Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Vision Loss

Vision loss means that a person’s eyesight is not correct to a “normal” level. Vision loss can vary greatly among children and can be caused by many things.

Vision loss can be caused by damage to the eye itself, by the eye being shaped incorrectly, or even by a problem in the brain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that children should be checked for vision problems by an ophthalmologist, optometrist, pediatrician or other trained specialist at these ages:
·         Newborn to 3 months
·         6 months to 1 year
·         About 3 years
·         About 5 years.

Having your child’s vision checked is especially important if someone in your family has had vision problems.

A child with vision loss might:
·         Close or cover one eye
·         Squint the eyes or frown
·         Complain that things are blurry or hard to see
·         Have trouble reading or doing other close-up work
·         Hold objects close to eyes in order to see
·         Blink more than usually or seem cranky when doing close-up work
·         Have one eye that looks out or cross
·         One or both eyes could be watery with one or both eyelids looking red-rimmed, crusted or swollen.

Talk with your child’s doctor if you think your child may have vision problems. The National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities can also help at More information is also available from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at or or 1-800-232-4636.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Parent Question #2

Rules are made so children:
a.    Will learn how they are supposed to act and behave at home and in school.
b.    Will follow them without questioning them.
c.    Will learn who is boss.

Of course the best answer is “A”. However, children do not begin to understand or comprehend how rules really work until about 5 or 6 years of age. For example, playing a card game with children before they have a grasp of rules is hard since they just don’t get it! Games such as Candy Land are a good way to start to introduce rules to young children, but we can’t expect total comprehension of rules until around the age of 7.

Did you think the right answer was “B”? This is a hard call. That is because many adults think children should simply mind or obey. But we need to be approachable and help children learn when to ask questions or clarify a misunderstanding. What if a babysitter or friend tells them something unsafe or unacceptable? Are ALL adults always right? Children have to learn to think and problem-solve when their parents are not around.

Of course the “C” response (that children will learn who is boss) isn’t good enough parenting. Children can and should have a say in some of the rules. Rules are not about power, but about learning socially acceptable behaviors. After all, that’s the reason we parent – to teach our children how to behave in our society. When we allow them to discuss some rules and consequences, we are teaching them how to think.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Knowing how to work through a child's behavior problem

Because problems are quite different, how you solve them also differs. To solve tough problems, you may need more complex methods. Keep these things in mind when trying to solve a problem:
Know that you are not alone. Talk to other parents or a trusted friend or relative. Some of them might be dealing with or have dealt with similar things. They may have ideas on how to solve a problem in a way you haven’t thought of. Or, they might share your feelings, which can also be a comfort.

Admit when a problem is bigger than you can handle alone or requires special expertise. No one expects you to solve every problem your family has by yourself. Some problems are just too big to handle alone, not because you’re a “bad” parent, but simply because of the nature of the problem. Be realistic about what you can and can’t do on your own.
Get outside help, if needed. There will be times when you just won’t know how to help your child; other times, you truly won’t be able to help your child. Use all the resources you have to solve a problem, including getting outside help when you need it from school personnel, social workers, parenting classes, psychologists, and support groups. Remember that it’s not important how a problem is solved, just that it is.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

American Family Strengths Inventory

Research in the United States and around the world has found that strong families have a wide variety of qualities that contribute to the family members’ sense of personal worth and feelings of satisfaction in their relationship with each other. One of the first steps in developing a family’s strengths is to assess those areas in which the family is doing well and those areas in which family members would like to grow.

This American Family Strengths Inventory has been validated through research with more than 24,000 family members and has been conducted since 1974 by Nick Stinnett of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa and John DeFrain of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension.

Family members doing this exercise will be able to identify those areas they would like to work on together to improve as well. You can also identify the areas of strength that will serve as a foundation for growth and positive change together as a family. You can assess the inventory at

The inventory is a teaching tool for generating discussions on the qualities that make a family strong. I suggest that family members take the inventory separately, then spend time together talking about areas of agreement and disagree. Work together to develop a plan for positive change in your family’s relationships.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Parenting Question #1

If you are having a bad day and yell at your children for no reason, you:

A. Should never apologize so your children don’t view you as weak.

B. Believe children should learn to stay out of their parents’ way.

C. Should apologize for yelling so your children will have a good model to follow.

Let’s talk about these answers . . .
If you answered A, think again. Children need to know you have a plan, will protect them and that they are safe with you. As a parent, you should teach your children how to apologize when they have done something that has disappointed someone – it’s a part of kindness and understanding. It’s OK for every to make mistakes (even parents), but it’s not OK to refuse to express regret.

If you answered B, let’s try it again! Your children are learning how to be an adult from watching you. Send a message that you are approachable and not scary. You can set clear boundaries if you have had a bad day, such as “I need 10 minutes by myself to re-charge.” In general, be an approachable parent.

If you answered C, way to go! Apologizing is good modeling for a skill you want them to learn. Teach them kindness and understanding by offering the same to them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Establishing new Routines after a Family Separation

If your family has experienced separation and you are the parent who remains to care for the children, you may want to establish new routines and a new sense of independence. The transition may be tough and children may test you as you try out new routines. They also may regress in some areas such as potty training or sleeping through the night. Parents who remain should be physically close and emotionally available to the children, which can be tough to do as this can be a stressful time for you as well.

Dr. Karen DeBorg from the North Carolina State University Extension suggests a few tips to help during this time:

• Establish a new routine, and then keep it consistent. Consistency adds to feelings of safety and security for children.

• Provide physical closeness and more focused attention, such as in reading together, taking walks together or cooking together.

• Build a new support network that also supports the children.

• Respond in brief by honest answers to the child who has questions. Don’t share details that children may inflate in their imagination.

• For teens, maintain limits and provide opportunities for added responsibility without over-burdening them.

• Notify your child’s teachers about the family changes.

• Adults should find leisure outlets for themselves – physical movement as in walking or biking, hobbies, or civic-related activity like volunteering to help others.

• Some young children need transitional objects (a favorite doll, blanket, or cuddle toy) to comfort them and help them feel safe. Don’t make fun of these nor take them away for punishment. These are very critical to their sense of self and their adjustment. Be aware when they retrieve these items and be sensitive to why they needed them more at some times than others. Be there to add comfort to your children’s world.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

10 things kids can do in tough times

The Oregon State University offers another “10 things” list. This one is for things kids can do in tough times:
  • Don’t ask for new things. Be a cheerful family member. Think before you complain. Before you ask for something, think whether you really need it. Give lots of hugs.

• Help prepare meals at home. Learn to cook some foods. Help set the table or clean up after a meal. Open and close the refrigerator fast so the cold doesn’t get out.

• Take good care of your clothes. Hang them up or fold them. If they are still clean, wear them more than once before washing. Learn to sew enough to make simple repairs.

• Do your best in school. That will make you and your family feel really good. If you drive, good degrades can lower the cost of care insurance. If you want to go to college, good grades help your chances for a scholarship.

• Help your family save money by not asking them to drive you places. Ride a bike or walk when it’s safe and when you can.

• Saving energy saves money. Turn off lights, TV, or computer when no one is using them. Turn off water that is running or dripping from a faucet. Close outside doors to keep the house cool in summer and warm in winter. Help recycle what your family uses.

• Help someone else. Help at day camps or special events. Help sort food at the food bank. Help clean up your neighborhood.

• Plant or help take care of a vegetable garden. You can use a container to plant in, if there isn’t a garden spot. Share extra food you grow with a neighbor or a food bank.

• Ask your grandparents or a family friend if they have been through tough times before. Write a story about what they tell you. Play cards or board games with them. Do some chores for them.

• Find ways to have fun that doesn’t cost much money. You can borrow videos, books, game and music from the library. Learn a new skill that’s fun for you. Teach your skills to someone.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Role of Music in Building Baby's Brain

In recent years, we’ve learned a lot about how the brain develops. During the first years of life, brain cells form connections with other brain cells. Over time, the connections we use regularly become stronger. Children who grow up listening to music develop strong music-related connections, which can affect the way they think.

Although music doesn’t actually make us smarter, it does seem to prime our brains for certain kinds of thinking. For example, after listening to classical music, adults can do certain spatial tasks more quickly, such as putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

Classical music, by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart, is different from music such as rock and country. Classical music has a more complex musical structure, which researchers think primes the brain to solve spatial problems more quickly.

If you are parenting a baby or young child, The University of Georgia/College of Family and Consumer Sciences suggests the following ideas to help nurture your child’s love of music:

Play music for your baby. Expose your children to many different musical styles. If you play an instrument, practice when your baby is nearby. Keep the volume moderate, as loud music can damage a baby’s hearing.

Sing to your baby. Hearing your voice helps your baby begin to learn language. Babies love the patterns and rhythms of songs and can recognize specific melodies once they’ve heard them.

Sing with your child. Setting words to music actually helps the brain learn the words more quickly and retain them longer. I’m sure you still remember the lyrics of songs you sang as a child.

Start music lessons early. Young children’s developing brains are equipped to learn music. Most four and five-year-olds enjoy making music and can learn the basics of some instruments. Starting lessons early help children build a lifelong love of music.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Recognizing risky behavior or problems before they arise

Consider these methods for spotting problems in your child’s behavior before they turn into full-blown crises:

Be actively involved in your child’s life. This is important for all parents, no matter what the living arrangements. Knowing how your child usually thinks, feels, and acts will help you to notice when things begin to change. Some changes are part of your child’s growing up, but others could be signs of trouble.

Set realistic limits and enforce them consistently. Be selective with your limits, by putting boundaries on the most important behaviors your child is engaged in. Make sure you and your child can “see” a limit clearly. As your child learns how limits work and what happens when he or she goes past those limits, he or she will trust you to be fair.

Create healthy ways for your child to express emotions. Much “acting out” stems from children not knowing how to handle their emotions. Feelings can be so intense that usual methods of expressing them don’t work. Encourage your child to express emotions in a healthy and positive way. Once these feelings are less powerful, talk to your child about how he or she feels and why.

Maintain positive relationships with your children.

A positive relationship gives your child a stable environment in which to grow, so that you are one of the people your child learns to depend on.