Finding a Caregiver or Daycare for Your Child

Finding a caregiver or a daycare for your child can be a stressful, guilt-ridden experience. Take this advice from a twenty-five-year veteran parent. But it doesn’t have to be if you do some research, preparation, and some mindfulness training. Yes. Finding the right caregiver or daycare isn’t merely about finding the right place for your child. It’s about putting yourself in a good mindset when it comes to leaving your child in the care of someone else.

Let’s be honest. No one will love your kids as much as you do. No one will do a perfect job watching them and caring for them either, including you. So when the times comes when you must find a caregiver or daycare for your child, you should keep that in mind. No caregiver, even a licensed one will replace you and no daycare will ever be just like home. Sometimes, if you do your homework right, it can be a stimulating, safe, positive complement to your parenting.

And it might just be a healthy parenting break for you too!

How to choose the right childcare or daycare solution


Analyze yours and family’s schedule

Map out your work and family schedule on a master family calendar, one located where everyone in the family can see it. Figure out blocks of time when you will need coverage for your child or when you feel a real break might be most productive or beneficial for you. Knowing your schedule in advanced makes the childcare search more productive. You can immediately weed out caregivers or centers that don’t provide daycare when you need it. It also makes it easier to assess whether an individual caregiver flexible hours or an established daycare center with structured hours works better for your family.

How old is your child?

This is a real consideration. Not all caregivers or daycare centers take children younger than three months. Others are capable of caring for newborns as young as six weeks but stop when your child enters nursery or preschool ages.

Consider your child’s temperament

Is your child easygoing, flexible with change; or does he need predictable structure every minute of the day? Is your child shy and timid, upset easily with noise and chaos? Does your child have an outgoing, fiery personality? How does your child behave in new settings around new people? This should be a real consideration when interviewing childcare providers or daycare centers. You should ask the provider during the interview about their approaches with children who are afraid or how they handle the exuberant, explosive temperament.

Make a list of wants and needs

Make a list of needs and wants. Do you want lunch to be included in the cost or do you want the provider to serve your food. Does your child have allergies that require special food handling? Do you want the provider to feed breastmilk that you provide? Do you need early and late care? These are just some of the wants and needs you should list on your priority list. There should be others too. Consider setting, cleanliness, licensing, years of experience, location, religious orientation as some of your parameters.

Does your child have disabilities or special needs? If so, you will want to find a caregiver or daycare provider who has the expertise to work with your child.

Another consideration might be educational. Some early childhood centers feed directly into early elementary and then elementary. For example, Montessori programs frequently offer early childhood programs that begin at ages as young as three years. Other larger daycare centers incorporate kindergarten and take children between the ages of six weeks and six years.

A most important consideration is licensing. Not all childcare providers are licensed. More often than not, family home daycare providers do operate without state licensing. If having a licensed provider is important, check with the Office of Licensing through your state. Your state’s Department of Human Services may maintain a database of licensed providers.

Consider your budget

This is a major deciding factor for many parents. Many parents must choose a childcare or daycare provider based on economics rather than quality. As a result, many parents are forced into a situation where they worry about the welfare of their children.

According to Childcare Aware of America in a 2014 report, child care in the United States remains unaffordable for many parents. The average cost of child care in the United States can be as much as $14,508 annually for an infant, or $12,280 annually for a four-year-old in a center, and does not always guarantee a quality environment. After you figure out your expenses and the amount you can allocate to daycare, add that to your priority list.

If your income places you in the low- and moderate-income range, you may be eligible for state-subsidized child care “including preschool instruction, after-school programs for children up to age 13, and care for children and teens with special needs.” Check with your state’s Department of Human Services website for information on subsidies or childcare services.

Find childcare or daycare providers that meet our criteria

In many states, the Department of Health and Human Services maintains a database of licensed home daycare providers and daycare centers. The database frequently includes any licensing infractions or issues with the provider. There are also a number of online services that advertise services of childcare providers and pre-screen the providers with background checks. Sites such as and maintain search engines with licensed providers or independent sitters that have passed background checks. Also the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) provides a search engine of accredited childcare programs as well as information on choosing an early childhood program, ways to find the best care for your child or infant, and tips to ease the transition from home day care with an individual caregiver to a daycare center.

Visit childcare or daycare facilities

Once you locate a few childcare or day care providers that fit your wish list, set up a time to visit and interview teachers and directors. The following are some questions to ask in your interview.

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you have a current state license?
  • Do you have other accreditations?
  • How many children do you enroll at one time?
  • Do you have space for my child?
  • If not, can we get on a waiting list, and how long is it?
  • What are your hours?
  • What is your sick-child policy?
  • What’s your holiday schedule? On what other days are you closed?
  • How flexible are you with pickup and drop-off times?
  • What are your fees?
  • Do you offer scholarships or sibling discounts?
  • Is there a late-pickup fee?
  • How and when would you bill us?
  • Do you supply diapers, or is that up to the parent?
  • What other supplies would I need to bring for my child?
  • Do you encourage visits from parents?
  • What do you expect from me as a parent?
  • How do you communicate with parents? Will you give me a daily report or is there another process for informing parents of what children did during the day (naps, bottles, BMs, etc.)?
  • Can I bring my child in for a pre-enrollment visit?

And, do you have any references? A most important tip is to observe the children. Do children seem happy, relaxed, interactive?

Call references

Do call other parents who currently use or who have used the childcare provider. While visiting the provider, ask any parents you see questions, if they’re amendable.

Consider doing a trial run

A two- or three-day trial run can give you and the provider essential information. It can tell you if the relationship with your child and the childcare provider is a match, if the provider is who they say, and if your child is happy.

Monitor your child’s behavior

Preparation is the best prevention when leaving your child with a caregiver or daycare center. Know that separation anxiety is the norm, and if your child feels clingy before you leave is to be expected. The following video makes suggestions to parents about the separation process.







Common Core Standards and Gender Differences

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In the November 23, 2014 OpEd published in the Miami Herald, Donna Shalala, president of University of Miami, praised the Common Core Curriculum. In her opinion, the standards would raise education levels for students nationally and would make students better equipped for college and the global economy. She also expressed optimism that the common core standards would narrow the gender gap in education, one where girls had fallen behind boys specifically in STEM-based subjects. What she certainly couldn’t have predicted was how the Common Core would adversely affect boys.

According to Richard Whitemire, author of Why Boys Fail,  “many boys, who acquire literacy skills later than girls, are being asked to read and write far earlier than they are ready to and are falling behind in academic achievement.” And common core standards are exacerbating the problem for boys.

Girls biologically become more verbal than boys at earlier ages, statistically tend to speak before boys, tend to read and write before boys. And the brains of girls biologically tend to mature earlier than in boys. According to Dr. Frances Jensen, Boston Childrens Hospital, the pruning process of myelination of brain cells happens in girls in the middle to end of the teenage years while boys brains don’t complete the pruning until well into their twenties.

Dr. Jensen suggests because of the dramatic difference in brain maturation between boys and girls, it might make sense to hold off teaching certain subjects to boys until their brains reach maturity.



What are the Common Core Standards?

Common Core is a set of educational standards created in conjunction with the National Governor’s Association (NGA) , the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), educators, and educational administrators. The notion behind the standards is that creating uniformity across all states in terms of what children are expected to learn, the overall educational level for all children will improve. The standards are based on a global set of common core standards proposed through the United Nations and supported by Bill Gates and President Obama. The thought is that a truly global economy is based upon individuals who are educated in accordance to a set of standardized goals that all people from all countries recognize.

Achievement of goals set up by common core standards are measured by an annual assessment test and states who participate and qualify for federal funding are expected to produce a baseline of academic results.

Currently, the standards set up goals for math, English Language Arts, and Science. While Common Core doesn’t include a set curriculum, and districts and teachers are able to utilize whatever curriculum accomplishes the goals, the reality is that teachers must teach toward testing. Students must be able to demonstrate a level of concept mastery to be in compliance of with common core standards and some states are now evaluating teacher performance based on test results.


So far, “forty-four of the fifty U.S. states and the District of Columbia are members of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. As of 2014, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Nebraska and Indiana have not adopted the initiative at a state level. Minnesota has adopted the English Language Arts standards but not the Mathematics standards.

Some states, including Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and South Carolina that initially adopted Common Core, have since voted to repeal or replace it. While state governors were included in discussions, the Common Core Standards are not state driven. States are given a financial incentive through the federal government to participate. For example, states can compete for the federal Race to the Top grants, proposed in 2009 by President Barack Obama and the U.S. Secretary of Education but in order to be eligible for applying for these competitive grants, states must adopt these “internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the work place.

Funding for the Common Core Standards comes from Bill Gates, Pearson Publishing Company, a nationally known educational testing corporation, Charles Mott Foundation, to name a few.

What are some of the standards outlined in Common Core?

Process and approach are emphasized more in Common Core more than outcome. A popular problem is that 2 + 2 = 5 and that any answer can be achieved through process, that the student isn’t limited as long as the process can prove the outcome.

The overall goal of the English Language Arts and Literacy in all subjects is to insure that college-bound students are ready for the rigors of college and can compete for careers with peers globally. In any of five key areas that requires literacy, the goal remains to make sure student are able to navigate a literacy-rich technologically driven economy. Those five key areas cover standards for English and Language Arts: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Language, and Media and Technology.

In math, the goal of the standards are to teach students eight principles of mathematical practice.

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  4. Model with mathematics.
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
  6. Attend to precision.
  7. Look for and make use of structure.
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

How are students assessed for skill mastery?

The assessment approach focuses on computer-based “through-course assessments” in each grade together. While there isn’t one assessment test given to students nationally, there are assessment tests offers through PARCC (refers to “Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers”) and RttT (refers to the Race to the Top.) PARCC is a consortium of states that adopt an interstate assessment test provided by the organization which is in alignment with the Common Core Standards.

The second consortium, called the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, comprises nearly 31 states focused on creating “adaptive online exams”.


Criticism is widespread. Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, wrote in her book Reign of Error that the “Common Core standards have never been field-tested and that no one knows whether they will improve education.” Mark Naison, Fordham University Professor, and co-founder of the Badass Teachers Association, objected on the basis that “Common Core is this huge profit-making enterprise that costs school districts a tremendous amount of money, and pushes out the things kids love about school, like art and music”. In New York, parents complain that the new assessment tests are too difficult and cause too much stress for kids. Some in education argue that the standards were developed without teacher input and were spear-headed by those developing testing.

Other opponents argue that Common Core takes away states’ rights and delegates education and curriculum to a federal government that mines data and has philosophical motives that don’t represent “the people.” Others argue that teachers are unable to teach and do their jobs because they’re too busy worrying about their jobs and meeting common core assessment standards.

My concern, as a teacher has more to do with boys.

The author, Richard Whitmire, says the solution will take a “politically incorrect” decision by Education Secretary Arne Duncan that will require the federal government to admit the problem for the first time.

It has long been known that girls develop literacy skills earlier than boys and today’s common core pushes boys as young as kindergarten to master literacy skills long before their brains are ready. The consequence is that schools no longer give boys a chance to catch up.

Before common core, boys were able to catch up to girls by fourth or fifth grade. Now they can’t and the consequence is a glut of 9th-grade boys who have lost interest in school, who fail 9th grade, are forced to repeat.

Whitemire further argues that literacy isn’t just restricted to ELA coursework. It extends into almost all subjects including math.

The result can be seen in statistics cited by Whitemire:

–Among recent college graduates, women accounted for 62 percent of the two-year associates degrees and 57 percent of the bachelors degrees.
–Recent scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress–a test often calld the “nation’s report card” because it is the only standardized test given to students in districts across the country–show a gender gap. Among high school seniors, nearly 23 percent of the white sons of college-educated parents scored “below basic” in reading skills, compared to 7 percent of their daughters.
–According to a 2006 survey of 11,500 high school students in 26 states, 55 percent of girls reported earning grades of A or B, compared to 41 percent of boys.

Without awareness, support, and effective instruction, boys never catch up, feel like repeat failures, and too often drop out of school.

Whitemire also says that the gender divide in education isn’t restricted to the United States. “Many other countries have the same problems.

What can parents do?

Parents should monitor their childrens’ progress especially boys. Note comments from teachers and don’t just assume that boys will catch up with age.

Make reading a family activity. Show boys that reading is an acceptable and popular activity, one not just reserved for girls. Keep reading material that boys might prefer. For example, subjects that intrigue boys-mystery, sports, detective, and yes Captain Underpants–will engage a boy’s imagination more than the classic

Why Keep Your Child Out of Special Education?

If your child is struggling in school and isn’t reaching key developmental milestones, you may be wondering if your child needs special education classes. As a parent, you want to do anything within your power to help. You want your child to progress in school, to feel successful.

It seems obvious that high academic achievement is linked to good self-esteem and to financial success. But you also want your child to develop a love of learning. You want your child to actually see the connection between academic and  personal success.

That’s why, when you see your child is struggling in school, your initial reaction might be to request testing through the school district, to get your child evaluated for special education. After all, special education is a free resource for children in pubic school whose families pay school taxes. Why not take advantage of any available resources?

Special Education Offers Equity

For children with legitimate disabilities, special education is an important resource: one that can offer educational equity. The special education system was designed to help kids who couldn’t acquire academic achievement on their own without help. Services such as speech pathology, occupational therapy, literacy and reading, and many others are available to students who qualify for special education. These services help children bridge the educational equity gap, feel good about themselves, and get excited about learning.

But it makes no sense to conclude that special education is the only solution to your child’s academic problems. Special education services may not be the right reaction to the string of failures a child has suffered, or a teacher’s discouraging comments on your child’s report card. Parents should instead ask, “Does my child really need special education?” and “Is special education the best option for my child?”

According to Dr. Ann Greenberg, a clinical psychologist and author of the parent handbook, “Keep Your Child Out of Special Education,” some children would be better served with services provided outside the realm of special education. Written for parents, this book discusses children who fall somewhere between the mainstream student population and those students, who without special education, wouldn’t make it through school.

Special Education History

For many kids, special education can mean the difference between equity in education and being barred from learning and academic achievement. According to the National Education Association, education should be accessible and fair to all children, no matter their abilities or station. In 1954, the landmark legal battle, Brown v. Board of Education, aimed to equalize an educational system riddled with segregation and inequity in the way schools received government funding.This legal win also improved accessibility to students with disabilities.

In 1975, President Ford signed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Included in this act are the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), school-based accommodations as outlined in Section 504, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These laws makes it easier for students with disabilities to access services.

Students who meet specific criteria set up by the U.S. Department of Education whose disabilities prevent learning and get in the way of access to educational services, can receive a wide range of special services through their designated school districts without paying additional out-of-pocket expenses. Even students with less obvious disabilities like ADHD and dysgraphia can get special education services if an evaluation shows proof that the disability keeps a child from learning.

But free access to special education doesn’t mean that a parent should use these services at the first sign of a problem, or at all.  And there are consequences, some of them negative, to having a special education classification.

What are the criteria for special education?

In order for a child to be declared eligible for special education and related services it must be determined that the child is a “child with a disability” and is in need of special education and related services. How does the law decide what it means to have a disability?

According to the Department of Education, “A child with a disability” is:

      • A child who has been evaluated according to the IDEA evaluation process, and who may have intellectual disabilities; a hearing impairment including deafness; a speech or language impairment; a visual impairment including blindness; serious emotional issues (referred to in IDEA as “emotional disturbance”); an orthopedic impairment; autism; traumatic brain injury; another health impairment; a specific learning disability; deaf-blindness; or multiple disabilities; and
      • Who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.

At the discretion of the state, the local school district, and the school, a “child with a disability,” between the ages of three and nine or a child experiencing developmental delays that have been confirmed through a district evaluation can be classified as learning-disabled and may be provided with special education services.


If special education is available, why not use it?

Classifying your child as “special needs” has consequences. Yes, there are kids who without special education might never make it through the educational system. But imagine this scenario as mapped out by Dr. Greenberg: Your boss tells you each day that you were hired for your job because you are special needs. Every day of your life, you have a label that indicates you are a notch below your co-workers. Your co-workers treat you differently. Less is expected of you. Your work-related responsibilities are modified because of your label.

After awhile, the label of being special needs—of being part of the special education system—becomes a yoke you have to shoulder. The label turns into an obstacle, one that you can’t seem to overcome. And having that label does indeed affect self-esteem. Being labeled “special needs” may actually undermine your child’s efforts to get educated and get ahead.

Think of it this way: if someone tells you you’re not as capable as other people because you have a disability, why try at all? The label “special needs” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as the child feels incapable of learning success.

That’s why “special needs” is a label you want to avoid placing on your child if you can.

Does that mean you shouldn’t ask for accommodations? No! There are accommodations that school administrators can offer instead. Receiving effective accommodations can protect your child from ending up with a “special needs” label.

If your child seems to have a problem in school, what should you do?

According to Dr. Greenberg, you should take a deep breath before you demand special education services. Do your due diligence first. See if you can get to the root of the problem and find solutions that help your child outside of the special education system. Become invested in your child’s welfare because it’s your child’s future, and not because a child’s academic failure would be a stain on your ego. Look for community resources. Extend yourself as much as you can toward getting your child the help she needs. Let your child know that you are there to support her.


  • Do gather evidence about your child’s performance. Look at all past tests, school projects, and homework assignments. Disregarding grades, read through teacher comments and look for any patterns that jump out. For example: do teachers comment that your child is bright and personable, but becomes frustrated when changing off between activities and assignments? Does your child seem lost when it’s time to begin an assignment? Does s/he seem unable to map out a process during problem-solving exercises?
  • Do meet with a school psychologist if you suspect an academic or behavioral problem. A school psychologist can do several things. He or she can observe your child in the classroom, talk with teachers, and negotiate accommodations if needed. If there’s a behavioral problem, a school psychologist can talk with your child and assess if the behavior is linked to a larger learning issue. If there is a bigger problem, the psychologist can recommend some intervention that might help you avoid special education such as tutoring, therapy, mindfulness meditation for anxiety, or even an organizational strategy coach.
  • Do evaluate your home setting. Is your home structured in a way that is conducive to learning? Does your child have a specific distraction-free place for doing homework with adequate materials and lighting? I knew one family where the kids were always searching for pencils, tape, and other helpful school supplies they needed for after-school work. I bought them a box, filled it with colored pencils, an economy-pack of colored Sharpies, tape, notebooks, loose-leaf paper, extra notebooks, and a host of other goodies. I checked the box monthly, topping it up as necessary, and the family jokingly referred to this supply box as the “Merle Box.”
  • Do meet with your pediatrician and evaluate your child’s health. Does your child sleep well and eat balanced meals? Is your child rested or tired much of the time? Does your child often have a stomachache or frequent headaches? Poor sleep habits can affect a child’s concentration and poor eating habits can affect sleep, energy levels, and the immune system. Do what you can to rule out any potential health issues that might interfere with your child’s learning.
  • Do arrange for special help for your child if she seems to be struggling in core subjects. Many teachers offer early or late office hours and special tutoring sessions. Arrange for a private tutor if your child needs it and you can afford the fees.
  • Do help your child with organizational strategies especially when it comes to doing homework. Each day (with younger students), have your child read through class notes and handouts. Break down homework into two categories—homework that’s easier and takes less time; and homework that’s more complex and needs more time. Have your child start with the easier homework. Taking this approach has a two-pronged benefit: Completing easier homework stimulates the child’s thought processes and gets them into homework mode. Doing the easier homework assignment first, leads to feelings of accomplishment. Once done, the child can check off this task from her list and feel successful. Finishing easier homework first also warms up the child for problems that require more intellectual effort.
  • Do convey to your child the message that “quitting is not an option.” Your child should know that you don’t care about perfection. You care about effort, consistency, and completing started tasks.
  • Do implement some rules or maxims that help your child stay on course. In our family, we implement the “five problems a day” strategy. This means that even when a child doesn’t have homework, s/he should still study and read textbooks and notes to sharpen memory and build consistent study habits.
  • Do develop a strong channel for communication with teachers and administrators and let your child know that you have regular conversations with teachers and that you are all working together to make him a success.


  • Don’t make educational decisions based on your personal dreams. Perhaps you always wished you’d gone to an Ivy League school or that prestigious prep school. Perhaps you had higher hopes for your own child than you had for yourself. By having unrealistic expectations, you are adding to your child’s burdens, an unnecessary pressure. Make decisions for your child based on your child’s needs, and not on your own.
  • Don’t assume that switching schools will solve the problem.
  • Don’t place blame. When your child is struggling, it’s easy to feel a personal sense of responsibility: that somehow your parenting is to blame. Out of frustration and helplessness, you may feel like lashing out—at your child, at your partner, at the teachers. Stop and take a deep breath. Blaming others accomplishes nothing.
  • Don’t grumble if you have to modify your schedule to take your child to tutoring sessions. Your child will understand your grumbling as his personal failing: He’s the weak link in the family. He’s the one who creates all the problems. Insist that everyone who interacts with your child see tutoring as a positive endeavor. Let them know that grumbling is unacceptable.
  • Don’t impose your own feelings of insecurity on your child. Your child’s problems are not about you. Solving your child’s problems are about helping him to grow into a more successful, more confident student, one who will become an independent adult who loves learning.
  • Don’t compare your own schooling experience to your child’s. Teaching methods have changed. Certainly don’t compare yourself to your child. Remember that you remember your childhood through a lens revised by adult memories and perceptions. Comparing your child to yourself can be destructive to your child’s self esteem.
  • Don’t do homework for your child. That sends the wrong message: the message that your child has an out. As a teacher, I saw a handful of students whose parents secretly wrote their papers for them, correcting their homework sheets, and even creating their art projects. Your child must learn that he must do the work and that being PERFECT should never be part of his lexicon. The important thing is to be consistent and to try.
  • Don’t let homework drag out for hours. If your child is having trouble completing homework each night, set a timer. Give him 15-minute spans of homework time with the promise of a ten-minute movement break. (Movement and exercise can improve focus.) Continue that cycle until homework is completed.
  • Don’t remain silent if you feel there’s too much homework. If the teacher is assigning an excessive amount of homework, an amount that your child can’t possibly complete or that feels overwhelming, talk to the teacher about alternatives. Can your child do his homework during study hours? Is the homework really just classwork that your child isn’t  managing to complete?

Special education can be a wonderful thing for those children who need it, but don’t run to it just yet. With accommodations and effort from parent and child, it may not be necessary. And let’s face it: nobody needs a label. Least of all your child.

Found what you just read useful? Why not consider sending a donation to our Kars4Kids youth and educational programs. Or help us just by sharing!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published June 26, 2015 and has been completely revised and updated for accuracy and scope.


Teaching a Child How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver


Heimlich Heroes teaches kids how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver and other life-saving methods.
Heimlich Heroes teaches kids how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver and other life-saving methods.

It’s not unusual to hear about a child who performs the Heimlich Maneuver on another classmate and saves a life. Nevertheless, the occurrence of it never ceases to amaze and astonish adults. How did that child know how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver? How did the child recognize the signs of choking and keep his cool?

Here are some examples of some quick-thinking Heimlich Heroes:

  • A teacher, Judy Rader, popped a few almonds in her mouth between classes to get her through until lunch. When one lodged in her throat, one of her students, Sam Barrera, just 15, knew what to do. He put his arms around his teacher’s abdomen, felt for her belly button with his finger, went up two inches, clasped his hands together and pulled in and up. On his third thrust, Sam literally lifted Rader off the ground and the almond popped out.
  • At Walnut Grove Middle School in Midlothian, Texas, September 10 is “Basilio Rocha.” It’s the day when Basilio Rocha, a 13-year-old student, saved the life of a 12-year-old classmate who was choking on a muffin. Basilio had learned the Heimlich last year in his sixth-grade health class.
  • In Kersey, Colorado, 13-year old Gabe Valentine was honored at Platte Valley Middle School for administering the Heimlich maneuver to a friend. Gabe had learned the skills two years ago when he took a course for 11-13 year-olds at the North Colorado Medical Center.

Teaching a child how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver isn’t just empowering for that child. It could save a life at some point. Yes, it’s hard to imagine a small child performing the Heimlich Maneuver. It’s hard enough to think that your child might be faced with a life and death situation. But knowledge breeds confidence and by empowering your child with some first aid and life saving skills accomplishes a couple things. It encourages grit and resolve in your child. It breeds confidence and leadership. It also tells your child that you trust them enough to aid in the case of an emergency, that you think they’re grown up enough to take on some grown up responsibilities. And kids don’t just love to be given adult responsibility. They reach deep down when a grownup believes in them and performing astonishing feats.

What is the Heimlich Maneuver?

The Heimlich Maneuver is a life-saving procedure developed by Dr. Henry Heimlich. The procedure is meant to clear the airway of a choking victim by harnessing the power behind air pressure that builds up behind the diaphragm and kinetic energy. By applying quick thrusts to the upper abdomen (just above the belly button), the force of air in the lungs pushed out with a thrust can dislodge and expel an obstruction or piece of food lodged in the airway. The advantage of using the Heimlich Maneuver over a slap on the back is that the air pressure pushes the obstruction up and out of the mouth instead of further down into the airway.

Kids are just as able to learn this procedure to save a life. In fact, kids who learn the Heimlich Maneuver feel more empowered because they feel less powerless when someone is choking and can make a difference.

What does a child learn as a Heimlich Hero?

Any child taught the Heimlich Maneuver will be taught to recognize the universal signals of choking. They will learn when it’s time to act, where to stand, where to place hands, and how to administer the procedure properly. They will practice the procedure over and over until it becomes an automatic response.


First, they will learn how to assess if someone is choking.

If an adult is choking, they should see any of the following behaviors:

  • Coughing or gagging
  • Hands on the neck or breastbone
  • A look of panic
  • Inability to talk
  • Wheezing
  • Passing out
  • Turning blue: Cyanosis, a blue coloring to the skin usually around the face. lips, and in the fingernail beds.

In an infant or toddler is choking, a child who learns the Heimlich Maneuver should learn to recognize certain behaviors in infants not present in adults. Infants and young children don’t clutch their throats. They may cry or cough weakly and may begin to turn blue if they’re choking.

Second, they will learn how to get into position and perform abdominal thrusts (Heimlich Maneuver).

  • Stand behind the person. Wrap arms around the waist. If it’s an adult who is being rescued, it may be too difficult to tip the person forward.
  • Make a fist with one hand. Place the fist two inches above the belly button.
  • Grasp the fist with the other hand. Make a quick jerking movement backwards toward the person’s belly. The movement should be in and slightly upwards.
  • Perform a total of 5 abdominal thrusts. If the obstruction doesn’t pop out the first time, repeat the thrusts five times. If the obstruction still doesn’t come out, call 9-1-1 or ask someone nearby to call for you. Then repeat the 5 abdominal thrusts.

Note: The American Heart Association does not recommend the use of back blows. Although the American Red Cross recommends them, they can do greater harm, can lodge the obstruction deeper into the airway and can cause internal injuries.

If the person becomes unconscious, perform standard CPR with chest compressions and rescue breaths.

How Does Heimlich Heroes Teach Kids About the Heimlich Maneuver?

The Heimlich Institute has developed 42-inch dolls equipped with an internal airway, lungs, and a diaphragm. Kids learn the Heimlich Maneuver by practicing real- life situations on the dolls.

What You Should Know About Type 1 Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 1.25 million American children and adults have type 1 diabetes. Of that number, nearly 200,000 children and young adults under the age of 20 have diabetes and it’s estimated that nearly 20,000 new cases of Type 1 diabetes will be diagnosed each year

Type 1 diabetes, which used to be called juvenile diabetes, develops most often in young people; however, type 1 diabetes can also develop in adults.

What exactly is Type 1 Diabetes?

In type 1 diabetes, your body no longer makes insulin or enough insulin because the body’s immune system, the system that fights illnesses and infection begins to attack and destroy cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.

In Type 1 Diabetes, the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin.
In Type 1 Diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin.

What are potential complications?

Diabetes can cause serious health complications in adulthood including:

  • blood vessel and nerve damage
  • problems with the mouth, eyes, and feet
  • heart attack
  • heart disease
  • blindness,
  • kidney failure
  • gangrene
  • lower-extremity amputations.
  • death
  • People with diabetes are more than twice as likely to develop heart disease than non-diabetics. Because of potential secondary complications, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

What causes Type 1 Diabetes?

Unlike Type 2 which occurs more often in middle aged and elderly adults and is linked to weight gain and obesity, Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that may be linked to genetic or environmental factors. When it occurs, the pancreas, an organ that produces insulin, doesn’t produce enough to break down sugar. Without insulin, blood sugar isn’t regulated. Elevated levels of blood sugar over time have serious health risks.

What are the symptoms?

Extreme thirst, hunger, fatigue, and blurry vision are some common symptoms. Other symptoms could include a cut that doesn’t heal, dizziness from changes in blood pressure, and headaches. Because diabetes can affect blood vessels in the body, an optometrist or ophthalmologist can check eyes for signs of diabetes.

What are treatments?

Sometimes, diabetes can be treated with diet but in Type 1 Diabetes when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, it’s common to take insulin shots. Shots can be given through self-injections or via an insulin pump that automatically monitors blood sure in the bloodstream and injects insulin as needed.

Sometimes, insulin can be taken by mouth too. Other treatments focus on lifestyle modifications. In children, it’s especially important to teach children how to recognize symptoms in their own bodies. It’s empowering and critical to teach kids the signs of high blood sugar when insulin is needed, or low blood sugar when eating something to raise blood sugar is needed. It’s also critical to teach kids about insulin shock. Insulin shock occurs when blood sugar levels get too low in the body. Symptoms are fogginess, fatigue, disorientation, and a feelings of passing out.

A child with Type 1 Diabetes must also be taught healthier food choices and will probably be referred to a nutritionist or dietician.

Your child’s physician, commonly an endocrinologist who treats diabetes and other hormonally based conditions, will make recommendations to help your child stay fit. Diabetes can affect weight and though early symptoms of diabetes can be weight loss, once a child is on insulin, weight gain might occur. The best lifestyle modification is to keep your child involved in physical fitness.

Your doctor will recommend that your child’s blood pressure is monitored. The school nurse can usually do that job. Since diabetes affects the health of blood vessels, it can cause fluctuations in blood pressure.

Teaching Kids About Dialing 911

Training your child how to call 911 isn’t just emergency preparedness. It could one day save your life.


Teaching kids to dial 911 isn’t merely emergency preparedness. It could one day safe your life. Most importantly, kids must learn that dialing 911 should never be part of a game, a joke, or a prank.

There’s a crank call prank that was popular when my mother was a kid and it’s so infamous that Wikipedia has it as an entry. The caller calls a store and asks if they have “Prince Albert in a can.” When the unsuspecting clerk responds “yes” (because the tobacco was notoriously packaged in a can), the caller follows up with, “Well, you’d better let him out!” or “Then why don’t you let him out before he suffocates!?” In another version of the prank, the caller asks, “Do you have Prince Albert in the can?”

"Prince Albert Cigarettes" by Alex Israel Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
“Prince Albert Cigarettes” by Alex Israel Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

When the clerk says “yes,” the caller responds, “Well let him out before he drowns!” My mom once called the local corner store and tried that prank. Unfortunately, the store clerk knew it was her, knew my grandparents who owned the luncheonette/variety store down the street, and my mom was busted.

Crank calls are part of childhood too. Posing as a radio DJ, I used to call random numbers from the phone book and tell those who answered that they had won a black and white television set. All kids, especially young ones, have a fascination with the phone. It’s one of those grownup tools that kids want the privilege of using especially because little kids rarely receive phone calls, adults do and seemingly have all the fun. As kids grow up, they test out roles using the phone, try out scripts and bits of dialogue from what they hear on the television and at home. If your child begins to express an interest in the phone, it’s probably time to teach them how to call 911 before they call it in a prank call.

What is 911

911 is a universal number to connect with emergency assistance. Established by Congress 1968, it replaced the need for individual telephone numbers for fire, police, medical, and rescue services and consolidated all emergency services into one number.

When I was a kid, 911 didn’t exist. If there was an emergency, we had three separate numbers posted for an fire, police, and medical. But I knew early on that those numbers weren’t to be called except in grave emergencies and thank goodness I never had to use them. Training a young child requires them to memorize important pieces of information such as their name, their address, and the problem. A young child who talks can be trained to dial 911 just as well as an adult. It’s a type of emergency preparedness that isn’t just smart. It could one day save your life.

What is an emergency?

The following are situations that your child should consider an emergency:

  • A Medical emergency where someone is hurt.
  • There is a car accident.
  • You see someone choking.
  • One of your friends has an allergic reaction to a bee sting or food.
  • You see a robbery or someone breaks into your house.
  • Someone has a gun and is threatening to hurt others.
  • A stranger is following you home from school.
  • There is a natural disaster like a tornado, an earthquake, a flood, or a landslide.
  • You see a fire or an explosion.
  • A friend falls out of the window and gets hurt.

The following situations are not considered emergencies:

  • You lost your pet, a special toy or stuffed animal.
  • Your big brother is picking on you.
  • You’re practicing a fake emergency.
  • You’re bored and making a crank call.
  • You’re lonely and bored.

Do teach your child that using 911 for a nonemergency, especially for a crank call is illegal because it prevents real calls from getting to the dispatchers. If real emergencies can’t get through the phone lines, innocent people can get hurt or die.

So what should your child do and say in the emergency?

  1. If possible, dial 911 from a house phone and not a cell phone. Tell your children that 911 is actually spelled 9-1-1 on the phone keypad and not 9-11. Have them practice on a pretend keypad or inactivated phone. Tell them never to practice on a real phone.
  2. Tell your child to stay as calm as possible and teach them coping mechanisms they can use to stay calm.
  3. Role-play a variety of scenarios with scripts so your children begins to recognize what constitutes an emergency and what isn’t. Practice questions they’ll be asked by the 9-1-1- dispatcher and the answers they should provide.
  4. When the dispatcher answers the phone, your child must be able to provide his or her name, address, phone number, and must be able to describe a little bit of the emergency. If your child doesn’t know the location of the emergency, educate your child to notice what’s around him such as street signs, buildings, stores, highways,, parks, etc.
  5. Your child should tell the dispatcher what kind of help is needed (fire, doctor, police, etc.). Most importantly, if the emergency such as a fire or robbery is in your home, your child should know to leave and should know where to go in case of an emergency. Call it a safe place.
  6. They should tell the dispatcher where the emergency is located.
  7. They should stay on the phone until the dispatcher tells you to hang up or until emergency help arrives where your child is.

The following is a recorded conversation between a five year old girl whose father was suffering a heart attack and 911.


 At What Age Should You Be Teaching Kids to Dial 911?

According to Tamara Walker, R.N., and child safety expert and instructor, children as young as age three can be taught to use 9-1-1 in response to an emergency.

The following video, though slightly dated, is a good educational companion to parental instruction.


Sleepovers: Preparing Your Child To Leave the Nest

Sleepovers are where your kids can get their first tastes of independence.

Sleepovers are part of the childhood experience. It’s when children forge lasting memories with friends, classmates, and family members like cousins and grandparents. If the sleepover is at the home of an adult you trust, it can be where your child experiences first tastes of freedom in a safe, supportive environment.

When I was a child, a sleepover with one friend or a slumber party with a gaggle of friends was a rite of passage. It was where I could push boundaries of etiquette without repercussion, where I could figure out interpersonal skills with kids I didn’t know so well and where some acquaintances could become good friends simply because I got to know them outside the pressures of school. Forty years later, I still remember the 13 pancakes I ate in a contest at a slumber party and the freakish ghost stories we shared that kept us from falling asleep until dawn.

Sleepovers are where I developed a taste of being away from home, where I learned flexibility, boundaries with someone else’s parents, and where I was forced to deal with situations outside my comfort zone. I loved sleepovers especially the lazy summer ones where I could disappear for days at a time in someone else’s house.

For many kids, sleepovers act as that first step to leaving the nest. It’s an early taste of independence. It’s also extremely important for a child’s emotional development, according to Maureen Monaghan, PhD, clinical and pediatric psychologist with the Children’s National Medical Center.

When kids are away from home, they have to face their fears, separation anxiety, uncertainty and work through it. The act of taking ownership of and working through that fear is what builds confidence in children.

It’s also a proving ground for kids who’d like to go to sleepaway camp some time down the road.

A well-planned sleepover with someone you trust can help kids grow in a safe, supportive environment. Your child’s ability to successfully navigate sleepovers can determine his willingness to leave home. In a way, it’s preparing your child to leave the nest.

If your child doesn’t have much experience with sleepovers or if your child doesn’t relish them much, here’s what you can do to make them work.

Start with people you and your child know well and trust.

Start by sending your child to their grandparents’, to an aunt and uncle’s, or to a friend’s house for a sleepover: someplace with an adult they trust but where they get to be away and have to fall asleep without their usual bedtime ritual.

Talk with your child about the sleepover.

Use the talk to work through any of your child’s worries. Nighttime, right before bed is when your child is tired and his imagination can get out of control. Talk about his worries, fears, and concerns. Address them. If your child has any boogeymen, talking about them can ease anxiety and reduce fears.

Develop a plan with your child, one that covers emergencies and what if’s.

Setting a contingency plan, or mapping out the progression of events at the sleepover will allay fears and worries. Set up an emergency contingency plan with your child, in case there’s an emergency.

Develop a checklist for your child, especially if he feels nervous.

You should obviously address any medical needs like medication, a special diet or potential anxiety, and it’s important to sit down and talk about what to expect, all the issues. You should always acknowledge the possibility of homesickness; tell your child if you experienced it and share your own stories.

Address homesickness.

Homesickness is normal and it doesn’t only happen with kids; it happens with the parents too. Your child’s ability to deal with his own homesickness is what can be empowering as an experience. But you as the parent must deal with your own separation anxiety when your child leaves. Ask your child what concerns her about her first overnight. Ask, listen, and figure out what the concerns are.” Ease your child into the transition by telling them to call if they feel uncomfortable, and that it’s okay either way if they want to go home or stay until the morning. You’re giving them power in that moment to work through the anxiety and make a choice that’s good for them.

Inform without control.

If you have important information to share with the parent, do it in a clear, direct manner. Do it without hysterics, fanfare, and anxiety. This is your child. These are her limitations, her health issues, her allergies. Be respectful and polite. Set up a contingency plan with the parent, what happens if there’s an emergency? What happens if homesickness becomes severe? Then, as long as you feel confident with the parent, back off and have a little trust. If the hosting parent is experienced and savvy, she will put your mind at rest. As A good parent will put herself in your position and make you feel comfortable. As Heather Wittenberg, Psy.D., a parenting psychologist in Maui, Hawaii says, when she hosts a sleepover “When I’m hosting, I put it all out there. I say, ‘We have no guns, we have no dog, we have no pool. We are going to watch this cartoon, eat pizza, and go to bed.'”

Address your own fears and insecurities.

It’s natural to experience the tug of apron strings when your little one goes off to a sleepover. After all, you miss him, you worry if he’ll be happy, over his safety. Buut if you’ve done your homework well, you shouldn’t worry. In fact, you should use this sleepover as a personal recovery opportunity. Use it as an opportunity to rekindle a spark with your spouse, especially if you don’t have other children at home.

If of course, you’re having anxiety, you need to rein in those insecurities and worries. Not only is it bad for you. Your child won’t want to leave home if he or she worries that you’re not okay.






Camp Memories: What Do You Remember?


What reminds you of camp? What camp memories are most poignant? Was it your bunk, your counselors, or friends? What foods do you still remember and relish decades later? Was it the camp songs? Was it the bug juice, camping trips, or the mess hall banquets? Do you want your children to enjoy the same experiences? If you were to send your children to camp, what would you want for them?

For me, my metal mess kit, uncooked barbecue chicken, maple syrup, and pine sol remind me of camp. When I was a camper in 1968, I went with my camp on a camp out. I was six years old, the youngest camper in the entire camp, and away from home for five weeks. My mother, a single working mom at the time, had gotten a scholarship for me to attend a Jewish camp in the Poconos, two hours from Philadelphia. I loved it. I went from being a latch-key child to having lots adults around to watch after and interact with me.

On the camp-out, the counselors set up circus-sized tents. I remember picking the coziest spot I could find to roll out my sleeping bag, setting up my stuffed animals, and hunkering down with the other campers.

The counselors built roaring campfires, and began to grill chicken. We unpacked our canteens and mess kits, played games, and waited with anticipation for dinner. Then a storm rolled in. Not just any storm. The sky seemed to open up and sheets of rain pounded our tests. Pools of rainwater collecting on the tent roof swelled and sprang drippy leaks inside the tent. Huddling together in the tents, we ate under-cooked chicken while lightening bolts lit up the sky.

The chicken was rubbery, pink, cold, and truly tasteless. After a couple hours of waiting out the rain, the counselors aborted the camping trip, loaded us into vans, and returned to camp.

Forty-five years later, I still think of camp whenever I grill chicken. It’s a sweet, sentimental flashback, a reminder of an innocent, intensely personal, familial setting where I felt safe, cared for, and busy.

Bunk challenges and camp banquets forge fond camp memories.
Bunk challenges and camp banquets forge fond camp memories.

I have other great camp memories. I looked forward to bunk challenges in the mess tent. A fork and knife breakfast meant that we could come to breakfast dressed in mismatched shoes, socks, and clothing. Movie nights meant we could camp out in the auditorium/gym in our pajamas and sleeping bags, each with a personal stash of candy and popcorn. Camp is where I learned about daddy long legs, frogs, crickets, fish, deer, and a whole host of wildlife I never saw in our apartment complex in Philadelphia.

Flash forward, I was lucky enough to send most of my children to sleep away camps. Some hated being away from home and recall their fondest memories were coming home. Others made life-long friends and fifteen years later still maintain these friendships. Camp is where I felt my first sense of freedom within the constraints of a safety net, where I was pushed out of my comfort when I learned how to swim, when I canoed on a lake, and when I endured a camping trip in a fierce thunderstorm.

While putting this post together, I surveyed a hundred of my social media friends and asked them–what are your favorite camp foods and camp memories? The answers were fun and most revealing. Many of the most important experiences, sentimental memories we have are away from our parents. And that’s important to note. It is this sense of independence, confidence that comes from being away from home and mastering homesickness, and collecting new competencies, close-knit friendships, and life-long memories that makes overnight camp a powerful developmental tool.

These are some of my favorite responses from former campers.

Under favorite foods–

Toasted marshmallows and s’mores. No need to explain. At least I hope not.

Toasted marshmallows never grow old.
Toasted marshmallows never grow old.

  Rocky Mountain Toast (we call it eggs in baskets in my house). It’s a slice of bread with a whole in the middle. The egg is fried with the slice of bread in a frying pan. Eat with or without maple syrup. Use the bread to wipe up the egg.

  Bug Juice (for a couple years, I thought it really was bug guts). Now I know the truth. Kool Aid!

I loved bug juice at camp because we couldn't have it at home.
I loved bug juice at camp because we couldn’t have it at home.

Beenie Weenie with Chili. Need I say more except keep the Bean-O close by.

Cream of Wheat with butter and sugar. My husband’s favorite although the kids and I eat it with grits.

Foil packets. These rock and any meal can be exciting when you throw a concoction in a foil packet and throw it on the grill. Hamburgers, potato chunks, onions, and tomato sauce, tuna melts, even applies and peaches with oatmeal and brown sugar to make a fruit crisp.

Under Favorite Memories–

Canoeing at the Delaware Water Gap. This is a breathtaking section of the Delaware River, if you’re unfamiliar.

Camp is where I met my husband (not me but one of my respondents).

Midnight hikes along the lake.

Camp outs

Camp banquets

Bunk challenges

The camp canteen

Going to the infirmary (lol)

Swimming in the lake

Have any others that I haven’t mentioned? Post them in the comments section and I may use them in my next camp post.









When Your Child Is Ready For Overnight Camp


It’s that time of year when you begin to think about “gasp” summer and what you’re going to do with the kids during the long, hot days of summer. When the kids were little, you splashed with them at the neighborhood pool. You schlepped them to half-day sports programs offered through the local community center or you took them to the library, to nature centers, or to touching museums where they could explore and wear themselves out for a few hours. You arranged “play dates.” You took them on outings.

But your babies are no longer babies and the sage wisdom of prominent child psychologist, Michael Thompson, rings in your ears.

“You cannot make them happy (if you try too hard they become whiners); you cannot give them self-esteem and confidence (those come from their own accomplishments); you cannot pick friends for them and micro-manage their social lives, and finally you cannot give them independence.”

When your kids reach a certain age and developmental stages, your kids can only develop certain life skills if you place them in empowering, independence-building settings like overnight summer camp.

Up until now, they haven’t been ready. You haven’t been ready; and you’re still not sure if your kids are there yet.  How can you tell?

Signs your child is ready for overnight camp

Can your child do sleepovers? According to Dr. Michael Thompson, this is a good indicator. If your child is willing to sleep over at friends, at grandma’s house, or with cousins, it means your child has a willingness to leave home. When this readiness happens is child-specific but the average age range, according to the American Camp Association, is between the ages of seven and nine.

Does your child relish the idea of making his own decisions? We’re not talking about where to live and what bills to pay. These are simple choices. What will I wear today? Will I eat peanut butter and jelly or the camp eggs and oatmeal? Will I sit through the campfire ghost stories even though I’m afraid or will I hide in my sleeping bag? Being away at overnight camp means that a child must be comfortable making fundamental decisions. Decision-making is an initial sign of independence and overnight camp builds on that independence.

Can your child take care of herself? The basics, I mean. Brushing teeth. Getting dressed. Bathing. Making beds. Putting about laundry. That sort of thing. If the answer is yes, your child can probably do fine in an overnight camp setting. If not, it may be too soon.

Is your child enthusiastic camp discussions, about the unknown of being away from home, of meeting new people and trying new experiences?  If your child actively talks about the unknowns of camp and is willing to give it a try or is willing to deal with the inevitable homesickness, that’s a good sign. It means that your child is becoming aware of his insecurities but has a wiliness to face them. Keep in mind, even if your child seems worried or anxious, encourage your child to talk, help her identify the source of the anxiety, and give her tools to deal with the anxiety. Homesickness and separation anxiety are normal when a child goes away to overnight camp. After a week, those feelings usually subside. If your child knows how to handle those feelings when she’s anxious, she will mature from the camp experience and come home more confident.

If your child is forced to face his fears, he will return home from overnight camp more confident and independent.
If your child is forced to face his fears, he will return home from overnight camp more confident and independent.

What camp is right for your child?

The point to sending your child away to a sleepaway camp is so they can develop maturity, independence, can learn cooperation, interpersonal skills, and a whole host of other benefits. It’s not so that your child can be insulated and pampered. When you pick an overnight camp, keep that in mind. Your child won’t develop life-altering skills if their every whim is being indulged at camp. They need to get dirty. They need to be pushed out of their comfort zone. And they need to do it “off the grid,” away from you, away from social media, their smart phone, and school.

You also need to research the right camp in terms of accreditation and references. The American Camp Association recommends you consider the following factors when choosing a camp:

Does the camp have a history? New camps might have newer facilities and “bells and whistles” but an older, established camp with staff that has worked for the organization for a long time says more about the camp. It means stability. It also means that the camp values its employees. An older camp should also have loyal families who have sent one or more children or generations of family members to the same camp. Ask for references. Also ask to talk with a staff member who has worked for the camp for a long time.

What is the camp’s philosophy? Is it activity driven, centered around leadership development, focused on building communication and collaboration? Make sure the philosophy is one you’re comfortable with.

Does the camp have a strong community? Does the camp foster teamwork, community, and inclusion? These skills are life skills and you want your child to learn that collaboration, teamwork, relationship building and communication.

Does the camp staff have longevity and credibility? Look for a camp with low turnover rates for counselors and staff members. Staff members should have references, should be well-trained, and should have had a background check.

Can your child make choices about activities? A child who learns how to make choices learns independence. Choose a camp that encourages decision making.

Does the camp have a communication plan for the parents? If you child is a camper, it’s not in his best interest if you call the camp daily, if you demand to be in touch with your child. A child sent to overnight camp will not form meaninful relationships, will not learn independence, self confidence if you the parent are always involved in the mix. On the other hand, the camp should have an open channel of communication, a way for you to see what’s happening periodically. Many camps now post photos of campers on a daily basis. A picture of smiling camper does much to allay an anxious parent..

Is the camp accredited? Accreditation through the American Camp Association is more important than you realize. It means that a camp operates according to certain standards, is accountable, and transparent. Look for a camp with a high accreditation. The American Camp Association maintains a list of camps and their accreditation. posts reviews by parents and former campers.

After you’ve done the research, factor in other wants and needs.

Does your child have special needs? Does your child have special needs? ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Tourette’s, cancer, for example? There are many camps specifically geared toward campers with disabilities, disorders, and illnesses. Many all-around camps can accommodate campers with special needs as well. If you find it overwhelming to sift through the thousands of overnight camps, go through a camp advisory service such as The Camp Experts or The Camp Connection. Many advisory services are free and can pinpoint overnight camps that best fit your child’s needs.

Does your child have special talents that you want him to develop? Is she a dancer or singer? Does she want to be in theatre? Is he into gymnastics or sports? Is computer programming his passion? Sending your child to a specialty overnight camp can help your child foster friendships with others who share her passion, can teach your child a discipline or a mastery of a skill that she was unable to conquer during the school year.

Is religious affiliation important? Would you prefer a Jewish camp, one affiliated with the Catholic Diocese or a Protestant house of worship? If religious observance is important, there are many camps that are affiliated with a religious institution. American Camp Association, BunkMates, and endorsing agencies for your house of worship as well as local community centers can provide directories.

If you still aren’t sure, read Michael Thompson’s book, Homesick and Happy. It’s an insightful yet light-hearted narrative that addresses the importance of camp in a child’s overall development.


When Teens Reject Religion

teens rebel1


Rebellion is a normal part of adolescence. As children morph into pre-teens and then teens, they seek greater independence, push boundaries, oppose rules, argue more, reject authority, and detach from the people who love them most. You, mom and dad. The parents.

And everything you believe in, everything you’ve been teaching your darling daughter or son is now subject to argument or outright rejection. Even religion, the family rituals, customs, traditions that have been part of your family lore for generations are under attack. All those family memories engrained in your family’s history are also subject to invalidation. That can be difficult for any parent and you might be wondering why? Why is my darling child attacking the very core or essence of what we believe in?

There’s a good reason and it’s based in cognition and development. According to David Elkind, PhD, author of All Grown Up and No Place to Go, your child’s brain is under “construction.” The area of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex is developing rapidly, neurons are multiplying wildly and firing it seems all at once or in an illogical order.

The prefrontal cortex of the brain is responsible for thinking, judgment, self control, and regulation. In adolescence, kids are developing their own ideas. Suddenly, your children see everything more realistically. They’re acutely aware of unfairness, injustice, of rules that shouldn’t apply to them because they’re practically grown up. Kids are also seeing their parents as flawed beings too.To define herself as a separate entity, your daughter must question who she is and that means questioning who she is in relationship to you. The reason why she questions is part of brain anatomy and development.

The result is that your teen is seeing you through a whole new lens. It’s a reality that awakens your child, scares them, can anger them. Don’t worry. They still love you and they certainly need you. But suddenly, you aren’t the ideal, the larger than life parents who brought your children comfort, who could solve every problem, who uttered the absolute truth. You, the parents, when compared to other people’s parents just aren’t that cool. When compared to the television parents, you’re kind of dowdy. And compared to what your child thinks? Well, you mom and dad simply fall flat.

If you’re not who they thought you were, then everything you taught them must be subject to question. Your teen, while moving through adolescence must scrutinize what you’ve taught them.

Your child is suddenly more aware of his surroundings and beginning to ask what’s real and what is truth?

And that can include religion, your religion. Though your child knows no other customs, was raised in the values and ideals since birth, a.nd seemed perfectly content, embraced, and fulfilled by your faith, by function of your child’s development he or she must question.

And that can be very difficult especially because things don’t right themselves for a long time. A very very long time until your child completes passes through development and develops their own sense of identity as an adult, separate and detached from you.

While this development is occurring, your child might argue with you. All. The. Time. According to Elkind, that’s also because of the changes in the prefrontal cortex at work. “As a child evolves into a teenager, the brain becomes able to synthesize information into ideas. Teens want to exercise their new skill — and they tend to practice on their parents. “It may seem that they argue for the sake of arguing. But really, they’re practicing their new abilities.”

It can be trying time for parents. It’s especially trying if what your child is rejecting is so much a part of your family traditions, rituals, and habits. If your adolescent child reject your religion, the practices he or she was raised with since birth, it’s not just difficult. It can create family discord and personal heartache.

But rejection of your religion, opposition of practices, questioning doctrine and whatever else a teen does to disrupt the status quo are really all a part of developmental rebellion. As Dr. Carl Pickhardt explains it, around mid-adolescence (13 to 15 years), your teenager might “declare that religiously believing and participating is no longer for them. He may argue that religious practice is restrictive, that he doesn’t believe in a god, that practicing the religion without believing is hypocritical. Your child might refuse to attend holiday dinner or worship services. He may criticize other family members who choose to remain observant. He may become belligerent. And you, well, you will be the target of his rage, opposition, debate, and defiance. While you might feel under a personal attack, keep in mind. This stage of adolescence is a period when teens question authority—parental, professional, spiritual, etc; and it’s completely age appropriate.

During adolescence, your teen might reject religion and other values you taught them.
During adolescence, your teen might reject religion and other values you taught them.

But even the rejection of religion is part of developmental rebellion common in adolescence. How you handle it depends in large part on your child age and developmental stage.

According to Pickhardt, psychologist and author of Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence, there are four stages of adolescent rebellion. How you address the rebellion is based on your child’s age but also on their emotional maturity. Some kids hit stage later than others.

Between the ages of 9 and 13, “rebellion… is primarily a process through which the young person rejects the old child identity that he or she now wants to shed to clear the way for more grown up redefinition ahead. Rebellion at this early adolescent age proclaims: “I refuse to be defined and treated as a child anymore!” Now he knows how he doesn’t want to be, but he has yet to discover and establish how he does want to be. Pickhardt recommends firm insistence. Set up the guidelines and work your budding teen down through attrition. At the same time, try to help them verbalize objections through dialog rather than action.

  1. Set up some firm family guidelines for your rebellious teen, guidelines that are non-negotiable that clearly defined expectations and consequences for not meeting those expectations. While your child is rebelling, some of the acts of aggression might be destructive—self destructive. You want to keep your budding adult safe. Setting up a behavior contract with clear expectations, goals, and consequences for failing to meet expectations should be included. There should also be a reward section of the contract. If your child complies, he can go to that swimming party.
  2. Keep in mind that your teen is really still a child in a developing body. Some behaviors aren’t going to change through discussion, punishment, or head-to-head combat. You have to keep your child safe and relatively compliant until he developmentally works through some of the internal confusion he has with religion or whatever else he’s objecting to. If a young child was threatening to jump out of a moving car, would you discuss it? NO! You implement rules and consequences to keep them safe.
  3. Make yourself available to talk. Make it clear to your child that you want to listen to his objectives and you need your child to help you understand. Listen without commenting. Validate his complaints by mirroring his sentiments. “I can see how you might feel that way.” At the same time, give him constructive ways to verbalize his anger, frustration, and internal struggle.

When a child moves into the next stage in mid-adolescence (ages 13 through 15) Pickhardt describes rebellion as a need for differentiation of identity from the parents. It’s how teens develop identities. In order to do it, they have to develop a resolve and determination to break off and differentiate themselves from the expectations.

While the teen might seem oppositional, he still needs to know that he can depend on the parents and that they still love him.

This is a good time to challenge a teen. Instead of confronting them which drives them to do the opposite, empower them with a creative challenge, one that teaches them lessons about personal responsibility and consequences. It also challenges the teen to explore some of his notions about the world and how he thinks it really works. This is a good time to address questions or objections your child. Perhaps take your child to a learning group, one where a moderator can address questions and objections with liturgy and its application to real life. Involve your child in a learning quest where he’s forced to learn more about his religion. Learning frequently brings about internal change and helps a child discover answers independently. Make yourself available during the learning process and show your teen that you respect his or her questions, objections, and decisions.

In later stages of adolescent rebellion, your teen is demanding greater and greater degrees of freedom. It might mean pushing back on expectations you have of your child. Perhaps your child no longer wants to worship with you or no longer wants to join family holiday dinners. The key during the 15 to 18 year period is to set firm guidelines and expectations. You should make it clear what responsibilities are commensurate for privileges of independence. For example, you can make it clear that while you appreciate your child’s decisions and personal opinions, there are standards to adhere to in the family. As long as your teen lives under your roof, you expect him to attend a religious service. And then you give him a choice, two or three choices that are satisfactory to you. You can also solicit suggestions from your teen and include them in the options if they’re reasonable.



Tics in Children: What They Are

Tics in Children
Tics in children occur in as much as 20 percent of school children.


Tics are short-lasting movements or sounds that interrupt normal behavior in children and adults. They are usually repetitive and can worse when a child is stressed or sleep deprived. Tics in children occur more often in boys than girls and while not involuntary, they aren’t easy for a child to control.

Examples of tics in children include squinting, hand flapping, contracting shoulder muscles, repetitive frowning, licking lips, or rapid blinking. For a parent, tics in children can be disconcerting. They can be annoying. But it’s important to note that as unexpectedly as they appear, they usually resolve themselves with time and don’t require intervention.

Also, keep in mind that tics, while disturbing at times, do not mean your child is developing Tourette’s Syndrome. A genetically neurological disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome is “characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics.”

About Tics

Generally, there are two types of tics–motor and vocal. Motor tics are short sudden movements; vocal tics or sounds made that occur suddenly and repetitively. An example of a motor tic might be a child who twitches her nose, grimaces, or squints or crosses his eyes multiple times. A vocal tic might be repetitive sniffling, a clearing of the throat or coughing, clicking of the tongue, or humming.

Motor tics are further classified as either simple or complex. A simple motor tic is a single isolated movement. A complex motor tic consists of a series of tics performed in the same order. For example, a child might twist his head sideways and contract his shoulder blades or squint eyes and furrow the brow. Every tic is unique and the sequence is individual.

Tics are not involuntary but are sometimes termed “unvoluntary” movements. This means that kids can learn how to suppress the tic for a short period of time. But suppression of any tic can be uncomfortable and may not be relieved until the child can do it.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, tics can occur in up to 20 percent of school age children. In most cases, tics are transient, or passing. It’s unclear why tics start but stress and sleep deprivation can make them more severe.


Tics in children generally occur when another comorbid condition exists or triggers the tics. For example, children with ADHD can develop tics. Also tics can occur with anxiety conditions, autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and many others. Tics can also occur occasionally in untreated strep infections. Known as P.A.N.D.A. or pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associates with streptococcal infections, these tics seem to worse overnight in children with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or Tourette’s an develop strep infections.

Other comorbid conditions that can trigger tics include allergies. A child with dry itchy eyes or nose is at risk for developing a tic of clearing the throat, blinking or squinting the eyes, or sniffling until the irritant is eliminated or reduced.


Doctors generally tell parents that tics in children should be ignored, especially if they’re mild and newly occurring. Because most tics are transient, doctors don’t necessarily become concerned unless the tic becomes chronic, severe and debilitating, and lasts longer than a year.

Treatments tend to be individually specific and target comorbid conditions that could be triggering the tics. For example, if the tics are allergy induced, a pediatrician might treat allergy symptoms or take blood work to assess what allergens are problematic for the child. Other treatments might include the following:

Habit Reverse Conditioning: Habit Reversal Conditioning (HRC) or Habit Reversal Therapy (HRT) is a behavioral therapy. It helps a child with tics slowly reverse them by becoming more aware of conditions that contribute to them. It teaches the child alternative behaviors to replace the tic, relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety that can worse tics, and can eradicate them altogether. The therapy can take as long as two to three months to induce notable change in the tics but a child mild begin having some relief in just a few sessions.

Lifestyle changes: Many anxiety-producing situations can worse tics for children. School, movies, or social settings are some environments where the child might feel more self conscious and therefore more anxious. The goal of making lifestyle changes is to incorporate change that reduces the anxiety. Afterschool activities that induce relaxation, exercise, sleep, and mindful meditation exercises are just some activities that help a child with tics. It’s also helpful to meet with teachers if tics are bothersome or disruptive and should work with a therapist to help a child cope.

Guided Meditation: Since stress exacerbates tics, helping children to relax and meditate has health and emotional benefits. Guided meditation is useful for children with ADHD and meditation in general has been shown to improve cognition function, attention, focus, and anxiety levels.

Medication: Medications for treating tics in children can be worse than the tics themselves. Doctors generally choose the least invasive methods to treat tics in children and reserve stronger antipsychotic drugs for chronic, severe tic disorders. The first line of defense in medication includes antihypertensive drugs known as Clonidine and Guanfacine. Both are used as blood pressure medications but have shown to be effective at reducing tics in children. Side effects are less than others medications and may include drowsiness and dizziness, which tend to dissipate with time.

If the tics are associated with ADHD, a doctor may also prescribe a stimulant along with the antihypertensive.

For more tics that don’t respond to hypertensive drugs, doctors may prescribe neuroleptics, a class of antipsychotics used to treat psychosis and schizophrenia where tremors are common. Drugs such as Haloperidol act by reducing the dopamine levels in the brain. Side effects tend to be more severe with neuroleptics and doctors have to children prescribed these drugs.