responsibility

By coddling our kids, we're doing them more harm than good




latchkey kid

Are there still latchkey kids these days or have they gone undercover in the age of helicopter parenting and our increased paranoia about kids’ safety?

I used to be a latchkey kid.

As a matter of fact, I remember walking to and from school alone, sometimes with friends of the same age, as young as eight years old. I also remember spending many days and evenings on my own over the summers, after school, going to the park, the corner store for candy, riding my bike. All my friends did it too. My parents were working, making a living. I was fine.

While this occurred in the not too distant past, it wasn’t that long ago where kids other than myself and my friends were afforded the responsibility and provided the trust to similarly live their lives. In doing so, they were able to gain confidence in their abilities. This often included walking to and from home to school and back, to the corner store, or somewhere within the vicinity close (or close enough) to home.

Now, it’s considered nothing short of child abuse to allow a kid under the age of 12 or 13 to walk anywhere on their own. Don’t believe me? Just think of Lenore Skenazy who was publicly vilified for allowing her nine-year-old son to take the train alone, or Danielle Meitiv, whose children Rafi and Dvora aged 10 and six respectively, were taken into protective custody by the authorities after being spotted walking a few blocks home from the local park.

Sadly, this event is all too common when it comes to society’s perception of what we should or shouldn’t be allowing our children to do. Despite a long history of children having considerable responsibilities at much younger ages than they do now, we have, strangely, become more worried about our kids’ abilities to fend for themselves in today’s world. 

There was a time where kids were allowed to be kids, which meant going out to play and coming home when dinner was on the table. The delta between this edict and the return time could be as much as three or four hours. Oh, the freedom!

“There was a time where kids were allowed to be kids, which meant going out to play and coming home when dinner was on the table.”

Today, the thought of a child walking home alone, letting themselves into their house and staying put until mom or dad gets home puts some parents into a state of hyperventilation. I’m guilty of hyper-parenting as well but also realize that I’m not doing my children any favours by passing my paranoia on to them. 

As with many parents, I’ve bought into the paranoia about the dangers of life to some degree. Touted on the evening news, online and via social media, one would think that the world is coming to an end, at least in terms of kids’ abilities to be…well…kids. These days, parents face a daily struggle to provide their children with the right balance of protection while still affording them the freedom that they require to become confident, secure adults. It’s a difficult balancing act for sure, and one that’s not easily managed.

Yet, what has changed in our society, really? Has human nature - both good and bad - really gotten worse in the past 30-40 years?  Not much. In fact, there are still the same threats that we had so many years ago, if not more. “The Boogeyman” lived then as he does now; we’re just more aware of him, thanks to Professor Google.

We’ve become a society of incredibly fearful parents, much to the detriment of our kids. As a result, our children are the ones who are suffering, both from lack of experience and from general distrust. The thought of exerting any semblance of independence is quickly followed by waves of anxiety, distress and “stranger danger.”

And so, those who allow their kids any degree of freedom or responsibility are made to feel like they have somehow failed in their roles as parents. How can this be a good thing?

The very things that we hope to see develop within our children are being stifled by our (often) unsubstantiated fears of the unknown. Independence, self-assuredness, fearlessness - these qualities are left to wither and sometimes die due to our hesitance to loosen the apron strings and let our kids experience real life. While we are stalwartly determined to not let our our most precious assets venture too far beyond our purview, we are, at the same time, stifling the very real qualities that we’d hope to see in our children as they move towards adulthood.

This fact alone should give us pause to revisit what we are teaching our kids about the world in which they live. After all - our job as parents is to give them the skills to survive in the real world, to arm them with knowledge and, perhaps most importantly - provide them with confidence. All of these must-have attributes will never be realized if we continue to coddle them and refuse to let them venture beyond our line of sight.

There are still “latchkey kids” out there, walking themselves home from school and letting themselves into the house to wait for their parent or parents to come home. It’s safe to say that these children are likely less afraid, more self-assured and likely more responsible than their coddled counterparts. They’re also, sadly, more likely to be the brunt of our collective pity and their parents the recipients of our collective scorn, as indicated by the reaction to Ms. Skenazy and Ms. Meitiv indicates.

In today’s world, Helicopter Parenting is the the norm, not the exception. In spite of this fact, Latchkey Kids still exist; they’ve just gone undercover, having been forced to operate in the shadows as a result of our over-protective and fearful society. They’re in hiding with no clear indication of when they can come out of the shadows to lead the way for their peers who would likely gain so much more from the shared knowledge than they would lose. Yes, learning to be independent and following the lead of those who bravely do so, often because there’s no other choice, would be inspiring, to say the least.

For these parents who either have no choice or have the choice but have chosen to teach their kids the ropes; for those who send their children out with a key in their backpack and who say a little prayer as they leave their children to make their way in the world, I salute you. For you know  and act upon what all of us “Nervous Nellies” secretly know but chose to ignore: that giving our kids the freedom and responsibility to trust their own judgement and abilities is one of the greatest things we can do to help them grow into highly-confident, well-functioning adults.

Perhaps it’s time that we collectively reconsider the effects of our parental protectiveness and look to another alternative that will ultimately help, rather than hurt our children in the long run.

 

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How old should a child be before they're able to go to a public bathroom alone?


public washroom

We’ve all been there.

You’re out with your young child and all of a sudden, he/she announces “I have to go pee!!” You know that this type of warning means that time is of the essence and that a toilet needs to be found, now.

If you’re the parent of a child that is the opposite sex from you, you have a problem, especially if that child is “of a certain age.” In some cases, this can mean over the tender age of six. Yes, six.

Recently, a sign was seen warning parents to leave their boys who were over the age of six out of the women’s bathroom and to let them go alone to the men’s facilities.

To say that this is a problem is an understatement, at least in my opinion, and in the opinion of the many other parents who helped to make this image go viral. Here’s the offending sign:

boys over 6 sign

As a parent of young boys (twins), I know them well and know that my comfort level in allowing them into a public bathroom without me is not there yet. There are the practical problems: they may need help wiping or washing their hands, or even reaching the sink. I want to make sure they don’t touch too many things in the bathroom. They may need me to undo and do up their pants.

Then there are the more disturbing potential problems: what if there is a questionable person or persons in the bathroom who may pose a threat to my son(s)?

As a parent, I can’t help but feel that erring on the side of caution is best in these instances and therefore, my child will stay with me if they need to go to the bathroom, at least until I feel comfortable enough to let them go in on their own. At the end of the day, parents know their kids best and should be the ones making the decision about when their kids are ready to confidently venture into a public bathroom without their parent. An arbitrary age shouldn’t be dictated to determine bathroom abilities or the lack thereof.

On a related note, for those insisting on a specific cutoff age for going into a public bathroom with an opposite-sex parent, I would ask them the following: How do you determine a child’s age? Do you ask for a birth certificate? What about those kids that look older or younger than they really are?

In case it’s not clear, I think that six is much too young to be going into a public bathroom alone. I accompany my kids at this age and will continue to do so until I feel that they can handle things by themselves. As a mother, I will not be told that I  have to leave my children alone in a potentially vulnerable situation. And clearly, based on the response to this topic, I’m not alone in this sentiment.

Check out the Huffington Post Live segment below on the subject where I weigh in and provide my perspective, along with other parents:

VIDEO: The Public Restroom Challenge For Parents

So what do you think? How old should a child be before they can go into a public bathroom alone? Would you feel comfortable letting a six-year-old go into a public bathroom without you? Why or why not? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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How to help your child get through the loss of a beloved companion

Boy and turtle

There comes a time when most parents must deal with the inevitable - the death of a beloved family pet. This occurrence is even more painful when the pet is the particular companion of a young child. Your son or daughter likely grew very attached to its turtle, gerbil, cat or dog and now the beloved pet is gone - a harsh reality for a young mind.

When this very real part of childhood occurs, it’s best to be prepared, so that you as the parent are able to calm and comfort your child while they go through the grieving process. While this is a difficult time, it is possible to get through it with your son or daughter understanding and accepting this very real part of life.

Following are five tips for parents on how to help their child manage the death of a pet.

When Your Child’s Pet Dies - Top 5 Tips For Parents

1) Acknowledge the Loss - It hurts. The death of a child’s pet is a painful experience and is one that often comes as a shock to those unaccustomed to the reality of death. As this is likely the first instance in his or her experience of losing something he/she loves, the reality of what has occurred will hit hard. For a child that has lost its animal companion, it can be all-consuming as well as confusing. Recognizing and acknowledging the pain that your son or daughter is experiencing, and providing comfort while they grieve is one of the first steps towards helping your child through this difficult time. Being there and recognizing your child’s feelings will help them get through it.

2) Leave Time For Grief - Just as with people, pets can’t be replaced. Sure, you can get a new dog, cat or gerbil, but a new animal can never take the place of the one that’s died. For this reason, it’s important to take some time for your child to grieve and reflect on the loss of the pet. While the impulse may be there to soothe your child’s pain, don’t jump in and get another pet right away. Kids need to be allowed to mourn the loss of their pet and realize that while their companion can’t be exactly replaced, a new pet can still bring joy - in time.

3) Give it a Proper Send-Off -  The rituals attached to death shouldn’t end with humans. Ceremonies are important, even if they’re small. Whether it’s a fish, a hamster or a larger pet, giving it a proper goodbye will allow your child to understand that the ritual involved is all part of the process and can often help with healing.

4) Talk Honestly About Death - While it’s a difficult time for your child, the death of a beloved companion can also provide parents with the opportunity to talk about the reality that all living things eventually die. Teaching a child that this sad occurrence is a normal part of life may be hard, but it’s an experience that we all have to deal with at some time in our lives. The loss of a pet can open the door to a difficult topic of discussion but one that is needed and necessary. Answering questions about death can give your child a greater understanding about this reality as well as an opportunity to calm his or her fears.

5) Create Memories With Child - “Gone but not forgotten.” While death is a difficult lesson to learn, children can also be taught that the loss of a loved one - pet or otherwise -  doesn’t mean that the loved one will be forgotten. Memories live on, an important lesson to teach your child in the face of their loss. Help them honour their beloved pet by putting together a scrapbook, photo album, or other memento that represents a permanent tribute to their companion.

How have you dealt with the death of a family pet? What additional tips would you provide to parents who are going through this with their children? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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How much freedom should a child be given, and at what age?

Where do we draw the line?

Where do a parent’s right to making a decision about their child or children end and the rest of the world’s responsibilities begin?

Working from the assumption that most of us have the best interest of children in mind, does that give us the right to butt in where we don’t belong?

I wish the answer to this question was simple but recent headlines and a growing trend towards “Helicopter Parenting” doesn’t give me much hope.

You may have heard about this story:

Maryland Family Under Investigation For Letting Their Children Walk Home Alone

The crime? Maryland parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv allowed their children, aged 6 and 10, to walk home alone from a playground, not far from their home, in the middle of the afternoon one recent Saturday.

 child walking home

For many who subscribe to the philosophy of “Free-Range Parenting,”  it was seen as the most normal thing in the world: an opportunity for these parents to teach their children a bit of independence and self-reliance in what they felt was a safe scenario. For others, many whom may be considered “Helicopter Parents,” it was cause for considerable alarm and for some, enough for them to call the police and child protective services.

Both camps believe that they’re in the right - and that the other is woefully misguided. Each camp believes that the other is doing irreparable harm to the children due to the choices of the children’s parents. Sadly, the kids are often the ones who suffer as they are either monitored so closely that they never gain the confidence required for true independence, or they are left to their own devices - too much so - which in itself may lead to trouble.

Is it okay to let a child walk to the park and home alone, or with a younger sibling? How old is it when it becomes okay? What age is too young?

For the record, I think that the treatment of these parents is beyond harsh and alarming. If anything, they are doing what we all try to do as parents - teach their children to have confidence in their decisions, to be fearless and to be independent. Isn’t that what we all want for our kids?

Now, perhaps my perspective is coloured by the fact that I was also raised by “Free-Range Parents,” except they didn’t know that that’s what they were doing.

As a child of the ’70’s, I spent many a day, evening and summer vacation going to the park by myself or with friends, walking to the corner store alone, riding my bicycle without a helmet (no one else wore helmets, either) and coming home after school alone, with a key to let myself in. Yes, I was alone, in my home and no, I wasn’t a teen yet. I had to call my mother (who was at work), from our landline (there were no cell phones, email, texting or Google then and we all managed to survive) and I watched the Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island until my parents got home from work. I even made myself snacks and used the stove. I was a responsible kid and my parents trusted me. Oh - and all of my friends were “Free-Range Kids” as well, as raised by their parents. The “Helicopter Parents” of later decades had not yet made their mark.

Nowadays, I’m sure my loving parents would be reported as being negligent, and perhaps be arrested for their perceived neglect. Yet they were anything but. They loved and cared about me and were able to gauge my maturity level as they meted out a bit more responsibility and independence to me every time I proved that I was worthy of their trust. They provided me with the tools, skills and independence I needed to become a fairly confident and well-balanced adult. This type of parenting isn’t neglectful; if anything it shows a keen desire to help a child to gain the skills that they will need as an adult.

Yet we are now in a different era and parents like Danielle and Alexander Meitiv are under the spotlight for their perceived neglect.

I had the pleasure of participating in a Huffington Post Live segment on this very topic that featured Ms. Meitiv herself, along with Julie Gunlock and Lisa LaGrou, both moms who, like me, were united in our thoughts surrounding how Ms. Meitiv is being treated regarding her decision.

You can watch the full Huffington Post Live segment below.

Huffington Post Live - Under Arrest For Letting Your Kids Be Independent?

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you believe in “Free-Range Parenting?” Was it necessary to call in the authorities on this parent regarding her decision to let her children walk home alone? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Back to Work After Baby - Top 8 Tips For Moms

by Samantha on January 4, 2015

Simple but proven tips for a stress-free return to the workplace





baby mom

The time has come.

You’ve spent precious moments with your bundle of joy but like many situations in life, this, too, must come to an end.

Work beckons.

And as much as you’d like to stay at home just a little while longer, there are bills to pay and mouths to feed.

A return to work after having a baby can be one of the most stressful and emotional times for moms. After carrying your child for nine months, giving birth then being so closely attached to your baby during this special period, the thought of leaving him or her can cause feelings of both sadness and stress. As well, many moms feel guilty about having to make this decision, which often doesn’t make things easier.

Before going back to the outside workforce, you likely have a number of questions swirling through your mind, often with no clear answers. Some of these likely include:

- Who’s going to take care of the baby while I’m at work?

- How much is childcare going to cost?

- Is my baby going to be okay in the care of someone other than me?

 - How am I going to balance work, home and family responsibilities?

All of these questions are valid and normal, as well as important to be answered for both the parent and the child’s well-being.

Rest assured that you will be fine, and so will your child.

That being said,there are a few things to keep in mind and to have in place before you re-enter the workplace. Follow these simple tips and you and your little one will be ready for your return to work:

Back to Work After Baby - Top 8 Tips For Moms

1) Eliminate Guilty Feelings - Before anything, remember: you are doing this in the best interest of your baby and your family. While it’s natural to feel guilty, keep in mind that your return to work is going to allow you to provide your baby with the things that he or she needs, as well as to bring in needed finances to your household. While it may be difficult at first and you may feel guilt as well as a fear of separation anxiety, know that your actions are what’s best for your family, and will ultimately make a positive difference in the quality of life for all of you.

2) Decide on Breast or Bottle - Regardless of your choice, make provisions for how your child will be fed while you’re away. If you’re going to continue breastfeeding, make sure that you’ve made provisions accordingly. This may include either freezing your milk and/or making sure that you have a place to pump when you return to work, as well as a supportive work environment and employer who will accommodate your choice. If you’re going to choose formula, make sure to test the options so that you’re feeling comfortable with the right choice that your baby will drink when you’re at work. You may also want to consider a combination of both, so investigate your options to assure that everything’s in place when you go back to work.

3) Don’t Try To Do Everything - There are only 24 hours in a day and you’re now going to be working outside the home. For these reasons, make a realistic schedule about what you can and can’t get done, and stick to it. Part of your personal sanity will be directly related to knowing that you’ve done everything you can, and everything else will have to wait. You’re doing what needs to be done for your family - working and taking care of your child - and that’s enough.

4) Get Supports in Place At Home - Whether it’s from your partner, friends, neighbours or relatives, knowing that you’ve got things covered off at home will provide you with a huge feeling of relief as you return to the workforce. Help could range anywhere from childcare arrangements for your baby (see below for more details) to more specific help with cooking, cleaning and other household chores. The goal is to make things as stress-free as possible for you as you return to work so take help wherever you can.

5) Line Up Childcare Arrangements - Depending on where you live, childcare can be one of the biggest decisions to make, both from a financial and emotional point of view. In many urban centres, you may need to have lined up childcare for your baby as soon as you became pregnant; in others, there is more flexibility in terms timing and the choice of caregiver. In both instances, it’s important that you (and your partner) are comfortable with the final decision so that when you leave for work, you are also confident that you’re leaving your precious baby in competent and loving hands. Take the time to thoroughly research and check out your options before making this important decision. As well, do a “dry run” with your care provider a few weeks leading up to your return so that your baby, your caregiver and you are comfortable about leaving your child in care as you return to work.

6) Lower Your Expectations - There are only 24 hours in a day and you’ll be working through many of them. For this reason, it’s important to be realistic about what can conceivably achieved during the work week and the weekends as well. Now that you’re back at work, the house may not be as spic and span as you may like, and laundry may remain unfolded for a time. This is okay. There’s only so much you can do. If you’re able to, engage your partner to help out more, or, if finances allow, hire someone to assist with cleaning and other household chores. If this is not possible, lower your expectations of what can realistically be done in the home and focus on the fact that you’re doing the most important thing - taking care of your family by returning to work.

7) Be Clear on Work Responsibilities - This includes hours of employment, flexibility in scheduling if possible, and day-to-day duties. Ideally, it’s best to speak to your boss or supervisor before you set foot in the office or workplace so that you both have a clear understanding and agreement about what is expected when you return. When you’re both on the same page, things will run more smoothly and there will be no surprises - which are the last thing you need now that you’re back at work.

8) Get an Ally or Good Friend at Work - The return to work will be made less stressful if you know that there’s someone there that you can count on for support and a friendly ear. Ideally, it would be someone who can understand and empathize with the demands of being a working parent and in an ideal scenario, it may even be your boss. Either way, knowing that you have someone in the workplace that you can speak to about your transition back to work and its inherent challenges can make a world of difference to your state of mind.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here:

Eight Tips For Moms Going Back to Work Post Baby

Have you recently returned to work after maternity leave? What strategies and tips would you recommend for coping during this transitional time? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

VIDEO: New Mom Tips

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VIDEO: Coping Tips For New Moms

November 8, 2014

Simple advice on new baby care Having a new baby can be a shock. From diapers to spit-up, not to mention the lack of sleep, there are so many things that to consider. The good news is that there are some simple things that can be done to make the transition to parenting easier. I […]

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Trick-Or-Treating is for Kids. Period.

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? […]

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CBC Radio Interviews - Lice, Kids and School

October 11, 2014

Your kid comes home with lice. Who’s responsible? 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, […]

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The Sting of Disinheritance

July 1, 2014

Do We Owe Our Kids Our Money After We’re Gone? You think that kids of celebrities have it easy? Think again. Sting’s surprising announcement that he’s not leaving any of his vast fortune to his children was a shock to many. How could this multimillionaire leave his kids to have to *gasp* work for a […]

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Restaurant Owners: 5 Things You Need in Your Washrooms

May 31, 2014

A Note To Restaurant Owners From a Frustrated Parent “Public washroom.” Do these two words make you cringe? If you’re a parent, they likely do. And you’re not alone. All of us who have had to encounter the phrase “I have to go pee!” – or worse – know how fear-inducing such a pronouncement can […]

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