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Archive for the 'Family' Category

Study: More kids now homeless

March
11

Troubling report his week from The National Center on Family Homelessness, which released a study that found 1 in 50 children in the U.S. were without a home. That’s about 1.5 million kids, according to the study. And the troubling thing is that the figures were compiled in 2005-2006 — before the current economic downturn that has more and more parents without jobs.

(Angela Gaul/The Journal News)

The study ranks New York 38th overall in a national review of states. The Empire state was 39th in child well being, 31st in risk of child homelessness, and 22nd in extent of child homelessness. It also classified New York’s policy and planning on the issue as inadequate.

It’s just a reminder that as more folks end up out of work, there’s a whole generation of kids tagging along.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 at 11:39 am |
| | 2 Comments »

Study: Kids benefit from grandparents

March
6

Kids are better behaved and have better social skills if a grandparent is involved in their upbringing, according to a recent study in the Journal of Family Psychology, That’s kind of a no-brainer for most of us, but take note of the fact that the study found it’s particularly true in single-parent and divorced families.

(Joe Larese/The Journal News)

Obviously, plenty of children grow up to be marvelous human beings without significant influence from their grandparents. It was largely lacking in my childhood. But, and especially in single-parent homes, what an element of stability that can add to a child who doesn’t have the benefit of both parents in the home, or is struggling emotionally with the adjustment to a step-parent.

That’s a noteworthy footnote to the whole thing. At least it is for me.

 

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, March 6th, 2009 at 6:33 pm |
| | 4 Comments »

Census: Fewer families with kids at home

March
4

Interesting stats out from the U.S. Census Bureau. In a nutshell, fewer families have children under 18 living at home. The number dropped to 46 percent last year, down from 57 percent in the ’60s.

The reason, the bureau says, is because of lower fertility rates and the aging of Baby Boomers.

“Decreases in the percentage of families with their own child under 18 at home reflect the aging of the population and changing fertility patterns,” said Rose Kreider, family demographer at the U.S. Census Bureau.
“In 2008, not only were baby boomers old enough that most of their children were 18 and over, but they were having fewer kids than their parents, as well.”

Among the factors:

• Increases in longevity: The average numbers of years of life remaining at age 30 increased by about three years, comparing those 30 in 1960 with baby boomers who turned 30 in 1980 . As adults live longer, more married-couple households will be older and either childless or with adult children who live elsewhere.

• Increases in childlessness: The percentage of women 40 to 44 who were childless increased from 10 percent in 1976 to 20 percent in 2006.

So, society is getting older and having fewer kids at home. Or is there a deeper story behind the stats?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, March 4th, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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Single-parent bailout?

February
23

Single-parent blogger Jennifer Wolf addresses an interesting issue in her About.com column: Are single parents included under “families” getting a helping hand in the new economic stimulus package? Well, according to her, the wording of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 suggests not.

There’s at least some legs to the issue: Examiner.com picked it on their site. To me, it’s less about the stimulus package and more about the redefinition of “family,” as Wolf points out. I suppose there’s two viewpoints on this: A family should legally be a traditional family, or it should be much more loosely defined. The latter is up for interpretation, either a household of children and at least one adult in a parenting role, or whatever. And you could argue that the traditional family definition ignores some demographic realities.

No doubt the issue is heightened when you’re talking about who gets stimulus money and how much is out there to give. But I suspect it’s a gray area we’re going to have to define at some point or other.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, February 23rd, 2009 at 1:41 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Does rent make the parent?

February
18

Interesting issue tackled by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. The paper’s advice column fielded a question from a woman complaining that her boyfriend of three years was allowing his grown daughter to live in his house rent free. It has apparently become enough of an issue that she’s contemplating ending the relationship.

The paper’s answer? Since the girlfriend doesn’t live in the house and doesn’t contribute to the rent, it’s none of her business how the man runs his house.

This is not that far off an issue in single-parent relationships and within blended families, where turf issues — both physical and in terms of parental limits — are typical. What do you think?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
| | 7 Comments »

My cellular kid

February
13

I got my 11-year-old son a cell phone.

I know, why does an 11-year-old need a cell phone? I actually dwelled on this for a while, understanding that some of his schoolmates have had them for a couple of years. And I wondered why he would need one. The upside was that he would be able to reach out to us in an emergency or if there was a change in plans during afterschool activities or while at a friend’s house for the day. The downside was, well, why does he need it?

So, in the end I got him one, and I figured it was a good exercise in responsibility for him: Manage your  minutes, use it wisely and you’ll be able to keep it. As an aside, I also wanted him to have a way to keep in touch with his cousin, who he is very close with and who he is likely to see less off now that my ex’s mom — their grandmother — passed away at the end of last year. She was the glue that kep those kids in touch. Now they’re able to text and stay in touch regularly.

But I wondered about what it would cost. I have friends whose kids chalked up hundreds of dollars in cell phone bills after first getting one. So I waited for the “report card” — the first cell phone bill since we added him to our calling plan. Well, it came this week, and he’s well within his minutes. Phew.

Still, was it still a good idea? What age should we be hooking up our kids with telecommunication gadgets?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, February 13th, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
| | 12 Comments »

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Our culture and the new clan

January
28

You don’t necessarily set out in life to start a blended family. Some of us simply find ourselves in a place where you’re a candidate for it. You start you first family, have a kid, then things don’t work out and you go through a divorce or a split.

As I’ve blogged before, I’ve been fortunate in my situation because my ex and I do remain friends, and split parenting duties amicably. But there’s always a loss, and that primarily comes in the loss of a sense of family — something kids in divided homes will almost always want to recapture as well.

In our case, my ex and I have been lucky: She’s remarried and I live with my girlfriend and her little boy, so we’re both a part of blended families now. In fact, we’re part of a growing trend that, right or wrong, is reshaping the American family. Census statistics say that 75% of divorced people remarry, and 43% of all marriages constitute a remarriage for at least one partner. Yet, there’s still no guarantees: 60% of remarriages end in legal divorce.

Is it a case of, “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try and try again?” Perhaps. But I think single parents in particular legitimately covet that feeling of family for themselves and their children — a growing number of single parents, in fact. Given all this, I want to put a few questions out there:

• What do you think about the changing family dynamic in America?

• Given the percentage of failed remarriages, do you feel children of single parents are generally better off with a lone parent or in a new, blended family?

• What is your gut reaction when someone tells you they’re a single parent?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Is Spongebob killing our kids?

January
23

It seems this issue has been around forever. In 2006, a group of parents and advocacy groups threatened to sue Kelloggs and Viacom, Nickelodeon TV’s parent company, over the peddling of unhealthy food on commercials during shows like Spongebob Squarepants. In 2007, Kelloggs agreed to get more health-aware, and the suit was dropped.

But with Spongebob still flipping greasy crabby patties, and sugar-laced cereal still being plugged on the tube, it seems a lot of parents and advocates are still up in arms. The current issue of Best Life, put out by Men’s Health Magazine, takes issue with corporate cartoons and lists how to fight back. In October, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood took issue with the whole health thing as well. And I understand the concern, as kids’ waistlines are growing and growing. But aren’t we missing the point?

I mean, isn’t this whole thing about parenting? It seems to me the best thing I can do to make my son healthier is to buy him healthier foods to eat, and perhaps to eat healthier myself — something my girlfriend has had an incredibly positive influence on. If the kids want fruity-sugar cereal, you just say no. Am I off on this?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, January 23rd, 2009 at 12:27 pm |
| | 23 Comments »

My Jewban kid and his Cubish dad

January
21

Ethnic identity has been sort of a complicated issue for my son. He’s always known that his mom is Jewish and I’m Cuban, which makes him half Jewish and half Hispanic. But a Cuban guy with an Irish last name always has another story to tell, so he’s got the Anglo thing mixed in there from a few generations back, and his mom’s family is originally from Eastern Europe. The Jewish end has mostly dictated his faith, as his mom has been more observant of her faith than I have been of mine. At least we’re all white, so there’s no confusion with race.

Obviously, most of us are mutts these days anyway. But the real complication has always come in how my son is to refer to himself. He had to choose a culture to write about for a recent school project and he chose, with my encouragement, to report on his Jewish heritage. But what exactly is he when you mix it all in?

Well, thank God for the Urban Dictionary, which points out that my son is a Jewban. We even got confirmation on this from Wikipedia, just to make sure we were on the right track. Armed with our new resource, we were able to take it one step further and determined that I’m not just Cuban: I’m Cubish.

Now, we don’t really subscribe to labeling people as a general rule, but it’s just nice to know in a pinch. If only we can get the U.S. Census up to speed we’d be good to go.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 at 12:22 pm |
| | 9 Comments »

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Do we have to tell the kids?

January
16

It’s hard to miss the sad state of our economy right now: Layoffs everywhere, furloughs here and throughout the working world, etc. But do the kids really need to be in on it all? Granted, I hope I don’t get to the point where I have to tell my son that times are going to be hard because dad’s out of work. But until then, I wonder if we need to go there. Or am I naive?

Let me back up a sec to the more dire situation. I appreciate that there’s advice out there to help parents talk to their kids in the worst-case scenario. A couple of good ones come from Parents Press, as well as from Kiplinger .com and a good one for parents of teens from Businessweek

Fast-forward to where we are. I think we should all be telling our kids to be frugal anyway, and teaching them that a dollar wasted is, well, a waste. And my 11-year-old son sees the news, so the has a mild sense of it. But I think some worries belong largely with the parents until its unavoidable. Or am I wrong?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, January 16th, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
| | 7 Comments »

The ragged edges

January
16

So, my New Year’s resolution was to get busy blogging again and write an essay about why I fell off in my frequency so badly. But then life struck. We have been sick in my house for the past two weeks. It’s hard to express how miserable we’ve all been first with the stomach flu and now with nasty colds. I’ve had lots of good blog fodder coming into my head, though, at 3 a.m. when the child wakes up miserable. Sadly, though, so far no energy to write it up. Some thoughts:

• I can’t help but feel a bit like a failure as a mother because I just CAN NOT deal with vomit. Sorry. Can’t do it. During the worst vomit days, my husband bore the brunt. Fortunately for me, Pumpkin did her sick-making in the evening primarily, so I was off the hook when it came to cleaning up. Who does the dirty job in your household?

• Who doesn’t like Saltine crackers? They are the least offensive food I can imagine. But Pumpkin is turning her nose up at them and about 30 other foods as she slowly recovers her appetite. Worst of all, she is wishy-washy about what she wants. She says, “I’m hungry.” I say, “What do you want?” She says, “You pick it.” Then we go through every food in my fridge and pantry and I try and tempt her taste buds. Tonight, after turning down almost everything when I was ready to put her to bed even as she kept insisting she was hungry, I finally asked if she wanted peanut butter on bread. She ate three slices — crusts off. Go figure.

• She refuses to let me use saline to clear her nose or ChapStick on her lips, which are cracked and dry from the runny nose. My mother thinks I let her get away with too much. I dunno: Does your 3-year-old have autonomy? Mine seems to.

I realize this isn’t exciting stuff, but it’s my life these days. I have other stuff I will get into as soon as I’m not in a sick fog, like the awesome talent show we had on New Year’s Day with Pumpkin’s cousins. Pumpkin sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by heart. I also want to talk about having had the quintessential parent experience: Staying up until 2 a.m. Christmas Eve putting together a toy, in our case a play kitchen. I also want to put in some time trying to explain why blogging about being a mom got a little bit painful when I felt I wasn’t having enough time to BE a mom. Now I regret all the entries I didn’t post because I’ve missed out on sharing all the common and wonderful experiences I’ve had. I’ve also missed out on your reactions, dear blog readers, which is the best part of this gig.

So, here’s to a year of blogging. I’ll be here if you will … after I get over this darn cold, that is.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Friday, January 16th, 2009 at 3:28 am |
| | 1 Comment »

Being the ‘parent’

January
14

At 11, my son is pretty well accustomed to the house-swap that occurs as a result of the custody agreement between his mom and I. That’s not to say he wouldn’t like it differently — I don’t think the desire to have your parents together in one home ever disappears. But after more than six years apart, his mom’s remarriage and my own blended family, he’s pretty much accepted that this is how it is. And he’s a happy kid.

With my girlfriend’s 4-year-old, it’s still a work in progress. We have a good relationship and he thoroughly enjoys my company — he seeks me out when he gets home from school, is sad if I’m not home yet. But, as I said, it’s a longterm process that we’re still going through. His dad is actively involved with him and spends every other weekend with him, as well as some nights when he visits us for dinner.

One of the things we’ve focused on in making the transition for him is coming up with a title for me. Obviously, I’m not his dad, and I’m only sort of his friend, as I am an adult. My girlfriend has decided to refer to me as his ‘parent,’ or his ‘other parent.’ On Christmas, the little guy’s gift to me was the framed text of a discussion he had with his mom, which concludes with, ‘Jorge is my parent.’ It was a transitional thing for me, and it’s now prominently displayed in our home.

But I have no illusions: This will be a longterm process, and one you can’t push. It’s also a process that more and more parents are increasingly dealing with. According to “this blended family website,”:http://blendedfamily.us about 50,000 people become members of stepfamilies in the U.S. every single month, and 1 out of 4 children live in a stepfamily by the time they reach 18. According to U.S. Census data, these kids end up in stepfamilies for various reasons, but most — about 55% — become stepchildren when their biological parent remarries after divorce. Overall, about 80% of divorced adults remarry, and 60% of them have children from a prior marriage, according to the statistic

The comforting part of all this for me is that the more stepfamilies there are, the more ‘field research’ there is on the issue. No one wants their kid to be a guinea pig, but the reality is there. So far, I’d have to say that I think our approach is the best and most organic: Love and nurture your stepchild, but be aware of the existing and vital relationship the child has with their biological parent. Doesn’t sound like rocket science.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

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Men in the Mix

January
9

The adoption mix, that is.

While the statistics continue to weigh heavily in favor of women, men are on the rise as single dads and adoptive fathers. In a recent report, CNN noted that a growing number of men “are becoming parents using surrogate mothers.”:http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/12/23/single.men.parenting/index.html

Also note that the national Centers for Disease Control reported in an Aug. 2007 study that “men were twice as likely to adopt as women.”:http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/PRESSROOM/08newsreleases/adoption.htm If nothing else, these are increasing indications that the traditional family is being constantly redefined.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, January 9th, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
| | 4 Comments »

A death in the family

January
5

I felt fortunate this year that my son’s holiday season was a happy one. In fact, he made out like a bandit. In my book, that’s as it should be. As we do every year, we also bought gifts for needy children, something he has come to appreciate and we enjoy doing as a family.

His happiness was particularly important to me this year. That’s because he suffered his first significant loss with the death of his grandmother just before Thanksgiving, and two days before his birthday. This was his mother’s mom, with whom he was particularly close. Although she had been ill for some time, it was a very difficult process for him to go through, and one that he — and I — were a little unprepared for. It was, after all, his biggest loss since his mom and I split up, something I’m still learning to navigate in one form or another, albeit on a less frequent basis.

It was helpful for him to mourn with his mother, and the two of them shared their grief in significant and helpful ways. My initial concern was that he tried very hard to be a “big kid” about it, and did not want to be overly sad about it. He appeared more concerned about his mother’s wellbeing than his own. I credit him for that, but tried to assure him that he needed to mourn also. During the memorial service he started to break down, and was visibly overwhelmed by all the mourners who kept assuring him that his grandmother loved him dearly. I took him out of the room and we took a long walk together before coming back to the room.

I eventually realized that I needed him to mourn in his own way, and that perhaps I was projecting my expectation that he should be more broken up. He was, but in his own way, and it would happen slowly over time. The break-down moment for me came a couple of weeks before Christmas, when he was assigned a tribute poem for school. Of course, he wrote it about his grandma. It was therapy for him, and it was the outpouring of emotion that I feared he was bottling up inside. I felt it healed him to a large degree.

But the entire experience left me doubting myself, and how I dealt with it. Horrible as it sounds to say, he will suffer the loss of those close to him in the years to come, and I wonder how I would handle it differently if that comes to pass. I consulted several online resources for advice, and “found this at kidshealth.org”:http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/death.html and also “this at hospicenet.org”:http://www.hospicenet.org/html/talking.html for suggestions. Still, one learns from experience, and I think the best lesson for me was to let him be while reassuring him that it’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to express yourself when you’re ready.

It’s not something you want to plan for, but you do need to be ready. That was my biggest lesson.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, January 5th, 2009 at 11:46 am |
| | 2 Comments »

Halloween and my long absence

October
31

Actually, there’s no link between the two, but the Internet overlords here pointed out today that I’ve been incredibly bad about posting regularly here — and it does happen to be Halloween.

First, on my shoddy blogging habits: Guilty as charged. Work has been busy, life has been busier, but there are certainly no shortage of issues to blog about. Either way, I’m told today that the site will be “on hiatus” for the time being, largely because of inactivity. I’ve argued that we still get more hits than other blogs on here, and that we can recommit to posting more. But it proved not to be a convincing argument. Hopefully we’ll get some renewed interest after Election Day and can come back or reshape it. It can’t hurt if you guys make some noise, and I also intend to get more active with my single-parent network folks on Facebook.

Anyway, as for Halloween, my son is 10 now and, while clearly still into it, his interest is starting to fade as far as the traditional trick-or-treat ritual with us. We’re entering the hang-out-with-friends to do it stage. Nonetheless, we’re doing what we did last year: Getting our two blended families together and hitting the neighborhood. This year we’re in my ex’s neighborhood, as we alternate year-to-year. It’ll be my son, my ex and I, my girlfriend, her little boy and her ex, plus my ex’s husband and his son. That’s some crew.

And while we’re at it, here are some Halloween facts thrown my way by my colleague Cathey O’Donnell, who does a lot of the data number-crunching here at the paper. Enjoy:

The observance of Halloween, which dates back to Celtic rituals thousands of years ago, has long been associated with images of witches, ghosts, devils and hobgoblins. Over the years, Halloween customs and rituals have changed dramatically. Today, many of the young and young at heart take a more light-spirited approach. They don scary disguises or ones that may bring on smiles when they go door to door for treats, or attend or host a Halloween party.

Trick or Treat!
36 million
The estimated number of potential trick-or-treaters in 2007 — children 5 to 13 — across the United States. This number is down about 38,000 from a year earlier. Of course, many other children — older than 13, and younger than 5 — also go trick-or-treating.

110.3 million
Number of occupied housing units across the nation in 2007 — all potential stops for trick-or-treaters.

93%
Percentage of households with residents who consider their neighborhood safe. In addition, 78 percent said there was no place within a mile of their homes where they would be afraid to walk alone at night.

Jack-o’-Lanterns and Pumpkin Pies
1.1 billion pounds

Total production of pumpkins by major pumpkin-producing states in 2007. Illinois led the country by producing 542 million pounds of the vined orange gourd. Pumpkin patches in California, New York and Ohio also provided lots of pumpkins: Each state produced at least 100 million pounds. The value of all pumpkins produced by major pumpkin-producing states was $117 million.

Where to Spend Halloween?
Some places around the country that may put you in the Halloween mood are:

— Transylvania County, N.C. (29,984 residents).

— Tombstone, Ariz. (population 1,562).

— Pumpkin Center, N.C. (population 2,228); and Pumpkin Bend, Ark. (population 307).

— Cape Fear in New Hanover County, N.C. (15,711); and Cape Fear in Chatham County, N.C. (1,170).

— Skull Creek, Neb. (population 274).

Candy and Costumes
1,170

Number of U.S. manufacturing establishments that produced chocolate and cocoa products in 2006, employing 39,457 people and shipping $13.9 billion worth of goods. California led the nation in the number of chocolate and cocoa manufacturing establishments, with 128, followed by Pennsylvania, with 116.

473
Number of U.S. establishments that manufactured nonchocolate confectionary products in 2006. These establishments employed 18,733 people and shipped $7.2 billion worth of goods that year. California led the nation in this category, with 72 establishments.

24.5 pounds
Per capita consumption of candy by Americans in 2007.

2,077
Number of costume rental and formal wear establishments across the nation in 2006.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, October 31st, 2008 at 1:47 pm |
| | Comments Off on Halloween and my long absence

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About this blog
Parents’ Place is a hangout for openly discussing the A’s to Z’s of raising a child in the Lower Hudson Valley. From deciding when to stop using a binky to when to let your teenager take driving lessons, Parents’ Place is here to let us all vent, share, and most of all, learn from each other.
Leading the conversation are Julie Moran Alterio, a business reporter and mom of a toddler, Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, a reporter and single father with joint custody of a 9-year-old son, and Len Maniace, a reporter and father of two sons.


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About the authors
Julie Moran AlterioJulie Moran AlterioJulie Moran Alterio, her husband and baby girl — “Pumpkin” — share their Northern Westchester home with three iPods and more colorful plastic toys than seems necessary to entertain one tiny human. READ MORE
Jorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-Gibbon has been a journalist for more than 20 years and a father for nine. READ MORE
Jane LernerJane LernerJane Lerner covers health and hospitals for The Journal News in Rockland, where she lives with her husband and two children. READ MORE
Len Maniace.jpgLen ManiaceLen Maniace is a reporter and father of two sons. READ MORE



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