Summer Checklist – Ready, Set, Swim!

Last updated on June 21st, 2018 at 06:29 pm

Summer’s here!!! The Memorial Day weekend traditionally rings in summer. School is ending, the weather is trending towards hot and sunny, the pools and beaches open for the season, and you are thinking it might just be safe to wash the snow pants.

So, what do you need to be ready for summer?

  • Swimsuits and goggles – check to make sure last year’s still fit and they aren’t falling apart from the sunshine, salt and chlorine. And if you have a child who won’t put their head in the water, goggles might be the answer.
  • Sunscreen. Do what the Australians do – keep a bottle by the back door and have everyone slap on a bit more every time they go out.
  • Water toys. The more interesting the toys in your beach bag, the less of the teasing/fighting/whining as the ‘toy’ becomes a younger sibling. I love splash bombs, the small torpedoes, diving rings and self-propelled sharks. Not only are they fun, but they keep your child diving and playing in the water which builds confidence and strength. I also have an entire basket of splash bombs in my basement for battles during the cold winter months – a great way to burn off steam safely.
  • Flotation device. What is a parent to do when you are at the pool with more than one child and they aren’t truly accomplished swimmers? We know ‘always watch your children’, but having two active kids myself I can tell you it’s not humanly possible, especially in a crowded pool. Either an approved life vest or, my favorite new invention, the Swim Fin. It looks like a shark fin, so it’s totally cool, and it keeps beginner swimmers afloat. What I like best is that it keeps arms and legs completely free to practice their skills, safely, and kids love wearing them – it gives new meaning to the game ‘sharks and minnows’. Also amazing for helping good swimmers improve their stroke, especially butterfly. Contact to find out where to buy them near you.
  • Rules. Number one rule: Never go near water without a grownup. Summer safety is very important. Train your kids to tell you ‘I’m going into the pool’. I’m going to the water slide’ ‘I’m going to be near the fountain’ ‘I’m going down by the lake’, and then make sure you are watching them. Teach your kids how to be safe near the water, to self-regulate their behavior so they are safe for a lifetime, not just a minute. The best rule for adults? Assign a water-watcher – an adult whose only job for 10 minutes is to watch the kids, and only watch the kids – no chatting, no texting, no magazines – and then ‘tap’ the next adult so that you can all have a good time and your kids will be safe.

HAVE FUN!!!! My pool/beach bag is packed, bring on summer!

5 Ways to Help Your Kids Deal With Rejection

Last updated on October 5th, 2015 at 10:54 pm

There are 15 spots on the Little League team, and 30 kids are trying out. There’s one lead role in the musical, and 10 kids are auditioning. And out of six candidates vying for student council president, only one will win. Kids take risks all the time when they try out for something, and sooner or later, they’re going to face rejection. How they handle it depends a lot on how you deal with it.


The key is changing the concept of failure and helping kids see competition as a way to improve their skills, according to California State University professor David Hibbard, who has studied the development of perfectionism among kids. “That way, a ‘failure’ is not a failure at all; it’s the road to competence and mastery,” says Hibbard.

Here are five ways to lessen the blow for your child and turn a negative experience into a strength-building one:

1. Manage expectations.

You can’t shield your child from disappointment, but you can help him prepare for the possibility. Without being a naysayer, remind him that many more kids are trying out this year or that he’s up against players with more experience. By making him aware of the hurdles he faces going in, he’ll gain a better perspective if things don’t work out.

2. Offer encouragement, not accolades.

When kids are competing for a spot, there’s no such thing as “the best.” There may be three, five or 10 equally strong contenders — all of whom think they’re No. 1. Tell your child you’re proud of the work he’s done to prepare for the tryout and that you think he has as good a chance as anyone else (assuming that you do), but stop short of telling him he’s the best.

3. Allow venting.

When your child doesn’t make the team, don’t put a cheery face on the situation. It’s a huge blow for her in the short term, and she needs you to acknowledge how painful it is. Let her cry or stomp around furiously for a few minutes, knowing that you accept and support her no matter what. Then, talk about the feelings around disappointment. “Having a warm, compassionate discussion helps a child learn from the competition,” says Hibbard.

4. Help your kids reach out.

Kids often retreat after a rejection — particularly a public one. But pulling back only reinforces the feelings of being a loser. If a friend made the team or won the election, encourage your child to call and offer congratulations. Suggest that he email the coach and find out what skills he should work on. Your child will see that failing at one attempt doesn’t affect his relationships or reputation.

5. Set new goals.

Once your kids have gotten past their disappointment, help them develop new goals to work toward – shaving a minute off their speed before the spring track tryouts or improving their vocal range before the next set of auditions. Stress to them that both failure and success are the result of trying, and that many failures have led to future victories.

By giving them the tools to handle rejection, you’ll teach your kids that it’s worth setting goals and taking risks, no matter what the outcome.

NCHS Red Light Safety Camera Campaign can save lives

Last updated on September 4th, 2015 at 10:00 pm

Keeping our families safe on the road is a very important task that we undertake as parents. We drive carefully, keep our cars in tip-top shape, and make sure everyone is buckled in safely on each and every trip. Unfortunately, we can’t control what other drivers on the road are doing. We must rely on the police and essential safety equipment, such as red light safety cameras, to help keep us safe.

A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that 113,000 people were injured and 676 were killed in crashes that involved red-light running in 2009 – two-thirds of the victims were pedestrians, bicyclists and occupants of vehicles hit by the red-light runners.

The study also showed that red-light safety cameras helped save more than 150 lives in 14 of the biggest U.S. cities from 2004 to 2008. Had the cameras been operating in all 99 U.S. cities with populations more than 200,000, more than 800 lives could have been saved.

Each time we enter an intersection, our families are at risk of becoming the victim of an accident – whether on foot or in a vehicle. Red light safety cameras help to change driver behavior and reduce the risk to our loved ones, however many people are unaware just how valuable these cameras are to those on the road.

The National Coalition for Safer Roads has created a powerful video, showing just how tragic the consequences of running a red light can be.

You can find the National Coalition for Safer Roads on their website, Twitter and Facebook pages, for more information about this important initiative.

Summer Fun for Parents: Welcome to “Camp Chaos”

Last updated on June 1st, 2017 at 10:58 pm

Summertime is just around the corner….so close I know my son can taste it. He is visibly at-ease, excited, more joyful. He likes school….but he LOVES summer break: unstructured fun, no homework, a lack of routine. But what about working parents whose employers are totally unreasonable and won’t give them 10 or 11 weeks off in the summer? Or parents like me who simply quake at the thought of all those weeks of unstructured time and the inevitable results…”Mommm, I want to set up a lemonade/ smoothie/ popsicle/ ice-cream/ brownie stand on the corner. Will you go shopping/make everything/do set up and clean up?”; “Mommm, [insert friend here] is away on vacation, will you play soccer/climb a tree/have a water fight with me?”; “Mommm, I’m bored!” Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my son. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have made the scary decision to take some time off from work this year. But the length of summer break in the US seems to me the epitome of the phrase “too much of a good thing.”

Dealing with the Long Break

There are many ways that parents can address the summer break. The one that has worked for our family is summer day or overnight camps. While these can seem expensive, they may be more economical and offer more variety than summer-long childcare. And there are ways to economize, such as using dependent care spending accounts (essentially paying with pre-tax dollars), choosing part-time camps, or going with providers, like the YMCA, who offer income-based fees or discounts. The key is to look for camps with sufficient experienced staff that offer a variety of activities and events/trips that meet your children’s interests. But that is easier said than done. There are lots of providers offering lots of different camps at different times and in a variety of locations and formats. It takes significant advance research and parent networking to come up with a plan. Has anyone noticed how much effort, stress and confusion this process can create for parents?  Or am I alone here?

Welcome to Camp Chaos

I got the first taste of the summer camp gauntlet after he left daycare, when registration for our company-sponsored camp opened in February – and his school hadn’t yet finalized any plans for their camp program. How was I supposed to coordinate different camps when the programs operated on different registration schedules? And I couldn’t wait to register for the company camp since spaces were so limited. Then there was the challenge of coordinating summer camps with summer vacations – especially trips involving relatives who didn’t have to work out their summer plans while the ground was still frozen.

Once other camp programs began opening their registrations, I encountered my next hurdle: too much choice! So many providers….so many camp themes! Camp Invention or Rock Climbing? Hogwarts Express or Robots? Chess or Hip Hop Dancing? And don’t ask 7-8 year olds. They want to do them all…completely ignoring that some are held the same week. How do I get my arms around this chaos?

Bring out the Spreadsheet!

Yes, I admit it. I created a spreadsheet. Well, two actually. The first one outlines the different camp options/providers by week, putting the camps into priority order (based on extensive mother-son discussions) in case of full registrations or other issues. This approach (below) worked fairly well in the past but got more complicated this year when half-day camps became an option due to my being off work. I hate to say it, but I used the planner to spread half-day camps out across the summer and avoid too much “home-alone” time!

After the camps were booked (marked by blue on the planning spreadsheet!), I created sheet number two to ensure we showed up at the right location each week – and to deal with all the variations in start/end times and requirements for food, clothing and miscellaneous materials. I also included handy info like the phone number and deadlines for registration changes and final payments. A printout of this sheet lives on a cupboard in the kitchen and is a savior each Sunday evening (or often Monday morning!).

I’m sure there’s got to be a better way to coordinate this process, but I was reassured that I’m actually not alone when the local YMCA manager told me he sees parents with all sorts of camp-coordination approaches: from lists and notes to flow-charts.   BTW – for those of you who are new to this, here’s my list of “things to consider” that should help this process go a little easier.

  • Since you usually can’t meet the staff when camp registration opens, check their brochure or website for information on the training staff receive and the ratio of counselors to children.  Some camps, like the YMCA, hold parent informational sessions just before the start of summer – this is a great way to get the feel for what you’ve signed up for, or see if you can attend as a preview for the following year.
  • Check that CPR and first-aid certified staff will be onsite at all times.
  • For outdoor camps, be sure you are satisfied with the rainy-day arrangements – both the facilities and activity plans.
  • With all-day camps, even specialized theme camps like chess or music, check that there are a variety of activities planned – including time for the kids to move.  At younger ages, kids can’t focus on only on one activity all day.  This I know from experience!
  • Start your search with places or groups you already know:  your community or child’s school may have camp programs, as often do local museums, zoos and cultural centers.  If your child does extracurricular sports or enrichment programs, these groups may also hold camps.  This can work well since you are familiar with the organizers and know that your child likes the activity

In the end, we all just want to give our children a safe and enriching summer experience with memories to last a life-time.

What about your experience? What has worked for you in navigating the summer break and camps?

Another Ear Infection…What Can I Do – Part II??

Last updated on August 30th, 2015 at 04:40 pm

Since we now understand how ear infections occur (see Ear Infections – Part I), it’s time to deal with the child who seems to get repeated ear infections. Ear infections, particularly the middle ear type, are responsible for providers ordering more prescription antibiotics than any other childhood disease.

There are a certain number of children who just seem to get an outer ear infection (otitis externa) every time they get their ears under water, usually during the warmer months of the year. There are even some who get this when they do not get their ears under water, but usually these episodes are also in the warmer months. I spoke about the treatment of the sudden or acute ear infection, but what to do about the repeated episodes. The best answer to this is using either a prescription medication or better yet, one not costing you anything at all. Mix ½ to ½ mixture of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol and place a couple drops of this into your child’s ear as soon as they get out of the pool or lake or ocean and try to limit the time those ears remain submerged. This has a way of drying out the external ear canal and helping to change the acid content of the eardrum. Ear plugs may be effective under certain circumstances but in general if you force a plug into the ear it may just irritate the skin which is exactly what we wish to avoid.

Middle ear infections (otitis media) are a different matter entirely. Remember that these are primarily due to a blockage in the normal valve system of your middle ear, with resultant pressure, fluid and infectious results. (Please refer back to part I if this is confusing). These changes happen in a progression that can occur suddenly or can develop over time.

While the obvious answer would be to use a “cold medicine” early on in the process this does not seem to influence the course of events as outlined, when looked at in controlled studies. The other end of the spectrum for treating the occurrence of multiple recurrent middle ear infections is to alter the normal anatomy in such a way as to prevent buildup of pressure in that small space which can then lead to fluid accumulation and bacterial secondary infection. This is accomplished through the use of very small tubes that can be surgically inserted through the eardrum and will serve to equalize the pressure on both sides of the eardrum. The system will calm down and the incidence of new infections will drop tremendously.

But that is a surgical procedure under some type of anesthesia, and even with tubes in the proper place, there can still be fluid production which then drains out of the ear chronically. Also, the mere act of making a hole in the eardrum through which a tube can be put in place, can slightly damage and scar that eardrum. Depending on the type of tube implanted in the eardrum, it usually comes out by itself after six to twelve months and the eardrum heals. Occasionally, the ear drum fails to heal completely and there is a perforation that might need to be surgically repaired in the future.

We treat middle ear infections for one of several reasons: to control the pain, to prevent any further extension of the infection into sensitive areas, and to preserve speech and hearing in your child.

Fortunately there are other approaches to the treatment of recurrent middle ear infections. Each significant ear infection should recognized and treated appropriately and the fluid buildup behind the eardrum monitored for resolution.

  • Fluid constantly in touch with the ear drum will dampen the usual vibrations and dull the hearing while it is there. Hearing testing can be run routinely to follow any changes in hearing.
  • All types of medications have been tried at one time or another: preventative doses of antibiotics have and still are being used for several weeks to months in an effort to prevent the bacterial infections, but the increasing number of bacteria becoming resistant to common antibiotics have caused physicians to re –think the use of long term medication.
  • Cortisone preparations by mouth have been tried to help with the middle ear inflammation, with varying results.
  • Occasionally, when all forms of treatment fail it is up to the ENT surgeon to place those tubes and let the middle ear system calm down.

So, there are many things to consider in finding a course of action for your child with recurrent ear infections and your Doctor will be familiar with each of the methods and can discuss them with you.

Your Child’s Identity May Have Already Been Stolen

Last updated on May 11th, 2017 at 09:04 pm

When was the last time you checked your child’s credit report? According to a recent report on NBC’s TODAY Investigates, identity thieves are stealing baby social security numbers and racking up thousands of dollars of debt without anyone knowing. In fact, there are thousands of victims nationwide – and most don’t get discovered for years.

How is this possible? There is a problem with our current system of using social security numbers (SSNs) as identification

  • First – the way the number is generated. You probably don’t know this but your social security number is basically a code, whereby the first 3 digits indicate the state of birth, and the last 6 stand for an approximate date of birth. With very little effort, thieves can predict social security numbers – even before a child is born.
  • Next – there is a flaw in the way the number is used.
    • When someone applies for a loan, banks typically only check the social security number to see if the credit is good. Most banks do not even check if the name on the loan application matches the social security number because there is a fee to do this.
    • According to a 2011 Carnegie Mellon CyLab report, there is also currently no process for organizations, like an employer or creditor, to check what name and birth date is officially attached to a SSN. As long as an identity thief has a SSN with a clean history, the thief can attach any name and date of birth to it.
    • Finally, because many commercial and public sector entities do not treat Social Security numbers as unique identifiers. It is possible for one SSN to appear on multiple credit files, employment reports, criminal history – all mapped to different names.

How big a problem is this?  Really big. In fact:

  • According to the CyLab report – out of 40,000 children, approximately 4,300 had someone else using their social security number. This is >10%!
  • The largest fraud was for $725,000
  • The youngest known victim was 5 months old.

What are the consequences? According to TransUnion, one of the 3 national credit reporting companies:

  • Identity theft will affect your child’s credit and employment history if the thieves obtain credit cards or even get jobs.
  • If the thieves are arrested for other crimes, those crimes will go on your child’s record.

Things to watch for:

  • Your child begins to receive suspicious mail, like pre-approved credit cards and other financial offers normally sent to adults, in his/her own name.
  • You try to open a financial account for him/her but find one already exists, or the application is denied because of a poor credit history.
  • A credit report already exists in his/her name. If the child has one, he/she probably has been targeted already, since only an application for credit starts a report.

What can you do?

As of June 25th 2011, new SSN’s will be more randomized – which will make this more difficult for identity thieves – but if your child already has one, their number may already have been compromised

  • If you’ve seen any of the signs, it may be a good idea to run a credit check. Note – you cannot use standard free credit check reporting systems to run a check on a child…however, TransUnion has a great site that can help guide you through the process
  • If you see signs that your child’s identity has been stolen, immediately put a freeze on your child’s credit. (State by state information on this can be found here)
  • The Identity Theft Resource Center, for free, will assist parents in disputing all erroneous entries on credit reports.  The agency will also help parents address the possibility that an imposter is using their child’s identity to obtain a driver’s license or escape conviction records or child support payments.
  • Finally, if you suspect your child’s identity has been stolen, call the police and the Federal Trade Commission which oversees and polices this type of activity.  An FTC guide to disputing errors can be found here.

Keeping our eyes open today, will hopefully prevent heartache down the line.


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