April 28, 2009

Enter The Adoptive Families Photo Contest

Does your child have a winning smile? Prove it in the 2009 Adoptive Families Photo Contest. If your photo is chosen you can win great prizes and see your child on the pages or the cover of Adoptive Families magazine.

Go here for entry information: http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/photocontest/

April 24, 2009

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

This book explains to children that we all carry an invisible bucket that holds the way we feel about ourselves. When we're happy our bucket is full. When we're sad our bucket is empty. We can fill our own bucket and so can others. We can also dip into our bucket.

This book encourages children to express kindness and love on a daily basis.

Many schools use it and have found it to be successful. It would be fun to introduce this concept to your children and use it in your family.

What have you put in your bucket, or the bucket of someone special, today?

April 23, 2009

Helping Your Child Understand Sexuality

Children are maturing at younger ages. It's not unusual for a girl to begin menstruating as early as ten.

Parents often ask me what books I recommend to helping introduce this topic to their sons and daughters. Here are my recommendations.

These books are both available from Usborne Books.

April 20, 2009

April 20-26 is National Turn off TV week

Turning off the TV or cutting back on the amount of TV you watch can improve the health of you and your family members.

Not watching TV gives you extra time to become more physical, to connect with your family and do things you never seem to have time for such as reading, hobbies or having quiet time.

For more information check out the web site for Screen Time Awareness http://www.tvturnoff.org/

April 16, 2009


The ad in the paper read, “For Sale: Year old female, registered cocker spaniel. $75.00.” I quickly dialed the number listed and with fingers crossed asked if she was still available. My heart skipped a beat when they said yes and I responded by asking if I could come by in the next thirty minutes to take a look at her. I grabbed my keys, told my husband and the children to get in the car and in less than 15 minutes we pulled into the driveway of the dog owners.

They were in the yard watching their three young children playing in a pile of dirt in the lot next door where a new home was being constructed. Then I saw her. A buff colored cocker spaniel romping around in that same pile of dirt. Her fur was dirty and she hadn’t been groomed in some time but I knew from that moment Minnie was going home with me.

The owners gave us a small crate which we put her in for the ride home. We were excited yet a little concerned because we’d had no time to prepare our home for a dog. When we brought her in the house she ran from room to room, sniffing and barking and trying to get away every time one of us opened the front or back door. Soon I heard my six year old son hollering my name. I raced up the stairway to his room and found him standing on his bed, pointing down at Minnie and yelling, “She’s scaring me!”

My son calmed down, Minnie settled in and our family began an adventure that only another dog lover could possibly understand.

In January of this year Minnie turned fourteen. That’s an advanced age for a cocker spaniel, especially one like Minnie who has had an array of health concerns over the years. A month later she had to have an eye removed due to a tumor. The tumor was cancerous. Her time with us is drawing to a close and our family has already begun processing our upcoming loss.

We have decided that instead of dwelling on what our family will be like without Minnie, we are going to focus on remembering all the joy she’s brought to our family in the thirteen years she has been with us. I’ve begun pouring through old photo albums and pulling out every photo of her that I’ve ever saved. My goal is to make a scrapbook. As I lined up the photos on the dining room table I realized they represented a virtual time line of not only Minnie’s life but of my children's lives as well. They’re pictured along side of her in many of the photos.

My son emailed me a dozen of his favorite photos of Minnie that he had taken over the years. My daughter made the five hour drive home to spend some precious time with Minnie.

We're enjoying each day that Minnie is still with us. Her hearing is virtually gone and her remaining eye is clouded with age. She still sits next to me rubbing her head against my leg begging me to scratch her ears. Her tail still wags when someone enters the room.

As we focus on the past we find we are recalling memories of Minnie that we had forgotten. Remembering brings tears but it also brings smiles. We hope it will ease some of the pain when the time comes for us to let go and say good-bye.

April 14, 2009

Catch Your Child Doing Something Right

Children love attention and they will do anything to get it. If the only way to get your attention is to do something wrong, it's not hard to figure out which behavior she'll do repeatedly.

Try to catch your child doing something right. Call your child by name when you see her doing something right. You might say, "Kelsey, I saw you help your brother put on his jacket. That's great!" After she gets over the initial shock of hearing her name followed by something positive rather than negative, she'll smile proudly, stand a little taller and make an effort to get caught doing something right in the future.

Stay away from generic praise such as, "You were good today." Find specific incidents which define good behavior. "Thank you for remembering to pick up your toys," and "You took turns with your sister," describe the behaviors you want from your child.

Praise and attention are powerful motivators. Catch your child doing something right this week and comment on it. Your child will love the attention and you will have added something new to your bag of parenting tricks.

April 13, 2009

Have A New Kid By Friday

Here's a great new book by noted Psychologist Kevin Leman, Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change Your Child's Attitude, Behavior & Character in 5 Days

I just finished reading this book and I am recommending it to any parent who is looking for a no-nonsense approach to parenting. Dr. Leman's suggestions are straight forward and sensible. It's easy to read and gives you strategies you can implement immediately.

April 10, 2009

Campaign For Real Beauty

The Campaign For Real Beauty aims to change the status quo and offer in its place a broader, healthier, more democratic view of beauty. It's sponsored by Dove and the web site features videos and free self-esteem tools to download.

If you're a parent of a young girl or a teenager this site is definitely worth checking out.


April 9, 2009

Empty Threats

Your child’s Lego’s are all over the floor even though you have already told him three times to pick them up.

At first you were frustrated but now you’re angry and you blurt out, “If you don’t pick up the Lego’s I’m going to throw them into the trash!” Let me ask you a question. Are you really going to throw them in the trash? I’m going to assume your answer is, “No.”

It happens to every parent. In a moment of anger you make a threat that you won’t carry out. An empty threat means you’ve lost control and your child has won.

Children are smart little creatures. They know you won’t follow through so they don’t take your threats seriously. That means you won’t get the results you need. In the aforementioned example that mean your child is not going to pick up his Lego’s.

You can overcome making empty threats. How might the situation look if you said this instead, “Ryan, I need you to pick up your Lego’s. I’m going to set the timer for five minutes. If they’re not picked up when the timer goes off you will not be allowed to play with your Lego’s for a week.” If you’re not a parent who usually follows through on threats Ryan won’t think you’re serious so he won’t comply. What he doesn’t realize is that you’re using a different approach this time. This time you’re going to follow through on your threat.

You scoop up the Lego’s and put them where Ryan can’t reach them. He’s watching in total disbelief. He’s clinging to your leg begging you to give them back. You drag yourself and the attached Ryan over to the refrigerator where you pencil onto the family calendar the day the Lego’s will be returned. You pry Ryan off your leg and go about your business while he lies on the kitchen floor wailing and pleading. The tantrum is driving you nuts but you don’t back down. You followed through on your threat.

Feels good doesn’t it? It wasn’t easy but you did it. You were firm, yet matter of fact. You won. With consistency and perseverance you can become a parent who follows through more times than not.

How do you think Ryan will respond the next time you ask him to pick up his Lego’s?

April 7, 2009

Study finds 1 in 5 obese among 4-year-olds

CHICAGO – A striking new study says almost 1 in 5 American 4-year-olds is obese, and the rate is alarmingly higher among American Indian children, with nearly a third of them obese. Researchers were surprised to see differences by race at so early an age.

Overall, more than half a million 4-year-olds are obese, the study suggests. Obesity is more common in Hispanic and black youngsters, too, but the disparity is most startling in American Indians, whose rate is almost double that of whites.

The lead author said that rate is worrisome among children so young, even in a population at higher risk for obesity because of other health problems and economic disadvantages.

"The magnitude of these differences was larger than we expected, and it is surprising to see differences by racial groups present so early in childhood," said Sarah Anderson, an Ohio State University public health researcher. She conducted the research with Temple University's Dr. Robert Whitaker.

Dr. Glenn Flores, a pediatrics and public health professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, said the research is an important contribution to studies documenting racial and ethnic disparities in children's weight.

"The cumulative evidence is alarming because within just a few decades, America will become a 'minority majority' nation," he said. Without interventions, the next generation "will be at very high risk" for heart disease, high blood pressure, cancers, joint diseases and other problems connected with obesity, said Flores, who was not involved in the new research.

The study is an analysis of nationally representative height and weight data on 8,550 preschoolers born in 2001. Children were measured in their homes and were part of a study conducted by the government's National Center for Education Statistics. The results appear in Monday's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Almost 13 percent of Asian children were obese, along with 16 percent of whites, almost 21 percent of blacks, 22 percent of Hispanics, and 31 percent of American Indians.

Children were considered obese if their body-mass index, a height-weight ratio, was in the 95th percentile or higher based on government BMI growth charts. For 4-year-olds, that would be a BMI of about 18.

For example, a girl who is 4 1/2 years old, 40 inches tall and 42 pounds would have a BMI of about 18, weighing 4 pounds more than the government's upper limit for that age, height and gender.

Some previous studies of young children did not distinguish between kids who were merely overweight versus obese, or they examined fewer racial groups.

The current study looked only at obesity and a specific age group. Anderson called it the first analysis of national obesity rates in preschool kids in the five ethnic or racial groups.

The researchers did not examine reasons for the disparities, but others offered several theories.

Flores cited higher rates of diabetes in American Indians, and also Hispanics, which scientists believe may be due to genetic differences.

Also, other factors that can increase obesity risks tend to be more common among minorities, including poverty, less educated parents, and diets high in fat and calories, Flores said.

Jessica Burger, a member of the Little River Ottawa tribe and health director of a tribal clinic in Manistee, Mich., said many children at her clinic are overweight or obese, including preschoolers.

Burger, a nurse, said one culprit is gestational diabetes, which occurs during a mother's pregnancy. That increases children's chances of becoming overweight and is almost twice as common in American Indian women, compared with whites.

She also blamed the federal commodity program for low-income people that many American Indian families receive. The offerings include lots of pastas, rice and other high-carbohydrate foods that contribute to what Burger said is often called a "commod bod."

"When that's the predominant dietary base in a household without access to fresh fruits and vegetables, that really creates a better chance of a person becoming obese," she said.

Also, Burger noted that exercise is not a priority in many American Indian families struggling to make ends meet, with parents feeling stressed just to provide basic necessities.

To address the problem, her clinic has created activities for young Indian children, including summer camps and a winter break "outdoor day" that had kids braving 8-degree temperatures to play games including "snowsnake." That's a traditional American Indian contest in which players throw long, carved wooden "snakes" along a snow or ice trail to see whose lands the farthest.

The hope is that giving kids used to modern sedentary ways a taste of a more active traditional American Indian lifestyle will help them adopt healthier habits, she said.


April 6, 2009

"Special Time"

When working with a family in my play therapy practice I will often encourage parents to schedule one-on-one time with their child on a weekly basis. It doesn’t have to be more than 15-30 minutes and it doesn’t have to involve something that costs money.

Simply spending time with your child without any distractions (phone, TV, other children) sends your child the message of how important they are to you and that you enjoy spending time with them. Let your child decide what you will do together be it a board game, reading to one another, etc. Don't engage in any passive activities like watching TV. Try to refrain from playing a video game.

I suggest parents put together a box of toys that are only used for this special time. You could include a deck of cards, a puzzle, building blocks, paper and crayons, toy cars, small dolls, action figures, a dish set. They should note this special time on the calendar just like other important events. Special time is unconditional and should not be taken away as a consequence for misbehavior.

Children want and need their parents undivided attention. Special time is easy to do and the rewards are priceless.

April 2, 2009

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day

World Autism Awareness Day shines a bright light on autism as a growing global health crisis. WAAD activities help to increase and develop world knowledge of the autism epidemic and impart information regarding the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention. Additionally, WAAD celebrates the unique talents and skills of persons with autism and is a day when individuals with autism are warmly welcomed and embraced in community events around the globe.

To learn more go to the official WAAD web site: