Mom “Firsts”

Who cries when they drop their kid off for SATs?? Who does that?? (Yes, I’m raising my hand.) In my own (emotional) defense, he is taking them early, so, it’s not like I dropped a high school junior off, he just finished 7th grade yesterday. (Well, it was yesterday when I started this post, summer has been busy, so I’m just reviewing and posting it now. Oops. 😉 )

Yea, I know, nice mom I am… I made him get up at 6:30am the 1st day of 4597688930summer vacation to take the SAT. The cool part is all of the amazing opportunities that will be available to him after this as part of the John’s Hopkins University-Center for Talented Youth program. The even better part… when he does take the SAT next time, when it will count for college, he will have already been exposed. That is going to be invaluable!

So, this was another “Mom First” for me. I had no idea there would be so many Mom Firsts…. That first day I left for work when he was 3 months old, I cried. The first day I dropped him off at preschool…cried. Finished preschool, yup, cried. Went to elementary, cried. “Graduated” 5th grade-like a baby, yes. I. did. Starting middle school… yup! So, you get the trend here. And, we shouldn’t even talk about my ride to grad school orientation 4 states away when my daughter was only 1 year old (3 days away from hubby and kids for the first time)… I think I cried until I was out of our state! It was ugly.

I bet you could name just as many mom firsts that made you cry. Did you think we were going to cry like this just because our children were living their lives? Wow! I had no idea the emotional roller coaster that motherhood would be, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world, not one minute, even the bad ones.

And, now that I’m posting this almost 2 months after I started, I’ll admit, Yes, when his SAT results came, I shed a tear too, mostly because I was so shocked and proud. Way to go, Josh!

So, through the tears of all your “mom firsts” make sure you take time to Enjoy the Journey!  And, tell us about any Mom first’s you’d like to share! 😉

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Write his teacher a letter… A lesson I wish I learned sooner

writing_letter_12071260152646It was so well received, I knew I should have done it sooner…. Oh, well… We all live and learn.

Letting your child’s teacher know what to expect when you have a child with challenges like ADHD, Anxiety, learning disabilities, Depression, etc. can make such a difference in your child’s school year. Don’t hesitate to write a letter and tell your child’s teacher about your child’s strengths, challenges, and any other pertinent information that is important to help your child succeed.

All teachers want to help our children, that’s why they became teachers. What most parents don’t know is that teachers are given absolutely no resources about ADHD. Can you believe that? The environment where children spend the majority of their time is housed with educators that are never given the opportunity to learn about ADHD (~10% of kids), unless they find time outside of their work schedule to pursue further education on the topic. Not fair… not to the kids, not to the teachers, and not to the rest of the school population. It is up to us as parents to bring information about our child’s challenges to the school and the teachers. Don’t assume they know. If you want someone to have information about your child or their challenges, tell them directly, don’t assume the information gets shared.

I was taught very early on in my professional training that it is important NOT to label kids, so I certainly didn’t want to do it to my own child. In most of my professional situations this is an absolute, but as a parent of an ADHD child, I WAS WRONG! SO WRONG! If your child’s teacher doesn’t know his strengths and weaknesses, how can she help him grow. Yes, most good teachers figure it out, but why waste those months, there are only 9 to get the job done.

If you’ve read any of my posts about ADHD, you know that my son, Joshua has trouble sitting still and staying on task. I have found that talking to his teachers at the beginning of the school year helps Josh and his teachers be much better prepared. For years, it took the first 3-4 months for his teacher to “get to know him” all because I didn’t want to label him. You know, the whole “clean slate” philosophy. I think part of me was trying to test the teacher to see if she also thought that Joshua had ADHD. There was part of me that would doubt it on occasion, although professionally, I knew he was classic.

After writing or asking for a conference with your child’s teacher(s), there should be a plan. Joshua is given specific expectations, as all ADHD kids should. He is also given tools and accommodations to help him succeed, which all ADHD kids deserve. All of his teachers stay in frequent communication with Josh to help him stay on top of assignments that are due, projects that have deadlines coming up, homework that needs to be done, etc. Throughout elementary and most of middle school, Josh has succeeded with the help of some pretty great teachers. We chose private school during 3rd grade for Josh, and haven’t looked back since. I was a public school advocate for a long time, but that debacle is for another post.

If people do not understand how the neurological challenges alter kids behavior, it is crucial for the child’s educational and emotional well-being that they learn. I just read a post on ADDitude.org today with quotes from parents that “wish they knew…” There is always something more we wish we knew.

So, as you prepare for the school year, don’t forget to prep your child’s teacher. You don’t want months to go by this school year, and then have a conversation about what your teacher wished she had known in September. It’s as easy as writing a quick (and, sometimes, not so quick) email. ADDitude.org has a short article and sample letter with great ideas for accommodations, click here to check it out.

So, as you embark on another year of your child’s education, be sure to keep everyone on your journey informed. You’ll be glad you did. I promise! It will make your life easier and most of all make your child’s educational experience more rewarding and successful. Then, you can say, “I’m glad I wrote that letter!” instead of “I wish I had…”.  😉

As always, I hope you are Enjoying the Journey! 🙂 

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SnOw DaYs

Walking through my living room this morning picking up nerf bullets, I thought to myself, “Someday, I’m not going to have to pick these up.” WAIT(!!!) just a minute…. Ummm… someday… I’m not going to have to pick up nerf bullets… or any kids toys, for that matter… At that moment, I decided how grateful I was for snow days.

The first few are always so exciting. The kids are up early. They want to go outside and play. You dress them up, only to spend less time outside than it took to get ready to go outside. Then, afterwards, there’s hot chocolate. Marshmallows? Yes, please. Yum.

By the 5th or 6th snow day, they don’t even care where their snow boots are, they don’t want to go out, “it’s cold out there.” Josh told me it was just frozen water, no biggie. That was before the fun of sledding (pictures to follow). It was cold, but we eventually thawed out. 😉

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Sitting in front of the fire reading with the cat… Peaceful, leisurely, snow days.

If you don’t live in an area that gets snow, I’m sorry. I am glad I got to grow up somewhere that it snows and we had days off school for snow. It adds a few days on to the calendar in June sometimes, but, when it’s only February, you really don’t care. I remember being out over a week my Senior year of high school. Didn’t matter to me, Seniors’ last day was set no matter how many snow days there were. A little selfish of me? Sure, but, I was 17, what do you expect.

Now, I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me the benefit of staying home on snow days. Believe me though, I’ve put my time in. I’ve driven home from work on roads that were sheets of ice. One time, my husband drove me to work when I was an OB nurse, and we followed snow plows all the way down the highway from our town to the neighboring town where I worked. And, just like hospitals, most pediatric and other doctors offices don’t close unless the weather is really bad. So, it’s only been in the past couple years that I had a job with ‘snow days.’

Parenthood is about so many things, the daily meal planning, keeping track of all the schedules, getting the laundry done, keeping the house just clean enough to live in, homework, and all those other things that are so challenging and time-consuming.

Parenthood should also be about the snow days… The days that weIMG_0401 have no choice but to slow down. The days we take the time to enjoy the beauty of nature. The birds in the bird feeder with a backdrop that’s a perfect blanket of snow. The sleeping pet that enjoys having everyone home. And, the mom/dad that gets a chance to slow down, even if just for a moment between working on assignments while working at home on a snow day. 😉

Some of the best moments are the ones that are not in our plans. What is it they say about spontaneity?? All I know is that it’s a good thing. We need to take advantage of the moments that are dictated by forces beyond our control, and we make a change to our daily routines. That’s what is called “Enjoying the Journey” my friends. And, it’s essential to a good life!

Right now… Drew is sitting next to me reading Chapter 3 in her novel, Farewell, My Lunchbag, A Chet Gecko Mystery, and laughing right out loud. This is her reading assignment for today’s snow day. You see, my kids are not at a deficit for something to do. Their teachers email their assignments. 🙂  I think it’s a great alternative to the loss of instructional time. So, on this snow day, I get to experience something I would not have otherwise. Drew would usually be doing this reading in school. My opportunity to witness the joy it brings her is only possible because of this snow day.

So, today, like most snow days. I will be grateful for the time that I get to be Mom. These are the moments I’m not going to have someday. These moments of pure, innocent childhood that I am blessed enough to witness.

Snow days give us a chance to smell the proverbial roses. I hope those of you that have had a snow day or two, or more, remember how magical snow can be for a child (and an adult).

So, whether it’s your first or your umpteenth snow day… Please…  Take the time to Enjoy the Journey! 😉

My crew

My crew sledding

My latest Bright idea… Screen time sign in!

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I’ve preached about screen time to clients and friends alike for years. And, right now, I’m in the middle of prime screen “time sucking” age with my 8 and 12 year old kids. Screens are involved in so much of our daily lives, that we don’t always realize how much time we spend looking at a screen. For adults, eh, not so great, but for our childrens’ developing minds, not good, NOT GOOD AT ALL!

Screen time includes computers, tablets, laptops, smartphones, iPods, iPads, video games, etc. Basically, anything that has a screen and gets plugged in. We refer to the whole bundle as “electronics” in our house.

There are studies that say kids should not have “too much” screen time, but how much is “too much?” The articles I’ve read say the national average is 7 hours a day! That’s way too much! The general consensus is 2 hours a day, but there are variations with age. For example, the AAP recommends for children less than 2 years old, little or no screen time. Not a problem when I had just Josh, he wasn’t interested in TV anyway. But when Drew Elizabeth came along, Josh was already watching TV, so she was exposed by just being in the same room.

Why does limiting screen time matter you might ask? Oh, that sweet,wonderful denial I’ve had with screen time for years. I know too much screen time is not good for your brain, I’m not one of those moms that plopped her kids down in front of the TV so that she could get something done, well, maybe on occasion, but that’s real life. I also spent plenty of time helping my kids do crafty things, and play outside, and just go be kids with unscheduled time, because that is so important! I read an article recently about how the screen and video gaming affects the neurotransmitters, like dopamine, in the brain, and not for the better. This means screen time can have an impact on every aspect of your life. Too much screen time disturbs sleep, causes attention problems, causes problems focusing, and can easily lead to obesity. There are lots of other specifics, and NIH has details about this if you are interested, click here.

I found a fascinating article about brain changes associated with increased screen time at PsychologyToday.com. This article makes me even more determine to limit the amount of screen time my kids get. Here are a few good reasons;

  • Gray matter atrophy: Multiple studies have shown atrophy (shrinkage or loss of tissue volume) in gray matter areas (where “processing” occurs) in internet/gaming addiction (Zhou 2011, Yuan 2011, Weng 2013,and Weng 2012). Areas affected included the important frontal lobe, which governs executive functions, such as planning, planning, prioritizing, organizing, and impulse control (“getting stuff done”). Volume loss was also seen in the striatum, which is involved in reward pathways and the suppression of socially unacceptable impulses. A finding of particular concern was damage to an area known is the insula, which is involved in our capacity to develop empathy and compassion for others and our ability to integrate physical signals with emotion. Aside from the obvious link to violent behavior, these skills dictate the depth and quality of personal relationships.”
  • Cravings and impaired dopamine function: Research on video games have shown dopamine (implicated in reward processing and addiction) is released during gaming (Koepp 1998 and Kuhn 2011) and that craving or urges for gaming produces brain changes that are similar to drug cravings (Ko 2009, Han 2011).”
  • “In short, excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties. Frontal lobe development, in turn, largely determines success in every area of life—from sense of well-being to academic or career success to relationship skills.”

Honestly, I don’t need research to tell me kids need less screen time. My wonderful, adorable Joshua proves it. We’ve had more than one morning that has turned into complete chaos because Joshua isn’t capable of getting himself together. It didn’t take too many years before I started to put the correlation together…. Unlimited screen time the night or day before and the following morning he was disastrous. Little or limited screen time the day or night before school, and mornings were more pleasant, don’t get me wrong, they weren’t all peaches and cream, this is Joshua I’m referring to. 🙂 When I point this new revelation out to him, he is in total denial. Unfortunately, I have the research, and I live it, there is NO denying it! The hard part isn’t knowing the problem, the hard part is fixing the problem. It’s not any easier in my house than in anyone elses, these things need constant review and revamping. Which lead to my most recent “Bright idea!”

So, my Bright idea is to have a “sign in sheet” for screen time for my kids. Ha, you may be saying, but don’t laugh unless you’ve tried it and failed. If you have, bring on the strategies that work, please! I’m hopeful that this will put a stop to the “time suck” that electronics and screens can have on our day. Some of you may think this is brilliant, I have those ideas every now and again. We shall see… I think we will all sadly realize that we are way over our “screen time” limit in this house.  I’m on a mission to prove to my kids we need to cut back.

So, as soon as my daughter gets off the computer (umm humph) I’m going to make a “Screen Time Sign in ” sheet and put it on the fridge. I’ve been keeping track; so far Drew has had about 1 1/2 hours, and Josh my boy is about to hit his 2 hour limit for the day. “Damn, she’s serious”, you may be thinking. Yes, I am, but I’m also realistic… This is a long weekend, with a lot of family, food and spare time. I am going to give my kids some extra time on those days.  I know the research I just quoted gives me every reason not to, but, all in all, they are only kids once, they only have Thanksgiving break once a year, and I’m not as strict a Drill Sergeant as I portray myself sometimes. So, I’ve decided to let them have more screen time, but not unlimited screen time. 😉

This journey is a tough one, I try my best to enjoy the challenges as well as the fun stuff. I’ve decided that God has blessed me with these 2 smart, cute, crazy kids, and entrusted that I could raise them as productive members of our society. I’m doing my best, and along the way I’m Enjoying the Journey, & I hope you are too! 😉

Erythema Infectiosum… Kinda sounds like a Harry Potter spell, so what is it??

No magic wand is going to work with this virus… The only thing magical about Erythema Infectiosum, is the rash appearing out of nowhere. Erythema Infectiosum is a virus, aka Fifth Disease, and also “slapped cheek” disease. If you’re a HP fan, you understand my enthusiasm with the verbiage. Here’s an interesting fact about Erythema Infectiosum for you, it’s called Fifth Disease because it was the 5th documented childhood virus many years ago when all those childhood viruses, like measles, rubella, and scarlet fever were being documented.

Her cheeks are awfully pink, but she's happy! :-)

Her cheeks are awfully pink, but she’s happy! 🙂

Today, I thought… it’s time to write a post about Erythema Infectiosum, because I saw a 12 year old with a “lacy” rash; and just days ago, my cousin sent me pictures of her 4 year old with a rash… They both had Fifth Disease. So, that tells me it’s time for a post on Parvovirus B19. Doesn’t that sound disgusting? It’s not really a big deal, as long as you are healthy and not pregnant. This is NOT the parvovirus that animals get.

In healthy kids, Erythema Infectiosum/Fifth Disease is a rather benign ailment. Some kids have it, and you don’t even know it. Many kids get a fever and upper respiratory infection/URI symptoms (cough, congestion, headache, runny nose) before the rash. Some have no symptoms at all and just break out in a rash. And then, some have such a mild case, symptoms go completely unnoticed. Regardless, the virus leaves antibodies behind that are quite important for girls (more on this below). The rash may last for a few days to weeks, but may be more noticeable when the skin is hot from physical activity, hot bath water, etc.

You may be wondering what a “lacy” rash looks like…

Typical "lacy" rash of Fifth Disease

Typical “lacy” rash of Fifth Disease

Here ya go…Miss Molly’s legs and arms matched her cheeks. But, as you can see in her smiley face picture, she is feeling well. The rash can look more spread out, but commonly grows together into large red, lacy patches.

The 12 year old patient I saw today, was a little less happy. His rash was really itchy. I’ve seen very few Fifth’s rashes that are itchy, but his was pretty bad. I read somewhere that the itching is more common in teens and adults. I don’t promote any particular product, but I like to use Calmoseptine ointment. We applied this to his rash, and he immediately felt better. Do not apply Benadryl (diphenhydramine) cream to large areas of skin. Benadryl cream is absorbed through the skin and there is no way to monitor the dosing, it is not safe. Zyrtec or Benadryl can be taken by mouth to help combat the itchiness. Do not take both Zyrtec and Benadryl at the same time, be sure to follow the instructions on the package insert.

So, when can Parvovirus B19 be a problem? The first thing that comes to any providers mind is pregnancy. Parvovirus B19 can be detrimental to an unborn fetus. It has to do with depletion of the red blood cells (RBCs), leading to fetal anemia and the inability to replenish the lost RBCs to maintain adequate oxygenation, but I won’t get into the sciency stuff. The CDC reports that about 50% of women are immune to Parvovirus B19. If you want to read more about the science, check out CDC or KidsHealth.

What YOU need to know about Fifth Disease:

  • Contagious during the fever and URI period.
  • NOT contagious with the rash. Can attend school or daycare.
  • Incubation period is a few weeks after initial exposure.
  • Treatment should focus on comfort measures. Motrin for fever. Creams/oatmeal bath for itching. Zyrtec or Benadryl orally for itching.
  • There is no medication to prevent or cure Fifth Disease.
  • Pregnancy = Red Flag (see below)

One of the most important pieces of knowledge you can take away from this post is about Fifth Disease and Pregnancy. If your child has Fifth Disease, please think of anyone that you know that may be pregnant, and was in contact with your child during the contagious period. (Think about teachers.) There usually is not a problem, but it is important for a pregnant woman’s obstetrician to be aware of and monitor the exposure appropriately. If the pregnancy is into the 2nd trimester, the blood work is probably already done. For more information about Parvovirus B19 and Pregnancy, check out the CDC’s website.

Erythema infectiosum is one of the easier illness we will encounter on this journey called parenthood. If you have any questions or comments, let me know. If you want to know more about Erythema Infectiosum check out the CDC Parvovirus B19 and Fifth Disease website.

Enjoy the journey, friends! 😉

Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms…

Breastfeeding…. and all its beauty, and all the sweet moments, and how wonderful it feels to do what you think is best for your child, and then the confusion of the feeding schedule, and which side did I leave off, and the fatigue, and a poopy diaper right in the middle of finally getting a good latch, and the leaking (UGH, the leaking), and the middle of the night feedings, and…. Ahhhh, breastfeeding, wonderful memories. 🙂 Really, I was lucky. I worked in a birthing center for 3 years before I had my first child, so I knew all about breastfeeding when it was my turn… HA, the naivety of my pre-maternal knowledge! I have since admitted that I right out lied to those poor new mom’s struggling to breastfeed, and I didn’t even know it. Of course you cannot latch a newborn when you are sitting completely upright, you have to lean in a little bit, it just works best that way; then you have to sit back so that you don’t have chronic back pain for the next 12 months. I know that now. Yes, I know you are having cramps when you breastfeed, but it’s just your uterus contracting back down, that’s a good thing. Umm, hello, those cramps HURT, have a little sympathy lady! Yes, you have to feed your baby every 3 hours, well, you kind of do, but there are exceptions to every rule, and until you breastfeed, you don’t have the opportunity to figure them out. Breastfeeding can be the most wonderful experience, but it can also be the most stressful, and difficult time for many new moms. I’ve been asked by multiple friends that are breastfeeding to write a blog about the basics, sorry it took so long, but here it is…

mother-baby-breast-feeding-32987944The Basics:

  • Newborn breastfed babies NEED to eat every 2-3 hours. This means they will have 8-12 feedings in 24 hrs. Babies need at least the minimum 8 feedings in 24 hours for adequate growth and development. My rule is wake them to feed every 3 hours when the sun is up, and they will reward you with more sleep at night. 😉 (This only pertains to babies that are gaining weight adequately. If your baby is having trouble gaining weight, please feed according to your health care provider’s advice.)
  • Babies should nurse from each breast for approximately 15-20 minutes. This should adequately empty the first breast before switching to the other side. Breastmilk supply builds on demand, the more the baby nurses, the better your milk will come in, and you have to empty completely to be able to refill adequately. Once your milk supply is established (~2-3 weeks), your baby may only eat on one side at a time until he grows a little. Joshua only at on one side each feeding from about 3 weeks until about 6-7 weeks when he went through a growth spurt. *Growth spurts (the first few) happen at about 10 – 20 days, and again at 4-6 weeks. Your baby will eat more often during a growth spurt. This helps increase your milk supply to meet his growing needs.
  • You know your baby is getting enough to eat by how content they are between feedings and if they can go the expected amount of time between feedings without showing signs of hunger. Adequate weight gain and between feeding contentment is the best indicator of optimal nutritional intake.
  • Utilizing different positions during breastfeeding is important: 1. It helps to stimulate milk production and 2. empties milk ducts more completely. Also, during the initial stages of feeding, it helps change the position of the baby’s mouth on mom’s nipple to decrease the discomfort that can initially be associated with breastfeeding. The different positions are cradle, cross-cradle, football, and side-lying. Side-lying is difficult until your baby gets a little bit older, then it’s the perfect 5am position. For more information on positions and some great latching advice, please check out this link on KidsHealth.org.
  • Speaking of discomfort, that initial “take your breath away” pain when your sweet little newborn first latches on is normal, and fortunately, a short-lived phenomenon. Keep in mind that nipple tissue is extremely sensitive. I don’t care what you’ve done in the past and with whom, no man can do the damage of a hungry newborn learning to breastfeed. This initial pain should last ~30-60 seconds, and then should subside. If the pain persists, the baby is not latched well, relatch (see above KidsHealth link for latching advice). This pain goes away after the first couple weeks, in the meantime, lanolin is helpful. Motrin can be helpful. A doc I worked liked a product called “Soothies” that were like a cool/second skin type pad to put over the nipple between feedings.
  • Do not pump in the first couple weeks to build your milk supply unless you have been instructed to do so by your health care provider. Overstimulation can lead to too much milk, engorgement, and even mastitis. If you need to pump to help relieve that engorgement pressure you feel when your milk supply first starts coming in (3-6 days), that is fine, but only pump a little. Do not empty the breast completely, just enough for relief.
  • SLEEP!!! Do yourself a big favor and get your rest. Sleep when your baby is sleeping. The chores can wait! You have other priorities now that you’re a mom. I beg you to do this, you will be so glad you did. If you don’t, you’ll understand why I begged you to try to slow down.

I breastfed both of my kids for the first year, Josh 13 months, and I had to cut him off. He was using me to go to sleep. The first night we didn’t feed, I put him to bed with a cup of water, and he was fine. So, again, got lucky with him. He was such a good baby! If you’ve read anything about Josh in my blog, you know he is anything but an easy child to raise now. I love him with all my heart, but he is the biggest challenge God has ever given me! I breastfed Drew Elizabeth for 11 months, and then she wasn’t interested anymore. She’s always been that easy, love my girl! 🙂

How long do you have to breastfeed? As long as you want to! It’s not a question for anyone but you. I wasn’t sure how long I would breastfeed until it happened. I didn’t really think I would breastfed for a year, but it was easier for me to keep breastfeeding. I enjoyed it. The recommendation is a year. The majority of mom’s stop between 4-8 months.

Breastfeeding provides so many health benefits for mom and baby, please visit the American Academy of Pediatrics statement on breastfeeding to read more. For a great link to all kinds of different breastfeeding knowledge, check out Lactation Education Resources.

So, that is my 2 cents on the basics of breastfeeding. I hope it is helpful. I was actually a Certified Lactation Consultant for a good part of my career. I’ve let the certification go, but the knowledge is golden. Please share with all the new moms that you know. If you have any questions or comments, as always, please let me know. I will compile a Breastfeeding Basics V.2 for followup. 😉

Breastfeeding is such an amazing part of the journey. I hope your experience is as good as mine. Enjoy! 😉

Do you ever serve chocolate milk?

Tagless: Great for shirts, not so much for kids…

We need to encourage children’s individual uniqueness along this journey we call life! 

children1A friend of mine is an Elementary School Vice Principal, and he recently wrote an article that has such wonderful perspective regarding the mental health of our children. After reading it, I wanted to share it with my readers here on Mom’s Daily Dose. Jon’s perspective is very intriguing and quite eye opening.

Check out Labels Are Bad, But is Tagless Better?, by Jon Harper. I have to agree 100% with his perspective. We need our children to know that being different is what makes them who they are, and they should be proud of their uniqueness. Feeling comfortable with who they are and embracing their differences leads to a healthy self image and good self esteem. I hope you appreciate Jon’s insight it as much as I did.

The mental health of our children is critical to their physical, mental and social development, and to our society as a whole. Enjoy the journey, friends! 🙂

Playtime is SO important!

Few things are more important in a child’s world than PLAY! 

kids playing

I read an article today that I want to share with as many people as I possibly can. This article discusses how terribly important play is to our children and to our society as a whole. Please take the time to read

“Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less”.

Children’s play gives them opportunities to learn to navigate through the real world. Learning through play helps kids deal with challenges they face in their environment and their relationships. It helps to build self-esteem, helps them think through problems to overcome challenges, and helps them build relationships. Eliminating time for children to figure things out on their own, be it projects or relationships, can lead to mental health challenges such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression, which in turn decreases their ability to feel confident in completing a challenging task.The above article goes into more detail about all of this, so please take a moment to enlighten yourself. There is nothing more important to cultivate than the mind of a child!

I hope you and your children take time to play, and as I always say, Enjoy the Journey! 😉

ADHD: Non-medication help…

ADHD kidIt seems like every day I have another parent asking me if their child has ADHD (aka Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). The answer isn’t an easy one, neither is the solution. I wrote a post trying to help answer this very question. If you want more information about how to know if your child’s behavior may or may not be ADHD, read Hyperactive or just busy…Could  your child have ADHD?

If you think your child has ADHD, but aren’t sure if they need medication or not, there are some things you can do that should help. Will these effective parenting tips keep your child from needing medication? No. If a child is in need of medication, then, I recommend medicating them. Medication alone can not help a child that is truly ADHD. The most effective treatment is medication along with therapy and effective parenting. 

I’ve talked before about effective parenting. I don’t think enough attention is paid to the importance of proper parenting. I see parents that want me to fix their child, when the problem is that the child is in need of consistency and routine. Children NEED consistent routines, especially children with ADHD.

  • Routine is unbelievably important. Doing things according to a schedule helps a child learn what to anticipate day after day. Using lists or pictures can be helpful to remind children what they are responsible for and keep them on task. Even with routine, your ADHD child will still need help getting everything done.
  • Make sure the rules are clear and followed consistently. If you have rules that are only enforced some of the time, the child will not know when they do or don’t have to follow the rules. This leads to frustration for the child and the parent. And, needless to say, inconsistent results!
  • Give the kids something to be responsible for…this could be helping to take care of pets, taking out the trash, or other chores around the house. This helps the child feel important, learn responsibility, and also builds self-esteem. You will have to remind your child to do their chores, it isn’t going to just happen. Having a list and checking off chores/responsibilities as they accomplish them can be helpful, and is a good way to reinforce good behavior.
  • Praise and Positive Reinforcement is a must for disciplining all children, especially children with ADHD. Recognize & Praise good behavior and accomplishments. Just getting homework or small chores done can be challenging for children with attention issues.
  • Limit “screen time” – This includes all screens, such as TV, video games, computer, etc. Screen time should be limited to just 2-3 hours per day, and should be turned off at least 1 hour before bedtime. This isn’t hard to enforce during the school year because there is limited free time after school. It is a little more challenging during the Summer. Being more liberal with this rule during the summer is ok, just remember, you will see a difference in the child’s behavior; and it is essential to get back into a school routine a week or 2 before school actually starts.
  • Have a good bedtime routine with an acceptable bedtime. Kids in preschool and early elementary grades should be in bed by 7:30-8:30, upper elementary should be 8:30-9, middle school 9-9:30, and high school should be between 9-10. For more information about sleep, please see my blog, Sleep is Crucial for Healthy Development. A tired child has trouble focusing, paying attention, and retaining information. For preschool aged children, there is a significant correlation between hyperactive and impulsive behavior and short sleep duration.
  • Watch what your child is eating, 3 healthy meals and snacks are important for good brain function. Adding essential fatty acids to a child’s diet helps promote good brain function. Eliminate artificial food dyes (AFDs) from the child’s diet. AFDs have been proven to increase hyperactivity in the majority of children. A study done in Great Britain in 2006 documented that 75% of children demonstrated hyperactive behavior correlated with ingestion of AFDs and Sodium Benzoate. I have recommended this intervention to many families, and received many Thank You’s because it makes such an obvious difference in the child’s behavior. I firmly believe that AFDs should be eliminated from our food supply altogether. AFDs have been outlawed in Canada, Britain, Germany and a few other countries.
  • If your child has allergies, treat allergies with a daily allergy medication. Allergies can make ADHD worse! Allergies are a hypersensitivity, ADHD is a hypersensitive state…1+1=2, it’s that simple (not really, but treatment is a must).
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise! Physical activity helps to regulate the neurotransmitters that are dysfunctional in those with ADHD. Participation in sports can be helpful and rewarding for your child. Daily outside time, even when it’s cold should be the norm. Tell your kids to run around the house a few laps before dinnertime, it gets the wiggles out.
  • Whatever your child is good at, encourage it! Whether their forte’ is math, sports, or creating, encourage it! Without our multitasking, intelligent ADHDers, we would not have telephones, airplanes, or many of the inventions and discoveries we take for granted everyday. My above mentioned ADHD post expands on this, even listing all the famous people throughout history that have/had ADHD, check it out!

These interventions take time and effort on the part of parents. They are useful for all kids of all ages, but especially necessary for kids with ADHD. Many of these interventions are just good, effective parenting. 

If a child is in need of medication, these interventions will NOT replace the need for medicating the child. There are typically side effects of medication for most kids, and this can be worrisome to parents. Some of the side effects can be decreased appetite when med is at it’s peak, headaches, stomach aches, mood swings, and sleep issues. It’s important to figure out if the medication is actually to blame, or if there is another underlying reason for the unwanted symptoms. For example, most ADHD kids will have trouble falling asleep, it may be the ADHD or too much screen time, and not the medication. It’s also important to evaluate which is worse, the side effects or the effects of untreated ADHD?? In my professional and personal opinion, the effects of untreated ADHD can be much worse than the side effects of the medication. Trust me, I’m living the ADHD thing with my son. Look for a post on untreated ADHD soon.

Having an ADHD child takes effort, patience, and frequently a little wine. 😉 ADHD children are challenging, difficult to parent, and also rewarding. Those creative ADHD minds are awesome to watch create, absolutely fascinating sometimes. So, if you are dealing with an ADHDer, don’t forget to stop and look at the positive side of this challenge. These ADHDers are going to do amazing things for society, they just need a little TLC, and A LOT of guidance to get there.

Good luck, and regardless of the challenges…. don’t forget to ENJOY THE JOURNEY!

 

Happy Birthday, My Boy!

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Trying out his Hard Rock hat and drum sticks on our DC trip!

I’m celebrating Joshua’s birthday today, but also my birthday as a Mom! My Boy has changed my world in so many wonderful and amazing ways! He has taught me that there are rules to parenting that don’t fit every kid, especially this one!

With kids, just when you think you know what you’re doing, they forget to read the book and respond accordingly…. ugh! My husband and I have been on this Journey called Parenting for 11 years now….and hope it will continue for many, many, many more!

Happy Birthday to my Joshua! The catalyst that started this unbelievable journey called parenthood!

I LOVE YOU JOSHIE!! 🙂 

Here’s to hoping we all continue to ENJOY THE JOURNEY!!! 

For more information about the beginning of this journey and tips about childbirth, check out my post Happy Birthday Baby Boy, A Whole New World!

For more on the challenges of parenthood and life with Joshua, check this one out… Parenting = Biggest Rewards + Most Frustrating Job You Will Ever Have!!