Halloween Safety 101

Most kids love Halloween. A day to dress up, interact with friends, and eat candy. What’s not to like? We all know there are dangers associated with dressing up and roaming the streets at night taking candy from strangers (sounds a lot worse that way, doesn’t it!). But if we all do our part, we can make Halloween safer for our kids.. and still have fun!

Car Safety

Although the world comes to a standstill for our kids on Halloween, we all know it keeps on moving for everyone else. So we still need to watch for cars and kids.

Pedestrians

If you are walking with your kids on Halloween night, keep a close watch for drivers. If you are on main roads, make sure to cross the street at crossways or stop signs. Try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street. Make sure they know you’re crossing before you step into the road.

Drivers

If you are driving around kiddos on Halloween night or maybe just driving home after work, be extra careful. Go a little slower. Watch for kids running down driveways. Excited kids and loads of sugar don’t always mix.

Ensure good supervision

Halloween is a fun night. But make sure your kiddos are well supervised going door to door. Make sure that older children who are bringing younger kids trick-or-treating are responsible enough to do so. Younger kids should nearly always be supervised by an adult.

Keep the costumes safe

Make sure that your costumed child will still be able to be seen by cars on Halloween night. Consider costumes with reflective properties so that cars can see them. Or make sure they are carrying a flashlight or glow-gear. Remember that really long costumes can easily become tripping hazards.

Strangers are still strangers on Halloween

Remind your children that strangers are still strangers on Halloween. Just because a neighbor seems friendly and gives out lots of candy doesn’t mean it’s ok to go into their homes.

Watch the candy

Before letting your kids gorge themselves on their goodies, go through all the candy. Remove anything with packaging that is damaged. Also take out items that aren’t really appropriate for the age of your kid. Remove hard candies that can be choking hazards in younger kids. If you have a kid in braces, take out the items with nuts and taffy. And even if you’ve approved the items in your kids’ bags, do not let them run around with suckers or candy in their mouths. Choking is a real hazard and it is scary and dangerous.

For more information on Halloween Safety, check out Halloween Safety Tips at SafeKids.org.  You can also read Halloween Safety by the National Safety Council and Safety Tips from the AAP. 

Stay safe and HAVE FUN this Halloween!

Bully Proof Your Family. Part 4: Enforce Accountability

Bullying is a huge issue in our schools and communities. It is prevalent in schools and after school activities. In kids and adults. Most of us know that it is a problem, but we often feel powerless to help. In my first 3 posts on Bully Proofing your Family, we talked about Acknowledging Bullying, Victim Blaming, and how to Recognize Bullying. But there is another piece of the puzzle that we have to work on to best help our kids. As parents, we need to enforce accountability, both in our kids and with ourselves.

What does Enforce Accountability mean?

Enforce accountability means we have to be responsible for our actions. And not just the direct effect of our actions, but also how our actions affect other people. There is a sign in my kitchen that says “You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choices.” This quote pretty much sums it up. My kids have explored this sign in-depth. “See mom, I can do what I want!”  Yes, dear, you can. That’s your choice. “So I won’t get in trouble?” Not exactly… It’s a great conversation starter.

We all have the opportunity to choose what we say and how we act. It is very easy to write off all of what we do as just about us. But the simple truth is that we live in communities. And what we do affects those around us as well. Enforcing accountability means acknowledging when we screw up and making amends when necessary. We have to practice it with ourselves and teach our children the same.

Helping your kids

Kids are great imitators (for good and for bad)… so if you want them to treat others kindly, we have to be kind to others. And if we want them to be responsible for their actions we have to be responsible for ours.  There are several things we can do to help enforce accountability in our kids.

1. Be kind

Model kindness and understanding to your kids. Offer help when someone is struggling. Share a smile with a mom whose toddler is totally melting down. Sometimes you will catch yourself being unkind. We’re all human. But acknowledge it aloud and make amends. Encourage your kids to be kind to others as well. And if you happen to notice an act of kindness between your kids, jump on that immediately! Let them know that you noticed and are proud of them. A little positive reinforcement goes a long way. Pay special attention to kindness that happens at inconvenient times or when they are personally struggling and don’t know you’re watching.

2. Don’t lose your cool

If you catch your child being a jerk to someone else, don’t lose your cool. But don’t ignore it either. Have a conversation. Let them know that their actions are not OK. But no yelling or screaming. If we lose it every time they mess up, they will work even harder to hide their mistakes. And mistakes happen. It’s part of growth. If we approach the situation with kindness, love, and empathy, we encourage them to be honest.

3. Make amends

When your kiddo screws up (and they will… no one is perfect), help them figure out how to make things right. It’s time to learn to say “I’m sorry.” And mean it. Talk about how they can make things better.  Is a heartfelt card or gift appropriate? Do they have a plan to pay back something destroyed? Let them come up with several options and sit back and be their sounding board. If they are having difficulty finding solutions, offer to help come up with some ideas and see if any work for them. But remember, their actions = their responsibility to fix. It is our responsibility as parents to call them out when they’re off the mark. It is our responsibility as parents to hold them accountable for their actions. But it is THEIR responsibility to fix things.

Enforcing accountability means understanding that we’re not perfect, but acknowledging that we are responsible for our actions and that our actions can affect others. And sometimes this means we have to take extra actions to right a wrong. We are only responsible for our own words and actions, so best to make them count.

 

 

Bully Proof Your Family. Part 3: Recognize Bullying

Bullying is a huge issue both in our schools and our communities. And as much as I hate to see it, there are plenty of adults who are bullies as well. With all the chaos in our world, it can be difficult to sort everything out. Maybe your child is telling you that there is a problem but you aren’t sure. Or maybe your kid insists everything is fine but you don’t quite believe them. And maybe you’ve seen or heard a few things that makes you think your child might actually BE the bully. One of the first things we need to do as parents is to recognize bullying.

When your child is the victim of bullying

Children who are being bullied may not talk about it. In fact, sometimes admitting that they are being bullied will make them feel even worse. For many, it is an admission and acknowledgment of weakness. So what do we look for?

Behavior changes

You can recognize bullying in part by recognizing behavior changes in your child. A usually happy personality may become more closed off and withdrawn. Outgoing children may start avoiding going out with friends or other social outings that they used to enjoy.

Health concerns

Children who are being bullied sometimes start complaining of physical ailments. Do they complain with frequent headaches or stomach aches that are out of the norm for them? Any unexplained bruises or cuts that he just shrugs off? Is her eating off? Skipping meals or complaining of not being hungry? Or is your kid getting home from school starving like they’ve not eaten all day? What about sleeping? Is your good sleeper now up at night with nightmares?

School changes

How are your child’s grades? Has there been a recent drop? Missing assignments? If there are any abrupt changes, make sure to check them out. Check with the teachers and see if there are any behavior changes at school. Is your child avoiding school?

When your child is the bully

It is hard to be the parent of the bullied child, but it can also be hard to parent the bully. Many of us carry a lot of shame for our kids’ actions. But we can’t help fix the problem if we don’t know about it. And the simple fact remains that ANY child can be bullied.  And ANY child can be a bully.

Behavior changes

Kids who are bullying others also often have behavior changes. Have you noticed your child is more aggressive than usual? Is there an increase in verbal or physical disagreements at your house? More escalation in sibling arguments?

Social changes

Sometimes parents realize that there is a problem when they notice that their child’s friend structure has changed. Maybe they are hanging out with other kids who are known to be bullies. Maybe they seem more concerned than usual about maintaining their popularity or their social reputation.

School changes

If you have noticed that your child is getting in trouble more than usual at school, it may mean there is a problem. How do they respond to getting called to the principal’s office? If there is a complete deflection of any and all responsibility, it may be worth checking with the teachers to see what they notice.

For parents of both the bully and the bullied

Once you’ve gathered some information, it is time to sit down with your kid and have a chat. This should not be confrontational and should not be aggressive. Just sit down (or go for a drive…. they can’t avoid you that way!) and let them know a couple of things that you’ve noticed. And share your concerns. Ask them what their thoughts are and how they think you can help. And if the conversation doesn’t go anywhere, give it a break. But make sure to check back in with them frequently.

If you think your child would be more open to talking with a counselor, check with your pediatrician on local child psychologists or therapists. It takes a village, and sometimes that means outsourcing. Having someone who has an “outsider” perspective can make all the difference in the world.

For more information on bullying, make sure to check out www.stopbullying.gov.  Or see the first 2 posts on this series: Part 1: Acknowledge Bullying and Part 2: Victim Blaming.  More to come soon with Enforcing Accountability.

Let’s Talk About Consent

Whether or not we as parents want to think about it, our teens are growing up. And part of growing up is exploring relationships, some of them sexual. Although this is a subject that tends to make many parents uncomfortable, we have to work thru our discomfort to help our kids. There is a lot of ground to cover, and we need to talk to teens about sex.  Are they ready? Are they protecting themselves? Do they know how to say no? Are they engaging in other risky behaviors? There is certainly a lot to think about. But for today, we’re going to start with the very basics. Let’s talk about consent.

Statistics

According to the CDC’s most recent report on teen Sexual Risk Behaviors, 40% of high school students questioned in 2017 admitted to having had sexual intercourse. My ever glass-half-full brain immediately goes to the positive that 60% are not. Although many teens think a lot about sex,  all kids aren’t making that decision.

Other interesting statistics… 10% of the high school students questioned had 4 or more lifetime sexual partners. 30% had been sexually active in the past 3 months. Of those that had been recently sexually active, 46% did not use a condom before they had sex.

But perhaps the scariest statistic is the one that reports 7% of high school students have been “physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to.” The CDC estimates that 3.6 million students in the U.S. will be graduating from high school this year. If 7% of our high school seniors are physically forced to have sex, that is 252,000 students per year. A low estimation that doesn’t include the 7% of 9-11th graders. And also doesn’t account for sexual activity among middle schoolers. Think it doesn’t happen? It does.

What is consent?

Consent is an agreement to do something and also an agreement to have something done to. It works both ways. But regardless of the context, consent involves 2 people. One person gives it.  One person takes it. We need to be very clear with our teens, both our boys and our girls, on what consent is. They also need to know that sometimes, no matter what, the answer is no.

Rules of Consent

1.  Communication

The person starting the sexual encounter must confirm that the other party is ok with how things are shaping up. Body language is not the primary way a couple should decide that it’s ok to progress. Many times in talking with teens, I will hear that a kid has been on the receiving end of not necessarily welcome sexual activity. Verbal consent did not happen. They report that their body showed interest.  But their brain wasn’t ready. Many feel betrayed that their bodies respond when their brain doesn’t. And this disconnect causes a lot of confusion. Maybe they didn’t know how to stop because they felt that they’d already “sort of” said ok. Maybe they thought it was too late to change the game.

2.  Progression of sexual activity requires further consent.

Consent to kiss does not mean consent to touch.  Consent to touch does not mean consent for intercourse. At any part during an interaction, participants must clarify consent.  Your teen needs to know that if they are hoping to advance the interaction, they must clarify consent. Your teen also needs to know that if their partner is advancing the interaction and they don’t want to, it’s ok to say no.  Notice I don’t specifically specify boys or girls? It goes both ways.

3.  Consent given once does not transfer

You can give consent on one day and not give it on another.  Saying yes once does NOT imply a yes every time. Feeling guilty? Do not. You may choose what you do and who you do it with. You are free to change your mind.

4.  You may not give consent under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

You cannot get consent if your partner is drunk.  Alcohol and drugs impair judgement. You are interested.  Your partner is interested. But regardless of this, if the brain is impaired, you cannot give consent.

5.  No, Maybe later, or We’ll See is not YES

Are you feeling pressured in your relationship to move faster than you are ready to move? Some teens feel that they are pushed into sexual activity too soon, or that they “had it coming” since they didn’t clearly say no. Saying NO is important if you are not ready for sex. But it is also important to not take anything other than a definite YES as consent.

Not sure where to start? You are not alone. Sometimes all it takes is a simple question. “What do you understand about consent?” can get the conversation started. Still struggling to start the conversation?  Check out teachconsent.org for a short video discussing consent.