Thursday, January 31, 2008

(Teen Obesity) Small Changes Prevent Obesity by Connect with Kids

“As long as we concentrate on exercise, eating right, cutting out the sugar, I think we’ll be okay.”

– Tina Scott-Morgan, mother

For kids and adults, losing weight seems like an endless and insurmountable task: flavorless diet foods, gym memberships, hours of sweating and pain. But a new pediatric study reports that it really doesn’t have to be that hard.

To improve her daughter’s health and weight, Tina stopped buying carbonated drinks.

“We don’t drink sodas in this house,” says Tina Scott-Morgan, mother.

“They have too much sugar in them,” says her daughter, Marissa, 9.

Too much sugar and empty calories. According to a study in the journal, Pediatrics, children who walked an extra mile a day and cut out 100 calories daily showed a significant drop in their BMI (Body Mass Index) – an indicator used to determine healthy weight. One hundred calories equals one can of soda.

“When we cut that out and replaced it with water and milk, I could tell that there’s a significant difference in Marissa’s weight,” says Morgan.

“The fact is that you’re adding extra calories into your system that your body technically doesn’t need,” says Beth Passehl, Fit Kids coordinator, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Experts say it’s all about small changes.

“Cut back gradually, cut back by 10 percent each day, cut back by one serving a day, and you may find that starts to make a difference. It’s small gradual steps that lead to life-long habits,” says Passehl.

Step-by-step, Marissa is working her way to a healthier life.

“As long as we concentrate on exercise, eating right, cutting out the sugar, I think we’ll be okay,” says her mom.

Tips for Parents

Eating breakfast is important for weight management. Research shows most people who have lost more than 60 pounds and kept it off for six years do eat breakfast. (Dr. Luke Beno, pediatrician)

Make a rule that no one in the family can eat while watching television. It’s hard for kids to realize how much they are eating when they’re absorbed in a television program. (Dr. Luke Beno, pediatrician)

Find ways to get the entire family more active. Have everyone in the family wear a pedometer, and compete to see who can take the most steps during the day. If the child wins, reward him/her with a fun activity. If the child loses, assign him/her an active chore. (Dr. Luke Beno, pediatrician)

Do not make your family give up foods they love. Instead, find healthier ways to prepare these foods. For example, frozen French fries can be baked instead of fried. Cheesecake or macaroni and cheese can be made with a low-fat cheese. Take a cooking class to get your family excited about healthy recipes. (Dr. Luke Beno, pediatrician)

Teach kids to use portion control when eating out. Since most portions at restaurants are double what they should be, encourage kids to take half home, or to share with another person. (Dr. Lonny Horowitz, bariatric specialist)

Calories are calories. It doesn’t matter where they come from. Keep portion size in mind, regardless of whether you’re eating a salad or junk food. (Dr. Lonny Horowitz, bariatric specialist)

According to The American Heart Association (AHA), healthy physical activity is defined as regular participation in activities that increase your heart rate above its resting level. However, physical activity doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial. An active child plays sports, participates in PE class, does household chores, spends time outdoors and regularly travels by foot or bicycle.

The AHA offers the following guidelines:

Encourage your kids to regularly walk, bike, play outside and interact with other children.

Allow no more than two hours per day for sedentary activities – TV, computers, video games.

Promote weekly participation in age-appropriate sports or sandlot games.

Ensure your child participates in a daily school PE class that includes at least 20 minutes of coordinated large-muscle exercise.

Make sure your child has access to school/community facilities that enable safe participation in physical activities.

Provide opportunities for physical activities that are fun, increase confidence and involve friends.
Organize regular family outings that involve walking, cycling, swimming or other recreational activities.

Be a positive role model for a physically active lifestyle.


Dr. Lonny Horowitz, bariatric specialist
The American Heart Association (AHA)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Parents Learn About Online Safety


Parents, get with the times.

That was Sarah Migas' opening message during a presentation about online safety Thursday night at Ottawa Township High School.

Social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook and Internet chat rooms and instant messaging are becoming increasingly popular means for children and teenagers to socialize. While they have their positives, digital technology also can be dangerous.

"Kids are seeing the Internet as the wild wild West," said Migas, an Internet safety specialist with the Illinois Attorney General's Office.

Migas and Daniel Spillman, assistant attorney general with the high tech crimes bureau, talked to a handful of audience members, introducing what they referred to as a "travel guide" for parents to navigate their way through some of these social networking sites and learn the languages being used by children to communicate.

Migas said acronyms often are used amongst bloggers and instant messengers and are not always familiar to parents, who should be monitoring their children's online activities.

"It's like going to another country; you've got to learn the places and the language so you can keep up with the kids because predators know where the kids are," Migas said.

She pointed to examples such as A/S/L, which means age, sex, location. Predators can easily find a person with just that bit of information. Also, she cautioned parents about the acronym POS, which means parents over shoulder.

Internet chat rooms, sites people can access to discuss various topics in real time, also present possible dangerous encounters with predators.

Oftentimes, children will stumble upon sites because they're curious about the titles, and find themselves looking at sexually explicit photos, or conversations, without meaning to.

"And if your child actually talks to you about it, they should be praised. Often they are scared to talk because they're scared their computer privileges will be revoked," Migas said.

Spillman stressed he and Migas aren't trying to give out parenting advice, but threatening to yank the child's computer time away often hampers the child's willingness to open up about their Internet activities.

Online predators often will use what is referred to as "grooming" techniques to establish a relationship with a child, often times offering compliments about the child's looks or sympathizing with their problems.

Predators also are taking advantage of Web cams, soliciting children to take off their clothes by blackmailing them with personal information the predator threatens to share with the child's school or parents.

"These guys know how to get a hook in them and reel them in," Spillman said.

According to statistics, one in seven children will be approached online for sexual content. In the majority of cases, the predators are men.

While law enforcement does have the power to criminally charge predators, and authorities constantly monitor possibly dangerous encounters, Migas and Spillman said that's not enough eyes to protect children.

"We rely on parents," Migas said.

Keep the computer in an open area. Ask children about their Internet activities and monitor their social networking sites. Parents also can check recent activities on the computer by accessing the Internet history account in the control panel of the computer.

Blogs also have grown in popularity.

"Basically a blog is an online journal," Migas said, warning, "If you wouldn't want your grandma to see the pictures or read the content, don't post it."

Digital technology also has spurred what is deemed, "cyberbullying."

Instead of bullies preying on their victims in the halls of school or at the park, the tormenting is taking place online -- where the threats and harassment can be seen by anyone around the world.

"It's easy because they feel anonymous, and they don't see the reactions of the victims," Migas said.

Children can no longer take refuge in their homes from bullies.

"It can happen anywhere, anytime," Migas said.

According to statistics provided, more than 40 percent of children are bullied online at some point.

When a child feels threatened or harassed online, Migas and Spillman said the incident should be reported to parents and-or police. Also, any evidence should be printed and saved, and children should not retort in any way, as it can worsen the situation.

While many of the social networking sites do have safety measures, predators often find a way around them. Law enforcement also continues to monitor the Internet, but Internet dangers will be an ongoing issue in which authorities need the help of parents to fight.

"Unfortunately, I don't think this bureau will go under," Migas said of the attorney general's high tech crimes bureau.

Internet acronyms parents should know:

AITR: Adult In The Room

P911: Parent Emergency

PAW: Parents Are Watching

PIR: Parent In Room

POS: Parent Over Shoulder

MOS: Mom Over Shoulder

MIRL: Meet In Real Life

S2R: Send To Receive (pictures)

CD9: Code 9 (parents are around)

E or X: Ecstasy (the drug)

ASL(R P): Age Sex Location (Race / Picture)

TDTM: Talk Dirty To Me

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Risk Factors for Early Sex by Connect with Kids

“We’re concerned about their behavior, we certainly don’t want [young teens] to be sexually active … and yet they’re exploited daily by the things they see.”

– Gail Elizabeth Wyatt, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, UCLA professor

Most parents know that there are a number of factors that weigh into whether their child will have sex at a young age. But few parents may realize just how powerful those factors are. A new study sheds some light…

One reason young teens have sex is low self-esteem.

“They were using me. They were using me because I was easy. I was easy to get in bed,” says Katlyn, 16.

Another reason is the influence of the media.

“I think for some people they’ll just see it and they’ll just do it because it’s on TV and you know, it’s casual,” says Christina, 17.

Another factor is how close children are to their parents. According to a study from the University of Wisconsin, the more risk factors a child has, the more likely that child will have sex before age 15. These risk factors include watching excessive amounts of TV, having low self-esteem and feeling alienated from their parents. In fact, the study reports that just one of these risk factors – by itself -- increases the chances that a child will have early sex by almost 50 percent.

“We’re concerned about their behavior, we certainly don’t want [young teens] to be sexually active … and yet they’re exploited daily by the things they see, by the music they hear, by the clothes that they’re reinforced to wear. And they are very poorly guided by parents, by our society, their religions, and generally by everyone that they meet except each other,” says Gail Elizabeth Wyatt, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, UCLA professor.

Experts say the irony is that the greatest influence on a child’s decision to have sex is the opinion of his or her parents -- but that only works if the parents have expressed their views.

“Parents have 100 percent of the power, because most kids won’t admit that they listen to their parents, but what you say to them in an exchange of information is really what they need,” says Alduan Tartt, Ph.D., psychologist.

“I think other parents should quit being scared and just to talk to their kids about sex. Stop trying to sugarcoat everything, trying to make everything look pretty, just talk to your kid. Because if you don’t talk to them they are going to get lost,” says Tremain, 17.

Tips for Parents

Talking to your child about sex and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may not be something you look forward to, but it could be the most important step in protecting your child from risky sexual behavior. Studies show that teenagers who feel highly connected to their parents are far more likely to delay sexual activity than their peers. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC)

Start early – Research shows that younger children seek their parents’ advice more than adolescents, who tend to depend more on their friends and the media. Take advantage of the opportunity to talk with your young children about sexual health. (CDC)

Initiate conversations with your child – Don't wait for your children to ask you about sex, HIV or STDs. Although you may hope that your children will come to you with their questions and concerns, it may not happen. Use everyday opportunities to talk about issues related to sexual health. For example, news stories, music, television shows or movies are great conversation starters for bringing up health topics. (CDC)

Talk WITH your child, not AT your child – Make sure you listen to your children the way you want your children to listen to you. Try to ask questions that will encourage them to share specific information about feelings, decisions and actions. (CDC)

Communicate your values – In addition to talking to your children about the biological facts of sex, it's important that they also learn that sexual relationships involve emotions, caring and responsibility. (CDC)


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sue Scheff: Positive Peer Pressure by Connect with Kids

“Peer pressure is not always bad. It can be very good. It can be encouraging. Sometimes a person may not want to choose hi-risk behaviors and may not want to do the wrong thing because they know their friends aren’t into that.”

– Dr. Marilyn Billingsly, pediatrician

It’s conventional wisdom that peer pressure is a powerful force in the lives of kids, especially teenagers. A new University study reminds us that while peer pressure can push kids into risky behavior, it can also help kids do the right thing.

Alex Shillinger is in court facing drug charges. He says he was “worn down” by peer pressure to try marijuana.

“There were constantly people telling me, ‘Come on, just try it, just one time, it’ll be fine,’” says Alex, 18.

On the other hand, because of peer pressure, Ambra says she’s never done drugs or alcohol or had sex.

“Being around people like that, just like myself, it keeps me motivated,” says Ambra, 17.

Peers can be powerful influences, for both good and bad behavior. A new study from the University of Southern California found that kids were less likely to use drugs if they were in a substance abuse program taught by other kids.

“Peer pressure is not always bad. It can be very good. It can be encouraging. Sometimes a person may not want to choose high risk behaviors and may not want to do the wrong thing because they know their friends aren’t into that,” says Dr. Marilyn Billingsly, pediatrician.

Of course, it depends on the friends -- and parents have little control over that.

“I think it makes it even more important for parents to know their kids’ friends and the parents of their kids' friends and monitor what’s going on with the group of friends,” Dr. Carol Drummond, Ph.D., psychologist.

If you suspect that one of your child’s friends is using drugs, experts say to make your views on drugs loud and clear and tell your child you’re worried.

“Sometimes your kid will come back and say, ‘Listen, Mom, I know he’s drinking, doing drugs; I am not doing that.’ But at least you’ve gotten a chance to plant that message that you’ve got worries. You’ve got to watch your own child. And if you feel like you have some concern that your child is making bad decisions, then you need to act aggressively,” says Dr. Judy Wolman, Ph.D., psychologist,

Tips for Parents

Peer pressure is not always a bad thing. For example, positive peer pressure can be used to pressure bullies into acting better toward other kids. If enough kids get together, peers can pressure each other into doing what's right. (Nemours Foundation)

Some good behaviors that friends can pressure each other to do include: be honest, be nice, exercise, avoid alcohol, respect others, avoid drugs, work hard, don’t smoke. (National Institutes of Health, NIH)

You and your friends can pressure each other into some things that will improve your health and social life and make you feel good about your decisions. (NIH)


National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Sue Scheff: Coping With Your 18 Year Old (Parent's Universal Resource Experts)

“My 18 year old is out of control and I am at my wits end! What can I do?” – Anonymous Parent.

18 – 19 year old teens can be the most difficult to address simply because they are considered adults and cannot be forced to get help. As parents, we have limited to no control. Practicing “Tough Love” is easier said than done, many parents cannot let their child reach rock bottom – as parent’s, we see our child suffering – whether it is needing groceries or a roof over their head and it is hard to shut the door on them.

I think this is one of the most important reasons that if you are a parent of a 16-17 year old that is out of control, struggling, defiant, using drugs and alcohol, or other negative behavior – I believe it is time to look for intervention NOW. I am not saying it needs to be a residential treatment center or a program out of the home, but at least start with local resources such as therapists that specialize with adolescents and preferable offer support groups.

It is unfortunate that in most cases the local therapy is very limited how it can help your teen. The one hour once a week or even twice, is usually not enough to make permanent changes. Furthermore getting your defiant teen to attend sessions can sometimes cause more friction and frustrations than is already happening.

This is the time to consider outside help such as a Therapeutic Boarding School or Residential Treatment Center. However these parents with the 18-19 year olds have usually missed their opportunity. They were hoping and praying that at 16 – 17 things would change, but unfortunately, if not address, the negative behavior usually escalates.

In the past 7+ years I have heard from thousands of parents – and most are hoping to get their child through High School and will be satisfied with a GED. It is truly a sad society of today’s teens when many believe they can simply drop out of school. Starting as early as 14 years old, many teens are thinking this way and we need to be sure they know the consequences of not getting an education. Education in today’s world should be our children’s priority however with today’s peer pressure and entitlement issues, it seems to have drifted from education to defiance – being happy just having fun and not being responsible.

I think there are many parents that debate whether they should take that desperate measure of sending a child to a program and having them escorted there – but in the long run – you need to look at these parents that have 18-19 year olds that don’t have that opportunity. While you have this option, and it is a major decision that needs to be handled with the utmost reality of what will happen if things don’t change. The closer they are to 18 – the more serious issues can become legally. If a 17+ year old gets in trouble with the law, in many states they will be tried as an adult. This can be scary since most of these kids are good kids making very bad choices and don’t deserve to get caught up the system. As a parent I believe it is our responsible not to be selfish and be open to sending the outside of the home. It is important not to view this as a failure as a parent, but as a responsible parent that is willing to sacrifice your personal feelings to get your child the help they need.

At 18, it is unfortunate, these kids are considered adults - and as parents we basically lose control to get them the help they need. In most cases, which may be with your niece - if they know they have no other alternatives and this is the only option the parents will support, they will attend.