National Infant Immunization Week

Monday, April 26, 2010

This week is National Infant Immunization Week. We need to remember the importance of vaccinating children in order to give them the best chance of growing up in good health, as well as doing what we can to keep our communities healthy. According to the Center for Disease Control, immunizations have decreased, and in some cases completely eliminated, many infectious diseases. These same diseases were at one time responsible for killing many individuals…more often than not, young children. These diseases include diphtheria, measles, mumps, polio, rubella, smallpox, Whooping Cough, and tetanus.

While it is true that infants are immune from many diseases due to their mothers’ antibodies, this immunity does not last forever…typically only from one month to a year. Further, there may be no immunity from the mother in certain cases (such as Whooping Cough). While it is also true that the diseases we worried about fifty years ago have almost all been eradicated in the US, it only takes one case to develop into hundreds of thousands if we stop immunizing.

There has been a great deal of misinformation about vaccines in recent years. No one is claiming that immunizations come risk free, but experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, agree that not immunizing poses a greater risk. If you would like more information, these resources may be helpful.

• Do Vaccines Cause That?! - A Guide for Evaluating Vaccine Safety Concerns

• American Academy of Pediatrics - Childhood Immunization Support Program

• Responding to Concerns About Vaccines

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or 800-CDC-INFO (232-4636)

• American Academy of Pediatrics

Protecting Children From Sexual AbuseShare

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sexual abuse is one of those topics we’d rather not talk about, but is so necessary, especially to our children. Just informing your kids about their bodies, and being open to any sexuality topic, is a good way to start. Don’t expect your kids to be the first ones to approach the topic. YOU BE THE ADULT AND APPROACH THESE TOPICS. This allows kids to know that they can talk to you about this and ANY OTHER TOPIC!

All people need good, healthy touches. These may include, pats on the back, hugs, holding hands, etc. Talk to children about appropriate and inappropriate touches. Explain that a person’s body is private and each person has the right to say “NO” to unwanted touches. For instance, doctors and nurses may need to touch our bodies, but even they can ask beforehand. (Generally, they will ask for another person to be in the room, at the time of the touches, and very often, that other person will be the parent or caregiver.)

This is a good practice for all of us. It is our responsibility, to make certain our children are rarely ALONE with another adult, to lower the risk of inappropriate touches from happening. This might be true in after school activities, tutoring, religious trainings, or rehearsals of any kind. These should take place in very open areas, or with another person present. If your child is staying at a friend’s home, you should speak to the parent. Ask what other adults or older children will be around your child during their stay. Tell children, young or old, that they are ALWAYS safer in a group. (Again, this is true for ANYONE!)

Remind children often that they can talk to you about ANYTHING, and that there should not be secrets about touches.

Lastly, be aware of signs of sexual abuse (see below) and call Child Protective Services (1-800-800-5556) if you do suspect there has been abuse. Be calm and supportive to the child. Remind them it was NOT their fault, and that you will be there for them.

(SIGNS of Sexual Abuse: nightmares, extreme mood or appetite changes, physical discomfort, fear of certain people or places, withdrawal or aggressive behaviors, sexual play with dolls, toys or other children.)

Kids and Humor: Beyond Booger JokesShare

Monday, April 12, 2010

By Mary Armstrong-Smith, Community Partners Director

Charlie is my great-nephew. He’s four years old and is one of the funniest kids I know. He often spends weekends with my sister Pat, his grandmother. Recently Pat told me, “After Charlie's bath I told him to hurry and get his pajamas on before he got cold, and he bowed down, rubbed his hands together and said in a deep voice, ‘Whatever you say, Pat!’"

Charlie cracks me up. He exhibits a charming combination of both adult and child-like humor abilities, moving at lightning speed between poop jokes and eyebrow-raising sarcasm.

For years we’ve heard about the benefits of humor for adults. The physical benefits include increased dopamine and endorphins, better relaxation response, reduced pain and lower stress. Humor has cognitive benefits as well, assisting with creativity and problem-solving. Appropriate use of humor can elevate your mood, lift depression, increase self-esteem and help you be more resilient in the face of adversity.

The same benefits apply to kids. Humor is a powerful tool for success in life. The old idea that a sense of humor is something people are born with (or not born with) just isn’t true. In fact, kids develop a sense of humor from their interactions with the adults around them, and it begins in those early days when parents try to coax a smile from a newborn!

Louis R. Franzini, PhD, is the author of “Kids Who Laugh: How to Develop Your Child’s Sense of Humor.” Franzini says, “Why should you make a conscious effort to develop this quality in your child? Because a well-developed sense of humor is a genuine asset to any child and helps ensure a strong, positive self-image. A child who enjoys and remembers a joke or riddle and passes it on to others feels an enormous personal accomplishment and establishes friendships at the same time.”

So how can parents and caregivers help kids develop a sense of humor? It’s not like they have “Kids’ Night” at the local comedy club! First, it helps to remember that humor is, at its core, a creative act. It’s not all about jokes. In fact, jokes are just one tool to use in developing humor.
Here are a few suggestions for helping kids develop humor skills:

Game night: Have a family game night once a week. Playing board games like Monopoly or Candyland helps kids learn to strategize and work together. You can make it even more fun by changing the rules or by playing in teams. Kids take their social cues from the adults around them, so use this as an opportunity to model being able to have fun even if you lose the game.

What Happens Next: Play a portion of a funny movie or video. Stop it at some point and ask everyone what they think will happen next (make sure it’s one that no one has seen yet!). Kids can use their imaginations to create amazing—and sometimes hilarious--outcomes!

Backwards Meal: Just for kicks, serve a meal in backwards order. Start with dessert, then the main course, then salad or soup. Involve the kids in the menu planning.

Harmful versus Helpful Humor: Talk with your children about how some kinds of humor can hurt people. Jokes or comments that attack a person’s appearance, ethnic background, religion or other personal attributes can make people laugh at someone else’s expense. While much humor has a target, it’s best to stick with targets that don’t cause individuals harm. Jokes about football teams or cafeteria food are a safer bet than jokes about someone’s weight or age.

Greeting Cards: Look at some funny greeting cards with your kids and try to come up with your own funny lines for the cards. (Just remember, if you’re on a roll and falling down laughing in the aisles, they might ask you to leave Walgreen’s. )

License Plate Game: Many license plates in Indiana have two or three letters along with the numbers. Ask your kids to come up with a funny phrase to match the letters. For instance, BDC might stand for “Baby Driving Car” or TNW could be “Truck Needs Washed.”

Dr. Franzini shares some online resources for humor in his book. Here are a few that might be helpful to you:

• Halife: This site includes jokes, riddles, and other fun activities for kids, as well as humor for adults that is nonetheless appropriate for family consumption.
• Humor Matters: Part of a larger site “dedicated to the power and practice of positive therapeutic humor,” this site presents a slew of kid-safe riddles.
• PBS Kids: Created by the Public Broadcasting Service, PBS Kids provides a joke site, games, silly stories, and many more fun—and funny—activities for kids.

Stress Management Tips

Monday, April 5, 2010

Adults understand what stress is, and feels like, even though we may experience it differently. Various life situations affect individuals differently. Coping strategies are learned, or not, and play a huge part in terms of how we deal with stress.

The recession has “taken” many victims. People are not only stressed, but depressed…sometimes isolating themselves with worry about their future, and their children’s future. Financially and emotionally, people are strapped while relying on family members, friends, and social programs to assist them during this time.

So here are a few tips:

1. Breathe. Many, many individuals are in the same boat with us. We are not alone. But deep breathing when stressed, and practicing some relaxation techniques, can be helpful.

2. Seek out people and resources. Having at least one person to talk to is important. Friends and family are very valuable, and we need to continue to seek them out. Perhaps speaking with a therapist, clergy person, or joining a support group would be advisable. This is no time to “tough it out alone.”

Here in Indiana, we have a 211 “Help Line” for ANY type of social service. (Note: it may not always be 211 in your area, but there IS a resource number in ALL areas.) These lines can connect you with a multitude of services, e.g. crisis lines, assistance with heating bills, many different services. Calls can be anonymous too! For assistance with parenting issues, there is also the 1-800-CHILDREN line.

3. Get your 3 HEALTHY basics done each day: Eat and drink well (no, I don’t mean “drink your misery away.” I mean drink plenty of water and healthy drinks!) Get your rest, and exercise. It’s most important that YOU take care of YOU, before you can ever take care of someone else, like YOUR CHILDREN. They deserve our best!

These are just a few tips. We can and should try to cope the best way possible. If not for ourselves, for the people in our lives! Please visit the Mental Health America website for further tips.


Friday, April 2, 2010

April marks Child Abuse Prevention month and this year’s theme is “CHERISHING CHILDREN…AFFIRMING FAMILIES!” In partnership with Prevent Child Abuse America, Prevent Child Abuse Indiana has “re-framed” Child Abuse Prevention Month to focus on the “promise” that the future and well being of EVERY child affords us.

This year, champions for children planted 1,000 Blue Pinwheels in the lawn at the Indiana State Museum to represent the number of children born in Indiana last year. Just one Pinwheel represents eighty-seven (87) live births…that’s 87,000 children born in 2009 that need to be cherished, safe, and nurtured!

Imagine the “human capital” that 87,000 Hoosiers who are nurtured in a family… healthy, well educated, and self sufficient can have in just a few years on our neighborhoods, our schools, our communities, our businesses, our government, and our State!

That is the essence of both the challenges and the opportunities which lay before us. But by CHERISHING CHILDREN AND AFFIRMING FAMILIES… by treasuring and protecting each child to acknowledge how truly valuable they are, our vision can become a REALITY! We celebrate the HOPE which these 87,000 new infants stand for…but we are also creating a legacy which will honor the children who tragically lost their lives to child abuse and neglect in Indiana last year.

Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, a Division of The Villages, in collaboration with Dr. Eugene White, Superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools, has championed a THINK TANK of solution-minded community leaders and organizations who are working diligently to make supporting parents one of their highest priorities. The KIDS CAN’T WAIT initiative is a reminder to ALL of us that there is an urgent need for parental support and education for EVERY family.

Our collective message is a simple one… IT IS A SIGN OF STRENGTH, AS A PARENT OR CAREGIVER OF CHILDREN, TO ASK FOR HELP AND SUPPORT! WTHR has developed some new, dynamic public service announcements featuring several of our dedicated community leaders, which will air in the near future!

Billboards reminding parents that sometimes WE are the ones who need a TIME OUT are placed throughout the city! Prevent Child Abuse Indiana operates a 1-800-CHILDREN line, to provide information for parents who are seeking a parent education class or a supportive service in their neighborhood. And for our technologically savvy parents, is available as a “starting point” for parent information.

Our hope and prayer is that EVERY Indiana citizen will become engaged in the lives of our Hoosier children…and cherish each child as if he or she were YOUR OWN!

I often share that being blessed to be the parent of four children is the most difficult job of ANY listed on my resume…but it’s also the most important! This April, and EACH MONTH throughout the year, we are imploring EVERY citizen in Indiana to CHERISH OUR CHILDREN…
To TREASURE Our Children…
To PROTECT Our Children…
To NURTURE Our Children…
To TEACH Our Children…
And to CELEBRATE Our Children!

There’s an urgency in Indiana to keep our children healthy, loved and safe!

How? Start with YOUR OWN CHILDREN…making them your Highest Priority! Embrace the child next door to you who seems hungry for affection! Reach out to a Grandparent who is heroically raising her grandchildren! Or help the child in your school or faith community who most needs it!

Why? As our beautiful children remind us…we need to be CHERISHING CHILDREN AND AFFIRMING FAMILIES…