Monday, July 23, 2012

Manners Monday – When Tragedy Strikes – How to Share with Your Children?

Last Friday’s movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado was a tragic reminder for parents that no matter how hard we try to protect our children, it is virtually impossible to shield them from all danger. We live in an uncertain world where the behavior of others is often unpredictable.  The only thing we truly have control over is our own actions and reactions. 

So how do those of us who are watching the television and reading the media headlines respond when our children catch us emotionally enraptured by the latest story developments?  How should we explain what happened? What is appropriate for our children’s ears? What is better left unsaid?  And, what can they learn for the future?

However we decide to explain the tragedy to our children, one thing must remain clear and that is that we deliver our message in a responsible manner with the utmost sensitivity and respect for the families who are experiencing the loss firsthand.

Ø  Let your tone convey the gravity of the situation.  Children know very well by their parent’s tone of voice whether a particular subject is to be taken seriously.  When tragedy strikes, parents should be calm and reassuring while they explain the situation in practical terms with only pertinent facts included. 

Ø  Keep it age appropriate and in perspective.  Youngest children should receive this information on a need-to-know basis only and using very simple words. Older children may be privy to more detail, but with limitations, as we still don’t want to scare them unnecessarily. Be mindful of the media and make sure children do not have unlimited access.

Ø  Teach your children to empathize.  A tragedy of this magnitude offers our children the ability to learn how to sympathize with another person’s situation, and to offer understanding and compassion. Children need to exercise their empathy muscle so that when a situation arises they will know how to genuinely show their support.

Ø  Use the tragedy to strengthen survival skills.  There is always a lesson to be learned from tragedy, and as painful as it is to discuss, children must gain wisdom from the experience.  In this particular situation, it is a lesson to teach our children to always be conscious of their surroundings, to heighten their awareness of others, and to notice and identify suspicious behavior.  These skills may just wind up saving their lives someday. 

    If you happened to miss the live courtroom newsfeed this morning as the 24 year old defendant, James Holmes, received his first words from the judge, here is the clip It is strikingly evident from this footage that the young man is deeply troubled. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Don't Be a Bum at the Beach" - 4th of July Etiquette for the Sand & Sea

A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend and I made a last minute plan to venture out to Paradise Cove in Malibu for a little R&R.  At the beach for the first time in about ten years without kids in tow, we simply couldn’t wait to break into our magazines and soak up the summer sun.  There were no nagging voices begging us to make a sandcastle or desperate attempts to drag our bodies into the cold ocean to jump the waves, merely the pure bliss of alone time doing whatever we pleased. Just as we were finally settling in to our groove, a pack of eight adults decided to plop down right beside us as if we were completely invisible.  As sand flung onto our towels, they proceeded to unpack heaps of beach paraphernalia within inches of our designated space.  Rather than scold them because they were clearly clueless, we decided to preserve our zen-like mode by packing up our things and moving further down the beach.   

The 4th of July marks the height of the beach going season.  After much preparation to clear our schedules and make ourselves beach worthy with requisite tans and new suits to model, the last thing we need is to be bothered by annoying adults blasting their bad music, pesky children (or adults for that matter) kicking sand onto our towels or thrill-seeking seagulls swooping down on our homemade fried chicken and expensive imported cheese.  To learn how not to be offensive to others and to best enjoy the beach experience at holidays and all year long, here is our top list of proper beach etiquette tips. 

Dress Appropriately for the Occasion. The last time I checked, topless and nude sunbathing is frowned upon here in America, and in some cases is considered against the law. Unless you’re on a private yacht in the south of France or vacationing in Brazil, kindly keep your bathing suit PG-rated. Private parts should be sufficiently covered. The beach is for families and they are especially in tow on a big summer holiday.

Come Ready with Your Own Supplies. Everyone has their “must have” list of necessities for the beach. Most importantly, the list is to help you be prepared so that you do not have to constantly bother others with your requests for items you forgot at home. The bare minimum: sunscreen, hat, bottled water and towel. Kicking it up a notch: beach chair, umbrella, tunes, books or magazines (old school style), games, a cooler fully stocked with an incredible feast. Recommended for parents: full day supply of diapers and wipes, a Pack N’ Play or tent for shade, sand toys (BTW, don’t forget to write your name on them so you leave the beach with the same toys you came with), ample sunscreen, snacks and beverages.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm. If you are one of those people who perpetually arrives fashionably late, don’t expect to have first dibs on prime real estate at the beach. There is plenty of space and no one is entitled to a reserved spot, unless of course, you belong to a private beach club and the attendant has a reserved number of chairs and umbrellas set aside for members. To ensure you do not encroach on another person’s space, ideally there should be about 15 feet between distance between you and your neighbor. When selecting your spot, don’t forget to take into consideration high tide. Look for a high water mark, consult a tide chart or ask a lifeguard before settling down for the day.

Setting up Shop. If possible, organize your items so that you only have to take one trip on the sand to your spot on the beach. Walking back and forth is exhausting and will tucker you out before your day even begins. Before laying your towels down and inserting your umbrella, check to see which way the wind is blowing so that you don’t blow sand into your neighbor’s direction or block their view. Make every effort to consolidate your items into a small area that will not take valuable beach front away from others.

Keep it Down & Watch Your Language. We are well aware that the beach is outside, but that does not give you cart blanche to blast your latest iTunes mix on your giant speakers or shout profanities to your buddies when we are within ear shot trying to enjoy a family day with our kids. On the flip side, parents need to monitor their children and make sure little Mikey and Susie aren’t running amok hurling sand toys and fighting over the last Cheeto while adults are trying to enjoy a little peace and quiet or read the latest best-seller. Being outside entitles everyone to use their outside voice and have fun, just be mindful of how loud and crazy you get and keep it all in check.

Fun in the Sun. Game playing is great, but keep it away from others. First of all, it is obnoxious to play ball over others heads while they are trying to relax and secondly, it can be dangerous, especially if there are little ones around. This extends to water playing as well. Look out for others in the water before you engage in spirited splashing, dunking and other horseplay. Maintain control of boogie boards and other water toys so that everyone has a safe day in the sun. A special note to parents: keep an eye on your children. Organize plenty of activities like building sand castles, playing Frisbee or searching for the most unusual sea shell to keep them busy so that they do not wander off or, more importantly, wander into the water without your supervision.

Clean Up After Yourself. If only there was a “Smoky the Bear” or that Indian fellow who shed a single tear at the sight of litter being dropped at his feet to protect our beautiful beaches. Where’s the mascot to remind us to keep our beaches clean? I remember swimming once at a beach just north of Santa Monica and seeing plastic bags, soda cans and straw wrappers in the ocean. It was disgusting! Please take a garbage bag or paper bag with you to the beach and have the decency to collect all of your trash (that includes food wrappers, diapers, newspapers and whatever else you bring) and then deposit it into one of the large trash receptacles located everywhere.

Don't Bring the Beach Home with You. Carefully shake all items and sufficiently clean off anything with sticky sand before leaving the beach. Watch your neighbors to make sure you are not blowing sand dust in their wind. There is nothing worse than dust particles of sand found in the car, on the floor or in your bags when you return home. Shake off towels, clean dirty feet, wash out bathing suits and dump all bags before settling into your car or entering the house.

Give it One Last Look. Before making your final exit, patrol the area one all around your beach party scene one last time for any lost items, leftover food or litter.

Did I forget anything? Let me know what your beach rituals include? What items do you take? Have any tips for rude patrons? Share with us. We'd love to hear from you!