Category Archives: General Discussion

Holiday Toy Safety

The consumer advocacy group, USPIRG, has released its annual Trouble in Toyland report highlighting toys that raise concerns because of toxic substances, choking hazards, magnets or excessive noise. All of these toys were purchased from national retailers or online.  Make this holiday a safe and happy one!

warning toy hazard photo

 

 

Helping Your Children Develop a Healthy Body Image

My eldest daughter, Jane, is almost 12, and my second child, Libby, is almost 10.  The “tween” stage can be a difficult time of life for all kids, but especially girls.  I worry about the world they are entering–a place where beauty and unhealthy thinness are often emphasized over intellect and character.  As parents, it’s critical for my wife Jennifer and I to lay the groundwork from an early age to give my daughters, and my son, a healthy body image and self-esteem.

As early as the pre-teen years, girls begin to struggle with body image. They are bombarded with unrealistic images and messages in magazines, billboards, television, music videos and movies. Here is a great ad by Dove® – part of itsCampaign for Real Beauty – which dramatically shows how girls are facing an unfair, and unwinnable, battle if they try to live up to the “creation” of unnaturally (literally) thin and beautiful models by the fashion industry.

Creating a Healthy Body Image

What can a parent do to help foster a healthy body image for children? It starts with how we act and what we say in front of our children. The mother who obsesses about her own weight and talks about being too fat, is teaching her daughters to obsess about their body image. Children are impressionable and incredibly observant; at the earliest age they begin to pick up these cues from us.

We can help our kids create a healthy body image.

1.      Be a good role model. Eat right, exercise and promote a healthy lifestyle for the whole family. Children watch and imitate their parents–we can help them develop good life habits.

2.      Be positive. Compliment children, pre-teens and teens on their hard work and achievements–not their looks. Don’t nag or criticize a child with weight issues. Focus on the positive aspects of behavior and activities, rather than things related to attractiveness.  If your child is overweight don’t put them on a diet or talk constantly about their weight.

3.      Talk about the culture of thinness. If your children watch television, watch with them. Talk about how models are portrayed, reminding your teens that these women are too skinny (and unhealthy). Talk about photo-shopping and how pictures in magazines are altered to make people look perfect. Help your children understand that what they see isn’t real.

4.      Encourage a healthy lifestyle. Exercise with your kids, do family activities and other things together. Prepare and eat meals together, emphasizing a variety of good-for-you foods.  (Adapted from WebMD, Help Teens Develop a Healthy Body Image)

As girls reach the pre-teen years they’re facing so many changes, physically and emotionally. As their bodies begin to develop so does their concept of who they are. This is the point at which young girls begin to worry about how they look. How can they avoid it?

Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, a specialist in eating disorders, describes this period of change:

As children’s bodies undergo these changes, they also develop a new image of their own sexuality and attractiveness. In addition, as they add weight and round out, their casual relationship with food and eating becomes more complex.

Children who navigate these changes successfully can mature into confident, healthy individuals who value their own bodies and are in control of their eating. Those who fall prey to societal pressures or destructive dieting during their teen years, however, are targets for eating disorders or lifelong obesity. That’s why parents need play an active role in understanding their children’s changing bodies and feelings during puberty and adolescence, and promoting a positive body image and a healthy relationship with food and eating. ”  EatingDisorderHope.com

If you suspect your pre-teen or teen has an eating disorder call your family doctor or pediatrician.

Resources on healthy body image and eating disorders in teens and preteens:

Fostering Healthy Body Image and Weight in Your Pre-Teen or Teen  (http://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/body-image/teen-adolescent-issues)

 Eating Disorders, What Families Need to Know (http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/eatdis.htm)

Center for Young Women  (http://www.youngwomenshealth.org/self_esteem.html )

Raising Healthy Eaters

As the parent of 4 children ranging from 5 to 12 years old, I know how challenging it is to promote healthy eating. Good nutrition is one of those things we know we need to pay attention to, but sometimes it can get shoved aside as we deal with the business of daily life.

Our children’s future eating habits, and consequently their health, are based on what they learn now. Our role as parents is to help shape this awareness of nutrition and healthy eating.  We can’t control what our children are exposed to when they’re not at home, but we can teach them to develop an appreciation for good, nutritious foods.

Some Basic Tips for Focusing on Good Nutrition

Eat meals together. Sit at the table and enjoy the food. Try to serve nutritious meals–minimize the fast food on paper plates. Mealtime should be pleasant and easy going.

Try to reduce the use of prepared foods in favor of home-cooked meals.

D    Don’t force children to clean their plates or finish a food they don’t like. Associating discipline with food sets the stage for emotional eating. Allowing a child to stop eating when he’s hungry teaches him to listen to his body’s needs and will help reduce overeating.

  • If a child doesn’t like a new food, don’t force him to eat it. Quietly find a way to introduce the food another time. Tastes change over time as do eating preferences–if you continue to offer a wide variety of foods, your child is more likely to expand her list of foods she’ll eat.   Just last week, our daughter Cate decided that she now likes milk and green beans – foods that she used to “hate.”
  • Don’t use sweets or salty processed snacks as a reward. No more “Be a good boy and we’ll stop at McDonalds for fries.” Offer treats and rewards like a new book or outing to a favorite place.
  • If you need a refresher on nutrition, see www.choosemyplate.gov for recommendations and tips for parents.

 Get Children Involved In The Foods They Eat

Encourage children to help with menu planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation. When children help prepare meals they develop an interest in the food. Talk about the food, read the nutritional labels and make it a learning experience. Talk as you shop; “what’s fresh today?” “These squash look really nice and colorful, how about we buy these.”  “What would you like for dinner tomorrow night, chicken or fish?” Even the youngest child can help with meal preparation in some fashion. Michael, my five year old, loves to stand on a chair and help me make pancakes by pouring in the measured ingredients.  Toddlers can help by washing a bunch of carrots and this is a great environment to teach an older child how to properly use a kitchen knife.

Change your family’s snacking habits. Dad can’t eat potato chips 24/7 and expect to deny them to the kids. Buy healthy snack foods and make them available to children. Slice veggies and put them in bags, ready to be eaten without preparation. Stock fruits and veggies in the front of the refrigerator.  Move chips, sweets and other less-healthy foods to higher shelves, put them in containers, or stop buying them all together. If you’re a soft drink family, transition to vitamin waters or all natural fruit juices (no sugars added). Offer up water on a regular basis–and let them see you drinking it as well.

If your family is fond of fried foods, sweets and salty snacks, you’ll want to take it slow. Gradually reduce one item at a time so your children barely notice.  Developing healthy eating habits can be done successfully–it just takes time.

Do you have any tips on getting children to eat nutritious meals?

More Information:

Healthy Eating Suggestions    (Link to: http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_center/healthy_eating/food_labels.html#)

Understanding Nutrition Labels, Video  (Link:  http://bcove.me/nq9hn96t)

Children and Junk Food  (Link:  http://www.childsafetyblog.org/2012/11/children-and-junk-food.html)

Go, Slow, Whoa – Teens and Food  (Link: http://teenshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/nutrition/go_slow_whoa.html )

Kids and Concussions, Part 2

Recently Donna Broshek, Associate Director of the University of Virginia Health System’s Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Institute, and I recorded a public service announcement about concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in children. During our shoot, I was able to talk with her about this important topic.  One of the things I took away from that conversation is the importance of our role as parents in educating ourselves and our children about concussions.

Four Ways To Help Keep Your Child Safe

Bruised egos, broken bones and concussions are the biggest risks children face in sports–at an age and almost any sport. As parents we can lessen our safety concerns by becoming informed, engaged and in communication with our children, the schools and their coaches.

1)  Educate yourself.  Learn what a concussion is, its symptoms and what you can do to help your child or teen reduce the chances of a traumatic brain injury. For valuable resources see my first article, What Parents Need to Know About Concussions, Part 1.

2) Ask questions. Is your school system in compliance with the 2011 Virginia Student Athlete Protection Act? This bill established the Virginia Board of Education Guidelines For Policies on Concussions in Student-Athletes, requiring specific protocols for sports, protective gear and training.  

Talk to the coach, school administration, league representative and anyone else who is involved in your child’s sports.  How knowledgeable are they about concussions? Ask to see a copy of the school or league’s training manual for coaches and parent volunteers.

b) Check to see that helmets and equipment are up to date, in good repair and certified, if applicable.

c) Are athletes given any materials on safety, sportsmanship and injury?  Are parents given materials   on concussions?

3)  Talk to your children.  Talk about peer pressure and well-meaning adults who say, “tough it out” after an injury.  Explain in age-appropriate language what a concussion is and the dangers from returning to play too quickly. Talk from a place of love and concern about why their physical health is more important than playing when injured. Talk about the long-term effects of concussions.

4)  Get involved. Your level of involvement may depend on your child’s age. High school football players aren’t as comfortable with mom around as they were when they were children.  There are ways to become a ‘team parent’–from volunteering with fundraisers and parents’ groups to sitting on advisory committees. Attend games and practices (for younger children), show your support for the team and get to know your child’s coaches.

Your involvement as the parent of a young athlete is vital–it shows you care about your child’s participation and safety. And, should an accident occur you’re right there and able to see what happened and to take an active role in your child’s recovery from a concussion.

In my next article we’ll talk about how to prepare your child to play team sports.

Resources:

Parents’ vigilance can head off kids’ concussion risk (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/09/29/concussion-kids-cantu/1581173/)

The CDC Parent/ Athlete Concussion Information Sheet (http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/headsup/pdf/Parent_Athlete_Info_Sheet-a.pdf)

MomsTEAM.com (http://www.momsteam.com) – Helpful website for sports moms and dads.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month!

March is Brain injury awareness month and in recognition of this the Child Safety Blog is featuring a series of articles on concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in children.  We also did a public service announcement with Donna Broshek, who is the Associate Director of the University of Virginia Health System’s Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Institute. You can see the PSA here.

Your role as a parent is to both protect and encourage your child in the world. It’s a tough balance–you want your child to play sports and other recreational activities and you want them to be safe. By learning about concussions, the symptoms and how to prevent concussions, parents can help keep their kids safe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year over 207,000 children are treated in emergency departments for sports-related concussions and other TBIs. The highest occurrence is for youth between the ages of 5-18.

What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth. Excessive shaking can cause a concussion. Even a seemingly mild bump or blow to the head can be cause for concern and require medical attention.

A concussion may last for a short time or it can produce symptoms that last for days or weeks. While symptoms may appear mild, in some cases the injury can result in significant, lasting impairments.

While these should not be considered the absolute indicators of a concussion, they are signs that your child should seek medical attention:

  • Headache or neck pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Ringing in ears
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Temporary loss of consciousness or forgetting the incident

For more complete details on symptoms and what you should do, see this info sheet from The Mayo Clinic. (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/concussion/DS00320/METHOD=print)

What To Do If You Think Your Child Has a Concussion

The first thing to do is call your child’s physician. He or she will give you advice on whether to seek immediate medical treatment or to wait and observe your child for a day or two. Some symptoms may not appear immediately so you need to pay careful attention for a number of days after the injury.

Take notes–it’s always helpful for doctors if you can provide a history of an accident. Was he hit in the head? Did she lose consciousness? For how long? Write down symptoms and any comments your child makes that may indicate signs of brain injury. For example, is your child confused about the day or time, or complaining of head pain or dizziness? The more information you can share with the doctor the better.

Try to keep your child calm during this initial period. Discourage too much physical movement and other strenuous or stressful events. Remember it’s always better to call the doctor if you’re concerned.

Some Statistics on Concussions

Children from birth to 9 years of age are most often injured during playground activities or while riding a bike.

  • The highest occurrences are in football and girl’s soccer.
  • Males represent 71.0% of all sports and recreation-related TBI visits to the emergency room.
  • Children aged 10-19 years account for 70.5% of sports and recreation-related TBI visits to the emergency room.
  • For males aged 10-19 years, sports and recreation-related TBIs occurred most often while playing football or bicycling.
  • Females aged 10-19 years sustained sports and recreation-related TBIs most often while playing soccer or basketball or bicycling.

  (http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/sports/facts.html)

If your child falls off his bike, bumps her head or is injured in a soccer game, he or she could suffer a concussion. Concussions can be serious if left untreated. Seek medical attention and keep a close eye on your child for the next few days–the doctor will give you suggestions on what to look for and what to do in the following days and weeks.

It’s important that you share information about the injury with teachers and coaches, if your child is in athletics, and ask them to help you watch for any potential signs of brain trauma.

And, as Donna Broshek advises in our PSA – when in doubt, sit them out.

In our next article we’ll talk about what parents can do to help prevent concussions.

Helpful Resources for Parents:

Concussions- The Kids Health Blog (http://kidshealth.org/kid/ill_injure/aches/concussion.html# )  – Easy to read article describing concussions and the symptoms.

Concussion and Mild TBI (http://www.cdc.gov/Concussion/) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a wealth of resources on concussions.

Moms Team-Concussion Signs and Symptoms  (http://www.momsteam.com/health-safety/concussion-signs-and-symptoms-physical-cognitive-emotional-sleep-related) Online source for youth sports parents.

Burn Awareness Week

Every day throughout the United States, children arrive at emergency rooms for scald burn treatment. The major cause is contact with hot liquids, steam or hot foods. SafeKids USA says “90 percent of non-tap water scalds are caused during cooking or drinking hot liquids.” According to Shriners Hospitals for Children, “approximately 65 percent of children under age 4 hospitalized for burn injuries were scalded by hot liquids and 20 percent of those for contact burns.” www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/en/Education/BurnAwareness/HomeSafety.aspx

The majority of thermal burns to children under 14 years old are caused by contact with room heaters, ovens and ranges, clothing irons, gasoline, fireworks, hair curlers and curling irons. During the past 13 years, an average of 496 children each year died from unintentional fire or burn injury. According to the Shriners’ “Be Burn Aware” 2013 campaign, approximately 66 percent of electrical burn injuries in children ages 12 and younger are associated with household electrical cords and extension cords; and wall electrical outlet burns account for an additional 14 percent of electrical burn injuries.

Here are some tips to help avoid scald injuries to children:

  • Lower water heater temperature to 120˚F (49˚C) or less;
  • When filling a bathtub, run cold water first, then add in warmer water;
  • Before placing a child in a bathtub, check the water temperature by rapidly moving your hand through the water. If the water feels hot to an adult it is too hot for a child.
  • In the bathtub, face your child away from faucets;
  • Use knob covers on faucets; and
  • Always supervise your child closely in the bathtub.

And, to keep kids safe in the kitchen:

  • Always supervise children under age 7 using a microwave;
  • Turn pot handles on the stove inward; use oven mitts and potholders;
  • Make sure that micro waved food is thoroughly stirred before consuming;
  • Do not use deep fryers around children;
  • Do not hold children in your arms while cooking or passing hot food to others;
  • Test your baby’s food by placing one quarter spoonful on the underside of your wrist… if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for baby to safely swallow.

And, in case of a fire or burn emergency, Call 911 Immediately!

Texting and Driving – Virginia May Finally Get Tougher

My law firm, MichieHamlett, does a lot to spread the word about the dangers of texting and driving.  My colleagues Greg Webb, Kyle McNew and I have made many presentations to high schools and civic groups to educate kids and adults about the incredible risks created by distracted driving.  Research is showing that distracted driving can be more dangerous than drunk driving.

Just like it took a long time for society to respond appropriately to drinking and driving, we are finally beginning to increase penalties for texting while driving.  After many years of inadequate action, both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have finally passed legislation that makes texting while driving a primary offense (meaning that law enforcement can stop drivers based on that charge alone) and increased the fine from $20 to a meaningful $250 for first offense, $500 for second offense.  Hopefully, Governor McDonald will sign this law and Virginia will take a needed step in preventing this deadly practice.

Gun Safety and Kids

Since the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Ct, there’s been a lot of debate about whether the country needs stricter gun control measures. Many people understandably have strongly held beliefs on this subject, but there’s one aspect to this issue that we should all agree on – unsupervised children cannot be allowed to have access to guns.  The statistics regarding kids and firearm deaths are staggering, but I’m not here to take a side in the gun control/gun rights battle – I just want to keep them out of the hands of unsupervised kids.

There is lots of web content on the internet about gun safety when it comes to children, and a great, comprehensive document I’ve found is by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.  It’s entitled simply Gun Safety, and, if you have kids or if you own guns, I highly recommend that you read it.

A few of its initial recommendations:

  • Unload and lock up guns
  • Lock and store ammunition separately
  • Hide keys where kids can’t find them
  • Gun safe’s are best, but gun locks/trigger locks can also be effective when used correctly.

These suggestions are pretty self evident, but the article also contains helpful suggestions for how to  teach children the difference between reality and fantasy play, and also separate tips for parents who own guns and parents who don’t. In my next posts, we’ll talk further about those topics.

Accidents Due to Hazardous Children’s Furniture Should Not Happen!

On January 30, a recall was issued for 300 Natart Chelsea Three-Drawer Children’s Dressers Model 3033, by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in cooperation with the manufacturer, Gemme Juvenile, Inc., of Princeville, Quebec, Canada. The recall affects only 300 children’s dressers and is due to a safety hazard. The hazard: The dresser can tip over and entrap a child.

In fact, one such dresser did tip over, entrap and suffocate a two-year old toddler from Barrington, Illinois. The child attempted to climb onto an open lower drawer in order to reach the second dresser drawer, which caused the dresser to tip over on the child. The recall notice says, “When the dresser drawers are pulled all the way out and then the additional weight of a young child is applied, the dresser’s center of gravity can be altered and result in instability of the product [the dresser] and consequently tip over.” http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/2013/Natart-Chelsea-Dressers-Recalled-By-Gemme-Juvenile-To-Reduce-Tip-Over-Hazard-Death-of-Toddler-Reported/.

There are so many questions–and while any conscientious manufacturer would suffer from such an experience, I ask once again, why don’t manufacturers know within a reasonable range what can happen before releasing their products to the children’s furniture marketplace? Are children’s furniture products no longer being tested for safety before being imported to the U.S.? This particular dresser, according to the CPSC notice of recall, was manufactured before the May 2009 voluntary industry standard was issued. So, one might ask why didn’t the manufacturer recall the dressers when the voluntary industry standard changed?

This is a terrible reminder to parents of young children: Accidents with young children can happen very fast and toddlers should never be left alone. Young children need supervision.

The recalled children’s dressers were sold at Furniture Kidz and juvenile specialty stores and on line by Baby.com from January 2005 to December 2010 for from $600 to $900. If you have one of these, immediately stop using the dresser and remove it from your children’s access. Retrofit kits with wall anchor straps to keep the dresser from tipping are now being offered by the manufacturer for free, and consumers can contact the company by calling toll-free 1-855-364-2619 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

The CPSC would like everyone to know: “Every two weeks a child dies when a piece of furniture or a television falls on them.” All TVs and furniture should be anchored to prevent tipping.

Cold Temps and Flu… Winter is Really Here!

Winter temperatures have arrived all over the U.S. On the East Coast we are now in the teens and below– and the flu “epidemic” is in full swing. Teachers are cautioning students to cough into their sleeves if they don’t have a tissue. Appointments for some primary care providers can only be obtained two weeks out…we ask them to call if there are any cancellations.

Even though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) definitely termed the flu an epidemic, health news correspondents continue to debate whether or not the flu has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. this year. Our entire household has had it even though we got our flu shots! Our doc says it would have been worse had we not received the flu shot. We are simply glad our bouts with it have subsided for now, and we hope that if the flu arrives at your household, you are able to manage it without too much distress. Here are a few more flu-wise precautions:

  • When family members do get sick, remaining home from daycare, school, work and crowded gatherings, is key to not spreading the flu.
  • Paying attention to kids’ temps and whether or not their coughs are productive is important. If a child’s fever seems too high or lasts too long, please call your primary care provider or take your child to the local Emergency Room ASAP.
  • Watch and listen to children’s coughs to make sure the bug doesn’t progress to serious bronchitis or pneumonia. If their coughs are productive check the color of the mucus… clear is good… anything with a yellowish or greenish cast should get a physician’s review.
  • If your child is experiencing difficulty breathing or respiratory distress, call 911.
  • Make sure to keep kids warm and hydrated when they are sick at home. If your child is experiencing repeated bouts of diarrhea with no let-up, call your primary care provider or take your child to the local Emergency Room.Children can become dehydrated quickly and that’s dangerous!
  • Keep track of how well children are eating–if they are not hungry, don’t force them to eat. Lighter meals work better with upset tummies…clear broth, toast, gelatin, ginger ale, salted crackers are in order. It’s probably best to refrain from spicy foods.
  • If children are well and can go out to play, cover their heads with hats, facemasks or scarves, hands (with mittens or gloves) and feet (socks, shoes, boots) when they are headed out doors. This is not the time of year for little toes to walk barefooted–even indoors, vinyl, tile and hardwood floors can be cold.
  • Monitor amount of play time kids spend outdoors–it’s easy when they are bundled up and playing, for them to become overheated under bulky winter snow jackets, etc. Check periodically to make sure children’s clothes and feet are dry and that there are no signs of frostbite on exposed skin. Layering their clothing will help keep them warm.
  • Remember to keep emergency numbers by your telephone.

If the flu bug should arrive at your home, we sincerely hope your family’s experience will be a mild one!