Cold Weather Safety and Children

Monday, November 30, 2009

OK, I get it, as we age we may not appreciate the cold weather like kids do! Snowball fights, making snowmen (and women), snow forts, and snow angels really are a blast for children. No one can deny how beautiful that first snowfall can be! Of course, the dangers of the ice and cold, are no fun for anyone. Here are some thoughts on keeping children safe and warm during the cold weather season.

1. Adequate heat in the home and car -- There are home heating assistance programs. In Indiana, call 1-800-Children, or 211 for more information.
2. Please heed any warnings about space heaters and fireplaces in the home.
3. It’s a good idea to keep a blanket in the car, and perhaps extra clothing.
4. Warm coats, hats, gloves, boots and sweaters are all necessary. See local clothing banks in your area for free or low cost apparel.
5. Watch the weather stations! Day to day, and literally, moment to moment weather and wind chills can change!
6. Children waiting for the early morning bus could be especially at risk with the cold weather.
7. Give kids playing outside after school guidelines.
8. Remind “latchkey” kids who they can go to for help, if needed.
9. Warn and watch kids who could be playing or skating on ice or sledding near trees.
10. Preteens and Teens – This group often think it’s “not cool” to wear warm layers or coats. Shorts and flip flops are very trendy right now! Talk to your older kids. Help them choose “cool” warm clothes, that they WILL wear!

Corporal Punishment In Schools

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I read with interest an article pertaining to school corporal punishment (although using the term “corporal punishment” is really a euphemism. Let us call it what it really is…hitting). I’m fairly certain there are mixed opinions regarding this issue, but my concern is that many people in Indiana are still in favor of the use of physical punishment in schools. I would like to take this opportunity to share just some basic facts about hitting a child, especially in a school setting. Although there is much research on this topic, I will primarily focus on the most frequently perpetuated myths.

One myth states that if there was still paddling in schools, there would be fewer school shootings. In reality, according to the Center for Effective Discipline and the National School Safety Center’s Report on School Associated Violent Deaths (1992-2007), it was found that there were significantly more shooting deaths in states that still permitted corporal punishment.

The second myth is that since paddling was taken out of schools, there has been more violence against teachers. Actually, the opposite is true. The decline of paddling in the United States correlates with a decline of violence against teachers. Other proponents for paddling state that since paddling has been taken out of schools, that children have become lazier and are falling behind. The fact is that non-paddling states have higher ACT scores and higher graduation rates.

Another myth indicates that if you don’t paddle children when they misbehave, they will end-up in juvenile detention or jail. The reality is that eight of the top ten paddling states are the top ten states with the highest incarceration rates (Bureau of Juvenile Statistics). No one is suggesting that children should not be taught appropriate behaviors and consequences.

The bottom line is, there are too many other effective ways in which manage a child’s behavior without resorting to hitting. Paddling has been known to leave bruises, as well as broken bones and other injuries. I’m sure that we will receive comments such as “I was hit and I turned out okay”…well, I’m sure that’s probably true, but the same can be said for the use of car seats, seat belts, helmets, etc. Yes, many of us went without these objects as children and we survived. However, there were millions of children who did not survive, and now that we know the potential dangers of not using these items, we would never have our children go without these protective devices.

The last thought I have is: Can anyone imagine doing something at work that did not meet with your supervisor’s approval, and then having to endure the pain and embarrassment of being paddled…all of your co-workers knowing about it…maybe your clientele. Can you imagine how angry and hurt you would be at your work place? Perhaps you would not repeat the behavior that got you into trouble (or perhaps you would out of spite), but you would be responding out of fear, not out of respect for your boss, the rules, or your place of business. And really…how motivated would you be to continue making an effort in your job? This point is moot however, because if your boss were ever to strike you, he or she would be arrested. For some reason when a person crosses the magical age of 18, it becomes a crime for a caregiver to hit them…before that, all bets are off.

Hopefully Indiana will become one of the majority of states that ban hitting children in school.

The Most Wonderful Time…Maybe Not For All

Monday, November 23, 2009

The holidays are upon us. Unemployment continues to rise. More and more companies are laying off or considering closing, troops are still overseas and away from their families, and although the song, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” will be echoing from ear to ear, many people are struggling.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, there is a spike in depression, crime and domestic violence. The pressure of the holidays, additional financial strains, holiday travel, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, holiday parties, loss of loved ones and rest, and many other contributors can unfortunately take a toll on a person’s physical and mental health. These factors cause mounting worry and extreme exhaustion for even the youngest children in the family, and may contribute to the rise in child abuse or neglect.

This should be a time that families look forward to, this time before the New Year, when gatherings are being planned, Santa Claus and the first Christmas story seems so near, but the pressure to get through all the hustle and bustle is also known to lead to many dangerous and life-threatening situations. Children are also very observant and at the very least, they feel stress and anxiety if their parents are stressed out over the abundant responsibilities this season brings.

To help ease the pressures of your holiday list of “things to do,” here are some tips to make this holiday season, a more relaxed and enjoyable one.

1. Check your own attitude. If you want respect and cooperation with your own family, the store clerk, a ticketing agent at the airport, your children and others in your network, you should set a good example, yourself. Prioritize, delegate, reduce, or scratch off upcoming duties and activities that affect you and the family.

2. Start preparing for the holidays early. Make lists, keep a calendar, and assign extra chores to family members, if necessary.

3. Stick to a budget during this time. Cut costs where you can. Get creative with gifting, shop sales, use coupons, decide to draw names, etc. In our home, we’re making cheesecakes as gifts. I think this is a unique present and it brings our family together to create the gift. Think about crafts, photos, a coffee get together, a favorite magazine, something creative but maybe not so expensive this year if gifts are to be exchanged.

4. Stick as close to the family routine as you can. Combine parties or stop in for only a short time so that you and the children can get your required rest.

5. Let children wind down with whatever makes them feel better. Maybe it’s soft music, reading or cuddling with you at the end of a long day.

6. Eat nutritious foods, drink lots of water and indulge in some physical exercise.

7. Talk to your children about traditions and spirituality and incorporate values into your own holidays.

8. Bring along a child’s favorite blanket or toy if you’re staying with family over the holidays.

9. Volunteer at a food bank, hospital or community center. Consider being a foster care parent. Many of these children have never or rarely experienced the traditions of Christmas, and have lived their young lives being beat, burned, starved, sexually abused, even murdered. At the present time, there are over 500,000 children in foster care, just awaiting a family to care for them. This holiday season would be a great time to consider being the gift one of these children really needs. Contact your local Department of Child Services.

10. Plan to watch a Christmas or funny movie at home, play a board game, go sled riding, attend a religious ceremony together, have a snowball fight…put the family’s physical, mental and spiritual health first.

11. Let go of the little stuff that’s weighing you down. It’s really a waste of wonderful time you could be having with those who adore you. I once read, “Stress is really knowing what’s the right thing to do, but not doing it.”

12. Be responsible. You really don’t need to drink and party to have a good time. And drinking often leads to disaster. (Take it from a child of a one-parent family, and whose father committed suicide). Many people won’t see 2010 because others chucked responsibility. Over 4,000 people die in traffic accidents each year between Thanksgiving and New Years in the United States. Almost 40% related to alcohol. 30% due to speeding and winter road conditions. Slow down and pay attention. Do the right thing. Someone is depending on you. No, everyone is depending on you.

13. Make kindness the most popular gift this holiday season. It’s always the right size and price. It fits just right. You’re sure to feel skinnier when it’s exchanged. Reach out to other families, individuals and children in your neighborhood who may facing some slight to major let downs during the holidays or who may not be near or with their own family. Offer to run errands, babysit, or invite them over to your table. At our house, we always host a Thanksgiving brunch for friends who don’t have plans until the late afternoon. It’s just a little way for me to say, “I’m thankful for all of you.”

Consider making an extra batch of cookies and deliver to shut-ins, the nursing home, a single-parent family, someone who has just lost their job, the sick, the elderly, someone you haven’t talked to in awhile and need to rekindle with or who you’ve been wanting to meet or to show you’re appreciation to. Help shovel someone’s driveway, walk their newspaper to the door, pick up a loaf of bread, decorate their tree, and stop what you’re doing to enjoy time with your own spouse, kids, grandparents and friends. Give of your time and talents. Kindness and generosity….there’s just not better gift.

Here’s to less stress, yet a richer holiday season, one that you will never forget for the steps taken to provide the level of care that all family and friends deserve. Cheers to all of you great parents, grandparents, caretakers, teachers and others who through all of the busyness, still set a good example and work to keep our children and families safe and happy.

Guest Blogger: Suzzi Romines is the Event Coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse of Dearborn and Ohio Counties. If you suspect child abuse or neglect, you can report it anonymously by calling 1-800-800-5556.

The Humor Rumor

Monday, November 16, 2009

Humor is like fire. Used wisely, it can create warmth and intimacy for us and our loved ones. However, it can also cause pain and destruction when it is used carelessly.

Many people think that humor is all about being able to tell a joke. But let’s consider the origins of the word “humor.” It comes from the Latin word “umor” which has nothing to do with a punchline. In fact, “umor” means to be fluid and flexible like water.

Think about that image. When water encounters an obstacle, it doesn’t whine, or call its best friend, or run to a therapist. It waits…building its strength until it can move under, around, over or through that obstacle. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who lives in Indiana who has a basement!

A true “sense of humor” is an attitude, a way of greeting whatever life brings you. While it’s true that humorous people often use funny comments to deal with difficulties, more often they are simply flexible and creative in the face of obstacles.

In their book Lighten Up: Survival Skills for People Under Pressure, C.W. Metcalf and Roma Felible share humor skills that people can learn. Here are just three of the skills mentioned in this book:

• The ability to see absurdity in difficult situations.
• The ability to take ourselves lightly while taking our work seriously.
• Having a disciplined sense of joy in being alive.

When we’re in the middle of a difficult situation, sometimes the wisest course of action is to step back, to take a moment to truly see everything before deciding whether to become upset. Giving ourselves the gift of just a little time helps us to see the absurdities. And that, in turn, assists us in having a larger perspective. “How important is this really?” we might ask ourselves. That gift of time—perhaps just a few seconds—can allow us the luxury of seeing the situation for what it really is.

Many of us have difficult jobs. People are depending on us, and we don’t want to let them down. Pressure comes from all corners, and we can begin to feel that it all depends on us. We begin to feel alone. Again, that gift of time leads to the gift of perspective. We can see options we hadn’t considered before. We feel free to ask for help. The work is still serious, of course, but the truth is that it isn’t all on our shoulders.

Ah, but the third skill. That one stumped me at first. I had never seen the words “discipline” and “joy” in the same sentence! The authors of the book reminded me that many of us don’t take our own advice. We insist that friends and coworkers take good care of themselves, while at the same time we neglect our own needs. Think about it. Is there a hobby you’ve abandoned? A dear friend or relative you just haven’t had time to see? Something simple that renews your spirit, and yet you can’t remember the last time you enjoyed it?

Metcalf and Felible recommend that we be intentional about self care. In fact, they recommend that each of us start a “Joy List”—a list of things that bring you joy. The items on the list don’t have to be expensive or complicated. All they have to be are things that renew you and bring you joy. Don’t put anything on the list out of obligation to someone else. If pulling weeds in the garden truly makes you feel good, then add it; if the only reason it makes you feel good is because it will get your spouse or partner off your back, well…that’s a different matter.

Once you have a few things on the Joy List, the next step is to give yourself those things. Take that afternoon to read a book, or go fishing, or have a long lunch with someone. Make it happen and be intentional about it!

Caring for ourselves allows us to be more flexible and creative in dealing with our day-to-day challenges.

You Can Do More

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

June 24th of this year marked the beginning of one of the most remarkable journeys of my life. 16 years ago our family became the adoptive parents of a bubbly, sparkling 2 year old girl. Who knew that someone so little could turn our world completely upside down! Here we were a quiet family of 3, a mom, a dad and a son. Emphasis is on the word quiet. Our son was entering the pre-adolescent stage where interactions with parents were very low on his list of priorities. You know the scenario, homework, dinner and a long evening of Nintendo and talking on the phone with friends. My husband and I were not much better, as a musician he was always practicing for the next gig and I had just returned to college to work on my Masters in Social Work. So usually the only noise you heard in our house was the sounds of a flute coming from the basement, or the refrigerator door opening when our son came out of the room for a snack or the turning of pages while I studied for the next test!

While this scene seems pretty tranquil, we all realized that there was a void in our life. Something was missing. We had been blessed with so much and yet every day we were faced with the question of what were we doing for others? All of our family worked in professions that served others; we were social workers, teachers, ministers, nurses, soldiers and sailors. Our purpose was to make a difference in the world and while we went out each day to do just that, there was this small voice that was saying “you can do more”!

As soon as the decision was made we realized that this was the “more” that we had been called to do! We began the process of learning all we could about adoption. We completed pre-service training and submitted all of the required documents necessary to become approved by our state. We also worked closely with our social worker during the home visits and home study process. We learned so much about ourselves and our abilities during our family preparation. As an adoption social worker, I had a unique opportunity to view adoption from the “inside out “and it has made all the difference in my own work with families adopting from a child from the child welfare system. After a period of waiting, this introverted family had the awesome blessing and responsibility of loving and caring for an outgoing two year old. What a match, but truly a match made just for us! She has given us more joy then we can ever know; she has made a difference in our lives and all who know her. And to think that our desire to make a difference in the life of someone else could end up being the best gift that we were ever given!

Has this sixteen year journey been easy? Of course not, but those opportunities that we truly treasure do not come to us with ease. It has at times been an uphill climb, but I have never looked back down the mountain and wondered, “Why”? I have asked “How” and the response has always been “You can do more”! The need for adoptive families for waiting children is great everyday for the more than 130,000 children are waiting across the nation for a permanent family. Won’t you join my family and scores of others in answering the call? “We CAN do more”!

For information about special needs adoption in Indiana contact

For information general information on adoption contact the Dave Thomas Foundation @ or AdoptUSKids @

Alfreda D. Singleton-Smith , MSW LSW

Substance Abuse

Monday, November 2, 2009

Although there has been a decrease in the prevalence of substance abuse in our society, it still continues to be a very serious issue, and one which plays a pivotal role in the area of child maltreatment. For several years now, substance use has been one of the primary contributing factors in terms of child maltreatment deaths. When a parent or caregiver becomes impaired, their ability to drive, supervise appropriately, discipline appropriately, etc. all become a challenge…or worse…deadly. Drownings, car accidents, and positional asphyxiation are all consequences that some children have endured due to their caregivers’ impairments from substance use. Ideally, no one would be in a position where they are abusing drugs or alcohol. However, we know that we have a long road ahead before that is no longer an issue. We implore caregivers then, to please not use substances while caring for children. It impairs judgment, awareness, and the ability to control impulses. It is especially imperative to not drive while using drugs or alcohol, and to not co-sleep with infants due to the high probability of rolling over and suffocating the baby.

Substance abuse prevention must start early…before children even start to school. Not only does there need to be a dialogue about the dangers of using drugs and alcohol, but parents and caregivers must also always be providing loving and nurturing environments and environments where the lines of communication are always kept open. Parents need to become involved in their children’s lives…know who their friends are; know who they’re on-line with; know where they are. Children do not need their parents to be their friends; they need them to be their protectors and the people who provide appropriate guidance.