TIME Family

What to Say to Your Kids When Holidays Aren’t Happy

Victoria Penafiel—Getty Images/Flickr RM

This season can be tough on grieving families

The holidays are full of advertisements of perfect families enjoying perfect moments. And because the celebrations come every year, they’re full of memories, both good and bad.

For both these reasons, the holidays can be especially hard for people who are dealing with a life that is much less than perfect, in the midst of loss, grief, pain, or disappointment. And those tensions can be especially confusing for kids, who often feel things deeply, but don’t always have the language to express those feelings.

We talked with Rob Zucker, grief counselor and author of The Journey Through Grief and Loss: Helping Yourself and Your Child When Grief is Shared, to learn what parents can do to help kids cope with loss in the midst of the holidays.

Elementary age kids “are very sensitive to the emotional realm,” Zucker says. But they don’t always know why they feel the way they do. And they’re still trying to figure out how a loss will affect their world, like the six-year old boy Zucker worked with who asked, “Will we still have Christmas?” after his grandmother’s death. For a parent who is also grieving, the questions young kids ask can be tough to deal with. But Zucker says they can also be seen as an opportunity to help kids start to put their feelings into words, and try to make sense of the changes in their world. So be open to questions.

Late elementary and middle school kids are beginning to grasp some big concepts surrounding loss. But that understanding can lead a lot of anxiety, Zucker says. Older kids can reason, “if grandma died, then grandpa might die.” It’s important for them to be able to share these feelings, Zucker says. So encourage them to talk freely when they begin to open up about their sadness or worry. But it’s also important for parents to assure kids that life is about more than loss. And the holidays, while they can bring up sad memories, are also full of opportunities to celebrate life, by asking questions like what good times they remember, or what good times they’re looking forward to.

High school kids “can really struggle with managing intense feelings,” Zucker says. And at the same time, they take a more intellectual view of loss than other kids, which can lead to them making comparisons between their lives and the idealized ones they see in advertisements. Zucker suggests that parents work through this tension by creating a story that honors the uniqueness of their family, even if it looks different than what kids might see in glossy advertising: Parents and kids can do this together, Zucker says, when parents start conversations with questions like “What is unique about our family? What do we want to celebrate about who we are? What is special about our story?” The goal, Zucker says: to give kids a chance to say: “This is who we are.” And no matter what is happening, “we celebrate the love in our family.”

Parents Newsletter Signup Banner
TIME
TIME Parenting

Watch a ‘Doctors Without Borders’ Parody That’s All About Your Mom

Help is on the way

There’s a new parody of Doctors Without Borders, and they’re almost as helpful as the real ones. They’re not curing Ebola, but they’re doing something that promotes mental health: teaching moms how to talk to their adult daughters without being passive-aggressive. This hilarious spoof of a Doctors Without Borders PSA tells adult women not to worry, because help is on the way. Soon, the world will be free of veiled hostility and judgment of your life choices.

The video contains some NSFW language, but you can watch it here.

Made by the group COMICS4MSF, the YouTube description says it was screened at a Doctors Without Borders fundraiser, even though the comedians are not affiliated with the organization. It features Jena Friedman, who’s also a field producer for The Daily Show.

(Visit the Doctors Without Borders site to learn more about their life-saving work around the world.)

TIME Science

This Is How Music Can Change Your Brain

music class
Getty Images

Actively learning to play an instrument can help a child's academic achievement

There’s little doubt that learning to play a musical instrument is great for developing brains.

Science has shown that when children learn to play music, their brains begin to hear and process sounds that they couldn’t otherwise hear. This helps them develop “neurophysiological distinction” between certain sounds that can aid in literacy, which can translate into improved academic results for kids.

Many parents probably read the above sentence and started mentally Google-ing child music classes in their local area. But if your kid doesn’t like learning an instrument or doesn’t actively engage in the class–opting to stare at the wall or doodle in a notebook instead of participating–he or she may not be getting all the benefits of those classes anyway.

A new study from Northwestern University revealed that in order to fully reap the cognitive benefits of a music class, kids can’t just sit there and let the sound of music wash over them. They have to be actively engaged in the music and participate in the class. “Even in a group of highly motivated students, small variations in music engagement — attendance and class participation — predicted the strength of neural processing after music training,” said Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, in an email to TIME. She co-authored the study with Jane Hornickel, Dana L. Strait, Jessica Slater and Elaine Thompson of Northwestern University.

Additionally, the study showed that students who played instruments in class had more improved neural processing than the children who attended the music appreciation group. “We like to say that ‘making music matters,'” said Kraus. “Because it is only through the active generation and manipulation of sound that music can rewire the brain.”

Kraus, whose research appeared today in Frontiers in Psychology, continued: “Our results support the importance of active experience and meaningful engagement with sound to stimulate changes in the brain.” Active participation and meaningful engagement translate into children being highly involved in their musical training–these are the kids who had good attendance, who paid close attention in class, “and were the most on-task during their lesson,” said Kraus.

To find these results, Kraus’s team went straight to the source, hooking up strategically placed electrode wires on the students’ heads to capture the brain’s responses.

Kraus’s team at Northwestern has teamed up with The Harmony Project, a community music program serving low-income children in Los Angeles, after Harmony’s founder approached Kraus to provide scientific evidence behind the program’s success with students.

According to The Harmony Project’s website, since 2008, 93 percent of Harmony Project seniors have gone on to college, despite a dropout rate of 50 percent or more in their neighborhoods. It’s a pretty impressive achievement and the Northwestern team designed a study to explore those striking numbers. That research, published in September in the Journal of Neuroscience, showed direct evidence that music training has a biological effect on children’s developing nervous systems.

As a follow up, the team decided to test whether the level of engagement in that music training actually matters. Turns out, it really does. Researchers found that after two years, children who not only regularly attended music classes, but also actively participated in the class, showed larger improvements in how the brain processes speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers.

“It turns out that playing a musical instrument is important,” Kraus said, differentiating her group’s findings from the now- debunked myth that just listening to certain types of music improves intelligence, the so-called “Mozart effect.” “We don’t see these kinds of biological changes in people who are just listening to music, who are not playing an instrument,” said Kraus. “I like to give the analogy that you’re not going to become physically fit just by watching sports.” It’s important to engage with the sound in order to reap the benefits and see changes in the central nervous system.

As to how to keep children interested in playing instruments, that’s up to the parents. “I think parents should follow their intuitions with respect to keeping their children engaged,” said Kraus. “Find the kind of music they love, good teachers, an instrument they’ll like. Making music should be something that children enjoy and will want to keep doing for many years!”

With that in mind, it’s not too late to trade in those Minecraft Legos, Frozen paraphernalia, XBox games, and GoldieBlox presents that you may have purchased, and swap them out for music lessons for the kids in your life.

For exclusive parenting content, check out our TIME for Family subscription. And to receive parenting news each week, sign up for our parenting newsletter.

TIME Parenting

Jennifer Aniston: People Call Me ‘Selfish’ For Not Being a Mom

"Life Of Crime" Premiere - Arrivals - 2013 Toronto International Film Festival
J. Countess—WireImage Actress Jennifer Aniston attends the premiere for "Life Of Crime" at Roy Thomson Hall on September 14, 2013 in Toronto, Canada. ( J. Countess--WireImage)

And correctly defines "feminism"

Even after years of the prying questions and condescending sympathy, it still bothers Jennifer Aniston when people ask her why she’s not a mom.

“I don’t like [the pressure] that people put on me, on women—that you’ve failed yourself as a female because you haven’t procreated,” she told Allure for their January issue. “I don’t think it’s fair. You may not have a child come out of your vagina, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t mothering—dogs, friends, friends’ children.”

The actress, who has gotten critical praise for her role in the upcoming film Cake, explained that she finds the incessant commentary about her maternal status hurtful. “This continually is said about me: that I was so career-driven and focused on myself; that I don’t want to be a mother, and how selfish that is…Even saying it gets me a little tight in my throat.”

Aniston also seemed well-prepared to answer the now-omnipresent questions about feminism–and why it’s such a complicated issue. “Because people overcomplicate it,” she said. “It’s simply believing in equality between men and women. Pretty basic.”

[Allure]

TIME Parenting

Should I Have a Baby?

174550021
With love of photography—Getty Images/Flickr Select

Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from UC Berkeley and is a career and personal coach.

An internal debate about the pros and cons of starting a family

In this series’ previous installments, I used the internal debate technique to explore the three of life’s big decisions: Should you marry or break up? Should you change jobs? and If and what sort of college should you send your child to?

Today, I use the internal debate technique to explore the pros and cons of having a child.

Person: I’ve always felt I wanted a child.

Alter ego: Is that a should or a want?

Person: A little of both.

Alter ego: It’s stupid to have a baby even partly because your friends are having babies.

Person: That’s not mainly it. I don’t know if it’s estrogen or conditioning but I feel I want a baby.

Alter ego: I’m hearing a little ambivalence in the way you say that.

Person: Well, I’m not crazy about giving up my freedom for 18 years.

Alter ego: It’s longer than that. Your life starts changing from the day you get pregnant. And with lots of adult children back on their parents’ sofa after college, who knows how long it’s going to be?

Person: You make parenthood sound like a liability. I love the idea of holding my baby, seeing my child grow up, leaving a legacy.

Alter ego: Think of all your conversations with your friends. Are they in such la-la land about parenthood? They complain about parenthood making your brain go to mush, the relentless responsibility, the nonstop crying when they’re a baby, and when they’re older, the fights over homework, drugs, sex, just getting them to complete their college applications!

Person: You’re being cold. Think about the joys of nurturing a child, seeing your kid develop, being lifetime friends. The relationship!

Alter ego: Speaking of relationship, what about your husband? He’s willing to go along with your having a kid or two and he’ll do a fair amount of the parenting, but you know he really doesn’t care that much to have kids. In fact, if you told him you didn’t want kids, he’d mainly be relieved.

Person: I think that having a child or two would be good for our relationship. As it is, we’re starting to have parallel lives. He’s into his work and his hobbies, I’m into my work and my hobbies. There isn’t a common activity to draw us together, except sex.

Alter ego: That counts.

Person: But I’m feeling that, especially as time goes on, we need something else to bond us.

Alter ego: Having kids will hurt, not help, your relationship. It’ll hurt your sex life, which is already starting to go downhill. And parents fight a lot about their kids; “You’re too permissive.” “No, you’re too strict.” “She doesn’t need that.” “You’re being cheap.” And big stuff like public versus private school. And what about religious training? You’re a little religious while your husband is an atheist. Having a child to help your relationship? Hah!

Person: You’re seeing the ¾ full glass as ¼ empty.

Alter ego: I haven’t even mentioned the cost. It costs a quarter of a million dollars to raise a kid in a middle-class way, and that’s not counting college. And in the Northeast, a more upscale upbringing costs a half-million!

Person: It doesn’t have to be that expensive. I find it obscene that parents keep showering their kids with endless toys and designer label clothes. That not only teaches them shallow values but makes them feel entitled, like if the shower of stuff stops, they’re somehow being wronged.

Alter ego: You’re deluding yourself to think that exerting some moderation on buying them clothes and toys is going to put a dent in that quarter or half million—I’m talking food, clothing, the bigger apartment, health care, child care, haircuts, smartphone, summer camp, private school if you feel it’s too risky to send your kid to the public school. And I know you: After you have one kid, you’re going to say, “It would be so nice for my child to have a sibling.”

Person: So what? Family is what it’s ultimately mainly about.

Alter ego: What about your career: making a difference, making good money? If you have a child or two, you know you won’t be as devoted to work. You may even quit.

Person: I don’t think I will. Plenty of women do good work and have children.

Alter ego: Are you sure you want to bring children into this world? It’s a scary place.

Person: There will always be good and bad but I choose to believe that, ultimately, humankind progresses. I believe my child will live in a better world.

Alter ego: I hope you’re right.

Person: What if my kid is born defective? I’d still love the baby but it would change my life forever. My life is good now.

Alterego: Again with the fear-mongering?! The chances are tiny, especially because you don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs. And you and your husband have good genes.

Person: My grandmother did die of breast cancer. My father died early of a heart attack.

Alterego: I’d tell you to go get your genome analyzed at 23andme but the FDA just stopped them. You could though see a genetic counselor.

Person: I may do that. I’m feeling all this resistance now. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m scared of giving birth–a bowling ball coming out of me?!

Altergo: Billions of women do it, have done it for time immemorial. You’re strong and healthy. You’ll be fine.

Person: I need to think about more pros of having a child—It would be nice when I’m older to have grandchildren. I know I’d love being a grandma.

Alter ego: You shouldn’t have kids so that 20 years from now, you can play grandma for a few hours a week.

Person: And moms and daughters are usually very close with each other.

Alter ego: What if it’s a boy. Are you going to abort it?

Person: Stop it. Of course not. It would be comforting to know I’ll have someone to take care of me in my old age. Women live a lot longer than men. My husband probably won’t be around.

Alter ego: Your reasons for having a kid are getting absurd. If, and I do mean if, you need someone to care for you in your old age and your husband isn’t alive and you haven’t met another guy, you can do what millions of people do: hire a caretaker. Don’t be irrational.

Person: But this is about feelings. The main reason I want a child is feeling: f-e-e-l-i-n-g. Doesn’t that count?

Alter ego: Not all feelings should be followed. Why don’t you wait until you get really clear about whether you want kids?

Person: If I wait, I’ll still have a child at home when I’m in my mid-to-late 50s. Will I have the energy to be a mother then? And even if I did, would that be how I’d be wanting to spend those years?

Alter ego: Maybe you should adopt an older child. Or get a dog.

Person: I need to think about all this (sigh).

Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. specializing in education evaluation from U.C. Berkeley and subsequently taught there. He is the author of seven books and an award-winning career coach, writer, speaker and public radio host specializing in career/workplace issues and education reform. His writings and radio programs are archived on www.martynemko.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

My Breasts, My Choice: Why I’m Nursing My Three-Year-Old

mother-holding-baby
Getty Images

Talk about extended nursing (what we in the U.S. consider breastfeeding any child past the somehow magic age of one) and the crazy comes out

xojane

At three years old, my middle son wakes up as a different animal every morning. He tells me which by calling my name: “Mama Dragon,” he says, or “Mama Bear,” or “Mama Owl.” He calls me by name, always, and asks the same question: “Mama Stingray,” he says, “I have mama milk?”

“Not until after breakfast,” I tell him. “You know the rule. Breakfast first, then mama milk, or else you don’t eat your breakfast.”

Sometimes he accepts this easily, wolfs down some Gorilla Munch, and forgets about milk. Sometimes he gets angry, yells and insists he wants mama milk right now. Sometimes he cries and pouts so badly I write a note: MAMA MILK AFTER BREAKFAST, I spell out on a Post-it. He can’t read, but he clutches it like a ticket, this written assurance that he will, indeed, get the cuddles and milk he needs.

Yes, needs.

Baby Bear is three years old, and Baby Bear still needs to nurse. I’m OK with that and have even encouraged it. Not forced — encouraged. And I’m happy with it.

Talk about extended nursing — what we in the U.S. consider breastfeeding any child past the somehow magic age of one — and the crazy comes out of the woodwork.

“Weird” is the nicest word some commenters muster. Extended nursing has been likened to sexual abuse, to a power play in the mommy wars, to a sick desire to keep a child a baby. People claim it’s for the mother’s benefit, that children are forced to keep nursing, that it’s all about the mom and not about the child.

When I told my mother-in-law I planned to nurse my first son until he chose to wean, she could only manage to splutter, “But how do you expect him to go to preschool?”

Mostly, though, our collective discomfort with extended nursing comes from our persistent sexualization of breasts. Despite legal protections, hardly a week passes that a nursing mother isn’t asked to leave a store, cover herself, or decamp to the bathroom. Breasts, it seems, are only for sexual pleasure. Therefore, their association with children — especially children who can ask for them — becomes tantamount to child abuse.

I’d like to take my breasts back, thanks.

Let me quote the Bloodhound Gang here: you and me, baby, ain’t nothing but mammals. My breasts are not my husband’s. They are not my son’s. They are, first and foremost, my own. And I have chosen to use them for extended breastfeeding: their biological purpose.

There are a lot of reasons for that. Kathy Dettwyller, anthropologist and professor at the University of Delaware, claims the natural age for human weaning, when children are allowed to nurse for as long as they wish, falls somewhere between three and four years of age. Based on physiological and maturational comparisons to other mammals, she estimates the minimum age of human weaning at 2.8 years of age, with a maximum of seven years.

In light of that, nursing barely-three-year-old Baby Bear seems pretty unremarkable.

But it’s not just evolution that tells me to keep going. The benefits of nursing don’t just disappear at age one. Antibodies in breast milk help keep Baby Bear healthy. The longer I nurse, the lower my risk of breast cancer — something every pink-ribbon-waving feminist can support. But most important for me are the psychological benefits.

Baby Bear’s little brother Sunny is a year old. Sunny was a surprise; while we planned Baby Bear and his older brother, we didn’t bank on Sunny. And one of the reasons for that is Baby Bear himself. He’s always been needy, always begged for extra assurances. He warms slowly to family and friends alike. He approaches life with a narrow-eyed skepticism, as if he’s waiting for it to disappoint him. A fall that has his older brother laughing makes him wail. Of all my children, I worry about him inheriting my depression and anxiety the most. He’s a delicate soul, Baby Bear is. And I knew he wouldn’t handle being supplanted.

Because I knew that, I nursed all through my pregnancy. Nursing gave Baby Bear a chance to be a baby again. Like his new little brother, he got special cuddles from mama. He had that magic time of mama all to himself. He nestled in my lap; I kissed his head; we were still deeply, uniquely together. It helped his transition from baby to middle child.

And so we just … kept going. Nursing gave him a safe place. Baby Bear finds the world a pretty overwhelming place sometimes. Loud noises, lots of movement, bright lights: they become too much for him. For months, mama milk stayed his refuge. I handed off his brother to friends and cuddled him close on the floor of a gymnasium, or in the middle of a playdate. He nursed and calmed down and then got up to play again.

Yes, I nursed a toddler in public. It’s normal. It’s unremarkable, no matter how seldom we see it today. And no one asked me leave or told me to stop. If they shot me death glares, I didn’t notice. If I had, I wouldn’t have cared. Extended nursing might not be their choice. But I will not allow their discomfort to minimize or discredit mine.

Nursing has also taught Baby Bear some important rules about consent. A toddler doesn’t nurse like a newborn, and because he doesn’t have a nutritional need, I can say no if I want to. And sometimes, I don’t want touched again. I don’t let him nurse for too long — it can get uncomfortable, and I can’t let him drink all the milk if his brother will need it soon. Sometimes he’s okay with unlatching. Sometimes he gets mad, and I tell him that I understand he’s sad, but he can’t nurse if he throws fits, because it’s too upsetting for both of us. Most importantly, he nurses only once or twice a day, usually in the morning (always after breakfast) or mid-afternoon, post-lunch, pre-quiet-time.

So sometimes I say no.

Baby Bear has to accept this. Nursing a toddler is a relationship, and as the World Health Organization says, breastfeeding should continue “for as long as mother and child desire.” Both mother and child, not one or the other. A nursing relationship takes two.

And will I say no one day? Absolutely.

I weaned Baby Bear’s older brother at age three, when I became pregnant with my youngest. I picked a trip out of town, turned down requests for milk a few times, and that was that. I choose to be finished.

Extended breastfeeding has helped Baby Bear stay healthy and adjust to a changing family dynamic. It’s helped him feel loved. It was a choice I made: to use my body in the way I saw best for my child. Not every mother will make the same choice. Some know formula is right for them; some wean at one year. Their breasts, like mine, are their own. And as women, we can use them however we see fit.

I refuse to give my breasts to the male gaze. I refuse to bow to a one-size-fits-all, nurse-til-one-and-done world. For me, for now, for Baby Bear and his little brother, my breasts are for nurturing. I am happy with that decision. I love nursing my children, and I am grateful Baby Bear has benefited from extended nursing.

I have made my choice, and I will not be shamed.

Elizabeth Broadbent is a writer and mother. This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Map

See Every Country Where Spanking Is Still Legal in One Chart

Heather Jones / TIME ➞ Click to enlarge | Sources: Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children; Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children

It has been banned in 43 countries so far

Every time a new controversy erupts about parents who use spanking to discipline their kids, such as the Adrian Peterson story, there’s a whole new round of discussion about the most appropriate way to discipline kids.

This week Time for Family takes a deep look at the best way to discipline kids: who really spanks their kids, under what circumstances and whether it works. And, most critically, whether there anything else works better.

So far 43 countries have outlawed spanking, and two more are about to. Here’s a map with some surprising ways different countries are handling corporal punishment of children.

Oh and if you like this, be sure to sign up for TIME’s parenting weekly newsletter here.

TIME

Punishing Kids for Lying Only Makes Them Lie More

Young child sitting in corner as punishment
Getty Images

Kids who are given a moral reason to tell the truth tend to do so more often

Do you punish your children when they’re caught in a lie? That’s what many parents do, but a new study from researchers at McGill University suggests it might be time for a different approach. The study finds that kids reprimanded for lying are more likely to bend the truth, while kids who are given a moral reason for truth-telling tend to believe that honesty is the best policy.

Researchers traced the effectiveness of punishment in 372 kids between the ages of 4 and 8, finding that children were less likely to tell the truth when threatened with punishment, and more likely to tell the truth when they thought it would please an adult.

In order to gauge the implications of punishment on a child’s propensity to lie, researchers placed each participant alone in a room with a toy, and asked the child not to peek at the toy for an entire minute. It’s hardly surprising that curiosity got the best of most children, with 67.5 percent peeking, and 66.5 percent of those who peeked going on to lie about it. (Note: older children were less likely to peek, but were also more likely to lie about peeking after they’d done so.)

“Children often lie to conceal transgressions,” says study researcher and McGill professor Victoria Talwar. “Having done something wrong or broken a rule, they may choose to lie to try to conceal it. After all, they know they may get in trouble for the transgression. Thus, punishment doesn’t have much of an effect. It doesn’t deter them from using the strategy of lying to try to get out of trouble.”

So, how should parents go about encouraging their children to tell the truth when the impulse to lie is so strong? McGill’s study indicates that kids respond best to a strong moral appeal for honesty. Younger children were inclined to tell the truth to make an adult happy, while older children were inclined to do so because of their own internalized definition of right and wrong –– facts that might come in handy when your little one is caught red handed with the leftover Halloween candy.

“Threats about punishment are not deterrents for lying, and they do not communicate why children should be honest,” says Talwar. “If a child is playing with a ball in the house and breaks your vase but tells the truth about it when asked, you should recognize that he came clean. He may still have consequences for his transgression, but the child learns that honesty is valued.”

These findings reinforce a more progressive approach to parenting, and indicate that it’s better to explain truth-telling to children using positive reinforcement than the threat of harsh consequences. “Globally, we generally think of lying as a negative behavior,” says Talwar. “However, we sometimes fail to recognize the positive behavior –– honesty. If a child is confessing his transgression, we need to recognize that he was honest.”

Read next: Parents Should Try Being Present Instead of Perfect

TIME

Tech Tips To Keep Your Kid’s Belief in Santa Alive

Christmas tree surrounded with gifts
Tom Merton—Getty Images

"Don't Stop Believin'"

It’s that time of year! There’s a chill in the wind, bells in the air, eggnog on the menu and a strong probability that your kid will pick up The Truth About Santa on the mean city streets or in a first grade classroom.

Yes, Virginia, there is a chance that some December you’ll send your child to school and have his beliefs in Santa crushed right out of him by some truth-speaking sibyl spreading the gospel of disbelief on the lower school playground. While preschoolers and kindergartners are usually insulated from these malicious magic-busters, because most of the tiny tikes still believe that Jolly Old Saint Nick keeps track of who’s naughty and nice in some massive Google doc at the North Pole, first or second graders are a different story. When kids leave the cots of kindergarten, the ranks of the True Believers start to thin.

As much as some parents (myself very much included) want to keep the magic of the season alive, kids these days are a wily lot, seemingly born with a natural sense of skepticism about anything that’s not plugged into the World Wide Web. Luckily, there’s technology that can help parents keep even the savviest youngsters believing in Santa just a little bit longer.

Reindeer cam

In a holiday twist on the internet classics of corgi cams, pitbull puppy cams, and sloth cams, this handy website shows a steady stream of Santa’s reindeer just chilling out in their barn at the North Pole. Youngsters can watch the reindeer eat, drink and be merry while preparing for their big night pulling Santa’s sleigh. They can even wait for Santa to make a live appearance at regularly scheduled times.

Watch here: Reindeercam.com

North Pole Radio

iHeartRadio just launched a new radio station hosted by DJ Santa Claus playing Christmas favorites all day long. Between Vince Guaraldi classics and modern twists on carols, Santa and his elves provide commentary between songs. Plus, there’s a call-in phone number (929-BIG-ELF1) for kids to leave their Christmas requests, which Santa will be playing and responding to all month long.

Listen here: North Pole Radio

Kringl App

This one blew my kid’s mind last year and I fully plan on using it again. This free app uses your phone’s video camera to superimpose Santa into your very own living room in just a few quick steps of technological magic. You simply open the app and follow the directions that include filming for a few seconds, applying some easy-to-operate effects and you suddenly have indisputable proof that Santa exists. (Just don’t ask me how it works!)

More info here: http://www.kringlapp.com/

Norad Santa Tracker

For more than 50 years, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and its ominous-sounding predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa’s Christmas Eve flight ever since a local media ad encouraged children to call Santa directly, but misprinted the number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone rang through to the crew commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center. The rest is history. Now, kids around the world can follow Santa’s flight on NORAD’s website, which has been translated into eight languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Chinese. There’s also a mobile version, a holiday countdown, games and daily activities.

Watch here: http://www.noradsanta.org/

Portable North Pole

This website is awesome, but it does require an ability to stomach uploading personal information. Enter some details about your child (first name, age, city, Christmas wish) and Santa will deliver a personalized message that will bring a smile to your kid’s face. I have done the free version for the last three years, but fudge my son’s birth date, don’t upload a photo, and don’t enter credit card information. The result is a video that is magical enough—filled with elves, Christmas cheer and Santa reporting on your child’s behavior and relaying your little one’s Christmas wish while giving a tour of his North Pole workshop. It may be more magical with more information, but no one has stolen my kid’s identity yet. Sadly, there are enough scammers out there that we all need to be careful.

More information here: Portable North Pole

Call Santa

There are several ways to have Santa remind your child to stay on his good side until Christmas. There’s the Calling Santa app, the Parents Calling Santa app and the Video Calls with Santa app all of which let kids have a little chat with the Big Man himself. But again, be careful with your personal information. These apps probably work best on younger children who are less likely to question Santa’s internet connection. There’s also Christmas Dialer, which you can use to deliver a message from either Santa or one of his elves. A pre-recorded message is free, but premium ones cost money. This also works for unsettling your grown friends who might be wondering why an elf will be watching over them each night.

More information here: ChristmasDialer.com

Google Santa Tracker

The search giant has launched its annual Santa Tracker, which, like NORAD, maps Old Saint Nick’s Christmas Eve travels. The site is also acting as a digital advent calendar unlocking new games and activities each day as we countdown to Christmas.

Watch here: Google Santa Tracker

@Santa Twitter

For the truly tech-savvy kid, Santa is tweeting @Santa and there’s no doubt he’s in touch with what’s hot with kids these days.

TIME Parenting

Georgia School Slaps Handcuffs on 6-Year-Old Student

80991995
Getty Images

School said first grader's son posed a risk to himself and others

The mother of a first grade student has expressed outrage at a Georgia school’s decision last week to place her 6-year-old son in handcuffs.

Lakaisha Reid said she found her son, a special needs student at Pine Ridge Elementary school, kneeling on the floor with his hands cuffed behind his back, Yahoo! News reports.

“The first thing I said was ‘Get those handcuffs off my kid,’ Reid said. She said the handcuffs appeared to have bruised her son’s wrists.

(Read more: Why Are 40,000 Children So Harshly Disciplined in Public Schools?)

The school defended its decision to restrain her son, arguing that his behavior posed a risk to himself and other students.

“For approximately one hour, the student was scratching, kicking and hitting school personnel and continued to exhibit violent behavior, running into walls, banging his head on tables and placing his health at risk,” read a statement from Dekalb County School District.

[Yahoo!]

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser