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The Instability of the “Dreamers'” Future Hurts All Children

If you follow the news at all, I’m sure you’ve heard about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. To summarize it, it is a program that has kept around 690,000 young, illegal immigrants from being deported. It was put into place by the Obama administration in 2012 after numerous attempts by Congress to come up with a permanent solution for “Dreamers” failed. The DACA provides children who were brought into the United States illegally, as minors, the ability to work and go to school without fear of deportation.

Many of these children grow up without having any idea of what their legal status is or what being illegal means. Now, they are facing a very uncertain future, especially those who plan to go to college. However, what I really want to address here is why the debate over what to do with Dreamers matters to us as guardians of young people.

When we choose to take responsibility for a child or teenager, even to the smallest degree, we are choosing to also have a direct impact on the future of our society. Culture affects young people differently than it does adults. As adults, we have, in many cases, been given the resources and experiences to learn which aspects of our culture we agree with and which we do not. We then build up a worldview that we protect and that protects our sense of self.

Children do not have this yet. They are still sorting through their understanding of the world and learning their emotions. It is up to us to guide them along that path. This brings me back to the debate over the DACA. Social environments have distinct impacts on child and adolescent development. Children must be able to have faith in the structures of authority that surround them. These structures are supposed to provide them with the safe space they need to develop as human beings. When these structures show themselves as unstable it has far reaching psychological effects not just for the children directly involved, but also for the rest of the population.

Uncertainty and fear can cripple the human mind, especially the tender developing mind of a child or teenager that is particularly vulnerable to stress. Many of these children who are now facing an uncertain future want to pursue higher education. Putting their futures in jeopardy hurts them as individuals and through their struggles their friends and their friends friends will lose faith in a system that is already on shaky ground. The ripple effect of this kind of uncertainty is sure to have lasting repercussions past what we can see.

As these uncertainties become more apparent, it falls on us as caretakers, to work even harder than we do already to provide a stable and healthy environment for our children and the children around us to grow in. We must listen to their needs and support them, as individuals, and as a whole as we strive towards a better future for all.

Children Learn What They Live

by Dorothy Law Nolte

If children live with criticism,

They learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility,

They learn to fight.

If children live with ridicule,

They learn to be shy.

If children live with shame,

They learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement,

They learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance,

They learn to be patient.

If children live with praise,

They learn to appreciate.

If children live with acceptance,

They learn to love.

If children live with approval,

They learn to like themselves.

If children live with honesty,

They learn truthfulness.

If children live with security,

They learn to have faith in themselves and others.

If children live with friendliness,

They learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

(Copyright © 1972/1975 by Dorothy Law Nolte)

How to Improve Your Child’s Thinking Skills Using Their Imagination

Thinking, speaking or acting impulsively without planning or thinking things out poses social challenges for children.

We can help children better manage their impulsive thoughts, words, and actions by using a storytelling activity we call The Thought Bubble Technique. In this visual conversation activity, we help children think, write, draw, and talk about what characters in a story might be thinking, feeling, saying or doing. The Thought Bubble Technique encourages children to use their imaginations while building their thinking skills.

Here is how you do it.

Open a book with vivid imagery such as a Dr. Seuss book. Let your child or student turn the pages until he discovers a page he finds interesting. Tell your child, “We’re going to use our imaginations. We’re going to imagine a thought bubble is over the head of each of the characters on the page. Then we’re going to imagine what they might be thinking.”

By looking at the images on the page ask your child to make up a story about what’s happening on the page. What are the characters thinking? What are the characters saying? What are the characters doing? How are the characters feeling?

Help the child “THINK OUT” how is the thought, feeling or action helpful or not helpful? How might the other characters respond? How can the characters shift their thoughts, words, feeling or actions so that each story has a happier ending?

The key is to use the creative exploration of images to help the child thoughtfully reflect on how words, thoughts, feelings, and actions are prosocial, facilitating relationships or challenging causing others to feel uncomfortable, unhappy or withdrawn.

Use your own creative license, adapt the “Cognitive Conversation” with the child to help him or her see things in a new way. Thoughtful exploration leads to the mindful development of new thinking skills.

Download Your Copy of the Thought Bubble Technique here.




Written for teachers, educators, and clinicians whose work involves playing, talking or teaching children who would benefit from better executive function and social-emotional learning skills, 70 Play Activities incorporates over 100 research studies into printable worksheets, handouts, and guided scripts with step-by-step directions, to empower children to learn and behave better. “With 70 Play Activities we aim to improve the trajectory of children’s learning by integrating the newest neuroscience with activities children love!” With over 70 activities designed to improve thinking, self-regulation, learning and behavior, your tool-kit will be full and your creative brain will be inspired to craft your own meaningful exercises. 70 Play Activities is available at


Connecting Kids to the World, One Class at a Time: Meet Empatico

Empatico is the newest initiative of The Kind Foundation.

It is a free learning tool, an online platform designed to digitally connect classrooms from across the globe. The project wants to promote empathy in children by showing them how diverse the international community is. Teachers are able to connect to other classrooms and together they complete activities using live video conferencing.

We at Pediatric Safety thought this was a brilliant idea, so we caught up with Empatico’s Business Development Manager Christina Bruno and asked her to tell us more about the project.

Where did the inspiration for Empatico come from?

Our vision is to create meaningful moments for students and teachers to realize the world is a bigger place than they knew and to foster a lifetime of curiosity, kindness, and empathy. When we started out, we knew many teachers were already doing this work – connecting their classrooms and providing unforgettable experiences for their students to meet peers around the world – and we wanted to make it as easy as possible so that more classrooms, no matter what their experience, have an opportunity to connect. Making global connections in order to understand our shared humanity has been a long-term passion of our founder, our team, and the educators we worked with to build Empatico, and we also believe it is particularly relevant in this current climate.

How has the feedback on the project been so far?

Teachers are already sharing with us the positive impact Empatico has had on their students. They’re learning what other communities look like, how their peers from different places play and contribute to their communities, and they’re starting to realize their commonalities and become curious about their differences. We’ve also received feedback on how easy it is to use Empatico – teachers are automatically matched with another classroom based on their availability and interest in activities, and our activity plans provide teachers with all the resources they need for a successful connection. We’re in our early days, though, and we know the opportunity to bring this experience to many more students is still ahead of us.

Perspective is one of the greatest allies in creating a more compassionate world. What other steps do you think parents and teachers can take to help children gain a broader perspective as they grow up?

We completely agree! Parents and teachers can do many things in their day-to-day conversations with children to reinforce the skills taught in Empatico activities, like critical thinking and perspective-taking. For example, parents and teachers can challenge assumptions and encourage students to explore the world to find out their own answers by asking questions about new experiences, like traveling to a new place or meeting new people. It’s important for children to realize that many people they meet will have a unique way of perceiving the world and a different way of doing things than they do. When children recognize such differences, help them get into the habit of asking: “What is life like for that person? Are there other pieces to the story that I’m missing?” Parents and teachers can show children the value in learning from different perspectives and help them understand how different perspectives can influence behavior as well as change over time. This can be reinforced in role play exercises or when reading stories, watching movies, or even during discussions with peers.

What were some of the challenges you had to overcome while developing this initiative?

One of the greatest challenges we face is how to bring live video connections to as many classrooms as possible around the world, even if they have limited access to technology. Empatico was designed as a classroom-to-classroom experience rather than a student-to-student experience as a way to partially solve this challenge, so classrooms only require one device rather than many. Of course, there’s never a guarantee that technology will work perfectly, but we hope to make it significantly easier. We’ve also made it a priority to open access and target outreach to countries all over the world, rather than restrict access.

We also face the challenge of this kind of virtual connection being a regular part of school–on the whole, few teachers regularly teach this way. There are many teachers who have been pioneers in global connection and education, and we hope Empatico can help encourage many many more teachers to use technology in this way. We believe the right tool can help move global education and connection from the pioneer teachers to the masses, and we think making an easy and intuitive tool like Empatico plays a big part in achieving this goal. All students deserve the opportunity to see the world.

The website says you are currently in the beginning stages of this project. How large do you anticipate it becoming in the future? What other features can we look forward to seeing?

By the end of 2020, our hope is to reach more than one million students. To accomplish this goal, we’ll focus first and foremost on building a great tool for and with teachers. In parallel, we’ll work with partners, including NGOs in the education space, networks of schools and teachers, districts, and Ministries of Education to build awareness and increase adoption. New features will depend largely on the feedback we receive from our earliest users. A few potential areas of expansion include providing content for different age groups (beyond 8-10 year olds), offering translation to languages beyond English, and providing asynchronous opportunities for classrooms to connect when live video is not possible.

What is your favorite part of being involved in this initiative?

I’m excited to be part of something bigger that can potentially change the way people perceive and interact with each other around the world. If you think about the ripple effects of reaching students early in life with an experience like Empatico, we have the potential to reach millions of people over time.

My favorite part is that it’s hard to choose just one reason to love Empatico… Our activities prepare students for future success by building 21st century skills like respectful communication, critical thinking, perspective-taking, and collaboration. And we combine the best parts of technology with the best aspects of humanity to ultimately help students better navigate their classrooms, communities, and world. What’s not to love?!


After we found out about Empatico, we mentioned it to one of our PedSafe Experts, internationally recognized child character development and empathy expert Dr. Michele Borba. As it turns out, not only had she heard of it, but she had already spoken to them about the project.

We asked her to share her thoughts with us.

“New research reveals that empathy plays a surprising role in predicting kids’ happiness and success. Rather than being a nice “add-on” to our kids’ development-it is, in fact, integral to their current and future success, happiness, and well-being. And empathy the good news is that it is a quality that can be taught and a talent that kids can improve, like riding a bike or learning a foreign language.”


“We are more likely to empathize with those “like us”- our same gender, race, income, educational background, and culture. But we are raising our children in a global world where they will be exposed to differences. It’s why Forbes urges companies to adopt empathy and perspective-taking principles and the Harvard Business Review named it as one of the essential ingredients for leadership success and excellent performance.” Helping children step out of their comfort zones, widen their circles of caring and experience different perspectives: like visiting museums, reading books with diverse characters, having a variety of friends. Empatico is a powerful way to open their hearts to children of different cultures. It’s all why we must get kids to switch their focus from “I, Me, My. Mine” to “We, Us, Our, Ours.” And it’s up to adults to offer real and meaningful experiences to help them do so.”


Michele Borba, Ed.D. author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World

Cultivating empathy is without a doubt one of the most important things we can do to progress our global society. We are grateful for businesses and authors like The Kind Foundation and Dr. Borba for setting an example and helping create positive change.

How to Tell if Your Child Has a Concussion

Head Injuries and Concussions.

When in doubt, Check it out.

Concussions have gotten a lot of press lately and when we think about concussions, we typically think of sports and athletes but the truth is that concussions and possible head injuries can happen anywhere and while we cannot have our children walk around with a helmet everywhere they go, we can be aware of the most common signs and symptoms of head injuries and possible concussions so that we, as parents, can make better decisions for the safety of our children.

Please allow me to preface this information with a better safe than sorry approach. If you, at any time, feel that your child has suffered a blow to the head and feel that they should have an exam to be sure everything is ok, then do it. You can drive the child to the hospital if the child has no signs or symptoms or you can call 911 and have them taken to the ER if the child is showing any of the following signs or symptoms.

How does a concussion happen? A concussion can happen when the head receives a severe blow or the body can be shaken to the point that it effects the brain. This can happen from something as small as a fall from tripping or something as severe as a football tackle or baseball hit to the head.

What are the most common signs and symptoms of a concussion that I should be looking for?

  • Severe Headaches. With the child receiving a blow to the head, a headache might be expected but if the headache persists or becomes severe then a trip to have it assessed is in order.
  • Your child is not acting like their normal self. The tricky part of head injuries is that they do not have to manifest immediately. Some signs and symptoms can take hours to start manifesting themselves and observation of the child is in order. If the child is not acting as they normally do, for example a child that is suddenly sluggish or unable to focus or remember things could possibly have a head injury and needs to be examined.
  • Nausea and or Vomiting. It is not uncommon for a person with a head injury to become nauseous or vomit shortly after sustaining the injury.
  • A loss of coordination. A person who has suffered a head injury or concussion may lose coordination and may not be able to walk or even stand.
  • Vision problems. Blurred vision or a loss of vision in one or both eyes is a sign of a head injury. The best answer, in this case, is calling 911. There is no timetable on how long this could last and it is best to have this person transported and evaluated at the hospital.
  • Slurred Speech. This is one of the easier signs to assess as the person will not be able to speak as they normally do.
  • Disruption of sleep. If a child that has suffered a head injury earlier in the day or previous days is having difficulty sleeping, this is something that should be assessed by a doctor and requires immediate attention.

While this is just a list of some of the most common symptoms, the ultimate decision is up to you. As I said above and as I tell all of the patients I encounter with these types of injuries. To know for sure we need to go get it looked at. The longer these symptoms go undiagnosed and untreated, the worse they can become and the greater damage they can cause. When in doubt check it out.

4 Things That Will Help Your Child Develop Early Reading Skills

Developing early reading skills in children ages 9-48 months involves enhancing cognitive skills such as sequential processing, simultaneous processing, focused attention, and inhibition.

Speaking with your child face to face, drawing attention to characters and actions on the written page and practicing how oral-motor sounds relate to phonemic representation, are skills we can model and teach through playful interaction. CLICK on the 4 Activities IMAGE below to download a printable version to help you keep these fun, yet meaningful activities front of mind.

Ages 9-18 Months, enhance visual tracking skills by reading picture books with your children for a few minutes daily. Turn the pages of the books and use your finger to point out characters, movement, and action. Talk about what the children see on the page. “The doggie is running.” “Where is he going?”

Ages 18-24 months, speak with your child face to face. Children develop phonemic awareness by experiencing the kinesthesis of oral-motor movements. When you speak with your child face to face and enunciate your words, your child watches how your mouth forms the sounds. So sit face to face while you speak, playfully encourage your child to make the phonemic sounds with you,

Ages 24-36 months, reading fluency is correlated with rhythmic patterns and sounds. When children are able to read with meter, the recurring pattern of stresses or accents that provide the pulse or beat of music, they become more fluid readers enhancing foundational skills that underlie comprehension. As you read books like Dr. Seuss, enjoy the rhyme and rhythm. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Ages 36-48 months, sequential processing is a foundational cognitive skill that underlies both cognition and movement. We read, speak, play and even move in a sequential manner. One step comes before the next. So enjoy noticing and talking about patterns with your children. Be it in the car, while cooking in the kitchen or on the playground, explore what you are doing in words and talk about what comes next. “First we walk up the stairs, then we climb on the slide, then we slide down, Zoom!”


bloom cover - 140x208Written for real parents with anxious, angry and over-the-top kids, Bloom is a brain-based approach to parenting all children. Taking its lead from neuroscience and best practices in early childhood mental health, it offers parents, teachers and care providers the words, thoughts and actions to raise calm, confident children, while reducing the need for consequences and punishment. The first book of its kind, it provides pages full of printable mantras you can carry with you, hang on your fridge or use in your classroom to raise emotionally competent kids. Stop second-guessing the way you handle misbehaviors, and learn why they occur in the first place. Bloom is available at



Sleep: The Best Gift to Your Child’s Intelligence

As parents, we are faced with an onslaught of products that claim to improve our child’s learning and intelligence. Manufacturers of toys, games, and electronic devices all try to convince us that they will make all the difference in your child’s development.

It turns out that perhaps the easiest gift we can give our child’s developing brain is sleep. We all know the importance of sleep, but new research links sleep directly to the development of executive function in young kids.

Why is Executive Function Important?

You may have heard the phrase “executive function” thrown around in education circles. What does it really mean? Simply put, executive function is the mental processes that help you regulate your behavior. Things like impulse control, working memory and planning are all part of executive function.

From this description you can probably tell how important executive function is to kids performance in school, and perhaps more importantly, their functioning in later life. Kids who lack executive functioning skills often appear to be misbehaving or defiant. In reality, their brain just doesn’t yet have the skills to regulate their behavior well.

The Link to Sleep

Think back to the last night you lost a night’s sleep. How did you feel the next day? Groggy, slow-moving, perhaps even clumsy or forgetful? This is a perfect example of how sleep affects executive control. Without proper sleep even we adults are not at the top of our mental game in terms of executive function. Now imagine this same scenario in children, who have not fully developed their executive control anyway.

Past research has clearly linked sleep loss to poor executive function in elementary age children. In these groups, children who lose sleep either due to medical problems or purposefully in lab settings often experience deficits in cognitive skills and the ability to pay attention.

We are just now understanding, however, the ways in which sleep might affect executive function in very young children. The newest study on this topic looks at children as young as 12-18 months of age. While these kids have not developed a great deal of executive function skills, it is still possible to see differences.

The results of this study found that among kids who had more overall night sleep, their executive function skills were higher than among kids who had less overall night sleep. Additionally, the area that showed the most difference was executive functions that centered on impulse control.

As parents, we all know what this looks like in real-life. Your toddler skips a nap or gets to bed too late one night and they are a mess the next day. Cranky, unable to follow the simplest instructions and cries at the drop of a hat. Now multiply this by weeks or months of inadequate sleep and you can get a picture of how sleep really affects executive function.

So, forget all the fancy gadgets and electronic games. If you want your child to develop their intellect and executive function in the best possible way—just let them sleep as much as they can.

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