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Calm Your Children’s Back-to-School Anxiety

Imagine starting a new job every year — with a new boss, new colleagues and new projects. Sound a bit stressful? That’s how the start of the school year feels to many kids. Most children experience anxiety when they don’t know what to expect, says Dr. Andrea Weiner, a child and family therapist and the author of The Best Investment: Unlocking the Secrets of Social Success for Your Child. “It’s fear of the unknown,” says Weiner. “Parents need to give children an understanding of what they will be in control of.”

Try these tips to ease some anxiety your kids may have:

How will I know where to go?

Whether your child is starting kindergarten or middle school, moving to a new town or just switching schools, he’s bound to be anxious about getting around the building. Where’s the bathroom? Which stairwell leads to the library? How long will it take to get from one classroom to another? Remove the guesswork (and the anxiety) by taking a tour a day or two before school starts. (Just call the school office and explain the situation.) Time how long it takes to get from one place to another, and point things out along the way. Getting the lay of the land ahead of time will give your child a sense of control before the first bell rings.

Will my teacher be nice?

Teachers are usually in the building setting up a day or so before school starts, so when you take your tour, ask if you can to stop by the classroom and introduce your child to the teacher. This is especially important to young kids who have no basis for comparison. If you know of older children who’ve had this teacher, you might want to ask them about their experience and then pass on the information to your child. (Don’t have the kids talk directly to each other unless you know the older child has good things to say!)

What will I be doing every day?

Kids love routines and get a great deal of comfort from knowing what their regular schedule will be. For kindergartners and first-graders, explain that the teacher will go over everything on the first day of class (and probably for the next few days after that). The teacher will describe the rules of the classroom, what he expects from the students and what they will be doing during the day. For kids starting middle school, explain that they’ll probably get a printed schedule showing the days, times and locations of all their classes.

Will I have friends?

The social aspect of school is a huge cause of anxiety for kids of all ages, whether they are new to the school or old-timers. Returning kids may worry that none of their friends will be in their class, and that they’ll have to form new friendships. New students may not know how to reach out to other kids. Weiner recommends giving kids some conversation starters to take the pressure off. Suggest they ask such questions as “I like your backpack; where’d you get it?” and “What did you do this summer?” They can also share some of their doubts: “Did you understand that assignment? I didn’t get it at all.”

Will I be able to keep up?

All kids worry about their academic performance, according to Weiner. The chaos of attending school during a pandemic didn’t make things easier. The important thing to tell them is that effort counts much more than grades do. Parents should stress the importance of trying and learning, as opposed to succeeding. Say something like, “Some subjects may be harder for you than others, and that’s OK.” And remind your child that teachers really are there to help.

“Most kids think they’re the only ones who are afraid,” says Weiner. “Remind them that everyone is in the same situation and feeling the same way. It helps kids deal with the anxiety a little better when they know everyone is in the same boat.”

Who At Your Kid’s School Is Certified in CPR or Basic First Aid??

Editor’s Note: With the COVID Delta variant placing our kids at a higher risk, and hospitals and EMS systems stretched way beyond capacity, we’re thinking this may be something you just might want to know.

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It’s a simple question really. How many people at your child’s school are certified in life saving CPR and basic first aid? The answer may surprise you. I am often on the other side of this question training the administrators and teachers in cpr and first aid, and praising them for spending the time and money to go beyond the bare minimum and make sure their entire staff is trained and the children are safe, but putting my oldest child in school for the first time this year made me curious to know the answer to this question.

As a concerned parent I placed a call to Miami Dade public schools and was alarmed to find out that at a public school here in Dade county only two people are required to be certified in CPR and basic first aid. This is a dangerously low number considering that some of the schools here in Dade County have over 5000 students. Not to mention what would happen if one or both of these people calls in sick or goes on vacation? Then you run into the possible situation of having nobody on campus that day required to be trained. Not good. With the normal everyday injuries at schools, the knowledge of basic first aid is a must and add to that the growing number of sudden cardiac events in schools around the country and you will see that having a basic knowledge of first aid and CPR together is also a must and therefore the bare minimum of safety by some schools just will not do.

What would cause a school to keep only the bare minimum of people trained in something so important? Is it that the administrators and staff don’t care about the children’s safety and only do the bare minimum because they have to? Of course not. The answer as usual is money. Now obviously what needs to happen is the schools need to increase the number of people trained in cpr and basic first aid, but like anything else training costs money and with school budgets shrinking by the day and teachers coming out of their own pockets more than ever to make up for the lack of funds, asking a school to budget in training for an entire staff just does not seem possible. So what can you as a concerned parent do? Well if you are certified to train the staff in cpr and first aid then you can do as I have done and donate the training to the school and staff for free, or you can do as some parents here in Dade county have done and that is to raise the funds for the training themselves by having a bake sale or a car wash or some other fundraising event and hire a company to come out to the school and train the entire staff. I cannot think of a better use for that money than the safety of our children.

The bottom line is no matter where you live the people looking after your children, whether it is a school, a daycare or even grandparents need to be trained and know how to react when your child needs help. So go ahead and do as I did and ask the question as to who is certified here and what can I do to help?

Be Safe.

Parents: It’s Time for A “Back In School” Reality Check

School is now in full swing, the “honeymoon period” is over and studies say kid stress is mounting. This is the time to check in on how your child is doing and nip any problems in the bud.

checking inAccording to a poll from the University of Michigan, childhood stress is a top-5 concern for parents, ahead of bullying and just behind Internet safety. And 56% of parents believe the stress levels are getting worse, especially during the school year. One thing is true: stressed-out children have a tougher time focusing on the teacher’s lessons and enjoying as well as succeeding in school Here are a few tips to help your kids manage those busy schedules and keep stress levels in check.

Set up a “30-day check in” Just like when you start a new job, parents should sit down with their kids each month to take stock and see if there are any problem areas. This way you can discover problems like overscheduling or bullies and nip them in the bud before they get out of hand. Here are the top kid stressors to check in on:

  • Overscheduled: This is the time to check your child’s calendar to see if it is overscheduled. Does he really need to do everything that is listed? Is one of those activities boosting instead of reducing stress? Can you cut one thing? Ask him!
  • Homework: Get to that open house and be sure to ask about the teacher’s homework policy. How much does she expect kids to do each night? Is your child keeping up?
  • Grades: Review those first test scores and grades on perhaps the first essay or book report. If there is a problem, check in with the teacher. Is your child in the right ability groups? Do you need to hire the high school student next door as a tutor? If the struggle is lasting and your child just doesn’t get it, your son or daughter might need a referral for a Individual Education Plan.
  • Social jungle: Bullies, mean girls and aggressive kids are unfortunately part of the school scene. How is your kid faring? For a quick gauge ask him to draw a map of the cafeteria: “Where do you sit? Who sits near you?” (The cafeteria is often a place where kids are most likely to be rejected. Does your child have social support?) Ask your younger child to draw the playground: “Where do you usually play? Who plays with you?” Every child needs at least one loyal buddy. If your child lacks one, then it’s time to boost friendship making skills and extend those pal invites to your home.

Tune into stress signs. Each kid responds differently, but the key is to identify your child’s physical behavioral or emotions signs before he is on overload. A clue is to look for behaviors that are not typical for your child.

Physical Kid Stress Signs

  • Headache, neck aches and backaches
  • Nausea, diarrhea, constipation, stomachache, vomiting
  • Shaky hands, sweaty palms, feeling shaky, lightheadedness
  • Bedwetting
  • Trouble sleeping, nightmares
  • Change in appetite
  • Stuttering
  • Frequent colds, fatigue

Emotional or Behavior Kid Stress Signs

  • New or reoccurring fears; anxiety and worries
  • Trouble concentrating; frequent daydreaming
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Social withdrawal, unwilling to participate in school or family activities
  • Moodiness; sulking; or inability to control emotions
  • Nail biting; hair twirling; thumb-sucking; fist clenching; feet tapping
  • Acting out, anger, aggressive behaviors such as tantrums, disorderly conduct
  • Regression or baby-like behaviors
  • Excessive whining or crying
  • Clinging, more dependent, won’t let you out of sight, withdrawal

Try to handwrite notes and reminders – Parents and kids are communicating more and more via text message and email, so slow down and take a minute to write a quick note like “Good luck on your test” or “Dentist appointment at 4:00” and put it in their bag. Kids don’t admit it, but they love this special attention and it helps them feel more relaxed during a busy day.

Reduce after-school stress. After-school stress is a big issue for kids and they need some downtime to help them relax. At the same time, you don’t want them to just zone out completely. The trick is finding alone-time activities that help them relax a few minutes and release some of that stress, but are also fun AND keep their minds engaged. Most kids don’t need more than a few minutes of a stress reducer, but the key is finding what works for your child and then turn that stress reducer into a routine so the child does the same brief relaxer everyday. Research shows your child will then be able to focus more on that homework and acquire a lifelong habit.

  • For the tween and teen kids – the newspaper is a great multi-purpose tool. Most newspapers are written around a 9th grade level (USA Today is at a 5th grade level), and just reading the paper every day can help spark that love of reading and learning. (YES!) There’s something for everyone – a crossword to build vocabulary skills, the kids section has games and brain teasers, and calculating stats in the sports section can even help with math skills. The trick here is to find the one section that you think might spark your kid’s interest (even the comics) and then put it right by a healthy snack. Circle an article that you think your teen might enjoy (from Lindsay Lohan or a movie review) and you can use that as conversation bridger to how things are going in your kid’s real world.
  • While the younger kids don’t have quite as much stress, they still can find fun ways to relax and brush up on the new skills they are learning. My favorite game that kids will also love is VTech’s MobiGo, a new educational gaming system for kids ages 3-8. It combines touch screen technology with important early learning skills like math and vocabulary. Kids can swipe, drag and tap, just like Mom and Dad do on their electronic devices. The great part is that it is hand-held so you the child can use it anywhere–in the carpool while waiting for brother or on the couch. Parents can plug it into the computer and visit www.vtechkids.com/download to download progress reports for their kids, along with all kinds of games, themes and other content.

Get them to talk up about their day. Of course, you want to stay connected with your kid, but there is an art to getting kids to open up so they will be more likely to tell you about their day. Doing so will help you weigh how your kid is handling stress.Here are a few secrets to the never-ending battle of “How was your day?” and getting beyond, “FINE!”

  • Wait! The time kids are most stressed is the moment they walk in the door. So don’t push the “how was your day?” inquiry. In fact, teens say they hate that question. “It’s predictable. She’s going to ask, ‘How was your day?’ Instead, a simple, “Looks like you could use a snack and a minute to unwind. Glad your home” works best.
  • Use your kid’s time zone. Identify the time your kid is most receptive to chatting. With one of my sons I discovered it was around five o’clock in the afternoon by the refrigerator, and that’s where I’d plant myself.
  • Don’t ask questions that kids can answer with “yes,” “no,” or “fine.” If you ask “what did you do after lunch?” is more likely to get a response other than yes or no. To help you find a conversation topic about what’s going on at school, check the school website or the school/teacher newsletter. Your kids may be more likely to engage in the conversation: “Wow, the next football game is going to be tough! Do you think your school has a chance?”
  • Talk while doing. Boys in particular are more likely to open up when they are doing something. So trying talking while he’s stirring up a smoothie, shooting hoops or playing lego’s.
  • Start a family ritual to connect. It used to be family dinners, but busy schedules are making that a rarity. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – get the kids magazine subscriptions that math their interests. You can read the articles and engage them on topics they are excited about over a snack. Or set up a time from 8:00 pm where everyone in the family stops and meets in the kitchen for a backrub, a healthy snack or a check-in. The key is find a time that works for you and then turn it into a routine.

If you notice a concerning change in your child that is not typical and lasts, then don’t wait. Call for an appointment with the teacher. Check with other caregivers in your child’s life. Stress builds and is damaging to our children’s academic success, as well as emotional and physical health.

Now is the best time to take a reality check on your child.

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

3 Stress Busters for Kids and Teens

Think stress is just for adults? Not these days.

Research finds that between 8 and 10 percent of American children and teens are seriously troubled by stress and symptoms. And stress is also hitting our children at younger ages. If left untreated stress not only affects children’s friendships as well as school success, but also their physical and emotional well-being. Chronic stress symptoms break down children’s immune system as well as increasing their likelihood for depression.

One thing is certain: Stress is part of life and each child handles stress differently. The critical four parenting questions are:

How does my child handle stress?

What could be triggering the stress?

What can I do to reduce unhealthy stress?

And does my child know healthy ways to reduce the stress?

Here are three steps to reduce kid stress and solutions to help children and teens cope with stress.

STRESS BUSTER STEP 1: Defuse Home Stress

One recent study found that 85% of teens say they are stressed—and the number one cause: the stress at home! It may be time to take a Home Climate Stress Check. Here are just a few things to consider:

How is the everyday climate in your home

Does it increase your kid’s stress level or help him relax? Are there opportunities for your family to relax?

Are you watching your family’s diet intake for things that could increase stress?

Are there times you’re modeling how to let down and cool off to your kids?

Are you checking your kids’ (and your) stress loads?

Are you making sure sleep is on everyone’s agenda?

Are you taking time to talk to your kids about their day and their worries?

Are you checking your kids’ work load? Can they keep up?

Watch out! Stress is mounting and is impacting our children’s emotional health. Competition, after school activities, a lack of sleep, a crunched schedule, peer pressure, tests, and bullying are just a few things that boost our kids unhealthy stress levels. Make sure your home is a place where your kids can de-stress. Build in times where you and your kids can relax.

STRESS BUSTER STEP 2: Know Your Child’s Stress Signs

Each kid responds differently, but the key is to identify your child’s physical, behavioral or emotional signs before he is on overload. A clue is to look for behaviors that are not typical for your child. Here are common stress signs to look for in your child:

  • Physical Stress Signs: Headache, neck aches and backaches. Nausea, diarrhea, constipation, stomachache, vomiting. Shaky hands, sweaty palms, feeling shaky, lightheadedness. Bedwetting. Trouble sleeping, nightmares. Change in appetite. Stuttering. Frequent colds, fatigue.
  • Emotional or Behavior Stress Signs: New or reoccurring fears, anxiety and worries. Trouble concentrating, frequent daydreaming. Restlessness or irritability. Social withdrawal, unwilling to participate in school or family activities. Moodiness, sulking or inability to control emotions. Nail biting, hair twirling, thumb-sucking, fist clenching, feet tapping. Acting out, anger, aggressive behaviors such as tantrums, disorderly conduct. Regression or baby-like behaviors. Excessive whining or crying. Clinging, more dependent, won’t let you out of sight, withdrawal.

STRESS BUSTER STEP 3: Teach Family Members How to Handle Stress

This last step is crucial but often overlooked: Make sure you teach your child a specific way to reduce stress. Without knowing how to cut the stress, it will only mount. Here are a few strategies. Choose the one that works best for you and your family. Then practice, practice, practice until it becomes a habit and your child can use the stress reducer without you.

  • Melt the tension: Tell your child to make his body feel stiff and straight like a wooden soldier. Every bone from his head to toe is “tense” (or “stressed”). Now tell him to make his body limp (or “relaxed”) like a rag doll or windsock. Once he realizes he can make himself relax, he can find the spot in his body where he feels the most tension; perhaps his neck, shoulder muscles, or jaw. He then closes his eyes, concentrates on the spot, tensing it up for three or four seconds, and then lets it go. While doing so, tell him to imagine the stress slowly melting away from the top of his head and out his toes until he feels relaxed or calmer.
  • Use a positive phrase: Teach your child to say a comment inside her head to help her handle stress. Here are a few: “Calm down.” “I can do this.” “Stay calm and breathe slowly.” “It’s nothing I can’t handle.”
  • Teach elevator breathing: Tell your child to close his eyes, slowly breath out three times, then imagine he’s in an elevator on the top of a very tall building. He presses the button for the first floor and watches the buttons for each level slowly light up as the elevator goes down. As the elevator descends, his stress fades away.
  • Visualize a calm place: Ask your child to think of an actual place he’s been to where he feels peaceful. For instance: the beach, his bed, grandpa’s backyard, a tree house. When stress kicks in, tell him to close his eyes and imagine that spot, while breathing slowly.
  • Blow your worries away: An instant way to relax is taking a slow deep breath from your diaphragm that gets oxygen to your brain. A quick way to teach the skill is to tell her to pretend she’s blowing up a balloon in her tummy (as you count “one, two, three” slowly). Then she lets the air out with an exaggerated “Ah-h-h-h” sound (like when the doctor looks in her throat). Explain that taking slow breaths from deep in your tummy will help blow her worries away and then encourage her to practice taking slow, steady breaths by blowing soap bubbles or using a pinwheel.
  • Find a relaxer: Every child is different, so find what helps your kid relax, and then encourage him to use it on a regular basis. Some kids respond to drawing pictures or writing about their stress in a journal. Other kids say imagining what “relaxing” or “calm” feels like helps. (Show him how to make his body feel like a slowly moving fluffy white cloud or a rag doll). Or allocate a cozy place in your home where your kid can chill out when he needs to ease the tension.

All kids will display signs of stress every now and then. Be concerned when you see a marked change in what is “normal” for your child’s behavior that lasts longer than two weeks. When you see your child struggling and feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to seek help from a mental health professional. And don’t wait: Stressed-out kids are two to four times more likely to develop depression, and as teens they are much more likely to become involved with substance abuse.

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

Checklist for a SAFE Back to School and Sports. Everyone Ready?

Little girl with inhalerIs it August already? Yes it is! Or soon will be and that means that soon it will be back to school and organized sports and all the things that make the school year so hectic. As a parent returning one child to school and sending one to his first year of school this is a pretty busy time of year in our house. Mixed in with all the fun of summer reading lists and back to school shopping, I would like to give you another list of things to make sure are right before the kids return to school and sports.

First and foremost on my list is always making sure that the school is up to date on its CPR and First Aid training. If you are a parent leaving your child at a school, daycare, or organized sports league you need to inquire and make sure that the staff or at least the staff that will be on hand ALL the time knows what to do in case of an emergency situation, such as an injury or an allergic reaction involving your child. Does your child have any emergency medicine that they need such as an EpiPen or an asthma inhaler, or any other medication that might be needed in a moment’s notice? , and if so, are they expired, does the school need a new one or even know about them and how to use them should the need arise? I have seen people forget their own name when confronted with these situations and the right training and preparation can make all the difference in the world.

Organized sports are another area where things need to be checked off before the new season starts. These activities can be at any age and be anything from baseball and football to cheerleading and gymnastics. Injuries happen in these sports all the time and once again, the coaches, staff, volunteers, and anyone else involved need to be properly trained or refreshed on what to do in case of an emergency. Most of the centers or parks hosting these activities have automated external defibrillators (AED’s) on site for both participants and parents and need to be trained or refreshed on the use of these devices as well. When playing organized sports like baseball and football, there are pieces of safety equipment built into the helmets and pads and other parts of the uniforms. If your children have grown over the summer like mine have then you need to make sure that the equipment they are using fits properly and securely and delivers the maximum amount of safety it was designed for. Whether its helmets, groin protectors or even shoes, these should all be the proper size for best results.

As always, a little preparation makes all the difference and I wish you all the safest and best school/sports year.

Hearing Loss In One Ear Can Cause Speech Delays

Children with hearing loss in one ear may seem to be hearing normally but may fall behind in speechMost babies are given a basic hearing test when they are born. Usually kids don’t get another hearing test until they enter kindergarten. A 2018 article by the Cleveland Clinic shows that hearing loss in one ear can go undetected and often goes untreated. The problem is that “these children are exhibiting speech and language delays and are at risk for education problems, including an increased rate of failing a grade, the need for educational assistance in the classroom, and perceived behavioral issues”.

If your preschooler is behind in speech or diction or seems to only pay attention occasionally you might want to ask for a hearing screening. Being deaf or hard of hearing qualifies a child for special education. Although that disability may not mean there are any cognitive impairments the condition may prevent the child from taking in or accessing the information being taught. Children with hearing impairments also benefit from speech therapy and other strategies.

More details on how to recognize unilateral hearing loss (UHL) in children can be found at the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), where you can also find information on testing as well as tips for helping your child hear and learn better at home and at school.

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Editor’s Note: Links have been checked for accuracy and updated as needed

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