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Is Your Child a Bullying Victim? Read this Mother’s Story

When Maria’s daughter moved to secondary school (*middle school), she was bullied by a group of girls who had been her best friends at primary school (*elementary school).

Halfway through the school year, Maria** became aware that her daughter Sam** wasn’t being invited to her friends’ houses anymore.

mother's-bullying-story“She doesn’t always tell me what’s going on at school, but I noticed that she was biting her fingernails a lot and sleeping badly. She seemed quite upset.

“I talked to her about her friends and why they weren’t meeting up. Eventually, she told me that they didn’t get on anymore. I found out that her old friends were excluding her.

“For example, when she bumped into them in the street, one of the girls said directly to her, ‘This is the one we’re not talking to anymore’.

“They were also really nasty in the playground. They left her standing on her own. She was still trying to be friends with them but they just ignored her. She was very upset.

Bullying Incident

“Then I witnessed an incident one Saturday afternoon.

“Two of her old friends phoned her. They asked her if she’d started her periods. She said it was none of their business, but they kept her on the phone. She wasn’t strong enough to end the conversation.

“They were laughing and shouting, ‘We want to know, we want to know’. I was standing next to her, and felt disgusted. I felt really sorry for Sam. Afterwards, I thought of calling one of the girls’ mums, but I decided not to because I thought it might make things worse.

“I was very upset because I used to spend a lot of time with these girls, but now they didn’t think my daughter was good enough for them.

“I was worried about Sam because I thought it must be horrible to believe you’ve got really good friends and then they suddenly turn against you.

How Sam got Help with Bullying

“I told Sam that she should talk to Nicole, a learning mentor at her school. I knew that Sam liked Nicole, whose role was to sort out this kind of issue.

“Soon after, Nicole contacted me. Both she and Sam’s form teacher had noticed that Sam was being bullied.

“I found out that she wasn’t only being bullied by this group. Sam is half-Polish, and another girl was calling her a ‘Polish sket’ in class.

“The school intervened quickly. They cracked down on the racist comments and the use of the insult ‘sket’. After that, the problem with that particular girl was completely resolved.

“Nicole, the learning mentor, also set up a friendship group to understand the dynamic in this circle of girls who’d all moved up from primary school together. She asked the bullies and a few other pupils to talk together about friendship, boyfriends, fashion, puberty and growing up. A lot was revealed.

“It seems that Sam’s primary school (*elementary school) friends got to know other girls at secondary school (*middle school) and became more interested in fashion, make-up and boyfriends. Because Sam was more childlike, they didn’t want her in their group anymore. She wasn’t cool enough.

“Sam was different. I think that’s often what bullying is based on. She has her own style and doesn’t follow everyone else.

“Nicole had several chats with Sam, and helped to strengthen Sam’s self-esteem. When she was picked on, Sam used to get quite upset and would try to defend herself, but now she’s able to ignore it.

“When I spoke to Sam about the meetings with Nicole, I could see that things were improving. At home, I explained to her that friendships change, and primary school (*elementary school) friends don’t necessarily stay friends for life. I didn’t want to suggest that Sam was the victim because that can make you feel weaker.

“Sam has finally found a new set of friends and is really happy with them. She’s become more confident, and she no longer tries to be friends with girls who don’t want to be friends with her.”

**The names in this article have been changed.

Bullying: Information and Support for Parents

To find out more about how you can help your child if they’ve been bullied, read Bullying: advice for parents.

 Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

How to Support Your Child’s Development Through Boredom

We have heard the stories in the news all the time—some say kids are “overscheduled” and need more time to play. On the other side, parents of the “tiger mom” variety tend to want their children constantly in activities and lessons to encourage their growth and development.

overscheduled or boredomUntil recently, the one voice you hadn’t heard on this topic was the one of science. Child development researchers are now trying to delve into this topic and understand the relationship between structured activities and children’s development.

In one of the first studies of this kind, researchers at The University of Colorado (CU) looked at the connection between how kids spend their time (structured vs. unstructured activities) and the development of executive function.

As you may know, executive function is one of the key regulatory skills that develops during childhood and is crucial to children’s success and well-being later in life. Executive function includes things like planning ahead, goal-oriented behavior, suppression of unwanted thoughts or behaviors, and delaying gratification. These skills have been shown to predict children’s academic and social outcomes years down the road. Based on this, you can see why researchers (and parents) are interested in understanding anything related to how executive function develops.

In the recent CU study, scientists asked 6-year-olds to record their daily activities for a week. They then categorized these activities as “structured” or “unstructured” according to a classification system previously developed by economists.

For example, activities such as sports lessons, religious activities, and chores were classified as “structured activities.” In contrast, activities such as free play (alone or with others), sightseeing, or media use were considered “less structured.” Routine activities such as going to school, sleeping, or eating were not classified in either category.

The researchers then analyzed the relationship between children’s time activities and their level of executive function. The results showed that there was, indeed, a correlation between these factors. The more time children spent in structured activities, the lower their scores on the assessment of executive function. In contrast, the more time children spent in less structured activities, the higher their assessment of executive function.

First of all, it’s important to note that this is just one study in what I hope will be a whole line of research in this area. In social science, you cannot base recommendations on one study.

Secondly, this study was small (70 children) and was only correlational, meaning we do not know if structured vs. unstructured activities cause a change in executive function or if there is something else going on here. What this study does show is that there is some relationship between these factors that deserves further study.

Boredom and child developmentWhat does this really mean? How could unstructured activities help in the development of executive function? Although researchers do not know for sure, it seems like this may be related to the research on boredom. More and more studies are showing how “boredom” or what adults would simply call “downtime” is related to a variety of positive mental states.

For example, boredom is likely associated with people being more creative. Boredom also allows for the development of new interests, self-reflection and goal-setting.

Additionally, some would argue that a lack of downtime or time for boredom allows kids to become so accustomed to a fast-paced lifestyle that anything less-than-exciting seems uninteresting. One philosopher put it this way,

“A life too full of excitement is an exhausting life, in which continually stronger stimuli are needed to give the thrill that has come to be thought an essential part of pleasure.”

All of this is definitely food for thought in terms of parenting. While we do not know for sure how these factors impact each other, it looks like there is some relationship between level of structured activities and the development of executive function. This is something to consider as you plan activities for your child.

The next time your child says, “I’m bored” consider looking at it as an opportunity to support their creativity and problem-solving abilities.

 

How Much Water Should My Child Drink to Be Healthy?

True or false? More than 50% of children in a Harvard study were not adequately hydrated?  True!

little girl with water bottle“More than half of children and teenagers in the United States might not be properly hydrated, according to a nationwide study from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. In fact, 54.5% of the students in the study had urine concentrations that qualified them as below their minimum daily water intake.” In fact, boys are less likely to drink enough fluid when compared with girls. And just an 8 fluid ounce daily increase in water intake was enough to significantly lower risk of inadequate hydration.

Below you will find some ideas to help your children stay hydrated. In addition, print out the #KidsEatClean Badge and let your child pass it out to classmates – or if they’re involved in group activities, to team members – so everyone is mindful of the fact that we need to sip all day long.

Get the Scoop on H2O

kids eat clean badgeDetermining children’s hydration needs is based on the individual. There is no perfect calculation or amount of water prescribed for every child.  Generally speaking, one ounce of fluid per pound of body weight per day is prudent, but a spot difficult to calculate exactly because intake from fruits and vegetables as well as wet foods such as yogurt figure into the calculation.

  • Generally, there is a minimum fluid intake set at 50 ounces on average per day for children ages 5-12.
  • If your child is an athlete or moves a lot, he may need up to 25% more water per day than the average child.
  • Sipping clean water throughout the day, averaging 3-4 ounces per hour in a 12 hour day is generally a good practice.

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bloom cover - 140x208Written for real parents with anxious, angry and over-the-top kids, Bloom is a brain-based approach to parenting all children. Taking its lead from neuroscience and best practices in early childhood mental health, it offers parents, teachers and care providers the words, thoughts and actions to raise calm, confident children, while reducing the need for consequences and punishment. The first book of its kind, it provides pages full of printable mantras you can carry with you, hang on your fridge or use in your classroom to raise emotionally competent kids. Stop second-guessing the way you handle misbehaviors, and learn why they occur in the first place. Bloom is available at amazon.com

Study: Does Screen Time Really Make Kids Naughty?

kids-TV-and-naughty-behavior“Watching TV for three hours a day will not harm your children”, The Independent reports. However, The Daily Express contradicts this, saying “Too much television turns children into monsters”. In this case, The Independent is closer to the truth.

It has long been said that too much TV or video games could be bad for children. The study reported in the news set out to discover whether there is any truth in this belief.

It was a large UK study, tracking children aged from five to seven years of age, to see what – if any – effect TV viewing and video game playing had on their behaviour, attention span, emotions and peer relationships.

  • Researchers found that regularly watching three hours a day was linked to a tiny increase in ‘conduct problems’ (essentially ‘being naughty’) after adjusting for many factors. This was just one of many outcomes the researchers examined. There was no evidence that TV viewing affected other issues, including hyperactivity, emotions and peer relationships.
  • Interestingly, there was also no association between time spent playing video games and any emotional or behavioural problems.

Unfortunately, this research can’t conclusively tell us if there’s a link between watching TV and psychological and behavioural problems. From these limited results, it seems that any such link is likely to be small. Other influences are very likely to play a more significant role in children’s developing emotions and behaviour.

How much TV should my child watch?

Unlike some other countries, including the US, there is no official UK recommendation on how much TV a child should watch. (Editor’s Note: click here for US screen time guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics)

A common sense approach suggests ‘everything in moderation’. Many programmes aimed at children are now designed to be stimulating or educational, so you may want to think about what programmes your kids watch, as well as how much. However, other activities such as regular exercise, playing with others, and reading are also important to their development.

Read more about exercise guidelines for children and play ideas and reading tips for children.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from the Medical Research Council/SCO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow. It was funded by the UK Medical Research Council.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Archives of Disease in Childhood. This article was open-access, meaning that it is available free online.

The media reported this story from two opposing angles, with headlines either suggesting that watching TV does not harm children (The Independent, and BBC News), or concentrating on the small increase in conduct problems and suggesting that TV watching is linked to behavioural problems or that children are naughtier (The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail).

While a case could be made that the Telegraph and Mail’s headlines are accurate at face value – there was a very small increase in naughty behaviour – the tone of their headlines are not really a fair reflection of the findings of the study. However, the Daily Express claim that TV turns ‘kids into monsters’ is totally inaccurate.

What kind of research was this?

This was a cohort study. It aimed to determine whether there was a link between the amount of time spent watching TV and playing computer games at five years of age, and changes in psychosocial adjustment at seven years of age.

Cohort studies are the ideal study design for this type of research, although they cannot show causation. For example, in this study we cannot be sure that TV watching causes the increase in conduct problem score, as it could be that other factors, called confounders, are responsible for the link.

What did the research involve?

Mothers of 11,014 children in the UK Millennium Cohort study (a study of a sample of children born between September 2000 and January 2002) were asked questions about their children’s behaviour.

They were asked the typical time during term-time spent watching television and playing electronic games when children were five years of age. This was categorised into:

  • None
  • Less than one hour per day
  • Between one and less than three hours
  • Three hours to less than five hours
  • Between five hours and less than seven hours
  • Seven hours or more per day

Using the ‘Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire’, when children were five and seven years of age, researchers assessed:

  • Conduct problems
  • Emotional symptoms
  • Peer relationship problems
  • Hyperactivity/inattention
  • Prosocial behaviour (helpful behaviour)

The researchers collected information on maternal characteristics, family characteristics and family functioning (potential confounding factors), including:

  • Mother’s ethnicity, education, employment, and physical and mental health
  • Family’s household income
  • Family composition
  • Warmth and conflict in the mother-child relationship at three years of age – as assessed by interview
  • Frequency of parent-child joint activities at five years of age
  • “Household chaos” – a psychological term used to describe how chaotic or not daily life in the house tends to be in terms of issues such as sticking to set routines, household noise and how crowded the house is

The researchers also collected information on the child’s characteristics at five years of age, including:

  • Cognitive development (assessed by the researchers)
  • Whether they had a long-term illness or disability (reported by the mother)
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • The amount of physical activity they performed
  • Negative attitudes at school

The researchers then looked to see if there was an association between time spent watching television and playing electronic games and psychosocial problems, after adjusting for maternal characteristics, family characteristics and functioning, and child characteristics.

What were the basic results?

Almost two-thirds of children in this study watched between one hour and three hours of TV per day aged five years old, with 15% watching more than three hours of TV and very few children (<2%) watching no TV. The majority of children played computer games for less than one hour per day, with 23% of children playing for one hour or more.

Initially, the researchers found that exposure to either TV or games for three hours or more was associated with an increase in all problems, and three hours or more of TV with reduced prosocial behaviour. However, after maternal and family characteristics, child characteristics and family functioning were adjusted for, the researchers found that:

  • Watching TV for three hours or more per day at five years of age, compared to watching television for under an hour, predicted a 0.13 point increase (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.03 to 0.24) in conduct problems at seven years of age (after adjusting for the amount of time spent playing computer games).
  • No association between time spent watching TV and emotional symptoms, peer relationship problems, hyperactivity/inattention and prosocial behaviour was found.
  • The amount of time spent playing electronic games was not associated with any emotional or behaviour problems.
  • When television watching and time spent playing electronic games were considered together, it was again found that three hours or more per day of screen time was associated with a 0.14 point increase (95% CI 0.05 to 0.24) in conduct problems compared to scores for those who watched less than an hour, but that screen time was not associated with emotional symptoms, peer relationship problems, hyperactivity/inattention or prosocial behaviour.
  • There was no evidence that screen time had different effects on boys and girls.

The researchers report that the relationships remain the same when current (at age seven years) screen time was adjusted for.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers concluded that “TV but not electronic games predicted a small increase in conduct problems. Screen time did not predict other aspects of psychosocial adjustment.” The researchers go on to add that further work is required to establish the cause of these relationships.

Conclusion

This large UK cohort study has found that watching TV for three hours or more daily at five years predicted a small increase in conduct problems between the ages of five and seven years compared to watching TV for under an hour (0.13 point increase, on average). However, the time spent watching TV was not linked to hyperactivity/inattention, emotional symptoms, peer relationship problems, or prosocial behaviour.

The time spent playing electronic games was not associated with any emotional or behavioural problems.

Strengths of this study include the fact that it was large and well designed. It also accounted for many of the potential “confounding” factors (although there may still be others that weren’t accounted for), and examined TV/video/DVD watching (considered passive activities) and playing computer games (active activities) separately, which many previous studies have failed to do.

However, this study does have a significant limitation in that it relied on the mother’s reporting of both watching TV or playing computer games, and the child’s emotional and behavioural problems.

Although increased television watching was associated with an increase conduct problem score, it is not known whether the minimal point increases in average score for this sample between the ages of five and seven would actually make any noticeable difference to an individual child’s overall functioning and behaviour.

The study also suggests that family characteristics and functioning, and child characteristics also play an important role in the development of emotional and behavioural problems and that it may not be down to TV viewing alone.

Adjusting for confounders such as family composition, mother-child relationship and child’s activity levels had a significant effect on the initial results. This arguably suggests that these types of factors may have a considerable influence on how a child develops, rather than TV watching.

Given the lack of significant associations found between TV viewing and game playing and child psychosocial problems, no conclusive answers can be drawn from this study alone.

Further work is required to examine the child and family characteristics which could be targeted to improve outcomes.

Analysis by Bazian. Edited by NHS Choices. Follow Behind the Headlines on Twitter.

Summary

“Watching TV for three hours a day will not harm your children”, The Independent reports. However, The Daily Express contradicts this, saying “Too much television turns children into monsters”. In this case.

Links to Headlines

Links to Science





How Can Regular Vet Visits Help Keep Your Kids Safe Too? Part1

I want to preface this post by saying that recently, many of my clients who know I write articles here about child and pet safety have started to ask me many questions relating to health issues that affect dogs, and wondering which ones, if any, may affect their children as well. While colds and flu’s are worried kids with puppy at vethitting everyone around us pretty hard this year, and seem to be hanging on for a long time, there are a few questions I seem to be asked by clients quite frequently.  You may recognize some of the questions, as you may have asked yourself some of them on more than one occasion. For example, “My child has been sick for several weeks now; is it possible the dog is carrying the germ and re-infecting them?” or “Is the canine influenza virus the same as human influenza? Should I keep my child away from the dog just in case?” And then there are many diseases we vaccinate our pets against, without even knowing much about those diseases, and how the diseases can or can’t affect the family.

In order to give them accurate answers, I started to do some extensive research on the subject.  Well, before I knew it, I had written almost 6 pages of information!! So I decided the best thing to do was to divide this article into two parts, so I could bring you the most up-to-date and current information. This article will focus mainly on disease canines can get, and which ones CAN and CANNOT affect your children. Next month, I will focus more on the intestinal parasites they can be prone to.

I feel it is important to stress here that I am NOT a licensed veterinarian, so I am writing this post based solely on information I have been able to compile to help inform you as best as I can, and maybe something I write will bring up some questions that maybe you never even thought to ask! Either way, please consult your pet’s veterinarian and your pediatrician for the ‘final word’ on all of this. I think the best way to approach this is to divide each category into 5 topics: What is the disease, Signs that your pet may have the disease, Can your child catch it, How dangerous is the disease to your child, and how can you avoid your pet from getting the disease to begin with. So, let’s begin with…..

Canine Influenza.  

  • What is it: According to the CDC, this strain of virus, also known as H3N8, originated in horses. The H3N8 equine influenza (horse flu) virus has been known to exist in horses for more than 40 years. In 2004, however, cases of an unknown respiratory illness in dogs (initially greyhounds) were reported in the United States. An investigation showed that this respiratory illness was caused by the equine influenza A H3N8 virus. Scientists believe this virus jumped species (from horses to dogs) and has adapted to cause illness in dogs and spread among dogs, especially those housed in kennels and shelters. This is now considered a dog-specific H3N8 virus
  • Early Signs Your Pet May Have It: Similar to the signs we humans show: Runny nose, coughing, sneezing, lethargy and fever.
  • Can Your Child Catch It? As of now, there are no reported cases of this disease being transferred from Animals to humans, but just like strains of the human flu are constantly changing, so too are the strains of flu in other species. So keep yourself informed and updated.
  • How Dangerous Is This For Your Child: As of now, according to the CDC, it is not.
  • How Can I Avoid This: While there is a Canine Flu vaccine that vets highly recommend, just like the human vaccine, it generally helps, but is not a guarantee that your dog will not get it. The vaccination just reduces the likelihood of contracting it. Also, be cautious when boarding your dog at a kennel or a vet, as it is very contagious from dog to dog.

To read more in-depth information on this, you can go to: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/canineflu 

Rabies

  • What Is It: Rabies is a deadly disease that is carried in the saliva of some wild animals. It attacks the nervous system and can cause brain inflammation. Although survival is possible, the virus almost always kills its host. The virus grows in the muscle tissue before moving into the spinal cord and brain. The virus cannot survive for more than a day outside its host. The most common way to contract rabies is through the saliva of an animal already infected by it. (Most commonly found in animals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats) which can only happen through a direct bite. It can also be transferred through an open wound by a scratch of an infected animal where there is a current open wound. A dog can contract rabies if they are not vaccinated against it.
  • Early Signs Your Pet May Have This: Restlessness, unusual fearfulness, unusual aggression (growling, snapping or biting at people), fever, lethargy in a usually active animal, loss of appetite, or trying to hide and isolate in dark places.
  • Can Your Child Catch It? Yes. But the only ways your child or family would be at risk for this disease is if they are either bitten by a wild animal that is already infected by this disease (if your un-vaccinated dog is bitten by another animal who carries the disease, has gone through the ‘incubation period’ (which can be 2-12 weeks) and then turns around and bites your child) or if an infected animal scratches your child where they already have an open wound.
  • How Dangerous Is This For Your Child? Very serious. There are a series of shots your child can get that will essentially save their lives, but the usefulness depends on how close they are administered after the initial bite. For this reason, it is very important that you stress to your child the importance of ALWAYS telling you if they ever get a bite. A child might be afraid to tell you if the family dog bites them because they might fear the dog getting in trouble, or being given away. A wild animal that seems to be unusually tame is a natural attraction to curious kids…. But this is a ‘later sign’ in an infected animal. This is why the largest incidents of wild animal bites in humans are kids under the age of 15. They may be afraid to tell you they touched a wild animal for fear they might get in trouble, and therefore hide the bite from you. This can cause a huge delay in getting medicine that may save their lives. The CDC has an animated website that you can go to with your kids to teach them all about this.
  • How Can I Avoid This: The best way to avoid this is if you live in an area heavily populated with raccoons, foxes, skunks, bats, or if you do a lot of outdoor activities in these types of areas, make sure you vaccinate your dog as your vet recommends. Once the vaccination is given to your pet, it is in their system and the vaccination itself will not harm anyone touching the pet in any way.

You can read more information on this from the CDC site: https://www.cdc.gov/rabies

Leptospirosis:

The first thing I am going to say is how shocked I was to realize how incorrect my own personal knowledge of this disease was! So as I mentioned, writing this post has been very informative for me as well!! I seriously thought that Leptospirosis could NOT be transferred from animals to humans! Wow was I wrong!

Four of the five subcategory questions were pretty much all answered in one quote from the CDC, so I am just going to paraphrase them here, then include a direct link to their site so you can read more on it.

According to the CDC “Leptospirosis is a disease caused by spiral shaped bacteria called “leptospires.” It occurs worldwide and can affect humans as well as many wild and domestic animals, including dogs and cats. The disease can be serious for both humans and animals. In people, the symptoms are often like the flu, but sometimes leptospirosis can develop into a more severe, life-threatening illness with infections in the kidney, liver, brain, lung, and heart. The bacteria are spread through the urine of infected animals, which can get into water or soil and can survive there for weeks to months. Humans and animals can become infected through contact with this contaminated urine (or other body fluids, except saliva), water, or soil. The bacteria can enter the body through skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection. Infected wild and domestic animals may continue to excrete the bacteria into the environment continuously or every once in a while for a few months up to several years.”

  • How Can I Avoid This: The CDC highly recommends vaccinating your pet against this disease regularly, but cautions that there are many strains of this disease, so the vaccination is not a 100% guarantee. Your best bet is to try to keep the rodent population in your area down to a minimum!

Please educate yourself on this disease by going here: http://www.peteducation.com/article.  I am really glad I did!!!!

Parvo (Parvovirus)

  • What Is It: Parvo is a life-threatening, highly-contagious viral disease. The virus attacks very rapidly, and most severely attacking the dogs intestinal tract. It also attacks the white blood cells. According to WebMD, “Parvovirus is extremely contagious and can be transmitted by any person, animal or object that comes in contact with it. Highly resistant, the virus can live in the environment for months, and may survive on inanimate objects such as food bowls, shoes, clothes, carpet and floors. It is common for an unvaccinated dog to contract parvovirus from the streets, especially in urban areas where there are many dogs.”
  • Early Signs Your Pet May Have This: Lethargy, severe vomiting, loss of appetite and bloody, foul-smelling diarrhea that can lead to life-threatening dehydration.
  • Can Your Child Catch This: According to the CDC, the parvovirus does not cross between species. Although it is a very contagious disease, it stays within the species. There is a parvovirus that humans get (also known as 5th disease, or B19) it is completely different from the parvovirus that canines get.
  • How Dangerous Is This For Your Child: Again, according to the CDC, it stays within the species. So while you child can get a bad case of Parvovirus from his best buddy at school (which symptoms are that of a really bad cold or flu) they can not get the deadly symptoms associated with Canine Parvovirus.
  • How Can I Avoid This: WebMD also states, “You can protect your dog from this potential killer by making sure he’s up-to-date on his vaccinations. Parvovirus should be considered a core vaccine for all puppies and adult dogs. It is usually recommended that puppies be vaccinated with combination vaccines that take into account the risk factors for exposure to various diseases. One common vaccine, called a “5-in-1,” protects the puppy from distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and parainfluenza.”

Read more on this here: http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/parvo-parvovirus-dogs

Canine distemper:

This is another one where most of the subcategories have pretty much all been answered in the one quote. According to the PetHealthNetwork:

“It is a very contagious and deadly disease caused by a virus. Dogs and ferrets as well as certain species of wildlife, such as raccoons, wolves, foxes, and skunks, are at risk. Although there is no cure for distemper, the most important fact to remember is that it is preventable through vaccination. For dogs that have developed clinical signs of distemper, the prognosis is very guarded depending on the immune response and severity of symptoms. Dogs that develop neurological signs are the least likely to recover. While dogs of all ages can become infected with canine distemper virus, puppies—especially those with poor immune systems or those that are unvaccinated or not completely vaccinated—are at the greatest risk for this nasty virus, which is spread through the air or by direct contact. It invades the tonsils and lymph nodes first, and then spreads to the respiratory, urinary, digestive, and nervous systems.”

  • Can Your Child Catch This and How Dangerous Is This For Them: And after much research, I have found that it is not often a major concern for humans; humans can get the virus, but there are no effects.

So it is here I will start winding all of this down, and in doing so just give you a quick reminder that each one of the illnesses mentioned above can be either mostly or totally avoided just by simply taking your dog to the vet for their regularly scheduled vaccinations. In keeping your pets safe, you are helping to keep your kids safe too! As I mentioned earlier, I began researching some of this in order to answer some questions for my clients, but I have learned so much myself, I thought it was important to share this information with all of you who have children that could be directly affected as well.

I hope you have gained some valuable information, and I am also going to end this by adding one more link: It is an A-Z list of diseases that can cross between animals and humans….because this article is long enough already, and there is just no way I can cover them all!   Also just a quick reminder that next month I will cover intestinal parasites dogs can be prone to.

We all strive to make our homes a happy one…. let’s do all we can to make our homes a safe and healthy one too!!!

Teen Suicide: How to Explain Your Grief to Your Child

My son is now fourteen and a Freshman in High School. Within months of starting the new school year, his high school marching band community suffered tragedy: the suicide of one of its members. And despite the large number of kids in the band – this tragedy was close. The boy who died, Patrick, was the head of my son’s instrument section.

teen suicide - my griefI didn’t know Patrick well, but the impact of his death on me was surprising.  Both the fact and the nature of it were a profound shock when I first heard about it – via text from my son when he arrived at school one Friday morning.

The next several days were a painful procession of events and rituals: gatherings at homes of the kids, a candlelight vigil at the school stadium where the band regularly practiced, visitations and funeral mass at the local Catholic Church.

I was concerned for my son, but I was also in pain. I cried a lot. I wanted to know what happened. I wanted to know “why?”  I kept picturing Patrick at practices. He was extremely alive, outgoing and very good looking. None of this should matter, but somehow it did. When we learned he had shot himself in a moment of despair over getting in some trouble, I thought about his parents. I was sick at the thought. I was also angry. Angry that he thought this was his only option. Angry that he had access to a gun.

My son was surprised by my grief. He kept saying that I hardly knew Patrick, and he didn’t expect me to want to attend the various gatherings. I began to feel that he might think I was “muscling in” on a situation that was personal to him. Certainly he and the others in his small instrument section were closing ranks and I let him go out with them a lot, and had a couple of boys stay for a sleepover after the vigil. He was crying a lot too and talking with his peers seemed to help.

But I was pretty sure my son couldn’t see past his own confusion and grief to know that I was also genuinely in pain. I couldn’t find a lot of resources for parent grief when a child’s friend dies, but one website – the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide (SPTS) – gave some good advice: First deal with your own feelings.

“It is critical for you to take time to deal with your own feelings before you approach your child.  Remember the directives from air travel about the use of oxygen masks – you must put on your own mask before you can help anyone else with theirs!”   SPTS

I thought about all the reasons why I was so upset: the senseless loss, empathy for his parents, concern for the impact on my son, even worry that some incidents between my son and Patrick (which I spoke to the Band Director about)  might have contributed to the suicide decision. Bottom line, I think it was just that it felt so wrong for a boy of just 17 to die like this. Thankfully, my son is a fairly good communicator – and so, finally, I talked about how I was in pain too and I asked if he had thoughts on why I was grieving even though I wasn’t close to Patrick. He was quite perceptive since he understood that I didn’t want the same thing to happen to him. But he didn’t realize how much I was identifying with Patrick’s parents, feeling at least some of their pain. And I couldn’t let things return to “normal” right away. The police officer who led the long snaking line of cars to the cemetery gave out large stickers reading “funeral” for our windshields. I kept the sticker on my console for a few weeks afterwards. It felt right to have a visible reminder of what had happened, and not to “move on” too quickly.

In the end, talking about my grief gave us a shared experience for coping with the ordeal. It also made it possible to talk about suicide in general and how, as someone I know put it: “suicide is a terrible and permanent solution to a temporary problem” – even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time.

Resources for dealing with teen suicide:

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