Tag Archives: children

sad boy in gray sweater sitting on the floor

Educator shares bullying prevention tips

By Samantha Childs

Whether it is nasty comments shared across the cafeteria table, or targeted humiliation campaigns on social media, bullying is everywhere. Author and educator, Samantha Childs, shares her personal experience of being both a child who was tormented for her physical features and one who poked fun at another.

Samantha’s Story

“Egghead! Egghead!” The whispered words hit the back of my head, neck, and ears like the snap of rubber bands on bare skin. 

I was 13 years old, at a new middle school, and the only girl in the all-boys study hall. 

I stared down at my textbook and notebook in front of me, watching as the words before me became an illegible word soup. My heart pounded in my ears and I silently plead with the universe, “No.”

The Teasing Continued

“Egghead! Egghead! Egghead! Egghead! Egghead.” The chanting spread, like a wildfire. Like joy. Every boy chanted that biting word. It jumped from desk to desk, from mouth to mouth. The whole class was there – even the shy blond boy who was my crush. And they were all chanting at me.

The bravest thing I could muster was to lift my eyes from my desk, to the face of the teacher in front of the room. But he would not look back. 

I must deserve it, I told myself. The only way the world made sense was if I deserved to be treated this way. My forehead was big, and that made me unlovable. Something had to be deeply wrong with me for everyone to dislike me. The boys chanting, my old friends abandoning me, the girls and boys ignoring me. It had to be me. I felt ashamed for existing. 

Middle school can be rough

(Image Alt Text: child sits crossed-legged with hands over eyes surrounded by children pointing and laughing at them)

The Pain Of Being Bullied Can Last A Lifetime

My heart aches for that younger me. And I still hear her voice in my ear, worrying that others won’t like her or telling me that she doesn’t think she is good enough. (I hear it even now writing this article.) Sometimes we take the bullies with us, internally, because we think it’s keeping us safe, and in check. We don’t want to be caught off guard again. The fall – and even more, the shock of the fall – hurt too much the first time. 

Bullying leaves such a lasting effect, I think because it unearths a core fear within us that we aren’t lovable. This fear can spring up into our lives in so many countless annoying ways, wanting to be seen and healed. In my own life, I’ve found that with almost every problem I have, when I dig deep enough, that is the little gem I find: the fear that I am unlovable. And I say gem because, behind that fear, when we rub it off like dirt, is the beautiful truth that the fear isn’t real – it’s just a fear – and that we are all lovable, exactly as we are. Even thirteen-year-old me and her big forehead and tear brimmed eyes.

Bullying Affects Everyone

After I wrote a children’s book about bullying, so many people told me their own personal stories. While experiencing bullying feels so isolating when it happens to you, the truth is that bullying touches all lives, jabbing its boney finger right into our ribcages. Ouch. Some had been bullied. Some had bullied. Some had witnessed it.  Most, if we are honest with ourselves, I think have experienced bullying from each of those viewpoints. This is not always comfortable to admit. But it is ok. We are lovable, foibles and all.

I once told a classmate that she had very long toes. (Interestingly, I also have very long toes.) The whole class started laughing with such fervor. I felt stunned – and also, like a bully. The laughing was too strong. I have thought about this and felt badly about it for decades. I wish I could take back my comment, not because I intended it to be mean – it was more careless – but because I didn’t like it being attached to the laughter that followed it. And I didn’t like that small feeling of power and acceptance that I felt while they laughed. I wanted it – to be loved and accepted, especially at that time in my life when I was ignored and bullied everyday- but I didn’t want it that way. Girl with the beautiful toes, I am so sorry. 

How To Prevent Bullying

Now, I am frequently asked for advice on bullying, especially for parents raising children in a world where bullying now occurs both on the playground and in the digital realms as well. Here are a few things that come to mind:

Set An Example

Think about how you speak when you are behind closed doors with your family. When you are saying critical things about others (even celebrities) your children are listening. When you stand up for others, even just in conversations, your children are listening. 

Read Books About Bullying

Read children’s books about bullying and talk about them afterwards. How would you have felt if you were bullied? What could you have done to get help? What could you do if you saw someone bullying? Could you make the situation better or worse? Why do you think that people bully others? Make it fun and not feel like a lecture!

Let Your Child Know They Are Loved

In every way, let your child know that they don’t have to be perfect (or anywhere near it) to be loved. They are lovable exactly as they are, always. Tell them this with words. With books. With actions. And let them know that they can come to you, no matter what, and that you will help them. Shame is often a huge deterrent in kids not reaching out to their parents for help.  When it happened to me, I was too ashamed to reach out to my mom, and, super-parent that she is, she had to do detective work and volunteer at my school’s library to uncover what was happening to me. 

Utilize Available (Free) Resources

Get free resources from the experts. An organization I love is PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. They have amazing resources for parents and kids. 

Be Kind To Yourself

First of all, you deserve it. You deserve your love. Second, you are your child’s role model. How you treat yourself and speak to yourself is an example to your child of how they should treat and speak to themselves. 

About The Author

Samantha Childs is an author and teacher from Solana Beach, California. She holds a BA in Literature from Claremont McKenna College, a JD from UCLA School of Law, and an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Columbia University. Her new award-winning children’s book, Henri and the Magnificent Snort: A Children’s Book about Bullying, Belonging, and Lovetells her experience with bullying through the story of her French bulldog, Henri, who is bullied in the story because he snorts. He then learns that he is lovable, snorts and all! Samantha inspires others to see their own magnificence and the beautiful truth that we are all lovable, snorts and all. 

anonymous black woman with daughter sitting on bed near retro alarm clock

This small change made school mornings much smoother

If you struggle to get your child to the bus stop on time, or always feel like you are rushing to make school drop-off, I know you have researched multiple tips to ensure a speedier, stress-free way of getting your child to school on time.

My Child Was Easily Distracted In The Morning

I am the parent of a child who dawdles in the morning, and, if left unchecked, would stay in his PJs happily building LEGOS or drawing. Now, before, anyone jumps on this sentence as a means of suggesting he’s not enjoying school, know that, my kid does indeed like going to school. He is not trying to stall in order to miss or be late to school; he just struggles to understand the concept of time and how to manage it accordingly.

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a child touching father s face

5 tips for a better family vacation

Memorial Day weekend is almost here, bringing the unofficial start of summer and the start of vacation season.

With two children ages eight and ten, my husband and I have experienced many family vacations, and, over the years, I have picked up some helpful tips to make these trips more enjoyable.

Pack Smart

Packing smart doesn’t mean skimping on what you need for a trip. It means being mindful of what you must have on a trip in order to make it as enjoyable experience as possible. For some families, electronics are a must to ensure a calm and peaceful journey, for others, disconnecting is important. Some families prefer to bring their own outdoor gear, others find it better to rent at their destination.

When packing you need to think about the benefits and disadvantages of each item you bring. Whether traveling by car, plane or train, you never have infinite space, so being mindful matters.

If you have more stuff than you can handle and you must have certain items on your trip, consider shipping to your hotel. Often this costs less than paying extra baggage fees (if traveling by air) and is easy enough to arrange. When my family went on a trip sponsored by my husband’s company, I knew I couldn’t pack all the diapers and other items I needed for my youngest, who was an infant at the time. I was able to coordinate the shipment of diapers and other products to the hotel and everything was there on arrival.

Get A Place With A Kitchen

Family travel can be costly, and the idea of spending more on an accommodation that includes a kitchen may seem foolish. Yes, in some cases, your initial trip investment will go up, but the savings on meals, not to mention avoiding the often disastrous experience of dining out with small children is well worth it. Furthermore, vacation rentals are often a better value than standard hotels, and deals can be found if you are flexible with your dates and/or willing to stay further from the main attractions of your destination.

Even though my kids are better at behaving at restaurants these days, I still prefer the having our own space for meals when we travel. I like that we can wake up when we want and not have to worry about finding a place for breakfast or waiting online at a mediocre breakfast buffet. I like that if we don’t have to think about reservations. And, I like that if we want to eat a meal out, we always have the option to do so.

We keep our meals very simple. (Think lots of pasta, cereal and sandwiches), and pack much of what we need ahead of time (if we are driving). At our destination, we will pick up milk and other perishables.

What about all-inclusives? My little experience with all-inclusives has been underwhelming. I appreciate the convenience, but most of the time the food is average at best, and you still run in to a lot of the same challenges you would if you had to rely on restaurants. However, if you must do an all-inclusive, bring some food storage bags and use them to take some extras of things like muffins and bananas to have on hand in case your child wakes up hungry before the buffet opens.

Have A Mix Of Planned And Unplanned Time

There are people who plan every moment of their vacations, and there are people who just want to see what happens. Neither approach is ideal when it comes to family travel. Too many planned activities is exhausting, however, if your family has must-dos on their list, most often you can’t just show up and expect to participate. Popular activities often require reservations ahead of time, often months in advance. Smart planning also takes advantage of things like museum and transit passes.

While it is tempting to fill every moment of your vacation days with something to do, always being on the go can be exhausting. Kids (and adults) need time to recharge, and often the best vacation memories can be made on those “lazy” days.

These laid-back days are also when you are most likely to get the true vibe of wherever you are visiting. Taking it slow allows your family to better experience the local culture, people and environment.

Don’t Make it Just About The Kids

A family vacation is just that, a FAMILY vacation. Everyone, including the adults should enjoy the trip. Of course, there will be activities that are more for the children, and it is OK if that is the main focus of the trip. Just be sure to include activities you enjoy, even if they aren’t what your kids might choose.

As a child I was dragged to many sites I had little interest in, and, yes, I complained. Now that I am an adult, I can appreciate how much I learned from being exposed to interesting and unusual places.

Aim to have at least one activity for each person in your family to enjoy. For you it might be a museum, for your partner, it might be a site of historic significance, for your kids, it might be a candy shop. This gives everyone a chance to experience something they truly enjoy, and opens up the rest of the family to things they may not have chosen to do on their own.

Say Yes More

Vacationing with children is hard enough without stressing over what they eat or getting them to bed. Let them have ice cream every night and stay up well past their normal bedtime. Or, if that much deviation from the routine would be too hard on your family, consider allowing for some small perks like an extra hour of device time or letting your kids purchase a small souvenir item.

Saying yes more opens you up to new possibilities as well. If your kids want to explore a place not on your list, or if you see a tempting roadside eatery, saying, “yes,” may lead to the highlight of your trip.

Traveling with children will never be 100% stress free, but with some careful planning and an open mind, family vacations can be a great experience for all.

assorted color heart shaped candies

It’s OK if you don’t want to get your kids stuff for Valentine’s Day

Every year on Valentine’s Day, my dad would buy my mom box of chocolates. My siblings and I were grateful for any our mother would share, knowing full well those were her chocolates.

After all, at least as we understood it, Valentine’s Day was a holiday for grown-ups, and more specifically, for grown-ups in a relationship.

We weren’t showered with candy and gifts, because the holiday wasn’t about us.

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person holding and taking selfie using a smartphone

Does my fifth grader “need” a smartphone?

My oldest will soon be 10 years old, and, with each year, he is becoming one of fewer and fewer kids his age with their own phone. He has known children with smartphones since he was in Kindergarten, and has expressed interest in one ever since.

Before he was nine, I wouldn’t even address the question of getting him a phone. I believe (and still do), he had no valid reason for having one, and trusted that he was always with a reliable individual (whether a teacher, relative or activity leader), who had access to a phone and my information should he ever be in trouble.

Still, I understand the desire to want to enable our kids to be able to reach us if/when they are in trouble or scared. My son is growing more independent, and if a phone could help ease some of my worries and allow him to do more on his own, it may not be a terrible solution.

This thought occurred to me last month, when my son wanted to march in our town’s Homecoming Parade with the Middle School. When I dropped him off, there was no clear adult in charge (though there were some present), and it was a loud chaotic mess of teens, floats and excitement.

I hesitated and asked my son if he wanted to stay. He said he did, and though I felt concerned about his welfare, I agreed, got back in my car and drove off to meet my husband and our seven-year-old with whom I’d be watching the parade.

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flat lay photography of variety of vegetables

Simple tips to encourage plant-based eating in your home

I began limiting animal-based foods from my diet when I was in college, mainly because I never loved the texture of most meat, and I was drawn to the idea that cutting back on such food could be beneficial to the environment. I went back and forth on what exactly I included in my diet, eventually settling in my comfort zone, which is as a technical pescatarian (though my fish intake is limited), who is currently limiting dairy.

For me, cutting back on meat is simple, as I enjoy many fruits, vegetables, nuts and other plant-based products. I am perfectly happy with a salad filled with colorful ingredients, and can put together a full meal entirely of sides at even the most meat-centric restaurant. My kids, however, do not share my love of veggies, and getting them to think of greens, whole grains, legumes and other plant-based foods as tasty parts of a healthy diet has been a futile effort. Like many parents, meat-eaters or not, I stress about whether my kids are eating enough nutritious foods (spoiler: mine probably are not).

Social media makes me believe every other family has kids who happily eat platefuls of raw spinach, while I am happy with mine eating a few pieces of lettuce at dinner. What I am learning, however, is no family is perfect, and that we need to take a deep breath and realize we are all probably doing much better than we realize. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak with Brooke Brimm, a mom, advocate and champion of plant-based eating. Brooke, who has been vegan for many years, believes adding plant-based foods shouldn’t be a negative or stressful experience. In our chat on Instagram, Brooke shares how eating more vegan foods is not about shaming meat or meat eaters, nor is it about projecting our own needs onto our family. She urges her followers to make food a positive experience and to embrace the myriad of ways many of us (our kids especially) enjoy eating.

Keep reading to see more great tips from Brooke.

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This Mother’s Day, let’s commit to giving moms the care and protection we deserve

I am writing this just a day after the news broke about the likelihood of the United States Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and bringing the issue of abortion back to the states. What this means is those in need of abortion services will no longer be protected by federal law, and instead their reproductive rights will be at the whim of their state legislature.

For women like me, who live in states like New York, nothing will change. However, for the thousands of women who live in states poised to enact the strictest abortion laws in the country, the overturning of Roe means they may be forced to spend obscene amounts to go out of state for an abortion, resort to unsafe and/or illegal alternatives, or continue a pregnancy they do not want.

As a mother who has carried two children in my womb, I know with a full heart the joy and wonder of bringing life into this world. I do not take this lightly, and I reject anyone who suggests those of us who are pro-choice are callous, uncaring supporters of “baby murder.” It is because of my experience with having a healthy, supported and welcomed pregnancy that I more than ever want to ensure that others have the same.

The ability to choose when to have a child is just part of the bigger picture for ensuring women and mother’s are protected. For those who choose to carry a child, we need to do a far greater job of providing them with comprehensive prenatal and post natal care.

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Croquet is the friendly lawn game you must try

If you just finished watching the second season of Bridgerton, you likely noticed how prominent a role croquet played in highlighting the smoldering, competitive chemistry between the Viscount Anthony Bridgerton and Miss Kate Schwarma.

Or, you might be fonder of Heathers and how croquet was used to show the divide between the haves and the have-nots.

And who could forget the memorable scene in Disney’s version of Alice In Wonderland, where Alice was forced to play a highly unusual and markedly unfair game against the Queen of Hearts?

For years, croquet has captured us through pop culture, and may even seem a bit exclusive. However, this centuries old game really is for everyone.

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Buddha Board brings mindfulness and creativity home

Throughout my life, I have used creativity to ease my mind, reduce stress, and turn off the world for a moment.

I enjoy oil painting, for example, and love how I can get lost in the mixing of paints and the strokes of my brush on canvas.

Oil painting, however, involves a lot of prep work, and sometimes, I don’t want to be bothered.

Sometimes, I just want a quick and simple way to express myself artistically.

Enter the Buddha Board, an art and meditation tool, I was introduced to a few weeks ago.

The Buddha Board enables the user paint freely using only water. No need to find paints or clean brushes between strokes. All you need is your brush and good ole H20.

After a short time, your creation evaporates away leaving a blank canvas waiting for your next moment of inspiration.

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Connecting environmental and racial justice on Tu B’Shvat and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

My nine-year-old and I were updating his PJ Library reusable wall calendar for January, when he noticed Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish holiday celebrating the new year of the trees, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, fall on the same day this year, Monday, January 17.

As we look ahead to Tu B’Shvat, we can be mindful of Dr. King’s work, how climate justice and racial justice are linked, and how we can bridge the Jewish values of caring for our planet and working toward a more just world together.

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King’s words continue to ring true, as we look back on his legacy and wonder if we have gotten closer to achieving his dream for an equitable world.

While Tu B’Shvat is traditionally a holiday focused on trees, specifically the trees of Israel, and celebrating the land, the festival can be used an opportunity for both Jews and non-Jews a like to consider the topic of environmental justice.

Tu B’Shvat is the perfect time to ask ourselves, and our children, do we have access to clean water? Can we breathe clean air? Do we live in a place that is safe from the impact of hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters? Are we close to parks, nature centers, and other places for appreciating the environment?

If the answer to these questions is yes, we can take the opportunity to think about how others might be living, and note how environmental inequality is very much an issue in the U.S. and beyond.

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