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Top 3 Ways to Get Your Child to Choose Healthy Foods

Teach healthy food choicesI spend a lot of time in my family nutrition practice helping parents with their “picky eaters.” That could be the primary reason for their visit, or the picky eating could be complicated by a diagnosis that requires a child to go on a special diet in which their favorite foods are no longer on the menu. This adds layers to their nutrition issues and it is my job to peel the proverbial onion.

How do we transition our kids to the right path with minimal conflicts? What are the underlying issues associated with food battles? Every child is unique, and that cannot be understated. But there are some common denominators with them and hopefully this post will provide you with some ideas to chew on.

It is not a news flash to you that kids want to make their own choices. When parents force things on their children, the natural thing they do is push back. But does that mean we should give children all the decision-making when it comes to eating? Absolutely not. Parents often take this thought too far in allowing their children to make too many choices on their own. It’s all about guiding them. With food, provide acceptable choices from which they may choose. That is the main theme, and here are three of the most important ways in which you can implement them:

  1. Expose your children repeatedly. Expose your children to a variety of foods. This should start super early in your child’s life and continue as they grow older. Do not delete a food off your child’s menu because they reject it one time or even multiple times. Avoid saying statements such as, “He/she does not like (fill in the food).” A child’s body is growing and developing – and that includes their taste buds! Parents provide the healthy meals and the child gets to choose to eat them or not. If they don’t eat dinner because they don’t like how it looks, that’s OK! But don’t provide an alternate meal of their choice, and don’t allow them to have a snack after dinner of their own food preference. This will never encourage them to try new foods! Stay strong, Mom and Dad. If they are hungry later, you can tell them that you are more than happy to heat up their dinner plate. If you stick to your guns on this one and your kids see that throwing a tantrum does NOT get their way, they will eat the dinner. If you have this in place from the beginning, it’s less of a struggle. They don’t know any different. But if you have done this wrong in the past, communicate that this is the new way and we are not going back.
  2. Assess your home’s food environment. Each new year should involve going through the kitchen and doing a food balance assessment. When you look into your pantry and/or fridge, are 90% of the available foods healthy? If not, you may need to make some changes. We must fill our home with “always” foods and if there are any “sometimes” foods that are being over consumed, remove them from your home. Make healthy foods ready-to-eat so those snacks are as easy as grabbing a bag of chips.
  3. Involve your children. Your entire family must be a part of the entire feeding process. That includes planning, shopping (or growing!), preparing, eating and cleaning. The parents are in charge (and must stay in charge), but the children should be involved as helpers in age-appropriate ways. A toddler can help set the table while a teenager can be in charge of cooking one night. Involve your children in the “why’s” behind healthy eating as well. A family is a team and teams must work together to stay healthy so they can meet all their life’s goals. Food is literally the fuel for our precious bodies! Use the MyPlate visual as a guide to help plan meals, and have your children (school-age or older) make their own school lunches that include all the items. If they buy their lunch, go over the school menu and encourage them to use the MyPlate when choosing their lunch.

How ironic is it that being a parent is THE hardest job on the planet and there is no training manual? When it comes to raising healthy eaters, constantly be thinking about the behaviors around feeding children. Empower them to make the healthy choices so they will choose them on their own. That, my friends, is the key to raising a healthy adult.

Children and Accidental Poisonings: What You NEED to Know

?????????????????Keeping your children safe, this is the goal of every parent. We all want to keep our children safe and secure and help them live to their full potential but with over 350 children a day in the United States ages 0 to 19 being treated in emergency departments, and two children dying, as a result of being poisoned, the concerns of children and accidental poisonings are more prevalent than ever. These concerns are always the topic of extended discussion during our training classes both here at the fire department and in our community training classes and come down 3 main points.

  1. Precautions
  2. Identification
  3. Action

1. PRECAUTIONS.

Taking the steps before something bad happens is always the first step in any plan to keep children safe. Children are naturally curious and don’t yet know the dangers involved with chemicals and may easily confuse a glass cleaner or floor cleaner with their favorite drinks as well as confusing medicines and pills for candy. Properly storing and locking away chemicals and medicines in special child safe storage containers is one of the best ways to keep naturally curious children away from these dangers. Along with securing chemicals, knowing who to call in an emergency is key as well. Placing emergency numbers around all phones and in all cell phones is a great precaution to take as well. 9-1-1 is always an easy number to remember but placing the number for the national poison control centers 800-222-1222 and any other numbers and information is advised as well.

2. IDENTIFICATION.

Identifying the signs and symptoms of a child that has a definite or suspected poison ingestion are of the upmost importance. Some of the signs of poisoning: Besides finding an open container or bottle, look for these signs if you suspect your child has swallowed something dangerous:

  • Burns or redness around the mouth and lips (a sign your child drank something caustic)
  • Breath that smells like chemicals
  • Burns, stains, and smells on your child, her clothes, or elsewhere in the house
  • Vomiting, difficulty breathing, sleepiness, confusion, or other strange behavior
  • Drowsiness, Dizziness, or weakness
  • Breathing problems
  • Rashes
  • Blue Lips or Skin ( cyanosis )

3. ACTION.


If your child is awake and stable:

  • Remain Calm.
  • Don’t give ipecac syrup or try to make them throw up — doctors say this can do more harm to your little one. Instead, call the poison-control center at 800-222-1222
  • Tell the person who answers as much information as you know: What you think your child swallowed, when, and how much. (It helps if you have the bottle that contains the poisonous substance.) Then follow instructions on what to do.
  • If the poison-control expert tells you to go to the ER and you have the substance container, then take that with you to show the ER doctor exactly what your child ingested. Calling 9-1-1 is recommended in an emergency, driving to the ER is not recommended in an emergency due to the lack of focus on the road and the increased possibility of accidents.

If your child is unconscious and not breathing:

  • Call 9-1-1 and give the information requested
  • Start CPR and wait for Emergency response.
  • Do NOT attempt to drive to the ER.

There is no way to prevent every possible scenario, but it is possible to be prepared in case of an emergency and as always, a little preparation goes a long way.

Be Safe

Greg

Can Your Pediatrician Help With Your Child’s Weight Control?

Boy on scaleOne of the most frequent problems I run into as a practicing Pediatrician is overweight issues in children. It is a very prevalent problem now in Pediatrics as the population as a whole is overweight and this issue tends to begin in childhood and tracks through to adulthood. It is probably true that overweight parents tend to have overweight children; not out of any malicious cause but for a number of reasons including poor education and parental observation and habits.

When I tell an overweight parent that his/her child is overweight (using height and weight charts and BMI as back up data) or even obese I receive one of two responses. Either they have been aware of this but totally unsuccessful at any attempts to alter that situation, or they seem to be totally surprised at the assessment. The first response is a good one although not optimal; the second response is very difficult to work through. Everyone seems to be aware that obesity can and does lead to such adult life shortening diagnoses such as Diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac events and strokes among the top of the list – there are others.

It is my responsibility as a Pediatrician to alter the course of these diagnoses by working on the problem during childhood, and helping to educate a family to all that I mentioned above. I have failed when an overweight child becomes an overweight adult – and I don’t like failure.

I believe that most Pediatricians feel the same and take this responsibility very seriously. Your Pediatrician is, along with you as parents, your child’s advocate and this is clearly stated in the mission of the Academy of Pediatrics. You have a passionate ally in your effort to keep your child healthy but you must listen to the education and suggestions of that person and try to incorporate that into a new family philosophy. Weight loss is much easier when begun early in life and becomes as difficult as in adults after the age of about 11-13yrs old, but not impossible. It will take commitment and energy to keep your child on the course of a healthy life style so that overweight issues are brought under control – and the natural course is interrupted.

My ultimate goal initially, is not necessarily weight loss but involves attempting to slowly change life styles so that weight loss becomes the eventual outcome. This will take a long time to accomplish but if one can only keep his/her eye on the goal – we can make it happen.

Want to Know How to Get Your Kids to Really Talk to You?

Does it seem like an effort to get your children to say anything to you besides, “Fine” and “What’s for dinner?” Lack of communication can make parents feel closed off from their own kids.

But don’t despair! You can get kids to talk to you — really. Try these six suggestions from experts:

1: Don’t compare yourself to TV families.

Really good talk is pricelessIf you’ve ever watched shows like Modern Family or The Middle and wondered why your kids aren’t as chatty as the kids on those shows, you’re not alone. “Parents see kids talking to their parents on TV and they start worrying that they’re not doing enough of it,” says Carl Grody, LISW, MSW, a social worker who specializes in child, adolescent and family therapy in Columbus, Ohio. “Those [TV] parents have scriptwriters and 22 minutes of airtime to solve problems. In real life, it takes longer to make changes, but the changes are real, not made up.”

2: Pause and take a deep breath.

Telling your kids you’re upset about their one-word answers will only make the problem worse. “If you seem jittery, you may be projecting this to your kids and that stress is more likely to push them away than it is to draw them in,” Grody adds. Calm down and put things in perspective. You’re probably doing better than you think in the communication department.

3: Quiet your inner interviewer.

Instead of peppering your child with questions every day, ask him just one. “This may seem insufficient, but as you have more success getting him to answer you once, your child will feel more comfortable chatting and may even start volunteering more information,” Grody says.

4: Put down your phone!

If you want your kids to talk to you, set aside your cell, tablet or any other electronic distraction, says Loni Coombs, author of You’re Perfect…and Other Lies Parents Tell. Make your body language open and assuring: Turn your whole body toward your child and make eye contact. “This is important, because when there is something really important that they need to talk about, they will feel like they can come to you because they know you will listen.”

5: Make meals fun.

Since mealtimes are often when most families gather, make that time an enjoyable one. Draw out your kids by hiding questions under each plate. Or have each family member write out a question, suggests Coombs. “Everyone feels more talkative when there’s food involved,” Coombs says. “Sharing in the preparation of the meal is also a good time to talk.”

6: Consider instituting family meetings.

To create an environment where conversation is encouraged, schedule times several days a week to get together and share your thoughts as a family. “This becomes part of the family ritual and encourages conversation and sharing,” says Richard Horowitz, a parenting coach and author of Family Centered Parenting.

And to keep things going, avoid asking open-ended questions. “Instead of asking, ‘How was your day?’, which often leads to one-word answers, ask, ‘What was the best thing and worst thing that happened in school today?’” Horowitz suggests. “And always respond with non-judgmental comments.”

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Imaginary Friends

Why Imaginary Friends?

Being a toddler can feel very restrictive. Always being told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Older siblings and friends want your toys and you are always competing for attention. Imaginary friends are the ideal companions. They never take your toys, they do what you say, and never steal your attention. They can also serve as an outlet for children to express their emotions, a scapegoat to blame things on, and can serve as a protector when kids are scared.

Imaginary friends can worry parents. We are afraid that something is wrong with our child or that they won’t ever have real friends. There is no need to worry. Good research shows us that kids who have imaginary friends have plenty of real friends. They are creative, independent and sociable.

As parents, how should we talk to our children about imaginary friends?

DON’T make fun of imaginary friends, or make your kids feel dumb for having them.

DON’T initiate, by asking about the imaginary friend. Wait until your child initiates to play along.

DON’T let your child use their imaginary friend as an escape goat.

DON’T use the imaginary friend to get your child to do what you want.

  • DO welcome and accept the imaginary friend. Just keep it in the context of pretend. As adults, we can pretend too.
  • DO provide lots of opportunities for your child to use their imagination. Play with them so they learn how to role-play and make believe.
  • DO spend plenty of time with your child so they aren’t making up friends because they aren’t getting enough attention from you.
  • DO provide opportunities for your child to communicate and express their feelings, so they don’t use imaginary friends to communicate how they feel.

And most important…

  • DO learn from the experience. Imaginary friends can give valuable insight into how your child really feels. If the imaginary friend is scared of the dark and doesn’t want to go to bed, it could mean your child is afraid of the dark. Listen to what your child’s imaginary friend is saying and be open to the insights it might provide.

Having an imaginary friend is very normal. Unless your child is becoming withdrawn, and refusing to interact with others, you can usually rest assured that after a little time, the “friend” will be dismissed.

Until then, be open and kind to your family’s new addition.

What’s Working For Me: A Game To Help Stressed Kids Feel Better

Children often have feelings and thoughts of which they are not mindfully aware. Those thoughts and feelings about life experiences or specific situations can cause feelings of unease that increases anxiety.

At the heart of it, the cognitive side of anxiety (because there can be quite a strong biological side as well) is about the perception that one does not possess the necessary skills to cope with or manage specific task demands in daily life. As an example, a child might be stressed about a vocabulary test if the words are difficult for the child to read, remember and retrieve. A child might be anxious about going to lunch when he feels he might not have the skills to seek out a table mate and feel less alone while eating lunch.

So we have an activity in our book of 70 Play Activities called What’s Working For Me that helps children think about what might be working and what might not be working about a specific life circumstance. The children are then empowered to find new thoughts, words and actions to cope in a new way with the situation. You can use it for a variety of circumstances, let your creativity guide the way.

Let’s look at the lunch example. We would say this….quietly, one on one with the child.

“Joey, I see that you are hesitant to go to lunch each day. I’d like to know more about what that is like for you. Are you open to playing a thinking game with me about lunchtime?”

“Let’s write down a few things that are working for you when you go to lunch. Then we can fill out our What’s Working for Me planning sheet and develop a plan to make lunch time better for you.”

What’s Working For Me

T: Let’s think about what you like about lunch.

J: “Well, I’m usually hungry, so it’s good to eat.”

J: “I like the days when they serve grilled cheese.”

J: “When Sam is at school, I usually sit with him.”

T: “Great! let’s write that in the green box, What’s Working For Me.”

T: Now, what don’t you like about lunchtime?

J: “I hate sitting alone.”

J: “Sam is sick a lot so then I have to sit alone.”

J: “No one asks me to sit with them.”

J: “It’s embarrassing.”

T: “Thanks for sharing that with me, I can see how it could feel sad to eat lunch alone.”

T: “We have a third box on our What’s Working For Me planning sheet. Let’s brainstorm how lunch could look differently so you can feel better about going to lunch.”

T: “If lunch were better for you, what would that look like?”

J: “Well, I’d have a friend to sit with all the time.”

T: “Who else besides Sam, might you like to sit with?”

J: “Jessica but she sits with her friends.”

T: What if you asked Jessica, “Hey Jessica when Sam’s not here, may I sit with you guys at lunch?”

J: “She’d probably say, ‘No.’

T: “What might be a good time to ask her? Would the best time be right before lunch, or might you ask her in class one day to plan ahead for the situation?”

J: “I could try to ask her in the morning before school.”

T: Okay let’s write that down and maybe even practice the words you will use.

T: “Then we can even write a few more ideas, about other things you can do to make lunchtime a happier time for you.”

As teachers, clinicians and parents, you know that conversations with children might be really straight-forward or you might need to help them along in the conversation. Be patient, ask reflective questions or ask the child to tell you a bit more, “Help me understand that better.”

Just letting stressed children know that they can solve a difficult situation by looking at what is working and what they’d like to see be different is empowering and can lead to better daily experiences.

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70-play-hi-res-150x197Written 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 amazon.com

 

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