A Sexual Assault Pun is Not a Halloween Costume

I thought maybe we if we all contacted Spirit Halloween, they’d take this costume off their shelves next year:

All the #MeToo headlines in recent weeks have definitely caught my attention and sharpened my Sexual Assault-Dar. I thought maybe we if we all contacted Spirit Halloween, they’d take this costume off their shelves next year:

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about Halloween. I don’t find a lot of things inappropriate. I took my kids to this pumpkin massacre scene earlier in the day, and we all had a good laugh at the one pumpkin lawn-mowing the other pumpkin, whose bloody orange guts were spilling out everywhere. We took selfies and high fived.

But my daughter’s almost 10, and while she’s beginning to notice that girls’ costumes tend to involve short skirts and bathing suits, how the hell am I supposed to explain the rapey gynecologist costume to her? In a couple years, she’ll figure out that her looks are where our culture wants her to put her focus. But we can draw the line at the light riff on sexual assault, can’t we?
It takes a lot to shield her from the headlines about Harvey Weinstein and the other men being exposed in this wave of revelations about past and current abuses. I somehow kept her from knowing about the recent Las Vegas shooting – but the next one may have to be confronted.
We want to preserve the innoncence of our childrens’ experience in this world as long as possible. We are here to be their rocks, to keep their impressionable brains developing on a vector unblemished by the trauma of shootings, natural disasters, and sexual predation.
She’s old enough to process that there is racism in this world. A proud understanding of Rosa Parks’ bravery could inspire her to be strong and stand up for what’s just, to treat her neighbors with sensitivity and respect.
She’s old enough to know that hurricanes are a reality, that people on islands which bore the brunt of the storm need our help. She understands that the oceans are warming and that scientists think our environmental impact is a part of the problem. She knows we had a hurricane here in New York when she was little, and we know we can always find ways to be safe if another one comes.
Somehow explaining that Dr. Howie Feltersnatch (how he felt her snatch) is a joke about a doctor who touches women’s private parts with a creepy grin feels like a conversation we don’t have to have.
Spirit Halloween, your seasonal pop-up shops with overpriced pink hairspray and employee only bathrooms bring us much joy. But you can do better than this.
Get this crap off your shelves!
Tell Spirit Halloween what you think via Twitter or email customer service here.

Picture Books That Teach Self-Confidence and Individuality

How do we talk to our children about being comfortable in their own skin? These books can help.

When I was growing up, being self-assured was always one of my biggest struggles. Not surprisingly, as a parent, it has been one of the hardest things for me to teach my kid.
All of us, adults and kids alike, at one point or another struggle with being confident in who we are and comfortable with the things that make us unique. To some extent, we all want to fit in, but sometimes we just don’t – at least not with everyone – and that’s okay. But it still doesn’t make it fun or easy to come to grips with.
My seven-year-old son definitely marches to the beat of his own drum. He is silly, loud, and extremely stubborn, but he is also sensitive and tends to get his feelings hurt when other kids don’t understand or accept him. He wants to have friends, and I desperately want that for him. More than that, I want him to remain true to himself and be okay with who he is, however goofy or off-center that may be.
How do we talk to our children about being comfortable in their own skin? How do we help them see how amazing they are in spite of what bullies or peer pressure may say? How do we build confidence and find a way to converse with them about this big, real life struggle in a way they can understand right now?
My solution to this (and to many of life’s other problems) is books. Kids of all ages genuinely love having someone read to them and with them. Don’t believe me? My husband’s years as a high school English teacher and mine as a school librarian beg to differ.
In his book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook”, Jim Trelease argues that children who are read aloud to from a young age learn to associate books with being loved and cared for. The act of being snuggled up with a book before bed (or at any time) promotes closeness and openness between child and parent. This, in turn, fosters a love of reading and promotes confidence in themselves as readers, in addition to developing their fluency and vocabulary.
Reading books together is a great way to connect with your kids on a level they understand. It gives you a chance to slow down your busy life and just be in the moment. This time also creates space for healthy dialogues, providing a much needed chance to talk and really listen to each other. And who doesn’t love an excuse for a good snuggle session?
Here are some of my favorite picture books that teach self-confidence and encourage individuality in our kids. They are wonderful conversation starters and just plain fun to read.
GiraffesCantDance

Giraffes Can’t Dance

Author: Giles Andreae
Illustrator: Guy Parker-Rees

This is perhaps my favorite children’s book of all time. In this stunningly illustrated story, Gerald the giraffe spends his life watching as every other animal in the jungle dances beautifully. They tease him because he, as a giraffe, cannot dance.
But what Gerald learns with the help of a friendly cricket, is that everyone – including him – can dance if they find the right music. Gerald wows the other animals when he emerges at the jungle dance with his amazing new moves. As Gerald says, “We all can dance, when we find the music that we love.”


 StandTall

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon

Author: Patty Lovell
Illustrator: David Catrow

Molly Lou Melon is small and not very graceful. She also has big teeth and a funny voice that sounds like a bullfrog. At her new school, Molly Lou finds herself the prey of the class bully. This doesn’t bother Molly Lou though. She follows her grandmother’s advice and stands up for herself.
This book is a great way to talk to your kids, not just about being self-confident, but also about dealing with bullies.


NakedMole

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed

Author & Illustrator: Mo Willems

Mo Willems is, hands down, one of the best children’s authors of this generation. He is funny and relatable. His stories meet kids where they are, but never talk down to them. This book is no different.
As you would assume, naked mole rats are supposed to be, well, naked. However, this book is all about Wilbur, a naked mole rat who secretly loves wearing clothes. Reading it is a funny, light way to talk to your young kids about being who they are and doing what they love, even if other people (or mole rats) don’t understand them.


TheDot

The Dot

Author & Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds

Vashti doesn’t believe that she is a good artist until one day when her teacher urges her to just “make a mark” on her paper. The teacher makes such a huge deal about the beauty of Vashti’s dot that it encourages her to make more dots – lots of dots! Vashti becomes more creative with her dots and her creativity inspires others to make their mark, too.


Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum

Author & Illustrator: Kevin Henkins

Chrysanthemum has always loved her name. At least she did until she started school and realized that not everyone thought her name was so amazing. The other girls tease her for being named after a flower and even encourage others to smell her.
Ultimately, Chrysanthemum overcomes the bullying thanks to the love and support of her music teacher and family. This is great book for kids with unique names, but really for any child who has dealt with being teased because they are different.


 

Spork

Author: Kyo Maclear
Illustrator: Isabelle Arsenault

Spork is neither a spoon nor a fork, and he doesn’t truly fit in with either group. He often feels left out from the other utensils. Spork tries to be just a spoon or just a fork, but nothing feels right until he finds his special purpose as a SPORK.
This book is as cute as it is clever. It could serve as a great resource for biracial families or families of mixed cultural or religious backgrounds.


ABadCaseofStripes

A Bad Case of Stripes

Author & Illustrator: David Shannon

Camilla is a girl who loves lima beans, but she worries that others won’t understand and make fun of her. She is so concerned about trying to please her peers that she comes down with a bad case of stripes.
The cure for her stripes is finally being true to herself and not caring what others think. This is definitely one of the longer, wordier picture books on my list, but it is wonderful for older elementary schoolers.


 HueysInTheNewSweater

The Hueys in the New Sweater

Author & Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers

Hueys are funny little creatures that are all very much alike until one Huey, named Rupert, decides to knit himself a sweater. Rupert loves his new sweater, but the other Hueys aren’t so sure about someone being different.
Eventually, Rupert’s sweater inspires other Hueys to be different as well. This book is short and sweet.


Not All Princesses Dress in Pink

Authors: Jane Yolen & Heidi E. Y. Stemple
Illustrator: Anne-Sophie Lanquetin

This book empowers girls to value their unique qualities. Being a princess and wearing a tiara doesn’t mean you can’t like to climb trees, play sports, or get dirty. Being who you are and doing your very best is the most important thing for any girl and the best way to reach your full potential.
Whether your daughter is a girly-girl or a rough and tumble tomboy, this book is a great, refreshing read.


Calvin Can’t Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie

Author: Jennifer Berne
Illustrator: Keith Bendis

Calvin isn’t like the other starlings. All of his many, many brothers, sisters, and cousins are interested in finding worms and learning to fly, but Calvin only wants to read and visit the library.
When it comes time to migrate, he hasn’t learned to fly yet. In the end, it turns out that all of his book learning comes in handy. It’s a good thing that Calvin did all that reading despite what anyone said.


Tacky the Penguin

Author: Helen Lester
Illustrator: Lynn Munsinger

Tacky is a very odd bird. All of the other penguins are annoyed by his obnoxious clothes and weird habits. Until one fateful day, when Tacky, in all of his strangeness, saves the day – and the other penguins.
This is a fun book that is sure to get some laughs from your little ones, but it’s also a great story of about being yourself, no matter how weird or tacky you may be. Also, if your kids love Tacky, he has lots of other adventures to read about.


SPOON

Spoon

Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Scott Magoon

Alright, so I may have a thing for utensil-themed children’s books, but I promise, this one is also fantastic! Spoon is the adorable story of a spoon who envies all of the other types of utensils and all the fun they have.
Later in the story, Spoon finds out how much the other utensils envy him! This book really highlights the fact that we all have a purpose and that it’s completely fine (in fact, it’s amazing) that we aren’t all the same.
Many kids struggle with being confident and happy with themselves. We need to find ways to encourage self-confidence and individuality as positive character traits in our kids.

Short-term action plan

● Go to your bookshelf (or the bookshelf at your local library) and find one of these amazing books or another great title. You can also order one from Amazon right from your phone.
● Find a time in your super busy week to read books with your kids.
● When the book is over, ask them what they thought about the story. Did they like the characters? Have they ever felt like any of the characters? What would they do if they were in the story?

Long-term action plan

● Make reading together a daily (or at least a regular) thing for you and your kids.
● Go to the local library or bookstore together and choose books for these reading times.
● Investigate more titles that help you engage in conversations with your kids about whatever it is they are going through.
● Read the books first to give yourself time to think through what kinds of questions or morals you might want to talk about with your kids.
● Make your reading time a special and ‘sacred’ time. Put away your phone. Get out the biggest, comfiest blanket in the house. Maybe even plan a reading date that involves lots of books, snacks, and a cup of cocoa.
● Reading with your kids is a valuable, memorable, and inexpensive way to spend time together. Don’t treat reading like homework, for you or your child. Have fun with it!

What It's Like Parenting With Hearing Aids

The worry didn’t stem from passing my hearing loss along, it stemmed from the idea that I wouldn’t hear my kid.

“Mommy!” called my son from his car seat as we drove. He wanted something, but I couldn’t hear him.

I turned the music off, rolled up the windows, and repeated “What’s that?” for the third time.

“Unintelligible something or another,” he called again out to me.

Finally, after a bit more of this incoherent exchange that caused us both frustration, I yelled back, “Mommy can’t hear you!”

Just like that, I was brought face-to-face with one of my greatest fears and disappointment: I can’t hear my kid.

I’ve worn hearing aids since I was about eight years old. My hearing loss isn’t anything biological, rather I suffered from nerve damage with no known cause. I wear these tiny machines in my ears because, otherwise, everyone around me sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher. I’ve always been pretty good about the fact that I have to wear hearing aids because with them, I get to hear.

However, this disability concerned me when we started talking about having kids. Granted, the concern was minimal, but it was there, lurking like the annoying reality that it was. The worry didn’t stem from passing my hearing loss along, it stemmed from the idea that I wouldn’t hear my kid.

I tried to stay as positive as I could with the support from my family but, after my son was born, the fear and anxiety completely took over. I needed to hear every cry, every scream, every holler. Every. Single. Noise. I couldn’t miss anything. If my husband could hear it, I wanted to hear it too.

My husband pleaded with me to just trust him and leave my hearing aids out so that I could sleep, but I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it. It didn’t matter that my son was sleeping in a basinet right beside my bed, there was nothing anyone could say or do that would make me change my mind. I just could not trust anyone but myself, even though I couldn’t trust my ears. (Make no mistake, my husband’s hearing, to me, is impeccable. I believe he’s got super-sonic hearing, but then again, I believe most people have this amazing superpower. They just call it hearing.)

When we moved our son to his crib in his room down the hall, he transitioned like a superstar. I, however, did not. I became more intense. I continued sleeping with one hearing aid in at a time and introduced the video and sound monitor to the madness that was already brewing. It was bright and it was loud and it made sleep harder for both of us. It made a high frequency noise that I am deaf to but that my husband can hear.

Finally, after six months of being neurotic, I gave up control out of sheer exhaustion combined with the realization that I needed to trust my husband and let him hear for me. I know that my husband wants the best for our son and believes in his ability to hear the child if he cries.

Our son is now three and is becoming more and more curious about my hearing aids. We talk about them. I ask him to not touch or splash my special machinery. I explain to him that it’s actually quite painful when he shoves these electronics into my ears. We explain how Mommy can’t hear and that these are magical little devices help me hear what he hears.

Now that we’ve switched to the conversation-style-dialogue stage with our three-year-old, the stakes are higher and the challenges are greater. Not being able to hear him when he has something to say causes an uncomfortable mix of emotions. It’s frustrating and that makes me angry, which then takes the shape of sadness and finally morphs into fear.

Fear. I’m afraid to miss something important.

No matter. This is my life; this is our life. I make the best of my situation and do my best to keep the dialogue open with my son about my hearing or lack thereof. I lip read, and I’m teaching the boy to look at me when he speaks to me. The added bonus to him facing me is that I get to have a child yell in my face while spit goes flying every time he has something exciting to tell me.

Having a hearing impairment does not impair my ability to parent or to listen. It doesn’t impair my ability to be the mother I need to be for my child. Yes, there are setbacks and there are times the frustration can erupt like a volcano, but that’s all stuff we can handle.

No, I can’t hear everything my son tells me, but I will never stop trying. I’m determined to be the mom my son needs, with or without a disability.

New Science on Parents' Baby Talk May Transform How Kids' Learn in the Future

The data collected will help researchers understand what kind of speech keeps a baby’s attention, which could improve how we teach them.

Would you believe that the silly phrases you babble to your infant, like goo-goo, gaa-gaa, and coochy-coochy-coo, could hold the key to how we teach our children in the future? This bizarre ritual of baby talk is a common part of the early days of parenthood and, as ridiculous as it may seem, there is an essential reason for it.

Infant-directed speech – (IDS) as it is referred to in the scientific world – is when parents raise the pitch of their voice, slow down their speech, and repeat phrases when talking to their babies. For years, experts have noted that these vocal changes are important for children’s language development and help the babies recognize who their parents are. Now an additional attribute of our voice – called timbre – has been found to also play a major role in how we communicate with our babies.

Timbre is the tone “color” or unique quality of a noise we use to differentiate between the sounds of various people, animals, and instruments. Instead of being a distinct pitch or loudness, it’s the unique collection of frequencies produced by the sound. Timbre is what gives sounds attributes like being scratchy, smooth, nasally, breathy, or raspy. It’s how we can tell apart individual singers even if they’re singing the same note in the same song. Each person’s voice box has a one-of-a-kind timbre.

It was recently discovered that mothers, no matter what language they speak, alter the timbre of their voices when talking to their babies. A research team lead by Princeton University neuroscientists set out to observe the vocal cues that parents use during baby talk, without even realizing they’re doing it, to see if this impacts early language development.

To conduct the study that was published in Current Biology, the researchers recorded 12 English-speaking mothers while they played with and read to their seven- to 12-month-old infants. They also recorded those same mothers while they spoke to another adult. When parts of the recordings were analyzed using a special computer program, the researchers found that the mothers consistently shifted their timbre depending on whether they were talking to adults or to their babies. The computer was even able to discern baby talk from normal speech based on just one second of speech data recorded.

Next the researchers looked at 12 mothers who spoke nine different languages, including Spanish, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, German, French, Hebrew, Mandarin, and Cantonese, to see if this result worked for other languages as well. They found that the timbre change was consistent for all the mothers, no matter what language they spoke. Although only mothers were part of the study (in order to minimize the range of audio frequencies analyzed), researchers expect that the same results would occur with fathers as well.

This groundbreaking research has the potential to shift how we educate our children in the future. The data collected will help researchers understand what kind of speech keeps a baby’s attention, which could improve how we teach them. The study revealed that changes in timbre may denote a universal form of communication that mothers instinctively engage their babies  with to support their language development.

The researchers anticipate that the unique timbre used by parents could help babies learn to direct their attention to their mother’s or father’s voice from an early age. This could lead to improving speech recognition software designed to teach language and communication skills. By tailoring virtual speakers on these programs to mimic the timbre of the parents’ voices, the children may engage more effectively. These programs could help babies learn to segment words, understand meanings of simple words, and break speech into different parts.

Essentially, timbre is a way for infants to understand the expression of emotion based on the musical characteristics of the voice and the interaction with a parent’s emotional state. Imagine your baby listening to educational programming that uses virtual teachers like robots or cartoon characters that imitate your voice. That could really have a major impact on your child’s learning experience.

7 Picture Books That Help Kids Cope With Tragedy

These books deal with topics like fear, loss, and separation anxiety in subtle ways, but can serve as great conversation starters.

On Monday morning, I woke up to an alert on my phone that there was a shooting in Las Vegas. Horrifyingly unfazed by news that has become too commonplace, I went about my morning. I made breakfast. I packed lunches. I kissed the tops of wild-haired heads and sent them off on their school buses.

It was only when I sat down at my computer and checked the news that I completely unraveled. Watching the sickening story unfold, I was completely frozen in what can only be described as a zombified state. I stared at the TV, much like I did after the Sandy Hook shooting, completely unable to wrap my mind around the news.

The emotions were plentiful: fear, overwhelming sadness, confusion. How can this continually happen? How can we fix it? How do we even begin to discuss this with our kids?

Feeling completely at a loss, I started poking around to see what experts had to say about helping children cope with tragedies. Should we try to shield them from it? Should we bring it up? How do we discuss such heavy issues in a way that’s appropriate and won’t fill them with even more fear?

Every source I looked into said that it’s important to talk to our kids. According to the American Psychological Association, “Talking to your children about their worries and concerns is the first step to help them feel safe and begin to cope with the events occurring around them. What you talk about and how you say it does depend on their age, but all children need to be able to know you are there listening to them.”

In an article for Psychology Today, Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist, said that “The conversations you have with your kids – as well as the conversations you avoid – will impact their core beliefs about themselves, other people, and the world in general.” She went on to add that “[e]ven your silence on the subject could lay the foundation for unhealthy core beliefs. When parents don’t acknowledge a tragic incident, a child might think, ‘My parents don’t talk about what happened because you shouldn’t talk about sad things.’ Ultimately that child may think sharing sad feelings is unhealthy.”

So how do we, as parents, breach a subject that even we find scary?

Mental Health America encourages parents of school-age children to allow them to express themselves through play or drawing. “As with younger children, school-age children sometimes find comfort in expressing themselves through playing games or drawing scenes of the tragedy. Allowing them to do so, and then talking about it, gives you the chance to ‘re-tell’ the ending of the game or the story they have expressed in pictures with an emphasis on personal safety.”

This idea of “re-telling” immediately made me think of children’s literature and how it can be a powerful coping mechanism, allowing children to see how characters respond to situations that they find frightening and then relating it to situations happening in the real world that children might be frightened by.

I put together a list of seven children’s books that are great ways to talk to kids about tragic topics, whether it’s something that’s horrific on a national level or something that hits a little closer to home. These books deal with topics like fear, loss, and separation anxiety in subtle ways, but can serve as great conversation starters.

 
 
ScaredySquirrel

Scaredy Squirrel

by Melanie Watt

Scaredy Squirrel does not leave his tree. There are way too many scary things in the great big world, like tarantulas, green Martians, sharks, and killer bees. Instead, Scaredy Squirrel sticks to a strict daily schedule and always has his trusty emergency kit (filled with things like antibacterial soap, Band-Aids, and a parachute) on hand. But when he suddenly finds himself in the big, scary unknown, Scaredy Squirrel discovers something amazing.


 

Swimmy

by Leo Lionni

Swimmy’s entire school of fish was swallowed by a tuna. Scared and alone, Swimmy wandered the ocean slowly noticing the beauty around him. That made Swimmy happy. Eventually, he found a school of fish that was just like his own. He wanted to play and explore with them, but they were afraid of being eaten by bigger fish. In the end, Swimmy figures out a way they can work together and stay safe.


ToughBoris

Tough Boris

by Mem Fox

Boris is tough and mean and fearless, like all pirates. But when his parrot dies, Tough Boris cries. With simple language and watercolor pictures that add a lot of rich detail (and a whole other storyline), this book is a great way to talk about feelings with children.


 InMyHEart

In My Heart

by Jo Witek

This is another great way to start talking to your kids about feelings. While Tough Boris is about how even tough guys can cry, this story is about how our hearts can feel so many different things. It can feel “strong and brave” one minute and “fragile and delicate” the next, and that’s okay!


TheInvisibleString

The Invisible String

by Patrice Karst

When a brother and sister are scared and want to be closer to their mom, she explains to them that they are connected by an invisible string of love that connects from heart to heart. She explains that no matter how far loved ones are away from each other, they’re always connected by this very special string. Whether kids are having separation anxiety or dealing with divorce or even death, this sweet story is very reassuring.


 Rabbityness

Rabbityness

by Jo Empson

Rabbit enjoys doing rabbity things, but he also enjoys doing un-rabbity things like painting and playing music. It’s the un-rabbity things that make him Rabbit, and make all the other rabbits in the forest happy. When Rabbit disappears one day, the other rabbits are so, so sad. Then they find some special gifts he left behind, which make them think of Rabbit while discovering their own un-rabbity talents. This is a great story to use when discussing loss with children.


 

The Heart and the Bottle

by Oliver Jeffers

Another story on dealing with loss, this one tells the tale of a very curious little girl. Her grandfather is pictured on every page with her as she curiously explores her surroundings. Then one day the chair he sits in is empty and he is gone. She puts her heart in a bottle to try and protect it, but suddenly everything seems so empty to her, until she meets a younger curious little girl who helps bring her heart back and make it lighter again. Incredibly poignant, the story ends on an uplifting, hopeful note.

Now, when those wild-haired girls step off of their school buses, I’ll have some help. We can curl up on the couch – a place that is safe and reassuring – and read a story to help us all start the process of understanding our feelings. We might not be able to understand everything, but at least it’s a start.

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I Thought I Hated Halloween, Turns out I Just Hate Adult Halloween

I have no patience for the over-the-top spookiness that grown-ups sometimes get into, but when it comes to trick-or-treating? I’m there.

Some years, the Halloween memes start in September. Other years, my social media feed is filled with “I can’t wait for Halloween season” stuff as early as mid-July.

I am, undeniably, a weirdo. That has always been true. I’m queer, I haven’t had a “normal” haircut in over a decade, and I just generally don’t fit in most places. The thing about weirdos is that they seem to really love Halloween. If you’re sort of nerdy, kind of crafty, and a bit of a social outcast, it seems like Halloween is the holiday for you. No less than three of my close friends throw a yearly “epic Halloween party” that they refer to as “an important tradition.” I’ve heard the phrase “Halloween is my Christmas” more times than I can count.

I mean no disrespect to the many grown-up people who love Halloween, I love people who love Halloween and want them to be happy! It’s just that, all of this excitement over the last day of October never made much sense to me. For the rest of the year, I felt like I had a special bond with my fellow weirdos. But year after year, when October rolled around, I suddenly felt like an outcast amongst outcasts.

I just didn’t like Halloween (or so I thought).

I hated the competitiveness of searching for the perfect cool hipster costume. There were amazingly intricate (and incredibly expensive) perfect fantasy costumes from Game of Thrones. There were obscure comic book costumes that only the most seasoned geeks would get. There were hilarious joke costumes, like the “sexy nurse” who was just wearing regular nurses’ scrubs. One friend told me that she spends at least 300 dollars on her Halloween costume, every single year. I couldn’t keep up.

Then there were the parties, which were always too much for my social anxiety to handle.

Don’t even talk to me about the horror movies and related horror content. I do not do well with blood and gore. I am un-ironically terrified of zombies, so no, I don’t want to come to your zombie walk or whatever. Attempting to participate in Halloween left me exhausted, feeling like a failure, and having weird zombie nightmares for weeks. I wondered vaguely what was wrong with me. Halloween is fun! I loved Halloween as a kid, so why couldn’t I get into it as an adult?

Well, it turns out I actually love Halloween, I just love little-kid Halloween. I have no patience whatsoever for the parties and the drinking and the over-the-top spookiness that grown-ups sometimes get into, but when it comes to trick-or-treating? I’m there. I mean, what’s not to love about candy, silly costumes, and hilarious little kids who get amazingly excited about this weird special day?

I first realized that I was into Halloween last year, when my kid was a little over a year old. We decided to go in a family costume, which is so delightfully cheesy I can’t even stand it, and so the wife, myself, and the toddler dressed up as Peter Pan, Wendy, and Tinkerbell. I had fun finding the perfect blue nightgown at the thrift store.

Then, much to my surprise, I started doing something else. Slowly, over the month of October, I started amassing Halloween decorations. One day my wife came home from work to find me cutting out dozens of felt leaves to hang in our living room window. It was like the lurking crafty mom in me was suddenly awakened.

On Halloween night itself, we took our cheerful child out to collect candy with his neighborhood buddies. Walking around with a gaggle of kids, listening to them chatter about all the chocolate they were going to eat later (if only they could get their moms to let them!) was an absolute blast. In one memorable moment, a three-year-old tripped over the tail of his costume and, when I asked if he was okay, brushed himself off and said “Don’t worry, me didn’t drop any candy.”

I mean, kids are the best.

This year is shaping up to be even more exciting. My kiddo is now two, and we were actually able to explain the holiday to him a bit and even talk to him about costume ideas. As a mother, there are few things as thrilling for me as watching my child decide what he wants, and go for it. He shot down all of my costume ideas, from dinosaur to lion (actually, he laughed at me for even suggesting such things), and then confidently announced that he will be a bunny.

Not just any bunny, the bunny in one of his favorite books, “Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket.”

As I plan out the specifics of how I’ll make such a costume, I find that I’m not annoyed in the slightest. The irony isn’t lost on me that the very thing that bugged me about adult costumes, the hyper-specific attention to detail, is totally thrilling when it comes to making a great costume for my kid. But I am who I am – a woman who’s way more motivated to make a cute and fun costume for her child than she ever was for herself.

As for me? I’ll be dressing up as a witch. Finally freed from the pressure to do something unique and clever year after year, I’m able to admit what I’ve always wanted out of Halloween. That, as it turns out, is to wear the same classic (and boring) costume year after year. My mom always wore the same costume and put up the same decorations, and the tradition was definitely a comfort to my childhood self. Now I’m forming my own Halloween traditions.

I guess I just needed a kid to inspire me.

3 Fears Your Preschooler Can't Articulate, But Influence Their Behavior

These common worries tend to surface in the form of sadness and tantrums, and it can be difficult to differentiate the causes of the outbursts.

The age of preschool is an emotionally confusing time for young children. Between the ages of three and five years old, children are working through a lot of insecurities and fears that they do not yet have the language skills to articulate. These common worries tend to surface in their everyday lives through sadness and tantrums, and it can be difficult to differentiate the causes of the outbursts. In an effort to better understand our sweet little ones, here are three common fears that your preschooler isn’t yet able to tell you about.

1 | The fear that their behavior determines your love for them

Young children are highly attuned to adult’s facial expressions, tone of voice, and verbal inflection. When adults respond to children’s behavior with yelling, a stern or harsh tone, or lashing out, children often become scared and feel that they are the cause of the parent’s stress. This can lead children to believe that their parent’s love for them is contingent on their good behavior.

In his book, “Unconditional Parenting,” Alfie Kohn outlines the difference between conditional and unconditional love in the following way:

[There is a distinction between] loving kids for what they do and loving them for who they are. The first sort of love is conditional, which means children must earn it by acting in ways we deem appropriate, or by performing up to our standards. The second sort of love is unconditional: it doesn’t hinge on how they act, whether they’re successful or well behaved or anything else.

Every parent wants a well-behaved, well-adjusted, and emotionally-regulated child who doesn’t act out, but the reality of the preschool years is that children will act out. It’s our mission as parents to guide our child’s behavior in such a way that she knows what’s expected of her while also knowing that she is deeply loved.

What you can do:

  • Try to remain as calm as possible when managing your child’s behavior. Remind your child that your love for her never changes, even when she misbehaves.
  • Clearly state your behavior expectations and re-affirm your confidence in her ability to do it the next time.
  • Apologize when your reaction is harsher than you intended it to be. By admitting that adults also make mistakes, children can learn that mistakes are part of learning.

2 | The fear that you will leave and not come back

Attachment to a parent is the very first survival mechanism that an infant learns when he leaves the womb. That attachment grows stronger as the child learns more about the world and how big of a place it really is. By three years old, most children are ready to venture out for short periods of time in order to explore and then return to the safety of their parents. The problem is that children have a limited ability to gauge the concept of time, so when children are away from their “safe base,” minutes can feel like hours and hours can feel like days. This leads children to fear the worst, that Mommy and Daddy aren’t coming back.

What you can do:

  • Give your child an object of yours to hold during times when you’re away. It can be anything that reminds him of you: a picture, a hair tie, or a small trinket. This gives him a physical connection, a “piece of Mommy” to hold on to until you return.
  • Tell your child what is going to happen. Give him a predictable time frame when you will be back, for example, “Daddy will be back after your nap.”
  • Try to avoid using the “Mommy is leaving” threat when trying to get your child to leave a public place. This is confusing for children and can lead to a lack of trust when there comes a time when you truly are leaving them.

3 | The fear that they aren’t good enough

Inadequacy is a huge fear of preschoolers, and it surfaces in different ways. This can be the child that cries because her picture didn’t turn out the way she wanted it to, or the child who says, “It’s too hard” and doesn’t even want to try. The fear of inadequacy becomes more prevalent in the preschool years because children are at a developmental stage where they begin to view themselves in relation to other children. Comparison makes a child question his worth in a brand new way, and these are big feelings for young children to sort out. The development of a child’s self esteem begins in these early preschool years. He begins to evaluate himself in relation to his peers in terms of how well he does certain tasks and what other children think of him.

What you can do:

  • Point out your child’s growth and praise her willingness to try new things.
  • Place more emphasis on the child’s effort on a given task than the finished product.
  • Validate children’s feelings of inadequacy and promote problem solving with phrases like, “I can see that you aren’t happy with this. What are some ideas to make this better?”
  • Build your child up: help bring to light all of her very best qualities and how those qualities mean more to you than her performance.

Peace and Love During Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

It’s 2017 and I have learned to smile again. I have two amazing “rainbow babies.” Still, I do not forget where I came from.

“Mommy, I wish it was just the three of us,” my five-year-old son Owen said suddenly.
I sighed and mentally prepared myself for what was coming. My little boy adored his father, so I assumed that he meant Daddy, himself, and his big sister, Julia. Instead, he uttered these names: Julia, Owen, and Liam.
My heart sank.
Although still young, my youngest child was beginning to understand. Physically, it was just Owen and Julia. But they also had a big brother whom they never met. Liam was our firstborn son and died at only nine days old.
My husband Brian and I found out we were expecting our first child on January 1, 2008. Everything was going along perfectly – until that day. I was just over 20 weeks and due to have my anatomy scan.
“I found a problem with the baby’s heart,” the doctor said.
Our joy turned to devastation with those words.
It’s 2017 and I have learned to smile again. I have two amazing “rainbow babies. Still, I do not forget where I came from.
On October 25, 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared the entire month of October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Prior to our tragedy, we had never heard of it. We had never imagined this would be our fate.
Liam had been gone for a few weeks when Brian and I headed down those steps to the church basement in October of 2009. It was dark, quiet, and somber. Everyone was getting ready to light their candles in honor of all our babies.
Until then, Brian and I lived in complete isolation. The bereavement support group and cemetery became the only places where we felt solace. I remember being a “newbie” amongst all those who had experienced loss.
“The pain does soften,” they would say.
At the time, I absolutely refused to believe them. I do now. I have been writing about neonatal loss for several years. It still feels raw and painful, but it’s different somehow. Many of us liken it to a scar – something that will never go away.
Nine years ago, I was a very angry and bitter person. I lashed out at friends and family. I refused to attend events. My own despair was so great, I could barely think at all. I couldn’t see anything beyond my pain. I didn’t want to. I had no idea on how to move forward. The decision to try for a second child was made mostly by my husband.
After Julia’s birth, I felt guilt. I felt as if moving on was a betrayal to Liam. I also felt comfort and joy, which was both scary and beautiful at the same time. I had similar feelings after the birth of Owen.
Slowly, I realized that I was allowed to have both emotions. My sadness for my first baby would always be there. So would the happiness for my living children. They could co-exist.
Today, I still light my candle. I do so, not only for my Liam, but for other angels that we have lost along the way. On October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness day, I joined countless others who have experienced this unbearable pain. The candle lighting forms a “wave of light” across the world. In this way, all of our babies will be remembered.
I often wonder what I would say to someone suffering a recent loss. I am not sure any words would suffice. I feel their anguish. Our baby’s lives, no matter how brief, leave footprints on our hearts forever.
They are loved.
They will never ever be forgotten.

Kid Made Recipe: Nutty Pumpkin Brownies

In the midst of Halloween candy madness, these pumpkin brownies are a sweet treat you could actually call healthy-ish! (Okay, maybe thats a stretch).

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In the midst of Halloween candy madness, these pumpkin brownies are a sweet treat you could actually call healthy-ish!  Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but the nut butter and pumpkin do add protein and fiber, even to the frosting! Heading to a Halloween gathering? Big kids can whip these up on their own and bring ‘em along. Spookily delicious!

Nutty Pumpkin Brownies

Makes: 1 8×8 inch pan (12-18 brownies depending on your cut size)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes total
Cool Time:  30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
 

Ingredients:

Brownies:

  • 1 cup nut butter of your choice (we used almond)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup flour
  • ⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt

Frosting:

  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • ⅔ cup nut butter
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix nut butter, pumpkin, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl by hand or with a hand mixer until well blended.
  3. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and mix until mixture is smooth and no dry ingredient streaks remain.
  4. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper so the edges overhang on all sides.
  5. Pour mixture into lined pan, smoothing the top.
  6. Bake at 350 for 25-10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out just clean.
  7. Cool completely.
  8. Make frosting! Mix remaining ½ cup pumpkin, ⅔ cup peanut butter, and confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl and beat by hand or with hand held mixer until fluffy. If it’s too stiff, add a Tbsp or two of almond milk at a time and keep beating, until you get to your desired consistency.
  9. When brownies are cool, frost to the edges.
  10. Cut and serve!

Recipe Notes:

Feel free to use any nut butter your like! You can also use any milk you like to loosen the frosting, if you stick with almond or soy these are a dairy free treat!

Please Read This in the Event You Have to Save My Kid's Life With an EpiPen

Knowing the signs of anaphylaxis and how to administer an EpiPen can reduce some of the associative fear of using one.

In season two, episode one, of Showtime’s series, “Billions”, Lara Axelrod is at her children’s school when she spots a small crowd of kids gathered around a girl lying on the floor outside the nurse’s office.
The girl struggles for breath, her face is covered in red blotchy spots, and her forehead dotted with perspiration. The nurse is on the phone calling emergency personnel, saying the girl came into her office complaining of nausea, then she vomited. The nurse tells Lara the girl is having a seizure.
“She’s in anaphylaxis,” Lara says with certainty as she kneels next to the girl and searches her backpack for the girl’s EpiPen. Lara finds it while the camera focuses on her face and the squirming girl on the floor trying to breathe. She presses the Epipen into her thigh.
“Listen, you’re having a reaction,” Lara tells the girl, “but I gotchyou.”
In the midst of this commotion, there’s a moment when the viewer sees the nurse’s eyes widen in horror as she realizes she failed to recognize anaphylaxis. The scene is particularly compelling because it touches on a universal fear most of us have – that we wouldn’t know what to do if we were with someone else’s child having a life-threatening allergic reaction.
The fear is understandable. When I first learned our first child was allergic to peanuts and tree-nuts and the concept of an EpiPen was new to me, I imagined scenarios of having to save his young life, raising my arm, EpiPen in hand, ready to jab his thigh to administer an injection of adrenaline as he clutched his throat with both hands.
I was relieved to learn you don’t ever jab an EpiPen, but rather, hold it to the person’s thigh and press.
I see a similar fear in the eyes of the parents of my son’s friends when I drop him off to play at their house for the first time. I dread this moment. It’s awkward. I try to defuse the moment by saying you probably won’t use it, but he needs to have it with him just in case.
My wife and I have three children with food allergies and are fortunate they are not as severe as other children’s reactions. We’re fortunate that we’ve never had an episode.
At some point, active parents who volunteer in the community will be with children who have been prescribed an Epipen because of allergies to bee stings, food, latex, or another trigger. The idea of being with someone else’s child experiencing a serious allergic reaction can be an overwhelming concept. Knowing the signs of anaphylaxis and how to administer an EpiPen can reduce some of the associative fear of using one.
“Some people hesitate to give the EpiPen because they are unsure if a serious reaction is happening,” says Dr. Jalkut, M.D., of Pediatric Healthcare Associates. “Many parents ask if they can give Benadryl and wait and see before giving epinephrine.”
Especially if the child has had a reaction before, and an adult suspects a serious allergic reaction, “it is imperative that epinephrine be given as soon as possible.” Dr. Jalkut stresses that “epinephrine helps to give time to get to the hospital. Benadryl is not a substitute for epinephrine.”

Know the signs of anaphylaxis

Some indications can vary and reactions can take many forms, but you should take the following symptoms seriously:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Hoarse voice or wheezing
  • Hives, a raised rash that itches
  • Severe itching or flushed (red) skin
  • Swelling of face, lips, mouth, or tongue
  • Fast heart beat
  • Weak pulse
  • Feeling very anxious
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting and abdominal pain

“Another clear sign of anaphylaxis is if symptoms involve two systems,” says Jalkut, “like hives and vomiting, or wheezing and abdominal pain.”
The nurse in the scene from “The Billions” made an especially egregious error when you consider the girl having the allergic reaction exhibited multiple signs from two systems.

How to administer an epinephrine auto-injector

1 | Flip open the cap and slide the EpiPen out of the tube.
2 | Pop off the blue cap, keeping your hand away from the orange tip where the needle comes out.
3 | Form a fist around the EpiPen. Hold the child’s leg in place with your free hand. Place the orange tip to the side of the child’s thigh and press until you feel and hear a click. Hold in place for three seconds.
4 | Release the EpiPen and massage the place where the injection occurred for 10 seconds.
Despite the valid anxiety that lives in the mind of most guardians, you will be equipped to react to a child in anaphylaxis like Lara Axelrod if you remember the signs and the simple steps of how to use an EpiPen.