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Should Kids “Motor Mouth”? (do they need an electric toothbrush?)

Has your dentist recommended an electric toothbrush for your child?

Why spend the money? You didn’t have one and turned out just fine, right? Well you may not have had a car seat as a child either but does that mean it was right?

Clinical research shows that electric toothbrushes are far superior to manual brushing when it comes to removing plaque and preventing gum disease. Children who lack the understanding of proper brushing or the motor skills necessary to do so are given a much more effective way to maintain good dental health. It is important to instill the behavior of good oral hygiene habits early to promote a life long understanding. Your child may begin with an electric toothbrush as soon as he/she is able to hold it steady and firmly.

Starting your child with a basic, colorful electric toothbrush is recommended.

There is an assortment of toothbrushes with your child’s favorite characters or princesses available that will help encourage use. If your child already uses a manual toothbrush, they may not be interested in the switch. Any brushing is better than none so if the transition doesn’t go well, you can always try again later.

Of the many electric toothbrushes, there are also many features offered and the cost can vary from $15-$200. It is important to choose a brush that is age appropriate in size and speed. Electric toothbrushes with a timer and include a melody and/or light up make for a more fun brushing experience. Of the higher end models, such as Sonicare and Rotadent, you are actually able to provide a much more cost-effective way to provide electric tooth brushing to your entire family. With these systems, your family can share the handle and just replace the head (or brush) with their own when it’s time to brush. These systems have different speeds, different types and sizes of brush heads ensuring that everyone in the family can brush correctly and safely. These higher end electric toothbrushes also come with warranties and can be repaired or replaced in the event of malfunction.

The best benefit to electric toothbrushes, as a parent, is the peace of mind that our children are creating and maintaining good dental habits.

Since an electric toothbrush does a better job of cleaning your child’s teeth, this eliminates the need for you to step in and finish the job. I don’t know about you but I’m all for improved dental health, preventing gum disease and whiter, healthier teeth with less work!

Is it Safe to Wiggle a Loose Baby Tooth?

My daughter Katie’s first baby tooth came out in a spoonful of Nutella. And she lost the second one backstage at a play when she bumped a chair against her mouth by accident. She had gauze in her mouth until seconds before she had to perform.

By the time the third tooth got loose, she was pretty brazen about it. She wiggled it. She let kids at school wiggle it. And I worried whether all that twisting and turning would make the tooth come out before it was ready, so I asked her to leave it alone and let nature take its course. The tooth fairy did visit, and she has visited a couple of more times since then.

But since Katie has 12 more of her 20 baby teeth to lose, I knew this issue would come up again. So I called Rhea Haugseth, dentist and president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, for some advice.

“My daughter is obsessed with wiggling a loose tooth. Is that helpful or harmful?” I asked.

“Most kids can’t resist,” said Haugseth, assuring me that Katie’s behavior is normal. “It’s fine to go after it. It’s actually even good.”

Haugseth explained that even wiggling a baby tooth wouldn’t make it come out before it’s ready. “By the time a child feels that a tooth is loose, the roots of the baby tooth have dissolved and only the gum tissue is holding it in its place,” she said. “In fact, if it’s left in there too long – because some children may be scared to wiggle it – the surrounding gums can get inflamed and irritated. That’s when parents call me.”

“So what do you recommend if a child is scared to wiggle her tooth?”

“I tell moms to accidentally bump into it when they’re helping their child brush their teeth,” she says. “And if that doesn’t work, a conversation about what the tooth fairy might bring works wonders.”

It’s Fall: What Can I Expect As Far As My Child’s Allergies?

fall allergies - runny noses and itchy eyesWe are currently in the middle of the allergy season created by ragweed. We had thought we had made it through the spring and summer allergy season with our immune system health in good shape when all of a sudden it seems to return with a vengeance: watery, itchy eyes, constantly clear runny itchy nose, clearing your throat and trying in vain to scratch the back part of your palate with the back of your tongue. Here we are again, but in the spring/ summer seasons this was due to trees and grass. Every season has its own list of usual suspects to create allergy symptoms.

The end of summer and beginning of fall sees the end of the ragweed season and the onset of more indoor things to spark the symptoms of allergy. When families start to close up their homes for the colder weather to come, many allergens are trapped indoors such as molds and dust. Many people are allergic to just these factors, made worse by the onset of school and the ability of children to begin bring home the “bug of the week”. Colds become more frequent and the onset of asthmatic symptoms add to the coughs, runny noses and itchiness, along with such factors as spending more time indoors with your furry pets. The leaves are beginning to fall and the wind is beginning to whip the leaves around and fragment them causing a different kind of dust.

Added to that, as families begin to turn the heat on in their homes, two things happen; all the dust that has collected in the ducts now is blown into the indoor environment to mix with all the other allergens and the indoor air begins to dry out. This potpourri of particles is just about everywhere, just waiting to irritate your respiratory tract if you happen to have allergies.

The symptoms of allergic problems do not necessarily change with the seasons and probably the same medications your Doctor recommended in the Spring will also be effective, but if you have difficulty controlling the problem, get in touch with your healthcare provider – they can help you make sure your children are not bothered with these symptoms in school.

5 Things Not to Say to Your Tween Daughter

The tween years are all about developing a positive self-image, good decision-making, healthy self-discipline and better mood regulation. What you say to your tween and how you use your nonverbal language to communicate with her may have a lasting impact on her view of herself. As conflicts arise you might find yourself blurting things out that you wish you could take back. Reflect on some common parent-daughter foibles to help yourself stay on the path to positive communication with your tween.

If you catch yourself being judgmental or shaming breathe through it, after reading these five things not to say to your tween, you’ll make better choices next time.

“Your dad noticed.” Tweens can be nervous about what other people see and notice about them, especially their dads. The father-daughter relationship is an important one. Your tween’s first line of dealing with boys who become men is in the relationship between father and daughter. If a tween’s dad is going to notice things about a tween, it’s time for him to speak directly to her. The tween years can feel uncomfortable to a dad, at times. Help your husband to talk openly with your tween about her relationships, her body and her friendships. The more comfortable dad is the more comfortable your tween will be.

“I don’t like that friend.” The tween years are a time when children move from practicing in their relationships to making choices about whom to befriend and who to avoid. If you feel your tween could be making better choices in her friendships help her to identify what makes a good friend. Talk with her about what kinds of friendships make her feel happy, safe and “lifted up.” Open-ended questions that allow self-reflection and not self-judgment such as “How do you like your friends to talk with you?” and “When you share something private with a friend, what are you hoping she does with that information?” will help your tween to develop the skills to observe and reflect on her relationships and improve her decision-making skills.

“You’re too young to like a boy.” With the changes occurring in a tween’s body and brain, developing attraction to boys is a natural process. Often in fourth and fifth grade tweens begin to notice boys. Having crushes can be expected, although not required. Instead of telling your tween how she is allowed to feel guide her to develop attractions that are based on honesty, caring and compatibility. Part of the growing communications with her girlfriends will be drawing comparisons about whom they like. Encourage the freedom to feel differently than her friends without making the object of their affection out to be a “bad guy”. Discussing what they like in boys and what they do not like is the beginning of sorting out whom they will date in high school and college. The tween years are when you lay the groundwork for healthy choices and good decision making about courting behavior. Open communication is the first line to healthy decision-making and problem solving.

“I never want to hear you say that again!” As your tween begins to define herself as a person independent of how you think and feel, she’s going to say things you wish had not come out of her mouth. Instead of being directive and setting up a control struggle wonder aloud about what she meant and help her to understand that what she says in the world reflects on whom she is inside. Gentle direction will win almost every time over bossy intimidation.

“You’d be beautiful if…” You were a tween once. How did it feel when others told you to lose weight, hide your big ears or wear different clothing? Research shows that the developing self-image of a tween persists through adulthood. So help your tween love herself as she is. If she needs to get more exercise, to eat better or choose less revealing clothes, show her the path to success with loving guidance not shameful embarrassment.

Hey mom, you might be new to this whole ‘tween-thing’, your tween is as well, so open-up, talk it out and seek advice from friends you trust. You’ll get the hang of it, just as your tween will.

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Strangers

As parents, we know we need to talk to our children about strangers, but it is hard to know how to talk to our children without scaring them.

Start by helping your children understand what a stranger is. A stranger is anyone that your family doesn’t know very well. They don’t have to look mean and evil like TV portrays.

When I was explaining strangers to our daughter, she said, “but we don’t know policemen, so are they strangers?”

Ah, after talking about bad strangers, be sure you explain that there are also Safe Strangers. Safe strangers are those people that our children can go to for help. Firemen, policemen, and teachers are good examples.

Once your child understands what a stranger is, talk about dangerous situations.

Explain to your children that anytime an adult…

  • Asks your child to keep a secret
  • Asks them for directions or help
  • Does or says something that makes them uncomfortable
  • Encourages them to disobey you or do something wrong

They need to get away and tell an adult immediately.

Next, role-play situations that your child might be faced with. (Helping your children understand that in these situations, it is okay to say “no” to an adult). Some examples might include…

  • A stranger asks your child if they want a ride home
  • A stranger stops to ask if your child has seen their missing dog
  • A stranger asks your child for directions
  • A stranger asks your child if they want a treat or candy.

Talk to your child about what to do if they are ever faced with one of these situations.

  1. Never get close to the car, or the stranger. Keep your distance.
  2. Yell “No” as loud as you can and run away from the stranger.
  3. Tell an adult, or safe stranger what has happened right away.

Practice possible dangerous situations so your children know what to do. This will give them more confidence if the situation ever presents itself, and will give you a little peace of mind as you send them out the door each day.

An ADHD Dog Trainer Shows Special Kids How To Use Calm Energy

I have been writing articles about safe and healthy interactions between kids and canines for Pediatric Safety for over two years now, and in those articles I have shared numerous personal stories with you all… so I think it’s safe to say that through those stories many of you have gotten to know me pretty well. I have shared about what is was like growing up with ADHD and learning disabilities in a time where it was not really known about in my post: Growing Up With ADHD – Have Things Changed?“. I broached the subject of being in recovery from addiction in Kids, Pets & Your Holiday Party: Read this List (check it twice!) and I got into a bit more detail about it and also talked a bit about suffering for many years with low-self-esteem in Building a Child’s Confidence Through Dog Training“.

So now, I want to combine little bits of all of that into this month’s article, because being a professional dog trainer, and especially being a member of a wonderful organization like the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) has changed me. There are so many observations and realizations I have made about myself since becoming a member; both personally and professionally! The changes I had to make to grow as a trainer helped me take a new look at the struggles I had so many years ago and how I might have handled them today. It is my hope that in sharing this story with you, I may be able to help many of you who have dogs and also a child who struggles with ADHD. I hope I can potentially offer you a different perspective on how they may see and perceive things, not based on years of research, studies and statistics, but based solely on my own personal experiences… who knows, maybe some of those same tactics can help you and your child too.

Early on in my career as a dog trainer, I really did not understand why I did not do well with toy breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Chihuahuas, etc. It was obvious (even to me) that I did not do well with them, but I just couldn’t grasp the ‘why’ of it. So I shied away from them. I took all the calls for the mid-sized dogs (Cocker Spaniels, Beagles, Wheaten Terriers…) large breeds (Golden and Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Huskies…) and even giant breeds like the Great Dane, Rottweiler’s and Mastiffs!. I was consistently successful with any breed that wasn’t tiny and typically nervous, so I referred those clients elsewhere. But I think deep down, it did bother me! Who wants to admit they cannot succeed in any area of their chosen profession? I sure didn’t!

But it was exactly this time, eight years ago, that I attended my first IACP conference!

To say that I ran the gamut of emotions- from excited to nervous, insecure, and petrified -would be a huge understatement! I do need to mention here that as a New Yorker, we all tend to talk a bit faster than most. I arrived at the conference a New Yorker with ADHD and extreme nervousness! Fortunately most of the other attendees acclimated to my hyperactivity pretty quickly… but I couldn’t help but notice how often words like, ‘Calm, tranquil, peaceful, and consistent’ were used in conjunction with the word ‘energy’ (ie: ‘calm energy,’ and ‘tranquil energy,’ etc.). Even the trainers who had their dogs with them … Both the trainers AND their dogs… were all so STILL! And my first thought was ‘CRAP! I can’t do that!’ I immediately flashed back to my childhood. It was a time in my life when the word ‘can’t’ first became my mantra.

But then came the main meeting…. And the main speaker, Cesar Milan, took the stage. His primary methodology is all about using a calm energy… building the dog’s respect for him by being assertive, firm and consistent…and CALM. At the end of his speech, when it was time for questions and answers, you bet I had some! But when I stood up to take the microphone to ask it, in my nervousness, the rapid speech was tripled, and my words seem to come out in a jumble, all tripping over each other! And Cesar, obviously having no clue what I was trying to ask, came to the edge of the stage, and in a calm and very thoughtful pose, looked at Peter, my husband, and asked, “How often is she this hyper?”

At this time the entire audience of trainers, all of whom had spent the last few days already with me and having already witnessed my hyperactivity, began to laugh… and in front of thousands, I began to cry. All that pent up nervousness, all of those hidden insecurities up until that point, all the overwhelming new knowledge (and with it, the self-doubt) came rushing to the surface.

I somehow regained my composure, eventually got out my question, and he answered it, but it was when we spoke afterwards that some things suddenly started to make sense to me. I envisioned myself arriving at a client’s home with a tiny dog, that is fearful and nervous, and me coming at them at a hundred miles an hour! How would I personally feel if I was afraid, and someone came at me like that? I was just lucky that I hadn’t gotten bitten yet!

As I thought more and more on this, other memories resurfaced…. How as a child, our dog Brandy would often come to me to rough-house and play, but if he wanted to cuddle, or just wanted to be calm and still, it was my sisters he sought out. As a kid, I took it as a personal rejection. Now I realize it wasn’t.

And I started to change the way I worked with my clients.

  • When I had to work with a small dog, when I arrived at the house, I had to take a few deep calming breaths before ringing the doorbell. And I found when I calmly and assertively greeted them, both owner and dog seemed more calm and receptive!
  • Another challenge I had was my impatience and aggravation sitting in traffic for an hour prior to arriving at a clients house…. So to combat that, I left an extra half hour earlier than I needed to to arrive on time. This allowed me to arrive, park near-by and do something (reading, listening to some music, etc.) to bring down my level of agitation prior to arriving at the person’s house… And amazingly, I found this not only worked well for the many small dogs I now worked with, but for the larger hyper pups as well!

When I tried to help my clients with hyperactive ADHD kids, and I would explain the importance of the kids being calm around the dog, there was one key fact that I forgot….

Almost anyone can be calm for an hour during a focused training session. But if I was able to curtail that hyperactivity full time, I would not have the diagnosis of ADHD! Was I seriously asking my client’s hyperactive kids to be calm full-time and expecting them to accomplish it?

I needed to figure out a way to help them interact with their dogs better, because I could physically see the different way the dog or pup reacted to the ADHD child versus older or calmer family members.

  • With the calmer children, the dog was more relaxed, did not mind lying next to them and even cuddling with them….
  • The ADHD child was filled with scratches and nip marks from the dog chasing them and jumping on them. Also a child that feels rejected by the dog that won’t cuddle with them will often try to ‘force the dog to stay with them’ by holding their collar or wrapping their arms around him. If a child physically restrains a dog and the dog wants to get away, there is a very high risk in that moment of the dog biting the child to free themselves.
  • My toughest challenge was trying to figure out a good way to explain these dynamics to the child as well as explain to the parents the potential risks and dangers in a way so that they could understand and be receptive to the necessary changes.

What we did (and what you can do)

  • The first thing I wanted to do was work with the child (and Mother) alone… without other family members present. (This made the child feel less self-conscious and more important – he was getting to work alone with the trainer)
  • Next, I wanted to show the child that they too can have a ‘cuddling session’ with the dog. I sat on the floor with the child and we just talked a bit about the puppy, and I asked him if he would like to be able to cuddle with the puppy too, and he looked so sad when he said, “Yes, but the puppy doesn’t like me that way.” This was my opportunity to explain to him that if all they did was run and go crazy with the dog that would ALWAYS be their relationship, so he had to show the pup that they can do this.
  • Next I sat side by side with the child, with my legs stretched out in front of me. I opened my legs a bit and I put the puppy on his back in between them, then gently held him in place. Once the dog had settled on me, I told the boy to gently pet all the way up, and all the way down the dog’s body, instead of quick rough movements in one spot, and to avoid the paws and ears for now, as they are sensitive areas on a dog that tend to get them easily riled up when messed with.
  • The little boy did as I asked, and then when the pup was nice and calm, I switched the pup over to in between Mom’s legs and we continued the gentle petting. It was important that Mom was comfortable with this and understand what she had to do if she was going to be able to continue this when I was not around.
  • After pup was relaxed with Mom, we instructed the child to sit the same way his Mom and I did, and then we calmly put the pup between his legs, and I let his Mom help him to keep the pup still and calm. We continued this, and much to the little boy’s delight, the puppy let out a huge sigh, and then closed his eyes!

When the pup was nice and relaxed, we got him up slowly and then put his leash on and all of us (Mom included) went for a walk. We worked on walking SLOWLY, and getting the pup to keep pace with the boy, instead of the other way around. The boy seemed to have a bit of trouble walking slowly for any length of time, so we practiced taking ten steps, and then telling pup to SIT. I praised the boy, and had the boy praise his dog (calmly and gently). We did this again and again…. Every ten steps we stopped and sat. The Mom told me she had never seen her son so calm and focused, and I pointed out to the Mom and the boy how receptive the pup was to his training.

A dog can be such a wonderful tool to help a child with special needs. All it really takes is a little know-how, some time, patience, and understanding. This is why they are so often used for therapy.

As an adult who has dealt with ADHD all of my life, I hope some of this helps you to help your child move out of the “I can’t’ Mantra, and into the “Wow… I really can!” all the while helping your child and pet build a safe and beautiful relationship!

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