feelings

IN THE NEWS: Picky Eater? Don’t Sweat It!

by Samantha on August 28, 2015

Follow these simple tips when packing your child's lunchbox


School lunches can be a headache for parents who have the good fortune [*sarcasm*] of having a picky eater on their hands. Worrying about whether your child has eaten during school hours, or envisioning them hungry and miserable is the fear of many parents.

As we send out kids to school with the hopes that they’ll eat what we’ve packed in their lunches, we often spend much of our day stressing about whether they’ve actually eaten any of the various items that we’ve packed in their lunch boxes. The sheer stress and anxiety felt when we unpack these same lunch boxes at the end of the day to reveal that our precious child has eaten very little - and sometimes nothing - for a full school day is almost too much for one to bear. As a mom who admits to having just a few “issues” with food and kids [read: I’m afraid that they will starve when they’re not within the range of my gaze], finding a solution has been of pressing importance.

 

Picky eater boy

Surprisingly, I’ve found that trying to get a substantial, nutritious meal into your child while they’re at school isn’t completely impossible. As a matter of fact, the good news is that there are ways of getting your picky little eater to actually eat. By employing a few creative (and sometimes sneaky) strategies, you’ll be guaranteed to experience an empty lunchbox and to breathe a sigh of relief that your child has actually eaten their lunch.

I was recently asked by The Toronto Sun to provide some simple tips and strategies that parents can use to help their picky eaters to eat what is packed in their school lunches every day.

You can read the article and tips here:

Back to School Ideas For Picky Eaters

Check out my tips and advice and let me know what other strategies you have used in the past to get your kids to eat their lunches.

And on a lighter note, in the spirit of the subject at hand, here you go:

Eat It - Weird Al Yankovic

 

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Pregnancy and Public Transit

by Samantha on June 14, 2015

What has happened to kindness and common courtesy?


Pregnant belly

She was about 8 or 9 months pregnant, belly hanging low, baby about to drop any day. The previous months had clearly taken a toll on her, as her face showed the exhaustion and fatigue required to make a human being. She was physically spent, yet there she stood.

Yes, she was standing. Standing on the 505 streetcar in downtown Toronto, as it abruptly stopped and started in morning rush hour traffic. Had she slept the night before? Unlikely, as anyone who has experienced the final months of pregnancy knows: a good night’s sleep is an ephemeral and fleeting fantasy.

Yet there she stood, while all around her, young, fit and otherwise preoccupied citizens pretended not to see her by burying their heads in their smartphones of choice.

A 20-something man in a crisp suit, clearly headed to his job in the financial sector pretended to sleep, as his eyes closed immediately after viewing the pregnant woman’s swollen belly.

A middle-aged woman played candy crush saga with an intensity and fervour that many of us thought only belonged to a younger generation of gamers, her eyes glued to her retina display screen.

Three teenage girls in private school uniforms giggled amongst themselves, giving nary an eye to the belly that not only protruded into the aisle in front of them, but turgidly languished on the very edges of their personal space. You see, her belly - had it been acknowledged - would have broken up the party, and that wouldn’t have been cool. The latest gossip about that cute guy in class and recap of last night’s TV show was much more important.

This had not been the first time that I had seen such appalling behaviour. Sadly, purposely, ignoring pregnant women while riding public transit has become the norm, not the exception. What has happened to humanity?

I’ve posted many rants and complaints about this on my personal Facebook page and talked to many friends who are mothers themselves. All of them have a similar story to recount about how they have been ignored  while pregnant and riding public transit.

A personal anecdote: during my last and final pregnancy with my twin boys, I could barely walk. I was considered “high-risk” for a few medical reasons which relegated me to bed-rest for most of my pregnancy. On those off days before I was completely immobile, somewhere between my seventh and eighth month of gestation, I needed to use the public transit to get to my doctor’s appointments. Now, let me say that having my third pregnancy and twins, no less, made me huge, much earlier than I would have been, had I been on my first pregnancy. In other words, there was no doubt that I was indeed pregnant.

Yet there I stood.

Their eyes averted, I was ignored, invisible and silently defeated as I struggled to balance so many times on the streetcar, hoping that some kindly person would give me a seat. My elephant-sized ankles continued to swell, my feet ached and my back painfully swayed with each lurch and jolt of the streetcar. Everything hurt, including my feelings.

As the mother of four, and one who has experienced three different pregnancies, I’m sad to say that this experience wasn’t atypical. Sadly, it was the norm, not the exception. And every single woman that I know who has been pregnant has experienced the same. What on earth is going on?

While I don’t profess to have all of the answers, I do believe that our culture of entitlement is a huge factor in this cultural shift. Once upon a time, there was chivalry, then socially accepted norms that included women, about “doing the right thing.” Helping someone who was clearly in need was the norm, not the exception. With the increasing sense of entitlement, exemplified by the “Me Generation” and continuing onward, those in need haven’t had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a fair shake. Whether they’re seniors who are unstable on their feet, the disabled or the aforementioned pregnant woman just looking for a kind soul who will let her have a well-needed seat, the chances of these folks receiving this small kindness grows smaller every day. The lack of focus on others, supported by the technological tools to “zone out” or feign ignorance wherever and whenever possible makes this willful blindness not only possible but probable as well.

Yet, in spite of this trend towards selfishness, I do believe that change is possible. The change starts now with all of us who are raising children with the values that support kindness and compassion. And while we make efforts to effect our childrens’ behaviours in future there are some adults who are in need of an etiquette refresher now.

I am starting a one-woman public awareness campaign as I feel that it needs to be done. As someone who has endured a very difficult twin pregnancy and was on the verge of begging someone to please give me a seat, the time for greater awareness for this reality is long overdue. Clearly, the assumption that everyone riding on the bus/subway/streetcar/[insert transportation mode here] understands that pregnant women should be given a seat is completely wrong. My assumptions - based on the teachings of my parents (thank-you, Mom and Dad) underscored the importance of kindness, but more specifically the need for those of us who are more able, to extend said kindness - and where appropriate, a seat - to those in need. This includes the elderly, the disabled and, of course, pregnant women.

Whenever and wherever you can, please remind those riding the public transit who seem to have forgotten basic courtesy that pregnancy is challenging, difficult and just plain exhausting. If a pregnant woman is standing while able-bodied people are pretending not to see her, be her advocate and ask them to give her a seat. I’ve done it before and have never been told “no,” probably because the shock of being called on their bad behaviour mixed with their embarrassment makes the culprits stand up quicker than one would imagine.

Perhaps making the subject one that is no longer ignored, one where pregnant women don’t have to suffer in silence, will put an end to it once and for all. If anything, making those who are oblivious more aware of their choices and how these choices affect others will affect change, hopefully for the better.

I’ll be tweeting and sharing the hashtag #StandUpForMom and #giveupyourseat on my social media channels to keep the topic top of mind and hope you’re able to share it as well.

Let’s do this.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

VIDEO: Stand Up For Mom!


What has been your experience with pregnancy and public transit? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

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Some basic tips to help parents with common parenting challenges


Top parenting tips

Ever feel like parenting is this big secret that you’re not in on?

It’s no surprise that most of us feel like this at one time or another.

Let’s face it - being a parent is tough, to say the least. What to do and how to do it are on the minds of most parents at any given time.

Some time back, I wrote this post - Parenting Advice That You Were Never Told - and the information included was so basic yet so true, that I thought I’d revisit the topic again, this time via video.

Check out my YouTube channel for the latest clip where I provide some quick and easy parenting tips on this very subject and let me know what you think! If you have any additional tips to add, please do so in the comments section below, or on YouTube.

The Top 5 Parenting Secrets You Were Never Told

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The "Kylie Jenner Challenge" highlights the worst insecurities in tweens and teens

2014 American Music Awards - Arrivals

Have you heard of the #KylieJennerChallenge?

It’s a hashtag that’s become the call to action for young women who want to emulate the full-lipped look of the reality TV star.

One of the famous sisters on “Keeping up With the Kardashians” and the younger sister of Kim, Kylie has become admired for her full lips and fashion sense; is it any surprise that tween and teen girls want to emulate her?

Perhaps not, however the degree to which they want to be more like their idol is troubling, at best.

In an effort to emulate the young TV star, teens have responded to the “Kylie Jenner Challenge” call to action that involves “participants placing their mouth over the opening of a cup, jar or other narrow vessel and sucking in until the air vacuum causes their lips to swell up.”(Daily Mail) The desired result is the pouty look that their young celebrity idol sports, seemingly without such painful effort.

Kylie Jenner and young girls who have tried to emulate her look

kylie jenner examples

While it would be easy to write off such silly behaviour as harmless tween/teen antics, the reality is that this type of body mutilation in the quest for “beauty” is anything but.

The physical pain and frequent injury that results from the #KylieJennerChallenge are the least of these kids’ problems. Rather, as parents, we must look at the root causes of why kids feel the need to emulate their idols to such a painful degree.

So what is really going on here? Why are young girls risking physical harm in the unrealistic quest to look like a celebrity who has the means and ability to look “just so” without pain or discomfort?

Here are some of the reasons for this disturbing trend:

1) Celebrity Culture

We live in a society that is dominated by celebrity culture. Add to this fact our kids’ ability to access the latest information, gossip and trends related to their favourite stars and you’ve got the recipe for a beauty disaster - and then some. The digital age, including kids’ love of social media, smartphones and the latest updates about the celebrity of the day adds to the desire to emulate what they are seeing. The famous have also been sucked into the digital vortex, with many stars using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other channels to connect with their fans. While this may be a great marketing tool and publicity generator for the celebrity, the focus on appearance, as well as an unrealistic standard of beauty is resulting in the damaged self-esteem of vulnerable kids.

2) Insecurity and Diminished Sense of Self

Perhaps spurred on by the constant feed of information about Hollywood beauties and otherwise, is it any wonder that impressionable tweens and teens - girls in particular - feel insecure about their looks and bodies? In the age of Photoshop, Instagram and unrealistically “ideal” bodies, it’s difficult for the average tween, who is often already sensitive about their appearance, to maintain a positive self-image. Our celebrity culture doesn’t help, highlighting the “perfect” and largely unattainable body types of the rich and famous, making young fans who are already vulnerable even more insecure than they already may be.

3) Unrealistic Expectations of Beauty

It should be no surprise that insecurity and diminished body image exist in this age of “perfect” beauties, photoshop and plastic surgery. With images of celebrities being digitally altered before they are shared online and on social media, is it any wonder that our kids have a skewed sense of how real people look? Post-baby bodies that showcase washboard stomachs and curvaceous figures that echo shapes rarely found in reality feed into young girls’ doubts about themselves and perpetuate an unrealistic standard of beauty.

Tweens and teens idolizing celebrities is nothing new, but the standards of “perfection,” made possible through technological and medical manipulation most certainly are. With the bar being raised higher and higher daily, there appears to be little hope for the average young person, insecurities and all, to ever reach the pinnacle of what they see to be the norm.

As parents, we have an obligation to counter the messages and images that our children are bombarded with, particularly now. If we don’t put a stop to it, we’re destined to have a whole generation that is not only insecure, but psychologically scarred as well. Instances of eating disorders, younger and younger children going under the knife in the name of beauty and worse will become more prevalent if this celebrity trend continues.

For parents who are concerned about the emphasis on looks and unrealistic expectations conveyed through celebrity culture, here are some tips on how to help your tween/teen:

  • Discuss their fears and insecurities - Talking to your child about how they feel about themselves and countering negative or incorrect perceptions that they may have about their appearance can help them to put things in perspective
  • Show them the “real deal” - The reality of how using Photoshop, plastic surgery and other methods of altering appearances should be shown to teens who are emulating the looks of their favourite celebrities
  • Encourage their interests - Self-esteem is often increased through success and activities; help your child refocus on an interest or skill that will support their feelings of self-worth. These could include sports/athletics, reading, art, music, cooking or more
  • Focus on their abilities, not their looks - If we as parents focus on our or others’ looks, so will our children. Support and encourage their abilities and what they do, downplay the importance of appearance and how they look
  • Give praise and support - A positive word of encouragement and praise for a job well done can go a long way - especially for a tween or teen who is struggling with their self-esteem
  • Encourage independence and decision-making - There’s nothing like confidence in one’s abilities to make one feel better about themselves. Support your child’s steps towards self-reliance and good judgement
  • Do unto others - A great way of taking the focus off of oneself is to give back to others. Encourage your child to volunteer and their feelings of self-worth will increase considerably, guaranteed.

How do you feel about the #KylieJennerChallenge and the focus on celebrity appearances in general? What additional tips would you give to parents who are struggling to help their children increase their self esteem? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here

VIDEO: Under Pressure

Image courtesy of www.instyle.com

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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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VIDEO: Huffington Post Live - Kids and Public Bathrooms

March 27, 2015

How old should a child be before they’re able to go to a public bathroom alone? 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 […]

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VIDEO: CBC Marketplace - Checkout Charity Episode

March 2, 2015

CBC investigation reveals more questions than answers on this increasingly popular tactic Hmmm…seems as if I’m not the only one with questions about the charitable donations that are being requested at the checkout. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that the trend towards “checkout charity” is one that gets under my […]

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CBC Marketplace - Checkout Charity

February 16, 2015

CBC program investigates the popular trend of soliciting donations at the checkout “Checkout Charity” is a thing. Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay. I’ve discussed the topic on more than one occasion, both on this blog and in the media. For details, click on the link below. IN THE NEWS: Is “Checkout […]

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

February 13, 2015

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

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Huffington Post Live - Free-Range Parenting vs. Helicopter Parenting

January 24, 2015

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 […]

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