Currently browsing zFeatured

These 5 Steps Help Teach Your Children How to Call 911

little girl practice calling 911Calling 911 sounds simple, but put yourself in the place of a child is being told to do this under an extremely stressful situation or the child of an unconscious parent that does not know what to do or say?  Not so simple now is it? Teaching your child how and when to call 911 is an extremely important lesson for them and will make it more comfortable for them should the need arise.

  1. Teaching your child how to call 911 should start with a simple understanding of the phone and the three buttons.
  2. If you are referring to 911 around your children as nine eleven, please understand how this can confuse a smaller child that may look for an eleven button, so make clear to the child there is no eleven button, it is three pushes of the buttons, 9-­‐1-­‐1.
  3. Next should come the lesson of where you live,the address and apartment number. It is surprising when doing fire demonstrations how many children do not know their address or phone number. These are things that will help the 911 operator thus speeding up the arrival of the responding units. Some areas of the country have expanded 911 which allows the operator to trace the call in case a disconnection happens. But knowing it by memory is the best answer.
  4. Children often feel they will be in trouble if they use the house phone or call 911. Teach your child to be honest with the 911 person and to calmly and clearly answer the questions they are being asked. For example, what is your address? Is the person awake? Is the person breathing?
  5. Defining what an emergency is and when to call 911 is the next step. Having your child understand that major things like fires, seriously injured people and intruders in your home are real emergencies and things like a missing toy or a flat bike tire are not.

A test run should be in order when the child is ready. You can try an old phone or simply unplug your phone and have the child dial and answer the questions and see how well they do. Obviously the older the child the easier it will be and this may take more time with younger children but we have all seen the stories on the news of very your children calling 911 and saving a life. I hope and pray your child will never have to call 911 but always teach them that if there is ever any doubt that they should call. Better to be safe than sorry.

Be safe.

 Photo credit: Dan HattonCC license

Kids and Rashes: Should You Worry??

little girl chicken pox and calamineOne of the most frequent reasons children are brought to their Pediatricians, the most frequent cause of parental concern, and sometimes the most difficult to diagnose,  rashes can be caused by a laundry list of issues.  For that reason rashes must be divided up by characteristics:  is it raised or flat, can you feel it, is it itchy, is it small bumps, large welts, water blisters, or big flat areas, is it painful, are there accompanying symptoms,  is it localized or generalized, what color is it, does it blanch to touch, and the list goes on.

Diagnosing the problem takes into consideration all of this plus an exam by your Doctor.

  • Some rashes are symptoms of a minor illness – most of the time viral, but a symptom nevertheless , just like runny nose and fever for a cold.  The presence of a rash does not necessarily imply that it is contagious although it can give an indication of cause and an idea whether the underlying illness might be contagious.  Certain rashes are terrible looking and the people who have them are very symptomatic; such as poison ivy with its open weeping sores – this rash contrary to popular opinion is not contagious and you cannot catch poison Ivy from person to person unless the first person has not yet washed off the resin from the poison ivy leaf on their skin that caused the problem.  [In short: both rash and illness “may” be contagious, but like any viral cold, are not typically serious]*
  • Certain rashes are characteristic of some more significant illnesses, such as the rash of Chicken Pox along with typical symptoms and course of illness.  In this case, although the vesicles in the rash of chicken pox holds the contaminated fluid- you still don’t catch the rash only.  Again, it’s not the rash that is contagious, but contact with someone with chicken pox can produce the illness and subsequent rash.  Small Pox, now nearly extinct has a typical course and rash.  And that list can go on and on.  [In short: the illness is contagious, the rash is only contagious in that it can cause spread of illness]*
  • The rashes we see in allergic responses are also not contagious.  [In short: uncomfortable, but not contagious]*
  • On the other hand the rash of impetigo (a skin infection with staph or strep) can be very contagious.  This eventually appears as weeping, scabbing lesions and is more common in the warm months.  [In short: rash itself is highly contagious]*
  • Probably the most common type of rash seen in the Pediatrician’s office is the fine pink, pimple like rash associated with mild viral illness.  Nothing can be done about these and they usually do not cause any symptom; they go away by themselves.  [In short: typically minor symptoms, neither rash nor illness is contagious]*

The bottom line is if your child is acting sick  and has a rash call your  Pediatrician  to weed through the various symptom and signs so as to get an idea as to causation.  If your child is not sick this can wait until the next day or two.

Note – there are a myriad of topics that would include the presence of a rash and if anyone has a particular area of interest and can let me know, I will narrow the post down next time.

 Photo credit: Auntie PCC license

How to Get Your Kids to “Hear” You

Getting our kids to listenIt’s a basic premise for successful parenting: You tell your kids what you want them to do, and they do it. But how often do you resort to yelling or pestering to get that result?

The problem may be you, not your kids, according to parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries and 22 other books. “We blame the kids for not listening; we tune in to them instead of ourselves,” says Borba. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What could I be doing?’ It’s not just what you say; it’s what you do.”

Getting kids to listen takes a time commitment on your part, both in terms of changing your behavior and getting your message across. These 9 steps will help you gain your children’s respect and compliance.

  1. Don’t ask; tell.
    Your kids shouldn’t be doing you a favor; they should be respecting what you say. So don’t turn your statements into questions. “Make sure your comment has a period after it,” says Borba. Watch out for that throwaway ending: “OK?”
  2. Lower your voice.
    It will catch their attention. “ They’re not used to you talking quietly; they’re used to you using the opposite tone,” says Borba.
  3. Be brief and clear.
    Keep it to 10 seconds. If you spend more time than that, they’ll tune you out.
  4. Make sure they’ve heard you.
    Have your kids parrot back what you’ve just said. You’ll know for sure they understand, and it will reinforce the message that you mean business. (Note: This step requires an additional 10-second time commitment on your part.)
  5. Look them in the eye.
    “Get eyeball-to-eyeball instead of talking across the room,” advises Borba. Squat or bend over to make direct contact if need be.
  6. Be realistic.
    If your child is engrossed in something — a game, a book, a TV show — don’t expect him to drop it instantly and swing around to listen to you. (Would you be able, or willing, to do the same if you were in the middle of something?)
  7. Stand your ground.
    Literally. If you don’t get timely compliance, go to your kids and plant your feet in front of them. You don’t have to say anything more. They’ll get the message and know you mean business. “Your expectation is that they stop what they’re doing and listen,” says Borba. “And you’re going to stand there until they do it.”
  8. Take action.
    If they still don’t budge, walk over and turn off the TV or take away the book. “You’re now retraining your kids: “You don’t listen, you don’t watch. This is how we behave,” says Borba.
  9. Model respectful behavior.
    Say “please” the first time you call for their attention or tell them what you want them to do. Say “thanks” when they do it. Think of what you’re showing your kids and ask yourself if you would want them to copy it.

It may take awhile for your kids to change their behavior, especially if they’ve been tuning you out for a long time. But it may also take you awhile to change yours. The good news is, according to Borba: It’s never too late to get your kids to listen to you and follow through. In the process, you just may teach them a thing or two about asking for, and expecting to be treated respectfully by others – and that would make this an invaluable lesson for both of you.

Rituals and Special Needs Kids: Stability in a Chaotic World

mom reads book to daughter in bedOne night as I flopped down next my daughter in her bed, I kissed her and said goodnight.  She wished me a goodnight back. There was a moment of silence during which I mentally listed all the household chores I still had waiting for me in the other room. Her sleepy voice interrupted my list. “You didn’t say it,” she objected.

“Say what?” I was totally confused. I had just said goodnight, what more did she want from me?

“You know…” she was waiting for a response. It took me a moment, but then I realized what she meant.

“Sweet dreams,” I said softly. She mumbled her wish for sweet dreams for me against her pillow. “I love you,” I concluded. She murmured that she loved me too, and I felt her body relax. We had completed the ritual, one that I had completely failed to realize we had adopted. But to her, this little exchange of phrases each night signaled to her brain that the day was over and that she could let go of all the tensions from the day.

We hear a lot about how important rituals are for very young children and also for special needs kids, and it makes sense. In a world that may feel like it is swirling out of their control, there are a few things they can count on. When those things happen predictably it makes them feel safe and they can relax. For those of us who lack this need for rituals it might help to put yourself in this scenario:

You are driving home one day, running late and expecting the cable guy. You anticipate seeing the usual landmarks  – the gas station, the bank where you almost unconsciously make your turn – but suddenly you realize that somehow you are on the wrong road! Sure, there’s a gas station but it’s not your gas station. Nothing is familiar. You are lost!

Scary, right? Now imagine that you are driving home, but this time you are on the correct road. You see that gas station and it makes you smile a bit internally. Then you see that familiar bank, and you ease into your turn. Ahhhhhh….

Certainly this is an exaggeration, but I hope it helps you to empathize with little ones and bigger ones with special needs who treasure these guideposts. I am trying to put aside my lists and my chores and see how else I can help my child feel comfortable in her world. Well, maybe after folding this last load of laundry…

**********************************************************************************************************************

**Editor’s Note:  COVID-19 is taking a toll on ALL our kids…and rituals can help. According to Bright Horizons article Talking to Children about COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) “Children need our calm, empathetic presence more than ever.  Maintain your typical routines as much as possible. Rituals like bedtime stories or after dinner games or walks anchor children in normalcy”.

Reducing Our Kids’ Worries About A Scary, Unpredictable World

Worried child in front of graffitiAs parents, we can reduce our kids’ worries about a sometimes mean, scary, unpredictable world and curb the growing “Mean World Syndrome”

Bombings. Power storms. Terrorism. War. School shootings. Pedophiles. Recession. Cyberbullying. Global warming. Tsunamis. Earthquakes. Sexual abuse, COVID-19.

It’s a scary world out there for us, but how do you think the kids are faring?

Let’s face it – we live in frightening, unpredictable times. But if you are feeling a bit jittery about violence, turbulent weather conditions, coronavirus, or a troubled economy, imagine how our kids must feel. Talk of uncertain times permeates the world around them. Graphic television images of sickness and terrifying events just reinforce their fears.

Think about it: this is the first generation of children who have watched broadcasts of school massacres, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and hospitals filled with sick and dying coronavirus patients from their own living rooms.

Make no mistake: the image of the world as a mean and scary place is affecting our kids’ well-being.

In fact, George Gerbner coined the term “Mean World Syndrome” to describe a phenomenon when violence-related content in the mass media makes viewers believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. And that syndrome seems to be one that our kids are catching.

Our Teens Weigh In About the Concerns For Our World

Several years ago I worked with the schools in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It was a glorious Norman Rockwell-type community. Picture perfect. Idyllic. Just plain wonderful. Street lamps are actually shaped like Hershey kisses. I spent time talking to students groups as I always do before addressing the parents, community and staff. It’s my way of getting a pulse on teen concerns.

I always ask the principals to give me a sample of the students so the focus group represents all genders, races, cliques, economics. I end up with a homecoming princess, a jock, a band kid, a theater student, a student council leader, a misfit. Kids. Just kids. And do they ever open up when they know someone is there to really listen.

“What are your concerns?” I asked them. And those teens began to share their worries:

“My grades.” “I don’t know if I’ll get the scholarship.” “I don’t want to let my parents down.” “Peer pressure.” “I don’t know if I’ll get into college,” they said.

“And what are your worries outside of this town?” I asked. “What concerns you about the world?”

The kids are in non-stop mode now and I’m running out of space just trying to jot down their concerns:

“Iraq.” “Iran.” “Global warming.” “Power storms!” “Terrorism.” “Violence.” “Prejudice.” “Sexual predators.” “Recession.” “Getting a job.” “Our future.”

Their “worry list” goes on and on. Then one boy stops us all with his question:

“Do you think we’ll ever live to see the future?,” he asks quietly. “I worry about that a lot. I don’t think our generation will.”

The look on every teen’s face says it all. Each child had the same concern. The fear on their faces has haunted me.

The Kids Are Worried Folks

We think kids don’t think about such “big” worries. Wrong. Those teens are no different than the hundreds of other teen focus groups in this country. And here’s proof.

A survey conducted by MTV and The Associated Press of over 1300 teens nationwide found that only 25 percent feel safe from terrorism  when traveling.

The vast majority of teens admitted that their world is far more difficult than the world their mom or dad grew up in. Just consider a child growing up today vs. yesterday. In the 1950s, a survey found that our children’s biggest fears were loud noises, snakes, insects, and a parent’s death. Fast forward fifty years later. The most pressing kid stressor today is still a parent’s death, but “violence” has now replaced loud noises and snakes.

But the biggest fear many teens report today: “I’ll never live to see the future.”

It hurts just to hear their top concern.

The New “Mean World Syndrome”

The fact is constantly hearing about troubling world events does more than just increase children’s anxiety.
It also alters their view of their world.

Many child experts are concerned that today’s children are developing what is called “Mean World Syndrome.”  It means our children perceive their world as a “Mean and Scary Place.”

Of course we can’t protect our kids and assure their safety, but we can help allay those fears and see their world in a more positive light.

Studies have shown that about 90 percent of all anxious children can be greatly helped by learning coping skills.

Here are a few parenting strategies you can use to help reduce your kids’ anxiety particularly in these uncertain times and help them develop a more positive outlook about their world.

Tips to Curb Kid Worries About a Scary World

1. Tune Into Your Child – Start by observing your child a bit closer when a frightening event occurs. For instance:

  • Is your child afraid to be left alone or of being in dark or closed places?
  • Does he have difficulty concentrating or is he excessively irritable?
  • Does she react fearfully to sudden noses, revert to immature behavior patterns, act out or have tantrums, or nightmares?
  • Is he bedwetting, withdrawing, crying excessively, or a experiencing a change in eating or sleeping habits?

Each child copes differently, so tune into your child’s behavior. Doing so will help you recognize how your son or daughter deals with life’s pressures and know when you should help to reduce those worries.

2. Monitor Scary News – Limit your child’s viewing of any news that features an alarming event (such as a kidnapping, pedophiles, makeshift morgues and tents setup in convention halls to treat the overflow of COVID-19 patients, etc). Monitor. Monitor. Monitor!

Studies show that seeing those violent images exacerbates anxiety and increases aggression in some kids and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in others.  And don’t assume because your kid is older, the news does not affect him.

A Time/Nickelodeon study found that preadolescents said that those TV news bulletins that interrupt regular programming were especially disturbing. They admitted being even more anxious if a parent wasn’t there to help explain the event to them.

If your kids do watch the news, watch with them to answer their questions. Be there!

Also, monitor also your conversation with other adults so your kid doesn’t overhear your concerns.

3. Keep Yourself Strong – Don’t expect to be able to help allay your kids’ anxiety, unless you keep your own in check.Are you watching what you eat and reducing anxiety-increasers such as caffeine and sugar, exercising, getting enough rest, seeking the support of friends, or spending a quiet moment alone?

Remember, you can tell your kids you’re not worried about those world events or a troubled economy, but unless your behavior sends the same message your words have no meaning.

Our parenting priority must be to keep ourselves so we can keep our kids’ strong. That means we need to reduce our harried, hurried schedules so can model calmness to our kids. So just cut out one thing – be it the book club, the violin lessons, or cooking the “gourmet dinner” every night. Just reduce one thing! Your kids mirror your behavior and will be calmer if you are calmer.

4. Be Emotionally Present – Don’t assume because your child isn’t talking about the latest news tragedy or the recession, that he isn’t hearing about it. Chances are he is and he needs to get the facts straight. You are the best source for that information. Your child also needs to know that it is okay to share his feelings with you and that it’s normal to be upset.

You might start the dialogue with a simple: “What have you heard?” or “What are your friends saying?”

You don’t need to explain more than your child is ready to hear. What’s most important is letting your child know you are always available to listen or answers his concerns.

5. Do Something Proactive As a Family – One of the best ways to reduce feelings of anxiety is to help kids find proactive ways to allay their fears. It also empowers kids to realize they can make a difference in a world that might appear scary or unsafe.

  • Put together a “care package” to send to a health-care hero (a supermarket gift card, home-made masks and a hand-written note of appreciation).
  • Adopt the elderly neighbor and leave a batch of homemade cookies outside her door.
  • Or have your kids help you send “hugs” (a teddy bear, crayons, coloring book) to a child who has just lost all her earthly possessions in a flood, tornado, fire or is quarantined at home with a parent in the hospital.

6. Pass on Good News Reports – Draw your child’s attention to stories of heroism and compassion – those wonderful simple gestures of love and hope that people do for one another (that seem to always be on the back page of the paper). Find those uplifting stories in the newspaper and share them with your child.

A wonderful time to review them is right before your child goes to sleep. You can also encourage your kids to watch for little actions of kindness they see others do and report them at the dinner table. Many families call these “Good News Reports.”

It’s important to assure your children that there’s more to the world than threats and fear. Your actions can make a big difference in helping to send them that message.

7. Teach Anxiety-Reducing Techniques – Anxiety is an inevitable part of life, but in times like these those worries can be overwhelming. Here are just a few techniques you can help your child learn to use to cope with worries:

• Self-talk. Teach your child to say a statement inside her head to help her stay calm and handle the worries. Here are a few:

“Chill out, calm down.”

“I can do this.”

“Stay calm and breathe slowly.”

“It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

“Go away worry. You can’t get me!”

• Worry melting. Ask your kid to find the spot in his body where he feels the most tension; perhaps his neck, shoulder muscles, or jaw. He then closes his eyes, concentrates on the spot, tensing it up for three or four seconds, and then lets it go. While doing so, tell him to imagine the worry slowly melting away. Yoga or deep breathing exercises seem to be helpful for girls.

• Visualize a calm place. Ask your kid to think of an actual place he’s been where he feels peaceful. For instance: the beach, his bed, grandpa’s backyard, a tree house. When anxiety kicks in, tell him to close his eyes, imagine that spot, while breathing slowly and letting the worry fly slowly away.

Final Thoughts

These are tough times for everyone — but especially for our kids. World events are unpredictable. Tragedies seem to be all the news. As much as we’d like to protect our children, unfortunately there are some things we can’t control. What we can do is help our children learn strategies to cope and those tools will build our children’s resilience to handle whatever comes their way.

Anxious kids are two to four times more likely to develop depression, and, as teens, are much more likely to become involved with substance abuse.

Anxiety symptoms are showing up in kids as young as three years.

If your child shows signs of anxiety for more than a few weeks or if you’re concerned, don’t wait. Seek professional help. Please.

Now take three slow deep breaths. What’s your first step to help your family?

****************************************************************************************************************************

Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180Dr 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.

“My Body Belongs to Me” Children’s Book: Prevent The Unthinkable

Last updated on May 4th, 2020 at 11:49 am

As a former prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes in New York City for 22 years, I often encountered My Body Belongs to Me-small2children who were sexually abused for lengthy periods of time and suffered in silence. One case in particular had a profound impact on me and compelled me to write a children’s book called My Body Belongs to Me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editor’s Note: This powerful book is now available in bilingual English – Spanish; just in time for April’s Child Abuse Prevention Month.  My Body Belongs to Me/Mi cuerpo me pertenece

HEALTHFUL HINTS:

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