Self-Care for New Moms, Toddler Meal Plans, Chabon on Fatherhood, Raising the Tech Generation | Parenting Reviews

CHOICES, CHOICES, CHOICES It’s no wonder decision fatigue runs rampant, as parents today face both age-old decisions, such as how to potty train (Sarah ­Ockwell-Smith’s Ready, Set, Go!) and prepare nutritious meals (Nicole M. Avena’s What To Feed Your Baby & Toddler) to managing wisely the constant onslaught of information (Mike Brooks & John Lasser’s Tech Generation). And is it any surprise that many moms struggle with rebuilding their health and energy after childbirth? Exploring the topic in-depth are ­Oscar ­Serrallach’s The Postnatal Depletion Cure (reviewed below) and Dayna M. Kurtz’s Mother Matters (Familius, May), offering a holistic guide on self-care through acupuncture, the expressive arts, and massage. To help combat the overwhelming barrage of parenting advice, popular Christian authors Sally and Clay Clarkson’s The Lifegiving ­Parent (­Tyndale House, May) shares principles for creating a home that nurtures, guides, and renews, while Stella O’Malley’s Bully-Proof Kids (Gill, May) presents an ­essential work on an important subject regrettably topping today’s headlines.

Avena, Nicole M. What To Feed Your Baby & Toddler: A Month-by-Month Guide To Support Your Child’s Health and Development. Ten Speed: Crown. May 2018. 224p. index. ISBN 9780399580239. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9780399580246. CHILD REARING

Neuroscientist Avena (What To Eat When You’re Pregnant) spends her days studying how food affects our brain and our behavior and here shares how to navigate feeding infants and toddlers. With the busyness of life, says the author, comes the temptation to turn to easy-fix meal choices. Focused on providing careful nutritional guidance and simple-to-­prepare recipes, ­Avena’s guide organizes meal plans month by month in chapters detailing what is happening developmentally in a child’s body, concentrating on a key nutrient at each stage of growth that will be especially crucial to changes at a specific time. Each month’s recipes are strong in this primary nutrient, making preparing healthy meals for baby a snap. Dining out, picky eating, food allergies, and other important medical issues are also addressed in the final chapters. ­VERDICT Specific nutritional information and straightforward, fun-to-eat recipes make this a great primer for new parents.

redstarBrooks, Mike & Jon Lasser. Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper-Connected World. Oxford Univ. Aug. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780190665296. $24.95. CHILD REARING

Cyberbullying, video-game violence, and sexting are common anxieties for parents. But an imbalanced use of technology isn’t a problem only for children; studies show that 28 percent of teens believe their parents are addicted to their phones. ­Coauthors and school psychologists Brooks (director, Austin Psychology and Assessment Ctr.; ­techhappylife.com) and Lasser (associate dean, Coll. of Education, Texas State Univ.) argue that screen time has become so integrated into our daily routines that we can’t imagine existing without it. Have we become servants to technology? Brooks and Lasser answer, yes. Struggles with delayed gratification, decision fatigue created by myriad options, and continuous peer-to-peer comparisons are a result of this brave new world of hyperconnection. So how can we reap the benefits and minimize the fallout? Brooks and Lasser provide strategies on three levels: green for prevention (getting kids plugged into activities such as Girl Scouts, community service, and team sports; keeping screens out of bedrooms, setting time limits, and mindfully engaging), yellow for addressing emerging concerns (using collaboration and consequences to minimize challenges), and the red-light level, which calls for strong intervention when necessary. ­VERDICT A key title for libraries, with relevant research that supports a balanced approach to technology use.

Burrowes, Susan. Off the Rails: One Family’s Journey Through Teen Addiction. She Writes. Aug. 2018. 308p. ISBN 9781631524677. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631524684. CHILD REARING

With two healthy children and rewarding careers, educator and communications expert ­Burrowes and husband Paul were shocked when, within only a few months, their lives were thrown into upheaval as daughter Hannah’s ordinary teen moodiness shifted into vicious anger. “If she’s willing to hit me, what else is she capable of,” asks Burrowes at the start of this often disturbing, raw, and uncut account written from both the author’s and Hannah’s perspectives. Readers follow Hannah as she’s admitted to a psychiatric hospital then completes progressive treatments at the Second Nature Wilderness Family Therapy program and comes to understand Austrian neurologist Viktor Frankl’s idea that “caring is the last human freedom.” After Hannah completes a strict regimen at the wilderness program, she is treated at a residential center. ­Burrowes reflects on the experience: “when you have a child in treatment, everything you see, hear, and do is filtered through a lens of frustration, failure, and shame. Readers will appreciate Hannah’s final move toward redemption when Hannah returns home and healing begins. VERDICT A powerful work of unfiltered truth about addiction, mother-daughter relationships, and the importance of working together.

redstarChabon, Michael. Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces. Harper. May 2018. 144p. ISBN 9780062834621. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062834638. CHILD REARING

A well-known author once told Pulitzer Prize winner Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay; Wonder Boys; Telegraph Avenue), “You can write books or you can have kids…you lose a book for every child.” Yet Chabon, father of four, argues that books, unlike children, don’t love you back. So begins this literary ode to parenting in which the author admires his son Abe’s rare gift for doing things with panache but struggles to understand his love for fashion, stumbles over bedtime reading, and ponders how to teach his son how to treat the women in his life even as he explores his own foibles and failures in this regard. As parenting is likely to lead to self-reflection, Chabon further examines his own childhood through the looking glass, contemplating his decision not to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a doctor. In the last section, Chabon writes about visiting his father, who is hospitalized for a possibly fatal infection, meditating on his own relationship with Dad. VERDICT Literary and emotionally provocative, Chabon’s memoir is a quick read that will appeal to parents as well as fans of his fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 11/12/17.]

Ockwell-Smith, Sarah. Ready, Set, Go! A Gentle Parenting Guide to Calmer, Quicker Potty Training. TarcherPerigee. Jun. 2018. 208p. ISBN 9780143131908. pap. $16. CHILD REARING

Blogger Ockwell-Smith (Sarah­Ockwell-Smith.com) is read by two million parents each year. As a prenatal teacher, birth and postnatal doula, cofounder of ­GentleParenting.com, and mother of four, the author provides tips for potty training. In the first chapter, bringing her gentle approach to a developmental milestone, she devotes attention to the physiological factors involved in potty training and how to know when your child is ready. The decision can only be made by your child, advises the author. As the text continues, she provides suggestions on how to begin and answers questions, such as do pull ups contribute to a mixed message that slows the process? And are girls usually ready to potty train before boys? She disagrees with the common carrot-dangling reward method, preferring a more mindful technique using effort-based praise and dealing with emotions involved in the act itself. Nighttime training is a common struggle for parents, and the author dedicates an entire section to solving evening potty woes. The last chapter contains common questions parents ask, and helpful recommendations of books and videos for children fill the appendix. VERDICT There is little new here, but potty training is of perennial interest to parents, and newbies may find this a solid starter manual.

Power, Thomas J. & Linda Wasmer Andrews. If Your Adolescent Has ADHD: An Essential Resource for Parents. Oxford Univ. (Adolescent Mental Health Initiative). Aug. 2018. 240p. ISBN 9780190494636. pap. $12.95. CHILD REARING

Published as part of an initiative developed by the Annenberg Public Policy Center to spread awareness about adolescent mental-health issues, this volume from Power (director, Ctr. for Management of ADHD, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; coauthor, ADHD Rating Scale-5 for Children and Adolescents) and Andrews (If Your Adolescent Has Depression or Bipolar Disorder) addresses new challenges teens face in academics and social relationships created by ADHD, providing information on symptoms, diagnosis, behavioral modification, and the pros and cons of therapy and medication. The second half of the book assists with the struggles of enforcing curfews, promoting healthy sleep habits, being involved without being intrusive, helping your teen deal with peer pressure, and minimizing some of the possible risks involved for teen drivers with ADHD. Difficulties in the classroom are also addressed, with the authors offering advice for managing homework and study time, as well as working with teachers to form a written educational plan. Since half of students diagnosed with ADHD meet the criteria as young adults, the final portion of the book explores choosing the right college, finding classroom accommodations, and familiarity with the workforce. VERDICT A valuable resource and great addition to Oxford’s comprehensive series on adolescent mental health.

Serrallach, Oscar. The Postnatal Depletion Cure: A Complete Guide to Rebuilding Your Health and Reclaiming Your Energy for Mothers of Newborns, Toddlers, and Young Children. Goop/ Grand Central. Jun. 2018. 286p. ISBN 9781478970309. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781478970293. CHILD REARING

According to Australian family practitioner and debut author Serrallach, while the topic of postpartum depression has received more attention in recent years, less focus has been given to the smaller shifts in emotion and physical depletion experienced by a large percentage of women after childbirth. Baby brain—a term for the exhaustion, pain, forgetfulness, indecision, low energy levels, moodiness, and difficulty sleeping—is commonly reported by many women, asserts the author, who also reports that a mother’s brain shrinks five percent during pregnancy as infants sap vital nutrients from her body. This stimulates the growth of a healthy baby but results in residual symptoms for mothers even months or years after giving birth. Moreover, women may cave to society’s emphasis on the needs of baby first, which may cause them to feel they are selfish in spending time to ensure that their own physical needs are met by getting plenty of sleep and exercise. Serrallach states this is primarily an issue in Western cultures, pointing out that countries such as China, Korea, and Zimbabwe maintain customs that enable the physical and emotional healing of mothers and that we can learn from their practices. Additional information includes rebuilding micronutrients lost during pregnancy, balancing hormones, and healing your relationship with your partner and libido. ­VERDICT A practical volume that will be of use to mothers everywhere.

Turgeon, Heather & Julie Wright. Now Say This: The Right Words To Solve Every Parenting Dilemma; The 3-Step Approach to Effective Communication. TarcherPerigee. May 2018. 352p. notes. index. ISBN 9780143130345. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781524704018. CHILD REARING

Psychotherapist Turgeon and early childhood therapist Wright, coauthors of The Happy Sleeper and HappySleeper.com, are known for offering online consultation for exhausted parents. Here they employ the ALP method: Attune (watch, listen, and understand), Limit Set (state reasonable boundaries), and Problem Solve (engage your child in creating solutions) to a variety of parenting situations. Though the authors acknowledge that up-front communication is an art, not an exact science, and that their words are not the only words, their research shows that parents are looking for communication examples. After describing ALP, they walk readers through applying the model in challenging moments (tantrums, sibling rivalry, screen time, bedtime, etc.), including sample scripts. VERDICT Parenting styles are so individual, and this book may appeal to some (especially first-timers), but communication with children is not a simple process, and the scripts at times seem stilted. An ­optional purchase.

Richmond, VA–based freelance writer Julia M. Reffner has reviewed books and DVDs for a variety of genres for LJ. She has judged several book awards and is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Word Weavers

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