Thursday, December 31, 2009

Responding To Your Child's Nightmare

(SPM Wire) Children often need reassurance after having nightmares. Unfortunately, you may not always be there when they have bad dreams, such as at a sleepover or at overnight camp.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a security object such as a favorite stuffed animal or a blanket can help a child feel relaxed and safe in bed. Another thing that can help is a relaxation technique. For example, having your child imagine a relaxing scene, such as being on the beach or watching a sunset, can help him or her relax after a scary dream.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Online Program Gives Parents and Schools an Innovative Tool to Prevent Substance Use Among Youth

/PRNewswire/ -- National Institute For Alcohol Recovery (NIFAR®) is unveiling a new online program, Youth Awareness, a practical tool to help concerned parents and educators prevent teen alcohol and drug use. This endeavor is one of several new programs launched by NIFAR, a progressive organization dedicated to alcohol prevention and recovery programs for home use.

Currently, alcohol use is widespread among youth. Surprisingly, 62% of high school seniors report they have been drunk -- and 31% say they have had five or more drinks in a row in the last two weeks[1]. Concurrently, each day young people are injured or fatally killed in alcohol-related incidents. Further, a survey of female college students found a significant relationship between the amount of reported weekly drinking and experiences of sexual victimization[2].

Youth Awareness explains what alcohol and drugs are and how they can impact a young person's future. The program is designed to be fun as well as informative. "Today's teens don't want to be lectured. They just want the info so they can make up their own minds", said Kamran Loghman, Executive Director of NIFAR. Further, the program is available at via high-speed streaming audio and downloads for an iPod® or mp3 player -- a modern format kids know and love.

Youth Awareness has received the support of leading experts in addiction medicine, including Dr. Devang Gandhi, a board-certified physician in addiction medicine, and Dr. Thomas Goldbaum, a board-certified cardiologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at Georgetown University.

This program is being launched at a critical time. Alcohol addiction is now the number one health problem in the U.S. and in more than forty countries worldwide[2,3]. Sadly, underage drinking lays the foundation for alcoholism and related health problems later in life, such as heart disease, cancer, and brain damage. Even advanced brain imaging has shown that kids who drink develop a smaller brain than those who do not[4].

NIFAR seeks to reduce the social and economic impact of problem drinking with Youth Awareness and other breakthrough programs in alcohol recovery and family support. To learn more, please visit Or contact Kamran Loghman, Executive Director, at

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Mom, in 2010 I Will... Parents Should Encourage Family Goals, Not New Year's Resolutions

/PRNewswire/ -- Resolutions will be the talk of New Year's parties across the country later this month, and for many people a resolution will provide positive direction for 2010. For children, however, psychologists at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center recommend this annual practice be approached carefully.

Because children often mimic their parents, the cycle of resolutions -- make one, stick to it for a few weeks, then forget it -- doesn't always set a healthy example. But Robert Ammerman, Ph.D., and Wendi Lopez, PsyD, agree that structured goal setting can be beneficial to the whole family.

Goal setting can be an annual family activity. This process teaches children about planning ahead and making commitments.

"Children should make New Year's goals that are reasonable, measurable and concrete," explains Dr. Lopez. "'I will go a week at school without any infractions' or 'I will be on the honor roll this upcoming semester.' Resolutions that are overly ambitious and can't realistically be achieved should be avoided. Keep them simple, achievable, and positive," says Dr. Lopez. "Parents should never encourage a goal if it is unhealthy or unattainable," she says.

Dr. Lopez also recommends parents have similar goals to their child. If a child wants to become healthier, for example, parents should encourage healthy behavior and lead by example, such as buying less junk food. A concrete goal could be playing the Wii Fit three times a week together. This will not only help the child from struggling alone, but will also demonstrate the importance of teamwork and support, she says.

Because children like to see results, Dr. Lopez suggests a sticker chart for young children who can measure their goals on a daily or weekly basis. For older children, weekly rewards may help keep motivation up.

"Making New Year's resolutions is not essential for children, and there are many other ways for families to bond," says Dr. Ammerman. "However, the value of goal setting is that we own it and are self-motivated to achieve the goals. When children fulfill a goal or resolution, they feel satisfaction because they have set a goal and met it."

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Monday, December 28, 2009 Provides Parenting Tips for the New Year

/PRNewswire/ -- "Resolution day" (Jan. 1) is almost here. Are you ready? Have you decided on your resolutions? For parents, every year offers new joys and challenges. Here are a few ideas for increasing the joy -- and preparing for the challenges -- of parenting in 2010 from

Love your child for who they are: Every child is unique with different temperaments and different interests. Every day they are learning and growing - and the new year is a perfect time to take a new look at what makes your child special. You can support them as they struggle to master more difficult skills and celebrate their unique successes with them.

Be a part of playtime: Play is how young children learn about the world and practice new cognitive, emotional, and social skills. A parent can learn a lot about their child's developing skills and interests by participating in their play. Your questions, ideas, and attention support your child's curiosity and creativity. Play interactions with you can also help them to develop skills to use when they are playing alone or with peers.

Talk about feelings: Understanding and managing feelings is one of the hardest skills children under five have to tackle. So respect what they are feeling by recognizing their emotions, listening to their thoughts and helping them to work through their emotions.

Be an example: Though your voice, your expressions, your gestures and your actions, your child learns from you how to interact with other people and with the world. You are in a wonderful position to set a positive example for everything from solving problems to showing compassion to buckling seatbelts.

Create routines and stick to them: Children respond to the expected. If you create a bedtime routine that has three steps and you do the same things every night, your child finds comfort in knowing what comes next and will respond in positive ways as a result of sticking to the plan.

Make mealtime special: Whenever possible, make mealtime a time to be together and enjoy a healthy meal. This not only develops a good pattern for eating, but it creates an opportunity to connect as a family.

Make books a part of your child's life: Make reading fun. Cuddle up. Let your child choose the books. By reading to your children, you are helping them to increase their vocabulary, inspiring their imagination, and setting the groundwork for a love of reading.

For more information on parenting and child development, visit

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Five vital skills for kids and tips for teaching them

(ARA) - It's no surprise that mothers want the best for their children, but are they setting the bar too high when it comes to their own expectations of themselves as parents? One in three mothers admit to setting expectations for themselves as parents that are "unrealistic," according to the Moms Straight Talk on Parenting survey conducted by the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish brand.

The poll of more than 1,000 mothers with children ages 6 to 12 also revealed that 70 percent of mothers surveyed feel pressure to be perfect and 60 percent of moms said that raising kids is much tougher today than when they were growing up. Three quarters of moms surveyed worry whether they can provide the skills their kids need to reach their potential.

"Most moms worry if they're doing all they can to help their children become happy, productive adults," says positive psychology expert and mother of four Dr. Karen Reivich, a teacher and researcher in positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. "It's a surprise, however, to realize that many mothers apparently know they are placing unrealistic and probably stressful expectations on themselves, and that those expectations may hinder their ability to impart important life skills to their children."

Reivich is a top advisor and contributor to the Fishful Thinking program (, a parenting resource that provides simple, everyday, fun strategies that parents can use to help raise children with a positive outlook on life and who can confidently handle the challenges that come their way. Fishful Thinking focuses on five key skills that all parents can teach to their children: optimism, resilience, goal setting/hope, empowerment and emotional awareness.

On parents will find activities like the following to do with their children to help strengthen these important life skills:

Why it matters: Developing this skill helps children learn to focus on the positive, without denying the negative, and to channel their energy toward what they can control, rather than what is out of their control. Optimistic people work toward creating positive change.

Teaching activity: Host a "savoring party." Invite some kids and their parents to your house and ask each to bring something for the group to savor. It could be food, a piece of music, art, clay, a kaleidoscope - almost anything that brings satisfaction and enjoyment. Place the items to be savored on the floor and provide paper and crayons. Ask each parent/child team to pick an item to savor and write down in five minutes as many words as they can think of to describe what they are savoring. At the end, give each team the opportunity to share their list.

Emotional awareness
Why it matters: A building block for a healthy emotional life, emotional awareness is the ability to identify and express one's own feelings and to empathize with what others are feeling.

Teaching activity: Create a feeling collage. Choose a feeling with your child and then help him or her find pictures from magazines, family photos, drawings or words that illustrate that feeling. Paste them on a piece of paper and post the collage on a wall in your home.

Goal setting/hope
Why it matters: Hope leads to the drive to set and pursue goals, take prudent risks and initiate action. Children who are taught hope learn problem-solving skills and how to develop personal strengths and social resources.

Teaching activity: Create a "My Goal Road Map." Help your child choose a realistic, achievable goal. Print "My Goal Road Map" on a large sheet of paper and have your child write a specific sentence describing the goal beneath the title. Circle the sentence and decorate it so it is clear this is where your child wants to go. Write the word "start" in the bottom right-hand corner and draw a series of footprints between the word "start" and the goal in the upper left-hand corner. In each footprint, help your child write a short description of a step he or she can take toward reaching the goal.

Why it matters: Resilience is critical to a successful, happy life. It is the ability to bounce back from setbacks, learn from failure, find motivation in challenges and believe in your own abilities to deal with the stresses and difficulties of everyday life.

Teaching activity: Focus on praising not just your child's successes, but the process he or she followed to achieve success. For example, if they perform well on a test, instead of saying "You're so smart," try "You studied really hard for that test."

Why it matters: Children with the ability to believe in themselves know they are effective in the world. Having learned their own strengths and weaknesses, they rely on their strengths to handle life's challenges.

Teaching activity: Turn everyday activities into a mastering moment for your child. Choose activities like returning a library book or going to the market and give your child a job to do. For example, at the market have your child count all the yellow items in your basket. When cleaning up the play room, have your child pick up everything that is square or blue.

"Parents need and welcome resources that can help them be more confident in their parenting, and thus be more effective when empowering their children to be optimistic and resilient in realizing their own potential for success," Reivich says.

You'll find more parenting tips and tools at

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter/Spring Brings Increased Meningitis Risk - Protect Preteens and Teens Now

/PRNewswire/ -- This winter, while many parents are focused on influenza prevention, the National Meningitis Association (NMA) is urging parents to also protect their families from meningococcal disease, a deadly but potentially vaccine preventable bacterial infection. Linda Fryer's 16-year-old daughter Adrienne lost her life in less than 24 hours to what initially seemed like the flu. The killer was in fact meningococcal disease, which can lead to death or permanent disability within hours. Since her daughter's death, Linda has learned that preteens and teens are at particular risk for the illness, and that there is a vaccine available to help prevent it.

Sometimes, the early symptoms of meningococcal meningitis -- fever, aches and exhaustion -- can be mistaken for flu; however, meningococcal disease can quickly become life-threatening. Although meningococcal disease can strike anytime, late winter and early spring is peak season. With students home for winter break, NMA is encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated now against this devastating disease.

"While flu prevention is important, it is also critical that parents are aware of meningococcal disease, which can be easily misdiagnosed as the flu," said Lynn Bozof, President of the National Meningitis Association. "Because it moves so quickly and can be so destructive, the best treatment for meningococcal disease is prevention."

Preteens and adolescents at greater risk

Preteens and adolescents are at greater risk for meningococcal disease, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the estimated 2,000 cases that occur in the U.S. each year. The majority of cases among preteens and teens can potentially be prevented through vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends meningococcal vaccination for all preteens and teens 11 through 18 years of age and college freshmen living in dormitories.

"Parents need to know that meningococcal disease exists and that it can be prevented," said Linda Fryer. "After losing Adrienne, I made sure that my other daughter, Amanda, was vaccinated. I encourage parents to speak to your child's health care provider about meningococcal immunization."

Survivors may suffer permanent long-term effects

Of those who survive meningococcal disease, up to approximately 20 percent will suffer permanent long-term effects, including brain damage, hearing loss and limb amputations. Carl Buher is one such survivor. At 14, Carl lost both of his feet and three of his fingers to a bout with meningitis. He became ill with flu-like symptoms and developed a purple rash, a tell-tale sign of meningococcal disease. Following diagnosis, Carl was airlifted to a children's hospital where he battled the disease, which he would win only after the amputations.

"My parents almost lost their son to meningococcal disease, and I nearly lost my life," said Carl Buher. "Take advantage of this winter break and set up an appointment to speak to your family's health care provider about meningococcal vaccination."

Meningococcal disease is spread through air droplets and direct contact with those who are infected, such as through coughing or kissing. Certain lifestyle factors, such as dormitory-style living, prolonged close contact with large groups of other teens, irregular sleep patterns and active or passive smoking are thought to put preteens and teens at increased risk for the infection.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Tips For Developing Good Sportsmanship

(NAPSI)-There may be good news for people concerned about what they think is a lack of sportsmanship in America.

A program created to reward and recognize sportsmanship on and off the field has developed a set of practical steps that parents and others can take to encourage fair play in youngsters and adults alike.

Tips To Help

• ABCs of sportsmanship. Teach sportsmanship as part of the fundamentals of the sport. Sportsmanship isn't naturally learned and must be taught daily.

• Go team. Parents should cheer for the team, not just their child, to teach the importance of being part of a group.

• Reward the positive. Give game balls, provide privileges for the "best sport of the game" or give the opposing team an award.

• More than the handshake. Start new end-of-the-game rituals that highlight sportsmanship. From creating a special song to a new ceremony, create an atmosphere that's positive.

• Be a reporter. Call or e-mail the media when witnessing great displays of sportsmanship to spread good news.

• Form a sports support group. Join forces with parents, coaches and community leaders.

Expert Advice

Consider the advice of LaVell Edwards, the legendary former coach of the Brigham Young University Cougars football team and chair of the blue-ribbon panel that selects the winner of the national ARA Sportsmanship Award. The award is given annually to a college senior who excels at sportsmanship on and off the football field.

Said Edwards, "This is an issue we need to address at the grade-school level and with coaches and parents everywhere."

The Good News

A higher percentage of Americans (83 percent) report they have witnessed positive displays of sportsmanship than have seen bad sportsmanship (78 percent).

That's according to a national sportsmanship survey fielded by TNS for the Awards and Recognition Association (ARA), an international trade association whose members are specialists in recognizing people through awards, trophies and other forms of appreciation.

Learn More

To learn more, visit

More Americans say they've seen displays of good sportsmanship at various games than say they've seen bad sportsmanship.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

NASA Launches Web Site for Teenagers That Want More Class

/PRNewswire/ -- NASA has launched a new Web site created specifically for teenagers that provides teens access to current NASA spacecraft data for use in school science projects, allows them to conduct real experiments with NASA scientists, and helps them locate space-related summer internships.

Called "Mission:Science," the site is designed to showcase NASA's educational science resources and encourage students to study and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

"This site will allow teenagers, who have their own unique language and style, to get information faster and have fun at the same time," said Ruth Netting, manager of education and outreach activities in NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "NASA provides a vast amount of STEM information online for students of all ages, but this Web site boosts the content available for this age group."

The site also features social networking tools, links to enter science contests or participate in a family science night, information about college research programs, and an array of NASA images, animation, videos and podcasts.

NASA's Science Mission Directorate studies Earth, explores the planetary bodies of our solar system, examines the sun and its influence throughout the solar system and scans the universe to gauge its expanse while searching for Earth-like planets. To access the Mission:Science Web site, visit:

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Five Ways for Parents to Teach Children the True Spirit of the Holiday Season

/PRNewswire/ -- The holiday gift-giving season is an appropriate time to involve children in charitable giving and teach them why the old adage, "It is better to give than to receive," is true. Here are five great ways for parents to lead by example and teach their children the true spirit of the holidays.

Five ways for parents to teach children the true spirit of the holidays:

1. As a family, select a charitable organization you'd like to support.
Use online tools like Charity Navigator to find an organization that
you trust. Give your children a budget and encourage them to decide
how your family will donate to that organization this holiday.
2. Cherish the stories of your family. Have your children talk to their
grandparents and write down the stories of their past. Create a book to
share with the entire family or record it online through Story Corps.
3. Consider do-it-yourself gifts, like no-sew fleece blankets, that you
can make with your children. Donate those blankets to a local homeless
shelter. Find other homemade gift ideas at's Family Crafts
4. Work with your children to create a coupon book for your neighbors that
might need an extra hand this year. Coupons could include shoveling
their sidewalk, watching their children, or providing a meal.
5. Bake cookies or sweets with your children and deliver them to your
local nursing home or school-in-need. Get started with this list of
holiday recipes.

Devin Hermanson, a charitable giving expert and national director of World Vision's Gift Catalog, is seeing a return to meaningful giving through the Gift Catalog. Despite the recession, Gift Catalog sales are higher than last year's figures at this time.

"The holiday season can be a stressful time of year. There are gifts to purchase and wrap, cookies to bake, and family and friends to visit, but when we pause to help our neighbors in need, we all experience Christmas in a more meaningful way," says Hermanson.

For each item in World Vision's Gift Catalog, the giver makes the purchase in the name of a friend, family member or business associate. World Vision then sends special cards to those individuals, describing the gifts and their impact. Last year alone, World Vision's Gift Catalog raised $25 million and provided assistance to more than 500,000 people worldwide. The Gift Catalog launched in 1996, and while a goat ($75) is still World Vision's number one seller, there are many affordable items for $35 or less.

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Middle Schoolers Identify Violent Content in Youth-Targeted Entertainment as a Strong Influence in Causing Youth Violence

/PRNewswire/ -- Middle-school students are expressing their views on the key factors affecting youth violence, with more than 30 percent of them indicating that television, video games, movies and music provoke violence. Gangs, drugs and bullying are also stated as highly instrumental among this age group, according to the National Campaign to Stop Violence.

The Campaign, active for more than 12 years, analyzed the contents of 10,000 essays submitted by middle school children across the country in 2009 as part of its Do the Write Thing initiative, which encourages young people to write about how violence impacts their lives as a way to address it.

Analysis of the essays determined that 31 percent of the 6th, 7th and 8th graders who participated in the project believe that violent entertainment is a significant catalyst for violence among their age group. Gang violence, drugs, and bullying followed at 27 percent, 24 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

Peter Jensen, M.D., is the Chairman of the New York City Do the Write Thing program and Mayo Clinic Co-chair of the Division of Child Psychiatry and Psychology. "The significance of this study is that it is not parents, educators or social scientists decrying violence in the entertainment industry, it is the young people themselves who are speaking out about the negative impact the violent content has on them," said Dr. Jensen. "The National Campaign to Stop Violence -- and all of us involved with youth -- need to heed this call to action."

Television and Video Game Influence

The Parents Television Council reported that during 1998-2006 violence increased in every time slot, with a 45 percent increase during the Family Hour (8:00 p.m.). Nearly half of all episodes contained at least one incidence of violence, with 56 percent being person-to-person violence in the 2005-2006 season. Guns were featured in 63 percent of the scenes, and knives were used in 15 percent.

According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, social scientists identified four factors that link to violence in children:

-- Children are more likely to imitate the actions of a character with
whom they identify in programs and video games
-- Video games require action -- the player must get involved
-- Video games have a great deal of repetition, normally used as a
learning tool; hence children are learning violence
-- Children learn through reward systems of the type employed by video

"Maybe if we cut some of the more violent videogames, kids would be taught that murder and slaughtering of other humans is not the right thing to do," offers Shelbi Parker of Dallas, TX.

Drugs and Alcohol

Student use of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamines all decreased from 1999 to 2007 as cited by the CDC National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. However, rates of nonmedical use of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medication remain high. In 2006, 2.1 million teens abused prescriptive drugs, as well as OTC cough and cold medications.

Do the Write Thing's El Paso, TX program chair, The Honorable Patricia Macias, said, "The young people in our school system experience violence because of border-related issues tied to drugs." Macias, past president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and presiding judge of the 388th Family District Court, adds, "It's particularly helpful when law enforcement engages as part of the prevention process."

The CDC further reports that 25.4 percent of students were offered, sold, or given an illegal drug on school property within a 12-month period.

Children are also influenced by drugs and alcohol in the home. Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), estimates that 8.3 million children -- 11.9 percent -- live with at least one parent who had abused or was dependent on alcohol or an illicit drug in the past year.

Gang and Bullying Influence

According to the 2007 National Youth Gang Survey, the most recent study on the subject conducted by the Department of Justice, there was an estimated 27,000 gangs in America, a 25 percent increase from 2002-2007; and an increase of nearly 8 percent in the number of gang members, up to 788,000. The highest level of gang-related activity is in the large cities and suburban areas, with 60 percent of the gangs, but rural counties are experiencing a 25 percent increase as the gangs expand their activities.

In his 2009 Do the Write Thing essay, Jalil Ahmad of Boston, MA. wrote: "Back then I used to do a lot of fun things around my neighborhood, but now that there are so many shootings that happen there is now a limit to how much fun I can have...I can't even sit on my front porch without someone trying to act tough...."

Violence and bullying on or near school grounds is increasingly stressful to young people. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that between 1991 and 2007 there was no significant change in the level of school violence, there was a large increase in the number of students who feel unsafe.

The CDC survey of young people between the ages of 10-14 shows that 33 percent of 6th graders, 37 percent of 7th graders, and 40 percent of 8th graders had carried a weapon to school; and nearly 60 percent of each age group had been involved in a physical fight over a 30-day period.

Erick Sanchez from Charlotte, N.C. wrote in his essay: "It was an ordinary day in the sixth grade. I was going to the restroom and about five or six people grabbed me; they pushed me and rammed me into a stall. They tried to go through my pockets... It was not until I got seriously hurt that the administrators really got on their backs. All I got to say is watch your back. It doesn't matter where you are or who you are."

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Keep Baby Safe This New Year with Evenflo Home Safety Makeover Contest

/24-7/ -- Every parent waits with bated breath for children to reach those critical developmental milestones, whether it's rolling over, crawling or taking those tender first steps. Then watch out, because baby is on the move and exploring everything in sight with zealous abandon. To help parents ensure their home provides a safe environment for their little ones this New Year, Evenflo Home Safety Made Easier and renowned safety expert Alison Rhodes are launching the Evenflo Home Safety Makeover Contest.

"Home is where babies and children grow, play and explore, so it's essential to provide a secure home environment for little ones," said Alison Rhodes, The Safety Mom. "I've partnered with Evenflo and the Home Safety Makeover Contest to encourage parents to take action to make their homes safer in 2010. Even a few simple 'baby-steps' can help keep little ones out of harm's way and provide parents peace of mind."

From December 1, 2009 through January 15, 2010 parents can enter the Evenflo Home Safety Makeover Contest by telling their story, in 500 words or less, about how they would benefit from a home safety makeover in the New Year at The Grand Prize winner will receive a home-safety consultation by Alison Rhodes, Evenflo baby gates and other home safety products (valued up to $2500) tailored to their home and family's needs. In addition, five other lucky winners will receive an Evenflo Symphony65 car seat, valued at $199, to help baby stay safe when travelling away from home.

As we approach the New Year, here are some easy tips for parents to help make their home environment baby and child-safe:
• Always anticipate the unexpected and stay one step ahead of your little ones. Armed with pad and pencil, get down on your hands and knees, and record all the potential hazards you see from a child's-eye view.
• Consider children's ages and stages. Baby proofing is not a project you can do once and forget about it. Be vigilant; continuously monitor your baby's developmental stages.
• Know the danger "hot spots." Baby gates can provide safety zones within your home where you can keep a close eye on baby, while resting assured that he or she isn't in harm's way.
• Don't wait to baby proof your home. Keep safety at the top of your mind when creating a baby shower registry; add gates and home safety products to the wish-list.

Evenflo is committed to "Safety Made Easier" for parents and provides safety products, including gates made for every home and every lifestyle. For the official Home Safety Makeover Contest rules and more information on Evenflo's Safety Made Easier products, including tips and a simple tool to find the right gate for your home and family, visit

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Santa Webcasts LIVE Daily from the North Pole

/PRNewswire/ -- today announced the provisioning of LIVE broadband video access via the Internet to Santa Claus at the North Pole.

Starting December 10th, 2009, Santa will be appearing on the web daily to personally take Christmas requests from children around the world. Using the latest in satellite and Internet technologies, Santa will be brought to Internet computers where he will tell stories, take phone calls, play games and interact with children all from the comfort of their own homes. The live webcast site is located at

Now in its fifth year of production, has become so popular that millions of children access the site - and the sheer volume is overwhelming for Santa. To manage effective site access, for the first time will be available through a pay-per-view membership. Additionally, Santa really wanted to be able to give back to the community and is donating partial proceeds from every membership to the SPCA so that all the animals can have a Merry Christmas, too!

Daily 24-hour passes to chat and watch Santa's North Pole video are $2.95 and a full season pass costs only $9.95.

Santa expressed his delight at being able to be beamed down from the North Pole for yet another year. "Ho, Ho, Ho! I can't wait to chat with all the little boys and girls around the world through the magic of the Internet. Ho, Ho, Ho!"

The North Pole webcasts will be held daily through December 23rd. A schedule is posted on the website along with an interactive world map to help with the time-zone calculations.


The website and webcast is the cumulative result of a group of dedicated volunteers who want to make Christmas happier for the children of the world. Now in its 5th year of operation, allows all children the opportunity to be closer to Santa Claus while also helping the animals of the SPCA. The website is at

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Parents' Most Important Resolution: Help Your Kids Get Healthier in the New Year

/PRNewswire/ -- What's the most important New Year's resolution for parents this year? Keeping their kids healthy! With increased attention to juvenile obesity and related health problems, finding ways to improve lifestyle behaviors is emerging as a top priority for many parents nationwide.

This is why Alere LLC, a leader in personal health support solutions, offers Healthy Kids, a program that provides parents with clear, easy-to-implement strategies that they can incorporate into their daily lives. Developed with a team of clinicians experienced in working with families to address obesity, the online program is personalized to a range of criteria, such as age, activity level, and even frequency of family meals.

"As we parents think about our New Year's resolutions for 2010, it's important to look beyond just the typical goal of losing a few pounds for ourselves," notes Heather Zeitz, RD, CDN, vice president of Health Programming and Content for Alere. "If we are going to combat the frightening increase in obesity and associated diseases in children, parents and caregivers need to find ways to lead by example and to help their children learn healthier diet and exercise habits for life."

Here are some important recommendations and tips from Alere that can help families make and keep healthier New Year's resolutions:

1. Talk About It: Alere's nutritionists encourage parents to sit down with their children to discuss healthy resolutions for 2010. Changing your children's eating and activity habits means committing to changing your own habits. So look for resolutions that the entire family can embrace. "Make sure to listen to what your kids are saying when it comes to food and activity," says Zeitz. "Then commit to providing the support and encouragement they need to be successful."

2. Make Healthy Choices Easier: You can't always control your kids, but you can control the environment at home. Encourage better choices by:

-- Keeping healthier foods on hand, such as whole-grain, low-sugar
breakfast foods and portable healthy snacks
-- Eating together often -- at least three or four times a week!
-- Having active games available -- for use during "no TV" times!

3. Make Healthy Food Fun: Children can and do understand the importance of healthy eating. "It's our job as parents to show our kids that healthy eating is not only important, it can also be fun and help them to feel better and get more from life," says Zeitz. She encourages families to grocery shop together to find healthy, new foods. "Make it interesting for younger children by going on a scavenger hunt in the produce aisle," she suggests. "Challenge older kids to see if they can find healthier ingredients for their favorite burritos or pizza."

4. Make It Taste Good: Kids won't eat if it doesn't taste good. Look for recipes - starting with favorite and familiar foods - that can easily be made healthier. Alere's Healthy Kids features hundreds of easy recipes for healthy burritos, pizzas and turkey bites, as well as ways to make better choices when buying school lunches. Zeitz also recommends encouraging youngsters to get involved in preparing foods with fun, age-appropriate activities.

5. Get Active Together: Make being more active a family affair. Your children will learn healthy habits from watching you. Find activities you can do together as a family, everything from walking to school together to spending the day hiking or biking. Remember, this is a long-term commitment. If you go back to old habits yourself, your children will probably follow suit.

6. Keep Track: Record your family's food choices and activity level. Over time this can be a useful tool in noticing changes and keeping you and your family accountable. Remember, if you stray off course, don't quit. Determine what led to the lapse - a busier schedule, lack of planning, etc., and find ways to get back on track. Remember to stay with it! Your family will benefit.

7. Be Positive! This may be one of the most important things you can do when encouraging better health for your kids. Maintaining an upbeat attitude -- and avoiding nagging or negative comments -- can help build confidence and make your child more willing to stay with a plan for a healthier lifestyle.

Healthy Kids was developed to reflect Alere's personal health support philosophy of behavior change. This means focusing on realistic, sustainable actions that can help reduce health risks. The program is offered to health plans and employers as part of Alere's suite of wellness solutions, a comprehensive approach to personal health management that focuses on improving health based on the specific needs of each individual.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

When it Comes to Children's Safety, Where You Shop Is as Important as What You Buy

/PRNewswire/ -- People are making their list and checking it twice, and while the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has ensured concerned parents that the number of recalls has fallen sharply from prior levels, holiday shoppers must be cautious when shopping for gifts for that special young person on their list. ExpertRECALL is putting shoppers on alert.

One thing is clear as shopping and spending data for the holiday season floods in. Recent data on retailers' November performance shows that, in general, shoppers favored lower priced items. According to data from the National Retail Federation, more than 40 percent of shoppers over the age of 18 shopped at discount stores during Black Friday weekend. When including thrift stores, resale shops and outlet stores, nearly 60 percent of shoppers over the age of 18 did their holiday shopping at these discounted retailers. In a continuing trend, less-expensive retailers, discounters or lower-priced apparel sellers are outperforming their competitors.

For those shoppers who are contributing to this trend, ExpertRECALL issues the following warning: where you shop may be as important as what you buy.

"When buying at deep discount stores and second-hand shops, take extra care to watch for recalled goods," explained Mike Rozembajgier, Director of Recalls at ExpertRECALL, the industry leader in managing consumer and juvenile product recalls. "Once a manufacturer's product leaves its primary supply chain, it can be difficult to track and remove goods from the marketplace. Also be careful of hand-me-down toys and items purchased at thrift stores and second-hand shops."

But there is good news for parents and shoppers. The number of toy recalls is down sharply from a few years ago. We experienced nearly 150 toy recall events in 2007 alone, with toy recall events down to roughly 40 to date in 2009.

Consumers should rest assured that manufacturers and retailers are doing what they can to protect their customers. But consumers can also take matters in their own hands. "There are several cautionary steps that consumers can take to protect themselves and the people they love during the holidays and throughout year to come," said Rozembajgier.

Important tips to consumers:

-- Check your shopping list in advance. Consumer safety websites,
parenting websites, the CPSC and others provide helpful information on
children's product safety. As shoppers go online to look for sales and
discount coupons, they might also cross check their shopping list for
safety. All product recall announcements are archived and easily
searchable on the CPSC website (

-- Remember to check the toys twice. Look again at toys that have been
sitting in lay-away or that were purchased throughout the year and

-- Be aware of current product safety issues. Most consumers know to look
for lead paint levels or toys with small parts that can cause choking.
Don't forget prior recalls as you shop at deep-discount stores who
purchase unsold lots, which could contain hazardous toys.

-- Complete registration cards for the products you purchase. By doing
so, you are allowing the company to contact you directly in the event
the product poses a safety or health hazard to you or your child.

-- Watch for product recall data after the holiday season. Just because
your gift wasn't recalled when you purchased it, doesn't mean it won't
be. Keep an eye on recall news in case you need to remove the toy and
make a return.

Manufacturers, under the vigilant eye of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and ever watchful consumers, are taking the necessary steps to manufacture safer toys. Similarly, some retailers are taking matters into their own hands by testing products before stocking their shelves. But ExpertRECALL reminds and encourages consumers to do their part in keeping their children, families and loved ones safe this holiday season.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Parent Alert: Cough Medicine

Dr. Drew's Tips For Talking To Your Teen

(NAPSI)-Cough medicine abuse can touch any family. Even if your teens don't have an issue, they live in a world where the issue exists. While cough medicines containing dextromethorphan, or DXM, are safe and effective when used as directed, they can be dangerous when abused in extreme amounts to get high.

The key to prevention is education and talking about the dangers of abuse. To help parents have a conversation about cough medicine abuse, Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of the popular radio show "Loveline" and the star of VH1 hits "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" and "Sober House," offers parents this advice about starting the discussion with your teens about cough medicine abuse:

1. It is never too early to bring this up with your teenagers. Any opportunity to discuss it is a good opportunity.

2. Do not worry about violating your teenager's trust. Trust must be verified. Bring it up.

3. A good time to talk about difficult issues with your teenagers is in the car. You are both looking forward, it isn't as intense as eyeball to eyeball, so you can throw stuff out and see how your teenager responds.

4. If your teenager refuses to talk to you, one approach is to talk to one of his or her peers with your teenager present. Triangulate the conversation so your teenager has the opportunity to hear your point of view while you discuss it with one of his or her peers.

5. Remember that hormonal variations, particularly during the teen years, can affect their receptivity to conversations. A good time to talk, particularly to younger females, is in the evening hours after 9 PM. Head up to your teenager's room, sit down and bring up this topic.

"Parents have far more power than they realize to keep their kids drug-free. Kids who learn about the dangers of drug abuse from their parents are half as likely to have an issue," said Dr. Drew. "Parents should visit to get educated and get talking to their teens."

Parents can also look for a new educational icon on the packaging of a majority of OTC cough medicines. The icon serves as a mini public service announcement for parents, making them aware of the issue of cough medicine abuse among teens and pointing them to, where they can access resources they need to talk to their teen about the issue.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Top 10 Toys That Will Scar Your Child for Life

/PRNewswire/ -- A couple years ago, lead paint in toys manufactured in China sent parents searching frantically for gifts made in the USA. This fall, news of Baby Einstein refunds suggested that even so-called educational toys are suspect. Renowned parenting expert Dr. Jeffrey Fine, Ph.D., says that such videos are actually harmful to developing brains, retarding language development and shortening attention spans. Moreover, there is an increased sense of separation, which is the defining trait of each of this holiday season's most harmful gifts.

A psychologist with 30 years' experience and founder and director of the American Foundation for Conscious Parenting, Dr. Fine specializes in ways modern life devalues parent and child relationships and desensitizes children in the process. Whether parents use videos as "electronic babysitters" for toddlers, purchase paintball guns for preteens, or buy games which encourage teenagers to earn points by killing others, they are feeding into an increasingly toxic culture, while contributing to rising rates of ADHD and violent and aggressive behavior in children.

According to Dr. Fine, "Today's lifestyle is one of separation, and people don't have the ability to be intimate. Videos and video games increase this sense of isolation, and can have long-lasting devastating effects." Saying that parents should encourage low-tech creative play, which boosts imagination and problem-solving, he also targets toys which decrease physical activity and limit social interaction, such as the exercise bike/video game combo, the Smart Cycle, which, like Baby Einstein, has a name which can be misleading.

This Christmas, dehumanization of "the other" has taken an especially violent turn, says Dr. Fine, with the addition of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which is expected to become a bestseller, despite controversy over graphic scenes depicting the slaughter of innocents. And while it's no surprise that games like Grand Theft Auto have been desensitizing teens to violence for years, some games, such as Lego's Batman video game, even encourage preschoolers to engage in violent behavior.

A member of the Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health and former student of the famed Joseph Chilton Pearce, Dr. Fine (who is also co-author of THE ART OF CONSCIOUS PARENTING: The Natural Way To Give Birth, Bond With, And Raise Healthy Children, which he wrote with his wife, Dalit Fine, M.S.), adds that there are plenty of age-appropriate toys which benefit children and counsels parents to choose gifts which increase family bonding time.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Getting Kids to Care About Current Events

(StatePoint) Getting kids interested in the world around them sometimes can be tough.

While many parents have long been unsure how to properly address certain current events with their children, there's no denying recent efforts to reach young people and expand the scope of their world.

A number of outlets have worked to establish news sources for children, while President Obama made some waves this past September when he delivered an address aimed specifically at the nation's children. Even TV pundit Bill O'Reilly wrote a book for children.

With proper oversight and some good ideas, families can make current events fun for kids, ultimately expanding their understanding of the world.

"Children haven't yet gotten jaded or apathetic. They want the world to be a better place and they believe they can help make it so," says author and human rights activist Elizabeth Hankins, whose new book entitled "I Learned a New Word Today... Genocide" teaches children about a heavy global topic. "Once you learn of the misfortune of others, you won't look the other way. This can help avoid future mistakes that have continued to allow crimes against humanity."

Here are some ways to make learning about current events appealing to children:

* Make it a Family Function: Combine quality family time with an opportunity to educate your children by coming together to watch the nightly news or read the local newspaper. While it's important that parents filter the news slightly to make sure children aren't exposed to content for which they might not be ready, it's a great way for families to draw closer. Be sure to participate in a dialogue afterwards and encourage children to ask questions.

* Find Good Resources Online: A number of media outlets have established online portals where children can learn about current events. Companies like Nickelodeon, Time Magazine, the Washington Post, and Scholastic have created places where children can learn about the world. The U.S. House of Representatives even established "Kids in the House," a Web Site where children can learn about America's legislative branch.

* Check Your Library or Bookstore: There are a variety of books available today that take potentially-difficult topics and explain them to children in age-appropriate ways. Hankins' novel, "I Learned a New Word Today... Genocide" is one such example for readers as young as 10, while Art Spiegelman's "Maus" and Victoria London's "Lucy and the Liberty Quilt" are other nice choices for kids.

* Start a Group and Become Active: There are many current events discussion groups in communities across the country where young people join to discuss issues. If you can't find one in your community, consider starting one. By partnering with similar groups and even writing to your congressman or town officials, you can tap more directly into the places where policies take shape.

* Turn it into Games or Projects: Educators encourage families to make current events fun. While combing through the newspaper, children can compile a scrapbook or piece together a collage composed of articles that matter to them. Family and friends can come together to act out sketches based on current events.

"Not all details of current events are suitable for young people, but by encouraging children to see what happens in the rest of the world and encouraging their curiosity, you might help shape a generation of well-read, influential individuals," says Hankins.

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