Family Halloween-Themed Viewing Ideas From Netflix

by Samantha on October 30, 2014

Halloween.

The one day of the year where kids and parents alike can live out their inner fantasy of being a superhero, ghoul or rock star.

It’s also an opportunity to enjoy some of the creepy day’s more appropriate entertainment fare.

This year, Halloween falls on a Friday, allowing for a full weekend of dress-up, trick-or-treating and movie watching. For those of us with little kids, the big costume parties may take a backseat to some family entertainment such as a movie-night marathon featuring appropriately scary or ghoulish themes.

This year, add to the fun by watching some shows that pay homage to your kids’ costumes.

For the little ones who are burgeoning spies and sleuths in the making, there are The Busytown Mysteries and I Spy and Inspector Gadget Capers among others:

I Spy

 

Busytown-Mysteries

Inspector-Gadgets-Biggest-Caper-Ever

 

For the older kids, Spy Kids is a popular favourite, along with Black Hole High and House of Anubis:

Spy Kids

 

House-Of-Anubis

Dim the lights, add some popcorn and tuck into the treats (of course) and have a ghoulish family movie night with these picks.

Happy Halloween!

 

What are your favourite Halloween-themed movies or shows that you like to watch with the family? Tell me about them in the comments section below.

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Recent News Events Can Scare Children - Here's How Parents Can Help

child watching tv

Ebola. Terrorism. War.

Shootings. Poverty. The economy. Death.

All scary topics and all very real. These subjects are broached regularly in the media and, if you’re a parent of a young child, you’re likely concerned about the effect that such information is having on your little one.

With recent world events escalating in tandem with the ubiquitous 24/7 news cycle, it’s almost impossible for a parent to completely limit the access to information that their children may have. While it is possible to keep a lid on the negative and scarier news items while your child is within your care, our kids do venture out into the world without us – at school, at a friend’s house and elsewhere – and it is in these places that we don’t have much control. Add to this fact the reality that kids talk amongst themselves and it’s likely that your child will have heard something about the latest headline, whether it’s good or bad.

In many instances, kids react to what’s in front of them. What we as parents need to do is to provide context, information and in all cases, reassurances and support to allay any fears that our children may have.

Following are 5 tips for parents about how to calm their child’s fears during these difficult times.

 1) Listen – Listen to your child’s fears. What are they most concerned about? Oftentimes, there are one or two things that are really scaring them. Are their concerns based in reality? What have they heard, where did they hear it and what do they think is going to happen as a result? When you have a clear understanding of exactly what is bothering your child, you’ll be better prepared to provide them with the information, comfort and support that they need.

 2) Limit Exposure – As much as is possible, limit your child’s exposure to negative and scary news stories. Granted, information is everywhere, but while your child is in your care, turn off the radio, mute the TV and monitor internet use to assure that what is being viewed is appropriate and at the least, neutral. While we can’t completely control what our children see or hear, we can make a difference in the amount and type of information that they receive while they’re with us.

 3) Share Age-Appropriate Information – Kids have a limited understanding of many of the underlying reasons and causes behind the headlines. The geopolitical situation that has fuelled recent wars, the spread of infections diseases; there is much more context and information that underlies the realities of what is being conveyed in the headlines. Children of certain ages, particularly the younger ones, should be provided with as much detail as is appropriate, and that they can handle. In many cases, this may mean giving them basic facts of the situation at hand, but not getting into the specific, granular details, much of which may be beyond their scope of understanding. As the parent, you will know what your child can and can’t handle. Proceed accordingly when providing them with information regarding world events.

 4) Be Honest – If you don’t know, you don’t know. It’s okay to tell your child that you don’t have all the answers. Children need to learn that parents are just people and as such, we don’t know everything that there is to know. What is important is letting your child know that you’ll share whatever information that you receive (age-appropriate, of course) when received, and that you’re there to answer any questions. As always, honesty is the best policy.

 5) Provide Comfort – A warm hug and some kind words can go a long way, especially coming from Mom or Dad. At the end of the day, kids are looking to their parents for reassurance and comfort that everything is going to work out fine – or as fine as things can be, given the circumstances. Be available to answer questions but also be available to give your child whatever reassurances that they may need. Sometimes they may be words; other times, a big hug and some prolonged cuddling can assuage the fears of the most anxious child.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

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Image courtesy of www.telegraph.co.uk

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Trick-Or-Treating is for Kids. Period.

by Samantha on October 25, 2014

Save the Halloween Treats For the Little Ones

It happens every year.

They come to your door, taller than you, baritone voices and facial hair abound.

The females? Let’s just say that their costumes are often not PG-rated, to say the least.

Yet they’re heralding the Halloween battle-cry: “Trick or Treat!!”

What do you do?

Beside them, in front of them, behind them are kids – real kids – ones who can barely walk and in some cases, carried by their parents. Ones who have just learned about the joys of the quid pro quo deal offered through the Halloween covenant: Ask and ye shall receive.

These little ones deserve candy, and more. After all, they’ve taken the time to dress up, helped by their parents, buoyed  by the excitement and anticipation that this annual “high holiday” of childhood brings. For weeks, they’ve been planning their costumes and waiting with bated breath for the evening where they can finally reveal all to their neighbours in exchange for candy.

So have some other “kids” who want to get in on the action.

It’s fair to say that many teens love getting something for nothing. Free candy? It fits the bill.

And every October 31st, they fail to disappoint, showing up at the door, thrusting a bag in the direction of unwitting participants, sometimes without even uttering the agreed request – sometimes, the words “Trick or Treat” aren’t even mentioned.

Often, the shock and confusion lends itself to these kids walking away with a handful of candy and treats. After all – it’s quite stunning to be asked by a 6’2 Frankenstein for candy. Most of us would oblige.

But then, there are some of us who will put their foot down and just say no.

And how do I respond?

“Sorry. Halloween is for kids. Little kids.”

It took a number of years for me to build up my courage in saying this – after all, I didn’t want to be seen as an “Ebenezer Scrooge” (I know, wrong holiday, but bear with me for argument’s sake), but after being deluged year after year with more 16-18-year-olds (and older) than I could imagine, I had to take a stand.

I remember that wistful year that I turned 13, knowing full well that it would be my last year trick-or-treating. My friends and I had consulted with each other, talked it through, discussed the pros and cons of continuing the charade – literally – and erred on the side of caution, realizing that we were…well…too big to do it next year. It was a sad realization and one that made that last All Hallows Eve even more special because we knew that it was the end of a tradition and, in a way, the end of our childhood as we knew it. There was an unwritten code that dictated that kids would stop asking for sweets around the times that they started becoming interested in the opposite sex, and when school dances became much more important than any other event that season. We knew in our heart of hearts that we were just too big – both physically and mentally – to dare ask for candy under the auspices of childhood. After all – we were, at the same time, battling with our parents about our maturity and independence; how could participation in this very obvious vestige of childhood jive with our request to borrow the car?

Granted, adolescence is a strange mix of childhood and adulthood with those venturing through its path unsure upon which side they should fall. Some days, they’re kids. Other days, they’re adults. Many days, they’re confused. Therein may lie the problem on October 31st, though I suspect that many of these young adults who come to the door looking for candy know full well that they’re leaning more towards the “grown-up” scale than not.

It’s understandable that they would want to cash in on the sugar bounty that happens every October. After all – who wouldn’t? Show me a parent who hasn’t tucked into the Halloween stash both before and after their child has gone trick-or-treating and I’ll show you a parent who doesn’t exist (those tiny chocolate bars are a major temptation).

That being said, there comes a time when one has to be honest with oneself about the realities of life and this should ideally occur before any Adult XL Frankenstein or similar costume is donned.

Leave the candies for the kiddies. The high-school dance is so much more engaging.

 Image courtesy of www.parentdish.co.uk

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CBC Radio Interviews – Lice, Kids and School

by Samantha on October 11, 2014

Your kid comes home with lice. Who's responsible?

n-KID-LICE-CHECK-large570

We as parents wait with bated breath for the dreaded letter.

It usually starts out something like this:

A case of pediculosis has been identified in your child’s class…” yada, yada, yada. You get the point. Someone in your kid’s class has LICE! You are freaking out, especially if you are a first-time parent and never have had to deal with this scourge.

As a mother of four, I have had the dreaded letter sent home one too many times, and have dealt with it – and more. Let’s just say that it’s no fun and yes – it’s a hassle to say the least.

Lice - those pesky little critters that get into hair and so much more – have become the scourge of parenting in the 21st century. Not sure what happened but there’s been a proliferation of the dreaded creatures and our kids – and oftentimes their unwitting families –  are the victims.

But who’s to blame?

  • Is it the parents of the children who are bringing these horrible little bugs to school?
  • Is it the kids themselves who, through their actions (innocent or not) perpetuate the proliferation of these dreaded creatures?
  • Is it the school board for not having a more comprehensive educational program to teach both parents and kids how to avoid the scourge of lice?

The reality is that it’s a combination of all of these factors, but I strongly lean towards the third as a key component that is not being addressed as much as it should be. There needs to be a concentrated effort on the part of educators at the school level about how to deal with lice as, let’s face it – it’s at school that kids usually pick up these pesky creatures and bring them home to their families.

CBC Radio Metro Morning

I was recently back on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning to discuss this timely and touchy topic.

Here is a link to the full interview:

Metro Morning – Head Lice and Schools

As a result of the interview, I was asked by CBC Radio’s sister program Ontario Morning to discuss the topic, which I can share with you – scroll down for a link to the clip below.

Some other points that were addressed during both interviews was the rise of “Lice Squads” – enterprising entrepreneurs who – for a fee (often more than $200), will come to your home and delouse your child of the dreaded pests. In many cases, “Lice Parties” are taking away the stigma – and the pests – by normalizing the infestation and by making the delousing actually fun – parents are having wine and cheese in many instances while their kids are getting nits and eggs removed from their heads. I guess this is an example of life giving you lemons and you deciding to make lemonade…or sangria, as it were…

Anyway, all be well and good for those who have the money (the cost is per child, so if you have two or three kids, you can do the math and figure out that delousing the family could get pretty pricey), but what about those who are struggling financially and can’t come up with what would be considered a very expensive way of getting rid of a difficult problem? The issue of inequality of opportunity arises – in other words, if you don’t have the cash, you may have a much more difficult time dealing with ridding your family of these horrible critters. And we haven’t even touched upon the question of stigma – because we all know that those kids who have had persistent bouts of lice and have had difficulty getting rid of them are stigmatized, at least to some degree.

Finally, let’s not forget what all of us parents who have been in the trenches of parenthood for years have known – the “lice letter” that comes in the fall is often one of many that occurs throughout the school year. Again – do the math and these pesky critters can cost a family a lot more than inconvenience.

So what’s the solution?

Ontario Morning

You can listen to my interview with Ontario Morning here (link to iTunes Ontario Morning feed) – The episode is from September 30th 2014 – skip to 40:25 for my segment (it’s at the end of the program):

Ontario Morning Interview – Lice, Kids and School

Of course there are many natural ways of removing lice which don’t cost an astronomical amount and don’t employ the usage of very caustic and often toxic chemicals. Who wants to put that on a child’s head? Some advice and tips on details about natural lice removal can be found in the links below:

How to Kill Lice Naturally

Natural Lice Treatment

Home Remedies For Lice

So what are your thoughts? How do we deal with this yearly, pesky problem that occurs in our schools and spreads to our homes? Who’s responsible and how do we rid ourselves of these horrible critters? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of www.huffingtonpost.com

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Messed-Up Kids’ Songs

by Samantha on September 20, 2014

A peek behind the curtain of classic children's songs shows a surprisingly darker side

baby singing

One of my sons’ favourite songs is “You Are My Sunshine.”

It’s a classic – a perennial favourite amongst parents everywhere. Perhaps it’s the metaphorical comparison between lightness and the object of the singer’s affection (You are my sunshine). Perhaps it’s the seemingly positive message of hope offered in the chorus:

You make me happy when skies are grey.”

And what child doesn’t want to hear this proclamation of absolute adoration, almost desperate in its pronouncement:

You’ll never know dear, how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away.”

Every child wants to hear that. A mother or father declaring their absolute love for their offspring – it’s a child’s dream, isn’t it?

Yet when we actually look at the full lyrics of this popular song, things aren’t as rosy as they seem. Check out the full lyrics here:

CHORUS:

You Are My Sunshine
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away

The other night, dear,
As I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, dear,
I was mistaken
And I hung my head and cried.

REPEAT CHORUS

I’ll always love you
And make you happy
If you will only say the same
But if you leave me
To love another
You’ll regret it all some day;

REPEAT CHORUS

You told me once dear
You really loved me
And no one else could come between
But now you’ve left me
And love another
You have shattered all my dreams

REPEAT CHORUS

Louisiana my Louisiana
The place where I was born
White fields of cotton
Green fields of clover
The best fishing and long tall corn

REPEAT CHORUS

Hmmm…

Sounds like the tune is a spiteful ode to a possible cheater, with overtones of threats (“If you leave me to love another, you’ll regret it all someday”). Let’s also not discount the apparently unequivocal callousness of the person about whom the song is intended, as evidenced by this beauty of a verse:

“You told me once dear, you really loved me, that no one else could come between, but now you’ve left me and love another, you have shattered all my dreams.”

Doesn’t sound very happy to me…

Yet we sing the song unwittingly to our kids, often. At least I do. And I know I’m not alone.

Funny, when we dig just a little bit deeper in to many kids’ songs, we find out information that may not fit in with our ideas about what’s appropriate to share with our children…or not. “You Are My Sunshine” is a classic and sung numerous times daily, around the world. But how closely do we listen to the words that we blithely recite to our kids? Is it the fact that because these words are accompanied by a sweet tune, this fact alone may somehow negate the clearly unfavourable message that is being told?

You Are My Sunshine” is not the only seemingly innocuous song that has a darker side. Witness this classic – “Clementine” – which is about every parent’s worst fear: drowning.

In a cavern, in a canyon,
Excavating for a mine,
Lived a miner, forty-niner
And his daughter Clementine

CHORUS:

Oh my Darling, Oh my Darling,
Oh my Darling Clementine.
You are lost and gone forever,
Dreadful sorry, Clementine.

Light she was and like a fairy,
And her shoes were number nine
Herring boxes without topses
Sandals weren’t for Clementine.

REPEAT CHORUS

Drove she ducklings to the water
Every morning just at nine,
Hit her foot against a splinter
Fell into the foaming brine.

REPEAT CHORUS

Ruby lips above the water,
Blowing bubbles soft and fine,
But alas, I was no swimmer,
So I lost my Clementine.

REPEAT CHORUS

How I missed her! How I missed her!
How I missed my Clementine,
Till I kissed her little sister,
And forgot my Clementine.

REPEAT CHORUS

Then the miner, forty-niner,
Soon began to peak and pine,
Thought he oughter join his daughter,
Now he’s with his Clementine.

Again – some questionable content.

So distraught is the author of this song about losing his beloved Clementine, that he promptly took solace in the arms of the dead girl’s little sister, which apparently made everything better.

Nice.

Now let’s move on to another classic children’s ditty – “Rock-a-Bye Baby.”

Rock-a-bye baby
On the tree top,
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks,
The cradle will fall,
And down will fall baby
Cradle and all.

Am I the only one wondering who on earth puts their baby in a cradle on a treetop? The situation is precarious at best, tragic at worst and yes – of course – the bough will surely break in the event of a strong wind or two.
Neglectful parenting, child endangerment and possibly the charge of premeditated you-know-what is very real in this scenario. Yet we sing it to our kids without batting an eye.

What gives?

I’m not completely sure but here’s an idea:
Perhaps we’re so caught up in singing to our kids, trying to calm or soothe them, or entertain them for a moment that we can’t see the forest for the trees. These and many other songs (hello, “Ring-Around-The-Rosy“, about the bubonic plague) – so many of them – have been ingrained into our consciousness for as long as we can remember and we sing them without batting an eye.

We pride ourselves on being loving and forgiving to our children yet these words don’t sound like either:
But if you leave me
To love another
You’ll regret it all some day;

Threatening and ominous for sure – not the type of message that we usually want to send to our kids.

Now, granted – many of us don’t follow through to sing each and every verse to our children when we’re trying to soothe them or put them to sleep. For the most part, much of our singing includes repetition of the main chorus without much thought or time given to the more disturbing other verses. But do we not owe it to our kids – and ourselves – to at least know the full story and the intended background of these songs? Is it okay to blindly sing these tunes to our kids, relinquishing all responsibility for these songs’ content due to our willful ignorance?

I likely won’t stop singing “You Are My Sunshine” to my son but may shudder a bit inside every time I do so, now that the real intention behind the song is known. Ditto for “Clementine.” And “Rock-A-Bye Baby?” I’ve never been in support of ditching babies in trees…but that’s just me.

What do you think? Are these songs harmless or should parents play closer attention to the lyrics and intentions of popular children’s songs? Do you sing these songs to your kids? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

VIDEO: You Are My Sunshine

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Image courtesy of http://get-your-baby-to-sleep.com

Learning With Netflix

September 15, 2014

Family entertainment can be used as a learning tool DISCLAIMER: As part of the Netflix #StreamTeam, I will be providing monthly thoughts and suggestions about movies currently showing on Netflix. As with all content on this blog, opinions are completely my own.  The kids are back to school and hopefully, they’ve have settled into a […]

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CBC Radio Interview: Kids and Email

September 4, 2014

Should parents allow their children to have email and online accounts? Does your child have an email account? Why or why not? This is a question that I addressed on CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning program about kids and online access. Following a discussion on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning show on a similar topic, I delved […]

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Your Child’s First Day of School – Support For First-Time Parents

August 26, 2014

Top 5 Tips to Help You Send Your Child Off to School For the First Time For parents whose kids are entering Kindergarten for the first time, the stakes are high. Not necessarily for the child but oftentimes more so for the parents. Having been home with their son or daughter for a number of […]

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CBC Radio Interview: How Young is Too Young to Be Online?

August 23, 2014

At what age is it okay for kids to have an email and social media accounts? Does your child have an email address? How about a Facebook account? How do you feel about your child being online at all? Those were some of the questions posed in an interview that I did with CBC Metro Morning. […]

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Family Adventures With Netflix

August 10, 2014

Some adventurous titles to watch with the family Summertime means many things to many people. To kids – mine, in particular – it’s a time to both chill out and relax as well as to engage in some adventurous activity. Now – keep in mind that my boys are small and my middle daughter is […]

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