9 Simple Tricks to Avoid the “Sick-Kid Meltdown”

Keeping your child healthy is probably the most important job you have as a parent. But as every mom knows, it often requires asking your little one to do some of her least favorite things, like getting a shot or swallowing a spoonful of medicine. And that can make your life, well, challenging. But you can cut down on those tears and temper-tantrums with a few clever parenting moves. These expert-approved stay-happy tricks will keep your sick kids smiling during even the most difficult situations.

Meltdown trigger: Going to the doctor’s office

  1. Give your child advance notice. “Resist the urge to wait until the last minute to tell your child about a doctor’s visit,” says Bette J. Freedson, a licensed independent clinical social worker and parenting expert in Lynn, Mass. “Letting her know on the way to an appointment can create a sense of panic.” Instead, give your child at least a day to process the information and ask questions.
  2. Read her a story. “Books are a terrific way to ease your child into a new or uncomfortable situation,” says Freedson. “They’re more likely to discuss how their favorite characters handle going to the pediatrician than talk about their own upcoming visit.” Try reading The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor or Biscuit Visits the Doctor. Or, make up your own bedtime story, says Freedson. “That way, you can write the script for the lesson you want to teach.”
  3. Have a role-playing session. A few days before the appointment, give your child an old white shirt to wear as a doctor’s coat and ask him to give you a “checkup.” Then, reverse roles, with you as the physician. “Rehearsing the scenario is a gentle way of allowing him to play out his fears,” says Freedson. “It’s also an ideal time to teach him that it’s OK to be a little scared.”

Meltdown trigger: Getting a shot

  1. Numb the area. Bring an ice pack — or ask the pediatrician for one — and place it just above the injection site right before she administers the shot. “Cold can help overwhelm the pain,” says Dr. Amy Baxter, a pain researcher in Atlanta and mother of three. One product to consider: Buzzy ($35; Buzzy4Shots.com), a bee-shaped vibrating ice pack.
  2. Give her a mini-massage. No ice on hand? In a pinch, use your own fingers to move your child’s skin on their arm above the injection pre-shot. “That wiggling sensation confuses the nerve, which cuts down on the amount of pain your kid feels,” says Baxter.
  3. Provide a distraction. Give your child an age-appropriate task that he can easily master to divert his attention. “Don’t give him a task that’s too hard, like specific math facts,” says Baxter. “That can add pressure to an already stressful setting.” Instead, ask him to name two things in the examination room that are yellow, or have him point out four objects that are circles.

Meltdown trigger: Taking medicine

  1. Make it fun. Instead of telling your little one that it’s time for medicine, pull out his favorite novelty spoon and ask him who he’d like a visit from — Bob the Builder or Buzz Lightyear? Another kid-friendly tool: Ava the Elephant ($10; AvaTheElephant.com). In a modern spin on the “here comes the airplane” trick, Ava dispenses the medicine through her trunk. Measure the proper dose first and then help her take her medicine, adding your own elephant trumpet noise to make your child laugh.
  2. Chase with a treat. When your child is particularly stubborn about taking her medications, a fun bonus may help the medicine go down. Heather McCarron, a mom of three in Jackson, N.J., gives her daughters a liquid medication and promises that she’ll refill the empty medicine cup with a favorite healthy drink, like chocolate milk or fruit juice. While you never want to make medicine seem like candy, McCarron still finds “that small incentive makes my girls feel like they’re getting something special.” You could also reward them with a favorite activity, like a game or extra playtime.
  3. Mask the taste. To make the medication more appealing, mix it with a sweet food like applesauce, yogurt or a fruit smoothie. You can also ask your pharmacist about FlavorX ($2 per prescription; FlavorX.com), a product that’s added to medication to make it taste like one of eight kid-friendly flavors, such as bubblegum or grape. Just make sure you use a child-safe bottle and store it in a safe place, so your kid won’t reach for it like candy.



World Record Swim in Honor of Childhood Drowning Prevention

Don Walsh is an extraordinary man by anyone’s definition. Mentor to Navy SEAL candidates, 3-tour Vietnam War Veteran, coach for minority women’s triathalon teams, guitarist, water safety author, husband, and father. He’s been a serious open water swimming competitor for three decades, including circling Key West (12.5 miles), Manhattan (28.5 miles) and the Isle of Jersey (41.5 miles). Did I mention he also has a day job, inspecting bridges for the County of Monmouth?

Don is truly a ‘good guy’ and a great role model for kids. His incredible spirit and generous heart have moved him to dedicate a personal milestone to raising awareness about saving kids from drowning.

In what we believe will set a world record, Don will kick off his 11th year of consecutive monthly open water swims in honor of Childhood Drowning Prevention Month. On May 1st at 1pm, Don will plunge into the Atlantic at Brielle Road Beach in Manasquan, New Jersey.

Help us to raise awareness by spreading the word. Share this on Facebook, tweet it, tell your friends, forward it to your local press.

One child drowns every minute. We can change that. Help us spread the word.

Ride The Brain Train: Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

In this New Era of neuroplasticity, we have grown to learn that early brain development is so important for infants, toddlers and children. The brain is an amazing organ, growing changing and adapting to life experience.

Did you know that your baby is born with more than 100 billion neurons, or brain cells — all that he or she needs for a lifetime. Many people do not. That is why in 2011, we have partnered with several colleagues and parents to help education about brain based interventions become common knowledge in families across the US and the UK.

We call our educational initiative The Brain Train and this is our goal: To inspire parents, educators and grandparents to share one brain-based fact with three people in an effort to bring brain-based education to 100,000 families in 2011. Now, you don’t have to become a neuroscientist, you simply have to feel motivated to learn and share kernels of knowledge with people you love. Our colleagues Wendy Young, Sue Atkins and Deborah McNelis have helpful brain-based parenting tips on their sites. Everything from The benefits of interacting face to face with your little ones to preventing Melt-downs with activities and fun! We’ve already started airing brain-based shows on Dr. Lynne Weighs In #Blog Talk Radio. If you have brain-based knowledge to share please do so on our FB page.

Four Valued Yet Simple Facts You Can Share Today:

  1. Your child’s brain is primed at birth for learning. Research conducted at the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia concludes that your baby’s brain will develop more in the first five years of life than throughout the rest of his life, and a significant amount of research points to the first three years of life as being most critical to your baby’s developing brain.
  2. According to Zero To Three – “The first three years of life are a period of incredible growth in all areas of a baby’s development. A newborn’s brain is about 25 percent of its approximate adult weight. But by age 3, it has grown dramatically by producing billions of cells and hundreds of trillions of connections, or synapses, between these cells.”
  3. As an infant and young child, brain cells are not yet linked to form the complex networks required for mature thought processes. As your baby grows into a toddler and preschooler, brain synapses grow and connect, forming the neurological foundation upon which he will build a lifetime of skills. By the time an infant is two or three years old, the number of synapses is approximately 15,000 synapses per neuron (Gopnick, et al., 1999). This amount is about twice that of the average adult brain.
  4. The brain is so efficient that it prunes connections that are not used and deemed not needed by the brain. That is one reason it is so important to develop language, motor and social-emotional pathways through interaction, communication, love, nutrition, exploration and play in the early years.

According to Deborah McNelis of @braininsights:

The brain organizes through a “use it or lose it” process. The brain eliminates and strengthens connections in an effort to become more efficient. So, experiences that are repeated frequently lead to brain connections that are retained. Connections that are not used often due to lack of repeated experience are eliminated. This is how a child’s brain adapts to the experiences in daily life.

Brain development is valuable for school-aged children as well. Activities such as soccer, martial arts, horseback riding, swimming and activities that include movement across the anatomical planes of the body increases synaptic connections. It turns out that yoga and meditation are not simply calming but likely brain building.

If you are ready to Take A Ride on The Brain Train consider these books and check back often for new tips and insights.

For coaches, clinicians and social workers, join our May training to bring brain-based parenting to your practice.

Thank you! For making brain-based parenting knowledge universal.  Share the knowledge!

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This post reflects Dr Kenney’s “The Family Coach Method” used in practice for a number of years, and released for publication just over a year ago. The Family Coach Method is ‘rug-level,’ friendly and centered on the concept of families as a winning team – with dozens of age-appropriate sample conversations and problem solving scenarios to guide a family to the desired place of mutual respect, shared values and strengths. The goal is to help children to develop the life skills, judgment and independence that can help them navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex world. The Family Coach Method is also being taught as an Educational Series where parents can join with other moms and dads in live calls with Dr Kenney.

Hand-washing 101: Kill Germs, Don’t Spread Them

Our hands allow us to work, interact and take care of our children — but they can also make us sick. “Hand-to-face contact is the most common way germs are spread,” says Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, the vice chairman of academic affairs in the pediatrics department at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, a physician at The Children’s Hospital of Denver, and the author of Germ Proof Your Kids: The Complete Guide to Protecting (Without Overprotecting) Your Family From Infections. That’s why proper hand-washing is the best defense against cold and flu.

Most of us — 85 percent, reports an American Society for Microbiology study — hit the sink in public. But Rotbart says the majority aren’t scrubbing up correctly. Read on to get the clean truth about how to kill germs with proper hand-washing protocol.

  • Take it all off. Before you turn on that faucet, remove your rings. According to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, ring-wearers had higher counts of bacteria on their hands before and after washing than those who didn’t wear them. Afraid you’ll misplace your band? Shift it up your finger and clean beneath it.
  • Add a squirt. There are dozens of soap options available, but you can keep it simple. “There’s no need for an antibacterial brand,” says Rotbart. “They’re no more effective than the standard variety.” He also recommends reaching for a liquid form. “The residue in soap dishes can make those bars a breeding ground of bacteria.” For the cleanest suds, sterilize your dispenser pump in the dishwasher every other week.
  • Scrub thoroughly. “The purpose of washing your hands is creating friction to rub away germs, not to kill them,” says Rotbart. Teach your child to clean his entire hand, including the wrists, backs of hands, between fingers and beneath fingernails.
  • Time it right. How long you spend washing up is key: A study from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine found that rinsing with water for five seconds didn’t remove any germs, but washing with soap for 30 seconds eliminated them all. Experts recommend lathering up for 20 seconds, or the amount of time it takes to sing the “ABC Song” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” twice. Then rinse thoroughly; the water temperature doesn’t matter, says Rotbart.
  • Reach for a paper towel. “When you rub your hands with a towel, you’re removing the last traces of germs,” explains Rotbart. Since viruses can live on cloth surfaces, make sure each family member has his or her own. In a public bathroom that’s all out of towels? Spend a little extra time with the air dryer. “Bacteria continues to reproduce on wet hands,” says Rotbart. In fact, a study published in Epidemiology and Infection found that when sick people touched someone else with damp hands, they transferred a whopping 68,000 microorganisms.

When to Wash

We all know to scrub after using the bathroom or before dinner, but there are less obvious times when your little one should lather up:

  • After playing with animals
  • After school and day care
  • After playing with someone who is sick, or in a doctor’s waiting room
  • After playing outside
  • After blowing his nose or coughing into his hands
  • Before bedtime

When You’re Not Near a Sink

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are great when soap and water aren’t available. Germs can only survive in moist environments, and the rubbing alcohol in these sanitizers evaporates moisture on your skin, which kills any germs that may be on your hands. Rotbart recommends stashing separate bottles in your purse and kitchen.



Stress Busters for Kids and Teens

Think stress is just for adults? Not these days.

Research finds that between 8 and 10 percent of American children and teens are seriously troubled by stress and symptoms. And stress is also hitting our children at younger ages. If left untreated stress not only affects children’s friendships as well as school success, but also their physical and emotional well-being. Chronic stress symptoms break down children’s immune system as well as increasing their likelihood for depression.

One thing is certain: Stress is part of life and each child handles stress differently. The critical four parenting questions are:

How does my child handle stress?

What could be triggering the stress?

What can I do to reduce unhealthy stress?

And does my child know healthy ways to reduce the stress?

Here are three steps to reduce kid stress and solutions to help children and teens cope with stress.

STRESS BUSTER STEP 1: Defuse Home Stress

One recent study found that 85% of teens say they are stressed—and the number one cause: the stress at home! It may be time to take a Home Climate Stress Check. Here are just a few things to consider:

How is the everyday climate in your home

Does it increase your kid’s stress level or help him relax? Are there opportunities for your family to relax?

Are you watching your family’s diet intake for things that could increase stress?

Are there times you’re modeling how to let down and cool off to your kids?

Are you checking your kids’ (and your) stress loads?

Are you making sure sleep is on everyone’s agenda?

Are you taking time to talk to your kids about their day and their worries?

Are you checking your kids’ work load? Can they keep up?

Watch out! Stress is mounting and is impacting our children’s emotional health. Competition, after school activities, a lack of sleep, a crunched schedule, peer pressure, tests, and bullying are just a few things that boost our kids unhealthy stress levels. Make sure your home is a place where your kids can de-stress. Build in times where you and your kids can relax.

STRESS BUSTER STEP 2: Know Your Child’s Stress Signs

Each kid responds differently, but the key is to identify your child’s physical, behavioral or emotional signs before he is on overload. A clue is to look for behaviors that are not typical for your child. Here are common stress signs to look for in your child:

  • Physical Stress Signs: Headache, neck aches and backaches. Nausea, diarrhea, constipation, stomachache, vomiting. Shaky hands, sweaty palms, feeling shaky, lightheadedness. Bedwetting. Trouble sleeping, nightmares. Change in appetite. Stuttering. Frequent colds, fatigue.
  • Emotional or Behavior Stress Signs: New or reoccurring fears, anxiety and worries. Trouble concentrating, frequent daydreaming. Restlessness or irritability. Social withdrawal, unwilling to participate in school or family activities. Moodiness, sulking or inability to control emotions. Nail biting, hair twirling, thumb-sucking, fist clenching, feet tapping. Acting out, anger, aggressive behaviors such as tantrums, disorderly conduct. Regression or baby-like behaviors. Excessive whining or crying. Clinging, more dependent, won’t let you out of sight, withdrawal.

STRESS BUSTER STEP 3:  Teach Family Members How to Handle Stress

This last step is crucial but often overlooked: Make sure you teach your child a specific way to reduce stress. Without knowing how to cut the stress, it will only mount. Here are a few strategies. Choose the one that works best for you and your family. Then practice, practice, practice until it becomes a habit and your child can use the stress reducer without you.

  • Melt the tension: Tell your child to make his body feel stiff and straight like a wooden soldier. Every bone from his head to toe is “tense” (or “stressed”). Now tell him to make his body limp (or “relaxed”) like a rag doll or windsock. Once he realizes he can make himself relax, he can find the spot in his body where he feels the most tension; perhaps his neck, shoulder muscles, or jaw. He then closes his eyes, concentrates on the spot, tensing it up for three or four seconds, and then lets it go. While doing so, tell him to imagine the stress slowly melting away from the top of his head and out his toes until he feels relaxed or calmer.
  • Use a positive phrase: Teach your child to say a comment inside her head to help her handle stress. Here are a few: “Calm down.” “I can do this.” “Stay calm and breathe slowly.” “It’s nothing I can’t handle.”
  • Teach elevator breathing: Tell your child to close his eyes, slowly breath out three times, then imagine he’s in an elevator on the top of a very tall building. He presses the button for the first floor and watches the buttons for each level slowly light up as the elevator goes down. As the elevator descends, his stress fades away.
  • Visualize a calm place: Ask your child to think of an actual place he’s been to where he feels peaceful. For instance: the beach, his bed, grandpa’s backyard, a tree house. When stress kicks in, tell him to close his eyes and imagine that spot, while breathing slowly.
  • Blow your worries away: An instant way to relax is taking a slow deep breath from your diaphragm that gets oxygen to your brain. A quick way to teach the skill is to tell her to pretend she’s blowing up a balloon in her tummy (as you count “one, two, three” slowly). Then she lets the air out with an exaggerated “Ah-h-h-h” sound (like when the doctor looks in her throat). Explain that taking slow breaths from deep in your tummy will help blow her worries away and then encourage her to practice taking slow, steady breaths by blowing soap bubbles or using a pinwheel.
  • Find a relaxer: Every child is different, so find what helps your kid relax, and then encourage him to use it on a regular basis. Some kids respond to drawing pictures or writing about their stress in a journal. Other kids say imagining what “relaxing” or “calm” feels like helps. (Show him how to make his body feel like a slowly moving fluffy white cloud or a rag doll). Or allocate a cozy place in your home where your kid can chill out when he needs to ease the tension.

All kids will display signs of stress every now and then. Be concerned when you see a marked change in what is “normal” for your child’s behavior that lasts longer than two weeks. When you see your child struggling and feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to seek help from a mental health professional. And don’t wait: Stressed-out kids are two to four times more likely to develop depression, and as teens they are much more likely to become involved with substance abuse.

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Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and WildestWorries, 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.

Teachable Moments: Valuable Lessons on Life and Love for Kids

Meet Jack Bear. For such a little guy he offered many opportunities to teach our kids very valuable lessons about life and about love.

Here is a part of Jack’s story.

Jack was given up when he was 10 years old. By all reckoning that is old in dog years- perhaps 70 years old. It seems he was no longer fun and no longer desired. I always found it hard to imagine giving up a dog for no other reason than age but here was Jack. Then again in many adult relationships we see an end, perhaps a separation or a divorce. To outsiders it may seem that there is no good reason.

Teachable Moment 1– things change, feelings and perceptions, wants and desires and it does not always make sense. Often the truly innocent are caught in the middle and pay the highest price. Things will change in the lives of our children that especially to them make no sense and seem unfair.

From the time he was given up he began to cry non-stop- an unwanted behavior. His crying combined with the fact that he was old and funny looking- undesired characteristics- he was perceived as unadoptable. Differences real or perceived are one reason kids bully each other. The beautiful picking on the less so and the big picking on the small and the “normal acting” picking on those whose behavior is outside the expected or desired. Jack had all three.

Teachable Moment 2– Value the differences don’t condemn them. Jack eventually stopped crying and became a loved member of the family. No- he was never like the rest of our dogs-never played with other dogs at the park. He was not identical to the other dogs- he was his own dog. Teachable Moment 2.5– be yourself. His smaller size, this ‘flaw’ made him a perfect lap dog- better than many others. In this case his size was an advantage.

Teachable Moment 3– there are a myriad of ways to look at things and when we do so we open up tremendous opportunity. I never thought I would grow fond of a funny looking, old, Toy Poodle with the name Jack Bear- I did. See Teachable Moment 1- things change and sometimes perceptions and feelings change for the better. Our daughter never saw Jack’s flaws, was never bothered by his crying, his looks or his age. Teachable Moment 3.5 – one truly good friend who sees the real you and all your potential is worth more than 100 lesser or false friends.

Jack’s health failed him. He developed cataracts and went blind. His teeth fell out and his hearing failed him. He had to be hand fed and could not always control his bladder. In other words he grew old as we all will.

Teachable Moment 4- we will all grow old and we will all die. We need to help kids to understand that this is a natural life-path. Yes seeing loved ones sick is never easy- in fact it is down-right hard. It is natural to feel anger and to feel sad. There is a natural progression of emotions. Understanding this does not erase the pain but it does make one feel unique and less alone.

Teachable Moment 5– as the saying goes,” it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.” It might seem better to avoid the pain but closeness, love and friendship though often painful are the greatest gifts in the world. My life was so much more enriched by having Jack in my life than not.

Teachable Moment 6– we can all find teachable moments, sometimes in the unlikeliest of places if we just take the time to look.  Thanks Jack- Bear, rest in peace.