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Child Health & Safety News 9/17: 8 Easy-To-Miss Car Seat Hazards

Last updated on September 27th, 2018 at 02:08 pm

twitter thumbIn this week’s Child Health News: Horrific New Playground ‘Stunt’  – Roundabout of Death – Left 11 Year Old Boy with Serious Head Injuries bit.ly/2Mx4IS3 

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 social media to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we overlook something, but overall we think we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. Still, quite a bit happens every day – so to make sure you don’t miss anything, we offer you a recap of this week’s top 20 events & stories.

  • The Art and Science of Raising a Sensitive Boy (Without Crushing his Spirit) bit.ly/2pbcPuv 2018-9-16
  • This One Trick Can Save Parents $2,000 a Year On Day Care bit.ly/2D0BhbI parents – check on Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (DCFSA)2018-9-16
  • Virtual reality app could lessen anxiety for pediatric patients during MRI bit.ly/2CYpfzG 2018-9-16
  • Parents, take note: Kids, teen, college student mental health problems on the rise abcn.ws/2D0nr9d 2018-9-15
  • Brief psychotherapy benefits women caring for children with severe health issues bit.ly/2CZRsWG 2018-9-15

PedSafe Child Health & Safety News Headline of the Week
8 Easy-To-Miss Car Seat Hazards That a Child Safety Tech Wants You to Be Aware Of and Keep In Mind http://bit.ly/2pi3RM4 

  • This Girl Was Hospitalized After Getting Her Ears Pierced, & Parents Are Freaked bit.ly/2pd0plz 2018-9-15
  • When Parents Are In Jail, Their Kids’ Health Suffers bit.ly/2NJRCFT here’s a pilot program to change that 2018-9-15
  • How To Teach Kids Storytelling To Improve Their Friendships bit.ly/2xcJmnv 2018-9-14
  • The Problem With Parents and Social Media bit.ly/2x2dEKr 2018-9-13
  • But Mom, what if it’s not just a sprain? Thurs Time Capsule 09/11 bit.ly/2N7B1Mv 2018-9-13
  • There’s A Reason Babies Stop Crying When You Stand Up bit.ly/2x6TJt6 there is a science behind this 2018-9-12
  • How To Prepare When You Are Expecting Healthy Twins bit.ly/2OdOZJd 2018-9-12
  • EMS Providers Recall 9/11 bit.ly/2CNaXlj A day of remembrance and gratitude. We honor those who bravely gave their lives coming to rescue all who had fallen. 2018-9-11
  • Do your children know what you do? Eat dinner together and tell them. bit.ly/2xb6naz 2018-9-11
  • Parenting Tips for Raising Happy, Healthy Preschoolers bit.ly/2x1O2gB 2018-9-11
  • American Academy of Pediatrics: Children 6 years and older should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Active play is the best exercise for younger children. Learn more here: ow.ly/4ic430lJpkC 2018-9-10
  • Social Media, Social Life: Teens Reveal Their Experiences (2018) | Common Sense Media bit.ly/2wZF6sa 2018-9-10
  • The nation’s ‘first safety-demonstration home’ will break ground in KC http://bit.ly/2pgGket 2018-9-10
  • How to Keep Kids From Getting Bit Helping with Dog Training bit.ly/2QfMYOq 2018-9-10

How to Make Back to School Feel Safe? a Pediatrician Perspective

Last updated on October 14th, 2018 at 08:24 pm

It is certainly understandable, given the amount of press and official and unofficial commentary through law enforcement, social media discussions, and easily seen news programs, that fear should arise in the minds of both children attending school and parents of those children about their safety in what has traditionally been a bastion of safety, their schools.

This publicly available information, easily seen by children, has always been centered around the person responsible for the shootings occurring in schools and other public places. The information made available in the news media is repeated ad infinitum after the event occurs and only later is there information about the victims.

This public, news-related, policy needs to be changed to include minimal information, if any, about the perpetrator and immediate coverage about the victims and their families.

The American Academy of Pediatrics refers to the situation surrounding school shootings as “a public health threat to children” and has shared their perspective on the general health of the Pediatric population with such statements as: “We can start by working to advance meaningful legislation that keeps children safe….We also call for stronger background checks, solutions addressing firearm trafficking, and encourage safe firearm storage….children and their families (should) have access to appropriate mental health services.”

As a Pediatrician, I absolutely agree with their statements.

This is an issue that should be taken up by the public as a whole, through local involvement in both federal and local government. This is only one method by which fear is spread. The fact that domestic terrorism has occurred at all promotes the initial terror also seen repeatedly on television and written forms of news media in all its gory details. Your child is exposed to this every couple of months in our society. It’s no wonder there is some fear of the school environment.

To balance my professional opinion with my personal experience, I have three grandchildren who live in Connecticut, not far from Newtown where the Sandy Hook killings took place. I am probably biased, but I consider them to be stable, “normal” children, with good, close ties to their parents compared to the general population.

Although there has been no clinical PTSD, they have certainly become more aware and somewhat fearful of their surroundings. I consider the awareness to be a positive result of this episode, as every person in America has become more aware of their surroundings since 9/11. A fact that has possibly contributed to the absence of further attacks of this magnitude having taken place. They have also become much more tolerant and even thankful for the occasional practice drills in their school.

What can be done to decrease and hopefully eliminate such events and fearsome coverage of those events?

  • The ultimate answer to this is involvement by you and your children in local, civic activities. The Federal government can only do so much and every time it tries there is resistance from many sides. The real power lies in local and state governments who can exert a lot of power if supported by their constituency, something that changed in this respect after 9/11.
  • Get involved. There is much improvement possible at the local and state levels, but it must arise from the grassroots. To start, sale and ownership of assault rifles and large magazines capable of carrying large volumes of ammunition should be limited. There is always pushback on this and officials are slow to act as a result. We must push such acts, as statistics do not necessarily show either side to be correct on this issue.
  • You must answer your children’s questions honestly in an age-appropriate format and up-play the quality and determination of those people in their schools who are there to protect them from harm: from teachers to any law enforcement officers in place. If your child can grasp the concept of statistics, you might point out to them that 56 million students attend US elementary and secondary schools, and only a relative handful (159, less than 3/1000 of one percent) have been affected by such school tragedies, and many of these involved single episodes. Try to relate those numbers to things in their personal lives that at that statistical rate they clearly would not be involved.

  • In the extreme, especially if such events have occurred near to your home and school districts, your child might require a short period of counseling. Although child psychiatry services are not readily available in many smaller communities, a parent can ask his/her Pediatrician, the local medical society or the nearest large children’s medical center for such references.

Understand their fear and as parents there will be no trouble empathizing 

The bottom line is, as always, good communication with your children is of paramount importance! Never stop talking to your children, keep all the channels open, and you will be greatly rewarded as your children grow to maturity.

Child Health & Safety News 9/10: New AAP Child Seat Guidelines

Last updated on September 27th, 2018 at 02:09 pm

twitter thumbIn this week’s Child Health News: New study recommends against brain scans for kids with concussion http://bit.ly/2N3ZtP4 

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 social media to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we overlook something, but overall we think we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. Still, quite a bit happens every day – so to make sure you don’t miss anything, we offer you a recap of this week’s top 20 events & stories.

  • Here’s How Many Immigrant Kids Are Still Separated From Their Parents bit.ly/2wY5lz3 2018-9-09
  • A teen who spent his free time speaking out against gun violence was shot and killed in Chicago cnn.it/2wY5dj3 2018-9-09
  • AAP Raises Concerns That Food Colors May Damage Children’s Health bit.ly/2wUhB32 2018-9-09
  • Children’s Health: Backpack Safety bit.ly/2wRRtXa 2018-9-09
  • How to Keep Your Kids Safe on the Playground bit.ly/2MafFJa  2018-9-08

PedSafe Child Health & Safety News Headline of the Week
What You Need to Know About the New American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Child Seat Guidelines   bit.ly/2wDPDIJ

  • We Must Stop Destroying our Children – Children’s Defense Fund bit.ly/2CwsUEs 2018-9-08
  • Strategies Parents Can Use for Handling Out-of-Control Kids bit.ly/2wUkBx7  2018-9-08
  • Health Matters: What to do when your child bullies other kids nbcnews.to/2wVoGkq 2018-9-08
  • 3 Tips to Raise a Drug-Free Child bit.ly/2wPNaLi 2018-9-07
  • How Can My Allergic Kid Join In When It’s All About the Food bit.ly/2wPvS0F 2018-9-07
  • How to Talk to Your Kids About…Strangers: Thurs Time Capsule 08/12 – bit.ly/2M18vXL  2018-9-06
  • Four million UK children too poor to have a healthy diet, study finds bit.ly/2wL2LLY 2018-9-06
  • Advocacy Group Urges Testing Water for Lead at Child-Care Centers bit.ly/2MPEcs1 Despite the health risks, only 7 states and New York City require licensed child-care facilities to conduct testing for lead in drinking water 2018-9-05
  • What being held at the Mexican border is really like bit.ly/2CrBcNI a doctor describes visiting the South Texas Family Residential Center 2018-9-05
  • Should Special Kids Take Standardized Tests? Intelligent Lives bit.ly/2Ni4suO 2018-9-05
  • Google using AI to help organizations detect and report child sexual abuse material online bit.ly/2wCDVi3 2018-9-04
  • Homelessness Takes Toll on Kids’ Health Even Before They’re Born http://bit.ly/2N77mDu  2018-9-03
  • Growth in first 3 years of life affects respiratory health in children bit.ly/2wAbJfU excessive weight gain in the first years of life can be associated with lower lung function and a higher risk of childhood asthma 2018-9-03
  • Children may care about their reputations earlier than thought: Study abcn.ws/2wrKW5p 2018-9-03

Child Health & Safety News 9/3: Preschool Anxiety-Busting Books

Last updated on September 16th, 2018 at 02:57 pm

twitter thumbIn this week’s Child Safety News: Calls for action over the UK’s ‘intolerable’ child mental health crisis: >100k kids age 14 are self-harming with 22% of girls affected bit.ly/2LMiGza

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 social media to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we overlook something, but overall we think we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. Still, quite a bit happens every day – so to make sure you don’t miss anything, we offer you a recap of this week’s top 25 events & stories.

  • 10 Parenting Strategies That Help Kids Become Mentally Strong bit.ly/2LPAZ6w 2018-9-02
  • 12-year-old charged with attempted murder after bringing gun into Eldridge junior high bit.ly/2LPW54V 2018-9-02
  • What to do when your child is being bullied nbcnews.to/2MJO4U8 how to recognize and respond 2018-9-02
  • What if guns were regulated like cars? To increase child safety, AAP president calls for public health approach trib.in/2PoKJH9 2018-9-02
  • Over 600,000 Children Suffer Acute Malnutrition: UNICEF bit.ly/2N4C27m 2018-9-01
  • Back to school health: what school nurses want parents to know on.rocne.ws/2NDnHf2 2018-9-01
  • Opioid Ingestion in Kids: The Huge Increase in ICU Admissions wb.md/2LMykdI 2018-9-01
  • Teach Your Child How to Not Get Caught by a Catfish bit.ly/2oiwdVO 2018-8-31
  • Kids are so over-scheduled that doctors are being told to prescribe play bit.ly/2oqedJn 2018-8-31
  • Our latest issue of Kids Who Care Newsletter “Having Each Other’s Backs is out now! getrevue.co/profile/pediat… (via @revue) 2018-8-31

PedSafe Child Health & Safety News Headline of the Week
Get Your Child Ready for Preschool With These Anxiety Reducing Books bit.ly/2Nrkijy 

  • Tips for Parenting an Introvert bit.ly/2C7Nxa2 2018-8-30
  • Research-Backed Benefits of Being an “Older” Mom bit.ly/2LzVdkH 2018-8-30
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends to avoid carrying your phone against the body like in a pocket, sock, or bra. 2018-8-30
  • Trauma Sensitive schools create environments that promote resilience for all students by addressing the impacts of Child Trauma. Take a look at @SSLearn’s Trauma-Sensitive Schools training package for school & district leaders. 2018-8-30
  • First Aid Basics Every Parent Should Know – Thurs Time Capsule 08/2011 bit.ly/2ww3lNI 2018-8-30
  • Sadly we live in a world where the simple task of walking to school can be unsafe. Here are some resources and tips for you to pass on to your kids – including those who are off to college. bit.ly/2NpPyPZ…/tips-for-arriving-to-school-safe…/ bit.ly/2whc9Yk 2018-8-29
  • 9-Year-Old Boy Killed Himself After Being Tormented by Bullies, His Mom Says nyti.ms/2BZ0Edl 2018-8-29
  • School Bus Stop Arms Are Being Ignored: How to Fix That bit.ly/2PekRNU 2018-8-29
  • Sleepover safety tips your kid should know bit.ly/2NqJ9DY 2018-8-28
  • Maternal depression can impact baby’s physical and mental health bit.ly/2wdafYW 2018-8-28
  • 8 Unforgettable Things We Did As Kids That Would Not Fly Today bit.ly/2MTNAtT 2018-8-27
  • Health Tips – from the American Academy of Pediatrics: When Small Children Play Near Water bit.ly/2ocmuAl  2018-8-27
  • 5 obstacles parents commonly face in child obesity treatment and how to overcome them bit.ly/2NgiLfT 2018-8-27
  • Arkansas Children’s Hospital to Acquire TRIUX™ neo for Functional Brain Imaging prn.to/2ocaZZO 2018-8-27
  • When Should Kids Get Their First Orthodontic Evaluation? bit.ly/2MQVoN5 2018-8-27

Child Sports Injuries: How to Prevent and Treat The Most Common

Last updated on August 13th, 2018 at 08:11 pm

The school year will soon be upon us and with the return of homework and uniforms means the sports injuriesreturn of sports. 38 million children and adolescents participate in organized sports in the United States each year. Still more participate in informal recreational activities. Although sports participation provides numerous physical and social benefits, it also has a downside: the risk of sports-related injuries. In fact, according to a 2002 report by the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 1.9 million children under 15 were treated in emergency departments the year before for sports-related injuries.

These injuries are by far the most common cause of musculoskeletal injuries in children treated in emergency departments. They are also the single most common cause of injury-related primary care office visits.

I.  The Most Common Sports-Related Injuries in Kids

Although sports injuries can range from scrapes and bruises to serious brain and spinal cord injuries, most fall somewhere between the two extremes. Here are some of the more common types of injuries.

Sprains and Strains

A sprain is an injury to a ligament, one of the bands of tough, fibrous tissue that connects two or more bones at a joint and prevents excessive movement of the joint. An ankle sprain is the most common athletic injury.

A strain is an injury to either a muscle or a tendon. A muscle is a tissue composed of bundles of specialized cells that, when stimulated by nerve messages, contract and produce movement. A tendon is a tough, fibrous cord of tissue that connects muscle to bone. Muscles in any part of the body can be injured.

Growth Plate Injuries

In some sports accidents and injuries, the growth plate may be injured. The growth plate is the area of developing tissues at the end of the long bones in growing children and adolescents. When growth is complete, sometime during adolescence, the growth plate is replaced by solid bone. The long bones in the body include:

  • the long bones of the hand and fingers (metacarpals and phalanges)
  • both bones of the forearm (radius and ulna)
  • the bone of the upper leg (femur)
  • the lower leg bones (tibia and fibula)
  • the foot bones (metatarsals and phalanges).

If any of these areas become injured, it’s important to seek professional help from an orthopaedic surgeon, a doctor who specializes in bone injuries.

Repetitive Motion Injuries

Painful injuries such as stress fractures (a hairline fracture of the bone that has been subjected to repeated stress) and tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon) can occur from overuse of muscles and tendons. Some of these injuries don’t always show up on x rays, but they do cause pain and discomfort. The injured area usually responds to rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Other treatments can include crutches, cast immobilization, and physical therapy.

Heat-Related Illnesses

Heat-related illnesses include:

  • dehydration (deficit in body fluids)
  • heat exhaustion (nausea, dizziness, weakness, headache, pale and moist skin, heavy perspiration, normal or low body temperature, weak pulse, dilated pupils, disorientation, and fainting spells)
  • heat stroke (headache, dizziness, confusion, and hot dry skin, possibly leading to vascular collapse, coma, and death).

Heat injuries are always dangerous and can be fatal. Heat-related injuries are a particular problem for children because children perspire less than adults and require a higher core body temperature to trigger sweating. Playing rigorous sports in the heat requires close monitoring of both body and weather conditions. Fortunately, heat-related illnesses can be prevented.

II.  Preventing and Treating Injuries

Injuries can happen to any child who plays sports, but there are some things that can help prevent and treat injuries.

Prevention Basics

  • Enroll your child in organized sports through schools, community clubs, and recreation areas that are properly maintained. Any organized team activity should demonstrate a commitment to injury prevention. Coaches should be trained in first aid and CPR, and should have a plan for responding to emergencies. Coaches should be well versed in the proper use of equipment, and should enforce rules on equipment use.
  • Organized sports programs may have adults on staff who are Certified Athletic Trainers. These individuals are trained to prevent, recognize, and provide immediate care for athletic injuries.
  • Make sure your child has—and consistently uses—proper gear for a particular sport. This may reduce the chances of being injured.
  • Make warm-ups and cool downs part of your child’s routine before and after sports participation. Warm-up exercises, such as stretching and light jogging, can help minimize the chance of muscle strain or other soft tissue injury during sports. Warm-up exercises make the body’s tissues warmer and more flexible. Cool down exercises loosen muscles that have tightened during exercise.
  • Make sure your child has access to water or a sports drink while playing. Encourage him or her to drink frequently and stay properly hydrated. Remember to include sunscreen and a hat (when possible) to reduce the chance of sunburn, which is a type of injury to the skin. Sun protection may also decrease the chances of malignant melanoma—a potentially deadly skin cancer—or other skin cancers that can occur later in life.
  • Learn and follow safety rules and suggestions for your child’s particular sport. You’ll find some more sport-specific safety suggestions below.

Primary Treatment

Treatment for sports-related injuries will vary by injury. But if your child suffers a soft tissue injury (such as a sprain or strain) or a bone injury, the best immediate treatment is easy to remember: RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) the injury (see below). Get professional treatment if any injury is severe. A severe injury means having an obvious fracture or dislocation of a joint, prolonged swelling, or prolonged or severe pain.

Treat Injuries with “RICE”

  • Rest: Reduce or stop using the injured area for at least 48 hours. If you have a leg injury, you may need to stay off of it completely.
  • Ice: Put an ice pack on the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times per day. Use a cold pack, ice bag, or a plastic bag filled with crushed ice that has been wrapped in a towel.
  • Compression: Ask your child’s doctor about elastics wraps, air casts, special boots, or splints that can be used to compress an injured ankle, knee, or wrist to reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart to help decrease swelling. Use a pillow to help elevate an injured limb.

For Basketball…

  • Common injuries and locations: sprains; strains; bruises; fractures; scrapes; dislocations; cuts; injuries to teeth, ankles and knees. (Injury rates are higher in girls, especially for the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the wide ligament that limits rotation and forward movement of the shin bone.)
  • Safest playing with: eye protection, elbow and knee pads, mouth guard, athletic supporters for males, proper shoes, water. If playing outdoors, wear sunscreen and, when possible, a hat.
  • Injury prevention: strength training (particularly knees and shoulders), aerobics (exercises that develop the strength and endurance of heart and lungs), warmup exercises, proper coaching, and use of safety equipment.

For Track and Field…School-sports

  • Common injuries: strains, sprains, scrapes from falls.
  • Safest playing with: proper shoes, athletic supporters for males, sunscreen, water.
  • Injury prevention: proper conditioning and coaching.

For Football…

  • Common injuries and locations: bruises; sprains; strains; pulled muscles; tears to soft tissues such as ligaments; broken bones; internal injures (bruised or damaged organs); concussions; back injuries; sunburn. Knees and ankles are the most common injury sites.
  • Safest playing with: helmet; mouth guard; shoulder pads; athletic supporters for males; chest/rib pads; forearm, elbow, and thigh pads; shin guards; proper shoes; sunscreen; water.
  • Injury prevention: proper use of safety equipment, warmup exercises, proper coaching techniques and conditioning.

For Baseball and Softball…

  • Common injuries: soft tissue strains; impact injuries that include fractures caused by sliding and being hit by a ball; sunburn.
  • Safest playing with: batting helmet; shin guards; elbow guards; athletic supporters for males; mouth guard; sunscreen; cleats; hat; detachable,“breakaway bases” rather than traditional, stationary ones.
  • Injury prevention: proper conditioning and warmups.

For Soccer…

  • Staying safe in sportsCommon injuries: bruises, cuts and scrapes, headaches, sunburn.
  • Safest playing with: shin guards, athletic supporters for males, cleats, sunscreen, water.
  • Injury prevention: aerobic conditioning and warmups, and proper training in “heading” (that is, using the head to strike or make a play with the ball).

For Gymnastics…

  • Common injuries: sprains and strains of soft tissues.
  • Safest playing with: athletic supporters for males, safety harness, joint supports (such as neoprene wraps), water.
  • Injury prevention: proper conditioning and warmups.

III.  Safety Tips for ALL Sports

  • Be in proper physical condition to play the sport.
  • Follow the rules of the sport.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear (for example, shin guards for soccer, a hard-shell helmet when facing a baseball or softball pitcher, a helmet and body padding for ice hockey).
  • Know how to use athletic equipment.
  • Always warm up before playing.
  • Avoid playing when very tired or in pain.
  • Get a preseason physical examination.
  • Make sure adequate water or other liquids are available to maintain proper hydration.

Adapted from Play It Safe, a Guide to Safety for Young Athletes, with permission of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Play It Safe in the Heat

  • Schedule regular fluid breaks during practice and games. Kids need to drink 8 ounces of fluid—preferably water—every 20 minutes, and more after playing.
  • Have your child wear light-colored,“breathable” clothing.
  • Make player substitutions more frequently in the heat.
  • Use misting sprays on the body to keep cool.
  • Know the signs of heat-related problems, including confusion; dilated pupils; dizziness; fainting; headache; heavy perspiration; nausea; pale and moist or hot, dry skin; weak pulse; and weakness. If your child experiences any combination of these symptoms or doesn’t seem quite right, seek medical attention immediately.

Adapted with permission from Patient Care magazine, copyrighted by Medical Economics.

Please keep your children active and safe and have a great school year.

 

Mom is Sick. How to Avoid Kids & Dog Taking Charge

Last updated on July 30th, 2018 at 02:24 pm

Professional dog trainers talk a lot about being the ‘pack leader’ and setting solid rules, boundaries and guidelines for our animals as well as our kids. We discuss the importance of being consistent so that our kids and animals know what to expect and what is expected of them. But what happens when we are not at our best due to illness or injury? What sort of dangers or difficulties may we encounter during these times? Especially when we are the primary rule makers and enforcers?

The number one ‘reaction’ I have repeatedly encountered with both children and animals is Insecurity. The ‘unknown’ can be scary for all of us and can make us worried, fearful, apprehensive, and a host of other feelings we might go through. And as parents, it’s instinctual to want to shield your children from these unpleasant feelings. We try to smile and act like everything is okay, and for a little while, it may work. But no one can hide these feelings forever. You suddenly find yourself short tempered, frustrated, weepy, etc. And often, it is over silly insignificant little things. So, you started out trying to ‘protect’ your kids, and now you are snapping at them and everyone is walking on eggshells.

Now let’s look at the family dog: You can ‘paste’ that smile on your face and tell them that everything is okay, but they can see right through the facade. Or more accurately, they can see, hear, smell and feel right through it. Words have little to no value to dogs. If you said to your dog, “Rex, I’ll let you out in a few minutes, then we’ll go to the park and practice “SIT” and “STAY”, what they heard was…“REX, blah blah OUT blah blah PARK blah blah SIT blah STAY.

Why? Because they don’t understand words like we do (except for the ones they have heard repeatedly.) They communicate through scent, body language, voice inflections, and gestures. A good example is the sentence “What did you do?” If you smile and say it in a happy excited voice, the tail will wag furiously, and they will circle you for pats and love. However, those same four words said with your arms across your chest, a scowl on your face, and in an angry tone will have them running to hide! When your entire demeanor shifts involuntarily, they feel it!! They know when something is wrong.

So, how can this inconsistency affect your household?

I can best answer this question by sharing with you a recent experience I encountered:

I got my dog Reilley at 3.5 months old. He had a few negative behaviors even as a puppy, such as resource guarding his toys and food around other dogs (see my article Recognizing a dog’s body language before your child gets bitten’ to understand what resource guarding is.) I had to work hard to help him overcome this. I run a dog boarding and training business… it simply would NOT do if MY dog had issues that could potentially put a client’s dogs at risk! So we worked on socializing Reilley with kids and with other dogs.

All was going well and according to my plan, until I needed surgery on my leg. And although I did my best to act like the surgery was no big deal, I was scared and nervous. I saw a few subtle changes in my dog’s behavior, but nothing that overly concerned me. When I came home from surgery, I was lying in bed recuperating and I enjoyed having Reilley lying on the bed next to me keeping me company and cuddling with me. My mom had come to town to help and Reilley’s care was taken over by her and my husband. Everything seemed relaxed and my recovery was going well.

It did not take me long to realize that something big had changed for my dog. This dog who had been social and outgoing with every dog and person who arrived here was suddenly standing back, guarded, and growling at dogs and people! I had seen dogs react negatively to change before, but it had always seemed to affect their behaviors (actions)… a previously housebroken dog starts having accidents, or they are not listening to commands they know very well…. But this was a huge change in his personality, and I did not understand it. So I asked for help. I described what I was seeing to my dog trainer friends through the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) and sought their guidance. Although their advice made total sense to me after the fact, I must admit I was a bit surprised at first with what they all had to say.

  • Prior to my surgery I was the primary rule maker as well as the rule enforcer. Not that Reilley grew up in a prison, but there were a number of rules we had set that we lived by every day, and they worked for us (e.g. I poured his food and he sat and waited for permission to eat). My husband on the other hand, was a “dump the food in the bowl and walk away” kind of guy.  And Reilley, like a lot of kids who hate rules but in reality, NEED them, didn’t do well when the rules actually went away. My inability to enforce the rules he was used to living by had left my dog feeling insecure and unsure
  • Because I was the ‘pack leader’ in my house, I was the person in charge of welcoming guests into our home – I maintained order. With others caring for me, I was no longer the “leader” enforcing calm and overseeing who had permission to be there. I was no longer the protector. In the absence of my leadership, he became confused and began to question our roles…I was the sick and injured member of the ‘pack’, maybe it was HIS job to protect me and not the other way around.
  • Finally, because dogs can be so child-like in their actions and reactions, seeing his leader so scared and vulnerable made him very nervous and insecure. (Not so dissimilar to a child realizing for the first time that a parent is fallible or does not always have the answers.)

You may be thinking, ‘what’s the big deal, your dog growled at some other dogs.’ But consider this… what if there were children that he was growling at? An insecure or fearful dog can be an unpredictable one.

So what if you, as the primary care-giver suddenly became ill or injured?

How do you help your family (including the family dog) acclimate to this time of crisis?  How do you help them through it when you are in pain or feeling miserable and are temporarily unable to be the ‘enforcer’?

The two most important answers I can give you are preparation and communication.

I. Preparation:  Obviously this applies more so when you have to go for surgery or something similar that you know about in advance. But even though injuries and illness are often unexpected events, there is still some planning you can do ahead of time, so you are ready if the need should arise.

  • Spend time talking with your significant other, or, if you are a single parent, chose one or two family members or friends you trust with the health and well being of your kids and pets.
  • Make a full list of schedules and routines that include……
    • what time the kids get up, head out for school or the bus, get home from school, and when homework is typically done,
    • what time and day each child has an extracurricular activity, what time they eat supper, approved and not-approved snacks, and what time they need to be in bed. You can also include how much screen time they can have, and approved ‘viewing’ items.
    • Make sure you include things in your list like how you personally reward your child for a job well done or correct or discipline your child for not doing what they are supposed to. (e.g. do they earn stickers on a wall chart or cookies with milk?)
  • While it is a child’s job to push boundaries and try to get away with stuff, even though they think they want these ‘perks’, in the end, it can be quite unsettling for them to suddenly get their way because it varies from the normal routine which can again make them insecure and fearful.
  • Remember to update this list frequently, as schedules and routines may change or vary.

Now, as for the dog:

  • Do not assume just because the family pet is like another child to you, that everyone else will feel the same way. Make sure the person who agreed to stay and help with the kids is also okay with taking care of the dog.
  • Create a similar list for the dogs that you did for the kids, with the dog’s regular routine.
  • Include in the list behaviors that you approve of and do not approve of so that they can follow through (ie: allowed on furniture, allowed to jump up on people when greeting people, etc)
  • Do some research on local boarding facilities just in case it is too much for the person caring for the children to care for the dog as well. This way it is a comfortable choice and not a last-minute decision that keeps you up worried.

II. Communication is vital for all parties involved… whether it is being honest with your kids about what is going on (within reason and age appropriate of course) or talking very openly with the person you have entrusted your kids care to. This reduces so much stress for everyone involved…. Including you! The last thing you want if you become sick or injured is to worry about your household becoming an unruly chaotic place. This can cause the kids to act out, and this is especially important if you happen to have a special needs child whose life is all about the schedules and routines they have come to depend on. And since the family dog tends to feed off the emotions of the family, why risk him being on edge and nervous or fearful…. Which can lead to behavior changes ranging from accidents in the house, to all out aggression.

So I will wrap this up with one last piece of advice: If you are on the other end of this, meaning you did not see this list prior to this scenario happening, and you find yourself now dealing with a chaotic household, heed the advice of Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music when she says,  “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start”…

Don’t be afraid to go back to basics with both the kids and the dog. 

For the dog, it might be going back to some crate training and basic commands to remind them you are in charge; for the kids, same thing.  😛  Just kidding…for the kids, it may be being very strict about routines. Whatever you did when they were young to have your house chaos-free and running smooth, repeat until you are back there again. It will not be a lengthy process to back-track a bit, but it may be very useful to help get everyone back on track. The ‘basics’ bring with it a familiarity that everyone may need for now.