What Potty Training Actually Looked Like For Us- Keepin’ It Real!

Naked and three days. That’s what you’ll hear again and again regarding potty training and that’s the method most people I know use. But I’m here to tell you that for us, it certainly wasn’t three days. Here’s what the process looked like for us.

First of all, know that all kids are different and it’s in everyone’s best interest to wait until your child is ready. We first gave potty training a go when my daughter was 2 years and 4 months. She was showing many signs of being ready but, after two days of staying home and keeping her naked from the waist down, she was no where near 50% success; she was literally peeing everywhere! We decided to stop and it was definitely for the best.

We tried again when she was 2 years and 7 months and this time was much different right from the start. On the first day, she only had one accident! I couldn’t believe the difference three months made- she really understood what was going on. The following days were not as great as day one but she was easily at 75% success so I knew we were on the right track.

We stayed home as much as possible for the first few weeks. I tried to put underwear on her at home but she would just pee in them. I used pull-ups for nap time and bed time and when we would go out. We were very successful when she was naked but if she had underwear or a pull-up on, she treated it like a diaper. I was beginning to get frustrated.

I decided it must be the pull-ups. I stopped using them for outings and nap time (I still use them for bed time) and just keep her naked from the waist down whenever we were home. And THAT was the magic that worked for us! For my daughter, feeling anything down there must have reminded her of a diaper. After a full month of this strategy, she was 90% potty trained and went many days without accidents.

The Details

Before you start, gather your supplies. Here is what we used.

 

 

It turns out my little one wasn’t interested in the sticker chart at all so I used “pee pee candy”- one single M&M.  Knowing kids very commonly have an issue with going #2 on the potty, I made the reward for that a lollipop (a small Dum Dum). (I realize there are many opinions about using candy as a reward but this is what worked for us so please no judgement!). We keep one potty in the car and that has been a lifesaver!

Know that taking your child to pee in public SUCKS. I’m not going to sugar coat it. Bathrooms are dirty and they’ll want to touch everything. In the beginning you’ll have to take them every 15-30 minutes so be prepared to get to know every bathroom of the places you frequently visit. Watch this hilarious video on peeing in public with a toddler for a visual 🙂 The struggle is real, my friends!

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Momsplained- How to Teach a Toddler to Pee in Public

 

And that’s what potty training looked like in our house. We are two months in and she still occasionally has accidents; it’s not usually 100% for quite some time. I sometimes keep her naked from the waist down at home for sheer ease because she can’t fully pull down her pants by herself but if she’s naked she can go to the potty and wipe herself independently- hallelujah!

*This post may include affiliate links which means if you chose to buy something I mention, please do so using the links above. There is no additional cost to you and it’s a nice way to say thank you and help offset this Mom’s addiction to Amazon Prime*

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One simple thing you can do to make your house safer for your teens

You would have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the opioid crisis here in the US. In addition to opioids, teens have been known to get into prescription drugs (and even over-the-counter drugs such as Nyquil and cough syrups) looking for a free, easy high.

Its very easy to overlook these articles and bypass these stories, thinking “my kid would never…” but rest assured that many parents of those kids thought the exact same thing.

So today I urge you to do one simple thing to make your house safer for your teens-

Lock up your prescription medicine and any potentially dangerous over-the-counter medicines in a safe.

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It’s easier than you think. I ordered my medicine safe on Amazon for under $40. My husband, who is not particularly handy, installed it in minutes. I wouldn’t describe this particular safe as heavy-duty but we don’t have many prescription drugs in our home so this fits our needs. There are many more larger, more substantial safes on the market. Find one that fits the needs of your home and order it today.

This is a no-brainer. I hope and pray that it will never by “my kid” or “your kid” but it is always someone’s kid so lets take that extra step of precaution to keep them safe.

*This post may include affiliate links which means if you chose to buy something I mention, please do so using the links above. There is no additional cost to you and it’s a nice way to say thank you and help offset this Mom’s addiction to Amazon Prime*

Friday Favs

Friday Favs- a spot where I share my favorite products, apps, sites, articles, and moments from the week.

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What’s better than hygge?

Have you heard of Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) ? It should be everyone’s winter goal this year! Hygge is a danish word that is more of a feeling than a wordit’s finding simplicity and creating cozy moments throughout the winter months, which we all need more of. Check these articles out for the basics… How to Master the Art of Hygge, The Hygge Phenomenon and this great book, Making Winter: A Hygge Inspired Guide to the Winter Months.

Going along with the idea of Hygge, another topic I’ve been hearing about is eating and drinking only warm foods. Winter is a great time to start.

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My oldest loves bees. It’s a passion for her and she recently did this awesome project for a college class. So what better gift than honey that not only tastes great but has amazing health benefits? Here’s what’s going in her stocking and why.

Lets talk advent calendars. When my girls were little I never did them because I wanted to stay away from excess candy. Now there’s so many non-candy options to choose from!

 

We chose this one and I’m loving it! Advent calendar from Crayola

I couldn’t leave my teen out so I picked up this 12 Days of Beauty from Target.  Target also makes many different 12 Days of Socks sets. How fun!

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After so many years of not buying Barbies, I must admit that picking up this year’s Holiday Barbie made me exceedingly happy. It’s a great tradition to begin- my girls were always so excited to see the special Barbie Santa would bring 🙂

Have a great weekend and enjoy the snow if you’re getting any!

*This post includes affiliate links which means if you chose to buy something I mention, please do so using the links above. There is no additional cost to you and it’s a nice way to say thank you and help offset this Mom’s addiction to Amazon Prime*

Juuling Basics- A MUST READ for anyone who has a child in middle/high school

I find myself envying my parents more and more these days when it comes to raising teenagers. Gone are the days when your child would come home and you could give them the once over- pull them close and give them a good sniff- and detect if they’ve been smoking cigarettes or pot. E- cigarettes, AKA vaping, AKA Juuling, has taken smoking to a whole new level.

The Basics (taken from E-cigarettes and vaping: Everything you need to know)

  • E-cigarettes are battery operated inhalers that consist of a rechargeable battery, a cartridge called a cartomizer and an LED that lights up at the end when you puff on the device.
  • Vaping is defined as the act of inhaling water vapor through a personal vaporizer or electronic cigarette. When users draw on the device, the battery heats the liquid, which is then atomized into an inhalable vapor.
  • Juul is a specific, very popular type of vaporizer.

So in essence when you hear about “Juuling”, you are hearing about vaping and e-cigarettes.

 

What You Need To Know

What it looks like…

 

 

 

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A Juul looks just like a USB drive and could very easily be overlooked or mistaken for something else. They also sell skin decal wraps in the most popular brands.

What it smells like…

The vapor from Juul smells super, super sweet. I’m talking toothache sweet. If your child is Juuling, you may be able to pick up the fruity scent on them. They come in flavors such as creme brulee, mango, and fruit medley. Kids are Juuling in school (bathrooms, cafeterias, even in the classrooms! because there is no scent of smoke and the vapor disappears in an instant.

Why it’s dangerous…

Kids are under the very wrong impression that juuling is not dangerous. While it’s true, e-cigarettes and Juul do not have tobacco, they do have nicotine. In fact, one juul pod has as much nicotine as an entire pack of traditional cigarettes.

Another danger is the possibility of something called popcorn lung. Diacetyl (which is found in Juul) is a buttery flavored chemical. “When inhaled, diacetyl causes bronchiolitis obliterans – more commonly referred to as “popcorn lung” – a scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways. While the name “popcorn lung” may not sound like a threat, it’s a serious lung disease that causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, similar to the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” (taken from Popcorn Lung: A Dangerous Risk of Flavored E-Cigarettes)

It’s also important to note that these devices can be modified to use THC oil. A quick search on youtube and your child will know how to if he/she has the desire.

 

The most dangerous thing of all, in my opinion, is that the same kids who think cigarettes are disgusting think juuling is cool. It literally checks all the boxes- it looks “cool”, it smells good, it tastes good and it charges like all of their other devices. Boys, especially, are very into doing tricks with the vapor and even have instagram accounts set up to document it all.

What’s a parent to do?

Stay informed. Talk to your kids- A LOT. Do spot checks on their phones (when you check their phones, make sure to check their pictures and screenshots) and every now and again, give a quick look in their rooms/backpacks. Make sure they know how dangerous juuling is and that it is addictive. Good luck- we all need it!

Think your kid is Juuling? Pick up a nicotine test kit.

 

Transitioning From a Crib to a BIG GIRL/BOY BED

This experienced mom made a rookie mistake.

I thought the transition from a crib to a toddler bed would be no big deal, when in fact any change for a two year old is a very big deal. Take my advice and follow these tips for the smoothest transition possible.

My best piece of advice? WAIT AS LONG AS POSSIBLE. My daughter climbed out of the crib once and I thought she needed a bed right away. I should have waited to see if that was a fluke or an actual issue.

 

Assuming you are ready and have waited as long as possible, first, choose the bed. You may want to consider just placing a mattress on the floor. There are also some really adorable floor beds on Etsy. Whether you choose to use your crib mattress or go straight to a twin, the most important thing is your child needs to be able to get in and out easily to foster independence.

Most toddler beds come with some type of rail but it proved basically useless for my kid. These magic bumpers were a wonder and so inexpensive.

It’s important to mention, if you haven’t already, you must completely baby proof the entire room. Attach dressers and bookshelves and anything else that could tip over to the wall. Cover all outlets. Make sure all windows are properly secured. Your child is about to get a taste of freedom and they’re certainly going to use it!

Next, plan what you will do if (more likely, WHEN) you child will attempt to exit their room. If you currently shut their door after you put them to bed, this may continue to work. If you don’t or if they can open the door, have this extra tall gate on hand. I would say have it on hand regardless. You can put it in place and still shut the door- then it just serves as an insurance policy that they are not wandering the halls at all hours.

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My daughter sitting on the floor, very unhappy she could no longer wander the halls (we practiced “fading” and would first sit close to the gate, then in the hallway where she could see us, and then in the hallway out of sight)

Finally, pick up one of these handy “OK to Wake” alarm clocks. Even though my kid is far from understanding actual time, she gets that green means it time to wake up. When she calls for me at 5am, I ask her to look at her clock and see if it’s green. She says no and *mostly* goes back to sleep 🙂 🙂 🙂

Be prepared that you might need to sleep train your child all over again. Hopefully these tips and products will make it as easy as possible for you!

*This post includes affiliate links which means if you chose to buy something I mention, please do so using the links above. There is no additional cost to you and it’s a nice way to say thank you and help offset this Mom’s addiction to Amazon Prime*

 

 

College Move-In- What You Need To Know

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The decision has been made! Wahooooooooo!                So now what?!

I can’t believe it’s been six months since my oldest decided where she was going to go to school. It both feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago, which speaks to how busy the last few months have been. Here you’ll find some tips on what to do as soon as the big decision has been made, the best way to tackle move-in for out-of-state parents and some great dorm extras.

First things first, do these 3 things RIGHT AWAY!

  • Pay deposit for school AND housing ASAP if you haven’t done so already (I suggest paying the housing deposit on your child’s top two as soon as they get in)
  • Book hotel and flights (if necessary) for move-in and Parents’ Weekend. Hotels in college towns book quickly and prices go through the roof!
  • Join the university’s parent groups on Facebook. They are a tremendous resource.

The Prep

For us, shopping before hand wasn’t an option since we were flying to Tallahassee from Connecticut. This caused me great deal of stress in the months leading up to move-in because I couldn’t wrap my head around how this would work, logistically speaking. After countless hours planning and organizing, here is what worked for us.

First, we did something called a “pack and hold” at our local Bed, Bath and Beyond and chose the pick up location to be a store close to her school. We waited until their college event because they offer you a 20% off your entire order coupon which can be used again and again until October 1st (as you can imagine, that was a God send!). The great thing is you can add anything and everything to your list and then, when you go to pick up, you can decide what you still wanted and what you no longer needed (you pay when you pick up).

When we flew down, my daughter packed in three large duffles. She brought a lot of clothes and shoes and a handful of personal items. We also had a few things that we had picked up for the dorm because either they didn’t have at Bed, Bath and Beyond or she just really liked it (I also hid away her “Open when…” cards and gifts in a small storage ottoman). She did not bring any toiletries because we planned on buying everything there. We also placed a large order to DormCo for their desk hutch, a mini-refrigerator shelf and some other random things. I set this up to be delivered to the UPS store on campus and then paid a small fee to have them deliver it directly to the dorm.

 

We arrived in Tallahassee the day before move-in. After checking into our hotel, we picked up everything at BBB and then did a major Target run for everything that was still on our list. The car was packed and we were exhausted after a day of travel and lots and lots of shopping. We washed all her bed sheets and blankets in the hotel so they would be ready to put on the bed the next day.

The Day is Finally Here 🙂 😦

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Unfortunately, my daughter got stuck in the oldest and smallest dorm on campus. In order to make the best of the situation, I watched many “dorm tours” of her particular dorm on youtube to see how kids had it set up (just go to youtube and type in the name of the college and the particular dorm and it most likely will pop right up). This was a life saver!

When we entered the room, we knew exactly what to expect and how we planned on arranging the beds. I had ordered a carpet from the school so it was waiting in the room for us. My husband started to arrange the beds and put together stuff and I put on my gloves and started cleaning the bathroom.

There were a few things we didn’t expect and that we forgot so an additional Target run and BBB run were necessary- plan on that.

With a lot of time spent online (if you’re not familiar with Pinterest, now is a good time to check it out) and some hard work and $$, we managed to turn a very small, blahhh room into something cozy, comfortable, and perfect for our girl.

 

 

Dorm Extras

You can easily find a million lists of the necessities to pack for college so I’m only going to mention the “extras” that I thought were really helpful or just very nice 🙂

 

Tapestries (Urban Outfitters has a ton to chose from) and lights are also a must these days. Since her closet did not have doors (WTH?), we used a pole and a shower curtain and it worked great.

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Finally, this “snack hack” using an over-the-door shoe organizer was a big hit from the moment it was filled 🙂 (this is the pic she sent me today- I’m loving that they keep it filled!)

I won’t even begin to get into the emotional aspect of move-in day- that’s another post for another day!

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Choosing a Preschool

Just six short months ago I was spending my days and nights researching colleges for my 18 year old. Fast forward to my last three weeks visiting five nursery schools, with two more schools scheduled to visit next week. Is choosing a preschool really such a big deal? I believe so and I’ll do my best to explain why and what you should be looking for in a quality preschool program.

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Me and my now 14 year old (!) at a Mothers’ Day event at her preschool

When to Send

At two? At three? At four? Back in the day, preschool literally meant “before school” and that was typically at the age of 4. Nowadays, it can be used to describe a two’s program. So when is the right time? Research shows that there is no benefit to child attending a program before the age of three. Now for my two older children, I was working full time and it was not a choice. For many of us, it is not a choice. In that case, you should look for the highest quality program you can afford- focusing not only on the facility but also on the educational backgrounds of the caregivers.

To put it simply, most children under three are not equipped with the skills needed to interact with other children successfully and may not be ready to separate.

Of course, there are exceptions and there are children who do amazing in the twos and there will be children at three who are not ready. Every child is an individual. This is also not to say that sending your child to a twos program will hurt them; research just shows that it does not have a measurable benefit.

“There is no evidence that daycare is advantageous to children from middle-class families,” Oliver James writes in his most recent book, How Not To F*** Them Up. “If daycare is as distressing to under-threes as many researchers believe, it would not be surprising if it affected their cortisol levels: when distressed we usually secrete the hormone.”

Here are some additional articles that discuss when is the right time to send children to school.

Preschool/Nursery School/Daycare

These terms are often used interchangeably but there are subtle differences.

  • A preschool tends to focus on learning and development
  • A nursery school tends to focus on play and socialization
  • A daycare tends to focus on the care of young children

Not surprisingly, many of these places, even if they call themselves one thing or another, incorporate all of the ideals mentioned above in the day of a young child,

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Different Philosophies (most common)

Play– The focus of the day is learning through play. Any academic skills are taught through theme-based activities. The teacher serves as a facilitator of learning, not as a direct instructor.

Academic– In an academic-based preschool, the teacher is the direct instructor. Children spend the majority of the day learning letters, letter sounds, numbers, colors, shapes and handwriting.

Montessori– The Montessori method is known as a child-centered learning approach. Children are placed in mixed age classrooms and learn through working with carefully chosen materials set at their level. Teachers are specifically trained in the Montessori method.

Cooperative– Known more commonly as a “co-op”, cooperative schools may have varying philosophies but the main thing is that parents are very involved in the classroom, often working along side the teachers.

Check out this article on preschool philosophies.

What to look for (in no order) and questions you should be asking

  1. Secure facilities– How difficult was it for you to get in? Was the door locked? We’re you buzzed in? ASK– Do classroom doors lock? Do they have a policy for lockdowns and lockouts? Who can come into the classroom at any given time?
  2. Classroom setup– Look to see if materials and board (if there is one) is at a child’s eye-level. Are there bathrooms in the classroom? This is important for young kids who are still working on independent bathroom skills.
  3. Teacher backgrounds– Certification to work in a preschool varies by state. In most areas, all someone needs is a certificate earned in as little as two weeks. ASK– Do head/lead teachers have degrees in education? Are all employees CPR trained? Do all employees undergo background checks?
  4. Curriculum– There is no set curriculum a preschool must follow. There are, however, guidelines set by the state. ASK– Does the school follow the state guidelines? Are teachers responsible for creating lesson plans? Who decides what is done in the classroom on a daily basis?
Other important questions to ask-
  • How do they deal with a child who is having difficulty separating?
  • What is their potty training policy?
  • How do they handle discipline issues?
  • Is the school/classroom nut free?

Closing Thoughts

Preschool may be your child’s first time away from you on a regular basis and will be their first educational experience. This experience will shape their feelings and thoughts toward school, peers, and usually the first non-family adults they will spend time with regularly. Choose wisely!

Cyberbullying- Could Your Child be a Target? (Guest Post!)

Today’s post comes to you from Laura Pearson. Laura created Edutude – she believes that every student has great potential and aims to help as many as possible unlock it. She also strives to find unique, creative ways for parents and educators to encourage students to be challenged, motivated and excited by learning.

Parents: Say No to Cyberbullying

There are plenty of times when kids should be left on their own to figure life out for themselves. For parents of children who are being cyberbullied, now is not the time for kids to be kids.
With the increasing prevalence of technology playing critical roles in children’s lives, parents must be aware of how to help their child avoid being cyberbullied and, if they are already, how to provide solutions that will cease the torment. This is especially true for parents who have recently moved, their child being rendered the “new kid in town,” which often makes them an easy target for bullies.

Prevention: The First Goal

If possible, parents should aim to prevent any instances of cyberbullying before they arise. The Cyber Bully Hotline suggests several strategies for preventing cyberbullying. While many pertain to instances of cyberbullying that have already occurred, it’s important for parents to be proactive in monitoring their child’s use of technology.

This means consistently enforcing rules about when a child can be on their phone or computer for the use of social media. While cyberbullying can’t be completely stymied through limited usage, the message inherent to these limitations goes deeper. Considering a McAfee study, which found that 87% of students ages 11 to 15 at one school had witnessed cyberbullying, it’s clear that the problem is virtually unavoidable. This means parents must fortify their own child so that they won’t be prone to the often-crippling effects that cyberbullying can have.

Children put far more stock in the perceptions of their peers than adults. For this reason, teaching a child that their worth shouldn’t be determined by the masses but instead by their true friends and family is crucial, and reinforcement of this message is never too frequent. For children who have recently moved, the home may be the only source of familiarity available, making the fostering of positivity all the more critical.

Start at Home

First and foremost, it’s important that home is a safe zone. Particularly when moving to a new city, it’s imperative to take the time to create a stress-free environment. This allows a child to have a place where they feel comfortable and safe, especially during such a rough transition as moving to a new school.

The greatest asset a parent can have in ensuring their child suffers no true harm as the result of cyberbullying is communication. Livestrong.com notes many of the benefits for children who live in a household with strong communication. These benefits include increased self-esteem, an ability to share feelings and emotions maturely, a decrease in “acting out,” and greater listening skills. All of these benefits can help a child develop a strong sense of self and the ability to confidently combat bullies in person, decreasing the chances of being persistently picked on.

A child who personifies a strong sense of self stands a better chance of understanding that bullies are not rational and that their words are not to be assigned any value. This type of child is equipped to succeed in any environment, which is why families who move to a new town must ensure that active communication throughout the move and after relocation is consistently practiced.

If a child does experience cyberbullying, they’re more likely to speak to their parents about the issue if household communication is strong. HASA notes that good communication in the home prepares a child to withstand even greater issues. Still, parents should make it clear that the child is not on their own and that should an issue arise, parents can intervene for the better without embarrassing the child.

When Problems Arise

If a parent finds out their child has experienced a form of cyber-torment, they should first talk to the child. Asking the child to be honest, probe whether the bullying is consistent, or whether it was a one-time instance that has not recurred.

If the problem is persistent, and the bully is known, a call by one or both parents to the offending child’s parent may be the quickest way to nip the problem in the bud. If the bully’s parent is not receptive to counseling and/or disciplining the child, any evidence of cyberbullying should be documented and brought to school administrators’ attention.

As stated, bullying is nearly unavoidable. When a student is different, whether due to their appearance, mannerisms, interests, or their status as new kid on the block, they can be particularly prone to being victimized. But parents can negate the potential damage of cyberbullying by maintaining open lines of communication and an atmosphere of safety and security at home. Not only will this enable a child to shake off the malevolence of self-loathing bullies, but also to feel comfortable disclosing any persistent issues to their parents. A strong mind is a strong child, and molding that strong mind starts at home.

Parenting in the Age of Social Media

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Social Media. For me personally, and I’m guessing many others, I have a love/hate relationship with it.

I love being able to keep up with friends and family all over the world and I love the wealth of information I gain from Facebook groups and by following topics of interest on Instagram. I love connecting with my kids on Snapchat and seeing snipets of their days.

I hate how it takes “keeping up with the Joneses” to an entirely new level and how we only see the highlight reels of everyone’s lives (for the most part). I hate how exclusion is now very much in our faces and how we thrive off of likes and comments on posts.

Regardless of how we feel, here we are. It’s 2017 and parenting through the age of social media is tough and it sometimes feels as though it’s impossible to keep up. Here are the basics as of September 2017; I’m sure I will need to update this again soon.

Social Media Accounts

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The big two- Instagram and Snapchat

If you have a tween or teen, you need to have these two accounts. There are various opinions regarding how much you should get involved in your child’s social media life (more on that to come) but I feel strongly that at the very least you need to have these apps so you know how they work.

Instagram– an app/site where you can post pictures. This, like many apps and websites, has evolved and will continue to evolve both in the features of the site AND how the kids use it. Today, I will be focusing on how 13-16 year olds tend to use these sites.

It is not uncommon for middle schoolers and high schoolers to have THOUSANDS of followers. Where kids used to post pics all the time, that has changed (they use snapchat for that now) and Insta is now more like a digital photo album- only the best, usually heavily filtered and edited, pictures get posted. The caption is very important and usually very clever (although most kids find these online so they aren’t even their own). When a picture is posted, the amount of likes and comments are watched like a hawk and if they aren’t getting the number of likes they expect, the picture may come down. It is very common for friends to comment multiple times to show their love. “Tagging” friends in pictures can be a very big deal. Friends expect tags even if they’re not in the picture and the position of the tag is also very important (many kids layer tags upon tags so you only see the top ones, hence being able to give many friends the tag but only the best friends’ names will show). I’m guessing at this moment you’re thinking this sounds stupid and complicated AND IT IS but this is a very, very big deal in a middle schooler’s life so if you want to stay in touch with what your child’s going through, you must keep up. Being left out of a picture by not getting a tag is equivalent to getting snubbed- it’s subtle but it sends a big message. Girls will then ask for a tag and the girl who left the tag off now has the power. (If you haven’t read Queen Bees and Wannabes you absolutely must). She can either be nice and say she forgot and add the tag or further complicate the situation and ignore the asker completely (read more about girls and social media here)

To further complicate your life, many kids also have a “Finsta”, which stands for “Fake Insta”. This is a more “fun” page where they will post funny, silly, random pictures to be viewed by only a select group of friends. These finstas have also been know to be used for bullying since most parents don’t know anything about them.

Snapchat a site where you can share quick pics that disappear within 24 hours. There is no “wall” or even a page like FB or Insta that you can go to to see your child’s account. The closest thing to that is on the main page where you can see peoples’ “stories”.

I’ll do a quick breakdown to explain how it’s used—

  • I take a picture. I can send it to an individual person or post on my story for all my friends to see (or both).
  • If I send you a picture everyday and you send me one back everyday, after 3 days we will have a “streak”. The more we communicate with each other, the longer the streak, thus highlighting our level of friendship. As you can see, streaks are very important (no one wants to lose a streak!).
  • Important things that I want everyone to see (pics or videos from a party, fun outing or plans with friends), I post on your story, much like I’d post on FB or Insta, except these will disappear after 24 hours.
  • Filters are fun.
  • If I open a picture, I am supposed to send one back right way, otherwise I “boxed” that person (this is a key difference between how older people and younger people use Snapchat- my college aged kid couldn’t care less about “boxing” but it’s important to my 14 year old). Kids will snap back pictures of the ground or other things that don’t even show anything just to “snapback”. This is strange to me but seems to make sense to middle schoolers.

An important note about Snapchat- kids these days are not texting much anymore; instead, they use Snapchat to message each other. It’s just like texting except it disappears, just like the pictures.

New, Very Dangerous Social Media Accounts

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Sarahah– It seems like the awful, anonymous apps just won’t go away. When my oldest was younger, it was askfm. Now it’s Sarahah. The appeal is strong to middle schoolers because it runs on the premise that you can get feedback anonymously. I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you how dangerous this can be and how quickly it turns mean and encourages online bullying. The day I read about it and shared an article on FB warning other parents, I saw a story on my daughter’s snapchat that said, “swipe up” with her Sarahah account info. Aaaahhhhh! I would not have seen this on her phone because it’s not an app but a site and if I hadn’t been on snapchat that day, I would have never known. The struggle is real. (More on Sarahah here)

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Omegle– Just read the description and you’ll know you’ll want your child to stay far, far away but unfortunately they’re using it. Taken from their website- “Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful.” Fantastic. Not too much to say about this one except to please speak to your kids about the dangers!

Other Social Media Accounts Worth Mentioning

Houseparty– A group video chat, much like Facetime or Skype except it’s with a group of people. This can be relatively harmless if your child is doing it with friends they know. The only downside is that kids can kick out others or “lock” the Houseparty which can lead to feelings of exclusion.

Musical.ly– Where kids can take video of themselves lip-syncing and dancing and share with “friends”. The premise is cute but make sure to monitor the content AND who’s has access to watch your child dance.

Facebook– not really a thing for the kids these days. My older daughter uses it to read and share articles and for the FB groups. My 14 year old has an account but zero interest

Twitter– More for older teens and adults.

Vine– Not relevant anymore since Snapchat and Instagram now have videos.

Parenting in the Digital Age

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So now that I’ve given you the 411, what should you do? How do we parent in this new, digital age?

I’ve come up with a few ideas that help but I am also the first to say that this could be a full time job and if you have a child who’s into all this, as most are, they will most likely find a way around many of your rules. I’m always looking for more help in this area so if you have any tips that work, please share in the comments section below.

  1. Stay informed and aware. Know the apps your child is using. Use them yourself so you understand how they work. Personally, I believe you should be “friends” and “follow” your child on any site their using. In our house, this is rule- if you’re on a site, I must be able to access it. ***Disclaimer- I have caught my daughter “blocking” me and hiding posts. She is not perfect and does not follow my rules 100% of the time. However, when she is caught, there are consequences and learning opportunities.

       2. Have parental controls set so your child cannot download any app without your                approval. This will allow you to check out new apps before your child uses them.                ***Disclaimer- this doesn’t work on websites.

       3. Have rules in place regarding cell phones (see this post for a great contract)

       4. Have rules in place regarding social media. Listed below is a contract to get                           you started. Modify as needed but don’t be so quick to remove the parts                                 regarding pornography. I know this is a super uncomfortable topic but it is                           soooooo important to have these discussions with ANY CHILD over the age of 10                 (some would say even younger) that has access to the internet (see this post for                   tips about talking to your kids about online porn)

Social Media Contract

1.  I agree to keep my settings at “private” at all times.

2. I agree not to post any pictures of body parts. I will only post pictures of myself or friends if they include our faces. I understand this is not because there is anything wrong or shameful with any parts of my body, but that it is not healthy to sexualize myself to strangers as a young person.

3. I agree not to post sexualized images. This includes kissing of any kind, grabbing body parts or making sexual gestures of any kind. There is nothing wrong with being silly, but the Internet is not a safe place for young kids to be silly in a sexual way.

4. I agree to be respectful of myself and others in the words and images I use. This includes agreeing not to use social media to mock, tease, embarrass, gossip or reveal secrets.

5. I agree for safety not to reveal the specific place I am when I am there. For example, I will not post a picture saying “I am at the pool with a friend and then we are walking home.”

6. I agree to immediately tell an adult family member if I ever receive any threatening or sexual messages or images on any social channel.

7. I agree not to view pornography. I understand that sex is a wonderful and healthy part of an adult life, but that pornography is a different thing than sex, and not healthy for a young person. I understand that I cannot control the images I see once I start looking at a pornography page or video, and those images will never leave my brain, and that can be harmful to my emotional health. I agree that if I accidentally stumble across pornography or a friend shows it to me, I will stop watching.

8. I agree to acknowledge that everything I put online is permanently available, even if it can be immediately deleted or hidden. I understand that people who know technology well can access images and words that have been deleted even if the app tells you otherwise. I understand that even private messages can be copied and pasted somewhere else. I understand that when I am grown and an adult, someone can look my name up and find every single thing I’ve ever put online. This includes bosses, boyfriends, girlfriends, future family and friends, neighbors and co-workers.

9. I agree that when I am having family time, I will put away my devices, including my phone. This goes for the adults as well.

10. I agree that occasionally I will have Internet blackouts. This means that when I am showing signs of needing a tech break—such as lack of reading or creative activities, irritability, constantly pulling out my phone, unable to concentrate and not wanting to participate in family activities or time—my parents might ask that I stay off the Internet and my phone for a day or two.

11. I agree to be done with all tech including phone by 10pm nightly unless I have asked for and received an exception.

12. If I do not follow these agreements, I understand that I will lose my social media privileges for as long as my parents feel it is necessary. I understand that my parents love me more than anything in the world and create these boundaries out of that love.

The Craziness of Bar Mitzvah Year on the North Shore of Long Island

Congratulations, you made it! You survived the insanity that is known as Tennis Ladder Year. There should be a trophy of some sort- you certainly deserve it.

But before you can officially exhale, a nice big envelope arrives in the mail addressed to your child. Bar Mitzvah year is knocking on your door. I’d tell you not to answer but if you live on the North Shore of Long Island, you don’t really have a choice.

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The Basics

  • Some lucky parent back in 4th grade got the job of organizing a list that circulates throughout the grade so you can pick your child’s date three years later
  • There are anywhere from one to three Bar/Bat Mitzvahs (more commonly known as BMs) on any given weekend from May of 6th grade to November of 8th grade
  • Overlapping dates are a tough; there will be some but most parents try to switch dates especially if the kids are in the same friend group
  • Your child will be expected to go to the services of close friends even if they are during school hours (a parent who is going to the service will sign out a group of kids from school and take them to the temple and then bring them back to school)

Getting Ready (A Girl Mom’s Perspective)

If you have a daughter, I am so, so sorry.

You will need to buy more dresses than you could have imagined. Dresses for the services, dresses for day BMs and dresses for night BMs. Need I remind you shopping with a twelve or thirteen year old girl is hell. You will wonder what you did in a past life to deserve this kind of torture. Either they hate the kids department dresses they fit into or you hate the junior department dresses they fit into. There will be tears, yours and hers. You will swear up and down your daughter will not wear four inch heels or skin tight dresses. You most likely will cave at some point from sheer exhaustion.

The same goes for make-up and hair. I mistakingly thought twelve and thirteen year old girls don’t wear much makeup besides maybe some lip gloss or mascara. Silly me. I soon learned that many girls have their makeup and hair professionally done for these parties. Our local salons are filled with Tweens on Fridays and Saturdays getting blowouts for BMs. If you choose to say no to this as I did, be prepared from lots of pouting.

Carpool

Nine times out of ten your Tennis Ladder carpool turns in to your BM carpool. Dates are organized on an app such as Family Wall so parents in the carpool can sign up for dates to drive. When it is your turn to drive, the girls will most likely want to get ready together so most will get dropped off at your house around 5. You should them plan on ordering dinner because most kids don’t eat at the BMs (yes, you read that right- all that amazing food- sigh) You will then drive your carpool to the party and pick up, usually around midnight.

Gifts

  • Regular gifts (averages)- $18 if you are declining, $36 for random friends, $54 for close friends, $72 for camp friends. The check is sent back with the RSVP card. (Remember, 1-3 a weekend for over a year!!!)
  • B’nai Mitzvah – DOUBLE ($36 each kid – two separate checks if kid going, family of 3, $300 each (so yes a total of $600), family of 4, $400 each, family of 5, $500 each, ETC)
  • Family Gifts- Your family was invited- yay! Get your wallet ready- here is what is suggested (don’t shoot the messenger; personally, I give what I can) taken from Lulu & Lattes

-You and your spouse with 1 kid – $318, $354, $372, $400 (depending on level of friendship)

-You and your spouse with 2 kids – $400-$500

-You and your spouse with 3 kids – $500

-4+ kids (good luck, maybe try not to get invited…just kidding) $500+

-Your BFF – $418-518 (with your family)

  • Personalized Gifts- This is where your child makes a personal gift for the BM child. This may be a blanket, pillow or phone case with photos from a site such as Shutterfly or a handmade gift such as a wooden picture frame with pictures glued to it. Guests present these gifts to the BM child on camera so you can see how important making a personal gift can be.
  • Group Gifts- This is where a close friend hosts a group of kids over to work on a group gift for the BM child. Each child brings lots of pics and the host provides snacks. They may decorate a book shelf or a mini-fridge or make a scrapbook***. This is also presented at the BM so, again, getting in on the group gift is important too.

***The Scrapbook- this gift gets it own section. The idea is lovely; the process, not so much. One mother organizes a scrapbook for the BM child. This entails buying scrapbook pages, sending an email to all of the BM child’s friends’ moms, and leaving the pages for pick up outside your door. If you’re the mom in charge, you will need to also send additional reminders to pick up pages and then reminders to drop off pages and then you will need to organize said pages into a book. If your child is asked to make a page, and there can be as many as 3-4 a month, you will then need to pick up the page, upload pictures of your daughter and BM child to the drugstore to be printed, harass your child to complete the page, and then drop it back off.

  • The Jewelry Gift- This is a new one! This is where close friends chip in $50 each to get a special jewelry gift for the BM girl. Gifts include Hermes cuffs, David Yurman rings and replica Van Clef necklaces (that still cost close to $500).
  • Mitzvah Gift- As part of their BM, kids choose a charity, organization, or cause to work with. Sometimes it is volunteering their time, and other times it is raising money or collecting items. You may be asked to contribute towards their Mitzvah gift. If so, a donation of $36 is acceptable. 

The Swag

The swag is the stuff that the dancers throw out to the kids to keep them on the dance floor. Boring swag? The dance floor is likely to remain empty as kids would rather be on their phones. Some examples of good swag this year was Virtual Reality goggles, Fitbits, Beats, Ray Bans, jerseys, Kylie Lip Kits, blankets, sweatpants, and tank tops. Other notable swag this year has been custom air-brushed sneakers, custom air-brushed sweatpants, make-up personalized with the BM girl’s name and a lash bar (where girls could get fake lashes applied…not sure if that counts as swag but the girls certainly loved it!). When the lights go out for the “rave” portion of the night, sunglasses and glow in the dark rings, glasses and hats are passed out.

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Typical BM Socks

Socks play an important role at BMs- they are a must and have come to be expected. Because the girls are wearing heels they really have no business wearing, they can hardly walk, let alone dance. The moment the girls are done taking their pictures, the heels come off and the socks (given as a favor) go on. In lieu of socks this year, kids also received slides, flip flops, fuzzy slippers, and an Ugg-type boot at BMs.

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Typical BM Sweatshirt

The rest of the swag is waiting for the kids when they leave the party, most likely in a personalized bag of some type. 99% of the time it is a sweatshirt. The kids judge these sweatshirts on the softness and the design. It is a huge deal to wear these sweatshirts on the following Monday, so much that the schools have kindly asked on no less than ten occasions for students not wear them since it makes others who were not invited feel bad. Students (and parents) blatantly ignore this suggestion. If you do choose to follow it like I did, your child will be very upset with you because the BM child will likely be upset with them that they did not show up in the swag. Another battle you will fight and most likely lose.

BMs and Social Media

  • Posting a pic of the invitation on Snapchat the day it is received is one of the ways kids show their love for the BM child, usually with a caption like “So sickkkkk! Can’t wait to rage, bestie! LYSMYDEK”
  • Girls will do all sorts of countdowns for their friends (1 month, 1 week) on Instagram by posting a picture of the BM girl with a caption such as “1 week until we rage!”
  • A good Geo Tag on Snapchat is a must
  • Posting the entrance of the BM child on snapchat as their story is very popular and a way for kids show their friendship
  • Girls try to get an alone picture of themselves with the BM girl to post on Instagram the next day

What Makes a Good BM (according to the kids)

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Nope- not a nightclub or a rave, just a typical party my 13 year old attends roughly twice a week

 

In a nutshell, it’s the music, swag, and food at the end of the party.

One of the first decisions, after the date and location, is the entertainment. This includes the DJ, MC, and dancers. They really do set the tone for the party so it’s pretty important to get the right one. Dates are secured at least two years in advance. 

The swag was mentioned above so now lets discuss the food at the end of the party. As people are exiting, there is usually food of some sort set up in the lobby or there are food trucks outside. Shake Shack burgers, McDonalds, pizza or a set up similar to a convenience store or bakery where kids can grad as much candy, donuts, bagels, and muffins that they’d like were popular choices this year. Since the kids didn’t each much earlier, this is when they go crazy. Plus, candy. Need I say, more?

I must also note what makes a BM bad for your child- you attending. When parents are invited and attend, both parents and children will stare at each other, praying that the other is not doing anything embarrassing. It’s OK for parents to dance, but not near the kids (basically kids are on one part of the dance floor or the stage and the adults are on the other). It’s OK for you to take a picture with your child in front of the step and repeat but really, no more. Try not draw attention to yourself- no one wants to be that parent.

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Parents having a little too much fun

Tips and Lessons Learned

  • Decide before the first BM what your carpool will be doing for each other in terms of personal gifts, group gifts, and jewelry. Everyone should agree and be on the same page
  • Decide what you will do for the few girls who are not having a BM (not jewish or taking a trip instead)
  • Order dresses online from Bloomingdales and Nordstroms for your child to try on in the comfort of your home (good selection of dresses for services and great return policies)
  • Respond to RSVPs right away
  • Buy BM cards, crafts from Michaels, and photo paper to have on hand
  • It’s OK to say no to attending, especially when there are multiple BMs on a given weekend. I wish I would have realized this earlier- on a Sunday after 2-3 parties, the kids are EXHAUSTED. 

 

And that, my friends, is the low down on Bar Mitzvah year on the North Shore of Long Island. Hopefully knowing what to expect will make your journey a bit easier. Try to step back from the craziness long enough to appreciate the young man or woman your child is growing into, all dressed up and certainly having way more fun than you are!