The Heart of a Parent

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This is not the typical blog that I write for The Learning Child, but I feel that all parents will benefit from hearing this message from the heart of a parent.

The school where my child attends hosted an all school assembly this month on bullying and cyber bulling. Parents and community members were invited to attend, so I took the opportunity to go and hear firsthand what the message was about.  I truly wish every parent could have heard this message from Mark and Joni Adler as they spoke from their hearts to tell the story of their son Reid, who was a victim of cyber bullying.

The Adlers introduced us to their family and told how they always strived to keep their children at the center of their lives. They described Reid as a good kid who followed the rules and befriended everyone he met.  He was the kid who always looked for the next fun thing to do.  Nevertheless, the Adlers also told us that Reid had made a mistake when he was in middle school.  Reid took a photo of himself on his phone that should never have been taken, and sent it to a girl. Reid never told anyone about this mistake, however, the girl ended up using the photo to blackmail and manipulate Reid, threatening to make it public.  The manipulation went on in such a way that Reid ended up taking his own life.

Reid Adler was close to his parents, and they could see that something was bothering their son. They opened the door for him to tell what was bothering him, and they had even sought counseling together after Reid had told his mom that sometimes he wondered if life was worth it. Still, Reid could not bear the thought of embarrassing his parents, friends and community, and did not tell about the photograph.

Suicide, according to the Child Safety network is the second leading cause of death of people age 15-24 in Nebraska. Mark and Joni Adler told me that they talk to student groups as Reid’s parents, not suicide prevention experts.  They hope to share this story to arm students with what to do if they are ever in a similar situation.

Joni told the students that day that we all make mistakes. Even your parents, who might seem to have it together now, have made mistakes.  She said she believes that we all experience different things so that we can learn from one another. As Reid’s mother, she gave this advice to our kids that day; do not take inappropriate pictures.  She also told them to follow their intuitions.  She said that she feels that Reid probably had that moment before he hit send that he second-guessed sending the photo.  She asked students to trust their intuitions, as they are usually what tells us that something is not right.

Joni’s next piece of advice was for students to pause before they say something, ask themselves, is it truthful and is it helpful. If the answer is no, then don’t say it. In her words, “Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is to shut our mouths.”  She said to the group, that some of the kids in attendance might be the bullies. It’s human nature to hurt back those that hurt us, but she asked them to stop. Mrs. Adler stated, “If we keep up this idea of an eye for an eye, we will all go blind.”

This mother’s message is that we all have value and that it does not come from possessions or their family life. She stated, “No matter what has happened to you, or what you have done, you still have great worth, and no mistake is worth your life.” She advised the students that if they ever think of attempting suicide, talk to someone they can trust such as a parent, teacher or other trusted adult. She then said that parents can’t help you if you don’t let them in. She ended by saying that suicide is not the end of pain, but rather the transfer of pain to those who love you the most.

Mark Adler then took the stage to tell the students that this message is about leadership and courage.  Everyone has someone looking up to them, and at school, taking leadership means saying that you will not accept bullying, no matter what.  Courage is being able to step up and tell the bully that we do not do that here, and telling adults if we hear of bullying or someone talking of suicide. Courage is also telling someone if you are having those thoughts. Parents cannot help unless they know what is wrong. In closing, he asked the students to be the leaders and have courage. He asked them to remember that they can always reach a little higher and to go a little farther in kindness, leadership and courage.

I cannot begin to reproduce the powerful story that I heard at the school that day, but what I can say is that it has changed my life as a parent and as a professional.  I tell my parent education groups and childcare providers to be the hands that hold the child, be the hands that allow the child to go out and explore, and be the hands that also welcome the child back in when they are struggling with a need.  Last week in a parenting group I asked this question, “What do you hope for your children someday?” One of the parents said they hoped that their child would always feel welcome to come to them no matter what.

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From the heart of the parent who writes this blog today, my hope is for all families to communicate this openly so that our children will come to us with their joys as well as their struggles.  We have all made mistakes, learn from them and talk about them with your children.  Listen to your children when they come to you in delight, and when they come to you with the struggles, even if it is not comfortable for you.

Click this link if you would like to hear more of  The Adler Family Story

Another great resource on bullying from Nebraska Extension is this Cyber Bullying Neb Guide

The University of Nebraska has also been a part of the Born This Way Foundation.  Check out this link for more information as well as the related articles on bullying available here.

LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Sarah Paulos, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Leslie Crandall, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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What’s the Buzz on Insect Repellant and Kids?

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Spring is in the air and we will soon see families and children enjoying time outdoors, in backyards, and in the parks.  One thing that can spoil this picture are the annoying biting insects and mosquitoes.  I wanted to know what the experts say about the safety of insect repellents on small children, and I was surprised to find out that deet is not as bad as I had thought.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that insect repellents containing deet are safe for children as young as 2 months. Bug repellents with deet come in varying strengths – some contain up to 30-percent deet. A higher concentration of deet does not mean a product is stronger, only that it lasts longer.

Another ingredient similar to deet in some repellants is Picaridin, which has been used in European countries for 10 years and is becoming more popular in products available in the U.S.  There are also natural repellants made with oils such as lemongrass and citronella.  Along with repellants, parents and caregivers can prevent insect bites by dressing children in long sleeve clothes and socks and shoes.  It is suggested that parents avoid products that combine sunscreen and insect repellant.  While it is good to reapply sunscreen often, it is not recommended to reapply the insect repellants.

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Parent’s Magazine highlights many of the products you can buy in their Ultimate Guide to Bug Repellant for Kids, with specific application information for each product. Check out what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says about Insect Repellant Use and Safety in Children. It is always a good idea to ask your trusted pediatrician what they would recommend for your child. The Center For Disease Control also has recommendations for Insect Repellant Use and Safety.

There are so many positive reasons to get children outdoors to play and explore.  Be informed on how you can prevent insect bites from scratching your plans.

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LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATION | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Sarah Paulos, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Don’t Banish The Booster Seat!

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 2.25.22 PMI was doing it again; talking out loud to myself in my car about other drivers. “Why isn’t that kid in their car seat?” I mumble. My daughter sitting safe in her own booster seat in the backseat of my truck asks who I am talking to. “That driver in the red car didn’t have their child buckled in their car seat” I tell her. My seven-year-old sits shocked in the back…” That’s not safe!” she exclaims. “I know baby; she should be buckled up” I tell her.

You will want to keep reading if you:

  • have young children,
  • transport children under age 18 in a vehicle, or;
  • wish to avoid penalties for failing to follow Nebraska law.

How It Used To Be…

In my childhood we often sat in the bed of a pickup truck rolling down the dirt road without a second thought. If you go back even farther to my father’s childhood, he remembers they would stick six children and two adults in a five passenger car (clearly the math does not add up). My dad talks about riding in the back window ledge or sitting on pillows to see up and over the dashboard while sitting in the front seat. You would think the need to add height would be a clue the child shouldn’t be sitting up front; don’t even get me started about the back window — my how times have changed. Many cars now sound audible warnings and flash lights reminding you to secure your seatbelt. We now have digital signs over highways reminding us to “buckle up” for safety.

But, What About Our Children?

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, road injuries are the leading cause of unintentional Girl in Booster Seatdeaths to children in the United States. Nebraska does have laws which mandate protection of children in cars:

  • Children birth to age 6 must be secured correctly in a federally-approved child safety seat.
  • Infants should be placed in a rear-facing infant or convertible car seat in the backseat of the vehicle.
  • Toddlers can be turned forward facing (still in the backseat) and should be in a five-point harness until the child reaches the limits for height and weight of the seat.
  • Booster seats are used when children outgrow the five-point harness. Booster seats can be tricky. These seats should be used until a child is 4 feet 9 inches tall or 57 inches. Fifty-seven inches is the average height of an 11-year-old.

Booster Seats

I know, you’re thinking your 11-year-old would never want to sit in a booster seat that long. The bottom line is booster seats help a seatbelt fit properly. The seatbelt should fit snugly across the upper thighs — not across the stomach and the shoulder belt should not cross the neck or face. Parents and caregivers should also ensure children under the age of 12 ride only in the backseat of vehicle.

Licensed child care providers are required to take transportation training if they transport children on behalf of their employer. Providers must complete the “Safe Kids Buckle Up” program within 90 days of hire and repeat the training every 5 years.

Installation

Car seat installation can be tricky. You should refer to the car seat manufacturer’s instructions as well as your vehicle’s owner’s manual for guidance on the proper installation of your child safety seat. Lancaster County has a couple child safety seat inspection stations you can visit to see if your car seat is installed correctly and learn how to properly secure a child into the seat. Visit Safe Kids Nebraska to see their calendar for car seat check events — appointments are required.

Nebraska law mandates driver and front seat passengers must wear their seat belts. Nebraska has defined this as a secondary law — this means you cannot be cited for not wearing a seat belt unless you have already been cited for another violation. The penalty for not wearing a seatbelt is $25. However, children up to the age of 6 are required by law to be in approved child safety seats. Anyone in violation of this can be cited, even if they are not cited for anything else.

Be a good role model for your child, buckle up every time you are in the car and talk with your child about why buckling up is important. Make sure your child is 57 inches tall before you banish the booster.

Jaci Foged, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

(Originally published in NebGuide by Foged. Republished here with permission.)

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Fire Prevention

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 11.44.52 AMDaily we hear fire sirens, many going to medical emergencies but way too many are en route to a home or apartment fire. Is your family prepared?

Keeping you and your family safe is a top priority and there are simple steps to take to stay safe. Preparing for emergencies such as a fire is often talked about but proper action is rarely taken. Fires can be prevented by taking time and precautions to remove the risk factors from your home or daycare.

Fire Risk Factors

Risk factors include: unattended cooking, smoking, burning candles, electrical malfunctions, and failure to maintain heating equipment and no smoke alarm.

Smoke Alarms

Every home and child care center should have smoke alarms. Approximately 3 out of 5 fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or alarms that do not work. Smoke alarms should be placed outside all sleeping areas and on every level of the home. If you don’t have a working smoke alarm, install one now. Working smoke alarms give you early warning so you can escape quickly. Remember to check your smoke alarms monthly and replace them every 10 years.

Fire Escape Plan

Every family and child care center should have a fire escape plan. It should be practiced and children should be aware of all escape routes. Make sure to practice the plan and review it with all family members. Many people think they will have several minutes to get out after the smoke alarm sounds but in reality it is often less than 6 minutes. Once outside safely, call 911.

Tips

  • 2 out of every 5 home fires are started in the kitchen. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, followed by heating equipment.
  • Smoking is a leading cause of civilian home fire deaths.
  • Electrical failure or malfunctions caused an average of almost 48,000 home fires per year, resulting in roughly 450 deaths and nearly $1.5 billion in direct property damage.
  • If you have upper levels in your home, a rope ladder can be installed to use in case of emergency.
  • Always remember to put out candles and smoking materials before going to bed or leaving the home.
  • Ashes from fireplaces and woodstoves should be disposed of correctly in a metal container and away from the house. Make sure grill fires are completely out when done grilling.
  • A home inventory is also important. In case or fire, do you know what all you have in your home and its value? This is very important for insurance and replacing items.

Take time to keep your family safe by removing risk factors from your home and daily activities.

Source:  National Fire Prevention Agency

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Halloween Health And Safety

iStock_000018142863SmallHow I Understand & Feel Seven months.jpgHalloween is such a fun time for both children and families! Dressing up, trick-or-treating and getting scrumptious treats is the highlight of the season. Halloween and the activities that usually surround it also present opportunities to keep in mind safety and health tips. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) – Family Health reminds us to keep these things in mind while enjoying the festivities:

  1. When trick or treating in the neighborhood, go with a group that includes friends and family.
  2. Be sure the costume is made of flame-retardant materials.
  3. Your costume/your child’s costume should fit well and not block your vision or cause you to stumble or fall.
  4. Use reflective tape or some other material that reflects lights from passing vehicles to help drivers see you in the dark.
  5. Take a flashlight along when you trick or treat.  This will help you see where you are going!
  6. At street crossings, look both ways for oncoming vehicles and cross when it is safe to do so.
  7. Visit only well-lit houses and those that you know who lives there.
  8. Inspect your treats before eating them.  Check for non-edible objects and materials.  Only accept and eat factory-wrapped treats, not homemade items.

What are you dressing or your kids dressing up as? Have a fun and safe Halloween this year!

Author: Leslie Crandall, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Head Lice: Know How, Know Now

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Oh no…I saw something shimmer in the light as we walked out of the building. No, it cannot be! But yes, it was – the dreaded lice egg, AKA a nit.

As soon as I saw a nit on one child, I checked the other…BAM – she has them too. I had a mini panic attack (my husband would say it was more than “mini”) before I pulled myself together and told myself I can handle this. Two girls with long, thick tresses. Oh boy.

Off to Target (but pretty much any superstore or pharmacy will carry a brand or two) to purchase the correct amount of lice killing Shampoo. The amount of lice killing shampoo you will need varies on hair length and the number of heads you are treating. Meanwhile, in my head I have this crazy person ranting over and over. “How did you miss this last week when the oldest said her head was itchy?!” “You give the little one a bath and scrub her – head to toe every day or two, how did you not see those?!” “Who have the girls been around that gave them this…or worse, who have they shared this with?!”

Stop, take a deep breath.

What is important for you to know is that live lice are only 1/10-1/8 inches long and are tan to grey in color. This makes them hard to see unless you are looking very carefully for

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Adult Louse

them. Lice eggs (nits) are white in color, but turn coffee colored when they are about to hatch. Nits are found 1/4-1/2 inch from the scalp. You know you have found a nit if the object doesn’t flake off the hair or brush off when you touch it.

A female louse will glue her eggs tightly to an individual hair, usually behind the ears and at the nape of the scalp, but they could be anywhere. If you find something questionable try and pull it off the single hair. If the object slides up and down the hair, but won’t come off it is probably a nit. I recommend just pulling out or clipping off the hair strand with the egg on it and flushing it down the toilet, that way you know that one will not be back! In addition, I strongly recommend purchasing a comb designed specifically to remove live lice – this is not the same as the comb that comes in the box with the lice killing shampoo. Combing is the key to taking care of a lice problem and it can be done every day along with the nit picking. Since lice may be resistant to the over the counter shampoo you must be diligent about combing out any remaining live lice. You can find step by step videos and a Family Guide for combing correctly at http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/lice.

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Nit -Photo by James Kalisch | UNL Entomology

Depending on how long lice have been making a home on the head will determine how many live lice and nits you will see. Lice lay around 6 eggs per day. Eggs hatch in about 7-10 days and it takes another 9-10 days before the immature female louse can lay her own eggs. This is why it is important to follow the directions on the lice killing shampoo. Shampoo’s will have you apply them when you first notice nits or live lice and then apply for a second time in 7-10 days. I would argue that it is important to comb and “nit pick” daily from the day you applied the lice killing shampoo through the second application 7-10 days later. After that, it is recommended that you look carefully through the infected person’s hair at least once a week to check for re-infestation. If you are finding more live lice or nits you probably missed a nit.

Human head lice love humans, so you do not need to worry about spreading your head lice to pets. Also, head lice love a nice warm head. Most likely, if they fall off onto a pillow or the carpet they will not survive, so focus on the infected persons head. It is important to check family members and anyone who may have shared combs, brushes and hair ties with the infected person.

The information shared in this blog is researched-based. Lice are nuisance pests and are not a health risk. Nebraska Extension does not recommend any insecticide sprays, foggers or bombs to control lice. Some of these methods, along with overuse of the shampoo can be dangerous! Please remember to read the label on the shampoo and combs you purchase and follow the directions EXACTLY.

If you cannot seem to get rid of lice and nits I would recommend you contact your physician for next steps.

Remember, you can get through this.

Click here for additional information and frequently asked questions.

Jaci Foged, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Home Safety

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 1.21.14 PM.pngProtecting children from unintentional injuries is very important. Children develop at different rates and it is hard to keep an eye on them all the time. Practicing safety based on children’s’ developmental stages, keeps them safe and secure.

Children are going to run, fall down and take risks when playing. This checklist can help you look at your home and check for hazards and possible dangers to children. This checklist highlights ways to keep your children safe. When checking your home take a few minutes and look at it from a child’s view.

  • Anything that fits in a child’s mouth will probably go there.
  • Look for climbing opportunities and things that can be pulled down from above.
  • Watch for sharp corners, protrusions, and objects a child might fall on.
  • Children are very inquisitive and will pry at vent covers, electric outlets, etc.
  • Does your home have a list of emergency telephone numbers near the telephone or in your cell phone?
  • Does your home have a safe, age-appropriate place for the child to sleep?
  • Is your home child/baby proofed (electrical outlets covered, safety latches on cabinet doors, cleaning supplies and other dangerous objects stored out of reach, choking hazards are out of reach)?
  • Are televisions positioned high or bolted to the wall so they do not get pulled over?
  • Are medicines in original container and in a locked cabinet out of child’s reach?
  • Are cleaning supplies stored away from food and out of the reach of children?
  • Does your home have working smoke detectors?
  • Does your home have a working fire extinguisher?
  • Do you have a fire escape plan?
  • Are drapery/blind cords secured and out of the reach of children?
  • Are pot handles turned to the back of the stove when cooking?
  • Are children always supervised when they are in or near water?
  • Is your water heater temperature set at 120 degrees F?
  • Are toys clean and age-appropriate?
  • Does your home have a complete first aid kit?
  • Are your children not exposed to second hand smoke?
  • Are the children always supervised when playing indoors and outdoors?

(Adapted with permission from the Home Safety Checklist for Families with Young Children, Safe Kids Lincoln-Lancaster County)

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Poison Prevention

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Is your home safe? Are you aware of the many items in the home that may be poisonous if not used for the intended purpose? A poison is any substance that can harm someone if it is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person or in the wrong amount.

It is important to educate ourselves about poisons. Most poison related incidents are accidental and accidental poisoning can happen at any age. For children under the age of six, poisonings happen as they explore products around the home. Misuse of products also affects children six to 18 year olds and even adults. Many aren’t aware that household cleaning products can be harmful. The elderly many times take the wrong medicine or wrong amount of medicine.

What Can Families Do To Prevent Poisoning?

  • Store cleaning and laundry products out of the reach of children.
  • Use cabinet locks or safety latches if products are stored in lower cabinets.
  • Always leave products in their original containers. If a solution is mixed for cleaning, label the container.
  • Never refer to medicine as candy or food. Make sure child resistant containers are tightly closer.
  • Be aware of poison look-a-likes. Many candies, beverages and other food products are in packaging resembling common medicines and cleaning products. There are several candies that look like medicines — Sudafed and red hots (candy). Beverage containers and cleaning products looks are similar — blue Gatorade and window cleaner; apple juice and Pine Sol, etc.
  • Keep the Poison Center number 1-800-222-1222 posted in your home and programmed in mobile phones.

Know and teach children the meaning of DANGER, WARNING and CAUTION. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) refers to these as SIGNAL words:

Caution: Harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

Warning: May be fatal if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Also indicates products can easily catch on fire.

Danger: Fatal if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Also used on products that could explode if they get hot.

Home Checklist

The Regional Poison Center provides the following check list for homes. There are items in each room of our homes that can be poisonous if used in the wrong way. Check your home and make sure these items are out of the reach of children and stored properly:

Bathroom

  • Camphor
  • Cleaners and deodorizers
  • Drugs and medicine
  • Hair removers
  • Mouthwash
  • Nail products
  • Shampoo/hair products
  • Rubbing alcohol

Kitchen

  • Antiseptics
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Disinfectants
  • Drain cleaners
  • Durniture polish
  • Oven cleaner
  • Plant food
  • Vitamins/iron pills
  • Window cleaner

Bedroom

  • Birth control pills
  • Cologne/perfume
  • Mothballs
  • Pain killers
  • Sleeping medications

Laundry

  • Ammonia
  • Bleach
  • Cleaning fluids
  • Fabric softener

Garage/Workplace

  • Antifreeze
  • Gasoline
  • Herbicides
  • Insecticides
  • Kerosene
Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

Used here with permission. Originally published by Bartos as a PDF for Nebraska Extension.

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