The Family Support Council, Inc.
 
 P.O. Box 1707, Dalton, Georgia  30722-1707
 
Serving Whitfield and Murray Counties in Northwest Georgia
 

A Family Resource Agency made up of programs designed to build strong families

Home

About FSC

Programs at FSC

FSC Successes

FSC Staff

Location and Directions

Giving to FSC

Board of Directors

Special Needs Resources

What's Happening At FSC?

Ask Mr. Bartley

Early Literacy Initiative

Toast of the Town Honorees

 

"Ask Mr. Bartley"

(A reprint of the "Ask Mr. Bartley" column in the Daily Citizen News, Dalton, Georgia)

Tom Bartley is a retired educator and currently is the director of the Success By 6 Program, located at the Family Support Council, 1529 Waring Road in Dalton.  He can be reached at P.O. Box 1707, Dalton, Georgia 30722 or successby6@email.com 

April 2014

Just as you inoculate your kids against illnesses like measles and mumps, you can help "immunize" them against drug use by giving them the facts before they're in a risky situation.  Drug abuse among teens continues to be a significant problem.  Teens, even middle schoolers, are abusing both illegal drugs (like marijuana and synthetic marijuana) and legal drugs (like Adderall, Vicodin, and alcohol).  In addition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths involving heroin overdoses are increasing dramatically among teens and young adults.  Also, young people are using a drink called “sizzurp” to get high.  Doctors are warning that the drink with the funny sounding name, which is made by combining soda, candy, and prescription cough syrup with codeine in it, can be deadly.     

 

When kids don't feel comfortable talking to parents, they're likely to seek answers elsewhere, and their sources may very likely be unreliable. Kids who aren't properly informed are at greater risk of engaging in unsafe behaviors and experimenting with drugs. Parents who are educated about the effects of drug use and learn the facts can help correct any misconceptions children may have.

 

Make talking about drugs a part of your general health and safety conversations with your child. Parents are role models for their children so your views on alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs can strongly influence the views of your child.

 

Preschool to age 7 You've probably already laid the groundwork for a discussion with your young children. For instance, whenever you give a fever medication or an antibiotic to your child, you have the opportunity to discuss the benefits and the appropriate and responsible use of those drugs. This is also a time when your child is likely to be very attentive to your behavior and guidance.

 

Start taking advantage of "teachable moments" now. For example, if you see a character on a billboard or on TV with a cigarette, talk about smoking, nicotine addiction, and what smoking does to a person's body. This can lead into a discussion about other drugs and how they can potentially cause harm.

Keep the tone of these discussions calm and use terms that your child can understand. Be specific about the effects of the drugs: how they make a person feel, the risk of overdose, and the other long-term damage they can cause.

 

Ages 8 to 12: As your kids grow older, you can begin conversations with them by asking them what they think about drugs. By asking the questions in a nonjudgmental, open-ended way, you're more likely to get an honest response.

 

Kids this age usually are still willing to talk openly to their parents about touchy subjects. Establishing a dialogue now helps keep the door open as kids get older and are less inclined to share their thoughts and feelings with you.

 

Even if your question doesn't immediately result in a discussion, you'll get your kids thinking about the issue. If you show your kids that you're willing to discuss the topic and hear what they have to say, they might be more willing to come to you for help in the future.

 

News, such as steroid use in professional sports and other drug related stories, can be springboards for casual conversations about current events. Use these discussions to give your kids information about the risks of drugs.

 

Ages 13 to 17: Kids this age are likely to know other kids who use alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs and to have friends who drive. Many are still willing to express their thoughts or concerns with parents about it.

 

Use these conversations not only to understand your child's thoughts and feelings, but also to talk about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Talk about the legal issues — jail time and fines — and the possibility that they or someone else might be killed or seriously injured.

 

Consider establishing a written or verbal contract on the rules about going out or using the car. You can promise to pick your kids up at any time (even 2:00 AM!) no questions asked if they call you when the person responsible for driving has been drinking or using drugs.

 

The contract also can detail other situations: For example, if you find out that someone drank or used drugs in your car while your son or daughter was behind the wheel, you may want to suspend driving privileges for awhile. By discussing all of this with your kids from the start, you eliminate surprises and make your expectations clear.

 

No parent, child, or family is immune to the effects of drugs. Some of the “best” kids from the “best” families can and do end up in trouble, even when they have made an effort to avoid it and even when they have been given the proper guidance from their parents.

 

It's important to lay the groundwork.  Know your child's friends — and their parents. Be involved in your children's lives.  Pay attention to how your kids are feeling and let them know that you're available and willing to listen in a nonjudgmental way. Recognize when your kids are going through difficult times so that you can provide the support they need or seek additional care if it's needed.

 

Role-playing can help your child develop strategies to turn down drugs if they are offered. Act out possible scenarios they may encounter. Helping them construct phrases and responses to say no prepares them to know how to respond before they are even in that situation.

 

A warm, open family environment — where kids are encouraged to talk about their feelings, where their achievements are praised, and where their self-esteem is bolstered — encourages kids to come forward with their questions and concerns. When censored in their own homes, kids go elsewhere to find support and answers to their most important questions.

 

Make talking and having conversations with your children a regular part of your day. Finding time to do things you enjoy together as a family helps everyone stay connected and maintain open communication.  Family meals are a great time to have discussions about many things with your children.

 

On Saturday, April 26, some law enforcement officials and the Whitfield and Murray Family Connections are sponsoring a local Drug Take Back Day in conjunction with the DEA’s National Drug Take Back Day.  Sites will be available in both counties for people to come and dispose of old and unused prescription drugs in a safe and environmentally friendly way between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.  This event was held the last two years and both years several hundred pounds of drugs were turned in.  Drug Take Back helps get rid of drugs in our community that our young people might get their hands on and abuse.  More information about the day will be forthcoming.  Please be watching.     

 

If you are looking for more resources for you or your child, be sure to talk to your doctor.  In addition, two good websites are www.drugabuse.gov and www.drugfree.org.

February 2014

Valentine's Day

"I love you" are three words all children need to hear very often from their parents. Around Valentine’s Day, it seems appropriate to have a column on this topic.  Do you want those words to have real meaning to your child?  Do you want to use these words to develop a level of intimacy in your family that communicates your heartfelt affection for your children? If so, consider strengthening I love you with the following suggestions.  This information is adapted from an article by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller, the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose.

1.)    Use eye contact. Give your children your eyes when you say, "I love you." When meaningful eye contact is made during moments of intimacy, it's a way of connecting that helps you bond.  Use your eyes to “touch your child.”

2.)    Touch. A pat on the back, a hug, or a high-five will add meaning to verbal expressions of love. So will a slight squeeze of the shoulder or a kiss. Take your child's hand in yours when you say, "I love you," and add a tactile component to your words.

3.)   
Use names. The sweetest sound in any language is the sound of your own name. Names get our attention and build connectedness. Sadly, some children only hear their own names when they are in trouble. ("William, you better get in here!") Add your child's name to your expression of love. "I love you, Carlos," or "Sally, I really love you." Watch their reactions. Their facial expressions will encourage you to continue the practice of adding your child's name to "I love you."

4.)   
Add nonverbal signals to your spoken message. Smile, wink, and add pleasant facial expressions to your words. Make sure the message on your face is congruent with the one coming out of your mouth.

5.)   
Do not use the word when as part of your vocal communication of love.  "I love you when you smile like that" or "When you choose that happy mood, I love you" can send a message to your children that your love is conditional. What children often hear is "I only love you when…." To love unconditionally, say "I love you" without any condition attached.

6.)   
Remove the word but from your description of love. "I love you, but…." is usually followed by a concern, problem, or frustration. When we express our love along with a concern, we send a mixed message. When we do this, children get confused and conclude that the love part is a manipulation intended to soften them up before the real message is delivered.

7.)   
Add because you are loveable to your manner of expressing love. "I love you because you are loveable" is an important concept for children to learn. It helps them understand that your love is attached to no specific condition. It simply is. Be careful not to add any other words after because. "I love you because you are thoughtful" adds a condition that communicates conditional love. The only acceptable phrase to use with because is because you are loveable

8.)   
 Say "I love you" at unexpected times. Children often hear our expressions of love at familiar times. We typically say "I love you" when we are going out the door on our way to work. We say it when we end a phone conversation. "I love you" is often the last communication our children hear as we tuck them into bed at night. Saying "I love you" at those times is often expected and certainly anticipated. To heighten the impact of these three valuable words, use them at unexpected times. Say them in the middle of a meal, as you are driving down the road in your car, or as you stand at the kitchen sink doing dishes together.

Some children are auditory and need to hear the words "I love you." Others are tactile and need to be touched to feel loved. Still others are visual and need to see love on your face and in your actions. Why not give your children all three variations when you communicate your love?

One of your most important gifts as a parent is to help your child develop self-esteem. Your child needs your steady support and encouragement to discover his strengths. He needs you to believe in him as he learns to believe in himself. Loving him, spending time with him, listening to him, and praising his accomplishments are all part of this process.

January 2014

The following New Year’s resolutions for kids are from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

 

Preschoolers

I will clean up my toys.

 

I will brush my teeth twice a day, wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating, and clean up my messes right away.

 

I won't tease the family dog or even a friendly dog, and I will avoid being bitten by keeping my fingers and face away from his mouth.

 

School Age Kids:

I will drink milk and water, and limit soda and fruit drinks.

 

I will spend a couple of minutes every morning and afternoon applying sunscreen before I go outdoors, even in winter. I will try to stay in the shade whenever possible and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I'm playing sports.

 

I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like jumping rope, dancing, or riding my bike) that I like and do it at least three times a week!

 

I will always wear protective gear--especially a helmet--when cycling, scooting or roller blading.

 

I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car. I'll use a booster seat until I can correctly use a lap/shoulder seat belt.

 

I'll be nice to other kids. It's easier and more fun than being mean, and I'll feel better about myself.

 

I'll never give out personal information such as my name, home address, school name, or telephone number in an Internet chat room or on an Internet bulletin board. Also, I'll never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer without my parent's permission.

 

If I come across an unsupervised gun, or another child with a gun, I will not touch the gun and get help from a parent or trusted adult.

 

Teens:

I will eat at least one fruit and one vegetable every day, and I will limit the amount of soda I drink.

 

I will take care of my body through sports, fitness and nutrition.

 

I will choose non-violent television shows and video games, and I will only spend one to two hours each day-AT THE MOST-on these activities.

 

I will check to see if I can give away any of my unwanted clothes and shoes to those in need.

 

I will wipe negative "self talk" (i.e. "I can't do it" or "I'm so dumb") out of my vocabulary.

 

Whenever I am feeling angry or stressed out, I will take a break and look for constructive ways to feel better, such as exercising, reading, writing in a journal, or talking out my problem with a parent or friend. 

 

When faced with a difficult decision I will talk to an adult about the options I may have.

 

I will be smart about whom I choose to date.

 

I will resist peer pressure to try drugs and alcohol.

 

Parents, resolve to go over these resolutions with your kids and help them remember to practice them.

December 2013

Give Presence, Not Presents

Christmas is fast approaching, and many parents may be concerned about their family's financial situation and the money problems they may be experiencing this holiday season. This column is adapted from an article by Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman, parenting experts.

The giving of gifts during the holiday season is an honored tradition. However, if you are wondering what gifts to give if you have to tighten your money belt, then maybe the answer lies in the gifts that are given. Give children what they really want from their parents: presence, not presents.  All children spell love T-I-M-E. What we parents can give to our children is our attention, our availability, our closeness, and our time.

Are you being fully present with your children? Can you let go of your worries about money? Can you suspend your agenda to focus on theirs? Can you learn to be there for and with your children?

Consider the following suggestions as a way to give the most important present this holiday season, your presence.

1. Be there regardless of what you are doing. The holiday season requires an added measure of balancing kids' schedules, visiting family, and cooking, as well as keeping u the regular requirements of work, laundry, cleaning, everyday cooking, etc. When feeling pulled in several directions, many parents turn to multitasking. Avoid the urge to multitask and strive to stay focused on the moment at hand. When you sit with your children, whether it's to play a game or read a book, give them your undivided attention.

2. Make a "be" choice. How you choose to "be" affects whatever you choose to "do." When you are with your children, choose to be interested in what they are interested in. Choose to be happy that you have the time to focus on their needs and wants. Choose to be excited about the time you have with them. Even when misbehavior occurs in your children, choose to be glad you have the opportunity to help them learn a new behavior or a new way to communicate a desire or express a feeling.

3. Focus on listening rather than telling. Children spend a great portion of their day following directions: pick up your clothes, make your bed, sit down, be quiet, go play, chew with your mouth closed, stop picking on your brother, hang up your coat, brush your teeth. To kids, the list of commands seems unending. Remember, children have valuable things to say too. Many times parents get so focused on telling that they forget to listen. Value your child's opinions. Allow them opportunities to vent. Embrace their points of view. Invite suggestions. Listen to their voices.

4. Connect physically. Touch is a powerful way to communicate "I love you." Get close and touch your children's heart with a warm embrace or gentle squeeze of the shoulder. Snuggle under a blanket and read together. Go for a walk and hold hands. Wrestle on the living room floor. Dispense hugs, smiles, winks, and an occasional high five.

5. Connect emotionally. Feelings are always more important than things. Create an environment where it is safe to be emotional. Encourage the expression of feelings. Allow your feelings to extend to your children as you share traditions, reflect on holidays past, and gather as a family. Demonstrate empathy, compassion, and understanding.

6. Unplug from the electronic world. The television, computer, video games, and other electronic gadgets have the potential to create a disconnect from personal interaction. Stand up, walk away from the TV, and go shoot baskets, skip rope, go for a walk, read a book, play a board game or card game, or ride bikes with your child. While riding in the care, tell your child a story about the day you were born, relate a favorite holiday memory, sing, or play 20 questions.

7. Play by the kids' rules. Play with your children at their level. Make mud pies, jump in rain puddles, roll down a hill, spray whipped cream on the kitchen table and join in the creation of artistic designs, and then eat them! Cover the driveway in sidewalk chalk. Let your children take the lead and change the rules of a game if they want. Know that play, no matter how childish or silly it may appear, is an investment in connecting with your children. Play regularly with your kids, and remember that the reason for play  is to play, not to win.

Make a commitment this holiday season to give the best gift you can give by being present in your child's life. Be active and interactive on a daily basis with your  children. Be the parent God called you to be. Give your presence, not presents!

November 2013

Thanksgiving Cooking

Almost everyone does some Thanksgiving cooking, but why not change the menu a bit? Spice it up. Add something new. Increase the variety.  This column last Thanksgiving, but it bears repeating.

How about cooking up a huge batch of connectedness? Share family stories. Invite people to tell about their favorite Thanksgiving. Get people to work in teams on a treasure hunt. Have everyone put what they are thankful for on a file card. Collect them and read them aloud. Have people guess who wrote each one as they are read.

Peel the skins off your grievances and put them in the garbage disposal. Still angry about something someone did two years ago? It's time to let it go. Upset because someone else did something you didn’t agree with? It's time to peel off the layers of that and begin again.

Don't allow judgment to stew in its own juices all day. Work on changing your mind rather than changing others. Let your judgment chill out in the refrigerator.

Serve the sustenance in the right order. Lead with empathy first.  Solving problems, fixing things, and making amends can come later, after the important hors d’oeuvre of empathy is dished out in ample amounts.

Don't allow resentment to boil over. Ask for help if you need it. Invite others to take an active role in cooking and cleaning up. Don't give something that has the hidden price of resentment attached to it. When you give, give with an open heart.

Liberally add doses of language that affirm and uplift. Verbally appreciate, send affection, and offer acknowledgment. Isn't it time to add some food for the soul?  

How about serving up some Grade A conversation? Eliminate gossip and talking about others in a negative way. When you improve the quality of the conversation, you improve the quality of our lives.

Refuse to mash what is there. Whatever is there, let that be what you want. What is, is. To emotionally demand something else will burn your energy and darken your attitude.

Serve up one meaningful thing this day that helps someone enjoy a better moment, a better day, or a better life. You are the chef and the server. You get to decide what you feed your family and friends on this particular day.

Prepare Thanksgiving from a get to rather than a have to attitude.  You get to go grocery shopping. You don’t have to. You get to see relatives and friends. You get to watch all the kids interact and learn lessons about cooperation and sharing, or not.

Let Thanksgiving simmer slowly. Don't turn it into a microwave experience. There is no need for hurry up this day. Savor it. 

Above all else, cook, talk, eat, relax, play, listen, entertain, clean up, pray, and share appreciation and thankfulness with love in your heart. You are worth it. And so is your family.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

October 2013

Every Child a Winner at School

Successful students begin at home, not at school. The expectations you set, the environment you create, the examples you project and the involvement you display — all of these things contribute to helping your child become a strong student.  Much of this information is from an article by Holly Zwerling, LMFT, LCSW

Moms are often the parent most involved in a child's education, but it shouldn’t be that way. Fathers can make a big difference in influencing academic outcomes. Research very clearly states that when fathers are involved in their children's learning, children do better in school.  Too many educators say the only time they see fathers is when there is a performance at school and their child is in it.  Both parents need to understand the importance of sharing the role of educator for their children.

There's more to making learning a priority than checking your child's report card or signing test papers. Whether you are a mom or a dad, here are some things you can do to help create a healthy learning environment at home and support your child at every age.

Demonstrate your interest in learning. Read in front of your children and discuss the new things you learn.  Talk about things around you. Get excited about your discoveries. Speak to your children about what they see, read, or learn in school.

Set aside time. No matter how busy you are, carve out time to talk about what your child is learning at school. Have him or her explain it to you in detail. Let this be a time to share each other's day and connect with few interruptions. Listen to your children as if they were teaching you. Thank them for the information, which will add value to it.

Encourage their participation. Children need to have an accepting environment in which they can take risks in answering questions and get positive feedback for trying. Children who have opportunities to speak up at home are more comfortable in expressing themselves and sharing their ideas. This interaction prepares them to be active participants in school.

Allow children to make mistakes. Be understanding of your children's errors in a non-threatening way and help them learn from their mistakes. They should never be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions or try new things. Take ownership of your own mistakes and show how you, too, are always striving to be better.

Create a learning environment. Have books around the house and share which ones are your favorites. Read together daily, just for fun. Talk about new topics and experiences to increase your children's vocabulary and comprehension. They will feel more prepared to handle their schoolwork.

Use your imagination. Make up stories and songs together. They will become special between you. In this way you encourage your child's imagination, creativity and sense of humor, which will help him with his writing in school and at home.

Encourage independence. You may not be available after school, when it's time for your child to do homework. That's not necessarily a bad thing. This is your child's work, not yours. Express confidence that your child can tackle any assignment, and review the work together when you can. Praise your child's efforts to deal with his or her assignments, even if some of the answers are incorrect. Instead of saying, "That's wrong!" say, "I'm proud of you for working on this on your own, and you almost got it right. Let's try again or figure it out together."

Focus on your child's learning. Be attentive while reviewing your child's homework. Designate a time when you will have few or no interruptions so your child can look forward to working with you. By doing so you are demonstrating how important you think learning is. Also, you are teaching your child the importance of being attentive and focused, which will help in school.

Demonstrate your work ethic. Every child struggles with some subject sometime. It can be frustrating, but you want to teach your child to persevere. Be patient, and work on finding answers or practicing together. Be honest when you don't know something, and show your own willingness to learn. Hold your child accountable for getting help from the teacher and for finishing assignments.

Apply learning to life experiences. Help kids see connections between what they learn at school and what they do daily. Show them how knowing math can help them to save money. Knowing how to read is important if you want to write a letter to a favorite friend or relative. Work together in the same space so your child can observe you doing your own "homework," even if it's just paying the bills or writing a grocery list.

Be aware of your child's capabilities and challenges. All children have different learning styles, temperaments, and learning capabilities. To be of maximum support to your children, speak to your child's teachers, counselors, pediatrician, etc. to get information about his progress and how best to work with your child.

Get involved in your child's school. Children feel special when you come to their school, visit their classroom or volunteer for positive reasons. Participating in school is for your child's benefit, not just the school's, so find the time. This is another way to be there for your children and see firsthand what their learning environment is like.

Parent from a distance if necessary.  Even if there is distance between you because of military service, incarceration, or separation from your child’ other parent, it is important for you to stay involved in your child's life and school. Use Skype or Face Time. Share stories of your daily activities. Send books (homemade or bought) with personal notes encouraging your child to read. Promise to talk about the books after you both read them — and don't forget to do it. Meanwhile, hold your child responsible for homework and doing his best in your absence.

Sharing responsibility for raising children means both moms and dads working together to provide the home advantage for their children.  The investment you make in your children's academic future by being a hands-on parent will be the best investment you will ever make."

August 2013

Six Ingredients for Strong Families

The recipe for building stronger families has six ingredients. Mix them carefully and watch your family grow closer.  This information is adapted from an article from Americanbaby.com.

 1. Make Family Your Priority:   "The pledge to the family comes first," says Nick Stinnett, professor of human development and family studies at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

To build commitment, you can:

  • Cut back on outside activities so family members can devote time and energy to each other.
  • If something needs to be done around the house, whoever has time to do it does it.
  • Make a big deal of holidays. This creates many happy memories.
  • Develop a family vision. Put your family's dreams into writing.

2. Express Appreciation and Affection:  "Strong families are good diamond hunters," Stinnett says. "They dig through the rough looking for the good in each other." Here's how:

  • Declare "appreciation" nights. Everyone around the table says something they like about another.
  • Write down 5 things you like about your partner and your kids
  • Parents, be good role models. Appreciate your partner and your kids, and they'll follow suit.
  • Accept appreciation gracefully.

3. Share Positive Communication:  Keeping conversation positive, rather than hostile and derisive, will enable the other person to feel more respected and encourage sharing of thoughts.

  • Make sure you don't discourage others by interrupting, mind-reading, or going off on monologues. If you wouldn't do that to friends or co-workers, don't do it at home.
  • Keep a family journal. Chronicle the little things, like a baby book that keeps growing.

4. Spend Time Together:  It's trite but true: quantity counts as much as quality when it comes to family togetherness. Here are some ways to increase the amount and quality of time you spend together:

  • Plan group activities.
  • Do nothing -- together. "Think back to your childhood and you'll realize that your happiest memories probably involve times when you were doing 'nothing,' perhaps sorting socks with your mom," Stinnett says. "That's when you could talk in an unhurried way."

5. Nurture Spiritual Well-Being:  Powerful families may band together, but they're open to the needs of others. Families with a sense that there is a reason for life beyond mere existence will be more likely to encourage one another to focus on what's really important. To reach that level:

  • Participate in a faith community or discuss spiritual issues at home. Pray.  Study your traditional religious literature and sing together.
  • Teach responsibility. Kids will be less self-involved if you remind them of the world beyond them, Stinnett says. So give time, “muscle”, and money to a cause -- and encourage the same from your kids.

6. Learn to Cope with Stress:  Crises cause the strong to unite, which makes them all the more powerful. Follow these guidelines:

  • Don't take conflict personally. Realize that disagreements aren't personal.
  • Get enough sleep and exercise.
  • Laugh. Look for the humor in any situation.

And remember: refocus your priorities. What's important when your kids are preschoolers will change as they grow older. Your needs will change, too, as you move from a new parent to that of an empty-nester. Make sure your family's goals meet everyone's needs.

June 2013

Discipline Strategies

Last month the column discussed the latest study to show the negative effects that physical punishment can have on children.  We often think of punishment and discipline as the same; however, they are really quite different.  Discipline is a whole system of teaching based on a good relationship, praise, and instruction for the child on how to control his behavior.  Punishment is a negative: an unpleasant consequence for doing or not doing something.  Punishment should be only a small part of discipline.

Effective discipline should take place all the time, not just when children misbehave.  Research shows that children are more likely to change their behavior when they feel encouraged and valued.  When children feel good about themselves and cherish their relationship with their parents, they are much more likely to listen and learn.  Much of this information is from the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Here are some discipline strategies to use that do not involve hitting your child.    

·      Natural consequences.  The results that naturally occur from a child’s behavior without the parent doing anything.  If she throws and breaks her toy, she will not have it to play with.  If she spills her juice on purpose, she will not have the juice to drink.

·      Logical consequences.  Those results a parent provides to teach children what logically follows misbehavior.  Logical consequences are logical results of the child’s actions.  If he writes on the wall, he cleans it up.   

·      Loss of privilege.  The child has to give up something she likes.

·      Parental disappointment.  The parent makes a simple statement that expresses the disappointment the parent has in the child’s behavior.  “I am really disappointed that I had to ask you three times to pick up your toys.”

·      Restitution.  If you dirty it, you clean it.  If you leave it on the floor, you pick it up and put it away.  If you break it purposefully, you pay for it.  Young children can “pay for it” by doing age-appropriate chores.   

·      Being grounded.  When a young child deliberately leaves the yard without permission, or when a teenager breaks curfew without calling, an appropriate punishment is being grounded to the house, yard, or room.

·      Redirection.  When a young child is doing something unacceptable, try to call attention to another activity such as playing with a toy or looking at a book.

·      Ignoring.  Behavior that is not harmful to the child or others can often be ignored.  If children do not get attention for their negative behavior, it will often stop.

·      Time-out.  A time out is a temporary isolation of the child from others because he has chosen to act inappropriately.  The time-out spot should be a boring place with no distractions.  Tell the child what he did wrong in as few words as possible.  If the child will not go on his own, pick him up and carry him there.  If he will not stay, gently but firmly restrain him in your lap, saying, “I am holding you because you have to have a time out.”  Do not discuss it any further.  Once the child is sitting quietly, set a timer.  Wait until the child stops protesting before setting the timer.  It should take only a couple of weeks before he learns to cooperate and will choose to sit quietly rather than be held.  A good rule of thumb to follow is to set the timer for one minute of time out for every year of age. You can increase the time for repeated or serious infractions.  Do not overuse time outs.  They work best when other responses have not worked.  Time outs can also be helpful if the parent needs a break to stay calm.   

·      Choices.  By giving choices, you can set limits and still allow your child some independence and control.  For example, try saying, “Would you like to wear the blue shirt or the red one?” “Do you want cereal for breakfast or scrambled eggs?”

·      Material rewards.  Sometimes material rewards such as stickers can be used, but be very careful with material rewards.  They need to be used judiciously.  Your child might come to expect them in order to behave properly.

·      Praise your child often.  When your child remembers to follow the rules and exhibits the kind of behavior you want from her, offer encouragement and praise on how well she did.  You can simply say, “Thank you for coming right away,” and hug your child.  Praising, smiling, and hugging for acceptable behavior should be frequent, especially for young children.  The old adage “catch them being good” is, indeed, true.  If children are getting positive reinforcement for doing what they are supposed to do, they will not feel the need to act inappropriately to get attention. 

If you have questions or concerns, talk to your child’s pediatrician. 

May 2013

The Long Term Effects of Spanking

Pushing, grabbing, slapping, shoving, and other types of physical punishment may increase a child's risk for developing several types of emotional problems as he or she ages, a new study shows.  I am sharing this new research that is being done on physical punishment.  You can do with it whatever you choose.  It always perplexes me that this is a subject that seems to get many people angry.  When I have done a column in the past on this subject, I have often gotten hostile emails and phone calls.  Many people seem to feel quite deeply that physical punishment for their children is okay; and as I said, that’s your prerogative as a parent.  You do, however, need to be aware of the new research that is being done on this subject.   

The type of harsh physical punishment they are talking about in this study is different from physical and sexual abuse or neglect, which we know is devastating, but it still has lasting repercussions.

The findings appear in the August 2012 Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"We should not be using physical punishment on children of any age," says researcher Tracie O. Afifi, PhD. She is an assistant professor in the department of community health sciences at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Researchers surveyed more than 34,650 adults about their childhood experiences, including how often they were physically punished by a parent or any adult living in the house. Of these, 5.9% said they were physically punished, but not abused, as kids. Participants were also asked about mood, anxiety, and personality disorders as well alcohol and drug abuse.

Those individuals who were punished physically as kids were more likely to have mental or emotional problems. According to the findings, as many as 7% of mental disorders were related to physical punishment. "This type of punishment was associated with poor mental outcomes and several mental disorders almost uniformly across the board," Afifi says.

There are age-appropriate ways to discipline children. Afifi often recommends positive reinforcement, or rewarding good behaviors, as opposed to punishing bad ones.

"It is really important to make sure that what you are doing is appropriate for that age or development level," she says.

"The same act of physical punishment in a 4-year-old can be abuse in a 6-month-old," says Andrew Adesman, MD. He is the chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in Lake Success, N.Y. Something that might be acceptable in one age group crosses the line in another.

It's not enough just to tell parents that harsh physical punishment is harmful, he says. Parents need to know how to discipline their children. This starts with setting clear expectations with clear consequences.

Time-outs -- when done properly -- can be effective in preschool- and grade-school-aged children.

"A good rule of thumb is one minute for every year of age," he says. "Time-outs should occur in a safe, central location where the child can be observed."

When is a time-out not a time-out?

"Sending your child to his or her room is not a time-out." Also, "don't engage or negotiate with a child when he or she is in time-out. It's a time for quiet reflection," Adesman says.  A time out place in a quiet, boring location is best.

Daniel L. Coury, MD, says that the effects of extreme physical abuse in children on future risk for behavioral disorders are well-established. He is a professor of clinical pediatrics and psychiatry at Ohio State University and Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.  But this recent study shows that harsh physical discipline not classified as abuse also has long-term consequences. "It's not just a red mark on a child today; it has a long-lasting effect," he says. "You are causing harm and increasing your child's risk of lifelong mental problems."

If you have questions about this study, check with your child’s pediatrician.

Next month I will give you some discipline strategies that you can use that do not involve physical punishment.

April 2013

Just as you inoculate your kids against illnesses like measles and mumps, you can help "immunize" them against drug use by giving them the facts before they're in a risky situation.  Drug abuse among teens continues to be a significant problem.  Teens, even middle schoolers, are abusing both illegal drugs (like marijuana and synthetic marijuana) and legal drugs (like Adderall, Vicodin, and alcohol).

When kids don't feel comfortable talking to parents, they're likely to seek answers elsewhere, and their sources may very likely be unreliable. Kids who aren't properly informed are at greater risk of engaging in unsafe behaviors and experimenting with drugs. Parents who are educated about the effects of drug use and learn the facts can help correct any misconceptions children may have.

Make talking about drugs a part of your general health and safety conversations with your child. Parents are role models for their children so your views on alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs can strongly influence the views of your child.

Preschool to age 7:  Before you get nervous about talking to young kids, take heart. You've probably already laid the groundwork for a discussion. For instance, whenever you give a fever medication or an antibiotic to your child, you have the opportunity to discuss the benefits and the appropriate and responsible use of those drugs. This is also a time when your child is likely to be very attentive to your behavior and guidance.

Start taking advantage of "teachable moments" now. For example, if you see a character on a billboard or on TV with a cigarette, talk about smoking, nicotine addiction, and what smoking does to a person's body. This can lead into a discussion about other drugs and how they can potentially cause harm.

Keep the tone of these discussions calm and use terms that your child can understand. Be specific about the effects of the drugs: how they make a person feel, the risk of overdose, and the other long-term damage they can cause. To give your kids these facts, you might have to do a little research.

Ages 8 to 12: As your kids grow older, you can begin conversations with them by asking them what they think about drugs. By asking the questions in a nonjudgmental, open-ended way, you're more likely to get an honest response.

Kids this age usually are still willing to talk openly to their parents about touchy subjects. Establishing a dialogue now helps keep the door open as kids get older and are less inclined to share their thoughts and feelings with you.

Even if your question doesn't immediately result in a discussion, you'll get your kids thinking about the issue. If you show your kids that you're willing to discuss the topic and hear what they have to say, they might be more willing to come to you for help in the future.

News, such as steroid use in professional sports and other drug related stories, can be springboards for casual conversations about current events. Use these discussions to give your kids information about the risks of drugs.

Ages 13 to 17: Kids this age are likely to know other kids who use alcohol, marijuana, and drugs and to have friends who drive. Many are still willing to express their thoughts or concerns with parents about it.

Use these conversations not only to understand your child's thoughts and feelings, but also to talk about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Talk about the legal issues — jail time and fines — and the possibility that they or someone else might be killed or seriously injured.

Consider establishing a written or verbal contract on the rules about going out or using the car. You can promise to pick your kids up at any time (even 2:00 AM!) no questions asked if they call you when the person responsible for driving has been drinking or using drugs.

The contract also can detail other situations: For example, if you find out that someone drank or used drugs in your car while your son or daughter was behind the wheel, you may want to suspend driving privileges for awhile. By discussing all of this with your kids from the start, you eliminate surprises and make your expectations clear.

No parent, child, or family is immune to the effects of drugs. Some of the “best” kids from the “best” families can and do end up in trouble, even when they have made an effort to avoid it and even when they have been given the proper guidance from their parents.

However, certain groups of kids may be more likely to use drugs than others. Kids who have friends who use drugs are likely to try drugs themselves. Those feeling socially isolated for whatever reason may turn to drugs.

It's important to lay the groundwork.  Know your child's friends — and their parents. Be involved in your children's lives. If your child's school runs an anti-drug program, get involved. Pay attention to how your kids are feeling and let them know that you're available and willing to listen in a nonjudgmental way. Recognize when your kids are going through difficult times so that you can provide the support they need or seek additional care if it's needed.

Role-playing can help your child develop strategies to turn down drugs if they are offered. Act out possible scenarios they may encounter. Helping them construct phrases and responses to say no prepares them to know how to respond before they are even in that situation.

A warm, open family environment — where kids are encouraged to talk about their feelings, where their achievements are praised, and where their self-esteem is bolstered — encourages kids to come forward with their questions and concerns. When censored in their own homes, kids go elsewhere to find support and answers to their most important questions.

Make talking and having conversations with your children a regular part of your day. Finding time to do things you enjoy together as a family helps everyone stay connected and maintain open communication.

On Saturday, April 27, law enforcement and the Whitfield and Murray Family Connections are sponsoring a Drug Take Back Day in conjunction with the DEA’s National Drug Take Back Day.  Sites will be available in both counties for people to come and dispose of old and unused prescription drugs in a safe and environmentally friendly way.  This event was held last year, and over 300 pounds of drugs were turned in.  Drug Take Back helps get rid of drugs in our community that our young people might get their hands on and abuse.  More information about the day will be forthcoming.  Please be watching.     

If you are looking for more resources for you or your child, be sure to also talk to your doctor.  In addition, two good websites are www.drugabuse.gov and www.drugfree.org.

 

March 2013

Parents sometimes underestimate the value of play. In an effort to keep their children safe and help them excel, many parents keep their children very busy in structured activities, academic pursuits, and passive activities indoors.  Although reading, homework, and organized arts and sports are all important to a child's development, so is the opportunity to play outside.

Free play helps children develop creativity and problem-solving abilities, strengthens their social skills, and helps them gain confidence as they explore their world. Play is also a great antidote to obesity, providing physical activity that makes our children strong.

"The earliest forms of physical exercise are a baby and toddler's simple efforts to explore objects and concepts like space, distance, speed, time and weight," explains Peter A. Gorski, MD, MPA, the chief health and child development officer for The Children's Trust. "As children grow, play becomes the vehicle for continued activity, helping to increase coordination, strength, and skill."

Playing indoors can also be valuable, especially if you provide inexpensive playthings that encourage creativity and self-expression, such as blocks, dress-up clothes, and art supplies. But there is nothing like fresh air and sunshine to bring out the best in your child.

If you don't take your child outdoors very often, you are not alone. A recent study found that half of the preschoolers in this country do not go outside with a parent daily to play. The study noted that outdoor activity is important to child health and development, and that improvement is needed in the interest of our children.

Resolve this year to take your children outside for some fun and games, whether in youar backyard, in your neighborhood, or at a park or playground. And don’t let cold weather prevent you from letting your child play outside.  Research has shown, and doctors will tell you, that cold weather does not cause colds or other illnesses.  That is simply an “old wives’ tale.” People in cold climates such as Alaska and Canada have no more winter colds or other similar ailments than people living in a warm climate. In fact, cold weather actually appears to stimulate the immune system, according to a study by the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.

Letting children play outside is a great strategy if a parent is trying to encourage more physical activity. When prompted to play outside, children naturally engage in physical activities that they enjoy, Dr. Gorski says. "This remains true throughout adult life," he says. "Ask anyone who has engaged in exercise because they felt they had to, as opposed to folks who pursue an active lifestyle because that brings them pleasure. The former are likely to stop and start repeatedly with unsatisfying results. The latter group weaves physical activity into their lives naturally and playfully as they pursue their favorite hobbies."  If children see play as something fun, they will be much more likely to engage in some form of regular physical activity their whole lives.

The fact that playing outside is so critical to a child’s development is the reason many pediatricians and child development experts are worried about the trend in some school systems across the country to cut back or eliminate recess.  Free play outdoors is a learning activity if supervised properly. 

The earlier you start encouraging physical activity, the more natural it will be for your children — and the greater the likelihood they will stay active through their teen years and into adulthood.

One of the keys is not to get too serious. It should be all about fun. "Playing together is a great way to keep kids interested in being active," says Suzanna Rose, PhD, executive director of the School of Integrated Science & Humanity at Florida International University. "We teach parents that they don't need expensive equipment or a big backyard to play active games. The secret is to make active games and play a part of the child's daily routine."

February 2013

Parents sometimes underestimate the value of play. In an effort to keep their children safe and help them excel, many parents keep their children very busy in structured activities, academic pursuits, and passive activities indoors.  Although reading, homework, and organized arts and sports are all important to a child's development, so is the opportunity to play outside.

Free play helps children develop creativity and problem-solving abilities, strengthens their social skills, and helps them gain confidence as they explore their world. Play is also a great antidote to obesity, providing physical activity that makes our children strong.

"The earliest forms of physical exercise are a baby and toddler's simple efforts to explore objects and concepts like space, distance, speed, time and weight," explains Peter A. Gorski, MD, MPA, the chief health and child development officer for The Children's Trust. "As children grow, play becomes the vehicle for continued activity, helping to increase coordination, strength, and skill."

Playing indoors is also valuable, especially if you provide inexpensive playthings that encourage creativity and self-expression, such as blocks, dress-up clothes, and art supplies. But there is nothing like fresh air and sunshine to bring out the best in your child.

If you don't take your child outdoors very often, you are not alone. A recent study found that half of the preschoolers in this country do not go outside with a parent daily to play. The study noted that outdoor activity is important to child health and development, and that improvement is needed in the interest of our children.

Resolve this year to take your children outside for some fun and games, whether in your backyard, in your neighborhood, or at a park or playground. And don’t let cold weather prevent you from letting your child play outside.  Research has shown and doctors will tell you that cold weather does not cause colds or other illnesses.  That is simply an “old wives’ tale.” People in cold climates such as Alaska and Canada have no more winter colds than people living in a warm climate. In fact, cold weather actually appears to stimulate the immune system, according to a study by the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.

Letting children play outside is a great strategy if a parent is trying to encourage more physical activity. When prompted to play outside, children naturally engage in physical activities that they enjoy, Dr. Gorski says. "This remains true throughout adult life," he says. "Ask anyone who has engaged in exercise because they felt they had to, as opposed to folks who pursue an active lifestyle because that brings them pleasure. The former are likely to stop and start repeatedly with unsatisfying results. The latter group weaves physical activity into their lives naturally and playfully as they pursue their favorite hobbies."  If children see play as something fun, they will be much more likely to engage in some form of regular physical activity their whole lives.

The fact that playing outside is so critical to a child’s development is the reason many pediatricians and child development experts are worried about the trend in some school systems across the country to cut back or eliminate recess.  Free play outdoors is a learning activity if supervised properly. 

The earlier you start encouraging physical activity, the more natural it will be for your children — and the greater the likelihood they will stay active through their teen years and into adulthood.

One of the keys is not to get too serious. It should be all about fun. "Playing together is a great way to keep kids interested in being active," says Suzanna Rose, PhD, executive director of the School of Integrated Science & Humanity at Florida International University. "We teach parents that they don't need expensive equipment or a big backyard to play active games. The secret is to make active games and play a part of the child's daily routine."

January 2013

With 2013 just beginning, the following are tips for a healthier, happier New Year for you and your kids from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). 

Prevent violence by setting good examples.  Demonstrate and teach displays of affection, attention, and how to say “I’m sorry,” and how to ask for, give, and accept forgiveness.  All of these promote love and good will and reduce the likelihood of violence, aggression, and negative and destructive words and behaviors.

Set limits for your children by letting them know what's expected, and noticing when they meet your expectations. Celebrate their successes with them. Non-physical forms of discipline work best. Try to avoid hitting, slapping, shaking, or spanking. Your children may copy you and think that it is OK to hit and hurt other people. 

Read, talk, and sing to your child every day.  Start from infancy. Reading to children motivates them to become readers. It shows them the importance of communication and benefits their language development, thinking skills, and intellectual development. It provides a context to discuss issues and learn what is on your child's mind.  It also provides an opportunity to “bond” with your child and build a closer more loving relationship.   

Monitor your children's "media.”  Monitor very carefully what your children see and hear on television, in movies, in music, and on the Internet. Children are affected by what they see and hear, particularly in these times of violent images. If you feel that a movie or TV program is inappropriate, redirect them to more suitable programming.  Be informed of what your children see or hear when visiting friends.  Limit the amount of TV your child watches.  Do not use the TV as a babysitter.    

Provide your child with a tobacco-free environment.  Second-hand tobacco smoke increases ear infections, chest infections, respiratory problems, and the likelihood of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If you smoke, consider quitting. Remember, your child loves you and will copy you - if you smoke, your children may grow up to be smokers too. Make your home and car smoke-free zones. 

Practice "safety on wheels.”  Make sure everyone in the car is buckled up for every ride, with children in the back seat in age-appropriate child safety seats. All bikers, skaters, and skateboarders should wear helmets and other appropriate sports gear. 

Do a "childproofing" survey of your home.  A child's-eye view home-survey should systematically go from room to room, removing all the "booby traps" that await the curious toddler or preschooler. Think of poisons, small objects, sharp edges, knives and firearms, and places to fall. 

Asking saves lives.  Ask your neighbor if they have a gun before sending your kids over to play. If the answer is “No,” that's one less thing you have to worry about.

If the answer is “Yes”...you have to determine if your child's safety is at risk. Guns should be kept in a gun safe with the ammunition locked separately, or they can pose a real risk to your child. If you have any doubts about the safety of someone's home, you should politely invite their children to play at your house instead.

December 2012

We hear people say all the time that the holidays have become too materialistic. "The gimmes" are all around us during the Christmas season: "Gimme this," "Gimme that," "I want this," "I want that." It can be hard for children - and parents alike - to look beyond all of the product-driven hoopla to see what the real meaning of the Christmas holiday is all about.

It's not the actual gifts but what's behind the gifts that's important:  the spirit of giving. Help your kids learn the fun of giving, and how rewarding it can be to look for, make, and wrap something special - or do something special - for people they care about and others who are in need.

Here are five ways you can help decrease materialism in your kids and reinforce the real reason for the season.

1. Teach Kids to Question Marketing Messages.
From the TV commercials during Saturday morning cartoons to the promos on the backs of cereal boxes, marketing messages inundate kids of all ages. And to them, everything looks ideal - like something they simply have to have. It all sounds so appealing and, often, so much better than it really is.

The advertisements kids see around the holidays can help foster unrealistic expectations and lead to disappointment. After seeing their "wish list" items presented perfectly all around them, it's hard for reality to measure up when they actually open their gifts.

Of course, it's nearly impossible to eliminate all exposure to marketing messages. You can certainly turn off the TV or at least limit your kids' watching time, but they'll still see and hear advertisements for the latest gizmos and must-haves at every turn.

But what you can do is:

  • Explain, when your kids ask for products they see advertised, that commercials and other ads are designed to make people want things they don't necessarily need. And these ads are often meant to make us think that these products will make us happier. Talking to kids about what things are like in reality can help put things into perspective a little.

  • Talk to your children about what they think about the products they see advertised as you're watching TV, listening to the radio, reading magazines, or shopping together. Ask some thought-provoking questions such as:

    • "Do you think you need that product? If so, why?"

    • "Do you think that product really looks, tastes, or works the same way as it seems to in the ad?"

    • "Do you think that product will make you happy? If so, why?"

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you limit your child's exposure to TV commercials, by:

    • having your kids watch public television stations

    • taping programs - without the commercials

    • buying or renting children's videos or DVDs

Teach your children that not everything they want can always be theirs. Also explain to your kids that a little "want" here and there isn't all bad. The key with wanting things, as with most things, is to do it in moderation and to fully appreciate what you're given. Emphasize that the holidays are a special time, when a lot of love and thought is put into gift giving.

2. Focus on Family Traditions.
Traditions that center around family or friends can be a great way to put meaning back into the holidays. Here are a few ideas:

  • Talk about which family traditions your family loves the most. Then figure out how you can put more emphasis on them. If you enjoy the family trip to pick out the Christmas tree, make it an event in which you all head out to choose “just the right one.”  If you love the tradition of lighting the menorah, get together as a group to make your own candles. 

  • Find out what the holidays mean to others. Have your children talk to a grandparent, parent, uncle, or aunt about how they spent the holidays growing up. Some holiday traditions that used to be strong - such as neighborhood caroling - are all but lost today. Maybe you'd like to revive some of these as a way to share some holiday spirit with your family, friends, or community.

  • Build some new traditions. If you don't have any family traditions, it's never too late to start. Get together around activities that you all enjoy, such as cooking or decorating. Ask your kids what they would enjoy doing every year and make an effort to do it. If you can't all decide on one thing, make traditions out of several, so that everyone feels like part of the festivities.

3. Teach Children to Give of Themselves.
Volunteerism, especially around the holidays, offers an ideal opportunity for families to have fun and feel closer to each other at the same time. Community service helps to drive home the message that giving is much more than laying down cash for the hot gift of the season or scrambling around to buy mounds of presents for a gazillion people. Volunteerism can show kids that giving your time, effort, and kindness is so much more rewarding than just expecting to receive mountains of material goods.

Also, if volunteering begins at an early age, it can become part of a child's life - something he or she may just expect and want to do. It can teach kids: 

  • The knowledge that one person can make a difference. A wonderful, empowering message for a child is that he or she is important enough to have an impact on someone or something else.
  • The benefit of sacrifice. By giving up a toy to a less fortunate child, a child learns that it's good to sacrifice sometimes. Cutting back on recreation time to help others tells kids that there are important things other than ourselves and our immediate needs.
  • Tolerance. Working in community service can bring kids and teens in touch with people of different backgrounds, abilities, ethnicities, ages, education, and income levels, which can be a particularly important point to make around the holidays. They'll likely find that even the most diverse individuals can be united by common values.
  • To be even more appreciative of what they have. By helping others who aren't as fortunate, kids can better understand all the remarkable things they should be grateful for in their own lives.

Choose to help an organization or group that fits with your family's values and the things you believe in. Just a few ways you can help out in your community and beyond:

  • Sponsor another family in need or purchase some presents for less fortunate children through a toy donation program. Let your kids pick out gifts for the other children themselves.  The Christmas is Caring event in our community is a great way to get involved.  And there are other local agencies that offer help at Christmas.
  • If your kids love animals, talk to your local animal shelter. Many distribute staples like pet food to low-income pet owners over the holidays and need volunteers to help.
  • Give back to the elderly in your area. Help out at a nursing home; visit with older people who could use a little extra joy and company around the holidays; bring gifts or meals to elderly who are homebound; or lend a hand to elderly neighbors who need some assistance with decorating, cooking, or wrapping presents.
  • Volunteer your family's time by helping out at a homeless shelter or refurbishing housing for people in need.

Community service can teach children that giving comes in many forms, not just as piles of presents. Emphasize to your kids that giving of their time, effort, and caring can mean so much more - and can be so much more lasting - than any gift that money can buy.

4. Give Gifts With Meaning.
Of course, gift giving will always be a large part of the holiday season. And with good reason - it can teach children to really consider what might make others happy and what's important to people they care about. Watching loved ones' faces as they open presents that your children put a lot of heart and thought into can make the holidays more worthwhile for your kids.

But presents don't always have to be purchased in a store. Teach your kids how to put some real meaning and feelings into their gifts this year and beyond. Making their own presents can help kids to show just how much they care and can make the experience of giving so much more rewarding for both the giver and the receiver.

Here are some ideas to get your family started:

  • Make homemade gifts together.
    • Create photo albums, especially small "brag books" that family members can carry around with them. Not only does this capture precious memories and show just how much they mean, making photo album gifts also shows loved ones that a lot of thought and time was put into their compiling their presents.
    • Print out and frame favorite digital photos of friends and loved ones.
    • Create customized stationery for people on your family's list using your home computer and printer.
    • Have your children create their own customized artwork - collages, paintings, drawings, etc. - and put them in fun frames. Your kids can even decorate the frames.
    • Make your own batches of presents, be it potpourri, cookies, or ornaments, or wrapping paper and customized home decorations like wreaths.
    • Create personalized family videos for long-distance friends and loved ones.
  • Give philanthropic gifts. Check out local charity organizations for information on donating money on behalf of others and about gifts whose proceeds go to the charity itself.
  • Instead of giving gifts of things, teach children to consider giving gifts of time. For example, their grandmother may welcome their help in learning how to better use her computer. Or their little sister may want to learn how to play a board game. Have family members create special gift certificates (i.e., "one free shoulder massage," "two free car washes," "five free specially prepared meals," "10 free loads of laundry," etc.). These days, when everyone's so stretched, a gift of time can actually be more meaningful than one that costs big bucks.

5. Be a Good Holiday Role Model.
Show your children that the holidays can be joyous and fulfilling, not just a stress-ridden time that revolves around marathon shopping trips. Emphasize to them early on that it's not about getting piles of presents but giving and receiving a few heartfelt gifts. By starting early with traditions that emphasize the true meaning of the holidays and the caring thoughts behind gift giving, you can help to mold your kids' perspectives on the holiday season and what it means to both give and receive all year long.

I hope you and yours have a Merry Christmas and blessed holiday season.

November 2012

Almost everyone does some Thanksgiving cooking, but why not change the menu a bit? Spice it up. Add something new. Increase the variety.

How about cooking up a huge batch of connectedness? Share family stories. Invite people to tell about their favorite Thanksgiving. Get people to work in teams on a treasure hunt. Have everyone put what they are thankful for on a file card. Collect them and read them aloud. Have people guess who wrote each one as they are read.

Peel the skins off your grievances and put them in the garbage disposal. Still angry about something someone did two years ago? It's time to let it go. Upset because someone else did something you didn’t agree with? It's time to peel off the layers of that and begin again.

Don't allow judgment to stew in its own juices all day. Work on changing your mind rather than changing others. Let your judgment chill out in the refrigerator.

Serve the sustenance in the right order. Lead with empathy first.  Solving problems, fixing things, and making amends can come later, after the important hors d’oeuvre of empathy is dished out in ample amounts.

Don't allow resentment to boil over. Ask for help if you need it. Invite others to take an active role in cooking and cleaning up. Don't give something that has the hidden price of resentment attached to it. When you give, give with an open heart.

Liberally add doses of language that affirm and uplift. Verbally appreciate, send affection, and offer acknowledgment. Isn't it time to add some food for the soul? 

How about serving up some Grade A conversation? Eliminate gossip and talking about others in a negative way. When you improve the quality of the conversation, you improve the quality of our lives.

Refuse to mash what is there. Whatever is there, let that be what you want. What is, is. To emotionally demand something else will burn your energy and darken your attitude.

Serve up one meaningful thing this day that helps someone enjoy a better moment, a better day, or a better life. You are the chef and the server. You get to decide what you feed your family and friends on this particular day.

Prepare Thanksgiving from a get to rather than a have to attitude.  You get to go grocery shopping. You don’t have to. You get to see relatives and friends. You get to watch all the kids interact and learn lessons about cooperation and sharing, or not.

Let Thanksgiving simmer slowly. Don't turn it into a microwave experience. There is no need for hurry up this day. Savor it. 

Above all else, cook, talk, eat, relax, play, listen, entertain, clean up, pray, and share appreciation with love in your heart. You are worth it. And so is your family.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

This article was adapted from a column written by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller. They are two leading authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free Uncommon Parenting blog: www.uncommon-parenting.com.

October 2012

Teenagers are famous for seeking independence from their parents.  However, according to a recent study by Penn State University researchers, many teens continue to spend time with their parents and this shared time is important for teens' well-being.

"The stereotype that teenagers spend all their time holed up in their rooms or hanging out with friends is, indeed, just a stereotype," said Susan McHale, professor of human development and director of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State. "Our research shows that well into the adolescent years, teens continue to spend time with their parents and that this shared time, especially shared time with fathers, has important implications for the psychological and social adjustment of adolescents ."

The researchers studied whether the stereotype of teens growing apart from their parents and spending less time with them captured the everyday experiences of families by examining changes in the amount of time youths spent with their parents from early to late adolescence. On five occasions over seven years, the team conducted home and phone interviews with mothers, fathers, and the two oldest children in almost 200 middle- and working-class families living in small cities, towns and rural communities. At the start of the study, the oldest children in each family were about 11 and the second oldest were about 8 years old.

During the home interviews, teens reported on their social skills with peers and their self-esteem. After each home visit, the researchers also conducted a series of seven nightly phone interviews, asking teens about their activities during the day of the call, including who participated in the activities with them.

According to youths' reports of their daily time, although parent-teen time when others were also present declined from the early to late teen years, parent-teen time with just the parent and the teen present increased in early and middle adolescence -- a finding that contradicts the stereotype of teens growing apart from their parents.

"This suggests that, while adolescents become more independent, they continue to have one-on-one opportunities to maintain close relationships with their parents," McHale said.

Furthermore, teens who spent more time with their fathers with others present had better social skills with peers, and teens who spent more time alone with their fathers had higher self-esteem, showing again the importance of fathers in their children’s’ lives.

The researchers also found that the decline in the time teens spent with parents and others was less pronounced for second-born than for first-born siblings. They also found that both mothers and fathers spent more time alone with a child of their same gender when they had both a daughter and a son.

The results appeared today (Aug. 21) in the journal Child Development.

September 2012

Every year, young people in this country die of inhalant abuse. Hundreds suffer severe consequences, including permanent brain damage, loss of muscle control, and destruction of the heart, blood, kidney, liver, and bone marrow. Inhalants are common products found right in the home and are among the most popular and deadly substances kids abuse. Inhalant abuse can result in death from the very first use. According to the annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) national poll, approximately one in six children will use inhalants by eighth grade. The same report notes that inhalants are most popular with younger teens. Teens use inhalants by sniffing or "snorting" fumes from containers; spraying aerosols directly into the mouth or nose; bagging (by inhaling a substance inside a paper or plastic bag); huffing from an inhalant-soaked rag; or inhaling from balloons filled with nitrous oxide.

Inhalants are breathable chemical vapors that produce psychoactive (mind-altering) effects. Although people are exposed to volatile solvents and other inhalants in the home and in the workplace, many do not think of "inhalable" substances as drugs because most of them were never meant to be used in that way.

Young people are likely to abuse inhalants, in part, because inhalants are readily available and inexpensive. According to the most recent MTF study, relatively low numbers of 8th and 10th graders think that there is a "great risk" in using inhalants. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates a correlation between early inhalant use and delinquent behaviors, substance abuse, and other problems later in life.

Inhalant abuse rate has not decreased among youths since 2002. Inhalants are popular first-time drugs. According to the 2011 MTF survey, past-year use was reported as 7.0, 4.5, and 3.2 percent, for 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders, respectively. Data compiled by the National Capital Poison Center also show the prevalence of cases reported to national poison control centers was highest among children aged 12 to 17, peaking among 14-year-olds. The MTF survey also indicates that in 2011, 8.6 percent of 8th-grade females reported using inhalants in the past year, compared with 5.5 percent of 8th-grade males.

Parents should see that these substances are monitored closely so that children do not abuse them. Today more than 1,000 different products are commonly abused. Inhalants fall into the following categories:

Solvents

  • ·         industrial or household solvents or solvent-containing products, including paint thinners or solvents, degreasers (dry-cleaning fluids), gasoline, and glues

  • ·        art or office supply solvents, including correction fluids, felt-tip-marker fluid, and electronic contact cleaners

 Gases

  • ·       gases used in household or commercial products, including butane lighters and propane tanks, whipping cream aerosols or dispensers (whippets), and refrigerant gases

  • ·      household aerosol propellants and associated solvents in items such as spray paints, hair or deodorant sprays, and fabric protector sprays

  • ·     medical anesthetic gases, such as ether, chloroform, halothane, and nitrous oxide (laughing gas)

 Nitrites

  • ·       aliphatic nitrites, including cyclohexyl nitrite, which is available to the general public; amyl nitrite, which is available only by prescription; and butyl nitrite, which is now an illegal substance

Nearly all abused inhalants produce effects similar to anesthetics, which act to slow down the body's functions. When inhaled in sufficient concentrations, inhalants can cause intoxicating effects that can last only a few minutes or several hours if inhalants are taken repeatedly. Initially, users may feel slightly stimulated; with successive inhalations, they may feel less inhibited and less in control; finally, a user can lose consciousness.

 

Research shows that inhalant use is also associated with symptoms of depression. The same research showed that depressed teens were more than three times as likely to start using inhalants than teens with no symptoms of depression. The reverse is also true, showing that teens often started using inhalants before depression began.

 

Inhalants are toxic. Chronic exposure can lead to permanent brain damage or nerve damage similar to multiple sclerosis; damage to the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and bone marrow; and prolonged abuse can affect thinking, movement, vision and hearing.

 

Sniffing highly concentrated amounts of the chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can directly induce heart failure and death. Heart failure results from the chemicals interfering with the heart's rhythm regulating system, causing the heart to stop beating. This is especially common from the abuse of fluorocarbons and butane-type gases.

 

High concentrations of inhalants also cause death from asphyxiation, suffocation, convulsions or seizures, coma, choking or fatal injury from accidents while intoxicated.

 

Other irreversible effects caused by inhaling specific solvents are:

  • ·   Hearing loss - toluene (paint sprays, glues, dewaxers) and trichloroethylene (cleaning fluids, correction fluids)

  • ·   Peripheral neuropathies or limb spasms - hexane (glues, gasoline) and nitrous oxide (whipping cream, gas cylinders)

  • ·   Central nervous system or brain damage - toluene (paint sprays, glues, dewaxers)

  • ·   Bone marrow damage - benzene (gasoline)

  • ·   Liver and kidney damage - toluene- containing substances and chlorinated hydrocarbons (correction fluids, dry- cleaning fluids)

  • ·   Blood oxygen depletion - organic nitrites ("poppers," "bold," and "rush") and methylene chloride (varnish removers, paint thinners)

 Parents can keep their teens away from inhalants by talking to them and letting them know the dangers of inhalants. Most young users don't realize how dangerous inhalants can be. Inhalants are widely available and inexpensive, and parents should be mindful about how and where they store common household products.

 Parents should be aware of the following signs of an inhalant abuse problem:

  • ·   Chemical odors on breath or clothing;

  • ·   Paint or other stains on face, hands, or clothes;

  • ·   Hidden empty spray paint or solvent containers and chemical-soaked rags or clothing;

  • ·   Drunk or disoriented appearance;

  • ·   Slurred speech;

  • ·   Nausea or loss of appetite;

  • ·   Inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability, and depression;

  • ·   Missing household items

August 2012 

"The Good Grade Pill"

Now that school is starting, I want to share a front page June 10 story from the New York Times.  “The Rise of the Good Grade Pill” provides a jolting view into today's competitive and stress-filled teenage existence – too often fueled by prescription drug abuse. It describes the common sharing (and selling) of amphetamines like Adderall and Ritalin, prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), that help kids "tunnel focus" for tests and college applications; and it is happening at both public and private schools across the country.

"Everyone in school either has a prescription or has a friend who does," said one boy in the article. Teens say they get pills from friends, buy them from student dealers, or fake symptoms to their parents and doctors in order to get prescriptions. "They're the quote-unquote good kids, basically," said one high school senior who was quoted.

  

The New York Times article continues to describe the downside of drug abuse: hallucinations, convulsions, emergency room visits, and drug rehabilitation.  "No one seems to thinks that it's the real thing," quoted one boy who has been in drug rehab. "The other kids in rehab thought we weren't addicts because Adderall wasn't a real drug. It's so underestimated." 

At high schools across the United States, pressure over grades and competition for college admissions are encouraging students to abuse prescription stimulants, according to interviews with students, parents, and doctors. Pills that have been a staple in some college and graduate school circles are going from rare to routine in many high schools.  While these medicines tend to calm people with ADHD, those without the disorder find that just one pill can jolt them with the energy and focus to push through all-night homework binges and stay awake during exams afterward.

Abuse of prescription stimulants can lead to depression and mood swings (from sleep deprivation), heart irregularities, and acute exhaustion or psychosis during withdrawal, doctors say. Little is known about the long-term effects of abuse of stimulants among the young. Drug counselors say that for some teenagers, the pills eventually become an entry to the abuse of painkillers and sleep aids.

The number of prescriptions for ADHD medications dispensed for young people ages 10 to 19 has risen 26 percent since 2007, to almost 21 million yearly, according to IMS Health, a health care information company — a number that experts estimate corresponds to more than two million individuals. But there is no reliable research on how many high school students take stimulants as a study aid. It is estimated that the portion of students who do so ranges from 15 percent to 40 percent.

Older ADHD drugs required low doses every few hours, and schools, not wanting students to carry the drugs themselves, had the school nurse hold and dispense the pills. Newer long-lasting versions like Adderall XR and Vyvanse allow parents to give children a single dose in the morning, often unaware that the pills can go down a pants pocket as easily as the throat. Some students said they took their pills only during the week and gave their weekend pills to friends. A high school senior who has used his friend’s Adderall for school said: “These are academic steroids. But parents don’t usually get the steroids for you.”

July 2012

Handguns in the Home

The recent and tragic rash of children accidentally shooting another person or themselves again brings the issue of firearm safety to the forefront. Firearm violence has become a public health crisis in the United States. Guns are widely available in our society and are kept in millions of American homes. According to the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, almost 8.7 million chil­dren and adolescents have access to handguns, and many are either unaware of or ignore the possible consequences of handling these lethal weapons.  

School-age children and adolescents are curious about and often attracted to guns. They sometimes see guns as symbols of power.  

The availability of handguns in settings where children live and play has led to a devastating toll in human lives, reflected in some sobering statistics: every two hours, someone's child is killed with a gun, ei­ther in a homicide, a suicide, or as a result of an unintentional injury. In addition, an unknown but large number of children are seriously injured—of­ten irreversibly disabled—by guns but survive. Major trauma centers are reporting an increase of 300 percent in the number of children treated for gunshot wounds; in fact, one in every twenty-five admissions to pediatric trauma centers in the United States is due to gunshot wounds.

A gun in the home is forty-three times more likely to be used to kill a friend or family member than a burglar or other criminal. To compound this problem, depressed pre-teenagers and teenagers commit suicide with guns more frequently than by any other means.

We have a constitutional right to own guns.  However, many parents with children in the home choose not to own a gun.  In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents that the best way to keep your children safe from injury or death from guns is to not have a gun in the home.  However, millions of parents choose their legal right to have firearms in their home.  If you are one of these, adhere to these rules for gun safety:

·Never allow your child access to your gun(s). No matter how much in­struction you may give him or her, a youngster up through the middle years is not mature and responsible  enough to handle a potentially lethal weapon.

·Guns (preferably unloaded) and ammunition should be locked away safely in separate locations in the house; and make sure children don't have access to the keys.

·Guns should be equipped with trigger locks.

·Be a good role model for your kids.  When using a gun for hunting or target practice, learn how to operate it before ever loading it. Never point the gun at another person, and keep the safety catch in place until you are ready to fire it. Before setting the gun down, always unload it. Do not use alcohol or drugs while you are shooting.

·Gun cleaning supplies, which are often poisonous, should also be kept out of reach. 

Even if you don't have guns in your own home, that won't eliminate your child's risks. Half of the homes in the United States contain firearms, and more than a third of all accidental shootings of children take place in the homes of their friends, neighbors, or relatives.

Here is some important information you need to communicate to your youngsters:

·Let them know that risks of gun injuries may exist in places they visit and play.

Tell them that if they see or encounter a gun in a friend's home or else­where, they must steer clear of it, and tell you about it.  Talk with the parents of your child's friends, and find out if they have firearms in their home. If they do, try to find out in a respectful way if they keep them unloaded, locked up, and inaccessible to children.

·When a child is old enough to interact with others, even if he doesn’t speak yet, he probably has a good idea of what guns are.  According to the National Institute on Media and Family, the average child sees 200,000 violent acts on television (including 40,000 murders) by high school graduation. These numbers do not include what children see in movies or on the Internet.  Make sure your child understands that violence on TV, in the movies, and online is not real. Children need to be told—and reminded again and again and again—that in real life, children are killed and hurt badly by guns. Al­though the popular media often romanticize gun use, youngsters must learn that these weapons can be extremely dangerous.   

·The Eddie Eagle Program of the National Rifle Association offers the following four-step approach to gun safety for kids: stop, don’t touch, get away, and tell an adult.  Kids also need to be reminded of these 4 steps over and over again.

Your priority as a parent must be to protect your children from harm.  If you have questions or concerns about this issue, discuss it with your child’s pediatrician. 

June 2012

As a follow-up to the very successful Drug Take Back Day that was held recently in our community, I want to talk about some ways that we can help protect our children from drug abuse and addiction.  Some of this information is from an article on the website Parents. The Anti-Drug.

Several national studies have just released statistics revealing that more teens abuse prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs than any other illicit drug, except marijuana. Among 12 and 13 year olds, prescription drugs are their drug of choice.  The news is staggering: over 2 million teens and preteens abuse prescription drugs every year; over 3 million people ages 12 to 25 have used cough medicine to get high.  Prescription drug abuse kills more people than methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin combined.     

This means that millions of us parents and grandparents have been caught off-guard while an epidemic of drug abuse has been occurring in our communities and often right in our own homes. The good news is that we have the power to prevent our children's access to medicines abused as drugs.

What can we do? There are a few easy ways to begin:

1. Safeguard all drugs at home. Review all medications – including prescription medications and OTC medications – that you are storing: find a place to lock them so that only you have access.

2.  Properly conceal and dispose of old or unused medicines -- and control the distribution of every prescription written for your family members.  Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) medications such as Adderall and Ritalin are being shared among teens. Prescription painkillers are widely abused, and even antidepressants and high blood pressure medicines are being shared among our teenagers. If your child is taking a prescription drug for any reason, be sure that he or she is not selling, sharing, or increasing his or her own dosage. Ask your prescribing doctor to review the proper use and dosage of each medication with your child. Monitor dosage and use. The Drug Take Back Day that was held in April will be an annual event, so that will give you a safe, easy, and environmentally friendly way to dispose of old and unused drugs annually.

3.  Talk to your teen and preteen about the dangers of abusing prescription and over-the-counter drugs. These are powerful drugs that, when abused, can be just as dangerous as street drugs. Tell your teen the risks far outweigh any “benefits.”

Set clear rules for teens about all drug use, including not sharing medicine.
Define prescription and OTC drug abuse and clarify why it is so important to not share medicine and to always follow the medical provider's advice and dosages.  Teens should never take prescription or OTC drugs with street drugs or alcohol, which tragically is happening all too frequently. 

 Read up!  And be prepared to discuss the dangers of abuse.  Parents. The Anti-Drug website is a good place to begin.  Remember that one of your most powerful tools in preventing drug abuse is expressing your disappointment in your child's behavior. Most teens say that losing their parents' approval is their number one reason to not use drugs.

4.  Be a good role model by following these same rules with your own medicines.

Examine your own behavior to ensure you set a good example. If you misuse your prescription drugs, such as sharing them with your kids or anyone else or abusing them yourself, your teen will take notice. Always follow your medical provider’s instructions.

5. Ask friends and family to safeguard their prescription drugs as well.

Make sure your friends and relatives, especially grandparents, know about the risks, too, and encourage them to regularly monitor their own medicine cabinets. If there are other households your teen has access to, talk to those families as well about the importance of safeguarding medications. If you don’t know the parents of your child’s friends, then make an effort to get to know them, and get on the same page about rules and expectations for use of all drugs, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Follow up with your teen’s school administration to find out what they are doing to address issues of prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse in schools.

By working together, we can help to make this a drug free community.

May 2012

As a follow-up to the very successful Drug Take Back Day that was held recently in our community, I want to talk about some ways that we can help protect our children from drug abuse and addiction.  Some of this information is from an article on the website Parents. The Anti-Drug.

Several national studies have just released statistics revealing that more teens abuse prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs than any other illicit drug, except marijuana. Among 12 and 13 year olds, prescription drugs are their drug of choice.  The news is staggering: over 2 million teens and preteens abuse prescription drugs every year; over 3 million people ages 12 to 25 have used cough medicine to get high.  Prescription drug abuse kills more people than methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin combined.     

This means that millions of us parents and grandparents have been caught off-guard while an epidemic of drug abuse has been occurring in our communities and often right in our own homes. The good news is that we have the power to prevent our children's access to medicines abused as drugs.

What can we do? There are a few easy ways to begin:

1. Safeguard all drugs at home. Review all medications – including prescription medications and OTC medications – that you are storing: find a place to lock them so that only you have access.

2.  Properly conceal and dispose of old or unused medicines -- and control the distribution of every prescription written for your family members.  Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) medications such as Adderall and Ritalin are being shared among teens. Prescription painkillers are widely abused, and even antidepressants and high blood pressure medicines are being shared among our teenagers. If your child is taking a prescription drug for any reason, be sure that he or she is not selling, sharing, or increasing his or her own dosage. Ask your prescribing doctor to review the proper use and dosage of each medication with your child. Monitor dosage and use. The Drug Take Back Day that was held in April will be an annual event, so that will give you a safe, easy, and environmentally friendly way to dispose of old and unused drugs annually.

3.  Talk to your teen and preteen about the dangers of abusing prescription and over-the-counter drugs. These are powerful drugs that, when abused, can be just as dangerous as street drugs. Tell your teen the risks far outweigh any “benefits.”

Set clear rules for teens about all drug use, including not sharing medicine.  Define prescription and OTC drug abuse and clarify why it is so important to not share medicine and to always follow the medical provider's advice and dosages.  Teens should never take prescription or OTC drugs with street drugs or alcohol, which tragically is happening all too frequently. 

Read up!  And be prepared to discuss the dangers of abuse.  Parents. The Anti-Drug website is a good place to begin.  Remember that one of your most powerful tools in preventing drug abuse is expressing your disappointment in your child's behavior. Most teens say that losing their parents' approval is their number one reason to not use drugs.

4.  Be a good role model by following these same rules with your own medicines.  Examine your own behavior to ensure you set a good example. If you misuse your prescription drugs, such as sharing them with your kids or anyone else or abusing them yourself, your teen will take notice. Always follow your medical provider’s instructions.

5. Ask friends and family to safeguard their prescription drugs as well.  Make sure your friends and relatives, especially grandparents, know about the risks, too, and encourage them to regularly monitor their own medicine cabinets. If there are other households your teen has access to, talk to those families as well about the importance of  medications. If you don’t know the parents of your child’s friends, then make an effort to get to know them, and get on the same page about rules and expectations for use of all drugs, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Follow up with your teen’s school administration to find out what they are doing to address issues of prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse in schools.

By working together, we can help to make this a drug free community.

April 2012 

Middle School Alcohol Use

As we all know, during recent years there has been an increase in the number of individuals who are addicted to prescription drugs.  More people are dying as a result of the abuse of prescription drugs than from the use of illegal drugs.  Many adolescents are involved in parties during which they consume, along with alcohol, prescription drugs that they have stolen from their parents, grandparents, etc.  Many people never consider that their medicine cabinets might be the jumping off point for the young people they love and strive to protect.   People who would never dream of leaving a loaded gun in the presence of a child will leave dangerous drugs within in their reach and never give it a second thought.  

Now a new study sheds more light on this subject.  Anxiety, depression, stress and social support can predict early alcohol and illegal drug use in young people, according to a study from Carolyn McCarty, PhD, of Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle University.  Middle school students from the sixth to the eighth grade who felt more emotional support from teachers reported a delay in alcohol and other illicit substance initiation. Those who reported higher levels of separation anxiety from their parents were also at decreased risk for early alcohol use. The study, “Emotional Health Predictors of Substance Use Initiation during Middle School,” was published in advance online in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Relatively few studies have examined support for youth from nonfamily members of the adolescent’s social support network, including teachers. “Our results were surprising,” said Dr. McCarty, who is also a University of Washington research associate professor.  “We have known that middle school teachers are important in the lives of young people, but this is the first data-driven study which shows that teacher support is associated with lower levels of early alcohol use.”  Middle school students defined teacher support as feeling close to a teacher or being able to talk with a teacher about problems they are experiencing.

The study also found that youth who initiated alcohol and other illicit drug use prior to sixth grade had significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms.  This suggests that depression may be a consequence of very early use or a risk factor for initiation of use prior to the middle school years.  Depression was defined by asking youth about their mood and feelings, and asking them if statements such as “I felt awful or unhappy” and “I felt grumpy or upset with my parents” were true, false or sometimes true during a two-week timeframe. 

“Based on the study and our findings, substance use prevention needs to be addressed on a multidimensional level,” said Dr. McCarty.  “We need to be aware of and monitor early adolescent stress levels, and parents, teachers and adults need to tune into kids’ mental health.  We know that youth who initiate substance abuse before age 14 are at a high risk of long-term substance abuse problems and myriad health complications.” 

Dr. McCarty Offers tips for parents to help reduce early drug and alcohol use:

  • Know where your child is, and check in with your child on a regular basis. 
  • Get to know your child’s friends, and who your child spends time with. 
  • Teach stress management skills. 
  • Help your child feel connected with adults at school.  

Other tips for parents include: safeguarding and monitoring quantities of your medications, being a good role model yourself regarding drug use, setting clear rules about drug use, and asking family and friends to also safeguard their medications.

On Saturday, April 28th at various locations, the Dalton Police Department, the Whitfield Sheriff’s Department, and the Murray County Sheriff’s Department will be collecting old and unused medications between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. This will keep these drugs out of the hands of our young people and provide an environmentally safe disposal method.  There will be more information about this important event closer to the time, but the locations are as follows:

·        Dalton Community Center

·        K-Mart Walnut Ave.

·        Whitfield County Schools Central Office

·        White’s Pharmacy

·        Bi-Lo Maddox Parkway, Chatsworth

March 2012

Heat Entrapment

Warmer weather is fast approaching and with it comes the seemingly inevitable news that a child has died from heat stroke while trapped in a vehicle.  It has been known to happen in February if the temperature reaches the low 70’s.  But typically around the middle or end of March we hear of the first event of the year – a disturbing, horrific incident of an infant or toddler dying from being trapped in a sweltering car. The risks and causes of these hyperthermia deaths are well-known, and this tragic mishap occurred 33 times in 2011. 

An examination of media reports about the 494 child vehicular hyperthermia deaths for a thirteen year period (1998 through 2011) shows the following circumstances:

  • 52% - child "forgotten" by caregiver (253 Children)
  • 30% - child playing in unattended vehicle (150)
  • 17% - child intentionally left in vehicle by adult  (86)
  • 1% - circumstances unknown (5)

Children that have died from vehicular hyperthermia in the United States (1998-2011) have ranged in age from 5 days to 14 years.  More than half of the deaths are children under 2 years of age, and about two thirds are children under the age of 6.  Parents running quick errands may think their cars will remain cool; but even on mild days, temperatures inside vehicles can rise to dangerous levels in just minutes. A young child’s core body temperature can increase three to five times faster than that of an adult, causing permanent injury and even death.

The family car parked in the driveway can also be dangerous. Unlocked cars pose serious risks to children who are naturally curious and often lack fear. Once they crawl in, young children often don’t have the developmental capability to get out. About one-third of heat-related deaths occur when children crawl into unlocked cars while playing and become trapped.

Here are some tips on protecting your children: 

      Heat: 

  • Never leave your child in an unattended car, even with the windows down, even for a few minutes.
  • Check to make sure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination, particularly when loading and unloading. Don’t overlook sleeping infants.
  • Make sure you check the temperature of the child safety seat surface and safety belt buckles before restraining your children in the car.
  • Use a light covering to shade the seat of your parked car. Consider using windshield shades in front and back windows.

   Trunk Entrapment:

  • Teach children not to play in or around cars.
  • Keep car keys out of reach and sight.
  • Always lock car doors and trunks, especially when parked in the driveway or near the home.
  • Keep the rear fold-down seats closed to help prevent kids from getting into the trunk from inside the car.
  • Be wary of child-resistant locks. Teach older children how to disable the driver’s door locks if they unintentionally become entrapped in a motor vehicle.
  • Contact your automobile dealership about getting your vehicle retrofitted with a trunk release mechanism.
  • If your child gets locked inside a car, get him out and dial 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately.

Let’s make summer a fun and happy time with no tragedies of children being left unattended in parked cars. 

Anorexia Nervosa

When the majority of people hear the word anorexia, they automatically assume it’s a girls' disease.  The reality of anorexia is that it’s a psychological illness that does not discriminate between boys and girls.  According to the National Eating Disorders Association, at least one million males in the United States are battling anorexia or bulimia. Yet due to the shame that often comes with male eating disorders, experts say the statistics are skewed, and many more young men are left unaccounted for.

Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents, and “It appears that the prevalence of the disorder is increasing among boys,” said Dr. James Hudson, a Harvard psychiatry professor who has been treating and researching eating disorders for more than 26 years. “It may be that boys are simply more comfortable coming forward now than in the past.”

In 2007, Hudson was the lead author of a large study on eating disorders in the United States, one of the first of its kind. The study found that 25% of the 8 to 10 million people suffering from anorexia or bulimia are male, contradicting prior estimates that only 10 percent of people with eating disorders were male.

The assumption that anorexia can only affect girls and women not only increases the stigma for young men fighting the disease, but it also means that they are often too ashamed to seek help. That leads many to become even sicker than their female counterparts.

“Boys don't get identified,” said Dr. James Lock, a psychiatrist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California.  “They come later to treatment,” Lock said. “They have therefore had longer time to lose weight so they're physically sicker.  Sometimes that's allowed the psychological processes to be more reinforced in their own thinking and the behaviors.”

On top of those hurdles, most of the resources that exist to help victims of anorexia are largely geared toward females, a fact that amplifies the feelings of isolation among male anorexics.

According to Lock, it takes a certain kind of personality to develop the illness.  “It's very unusual for someone to come into my office for an assessment of anorexia if they do not have straight A’s,” said Lock.  “This is true for boys and this is true for girls.  These kids have the desire for perfectionism and for control. And in sports, these are great athletes, usually, who drive themselves to the next level.”

While boys who participate in sports such as wrestling and girls in sports such as gymnastics may be more likely to want to lose weight, Lock warned that the desire to enhance athletic performance should not be confused with anorexia. Athletic pressure may increase the motivation to lose weight, he said, but not every elite athlete has an eating disorder.

As baffling as the causes of anorexia may be, so are the factors behind the increase in the disease among boys and young men.  Dr. Jennifer Hagman has been running the eating disorder program at Children’s Hospital Colorado since 1993, where until five years ago, it was uncommon for her to see boy patients. “Now we almost always have one to three boys in the program,” she said. According to Hagman, these boys are victims of society’s obsession with appearance and the increased focus on childhood obesity.

“The emphasis in our culture about eating healthier is no doubt the biggest factor,” she said. “In school they’re telling them to limit the fat in their diet. I hear from many kids in the program that it was after a health class that they started to limit their diets.”

While it is certainly very important to educate children to live healthy lives, said Hagman, it is also important to deliver that message in a balanced way, without triggering unhealthy habits.Just like cancer or any other disease, early detection is the key in getting help; however, only 10% of people with an eating disorder actually get help.

This information is from a report on NBC.  If you think that you or a loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders live helpline at 800-931-2237 (Monday – Friday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST).

 

February 2012

Providing our children with little bursts of happiness is easy – just hand over a chocolate bar or the latest must-have toy. But eventually, that happiness bubble pops. The chocolate is eaten, the toy becomes not so cool, and boredom follows. And then we realize that true happiness – the ability to maintain a love of life, to weather challenges with grace and courage, to feel good about one's self – can seem very elusive.

How can we help our children achieve genuine happiness? According to BabyCenter.com, the answer lies in helping them build up their inner resources. Here are five ways to do just that.

Make time for free play.  Free play – unstructured time for a child to use his imagination without a coach or teacher breathing down his neck – is integral to a child’s development. But what you might not know is that it also helps children lay a foundation for future happiness.

Through free play, your child can discover what brings him joy – whether it's building a city of blocks, creating a family of stuffed animals, or designing a mural. In other words, he can connect with his true self. This ability to know what he likes (rather than what he should like) will serve him well when it's time to choose hobbies – or even a career.

Remember the mind-body connection.  It turns out your mother was right when she said you needed your sleep, exercise, and healthful food. In fact, these are directly tied to mood. So make sure your child's bedtime is early enough so that she can get adequate rest, give her plenty of opportunity for exercise (outside play rather than a regimen of child aerobics classes), and go easy on the junk food and sugar.

Don't steal their problems.  Your child struggles to reach the light switch, jumping up and down repeatedly. You may feel the impulse to just reach over and turn the light on for him. Instead, let him try to work it out.

The same goes for social problems. This doesn't mean you can't offer support and suggestions, but as hard as it is, resist the urge to solve all of your child's problems. Rather, look at challenges as gifts that can help him learn new skills. As child psychologist Carrie Masia-Warner puts it, "Children need to learn to tolerate some distress. Let them figure things out on their own, because it allows them to learn how to cope."

Check in Wondering if your child is okay? Ask! This doesn't have to be complicated. It can be as simple as saying, "You seem a little down. Is there something you'd like to talk about?" And then listen, listen, listen! But – and this is important – if your child brushes you off, give her some space, and then gently try again another time.

Allow feelings.  Not only do we want our kids to be happy, we want them to act happy. It can be embarrassing when your child sobs on the playground while everyone else is having fun. But if you tell him to put on a happy face, he may feel invalidated.

Instead, teach him to identify his feelings and express them with words (for example, "I'm angry because I didn't get a turn on the swings"). And let him know that it's okay to be unhappy and even angry sometimes. All emotions, even negative ones, are normal.  It is how we deal with them that is important.  And, ironically, being able to deal with hard feelings will lead to more genuine happiness down the road.

January 2012

Most of us are aware of the recent events of a Penn State assistant football coach and a Syracuse University assistant basketball coach being charged with multiple counts of alleged sexual abuse of children and that a number of school administrators have also been charged with failing to properly report the allegations. 

While the alleged perpetrators will be the focus of much of the discussions about these issues, we should also be asking ourselves “What could have been done to prevent these children from being harmed”?

The questions being asked by local authorities are a) who had earlier suspicions and who received reports about the assistant coaches’ behaviors, b) did those in a position of authority meet both the letter and the spirit of the law when the reports came to their attention, and c) what changes in policy must be made?

It is important to remember that about 90% of sexual abuse cases involve a person close to and known to a child (40 to 60% of cases actually happen in the home.); stranger danger is real, but it is a much smaller percentage of sexual abuse cases.  Sexual abuse is much more prevalent than we realize; it is an under reported and silent crime.  Research shows that about one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.  Experts say many people who witness sexual abuse often remain silent, too horrified to report what they have seen.  People worry that if they say something they could ruin somebody’s life, not really thinking about the horrendous effects this event will have on the child involved and other children the perpetrator may abuse in the future.     

These incidents at the two universities point to the facts that: 

* It is the not the responsibility of the children to keep themselves safe; it is adults' responsibility.

* Abuse can happen to any child, regardless of wealth or social status.

* We all have a role to play in the development of our children and that includes becoming involved in situations where children’s well-being is or can be jeopardized.

Situations such as these in a child’s life could result in life-long adversities including a greater potential for mental health and health issues, substance abuse, delinquency, and criminal behavior that cost our nation $104 billion to remediate when abuse and neglect are not prevented. 

Children need our help to stay safe.  You can take an active role in children’s lives by:

* Being involved in both the activities children are involved in and the people

* Talking to children regularly about what they’re doing can help you stay alert for possible problems.

* Knowing about sexual predators and sexual behavior problems and how they work.

* Teaching children important skills to help them protect themselves. Make sure they know they can talk to you about anything that’s bothering them or if they feel mixed-up or confused.

* Being alert for signs of sexual abuse. If you suspect or are told abuse, report it right away.

The things parents and others should look for as possible symptoms of sexual abuse are: 

* Stained or torn underwear.

* Trouble walking, sitting or going to the bathroom.

* Difficulty swallowing or eating.

* Depression, anxiety, anger or mood swings.

* Fears of certain places, people or activities.

* Nightmares or sudden fear of the dark.

These children may act out sexually or show knowledge of sex that’s not appropriate for their age; show self-destructive behaviors, such as pulling their hair or cutting their skin; and act younger that their age, such as wetting the bed or sucking their thumb.

Parents usually know when something is wrong and should trust their instincts.

As parents we can:

* Believe the child - children usually don’t make up stories of sexual abuse.

* Be careful with questions - try to find out as much as you can about what happened, but avoid leading questions.

* Report it!

All children should know that they can come to you or another adult if they feel mixed-up or confused, or if someone is not listening when they set limits about play

Teach children:

* The right names of their body parts.  Research tells us that children who know the correct name for body parts are less likely to be abused.

* When they should talk to you - for example, when any behavior confuses them and when touching or other situations make them feel uncomfortable, mixed-up or confused.

* When not to keep secrets - help children understand the difference between secrets and surprises.

*  That no one has the right to touch them if they don’t want to be touched. 

Much of the above information is from Prevent Child Abuse America.

December 2011

Christmas is fast approaching, and many parents are concerned about their family’s financial situation and the money problems they may be experiencing this holiday season. As if poor economic times, job losses, rising food prices, stock market instability, and skyrocketing health care costs aren't enough, parents now have the added concern of finding available money to put a few presents under the Christmas tree.  This column is adapted from an article by Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman, parenting experts.  

The giving of gifts during the holiday season is an honored tradition. However, this year many parents are wondering what gifts they will give as they tighten their money belts and attempt to weather the financial storm through the holidays.

Maybe the answer lies in the gifts that are given. Give children what they really want from their parents: presence, not presents. All children spell love T-I-M-E. What we parents can give to our children is our attention, our availability, our closeness, and our time.

Are you being fully present with your children? Can you let go of your worries about money? Can you suspend your agenda to focus on theirs? Can you learn to be there for and with your children?

Consider the following suggestions as a way to give the most important present this holiday season, your presence.

  1. Be there regardless of what you are doing. The holiday season requires an added measure of balancing kids' schedules, visiting family, and cooking as well as keeping up the regular requirements of work, laundry, cleaning, everyday cooking, etc. When feeling pulled in several directions, many parents turn to multitasking. Avoid the urge to multitask and strive to stay focused on the moment at hand. When you sit with your children, whether it’s to play a game or read a book, give them your undivided attention.
     
  2. Make a "be" choice. How you choose to "be" affects whatever you choose to “do.” When you are with your children, choose to be interested in what they are interested in. Choose to be happy that you have the time to focus on their needs and wants. Choose to be excited about the time you have with them. Even when misbehavior occurs in your children, choose to be glad that you have the opportunity to help them learn a new behavior or a new way to communicate a desire or express a feeling.
     
  3. Focus on listening rather than telling. Children spend a great portion of their day following directions: pick up your clothes, make your bed, sit down, be quiet, go play, chew with your mouth closed, stop picking on your brother, hang up your coat, brush your teeth. To kids, the list of commands seems unending. Remember, children have valuable things to say too. Many times parents get so focused on telling that they forget to listen. Value your children's opinions. Allow them opportunities to vent. Embrace their points of view. Invite suggestions. Listen to their voices.
     
  4. Connect physically. Touch is a powerful way to communicate "I love you." Get close and touch your children’s heart with a warm embrace or a gentle squeeze of the shoulder. Snuggle under a blanket and read together. Go for a walk and hold hands. Wrestle on the living room floor. Dispense hugs, smiles, winks and an occasional high five. 
     
  5. Connect emotionally. Feelings are always more important than things. Create an environment where it is safe to be emotional. Encourage the expression of feelings. Allow your feelings to extend to your children as you share traditions, reflect on holidays past, and gather as a family. Demonstrate empathy, compassion and understanding. 
     
  6. Unplug from the electronic world. The television, computer, video games, and other electronic gadgets have the potential to create a disconnect from personal interaction. While riding in the car, tell your children a story about the day they were born or relate a favorite holiday memory. Play a board game together. Stand up, walk away from the TV, and go shoot baskets, skip rope, go for a walk, read a book, or ride bikes with your child.
     
  7. Play by the kids' rules. Play with your children at their level. Make mud pies, jump in rain puddles, roll down a hill, spray whipped cream on the kitchen table and join in the creation of artistic designs, and then eat them! Cover the driveway in sidewalk chalk. Let your children take the lead and change the rules of a game if they want. Know that play, no matter how childish or silly it may appear, is an investment in connecting with your children. Play regularly with your kids, and remember that the reason for play is to play, not to win.

Make a commitment this holiday season to give the best gift you can give by being present in your child’s life. Be active and interactive on a daily basis with your children. Be the parent God called you to be. Give your presence, not presents!

October 2011

Red Ribbon Week

Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country. Although the start and end dates can vary slightly depending on the organization and source, Red Ribbon Week generally takes place the last full week in October, with the weekends before and following the last full week included as appropriate celebration dates. This year Red Ribbon Week will be celebrated October 22-30, 2011.

Red Ribbon Week serves as a vehicle for communities and individuals to take a stand for the hopes and dreams of our children through a commitment to drug prevention and education and a personal commitment to live drug free lives with the ultimate goal being the creation of drug free America.
And, perhaps more importantly, Red Ribbon Week commemorates the ultimate sacrifice made by DEA Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, who died at the hands of drug traffickers in Mexico while fighting the battle against illegal drugs to keep our country and children safe.

Camarena grew up in a house with a dirt floor.  He had hopes and dreams of making a difference. He worked his way through college, served in the Marines, and became a police officer. When he decided to join the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, his mother tried to talk him out it. "I can't not do this," he told her. "I'm only one person, but I want to make a difference."

The DEA sent Camarena to work undercover in Guadalajara, Mexico investigating a major drug cartel believed to include officers in the Mexican army, police and government.  He was extremely close to unlocking a multi-billion dollar drug pipeline.

 On Feb. 7, 1985, the 37-year-old Camarena left his office to meet his wife for lunch. Five men appeared at the agent's side and shoved him in a car and kidnapped him. One month later, Camarena's body was found in a shallow grave. He had been brutally tortured to death.

Within weeks of his death in March of 1985, Camarena's Congressman, Duncan Hunter, and high school friend Henry Lozano, launched Camarena Clubs in Imperial Valley, California, Camarena's home. Hundreds of club members pledged to lead drug-free lives to honor the sacrifices made by Camarena and others on behalf of all Americans.  These pledges were delivered to First Lady Nancy Reagan at a national conference of parents combating youth drug use. Several state parent organizations then called on community groups to wear red ribbons during the last week of October as a symbol of their drug-free commitment.

 The first Red Ribbon Week celebrations were held in La Mirada and Norwalk, California.  In 1988, the National Family Partnership (NFP) coordinated the first National Red Ribbon Week with President and Mrs. Reagan serving as honorary chairpersons.

Today, Red Ribbon Week is nationally recognized and celebrated, helping to preserve Special Agent Camarena's memory and further the cause for which he gave his life. The Red Ribbon Campaign also became a symbol of support for the DEA's efforts to reduce demand for drugs through prevention and education programs. By wearing a red ribbon during Red Ribbon Week, Americans demonstrate their ardent opposition to drugs. They pay homage not only to Special Agent Camarena, but to all men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in support of our nation's struggle against drug trafficking and abuse.

 Here are just a few ways to celebrate Red Ribbon Week.  I’m sure you can think of many more.

·         Wear a red ribbon yourself, and encourage your relatives, your friends, your neighbors, your boss, and your coworkers to do the same.

·         Place red ribbons and bows all over the community - office buildings, posts, trees, billboards, mailboxes, bicycles, dogs, buses, car antennas, front doors, fire trucks, police cars,  hospitals,  schools, churches, offices, businesses, etc.

·         Hold decoration contests.

·         Involve Civic Clubs, volunteer organizations such as the Senior Citizens, youth organizations such as YMCA, Boy and Girl Scouts, and Sunday School classes.

·         Invite a speaker to talk to your school, organization, or business about current drug trends, and the harmful effects of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs on lives, families, brains, bodies, and futures.

·         At school, involve English, Social Studies, Science, Health, Speech, Journalism, and Audio-Visual Communications classes in research and reports regarding the current use and harmful effects of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Mathematics, and Economics classes could examine the effect on our economy regarding the costs of drug use, law enforcement, and public health care.

·         Take 5 minutes of yours and your child's time to express clearly your stand on the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.

·         Make family pledge cards and everybody in the family sign one.

·         Write thank you letters to businesses in your community for celebrating Red Ribbon Week.

Let’s work to make this a drug free community.

September 2011

Back to School

Now that school is back in session, it’s time for parents to remember how important you are to your children’s success and happiness in school. Whatever your child’s experience last year —and whatever your past involvement in your child’s education last year — the new school year offers the possibility of a fresh start, for parents and children. Here are five basic stepsfor making sure that your child’s school experience is the best it can be. This information is from the Family Information Services website.

Be sure your child is physically ready for learning each day. This means having enough sleep on school nights and beginning the morning with a healthy breakfast. It also means living in a home environment in which family members treat each other with kindness and respect. High conflict at home creates stress for all members and can seriously undermine a child’s readiness to learn.

 Show genuine interest in your child’s school experience, each and every day. Ask your child to tell you about the school day. What topics did they discuss? What stories did they read? What fun things did they do at recess? Ask to see school work, encourage your child to read aloud for you, or have your child teach you something new from science or math class. When you show that school is interesting to you, it will be more interesting to your child.

 Work with your child to establish a daily homework routine. Make sure that your child has a quiet, comfortable place to work. Figure out with your child the schedule that works best, knowing that some kids do best if they do their homework right away after school, while others benefit from some play time before they focus on their assignments. It often helps to set aside family reading time when everyone does quiet reading or homework without TV, radio, or ipods to distract them. This can be followed by a family snack and a game or a favorite TV show.

 Communicate regularly with the teacher. Don’t wait until there’s a problem, but let the teacher know that you are invested in your child’s learning. Exchange notes or make an occasional phone call to find out how your child is doing and what the teacher needs from you to support and encourage your child’s school success. When you hear good reports from the teacher, tell your child how proud you are. And by all means, never let your child hear you criticize a teacher.

 Visit the school. Attend conferences, open house, performances, and other special events. If possible, volunteer to chaperone a field trip, read to children in your child’s classroom, eat lunch, or offer to teach a class about your career or hobby. Regardless of your child’s age, showing up at school tells them how much you value their education. And it sends a strong message to your children’s teachers that you are their partner in providing the education that your children deserve.

August 2011

10 Mistakes Parents Often Make

While we all love our kids, in this day and age of two working parents and insane schedules, we tend to cut corners and neglect important things. That being said, here are 10 mistakes parents sometimes make. 

1) Spoiling kids… 
There is no doubt that parents love their kids and want them to have all the things they didn’t. However, this comes at a price. A ton of well-intentioned parents have ended up spoiling their kids to such a degree that the kids aren’t even happy with all the stuff they have. This causes them to never be satisfied and always want more. Junior doesn’t need one more piece of “stuff”; what he needs is some special time with his parents. Think of it this way: how will they ever be prepared for disappointment throughout their life—or learn to be thankful for anything?

2) Inadequate discipline…
When you’re too busy or tired to adequately discipline your kids, you pass the “little devil” you’ve created on to your relatives, teachers, coaches, and his friends’ parents. Children should be much better behaved when they leave the house and visit elsewhere than they are even at home. If you don’t discipline your kid, someone else will—and you may not like it.

3) Failing to get involved at school…
School is where your kids will spend more time than any place besides your home. It’s also the place that will have the most responsibility for shaping their life—from teachers and your kids’ peers. That being said, how can you not want to be involved in what’s going on there? It doesn’t matter if it’s you or your spouse: your family needs to have a presence at that school. And don’t use work as an excuse—take a vacation day if you need to. Or you can take your lunch hour to have lunch at school with your child and maybe spend a few minutes in the classroom. You’ll see immediately that it’s time well spent. Always attend parent-teacher conferences, and you should have at least an e-mail relationship with their teacher. It’s a great way for that teacher to see that you’re interested in your child’s development, and the teacher can alert you to anything concerning that may be going on with your son or daughter.

4) Praising mediocrity…
While we all want to encourage our kids to do well and build their self-esteem, there is a point of going too far. Building a child’s self-esteem is great, but having a big party for a mediocre accomplishment skews what they view as a real achievement. One big place we see this is in sports. A participation trophy for anyone over the age of 6 or 7 just ends up devaluing the meaning of a real trophy. It happened in my own household when my children were young. I wasn’t against it then, but I have since changed my mind.  I saw with my own kids that those trophies didn’t mean anything, and they have long since been thrown away.  However, I do know that many parents disagree with this belief. 

5) Not giving kids enough responsibility…
Your kids should not be expecting any payment for doing chores around the house. It’s a home, not a hotel. That being said, an allowance is a great idea … for extra work. They should be pulling their weight as part of the family. If they grow up without enough responsibility, how in the world do you expect them to hold down a job, or get through college? When they get “of age,” make sure they’re taking some of the burden off you around the house—from unloading the dishwasher to emptying the garbage to making up their beds. While they’re not your slaves, they sure aren’t on a permanent vacation, either.

6) Not being a good spouse…
How you treat your husband or wife is very important to the way your kids will develop relationships, especially as adults. If you treat your spouse poorly, or if your only way to settle any kind of dispute is to yell and scream at each other, you’re teaching your kids to handle themselves the same way. Kids learn from watching you much more than they learn from listening to you. If you treat your spouse with love and respect, it will also show your kids the value of their family. It will also make them feel their family is a safe haven in what can be a dark, scary world.

7) Setting unreal expectations…
When dealing with kids, you need to set reasonable expectations for them—especially the little ones. If you want to go out to a nice dinner and expect your 2-year-old to sit there like a little prince, you are setting yourself up for major disappointment. Also, if you have visions of a football star and your son weighs 80 pounds and likes to play the clarinet, you need to reset those expectations. Don’t have unreal expectations for your kids: The main expectation you should have is for them to be happy.

8) Not teaching kids to fend for themselves…
Many parents tend to baby kids these days and cater to their every need, and that eliminates the value of hard work and becoming independent as they grow into adults. Kids nowadays expect everything to be done for them, from cleaning their room to band-aids for hurt feelings. Teaching them to toughen up and do things on their own doesn’t mean that you love them less; it means you love them more.

9) Pushing trends on kids…
Let kids be kids. Parents shouldn’t push their trends or adult outlook on life on their kids. Just because it was your life’s dream to marry a rich guy doesn’t mean we need to see your 4-year-old daughter in a “Future Trophy Wife” t-shirt. The same goes for the double ear piercing—that’s what you want, not them. Teaching kids about your passions is great, but let them grow up to be who they are. It’s hard enough for kids to figure out who they are in the world without you trying to turn them into what you couldn’t be.

10) Not following through…
Most of us parents have trouble with this one.  If you’re telling your kids that they’ll be grounded if they break curfew one more time, for example, you’d better follow through. Unfortunately, following though on punishments or promises makes your life a little more difficult, but building trust is what’s most important. If you’re not true to your word, your kids will assume anything you say is just talk. Then you have a real problem on your hands. You’ll also end up with kids who don’t trust their parents.  Just remember, be careful about what you say.  Be sure it’s realistic and won’t punish you more than your kids.  That old saying “Choose your battles” is especially appropriate here.

This column was adapted from an article by Craig Playstead, a freelance writer and happily married father of three living in the suburbs of Seattle.

July 2011

Myths of Effective Discipline

Most of us parents find value in holding our children accountable for their actions. We rightly believe that if a child misbehaves, something needs to be done or the misbehavior will continue. To that end, we parents often look for a multitude of discipline strategies. We look for books, articles, and parenting advice from others that will tell us exactly what we need to do in order to correct misbehavior. As we compile our stockpile of discipline strategies, we often do not realize that some of these techniques are filled with myths, misunderstandings, and misinterpretations. The following information is adapted from an article by Chick Moorman and Thomas Halle, the authors of “The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose.”   Here are some myths of discipline that Moorman and Halle attempt to dispel.

MYTH: Children learn more quickly from punishment than they do from consequences.

FACT: While it is true that you sometimes get a more immediate result with punishment, it is the consistent implementation of consequences that produces long-term behavior change in children. With punishment, the child is more like to focus on you, your behavior, your anger, than on themselves and the results of the choices they made. Learning rarely results from punishment because children are too busy activating resentment, resistance, and reluctance. They are more likely to spend their time thinking how not to get caught next time than they are of the cause and effect relationship between their behavior and the consequences which follow.

MYTH: Consequences need to be severe to be effective.

FACT: It is not the severity of a consequence that has impact. It is the certainty. The certainty that specific, logical consequences follow actions, allows children to understand the discipline process. Your consistency in implementing consequences is the glue that holds a discipline strategy together. Children learn that if they choose to leave their bike in the middle of the driveway, the bike will be hung up in the garage for a few days. Teenagers come to know that if they choose to visit off limit sites on the computer, they have chosen to lose computer privileges for several days. When the consequence occurs consistently, children can count on it.

MYTH: The discipline has to be immediate or the effect will be lost and the child will simply repeat the behavior.

FACT: Discipline can be effective whether it is immediate or delayed. How you discipline is more important that when you do it. You might want to take 15-20 minutes to think through how you want to respond to a particular behavior. Helping children see the cause and effect relationship that exists between the choices they make and the consequences that are directly related to those choices is more important than whether the consequences occurs immediately or the next day.

MYTH: Parents need to be in control of their children and discipline strategies are the way to stay in control.

FACT: Effective discipline calls for the parents to arrange consequences so that the child is in control. They set it up so that the child is in control of his choices and thus controls the outcomes which result.

Consequences are not used to control, to manipulate, to demonstrate power, or to get even. Attempting to use consequences for control crosses the line and becomes punishment.

Punishment is force, unrelated to the behavior and comes across as retribution. Disciplining from the power stance places the child in a position of being “done to” by others in a position of authority. The child, feeling powerless, does not see himself as being in control of the outcomes. He sees himself as the victim.

When children see themselves as in control of whether or not they experience consequences or outcomes, they are empowered. They learn to see themselves as the cause of what happens to them. They realize they personally create the results which show up in their lives by the choices they make. For example, if your son hits his little sister after being told why he should not, he made the choice, not you, that he is going to have to write her a letter of apology.  It is therefore, our children who need the power and the control for discipline to be effective.

MYTH: Discipline strategies are effective only if they get the child to comply.

FACT: Compliance or noncompliance by the child has nothing to do with the effectiveness of a discipline system. When discipline strategies demand compliance such as in the case where the parent keeps increasing the severity of the punishment until the child complies, children learn that adults have power and they don’t.

In the use of consequences, the effort does not concentrate on making the child comply. The goal is to present choices, allow the child to choose, and then give them room to learn from the positive or negatives outcomes which occur. With the consequence system, children learn a lesson from either the positive or the negative outcome.

Punishing a child with increasing severity until they pick up their toys might get them to pick up their toys. It will not teach them to take responsibility for their toys or create internal motivation to produce the desired behavior.

With consequences, the choice is presented, “You can choose to pick up your toys or you can choose to leave them here. If you choose to pick them up you will have decided to use them for the next week. If you decide to leave them here, I will pick them up, and you will have decided not to have them available for a week. You decide.” With this style of discipline, the child may choose to pick up his toys and he may choose to leave them there. Either way it’s perfect. If he picks them up, it’s perfect. You don’t have to. If he leaves them there, it’s perfect. It’s the perfect time to help him learn what happens when he chooses not to pick up his toys.

MYTH: When you implement a discipline strategy, the child needs to know that you are angry.

FACT: Anger is not helpful in a discipline situation. When you discipline in anger the child’s attention focuses on your strong emotion. He looks outward to the person applying the punishment rather than inward to his own internal reaction to the results of the choice he made.

Sincere empathy is much more effective than anger in a discipline situation. “I am so sorry. I’ll bet that next time you are allowed to go out, you will respect curfew,” is empathy that maintains a positive connection between you and the child, even as you hold them accountable for their actions. When the child hears empathy, instead of anger, he is more likely to look inside and to notice the connection between cause (his choice) and effect (the consequence).

MYTH: Children have to know they were wrong for discipline to be effective.

FACT: Making children wrong for their behavior is counter-productive to raising responsible children. An effective discipline system does not make children right or wrong for their behavior. It simply holds them accountable for their behavior.

If your child fails to put his bike in the garage as agreed, don’t make him wrong. Don’t make him lazy. Don’t make him forgetful. Don’t make him irresponsible. Don’t blame him Just make him someone who doesn’t get to ride his bike for three days as agreed to earlier.

Even if the problem occurs over time, refrain from making your child wrong. Blaming and faultfinding don’t help children learn how to make different choices and behave differently in the future. Fixing the problem is more important than fixing blame. Together, join in the search for solutions and model for your child that you value solving problems more than you do assigning blame and handing out punishments.

MYTH: It is important to point out the pattern of a child’s behavior.

FACT How many times a behavior occurred in the past is unimportant. The focus in any effective discipline system is the present behavior. The past is over and done with, and the present moment is the only place where learning can take place.

Remember, your role as a parent is to empower your children to be responsible, caring and, confident as they move through the developmental stages of childhood. Avoiding these discipline myths can help you play out that role effectively.

April 2011

Tom       Warmer weather is approaching and with it the seemingly inevitable news that a child has died from heat stroke while trapped in a vehicle. 

It has happened in February with temperatures in the low 70’s.  But typically around the middle of March we hear of the first event of the year – a disturbing, horrific incident of an infant or toddler dying from being trapped in a sweltering car.

The risks and causes of these hyperthermia deaths are well-known, and this tragic mishap occurred 49 times in 2010 – the worst year since records have been kept. 

Parents running quick errands may think their cars will remain cool; but even on mild days, temperatures inside vehicles can rise to dangerous levels in just minutes. A young child’s core body temperature can increase three to five times faster than that of an adult, causing permanent injury and even death.

The family car parked in the driveway can also be dangerous. Unlocked cars pose serious risks to children who are naturally curious and often lack fear. Once they crawl in, young children often don’t have the developmental capability to get out. About one-third of heat-related deaths occur when children crawl into unlocked cars while playing and become trapped.

Here are some tips on protecting your children: 

      Heat: 

  • Never leave your child in an unattended car, even with the windows down, even for a few minutes.
  • Check to make sure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination, particularly when loading and unloading. Don’t overlook sleeping infants.
  • Make sure you check the temperature of the child safety seat surface and safety belt buckles before restraining your children in the car.
  • Use a light covering to shade the seat of your parked car. Consider using windshield shades in front and back windows.

     Trunk Entrapment:

  • Teach children not to play in or around cars.
  • Keep car keys out of reach and sight.
  • Always lock car doors and trunks, especially when parked in the driveway or near the home.
  • Keep the rear fold-down seats closed to help prevent kids from getting into the trunk from inside the car.
  • Be wary of child-resistant locks. Teach older children how to disable the driver’s door locks if they unintentionally become entrapped in a motor vehicle.
  • Contact your automobile dealership about getting your vehicle retrofitted with a trunk release mechanism.
  • If your child gets locked inside a car, get him out and dial 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately.

 

Let’s make summer a fun and happy time with no tragedies of children being left unattended in parked cars. 

March 2011

Burn Prevention

Did you know that young children’s skin is thinner than older children and adults, and their skin burns at lower temperatures and more deeply?

Since burns are recognized as one of the most painful and devastating injuries a person can sustain and survive, you should be armed with the information to keep your children safe from this devastating injury.  This information is from Safe Kids USA.

Each year, 465 children ages 14 and under die due to unintentional fire or burn-related injuries.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), children ages 3 and younger are at greatest risk.  The most common cause of hospitalizations for children under 5 years of age is scald burns caused by hot liquids.  Burn Awareness Week was celebrated in February. This year one of the focus areas is preventing scald burn injuries.   

  • A scald is a burn from hot liquid or steam.
  • 60% of all scald injuries are to children ages 0-4. (National Center for Health Statistics)
  • Children have thinner skin than adults which can result in a more severe burn.
  • The most common places children experience scalds are in the kitchen or dining rooms and in the bathrooms.
  • The maximum recommended residential water temperature is 120˚F (48˚C).  

It is        It is important to remember that children, especially those ages 4 and under, may not perceive danger, have less control of their environment, may lack the ability to           knowledge to escape a life-threatening burn situation and may not be able to tolerate the physical stress of a burn injury.

 

He          Here are tips to help keep your kids safe around the house.

KITCHEN AND HOT FOOD

  • Keep children at least 3 feet from hot appliances, pots, pans or food.
  • Use spill-resistant mugs when drinking hot liquids around children.
  • Avoid using tablecloths or anything a child can pull on and cause hot food to spill.
  • When cooking, use back burners and keep pot handles turned towards the back of the stove.
  • Always tuck cords from appliances where children cannot reach them.
  • Never hold a child when cooking something hot.
  • Test and stir all food before serving children to make sure it is cool enough to eat.
  • Supervise children closely when they are in or near the kitchen.

BATHROOM

  • Always test the bath water with your hand before bathing children. 
  • When children are in or near the bath, watch them closely checking the water temperature frequently.  If you are unable to control the temperature that comes out of your faucet, install special tub spouts or shower heads that can shut off the flow of water when it gets too hot.

 

February 20011

The recent tragedy in Tucson has brought the issue of firearm safety to the forefront.  Firearm violence has become a public health crisis in the United States.  Guns are widely available in our society and are kept in millions of American homes.  According to the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, almost 8.7 million children and adolescents have access to handguns, and many are either unaware of or ignore the possible consequences of handling these lethal weapons.

School-age children are curious about and often attracted to guns.  They sometimes see guns as symbols of power.  So do many adolescents and adults.

The availability of handguns in settings where children live and play has led to a devastating toll in human lives, reflected in some sobering statistics:  Every two hours, someone's child is killed with a gun, either in a homicide, a suicide, or as a result of an unintentional injury.  In addition, an unknown but large number of children are seriously injured--often irreversibly disabled--by guns but survive.  Major trauma centers are reporting an increase of 300 percent in the number of children treated for gunshot wounds; in fact, one in every twenty-five admissions to pediatric trauma centers in the U.S. is due to gunshot wounds.

A gun in the home is forty-three times more likely to be used to kill a friend or family member than a burglar or other criminal.  To compound this problem, depressed pre-teenagers and teenagers commit suicide with guns more frequently than by any other means.

We have a constitutional right to own a gun.  However, many parents with children in the home choose not to own a gun.  In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents that the best way to keep your children safe from injury or death from guns is to not have a gun in the home. But, if you choose to have firearms in your home, adhere to these rules for gun safety:

  • Never allow your child access to your gun(s). No matter how much instruction you may give him or her, a youngster up through the middle years is not mature and responsible enough to handle a potentially lethal weapon.

  • Guns (preferably unloaded) and ammunition should be locked away safely in separate locations in the house; and make sure children don't have access to the keys.

  • Guns should be equipped with trigger locks.

  • When using a gun for hunting or target practice, learn how to operate it before ever loading it. Never point the gun at another person, and keep the safety catch in place until you are ready to fire it. Before setting the gun down, always unload it.  Do not use alcohol or drugs while you are shooting.

  • Gun cleaning supplies, which are often poisonous, should also be kept out of reach.

Even if you don't have guns in your home, that won't eliminate your child's risks. Half of the homes in the U.S. contain firearms, and more than a third of all accidental shootings of children take place in homes of their friends, neighbors, or relatives.

Here is some important information you need to communicate to your youngsters:

  • Let them know that risks of gun injuries may exist in places they visit and play.

  • Tell them that if they see or encounter a gun in a friend's home or elsewhere, they must steer clear of it, and tell you about it.

  • Talk with the parents of your child's friends, and find out if they have firearms in their home.  If they do, find out in a respectful way if they keep them unloaded, locked up, and inaccessible to children.

  • When a child is old enough to interact with others, even if he doesn't speak yet, he probably has a good idea of what guns are.  According to the National Institute on Media and Family, the average child sees 200,000 violent acts on television (including 40,000 murders) by high school graduation. These numbers do not include what children see in movies or on the internet. Make sure your children understand that violence on TV, in the movies, and online is not real.  They need to be told--and probably reminded again and again--that in real life, children are killed and hurt badly by guns. Although the popular media often romanticize gun use, youngsters must learn that these weapons can be extremely dangerous.

  • The Eddie Eagle Program of the National Rifle Association offers the following four-step approach to gun safety for kids: stop, don't touch, get away, and tell an adult. Kids need to be reminded of these 4 steps over and over again.

Your priority as a parent must be to protect your children from harm.  If you have questions or concerns about this issue, discuss it with your child's pediatrician.

January 2011

Ever wonder what happened to the family dinner hour? Or for that matter the family dinner half hour? Monday is Soccer Practice, Tuesday is Piano lesson, Wednesday is Church Activities, Thursday is a Soccer Game, and Friday is some other activity to attend. A number of other events will fill up the weekend. Moms often feel like professional schedulers and taxi drivers and become increasingly irritable as they go from one activity to the next. Maybe you and your children are over scheduled.  This information is from an article by Kimberly Chastain, a family therapist.

In the past few years, we have seen a marked increase in children with anxiety and depression. Children are now saying they are ‘stressed out’. Children no longer seem to have time just to “goof off” and just be kids – “goof off time” is not on the schedule.

Parents need to guard their children and themselves to protect children’s unscheduled time to be children. Children need time to create their own games and also to learn to entertain themselves. Children often want us to entertain them or the television instead of figuring out how to play by themselves. My guess is guess that some of your fondest memories as a child were playing out in the backyard with some friends and really doing nothing in particular, just laughing, playing, talking and just ‘hanging out’. 

Here are ten suggestions to keep your family from being over scheduled:

1.        Each child in the family has one or two outside activities (i.e. sports, music lessons) besides church activities.

2.        If your child wants to add an activity they may consider giving up a current activity in exchange for the new one.

3.        Set family nights on your calendar. Order a pizza and play board games. No one can schedule anything on family night.

4.        Help your child learn to say “No” and help set appropriate limits on their activities away from home.

5.        Do not say “Yes” to any new activity for yourself or child till you have weighed the costs (i.e. financial, emotional, loss of family time, etc.).

6.        Assess your irritability quotient. Do you find yourself frequently saying, “Hurry up, we are going to be late?” How can you slow down? What can you give up?

7.        Resolve to eat dinner together as a family at least 3 times a week, even if it is just sandwiches before you head out to a game or lesson.

8.        Schedule “goof-off” time for your family and children. Give your child down time to explore a hobby or play outside.

9.        Set priorities for your family. How many hours a week do you want to be together as a family?

10.   Take time as a family to enjoy God’s creation away from home. Examples: Go to a park, go for a bike ride, go hiking, etc.

As parents you are modeling for your children how to handle stress and how to balance our time. What lessons are we teaching our children? The Bible tells us in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God…”  In our hurried society, we are teaching children to “Be harried and know that I am God.” Make the time to slow down and enjoy the gift of your children.

December 2010

The following information is adapted from an article by Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman, parenting and relationship experts.  Christmas is fast approaching, and many parents are concerned about their family’s financial situation and the money problems they may be experiencing this holiday season. As if poor economic times, job losses, rising food prices, stock market instability, and skyrocketing health care costs aren't enough, parents now have the added concern of finding available money to put a few presents under the Christmas tree.

The giving of gifts during the holiday season is an honored tradition in most homes. Many parents are wondering what they will give this year as they tighten the money belt and attempt to weather the financial storm through the holidays.

 Perhaps the answer lies in the gifts that are given. Give children what they really want from their parents: presence, not presents. All children spell love T-I-M-E. What we can give to them is our attention, our availability, our mindfulness, our closeness, and our time.

 Are you being fully present with your children? Can you let go of your worry about money and the giving of gifts? Can you suspend your agenda to focus on theirs? Can you learn to be there for and with your children?

Consider the following suggestions as a way to give the most important present this holiday season, your presence.

  1. Be there regardless of what you are doing. The holiday season requires an added measure of balancing kids' schedules, visiting family, and cooking elaborate meals as well as keeping up the regular requirements of work, laundry, cleaning, everyday cooking, etc. When feeling pulled in several directions, many parents turn to multitasking. Avoid the urge to multitask and strive to stay focused on the moment at hand. When you sit with your children, whether it’s to play a game or read a book, give them your undivided attention.
     
  2. Make a "be" choice. How you choose to "be" affects whatever you choose to “do.” When you are with your children, choose to be interested in what they are interested in. Choose to be happy that you have the time to focus on their needs and wants. Choose to be excited about the time you have with them. Even when misbehavior occurs in your children, choose to be glad that you have the opportunity to help them learn a new behavior or a new way to communicate a desire or express a feeling.
     
  3. Focus on listening rather than telling. Children spend a great portion of their day following directions: pick up your clothes, make your bed, sit down, be quiet, go play, chew with your mouth closed, stop picking on your brother, hang up your coat, brush your teeth. The list of commands seems unending. Remember, children have valuable things to say too. Many times parents get so focused on telling that they forget to listen. Value your children's opinion. Allow them opportunities to vent. Embrace their point of view. Invite suggestions. Listen to their voice.
     
  4. Connect physically. Touch is a powerful way to communicate "I love you." Get close and touch your children’s heart with a warm embrace or a gentle squeeze of the shoulder. Snuggle under a blanket and read together. Go for a walk and hold hands. Wrestle on the living room floor. Dispense hugs, smiles, winks and an occasional high five. 
     
  5. Connect emotionally. Feelings are always more important than things. Create an environment where it is safe to be emotional. Encourage the expression of feelings. Allow your feelings to extend to your children as you share traditions, reflect on holidays past, and gather as a family. Demonstrate empathy, compassion and understanding. 
     
  6. Unplug from the electronic world. The television, computer, video games, and other electronic gadgets have the potential to create a disconnect from personal interaction. While riding in the car, tell your children a story about the day they were born or relate a favorite holiday memory. Play a board game together. Stand up, walk away from the TV, and go shoot baskets, skip rope, or ride bikes with your child.
     
  7. Play by the kids' rules. Play with your children at their level. Make mud pies, jump in rain puddles, roll down a hill, spray whipped cream on the kitchen table and join in the creation of artistic designs, and then eat them! Cover the driveway in sidewalk chalk. Let your children take the lead and change the rules of a game if they want. Know that play, no matter how childish or silly it may appear, is an investment in connecting with your children. Play regularly, and remember that the reason for play is to play, not to win.

Make a commitment this holiday season to give the best gift you can give by being present in your child’s life. Be active and interactive on a daily basis with your children. Be the parent God called you to be. Give your presence.

November 2010

Eating Dinner Together

Sharing dinner as a family can be difficult.  You’re working late, the kids have soccer practice, music lessons, and dance and karate classes; and no one can agree on what food they want!

Here are some easy ideas for making family dinner a tradition in your house:

Pick a Day and Stick To It. On Sunday, look at everyone’s schedule and decide which day will be most convenient for the whole family. Then, stick to that schedule – no excuses! Soon, you’ll have created a tradition that your whole family looks forward to.

Encourage Your Kids to Pick the Menu and Help Prepare. Have a few picky eaters in the house? Let your kids help plan the menu, and then take some weight off the cook by letting the kids help with the preparation. When everyone has a say, you’ll have fewer complaints; and the whole family will enjoy the evening more.

Turn Off the TV. Family dinner is a time to really connect – not tune out! Ask your children what they learned in school today, and tell them about your work day. This is also a great time to talk with your kids about what’s going on in your family and your neighborhood.

Keep Conversation Positive. Use this opportunity to encourage your children and to bring closure to their busy days. Also, make sure everyone gets a chance to speak and share. You’ll be amazed at how 30 or 45 minutes spent sharing a meal together can positively impact you and your children.

Why is eating together as a family very important? First, it’s a great way to connect with your kids.  Second, research shows that the more often children eat dinner with the whole family; the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors.  Compared to teens who have frequent family dinners, those who have infrequent family dinners are three and a half times likelier to have abused prescription drugs; three and a half times likelier to have used an illegal drug other than marijuana or prescription drugs; three times likelier to have used marijuana; more than two and a half times likelier to have used tobacco; and one and a half times likelier to have drunk alcohol, according to a new report by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University and sponsored by The Safeway Foundation.

The report, The Importance of Family Dinners IV, also reveals that compared to 12- and 13-year olds who have frequent family dinners, those who have infrequent family dinners are six times likelier to have used marijuana; more than four and a half times likelier to have used tobacco; and more than two and a half times likelier to have used alcohol.

Among 14- and 15-year olds, those who have infrequent family dinners are three times likelier to have used marijuana and two and a half times likelier to have used tobacco compared to those who have frequent family dinners.

Among 16- and 17-year olds, those who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to have used marijuana and almost twice as likely to have used tobacco compared to those who have frequent family dinners.

So this fall, make time for family dinner at least once or twice a week. It's a great way to connect and make memories that will last.

 

October 2010

Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country. This year Red Ribbon Week (actually 8 days) will be celebrated October 23-31, 2010. Red Ribbon Week serves as a vehicle for communities and individuals to take a stand for the hopes and dreams of our children through a commitment to drug prevention and education and a personal commitment to live drug free lives with the ultimate goal being the creation of drug free America. Red Ribbon Week began to commemorate the ultimate sacrifice made by DEA Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, who died at the hands of drug traffickers in Mexico while fighting the battle against illegal drugs to keep our country and children safe.

Camarena grew up in a house with a dirt floor. He had hopes and dreams of making a difference. He worked his way through college, served in the Marines, and became a police officer. When he decided to join the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, his mother tried to talk him out it. "I can't not do this," he told her. "I'm only one person, but I want to make a difference." The DEA sent Camarena to work undercover in Guadalajara, Mexico investigating a major drug cartel believed to include officers in the Mexican army, police and government. He was extremely close to unlocking a multi-billion dollar drug pipeline.

On Feb. 7, 1985, the 37-year-old Camarena left his office to meet his wife for lunch. Five men appeared at the agent's side and shoved him in a car and kidnapped him. One month later, Camarena's body was found in a shallow grave. He had been brutally tortured to death.

Within weeks of his death in March of 1985, Camarena's Congressman, Duncan Hunter, and high school friend Henry Lozano, launched Camarena Clubs in Imperial Valley, California, Camarena's home. Hundreds of club members pledged to lead drug-free lives to honor the sacrifices made by Camarena and others on behalf of all Americans. These pledges were delivered to First Lady Nancy Reagan at a national conference of parents combating youth drug use. Several state parent organizations then called on community groups to wear red ribbons during the last week of October as a symbol of their drug-free commitment.

The first Red Ribbon Week celebrations were held in La Mirada and Norwalk, California. In 1988, the National Family Partnership (NFP) coordinated the first National Red Ribbon Week with President and Mrs. Reagan serving as honorary chairpersons.

Today, Red Ribbon Week is nationally recognized and celebrated, helping to preserve Special Agent Camarena's memory and further the cause for which he gave his life. The Red Ribbon Campaign also became a symbol of support for the

DEA's efforts to reduce demand for drugs through prevention and education programs. By wearing a red ribbon during Red Ribbon Week, Americans demonstrate their ardent opposition to drugs. They pay homage not only to Special Agent Camarena, but to all men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in support of our nation's struggle against drug trafficking and abuse.

Here are just a few ways to celebrate Red Ribbon Week. I’m sure you can think of many more.

* Wear a red ribbon yourself, and encourage your relatives, your friends, your neighbors, your boss, and your coworkers to do the same. * Place red ribbons and bows all over the community - office buildings, posts, trees, billboards, mailboxes, bicycles, dogs, buses, car antennas, front doors, fire trucks, police cars, hospitals, schools, churches, offices, businesses, etc.

* Hold decoration contests.

* Involve Civic Clubs, volunteer organizations such as the Senior Citizens, youth organizations such as YMCA, Boy and Girl Scouts, and Sunday School classes.

* Invite a speaker to talk to your school, organization, or business about current drug trends, and the harmful effects of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs on lives, families, brains, bodies, and futures.

* At school, involve English, Social Studies, Science, Health, Speech, Journalism, and Audio-Visual Communications classes in research and reports regarding the current use and harmful effects of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Mathematics, and Economics classes could examine the effect on our economy regarding the costs of drug use, law enforcement, and public health care.

* Take 5 minutes of yours and your child's time to express clearly your stand on the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.

* Make family pledge cards and everybody in the family sign one.

* Write thank you letters to businesses in your community for celebrating Red Ribbon Week.

Let’s work to make this a drug free community.

August 2010

Back to School Tips

With School starting, I thought it would be a good idea to review these back to school tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

MAKING THE FIRST DAY EASIER

  • Remind your child that he is not the only student who is a bit anxious about the first day of school. Teachers know that students are anxious and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.
  • Point out the positive aspects of starting school: It will be fun. He'll see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh his positive memories about previous years, when he may have returned home after the first day with high spirits because he had a good time.
  • Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your youngster can ride with on the bus.
  • If you feel it is appropriate, drive your child (or walk with her) to school and pick her up on the first day.

BACKPACK SAFETY

  • Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
  • Pack light. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight.
  • Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.
  • Consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must carry a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs.

TRAVELING TO AND FROM SCHOOL
School Bus

  • If your child’s school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times when in the bus.
  • Wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Do not move around on the bus.
  • Check to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing.
  • Make sure to always remain in clear view of the bus driver.
  • Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.

Car

  • All passengers should wear a seat belt and/or an age- and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat.
  • Your child should ride in a car safety seat with a harness as long as possible and then ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Your child is ready for a booster seat when she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat.
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4' 9" in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age). This means that the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down and the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat; the lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, and not the stomach.
  • All children under 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat (when carpooling, for example), move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back as possible and have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it.
  • Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. You should require seat belt use, limit the number of teen passengers, do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations or texting to prevent driver distraction; and limit nighttime driving and driving in inclement weather. Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver license law and consider the use of a parent-teen driver agreement to facilitate the early driving learning process.

Bike

  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright color clothing to increase visibility.
  • Know the "rules of the road."

Walking to School

  • Make sure your child's walk to a school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Be realistic about your child's pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
  • If your child is young or is walking to new school, walk with them the first week to make sure they know the route and can do it safely.
  • Bright colored clothing will make your child more visible to drivers.
  • In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider starting a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.

EATING DURING THE SCHOOL DAY

  • Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home. With this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
  • Send healthy choices as snacks, such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100 percent fruit juice.
  • Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child's risk of obesity by 60%. Restrict your child's soft drink consumption.

BULLYING

Bullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, or over the Internet.


When Your Child Is Bullied

  • Help your child learn how to respond by teaching your child how to:
    1. Look the bully in the eye.
    2. Stand tall and stay calm in a difficult situation.
    3. Walk away.
  • Teach your child how to say in a firm voice.
    1. "I don't like what you are doing."
    2. "Please do NOT talk to me like that."
    3. "Why would you say that?"
  • Teach your child when and how to ask for help.
  • Encourage your child to make friends with other children.
  • Support activities that interest your child.
  • Alert school officials to the problems and work with them on solutions.
  • Make sure an adult who knows about the bullying can watch out for your child's safety and well-being when you cannot be there.

When Your Child Is the Bully

  • Be sure your child knows that bullying is never OK.
  • Set firm and consistent limits on your child's aggressive behavior.
  • Be a positive role mode. Show children they can get what they want without teasing, threatening or hurting someone.
  • Use effective, non-physical discipline, such as loss of privileges.
  • Develop practical solutions with the school principal, teachers, counselors, and parents of the children your child has bullied.

When Your Child Is a Bystander

  • Tell your child not to cheer on or even quietly watch bullying.
  • Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult about the bullying.
  • Help your child support other children who may be bullied. Encourage your child to include these children in activities.
  • Encourage your child to join with others in telling bullies to stop.

BEFORE AND AFTER SCHOOL CHILD CARE

  • During middle childhood, youngsters need supervision. A responsible adult should be available to get them ready and off to school in the morning and watch over them after school until you return home from work.
  • Children approaching adolescence (11- and 12-year-olds) should not come home to an empty house in the afternoon.
  • If alternate adult supervision is not available, parents should make special efforts to supervise their children from a distance. Children should have a set time when they are expected to arrive at home and should check in with a neighbor or with a parent by telephone.

DEVELOPING GOOD HOMEWORK AND STUDY HABITS

  • Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework. Youngsters need a permanent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that offers privacy.
  • Set aside ample time for homework.
  • Establish a household rule that the TV set stays off during homework time.
  • Supervise computer and internet use.
  • Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child's homework for her.
  • Take steps to help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while studying. It may be helpful to close the books for a few minutes, stretch, and take a break periodically when it will not be too disruptive.
  • If your child is struggling with a particular subject, and you aren't able to help her yourself, a tutor can be a good solution. Talk it over with your child's teacher first.

July 2010

Single Parenting

About one in four American children today lives in a single-parent home. And though the circumstances may vary (many parents are divorced, a few are widowed, and others are single parents by choice), the reality is that solo parenting is often stressful, demanding, and hectic. If you are a single mom or dad, there are 10 things you can do to help minimize the stress in your life -- and bring back the joy of parenting. This information is from Americanbaby.com.

1. Get a handle on finances. Raising a family on one income or relying on an ex-spouse for child support, can be one of the hardest aspects of parenting alone. That's why it's important to take steps to budget your money, learn about long-term investments, plan for college and retirement, and, if possible, enhance your earning power by going back to school or getting additional job training.

2. Set up a support system. All single parents need help -- whether it's someone to watch the kids while you run out to do errands or simply someone to talk to when you feel overwhelmed. While it's tempting to try to handle everything alone, ask friends and family members for help. You can join a single-parent support group, or, if finances allow, hire a trusted sitter to help out with the kids or someone to assist with housework.

3. Maintain a daily routine. Try to schedule meals, chores, bedtimes, and other family functions at regular hours so that your child knows exactly what to expect each day. A consistent routine will help your child feel more secure and help you feel more organized.

4. Be consistent with discipline. Children thrive when they know which behaviors are expected of them and which rules they need to follow. If you are divorced or separated, try to work with your spouse to create and observe consistent rules and methods of discipline. (There's nothing more stressful than having one parent undermine the other.) If your child has other caregivers, talk to them about how you expect your child to be disciplined.

5. Answer questions honestly. Inevitably, questions will come up about the changes in your family, or about the absence of one parent. Answer your child's questions in an open, honest, and age-appropriate way. Make sure that your child gets the help and support he needs to deal with difficult emotions.

6. Treat kids like kids. With the absence of a partner, it's sometimes tempting to rely too heavily on children for comfort, companionship, or sympathy. But children have neither the emotional capacity nor the life experience to act as substitute adult partners. If you find yourself depending on your kids too much, or expressing your frustrations to them, seek out adult friends and family members to talk to. Or seek counseling if necessary.

7. Abolish the word "guilt" from your vocabulary. It's always easy for single parents to feel guilty about the time they don't have or the things they can't do or provide for their children. But for your own sense of well-being, it's better to focus on all the things you do accomplish on a daily basis and on all the things you do provide -- and don't forget about all the love, attention, and comfort you're responsible for! (If you ever question your day-to-day achievements, just make a list.) If you're feeling guilty about a divorce or other disruption in your home life, think about joining a support group for other divorced parents. Focus on helping your child (and yourself) get the help you need.

8. Take time for your children. Even though the piles of laundry and dirty dishes may beckon, set aside time each day to enjoy your kids. (After all, isn't that what parenting is all about?) Spend quiet time playing, reading, going for a walk, or simply listening to music together. And most important, focus on the love between you and on your relationship as a family.

9. Take time for yourself. Likewise, it's important to schedule time for yourself. Even if it's something as simple as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or having a chat with a friend, setting aside a little personal time will give you a chance to refuel.

10. Stay positive. It's easy to become overwhelmed by all the responsibilities and demands of single parenthood. On top of that, you may be experiencing the pain of divorce, separation, or the death of a spouse. Despite all of your own feelings, though, it's important to maintain a positive attitude, since your children are affected by your moods. The best way to deal with stress is to exercise regularly, maintain a proper diet, get enough rest, and seek balance in your life. If you feel sad sometimes, it's okay; but be sure to let your children know that they are not the cause of your problems--and good times like ahead of you.

June 2010

Disciplining children is one of the key jobs of any parent – maybe the most important job a parent has. But whether or not that discipline should include

spanking or other forms of corporal punishment is a far trickier issue. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), with over 60,000 members nationwide,

does not endorse spanking for any reason, citing its lack of long-term effectiveness as a behavior-changing tactic. Instead the AAP supports strategies

such as "time-outs,” praising good behavior, suffering consequences (both natural and logical), and removal of privileges, among other things. 

 

Now, researchers at Tulane University provide some of the strongest evidence yet against the use of spanking: of the nearly 2,500 youngsters in their study, those who were spanked more frequently at age 3 were more likely to be aggressive by age 5. The research supports earlier work on corporal punishment, such

as a study by Duke University researchers that revealed that infants who were spanked at 12 months scored lower on cognitive tests at age 3.

"There is now some nice hard data that can back up clinicians when they share their caution with parents against using corporal punishment," says Dr. Jayne Singer, clinical director of the child and parent program at Children's Hospital Boston, who was not involved in the study.

The Tulane study, led by Catherine Taylor, was the first to control simultaneously for variables that are most likely to confound the association between

spanking and later aggressive behavior. The researchers accounted for factors such as acts of neglect by the mother, violence or aggression between

the parents, maternal stress and depression, the mother's use of alcohol and drugs, and even whether the mother considered abortion while pregnant

with the child.

Each of these factors contributed to children's aggressive behavior at age 5, but they could not explain all of the violent tendencies at that age. Further, the positive connection between spanking and aggression remained strong, even after these factors had been accounted for.

"The odds of a child being more aggressive at age 5 if he had been spanked more than twice in the month before the study began increased by 50%,"

says Taylor. And because her group also accounted for varying levels of natural aggression in children, the researchers are confident that "it's not just

that children who are more aggressive are more likely to be spanked."

 

What the study, published in the professional journal Pediatrics, shows is that outside of the most obvious factors that may influence violent behavior

in children, spanking still remains a strong predictor. "This study controls for the most common risk factors that people tend to think of as being

associated with aggression," says Singer. "This adds more credence, more data, and more strength to the argument against using corporal punishment."

 

Among the mothers who were studied, nearly half (45.6%) reported no spanking in the previous month; 27.9% reported spanking once or twice;

and 26.5% reported spanking more than twice. Compared with children who were not hit, those who were spanked were more likely to be defiant,

demand immediate satisfaction of their wants and needs, get frustrated easily, have temper tantrums, and lash out physically against others.

 

The reason for that, says Singer, may be that spanking instills fear rather than understanding. Even if a child were to stop his screaming tantrum

when spanked, that doesn't mean he understands why he shouldn't be acting out in the first place. What's more, spanking models aggressive

behavior as a solution to problems.

 

For children to understand what and why they have done something wrong, it may take repeated efforts on the parent's part, using time-outs - a

strategy that typically involves denying the child any attention, praise or interaction with parents for a specified period of time (that is, the parents

ignore the child). These quiet times force children to calm down and learn to think about their emotions, rather than acting out on them blindly.

 

Now, I personally know from previous articles I’ve written on this subject that there are parents who believe very strongly and passionately in corporal

punishment.  Often they cite the Bible as a source for defending the practice. However, many ministers today are speaking out against that

interpretation of scripture.  To give an example, the Reverend Dr. Thomas E. Sagendorf, a United Methodist minister, says, “I can find no sanction

in the teachings of Jesus or the witness of the New Testament to encourage the practice of corporal punishment.  The attitude of Jesus toward

children was wise, loving, and filled with compassion. Anyone who takes seriously Jesus' Sermon on the Mount will immediately see that it's inconceivable that Jesus of Nazareth--compassionate as he was toward the weak and powerless--would ever sanction or participate in violence toward children. It’s hard

to conceive of Jesus hitting a child on any occasion or for any reason.  Jesus was overwhelmingly committed to non-violent response.  A number of

voices, however, do take a different view, often quoting Old Testament scriptures to prove their point; but those who subscribe to this argument

misunderstand and misuse scripture.  A similar method of selective reading could just as well be used to justify slavery, suppression of women,

polygamy, incest, and infanticide.”   

 

I am well aware that some parents who condone corporal punishment will never be convinced by scientific research that it is not effective; and

certainly that is their right.  I am merely sharing this newest information, and you can do with it what you like.  It is, indeed, true that spanking may

stop a child from misbehaving in the short term; however, it becomes less and less effective with repeated use, according to the AAP. It also makes

discipline more difficult as the child gets older and outgrows spanking. As the latest study shows, investing the time early on to teach a child why

his behavior is wrong may translate to a youngster who is more self-aware and in control later on.