Category Archives for Baby

The Essential Hospital Bag Checklist for Mom, Baby, and Partner

They go by many names: hospital bag, maternity bag, overnight bag, diaper bag. Whatever you call it, having a pre-packed bag of essential supplies ready to go whenever the Big Day arrives is key. You’ll be ready at a moment’s notice, and by packing in advance, you won’t risk forgetting anything.

Even if you’re not planning a hospital birth, it’s a good idea to have a hospital bag packed as you may need to go in unexpectedly. You should think about having your maternity bag packed by the time you are about 32 weeks pregnant (i.e., 8 months), as baby could arrive anytime after that. It’s a good idea to pack your bags together and double-check that each of you has everything you need. 

Here’s the ultimate hospital bag checklist, mom-tested and approved, as well as mini-checklists of things for a hospital bag for baby and a bag for your partner to pack, too. Check with your hospital or birthing centre to see what items they provide, and you may be able to leave out some items below. If space is a concern in your maternity ward, you can pack a small labour bag as well as a separate hospital stay bag which you can leave in the car or which can be brought to you later.

What to Pack in a Hospital Bag for Mom

For Labour

  • Battery-powered hand fan
  • Big cup with bendable straw
  • Birth plan
  • Coconut water (colder the better!)
  • Electric heating pad or hot water bottle
  • Electrolyte sports drinks
  • Exercise/yoga ball (check with your hospital—some have them available. Make sure any you bring are latex-free)
  • Glasses or contact lenses (if you need them)
  • Hairband or elastics
  • Honey sticks/straws (for a quick burst of energy)
  • Hot water bottle
  • ID and medical records
  • Instant soups, miso soup
  • Pillows (colourful patterns recommended so they don’t get confused with hospital bedding)
  • Socks, slippers
  • Tennis balls (for massaging back pains)

For Hospital Stay

  • Baby name book (in case you’re still not sure on a name!)
  • Books, magazines
  • Breast pads
  • Change for vending machines
  • Comfortable daytime clothing (many women prefer loose-fitting day clothes rather than PJs all day)
  • Cough drops or lozenges (recovery rooms can be very dry and hard on the throat)
  • Disposable ‘grannie’ panties
  • Eye mask and earplugs (in case you have a shared room)
  • Face cloth
  • Fibre-rich snacks or fibre supplements
  • Front-opening shirt (for breastfeeding)
  • Glasses and contact lenses (if you need them)
  • Headphones or earbuds
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Instant soups, miso soup
  • Large zip-top bags
  • Loose-fitting going-home outfit
  • Mesh underwear (help wounds breathe)
  • MP3 player or tablet loaded with music, podcasts & favourite TV shows to watch while you wait
  • Nightgown or oversized t-shirt
  • Nipple cream
  • Nursing bras (2-3, nothing with underwire)
  • Pen & paper (there’s a lot to remember!)
  • Razor
  • Robe, dressing gown, wrap sweater
  • Sanitary pads or disposable adult underwear
  • Snacks and drinks
  • Towel
  • Toiletries
    • Deodorant
    • Hairbrush
    • Makeup
    • Medications
    • Soap, shampoo, and facial tissue
    • Toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Unscented lotions

What to Pack in a Hospital Bag for Baby

  • Baby nail clippers & file (those little claws are sharp!)
  • Beanie or baby toque
  • Burp cloths
  • Car seat
  • Cold weather clothes (for Fall and Winter babies)
  • Diapers (just a few—the hospital will provide these)
  • Going-home outfit (a stretchy onesie is best—there will lots of time for fancy outfits later!)
  • Receiving blankets
  • Socks or booties
  • Two or three sleepers for baby to wear in the hospital

What Your Partner Should Pack in a Hospital Bag

  • Books, magazines
  • Camera
  • Change for vending machines
  • Change of clothes
  • Chargers for electronic devices (labelled with name and phone number)
  • Comfortable shoes (you’ll be on your feet more than you realize!)
  • Comfortable sleepwear
  • Glasses and contact lenses (if you need them)
  • Headphones or earbuds
  • Important phone numbers of family and friends
  • Instant soups, miso soup
  • Medications
  • MP3 player or tablet loaded with music, podcasts & favourite TV shows to watch while you wait
  • Small pillow & small blanket (colourful patterns recommended so they don’t get confused with hospital bedding)
  • Snacks and drinks
  • Swimwear (for water births)
  • Toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, etc.)
  • Watch (for timing contractions)

The Top Royal Baby Names for Boys and Girls

With the arrival of the first baby (a boy!) for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex—a.k.a. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s—its time to start thinking about what little Baby Sussex might be named. British royalty tends to have a long list of given names (Harry has four, as does his older brother, William). But unlike other celebrities, names within the Royal Family tend toward the traditional and are usually drawn from a pool of names handed down from earlier generations of British and European royalty.

Harry and Meghan’s little boy can probably count on at least some of his names coming from the lists of most popular Royal baby names below. Whether you’re having a boy or a girl, these regal names should offer some inspiration for you, too.

THE 10 MOST POPULAR ROYAL BOY NAMES

Albert

Meaning: Noble, bright.

The most popular name for royal boys. Queen Victoria’s prince consort, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, bore the name, as did their son, grandson, and two great-grandsons. Albert is also one of Prince Harry’s names.

George

Meaning: Tiller of the soil, farmer.

The second most popular royal boy’s name, Royal Georges share their name with St. George, patron saint of England, who legend says fought a fire-breathing dragon. There have been six kings of England named George and someday there will be a seventh—Will and Kate’s oldest son, George, who is third in line for the British throne.

Charles

Meaning: Full-grown, a man

There have been two English kings with this name, a father and son both in the 17th Century. Prince Charles, next in line for the throne, will make three. The name Charles (and variations) have been popular amongst European royals going all the way back to 800 AD and the first Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Great—better known as Charlemagne.

Edward

Meaning: Rich guard

While there have been lots of kings named Edward, the most famous has to be the most recent: King Edward VIII. He was king for less than a year, abdicating in 1936 to marry American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. If you count the earliest Edwards in English history—Edward the Confessor and Edward the Martyr, who ruled before 1066, then Edward wins as the most popular name for English monarchs.

Christian

Meaning: A follower of Christ

While there have been five royals whose name includes Christian, the most recent was Edward VIII—it was one of his seven (!) given names. Christian has also been a popular name amongst European royalty and came to Edward VIII through his great-grandfather, Christian IX of Denmark.

Frederick

Meaning: Peaceful ruler

While there’s never been a King Frederick of England, the last four King Georges all had this name amongst their given names. Frederick has also been a popular royal name in Germanic countries, including Prussia and Denmark.

Louis

Meaning: Famous warrior

Prince William and his son, Prince George, both have Louis as a given name, and William and Kate’s youngest son’s first name is Louis. William got the name from the Queen’s beloved uncle, Earl Louis Mountbatten. The name has been even more popular in France, where there were an astonishing 20 kings with the name!

Arthur

Meaning: Noble, courageous

Most famous for the legendary sixth century King Arthur, more recently George VI (the Queen’s father) and Prince Charles both count Arthur as one of their given names.

William

Meaning: Resolute protector

The popularity of this royal name goes all the way back to 1066 and William the Conqueror. There have been four King Williams, with our current Prince William slated to be number five someday (unless he decides to reign under one of his other three given names). 

Henry

Meaning: Home ruler

This royal name is a bit fraught, given the last guy to have the name (Henry VIII) had a bad habit of executing his wives! William IV had Henry as a given name, as does Prince Harry—Henry is his actual first name.

THE 10 MOST POPULAR ROYAL GIRL NAMES

Victoria

Meaning: Victory, conquer

Considered an unusual name at the time of her ascension to the throne, it’s now hard to imagine a more thoroughly royal girl’s name than Victoria—maybe that’s why its the most popular royal girl’s name. Queen Victoria might have helped this along, however. She is widely believed to have encouraged (or perhaps insisted) that her descendants use the name.

Mary

Meaning: Wished-for child

One of the current Queen’s given names, Mary is also the name of several famous English Queens, including Mary I (the first woman to rule England in her own right), Mary, Queen of Scots (who took the throne at the age of just six days!), and Mary II (who wrested the crown from her father, James II, in what is known as the Glorious Revolution).

Louise

Meaning: Famous warrior

The most famous royal Louise was the Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. A strong supporter of the arts and higher education and an early feminist, many features of the Canadian West are named in her honour (after her time spent in Canada when her husband was Governor General of Canada from 1878 to 1883. These include the province of Alberta, Mount Alberta, and the stunning Lake Louise, a glacial lake within Banff National Park.

Alexandra

Meaning: Defender of Mankind

Another of Queen Elizabeth’s given names, the first royal girl to be named Alexandra…was actually Queen Victoria! Named Alexandrina in honour of her godfather, Emperor Alexander I of Russia, it was only on taking the throne that young Alexandrina chose to be known as Victoria.

Elizabeth

Meaning: Oath of God, or God is Satisfaction

The longest-serving British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II shares her name with another illustrious English Queen, Elizabeth I who reigned in the late 1500s and early 1600s. Also known as herself, whose full name is Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth I was the last of the five Tudor monarchs.

Alice

Meaning: Noble, truth

Prince Philip’s mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg, who married Prince Andrew of Greece. The mother-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II, she famously stayed in Athens during the Second World War and sheltered Jewish refugees from the Nazis, for which she is recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem.

Margaret

Meaning: Pearl

The best-known Margaret in the Royal Family was Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, the Queen’s younger sister.

Charlotte

Meaning: Free man, petite

The name Charlotte entered the Royal Family in the 18th Century when King George III married Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The most recent Charlotte is Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, the only daughter of Will and Kate. She is fourth in the line of succession to the British throne.

Augusta

Meaning: Majestic, grand

Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg married into the British Royal Family in the 18th Century. When her husband died, she was presumptive regent of Great Britain until her son came of age in 1756.

Helena

Meaning: Light, torch, bright

Princess Helena was the third daughter and fifth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She was an active patron of charities, one of the founding members of the British Red Cross, and president of the Royal British Nurses’ Association.

5 Tips to Introduce Your Kids to Concert Music

Editor’s Note: We’d like to welcome Robert Greenburg as a LifeTales guest blogger. Mr. Greenburg is a composer, pianist and music historian based in Califnornia. He offers over 30 music courses, originally made for The Teaching Company’s Great Courses series, through his website. He also blogs on Patreon and his website.
Editor’s Note: We’d like to welcome Robert Greenburg as a LifeTales guest blogger. Mr. Greenburg is a composer, pianist and music historian based in California. He offers over 30 music courses, originally made for The Teaching Company’s Great Courses series, through his website. He also blogs on Patreon and his website.

Want to bring a little classical music in your home? It’s a great way to introduce your kids to music and a long history of artistic excellence.

But first, I humbly suggest you rethink the terminology.

Classical music = concert music

When you think of classical music, you’re really thinking of concert music. Many of the pieces in the standard repertoire was composed by European men between roughly 1650 and 1900. It’s also usually played in formal spaces like concert halls (hence the name).

While this music is often referred to as “classical music,” that phrase is about as helpful as “real imitation margarine.” Why?

When we name something a “classic,” we’re connecting it with the ideals and restraint of ancient Greek art, which immediately rules out the great bulk of concert music. A lot of concert music, often as not, is filled with sturm und drang or angst and exaltation. It’s not exactly restrained.

So, concert music it is.

Why should you introduce kids to concert music?

Concert music constitutes some of the greatest music humans have ever cooked up. As a musical art form, concert music informs, edifies, educates, entertains, inspires, and packs a toy shop’s worth of joy. Introduced at the right time, it has the power to stay with children for the rest of their lives.

Tip #1: Lead by example

One of the great truisms of modern parenting is that children are more likely to read if they are read to and if they see their parents reading.

The same is true with music. It’s incumbent upon parents to set an example by listening to concert music at home and in the car (the latter might require some negotiation, but it is my experience that it CAN BE DONE).  Don’t be afraid of playing the same piece over and over again; familiarity breeds affection.

(Having said all this, don’t play one type of music to the exclusion of all others.  The distinctions we have created between “concert music” and “rock ‘n’ roll”, and “jazz” and so forth are meaningless to children.  They tend to just like music – all music – which is how it should be.)

Tip #2: Embrace noise and buy some drums

You don’t have to go full drum-kit, but playing along with your little maestros is a fun family bonding activity (slip the earplugs in if you need to–we won’t judge). Photo courtesy of Matthijs Smit via Unsplash.

It’s a fact of existence that kids love noise and parents detest it. Yet, I recommend that you invest in some decent percussion toys and encourage your kids to “play along” with recordings and videos. Better still, do it with them.

Picking up a drumstick will make you an active, not passive, participant in the musical process. It’s also a lot more fun than you might think.

Worried about “insulting” Bach or Mozart or Beethoven with your talents? Friends, they’re long dead and beyond insult. Besides, is playing along with a recording any more insulting than the disco arrangement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony that was featured in Saturday Night Fever?  

I rest my case.

Tip #3: Introduce kid-friendly movies about music

There are dozens of kid-friendly story that model the role of concert music in modern life that are perfect for kids under six. My three-year-old son and five-year-old daughter love them.

Some examples:

Tip #4: Go to local concerts together

Take your kids to experience music at local events. Many cities and towns hold children’s concerts or musical events geared for families.

Outdoor festival concerts are even better, since they allow kids to run around and move to the music. Try to listen to the pieces on the program beforehand. Music literacy is very similar to written literacy.

A little bit of preparation, even a tiny amount, can pay off big time in terms of intensifying the experience for your kids. 

Tip #5: Get a piano

Bringing a piano into your home will increase your children’s exposure to music.

Don’t assume your instrument has to be an 8’11¾” Steinway “D,” which has a list price of approximately $130,000. A little spinet will do.

Put the piano in a place where the kids can bang away without making the rest of the family crazy. When it’s time for lessons (I recommend you start at age 6 or 7), the piano will be an old friend and not a new torture device.

Speaking of lessons—you’re never too old to start. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa or Whomever should think about taking lessons and practicing together with the kids for a bonding experience like no other.  

Piano or keyboard?

A child practices piano skills while sitting at a Yamaha.
Piano or keyboard? Professor Greenberg has some feels about that.
Photo courtesy of Siniz Kim via Unsplash.

Don’t know much about pianos? It’s an instrument made out of wood, medal, leather and felt.

It breathes. It is real. Its mechanism follows the will of the player’s body.

An electric keyboard is made out of plastic and circuitry. It is not real. It does not breathe. In my opinion, they have no place in your home. 

Unsure where to start? Here’s a starter playlist  

Would you love to bring concert music into your home? Not sure where to start?

Here are some wonderful performances of great works to get you going:

  1. Johann Sebastian Bach, Brandenburg Concertos; Trevor Pinnock conducting, on Archiv.
  2. Wolfgang Mozart, Symphonies Nos. 39, 40, & 41; Neville Marriner conducting, on EMI.
  3. Ludwig van Beethoven, Nine Symphonies; John Eliot Gardiner conducting, on Archiv.
  4. Camille Saint-Saens, Carnival of the Animals; Charles Dutoit conducting, on London.
  5. Sergei Prokofiev, Peter and the Wolf; Carlo Rossi conducting, narrated by Boris Karloff, on Vanguard.

Viruses, Colds, Bacteria—Oh My!

Dr. Brown’s tips for keeping your house free of colds all year long

Dr. Vivien Brown, MD, joins us for another blog post about healthy pareting
Editor’s Note: We’d like to welcome Dr. Vivien Brown, MD, back as a guest blogger to LifeTales. Dr. Brown is a family physician in Toronto, Canada and a well-known national and international speaker on women’s health. She’s also the author of A Woman’s Guide to Healthy Aging: Seven essential ways to keep you vital, happy and strong.

Flu season might be winding down in the northern hemisphere as we move into our spring and summer seasons, but it’s just picking up in the southern hemisphere with the onset of winter.

Global air travel also makes it easy for colds, flu, bronchitis, sore throats, and many sinus and ear infections to surface at home, school and our workplaces year-round.

So how should you keep your family safe?

Think twice before asking for antibiotics

Many people assume that getting sick means they need an antibiotic to get better.

In fact, taking antibiotics for colds and other viral illnesses not only won’t work, it has dangerous side effects—over time. Globally, overexposure to antibiotics is producing drug-resistant bacteria that don’t respond to antibiotics that may have worked in the past.

Increasingly, I find myself prescribing antibiotics in increasingly higher doses to help my patients recover when suffering from serious bacterial infections.

Antibiotic resistance is a widespread problem, and one that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US call “one of the world’s most pressing public health problems.” With time, bacteria that were once highly responsive to antibiotics have become more and more resistant.

Among those that are becoming harder to treat are pneumococcal infections such as:

  • Pneumonia
  • Ear infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Meningitis

What’s the difference between bacteria and viruses?

Although bacteria and viruses are both too small to be seen without a microscope, they’re as different as giraffes and goldfish. 

Both types of infections are caused by microbes — bacteria and viruses, respectively — and spread by things such as coughing and sneezing, contact with infected people, especially through kissing and sex, contact with contaminated surfaces, food, and water, contact with infected creatures, including pets, livestock, and insects such as fleas and ticks.

But the infections are dissimilar in many other important respects, most of them due to the organisms’ structural differences and the way they respond to medications.

When should you ride out a cold or see a doctor?

A white ceramic cup with a metal spoon, a paper box of tissues and a pair of upside-down glasses imply it's flu time in this household.
Oh, we’ve all been there. When a cold hits, it’s time to bunker down, grab the tissues, get some tea and wait for your symptoms to pass.

While viruses and bacteria can cause similar symptoms, concerns that suggest a serious infection may include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Decreased appetite
  • Overwhelming fatigue

Other symptoms, such as sore throats and swollen glands, are more generalized and may need an expert opinion to decide how best to proceed. They can occur with either bacterial or viral infections.

If your infection, sore throat, cough or flu-like illness is overwhelming and feels like the worst infection you can recall in some time, you should always go and get checked by your health care professional!

Another indicator that you need further attention is not seeing improvement or easing of your symptoms within a couple of days.

How to safely take antibiotics

A patient receives a vaccine shot in a medical office.
Getting the flu shot is one way to reduce your likelihood of contracting a serious illness, like the flu.

So what should you do? To increase your bacterial resistance and minimize your odds of getting sick, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Take antibiotics only for bacterial infections. It’s a good idea to let milder illnesses, especially those caused by viruses, to run their course. This approach helps prevent antibiotic-resistant germs from developing. But leave it to your doctor’s discretion to decide if your illness is “mild” or not.
  2. Take antibiotics for the full amount of time your doctor prescribes. Anything less won’t treat the bacterial infection.
  3. Never use antibiotics left over from other illnesses. Health Canada has guidelines for how to safely dispose of antibiotics.
  4. Help fight antibiotic resistance and prevent infections from spreading by frequently washing your hands and getting immunized, such as a flu shot and pneumococcal vaccine.

Ask your healthcare professional about over-the-counter treatment options that may help reduce your symptoms.

General suggestions for dealing with mild viral illnesses

For colds like these, the advice you got from your parents is likely the best:

  • Drink more fluids.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Use a cool-mist vaporizer or saline nasal spray to relieve congestion.
  • Soothe your throat with crushed ice, sore throat spray, or lozenges for adults.
  • Don’t give lozenges to young children! Try Popsicles or lots of cold liquid to drink.

We’d love to hear from you

Did you have a memorable illness or cold as a child? How about your kids? We’d love to hear about your journey. Drop us a line at hello@lifetales.com.

Do you have professional expertise of value to families? Would you like your expertise featured on our blog? Send your pitch to hello@lifetales.com. We can’t respond to all inquiries, but we’ll be in touch if there’s a fit.

Sibling Birth Order: Myths and Misconceptions

Editor’s Note: We’d like to welcome Alyson Schafer as a LifeTales guest blogger. Ms Schafer is a parenting expert based in Toronto, Canada, who makes regular media appearances. Her books include Breaking the Good Mom Myth, Honey, I Wrecked the Kids, and Ain’t Misbehavin’: Tactics for Tantrums.

By Alyson Schafer

I talk with a lot of parents. In these conversations, I’ve heard just about every myth about sibling birth order.

Put your hand up if you’re heard any of these misconceptions:

  • Older siblings turn into bossy, high-achievers.
  • Middle children always end up feeling left out.  
  • Youngest siblings keep up the baby routine long past the sell-by date.
  • Only children are lonely, spoiled, selfish, poorly socialized—take your pick.

It’s easy to make assumptions like these about children and their sibling. While it’s true that siblings do affect a child’s family life, we don’t always put the impact in the right places.

Myth #1: Getting hung up on birth numbers

Alfred Adler in a file photo from the Alfred Adler Center International. He is wearing glasses, a suit and tie, and looking right into the camera, one finger thoughtfully posed to the left side of his face. Adler's ideas about individual
Alfred Adler is known for his work in individual psychology and ideas of inferiority. Image courtesy of the Alfred Adler Center International.

Alfred Adler (1870-1937) was an Austrian medical doctor and psychotherapist known for his ideas about individual psychology and inferiority. He was also one of the first psychotherapists to think about families, children, birth order, and personality development.

Sometimes, people interpret Adler’s work to mean that a child’s birth number matters most (e.g., being born first or second or fifth). But that view oversimplifies what’s happening.

Have you heard the saying, “You can’t step into the same river twice?” Adler’s ideas about children and personality are similar. Each child’s birth changes the family in the same way that putting your foot in the water changes the river.

Adler was interested in how children change their family’s internal dynamics, and how their personalities changed in turn. There’s a lot more give an take than relying on the birth number allows.

Children are creative meaning makers

Two siblings lie together on a park blanket on a warm day, grinning at the camera. Both boys are dressed in jeans and button-down shirts.
Your children’s perspective on their role in the family may surprise you. Be open to their ideas. Photo by Edward Cisneros via Unsplash.

Instead of their birth order in the family, the child plays a big role in deciding how they fit.

Somewhere during their first four or five years, children begin exploring the benefits and disadvantages of their role in the family. Some things they will accept, and some they will reject.

For example, consider a boy born into a family of girls.

  • One boy might decide his situation makes him special because he stands out.
  • Another boy might decide, “I don’t fit in with my sisters because I’m not a girl.”

So, while birth order may factor into this self-evaluation, the child decides on their role. Their subsequent decisions shape both them and their siblings. 

Myth #2: Only children are deprived by not having siblings

A toddler agilely climbs out of a sandbox, ready to explore and make mistakes on their own terms. Only children don't require siblings to be happy.
Give children space to learn, make mistakes and set their own standards. Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash.

This myth is entirely ungrounded. As any only child will tell you, siblings are not required for human happiness.

Only children are likely to:

  • Spend more time with adults.
  • Develop a big vocabulary through conversations with adults.
  • Get more attention without built-in playroom competition.

But, a child’s response depends on the creative meaning they perceive. They might decide to fit in by acting like a mini adult. Or, they might feel intimated by the competent giants all around them and withdraw.

There’s nothing inherently good or bad about being an only child. Here are some common fears parents have, and a few ways to lessen those concerns: 

  • No built-in playmates. Parents may fear their child will grow up with poor socialization skills without siblings. Try joining playgroups and scheduling play dates with same-age children. Your child will gain social skills, form relationships and learn how to set and respect boundaries. (You might make new friends, too.)
  • Desire to please adults. Without other children around, only children often play more with their parents and other adults. It’s easy to develop a short feedback loop between the child’s action and the parent’s praise, intervention, or suggestions to improve. By sitting back, parents can allow the child to experiment. Emphasize that mistakes are okay, and encourage your child to adopt their progress, not your adult abilities, as their standard for success.
  • Tendencies to loneliness. Rather than something to be feared, alone time gives children the space to explore their interests and passions. Children who spend time alone can become accustomed to entertaining themselves and genuinely enjoy their own company. It’s also a useful skill in adulthood.

Myth #3: Having more children deprives kids of their parents’ attention

Two siblings play together by the shore at sunset.
Bigger families and more siblings create different growth paths for kids. Photo by Limor Zellermayer on Unsplash.

What’s the flip side about myths for only children? That having a baby (or many babies) deprives your toddlers and older children of your attention.

It’s true that having more children increases the demands on parents’ time and attention. Like only children, first-born children experience constant attention from their parents during their first years at home. As a group, they tend to be well-behaved and focused on pleasing adults.

As new siblings enter the family dynamic, some children choose to define their roles in opposition to those their siblings hold. Here’s a few patterns you might see if:

  • The eldest slept through the night, your next children may be more fitful.
  • Your older child only likes meat and carbs, your second child might embrace vegetables and fruit.
  • The oldest child is a model kid, younger children may take the position of being good at bad behavior. Expect to see more naughtiness and challenges to your authority if your child chooses this role. Alternatively, if your oldest child sees a sibling’s birth as a threat to their position, they may start to act out and misbehave. In those cases, the second child may orient themselves to being the “good one.” 

If you spend time with children, you’ll notice they’re very interested in what other children do and say. Observing older children one way in which kids learn and differentiate themselves from each other.

You can expect children with older siblings to:

  • Look up to their older siblings. And, they’ll try very hard to physically keep up to avoid missing anything.
  • Take bigger risks, with less concerned with perfection and mistake making.
  • Express an ambitious “go-for-it” attitude.

Creating positive sibling dynamics in your family

Two siblings run together in a city street. They are holding hands.
Let your children set the tone for their sibling dynamic. Your interpretations won’t necessarily be how they view their role in the family. Photo by Wayne Lee-Sing on Unsplash.

As many philosophers have noted, there’s no one way to be a family. As you bring more children into your household, here are some takeaway thoughts to keep in mind.

  1. Observe what your children do and say about their family role. Don’t assume their experience will match yours or project your ideas about what it should be. It’ll give you a clearer understanding and opportunity to course correct as needed.
  2. Give each child the space to play, learn and make mistakes. Whether you have one child or 10, accept each for their uniqueness.
  3. What’s fair isn’t always what’s needed. Many parents adopt scrupulous fairness as a way of not playing favorites. Not only is policing fairness exhausting, if children complain about a sibling-related injustice, they may be expressing a different need. Making everything equal only serves to increase the competitive nature of the relationship between siblings. They will become bean counters, assessing fairness in all things. Life isn’t fair, and sometimes the needs of one demands different time, attention, resources.  Get curious and ask questions about what your children need and how their needs may be different.
  4. Do your best. As adults, children from big families often note that while the first child’s babyhood is lovingly documented, the third child is lucky if there’s a picture. So, accept that your experience with each child will also be different as your family grows . And, make space for your ideas to similarly shift.

We’d love to hear from you

What was your sibling experience? How does it differ from your children’s experience? We’d love to hear about your journey. Drop us a line at hello@lifetales.com.

Do you have professional expertise of value to families? Would you like your expertise featured on our blog? Send your pitch to hello@lifetales.com. We can’t respond to all inquiries, but we’ll be in touch if there’s a fit.

Water, Food Rainbows and Togetherness

What Canada’s Updated Food Guide Means For Your Family

By Dr. Vivien Brown, MD

Dr. Vivien Brown, MD, is pictured in a pink suit with black pin-stripes. She is smiling at the camera in this professional head shot.
Editor’s Note: We’d like to welcome Dr. Vivien Brown, MD, as a guest blogger to LifeTales. Dr. Brown is a family physician in Toronto, Canada and a well-known national and international speaker on women’s health. She’s also the author of A Woman’s Guide to Healthy Aging: Seven essential ways to keep you vital, happy and strong.

Eating is a powerful part of life. Think about your earliest childhood memories. Chances are, food—and the people who made it for you—plays a big part of those moments.

Yet, developing healthy food habits can be a great anxiety source for many parents. That’s particularly true if you’ve got a picky eater on your hands or your child’s suddenly changed their preferences.

In January 2019, Health Canada announced that a brand new food guide for families. It’s the first time Health Canada has revised its recommendations in 12 years.

How can this change help parents? Food guides, which reflect the best available scientific evidence at the time of their publication, offer insight into where to focus your energy in building healthy eating habits.  

And the new guide’s got some great suggestions.

The biggest change? Food rainbows, not food groups

The biggest change to Canada’s Food guide is removing the old food groups: grains, milk products, fruit and vegetables, and meat and alternatives.

Instead, the new food guide encourages Canadians to think of each meal in terms of a plate divided into four sections.

A plate and glass of water demonstrate Canada's Food Guide recommendations. The left half of the the plate is covered in colourful fruits and vegetables. The right half is divided into protein-rich and whole grain foods.
Canada’s Food Guide recommends that Canadians focus on food proportions on a dinner plate rather than traditional food groups. Image courtesy of Health Canada.
  • Two quarters of that plate should include plenty of fruits and vegetables with a variety of color, such as purple grapes, green broccoli or kale, red onion, orange sweet potato or yellow corn. (You get the idea.) Serve a variety of the most colorful foods your family enjoys.
  • One quarter of the plate should be focused on protein, such as tofu, beans, legumes or meat.
  • The plate’s last quarter should be for whole-grain foods, such as brown rice or multigrain noodles.

Unsure what counts as a whole grain? John Berardi, PhD and co-founder of Toronto-based Precision Nutrition (PN), has an excellent overview to finding whole grains in your local markets.

And PN also has a useful visual system for estimating portions using your hand size when you’re on the run.

How you eat is just as important as what you eat

Canada’s new food guide goes further than just identifying healthy foods. If you want to build strong, lifelong eating habits, parents should also be mindful of how we eat.

A group of adults eat together around a long table in an outdoor market. They are talking as they eat.
Canada’s Food Guide now recommends eating with other people is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.
  1. Make time for your meals. While modern life makes it inevitable that you’ll be dining and dashing every now and again, it’s important to sit down and pay conscious attention to your food. It takes more effort to eat a healthy diet if you’re constantly on the move.
  2. Avoid digital distractions. Turn off the TV, put tablets away and keep your phones off the table. You’ll enjoy your food and develop a better sense of social connection with your family. While we’ve all distracted a grumpy toddler with a device in a crowded restaurant, devices should not be a go-to option at dinner.
  3. Cook at home more often. Home-cooked meals tend to be healthier because they give you full control of your ingredients. Decrease or eliminate high sodium foods, food high in sugar and food with saturated fats.
  4. Involve your children in preparing the meal. You can teach your kids a useful life skill and pass your family’s cultural practices along by teaching your kids to cook. Cooking can also be a way to bring children and grandparents together, deepening their sense of family and where they come from.
  5. Eat and talk together. Eating is tied to social activity, family and friends in every culture. When Brazil introduced their food guide in 2015, their government also emphasized the culture and climate of eating, along with food choice. Eating with others improves our feeling of connection, teaches conversation skills and allows us to share healthy traditions.

Ditch juice and give your kids water to drink

Water artfully pours into a clear glass tumbler.
Canada’s Food Guide now recommends that adults and children make water their primary drink. Photo by Kobu Agency on Unsplash.

Canada’s new food guide puts drinking water front and center in its recommendations, especially for children. 

That news may surprise some parents. Nutritionists and doctors have advised against giving children sugar-heavy drinks like soda for several years. But juice and milk have been staples of food guides in the past.

Yet, the new food guide recommends that Canadian families avoid all drinks that are high in sugar. That includes juice.

What about milk? Dairy is now considered a protein and not an independent category. Drinking milk should be considered against other protein consumption in the diet.

While there is some disagreement about some of these new guidelines, researchers like Yoni Freedhoff have argued that juice and milk may become gateway drinks to pop.

Eating well is a lifelong journey

Vegetables, including spinach, avocado, grape tomatoes, mushrooms and scallions--are arranged with two eggs on a wooden cutting board with a kitchen knife on top of a backdrop of grey tiles. A cooking pan lies partially across the top of the photo.
Canada’s Food Guide now recommends that you eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables, rather than focusing on food groups. Photo by Katie Smith on Unsplash.

I get a lot of questions from my patients about how the new food guide should influence the choices they make for their families.

It’s important to remember that guidelines are not laws. Instead, they provide educated instruction that each individual should interpret. If you have questions, you should always talk to the doctors and medical professionals who know your history and health needs best.

Also, Health Canada’s recommendations reflect recent changes in medical and scientific research. By adding new discussion areas to the guide, Health Canada is asking us to consider new ideas, such as the important of eating with family, that haven’t had a lot of airtime in previous versions.

What is Health Canada’s goal in updating the guide? In general, they want to help Canadians to:

  1. Improve our personal health.
  2. Make decisions that will help us to meet our nutrient needs.
  3. Reduce the real risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases and conditions.

While these are lofty but important goals, we still need to make Canada’s Food Guide apply to our own lives. You can use the information it contains as a stepping stone to avoiding the disordered eating patterns I see in patients every day.

So, the food guide serves as a great reminder to be proactive about our eating habits as we grow and age. To have a healthy life, it’s important to be proactive about food. A meal is a process, not just an end result.

By sharing meals, play and conversation with others, we’ll all learn to make better choices for our health.

What role does food play in your family?

What recipes do you enjoy making with your family? Have you added cooking experiences to your Family or Child collections in LifeTales? We’d love to learn more. Drop us a line at hello@lifetales.com.

Do you have professional expertise of value to families? Would you like your expertise featured on our blog? Send your pitch to hello@lifetales.com. Please note we can’t respond to all inquiries. But we will be in touch if there’s a fit.

Growth Mindset Parenting

How a hot psychology theory could help you improve your parenting chops

Have you heard about growth mindset parenting?

It’s based on a popular psychology theory in in education. Articles on growth mindset also get a lot of buzz in magazines and blogs for the entrepreneurial and self-improvement communities. Even pro athletes like the NBA’s Steph Curry have even talked about taking a growth approach to their careers.

Why should parents care? Because exploring a growth mindset may give you new tools as you take on the responsibilities that come with having kids.

Think back: one minute you were living your adult life, working on your career goals, deciding if you should join a recreational soccer league, or debating whether to try that new takeout place down the block.

Yet the minute you learned there was a baby coming, your priorities shifted. Before you know it, that tiny, vulnerable human being is in your arms. And during your child’s early years, it’s your choices that have the biggest impact on how they learn and grow.

New parents can read all the baby books in the world to get ready (and some parents do). But nothing prepares you for that humbling moment when you look into your child’s delicate face and grasp your new roles. There’s no going back—and no manual.

It can feel pretty overwhelming.

Don’t worry. All the research suggests that parents are made, not born.

What is a growth mindset?

According to Wikipedia, a mindset is, “a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people.” In other words, it’s all the ideas we’ve picked up from family, friends and our experiences about how we’re supposed to think and act. 

Carol S. Dweck is an American professor of Psychology at Stanford University.
Carol S. Dweck. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Growth mindset theory is credited to Dr. Carol S. Dweck, an American professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Over the course of her accomplished career, Dweck and her fellow scientists developed a theory of two distinct mindsets. They found that people basically fall into two groups with very different approaches to life, including what they think about failure.

From Wikipedia: “Those with a ‘fixed mindset’ believe that abilities are mostly innate and interpret failure as the lack of necessary basic abilities, while those with a ‘growth mindset’ believe that they can acquire any given ability provided they invest effort or study. 

So, here’s a quick graphic overview:

This diagram, courtesy of "Q.E.D. Choices for Learning, maps the differences in a fixed and growth mindset approach to challenges, obstacles, effort, criticism and the success of others.
The differences in fixed versus growth mindset, courtesy of Q.E.D. Image: Nigel Holmes / Graph Content: Carol Dweck

Dweck’s research showed that people who believe in growth are more likely to continue working hard despite setbacks. Through determination, learning, training and persistence, they improve because they believe that it’s possible for them to change.

That’s cool. But why does mindset matter?

If you think about qualities like intelligence as being fixed, like the number of jelly beans in a jar, then you have whatever you’re born with and no more. Your ability to learn and change is set, along with your ability to solve problems or rise to situations. Which means if you fail, the failure results from your abilities.

Kind of bleak, huh? No wonder people with a fixed mindset avoid situations where failure’s on the line at all costs.

On the other hand, if you think of intelligence as something more like a muscle you can build with practice and repetition, life becomes less all-or-nothing. You’ll spend less time obsessing over mistakes and what they mean if you believe it’s possible to learn from them and improve.

To Dweck, openness to this fundamental belief in your own ability to get better means you could “live a less stressful and more successful life.”

Food for thought, huh?

Okay. So how can I develop a growth mindset and get better at parenting?

A family takes a stroll outside in a wooded park space on a bright summer day. Their faces are turned away from the camera.
Parenting is a journey, not a destination. Photo by Julie Johnson on Unsplash.

Parenting is hard. Co-parenting with another person can be even harder. You and your partner may have very different ideas about how to raise another human being, and there’s no way to know until the baby arrives.

You may not feel like you have an immediate talent for parenting if:

  • Swaddling a baby seems like folding a squirming origami crane.
  • Staring down the formula and food selections in the baby aisle feels like trying to crack the Da Vinci code in three minutes or less.
  • Keeping a lid on your temper as you deal with day-to-day frustrations feels exhausting. This stumbling block escalates fast if you’ve got a fussy baby (or toddler) who thinks sleeping eight hours or more a night is optional.

If you didn’t grow up in a family where other adults showed you how to cope with these challenges, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Even people who come from big families may feel they have no idea what they’re doing. Comparing yourself to friends or skimming the feeds of parenting influencers intensify those feelings.

Everyone’s life looks shiny on the outside.

It’s all about persistence

But as Joe Hirsch writes in his INC Magazine profile on Curry, “Success comes as a result of effort, learning, and persistence–not just inborn talent, intelligence or strength.”

The good news? You don’t have to be a rockstar right out of the gate. Parenting is nothing if not an opportunity for persistent learning. 

So, adopting a growth mindset may help you think about parenting as a multifaceted skill at which you—and your partner—will get better.

You don’t have to be experts or achieve someone else’s level of perfection. You just have to commit and be open to achieving what works for you and your kids.

The Huffington Post’s Parenting blog has some great ideas for getting started, including monitoring your self-talk and being conscious of the messages you’re sending about learning and growth to your kids. 

Charting your journey

How will you gauge progress? Photo courtesy of mauro paillex on Unsplash.

Based on our experiences, the LifeTales team is how our app can act as a feedback mechanism for you.

The Personal Collection gives you a completely private space to jot down your thoughts about how you parent. And if you’ve noticed tendencies that you’d like to change, it’s also a perfect place to note your habits without judgement.

In the spirit of Professor Dweck, you can gather data about your choices and impartially assess where they’re leading you. Ask yourself:

  • What’s going well? 
  • What am I good at?
  • Where could I improve?
  • What absolutely needs to happen?
  • Where should I cut myself some slack?
  • If I’m struggling with a particular task, who can I ask for help?
  • Where do my partner and I take similar approaches? Where are we different?

Over time, you may see you’re doing a better job than you thought. And someday, when your kids are grown, you’ll be able to reflect on your experience and share your wisdom.

Does adopting a growth mindset to parenting appeal to you? What are the skills you struggle with?

Get in touch at hello@lifetales.com. We’d love to feature your growth experience or hear from you about other topics we should explore.

When do babies become toddlers?

It’s a common question: when should you start thinking of your baby as a toddler? 

When you’re deep into the day-to-day experience of raising a young child, time is lightning fast. You see your baby everyday. Being so in the moment makes it harder to take a step back.

When you do, it’s easier to realize just how many milestones have passed since that transformational first week at home. As American author Gretchen Rubin once wrote about parenthood, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

So when should you start the mental head shift?

Your Child’s First Birthday: The Day Toddler Life Officially BeginsY

As the name implies, the toddler development stage is defined by “toddling” or unsteady walking. While all children take their first steps at their own speed, it’s common for children entering the toddler stage to make more effort to move under their own power. 

You can expect them to become steadier on their feet and more interested in exploring their own ideas as they move through this stage. 

The U.S. Center for Disease Control defines two phases of the toddler period, each of roughly 12 months. 

  • The first stage begins when your child turns one. What should you expect? According to the CDC: “Their desire to explore new objects and people also is increasing. During this stage, toddlers will show greater independence; begin to show defiant behavior; recognize themselves in pictures or a mirror; and imitate the behavior of others, especially adults and older children.” 
  • The second spans ages two to three. Again, from the CDC: “Toddlers will experience huge thinking, learning, social, and emotional changes that will help them to explore their new world, and make sense of it. During this stage, toddlers should be able to follow two- or three-step directions, sort objects by shape and color, imitate the actions of adults and playmates, and express a wide range of emotions.” 

See the CDC’s toddler pages for more information about safety tips and positive ways to help your child develop a healthy mind and body. 

A child walks on a wooden boardwalk. During the toddler years, children show greater interest in exploring their world. Photo courtesy of Japheth Mast via Unsplash.
During the toddler years, children show greater interest in exploring their world.
Photo courtesy of Japheth Mast via Unsplash.

Popular culture is full of nightmare stories about the “terrible twos,” reflecting the growing adventurousness and, yes, willfulness your child will demonstrate through this period.  

Strong, consistent boundaries will help you and your child to navigate this exciting growth stage together. You will also likely find you now enjoy more variety in your daily activities than you did during the infant stage, and more opportunity to experience the world together. 

Looking back down the first year mountain: Here’s what you’ve accomplished

By the time your baby becomes a toddler, you will have helped them to explore their: 

  • Bodies—This journey began with learning to focus their eyes to look at your face, and progressed to the beginning of motor control over their fingers and toes. It’s the beginning of a lifelong journey in using their body to explore the world. As Australian director Baz Luhrmann once observed about the human body, “It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.” 
  • Language—Babbling sounds and forming simple words in context (“mama” or “dada”) are common at this stage. Reading, talking and responding to your child will continue their development and growth in this key area. 
  • Food—With solid foods introduced sometime between four and six months, your child is developing the beginnings of their interest in food. What have been the hits? The misses? The sudden rejections? Jot them down in a LifeTales story to remember the ups and downs of vegetables.  
  • Family—Your child has begun lifelong relationships with you, your partner, and other key family members, such as siblings, grandparents, and other special caregivers. The feelings of safety, security and trust will help to define their sense of being and personhood.  

Capturing the moments that matter most to you

Living in the smartphone age means that it’s never been easier to capture the parts of childhood that speak to you. Starting a Child Journal is a great way to capture the stories inside your photos and video, and tell your child what they were like at each stage of their life. 

A toddler cruises on a couch, ready to take those important first steps. Photo courtesy of Meghan Thompson via Unsplash
A toddler cruises on a couch, ready to take those important first steps. The LifeTales mobile app helps you capture and remember the moments the matter most to you.

What are the sweetest or most challenging moments of your child’s toddler stage? Get in touch at hello@lifetales.com. We’d love to feature your toddler memories or hear from you about other topics we should explore. 

Picking the Perfect Lullaby

No matter which lullaby you pick, the important thing is singing to your children

Ask any large group of adults what they most fear and their list will likely include:

  • Public speaking 
  • Heights, skydiving or bungee jumping
  • Singing in front of others 

While it’s entirely possible to live your life avoiding items one and two, having kids may push you to sing in public in ways you never thought you would.

The connections between music and other life skills are rich and varied. Scientists have long theorized that’s there’s a connection between music and math, for example, although Scientific American notes the exact nature of this relationship remains fuzzy.

Other associated benefits may include higher emotional intelligence, better social skills and a greater appreciation for tone and rhythm. 

Beyond the possible skill benefits and a general appreciation for music, hearing a lullaby can form iconic childhood memories. 

Whether your parents chose to sing pop songs by Joni Mitchell, The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel, traditional nursery rhymes like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or camp songs like “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Old MacDonald,” you may yet have strong feelings to that music and hearing your parent sing it.

Singing is an activity that parents and children can enjoy at any age, and it can also be a key part of your bedtime routine. A lullaby can help set the mood for the end of the day and help your baby’s brain to understand that it’s time to relax and wind things down.

Where to begin? We’ve compiled some quick suggestions as you get started. 

Don’t be shy about singing a lullaby.

Particularly in North America, it’s very easy to internalize cultural rules about who is allowed to sing (people with “good” voices, whatever that means) and who is not (everyone else). However you feel about singing in other parts of your life, try not to let that judgement into this process. Singing develops your child’s bond with you. What matters is that you do it, not how you sound. As Ian Mendes has written for Today’s Parent, “If the sound of mom’s gurgling digestive juices helped baby doze off, then the bar is set pretty low for you as a singer.”

Work with your voice’s natural range.

If you can barely hum “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” then songs like “Memory” from Cats or Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” may not be the best choice for you. Longevity should be your guiding principle. When your child develops a fondness for your lullaby, it’s possible you will still be singing the same song 10 years from now. Have mercy on your vocal cords and pick a tune that you can sing easily and without strain at various volumes. (Seriously, have you considered “Ba-Ba-Black Sheep?” It works pretty well.) 

It’s okay if you don’t know the whole lullaby.

Can’t remember the weird second verse to “You Are My Sunshine”, which ends with the heartwarming line, “You have shattered all of my dreams”? No sweat. Your baby won’t care if you know a single verse or just the chorus. In some ways, it’s easier to choose a short song that you can easily loop when it’s 3 am and you’re gamely singing while pacing their bedroom in a vain attempt to get both of you some sleep. 

Ear plugs can be your best friend.

Keep a pair of earplugs handy if you’re got a fussy baby who’s fond of screaming along to your midnight (or afternoon, or morning) performances. You’ll still be able to hear yourself singing and it may help take the edge off.

Have a few back-ups for days when you “absolutely cannot sing that wretched song” one more time.

You’re going to get tired of singing the same song (trust us on that one). For mental variety, pick a secondary lullaby or two that are also easy to sing and toss them in now and then for you and baby. One of our team members used the classic song, “ABC,” as her back-up lullaby because it’s easy to sing at different pitches and speeds.

Pick an existing lullaby you like and make-up new words.

Want more of a challenge? Pick an easy song you like (“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” maybe) and swap the words out. You can describe what you see in your baby’s nursery, talk about what you did during the day, or tell your baby about people in your family. Young babies won’t care, but it can be a fun game for you to play as they get older.

The Internet is your friend: Source the lullaby that’s perfect for you

Still not sure what to do? Pity the parents who successfully raised children in the dark era before YouTube and run a search. You’ll quickly find over six million examples of lullabies you can learn from a range of cultural backgrounds. 

Failing that, if you find your kid passes out to your improvised version of Feist’s “1234” or Beyonce’s “Halo,” embrace what works and do your thing. Sing to that child and fear no judgement! 

Thanks to technology, it’s never been easier to record an audio file or video of you singing to your child. Adding your lullaby traditions to a LifeTales story collection gives you both have a soothing memory to reflect upon as your children grow and your voice inevitably changes.

What were the go-to lullabies in your house growing up? What are they now? Have a suggestion for a different blog topic? Get in touch at hello@teamlifetales.com. We’d love to hear from you!

The photo, “White and Wooden Wall Decor,” appears courtesy of Charles DeLuvio.

Managing the Overshare: A Duchess’s Playbook for Digital Privacy

As social media platforms evolve, it’s getting easier to share your life with the people you care most about. 

But for every genuine, two-way connection, there are the (sometimes) well-meaning folks who don’t respect boundaries. Some even take their social updates a little too far.

We’ve all got a few of them in our friend networks. They’re the people who:

  • Always post the most unflattering photos from last call (but they look great). 
  • Ignore your successes, but get angry or pout if you don’t like and comment on their wins.
  • Insist they can’t sit next to their exes at events and threaten to hijack the proceedings if you don’t cave to their demands. 
  • Publicly post about being ready for grandchildren or drop proposal hints into photo comments.  

Managing other people’s drama is challenging enough when you’re single or recently married. Add a pregnancy or a new baby to the mix, and the stress around oversharing can snowball. 

Even being rich and famous doesn’t necessarily protect people from their oversharing friends and relations. 

What can we learn from Megan Markle?

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, visit with crowds outside Belfast’s Crown Liquor Saloon.
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, visits with crowds outside Belfast’s Crown Liquor Saloon. Photo courtesy of the Northern Ireland Office via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/niogovuk/40972135291/in/photostream/.

This week, Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, returned to New York City for her baby shower. It’s the first time the former star of Suits has been back to the U.S. since marrying Prince Harry of Wales last spring. Their wedding ceremony was watched by 18 million people worldwide.

But their storybook day was nearly upstaged by the willingness of some relatives within Markle’s father’s family to overshare about her life.

Thankfully, few of us will face the same kind of media and social pressure as the new duchess. But we can take some helpful ideas from how Markle’s managed her oversharing relatives.

1. Figure out who’s got your back

The Duchess turned to many long-time friends to organize her shower. They include tennis champion Serena Williams, international and human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, and stylist insider Jessica Mulroney. And Mulroney, who met Markle when she was filming Suits in Toronto, also acted as her defacto maid of honour when she got married.

Like the Duchess of Sussex, we all need to determine which friends are capable of reciprocal trust. If there’s someone in your circle spreading rumours or not standing by you, it might be time to introduce better filters on what you share.

2. Keep the circle small when it matters most

Harper’s Bazaar reports that a small group of only 15 people attended the Duchess’ baby shower in the New York. This choice minimizes the risk of leaks to the press. Your life may not generate photos worth thousands of dollars to tabloid editors, but everyone goes through times where privacy and discretion make life more manageable.

3. Control the space

You don’t have to rent the pricy penthouse floor at The Mark, as Serena Williams reportedly did (though kudos if you do, it’s beautiful). There are other ways to manage who sees what if you don’t want to show personal photos to everyone.

Facebook allows you to create friend groups that tier access to your content, Instagram offers private accounts and LifeTales always lets you decide whether your connections see a single story or a whole collection.

4. Put boundary breakers at a distance

It’s not easy to be estranged from a parent. If your older relatives show a continued lack of respect for your space, as Markle’s father has done, you may need to put some personal distance between yourself and your boundary breaker. So, consider limiting the amount of photos, news and personal details you share with them until trust can be re-established.

Like the late Princess Diana before her, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is certain to live part of her life as a mother and wife in the spotlight.

But as Elaine Lui has observed in her ongoing coverage of the union, the Duchess is the first member of the royal family to bring prior experience with celebrity to her new role in public life. We’re most curious to watch how she’ll use digital tools to manage her new family’s privacy as she becomes a parent.

Got a suggestion for a blog topic? Get in touch at hello@teamlifetales.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Photo courtesy of the Northern Ireland Office via Flickr.