Keeping your holidays truly green

Regardless of whether you’re into “the holidays” or not the following article offers fabulous advice. Take heed. Enjoy the family time!

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4 Gifts for Christmas: How to Make Your Family Happy With Less

Inside: Recapture the magic of the holidays by giving just 4 gifts for Christmas! Here are the “gotchas” to avoid plus the best “want need wear read” gift ideas.

One Christmas when my oldest was a preschooler, something shifted compared to previous holiday seasons. Instead of getting a couple cute onesies and board books as gifts from loved ones, she got piles and piles of presents.

Grandparents on both sides sent gifts. Extended relatives. Family friends.

Not to mention the gifts we’d gotten her ourselves.

That Christmas morning, it took forever for Abby to get through opening all the toys and gadgets and gifts. Then about five presents in, the light went out in her eyes.

She would carefully undo the tape on the wrapping, open the box, pull out the gift, and set it on the teetering stack next to her. Then she’d look up with a small smile, say “thank you,” and move onto the next gift.

She could no longer get excited because she was absolutely overwhelmed.

Bonus: As a bonus for joining my weekly newsletter, download a special 4-gift wish list FREE printable for your child.

Without the 4-gift rule, your kids are just plain overwhelmed

We Had to Make a Change

That night lying next to each other in bed, my husband and I talked about how Abby became almost robot-like when she hit that point of overwhelm.

That’s not what we wanted our holiday season to be about – overloading our child with gifts until she has to shut down just to cope with the excess of stuff. Plus, we wanted to try to have another baby one day, so we knew that sort of gift-giving free-for-all wouldn’t be sustainable as our family grew.

That night, I Googled “how to keep Christmas from getting out of control” and stumbled on the tradition of giving 4 gifts for Christmas – a simple guideline that’s supposed to help you keep the holiday season focused on what really matters. With the 4-gift rule, each person gets just four gifts for Christmas:

  1. Something you want,
  2. Something you need,
  3. Something to wear, and
  4. Something to read.

Not just a catchy little rhyme, the 4-gift rule for Christmas promises to help keep your holiday season from devolving into a materialistic frenzy of more, more, more and helps you stick to a reasonable budget.

But more important than that, many parents report that giving just four gifts for Christmas can help you raise kids who appreciate what they have instead of following in Dudley Dursley’s footsteps and throwing a temper tantrum when they end up with 36 presents instead of last year’s 37.

This Is What Giving 4 Gifts for Christmas Really Looks Like

We were excited to start the “want need wear read” tradition, but we had to wait a whole year. Starting in July, we were already thinking ahead to what special gifts would make the cut with the 4-gift rule.

But by the time November hit, I started feeling a little panicky. By shifting so abruptly from the excessive haul of gifts last year to just 4 things for Christmas this year, would we ruin the magic of Christmas for Abby?

My husband and I were relieved to have the 4-gift rule to rein ourselves in when it came to buying gifts for each other because we tended to go overboard with each other, too. But we couldn’t shake our worries about what the 4-present rule would do to our daughter’s experience on Christmas morning.

After lots of debate and second-guessing ourselves, this is what we ultimately decided on for her 4 gifts for Christmas that year:

  • What Abby wanted most of all was an American Girl doll, so that was her “something you want.”
  • A big package of colorful socks for her growing little feet was her “something you need.”
  • For “something to wear,” a pretty new dress.
  • And for “something to read,” a set of classic Beverly Cleary paperbacks.

We didn’t completely get the grandparents and extended family bought into the 4-present tradition, but they did tone it way down compared to the previous year. Their gifts tended to be mostly books and clothes instead of plastic toys that would end up collecting dust on a shelf within a week.

So…Did We Ruin Christmas Morning?

That was Abby’s last Christmas as an only child, and the three of us stayed in our jammies that morning while opening presents. Her pile of presents was easily a fourth of the size of the previous year’s massive pile.

My husband and I sat on the floor next to her, sipping our coffee. Because we didn’t have a huge stack of presents to get through ourselves, we could afford to pause with her after each gift to appreciate what it was and who it came from.

And the light never went out of her eyes.

She didn’t hit that point of overwhelm. She didn’t turn into a robot going through the motions of opening presents. She stayed in the moment with us, enjoying the delight of a few thoughtful surprises.

Ever since that holiday season, we’ve stuck with the 4-gift rule, and it’s been a game-changer for taming the excess of the holiday season.

We especially love how the “want need wear read” tradition brings a sense of intention to our gift-giving. Because when you’re giving just 4 gifts for Christmas, they end up being incredibly thoughtful gifts – not random gadgets or trinkets you get just to get something, even though you know they’ll soon end up shoved in a closet or somewhere else out of sight, forgotten and collecting dust.

All this to say: Our new tradition of giving each other just 4 gifts for Christmas didn’t ruin our Christmas. It saved our Christmas.

But What About…?

As with any family tradition, you’ll have to make the 4-gift rule your own so it feels right to you and your family. But here are some common “gotchas” with shifting to giving 4 gifts for Christmas and suggestions for how you can avoid them.

To be clear, I’m certainly not the be-all-end-all expert on this topic. But I have picked the brains of every family I know who’s started giving just 4 gifts for Christmas. Below, you’ll find the culmination of tips and tricks from many, many families who’ve adopted the 4-gift rule. For example:

  • Do you follow the 4-gift rule for stockings, too?
  • How do you handle it when your kids expect more than 4 gifts for Christmas?
  • What about gifts from siblings to one another?
  • How can you get grandparents and extended family on board with limiting gifts?
  • How do you handle Santa gifts?

After that, you’ll find a list of the best “want need wear read” gift ideas. Enjoy!

Do you follow the 4-gift rule for stockings, too?

Just like with too many gifts under the tree, an overflowing stocking can be overwhelming for kids, too. Instead of filling your kids’ stockings with small plasticky junk that will end up broken or lost within a few days, consider going for quality over quantity.

A few ideas for how to get a fun (but less overwhelming) mix of stocking stuffers:

  • Replace several “stuff” gifts with one or two of these small but meaningful giftsthat make the perfect stocking stuffers for kids.
  • Make a special treat, like your child’s favorite kind of cookie or a chocolate goody. Or if you’re not great in the kitchen, pick up a special ready-made treat like a chocolate bar from the fancy chocolate section of the grocery store. One high-quality treat can teach little ones to savor what they have instead of a whole bag of junky treats that they inhale without really appreciating.
  • Add a card game that will be fun for the whole family to play. You can check my list of the best board games and card games for all ages for ideas, but to save you time I’ll list our favorite card games here real quick: Sleeping QueensSushi Go!SwishUnoCreate and Tell Me A Story, and Spot It!.

How do you handle it when your kids expect more than 4 gifts for Christmas?

If your kids are young, they likely won’t even notice the shift to 4 gifts for Christmas. Our daughter was almost five when we made the change, and she didn’t think anything of it.

Some kids end up loving the smallest, least expensive gift most of all anyway. Not to mention that toddlers and preschoolers tend to be happiest playing with the cardboard boxes the gifts came in!

But if your kids are older and tend to be concerned with how many gifts they get each year, you may want to get them on board upfront to head off any hint of disappointment on Christmas morning. If your kids are old enough to remember how many gifts they got last year and to expect the same or more this year, they’re old enough for a frank discussion about gift giving and what’s most important during the holiday season.

You can do this in a few different ways, depending on what will resonate best with your kiddos:

  • Reminisce together – One night at dinner, start a conversation about gifts and the ones that stick with you. For example, you can try asking, “What’s your favorite gift you’ve ever received? Something you still remember, even if it was a while ago?” Go ahead and share your answer, too. You may find that everyone’s favorite gifts were the kind that give you treasured memories, not gifts that come from a store. That can open the door to a discussion about how you can give each other that kind of gift this holiday season instead of just a bunch of stuff that will be forgotten.
  • Give them a higher purpose – As a family, read a children’s book about how some people may not have all the same things your family has. One picture book that made a huge impact on my kids was A Chair for My Mother. In my preschooler’s words: “I liked it when the whole town helped the family.” For tweens and teens, you can watch a documentary with them like Living On One Dollar. Then you can start a discussion about how some others may not have enough food for their families, or a home to keep them warm, or shoes that fit their feet. You might try asking your kids something like, “This Christmas, how could we help people who need food and clothes?” If they don’t take the bait, you can go ahead and plant the seed: “Could we save some money that we usually spend on gifts for ourselves to help others who need it more than we do?”
  • Be upfront – If what led you to the 4-gift rule is the promise of keeping your holiday budget under control, go ahead and let your kids know. It’s good for kids to understand that adults have to make choices about how to spend money, and they’re not always easy choices – because they’ll have to make those choices one day, too. Just be careful not to stress your kids out with adult-level money concerns. For example, you might say, “Typically, we spend a lot of money on Christmas gifts, but that means when we want or need something next year, we may not have the money for it. So this year, we’re going to focus on giving a few awesome gifts instead of lots of just okay gifts.” If your kids aren’t familiar with the phrase “quality over quantity” yet, now would be a good time to introduce that concept.

You can also share a want need wear read Christmas list printable with your kids instead of asking them to write a typical free-for-all wish list. At the end of this post, you can download a free want need wear read Christmas printable that you can print and share with your kids.

What about gifts from siblings to one another?

Encouraging siblings to think of others is a good thing, but giving one gift to each other should be plenty to help kids learn the art of gift giving. Our favorite way to get our kids excited about giving gifts to each other is the Sibling Super Secret Spy Shopping Trip.

Still, if you have more than two kids, every kid getting a gift for every sibling can quickly add up. In that case, you can have the kids draw names from a hat, Secret Santa style.

How can you get grandparents and extended family on board with limiting gifts?

This is a common issue for many families, so I put together a list of all the best ideas for how to politely request no Christmas gifts or fewer gifts. Because we all know simply saying “no Christmas gifts please” won’t cut it.

How do you handle Santa gifts?

Full disclosure: In my family, we don’t do Santa gifts. But here are a few ideas I heard from other families who do incorporate Santa into their holiday traditions:

  • Follow the 4-gift rule for gifts from you to your kids, then give one special “Santa gift.” If your kids are used to more gifts than that, you can explain that Santa’s sleigh is only so big, and he has millions of children to visit every Christmas Eve, so he can fit only one gift per child. Watching a movie like The Polar Express can help reinforce this “one gift from Santa” message.
  • Explain that every year, more and more kids are being born, and Santa is having trouble fitting bigger gifts in his sleigh. This year, he’s switching to filling stockings instead of leaving gifts under the tree.
  • Make Santa’s gift an experience gift for the whole family. For example, Santa could gift your whole family a movie night in a box, a monthly subscription box, or everything you need for a family camping trip including s’mores fixin’s (even if it’s just in your own backyard or living room!). Our favorite subscription box for kids is from Kiwi Crates. These monthly hands-on projects are perfect for curious kids, kids who love science, creative kids, kids who love to tinker, and more…in other words, every kid. We received this as a gift last year, and my kids run to the mailbox on the day it’s due to arrive every month. To get $10 off your first Kiwi Crate subscription box, click here and use the coupon code SHARE10.

24 “Want Need Wear Read” Gift Ideas for Kids

The first year we sat down to figure out 4 gifts for Christmas for everyone in our immediate family, we drew a blank on a couple of the categories.

In a free-for-all gift giving situation, it doesn’t matter if some gifts are duds because you have tons of other gifts to pick up the slack. But when you start the 4-gift tradition with your family, you may find yourself wanting to make sure each gift is stellar. If your child is getting just 4 gifts for Christmas, there’s no room for duds.

Because it can be a little more challenging to find the perfect gift to fit into each “want need wear read” category, here are a few “want need wear read” gift ideas for you.

Something You Want

For “something you want,” it’s your chance to give your child the one thing you know will make their little face light up. This may be the easiest category to tackle because a lot of kids have one wish list item they’ve been talking about for weeks (or months), whether that’s a toy, electronics, or a brand new art set to replace a hodge-podge mess of broken crayons and dried-out markers.

On the other hand, some kids – especially younger kids – may change what’s at the top of their wish list on a daily basis. In that situation, you know your child best and what will delight her. In our family, we try to go with a gift idea our preschooler has mentioned a few times rather than a gift idea she first heard about the week before Christmas.

But if your child doesn’t have a clear “want,” check out this huge list of The Most Meaningful Gifts for Kids Who Have Everything. To save you some time, here are the top 3 most popular gift ideas from that list:

  • Make a date once a month. Most kids want nothing more than one-on-one time with the important people in their lives, so gift them a year of monthly “dates”of special one-on-one time with you.How to Wrap It: Grab 12 colorful envelopes like these, label them with the months, and insert a card or brochure about each special day. Activities could include going out for ice cream, bowling, seeing a movie together, or anything else the child would enjoy doing with you. For more ideas, check out this mom’s story of how she put this gift together.
  • Take them somewhere super fun. Get tickets to your child’s favorite local amusement park, theme park, or water park – or make plans for some other extra special outing like a bouncy house center, indoor rock climbing gym, trampoline park, bowling alley, miniature golf course, skating rink, or any other place they’d love to go. Your child will get the gift of an awesome day when you take them on this special outing, plus they’ll build memories that will stick with them for a long time.How to Wrap It: Print a photo of where you’re taking them (or a promotional flyer would work too) and wrap that.
  • Send a monthly box of fun. You can find a monthly subscription box for just about anything nowadays, from art projects to science experiments. And even though you’re technically gifting a subscription box to the kids, parents benefit too because you’re helping keep the kids busy with a new project once a month! Our favorite subscription box ever is from Kiwi Crates because the fun hands-on projects in their boxes are custom tailored to every age from newborns (yes, really!) to teenagers and everything in between. We received this as a gift last year, and my kids run to the mailbox on the day it’s due to arrive every month. For more subscription box ideas, check out The Most Meaningful Gifts for Kids Who Have Everything.How to Wrap It: Typically, you can pick the date of the first box delivery and add a special note from you to the recipient inside the box to let them know to expect a new box every month.
To get $10 off your first Kiwi Crate subscription box, click here and use the coupon code SHARE10

Something You Need

If your family is blessed to be able to provide for your children’s needs when they crop up instead of waiting for birthdays and holidays, this category may be a challenge.

Here are a few ideas of things kids tend to need:

  • Shoes to replace ones that are worn out or too small
  • sturdy backpack to replace one that’s falling apart
  • If they play sports: sports equipment or gear like a new soccer ball, volleyball, and so on
  • bike helmet if they’ve outgrown their current helmet (same goes for knee and elbow pads)
  • A winter coat
  • A sleeping bag if they’ve outgrown the one they have
  • Underwear, socks, and/or belts (by the way, Solmate Socks are my kids’ favorite because you can wear them mismatched!)
  • A lunch box and/or reusable water bottle (we love the Klean Kanteen water bottles for kids because they’re all stainless steel and super durable)
  • Pajamas
  • An annual planner or calendar to keep track of school deadlines and extracurricular commitments

Something to Wear

The obvious choice here is clothing, but here are a few creative gifts that also work in this category:

Something to Read

For kids who enjoy reading, this category is a no-brainer. The hard part may be picking just one book to gift!

Because my oldest tends to devour fiction quickly and doesn’t re-read it unless it’s an all-time favorite like Harry Potter, I try to gift books she’ll enjoy coming back to again and again, like how-to guides or project-based books. (This year, I’m considering getting her a copy of Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverted Kids, which she checked out from the library and loved.)

For my preschooler and toddler, I pay attention to which picture books we’ve checked out from the library and they ask to read again and again, then I’ll get them a copy of their very own so we can read that favorite to them anytime they want.

But if you have a child who doesn’t enjoy reading, don’t despair because here are a few creative ideas for the “something to read” category:

  • Subscribe to a fun magazine. Kids love getting mail addressed just to them, and they’ll be building their reading skills without even realizing it. Plus, most kids’ magazines include activity and craft ideas for kids. And after the kids are done reading, they can pass the magazine along to a friend. A few ideas for you: HighlightsRanger Rick Jr, or anything in the Cricket magazine family like Ladybug for 3- to 6-year-olds, Cricket for 9- to 14-year-olds, and more.
  • Share your childhood favorite. What was your favorite book as a child? Get a copy to share with the child, and write a special note on the inside cover about why it’s your favorite. That personal touch may be just the nudge they need to give it a go.
Tg through each category, but your child can also fill it out independently and give it to you when she’s done.

Here’s a sneak peek of your 4-gift rule wish list:

Skip the baby shower: Why some moms need postpartum parties after birth

BY  

There’s nothing wrong with showering a mom-to-be with a small party, but some experts say postpartum parties may be more beneficial.

A postpartum party is exactly what it sounds like — a get-together (or two) post-birth to help parents cope with a new child. And while they don’t need to replace baby showers necessarily, some say it could be a good gesture, especially if women are going through postpartum depression.

“I don’t think we have to get rid of baby showers as they can be really helpful to welcome a new baby and a wonderful celebration, but this idea of emphasizing a new mother’s experience is an extremely beneficial one,” said Parenting coach Julie Romanowski. “Recognizing that they are both different events for two very different reasons, is important to note.”

READ MORE: Strep A ‘slightly more common’ in postpartum women

And with the birth of a child, the conversation around postpartum depression is often left out of the conversation, she adds.

“The main benefit [of these parties] would be that it is a clear acknowledgement of a very important time in a women’s life that can have many challenges and be quite difficult to handle,” she explained. “The celebration of this time helps spark a positive tone to the new mom that she is not alone, people want to help and there is visible action to those who say they ‘support’ you.”

Throwing a party

A postpartum party can be a gathering of close friends or a single visit where parents have “visitation hours” for people to drop in. Sometimes these parties can extend over a two-month period, ABC notes, allowing friends and family members to offer services for mom and child.

“If you’re the one hosting the two-month-long soiree, reach out to potential visitors and let them know what you truly need (food, cleaning, babysitting, etc.) over the next few weeks of recovery. If you’re the party-planning friend, consult the new mom on who her network of people are that she looks to for mental support,” the site notes.

READ MORE: Why new moms often don’t get enough exercise after birth

Postpartum party gift ideas can include bringing meals for the new parents, making a care package or even offering time to clean their home.

“Some may just want help, some may want a huge bash and others may just want to be surrounded by love. Keep the conversation open and make flexible options the main theme,” Romanowski said.

‘It’s not just about parties and fun’

Behind all the fun, it’s important to remember why new moms may need help post-birth to begin with.

“It’s not just about parties and fun,” she continued. “The serious component and struggle is usually kept quiet but it is in these particular areas that support is needed… good old-fashioned ‘emotional’ support.”

READ MORE: Mom shares postpartum photo to show ‘realistic’ side of giving birth

And not all new moms will be open about it either, Romanowski said, so it’s important to give them space. In time, if a mom agrees to a postpartum party, it can help her cope.

“It’s hard to be vulnerable and open up to people that things are hard or challenging, so this idea allows it to be more ‘normalized’ and not such a taboo thing. I think this idea is great for parents all the time,” she continued. “Parenting struggles are not just during the newborn/infant times. They can last many, many years and support is needed on an on-going basis.”

How Leaving A Toxic Ex Led Me To True Happiness & Love

by Ayana Iman

At 21, I found out I was pregnant. I was devastated. As a first-generation college student, I was ready to take on the world and start my career. Instead, I was dealing with one of the biggest decisions of my life: to keep the child or not. I chose to become a mom. Accepting motherhood wasn’t the hardest part, it was knowing the child’s father was not ready to be a man.

There were moments, more than I’d like to admit, that gave me a glimpse of what life would look like in the future. He was short-tempered, irrational, and a cheater. In my mind, I thought I could change him, and that the birth of our child would bring us closer together. My pregnancy was spent trying to convince myself that we would make it by playing house. There was no amount of cooked meals, feeding his ego, or promises that could undo the inevitable.

After two weeks of giving birth, I was back in my family’s home with a newborn. Living together proved to be more of a burden than what it was worth. I was so concerned with the optics of what a family looked like that I forget I was important too. More fragile than ever before, I needed to be surrounded by love and kindness.

There is no way you can fully extend love to your child without giving it to yourself first.

 

Our relationship fell into a pattern of harsh breakups and emotional makeups. We were young and inexperienced with these kinds of issues. Eventually, we parted ways. Therapy helped me break the cycle of trying to make it work. I remember sitting on a big brown couch in what was supposed to be couples therapy, alone. The therapist, a white middle-aged man, asked me, “Why do you stay and allow yourself to get hurt?” I didn’t have an answer. I’m sure back then I thought it was because the family was important to me, but now I think it was a learned behavior. The long-suffering (girlfriend) wasn’t a new concept to me; it surrounded me like an invisible cloak, both familiar and toxic. By the next session, I had decided to start a new chapter as a single mom. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

I firmly believe that once you let go of things that no longer serve you will be rewarded with peace of mind.

My renewed spirit made space for laughter and love. I went from crying myself to sleep from unanswered calls to sleeping peacefully next to my child. There was no longer a need to crack the password to his Facebook account or call family members to confirm his whereabouts. I was free. The kind of freedom that only comes when you choose your happiness over others.

For what it’s worth, this was the first time since I started dating at 15 that I had experienced this type of control over my love life. Usually, I stayed too long in relationships that had run its course or waited until the other person did something so egregious that it made it easy for me to leave. I got the hint this time and finally took back my power. This meant learning who I was without the approval of a man, finding out my likes and dislikes, as well as creating healthy boundaries.

If you’re a parent and questioning your relationship, I suggest asking yourself the following questions:

  • If there wasn’t a child involved, would your relationship be over?
  • Does your partner exhibit toxic traits?
  • Have the attempts to fix the relationship been unsuccessful?
  • Do you have doubts about their loyalty?
  • Do you feel unsupported?

If you answered yes to any of the questions, then it may be time to consider your options. If you answered no, great, there’s still hope. All relationships are susceptible to rough patches and if it’s worth fighting for then do the work.

My child’s father became a footnote in a bigger love story, a journey that led me to a healthy relationship with my partner of five years. This man loved my baby and me and proudly assumed the fatherhood role. There was hope for me, and I know there’s hope for you too.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you’d love to share, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

Lying down with your kids until they fall asleep is not a bad habit

Before we know it, there will be closed doors and independence, and we will pine for the days when she needed to feel our hand on her back before she felt safe enough to drift to sleep.

It’s 8 p.m., and we’re segueing from the hectic high of the day to the mellow low of kid bedtime.

Downstairs, an explosion of dishes, laundry and toys is waiting to be dealt with. Upstairs, the kids are begging for a story, a glass of water, a hug—anything to keep us with them for one more minute. All I want is to wrap up this part of the day so I can descend into the fray before I lose the energy to scrub the pots.

“Mommy, will you lie down with me?” my daughter asks. And I sigh because it’s not really on the schedule. But I also don’t want to do the dishes. So I get under her pink duvet in the quiet dim of her room, and she pulls my face close. She smells like bath soap and warm milk, and she whispers, “Let’s talk about our day.”

It’s a ritual we started when she was small, as part of the last moments we spend together every night. We reflect on the day: What was fun, what was tough, what made us happy, what made us sad. It’s here in her bed that I learn the most about her, and she learns the most about me. And sometimes it’s the first time all day we’ve actually touched in a meaningful way. Inevitably she closes her eyes she pulls my hand toward her, comforted in the knowledge that I’m right beside her.

I never intended to be a parent who would lie down with her kids until they fell asleep. On the contrary, I had it in my head that kids should fall asleep on their own, tucked in with the lights off. Not just because we still have a life to live after our children are in bed, but because I believed it was in their best interest to self-soothe without us.

My beliefs have shifted in the nearly five years since I became a parent. My oldest daughter has always needed us close by to fall asleep. We rocked her to sleep as a newborn, sung her to sleep as an infant, and rubbed her back to sleep as a toddler. Even now she still needs us close by—often in her room, but preferably in her bed. Is this a terrible habit that we’ve facilitated? Maybe. But at the end of the day, does it really matter?

The truth is, she will learn to fall asleep on her own soon enough. We won’t be sending her to university with a clone of ourselves that she can snuggle in her dorm room. Before we know it, there will be closed doors and independence, and we will pine for the days when she needed to feel our hand on her back before she felt safe enough to drift to sleep.

The idea of lying down with your children—along with other child-centred practices like feeding on demandbaby-wearing and co-sleeping—form the basis of attachment parenting, a style that seems to fall in line with my parenting values.

Attachment parenting (AP) isn’t one strict set of guidelines. Instead, it’s a general child-rearing philosophy that emphasizes physical support and comfort to provide children with a sense of safety when they need it.

6 ways to help your child get a good night’s sleepAccording to Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, there’s evidence that attachment parenting actually sets kids up for success as adults. “When you separate the popular exaggerations of AP from the more objectively oriented scientific studies, it’s a sensible approach that fosters physical and psychological health in children,” Whitbourne writes in a 2013 article in Psychology Today. “We do know from extensive research … that securely attached adults have happier and less conflict-ridden lives. There’s even research to suggest they may be better parents themselves.”

One such set of research was conducted in 2010 by Patrice Marie Miller and Michael Lamport Commons at Harvard Medical School.

“Attachment Parenting consists of continuing to be highly responsive to the child,” Miller and Commons write in their paper, “The Benefits of Attachment Parenting For Infants and Children.” “The benefits … include less exposure to stress, which effects [sic] brain development and later reactions to stress. This has been shown to reduce mental health problems in later development.”

“Another important psychological benefit is secure attachment, which is the tendency of the child to seek contact with a parent when distressed and to be effectively consoled by that contact. The result of more effective emotion regulation and secure attachment … is that children engage more effectively with essential developmental tasks, including peer relationships and schooling.”

Of course, not every child needs their parents to help them regulate stress and anxiety in the same way. My youngest daughter is usually able to fall asleep on her own, but her needs have always been different than her sister’s.

I’ve come to learn that because my kids are so fundamentally different, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to raising them. And as they grow, their needs—and what they need from me as their parent—will continue to evolve.

I don’t know what goes through my oldest daughter’s mind as she lies down at night waiting for sleep to come. I don’t know her worries and stresses, nor do I really understand the degree to which my presence helps her put those worries aside.

All I know is that as long as she needs my body next to hers, I will be there for her. Giving her my arms when she needs to feel me close, and giving her space when she needs to feel independent. I will always try to be a responsive and compassionate parent. And right now, that means lying with her under her pink duvet in the quiet dim of her room.

5 Benefits of Having Children Later in Life

Sistahs, please stop fretting. So what if 35 has come and gone. Yes, we can have healthy pregnancies and children when we’re over 40. Absolutely! DO NOT BUY THE HYPE THAT WE CAN’T. Let that go. Have your children when YOU are ready. P.S.- We just have to take care of ourselves is all. That’s the main thing.

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There are advantages to having children in your mid-30s and beyond.

THE STEADY INCREASE IN women having babies later in life is undeniable.

First-time mothers are more likely to be 35 or older than their counterparts from two decades ago, according to the Pew Research Center. While the number of first-time moms between ages 20 and 24 falls, the number of births to women in their 30s and 40s keeps growing. In fact, in the past 20 years, the number of women having children in their mid-40s and beyond has tripled.

What’s Behind the Shift to “Older” Motherhood

Increasingly women delay marriage to seek more education or establish themselves in jobs and careers. The economic downturn of the last decade has also compelled would-be parents to wait until they have the resources necessary for childrearing.

Medical professionals aren’t saying it’s better to have children when a woman is older, but many women feel they have some flexibility in deciding when to have children. Advances in fertility technology, such as in vitro fertilizationegg freezing, frozen embryos, donor eggs and surrogates, also make it more feasible for women to wait to become mothers until the time is right for them.

In addition, recent wide-ranging studies have found significant long-term benefits in waiting to have babies. These benefits counterbalance some worries – and criticisms women may face – about being an older mother and the effects it may have on children.

Longevity for Women Who Wait

Older parents may hear that they won’t be around to see their child do this or that due to the parent’s “advanced” age. To the contrary, having children at an older age may spell a longer life.

A study in the journal Menopause examined older mothers’ life expectancy and found that women who had their last child after the age of 33 are more likely to live to 95. In fact, researchers reported that these women had twice the chance of living to 95 or older than those who had their last child before their 30th birthday. The news for women having babies after 40 is equally promising.

 

A report looking at maternal age at childbirth and longevity published in the American Journal of Public Health echoed those findings. Taking the data from approximately 20,000 women in the United States for 21 years, the analysis concluded that having your first baby even at age 25 or after increased the likelihood of living into your 90s.

Boosted Brainpower for Older Mothers

It’s also plausible that later pregnancies protect against cognitive decline. Researchers at the University of Southern California found that women have “better brainpower after menopause” if they had their last baby after age 35. The researchers looked at the pregnancy history of a diverse group of 830 women ages 41 to 92. Their research, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, provides strong evidence of “a positive association between later age at last pregnancy and late-life cognition.”

The study also found that brain function may be improved and the chance of memory loss decreased if women used hormonal contraceptives for more than 10 years or began menstruating before age 13. The theory behind these findings is that hormones impact long-term brain function.

Increased Income Over Time

There’s a measurable link between the age you have your first child and income gains and losses. Women who start their families when they are older are likely to increase their earning potential.

“Children do not kill careers, but the earlier children arrive, the more their mother’s income suffers. There is a clear incentive for delaying,” says Raul Santaeulalia-Llopis, co-author of a study looking at the relationship between a mother’s age at first birth and her lifetime earnings; the research was published in the open access journal PLOS One.

Santaeulalia-Llopis found that the age at which women have a first child has an impact on their lifelong wages for both those with and without college degrees. The study examined birth statistics from a Danish database and concluded that women whose age at first birth was under 25 had the greatest lifetime labor income loss; there were lifetime financial gains for women who were 31 years and older when their first child was born.

Educational and Emotional Support for Children

Older parents who are less stressed about income or job security tend to be more patient and can spend more time with their children.

Parents who have more secondary education can also offer more specific stimulation to their children, which can be helpful for development. An investigation of 8- to 12-year-olds explored how specific parenting beliefs and behaviors – such as reading, constructive play and emotional support – affected child development. The research published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that parent education and income positively affect child achievement.

Likely Positive Long-term Outcomes for Children

Taking increased earning potential into consideration, another study concluded that waiting to have children – even until age 40 and older – is associated with long-term benefits for children. The study published last year in the journal Population and Development Review revealed several pluses: Children born to older mothers stayed in the educational system longer, did better on standardized tests, and were more likely to go to college than their peers who were born to younger mothers. The researchers also found that because older mothers have likely stayed in school longer, they use more extensive vocabularies when interacting with their young children. The study notes that having this kind of parental role model often translates to how children communicate themselves and how they perform in school.

Interestingly, when the researchers analyzed data from siblings who essentially had a similar home environment, they noted that the sibling born when the mother was older stayed in the educational system longer, was more likely to attend college and performed better on standardized tests than the siblings born when their mother was younger.

Given the research, if you decide to wait before becoming a mother – or to delay growing your family – these perks remove some of the time pressure you may feel. If nothing else, the benefits of later motherhood give you ammunition with which to counter your critics.