My Body Belongs to Me

As a prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes in New York City for more than a decade, I My Body Belongs to Me-small2have often encountered children who were sexually abused for lengthy periods of time and suffered in silence. One case in particular had a profound impact on me and compelled me to write a children’s book called My Body Belongs to Me.

I prosecuted the case of a 9-year-old girl who had been raped by her stepfather since she was 6. She told no one. One day, the girl saw an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” about children who were physically abused. The episode, “Tortured Children,” empowered the girl with this simple message: If you are being abused, tell your parents. If you can’t tell your parents, go to school and tell your teacher. The girl got the message and the very next day went to school and told her teacher. I prosecuted the case for the District Attorney’s office. The defendant was convicted and is now serving a lengthy prison sentence.

I have thought often of that very sweet, very brave 9-year-old girl. It occurred to me that after three painful years, all it took to end her nightmare was a TV program encouraging her to “tell a teacher.” I wrote My Body Belongs to Me to continue that message. It endeavors to teach children that they don’t have to endure sexual abuse in silence. Parents and educators can use it as a tool to facilitate an open dialogue with youngsters.

The story is a simple scenario involving a gender neutral child who is inappropriately touched by an uncle’s friend. The powerful message really comes through when the youngster tells on the offender and the parents praise the child’s bravery. The last page shows a proud, smiling child doing a “strong arm” pose. The text assures them that it wasn’t their fault and by speaking out the child will continue to grow big and strong. It is a compelling and uplifting message.

The “Suggestions for the Storyteller” section is an important, interactive feature that facilitates the discussion to follow. It will make any caregiver feel more comfortable talking about this important subject, thereby helping to PREVENT the unthinkable from happening to their child. Research tells us that child sexual abuse does not discriminate. It is a problem that affects everyone.

  • In the United States, approx. 1 of 4 girls and 1 of 6 boys is sexually abused before the age of 18.
  • 47% of child sexual abuse victims wait 5 years or more to speak up, if they ever do.
  • 93% of child sexual abuse victims are abused by someone they already know.

It is my sincere hope that by educating girls and boys about this taboo subject, My Body Belongs to Me will prevent them from becoming victims in the first place.

HEALTHFUL HINTS:

  • To keep your children safe:
    1. No secrets. Period. Encourage your children to tell you about things that happen to them that make them feel scared, sad or uncomfortable. If children have an open line of communication, they will be more inclined to alert you to something suspicious before it becomes a problem. The way I effectuate this rule is as follows: If someone, even a grandparent, were to say something to my child such as “I’ll get you an ice cream later, but it will be our secret”, I firmly, but politely say “We don’t do secrets in our family.” Then I say to my child “Right? We don’t do secrets. We can tell each other everything.”
    2. Teach your child the correct terms for their body parts. This will make them more at ease if they need to tell you about a touch that made them feel uncomfortable.
    3. Teach your child to tell a safe person if someone touches them in an inappropriate way. Discuss with children the importance of telling a parent, teacher or other trusted adult right away.
    4. Let children decide for themselves how they want to express affection. Children should not be forced to hug or kiss if they are uncomfortable. Even if they are your favorite aunt, uncle or cousin, your child should not be forced to be demonstrative in their affection. While this may displease you, by doing this, you will empower your child to say no to inappropriate touching.
  • If you choose to use My Body Belongs to Me as a tool for teaching your family about body safety, here are some suggestions:
    1. Read the book at least once for enjoyment before using it to get into a serious discussion.
    2. After reading the book, help lead an open-ended discussion by asking questions such as the following: What are your parts that are private, Why did the child get scared, What did the uncle’s friend do, What did he tell the little child, If someone touches your private parts, should it be a secret, Why did the uncle’s friend put his finger up to his lips, What did the child do when he did that, Were the mom and dad happy when the child told them what had happened, What did they do, If the child did not tell the parents, who else could be told, How does the child feel in the picture at the end?
    3. Find teachable moments with your child to reinforce the lessons learned in the book.

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Editor’s Note: We first introduced you to Jill Starishevsky and “My Body Belongs to Me”  in February, 2010.  At the time, her book had been self-published and was only available for purchase on her website.  In May 2014, My Body Belongs to Me will be re-released and available for purchase on Amazon (congratulations Jill!).  And, since April is National  Child Abuse Prevention Month, we  thought it the perfect time to re-introduce this wonderful book to the Pediatric Safety community.  On a side note – if you decide you want a copy before the end of April, click on over to her site and tell her we sent you – she’ll take good care of you.

Tips to Help Raise an Independent and Confident Child

Next time you’re about take over your child’s science project or even make their bed, put down the poster board and leave the sheets where they lie. While we may want to do everything we can to make our kid’s lives easier. we shouldn’t.

There’s a fine line between being supportive and doing too much for our children. Here, two child development experts offer five ways to gently sway you away from becoming a helicopter parent.

Bonus: these parenting tips will help your children become more independent and confident, boosting their mental strength and health.

1. Create Little Helpers

If your kids are young, it’s easier to get the idea of doing chores ingrained in their heads. For a preschooler it’s as easy as saying something like “When you finish playing with those blocks, the next part of play is putting them away,” suggests Margaret Owen, PhD, director of the Center for Children and Families at the University of Texas in Dallas.

2. Direct over Do

If your school-age child hasn’t gotten in the habit of doing chores, don’t despair. Just be patient. It’s tempting to get frustrated when your child doesn’t clean up his room or put his clothes back in the closet – but maybe he doesn’t know how. “Did you talk about where his backpack should go after school?” Dr. Owen says. “Or does he know where the knives and forks go when setting the table? You have to patiently demonstrate those tasks.”

3. Give Her a Say

The best way you can prompt independence in your child is to make sure he or she is participating in the running of the household. “Say things like ‘How about you help me plan the menu for dinner’ or ‘how about you help me fold these clothes,’” says Vicki Hoefle, a parenting expert in Seattle and author of Duct Tape Parenting (Workman, 2012). “Life is about helping out. Kids don’t need coaxing, elaborate systems or rewards so long as the chore is a job they can handle.”

4. Have Faith

By doing things for your children instead of letting them try, you’ll ultimately make your kids question their ability to do anything for themselves. “Our children determine their self-identity based on how we as parents see them,” says Hoefle. “Think about the message you’re sending to your child by saying ‘Let me help you,’ ‘This looks too hard’ or ‘It’ll be easier if you do it this way,’” she says. “After all, these benign statements affect a child’s sense of herself.” When your kids do make the effort, avoid hovering over them or criticizing the quality of their work. “Think about how you would feel if someone did this to you,” Hoefle says. “The answer is always that you’d feel lousy.” The laundry may not be folded perfectly and there may be a missed math problem or two, but with practice and encouragement, your children will improve.

5. Be the Support

If you think of your child as a building and that your job is to be the scaffold, you’ll be parenting in a way that sets up your child for life. “As her scaffold, your job is to prop her up when she needs you,” Dr. Owen says. “Ultimately, your job is to then take away some of the layers of the scaffold as she gets stronger.”



Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 04-07-2014 to 04-13-2014

twitter thumbWelcome 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 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Contrary to a Recent Report, Study Finds More U.S. Children Severely Obese  http://t.co/OpDqM5AlRJ

Help Communication Challenged Kids Learn to Interpret Emotions

Teaching children how to communicate effectively is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Few skills increase their confidence, social competence and self-esteem more because kids use these skills in every area of their lives. We also know that many kids have difficulty reading emotions. Duke and UCLA are just two of the many universities researching ways to help children diagnosed with communication handicaps. The good news is that you can improve your child’s communication skills and boost his or her emotional intelligence. Here are eight ways to do so:

Teaching-kids-to-communicate.jpg1. Listen more attentively. Attentive listening keeps the lines of communication open so that your children always feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings and experiences with you. You discourage your kids from expression themselves when you cut them off, deny their feelings, lecture, order them, roll your eyes, shrug your shoulders, raise your eyebrows, frown, turn away, or shake your head. (Woah, eh? Not to send you a guilt trip, but… do tune into your communication skills a bit closer, and beware of how influential you are).

2. Help your children send and receive nonverbal messages. Sending and receiving nonverbal messages through body language enhances your child’s social and emotional competence. Often kids don’t listen to your words as much as they watch your posture, gestures, and facial expression, and hear the tone of your voice. Help children understand that their body posture, facial expression, and voice tone send messages and that if they don’t interpret or send nonverbal messages correctly, serious misunderstandings occur.

3. Teach two critical skills – eye contact and smiling. Using the skills of eye contact and smiling increases children’s social success. As you talk with your child, use eye contact. Whenever your child displays a great smile, point it out! By reinforcing these skills and modeling them regularly, your child will soon be smiling more and using eye contact. Hint: These two skills are the most commonly used traits of well-liked kids. They are also easy to teach!.

4. Make an emotion scrapbook. Collect pictures of facial expression in a scrapbook. Include the six basic emotions: happy, sad, angry, surprised, afraid, and disgusted. Now make a game of naming the emotions by asking, “How is this person feeling?” Help your child predict the body language and voice tone that would accompany each expression.

5. Guess people’s emotions. With your child, watch other people’s faces and body language at the playgound, park, or shopping mall. Try together to guess their emotional states.

6. Watch silent movies. Turn off the sound on your TV and watch a show together. Guess how the actors feel based on what you see. Tension behaviors include blinking eyes rapidly, biting nails, twirling hair, clenching jaws, and grinding teeth. Withdrawal behavior include folded arms, crossed legs, rolling eyes, and not facing the speaker. Expressions of interest include nodding, smiling, leaning into the speaker and standing or sitting close to the person.

7. Play emotion charades. A fun game is to have family members play charades using only their face and body. Try to guess the person’s emotion.

8. Observe good listening behaviors. Be on the alert for people demonstrating good listening habits; point them out to your child. The better your child understands what good nonverbal listening behaviors look like, the greater the chance he will use them on his own.

Learning these skills takes practice. At home, provide opportunities for your child to practice a wide range of communication skills, enabling her to get her point across more confidently in the real world.

Just remember: it’s never too early–or too late–to enhance communication skills.

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Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

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 available at amazon.com.

Family MyPlate Night: Where Kids Choose!

In one of my previous posts, we discussed the Top 3 Ways to Get Your Child to Choose Healthy Foods. One of the ways was to involve your children. One thing we do in our home is have a MyPlate night every couple weeks. It’s usually when leftovers are building up in the fridge and there are plenty foods to heat up. This is how it goes:

Kids choose what items they can have for dinner. But they must use the MyPlate components on their plates. Simply print the MyPlate graphic slick and put it on your fridge as a guide, or even get MyPlate plates for the entire family for $10 each on Amazon. Now you have the visual for the family to follow.

Family MyPlate Night

Now it’s time to select our items!

Protein

Protein choices could be leftover meat, fish and/or poultry, but it can also be things like peanut butter, nuts, beans, soy or using a second dairy (cheese, Greek yogurt) as the protein.

Grain

Grain choices could span the gamut from whole grain cereals, crackers to leftover rice and pasta. The recommendation is to aim for at least half of our grains to be whole, so it is not necessary for their choice to be whole grain. In our home, 99% typically is whole grain so most likely their choice will be as well.

Vegetable

Veggies could include raw or cooked. Whatever is on-hand. If your child is limited in what s/he likes and picks the same begetable each time, let them do that. Praise them on including any veggie on their plate and it will encourage them to do it again. And maybe next time, they will be encouraged to try something new! Kids love positive reinforcement.

Fruit

Fruit can be served with the meal, or you could give them the idea to have fresh fruit as their dessert. My kids love mixed berries with whipped cream, or even fresh pineapple as a sweet ending to their meal. Have many different fruits for them to choose from.

Dairy

Dairy is a key component of a healthy diet for proper growth. I see many kids in my private practice that are not getting 3 servings of dairy each day, and this could be putting them at risk for things like vitamin D deficiency and poor bone growth. If they do not like the taste of cow’s milk or if they have an actual milk allergy then there are other alternatives such as soy milk or almond milk. If they are lactose intolerant, they can still have dairy! (See Ditching Dairy? CAUTION!)

Keep in mind that this is an empowering activity for your kids, so try your best to not be critical. Remember that your goal here is not necessarily for them to pick the perfect items for that particular evening, but building confidence in your child to make healthy choices long-term.

My 8 year old daughter, Hannah, told me something yesterday that made me smile. She told me that she put a brownie back in order to get a MyPlate at lunch yesterday. I wasn’t necessarily happy she put the brownie back, but that she thought it was more important to get her carrots. At her school, they can fill their tray slots with what they want and she couldn’t have the carrots and the brownie. She chose the carrots so that she would have all the items contained on the MyPlate. MyPlate night at our home helps our kids see foods that should be on their plate instead of what they should not, and that is what it’s all about!

Feeding children is not something we do to them, it is something we do with them. Be sure that you are also participating in MyPlate night and show your enthusiasm when enjoying healthy foods. The MyPlate visual is a wonderful tool to use for your children and for your families to encourage balanced nutrition. Hannah and Evan love when we do this, and I really believe that it helps my kids see all their meals through the MyPlate standard. Try a MyPlate night at your home, and let us know how it goes!

In case you didn’t catch the countless links we included in this post, learn more about the MyPlate and more on practical family feeding, health and wellness by going to http://www.choosemyplate.gov.

Improve Your Young Child’s Sleep

Toddler sleep solutionsAs parents know all too well, young children are notorious for resisting sleep. Just the mention of bedtime can sometimes set off a toddler tantrum.

Help your little bundle of energy head to dreamland and get the rest he needs with these toddler sleep tips.

Create a quiet routine

A game of chase or dancing around to music may seem like a surefire way to tire out your toddler, but a quiet, soothing routine before bed is a better choice for sleep success. Try reading a story together or giving your child a bath right before bedtime. Practice makes perfect, and repeating your bedtime ritual every night will help signal to your toddler that it’s time to get ready for sleep.

Be consistent

To establish a good sleep pattern, try to put your toddler to bed at the same time every night. Your tot may resist going to bed (can you blame him for not wanting to miss out on the after-hours fun?), but remaining firm about the rules will help a fuss-free bedtime become the norm instead of the exception.

Give your toddler a “lovey”

Letting your toddler sleep with her favorite blanket, teddy bear, or toy will help comfort her, especially if she wakes up in the middle of the night. Let her choose her lovey, but make sure what she picks is safe — avoid toys or stuffed animals with ribbons, buttons, or anything that could be considered a choking hazard.

Set up the bedroom for success

A room that’s quiet, dark, and set to a comfortable temperature will encourage your toddler to fall — and stay — asleep. Before you tuck your child in, check that she has everything she needs to get through the night. This will decrease the chance that she’ll call you back to her bedroom. If she does cry out for you, resist the urge to rush in immediately. Instead, wait 15 seconds before reentering the room. If she calls out multiple times, gradually increase the amount of time you wait to go in, giving her the chance to fall back asleep without your help.

Keep an eye on naptime

Most young children this age need between 12 and 14 hours of sleep each day, which can be split up between nighttime sleeping and daytime naps. But snoozing too late in the day can cause your toddler to have difficulty dozing off in the evening. If this is the case, slowly inch back the time of day she naps (a drastic change can completely throw off her schedule). If she goes to day care, try to have naptime there and at home be as consistent as possible.

Following these guidelines should help bedtime go more smoothly over time. Of course, life can sometimes get in the way, but if it does, just aim to get back on track the next evening.