Be a Parent and Not a Referee: Simple Tips to End the Fighting

Last updated on September 2nd, 2019 at 07:44 pm

It’s the soundtrack to parenthood: the battles, the bickering, the rivalries. Mom- she’s touching me! He’s siblings...looking out my window! Tell her to get out of my room! Even on the best of days these sibling squabbles can make you want to pull your hair out. Add in busy schedules and mounting stress and coming home to conflict and contention can just be too much to handle. So what can you do when your living room more closely resembles a war zone rather than the relaxing retreat that it should be?

Though you can’t force your siblings to be best friends, you can get a handle on their squabbles and create a (relatively) harmonious home.

As you probably know already, just saying ‘You kids stop your fighting!’ isn’t going to cut it. Kids respond to firm boundaries and clear cut directives. So what you have to do is lay out some non-negotiable rules and enforce them…period.

There are four simple house rules that will result in a (temporary, at least) cease-fire on all the fighting. The key to successful implementation: consistency, consistency, consistency! (Did I say consistency?)

  • No yelling. Instate a ‘vow of yellibacy’ in your house and enforce it. When tempers flare and feelings are hurt, the volume decimal tends to rise, causing arguments to quickly escalate and get out of hand. Just remember: the ‘no yelling’ rule isn’t only for the kids, it goes for you too. Parents have to set the example for staying calm and collected when they are upset or angry as well. This should be rule number one. All family members must use calm voices only—no yelling allowed. And if talks get heated, anyone can make a time-out hand sign hinting that he needs to cool down. When cooler heads prevail, arguments get resolved much more quickly and in a way that is less stressful for everyone.
  • No taking without asking. Property ownership can be a BIG deal to little ones, and the time honored “Mooom, she’s touching my stuff!” complaint can be frequent in multi-child households. This can be a particularly touchy issue for tweens and teens- especially if there is a younger sibling in the house. Older siblings can get pretty upset when their iPads and laptops are confiscated by tiny sticky (literally!) fingers. Insist that permission of the owner must be granted before borrowing, using, or taking any property. Not only will this cut down on the conflict, but it will also make it easier to resolve any arguments that may come up. If permission was not asked for and granted, then you know who broke the rule. Simple as that.
  • No hurtful behaviors. With bullies and mean girls running the schools, it’s important that you set the standard for you home to be a safe haven for your kids. It should be a place free from hurtful behaviors. Set a strict policy: name-calling and hitting will not be tolerated, under any circumstances and they will result in a consequence. Tolerating hurtful behavior inside your home only encourages your kids to display it when you aren’t around as well- and that’s not a character trait any parent wants to encourage. This rule should stand for each child in your home, no matter what age they are. The consequences may differ according to the age group: for a younger child, a display of hurtful behavior will result in a time-out. If your child is older, then it means the loss of a privilege. While hitting and hurtful words are sure to happen when it comes to siblings, it’s up to you to make them understand that you will not tolerate it under any circumstance.
  • No involvement without evidence. If you are the parent of siblings, you’ve probably also spent a good deal of time playing referee. Kids are quick to run to a parent’s aid to help settle their disagreements and if you weren’t a witness to the incident itself, then it can be hard to know exactly what to do.  You should get involved in the conflict only if you actually saw or heard it occur. This will help to keep you neutral and will encourage your kids to adopt strategies to help them work things out for themselves. If your kids seek your help, but you don’t have any evidence, then step away. Instead, suggest that they use Rock, Paper, Scissors to work out their problem. This prevents you from having to choose sides or take one kid’s word over another’s—and it will also teach them to work things out for themselves. After all, you won’t always be there to help them resolve their problems, so it’s better that they acquire the skills at home so they are ready when the time comes.

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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 available at amazon.com

Research Trials Make Treatments Affordable for Special Needs Kids

Last updated on September 2nd, 2019 at 07:45 pm

When you have a special needs child, or a child who is ill or any child with a medical need you want to do anything to get them what might help them. Many times treatments are very costly and insurance doesn’t cover all of it, or any of it. One way to give a treatment a try is by getting involved in a research trial.

Many universities and hospitals run these tests, where a new medication or treatment is used and progress carefully monitored.  Sometimes there are groups that get a substitute treatment or medication to compare against the group that got the real stuff. If you are uncomfortable subjecting your child to a new medication (and I don’t blame you there) you may not want to look into these tests, but think about how much progress has been made thanks to people who were willing to take a risk.

Sometimes the trials are for new treatments or techniques, and there are very little risks. I have been hoping to get my child involved in riding therapy, aka hippotherapy, for years, but insurance doesn’t pay for it and neither does our local regional center. They say there is no quantitative proof that it works, even though every involved parent I speak to raves about it. A physical therapist I know who is not easily impressed told me that she saw it work miracles. Plus, the kids have fun doing it, so how could it be bad? A parent whose child does it told me about a research study in the hopes of providing some proof. There were very specific qualifications, which my daughter meets, so with any luck she will get to be a test subject. Fingers crossed!

To find a research trial in your area check your local Craig’s List under ETC or call or write your local university or hospital.

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Editor’s Note:  You can now also try searching for trials by checking the following:  

  • Center Watch – where you can search clinical trials by medical condition and location
  • Clinicaltrials.gov – sponsored by the US National Library of Medicine – where you can search by condition or disease, other terms like the drug name and the country

Urinary Tract Infections in Young Children – Part I: Diagnosis

Last updated on September 2nd, 2019 at 07:45 pm

Urinary tract infection  (bladder, Kidneys)  is a very common issue in children and sometimes not the easiest to diagnose.  The symptoms depend on the age and sex of the child, and the location of the infection and these symptoms can vary across the board.  Urinary tract infections (UTI) are more common in females as a rule but during the first year of life, when it is most difficult to diagnose, the incidence is just about the same in males and females.

Sometimes there is an anatomical problem with abnormalities in the kidney or bladder or both that children can be born with, but most of the time these infections occur de novo.  An infection is defined as bacterial growth in the urine in the presence of appropriate symptoms.  If there are no symptoms, the presence of bacteria might only mean colonization, eg: there are bacteria in the urine but have not caused a body reaction yet.  Under certain circumstances even colonization needs to be treated.

During the first year of  life, one might only see a very irritable, cranky baby with or without fever and the source of those symptoms is “hidden” sometimes even to the best and most experienced physician.   Therefore, during the first year of life the suspicion for a UTI is very high and the urine might be checked more often than it would in an older child with the same symptoms.  As you can imagine, obtaining a “clean” urine specimen is very difficult so a variety of methods have been devised.  If one merely “catches” the urine as it is produced externally this stands a significant chance of being contaminated by bacteria living on the skin.  The best ways of obtaining a reliable urine specimen is somewhat invasive but at least your doctor can rely on the results of the evaluation.  These consist of either a bladder catheterization, where a small tube is passed up into the bladder and a urine specimen is obtained or a supra pubic needle aspiration where a needle on a syringe is passed through the lower abdominal wall and a  urine sample is obtained.  The urine sample is obtained by a reliable lab or sometimes in the Doctor’s office by means of a urinalysis and a culture of the urine to be sure there are bacteria in it and what kind it may be so as to choose the correct treatment.  This culture can take 2- 3 days to complete.

This is a very large and important subject so I will stop here and take on the topic of  treatment of UTIs and possible further diagnostic procedures in my next entry.

How to Keep an Eye on Your Children Online

Last updated on September 2nd, 2019 at 07:51 pm

Being careful…

Observing

Parenting

Investigating

Snooping

Spying

All of those words or phrases have similar meaning, at least in their denotative (dictionary or literal) form.  In their connotative (commonly understood) form, they come out very differently.  As a parent, it is our responsibility to look out for our children, even if they don’t always like it.  And let’s be honest, we didn’t like it much when our parents “spied” on us.

Ask yourself this question: If your child was outside playing, would you look out the window occasionally to check on them?  If you answered yes to that question, then you should also be willing to see what they’re doing online.

I’m not suggesting that you watch them 24/7.  Just as when they’re offline, the amount of oversight will vary from child to child.  It’s not about trusting your child to make the right choices.  At least, it’s not just about that.  According to the FBI, there are 750,000 predators online at any given moment.  This is what concerns me as a parent.

Why is it so important that parents become more involved here?  Because, as parent advocate and internet safety expert Sue Scheff reports, 57% of teens say that they know how to hide their online actions from their parents.  That’s how many admit to it, so I believe the real number is even higher.

So, how can you keep an eye on what your children are doing online?  There are several ways, many of which will be completely unknown to your kids.

1. Friending/Following Them

Many parents probably already do this.  They might think that it’s a great way to see what their kids are up to, but it’s actually one of the least effective ways to know what’s happening to them online.  The biggest reason why this is the case is because many kids are known to have multiple accounts on social media sites.

Smart kids continue to post to the accounts that their parents know about, while putting their private posts on another account.  A zombie phone is one that is no longer on a call/data plan, but can still access the Internet using WiFi, just like any tablet can do.  Really clever kids will use a zombie phone for their private accounts and stay signed into the accounts that their parents know about on their “active” phone.

On some apps, people may join groups to talk about shared interests.  On some apps, you can’t tell if a person is in any group.  On Facebook, they have Public, Closed and Secret groups.  Nobody can tell if a person is a member of a secret group unless they are already in the same group. The only way for a parent to know if their child is the member of such a secret group is to either be a member of the group themselves or to be signed into Facebook as them (which will be explained shortly).

2. Seeing What their Friends Do

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.  Maybe your child is pretty adept at keeping you out of the loop, but maybe their friends aren’t as good at it.  Maybe their Instagram account isn’t set to “private”, which blocks most people from seeing what they post.  In that case, look at their friend’s accounts and see what they post there.  Maybe you’ll see pictures from a party that your child said they hadn’t attended, even though you clearly see them in several pictures!

3. Using Search Engines/Sites

Have you ever entered your own name into a search engine to see what would show?  I recommend it.  You might be amazed at what you’ll see.  Of course, it’s harder to find yourself or your family members if the name is fairly popular.  Still, it’s a start.

In addition to the usual search engines, here are a few specific tools that can help you:

  • Advanced Twitter Search – this feature on the popular app is really helpful and easy to use. Here’s the link: https://twitter.com/search-advanced.
  • Google Alerts are a way to have Google send you email alerts if content which might include your child gets posted in real time. You can get a lot of false positives, though.
  • Google Image Search is a great way to see if images are being posted online. I primarily use this to find catfish (online fakers), but it can also be used to see where images might be posted.

4. Third Party Monitoring Apps

There are many options here to choose from.  The features range from being very permissive to being very restrictive.  Those that are permissive tend to be more of a monitoring app that lets parents know if a child does something questionable online.  At the opposite end of the spectrum, some of the apps lock out certain apps or websites from a device.  Of course, these apps only work if the child doesn’t have a zombie phone. With so many options available, they allow parents to find the monitoring app that matches their parenting style.

5. Signing on as Your Kids

While this is the most time-consuming way to know what kids are doing online, it can be the most effective.  However, this assumes that the child doesn’t have accounts on sites that their parents don’t know about – either single accounts or multiples on the same site.  The same is true for kids who have unknown devices to use.

Those limitations aside, it gives full access to parents who want to see direct messages sent to their kids, what groups they may have joined and more.  When I speak with parents, I always ask them what would happen if they asked their child to hand over their phone without notice.  I’m always amazed at how many parents say that their kids would never allow that.

In most cases, the parents paid for the phone and probably pay for the monthly service.  So while the child uses it, the phone is not their property.  When we gave our daughter her first phone, we made sure that she was aware of this.  Like many teens, she put a PIN on her phone to avoid people using it without permission.  She is required to give us that PIN, as well as any logon credentials for any apps that she uses.

While we almost never use them, I actually did last night.  I found out that she had changed the PIN after one of her friends was able to guess her original choice.  It was a pretty easy code to guess if someone knew her, so she made it a more random number and harder to guess.  We have never had a reason to question her judgment online, but we made it clear to her that as her parents, we reserve the right to access her devices/accounts if we felt the need.  I didn’t check any of her emails or accounts, but if we couldn’t get past the PIN, we would not have even had the option to do so if we felt it necessary.

Takeaway

These methods vary in effectiveness and how invasive they are to the child, but the goal is always the same – to keep them safe and out of trouble.  Sometimes, it’s protection from others and sometimes, we need to protect others from them.  Kids may not like it when their parents “spy” on them, but we’re their parents, not their friends.  Our primary responsibility is to protect them from dangers that they may not even know exist.

One of the most important things to remember is that if you do see something happening online that requires you to intervene, avoid doing it online. 

We worry about what they might do online because it’s part of their Digital Footprint, otherwise known as their history and reputation.  But the truth is, that what parents do online can become part of their Digital Footprint.  We may not have liked it when our parents scolded us in front of our friends, but at least it was done and over with.  Scold a child online and it will have much longer lasting effects.

Senseez Pillows: Vibrational Therapy to Soothe Anxious Kids

senseez logo -smallMy name is Stephanie Mitelman. I am a Mom and I created the Senseez Pillows. The name Senseez means to ease the senses… Let me tell you the story of how Senseez was born…

When my son was 2, he was diagnosed with a special need. One of his difficulties was sitting in one place long enough to eat his meal, read a story, or sit for circle time.

I spoke to an occupational therapist who recommended a vibrating mat to help with this.I bought one for my son, and he instantly loved the sensations!

But one day, I wanted to take him to our local library for story telling, and though the mat would help… it was large, black, heavy, and had to be plugged in. I was also concerned about my son looking different or standing out with this large mat.

So I went on a search to find a small, lightweight, portable pillow that would offer the same sensations that he could take with him. I couldn’t find one!

So Senseez was born!

Senseez are colorful, lightweight, fun shaped vinyl pillows that offer a gentle vibration when they are squeezed or sat on. They operate on batteries and have a small pouch inside that can vibrate to offer sensations to relax, calm or soothe the body. They’re small enough to take anywhere and are made just for little bums!

Painting on a Senseez pillow

Kids that have trouble sitting for meals, stories, car rides, shopping trips, school work, movies, or anything else will be comforted by the vibrations of Senseez. Kids that have trouble falling asleep will enjoy the relaxing sensations.

The original prototypes were sewn in the basement of our home! We made about 25 pillows by hand, and distributed them throughout schools and therapy centers in our area. Since Senseez was created to be taken everywhere and to be used by multiple children, we used a vinyl material, since it is considered to be the most hygienic and easiest to keep clean. The vinyl is also water resistant. We also created a Senseez furry option for children who would like more tactile input.

After we got some feedback, we hired an engineer to perfect the vibrating mechanism we needed. Once that was complete, we had the pillows tested by Canadian standards for lead, small parts and flammability.

We then connected with an importer who handled the production. Our first order was for 600 pillows. Once the word started getting out, we sold out within 9 months!

In April 2013, we were also invited to do a taping on the Dragon’s Den television show. Today, we have 14 different distributors across Canada and the US, and the pillows are now being used across schools, therapy centers and many homes! The feedback we get is so positive, and the ways in which the pillows are being used is so inspiring. Here is an example:

I wanted to share a positive story regarding your Senseez Pillows. I gave one of the pillows to my client who is part of our deaf blind program. Although she is very fluent in hand over hand sign language as well as Braille, she struggles a lot with expressive communication. We have been working closely with her to initiate requests, preferences, feelings…..communication in general. The pillow was introduced during a session as a sensory aid with vibration. She immediately started hugging the pillow and placing it behind her back ……all while signing the word “happy”.

While her expressive communication still remains a struggle, she is now on a regular basis asking for the “vibrating pillow”. She has created a sign that meshes together the words vibrate and pillow, which she independently will communicate to others!

It’s a huge break through!!!!!! It is the first time that she has communicated a want.

Needless to say, we will be needing some more pillows 🙂

Research shows that vibrational therapy has been used for many years in many different forms. Some children require the vibrations to help calm their bodies, while other children just enjoy the way it feels!

We are thrilled that our pillow is helping children, parents, teachers and therapists!

HEALTHFUL HINTS

Tips for working with children who have difficulty sitting in one place for any length of time:

  1. Some children do best with time limits. Let the child know how long they will have to sit for. A start and finish time can help. i.e: sit for 3 minutes to finish snack.
  2. Sometimes using a visual timer can help. Visual timers are available at most special needs stores.
  3. When training a child to sit for a period of time, start small and the build it up. One minute, goes to two, then five etc…
  4. It is okay to use outside reinforcers during this process. Children respond well to rewards, like their favorite treats. You want to build in a reward at the beginning and it won’t be long before long they won’t need it anymore.
  5. It is also okay to use other distractors like TV or iPad in the beginning. We want to calm the child during this hard task. For some children, TV and iPad can help reduce the anxiety of staying one place may cause. After a while, the distraction won’t be needed either.
  6. And you will need to verbally prompt at the beginning. Prompting is giving a gentle reminder about what the child is supposed to be doing, and reinforcing it when they do.
  7. It is always important to reinforce the good behavior (when they do sit in one place), and not only discuss when they don’t.
  8. And lastly, some children enjoy different sensations to help soothe their senses. Vibrations are helpful. Other sensations could be a weighted vest or blanket, or something that offers compression.

Note: Each child is different and you will have to experiment with what works with your child!

This 4th of July, Keep Your Family Safe and Give EMS the Day Off

Last updated on September 2nd, 2019 at 07:45 pm

An evening of fireworksAs summer has rapidly arrived upon us and the kids have let out of school for the summer, the planning has already begun for the July 4th celebration that happens all over our great United States. It is unfortunate that those of us involved in the emergency field will see this happy day turned into a bad one by accidents having to do with Fireworks and a lack of Firework safety.  The numbers every year do not lie and neither do the stories we see and hear every year about fireworks. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, National Council on Firework Safety the information from 2012 is as follows:

As you can see that the number of serious injuries and deaths from Fireworks in 2012 is pretty alarming and most could have probably been avoided with some simple safety preparations and precautions.

Fireworks safety chart 2012

In 2017 alone:

Some very basic and simple safety tips and precautions are:

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

If you see fireworks being used improperly or in an unsafe and dangerous manner around you or your home by unknown, underage people, or even neighbors, please do not hesitate to call 911 and alert the police or even the fire department.

These are just a handful of safety tips and precautions that should be taken BEFORE, DURING and AFTER using fireworks. Please feel free to consult your local fire station for more information if you feel the need. As always, a little preparation and safety can save a lot of pain and injury later and make this Holiday the celebration it should be for all of us.

Thank you and be safe!

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** Editor’s Note: Pounds of fireworks purchased each year in the APA chart above are in millions