Archive for the ‘ Child Development ’ Category

Jennifer Garner Wants You to Join the #GlobalMoms Discussion

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

What kind of world do you want for your family by 2030? What can be accomplished in 15 years to make this a better world for our children?

Experts and advocates came together last Friday for the third annual Moms +SocialGood event to jump-start this very conversation. The all-day event, which is just one part of the Global Moms Challenge, is dedicated to the power of mothers and families to improve the future for their communities. This United Nations Foundation initiative, along with the support of Johnson & Johnson, has already helped more than 120 million women across the globe.

The event included individual speakers and panel discussions focused on the many facets of parenthood and childhood. One of the many speakers was mother, actress, and member of Save the Children’s board of trustees, Jennifer Garner. Like every mom, Garner adores her three young children—but she’s also devoted to the well-being of all kids. Parents had the opportunity to submit questions to Garner, who answered via video response, about her experiences with motherhood and some of her greatest passions.

Moms +SocialGood is all about the power of moms and families. When do you feel the most powerful as a mom?
JG: I feel the most powerful as a mom when I can handle the challenges of motherhood with equanimity and remember that they’re just little kids and not try to expect them all to be mature enough to handle the disappointments of life that can throw kids into a tizzy. When I can be calm and carry on that’s when I feel like…okay, I did it!

As the third annual Global Moms Relay kicks off, what’s your answer to the question, “What kind of world do YOU want for your family by 2030?”
If I’m thinking just about my family, I’m hoping that my kids are engaged in the world, that they have balance in their lives, and are enjoying all of the incredible opportunities that the world has to offer them. But I also hope that we have enough water, I also hope that kids’ needs are being met all over the world, that kids are living until 5 in developing nations, which is so doable, and that kids in the United States are getting the right chance to start off on the right foot.

Although you’re actively involved in many ventures, what specific projects are you channeling your energy toward right now?
With Save [the Children], I was just in South Carolina trying to raise the visibility of the importance of birth to five education, development, nurturing moms who have newborns—particularly, moms who are raising kids in poverty. One in three kids in rural SC is growing up in poverty and 72 percent of 4th graders in SC are not reading at grade-level—there’s a real connection there. So I was just there trying to boost the morale of the legislators and say ‘come on, let’s fight for little kids and let’s make sure money is going in the most effective places.’

When you first became a mother, what would you say was the one thing that changed the most?
It’s such a huge change, and it’s such a huge shift. I had to really fight from becoming isolated, and I’ve always been social and I love my girlfriends, but you kind of go into your little bubble, which is not really a great place to be. Parenting should be done as a part of a community.

Millions see you as a role model, but who do you look up to the most? And why?
I look up to my sisters and my mom—I think they’re pretty cool. And I look up to all of the moms that Save is helping around the United States, these mothers love their kids just as much as I love mine, just as much as my mom loves me, and are doing their best to give their kids the right start without the help and resources that I have.

Related: For more on mothers around the world, read about Save the Children’s recently released State of the World’s Mothers report.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years

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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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Teach Your Child to Make a #ThankList

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

IQuick! Who are you thankful for?

Is it your spouse/partner? Kid(s)? Mom? Dad? …?

If you have trouble naming someone beyond core family members, you’re not alone. Actress Elizabeth Banks recently found herself stumped as well. But with the help of a new gratitude initiative called the ThankList, Banks was able to remember and thank a friend she hadn’t seen in 15 years.

According to the 2014 Civility in America survey, 93 percent of Americans believe there’s a civility problem that is contributing to an increasingly rude nation. To help make the world a nicer, thoughtful, and caring place, American Greetings created the ThankList project and then teamed up with the Huffington Post to remind people that two simple words (“Thank you”) are powerful enough to increase civility.

You’re encouraged to write a list of people who shaped you and who you want to thank (just watch this series of short ThankList films to be inspired!). The people you express gratitude for can be “anyone in your life who listened when you needed someone to listen or anyone who supported you when you needed support,” said Banks, one of five guest speakers at a ThankList media panel.

Of course, gratitude doesn’t have to start and end with adults — teaching kids to be thankful from an early age will help them be happier and more appreciative with the people and things around them. A recent study even found that gratitude is a key factor in helping people feel more positive and satisfied later in life. Nurturing a grateful child can also develop other related qualities such as kindness, generosity, a sense of social responsibility, and even good manners. Plus, giving thanks also has long-term physical and mental health benefits.

So a child’s first role model for gratitude starts with you — by sharing your own ThankList (use #ThankList on social media), keeping a gratitude journal, or even doing good deeds can help your little one understand the importance of counting your blessings. After all, there’s a reason why we ask kids to express gratitude every Thanksgiving, though the practice could certainly be done year-round. And according to the same civility survey, millennials are becoming more proactive in countering incivility and doing something about it — which is good news to be thankful for, because the more kindness and gratitude spreads, the more hope parents will have that the world is becoming a better place for kids.

Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for She loves collecting children’s picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea.

Teach Your Child How to Write a Simple Thank-You Note
Teach Your Child How to Write a Simple Thank-You Note
Teach Your Child How to Write a Simple Thank-You Note

Photo of “I’m Thankful For” sign via Shutterstock

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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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Kids of All Ages Want You to Read to Them

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Once your child can read by herself—especially if she has to read independently for 15 or 30 minutes each night for homework—you might figure she doesn’t really need you to read aloud to her anymore. Maybe it’s harder to find the time, or she seems too old for bedtime stories. However, kids ages 6 to 11 wish their parents read to them more often, according to a new study from Scholastic.

The study found that 54% of children ages under age 5 are read aloud to at home five to seven days a week, as compared to only 34% of kids ages 6 to 8 and 17% of kids ages 9 to 11. Nearly one in four parents stopped reading to their child entirely by the time she was 9. However, 86% of 6- to 8-year-olds and 84% of 9- to 11-year-olds (and even 80% of 12- to 14-year-olds) said they either liked or loved being read to.

I’ve got nothing against Ivy and Bean, but the truth is that sometimes the books at your child’s reading level just aren’t as interesting as ones that are a bit too hard for her to tackle on her own.

For the last few years, I have been reading to my daughter, now 10, while she eats breakfast. One reason I started this routine was just to distract her so she’d sit still and eat, but it has really helped her get her more excited about books. And I’ve been able to introduce her to titles she might not have chosen on her own. “Sometimes it’s easier and more fun to listen to a book than to read it yourself,” she told me today.

Ten minutes at a time, we read all three of The Land of Stories books, by Chris Colfer, for example, and she’s recommended them to all her friends. The cover of E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan (one of my childhood favorites) looked boring to her, but I insisted we give it a try, and she loved it. Although she’d read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by herself, she got scared when she started reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It was less scary when I read it to her, and I’m hoping that she’ll go back to finish the rest of the series on her own. Since she had enjoyed reading Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind on her own, we’re now reading Stella by Starlight, the author’s newest book about a North Carolina girl’s encounter with the Ku Klux Klan in the 1930s. It’s already sparked a lot of discussion.

Part of me wonders whether I’m robbing her of the opportunity to read these great books on her own, but maybe she’ll go back and read them again someday. Right now, I feel lucky that I can share the experience of reading them with her.

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

Image via Shutterstock

3 Things to Help Kids Read
3 Things to Help Kids Read
3 Things to Help Kids Read

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