Thursday, February 28, 2013

Community Involvement Reduces Youth Risk Behaviors

Today’s teens are faced with difficult decisions about drug and alcohol use, sexual activity and rebellious, anti-social behavior. As our adolescent population increases, more youth become vulnerable to these health risk behaviors.

A recent study supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in the Journal of Youth Development took an in-depth look at the relationship between community involvement and adolescent risk behavior. Collecting information from both parents and teens, the behaviors that researchers specifically look at are sexual activity, smoking, alcohol use, drug use, skipping school, fighting, weapon-carrying, and being arrested.

Results of the study show that community involvement can reduce several adolescent risk-taking behaviors. Community involvement was defined as volunteering in service to others and promoting one’s community. Youth involved in helping activities were less likely to be involved in anti-social behaviors, teen pregnancy, school suspension s or school drop-out. Other studies have found that youth who are occupied in civic activities tend to do better in school, have better psychological  health, and take part in fewer risk-taking behaviors.

When programs build specific competencies, skills and positive qualities into health education and prevention, youth make better decision regarding risky behavior. Today’s teens are tomorrow’s leaders and decision-makers. Investing in youth through community involvement has the potential to make a huge return for everyone’s future.

Sources: Family Album Radio. Potential Protective Effect of the Community Involvement Asset on Adolescent Risk Behaviors. Journal of Youth Development. Vol. 1, number 1, May 2006.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Toddlers Learn from Picture Books

Child development experts have long hailed the benefits of reading to infants and toddlers. Research has shown that reading with your child for 20 minutes a day can make a difference in your child’s language, grammar and reading skills as they get older.

However, according to a study recently published in the journal Developmental Psychology, using picture books can provide children as young as 18-months-old with an even greater advantage.

Researchers from University of Queensland and the University of Virginia worked with a group of 18, 24 and 30-month-old children. They discovered that when reading to children as young as 18-months old with books featuring life-like color photographs and then books with illustrations, the toddlers who were read to with photos were able to effectively mimic what they learned.

Parents would read to their babies a book that illustrated how to put a rattle together. The parent would then give the toddler the same equipment featured in the book and ask them to make a rattle.

At 18-months-old, many of the children who were exposed to actual photographs could reproduce the action and build the rattle. They could not perform the actions as well if they had only seen illustrations. Likewise, at 24 and 30 months, toddlers could assemble the rattle if they have been read to with the photographs and they were able to perform well if they had seen realistic color illustrations. They did not perform as well if the books featured black and white drawings. This research demonstrates that even very young children relate to and learn from books depicting life-like images.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Caregiver Stress and Elder Abuse

One out of four people is a caregiver for a family member or friend. Most of these informal caregivers, as well as paid caregivers who work for agencies or on their own, are able to meet the many challenges of providing care and do an excellent job. Even so, every year, thousands of reports of elder abuse are confirmed, and unfortunately, elder abuse seems to be on the rise as reported by the National Center on Elder Abuse.

Research shows that caregiver stress plays a role in elder abuse. Not every caregiver becomes abusive, however, and researchers are still exploring what factors cause abuse. Based on what is known so far, there are some "red flags" to watch for.

Abusive caregivers fear becoming violent and have low self-esteem. They view caregiving as a burden and feel that they don't get enough support from others. The abusive caregiver feels caught in the middle between two generations, young and old, and suffers from burnout, anxiety, or depression. There may be a feeling of "old anger" toward the older person that can be traced to their past relationships.

The care recipient may also trigger reactions when she or he is aggressive, verbally abusive, or behaves in disturbing or embarrassing ways in public. Abuse is more likely to occur when the caregiver and care receiver live together and have had a poor relationship over time.
Experts recommend that caregivers need to get help from services that will reduce the stress of providing continual care. They also should seek support of other caregivers and remember to take care of their own health.

Suzanna Smith, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Preventing Childhood Obesity through Physical Activity

Many parents are concerned about rising rates of childhood obesity. It's important to keep a healthy perspective on the situation and not overreact with overly restrictive approaches that can do more harm than good. One way to promote healthy weights in children is to help them to be physically active.

There are infinite possibilities for children to be physically active that also promote family fun and unity. Get together for a family walk at least once a day, whenever you can fit it into your schedule. Play actively together in the house or outside as the weather permits. Throw a ball, kick a soccer ball, shoot hoops, or just enjoy plain old horseplay for fun. Have a tickle party or a fun game of silly charades, and get the benefits of a good giggle, which is exercise for the insides!

When you take a family vacation or just a weekend away from the routine, be sure to include active fun, like hiking, jogging, swimming, flying a kite, playing ball, or other active play.
As part of keeping young people active, limit TV and other screen time to two hours or less each day. When your children do watch television, encourage them to do something physical during the commercials! Modeling these behaviors will encourage young children to be like mom or dad, so get down on the floor and do some push-ups or crunches and maybe your children will join you, to keep the whole family fit and healthy.
Family Album Radio

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Teen Response to Parental Reactions

Parenting teenagers might be one of the most challenging jobs a parent experiences in their lifetime. Setting acceptable limits and then choosing appropriate discipline when they break the rules is often a difficult undertaking.

Parents and teens may find that their views are often at odds when it comes to disciplinary issues. A recent study published in the journal, Social Development, surveyed adolescents in high school to better understand how the teens view their parents’ reactions to their misbehavior.

Perhaps not surprising, the study found that parents and teens don’t see eye-to-eye on how parents should react when it comes to their social behavior. For example; punishing or even discussing what kind of clothes their teens can wear, how they wear their hair, and how late they can stay out has little impact on teens.

Teens see these as arbitrary sanctions and typically feel that their parents overreact when teens break these rules. They are not as likely to understand or accept their parent’s discipline on these issues.

However, parents may be relieved to know that there is more common ground with teens on moral issues, such as lying or stealing. Teens are more likely to accept and feel guilt for their moral misdeeds when there are clear societal guidelines, not just what they think is their parents’ personal choice.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Children with Challenging Behaviors

All parents experience some discipline struggles with their young children. But for some parents, their children seem to challenge them on every issue. They push limits, refuse to follow rules, are intense, persistent and energetic. They may find it hard to adapt to transitions or changes, be sensitive, have tantrums, be aggressive, hurt themselves, destroy things, or withdraw from everything. These children are displaying "challenging behaviors".

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) states that, "a challenging behavior is any repeated pattern of behavior that interferes with learning or engagement in social interactions". For families it may mean many struggles throughout the day and for early childhood programs, it may mean constant disruptions to their routines and activities and teacher vigilance on specific children.

There are no proven causes for children's challenging or oppositional behavior, but there are several things that may influence that behavior. They include temperament, genetics, heredity, a chemical imbalance in the brain, trauma, mood disorders, and response to a chaotic environment. Parenting styles and practices can also influence when these disorders start and their severity.

Children who demonstrate challenging behaviors in the preschool years are at greater risk of having negative developmental and social outcomes as they grow older. Not all children who exhibit problem behaviors in early childhood maintain these behaviors over time but early intervention is critical.

Current early childhood research focuses on the identification of children who show challenging behaviors, interventions that support more positive behavior in those children, and curricula for early childhood programs to use to support all children in their social and emotional development.
Source: Early Childhood CYFERnet Editorial Board.

Resources for parents:

Understanding Children with Challenging Behaviors
This online parenting resource provides families with information on how to parent children with challenging behaviors. Available at:

Positive Solutions for Families
This four-page brochure provides parents with eight practical tips they can use when their young children exhibit challenging behavior. Available at:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sleep Needs for Children

Does your school-aged child complain about being sleepy during the day, doze off in class, or yawn a lot? Does he or she go to bed late or have trouble falling asleep? If so, your child may not be getting enough sleep.

Health care providers report that elementary-school-age children need at least 9 hours and recommend 10-11 hours of sleep nightly. Sleep affects children's ability to concentrate and learn and impacts their overall physical and mental health. In fact, good sleep is just as important as proper nutrition and daily exercise.

A recent study published in the Journal of School Health found that over 60% of students surveyed said they slept too little at least twice a week. They stayed up late when their parents thought they were asleep, and they had trouble falling back asleep after waking up during the night.

Parents can help their children get the sleep they need by creating a healthy sleep environment. Set the room temperature so it is comfortable: not too warm and not too cool. In addition, parents can establish a nighttime routine. Set a regular bedtime and stick to it, and make the time right before bed enjoyable and relaxing, such as with a warm bath and a book. Take distractions such as TVs and computers out of the bedroom, because these interfere with falling and staying asleep.

Bedtime is important and can be a loving time for families. A calm and caring approach to helping your child get a good night's sleep can give them a great head start to each new day.
Family Album Radio

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Saying Goodbye - Military Deployments

"I wiped the tears from my eyes and wrapped my arms around my dad's neck. He pulled my mom in and held us close to him. One last hug before he had to go. I watched him walk away, the last time I would see him for six months. My hero was leaving, and all I felt was anger and sadness."

Those last few hugs, the last few kisses, the last few goodbyes are what many military families across the United States have experienced when seeing a loved one leave for deployment. An estimated 1.4 million servicemen and women serve as active duty members in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Air Force. Deployments are nothing new in the military community. However, during these times of separation, family members of those serving, especially the children, undergo many hardships. Studies show children's reactions to separation can even lead to depression.

Families can do a number of things before and during deployment to make the time apart a little easier. Before a loved one is shipped out, spend as much time as possible together as a family. Communicate with children about thoughts and feelings and be sure they understand why Mom or Dad has to leave. Once the family member is deployed, set aside time that will be used to write letters, put together packages, and discuss feelings about the separation. And don't be afraid to ask for help. There are many resources and people available and willing to help!

Source: Family Album Radio