Ask A Mom: Boundaries, tough conversations, and curbing end-of-summer boredom

WBTV's Molly Grantham tackles your parenting questions in this ongoing series
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Q: My daughter and her boyfriend are going out a lot, but they never tell me where! And they come back so late! I don’t know what to do…

A: Ask her. You’re her mother, not her friend. You control curfew. You get to ask where she’s going, and with whom.

This might seem like a cut-and-dry answer. Not trying to be harsh; it’s the simple truth. Children don’t get to run households. You can bend rules and be understanding and talk with them when they’re talking with you, but you still need to know where they are, where they’re going, and when they come home. You are the ones with rules in place.

And, if you prefer to be sneaky and less direct, there are trackers for phones.

Q: My 7-year-old old asked me what abortion is. I’m sure she heard it on the news. I haven’t even given her the “birds and the bees” talk yet, so I have no idea how to explain this. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

A: I can only imagine the sucker punch you felt when you heard your 7-year-old say the word.

There are a wide range of ways to describe abortion to kids; almost as wide as the range of opinions among adults. This should be expected. We generally teach young children our personal views—we expect to raise them with the values and beliefs we own. With that said, and knowing abortion is a sensitive topic, I’m going to give you two answers: One more pro-choice, one more pro-life. The only thing they agreed on was that kids by the age of 10 will hear about abortion from news, friends, or others, so try to explain it to them first.

The first opinion comes from the website Kids in the House. It quotes Amy Lang, MA, a “sexual health expert.” (You can watch a video of her explaining what’s below here.)

“Kids are going to hear the word ‘abortion’ and hear about abortion long before we’re going to be ready to talk to them about it. It’s important to calmly explain to children, probably by the time they are 10 for sure what abortion is,” Lang says. “And you can very simply say that sometimes women become pregnant and they don’t want to be pregnant – you can talk about the different reasons why, maybe they aren’t ready to have more children, maybe they can’t afford another child, maybe there’s something wrong with their health or the health of the developing fetus. So, explain that it’s a medical procedure for women that’s done by a doctor. They can have a simple surgery or take medication that will end the pregnancy. We talk about abortion and use the word baby, kids imagine babies in arms, so it’s very helpful to them I think to understand that it’s very early in pregnancy. And then, of course, you need to talk about your values about abortion with your kids.”

A separate site called Teaching Catholic Kids suggests less of a clinical approach when it comes to talking about abortion and a more an emotional and religious take. This site quotes various stories from parents on how they approached the conversation.

“I introduced it to my older three kids when they were 10, 8, and 7,” says Becky Arganbright. “I didn’t have any books (though that would have been a good way to go), but I teach everything through discussion. I explained what it was, kept graphic stuff out, and only said that babies are killed through the womb through a certain procedure. That was enough for them; they didn’t need to know how it was done, they only wanted to know WHY. From there we talked about why some women choose to have an abortion from being misled or in desperate situations.”

Read more on that site here.

Remember: The overturning of Roe v Wade impacts people everywhere no matter your view or age. As evidenced by the high-profile case of a 10-year-old in Ohio banned from having an abortion despite her being raped and getting pregnant. Talking about it directly is OK, though the age appropriateness can be different for a child aged 6, versus someone in double digits.

Q: I’m a stay-at-home mom and I’ve been home with kids all summer. I’m exhausted, they’re bored, and money is tight. What are some fun (free?) activities we can do for these last few weeks of summer?—Kelly 

A: Little known fun fact: www.care.com, a popular website that helps parents get matched up with caregivers, also has good articles. Even if you never hire a sitter from that site, you can read the content on their page. A recent article from the start of summer was called, “Free (or almost free) things to do with kids this summer.” Here are my top five favorites:

1) Get creative in the kitchen.

One recipe that doesn’t break the bank is snow cone cupcakes.

2) Play sprinkler games.

3) Paint seashells or rocks.

4) Stage a paint chip color scavenger hunt.

Take free samples of paint swatches at Lowe’s, Home Depot, or any paint store—get as many as you want for each child—then send your kids looking to find something that exact color that’s outside, or in your home.

5) Create a boredom bucket.

Make a bucket filled with activities a child can do by themselves without your help, says Amy Carney, author of Parent on Purpose. “It doesn’t need to cost you anything unless you want to mix in new items. Go through their room like I did, and pick put small items that have rarely gotten use.” A few ideas include word search books, stickers or coloring books, markers and crayons, brain games, slime or putty, slinky, new chapter book, or trinkets and toys they received in goodie bags.

Find the entire list with all 17 items here.

And if you’re looking for more basic, spontaneous ideas, I play board games with my kids and sometimes make the game a “tournament.” So rather than play one game of UNO, it becomes the best of five. Or, we have downloaded digital word games for my phone. I justify them as educational despite being on screens, and we can hang out together. I play Words with Friends with my 11-year-old (she has her own phone, so we can send words back and forth), and the Wordle app for kids, which has unlimited words (unlike the New York Times daily puzzle).

The trick is not getting bored while we play with them. I promise you’re not alone in this struggle. Caregivers everywhere are looking for things to fill the time as summer winds down.

And just like that, a wrap on this stifling month of August. Here comes yet another school year. Thanks for reading and see you guys tonight. Keep the questions coming.

Molly

MOLLY GRANTHAM is an anchor, author, and mom of three. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram, or catch her on WBTV News at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 11 p.m.