Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving and gratitude

Thanksgiving is usually a time when families will reflect on the blessings that they have in their life. Research is reporting that we could all live a healthier lifestyle if we would practice being grateful everyday. University of California Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons’ research indicates that, “Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet and regular physical examinations.”

Practicing gratitude leaves people feeling joyful, strong and with more energy. If we can make a conscious effort to find something positive in every situation you can decrease your stress and face the obstacles in life with optimism. Living in the moment and being grateful for what you are experiencing now will give you a better quality of life. To encourage this positive thinking, write in your journal 5 to 10 things you are grateful for. Try and acknowledge new experiences each day that brought you joy or peace. Make a conscientious effort to be polite to everyone you encounter. Even a simple “thank you” can make someone’s day brighter. If you live away from family and friends that you miss, have pictures displayed to remind you of who matters in your life. Then call that special someone to let them know you are thinking of them.

Some individuals will limit themselves by experiencing life with a sense of entitlement and being preoccupied with materialism. Self-reflection of your life journey can stimulate awareness of how truly blessed you are and leave you with insight on how to appreciate those around you. So in a time when there are so many people out of work and struggling to pay their bills discover the blessings in your life. “If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” Rabbi Harold Kershner

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Holiday planning tips for special needs children

The holidays are quickly approaching and that will increase demands on our already busy schedules by adding shopping, cooking and decorating to the list of things to do. The holidays can be an especially stressful time for families that have special needs children. Preparing a child with special needs for the change in routine during the holidays can keep everyone celebrating.

First make a list of the upcoming activities for your family and determine if your child will be able to tolerate the venture or if it would upset their schedule too much. It may benefit everyone if you only attempt to attend the functions that would cause minimal interruptions to the routine. Review the schedule for each day with your child to relieve any anxiety and anticipation they may feel. Then role play any new social situations to help the child prepare for the event. You could also practice the social skills needed like taking turns or saying “thank you”.

If your family plans to travel or have guests at the home create a mini photo album of the people that will attend the activity. You can review the photos frequently helping the child become familiar with their names and faces. Also discuss with your friends and family members how to support your child in new situations. Try to keep routines for bedtime, naps, meal times the same when possible. When away from home bring along the favorite blankets, pillow, stuffed animals, and night lights that make your child feel safe and comfortable. With a lot of planning and preparation the holidays can be a memorable experience for all of you to enjoy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Vitamin D and your health

Winter is quickly approaching and for most of us it is dark when we leave our homes in the morning and dusk when we return. That leaves little time for us to be outdoors in the sunshine to obtain a natural supply of vitamin D. According to a new study released over 6 million or 1 in 5 American children may not be getting enough Vitamin D. This nutrient helps the body maintain a healthy calcium level, enhance immunity and prevent osteoporosis.

The November issue of Pediatrics published the study examining the blood levels of 5,000 children ages 1 to 11 years that represented the country’s population. They found that 20 percent tested below optimal levels. Humans obtain vitamin D primarily through sunshine, but low levels of light from November to March and the increased use of sunscreen have experts concerned. The study recommends that children are given a multi-vitamin that should include 400 IU of vitamin D as a supplement during the winter months.

Increasing your sun exposure for even 10 to 15 minutes a day can improve vitamin D deficiency. You can also adjust your diet to include more vitamin D foods such as beef, sardines, herring and salmon. There are also enriched vitamin D foods such as milk, bread and breakfast cereals. These recommendations apply to both children and adults so we can all have healthy bones and bodies.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Blending families

Research has found that it takes at least four years for a stepfamily to blend and longer if the children are older. There is no magic time table for success but children will adjust better to a blended family if there are positive attitudes about the adjustments everyone is experiencing. Families won’t bond immediately and you will have to determine ways to merge different routines, rules and personalities.

It is normal for children to be unsure about their relationship with a new step-parent. When building relationships try to start with just eating as a family, watch a program together, walk the family pet or attend an activity together. Try to take it slow and learn the interest and personalities of the children. Blending families can also be an introduction of new cultures, religions, and hobbies. Communicating those differences can also help the family bond as they learn more about each other.

We can’t assume that over time, children will naturally adjust to their new roles and relationships that arise when families are blended. A new parent figure can increase stress in young people because their relationships tend to be more conflict ridden. Problems also arise when teens feel they have to compete for parental attention. Social Science research reports that boys living with half or step-siblings have the most difficulty adjusting to the blended family. Teenagers in families with different biological parents have been reported to have lower grades and more behavior problems than other adolescents. These problems may not improve over time. If the discord in your blended family escalates then seek insight from a certified Marriage and Family Therapist on ways to resolve the conflict and help the children realize that a blended family can also give them more people in their lives that care about them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Warning signs of an abusive relationship

Emotional abuse, verbal abuse and domestic violence are on the rise in relationships, especially among young people. During the early stages of a relationship, your partner is not likely to display abusive behaviors, but it is sometimes possible to predict if a person could become abusive by being observant of different personality traits. Not all individuals will display the same signs but the more signs that you observe the greater chance violence will occur. As the abuser becomes more confident in the relationship you will see an increase to dominate or control and manipulate the victim. Both male and female genders are known to be in the role of perpetrator and victim.

One warning sign would be jealousy in a relationship. Jealousy is not a sign of love but a sign of insecurity and possessiveness with the perpetrator. The partner may try to control behaviors by not allowing the significant other to see their friends, wear certain clothes, talk negatively about the opposite gender or make belittling comments. The perpetrator will also try to make their partner rush into a commitment, while making statements of “being in love at first sight”. This is usually because it is difficult for them to maintain a normal dating relationship for any length of time. If the partner is cautious to commit, the abuser has been known to start blaming the victim for problems that start to evolve in the relationship. The abuser will begin to criticize their partner on appearance or daily tasks that are done and pressure their partner to be perfect. When the partner can’t meet the expectations, the abuser can escalate to violence.

If your partner is displaying these behaviors it is important to stop rationalizing the behaviors as normal. Discuss them with your partner and watch their reaction. If the partner chooses not to take any responsibility for the concerns then you should be wary of continuing the relationship. Set firm boundaries with the individual and monitor their responses. If the partner continues to violate your personal space or attempt to intimidate you it is time to start looking for a new potential partner.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Fathers are a positive influence in their children's education

Currently only 25% of the children in our country are living with both of their biological parents. That means that the majority of children today are living in single parent households or with a blended family. This has created a multiple of tensions to the family system and a strain to relationships. The educational system reports it has been difficult to involve divorced parents in their child’s education.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is asking for fathers to become more involved in their children’s education. Duncan stated that the school system has done a poor job of including fathers in the education process. Fathers play an important role in a child’s education. His actions can help motivate a child’s success or discourage them from educational achievement. “When fathers step up, students don’t drop out. When fathers step up, young folks have greater dreams for themselves,” Duncan said. U.S. Department of Education founded a program eleven years ago Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students). They discovered that men in schools translated to higher student achievement and fewer disciplinary problems.

National Center for Education Statistics report children in two parent homes where the father is highly involved get better grades, enjoy school more, and are less likely to repeat a grade. Fathers are more likely to promote a child’s intellectual and social development through physical play. A mother’s impact is more likely to transpire while talking and teaching as a caregiver.

Whether the father lives at home or has visitation with his children he can still make an impact as a parent. Fathers can get involved in their children’s school and attend parent-teacher conferences. They can turn off the television and read together or have a family game night instead. Fathers can also call their children daily or coach a sport to stay emotionally connected and involved with daily events. Parents and educators working together for the well-being of the children in their care will create confident leaders of the future.