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Summer Safety Tips

By | Safety Tips


Babies under 6 months:

  • Avoiding sun exposure and dressing infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats are still the top recommendations from the AAP to prevent sunburn. However when adequate clothing and shade are not available, parents can apply a minimal amount of sunscreen to small areas, such as the infant’s face and the back of the hands.

For Young Children:

  • Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside, and use sunscreen even on cloudy days. The SPF should be at least 15.

For Older Children:

  • The first, and best, line of defense against the sun is covering up. Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill facing forward, sunglasses (look for sunglasses that block 99-100% of ultraviolet rays), and cotton clothing with a tight weave.
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, and avoid sun exposure during the peak intensity hours – between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or greater. Be sure to apply enough sunscreen – about one ounce per sitting for a young adult.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.


  • The intensity of activities that last 15 minutes or more should be reduced whenever high heat and humidity reach critical levels.
  • At the beginning of a strenuous exercise program or after traveling to a warmer climate, the intensity and duration of exercise should be limited initially and then gradually increased during a period of 10 to 14 days to accomplish acclimatization to the heat.
  • Before prolonged physical activity, the child should be well-hydrated. During the activity, periodic drinking should be enforced, for example, each 20 minutes, 5 oz of cold tap water or a flavored sports drink for a child weighing 88 lbs., and 9 oz for an adolescent weighing 132 lbs., even if the child does not feel thirsty.
  • Clothing should be light-colored and lightweight and limited to one layer of absorbent material to facilitate evaporation of sweat. Sweat-saturated garments should be replaced by dry garments.


  • Never leave children alone in or near the pool, even for a moment.
  • Install a fence at least four-feet high around all four sides of the pool. The fence should not have openings or protrusions that a young child could use to get over, under, or through the fence.
  • Make sure pool gates open out from the pool, and self-close and self-latch at a height children can’t reach.
  • Keep rescue equipment (a shepherd’s hook – a long pole with a hook on the end – and life preserver) and a portable telephone near the pool.
  • Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as “floaties.” They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children a false sense of security.
  • Children may not be developmentally ready for swim lessons until after their fourth birthday. Swim programs for children under 4 should not be seen as a way to decrease the risk of drowning.
  • Whenever infants or toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within arm’s length, providing “touch supervision.”


  • Don’t use scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays on your child.
  • Avoid areas where insects nest or congregate, such as stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods and gardens where flowers are in bloom.
  • Avoid dressing your child in clothing with bright colors or flowery prints.
  • To remove a visible stinger from skin, gently scrape it off horizontally with a credit card or your fingernail.
  • Insect repellents containing DEET are the most effective.
  • The concentration of DEET in products may range from less than 10 percent to over 30 percent. The benefits of DEET reach a peak at a concentration of 30 percent, the maximum concentration currently recommended for infants and children. DEET should not be used on children under 2 months of age.
  • The concentration of DEET varies significantly from product to product, so read the label of any product you purchase.


  • Install and maintain a shock-absorbing surface under and around the play equipment. Use at least 9 inches of wood chips, mulch, or shredded rubber for play equipment up to 7 feet high. If sand or pea gravel is used, install at least a 9-inch layer for play equipment up to 5 feet high.
  • Carefully maintain all equipment. Open “s” hooks or protruding bolt ends can be hazardous.
  • Swing seats should be made of soft materials such as rubber, plastic or canvas.
  • Make sure children cannot reach any moving parts that might pinch or trap any body part.
  • Never attach-or allow children to attach-ropes, jump ropes, leashes, or similar items to play equipment; children can strangle on these.
  • Make sure metal slides are cool to prevent children’s legs from getting burned.
  • Parents should never purchase a home trampoline or allow children to use home trampolines.
  • Parents should supervise children on play equipment to make sure they are safe.


  • Do not push your child to ride a 2-wheeled bike until he or she is ready, at about age 5 or 6. Consider the child’s coordination and desire to learn to ride. Stick with coaster (foot) brakes until your child is older and more experienced for hand brakes.
  • Take your child with you when you shop for the bike, so that he or she can try it out. The value of a properly fitting bike far outweighs the value of surprising your child with a new bike.
  • Buy a bike that is the right size, not one your child has to “grow into.” Oversized bikes are especially dangerous.
  • Your child needs to wear a helmet on every bike ride, no matter how short or how close to home. Many accidents happen in driveways, on sidewalks, and on bike paths, not just on streets. Children learn best by observing you. Whenever you ride your bike, put on your helmet.
  • When purchasing a helmet, look for a label or sticker that says the helmet meets the CPSC safety standard.
  • A helmet protects your child from serious injury, and should always be worn. And remember, wearing a helmet at all times helps children develop the helmet habit.
  • A helmet should be worn so that it is level on the head, not tipped forwards or backwards. The strap should be securely fastened, and you should not be able to move the helmet in any direction. If needed, the helmet’s sizing pads can help improve the fit.


  • Children should never ride skateboards or scooters in or near traffic.
  • All skateboarders and scooter-riders should wear a helmet and other protective gear.
  • Communities should continue to develop skateboard parks, which are more likely to be monitored for safety than ramps and jumps constructed by children at home.


  • Try to use a mower with a control that stops the mower from moving forward if the handle is let go.
  • Children younger than 16 years should not be allowed to use ride-on mowers. Children younger than 12 years should not use walk-behind mowers.
  • Make sure that sturdy shoes (not sandals or sneakers) are worn while mowing.
  • Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins. Have anyone who uses a mower wear hearing and eye protection.
  • Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
  • Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.
  • Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers.

15 Safety Mistakes Parents Make

By | Safety Tips

By Amy Zintl

From American Baby magazine, October 2003

Unintentional injury remains the leading cause of death among children. In 2000, more than 120,000 were permanently disabled from injuries, and 5,600 died. Children younger than 5 account for nearly half o such fatalities.

“Parents often think that if we just watch our kids, they’ll be okay,” says Gary Smith, MD, director of the center for injury research and policy at the Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. “But accidents, by definition, occur quickly and without warning. All it takes is that one second when a hot cup of coffee is within reach or a door is left open.”

Since mistakes are often our best teachers, here are some hazardous habits you might be guilty of—and what you can do to correct things.

Leaving your child alone in the bathtub

Of course, most parents don’t leave their kids alone in the tub as a matter of course. Yet more than half of all infant drownings occur there. “It’s that one time when you’re waiting for a delivery or a phone call,” says Angela Mickalide, PhD, program director for the National Safe Kids Campaign. “You dash out, and in those few moments your child can get submerged and drown.” A child will lose consciousness within two minutes underwater and irreversible brain damage occurs after four minutes.

Bath seats or rings are often involved in bathtub drownings. Parents think the seats will hold a child while their attention is diverted, but bath seats are not safety devices. The suction cups on the bottom can come loose, causing a child to tip over, or a baby can slip through the leg openings. Each year, eight babies drown in such incidents.

WHAT TO DO: Never leave your child alone in or near any kind of water. Don’t answer the door or the phone or attend to other children without taking your baby with you or draining the tub. Make it clear to older siblings who may be eager to help that they can’t give the baby a bath or play “beach” unless you’re present. Get safety latches for all your toilets and empty any containers that collect water

Serving Unsafe Foods

Food accounts for the majority of child choking injuries, and the most common culprits are small, round, hard or gummy foods that easily block the airway. These include nuts, grapes, gummy and hard candies, carrots, popcorn, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, hot dogs, taffy, marshmallows and caramels. Children younger than 3 are most at risk for choking on food because their airway is so small and they tend to put everything in their mouths. “Even spoonfuls of peanut butter can be a hazard, because globs of it easily get stuck in a child’s tiny esophagus,” says Mickalide. (Peanut butter and peanuts are also a danger for kids younger than 3 because they’re highly allergenic.)

WHAT TO DO: Cut all foods into small pieces and make sure children are sitting down while eating. Encourage small bites and chewing slowly and completely. Nix all small, round, smooth or sticky foods.

Forgetting About the Pool Next Door

I admit it. My attention wandered every time I heard or read about pool dangers. After all, we don’t own a pool. Then one day I found my 2-year-old on our neighbors’ deck, ready to jump into their pool. We had been playing in the yard, and I stopped to say hello to another friend from the neighborhood. My daughter simply climbed over a low stone wall into our neighbors’ yard and up their steps and unlatched their gate. I was lucky to have noticed in time to stop something horrible from happening. But this scenario isn’t uncommon. The majority of children who drown in pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight for less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time.

WHAT TO DO: Four-wall fencing of your yard is certainly something to consider, but in the meantime, take other precautions. Think of every pool in the neighborhood—above-ground, in-ground, even wading pools—as a potential danger. Get alarms for your doors that sound when they’re opened to alert you if your child manages to slip out of the house. (Some security systems come with this feature.) Ask your neighbors to lock their pool gate and offer to purchase a pool alarm, which sounds when something falls into the water. Door and pool alarms are available where pools are sold

Using a baby walker

Do you really want your child to have the ability to slide here and there at will, banging into furniture and pulling down plants and electronics?  In 2001, 6,400 babies were injured badly enough to go to the hospital as a result of using a walker, and each year two children die. Of those who sustained injuries, three quarters fell down stairs. Eighty percent were supervised at the time of the incident, and more than half had caregivers in the same room. “Kids can scoot four fee per second in a walker,” says Dr. Smith. “Even a triathlete parent can’t sprint across a room to prevent a fall that one time a safety gate is left open.”

WHAT TO DO: Trade your walker for a stationary entertainment center. Babies like them just as much, and you’ll gain a few hands-free moments. It’s especially important to get rid of your baby walker if it was made before July 1997. Walkers made since then must meet additional safety standards, including having a diameter of at least 36 inches (too wide to fit through most, but not all doorways).

Neglecting to use a meat thermometer

Cooking food properly is key to protecting your family from food-borne illnesses like E.coli and salmonella. And while a case of E.coli can certainly make an adult ill, it can overwhelm a child’s body and potentially result in kidney failure. Unfortunately, not even half the population owns a meat thermometer. The next time you think you can eyeball when those hamburgers are done, consider this: 1 in 4 turns brown before reaching a safe temperature.

WHAT TO DO: Use a large oven-safe thermometer for roasts and a digital “instant read” thermometer for other meats, such as hamburgers and chicken breasts. Cook until the internal temperature reaches at least 160° for beef and pork, 145° for lamb and veal, and 180° for poultry.

Forgetting to change the batteries in your smoke detector

While most homes in the U.S. (94 percent) report having at least one smoke alarm, only 75 percent have a working one. Often the batteries are dead or were removed because the alarm sounded while someone was cooking or taking a hot shower. Each year nearly 40,000 children are injured in home fires, with children younger than 5 twice as likely to die, mainly from smoke inhalation.

WHAT TO DO: Test all your smoke alarms each month, and replace the batteries at least once a year. To help you remember, do it when you change your clocks at the beginning and end of daylight saving time. Safe Kids recommends installing one alarm on every level of your home and in every sleeping area. (Look for alarms that also work as carbon monoxide detectors.) Move detectors away from kitchens and bathrooms to prevent false alarms.

Getting latex balloons

Parents really get a mixed message when it comes to balloons, says Dr. Smith. “You can walk into any store and find a bag of latex balloons imprinted with ‘Baby’s First Birthday.’ But this is exactly the age when your child is most at risk for choking on them.” When balloons pop, toddlers manage to find pieces to put into their mouth. The latex easily gets lodged in their throats, which is why balloons account for 44 percent of all child toy-related choking deaths.

WHAT TO DO: Celebrate your baby’s birthday with Mylar balloons instead. Filled with helium, they stay aloft longer. And they don’t pop, breaking into many pieces; they just deflate. Beware of any latex balloons your baby might come across at other parties, such as balloon animals made by the party clown.

Using soft bedding

For children younger than 1, suffocation is the number one cause of unintentional injury-related death. Sixty percent of these cases occur in baby’s sleeping environment: infants can wedge their faces into soft, fluffy pillows, quilts, comforters and stuffed animals that easily cover their nose and mouth.

WHAT TO DO: “Have your child sleep in the barest environment possible,” advises Mickalide. Use just one light blanket over him, and tuck the bottom of it under the end of the mattress to create a pocket. The blanket should only reach to the middle of his chest. This ways it can’t be pulled over his head. On chill nights, dress baby in a warm sleeper rather than piling on more bedding. And use that adorable crib comforter as a decorative wall hanging.

Drinking coffee while holding the baby

You’re desperate for a cup of joe but reluctant to put down the baby in case she wakes up. However, you could be setting yourself up for an accident. Scalds from hot liquids are the most common type of burns for young children, whose thinner skin burns more easily than an adult’s. “Even coffee that’s not too hot to drink can really scald a child,” says Mickalide.

WHAT TO DO: Put down the baby while you drink your coffee. Be just as careful on the go, even with a lid on the cup. “If you were carrying baby and take-out coffee and you were to trip, your natural tendency would be to squeeze that paper cup,” says Mickalide. At home, move your coffeemaker far back on the counter, wind up the cord, and keep your mug out of reach.

Setting the water too high

Hot tap water accounts for about a quarter of all scald burns but causes more deaths and hospitalizations than other hot liquids, because these injuries tend to be more severe and cover a larger portion of the body. Manipulating the faucet to get water the right temperature for hand washing, or to fill Barbie’s pool, is a skill young children simply don’t have yet. And there’s no need for tap water to be so hot anyway. Most people take a bath at 96-98°.

WHAT TO DO: Set your water heater so that the temperature is no hotter than 120°. If your water heater doesn’t have numbers, set it somewhere between the medium and low settings. Also ask a plumber to check it. If you’re unable to control the setting, install anti-scald faucets, which turn off the flow when the water gets too hot.

Forgetting to childproof Grandma’s purse

Nana’s handbag can be a real hazard, possibly containing medications, cosmetics, cigarettes, a sewing kit, loose change, gum and hard candies. In almost 1 in 4 cases of children ages 4 and younger ingesting prescription drugs, the medicine belonged to someone who didn’t live with the child—usually a grandparent. Many seniors opt for non-childproof, easy-open caps on their prescriptions, or they carry a week’s worth of doses in flip-top plastic boxes marked with the days. Even an adult vitamin can be toxic to a child.

WHAT TO DO: Don’t be shy. When grandparents come over or you visit them, ask to place their purse or bag on top of the refrigerator or lock it in a cabinet right away. My mom keeps hers locked in the car. Remind them how dangerous even vitamins can be.

Allowing kids to ride in the front seat

The backseat is the safest place for children because it’s farthest away from the impact of a front-end collision—the most common kind of car accident. In addition, the passenger-side air bag, while life-saving for most adults, can deploy with such force that it’s deadly to young kids. Just since last October 127 children have been killed by air bags, including 22 babies in rear-facing car seats that were placed in the front seat.

WHAT TO DO: Kids should continue riding in the backseat until at least age 12. Remind grandparents about the backseat rule.

Turning the car seat around too soon

You may be eager to see your baby’s face in the rear-view mirror, but your child must be in a rear-facing seat until he is at least 20 pounds and 1 year old, at the minimum. Some kids reach 20 pounds before 1 year of age, but that doesn’t matter. “Under age 1, a child’s head is disproportionately large compared to her body,” says Mickalide. “If she’s facing forward in a crash, her head will fall forward dramatically and do serious damage to the spinal cord and neck. If a child rides backward, the force of the crash is distributed over a larger surface of the body—the shoulders, back and buttocks.”

WHAT TO DO: Yes, it can be disconcerting to face your baby backward so you’re unable to see or soothe her, but it’s for her own good. Don’t be tempted to purchase mirrors sold in baby stores that attach to the seat or the rear window, giving a peek at baby’s reflection; they can be dangerous in a crash, as baby can smash into or be hit by them. If your child outgrows the infant seat before her first birthday, switch to a convertible seat, but also install it to face the rear of the car.

Storing your firearm loaded

The unintentional firearm injury death rate among American children is nine times higher than in 25 other industrialized countries. About one third of families with children have a gun in the home, and an estimated 2.3 million American children live in homes with firearms that are always or sometimes kept unlocked and loaded.

WHAT TO DO: Get a trigger lock for your firearm and keep it in a locked cabinet. Lock up the ammunition in a separate place. If you must carry your weapon to and from work, load and unload it at work, not at home. All kids are curious about guns, no matter how used to seeing them they may be—and they are very good at finding them and imitating your actions. A 3-year-old is strong enough to pull a handgun trigger.

14 Ways to Show Your Love for Your Children This Valentine’s Day

By | Parenting Tips

14 Ways to Show Your Love for Your Child


  • Use plenty of positive words with your child.
  • Respond promptly and lovingly to your child’s physical and emotional needs and banish put-downs from your parenting vocabulary.
  • Make an extra effort to set a good example at home and in public. Use words like “I’m sorry,” “please,” and “thank you.”
  • When your child is angry, argumentative or in a bad mood, give him a hug, cuddle, pat, secret sign or other gesture of affection he favors.
  • Use non-violent forms of discipline. Parents should institute both rewards and restrictions many years before adolescence to help prevent trouble during the teenage years. Allowing children of any age to constantly break important rules without being disciplined only encourages more rule violations.
  • Make plans to spend time alone with your young child or teen doing something she enjoys.
  • Schedule family meetings on a regular basis where everyone can talk about the week’s events, share good news, give praise, set expectations, etc. Keep them brief—15 to 20 minutes, longer if desired. Everyone should get input and airtime, but Mom and Dad have the final say.
  • Owning a pet can make children, especially those with chronic illnesses and disabilities, feel better by stimulating physical activity, enhancing their overall attitude, and offering constant companionship.
  • One of the best ways to familiarize your child with good food choices is to encourage him to cook with you. Let him get involved in the entire process, from planning the menus to shopping for ingredients to the actual food preparation and its serving.
  • As your child grows up, she’ll spend most of her time developing and refining a variety of skills and abilities in all areas of her life. You should help her as much as possible by encouraging her and providing the equipment and instruction she needs.
  • Your child’s health depends significantly on the care and guidance you offer during his early years. By taking your child to the doctor regularly for consultations, keeping him safe from accidents, providing a nutritious diet, and encouraging exercise throughout childhood, you help protect and strengthen his body.
  • Regardless of whether you actively try to pass on your values and beliefs to your child, she is bound to absorb some of them just by living with you. She’ll notice how disciplined you are in your work, how deeply you hold your beliefs and whether you practice what you preach.
  • Help your child develop self-esteem by offering steady support and encouragement. He needs you to believe in him as he learns to believe in himself. Loving him, spending time with him, listening to him and praising his accomplishments are all part of this process.
  • Don’t forget to say, “I love you” to children of all ages!

(c) 2005 American Academy of Pediatrics.

Back to School Tips

By | Parenting Tips

Back to School Tips

Making the First Day Easier

  • Remind your child that she is not the only student who is a bit uneasy about the first day of school.  Teachers know that students are anxious and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.
  • Point out the positive aspects of starting school: It will be fun.  She’ll see old friends and meet new ones.  Refresh her memory about previous year, when she may have returned home after the first day with high spirits because she had a good time.
  • Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your youngster can walk to school or ride with on the bus.
  • If you feel it is appropriate, drive your child (or walk with her) to school and pick her up on the first day.

Backpack Safety

  • Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
  • Pack light.  Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments.  Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.  The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student’s body weight.
  • Always use both shoulder straps.  Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.  Wearing a backpack on one shoulder may also increase curvature of the spine.
  • Consider a rolling backpack.  This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load.  Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs, and they may be difficult to roll in snow.

Traveling to and from School

Review the basic rules with your youngster:

School bus

  • Wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Do not move around on the bus.
  • Check to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing.
  • Make sure to always remain in clear view of the bus driver.


  • All passengers should wear a seat belt and/or an age- and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat.
  • Your child should ride in a car safety seat with a harness as long as possible, and then ride in a belt-positioning booster seat.  Your child is ready for a booster seat when she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat.
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4’9″ in height and is between 8 and 12 years of age).  This means the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or the throat; the lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, not the stomach; and the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down.
  • All children under 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles.
  • Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school.  You may want to limit the number of teen passengers to prevent driver distraction.  Do not allow your teen to drive while eating, drinking, or talking on a cell phone.


  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as traffic.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright color clothing to increase visibility.
  • Know the “rules of the road.” [American Academy of Pediatrics – Bicycle safety]

Walking to School

  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills.  Because small children can be impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
  • Bright colored clothing will make your child more visible to drivers.

Eating During the School Day

  • Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home.  WIth this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
  • Try to get your child’s school to stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100 percent fruit juice in the vending machines.
  • Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories.  Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%.  Restrict your child’s soft drink consumption.


Bullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly.  Usually children being bullied are either weaker or smaller, shy and generally feel helpless.  Bullying can be physical, verbal or social.  It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, or over the internet.

When Your Child is Bullied

  • Help your child learn how to respond by teaching your child how to:
  • Look the bully in the eye.
  • Stand tall and stay calm in a difficult situation.
  • Walk away.
  • Teach your child how to say in a firm voice:

“I don’t like what you are doing.”

“Please do NOT talk to me like that.”

“Why would you say that?”

  • Teach your child when and how to ask for help.
  • Encourage your child to make friends with other children.
  • Support activities that interest your child.
  • Alert school officials to the problems and work with them on solutions.
  • Make sure an adult who knows about the bullying can watch out for your child’s safety and well-being when you cannot be there.

When Your Child is the Bully

  • Be sure your child knows that bullying is never OK.
  • Set firm and consistent limits on your child’s aggressive behavior.
  • Be a positive role model.  Show children they can get what they want without teasing, threatening or hurting someone.
  • Use effective, non-physical discipline, such as loss of privileges.
  • Develop practical solutions with the school principal, teachers, counselors and parents of the children your child has bullied.

When Your Child is a Bystander

  • Tell your child not to cheer on or even quietly watch bullying.
  • Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult about the bullying.
  • Help your child support other children who may be bullied.  Encourage your child to include these children in activities.
  • Encourage your child to join with others in telling bullies to stop.

Before and After School Child Care

  • During middle childhood, youngsters need supervision.  A responsible adult should be available to get them ready and off to school in the morning and watch over them after school until you return home from work.
  • Children approaching adolescence (11- and 12-year-olds) should not come home to an empty house in the afternoon unless they show unusual maturity for their age.
  • If alternate adult supervision is not available, parents should make special efforts to supervise their children form a distance.  Children should have a set time when they are expected to arrive at home and should check in with a neighbor or with a parent by telephone.
  • If you choose a commercial after-school program, inquire about the training of the staff.  There should be a high staff-to-child ratio, and the rooms and the playground should be safe.

Developing Good Homework and Study Habits

  • Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework.  Youngsters need a permanent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that offers privacy.
  • Set aside ample time for homework.
  • Establish a household rule that the TV set stays off during homework time.
  • Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for her.
  • To help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while studying, it’s recommended that youngsters close the books for ten minutes every hour and go do something else.
  • If your child is struggling with a particular subject, and you aren’t able to help her yourself, a tutor can be a good solution.  Talk it over with your child’s teacher first.

Close Supervision Improves Parenting Skills

By | Parenting Tips

Close Supervision Improves Parenting Skills
By Sally Koch Kubetin
Pediatric News, September 2003

Adults become better parents when they abandon the power struggle and start supervising their children, Dr. John Walkup said at a meeting on pediatric trends sponsored by Johns Hopkins University.

Parents of children with behavior problems describe their children as if they were opaque. That lack of knowledge of their children comes from not monitoring them, according to Dr. Walkup.

“I think that supervision is the basis of conscience. To this day, when I am in a store and pick up a glass, I hear my mother’s voice say, ‘Put that glass down,’” said Dr. Walkup, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the university.

Lack of supervision of young children increases the risk for everything from accidents to fire setting. A lack of supervision in adolescence increases the risk for substance abuse, premature sexual activity, and delinquent behavior. “The guy who robs the 7-Eleven store without a mask in front of cameras that he can see and then is surprised he gets caught, was not supervised [as a child],” he continued.

Parents who supervise and thus get to know their children do not engage in power struggles with them because such struggles are unnecessary. Power struggles are based on negative reinforcement, with the methods of coercion escalating over time: Each behavior by the child elicits a response from the parent and each behavior by the parent elicits a response by the child.

In an example given by Dr. Walkup, this is the course of a power struggle over whether the child will make his bed:

On day 1, when the parent asks the child to make the bed, they argue back and forth until the parent makes a threat and the child gives in.

On day 2, the child ends the argument by locking himself in the bathroom and remaining silent; then the parent will tell the child that he does not have to make the bed today, just come out of the bathroom.

On day 3, the parent stands in front of the bathroom door during the argument.

On day 4, the child runs out of the house.

“Public humiliation of a parent is always a good strategy,” Dr. Walkup quipped.

The effective parent makes sure that the life of a young child has structure. That includes both a predictable daily schedule and expectations of behavior. It also includes specific rewards for meeting the behavior expectations and punishments for not meeting them. Once that structure is in place, the parent’s job is one of relapse prevention.

When adults become effective parents, children feel competent because they are responsible for details of their daily routines, such as making the beds. There is less nagging, and children can extend the basic organizational principles they see in place at home to other areas of their lives.

For their part, parents learn what it feels like to be successful and in charge. “They learn what it feels like to ‘ignore behavior,’ ‘set firm limits,’ and ‘be consistent,’” Dr. Walkup said.

Effective parenting of teenagers is really a matter of monitoring them.
As part of supervising their teenage children, parents should know where the teen is, what the teen is doing, and whom the teen is with. It comes down to attending to the details of the adolescent’s life.

Behavioral therapy is an effective way to teach parents how to change their behavior toward their children. Dr. Walkup gave the audience the web sites of two groups of behavior management therapists: (Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy) and (Academy of Cognitive Therapy).

What Do We Do Now?

By | Parenting Tips

What Do We Do Now?
Tips for Parents Adopting Internationally

By Marybeth Lambe, MD in Adoption Magazine

  • Appeal to your baby’s senses. Hold off washing the outfit he came home in, and keep it near him in the crib. Newborns are very sensitive to smell and can be comforted by a familiar aroma.
  • Avoid excessive eye contact. Even a newborn will let you know when it’s too much—he’ll look away, close his eyes or fuss. Give him time.
  • Speak quietly and move with a gentle motion. Most infants will startle at sudden movement.
  • Leave the room as little as possible. If you can, stay in the hotel room, rest, and hold your baby or rock or croon to him—these early moments of bonding are priceless. Try to avoid distracting visitors, noise or commotion.
  • Snuggle up. Hold your infant as much as possible to facilitate bonding. A baby cannot be spoiled by too much holding time. Consider a baby sling or front carrier; most infants prefer being securely swaddled. Like a baby kangaroo, your child will benefit from close contact.
  • Be patient with yourself, your spouse and your infant. Caring for a new baby in a hotel room in a strange city is exhausting. Give yourselves the gift of patience while you adjust.
  • Know your doctor beforehand. You will have many questions during your first few days with your baby. So be sure, before your baby comes home, that you have a medical provider you can trust, one who will take your calls from the city where you meet your baby. (See below for how to find an adoption-sensitive doctor.)

Putting a diaper on backwards, fumbling with bottles and nipples, holding a slippery baby in bath water—these are common struggles in the first days of parenthood. Relax. You will make many mistakes throughout your child’s life. He will grow and thrive and love you in spite of them.

Finding an Adoption-Sensitive Pediatrician

Choosing a doctor is a big decision for any family, and the choice is especially important to adoptive families. There are several steps you can take to make your choice a good one.

Begin by asking your friends, neighbors, adoption support group members and adoption agency for recommendations. With names in hand, check with the American Academy of Pediatrics to find out which doctors are board-certified.

Schedule a short visit to meet the potential doctor (as well as his office staff), and ask some or all of the following questions:

  • What is your philosophy about antibiotics?
  • What is your philosophy about vaccinations and immunizations?
  • Do you have daily phone-in hours?
  • Who covers for you when you are on vacation?
  • How do you feel about raising a child as a vegetarian?
  • What is the average wait for well-baby appointments?
  • To whom do you refer children who are developmentally delayed?
  • Describe your medical training and special areas of interest.

Cries in the Night: Nightmares and Night Terrors

By | Parenting Tips

Cries in the Night: Nightmares and Night Terrors

A parent first hears the cries, then perhaps the sound of little feet, and then the small body hurtling into your bed. Could it be the result of “a monster in the closet?” More likely, it’s your child reaching out while experiencing a nightmare.

What are Nightmares?

Nightmares are simply scary dreams. Dreams during sleep are similar to imaginary play during waking hours in that they help our children process new information and complicated events. Children are trying to make sense of their world, even during sleep, and sometimes the world they imagine can be confusing and scary. Children under one year may begin having nightmares, but most occur to children eighteen months and older. For toddlers and preschoolers, the cause of nightmares can stem from thoughts of being separated from their parents, sleeping in the dark, or just the unknown. School-age children may have bad dreams about friendships gone awry, schoolwork, failure, or even violence. When a child remembers a nightmare, it may be a confusing mix of events.

What are Night Terrors?

During night terrors, a child may appear to be awake, even with their eyes open, but they are really asleep. Children with night terrors may scream, kick, panic, sleepwalk, thrash, or mumble. Night terrors usually occur within two hours of the time a child goes to sleep and can last from 10 to 30 minutes. Night terrors occur in about 2% of children between the ages of 1 and 8 years. Frightening as it is, most children don’t even remember the episode in the morning. The most dangerous part is protecting children from themselves. Night terrors are otherwise harmless, and each episode will eventually end in deep sleep.

Should Parents Worry about Their Children’s Nightmares and Night Terrors?

Parents often worry that nightmares and night terrors reflect trauma or emotional distress. These sleep disorders rarely, if ever, reflect underlying illness. The only time a doctor’s intervention might be necessary is if the nightmares affect a child’s ability to function during waking hours. The reassurance and support of parents is usually the only treatment required to help our children. Nightmares and night terrors usually disappear as the child matures.

Using Time-Out for Behavior Problems

By | Parenting Tips


Guidelines for Parents

Time-out involves placing your child on a chair for a short period of time following the occurrence of an unacceptable behavior. This procedure has been effective in reducing problem behaviors such as tantrums, hitting, biting, failure to follow directions, leaving the yard without permission and others. Parents have found that time-out works better than spanking, yelling, or threatening your children. It is most appropriate for children from 18 months through 10 years.


  • You should purchase a small portable kitchen timer.
  • A place for time-out should be selected. This could be a chair in the hallway, kitchen, or corner of a room. It needs to be a dull place (not your child’s bedroom) where your child cannot view the TV or play with toys. It should NOT be a dark, scary, or dangerous place. The aim is to remove your child to a place where not much is happening, not to make your child afraid.
  • You should discuss with your spouse which behaviors will result in time-out. Consistency is very important.


  • Before using time-out for discipline, you should practice using it with your child at a pleasant time.
  • Tell your child there are two rules when in time-out:
    • Rule 1: The timer will start when he is quiet. Ask your child what would happen if he talks or makes noises when in time-out. Your child should say the timer will be reset or something similar. If he does not say this, remind him of the rule.
    • Rule 2: If he gets off the chair before the timer rings, you will replace him in the chair. If necessary you may hold the child if he/she is out of control–avoid looking at the child at these times or doing anything he/she would construe as physical affection.
  • After explaining the rules and checking out your child’s understanding of the rules, go through the steps under “C”. Tell your child you are “pretending” this time.
  • Mention to your child that you will be using this technique instead of spanking, yelling, or threatening. Most kids are pleased to learn this.



  • Step 1: Following an inappropriate behavior, say to the child, “Oh, you… (describe what the child did).” For example, “You hit your sister. Go to the time-out please.” Say this calmly and only once. It is important not to lose your temper or begin nagging. If you child has problems getting to the chair quickly, guide him with as little effort as needed. This can range from leading the child part way by the hand or carrying the child to the chair. If you have to carry your child to the chair, be sure to hold him/her facing away from you so he/she doesn’t confuse a hug with a trip to time-out.
  • Step 2: When your child is on the chair and quiet, set the timer to a specific number of minutes. The rule of thumb is one minute for each year of age up to five minutes. A two-year-old would have two minutes; a three-year-old, three minutes; a five-year-old, five minutes. For child five years and above, five minutes is the maximum amount of time. If your child makes noises, screams or cries, reset the timer. Do this each time the child makes noises. If your child gets off the chair before the time is up, replace the child on the chair, and reset the timer. Do this each time the child gets off the chair.
  • Step 3: After your child has been quiet and seated for the required amount of time, the timer will ring. Go to the time-out chair and ask your child if he would like to get up. Do not speak from across the room. A nod of the head or a positive or neutral answer is required. Answering in an angry tone of voice or refusing to answer is not acceptable. If your child is still mad, he will probably get into trouble again in a short period of time. Should your child answer in an angry tone or refuse to answer, reset the timer. Your child may then answer appropriately, but once the timer is reset it must go to the full amount of time. You are the one who should decide when your child gets off the time-out chair, not the child.
  • Step 4: After your child finishes a time-out period, he should start with a “clean slate.” It is not necessary to discuss, remind, or nag about what the child did wrong. Within five minute after time-out, look for and praise good behavior. It would be wise to take your child to a different part of the house and start in a new activity. Remember, catch ’em being good.

Summary of the Rules:

For Parent:

  • Decide what behaviors you will use time-out for ahead of time. Discuss these with your child.
  • Don’t leave your child in time-out and forget about him/her.
  • Don’t nag, scold or talk to your child when he is in time-out. All family members should follow this rule!
  • Remain calm, particularly when your child is being testy.

For Children:

  • Go immediately to time-out when you’re asked to. Don’t argue.
  • Remain quiet and stay on the time-out chair until your asked to get down. You’ll spend less time that way.
  • The timer is not to be touched by any child in the house. If you do touch it, you will be placed in time-out.

For Brothers and Sisters:

  • If you tease, laugh at or talk with your brother or sister while they are in time-out, you will be placed on the chair and your brother or sister will get down.

Things to Check When Time-Out Doesn’t Work

  • Be sure you are not warning your child one (or more) times before sending him/her to the time-out chair. Warnings only teach your child that he/she can misbehave at least once (or more) before you’ll use time-out. Warnings only make things worse, not better.
  • All adults who are responsible for disciplining your child at home should be using the time-out chair. You should agree when and for what behaviors to send your child to time-out. (You will want new sitters, visiting friends, and relatives to read and discuss the time-out guidelines.)
  • In order to maximize the effectiveness of time-out, you must make the rest of the day (“time-in”) pleasant for your child. Remember to let your child know when she/he is well behaved (“catch ’em being good”) rather than taking good behavior for granted. Most children would prefer to have you put them in time-out than ignore them completely.
  • Your child may say “Going to the chair doesn’t bother me,” or “I like time-out.” Don’t fall for this trick. Many children try to convince their parents that time-out is fun and, therefore, not working. You should notice over time that the problem behaviors for which you use time-out occur less often. (Time-out is not supposed to be a miserable experience.)
  • When you first begin using time-out, your child may act like time-out is a “game.” She/He may put him/herself in time-out or ask to go to time-out. If this happens, give your child what she/he wants–that is, put him/her in time-out and require your child to sit quietly for the required amount of time. Your child will soon learn that time-out is not a game. Your child may also laugh or giggle when being placed in time-out or while in time-out. Although this may aggravate you, it is important for you to completely ignore your child when she/he is in time-out.
  • You may feel the need to punish your child for doing something inappropriate in the chair (e.g., cursing, spitting). However, it is very important to ignore your child when she/he behaves badly in time-out. This will teach your child that such “attention-getting” strategies will NOT work. If your child curses when out of the chair (and it bothers you), be sure to put the child in time-out.
  • TV, radio, or a nice view out the window can make time-out more tolerable and prolong the length of time your child must stay in the chair by encouraging him/her to talk. Try to minimize such distractions.
  • You must use time-out for major as well as minor behavior problems. Parents have a tendency to feel that time-out is not enough of a punishment for big things and thereby discipline inconsistently. Consistency is most important for time-out to work for big and small problems.

11 Things to Do Instead of Spanking

By | Parenting Tips

Eleven Things to Do Instead of Spanking
And a Few Suggestions If You Feel You Must Spank
Dr. Jon Jantz

Ignore. Ignore behavior that: will not harm them; bad habits, whining, bad language, tantrums. It is hard to do nothing. However, this lack of attention takes away audience they are seeking.

Suspend privileges. Match the suspension of privilege to the action as closely as possible-e.g., fighting over TV brings loss of TV time. Suspend privilege for short periods -long suspensions only build resentment, and the child forgets the original wrongdoing, reducing the effectiveness of the lesson to be learned.

Logical consequences. Let the action do the “talking”: e.g., abusing the use of a toy means the toy is taken away for a period of time, crayons on the wall are washed off by the “artist,” or the amount of time by which a curfew is missed is subtracted from the next outing.

Rearrange space or place. Be creative in the elimination of problems. Have baskets and low hooks to make room clean-up easier, avoid misplacement of school notes or homework by having a special table or counter for materials, make chores easier to remember by having a chart for who does what and when.

Redirect behavior. If one behavior is a problem, channel the energy into another, positive action. Have paper available to avoid crayoning on the wall; give them a ball to throw instead of throwing sand. If they are having trouble taking turns, have them use another toy, or let them help an adult to use up some of the need for power.

Grandma’s rule. When …Then option – when you pick up the toys, then you can have the TV on; when you come home from school on time, then you can have a friend over. Caution: you need to tie what you want with what they want to make this work.

Fines. In some families, imposing fines (.01, .05 or .25) for bad habits, rules violated or forgotten responsibilities, does work. Ideally, the “kitty” of money goes for a family outing.

Work detail. Creative use of energy to “make up” for rule violations is especially effective for children 8 years and older. A list of jobs that need to be done is posted, and the child chooses one or more jobs to “work off” the problem that was created.

Time Out. Use time out for dangerous and harmful behaviors – biting, aggressive hitting, purposeful destruction. Follow these guides:

  •     Keep time out to 1 or 2 minutes.
  •     Have them sit or go to a boring place.
  •     Tell them what they did wrong and what they are supposed to do instead.
  •     Use an egg-timer – saves sanity!
  •     When time out is over, notice something they are doing right as soon as possible and comment on it.

Praise. Be specific about praise you give a child for the good things they’ve accomplished, e.g. “Wow, all the towels are hanging up where they belong in the bathroom, beautiful”.

Just say “No.” Get down to the level of your child, make eye contact and say “No, we don’t do that at our house.”

If you believe you must spank, I recommend that you always warn your child in advance that a specific misbehavior could result in a spanking. Then, when a spanking is warranted, escort your child to a private location to avoid public humiliation. Administer one or two spanks to buttocks only. Calmly review the reason for the spanking with your child. Tell your child chat you dislike the behavior but still love him/her. Some parents like to offer a hug at this time.

“Dad, Do You Know How to Read?”

By | Parenting Tips

“Dad, Do You Know How to Read?”
Television Can Be Dangerous for Our Children
by David Epstein, MD and Jon Jantz, MD

Regardless of whether they are in your care as a parent or as a day care provider, television can be dangerous to our children.  Why?  Consider the following:

  • American children watch, on average, 21 to 23 hours of TV per week from preschool through high school, with younger children watching more.  This data does not include time in front of the television for purposes of watching a video, nor does it include video games or computer time.  The average child sees more than 20,000 TV commercials per year, and will spend seven to ten years of their life watching TV by the time they reach 70 years of age.
  • By the sixth grade, children witness an average of 8,000 murders and over 100,000 other acts of violence on television, including rapes and aggravated assaults.  Children’s Saturday morning programming shows 30 violent acts per hour, compared to 5 violent acts per hour on prime time evening television.
  • Research has shown several major effects on children of seeing violence on television, including desensitization to the pain and suffering of others, becoming more fearful of the world around them, becoming more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others, and imitate the violence they observe on television.
  • American teenagers see an estimated 14,000 sexual references and innuendoes per year on television, but only 150 of these references deal with sexual responsibility, abstinence or contraception.
  • The average US teenager views 1,000 beer and wine commercials yearly, which glamorize the use of alcohol.  Teenagers will see 25 to 50 such commercials for every public service announcement.
  • Most of the time a child spends with TV is wasted time, compared to getting exercise, reading or practicing social skills.  Television has been linked to obesity: children who watch more than four hours of television per day are twice as likely to be obese.  Television has been linked to lowered academic performance: the typical American eighth-grader spends four times as many hours watching television as completing homework.
  • In one study, watching only nine minutes of scenes of sexual violence against women, selected from television programs and R-rated movies, lowered college students’ disapproval of rape.  In another study, the same increased tolerance for rape could be obtained by viewing 3 hours of sexually explicit films over a six-week period.
  • Many parents do not realize how much television their children watch.  You might try keeping a diary for a week: record how many hours of TV (including video games and movies) your child watches in a seven-day period and you will probably be surprised at the large amount of TV your child is exposed to.  Imagine what they could do with that amount of extra time!

But for better or worse, television is here to stay.  It is estimated that 99% of US homes have televisions, and about 66% have two or more televisions.  Television is frequently used as a babysitter for overworked parents.  Unfortunately, we frequently do not scrutinize this babysitter as well as we evaluate our human babysitters and day care providers.

It’s important to set limits, but we should also teach our children how to deal with what they are seeing and hearing.  Making television safe is hard work, but well worth the effort.

Eight Principles for Television Viewing

Limit television to 10 hours per week.

A nice way to do this is allot a “TV allowance,” just as a child might receive a monetary allowance each week.  Try making paper slips with the phrase “1/2 hour TV time” written on them.  A child might receive 20 such slips every Sunday night, and “pay” 1 slip for each show or half hour of video games they play.  This way the total TV exposure is limited, and you do not have to haggle over each show.

One family limits television viewing by trading a half hour coupon for each book the children read.  This family reports their children rarely watch more than three hours of television a week—they are too busy reading.

If this is too complicated, try limiting viewing to two hours per day with no carry over; so, if the time is not used on Monday, the television is NOT available for four hours on Tuesday.

No one should eat while the TV is on.

Eating in front of the TV is a prescription for obesity.  That’s where the phrase “couch potato” comes from!

Talk about the show with your kids.

Ask for your children’s thoughts about what they are seeing. (“Would you have done what that character did?”  “Can you think of a toy that’s more fun than that one?”).

For an insight into the characters, ask which character they identify with most strongly; for example, in The Lion King, would it be Mufaso, Scar, Simba or Nala, and why?

Talk about how the TV characters solved their problems.  See if you can come up with a better (or more realistic) solution.

Discuss TV violence.  Try to decide why it happened.  See if your child can think of a non-violent solution to the same situation.

Vote on whether or not each show is worth watching again.  Keep your family’s decisions on a wall chart, so everyone can refer to it.

Talk about commercials.

Television is a business, and businesses exist to make money.  From the start, begin teaching your young children about commercials.

Compare toys you have purchased or toys and food you see on shopping trips, with the claims made n the advertisements.  Have your children “redo” the commercial based on what they know about the product.

Make children aware of the large amount of time devoted to commercials during their favorite shows.  Time them, or count them, for fun.

More simply, consider using the “mute” on the remote control during the commercials.

Take control of the TV.

Don’t let television schedules run your schedule.  Make a chart for each family member.  Let him or her record what they watch, and how much time is spent.  Add up the totals over a week.

Keep the TV out of kid’s rooms, and out of heavily used family areas.  Don’t put a TV in a playroom.

Rent, borrow, buy or make video tapes.  “Time shift” using the video recorder, then plan a “family TV night” as a family activity.  Try to avoid random TV watching, such as “channel surfing.”

Put the TV in perspective for your children.

Tell your child that the violence is “faked” for TV shows.  Tell them how it is done.

Help your child think of nonviolent solutions to TV situations.

Reassure children that their world is basically safe.  TV news and shows often leave children feeling unsettled.  Explain that “news” is chosen so that people will watch.

With younger children, watch cartoons carefully.  Point out when “real life” won’t work that way. . .like dropping an anvil on a person’s head.

Use TV to learn.

Ask your child to draw a picture, or write a story, about a show he has seen.

Have your child list TV shows that have interested him or her.  Then take trips to the library to find books that can tell you more.  Try to visit sites he/she found interesting on TV.

Practice makes perfect.

All of these suggestions assume that the parents are aware of what their children are watching on TV, and how much. The more you teach your children to be active TV viewers, the more natural these skills will become.  Pretty soon, you’ll be showing your kids a new way to think for themselves.

What We Can Do

  • Support the Children’s Television Act of 1990.  This Act makes broadcast of high-quality children’s programming a condition of license renewal, specifically mandating some programming of educational and instructional benefit to children, as well as limiting the amount of advertising time allowed during children’s programming.
  • Urge that sexuality be portrayed responsibly by the media.
  • Support efforts to eliminate alcohol advertising on television and encourage extensive counter advertising.
  • Be aware of the negative effects of televised violence on children and adolescents and actively join the debate on strategies to reduce the amount of violence shown.


The authors gratefully acknowledge the information and statistics and ideas from the following sources:
American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Communications, 1995, pages 786-787.
American Academy of Pediatrics Speaker’s Kit, Children, Channels, Choices: TV and Your Family.
Contemporary Pediatrics, January 1996, Sex, Teens and the Media, Strausberger, V.C., page 29.