Category Archives: Health

Sunday Morning Shout Out


Source: Ken Lauer, Nov. 2014

Source: Ken Lauer, Nov. 2014

Winter is coming to an end but is it too cold to go outside and play?  Are the roads super bad, preventing you from going anywhere?  Are you stuck home?  Is everyone sick with the sinus junk that’s been going around?  Has pure, pervasive cabin fever struck? Recently, “The Washington Post’s, On Parenting section, reposted a popular article, “10 Indoor Activities to Get You Through Winter,” by Lauren Knight, that might just be the solution.

1)  Cardboard playhouses, rockets, jets, cabins, etc: Build a cardboard playhouse or cardboard anything for your child. It is truly amazing to see how children imagine things when they are given a big box to play in for a day. If your house is anything like mine, a big box like this is not just a day, but multi-day piece of fun.

2 )  Make homemade play dough: There are a gazillion online recipes for making this kid favorite. While playing with it is good fun, making it is too. It is also a whole lot cheaper and less toxic than the stuff in the store.

3)  Sumo wrestle: Let me just say, I read this idea and laughed. The premise is to size up that perfect moment where your children need to blow off steam. Give them each a large overstuffed t-shirt, in which they can stuff pillows in the back and front. Let them wrestle and do their thing, while you laugh.

4)  Make marshmallow structures: With marshmallows and pasta, design possibilities and great geometry lessons are limitless.

5)  Cardboard monster feet: Make cardboard monster feet, with cardboard you have left over from the playhouse, rocket ship, fort, etc. Reduce, reuse, and roar!

6)  “Mad scientist bath”: Let your child take a “Mad Scientist” bath. With the aid of a plastic stool to set experiments on, measuring cups, soap and water, and containers, let your child play away in the water and see what she can “create.”

7)  Pool noodle racetracks: Make a marble race track (or one for cars) by cutting a pool noodle in half lengthwise. The idea is to have two of them. Children can race their marbles or racecars, and see which ones are the fastest.

8)Indoor scavenger hunt: Create an indoor scavenger hunt for your children. Hide clues, have them work as teams, and have a great find at the end.

9)  Build a tapestry table: I am not feeling this one, but the author says you can pick up an old coffee table at a secondhand store and staple a large piece of burlap material around the edges. With this, some scraps of yarn, string, large plastic children sewing needles, and some desperation, children can learn how to sew.

10)  Make a reading nook: Either collect a bunch of books from the library or around the house and create a special, most comfy corner, pile of pillows, or room, replete with even more pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals to read-away for an afternoon or snowstorm. (Now that sounds downright awesome to me!)

With these great ideas, cabin fever will be cured in no time and a greater appreciation for the season may just be.  Plus, Spring is just around the corner!

 

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


Tonight, I missed an important talk at our children’s school.  School personnel discussed the rising crisis of prescription drug abuse among teens.  Knowing the importance of the issue I thought I would look at this growing problem myself.

The numbers and misguided perceptions about prescription drug abuse among teens speak loudly.  According to a 2012 study that was reported in the article “Prescription Drug Abuse Up Among Teens: Survey,” by Alan Mozes, more than 24 percent of high school student (more than 5 million young people) have abused prescription medications, marking a 33% increase from 2008.  Within this same cohort, 13% stated they had experimented with common ADHD medications Ritalin and Adderall that were not prescribed for them, and that 20% of teens who admitted to using prescription drugs, admitted doing so before age 14.

Of this specific group, 27% believed that prescription drugs were less harmful than street drugs. One third of teens stated they did not have a particular issue with taking someone else’s prescribed medication, to help them with health concerns.  One quarter of teens believed that their parents were more concerned with street drug use over prescription drug use.  Approximately four out of five teens said they had talked about alcohol and marijuana; about one third had discussed crack cocaine, and only 14 to 16% teens had discussed painkiller/prescription drug abuse.

There were also troubling numbers from the parents’ side.  One third of parents interviewed in the study believed that Ritalin or Adderal could boost their child’s school performance, even when there was not a diagnosis that warranted such drugs being taken.  Twenty percent of parents stated they freely gave their teens a prescription they had on hand that was theirs and not diagnosed for their child.  Sixteen percent of parents said they thought prescription drugs were safer than street drug.

These results were from a study that was done by the Partnership at Drugfree.org, in conjunction with the Metlife Foundation in 2012. The sample population was a nationally representative groups of3,900 teens in grades 9-12, enrolled in public, private, and parochial schools, along with more than 800 parents, who completed home interviews

What’s the take away from such a study as reported in US News? The first one that jumps out to me is the steep increase from 2008. Five million teens abusing prescription drugs marks a 33% increase in such a short time! Also what stands out for me are the strong misconceptions among teens and parents alike.  There are significant numbers among both camps who do not see this behavior as dangerous, as the use of street drugs.  Steve Pasierb, president CEO at the Partnership Organization, who helped conduct the study states:

“The key here is that kids and often their parents are buying into the myth and misunderstanding that prescription drug abuse is a safer way to get high, a safer alternative to street drugs, and that they can control it.”

This of course is so dangerous on many fronts. Denial and ignorance on the topic are the road to nowhere.  This is occurring at an alarming and epidemic rate!  The point of access is also so troubling.  The study found that 56% of the prescription drugs teens are using came from their parent’s medicine cabinet, without any obstacles to access them.  The problems that can stem from prescription drug abuse can be incredibly injurious and deadly in their own right, leading to addiction, accidental overdose; and/or serving as the gateway to heroin and other street drugs as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).  My note to self is that I need to be greater informed ; our teens need to be greater informed; and that medicine cabinets should be monitored/watched for proper use of medicines, supplies, etc.  It perhaps is also my note for you….

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


dinnerWe all know dinner together as a family is important.  But did you know it is the best predictor of how adolescence will go for our children?  In my favorite go- to place for professional advice about “Happy Familiying,” Dr. Laura Markham, Ph.D., at the “Aha Parenting” website, discusses why dinner and eating together are the glue that keep families strong.

Dinner is a protective factor for all family members and an extremely powerful one for adolescents, especially.  The more frequently teens eat with their families, the more likely they are: to do well in school, not do drugs, and become sexually active in high school, depressed, or suicidal.  They are many factors at play.  Families that regularly eat together, offer structure and routine to their children.  They offer oversight and supervision to teens and all children, in a world that can be utterly fast and risky for all.  Dinnertime offers children a sense of identity as a family, tradition, and stability.  In a world where a lot is changeable and stressful, regular dinner offers a family a constant.  Dinnertime is a place to check in with one another about each other’s day—the good, bad, and ugly.  It is a place to ask more questions about what occurred at school; what your children’s feelings and thoughts are about family events; and it is a place to weigh in, for all parties.  Most importantly, it is a place to belong, connect, and build better relationships.

As ideal as this sounds, life is not always conducive to sitting down together.  Many different schedules can exist in the same house.  If this is not happening at all, Markham says to aim for a few days a week.  The more times you can do this, the greater the effect! Perhaps it is a single parent home. Maybe, one spouse works later than another.  There is still great power in sitting down together regularly, as a family with a single parent or as a family where one parent is the regular one at dinner.  Markham suggests if one parent gets home later than the other, everyone could sit down and have a snack together.  Or, there could be special emphasis placed on weekend dinners together.  Weekends could then be kept sacred for dinner.  She also states that families may want to adjust dinner time to eat earlier or later, if it means everyone can eat together.

There are other practical things to keep in mind, according to Markham.  Do not get hung up on making an elaborate dinner, at the expense of energy, patience, and time! It is better to put all these ingredients into the actual activity of connecting with one another.  She also talks about creating a welcoming dinner atmosphere, and biting your tongue as a parent if needed.  The idea is build up one another and connect as a family, rather than tearing each down over a difference of opinion or behavioral critique.  She lists some creative resources for promoting dinner conversation, so it goes beyond, “How was your day?”  One classic approach is having everyone give their high and low points of the day-or their roses and thorns.  The point is to connect, converse, and feed more than just the appetite.  When we do this with our families, we do so much more than eat….

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


The season is upon us.  Before you think I am talking about the holidays, think again.  I am talking about cold and flu season.  I am talking about the various “’plagues,” that are commonplace in many schools.  There are times when you wish for a bubble for you and your family.  There are times when you can’t get past it.

Fortunately, there are things we can do to shore ourselves up for the cold, flu, and “plague season.”  There are the tried and true tips: frequent hand washing, covering your face and mouth when you sneeze and cough, avoiding direct contact with someone who is sick, avoiding touching your face or eyes -as to avoid transmitting germs and sickness, eating for health-whole foods -as opposed to processed food and junk food, which decrease our bodies’ immune system, lots of rest, exercise, stress management, etc.  The medical community advocates for flu shots being the number one preventative measure a person can take.  Others like Dr Mark Hyman would disagree.  Vitamin C, big kettles of chicken soup, garlic, and a whole host of other more natural remedies are lauded by more holistic folk.  Every family is different in their approach.  Our favorites are airing out the house, frequent hand washing, whole foods, and pre and probiotics.  What are yours?

 

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Holiday Activities


Holidat Tradition OrnamentSomewhere between Pinterest idyllic and reality, there is what we hope to establish in our home during the holidays.  For many, it is a time of increased togetherness.  The children are off from school and perhaps you are off from work for an extended period of time.  Perhaps you are a stay at home parent and you are always “off.”  Or perhaps, no such luck, you have to work increased hours over the holidays because of the kind of work you do.  Regardless of your exact situation, I am sure that some of what you are hoping for during the holidays is a sense of familial togetherness, fun, new memories; and meaningfulness. –More on that in a moment.

Rest assured, even the plans and holiday idylls that do not go as planned can be of lasting memory.  We still talk of the “Pink Eye Christmas” when we recall memories of Christmas past.  Our daughters had an awesome case of conjunctivitis, that was worsened by an allergic reaction our youngest girl had to eye drops.  She had a distinct resemblance to Rocky Balboa after a hard fight, that Christmas!  We still laugh at the Christmas mouse, from growing up.  As teenagers, my siblings and I had a mouse run across the floor during our Christmas meal.  A fond new memory is from a few years back when our girls received a package of pacifiers or “bobos” from Santa and the Bobo Fairy.  She had come about a year prior, when our daughter gave up her bobo.  This is how they found out their mother was expecting their little brother.

Somewhere between your holiday idylls and the bickering that arises when all the children are home together for an extended period of time; the pulls and demands of time, money, and limited energy reserves; and the unexpected that is all but a guarantee in life, is a chance for some great times together.  The folks at the great website “Parent map” offer 15 great ideas for making the most of your time together during the holidays.  From game nights by the Christmas tree and volunteering as a family to great craft ideas and journaling suggestions for recording the year’s highlights, there are some fantastic suggestions here.  Wishing you togetherness, laughter, fun, new found memories, and meaning this holiday season! Happy Holidays!

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


Sports BanquetA few weekends ago “The New York Times” re ran a great column in their “Motherlode” feature.  In Lisa Hefferman’s column “Our Push for ‘Passion’, and Why It Harms Kids,” Hefferman discusses one of today’s parenting trends, finding your child’s passion.  While best intentions may drive this and it may seem innocent, this modern parenting quest has many potential negative consequences.

Are parents charged with finding their child’s passion?  The best intentioned parent wants their child to find things they are good at and enjoy.  From cheer and hockey, to soccer and dance, we all like seeing our kids do things they enjoy.  We feel pride over their routines, goals, recitals, etc.  This is all so very good and normal.  Yet like many things in childhood and society today, this normal event has become supercharged.  While childhood is a time of exploration, many of today’s parents are looking for a hobby, an instrument, a sport to define their child and give both their child and them purpose, status, etc.  It seems this goes right with the adult sense of being overly busy, as the definition of normal, purposeful, and routine.

As adults, it seem like our “crazy busy” is lamentable, but a crutch that makes us okay in our peers eyes.  If our children aren’t into 25 activities and are allowed to enjoy a slow childhood at home, they are more the exception and sadly the oddball for many.  It also seems like we are often hoping to help our children through their childhood, by defining a piece of who they are early in life.  There’s no doubt that a sense of self, talent, efficacy helps one thrive, but are we the ones who should define this or should it be our children?  While society at large may drive this force, there’s no doubt that visions of college applications years down the road are also part of this phenomenon.  We are told colleges accept students with “passion”.  If they begin at four years-old, we may think we are helping them and ourselves with their collegiate future.

The columnist’s stance and mine are that this is harmful more than helpful for several reasons.  When children work at their “passion” six days a week after school, what about other interests that go undiscovered?  If we have decide soccer is it for them, what about their natural curiosity in bugs, guitar, designing costumes, doing art, etc. etc?  Their time is spoken for because of their “passion,” leaving little room or time for what may be other interests and life’s truer passions.  This drive for passion is expensive and consumes time.  Children naturally have interest in many different things.  If we are to get all the equipment, pay for all the lessons, send them to all the camps for their “passion,” we spend whole lot money on things that can be better spent.  How about saving for college, their future, and our future with some of this money?

There is the other side of the time piece.  Not only are they losing time to find out what truly interests them, they may be losing their childhood.  Children today are overscheduled, overcommitted, and over involved.  There are so many great things that come from unstructured play and more peaceful family time.  As parents, let’s help our children explore their interests.  Yes, passion may come from some of these interests.  But let’s let it be defined by them, instead of us.  Money, time, and childhood are at stake……

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


It’s not easy being a child today.  While this may always have been the case, today’s children live in a hyperactive world.  Between meeting the demands of Common Core and the umpteen activities they do, children can face a great amount of stress.  A normally docile acts out.  An energetic child is sluggish and out of sorts.  These are all ways children show stress.  Fortunately, parents can help their children combat stress in many different ways.

The article “Helping Kids Cope With Stress,” from the “Kids Health” website  offers some great tips to parents.

The first tip is to “notice out loud” when a child seems stressed.  for example, when Johnny seems stressed, put it to words. “Johnny, you seem mad about what happened in gym yesterday” or “Susie, you seem like something is bothering you.”  When parents do this, their concern goes far in helping children feel armored to fight stress.  Children often feel alone and consumed by their stress and worries.  Show them they are not alone and you are there with them.

Along with this, parents should actively listen to their children when they tell us what is wrong, without adding judgment or without rushing them along.  Ask open ended questions to get them talking about their worries.  “Jilly, what is stressing you out?” “Tell me what happened in class.” “What did you do after your coach said that to you?” It then helps to dose them with a great deal of empathy.  This sounds like a no brainer, but in the heat of the moment parents are often at their wits end or flooded with their own feelings-anger, stress, distraction.  Feeling understood and listened to, helps your child feel supported by you.

Parents can also help our children put a label on their feelings and help them think of things to do. Children, especially small children, may lack the words to express their feelings.  This is probably why they start with I have a headache or stomachache, instead of I feel overwhelmed by homework; I am tired; I am upset by all the attention Baby Sammy is getting instead of me, etc.. Early on, children are able to describe a belly ache or a head ache. By helping children identify and label their feelings, parents help them increase their emotional awareness. “Susie, you feel overwhelmed by all the homework you have this year. You’d like more time to play.” “Joey, you are saying you are sad because you miss spending time with me, now that the baby is here.”

After having increased emotional awareness with your child, help them develop an action plan.  Help your child think of what to do when stress arises.  Parents may need to start the brainstorming session, but ask them for their ideas. – When Johnny comes up with ways to deal with not forgetting his homework, that’s pretty powerful stuff. Help him follow through.  Maybe he isolates the problem. His folder never comes off his desk once homework is completed.  He tells you he needs to place it right in the bag, after you check it Of course, right.  When children come up with the solution, they gain confidence and feel empowered.

In the article, parents are reminded that sometimes they just need to listen and help them move on. Sometime, it only takes a sense of being heard, to feel better. Listen and help your child find something fun and relaxing to do.  Do not give a problem more attention than it deserves.  Also, a child may not need to talk about it or want to talk about it.  They just need parent to be there for them and ready to listen if they want to talk to us about it.  Be loving, patient, and present to them.

Lastly, parents may need to actively step in and minimize stress in their children’s lives.  If the morning is pure chaos, what is our role in reducing it?  Does everyone have enough time to get ready? What can be done the night before to make for a smooth morning routine?  Did everyone have a healthy breakfast, to provide them the right nutrition to start the day? Are your children getting enough exercise at home? How about activities? Today’s children need more downtime and less scheduled time.  It will not wreck their college application for them to forgo competitive swimming at seven years-old or five day a week, travel soccer.  Childhood is brief.  By teaching health stress management skills now, parents are helping their children for a lifetime.

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