Why Sleep is So Important for Your Child’s Immune System
May 2, 2019 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Why Sleep is So Important for Your Child’s Immune System

by Lisa Smalls

Photo by Minnie Zhou on Unsplash

A tired baby is a crabby baby and as your child grows this never changes. There are many reasons why children experience insomnia, and according to research up to 33% of children experience sleep problems of some kind. Stress to stimulants, sleep disorders, and the child’s bedroom environment such as temperature and light all affect your child’s sleep habits.

How Much Sleep Should My Child Get?

Parents who struggle to sleep with young children in the house often forget how often their child actually sleeps. This is in part to a newborn’s sleep-cycle which consists of naps followed by short fits about every two hours. So, while your body requires continuous sleep, a baby will have you up multiple times a night. But, after about six months, your child has likely transitioned to a similar schedule as you, yet still requires more sleep.

The amount of sleep each child needs varies depending on age group. For example, your newborn up until about three-months-old will need between fourteen and sixteen hours of sleep. As your child’s sleep begins to adjust out of the two-hour cycle, from about a year to three-years-old, they will require at least twelve hours of sleep, often with one to two naps during the day. 

From three to six-years-old your child will need about ten to twelve hours of sleep each night and though naps begin to fade away around age four, some children will still nap. Until twelve years old you can expect for your child to get at least ten hours of sleep and by the time puberty hits your child should be getting a recommended eight-plus hours of sleep each night. 

Sleep and Your Child’s Immune System

Quality sleep may be one of the most important things you can do to help your child’s overall health. Quality sleep allows your child’s mind to regulate the body’s chemicals and hormones to repair and recover muscle tissue and inflammation, as well as organize and file, thoughts, emotions, and memories so that they can be recovered more quickly when needed. In addition, sleep promotes creativity, intelligence, and balance. 

One of the biggest concerns for children who suffer from insomnia and sleep deprivation is the affect on their immune system. Remember, sleep is the time your body regulates its functions and that includes protein which your immune system releases (cytokines). Cytokines production increases when your child has an infection, an inflammation or when under stress. The body also produces fewer infection-fighting antibodies and cells with sleep deprivation. 

In addition to not producing proteins and antibodies to fight off sickness, a lack of sleep has also been identified to contribute to a increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory disease. 

Tips to Help Your Child Sleep Better

Stop Device Use at Least Thirty Minutes Before Bedtime

While your newborn may not be addicted to a smart phone or tablet (we hope) there is a good chance that a toddler who is regularly exposed is. From your toddler on up to your teenager, it is important to set parameters around technology usage. Smart phones and tablets impact sleep in a number of ways. For starters, the blue light from tablets, phones, and televisions suppresses melatonin production. These devices also provoke your mind, keeping your brain alert and awake as well as creates sleep disruption throughout the night. 

Routine and Preparation

Children love routine and creating a calming sleep time routine will help ease your child into a routine to expect sleep. Routines should consist of calming and relaxing experiences such as a warm bath, reading a book, cuddling, and speaking softly. 

In addition to routine, a parent should be prepared for all those nighttime concerns a child may experience. From a hungry child to potty training, and of course, don’t forget the monsters. Having a game plan to tackle these issues will help you and your child adapt and get back to sleep much quicker. 

Create a Sleep Environment

Quality sleep really does begin with creating an environment conducive to sleep. This can mean blocking out light with a black-out curtain, playing relaxing music or white-sound, and ensuring your child has an adequate temperature in the room. Other things you can do is provide a comfortable mattress and bedding, use of essential oils, and controlling the humidity either with a humidifier or de-humidifier. 

Healthy Living

Healthy living can not be understated and includes everything from choosing healthy food options to getting adequate exercise and limiting stress when possible. Practices such as positive reinforcement and teaching your child how to handle stressful situations as well as mindfulness are good ways to help your child become confident in their ability to stave off worries and anxiety, get sleep and build a strong immune system. 

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End Summer Sluggishness at its Source
April 24, 2019 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on End Summer Sluggishness at its Source

article courtesy of Devon Lawler at Thinking Caps Group. www.thinkingcapsgroup.com

It looks like summer is just a moment away, and parents and students are both itching for school year stresses to be over. But as students exchange their school books for popsicles and bathing suits, it’s important to maintain the academic skills they learned during the school year. Here are some fun, proactive tips for you to promote your child’s active learning this summer:

  • Keeping a journal: Hand-written journals are a great way for students to self-reflect during the summer. Encouraging kids to keep a journal not only promotes healthy relationships to writing, but can also improve self-awareness and keep students on track with summer homework.
  • Starting a book-club: Procrastination tends to be a problem over the summer. Turn summer reading into a book club where students and families break down reading into manageable “chunks”, and meet to discuss important themes and characters. This will make sure reading is completed on time and give everyone a chance to connect over great literature.
  • Create a Summer Schedule: With all the summer camps, vacations, and academic programs throughout the summer, kids might be busier during these months than they are during the school year. Encourage your kids to keep track of their own summer schedules, broken down into months, weeks, and days. This will promote independence–and might even give you a break!
  • Use Learning Apps: The relationship between teens and technology can actually be productive! Use apps like Duolingo for language learning, and Kahoot for trivia games with friends and family. You can even come up with a learning challenge where family members compete to see who can learn the most trivia.

While summer should be a time to rest and recharge, remind your kids that learning can happen during vacation, too. Active summer learning can keep your kids sharp so that when they walk back through those school doors in the fall, they walk in on the right foot.  

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Essential Tips for Parenting with a Disability
January 7, 2019 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Essential Tips for Parenting with a Disability

by Ashley Taylor 
disabledparents.org

Photo Credit: Pexels

When you have a disability, your physical limitations don’t have to limit your ability to be the best parent your child could hope for. By making certain preparations and utilizing a little creative problem-solving, you can fully embrace the beauty of raising a child and enjoy the moments that come with it. Here are some tips for living up to your unlimited potential as a parent when you have a disability:

Plan for the right baby products.

There are endless products out there marketed as essential for a safe and healthy baby, and every parent faces the challenge of deciding on which ones they will need for theirs. One thing that can help you make the right decisions is to read through online product reviews. This will allow you to see the products in light of safety, popularity, affordability, and so on. 

Plan for specialized equipment.

Along with conventional baby products, you’ll also need to look into equipment that allows you to care for your baby conveniently and safely. There are many products designed for parents with disabilities, and you can sometimes make a simple modification to a conventional product to make it work. Some items to look for include:

Make your home accessible.

Home modifications make it easier for people with disabilities to live more safely and comfortably, but when you’re expecting to bring a baby home, modifications become imperative. If you live with limited mobility, for example, there are a number of changes you can make to allow for easier movement throughout the home with a mobility aid, as well as help with daily tasks with your child: 

  • Installing zero-entrance ramps over all your steps 
  • Widening your doorways 
  • Installing expandable hinges on your doors
  • Removing any loose carpet and throw rugs
  • Installing skid-resistant flooring (e.g., linoleum, vinyl, low-pile carpet)
  • Lowering cabinets
  • Altering sinks and faucets

Baby-proof your home.

Baby-proofing is especially critical when your baby is a little older and begins to move around independently, but it’s never too early to plan or make changes to your home. One of the most important parts of baby-proofing is ensuring electrical safety. Be sure to cover or block any and all electrical outlets, because your child will get curious and try to stick things in them. Additional ways to practice electrical safety are to organize and hide electrical cords/wires, use safety covers on surge protectors, and put away electrical appliances when they’re not in use. 

It’s also important to make preparations that help prevent your child from falling and getting injured. Some preparations include using window guards over your screens, locking your windows, and installing safety gates at your staircase and at the door of your child’s bedroom. Moreover, to help prevent things from falling on your children, consider fastening furniture pieces (e.g., side tables, cabinets, dressers) to the wall, mounting any TVs to the wall, and using museum putty for any items stored on shelves. 

Practice self-care.

Last but not least: take care of yourself. While your child is obviously your first priority, practicing self-care will help you be a better parent. Make sure to get sleep whenever possible so you can have the energy and mental sharpness necessary to care for your baby. Also, remember to practice basic hygiene, like brushing your teeth and showering. Furthermore, try to keep an optimistic outlook, focus on gratitude, and allow yourself grace for times when you get frustrated. 

It’s not easy to be a parent, but it’s one of the most rewarding roles you will ever serve in this world. Remember that any physical limitation you have doesn’t have to keep you from being an exceptional parent. Prepare by getting the right baby products and specialized equipment, making home modifications, baby-proofing your home, and practicing self-care. 

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Are you worried about your relationship to alcohol?
October 24, 2018 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Are you worried about your relationship to alcohol?

by Daniel Factor at The Recovery Village

https://www.therecoveryvillage.com

If you are concerned that you or your spouse are using alcohol to deal with stress, numb anxiety or depression, you owe it to yourself and your child to seek help. Growing up in a home where alcohol is misused or abused will have a long-lasting negative effect on your child. But you have the power to get help so you can become the best parent possible.

Seeking treatment for your problem is in your child’s best interest. Here are some of the well-documented effects of growing up with an alcoholic parent.

  1. Intense feelings of anger. This anger may be directed at the parents, and even more importantly, at themselves.
  2. Feelings of depression. Sadness and isolation are a common response to growing up in an alcoholic home.
  3. Feeling guilty. It’s common for a child to feel they are to blame. This feeling of guilt can stay with a child into adulthood, even though they have no reason to feel guilty.
  4. Intense feelings of anxiety. Living with an alcoholic parent is like walking on eggshells. Living with this kid of fear causes intense anxiety for a child.
  5. Feelings of shame. A child will usually try to hide that their parent drinks too much. This secretiveness and shame isolates children from their peers.
  6. Feeling constantly confused. Our moods often change dramatically when we drink. Many adult children of alcoholics report never knowing what to expect from their parent. Consistency in caregiving is essential to a child’s wellbeing.
  7. Developing a substance abuse problem. Modeling moderation is an important part of raising teenagers. If you’re not walking the walk, the message your teens will get is that it’s okay to use drugs or alcohol.

Getting the Help You Need Helps Your Child

You have the power to shape your child’s life. Take a moment and consider what your actions mean for your child. If you seek help, you will live a better life, and in turn so will your child.

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What are ACEs? And How Do They Relate To Toxic Stress?
October 12, 2018 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on What are ACEs? And How Do They Relate To Toxic Stress?

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Getting Your Kids Involved in Philanthropy
July 15, 2018 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Getting Your Kids Involved in Philanthropy

by Jean Shafiroff

Soho Parenting’s Louisiana Project

Now that we’re in the heart of summer – and school summer vacation – many parents are left wondering how their children can best spend all of this free time! While some opt for camps to fill the summer months, New York City-based philanthropist Jean Shafiroff, author of Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life By What You Give and mother of two grown daughters, believes that summer break is the perfect time to get your kids involved in charity and giving back to society. Below you’ll find Jean’s top tips for how to get your kids involved in philanthropy over the summer:

Identify Your Kid’s Interests before Deciding on Any Activity
If your child is not interested in sports, volunteering with Special Olympics will most likely be a flop. On the other hand, if your kid loves art, volunteering for a local museum may be a great match. Focus on what your kid loves, and then use that to find philanthropic inspiration. After all, you do want your child do enjoy giving back so that he or she continues with charity throughout adulthood!

Match the Activity with your Child’s Age
While volunteering positions offer a fantastic foray into the worlds of both philanthropy and work for teenagers that are middle school- and high school-age, there are countless ways for younger children to give back. The developmental importance of more elementary philanthropic activities should not be underestimated. Start off your young kids with fun, age-appropriate activities. Think of charitable day camps, or even simple at-home activities like going through a kid’s possessions and deciding what they would like to donate. Opening a dialogue on privilege and disadvantage, especially among other children, is vital for helping your children cultivate a benevolent attitude.

Consider Collaborating with Your Kids
You don’t want your child to feel overwhelmed, or else they may grow to resent philanthropic work. Instead, choose an altruistic activity that can be used as a means of spending time together so that you can bond, work together, and give back all with the same project. This way, your kid can feel proud to be part of something bigger than he or she could accomplish alone. Such an endeavor may look like a toy or food drive, where you and your child can gather toys from your community in order to donate them to less privileged children.

Emphasize Togetherness
Whether your kid would like to spend more time with his or her parents or is more interested in spending time with friends, use philanthropy as a social activity. For example, you can either accompany your kid to a soup kitchen, or better yet bring his or her friends along so that they can have fun spending time together while simultaneously learning and doing something great for the community.

Utilize the Power of Virtual Philanthropy
Consider a simpler means of giving back: online philanthropy. As an example, you could use the internet to research ways you can help your child sponsor a child in need or protect an endangered species. You would be surprised how much change can be made with just a small investment of time and a few dollars. You may find this approach excites your kids, as they can establish connections with kids, causes, or animals around the globe!

 

ABOUT JEAN SHAFIROFF:
Formally honored by several major philanthropic organizations, Jean Shafiroff has made a name for herself by dedicating her life toward a wide array of charitable causes. She has invested her efforts in orchestrating large-scale events and fundraisers for non-profits including the New York Women’s Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Furthermore, Jean serves on the boards of many other organizations, such as the New York Mission Society and the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services. Perhaps she is most well-known for the integral role she plays for the Southampton Hospital, for which she has previously served as chairwoman of the Annual Summer Galas, and the Southampton Animal Shelter, for which she sits on the honorary board. She also authored the 2016 book Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life by What You Give and has penned articles for Social Life Magazine, Hamptons Magazine, Gotham Magazine, and Avenue Magazine.

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Stop Brain Drain Before it Starts
June 13, 2018 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Stop Brain Drain Before it Starts

by A.S. Braverman

The end of the school year is in sight and summer is right around the corner. Kids and parents alike are excited for the chance to slow down and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the school year, not to mention things like sleepaway camp, pool parties, and ice cream in the shade. But there’s a flip side to summer vacation—brain drain. Kids lose months’ worth of academic skills, including reading, writing, math, and executive functioning skills, and this puts them at a real disadvantage when they go back to school in the fall. To prevent this learning loss, try some of the following activities:

 

  • Go to a museum – When the day is just too hot to do much outside, visit a museum (especially a natural history museum). Kids will love the displays and interactive exhibits. This is a great way for them to get some science review (or history, or art), and for the family to spend time together. Plus: the air conditioning will feel great.

 

  • Send postcards — Make a summer-long game out of collecting the best postcards of the sights and landmarks in your town. Take some time every week to fill them out and send them to faraway friends or relatives. It will be excellent writing and geography practice.

 

  • Have a spelling bee – If you’re worried about your learners’ spelling skills, hold a spelling bee with a summery twist. Set up a bucket of water balloons that the “audience” (parents, neighbors, school friends) can throw at anybody who misspells their word.

 

  • Plan an excursion – Get your kids to practice using their planning and time management skills by having them plan out a day trip for you to take together. Make it fun and keep it organized by mapping out the day’s events using color coded markers, stickers, and other craft supplies.

 

  • Read together — Sometimes even the summer months can get hectic. When you have some down time, it’s nice to sit with your kids and read out loud. Choose a book that piques their interest, and alternate listening and reading, making sure the kids get a chance to do both, too. This will help them keep up their spelling skills, and can even be used as a gentle way to develop public speaking skills.

 

 

 

Author Bio: A.S. Braverman is an Academic Liaison at Thinking Caps Group and a recent graduate of Columbia University. Thinking Caps has published many books, including SAT Demystified (McGraw-Hill, 2012) and ACT Demystified (McGraw-Hill, 2013). The company has been featured in The New York Times, Parenting, and The Huffington Post.

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Chew On This!
May 23, 2018 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Chew On This!
by Dr. Jacqueline Dikansky
It’s 7:55 AM and your child’s school bus is arriving in 5 minutes. You’ve just placed a nutritious and delicious lunch inside a lunchbox and are wondering what to pack for snack time. How about some cookies? An apple? Dried mango? As a pediatric dentist, I am here to provide advice to make snacking as ‘teeth-friendly’ as possible. After all, we want your little one’s smile to be as healthy as it is beautiful.

There are genetic factors—such as bacterial profile and composition and secretion rate of saliva—that come into play when determining your risk for tooth decay. However, there are also significant factors that you have more control over, such as hygiene and diet. This is why it’s important to know what makes some snacks better for dentition than others. The bacteria in your mouth needs access to specific carbohydrates to cause cavities. Therefore, two important factors that determine how dangerous a snack food is for your teeth are the presence of these specific carbohydrates and the snack food’s retentiveness. In other words, we should consider what a snack is feeding the bacteria in our mouths and the amount of time it’s allowing the bacteria in our mouths to feast on it.

What does all this mean?! Here are some key takeaway points.

1.     Fresh fruit and vegetables are a go! As you may have expected, these get the green light for advisable snacking. The fibrous texture of many fruit and vegetables even provides teeth a cleansing effect, and stimulates the gums.  
 
2.     Milk and other dairy products offer protective qualities! Cheese and unsweetened yogurt are great snack choices. Milk has shown to help strengthen teeth, partly due to the casein protein found in milk that prevents demineralization. Avoid sweetened flavored milk, however, as the sugar may counteract its benefits.
 
3.     “If it’s sticky, it’s icky!” Sticky foods, such as gummy candy and dried fruit (i.e. raisins!), adhere to the surfaces of teeth and allow bacteria to sustain the cavity-forming process over an extended period of time.
 
4.     Sharing the above sentiment, potato chips and cookies are dangerous as well. These foods are not sticky per se, but they get pulverized and packed into the grooves, nooks and crannies of teeth, where they remain for an extended period of time. This too offers bacteria prolonged fueling of the tooth decay process. Fun facts: data shows that children who snack on cookies have 3.89 times more dental decay than children who don’t snack on cookies. Cavities in children who snack on potato chips are 4.28 times more common than in children who don’t consume potato chips!
 
5.     Sweetened beverages? Soda is a sugar shower for your teeth. Research shows again and again the deleterious effects of frequent soda consumption. Less intuitively, fruit juice can be dangerous due to its acidity. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following recommendations: For children age 4-6, fruit juice should be restricted to 4 to 6 ounces daily; and for children ages 7-18, juice intake should be limited to 8 ounces or 1 cup of the recommended 2 to 2 ½ cups of fruit servings per day.
 
6.     Finally, the frequency of snacking is extremely important! Every time you snack, the environment in your mouth changes to one that is more conducive to forming cavities. Try and limit snacking to 1-2 times per day.
I certainly want your little one to enjoy all of his/her favorite foods, regardless of where they fall on this list! We just want to make sure this is done in the most protective way possible for the teeth. If your child did have potato chips, gummy candy, or any of the foods that may pose a greater risk to the teeth, go ahead and brush his/her teeth not long thereafter, if possible. If not, at least have your little one drink a lot of water (or milk!) after snacking to increase clearance and wash that snack off the teeth. Snack happy, but also snack healthy!

References
1.     Snacking Habits and Caries in Young Children. Johansson et al. Caries Res. November 2010.
2.     The relationship between snacking habits and dental caries
in school children. Iftikhar et al.  International Journal of Collaborative Research on Internal Medicine & Public Health. Vol. 4 No. 12 (2012)
3.      Evaluating the Cariogenic Potential of Flavored Milk: An Experimental Study using Rat Model. Al-Jobair et al. Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice. January 2015.

About the author:
Dr. Jacqueline Dikansky is a pediatric dentist who practices at iSmile Kids, a dental practice in lower Manhattan. She is a native of Brooklyn, NY and completed both her undergraduate and graduate education at New York University. Dr. Dikansky graduated dental school with honors in pediatric dentistry. She also received the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Predoctoral Student Award, given to a single senior student who shows the most promise in pediatric dentistry. After receiving her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree, she completed an additional 2- year specialty training program in pediatric dentistry at Yale University. Besides dentistry, Jacqueline’s passions are fitness, travel and ballroom dancing. She was a competitive ballroom dancer for over 13 years! You can find more information on Dr. Dikansky at www.ismilekids.com.
 
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How to Become a Digital Savvy Parent
May 9, 2018 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on How to Become a Digital Savvy Parent

infographic by Amy K. Williams

data gathered from www.teensafe.com

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Start the School Year Right
September 11, 2017 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Start the School Year Right

Fall is just around the corner. There are lots of things to look forward to—the crunch of dry leaves, the comfort of your favorite sweater, pumpkin pie and apple cider, and, of course, the start of the new school year! As exciting as it is for kids and parents alike, this yearly transition can also be a big source of stress. It’s easy to let little things fall through the cracks in the hubbub of September. Your kids might be getting more homework as they get older, and lots of students participate in so many extracurricular activities that they’re hard to keep straight!  Here are five ways to make your back-to-school experience as smooth as possible.

Get Organized

Make sure your child’s study space is free of the clutter that can distract from schoolwork. You can also set up a system of organization that he or she can use right from the beginning of the semester. Some students find that a color-coded binder helps them keep all their assignments in order. Others might benefit from keeping a weekly planner in a notebook or online.  A family calendar in a prominent location—such as the living room or kitchen—is another good way to encourage time management. Additionally, the act of crossing off finished tasks can help give kids a feeling of accomplishment and autonomy.

 

Make a Schedule

Outline a daily “plan of attack” for school projects, social events, activities, and chores. Make sure your child records his/her assignments in the same place every week—such as in the notebook or online planner mentioned above. Next, we suggest “chunking” assignments into smaller, manageable steps, and then ordering those steps according to the project due date and the length of time your child will need to complete each step. You can use this plan to tackle daily homework and study time, as well as longer projects, such as papers or science projects. Ultimately, these steps will help your child learn the time management skills necessary to complete any long-term task.

Identify Your Child’s Learning Style

        One of the most important things you can do to ensure a great school year is to understand how your child learns best. This information will help you tailor study and organization strategies to your child’s strengths and challenges. Some children absorb information by listening; we call these kids auditory learners. Other students—visual learners—do best when information is convey visually, through charts or illustrations. Finally, kinesthetic learners apprehend concepts through touch, by physically working through ideas and problems. Often, students exhibit a variety of these traits, so it’s essential that you get to know your child’s particular needs.

Remember To Take Breaks

        The beginning of the year can feel overwhelming for everyone, parents and kids alike! As the days get shorter they also seem to get fuller. Don’t forget to build breaks into your child’s routine. Even a two-minute stretch, walk around the house, or quick snack can work wonders for a busy brain, especially when transitioning from working on one subject to working on another. We all need to take moments to reset our minds. Kids learn best work they’re running on all cylinders.

 

Author Bio: A.S. Braverman is an Academic Liaison at Thinking Caps Group and a recent graduate of Columbia University. Thinking Caps has published many books, including SAT Demystified (McGraw-Hill, 2012) and ACT Demystified (McGraw-Hill, 2013). The company has been featured in The New York Times, Parenting, and The Huffington Post.

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