Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It shouldn't hurt to be a child...

Apologies for the delay... The past two weeks have been exceptionally busy.  Last night I gave a lecture on Child Abuse at the Kuwait Medical Association by the invitation of Kuwait Child Rights Society.  I will not present the full powerpoint here, but I will share the summarized list of preventative tips I found from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
*** Please note that even though the wording presented here by the American Academy of Pediatrics seems to suggest that abuse only happens to girls (using she/her), boys are just as likely to be abused. (I doubt that the AAP had meant to be gender specific)
  • Teach your child about the privacy of body parts, and that no one has the right to touch her if she tells the individual not to do so. She should understand that some touching is "good" but some is "bad”.
  • In early childhood, parents can teach their children the name of the genitals, just as they teach their child the names of other body parts. This teaches that the genitals, while "private" are not so private that you can't talk about them.
  • Sit down with your child and explain various situations that might indicate that a possible child molester is making advances.
  • Tell a child that a molester or abductor may offer her alcohol or drugs to reduce her inhibitions.
  • Tell your child that threats from a molester or anyone else are against the law—"If you tell your mother what we did, I'm going to hurt/kill her"—and to tell you immediately about them.
  • If your youngster is in a position to do door-to-door solicitation—perhaps selling Girl Scout cookies or collecting money for a newspaper route—have an adult go with her. Warn your child that she should never enter someone else's home unless an adult accompanies her. (More appropriately for us would be “Girgai’an time)
  • Investigate whether your youngster's school has an abuse-prevention program.
  • Monitor the activities at your child's child-care facility or summer camp. Participate in these activities whenever possible.
  • Spend enough time with your child that she does not feel the need to seek the attention of other adults.

Let us all work on implementing child protection laws and building a supportive infrastructure in Kuwait

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Separation-Anxiety... Overcoming the Disorder

As aforementioned in my previous post, separation anxiety as a normal life stage first develops at about 7 months of age; once a baby understands that his or her caregivers do not disappear when out of sight (object permanence). That leads to the baby developing a true attachment to those adults. Normal separation anxiety is at its strongest at 10 to 18 months and gradually subsides, usually by the age of 3 years. Normal separation anxiety may result in parents having trouble with their babies at bedtime or other times of separation, in that the child becomes anxious, cries, or clings to the caretaker.

Separation anxiety disorder is a mental health disorder that begins in childhood and is characterized by worrying that is out of proportion to the situation of temporarily leaving home or otherwise separating from loved ones. Four percent to 5% of children and adolescents suffer from separation anxiety disorder. The symptoms/signs of separation anxiety include:

  • Repeated excessive anxiety about something bad happening to loved ones or losing them.
  • Heightened concern about either getting lost or being kidnapped.
  • Repeated hesitancy or refusal to go to daycare or school or to be alone or without loved ones or other adults that are important to the anxious child.
  • Persistent reluctance or refusal to go to sleep at nighttime without being physically close to adult loved ones.
  • Repeated nightmares about being separated from the people who are important to the sufferer.
  • Recurrent physical complaints, such as headaches or stomach aches, when separation either occurs or is expected.

Tips on how to help your child overcome separation anxiety:
  • Try not to punish your child for continuing to suffer from the symptoms, but rather reward your child for small victories.
  • Allow your child, in the beginning, to try to achieve those small victories in your presence. Attend some classes with your child, the child may initially want to be on your lap, then is able to sit next to you, and later you may wait outside the classroom, until the final goal of complete separation is achieved.
  • Allow your child to have a symbolic reminder of you and the home.  Pictures or a favorite toy may be utilized as a transitional object and can have a calming effect on your child.
  • Try to prepare your child for upcoming separations whenever possible, as sudden separations may be very difficult in the beginning.
  • Try separations for a brief period of time.  Gradually increase time and distance.
  • When you tell your child that you are going…Go! Do not stall, or repeat goodbyes.  Your child may then become clingy and irritable.
  • Honor time commitments to your child (especially older children).
  • Plan fun activities in advance so you allow the child to anticipate positive outcomes once you are reunited.
  • Simple relaxation techniques can help your child overcome his/her anxiety.  Try teaching the child simple exercises like taking a deep breath or counting to 10. 

Separation-Anxiety... A fact

I think most parents have done this at one point or another...  Do not worry! It is not completely traumatizing and damaging to sneak off, but from a developmental and parental stand-point, it is MORE effective to address the issue and teach your child how to handle separation (rather than delaying the inevitable).  It is true, however, that sneaking off may increase anxiety, or prolong the period of separation anxiety for your child. 

Separation-Anxiety...A definition

Separation anxiety is a normal developmental stage experienced by a child when separated from the primary caregiver. It typically manifests itself as crying and distress when a child is away from a parent or from home.

As time goes by and a child learns to feel safe in a new environment and secure that a parent or caregiver will return after an absence, anxiety over separation should fade.
The typical sequence of child development and parent/child attachment is as follows:

  • First few months: Babies don’t differentiate much among caregivers and usually can be calmed by any loving person, regardless of relationship. This is why new parents often get more emotional the first time they leave an infant with a babysitter or at day care than the baby does!
  • 7-14 months: By about 7 months, babies realize that there’s only one Mom and/or Dad, but they don’t have a sense of time, so even if parents step into the next room for a minute, all the baby knows is that they’re gone, and they’re going to cry or cling or do whatever it takes to keep that from happening. This phase is often called “stranger anxiety,” because even the happiest child becomes shy or fearful around everyone but the primary caregiver, and generally peaks before 18 months.
  • Toddler/preschool years: Children can be anxious and become emotional when a parent or primary caregiver leaves but can be distracted by activities with the caregiver or other children.
  • By age 5: Most children are secure enough to be left with a babysitter, family member or dropped off at school without distress.
Young children exhibit many different behaviors when they are anxious, including:
  • Crying or whining
  • Clinginess (holding hand or leg, wanting to be held, hiding behind parent)
  • Shyness
  • They may become more silent or reclusive
  • They may be unwillingness to interact with others, even if they are familiar (other parent, grandparent, friend)

Situations such as moving to a new home, a change in caregiver, or the birth of a new sibling can trigger or exacerbate separation anxiety.

Normally, separation anxiety is the temporarily distressing result of something all parents want to maintain: bonding with their children. Babies bond to primary caregivers, and then realize their own selfhood, but this happens before they develop a sense of time or learn to trust that an absent caregiver will return. This is why they become anxious when the parent or guardian is not around. As children develop a sense of safety and security in their homes and with their parents, they begin to realize that people can leave and return, and gain confidence that caregiver who promise to come back will in fact come back.  With that realization, separation anxiety fades.

Keep an eye out for an upcoming post that will tackle Separation-Anxiety Disorder and how to overcome it...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

No snooze... They lose...

A super cute entry in Motherload, a New York Time's parenting blog, caught my attention and I wanted to share it with you... I am not supporting this mother's solution, but I do understand it.

Lying to Get My Children More Sleep

This weekend I set all the clocks back. About 7 on Sunday night (which was feeling a whole lot like 8 to me and four cranky children), I set them forward again. But not all the way. About half an hour. Just enough to give the children a little edge on what’s always a sleepy week without my having to declare an early bedtime — and then listen to a chorus of complaint. I admit it: I lied, or at least, I created an atmosphere in which a lie was implied. But it was all for an excellent cause.
For every sleepless parent out there, there’s a sleep-deprived child, and there’s no “mother’s little helper” drug for the child who isn’t getting enough rest. Instead, there are a whole host of troubles associated with shortened sleep hours for children from preschool through adolescence.
A 1998 study of high school students found that students who received poor grades went to bed later and slept less on average than students who got A’s and B’s. I’ve seen other research suggesting that 6- and 7-year-olds who slept only eight hours a night did not perform as well on tests of their academic performance as those who slept nine hours or more. And although that study considered only a relatively small number of children in Spain, I can testify firsthand that the 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds in my home who sleep less than nine hours do not perform as well on tests of cooperation and familial cohesion. Children who have slept well are easier to be around. They bounce back more easily from crushing blows, like an empty box of Cheerios. I don’t have any doubt that they’re doing better in their classrooms and on the playground.
But sometimes, in the midst of busy schedules and family activities, I forget to do a sleep check. Like most of us, I sleep less than I’d like, and I’m more accustomed than I ought to be to “powering through” after a late night. Without even realizing it, I impose the same choices on my children (minus the coffee). It takes something like Jennifer Moses’s article “Waking Up to Young Kids’ Sleep Troubles” in the weekend’s Wall Street Journal to remind me that while my children may cheer my decision to stay an extra half-hour at the Sunday night family party or indulge the desire to put off homework until after dinner, those things have consequences that they can’t fully appreciate. They’re as desperate for good sleep as the mothers reaching for Xanax that I wrote about earlier on Monday. They just don’t know it.
So Sunday night I sprung forward, a few months early, in the name of not just an earlier bedtime but a peaceful version of the same. No one noticed, in spite of the fact that I didn’t change the clocks by their beds. Or if they did, while crawling, clean and warm and tired, under their covers, they didn’t say anything. Tonight it’s back to normal, which will require me to remember (and enforce) the fact that if they need to go to sleep at 8:30 p.m., they need to go brush their teeth at 8 p.m., not 8:29 p.m. Tricking them into bed (like tricking them into eating vegetables) may get them more sleep, but it skimps on the message that sleep is important. Honesty is surely a better policy. But my little subterfuge was awfully effective. Four cheerful children were up on time and even a little early for school. And I felt better, too: with the children filed away, I was in bed earlier, with no loss to my treasured wind-down time. “Bedtime Savings Time” struck me as a win-win. I’m filing it away for future use.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Another Shot

Sharing another interesting article from SHOTS entitled : 

By Nancy Shute

Children today are growing up fast — so fast that they're now being told to have their cholesterol tested before they hit puberty.

The new recommendation to test all children for cholesterol at ages 9 to 11 comes from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The goal is to reduce the risk of heart disease in adulthood. But the new recommendation runs counter to the advice of another federally-funded independent panel, which says routine screening isn't needed before age 20.

"The more we learn the more we realize that the atherosclerosis process really begins early in life," says Steven Daniels, chair of the panel that wrote the new guidelines, and a pediatric cardiologist who chairs the department of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. The earlier in life cholesterol risk can be identified, the premise goes, the easier to keep it under control.

Pediatricians were already supposed to be doing cholesterol tests in children who are obese, have diabetes or have a family history of heart disease. But after studies found that those screening tools weren't catching some grade-schoolers with high cholesterol, the notion of universal screening gained traction.

Kids won't like it, because it requires a blood draw, and that means a needle. But the test won't require a special visit; it will be part of regular well child visits. The new guidelines are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics is publishing them Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

But the new recommendation isn't universally endorsed. Some doctors think the call for universal screening is overkill, since only about half of children with high cholesterol will go on to have that problem as adults. And researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year that in many children, high levels of LDL cholesterol corrected themselves by the next office visit.

A 2007 recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a federally-funded group that sets practice guidelines, says there's not enough evidence to recommend universal screening under age 20.

Daniels says that universal screening is intended to find children with very high LDL cholsterol, the "bad" kind, is 190 milligrams of the stuff in each decliter oof blood. Overall, less than 1 percent of children would be candidates for treatment with statin drugs, he says. "I don't think it's likely that there will be overtreatment."

More likely is that Mom and Dad will need to get serious about exercise eating healthy. Daniel says: "It gives them a stronger rationale for working hard on making the home the healthiest environment that it could be."

Even though statins have an enviable safety record in adults, no studies have been done on the implications of putting children on statins for the rest of their lives. That's why today's recommendation gives some physicians pause.

Longing for yesterday...

Any of my local readers studied in government schools? any of you remember the Home-Economics classes they used to offer?

Cooking in schools is making a come-back! Well not really a come-back, but some schools in the U.S. have adopted programs such as Cooking With Kids, citing the many benefits of such programs.  Even though that specific program only cites benefits related to healthy food choices and awareness (including understanding nutritional value of food, choosing healthy food, etc), other benefits can be found including:

  • Increasing a child's ability to work in a group
  • Using hands-on experience to understand mathematical concepts
  • Increasing problem solving skills
  • Patience
  • Independence skills
  • Decision-making

It may not be possible to have a cooking class as part of the weekly schedule, but I do believe that having a monthly "activities" class can be very beneficial to our kids, especially for KG and Elementary kids.  Hands-on and experiential learning is highly effective and unfortunately underused. 

...Perhaps a place like Young Chefs Academy in Kuwait could approach schools with a proposal to do in-school classes?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Inspirational song...

Thank you Oleana for posting this!!! I am so inspired and awed by this production...  Great singers, wonderful producers, talented writers, simply beautiful... I had to repost... Enjoy!

Legendary Music Producer, Quincy Jones has collaborated with Emirati social entrepreneur Badr Jafar, to jointly produce the Arabic charity single entitled 'TOMORROW / BOKRA'. The song involves 24 leading Arab Artists from 16 nations across the Middle East and North Africa singing with one voice for a better tomorrow. Grammy-nominated international superstar Akon has also lent his vocals to the track, and Shakira, who is of Lebanese descent, has recorded a special introduction to the music video.

Quincy Jones' original Grammy winning version of the song 'Tomorrow (A Better You, A Better Me)' has now been re-adapted and produced by Quincy Jones and Grammy Award winning Moroccan producer- RedOne, with Arabic lyrics written by Majida El Roumi and musical adaptation by Kadim Al Sahir. The music video and documentary film have been directed by Malek Akkad (son of Moustapha Akkad, Director of 'The Message').

Associate Producers include Mawazine, Rabat; The Doha Film Institute; & the Qatar Museum Authority.

All funds raised as part of the single's global distribution will be collected by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture in support of the United Nations World Food Program, Dubai Culture & Arts Authority and the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation among others, to finance educational programs in music, arts and culture for children from across the Arab world.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

'Tis the season to be jolly...

Birthdays, play dates, holidays oh my...

Many of you may be feeling the pressure to buy gifts for other children and wonder if you should go for the popular games of the season, or think of something more original.  Here are my tips for gift giving...

  • Originality can be lovely.  If the child is young enough and doesn't really recognize the toys being given, give a small amount to charity in his/her name.  The family will appreciate it, you would be helping a much bigger cause, and that little child will grow-up knowing he has already contributed in a big way!
  • Buying the popular gift of the season means it is very likely this child already has it.  If you must, then do provide the receipt so that the parents can return it and buy something else.  If you are on the other side and find yourself with 3 similar gifts, it is OK to re-gift! Just make sure you put a note on who gave you the gift to avoid re-gifting the same person (Culturally I understand the hesitation, but everyone knows the price of popular toys, give the gift receipt and smile).
  • When possible, involve your own child in buying his friend the gift.  It allows them to practice generosity and understand sharing.
  • Do not buy live pets as a gift! no matter how cute! (Unless clearly asked or discussed with the recipient family).
  • Experience-based gifts are wonderful and so much fun!  Use a creative way to let the child and his parents know that his gift is.  An examples of experience base gifts include family boweling night, ice-cream day for 5 friends, tickets to a show, etc.  This is something different and ensures that you return the nice invitation with an invitation (Two birds, one stone).
  • For very young kids, it is ok to get a gift for the parents or the home, with a small symbol for the child.
  • Educational toys, DVDs,  and books are excellent.  Yes the child may not be jumping up and down when receiving it, but the parents would certainly appreciate it.
  • Be weary of any allergies, rules and/or limitations the families have.  You can ask the family directly, otherwise it is always best to err on the side of safety.  Avoid giving sweets, toys/games that are violent and culturally/religiously bound toys.
  • Be sensitive to the families' economic situation.  Do not buy expensive gifts if the recipient family would not be able to return something in a similar amount.

Do you have any tips of your own? Do share them with us!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November update...

  • New poll on the left so Vote Vote Vote (you are allowed multiple answers this time)...
  • Old poll results suggest Arabic translation can wait. Sorry for the 10 percent who wanted it, but it WILL happen!
  • There is less than 2 months left on our fabulous 10% off offer for ALL maxi-cosi products from Just Kidding (Link).
  • Some of you might be celebrating Thanksgiving this month... Let us all be thankful for what we have and take the time this month to share our thanks together with our families.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month.  Be aware by educating your self and others... Some warning signs when it comes to kids (Both types of Diabetes):

Always thirsty
Urinates often
Eats frequently but still thin
Family history of Diabetes

Enjoy this gorgeous weather... Stay warm!

Higher Risk

This is the title of an article which discusses a new study by UC Davis Mind Institute, the largest infant sibling thus far, linking increased risk of Autism in younger siblings of children with Autism.  Follow the link for the full discussion (link).

My two fils?  
As a precautionary measure, it is always recommended to test/assess or simply monitor younger siblings of children with a variety of difficulties, including  medical and developmental disorders that have a proven genetic link (but also those that do not necessarily do).

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Eid in the 70s...

عيدكم مبارك وكل عام و الجميع  بخـــير

Yes you can!

Healthy children's website is one of the sites I have to regularly check. This recent article was helpful and I wanted to share it with you. They list 10 tips for children's success in school. These are the tips, but do go on to their website (link below) for the full article and description of these helpful tips.

  1. Enforce Healthy Habits
  2. Stick to a Routine
  3. Create a "Launch Pad"
  4. Designate a Space
  5. Read, Again and Again
  6. Learn Always
  7. Take the Lead
  8. Talk Often
  9. Show Interest
  10. Expect Success

Thursday, November 3, 2011

4.5 Lessons for Eid

As a holiday, Eid represents the perfect opportunity for family bonding time and communication.  One of my favorite things to say is “every opportunity is a learning opportunity” so these are my four lessons for Eid:

  • Take the time to try something new together; this is helpful for couples and families.  New experiences present challenges and excitement; they also allow the couple and/or family to share something mutual and exclusive. 

  • Something very unique about Eid is that adult family members would usually give children money (eediya). Use this time to teach kids about giving, and not just receiving.  Discuss poverty and need, and perhaps help them find toys or clothes that they could donate to charity.  

  • Another wonderful lesson is saving.  With older kids you can discuss the concept of a bank and a savings account.  With younger ones, you can explain through showing them different prices of toys/products, and discussing how saving can you get something you may want/need later (or something more special).  Use point collection (for good behavior) rather than money with the younger ones to learn about saving.  This lesson also helps teach our youngsters about patience, and impulse control. 
Perhaps not this young!

  • Eid represents rituals and socio-cultural traditions.  It is a nice time to come up with your own rituals with your kids or renew an old tradition.  This can be a special breakfast that you have every Eid, or an activity you do on Eid evening; something which is special to you as a family.  This would develop feelings of excitement within your family about that day, and will bond you even when your child is older and away from home for college or to start their own families:)
Renewing the old. Family meal time can be wonderful!

The most important lesson is learn to enjoy family time... Wishing you a blessed and fun-loving Eid... 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Elmo lends a teaching hand

As the name of this blog suggests, we LOVE learning and TEACHing and PLAYing, and what better way to do it than through song, dance and visual representation!

Thanks to Oleana's post, I was reminded of how helpful the Sesame Street and Elmo videos are.  Here are two of my favorite teaching ones based on learning the alphabet and counting.  And as a bonus to us adults, they chose the beautiful voices of India Arie and Feist.  Love it!

Feist's counting video (link):

This is the alphabet video with India Arie (Alphabet Video):