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Where Are All The Lifeguards?

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

My daughter is not a strong swimmer. And I have a bit of helicopter tendencies. So even though I’m watching her whenever we’re at the pool or beach, I appreciate an extra set of eyes too. And it shocks me how many hotels and resorts don’t have lifeguards—even if they have multi-million dollar water play areas. When I survey beach resorts for Parents 10 best stories, I always ask about lifeguard coverage. Much to my surprise, I’ve found that at least half of resorts, even the super-pricey ones, make you swim at your own risk. It’s even worse on cruise lines. When I was researching our cruise story this year, I was shocked to learn that only one major cruise line, Disney, has lifeguards.That’s despite the fact that this year, a 4-year-old drowned in a pool on a cruise line that didn’t have guards at the pool.

If some resorts can afford seemingly over-the-top perks like a concierge just for kids, why can’t they pay a lifeguard-certified college student to patrol the pool? I’ve asked that to travel industry friends over the years, and they say it comes down to liability. If something were to happen while the lifeguard were on duty, the resort might be deemed responsible. A warning sign about not having a lifeguard apparently lets them off the hook.

In a recent survey, 80 percent of parents say they’d look more favorable on a cruise line with lifeguard backup. So do me a favor (and I’ll do the same) if you visit a hotel, resort, or cruise ship without a lifeguard, mention it when you’re asked about your stay. (And by the same token, express your appreciation for lifeguard coverage.) If more moms and dads made it loud and clear that we’d like a lifeguard on duty—and told the travel industry that was a factor in making a decision about where we spend our vacation dollars—things might change. Are you with me?

 

Starting To Swim
Starting To Swim
Starting To Swim

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Have You Heard of Dry Drowning?

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

I never have—until I read a post yesterday from the Delighted Momma blog. Founder Lindsay Kujawa shares her “almost nightmare” experience with her toddler son, Ronin, at a pool party. She recalls turning her back for five seconds tops, and Ronin fell into the water. She quickly pulled him out. She wrote, “Other than Ronin being visibly upset and coughing to get the water out, he seemed totally fine after he had calmed down.” But he wasn’t.

Later that night, Kujawa recalled that Ronin developed a strange cough, and just wasn’t acting like himself. She called her pediatrician, who, much to Kujawa’s surprise, urged her to take her son to the ER. After taking a chest X-Ray, the doctors found that water was trapped in his lungs, and sent him to a nearby children’s hospital. On the way there, his oxygen levels plummeted. At the children’s hospital, Kujawa learned about secondary drowning, also called dry drowning, which occurs when water that’s been swallowed gets into the lungs and blocks oxygen from leaving the lungs to enter the bloodstream. Symptoms can start from 1 hour to 2 days after the near-drowning accident. And it’s more common than you might think, happening in 1 out 20 near-drowning cases, according to one review.

Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic have this message for parents: “Every child who has fallen into the water or experienced a near-drowning should be taken to the emergency room immediately,” says pediatrician Elumali Appachi, M.D. “If we can intervene quickly, it’s possible for a child to recover.”

Fortunately, Ronin is among the survivors. He was actually discharged from the hospital the next day. Writes Kujawa: “I am forever changed since this happened. I will not let this define me but you can guarantee that I will be doing things much differently from here on out.  It was a huge wakeup call.  And it really taught me that, yes, in just a few seconds, your life can change forever. I got a too-close taste of what that really can be like.”

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Swimming Myths
Swimming Myths
Swimming Myths

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Stopping the Summer Slide

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

My daughter has only 27 days of school left—not that I’m counting. I’ve planned camps, a family vacation, and visits to grandparents, but I haven’t given much thought out yet to how I’m going to prevent her brain from turning to mush as she watches a Good Luck, Charlie episode for the eighth time or spends her afternoons at the playground. Okay, I’m exaggerating about her brain turning to mush—but, seriously, will she still be able to bust out the multiplication tables after 10 weeks away from them, or remember the formula for calculating the area of a circle? Will her writing get lazy in the lazy days of summer—will she even know what a participle is come September?

These are the kinds of questions that I wrestle with every summer striving to balance the carefree (and sometimes even boring) days that I believe kids should have versus the knowledge that studies show, math and reading skills regress over the break. In fourth grade, my daughter’s class took a math test at the end of the year—she got a perfect score. At the beginning of fifth grade, when she received the identical test, she got several wrong.

Forgetting the previous school year’s lessons is a problem in the earlier grades, too. In a piece by Michelle Crouch, last year, even first- and second-grade teachers talked about this phenomenon that’s known around schools as the “summer slide.”It’s actually led some educators to lobby for “year-around” school with several shorter breaks throughout the year rather than a long summer hiatus.

But that’s not an option in our district (and I don’t know if I’d love that idea anyway). So  I’m stuck trying to slip some academics into summer. Lucky for me, my daughter is obsessed with reading (she read every title we considered for Parents Best Book story) and,  last year, she also did the summer reading program at Barnes & Noble and our local library. Plus, a trip to the library in general is a great rainy-day activity. She’s already made herself a stack of summer books she wants to get to, but if your child is a reluctant reader, try a friend’s trick: Take out library books about something your child is passionate about (whether it’s learning more about Disney or dinosaurs) and set aside 15 minutes daily when everyone in the family drops what they’re doing to read. Since everyone is reading, your child will be more likely to want to join in.

Retaining math skills, however, is much more challenging for us. My daughter does play games sometimes on First in Math, and when she was younger, she used some of these cool math apps. I’m reluctant to buy workbooks because they seem like, well, work. Please share your ideas!

Kids Books for Summer
Kids Books for Summer
Kids Books for Summer

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How to Be A Stage Mom (Without Getting All Toddlers & Tiaras)

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

It’s recital, choir concert, talent show, school play, and music program season! So chances are, your little one is performing in some type of show during the next month or two. I’ve got an 11-year-old drama queen who has been in dozens of performances since her first ballet recital at age three (for Throwback Thursday, I’m sharing the pic). Looking back, I wish someone had showed me the ropes about how to be a stage mom without being one of those stage moms. But now I can do that for you:

* Relax. You may be concerned that she won’t remember all her dance steps or will be out of sync with her group or even will be too scared to perform, but here’s the truth: You have nothing to worry about. My daughter has never been in a show when single one of the kids failed to get on stage out of fear. Sure, there have been tears and nervousness backstage, but the volunteer moms and instructors are pros at coaxing a kid out there. And as for making mistakes during the performance, know that if young kids mess up a bit, it’s actually cute. Cuter even than if the number went off without a hitch. So rather than getting worked up about it not being perfect (yes, I know the grandparents will be there), let your child enjoy herself and soak in the applause. The youngest kids always get the most enthusiastic response from the audience.

* Ask someone else to videotape it. If you’re holding your iPhone the whole time, you’re not going to enjoy the performance as it’s happening, which, trust me, is not the same as watching it later on YouTube. Ask a mom who has a kid in a different number to video for you, and do the same for her.

*  Keep makeup simple. You’ve surely heard that kids will be “washed out” under the bright lights, but let me tell you lots of blush, lipstick, and eyeshadow is overkill for a 4-year-old. A little shimmer goes a long way.

* Re-think flowers. My daughter has received plenty of petals, but the gifts she’s been most fond of (and still uses) have related to the shows she’s performed in: a Little Prince necklace, a figurine from Annie, a Glinda doll. For the money you’d spend on flowers, you could get your daughter something that will last her whole childhood.

* Respect the instructor/teacher/director. She’ll teach him how to deliver the line, rock the dance moves, hit the note. Telling your child to do something different because you think it’s better will only confuse him. If you truly have a concern, talk to the instructor directly.

* Show your appreciation. If your child’s performance was at school, chances are teachers put in a lot of extra hours that they weren’t compensated for. My daughter’s school play last year had at least 80 hours of practice—and that doesn’t count the weekends that the teachers gave up for the actual performances. Help organize a token of appreciation, like a giant card that the cast makes and signs.

Okay, fellow stage moms, here’s your cue: Add more tips in the comments!

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

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Could School Lunch Be Too Healthy?

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

More fresh fruit, whole grains, and healthier drinks at school lunch—it all sounds good to me. Over the last couple of years, the USDA has implemented new nutrition requirements for the National School Lunch Program. When I first blogged about the changes in 2012, I complained that they weren’t happening fast enough. But some districts feel that things have gone too far, too fast. In Waterford, Connecticut, for instance, the Superintendent told The Journal-Times that district is dropping the program because the requirements “restrict us a little too much” and that children throw away a lot of fruits and vegetables.

It’s true that wasting food has been a widespread problem. According to a new report from the government’s General Accounting Office, 40 states reported that they expected “plate waste” to be a challenge. But I don’t think that ditching the lunch program—to avoid the regulations—is the right answer. Instead, here are some things that might work:

* Collect uneaten whole fruit. Last year, I visited an elementary school in Flemington, New Jersey, that puts the uneaten oranges and apples in a basket outside of the nurses’ office so kids can grab a snack when they’re hungry. Talk to your school’s wellness committee about implementing this idea.
* Ask for choices. Suggest that the district give kids more options for produce. Rather than just handing kids a tray with steamed broccoli, let them choose between two veggies. Research shows that when kids have a say in their meal, they’re more likely to eat it. This will be a little more work for the staff kitchen (or food service provider) but it will be worth it if satisfaction and sales increase.
* Let your child know that you care. Most kids aren’t going to mention what they eat (and don’t eat) at lunch to you. So you have to bring it up. A simple “What did you eat at lunch today?” will get the conversation started. If your child is throwing away food because he didn’t have enough time to eat it, remind him that he can wait until the final call for trash—many kids think they’re out of time when they have 5 or even 10 minutes left.

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Tags: | Categories: The Parents Perspective