In It For Health

Where health and psychology intersect

It’s almost school time, but be in the moment right now!

Posted by Dr. Susan on August 4, 2011

As the stores begin stocking back-to-school clothing and notebooks, it’s hard not to start thinking about the end of summer. Before we know it, school will be back in swing, and the barefoot, carefree, sunny days will be long gone…sigh!

Of course, it is important to plan ahead in order to get school supplies at a great sale price! In addition, it’s important to help your child get accustomed to the idea that school, routines, hectic schedules and cooler weather, will all be here soon.

But…before boxing up the bathing suits and taking out the sweaters, let’s not rush into the fall and winter. It’s very important to teach kids the value of living in the moment and appreciating the experience at hand, before rushing ahead to the next thing. So, please, take the time to really enjoy the last weeks of summer together with your child. There are many different ways to live in the moment, right now. and here are just a few tips to help you do it:

  • Resist the urge to unpack and try fall clothing on your child before the first day of school. It may be convenient for you to see if your child has grown a size over the summer, but for kids, it’s a sign to move on to the next thing. Rather, wait until a week or so before school starts. This will give you and your child a little time to plan without rushing the summer along.
  • Limit school supply shopping with your child to one or two specific outings—don’t make it the focus of every day until school starts. If there’s a lot to get done, do some of it without your child so that she can continue to be in the summer mode.
  • Spend even less time than usual watching TV, or watch recorded shows so that you can fast forward through the commercials. TV ads for back-to-school products become overwhelmingly prolific in August. This advertising pressure can be stressful for you and your child, pushing you out of summer mode before you are ready.
  • Encourage your child to stay focused on the summer fun at hand by limiting conversations about school to once a day—at bedtime or first thing in the morning.
  • Regularly ask your child to name activities or experiences that she or he has enjoyed, or is looking forward to enjoying this summer. Discussing these will help you and your child stay focused on the summer “moment” in which you are still living.
  • When your child is in earshot, spend as little time as possible talking about back-to-school with other adults (in person or on the phone). Your child will pick up on the conversation and it will make it more difficult for him to focus on enjoying the rest of the summer.  
  • As the end of summer truly arrives (and teacher assignments arrive in the mail) plan one or two really fun summer activities. Even as you are preparing for the transition into school, remind your child that there are still days left of summer to appreciate; time to run through the sprinkler barefoot and eat that last piece of watermelon.
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A Teachable Moment: Summer Time Skills

Posted by Dr. Susan on July 4, 2011

I love the summer! No homework, no rushing around and everyone seems to be in a better mood. For me, the summer is one big, deep, cleansing breath that continues for two months! That being said, I don’t think kids quite get the idea that summer should represent a change of pace. They don’t bicker less with siblings, they don’t nag any less and they certainly don’t give you any more time alone in the bathroom!

However, the relaxed nature of the summer months and the reduced pressure on kids to perform academically and socially makes it the perfect time for you to teach your child the all importance ‘skills of summer’: patience and perseverance. In fact, these traits will take your child far in life and you can use summer activities to begin instilling them in your child, beginning as young as two or three years.

Building Sand Castles takes a great deal of patience, time and effort. Encourage your child to work on a castle, fort or tunnel for more than a few minutes. Show enthusiasm for your child’s sand creation and, if necessary, teach him some ways to build that he may not yet know. Sand castle building may seem trivial to you, but the time and effort required to be successful is no different from the energy you may exert on an important work project. Mastering the patience, focus and perseverance needed for this activity will benefit your child for years to come.

Learning to swim or mastering a swimming technique can be extremely challenging for any child. The fear of drowning is naturally a hurdle for any beginning swimmer, and may also impact upon a child who needs to master jumping or diving into the pool. For parents, helping a child overcome this fear can seem like a monumental task, especially when a child cries, tantrums or downright refuses to even try. In this situation, it is you that must be patient! Helping your child work through this significant fear is not just about swimming. It will teach her that she has the ability to persevere and achieve success even in those areas of life that may seem insurmountable.

Playing outside is the hallmark of summer as far as parents are concerned. We want our child to appreciate and savor every minute of the beautiful weather. However, perhaps you are one of the many parents met with arguments, by a child who would much rather spend the summer watching TV, or playing video games on the computer. When the nagging for screen time begins, please, please resist the urge to give in simply because it’s the path of least resistance. Encouraging your child to play, without having media as a crutch, will give your child the opportunity to temporarily inhabit a calmer, less frenetic world. He will develop the patience to tap into his inner creativity. She will learn how to persevere and become terrific at any number of skills—bike riding, searching for worms, swinging as high as possible or packing the perfect picnic lunch. And isn’t that what summer is all about!

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If McDonalds retires Ronald, perhaps it shouldn’t stop there…

Posted by Dr. Susan on May 19, 2011

A group of medical professionals is calling for McDonald’s to get rid of Ronald, citing the childhood character’s link to the the childhood obesity epidemic. 

There is something wrong with this on two levels. To begin, if we were to get rid of Ronald, why stop there? It doesn’t seem fair to single out one marketing character. Should we also tell Disney, Nickelodeon and every single cereal company that they’re not allowed to use mascots to sell their products? No–this is not the way a democracy works! I’m all for protecting kids against inappropriate marketing, but this goes too far.

Of course we need to protect our kids, and make sure that big business act in the best interest of the public, BUT we also need to place real responsibility on parents to educate their kids about marketing and product placement. Most importantly, parents need to say NO to their children when they don’t believe eating a particular food isn’t healthy or necessary at that moment.

It is always easy to blame someone else; it’s much more difficult to take responsibility. Ronald has been around for many years prior to the obesity epidemic. It’s only in the past twenty years or so that parents have started to be afraid to say NO to their kids–worried that they may have a tantrum, or their child might feel alienated won’t be their friend anymore.  Parenting is not always easy, in fact sometimes it’s downright difficult, but in the end, your child will be a stronger person if you role-model and teach taking responsiblity for one’s own behavior.

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If your kids already complain that you’re too bossy…

Posted by Dr. Susan on May 18, 2011

A CA bill, if passed by the senate,would give parents FULL access to their kid’s social networking account with the ability to request removal of any and all information/pictures etc, that they don’t like, whenever they want. In fact, this bill states that if Facebook–or any other social networking site–were to ignore a parent’s request, they could be fined thousands of dollars, per account.

So, what do you think of this?

My first response was YEAH! finally someone is advocating for kids’ safety online. But the more I think about it, the more I’m not sure. I think it’s a great idea for parents of kids under 18-years to have access to their kid’s Facebook. However, I’m not sure that this parents should be able to leverage such power over their child that the access is forced upon the child. This will ultimately cause such a breakdown of trust between parent and child that no good will come of it–kids will simply go underground with fake accounts. 

Your child needs to know that you are paying attention to their Facebook and that you are concerned about their ‘social media health’. If you are involved, paying attention and discussing your concerns with them, they are much likely to be more wary about what they post online. If you force it on them, you risk losing relationship with them all together, online and off!

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When parents fight, babies don’t sleep

Posted by Dr. Susan on May 12, 2011

When an infant doesn’t sleep well, it can be easy to blame genetics, fussiness, colic and all sorts of other genetic and child-centered reasons–each one of which might, of course be the reason. However, a new study finds that the relationship between mom and dad may be a primary reason that a baby isn’t sleeping well. Specifically, this research determined that the more parents fight with each other, the more likely it is for babies to have disrupted sleep patterns.

This is powerful and important information for parents, because it lets us know that children are impacted by marital discord in so many ways and beginning at such a young age. Therefore, as parents, it needs to be part of the job description to protect kids from arguing and fighting. This doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t argue with one another–of course this is just a normal part of any relationship. However, it does mean that we need to exercise self-control as much as possible, saving our arguments for when our kids aren’t anywhere near hearing us–waiting for them to fall asleep isn’t good enough! It’s tough being a good parent, but in the end–when our kids are happy and well-adjusted–it’s worth it a hundred times over!

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Parents are ok with underage Facebooking…what’s next

Posted by Dr. Susan on May 9, 2011

A study just out that finds that 17 percent of parents are just fine with their under-13 year old having a Facebook, even though Facebook says you need to be 13 to log on. Of course Facebook doesn’t really have a way to check the age of a user, so aside from those kids who have an undercover Facebook account, preteens have been given consent by their parents.

Most of the parents that I know who allow an underage Facebook  say that they are monitoring, getting their child’s password and otherwise checking for inappropriate online behavior.

They’re missing the point a bit…by allowing your child to lie about his or her age, you’re colluding with deceptive behavior to get around a system that has been set up to protect kids and make sure they behave appropriately given their developmental stage in life.

Let’s think about this a little more. Will you be okay when your child gets a fake ID to drink alcohol at fifteen?…not likely. Will you be okay when your child buys alcohol for a minor once he isn’t one anymore? Or when she cheats on a test in school because she didn’t get caught? Lying or cheating the system in order to do or get something you want right now, even though you should wait for it–or not have it at all–is the message you communicate when you allow your child to do get a Facebook younger than 13.  

Facebook has a reason for making it 13 and up. As a parent you should be supporting, not undermining this rule because it’s not only about Facebook, it’s about your child’s future.

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Online gaming is good for families…really?

Posted by Dr. Susan on May 9, 2011

This new study suggests that when families ‘game’ together, their relationships improve. Ok, I suppose that could be true. If you play online games with your kids, it’s definitely better than NOT playing online with them, and rather just leaving them to online game with total strangers.

But do you really think that parents are playing online games with their kids?? The answer is NO! Either the parents are gaming alone (I see this all the time) and the kids are nagging them to get off the computer to come and throw a ball outside, or the kids/teens are online and would be mortified if their mom or (more likely) dad joined in. And of course, this doesn’t even include all the time kids are online while parents are working, running the home or dealing with the other kids. So the chance that kids and parents are bonding online is…well…let’s just politely say…unlikely!

So, while this study is interesting in theory, it truly holds no really life application. So, instead of making it your goal to game online with your child, the better goal is found in the old and boring traditions…eat a meal together, chat while you’re driving somewhere, clean the car together (pay them if you have to!), or drag out a board game. You’d be surprised how many BIG kids love Apples to Apples!

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Child-Obesity ads gone wild

Posted by Dr. Susan on May 6, 2011

There is a furor about Georgia’s child-obesity campaign which portrays overweight kids, with seriously depressed facial expressions, talking about how bleak their present life is and how bad their future will be, unless they lose weight.

Now, I’m all for shock-value if it gets the job done, but this ad is a problem. To begin, it give ammunition to other kids who bully, or are considering bullying an overweight child. From a kid’s perspective: “If you’re talking about all the negatives that you experience, then why can’t I?” It’s not a taboo subject anymore.

Next, the parents and educators who are not already working on helping overweight children won’t really be impacted by this–they know that this is what the kids look like already–it’s live in front of them! What they really need to see is overweight adults in the ads talking about what it was like to be an overweight kid and still be overweight–and then remind the viewer of the ads to take responsibility for helping the kids.

Using vulnerable kids–those in the ads and the those who will inadvertently become associated with the ads–creates an unfair playing field. The adults need to take responsibility for the problem and of course, the solution.

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Workshop for Moms of Infants

Posted by Dr. Susan on February 4, 2011

I’m going to be conducting a workshop for moms of infants beginning March, 2011 on Long Island. If you are interested, please click on this link. Thanks!

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R-rated movies make teens smoke!

Posted by Dr. Susan on December 8, 2010

A new study shows a connection, in teens, between cigarette smoking and R-rated movies. The study shows that teens who watch R-rated movies are more likely to smoke cigarettes. In fact, when parents restricted 10-14 year olds completely from R-rated movies, their risk of starting to smoke dropped two to three-fold.

There are a couple of reason for the connection…first because movies glamorize smoking, making it look ‘cool’, and second because kids that are exposed to R-movies become more interested in seeking new and different ‘sensations, including smoking (in addition to everything they see in the R-movies).

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