Parenting

POLLY MOSENDZ, WASHINGTON POST

 

Parents are accustomed to being treated like human cash machines during prom season, spending close to $1,000 to guarantee that a high school dance doesn’t become an emotional catastrophe.

A hundred bucks for tickets, and hundreds more for fancy clothes-even the corsage costs $20. And before any of that begins, your kid wants $300 for a promposal. Wait, a what?

A promposal is an elaborate invitation to the prom – a concept that first gained Web traction in 2011 and now is an institution alongside limo rentals and after parties. Asking someone to the prom has been tradition for as long as there have been school dances. But the concept of promposing took on new life in the digital era. Teens now plot grandiose events to gain the attention not only of their potential date, but of everyone else on social media, in turn generating YouTube channels, Twitter , and, of course, listicles.

Students lucky enough to experience a promposal are sometimes on the receiving end of an outrageous, and often complex, feat of planning. One promposal that went viral involved the purchase of Kanye West’s popular sneaker, the Boost. Another promposal, less expensive but much more difficult to pull off, involved Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz reading on behalf of a teenager.

For the rest, it can be expensive cosmetics, Beyoncé tickets, or even a puppy. One thing they all have in common is that parents are picking up some, or all, of the tab.

Predictably, brands have gotten in on the action, looking to capitalize further on the already expensive event. National Promposal Day, March 11, was registered this year by Men’s Wearhouse Inc., which rents tuxedos for the occasion. A branded social media campaign about the day reached more than 2 million Facebook and Instagram users, and a promposal-themed SnapChat filter, made available to students at more than 18,000 American high schools, was used almost a million times.

It’s unclear how many teens ended up with dates that day, but Men’s Wearhouse is hoping it’ll lead to a boost in sales and rentals. Not to be outdone, prom dress retailers are latching onto the phenomenon in store and posting about promposals on company blogs. “We know our customers are receiving proposals, and they like reading about them,” explained Devin VanderMaas, director of marketing for Faviana, a special occasion dress retailer in New York City. “It’s also one of the more searched keywords right now. Girls who are most likely going to buy our dress are also Googling promposal stories. That’s another way for us to find new people and have them discover our brand.”

Golden Asp, a prom dress retailer in Pennsylvania, also published several promposal-themed blog posts, including the “Ultimate Promposal Guide.” Owner Jon Liney says he often hears tales of promposals from his staff and customers: “When you see a trend like this, that just adds to the significance of prom; it has to help sales.”

You know something has arrived in the teen consciousness when credit card companies take notice. Visa, which tracks prom-related expenses in an annual nationwide survey, added promposal costs to the total prom bill for the first time last year. The company found the average American household with teenagers spent $324 on promposing. Promposal spending varies around the country: New England families with teenagers come in at $431 per promposal, compared with $342 in the West, $305 in the South and $218 in the Midwest. Promposals are so prolific that they’re becoming the most expensive part of the event.

Total spending on the prom, which includes the cost of clothing, transportation, tickets, food, photographs, and the after party, is down since 2013, when it was $1,139, according to Visa. In 2014, it fell to $978 and again last year by 6 percent, to $919.

Conventional wisdom would assume wealthier families spend more on proms, and promposals, but Visa found families making less than $25,000 per year spend $1,393 on proms, compared with families that earn more than $50,000 spending just $799. Visa referred to the finding as “disconcerting,” but the study didn’t explain why this might be the case. In fact, low-income families are often encouraged to turn to charitable organizations, such as Operation Prom, for free prom dresses and tuxedos. The New York nonprofit is considering expanding those services to include promposals.

“We’ve thought about these promposals over the past two years as they’ve increasingly gotten popular,” said Operation Prom founder Noel D’Allacco. She’s working on making her organization part of the process, considering whether to encourage wealthier students to use her organization for their promposal and in the process help fund prom expenses for those less well-off. “We’ve been trying to get creative for what we can do to help that promposal come true.”

At the other end of the spectrum, getting a professional to plan a promposal is an extra chunk of change. Sarah Glick, a proposal planner at New York City’s Brilliant Event Planning, charges $495 for a concept design and a minimum $2,500 for executing the promposal. The company has been approached about a dozen times to plan a promposal, but the clients chose not to go ahead due to the price. The Heart Bandits, a Los Angeles proposal planning firm that charges $1,000 for promposal services, has received about 30 inquires about promposals and planned at least five, according to founder Michele Velazquez.

Teens have no incentive to cut cost with parents still subsidizing this much of the total prom spending

Despite the growing trend, not all teenagers are wooed by pricey promposals. “I’ve seen on Twitter where boyfriends buy their girlfriends hundreds of dollars worth of makeup to ask them, which I think is ridiculous,” said Meghan, 16, from Pueblo, Colo., whose parents requested that she be identified only by her first name. “People buy their girlfriends fishes, and puppies, and clothes, all kinds of stuff. It’s crazy.” Meghan was promposed to more simply: Her date purchased a Starbucks coffee and wrote ‘Prom?’ on the side and carried a poster reading ‘This is hard to espresso … but I’ll take a shot.’

With promposals on the upswing, parents find themselves more willing to foot the bill: In 2014, parents surveyed by Visa said they were planning to pay for 56 percent of prom costs. The next year, parents upped the amount to 73 percent. “Teens have no incentive to cut cost with parents still subsidizing this much of the total prom spending,” Visa determined. At the Heart Bandits, parents normally pay, but the teenager goes through the planning process with Velazquez’s team, filling out a questionnaire about the prospective date.

As for teenagers wooed with puppies, Beyonce ticks and more, planner Glick expects the trend will affect the traditional proposal market in the coming years. “It sets the bar so high for these girls. Where are they going to go from here for their own marriage proposal?”

Apparently, paying $4,000 for an engagement ring won’t be enough anymore.

It’s possible to both support a woman’s right to choose and reject the notion that aborting a baby because of its sex is acceptable. It’s not.

Robyn Urback | April 13, 2016 

There is something about aborting a fetus because she is a girl, as opposed to aborting a fetus for any of the other innumerable reasons women decide to terminate a pregnancy, that makes many people — including the staunchest of pro-choice advocates — acutely uncomfortable. Part of it, I think, has to do with the way that we think of the fetus. It is much harder to think of that baby as just a clump of cells when we know that she has a sex — something we obviously can’t ignore when we’re talking about sex-selective abortion.

But more than that, I think what distinguishes sex-selective abortion from abortion for nearly any other reason is that it is driven entirely by who that child is, or will become. Usually when we talk about abortion, the focus is the woman and her choices. In Canada, women can choose to terminate a pregnancy for any reason: some feel they are too young, or too old, or not suitably financially secure, or would prefer to focus on their careers, or simply don’t feel like having a child or being pregnant — now or ever. In all these cases, the woman’s quality of life is the deciding factor, not the baby’s, and there is some consensus that it’s better to end the pregnancy than bring an unwanted child to term. In cases of sex-selective abortion, the decision has nothing to do with the mother’s quality of life, and everything to do with who the mother wants that child to be.

The only other comparable scenario is where abortion is sought for a baby that has been prenatally diagnosed with a debilitating physical or mental disability. But even in those cases, the decision is usually a reluctant one, made by parents who want to spare their child a life of unnecessary suffering. Perhaps the same justification could be used for sex-selective abortion in countries where girls can expect to be mutilated, abused and subjugated for their entire lives, but this is Canada, where girls and boys grow up to enjoy the same, equal fundamental rights and freedoms. One could attempt to make the case that aborting female fetuses in Canada prevents another girl from growing up in a family where she will be seen as second-class, but that is just about the worst conceivable way to remedy an unacceptable cultural phenomenon. In fact, rather than remedy it, it indulges it.

This week, a new Canadian study revealed particular patterns among babies born to Indian immigrant mothers that suggest these women might be choosing to abort female fetuses — particularly in cases where they already have two or more daughters. According to the study, the normal ratio of male births to female births in Canada is about 105:100. Among Indian-born mothers with two girls, the ratio jumps to 138:100. With three girls, it becomes 166:100. The study’s authors estimate that over the past 20 years, 4,472 baby girls are unaccounted for.

The suggestion that sex-selective abortion is happening in Canada is not new: in 2012, an editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal urged doctors to keep the sex of a baby from his or her parents until 30 weeks, noting that the phenomenon of female feticide happens in North America “in numbers large enough to distort the male-to-female ratio in some ethnic groups.” In 2014, a joint statement by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada and the Canadian Association of Radiologists called for an end to performing ultrasounds solely for “entertainment” purposes or to determine the sex of the baby. Nevertheless, despite these calls for reform, the reports are clear that distorted sex ratios are already a fact in some of Canada’s South Asian communities, and are likely to remain so, absent some change in policy.

The issue is a hot potato for Canada’s government, both from a cultural relativism perspective, and because our proudly feminist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that his MPs will always vote in favour of “a woman’s right to choose” in the House of Commons — which could make an awkward debate if his caucus were indeed compelled to support a woman’s right to choose to abort her baby for being a girl. But regardless of whether the government chooses to take this on (I have my money on “no”), this is an issue that the law alone won’t remedy. Indeed, when women’s lives are so undervalued that a family would rather have an abortion than another daughter, the problem is bigger than something that can be fixed by banning ultrasounds before 30 weeks.

Part of the problem is that dogmatic pro-choicers largely refuse to acknowledge that sex-selective abortion exists, much less that it is a problem. But being pro-choice is not — or should not be — absolute. It’s possible to both support a woman’s right to choose and reject the notion that aborting a baby because of its sex is acceptable. It’s not. Perhaps feminists should ask themselves how they reconcile their defence of a woman’s right to choose but not of a girl’s right to live.

National Post

How do very young children learn to judge others by the shapes and sizes of their bodies? Unfortunately, there isn't a simple answer.

KATIE HURLEY, WASHINGTON POST

“Hello, I’m a fat person, fat, fat, fat.”

Taken out of context, these words, from the mouth of a 6-year-old female toy tester at the Mattel headquarters, are a bit jarring. They are the kind of words you hope your child won’t use out in the world. They are words laced with hurt and judgment.

For her Time cover story on the new and improved Barbie, Eliana Dockterman observed young girls at play with the new dolls. While the first child referenced was direct with her body comments, another girl attempted to spare the feelings of the doll by spelling out the word, “F-A-T.”

How do very young children learn to judge others by the shapes and sizes of their bodies? Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer. Between subtle messages in the home, the influence of media, peer interactions and the shrinking of childhood (many girls are growing up quickly these days), young girls consume and internalize countless messages about body image every single day.

Many parents know to be careful about the words they use when discussing their own bodies. We know, for example, that saying things like, “I feel fat today” or “do I look fat in these jeans?” sends harmful messages to young girls. Parents avoid those overt statements and replace them with comments about physical strength in an effort to teach young girls body confidence. But what about the more subtle statements that sometimes slip through the cracks?

Standing in line at Gap not long ago, I witnessed a mother-daughter conversation that sent a subtle, but powerful message about body image. A young girl, about 6 years old, ran up to her mother with a pair of winter gloves in her hands. “I found some but I don’t like them that much,” she stated, in that matter-of-fact tone kids of that age often use. “They make my fingers look too skinny.” She looked up her mom for confirmation. Her mother’s response took me by surprise. “That’s better than looking fat,” she uttered, without missing a beat.

Perhaps it was an isolated incident. We’ve all experienced impatient moments and bad days and sometimes we respond before we consider the potential impact of the response. But what if it wasn’t an isolated incident? What if that message was one of many?

For years I worked with a young girl who struggled with body image, self-esteem and anxiety. Her home life was defined by a seemingly endless discussion on weight gain, weight loss, exercise and fad diets.

Ever on a quest to find the perfect diet, her mother constantly removed foods from the house and talked obsessively about calories, sugars and “bad” foods. Don’t get me wrong; her mother had good intentions. Maintaining a healthy weight was a lifelong struggle for her, and she wanted to make the challenge easier for her daughter.

The body and diet talk was overwhelming for this young girl, however, and she developed her own coping strategy to combat the negative emotions she experienced almost daily: sneak eating. She saved her coins to purchase snacks from the school vending machine and ate them in the dark of night. In doing so, she lived up to her own carefully constructed self-fulfilling prophecy: a young girl powerless over the lure of junk food.

Recent findings show that kids as young as 32 months pick up on fat shaming attitudes of their moms, and a report released by Common Sense Media reveals that half of girls and one third of boys between 6 and 8 think their ideal weight is thinner than their current size. It’s time to consider how we talk to kids about body image.

It’s easy to set a few rules around body talk, including removing “fat” from your vocabulary and not commenting on the size or shape of someone else’s body. Where it gets complicated, however, is when your daughter comes home with difficult questions. “Am I fat?” or “will I get fat if I eat this?” speak volumes about the inner struggle of a young child.

“I have always felt that the most important thing a parent can do is to be honest,” explains Natterson. “But when there is an issue – particularly around weight – it can be incredibly difficult to walk the fine line between protecting your child and being truthful.”

How should parents handle questions and concerns about body image? Start here:

Answer the question with a question

Natterson suggests using conversation starters to help children uncover the feelings beneath the surface. She suggests, “What makes you ask that question?” as a starting point. “This is seriously the BEST answer because it allows your child to explain where the concern is coming from,” Natterson explains.

It’s important to keep the dialogue open. When we jump in with solutions to “fix” the problem, we close down the conversation. To help young girls work through these difficult topics and overwhelming emotions, we need to listen more than we talk.

Watch your words

Words like “fat” and “chubby” are sometimes used in jest to describe animals in books, toys or other fictional characters. While that seems harmless in the moment, it can send mixed messages. Sometimes the subtle messages internalized early on can lead to negative thinking later on.

Emily Roberts, psychotherapist and author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are, cautions parents to choose their words carefully. “Don’t fat shame, weight shame or categorize others by their weight,” says Roberts, “This sends the message that their weight is what you see, not their character.”

Talk about strengths

Children need to feel heard and understood. To that end, it’s important to listen to your daughter’s concerns about body image. Empathize with her and talk about what it feels like to struggle with the emotional and physical changes that naturally occur as children grow. Then steer the conversation toward the positive.

It is imperative that young girls hear body positive messages. Talk about physical strength and what their bodies can do for them (hanging from those monkey bars isn’t easy, after all). Educate them about healthy eating and playful exercise. Cook meals together and help your daughters take control of their own health so that will internalize a positive message: They have the power to live healthy and happy lives. That’s a message worth sharing.

Katie Hurley is a child and adolescent psychotherapist and parenting educator in Los Angeles, and the author of “The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World.” You can find her on Twitter and on her blog, Practical Parenting.

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KAMLOOPS – Families with children throughout British Columbia soon will have more help in achieving healthy lifestyles and healthy weights with $2 million to support the expansion of the free Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do it! (MEND) program.

MEND is modelled on a U.K.-based program, which empowers families with children above a healthy weight to become healthier by participating in twice-weekly sessions focused on healthy meal planning, goal setting and physical activity.

“As a dad, I know having fun, learning healthy behaviours and growing together as a family are all great steps toward preventing chronic disease before it starts,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “Through accessible programs like MEND, making an active lifestyle a lifelong habit is easier for B.C. children and families.” With

MEND, children in B.C. aged five to 13 years, gain access to fun, interactive support in adopting healthier behaviours to help achieve a healthy weight. B.C. families were first introduced to MEND in 2013, and the new funding will help the program continue in existing sites and allow for expansion to more sites provincewide.

“The MEND program is not a diet or about being told what is right or wrong,” said Todd Stone, MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson. “Having the MEND program in local recreation centres creates new ways for families and children to learn, play and be supported in making healthier choices together.” MEND is delivered in partnership with the Provincial Health Services Authority and the Childhood Obesity Foundation, which work with the YMCA and B.C. Recreation and Parks Association to bring MEND to communities throughout the province.

MEND is available in 23 B.C. communities, including seven new expansion sites that opened in winter 2016: Fort St. John, Burnaby, Surrey, Richmond, Kent-Agassiz, Squamish, Penticton. For a comprehensive list of all current MEND sites, visit: www.bchealthykids.ca. “We were very pleased to see that families who participated in MEND 7-13 made healthy lifestyle changes and planned to make more changes after finishing the program,” said Dr. Tom Warshawski, chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation.

“Children participating in the MEND program increased physical activity and met Canadian physical activity guidelines. MEND also helped families to build physical activity into their daily routine. In addition, children participating in the MEND program increased fruit and vegetable intake and MEND helped families to better understand healthy eating and to build it into their daily routine.”

“We’ve seen how MEND helps children and families make positive decisions about their health and are thrilled to be a partner in bringing the program to more B.C. communities,” said Andrew Tugwell, director of Health Promotion & Prevention, BC Children’s Hospital, Provincial Health Services Authority. “MEND is a fun and effective way for kids and families to take the first step toward healthier living,” said Rebecca Tunnacliffe, CEO, B.C. Recreation and Parks Association.

“This funding enables more families to be active in this program and learn these life changing skills. As the network expands, the message about the achievable lifestyle goals is amplified beyond the core participants.” MEND encourages a healthy body and self-image, with a focus on physical and emotional health. Examples of MEND activities include teaching healthy skills to parents and children, like healthy eating, grocery store tours and one hour of physical activity for children. “We are proud to be hosting a beneficial program like MEND,” said Craig Sheather, YMCA’s vice-president of operations.

“It’s a great way to help B.C. communities get healthy and stay healthy.” MEND is just one component of the government’s strategy to promote childhood healthy weights. Other programs within the strategy include the Shapedown BC program, offered in five health authorities, which provides medical, nutritional and psychological assessment, education and support for children with weight management issues by physician referral. In addition, the HealthLink BC Eating and Activity Program for Kids is a telehealth service that helps British Columbia children, teens and their families reach healthy weights and improve their overall health and quality of life.

Launched in February 2015, the service provides healthy eating and active living coaching for at-risk families in rural and remote parts of the province who may have limited access to the direct, in-person supports provided in MEND and Shapedown BC. The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) provided $6 million in 2011-12 to the Childhood Obesity Foundation for the Childhood Healthy Weights Strategy, which began with the Shapedown BC program.

PHSA provided an additional $2 million in 2012-13 and $2.4 million in 2013-14 to support expansion of the initiative and launch MEND. This additional $2 million provided by the Ministry of Health supports the continuation and expansion of the MEND program. MEND supports B.C.’s Physical Activity Strategy through Healthy Families BC, the government’s comprehensive health-promotion program aimed at improving the health and well-being of B.C. families and their communities.

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(NC) Fall is here and with the chilly weather comes the dreaded cold and flu season which can last many months. For parents this can mean sleepless nights, unhappy children and stress from not knowing what to do. Here are some tips to help you prepare for the sniffles and restless nights:

- Ensure you and your family are washing your hands regularly. Teach your children the importance of washing their hands, especially after sneezing and coughing, to help stop the spread of germs.