Posts Categorized: Family

How to Tell Your 10-Year-Old Santa Isn’t Bringing the Cell phone He or She Asked For

As soon as I post this, I am off to the mall to finish my holiday shopping.  It will be a leaner Christmas for the Schafer’s, but mostly because I bought myself a $1,000 emergency root canal last week. I can’t blame the economy on that.  I did share my thoughts on how to handle the money crisis and the upcoming holiday with children in yesterday’s Globe and Mail.  You can read it here if you’d like more information on the how to have the “money talk.”  (Gee, and we thought talking about sex was difficult!)

Frankly, I am happy to do some consumer downsizing and spend more of my energies on the other traditions that surround this season.  Here is some of what our family does:

  • I have bought each of my children a goat to give to another family through Free The Children. This is an organization my daughter is involved with, and a goat is a really tangible thing that they were thrilled to “get” for these other children.  (Yeah, I already told them. Couldn’t wait till the 25th!)
  • Last year I asked my daughter to give something to the families in Darfur (South Sudan) as her gift to me. That meant she had to do some research, and she was really moved but what she learned.  It was a gift to us both, really.  She was really proud to have sent her own money to their aid.
  • Every year my husband and I ask our children for something they have made themselves.They are 13 and 14 years old now, but I still keep this tradition going. Last year, I got a wonderful scrapbook that my daughter compiled called, “The 100 things I love about you.”  The year before, I received a tin box with a glass front, and inside the tin was a note that said, “We blew 100 kisses each into this box for you,” so I could have a kiss any time I needed one.

Be creative yourself in your quest to have the best holiday ever with your family.  If you really want those presents under the tree, see if Christmas lasagna could become a new tradition!  I think I spend more at the grocery store than the mall anyway.

However you go about it, remember that all of our stresses are in fact self-inflicted miseries.  I refuse to indulge myself that way. You always have the ability to control your attitude, regardless of how dire the situation.  Enjoy your family. That is all that matters.


About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at


The PANK Perspective: Santa isn’t so jolly when you’re a kid.

Some children don’t mind the big man in red, while others cringe at the thought of being placed on his knee.

A few years ago when my oldest nephew was 3 years old, he wasn’t impressed with having to sit with Santa and pose for a photo. He didn’t kick or scream, cry or yell; he simply just wasn’t impressed.


Obviously, Cole wasn’t excited to see Santa!


For the latter part of that day, we called him Daemon.

The last couple of years he’s been much better. He understands Santa’s role and has mastered the art of grinning wide and saying ‘cheese.’ Now, I’m not sure how his brother who just turned 1 will handle his first greeting of the Supreme Claus. I don’t think he will cry, but getting him to sit still might be tough. Good luck to my SIL on that one.

When I was young, I didn’t like Santa much until I was about 6. My Mom has a picture frame she displays every holiday season of my brother and I over the years. For the first bunch of photos, I’m bawling my eyes out. In fact, there’s one where I’m so beet red in the face from screaming that you’d think it was the end of the world. I don’t know what my problem was with Santa. Maybe it’s because he wears a suit in a colour that is often associated with anger and anxiety? Or maybe it’s because his beard hides his mouth and all you can see are his beady eyes? Or maybe it’s simply the fact that a child is being handed off to a stranger and must pose for a photo? I have no idea, but as I said, I didn’t like the guy for many years. But, I always left him sugar cookies so I made up for the crying. I think.

What do your kids think of the jolly man in red?

Happy Holidays!

About the Author:

Diane Morris is a PANK; Professional Aunt, No Kids and works for Mabel’s Labels as the Sales Coordinator. She’s an Aunt to two boys, and an “Auntie” to her boyfriend’s niece and nephew. She’s a sucker for romance, country music and peanut butter.

Rules to live by for the Holiday season

image via:

Eat drink and be merry:

I have no problem with the eating and drinking part. Got that down to a cookie filled, red wine flowing science. It’s the whole “merry” part of holiday entertaining. It’s tough to be merry when your pants are tight, your kids are hopped up on sugar and people turn into these alien beings programmed to run around the mall and take other people out to get the last iPad in aquamarine blue. But this year I vow to try by wearing stretch pants (as long as they are not paired with a festive reindeer sweater-rule #2?), smiling at people in mall line ups and reminding myself it’s about the children.

Be kind to your fellow man or thou shalt not run over old ladies in mall parking lots:

Really I saw this happen last Christmas. Someone was rushing for a parking spot and almost ran over an elderly lady who was walking towards the mall. Now I don’t know about you but I think there is a special down below for those who take out old people at Christmas time. Yes, we are all hurrying this time of year as time seems to speed up and to-do lists seem to expand but killing thy fellow man probably won’t win you any brownie points with the big guy. And no I don’t mean Santa.

It is better to give then to receive

Did you ever notice how people rarely give or do something thoughtful unless they get something in return? Not this time of year! The holiday season reminds us to give just for the sake of giving-donating toys to those without, offering time or food to a shelter, and remembering to leave a bigger tip than normal at Starbucks. I tried to pay it forward the other day but judging from the reaction I got, I guess it’s too early. I asked to pay for the person behind me in the line at Tim Hortons and the lady looked at me like I’d asked her if she wouldn’t mind if I got down to my skivvies and did a dance on the hood of my car. I also saw her deliberating with the customer behind me telling her that her order was paid for and she was probably demanding but why? This seems to be the time of year that you can be nice to your fellow man without them wondering if you’re just trying to sell them an upgraded cable package or if you’re shifty. Take advantage of it. It feels good.

Thou shalt not freak out over turkey

I have a confession to make. I have only cooked a whole turkey, ONCE. And I vowed that I wouldn’t do it again. I find the entire process of cooking a turkey intimidating. First there’s the calculations you have to make that are akin to NASA to ensure that it will be cooked on time. At fifteen minutes a pound, in a 350 degree oven, travelling at 100 miles an hour what time do you have to put a 15 pound turkey in to be cooked by 5:00…

Whatever formula I used the year of the turkey (as I like to refer to it) didn’t work. The thing was still mostly raw by 7 pm and I fed the kids hot dogs opting for deli meat over salmonella and put them to bed. Now I use turkey rolls which is  just the breast part of the meat and while I know my parents would probably prefer a turkey and they went to all that work for me over the years I also know my limits. I will not whip up my grandmother’s homemade pumpkin pie recipe and cook a fifty pound bird.

Thou shalt carry hand sanitizer and stay home when you have the flu

Tis the season….to share germs. Use hand sanitizer and wash your hands a lot! And if you do happen to get sick please don’t share the wealth…we spend a lot of time together in closed quarters this time of year- at work, at the mall…and yes there are times when you have to go somewhere but if you don’t and you’re truly sick STAY HOME!

I saw a commercial the other day for a cold and flu medication which had this guy who looked like death and the voice over said, “you have things to do, so take this medication and get on with your day” and then suddenly the same dude is going to work and then on a date and I’m thinking AAAH! You’re still sick! He feels great until the drugs wear off but it doesn’t make him less contagious. And now he’s just infected his entire office and his main squeeze. If you have the flu, adhere to these Christmas safety tips: take a day off, wrap a hot towel around your head (shout out to Ferris Bueller fans) and watch some reality TV, sports or whatever it is you’re into while sipping hot tea and loading up on Vitamin C. Then when you don’t have a fever and aren’t contagious rejoin the rest of the world. The malls aren’t going anywhere and if you really need to shop then online shopping works wonders.

Enjoy the company of friends and neighbours

This the time of the year to be social and while surviving the holidays can be overwhelming as the calendar overflows with engagements just remember that hibernation is coming. Winter is long and many of us hole up into our houses until Spring or wrap ourselves up in layers of clothing until we are unrecognizable, giving each other a quick Michelin man greeting as we tackle our snow covered drive-ways. Human contact, the kind that exists outside of the cyber world is healthy and even helps with managing anxiety just as long as you follow the rule above.

And that’s it. The holiday rules I like to live by. This holiday season try to live by your own rules, or use some of mine if they resonate with you, but remember above all no matter what happens it’s about spending time with those you love and being grateful for what you have…and wearing really stretchy pants. Happy Holidays!


About the Author

Lisa Van Meeteren is the mother of two children, ages 5 and 9. She works as a copywriter and has just completed a novel!


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