Everyone needs a little help being a human. From sleep to saving money to parenting and more, we talk to the experts to get the best advice out there. Life Kit is here to help you get it together. Subscribe to get new guides every two weeks.
In this special episode, Sam Sanders of NPR's "It's Been A Minute" talks with financial journalist Hannah Seligson and Aminatou Sow from the podcast "Call Your Girlfriend" about why millennials are so financially intertwined with their parents.
How To Be A Better Caregiver When A Loved One Gets Sick
None of us are prepared to be caregivers — the role is thrust upon us. More than 40 million Americans are caring for an elderly parent or loved one. Here are six tips to make the caregiving burden more sustainable: - Accept help, and don't be afraid to ask for it. - Break down caregiving tasks into bite-sized solutions. - Don't tell your loved one what to do. Ask about the quality of life they want and how you can get them there. - Be an empowered medical advocate for your loved one. - Get your legal ducks in order so you can focus on your relationship. - Make sure to take care of yourself, too.
Take Control Of Your Care When You're Seriously Sick
Finding out you have a serious medical condition can leave you reeling. These strategies from medical and lay experts will help you be in control as you navigate our complex health care system and get the best possible care.Here's what to remember:- Your primary care doctor is the captain of your health care team.- Don't be afraid to get a second opinion. - Get organized, and find someone to help you if you can't do it yourself.- If you need a procedure, go to someone who does it all the time.- Use the Internet, but use it wisely. - Figure out what matters to you, and fight for it
Going to a doctor who puts you at ease can actually improve your health. We have six tips for finding a primary care doctor you click with — and how you can make the most out of that relationship. - Figure out what type of patient you are, and let that guide your choice of doctor. - Seek out a doctor who makes you feel comfortable.- When you go to the doctor, go prepared. - Be clear about your agenda.- Be yourself at the doctor's office.- You have a right to give your doctor feedback. But if things aren't working, don't be afraid to break up.
From distracted parenting to "sharenting," an honest look at our own use of electronic media can make us into more skillful parents and better role models. Here's what to remember:- Put your phone away whenever possible when you're with your kids. - If you want calmer children, be a more focused parent. - Before you post a picture or share a cute story about your kids on social media, think twice and get their permission if possible. - Don't use technology to stalk your children. - Work for healthier technology for your kids, and for all of us.
Emotional outbursts. Lost sleep. These are signs that your kids are spending too much time with digital devices. Here's what you can do about it. Here's what to remember:- Pay attention to your children's emotional relationship with screens, not just how much time they are spending with them. - Don't just make technology rules based on time. - Do guard bedtimes and mealtimes. - Don't expect taking away the phone to solve all your family's problems. - Mentor your kids; don't just monitor them.
The family that plays video games together, stays together. When parents become digital mentors, children can learn empathy, resilience, and prepare for future careers. Here's how to harness the advantages of screen time. Here's what to remember:- Whenever possible, share screens with your kids. - Balancing screen use is about much more than time.- Be smart about content. - Look for what's positive about your kids' screen time so you can help those positive things grow.
Don't let college anxiety rush you into a financial mistake that could haunt you for years. This Life Kit episode lays out the do's and don'ts of paying for college so that you don't have to mortgage your future before you get there. Here's what to remember:- Take advantage of every opportunity to explore your interests before college.- Consider attending community college before transferring to a more expensive four-year college.- Don't let a school's high price deter you — you may only have to pay a fraction of the advertised price.- The FAFSA form is the gatekeeper to most student financial aid, so don't put it off.- Find free money, from federal Pell Grants to scholarships for left-handed tuba players. - If you or your parents have to borrow beyond federal student lending limits, the degree might not be worth the debt.- You don't have to attend an elite school to be happy.
You've taken the leap and enrolled in college! But money issues don't end when you accept your financial aid. Paying your way through school can be stressful, but lots of folks have made it work and they have advice for how you, too, can navigate your years in college. Here's what to remember: - Find out what resources your college offers for students — you may have to do some digging.- It's OK to get a job, but try to find one that's related to what you want to do. - Make a budget. And don't miss out on that free food!- When being thrifty isn't enough and you have no more hours for a job, talk to the financial aid office about taking out small federal loans.- Don't be afraid to ask for help.- Take care of yourself. You've made it to college: You belong there!
Paying off student loans can be a financial nightmare. But if you know how to navigate the system, you can find a payment plan that's more affordable. Here's what to remember:- Download a list of all your federal loans.- If you get an income-driven repayment plan, stay in it!- Don't trust your loan servicer. Do the research, find your payment plan and get it in writing.- Take a personal day or make a date with a friend to tackle student-loan paperwork.- Consider a full frontal assault on your loans to pay them down quickly.- Loan consolidation or refinancing might make sense for you, but might also lead to financial disaster.
'We Wanted To Show Children Real Life': Sesame Street's Sonia Manzano
Actress Sonia Manzano is beloved by millions as Maria on Sesame Street. Her character r on TV mirrored many of Manzano's real-life milestones, like marriage and motherhood (Elmo served as ring bearer for Maria's wedding on the show). She also wrote for Sesame Street in later years, and helped the show address diversity issues. In this special episode, Manzano reflects on her 44 seasons on Sesame Street, what she thinks was the show's most poignant moment — and which Muppet was secretly her favorite.
Free-Range Food Labels: Can My Groceries Really Help The Planet?
So many food labels proclaim their eco-virtues these days — organic. Pasture-raised. Cage-free. Non-GMO. What do they actually mean? Here are six ways to make sense of it all.- "Natural" or "sustainable" labels have no legal standard.- "Organic" means it's better for the planet, but may not be better for you.- Non-GMO is not organic. The food was still grown with pesticides.- Labels like "Animal Welfare Approved" mean the animals got to live outdoors.- "Fair Trade" products deliver a little extra money to small farmers in cooperatives.- Don't let labels stress you out. When it comes to solving the world's problems, your shopping decisions aren't nearly as important as your political decisions.
Self-regulation skills, including self-control, help us reach our goals, learn in school and get along with others. Millions of children struggle to develop them. We talk to experts for strategies to teach these skills — and get some very special help from Cookie Monster. Here's what to remember:- Look at self-regulation as a skill that can be learned and practiced.- Teach children to calm themselves.- Use your imagination to reframe a temptation.- What would Batman do? Kids can channel their heroes to make it easier to live up to their values.- Be strategic about distractions.- Build self-regulation skills with activities like martial arts or music lessons.
Up to 93% of American adults have some degree of math anxiety. The problem often starts in elementary school, but parents can do a lot to fix it. We talk to experts to get some unexpected strategies for children of all ages, with a little bit of help from Sesame Street and, of course, the Count. Here's what to remember:- Your own math anxiety doesn't have to hold your kids back.- Talk about math when you're sharing everyday activities. - Play math — with board games, card games, puzzles, and more. - Forget about right and wrong answers. Keep things open-ended — life, and math, are more fun that way.
Most kids value success and achievement more than caring for others, according to Harvard's Making Caring Common project. Who is to blame? We are. We talk to experts for ideas on how to do better, and why.Here's what to remember: - Children are born to be kind — but also unkind. - Kindness requires courage.- To build kindness, practice mindfulness.- Teach real apologies, and frame forgiveness as a gift you give yourself.- Practice gratitude to "raise the capital" of everyday kindness.- Kindness is a habit; rituals, chores and service can all help.
The way many of us think about weight loss is totally counter-productive. Focus on healthy habits you can sustain instead of the numbers on the scale. Here's what to remember:- Forget goal weights. Instead, focus on behavioral goals. - Start with small changes and let them snowball.- A loss of only 3% of your body weight can meaningfully improve your health.- Remember that your best weight is the one you reach when you live the healthiest life you can actually enjoy.
Our biology makes it hard to lose weight. In this episode, we won't tell you how to lose weight — or whether you even need to. We will give you five realities about biology, and they might even help you be kinder to your body. Here's what to remember: - Metabolism slows when you lose weight.- Hormonal changes that come with weight loss make you hungrier. - What you eat is more important than how much you exercise.- Exercise seems to play a big role in maintaining weight and preventing further gain.
Whether a school shooting or a deadly tornado, scary events in the news can leave parents struggling to know when — and how — they should talk with their kids about it. Rosemarie Truglio of Sesame Workshop and Tara Conley, a media studies professor at Montclair State University, give us tips. - Limit their exposure to breaking news.- For the really big stories, pick a quiet moment and start the conversation by asking what kids have heard and how they're feeling.- Give facts and context: Let kids know that most scary news events are rare. Show them where it is happening on a map. - When they ask why something happened, avoid labels like "bad guys." - Encourage kids to process the story through play, art, even video.- Take positive action together.
'What If We Lived In Two Houses?' Talking Kids Through Divorce
Even the most amicable split is world-changing for young children. Here are a few key tips for grown-ups trying to help their kids navigate this big transition. - Give children as much heads-up as you can — as soon as you've made a definite decision to split up.- It's a grown-up problem. Don't share details that will confuse your child or hurt your partner.- Don't fear the big feelings or the "pajama truth-bomb." - It's good for kids to talk about a separation — even when it may be painful for adults to hear.- Make sure your kids know that not everything will change. - Keep routines, and toys, consistent, even if they're traveling from one home to another. - Look back together on the good memories.
Whether it's mini-makeup kits, gross-smelling slime or semi-automatic foam-dart guns, every parent or caregiver has fielded requests for toys that they're just not that into. We talk about princesses and superheroes and their influence on kids with Rosemarie Truglio of Sesame Workshop and Lisa Dinella, a gender studies professor at Monmouth University. Here's what to remember: - Banning toys outright can be counterproductive. - Pay more attention to how kids play than what they're playing with. - Fight sexism in the playroom by broadening toy selections. - Talk directly to your kids about your values.- Join in your child's play to help expand the possibilities. - Grossed out? Use toilet toys as a chance to teach science — and manners.
When you can't sleep, your thoughts can be your worst enemy. In this episode, we explain five key strategies to help break the spiral, based on what many believe is the most effective treatment out there: cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I. Here's what to remember:- Log your sleep time to get a reality check on how much you're actually sleeping. - Write down your anxious thoughts; then replace them with more rational ones.- Restrict the amount of time you spend in bed based on information from your sleep log.- Find a relaxation technique.- Make it a rule: The bedroom is only for sleep (and sex); no electronic devices, no lying in bed, ruminating.
From mediation to melatonin to putting on a pair of socks, we all have routines to help us reach that blissful state of slumber. These are the ones that work:- Forget sheep. Instead, use mental imagery — picturing a walk in the woods or a stroll on a beach — to help relax. - Relaxation and meditation apps can help you unwind. - Melatonin supplements might ease your way into sleep, but too much melatonin could disrupt it. - Over-the-counter sleep medications may knock you out, but they won't result in effective sleep.- If young kids wake you in the wee hours, don't react in a way that increases their stress — but do find strategies that make it no fun to be up.- Sleep rituals are personal. If you believe in yours, that might be all you need.
From the moment you wake up, your body starts to prepare for sleep. We show you how to adjust your daytime habits to get the best possible night of rest.Here's what to remember:- Start the day with natural light — from an east-facing window, or even better, go outside — to put the brakes on melatonin. - Cut the caffeine off by late morning. Even if it doesn't keep you up, caffeine impacts how much deep sleep you're getting. - Get moving during the day. Exercise can increase the quantity and quality of your sleep.- Avoid the nightcap. Alcohol makes you feel sleepy but disrupts deep sleep.- Ban the smartphone and TV from the bedroom. Too stimulating, when you should be letting go.