How to Talk to Your Kids About…Drugs

Last updated on December 7th, 2012 at 10:32 am

Regardless of where we live, or the age of our children, at some point, they are going to be exposed to, or hear about drugs.

Remember…

  1. Unless we take the time to help our children sort through all the messages they are receiving, what they think about drugs can end up being far from the truth.
  2. We need to understand what drugs can do and what drugs are out there in front of our children.
  3. We must start talking to our children when they are young, preschool age. We can’t think about conversations about drugs as a one-time event with our children. It must be an ongoing conversation.

When we talk we need to…

  • Be open and do not exaggerate.
  • Look at your child in the eye when you talk.
  • Not interrupt or preach when your child is talking or asking questions. Listen at least as much as you talk.
  • Assure them that you love them and want them to be healthy and have a happy life.

Then…

Use everyday situations to start conversations about drugs. Things you see on TV, hear on the radio in music, see in movies or things their friends might say and do. Even when you give young children medicine for a cold, it is a good opportunity to talk about drugs.

Role play. Act out situations that your child might encounter concerning drugs, and don’t forget prescription drugs.  Now I know this can be tricky so we’re going to spend a little more time on how to discuss the “use vs. abuse of legal drugs” in another post later on. But for now, see if you can come up with several real-life examples where you could see your child encountering drugs and try to practice more than one way they could handle each situation.

Know your children’s friends and their parents. Know what they are doing and where they are going. Be involved in their lives and support them in their activities.

Keep your conversations age appropriate. Kids have a hard time understanding “cancer when you are older.” Stick to things they can relate to. “Drugs make it hard for you to play baseball because you can’t think straight or run fast.”

Just because you talk to your child about drugs, doesn’t mean they are more likely to take drugs. So…get talking.

Spend time doing things together as a family and one-on-one. Shared experiences provide non-threatening opportunities for communication, building trust and strengthening relationships.

If your child asks if you ever did drugs, what do you say?

Focus your response on your child and what has prompted them to ask. Most likely it is because they have been faced with a situation involving drugs. You then have a few options.

  • If you say “no” your child might argue, “then how do you know they are bad”? Assure them that you don’t always have to try something to know it is bad. Such as grabbing a saw while it is running. You don’t need to touch it to know it will cut you. Share experiences when you said “no”, and the positive consequences that came as a result.
  • If you say “yes”, that doesn’t mean you have to tell your kids everything. The most important thing, if you are going to say “yes” is to assure your children that it was a VERY BIG MISTAKE and you wish you had never done it. Tell them about the negative consequences so they understand it was not a good choice.

There is no way around it. If we want to arm our children with the tools they need to “just say no”, we have to have start the conversations when they are young, and have them often.

Why Deadly Measles Is on the Rise

Last updated on September 13th, 2015 at 01:45 am

Measles was officially eradicated in the U.S. in 2000. But someone forgot to tell the rubeola virus, the highly contagious organism that causes this once common – and sometimes deadly – childhood disease. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that measles cases were on the rise in the U.S., with more infections in the last year than the previous 15.

Many doctors and parents of young children today have never seen a case of the measles, let alone an outbreak. But I have seen a measles outbreak, and I do know how serious it is. I got my immunization the hard way: I had the measles. At the age of 8, I spent 10 days in a dark room, delirious with fever, my parents taking turns placing cold washcloths on my head. I recovered, but other children weren’t so lucky. They died – often from pneumonia – or suffered brain damage as the result of encephalitis, a brain inflammation. About 1 in 10 cases results in ear infections that can cause permanent hearing loss.

Even worse, a rare, frightening complication can occur up to 27 years after a measles infection, particularly in those who contract the disease as babies or young children. Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a fatal, progressive disease that is characterized by mental deterioration and neuromuscular disorders that can result in blindness, an inability to walk and a persistent vegetative state. (Read more about it here.)

What You Don’t Know About Measles — But Should

Most cases of measles in the U.S. are imported. Measles epidemics are still rampant in Europe and other parts of the world where immunizations aren’t mandatory as they are, with some exceptions, in the U.S. For example, a measles epidemic has been raging in France since 2008. More than 22,000 cases have been reported since it began, more than 700 people developed complications and six have died. About 90 percent of the U.S. measles cases originated overseas.

Aiding and abetting this dangerous rise: a susceptible population. “A lot of it is because of that stupid 1998 paper in The Lancet connecting vaccinations with autism,” says Clyde Martin, an expert in health statistics at Texas Tech University. “It has been completely discredited – the data was falsified – but people still believe it.”

That false study is a major reason why some parents won’t have their children immunized. This alarms Martin because of what his numbers are telling him. Martin took a close look at a 1987 measles epidemic in Lubbock, Texas, which was mainly centered at Texas Tech. He examined the medical records of every single student who was affected, and he pored over their vaccination records too.

Many students were vaccinated once the epidemic broke out. But it took a whopping 98 percent of them being immunized to finally stop the epidemic, which drives home the importance of making sure every child gets the vaccine. It only takes a 30-second exposure at 10 feet to contract the virus. With some parents and doctors being lax about immunization, says Martin, “it’s the making of a disaster.”

Eliminating “Personal Belief” Vaccine Exemptions

An easy solution: Eliminate the so-called “personal belief” exemptions to the measles vaccine. The most measles cases have occurred in states with these exemptions that allow parents to opt out of mandatory immunizations because of secular, rather than religious, beliefs. Many of them are based on that one discredited study published in 1998 linking vaccines to autism.

As Martin’s study indicates, you need a high percentage of people vaccinated to get what’s called “herd immunity” to prevent the spread of the disease. An unvaccinated child who contracts the measles has a five-day symptomless period in which he can infect others, including babies that are too young to be vaccinated who are at high risk of SSPE. (See what can happen to an exposed child here.)

Martin thinks some of those exemptions need to be eliminated, particularly those that are granted because parents believe something to be a scientific fact that isn’t. (Read more about the debate here.) “We’ve got to be stricter on the giving of exemptions,” says Martin. “For religious reasons? I have no real problem with that because there aren’t that many. Some people can’t take the vaccine because they’re allergic to eggs, which are used to manufacture it. But ‘Because I don’t want my kid to have autism’ is not acceptable.”

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Editor’s Note:  For more information on the fraudulent study which started the controversy over a potential link between vaccinations and autism, see this New York Times article which reviews last year’s publication of the case against the study’s lead investigator in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).  The BMJ article can be accessed by clicking here.

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Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 11-19-2012 to 11-25-2012

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018 at 04:46 pm

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 10 news-worthy events.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

Volkswagen Beetle recalls 2,791 cars due to airbag that could deploy even if a child is in the front seat   http://t.co/WHes27Wd

This Holiday Season, Commit Your Family to a “Vow of Yellibacy”

Last updated on May 30th, 2017 at 09:59 pm

Let’s face it, yelling is one way to let off steam. And we seem to be letting off more than our share these days. Unfortunately, the holidays is a time when stress builds and we let off steam with one another. Studies show that both kids and parents alike are far more stressed than just a decade ago. Those studies also show that family yelling matches and flaring tempers are especially prevalent during tough economic times–like now, and there’s proof: An online survey of 1300 U.S. parents named yelling—not working or spanking or missing a school event—as their biggest guilt inducer.

Our tempers do affect our kids. Yelling can also become an easy habit that can ruin family harmony. Just tolerating yelling just teaches a kid that the way to get what you want is by upping the volume. And beware: the more yelling, the more it must be utilized to be effective. So family members get used to the screaming, the pitch gets louder, the frequency gets longer and soon everyone starts using it so they can be heard. Yelling is also contagious so chances are once one family member has learned to scream another will catch the “screaming bug.”

If you want to boost your family’s harmony and reduce those yelling matches, then something needs to be altered, A.S.A.P. Here are the seven steps to reduce this vicious yelling cycle. Change takes commitment, but it is doable. Stick to that plan!

7 Steps to Reduce Yelling, Curb Tempers, and Be a Calmer Family

STEP 1: Take a “Calmer Family” vow. Begin by gathering the troops and convey your new “no yelling” expectations to all family members. Everyone must know you mean business that yelling will no longer be tolerated. Explain that while it’s okay to be angry, they may not use a yelling voice to express their feelings. If the member needs to take a time out to calm down, he may do so. Some families take a “no yelling” vow and sign a pledge, and posted as a concrete reminder. Hint: Kids mirror our emotions. When you raise your voice, they raise theirs. When you get tense, they get tense. The fastest way to help your kids reduce anger is for you to be calm.

STEP 2: Learn your stress warning signs. Stress comes before anger. Anger comes before yelling. The best way to stop yelling is to identify your own unique physiological stress signs that warn us we’re getting angry. Explain to your kids that we should tune in to them because they help us stay out of trouble. Next, help your child recognize what specific warning signs she may have that tell her she’s starting to get upset. For example: “Looks like you’re tense. Your hands are in a fist. Do you feel yourself starting to get angry?” Anger escalates very quickly: if a kid waits until he is in “Melt down” or a “screaming match” to get himself back into control, he’s too late—and so are you to try and help him. Here are a few common warning signs: Flushed checks. Pounding hearts. Louder voice. Clenched hands. Grinding teeth. Rapid breathing. Body vibrates. Drier mouth

STEP 3. Identify family temper triggers. Yelling matches typically happen at the same time such as when you just get home from work, homework time, the morning mania or witching hour. It helps family members learn to recognize one another’s time vulnerabilities–or the time they are most prone to yell. For instance: John: First thing in the morning when he’s always grouch. Kenny: around 2 pm when he needs a nap. Mom: 6 pm when she’s trying to get dinner going. Members just need to be a bit more sensitive.

STEP 4. Teach healthier alternatives to express needs. Many families yell because they simply don’t know how to express their anger another way. So teach a healthier way.

  • Teach “I” messages. Explain that instead of starting messages with “You,” begin with “I.” It helps your kid stay focused on the person’s troublesome behavior without putting the person down so the chances for emotional outbursts (and yelling) are lessened. The child then tells the offender what the person did that upset him. He may also state how he’d like the problem resolved. For example: “I get really upset when you take my stuff. I want you to ask me for permission first.” Or: “I don’t like to be teased. Please stop.”
  • Label emotions. Encourage members to acknowledge their hot feelings to one another. “Watch out. I’m really getting upset.” “I’m so angry I could burst.” “I feel so frustrated that you’re not listening to me.” Labeling the feeling helps both the yeller and the receiver calm down and get a bit of perspective. Give everyone in your family permission to verbalize their feelings and then honor them by listening to their concerns.
  • Give permission to “Take Ten”. Let everyone in your family know it’s okay to say, “I need a time out.” Then take a few deep breaths or walk away until you can get back in control. Then give that permission. If the yeller doesn’t stop, ask him to go to time out. Set up a place where a yeller can calm down.

STEP 5. Refuse to engage with a screamer. You know this one: “If your kid screams and you scream, you all scream. So make a rule that you will NOT engage with an out-of-control kid. Wear a bracelet to remind you. Or tape a red card to your wall so when you see it, it tells you: “Stay calm!” Here are a few other tips:

  • Create a warning signal. Some families make up their own “family signal” such as pulling your ear, holding up a red card or a “Time Out” hand gesture. You agreed upon by all members and it signifies someone is using an inappropriate voice tone. Then use it the second his voice goes one scale above a “normal range” give the signal. It means he needs to lower his voice immediately or you won’t listen.
  • Do NOT engage. If he continues using a loud, yelling tone, absolutely refuse to listen. Firmly (and calmly) explain: “That’s yelling. I only listen when you use a calm voice.” The moment you yell back the yeller knows they won and the yelling cycle continues. If you have to lock yourself in the bathroom do so. The screamer needs to know yelling doesn’t work. Walk away and go about your business until he talks right. As long as he yells, keep walking.

STEP 6. Reduce stress as a family. Find what is adding to your family’s stress that is triggering those yelling matches. While you may not be able to get dad’s job back or gain back your retirement fund but you can do things to reduce the stress in your home. Here are a few things.

  • Keep to routines. Sticking to a routine helps reduce stress because it boosts predictability and boosts security. While everything else around them may seem to be crumbling those bedtime rituals, nighttime stories, hot baths, hugs and backrubs remain the same.
  • Cut down. Too much going on? Cut one thing out of your schedule. Just reducing one thing can reduce those yelling matches because you’re cutting the stress.
  • Monitor news consumption. Limit viewing those stressful news stories or better yet, turn the TV off during the news hour. Kids admit those stories are scaring the pants of them (and us) and will boost our stress—and tempers
  • Find ways to relax. Find no-cost ways to reduce stress as a family. Meditate with your kids, do yoga with your daughter, ride bikes with your preschooler, listen to relaxation tapes with your kids. Not only will you reduce your stress but you’ll also help your kids learn healthy ways to minimize theirs. It will also reduce the yelling.
  • Rebuild relationships. Are your kids yelling because they’re not being heard? Or has yelling been going on so long and now relationships are jarred? Find one on one time with those family members who need you most.

STEP 7. Stick to your Calmer Family, “Vow of Yellibacy” at least 21 days. Change is hard work. Be consistent. Your kids need to know you mean business, so stick to your plan at lest 21 days. Get a monthly calendar and mark off each day you stick to the plan. You should see a gradual reduction in the yelling. If yelling continues despite your best efforts or escalates, then there is a deeper underlying problem. It’s time to seek the help of a mental health professional for your child or a therapist for you and your spouse or family. But commit to following through so you do temper those tempers and you become a calmer family.

Above all stay calm. Kids mirror our emotions and just-released research proves that our kids are picking up on our stress. They also copy our behaviors. When you raise your voice, they raise theirs. When you get tense, they get tense. The fastest way to help your kids reduce stress and help kids calm down is for you to be calm yourself.

So are you ready to take that Vow of Yellibacy??

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Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, 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 is now available at amazon.com.

End the Teeth-Brushing Battles

Last updated on November 7th, 2018 at 11:52 pm

Getting your kids to brush their teeth twice a day can be a struggle at any age. Parents know they’ll have to be involved with the dental health of toddlers, but with older kids, they often set themselves (and their children) up for failure by expecting too much, according to Dr. Brian LeSage, a Beverly Hills, Calif., dentist and father of two.

Parents should plan to brush their kids’ teeth until the age of 6 and supervise until they’re 12. Here are Dr. LeSage’s tips for teaching good brushing habits from an early age, without having to nag:

Little Kids (Ages 3-5)

Baby teeth are important to digestion, proper tooth spacing and airway development. If you haven’t already taken your child to a dentist who works with kids (experts recommend starting at age 1), do it now. Meanwhile, find a toothbrush (or several) and toothpaste your kids love. Start your dental routine by letting your child play with his toothbrush for a minute so he feels as if he’s brushing his own teeth; this will also help him to get the sense of his own mouth. Then take over, says LeSage. Brush gently and make it fun.

Big Kids (Ages 6-9)

Slightly older kids need equally close supervision but less hands-on help. Let your kid brush first, and then run the toothbrush over her teeth to cover hard-to-reach spots. Brushing for the recommended one to two minutes can seem like an eternity, so you might want to buy a brush with a timing light or a song that plays for the time she should be brushing. “Knowing when they’re done can make it a lot easier,” says LeSage.

Tweens (Ages 10-12)

As kids get older, they’re likely to be more interested in hygiene — or avoiding bad breath, at least. Explain to your tweens that bacteria eat the sugars that are left on your teeth after eating, producing acid that rots teeth. To up the ante, add that the bacteria almost double every 10 minutes. “Just imagine what happens overnight,” says LeSage. “They’re having a little party on your teeth and gums!” Tell your child to take as much time as he likes to brush. Never scold or threaten that his teeth will fall out if he doesn’t; simply praise his good efforts.

It can take 30 days to make a habit of taking good care of young teeth. But by then, you’ll have one less battle to fight, which is bound to make you all smile.



The Power of No – The Best Gift You’ll Give This Year

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018 at 04:47 pm

’Tis the season for kids to plead, beg and whine for Barbies, Xboxes and iPods. But you don’t have to grant every wish — and more importantly, you shouldn’t. “Hearing ‘no’ helps kids learn to cope with the disappointment and frustrations that are part of everyday life,” says educational psychologist Michele Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions.

It also makes your job as a parent easier.

“When kids understand that your ‘no’ means ‘no,’ they’re less likely to keep pushing your buttons. It will actually improve your relationship,” says Borba. Here’s how to say no to your kids while sending positive messages.

Set Parameters

Some gift ideas will be automatically off-limits if they’re unsafe, over your holiday budget or not in line with your family values (toy guns, for example). To avoid an unnecessary power struggle, write your family rules — and explain them — before your kids create their wish lists.

Stay Firm

“The average kid whines to a parent nine times, and the ninth time, the parent gives in,” says Borba. “But if you always keep your word, you’ll ultimately say no less because your kids will know that you mean business.”

Give Guidelines

After your kids circle 36 toys in the holiday catalog, ask them to narrow it down. For younger kids, you might give a number limit; for older ones, a price ceiling. “When you prompt kids to think things through, they begin to prioritize and realize what they truly want,” says Borba. “You’re teaching life skills here — decision-making, prioritizing, respecting boundaries and, for older kids, money management.”

Offer Choices

Children like to feel they have power and autonomy. Use this to your advantage to soften a “no” answer. Choose two acceptable alternative toys and let him choose. For example, “I’m not a fan of the shoot-’em-up video games, but if you want, you could get the racing game or the discovery game. Which would you prefer?”

Nix the ‘No’ Word

Prevent “no” fatigue by coming up with different phrases — especially if they tickle your child’s funny bone. You might say “ix-nay,” “that’s just cuckoo” or “survey says: ehhhh!” Try using a silly accent to turn potential pouts into smiles and giggles.

When you start thinking of “no” as positive rather than negative, you’ll realize the power that it — and you — have over your kids’ whining and wheedling. Consider it a present to yourself.