Sunday, October 30, 2011

Helping Kids Understand Pet Illness

This weekend I was convinced that we might have had to put to sleep our sweet, adorable, fuzzy 17-year-old, old lady, Sammy the cat. Having lost her sister Maggie before Sarah was born a few years ago was a time that's hard not to forget and one that was extremely painful. I just wasn't ready to feel that pain again. For a child I can only imagine what it would feel like and was also not sure how Sarah would react and the emotional upset that would come for all of us.

With Sammy's thyroid disease taking a toll on her she was not eating or drinking enough water and became dehydrated. She was not acting like herself. She was not responsive to her favorite foods and activities or even belly rubs. After a trip to the vet, Sammy was administered intravenous fluids and started to perk up again. Thankfully, she is okay for now but needs to get IV fluids from us at home and then go back to the vet next week for a follow-up visit.

The sad reality is that Sammy is an old kitty cat who has lived a very long and happy life with the occasional illness impacting her. She has been loved, cuddled, pulled at, petted and embraced for many, many years. She has impacted all of our lives, and especially Sarah.

Sarah has developed a special bond with Sammy. She kisses her, hugs her, pulls her tail on occasion, makes her arts and crafts projects, and shares her love for her on a regular basis.

This weekend I was not prepared for what might have happened to help her understand and accept the fate of her lovable kitty cat.

Watching the relationship that Sarah has developed with Sammy, and her appreciation for animals overall, I fear the day when Sammy will go up to Heaven and be with her sister and I will be left helping to mend Sarah's broken heart.

All we can do now is make the most of every day with Sammy and thank G-d for each day that we do have with her. It's a beautiful thing to watch the bond between a child and pet forge and foster over time. I know that the time will come when we will have to help Sarah understand that the people and animals in our lives do end and that they will always be in our hearts and minds forever.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a story on my blog called Sarah and The Green Balloon, to help teach Sarah that people and animals do go to Heaven and live in the sky after they have gone. And, while it's sad that those we love are no longer with us, they will forever be a part of us.

So, at this time, when I pray for Sammy to be around for many more years and for the bond between her and Sarah to continue to grow, here are some Haiku to remind us of the impact our pets have on us and our children and the place in our hearts they will forever hold.

To Sammy the cat
We all love you very much
To infinity

We are so lucky
To have you our sweet Sammy
Cute and lovable

Sarah and Sammy
A bond that is forever
Kisses, hugs and more

Our time with you
Sweet, adorable Sammy
Thanks for loving us

Pets capture your heart
Affect you more than you know
Constant love from them

Monday, October 24, 2011

Instilling Healthy Hygiene Habits

How many times do we have to tell our kids to wash their hands? And, as much as we explain why it's important for them to do it, do they sometimes still try to get out of doing it?

As parents, not only do we have to continue to engage with our children on healthy habits including reminding them to wash hands regularly, as many as five times a day, but we, as their role models, have to exhibit these very same behaviors for them to follow suit.

Hygiene habits are a global issue. We all can benefit from a reminder on what to do to help keep germs at bay.

As a result, over 12,000 people in 12 countries including the United States were studied as part of the largest ever study of hygiene behavior called The Lysol® HABIT Study (Hygiene: Attitudes, Behavior, Insight and Traits).

The results of this study were recently announced and they provide valuable information showing how personality traits and good manners affect health and can help stop the spread of germs.

Fortunately, as part of my job doing public and media relations on health care topics, I have been given the opportunity to help share this important news with you so we can be armed with the knowledge and know how to take action to be healthy and raise our kids to practice healthy habits and behaviors as well to reduce exposure to germs.

Highlights from the study include:

  • If you’re conscientious, dependable, nervous and sensitive - - you may experience 10 percent fewer colds and less diarrhea than others

  • People who have good manners have better personal hygiene, and are almost two and a half times more likely to have good health

  • Tidy/orderly individuals are more hygienic than messy/chaotic people

  • Women and older people tend to be more hygienic than men

  • Younger people and homemakers display highest level of personal and household hygiene

  • Students and office workers display worst level of personal and household hygiene
Experts estimate that between 5 - 20 percent of Americans will contract the flu this year. So, understanding the determinants that drive different hygiene behaviors can help us to break the chain of infection transmission and protect our health and that of our children.

As a parent, it was interesting to learn that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 22 million schools days are lost each year due to the common cold alone.

That's a lot of sick days. And, that's a lot of us staying home from work to take care of our kids.

"Adopting good hygiene habits is a responsibility we all share. It is important for families to integrate regular hygiene practices at home, school and work throughout the year to keep germs from spreading, especially during cold and flu season," said Dr. Laura A Jana, board-certified pediatrician and award-winning parenting book author.

Therefore, as much as it seems obvious on what we need to do to maintain better hygiene habits visit the Global Hygiene Council's website
here where tips are available to help prevent the spread of germs at home, school and work.

Let’s continue to help keep our kids healthy and guide them to establish proper health habits for them to grow with.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

ADHD Awareness Week

Starting today (October 16) through October 22 is ADHD Awareness Week.

I have been fortunate through my job to to have the opportunity to work on a very important project with five organizations comprising The ADHD Awareness Coalition. These groups, listed below, are helping to raise much-needed awareness about Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as it impacts nearly 13 million Americans including children and adults.

- ADDitude Magazine
- ADHD Coaches Organization (ACO)
- Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA)
- Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)
- National Resource Center on AD/HD (NRC)

Many adults, interestingly, can go through a majority of their lives and remain undiagnosed with ADHD yet experience symptoms of the disorder, which impacts their lives both personally and professionally. It's often when these adults become parents and have children and witness symptoms in their kids that they then start to recognize their own symptoms, as there is a fifty percent chance that if a child has ADHD that one or both parents has the condition as well.

This is one of many reasons why ADHD awareness and education is so important to help people of all ages living with this condition to better understand symptoms and its impact on various aspects of life including relationships, work, school and more.

To help address some of the issues associated with undiagnosed or under managed ADHD the Coalition recently commissioned a survey of their members to identify some interesting insights about life with the disorder. The survey of over 2,000 individuals included both parents of children with ADHD and adults living with the disorder.

The survey, recently revealed, shows that there is especially an impact of ADHD on both children in school and adults in their work environments. The latter included job loss, too many jobs or ongoing issues at work. Further, according to the press release "parents of children with ADHD reported additional diagnoses such as anxiety (29 percent), depression (19 percent) and sleep disorders (14 percent). Parents of children with ADHD who have not been diagnosed with a co-occurring condition reported they suspect their child may have anxiety (35 percent), depression (15 percent) or a sleep disorder (38 percent)."

"The theme for ADHD Awareness Week this year is 'Get the Facts,' because our goal is to ensure that every person in America understands that ADHD is a real brain disorder with real consequences," said Ruth Hughes, CEO of Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), a member of the ADHD Awareness Coalition. "We know that undiagnosed and/or untreated ADHD can have a tremendous negative impact on individuals with the disorder, as well as their families, friends and colleagues. The purpose of ADHD Awareness Week has always been to help the public and policy makers understand that the key to improving the lives of those individuals is education and awareness."

The ADHD Awareness Coalition urges all of us to "Get the Facts" and take action to manage ADHD symptoms. More information about ADHD Awareness Week, the supporting organizations, and treatment and strategy options for managing ADHD, is available at

Together, let's help to raise awareness and attention for ADHD to help our children have more satisfactory school and social life experiences so they can grow into adults with their condition under control and managed to help them lead more effective and impactful lives.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Inspired by Fall

With the beautiful change in seasons and great time spent with Sarah outdoors, here are some special, traditional Haiku.

The leaves are falling
And trees are changing colors
Red, yellow, orange

Time spent on the farm
Picking apples and pumpkins
Laughter and giggles

Sweet smell of cider
Yummy and delicious taste
A warm sensation

Much time at playgrounds
Running, jumping, climbing too
Spending time with friends

Scarecrows and pumpkins
Witches, goblins, and costumes
Soon to say trick, treat

Cool and brisk weather
Fun time riding bicycles
Enjoying the breeze

Riding swings and slides
Leaves beginning to fall down
Celebrating Fall

Creative arts, crafts
Decorate with leaves, pine cones
Great masterpieces

Nature inspires
Leaves of all shapes and sizes
Rocks, hay and pine cones

Wishing you a great Fall season. Hope you are enjoying the beautiful weather and crisp temperatures to enjoy many great outdoor activities including apple and pumpkin picking, playground play time, bike riding and many great and fun art projects inspired by nature.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Way to Help Kids Out of a Tantrum

As individuals, not just parents, we experience meltdowns, breakdowns and tantrums that get out of control and we stop thinking, and just react. It's usually during these times that we are feeling more than we are thinking and our emotions get the better of us.

Well, the same happens with our children.

For young children, especially, those not fully able to communicate clearly or have developing vocabularies, sometimes, many times will struggle to convey what it is they need or want, or think or feel and instead cry or shout it out.

When children become so caught up in a emotional breakdown they sometimes don't know how to stop, and may continue to cry or scream and be completely out of sorts until we come in to help them out of it.

I have experienced this behavior with Sarah where there are times she may just be tired or not get her way that she loses all mental strength to stay on track and has a meltdown of epic proportions.

As a result, I came up with an approach that I wanted to share with you, and something you may want to consider for your own kids. This process sort of came about on its own, out of desperation to help calm Sarah, but I believe it really works.

I call it RESTART.

R each out to
E ffectively
S tabilize
T antrums
A nd
R econnect with
T rust and support

How it works is you get down to the level of where your child is at, likely on the floor crouched over or in a corner on the couch or elsewhere. Once your child senses that you are there, and they are not lashing out or trying to push you away, which sometimes they might do, then get close enough to them and say to them "do we need a RESTART?"

At first, your child clearly won't know what this is. You then will begin to explain it slowly and in a low and calm voice. You will say to them that together we will say 1-2-3 and the word RESTART to start fresh and settle down. Children may grunt or turn away. Wait. Sit quietly. Then, try again.

Like Sarah, your children may stop the tantrum and try to figure out what it is your are saying to them. That is step 1. Their focus is now diverted.

Just the fact that you are next to them, at their level, trying to soothe them, helps to calm them down, eventually. If your kids are still crying and are out of sorts it may take a bit longer to get them engaged and for them to respond to RESTART.

Patience (which is not my strong suit) is important here especially if your child is accepting of your being in their close personal space at this moment and not yet ready to turn the tantrum off.

What I have realized with Sarah is that she gains the comfort from me being close to her, quiet and still, and knows that I am there to help and soothe her and to get her back to center.

If at first you say 1-2-3 RESTART and your child do not respond, try again after a short, quiet period, remaining next to them. Then, try it again and say, "Let's do this together. Let's say 1-2-3 RESTART and we can start fresh." Count with them and say the word RESTART with them as well.

There are times when I do this with Sarah and I cannot hear her as she says it really low, maybe sad for having gotten to this point. I then turn it into a game. I say things like, "I can't hear you. What was that?, Please say it with me, Let's say it louder."

Most times, after Sarah and I have reconnected with trust and support through the RESTART approach sometimes, many times, I can get a giggle or laugh out of her after the questions, such as those above, are applied.

Then, once we are back to center, with a kiss and a hug, I tell Sarah that I am not upset that she had a tantrum and thank her for letting me be there to support her when she needed me.

Where this RESTART concept works best is when children get caught up in their emotions many times due to fatigue that they don't know how to stop the tantrum in its tracks and need our help to get out of it and back to start.

Please know that where this RESTART concept does not work is if a child is having a meltdown after a negative behavior such as pushing, punching or doing something completely inappropriate. We should not dust under the rug bad behaviors and have children learn that we can just ignore them if we RESTART.

Using RESTART has become a habit in our house where if Sarah has an emotional breakdown either because she is tired, confused or sad about something, this process works beautifully. Sometimes, I am amazed at how well it works. It also works as a way to discuss the reason why our child was feeling so upset and sad. It can help to ignite a discussion that is more calm as a result.

Again, this approach will not work if there is a negative action that a child committed that led to the meltdown. It's when a child doesn't know which way is up or how to get out of how they are confused and feeling because they are emotional. As parents, we can help to bring our children back from their emotional setbacks by checking our emotions (e.g., frustration, anger, annoyance) at the door when these tantrums take place and be focused on being calm and in the moment with our child.

I have learned all too well (as I have been known to be a screamer and shouter telling Sarah what to do and not do) that yelling gets us nowhere. Sarah and I both become emotional and control of the situation is out the door.

Just the other night, Sarah was at the dinner table refusing to eat. While I don't condone this behavior I did realize that the day itself was packed with much activity and a she did not take a nap. So, knowing that Sarah was likely very tired her actions made sense. When given a choice whether to eat at the table or to go to bed she lost it. She went into a full on meltdown.

We let Sarah act out and get out of her system what she was feeling. Watching her and hearing what she was saying it was obvious that she was out of sorts and not sure what to feel because of fatigue. She really needed our help. After a short while I got close to her. At first she told me to go away. So, I stayed but remained quiet. A few moments later I asked her if she needed a RESTART. She said no. I accepted her response. She then became quiet. She rolled over to face me. I connected with her. I then asked her again if she needed a RESTART and she nodded yes. Together, slowly, we counted 1-2-3 and said the word RESTART. We ended with giggles and hugs. If you can believe this, Sarah came back to the dinner table devoured her food, played some more and went to sleep easily.

Unlike adults who have a greater ability to manage their emotions, children, especially young ones, sometimes need our help.

Give 1-2-3 RESTART a try. Contact me if you want my help to go through it by discussing it or role playing it out. I think this concept really works. Let me know how it works for you.

Good luck!!!

Yom Kippur: Time to Remember, Cleanse & Grow

For all who observe Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in Judaism, I want to take this opportunity to wish you an easy fast.

For this time of year, we are closest to G-d cleansing our souls and also reflecting on life and remembering loved ones lost, and the millions of others who have sacrificed their lives over the years from devastation and destruction to pave the way of freedom for us.

How, as a mom am I to explain this to my nearly four year old daughter?

I think that it is still hard to do. If you have any insights please certainly share them with us all. If anything, I think that we hug our kids as tight as possible, cover them with kisses, tell them how they are loved and that their loved ones who are not with us anymore are watching down on them and revel in the joy their life brings to us.

It is this powerful time of year we ask G-d to accept our repentance, forgive the sins we have committed (including the ones against ourselves), and seal our verdict for a year of life, happiness and good health. We also ask for a sweet and abundant new year. At the commencement of Yom Kippur when the sun sets on Saturday evening we then eat a festive meal and spend time with family and friends.

Here are some special Yom Kippur Haiku:

This time of the year
We remember loved ones lost
Memories live on
Time for reflection
As we stop eating, drinking
Fasting and mourning
To an easy fast
And time for remembering
Lives of many lost
As we close the book
Let us take time to reflect
Open our hearts
To many lives lost
Your memory lives with us
Through eternity
G-d, please cleanse our souls
Of spite, gossip, bitterness
With hearts wide open
Time for forgiveness
To reflect, remember, change
Begin a new year

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Kids and Helmet Safety

There is no good excuse for why children should not be wearing a helmet when riding their bikes, including tricycles, scooters and skateboards.

And, when our children do wear helmets, they need to be worn properly. Just having it be on their head is not good enough. Helmets need to fit snug with the brim of the helmet on forehead and straps taught versus loose. For a helmet to work well, and to keep our kids safe they need to be worn the correct way. Here is a visual and tips on proper helmet fit.

I have been especially sensitive to this cause after seeing too many children riding or whizzing past without helmets on at all or them worn improperly.

A child may wear a helmet for years without ever falling off their bicycle or scooter. However, the one time they don't wear it something could happen. We may not think that the distance from a child's bike to the ground is high enough for them to injure themselves, but they can indeed. It's not the space between the riding object and the ground but what they may hit or ride over to cause a fall or take a turn too sharply.

To help provide tips on proper helmet safety, I have invited my brother, Brian Wagner, uber cyclist who rides hundreds of miles monthly to share with you important safety information available here, which he wrote for as the Hudson Country cycling writer.

My brother knows first hand the importance of proper helmet fit and safety. This past year, he was the victim of a terrible accident in which a moving vehicle faulted and hit him while he was riding his bicycle. Had it not been for helmet properly on his head, which took a beating in the accident, he might have suffered even greater injury than he already did, or worse, died. (This was such a scary time for all of us).

Another, very important point to know, which Brian addresses in his story, is that once a helmet has either been involved in an accident whether it be serious or not, or even falling on the floor especially from a high place, or wear and tear the old helmet should be discarded for use and a new helmet be secured in its place.

As parents, we do everything to protect our children from harm. Therefore, making sure they wear helmets while riding their bikes and scooters is certainly one way of doing this.

Even the most skilled cyclists and skate boarders wear helmets to protect their heads, which can sustain serious injury if not well protected.

Having heard of too many instances personally or seeing stories about other's experiences online where a child was riding too fast, took a turn too quick, or rode over a branch or rock that caused a fall over the handle bars are all reasons why children need, and should, wear helmets.

Even for our pickiest of kids, there are many helmet options to choose from that can keep our kids looking "cool." And, since kids in general can be feisty about being told what to do it's best to really institute this important behavior early on in their lives so they don't know any other way as they get older.

Sarah has been wearing a helmet since her first year when it was safe to put her on the back of a bicycle. She wears her pink helmet with Snoopy and Woodstock on it every time she rides her bike, scooter or big wheel. We soon will need to get her a new one as her head is getting bigger.

We may not think our kids need a helmet for a short ride or scoot, or because they are so skilled and careful. Anything can happen. Anything is possible. An analogy to consider, it's like driving a car. You can be the best driver and extremely cautious, but can still become victim of an accident due to unplanned variables or other careless drivers.

One other thing we need to do to help remind our children of the importance of wearing helmets is to wear them ourselves when we are riding our bikes, skate boards and more. We are to be good models for our children and showing them by setting the right example.

Let's continue to keep our kids safe.

Halloween Candy for the Troops

While we all recover from over indulging in too much candy during Halloween, still the candy is in our homes staring at us willing us to...