Author: Claire McCarthy

Parenting in the age of fake news: 5 things you can start doing today

Fake or real news?

When I was in 7th grade, we did a unit in English class about how to read the newspaper. We learned where the most important stories were placed (to the right) and about how the stories were written so that the most important points were covered first (before the reader lost interest).

They didn’t teach us how to figure out if the stories were true, because back then it just didn’t occur to us that anyone would publish fake news. Now, it happens all the time.

It’s not that there have never been untrue stories published. But with the rise of the Internet, where anybody can post anything — and in an age when, in the race to present new content on a 24/7 news cycle, fact-checking doesn’t always happen — the number of fake stories has skyrocketed.

As if parenting weren’t hard enough these days, parents now have a new task: to teach their children to be savvy consumers of news. This is very important; if the next generation can’t tell fact from fiction when it comes to news, the future of our country and world could be in real jeopardy.

Here are five suggestions for giving children the skills they need to navigate the new reality of news:

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Remembering Aidan 20 years later

My son died 20 years ago last month.

We did our remembrance of him on his birthday earlier in the month, and that brought various condolences from various people. We are so sorry, they said. It must be so sad.

Although the condolences came from kindness, they felt off somehow. It’s not so much about sadness anymore. After 20 years, it’s different.

While Aidan was still alive, after he was diagnosed with a severe, life-limiting disability, I wrote something for Sesame Street Parents Magazine that our priest read at Aidan’s funeral:

All of us, at some point in our lives, are faced with something we didn’t expect and never wanted. What defines us, I think, is what we do with those things that life gives us. Very often, whether we are cursed or blessed is a matter of choosing.

Aidan’s family chooses to be blessed.

That’s how I feel: blessed.

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Why our teens turn us into shrews

mom of teenIt happens each time one of my children enters the teenage years (sometimes a little bit before). I go from having a lovely child and feeling like a reasonably pleasant parent to having a moody houseguest and becoming a shrew.

You’d think, having gone through this now four times, that I’d figure out how to avoid it. Or that I’d expect it. Or not let it bother me so much. Nope. It happened again, it caught me off guard, and I hate it.

To be fair, it’s only natural to be optimistic each time a child of yours moves out of the sweet years. After all, they are such sweet years: the years after diapers and being woken all night, the years when you begin to have real conversations and real fun with them, when they make you laugh and still love to snuggle with you. Sure, they can be messy and maddening, but overall they are so sweet that you think: how bad could the teenage years be?

Pretty bad, of course. Not just because of how teens act, but also because of how we parents end up acting in response. Here’s why turning into a shrew is inevitable:

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Why your children should get the HPV vaccine — and why they should get it early

HPV vaccine recommendationsIf there’s something we can do to prevent our children from getting cancer, we should do it. Plain and simple. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that youth be vaccinated against Human Papilloma Virus, starting as young as 9 years old.

Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV, is the leading cause of cervical cancer. It can cause other cancers as well in both men and women, and is the cause of genital warts. The vaccine, which is given as three doses over 6 months, is very effective. And yet, some parents don’t want me to give the vaccine, especially when their children aren’t teenagers yet.

Here’s what seem to be the two biggest reasons:

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