortex— the part of their brain that helps them make plans, follow through with said plans, and regulate their emotions—it can help us have a little more compassion and patience for everyone involved.
What is a trigger? Anything that makes it more likely that we’ll lose our shit with our kids. The most common triggers for parents are exhaustion, stress, and anxiety, but there are lots of other triggers too, including difficult anniversaries, chronic pain, an obnoxious conversation with that annoying parent on the playground at pick up, or bad news from your boss or your doctor or social media. When we’re triggered, our sympathetic nervous kicks us into fight, flight, freeze, or freak out mode. It makes our buttons huge and glowing and super pushable, and when our kids come along and push them, we lose it.
How does multitasking make parents lose it? Multitasking makes us crazy. We think we’re being all awesome and adulty, but the truth is that trying to do multiple things at once increases our stress and anxiety and makes us all tense. This is not the awesome adultiness we’re going for. When we take the time to do just one thing at a time whenever possible, our nervous system calms down and we make it far less likely that we’re going to break, drop, forget, or lose things, including our minds and our shit.
How can parents prevent themselves from losing it? Sadly, there is no iron-clad guarantee that we’ll never lose it again. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to make it far less likely that we’ll explode, and these steps will also make our freak-outs less frequent and intense. Basically, we want to reduce our triggers when we can, and take care of ourselves in specific ways that will make our buttons smaller, dimmer, and less pushable. I have a whole list of such practices in the book. They’re not rocket science, but they may require some habit changes on our part. The most powerful practices involve getting some sleep, reaching out to our support system when we’re struggling, and having a whole lotta compassion for ourselves when the shit hits the fan anyway, as it inevitably will.
– Cheryl Maguire BAYSTATEPARENT 23
Emergency care isn’t one-size-fits-all. At UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center, we know kids. We know they have unique physical and mental health needs separate from adults. We know that one-size-ﬁts-all is not how health care works, especially in an emergency situation. That’s why our Children’s Emergency Room is speciﬁcally designed with your child in mind. As the only Level 1 ER in the region, we offer a dedicated kid-focused setting with an emergency staff, trained in pediatric care, available 24/7. From major medical emergencies to life’s little mishaps, the right ﬁt can make all the difference to minimize stress for your entire family. At UMass Memorial, you’ll ﬁnd the right ﬁt and the right care — right around the corner.
To learn more, visit umassmemorial.org/PediER. UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center — University Campus 55 Lake Avenue North, Worcester, MA 01655