Pre-school and Kindergarten

Want a Healthier Life for You and Your Kids? Take the Fit Family Challenge!

Dr. Antwon Chavis is a general pediatrician practicing in Portland, Oregon. Antwon has a wide array of interests, such as adolescent medicine, mental health, and working with children and adolescents with behavioral or developmental issues. He and his partner, Nate, are proud fathers of two cats, Doc and Blerg.

In the United States we continue to see a rise in childhood obesity and the negative health outcomes that follow. I have taken care of a variety of kids (school-aged and teenagers) who struggle with weight and health, and I have seen families respond in two ways: blame or action. The kids who do better tend to have families who support their efforts to get healthy. They work together, as a family, to make improvements. (I said “get healthy” intentionally, because losing weight is not always the goal.)

I want to challenge the dads and families of our community to take up a Fit Family Challenge. Entering into a new year is a great opportunity to encourage your family to live a little healthier, and a challenge encourages motivation, friendly competition and success. And it’s fun!

Here are some things to keep in mind:

The Fit Family Challenge includes everyone!

Sit down as a family before starting and discuss what being “healthy” means, and brainstorm challenge ideas. People are more likely to cooperate if they feel like they’re contributing, and I bet your kids have some great ideas! If you can’t agree on one goal, set individual goals instead.

There is more to health than weight.

For example: getting enough sleep, eating more vegetables than junk food, watching less TV and playing more, or reading more books. It’s all about attitude! Creating a culture within the family that values being health-conscious takes time and effort, but the rewards are monumental.

The goal is not just weight loss alone.

And regarding weight, children should maintain, not lose. The developing brain needs calories, as do active and growing muscles and bones. If children enter into adolescence being told they need to lose weight, it can create problems with body image, self-esteem and confidence. Instead, help them enter adolescence believing their family values making healthy choices. That should be the goal of a Fit Family Challenge, not just weight loss!

Create a visible plan.

Make clear and achievable goals, and set rules. As a group, describe exactly what you hope to achieve in order to make your challenge successful. Make a chart or spreadsheet with every family member’s name. Make sure the kids help decorate! Keep track of and discuss your progress each day.

Brief is better.

Create a short challenge period for better engagement. If it is too long, you may lose interest, but short challenges may end before your family sees a change. I’d recommend between 21 and 90 days.

Keep it positive.

The goal is to be healthier as a family and to have fun. Be encouraging and cheer on each other’s success. Healthy teasing is appropriate for some, but negative attitudes and words are not allowed.

Pick a prize.

How will you reward success? Your family may like individual prizes while others prefer to reward the family as a whole. Consider small rewards along the way to stay motivated. Just no food-based rewards, to avoid teaching your kids to eat and snack when good things happen.

Discuss success and keep trying.

On your last day, sit down together and talk about the experience. What did you like? What was hard? How can it be better next time? Then, set new goals and activities and start your challenge again!

Challenge Ideas:

  • Find and cook a new recipe twice a week. Cooking as a family teaches older children how to make good choices, which is an added benefit!
  • If your kids play sports, you should join a league too! Explore your community for adult opportunities. They cater to all skill levels, and the sports are getting pretty diverse. If you haven’t played kickball with other grown-ups, you’re missing out!
  • Drink several glasses of water a day.
  • Read a book instead of watching TV, if only for one to two hours per week.
  • Encourage everyone in the family to use the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Play outside as a family for 30 minutes, three times a week.
  • Sleep at least 7 hours each night.
  • Family destination challenge: How far is your house from your nearby amusement park? Log those miles as a family! This can be from walking, biking, or running. Have everyone log their miles and see how long it takes to get to your destination. If you get there by your deadline, plan a trip there to celebrate!
  • Exercise three to four times a week.
  • How many days in a row can you go without soda?
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    I’ll never forget the morning of January 28, 1986, where, along with the rest of the world, I excitedly watched the Space Shuttle Challenger soar into the sky and then, shockingly explode just 73 seconds after take-off. I was 8 years old and didn’t understand what was happening. I assumed smoke and fire was to be expected, just like during lift-off. But what I remember most vividly from that fateful morning was how quickly and frantically my elementary school teachers ran to turn off the TV. Their first instinct was to shield my first grade class from the sad reality of what had just happened.

    Cut to 30 years later, I’m now the father of a five-year old boy, living in a time where there seems to be inexplicable worldwide tragedies occurring on a daily basis (just as I’m typing this article, a CNN notification popped up on my phone alerting me of another terrorist attack in Nice, France). It feels like every time I see a flag now it's at half-staff. From mass shootings and terrorist attacks to natural disasters and that puffy orange troll with bad hair, our world is in bad shape. It’s downright frightening. And like my first grade teacher’s, my first instinct is to cover Max’s eyes and shield him from these horrific events. After all, he’s just a little boy — far too young to understand these complicated matters.

    Our instincts tell us to avoid discussing certain current events within earshot of Max; to control his TV viewing and radio listening; and to limit his exposure to other forms of 24/7 news content. Are we doing the right thing? Or are we simply avoiding tough conversations? How do we help our children feel secure when we ourselves feel insecure, vulnerable and helpless?

    My husband and I turned to a family therapist for answers. She explained that it’s not always as easy as not talking to kids about these things. Instead, she armed us with some helpful tools to address these sensitive matters with Max in a delicate, age-appropriate manner. Hopefully, this information can act as good rules of thumb for you and your family.

    Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert. What I’ve outlined below is based on personal research, professional advice and some common sense.

    Children aged 2 to 6:

    Pre-school aged children react more to their parents’ distress than to anything else, so it’s important to monitor your own emotions when your child is around you. I know this to be true. Even as little as 3 years old, Max would pick up on everything I was experiencing and feeling.

    For this age group, experts suggest only addressing these scary events if kids bring it up first. And if they do, it’s advised to keep things black and white — you don’t have to give them more details than they ask for. Because while the world can be a cruel place, younger kids need to be reassured that this isn't happening to them and won't happen to them. For this age group, it’s probably smart to avoid exposure to news. The way that 24/7 news media replays the same frightening footage can make a young child think that a single tragedy happens over and over again.

    Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You don’t know how they actually feel inside, so try to understand their feelings about what happened. You can ask, “What did you hear? What do you think about that?” That’ll help inform what you should do or say next. If they want to know more, use words they'll understand, such as "bad man" and "hurt" as opposed to "shooter," "gunman" or "tragedy." If they are scared, ask what they’re afraid of. If the news event happened far away, you can use the distance as a way to set their mind at ease.

    You can also use these events as a teaching moment, as an opportunity to model compassion. Explain how you can donate to relief organizations to help the families most affected by these terrible events.

    Children aged 7 to 12:

    Once kids are in elementary school, certain news stories will be unavoidable, especially with the increasing number of kids with their own smartphone. When talking to them, just run through the main points of what happened. Children of this age group are comforted by facts. The who, what, when, where and why should guide your discussion. At this stage in their lives, they’re starting to become concrete thinkers, so when possible, it’s helpful to offer concrete answers. But remember not to be dramatic or use words that’ll scare them. If you stay calm and rational, they will, too.

    And to help kids make better sense of what they hear, it helps to put news stories in proper context. Explain that certain events are isolated while other events are related to something bigger. It’s also important to reassure them that events like these are very unusual and that there are good people trying to help prevent similar events in the future.

    If talking about things makes your children’s fears worse, try to distract them. Do something together that they like doing. Watch their favorite lighthearted film, go for a bike ride, snuggle and read to them, play a video game together, anything that reaffirms to them that it’s okay to think about other things and get back to their normal routine.

    By age 7, your child should know how to reach you at all times. Confirm this. Having your cell phone number and knowing how to use a phone goes a long way to making you — and your kids — feel confident.

    Children aged 12 to 14:

    At this age, it’s okay to engage your children. News like this is easier to receive from a parent than a friend. You can start by asking them if they’ve heard about the event. Experts suggest that simply being there to help them absorb the news in an environment they feel safe, is more important than having all the answers. By this age, children understand the difference between the good guys and the bad guys.

    As they approach the teen years, tragic news can cause some kids to spend more time with friends, while others might want to spend more time alone. Different kids will process the news differently. But nobody knows your child better than you, so use your natural instincts and let them know that it’s normal to feel and act the way they are.

    Ask them what their biggest worry is. If the news event has them questioning their own safety, take the time to review the plans in place to keep them safe. For example, show them where the fire extinguishers are stored. Explain the best place to gather during an emergency, etc.

    High school-aged children:

    Once kids are in high school, it’s very likely that they get their news from social media and friends. While they probably just know the highlights, it might be a good idea to sit them down and explain what’s happening in more detail in order to get at the underlying reasons for these types of events. These are very complicated issues that usually aren’t quickly solvable, so it might be a good idea to share your feelings with your children — it’s a good way to keep the dialog going without making it all about them.

    Experts suggest speaking to teenagers in terms of probabilities. They’re old enough to not believe absolutes such as “This will never happen to you” or “I promise you’ll always be safe.” So instead, you might want to speak in facts or percentages of just how unlikely it is for something like this to ever happen to them. For example, “At the 27,000 public high schools in the United States, there have been 9 mass shootings.”

    Lastly, even in their teens, they’re never too old to be reminded what to do in case of an emergency. Tell them where they should go if they can’t get home or who they should call if they can’t reach you.

    If they feel as helpless as you feel, suggest doing something kind for others. Little things like picking up groceries — or shoveling the driveway — for an elderly neighbor reminds them that there are still kindnesses in the world. In a small way, it can reduce the feeling of helplessness.


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    Gay Dad Penguins Strike Again! This Time in Berlin Zoo

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    And now, please welcome Skipper and Ping in Berlin to the latest list of gay dad penguins! As soon as the two emperor penguins arrived at the city's zoo, they set about trying to start a family, said Berlin Zoo spokesman Maximilian Jaege to DPA news.

    "They kept trying to hatch fish and stones," Jaeger said.

    So the zookeepers loaned the penguins an egg from a female penguin, who is apparently uninterested in hatching eggs on her own, according to the BBC.

    Unsurprisingly, the gay penguins are killing it as parents. "The two male penguins are acting like exemplary parents, taking turns to warm the egg," Jaeger said,

    Read the whole article on DPA here.

    Change the World

    Hungarian Company Raising Money for LGBTQ+ Organization with a LEGO® Heart

    Startup WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD is helping combat misinformation and prejudice in Central and Eastern Europe

    Guest Post from WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD

    WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD is an innovative startup venture that sells LEGO® parts and unique creations. The core values of our company include social equality regardless of gender identity or origin. As LEGO® is a variety of colors and shapes, so are the people.

    We all know that LEGO® is a brand that nearly everyone knows and likes between the age of 3 and 99 so this gives a great opportunity to connect unique LEGO® creations and Pride. We started a fundraising campaign for a Hungarian LGBTQ+ organization who's aim is to bring people closer to the LGBTQ+ community, they help to combat misinformation and prejudice regarding LGBTQ+ issues in Central- Eastern Europe since 2000.

    You might know that gender equality and the circumstances of LGBTQ+ people is not the easiest in the former communist Eastern European countries like Hungary so this program is in a real need for help. For example a couple of month ago a member of the government said that homosexual people are not equal part of our society.

    The essence of the campaign is when one buys a Pride Heart, a custom creation made of brand new and genuine LEGO® bricks the organization gets $10.00 donation so they can continue their important work. This Pride Heart is a nice necklace, a decoration in your home, and a cool gift to the one you love.

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    Actor Kevin Cahoon joins the Gorgeous Ladies of Wresting in Vegas as a single gay dad — and drag queen — on Season Three of the hit Netflix show

    For a couple of years now, Hollywood has been obsessed with gay dad characters (and who can blame them?) But the latest show to get hip to a story line featuring gay man raising kids is Netflix's GLOW, which explores a female wresting troop in the late 1980s.

    But GLOW is helping represent a gay character that rarely gets time in the limelight:the single gay dad. In Season three of the hit comedy — which stars Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, and Marc Maron — actor Kevin Cahoon joins the case as Bobby Barnes, a single gay father who plays a female impersonator. (80s divas only, of course — Joan Collins and Babs among them)

    "I've never done female impersonation," the openly gay actor told OutSmart Magazine, "so I tried to learn really quick. You will know them all; I was very familiar with all of them. There were plenty of talk shows and performances on YouTube to study. I learned that their breathing was very informative."

    A single gay dad AND drag queen on television? It's about damn time if you ask us.

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    Utah Court Rules Gay Couples Can't Be Excluded From Surrogacy Contracts

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    Earlier this month, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that a same-sex couples can't be excluded from entering into enforceable surrogacy contracts, and sent a case concerning a gay male couple back to trial court to approve their petition for a surrogacy arrangement.

    As reported in Gay City News, the case concerns Utah's 2005 law on surrogacy, which was enacted prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. As a result, the content of the law is gendered, saying that surrogacy contracts should only be enforceable if the "intended mother" is unable to bear a child. When a gay couple approached District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, he denied them, arguing that the state's law only concerned opposite sex couples.

    "This opinion is an important contribution to the growing body of cases adopting a broad construction of the precedent created by Obergefell v. Hodges and the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Pavan v. Smith," according to GCN. "It's also worth noting that same-sex couples in Utah now enjoy a right denied them here in New York, where compensated gestational surrogacy contracts remain illegal for all couples."

    Read the full article here.

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