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Your Child

Talking to Your Child About Tragic News Events

2:00

Another tragedy has taken place, this time a terrorist attack in Paris, France.  Children, adolescents and adults have lost their lives or been seriously injured while out for an evening of fun, errands or romance.  Media outlets have been covering the events, sometimes showing graphic video or photos from the bloody scenes.

When children view these images or hear the stories, they can become scared and worried that the same thing will happen to them. 

Whenever catastrophic local, national or global events take place, it’s easy to assume that your child doesn’t really know what is going on or understand the gravity. But, in this age of instant and abundant information, they most likely do. Children are very sensitive to their parents and friends’ feelings. They are more tuned in than you might think.

Children sense when their parents are really worried, whether they're watching the news or talking about it with others. No matter what children know about a crisis, it's especially disconcerting for them to realize that their parents are scared, angry or shocked.

When bad things happen, children want to know what is going on.  It doesn’t have to be an international event. Local tragedies such as a flood, tornado, shooting, kidnapping, suicide, house fire or car wreck can be more frightening to children than events taking place across the world or in another state.

So, how do you talk with your child about such unhappy and threatening things? I’ve turned to Mr. Rogers to share with you his calming and thoughtful insights. The first time he addressed this topic was after Robert Kennedy’s assassination. Parents and educators turned to him for guidance then and his advice still holds true today.

In times of crisis, children want to know, "Who will take care of me?" They're dependent on adults for their survival and security. They're naturally self-centered. Their world is small and their life experience is limited. They need to hear very clearly that their parents are doing all they can to take care of them and to keep them safe. They also need to know that people in the government, in their community and in the world, and other people they don't even know, are working hard to keep them safe, too.

One of the ways young children express feelings is through play. However, sometimes events that happen are violent, so parents need to be nearby to redirect play if it takes a turn in that direction. More nurturing play can help children process the different activities and needs that happen around certain types of events. Play involving being a doctor or nurse in a hospital setting or creating a pretend meal for emergency workers or families can help children understand that there are good people and helpful actions that also take place when something bad happens.

When children are scared and anxious, they might become more dependent, clingy, and afraid to go to bed at night. Whining, aggressive behavior, or toilet accidents may be their way of asking for more comfort from the important adults in their lives. Little by little, as we adults around them become more confident, hopeful and secure, our children can experience a more calming sense of security.

When shocking event happens, it’s easy to get drawn into watching the news for hours and hours. Think back to 9-11 when there was non-stop coverage for days with repeated video of the towers being hit and falling. It created post-traumatic stress disorder, nation-wide. As hard as it is for adults to assimilate, it’s even harder for children. Once you have the information, turn the TV off or find something else for your kids to watch. Monitor their online activity as well to see if they are seeing too much graphic information or too many stories of “What if this happened here?”

Exposing ourselves to so many tragedies can make us feel hopeless, insecure, and even depressed, feelings that even young children can sense. We help our children-and ourselves-if we're able to limit our own television viewing. Our children need us to spend time with them-away from the frightening images on the screen.

Limiting our child’s media exposure doesn’t mean we don’t talk about what has happened with them.

Even if we wanted to, it would be impossible to give our children all the reasons for such things as war, terrorists, abuse, murders, fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes. If very young children ask questions, our best answer may be to ask them, "What do you think happened?" If the answer is, "I don't know," then the simplest reply might be something like, "I'm sad about the news, and I'm worried. But I love you, and I'll take care of you."

If we don't let children know it's okay to feel sad and scared, they may try to hide those feelings or think something is wrong with them whenever they do feel that way. They certainly don't need details of what's making us sad or scared, but if we can help them accept their own feelings as natural and normal, their feelings will be much more manageable for them.

Your child’s age and emotional IQ should be your guide on how much detail you go into when discussing tragic events. Very young children do not need a lot of detail. Children 7 and under are most concerned with safety. They need to know that you and they are secure. That’s why it important to keep the TV at a minimum for kids in this age group. They can identify strongly to pictures of other young children in peril or crying because they’ve lost someone dear to them. At this age, kids are most concerned with separation from you.  Assure them that you are watching out for them and will protect them.

Children between the ages of 8 and 12 will often notice the morality of events.  You may have to explain the basics of prejudice, bias, and civil and religious strife. But be careful about making generalizations, since kids will take you at your word. This is a good time to ask them what they know, since they'll probably have gotten their information from friends, and you may have to correct facts. This age group will most likely be online more. While it’s still important to keep news viewing under control, online viewing and searching should be monitored as well. It’s a good age to discuss lots of views and opinions about events. Read stories together and then ask them what they think.

Teens will probably get their news independently of you. Talking to them can offer great insights into their developing senses of justice and morality. It will also give you the opportunity to throw your own insights into the mix, but don’t dismiss their opinions or insights just because they may not be the same as yours. They will shut down communication quickly if they feel their ideas are not being valued.  Discuss the ways that different media covers events. Again, ask them what they think.

Having to discuss tragic or scary events with our children isn’t new. Generations of parents have had to address various topics from volcano eruptions that wiped out an entire city to the Holocaust to the cold war. But how we get our information has changed dramatically. Media in one form or another is prolific with gory images and misinformation available at the touch of finger. So parents have to react quicker and with more assurance and details than they would probably like. But that’s what we do. We protect our children in all ways, as best we can, with loving and clear information.

Sources:  http://pbskids.org/rogers//parentsteachers/special/scarynews-thoughts.html

Carolyn Knorr, https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/explaining-the-news-to-our-kids

 

Your Child

Good Sleep Habits Help Kids Succeed in School

1:30

If you’ve ever been sleep deprived, you know how difficult it can be to focus and get through the demands of the day.

So it’s not surprising that a new study says that children, who have good sleeping habits by the age of five, do better when they start school.

However, what may surprise you is that according to the National Sleep Foundation, a 2004 poll revealed that 69 percent of children 10 and under experience some type of sleep problem such as insomnia, nightmares, restless legs syndrome, sleep terrors, sleepwalking and sleep apnea.

For this study, researchers reviewed the sleep behavior of nearly 2,900 children in Australia from birth until they were 6 or 7. They found that one-third had mounting sleep problems in their first five years that put them at added risk for attention disorders and emotional and behavioral problems in school.

"The overwhelming finding is it's vital to get children's sleep behaviors right by the time they turn five," researcher Kate Williams said in a Queensland University of Technology news release. Williams is on the faculty in its School of Early Childhood.

For many families, today’s social and home environment is a roller coaster ride; creating solid routines, winding down and focusing on good sleep habits has almost become a lost art.

Williams and her team found that children with increasing sleep problems in early childhood were apt to be more hyperactive and to have more emotional outbursts in the classroom.

"If these sleep issues aren't resolved by the time children are 5 years old, then they are at risk of poorer adjustment to school," she noted.

There are lots of online tips for helping children develop good sleeping habits. These are usually in every list:

·      No video games, TV or electronic gadgets for at least an hour before bed.

·      Set a bedtime and stick to it that allows for plenty of sleep.

·      Follow a routine – brush teeth, wash hands and face and settle in for sleep. Reading a book to your little one can help relax them.

·      Make sure their room is dark and cool when it’s time for light’s out.. If your child needs a night light, place it in the hallway or bathroom and leave the door ajar. Turn it off once they are asleep.

·      Avoid giving your child candy or food right before bedtime. Certain foods can be stimulating and creating the habit of eating before bed or during the night is a hard one to break.

·      Make sure your child is comfortable. Pajamas should not restrict movement. Blankets shouldn’t be so heavy as to cause them to be hot or too warm.

Story sources: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/education-news-745/children-sleep-school-qut-release-batch-2570-708848.html

https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/children-and-sleep

Parenting

Bedwetting Accidents

1:45

I’ll admit it; I was a bed-wetter on and off until I was about 6 years of age. The biggest hurdle I faced in getting past leaving a little puddle of urine in the bed during the night, was visually realistic dreams. I would actually see myself get out of bed, walk to the bathroom and sit on the toilet. Unfortunately, I was only dreaming and would awaken after feeling a wet spot in the bed. It was quite embarrassing.

An accident in a friend’s bed during a sleepover was the last straw.

It took several pre-bedtime experiments to finally help me make it through the night dry; but eventually I was able to tell reality from dreams.

How common is bedwetting? Nocturnal enuresis (the medical name for bedwetting) is involuntary urination that happens at night during sleep after the age when a child should be able to control his or her bladder.

About 13 percent of 6 year olds wet the bed, while about 5 percent of 10 year olds.

Bedwetting sometimes runs in families – if one or both parents wet the bed when they were children, odds are that their children will too.

Most of the time, bedwetting goes away on its’ own. Until that time, it can test a parent’s patience and cause a child plenty of anxiety.

To help a child cope with this uncomfortable time, reassure your child that bedwetting is a normal part of growing up for many kids, and that it will not last forever. If you have stories of your own experiences, this would be the time to share them with your little one.

My child also wet the bed and one sure way to stop her tears of embarrassment was to tell her one of my own personal experiences.  It didn’t take long to switch from sobbing to laughing over our shared nighttime horror.

Kidhealth.org offers these tips for breaking the bedwetting spell:

- Try to have your child drink more fluids during the daytime hours and less at night (and avoid caffeine-containing drinks). Then remind your child to go to the bathroom one final time before bedtime. Many parents find that using a motivational system, such as stickers for dry nights with a small reward (such as a book) after a certain number of stickers, can work well. Bedwetting alarms also can be helpful.

- When your child wakes with wet sheets, don't yell or punish. Have your child help you change the sheets. Explain that this isn't punishment, but it is part of the process. It may even help your child feel better knowing that he or she helped out. Offer praise when your child has a dry night.

Sometimes, bedwetting can be a signal that there is a medical condition that should be checked out. If it begins suddenly or is accompanied by other symptoms, talk to your pediatrician.

The doctor may check for signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI), constipation, bladder problems, diabetes, or severe stress.

Call the doctor if your child:

•       Suddenly starts wetting the bed after being consistently dry for at least 6 months

•       Begins to wet his or her pants during the day

•       Snores at night

•       Complains of a burning sensation or pain when urinating

•       Has to pee frequently

•       Is drinking or eating much more than usual

•       Has swelling of the feet or ankles

•       Is 7 years of age or older and still wetting the bed

Bedwetting can be a sign that a child is under a lot of stress. Often, when a child loses a family member or pet, is doing poorly in school or is frightened about something, they will suddenly start wetting the bed – even if they’ve never done it before or have mastered the art of getting through the night dry.

Your support and patience can go a long way in helping your child feel better about and overcome the bedwetting.

Remember, the long-term outlook is excellent and in almost all cases, dry days are just ahead.

As for me, I had to find a touchstone to let me know the difference between dreaming and actually getting up to go the bathroom. It was the bathroom light switch. If I actually touched the light switch and turned it on, then counted to five before moving, I was really awake. If the light was already on and I walked to the toilet and sat down- I was dreaming.

Story source: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/enuresis.html#

 

 

Daily Dose

Elf on the Shelf

1:00 to read

“Tis the season”, and many of the families I care for have gotten out their “Elf on the Shelf” to help keep the season as merry and harmonious as possible. I think “TEOTS” is genius, as it is a fun way to use positive reinforcement during the holidays as behavior modification.  That elf needs to stay around a bit longer…but then it would lose the appeal.  The anticipation of the elf arriving plays a major role don’t you think?  

 

With the arrival of the elf I get to hear all of the cute family elf stories during the month of Dec. I also noticed that “TEOTS” has some new “gadgets” and outfits to add to the fun, such as a zip line to swing from and suctions boots so he/she can climb up walls. Ingenious right? Surely they will soon have an array of elf outfits so the elf can have some choices to wear during zip lining.

 

During the last year there was also a lot of discussion about what our children were hearing on the news and during presidential debates etc. It doesn’t matter your political affiliation, children were picking up on a lot of what was going on.  Even children whose parents were paying attention to all of the bullying during the debates and atrocious sound bites on the news by limiting TV and electronics told me that their children still overheard things. They were concerned about the messages that both candidates were sending…especially to children.  

 

So…when one of my families took out “TEOTS”  their son, who is almost 3, decided it was the year to name him. “Of course you can name your elf they said”.  The next day he announced that the was looking for the elf and asked his mother, “where is Donald Trump?”. She was a bit confused…until he returned holding the the elf and proudly announced, “ I found The Donald”!!

 

Out of the mouths of babes. More elf stories this month for sure!!

 

 

Your Child

Are You Making Your Child More Anxious?

2.00 to read

When a child shows that he or she is anxious or in distress, a natural response is for a parent to want to remove whatever is causing the discomfort. However, according to a new study, it may not be the best reaction for your child in the long run.

Researchers call it the “protection trap.” Basically it means smothering children with too much attention or making the menace go away.

The research showed that certain parental coddling behaviors might actually boost anxiety in a child, although the study doesn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

"We found evidence that when parents try to help their anxious children they do a lot of things," said study co-author Armando Pina, an associate professor of child developmental psychology at Arizona State University. "Some of them are good, like promoting courage with warmth and kindness. Others are less helpful, like promoting avoidance by overprotecting, which many times leads to more anxiety."

Other experts have also weighed in on this topic.

"Left untreated, anxiety disorders in youth are associated with greater risk for other psychological problems such as depression and substance use problems," said Donna Pincus, director of research at the Child and Adolescent Fear and Anxiety Treatment Program at Boston University. Anxiety problems can also disrupt families and cause kids to perform worse in school, she added.

So what should a parent do or not do?

"When children are in distress or upset they need parental comfort, reassurance and extra love. This is good," said study lead author Lindsay Holly, a graduate student at Arizona State University. "Sometimes, however, parents end up providing excessive reassurance and doing things for the child, like making excuses for why a child who is anxious in social situations won't go to a birthday party or talking for the child by ordering at restaurants."

Here’s how the study was conducted.

Researchers examined the results of a survey of 70 kids aged 6 to 16 who were treated for anxiety and/or depression at a clinic. The kids were equally divided among boys and girls and among whites and Hispanic/Latinos.

The investigators found that some kids were more likely to have anxiety and depression symptoms if their parents reinforced or punished their anxiety through various approaches. Among the two ethnic groups, "the only difference was that Latino parents seemed to attend more frequently to their children's anxiety," Holly said.

Pina noted that previous research has indicated that a certain kind of therapy can help kids become less anxious and more resilient by teaching the importance of facing fears. One of the goals of the therapy is to teach parents how to promote courage in the kids through a combination of warmth and kindness, Pina said.

Some experts believe that by exposing children to anxious situations in a controlled, supportive environment, they can learn how to handle their anxiety better.

Holly suggests that parents encourage their children "to do brave things that are small and manageable." A child who's afraid of speaking in public, for instance, might be urged to answer a question about whether they want fries with their meal at a restaurant.

While every child is going to be anxious at one time or another, a more difficult situation is when children suffer from an anxiety disorder. That is a more serious problem where someone experiences fear, nervousness, and shyness so much so that they start to avoid places and activities.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect one in eight children. Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse. Anxiety disorder often shows up alongside other disorders such as depression, eating disorders, and ADHD.

The good news is that with treatment and support, a child can learn how to successfully manage the symptoms and live a normal childhood.

The study conducted at Arizona State University, looked at typical child anxieties and how parent’s interactions either helped or prolonged the anxiousness.

The study was published recently in the journal Child Psychiatry and Human Development.

Sources: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/overprotective-parenting-could-worsen-kids-anxiety/

http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/childhood-anxiety-disorders

Your Baby

Formula-Fed Babies: How Much and How Often?

2:00

There are many reasons a mother may choose to use formula instead of breast milk when feeding her newborn. There are also times when mothers decide to switch from nursing to formula, as their baby gets a little older.  Whether you’re breastfeeding or giving formula, it’s generally recommended that babies be fed when they seem hungry.

What kind of schedule and how much formula do formula-fed babies need? It all depends on the baby. While each infant’s appetite and needs may be a little different – there are general rules of thumb that can be helpful for moms to know.

According to Healthychildren.org, after the first few days, your formula-fed newborn will take from 2 to 3 ounces (60–90 ml) of formula per feeding and will eat every three to four hours on average during his or her first few weeks.

Occasionally, you may have a sleeper who seems to like visiting dreamland longer than most babies. If during the first month your baby sleeps longer than four or five hours, wake him or her up and offer a bottle.

By the end of his or her first month, they’ll usually be up to at least 4 ounces (120 ml) per feeding, with a fairly predictable schedule of feedings about every four hours.

By six months, your baby will typically consume 6 to 8 ounces (180–240 ml) at each of four or five feedings in twenty-four hours.

Since babies can’t communicate with words, parents have to learn how to read the signs and signals baby uses to express wants.

How do you know your baby is hungry? Here are signs baby may be ready to eat:

•       Moving their heads from side to side

•       Opening their mouths

•       Sticking out their tongues

•       Placing their hands, fingers, and fists to their mouths

•       Puckering their lips as if to suck

•       Nuzzling against their mothers' breasts

•       Showing the rooting reflex (when a baby moves its mouth in the direction of something that's stroking or touching its cheek)

•       Crying

The crying signal can be confusing for parents. It doesn’t always mean the same thing. Crying is also a last resort when baby is hungry. Your baby should be fed before he or she gets so hungry that they get upset and cry. That’s why guidelines are helpful when starting out.

Most babies are satisfied with 3 to 4 ounces (90–120 ml) per feeding during the first month and increase that amount by 1 ounce (30 ml) per month until they reach a maximum of about 7 to 8 ounces (210–240 ml). If your baby consistently seems to want more or less than this, discuss it with your pediatrician. Your baby should drink no more than 32 ounces (960 ml) of formula in 24 hours. Some babies have higher needs for sucking and may just want to suck on a pacifier after feeding.

Eventually, baby will develop a time schedule of his or her own. As you become more familiar with your baby’s signals and sleep patterns, you’ll be able to design a feeding schedule tailored to your infant’s needs.

Between two and four months of age (or when the baby weighs more than 12 pounds [5.4 kg]), most formula-fed babies no longer need a middle-of-the night feeding, because they’re consuming more during the day and their sleeping patterns have become more regular (although this varies considerably from baby to baby). Their stomach capacity has increased, too, which means they may go longer between daytime feedings—occasionally up to four or five hours at a time. If your baby still seems to feed very frequently or consume larger amounts, try distracting him with play or with a pacifier. Sometimes patterns of obesity begin during infancy, so it is important not to overfeed your baby.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no “one schedule and formula amount fits all” when it comes to babies and their needs.

No one can tell you exactly how often or how much your baby boy or girl needs to be fed, but good communication with your pediatrician and learning how to read your baby’s body language will go a long way in keeping baby’s feedings on track.

Story sources: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Amount-and-Schedule-of-Formula-Feedings.aspx

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/formulafeed-often.html

 

Daily Dose

Happy Thanksgiving!

1:30 to read

This is the week that really kicks off the holiday season and for me it often begins with reflection.  I am often guilty of not appreciating the many blessings that I have, and rather focus on just getting through one day at a time. But as I reflect, I realize that I have so much to be grateful for and much of that gratitude is for my family.

When you are in the throes of parenting, I think it is sometimes hard to appreciate many of the blessings that we have as families. As parents we are anxious for the next stage, whether that is having a baby sleep through the night or wanting your child to talk, start school, begin to read, or finish their college applications. Parenting is so often about looking ahead rather than living in the moment.

It is sometimes hard to take a breath and sit on the floor and play with your baby, or let your elementary school child read you a book at bedtime, or enjoy editing your high school student’s next paper (why was that always a Sunday night at 9 pm event?).  But, from someone who has been there, sit back, take a breath, put down your electronics and appreciate whatever stage your child is in right now!  For this too shall pass...

Why not take a minute during Thanksgiving and ask each one of your children what they are thankful for, and write their answers down on a note card to file away to read years from now. It is fun to see their answers and how their gratitude changes with age....some of their answers are funny, others are quite thought provoking.

As our family grows, now with a granddaughter and a new daughter in law, I find myself trying to take my own advice. We are fortunate to be gathering together for Thanksgiving and I am going to “re-start” the tradition with their comments on paper... No more trying to remember what they said and no videos either. Just a note card that each of us will write on and a box to keep the cards in.  One day our adult children and their children can read all of these comments...and be thankful for family. 

Daily Dose

Father's Day

1.15

With Father’s Day approaching, I always have frequent thoughts of my own father. He has been deceased for quite some time and I am saddened (especially at this time of year) that he did not get to see his grandsons become young adults. He would have been so proud of them and in many ways they are like him. 

One of the many exceptional attributes that my dad possessed was the ability to FIX ANYTHING!  I grew up not knowing about the Maytag Man, the plumber or the electrician as my dad fixed the washer, the electrical socket or the garbage disposal.  Of course, like most homes, there was always a running list of things to be fixed. 

Because my dad was often gone for long periods of time (he worked for the government in intelligence) my mother would say we would “have to wait for your father to return” to fix whatever it was, and when dad returned he would get right to work. If he didn’t know how to fix something he somehow figured it out and that was before you could “GOOGLE IT”!  I remember him painting the house, building our downstairs rec room and taking apart an early computer just to see how it worked. 

Being able to “fix” things must somehow be a genetic link as I now see this trait in several of my own children (you know who you are). When I was a newlywed I was shocked to learn that not all men had this gene.  When something broke in the house I would automatically tell my husband and he would lovingly attempt to “fix it”. But, what I quickly learned was that while my husband has many wonderful traits he did not inherit the “fix it gene”. Many a repair man has been called to our home to “fix” the problem created by my loving husband who attempted home repairs. 

But several of my boys loved to watch their grandfather fix things and take things apart. As they got older, they would come to the rescue to help around our house with the laundry list of issues and repairs.  

Many of the issues these days revolve around technology and they all inherited their grandfather’s technology “fix it gene” as well. Unfortunately, they are not in the next room any more to call upon when I have no idea why my computer is frozen or when I cannot even turn on my iPod to play music in all of the rooms of the house. 

So as we approach this Father’s Day I am thankful for all of the lessons learned from my own father, and for his “fix it gene”.  But, with all of the boys out of the house, I now have a handyman on speed dial. 

Happy Father’s Day!

Your Child

ADHD: Behavioral Therapy First Before Drugs

1:30

Researchers have been studying the possible benefits of using behavioral therapy as a first choice in treatment for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

One paper found that children’s ADHD problems improve quicker when behavioral therapy is started initially instead of medications, the New York Times reported. . Another paper noted that this treatment progression is less expensive over time.

If the effectiveness of the behavior therapy-first approach is confirmed in larger studies, experts say it could change standard medical practice for children with ADHD, which currently favors medications as first-line treatments.

Medications were most effective when used as supplemental, second-line treatment for children with ADHD who required the drugs. In many cases, the drugs were effective at doses lower than normally prescribed, according to the findings in the Journal of Child & Adolescent Psychology.

"We showed that the sequence in which you give treatments makes a big difference in outcomes," study co-leader William Pelham Florida International University, told The Times.

"The children who started with behavioral modification were doing significantly better than those who began with medication by the end, no matter what treatment combination they ended up with," he said.

Some experts noted that the research focused on behaviors and not some of the other complications associated with ADHD such as attention and learning problems.

"I think this is a very important study, and the take-home is that low-cost behavioral treatment is very effective, but the irony is that that option is seldom available to parents," Mark Stein, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Washington, told The Times.

One resource for more information on finding a specialist in behavioral and cognitive therapies is, http://www.abct.org/Home. Click on the “Find a CBT Therapist” link.

Another online resource is, www.additudemag.com, which offers information on the program, COPE (Community Parent Education) and how to locate one in your community.

Story Source: WebMD News from HealthDay, http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/news/20160218/behavioral-therapy-adhd

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

If your child snores, is this a sign of something more serious?

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