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5 Important Bath Safety Tips

January 16, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

Parents take care of a baby while bathing him.

January is Bath Safety Month, which is an important time to discuss the importance of water safety with caregivers of a young child. I remember working with a family 10 years ago who had a beautiful and healthy baby boy. One day, the mother was busy, as we all are. She had food on the stove for dinner, she still had to bathe her baby and her five-year-old, and continue her many tasks at home.

The mother thought it would be okay to multitask as she usually did. She left the water running in the tub without the stopper and left the baby and brother in the tub while she ran to check dinner in the kitchen, which was only a few steps away. In a matter of seconds, the older brother decided to play with the toilet paper in the tub. The paper began to clog the water and it began rising. Remember, only an inch of water is needed to drown a baby. When the mother returned, her baby was face down, his skin was blue, and was unresponsive. She called 911 and did the best she could to provide aid to her baby. He survived, but he now needs intensive therapy, has a g-tube for his nutrition, and needs lifelong medical care. I’m sorry to begin with such a sad story. Accidents like this one occur frequently, but can be prevented.

The Center for Disease Control reported that the highest drowning rates for children are between the ages of one to four. Drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional deaths in the United States. Nearly one in five people who drown is a child. As a parent and caregiver, remember to always supervise your child when he or she is around water. There are five tips I want to share to make bath time safer for your child.

  1. Never leave your child unattended in a bathtub and/or around water.
  2. Never rely on a child to supervise another child near water.
  3. Do not use bath seats or rings without supervision.
  4. Limit the amount of water in the bathtub. Do not use too much soap or shampoo, which can cause the child to be slippery and fall face-first into the water.
  5. Ask about CPR classes and get trained as a safety precaution.

Remember that drowning can be prevented. You can learn more about water safety through the Start Safe: Water program. We can never be too informed about how to keep our children safe.

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Parents and Schools: A Partnership to Prevent Bullying

January 8, 2014

By Sunny P. Chico

When I was growing up, my sisters and I were the first Hispanic students in our northern Chicago neighborhood. As you can imagine, we were not immediately accepted by many of our classmates. Kids can be cruel, and we felt that very personally, sometimes on a daily basis. As much as I want to protect every child from ever experiencing that, I know as an educator that the bullies out there are sometimes facing their own trauma, and have no idea how to cope with it other than by lashing out.

When someone is bullying, they have a lot of aggression, a lot of pain, and misplaced anger. Sometimes it’s ignored because others view it as just the way kids are—kids are cruel and they’ll grow out of it. In many instances, though, bullying starts with what the child sees at home. The child will model the behavior he or she sees at home. Children need to get their frustrations and energy out, and they will mimic the behavior of others because that is the only way they know. If they see violence in the home, they will be violent. If they hear shouting in the home, they will shout. If they see swearing or name-calling, they will repeat those behaviors outside of the home. The child will absorb and internalize those behaviors and feelings and may bully others as a result.

We have lost too many kids to bullying. We’ve lost them to suicide, and we’ve lost them academically and socially. Whether these children are the victims of bullying or they are the bullies themselves, grades get worse, students drop out of school, and some join gangs or engage in other high-risk behaviors. We need sustainable prevention and intervention embedded throughout the school curriculum.

We have to remember that bullying is always present in our children’s lives and in our schools, therefore educators need to continue to address it just as they address curriculum and learning. Educators can’t do that, though, without parents who are supporting their children at home and are communicating with the school about what their children are going through. Both parents and educators are here to give our children and students the best chance in life. To do that, we have to work together on issues like bullying. When left unchecked, these issues can destroy our children’s futures, but the right intervention can save lives and strengthen our communities.

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Enjoy Alcohol Responsibly this Holiday

December 23, 2013

By Noralba Martinez

Enjoy alcohol responsibly this holiday season

Holidays are full of social gatherings. In a lot of families and communities, alcohol is a holiday staple, and even mine are no exception. Through my work as a family counselor, though, I’ve seen the affects that irresponsible drinking can have on a family. The World Health Organization states that consuming alcohol can have social consequences along with some health risks. We need to be conscious of what image we give our middle and high school children of social drinking, specifically holiday drinking.

Parents and caregivers are role models. Middle and high school students are still children who are very prone to impressions. What you do around them affects them and makes them view some behavior as appropriate (even when the behavior is not) just because they saw you do it. This holiday, let's plan for responsible social drinking that does not send a misleading message.

  • The first important fact to remember is that in the U.S. you have to be 21 years or older to legally consume alcohol. Make sure that you teach that fact to your children.
  • Talk to your child about responsible drinking and moderation of drinking frequently. As a role model, you can model this behavior by limiting your drinking to be safe and prevent losing control. Eat when you drink and only drink if you’re not driving. Draw attention to your responsible choices by saying, “I’ve had enough, thank you,” or “I have to drive, so no drinks for me.”
  • Keep an ear out for the way you talk about alcohol drinking. Examples that can send a misleading message are “I need a drink because I had a hard day” or “I want to drink to relax.” Your child might begin to think alcohol is a cure for a hard day or a relaxant. We don’t want to teach our children to use alcohol as an emotional crutch.
  • Have open lines of communication with your child to discuss questions related to alcohol. Don’t threaten them with harsh punishments in order to scare them away from drinking too young. Instead, talk to them openly about the risks of drinking and the toll it takes on a growing body and mind. Invite them to share their opinions about drinking and the opinions they’ve heard their friends express.
  • Keep all alcoholic beverages in a controlled area. The harder it is to sneak a drink, the easier it is to avoid temptation.

If possible, avoid having alcohol during your holiday gatherings at all. If this isn’t possible, you can control the amount of alcohol you give your guests to prevent others from overdrinking.

There are several responsible drinking sites that provide good tips for you this holiday season. Remember that happy holidays are safe holidays!

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Early Childhood Food Aversions

December 4, 2013

By Noralba Martinez

Early Childhood Food Aversions

The holidays are coming and food is always part of them. We all have different food preferences and so do children. I have worked with many children who do not enjoy eating as much as other children their age. Some children, however, have medical issues that arise because of their eating.

I remember working with an 18-month-old who would refuse to eat any food with texture. He preferred yogurt, milk shakes, broth, and bananas. His mother thought it was only a picky eater phase and that he would be over it fast. He would gag, vomit, or simply refuse to open his mouth if the food his mother offered had any bumps or clumps. His special diet caused a lot of stress on his mother. It was a long struggle for this family. Together, with an occupational therapist, the family slowly introduced gradual textures and helped this boy tolerate new foods. After several months of therapy, he now can eat a variety of foods without a battle.

Significant food aversions can directly affect each child's family and can typically make eating together a stressful event. It’s important to understand what a food aversion is. According to Zerotothree.org, a food aversion is categorized as sensory difficulty and is a common feeding disorder found in early childhood. There is a combination of inability to tolerate oral stimulation, anxiety, and defiance when experiencing a food aversion.

Your child’s relationship with food begins when you first introduce solid foods. Talk to your pediatrician about when to begin introducing your child to cereals and baby food.  You need a lot of patience and time to begin feeding your baby with a spoon. Remember until now, your child’s mouth muscles are used to nursing. With practice, your baby will graduate slowly to table foods. If not, then you could be facing some stressful times. This problem could be related to food aversions.

What are the signs of food aversion? Around 6-10 months of age, when you begin to introduce your child to a variety of baby foods, he or she may begin to show dislike for certain textures, colors, temperatures, and smells of foods. Since your baby is too young to tell you that he or she does not like the food, your baby will tell you in some other way, such as:

  • Spitting
  • Gagging
  • Vomiting
  • Refusing to eat

What should you know about addressing food aversions? There are different approaches to helping a child overcome this issue. Remember that your child cannot control this and needs your help.

  • Never force your child to eat.
  • Be patient.
  • Work closely with your pediatrician to seek the appropriate help for your child.
  • Be consistent with the sensory diet and strategies that you try.     

With patience, consistency, and the right support, you and your child can overcome food aversions and children can grow up with a healthy relationship to food.

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Modeling Good Behavior to Prevent Bullying

November 25, 2013

By Sunny P. Chico

Model Good Behavior For Your Child

Whenever I think about bullying, I can’t help but think about what kinds of things we may be unintentionally teaching our children. As an educator, parent, and grandparent (as well as an aunt, a sister, a daughter, and a friend), I’ve seen how closely children model their behavior after their parents. How we treat each other and those around us will be how our children treat the people around them at home, in school, and well into adulthood.

This is why, as parents, it’s so important to think about what values we model at home. First, we have to show how to communicate respectfully, whether it’s with our children, our partners, or with our own family and friends. There’s a respectful way to have a disagreement where nobody is wrong, where you agree to disagree. We all lose our cool, but it’s important that when that happens, you go back and explain to your child why you lost your cool and that this was not a good way to behave.

It is also important to remember that the behaviors we allow in the home are behaviors that our children will practice out in the world. Recently I’ve seen how my daughter models this with my grandson, David. He says to me, “Nana, I don’t like it when your voice is raised.” I tell him, “I’m not raising my voice, it’s a different tone, David.” But still, I see that my daughter has instilled in him a sense of how our words, actions, and even tones, affect each other, and that it’s always important to be aware of how we’re treating each other.

As parents and grandparents, this awareness can help us guide and shape our children in a way that can prevent bullying later in life, but we can’t always prevent it at first. All we can do is deal with it as best as we know how.

If you ever learn that your child is bullying or being bullied:

  • Talk to your child. Try to understand the situation.
  • Seek assistance from the teacher. Find out what the teacher has observed and what he or she recommends.
  • Review the school bullying policy. Many schools are legally obligated to follow their stated bullying policy exactly as written.
  • Work with the school to make an action plan. Determine what steps will be taken, what the ideal outcomes are, and when to assess progress.
  • Sometimes, it may be best to call the other child’s parents and say, “I need your help.” You should make this discussion as positive as possible, and not angry or negative. Let them know what is happening. Tell them, “My son told me about this today, and I was wondering if I could seek your help with it.” 

We all want the best for our children and want to protect them from any pain or heartbreak, but so often the best protection—and prevention—is to be a positive role model for them.

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