It’s that time of year again: time to get together with friends, host backyard barbecues, cook up some hotdogs and hamburgers, sip a cool beverage and end the day gathered around watching fireworks. Sounds perfect, right? Unfortunately, according to the US Fire Administration in 2010 alone there were 8,600 injuries caused by fireworks and 2 out of every 5 injured were less than 15 years old.
How and Why Do These Injuries Occur?
- Fireworks type: Among the various types of fireworks, some of which are sold legally in some states, bottle rockets can fly into peoples’ faces and cause eye injuries; sparklers can ignite clothing; and firecrackers can injure the hands or face if they explode at close range.
- Being too close: Injuries may result from being too close to fireworks when they explode; for example, when someone leans over to look more closely at a firework that has been ignited, or when a misguided bottle rocket hits a nearby person.
- Lack of physical coordination: Younger children often lack the physical coordination to handle fireworks safely – even sparklers! Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. But facts are that sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals and enough to cause a serious burn
- Curiosity: Children are often excited and curious around fireworks, which can increase their chances of being injured (for example, when they re-examine a firecracker dud that initially fails to ignite).
- Experimentation: Homemade fireworks (for example, ones made of the powder from several firecrackers) can lead to dangerous and unpredictable explosions.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not here to talk doom and gloom when it comes to 4th of July fireworks. It really can be the perfect ending to an already perfect day…providing we’re careful and follow these key fireworks safety rules:
Top 10 Fireworks Safety Tips:
- Use fireworks outdoors only. Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers. Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks including sparklers. Only persons over the age of 12 should be allowed to handle sparklers of any type.
- Avoid buying fireworks packaged in brown paper. This is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
- Be careful when lighting the fuse. Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Light fireworks one at a time, then quickly back up to a safe distance
- Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
- Only use fireworks as intended. Don’t try to alter them or combine them. They can kill you!
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap. After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
- Use common sense. Spectators should keep a safe distance from the shooter and the shooter should wear safety glasses.
- Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a “designated shooter.”
- Obey local laws. If fireworks are not legal where you live, do not use them.
Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy, fun and safe 4th of July
- ”Focus on Fire Safety: Fireworks” – US Fire Administration
- “Fireworks Safety” – US Consumer Product Safety Commission
- “Safety Tips” – The National Council on Fireworks Safety
The Horse Boy is a documentary that follows a family as they travel to Mongolia to try shamanistic healing for their son. Although the child in the film has autism, parents Rupert Isaacson and Kristin Neff struggle with the same questions any special needs diagnosis would bring:
- Did I do something to cause this?
- Will my child ever be self-sufficient?
- What will happen to my child when I am gone?
The film forces the audience to look unflinchingly at the reality of life with an autistic child, showing long stretches of tantrums. Although the sequences may seem long to the viewer, it reminds us that these short scenes are nothing compared to the day to day reality faced by some special needs caregivers.
The parents are amazingly devoted to trying anything and everything to help heal not only their child but their overall situation. They put aside personal beliefs and prejudices as they place their faith and their hope into a different culture.
The family’s story raises fascinating questions. How far would you go, geographically, spiritually and emotionally, to help your special needs child? What specific parts of your child’s special needs really need to be treated? Do doctors really know everything about these conditions?
Buy the horse Boy on Amazon, or rent it instantly here
The Famous Marshmallow Test and Implications for Our Kids’ Later Success
In 1960, Walter Mischel, a psychologist at Stanford University, conducted the now famous Marshmallow Test. Mischel challenged a group of four-year-olds: Did they want a marshmallow immediately, or could they wait a few minutes until a researcher returned, at which point they could have two marshmallows? Mischel’s researchers then followed up on the children upon their high school graduation and found that those who had been able to wait for those marshmallows years before at age four now were far more socially competent: they were found to be more personally effective, self-assertive, and better able to deal with the frustrations of life. The third who waited longest also had significantly higher SAT scores by an average of two hundred points of the total verbal and math scores combined than the teens who, at age four, couldn’t wait. Those results clearly revealed the importance of helping kids develop the ability to cope with behavioral impulses and learn self-control.
Mischel, who is now a professor at Columbia, and a team of researchers are still tracking those four-year olds. Hundreds of hours of observations have been conducted over the years on the participants. At first researchers figured that the children’s ability to wait just depended upon how badly they wanted the marshmallow. But it became apparent that every kid wanted the treat. Mischel now concludes that something else was helping those kids put on the brakes so they could delay their desire. The finding is a critical secret to success and here it is:
Those kids who were able to hold off and not eat the initial marshmallow had learned a crucial skill that helped them do so.
The researcher calls that waiting ability “Strategic Allocation of Attention.” Jonah Lehrer described the self-control skill in an enlightening article entitled, “Don’t!: The Secret of Self-Control” (which I strongly recommend you read).
Instead of getting obsessed with the marshmallow—the “hot stimulus”—the patient children distracted themselves by covering their eyes, pretending to play hide-and-seek underneath the desk, or singing songs from “Sesame Street.” Their desire wasn’t defeated—it was merely forgotten. “If you’re thinking about the marshmallow and how delicious it is, then you’re going to eat it,” Mischel says. “The key is to avoid thinking about it in the first place.”
That finding has enormous ramifications for our children’s social, academic and even moral success.
Why We Can – and Must – Teach Our Kids to Delay Gratification
But here’s the good news: Mischel and his colleagues believe that parents and teachers may be able to teach children skills that help them learn how to delay gratification and stretch their patience quotients. As Lehrer explains in that The New Yorker article:
When he [Mishcel] and his colleagues taught children a simple set of mental tricks—such as pretending that the candy is only a picture, surrounded by an imaginary frame—he dramatically improved their self-control. The kids who hadn’t been able to wait sixty seconds could now wait fifteen minutes.
“All I’ve done is given them some tips from their mental user manual,” Mischel says. “Once you realize that will power is just a matter of learning how to control your attention and thoughts, you can really begin to increase it.”
Meanwhile research is currently under way in classrooms in which teachers are teaching students “waiting” skills and the preliminary results are promising. The real challenge will be to see if those newly-learned waiting skills can be turned into life-long habits–especially in this N.O.W. culture in which our kids have learned to expect instant gratification and reward, ASAP.
Ways to Stretch Children’s “Waiting Ability”
The findings of this research are too critical to overlook. Our first step is to start looking for those countless little everyday moments we can use to help our kids learn to put on the brake. There are dozens of opportunities. Any of these sound familiar?
“Wait just a minute, Sweetie. Mom is on the phone.”
“I know you want a cookie, but you’ll have to wait ten minutes.”
“Sorry. We’re going to open presents after we have our dinner.”
“Nope. You get your allowance on Saturday. No loans until then.”
Besides looking for those waiting opportunity moments, you can teach your child skills that will help him push his own inner pause button. Your child may barrel straight into every task right now, but your utlimate goal is gradually to stretch his ability to control those impulses and learn to wait at his level. Start by timing how long your child can pause before those impulses get the best of him. Take that time as his “waiting ability” (even if it’s only two seconds) and then slowy increase it over the next weeks and months.
Remember, research shows that what a child learns to say to himself (or “self-instruction”) during the moments of temptation is a significant determiner of whether he is able to say no to impulsive urges and/or wait. Keep in mind that those kids who were able to hold off and not eat the marshmallows usually had learned a skill to help delay those urges. Here are six strategies from The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries (pages 93-98) that help kids control impulses. Choose the one that works best for your child and then practice, practice, practice together until that new habit kicks in and he can use it when he feels those impulses taking over.
Freeze. In a calm voice say this to your child: “Freeze. Don’t move until you can get back in control.”
Use a phrase. Have him slowly say a phrase like “One Mississippi, two Mississippi.”
Hold your breath. Tell your kid not to breathe as long as possible and then to take a few long, deep breaths. (Just make sure he remembers to breathe!).
Count. Join your child in slowly counting from on to twenty (or fewer with a younger kid).
Sing. For a young child, ask him to pick his favorite tune, such as “Frere Jacques” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and hum a few bars.
Watch. Have him look at his wristwatch and count set numbers of seconds (such as ten). Expand that number to what is appropriate to the child.
Of course, don’t stop here. There are dozens of ways to teach your child to wait. The key is to find a strategy that works for your child, and then keep rehearsing it until your child can use it without you. Just this week I encountered a mom and her four year old utilizing a great “waiting game” strategy. It was in the woman’s restroom of the Denver Airport with one long line (not the thing any young child needing to use that the bathroom wants to see). Her mom took one look at the line, rolled her eyes and then calmly turned to her daughter. “Boy, looks like a bit of a wait, so we’ll have to stand in line. Meanwhile why don’t you sign the “Birthday Song” about three times and I bet it’ll then be your turn.” That little girl’s impatience quickly morphed into singing a tune of the song. Half the line of women joined in to accompany the tune and her mother was right. At the end of the third chorus, she was at the front of the line. Smart Mom!
Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research . The Big Book of Parenting Solutions has been released and is now available at amazon.com.
For those of you not familiar with”Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings“, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other disabilities 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.), and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing.
To quote 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 July 2nd at 10am local time, “Cars 2” will be screened as part of the “sensory friendly screening program”. On July 23rd, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 will be screened. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fantastic program.
Coming August 6th: The Smurfs
Editor’s note: Cars 2 is rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is rated PG-13 for Some intense sequences of intense action violence and frightening images. Please check the IMDB Parent’s Guide for a more detailed description to determine if this movie is right for you and your child.
What are mornings like at your house? If you’re like most moms, it’s probably the busiest part of your day. After all, you’ve got to get yourself and your kids out of bed, dressed, fed and out the door with all the necessary stuff in time for school, work and other activities. And this time of year, if your schedule is shifting weekly due to different summer camps or activities, it can make the morning routine even more of a challenge.
The beginning of the day tends to be chaotic and stressful for a bunch of reasons, says Dr. Mary Alvord, a psychologist in private practice in Rockville and Silver Spring, Md., and a mother of three. “Chances are you’ve got at least one or two people in the family, if not everyone, getting ready. There’s a lot that needs to get done in a relatively short period of time, and you’re on a deadline,” she says. “Plus, young children especially don’t do well when they’re being rushed.”
Organizing expert Stacey Crew, a mother of two, says that “how the morning goes really sets the tone for the whole day, so you really want to make things calm and run like clockwork.”
With some key planning and organizational strategies, it is possible to turn the morning mayhem into a peaceful and manageable routine. Here’s how Alvord, Crew and other busy moms make it happen:
1. Plan the week during the weekend
Crew recommends using Saturday and Sunday to get ready for the coming week. Plan and shop for meals, get the laundry done and decide what the kids will wear to school every day (if they’re not old enough to pick out their own outfits).
“Once Monday morning rolls around, you’ve got enough on your plate without having to worry about what you’re making for dinner or whether your kids have clean clothes for school,” says Crew.
2. Prep the night before
The more you can do before going to bed the night before, the better. Make and pack lunches, lay out clothes for you and the kids, set out the breakfast dishes, and make sure bags are packed and waiting beside the door. If getting dressed in the morning is always a battle between you and your (non-morning-person) child, you could even try having her wear her comfy school clothes to bed. “It’s no biggie for my 6-year-old, because she usually wears leggings and a jersey to school, and they’re like PJ’s anyway,” says Bay Brown, a mother of three in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Also, make sure that you and your kids turn in on time so you get enough sleep, suggests Alvord. “It’s easier and less stressful to get everything done in the morning when you’re well-rested,” she says.
3. Get yourself ready first
Plan to get up at least a half hour earlier than your children so you can be showered and dressed before they get up. Slipping away for “me time” after the kids are awake is virtually impossible in most households, unless you stick your kids in front of a TV, which then makes getting them out of the house even harder. Another option: Shower the night before to save time in the morning.
4. Set up a family communication center
Hunting around for a school permission slip five minutes before you’re supposed to leave is a surefire way to ramp up the morning stress level. That’s why Crew, author of The Organized Mom, recommends carving out a space (not the cluttered kitchen counter) where you can keep the family calendar, school forms and other papers that need to be acted on in the near future. And plan to get those permission slips signed and back in the schoolbags the night before.
5. Involve kids in the morning routine
“Young children thrive on structure and knowing what the next step is,” says Alvord. So have them help you create a schedule for the mornings, like this:
6:15 a.m.: Wake up
6:30 a.m.: Get dressed
6:45 a.m.: Eat breakfast
7:15 a.m.: Brush teeth
7:30 a.m.: Put on shoes and coat
If your child is a big dawdler, try using timers for tasks like getting dressed and brushing teeth.
6. Make morning tasks fun
Keeping things light and playful is often the key to getting results from young kids. If your child is competitive, turn getting dressed into a game of who can do it the fastest. Come up with a silly song set to a familiar tune like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” (e.g., “Put, Put, Put on Your Shoes”) to encourage your child to move from one task to another.
7. Bend the rules for kids who are not feeling well
A child who’s not feeling great (but not necessarily sick enough to stay home) often has an especially hard time getting out the door in the morning, so it’s best to make the routine as easy as possible. Skip the usual morning chores and tasks, and let your child rest on the couch until it’s time to go.
8. Schedule time for breakfast and play
“Breakfast doesn’t have to be large or take a long time, but kids should sit down while they eat,” says Alvord. “Eating while seated at a table and allowing time to eat at a leisurely pace promotes good eating habits.” (If your child has a cold, don’t forget to serve extra fluids.)
Finally, try to work in 15 minutes of quiet playtime right before your child needs to leave the house. It can serve as a reward for being ready on time. Best of all, it helps keep the morning routine calm and peaceful. “If I’m rushing my kids at the last minute, they’re much slower and resistant,” says Kim Walker, a mother of two in San Francisco.