Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

Last updated on September 13th, 2015 at 12:09 am

Black Friday has come and gone this year but it is only the beginning of the busiest shopping season of the year. Everywhere you go, stores are packed, parking lots are full, and people are scurrying about trying to get the very best deals on all the latest, hottest gift items. If you are an avid shopper, this might be your favorite time to shop and score big bargains on the items on your gift list, but this time of year can also put shoppers at risk for theft, accidents, and other safety threats.

Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind while you are out doing your holiday shopping this year:

Shop with a friend

There is safety in numbers and not only will it make you less of a target, you’ll probably have more fun than shopping alone.

Take only the bare necessities

Before you head out to the mall or stores, clean out your purse or wallet and take only what you really must have. If possible, skip the purse and carry a small wallet in your front pocket. If you must carry a purse, carry it over your shoulder, across your body, or carry a wristlet purse. These make it harder for a purse-snatcher to access your purse. Plus, if you do have your purse or wallet stolen or if you lose it, you will not have to replace as many cards and can quickly report the ones that were stolen/lost.

Shop during the daylight hours

If possible, shop during the daytime. Once it gets dark, thieves have an advantage of being able to hide in the dark and then attack unsuspecting shoppers when they are walking back to their vehicles with their purchases. If you must shop after sundown, park as close to the store as you can and in a well-lit area. If you feel uncomfortable walking to your car, ask if there is a security guard who can escort you through the parking lot. Have your key out and check around your vehicle before getting in it. Once you are inside, lock your doors and don’t delay in leaving.

If you are approached by anyone in the parking lot or if someone’s behavior seems suspicious, return to the store instead of trying to get to your car. Your car cannot protect you as well as being in the store with other people can. Alert store security or a manager if there is any suspicious activity or if someone did approach you and seemed to be a threat.

Protect your purchases

Thieves know that holiday shopping time is prime time to find lots to steal in the parking lots of malls and other shopping centers. If you have to leave any purchases in your car, be sure to hide or cover them well. Lock them in the trunk of a car or if you are driving an SUV or minivan, cover them with a blanket. Don’t leave anything visible. If you plan to drop off purchases and then go back into the same mall/shopping center, get in your car and drive to another part of the parking lot to re-park. Or take a break, leave the area to get lunch or a snack and come back later. Thieves may be lurking in the parking lot and if one sees you put packages in your car and go back into the mall, your vehicle will be a prime target.

Don’t overload yourself

Leaving a store with arms full of several bags, boxes, and other goodies may look fun and exciting in commercials, but in real life it makes you a target for attackers. An attacker knows it will be harder for you to fight with your arms full and it will be easier to catch you off-guard because you’ll be distracted by trying to carry and balance all your purchases. And remember, thieves often work in pairs. If someone approaches you, be wary of not only them, but anyone else who might be around because they may be planning to pick-pocket or snatch your bags or purse while you are distracted by the one who approached you.

Be alert at all times

Be aware of your surroundings when out in public, not only for possible thieves or attackers, but for potential safety hazards as well. If you are walking through a parking lot, watch out for cars, as crowded and busy parking lots may make it hard for drivers to see you, especially if they are backing out of a parking space. If you are driving, watch closely for pedestrians, especially those who might be paying attention or may be overloaded with packages and bags. Look carefully behind you before backing out of a parking space.

If the weather is rainy, snowy or icy, be extra cautious walking in the parking lot and even when you step into the store, as slick floors may cause falls.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and stay safe!

More Than a Meal: Benefits of Eating Together

Last updated on August 13th, 2015 at 03:35 pm

Recently, I was honored to speak at the Texas PTA Leadership Conference in Austin, TX on the importance of family mealtimes. The benefits of family meals go far beyond nutrition. Did you know that young people who reported eating dinner with their family 5 or more times per week were much likelier to report receiving either all A’s or mostly A’s and B’s in school? Other key items from research include:

  • Mealtime conversations help children acquire and improve the language skills that are critical for school success. Children learn new vocabulary, sentence structure, and how to share their point of view with other people.
  • Conversations at the family table taught children more vocabulary than they learned from their parents reading books to them.
  • Elementary school children who did well in class and on achievement tests were those who generally spent larger amounts of time eating meals with their families.
  • Eating meals with their family was a stronger predictor of academic success than whether they lived with one or both parents.
  • The more often families eat together the less likely teens are to smoke cigarettes, use illegal drugs, abuse alcohol, become depressed, develop eating disorders, or get pregnant.

Nutrition Benefits

We can’t deny the family mealtime benefits on your child’s current and future nutrition. They include:

  • More likely to have a healthy weight.
  • Less likely to become or stay overweight.
  • Less likely to develop an eating disorder.
  • Family meals during adolescence had a lasting positive influence on the quality of their diets and meal patterns, such as eating breakfast. In other words, having family meals with your teenagers improves their chances of eating right in their 20’s.
  • Young people who eat more often with their families have higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy foods.
  • For teens, more regular family meals mean fewer fried foods and soft drinks. These adolescents also have higher intakes of key nutrients like calcium, iron, vitamins A, B6, C, E, and folate, as well as fiber.

Keeping It Simple

The great thing to know is that the meal does not need to be complicated to have all of these great benefits. If you are super strapped for time, these ideas don’t even need a recipe:

  • Flank steak with tossed salad and frozen vegetables
  • Pasta with frozen or canned shrimp, sautéed in olive oil with onion and garlic
  • Cheese omelet with tossed salad
  • Tuna salad in a whole wheat wrap made with reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • Black beans and brown or wild rice with frozen veggies
  • Spinach salad with grilled chicken, mandarin oranges, and slivered almonds
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich on 100% whole-wheat bread
  • Hamburgers (made with lean ground beef) on whole-grain buns, with boiled potatoes and frozen vegetables

Add some skim/1% milk as a beverage, add quick veggies as needed and serve fresh fruit as a dessert – and you have a very well-rounded stress-free meal. Remember, eliminate all distractions and make all mealtime discussions pleasant and friendly. Involve your kids in the recipe selection, shopping and preparation for maximum impact. And if you are not eating at least 5 meals as a family, consider adding one per week. Dinner is a great time, but breakfasts and lunches work as well.

Eating together is one of the best things we can do as a family to enrich the quality of our children’s lives. Commit today to make family meals a priority in your home and watch all the great things that will follow.

December 3rd Sensory Friendly Film: The Muppets

Last updated on March 18th, 2017 at 11:11 pm

Once a month, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other disabilities ”Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings“ – a special opportunity to enjoy their favorite “family-friendly” films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

To quote once again our Special Needs Parenting Expert Rosie Reeves: “It can be challenging enough to bring a child to a movie theater – they are dark, the sound is very loud, there are tempting stairs and rails and they are expected to sit still and stay quiet. When a child has special needs all these elements and many others can prove too daunting to even attempt such an outing. And yet getting out, being with the community and sharing in an experience with an audience can be invaluable for just such children – and their caregivers, too”.

On December 3rd at 10am local time, “The Muppets” will be screened as part of the “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” program. Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program.

Coming January 7th: The Adventures of Tin Tin

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Editor’s note: The Muppets is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America. Please check the IMDB Parent’s Guide for a more detailed description of The Muppets to determine if it is right for you and your child.