Thursday, September 08, 2005

Spacing Sibling Births

Once you've settled into your new family role and your little one begins walking and talking, you may find yourself missing that little being that needed you so much, such a short time ago. For many couples, this is the time they start thinking of having another baby. Many women ask, "When is the right time to add to our family?" It's a very personal decision and one that needs to be well thought out. Work commitments, family financial needs, and the health of the mom can all play key roles in the spacing of sibling births. How you and your partner view the idea of family and how many children you each wish to have, needs to be taken into account. There are both advantages and disadvantages of spacing your children's births close together or farther apart. If the children are within two years of each other, they're more likely to accept another sibling because they wouldn't remember much about having the parent's undivided attention. They're more likely to adjust to each other easier, and be more content to play together on somewhat the same level, helping them form that special bond. Children spaced farther apart, tend to grow farther apart as they mature and each goes their own way. The relationship shares less in common over the years, but usually develops a kind of hero worship of the younger to the older sibling, and a protector or guardian role for the older toward the younger. Spacing children farther apart can allow more focus on an individual child's interests, seeing their activities as their own rather than following along behind the other for convenience sake. If the children are born close together, you will get through the baby years of bottles, diapers, and potty training pretty much all at once. This can be a most exhausting and challenging period in parenthood. Just think of having two children in diapers. The cost alone is staggering. On the good side, you won't have to purchase so many of the necessary items all over again. When siblings are born further apart, there is more of a demand put on you for your undivided attention. An older child can feel left out or pushed aside, sometimes resulting in inappropriate behavior in order to get attention. With a little guidance, on the other hand, an older sibling can be a tremendous help to you in simple tasks that are age appropriate, such as: picking up after themselves, occasionally changing diapers, or playing or reading to the baby while you're preparing dinner. Praising your child for being a big help to mom can provide positive reinforcement, encouraging them to repeat these behaviors in the future. Making time to spend with each child alone is important. An older child needs to feel special and that can require more adjustment time when new siblings enter into the family picture. Either way you look at it, there is no "perfect" formula in the spacing of siblings. Kids are kids. They have to be taught right from wrong and how to respect their siblings regardless of the age distance between them. All of us who had siblings growing up have "fond" memories of our sibling relationships. Remember how well you always got along with your brothers and sisters? Just like the Brady Bunch.

Making a Will

You have a new life growing inside of you, and the last thing on your mind is your last will and testament. But that new life is just the reason you need to plan. If you have any property or money at all that you would like to save from the IRS and preserve for your child, and if you want the right to decide who will be appointed your child's personal guardian if you should die prematurely, you need to write a will. If you have significant assets, long-term care responsibilities, or reason to fear that someone may contest your will, or if you want to set up a living trust, a bypass trust, or a Durable Power of Attorney, you probably need an attorney to produce your will. If, on the other hand, your will needs only to appoint a guardian for your children, appoint an executor to oversee the distribution of your assets, and lay out the plan for the distribution of your assets, you should be able to prepare your will yourself, using legal software, a statutory fill in the blanks will, or a stationary store will, which gives you a little more flexibility than the statutory will does. But actually working your way through the paperwork is only a small part of the will preparation process. There are four stages to writing a will: planning, information gathering, form filling, and storing. First of all, you need to plan, to evaluate your priorities and your options to figure out what will serve your child best, be most helpful to your loved ones, and do the best job of protecting your assets. You need to be tax-wise, and you need to choose an executor you trust. Most importantly, you need to select and sit down with the one person worthy of being a personal guardian for your child. Make sure to choose just one personal guardian for your child, as two or more may at some point go separate ways, leaving your child in the middle. The guardian you choose should be someone both you and your child are comfortable with and have absolute confidence in. They should share your basic moral sense and your philosophy of parenting. It is also important that the guardian you choose be able to take on parenting responsibilities: they must be physically able to handle the workload, and their schedule must be able to accommodate a child. But in thinking about the person with whom you are willing to share the sacred duty of raising your child, you also need to think about money. Does the guardian you have in mind have the financial resources needed to raise a child? How much support can you provide them? It is possible to select two guardians, one property guardian to act as a financial manager and one personal guardian to act as a surrogate parent. If you want to leave money to your child, you will need to appoint a custodian to oversee it until your child turns 21 (in most states, anyway). Think through these issues and discuss them with your potential guardian and an alternate guardian, which you should also select in case anything should happen to your guardian. Next, you'll need to gather information, most importantly, the following: the names, addresses, and birth dates for you, your spouse, your children, the guardian and an alternate guardian, and the executor, a list of assets, real estate, cars or boats, savings, investments, life insurance policies, pension and retirements accounts, jewelry, antiques, and other valuables you might have around the house, the amounts of all debts, loans, credit card balances, copies of any earlier wills you or your spouse might have drafted, as well as trusts, divorce decrees, prenuptial agreements, and any other legal agreements that might have an impact on your will With a few hours of your own time or a couple of visits and a check made out to your lawyer, you can get all of this information translated into legal documents and have your last will and testament in hand. To be legal, your will must be typewritten or computer generated except in the 25 states that accept hand-written wills. It must announce that it is your will, and it must be signed, dated, and witnessed. Some states also require that your will be notarized. With all that done, you need to store your will in a fireproof box, filing cabinet, or home safe, or in a safe deposit box that your executor will be able to access after your death. No matter where you store your will, make sure that your executor and one or two other of your nearest and dearest know where to find it. And then, relax. You've made arrangements for the unthinkable and the wildly unlikely. It's not fun, but it is important. It's what responsible parents do, and your baby is lucky to have such a reliable mommy!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Hearts and Hope

Our hearts go out to the many families affected by Hurricane Katrina. If you would like to donate please visit the American Red Cross.