A Brief Guide to Teen Lingo

Dear Mr. Dad: My 12-year-old daughter recently had a slumber party with two friends from school. One of them left her phone. I texted my daughter so she could tell her friend, and two seconds later got this back: DO NOT READ ANYTHING ON THAT PHONE!!!!! Clearly she was trying to hide something, so I immediately opened the phone and started reading the texts—especially between this girl and my daughter. With all the abbreviations, I could hardly understand what they were talking about. But based on my daughter’s response, I’m worried. Should I be? And was I wrong to read those texts?

A: Yes and no. Your daughter’s screaming response could simply be a demand for privacy, which is something you should try to respect. However, her response seems so panicky that I think you were right to snoop. The fact that you couldn’t understand what you were reading doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything to worry about—your daughter and her friend could be having completely innocent conversations that you’re just not cool enough to understand (very few adults are). On the other hand, it could be exactly the opposite.
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All You Need is a Shot of Courage

Dear Mr. Dad: I am currently deployed and going to miss the birth of my first. As such, my wife and I decided to hire a doula. We found one and really like her, but unfortunately, she is not vaccinated, nor are her own children. We spoke to my wife’s OB who says there is a very slim chance of anything happening, but there is a chance. How much should we be concerned?

A: A lot. I think it’s a big mistake to go with a doula who doesn’t vaccinate herself or her children.

If your wife has been vaccinated and breastfeeds your baby, her immunity will most likely protect the baby. But we’re talking about a newborn here. Is “most likely protected” or “a slim chance of anything happening” good enough? It wouldn’t be for me–especially when you can reduce the risk to almost zero.
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Sorry, Mila, But We Are Pregnant

Dear Mr. Dad: As someone who writes a lot about fatherhood, you probably saw Mila Kunis’ funny public service announcement where she says that a man saying “we are pregnant” is a no-no. As a father-to-be, I enjoyed the sketch, but I think that Mila forgot that men do play a role throughout. My wife and I have been arguing (lightheartedly) about this and I need someone to back me up.

A: Oh, yea, I saw it. And not to worry—I’ve got your back. Mila and her husband Ashton Kutcher (OMG, and I really writing celebrity gossip?) seem like a lovely couple, and I’m sure they both have a good sense of humor. But kidding or not, her comments got a huge amount of coverage around the country (and the world).
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When it Comes to Making Career Choices, Let Your Child Do the Driving

Dear Mr. Dad: My daughter just turned 15, and I want to start preparing her for the future. Specifically, I want to make sure that she’s on the right career path, whether than means going to college, trade school, or something else after she graduates high school. She’s only got a few years left, and I’m a little concerned that she doesn’t seem to have much direction. How do I steer her toward the right career choice?

A: As parents, we all want our kids to succeed in everything they do, from getting good grades to finding the right life partner to landing the perfect job. But parenthood is an ongoing lesson in the difference between control and influence. When our kids are young, we’re pretty much in control and we’ve got a huge amount of influence. As they get older, they take on more and more control over their own lives. We have influence, but a little less every day. And by the time they’re around your daughter’s age, we have almost no control at all, and whatever influence we still have is much more powerful if we wait until we’re asked to help rather than offering unsolicited advice (which a lot of teens and young adults will see as an attempt to control them anyway).
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Fatherhood: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m what you’ve referred to as a “renewed dad.” I’ve got young adult children from a previous relationship and just became a new dad again. Things already seem very different than they were the first time around. Has fatherhood changed or is it just me?

A: A little of both. Renewed dads tend to be more financially secure and less worried about moving up the corporate latter than younger dads who are often just starting their careers. Renewed dads also typically have more time to spend with their young children. You’ll find that you’ll interact with your baby differently than you did with your older kids when they were the same age. Then, your back and knees were stronger than they are now and you probably spent more time wrestling, running, kicking, and doing other physical things. These days you’ll spend a little less time on the floor, and more time reading and talking to your baby.
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Breastfeeding: Is There Ever Too Much of a Good Thing?

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife continues to breastfeed our two-year-old daughter even though she’s old enough to eat “real” food. I don’t have a problem with this, but some of our friends and even some coworkers are shocked that she’s still breastfeding. Is there a specific age at which you should stop breastfeeding? Are we committing some sort of social faux pas by trying to do right by our daughter?

A: Oh, boy, are you going to cause a firestorm. Deciding whether to breastfeed a baby and for how long, is something only the parents can decide. But, as you’ve noticed, a lot of people have strong opinions on the topic and they’re not afraid to share them—whether you want to hear them or not.

Let’s start with some background. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that, barring any medical problem, babies get nothing but breast milk for the first six months. Then it’s “as long as mutually desired by the mother and child.” Many pediatricians suggest that starting at six months, parents should gradually introduce appropriate food and simultaneously decrease breastfeeding. At the end of a year, most babies will be weaned. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a child nurse for longer than that—as long as you understand that the kind of nutrition if provides is mostly emotional.
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