All you need is Love…

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My funny, little Valentine!

** Happy Valentine’s Day!! **

Today is a great day to remember that the most important thing you can give your children is your love & your time!! Your time is not only the single most important thing you can give your child, it’s also the one thing they want the most! Family time builds confidence and self esteem; and needless to say, it makes for happy parents too!

So, yesterday, we spent a little Valentine time together, just me and my kids. It was a little more challenging than I anticipated though.

We went to Walmart to get a few things, but specifically for Drew Elizabeth to pick out Valentines to take to school. In 1st grade, Valentine’s Day is quite a big deal, you know. As for Joshua, in 5th grade, not so much. He wouldn’t dream of giving out Valentine’s. (Although he will be thrilled when the chocolate covered pretzels I am having delivered to his class arrive.) He’s growing up way to fast, apparently by the time you get to 5th grade, Valentines aren’t so cool. So, I was glad he helped his sister with her Valentines, and without his help Drew would have gone to school with no Valentines to give out.

BTW- I DO NOT recommend waiting until February 13th to get Valentines for your kids to take to school. By this time, the choices were beyond limited, one thing left was Princess Valentines, which Drew Elizabeth would never give out. (She says she “DOESN’T DO” princesses!) The other choice, Origami Valentines… HA…. not as fun as it sounds…..

When we started in on the cute little origami ladybugs and butterflies, it didn’t look to hard. Fold in half, fold this way, crease that way….

We got the ladybugs done, not too bad, fold in half, fold up a little at the bottom, fold back down, fold back up, turn over, diagonal fold, another diagonal fold, and low and behold, we had a ladybug, CUTE!! Well, that was only half of them. Now time for the 16 step butterflies…..but first, it was time for dinner. (Thankfully, my husband had that under control while we were folding away.)

Origami butterflies are NOT easy, especially if you haven’t done origami before. This was when I was glad to have a brilliant big brother helping, and fortunately he has done origami before. Josh tried, and tried, I tried and tried…. Josh finally got the already folded display butterfly off the box to unfold and figure out. Then, we went online looking for “how to fold a square into and origami butterfly.” Found it, but it wasn’t any more helpful than the picture directions we already had that were about as clear as mud. Drew was getting tired, we only had enough ladybugs for half the class, and Josh was ready to give up….. Daddy’s suggestion, got to bed….

I looked at Drew, she was so tired, but also sad, if we gave up there would not be enough Valentines for the whole class, it was all or nothing now. Josh and I kept at it, as Drew sat there yawning. (My poor girl, she loves her sleep.) Then, Eureka…. Joshua finally figured it out!! 

It was time for an assembly line, Drew did the first 3-4 folds, I did the next tricky part, and Josh finished them off! (Daddy just quit on us and went to take a shower.)

So, today, Drew Elizabeth was off to school with her bag of origami Valentine cards to give out. There is no way in He!! that those first graders will understand how much trouble those stinkin’ things were, but they really are pretty darn cute. 😉

So, lesson learned, spending time with your kids is always a winner, regardless of the challenges… never give up… perseverance pay off…. and NEVER EVER buy origami Valentines again!! 

I hope you are enjoying this Valentine’s Day with your family, it’s one of the sweetest parts of the journey! 😉

“Love is the strongest force the world possesses, and yet it is the humblest imaginable.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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Origami Butterflies & Ladybugs… Too cute!

Small Dose #15 – Family Time is PRICELESS!! Happy Thanksgiving!!

Time spent together is one of the most valuable lessons you can teach your children!

Children want nothing more than to be with their family and to be accepted!

Family time increases self esteem, and makes for happy kids! No Doubt about it!!

Here’s hoping that this Thanksgiving is a good one for you and those closest to you!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

“Be thankful for being together!”-Marci (the philosophically intelligent friend of Charlie Brown & Peppermint Patty)

Please, remember to be grateful & Enjoy the Journey, friends!!! 😉

Small Dose #14- YES, We NEED to treat ADHD!!

“Children growing up with ADHD often face a higher risk for substance use disorders compared with the general population. New research shows that treatment with extended-release stimulants early in adolescence may reduce the risk of developing dependencies on cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs.”

-Dr. Timothy E. Wilkins, MD, Director, Center for Addiction Medicine, Child Psychiatry Services, Mass. General in Boston

 There are many risk factors  associated with non-treatment for ADHD.

A post with more information on the risks of not treating ADHD with medication to follow soon.

Learning how to navigate life’s Parenting Journey is never-ending! 😉

Hey kids, that extra hour was supposed to be for sleep…

Yay, an extra hour of sleep!! Well, that is unless you have kids (or pets) that are on a schedule and can’t tell time. Most of us are thrilled to have an extra hour of sleep when Daylight Saving comes to an end and we “Fall Back.” I learned early along my parenting journey that the time change can wreak havoc on a child with a good schedule. Good parenting involves schedules, so most kids will have some adjustment to make. Most kids have an internal clock, and it’s not necessarily the same as the time on your wall. Making the change can be difficult for many kids and their family.

One way to help minimize the difficulties is to change your child’s schedule in small increments, not an hour all in one day. Change your child’s schedule by 15 minutes at a time. 

Take bedtime for example: If your child typically goes to bed at 8pm, they are going to start melting down around 7. Change their bedtime to 7:15 for a few nights. Then, make bedtime 7:30, a few nights later 7:45, then finally back to 8 a few nights later.

Personally, I am going to enjoy the time change most when I get up for work tomorrow and it isn’t dark outside. There may be challenges during the day and especially in the evening, but the sun coming up an hour earlier will make getting my kids up a little easier. On the flip side, it will make outside playtime after school shorter, meaning less time for the kids to ‘get their wiggles out.’

Every stage of raising kids has it’s challenges. So, I have a small anecdote for those of you with kids that were up too early for you to enjoy your extra hour. Watch out when they do learn to tell time… When Joshua first learned to tell time, I tried to get him to bed a little earlier. He told me that the clock didn’t say 8:00, so it wasn’t his bedtime yet! That took a little extra time and some coersion…. So, enjoy the days when they don’t tell time, the next stage is equally challenging.

I hope all of you get to put that extra hour to good use and find time to spend it Enjoying the Journey!

Helping Children Deal with Disaster

With all of the news coverage of Hurricane Sandy, aka “Frankenstorm” I thought I should write a post about helping children deal with natural disasters.

So, how can you help your child go through a stressful event and minimize worry and concern?

  • The most important thing to do is stay calm. Children look to the adults around them for support and comfort. Often, parents will appear anxious, worried, and constantly talk about their fears and “what if…” scenarios. When a child is exposed to these behaviors, they will most likely be more anxious and worried as well.
  • Turn the TV OFF! Watching images of destroyed property, angry weather, and listening to hyped up newscasters will only increase a child’s concern. Watch a family movie or play a family game instead.
  • Talk to your child about their fears and concerns. Children will often be worried about things because they have exaggerated or irrational predictions about what may happen.
  • If there are serious injuries or losses, make sure your child knows what is going on. Children that don’t know the reality of a situation will often assume the worse.
  • Encourage your child to ask you any questions they want. Discuss what they are worried about, the unknown can be scary.
  • Find time for friends. Having life return to normal as soon as possible can be the best way to help your child understand that things will be ok!
  • Spend time together, this will make your child feel comfortable and secure.
  • Remember, children are resilient, they often persevere during times of stress and turmoil!
  • Encourage your child to journal or draw to deal with their feelings.
  • Continue to practice habits for good health. Get adequate sleep, exercise and make sure you eat well. Taking care of your body in times of stress is important. For tips on nutrition, check out my post, Let them eat cake… for breakfast?

Helping children through times of high anxiety can be challenging. Recognizing that your child is having difficulty dealing with a situation is not always easy. Symptoms of stress and anxiety can present in multiple ways, such as: bad dreams, insomnia, bed wetting, not eating well, not wanting to venture away from a parent/caregiver, stomach aches, headaches, not wanting to play with friends, difficulty concentrating, difficulty in school, or even irritability. If your child seems to be having lingering effects for a prolonged period of time, I would recommend seeing your primary care provider. Children can have Acute Stress Syndrome, which occurs immediately or within a month of the precipitating even. Children can  suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome if the fear and anxiety symptoms last for weeks or months.

If you and your family had to endure the weather challenges of Hurricane Sandy, I hope you came through it without any serious injuries or damages. It sure was  one heck of a storm, definitely one for the record books. Going through natural disasters is an unfortunate part of life. It is part of the journey we could all do without!

Hopefully this part of your journey will be put behind you quickly, and make you and your children stronger on the flip side.

Effective Parenting… Important for all kids, but especially important for raising kids with ADHD!

Effective parenting takes time and effort, no doubt about it!!

For kids with ADHD, effective parenting is a must whether these kids are medicated or not medicated.

This information will be useful for all parents, not just those raising ADHD kids…

Does the child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) need to be medicated?? Yes and No… that’s clear as mud, huh? First, it’s crucial to make sure that what you are dealing with is ADHD! Many children will present with symptoms that might appear to be ADHD, but are actually symptoms of other disorders. ADHD can present  differently for different kids. Yes, there are the classic symptoms, but not all children are as obvious as others. For diagnostic information about ADHD, check out my post, Hyperactive or Just Busy…Could your child have ADHD?

If it’s not ADHD, what else could it be? Some disorders that may present as ADHD could be anxiety, depression, lead poisoning, thyroid dysfunction, vision problems, food allergies/sensitivities, sleep apnea or something else entirely. Making sure your child has the appropriate evaluation is the first step to proper treatment.

I see many preschool age children that are brought in by their parents for behavior problems, it’s most frequently boys vs. girls. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that both boys and girls can have ADHD, but boys are diagnosed 2:1 over girls. I always say that God made boys to hunt and gather, not sit still for 8 hours. 😉 Perfect example – I saw a little boy this week for behavior problems, he is 3 years old and his mother thinks he has ADHD. The first thing I do is ask why the parent thinks the child has ADHD? Jason’s mom reported that he got in trouble in preschool A LOT, was biting other kids, was constantly in time-out, talks non-stop, and his dad has ADHD. After meeting with Jason and his mom, I think he might have ADHD, but at 3 years old I NEVER label a kid as ADHD. And, I would NEVER medicate a 3 year old for attention problems or hyperactivity; 3 yr olds are supposed to be active and have a very short attention span. If a child this young presents with problems, he needs a though neuro-psych evaluation!

There are many interventions that I recommend for young children with behavior issues that resemble ADHD. These interventions can make a huge difference for a family, and must be consistent! 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise! Physical activity helps to regulate the neurotransmitters that are dysfunctional in those with ADHD. Tell your kids to run around the house a few laps before dinnertime, it gets the wiggles out.
  • Whatever they are good at, encourage it! Whether their forte’ is math, sports or building things, 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, check it out!

Do I think these interventions will keep a truly ADHD kid from needing medication? Probably not, it depends on the severity of the ADHD. If I child has mild symptoms, the above interventions may be beneficial enough to avoid the need for meds. If a child has moderate to severe ADHD, they will need medication along with the above interventions.

I can’t expresses how important these “effective parenting” interventions can be, even for those children that need medication. Medication alone will not be enough for a child with true ADHD.

I’ve had many parents come back to me and tell me how much these interventions have helped make their life better. I can tell you personally, that they do make a difference in our family. I’ve shared Joshua’s story with you, he is the definition of Inattention and Hyperactive. If you haven’t read Parenting = Biggest Rewards + Most Frustrating Job You Will EVER Have!!, check it out for a little more insight on raising Josh. Joshua literally spun in circles for many years during his early childhood prior to the elimination of AFDs from his diet. I used to refer to him as Taz, the Tasmanian Devil. After a few days with no AFDs, the spinning stopped!! It was unreal!! It turned my little Tasmanian Devil back into a sweet, funny, and interesting little boy. He was still busy, but it was obvious that he had more control over his behavior.

Children with ADHD take extra time and effort, but the extra parenting will pay off someday when they are able to accomplish their goals. The time and effort will build self-esteem, intellect, and help your child grow to be the healthy and happy person you will always be proud of.

All kids take lots of parenting effort and energy. Each child comes with their own unique challenges, no doubt about it. Being the parent of an ADHD kid will take more patiences, time and effort than parenting the average kid. Your efforts will pay off though, I promise!!

Whatever parenting challenges you face, I hope you always remember to ENJOY THE JOURNEY!

Small Dose #13 – Getting the “Wild Things” back to a Sleep Routine

HI! I wanted to write a short post to help you get those kiddos back into a bedtime routine before school starts.

It’s fun to hang with the “Wild Things” during the summer!

If you are anything like us, your kids have had a liberal or non-existant sleep schedule during summer. That is one of the fun things about summer when you are a kid!!

I recommend getting back into some sort of routine 1 -2 weeks before school actually starts. Kids don’t automatically just go to bed at 8:30 if they have been able to stay up until 10:00 for a few months.

So, here is my advice for getting things back on schedule:

1. Start your kids on a consistent bedtime. Pick whatever their average bedtime has been.

2. Every 2-3 nights make that bedtime earlier by 15 or 20 minutes, i.e.: start at 10pm a few nights, after 2 nights make it 9:45, then a few nights later make it 9:30, etc…

3. Turn the TV OFF!! If I teach you nothing else, please understand how important it is for kids to have about an hour of “No Screens” before they go to bed. They can look at a book, take a warm bath, play quietly in their room, anything that is relaxing for them. NO TV, ipad, Computer, video games, etc. This is the perfect opportunity to get them back into reading.

4. Make the routine before bed consistent. I’ve mentioned my “bath, book, bed” mantra in my blog on sleep. Kids function best when they have a consistent routine.

5. Tell ’em you love ’em, xoxo, and then it’s Lights Out!

For more information on kid’s sleep, please check out my blog Sleep is Crucial for Healthy Development.

I hope you and your family have enjoyed the summer and have been able to spend some quality family time together.

Remember, it’s all about Enjoying the Journey!! 😉

Sleep is Crucial for Healthy Development

Amount and quality of sleep impacts children in every aspect imaginable. Sleep is crucial for proper growth and development, as well as daily functioning. Sleep is essential for neural development, and even a modest decrease in adequate sleep can decrease cognitive ability. According to The Journal of Developmental and Pediatric Behavior, there is a link between preschoolers who sleep less than 10 hours a day and behavior problems.  There is a significant correlation between hyperactive and impulsive behavior and short sleep duration.

I meet many parents that don’t understand the importance of sleep. I have parents bring their kids in to be evaluated for ADHD  and one of the first things we discuss is sleep. If a child is having sleep problems, we need to help correct the sleep issues before thinking about ADHD as the problem, it could be sleep deprivation.

Some parents will tell me their child goes to bed when they get tired. REALLY?? I’m thinking this doesn’t usually go over well. This may work on rare occasions when the child goes to bed at a reasonable time and is following the bodies natural sleep signals. Most children have a natural “window” when they will exhibit signs of sleepiness; rubbing eyes, slowing of activity, etc. If the child doesn’t go to bed during this time, they have an adrenaline rush, which keeps them up for a few more hours, and way past their bedtime!

Children should be expected to sleep in their own bed, and have a good bedtime ritual and schedule from a very young age. Good sleep hygiene makes all the difference as children grow and develop into adulthood. I’m not an advocate of co-sleeping. It may work for some families, but most of the time, the kids disturb the parents, and the parents disturb the kids. I’m all for early morning cuddling, after everyone has had a good nights sleep.

Getting an inadequate amount of sleep actually leads to nighttime wakening. For a child that is having trouble sleeping through the night, it is important to make sure the child is actually getting enough sleep. When children are tired, they will actually show signs of hyperactivity and irritability rather than signs of being tired.

Are their medical reasons that a child may not sleep well?? YES!! Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often have trouble falling asleep because they have trouble turning their brain off. When it comes to sleep and ADHD, each affects the other… ADHD can interfere with sleep, and sleep can make ADHD worse! Talk about a double edged sword…  When Josh was a baby we put him to bed with classical music for the first 2 years of his life, this worked wonders, but he decided he didn’t want it anymore when he was 2. Now, we use a “white noise” machine. If you are worried you child may have ADHD, check out my post Hyperactive or just busy…Could your child have ADHD?

Another medical problem that could interfere with adequate sleep is sleep apnea. Children that have allergies, causing swollen tonsils and adenoids, can have sleep apnea. For allergy info, check out Springtime & Sneezes…You might have allergies if… Children that  suffer from obesity are also high-risk for sleep apnea. Obesity can cause many other medical problems that I will address in a future post.

So, what can we do as parents to help our children get adequate sleep??

  • A good bedtime routine can help; bath, book, then bed is a common mantra of mine.
  • Read before bed, but read books for pleasure, or magazines, things that are of interest to the child. I love going into Joshua’s room at night and finding him asleep on top of his book! 🙂
  • Nightlights are helpful for young kids that have fears related to the dark, making it difficult for them to fall asleep.
  • NO TVs in the bedroom!! This cannot be emphasized enough, NO TV IN THE BEDROOM!!
  • Turn off all screens (TV, computer, ipod, phone texting, etc.) 1 hour before lights out.
  • a “white noise” machine, this is my kids favorite! You can get them with different sounds: rain, ocean, rain forest, waterfall, summer night, etc.

A child that doesn’t get enough sleep will be at risk for behavior problems, decreased immune function, increased irritability, inability to play independently, inability to learn from the environment, and interference with proper growth and development.  Lack of sleep can also increase a child’s risk for obesity, depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  It can also affect emotional well-being, performance, productivity, and cognitive ability. 

When I tell you about kids and sleep problems, I’m telling you not only from education but from experience. Joshua has had trouble falling asleep since he was a toddler.  Does it have anything to do with his ADHD? I’m sure it does. He could be the perfect case study of a child with proper sleep and then without.  He can be such a sweet, intelligent, polite, mannerly, inquisitive, interesting, funny guy. With no sleep, he turns into the Tasmanian devil.  He is whiny, irritable, fatigued, twirling his hair, and literally twirls in circles.  Wow, what a difference sleep can make. I have no doubt that Josh gets his sleep issues from genetics as well, I have problems with sleep sometimes too. My problems are because of a disease called fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia severely impacts one’s sleep. Inadequate sleep makes fibromyalgia worse. Interesting how all of these medical conditions have a reciprocal impact on one’s sleep and one’s health.

Sleep is important for all of us! Make it a priority for your children and it will make your parenting journey a little bit easier…Promise! 😉

Sweet Dreams and don’t forget to Enjoy the Journey!

Small Dose #12 – SUNBLOCK IS A MUST!!

I think it goes without saying, SUNBURN CAN CAUSE CANCER!! 

Our children depend on us to keep them safe, don’t let them down when it comes to sun safety and their future! The burns that happen during childhood can put your child at greater risk for melanoma.

Here are a few simple rules to follow when you spend time in the sun:

    • Apply sunscreen liberally, and reapply about every 2 hours.
    • Put on a hat with a big brim.
    • Children under 6 months are not supposed to use sunscreen, so: keep them in the shade, and avoid the sun between 10-3 (this is when the sun is the strongest)
    • Covering up with clothing is even better than putting on sunscreen. There is even clothing made with SPF.
    • Keep in mind that young children put everything in their mouths, so don’t put sunscreen on their hands.
    • Remember that even under an umbrella at the beach or pool, the sun reflects off the sand and the water, you will still need to apply and reapply.
    • Put sunglasses on your children, the sun causes cataracts, and melanoma can occur in the eye. And, kids think they are cool! 😉
    • If your child takes medication, make sure this doesn’t make them more sensitive to the sun. (i.e. tetracycline).
    • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. For more information on hydration, check out Are You Thirsty? The importance of Hydration.

I thought I would share a picture of my girl (from a few years back) in one of her sunhats, this was my favorite!! I hope you are having a fun and safe summer! And, as always, remember to Enjoy the Journey! 🙂

Summer Safety Rule #1 – Always, Always, Always keep an eye on kids around water!!

Photo from Confession’s of a Dr. Mom blog post: “In the blink of an eye”

The story is always the same – “I only looked away for a second…” and the end of the story is complete tragedy. I couldn’t write a better post myself about how important Water Safety is for children, so I am sharing a post from Confessions of a Dr. Mom. NO ONE wants to live through the loss of a child by drowning.

When Drew was about 3 she wanted to “show off” for some colleagues I had over for an evening around the pool. She proceeded to go down the ladder in the deep end of our pool, saying, “Watch me swim!” Only problem, she couldn’t swim yet!! I was inside getting supplies for our evening and when I came out, my friend Abby was climbing out of the pool with her. It took less than a second worth of discussion from the adults to realize that Drew wasn’t able to swim. She swam a few feet away from the ladder, and then started to SINK!

There are so many stories about kids that just narrowly miss drowning because someone was being vigilant. There are too many stories about children that weren’t so lucky.

DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOUR FAMILY! BE VIGILANT!

I read a blog by a pediatrician that shares some lifesaving advice. Melissa shares some great “Water Safety Rules”. Read her post  In the Blink of an eye, it is truly eye opening!! Thanks for sharing such great advice, Melissa!

Toddlers need constant attention, the “touch” rule is a good one! Don’t let a split second mistake ruin your Journey!