For Every Day Spent Saving Kids From Drowning…I Am Thankful

Thank you words drawn in sandThanksgiving is around the corner, a time to focus on all that you are grateful for in your life. We’d be here a very long time if I were to list everything in my life that I am blessed with, so today I’ll just focus on one thing. My work. I have, absolutely, hands-down, the best job on the planet. If I do my job well, children stop dying, and every day I work with the coolest people around. Really, it doesn’t get any better. I am very grateful.

The great thing about working in the water safety field is that water makes people passionate. Being in and around water brings enormous joy, though sometimes water can be associated with the most intense sorrow of losing a loved one too early, especially a child. All of us who work in water safety understand the deep healing powers of water, and respect it’s power. There is commitment, enormous joy, and a sense of hope that inspires me every day.

Today, rather than talk about what you can do to keep your child safer around water, I’d like to recognize just a few of the people and organizations who are working tirelessly to make your child safer every day. I work with people all over the world, and I can’t recognize them all here, but I’d like to give you some small idea of the range of people who want you to be happy, and safe. It’s an awesome community and it is a true honor and a privilege to work with these people.

Matt and Chris Hales, two teenagers from California who realized that some of the kids most at risk for drowning can’t afford the basic equipment you need to learn to swim. They formed Goggles for Guppies which provides swimsuits, swim caps, and goggles to children in need. Thank you for reminding us, again, that kids can change the world positively.

Christina Fonfe of the Sri Lanka Women’s Swimming Project, who heard about the 2004 tsunami, realized that 80% of the victims were women and children, and got on a plane just days later with the goal of teaching women how to swim. She has changed women’s lives, and their children’s lives, in unimaginable ways by giving them skills to live that also bring economic empowerment and respect in their community. Thank you for looking through the obvious tragedy and finding a way to avert future tragedy and enhance women and children’s lives.

The great guys (and Raquel) at ISLA, Nile Swimmers and Lifeguards Without Borders for understanding that a well-trained lifeguard on duty at the beach is the best insurance against drowning. These organizations go to the countries with big drowning problems and virtually no lifeguards, to train lifeguards, which increases safety, raises awareness, and provides people with a source of employment and respect. Thank you for showing us how collaboration and leveraging social media can bring the entire world together.

Moses Kalanzi in Uganda, and the many people around the world like him. Often there are literally just a handful of people in each country who are working to make people aware that drowning is a leading cause of death and that drowning can be prevented. Working with virtually no resources and even less understanding by the public of why they should care about water safety, Moses, and so many like him, are reaching out across countries and working tirelessly for change. Moses has been instrumental in bringing together major stakeholders in Uganda as well as international collaborators in the water safety field, in the first ever meeting to talk about water safety in Uganda, this month. Thank you for showing us that one determined person can change a country, and the world.

Michael and Jo-Ann Morris of the Samuel Morris Foundation who decided that their personal tragedy should never happen to another parent. Their son, Samuel, died this year, 8 years after a non-fatal drowning accident at age two that left him severely mentally and physically disabled. The Morris’ cared for their son tirelessly while also becoming outspoken advocates for water safety in Australia and beyond, and a voice for the thousands of parents who are caring for children who didn’t die from drowning, but became permanently disabled. Thank you for showing us that a parent’s love and devotion truly knows no boundaries and being relentless in your pursuit of changes in attitudes and behavior.

Princess Charlene of Monaco, our true fairy princess. Princess Charlene could justifiably rest on her laurels as that great triple threat: an Olympic swimmer; a Princess; and a Head of State. Instead, she chose to lend her considerable talent and determination to ending an epidemic that few have even heard of, drowning. The Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation has been in existence just over a year, but has already made a huge impact around the world funding programs and raising awareness. To the Princess and her amazing team at the Foundation, thank you for being willing to take the hard road and help us raise the profile of the global drowning epidemic, and to provide funding for so many of the incredible programs that were struggling without your help.

Please join me in saying thank you to all of these people, and to the people in your own community that are working to make you and your children safer. The swimming instructors, the lifeguards, the guy who installed your pool fence, the nurse at the hospital who told you never to leave your baby alone in the bathtub. They all share the same passion and commitment, to making sure that your family stays safe. So, please, take a minute to feel gratitude, send them a shout-out on social media or in your community, or donate to an organization that moves you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, AMC Sensory Friendly Films is Showing BIG HERO 6

Sensory Friendly Films logoOnce a month, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and with other special needs ”Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings“ – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy their favorite “family-friendly” films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parentalBig Hero 6 panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

On Saturday November 15th at 10am local time, Big Hero 6 will be screened as part of the Autism Society “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” program. Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming December 5th: Penguins of Madagascar


Editor’s note: Although Big Hero 6 has been chosen by the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements. As always, please check the IMDB Parent’s Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.

Are Pure Fruit & Veg Juices Healthier for Kids than Fizzy Drinks?

little girl at Whole Foods juice displayLike fizzy drinks, fruit juice and squash can be high in sugar, which can cause tooth decay and lead to obesity. The best drinks to give children are:

  • water
  • milk
  • milkshakes without added sugar

Unsweetened 100% Fruit Juice

When juice is extracted from the whole fruit to make fruit juice, sugar is released. Sugar can damage your child’s teeth and cause tooth decay, especially if they:

  • sip fruit juice from a bottle
  • drink fruit juice often

The acid that fruit juice contains can also wear away the enamel on your child’s teeth and cause tooth decay.

However, fruit juices contain valuable vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C, which may help the body to absorb iron.

Pure, unsweetened, fresh 100% fruit juice can count towards the five portions a day of fruit and veg that your child should have by the time they’re five. A 150ml glass of unsweetened 100% fruit or vegetable juice counts as one of their 5 a day portions. However, only one glass a day counts, and any additional glasses of juice don’t count towards their daily total.

If your child drinks fruit juice, it’s better to limit it to mealtimes. This is better for your child’s teeth than drinking it between meals.

Drinks with Added Sugar

Drinks that can contain added sugar include:

  • Squashes
  • Juice drinks
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Flavoured milks
  • Milkshakes

These drinks can cause tooth decay and most contain very few nutrients. They can also be filling. This could reduce your child’s appetite for foods that contain the nutrients they need.

Diluting squash well with water will make it less sugary, and it’s better to keep it to mealtimes.

Healthy Drinks for Kids

  1. If your children like drinking milk, this is a good choice, especially if they don’t like plain water. Milk isn’t bad for teeth. It also contains calcium as well as other vitamins and minerals.
  2. Try making your own milkshakes and smoothies by blending soft fruit, such as banana, strawberries or mango, with milk or yoghurt. This can also be a good way to encourage children to eat fruit.

For information about drinks for children under five, see Babies and toddlers: drinks and cups.

Read the answers to more questions about children’s health.

Further information:

*Photo credit: Chris Goldberg; CC license

NHS Choices logo

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 11-03-2014 to 11-09-2014

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Kurbo: Innovative Weight Management Program for Kids and Teens:

The Simple Mommy Secret to Boosting a Child’s Self-Esteem

mother and son talkingWhen my two youngest children were preschoolers we had a family trauma: our youngest son, Zach, was the same height as our middle son, Adam. The comments from strangers, “Oh, what cute twins!” were certainly not boosting Adam’s confidence. In fact, his self-esteem was taking a steep nose-dive. Why would any five-year old want anyone to think his three-year old brother was his twin? To help him recognize Adam’s own special qualities, I began focusing on a physical attribute that was uniquely his. It wasn’t hard, Adam has gorgeous blue eyes are quite unusual in our brown-eyed family. So over the next few weeks I began intentionally complimenting his asset. I did make sure my praise was genuine (this wasn’t hard: the kid really does have beautiful eyes), and I just quietly reminded him of his asset once or twice a day.

“Oh Adam, your eyes are so beautiful.” Or: “We’re so lucky to have a little boy with such pretty blue eyes.” My husband came on board: “Hey, do you think that great-looking blued-eyed kid of mine wants to shoot some hoops with me?” His grandparents were brought into the plan, “How’s my Grandson with the gorgeous blue eyes?” Even his brothers began introducing him as “The brother with the great eyes.”

It wasn’t until the first day of kindergarten about three weeks later that I knew Adam really believed our praise. He came home that day literally bouncing. “How was school, Adam?” I asked. “Oh, it was so great, Mom!” he said. Without missing a beat he added, “Somebody must have told the teacher about my beautiful blue eyes.” I paused, a bit startled (I certainly hadn’t said anything to his teacher) and asked, “Why do you think so, Adam?” “Oh, she knows all right,” he explained. “She made sure I sit everyday at the blue table everyday–probably to match my blue eyes!”

And he barreled out the door with a smile that could light the world. I knew then he had recognized another of his great strengths and didn’t need reminding. He’d added another new positive image inside himself forever. I also discovered a simple way to boost a child’s self-esteem: Identify a legitimate asset or talent in your child that deserves recognition and remind him of that asset until he can remind himself. At that point he’s internalized the positive image.

I’ve since used the same self-esteem building strategy with dozens of children I’ve taught or counseled. I’ve also shared it with hundreds of parents in my workshops over the years. I can’t tell you how often I’ve received an email from a mom saying: “I never believed that tip would work until I tried it. What a difference in made on my child’s self-esteem and behavior.”

Here is how you can use simple secret to unlocking children’s awareness of their personal talents and boosting their self-esteem. Just remember to use the secret about a minute a day for at least 21 days to achieve the best results.

  • Identify your Child’s Strengths. Take a moment to really think about your child’s strengths, positive traits or assets. Over the next few days list them. Here are a few: artistic, musical, kind, honest, reliable, graceful, organized, friendly, positive, sensitive, courageous, spiritual, loving, sensitive, resilient, persevering, hard-working. My girlfriend decided to keep an ongoing profile of each of her children’s strengths. The leather journal is now a fabulous family keepsake.
  • Choose 1 to 3 Positive Qualities to Strengthen. Choose one or two attributes you want your child to recognize about herself right away. Make sure the strengths are already present in your child and are not ones you wish were true about her. Jot down the terms you’ll use you point out the strengths to your child. Use the same term every time you praise the quality.
  • Find Opportunities to Frequently Praise the Strength. At the beginning you can start giving one strength messages a day and gradually work your way up to two to four strength reminders. Flooding your child with too many compliments a day is probably not valuable. They begin to lose their effectiveness and become too predictable. Usually it takes at least three weeks for a new image to develop, so keep praising your child’s strengths for at least 21 days.
  • Praise the Strength Only When Deserved. Compliment the child only when his actions deserve recognition and you mean it. Children are great at picking up the genuine from the insincere.
  • Describe Specific Examples of the Strength. Point out examples when your child displays the strength. He may not be able to see these strengths on his own. Be specific in your praise so your child knows exactly what he did to deserve recognition. For instance: “You are so graceful when you dance. Your hands and body move so smoothly to the music.” “You’re very artistic; your drawings always have such great details and color combinations.” “You are so caring. I noticed how you stopped to ask that older woman if she needed help crossing the street.”

Every child deserves to wake up each morning knowing she is special. By giving the right kind of praise you will not only enhance your child’s strength awareness but also increase his self-knowledge and self-esteem. It’s a simple but powerful parenting secret so pass it on.

************************************************************************************************Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at

The Kurbo Program: Healthy Weight Mgmt for Kids and Teens

Kurbo logoThe growth of childhood obesity in the United States is staggering. We have now reached a point where 1 out of 3 kids are overweight or obese.

My name is Joanna Strober and my son was one of those kids struggling with weight. As a mother, concerned about my child’s health and well being, I set out on a mission to find help. I was searching for a tool, something that could easily fit into my son’s life and effectively help him manage his weight. However, after multiple doctor visits and endless hours on the Internet, I found nothing beyond “eat less and exercise more.”

I knew of some weight loss apps for adults, but, like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, they were all either unsafe or ineffective for children. Then I discovered the nationally recognized Stanford Pediatric Weight Control Program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, where I finally found the effective tools and practical guidance I was looking for. University based weight loss programs for kids are highly effective for local families – but what about children and families that do not live near a University based program? How can they receive help, guidance and support to control and manage their weight?

I wanted to find a way for the program’s proven weight management tools to reach more kids. Recognizing this gap in the marketplace, I came up with a plan: to adapt Stanford’s program to a scalable, mobile platform for kids and teens. Thus, the idea for Kurbo was born.

To carry out my plan, I needed an expert in the field of pediatric weight control, so I teamed up with Thea Runyan. Thea is the Lead Behavior Coach for the Stanford program and for over 12 years, has successfully helped over 600 families manage weight and lead healthier lifestyles. With her experience and dedication to taming the childhood obesity epidemic, Thea connected to my vision and recognized its potential to positively change the lives of kids, teens and their families.

teens and their smart phoneWith the help of $5.8 million in venture capital funding, we launched Kurbo Health. Kurbo Health licensed the program from Stanford University’s acclaimed pediatric weight control program and incorporated the programs’ tools and principles into a fun, engaging mobile app and weekly live-coaching sessions. It’s the first safe, effective and accessible mobile weight management program for kids, teens and their families.

The Kurbo Program teaches kids how to change their eating and exercise habits in order to reach and maintain a healthy weight. It is not about dieting, calorie counting or deprivation. These imply short-term results, create a negative stigma and hyper-focus around food and only magnify the issue at hand. Instead, Kurbo is about gradually gaining control of your health by making healthy lifestyle choices. Kids start seeing real signs of success after 3 to 4 weeks of the Kurbo Program.

A critical component of the Kurbo Program is the free, easy-to-use mobile app. Kids use the app to track their food and exercise using a version of the research-based Traffic Light system. Here’s how the system works: green light foods include fruits and veggies, yellow light foods include grains, lean protein and low fat dairy and red light foods are high in unhealthy fats, sugars and high calorie density foods. Once kids start tracking their red, yellow and green light foods, they become aware of their eating habits and start making healthier choices. The goal is to eat a well-balanced diet by increasing green light foods, moderating yellow light foods and minimizing red light foods over time. This is a safe way for kids to eat healthier and manage their weight. The app also includes videos and games that introduce concepts like food classification and portion size and provides instant feedback, reminders and rewards to keep users on track. Kurbo also encourages challenges, like having a red-free day or trying a totally new green light food, that keep kids engaged and motivated to achieve their goals.

The Kurbo Program provides weekly supportive coaching sessions with a trained Kurbo coach. Planning for the weekThese sessions can either be via text or email. Each week, your child’s Kurbo coach evaluates their progress by reviewing food and exercise choices, making actionable suggestions and working with your child to set reasonable goals for the next week. Coaches also teach your child how to plan ahead and budget their number of red light foods for the week. Say, for example, your family is going to a birthday party on a Friday. Your child’s Kurbo coach will help him or her use the app to rebudget reds, adding more reds on Friday (and fewer on other days of the week) to make sure he can eat pizza and cake and still meet his red-light goal for the week!

Not only is the Kurbo Program fun and affordable, it works. Kurbo’s beta test results showed that 88% of kids (ages 8 to 18) who met with Kurbo coaches for 10 weeks reduced their BMI (body mass index), lost an average of 5-10 pounds, exercised more frequently and felt healthier, happier and more confident.

While Kurbo kids gain tools to lead healthier lives, Kurbo parents get to take a break from being the “food police.” Kurbo reduces the tension and conflict around food and exercise that many parents face with their children. Coaches become a source of support, motivation and accountability. However, parents are still encouraged to be actively involved in their child’s Kurbo journey. Parents can participate in coaching sessions, receive a weekly email newsletter and have access to parent-focused experts who can answer their specific questions and concerns. Kurbo invites the whole family to use the Kurbo app, because kids are more successful when their families are tracking along with them. In fact, many parents lose weight too.

I created Kurbo Health as a solution for families, kids and teens who are struggling to lose weight. What started as a mission to help my son, has become a mission to help millions of kids and teens live healthier, lose weight, adopt better eating habits and feel really good about themselves.



Here is a Healthy Family Checklist to help manage your family’s healthy habits:

  • Do 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Incorporate exercise in a family routine like walking after dinner.
  • Limit TV, computer and video game time to 2 hours/per day
  • Eat dinner with your family at a regular time
  • Eat a fruit and/or vegetable at every meal (at least!)
  • Drink lots of water!
  • Limit Red light Foods like candy, chips, and crackers by buying less!
  • Switch to non-fat or 1% milk
  • Don’t drink your calories! Avoid sugary drinks like soda, sports drink and juice.
  • Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday. Don’t skip meals!
  • Encourage your kids and teens to get least 8-9 hours of sleep a night

One feature about Kurbo that generates some concern is the weight tracker: kids are encouraged to weigh themselves once a week and record it in the Kurbo app. Thea Runyan, Kurbo co-founder, provides her advice for creating a healthy mindset around “stepping on the scale:”

  • Don’t make the scale scary, it’s just a tool: It is important that parents don’t transfer their fears about the scale to their kids. At Kurbo weight measurement is simply another tool to assess progress, just like food and exercise tracking.
  • Encourage kids and teens to weigh themselves NO MORE than once a week: Research shows that weighting yourself regularly (not obsessively) is very important for managing a healthy lifestyle.
  • Success is not measured in pounds: At Kurbo, a child’s success is not defined by weight loss but instead, by learning and maintaining healthy behaviors and making smart choices about food and exercise.