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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Let Them Eat Cake…From A Box

by Samantha on June 13, 2014

Cake mix part of many parents' secret cooking arsenal

vintage mom and child making cake

“Mom, remember?! I need cupcakes for my bake sale tomorrow!!”

A cold sweat broke out all over my body and visions of cake-making late into the night entered my head. I was tired. I was beat. I didn’t want to do it. But, like so many of us, I felt that pressure to “not be that mom,” you know - the one who never does anything for their kid’s school events. Truth be told, I was already nearly “that mom,” because my level of school engagement with my kids’ activities is woefully low. But I digress.

On my way home, I dashed into the nearest convenience store and bought some Betty Crocker Chocolate Cake Mix along with a jar of “frosting” (yes, the term for this chemical concoction is questionable). Yup. I was going to take the easy route with the boxed cake mix. The shame.

My feelings of guilt and inadequacy as a mother were only superseded by my sense of relief that I didn’t have to make a real cake - you know, the kind that you painstakingly and lovingly make from scratch. To do it well, we all know that the right measurements, the right ingredients (real baker’s chocolate, no less) and the right amount of mixing will result in that perfect dessert.

After dinner, after the boys’ baths and well before I could hit the hay for the evening, I cracked open the box. Water? Check. Eggs? Of course. Vegetable oil? Got it. This was going to be a breeze.

The final product didn’t disappoint and, I figured, the kids at school would be none the wiser.

My guilt, however, hadn’t abated.

“What kind of mom am I, really?!,” I asked myself. “I mean, c’mon! I shouldn’t be making cake from a box for my kid’s bake sale!” Somewhere in the not-too-far regions of my psyche, making cupcakes from a cake mix equates somewhere along the lines of serving SPAM as part of a balanced meal.

Like I often do, I posted a picture of the cake box on my Facebook Fan Page with the following caption:

“My daughter needs cupcakes for her bake sale tomorrow and I’m taking the easy way out Tell me I’m not alone! #NotMomOfTheYear”

The post hit a nerve. Apparently I’ve been wrong all along. Cake mix is apparently part of the secret arsenal of moms and dads in the know. Contrary to popular belief, parents are not lovingly baking cakes from scratch, à la Martha Stewart. No, they are taking the easy (and possibly smarter) way out by cracking open a box and calling it a day. Guilt was nowhere in the equation as people gleefully responded about how this is the only way that they make cake for their kids, bake sale or not.

What a revelation. What a relief.

After being sold a bill of goods how “scratch cakes” were the obvious choice for “good” parents, it was heartening to learn that most of us have been faking it all along. We’re baking via the help of Betty Crocker, and doing so happily.

By guiltily admitting my “failure” as a parent on my Facebook page, I was relieved to learn that I’m not alone in my parenting strategies. After all, for those of us who have been parents for some time, we all know that “faking it” is a big part of the gig.

I’ve written before about the myth of the perfect parent, as well as about the guilt we often feel, trying to be all things to all people, especially our kids. Our collective fear of not doing right by our children, by taking the “easy way out” and the fact that we are often not meeting our own expectations of what it means to be a good mom or dad adds to our feelings of parental inadequacy. Yet, it appears that our self-criticism is not based in reality. We’re our own worse enemies, apparently. The reality is that other parents are doing what they need to do to get things done. Sometimes that means dinner at McDonalds. Other times, it’s cake from a box.

And so what?

Usually, it’s not others who are passing judgement on ourselves, it’s us. We are more critical of ourselves than any “perfect” parent could ever be. And if I may go out on a limb here, women - moms in particular - are even more hyper-critical of their abilities to do things right by their kids, their families and their jobs.

We’re furtively making boxed cake late into the evening and then, many of us are passing it off as “homemade” because we can’t bear to admit that we took the easy way out. Why? Why should we care about others’ expectations of us, especially as it relates to our parenting abilities? The kids are happy, they have their baked goodies and we’ve made life easier for ourselves, not having to stress about the perfect measurements and techniques required to make that baked masterpiece. Betty Crocker has done it for us and put it into a box, no less. Let’s be thankful for that.

And so, the takeaway lesson from this whole experience is a simple one: the next time you have to deliver for your child’s bake sale, school event or birthday party, throw caution to the wind and unashamedly crack open a box of cake mix. Leave the guilt behind and save yourself from the stress.

Let them eat cake!

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Diversity And Kids - Top 6 Tips For Parents

by Samantha on May 22, 2014

kids diversity

“Mom, why does she look different?”

This is a question that many of us have had to grapple with as we raise our kids in an increasingly multicultural and multiethnic society. As a person on colour myself, I’ve been on the receiving end of the question and can still remember an incident (one of many) that happened to me as a child.

I was about eight or so, and was leaving a large department store with my mother. Another child, about the same age as me, saw me, turned to her mother, pointed at me and asked “Why is she Black?”

The mother looked mortified, said “SHHHH!!!” and quickly scurried the child out of the store. I was left standing there with my own mother feeling confused and ashamed, though I wasn’t sure why. My mother, thankfully, spoke to me about why people would have questions and that curiosity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Oftentimes, questions such as this are a starting point for some very important discussions that parents can have with their children.

It’s all about how we as parents handle these types of situations when they occur. Our responses are going to set the stage for how our own children behave in future. “Monkey see, monkey do,” as they say. For this reason, it’s so important to instill not only an understanding of other cultures and ethnicities, but a respect and interest and celebration of them as well.

Living in Toronto, I’ve been very fortunate to be surrounded by an incredible range of these cultures and ethnicities. It’s one of the things I love about the city and appreciate that my children have had the opportunity to be learn about diversity. Unfortunately, not all places are as diverse and there are still situations where children are being faced with being the object of another child’s questioning, just as I was so many years ago.

For parents who are trying to raise children who are more culturally and ethnically aware, regardless of their locale, there are some things that can be done. Following are six tips for parents who want to raise kids who have an appreciation for diversity.

Diversity and Kids - Top 6 Tips For Parents

1) Friends Not Foes - There’s nothing like a good friendship to make a child want to learn more about a person’s culture. Children are naturally curious and are drawn to new people and ideas. Encourage your kids to have relationships with a variety of peers from different backgrounds and ethnicities. The opportunity for learning and understanding as well as making a new pal will be well worth it.

2) Food For Thought - Are you stuck in a Meatloaf Monday or Taco Tuesday treadmill? If so, how about mixing things up a bit and exposing your child to some other food options? Having different foods around the house and serving them for meals is a great way of teaching kids about other cultures. Check out some different recipes from other cultures online or invest in a cookbook that specializes in meals from around the world. Your child will likely love it and it will give you a starting point for discussions about diversity.

3) The Inside Story - Reading is always a great activity for kids and in this case, even more so. Go to your local library with your child and check out some books that highlight other cultures. These can include historical and factual-type books as well as anthologies that combine cultural tales and stories. For smaller kids, help them choose picture books at the library and read cultural stories with them. They’ll appreciate the novelty of the stories and will be more likely to remain interested.

4) Talk the Talk - There’s nothing like immersing oneself in another language to fully understand the nuances of a culture. Of course it’s somewhat different for a child, but getting children interested in speaking a new language is a great first step towards diversity appreciation. Whether it’s through classes at school or taking lessons after school or on weekends, language is a great portal to understanding another culture.

5) Lead by Example - As parents, we have a job to do and one of them is realizing that our children will follow the examples we set. If we convey negative or suspicious attitudes about other cultures and ethnicities, our kids will pick up on these and replicate our behaviour. “Monkey see, monkey do” is real so keep this in mind and remember to convey a positive and open attitude about other cultures, particularly around your children.

6) Culture Club - Fairs, festivals, events - these are all great opportunities to open up your child’s understanding of those from other backgrounds. Wherever possible, attend cultural and ethnic celebrations with your children and expose them to some of the great traditions that so many celebrate. Take your kids to culturally-focused events and immerse them in the customs of others. By doing so, your child will have a greater appreciation for others and will learn something in the process as well.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

How do you teach your child about diversity and other cultures? What advice do you have for other parents who want to expose their children to other cultures and ethnicities? Leave me your thoughts in the comments below!


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VIDEO: How to Survive the Holidays With Kids

by Samantha on December 4, 2013

girl with christmas gifts

I was back on The Morning Show on Global to discuss surviving the holiday season with kids. It was lots of fun because this time we followed a different format than the usual roundtable discussion. We had a moderator, some questions posed and me as the “expert” providing advice, based on my suggestions on the topic. Fun!

I also returned to Rogers Daytime to discuss managing kids during the holiday season. We also had a great chat about my eBook, Meltdown in Aisle 5: Top Parenting Tips From Multiple Mayhem Mamma
Take a look at the full video segments below and let me know what you think.

VIDEO: How to Survive the Holidays With Kids - The Morning Show on Global Television

VIDEO: How to Survive the Holidays With Kids and New eBook - Rogers Daytime

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VIDEO: Have School Rules Gone Too Far?

by Samantha on November 2, 2013


School’s not so simple anymore.

These days, almost everything is under scrutiny, including some of our most beloved holidays and traditions.

First up? Halloween. I wrote about an Ontario, Canada school that was banning Halloween celebrations in the apparent spirit of “inclusiveness” and not wanting to have certain children apparently feeling left out. You can read the full article here:

A Politically Correct Nightmare: The School That Cancelled Halloween

Following the article’s publication, I was asked to appear on a news program called Square Off to discuss the trend towards banning not only candy and Halloween in some schools, but pictures, video at school concerts and treats in kid’s lunches as well. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll probably guess where I stand on these issues. If not, it’s pretty clear in the video clip below.

VIDEO: Have School Rules Gone Too Far?


Do you think schools have gone too far with their rules and restrictions? Why or why not? Leave me your thoughts in the comments below.

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CBC RADIO INTERVIEW: Best and Worst Mother’s Day Gifts

May 11, 2013

I was the in-studio guest for CBC Radio’s Ontario Today program just in advance of Mother’s Day. The topic at hand was Mother’s Day Gifts, specifically the best and worst ever received. Listen to the entire segment below for some interesting stories of Mothers’ Days past. Some of the gifts given as told by the […]

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On Mother’s Day, Remember Them All

May 8, 2013

You pass her on the street and give her nary a glance. That frail old woman, doddering and slow, walking along with a cane. Poor thing, you think. And then you move on. You go about your day, perhaps on to work; then to the grocery store for a few items, then on home to […]

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Monday Musings - Are Hyphenated Last Names For Kids A Good Idea?

May 4, 2013

To hyphenate or not to hyphenate: that is the question. These days, it’s one that most parents think about to some degree, given the growing number of women who choose to keep their maiden names after marriage. Certainly one can understand this desire; after all, there are a myriad of reasons as to why a […]

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The Top 10 Classic Kids’ Christmas Movies of All Time

December 15, 2012

What makes Christmas so special? Along with the requisite good cheer, presents and parties, there are the yearly events that make memories of this holiday particularly memorable. Nothing beats snuggling up under a warm blanket with some hot chocolate with mom and dad to watch some family-friendly entertainment. While holiday movies abound, there are some […]

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Plastic Furniture Covers and Memories of Youth

July 31, 2012

Whatever happened to plastic furniture covers? There are a few things that exist as faded memories of childhood. Plastic furniture covers are one of them. Whatever happened to them? In the distant annals of my mind, I seem to recall this strange phenomenon of furniture - couches, chairs and the whole kit and kaboodle - […]

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