Recognizing and Managing Stress for Parents

Woman stressed in front of a computer

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. Parents can experience stress related to a variety of situations. These situations can be ordinary, such as getting your children to school on time or rushing home from work to make dinner. On the other hand, they can be extreme, such as facing a serious illness or financial difficulties. Since stress can cause physical, emotional, and mental health issues if not well managed, it is important for parents to learn how to recognize and find ways to deal with stress.

How to Recognize Stress

Reflect and identify what causes you to feel stressed. Do you feel stressed in situations related to family, health, finances, work, or other situations?

Know your signs of stress. Everyone experiences signs of stress in different ways. Which of the following symptoms do you experience when you feel stress?

  • Headaches, muscle tension, neck or back pain
  • Upset stomach
  • Dry mouth
  • Chest pains, rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Lack of concentration or focus
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety

Reflect on and identify how you deal with stress. Determine if you turn to unhealthy behaviors to cope with stress, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or overeating. Do these behaviors happen often or only during certain events or situations?

How to Manage Stress

Take care of yourself. It can be hard to find time for yourself when you are a parent, but it is important to take time for yourself, even if it is just a few minutes a day.

Try different stress-reducing activities. These activities can include meditation, yoga, taking a short walk, reading, or talking about your concerns with friends or family. Everyone manages stress in his or her own way, and you may have to try a few activities to see which ones work best for you.

Spend quality time with your family. Find activities that your family enjoys doing together. Take a walk or hike, have a family game night, or go to the movies.

Focus on changing only one behavior at a time. Unhealthy behaviors that develop because of stress can be difficult to change. Instead of making several changes at one time, focus on one behavior you would like to change or improve.

Reach out for support. Accepting help from supportive friends and family can improve your ability to manage stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, you may want to talk to a doctor or psychologist, who could help you manage your stress and change unhealthy behaviors.

Additional Resources


American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Managing stress for a healthy family. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Five tips to help manage stress. Retrieved from

How to Talk to Kids About Tolerance, Acceptance, and Diversity

Biracial family posing for a picture

“Mom, why is that person in a wheelchair?”

“Dad, why do Sam and I look so different?”

We have all been there. Kids ask difficult questions, often at inconvenient times. Sometimes we shush them or feel embarrassed about the issue they have raised. As parents, teaching tolerance and acceptance and embracing diversity and inclusion are part of the job description – and it even can be one of the perks!

As parents, we can try to be prepared and put in place strategies that help our children understand the diverse world in which we live. Explore your family’s cultural and ethnic background. Many of the things we do every day as parents trace back to our cultural roots, and we may take for granted that our children understand why we do what we do. Be vocal, explore traditions, and tell stories. These actions and activities can open the door to exciting conversations with your kids.

Along with looking at your family’s background, explore and celebrate how other people do things. Learning with your kids can be an exciting way to build cultural competence and invite the value of inclusivity to your family. Exposure to other cultures, traditions, religions, races, and ethnicities can help children cultivate an understanding of who they are and an awareness of the diverse world around them. Attending cultural festivals, reading books that highlight diversity, eating different foods, encouraging diverse friend groups, and exploring cultural stereotypes in media are all great ways to build inclusive values.

Even when families have a solid foundation and family values that nurture and support acceptance, the time will come when your child shouts something that makes you feel uncomfortable in the moment. At this point, it is important to take a breath and respond in a manner that is calm, caring, positive, matter-of-fact, and non-judgmental. These moments provide some of your best opportunities to connect with your child and continue his or her learning about tolerance and acceptance in a meaningful way.

Additional Resources

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness. (2018). Inclusivity: How to talk to your kids about tolerance and acceptance. Retrieved from

PBS Parents. (2018). Talking with Kids. Positive Ways to Talk and Listen. Retrieved from

We’ve put together a list of books for kids about tolerance, acceptance, and diversity. Click here to download the book list.

Helmet and Bike Safety for Children

Kid riding bike with helmet

Whether used for transportation or just for fun, bikes can be a great way to get outdoors and get some exercise! When parents encourage their children to practice helmet and bike safety, they can help prevent some injuries that can occur while riding, such as concussions. Most importantly, children and adults should always wear a helmet every time they ride a bikeeven on short rides. While not all injuries can be prevented, a good-fitting helmet can provide protection to one’s face, skull, and brain if a fall occurs. But with so many options, finding the right helmet for your child may seem overwhelming. Follow the guidelines below for some help!

  • As helmets are so important, the U.S. government has created safety standards for them. When purchasing a helmet for your child, look for a sticker that says it meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards.
  • Helmets should fit snugly all around the head with no space between the foam and the rider’s head.
  • The bottom of the pad inside the front of the helmet should be one or two finger widths above the rider’s eyebrows. The back should not touch the top of the rider’s neck.
  • Make sure you can see your child’s eyes and that he or she can see straight forward and side-to-side.
  • Side straps should make a “V” shape under and slightly in front of the rider’s ears.
  • No more than one or two fingers should be able to fit under the chin strap. When your child opens his or her mouth wide, the helmet should pull down on his or her head. If it doesn’t, the chin strap needs to be tighter.
  • The helmet should not move in any direction once the chin strap is fastened.
  • If your helmet is damaged or has been through a crash, get a new one! Helmets are designed to help protect the rider from one serious impact.

Riding a bike that is in good condition and is the right size for your child can also help keep him or her safe! To quickly test a bike to see if it is the right size, have your child stand straddling the top bar of the bike with both feet are on the ground. There should be 1 to 3 inches of space between your child and the top bar. Also, always check that your child’s bike has brakes that work well and the tires have enough air.

Once your child has a helmet that fits and a bike that is the right size, he or she is ready to ride! Helping your child understand and follow the following safety guidelines can help keep him or her safe while riding:

  • Always ride with hands on the handlebars.
  • Always stop and check for traffic in both directions when leaving your driveway, a curb, or an alley.
  • Use bike lanes when possible. Always ride on the right side of the street, in the same direction as cars.
  • Stop at all stop signs, obey traffic lights, and learn appropriate turning signals.
  • Ride with friends in a single file line.
  • Do not wear headphones while riding a bike. Music may distract the rider from noises, such as car horns.


Centers for Disease Control. (2015). Get a heads up on bike helmet safety. Retrieved from

Kidshealth. (2014). Bike safety. Retrieved from

When Should You Start Getting Your Child’s Teeth Checked?

Kid brushing teeth

One of the many milestones parents track with their new babies is the emergence of the first tooth. But, when should you first visit the dentist?  Probably earlier than you think. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children should visit the dentist within six months after their first tooth appears or by age 1.

Cleaning your child’s teeth should begin at birth using a washcloth at bath time to wipe his or her gums clean. Once his or her first pearly white pops through, begin using a soft infant toothbrush twice a day with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. Keep in mind that children don’t need much toothpaste. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends using a smear of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice for children from birth to age 3. For children ages 3 and up a pea sized amount is all you need.

Your child will need your assistance until about age 7 or 8 to ensure he or she  reaches his or her back teeth for a thorough cleaning. Flossing is another important part of healthy teeth and should be done at least once a day. Make it easier for your child by using floss that comes on a handle.

Just like adult toothbrushes, your child’s toothbrush should be replaced every 3 to 6 months or when the bristles appear to be worn. All family members should visit your dentist twice a year for cleanings and check-ups.

Additional Resources


AAPD. (n.d.).  FAQ. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Retrieved from

ADA. (n.d).   How to care for your child’s teeth.  Mouth Healthy by the American Dental Association. Retrieved from

Gulp?! My Child is Dating!

Teens Holding hands in school hallway

When your child says he or she is dating someone, your first response may be to panic. But, what does dating really mean today? Does it mean kids see each other at school and contact each other via social media; is dating going out with a group to a party; is dating one-on-one alone time with someone else?

As a parent, you play an important role in helping your child navigate new relationships in safe and healthy ways. The conversations that you have with your child about dating will show him or her how much you care and will also help him or her learn how to set healthy limits for himself or herself. Youth need to learn how to balance family, school, hobbies, and friends.  You can help your child achieve an appropriate balance!

Dating expectations are going to be different for every family as they are rooted in family values. Both parents should agree on  dating rules and expectations, and children need to be aware of what the expectations are. So, talk! Once parents or caregivers are in agreement, they should openly communicate with their child. Ask your child what it means to be dating, so you have an understanding of what he or she is planning or arranging.  Then, talk about the ground rules.

Check in with your child about the following:

  • Whom will he or she be with when going out?
  • Where he or she would like to go?
  • What he or she plans to do there?
  • When will he or she be home?

These Who, Where, What, and When questions are great for gathering information. Also, don’t forget to talk to your child about the need to check-in if the plan must change.

When you have pre-teens and teenagers, conversations about sex (including safety and consent), sexually transmitted infections, teen pregnancy, and dating violence should take place on a regular basis. Share information and your concerns. Also, make sure you listen when your youth shares his or her opinions or asks questions. Families will have different views regarding dating and sex, and honestly and openly communicating with your child is a great place to start!

Families also need to discuss technology. Sexting¾that is sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually explicit messages, photographs, or images on any digital device¾should be discussed. Youth often share very personal things with his or her partner and think that no one else will know about or see it; however, once shared, there is no way to make this content private again. In some cases, the information that is shared may be illegal. Talking with youth about sexting and not sending sexually explicit material is a must!

The Importance of Handwashing for Kids

Mom helping daughter wash hands

Children come into contact with germs every day. Proper handwashing can help stop the spread of many illnesses – from the common cold to more serious illnesses like hepatitis A. Handwashing is easy, inexpensive, effective, and can help prevent sick days and trips to the doctor!

Here are some techniques for proper handwashing:

  • Wash your hands in warm water
  • Use soap and lather for about 20 seconds, which is about the length of time for children to sing “Happy Birthday” twice
  • Make sure to wash in between fingers, under nails, and wrists
  • Rinse and dry with a clean towel

Parents can help their children stay healthy by doing the following:

Teach children good handwashing techniques

When you are first teaching young children how to wash their hands, remember the following:

  • Demonstrate how to wash your hands; young children learn best through watching and doing – not just hearing!
  • Explain the proper handwashing techniques one at a time as your child practices
  • Follow up handwashing lessons with story books about germs and handwashing, look at pictures of germs, and point out when role models wash their hands. Other interactive activities will reinforce handwashing

Remind children to wash their hands in these situations:

  • Before eating and cooking
  • After using the bathroom
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing one’s nose
  • After cleaning around the house
  • After touching animals or pets
  • After coming home from school
  • After playing outside
  • Before and after visiting or taking care of sick friends or relatives

Wash your own hands with your children and model proper handwashing

  • Children do not always see what you do, so talk about it! Announce when and why you are going to wash your hands or talk about something you touched and how you washed your hands after you touched it
  • Carry hand sanitizer for times when there is no sink or soap available

Even when children know how to wash their hands, they may still need reminders! To stop the spread of germs, make hand washing rules and routines, such as washing before meals and after using the bathroom.


ABC News. (2011). How long should you wash your hands? Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Handwashing: A family activity. Retrieved from

Earth’s Kids. (n.d.). Teaching hand washing: Information and resources for parents & caregivers. Retrieved from

Kidshealth. (2015). Why is handwashing so important? Retrieved from

Saving Money on Food When You Have a Tight Budget

Mother reaching for produce with her child

Feeding your family can be challenging when you are on a tight budget, but there are many ways you can cut costs. Think of grocery shopping in three steps: planning, purchasing, and preparing. Taking a small amount of time each week to think through each step can help you save money in the long run!

Step 1: Plan

  • Plan meals before shopping. Plan for the week, and try to include meals that you can use as leftovers for lunches or for another dinner later in the week, such as soups, casseroles, or stir-fries. Check to see what foods you already have and make a list of the food you need to buy. Stay organized with a grocery list to avoid buying items you do not need.
  • Look for sales to get the best price. Sales flyers are usually released mid-week and are found in the newspaper, at grocery store entrances, or on the store’s website.
  • Join the store loyalty program. When you use a loyalty card, you can purchase items at a lower price, and you may get special offers and coupons that non-members do not get.
  • Use coupons to save money. Remember that coupons only help if they are for items you usually buy. Remember another brand can still cost less even after you use a coupon.
  • Eat before you shop. Grocery shopping hungry can lead to impulse buying and unhealthy food choices!

Step 2: Purchase

  • Look at the “Unit Price.” The small stickers on the shelves tell you the price but also the unit price—how much the item costs per ounce, per pound, or another standard amount. Use the unit price to compare different brands and different sizes of items to determine which is more economical.
  • Buy in bulk. It is usually cheaper to buy foods in bulk but only buy a size you can use before it spoils. If you buy meat in bulk, decide what you need to use in the next day or two and then freeze the rest in portion-sized packages. Before you shop, remember to check how much freezer space you have available.
  • Buy produce in season. Fruits and vegetables cost less when they are in season. Some produce is usually low cost year-round, such as bananas, apples, oranges, cabbage, sweet potatoes, dark-green leafy vegetables, green peppers, and carrots.
  • Try to avoid prepared or convenience foods. Convenience foods, like frozen dinners, bagged salads, shredded cheese, individual yogurt cups, and instant oatmeal, usually cost more. You can save money, if you take the time to prepare foods yourself.
  • Consider buying store brands. Most stores offer their own brand of products that often cost less than name brands. These products will have a special label, sometimes with the store name. You might have to look on shelves that are higher or lower than eye level to find them. Stores usually put brand name items on shelves at eye level.

Step 3: Prepare

  • Cook once and eat all week. Prepare large batches of your favorite recipes and use for lunches or for another dinner later in the week, such as soups and casseroles.
  • Think about the foods you throw away. Try using leftover foods in stir-fries, salads, omelets, or soups. Throwing away food is like throwing away money!
  • Use frozen foods. Frozen food is convenient, nutritious, and economical. Purchase multiple bags of frozen vegetables when they go on sale. You can also freeze fresh fruits and vegetables, when they are in season, to use later.

Additional Resources

For ideas on how to eat healthy on a budget, including recipes, download Meeting Your MyPlate Goals on a Budget:

Find more tips on planning affordable weekly meals:


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (January 16, 2014). 10 Tips for Eating Right Affordably. Retrieved from

Church, C. (September 5, 2017). 14-proven ways to save money on groceries: part 1. Retrieved from

Church, C. (September 12, 2017). 14-proven ways to save money on groceries: part 2. Retrieved from

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). (July 25, 2017). Ten Tips to Eating Better on a Budget. Retrieved from

Adoption: How to Talk to Children

Family cuddling under a blanket

In 2015, 53,549 American children under the age of 18 were adopted from the foster care system, and, in 2016, 5,370 children from other countries were adopted by Americans (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2015; U.S. Department of State, 2016). It is important that families who have been personally touched by adoption talk honestly about the adoption with their children. Even though the conversations can be difficult or uncomfortable at times, open communication about adoption is associated with enhanced family relationship quality, reduced child behavioral problems, and healthy identity development.

Here are some best practices for parents to keep in mind as they talk to their child about adoption:

  • Start Early – Begin having conversations about adoption as early as possible, even as early as infancy! Start with the adoption story or how the child came to be a part of the family. By starting the conversation early, parents can ensure their child learns of his or her adoption from them. To have the parents tell their child he or she is adopted is important and can help make adoption feel normal for the child.
  • Make Conversations Interactive – When talking about adoption, engage the child as much as possible and make him or her an active participant in the conversation. If possible, make conversations interactive by using photos, maps, documents from the adoption agency, songs, or games.
  • Embrace Curiosity – Children will naturally be curious about their adoption, especially as they grow up, and they may ask a lot of questions. Embrace this curiosity, and use your best judgment in determining how to respond to your child’s questions. The goal is to help your child feel comfortable and confident in asking questions and talking with you about his or her adoption.
  • Take the Child’s Perspective – Often, it can be difficult for parents to determine what to share with their child about the For parents who are unsure of what to share, it may be useful for them to place themselves in their child’s position and ask, “What information would I want to know?” and “How would I want to hear that information?” These and similar questions may help identify supportive and caring ways to communicate with and relate to your child.
  • Emphasize the Positive – Children may experience negative thoughts and feelings about adoption that impact their self-worth. Parents can help alleviate these feelings by initiating open conversations that support them. For example, parents and children could discuss how their birth parents’ decision to place him or her for adoption was motivated by good intentions, how important he or she is  to the adopted family, how the adopted family is a permanent home for him or her, and how much each member of the adopted family loves him or her.


Johnson, C. (2017). Introduction. In C. Johnson & M. Lestino (Eds.), Adoption by the numbers: A comprehensive report of U.S. adoption statistics. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2015). The AFCARS report. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of State. (2016). Intercountry adoption statistics. Retrieved from