Three Strategies for Protecting Kids from Sexual Predators

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 11:27 am

The Penn State Football child abuse scandal in the US is a classic case of someone misusing his position of trust and power to abuse and coerce kids and of adults in responsible positions not taking action to stop him. Parents are left wondering, ““What do I need to look out for? How can I protect my kids? What can I teach them about protecting themselves?”

In Kidpower’s experience working with over 2 million people of all ages and abilities since 1989, here are three strategies that might been able to prevent the terrible wrong done to these children and helped to bring this man’s abusive behavior to light much sooner

1. Make sure you know who is in charge of your kids.
Remember that anyone can be an abuser. As parents and other caring adults, we need to face the reality is that there are sexual predators who will create opportunities to be alone with kids by doing wonderful things with and for them. And, most of these offenders will seem like really nice people with excellent reputations. When people ask me to tell them what a child molester might look like, I say, “Look in the mirror – a molester looks just like anyone else!”

Most adults who choose to do great things with kids are good people who truly want to help. A coach, a youth group leader, a Big Brother/Big Sister, a religious leader, and a child therapist can all have relationships with children and teens in the context of their paid or volunteer role, and these relationships can be tremendously important to a young person. However, the vulnerability of young people to anyone put into these positions of trust is why more attention needs to be paid to screening these individuals and to following up thoroughly on any hint of a problem.

Don’t just trust someone because they are part of a reputable institution, church, or school. Check the person out for yourself, especially if he or she is going to be alone with your child. Check references. Don’t assume that someone will tell you if something bad happens. Trust your intuition if something feels uncomfortable to you. Watch out for someone who seems to single out certain kids for special attention and private relationships, who seeks social and recreational opportunities to be alone with kids without other adults there, or who is not open to parents and other responsible adults being fully informed about and comfortable with what is going on. When in doubt, check it out!

2. Teach kids not to keep secrets about problems, touch, presents, or favors.
Most abusers cultivate strong relationships with children before doing anything sexual. Often, they test a child’s boundaries by being inappropriate in other ways. In the chilling book, Conversations with a Pedophile, the abuser, who was interviewed by the author while in prison, describes how he would use a swear word to a boy in a church youth group and then say something like, “Oops! I just said a bad word. Please don’t tell your parents, because then we couldn’t have fun together any more.” He would then target boys who he was confident wouldn’t tell.

This pedophile’s strong advice to parents about protecting their kids from people like him was,“Listen to your kids!” Get kids into the habit of talking to you by asking supportive questions, being a good listener, and not lecturing. Pay attention to what they say. Let kids know that you care about what they are doing and want to know what is happening with them no matter how busy you are. Be very clear that problems, touch, presents, favors, privileges, and games should not be a secret. Teach young people how to set boundaries with people they know and care about.

What safe looks like...

3. Put Safety First!
Kidpower’s core principle is: The safety and self-esteem of a child are more important than anyone’s embarrassment, inconvenience, or offense. Any of the many adults who witnessed or learned of Sandusky’s behavior might have prevented years of abuse and other victims if they had reported what happened to the police. The damage to Penn State’s reputation would have been far less than the damage that is being caused now.

If you suspect that there is a safety problem, especially involving children, take personal responsibility for doing something to address it. This means speaking up persistently and widely until effective action is taken to fix that problem. Don’t just tell someone, even if that person is in a position of authority, and assume that your responsibility is at an end. Follow up to see what is happening. Realize that children and young people who are being abused need help and protection – and that anyone who is abusing them needs to be stopped.

The Kidpower article Worthy of Trust: What Organizations Need to Do to Protect Children From Harm describes what people need to do to take charge of the safety of young people in their care.

To learn more about how to protect kids from sexual abuse, see our Child Abuse Prevention Resource Page.

The Real Danger of Food Allergies

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 11:27 am

If your child has food allergies, you know how serious and life-altering they can be. Now, a groundbreaking study by Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine shows just how common they are.

Nearly 6 million American kids that are 18 years of age or younger (roughly 1 in 13) are allergic to at least one food, according to the 2011 study – twice as many as previously thought. Of those, 39 percent had severe allergic reactions, and 30 percent had multiple food allergies. The most common allergies were to peanuts (25 percent), milk (21 percent), shellfish (17 percent) and tree nuts (13 percent).

Not all negative reactions to food are allergic reactions, however. Sometimes kids just have an intolerance of certain foods. Here’s how to know if your child has food allergies – and what you should do about it.

Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance

With an allergy, the immune system responds to a particular food as if it were an enemy, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID). After the first exposure, the body produces antibodies to fight the food. After the second exposure, the antibodies trigger the release of certain chemicals (called histamines) that cause symptoms to occur.

With food intolerance, however, the immune system isn’t involved, so the condition is not life-threatening. Intolerance is a reaction of the digestive system; potential causes can be sensitivity to food additives, recurring stress, etc. The most common nonallergic reactions are to lactose, gluten and food additives. Food intolerances are not as worrisome, and the doctor may recommend things to do to aid digestion.

Common Allergy Signs and Symptoms

An allergic reaction occurs from within a few minutes to an hour after a child is exposed, according to Children’s Hospital Boston, and can range from mild to life-threatening. (Exposure to even the smallest amount can produce a reaction.)

Common symptoms include:

  • Vomiting, diarrhea, cramps
  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • Eczema
  • Itching or swelling of the lips, tongue or mouth
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Lowered blood pressure

If your baby or young child has milk or soy allergies, symptoms include:

  • Colic
  • Blood in the stool
  • Poor growth

If you think your child has had an allergic reaction, consult with your child’s doctor to come up with a treatment plan. If the symptoms are severe, seek immediate medical attention.

Will Food Allergies Be Outgrown?

Food allergies usually begin in early childhood, but they can develop later, according to NIAID. Your child will likely outgrow allergies to eggs, milk or soy – but not peanuts. Allergies to tree nuts, fish and shellfish may also be lifelong allergies, according to Children’s Hospital Boston.

Treatment for Food Allergies

If you’re worried that your child has food allergies, talk to your doctor. There’s no medication to prevent food allergies; all you can do is try to avoid exposure, according to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. After your child’s doctor confirms the allergy, be sure your child stays away from that particular food and other foods in the same group. If your child’s reaction is severe, the doctor may prescribe an emergency kit with epinephrine to counteract the symptoms in case of exposure.

After three to six months, your child’s doctor may reintroduce some foods back into the diet to see if your child can tolerate them.



Is Thirteen Too Old for a Pediatrician?

Last updated on August 29th, 2015 at 05:53 pm

A board-certified, properly trained pediatrician offers the best medical care for all teens. Unlike other primary care providers, a pediatrician spends three to four years or more of intense study and preparation to take care of all kids — including adolescents. None of the other primary care doctors has this level of education and training in dealing with the unique problems of teenagers. The massive physical and emotional changes brought on by puberty aren’t seen in any other age group. Teens, despite their protestations, are not young adults — and there’s no benefit to switching from a pediatrician to an adult’s physician until they are!


Arts & Crafts and Poison Control: How to Keep Kids Safe

Last updated on November 3rd, 2018 at 05:21 pm

Did you ever notice how delicious some of those colored markers smell? Ever tempted to taste one? Ok, admit it…you’d never do it, but still you can’t say you haven’t at least thought about it. So, can we blame the 4 year old who thinks that the blueberry marker might just taste as good as it smells?

Unfortunately we sometimes forget that those pretty colored paints and crayons and markers look and smell so good because they’re made up of chemicals that are designed to make them look and smell good. And because little kids are attracted to bright, colorful things, and love to touch and taste (who doesn’t), we need to be extra cautious to make sure that glues, paints, crayons and other arts and crafts supplies are handled with care.

According to the Minnesota Poison Control: “In 2009, the nation’s 57 poison control centers received more than 35,000 calls about exposures to art products; of these, more than 26,000 calls concerned children younger than 6.”  And the Virginia Poison Control Center highlights this list of art supplies to keep an eye on:

  • Chalk contains calcium, and swallowing some typically does not cause poisoning. More serious problems can occur if the chalk lodges in the throat or is breathed into the windpipe, blocking the airway and causing coughs, difficulty breathing, or wheezing.
  • Water-soluble markers usually don’t cause harm. Most other felt-tip markers don’t cause poisoning if small amounts of the ink are swallowed. A few markers may contain aniline dyestuffs, which, if a large amount is swallowed, can be poisonous.
  • Erasers are not considered poisonous but could cause blockage or injury if lodged in the throat or breathed into the windpipe.
  • School-type glues (such as Elmer’s®) generally are considered nonpoisonous. “Super glues” do not cause serious poisoning if a mouthful is swallowed; however, they cause mucous membranes and skin surfaces to stick together instantly. If “super glue” gets into the eye, the eyelids can be sealed together, resulting in lid injury and loss of lashes. Worse, “super glue” can cause serious damage to the eye’s cornea.
  • If children swallow small amounts of water-based paint – including latex, tempera and poster paint – poisoning is not likely. Some latex paints do contain measurable amounts of glycols, so poisoning could happen if someone swallows a very large amount. Oil-based paints contain solvents that can cause poisoning if swallowed.

The National Capital Poison Center recommends the following safety tips:

  • Read the label carefully, and follow all instructions for safe use and disposal.
  • Discard products that have passed their expiration dates.
  • Don’t eat or drink while using art products.
  • Wash up – skin, equipment and environment – after use.
  • Never use products to paint skin or decorate food unless the product is specifically labeled for that use.
  • Store art products in their original containers locked up and out of the reach of children.

Minnesota Poison Control also suggests that “when choosing art supplies for use by children, consider the product’s certification. Many art supplies are imprinted with the seals of the Arts and Crafts Materials Institute. Products with the AP (Approved Product) seal are best for use by young children. Products with the CL (Cautionary Label) Seal are more appropriate for adult use.”

Finally…always better safe than sorry. If you’re unsure whether or not your child has been exposed to (or eaten) a toxic level of art supplies, call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222 for advice or information.

For a more detailed description of arts and crafts Do’s and Don’ts, here is the official Art and Craft Safety Guide from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

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Not long ago Audra, one of our editors, shared with us her story about her wonderful experience with “edible play dough.”   What about you??  Ever called poison control for an arts and crafts mishap?

How Mouthwash Can Benefit You and Your Family

Last updated on August 29th, 2015 at 04:15 pm

A mouthwash is a mouthwash is a mouthwash – or so you may think. Sure, some may be green or blue or extra-minty, but really, how different could they be?

Turns out there’s a key difference: Some rinses help you more than others, and some even contain ingredients you should avoid, says Ingvar Magnusson, D.D.S., Ph.D., a research professor in oral biology at the University of Florida College of Dentistry in Gainesville. For example, many rinses have sodium lauryl sulfate, which tends to dry and irritate the mouth – especially if you suffer from canker sores. And some studies have found a link between rinses with a high alcohol content (25 percent or more) and oral cancers.

It’s smart to ask your dentist for rinse recommendations that suit your family’s specific dental hygiene needs. But in the meantime, here’s a cheat sheet for your next trip down the mouthwash aisle:

WANT TO …      

Help prevent cavities?

  • LOOK FOR….Fluoride. Its ability to prevent tooth decay is well-established.

Fight gum disease?            

  • LOOK FOR….Cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) or chlorhexidine gluconate. Recent research has shown these ingredients help prevent gingivitis and dental plaque.

 Moisten the mouth?

  • LOOK FOR….Carboxymethylcellulose or hydroxyethylcellulose, both of which simulate natural saliva. Bonus points if the rinse also contains fluoride, since dry mouth contributes to cavities.

 Soothe canker sores or mouth abrasions?

  • LOOK FOR….Hydrogen peroxide. It’s a safe bet because it’s antimicrobial without being overly abrasive.

 Freshen breath?

  • LOOK FOR….Methyl salicylate and chlorhexidine gluconate. These antiseptics help fight the bacteria that contribute to bad breath. Additional herbs, scents and flavorings help mask odor.

 Finally, remember that no rinse can take the place of flossing and brushing, which physically scrapes the plaque off your teeth. Rinses may have some impact on preventing gingivitis or tooth decay, but only if used as part of a solid dental-health routine, says Magnusson.



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Editor’s Note:  Mouth rinses can be great for kids. Our pediatric dentist recommended adding a mouthwash to my 9-year old son’s dental routine for added protection, especially on those days when he rushes the brushing (because, hey, we know it’s happening!).  But they specifically recommended a rinse like Crest Pro-Health because it contains the cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) mentioned above.  It’s working great for him and I’ve started using it too.  It is quite minty/spicy, but he handles it by making it into a game – jumping or dancing after he’s rinsed, until the spice eases!

Protect Your Family From Fire

Last updated on September 12th, 2015 at 10:48 pm

It’s November. The leaves are changing, temperatures are falling and that means 3 things:

  1. That it’s time to change your clocks back an hour,
  2. That it’s time to change the batteries in your smoke detectors in your home and
  3. It’s time to make an evacuation plan.

Ask yourself when was the last time you checked and changed the batteries in your smoke detectors? If you can’t remember then it has been too long. It is estimated that every year in the United States, about 3,000 people lose their lives in residential fires from inhalation of smoke and toxic gases so having a properly working smoke detector is one of the best and least expensive ways to alert everyone in the home of a potentially deadly fire. Most people who lose their lives to smoke and gas inhalation do so in their sleep. Children and the elderly are especially known to sleep through smoke and other alarms and are at greater risk, so proper placement of your smoke alarms is very important. Protect your family! Smoke alarms should be placed on every level of your home and in and around all bedrooms to best alert sleeping occupants that there is smoke and smoke detector batteries should be checked monthly and changed every 6 months.

Having talked about placing smoke detectors where they need to go, what happens when there is an emergency and the detectors start sounding? Every home should have an evacuation plan known by everyone in the home. We all remember in school having the fire drill where we walked outside to a place and waited to be called back into class, well that is the same thing that should be done in your home. Everyone in the home should have a clear understanding of where to meet and how to get there in case of a fire. The location can be anywhere far enough away from the home to be easy to get to and be safely away from danger like a tree or a mailbox for example. If you have younger children this is a great exercise to do with them as they can map out and color a plan to keep and learn. Some houses will require extra planning and preparation because of things like multiple stories and occupants who may require assistance. Items such as fire escape ladders and window indicator stickers can help occupants evacuate from upper floors safely and help fire crews locate individuals and pets that need help evacuating the home.

With over 75% of all fire fatalities occurring in home fires, the need for proper protection and planning cannot be overstated. The winter months are fast approaching and the risk for home fires increases as the temperatures decrease so please remember to unplug heating devices, not to overload outlets and keep fireplaces and chimney’s clean.

There is a saying that says” chance favors the prepared”. The time it takes to prepare is minimal and working together as a family can be fun and educational…so have fun and be prepared.