Positive body image

I think the first time that my daughter said something negative about her body was when she was around four or five years old (she compared herself to a close friend of hers and determined that she needed to lose weight). I have talked to other Moms who said that their daughters were around the same age when they expressed dissatisfaction with their bodies.  I would love nothing better than for my daughter to have a positive body image, but sometimes it feels like the cards are stacked against me.

Now that she’s older, she is exposed to body comparisons even more so, as she now finds herself changing into her gym clothes in front of her classmates and going to sleepovers where she’s changing in and out of her pajamas.  Kid’s bodies change at such a different pace and it’s hard for them not to compare themselves to others.  My daughter has even compared herself to me on occasion.

The other day, my daughter came out of the bathroom and announced her weight.  I explained to my daughter (for the umpteenth time), that weight is just a number and that it is much more important that she eat healthy, exercise and take care of herself.  I am not a fan of scales and never weigh myself (other than at annual check-up time), not because I’m concerned about my weight, but rather because I believe the act of weighing yourself on a regular basis gives you a distorted view and causes you to be overly focused on the wrong things (i.e. any number can sound ‘too high’, even if it’s within acceptable parameters).

Everyone’s weight fluctuates throughout the day and a female’s weight fluctuates throughout her monthly cycle, so a pound or two is nothing to be concerned about.   In addition, the number may not accurately reflect what’s going on in your body, for example, you may be losing muscle mass and gaining cellulite, but your weight may be consistent (i.e. these two things are balancing themselves out from a weight perspective).

My philosophy is, any significant change in weight would manifest itself in the form of clothing that was uncomfortable and/or lack of energy.  Unfortunately, my husband has a scale in his bathroom and he and our daughter have weighed themselves from the time she was little (it’s one of those cool digital ones, so it was a ‘fun’ thing to do).  In fairness, I don’t think weight tends to take on the same importance for boys as it does for girls, so it’s hard for my husband to understand why I wish to discourage our daughter from getting in the habit of weighing herself.

Growing up, I followed a pattern whereby I gained weight then eventually grew taller and lost/redistributed the weight.  This resulted in pockets of time when I was ‘chubbier’ and meant that I spent a good portion of my adolescence “watching my weight”.  On the plus side, I learned pretty impressive self-discipline and a decent understanding of healthy eating habits, which have definitely come in handy throughout my adult life.

I think my daughter has inherited my growth pattern, so I am doing my best to teach her the importance of a healthy lifestyle, but it all worked out for me in the end (by the time I stopped growing, I was at the ‘right’ weight for me), so I don’t want her to spend too much time focused on what she weighs now.

This is a very tricky balance to strike for a parent.  Many kids will gain weight as a normal byproduct of puberty, but it is hard not to overreact and start hounding them about their weight.  It is my hope that, when this happens, my daughter rides out the storm by continuing to eat healthy foods and get exercise.  I hope the habits and skills that I’ve taught her since the time she was a toddler, will stand her in good stead throughout her life.  Now all I have to do, is learn how to step back and let her practice these skills for herself (I won’t always be there to tell her what, or how much, to eat).

If you’re interested in raising your children to have a positive body image, you may also wish to read my posts on ‘Real beauty’, ‘Body Image’ and ‘Impact of the media on body image’.

The shelf life of food

I seems like I spend the better part of my life in the grocery store (darn my family’s never-ending requirement for sustenance) and, pretty much everything I touch while I’m there, has some sort of date on it (sometimes even more than one).  But what do these dates mean and what do we need to know about the shelf life of food?  Very few of us in North America buy our food the day we plan to make it, opting instead to buy what we need for several meals at a time (truth be known, I try to embark on two ‘significant’ shopping trips a week, planning a few days of meals before I go).  This means, however, that we need to pay special attention to the dates shown on the food we buy.

Sometimes these dates aren’t that easy to find or read (I must admit that I have started to carry some inexpensive glasses in my purse for this reason, as well as to aid me in reading the ridiculously small print found on most packaging).  Other times, I can find the dates, but I’m not exactly sure what they mean.

It’s hard to believe but, with the exception of Infant Formula and some baby foods, federal law does not require that the expiration date of our food be labeled.  Having said that, many products provide at least some information about the item’s shelf life.  Now, all you have to do is decipher it.  Here are some tips that might help.

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  • “Expiration Date” – this is truly the last date an item should be eaten…after that, you’re taking your life into your own hands.
  • “Sell By Date” – this is the last date the store should display this item – be sure to purchase it by this date
  • “Best if used by (or before) date”applies to quality, not safety and only to unopened products, as the shelf life of an item may change once it is opened

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Here is a wonderful infographic I found at www.farmanddairy.com that shows you the shelf life of many common foods, depending on where they are kept (i.e. the pantry, refrigerator or freezer).

 

Shelf-Life-InfoG-WEB

Click here to read more and access this infographic at the Farm & Dairy website.  Print this handy infographic and post it for easy reference for the whole family.

If in doubt, most companies provide a Customer Service phone number on their packaging in case you have any questions.  On occasion, I have called this number when an item has been past the best before date (e.g. a fruit bar) to confirm that eating it would not be unsafe.

Proper food storage and preparation are very important life skills that we should teach our children.  Get them used to always looking at the dates on a product, before they purchase it, then teach them the importance of proper food storage and how long it is safe to keep various foods before they should be thrown out.

If you’re interested in keeping your kids safe and teaching them to be self-reliant, you may wish to check out my articles on Dressing for the weather, Staying safe online, Sorting laundry and Time management.

 

Public Speaking

They say that the number one fear of North Americans is public speaking (even above death, if you can believe it)!  I guess this deep-seated fear stems from our intense anxiety concerning all things potentially humiliating.

I will admit that I have never been fond of talking in front of groups, especially large ones.  In elementary school, every year we had to do a ‘speech’ on a topic of our choice (I remember a particularly riveting speech I did on the art of rug-hooking).  No matter how versed I was in the topic, or how much I practiced, I was still a bundle of nerves on presentation day.

When I got to high school, I took music and was subjected to fairly regular “playing tests” in front of the class.  This was even more nerve-wracking than the previous speeches (it’s hard to hold on to a bow when your hands are all sweaty), but each time it got a little easier and I gained a bit more confidence.  I’d like to say that this was the end of my public-speaking nightmares but, alas, that was not the case.  I still had a presentation or two in university.

The most surprising thing though, was the frequency with which I found myself “public speaking” once I got into the work world.  I don’t think I truly realized how often I would call upon my presentation skills as a regular part of my work life.  I can’t tell you how may times I had to ‘run’ a meeting or present a business case to a group of co-workers or project leaders.

As much as I hated giving speeches and doing presentations while at school, it provided me with some very important skills that I was able to draw on in the real world.  After all, these are the skills you use every time you present information, provide instruction and even voice your opinion in a group setting.  They are the skills that give you the confidence to speak up and collaborate with others.  Truth is, I could have benefited from even more public speaking experience (even though I would have denied it vehemently at the time).

It’s encouraging to see that my daughter has already been given quite a few public speaking opportunities at school.  At first, this was terrifying for her, but I’ve noticed less and less anxiety, with each presentation.  Last week, she had two oral presentations and reported that she was much more relaxed than in the past.

For the past three summers she has also been enrolled in Theater Camp.  Although she was not one of the lead characters, she had several lines and participated in numerous song and dance routines with the rest of the cast.  Truthfully, I never thought I’d see a day when my daughter signed up for the opportunity to sing, dance and speak in front of a crowd of people, but she has loved it and has really shone!  What a great experience it’s been!

When it comes right down to it, the more practice she gets speaking in front of a crowd, the better prepared she’ll be for life.  If you’re interested in giving your children the skills they need for the real world, you may wish to read my articles on ‘Doing your best, ‘Patience’, ‘Managing anxiety’ and ‘Help your child calm down’.

Dressing for the weather

It seems that kids are often underdressed for the weather, choosing instead to dress in what is ‘cool’ or ‘fashionable’ (I have literally seen boys on my daughter’s bus wearing shorts in the winter).  As they get older, the struggle gets even more intense.

My daughter has been picking out her ‘outfit’ since she was about four (as long as what she has chosen is appropriate for school, as per her school’s dress code, I try to stay out of it), but decisions about outerwear have typically fallen to me.

However, this fall we’re trying something different.  She’s craving more autonomy and I think this is an area in which she can test out her independence (after all, the consequences are minimal and do not endanger her from a safety perspective) .  Having said that, she still needs to make an effort to dress appropriately for the weather, so this is a great opportunity to teach her some life skills, namely interpreting a weather forecast and applying critical thinking to her wardrobe selections.

So, how does one go about dressing for the weather?  She will be responsible for checking the weather forecast before deciding on the day’s outfit.  As an adult, I have read many a forecast, but it wasn’t until I talked to my daughter about what to look for, that I realized the number of factors to be taken into consideration.

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  • Temperature – she will need to look at what the temperature will be in the morning, as well as the afternoon (at this time of year, she can be heading out in temperatures barely above zero and coming home in temperatures in the mid or upper teens, so I talked to her about the practicality of layering her clothes to accommodate this variance)
  • Humidity (mostly relevant in the summer months) – typically, this is denoted as a “Feels like” temperature and can significantly impact the temperature
  • Wind speed and direction – it’s not enough to just look at the temperatures, she will also need to factor in the speed of the wind and what direction it is coming from (e.g. a wind from the North is colder than one from the South)
  • Probability of Precipitation (POP) – truthfully, this one is a bit of a crap shoot, as POP is determined for a fairly broad region and weather can vary significantly from one area to another (heck, it can be raining at my house but the sun can be shining five minutes away) – generally speaking, if it’s not raining (or rain is not immediately imminent) at the time she leaves for school, I leave it up to her to decide on footwear (many a time, I have convinced her to wear rubber boots due to rain in the forecast, but it never happened and she had to stomp around all day in her rubber boots)
  • Sunshine vs cloud cover – all things being equal, a mainly sunny day is going to be warmer than one that is overcast

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I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a ‘Girl Scout’ by nature (i.e. “Be prepared” is my motto), so I would be inclined to throw some ‘extras’ into her backpack, just in case, but I am leaving this up to her (generally speaking, she would prefer to ‘wing it’).  She does not tend to feel the cold quite as much as I do, so it makes sense for her to start deciding what to wear for herself (truthfully, I have a tough enough time dressing myself!).

Although it is hard not to voice my opinion, I am doing my best to leave the wardrobe decisions to my daughter.  On those days that she makes a poor choice (e.g. wears a lightweight jacket on a day with a high of 8 degrees and 25 km/h winds from the north), hopefully she will take what she learned and apply it the next time.  With experience, she’ll get better at judging what to wear and I will get better at stepping back and letting her make the decisions.

If you’re interested in preparing your children for the real world by teaching them life skills that help them be more self-reliant, you may also wish to read my posts on Washing the dishes, Sorting laundry and Time management.

 

Washing the dishes

This summer we rented a cottage for a week.  It was one of those ‘rustic’ ones, with the ‘cottagey smell’ and the big picnic table in the dining room to eat on (it was great!).  The cottage perfectly met our needs, but it was missing one or two of the ‘comforts of home’.  My daughter was shocked to find out that there was no dishwasher (of course, she was even more shocked when she found out there was no internet access).

Truthfully, washing the dishes by hand makes me nostalgic, taking me back to my cottage days, except my cottage growing up didn’t even have hot water, so we had to heat it on the stove (when I mentioned that to my daughter, you would have thought that I had said that I had to pump water from a well and then walk half a mile uphill with the water cistern on my head, but in fairness, I guess it all sounds a bit like fiction to someone my daughter’s age).

My daughter has had some experience with drying dishes (when she and I bake, she has to help with the clean-up by drying all the baking utensils and dishes), but this time she wanted to take a turn at washing.  Given her initial ‘enthusiasm’ (OK, maybe this is too strong a word), we quickly established that she was on breakfast and lunch dishwashing duty for the week.  I dried and put away, since she couldn’t reach many of the cupboards.

Before we started though, I had to give her a bit of a ‘crash course’ in washing dishes.  It went something like this…

  • Scrape food scraps and crumbs into the garbage and lightly rinse off dishes, if required (e.g. if there is BBQ sauce or similar that can be easily rinsed off so that it doesn’t end up messing up your wash water).  Put really soiled items aside and save them for the end so that your dishwashing water doesn’t get grungy right out of the gate (fill heavily soiled pots and pans with some hot water and a bit of dishwashing liquid so they can soak and food can soften, making cleaning easier later on).
  • Clean out the sink, then fill it half full with hot water and a small amount of dishwashing liquid (probably the size of a quarter or so should do it, as too many suds makes it more difficult to rinse dishes).  Note that you may have to get clean water part way through the washing process, depending on how dirty your water is and how many dishes you have to wash.
  • Generally speaking, wash items in this order (you may wish to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the hot water)…
    • glasses (push the cloth into the glass to the bottom and twist it around a few times)
    • cutlery (wash individually or in small groups of 2 or 3 to make sure each utensil gets cleaned)
    • bowls and plates
    • pots and pans (don’t use abrasive cleaners or brushes on non-stick surfaces when cleaning)
    • heavily soiled items (these items may require a bit of soaking and/or scrubbing)
  • Rinse item with hot water to remove any soap suds.
  • Place item in drying rack to air or hand dry.

There’s a good chance that your home has a dishwasher, but there are many apartments and rental properties that do not (chances are, this is what your kids will be living in when they leave the comforts of your home).  Prepare your child for the real world by teaching them how to wash the dishes, as well as other life skills such as Sorting laundry and Baking basics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mommy, I’m bored!

My daughter has 10 WEEKS of summer vacation this year!  I hate to admit it, but it’s got me a little panicky – she is typically ‘bored’ by the end of the first week, so what are we going to do for the other 9?  It’s also a little tricky because I work out of the house, so my physical presence suggests that I am always ‘available’.

I must admit that, on occasion, I have been known to fall into the ‘if your kids don’t have at least 8 hours of fun every day, then you’re a bad mother’ trap, but I really should know better.  Truth is, even if I could come up with enough activities to keep my daughter blissfully entertained all summer, I would not be doing her any favors (although I’m sure she wouldn’t see it that way :)).  She needs to learn how to entertain herself and I need to learn how to not feel guilty about it.

I’m not going to pretend that my motives for insisting that my daughter entertain herself are purely altruistic.  As primary caregiver, I also need some ‘breaks’ in the day, to get things done and to rejuvenate, so that when my daughter and I spend time with one another again, it’s with renewed energy and not resentment.  I love to spend time with her and consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity, but feeling tired and frazzled, won’t benefit either of us in the long run.

Who amongst us hasn’t physically ‘cringed’ when they heard the words, “Mommy, I’m bored!” (I think we’re so sensitive to it because most of us have forgotten what it feels like to be bored).  The toughest part is stopping yourself from reacting and trying to convince them that there are lots of things to do (after all, you know that their closets are full of things that they haven’t played with in months).  You’re not going to convince them that they are not bored, so save your breath.  Do your best to smile and confidently assure them that you know they’ll figure it out.

It sounds strange, but kids also need to learn how to be bored – after all, there is something to be said for slowing down, daydreaming, looking at the clouds, thinking and just ‘doing nothing’.  Kids these days are involved in so many extracurricular activities that, when they don’t have something to go to, they’re not really sure what to do with themselves.  Sometimes, the act of being bored, can actually bring out their imagination and creativity.

These days, there seems to be an expectation that parents ‘entertain’ their children and keep them busy every hour of the day (in fairness, these expectations can be self-imposed).  Truthfully, all of these Martha Stewart DIY gurus on the internet don’t help, either (very few of us could ever ‘measure up’).   However, I don’t remember my mother thinking it was her responsibility to entertain my siblings and I.  Other than a week or two of swimming lessons and perhaps one week of camp, we played on our own, with one another or with friends in the neighborhood.

I walk around my neighborhood now and very rarely ever see kids playing outside.  Unfortunately, technology is largely to blame for this.  So much of the summer is spent inside, playing video games and watching TV.  Granted, it is so much easier to take the cap off ‘screen time’ and let kids spend unlimited time on electronic gadgets, leaving time for you to get things done and maybe enjoy some time on Facebook yourself, but the consequences can be seen in your children’s stifled creativity and growing waistlines.  Plus, being bombarded with multi-media breeds dependence on it, making it almost impossible to be entertained with anything less.

At the beginning of summer vacation, my daughter and I had a chat about what we wanted to ‘do’.  At that time, I made it clear that, although I definitely wanted for the two of us to spend time together, she was also going to be on the hook for entertaining herself.   Initially, she was less than enthusiastic about this prospect, but before long, she took it upon herself to come up with some ‘boredom busters’.  She found several excellent websites with ‘summer bucket lists’ and then added some ideas of her own.   Here are a couple of websites you and your children can check out for ideas…

http://nurturestore.co.uk/100-days-of-summer-bucket-list
http://www.kidspot.com.au/kids-activities-and-games/Printable-activities+45/Boredom-buster-jar+13152.htm

I’m thinking of doing something similar, but writing down various ‘chores’ that can be undertaken together in the summer (e.g. clean out my daughter’s craft supplies, organize photos, etc.).  My hope is that, if tackled in small, manageable chunks, we’ll be able to cross some of these ‘to-do’s’ off my list, too (well, one can hope, can’t they?!).

It’s true…every day is definitely NOT a carnival, but we both have to learn to be good with that!

 

Dangers of posting online

From the time they are toddlers, today’s children are drawn to technology and seem to have an almost innate understanding of how to use it.  However, their comfort level with all things technology, can also lead to a blindness to its many dangers.

Wii, Xbox, Nintendo DS, e-readers (e.g. Kobo and Kindle), IPOD and smartphones…what do these all have in common?  All of these devices can be used to gain access to the internet.  Scary, isn’t it?!  These devices all have parental controls to manage this access, but sometimes it seems like a never-ending battle to keep our children safe online.

Today’s kids are so “wired”, that they think nothing of incorporating technology into almost every facet of their lives.  Everything they do and everywhere they go, there is someone taking a picture or video and posting it online.  They don’t stop to think about the consequences.  Once something is posted online, you can’t ever get it back!  We have to help them understand that the picture or video they post today could end up leading a predator to their door, making them a target of cyber-bullying, or costing them a bank loan or a ‘job of a lifetime’, one day in the future.

I do my best to make sure my daughter’s picture doesn’t end up on the internet but, I realize that my ability to keep my daughter safe diminishes over time.  When that time comes, I pray that I have taught her what she needs to know to keep herself safe online.

Please show your children this video so that they might at least stop and carefully consider what they are doing before they post something online.

If you’re concerned about keeping your kids safe online, check out my Internet Safety Academy, an e-course I developed to help parents keep their kids safe online, as well as teach their children how to keep themselves safe in today’s cyber-world (after all, you can’t be there 24/7)!

If you’re interested in keeping your children safe online, you may also wish to check out my posts on “The dangers of online chatting” and “YouTube Safety“.

Staying safe online

Are your children staying safe online?  It’s a question that strikes fear into every parent’s heart!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a social function and the conversation ended up focusing on the various perils of technology.  Are our children using it too much?  Are they being exposed to inappropriate words and images or, worse yet, are they being targeted by online predators or bullies?

I read a very disturbing fact the other day, 1 in 7 kids will be approached online by a sexual predator ( resource: www.loveourchildrenusa.org).

That was almost enough to prompt me to shut down the computer and never let my daughter near it again!  Realistically though, technology and the internet are here to stay and it wouldn’t be very practical to try to insulate her from something that is going to be such a big part of her life in the years to come (I don’t know about your kids, but my daughter has been using computers for school research and other activities since Grade 1 and I don’t see that changing anytime soon).

This is a topic that can seem rather overwhelming, especially for those of us who aren’t exactly ‘blazing a trail’ with respect to technology.  It is extremely important that we keep our children safe from the many dangers online, but where do you start?  There are a number of things that we, as parents, should do to protect our children (e.g. set up technology with safety in mind and oversee technology use), but it is equally as important that we teach our children how to protect themselves online (after all, we can’t be there 24/7).  The majority of our children have grown up with technology and are very comfortable with it, but most were never taught how to use it safely.  Learning this life skill could truly save their lives!

I believe that we need to start building this life skill when our children are still young, before they are faced with the even greater dangers of social media and the like.  If we start building a foundation of responsible technology use in their pre-teens (and even earlier), they will be much better equipped to handle what the teen years throw at them.

I felt so passionate about this, that I started researching this topic as a means of protecting my own daughter from the ever-growing list of online dangers.  However, I soon decided that thousands of other parents could use this information to protect their children, too.  There was so much information about internet safety and security out there, but it was scattered all over the place and was often contradictory.

I believed that parents really needed organized, easy-to-understand-and- implement guidelines.  They also needed child-friendly ‘training scripts’  (some interesting examples and screen shots to enhance learning wouldn’t hurt, either) to talk to their children about the various online dangers and show their kids what they can do to protect themselves in the cyber-world.

After months of research, Internet Safety Academy was born!  I truly believe that it gives parents the tools they need to create cyber-safe families!  Check it out here!

For more tips on keeping your kids safe online, read my posts entitled, “YouTube Safety” and “The dangers of online chatting“.

Trampoline Safety

My daughter groaned dramatically when she heard that I was writing a post on trampoline safety.  I definitely have a ‘love-hate’ relationship with our trampoline and, truth be known, more days than not, I wish I had never bought it.  Since purchasing it, I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about people hurting themselves on trampolines.  As a result, much to my daughter’s chagrin, I have quite a few rules related to trampoline use (truthfully, my husband is half the problem, as he tends to get carried away and ‘stretch’ the rules without thinking through the consequences).

I did quite a bit of research before I decided on our trampoline and it is about as structurally safe as it can be (this thing is literally the ‘Fort Knox’ of trampolines), however, that is only one piece of the puzzle.  You can have the safest trampoline on the market, but if you use it unsafely, you are not much better off.

The trouble is that most people view a trampoline as just a ‘fun toy’ for their children, but it can actually be quite dangerous, especially for children, who are more susceptible to injuries (trampoline injuries typically consist of breaks, fractures, spinal injuries and head injuries).  When Parents.com asked doctors at ten of the leading children’s hospitals in the United States, what advice they would give to parents to prevent a trip to the emergency room, the number one response was to “just say no to trampolines”.

Did you know that a mind-blowing 92,000 visits are made to the E.R. a year, due to trampoline-related injuries(http://www.parents.com/health/doctors/what-er-doctors-wish-you-knew)?  That being said, if your children ARE going to play on a trampoline, here are some ways to minimize the risks.

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  • Only one person jumping at a time – I know that it’s so much more fun to have a whole bunch of people all jumping together, but the risk of injury increases exponentially with each additional person.  That’s because many injuries occur when kids bang into one another (e.g. with their heads) or land on one another.  “If one or two kids jump up, then the trampoline is like concrete for the child coming down. Kids can even break their arms or legs as they land.” (Howard Kadish, M.D., pediatric emergency medicine physician at the Primary Children’s Medical Center, Salt Lake City).   Injury is even more likely and serious if an adult bounces on a trampoline with a child, due to the weight differential, so don’t be enticed to ‘join in on the fun’.
  • Children should always be supervised by an adult when playing on the trampoline.  Let’s face it, they’re much more likely to “try something new” when you’re not watching them then when you are.  Make sure your children enforce this rule, even when they have guests over.
  • Do not bounce on a wet mat as it becomes very slippery (I know it looks like fun to add water and water toys to their trampoline fun, but the increased risk of injury just isn’t worth it).  This is the same reason why you should not jump on a trampoline with socks on (the best option is bare feet).
  • No flips or aerial somersaults, unless they are taught how to do these tricks by a professional (my local gymnastics club actually offers a trampoline course).  These tricks look mighty impressive, but they are a neck or head injury waiting to happen.
  • No jumping with balls or other toys on the trampoline (I know I’m a killjoy, but imagine if your child is bouncing on the trampoline and comes down on a ball or other toy).  Having said that, I have allowed a game where participants either sit or stand on the trampoline and pass a ball back and forth (e.g. kicking, rolling or bouncing), without jumping.
  • Jump in the middle of the mat, not at the edges, and never bounce off the net.  Many people who have a trampoline net have been lulled into a false sense of security, only to find out that the net is not weight-bearing or has not been assembled properly.
  • Anyone not jumping should be sitting at the edge of the trampoline with their legs criss-crossed so that they don’t trip the jumper or get their legs jumped on (in the ideal world, there would only be one person on the trampoline period, but if that’s not the case, make sure to follow this rule).

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Ensure that all people who are responsible for your children (e.g. babysitters and grandparents) know the trampoline rules and adhere to them.  A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with a grandmother who had allowed her grandchildren to jump off the roof of the shed onto the trampoline and was now reassessing the wisdom of her actions (she was pretty concerned about how her daughter and son-in-law were going to react).

Another thing you’ll want to check out is whether or not your homeowner’s insurance covers trampoline injuries (immediate family or otherwise).  An increasing number of insurance companies are not covering this in their policies because of the high risk.  Being sued by parents of a child who got hurt on your trampoline could put a serious dent in your wallet!

I don’t know about you but, where I live, it seems like almost everyone has a trampoline (perhaps an exaggeration, but there are quite a few).  The reality though, is that there are millions of households who have them, so you’ll probably want to check this out when your child is going to a friend’s house or a birthday party.  There is a wide range of quality when it comes to trampolines (I have seen some that are pretty rickety and that don’t have a net or other safety features), and most people don’t follow these trampoline safety rules, so  I generally ask the parent that my child not be allowed to go on the trampoline (trust me, this does not make me my daughter’s favorite person, but I’d rather be safe than sorry).

A friend of mine asked me the other day how I liked the trampoline and whether or not she should consider buying one for her boys.  I gave her a brief summary of my findings and strongly encouraged her to think long and hard about it first.  It’s every parent’s decision but, at the end of the day, I have to side with the emergency room doctors who cautioned, “just say no to trampolines”!

If you’re interested in teaching your children how to keep themselves safe, you may wish to check out my posts on Bike Safety Rules, Sun Safety, Beach Safety and Thunderstorm Safety.

Check for ticks

Last week, my daughter was on a field trip where they were playing a game called “Survival of the fittest”.  As the name suggests, they were each “assigned” a certain animal (I believe she was a raccoon) and then spent the day running through the forest, finding prey and/or avoiding predators.

When I got the notice about her field trip, I had just recently run across a news report about a new tick-borne illness that may prove to be even worse than Lyme Disease, so my radar went up when I heard that they were going to be spending the day in the bush (when she got home, it was going to be very important that I check for ticks).   For more information about this new tick-borne disease, called the Powassan virus, check out this video and share it with every parent you know.

My daughter and I have talked about the importance of tick prevention before (periodically, we will partake in a “geocaching adventure”, which almost always involves trudging through wooded areas and/or long grasses), so she knows some of the basics of protecting herself.

Since ticks don’t fly or jump, they typically end up on human ‘hosts’ by crawling on their shoes and working their way up from there (they can also attach themselves to long grasses and then transfer to people who brush up against them).  Ticks are looking for exposed skin to feed on, so one of the best things kids can do to protect themselves is to wear fully-enclosed shoes, long pants (preferably tucked into boots or socks – a major fashion faux-pas, according to my daughter) and a long-sleeved shirt.  Luckily for me, the day turned out to be cooler than it normally would be at this time of year, so my daughter didn’t put up an argument about these clothing requirements (other than the suggestion that she tuck her pants into her socks, of course!).

When she got home, she and I did a thorough “tick check” to ensure that she had no ticks on her body (I also shook out her clothes outside and then put them in the dryer on high for a while).   I found a very helpful poster, created by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, that showed kids where on their bodies to look for ticks,  so my daughter and I were able to use this as a guideline.

If you’re interested in finding out more about protecting your kids from ticks, check out my post “The Great Outdoors – Tick Prevention”.  For those families who enjoy spending time in the woods, you may also wish to check out my post entitled “The Great Outdoors – Identifying poison ivy”.