Archive for the ‘ Big Kids ’ Category

Speaking Up About National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week

Monday, May 4th, 2015

Parents has had an ongoing partnership with Child Mind Institute, and we applaud its efforts to end the stigma associated with children’s mental health issues—and to help make sure that all children get the treatment they need. As part of its annual Speak Up For Kids Campaign, the Child Mind Institute Mental Health Report was released today, and it contains the latest, most reliable information about the scope of children’s mental health in America. These are just some of the powerful statistics:

  • 17 million young people have or have had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder.
  • 40% percent of kids with ADHD aren’t getting treatment.
  • 60% of kids with depression aren’t getting treatment.
  • 80% of kids with an anxiety disorder aren’t getting treatment.

“The numbers are staggering,” says Parents advisor Harold Koplewicz, M.D., president of Child Mind Institute. “Mental illness is the common disorder of childhood and adolescence—it’s more common than asthma, peanut allergies, or diabetes—and 22% of kids have serious, debilitating symptoms. It is time for us to start a new conversation about this.”

Dr. Koplewicz is particularly concerned about anxiety disorders, and age 6 is the median age of onset. “When it’s not treated, anxiety can prime the brain for depression in adolescence and adulthood.”  The article in our May issue, “Anxious All The Time,” offers practical and reassuring advice, and Child Mind Institute has a comprehensive guide to finding good care for all types of mental illness.

Child Mind Institute is also honoring the winners of its Change Maker Awards, which celebrate leaders, organizations, and local heroes that are creating change in children’s mental health. Parents readers had been invited to submit nominations for the last two awards.

The Champion Award: Congressman Tim Murphy, Ph.D. A clinical psychologist from Pennsylvania, he recently unveiled his landmark mental health reform legislation, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.

The Activist Award: First Lady Chirlane McCray of New York City. She was inspired by her own daughter’s past struggles to dedicate herself to mental health advocacy and help make sure that young people are connected to the services they need.

The Corporate Advocate Award: Bloomingdales, led by CEO Tony Spring. The retailer took a stance on mental health at a time when few organizations were speaking up about it, and raised funds by selling limited-edition special products.

The Community Builder Award: Active Minds. Founded by Alison Malmon, who lost her brother to suicide, the organization raises awareness about mental health issues at colleges across the country.

The Local Hero Award: Angela Renz, LCSW. A social worker in New York City schools for decades, she has helped thousands of at-risk children, and educated parents and children about the dangers of stress and the benefits of teaching resilience.

Child Mind Institute says it best: “Speaking for children’s mental health is about more than words—it’s about making change for kids and families. Raising our voices lets struggling young people know it’s okay to ask for help. Sharing accurate information as well as our stories makes childhood mental illness real. And taking action together transforms children’s lives. Speak Up for Kids is about sharing knowledge—and creating change.”

Diane Debrovner is the deputy editor of Parents and the mother of two daughters.

Life with ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder
Life with ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder
Life with ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder

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Should Kids With Lice Be Allowed in Schools?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

It’s never a pleasant topic to discuss, but we need to talk about head lice.

When I was young, I caught the tiny pests from another kid at daycare. I wasn’t particularly close with this girl, so I’m confident that we weren’t sharing hats or rubbing our heads together, but somehow, I ended up with lice anyway. This was years ago now, but my mom still shudders when she thinks about it. Because naturally, my sister caught them too, and my poor mother was forced to spend hours washing and combing out our long hair. And it wasn’t easy for me either—she bagged up all my stuffed animals for two weeks! (Experts have since determined that those grueling days without my plush friends weren’t necessary, as lice can’t survive without human blood. So even worse, my suffering was all for nothing!) Needless to say, the head lice era was a dark time in my family’s history.

I was interested to hear that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has just updated their guidelines, saying that kids with lice should not be banned from school. Instead, the child should finish out the school day, be treated and then return to class the next day. Experts are reminding parents that lice are not a serious health hazard or a sign of poor hygiene—just a nuisance that can be dealt with.

I’m feeling a little conflicted about this. On one hand, I obviously trust that the experts know what they’re talking about, and I don’t necessarily believe that a child should be banned from school until every last bug is gone. But what if someone had forced that kid from my daycare to stay home? My whole family would have been a whole lot happier, I can tell you that much. Sure, lice won’t ruin your life—but they will be a massive pain to your family while they’re kicking around. (“Nuisance” is way too gentle of a word in my mind.) It seems to me that keeping your child out of school until you’ve gotten things under control is a reasonable request. Let’s just hope that no matter what the school policy is, parents will use common sense about when a child should stay home, much like with colds or other mild illnesses.

Tell us what you think: should kids with lice be allowed in school?

How to Identify and Treat Lice
How to Identify and Treat Lice
How to Identify and Treat Lice

Image courtesy of Shutterstock 

Chrisanne Grise is an editorial assistant at Parents. Follow her on Twitter @xanne.

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The Other Final Four

Monday, April 6th, 2015


We’ll be watching the NCAA championship game at my house tonight, but we’re just as excited about the announcement today of the four finalists in Women on 20s’ campaign to put a woman on the $20 bill: Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Wilma Mankiller.

My 10-year-old daughter, Jane, was one of the 255,000 people who voted in the past five weeks for their three favorites out of the fifteen candidates. I’d originally heard about the campaign from her teacher, because Clara Barton—whom Jane had written a report about earlier this year—was one of the candidates. Although Clara didn’t make it to the final four, Jane was thrilled to be able to cast her vote just like adults could.

She thought it was particularly cool that a 9-year-old girl was the one who came up with the idea in the first place, and wrote to President Obama to ask why don’t women have coins or dollar bills with their faces on them. Now the organization, Women on 20s, is working to putting a woman on the $20 (sorry, Andrew Jackson) in time for the 100th anniversary in 2020 of the passage of the 19th amendment that gave women the right to vote. The President can order the Secretary of the Treasury to change the portrait on paper money.

Last week, I happened to speak with Parents advisor Deborah Stipek, Ph.D., dean of the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, about ways to help elementary school kids like Jane stay excited about school—at a time in their lives when it seems like there’s more work than play. Dr. Stipek, the author of the terrific book, Motivated Minds: Raising Children to Love Learning, thinks that one key is to show your child ways that what she’s learning in school relates to the real world. So Women on 20s was perfect timing for us.

Learn more about the final four candidates and vote for the winner along with your own daughters and sons.

Diane Debrovner is the deputy editor of Parents and the mother of two daughters. You can follow on Twitter at @ddebrovner.

Helping Your Child Succeed At School
Helping Your Child Succeed At School
Helping Your Child Succeed At School

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Dry Nights, At Last! What Finally Worked for My Bedwetter

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Both of my children were potty trained by age 3–during the day, at least. My older daughter had three dry nights in a row a few months before she turned 5, so we put her in underwear, and to this date she’s never had an accident. (She’s 9 now.) When my younger daughter’s 5th birthday came and went with her still in diapers at bedtime, I didn’t think much of it–different kid, different timetable. Her pediatrician wasn’t concerned, either. But then Lila’s 6th birthday passed, and she told me she was too embarrassed to have friends over in case they saw her Pullups in her closet. Shortly after, I heard a discouraging stat: Only 15% of bedwetters become dry on their own a year later. So if we waited for things to get better, it could literally take years. It was time to deal with this.

First, I wanted to rule out any medical causes for her bedwetting. (Excessive urination is a common red flag of diabetes, for example.) Once we learned that everything was normal, we focused on bedwetting treatment options. Research shows that medication is not as effective as a bed alarm. And age 6 is a good time to start using an alarm; younger children don’t respond very well. So my husband and I geared ourselves up for what an alarm would mean for all of us. Put simply: bad sleep, and a lot of laundry, for the next several months.

We had one huge advantage, which was a willing child. Lila was totally motivated to stop bedwetting, and she found the idea of an alarm sort of fascinating. We got the kind that has two parts: a sensor that clips to her underwear and a transmitter that attaches to the shoulder of her pajama top, beeping loudly when the sensor gets wet. (We also invested in a super-absorbent pad that we attached to the top of her mattress and always had a pile of clean sheets and blankets waiting on the floor.) We explained that when the alarm went off, we’d turn it off and help her to the bathroom. This was a key step, having her go to the toilet even if her bladder was completely empty. The hope was that she’d eventually turn off the alarm when she was wet and head to the bathroom on her own. But the goal was for the alarm to train her reflex system to tell her when her bladder was full and send her to the bathroom before she urinated.

I can’t say we saw much success. For the first several weeks, that dreaded alarm woke me and my husband–though not Lila–every night, sometimes twice. I tracked each night in a simple chart that came with the bed alarm; I didn’t see much of a pattern to her accidents. Sometimes they happened before midnight, other times they weren’t until 4 or 5 in the morning. We tried limiting how much water she drank, and woke her to use the bathroom before we went to bed, so there’d ostensibly be less urine in her bladder for the night. But experts don’t encourage that because while it does cut back on accidents, it doesn’t help the brain and bladder communicate with each other.

Then, through the good fortune of my job here, I met a father-son team of bedwetting experts in town from Israel. Jacob Sagie, Ph.D., and his son, Tal Sagie, M.A., have treated more than 30,000 bedwetters in the past three decades. They’ve now created a new program called TheraPee. It requires an alarm (though a different kind—I’ll explain), but what sets it apart is the online component.

The Sagies knew that they’d been successful with their patients, who ranged in age from 4 to 35, because they were able to meet face to face. With TheraPee, they’re replicating the in-person experience in the form of hundreds of brief video clips tailored to your child’s situation. Here’s how it works: You initially provide information about your child, including age, gender, duration of bedwetting, and more. Based on that data, the appropriate video will play, starring Tal, who speaks directly to your child, welcoming her to the program. (That’s him in the photo illustration above.) Lila looked at me in amazement and said, “Is he really talking to me?” She was enthralled. This is the point, says Tal: “The soul of the treatment is the therapist. His ability to establish a trusting relationship with your child, knowing how to motivate him, and always giving him hope and helping him believe in himself, are the key elements for success.” This is why the videos rely heavily on cognitive behavioral therapy principles. For example, your child will watch a clip that incorporates modeling by showing thank-you notes and progress charts from successful former TheraPee patients.

A word about the charts: They were a big deal for Lila. With the first treatment method we tried, I kept my own records. Dr. Sagie pointed out that we were missing a critical opportunity to motivate Lila and help her feel invested in the process. What’s more, my chart was ugly to look at. TheraPee’s online chart requires more information, including the size of the wet spot, the time of night the accident occurred, and whether your child woke up on her own. It’s easy for kids to fill it out themselves. And when they have a dry night, they get to put a blue star on that square. After four dry nights in a row, they get a red star. And after eight consecutive dry nights, they get a much-sought-after gold star. I couldn’t believe how genuinely excited Lila was to place her stars on the chart, and how much she was keeping tabs on which color star she was due for. After two weeks of reporting results, Lila would have another session with Tal, using videos tailored specifically to her progress. (One note: His accent is strong, and I was certain Lila was going to find it distracting. To my surprise, it only seemed to make her pay more attention to what he was saying.) In the video clips, he would praise her progress, cheer her on, give mini quizzes to make sure she understood what she was being told (“What kind of star will you get for one dry night?”), and give us homework—daily exercises that would help strengthen her bladder or improve her reflex system. One such exercise required her to urinate for three seconds, stop for three seconds, and repeat that pattern until she was finished. (There are much more sophisticated exercises for children who use the program for a longer period than Lila did.)

Another difference this time around was the alarm itself. Lila wasn’t physically attached to it anymore (many kids resist that kind, says Tal). Instead, we put a sensor pad under her sheet that plugged into an alarm box right next to her bed.

Since mid-November, Lila has had a total of three accidents. She “graduated” from TheraPee in early February. As a way of celebrating, Lila got to virtually meet Tal via Skype, which was nothing short of a thrill for her, after all of her video sessions. This isn’t necessarily typical, but “we do our best to assist all patients by phone, email, or Skype if they need our help during the program,” he says.

The program isn’t cheap: You can either pay $279 for the alarm and unlimited access to the software, or $199 plus a $19.99 monthly fee (perhaps a better option if your child is very close to having dry nights). But the Sagies say their success rate with TheraPee is 90%, and it’s clear from these glowing reviews on Amazon that it’s working for many, many more children out there. If you’re interested, you can get a free consultation. And should you use it, I wish you and your child the best.

Kara Corridan is the health director of Parents. Now that Lila’s bedwetting days are over, she’s moved on to a loft bed, where she sleeps soundly every night.

How to Potty Train in 3 Days
How to Potty Train in 3 Days
How to Potty Train in 3 Days

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Social Media Snooping: The Brave New World of High-Stakes Testing?

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Girl taking testOver the past several months, I’ve become more and more concerned about the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test (AKA the PARCC) that’s being given to students in grades 3 through 11 here in New Jersey and in a handful of other states. So concerned, in fact, that after doing extensive research on it, I chose to refuse the PARCC test for my daughters.

And now, I’m feeling even more convinced that there are major issues with the PARCC. Just this week, news surfaced that test-maker Pearson has been vigilantly monitoring social media for mentions of its controversial new standardized test, then asking the Board of Education to step in and punish students who are tweeting about the PARCC in ways that they deem inappropriate. The superintendent of Watchung Hills Regional High School in New Jersey was the first to sound the alarm bell, after receiving a late-night call from the New Jersey Department of Education. Pearson claimed the student had posted a screenshot of a test question during the testing timeframe—but it turned out that the student hadn’t posted an image, and had tweeted about the test after school hours.

This whole social media monitoring scheme seems to be pretty unfair, given the fact that some of the schools in New Jersey have not allowed parents and students to refuse the test or have used pressuring tactics like making them simply sit and stare during the duration of the test if they refuse to participate. So now, these kids not only may be forced to take this test against their will, but if they are caught “revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication,” Pearson will find out through their apparently eagle-eyed social media watching program, track down the student and their school district, and demand punishment. And at least one child in New Jersey is currently on suspension as a result. (I’m thinking that hardly seems legal to silence the students given the freedom of speech afforded by the First Amendment, and the fact that even though Pearson required all teachers and proctors to sign a nondisclosure agreement, the actual test takers are minors and can’t legally sign a contract.)

But Pearson is doing more than snooping on what your kid is tweeting. It’s getting quite a bit of data about your child through the PARCC test. That includes more than the basics, like name, birthdate, sex, and ethnicity. Pearson also knows what disabilities your child has, whether he or she has been labeled gifted and talented, and if she’s eligible for reduced/free lunch (so that gives them a clue about how your family finances look). And then, of course, Pearson is getting all sorts of data about how your child is doing on their test. (Though the actual value of that data is uncertain, given the concerns about the structure and style of the PARCC.)

The amount and types of data Pearson is collecting raises concerns about security breaches, as hackers could access this very personal information about children. And it also makes you wonder what Pearson has planned for this data. One potential clue is an Instagram image that’s been posted around, of a potential student data file of the future—it’s a screen capture from a video Pearson produced. For a kid that looks to be about a fifth grader, it suggests a single career path, five potential colleges, and a high school schedule. Should we really be trying to pigeon hole kids to a certain career before they hit junior high, based on a series of standardized tests? (I can assure you that my fifth grader’s current career aspiration, ballet dancer, won’t be among the choices offered by Pearson.)

If you’re worried that your child’s privacy may be compromised, there are steps you can take:

  • Contact your child’s school and ask them what private companies or third-party providers have access to your child’s data. There are two laws in place that are meant to protect your child’s data at school: FERPA and COPPA. Neither is perfect, but they will at least allow you to find out who has your child’s data, and start contacting these companies to request that they remove identifying information.
  • Refuse the PARCC tests. Even if your child took the first set of testing this March, there’s more PARCC to be had later in May. You can refuse the test and prevent Pearson from getting more of your child’s information.
  • Share your concerns with your school board, state legislators, and local media. The more voices that speak up with concerns about these possible violations of student privacy and freedom of speech, the more likely that the voices will be heard.
Lisa Milbrand writes’s In Name Only blog and is the mom of two girls.

3 Things Parents Can Do to Help Kids Manage Homework
3 Things Parents Can Do to Help Kids Manage Homework
3 Things Parents Can Do to Help Kids Manage Homework


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