siblings

It’s About Family, After All

by Samantha on May 30, 2015

Netflix offers a variety of programs that showcase various family relationships

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.
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Play dates, picky eating, trying to teach your child right from wrong. These trials of parenting seem never-ending to those of us who are in the trenches, learning as we go and often scolding ourselves for what we believe to be our “parenting fails.”

And despite the best laid plans of mice and men - and women, for that matter - we often find ourselves alternatively loving and loathing members of the family (not our kids, of course). It’s all in a day’s work, parenting work, that is.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the family, isn’t it?

Netflix has a variety of programs that focus on the various family trials and triumphs that happen daily in families around the world. Whether it’s sisterly bickering or a meddling mother-in-law, the possibilities are (often unfortunately) endless.

First up: Grace and Frankie. A quick peek at the clip below will show that this one is for the parents.

The new, funny and fearless original comedy features acting powerhouses Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston. It’s a perfect reminder to all of us that families take on all forms, shapes and sizes. When Grace and Frankie’s husbands leave them after 40 years of marriage—to be with each other—the women find themselves facing a change they never expected. They shift their perspective to get through it together, with the support of their new blended family and, of course, a sense of humour.

TRAILER - Grace and Frankie

For little kids, teaching them the basics, including the theme that “family is what you make it” is easy to do when watching some of these shows aimed at younger audiences:

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Baby Jake

Full House

Littlest Pet Shop

Stellaluna

For the bigger kids:

Addams-Family_US_571x800

Fresh Prince_571x800

Party of Five

Raising Hope

Yours Mine & Ours

 

And of course, there’s this - a study in a family’s dysfunction as the patriarch tries to keep his family together by any means necessary. Yes, it’s a Breaking Bad reference yet again and yes - this one’s for the adults only:

breaking-bad-cast

 

What are your favourite family-themed programs for the family and for the grown-ups? Leave me your thoughts in the comments sections below.

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What's the best course of action for educating twins?


twins in class

There comes a time that, as the parent of twins, one has to make a crucial decision:

Should I keep them together or should I separate them?

This is a particularly pressing decision to be made in the case of identical twins.

Think about it: they share the same DNA, they look exactly alike (to most people outside of the immediate family) and they are, by most accounts, at the same stage of development. The natural course of action that is taken is to keep them together, at least for the early days of preschool and Kindergarten.

My boys are figuratively joined at the hip, doing almost everything together including bathing, playing, sleeping and fighting. They are each other’s best friends and worst enemies, depending on the day and time. They love each other. They despise each other. And if they had the maturity to provide some perspective on their relationship, I have no doubt that they would not have it any other way.

Yet, like most parents of identical twins, I’m acutely aware of the natural inclination to treat the children the same. After all - it’s easy to get lulled into thinking that the kids are two parts of a whole, that they are more or less the same, because of the simple fact that, to the untrained eye, they look the same.

In spite of this fact, they are individuals, reality that becomes increasingly important to them as they navigate the world, correcting those who think that they are their brother - and vice versa. Without being an identical twin, it’s hard to imagine always being mistaken for someone else, or, on the flip side, having someone who looks exactly like you. It must be simultaneously annoying and amazing.

Fraternal twins are often grouped together by outsiders as well, though not as much, especially if the twins don’t look alike, or are of different sexes. While the incidences of comparison are not as high as they are with identical twins, the tendency to do so by outsiders exists nonetheless. Teachers who have a pair of twins in their class - identical or fraternal - often naturally make comparisons between the siblings, as it is human nature to do so.

During the early stages of socialization, e.g. preschool, daycare and Kindergarten, it makes sense to take the simple route and put them together in the same class. This way, there’s no trauma at the prospect of being alone in a new social environment without the comfort of that sibling that will be their guide, confidante and friend, no matter what.

But the time will come where a choice must be made: should they remain together, joined at the proverbial hip to offer support to their sibling, or should they part ways, venture into the world (or classroom) alone and gain their independence?

The right answer is not an easy one, and as a parent having to make this choice, its particularly stress-inducing.

Like any critical decision, the pros and cons must be weighed in order to make the right decision. This is a tricky one, as there good arguments on both sides of the fence - a fact that doesn’t make it easier for the parents in making a decision. As a parent struggling with making a decision about what the right choice is for my kids, I know I’m not alone. Knowing that the choice made will have long-reaching effects on my kids makes the decision to separate the twins - or not - even more daunting. To this end, I thought it would be a good idea to list both the positive and negative implications of separating twins at school. Here’s what I came up with:

Pros and Cons of Separating Twins at School

Pros:

  1. Each twin is better able to foster a sense of individuality
  2. Dependency on each other is decreased, allowing each twin to gain confidence in their own abilities
  3. The incidences of being compared to or confused with the other twin is eliminated
  4. The absence of the other twin provides an environment where each twin can “grow” into their own personalities and characters
  5. Competition between twins will decrease when they’re not in the same classroom daily
  6. The absence of the other twin as a “built-in” friend and companion will allow each twin to form friendships with other children

Cons:

  1. The comfort of knowing that their twin is immediately close by is removed, a fact that may increase anxiety amongst some twins
  2. Twins often rely on each other to provide support emotionally; twins who are separated may have increased difficulty relying on others for a certain level of emotional support
  3. The effect of emotional distress and anxiety that some twins may feel being separated from their sibling may affect their academic progress in school
  4. Parents of twins separated at school will have to navigate double the amount of school-related activities on behalf of their kids (two separate parent-teacher interview appointments, two separate parent volunteer days at school, etc.)

Conclusion: While I’d love to say what the definitive answer is to this question, unfortunately the jury is out. While it may appear that solely on the basis of pros and cons, the scale tips on the side of separating the twins, this is not necessarily the case. Each set of twins are individuals and their ability to positively advance in school, separated or not, depends on a number of factors. These include the personalities of each twin, their ability to adapt to change, and the level of mutual reliance on each other. It would be great to have a “one-size fits all” answer but as we all know, most important decisions related to kids are not ever simple.

On a related note, here’s an extreme case of twins being separated at birth with an incredibly positive outcome:

Separated at Birth, Reunited on Facebook

So what are your thoughts and experiences about separating twins at school? Is it a good idea to keep them together or better to separate them? What are your reasons for the choices that you made? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Let’s End the Myth of the “Evil Twin”

by Samantha on January 31, 2015

There is no "good" twin and "bad" twin in the pair - let's end this fallacy

Good twin, evil twin

It was an otherwise mundane Saturday at Costco.

With three kids in tow, I sauntered through the aisles, plying myself and the kids with free samples and piling up my shopping cart with bulk items, many of which I didn’t really need.

We lined up in the checkout aisle and I took a deep breath before the final total was told to me by the cashier (it’s always more than you think it’s going to be when shopping at this particular store).

Making our way to our car, with my boys sitting together in the front of the shopping cart, we were stopped by what looked to be a kind-hearted woman. Smiling, first at me, then at the kids - with a focus on the boys in particular - she stopped me.

“Are they twins?,” she asked.

“Yes. They’re identical,” I responded.

“Awww! They’re so cute!”

“Thank-you!,” I replied.

Looking at both of them with wonderment and curiosity, I thought I knew what she was going to ask next.

She’s going to ask me how I tell them apart, I thought to myself.

I was sure that this question must have been coming because it’s often one of the first things that people ask when they see identical twins - at least it has been in my experience.

Imagine my surprise, then, when she hit me with this doozy:

“Which one is the ‘good’ twin and which one is the ‘evil’ twin?”

She was serious.

My first thought was a mix of confusion and bewilderment as I tried to make sense of her question. “Good” twin? “Evil” twin? Was she for real?

Within a few milliseconds, my confusion simultaneously turned to anger and irritation about her presumptive comment.

How does one answer such a question? Was I to just respond - in front of both of my twins, and my 11-year-old daughter as well - “Oh, THIS one. THIS one is evil, this other one is good.

Was that really her expectation?

The mythology surrounding twins - particularly identical twins - is particularly fraught with the erroneous perspective that there is a “good” twin and, therefore, a “bad” one. Like Yin and Yang, black and white, opposites must co-exist and apparently this truth must be the case with identical twins. Its apparently not enough for some to accept that twins - identical or not - are not necessarily polar opposites. There is no “good” or “bad” twin any more than there is a “good” and “bad” set of siblings that haven’t had the unique experience of being born on the same day (or just a few minutes apart).

Identical twins, by definition, are certainly similar in many ways. From the obvious - how they look; to the not so obvious - their thought processes, they way they relate to each other and others, and other quirks of their personalities. That being said, they are individuals - not “good,” not “bad,” just  - different. Yet there seems to be a desire amongst some to attribute polarities to each twin. This needs to stop.

As the parent of identical twins, it’s hard enough to try to foster feelings of independence within them on a day-to-day basis. Imagine having someone who looks exactly like you? Of course you’d want to be seen as an individual. Kids will misbehave - whether they’re a twin or not - it’s a normal part of being a kid. So why is it when a twin misbehaves, they’re automatically labeled as “bad” or “evil?” Ironically, they are perceived to be the same (particularly in the case of identical twins) yet opposites. How is this logical - or fair?

Surely there are sibling rivalries that exist amongst twins, but the same can be said for any siblings, twin status notwithstanding.

There are no polarities when it comes to twins. No “good” one vs. “bad one;” no angelic child versus evil spawn, no duelling forces, vying for the top spot in their respective categories. There are just kids - warts, scabbed knees and all. Though the mythology and expectation of opposite-minded twin siblings is appealing to some, it is, fortunately, untrue.

To the woman who very rudely asked me which one of my kids was “good” and which one was “evil,” and to the many others who believe in this false dichotomy, so sorry to disappoint.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

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 brady bunch2

So what are you?

Are you “The Smart One?,” “The Responsible One” or do you get a free pass because you were “The Baby” of the family?

If you were the firstborn in your brood, it may be likely that you’ve displayed traits of maturity and responsibility a lot more than your siblings. Conversely, if you’re the middle child, you’ve probably heard that you have some type of “complex,” whether or not it’s true.

How realistic are these assessments of our character? Does birth order really affect our personalities, or is it just speculation, not based on any type of fact?

Sure - there have indeed been studies that seem to prove the idea that your position in your family with regards to your siblings indeed affects the way you behave and how well you do in life. That being said, there are always detractors, and there seem to be a fair number of those who discount the whole idea of birth order as an indicator of personality. And then, of course, there are those who say that it’s not that black and white; that the truth is somewhere in between, based on a variety of factors.

So what’s the real deal? Does birth order really affect personality? What do YOU think?

Leave me your thoughts and insights in the comments section below.

 VIDEO: Does Birth Order Affect Personality?




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Monday Musings - Are Only Children Happier?

by Samantha on February 18, 2013

How do only children feel about not having siblings? How do only children fare as adults, when looking back on their childhoods?

I came across this article written from the perspective of an only child and it got me thinking.

In a nutshell, the article conveys the feelings of loss that this adult only child feels having grown up without siblings. The loss appears to be not only to have been felt as part of childhood, but of the present and future as well. The writer, whose father passed away two years ago, admits her feelings of “dread” knowing that once her mother is gone, she will be the only one who will remember the sweet memories of growing up in the household with her beloved parents.

“When my parents pass, my childhood passes as well,” she reveals.

Yet there are so many positive aspects to having only one child. To name a few:

  • Finances - Parents of only children have more disposable income as they don’t have to divide the pot up amongst more than one child. As a result, only children are often able to more easily follow their dreams, whether it’s regarding extra-curricular activities and lessons, education (college or university).
  • Attention - Only children get the undivided attention from their parents. They don’t have to “share the parental love” with their siblings.
  • Self-esteem - Having grown up in a household without other children, only kids are often spoken to and dealt with in a more mature fashion, adding to their feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. Does this equate with success? Who knows, though there are many only children who go on to be very successful. For a list of famous only children, click here.
  • No sibling rivalry or jealousy - Having to battle for the attention of parents or fighting with one’s brothers or sisters are issues that don’t happen in families with one child.

only child wish

As with everything, the jury is out. Depending on who you speak to, you’ll get a different response. There are articles which convey the merits of having grown up without having to deal with sibling rivalry; there are also articles from the opposing perspective which propose that being an only child is a detriment, in the long run. Parents of only children are often (wrongly) conveyed as “selfish” while parents of more than one child are portrayed as the norm in most social and media channels. Who’s right?

So my question today is about only children: Are only children happier? In your opinion, is it better to be an only child, or to have more than one child in a family? Why or why not? Answer in the comments below.

Parenting Books

VIDEO: Are Only Children Happier?

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How to Deal With Sibling Jealousy

April 17, 2012

Tips For Parents on How to Deal With Battling Siblings Have you heard of “Past-Life Regression?” That’s when your child who has passed all of the appropriate milestones for his or her age suddenly reverts back to child-like behaviour that leaves you not only nonplussed but frustrated as well. Past life regression in children often […]

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