Monday, March 28, 2016

Probationary Permit for Social Media User

Recently, I have had a number of conversations with friends and colleagues about social media use by elementary aged children.  This isn’t anything new, I mean the iPod has been around since 2001 and the iPad has been with us since 2010. But now the influx of brand-spanking new iPhone 6S’s have made their way into the hands of 8, 9, and 10-year-olds.  And now the attraction isn’t the latest and greatest video game to play, it is the most entertaining social media app that gets the kids attention these days.  It used to be that the elementary aged child was allowed a few extra years of development before the hypnotic draw of social media was in their palms.  Many children had their first phones bestowed on them as a right of passage from elementary school to middle school.  Selfishly, this was ideal because the influence of social media did not really have to be addressed at the elementary level for the most part.  I left that to the capable hands of the middle school guidance staff, teachers and administrators!  However, the times they are a-changing and we are getting more and more 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders wielding their very own smartphones. The question is, are they ready for what comes next and are we as parents ready to help them navigate this new terrain.  
When my children turned 16, they wanted to get their Learner's permit in order to learn to drive a car.  That meant that we as parents had to either strap ourselves into the car and provide instruction on how to stay alive while operating a motor vehicle (while fervently praying under our breath!) or pay for someone to provide them with this knowledge.  It would be absurd to let our children simply get behind the wheel without explicit instructions on how to drive.  Their level of proficiency for driving could mean the difference between life and death.  It might seem like a stretch to compare the skills and supervision required to learn how to drive a car to learning how to navigate social media, but I don’t really think so.  The potholes kids can fall into using social media can be just as dangerous as those on the open road.  

The following is an excerpt from CommonSense Media about a new social media-specific anxiety called FOMO, also known as "fear of missing out."
Parents can help. If you see your kids struggling -- maybe they're always stressed out after being on the phone or they're staying up too late texting -- step in.
Listen. It can be easy to dismiss FOMO and other social media stress as superficial, but for many tweens and teens, social media is social life. The more you show you care about how they feel, the more open they’ll be.
Don't judge. Snapchat seems a little dumb, doesn't it? But for tweens and teens, connecting with their peers is a normal part of child development. For you, it meant hours on the phone. For them, it means lots and lots of rainbow vomit.
Encourage their offline lives. FOMO can chip away at kids' self-esteem, but the best defense is a strong sense of what makes kids unique, worthy, and valuable. Help kids participate in sports, clubs, drama, or volunteer work to help them weather the ups and downs of social media anxiety.
Set limits. After all the listening and validating is over, set some basic limits around when and where the phone or computer can be used. Start with turning phones off an hour before bedtime and storing them in your room to help kids resist the temptation to stay up late texting. You can suggest they tell their friends they'll be signing off at a specific time, so they won't be expecting a response.
Shift the focus. If kids are feeling overwhelmed by keeping up with all the social stuff online, encourage them to focus on the creative side of Instagram, for example, instead. Entering photo contests or building a portfolio can shift the focus to the positive side of social media.
Ask open-ended questions. You don't need to solve their problems for them. But you can help them think about what is and isn't working for them. Here are some questions to try:
● Are there any habits you might want to change? (Such as not checking your phone before bed.)
● What would happen if you turned off your phone? For an hour? A day?
● Have you thought about rewarding yourself for not checking your phone or social media for a certain amount of time? (Make a game of it!)
● What are the pros and cons of using Instagram and other social networking apps?
● What would happen if you unfollowed or unfriended someone who was making you feel bad on social media?
● Do you notice that you have better or worse reactions to posts or messages depending on how you feel that day?  

These tips for parents are like the booklet they give at the DMV to help kids study for the permit test.  Before you put the world wide web in the tiny hand of your tween, make sure they know the rules of the road and can manage the twists and turns in emotions after reading a post or a text.  Or let them be Probationary Users of the cell phone and with practice and guidance from you as their parents, they can earn the privilege of becoming a Licensed Social Media User.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

When "Stay Away" might not do the Trick

Picture this - you just get home from work, you’re in the process of making dinner and your fifth grader is lurking around the kitchen trying to explain the latest classroom drama that took place today.  You are hearing every other word, but trying hard to give your child as much attention as you can without ruining the recipe you are trying to follow.  It sounds like the usual; So-and-So is excluding kids and saying mean things to your child and others. 

Without giving it too much consideration, you say with authority, “Why don’t you try keeping your distance from So-and-So?  Sounds like they aren’t the kind of friend you want anyway!”  Your child shrugs his/her shoulders, nods their head and walks away.  O.K., so you think you have come up with a fool-proof plan for a peaceful playground situation for your child and maybe you should even be consulted to perform similar miracles in the Middle East! 

Well, you have done one thing, you have made your kitchen more peaceful and eliminated a distraction to one of the many jobs you have to perform tonight, but I can tell you, that advice, will not prevent further classroom drama for your child!  It truly does seem logical because in our adult world, if we are fed up with an opinionated, insensitive or rude neighbor or coworker, we simply decline dinner invitations or steer clear of the work room when that person is in there for a break.   Unfortunately, our kids do not have the luxury that we have to avoid the pest and stay aggravation-free!  If the So-and-So they are referring to is in their class, they may be forced to sit at a table with them or be paired with them to work on a group project.  There may be no choices for your child in this case.  If they aren’t in class together, then the difficulties loom large in your child’s mind until it is time for lunch and recess when they are face-to-face with So-and-So.

So what is a better response?  What can we say that will solve this problem?  Well, I suggest that it will take a little more concentrated listening before we are able to come up with some words of wisdom for our struggling child. Asking about and listening to what So-and-So is doing and why they may be doing those things within the context of the social scene can provide needed insights. Also asking and listening to what your own Pride-and-Joy is doing in this complicated social dance can clarify a plan of action that may be the exact opposite of the isolationist policy that you advocated earlier!

Often, what I hear from kids after recess is a description of a  power play between two players with the attention of a third player at stake. I ask the child about how they are feeling when So-and-So forces them to play with them and not other children.  I ask them how they think So-and-So might feel when no one will let them join their games.  I try to get the child to focus on feelings and then they are much better able to see where the behavior is coming from and how to change it.  Avoiding and ignoring So-and-So may actually aggravate the insecurity So-and-So is experiencing and increase the possessive, annoying behavior.  The feelings that you should be listening for and/ or helping your child identify are often jealousy, insecurity and fear that comes from a lack of trust of one person or another.  Focusing your efforts on getting your child to come up with plans and actions to  reduce those two feelings in themselves or others will be much better strategies to improve the chances of peace on the playground.
Perspective taking is another important skill your Pride-and-Joy may need to explore and improve.   Helping them to focus on the other person and not on their own experience will help them develop empathy and understanding towards others.  This skill is so important in building social skills and is a lifelong asset for your child.  As parents, we tend to focus on what is happening to our child to the exclusion of what could be happening inside the world of the So-and-So that is creating drama for our child.  When we do this and only focus on the problems or hurt our child is experiencing, we take away their role in the dance - and they always have a role!  Empowering them with what I call Social Savvy is giving them the tools to look more closely at their situation and come up with better solutions to the difficulties they are experiencing. I always have the children practice using “I statements” that reflect what So-and-So’s behavior is making them feel.  For instance, when So-and-So rolls their eyes when your child sits at the cafeteria table, instead of saying, “Rolling your eyes at me is so rude!” they could say, “When you roll your eyes at me, it hurts my feelings and makes me feel so uncomfortable.  Could you please not do that anymore.” It removes the personal attack that So-and-So will almost certainly feel the need to retaliate against and also states exactly what your child would like So-and-So to do in the future.  Role playing these scenarios and practicing “I statements” is so important because for many kids, they aren’t automatic or natural.  It is of course much easier to point out someone else's flaws than it is to reveal our own feelings. 
One other important thing to keep in mind when you are trying to help your child navigate social land mines, is to keep your opinions about So-and-So to yourself!  When you tell your child that So-and-So is incredibly ungrateful or super loud or terribly disrespectful after a play day, don’t think that those observations will not come up again when your child is angry at So-and-So at school the next day! It may be better to tell your child that you didn’t care for how So-and-So wasted food when you went out to eat or that singing that loud in the car can be distracting to a driver than negatively labeling So-and-So.  Your goal is to make sure that your child doesn’t engage in those behaviors when out of your presence, but not to judge and label the other child.  When we judge and label, it is like giving permission to our children to do the same thing - and they do!!  

So what I am trying to say is that helping your child with social intrigue and drama may not be as easy as simply saying,  “Stay away from So-and-So!” while you saute your veggies for dinner!  This may be the easiest thing for us, but it certainly doesn’t give our child the skills he or she needs to be successful in the wonderful world of growing up!  You may need to schedule a time with your child for “Social Speak” or a “Friendship Forum” so that you can focus on feelings, help develop perspective taking and practice important social skills like compromising, ‘I statements’ and reflecting on their own behavior (including their tone of voice!).  I predict that if we all made an investment of time in this protective practice, we will be saving time putting out fires in our kitchens and our children’s social lives!  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How Do You Define Yourself?

How do you define yourself?  
That was a question asked by Lizzie Velasquez, a 25 year old woman with a very rare syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight.  She has weighed no more than 64 pounds her whole life.  She cannot see out of her right eye and as you might imagine, her appearance is quite unusual.  Because of this, she was bullied much of her life.  It started on her first day of Kindergarten when another child ran away from her after Lizzie simply smiled at her and asked her to play.   This left her wondering what she did wrong.  Later, when she was in high school, someone posted an 8 second video of her and the comments on it included, "Kill it with Fire!", "Why not just pick up a gun and kill yourself?, and "Ugliest Woman in the World."  At that point, she realized she had a choice... she could let those comments, that hatred and that ignorance direct her down a path of self-loathing that could lead her to taking her own life, or she could let her goals, accomplishments and the love of her family and friends guide her towards a better, more accurate definition of herself. She chose the latter and let her goals of becoming a motivational speaker, author, and college graduate define her!

I see children every day feeling defined by what others think or say about them.  I've seen girls and boys brought to tears because they think that others are talking about them or leaving them out of conversations or moving away from them in the lunchroom on purpose.  They are being defined by the cruel acts of some and not by whom they truly are or what they want to be.

Our children need to understand that they define themselves by their actions towards others- good or bad - not by what someone is saying about them or how they look!   A nasty rumor about a kid who is genuinely kind and friendly to others is like a just doesn't exist.  So instead of focusing on the bullying and the negativity, let's empower our kids to focus on their strengths and let their positive goals and actions define them just like the brave Lizzie Velasquez! That's one way to end bullying!! 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Meditation Monday (and Every Day!)

Monday February 9th was to have been the kick off to our PTA’s Heart Health Awareness week.  We were starting off with Meditation Monday.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature had something else in mind and the slick sheet of ice on most of our roads kept us snug in bed, perhaps dreaming of the return of the warm summer sun in a few months!  Even though we lost the opportunity to practice meditation on Monday, it is something that is worth talking about for all its profound benefits to our health, productivity, creativity, stress-reduction and overall psychological well-being.  An article by Alice G. Walton on provides us with scientific evidence that  Meditation can actually change the brain.  

In our fifth grade classes we have been discussing some key areas of the brain involved in learning and memory (the Hippocampus), and emotional regulation (the Amygdala).  The children now know that the Amygdala can provide us with false information about our world and create a heightened sense of anxiety in us if we do not become more mindful and aware of what we are experiencing and how we are reacting to it.  To back this up,  “In 2011, Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain: Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing. There were also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress – and these changes matched the participants’ self-reports of their stress levels, indicating that meditation not only changes the brain, but it changes our subjective perception and feelings as well.” 
Having this understanding of the neuroplasticity of our brains and providing the children with a different way of viewing their experiences is all part of the Mindfulness training we are doing in fifth grade in the hope of developing more resilient, reflective individuals. 

Sharing the idea that Mindfulness is the act of paying attention, on purpose, in the moment, without judgement sparked some good conversation.  We practiced silently being aware of our inner experiences (thoughts and feelings inside our bodies) and then carefully being aware of our external world (sights, sounds, smells).  We discussed how some of us found it easier to tune-in to our inner experiences and others of us had an easier time focusing our attention on the input to our five senses.  All of this gave the kids an appreciation for how much we process at any given moment if we allow ourselves to be aware of it.  It helped some of them recognize that being mindful and aware of someone else’s circumstances, like the exhaustion of a working parent at the end of a long day, could help to avoid nasty conflicts if they chose a different time to share a new song they learned on the violin.  Awakening in them the understanding that one’s thoughts and feelings can be recognized as events occurring in the broader field of awareness will build their perspective-taking and empathy towards others.  But this new view of the world and themselves in it doesn’t happen overnight...which is why it is called Mindfulness PRACTICE!  So even though we missed out on some mindful meditation in school on Monday, take the opportunity to discuss ways to imbed the practice of mindfulness into your family’s daily routines - it could be starting the day with peaceful breathing and a positive affirmation about how the day will go or ending it with thoughts of gratitude for a day well spent.  The more we practice this mindset, the more empowered we will feel!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Resolving to Change Faulty Parenting Practices

As we start the new year, the most common thing for us to do is reflect on ourselves and try to make improvements.  We call these resolutions.  These resolutions are often short term goals and are motivated by explicit thoughts and don't often reflect our inner or subconscious drives.  It is these subconscious thoughts and beliefs that truly guide our behavior and motivate us to change or stay the same.  So in order to effect real change, we must be honest with ourselves and recognize that many of our beliefs for successful parenting may be faulty and actually may be hurting our children's chances for becoming the best people they can be.  That may sound harsh, but unless we are able to admit that some of our parenting practices may be off the mark, we will never be able to keep these resolutions to be a "better parent."

Leadership expert Dr. Tim Elmore shared his thoughts with Kathy Caprino, a contributing editor to Forbes magazine about how we as parents are failing our children today — coddling and crippling them — and keeping them from becoming leaders they are destined to be.  Tim is a best-selling author of more than 25 books, including Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenges of Becoming Authentic Adults, and the Habitudes® series. He is Founder and President of Growing Leaders, an organization dedicated to mentoring today’s young people to become the leaders of tomorrow.  

I found what he had to say to be very practical, but I also realized that many of us in this community and ones similar to it have fallen into many of the parenting traps Tim speaks about.  He refers to "The 7 damaging parenting behaviors that keep children from becoming leaders – of their own lives and of the world’s enterprises."
He starts off with this parenting behavior as the culprit for stealing our children's ability to face fear-producing or emotionally difficult situations:
  1. We don’t let our children experience risk.  I see this happening right on my block.  When I leave my house for work, I see many of my neighbor's load their minivans and SUVs with their elementary age-students (grades 2-5) to drive them to (wait for it...) the bus stop on the corner of the block that they can see from their living room window.  I understand the fear of the parent - they don't want their child abducted between their doorway and the transportation used to get them to the safety of school, however according to research done in Europe, this parenting behavior may actually be fueling the development of phobias in youngsters not allowed to take appropriate risks.  If we continue preventing our children from experiencing risk, we will likely see high arrogance and low self-esteem in our growing leaders, according to Dr. Elmore.                                                                                                                                  The second parenting practice that Tim suggests will cripple our growing leaders is:
  2. We rescue our kids too quickly.  Our Reading and Math Specialists often remind teachers and parents that it is very important for the child to "think" about the answer or how to decode a word before we swoop in to prevent the child's 'discomfort' while struggling with the concept.  I am guilty of this myself when my daughter asks for my help with editing a creative writing piece.  I will often say, "It might sound better like this...." and provide her with an alternative to what she has written, instead of asking her, "What do you think you could do to liven this part up or clarify what you are saying in this section."  "It’s parenting for the short-term and it sorely misses the point of leadership—to equip our young people to do it without help."
  3. We rave too much.  The advent of social media has given us a forum to rave about our kids accomplishments at a dizzying rate!!!  It starts early...I have seen it happen with parents of infants who post the video of their five month old tossing a toy from their bouncy chair with the caption - "Look at our little champion - the next Eli Manning!" All the way to the posts about Spelling Bee winners and Little League standouts!  Tim explains, kids "begin to doubt the objectivity of their parents; it feels good in the moment, but it’s not connected to reality. When we rave too easily and disregard poor behavior, children eventually learn to cheat, exaggerate and lie and to avoid difficult reality."
  4. We let guilt get in the way of leading well.  By this Tim means we have a need for our children to always like us because we may feel some guilt for being a family with two working parents, perhaps.  He cautions against parenting out of guilt and buying our children's happiness, especially if what they need are limits and consequences.  "If your relationship is based on material rewards, kids will experience neither intrinsic motivation nor unconditional love."  I actually witnessed a parent tell a child that he would buy the child a toy in order to get him to stop tantrumming after five minutes because it appeared the father somehow felt guilty that he had caused the child to become upset by questioning  his inappropriate behavior in school.  So by this parenting practice, this child has quickly learned that when he does not want to face the consequences of his actions, crying and gaging are his way out!  The next parenting pitfall according to Tim Elmore is:  
  5. We don’t share our past mistakes.  This can be hard because for many of us, we want to appear "perfect" in the eyes of our children. However if we are able to recognize when our child is about to make a mistake we have made in the past, there is nothing wrong in letting them know that you had been down this path and here's how it ended up for you.  Allowing our children to learn from our mistakes enables them to see that we too are life-long learners and that mistakes help us grow.  The sixth crippling parenting practice is:
  6. We mistake intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity.  Elmore explains that simply because a child demonstrates a gift or a talent for something, doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready for the responsibilities of an older child.  Emotional maturity may lag behind many other capabilities and we may be setting our children up for disaster if we don’t recognize the discrepancies between our children’s giftedness in certain areas and their maturity level.  Tim suggests, “...a good rule of thumb is to observe other children the same age as yours.  If you notice that they are doing more for themselves than your child does, you may be delaying your child’s independence.”  Finally, Tim Elmore suggest another parenting flaw: 
  7. We don’t practice what we preach.  We may all believe that helping others is an admirable quality; however unless we show our kids what it means to give to others by volunteering or even being a good son or daughter to our own aging and ailing parents; they may not develop the qualities of  a selfless leader who puts the needs of others before their own. 

So as we make our resolutions to be better people and parents in 2015, let’s try to keep in mind these sinkholes to successful parenting and avoid them the best we can! 

Reference: Caprino, Kathy, “7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders” Forbes Magazine, January 16, 2014  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ellis Island Trip - A look back provides perspective on modern-day immigrants

Late November is one of our family's most cherished times of the year.  We host our family's Thanksgiving Day feast and that means my sister and her family trek in from sunny, warm Florida to grace our table.  I not only enjoy this because my sister makes me laugh harder than most people, she also gives me a reason to explore some really incredible tourist sights in the amazing metropolis that is 40 minutes from our home, Manhattan!  My nephew is a native Floridian, so we often do the "Touristy stuff" when they are in town.  So this year, we decided to visit Ellis Island.  There was good reason for this nephew had to do a writing assignment related to what it was like to be an immigrant child in the late 1800's when Ellis Island was the first stop for almost all the immigrants coming from Europe and the middle East to the United States.  To tell the truth, in my forty-something years living on Long Island, I had never been to Ellis Island, so I was certainly game for this trip!
While waiting to board the ferry at the tip of Manhattan, we were herded into a giant mass of humanity.  My group was large and we were a chatty bunch, but every now and then when there was a lull in the conversation, I took note of the fact that we were one of the only groups speaking English.   There was a group of Chinese people to my left, a Russian couple was behind us and a friendly Jamaican family stood directly in front of us.  It certainly gave me an authentic feeling of excitement being one of the many diverse immigrants trying to make our way to Ellis Island.  The difference for us was that we knew we belonged here; the immigrants on their journey over 120 years ago had no idea what they were getting into -was it going to be the nirvana that they may had been promised or would they be outcasts in their new land or worse turned away and sent back to their homeland.
As we toured the facility, I was overwhelmed by the size and the amount of people who had passed through these halls not knowing what fate had in store for them.  The images of the people from that time made me wonder -  would I be able to be that brave if I had to leave my home and travel to a completely foreign land?  Would I be able to protect my children from the harsh realities of separation and discrimination?  And then I began to think about some of the modern day immigrants that I have come in contact with at work.
I realized that there are many people in our school community that have either made great sacrifices to be here or those that are here because living in their homeland was incredibly unsafe.  Parents have sent their only child here in order to provide them with a better education, not really knowing the people that would be hosting him or her.  In other situations, mothers and children have come here while the fathers remain in their native country in order to maintain their jobs and their incomes.  I have also heard of families fleeing unrest in their homelands, but they continue to carry with them the constant distrust and suspicion they had experienced prior to coming here.   I began to think about the daily trials and tribulations of these groups of people who have come to the U.S. in search of something better.  I realized that just because immigrants don't have to stop at Ellis Island anymore, they continue to experience the same fear and uncertainty that the immigrants of a century ago endured.
The language is just the first barrier to assimilating to a new world.  I was reminded of a situation I had to deal with a week or so ago, when two Asian girls were in tears due to some friendship difficulties and I was trying to help them see the other's perspective, but when it came right down to it, I could do nothing until they were able to communicate with each other in a manner to which they are accustomed.  That being said, it is also amazing to me how quickly the children learn a new language!  I have seen Kindergarten children come in with no English, and by second grade, they don't even have an accent from their native tongue!  For their parents, this transition is much harder because the window for the critical period for learning language has closed.  When I sit at parent teacher conferences, I try to put myself in the foreign-speaking parent's shoes and wonder what it must be like trying to piece together the comments made by the teacher about my child when I am only understanding every fifth word!   How incredibly frustrating - especially when you can read the worried expression on the teacher's face, but can't for the life of you understand what is being said!
Then fitting into a new community is another challenge for our current-day immigrants.  Again, the children seem to have an advantage because school provides them with an unavoidable opportunity to come in contact with other children.  They eat with them in the cafeteria and have the universal language of play during recess.  But what about the parent stuck at home, not sure of how to get around in this new place and who to trust when it comes to making friends?  I can only imagine it must be very lonely and intimidating to come to a PTA meeting when you have no one to sit with and don't understand much of what is being said.
So this year's Thanksgiving tourist trip to Ellis Island was supposed to be an historical  look back at the courage and determination of immigrants from the 1800's, however it provided me with the realization that today's immigrants face the same fears and hurdles that their ancestors experienced.   Being aware of their perpetual need to adapt and fit in, both in terms of their language and their culture, is something that we all need to be sensitive to.  Recognizing the sacrifices that they have endured in their immigration and honoring the time it takes to settle in is something we must respect.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Opportunities for Character Development come wrapped in a Halloween Costume

Remember when Halloween meant your mom was either going to cut holes in a white pillow case to transform you into a ghost or you wore all black with a cape and poof – you were a bat!?  Remember when the only activity to celebrate Halloween was trick-or-treating and eating the candy as you went from house to house without a care? 
Today, things are very different for our kids and for us as parents!  Now we get a 20 page catalog in the mail from Party City with every imaginable super hero, villain, princess or fairy costume! (Slightly overwhelming for the child who has trouble making decisions!) For the older set we have the added enticement of the Pop-up Halloween stores like Halloween Scene which carry costumes that can make even Alice-in-Wonderland seem dirty!  And on top of that, there are the social stressors that surround the numerous activities associated with Halloween. It is so critical that we as parents help our children navigate the social waters of this potentially stressful season.  I will share with you some of the most common difficulties that have been shared with me and some ways for us to support our children so that there are less “Tricks” and more “Treats” at Halloween.
One major issue that rears its ugly head at this time of the year is the issue of inclusion and exclusion.  Often times, children decide they would like to dress alike or dress as members of a group for their Halloween costumes.  This invariably creates a problem with someone being left out of the group.  It is important to ask your child who is involved and if they’ve considered everyone when planning this group costume.  If you know of someone being left out, suggest to your child that they include the other child in the group in some way.  This helps them develop the ability to take another’s perspective and to be inclusive of others.  The positive feeling they will get from the child who is being included will be the best “treat” your child could get at Halloween.
Another issue that is as common place as pumpkins and black cats during this month is that of commitment.  I frequently hear the laments of students who say, “We agreed that we would be devils together and now she/he said they want to be something else with someone else!!”  These children are disappointed and disillusioned in the friendship they had with the other child.  Even if there has been a falling out between the children which prompted the one child to want to change costumes and abandon that friend, it is important for us as parents to point out the importance of commitment to a friend.  Children need to learn that it is not always easy to do the right thing, but when you make a promise to someone, it is very important to follow through on that promise.  Knowing that you will not support their decision to drop that friend and change costumes may prompt your child to think of a way to work out the conflict that may have arisen between the two children instead of simply walking away from the commitment.  And aren’t problem solving and conflict resolution skills what we truly want our children to develop as they grow and mature?
Now what if your child is the one who is left out of a group or has not been approached by anyone to go trick-or-treating with them?  This pain can be worse than the stake through the vampire’s heart for us parents to bear, but again it gives us the chance to provide our children with valuable skills for building self-reliance and independence. Instead of allowing your child to throw a “pity-party” for themselves because they are feeling left-out and alone, you may need to rehearse with your child ways to ask another child to join them trick-or-treating instead of waiting to be asked by someone.  Giving them the confidence they need to take the first step will be so much more empowering than just agreeing with them that the children in the class or neighborhood are mean and inconsiderate for not including them in their Halloween plans. 

Who knew a simple holiday could provide us with so many wonderful opportunities to teach our children the life lessons of consideration of others, commitment to each other, problem-solving and self-reliance and independence!  Here’s to a happy and character-building Halloween!