Blog Posts

Protecting the Child, Preserving the Family, and Honoring Life

Welcome to the Blog page of the American College of Pediatricians, which we call Scribit Veritas.  Each issue of the Blog is intended to assist parents, encourage children, and enrich the family.  Read our most recent issue below, and scroll to the bottom of this page to read earlier issues.

 

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Family Activities for Winter Break Fun

family-holiday-fun

Finding a way to keep children entertained during the holidays can be tough. We might want children to watch television so we can get to cooking or get other things done around the house. However, instead of keeping kids up in front of the television we can plan activities for the children.

Some ways to reduce screen time and get children up:

  • Set Screen time Limits and be an example.
  • Focus on family time during the meals and keep the television off. (Research shows that families who eat together tend to eat more nutritious meals)
  • Get outside and do activities such as sledding, ice skating, snowboarding. Or just play in the snow and build an igloo or snowman.
  • Spend time with family. This could include playing with siblings or cousins when visiting extended family. Playing a board game is another great way for kids to stay active and not be in front of the television. Another idea is to dance to the radio. Have a talent show for the family and include singing, dancing, or playing an instrument.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen, or another organization during the holidays.
  • Decorate the house together.
  • Go to the library and get books for children to read about the holiday.
  • Work on Art Projects. Examples from my childhood are colored Styrofoam. shaped like trees and snowflakes with markers. You could also find ideas on Pinterest.
  • Find a new recipe or decorate cookies.

For more information:

20 Christmas Games Your Whole Family Will Love

21 Things to Do During Christmas Break

14 Easy Christmas Crafts for Kids to Make

Image source: http://www.popsugar.com/moms/Family-Holiday-Traditions-Start-39202460

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Gifts for the Mind

boy-with-a-gift

The best gifts are those that give knowledge and experiences. Extracurricular activities such as dance, or a special science program are educational experiences that can benefit children intellectually and developmentally.

For example, “Studies have shown that dancing can improve memory and everyday performance, in addition to reducing dementia risk over the long-term,” according to Dr. Cynthia Green, a leading expert in brain health. 

Creative gift ideas for children can encourage learning and give children positive experiences to remember for a lifetime. Some ideas include:

  • Dance Class/Zumba
  • Taking a trip as a family
  • Visiting a historical site
  • Taking an art class
  • Signing your child up for music lessons. Let your child choose the instrument.
  • Going to a symphony concert can alsobe beneficial to learn and appreciate music, especially if your child is already playing an instrument.
  • Visiting a museum. The National Air and Space Museum is a great place for children if able to travel.
  • Visiting a zoo or an aquarium can help encourage discovery and scientific exploration. Children can gain environmental awareness as well.
  • Role-playing toys like doctor sets, fix-it toys, baby dolls and kitchen equipment. Gifts that encourage role-playing and pretending strengthen a child’s imagination and mental processing and can also help children learn important life skills.

Research shows that reading is beneficial for language and brain development. When parents encourage their young children to read, these children grow up to perform better in school. Lifelong reading has also been shown to reduce the risk of alzheimers in old age. Books are great gifts as well because they also provide children with knowledge and experiences. In addition, books can even help teach children about good values and having good character. Some interesting non-fiction book ideas for children include books on the following subjects:

  • Sports: how-to & self-improvement, autobiographies and biographies on accomplished athletes
  • Music & the Arts: dance, instruments, singing, producing, orchestra, autobiographies and biographies on accomplished musicians, how-to & self-improvement, drawing, painting
  • Hobbies: sewing, jewelry making, stamp collecting, hiking,
  • Plants & Animals, Nature
  • Books on proverbs from different cultures around the world can help children gain wisdom. Personalized religious texts can also serve as gifts for those family who ascribe to a particular religion.
  • Relationships: being a sibling, talking to parents, making friends, waiting for marriage

When children feel loved by their parents, they feel secure and are more confident in trying new activities.

This holiday season and for every day of the year, the best gift you can give your children is unconditional love.

mind-gifts


For more information:

https://www.ksl.com/?sid=42516091&nid=1174

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/20/brain-games-and-other-gifts-that-will-keep-your-brain-in-top-shape_n_2325842.html?slideshow=true#gallery/270661/1

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/every-child-needs

http://www.itsalwaysautumn.com/2014/10/31/less-stuff-fun-best-experience-gift-ideas-kids.html

http://nateandrachael.com/terrehaute/wabash-valley-experience-gift-ideas/

Image source:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/171136854559873675/

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Stepfamilies: Ensuring a Happy, Blended Holiday Season

stepfamily

Holiday’s can be stressful for stepfamilies, especially since children may have to go with an ex or ex spouse for the holidays.

Some tips found online include:

  1. Plan early where the children will go for the holidays.
  2. Don’t make promises in the family you can’t keep. Be realistic with plans.
  3. Create new holiday traditions. Also keep old ones.
  4. Discuss with current spouse how much you will be spending on each child.
  5. One way to save money and avoid competition with the biological parent is to discuss gift choices and split costs.

Family is family, and you should love one another. Stepparents should love all their children whether they are biological or not.

Additional holiday tips for blended and divorced families include

  • Use technology-for those who are not able to see their children in person. Skype, Facetime, and Google hangouts are great video chat resources for communication between parents and their children in different areas of the country.
  • If parents have different holidays and religious views – celebrate both. Each parent can choose what they celebrate, and include their children in the festivities.
  • Working together and communicating can help stepfamilies be able to help the stress during the holiday season.
  • Negotiate and compromise. Just because you don’t celebrate on the date doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate together as a family on a different date. For example, children with divorced parents can celebrate Christmas on two different days if one parent has to work.

The organization Help Guide says, “Let the kids know that you and your ex-spouse will continue to love them and be there for them throughout their lives.” Don’t favorite one child over the others. All children deserve to be treated equal whether or not they are your biological child and children should have different wish-lists for each side of the family.

Some questions to think about with divorce and blended families from Helpline.

  1. Who is picking up the kids, where, and at what time?
  2. Will the parent who doesn’t have the kids on a certain holiday have contact with them on that day?
  3. How will grandparents and step-grandparents be involved?
  4. When does the holiday start and end?

Have a positive attitude about the other household. Don’t guilt your child into going to see other family.  “Do what you can and accept what you cannot change.” This is the best advice when making holiday arrangements with ex spouses and step families.

For more information:

https://blackandmarriedwithkids.com/2013/11/blended-family-stepfamily-survival-tips-10-ways-to-ensure-a-happy-holiday-season/

http://lemonlimeadventures.com/holiday-tips-for-blended-families-divorced-families/

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/family-divorce/step-parenting-blended-families.htm

http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/holiday-tips-blended-families

http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/blended-family/stepparents/stepfamily-living/13-ideas-to-manage-holiday-step-stress

Image source: http://www.piedmontparent.com/PP/5-Tips-for-a-Peaceful-Stepfamily-Holiday/

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Family Recreation (pt. 2): The Logistics

family-recreation2Aristotle described the good life as being characterized by the habit of virtuous action. Today there is too much focus on feeling good. We choose activities and purchase things that make us feel good. This isn’t what makes us happy though. With the rise of materialism in society, there has also been a rise of depression throughout the nation.

The good life, according to Aristotle, contains leisure that is intellectually simulating, creative, moral, and conductive to good human relationships. Aristotle stated what modern research has confirmed, “Virtue-not seeking pleasure, but doing good-is what will help you be happy.” We can learn to incorporate all of these aspects into our family activities.

skills-challenge-graph

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Theory

When we are working on something we need to find our flow; we need to balance the challenge of our task with our skill level. When our skill levels are high and the challege is low, we are bored. If the task is too far above our skill level we get anxious or frustrated. We have the best experience when our skill level and the task’s challege are balanced, or we have reached flow. (see diagram below)

Flow is characterized by challenge, merging of action with environment, clear goals and feedback, concentration on the task, sense of control, loss of self-consciousness, and transformation of time. We need to be doing activities that allow us to reach flow. This can be a challenge for families of differing skill levels to all reach flow while doing the same activity. Parents can have older children teach younger children how to play, they can let children participate in helping older family members play the game (moving pieces, picking up the cards), or they can break up the family into groups based on skill level.

Keeping these principles in mind as we plan family activities can help make the experience more enjoyable for the whole family.

For the full article see: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1097&context=marriageandfamilies

Image from:

http://www.destateparks.com/images/activities/family-camp.jpg (camping family)

http://austega.com/gifted/16-gifted/articles/24-flow-and-mihaly-csikszentmihalyi.html (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Theory)

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Family Recreation (pt. 1): The Benefits

Charles Francis Adams was a grandson of the second president of the United States, a successful lawyer, and ambassador to Great Britain. He took his son fishing one day and wrote in his journal “Went fishing with my son today. A day wasted.” On the same day, his son wrote “Went fishing with my father today, the most wonderful day of my life.”

family-recreation1

Family recreation gives us opportunities “to affect the lives of our children [and] we do not always realize how much they want to be with us.” Recreation is defined as “a leisure time we use to restore, refresh, and regain control in our lives. It provides opportunities for accomplishment and fosters feelings of self-worth, enjoyment, and pleasure. It is also socially constructed and morally acceptable.”

A survey found playing with our children as one of the most pleasurable activities we participate in, but the survey also found that we spend more of our time doing things that aren’t as pleasurable like watching TV. This is sad, as research has found many benefits related to families playing together. Playing together as a family is pleasurable for all family members, helps parents communicate on children’s level, and helps children feel loved. Family recreation promotes family bonding and child development. Parents feel a sense of control and experience intellectual growth. Children learn social and language skills and gain more appreciation for the natural world.

Research has also discovered family recreation to be a protection against teen delinquency. Productive teens who have hobbies, do their homework, are involved in athletics or other activities are happier and experience more pleasure than teens who hang out in the mall. Bored kids are more likely to turn towards delinquency, so family activities protect against boredom and thus delinquency. Family activities help children develop a better self-esteem and more easily decide on a career.

Family recreation can benefit our families in so many ways.

Take the time to play as a family and watch the bonds within the family strengthen and your children become better prepared to flourish in the world.

For the full article see: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1097&context=marriageandfamilies

Image from: http://www.oberschwarzach.at/website/var/tmp/image-thumbnails/0/204/thumb__fancybox/saalbach-bergtour-familie.jpeg

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Benefits of Extended Family

black-extended-family

The extended family can be a blessing for a family. The extended family consists of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

The best memories I have growing up consist of my grandparents watching me. In the days when I would sleep over, I would get scared and end up sleeping on the floor of my grandparents room. Even after growing up and my parents divorced, my grandparents were willing to have me and my siblings live with them. Although these were hard times, many blessings came from having extended family. I grew up spending time in the backyard of my grandparents picking raspberries, playing in the sandbox, building spaceships with my cousins out of plastic chairs, and camping in a tent in the backyard with my cousins making silly recordings on my mp3.

Spending time with people who love them in addition to their parents is empowering and uplifting for kids.

There are so many reasons why extended family is important:

  1. Extra support when in crisis
  2. Makes lasting memories
  3. When divorce or separation happens children have extra family members for love and
  4. Family Law Nova Scotia says, “Members of the extended family can provide stability and continuity in the children’s lives.”
  5. “According to the article “Grandparents and the Extended Family” at UnderstandingChildhood.net, the exposure to different interests and ideas can teach children important lessons that parents may not be able to teach their children”
  6. Grandparents have an extra meaning and purpose in their life when they have grandchildren.
  7. You can learn life stories and lessons from extended family members.
  8. If you live far away from extended family Skype or other form of video chat is great. Some people blog daily just for their family.
  9. Helps understand health problems. Looking at family health history helps determine whether some things are genetic and if the child is more prone to get diabetes, cancer or anything else that affects health.

When kids can go with members of their extended family and be loved and cherished, and then come home to more people who love them, they are more connected to the love and goodness in humanity and better able to live positive and productive lives. 

For more information:

http://www.nsfamilylaw.ca/custody-access/importance-extended-family

http://www.understandingchildhood.net/posts/grandparents-and-the-extended-family/

http://www.alertgps.com/blog/2013/06/18/the-importance-of-extended-family-to-building-strong-healthy-families-part-2-of-5/

Image source: http://family.lovetoknow.com/about-family-values/definition-extended-families

 

 

 

 

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“You Can’t Go…”

responsibilityMy 15-year-old son, David, was supposed to leave for Washington D.C. on a band field trip at 5 a.m. the next day.  One of his responsibilities before he left was to pull the weeds in the garden.  When he had been assigned this job two weeks before, the garden didn’t look too bad and the job was fairly small.  But after procrastinating, it was a veritable jungle in the back yard.  At about 8 p.m., my husband asked our son if he had pulled the weeds yet and informed him that he would not go on the trip if that job wasn’t finished.

The look on David’s face was heartbreaking.  He knew that his dad would not bend the rules, but he still had homework to finish, as well as his packing to do.  It was already dark and finishing the weeding on time looked like an impossibility.  I couldn’t believe that my husband could be so cruel. David had been working and saving for this trip for months. This could hurt his grade and he would be letting his fellow band members down.  Just this once, I thought, we should let him off the hook.

It is so easy for parents to bail out their kids.  When they suffer, you suffer, and holding them responsible can feel like it hurts you more than it hurts them.   As parents, we need to squash down that desire to be “kind” and realize how important it is to teach our children to meet their obligations.

The Center for Parent Education states “Being responsible is a key to children’s success both in school and in the larger world when they grow up. When they learn to take responsibility for their actions and their commitments, they get things done and people know they can be counted on to meet obligations and promises. These children are seen as trustworthy and dependable, they don’t make excuses when they make mistakes but rather own up to them and make amends, they are willing to take on new responsibilities and they are often self-starters. Such behaviors are important ingredients to success in school and in life.”

We sent David out to pull weeds and in my heart I was crying.  What I didn’t realize was that my husband had a plan to both teach David responsibility, but also to teach kindness and empathy.  He gathered up the family and told them the situation and how important it was for each of us to complete our obligations.  He then stated, “ I think that I will go out and help David.  Would anyone else care to join me?”  Every child jumped up, excited to go help, and we had the entire garden weeded in under an hour.  What a great lesson we all learned in being responsible and in helping each other!

pulling-weeds

For more information, visit http://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/responsibility-and-chores/developing-responsibility-in-your-children/

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High Conflict Marriages and Children

marital conflict

Research has linked parent conflict to adjustment problems for their children. Children become sad, angry, and fearful when regularly exposed to destructively handled conflict. Children are usually more aware of what is going on between their parents than most adults realize. Many adults think that divorcing will protect children from the negative effects of conflict. The fact is children are hurt by how their parents fight. Even if parents in a high conflict marriage divorce, children are still likely to do poorly because their parents haven’t learned to manage conflict in a healthy way. Children are likely to imitate their parents’ behaviors and interpret their peers’ intentions negatively.

So, how can parents protect their children from these risks? What can parents do?

They can disagree with one another, but they should not fight regularly. If parents do have a conflict in front of their children, they should take a break to allow everyone to calm down. Parents should let their children see them come back together. “As far as your children’s well-being is concerned, coming back to some point of emotional harmony is more important than resolving whatever it was you were fighting about. So do your kids a favor. Work together to manage your conflicts well and with respect.”

For more information:

Markman, H., Stanley, S., & Blumberg, S. L. (1994). Fighting for your marriage : Positive steps for preventing divorce and preserving a lasting love. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. US].

Image from: http://mnrelationalcounseling.com/wp-content/uploads/Couple-and-Marital-Conflict.png

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ADHD on the Rise

kids immersed in tablets

Apparently humans’ attention span has dropped lower than that of a goldfish. Research has shown that the average human’s attention span has dropped to eight seconds (it was 12 seconds in 2000), while a goldfish has a nine second attention span. Some feel there is a link to the rampant, excessive use of technology to this falling length of attention span. Another study that was published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that almost half of special needs children in preschool with ADHD were on medication for the disorder. Many schools are allowing technology to be used in the classroom, but this may just be adding to the problem.

Many parents are concerned with their children being diagnosed with conditions such as ADHD and are worried about the effects of the medication for such conditions. A study looked at the lifestyle of children diagnosed with ADHD and the lifestyle of children without the condition. The study found that “children with ADHD were more likely to consume artificially sweetened juice, less likely to read for more than one hour per day, more likely to have more than two hours of screen time per day, and more likely to engage in fewer hours of physical activity during the week. Parents of children with ADHD were also much more likely to report that their children have difficulty falling asleep, to report concern about their child’s sleep habits, and fear that sleep problems may be leading to behavior issues. These associations held even in those children not currently taking ADHD medication, which is known to cause sleep disturbance.”

The study results recommend children have no more than 2 hours of total screen time daily; get at least 1 hour of physical activity daily; limit the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages; get 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night; and consume 7 to 10 cups of water daily.

For more information see:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160502131413.htm

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/05/02/dangers-students-short-attention-spans.html

Image from: http://newrytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/rsz_children_tablet.jpg

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Raising Caring, Moral Children

kids huggingAn article from the Washington Post reported on a study that determined 5 ways parents can help their child to be nice to others. From this study 80% of the children stated their parents were more concerned about their child’s achievement or happiness than their concern for others. The researchers said, “Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood.”

Here are the 5 strategies to raise moral, caring children:

  1. Make caring for others a priority. “Children need to learn to balance their needs with the needs of others.”
  2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude. This will allow children to develop the skills and habits of caring and gratitude. Research has found “that people who are in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving…They’re also more likely to be happy and healthy.”
  3. Expand your child’s circle of concern. Children have a small group of individuals that they care about. Help them see others they come in contact with that they can also care for.
  4. Be a strong moral role model and mentor. Children learn by example and parents are the example children follow most closely. Be a good example by being honest and fair, but also acknowledge the times we make mistakes.
  5. Guide children in managing destructive feelings. To be able to care for others, children need to learn to cope with feelings of anger, shame, and envy in positive ways. One way children can learn to cope with negative emotions is to take a deep breath through the nose, exhale through the mouth, and count to five.

For more information see:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/07/18/are-you-raising-nice-kids-a-harvard-psychologist-gives-5-ways-to-raise-them-to-be-kind/

Image from:

http://www.mysmartkid.com/CMSFileHandler/Files/a89d72e5dcf9416792114bd397857b2d/3036b42206c2458b9f07b9bac2b868e0.jpg

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