Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a diagnosis given to children who display a pattern of negative and defiant behavior to parents, teachers and others who have authority over them. Many children disobey their parents or teachers from time to time. In fact, oppositional behavior is very common in pre-school children and teenagers. It's important that we don't mislabel these normal "phases" of childhood as signs of a behavioral disorder. Children with ODD have frequent run-ins with authority figures and are oppositional far more often than other children their age.

Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ODD than girls, especially before puberty. Children typically begin to show signs of ODD before age 8 and no later than 13-15. While mental health professionals are very cautious with diagnosing ODD before the school-aged years, many children with ODD had "difficult" temperaments as toddlers. They were often fussy, argumentative, and likely to throw temper tantrums even as very young children.

Signs that may suggest that a child has ODD include temper-tantrums, even over small disagreements, very upset when they don't get their own way, argues with adults, especially with those in authority, defies or deliberately refuses to follow rules or directions given by adults, blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior, seems touchy or easily annoyed by others, seems angry and resentful much of the time, often wants to "even the score" with others, is spiteful toward others, deliberately annoys people and continues a behavior after being asked to stop several times.

Be careful; as mentioned earlier, many children are oppositional from time to time. Children with ODD really stand out from other kids due to their poor behavior. Also, this pattern of behavior must have been going on for at least 6 months before the diagnosis of ODD can be considered.

These children often need special attention while growing up to overcome their behavior problems. Unfortunately, the "special attention" they receive often comes in the form of almost non-stop punishment, teasing by siblings and peers, and being singled-out as the "problem child" at home and school.

Like other children with behavior problems, they often have low self-esteem and don't get along with brothers, sisters and kids their own age. They also may have school problems related to their poor classroom behavior and problems with classmates.

If the condition is not successfully treated in childhood and the early teens, the child is likely to have greater problems in their teenage and early adult years. For example, children with ODD are vulnerable to having problems with drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and early sexual activity. Parents should not try to diagnose any type of behavioral or emotional disorder in their children or themselves. A diagnosis of ODD can only be made with confidence by a mental health professional who has been specifically trained in the assessment and treatment of this disorder. For more information:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Time . . . is on our side

Managing time effectively is a necessary skill for today’s busy lifestyle. Getting the most out of the time we have for taking care of ourselves, or for building relationships is a very significant part of time management. The University of Nebraska Extension Service has identified seven traits of people who handle time to their advantage. Consider these traits and how you can apply them to your life.

• They believe they deserve time for themselves. Their sense of self-worth inspires them to claim time for themselves. They believe in their responsibility to preserve their health, their mental and emotional well-being, and their creativity.

• They experience the present moment to the fullest. They have outstanding powers of concentration and capacity to focus on the moment at hand. This quality appears in both work and play. They demonstrate an exuberant gift for laughter, pleasure and enjoyment.

• They never seem to be in a hurry. Time-integrated people set their own pace, regardless of their expectations and somehow convince those around them to accept them on their own terms. Even their body language tends to be graceful and purposeful, not jerky and rushed.

• They make time to get what they want. They believe they have the right to arrange their time to fit in the things they want to do. They accomplish more than other people with the same amount of time at their disposal.

• They welcome the future with confidence. They don’t live in constant anticipation of deadlines, responsibilities, due dates, tomorrow, next year or five years ahead. They realize that life is precious, that change supplies opportunities for growth, and they remain open and flexible.

• They create a rich, usable past. They don’t waste precious time with negative thoughts about the past, guilt, anger, regret or blame of others. They regard the past in a positive way, as a rich harvest of experience.

• They spend time on relationships that matter. They try to increase their time with people who are important to them, in both their personal and work lives. They assertively seek out mentors. They renew relationships with old friends and distant family members. They don’t carelessly use other people. They are willing to teach and learn, as well as care and be cared for.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tips to Get your Child to Try New Foods

Introducing new foods to preschoolers takes time and patience. Generally, children who are unwilling to try new foods have lower intake of fruits and vegetables. But the good news is that repeated exposure to new foods often can lead to children trying them! Remember, it can take up to 12 times of offering a food before the child even tastes it. The important thing to remember is not to give up. Focus on introducing new, healthy foods to your preschooler, and then let her decide when to try them.

Showing your child that you like the food, telling her about the food and giving her a lot of chances to get familiar with new foods can help make feeding more relaxing for you and your preschooler. Offer new, healthy options and make sure she sees you eating these foods too. It may be necessary for you to evaluate the quality of your current diet and food choices in order to improve the health of your family. Serving new, healthy foods is not only great for your preschooler, but doing so will benefit the entire family.

Although every child is different, following some simple suggestions may increase the likelihood that your child will try and enjoy new healthy foods. Try the following suggestions and see how they work for you:

• Make them more available. Keep healthy foods in areas children can easily reach and in sizes, shapes, and textures that are right for their age. Examples include cut-up fruits, like apples and grapes (sliced vertically to avoid choking), or vegetables, like celery and carrot sticks.

• Model good behavior. Kids tend to eat the same foods and in the same manner as their parents. Let your child see you enjoying healthy foods and trying new foods.

• Make positive comments about new foods at meal times. Giving foods fun names has been shown to increase the amount that kids will eat.

• Let your child pick out new healthy foods at the grocery store. Children are more likely to try a food if they are the ones to select it.

• Eat more meals as a family. Eating together in a relaxed, pleasant atmosphere (no TV!) will likely increase the number of healthy foods your child will eat.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Teenager Pregnancy: Costs for Taxpayers

If you have ever watched the reality show “Teen Mom,” you might have the same mixed feelings I have. Although my first reaction to this show was one of concern that teen pregnancy would be glamorized, I’m actually pleased that it isn’t presented that way. In fact, it’s a heart-breaking look at the difficulties these teen couples and too-soon parents face on a daily basis. It may be good for teens to watch – perhaps our teen pregnancy rate can be reduced even more.

Recent reports on teen pregnancy have shown a dramatic decline in teen birth in the U.S. from 1990 through 2004. In fact, the 2002 rate of births per 1,000 15 to 19 year old girls is 31% lower than the 1991 rate of 62 births to 1,000 teen girls. And, while this IS good news, it’s also impossible to ignore the fact that the U.S. still has the highest teen pregnancy and birth rates in the industrialized world.

Teen childbearing creates challenges not only for young mothers and fathers, but also for their children, who face many problematic outcomes such as delays in their development and high risk behaviors. But the consequences reach far beyond that nuclear family. A decade ago, researchers estimated that teen childbearing cost federal, state and local governments (and the taxpayers who support them) almost $7 billion a year. According to a recent report published by the nonprofit- non-partisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen pregnancy, in just ten short years, that number has risen to at least $9.1 billion per year.

These costs include both those associated with teen mothers and their partners as well as the costs of caring for the children of teen mothers. For example, costs include $1.9 billion for increased public sector health care costs, $2.3 billion for increased child welfare costs and $2.9 in lost revenue due to lower taxes paid by the children of teen mothers over their own adult lifetimes.

This research brings light to the economic impacts of teen childbearing to U.S. society and why prevention of early childbearing is so important.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Children and Pesticides

Children act fast; so do poisons, including pesticides. The very products we use in and around our homes can actually harm a child's health if stored or used improperly, allowing exposure to potentially highly toxic substances.

A variety of assorted household chemical products are found in the home, some containing pesticides, such as ant and roach sprays and baits, rat poisons, lawn and garden pesticides, flea and tick shampoos and powders. Many additional products have potential to cause harm, particularly to children such as household cleaners, bath and kitchen disinfectants, automotive products, mold and mildew products and swimming pool chemicals.

According to the U.S. Poison Control Centers, a call about someone having been exposed to a poison occurs every 13 seconds. Nearly forty percent of those cases involve a child less than three years of age. In its 2008 annual report, the American Association of Poison Centers, indicated that children younger than 3 years were involved in 38.7% of exposures, and children younger than 6 years accounted for half of all human exposures. In addition, poison center data reported over 70,000 calls made to poison centers with concerns about exposure to common household pesticides. These are only the reported incidences. Also in its 2008 annual report, AAPC stated that from the nearly 2.5 million calls it received reporting exposure, more than 90% of the incidents had occurred in a residence.

Children are curious by nature, but they also spend time outdoors where pesticides may be present on lawns and play equipment; they crawl on carpeted floors that may have been treated with pesticides; they play with pets that may have been treated; and, they engage in frequent hand-to-mouth contact. Compared to adults, children's nervous, immune, digestive, and other bodily systems are still developing, making them less able to metabolize, detoxify, and excrete pollutants.

Preventing children from pesticide exposure in the home environment does not require an elaborate plan. Some simple, common sense, recommendations include the following:

Always read the pesticide product’s label first. All labels are required to bear the statement “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN,” but strict attention should be given to the entirety of label directions.

Never leave products, application equipment, or contaminated protective gear unattended.

Use child-resistant packaging properly and re-close if interrupted during use.

Never transfer and store pesticides into other containers, such as those used for food and drink.

Always store pesticides and other potentially harmful household products in a locked cabinet, closet, locker, or garden shed.

Remove children, pets, and their toys before applying pesticides to any area. Most product labels will state to keep out of treated areas until sprays have dried. Some labels may contain additional directions for washing food-processing surfaces and utensils prior to reuse if applicable.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Caregiver Stress

As caregiving for the elderly continues to increase in the future, almost everyone will either care for or know someone who’s caring for an elderly relative. Adult caregivers can find the task exhausting and overwhelming taking a toll on their physical and emotional health.

Experts say it’s important to remember to take care of yourself first. Eat nutritious meals and get enough sleep. Exercise often and get regular medical checkups. If you begin to experience symptoms of depression such as deep sadness, hopelessness or have trouble concentrating, speak to a doctor right away.

When possible, involve other family members in the caregiving process. Make a list of things that need to be done, including household chores, paying bills, shopping, home repairs and more. also, ask friends and family to help by giving you a break to take time for yourself. Some communities have respite programs that give caregivers a few hours off to do things like shop, exercise and attend special events.

The quality of care you provide can only improve with the quality of care you provide for yourself!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Meal-time Battles and Diets

The diet industry represents a multi-billion dollar industry today. New books and diet programs appear almost every week with offers to help us FINALLY figure out how to eat right and stay in shape. While these programs are typically targeted to adults, the adults who are dealing with their own nutrition issues are also raising the next generation … often with the same rules they learned as kids. Or they are imposing new rules on their children. In many cases, neither of these are appropriate for children.

For example, according to Ellyn Satter, low-fat food is neither nutritionally appropriate nor appealing to toddlers (much less adults!). Likewise, for all the Atkin’s followers out there, starches are not only good for children, but appealing. Satter recommends always having bread and a second starchy food on the table.
Another important shift in philosophy is over control. For all of you raised by the “yours is not to question why, yours is but to do or die” parenting style, consider this. Satter says you’re too controlling if you make your child stay at the table to eat her vegetables; make your child clean her plate or eat everything else before she can have dessert; or if you make your child get by on only three meals a day. However, she says you aren’t providing your child enough structure and limits if you give your child a snack whenever she wants one; let your child behave badly at the table; short-order cook for her; or let your child have juice or milk whenever she wants it. Like most issues of parenting… there’s plenty of give and take.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Marriage and Family Therapy

For better or for worse, in sickness and in health . . . the words are familiar. Today, when, according to the US Census, approximately 50% of all marriages end in divorce, there's another phrase that's becoming widely spoken... It's, “I want us to see a counselor.”

There are still many people who don't understand or resist counseling – thinking that therapy is for crazy people. Yet, according to one study, at any given time, Marriage and Family therapists are treating 1.8 million people in the U.S. Another myth about the field is that it's just for marriage counseling. You don't have to be with your partner for marriage and family therapy. In fact, couples and families make up less than half of the clients in this field of therapy. Some individuals seek counsel for relationship issues, behavioral issues, pre-marital guidance, or for help in working through divorce. Typically, marriage and family therapy is a short-term, results oriented form of treatment, which maintains a family orientation, considering the family to be the most important influence on an individual. Therapists are trained to circumvent problems, strengthen relationships, and prevent problems from getting out of hand.

This field of therapy enjoys a pretty good track record. In a report to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Research and Education Foundation Doherty and Simmons, of the University of Minnesota, found that 98% of the marriage and family therapy clients they surveyed rated services as good or excellent, 97% got the kind of help they were looking for, and 98% indicated that they felt they had been helped in dealing more effectively with problems.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Raising Chronically Sick Children

For most parents, the day their child is born is one of the most joyous occasions of their lifetime. And, for most of those parents, one of their first reactions is the sense of relief to see their child is a normal and healthy baby. But, for many parents, that birth is the beginning of a long struggle with chronic illness.

Chronically ill children are those with either serious or chronic physical, medical and/or developmental conditions that require extensive preventative and maintenance care beyond what is required of typically healthy children. The most common chronic illnesses in children are asthma, diabetes, cancer, AIDS, and congenital heart problems. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 15 to 20 million children have severe health conditions that are likely to require extensive daily caregiving.

Regardless of the disease, the stress suffered by families is remarkably similar. Mothers and fathers both typically experience guilt, anger and sheer exhaustion. Mothers experience lack of confidence in illness management, assume primary responsibility for that management and see the illness as the foreground of family life. Fathers, on the other hand, generally experience feelings of lower self-esteem and experience more negative effects of the illness on themselves and their work.

Chronic illness among children can be tough on siblings as well. Research has shown that siblings of children with chronic illness can also experience low self-esteem, social withdrawal, increased physical complaints, and have difficulty at school.

While the strain of chronic illness can seem overwhelming to families, support IS available! Many hospitals, physician’s offices and clergy can guide parents to support groups and respite care organizations that can ease the burden and lighten the spirits of families struggling with chronic illness.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bonding with your Bottle-fed Baby

For some new parents, breastfeeding is simply not an option. While experts agree breastfeeding is the healthiest choice, when it's not an option, such as for adoptive parents and the 5% of new moms who physically cannot breastfeed their babies, feeding time can and should still be prime time for bonding with a baby.

Most research on infant feeding discusses the mother/baby relationship, but dads can play an important role too. One of the positive aspects of bottle-feeding, either with expressed breast milk or formula, is that both moms and dads can be involved in feeding their baby.

Experts recommend a number of ways for new parents to bond with their baby during feeding time. For example, babies should be cuddled while being fed. Give them a little wiggle room, but not too much. Babies need to be held firmly enough that they don't feel like they're falling. Likewise, hold a baby so that he or she can look into your face while eating.

Research has shown that if babies don't get their emotional needs met by being held and talked to during feeding, they are more likely to eat too much or too little. Never prop a bottle during feeding, as propping does not satisfy the baby's emotional needs and can lead to earache, choking, and tooth decay. But feeding time is not just about meeting the baby's nutritional and emotional needs. Some experts suggest that the health of the parent/child relationship is determined to a large extent by what happens at feeding time.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Foster Parents

Eddie Murphy, Duante Culpepper, Superman, Marilyn Monroe, Alonzo Mourning, Cher, Ice T, John Lennon, James Dean and Babe Ruth . . . What do all these people have in common? They were foster kids!

Foster parenting is a job that gets little attention and is in great demand. I*t involves taking a child into your home who has been abused, neglected or abandoned or whose primary caregivers are unable to meet their parenting duties . . . and caring for them as if they’re one of your own. It’s parenting with challenges potentially far exceeding the norm.

However, the rewards can be extraordinary as well. Imagine superman calling you on mother’s Day or Father’s Day!

There are approximately 550,000 children in the foster care system. The largest portion of children in foster care are from ages 11 to 15 – not an easy age even when they are your own children!

How do you know if foster parenting is for you? Are you a patience, committed person? What are your expectations of children and foster parenting? How good are you at saying good bye? How does your family feel about doing foster care? After all, foster parenting isn’t just about the parents. It’s a job that impacts the entire family. Do you have a lot of love to give?

In Hillsborough County, Hillsborough Kids, Inc. oversees the care of approximately 2,800 children and teens in Hillsborough County due to abuse or neglect. HKI’s mission is to keep kids safe while strengthening families. Funded primarily through Florida’s Department of Children and Families, HKI is the lead agency managing child welfare in Hillsborough County. Their website is

Monday, April 4, 2011

Creative Questioning

I have enjoyed spending a little time in each of my daughters' third grade classrooms and getting to know their students. I usually spend a few minutes reading "Would You Rather" questions out of a fun children's book by Heimberg and Gomberg. Would you rather be able to answer any teacher's question when called on, but only if you used a phony French accent OR be able to solve any math problem, but only while barefoot? Kids love these silly questions. It's also a fun way to get them to use their noggins to imagine and to creatively think. We also spend a few minutes with silly knock-knock jokes. I'm not sure, but I might enjoy those more than the kids, but I think it's fun for everyone.

Here are some fun ideas for stretching your child’s thought process by thinking outside the box and asking them to use their sense in an unusual way.

• Have children close their eyes (or blindfold them) and then guess what you have placed in their hands – a piece of foam rubber, a small rock, a feather and favorite toy, etc.

• Ask them to change things to make them the way they would like them to be. For example, What would taste better if it were sweeter? What would be nicer if it were smaller? What would be more fun if it were faster? What would be better if it were quieter? What would be more exciting if it went backwards?

• To encourage their creative thinking skills, ask children a questions which requires a variety of answers – What are some uses of water? What floats in water? How does water help us? What always stays underwater? What gets bigger in water? What are the different colors that water can be? Other concepts to use are fire, sand, cars, smoke, ice, etc.

• Ask “What would happen?”questions. What would happen if all the trees in the world were blue? What would happen if all the cars were gone? What would happen if everybody wore the same clothes? What would happen if you could fly? What would happen if no one cleaned the house?

• “In-how-many-different-ways” questions can also be fun: In how many different ways could a spoon be used? In how many different ways could a button be used? In how many different ways could a string be used? In how many different ways can we sit in a chair?