Raising Optimistic Children

A 2011 study in Pediatrics, examined optimism in 5,634 children who began taking part in the research when they were 12 to 14 years old. The researchers found that the quarter of kids who were the most optimistic had almost half the risk of showing signs of depression compared with those who were least optimistic. Being highly optimistic only had a “modest” link to less heavy substance abuse and antisocial behavior. Likely because substance use and antisocial behavior have strong genetic correlates.

Raising optimistic children has been meaningfully explored by Dr. Martin Seligman since he studied learned helplessness in the 1970’s. In 1991, Seligman published Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. Since that time, his influence on the field of Positive Psychology has been instrumental in teaching the public that what you think and how you reframe your life experiences impacts your life view as well as your health. People who rate high on optimism live longer, have better mental health and are physically healthier than people who rate high on pessimism.

If you are wishing to encourage optimism in your children consider these time-honored strategies:

  1. Help your children set themselves up for success. Participating in tasks, academic activities and physical sports that are within your child’s ability will provide them with positive experiences increasing their self-esteem and allowing them to see themselves as capable.
  2. Give specific feedback on what your child does well. Instead of offering general praise, be specific. “You practiced so many multiplication problems that you earned an A on your recent test.” “Your effort and practice earn you better grades.”
  3. Validate their feelings offering some strategies for looking more hopefully at the circumstances. “It didn’t feel very good to miss the goal at soccer, but your footwork on the field was excellent. Daddy and I will play more with you in the backyard so you are better prepared for the next time.”
  4. Use positive not negative labels. Negative labels lead children to believe they are the label. So use positive labels when talking with and about your child. As an example, when your child exhibits a behavior that is unsuitable such as whining refrain from calling your child a “whiner” and practice using a new tone with your child. “Joey, when you ask for what you want in a positive tone, I can respond better to you.” “Let’s use a happy tone as we talk with one another.”
  5. Comment on the bright side. “I know it’s raining so we must play indoors, this is our chance to make a huge train station today.”

Raising optimistic children begins with you. Seeing the positive side of life experiences, learning from mishaps and practicing positive thoughts leads to happier children. You can find more ideas and strategies for raising the optimism quotient in your family by reading Martin Seligman’s book The Optimistic Child.

Halloween 2011: Tips From the Experts to Keep Kids Safe

It’s that time again…

What is your little one going to be for Halloween this year?? A ghost, a gorilla…maybe even Gaga (…Lady Gaga that is)??? Well whatever he or she chooses to be this year, one thing we want them ALL to be is SAFE! With that in mind we’ve gathered up the best Halloween tips and tricks that we could find from the most reliable safety sources we know.

Full credit…and our thanks go out to them.

1. DRESSING FOR THE OCCASION: (AAP)

  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
  • Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
  • When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
  • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long.
  • Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. They can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.

2. OUT TRICK-OR-TREATING: (AAP and SafeKids)

  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
  • Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
  • Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or Treaters:
    • Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
    • Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
    • Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk. Never cut across yards or use alleys.
    • Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks. Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
    • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
    • Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will!
  • If you’re out driving:
    • Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
    • Anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic and turn your headlights on earlier in the day so you can spot children from greater distances.
    • Remember that costumes can limit children’s visibility and they may not be able to see your vehicle.

3. FOR THOSE WHO CAN EAT CANDY…: (AAP and AAPD)

  • A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
  • Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
  • Remind kids to brush before (and after) eating candy: Tooth decay and cavities occur when sugar reacts to bacteria and dental plaque. Brushing before candy consumption reduces the amount of bacteria and plaque on the teeth.
  • Watch out for hard candy: Don’t just monitor the amount of sugar a child consumes, but also how long they keep sweet treats in their mouths. Kids should eat the candy right away, limit chewy candies that stick to teeth, as well as hard candies, which will be slowly eaten.
  • Monitor overall candy consumption: There are two recommended options.
    • Keep candy consumption limited to a few pieces a day given with a meal or a snack.
    • Alternatively, have the child eat whatever the amount the adult decides at one setting, and then have them brush their teeth afterwards and give or donate the remaining candy.

4. …AND FOR THOSE WITH FOOD ALLERGIES WHO NEED TO BE CAUTIOUS: (KFAF)

  • Plan an alternate activity, such as going to the movies, hosting a slumber party, or having a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood for safe treats or other items.
  • When trick-or-treating, carry your child’s emergency medicines.
  • Let the kids dress up and run house to house, while you carry a safe snack in case they want one. Bring wipes to clean the little hands first!
  • Give neighbors safe Halloween treats in advance to hand out to your food allergic child.
  • Prepare a container filled with safe treats in advance, and then swap it for the treats collected.
  • Try a variation of the Tooth Fairy: Sort through unsafe candy, then leave it in a safe spot for a “Sugar Sprite” or “Candy Fairy” who exchanges it for a small gift, toy, or money. [
  • Trade unsafe candy for allergen-safe treats or age-appropriate non-food items once your children return home. Non-food ideas include coloring books, storybooks, pencils, stickers, stuffed animals, toys, cash and play dough.
  • If permissible, donate leftover candy to children who may not be able to go out and trick or treat.
  • Check all ingredients. Remember that treat-size candy may have different ingredients or may be made on different machinery than the same regular-size candy.

5. FINALLY, MAKE SURE TO STAY IN TOUCH (AT&T)

  • Make sure wireless phones are fully charged.
  • Pre-program contact information of parents, neighbors and emergency services into your and your child’s speed dial, and be sure they know how to access these numbers with ease.
  • Establish boundaries – Families should have in place a familiarized route for children to follow while out on the town. Consider a small tracking device that can easily slip into your child’s candy bag like the Garmin GTU 10 and follow them via PC or mobile phone.
  • Set up periodic alarms with Halloween-themed tones as a reminder for trick-or-treaters to text or call home between candy collecting stops.

Wishing you and your family a safe, happy and healthy Halloween!!

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Resources:

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics:  Halloween Safety Tips
  2. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry: AAPD Offers Halloween Tooth To-Dos For A Fun and Healthy Holiday
  3. Kids with Food Allergies Foundation:  Take the Tricks Out of Treats
  4. Safe Kids  Halloween: A Night for Treats, Not Tragedies
  5. AT&T: Halloween Safety Tips for Parents

 

AAPD Offers Halloween Tooth To-Dos For A Fun and Healthy Holiday

 

Healthy Alternatives to Halloween Candy

Want some healthier alternatives to candy to pass out at Halloween?

Once you put your sugar-free but ghoulish thinking cap on, there are lots of healthy alternatives – edible and not – says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a registered dietitian and an American Dietetic Association spokesperson and director of wellness coaching at Cleveland Clinic. Look for small accessories such as light-up rings or individual packs of baked chips or pretzels at local discount stores, party supply shops and wholesale clubs. “Have a few choices to satisfy different age groups,” she suggests.

Here are a few more of Jamieson-Petonic’s favorite affordable and healthy alternatives to candy:

  • Packs of sugar-free gum
  • Sugar-free hot chocolate packets
  • Individual packs of roasted pumpkin seeds or trail mix
  • Stickers or temporary tattoos
  • Glo-sticks or slime
  • Small bouncy balls
  • Jump ropes
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Beanbags or hacky sacks

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Editor’s Note:  We are all concerned about childhood nutrition these days, which makes Halloween a particularly “tricky” holiday.  But there’s more than one way to skin a black cat!…as we see from two different perspectives on Halloween treats.  Today’s post looked at candy alternatives, while yesterday’s post  by Mommy Dietitian talked about letting kids have their candy on Halloween (as long as moderation prevails after the holiday). We hope you found some useful ideas to safely satisfy your “ghouls”!


Say Yes to Halloween Candy…But Only on Halloween

The reality is that the Halloween tradition is about children receiving candy as they go door to door in their Halloween costumes. Halloween only occurs once a year, so I say, let the children enjoy some candy. Don’t get me wrong. I love the healthier ideas out there, especially the toy and sticker alternative. But remember, candy is not the root of all evil – it is the frequency in which it is consumed that could pose a problem.

We live in a world where our children are already around lots of candy, so we must teach them proper behaviors around eating it. I see Halloween as a wonderful training opportunity on proper eating behaviors. So let the kids enjoy their Halloween candy, but don’t let it be consumed endlessly after the holiday. I allow my children to have more candy than usual on Halloween. In fact, I let them have all the candy they want this one night per year. My daughter has already learned firsthand that too much candy will give her a tummy ache. We had a great discussion when she was feeling sick after eating too much icing one time that too much candy will make her body feel bad.

After Halloween comes and goes this weekend, the frequency of candy consumption will go back to how it normally is at our home – a maximum of once or twice per week. So, my take on Halloween? Let the kids have their candy. And remember to use this time to teach them about the place that candy should have in their lives every other day of the year – as an occasional treat.

**************************************************************************************************************************** Editor’s Note:  We are all concerned about childhood nutrition these days, which makes Halloween a particularly “tricky” holiday.  But there’s more than one way to skin a black cat!…as we see from two different perspectives on Halloween treats.  Today’s post talks about letting kids have their candy on Halloween (as long as moderation prevails after the holiday), while tomorrow’s post looks at trading candy for healthier alternatives.  We hope you find some useful ideas to safely satisfy your “ghouls”!

6 Layers of Protection That Keep Your Child Safe Around Water

How many layers of protection does the child in this photo have? Coat to prevent against the elements? Check. Securely buckled into an approved car seat? Check. Extra blanket for warmth? Check. A car that has passed stringent safety tests? Check. But the most important layer is the one you can’t see – he is constantly being taught to always buckle up when he is going in a car – by your actions and possibly by your words. We can make our children’s environment safe by using car seats, safety belts, airbags and cars with good crash-test ratings, but unless we teach a child why those things exist and how to use them, we are only doing half the job of protecting them in the future.

‘Layers of protection’ is the buzzword of choice for drowning prevention. It makes sense for exactly the same reasons we teach children to buckle up. Young children are learning self-control and cause-and-effect – our job is to keep them safe while they are learning, but also to teach them how to be safe, and why, at the same time.

To keep your child safe around water, here are the basic layers of protection you need.

  1. Never leave a child unattended in the bathtub. Personally my rule-of-thumb is that they must excel on a swim team or choose to shower instead of bathe before this rule ends.
  2. If you have a pool, fence the pool. Not the yard, the pool. Look at installing self-closing gates, door alarms and pool alarms as an added layer of protection. Safety Turtle is a great portable choice for holidays and trips to Grandma’s.
  3. Always watch your child near water. Assign an adult to be a ‘Water Watcher’ for 10 minutes, give them a whistle, badge or a sign to hold to remind them that their only job is watching the kids, then rotate so that no one loses focus or misses out on the adult fun.
  4. Empty and turn over buckets, wading pools and anything else that can collect water. Think about covering any ornamental pools or bird baths while your children are under 5.
  5. Learn CPR, because drowning happens in under 2 minutes in under 2 inches of water. Accidents do happen. Your local Red Cross or Park District will have classes.
  6. The most important layer though is teaching your child how to be safe around water. Talk to them about why there are fences, why you are watching them, why they need an adult around whenever they are near water – back up your actions with explanations. There is a book about water safety that young children (under 5) love, that can help you with this conversation. It’s called ‘Jabari Makes A Splash’.

With everyone of these actions you are sending two positive messages that will keep your child safe their whole life: Water is fun and you need to act responsibly and safely around water.

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Jabari, which means “brave” in Swahili, is a cute and lovable lion cub. Like most young children, he’s energetic, enthusiastic, curious, and sometimes even a bit mischievous. But Jabari always wants to do the right thing. Children will easily relate to him and want to emulate his positive behavior. Through Jabari’s stories and adventures, children will learn how to be safe in the water. And parents will learn the biggest lesson of all: Always watch your children while they’re in the water. ‘Jabari Makes A Splash’ is available on Amazon.com or at www.jabariofthewater.com.

BreathableBaby Mesh Crib Bumpers

For more than ten years, parenting experts, child product safety organizations, and new parents have been talking about the potential safety hazards of using traditional crib bumpers inside infants’ cribs despite the benefits of preventing head, arm and leg injuries.

We are Dale and Susan Waters, married entrepreneurs from Minnesota who turned fear for our baby’s safety inside her crib into a mission to create something that would not only help protect babies but also provide peace of mind for parents. We invented the Breathable Mesh Crib Bumper; a product designed to reduce the risks of suffocation caused by traditional bumpers, while protecting a baby’s limbs from becoming entrapped in the crib slats.

BreathableBaby is Born

12 years ago, we woke to the sound of our 3-month-old daughter screaming in agony from her crib. Our daughter, Sierra had gotten her legs twisted and wedged between the slats of her crib. Her face was pinned against the mattress.

There were many sleepless nights for us and our daughter – no matter what we tried she kept getting her little arms and legs caught between the crib slats. In addition to the obvious pain of being stuck, we feared she would break an arm or leg, or develop neuropathy. But we refused to use a soft, pillowy crib bumper for fear of suffocation.

Research shows that a baby can snuggle up right against their crib bumper. If the baby’s nose and mouth are too close to the bumper, it can potentially cause dangerous re-breathing of carbon dioxide or suffocation. A baby can also get wedged between crib slats and the mattress, unable to escape and possibly suffocate. Because the safety and potential dangers of crib bumpers has been in the news recently, many parents are unsure about how to keep their babies comfortable and safe.

As parents, we were frustrated and upset to learn there was no practical solution available in the marketplace. As designers and entrepreneurs we decided we had to do something about it and devoted ourselves to developing a safer, “breathable” solution – preferably one that was affordable and easy to use. So, we took a break from the media, marketing and music company we owned, and focused on creating a safer solution for babies.

We researched and sourced fabrics, designed and engineered prototypes, held focus groups with mothers and sought extensive third party safety evaluations by a world-leader in safety consultation before finally introducing a safer, smarter crib bumper to the market three years later in 2002.

What makes BreathableBaby bumpers so much safer is our Air Channel Technology™ (A.C.T.) designed to prevent suffocation. A.C.T. maintains air access should a baby’s mouth and nose press up against the fabric. When the BreathableBaby fabric is compressed it is virtually impossible to form an airtight seal. In fact BreathableBaby has “fabric cards” available so that parents can experience the A.C.T. safety feature for themselves — just send in a request along with your address information to customercare@BreathableBaby.com and we’ll send you one free of charge.

Since its launch, we’re proud to say that the BreathableBaby™ brand has forged a new category in “breathable” bedding, and is embraced by parents worldwide. Our products have won numerous awards including The Child Safety House Calls Award of Excellence, and National Parenting Center Seal of Approval for innovation, functionality, design and contribution to creating a safer, healthier crib environment.

It’s imperative that parents are aware of the potential dangers that may be part of a baby’s sleep environment. New information is available all the time, so we urge all expectant parents – first time or otherwise – to seek relevant news, alerts, studies and guidelines from news and safety organizations such as the ones listed in our Healthful Hints below.

Wishing you and your little one sweet dreams.

HEALTHFUL HINTS:

Six Steps to a Safe Sleep Environment For Your Baby

  1. Crib Mattress Should be Firm. A soft mattress may increase suffocation risks. Select a firm mattress that fits the crib tightly and a fitted sheet. You should have a fitted not be able to fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib side. Before purchasing a crib, visit www.cpsc.gov to make sure the crib you selected has not been recalled.
  2. No Blankets for Baby. Do not place anything in baby’s crib that could be a suffocation hazard, including blankets. If you’re worried about keeping your baby warm, a better solution is an infant sleeper or wearable blanket that zips around your baby and can’t ride up over her face.
  3. Breathable Mesh Crib Bumpers. Crib bumpers that are plush, pillowy, and made of non-breathable fabric can increase the risk of suffocation. A safer crib bumper option is one that is mesh or breathable and allows for air flow – even when pressed against a baby’s mouth.
  4. De-Clutter the Crib. For most parents, all those cute stuffed animals and soft blankets might seem a natural fit for the crib, but unfortunately they all pose suffocation risks. Toys and stuffed animals are best saved for interactive play time.
  5. A bottle. Parents of older infants who have started holding their own bottles may be tempted to slip a bottle into the crib in case their baby wakes at night. But even a bottle can pose a suffocation risk. Plus, babies who fall asleep with a bottle in their mouths are prone to tooth decay from the milk sugars that sit on their teeth all night.
  6. Pacifiers. Some studies have shown that giving your baby a clean, dry pacifier reduces SIDS rates.

Resources For More Information On Safe Sleep and Crib Safety