Something is amiss in Canada. A 2014 UNICEF report compared the health and development of children in Canada with 28 other wealthy nations. In spite of being a G8 country, Canada's children rank number 17th, a status that has not budged in the last 10 years. The question is, why are these problems still so widespread?
Sure, Santa may determine that a child's behaviour is not up to snuff and is therefore a reason to deny said child of gifts on Christmas Day. But why does Santa have to be the judge, jury and (figurative) executioner on December 25th? Whatever happened to parental responsibility and the ability to look one's child in the eye in an attempt to deliver the verdict?
I regularly get the flu shot and I vaccinate my children too. But every so often, I question these decisions, particularly when I come across words that are new to me, like "live attenuated vaccine" or a new vaccine delivery type, such as nasal mist instead of the usual needle. This happened to me this week while deciding whether to get the annual flu shot or not.
Candy can also have a darker side for parents who are trying to keep their kids as healthy as possible, or protect them from allergic reactions by restricting what candy their kids can have. Imagine how the kid feels when they have a food allergy and can't have candy -- seeing other kids reaping the benefits of their trick-or-treating, dumping out their huge bags of candy and sorting through what they got -- it's both sad and frustrating.
It's fair to say that many teens love getting something for nothing. Free candy? It fits the bill. And every October 31, they fail to disappoint, showing up at the door, thrusting a bag in the direction of unwitting participants, sometimes without even uttering the agreed request -- sometimes, the words "Trick or Treat" aren't even mentioned.
Spending time with one child allows you to really connect with what they're doing at school, the friends they're hanging out with, and what they think about what's going on in the world as well. We also became quite adept at picking out the accents and languages of fellow travellers -- many British, German, and Eastern European dialects.
Lately the news is filled with stories about a scary new virus that is making many kids across the United States and Canada unwell. It is called Enterovirus-68 or EV-68. EV68 is one of hundreds of enteroviruses, including such viruses as coxsackieviruses (that cause hand-foot-and-mouth disease) and polioviruses. They generally cause symptoms of a common cold, with runny nose, congestion, cough, fever and diarrhea.
I just sat in the car and had a good cry. I was in the parking lot of my 11-year-old daughter's school on her first day of middle school, but I wasn't having the "oh my child is growing up" type of cry. Instead, I was unexpectedly engulfed in fear about her life threatening allergies to peanuts and shellfish.
This isn't just an American problem. Hundreds of thousands of Canadian children are growing up without enough. Low-income children, especially minorities and aboriginals, are growing up at an increased risk of preventable diseases -- diseases both classically medical and mental health related that arise as a result of their early living conditions and will affect us all. These numbers don't simply represent difficult childhoods; they mark a huge group of Canadians who are growing up without the supportive environments they need to develop into healthy adults.
On a warm July night this year I was one of the many staff working at Sick Kids when I was witness to a parents' worst nightmare, the preventable death of a child struck by a van on a Toronto street. There is an absolute necessity to teach and re-teach our children and their caregivers about road safety.
For young people of all ages, school's an opportunity to form new relationships with peers and teachers, develop new skills through extracurricular activities, and discover new interests. But school can also be a source of stress, anxiety, and pressure for many young people, and it's a topic that kids and teens bring to Kids Help Phone's professional counsellors throughout the year, even during summer holidays.
After the initial shock of Junior Child moving back home we started to realize that this situation was not so bad. Our individual lives, which had expanded to include activities and friends that were not possible during the child rearing years, were not curtailed. We started to enjoy the company of our adult daughter and were able to offer help with cover letters and resume writing.
Despite our fretting, technology isn't going away, and simply cloistering our children from it is neither beneficial nor practical. To succeed in the modern world, children will need to embrace technology without being consumed by it. And the difference between these two fates lies in the hands of parents.
Oh the joys of becoming a new mom! Oh the bliss! You're the vision of beauty, a natural mom! The happy, helpful husband by your side! The overbearing grandparents and relatives who spoil your baby boy or girl with gifts and hugs and kisses! The perfect baby who sleeps all night and never cries! Who are we kidding?