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How to Deal With the Halloween Candy Stash

Between Halloween and Día de los Muertos, November starts off with quite the sugar rush. In America, kids already get high doses of sugar from regular foods like peanut butter and jelly. The health risks of too much sugar for kids include obesity, tooth decay, diabetes, and lack of nutrients needed for long-term health, like calcium.

The mountain of Halloween candy can overwhelm even the sweetest-toothed kid. So, here are some tips for dealing with the surplus without being a total buzzkill:

  • Store candy where you can monitor how much is being eaten, and where kids will be less tempted to dip into the supply.
  • Participate in a buyback program at your local dentist’s office.
  • Send nonperishable items to soldiers overseas.
  • Use the candy as favors at upcoming birthday parties, or use it to fill a piñata.
  • Offer to buy candy from your child in exchange for books, toys, or games.
  • Have your child pick out a piece of candy to eat with their lunch or after dinner each day.
  • Donate to shelters, nursing homes, children’s hospitals, or other community centers where people will appreciate a treat.
  • Bring extra candy into your workplace to share with people who are “too old” to trick-or-treat.
  • Save nonperishable candy for your December advent calendar – many nonreligious families and families who do not celebrate advent still count down to Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year’s with these fun wall hangings.
  • Use some of the candy to do science experiments or crafts – the results may not be edible, but they’re still fun!

As your family works through the candy stash, make sure to prepare healthy, filling meals so your kids are less likely to fill up on candy. They might claim to have an extra dessert stomach, but as doctors, we know this to be false.

 

Posted in Blog on October 31st, 2017

Halloween Safety Tips

When you have kids, you want Halloween to be spooky, but not scary. Here are some safety tips to keep your children and kids in your neighborhood safe and healthy:

Before trick-or-treating:

  • Choose costumes that fit well. Adjust hems so children won’t trip, and opt for headwear that doesn’t reduce the child’s ability to see.
  • If you’re handing out candy, clear your front walkway and porch, and make sure it’s well lit.
  • Test make-up, hair dyes, and face paint for allergic reactions in advance.
  • Feed your children a healthy, hearty meal so they’ll be less inclined to binge on sweets.
  • Secure your pets so they can’t get to the door. The stream of visitors will likely drive them nuts, so keep them and the children safe by separating them from the action.

When trick or treating:

  • Practice pedestrian safety. Drivers should take special care to watch for trick-or-treaters. Do your part by making kids visible with reflective materials, glowsticks, and flashlights.
  • Only visit well-lit houses.
  • Always accompany children, even if (especially if!) they are trick-or-treating in a group.

After trick-or-treating

  • Do a quick candy check. While contamination or deliberate tampering is extremely rare, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Sort candy and remove items your children are allergic to. Consider donating candy they don’t like.
  • Set a good example by moderating your own candy intake.
  • Come up with and stick with a plan for regulating the amount of candy your kids can eat. Every family is different, so here are some ideas to come up with a winning approach. [link to other blog you assigned]

For more tips, check out this video from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Posted in Blog on October 24th, 2017

Responding to Report Cards

It’s just about midterm season for high school and college students. Younger children are likely receiving report cards or progress reports. For some students, grades can produce anxiety. Here’s how you can help as a parent.

Straight A Students

Your inclination might be to stick the report card on the refrigerator with much fanfare. Go ahead! Your child earned success, and that should certainly be encouraged. Still, don’t miss the opportunity to engage with your child. Which class do they enjoy most? Do they find classes challenging, or do they need more stimulation? They don’t have to know what they want to be when they grow up just yet, but making grades more about a letter or a number can keep their motivation kindled.

Grades Improving

If your child’s report card reflects more effort or better behavior, let them know you’re proud of them. Ask what strategies helped them improve, and remind them that even small improvements represent progress.

Grades Declining

Lower grades may cause worry or disappointment, depending on your child and your expectations for them. If you feel upset, take a moment to collect your thoughts, and work with them to come up with solutions. Could they be more organized? Are they not getting along with a teacher? Are subjects getting more challenging as they advance? Do they feel disappointed by a grade that you think is just fine?

Good News, Bad News

With some grades going up and others dipping, you may be tempted to focus on just the negative, or just the positive. It may help to ask your child how they feel about the grades they earned.

Health includes physical, emotional, social, and intellectual factors.  Report cards are only part of the picture. Social life, learning disabilities, and physical health all contribute to academic performance. Strive for balance. If you are concerned that your child’s academic performance may be related to a learning disability, a mental health issue, or a lack of nutrition and exercise, your pediatrician can help.

Posted in Blog on October 17th, 2017

School Drop Off and Pick Up Line Safety

Every school has different rules and procedures for student drop off and pick up. The most important thing is to get in and out safely. Between younger children not being aware of their surroundings, teenagers getting distracted by their phones, and drivers not always being aware or respectful, the minutes just before and after the bell rings can seem like running the gauntlet. Continuously teach your kids that safety comes first, and follow these tips.

Bus Stop Safety

  • Children should always stay out of the road and not roughhouse near the curb.
  • When the bus comes, wait for the doors to open before trying to board.
  • If your child walks to the bus stop, make sure they are well-versed in pedestrian safety.
  • If you drive your child to the bus stop and miss the bus, do not chase after the bus and try to flag it down. If possible, arrange alternative transport to school, and if your child is going to be late, pull over and call the office.
  • If you pick your child up at the bus stop, make sure they know what to do if you aren’t there. Whether they should call you on their cell phone, wait for you, walk home, or ride home with a neighbor, make sure they know the backup plan beforehand.

School Drop Off and Pick Up Safety

  • Follow all signs and directions, drive defensively, and err on the side of caution.
  • If traffic jams routinely occur around the school, some drivers are more likely to make unsafe choices. Let the office know if you are concerned.
  • If drivers regularly speed around the school zone, let the local police department know about your concerns. Even an unmanned camera vehicle can slow people down.
  • If you find the procedures confusing (or suspect that other parents might be confused), ask the office if they could communicate to parents about the issues and/or make improvements.
  • Make sure your child knows where to meet you, and what to do if you’re running late. Avoid using your cell phone while driving.

In the United States, we are lucky to have designated school zones with crosswalks and pedestrian bridges where needed. Accidents are preventable. So, keep a healthy perspective and set a safe example for when your kids start driving themselves.

Posted in Blog on October 10th, 2017

Flu Season 2017-2018 Is Here

It’s that time of year again: time to get inoculated against the flu. Influenza infects a portion of the population each year, and getting vaccinated is the best way to not only protect your family, but to protect vulnerable members of our population. Even if you and your kids are blessed with stellar immune systems, making sure you don’t catch the flu means you don’t pass it on to infants, pregnant women, the elderly, the chronically ill, and others for whom influenza is a truly dire condition.

The exciting thing about influenza is it’s a little different every year. Mother Nature gives us new and improved viruses, complete with symptoms you’re sure to hate. So, we give you a new and improved vaccine researched and designed to immunize you from influenza’s charms.

Another important reason to get vaccinated: there’s no cure for viral influenza. If you get it, we can’t prescribe anything but rest and fluids. Most people recover after a few days to a couple weeks. Some develop complications such as pneumonia or ear infections.

It’s important to understand that when we recommend treatments, we feel based on our expert opinion that the benefits outweigh the risks. You might be wondering, is the flu vaccine safe?

  • Pregnant woman may safely receive the flu vaccine, and definitely should get it in order to protect the developing fetus.
  • Children six months and older can safely receive a form of the vaccine. Another form is available for children five years and older.
  • Everyone, but especially smaller children who require two doses of the vaccine, should get the first dose as soon as possible because it takes time for antibodies to develop.

Your pediatrician can answer your questions about this year’s flu vaccine. He or she will explain the likely side effects and alert you to any reactions you should watch out for. You will also receive an informational printout at your appointment.

Posted in Blog on September 28th, 2017

Front-Facing Car Seat Safety: Use Tethers

Safe Kids Worldwide recently launched a campaign to educate parents about the use of tethers on front-facing car seats.

Until your child turns two years old or exceeds the height and weight limits, he or she needs to ride in a rear-facing seat. Chances are, as expectant parents, you prepared for baby’s first ride home from the hospital by making sure you knew how to properly secure the rear-facing car seat. But as babies become toddlers, many parents find themselves less prepared to properly use a front-facing seat. 64% of parents do not use the tether on a front-facing car seat.

What is a Car Seat Tether?

There’s a strap with a hook dangling off the back of your child’s car seat. The hook needs to be secured to an anchor located in your vehicle. The location of the anchor varies depending on your vehicle’s make and model, but there will be a symbol showing a car seat and a ship’s anchor. Look on the back of the seat, on the ceiling, or on any surface behind the seat. Then, attach and tighten the strap.

Why Use a Tether?

The tether works kind of like an upper seatbelt strap for the chair itself, to prevent it from lurching forward. The tether strap tightly secures the front-facing car seat to the vehicle. When used properly, the tether prevents the car seat from tipping forward when your vehicle stops suddenly. This prevents your child from hitting their head.

You can check out the infographic, and if you want to be sure that your car seat is installed properly, find a car seat safety check near you.

Posted in Blog on September 20th, 2017

10 Tips for Healthy Participation in Fall Sports

We say it all the time: get some exercise! Go play outside! Fall sports give our kids a great opportunity to do just that, while developing social skills and learning values like teamwork, healthy competition, and discipline. In the spirit of raising healthy and balanced kids, preventing obesity and associated health issues, improving moods and behaviors, and having fun, we fully endorse fall sports.

Of course, participation carries some risk. Here are some safety tips:

  1. Make sure the coach and assistants know about any conditions your child has, such as asthma.
  2. There’s been wide coverage lately concerning concussions in tackle football. Many parents are opting for flag football as an alternative to avoid long-term health risks associated with tackle football.
  3. For any sport, football not least among them, make sure your child wears the proper protective equipment in the correct size.
  4. Before any athletic activity, kids need to warm up their muscles with appropriate exercises.
  5. After long periods of exercise, stretch and cool down.
  6. Be sure to take water breaks every 15-20 minutes.
  7. Watch for signs of exhaustion and pull kids to the sidelines if they need to rest.
  8. Set an example by practicing safety in your own health and fitness routine.
  9. If you aren’t comfortable with how the coach or instructor practices safety, voice your concerns. Advocate for your child and his or her teammates, even if it makes you the “uncool parent.” It’s okay to ask questions and make sure coaches prioritize safety.
  10. If you’re looking for leagues for your child to join, Raising Arizona Kids publishes a list of local sports programs. Dance studios around the valley attract girls, but they often offer discounts for boys. If you’re a foster parent (or a family member fostering a child in kinship care), you can receive grants for sports and other activities.

Posted in Blog on September 13th, 2017

Melinda Gates Discusses Kids and Technology

How do Bill and Melinda Gates handle technology with their kids? If you think they were plugged into Microsoft products from infancy, you would be incorrect. Like those of us who aren’t billionaire tech giants, Bill and Melinda apparently don’t know any better than the rest of us how to keep their kids healthy and safe in an increasingly connected world. Nevertheless, they’ve discovered some tools to help parents and families along the way. Melinda Gates took to the Washington Post to share resources with parents concerned about kids on social media.

Interestingly, she says that she would have waited a little longer to give her kids smartphones. While every parent needs to consider their own values in deciding what’s best for their children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to one hour per day for children 0 to 5 years old. Medical recommendations for screen time are spotty at best for a few reasons:

1. Technology emerges at a rapid pace, whereas carefully designed studies take time (especially studies concerning long-term effects).

2. Not all technology is the same. Watching Sesame Street benefits children who would not benefit from watching shows that aren’t carefully designed for their age group. The same principle applies to games and apps.

3. Not all children and families are the same. The AAP recommends coming up with a unique family media use plan. You can download resources on their website to help you consider the role media plays in your family, and how you can achieve the best balance.

If you are concerned about children and screen time, or teenagers on social media, check out the list of resources Melinda Gates provides in the article. Tell your pediatrician about any concerns you have about your child’s mental, emotional, and physical development.

Posted in Blog on September 5th, 2017

Start the School Year Healthy

How do you start the school year healthy?

Well-rested and Well-fed

It helps to start establishing routines before the first day of classes, such as adhering to a regular sleep schedule and eating a healthy breakfast daily. The fewer changes you have to make, the easier it will be to adjust.

Protected from Illnesses

Arizona requires immunizations for children attending day care, preschool, and grades K-12. You can download the Arizona immunization requirements in English or Spanish. If you have any questions or concerns about vaccines, please speak with your pediatrician. We know you want the best for your kids.

With a Positive Attitude

Some kids feel excited to go back to school, and others dread the return of the academic year. If your child doesn’t want to go back to school, ask them why. Perhaps they feel nervous about making friends, or perhaps they feel bored in class. Communicate to identify the problem and talk about how to make it better. Focus on things they’re looking forward to as well.

If your child’s anxiety persists beyond the first week or so and you can’t determine the cause, consider involving the school counselor or, for older children, discuss coping mechanisms and ask if they’d like to see a counselor. Mental health is part of whole health, and there is no shame in asking for support.

Prepared

In addition to the list of school supplies, make sure your child picks out an academic planner he or she likes. Have them get into the habit of writing down their homework, when permission slips are due, and other important dates. Make note of extracurriculars so that they can learn to manage their time when they have to balance homework with clubs and activities.

Do your kids seem hyper at night and groggy in the morning? If so, make getting ready for school part of your nighttime routine. It will help them wind down and reduce the tasks they need to focus on in the morning. Have them double check to make sure they did all their homework, pack their bag, and set it by the door with their shoes. Have them pick out clothing for the next day, and pick out what they want for breakfast, before going to bed.

Focused

Make homework a distraction-free activity, and screen-free if possible. If your child has homework on the computer, consider using an app like StayFocusd to temporarily block distracting websites. Never do homework for your child, but help them work through any challenges they might be having.

Balanced

Your child’s school years are about academics, social skills, and developing interests. All of these areas prepare them to lead a balanced adult life. Each child will have different strengths and challenges. Let them know you’re not demanding perfection, but encouraging them to do their best. Work on personal goal-setting and good work/study habits to prepare them for a successful, happy future.

Speaking of balance, don’t forget to weigh your child’s backpack and adjust the straps periodically. More about backpack safety

With Clear Expectations

Every household has different rules. When your child goes to school, they might come home and report that other kids are allowed to do or have things they are not allowed to have or do. Perhaps some of their third grade friends have smart phones, or some of their eleventh grade peers have a late curfew. Ultimately, you are responsible for deciding what’s best for your child, and we’re here to answer your questions. We can’t decide for you, but we can share our professional opinions based on resources like the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Posted in Blog on August 31st, 2017

Back to School Breakfast Tips

During the morning rush, it can be easy to forget the most important meal of the day. However, breakfast is a really important part of your daily routine.

Eating Breakfast Improves Academic Performance

Research shows that eating breakfast every day improves test scores. It also improves behavior and mood, leading to fewer disciplinary problems and better focus. Eating breakfast helps trigger the body’s metabolism, which helps to prevent obesity. Children who eat breakfast daily have stronger immune systems, helping them ward off illness and miss fewer days of school.

Back to School Breakfast Tips

  • Choose foods containing fiber, protein, and whole grains. Don’t forget the calcium. You can prepare cereal or oatmeal with milk, or serve yogurt to the milk-averse.
  • Plan ahead by prepping what you can the night before.
  • Avoid sugary cereals and pastries. Fresh or dried fruit, yogurt, and nut butters can add sweetness to breakfast.
  • If your child isn’t hungry in the morning. take a short walk or get them moving to wake up their metabolism. You could also try having them drink water before eating.
  • As with any healthy habit, it’s important to set an example. Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast, too.
  • If you run out of time in the morning, streamline your routine to make time for breakfast. Lay out clothes the night before, and make sure your child’s backpack is packed and ready.

Assistance for Low-Income Families

If your family needs nutritional assistance, you are not alone. One in four Arizona children suffers from food insecurity. For help meeting your child’s nutritional needs, you can:

Posted in Blog on August 23rd, 2017