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Arts & Crafts and Poison Control: How to Keep Kids Safe

Did you ever notice how delicious some of those colored markers smell? Ever tempted to taste one? Ok, admit it…you’d never do it, but still you can’t say you haven’t at least thought about it. So, can we blame the 4 year old who thinks that the blueberry marker might just taste as good as it smells?

Unfortunately we sometimes forget that those pretty colored paints and crayons and markers look and smell so good because they’re made up of chemicals that are designed to make them look and smell good. And because little kids are attracted to bright, colorful things, and love to touch and taste (who doesn’t), we need to be extra cautious to make sure that glues, paints, crayons and other arts and crafts supplies are handled with care.

According to the Minnesota Poison Control: In a single year, the nation’s 57 poison control centers received more than 35,000 calls about exposures to art products; of these, more than 26,000 calls concerned children younger than 6. And the Virginia Poison Center highlights this list of art supplies to keep an eye on:

  • Chalk contains calcium, and swallowing some typically does not cause poisoning. More serious problems can occur if the chalk lodges in the throat or is breathed into the windpipe, blocking the airway and causing coughs, difficulty breathing, or wheezing.
  • Water-soluble markers usually don’t cause harm. Most other felt-tip markers don’t cause poisoning if small amounts of the ink are swallowed. A few markers may contain aniline dyestuffs, which, if a large amount is swallowed, can be poisonous.
  • Erasers are not considered poisonous but could cause blockage or injury if lodged in the throat or breathed into the windpipe.
  • School-type glues (such as Elmer’s®) generally are considered nonpoisonous. “Super glues” (such as Krazy Glue®) do not cause serious poisoning if a mouthful is swallowed; however, they cause mucous membranes and skin surfaces to stick together instantly. If “super glue” gets into the eye, the eyelids can be sealed together, resulting in lid injury and loss of lashes. Worse, “super glue” can cause serious damage to the eye’s cornea.
  • If children swallow small amounts of water-based paint – including latex, tempera and poster paint – poisoning is not likely. Some latex paints do contain measurable amounts (5-10%) of glycols, so poisoning could happen if someone swallows a very large amount. Oil-based paints contain solvents that can cause acute poisoning if swallowed.

The National Capital Poison Center recommends the following safety tips:

  • Read the label carefully, and follow all instructions for safe use and disposal.
  • Discard products that have passed their expiration dates.
  • Don’t eat or drink while using art products.
  • Wash up – skin, equipment and environment – after use.
  • Never use products to paint skin or decorate food unless the product is specifically labeled for that use.
  • Store art products in their original containers locked up and out of the reach of children.
  • Handle art products in accordance with your program’s guidelines for safe chemical use and storage.

Virginia Poison Center also suggests that “when choosing art supplies for use by children, consider the product’s certification. Many art supplies are imprinted with the seals of the Arts and Crafts Materials Institute. Products with the AP (Approved Product) seal are best for use by young children. Products with the CL (Cautionary Label) Seal are more appropriate for adult use.”

Finally…always better safe than sorry.

If a young artist eats a crayon or some glue, or gets paint in their eyesORyou’re simply unsure whether or not your child has been exposed to (or eaten) a toxic level of art supplies, use

  • the webPOISONCONTROL® online tool for guidance or
  • call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222 for advice or information.

For a more detailed description of arts and crafts Do’s and Don’ts, here is the official Art and Craft Safety Guide from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

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Some time ago, Audra, one of our editors, shared with us her story about her wonderful experience with “edible play dough.” What about you?? Ever called poison control for an arts and crafts mishap?

What I Remember and Why It Matters: A 1978 Child EMS Transport

St. Petersburg, FL., the year was probably 1978 or 79. My partner and I had responded to a drowning in a large apartment complex at the north end of town. When we arrived we found a bunch of people doing or trying to do CPR. While we were getting into position to take over care a news crew arrived and began to film the action- the cameraman positioned right behind me.

The child was blue and just had that look and feel. The outcome was not going to change and it was not right that it was being filmed- solely for the benefit of the TV station. Somehow when I stood up I bumped into the cameraman and into the pool he went.

Fencing could have, would have prevented the death of this child. Parental oversight could have, would have prevented the death of this child. These were not the only mistakes to be made. We put the child on the stretcher and began the very long trip to the hospital.

We did not secure the child in any special way to the stretcher. We never had any means to do so and nothing bad ever happened. Each time we transported a child back then, we did so either using the stretcher or more commonly held the baby in our arms- as though we could hold onto a 30 pound baby in a high speed collision. But we did it time and again and nothing bad ever happened.

That’s not to say that there could not have been a catastrophic outcome from the transport – it just never happened – to me.

Back then we were not taught any better and frankly did not know better. Back then the world was a lot larger. We did not know what happened across the country or the world like we do today- only ‘major news’ received that level of exposure. And the fact that we did not believe anything bad would happen kept us from seeking change or improvement. As a society we have enacted universal laws that govern how we transport children in ordinary vehicles. We made these changes because bad things do happen. Emergency vehicles are the same as other cars- only riskier- they run red lights and go fast. We need to adopt the same laws as those that apply to all vehicles

How children are transported today is about the same as it was back then and largely for the same reason- we take a risk and nothing bad happens.

There are those who advocate for safer transport of children and infants and some states have enacted legislation to require safe transport equipment for emergency vehicles. Most people just assume that EMS, 911 responders, know what to do and do the right thing.

So what is the moral to this story? We often get angry when bad things happen and lash out in the wrong direction. Hindsight is most often crystal clear but too often we fail to use this vision to change the future.

* Learn CPR *
* Insist that all states require EMS vehicles to carry and use approved child and infant transport equipment *
* Ask questions and get involved *
* No Excuses*

How Important is Orthodontics When They’re Young…Really??

The ability to treat your child using a technique called “expansion” is one of the biggest benefits to early orthodontics. As its name suggests “expansion” means expanding the bone with orthopedics to allow room for the teeth. When you have a cross bite or severe crowding it often affects other normal processes. When we are able to expand the arches, it helps create a bigger airway, normal swallowing and better aesthetics.

There many other reasons why it is important to have your son or daughter’s orthodontic expansion work done early in their childhood

  • Their self esteem is certainly a factor to consider early on as this can be a source of teasing with their peers.
  • Beyond the emotional factors there are many physical and health factors that make an even better argument for having expansion orthodontics at a young age.
  • There are also times where expansion can prevent the necessity of orthodontic treatment later in your child’s life. When we can successfully expand the upper and lower arches, it often reduces the amount of time kids have to be in treatment or may even prevent the need for braces down the road.

Signs that your child might need expansion:

  • When lower teeth are on the outside of the upper teeth while biting
  • Over crowding of teeth
  • Even thumb-sucking

Dentists can typically start this type of treatment as early as 6 and it is commonly done up to the ages of 12 or 13. Don’t put off asking your dentist important questions about your child’s teeth. It could change the course of their treatment saving you money and your child extensive orthodontic work down the line.

Happy New Year!

Can Your Lovable Pup Help Your Child Grow Educationally?

Last month we talked about the value of a child with special needs having a service dog with them in the classroom at all times. We also talked about some of the pro’s and con’s for the child without disabilities. But what if there was an area that your child struggled with that maybe wasn’t severe enough to require the services of a full time, highly skilled and trained animal? Can your every-day run-of-the-mill pup still be able to help your child in educational ways? In many cases….yes!!

As adults, we all have our strengths and weaknesses, just as children do! The difference is, our weaknesses are not often exposed, all day, every day, to our peers. Imagine how difficult it would be if you worked in an office, with the same people right next to you, no cubicles or dividers between you and them, and part of your job was a task that you had to perform daily, that you really struggled with…. Yet it seemed to come so easily and naturally to all those around you. How frustrating would that be? How embarrassing? Sure, you could ask for help; but that would get old, really fast…. Especially if it was something that you just ‘didn’t get’.

I know from personal experience, having struggled with learning disabilities, especially with numbers and math, how trying this can be… and what a hit my self esteem took time and time again! (I remember being a child sitting in the classroom and they were going up and down the rows, each child taking the next math problem in the book, trying to very quickly figure out which would be mine, so I could work it out before it was my turn and avoid looking foolish. This rarely worked and, being in a panicked state, quite often I miscounted and worked on the wrong problem…. And felt like an idiot anyway!)

As an adult, I have learned to kind of make light of it (I tell my clients, “Boy, I wish my talent with the dogs transferred to other areas of my life, like Math and a sense of direction!) For me, that statement always lessens the embarrassment when writing out a receipt for a client, when I cannot do the simple math to add it up in my head…. And forget about adding on the tax! But after that statement, I can grab a calculator. Tools like that aren’t always available when you’re a kid.

And let’s face it…. School is a tough place at times! Kids can be horrible…. Especially once they see a weakness in another child…. That child can suddenly become an easy target for taunting and bullying! And in that kind of atmosphere is it any wonder the child will become more insecure and not want to ask for help?

In 1999, a group in Minnesota called Intermountain Therapy Animals (ITA) who specialized in providing animal-assisted-therapies in the areas of physical, occupational, speech, psychotherapies, as well as special education developed and launched a program called R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs.) The premise and purpose behind this program was to provide a safe environment where a child can sit down and read out-loud to a dog without any fear of judgment or ridicule. The immediate successes they saw encouraged the growth and popularity of this program, and the organization quickly branched out to include visits to numerous libraries, schools, and many other venues. It has helped thousands of children to improve their reading and communication skills. Here is a link to their site, which can obviously explain everything they do a bit better than I can, and they also provide a calendar of events (click on the ‘ATTEND” box on the right hand side of the screen) where you can see if they are going to be in your area… http://www.therapyanimals.org/READ.html

On this site are also numerous ‘how to’ videos where they show you what you can do if you would like to become a ‘R.E.A.D. owner/handler volunteer team’ in your area. But I want to simplify it a bit and mention a few things you can do to see if your own personal dog can accomplish this task for your child at home.

I want to mention here that although the program itself is very familiar to me, the ins-and-outs of how it works were not, so this has been a wonderful learning experience for me as well! All of the tips and feedback I am going to give you are a culmination of my training skills and experiences, mixed with highlights from the many videos I have watched that came directly from this organization. As I mentioned before, I wanted to simplify this so that you can see if your dog is a good candidate to provide this service for your child, and if so, how to best accomplish this task.

So to begin with, Part One would be to see if your dog can possess the skills needed to help your child. (I recommend doing this when your child is not around. If it turns out your dog is not a good candidate for this, we do not want to raise your child’s hopes and then have them disappointed.) What are those skills? According to the ITA videos, the basic skills required are:

  • A firm “DOWN/STAY” command
  • The ability to lie still for however long you choose to hold your reading ‘sessions’ (note: If your dog is not good at staying still for an hour at a clip, do not be discouraged and think this will not work for you. Try shorter durations.) This is important because we want to set up an atmosphere of a non-judgmental space for your child. If they are embarrassed already about their reading skills, or have ever been teased because of their reading difficulties, the dog getting up and walking away may be interpreted by your sensitive child as a form of rejection.
  • A good “Touch” command. This is important because it helps your child to really feel like the dog is involved in the reading when your dog periodically ‘touches’ the page with their paw or nose. This task becomes especially valuable when your child comes to a word they are having difficulty with or do not understand. You can signal the dog to touch the page, and then say something like, “Fido is having trouble understanding what that word is. How about we look it up so we can explain it to him.” Again, this is a very non-judgmental way to help your child….. Similar to when child therapists use dolls to help children speak about difficult things without it being in the ‘first person’.
  • A not-so easily distracted dog. This kind of goes hand in hand with the solid DOWN/STAY. It is very important because again, the last thing you want is your child sitting down to read with the dog, someone walks by, and the dog gets up and leaves. Again, we do not want to risk your child feeling not-important or rejected by the dog in any way, which can happen if the dog suddenly gets up and leaves.

Part Two – what skills and tools do you personally need to work with the dog and your child?

  • Patience
  • A sense of humor
  • A non-perfectionist attitude (remember, we want to encourage, not discourage! So ITA recommends it is very important that you not get ‘bogged-down’ on mistakes and be careful of the way your correct them.
  • Do not be over-exuberant in introducing this concept to your child. While this may be an exciting new venture, I encourage you to first work with your dog consistently when the child is not around until you are relatively comfortable that this will succeed. Again, we do not want to raise your child’s hopes, and risk them feeling like this is their failure if the dog is not appropriate for this task.
  • A PLACE set up specifically for this task. A private room or corner can work. A place where there are no distractions such as people going by, phones ringing, TV’s on in the background, etc. In this space you can set out blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, a lamp, a bookshelf with plenty of books you will take on together…..whatever you would like that does not cause distractions, but will be a comfortable place for you, your child, and your dog to work in. Make sure this place always remains the same, and is SOLELY used for this specific task. Remember that dogs and children both respond well to familiarity and routines. If this place is only used for this purpose, your dog will always automatically know what to expect and how to behave while there.
  • Plenty of children’s books. Make sure they are appropriate to where your child’s skills are at. You do not want to use material that is too advanced, causing frustration for them. At the same time, you do not want to use books they may see as ‘babyish’. It will insult their intelligence and possibly make them feel that you think they are stupid. While you know your child is not stupid, if they have been previously made to feel that way by other kids, the last thing you want is for them to believe you think that way of them! Also, when choosing your books for them and your ‘place,’ pick numerous books about subjects and topics they are interested in. For example, start off with books about dogs.

So, you have now determined that you and your dog both have the skills needed to help your child, now it’s time for Part Three – very important – practice this consistently when your child is NOT around. Call the dog over to the ‘space’ you have created, get them into the DOWN/STAY, pull out a book, and start reading. The ITA also recommends adding a “LOOK” command to this. They state that it really helps your child to feel like the dog is very involved, and it is a simple task to teach!!

Before calling your dog over to the space, insert small treats into numerous pages of the book. Every time you get to a page with a treat in it, you say the command “LOOK!” and allow the dog to take the treat from the book. This essentially conditions your dog to expect something good to be on the page and to use his nose to ‘look’ for it every time you say the word “Look”. But again, this must be accomplished before your child joins you in this. You want your child to believe the dog is really involved…. Not that the dog is looking for a treat or reward!

Once you are sure you have done all the necessary foot-work needed to successfully accomplish this, invite your child to join you. You can say something like, “You know…. The other day I was reading out loud and I noticed that Fido seemed to really enjoy it!! I think it might be fun to see if this was a fluke, or if he really likes being read to!” or something along those lines. You know your child best, and what would peak their interest in being open to trying this. Keep the session relatively short in the beginning…. 10 or 15 minutes at most. Make it fun, be enthusiastic, laugh when the dog paws the page, you can even act surprised at how involved the dog is!! And always end the sessions on a positive note…. Such as, “WOW! You and Fido did amazing!!! I think he deserves some treats…. And you should be the one to give it to him!!” Make sure you use words like ‘teamwork’ (ie: “What a great team the two of you make!” This will be very encouraging to a child that was initially ostracized and made to feel separate or not a part of.)

And the last thing (which can also be the hardest part) once you have established this new and exciting journey with your child, try not to make this a ‘if you don’t do this, this will be the consequence’ type of thing. We want this to always remain an enjoyable thing for your child. I know firsthand when I do something I enjoy, once it becomes mandatory, I often quickly lose interest. So think about different ways to keep your child interested and engaged. Here are a couple you might want to consider:

  • Weekly trip to the library with your child to pick out a new book she and Fido might enjoy reading together
  • To keep it light and fun, make a sign out of some of the more difficult words your child figured out and/or looked up during the week’s readings, and then plan a ‘treasure hunt’ trip to locate those items and label them with the sign your child made. Be willing to be silly with them! If the word was “Mother”, go along with it and wear the sign!
  • Find and set aside some “special treats” – for your pup and for your child that they get to enjoy together.
  • Anything that makes this a special time your child looks forward to.

With both kids and dogs, there is no such thing as a ‘cookie-cutter’ way to learn! Each kid learns and responds differently… So if you have some additional ideas for us to try, please add them to the comments below!! We’d love to hear your ideas!

BreathableBaby Mesh Crib Liners: For Baby’s Safety AND Comfort

For more than ten years, parenting experts, child product safety organizations, and new parents have been talking about the potential safety hazards of using traditional crib bumpers inside infants’ cribs despite the benefits of preventing head, arm and leg injuries.

We are Dale and Susan Waters, married entrepreneurs from Minnesota who turned fear for our baby’s safety inside her crib into a mission to create something that would not only help protect babies but also provide peace of mind for parents. We invented the Breathable Mesh Crib Liner; a product designed to reduce the risks of suffocation caused by traditional bumpers, while protecting a baby’s limbs from becoming entrapped in the crib slats.

BreathableBaby is Born

12 years ago, we woke to the sound of our 3-month-old daughter screaming in agony from her crib. Our daughter, Sierra had gotten her legs twisted and wedged between the slats of her crib. Her face was pinned against the mattress.

There were many sleepless nights for us and our daughter – no matter what we tried she kept getting her little arms and legs caught between the crib slats. In addition to the obvious pain of being stuck, we feared she would break an arm or leg, or develop neuropathy. But we refused to use a soft, pillowy crib bumper for fear of suffocation.

Research shows that a baby can snuggle up right against their crib bumper. If the baby’s nose and mouth are too close to the bumper, it can potentially cause dangerous re-breathing of carbon dioxide or suffocation. A baby can also get wedged between crib slats and the mattress, unable to escape and possibly suffocate. Because the safety and potential dangers of crib bumpers has been in the news recently, many parents are unsure about how to keep their babies comfortable and safe.

As parents, we were frustrated and upset to learn there was no practical solution available in the marketplace. As designers and entrepreneurs we decided we had to do something about it and devoted ourselves to developing a safer, “breathable” solution – preferably one that was affordable and easy to use. So, we took a break from the media, marketing and music company we owned, and focused on creating a safer solution for babies.

We researched and sourced fabrics, designed and engineered prototypes, held focus groups with mothers and sought extensive third party safety evaluations by a world-leader in safety consultation before finally introducing a safer, smarter mesh crib bumper to the market three years later in 2002.

What makes BreathableBaby mesh crib liners so much safer is our Air Channel Technology™ (A.C.T.) designed to prevent suffocation. A.C.T. maintains air access should a baby’s mouth and nose press up against the fabric. When the BreathableBaby fabric is compressed it is virtually impossible to form an airtight seal.

Since its launch, we’re proud to say that the BreathableBaby™ brand has forged a new category in “breathable” bedding, and is embraced by parents worldwide. Our products have won numerous awards including The Child Safety House Calls Award of Excellence, and National Parenting Center Seal of Approval for innovation, functionality, design and contribution to creating a safer, healthier crib environment.

It’s imperative that parents are aware of the potential dangers that may be part of a baby’s sleep environment. New information is available all the time, so we urge all expectant parents – first time or otherwise – to seek relevant news, alerts, studies and guidelines from news and safety organizations such as the ones listed in our Healthful Hints below.

Wishing you and your little one sweet dreams.

HEALTHFUL HINTS:

Six Steps to a Safe Sleep Environment For Your Baby

  1. Crib Mattress Should be Firm. A soft mattress may increase suffocation risks. Select a firm mattress that fits the crib tightly and a fitted sheet. You should have a fitted not be able to fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib side. Before purchasing a crib, visit www.cpsc.gov to make sure the crib you selected has not been recalled.
  2. No Blankets for Baby. Do not place anything in baby’s crib that could be a suffocation hazard, including blankets. If you’re worried about keeping your baby warm, a better solution is an infant sleeper or wearable blanket that zips around your baby and can’t ride up over her face.
  3. Breathable Mesh Crib Liners. Crib bumpers that are plush, pillowy, and made of non-breathable fabric can increase the risk of suffocation. A safer crib option is one that is mesh or breathable and allows for air flow – even when pressed against a baby’s mouth.
  4. De-Clutter the Crib. For most parents, all those cute stuffed animals and soft blankets might seem a natural fit for the crib, but unfortunately they all pose suffocation risks. Toys and stuffed animals are best saved for interactive play time.
  5. A bottle. Parents of older infants who have started holding their own bottles may be tempted to slip a bottle into the crib in case their baby wakes at night. But even a bottle can pose a suffocation risk. Plus, babies who fall asleep with a bottle in their mouths are prone to tooth decay from the milk sugars that sit on their teeth all night.
  6. Pacifiers. Some studies have shown that giving your baby a clean, dry pacifier reduces SIDS rates.

Resources For More Information On Safe Sleep and Crib Safety

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Editor’s Note: So often with health and safety issues we have to make trade-offs between one risk and another: take a medicine to address a disease, but deal with the side-effects; exercise for health benefits but risk injuries. In the case of babies and cribs, parents have long had to make a trade-off between keeping babies safe from suffocation due to crib bumpers and protecting them from entanglement and injury in the crib slats. BreathableBaby mesh crib liners help parents address both these issues with peace of mind. We first ran this BreathableBaby post in 2011 and the company has continued to thrive, with additional products and awards to their credit.

Our Super-Successful Kids Are Struggling! How to Help Them Thrive

Worried child in front of graffitiWhat if I told you that 1 out of every 3 kids age 6 to 11 is afraid that the Earth won’t exist when they grow up???

WHO are these children??? What if I told you that little kid you just kissed goodnight,,, who got an A on his test…who practiced her cello for hours… what if I told you they were the ones who said it. What if instead I told you they believed it and told NO ONE??? How is it possible this is happening??

Parents, meet the “Running on Empty” Generation – smart and dearly loved, inclusive and open-minded, well-educated with high aspirations for college and their future. From the outside everything you want and more for your child. But take a second look. These kids are less happy, more stressed, lonely, depressed, and suicidal than ANY other generation… and that was BEFORE COVID!

“We are college and career ready, but sure aren’t ‘human’ ready.” Erin, 16 years old

We are raising a generation of “strivers” – kids that are wonderful at reaching for the brass ring, but never feel good enough. We haven’t given them basic survival tools so when the real challenges hit, they often quit because they don’t have the inner reserve that helps them get through it…

“My parents do everything for me. My biggest worry when I leave home is that I’m going to flunk life.” 17-year-old straight-A student, headed for Yale

Surprisingly, despite today’s kids living through the most stressed time in known history – terrorism, lockdown drills, daily pandemic death counts, insurrections, food insecurity, failing power grids, climate crises and racial violence – some kids are not only surviving, but they’re also thriving.

They are bouncing back despite adversity. WHY?

In her new book THRIVERS, Dr. Michele Borba, Ed. D. shares with us the answer.

In the end, these kids – the Thrivers –manage adversity, develop healthy relationships, and embrace change. They are ready and deal proactively with whatever the world throws at them – even in uncertain times, not because of genes, GPA, IQ or a special skill or talent, but through reliance on a few character strengths they learned along the way that helped them steer their lives in a positive direction – helped them PICK THEMSELVES UP whenever their worlds came crashing down.

It is these seven essential Character Strengths that set Thrivers apart and set them up for happiness and greater accomplishment later in life. Self-confidence, empathy, self-control, integrity, curiosity, perseverance, and optimism – each of these helps safeguard our kids against the depression and anxiety that threatens to derail them. And best of all, these strengths are not something we are born with: from toddler to teen, these can be taught!

But where should you start?? THRIVERS is organized into three parts allowing parent to focus on strengths by category. It’s helpful to understand your child’s “superpowers” – what they’re already good at and can nurture – as well as areas that could use further development.

Consider how you would rate your child on the following: 5 = always, 4 = frequently, 3 = sometimes, 2 = rarely, 1 = never

My Child:

  1. Speaks mostly positively about herself, rarely negatively.
  2. Displays concern and wants to help when someone is treated unfairly or unkindly.
  3. Can be trusted to do the right thing and keep his word even when no one is looking.
  4. Able to manage her own impulses and urges without adult help.
  5. Intrigued or easy to motivate about trying something new, different, or surprising.
  6. Does not become upset when something is difficult; rarely quits but keeps trying.
  7. Can find the silver lining in a hardship or challenge.

As I’m sure you guessed each of these questions represents one of the 7 Character Strengths and is part of a longer assessment that will help you evaluate where your child is right now so you can determine which traits are their natural strengths and which traits need to be encouraged.

Know that these traits are cumulative: each character strength improves a child’s thriving potential as well as academic performance but is always more powerful when combined with another because they create a Multiplier Effect.

Self-Confidence + Curiosity increases self-knowledge and builds self-assuredness and creativity.

Self-Control + Perseverance boosts the chance of reaching a goal and achieving success.

Empathy + Curiosity helps find common ground and strengthens relationships.

At this point some of you may be thinking…yes this all sounds good, but bottom line, I’ve got to give my child every advantage so they can get into the right school because everything depends on that.

But does it? According to Dr. Borba these amazing, brilliant, talented kids are checking out – the urgency in writing this book came from an email from a distraught mom looking for help from her community:

“We have forty dead kids in two-and-a-half years to suicide within a twenty-mile radius. Most are white, affluent, high achieving males who did not use drugs but hung themselves. Most look like your kids and mine. The last seven have been females – two with guns.”

“It’s like we’re being produced to be test takers. We’re missing the pieces on how to be people.” Aaron, 12 years old

The epidemic of unhappy Strivers is real, but it’s not inevitable. We can do something about it. As Dr. Borba says “all our energy has gone into stretching kids’ cognitive abilities and neglecting their human side – the source of energy, joy, inspiration and meaning. The good news: focusing on character can flip that equation and teach your kids how to find happiness, calm and wonder in the world.

But we NEED to pay attention… We SHOULD be worried… WE NEED to listen!!

“There’s an amazing amount of depression and anxiety. Seventy percent of my friends are in therapy; forty percent are on medication. We’re hurting but nobody does anything until another kid is suicidal.” Ava, 15 years old.

One last thought that I’d like to finish with. It is terrifying that our children – even the young ones – go to sleep worried about global warming, pandemics, racial violence, school shootings… the list goes on and on. It is even more terrifying that many of them don’t believe their generation will live to see the future. But there is something Dr. Borba’s book reminded me of that I’d like to share with you, and maybe you can share it with your kids.

Years ago a man named Fred Rogers brought optimism, love and hope to families across the country – and in these dark times we could all use a little of his outlook. With each new terror – each bombing, virus, terrorist attack, natural disaster, hate crime or mass shooting we wonder, “what shall we tell our children?” Fred Rogers had the perfect answer:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers, so many caring people in this world”.

My belief, and the reason I share this with all of you, is that this current generation of kids is in pain and they are struggling. Dr. Michele Borba (and THRIVERS) is one of the helpers.

Editors Note: all quotes included in this article, including those attributed to individual children and Fred Rogers can be found in THRIVERS: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine

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Thrivers Book CoverAcross the nation, student mental health is plummeting, major depression rates among teens and young adults are rising faster than among the overall population, and younger children are being impacted. As a teacher, educational consultant, and parent for 40 years, Dr. Michele Borba has never been more worried than she is about this current generation of kids. In THRIVERS, Dr. Borba explains why the old markers of accomplishment (grades, test scores) are no longer reliable predictors of success in the 21st century – and offers 7 teachable traits that will safeguard our kids for the future. She offers practical, actionable ways to develop these Character Strengths (confidence, empathy, self-control, integrity, curiosity, perseverance, and optimism) in children from preschool through high school, showing how to teach kids how to cope today so they can thrive tomorrow. THRIVERS is now available at amazon.com.