judgement

The "Kylie Jenner Challenge" highlights the worst insecurities in tweens and teens

2014 American Music Awards - Arrivals

Have you heard of the #KylieJennerChallenge?

It’s a hashtag that’s become the call to action for young women who want to emulate the full-lipped look of the reality TV star.

One of the famous sisters on “Keeping up With the Kardashians” and the younger sister of Kim, Kylie has become admired for her full lips and fashion sense; is it any surprise that tween and teen girls want to emulate her?

Perhaps not, however the degree to which they want to be more like their idol is troubling, at best.

In an effort to emulate the young TV star, teens have responded to the “Kylie Jenner Challenge” call to action that involves “participants placing their mouth over the opening of a cup, jar or other narrow vessel and sucking in until the air vacuum causes their lips to swell up.”(Daily Mail) The desired result is the pouty look that their young celebrity idol sports, seemingly without such painful effort.

Kylie Jenner and young girls who have tried to emulate her look

kylie jenner examples

While it would be easy to write off such silly behaviour as harmless tween/teen antics, the reality is that this type of body mutilation in the quest for “beauty” is anything but.

The physical pain and frequent injury that results from the #KylieJennerChallenge are the least of these kids’ problems. Rather, as parents, we must look at the root causes of why kids feel the need to emulate their idols to such a painful degree.

So what is really going on here? Why are young girls risking physical harm in the unrealistic quest to look like a celebrity who has the means and ability to look “just so” without pain or discomfort?

Here are some of the reasons for this disturbing trend:

1) Celebrity Culture

We live in a society that is dominated by celebrity culture. Add to this fact our kids’ ability to access the latest information, gossip and trends related to their favourite stars and you’ve got the recipe for a beauty disaster - and then some. The digital age, including kids’ love of social media, smartphones and the latest updates about the celebrity of the day adds to the desire to emulate what they are seeing. The famous have also been sucked into the digital vortex, with many stars using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other channels to connect with their fans. While this may be a great marketing tool and publicity generator for the celebrity, the focus on appearance, as well as an unrealistic standard of beauty is resulting in the damaged self-esteem of vulnerable kids.

2) Insecurity and Diminished Sense of Self

Perhaps spurred on by the constant feed of information about Hollywood beauties and otherwise, is it any wonder that impressionable tweens and teens - girls in particular - feel insecure about their looks and bodies? In the age of Photoshop, Instagram and unrealistically “ideal” bodies, it’s difficult for the average tween, who is often already sensitive about their appearance, to maintain a positive self-image. Our celebrity culture doesn’t help, highlighting the “perfect” and largely unattainable body types of the rich and famous, making young fans who are already vulnerable even more insecure than they already may be.

3) Unrealistic Expectations of Beauty

It should be no surprise that insecurity and diminished body image exist in this age of “perfect” beauties, photoshop and plastic surgery. With images of celebrities being digitally altered before they are shared online and on social media, is it any wonder that our kids have a skewed sense of how real people look? Post-baby bodies that showcase washboard stomachs and curvaceous figures that echo shapes rarely found in reality feed into young girls’ doubts about themselves and perpetuate an unrealistic standard of beauty.

Tweens and teens idolizing celebrities is nothing new, but the standards of “perfection,” made possible through technological and medical manipulation most certainly are. With the bar being raised higher and higher daily, there appears to be little hope for the average young person, insecurities and all, to ever reach the pinnacle of what they see to be the norm.

As parents, we have an obligation to counter the messages and images that our children are bombarded with, particularly now. If we don’t put a stop to it, we’re destined to have a whole generation that is not only insecure, but psychologically scarred as well. Instances of eating disorders, younger and younger children going under the knife in the name of beauty and worse will become more prevalent if this celebrity trend continues.

For parents who are concerned about the emphasis on looks and unrealistic expectations conveyed through celebrity culture, here are some tips on how to help your tween/teen:

  • Discuss their fears and insecurities - Talking to your child about how they feel about themselves and countering negative or incorrect perceptions that they may have about their appearance can help them to put things in perspective
  • Show them the “real deal” - The reality of how using Photoshop, plastic surgery and other methods of altering appearances should be shown to teens who are emulating the looks of their favourite celebrities
  • Encourage their interests - Self-esteem is often increased through success and activities; help your child refocus on an interest or skill that will support their feelings of self-worth. These could include sports/athletics, reading, art, music, cooking or more
  • Focus on their abilities, not their looks - If we as parents focus on our or others’ looks, so will our children. Support and encourage their abilities and what they do, downplay the importance of appearance and how they look
  • Give praise and support - A positive word of encouragement and praise for a job well done can go a long way - especially for a tween or teen who is struggling with their self-esteem
  • Encourage independence and decision-making - There’s nothing like confidence in one’s abilities to make one feel better about themselves. Support your child’s steps towards self-reliance and good judgement
  • Do unto others - A great way of taking the focus off of oneself is to give back to others. Encourage your child to volunteer and their feelings of self-worth will increase considerably, guaranteed.

How do you feel about the #KylieJennerChallenge and the focus on celebrity appearances in general? What additional tips would you give to parents who are struggling to help their children increase their self esteem? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here

VIDEO: Under Pressure

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What's the best course of action for educating twins?


twins in class

There comes a time that, as the parent of twins, one has to make a crucial decision:

Should I keep them together or should I separate them?

This is a particularly pressing decision to be made in the case of identical twins.

Think about it: they share the same DNA, they look exactly alike (to most people outside of the immediate family) and they are, by most accounts, at the same stage of development. The natural course of action that is taken is to keep them together, at least for the early days of preschool and Kindergarten.

My boys are figuratively joined at the hip, doing almost everything together including bathing, playing, sleeping and fighting. They are each other’s best friends and worst enemies, depending on the day and time. They love each other. They despise each other. And if they had the maturity to provide some perspective on their relationship, I have no doubt that they would not have it any other way.

Yet, like most parents of identical twins, I’m acutely aware of the natural inclination to treat the children the same. After all - it’s easy to get lulled into thinking that the kids are two parts of a whole, that they are more or less the same, because of the simple fact that, to the untrained eye, they look the same.

In spite of this fact, they are individuals, reality that becomes increasingly important to them as they navigate the world, correcting those who think that they are their brother - and vice versa. Without being an identical twin, it’s hard to imagine always being mistaken for someone else, or, on the flip side, having someone who looks exactly like you. It must be simultaneously annoying and amazing.

Fraternal twins are often grouped together by outsiders as well, though not as much, especially if the twins don’t look alike, or are of different sexes. While the incidences of comparison are not as high as they are with identical twins, the tendency to do so by outsiders exists nonetheless. Teachers who have a pair of twins in their class - identical or fraternal - often naturally make comparisons between the siblings, as it is human nature to do so.

During the early stages of socialization, e.g. preschool, daycare and Kindergarten, it makes sense to take the simple route and put them together in the same class. This way, there’s no trauma at the prospect of being alone in a new social environment without the comfort of that sibling that will be their guide, confidante and friend, no matter what.

But the time will come where a choice must be made: should they remain together, joined at the proverbial hip to offer support to their sibling, or should they part ways, venture into the world (or classroom) alone and gain their independence?

The right answer is not an easy one, and as a parent having to make this choice, its particularly stress-inducing.

Like any critical decision, the pros and cons must be weighed in order to make the right decision. This is a tricky one, as there good arguments on both sides of the fence - a fact that doesn’t make it easier for the parents in making a decision. As a parent struggling with making a decision about what the right choice is for my kids, I know I’m not alone. Knowing that the choice made will have long-reaching effects on my kids makes the decision to separate the twins - or not - even more daunting. To this end, I thought it would be a good idea to list both the positive and negative implications of separating twins at school. Here’s what I came up with:

Pros and Cons of Separating Twins at School

Pros:

  1. Each twin is better able to foster a sense of individuality
  2. Dependency on each other is decreased, allowing each twin to gain confidence in their own abilities
  3. The incidences of being compared to or confused with the other twin is eliminated
  4. The absence of the other twin provides an environment where each twin can “grow” into their own personalities and characters
  5. Competition between twins will decrease when they’re not in the same classroom daily
  6. The absence of the other twin as a “built-in” friend and companion will allow each twin to form friendships with other children

Cons:

  1. The comfort of knowing that their twin is immediately close by is removed, a fact that may increase anxiety amongst some twins
  2. Twins often rely on each other to provide support emotionally; twins who are separated may have increased difficulty relying on others for a certain level of emotional support
  3. The effect of emotional distress and anxiety that some twins may feel being separated from their sibling may affect their academic progress in school
  4. Parents of twins separated at school will have to navigate double the amount of school-related activities on behalf of their kids (two separate parent-teacher interview appointments, two separate parent volunteer days at school, etc.)

Conclusion: While I’d love to say what the definitive answer is to this question, unfortunately the jury is out. While it may appear that solely on the basis of pros and cons, the scale tips on the side of separating the twins, this is not necessarily the case. Each set of twins are individuals and their ability to positively advance in school, separated or not, depends on a number of factors. These include the personalities of each twin, their ability to adapt to change, and the level of mutual reliance on each other. It would be great to have a “one-size fits all” answer but as we all know, most important decisions related to kids are not ever simple.

On a related note, here’s an extreme case of twins being separated at birth with an incredibly positive outcome:

Separated at Birth, Reunited on Facebook

So what are your thoughts and experiences about separating twins at school? Is it a good idea to keep them together or better to separate them? What are your reasons for the choices that you made? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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CBC investigation reveals more questions than answers on this increasingly popular tactic

Hmmm…seems as if I’m not the only one with questions about the charitable donations that are being requested at the checkout.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that the trend towards “checkout charity” is one that gets under my skin.

Why?

Because there is little accountability about where the requested money is going to and consumers are being put on the spot to donate. A CBC Marketplace investigation revealed that a number of companies employing this practice are not as transparent regarding the details of how checkout charity funds are spent. You can read more about it here:

Checkout donations: Poor transparency about where the money goes

In terms of consumers, many feel shamed into donating at the cash register for fear of appearing cheap in front of the cashier and those who are lined up behind them. Instead of feeling good about their donation, or their decision to decline, they leave the store with a bad taste in their mouths.

Checkout Charity

Doing what they do best, the folks at CBC Marketplace set out to get to the bottom of this practice by asking the tough questions that us average consumers want answered. What Marketplace’s investigation revealed was surprising, to say the least.

Check out the full episode below featuring yours truly, as well as interviews with spokespersons from companies that employ this tactic. I was very surprised at what was revealed in the episode and would love to hear your thoughts on these details as well. Looking forward to your feedback in the comments section below.

FULL EPISODE: CHECKOUT CHARITY - DOING GOOD, FEELING BAD

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CBC Marketplace - Checkout Charity

by Samantha on February 16, 2015

CBC program investigates the popular trend of soliciting donations at the checkout

marketplace

“Checkout Charity” is a thing.

Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay.

I’ve discussed the topic on more than one occasion, both on this blog and in the media. For details, click on the link below.

IN THE NEWS: Is “Checkout Charity” Just a Money Grab?

checkout aisle

Seems like I’m not the only one who’s fed up with this sneaky way of gathering funds. Consumers in general, are becoming fatigued with the amount of requests that occur on a regular basis. Enough that Canada’s leading consumer investigative show, Marketplace, decided to look into this increasingly popular practice.

I was interviewed for the show and of course gave my two cents. Tune in on Friday, February 20th to watch the full show. I’ll post a link to the program and do a follow-up post once it’s aired as well.

PREVIEW: CHECKOUT CHARITY - DOING GOOD, FEELING BAD

CBC NEWS INTERVIEW: VIEWER FEEDBACK PRE-SHOW

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Let’s End the Myth of the “Evil Twin”

by Samantha on January 31, 2015

There is no "good" twin and "bad" twin in the pair - let's end this fallacy

Good twin, evil twin

It was an otherwise mundane Saturday at Costco.

With three kids in tow, I sauntered through the aisles, plying myself and the kids with free samples and piling up my shopping cart with bulk items, many of which I didn’t really need.

We lined up in the checkout aisle and I took a deep breath before the final total was told to me by the cashier (it’s always more than you think it’s going to be when shopping at this particular store).

Making our way to our car, with my boys sitting together in the front of the shopping cart, we were stopped by what looked to be a kind-hearted woman. Smiling, first at me, then at the kids - with a focus on the boys in particular - she stopped me.

“Are they twins?,” she asked.

“Yes. They’re identical,” I responded.

“Awww! They’re so cute!”

“Thank-you!,” I replied.

Looking at both of them with wonderment and curiosity, I thought I knew what she was going to ask next.

She’s going to ask me how I tell them apart, I thought to myself.

I was sure that this question must have been coming because it’s often one of the first things that people ask when they see identical twins - at least it has been in my experience.

Imagine my surprise, then, when she hit me with this doozy:

“Which one is the ‘good’ twin and which one is the ‘evil’ twin?”

She was serious.

My first thought was a mix of confusion and bewilderment as I tried to make sense of her question. “Good” twin? “Evil” twin? Was she for real?

Within a few milliseconds, my confusion simultaneously turned to anger and irritation about her presumptive comment.

How does one answer such a question? Was I to just respond - in front of both of my twins, and my 11-year-old daughter as well - “Oh, THIS one. THIS one is evil, this other one is good.

Was that really her expectation?

The mythology surrounding twins - particularly identical twins - is particularly fraught with the erroneous perspective that there is a “good” twin and, therefore, a “bad” one. Like Yin and Yang, black and white, opposites must co-exist and apparently this truth must be the case with identical twins. Its apparently not enough for some to accept that twins - identical or not - are not necessarily polar opposites. There is no “good” or “bad” twin any more than there is a “good” and “bad” set of siblings that haven’t had the unique experience of being born on the same day (or just a few minutes apart).

Identical twins, by definition, are certainly similar in many ways. From the obvious - how they look; to the not so obvious - their thought processes, they way they relate to each other and others, and other quirks of their personalities. That being said, they are individuals - not “good,” not “bad,” just  - different. Yet there seems to be a desire amongst some to attribute polarities to each twin. This needs to stop.

As the parent of identical twins, it’s hard enough to try to foster feelings of independence within them on a day-to-day basis. Imagine having someone who looks exactly like you? Of course you’d want to be seen as an individual. Kids will misbehave - whether they’re a twin or not - it’s a normal part of being a kid. So why is it when a twin misbehaves, they’re automatically labeled as “bad” or “evil?” Ironically, they are perceived to be the same (particularly in the case of identical twins) yet opposites. How is this logical - or fair?

Surely there are sibling rivalries that exist amongst twins, but the same can be said for any siblings, twin status notwithstanding.

There are no polarities when it comes to twins. No “good” one vs. “bad one;” no angelic child versus evil spawn, no duelling forces, vying for the top spot in their respective categories. There are just kids - warts, scabbed knees and all. Though the mythology and expectation of opposite-minded twin siblings is appealing to some, it is, fortunately, untrue.

To the woman who very rudely asked me which one of my kids was “good” and which one was “evil,” and to the many others who believe in this false dichotomy, so sorry to disappoint.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

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