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Halloween Movies for All Ages

October 30, 2014

By Nikki Cecala

Halloween Movies for All Ages | Happy Halloween image with bats in on an orange background.

One of the best parts about Halloween besides dressing up and getting free candy are the movies. There are so many genres of films, from funny cartoons to suspenseful slashers, that it’s easy to find something for every age. Embrace the season and cuddle up with your son or daughter on a chilly night and watch one of these good thrills.

Ages 0-6
These movies are a great introduction to Halloween for young ones. Each movie touches on Halloween traditions whether it’s trick or treating, telling scary stories, or learning about monsters.

Ages 7-12
These flicks have a little more spook to them, but don’t worry—they’re quickly redeemed with comedy.

Ages 13 and up
This list contains the classic scare movies. Warning: you might even have flashbacks to the first time you saw these movies and remember how scared you were!

Depending on what kind of movies you allow your child to watch (i.e. gory, slasher, suspense), be aware of the language, violence, sexual situations, and whether you deem it age appropriate. If you are unsure about a movie’s ratings, check out Common Sense Media. You can search most movies and the site will tell you everything you need to know from its educational value to positive role models to the level of violence. It also rates the movie on their own age scale, and includes reviews from parents and children.

What are some Halloween favorites you enjoy watching with your family? Tell me in the comments below.


Halloween Costumes + Social Media: A Scary Combination

October 30, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Halloween Costumes + Social Media: A Scary Combination | A teenage girl poses for a camera while dressed up for Halloween.

This story was originally published on A Platform For Good, a project of the Family Online Safety Institute that seeks to empower parents to raise engaged kids and good digital citizens.

If you’ve been in a grocery or super store lately, you know that Halloween is right around the corner. While younger kids tend to choose the most popular Halloween costume (think Minecraft this year), teenagers try to be more original. Regardless of the costume your teen chooses, its impact might be stronger after the Halloween party when photos are posted on social media. Help your teen consider both the implications of certain costumes and the importance of a positive digital reputation.

People love taking photos at costume parties. Your teen will likely take selfies and pose for photos and videos with friends that will end up on social media sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine. As long as he or she has an appropriate costume and engages in responsible behavior, those posts should be fine.

But let’s say your teen decides to dress up in an Ebola containment suit costume for Halloween. Maybe he or she intended that costume to be an ironic take on a horrible outbreak, but the general public is already so offended by this particular costume that they are petitioning to remove it from stores. If someone posts a photo of your teen online, how do you think these people will react when they see him or her wearing the costume?

Last year, a woman dressed as a Boston Marathon bombing victim, posting a photo of herself on social media. Not only did her photo go viral, but also she was fired from her job and she and her parents received death threats from strangers who found their information online.

These days, a misguided costume choice isn’t just something your teen could regret for a couple days. Your family could be threatened and your teen’s reputation destroyed. Talk to him or her about costume choices and behavior to prevent digital regret. And while you’re at it, remind your teen of the importance of establishing a positive digital reputation and using privacy settings to his or her advantage. Before heading to the Halloween (or any) party, encourage your teen to consider:

  • Who can see his or her photos and those that friends post
  • What would happen if a teacher or administrator saw these photos
  • What would happen if a college admissions counselor or a boss saw these photos
  • What information your teen should be posting online to project the image he or she wants others to see

If you have never spoken to your teenager about his or her digital reputation before, that’s okay. Halloween is a great opportunity to start that conversation. Let your teen know that you trust his or her judgment, but good behavior on and offline is the best way to avoid digital regret and having his or her reputation damaged from inappropriate photos.


8 Ways to Address Struggles at School

October 28, 2014

By Maureen Powers

8 Ways to Address Struggles at School | A child cries at recess.

It is 5:30 PM and you are rushing to pick up your three-year-old. When you get to the classroom door, the teacher greets you and says, “He had another rough day today. He hit another child and left a mark.” You read the incident report and sign it. You begin to wonder if this is the right center for your child.

You sit across the breakfast table from your kindergartener and she whines for the fourth day in a row that she has a stomachache and doesn’t want to go to school. You suspect she isn’t really sick and have made her go to school all week but you are still concerned. What could be making her not want to go to school?

Do any of these concerns sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. Children often tell us what they are experiencing through their behavior. In both of these situations, contact the classroom teacher in order to get a well-rounded picture of the situation. Then use these eight tips to address your child’s struggle and help him or her overcome it.

The first thing to remember is to stay calm and be objective. If you are angry or defensive, it will take longer for you to get answers. Give yourself time to collect your thoughts. Make sure you can discuss exactly what you are concerned about: “Matthew has been getting two or three incident reports per week,” or “Kaylee has been saying she does not want to come to school and is complaining of stomachaches.”

Approach the teacher at a good time. Teachers are busiest at pick-up and drop-off times. These are not the times for an extended conversation. Call and leave a message, or tell the teacher you would like a meeting and leave your phone number and e-mail as well as the best times to reach you.

Prepare your questions ahead of time. Be direct and specific. What happens before and after the hitting? Have there been any major changes in the classroom? Does your child ask for frequent passes to the bathroom or the nurse? Does your child often ask for help?

Work as a team. You both want what is best for your child.

Share your child’s likes and dislikes. You know your child best. You know what motivates your child, what he or she enjoys or detests. In-depth knowledge about your child may be the key to supporting him or her at school.

Be open to suggestions. Allow the teacher to share with you how your child is at school. Children can behave differently in different situations. Be open to new ways of looking at your child.

Ask for ways you can help your child at home. If you don’t understand a concept, ask the teacher to show you how the concept is taught at school. What words are used?

Make a plan. Be sure you leave the meeting with a clear idea of what each of you will be doing to support your child at school and at home.


Couple Chat: Parenting Expectations Vs. Reality

October 23, 2014

By Mario and Ana Vela

Couple Chat: Parenting Expectations Vs. Reality | Ana and Mario Vela kiss their baby daughter.

In the Couple Chat series, we pose one or two topical questions to a couple and ask each person to answer privately. Each person then reads the other’s response and the couple discusses their thoughts on the topic. They share their discussion together in the reflection.

For today’s Couple Chat, we asked new parents Ana and Mario Vela about parenting expectations versus reality. Here’s what they said.

Before you had your baby, what did you think your biggest challenge would be as a parent? What did you think would come easiest to you?

Ana: Before having our baby, I thought the biggest challenge as a parent would be feeling overwhelmed and lonely. Having all our family 1200 miles away. I kept imagining that I would be holding a crying baby, not knowing what to do, with no one close by to help. The thought of wanting to take a break from the baby, but not having family around to help really scared me. Fortunately, my mother stayed with us for three months after our daughter, Mariana, was born, and taught me how to care for her. My confidence increased. After my mother left, I didn’t feel scared anymore. I know advice is a phone call away.

On the other hand, I thought the easiest thing would be returning to work after maternity leave. For some reason, I always imagined easily managing having a baby and a career without any feelings of guilt for working.

Mario: I thought the biggest challenge would simply be being a father. I don’t have a traditional father figure, and I relied on a collection of influences to help me define the person I am. I truly questioned my ability to be a father for my child, and questioned the value I could offer a child.

I felt comfortable providing the basic care Mariana would require, as I’m the oldest in my family. I cared for my younger siblings and relied on my experience in caring for them including feedings, diaper changes, etc. I even showed Ana how to change a diaper. However, both Ana and my mother-in-law have specific ways of caring for Mariana, and don’t always agree with how I handle her. I don’t let that discourage me, as I know we all want what is best for her. I just have a different way of caring for her.

Now that you’re parents to a 4-month-old, what is your current biggest challenge as a parent? What is the easiest thing about being a parent?

Ana: My biggest challenge so far has been maintaining a work/life balance. What I thought before would be easiest is really the most difficult. I feel guilty when I am away from Mariana, or when I’m not paying attention to her because I am working at home. It gets more challenging when both my husband and I need to put in extra hours at the same time—whose work is more important? One of us has to take care of the baby. We’ve even had to compromise how many work events and late nights we can put in a month to make things fair between us. It has definitely caused some friction, and I anticipate it will continue to.

The easiest thing about being a parent is loving her. Everyday I am amazed at the love that flows out of me for this little person. Before, I really thought I would want to constantly take breaks from her, but I’ve been surprised at how easy and enjoyable it is to spend time with her. Sometimes I just stare at her, and even cry because she makes me so happy.

Mario: Now the biggest challenge is my fear that something might happen to her. I never wanted to be overprotective, but now that I hold her in my arms and see her potential, I’m afraid that something might happen to her. All her care now is our responsibility, and I want to make the best decisions for her, but I feel that these decisions shouldn’t be based out of fear. I need to learn to manage and understand it, and let go when appropriate.

I was nervous if I was capable of offering a father’s love. But from the first moment I saw her and experienced that I was responsible for her, I realized that all those questions I had didn’t matter. I had to move on from all the hesitation I felt, which I did immediately when she was born. I understand now that I will make every effort to make the best decisions for her and our family.

Ana: I am surprised that Mario said he was so comfortable with the thought of caring for Mariana. I know he helped take care of his younger siblings, but I still thought he would be nervous with our baby. I hadn’t taken care of babies—and yes, I didn’t even know how to change a diaper! I realize now that I shouldn’t have been so scared to not have my family close by when Mario was perfectly capable of helping me out.

Now that he’s putting it out there, I feel guilty about criticizing how Mario cares for Mariana. Although I may not always agree with how he handles her, I am happy that he likes spending time with her and will always make sure she is safe.

Mario and I had always planned to put Mariana in a daycare. Seeing the quality of care my mother provided her made him realize that he didn’t want to expose her to anything other than one-on-one care. Accommodating this change in plan for Mario has completely changed our plans, which was very stressful. My mother-in-law has decided to move in with us and care for Mariana. It was very interesting to see how differently Mario and I felt about her care.

We both agree that Mariana has completely changed our lives. We are both so in love with her. We talk about her all the time and enjoy seeing how she develops every day.


Should Your Teen Have an After-School Job?

October 22, 2014

By Nely Bergsma

Should Your Teen Have an After-School Job? | A teen wearing a uniform smiles behind the counter at work.

When your teenager reaches the legal working age, he or she may be eager to get a job. The decision to start working is mostly likely economically driven. Teenagers tend to love money and they love to spend money even more. As a parent, perhaps you would welcome the additional income to the household. But should your teen have an after-school job? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Are you and your teen ready for the extra responsibility?

There are many advantages to a teen working an after-school job, beyond earning a few extra dollars for either him or herself or for the household. Working during the school year would allow your teen to learn to balance responsibility, socialize with others in and/or outside of the community, and learn a new skill or task while building his or her college résumé. It is also an opportunity to learn financial responsibility and the value of saving. All of these advantages can serve to empower your teen, helping him or her grow and demonstrate what “real life” will look like one day.

While working during the school year could be advantageous for your teen, there are a few considerations to ensure he or she makes the correct decision and succeeds in this endeavor.

  • Is your teen aware of the employer’s expectations for the job itself, dress code, and code of conduct? 
  • Will the amount of time at the job take away from the expectation of school deadlines, studying, and projects? 
  • Will his or her grades suffer? 
  • Will his or her home life and household responsibilities suffer? 
  • Will your teen need to give up extracurricular activities in order to meet the expectations of a job? 
  • Is your child physically ready for the additional responsibilities of an extended day? 

As you have from the beginning of your child’s life, you can continue to support him or her with this choice. Helping your teen weigh the pros and cons of his or her decision before accepting a job will ensure that he or she feels successful, empowered, and supported.

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