Parenting Tip of the Week - Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome

Prevent Child Abuse America | Preventchildabuse.org

The first few years of life are critical for the development of children, but they can also be incredibly frustrating for parents. Whether it’s crying for hours on end or not sleeping through the night, there are many challenges that parents can face. With new research coming out about abusive head trauma, also known as Shaken Baby Syndrome, we wanted to share some information for parents and caregivers that could help during those frustrating early months.

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What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), also called abusive head trauma, is a form of child abuse. Like the name implies, this kind of abuse involves shaking a baby hard from their shoulders, arms or legs which can cause serious and lifelong damage. The “whiplash” effect from the shaking can cause major damage to a baby’s fragile and still-developing brain, so children under the age of 1 are especially at risk.

Important side note: Not everything that causes a baby’s head to “shake” will cause shaken baby syndrome. For example, playfully tossing a baby in the air or a baby accidentally rolling off a couch or chair won’t cause injuries consistent with abusive head trauma.

The effects of shaken baby syndrome are severe and potentially life-threatening. According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, 25% of shaken baby syndrome cases result in death and 80% of non-fatal cases result in lifelong consequences, including learning disabilities, behavior disorders, and decreased brain function.

Shaken Baby Syndrome is Preventable

Fortunately, shaken baby syndrome is 100% preventable. The best way to prevent shaken baby syndrome involves taking two key steps.

First, ensure that all caregivers are aware of the dangers that shaking a baby can have. This includes not only the baby’s parents, but also grandparents, babysitters, siblings, or others who may be involved in the baby’s care. 

Second, ensure that caregivers understand that taking care of a child – no matter how much they love that child – can and will be very frustrating. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most cases of shaken baby syndrome occur when a caregiver gets frustrated and loses control, not because caregivers want to purposefully injure a child. But ensuring that parents and caregivers are aware that there will be moments where the frustration boils over isn’t enough without also providing strategies for dealing with that frustration!

Coping Mechanisms and Strategies

One way to help parents and caregivers deal with frustration is to prepare them for what’s ahead. While extremely frustrating, the fact is that crying, including prolonged bouts of inconsolable crying, is a normal part of child development and follows what is called a “crying curve.” Babies will typically start crying more after about 2-3 weeks, reach a peak between 9 and 12 weeks of age, and will become more stable by 29-32 weeks. It is during the three to four months of this curve that caregivers are at the highest risk of letting their frustration boil over.

When babies are crying incessantly, parents and caregivers can try to calm their child by rubbing their back, gently rocking, singing to the baby, or taking their baby for a walk. However, there may be times where these tried and true strategies don’t work and your baby simply won’t calm down. When this happens, first recognize that this is not your fault as a parent and that you haven’t done anything wrong. Next, it can be helpful to remove yourself from the situation and give yourself a few minutes alone to calm down. Some coping strategies parents can use include:

  1. Take a deep breath and another. Press your lips together and count to 10, or better yet, to 20.
  2. If someone can watch the children, go outside and take a walk.
  3. If not, put your baby on their back in their crib, make sure they are safe, and then walk away for a bit.
  4. Put yourself in a time-out chair. Think about why you are angry and what might make you feel better that you can do for yourself.
  5. Call a friend or family member to vent or ask for help.
  6. Take a hot bath or splash cold water on your face
  7. Hug a pillow.
  8. Turn on some music. Maybe even sing along.
  9. Pick up a pencil and write down as many helpful words as you can think of. Save the list.
  10. Call for prevention information: 1-800-CHILDREN

Even if you are not a parent or caregiver yourself, you can still help prevent shaken baby syndrome. As a family member or friend of a parent whose children are going through this tough development stage, you can provide support by:

  • Offering to babysit for an evening to give the new parents a break,
  • Be present as a shoulder to lean on and a listening ear,
  • Ensure that there are parent education and support programs in your community that other parents can turn to in times of need. If no such programs exist, you can work with your community leaders to start them.

This Father-Daughter Morning Mirror Motivation Sesh Is Everything We Need

HOLLEE ACTMAN BECKER | PARENTS.COM

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We all have those days when we wake up feeling less than stellar. Happens to me all the time. And when it does, I lean in close to my bathroom mirror and whisper those infamous words from The Help:

"You is kind. You is smart. You is important."

It's a pretty solid affirmation. But does it make me feel like a rockstar? Not always. And in fact, you is now late for car line.

Then I stumbled upon this uplifting father-daughter duo getting their daily mirror motivation sessions on, and it's a shame I didn't find it earlier because these two totally get it right.

Posted earlier this month on the DFG Health and Wellness Facebook page—that's Destined For Greatness—the inspirational clip, which features the dad encouraging his daughter Aaliyah to boldly assert her epicness, has already been viewed more than 12 million times because it's basically awesome on every level.

"Look at yourself, look in your eyes," he tells her, as the two of them face the mirror. "You gotta see it, OK? You gotta feel it."

The proud papa then has his daughter repeat back the following statements:

I am strong.
I am smart.
I work hard.
I am beautiful.
I am respectful.
I'm not better than anyone.
Nobody's better than me.

I am amazing. I am great.

Pretty sure this guy is the greatest dad ever. And it doesn't end there. Because Dad is not concluding the pep sesh until he's convinced Aaliyah understands the power of perseverance.

"If you fall...?" he asks her.

"I get back up," she replies without missing a beat.

And there you have it. Aaliyah for president!

Parents Are Live Streaming Their Kids' Punishments & It Needs To Stop

MARESSA BROWN | PARENTS.COM 

A recent report explored the unnerving fact that more than 30,000 videos of child-shaming exist on the internet, and the growing trend is dismaying both experts and parents nationwide. 

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It can be challenging to land on the "right" way to discipline your child, based on their age, maturity level, misbehavior, and remorse, among other factors. And of course there are always going to be various schools of thought around the discipline strategies that are most effective. But there's one new disciplinary trend that is undoubtedly disturbing to many experts and parents alike: child-shaming by live streaming or recording video content that lives online. A recent feature in The Sun pointed to the fact that 30,000 clips like these exist on the internet and include horrifying examples such as parents driving over their children’s Xboxes, shaving their heads, or throwing their Christmas presents on the fire, before uploading videos of the act online.

RELATED: Discipline Your Kids With Natural Consequences

In one particularly egregious, extreme case from 2015, a mom named Jessica Beagley forced her son to drink hot sauce for lying and then screamed at him while she made him take an ice-cold shower. In turn, Beagley was actually convicted of child abuse, given a suspended sentence and a $2,500 fine.

In another, which The Sun notes has wracked up 45 million views, a father responds to his daughter's Facebook post by shooting her laptop as punishment. Underneath the clip, he wrote: "Maybe a few kids can take something away from this… If you’re so disrespectful to your parents and yourself as to post this kind of thing on Facebook, you’re deserving of some tough love. ... Today, my daughter is getting a dose of tough love."

One more recent example that stirred debate online involved a dad making his son run in the rain after he was kicked off the bus for bullying.

How Parents Feel About Child-Shaming Online

Many parents are quick to condemn this form of discipline. "Shaming and bullying/humiliating a child is never okay. Period," Gabby Gamble, a mom of two from Champaign, Illinois, says. "As an adult, how would you feel if your boss screamed at you in front of 100+ employees and berated you about how bad you are?"

Danielle Joyce, a mom of two from Phoenix, Arizona, notes, "I don’t agree with humiliating your child publicly as a form of discipline. This might make a temporary change in behavior, but in the long-term, I fear mistrust and anger towards their parents. We are putting things out there without their consent while expecting them to respect our authority as their parent. We are not their friends as a parent, we are the people teaching them to make good choices."

RELATED: Discipline Tactics For Every Age

Others feel like there may be a time and place for a particular form of this disciplinary tactic. Angela Hawkins, a mom of three from Houston, Texas, point outs that parents may document kids' punishments online as a way to connect and feel less alone. "When it comes to filming children’s punishments, it’s almost like a cry for attention for the parents—as if they need someone to give them a big hug and tell them that they are not alone, that other people have been there, and that they are doing a good job," she shares. "I don’t think the bulk majority of parents are filming their children to 'child-shame' as much as I think they’re filming their children in an attempt to gain support."

That's the mindset Hawkins had when she filmed her daughter's temper tantrum and posted it online. "I was desperate to connect with other parents because I was positive that something was seriously wrong with my child," she shares. "Filming and posting the episode gave other parents the opportunity to chime in with their advice as to how to prevent those episodes and how to handle them when they could not be prevented." She adds that over the years she has learned to trust her own parenting instincts and relies on strangers less, so she is not likely to post these kinds of videos online again. 

What the Experts Say About the Phenomenon

Child psychologists and parenting experts warn against using shame or humiliation to discipline children, no matter the situation. Child-shaming online could potentially lead to "low self-esteem and crippling self-doubt," explains Karyl McBride, Ph.D., LMFT, author of Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers. "The child is learning to mistrust others and their own feelings, causing a child to feel like a failure and a bad person."

RELATED: 10 Biggest Discipline Mistakes You're Probably Making

Parents who lean on this form of discipline would do well to step up communication, points out Bela Sood, M.D., child and adolescent psychiatrist with Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU and Virginia Treatment Center for Children. "When I see parents resorting to these types of punishments, it signals a breakdown in communication," Dr. Sood notes. "In other words, it shows a parent’s inability to convey their sense of expectations to the child. Making a child feel ashamed can further damage the relationship and hinder the child’s ability to build positive self-efficacy and self-confidence in the long-term."

She also says humiliating kids to address misbehavior is bad enough without the social media component, but "broadcasting the videos for the world to see only showcases the parent’s own bad behavior." 

Children are already exposed to social media shaming and emotional bullying from peers—the last thing they need is their parents or an adult perpetuating that shame, said Doug Newton, MD, Kaiser Permanente child and adolescent psychiatrist in Colorado. “Kids will try to emulate that behavior and they may use social media to embarrass or shame their friends or school classmates.”

RELATED: 12 Ways to Stop Yelling

Dr. McBride recommends swapping shaming with empathy. "If we want to raise good people, we need to parent with empathy," she explains. "Children need to be seen, heard, and validated. When they make a mistake, they need to be taught that we all make mistakes, and we can learn from them."

Ultimately, Dr. McBride believes "parenting should be about teaching, guiding, loving and modeling kind, empathetic behavior towards others." Not only is shaming and humiliating children "emotionally abusive," but it "teaches them to be bullies and mean to others." Any form of discipline that backfires in that way sounds best avoided.

Parenting Tip of the Week - Developmental Milestones and Summer Activities

PREVENTCHILDABUSE.ORG

Playing is how children learn about the world, and during summer there are tons of activities to keep kids busy! From riding bikes in the driveway to playing tag with neighborhood friends, there are a lot of different ways for young kids to learn through play. Today’s Parenting Tip has some ideas for activities that you can do with your kids that will not only get your kids outside but can help you track developmental milestones as well.

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The Importance of Developmental Milestones

Developmental milestones refer to specific moments that help keep track of a child’s growth. Examples include taking a first step, displaying empathy, and more. Taking the time to play with your child is critical to their development. Not only does this help you form a lasting bond, but helps you teach your child life skills and allows you to monitor their development.

 

Tracking your child’s development is also important for another reason. In case your child is experiencing delays, you will want to bring anything you notice up to your pediatrician as soon as possible! While all children develop differently, there are general rules of thumb that can be useful for parents. The CDC has put together a great resource called Milestones in Action. This resource can help you visualize these milestones and give a rough idea of a timeframe to follow.

Double Duty: Ideas for Play and Developmental Milestone Tracking

Below are some suggestions of activities you can do with your children this summer and how to use them to monitor developmental milestones. Some of these suggestions can be done with you and your child alone, whereas some might need a few more people.

Hold a scavenger hunt: A scavenger hunt is a great activity for several reasons. Not only can you easily adapt a scavenger hunt to suit the age of your children, but it helps you track several milestones at different ages.

  • Milestone example: recognize objects and instructions. Around the age of 2 children can usually recognize and point to objects when they are named. This is also the time when children can follow simple instructions. Print out pictures of the items you want your children to find and have t. For example, you could show your child a picture of a ball, ask them the name it, and then tell them to find one you’ve hidden in your backyard.

Play hide and seek outside: A long-time favorite for children, hide and seek is a great game to play in the backyard. This game can also be used to see how well your children are doing on milestones such as spatial awareness following directions.

  • Milestone example: understanding words like “in,” “on,” or “under.” At age 3, children can demonstrate their understanding of spatial awareness with words like in, on or under. When playing with your children, ask them to say where you or their friends were hiding, such as “under the tree” or “in the shed.”

Have a group playdate like a dance party: Help another parent out by giving them a break and hold a group playdate that can help you track your child’s development. Group activities like a dance party can help you see how well your child is doing on milestones such as cooperation, creativity and imagination, or wanting to please friends.

  • Milestone example: At age 5, children reach a point in their social and emotional development where they want to please their friends and be like them. Group playdates can help you determine the pace at which your child is developing socially. They can also help kids learn from one another.

For some more suggestions of activities and how they relate to development, check out this toolkit called “Go Out and Play!”

Strengthening Protective Factors in Your Community

Prevent Child Abuse America | preventchildabuse.org

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We all want the best for our children. One way to ensure that all children have the opportunity to grow up feeling safe and loved is to make an effort to learn about and promote the protective factors in your family and in your community.

What are the Protective Factors?            

The Protective Factors is a set of characteristics that can be present at both a family and community level. When these factors are present, they help reduce the risk of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) like child abuse and neglect, and can improve the overall well-being of children and families. Specifically, there are five protective factors:

  1. Parental Resilience, or the ability of parents to deal effectively with stress, adversity, or trauma.
  2. Social Connections, such as relationships with family, friends, neighbors, or other community members.
  3. Concrete Support in Times of Need, which give family the support and resources they need during times of struggle and stress.
  4. Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development, because children don’t come with instruction manuals!
  5. Social and Emotional Competence of Children, also known as social and emotional learning, which helps children properly label and understand different emotions in themselves and others.

At Prevent Child Abuse America, we often say that “we all play a role in child abuse prevention.” By working to promote one or more of these protective factors in your own family or community, you can play a role in prevention!

It’s important to recognize that some of these factors will be more obviously present in your family or community than others. For example, an individual parent may feel like they have all the knowledge they need, but don’t have the social connections to rely on when things get tough. Most families and communities will similarly have factors that are present and others that are lacking. Here are some ideas and examples of how you can help build and strengthen the protective factors for everyone.

Become a Mentor.

In one of our Child Abuse Prevention Month blogs we’ve detailed the importance of mentorship to individuals and communities. Being a mentor to a parent you know can not only help provide more knowledge of parenting and child development, but can also increase social connections to others who may be able to provide concrete support in times of need, increasing parental resilience (see how all of these factors are interconnected?).

Whether you sign up to lead a Circle of Parents group or are simply there to be a friendly ear to a fellow parent, you can have an impact on multiple protective factors at one time by becoming a mentor in your community.

Advocate for Policies that Support Children and Families

Advocating for programs and policies that promote the protective factors is one way that you can get involved. Some programs, such as voluntary home visiting programs, help improve the protective factors at both a family and community level.  There are also other programs and services designed for specific purposes, such as social and emotional learning programs, parenting education classes, or programs and services designed to help families struggling with addiction, poverty, or disease.

You can become an advocate and help promote the protective factors simply by taking note of the policies in place at your state government, at a local business or at your local school and understanding how these policies help children and parents. For example, you can work with your local school board and PTA to implement a child sexual abuse prevention curriculum. Or you could work with the owner of a local business you know and encourage them to implement family-friendly policies such as flex-time. You can also work with elected officials to push for funding for programs that improve social and emotional competence in children, such as anti-bullying programs and home visiting programs like Healthy Families America. Check out this blog post for more info on advocating on behalf of children and families.

Want to learn more about the protective factors? Check out this brochure from the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) that has specific ways you can increase the protective factors in your own family. If you’re interested in a deeper dive, take this awesome (and free!) online training from our friends at the CTF Alliance.

Parenting Tip of the Week - The Importance of Skin-to-Skin Contact

PreventChildAbuse.org

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Babies learn about the world around them in many ways. One critical way that babies learn is by being held or touched by their parents, especially when making skin-to-skin contact. Today’s Parenting Tip aims to help parents understand the importance of touch and contact for developing babies and how it supports healthy child development.

Why is Skin-to-Skin contact so important?

In the early stages of life, “somatosensory processing” is a critical way that babies learn about the world. Somatosensory processing is a fancy way of saying that our brains can process and interpret external sensations. The somatosensory cortex is an area in our brains that receives and responds to sensory input, including pressure, temperature, itch, or tickles. For children, touch is the first of the five senses to develop so these sensations are particularly important for developing children.

Because of this, touching is a crucial component to bonding between new parent and child. According to many different research studies, skin-to-skin contact between babies and parents is especially important. This contact helps reinforce feelings of safety and nurturing in children, leading to positive outcomes for children including:

  • Improved physical health, especially in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems,
  • More success with breastfeeding, and
  • Improved attachment between parent and child.

In addition to having health and attachment benefits, skin-to-skin touching can also help improve the way that children process information about the world around them.

According to a study from the University of Washington, stimulating the somatosensory process in babies supports early learning. In a study published in January of 2018, researchers used brain imaging tools to observe what happens in a baby’s brain when they experience different kinds of touch. Their results showed that touch helps children learn what different parts of their body are which helps developing babies learn by imitating their parents what things like their hands or feet are used for.

What does this mean for parents? Not only does it mean that you can’t “spoil a child” by holding them too much, but actually that holding your babies helps prepare them for a lifetime of health and learning! This contact is just as important for Dad as it is for Mom, so both parents are encouraged to make skin-to-skin contact when holding their babies.

Doctors recommend that skin-to-skin contact begin immediately after birth and beyond. Parents should hold their baby for an hour or more, but the skin-to-skin contact doesn’t have to occur only when babies are held. Parents can also practice infant massage to promote bonding and development in their children. For more information on infant massage, check out this great article from the Mayo Clinic.

Oops. Delaware Schools do have to report terroristic threats to the education department, after all

Delaware News Journal | Jessica Bies

 In this 2016 photo, Mount Pleasant High School students evacuate the school and wait in the bleacher stands outside while Delaware State Police search the school after receiving a bomb threat. (Photo: CARLA VARISCO/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

In this 2016 photo, Mount Pleasant High School students evacuate the school and wait in the bleacher stands outside while Delaware State Police search the school after receiving a bomb threat. (Photo: CARLA VARISCO/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

One week after it announced schools would no longer be required to report offensive touching or threats to kill and seriously injured students or employees to the state, the Delaware Department of Education has reversed course. 

The department said last week that it was updating its regulations on how schools report crime and misconduct to be more consistent with state law.

In 2012, lawmakers had eliminated both terroristic threatening and offensive touching from Delaware's mandatory reporting requirements, meaning schools were no longer required to report such offenses to the police.

Consequently, the Education Department announced schools would not need to report them to the state, either. 

PREVIOUS STORY: Delaware schools no longer required to report 'terroristic threats'

That appears to have been a mistake. 

On Wednesday, the Education Department sent an "IMPORTANT" update on Regulation 601, announcing that it would not be updated after all. 

Emily Cunningham, the department's chief of staff and a policy analyst, said in the email that the Education Department has since realized that the regulation was already amended, in 2013, to be in compliance with the mandatory reporting requirements. 

Terroristic threats and offensive touching, previously listed as "school crimes" had been reclassified as "incidents of misconduct." 

"The legislation took effect on August 16, 2012," Cunningham said. "Since that time, all of these incidents have been reported to DOE as incidents of misconduct and not crimes. However, even though the law repealed only terroristic threatening and offensive touching as mandatory criminal reports, law enforcement may be contacted." 

"We apologize for any confusion."   

Cunningham said the reversal wasn't because of public pushback or parent feedback. It was merely an oversight, she said in another email. 

"The department did not change its mind; the change had simply already been made in 2013, and therefore, the change wasn’t necessary," Cunningham said. 

Parents, living in a world where school shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida, have sparked debates over school safety and threat assessments, had questioned why the regulation was being revised. 

"Are you kidding me?!?" one parent said on Delaware Online's Facebook page. "This just hides and buries more violent students in their early warning phases." 

Another parent said: "Why is this even an issue? Reporting is part of the intelligence gathering processes. This policy is on the losing side of fighting the war on terror!" 

Many parents understood why the law was originally changed in 2013. Legislators wanted to give school administrators more discretion over what to report to the police, especially when threats were made by students with disabilities or those too young to understand the implications or realistically follow through on what they said.   

But a terroristic threat could also be classified as a felony, depending on the content and whether it forces an evacuation or lockdown. Since the shooting in Florida, several students have been arrested and charged after allegedly making threats to school safety. 

In March, for instance, a seventh-grader at Millsboro Middle School was arrested for threatening his principal and a staff member, state police said. Additional information from the school resource officer revealed that the boy had also made threats toward the school. 

In February, a bystander at James H. Groves Adult High School in Dover overheard a 19-year-old student say he would "shoot up the school" and reported the statement to school officials. Police were called, and the teen was arrested and charged with terroristic threatening. 

In Delaware last year, schools reported 315 reports of terroristic threatening of a student and 292 reports of terroristic threatening of an employee, according to data from the state Education Department. 

Offensive touching, which is the most-often reported offense in Delaware schools overall, could include intentionally touching someone, knowing that the person is likely to be offended or alarmed, or intentionally striking another person with saliva, urine, feces or any other bodily fluid. 

There were 4,162 incidents of offensive touching of a student and 1,307 incidents of offensive touching of an employee, according to last year's data. 

Schools are also required to report violent felonies as well as instances of criminal mischief and vandalism, felony theft, possession/use of alcohol, drugs and inhalants, bullying, sexual harassment, fighting and teen dating violence, state regulations say. 

 

7 Signs Your Family Is Feeling Too Much Stress

PARENTS | Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow

Is your whole family frazzled? Our experts highlight seven ways to determine if your family is overly stressed—and what you can do about it.

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As a parent, you already know that stress is as much a part of life as bedtime battles and picky eating. But what you may not realize is that your frustrations can impact your children's own stress levels, and before long, your once-peaceful house is filled with shouting, meltdowns, and one-word answers.

Can you rid yourself completely of stress? Doubtful—but there are ways to minimize it. Here, experts highlight seven ways to tell your family is overly stressed, plus advice on what you can do about it.

1. No one is sleeping. When your stress levels are at an all-time high, sleep is one of the first casualties. (Oh hello there, insomnia!) This lack of shut-eye can make you crankier, anxious, and, yup, more stressed. If you and your family are feeling the strain, "put the kids to bed a half hour earlier and put yourself to bed a half hour earlier as well," advises Tanya Altmann, M.D., a pediatrician in Calabasas, California, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and author of What to Feed Your Baby.

2. You're yelling at each other more. Wondering if the pressure is starting to get to your family? Use your ears—oftentimes the more stressed we feel, the more we yell and fuss. Softening your own voice can help bring down the volume, as can taking a time out together, Dr. Altmann says. "You can say, 'Mommy needs one, and we're going to lie here and hug and take deep breaths and start over," she adds. "It's just as much for you as it is for them."

3. You've cut down on family dinners. Sad truth: When you or your partner are stressed-out and cranky, your older kid may skip out on mealtime to avoid talking to you, says Mary Alvord, Ph.D., a psychologist in Rockville, Maryland, a public education coordinator for the American Psychological Association, and author of several books on relaxation and building resilience.

To make dinner more enjoyable again, she recommends having everyone write down something positive they observed about another family member and drop it in a basket in the middle of the table. During meals, pull from the so-called "compliment basket" and read the observations aloud. "It can help kids look forward to meal time, and it's a great way to give praise for specific things, which is better than general praise," Dr. Alvord says.

4. Your child is withdrawing. During times of high stress, some children shut themselves off from others. Older kids might lock themselves in their room more, for example, while younger ones may stop asking to have playdates with friends.

Sound familiar? A check-in could be in order. "Talk to your kids. Talk and keep talking. Keep the conversation open," Dr. Alvord says. "And if you're stressed, say it—'I'm going to take a hot bath and chill out for a bit.' Problem-solve out loud so they know how you handle stress."

By the same token, be sure you're modeling good coping mechanisms for your children. If yours are less-than-positive—think overeating, drinking, oversleeping—try adopting healthier habits, like deep breathing, mindfulness, and regular exercise, she adds.

5. You're struggling at work. Missed a deadline? Blew a major presentation? Stress may be the culprit, as it robs you of your ability to concentrate and stay organized. Dr. Alvord recommends identifying your biggest pain points, and brainstorming solutions with your partner. "If getting out the door in the morning is hard, for example, you may want to do more prep the night before for the next morning," she says.

6. Everyone is under the weather. No matter your age, chronic stress can take a toll on your body. Younger children may complain about stomach aches and nightmares, while teens often get headaches, and adults typically feel stress in the neck, shoulders, and back. Everyone, meanwhile, experiences sleep issues.

So it's no wonder that when your family is overstressed, your immune systems are lowered and your chances of illness may increase. Besides going to bed earlier, be sure to regularly wash your hands, exercise, and eat healthy. And it may sound obvious, but try to remove stress wherever you can. One good way to do that is to decompress regularly as a family, Dr. Alvord says, which could be anything from playing a board game to watching a movie to going on a walk around the block.

7. You and the kids are running around—all the time. Rushing from one after-school activity to the next can make your family feel anxious, which in turn can cause muscle tension, headaches, stomach aches, and host of other not-so-pleasant issues. If you find yourself feeling overstressed in the moment, try hitting the pause button, Dr. Altmann says. "Let's say your family is running around like crazy because you'll be late to a sporting event and can't find your kid's cleats," she says. "Stop what you're doing, and take 10 deep breaths. It's better to arrive a few minutes late with everything you need than to not be able to play because your child doesn't have all of their equipment."

A longer-term strategy? Finally get serious about striking that life balance in your family. "If you find that your child is doing too much of anything, you have to question if that's healthy," Dr. Alvord points out. "Parents need down time, and kids need down time."

Parenting Tip of the Week - Structure and Routine During Summer Break

Parenting Tip of the Week | Prevent Child Abuse America

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Just like adults, kids need consistency and structure to thrive. Today’s Parenting Tip has some ideas for how parents can reinforce structure and routine and keep stress levels low by creating a summer routine of your own.

The Importance of Structure and Routine

Change can be stressful for children. Unfortunately, growing up comes with constant change that can be difficult for your child. Moving, new siblings, new teachers, the list goes on and on. Summer break is another example of change that can cause confusion or stress in children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, keeping a consistent routine has benefits for both children and parents. Structure not only helps children deal with stress but can also help teach children responsibility and self-control.

There are three keys to creating to structure: consistency, predictability and follow-through. For example, take nap time. Enforcing a consistent time and keeping on a regular schedule will help children know when to expect nap-time to occur, meaning less frustration, confusion and stress (for everyone!).

For school aged children, their school environment provides a lot of the structure and routine that children need to thrive. This summer break, try some of these simple suggestions to help create a consistent summer routine for your children.

Creating a Summer Routine

  1. Create a daily schedule and put it in a place everyone will see it. Create a schedule for your family (an example provided by the CDC can be found here) and hang it where your child can see it each day. Try to keep times consistent, for example having lunch every day at 12:00, nap time every day at 2:00, etc.
  2. Include chores alongside fun activities on the schedule. Letting your child know what you expect is critical to your relationship. Keeping chores as a consistent part of the schedule can help cut down on the frustration of doing chores since your children will know what to expect ahead of time.
  3. Have your child check off each activity as the day goes on. This will help your child look forward to exciting activities and feel accomplished when each is done! Keeping fun items alongside boring ones like chores can help your children stick to their routines.
  4. Keep it positive! Reward your child for following a daily routine with good behavior. For example, you can use stars for every item your child does in their routine without complaint, and give a certain reward, like a trip to get ice cream, after your child has accumulated a certain number of stars. For more inspiration, check out this sample reward chart.

How do you get your kids onto a summer schedule? Let us know by tweeting us @PCAAmericaor by leaving a comment on our Facebook page!

Parenting Tip of the Week- Preventing Heatstroke in Hot Cars

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July is almost here, kids are home from school, temperatures are rising across the country, and most families are thinking of fun ways to spend time in the summer. One thing families should also be thinking about is keeping kids safe from heatstroke and hot cars.

Hot cars are dangerous, so remember to never leave a child (or pet!) in the car on a hot day. On an 80 degree day, temperatures inside a parked car climb to over 100 degrees in fifteen minutes, even with the windows cracked. Parents of young children should be especially careful as infants and toddlers are especially vulnerable to heatstroke.

And while many may comment and say that there is no need for a reminder such as this, unfortunately, these stories happen more often than you might think. This month, the National Safety Council released a report showing that 47 children died from hot car exposure in 2017, an increase from the reported 39 children in 2016.

Preventing Heatstroke

Many of these cases have similar details. In some a car was accidentally left unlocked in a driveway and a child climbed inside to play hide-and-seek. In others a parent thought that they would just be inside the store for a few minutes. These cases all share another similarity though: they can be prevented. As a parent, what can you do to help prevent this kind of situation from happening in your own family? Here are five suggestions to add to your routine to help you prevent a similar tragedy from occurring for your own family.

  1. Always lock the doorsand keep keys and fobs out of reach – Make sure that your car doors are locked and that your keys and fobs are put them somewhere that children can’t get to them. This can help prevent curious kids from getting in a car and getting locked inside.
  2. Take your child inside to the store with you, even if it’s just a quick trip and even if it isn’t a hot day. This can help build up the routine to help keep you from forgetting. We know it can be stressful shopping with children, though, and so we’ve created some tips to make that feel easier too!
  3. “Look when you lock.” – Open the rear door of your car or turn around in your seat to look behind you just to make sure everyone is out of the car before you lock. Try to make a habit of doing this even when traveling alone (and it could always help you to remember your purse, sunglasses, or something else, too!)
  4. Keep something necessary for shopping or work in the back seat. Put your purse or wallet on the seat next to your car-seat. This gives you another reason to turn around and look back, helping to build up the habit of looking even on routine days where your child isn’t in your care.
  5. If you see a child in car alone, call 911 – Even on a 75 degree day, the inside of car can reach 100 degrees within ten minutes, and a child’s body can overheat 3 to 5 times faster than an adult. If you see a child left in a car alone, call 911 for assistance. It’s far better to be safe than sorry!

By following these tips, you can help prevent heatstroke and avoidable accidents that have lifelong consequences. For more information, visit Safe Kids Worldwide’s “Take Action to Prevent Heatstroke” landing page.