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Your Child

Setting Up a Routine for Homework

2:00

If yours is like a lot of families, you’re just not quite ready to face the homework hurdle. But like it or not, after school assignments have arrived and helping your child get into a regular routine can actually make it easier for everyone.

Deborah Linebarger, PhD, associate professor of education at the University of Iowa, has come up with six tips to help families get back in the assignment swing of things.

Be prepared: Even if you’ve already picked up all the supplies your child needs at school, make sure the staples needed to complete assignments are also available at home. Items like pencils, erasers, folders, clips, rulers, computer paper & toner should have their own space and be ready to use if needed. This is also a good time let them set up a special place in the house where they can work undisturbed and with all the supplies they need. You may discover you have a budding interior designer with a knack for organization!

Set A Schedule: You child should do her homework at the same time every day. Many kids need a break after school for a snack and a little running around first. It's best to get homework done as early as possible -- when it drags on past dinner and toward bedtime, the work is likely to take longer and be sloppier.

Bedtime: Don’t leave homework till the last minute, make sure that it’s finished and checked at least a couple of hours before bedtime. Just like adults, children need plenty of good sleep to function well the next day. Preschoolers typically need 11-13 hours each night. Six to thirteen year olds need around 9-11 hours and teens need about 8 -10 hours a night. Make sleep a priority by having a cool, quiet and dark bedroom. Establish an appropriate bedtime for your child and stick to it. Cut off the access to computers, TVS, phones and any electronics at a minimum of an hour before it’s time for sleep. Quieting and slowing down before it’s actually time to nod off can help relax your child.

Break it down. Younger kids might get a week's worth of homework on Monday to turn in by Friday. Older children may have big responsibilities like term papers and science projects. Help them break large projects into smaller steps, and make sure they start early.

Keep up with your child’s assignments so that you’re not surprised by a last minute science project the night before it’s due!

Encourage "peer collaboration" -- to a point. It may be helpful for siblings close in age to do homework together. The older one may be proud and happy to offer help to the younger one. But if they bicker more than they cooperate, it's time for separate spaces.

What if you have a child with ADHD? As you probably already know, children with ADHD are more likely to face extra challenges with completing their homework.

He or she will need even more supervision and guidance, Linebarger says.

"Start by breaking up homework into really bite-sized amounts," she says. "For a younger child, that may be only about 10-minute increments. Expand them slowly as they show they're able to handle it." And expect that your child will need you to watch her homework efforts closely to make sure he or she stays on task.

When they gets distracted -- and they will -- encourage your boy or girl to do something physical to get back on track. "Let her jump up and run around for 5 minutes, or have him do 10 push-ups or 30 jumping jacks," Linebarger says. "Research shows that acute physical activity right before a challenging mental task helps to control behavior."

Children with ADHD often hear a lot of criticism, be sure and compliment them and encourage them when they’ve completed a difficult task.

When they manage to sit still for that 10 minutes of homework, or come home with their homework folder in order, give them lots of praise for making a great choice," Linebarger says.

It won’t be long till summer is a fond memory and the school year is just how things are. You can help your child adjust to this either new or familiar way of getting through Monday through Friday by using the tips above and finding out what adjustments may need to be made to work best for your family.

Source: Gina Shaw, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/back-school-homework-routine

 

Daily Dose

Back to School

1:30 to read

Schools around the country have opened their doors and some will be starting soon. This is the first week of school for most students in my area and parents have been busy in the last few days attending “back to school” and “meet the teacher” nights in preparation for a new school yea

So…every school has different rules, expectations and strategies for helping their students evolve into their “best” selves and as you get older the “rules” often change in hopes of making students more independent and responsible. I other words, getting ready for the “real world ‘ one day.

Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, Arkansas has recently been highlighted in the news and on social media for the sign that is posted on the entrance to the school. It reads “If you are dropping off your son’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, equipment etc, please TURN AROUND and exit the building”  Your son will learn to problem solve in your absence.”  The school posted the same message on their Facebook page as well.

According to the principal of the school, this has been a Catholic High rule for quite some time…it was also a rule at the high school my boys attended.  While some feel that this is unjust and that the students should be allowed to “phone home” if they have forgotten something, the school’s explanation is really fairly simple…allowing your child to have some “soft failures” and to learn both problem solving skills and responsibility will ultimately mold them into functioning members of society as they reach adulthood.  Sounds reasonable to me.

I know that as my boys went from elementary school, on to middle school and then high school their father and I had greater expectations that they needed to be responsible for getting their “stuff” to school.  We started off the school year with a game of sorts where you were given 3 “hall passes” for the year. I guess this started from something at school where they were given a hall pass to go to the bathroom or the office, and some teachers would hand out homework passes that allowed you to “skip” an assignment. So, each child ( this probably started in about 3rd or 4th grade) had 3 passes/year  where they could call and have us “rescue” them if they forgot something. Once you used up your “hall passes” you had to suffer the consequences of no lunch or turning in an assignment late.  Interestingly, each child was a bit different….one would use them up pretty quickly, another would “hoard” them for late in the year.  One wanted to know if they could be accrued? 

By the time they reached high school it was not a SHOCK when they were told the school rule that they could not call their parents.  It seems they figured out how to borrow money for lunch, or share with a friend, how to borrow a tie or jacket for an assembly and that turning in assignments a day late usually meant 10 points off. Not only did it help them become more organized and responsible, it also made me a working Mom “feel less guilt” that I really was not available to rescue them sometimes, even if I wanted to.  Do you think you would appreciate waiting in your pediatrician’s office (any longer than you may already) while they tried to run a homework assignment to school??  

You might try starting off the school year with a few hall passes and see if it works for your family!  

Your Child

Be an Involved Parent

2.00 to read

Millions of kids are back in school. For some it will be the start of a long educational journey, while others have already been in the system and are moving up to the next grade. Parents expect their children’s teachers to educate their kids, supervise their safety and keep them abreast of any changes or concerns they may see in their child’s behavior. Fair enough.

But what obligations should a parent have to their child’s education and school life? Many send their kids off to school and that’s that. Studies have shown and common sense tells you that the more involved a parent is with a child’s education at home and in school; the better a child learns and progresses.

Research has shown that children of involved parents are absent less frequently, behave better, make better grades from pre-school through high school and go farther in school.

They are often more socially mature and have a better sense of who they are.

The benefits don’t stop at school. A home environment that encourages learning is more important than parents' income, education level, or cultural background. By actively participating in their child's education at home and in school, parents send some critical messages to their child; they're demonstrating their interest in his/her activities and reinforcing the idea that school is valuable.

Not every parent has a lot of time they can spend with their child. The reality is that there are many single parent families. There are children who are being raised by a relative and children who are in foster care. Some schools are working on developing and implementing more flexible schedules that offer working parents options to spend extra time with their kids.

The National Education Association recommends some specific ways for parents to become more involved in their child's education.

At home:

- Read to your child. Reading aloud is the most important activity that parents can do to increase their child's chance of reading success

- Discuss the books and stories you read to your child

- Help your child organize his/her time

- Limit television viewing on school nights

- Talk to your child regularly about what's going on in school

- Check homework every night

Other tips for helping your child succeed in school come from teachers themselves.

- Teach your child to be prepared. No more excuses for late or not turned in homework

- Reinforce the importance of your child’s education. Whether you have a college degree, a high school education or dropped out let your child know that they are expected to complete school and continue with their education by either going to college or a trade school.

- Discuss newsworthy current events, and what is going on in your neighborhood, religious institution or pop culture. Listen to your child’s opinions with an open mind. Share your daily experiences in age appropriate language. The earlier a child feels an integral part of the family, the more they learn to value family, friends and others. Education includes a social awareness. 

- Go directly to the teacher of you have questions about your child’s progress or lack their of in school. Establish a good relationship with all your child’s teachers. Know their names and what they expect form your child. Let them know what you expect of them.

- Don’t try to get your child out of detention. Allow your child to accept the consequences of their behavior. Too many parents make excuses for their children’s bad behavior instead of facing it head on. Bailing your child out takes away their ability to learn responsibility. It can become an ugly habit and deprive your child of the maturity he or she will need to handle difficult situations. We all know there will be plenty of difficult times in everybody's lives. 

- Implement a consistent homework routine that focuses on relearning the day’s lessons.

- Respond to your school’s email and phone calls. Your child’s teacher is busy also and they wouldn’t be contacting you unless it was important. If you have concerns don’t wait to be contacted, be the one to reach out first.

- Volunteer. If at all possible volunteer to help with school or sports events. Showing your child that you are invested in them is the best way to teach them about unconditional love and sacrifice. Just knowing you care enough to give up some of your own precious time for them teaches them the true meaning of “I’ll always be there for you.”

When parents contribute effort and time, they have the opportunity to interact with teachers, administrators, and other parents. They can learn first-hand about the daily activities and the social culture of the school, both of which help them understand what their child's life is like.

Not every parent can be available for every school meeting or event. If you can’t make it, see if another family member or a close friend can be there in your place. For the 9 to 10 months that a child is in school – that is their world. Be a part of it, you’ll be glad you did and even if you get a little push back from your child, they’ll remember how much you cared when they're older and have kids of their own.

Sources: Anita Gurian PhD, http://www.aboutourkids.org/articles/involved_parents_hidden_resource_in_their_children039s_education

Pete Mason,  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pete-mason/advice-from-teachers-to-p_b_3819530.html

Daily Dose

Back to School

Dr. Sue says with careful planning, the transition back to school should be easy on you and your kids!

Your Child

School Kids Benefit From Mindfulness Programs

2:00

Mindfulness is purposely paying attention to the present moment in a nonjudgmental way. A new study says that adding a mindfulness based stress reduction program to middle schools may help reduce kid’s stress and trauma.  

"High-quality structured mindfulness programs have the potential to really improve students' lives in ways that I think can be really meaningful over the life course," said lead author Dr. Erica Sibinga of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Children in many U.S. cities are at an increased risk of stresses and traumas due to the effects of community drug use, violence, multigenerational poverty, limited education and economic opportunities, Sibinga and her colleagues write in the journal Pediatrics.

 The study involved 300 students, in grades five through eight, at two Baltimore public schools. Children were randomly selected for either a twelve - week mindfulness based stress reduction program or health classes to take during the school day.

Nearly all the students were from low-income families and African-American.

The mindfulness program contained material about meditation, yoga and the mind, body connection; practice of those techniques; and group discussion.

The program helped the children be aware of their response to what was happening to them at the time.

"It allows them to not only know what is happening, but to stop and take three breaths and figure out how they want to respond to what is happening the present moment," Sibinga told Reuters Health.

By the end of the program, children in the mindfulness program had lower levels of general health problems, depression, recurrent thoughts about negative experiences and other symptoms of stress and trauma compared to the children enrolled in the health classes only.

Sibinga said the differences would be enough for the students to notice in their day-to-day lives.

The researchers acknowledge some limitations to the research, like children missing some classes and possibly being exposed to mindfulness practices outside the sessions.

While Sibinga acknowledged that she couldn’t say if the program would have the same results in other student populations, she suspected there would be benefits.

The next step is to look at how to spread the program to other schools, and look at how the program may work, she said.

"It doesn’t get us off the hook of trying to reduce the sources of trauma in our urban life," she said. But the study suggests adding structured mindfulness programs in urban settings would be beneficial, she added.

Some private schools in the U.S. have already implemented mindfulness classes in their school programs and have reported positive effects such as fewer behavioral problems and an increased ability to focus during class on school work.

Sources: Andrew M. Seaman, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-mindfulness-stress-school-idUSKBN0U12MY20151218

 

Your Child

Why Kids Should Learn Handwriting

1:45

I think it’s fair to say that handwriting is becoming a lost art. Computers, tablets and phone keyboards have made actual writing with a pen and paper almost obsolete.

What was once an integral part of a child’s daily school lessons, today, gets about one-fourth the instruction time. What is surprising is that in the not too far future, some kids may never learn penmanship at all.

If keyboards become the most popular form of communication, is there really a need for printing and cursive skills? Yes, according to some educators. Not only will children lose the personal touch of handwriting but will they also lose the benefits learning penmanship offers the developing brain.

Putting pen to paper stimulates brain circuits involved with memory, attention, motor skills, and language in a way punching a keyboard doesn't.

"There is this assumption that we live in the computer age, and we don't need handwriting anymore. That's wrong," says Virginia Berninger, PhD, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington.

Indiana University psychologist Karin James, PhD, recently published a study looking at brain scans of preschoolers before and after they learned to produce letters, either by printing or typing. Before the lesson, the children couldn't decipher between a random shape and a letter, and their brains responded similarly to each. After they learned to hand-draw a letter, brain regions needed for reading lit up at the sight of the letter like they do in a literate adult. Learning to type a letter yielded no such change.

Other studies have shown that preschoolers that practice handwriting read better in elementary school.

Handwriting also requires concentration and teaches brain circuits responsible for motor coordination, vision, and memory to work together. "If in the future we were to take away teaching handwriting altogether, I worry there could be real negative impacts on children's development," James says.

Timed right, cursive also comes with some unique advantages. Berninger's research suggests kids who link their letters via cursive get a better handle on what those words look like and end up being better spellers, she says. Cursive also allows them to compose their thoughts faster than in block handwriting or via typing (at least until about seventh grade, when their brains become mature enough to manage two-handed typing quickly).

Berninger says parents can offer their children extra guidance with learning handwriting even before their child begins school and through their early years. Some children may learn these skills quicker and some may need a little more practice. But on an average:

Preschoolers can strengthen motor skills by playing with clay, stringing beads, working through mazes, and connecting dots with arrows to form letters.

From kindergarten through second grade, children should master block letters.

Third to fourth grade is when kids can begin and master cursive.

By fifth grade, children should continue to write by hand while being introduced to typing by touch (not just hunt and peck.)

As I’ve become more accustomed to using my computer or phone to communicate with others, I’ve noticed that my own handwriting skills are beginning to suffer. Cursive isn’t as fluid and readable as when I handwrote more often and my eye, hand and pen coordination isn’t near as comfortable as it used to be. 

I hope future generations will not lose the art of handwriting, not only because of the developmental benefits it offers, but because each person’s handwriting is unique to them.

Story source: Lisa Marshall, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/handwriting-matters-kids#1

Daily Dose

Start the Back-to-School Sleep Routine Now

Getting back into the routine of school days also means getting back to good bedtime routines.How can it be that school is just around the corner? Getting back into the routine of school days also means getting back to good bedtime routines. With that being said, you have to start the process now to ensure plenty of time to slowly get bedtimes re-adjusted. By starting early you can avoid the battles that some parent’s talk about when discussing bedtimes.

Children need a good night’s sleep to wake up happy, rested and ready to learn. Numerous studies have shown that elementary age kids need about 10 hours of sleep a night while tweens and teens still need a good 8 – 9 hours of sleep. I wonder how many children really get the recommended amount of sleep? I think too few. Unfortunately, I know from my own experience that teens seem to operate on a different sleep schedule and rarely are in bed as early as they should be. Most of us have relaxed bedtime a little during the summer and children are staying up later and sleeping longer in the mornings. This is great during the lazy summer months, when schedules are also different. But within a few weeks the morning alarms will ring forcing everyone to get up earlier to get to school. In order to try and minimize grouchy and tired children (and parents too) during those first days of school, going to bed on time will be a necessity. Working on re-adjusting betimes now will also make the transition from summer schedule to school schedule a little easier. If your children have been staying up later than usual, try pushing the bedtime back by 15 minutes each night and gradually shifting the bedtime to the “normal” hour. At the same time, especially for older children, you will need to awaken them a little earlier each day to re-set their clocks for early morning awakening. Why is it that pre-school children want to get up early, no matter what, while school-aged children are happy to sleep through alarms?  Such is life. Also, make sure that you are not only ensuring that you children get a good night’s sleep during the school year, but they also awaken in time for breakfast! Just like my mother used to say, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day’” and that adage is still true. A good night’s sleep followed by a healthy breakfast has been shown to improve mood, attention, focus and over all school performance, as well as even helping to prevent obesity. Start off the school year on the right foot. It is easier to begin with good habits than to try and break bad ones. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Home From School

1:30 to watch

I continue to talk about it being  the “sick season” and thankfully it is now February!  Parents are all tired of having sick children and I can now at least assure them that we are halfway to the end of upper respiratory and flu season.

 

But, with that being said that means I am still seeing children with RSV, Flu and every other virus I can think of. Remember, the majority of the illness I see every day in my office is VIRAL.  It really doesn’t matter if you can put a name to the virus, as the treatment is the same. Rest, fluids, fever control and watch for any respiratory distress or symptoms of dehydration. As I told one young mother who said that her other child had been tested for RSV (by another doctor), testing the child I was now seeing will not make any difference in how we treat the illness. So, why make the child uncomfortable when doing the swab and also drive up health care costs, for no change in treatment recommendations.  I think people are confused about what the test actually does….it does not change how a child is treated, and it also causes a lot of “alarm” as the mother of one patient goes home to tell her friends that her child has RSV and then the school starts sending out emails and parents become more anxious and alarmed that they may have been exposed….as they are every day all over our city.

 

So…when do you know it is time to keep your child home from day care or school as we all know these viruses are spread at home, school and work as well.  

 

If your child has a fever over 100.5 degrees (by any method of taking their temperature) they should not go to day care or school for at least 24 hours after becoming fever free (without fever lowering medication).

 

If your child is vomiting, 2 or more times in the last 24 hours, they should stay home. Some young children may vomit after coughing as well, but if infrequent they may attend school. 

 

Diarrhea as defined by two or more loose, watery stools that are “out of the ordinary stool pattern” for your child. Any child having diarrhea that does not stay contained within a diaper should stay home. A child who has blood in their stool should not attend day care or school (and should see the doctor).

 

Children with strep throat may return to school after 24 hours if they are fever free and have received the appropriate antibiotic therapy.  (Newer article suggests 12 hours if they are feeling well).

 

Your child does not need to stay home due to a cold, cough, runny nose (of any color) or scratchy throat if they do not appear ill and do not have a fever. Look at how your child is behaving…some times a day of rest may be needed (even when you get sick, right?) 

 

Most importantly, it is not necessary to name the virus that your child might have, but to follow the guidelines for keeping them home (as well as out of stores, church, and after school activities) until they are feeling better. Wash hands, cover coughs and yes….still get the flu vaccine. It is not too late…the ground hog even said we still have a lot of winter left.

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Assessing Learning Difficulties

It is that time of year where parents are going to teacher conferences and learning about their children's progress in school. For some parents there will be discussions about difficulties their children are having in school. With 2/3 of the school year behind us and planning in place for school placement next fall, it is an important time to assess any learning differences a child may be exhibiting.

The sooner a child is suspected of having any difficulty with learning, whether it be reading, auditory processing, writing or listening and attention, the sooner the diagnostic testing may be done to diagnose the problem. As a parent, it is often difficult to "know" if your child is having problems with learning. Sometimes it is just a gut feeling and you should discuss those feelings with the teacher. If your teacher thinks there is a problem, listen to her/him, as they spend 8 hours a day with your child and they are there to teach your child and watch them succeed. Teachers are not trying to "label your child", but they too are trying to teach your child to be academically successful and competitive in within school. If they see problems with learning, applaud them for addressing it. The earlier diagnosed the better the remediation and resources will be for their continued academic success. Ideally, if your child is having learning issues speak with your pediatrician about resources for academic testing. There are options for testing both within the public school system or privately with an educational diagnostician. The information that you glean about your child's learning style, strengths and weaknesses will be invaluable throughout their education. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.

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