Kid Safety Raising Healthy Kids

Summer Safety Tips for Everyone, Including the Dog

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Here in New York, we seemed to go from snow on the ground to 80 degree days overnight. It’s hot. And I don’t like being hot. But I do like being safe. These summer safety tips can help you keep your family (and your pets) safe this summer.

Summer Safety Tips for Kids

Lots of kids are home alone during the day in the summer while parents are at work. My poor kids have not enjoyed that luxury for a long time (10 or more years) so they never get away with anything, but if you are home alone, follow these summer safety tips to protect yourself and your family:
1. Check in. Always check with your parents or the person in charge before you go anywhere or do anything. Be sure to check in regularly with your parents or a trusted adult when you’re not with them.
2. Don’t go alone. If you are going to a park or out for a walk, don’t go alone. Take a friend.
3. Whether you’re 5 or 15, remember stranger danger. Don’t talk to strangers, let them in your home, or go online to chat with them..
4. Lock the door.  Keep the doors locked when mom and dad are at work, and don’t answer the door for anyone unless you know a trusted family member, friend, or neighbor is coming over.
5. Practice Internet Safety. If you’re allowed to be online when your parents are gone, be safe. Don’t use apps or go on websites that are not allowed. Don’t talk to people you don’t know. And don’t give out personal information about yourself, your family, or where you live or go to school.

Summer Safety Tips for Everyone

When the temperature soars and humidity rises,take precautions to avoid dangerous health consequences such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and overexposure to the sun. Everyone is at risk.

Protect yourself from the sun.

Limit mid-day exposure from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., wear sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of the UV radiation, wear a hat, and wear protective clothing. Be sure to apply sunscreen lotion of at least sun protection factor (SPF) 30 to exposed areas. Listen for the UV Index forecast in your local weather forecast.

Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke:

Symptoms of heat exhaustion:

Elevated body temperature
Dry mouth
Weak and rapid pulse
Cool, clammy, pale skin
To treat heat exhaustion, get inside. Hydrate. Rest and cool down.
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
Very high body temperature (103 degrees or higher)
Hot, dry, red skin
No sweating
Disorientation, hallucinations, delirium
Rapid breathing and fast pulse, then slow breathing and weak pulse
Loss of consciousness
Heat stroke can occur within 10 – 15 minutes of the first symptoms. If treatment is not given immediately, permanent damage can occur to internal organs. Call 9-11 or seek medical attention immediately and do everything you can to lower the person’s body temperature while you wait for help to arrive.

Summer Safety Tips for Dogs

If your dog is outside on a hot day, make sure he has a shady spot to rest in. Doghouses are not good shelter during the summer as they can trap heat. Consider filling a child’s wading pool with fresh water for your dog to cool off in. Never leave your pet where they only have concrete to walk on; the concrete will get hot enough to blister their paws.

  • Never leave your dog in a closed vehicle on a hot day. The temperature inside a car can rise to over 100 degrees in a matter of minutes.
  • Always provide plenty of cool, fresh water.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise on extremely hot days. Take walks in the early mornings or evenings, when the sun’s heat is less intense.
  • Try to avoid prolonged exposure to hot asphalt or sand, which can burn your dog’s paws.
  • Dogs that are (short-faced), such as Bulldogs, Boxers, Japanese Chins, and Pekingese, have an especially hard time in the heat because they do not pant as efficiently as longer-faced dogs. Keep your dog inside with air-conditioning.

Common sense is really all it takes to have a safe and fun summer, but these summer safety tips can help.


*I’m not a medical doctor, these are just suggestions. Please seek your own medical advice if you are worried about your health and summer safety.

Education Parenting Raising Healthy Kids

Is My Child Gifted?

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

When our son was six, he was labeled gifted. He had tested in the 99th percentile on some exam and had an IQ of 126, so the school said he was gifted.  We started suspecting he was a fast learner – most IQ tests not only measure intelligence but also measure the child’s ability to learn—when he started talking early.  When he could recite the alphabet at a year and recognized all of the letters by sight at 18 months, not only were we impressed, but his physician started noticing as well. Our child was gifted, in the traditional sense of the word.  He learned quickly.  He was a grade level ahead of his peers because he started kindergarten a year early.  He read at the 4th – 5th grade level when he was in first grade.

Our son was labeled gifted by the school district once they had scores on a test to fit him in a box. But our first-grade son who could read and understand passages from The Odyssey never did learn how to tie his shoes when he was young.

I truly believe it’s still important to let them be a child, to encourage them to have fun, and to remember they are still emotionally and developmentally closer to their chronological age.  Parker was six and going into second grade, but he had not yet learned how to tie his shoes.

The other important thing to remember is that EVERY child has something they are good at. My daughter Anika was not nearly as interested in the alphabet at age 3 as her brother was at 18 months, but she had motor skills exceeded her brother’s even though she is almost three years younger. And today,  regardless of test scores and labels,  she’s the straight A student who has skipped two grades and has the highest reading comprehension I’ve ever seen. Our older daughter was a good student, but she was also a gifted artist and singer. Yet when she headed to college, she really began to shine .. She won distinguished awards as an undergrad and went ivy league for grad school,  where she completed their program two semesters early.

It’s important to see how incredible each child is individually and not compare your children to each other based on a school’s definition of a gifted child.  It’s even more important not to put a gifted child on a pedestal and forget that he or she is still just a kid who needs to play and run and laugh and have fun and make friends.

All of your kids have gifts that need fostered and nurtured and supported!


Kid Safety

The Importance of Year-Round Sun Safety

It’s snowing in parts of New York this week, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be thinking about sun safety. That’s why we’re bringing you this important message from our guest blogger, Jennifer Landis, editor at Mindfulness Mama, about the importance of year-round sun safety.

Getting Real with Jennifer Landis

You probably haven’t thought much about the sun lately. Spring is coming, but it is still so cold and snowy in many parts of the country. However, spring break is on the way for many, and you may have noticed sunscreen, tanning oil and beachwear on display in the stores.

It seems the only time you think about using sunscreen is when you go to the beach or know you are spending the day outdoors. But you have likely come home red-faced in March or burnt in October, surprised by the power of the sun’s rays. The truth is the sun damages your skin year round. It’s important that you practice sun safety for you and your family twelve months per year.

The Sun’s Always Shining

You probably laughed at your mother or grandparent who warned about getting sunburned on cloudy days. Ridiculous, right? If you were sunburned this way, you don’t need an explanation.

But almost 80 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays get through the clouds and can damage your skin. That’s why you always want to treat each day as if the sun is shining — because it is, even when you can’t see it.

Winter is no escape either. Snow reflects the sun’s rays which can multiply the amount of exposure. If you are on a ski trip, you are at a higher altitude and closer to the damaging ultraviolet rays. Cover up, wear sunglasses and use sunscreen on bare skin whenever you are engaged in winter activities like snowshoeing, sledding or ice fishing.

Set an Example for Your Children

Get in the habit of lathering your kids up with sunscreen before they run off to play. Make sure sunscreen is in your bag along with the diapers, snacks and water bottles. Children are often so eager to play that it’s easy to forget the important step of protecting them from the sun.

Yes, kids need vitamin D, which comes from the sun. But the amount they need is acquired long before they would get tanned or burned skin. Putting on sunscreen may prevent some absorption of vitamin D, but not enough to forgo the use of sunscreen.

Playgrounds, although havens for endless fun, can be dangerous places for sun exposure. Playgrounds are open areas with few trees and lots of playground equipment. Some structures are elevated and put your child even closer to the sun.

Another concern is that play structures can get quite hot from the sun’s rays. Dark metal absorbs and retains heat and can burn your child’s skin. Fiberglass and plastic aren’t as bad, but they can get hot too.

After putting sunscreen on your child, do a quick feel test on the slides, merry-go-rounds and play structures to make sure they won’t get burned. Teach your child to do the same.

Make sure to set a good example by taking the same precautions for yourself. Your children should see you using sunscreen and announce you are putting it on. That will silence future complaints.

Don’t forget the most vulnerable areas when applying sunscreen to yourself or your children. Ears, noses and cheeks always get burned. Avoid the eyes but get as much of the face as you can. Use sunscreen sticks when spraying is impractical. It’s a good idea to have several types of sunscreen at your disposal. Check and refresh often.

Take regular breaks to drink water, refresh sunscreen and have healthy snacks. Pack orange slices, grapes and granola bars for a quick energy boost. Children aren’t always aware of how dehydrated and tired they are.

Prevent Damage Before It Happens

Getting a nasty sunburn is an effective way to teach you to use sunscreen. But don’t wait until this happens to you or your children before you take precautions. There are many sunburn remedies such as aloe lotion or zinc oxide, but the damage is already done if you need to use these.

Get in the habit of putting on sunscreen whenever you will be exposed to the sun, no matter the time of year. Don’t wait for a sunburn to get the sunscreen out of the cupboard. Purchase whatever brand of sunscreen you prefer, just make sure the rating is a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Children’s brands can offer even greater protection, often 70 SPF or more.

Enjoy the outdoors but keep your skin covered when you are able to. Find a wide-brimmed hat you like and keep your head covered, especially if you are balding or if you work outdoors. The more you’re in the sun, the greater the risk we will get burned. The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 am and 2 pm, so be especially careful during these hours.

Older people have been exposed to the sun more often. Sunburns put you at a greater risk of developing skin cancer. Older people develop moles and other skin abnormalities as they age. These should be checked regularly by their primary care physician or dermatologist, especially if the moles change shape or color.

Protect Yourself
Sunburns aren’t just summer concerns. You need to protect your family from the sun’s harmful rays year-round. A burn in January isn’t any better for you than a burn in July. Keep covered and protected so that you can enjoy the outdoors year-round without worrying about damage from the sun. It’s a small price to pay to prevent skin cancer in the future. A little sunscreen goes a long way.

Jennifer Landis is a mother, wife, and the editor of Mindfulness Mama. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.

Raising Healthy Kids

3 Ways to Boost Self-Esteem in Our Kids

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Like adults, children need less judgment and more understanding. They need less control and more choices. They need encouragement to be their own unique individual selves and unconditional love. They need less “no” and more, “you can do that.”

Kids need love. They need people to cheer them on. They need people to believe in them. They don’t need people to tell them they would be better if they did things the way you think they should do them, thought the way you think they should think, or believe what you believe. And they need to know that it’s ok to risk and try and fail – and that no matter what they do, you’ll always be there for them and have their back.

If you want to raise kids with better self-esteem, do these 3 things:

1. Praise your kids. Tell them how amazing they are – not how pretty they are or how handsome they are but how smart they are, how kind they are. Pay attention so that you notice all of the amazing things they do, and tell them when you see them do them.

2. Encourage your children’s passions. From the moment your infant begins to learn about the world and express a personality, welcome and support their exploration. Foster their curiosity and give them new ways to explore.

3. Don’t do everything for them. Have patience as they learn to do for themselves. Put down your phone and teach them. Put down your phone and watch them. Put down your phone.

Helping our children grow up to be happy adults means allowing them control over their identity, their destiny, and their lives, even when it is not what we picture for them.

Let's Talk Raising Healthy Kids

My Toddler Doesn’t Need a Relationship, Thanks

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

It all seems so innocent, doesn’t it? The little kids in preschool, holding hands and insisting that someone is their “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” I’ll admit it, as someone who has worked in a lot of different preschools, I used to think it was cute. As caretakers, we would all laugh and smile, thrilled that at least some of the children were holding hands instead of punching each other.

Now, I have a child of my own, and I don’t think it’s cute. And I’m not saying little kids can’t hold hands, because that is cute. I have a problem with the label that is attached if Hallie happens to be holding hands with a boy.

Hallie isn’t even two, and other parents are suggesting that she is “in love” with some other toddler, who just happens to be a boy. There are several problems with this assumption.

  1. You’re assuming that my daughter, who is one, needs someone in her life. As if she is not a complete person all on her own, and that her entire goal should be to find a partner. There is zero need to sexualize and “ship” toddlers, especially girls. Are you telling that little boy to go get a girlfriend? No. And if you are? Ew. Get a life.
  2. You’re assuming that my daughter identifies as straight and female. I’ve already scared off one mom by insisting that Hallie could be as equally interested in the girls as the boys, and “you just never know.” This was out of earshot of children, and the mom did not find it funny.
  3. You’re assuming that my daughter gives two shits about gender and whether or not it’s important to “like” or “be liked.” You’re assuming that relationships are more important than building friendships and being kind to one another.

Seriously, we really need to stop emphasizing the importance of relationships to children who can’t wipe their own butts. Nothing is more important than building self-esteem and encouraging our children to be decent human beings. I honestly couldn’t care less if Hallie came home and decided that she was trans, or that she was poly-amorous, or that she wanted to be a freaking dinosaur. If she’s a good person, who she “likes” isn’t important.

And if someone doesn’t like her, they can go screw themselves, because Hallie is awesome. Your child doesn’t have to be liked by everyone, and your child won’t be liked by everyone. It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a reality that kids will learn early whether we say it or not. Do you like everyone you work with? Nope. Do you want to date everyone you work with? Probably not. So, please, don’t try to tell my daughter that she is “fighting” over a boy with another girl. You’re creating drama where there is none, and you’re setting these babies up to believe that they should be concerned about something that doesn’t matter. Watch the bachelor if you’re so desperate to form relationships and leave the toddlers alone.

Kid Safety Parenting Raising Healthy Kids

5 Things Parents Should Tell their Teens about Sexting

Sexting is a term that refers to texting sexual images and messages, and if you think your teen hasn’t been exposed to it, just check these stats:

  • 20% of all teens have sent or posted a nude or semi-nude photo of themselves
  • 39% of teens have sent or posted sexually suggestive messages
  • 48% of teens have received sexual messages and images
  • 11% of young teen girls, ages 13-16, have been involved in sexting
  • 44% of teens say its common for sexually suggestive text messages to be shared with people other than the intended recipient

I first heard of sexting when Kira came to me with a horror story about it when she was in her teens. Kira’s friend took a nude picture of herself to send to her boyfriend. When her friend sent the picture, however, she managed to send it to her entire contact list, including her grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. Oh, and mom and dad got a copy too. My daughter was mortified for her friend.

Luckily, Kira learned vicariously one of the pitfalls of sexting, but it opened the door to a conversation that allowed us to explore reasons why sexting is a bad idea – and help her come to her own conclusions that made it easier for her to say no to sexting. She admitted that it was fairly common for a boy to initiate a text conversation by asking for a picture or saying something sexual.

Sexting, like other sexual experimentation, probably starts as innocent curiosity, not much different than the “show me yours and I’ll show you mine” that many people experience as kids. But the show me yours/mine scenario is limited to the moment. One a digital image is made and hits cyberspace, it can get out of control.

If your tween or teen is old enough to use a cell phone and understand its functionality, he or she is old enough for a age-appropriate conversation about sexting. Here are five things every parent should explain to their teens about sexting:

  1. Accidents can and do happen in the process of sending the risque message or picture. It can accidentally be sent to someone unintended, causing a lot of embarrassment. But even if you do only send it to one person, you have no control over whom that person forwards it to. You can find other ways to express your interest and desire for someone other than sending a permanent digital record into cyber space.
  2. Sexting can be like any other peer pressure. A boy wants a sexy picture, and you’re afraid if you don’t send one, he won’t be interested. Or, a girl is desperate for a boy’s attention and initiates contact by sending a picture or suggestive message. The problem is, sexting, like any other sexual activity is something intimate. If you wouldn’t go to school naked, why would you send a picture that the whole school may end up seeing when the image is posted to Facebook by an unscrupulous “friend.” The boy or girl who really cares about you will not put you in the position of doing something that makes you uncomfortable, period.
  3. Sexting can be considered a form of sexual harassment, and with most schools adopting no-tolerance policies, it could land you in more trouble that it’s worth. Worse that that, a frightening number of laws have been passed to make possessing, sending, and taking pictures a form of child pornography. While this reactionary attitude is over the top and doesn’t address the real issue – appropriate boundaries and a healthy attitude about sex and sexuality – you could still land in a lot of hot water with the law if you send, receive, or take sexual messages and images – including being required to register as a sex offender.
  4. No matter how private you intend the message or image to be, it’s probably going to be forwarded, shared, or posted. Even the best intentions fall flat when a fight or break up happens. Going to school with the reputation as “that” girl or guy can be painful and difficult, not to mention humiliating.
  5. It’s ok to say NO. Not only can you say no to taking and sending pics of your own, but you can help protect others by not participating in forwards and posts that others send.

Here’s the thing. If you’re not already having comfortable, open conversations with your kids about sex and sexuality, having a chat about sexting isn’t going to be any easier. With all things sexual, the best way to have the talk with your teens is to be open, honest, and direct.


3 Ways to Raise Self-Sufficient Children

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Every generation complains about the younger ones about being entitled, spoiled, or incapable of taking care of themselves. It seems like there are more articles complaining about millennials than ones celebrating them. And now, Gen Z kids are graduating from college and entering the work force. What will the older generations say about them?

Kids of any generation can be self-sufficient but it requires parents who are willing to trust in and empower their children. These three tips can help raise kids that can take care of themselves.

Let Them Do What They Can

The lessons they learn early in life can really affect them later. Even when they are young, let them accomplish what they are capable of doing by themselves. For example, little ones can read themselves, brush their hair and, as they get a little bit older, bathe themselves. Encourage kids to take responsibility for themselves and have them learn new ways to take care of themselves. Let them help around the house and in the kitchen.

Encourage Responsibility

From homework to cleaning their own rooms to helping out around the house as part of the family, let your kids take on responsibilities. Even the youngest of children can help put toys away; older children can take full responsibility for chores around the home.  Teach your children to take responsibility for their actions by setting the example of being responsible for your own. This means doing the work you’re obligated to do, apologizing and acknowledging your own mistakes, and showing your kids how to be a responsible citizen in the community and world.

Encourage Financial Independence

Whether through an allowance or through a part-time job, teach your children financial responsibility and independence. Take them shopping with you so that they can see the value of money. Don’t buy them everything they want – make them earn it so that they make a connection between the time and energy it takes to make money and what that equates to in spending. Talk to them about economics – on a household level and at the level of city, state, and country.

Teaching your children to be responsible and self-reliant doesn’t mean abandoning them to their own devices. It requires a lot of dedication in your parenting efforts to raise responsible, empowered kids.

How do you teach your children to be self-sufficient?

Love Parenting Raising Healthy Kids

Teaching Children the Spirit of the Season

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

The holiday season revolves around kindness to others, and there’s no doubt that gift-giving is a component in that. There is joy in giving to others, as well as receiving, but if we don’t teach children early what the true spirit of the season is, the receiving takes center stage. Before we realize what’s happened, their rooms are overflowing with toys they don’t need and hardly play with, yet the demand for more persists. Here are some tips that will help highlight the generous spirit of the holiday season, while limiting the amount of unused material items in your home.

Focus on gratitude.

Although there is excitement in getting gifts, let your children experience the excitement of giving as well. Involve them in the shopping, and let them make decisions for what other people should receive. Create a thoughtful process and have discussions about how other families may have less than what they need. Also talk about how to be grateful for not only what they currently have, but anything they receive from others. Not all gifts are ideal, but it truly is the thought that counts.

Volunteer as a family.

A gift doesn’t always come wrapped. Sometimes the best gift is your own presence, and a family volunteer opportunity teaches that giving to those in need is more rewarding than any present under the tree. This time of year, organizations are always looking for volunteers to run kitchens, help with toy drives, or support community events.

Sort and donate unused items.

Start a donation box once the holiday season starts, and have your children decide what toys or clothes they don’t want or need anymore. Find a charity that will take gently used items and then give them to families who could use them. This supports the lesson that people do not need cluttered rooms filled to the brim with material things, and focuses on individual items they appreciate having.

Sponsor a child or family for the holidays.

Secret Santa comes in many forms, and there are organizations that make it possible for lower-income families to receive additional assistance during this time of year. There are opportunities to sponsor an individual or a family, where you receive basic information about the recipient and what they need and want. Giving anonymously is different than typical gift-giving, because you rarely see the recipient’s joy. The delight comes from selflessly giving to others, without anything expected in return.

These are important lessons for children to learn early, with the goal being that they will grow into grateful adults that carry these ideals on. The truth is, we really don’t need much more clutter in our homes, especially if we have kids. The spirit of the holiday season is about giving to others, particularly to those that struggle to fill their own homes with basic necessities. Your children don’t need every hot toy on the shelf, and you don’t need the mess. This lesson will make the holidays even more fun for the entire family, bringing happiness to those that need support.

Parenting Raising Healthy Kids

Don’t Just Expect Your Kids to Behave; Teach Your Kids How Others Should Behave Toward Them

As we raise our children, we teach them to say please and thank you, to be polite, and to show respect to the adults in their lives. We try to protect them from harm without wrapping them in bubble wrap and waiting until they turn 18 to let them out. There is nothing wrong with expecting and modeling good behavior to our children, but one of the ways in which we can protect our children is by also raising an assertive child by instilling in him the ability to say no – to anyone.

As most of us have watched in horror as stories unfold across the country, protecting our children is not nearly as easy as we think it is. The only way to really protect them is to get real with them. Be honest and straightforward with them. Don’t sugar coat and don’t insulate them from the real world. And model not only the behavior you want to see in them but the behavior you expect others to have with them. Teach your kids how others should behave toward them.

For example, I love my granddaughter. Love her so much I could just eat her up (please recognize that I would not actually eat my granddaughter, it’s just an expression – you never know these days what will get taken out of context). I could hold her and cuddle her and kiss her all over her face all day, every day for the rest of her life and never need a break from it. But as much as I’m tempted to do so, I don’t just grab her and smother her. I ask her if Nana can have a cuddle. I ask if Nana can have a hug. I ask if Nana can have a kiss. And if she says no – through her words (she just learned to say “no”), through shaking her head no (which she’s been able to do since she was less than a year old), or by physically demonstrating that she doesn’t want Nana loves, I respect that. I don’t make her feel guilty about saying no, and her parents do not tell her it is her obligation to give loves and hugs to nana and papa. She is in no way made to feel as if she has no control over her own body.

She is 18 months old, and no means no.

Yes, it starts that early. And it should never end. You should demonstrate the same respect as your kids get older. Yes, you have to be the example – but not just for the behaviors you want your kids to exhibit but for the adult behaviors you want them expect as normal and typical.

As parents, we must do two things: help our kids understand – in an age-appropriate way – the dangers that exist. Talk to your kids about their bodies and teach them that not all bad guys are strangers or scary looking. And we must establish and maintain appropriate boundaries with the influential people in your children’s lives – including yourself. Not only do you have to teach your kids how to behave but you must teach your kids how others should behave.

Parents for Megan’s Law has an excellent resource for helping parents set appropriate boundaries with the adults in kids’ lives, from coaches and teachers to relatives.

Raising Healthy Kids Toddlers

How To Make Brushing Teeth Fun for Your Kids

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

From the first moment of the sighting of the first tooth, you should be teaching your child how to brush their teeth. In the beginning, it’s just about building good habits, so rather than make it a chore, make it fun!

1. Brush with your child! Show your child that brushing is easy and fun. Stand together in front of a mirror and let your child mimic your brushing techniques. You can do this from the time your child is an infant and continue the practice as they are old enough to brush their own teeth.

2. Get your child a cool toothbrush. As your toddler takes an interest in brushing, let them go to the store and choose a toothbrush. At this age, the only real requirement is a soft head, so they can pick a colored toothbrush or one with their favorite character.

3. Sing a song or set a timer. To encourage your child to brush thoroughly, have them brush for the length of a favorite song, like “Twinkle Twinkle” or get a timer they can use.

4. Make a tooth brushing chart. Having trouble motivating your child to brush? Use a chart and give them a sticker for each day they brush twice a day. Reward them for every week they brush morning and night.

Check with your pediatrician about when to schedule the first visit to the dentist. Our pediatrician recommends a visit at age four unless their are issues.