Tag Archives: the care and keeping of you

Healthier Living: 6 Steps To Start Taking Today

This week’s episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents” on The Chopra Well focuses on how parents can teach and model healthy living habits to kids. Dr. Cara Natterson from the show shares her own tips for a healthier, happier lifestyle.

By Dr. Cara Natterson

Frankly, that phrase is pretty intimidating: “Healthy Living.” If you aren’t abiding by it perfectly when you read it, it actually even feels judgy. It’s not meant to be, though. Healthy living is a goal, and so maybe the better term would be “healthier living.”

What is healthier living? It is taking whatever you are doing a step in the right direction. You know when you are really, really craving that chocolate chip cookie after lunch and you fight the urge and choose a juicy tangerine instead? And then you are completely floored that you sweet craving is gone because you have actually consumed something sweet? Yeah, that’s healthier living. It doesn’t mean you will never have the cookie – of course you will – but you are finding ways to make better choices some of the time.

Here are six keys to healthier living:

1. It means eating better by eating more whole foods and fewer processed ones. I do think it means eating more organic foods, but I don’t think organic brownies count.

2. Healthier living means choosing water over juice or soda.

3. It means exercising regularly, which for most people means forcing themselves to get out of the chair and start moving.

4. Healthier living means going to bed earlier and aiming for 8 (or if you are a growing kid, 10) hours of solid sleep. Like I said, it’s a goal. But it is a goal that is far easier to reach when you turn off the TV.

5. Healthier living means reducing screen time and chemical exposures.

6. It means finding ways to reduce stress, which for one person might be a yoga class and for another might be getting through a towering pile of mail and paying the bills.

Perhaps most importantly, healthier living means that you are doing better today than you did yesterday. And so that means it is never too late to start. Sometimes I sit down with families and talk about nutrition and exercise and sleep, and their eyes glass over. If a thought bubble could emerge above their heads it would say, uniformly, “You want me to do what?! That’s waaaaay too much to change.” But if you take little tiny steps and make small changes day-by-day and week-by-week, it really is doable. And you’ll feel better. And one day, you’ll go from aiming to be healthier to just being healthy.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and stay tuned for more inspiring lifestyle tips on “Perfectly Imperfect Parents.”

Past Articles:

Managing Grandparents: How to Be a Parent When You’re Still Someone’s Child

How to Teach Our Kids About the Perils of Lying

Should Parents Allow Their Kids On Social Media

photo by: AlicePopkorn

Should Parents Allow Their Kids on Social Media?

By Mallika Chopra

Before we began “Perfectly Imperfect Parents“, I emailed my mommy friends and posted a question on Facebook, Twitter and Intentblog:

What parenting topics are most important to you today? What should we be talking about on this show?

By far, the number one response that I got back was friends asking us to discuss how parents should deal with social media. And most of the responses expressed fear, anxiety, and uncertainty about how to control their kids.

I’m sure parents of every generation feel they are dealing with trends that are ahead of what they understand or even know about, and they are overwhelmed with uncertainty. And with each generation perhaps we feel we live in more difficult times than those before us.

Social media seems to be the big theme amongst my fellow parents. Questions like: When should they get a phone? Are they on Instagram? What about Snap Chat? What are the other apps and sites out there?

Here is what’s going on in my house:

My elder daughter, Tara, is eleven years old. She has had email for a few years but is not really into it. We set it up so that she can keep in touch with her grandparents. She can only use it to email cousins, grandparents and her close friends.

She uses a computer for most of her homework already, and is more adept at searching for information and using Dropbox to download and upload her homework assignments. She already types faster than me, does better Powerpoint presentations and makes iMovies.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 12.11.25 PM
16-year-old YouTuber, Audrey Whitby, on “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”

She does not have a cell phone – perhaps half of her friends do have phones. She uses a “family” phone when she is at a non-school event alone (not at play dates, other peoples homes or classes). Every wish, every ask, is for a cell phone.

She is not allowed Instagram (the social media platform most of her friends are on), let alone Snap Chat – which I don’t think she even knows about yet. (Snap Chat really freaks me out.)

Her school says no students are allowed on Facebook or Twitter. I haven’t heard of any of her friends on those platforms.

So far, while we have proven to be a bit more conservative when it comes to social media, it hasn’t become a huge issue yet as I think half of her social circle has similar rules in their houses. But, I know we are months away from that all changing.

Sixth grade seems to be a turning point, with middle school the point of no return when it comes to social media. I have to admit when it comes to my kids, social media has been ensconced in a general aura of fear. It’s the unknown that promises to expose my kids to too much information, too much access, too many opportunities to interact with people I don’t want them to interact with.

But something happened last month (after we shot our social media episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”) that started to take the fear away.

My husband and I were in Munich for a conference and the girls were in Washington DC with my parents for the presidential inauguration. Tara had the “family” phone and we began to text each other throughout the day.

What unfolded was an entirely new, and absolutely amazing, form of communication with my daughter. Her texts were funny, insightful, moving. My husband and I would wait to get her messages, and smile all day long as we read them. She texted us the moment President Obama took the stage at the inauguration – we could experience and share her emotions through her limited characters and words and laugh as we saw her snap and text photos of her and Leela
smiling in the freezing cold. We felt connected, engaged, so incredibly happy that we had this amazing tool to be in touch.

I realized that like the generations before us, we as parents will ultimately figure it out with our kids. There will be bumps along the road no doubt, but hopefully and optimistically we will find ourselves more connected because of technology.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”, as well as how you deal with social media in your family. We are all very eager to learn from each other!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and don’t miss next week’s episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”!

Finding Balance: Mallika Chopra on Work and Motherhood

In this week’s episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents” on The Chopra Well, hosts Mallika Chopra, Dr. Cara Natterson and Dani Modisett discuss balance. Many parents, no matter how organized, find themselves constantly stretched, juggling kids, jobs, housework and more. We interviewed Mallika on her personal approach to achieving balance and the things that get in the way.

The Chopra Well: Describe your daily struggle for balance – between family and work and personal projects. Any specific practices that help you get through the day?

Mallika Chopra: I do struggle for balance between my kids and work. (No time right now really for personal projects!) I’m pretty clear my #1 priority is my girls, so I think people who work with me understand and appreciate that. Hmm. As for practices, truly even 10 minutes of meditation halfway through the day helps anchor me. I try to set an intent for each day, too. That helps me stayed focused.

CW: Is there anything you find yourself consistently putting on the back burner that you wish you had more time to focus on?

MC: Exercise!! And yoga classes.

CW: If you had, say, five more hours in the day, how would you spend them?

MC: I would sleep in a little later. I normally wake up at 6:30am to get the kids ready for school. I don’t think I would sleep much later actually, but even being able to lounge in bed for another 10 minutes seems lovely. I’d definitely spend an hour exercising. Sadly, though, I think it’s my personality that even five more hours a day wouldn’t change my nature to feel overwhelmed at times.

CW: In the contemporary world, where 72% of moms with kids over 1 year old also work, how does this affect our parenting? Our kids? Our economy?

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 3.04.30 PMMC: Well, most women don’t have the choice to work outside and inside the home. It’s the reality of the economy, and life is expensive. I know for many years I worked just so that I could pay the wonderful people who helped me at home and with my kids. And you know, something like 75% of full-time working moms use childcare and/or household help. I was lucky to figure out a work scenario which gives me flexibility, as I don’t have to go to an office every day for work, and my husband has a stable income. Having the kids older and in school is a dramatic shift, too, as I have more hours to focus on work. But it is a hard, hard balance!

CW: What biggest piece of advice would you give to a new parent regarding balance and personal wellness?

MC: I know the reality is that when you have a newborn, are managing a house, and working, finding time for yourself is almost impossible. I never really related to the experts who said “find time for yourself,” because that wasn’t the reality I experienced for myself or many of my friends. I would encourage parents to know that it does get better, you figure out your rhythm, and they should truly cherish the time with their kids. Everyone tells new parents that the time escapes before you know it. Now that my kids are 8 and 11 years old, I am so nostalgic for those early years. And I feel fortunate to be able to make choices everyday to balance my schedule so I can cherish the moments with them.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and don’t miss next week’s episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”!

Read last week’s article – Doctor’s Advice: How to Talk with Your Kids About Sex

Doctor’s Advice: How to Talk with Your Kids About Sex

This week’s episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents” on The Chopra Well is all about how to talk with your kids about sex. Dr. Cara Natterson from the show shares her thoughts and tips. Number 1 piece of advice? Have more than one talk!

By Dr. Cara Natterson

Early in my career as a pediatrician, I saw a 16-year-old girl for a routine check up. Once a girl becomes a teen – and sometimes even before – I like to speak with the parent and child together, and then with each separately. It takes time, mind you, but most teenagers are not going to disclose things with a parent in the room. You would be amazed at what comes out in those precious one-on-one moments – not just about sex and drugs, but about plans to pierce their tongue or to get a tattoo.

So early in my career I was seeing a polite teenage girl who arrived at the office well groomed and dressed fairly conservatively. I spent time with the girl and her mother, reviewing her questions (Am I done growing? Do I really have to eat breakfast? I’m not hungry in the mornings…) followed by a physical exam. Finally, with her mom out of the room, I started down my own road of questions.

It took all of 30 seconds for her to disclose that she was sexually active. I emerged from the room several minutes later, after a densely packed conversation, and met her mom in my office.

“Well,” said her mother. “All I have to say is that I am so glad she is nowhere near having sex. I mean, thank goodness for that, right?!”

Medical school had not prepared me for this.

Fifteen years later, I am used to the conversation. I know how to talk to parents about their kids without violating confidence. And I know how to talk to kids about talking to their parents.

But success on this front does not lie with me, or with any pediatrician for that matter. It is best achieved by you: the parent. You need to have The Talk with your kid. And not just once but many times, slowly, over many years. Parents who do it once think it is among the biggest moments of their parenting lives; but when parents do it only once, oftentimes it doesn’t even register with the kids. Literally. When I ask them if they have had The Talk, the one-time-only kids will often deny it. And when their hyperventilating parents remind them about it, they say they simply forgot. Grossly unfair, I know, but it’s true.

SaraThe goal of The Talk is not just to teach your sons and daughters to understand what they are getting themselves into physically, with all of its possible consequences, but also (sometimes even more so) to help them understand what they are getting into emotionally. Teenagers fall in love and then suffer heartbreak. They aren’t mini-adults, but they have adult-sized bodies and adult-sized feelings, as well. When parents and kids don’t talk about sex and all that goes along with it, then kids who are sexually active (or who are thinking about becoming sexually active) turn elsewhere for their information and a shoulder to cry on.

Today, more than ever, you want to be that source for your child. When we were growing up, the alternatives to mom and dad were very limited: there was the fast friend who seemed to know a lot about everything (though in hindsight it is clear the information was often wrong) and there was a handful of books or magazines that covered the topic. That was it. Today, we parents are in direct competition with the Internet, a 24-hour anonymous source of graphic over-information. Like the precocious kid from our youth, the web is often flooded with believable but wrong information. But unlike that kid, it’s never unavailable.

I have a 7-year old and a 9-year old at home. They are really different kids, and the ways they process all of this information will be equally different. One is a boy, one is a girl. One is more stoic, the other an emotional puddle. One is curious, while the other is very happy to stay young and not know too much (ironically, that would be the older child). But I do my best to talk openly with them and answer their questions. Right now it’s about basics – seriously, do I really have to go over why you need to take a bath or shower every day again? – but soon enough the subject matter will advance. And I know I will make plenty of errors as I go along, but I also know the more I talk with my kids the less those screw ups will matter. They only make a big impression if you have just one Talk…assuming your kid even remembers it.

Have you started talking to your kids about sex? Let us know in the comments section below!

Read more by Dr. Cara Natterson here. And read last week’s article on bullying by Mallika Chopra here.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well for updates on the latest episodes of Perfectly Imperfect Parents!


Cara Natterson, MD is a board-certified pediatrician, pediatric consultant, and media expert. She is also the author of several books on child health and parenting, including the best-selling American Girl book series, The Care and Keeping of You.

Mallika Chopra: Where Do We Draw the Line with Bullying?


By Mallika Chopra

My daughter recently told me about an incident with some of her friends. A group of them were together singing, dancing and having fun. One friend, a free spirited, earnest girl, was enthusiastically participating, feeling secure in the trusted circle.

My daughter heard another friend, who had a cell phone with her, laugh and say, “Let’s record her,” without the other girl’s knowledge. My daughter said no, feeling intuitively that it would be inappropriate.

This incident brought up several issues for me.

  1. All the girls involved in this scenario are really nice, kind, good girls. In fact, I feel very fortunate that my daughter is surrounded by such wonderful friends.
  1. I was in the room, and had felt uncomfortable with the cell phone in this particular situation. But I did not take it away.
  2. Our children are living in a new world where everything they do has the potential to live forever online, whether they upload them or not.
  3. Was this a potential incident of bullying? I’m not sure, but I think so. And I am proud of my daughter for knowing it was inappropriate to record another friend without her knowing.

Bullying has happened throughout the ages. In the last few years though it has gained more media attention – from Lady Gaga to Demi Lovato to tragic incidents where young kids have been humiliated both online and offline, and it has ended in the worst situation imaginable for parents.

Kids can be mean. Perhaps it’s part of their exploration of boundaries and their power in social circles. As parents we can teach our own kids the importance of kindness, respect and treating others as we want them to be treated. And, we can guide them to stand up to bullies.

I tell my daughters that when someone is being mean to them, it’s more a reflection of that person’s insecurity. Of course, when my daughter was teased by a friend and locked out of a room, I was livid with anger — not really accepting my own advice and immediately thinking “What a little b….!” Yes, I will admit my own thoughts waver often from what I aspire to be as a good mom.

In our first episode of Perfectly Imperfect Parents, my co-hosts, Dr. Cara Natterson (author of The Care and Keeping of You books by American Girl) and Dani Modisett (author and creator of the book and play, Afterbirth) discuss bullying. We would love your thoughts on how you have addressed this issue with your kids. We can all learn from each other!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well to get updates on the latest episodes of Perfectly Imperfect Parents!

More on conscious parenting by Mallika Chopra:

Back to School Bliss!
Talking to Children About the Batman Shooting
Mommy Days – Balancing Work & Kids (in a somewhat frenzied way!)

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