Taking Time to Celebrate Your Non Allergic Child

Its funny how having a child with food allergies suddenly changes every aspect of your life. You no longer have the ability to be spontaneous- every meal, every trip and every outing has to be planned to a certain degree. Foods are checked and double checked and when one person in the family has food allergies, the rest of the family is a part of it too. But while you are trying to keep up with everyone’s safety, you also need to keep up with everyone’s individuality as well.

Jules - smallEverybody needs a little one-on-one time and this is especially true when you have children that have an allergic sibling. Being able to disconnect from the world of food allergies is important- it’s wonderful to be educated about their brother’s or sister’s allergies but it’s not their responsibility to be expected to live within the food allergy shadow. Let them understand food allergies, let them learn to help, educate and keep others safe but also let them see the rest of the world through their eyes as well.

As difficult as it may be to find the time, it is important to make sure that each child gets that bonding time as an individual. Is it possible, even in today’s hustle and bustle? Yes!

  • Give special time  Create something that is special for that child- this could be a phrase that you use when you say good night, it could be a certain way of hugging or even a favorite story that you read together. Chances are that these memories will be part of routines that your children will share with their children in the future.
  • Quality, not quantity  In reality, we all understand that plans tend to change beyond our control. Don’t dwell on how much time you put aside for each child but do make an effort to utilize the time that you do have focused on them (not your phone, not your computer, not even your spouse).
  • Remember to praise  Children respond to positive feedback more than negative feedback so tell them they make you proud! Make a small fuss (or a big one), hang up that picture of the cat with three heads and declare that moment in time as stupendous. Your child will shine and they should be encouraged too.
  • Take time off, alone  Nothing shows your child’s personality more than time alone with you- truly alone. Parents often don’t get to see that sparkle when their child talks around other siblings- they can tend to feel overpowered or not as important to be heard. A great example is when I was able to spend two days with my daughter while dad and son went away- I saw a side of my daughter that made me realize I need to do more with her (aka girl’s time out) details here.
  • Laugh  Laughter is the easiest way to stay close to your child, always. Studies have shown that laughing reduces stress, releases endorphins (what makes you feel good), lowers your blood pressure and (the best thing of all) it’s FREE! Not sold? Next time your non allergic child is showing signs of allergy-overload tickle away and see how much a good belly aching laughter session clears the mood.

Me and Jules - smallerFood allergies can be stressful for any family but they don’t have to be. With proper knowledge, sharing of experiences and family-oriented cooking segments, food allergies can be used as something to bring everyone together during the process. Just as food allergies can be unique, your children are too. Remember to be as vigilant with your affection as you are with your safekeeping. Being safe is doing a job right but showing love is being an accomplished parent.

My Kid Has a GREAT Smile! How Could He Have Tooth Decay?

boy in costumeWe as parents care about our children’s smiles; knowing this, it’s hard to understand all the media attention around the rise in “dental surgeries”. Who are these kids and what’s going on?

The answer will surprise you. We are not looking at neglected children. This is a widespread problem affecting children across demographics. These children range in age from 3 to 6 with multiple baby teeth (as many as 6-10) that contain cavities, and as a result they now require general anesthesia to complete the treatment.

But how is that possible – dental decay is preventable! The problem is that these cavities are forming when our kids are young – they can be caused from sugary, sweet drinks and snacks before bedtime or something as simple as giving your child bottled water instead of tap water because it does not contain fluoride. Dental decay may be easy to prevent, but the signs are also easy to overlook

So what can you do about it:

  • Be aware, by checking your children’s teeth looking for white lines in the teeth and dark areas. These are signs of enamel breakdown that turns into decay.
  • You should also continue to help your child brush their teeth until the age of at least 7.
  • Do not give your young child a bottle of juice or milk at bedtime. The sugars in these drinks will sit on your child’s teeth, bathing them in sugars, ultimately causing decay.
  • Lastly get your child comfortable with the dental office. Take them every 6 months for a dental check up in a child friendly dental office.

Does Your Family Need New Web Rules?

Having traveled the country working with middleschoolers and high school students to build their self-respect and spread respect for all, I’ve also spoken with hundreds of parents. And it’s no surprise that their top concerns are consistently issues like cyberbullying, sexting and online safety.

Keeping kids safe used to be about curfews and “Don’t talk to strangers.” But now, savvy parents are quickly realizing that the Web – and all the devices kids use to get online – needs to be a part of the family rules too.

Here’s my advice to come up with your own set of Web family rules that will keep your kids better protected – and give you some peace of mind:

1. Ask your kids what they think.

Nobody likes rules just handed down to them – and this makes getting compliance with the rules even tougher. Ask your kids: What are your friends or other kids doing online that you think is unsafe? When you’re online, are you ever worried about your safety? See what they say.

Then share your concerns, like: “I know that when you’re on social networks, anyone can talk to you, and I worry about people with bad intentions reaching out to you or trying to meet you offline.” Or “I don’t like cyberbullying either – what can we do about it?”

Also mention any concerns you have about other online privacy issues – like how hackers can steal identities or predators can lift personal information to try and harm your kids offline.

The bottom line: Get their ideas first for your family Web rules. They’ll have great ideas, and they’ll be more likely to buy into the rules if they help create them. Commit to yourself to listen to their ideas – without interrupting or criticizing. At The Respect Institute, the No. 1 way kids tell us they feel respect is: “When people listen to me.” If you listen to them in noticeable ways every day, when your kids face a safety issue online, they will be more likely to open up to you for support.

2. Set the rules.

With a quick Web search, you’ll be able to find many resources to help you round out your rules. Check out NetSmartz.org or IKeepSafe.org for tutorials and tips. Once your family rules are set, talk them through with your kids. Ask your kids to comment on each one, pose questions and suggest changes. When your family rules are final, post them where everyone can see them.

3. Decide on consequences.

Again, have your kids do the work! Ask them what they think should happen if a rule is broken. Add your two cents. (As a parent, you always reserve your right to set the final boundary to keep your kids safe.) Then, write and post the consequences next to the rules.

Most important, create a space where your kids can ask you for help. We are all afraid of getting in trouble if we break the rules, right? But the goal here is to keep your kids safe. And that ultimately comes down to them seeing you as someone they can trust. So even though you’re all setting the rules together, let them know they are guidelines to keep them safe, and that if they ever break a rule or face a situation they don’t know how to handle, they can come to you. Let them know you will listen and you will hold off “freaking out” to support them. In the end, this kind of connection with your kids will go a long way to protect them.

Overweight & Obese Kids: What’s Going On & What Can We Do?

The problem:

About one out of three American children can be considered overweight and that rate is growing very rapidly. Additionally, according to the CDC, in the years 2015-16, approximately 14-20% of our kids were considered obese. The causes are multiple and are most likely societal in nature and not caused by a health condition. Most parents who realize that their child is overweight come to the Doctor to have “their glands checked”. It seems just about everyone knows someone who has a thyroid or other glandular condition that has been blamed for that person being overweight. In fact, a medical problem in kids is one of the least likely causes for obesity.

If one takes time to carefully dissect our current society one would easily be able to notice the low rates of exercise in children and the high rates of sedentary activities. The television and the computer now rank among the chief contributors to the increase in overweight children. In addition, local budget cuts have resulted in elimination of some physical education and intramural sports. And yet another reason for obesity in our kids may be the result of the busy lifestyle of some dual working parents who have very little time to prepare healthy foods- so it‘s fast foods for the night, and it is easy to find the root causes for obesity in this country. As easy as it is to pinpoint some of the reasons for obesity, it is extremely difficult to do something positive about it.

Not only is it time consuming to prepare healthy meals but it is more expensive to buy than a typical American diet and in this economic slump it might not be the first place people wish to spend their money.

On top of these reasons there are certain environmental and familial factors that will contribute to overweight children. If the familial body type is not thin and wiry, this trend will tend to continue through generations and it becomes easy to “blame” the overweight problem on “genetics”. In fact most overweight kids have overweight parents who just do not recognize the “problem” in their children.

What to do

Again, the first thing to do if you think your child is overweight is to take him or her to the primary care provider for an evaluation, looking for the rare and very unlikely medical cause. The diplomatic nature of the approach your Doctor may take to this problem might belie the serious nature of the issue. Beware, it is very serious! The use, by your health care provider, of graphs and charts in the office at the time of the discussion can be very helpful to you, pay attention.

Your Doctor may discuss in front of your child and in a very frank manner, all the medical repercussions of becoming an overweight adult: high blood pressure, increased rates of diabetes, heart disease and strokes just to mention a few. Your child will probably be asked to help resolve this problem. That is very important because without his/her help any attempts will probably fail. After all, you can only control what your child eats when he/she is in the house: once out of the house for the day, it’s all on him or her- that’s tough!

The following are some ideas I believe can help when approaching your overweight child.

Diet related issues

Before you begin to count calories there are some simple mechanisms to put into place.

  • Feed your child on a smaller plate than usual but fill the plate- the visuals help to keep the total intake down.
  • Do not allow “seconds” and desserts should consist of such dishes as fruits and low fat products.
  • Watch out for the “innocence of toppings”. These may carry the majority of calories in the dish you are preparing: low fat or no fat substitutes can now be found in your supermarket for salad dressings etc. You can probably eat a pound of potatoes and gain somewhere near a pound, but if you add the butter, cream and bacon that usually accompany those dishes all bets are off as to the accumulated weight gain.
  • Begin to become aware of the information on the labels of just about all foods.
  • This is not a bad time to institute low fat and low cholesterol “diets” in hopes of altering adult behavior in the future as this is a major contributor to poor cardiac health in this country. In particular, stay away from foods containing, transfats, unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as these can contribute to plaque buildup in arteries beginning at a young age; concentrate instead on fruits, vegetables and fiber.
  • Rid your house of all snack foods, whole milk and carbonated drinks as this must become an entire family affair.
  • While I approve of skim milk after the age of 2 years old I do not approve of artificial sweeteners for children, as many of the past artificial sweeteners have fallen into disrepute at one time or another, and carbonated drinks and juices are generally “empty calories” devoid of anything nutritionally useful except for sugar which he/she does not need.
  • Remember, the object of a “diet” is not necessarily to lose weight initially but to begin to alter life styles as your child grows into adult hood. Weight loss is a bi product or “collateral damage”, if you wish, of the particular “diet” you chose.
  • When you begin to concentrate on weight loss you should aim for no more than 1 – 2 pounds per week as anything faster has a high likelihood of failing.
  • Let your child enjoy an occasional birthday party filled with cake, ice cream, candy etc. Total abstinence will breed discontent.

Don’t forget exercise

The flip side of the coin is, of course, exercise: a reasonable diet without exercise or, vice versa, is like one hand clapping. Family endeavors will be most likely to generate the best results. Encourage sports of all kinds as this not only yields some of the exercise component but builds a sense of belonging and responsibility.

Build in “rewards” to recognize your child’s effort in trying to adhere to this new life style. You might very well encounter resistance at your initial efforts to begin this program but stick with it as it will greatly improve the quality of life for the entire family.