Wednesday, June 29, 2011


It takes mutual respect to make a family work. Not because parents and children are equals, but because they have an equal right to be respected. As a parent, you set the pace and you create the atmosphere of respect in the home.

We show respect when we listen to our children as thoughtfully as we listen to our boss or friend. We show respect when we take the time to teach our child grown-up skills, such as cooking, cleaning and car repairs – and when you expect him to join in on the family work as well as the family fun.

You also show respect when you knock on your child’s door before you enter and when you ignore any notes that are left around her room. This tells her that she has rights, too, and you know it.

You give your child respect when you offer him choices whenever you can, when you let him waste his time sometimes because it’s his time, not yours; and when you accept his choice in music as you hope he will accept yours.

I think the greatest respect we can give our children is one of the hardest – that is letting go! Being less protective because we know our children have to eventually make their own choices and their own mistakes. It also means being less willing to do for our children what they can do for themselves.

This is how they learn to take care of themselves. If we clean up after our children, we’re telling them that we don’t think they can take care of themselves. If we tell them how to spend their money we’re sending the same message. A child who is respected is a child who is free to grow.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Stepfamilies are becoming one of the most common family forms in the United States. When stepfamilies are formed, many new relationships are created. You may become an instant grandparent with step-grandchildren. You may have both grandchildren and step-grandchildren in the same family. Consequently, step- grandparenting can offer the same challenges, uncertainties, conflicts and rewards that exist in other stepfamily relationships.

Remember that relationships are built over time. Your relationship and role as a step-grandparent will take time to develop. The important first steps in building a meaningful relationship with your step-grandchildren are communication and spending time getting to know each other.

Recognize the vital role of grandparents and step-grandparents in today's families. Today, a majority of families with children are busier than ever before. You can offer children in these busy families companionship, time, and a listening ear. Grandparents are described as “significant others who have a great deal to do with one's view of life.” Grandchildren who are exposed to such contact are less fearful of old age and the elderly. They feel more connected to their families.

Create the grandparenting role that is comfortable to you and rewarding for your stepfamily. Step-grandparenting, like other stepfamily roles, is challenging and undefined. It is up to you to carve a role for yourself that fits your son or daughter’s new family.

To download the full publication “Stepping Stones for Stepfamilies: For

Step-Grandparents” by Millie Ferrer-Chancy:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Bedwetting is a common problem in children ages 5-12, particularly for boys. An estimated 5 to 7 million children in the U.S. have a problem with bedwetting at any given time. The good news is that most of them eventually outgrow it. Most physicians and psychologists advise parents that a child should be able to keep the bed dry by age five or six. However, many professionals admit that bedwetting can become a serious problem for the younger child if it begins to impact their self-esteem, behavior, and relationships with others.

All of the causes of bedwetting are not known. Physicians emphasize that bedwetting is a symptom, not a disease. Bedwetting is not a mental problem, learning problem, or behavioral problem. Even children with no history of bedwetting may lose bladder control from time to time. For example, bedwetting may appear, or increase, when a child is ill. Urinary tract infections often cause bedwetting in children and adults.

Children rarely wet the bed on purpose, so parents need to avoid punishing their child. Bedwetting can also be a response to emotional conflict, anxiety or stress, such as a dramatic change in home and family life. Parents should consider talking to a doctor to rule out any physical causes and to discuss a variety of treatments for their child, such as scheduled waking, changing parenting styles, limiting fluids at night, exercises, and medications.

You can download a copy of the full “Bedwetting” publication at:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Kids' Big Worries

Which one of the following situations do you think would cause your child more stress; the threat of nuclear war, or giving a report in class?

Most children probably would choose the second because they tend to focus on immediate, concrete concerns. A study at the University of Colorado shows that a child’s #1 fear is losing a parent or eyesight. Next on the list is being held back in school, wetting in class, being accused of lying or stealing, or being sent to the principal’s office. Far down on the list are events that parents might have guessed; having an operation or adjusting to a new baby in the family.

Worries change as children grow. Preschooler worries include toilet training accidents, starting school, being separated from their parents, sharing and cooperating, discipline and not being understood when they speak0

Elementary-age children worry about pressure to perform academically and conform to rules, being excluded, not being listened to, being teased or embarrassed, getting angry or jealous, teachers getting angry, getting a bad report card, and not having the right kind of clothing or school gear.

Adolescents worry about changes in their body, peer pressure to use drugs or become sexually active, and feeling self-conscious.

Children need to feel they have a sense of control and that they can solve their own problems. Parents can take an active role in teaching children problem-solving skills by sharing with their child how they make everyday decisions themselves, and by allowing children to solve small problems on their own.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Co-parenting and Father Involvement

About half of all U.S. children will live apart from their fathers some time during their childhood because their parents have divorced or separated. While some nonresidential fathers do not maintain contact with their child, others are able to continue to be a part of the child’s life. A very important factor in whether a father remains involved seems to be how the mother and father work out their co-parenting relationship after they split up. Fathers may be involved in decisions about the child, have frequent contact, and be involved in warm and supportive relationships with their children – or they may be fairly distant or not involved at all.

A recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family looked at co-parenting relationships between custodial mothers and fathers living apart from their biological children. Using data collected from a national sample of children and custodial mothers, the researchers found that cooperative co-parenting is fairly uncommon: 66% of mothers say that the father has no influence over childrearing and 58% say that they get no help from the father in childrearing.

These results suggest that many parents may find it difficult or even impossible to engage in cooperative co-parenting after separation. However, when they can cooperate, fathers are able to have more frequent contact with their children and a more trusting and supportive relationship, confirming other research that finds father involvement has many positive outcomes for children.

Classes for divorcing couples (or couples with children who never married) can help co-parents to work together for the future of their children. For more information:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Swallowing Problems and Older Adults

If you are caring for an older family member, you understand that chewing and swallowing issues are common. The following information was written by Wendy J. Dahl, PhD, assistant professor; Food Science and Human Nutrition Department; University of Florida.

Many older adults have problems with chewing their food due to missing or broken teeth, poor fitting dentures, or a sore mouth or toothache. Our tongues are needed to help move food around the mouth when we chew. Some older adults may have problems with tongue movement after a stroke, which can lead to problems with chewing.

Adding the right amount of saliva is important for swallowing. Dry foods, such as bread, crackers, and cookies, require a lot of saliva incorporation. An older adult with a dry mouth, due to reduced saliva production, may have problems chewing and swallowing dry foods.

Causes of dry mouth include the following:

• side effects of some medicines

• diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease

• nerve damage after injury to the head or neck

• radiation cancer treatment to the head or neck

• chemotherapy cancer treatment

Difficulties with keeping lips closed or controlling tongue movement, or a lack of feeling or sensation in the mouth, will interfere with swallowing. Older adults may also have problems with food getting stuck in the esophagus. Swallowing can be slow or uncontrolled.

Stroke is one of the most common causes of swallowing problems. Diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer"s disease often lead to swallowing problems. Head and neck cancer and some cancer treatments, as well as spinal cord and head injuries, also can cause swallowing problems. Some medications may also affect swallowing.

Some frail older adults may have problems communicating their symptoms. Caregivers can be on the lookout for signs of swallowing problems:

• coughing while eating

• gargling voice quality

• drooling while eating

• food pieces in the cheeks or under the tongue

• very slow eating or swallowing

Many older adults with swallowing problems may become much more "picky" with respect to what foods they want to eat. Older adults with swallowing problems may begin to eat less. This may lead to dehydration and weight loss. As weight loss progresses, malnutrition may be the result.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Money Needs and the Family Life Cycle

When it comes to the future, many people wish they had a crystal ball, especially when money comes into the picture. Since crystal balls are hard to come by, University of Florida researchers say to look at the “family life cycle” to help predict future costs.

The family life cycle is a sequence of events that makes up a family’s pattern of development. It begins with marriage and includes other events such as the birth of children up to retirement. By knowing what usually occurs during various stages in the cycle, people can anticipate what their money will be used for and plan ahead.

The cycle begins with marriage, a time when couples need furnishings and household equipment, but have little income. Also, many couples begin to look at having a home of their own. When children come into the family, costs can also increase if one member of the couple takes time off of work to care for babies. Medical costs, along with insurance, can go up as well. Additionally, if one member of the couple stays home to raise children, there’s a loss of income. If both parents work, costs are incurred for day care. By this stage, families also usually have payments to make on a number of items, such as a home and cars.

Bigger changes still lie ahead as families put children through college and then adjust to their potentially empty nests and retirement. When families spend time talking about and planning for the financial responsibilities that are typical of each stage, they can make smarter financial decisions based on the needs of the family life cycle

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Teen Birth Rates

Over the years, my daughters often shared with me the latest pictures of some of their teenage friends with their babies. The young mothers appeared to be very happy. Unfortunately, the odds are very much against them.

According to researchers at the Urban Institute and Child Trends Databank, teen mothers are usually unprepared for the emotional, psychological and financial challenges faced by early childbearing. Teen parents often do not complete high school, limiting their earning potential and the financial support they can provide their children. As a result, these families are more likely to depend on state or federal assistance.

The children of adolescent mothers are more likely to be born prematurely and to die as infants. They generally have less success academically and have more behavioral problems than their peers born to adult mothers. Additionally, children of teen mothers are more likely to become sexually active in their teens and to become teen parents themselves.

However, according to the most recent national vital statistics from the CDC, the good news is that since 1991 teen birth rates have declined from almost 62 per 1,000 females to 41 per thousand – the lowest rate ever reported in the United States. According to Child Trends, working with teens to change their perceptions of sexual activity, reducing other risky behaviors and promoting abstinence values through sex education in home, school, community and media, have all been successful in reducing teen birth rates.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Reading Gap between Boys and Girls

Boys lag far behind girls in reading proficiency. Test scores – in Hillsborough County as well as Florida and the nation – confirm the disparity. Girls are more proficient in reading than boys at all grade levels.

The gap, which is as wide as ten percentage points, is widest in fourth and fifth grades when reading shifts from basic skills to more complex subject matter.

Boys also outnumber girls in remedial reading classes and summer reading camps. Educators have long recognized that boys and girls learn differently and new brain research has convinced some that more consideration should be given to the findings.

Girls’ left brains tend to develop more quickly than boys’ left brains, which enable girls to actually do the writing, fine motor skills, hear better and sit in their seats longer. Boys’ right brains (responsible for spatial and visual motor skills) develop faster than girls’ right brains. Educators say it is critical for children – both boys and girls – to see adults read and to have books read to young children often.

Speaking of adults . . . one in four adults (27%) say they read NO books in the past year, according to an Associated Press–Ipsos poll. Of those who did read, women and seniors were most avid readers. The typical reader claimed to have read four books in the past year.

Who are the 27% of people found to have not read a single book in the past year? Nearly a third of men and a quarter of women fit that category. They tend to be less-educated, lower-income, minorities and from rural areas. Among those who said they had read books, the median figure was nine books for women and five for men. The poll also indicated that those with college degrees read the most and people age 50 and older read more than those who are younger. Read a book this week!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Family Emergency Plans

As much as we think we can have control of everything, as we have seen, natural disaster can strike anyone, anytime, and anywhere... be it tsunami, hurricane, flood or all of the above!

If you haven't already, you and your family should prepare an emergency plan for such an event. Develop a specific plan; then review it frequently with all members of the household. Make a list of items considered essential in the event of evacuation, such as special medications and foods for those on special diets, and collect all these items in one location. Have enough containers, utensils, and paper goods. If commercial bottled water is not available, collect several food-grade containers for storing water and food. These containers should be lightweight and easy to carry, to make potential evacuation more efficient. Maintain an adequate supply of paper goods, such as paper towels and toilet paper.

As the supply of clean water may be limited following an evacuation, it is recommended that a supply of sanitary hand wipes be purchased. A sufficient quantity of shelf-stable, nonperishable foods should also be on hand. It's important that your family maintains their strength during and after the storm. Therefore, be sure to consider nutrition, as well as likes and dislikes of family members (especially children), when stocking up on food. When a disaster strikes, your emergency plans will help your family maintain a minimal level of safety and health while waiting for help.