The summer I turned 12 I visited my cousins in California. Boogie-boarding in the surf at Santa Monica I had a real scare. A rogue wave flattened me and started dragging me out to sea. 36 years later I can vividly remember the sensation of being in a washing machine, being churned around with the sand scraping against my back and stomach as I was dragged out to sea. The combination of panic and being under water for so long robbed me of the last of my oxygen as I desperately fought to get a foot hold on solid ground. Finally my feet connected with the ocean floor and I stood up – knee deep in water.
I felt foolish, never told my cousins or my aunt. I mean, it’s hard enough being 12, but almost drowning in under 2 feet of water? But I didn’t know. I didn’t understand how to read the ocean and I didn’t know what to do if the water behaved differently than in my local pool and Lake Michigan is a different story from the Pacific Ocean, although just as dangerous if you don’t know what to look for.
When I look at the primary misleading signals that water can give, rip tides or rip currents is probably one of the scariest and least understood, but understanding them prepares you for other events, such as the occasional rogue wave.
I’ll defer to the experts for all the information on rip tides, but the most important thing that you need to know, and what you need to teach your children, is how to recognize a rip tide, and how to escape if you do get caught.
First, a rip tide is a strip of deceptively calm water. On either side you’ll see choppy waves, but the rip tide is enticingly, beckoningly smooth. That’s the water heading out at a rate faster than an Olympic swimmer can paddle. So, first step, survey the water, and if you see a flat patch, avoid it.
Second, if you do get caught, don’t try to fight the water, you’ll never win. Swim slowly and steadily sideways, parallel with the shore. You will either be able to eventually leave the rip tide or it will spit you out at the end of the rip tide and you just need to swim back to shore.
Ideally you have also chosen to swim near a lifeguard and have checked out any signs warning of rip tides or dangerous surf, but since water doesn’t always abide by the rules, it’s best to understand how water acts.
Of course the most important message is ‘don’t panic’, but it’s a lot easier to keep yourself, or your child from panicking if they understand what is happening to them, and go with the water instead of fighting it. I think Dora said it best in Finding Nemo, ‘Just keep swimming….just keep swimming’.
The bond between mother and child gets a lot of attention, but what about the ties between fathers and their children? Research out of Pennsylvania State University and the University of California has shown that father-child interactions are central to everything from a child’s ability to regulate emotionally to the capacity to maintain strong, fulfilling social relationships later in life. Here, simple ways for dads to get closer to their sons and daughters.
Show Your Love
Mothers and fathers provide different kinds of physical stimulation and comfort, and those differences help kids stretch their capacities both emotionally and physically. But physical connection isn’t just about wrestling on the floor or playing catch; it’s about showing your child how much you care. Hugs and kisses for younger kids, arm around the shoulder or pat on the back for older ones — physical contact make kids feel loved. “Saying I love you is not enough,” says child psychologist Steven Richfield, author of The Parent Coach: A New Approach to Parenting in Today’s Society. “Demonstrating that in heartfelt ways — with tangible physical displays of affection — is very important.”
Engaging in a ritualized activity with your child day after day, month after month, lets your child feel loved and special. Ethan Barker of Farmington, Mich., plays a pretend game he calls “Let’s Go” with his daughter most nights before he puts her to bed. “She became interested in the globe in her room, and so we made up a game where we spin it and pretend we are going to go wherever our finger points when the globe stops spinning,” he says. “We have a make-believe suitcase, and talk about what we’d like to bring and what we might do when we get there. She really gets excited about it each night, and so do I.”
Find Your Inner Child
“Fathers can have closer relationships with their kids if they’re willing to regress in the service of the relationship,” says Dr. Richfield. “They need to have a real capacity to enter the child’s world.” With younger kids that may mean playing make-believe or singing silly songs; with older ones it might be playing video games or watching music videos. It’s not enough to stand back and watch; you need to get involved in whatever’s capturing your child’s attention and imagination.
Hit the Books
While mothers purchase upwards of 90 percent of the parenting literature, fathers could benefit from some book learning as well. “You have to do a little reading. I think fathers are in the dark, especially during the first six or so years,” says Dr. Richfield. “You have to become educated to develop a bond with your child. Learning what boys and girls need at any given age — and these needs are pretty much the same for both sexes when they’re young — helps fathers become closer to their kids. To be able to give them what they desire, you really have to know about their world.”
This week, April 30 – May 6, 2012, is National Screen-Free Week. This annual event is a program of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and is designed to encourage parents, children, teachers, schools and communities across the country to turn off all forms of screen-based media, including television, video games, computers, cell phones, etc., and instead spend time with family and friends and participating in other activities, such as reading, daydreaming, exploring nature, playing outside, and more.
Formerly known as TV-Turnoff Week, the CCFC has expanded it to include all screen-based media. It is the organization’s goal that Screen-Free Week will be a “springboard for important lifestyle changes that will improve well-being and quality of life all year round.”
The ever-increasing availability of technology and electronic devices has dramatically increased the amount of time kids (and adults) spend in front of a screen and has drastically reduced the time spent on non-media based activities. The CCFC estimates the amount of time preschoolers spend in front of a screen is 32 hours a week, and even more time is spent by older children and teens. The amount of time spent with screen-based media has reduced time spent outdoors, time spent with family and friends, time spent engaged in sports and other forms of fitness and has contributed to the childhood obesity problem. Too much screen time can also lead to poor school performance, sleep problems, and behavioral issues in some children and teens.
I’ve lost count of how many parents have talked with me about how their children’s behavior changes after playing video games or watching television, especially if those games or shows involved any violence or aggressiveness at all. I’ve seen firsthand how video games affected one of my nephews and would turn him from a sweet, caring boy to an aggressive, defiant child. After the problem continued to worsen, my sister made the drastic decision to no longer allow any video games. At first my nephew whined and begged to play, but as time went on he found other ways to occupy his time and entertain himself and his behavior at home and even at school greatly improved. At the age of 10, even he realizes the negative effect video games can have on him if he spends too much time with them. Of course, every child is different and not all are adversely affected by media and technology, but even if they are not, over-use and over-stimulation can still be a problem.
Screen-based media can also interfere with with kids’ ability for creative, imaginative play. Turning off the screens for a week can help them tune into their imaginations, especially if you encourage them to play with toys that promote creativity. Introduce your kids to some of your favorite childhood pastimes and participate with them. Instead of screen-based electronic games, play board games or go outside and play hide and seek, freeze tag, or a fun sport. Go for a bike ride or a walk around your local park. There are so many ways to spend time together and have fun without any technology at all, your family may even decide to turn off the screens more often!
Certainly technology has improved our ability to do many things, including educate our children, but we need to be aware of the harm that over-use can cause and use screen-time wisely. Taking a break from the abundance of screens in our world can be a healthy way to detox and reconnect with our family and friends face to face.
For more information about Screen-Free Week, visit CommercialFreeChildhood.org.
Children are very quick to point out differences. With their limited experiences and understanding, it is hard to explain that differences are a wonderful part of life. Talking to our children about diversity can be tricky. We don’t want to compromise our family values, but we want to cultivate a true respect for everyone.
There are a few key conversations we can have, that will help.
- Have a “diversity” conversation. Talk about differences that exist in your family. “Jill’s favorite color is pink, yours is blue. Your favorite food is spaghetti, mommy loves chicken” Explain that we are all different, and that is a good thing, not bad. When you encounter new people, explain that there are differences and similarities between all of us just like having different favorite colors. This simple conversation will help our children begin to understand diversity and see that liking different colors and foods is not bad, just different.
- Challenge your children to get to know someone new on a regular basis and find out what they have in common. If they conclude that they have nothing in common, teach them that they still deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. Tie this back into your “diversity” conversations. “Remember, Jill likes a different color than you do, we don’t treat her mean because she likes something different.” Talk about how treating others with respect means that we take some time to get to know them and understand them. Our children need to understand that they might not like all the other kids, but they need to give them all a chance. In our house we encourage our children to meet someone new at school each week. Then our children talk to us about all the things they learned about the new person during dinner each Friday night.
- Talk about the fact that diversity does not mean we forgo our values. Begin when children are young, and explain that there are choices that other people make that are not acceptable in our home. That is fine, but that doesn’t mean that we are rude or judgmental because they choose differently. To raise children who accept diversity talk to them about different cultures and traditions. You can start with something as simple as having them try different foods.
We will find that by talking to our kids about diversity, they will also learn key values like love, respect, kindness, and compassion for others.Pin It
If your child gets a stomachache after eating dairy, it could be a sign she is lactose intolerant. This means she has trouble digesting lactose, a sugar found in milk. But you can still make sure she gets enough calcium for her growing bones. Serve cheese, which doesn’t contain lactose, or lactose-free milk, which you can find in the dairy section at the supermarket. Or simply give her a Lactaid supplement before she eats dairy products. Available at drugstores, the supplement breaks down lactose so it can be easily digested. There are also plenty of good nondairy calcium sources, such as fortified orange juice, cereals and soy beverages, as well as spinach and other dark leafy greens. All kids (and adults) should eat three to four servings of calcium-rich foods each day. Don’t resort to supplements unless you absolutely have to; your body absorbs the mineral better from food. Finally, make sure your child gets a good dose of physical activity each day. Exercise increases the amount of calcium the bones take in.