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Kid Safety Raising Healthy Kids Sponsored Content

How ExpressVPN is Helping HP Build a More Secure Future

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Full disclosure – I have no affiliation with HP, although I am powered by an HP laptop. ExpressVPN provides my annual VPN subscription free of charge in exchange for sharing information about the importance of cybersecurity and the role a VPN can play in internet privacy. I 100% believe in what they’re doing and that every single one of us has a responsibility to step up our own personal security and protect our data.

And in a world where the Internet is becoming more and more dangerous for our children, we all have to do more. (You can start really simply, by not using super easy passwords, and not using the same password on every different site, and changing all of your passwords NOW).

Cybersecurity has become a major focus for many around the world the past couple of years, but tech companies seem to be ignoring this shift completely. Every year, we see new releases of laptops that offer incremental improvements over last year’s model while at the same time remaining free of any sort of security improvements.

Fortunately, two companies are working towards influencing the tech industry to take the right steps, and those two companies are ExpressVPN and HP. I’ve been using ExpressVPN for a while and really appreciate the added security it gives me when I’m traveling, working from a hotel room, or instead of using public Wi-Fi in a restaurant.

How HP and ExpressVPN are Influencing the Industry

Image from ExpressVPN

HP recently released their new Spectre laptop, the Spectre x360 13, and the press release outlined many security improvements, including but not limited to: a way to turn off the webcam, a physical mute button for the internal microphone, an optional, built-in privacy screen, and a partnership with ExpressVPN.

The partnership with ExpressVPN allows HP to pre-install the VPN program onto all the new Spectre 13s, along with offering a 30-day free trial for any users of the new Spectre.

Now, you may read all that and ask what the big deal is, and I understand. Nothing about that partnership screams revolutionary or important. However, keep in mind how long HP has been making laptops and how much influence they have. ExpressVPN as well, as it’s one of the biggest VPN companies in existence as of the time of writing. It’s also one of the most secure consumer VPN out there that vows not to keep any VPN log.

ExpressVPN has stated that they already have more partnerships waiting to be announced, meaning even more tech companies are already realizing that partnering with cybersecurity companies is the best move to make right now. After all, the tech industry is shifting to an industry more focused on cybersecurity due to the numerous leaks that have taken place – Equifax, anyone? Capital One? Disney Plus??

Tech companies are realizing how dangerous things are becoming on the Internet, which is why I assume HP decided to partner with ExpressVPN in the first place. There comes a time when the blissful ignorance companies show towards cybersecurity fades, and I believe we’re living during it.

We All Need to Take Cybersecurity More Seriously

The new partnership between ExpressVPN and HP embodies the shift the tech industry is currently going through–a shift that demands attention towards security.

As I mentioned earlier, the Internet has become a dangerous place, and while security has improved tremendously, so has the number of scams out there. Companies know this, however…well, at least some do.

I believe the partnership between ExpressVPN and HP represents a step in the right direction where people become more aware of how they can stay safe online.

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Kid Safety

Cyber Safety: Is Your Family Safe?

It’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Here’s some information to help families stay safe – and keep their kids safe – online.

While parents are busy building a family, supporting a household, and raising good children, one big responsibility is safety. Cyber safety has become an ongoing risk for quite some time now. A 2018 study conducted by Common Sense Media showed that 89% of teenagers have a smartphone, and 70% of teens are on social media multiple times a day. There’s no doubt the Internet is playing a huge role in our kids’ lives on a daily basis. But are you doing all you can to keep your family safe from cybercriminals? Here’s how to get started:

Protect your home network

A strong Wi-Fi connection starts with a reliable router. This connects all of your devices to the Internet. Although Wi-Fi is a necessity these days, it can also pose several risks to your home. An unsecured router could become vulnerable to hackers looking to access your private information. While installing your home Wi-Fi router, you should follow a couple of important steps to ensure it’s protecting your home network. Here are a couple tips:

  • Perform all necessary updates to your router. Not only will this help the router perform at its best, but it will keep your device free from any new threats.
  • Give your router a name (you’ll find this option in the security settings). Try to avoid anything too obviously related to you or your family (i.e. “Smith Family” “Sharon Smith Internet”) Use something basic like “xf456” or any other complex combination of letters and numbers.
  • Always disable WPS (Wi-Fi protected setup). Although this was created for an easier user experience, it’s not always the most secure option. Because the WPS uses a PIN as the login credentials, it can easily be hacked.
  • Establish a guest network. This network will give your guests their own SSID and password but will also block others from being able to access your regular network. Your original password will no longer have to be shared with guests who are in your home further keeping your network private and secure.

Arm smart devices

With the rise of smart devices, and the ability for all children to have access to them, comes the danger of the unknown threats. While children are going to and from school, friends’ houses, and any other public areas, they might be connected to Wi-Fi that is not secure. This could leave them vulnerable to being tracked, hacked, or even followed. Look into installing a VPN (virtual private network) onto your child’s devices so they are protected no matter where they are. The network establishes a private network from a public Internet connection. It also hides your browsing activity including anything you access while connected to the Internet. VPNs should be installed on all devices such as tablets, smartphones, and laptops.

Monitor screen time

Allowing children the freedom to explore the Internet can be difficult at times. With the number of anonymous people using the Internet daily, it’s imperative that parents enact smart ways to keep their children safe. Monitoring screen time is a quick way to ensure your children are being smart digital citizens while also maintaining their everyday life and responsibilities. As a parent, it’s your duty to make this screen time schedule however you’d like, but it should always be communicated with your child.

Here are some ways to monitor screen time:

  • Only allow screen time after dinner.
  • Shut off all devices by a certain time every night.
  • Lock specific games and apps from being used.
  • Only allow screen time on weekend nights.
  • Use parental controls to monitor what your kids are accessing and how they are interacting with it.

Use these tips to teach your family how to be safer while using the Internet. Focus on cybersecurity as another task to accomplish while you’re setting up your family home. Just like locking a door, never forget to lock your Internet connection to keep you and your family safe from cyber harm.

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Kid Safety Raising Healthy Kids Sponsored Content

Why Should You Care about Internet Privacy?

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

This content was provided by our partner, TechWarn and I am being compensated in the form of a VPN subscription to protect my family.

Why should you care about internet privacy?

Even as parents, we rarely pay attention to the ‘terms and conditions’ before logging into an app for the first time, how could we expect our children to practice digital privacy? But practice they must.

Today we live in a world of zero privacy. Social media behemoths take advantage of our innate desire to connect, turning platforms into mega data centers to ruthlessly monetizing our personal lives. Sadly, they don’t seem to be particularly cautious with our sensitive information either, as a security breach late last year reported a hack affecting nearly 30 million users.

If your children are on social media or are regular internet users, understand the risks involved to help them steer clear of privacy breaches and their accompanying risks.

Your privacy is always at stake

The devil is always in the details. Buried deep inside the service terms are often invasive clauses claiming to collect, access, stored and analyze your data ‘for an improved experience’. Opting to keep private info private, and you will be forced to quit the app or leave the platform, leaving you with no choice but to oblige.

What’s rather unfortunate is the fact that we do not have any control over what the companies choose to do with the data they access. There have been numerous cases of accounts hacking, impersonation and other cyber-crimes. Even with these happenings, we keep signing in into mobile phone applications, programs and software, and subscribing to websites without giving much care to the security concerns.

Your data is sold, but you won’t get a penny for it

As the old saying goes, free things are expensive. The paradox in this statement continues being evidenced in the online platforms that claim to be ‘free’ but end up making billions of money by selling out your personal data to advertisers. It’s how Facebook and Twitter make money anyway. How else do you think that you have your timeline hit with adverts of items, products, or services you recently discussed?

Each time you log in to the ever-emerging web platforms, you are providing them with your information and to advertisers; this is a badly needed necessity. The only way to limit how much information and private data these services will be getting from you is by checking your internet privacy.

Technology evolution leads us to be more reliant on the internet

Just like the internet, IT gadgets are going through a major evolution. Newer and sophisticated gadgets are released on a regular basis. Communication is taking a shift, you do not necessarily need to load your mobile phone with airtime; with an internet connection, you are able to make a call online.

Think of the host of websites that allow you stream sports, music and more. We are slowly but steadily bidding goodbye to the old-fashioned computerized gadgets and embracing highly advanced ones.

Smooth operations of these devices require an internet connection. For instance, smartphones require regular software updates. With this level of reliance on the internet, it is important that one puts up reliable privacy protection measures in place.

If stolen, your current private data could haunt your future

Some people rubbish the need to have internet privacy measures in place, claiming they have got nothing to hide. Which is okay; but this may not last for long. When companies access your data (let’s say private and confidential information like call logs or messages content), you have no control over what they might choose to do with them.

Without huge aspirations at the moment, this may not seem much of a concern. But if someone wishes to bring you down in the future, they can use skeletons from your private data that was stored by some company 5 or 10 years ago. Past conversations exposed are on record for bringing down marriages, tainting people’s integrity among other damages. Many internet activities define your private life, browse safely lest the information falls on the wrong hands and ends up being used against you.

The law will not protect you

Due to the rising cases of cyber-related crimes, some countries are developing and enforcing laws in support of internet surveillance. While this might be a good effort and may help trace the criminals bullying people online, it is not right for your privacy.

When a government gains access to your communication threads, the sites you are visiting, the people you are networking with and such information without your approval, then it’s interfering with your personal privacy. Unfortunately, many countries continue embracing this trend, especially on visitors and tourists.

You may not have direct control over what the lawmakers of a certain nation think. Fortunately, there are different avenues through which you can shield your internet privacy.

Fraudsters, hackers, and cybercriminals are upping their game

There are many techniques that fraudsters can use to access or gather your online information. Your internet service provider may not warn you of the possible dangers after all high-speed connections are what most of us are concerned about.

If your privacy settings are not customized to limit who can access information about you, fraudsters can easily tell who you are by monitoring your activities on these sites. This is especially so with social interaction sites where we like to upload our photos, update our activities and so on. Others use malicious software known as spyware. The software is able to track and hack your personal information without your knowledge. The developers of such malicious software target unsuspecting internet users and thus the need to care about your privacy whenever you are on the internet.

Ways to protect your internet privacy

The ways through which your private data can be tracked or accessed are multiplying by the day. Here are ways through which you can protect your personal data while on the internet.

Keep your software updated

Doing this can greatly reduce unauthorized access to your data. Keeping your software updated makes sure your system is shielded from even the most recent malware.

Update your privacy settings

This is necessary especially when it comes to social networking platforms. By default, most of the information you upload or post will be shared publicly. Consider changing your settings to limit views to only fewer people or to only share with people you know. To achieve higher efficiency, it’s advisable to ask your friends to do the same.

Block 3rd party cookies

Accepting cookies allows websites to maintain track of you. For instance, they can be able to tell the last time you visited. Others will be able to store your data and even sign you in automatically during your next visit. Blocking cookies limits access should anyone else access your device without your knowledge.

Clear browser history and delete cookies regularly

This helps log you out of all accounts that you may have signed in on the browser.

Get a VPN app

A virtual private network encrypts all the data you receive or send via the internet. With this encryption, third parties cannot access data and even if they do, they cannot be able to use it or trace it back to you.

Privacy and security are well worth your time and money. VPN deals are just a Google search away so there’s no excuse of not going playing your part to safeguard your data. With a VPN in place, your data will always be protected whenever you are using the internet.

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Family Home and Hearth Kid Safety

Family Safety

Recently, a home burned down in our community and left a family homeless and without any of their belongings. It’s heartbreaking when something like that happens, and I am always grateful for the volunteer fire department in our village for their rapid response and extraordinary efforts. They often save lives even in times when they cannot save structures. It made me realize how important it is to have an emergency plan.

Every emergency plan should start with prevention.

  • Change the batteries in your smoke detectors every six months. If you have 10-year smoke detectors, as we’re required to in New York, test them every six months to make sure they work.
  • Make sure entries and exits to your home are accessible and functional (including windows).
  • Install a CO2/Carbon Monoxide detector.
  • Have fire extinguishers in logical places – the kitchen, near your fireplace, in your basement or garage.

Designate a Meeting Place

In the chaos of a fire or other emergency, your family may get separated. Designate a meeting place ahead of time where you’ll all agree to meet. We’ve designated our neighbor’s home, which is across the street from us and a safe space for us in time of emergency. The Red Cross actually suggests having two meeting places – one for outside of your home in case of a fire, and one outside of your neighborhood in case it’s an emergency that prevents you from getting to your home.

Establish the Escape Route

There are eight people in our home, on two floors covering more than 2400 square feet. We have three exits in three different parts of the house and two access points to the basement, from which there are another two exits to the outside. Knowing where each person should go depending on where the fire is or what the emergency is can be daunting – but if you don’t think about it when your head is clear and focused, you’ll be scrambling during an emergency.

Plan Your Communications

Who would you need to tell you are safe? How would you communicate with each other? Do your kids understand what they need to do in an emergency? What if they are home alone?

Establishing, discussing, and practicing your families evacuation and emergency plan is essential. To help you develop your emergency plan, visit these helpful resources:

Red Cross

FEMA (PDF)

DHS

Ready.Gov

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Kid Safety Parenting Raising Healthy Kids

Raising Drug-Free Kids

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I started to write this by saying “the conversation you have with your kids about drugs is one of the most difficult and most important you’ll ever have.”

That’s inaccurate.

To really have an impact on your kids about drugs, it can’t be a single conversation. It has to be multiple conversations over a period of years. And it can’t just be conversations about not doing drugs. It needs to be a consistent parenting effort in which you help your children understand their power to make choices and their responsibility to accept the consequences of their choices – and to be able to make the connection between the two. And it also requires raising your kids in a way that they know they’re loved and valued as individuals, that they’re given a voice, and that you are the safe people in their lives. And you can do all that and they still may end up experimenting with drugs or becoming addicts, because no matter how great we are as parents, our kids have other influences in their lives – friends, school, other adults, other family, etc.

Which is why your best effort in keeping your kids drug free starts when they are just toddlers and younger. It’s when your children are in the infant and toddler stage that you set boundaries and teach kids about making good choices; it’s at this young age that you have the most influence and opportunity for impact.

Here are 4 things you can do to help keep your kids on a drug-free path:

Communicate – All the Time

Talk, and talk often. If you keep the lines of communication open, then discussing drugs can be an ongoing effort. Learn how to talk to your children but more importantly, learn how to listen to your children. Serious discussions take place over time and work best when built upon a foundation of mutual trust.

Show Affection and Respect

Show affection for your kids, openly and unabashedly. Tell them you love them, every day. Praise them for who they are, not just things they do. This is important when your kids are young and building self-esteem; it becomes even more important as they get older and become teenagers. Teens are competing for the approval of their peers; it helps a lot when they know they already have the approval of their parents. If your child does not feel accepted or loved by you, they may seek that approval elsewhere from peers who might be doing drugs or using alcohol.

Don’t Be Naive

Know that no matter how “good” your child is or how great their grades are, they will have access to and exposure to drugs – at school, in the community, at the homes of friends. You cannot isolate your kids from drugs, so you have to make them strong enough and secure enough to be ok saying no. Children crave boundaries and rules so that they feel safe. Even when they are testing you at every point, they’re really just making sure you’re still going to enforce the rules and protect them. Be clear with them that doing drugs is not acceptable, and that there will be consequences.

Give them an Out

Help your kids get out of sticky moments. When I was a teenager, my mom always told me if something was happening that I didn’t know how to handle, to call her and ask her to pick me up and to tell her I had a headache. We’ve told our kids the same – feign being sick if you can’t just say no; call us, no questions asked if you need to get out of someplace.

Worried your child might be taking drugs? Be alert to changes in your child’s behavior, including any changes in appetite, a decline in grades, or feelings of apathy. Drug use may cause your child to become more withdrawn, less inclined to engage in family activities, and more likely to be overly sensitive. If your child does need professional help with overcoming a drug problem, contact a rehab center where they can help your child or teen work through and overcome a drug problem. For more information about keeping kids drug free, we recommend the following resources:

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

D.A.R.E.

DrugRehab.com

Have a resource you’d like to see on this list? Let us know!

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Kid Safety

5 Safety Tips for Halloween Trick-or-Treating

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce
With a little one in the house again, trick-or-treating is back on the agenda to celebrate Halloween. It’s been a long time since we’ve had to think about the weather (whether or not a coat would fit under a costume), but the safety issues that we practiced with our kids are just as valid (if not more so) for our granddaughter.

Make Sure Your Child Is Visible in the Dark

No matter what the costume is that your child is wearing, reflective material or tape should be used to make sure your child is visible to other trick-or-treaters and especially to cars. It can be difficult to see little witches and vampires without it.

Speaking of Cars…

Hold your child’s hand and look both ways before crossing the street. This is a great time to practice safety and show your child that even when you’re having fun in the pursuit of candy, you can do so safely.

Check the Candy

Of course you’re going to taste-test the candy, but before you do that, you should also visibly inspect each piece and throw away any that look like they’ve been punctured or unwrapped. And no matter how nice it seems, ditch the homemade treats.

Lights On

Only visit homes that have their porch lights on. It’s the standard sign of participation. And most municipalities have implemented rules that require convicted child molesters to keep their porch lights off.

Phones Down

It’s dark and you may be wandering unfamiliar areas. Put your phone down and keep an eye on your kids. It’s far too easy for them to disappear, wander off, or get taken if you’re not paying attention.

Halloween is fun with a little one in the house again…but as exciting as it is, a little precautionary safety measures are always a good idea.

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Kid Safety Parenting

Everything You Need to Know About Car Seats

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

I didn’t realize how confusing car seats were until I needed one. I was so uncertain of the rules and regulations, despite reading the manual from cover to cover, and made an appointment with the local state police to meet with their car seat specialist. Yes, that’s a thing that most police departments have! If the police department doesn’t have a specialist, they know someone who does. Look them up. They are an awesome wealth of information and generally nice people that will install your car seat for you and offer the latest safety tips. As a first-time mom, it was exactly what I needed, and I’ll pass on everything I learned to you. Yay.

Read the manual. 

No, really. Read the whole thing. There are quite a few things that I wasn’t aware of regarding my specific car seat, such as when to get rid of the infant inserts that were included and how to clean the car seat itself. Yes it’s a dry read. Not exactly what you want to sit down with on a relaxing afternoon, but knowing the ins and outs of your car seat can help guarantee your child’s safety.

Rear-facing vs forward-facing.

The age requirements for how long a child should be rear-facing will depend on your state, but the general recommendation is at least two years of age. Even if your child looks squished, I promise, they’re fine. I called the oh-so-helpful trooper when I thought my daughter’s legs were getting long, and he assured me that a broken hip was easier to fix than a broken neck. Unless your child exceeds both height and weight requirements (which would be an impressive sized two year old) they should stay rear-facing. Your handy car seat manual will offer other specifications for proper installation for both directions.

Proper clip placement.

This is so important, and I’m always horrified when a mom posts a pic of her adorable baby, with loose straps and the chest clip at the belly button. Your child could slip right through those straps in an accident, or be permanently injured by a wrongly placed chest clip. It’s called a chest clip for a reason. Place the clip at armpit level, and tighten the straps so that there is no slack. You don’t want to have it too tight, of course, but you shouldn’t be able to pinch the car seat strap along the shoulder.

Children should be in a booster seat until at least age 8. 

This is another stat that varies on state laws, but it’s generally agreed upon that children don’t fit properly in a car until they are between 8 and 12 years of age. Your 12 year old isn’t going to love the car seat, but if they aren’t big enough to meet the requirements of an adult seat belt, tough cookies. A seat belt can’t do it’s job of saving your child’s life if they aren’t at the proper height requirements (about 4 feet, 9 inches).

Don’t buy used.

I can’t stress this enough. Do not buy a used car seat. There are resources to help you find a brand new car seat. Otherwise, you risk putting your child into a car seat that has been in an accident or otherwise misused. It’s just not worth your child’s life.

The car seat is an amazing piece of equipment, and honestly, my daughter looks like she enjoys a pretty comfy ride. If you have any questions about your car seat or installation, contact the manufacturer or your local law enforcement. This information is definitely not the end-all be-all of car seat rules, but it’s a good place to start. Find professional resources and take the steps to keep your children safe in the car.

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Kid Safety Let's Talk

It’s Never Too Early for Water Safety

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

The leading cause of death for children ages 1 through 4 is drowning.

Not lead poisoning. Not an allergy or hot cars or too much screen time. Nothing on the heart-breaking list of childhood diseases and disabilities.

Drowning. A completely preventable accident is the number one killer of young children.

Why isn’t anyone talking about this?

Why does my pediatrician talk to me about iron levels, healthy eating, and growth charts, but never utters a word about water safety? The American Academy of Pediatrics tip-toes around the issue as well, claiming that parents need to use their best judgment in when to offer swim lessons for children ages 1 to 4. They are correct in stating that not every child will be developmentally ready to swim, and individual characteristics should be taken into consideration. I also buy their recommendations that children younger than 1 not be introduced to formal swim lessons, but after that is probably fine.

But hello? There is nothing telling me how to protect my child from drowning, other than a fancy-worded “watch your kids.”

Fair enough. Supervision is obvious. Prevention methods like fences and alarms are obvious. But honestly, it only takes 30 seconds of not knowing exactly where your child is. No parent is perfect, because we all have the fault of being human.

I’m not saying toss your child into a pool at 6 months old, or 18 months old, or 3 years old. The last thing we want to do is traumatize our kids by dunking them in cold water if its clearly not something they enjoy. But damn, can we at least have a conversation?

My daughter is two, and for months we have been talking about safety. Hallie knows that we only cross the road with mommy or daddy and we always look for cars. We talk about wearing seatbelts in the car to stay safe. We talk about wearing sun lotion to prevent a sunburn. We talk about stranger danger and staying close in grocery stores and other public areas. But we’ve never talked about water.

Recently, we introduced Hallie to a Tiny Tots swim class that is more exploration than anything, not really swim lessons, but still. Hallie doesn’t need introduced, because she loves the pool, but it’s a great conversation starter.

Now, when we talk about safety in the car we also talk about safety in the pool. Hallie is being reminded constantly that she should never, EVER, go near water without mommy or daddy. This includes lakes, rivers, or any other water, including her bath and kiddie pool. Hallie thought for a moment and looked at me: “Puddles, too?” Yes. Exactly. Puddles are water, and if Hallie doesn’t go near a puddle without permission until she is a teenager, I’d rather that than risk her drowning.

Hallie asked me today if she could jump in a puddle. I know that sounds ridiculous and some people will call it helicopter parenting. However, she is in the midst of learning a critical safety concept, and I won’t generalize drowning. At two years old, no water is safe. Not without mommy or daddy. And yes, I let her jump in that puddle.

Introduce water when your child is ready, but never hesitate to have the conversation. Water safety is just as important as every other bit of parenting rules that are thrown at us, if not more. Something that is 100 percent preventable shouldn’t be killing our kids, and talking about it is the only thing that will change that statistic.

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Kid Safety

Please, Don’t Buy the Used Car Seat

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

I see used car seats all over Facebook marketplace and other advertising platforms. I’m assuming that one of two things are happening:

  • An expensive car seat was purchased and probably used for only a few months. No more children are being planned and parents are just trying to get some return on what I know cost a chunk of money.

OR

  • Parents are just trying to do a good thing by passing on a car seat that is likely still in excellent condition, but for half the price you can find them new.

I don’t blame anyone in this situation. Selling a used car seat seems harmless, and really, what are the risks? Someone gets a good deal and someone else gets some cash back. HOWEVER. Not everyone is honest or educated in this world, and this could put your child’s life in danger.

You should NEVER purchase a used car seat.

Why? Car seats have expiration dates in the US, so people assume that as long as the car seat is in date there should be no problems. But there are.

Unless it’s a close family member or friend that you would literally trust with your child’s life, don’t attempt to use a pre-owned car seat. Even then, I don’t know if I would. You have no idea if a used car seat has been in an accident, and even if the seat looks fine, pieces of it could be compromised. Something could have been weakened just enough, that if an accident with your child in it happened, a safety mechanism could snap. You just don’t know.

Even well-meaning people who swear a car seat has never been in an accident could have been storing it in a basement somewhere. Humidity and moisture does damage to anything, including the plastic of a car seat that still appears to be in good condition.

There is absolutely no safe method of appraising a used car seat. No certified car seat specialist would tell you that a used one is fine. They are liars, seriously, so don’t believe them. There is no way to adjust the expiration date, the same way you can’t take a can of beans to a grocery store and ask them to reassess when it’s safe to eat.

If you own a used car seat that is out of date or damaged, there are many trade-in events where you can get some money towards a new seat. Yes, it’s more money, but it’s worth knowing your child is safe. At least you’re getting some return. For those in desperate need of a car seat but can’t afford something new, there are things you can do aside from purchasing used:

  • Contact local assistance programs like WIC or ProAction. They may have a program that can connect you with free or reduced car seats.
  • The local hospital may also have similar resources.
  • Some police or fire departments offer car seat safety classes, and at the end of the course, you are given a car seat free of charge.

Most of these options, if not all, do require you to jump through some hoops to demonstrate that you are in financial need, but it’s worth every step to guarantee your child is safe. No one in your community wants you to be without a car seat. It’s tempting to buy a used car seat, but your child’s life is at stake. That may sound dramatic, but the risk is real. The goal is to travel safely, and you can only promise your child the safest journey possible in a new car seat.

 

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Kid Safety Parenting

Teaching Kids to Survive Trump’s America

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

More violence. More racism. More hatred. Legalized discrimination.

That’s the world my children are inheriting.

Our oldest sons are insulated, for now. They are both special needs, living in carefully structured worlds that are safe for the moment but won’t be if this administration has its way and strips people (military vets like my oldest son, and mentally disabled kids like my middle son) of the few supports they have to help them survive. Our oldest daughter has her escape plan: she is married to a Brit, her kids will be dual citizens, and imperfect healthcare system or not, they’ll be choosing the country that had no school shootings since 1996 instead of the one that’s had more than 150 mass shootings in the first half of 2018.

Our 15-year old daughter and 18-year old son are another matter. Our daughter has another year of high school left – 180 days of Russian Roulette worrying that this time, the shooter will not be reported in time (we had three viable threats last year after Parkland; all three were reported to the district in time to thwart their attacks). My son is headed off to college, and the only thing that keeps me from going insane is that we live in New York, where gun violence is far less likely.

The likelihood of either of them being able to leave the country is low. So how do I tell them it’s going to be ok? How do I help them survive adulthood in a country that says

  • We don’t value you if you are female?
  • We don’t value you if you are LGBT?
  • We don’t value you if you are brown-skinned?
  • We don’t value you if you are progressive?
  • We don’t value you if you are not Christian?
  • We don’t value you?

Be Straight with Them

We talk to our kids about everything. And we let them have their own opinions. They don’t always agree with us, and that’s ok. Part of what we want to do is empower them to think for themselves and question everyone – even us – so that they don’t just blindly follow any leader. We also remind them that even though we are always inundated with news of atrocities, that it’s technology that has changed, not human behavior. We just know every little thing that happens now because it’s all caught on someone’s cell phone video. It’s ok to step away from it. And we teach them to take action about the things that matter most. If our daughter had her way, we would be in DC tomorrow marching to keep families together.

Put them in Control

Their lives, their bodies, their minds are theirs to control, not ours. By teaching them to respect themselves, they learn to respect others, too. Sure, we’re there to provide guidance and support, to set boundaries, and to help them learn doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be independent from us. We’re not raising mini-mes. We’re raising unique individuals with passions and powers of their own. Our kids are independent human beings with their own ideas, motivations, and goals that evolve over time. Our role as parents is not to force them down the path we envision but to help them open the doors on the paths they choose.

Introduce them to Other Cultures

We have traveled extensively with our kids inside and outside of this country. We’ve lived in four different states with them. They’ve been exposed to different languages, foods, cultures, and customs from a very early age. We’ve raising them to see that they are part of a global community more than part of territory defined by imaginary lines drawn on a map. We have helped them develop empathy for people who aren’t in the same privileged position they are in. They know that any success they achieve happens not only because of their own hard work but about how they have been supported and cheered along, and we’ve taught them to pay it forward and help others.

Love Is a Superpower

No matter what is going wrong in the world, there is more going right. We encourage our kids to lift people up, to give from their hearts, to bring more love into a world that seems filled with hate. We encourage them to try to understand why and how people are who they are. We encourage empathy and tolerance and kindness. But we counter that with empowerment: Stand up to the bullies. Speak up if something is wrong. Speak out against injustice. Be a light in the world, but be unwavering.

I don’t like where are country is today. Three years ago, we were celebrating legalized gay marriage in all 50 states and the final demise of the threat to the Affordable Care Act, which brought health care and health coverage to so many more people in need. Now, fueled by hatred, bigotry, and a lack of respect, the current administration is trying to undo every bit of progress this country has made toward being a beacon of light in the dark. It’s not a good place we are in, but the future will be brighter because our kids won’t have it any other way.