December 3, 2008
Sesame Workshop's outreach staff has produced a DVD based around the concept of honest, open talk. It encourages children and adults to ask lots of questions, and looks to establish communication in both directions – adults with children, and children with adults.
This DVD tells the story of Sesame Street's Elmo visiting his cousin Chester in the hospital as he is treated for a serious illness. Chester is a Sesame Street Muppet who was created specifically for the Here for You project. With input from doctors, nurses, and children, Elmo helps Chester understand and express his feelings of fear, anger, and guilt. The DVD also features Danny, a young leukemia patient.
5,000 copies of the Here For You DVD to the nation's 250 children's hospitals, pediatric medical organizations, and children's palliative care programs. The nonprofit healthcare research and public policy organization, which is affiliated with Dartmouth Medical School, is also launching the Helping Children Cope With Serious Illness Fund (HCCwSIF). HCCwSIF will donate funds to participating children's hospitals in order to support full-time pediatric behavioral health specialists who will provide additional ongoing, outpatient, health counseling for children and families facing serious illnesses.
November 13, 2008
Between Birth-Six Months, children need 16-20 hours
Between Six-Twelve Months, children need 14-15 hours
Between Ages 1-3, children need 10-13 hours
Between Ages 3-10, children need 10-12 hours
Between Ages 11-12, children need about 10 hours
Teenagers need about 9 hours of sleep per night
If those numbers are surprising, you're not alone. As adults, we're accustomed to needing 7-9 hours of sleep, and we're often forced to get by with far less. As a result, it might be tempting to think that our kids have similar sleep requirements, or that they should be able to cope fairly well with a few skipped hours here and there. However, kids who are regularly sleep deprived may exhibit some difficult behaviors. They may display frequent irritability, overreact emotionally, have difficulty concentrating, forget easily, wake often during the night, and may even display hyperactive behaviors.
The best thing you can do is simply move your child's bedtime up. This may sound impossible at first, but by moving the entire bedtime routine up half an hour, you'll help your child associate bedtime with an earlier time. In fact, you may be surprised to find that your child goes to sleep easily and sleeps through the night more regularly when well-rested.
1Cohen, George J., M.D., F.A.A.P. (Ed.). (1999). American Academy of Pediatrics Guide to Your Child’s Sleep.
October 17, 2008
DES MOINES, Iowa – After failing to finish a reading assignment, 8-year-old Isabel Loeffler was sent to the school's time-out room — a converted storage area under a staircase — where she was left alone for three hours. The autistic Iowa girl wet herself before she was finally allowed to leave. Appalled, her parents removed her from the school district and filed a lawsuit.
Some educators say time-out rooms are being used with increased frequency to discipline children with behavioral disorders. And the time outs are probably doing more harm than good, they add.
"It really is a form of abuse," said Ken Merrell, head of the Department for Special Education and Clinical Sciences at the University of Oregon. "It's going to do nothing to change the behavior. You're using it as an isolation booth."
Segregating children removes them from the positive aspect of the classroom and highlights that they're different from other children, said Stephen Camarata, director of the Kennedy Center for Behavioral Research at Vanderbilt University. And isolating an autistic child might be particularly counterproductive.
"They don't like being around other people so they might increase their negative behavior because they view it a reward," he said.
Though there is no data on the use of time-out rooms, Camarata speculates that they've become widespread as schools confronted a growing enrollment of children with behavior disorders.
"I believe it's because classrooms are much less flexible with more focus on compliance," he said.
The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund in Berkeley, Calif., receives calls from parents across the country who complain about time-out rooms, said Cheryl Theis, an education advocate for the organization.
"Parents call and say their child's disability has been exacerbated by this and are traumatized by this," she said.
Merrell said he's encountered time-out rooms he felt were unsafe.
"I once consulted with a school in another state and had a weekly appointment with a child to do some counseling and when I got there they told me he was in a time-out room," he said. "He was in a janitor's closet with no windows, no ventilation, open cans of paint, a mop bucket with disinfectant and he had been in there for over an hour."
Merrell, who has published nearly 100 studies and 10 books on teaching social and emotional skills, said time-out rooms can be used effectively but seldom are. The key, he said, is to combine the time outs with social skills training.
Patti Ralabate, a special education analyst with the National Education Association, said time-out rooms are common but should be used sparingly.
"And when they are used, all of the educators involved need to have appropriate professional development to see how this is used and how to use them appropriately," she said.
Ralabate said a time-out room can be effective if it is intended to provide a space for a child to calm down and reflect on their behavior.
"If it is used to isolate the child, punish the child for a behavior, then we would view it as not productive and not positive," she said.
In Iowa, Doug and Eva Loeffler started to notice changes in their daughter in December 2004, soon after she began school in the Des Moines suburb of Waukee. It prompted them to take Isabel to University Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City for evaluations.
"We laid awake at nights thinking we'd have to institutionalize her," Doug Loeffler said. "We went to three evaluations at the hospital and all of a sudden we find out she's being mistreated."
Loeffler said they weren't told in school evaluation reports that their daughter had been restrained and placed in a time-out room. During one incident in December 2005, Isabel wet herself because she was locked in the room for three hours and not allowed to use a restroom, he said.
Loeffler said the time-out room rules required that before she could be released, she must sit on the floor with her legs crossed without moving a muscle for at least five minutes.
"If she said something, grimaced at them, they would restart the clock and she was not capable of doing that," Loeffler said. "That's why it was three hours."
Loeffler said the couple homeschooled Isabel until he took a new job and the family moved last year to California. Isabel has shown signs of progress and is back in public school, he said.
David Wilkerson, superintendent of the Waukee school district, declined to speak about the accusations because of the pending lawsuit. But he said time-out rooms are a "pretty common practice" and that the district complies with the state's guidelines for such rooms.
Loeffler said he is pressing ahead with the lawsuit and hopes to draw attention to the need for nationwide standards for time-out rooms.
October 15, 2008
We would set the game board up on a card table, with the legs folded underneath it. This enabled us to slide the game under the bed at the end of the day. The next evening we only had to slide it back out and pick up where we had left off. This would continue for several days.
During the course of my childhood, several of the little green houses and red hotels had become lost. Occasionally one might be found under a sofa cushion or in the pocket of a pair of my brother's jeans. Our Monopoly money was very well worn. Sometimes, when money was changing hands, someone would get aggressive, and the money would accidently get torn in half. Several of the bills had been mended with tape that had yellowed over time. Who would have ever imagined that 40 years later, one could go to www.monopoly.com, download a PDF and print replacement money?
In my work as a play therapist, I encourage parents to play board games with their children. What's that, you say? You already play games with your children? Is it Guitar Hero? Is it XBox or any of the other video games on the market today? These are all wonderfully entertaining games, but when was the last time your family played a good old-fashioned, traditional board game?
Many of the games you played as a child are still being manufactured today. Do you remember Sorry!, Trouble or Chinese Checkers?
In addition to Monopoly, I suggest you consider - depending upon the ages of the family members who will be playing - Candy Land, Hands Down, Yahtzee. Another favorite board game from my childhood was Hi Ho Cherry-O. The dog swallowed one of the cherries, so we improvised and substituted the pointed end of a broken red crayon.
Board games imitate real life. For example, you have to cooperate and wait your turn. There are rules you have to follow. Someone will win and someone will lose. Board games have an element of learning as well. If money has to be counted, you are learning math. If you have to spend money, you are learning how to budget. By observing the behavior of adults during the game, children will learn how adults deal with winning and losing.
Ask yourself what you are modeling during the game. Do you lose graciously? Do you win without rubbing it in?
Sometimes adults will intentionally lose a game to allow a child to win. I suggest you play as well as you can and let the chips fall where they may. If a child is disappointed at losing, it's a good learning experience for him or her. Children will be able to take what they learned playing a board game and incorporate it into real-life experiences.
When there is tension or distance among a family, a board game can serve as an ice breaker. Remember the old game Don't Break the Ice? It's a perfect game to ease some of the tension and get family members interacting again.
Because board games provide an opportunity to interact with people, they promote social skills. Board games bring people together, both young and old. Board games can strengthen bonds between family members. Playing a game provides parents with an opportunity to start conversations with their children. It's a refreshing change from the traditional question, "How was school today?"
Caution: Playing board games together as a family can cause spontaneous laughter, fun and a good time.
September 30, 2008
They offer a free download book entitled "The Child Safety Handbook." It's an excellent book to read with your child.
July 24, 2008
June 22, 2008
Published: June 22, 2008
With all the excitement at the birth of a healthy baby, most parents don’t give the umbilical cord a second thought after it’s been cut. But the blood in the umbilical cord, called “cord blood,” is a rich source of stem cells that could be used in many ways—maybe someday to save your life or your child’s. Today, the cells are used to treat people who have leukemia or other blood disorders and to help rebuild the immune system after cancer treatment. In the future, scientists hope that the cells may help fight a host of illnesses including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, stroke, and Parkinson’s. If you wish to save your child’s cord blood, you can put it in a private or public bank. Here are some of the pros and cons of each:
• Private blood banking is suggested for families with a history of illnesses like leukemia. You control use of the blood and can receive it instantly if needed. However, stored blood can’t be used to treat genetic diseases in the child from whom it was collected, because the stem cells possess the same pre-existing genetic condition. You also should know that the chances that someone in your family will need the blood are very small, and it can cost more than $2000 to collect and store the cells.
• Public blood banking is usually free. When you donate your child’s blood, his or her name is added to a national registry. He or she is then guaranteed to receive cord blood if needed, but usually from another donor. Not all hospitals collect cord blood for public use, but if yours does, the chances that it will help save lives are much greater than when it’s stored in a private bank.
June 18, 2008
June 17, 2008
He carried a package of Chiclets gum in the bib pocket of his Big Smith overalls. He toiled the land of his small Kansas farm with a John Deere tractor.
His name was Edward but everyone called him Butch. I called him Grandpa.
I was his oldest grandchild and only granddaughter. He doted on me and I adored him. He had an infectious laugh and I loved spending time with him. One summer he built me a play house complete with a sliding glass window. None of my friends had glass windows in their play houses. I felt so special.
He enjoyed indulging me. He once handed me a cardboard box which he said contained freshly dug potatoes. When I peeked inside I saw, to my surprise, not potatoes but a furry, white puppy. I can still recall the smile on Grandpa’s Butch’s face when he saw my reaction to that puppy.
I was seven and at my grandparents home the night my mother went to the hospital to give birth to her third child. We anxiously awaited a phone call from my father. I already had a younger brother and I desperately wanted a sister. When the call finally came and my father announced it was a boy I was devastated and couldn’t stop crying.
My grandparents tried every trick in the book to calm me down. Finally, Grandpa suggested that if I stop crying he will take me into town in the morning and buy me a new red wagon. It was music to my ears. I dried my tears, put on my pajamas and went straight to bed.
Grandpa always kept his promises to me so the next morning, after breakfast, he drove me into town and we went to the hardware store. It no longer mattered that I didn’t get a baby sister. I had a brand new, shiny red wagon.
I was 15 and enrolled in driver’s education. Grandpa learned that the car we would drive for our instruction was the same make and model of his car. He suggested I practice driving using his car. I passed drivers education with flying colors.
One day, while dismantling a fence, the end of a barbed wire coil flew out of his hands and struck his eye. The damage was extensive and Grandpa had to learn to live with a prosthetic eye. Ever a man with a sense of humor, he would tell people that his new eye looked so good he was considering having his other eye replaced.
I was nineteen and in college the day I got the call that Grandpa Butch had died from a massive heart attack. I jumped in my car and hurriedly drove the fifty miles home to be with my family. My tears flowed as the men’s choir sang “Nearer My God to Thee” during the funeral at the little, white, country church he and my Grandmother attended.
Losing Grandpa was like nothing I had ever experienced. I missed phoning him and hearing his voice fill with excitement when he realized it was me on the other end. I feared forgetting the sound of his laughter so I would revisit memories of times when he was laughing. My goal was to keep his laugh indelibly etched in my mind.
I grieved his loss for years. I wished he could have seen me graduate from college and marry. When I became a mother I imagined how excited he would have been to hold his great-grandchildren.
He’s been gone for nearly 30 years. The joy he brought to my life continues through old photographs and a ball of fabric salvaged from a pair of his overalls. Precious memories, filled with the sound of laughter; of Grandpa Butch.
June 8, 2008
These web sites can be of assistance:
May 15, 2008
Be age-appropriate. Use words that are common and familiar and children will have an easier time understanding cancer and what to expect. Use simple and concrete terms. For example, you might say: “Grandma is sick with an illness called cancer. The cancer happened on its own; nobody did anything to make it happen. She has very good doctors, and is doing everything possible to get better.” Finding out what they might have heard about cancer is helpful so you can clear up any misinformation.
Be honest. From the time of diagnosis be honest about the cancer and the treatment. Keep the children informed by having frequent conversations. This will help them feel safe and secure. Request they come to you with any questions or worries and explain that you will tell them the truth and if you don’t know always know the answers you will try to find them out.
Explain that cancer is never anyone’s fault. Pre-school aged children may have “magical thinking.” They believe that if they say or think something, it can come true. That’s why it is so important to let children know that nothing they did or said caused the cancer.
Explain that cancer is not contagious. Young children often think of being sick in terms of catching germs. Let them know they can’t catch cancer like a cold. Tell them they can still hug and kiss each other just like always.
All feelings are okay. No matter what their age, it’s important to let children know that what they are feeling is normal and okay. Encourage them to talk and share their feelings. Help them find appropriate ways to express themselves such as drawing or painting a picture.
May 5, 2008
This quote has great significance to me as my daughter will be graduating from Belmont University this weekend. She will continue to live and work in Nashville so the above quote is relevant. Watching her strike out on her makes me proud and gives me a sense of personal satisfaction as I see that my parenting goal of enabling her to be confident and self-sufficient has come to fruition.
I wonder which one of us, Emilie or I, will be standing taller Saturday at graduation.
May 2, 2008
* Get connected to family and friends to feel close and supported.
* Get connected to your community to feel a sense of belonging and purpose.
* Get connected to professional help to feel better when you’re stressed and having trouble coping.
This link has information on Helping Children Grow Up Healthy:
April 29, 2008
April 27, 2008
Infants and Toddlers
For infants and toddlers, special emphasis should be placed on making their environment as safe as possible.
- Cribs should be placed away from windows and tall, unsecured bookcases and shelves that could slide or topple.
- A minimum of a 72-hour supply of extra water, formula, bottles, food, juices, clothing, disposable diapers, baby wipes and prescribed medications should be stored where it is most likely to be accessible after an earthquake. Also keep an extra diaper bag with these items in your car.
- Store strollers, wagons, blankets and cribs with appropriate wheels to evacuate infants, if necessary.
- Install bumper pads in cribs or bassinettes to protect babies during the shaking.
- Install latches on all cupboards (not just those young children can reach) so that nothing can fall on your baby during a quake.
Preschool and School-age Children
By age three or so, children can understand what an earthquake is and how to get ready for one. Take the time to explain what causes earthquakes in terms they'll understand. Include your children in family discussions and planning for earthquake safety. Conduct drills and review safety procedures every six months.
- Show children the safest places to be in each room when an earthquake hits. Also show them all possible exits from each room.
- Use sturdy tables to teach children to Duck, Cover & Hold.
- Teach children what to do wherever they are during an earthquake (at school, in a tall building, outdoors).
- Make sure children's emergency cards at school are up-to-date.
- Although children should not turn off any utility valves, it's important that they know what gas smells like. Advise children to tell an adult if they smell gas after an earthquake.
April 24, 2008
All children, from time to time, exhibit what adults may call “abnormal behavior.” When a child exhibits the same abnormal behaviors over a long period of time or when a child exhibits several abnormal behaviors at once, it’s wise to seek help. The first step would be to have the child evaluated for a physical cause to the abnormal behavior. If there’s no indication of a physical cause or if medical treatment does not eliminate the abnormal behaviors, therapy should be the next step.
April 23, 2008
April 22, 2008
approach that uses a child’s natural tendency to “play out” their
reactions to life situations. It can help children understand their
feelings and find solutions to problems. Toys in a play therapy room
include games, puppets, art supplies, and sand trays. All toys are
carefully selected to facilitate creative and emotional expression from
The role of the play therapist is to provide an environment where a
child feels safe to play out his or her concerns. As a result, the
therapist can assess the child’s play and make recommendations to
parents concerning plans for resolving problems.
April 5, 2008
Parents can be so caught up in dealing with the aftermath of the divorce that they unintentionally forget to notice how the divorce is effecting their children. Children usually feel many of the same emotions felt by their parents; sadness, anger, shame, guilt, self-blame, etc. If not addressed, these emotions can manifest themselves in a child experiencing physical illnesses, depression, anxiety or displaying challenging behaviors.
Being sensitive to what your child may be feeling after a divorce and addressing his or her concerns can alleviate some of the stress for your child. There are numerous children's book that address divorce. Counselors, who specialize in working with children, can offer emotional support to the child and give parents suggestions on how to make the divorce transition smoother. Support groups for children teach coping skills and show children that they are not the only ones with divorced parents.
If you are dealing with separation or divorce don't overlook the impact it's having on your children.
February 20, 2008
Over the course of the next few weeks, whenever I vacuumed, I put the coins I found on her floor into a jar. When the jar was half full, I took it to her room, dumped it on her bed and told her to help me count it. It totaled nearly five dollars. By the look of disbelief on her face I knew my little experiment had been successful.
I never again found spare change on her floor. What have you done to teach your children about money?
February 6, 2008
"There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings."
That quote by Hodding Carter served as my guide during my children's formative years. Parenting was hard yet rewarding work. Each developmental stage had its challenges and its joys. Today I find myself in the phase of parenting known as "the empty nest."
I knew that one day my children would fly away. I realized I would need to find ways to occupy my time when my children no longer needed a mommy. Through the years I made it a priority to have hobbies and interests apart from my children. I wasn't always able to indulge in them like I wanted to, due to lack of time and money. But I knew that one day, when the children were grown and on their own, I would be able to invest as much time and energy into my hobbies as I wanted to.During my daughter's senior year of high school, when she began the college application process, I felt compelled to pursue the graduate degree in counseling I had always dreamed of. That August, when my oldest child went away to college, I began graduate school. The time that used to be devoted to mothering my daughter was now filled with attending classes, reading and writing research papers.
The house was quieter and much cleaner "" my daughter had always left a trail of clothes, shoes and jewelry throughout the house "" but I still had one child under the roof. I convinced myself that the empty nest syndrome was a myth.
Last fall my second child left for college. The house was much quieter than I anticipated it would be. Even the family dog noticed things were different. She would sit by the front door for hours waiting for my son to come home. I was keeping myself busy with work and hobbies, yet moments of sadness would come over me and I would find myself sitting in their rooms, sobbing, remembering happier times.
I needed something to help me feel like I was still a part of their lives, yet I didn't want to be intrusive. A large portion of my workday is spent on my computer, researching and writing, so I suggested to my children that they occasionally instant-message me. I keep myself logged on to instant messenger through out the day, and it's always a pleasant surprise when a message pops up from one of my children. We may chat for only a few minutes, but it's been a great way for them to check in with me and a way for me to still feel connected to them.
As the weeks went by, I became more accustomed to the silence, and the feelings of sadness slowly began to dissipate. The dog moved from her perch by the front door to a chair near my work space. I noticed I wasn't going into their rooms as often. Instead of crying about the children they once were, I was smiling at the adults they had become. I could look in the mirror and tell myself that I had done a great job raising two independent young people.
My daughter is 22 and my son is 19. They’re spreading their wings to fly. It’s bittersweet for me. I adored them as babies. I struggled with them as teenagers. I’m proud of who they are. My role as a parent is changing but I am enjoying the adult relationships we are creating. My nest is not empty. The contents have simply changed.
February 5, 2008
Every day, Director of Admissions Ingrid Hayes and her staff field calls from anxious parents wanting to know how their child stacks up.
"I know they want to give the extra nudge and we appreciate that," Hayes said, "but we really do want the students to take center stage in the process."
These over-involved moms and dads have come to be known as "helicopter parents." Hayes said they are a bigger part of the college admissions process than ever.
Clinical psychologist Mark Crawford explained the term comes from the concept of hovering. "They're always around their kids' life, kind of on the fringe, always making sure things go the way they need to go and not really allowing the kids to figure out solutions to problems on their own."
Crawford described well-meaning parents he's counseled who want the best for their child, but never want that child to fail.
"I see a lot of parents who hold their kid's hand across the high school graduation stage and think when they send them off to college all will be well," Crawford said. "They are not doing them a favor. They are actually doing them a disservice."
Crawford said children of "helicopter parents" may have trouble later when they're asked to take responsibility in the adult world. "They tend to blame others for bad outcomes that result from neglecting responsibilities or making poor choices," Crawford said. Watch how hovering parents can actually hurt their children's growth »
Some turn out to be "perpetually anxious adults who take very few risks outside of their comfort zones," he said.
Georgia Tech Dean of Students John Stein often has to deal with the immediate effects on campus. "It's a rare day that I don't have at least one telephone call from a family member who is concerned about something going on with their son or daughter."
Times have changed from his days as an undergraduate, he observed. "My mom never called the college I attended. It's a very different world now. We've had to adapt."
Stein believes part of the problem is that college students are tethered to their parents via cell phones, e-mail and instant messaging. "They have made for a 24/7 kind of connection," Stein said.
In fact, a report from the National Survey of Student Engagement reported 86 percent of first-year college students were in frequent contact with their mother via phone or computer. And 71 percent of freshmen communicated frequently with their fathers.
The same report concluded students with higher levels of parental involvement had significantly lower grades.
"I see students struggle with this every day," Stein said. "You know, this is a life experience. It's the first time many students have to navigate daily life on their own."
t's a message Stein delivers directly to parents when they drop off students in the fall. "I congratulate them and say their hard work and investment in their child has paid off, but I also remind them that it's time to step back and allow their son and daughter to go forth in the world."
Stein acknowledged stepping back isn't easy, but he believes it is the only way to equip a growing child with coping skills.
He said a high grade-point average isn't the only measure of success. He looks at "the student's ability to problem solve, to cope and to be resilient."It's a sentiment echoed by Crawford: "One of the best things you can do for your child is let them leave home believing they have the ability to overcome adversity. If we interfere with their ability to do that we really handicap them."
January 31, 2008
I am often asked what parenting books I recommend. This book, by Laurence Steinberg, is one of my favorites. It's a straight forward book that offers parenting strategies that can be easily implemented. Dr. Steinberg has extensively studied parent-child relationships and he's also a parent himself which allows him to both emphasize and be encouraging.
Get a copy and let me know how you feel about his parenting principles.
January 30, 2008
Parents want the best for their children. They want their children to be happy and not feel disappointment or be in pain. This is a commendable goal but some parents become overly-involved in their children's lives and hover close by whether their children need them or not.
Overly-involved parents don't allow their children to develop their own capabilities. By being in control of every aspect of their lives; helicopter parents send the message to their children that they're not capable of making decisions and solving their own problems.The result? Children become overly dependent or angry and resentful. Take a step back and examine your parenting style. Are you hovering or are you standing in the wings offering support and encouragement?
January 15, 2008
I have an easy, inexpensive suggestion. Buy a can of air freshener, preferably lavender scented as it can have a calming effect. Make a label that reads, MONSTER SPRAY; wrap it around the can and secure it with glue or tape.
During your child's bedtime routine (your child DOES have one I hope) spray the room while your child repeats the phrase, "I'M NOT AFRAID!." It should help ward off his fear and make bedtime much easier.
January 7, 2008
The beginning of a new year is a good time to evaluate your parenting skills. Ask yourself what presented the most challenges to you during the past year when it came to being a parent? Select one of those challenges, I suggest the one that occurs most frequently, and make it a goal to find some new ways to deal with this challenge.
That might involve reading a topical book (I can suggest some, simply post a comment or send me an email) taking a parenting class or simply asking friends and neighbors with children how they have successfully dealt with similar challenges.
Once you have some new insights, set simple goals for achieving results. If you try to make too many changes all at once you may become frustrated and give up. Then practice, practice, practice your new skills. With a little perseverance you will be able to make 2008 a year of better parenting.