Monday, June 30, 2014

Childhood stress

Radio Commentary

Many adults think of childhood as a happy, stress-free time. However, experts in child studies say that in many ways childhood is as stressful as any other age.

Young people also report that stress can make some of their days miserable.

Fortunately, the following activities have been found to help stressed-out children at any age:

  • Help them get exercise. Learning good exercise patterns can help them release stress. 
  • Teach them to breathe deeply and slowly. This can help them calm down if they feel themselves tightening up.
  • Have them get involved in an activity that is just for fun.
  • And, probably the most effective stress-reducer for children is for parents to reduce the stress in their own lives. Studies show that the ways parents deal with stress has a strong influence on their children’s ability to cope.

Parents can model good coping skills by keeping themselves in control at all times.

Parents should set aside time every day to do a stress-reducing activity with their children, like taking a walk, gardening together, playing cards, or cooking.

And parents can help relieve children’s stress just by listening. Children need to be able to tell someone when they are worried, scared, or angry.

These steps can go a long way toward helping children manage stress.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Suicide prevention

Radio Commentary

Change is a natural part of the teen years, but some changes are more serious than others. They may be warning signs of depression or even potential suicide.

If a teen shows signs of a serious problem, encourage him to get help.

Warning signs include:

  • Major changes in eating or sleeping habits.
  • Severely violent or rebellious behavior. 
  • Withdrawal from family or friends.
  • Running away.
  • Persistent boredom or trouble concentrating. 
  • Unusual neglect of appearance.
  • Radical personality change. 
  • Preoccupation with the theme of death. 
  • Giving away prized possessions, and 
  • Expressing suicidal thoughts, even jokingly. 

Parents can help a depressed teen. First, listen. Don’t dismiss the problems as trivial. To him they matter a great deal.

Be honest. If you are worried about your teen, tell him. Professionals say you will not spark thoughts of suicide by asking about it.

Share your feelings. Let your teenager know she’s not alone. Everyone feels sad or depressed occasionally.

Get help. Find a physician, psychologist or qualified professional. Don’t wait for it to “go away.” Simple depression can escalate to the point that the teen may think of suicide as the only way out.

If you see signs of depression, take them seriously. You could be saving a life.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Preteens and friends

Radio Commentary

When children become preteens, their interest in friends and social activities often increases dramatically. Parents may be faced rather abruptly with issues of trust and peer pressure.

Preteens may resist having parents check up on their outside activities. They may say, “I can’t believe you don’t trust me.”

One good response is, “I trust you, but I don’t like the situation you’re going to be in.” Or, “I trust YOU to stay away from trouble, but I can’t be sure your friends will.”

Preteens may think they can avoid peer pressure on their own, but they actually will appreciate having you help them.

If your child is going to a party, ask a lot of “what if” questions.

For example, say, “What if your friends dare you do to something that is against our family’s rules?”

Many parents also report great success with “escape lines” that allow preteens to blame you when resisting pressure.

For example, a preteen offered alcohol can say, “No thanks. My dad always smells my breath when I come home.”

The bottom line is that parents of preteens must sometimes be willing to be unpopular. They don’t have to let preteens go somewhere or do something just because their friends’ parents allow it.

Parents must continue to set limits on behavior and be willing to say “no” when necessary. It’s absolutely necessary, and their children will grateful — if not today, then some day soon. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer activities

Radio Commentary

Summer can continue to be a time of learning for young people, and it’s important that parents keep that in mind.

As a family, choose an important news event to follow for a day or two. Ask each person to find as much information on the topic as possible — read newspapers, listen to the radio, watch TV news, or check online. Then talk about what everyone has learned.

You can also make a family game of discussing a special issue. For example: “Teenagers should be allowed to vote.” Or, “There should never be any homework.”

Ask your children to think of all the reasons they can to support their views. Then ask them to think of reasons opposing their views.

Which views are most convincing?

For variety, you can assign family members to teams and have them prepare their arguments, pro and con.

Exercise also helps keep the mind sharp, and summertime is a great time for fitness. Ask your children to do at least one kind of exercise every day. For example, they could run or walk briskly for 10 minutes.  

When possible, they should walk, instead of riding in a car, for any distance less than a mile.

Have your children create their own week-long exercise plans. Try to think of a modest reward for sticking to the plan. Then exercise right along with your children, for everyone’s health.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Radio Commentary

More young people are killed by exposure to their parents’ cigarette smoking than by all accidents combined, according to a study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

This is potentially the biggest preventable cause of death in young children, the report concluded.

It linked passive smoking to premature deaths caused by low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory infection, and asthma.

Parental smoking also costs the nation $4.6 Billion dollars a year in medical expenses and another $8.2 Billion dollars in loss of life, said the two pediatricians who worked on the study.

“There are lots of things that affect children's health, that reduce their chances for happy, successful lives,” said one doctor. “But here we have something we know how to prevent.”

Exposure to secondhand smoke can decrease lung growth in children, stunt their growth, cause asthma, and increase their lifetime risk of heart disease and high cholesterol.

It is even dangerous before birth, as smoking during pregnancy has been linked to serious physical consequences.

Pediatricians across the country encourage parents to quit smoking, and they try to persuade their teenage patients not to start.
We should all support these efforts.

Monday, June 23, 2014

TV and information

Radio Commentary

Children used to acquire knowledge of the world in a gradual, controlled way.

They learned how to behave by watching adults and modeling their actions.

The slowly developing reading skills of young people restricted them mostly to stories and facts that were deemed suitable for their age level.

But times have changed. Today children are flung quickly into the realm of adult knowledge.

Certainly the mass media bombard children with messages at every turn. Rock and rap song lyrics, DVDs, and advertising all play their parts. Television, the Internet, and computer games are also major players.

Messages in ads, TV programs and games — in print, online, and even some content on the nightly news — would have been shocking to see just one short generation ago.

Young viewers can’t always distinguish between the drama and trauma of soap operas and adventure shows, and the day-to-day routine that most adults live.

Without proper guidance, children can grow up dissatisfied with lives less exciting and glamorous than the TV heroes they admire or those on their computer screens. Those figures can avoid handling conflicts that can’t be solved in 22 minutes — or worse, in 22 seconds.

Creating a family of media critics is one answer to this challenge. “Talking back” to the TV or computer screen is a good first step. And remember to be aware of media content, and use good judgment in your selections.

These steps are a key to raising healthy, well-adjusted children.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Reading over the summer

Radio Commentary

Summer gives children a good break from the stresses of the academic assignments and tests they face during the school year.

But it is important to keep some skills active so that children don’t completely lose the drive to learn and to read.

Studies show that children who read during the summer make gains in their reading skills. Those who do not read over the summer can experience learning losses.

Here are some ways to help keep your child learning and reading throughout the extended break from the classroom.

First, have plenty of reading material around your home.
Storybooks aren’t the only thing that young people can read for fun. Be sure to have newspapers, magazines, and informational material on hand that might spark the interest of a young reader.

Continue to read aloud with children. Take them to see a local storyteller — or be one yourself. Don’t forget to improvise different voices or wear a silly hat to make the story that much more interesting.

What’s important is to keep the reading skills active.
It’s also critical to reinforce for young people the idea that reading can be fun and exciting. It can cure boredom and expand the mind. It can provide great adventures and help them meet really interesting people.
And it’s a great way to spend your time.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Good nutrition

Radio Commentary

Nutrition awareness is an essential part of health education.

This learning takes place during meals as a result of the foods provided. It happens throughout the day as well — at play, in the classroom, and during sports.

The meals children are served, and the skills they acquire at a young age, help to set lifelong eating habits. That’s why it is important to teach good eating patterns.

Make mealtime a pleasant and relaxed experience. Offer a variety of foods, prepared in different ways.

It makes good nutrition sense and it makes meals and snacks more interesting.

Regular physical activity is also important for good health. It burns calories, helps with weight control, and is important in preventing some chronic diseases.

When it comes to feeding young people, try to choose foods that are lower in fat and free of saturated fats.

For example, cook with lean ground meat when you barbecue.

Serve sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Add grapes or raisins to tuna, chicken, or turkey salad and stuff it into pita bread for variety.

Serve bean tacos, burritos, or chili for alternate sources of protein.

Well-nourished, healthy children achieve better in school. And these practices can help set the pattern for a lifetime of good nutrition.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer learning essential, and it can be fun

Newspaper Column

Children look forward to summer vacation as a time to get away from schoolwork, but the long break can slow their academic progress if their skills get too rusty before classes resume in the fall.

The idea of studying during the summer may fill children with dread, but parents can find many ways to make learning fun. Summertime provides an important break for young students. While research shows it is important to keep academic skills active over long breaks, it doesn’t have to be tedious. There are many ways to make learning fun. Every experience can be a learning experience, and summer is the perfect time to explore some of the alternatives that are not always available at other times of year.

You can bolster children’s sense of perspective, self worth, and their place in relation to the environment and to other people by camping out for a night on the balcony, in the yard, or at a campground.

It can be both fun and educational to give a child a garden plot, a window box, or a planter on a balcony or patio. Be sure the child has full responsibility for the plants. That can include checking a daily weather map to understand about the plants’ needs for water. In addition, you can help children figure out what the weather is like for friends and relatives who live in other places.

For lessons in good citizenship, parents can check the newspaper for volunteer activities and participate in one with their children. Some children might find they enjoy what they learn through a weekly visit to an elderly person in a nursing home. Others might get excited for a visit to an animal shelter, a fire station, or a hospital — all activities that can be very educational when children see what goes on at these institutions.

Parents can make history come alive by beginning with their own family. If possible, collect photos of all grandparents and great-grandparents. Have children write these people’s names and birth dates on the backs of the photos. Tell stories about the family.

Many lessons can be taught just by discussing the meanings of holidays with children.

If you take a trip, you can incorporate history and geography lessons by visiting sites along the way. Collect information brochures as you go. When you get home, surf the Internet together and check out library books or DVDs to reinforce the new learning from the trip.

Make a game of finding the oldest headstone in a cemetery. Read the inscriptions and talk about the past with your children.

Practicing math skills doesn’t have to involve multiplication tables. Have children start a collection of something they are interested in, whether that is rocks, stamps, baseball cards, bottle caps, labels, marbles, leaves, or bugs. Ask your child to arrange them in some order — by categories, color, shape, or alphabetically, for example.

For more math practice, you can ask children to review cash register receipts. Ask them to check the receipts for accuracy when you’re unloading groceries, or to add up the prices each week. You can also teach older youngsters to compute gas mileage.

Summer is also a good time to help children develop a sense of responsibility. You could ask a child to take charge of the family’s recycling, for example. Both boys and girls can learn how to take care of their clothes, use a washer and dryer, sort and fold laundry, sew on buttons, iron clothes, or polish shoes.

To bolster reading and writing skills, suggest that children keep a diary or journal of their activities or the family’s. Take time every day for the whole family to read, together or individually, and allow children to choose their own reading materials. Even 10 or 15 minutes a day of reading is very helpful. You might have kids follow a favorite newspaper comic strip and tell you about it each morning. Help them write letters, emails or postcards to cousins, grandparents, and friends.

Suggest that kids swap paperback books, comics, or magazines with extended family and friends. The local library might help organize an exchange.

Children need to keep learning in the summer, but with some creativity they can have fun while they’re doing it. All these activities help students stay ready for school in the fall. And they are not only educational, they’re fun and inexpensive.

Swimming safety

Radio Commentary

Children have great fun swimming in pools or at the beach. But it is important that children stay safe any time they are around water.

All children should know how to swim well enough to survive an emergency. They should always swim with a buddy who has the ability to help them if needed.

Children should stay out of the water if they are overheated or overtired. They should never dive unless they know the area well enough, and they are certain the water is deep enough.

Make sure children check with a lifeguard about beach and surf conditions before swimming in the ocean.

Tell them if they ever think they are being pulled out by a rip current, they should stay calm. Instead of fighting the current, they should swim parallel to the beach. Once they feel free of the current, they should then swim to shore.

Finally, children should not overestimate their swimming ability. Weak swimmers should stay in the shallow end of a pool, or within an area marked off for them with buoyed lines.

In the ocean, swimming short distances parallel to the shore is safest.

Swimming can provide great exercise and fun. But it is important that children understand the dangers and stay “water safe.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Casals quote

 Radio Commentary

Our nation will soon be celebrating our day of independence, and it is good to remember that our free system of public education is the very foundation of our democracy.

In other countries, schooling was only for the children of the elite. Here, we take all comers. We give everyone the opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, wealth or even aptitude. 
And what do we teach our children in our classrooms? 

Pablo Casals made a wonderful comment about educational ideals for our children.
He said, “Each moment we live never was before and will never be again. And yet what we teach children in school is 2 + 2 = 4, and Paris is the capital of France.

“What we should be teaching them is what they are.

“We should be saying: ‘Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the world there is no other child exactly like you.

“In the millions of years that have passed there has never been another child exactly like you. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel.”

Good thoughts for all to hear — and a true indicator of our freedom and opportunities.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Building motor skills

Radio Commentary

Children’s work is play. Much is learned through simple games and activities.
In fact, play is important in helping children build basic motor skills like running, jumping, throwing, and catching.

Play helps build muscles and aerobic capacity in young bodies. It allows children to release energy and tensions.

Play also teaches social skills. It can increase self-esteem, help strengthen and build attention spans, and improve physical coordination.

To help your child develop basic motor skills during playtime you might consider the following activities:

  1.  Use bright, colorful balls when playing ball games because these are easy for children’s eyes to follow.
  2. It helps keep their attention and makes it easier for their eyes to follow the motion.
  3. Use slow, consistent pitches when tossing to your child. Practice makes perfect — for them and for you!
  4. Practice the same skill in different ways to keep your child interested. Run races today. Play tag tomorrow. The skills are the same but the game seems very different. This helps prevent boredom or distraction.
  5. Give brief instructions that are easy to follow, like “Watch the ball.” Long-winded explanations about why it’s important to watch the ball can lead a child’s mind to wander.
Remember that children tire easily, so keep periods of vigorous activity short. When children are young, it’s always better to schedule several short activities rather than one long one.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Childproof yards

Radio Commentary

While exploring the outdoors this summer, curious youngsters can sometimes face hazards in their own backyards.

So take a look at the yard where your child plays and check very carefully for any danger spots.

Make sure wading pools and buckets are emptied after use to prevent drowning or bacteria growth.

Make sure all pools are surrounded by a fence and a self-latching gate. Check all locks and latches to make sure they are functioning properly.

Also check that the spaces between railings in a fence are narrow enough to prevent children from getting their head stuck between them.

Check also for thorny or poisonous plants. And make sure clotheslines are out of reach. They are appealing play items but have proven harmful.

It makes sense to store all lawn tools and chemicals out of reach of young hands.

Make sure deck stairs have child guards and that all furniture is kept away from deck railings, to prevent young climbers from getting into trouble.

Finally, make sure wooden decks or chairs are free from splinters. What might not affect an adult can be quite painful or even harmful to young skin.

Using common sense is the best rule of all.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Managing stress

Radio Commentary

Stress is the reaction of our minds and bodies to unsettling experiences. Too much stress can have negative consequences and can even make us ill.
For this reason, the things that cause stress in children should be taken seriously before they cause much harm.
What are the signs of a distressed child?
·      Anger, aggressiveness, anxiety, crankiness, bedwetting.
·      Crying too easily, overeating, increased clumsiness, hair twisting, teeth clenching.
·      Fighting with other children, or withdrawing from them.
·      Failing at school.
Causes of stress can lurk anywhere. They include pressure from home or school, such as being too busy with overloaded schedules.
Family changes such as divorce or remarriage can also be a cause, along with feeling unloved or misunderstood.
Children cannot analyze events that cause stress — or control their reactions to those events — as well as adults can, so they need guidance from adults.
Family support is a vital antidote to stress, so be sure to relax and talk together.  
Curb access to violent TV shows and movies. Keep daily life calm. A pet can be a good buffer and an emotional refuge.
Relaxed parents, who cope positively with their own stress, pass on these skills to children. It also helps to maintain a network of friends and activities outside the home.
This type of support and acceptance plays a very helpful role.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Second two Rs for testing

Radio Commentary

Testing is the student’s equivalent of death and taxes — an absolute certainty in modern classrooms, especially at the end of the year.   
Some students don’t seem to get very stressed about tests. Others feel anxiety and need help to do their best.
A publication titled “Principal Communicator” outlined four words starting with “R” that can help parents help their children feel confident about tests:  Being Receptive, Relaxed, Ready, and Rested.
It makes sense that being “ready” is of critical importance.
Tests measure a child’s knowledge at a given point in time.  
Parents can help by making sure their child has completed and reviewed all the schoolwork that the test will measure.  
Get informed about the nature of the tests at each grade level, and pay special attention to test dates.
Ask how the school prepares students for these tests and what support a parent can provide.  
Another very important trait, that can be overlooked or ignored during periods of intense studying, is for a student to be “rested.”  
Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep the night before a test and a good, nutritious breakfast that morning.

Receptive, relaxed, ready, and rested:  These four preparation traits could help ease the stress of year-end tests.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Reducing gun violence

Radio Commentary

            Sadly, firearms are second only to motor vehicle accidents in their claim on young lives.
Research indicates that educational efforts aimed at persuading young people to behave responsibly around guns are limited in their effectiveness.
Parents must monitor children’s exposure to guns and protect them from unsupervised use. Any stored guns in a home should be locked, unloaded, and separated from ammunition.
Community leaders can also help. They can promote young people’s safety by sending unequivocal messages that gun violence is not an acceptable way to resolve conflict. 
It’s also been shown that requiring safety features on guns can reduce unintentional shootings among children and youth.
In addition, emerging technologies will enable manufacturers to personalize guns and prevent unauthorized users from operating them.
Most important, as a society we must limit the flow of illegal guns to youth. Federal and state laws regarding gun sales should be tightened so that fewer weapons are accessible to young people.
The physical, economic, and emotional toll of gun violence against young people is unacceptable, regardless of one’s position on adult ownership and use of guns.