Teaching Our Children to Avoid Racial Bias and Prejudice

Last updated on March 16th, 2015 at 01:23 pm

I am white. My husband is white. My son is white. ALL my relatives, both biological and through marriage, are white. And I am appalled by the findings of the Justice Department’s investigation into the racial discrimination in the Ferguson police and court system. As striking as the statistics are on the increased rates of police stops, ticketing and other charges faced by black residents of Ferguson, it was the racial slurs and stereotypes shared by police and court employees – through government email accounts! – that was most shocking. The box below shows the emails published by the DOJ (without names) and listed on NPR’s website.

Ferguson police/court staff emails disclosed by the Department of Justice:

  • A November 2008 email stated that President Barack Obama would not be President for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”
  • A March 2010 email mocked African-Americans through speech and familial stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read: “I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!”
  • An April 2011 email depicted President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee.
  • A May 2011 email stated: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.'”
  • A June 2011 email described a man seeking to obtain “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”
  • An October 2011 email included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.”
  • A December 2011 email included jokes that are based on offensive stereotypes about Muslims

My 12-year old son was really surprised when we discussed this at dinner last night and I said that the least offensive email was the one that said President Obama wouldn’t be in the White House long because black men can’t hold down steady jobs. When we talked about the list he said, “Oooh, that’s racist!” Despite being white, racism is something he’s attuned to because many of his friends at school are Asian – and one of my best friends is black and we are god-parents/brother/dogs for her two little girls.

Avoiding-bias-and-prejudiceThere are many issues that the Ferguson report raises – but one that struck me is how we prevent these types of offensive perspectives and stereotypes being adopted by our children. This is important because we’ve seen that these biases limit the potential of victims, create mental distress and discord in society, and – as we’ve seen – can lead to violence.

What we’ve worked to do is expose our son to diverse people – not maybe for that reason – but because we are also drawn to diverse groups. I’m not friends with an African American woman so my son can experience diversity – but when she has taken him into her home, family and church I’ve been glad that he is experiencing another culture (she describes her environment as another “culture”); another slice of life. The same can be said of having his Chinese classmates over for a sleepover and having the Indian family down the street (who have since moved and we really miss!) over for dinner.

The other thing we’ve done – which I’m particularly glad of having just read an article called “What White Children Need to Know About Race” – is that we’ve spoken about race, discrimination and bias. We had to learn early how to have sensitive conversations about groups versus individuals and not being prejudiced about someone’s membership in a given group….because my mother-in-law is German and my husband is a war history buff – so we had to explain why Omi and all the German relatives are not bad when all the WWII movies here show Germans as the enemy. When talking about countries, dictators, racial groups, whatever – we often talk about the context of people’s lives and its impact on them, their opportunities, and behavior. We’ve also discussed what a stereotype is and why these short-cuts based on generalizations about groups – though often rooted in some truth – are offensive and harmful when applied to individuals. And we’ve tried to bring it back to a person or situation that is familiar…how do you think Miss T would feel? Is that really a fair thing to say about L?

But even with all the emphasis in our family on avoiding all types of prejudice, I’ve realized in thinking about the Ferguson case, that we fall short sometimes – on ethnic, gender, and lifestyle issues. This situation has caused me to think about how we can do an even better job of preventing bias and prejudice from taking hold in our house. Below are a few resources I found to create an inclusive environment – at home, school, or wherever:

Understanding Prejudice.org

Anti-Defamation League

Teaching Tolerance

Children Are Not Colorblind – University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Talking to Our Children About Racism & Diversity – The Leadership Conference

Choosing a Healthy Breakfast Cereal for Your Family

Last updated on August 30th, 2015 at 11:08 pm

Family breakfastWith shelves stacked top to bottom with hundreds of brightly coloured boxes competing for your attention, the supermarket aisle of breakfast cereals can sometimes feel like walking through a minefield.

Make the wrong choice and you or your child could end up with a breakfast cereal high in sugar, fat or salt, which if eaten too often can contribute to weight gain and health problems, including tooth decay and high blood pressure.

But whether it’s puffed, baked or flaked, cereal can still form part of a healthy balanced diet. We’ve enlisted dietitian Azmina Govindji to sort the shredded wheat from the chaff to help you make a healthier choice.

“While it’s important to make healthier choices when it comes to breakfast, it’s equally just as important to make sure you eat breakfast regularly and that you enjoy it,” says Govindji.

What’s a healthy breakfast cereal?

For a healthier option, choose breakfast cereals that contain wholegrains and are lower in sugar, fat and salt. Examples include:

  • Wholewheat cereal biscuits
  • Shredded wholegrain pillows
  • Porridge oats

Wholegrains contain fibre and B vitamins, among other nutrients. Fibre helps keep our digestive systems healthy, and research suggests a diet high in fibre may help reduce the risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

“Avoid always going for the same brand as manufacturers regularly modify their recipes,” says Govindji. “Try looking at the nutrition label, and compare brands so you opt for the healthier version.”

Mueslis, which usually contain wholegrains and fruit, are often seen as a healthier option, but check the label first – many can be relatively high in fat, added sugar and, in some cases, salt.

Reading nutrition labels

Food labels can help you choose between brands and avoid breakfast cereals high in sugar, fat and salt. All nutrition information is provided per 100g and “per serving”, which can be helpful when comparing one cereal with another.

Some brands also use red, amber and green colour coding on the front of the packet, sometimes known as traffic lights. The more greens on the label, the healthier the choice. Find out more about food labels.

Sugar, fat and salt levels

You can use the per 100g information on the nutrition label to identify breakfast cereals that are:

High in sugar, fat or salt

  • High in sugar: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
  • High in fat: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
  • High in salt: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g

Low in sugar, fat or salt

  • Low in sugars: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g
  • Low in fat: 3g of saturated fat or less per 100g
  • Low in salt: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g

Serving cereal with milk or yoghurt

Having breakfast cereal is a good opportunity to add calcium to the diet if you serve it with milk or yoghurt. Go for semi-skimmed, 1% or skimmed milk, or lower-fat yoghurt. “Milk and yoghurt are good sources of calcium and protein,” says Govindji. Find out what types of milk are suitable for young children.

Adding fruit to cereal

Having cereal is also a good opportunity to get some fruit in the diet. Raisins, dried apricots, bananas and strawberries are popular choices, and can be added to any cereal, depending on your tastes.

“Adding fruit to cereals is a great way to get kids to eat more fruit,” says Govindji. “It also helps them enjoy less sugary cereals, as you get sweetness from the fruit.”

You could wash down breakfast with a small glass (150ml) of 100% fruit juice, which also counts towards your 5 A DAY.

How many calories should breakfast provide?

A helpful rule of thumb to maintain a healthy weight is to follow the 400-600-600 approach. That means having about:

  • 400kcal for breakfast (including any drinks and accompaniments)
  • 600kcal for lunch (including any drinks and accompaniments)
  • 600kcal for dinner (including any drinks and accompaniments)

That leaves you with just enough left over to enjoy a few healthy drinks and snacks throughout the day. This advice is based on a woman’s daily recommended calorie intake of 2,000kcal.

“You might get about 150kcal from a 40g serving of cereal,” says Govindji. “You could add a medium sliced banana and 200ml of semi-skimmed milk, which all together would provide about 350kcals.

“You need fuel in the morning, and starting the day with a filling breakfast can help you avoid reaching for a less healthy mid-morning snack to keep you going until lunch.”

‘My child is hooked on sugary cereals’

If you want to get your child off sugary cereals, Govindji recommends mixing sugary cereals with similar looking lower-sugar ones. You could then gradually increase the amount of lower-sugar cereal over time to get kids used to them. Or you could let your child pick from a selection of, say, three healthier cereals.

“The fact that your child wants to have breakfast is already a healthy habit,” says Govindji. “You don’t want to jeopardise that by making breakfast seem suddenly unappealing.”

‘I don’t have time to sit down for breakfast’

It’s a sign of the times that people are increasingly abandoning breakfast cereals, one of the earliest convenience foods, for more convenient “on-the-go” options, such as a breakfast muffin and a latte.

If you’re short on time in the morning, how about setting the table the night before? You could also grab a pot of porridge on your way to work or have your cereal when you get in.

“Cereals are still one of the best value breakfasts out there,” says Govindji. “A bowl of fortified breakfast cereal with milk gives you more nutrients for your penny when compared to most on-the-go breakfast options.”

Find out how to get into breakfast.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 02-23-2015 to 03-01-2015

Last updated on March 10th, 2015 at 11:09 am

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 and Facebook 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 not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 10 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Safely Introduce Your Dog to Your New Baby: http://t.co/i9EL7HDbyy

Kids’ Mouth and Dental Injuries: Types, Treatments & Prevention

Last updated on August 29th, 2015 at 03:17 pm

see-dentist-if-questionable-tooth-injuryA mouth or dental injury is quite common in children, especially as they become mobile and start getting involved in sports or other physical activities. These type of injuries should always be taken seriously and be tended to right away, as they could lead to complications and may require immediate professional attention. The most important thing is to remain calm and take the proper precautions to ensure your child gets the right treatment.

It is important to be aware of the different types of injuries that could occur.

I. Common types of injuries include:

  • Soft tissue injury – laceration (cut) to the lip, inner lining of the mouth, tongue or gums
  • Broken, loose or knocked out tooth
  • Fractured jaw

II. Treatment for a mouth or dental injury will depend on the type of injury and the severity.

1. A soft tissue injury may require stitches. If it is bleeding, apply pressure to the area with a gauze pad until you can get medical assistance. These types of injuries are typically taken care of by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon if they are severe. Minor injuries like small cuts can be taken care of at home.

2. Care for a tooth injury will also depend on what happened to the tooth and what type of tooth was injured. Taking care of a primary or baby tooth is typically much different than taking care of a permanent tooth.

If a baby tooth is broken or loose, your dentist may keep it in place if it has the capability to heal on its own. However, baby teeth that are too loose or have severe nerve damage most likely will need to be removed. A baby tooth that has been completely knocked out will not need to be replaced, but medical attention should still be sought out.

A permanent tooth that has been injured requires immediate medical attention. If a permanent tooth is broken or knocked out, it can most likely be replaced as long is it is treated within the first fifteen minutes to hour of being injured.

  • If possible, and for best results, rinse off the dislodged tooth quickly in running water but do not scrub or scrape it. Then place into the socket as fully as possible. Have the child bite on gauze or a cloth to keep it in place until reaching the dentist’s office.
  • The second best option is to have a Tooth-Saver kit on hand for such emergencies to drop the tooth into for safe transport to the office along with the patient. They can be purchased online at Amazon.com
  • The third best option is to place the tooth in cold milk to preserve it, then the dentist can place it back into the socket.

Chipped teeth can be easily repaired as well. Attempt to preserve the piece of tooth in cold water, then the dentist will reattach it. If you are unable to preserve it, the tooth can be restored with a composite resin.

3. For more severe wounds such as puncture wounds inside the mouth or a suspected fracture to the jaw or other facial bone, you should seek immediate emergency care for your child.

III. While dental and mouth injuries are often inevitable, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the risk of your child getting hurt:

  • “Baby-proof” the house when your child begins to start crawling and walking. Keep them away from sharp corners and let them walk barefoot or while wearing grip socks to reduce accidents
  • Remind your child not to run with scissors, pencils, toothbrushes, or indoors around furniture that could easily trip them up
  • Encourage your child to wear protective gear when playing sports, including mouth guards and helmets

Finally, never hesitate to contact your dentist or pediatrician in the event of a dental injury. They can provide the proper advice for taking care of your child’s injury and let you know if immediate medical attention is necessary.