Momo. Hoax or not, scary things happen online.

It’s not just Momo… Even if she started as a hoax, we DO need to protect our kids online.

The news is full of stories about Momo and other scary things our kids are exposed to online. Many stories say this is a hoax. YouTube has said this would be against their rules. It doesn’t really matter if this started as a hoax or if it’s against the rules. The fact is that our kids are exposed to things online.

Our kids do see inappropriate things

I recently saw a preschool aged child for a well visit. During the visit it came up that the child had been exposed to Momo online. When the mother learned that the child saw scary Momo videos, she came up with a great plan. They took images of Momo and transformed her into funny faces, much like what I did for the image above.

I think this mother’s idea is great. She took a character that was scary to her child and made it funny. She used the opportunity to talk to her child. It became a great teaching moment.

Our kids can never “un-see” what they’ve seen, but we can help them to not view it as so scary. If you are unable to do this alone, talk to your pediatrician or a therapist.

We know that traumas impact a child’s development. They can develop significant anxieties and suffer if things are not quickly and adequately addressed.

When things happen we need to find ways to help our kids process them. If your child’s mood or behavior suddenly changes, it is quite possible that they have experienced a traumatic event of some sort. If they won’t talk to you, seek professional help.

What can we do to prevent online exposures?

We can’t stop all exposures, but we can do many things to help protect our kids. This includes monitoring software, anti-virus software, and teaching our kids how to behave responsibly and safely.

Increasing responsibility

Our kids will be online, whether it’s at home or at school or at a friend’s house. They are growing up with the world at their fingertips through the internet, so we must teach them to use it wisely.

Like in other benefits and responsibilities of growing up, our kids should have fewer limits and less monitoring as they show maturity. We cannot expect them to be responsible online at 18 years of age if they never practice with supervision along the way.

Give your kids age-appropriate allowances for games, videos, and other online experiences. I love to use Common Sense Media to learn about movies, games, and other media.

Set up parental controls.

Research parental control software. It’s easy to search “parental control apps” or “parental control software reviews” to find the pros and cons to various brands.

One of my favorite sites that exposes safety concerns has a great post for parents: 5 tips for setting up your child’s device for safety from a tech mom.

Learn to safely monitor phones and specific apps.

Choosing the best for your family is not easy, but read several reviews to find what is best for your family’s needs.

Adult supervision and guidance

If our kids are playing outside, they will have close supervision when they’re young, less as they get older.

Online use should be no different.

Your 3-4 year old should not go to the park alone and they shouldn’t go online alone. If they are online, project the screen to the television so you can watch along or sit with them and play along with them. They should not be online when you are busy doing something else. It is not a safe babysitter.

As kids get older and can understand how to navigate the internet more safely, they can have less and less direct supervision. This does not mean they can have a free for all. Parents can still help them choose age-appropriate sites and have software to keep blocked sites from being accessible.

You can’t just avoid online use

Several parents over the years have tried to end the conversation when I bring up social media safety by saying, “we don’t allow any of that.”

It is not sufficient to simply not allow any social media. Our kids and teens will come across it, whether it’s their own account or a friends.

What things did you do as a teen that your parent didn’t know about? It’s even easier for kids to hide social media accounts than it is for them to do many of the things we used to do as kids.

As kids grow

Talk to older kids and teens about why pornography sites are harmful.

Have discussions about oversharing. Predators look for ways to identify where kids hang out. Kids shouldn’t give a team name or mention that their soccer game is tomorrow morning at 9. That innocent information can help a predator find them. Even photos with identifying information, like a school shirt or team jersey, can be risky if shared publicly.

Kids sometimes get tricked into sharing photos that are inappropriate. This includes pornographic images as well as snapshots identifying where to find them.

Talk about their digital footprint. Schools and employers will look at your child’s online history. It needs to be positive and what they post today will be there forever.

Teach kids basic right and wrong

We cannot protect our kids from everything, but we can teach them to be good decision makers.

Use real life examples and daily experiences to help your kids learn to make safe choices. Let them accept more responsibility and make more choices as they get older. Allow them to make the wrong choice sometimes. They’ll learn from these little mistakes much more than they would if you refuse to let them do that little mistake. This helps to prepare them to make the right choice with the riskier options as they grow.

For example, if your middle school child wants to stay up late to watch a movie but you know he has an early soccer game, discuss the situation with him. Let him make up his own mind in the end – without being judgmental. If he struggles getting out of bed and disappoints his teammates because he’s too tired, is that really the worst thing in the world? I bet the next week he won’t beg to stay up late so much. Just don’t play the “I told you so” game or give attitude about it. That will make him mad at you.

Let kids learn from their own mistakes without discussion or lecture. Kids learn from things like this if we let them. Trust me, there are lots of opportunities for them to learn to make safe, responsible choices as they grow.

In the end, if our kids want to find an inappropriate site or do something they’re not supposed to do, they will. If they use good judgement and make safe choices in other aspects of life, they are more likely to do so online too.

Be vigilant

It’s not just Momo… Even if she started as a hoax, we DO need to talk to our kids about risks online.

We need to keep up with online challenges and apps.

Follow your kids on their social sites. Talk about what sites they can and cannot use, but remember that it is easy for them to set up hidden accounts. That’s why it’s so important to talk to your kids and let them make their own choices as they grow. If you don’t allow options and never let them fail, they will not learn. The more you restrict them, the more they’ll hide from you.

Monitor for new apps. Learn how kids hide them. If your child has an iphone, they can be hiding them in these ways.

Keep track of the time your child spends online. Go to your app store and search “time on phone tracker” or check out these popular apps that track time:

For more:

In addition to the many links above, these articles are highly recommended:

A conversation about ADHD

Listen in as I talk about ADHD. I even throw in several stories from my own experiences in parenting a child with ADHD.

I was recently interviewed about parenting a child with ADHD. I encourage parents of kids with ADHD to listen.

As a pediatrician I have the benefit of seeing many families affected by ADHD, and that has helped me to be a better parent. It has also given me support when things don’t go well because I know I’m not alone.

If you’re feeling frustrated with parenting, especially when it’s related to those issues common to kids with ADHD, I encourage you to listen.

I hope that you will feel like you’re not in this alone. 

Topics discussed:

  • What is ADHD?
  • How is ADHD diagnosed?
  • Co-existing conditions
  • Things that are mistaken as ADHD
  • Ways to manage symptoms other than medicine
  • How symptoms of ADHD change over time
  • And more!

Listen:

For More Information:

Developmental Age in ADHD

Supplements for ADHD

Medications for ADHD: Starting out and titrating

Remembering Medications

Medications: Types and side effects

Alternative Treatments for ADHD

Genetics of ADHD

What does brain imaging tell us about ADHD?

Brain function 101: Why medicines help ADHD

Developmental Age in ADHD

I’ve been asked what the single best parenting tip I’ve gotten as the parent of a child with ADHD is. After a lot of consideration, I’ve decided that it involves setting expectations. When we re-frame things that are appropriate for their developmental age, it alleviates so many fights and frustrations. These expectations can vary if they’re on medication at the time, how much sleep they’ve had, and more.

What is developmental age?

Kids with ADHD have a delay in brain development that affects the ways they organize, process, and act upon information.

Chronologic age

We typically measure a child’s age by how long it’s been since they were born. This is their chronologic age.

We assume that kids will be able to understand more complex ideas and master new tasks as they get older. There are certain milestones that are associated with various ages, such as a social smile by 2 months or walking by 15 months of age.

Developmental age

Your pediatrician will ask developmental questions at routine well visits to be sure your baby is on track.

These questions help us to identify if your child is developing at a normal rate or if there is a delay. At some ages there are specific standardized developmental screening tools to be administered.

As long as a child meets expectations, their developmental age and chronological age match. If they are delayed, we can give a developmental age to help identify their stage of development.

We know that ADHD is one cause of delay of areas of the brain that are important in executive functioning. At this time there are no standard screening tool recommended at all well visits to assess this development. It is important to bring up any concerns from home or school with your physician.

What are executive functioning skills?

Executive functions are the things we use to help us use and act upon information.

Understood is a great resource for many things related to learning, attention, and behavior. They have a great page about what executive functioning problems look like at different ages – from preschool to high school.

But my child’s smart, not delayed!

Being delayed in executive functioning areas of the brain is not the same as being academically delayed or having a low IQ. Parts of our brains grow at different rates.

Even your child that excels in certain areas can be delayed in others.

A child who can do math several grades ahead of classmates might not be able to remember something as simple as turning the homework in the next day.

Another child who reads grade levels ahead might not be able understand why a certain behavior is considered undesirable.

A child who is gifted in the arts can struggle significantly remembering all the things that must happen to get ready to leave the house in the morning on time.

It’s easy to get angry at kids for having missing assignments, when they forget to brush their teeth, or when they’re always running late. It can be difficult to help kids understand why they cannot blurt out answers or tell others what to do or how to do it.

Negative feedback leads to increasing problems

Unfortunately, kids with ADHD often hear negative feedback when they fail to do what’s expected, which can lead to rejection sensitivity.

Kids often develop unproductive ways to buffer the negativity that follows their failures. They can act out, become the “class clown,” decide to stop trying because of the fear of failure, and more.

It is now recognized that kids with ADHD have a delay in brain development that affects the ways they organize, process, and act upon information. #executivefunction #adhd #adhdkcteen

Setting expectations

I’m asked all the time how to set expectations with kids, especially those with ADHD.

It’s understandably difficult to parent when your child, who otherwise looks and acts like kids of the same age, doesn’t have the same abilities in areas of focus, organizing, prioritizing, completing tasks, and self care issues.

Visible differences are easy to spot

When kids look different due to a genetic or physical condition, it’s easy to see what accommodations are needed.

If a child has an obvious trait that makes it difficult to do a task, we modify our expectations. A wheelchair bound child would never be expected to run upstairs to grab something.

Invisible differences still exist

For those who look “normal” but are neurodevelopmentally different, it’s easy to fall into the trap of setting an expectation based on the typical expectation for their age, not their level of development.

A child who has problems with working memory might also struggle to run upstairs to grab something. It’s not a form of defiance when they go upstairs and forget what they’re supposed to be getting or when they don’t return because they get distracted by something else.

Many kids are simply not there yet.

They can’t act their age because that part of their brain is not at that stage.

Most will get there, but it takes them longer.

Set appropriate expectations, and when they struggle, show patience and help them learn. This is much more effective than setting the bar too high, resulting in punishments and anger.

Delays of executive functioning

Dr. Richard Barkley has shown that kids tend to develop executive functioning skills about 30% slower than neurotypical peers. This adds up to about 3-5 years at most ages.

This might mean that your 12 year old might struggle doing what another 12 year old has already mastered. They might only be able to handle things expected of an 8 year old.

Set expectations according to skills, not age

The single tip that helps de-stress parenting more than any other that I’ve heard is to adjust expectations by skill.

Chronologic age is less important when deciding what a child is capable of and what they’re ready to learn.

this doesn’t mean letting them get by with anything…

As a child grows, you will watch their successes and failures.

You learn what they can and cannot handle. Help them with the things they cannot do while letting them do as much as they can.

SEt expectations and supports

One child can be expected to get dressed and brush teeth without reminders.

Another child of the same age will need a chart listing all the routine things that need to be done.

And yet another child of the same age may need reminders to look at the chart.

All of these same age kids can be smart and have good intentions, but they need different levels of reminders.

Recommended Video

I recommend this video to parents often. It shows very clearly what it means to parent a child who is delayed in executive functioning. Parents of kids with ADHD will most likely identify with it.

Top 10 Quest for Health KC posts of 2018

Have you read all of the most popular 2018 posts from Quest for Health KC?

At the end of the year I like to take a look at which posts were popular to help identify what I should write about in the next year. It also gives me the opportunity to share with readers all the best posts they might have missed along the way.

10. Help! I’m sick and I have a baby at home!

Parenting is a tough job, even when you’re not sick. When you have an infant and you’re sick, not only do you have extra sleep needs, but you have to try to keep your baby healthy despite being around your germs. What can you do when you’re sick with a baby at home?

9. Top 10 reasons a child or teen is tired.

We all know the jokes about that teens sleep past noon, but the truth is they need to catch up on sleep deprivation. Learn the top 10 reasons a child or teen is tired.

8. Summer Penile Syndrome

During the summer months one of the most uncomfortable reasons I see boys is that their penis and/or scrotum is swollen significantly. Learn what Summer Penile Syndrome is and what to do about it.

7. Dark Under Eye Circles

When kids have circles under their eyes, parents worry that something’s wrong. Sometimes there’s a treatable reason, sometimes not. Learn all the most common causes of under eye circles and what to do about them.

6. The flu shot doesn’t work

I’m pro-vaccine, so this title might surprise you. I hear the argument that the flu shot doesn’t work so often that it deserves to be addressed.

5. Flu Season Fears: What should you do?

Every flu season as we start to hear reports of kids dying from influenza the fear surfaces. This was written during one of the worst outbreaks in recent history. Be protected against each flu’s season fear with a flu vaccine and healthy habits!

4. Antibiotic Allergy or Just a Rash?

We see rashes all the time when kids are on antibiotics, but thankfully most do not mean a child is allergic. Learn when to suspect antibiotic allergy versus just a rash.

3. Lip Licker’s Dermatitis

When saliva gets on our skin, it breaks it down. Licking the lips leads to increased cracking and bleeding. Some kids have a wide ring of dry skin around their mouth from lip licker’s dermatitis. Learn what you can do to help them heal their smile.

2. What happens if a vaccine booster is delayed?

There are many reasons that people fall behind on their vaccines. Some are intentional, some due to circumstance. Regardless of the cause, what happens if a vaccine booster is delayed?

1. Bumps, ridges, and soft spots on a baby’s head. When should you worry?

I wrote this because I hear concern about bumps, ridges, and soft spots on baby’s (and older kid’s) heads quite often. Learn when you should worry and when it’s okay.

What was your favorite?

I’m surprised at the popularity of a few of these and sad that some of my personal favorites didn’t make the list.

I wish more people would read what fever is so they worry less about a number. Learning the evolution of illness might also help parents understand why exam findings are different on different days. I hear far too often that an ear infection was missed, but it’s more likely that they developed since the first exam.

I’ve also written a little on insurance and the business of medicine, but it doesn’t surprise me that those are not as popular. Sadly, we all need to understand the intricacies of billing and insurance as well as how the business of medicine works. As more and more private practice physicians sell out to large corporations, we’ll all feel the negative impacts.

Can I talk to you privately?

Every once in a while a parent will tell the nurse that they want the child out of the room to discuss an issue with the doctor privately. This is usually something they perceive as a negative thing for the child to hear. Some of the most common concerns are about the child’s weight or behaviors. Sometimes it relates to a change in the family dynamics, such as divorce or a parent having a significant illness.

Secrets should never be kept…

While I understand the parent’s intentions, I find this to be disruptive and counter productive. As much as I try to find an excuse to have a child leave, it is usually obvious that the nurse keeps them out longer than needed.

If we have the child leave the room, he knows something is up. We are talking about him.

But not sharing with him.

What could possibly be so bad that we won’t talk to him about it?

How do you feel when you suspect people are talking about you?

When people talk secretively it hurts.
When people talk secretively it hurts.

And we should always live by example.

I teach kids from early on that there should be no secrets in families.

Why then should parents and doctors keep things from the child?

That doesn’t mean kids need to know everything.

We all know that as adults that we do shield our kids from things.

Kids do not need to know our financial worries. We can teach them financial responsibility without increasing their anxieties.

They do not need the burden of knowing about extramarital affairs. If there are problems in a relationship, they will know there are problems, but they do not need to know details.

I don’t think that kids need to know everything, but that doesn’t mean that we should make it obvious that we’re hiding something. Especially when it pertains to them.

What does the child know?

Any patient needs to know what the issues are so they can be addressed. This includes most kids.

My guess is most of these kids already know what the concerns are.

They may need help working on the concern or help adjusting to the home life situation.

If they are overweight, we need to talk about what they eat, how they exercise, and how they sleep.

When there are behavior problems, they need to give insight into how they feel and what leads to the behaviors.

Regardless of the issue, they need to be a part of the plan to fix the problems. If they aren’t on board, they won’t change their habits. I can talk about weight (or behavior, or drugs, or whatever the concern is) sensitively and in an age appropriate manner with the child. The kids at school are likely talking about it in a not-so-sensitive manner, so it’s best to not make it worse by secretly discussing it.

What if it really needs to be said?

If a parent really wants to let a physician know specific points without the child present, there are ways to do that without making the child feel left out.

  • Send in a letter or secure electronic message with your concerns before the appointment. Be sure it’s at least a few days before the appointment so the doctor has a chance to review it!
  • Schedule a consult appointment for just parents to come in without the child.
  • Call in advance to note your concerns so the physician can address it as needed during the visit.
  • Slip a note in with all the paperwork you’re turning in during check in so the physician can read it before coming into the room. Be sure whoever you give it to realizes it’s included with the standard paperwork so they can pass it on.
  • Don’t bring siblings to an appointment where you want to discuss a private matter with your child.
All of these help the physician know your concerns without blatantly kicking a child out to talk about something privately.

Your child will appreciate it.

7 Ways to Keep Kids from Wandering and Getting Lost

Some kids never leave their parent’s side when out and about, but others wander without concern and are at risk of getting lost. I’ve had one of each, so I know first hand how scary it is to have a wanderer. Many parents worry that their kids will be abducted, but the large majority of lost kids leave on their own accord. Usually there’s no foul play and they can be found relatively quickly (though it seems like an eternity for a worried parent). What can you do to keep kids from wandering and getting lost?

Many times that parents realize their kids are missing, the child hasn’t made the same realization. Parents might be scared to death, but the child is fine – they are often enjoying an adventure and completely unaware of the problem.

Why do they wander?

Distraction and fun

Most of the time they have no clue what they’re doing, especially if they’re too young to really comprehend rules. They aren’t afraid if they’re focused on something else, which can be anything that gets their attention.

It doesn’t take much to get a child’s attention, especially if you’re at a new place.  The new place is also riskier because if they do get separated, they don’t know where they are or where to go for help.

Sometimes kids just want to do something fun because they’re bored. How many kids decide to play hide and seek while shopping? I’ve seen many crawl under clothing racks…

Small children can dart between people in large groups, making it hard to keep up with them without pushing and shoving others out of the way. They don’t realize when they’re focused on something that you’re not right there. Despite saying “excuse me,” I felt inconsiderate plowing through crowds to keep sight on my runner. (She was more than a wanderer…)

Parents get distracted too

Maybe you’re comparison shopping to decide which brand to buy. At some point you have to pay and talk to the cashier.

When your phone buzzes, it’s easy to answer a quick text. Studies show many parents spend a lot of time on their phones when they’re with their kids.

If you hear another child’s cry, do you look in their direction to be sure they’re okay?

And if you have more than one child, you can only really watch one at a time…

It only takes a second to look away from your own child for them to bolt and disappear.

A kid’s view

Kids don’t worry about wandering and getting lost. They get bored or get distracted.

I know one child who was lost at his brother’s sporting event. He decided he was tired and wanted to lay down, so he made it to the family vehicle and took a nap inside.

It all made sense to him, and he didn’t understand why all the parents (it was his brother’s game, so the whole team was looking for him) were upset.

We recognize that a small child roaming through a parking lot is dangerous, but he thought it was reasonable to nap in his familiar seat. He figured his parents would go to the car at the end of the game and find him.

Kids don’t think like adults. We need to talk to them about rules.

Stranger Danger

“Stranger danger” has a nice ring to it. It’s catchy to say. It’s commonly taught to kids.

But it isn’t effective or safe.

The large majority of strangers are good people. If a child is lost, they shouldn’t feel afraid to talk to the right stranger. I’ve heard of kids refusing to talk to caring adults, which delays reuniting them with their families.

The large majority of abducted (and abused) kids are victims of people they know – not strangers.

talk to kids about boundaries & rules

Kids should never be alone with an adult other than the “safe” people you’ve identified with them. This helps to protect them from predators they know.

They should know to never leave with a person unless that person knows a code word. Even if that person knows their name (it’s easy to listen and learn a kid’s name, or it might even be printed on their shirt or backpack) they shouldn’t leave with that person unless it was pre-arranged or they know a special code you’ve discussed.

All kids who are potty trained should know that there are places on their body that are private. Private mean no one should look or touch there unless you’ve given permission for that person. Permission should be given if they need help toileting (including wiping), bathing, or when it’s part of a medical check up. These private places include anything a swimsuit or underwear would cover.

See the bottom of the blog for resources on talking to kids about these big topics!

7 WAYS TO KEEP KIDS FROM WANDERING AND GETTING LOST
7 WAYS TO KEEP KIDS FROM WANDERING AND GETTING LOST

7 Ways to Keep Kids from Getting Lost

Preparation is key!

Talk to your kids about what they should do if they are separated from you.

A lot will depend on their age, maturity level and where you’re going.

If you know the place you’re going has a lot of distractions and crowds, such as an amusement park, you will need to plan differently than if you will be in a neighborhood park that is familiar or a family gathering where they know lots of people.

1. Supervision

When you’re out and about, it goes without saying that someone needs to be responsible for watching the kids.

This is especially true if you’re going with a group. Sometimes there are so many adults, it’s easy to think someone else is watching a child, but no one is. Make it clear who is responsible for watching each child.

If there are a lot of kids for each adult to watch, have the kids pair up with a buddy. They should not leave their buddy. Schools use this system for field trips and it helps keeps track of the kids.

Remind kids that they should never be alone with an adult, even one they know, unless it’s one of their safe adults. (A safe adult is someone you trust wholeheartedly.) There’s safety in numbers!

For your own safety and to avoid mistaken intentions, never be alone with a child who is not your own unless you have permission from their parent. Having two adults around in restrooms and other private areas is especially important!

2. Give kids identifying information

Until kids are old enough to know your phone number (and be able to tell it clearly to a stranger), have them carry it around in some manner. They should know that they can pull it out when needed.

You can make a bracelet with your number. Get number beads from a craft store and kids can help string them!

Put contact information on dog tags so they can wear it as a necklace. Even boys think this is pretty cool.

There are places to make customized temporary tattoos, or you can just use a permanent marker. This isn’t my first choice, but in a pinch, we all have markers.

3. Be ready to identify

I’m that parent who didn’t remember what I dressed my kids in most days. If they were appropriately dressed for the weather, I didn’t really care. But it does matter if you’re looking for a lost child.

If a child is lost and you’re stressed, it’s especially hard to recall what they were wearing.

In today’s world of everyone carrying a phone with photo capabilities, it’s easy to snap a picture.

Take a picture of your child before going to crowded areas. This photo will not only be recent, but will also show what clothing your child has on, which makes it easier to find your child.

4. Be prepared for boredom, hunger, and fatigue

When kids are tired, sick, hungry, or bored, they’re more likely to act up or try to make it fun.

Tired

Plan the trip around nap times as much as possible. Bring a stroller to let a tired child rest if needed.

Sick

Ideally we’d all stay home when sick. Bringing kids to public areas when they’re sick spreads germs.

Keep sick kids home whenever possible. It’s better for them and the community!

Hungry

If they will normally eat during the time of the outing, bring along something to eat.

Make sure the snacks are not going to leave a mess.

Don’t include nut products, since leaving residues around a public place could be life threatening to another child. (There are many other food allergies, so ideally you will wash their hands and wipe surfaces after any foods.)

Boredom

When you know the places you are going are not kid-friendly, try to make it into a game or at least get the kids involved.

The grocery store can be a place to talk to kids about choosing healthy foods. You can do simple math with them by figuring out how many apples you need for the family for the week or by choosing the better deal among differently sized packages.

If you know the kids will have to stay in one place for a while, such as waiting at the DMV, bring books, small toys or games to keep them occupied.

5. Practice

Practice with your kids what they can do if they’re separated. Their risks and abilities change as they get older, so you need to continue the conversation and adapt the plan over the years.

I sometimes would covertly watch my daughter when she ran ahead to see how long it took her to realize I wasn’t right behind her. I wanted to see what she would do when she did figure it out. By preschool she was a pro and knew what to do. She would yell my name or ask another child for help, but at least she stopped where she was and didn’t continue to run further away.

Adults look, kids stay put

I always suggest teaching kids to stay put if they realize they’re lost, unless they’re not in a safe place. If they’re in a street or other unsafe place, they should go to the closest safe location.

Kids should NEVER leave the building or area to look for you. You can teach older kids to go to the front of the store (or find a person in the uniform of the place you are) when you think they’re capable of doing this. Younger kids should just stay put.

Remind them that you will always look for them, and if they stay in one place it’s easier to find them. If they keep moving, they might go to a place you’ve already looked but left, so you won’t find them.

Get loud

Remind them that it’s okay to yell for you by name or whatever they usually call you, even if they’re in a place that’s usually quiet.

Safer Strangers

When lost, it’s okay to ask for help. This is why I don’t want kids to be taught stranger danger.

They should know that if an adult approaches them when they’re not lost, they should be cautious. If they’re at a park and an adult asks for a child’s help looking for their dog, that’s not right. Adults can ask other adults for help. They shouldn’t ask kids for help.

If an adult is offering to help when a child is lost, usually that’s okay. Yes, it’s possible that they’re taking advantage of the situation, but how likely would it be that a person of that caliber would be right there when your child is lost? Most people are good.

Kids should be told to give your phone number to a person who’s trying to help. It’s okay to give their name to a person who works at the place you are visiting. It’s confusing because kids are taught to not give their name and personal information to strangers, but it can help find parents names are shared.

Kids should be taught that they should not leave the area, especially with a strange adult. It’s okay if they help the child find the front of the store or a worker, but they should NOT take the child outside the building or park.

Ask another child for help

That child can then ask the adult they’re with to help your child.

Kids are generally safer to talk to and not as threatening to a child who’s already scared.

The other adult can call your phone if your child knows or is wearing your number. (Pay attention to your phone when looking for your child and answer calls from unknown callers!)

Ask a worker for help

Kids can also look for people wearing the uniform or nametag representing the place you are.

Point out what people wear when working at the location you’re visiting. Whatever it is, be sure your child knows what to look for.

We used to stop at the front of the store routinely so my daughter could be reminded what the cashiers wore. She could talk to someone with that uniform if she was lost.

6. Meeting place

Elementary school aged kids can learn where to meet you if they get separated when they show enough maturity and confidence.

Point out a customer service desk, a landmark at a park, or an easily found place where you are going. You can both go there if you get separated.

By middle school many kids like to be able to shop or play at a park with friends. If your child displays the maturity to do this, then it’s a great way for them to develop independence. Be sure that they know a time and place to meet and how to contact you if they need you before that time.

7. Restraints

I know “restraints” sounds so negative, but think about it.

It’s for safety, not punishment.

We restrain kids in the car because we know it can help to save their lives.

Not only can toddlers and preschoolers wander and get lost, but they can easily get injured when they’re not supervised.

Shopping carts and strollers

If your toddler or preschooler runs around, he’s not safe. If you strap him into a shopping cart or stroller, they’re safer.

Be sure to use the straps appropriately. They can keep kids from climbing or sliding out.

Our stroller just had a lap belt. The newer ones with shoulder straps would have prevented the time my daughter jimmied out of the lap belt and onto the concrete head first. I was pushing her in the stroller, trying to keep up with my son who was running ahead. I was unaware she was climbing out because I had my eyes on my son. She had quite the goose egg!

Leashes

I also have become a fan of leashes for young kids. I know many people think they’re cruel and only appropriate for animals, but I have had great experiences with them.

As mentioned above, my daughter was a runner. I lost her more times than I want to admit. She hated being strapped in a stroller – as I shared above. Of course she often refused to hold hands because she wanted freedom. Family outings that should have been fun quickly became miserable.

When I first got the leash my husband was horrified.

My kids loved it.

It was a cute monkey backpack with a leash. They loved taking each other for walks around the house and even fought about who would wear it. Since it was a backpack, they could carry favorite toys inside.

In public areas my daughter would wear it happily. When my husband saw how my daughter was so much happier having “freedom” while being leashed to us in public, he was sold on the idea.

Warning: if you use one, be ready for judging looks. That’s okay. If they have a runner, they’ll understand. If not, they have no idea.

Leash and book suggestions

I’m an Amazon Associates Member. I do get a small amount of money if you purchase from the following links, but there is no increased cost to you. As always, I only link to products that I recommend regardless of where you purchase them.

These wristband harnesses are great because they allow roaming while being safe, but do not look as much like a leash. There are two sizes, which can allow a child to go a bit farther than many of the backpack styles. It’s basically like holding hands from a distance!

I suspect you’d get fewer evil looks from strangers by using the wristband, but young kids might actually prefer the backpack styles because they’re cute and they can carry “stuff” in them.

I like these because they’re insulated for food storage in addition to having a strap for safety.

Going to Disney? I can see these popular there and for any Disney fan. I lost my 3 year old briefly several times on one Disney trip…

This monkey is similar to the one my kids loved. They’re also backpacks, so they can store a few of their favorite things inside. There are many cute designs.

Safety books



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Show Your Kids Love On Valentine’s Day and Every Day

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m sharing 14 ways to show your child love.

1. Make time to be together

make time to be together
Make special memories and have daily routines together.

It goes without saying that the more time you spend with your family, the more bonding you can enjoy. This photo is from a time that I agreed to be in a show with my theatrical daughter, but not all family time has to be such a huge commitment.

Make a family game night once a week. Volunteer in your child’s class or participate in their extracurricular activities. Take walks. Go to the park. Build a puzzle together. Turn off electronics in the car and just talk.

Make little moments count!

2. Help kids learn from their mistakes

learn from mistakes
We learn best from our mistakes.

Kids make mistakes often. This means they have many chances to learn.

If we try to fix it all for them, it teaches them that they’re not good enough to do it themselves.

Don’t be harsh with your words when kids mess up. Harsh words scar and might keep kids from trying the next time!

Support kids and help them learn what went wrong. Try role-playing to see how they could have done it differently and maybe next time they can practice how to make a better choice.

Check out Bright Futures for more information on learning from mistakes.

3. Turn off screens and tune in

screen timeThere are many studies that show parents are distracted by their phones and computers.

Turn your screens off to be able to give full attention to your kids. Make sure they have screen time limits too.

I’m on my computer a lot now, but when my kids were young I only worked online when my kids were in bed. (Now they stay up later than I do, but they’re not home in the evenings.)

Even when I’m on call I don’t answer my phone during family meals because I wanted to model to my kids that family time should not have interruptions from phones. (Note: there are physicians who have to answer immediately due to true emergency calls, but they calls I get should not be emergencies.)

4. Assign chores

chores for kids

My daughter actually laughed at this one when she was reviewing my blog.

I’ve never been really good at enforcing chores on a regular basis despite the fact that I know they help kids build self confidence and grow into productive adults.

Be a better parent than I’ve been in this regard and have your child do daily or weekly chores. I know it’s faster and easier to just do things yourself, but your kids will benefit from the work!

5. Set limits

set limitsMy daughter also laughed at this one. She is totally the child who will debate any rule. She will follow them if they’re set, but she will attempt to show why the rule should be stretched. I’m proud of her for that characteristic. I don’t want kids that will just follow the leader, but I know that I can’t be an effective parent if there are no limits.

Kids need structure and limits so they can feel secure and learn within safety boundaries.

There are tips on limit setting for strong-willed kids on Aha Parenting that I really like.

6. Eat family meals together

eat as a family
Eating together has so many benefits. Make the time regularly!

Families that eat together stay together. There are studies showing that when families eat meals regularly together, kids benefit in many ways.

We tend to eat healthier if we eat home cooked meals. This leads to a healthier overall body.

Meal times also provide time for bonding. This can lead to less drug use and depression. It makes sense. If kids are connected to their parents, they will have less need to find other ways to make themselves feel good.

Studies show that kids actually do better academically if they eat with their family at least 5 days a week.

All this and it’s less expensive to eat at home. Bonus!

7. Read together

Read reading together

Okay, I’m cheating with this photo a bit. I didn’t ever take pics of reading with my kids, but took one a few years ago when my daughter was reading to her cousin during a car trip.

Despite not having photos of our nighttime rituals, books were the best part of bedtime when my kids were young.

They loved hearing stories. Sometimes we’d play “I spy” with the book we’d read so many times they had it memorized. Sometimes they’d read to me – more and more as they got older. They’d often try to bargain for more reading time. Reading was a great motivator for them to get dressed and brush teeth so we could get started!

Reading together is not only a great bonding time, but it also helps to set the stage for loving a great skill. Many studies over the years continue to  show that reading with children starting when they’re infants helps them learn to speak, interact and bond with parents. They will be more likely to be early readers. Reading with kids who already know how to read helps them feel close to you, understand the world around them and be empathetic citizens of the world.

8. Serve together

serve others
Serving others not only helps those you’re serving, but has also been shown to help the giver.

Doing community service or volunteering to help others has been shown to benefit not only the persons being served, but also those serving.

Kids can develop pride, learn new skills, gain empathy for others, and live new experiences by helping others.

Studies show that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.

Volunteering allows families doing things together working on something productive. They can learn about themselves and each other through helping others.

9. Make physical contact

physical contact
Healthy physical contact can show love.

One of the love languages is physical touch. Sometimes we hear of improper touches and it can negatively impact the way we are able to interact with the kids around us. While I feel very strongly that we need to protect our kids against abusive touches, I also know that kids (and adults) need healthy and safe physical touch.

Never invade a child’s personal space if they don’t want you in it, but physical touch can be reassuring to kids. Give a hug or pat on the back. Tickling and playful roughhousing are fun ways to give physical touch. Dance. Hold hands or make up a fun handshake. Tousle hair as you walk by.

10. Don’t minimize worries

anxiety worry
Don’t minimize your child’s worries.

It’s tempting to just say that everything’s okay and to not worry, but when you say that your child just feels like he’s not heard. Over time he will stop talking to you about his worries.

If you have a hard time understanding your child’s anxieties (or anyone’s anxieties) read this great metaphor from Karen Young at HeySigmund.

Acknowledge the fears and teach your kids how to overcome them.

HeySigmund is one of my favorite blogs. It has great articles on helping kids learn to manage their anxieties.

11. Praise the effort

praise
Praise the effort, not the end result.

Our society tends to reward everything. Participation trophies are not helpful at growing resilient kids.

Poorly worded and empty praise can reduce children’s desires to take on challenges, lower achievement, reduce motivation and even make kids more interested in tearing others down.

Learn to show your kids that you’re attentive with phrases that show you acknowledge their effort or character traits without praising results.

For more on giving helpful praise, see Michelle Borba’s 6 New Rules for Praising to Raise Kind, Successful Kids.

12. Let them learn independence

independence
Let kids do things independently so they can grow into independent adults.

It can be hard to watch kids grow up and take things into their own hands, but it can be rewarding to watch them become independent.

Allowing kids to take on more responsibilities as they grow is a great way to show confidence in them. It can be hard to worry that your child will not remember all aspects of things required or that they will fail at something new, but allowing them to take ownership of things as they get older helps them learn not only the skill to accomplish things, but it also gives them the confidence that they can do things on their own.

13. Let them know you’re always thinking of them

thinking of the ones you love
Do little things to show you’re always thinking of them.

Giving gifts is a great way to show love and affection, but don’t overdo this one.

Not all gifts have to be costly or extravagant.

Leave a little note in the lunch box.

Buy a token gift for no reason occasionally.

Be there to cheer at their game or performance.

It can be that easy.

14. Say “I love you” every day

Saying “I love you” in words is also important. Some people aren’t good at saying it, but try.

I love you
Say “I love you” often!

I also encourage you to not only share moments, but get in front of the camera with your kids. I’m usually behind the camera taking the pictures, so there are very few photos of me with my kids at various life stages. Be in the photos so you can all walk down memory lane together.


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Potty Training

I remember long ago when I was a relatively new mom I still had insecurities about what I was doing (despite the fact that I was a pediatrician). Well, to be honest, I still have lots of great advice for parents, but with my own kids I often struggle to know what’s best.  But my kids are way beyond the potty training years, so I feel like I have that hurdle down now…

A problem for many parents, even pediatrician moms…

My son’s baby book’s potty training page shows my naivety.  He started showing interest in the potty and even telling me appropriately when he needed to go about 18 months of age.

I knew that he was on the early side of potty training (normally between 18 months and 3 years). This is especially unusual for boys, but he was a smart kid, was directing it all himself, and why not potty train him if he’s interested?

I was so excited for him (and me!) that he was interested.

We put out the potty chair.

We clapped and praised.

He was so happy to make pee in the potty.

Then he lost interest. Out of the blue. Done.

It is almost a year to the day later that the baby book says he was interested again. I actually tried to not let him train, since my 2nd baby was due soon, and I didn’t want him to regress.

One day the daycare teacher said, “He’s been in the same diaper all day for 3 days in a row, he needs underwear!” It was time to try again. I decided it was okay to break out the Buzz Lightyear underwear.

When he did it this time, he did it well. He easily mastered the skill and didn’t have accidents.

You’d think we know better for the 2nd kid…

When my daughter started using the potty early (at about 15 months) I thought it was a fleeting interest as well, but she continued to regularly use the toilet.

Wow! Easy… she did it all on her own.

Her independent streak has its negatives, but I liked this aspect of it.

She never had accidents.

Ever.

I stopped bringing extra clothes for her cubby at daycare, she was that good.

Then she lost interest. Out of the blue. Done. At 3 years!

One day she woke and said she was a baby and needed a diaper. By this time, we had no diapers. I told her she was a big girl, got her dressed, and sent her off to daycare as usual.

When I picked her up there was a bag of other kid’s wet clothes. She was on her 4th outfit of the day, but we had no extras at school because she was my never-has-accidents kid.

I knew she wasn’t sick (UTI’s can cause accidents.) She had simply decided that she wanted to be treated like a baby. And she’s always been stubborn.

I had to go out and buy diapers. We stocked her cubby with extra clothes. She LOVED being treated like a baby. The daycare even moved her back to the toddler room because the 3 year room didn’t allow diapers. She loved being with the babies, so it suited her just fine.

The problem was the teachers made such a big deal about how she was a big girl and didn’t need the diaper. When I finally convinced the teachers to just matter of factly change the diaper and ignore her behaviors, she decided it wasn’t fun any more to be a baby. Suddenly she was potty trained again.

No more accidents.

Ever.

Kids develop at various stages.

My advice has always been to let them take the lead when to start potty training, which can happen anywhere from 15 months until 3 years of age.

Kids leading the way?

They are ready to take the lead and potty train when they show interest (wanting to sit on a potty chair, wanting a wet diaper off, telling you when they are wet).

If you push, they will resist. (Trust me.)

Teens and toddlers are one and the same: they both try to exert independence and do it their own way. The more you push, the more they pull.

If you think your child is aware of when he/she needs to urinate or have a bowel movement, put out a potty chair that is in full view when in the bathroom.

Buy potty training books geared toward toddlers.

Show excitement and give praise for interest and any steps in the right direction (sitting on potty, peeing in potty, washing hands, etc.).

You can do a potty dance, give stickers, call Grandma, and do whatever makes a big deal for each little step.

Praise others for using the bathroom.

Invite playdates who are similar ages and are potty trained over so your child can see them in action.

Praise older siblings for going to the bathroom.

You can put the idea in their head: “I’m going to the potty. Boy, do I feel good! I went on the potty, didn’t get my pants dirty, got to flush the toilet, got to use the foamy soap, etc.” but don’t tell them directly to go. They resist being told anything! Teenagers and toddlers are very similar in this aspect.

Scoop on Poop

Many kids are ready to go pee in the potty, but are afraid to poop there.

That is okay.

Offer a diaper at the time of day they often have a bowel movement.

It is not good to try to force stooling in the toilet if they don’t want to go there. They will hold it and end up constipated. Don’t go there!

You can take them to the bathroom after the bowel movement and drop the stool into the toilet, then have the child flush. Then they associate the stool going down the toilet, which sometimes helps. Encourage lots of fruits and water so the stool stays soft. If it hurts to poop, they hold it longer, which then hurts again, which reinforces holding and then constipation.

Don’t worry about setbacks

Many kids show a temporary interest in potty training, but then stop wanting to go completely.  Return to diapers, but leave the potty chair visible.  When the child starts to show interest again, give praises.

potty training
Potty training is scary for a lot of kids.

Remember: normal children do not go to kindergarten in diapers!

They will potty train some day.

If your child isn’t potty trained during the day by 3 1/2 years, talk to your doctor.

Night Accidents

Nighttime accidents are actually normal much longer, see my office’s bedwetting information.

potty training, toilet training

Active Shooters: Reflections and Talking to Kids

Area flags are at half mast today as we are mourning the loss of innocent lives from another mass shooting at a Texas church over the weekend. We are sad for grieving families once again. What we can do to protect ourselves and our loved ones from random violence and acts of hate?

My generally safe town has had two incidents of violence that have made national news in recent years. A man opened fire at a Jewish Community Center and a Jewish Retirement Home and killed three innocent people. Another man shot two men eating at a local restaurant after yelling racial slurs and telling them to leave his country. One of the men died.

My kids have been on lockdowns at their schools on several occasions over the years. Our kids are getting used to lockdown drills and even real events. Thankfully none of the local school lockdowns turned tragic. Being a parent who cannot do anything while a school is in lockdown is stressful. Not knowing what is happening during a lockdown when my children are most likely sitting on a floor of a crowded dark room is terrifying. My kids have never felt that scared, even when it’s a real lockdown, probably because they’ve practiced and feel prepared. For many kids this seems to be the case, but I’m sure there are some who start having separation anxiety or other manifestations of trauma-related stress.
Today my front office staff saw policemen with weapons in hand enter our building and run down the hall. They did not come into our office.
We locked our front door, closed the blinds, and kept patients in exam rooms. We saw several police cars in the parking lot for our building and those near ours.
Our office manager called the police department to find out what was happening and not a lot was learned, but there was a potential active shooter in the area, so they recommended lockdown.
Because I was only in the office for meetings on my “day off” I was able to help tell staff and patients what we knew. I helped bring some of the families into the office. I checked Facebook and Twitter repeatedly to find out what was going on. (But I didn’t grab these screenshots until hours later.)

I had planned on updating our social media, but couldn’t find any real information to post.

At one point we were told they apprehended someone in a creek area behind our building and got the all clear to open back up and let people leave.
41ActionNews
A few minutes later we were told to put our building back on lockdown. No one knew what was going on.
Our receptionists covertly monitored the parking lot for patients so they could get the door for them – we didn’t want families stuck in a potentially dangerous parking lot. Several patients called that they would be late to their appointments because police had blocked one of the roads into our parking area.
I am very proud of my staff and the families that were in the building. Everyone remained calm. No one complained that they were told to not leave the building. I didn’t hear anyone complain when the rooms started to fill, which affected the flow of seeing patients. I must admit that I didn’t really feel scared during all of this, since it seemed like police were all over and our office felt secure. It was frustrating not knowing what was going on, but the anxiety was much worse when the potential shooter was near my children’s school and they were on lockdown.
It is sad that a false alarm like this must be taken seriously. I’ve heard that it was just a man with a stick. Or maybe it was just a prank. No one really knows at this time.
But what I do know is that there are many good people in this world. We can help each other in times of need. We can support one another. Mr. Rogers says:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

When you have to explain these things to your children, remember to keep it simple. Answer their questions, but don’t go deeper than they’re ready to go. Find out what they already know and help them to understand it in ways that mean something to them. Try to keep the news off when kids are in earshot and monitor their screen time online. It’s okay to share your feelings, but try to reassure their safety and list some positives, like Mr. Rodger’s mother did.

Resources for parents to talk to kids about tragic news, such as mass shootings:

Common Sense Media: Explaining the News to Our Kids
PBS: Talking with Kids About News – sorted by ages
HealthyChildren: Talking to Children About Tragedies & Other News Events
American Psychological Association: How to talk to children about difficult news

Lead by Example

We’ve all heard the saying: kids will do what they’re shown, not as they’re told. Lead by example.

It’s so true. Think about all the times your kids are watching you. They are learning from you.

What can you do to help them have healthy habits?
  • Eat your vegetables.
  • Get daily exercise.
  • Wear your seatbelt.
  • Stop at stop signs.
  • Don’t use your phone while driving.
  • Wear a life vest near a lake or river.
  • Maintain your composure during times of stress.
  • No phones at the dinner table.
  • Don’t tell lies- even little ones.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Be kind to others.
  • Call home- your parents and siblings would love to hear from you.
  • Don’t permit violence in your presence.
  • Give your time and talents to others.
  • Take care of your things.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily.
  • Wear a helmet when on a bike.
  • Don’t mow the lawn without proper shoes.
  • Make time for family.
  • Lead by example every day!

 

helmets, exercise
Exercising together safely as a family sets great lifelong habits!