Take Control of Your Time

I saw some interesting information on EntreLeadership’s site. It was a piece entitled “5 Ways to Take Control of Your Day” from June of this year.

The piece talked about a totally made-up disease called distractinonia and we could all be suffering from it.

Distractinonia – the piece notes – is not about those who spend hours watching cat videos, playing Halo or Tweeting about lunch. Those who do this are worse than distracted, if you ask me. I think they’re off in la-la land somewhere and aren’t being very “intentional” about their workday.

And in today’s world, I think you really do have to be totally intentional about what you’re there for when you’re in front of your computer (or where ever it is you do your work).

I’ve learned from years of working from home that I can’t dilly dally around about work. I need to have an agenda, a list and goals for the day – and stick to them. I can’t jump off track and cruise Facebook for 45 minutes or so. I can’t divert my attention to pay a few bills and check by bank statement online.

Allowing these diversions simply opens your mind to distractions. The 45 minutes on Facebook turns into more than an hour. You see a Facebook ad and end up ordering “something you’ve been looking for” …. You find an item in your bank statement that you don’t recognize and go off on a research tangent to figure it out …  It’s easy to fall victim to these distractions.

After all, they are things you’d do anyway. The problem is, failing to stay on task costs you valuable time you should be spending on work.

And – regardless of the importance of checking your bank statement – work pays the bills so it SHOULD get your focused attention during work time.

You may even get distracted by things that are work-related. And you feel like these aren’t really distractions. But “work-related” doesn’t mean it is what you need to be working on now.

One day I saw a mistake in a blog post as I was making a publication list. Instead of making a note of the mistake and going back to it, I went into edit mode and fixed it. I realized that post was also on another blog and felt led to log in and fix it there too. I realized that the mistake revealed an inconsistency in the way something had been stated. Gee, that could have happened in lots of posts. Soon I found myself deep in a rabbit hole.

Did my publication list get done? Yes – eventually. But not in the requested time frame.  It was have been simple for me to make a note of the mistake, finish my publication list and send it off – and then go back to the corrections.

So when you feel like there are never enough hours in the day to get things done – no matter how hard you work – examine your particular case of distractinonia to see where the root of your productivity sucks are.

According to EntreLeadership’s piece there are very common work-related productivity-sucks that we must combat to make the most of our work days.

Multitasking, Meetings, Socializing, Talky Teammates, Emails

Multitasking is something that is supposed to help us save time. (There is probably even an app for it.) Its sounds impressive if we can do it, right?

Well – not so much. Actually, few of us are good at it. Be honest about your brain’s ability to handle 2 or 3 things at one time – much less the 5 or 6 that we often pile on ourselves when multitasking. The truth is that you will end up stressed ad less focused – and therefore less productive.

It helps to begin each morning by WRITING DOWN AND PRIORITIZING your goals for the day. Focus on one task at a time. Mark them off as you complete them. Focus through the task until the end.

Meetings aren’t the problem.  It is good to get together to work out project details, hear updates, and communicate priorities. In fact, it is a necessary part of doing business. The problem starts if you’re not “intentional” about your meetings. In other words, you just sort of fly by the seat of your pants and let the meeting unfold. That is simply a recipe for disaster. If there were any goals for the meeting, they will not likely get accomplished without an agenda. And what about keeping to meeting time parameters? You MUST have a time manager with an iron hand. Decide how long will be spent on each agenda item and plan offline follow-up  or assign it out when you reach the limit – or just make sure you get you stuff done. It can be done. It’s just critical to stay on topic and on-task.

And socializing isn’t a problem either. If it isn’t allowed to get out of control. According to OfficeTime.net, 16% of those surveyed said that they spend tween 1 and 2 hours a day engaging in social conversation with coworkers. Yikes! If you tally the man hours associated with that, you’ll cringe. If you’re a person who tends to spend too long doing this, give yourself time limits and stick to them. Schedule socializing on your calendar as an event that only lasts for a few minutes – not a few hours.   Realize that in socializing, you’re not just deflating your own productivity but you’re dragging coworkers down with you.

It is a fact that socialization is an important part of team building. So if you’re a person who doesn’t do this, put it on your schedule. Just limit it – like your more “social” coworkers – to a few minutes per day.

Talky Team Members

Of course, you’re going to have a team member or two who are really chatty. And it may be that they love to chat with you. They may lure you into the conversation by asking for a “quick question.” The problem is that their quick question takes an hour and after that hour you don’t even know what the quick question was.

If it seems that this person often has “quick questions,” it may help to schedule a time for a weekly meeting with him or her. Limit the meeting time. If this person comes to you with a “quick question” request outside of this meeting time, refer back to that meeting, noting that you can cover that question at your weekly meeting. Of course, if this person has an emergency, you can deal with it immediately.

Emails

There are few emails that can’t wait. We’ve developed the perception that each of the emails that we get is much more important than most actually are. Think about it. If it were an emergency, they would call – or at least text.

Email, believe it or not, is no longer the immediate response communication format.

Many who’ve conquered time management only answer email 2 times per day (one in both the am and pm) – which they have scheduled on their calendars. Some even turn their email off on the weekends or during the evenings or family events so they aren’t tempted to respond.

According to management expert Peter Drucker, “Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.”

I would say that’s true. Avoid distractions, respect your time and the time of others.

Your productivity will soar!

Source: EntreLeadership Team [www.entreleadership.com]

Grant Program Helps Organizations Serving Autistic Children

Did you know that there is an Autism Speaks Local Grant application for 2016 that opened on July 18th  and will be open until Friday, September 23? Here is the application link.

We know that we have many organizations that provide services to autistic children. This great program can help you to provide better (or more) services to your autistic students.

Here are the details:

Organizations providing services to children and adults with autism can apply for grants of up to $5,000. The goal of this program is to help promote local services that enhance the lives of people affected by autism. Since 2012, Autism Speaks has distributed nearly $2 million in grant funding to 365 organizations around the country through our Local Grants program in the areas of education, recreation, young adult/adult services and technology.

You can get answers to more of your questions here. You may also review the slides from an informational webinar here.

This is not a grant program for individuals. It is strictly for organizations providing services to autistic children.

The focus of the Autism Speaks Family Services Local Grants is three-fold:

  1. To promote local services that enhance the lives of those affected by autism.
  2. To expand the capacity to effectively serve this growing community.
  3. To increase the field of service providers across the country.

When you apply, Autism Speaks will look at what each program can provide for the local autism community so share all of the resources that you may offer including videos, manuals and curricula that can also be shared on the Autism Speaks website for the broader community. Also be sure to describe different levels of opportunities you provide. You may for example, offer classes for children with varying levels of autism. Some may be mainstreamed while you may see it more beneficial to offer children with greater needs, individual attention or smaller class environments. Careful consideration will also be given to those specifically addressing autism needs in underserved communities.

This is the way the grant process will play out:

  • July 18-September 23: Application open
  • September 26-November 4: Review process
  • November 17: Family Services Committee approval
  • Early December: All applicants notified of decisions
  • Early January 2017: Funds begin to be distributed

What has been funded through this program?

In 2016, Autism Speaks awarded more than $540,000 to 116 local organizations through its Chapter, Neighborhood and Regional Grant programs.

Chapter Grants of up to $5,000 were awarded to 62 organizations located in the areas of the 12 Autism Speaks chapters (Carolinas, Chicagoland, Long Island, National Capital Area, New England, New Jersey, Ohio, South Florida, Southern California*, St. Louis, Texas and Western Pennsylvania) for a total of over $257,000.

Regional Grants of up to $5,000 were awarded to 16 organizations across the country for a total of over $77,000. The grants were distributed throughout the four regions around the country (Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, West).

Neighborhood Grants (funded by Sprouts Farmers Market), were awarded to 38 organizations in 9 states for a total of over $208,000. Neighborhood Grants are available in Alabama, Arizona, California (*this includes the Southern California Chapter Grants), Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

In previous years, what was funded? In 2014, Autism Speaks awarded more than $620,000 to 128 local organizations through its Chapter, Neighborhood and Regional Grant programs.

Chapter Grants of up to $5,000 were awarded to 55 organizations located in the areas of the 11 Autism Speaks chapters (Carolinas, Chicagoland, Long Island, National Capital Area, New England, New Jersey, Ohio, South Florida, Southern California*, St. Louis and Western Pennsylvania) for a total of over $250,000.

Regional Grants of up to $5,000 were awarded to 21 organizations across the country for a total of close to $100,000. The grants were distributed throughout the four regions around the country (Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, West).

Neighborhood Grants of up to $5,000 (funded by Sprouts Farmers Market) were awarded to 52 organizations in 8 states for a total of over $271,000. Neighborhood Grants are available in Arizona, California (*this includes the Southern California Chapter Grants), Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.

In 2013, Autism Speaks awarded more than $700,000 to 141 local organizations through its Chapter, Neighborhood and Regional Grant programs.

Chapter Grants of up to $5,000 were awarded to 54 organizations located in the areas of the 11 Autism Speaks chapters (Carolinas, Chicagoland, Long Island, National Capital Area, New England, New Jersey, Ohio, South Florida, Southern California*, St. Louis and Western Pennsylvania) for a total of close to $250,000.

Regional Grants of up to $5,000 were awarded to 21 organizations across the country for a total of close to $100,000. The grants were distributed throughout the four regions around the country (Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, West).

Neighborhood Grants of up to $5,000 (funded by Sprouts Farmers Market) were awarded to 66 organizations in 8 states for a total of over $340,000. Neighborhood Grants are available in Arizona, California (*this includes the Southern California Chapter Grants), Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.

In 2012, Autism Speaks awarded $100,000 to 20 locations in the four original Autism Speaks chapters (Chicagoland, Southern California, South Florida and St. Louis.

Click here to a view more post recipients.

For more information about the Autism Speaks Family Services grants programs, www.autismspeaks.org.

Improving Cardio Endurance for Children

Did you that the American Heart Association has research that the cardiovascular endurance of America’s children fell an average of 6 percent per decade between 1970 and 2000. It’s not just a problem in America. In fact, the cardiovascular health of children in nations around the world has declined by 5 percent each decade. We just happen to lead the pack with 6 percent.

Some other eye-opening statistics from the research show that kids today are “roughly 15 percent less fit from a cardiovascular standpoint than their parents were as youngsters” and they run a mile run a minute and a half slower than children from 30 years ago.

When Does Fit Mean “Fit”?

There are different ways that young people can be fit.

  • Strong (like a weightlifter)
  • Flexible (like a gymnast)
  • Skillful (like a tennis player)

Not all of these types of “strength” relate well to “health,” according to contribute to Grant Tomkinson, Ph.D., lead author of the study founding the American Heart Association’s research. “The most important type of fitness for good health is cardiovascular fitness, which is the ability to exercise vigorously for a long time, like running multiple laps around an oval track.”

The cardiovascular trend for the world’s children (and especially America’s) is reason for concern, but these trends can be changed even for children who are part of this “degenerating generation.” They cardiovascular habits of children can be improved (with the addition to cardiovascular activities to their daily routines and lifestyle changes) so that cardio endurance can be improved.

It is important to become familiar with the components of childhood fitness. It is multifaceted – encompassing a number of aspects that have impact on health and well-being.

Flexibility pertains to the body’s range of motion. The goal of flexibility training is to have maximum range of motion without pain or stiffness.

Strength refers to the amount of weight the muscles can push, pull or support. However, strength training also strengthens the bones.

Cardiovascular endurance is the heart’s ability to withstand extended periods of activity.

Muscular endurance is the amount of time the muscles can withstand pushing, pulling or supporting weight.

Body composition is the amount (or percentage) of fat versus non-fat (bone, skin, muscle, etc.) in the body.

It’s also important to understand the anatomical and physiological differences between children and adults. Keep in mind that every child is different – some stronger in one area more so than another.

  • Because children grow in spurts, they are always in the process of acclimation and may lack coordination. This makes them more vulnerable to injury, and any plan to improve child fitness should account for childhood growth patterns.
  • Children’s core muscles those muscles in the hips, back and abdomen area are not fully developed and are therefore weaker than the core muscles of adults. Core muscles serve to stabilize the entire body and a lack of core strength can compromise fitness in children by making children susceptible to injury.
  • Children often lack flexibility, which is an integral part of fitness and a preventative factor when it comes to injury. Therefore, flexibility training should be incorporated into any childhood fitness program.

There are several factors that can impact a child’s cardio endurance:

Diet:

A well-balanced diet can improve a child’s endurance. Having a daily diet that is full of nutritious foods can provide a child with more energy during school and after-school activities. Parents can encourage healthy eating habits in their children by making healthy food choices themselves. Foods that increase stamina include bananas, red grapes, complex cards and iron-rich foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a diet that includes a mix of foods from the five food groups: fresh vegetables and fruits, whole-grains, low-fat dairy, and quality lean protein sources, including lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds and eggs).

Daily Routine:

A daily routine that includes physical activity will get a child into a habit of staying active throughout their entire life. A daily routine that encourages fitness helps a child build up endurance.

Daily Activities:

While a daily routine is certainly useful to keep a child active, it’s also important to mix up the type of activities the child is doing. Walking or jogging, cycling, swimming and low intensity dancing are all activities that are aerobic exercises, which are low to high intensity exercises that primarily depend on aerobic energy-generating processes.  Having a child walk an hour one day is just as useful for their cardio endurance as swimming for 30 minutes another day. Mixing up these activities allows the child to not get bored of repeating the same activity each day. These cardio activities will help them perform better in other types of fitness.

Sports Involvement:

Some children need the motivation of competition to keep them active. Getting them involved in sports and activities such as dance, gymnastics, cheer or swimming can keep them physically fit and active – and add enough competition to hold their interest and enthusiasm. Children should still use aerobic activities to keep them performing at their best in these activities. For example, a sport such as basketball utilizes their aerobic exercise from jogging as they will be running up and down the court.

Competitive Activities Involvement:

Supplementing cardio workouts with competitive activities such as dance, gymnastics, cheer or swim can improve the overall experience for a child. The benefits of cardiovascular endurance for these athletes includes improved posture and health, enhanced stamina and performance ability, improvement with anaerobic ability (high intensity floor exercises, for example, are anaerobic), reduced risk of fatigue while enhancing concentration, reduced stress levels, boosted immune system and reduced risk of injury.

Follow a Plan

One of the best approaches for parents is to develop a childhood fitness plan for their child. It should be based on the components of fitness, assessment of the child’s fitness level and knowledge of the anatomical and physiological differences between adults and children.

Begin by considering the child’s hobbies, interests, natural skills and talents. For example, if the child’s interest lies in the martial arts, then karate lessons may be a good idea. If the child thrives in social situations, team sports may be a better option.

Your child fitness plan should include 60 minutes of physical activity every day, incorporating 3 total hours of strength training (for muscles and bones) per week.

Sources: WikiHow

Is Teasing Simply Funny or Hurtful?

Is Teasing Simply Funny or Hurtful?

“I was only teasing.”

How many times have you heard this or said it? Teasing takes place in every type of relationship: between children, parents, parent and child, all sort of relatives and friends, students of the same age and different ages, between teachers and even students and teachers.

Let’s define what a “tease” is before we go any farther.

[To tease is to make fun of or attempt to provoke (a person or animal) in a playful way. You could call it a jocular insult offered with love or a lesson with a dose of laughter.]

Teasing can be playful and fun when done in the right spirit. Families often like to engage in playful teasing like tickling, gentle mocking or calling each other silly names. But even this seemingly innocent behavior can be confusing for children to determine when it’s all in good fun and when it goes too far.

Positive or Negative Results?

Teasing that has good, positive results (i.e., making people laugh and relieving stress in a social situation) can be considered appropriate teasing. But kids often have difficulty seeing the line between teasing and hurting someone’s feelings. And it’s no surprise, since adults after whom kids may be modeling their behavior don’t see this line very clearly either.

Teasing that has a negative result – if it makes someone feel badly about themselves or uncomfortable – is inappropriate teasing.

Is it Starter Bullying?

Some believe teasing to be starter bullying or “entry level” bullying. Teasers may laugh and may mean little by their teasing, but the teased may not see it the same way. What the teaser may call lighthearted and fun may be described as malicious and annoying by the teased. When mean-spirited teasing becomes a problem, it’s time to seek out the root cause of the mean-spiritedness and badgering.

Are There Benefits to Positive Teasing?

Some researchers see benefits to what they call “prosocial teasing.” It can be playful, reveal affiliations and help both the teaser and the teased feel closer. After all, these researchers note, wouldn’t only someone very close to you tell you something as personal as how unappealing your feet are, for example? (Or is that someone just being mean?)

Teasing isn’t positive unless both parties perceive it as positive. That is where the challenge in striking the balance comes. How do you help your child to recognize the line before he steps over it and does something like tease the cousin who sleeps with a very babyish toy or makes several nighttime visits to the bathroom?

It’s just difficult. It has a lot to do with recognizing how what we say makes others feel. And that begins with understanding that we shouldn’t say to someone else what we wouldn’t want someone to say to us. It’s the Golden Rule.

How Do You Differentiate Between Healthy or Hostile Teasing?

Children often begin teasing at an early age – probably because Grandpa, Mom, Uncle Joe or Aunt Sue teased them in the same way at some point. The child may hold out a toy to you and when you reach for it, they take it away. It’s a simple form of teasing that doesn’t even require that they speak. But using adults as models, children will tease people with words as soon as they can speak.

This isn’t negative behavior if everyone involved in the teasing gets positivity from it.  It’s light-hearted, natural and fun. The goal is for the teaser and the teased to be drawn closer together by the teasing. In fact, Julie Cook, author of Tease Monster (and 50 other children’s book about social and behavioral issues) says that teasing helps satisfy the natural human need to fit in.

Teasing and joking can start with an attempt to be funny or to cope with an uncomfortable situation. Negativity sets in when kids no longer see the behavior as funny due to the teaser using teasing to not simply get attention but to feel superior to others.

How Do You Help Children Draw the Line?

Children often begin to understand the positive and negative sides of teasing when these things happen:

You clear up the confusion. Help children to see their teasing from the point of view of the one who is teased.

You talk about it. Children understand math. They can understand the results of teasing – if it is explained to them as if it were a math problem. Ask them if what they’re saying and doing adds to someone’s life or does it take away from who they are? Using words that they understand clearly from math problems can help make concepts that are confusing to them – like teasing – as clear as addition and subtraction.

You discourage teasing. Explain why a child’s teasing is inappropriate when it happens. Explain why it isn’t fair to treat his family or friend in the way that he has. Reinforce the concept of empathy and encourage the child to think about how his words make others feel. Remind the child of the Golden Rule. How would he or she feel if the tables were turned?

You lead by example. Even though you and another teacher may know that the teasing between you both is in good fun, a student who overhears some of this banter may not be able to recognize good natured teasing from mean-spirited behavior. It may not only be confusing for the student to hear the teasing, but that teasing also becomes a model for that student to follow.

You get others on board. Reinforcing behavior is easier when it is done consistently by all who model and influence behavior for children. So parents and other adult relatives, care givers and teachers need to be in sync in how they handle teasing so that it becomes a consistent “strategy” with great potential for success.

You tease proof. As we noted, teasing can be hurtful. Children can become “tease-proofed” with a little effort by the adults who are on board with the strategy.  Children who are teased don’t need protection, they need to learn the skills for handling teasing. Once children realize they can actually handle it, there will be a change in their attitude. The teasers will recognize this and start looking for different targets.

Does tease proofing work?

Here is an enlightening example of tease proofing shared in a story told by Jim Fay in an article for “Love and Logic” (part of the Institute for Professional Development) entitled “Tease Proof Your Kids”:

Mr. Mendez, a wonderful second-grade teacher, “tease proofed” his whole class. He said to the class, “Kids, the reason kids tease other kids is that it makes them feel superior. Now you can let them get away with this, or you can use an adult one-liner. But first of all, we all have to practice the ‘cool look.'”

This teacher had the kids practice standing with their hands in their pockets, rocking back on their heels, and putting a cool grin on their face.

He practiced this over and over. Every now and then, he would yell out, “Let’s see your ‘cool look.'” The kids would all jump out of their seats and put on the “look.”

Once they had all mastered the “cool look,” he said, “When kids start to tease you, put on your ‘cool look.’ Keep the look going while they tease. As soon as they get through putting you down, use your one-liner.”

The one-liner he taught them is, “Thanks for sharing that with me.” Mr. Mendez had the kids practice this, making sure that they kept the “cool look” on while they said the words.

Every now and then, when the kids would least expect it, he would yell out, “Let me hear your one liner!” And the kids would practice saying the words, making sure to grin while they said them.

Once the teacher felt that the class had mastered saying, “Thanks for sharing that with me,” in the appropriate way, he started having them practice jumping up out of their seats, putting on the “cool look,” and saying their one-liner.

The next step was for the kids to learn to turn around on the last word and walk away fast without looking back at the teasing child. Needless to say, they all did their practice until the skill was mastered. They even spent some of their recess time practicing this on the playground.

With the skill learned, practiced and mastered, Mr. Mendez could implement his part of the operation. When children came to him to tattle about others teasing them he consistently asked, “Did you let him get by with it or did you use your ‘cool skill’?”

In the event that child admitted that he had not used his/her skill, the teacher said, “How sad that you let him get away with it. Do you suppose you are going to continue to let him get by with it or are you going to use your skill? It’s your choice, but tattling to me is no longer a choice.”

Mr. Mendez tells us that the amount of tattling and complaining has been reduced by over 90%. He also proudly tells about one of his students who came to him asking if they had to use the one-liner he taught them, or could they make up their own.

This second-grader wanted to demonstrate to the class the one-liner that he used so successfully on the playground.

He stood before the class and said, “This other kid on the playground was dissin’ me. He said I had the skinniest arms in the whole school. I put on my ‘cool look.’ I grinned and said, ‘Bummer, I thought I was cool, man.’ I walked away before he could figure out what to say. Man, I blew his mind!”

All the kids clapped for this skillful second-grader, and the teacher beamed with pride as he thought to himself, “Now that kid is really ‘tease proofed’ for sure.”

What Does This Tell Us?

Teasing is in our nature and that’s OK. Hurtful forms of teasing can be greatly reduced in our culture by reinforcing and demonstrating the Golden Rule to children as they learn to draw the line where hurtful teasing begins. When they’ve learned to reverse their perspective before they speak, they’ll never tease in a way that they would find hurtful themselves.

Perhaps adults should practice this too?

Resources: Care.com, NY Times, Love and Logic/Institute of Professional Development

 

Protecting Your Center’s Children: Policy and Child Abuse Prevention

As a provider of care services for children, your organization can play a critical role in protecting their lives. You can help put an end to child sexual abuse by implementing a comprehensive child protection program and training your coaching staff and volunteers. Ask any organization that has experienced a case of sexual abuse and they will tell you that knowing what they know now, there is NO amount of time that would have been too great to spend on prevention and educating their staff and volunteers.

As a care center you have the opportunity to set a new standard within the care community. Make the commitment for the long term well-being of your organization and for the precious children in your care. You can be a leader to your local community as well as a leader among other sports organizations by setting a higher standard and showing that you will do whatever it takes to keep children safe when they are with you.

Screening of Staff and Volunteers

Many organizations make the mistake of assuming that screening is synonymous with criminal background checks. Background checks are not an end-all. Because so few cases of sexual abuse are reported and even fewer prosecuted, the yield tends to be fairly low with background checks. Therefore, organizations should make sure that criminal background checks are not the only element of their child protection policy, since they alone are insufficient to protect children. On the other hand, organizations should not minimize the importance of including criminal background checks in the screening process. Many liability insurers require them. Furthermore, if an abuse allegation occurs in an organization and criminal background checks have not been done, the organization is potentially exposed legally.

Probably the most positive perspective for any organization to have in the screening process is to think in terms of selecting the best possible staff and volunteers to work with youth, rather than thinking in terms of screening out potential perpetrators. In determining the specific approach to selecting staff and volunteers, an organization should consider its mission and make sure that the policies and procedures that are developed resonate with that mission.

An organization should also make sure that the entire screening process is incorporated into an overall human resource policy that includes careful supervision of all staff and volunteers who have responsibility for children. Consultation with an attorney is essential in this process.

Policy Regarding Isolated, One-on-One Situations

Clear guidelines should be established for isolated, one-on-one situations. Many organizations strictly prohibit one-on-one time under any circumstances. However, for organizations that address the needs of children and adolescents, one-on-one mentoring/tutoring/support is often considered important to a child’s development. If this is the case for an organization, very specific guidelines about such one-on-one time should be clearly articulated. 

Prevention Training for Staff and Volunteers

A good child protection policy should require training that brings awareness about child sexual abuse and shifts adult attitudes about whom is responsible for protecting children and what actions might be taken to protect children. Training is the key component of changing and improving people’s attitudes and behaviors about what it means to keep children safe. Training in a group setting is also an excellent way to put everyone, including potential perpetrators, on notice that your organization takes prevention seriously and is not a place that will be easy for a perpetrator to fly under the radar.

Plan for Reporting Suspected Abuse

Organizations should clearly articulate policy about how reports of suspected sexual abuse should be made and processed. The policy should include specific information about to whom an initial report is made, in what format, and expectations about how the process will unfold. The policy should also be absolutely clear about the fact that staff should never investigate allegations. Investigations should always be left up to the proper authorities.

~Darkness To Light

Resources:

Darkness to Light Website D2L

CDC – Getting Started on Policies and Procedures CDC Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

 

Someone Smells Funky

How do you address offensive body odor in the workplace?  This can be a very delicate employee relations issue.  Such a problem cannot be ignored, whether it is something you notice, or if a colleague complains.  Yet, it is important to take a direct and sympathetic approach directly with the individual.  If it is left unresolved, it could affect the employee’s ability to work with others and reduce productivity.  Additionally, if the employee with body odor deals face-to-face with customers, relationships and even sales could be hurt.

This problem can result in either an embarrassing situation, or worse, a potential discrimination claim.  For example, if an employee’s body odor is caused by a medical condition, and you do not deal with it correctly, you may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Similarly, criticizing an ethnic diet that causes body order could trigger a complaint under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  Here are some “Dos and Don’ts” when dealing with body odor problems in the workplace:

Do:

  • Try to observe the employee’s body odor firsthand to confirm complaints.
  • Discuss the problem with the employee privately, ensuring confidentiality.
  • Treat the body odor like any other job-performance issue.  Tell the employee this is a problem, and that he or she must take care of it.
  • Think about what you want to say ahead of time. Be specific when describing the problem and the effect on the workplace.  Be prepared for different scenarios, such as a defensive reaction, unawareness, cultural differences or legal issues.
  • Offerappropriate   For example, suggest seeing a doctor, showering more often, or bringing a clean shirt to work.
  • Address any potential teasing or conflicts with co-workers to avoid ostracizing the employee with the issue.

Don’t:

  • Ignore or dance around the problem.  Be direct and tactful.
  • Make assumptions or inquire about the cause of body odor.
  • Mention cultural differences, such as diet. This could trigger resentment, as well as potential discrimination claims.  Never ask the individual to change his/her diet.
  • Delve into medical conditions; you may be wading into gray areas of ADA.  If the employee mentions a medical issue, you can request a doctor’s certification for confirmation and further direction.

If an employee volunteers that the odor is caused by a medical condition, listen to this person.  It is important not to jump to conclusions.  If the issue is caused by a medical condition, the best course of action is to brainstorm accommodations, whether or not it is required by the ADA.  Some possible accommodations include alterations to the employee’s work space, use of a fan or other forms of ventilation, offering flexible breaks to address hygiene, and/or use of antibacterial soaps and deodorants.

~The Employers Association

Teaching Kids About Stranger Danger

When it comes to educating children about strangers, you have to walk a fine line. You want them to have enough information to understand the dangers and how to protect themselves but you don’t want to scare them into fearing every new person they meet.

Everyone they haven’t met is a stranger so perhaps the difference that they need to learn is when they should alter their behavior into protect mode.

When they are with mom and dad, it’s perfectly fine (in fact, they are expected) to use their best manners to greet people they don’t know.

As they grow up and begin to be separated from mom and dad for time periods (perhaps around the 4-year-old mark) it’s important that children know their home address and phone number. In fact, they should have parents’ work and cell numbers so they can reach them at all times. They also need to know how to ask another adult to help them call their mommy in the event that an emergency arise – or they get separated from parents while out and about in a crowded environment or unfamiliar place.

What types of adults should they ask? This is important information for the 4-year-old to know.

Identifying a good stranger and a bad stranger can be confusing, especially if they are in an emergency situation, lost or in danger. But being able to distinguish between who is more likely to be a safe choice to ask for help is critical to their ability to actually seek help when needed. Help children with this by pointing good strangers out when you’re in one of those crowded or unfamiliar environments. Test them by asking them to show you some good strangers.

Here are 4 good safety tips that 4-year-olds can remember:

Spot another small child. The 4-year-old is going to be able to do this much more easily and quickly than choosing between adults in that crowded or unfamiliar environment. That small child will most likely be with a parent or caregiver who can be helpful with a request for help.

Rehearse the request. Practice with the 4-year-old the request that he needs to make so that it comes more naturally. Having to figure out that he needs to say “help me find my mom” isn’t the easiest thing for a child of this age to do when upset or confused.

Establish meeting places. Wherever you go with young children, establish a meeting place where you’ll meet if you get separated. Take the child to that spot to reinforce the spot as your meeting place.

Ask for help. This is where the phrase they’ve rehearsed comes in. When they reach the established meeting place, they should look for a police officer, security person or another parent or teacher to use their rehearsed phrase to ask for help.

Establish safety rules with children.

  1. Ask permission of your parent or caregiver before going anywhere. This nips any exceptions in the bud and doesn’t impose a fright factor like warnings sometime do. (i.e., “don’t get into a car or accept anything from strangers”)
  2. Wandering children may need even stricter guidelines, such as holding hands with an adult or staying with a buddy (who isn’t a wanderer.)
  3. Make sure that children know how to express it when someone makes them uncomfortable. They should know that this is OK. It may be that they simply take longer to warm up to people or there could actually be a reason for their discomfort. Either way, knowing that expressing this is OK may make them feel better about the situation.

Share your guidelines. It’s important for all who may be responsible for children know the guidelines that have been established with them. That’s the only way they can help maintain their safety at all times.

How can adults help protect children?

There are some behaviors that should alert others to dangerous situations and/or adults who may not have good intentions.

Adult behavior is suspicious if children are asked to:

  • Disobey their parents.
  • Do something without permission.
  • Keep a secret.
  • Help the person asking. (An adult should never be asking a child they don’t know for help.)

Or if whatever the adult does makes the child feel uncomfortable in any way.

What should a child be instructed to do if they recognize one of these situations?

The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) suggests 4 simple words that will help the child act safely: “No, Go, Yell, Tell.”

  • Refuse any stranger’s request.
  • Run away immediately.
  • Yell as loudly as they can.
  • Tell an adult they trust what happened right away.

Children should know that they should never feel bad about saying no to an adult who is a stranger – regardless of where they are.

Practicing scenarios can help to cement these concepts into a young child’s head.

Here are a few from the NCPC:

  • A nice-looking stranger approaches your child in the park and asks for help finding the stranger’s lost dog.
  • A woman who lives in your neighborhood but that the child has never spoken to invites your child into her house for a snack.
  • A stranger asks if your child wants a ride home from school.
  • Your child thinks he or she is being followed.
  • An adult your child knows says or does something that makes him or her feel bad or uncomfortable.
  • While your child is walking home from a friend’s house, a car pulls over and a stranger asks for directions.

These adult actions will also help children avoid dangerous situations:

  • Know where the children under your care are at all times. Make it a rule that all children must ask permission or check in with you or another teacher before going anywhere.
  • Point out safe places. Show children safe places to play, safe roads and paths to take, and safe places to go if there’s trouble.
  • Teach children to trust their instincts. Explain that if they ever feel scared or uncomfortable, they should get away from whoever is making them uncomfortable as fast as they can and tell an adult – even if they know the person who is making them uncomfortable. Reassure children that you will help them when they need it.
  • Teach children to be assertive. Make sure they know that it’s okay to say no to an adult and to run away from adults in dangerous situations.
  • Encourage your children to play with others. There’s safety in numbers. Predators tend to approach children who are alone or playing away from the group.

Share safety advice from McGruff, the NCPC’s crime dog, with your center’s parents and kids.

Resources: Childcare Network, National Crime Prevention Council

More Evidence That Children Need the Outdoors

Seems that I’m seeing more and more evidence that children who spend more time inside in front of any type of screen have issues whether they be weight and fitness, sleep, allergy, social skills, attention span (I could go on and on)… and now eye sight issues.

It’s quite obvious to me that getting outside encourages and inspires children to get more exercise, breathe in fresh air, develop immunities to outdoor allergens and burn off pent up energy and frustration.

Now teachers are commenting on the increased number of preschoolers in particular wearing glasses.

Let’s look at some of the facts and some of the opinions expressed by experts…

One theory: children spend so much time indoors in front of screens that their eyes are not getting enough long-distance viewing exercise.

There is also a study (published in the Journal of the American Medical Association) supporting the impact of outdoor time on vision that states:

“Children who spend more time outdoors during the day may have a reduced rate of nearsightedness, also known as myopia.”

American Medical Association study reported in Science World Report

Researchers in this study focused on the vision condition that has become rather widespread in some young adults living in urban parts of East and Southeast Asia. Close to 80 to 90 percent of high school graduates in this area are reportedly nearsighted.

The study specifically focused on six schools with children whose average age was 7 at the start of the study. The participants attended one additional 40-minute class of outdoor activities during each school day for three years. The parents of these children were also encouraged to engage their children in outdoor activities following school, even on weekends and holidays. The other participants continued on with their usual activities which did not necessarily include consistent engagement in outdoor activities.

The findings from this study revealed that the children who spent more time outside reduced their risk of nearsightedness (myopia).

Science Daily has also published an article based on the JAMA research – providing some additional details.

This article even references the recent focus on the many beneficial effects of outdoor activities on children, stating that “Given the popular appeal of increased outdoor activities to improve the health of school-aged children in general, the potential benefit of slowing myopia development and progression by those same activities is difficult to ignore. Although prescribing this approach with the intent of helping to prevent myopia would appear to have no risk, parents should understand that the magnitude of the effect is likely to be small and the durability is uncertain.”

Simply put: This isn’t proven. It’s a theory with supporting research. It’s still not clear why spending more time outside seems to benefit children’s eyesight. The research points to the possibility that higher levels of light intensity outdoors may increase the chemical dopamine from the retina of the eye and this increase can inhibit the growth typically seen in myopic conditions (nearsightedness).

This information was featured in an article contributed by Chris Kierwa in Childcare Exchange in March 2016 in an article entitled “More Kids with Glasses?”

Sources: Science World Report, ScienceDaily, The Childcare Exchange

Helping Students Who Suffer from Migraines

If you’ve never had a migraine, you probably don’t realize how different it is from a headache. You can offer tremendous help to a student suffering from this condition if you have a little information about migraines and understand how they work.

Migraines are a neurological disease, with head pain and associated symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to touch, sound, light, and odors, abdominal pain, and mood changes.

These can strike children as well as adults and while children generally have fewer and shorter migraine attacks than adult sufferers, childhood migraines can be just as disabling, and can seriously affect the child’s quality of life. Of course, when a child suffers from frequent or disabling headaches or migraine symptoms, seek help from a doctor.

  • About 10% of school-age children suffer from migraines.
  • 50% of all migraine sufferers have their first attack before the age of 12.
  • Even infants can have migraines. Migraine has been reported in children as young as 18 months.

Before puberty, boys suffer from migraines more often than girls and are known to start them earlier – mean age of onset for boys is 7, 11 for girls. But as they move into adolescence, the incidence of migraines increases more rapidly in girls than in boys.  This may be explained by the changes occurring in girls’ estrogen levels around this time.

By the time age 17 rolls around, as many as 8% of boys and 23% of girls have experienced a migraine.

What generally happens when these children become adults?

60% of sufferers who had adolescent-onset migraine report ongoing migraines after age 30. Boys fair better than girls as adults with fewer men than women suffering from migraines.

Just because children average fewer and shorter migraines, doesn’t mean they aren’t disabling. Childhood migraines can significantly impair a child’s quality of life. Besides the headache itself, anticipatory anxiety (knowing that at any time an attack could disrupt their ability to go to school or enjoy social activities) can accompany childhood migraines. Children who suffer from migraines are twice as likely to miss school, as well as after-school and weekend activities.

Children (especially adolescents and teenagers) can suffer from one of the most disabling types of migraine, chronic daily migraine (CM). CM occurs when a child has 15 or more headache days per month lasting more than 4 hours, for more than 3 months. Many teenagers with CM report daily headaches. Along with the head pain, these children also suffer from dizziness, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue. This type of migraine is challenging to treat and significantly impairs the child’s quality of life.

How can you spot migraines in children who are around you?

Since migraines often go undiagnosed in children and adolescents, it’s important to watch for symptoms so that you can be compassionate to their situation.  In the childhood migraine, head pain may be less severe than other symptoms, such as unexplained nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain, or dizziness. These non-headache symptoms are referred to as migraine equivalents. Children are less likely to experience migraines without an aura (visual disturbance, such as blurry vision, flashing lights, colored spots, or even dizziness, which occurs within an hour prior to the headache).

Before migraines begin, you may notice changes in the child’s behavior such as:

  • loss of appetite
  • irritability
  • yawning
  • food cravings
  • lethargy
  • withdrawal
  • mood swings
  • sensitivity to light, touch, smell and/or sound

Motion sickness may be an early warning of the predisposition to childhood migraines.

Triggers that can set off migraines in children are:

  • inadequate or altered sleep
  • skipping meals
  • stress
  • weather changes
  • bright lights
  • loud noises
  • strong odors
  • hormonal fluctuations

Contrary to popular belief, food triggers affect only 5-15% of sufferers.

What do you do if you observe any of the above symptoms in students or realize that students known to have migraines have experienced triggers?

Help the child to avoid the things (strong odors, loud noises, bright light, etc) that may make them feel worse. Keep them quieted and as relaxed as possible until their parents can take over care. Only administer medication if you’ve been specifically instructed by parents and feel comfortable with doing it.

NOTE: The information provided here should not be used for the diagnosis, treatment, or evaluation of any medical condition, but considered food for thought.

Resource: The Migraine Research Foundation

Sleep’s Role in Your Students’ Well-Being

Without question, sleep is important to kids. It is precious to their growth and learning.

This is critical to all kids from tiny to toddler to school age because it has tremendous impact on the ability of kids to absorb and comprehend, to practice and develop muscle memory – and simply to enjoy all of the activities that are packed into waking hours.

Considerations on sleep summarized from the Huffington Post article, What We’ve Learned About Kids And Sleep In 2015:

  • Sleep is when the brain flushes out, which is especially critical for kids — during sleep the brain cleanses itself, essentially flushing out its own waste.
  • Uninterrupted nighttime rest is particularly vital for kids, because the growth hormone needed for tissue and muscle development is produced mainly overnight, especially from midnight to 6 a.m.
  • The National Sleep Foundation’s guidelines on how long children of different ages should snooze are clear: 10 to 13 hours per day for preschoolers, nine to 11 for kids between ages 6 and 13, and eight to 10 hours for teens.
  • Lack of sleep can lead to misdiagnoses of ADHD.
  • Sleep debt puts kids at higher risk for obesity and diabetes.
  • Sleep debt can make kids more likely to get sick.

Figuring out what the impact of too little sleep is to kids is probably easier than figuring out how to help them get more quality sleep. It is helpful to be aware of kids’ wake and bedtimes, sleep cues, wakefulness windows.

Bedtimes and Wake Times

A bedtime of 7-8pm coincides with starting the day in the 6:30-7:30am window. Later bedtimes can cause a kid to fight sleep and this can cause nap resistance and several of the sleep deprivation symptoms noted below.

Sleep Cues

Rubbing his eyes, yawning, lack of focus, or general crankiness. These are some of the cues that your kid is tired. And if already tired, this is a kid that should have already been in bed. That’s why keeping an eye on the clock for the bedtime corresponding to the kid’s wake time is important.  If the “tired cues” go unnoticed, the kid may become suddenly wired, jumpy, and frantic and winding down for sleep will be more difficult.

Wakefulness Window

Don’t exceed this or you will push your kid beyond the number of hours that the body needs to go without sleep. This window obviously changes with the kid’s age.

There are also four prep tips that can help create a good environment for quality sleep.

1. Move electronics out of the bedroom or use special software to minimize their impact.

The electronics addiction may be stronger than sugar, but all experts are unified that technology must move out of the bedroom.

75% of children have at least one electronic device in their bedroom. (National Sleep Foundation 2014 Sleep in America Poll)

The bedroom should be a rest and recovery haven – not a place for distractions and entertainment. It may be necessary to move some items to accomplish this but the improvement in the kid’s ability to get to sleep and the quality of that sleep is worth it.

Before bed, a period of light diet can be enforced where screen time (whether tv, computer, or device) is reduced/eliminated.

2. Eliminate allergens from the bedroom.

This is just as important as limiting/prohibiting electronics before bed. Allergens – such as secondhand smoke – can cause sleep-disordered breathing and insomnia. There is also a study-supported correlation between secondhand smoke exposure and sleep disturbances in adolescents, including restless legs syndrome that can interfere with sleeping.

3. Offer only high protein snacks.

Sweets at bedtime can cause a spike in blood sugar which is followed by a drop. This can give kids a feeling of hunger in the middle of the night. Protein – a spoon of almond butter – is a better choice.

4. Put quiet time in place.

Call it meditation or mindfulness but more simply it’s quieting the mind with relaxing thoughts. This can reduce stress and improve sleep and can perhaps lead to reduction in insomnia, fatigue and depression.

5. Limit sleep disrupters.

Be aware of caffeine intake. Schedule errands or outings around naptimes. Don’t plan extracurricular activities that interfere with bedtimes.

6. Get outside each day. Go on a walk, play in the grass, or have a picnic lunch.

The exposure to sunlight and fresh air does kids good as does the exercise involved in getting out. Plan these activities around nap times since sunlight interferes with the production of melatonin (which promotes sleep.)

The kids coming in and out of your facilities will enjoy, learn and retain more from your classes if they are getting enough quality sleep. This is something you have no control over so why worry about it?

It could be the answer to the question of why some kids’ behaviors have changed.

If you notice some students have become:

  • Disinterested
  • Fatigue
  • Distracted or difficulty concentrating
  • Irritable or defiant
  • Tantrums
  • Unusually emotional
  • Hyper
  • Clumsy
  • Hungry
  • Excessively talkative

… it could be the results of too little sleep.

These kids may also display behavior that you aren’t privy to such as difficulty in waking in the morning, difficulty falling asleep at night or falling asleep as soon as their heads hit their pillows.

Making good information available to parents about important health and behavioral topics – such as sleep – is a good way to be helpful without prying.

Source: The Huffington Post

Sensory Experiences Are Discovered and Developed Through Play

One of the first ways that children begin to learn is through play or sensory activities and experiences. Unfortunately, play time is slowly being whittled away in classroom situations in favor of more desk-time curriculum. This is driven by lots of factors – even including parental demand. Some experts tie this playtime decline to the increase in sensory issues in later in childhood. Note this Washington Post article.

Have you thought about why play is important and why it encourages more engaged learning and development? Think about it in the way that Amanda Morgan (educator and mother) describes the importance of play and sensory experiences in her article on the topic. She notes that children learn from seeing, touching, smelling, hearing and tasting from birth. They can’t comprehend language until later and surely can’t learn solely from it until much later in their childhood. But that is the expectation we have of them if we’re providing less and less opportunity for sensory learning in preschool. Because sensory learning impacts cognitive, language, social and emotional, physical and creative development, it is critical to a strong learning foundation and to avoiding the sensory issues that the Washington Post article refers to later in childhood.

Sensory activities use sensory tables or several tubs rotated regularly with “sensory materials” to inspire hours of learning, exploring and fun for children.  The sensory experience can be messy but its value to childhood development far outweighs this factor. Understanding the impact sensory experiences have on the cognitive, language, social and emotional, physical and creative development of preschoolers provides insight. Many are quite adept at accommodating the messiness of sensory activities and share their helpful hints.

Children learn best by having “hands on” experiences through mediums and materials. These sensory experiences are vital to young children’s learning, so it follows that investing the time, money and supplies in providing sensory experiences in the preschool is very worthwhile.

Learning to Share is Important

Learning to share can be a challenge for young children. But it is a challenge that they must meet head on and accomplish. It is an important skill that they need for play and learning all throughout their childhood, and it is a skill they will carry into adulthood.

Not everyone learns this skill. Think about it. You know some co-workers, friends or relatives who – even as adults – have not acquired sharing skills. And these adults are difficult to deal with. Sometimes you don’t even like to be around them. Acquiring this skill as an adult is next to impossible, making it even more important that the skill be acquired during childhood.

Nancy Bruski, author of The Insightful Teacher, notes that “It is necessary for young children to learn how to cooperate in the use of classroom materials; however, sharing often involves giving up what one has so that someone else can have it, and this is very difficult for young children. Children become attached to things they invest themselves in, whether it be toys, materials, ideas for play, or being first in line. Sharing is challenging and something that is learned slowly.”

This vital life skill is needed to make and keep friends and to play cooperatively. Playdates, child care, preschool or kindergarten practically require that children know how to share.

“Some children seem to have an easier time sharing than others, but the child who is more possessive is not being bad or difficult. Wanting to keep the teacher’s attention or to play with the favored red fire truck is normal on the part of children, and their feelings should be treated as such.”

Being possessive is a natural feeling. But it is one that children must understand that they have to overcome or set aside in order to share.

How do children learn to share?

Children pick up cues from parents and other adults that they are around often (such as teachers).

Witnessing good sharing skills and turn-taking in your child care center and at home give children great examples to follow. But they also need to have opportunities to put what they witness into action.

Here are four ways that you can help to encourage sharing:

  1. Point out good sharing in others. “Your friend, Tommy, was sharing his toys really well today. It was very kind of him to share.” This can carry over into pointing out examples in books, DVDs or TV shows that children are reading or watching.
  2. Recognize children for sharing. When you see children in your center trying to share or take turns, make sure you point it out and praise them for their good actions. “I like the way you let Suzy play with your train. That was great sharing!”
  3. Play games that involve sharing and turn-taking. Talk children through the steps, using language that they know refers to sharing. For example, “Now it’s my turn to wave the flag, then it will be your turn.” “You share the blue car with me, and I’ll share the red truck with you.”
  4. Talk about sharing with children. In your center they are in an environment with other children where sharing is important and they should know that. For example, you could say, “When you’re playing in a group, you need to share some of your toys.” “Why don’t you ask others what they want to play with?”

What about when children still find sharing a challenge after practicing?

Most children find sharing a challenge, especially at first. They often need practice and support to develop this skill.

In addition to practicing, you can encourage sharing while children are playing. This helps them to remember it. It’s easy for them to simply forget to share at first. Remember to praise them when they do remember to share.

It can help to create consequences for not sharing. For example, when children are fighting over a toy and not sharing, it would be reasonable to take the toy away for a short period of time.

When you use consequences for not sharing, it’s important that the consequences relate to what is being shared or not shared so that the child learns the correlation to the behavior that they didn’t exhibit. It also feels fairer to children involved in failing to share. After a short period, it’s a good idea to give the children another chance to show they can share the toy.

Ages and Sharing

Toddlers 
Toddlers probably don’t understand what sharing is. At this age, they believe that the world revolves around them and everything belongs to them. By the age of three, many children will start to understand the concept of turn-taking, but they might still throw a tantrum if another child takes a toy that they want. When another child has something a toddler really wants, that toddler will probably find it very hard to wait his turn. The toddler might even try to get the toy any way he can.

Preschoolers
Preschoolers generally get the idea of sharing, but they might not be keen to put it into action. Preschoolers are also still impatient when expected to take turns.

Be realistic about the ability of preschoolers to share. They are still very self-focused and don’t really understand that other people’s thoughts and emotions matter.

Be sure to read 10 Secrets to Help Kids Share, Take Turns, and Join the Human Race by Michele Borba, Ed.D. This article reiterates some of the points made in our post but adds a few extra thoughts as well.

Sources: ExhangeEveryDay, RaisingChildren.net.au

How Bad is Sugar for Us – Really?

Sugar’s Impact on Our Health

We hear something new (and different) everyday about the effects of sugar on our health.

And with obesity levels on a constant rise in the US, we all struggle to know what we should and shouldn’t believe.

Many think that having a little sugar here and there isn’t bad because we will burn it off anyway or eat something heathy to make up for it.

What is the truth?

BLOG_SugarEvery bit of sugar you have is bad for you. Once you’ve consumed it, there’s no turning back. The damage is already done. But why? Too much sugar triggers weight gain. Sugar is hard to burn off through exercise and therefore it can lead to weight gain. When you eat sugar, you’re actually forcing your body to store it.

Details: Sugary snacks cause your blood-glucose levels to spike and that stimulates the release of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows the body to process sugar/glucose. All of the cells in your body need glucose for energy. Insulin is the key to allowing the cells to use glucose, as it cannot be directly absorbed from the bloodstream. When you have a spike in blood sugar levels which exceeds your cells’ need for energy, insulin helps to store the excess sugar. The bad part is that it also instructs your body to store fat.

What’s the long term detriment?

Excess sugar can cause Type 2 Diabetes. If your body is working overtime to process excess sugar, your hormonal system (which tells your pancreas to produce insulin) can be desensitized and can cause your pancreas to become overworked. This helps to develop Type 2 Diabetes.

In the meantime, high levels of blood sugar lead your body to a condition called Glycation. This is where glucose starts to bind with other fat and protein molecules in your food and within your body.

This can impair and damage all kinds of internal molecular function, accelerate the ageing process, damage skin, overwork organs, weaken joints and muscles and increase fat retention.

That all sounds really bad. But of course, we all think that it will happen to someone else and not us. Think again.

29.1 million people (9.3%) of the U.S. population have diabetes. 21.0 million people have been diagnosed and 8.1 million (27.8%) are undiagnosed. While Type 2 Diabetes is less common that Type 1, still, in just one year, 5,089 people younger than 20 years old were newly-diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. (Type 1 diagnoses totaled 18,436 in that same year.) And new cases of Type 2 Diabetes are increasing among the under 2 year-olds.

As a population, we all need to manage our sugar intake better than we’re doing it now.

By cutting out sugar altogether?

Let’s look at it logically. Natural cane sugar (the stuff you have in your tea and coffee) isn’t the bad guy here.  The little spoonful you have in a cup of tea is not going to destroy your body.

It’s the simple sugars (that contain no beneficial nutrients at all) that make us fat through excess and empty calories.

The real issue lies within the everyday food products that we consume every day. We don’t even think about how much sugar we’re ingesting in them. Fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, white breads, sugary cereals and chocolates contain huge amounts of sugar – leading people to consume 40-50 grams of sugar in one sitting. But what does that mean?

To put this in perspective, don’t think of “sugar” as just sweet snacks. You have to include breads (carbohydrates) and added sugar in food items we don’t consider treats (yogurt). During digestion, one slice of white bread has the equivalent amount of glucose as four tablespoons of natural cane sugar. If you drink a can of soda, have a sandwich, a yogurt and a snack cake for lunch, you will have consumed 60+ grams of sugar. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is around 40 grams.

What food should we really avoid to manage sugar effectively?

Many foods are presented as healthy but are really not. Smoothies and protein milk shakes can contain massive amounts of sugar – like 60-80 grams – through the high fructose corn syrups used to make them. This is just one example. Realize that you need to become an intensive label reader to get a handle on this.

Most people don’t find it reasonable to totally eliminate these sugars. But we can limit them in our daily intake. The key is to cut our or limit the sugars (that are responsible for fat retention, illnesses, aging and increased incidences of diabetes, heart disease and cancers) in what you most commonly consume.

Here is a list of what most families should consider cutting out or limiting:

  • Fizzy sodas
  • Confectionery/Sweets
  • Biscuits/Cookies
  • Cakes/Doughnuts etc
  • Sugary breakfast cereals
  • Concentrated fruit juices
  • Sports drinks (They often have no place in sport anyway and are an advertising gimmick)
  • Ice creams
  • Desserts (including the low fat varieties which are often worse than normal ones)
  • Many low-fat foods (while they are low in fat content, they usually have more sugar to compensate)

It’s first on the above list but it shouldn’t be simply limited. Cut it out. Pretend it doesn’t exist. There are a multitude of reasons that it shouldn’t be included in even the loosest definition of a health conscious diet.

After settling into these parameters, expand your view and read your labels so you can remove even more excess sugar from your consumption list. Get creative with fun yet healthier snacks than cookies. Consume true protein builders after workouts instead of thinking that protein shake or smoothie is the best route to replenishing your body and rebuilding your spent muscles.

Learn the terms that food companies use to camouflage sugar in their products and avoid them. Realize that these companies aren’t creating food labels and marketing campaigns to help you eat healthier. Most are just interested in what will get you to buy it. It’s best to purchase unsweetened. Don’t fall for sugar-free language because these are simply foods that contain sugar substitutes which are synthetic/chemical based and represent another set of badness for our bodies.  Try subbing other or additional flavors instead of the bad things like sugar and sodium.

Don’t think that you can never have sweets again. Enjoy a treat in a dessert every once in a while. What is important here is to change your eating lifestyle. Take out what you consume consistently. If you let yourself, you’ll soon admit that you feel better with the sugar out of your diet and actually enjoy the occasional slice of cheesecake even more! And the bonus is that you’re likely to enjoy those infrequent desserts for more years in your longer life!

Resources: American Swim Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Medical Daily, Health.com

Things To Know About Head Lice

What do you do when a child comes into your facility with head lice? Do you have a procedure in place for communicating to other families that head lice has been identified in your facility? How do you prepare for such a crisis?

Having information about head lice handy is a great place to start. Have an email template in Jackrabbit set up so you can communicate quickly if/when this ever happens. [Click here for more information about email templates.] Make sure your staff understands what head lice is and the importance of preventing spreading of lice to others.

As a business, keep these things in mind if your facility has a head lice case:

  1. Communicate quickly. Get the word out that you have seen a case of head lice in the facility and share how they can check their children. Include what the policy is for children that have head lice when wanting to return to class.
  2. Clean everything.  Steps to cleaning your facility after head lice outbreak.
  3. Make sure all employees  know what is going on and the procedure for the business. [How long will you be closed, when will you be cleaning, how will you communicate to families, etc.]
  4. Stay calm, professional, and have an open line of communication.  Tell people what is going on and be prepared for them to be upset. The way you handle an outbreak like this can hurt your reputation if you react wrong.

General information about head lice to keep on file:

What is head lice? The adult louse is a wingless insect less than 1/8″ long and is a pale brownish-gray.  Lice do not carry disease. They bite the scalp, causing itching.  They move quickly and avoid light, so they are often difficult to see. The female louse lays 3–6 eggs (nits) per day and may live up to 30 days.

Who gets lice? Anyone! Frequent, regular shampooing does not prevent lice. In fact, head lice prefer a clean, healthy head to a dirty one! Younger children seem to catch them more frequently because of more close contact with one another. Animals do not carry or contract head lice. Treatment for lice, when a child does not have lice, will not prevent infestation. Remember, lice treatments are insecticides; use with the same caution for your child as when you use insecticides outside.

How does a child get lice? Lice walk; they do not fly or hop. They travel from person to person directly (two heads touching) or are transferred via personal articles (i.e., combs, brushes, hats, pillowcases, etc.).  Please stress to your children not to share brushes, hair clips, head bands, etc. with their friends.

What are nits?  The nits (egg sacs) of lice are cemented to human hair with nature’s own super glue. The nits appear as small, silvery oval shaped specks that look like dandruff, but are difficult to remove. The nits hatch in 7–10 days.

What do I do if my child has lice? 

  • Don’t panic. Anyone–adult or youngster–can get head lice. Head lice are passed from person to person by direct contact or on shared objects (pillows, combs, hats, towels, etc.). It has nothing to do with cleanliness and does not reflect on you as a parent. The problem can be easily managed. Just follow the instructions below:
  • Check every member of the family.  Look for tiny silvery egg sacs (nits) on hair shafts, near the scalp, especially at the nape of the neck and behind the ears. Head lice are small brownish-gray insects without wings. Any family member with lice or nits must be treated.
  • Provide head lice treatment.  This is a two-step process involving: the use of a medicated pediculicidal product and combing out and manually removing all nits.  Proceed as follows:
  1. Remove child’s shirt and provide a towel to cover the eyes (This is essential). Do not treat in the bathtub or shower, but have the child lean over the sink (this confines the lice product to the scalp/neck).
  2. Use one of several louse remedies (pediculocidal product) available at your pharmacy. Some are available by prescription; some over the counter.  All these products must be used carefully, observing all safety guidelines. Please consider (1) consulting your obstetrician if you are pregnant or nursing (whether treating yourself or others); or (2) consulting your physician before treating anyone with extensive cuts or scratches on the head or neck, or anyone using other medications.  DO NOT USE THESE PRODUCTS ON INFANTS.*  DO READ ALL PACKAGE INFORMATION BEFORE USING THESE PRODUCTS**
  3. Although it can take time and sometimes be difficult, “nit picking” or removing all nits will insure complete treatment.  Louse products do not kill all the nits, and survivors will hatch into crawling lice within 7–10 days, generating a cycle of self-reinfestation. Even dead nits will cling to the hair and cause uncertainty about re-infestation. Nit removal can be accomplished with a special combing tool manufactured for this purpose or by picking them out with the fingernails.  Note:  Nit combing is best accomplished with hair that is dry or slightly damp. Discard nits into plastic bag and seal for disposal.
  4. Following nit removal, have the child put on clean clothing.
  5. A daily nit check is advisable for at least 10 days following treatment and then the check should become a part of routine home hygiene.  You may have to retreat in 7–10 days if there is evidence of new nits or newly hatched lice.  Regardless of precautions taken at home, re-infestation from others can still take place.  Treatment itself can cause itching; do not treat again on the basis of itching alone.  If you have any further questions about treatment, please call your pediatrician.

How should I protect or personal articles and environment? 

  • Machine wash all washable clothing and bed linens which have been in contact with the infested person during the last three days. Use hot water and dry in a hot dryer.  Non-washables such as stuffed animals, sleeping bags, headphones, helmets, etc., can be vacuumed, dry cleaned, or stored in tightly sealed plastic bags at room temperature for two weeks.
  • Vacuum everywhere. Rugs, upholstered furniture and mattresses, even car seats should be carefully vacuumed to pick up any living lice or nits attached to fallen hair.  Discard vacuum bag into a sealed plastic bag for disposal.  The use of insecticide sprays is not recommended as it may be harmful to family members and pets and is of questionable benefit.
  • Soak combs, brushes, etc., in hot water 5–10 minutes.  Also soak hair barrettes, ribbons, headbands, etc

Do I need to report that my child has lice/nits? Please notify your child’s teacher or someone in the front office if you find lice on your child so that other parents can be alerted to a possible outbreak. Also notify your child’s playmate’s parents. Parental cooperation will help protect all children including your own.

 

 

 

Mind Strength: Show It in What You Don’t Do

What you don’t do can be as important as what you do when it comes to how mentally strong you are.

And your mental strength can help you when you:

  • Have to make tough decisions.
  • Face adversity.
  • Need to maintain focus through the distractions that can divert you from your core business goals.
  • Need to move on from a bad decision.

Author Amy Morin shares her three-pronged approach to developing mental strength in her book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” noting that it’s all about controlling your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.

Mentally strong people:

Don’t feel sorry for themselves.

  • It’s self-destructive
  • It wastes time
  • It creates negative emotions
  • It hurts your relationships

Self-pity hinders living a full life so swap it with gratitude. In other words, appreciate what you have.

Don’t give away their power.

By establishing physical and emotional boundaries, you maintain your mental strength.

  • You can stand up for yourself and draw the line when you need to.
  • You must be in control of your actions to define your success and self-worth.
  • You must be able to keep track of your goals and continuously work towards them.

Don’t retract when presented with change.

There are five stages of change (pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance).

Following through with each of the five steps is crucial to face change without shyness or hesitation.

Face change immediately. Delaying will only make it harder and you may lose your competitive advantage or market share.

This doesn’t mean you don’t think change is frightening, rather it means that you accept that but are determined to accept change so growth can take place.

Don’t focus on things out of their control.

Trying to control everything is often the way people respond to anxiety, but it doesn’t benefit your business.

Focus on managing anxiety.

Shift focus from the things outside of your control to:

  • Increase happiness
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve relationships
  • Create new opportunities
  • Enjoy more success

Don’t try to please everyone.

First of all, this is an exercise in futility. So don’t attempt it.

Besides, being a people-pleaser is the complete opposite of mental toughness and:

  • Is a waste of time
  • Leaves you open to manipulation
  • Ignores the fact that it is OK for others to feel angry or disappointed

Getting rid of this mindset makes you stronger and more self-confident.

Don’t fear taking calculated risks.

The risks that are scary are the ones that you have no knowledge about. This applies to financial, physical, emotional, social, or business-related risks.

Arming yourself with knowledge about the decisions ahead enables you to:

  • Calculate the associated risks
  • Prevent unwarranted assumptions

Increase your knowledge of risks by knowing:

  • Potential costs
  • Potential benefits
  • Effect on your goals
  • Alternatives
  • Results of the best scenario
  • Results of the worst scenario
  • Ways to mitigate bad results
  • Impact to long range plans

Don’t dwell on the past.

Mental strength enables you to move on. You can let the past be the past because you’ve accepted the fact that you can’t do change what happened.

Dwelling on the past:

  • Is self-destructive
  • Prevents planning
  • Renders you unable to enjoy the present
  • Can lead to depression

Thinking about the past is beneficial because that is where your lessons are learned. This is a factual exercise while dwelling on the past is an emotional one.

Don’t make the same mistakes over and over.

When you’ve learned your lessons, you can make sure that you don’t repeat your mistakes.

  • Accept responsibility for the mistake
  • Study what went wrong
  • Figure out what you could have done better
  • Identify how to make sure you do it differently in the future
  • Put your plan in writing

Don’t resent other people’s success.

Resentment for what others have accomplished usually is internalized.

It also:

  • Distracts you from your own goals and values
  • Cannot help you succeed
  • Blinds you to your own talents
  • Prevents you from being content with whatever level of success you do achieve
  • Destroys relationships

Don’t give up after the first failure.

Mental strength allows you to embrace failure without destroying your self-confidence.

If you’re strong mentally, you can:

  • Admit you’ve failed
  • Face rejection
  • Use failure to become stronger
  • Bounce back after you’ve failed

Failure doesn’t mean that you aren’t good enough. It simply means you need to analyze, adjust and try again.

Don’t fear alone time.

Mental strength enables you to break away from the day-to-day grind to focus on growth.

Alone time is beneficial.

  • Solitude at the office can increase productivity.
  • Alone time may increase your empathy.
  • Spending time alone sparks creativity.
  • Solitary skills are good for mental health.
  • Solitude offers restoration.

Don’t feel the world owes them anything.

This correlates to one’s attitude about failure. Getting angry at the world because you didn’t achieve the success you “deserve” is the easy way out. Getting angry keeps you from admitting the failure and stepping up to analyze it and learning from it.

  • Life is not fair.
  • No one is entitled to success.
  • Everyone has to earn it.

Instead, earn success by:

  • Focusing on your efforts
  • Accepting criticism
  • Acknowledging flaws
  • Eliminating comparisons to others

Don’t expect immediate results.

The mentally weak are impatient. They generally overestimate their abilities and underestimate how long it takes to reach full potential.

The mentally strong attain success because they are confident in their plans. They are steady in their focus and relentlessly work toward their goals. They don’t let the small failures along the way distract them, measure progress against the big picture.

Resources: www.businessinsider.com, Amy Morin’s “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do”

Make Sure You Have “The Best Vacation Ever”

If you’re thinking back over your most recent vacations, do you wonder why some are awesome – and then some just aren’t? Don’t rush to blame the location. It could have nothing to do with where you went, but how you went about it.

This can be especially true for small business owners – which most gym/studio/school/center owners are. And that’s because to most small business owners, their life is their business and their business is their life. While that may be true, you need to be able to vacation and to get the most enjoyment possible out of it when you do.

Even psychologist have gotten in on this, looking at how the brain works and how vacations can be tweaked to crank up your enjoyment factor and prevent the need to take a vacation from your vacation.

Plan It

Planning makes a huge difference in how much you enjoy your vacation. And it reduces the stress of “what are we going to do tomorrow” as you come to the end of each vacation day. It also amps up the anticipation of your vacation. You also may be more prepared for enjoying the event because you “planned ahead.” Picking your vacation dates well in advance, researching available activities and making sure you have everything to participate in them extends the entire process – from planning to doing – and is proven to elevate your enjoyment level.

Vacation Often

Once-in-a-Lifetime trips are awesome – if you can make them happen. But the truth is, most people can’t. So don’t deprive yourself of vacations because you can’t manage that month in Paris that you dream of. Psychologists understand that we return to “our happy place” pretty easily. So finding places that you love to visit and returning to them often is significant in building the benefit of vacationing. In other words, smaller pleasures enjoyed more frequently are huge contributors to our overall well-being. You also don’t have to vacation for weeks at a time. Look for already shortened work weeks and plan “long weekend” vacations to your favorite places and bookend two weekends around your week-off to create a 9-day vacation package.

Include New Things

Familiar doesn’t mean boring. Returning to our happy places doesn’t mean you can’t expand your horizons while you there. Think of your destination as a starting point, planning short day-trips during you vacation. Experiment with foods you’ve never tried or activities that are interesting to you and your family. People (especially adults) are creatures of habit and are generally very “scheduled.” This may work well for the work week and for keeping your kids on task for school and homework. But vacations are the perfect time for breaking away from this and injecting the new and actually “planning” to change up your “normal” schedule.

Make It Fun

Make sure you have time, in all of your vacation adventures, to relax, enjoy great meals and talk about what you’re experiencing while you’re on vacation. Relaxing, socializing and reflecting boat, or regale about the exhilaration of zip lining. This helps you relive enjoyment and connect with your travel companions.

Hand-off the Mundane

Who wants to do laundry on vacation? Just don’t do it. If you’re going to need to launder during your vacation, budget for sending it out. Including these not-fun things during vacations are really a drag and can bring everyone down. Bring grandmother as a built-in babysitter so Mom and Dad can enjoy some adult time. Can’t do this? Most hotels have babysitters or such services that they can refer upon request. It’s worth the investment to hire someone to cook and clean for a few days of you’re traveling in a group and renting a vacation house. Remember that your goal is having fun so don’t do activities that can deflate your enthusiasm or enjoyment level.

Manage Work

If even thinking about work ruins your vacation, then arrange to leave it all behind you. But many people want to stay engaged – even when on vacation. This doesn’t mean you can’t relax and have fun. You simply need to have control of your work situation. Set limitations and don’t compromise them. Check your email each morning, but don’t stay in your device looking at every message that comes in. If you do this, you can take the calls you feel are necessary or complete reports that need to be done without upsetting plans and ruining fun. If you are in control of it, your brief work activities won’t be a source of resentment to you or your companions. They will actually appreciate how you’re able to compartmentalize it.

Close It Out with A Bang

The human brain gives disproportionate importance to the last things in a series. This applies to vacations too. So don’t spend your final day cleaning up your condo or catching up on your emails. Instead of planning all of the excitement for the front-end of your trip, save some excitement for the last day. This will ensure a high-note ending to your vacation. Dinner at a highly-anticipated restaurant is usually a winner for a vacation ending!

Build In a Transition

If you get back from your vacation late Sunday night when school and work is staring you in the face for Monday morning, you’re going to suffer! Make sure you have some transition time to get back into being home and prepare yourself for the reality of real life. This will enhance everyone’s return and lower the stress of getting groceries, doing laundry and going through the mail that collected during your vacation. Plan something low-key but fun for Sunday evening so you can cruise back into your routine with a smile.

Make Your Memories

Don’t shelve everything from your vacation because you’re busily getting back to work and school. Go through pictures and memorabilia that you’ve collected. Organize the shells your collected at the beach and reserve the prettiest for special use. Share your fun times with friends through stories and pictures. This helps you to reinforce the fun times and adventures that will be the positive memories of this vacation. And these memories will build the “happy place” that your mind will return to as you think about your next vacation and help you to make each vacation “The Best Vacation Ever.”

Source: Fast Company Magazine

Walk Your Healthy Eating Talk

Did you know that August is “Kids Eat Right Month“?

This is a new initiative of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and spotlights healthy nutrition and active lifestyle choices for children and families.

Adults are children’s models for everything. They look to the “grown-ups” in their lives for how they should do things. Just because you aren’t a parent doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention to what you do. And grown-up’s actions – especially since you’re in a teaching role in their lives – speaks louder than your words. Modeling children’s healthy eating habits is part of this and this means you need to lead by example. Besides, it’s important for you to eat healthy if you plan to be around to watch these children grow up and grow out of your school, studio or gym and into adulthood.

Don’t be misled by anyone who wants you to believe that it is easy for children to change their eating habits as they get older. Instilling healthy habits from the start helps children to grow up with these good habits influencing their food choices and help them to stay the course even when offered less-than-healthy choices. So promoting the good eating habits that are probably stressed in your students’ homes is a great way for you to reinforce good habits to them.

Here is some great information for you and for you to share in your facility.

Healthy diets stabilize energy levels, sharpen minds and improve moods. When you combine eating well with regular physical activity, children are more apt to grow healthily, develop strong bones, maintain a healthy weight, stay active and alert and concentrate at school.

When children maintain their early-learned healthy eating habits into adulthood, they can also lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, heart disease, stroke, joint problems, breathing problems and obesity.

To create a healthier diet, include:

  • Low-fat or nonfat dairy products
  • Poultry without skin
  • Lean cuts of meats
  • Whole grain breads and cereals
  • Healthy snacks such as fruit and veggies

It is also important to reduce the amount of sugar sweetened drinks and salt consumed.

If it’s easier for you to think of this in percentages, the healthy diet you’re aiming for should consist of:

  • 33% bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy food
  • 33% fruit and vegetables
  • 15% milk and dairy foods
  • 12% meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
  • 8% foods and drink high in fat and/or sugar

So how can this work with all the hurried schedules and unhealthy distractions?

These are some suggestions:

Guide, don’t mandate. Barking orders doesn’t work. Neither does posting a strict diet without choices.

Leave bad choices (chips, soda, sugary juice, candy) at the grocery store. It’s easier to eliminate these items from your diet if they aren’t within reach.

Encourage children to eat slowly. Don’t take a second helping right away but wait a few minutes to see if it’s really hunger driving the request.

Encourage families to eat meals together as often as possible. Making sure mealtime is a pleasant time that the family enjoys instead of a time for scolding, arguing or reliving the day’s frustrations.

Involve the children. When they participate in choosing and planning meals, they will feel better about their diet changes. Helping to prepare meals will allow them to see all of the ingredients in what they are eating and take pride in preparing healthy food.

Plan snacks. It’s easier to fall into a continuous snacking pattern that could lead to overeating it you do not plan snack times. Planned snacks also allows children to have healthy snacks at specific times – as part of their nutritious diet – without spoiling appetites for meals and without depriving them of occasional chips or cookies that they may be offered a parties or other special events.

Discourage eating meals or snacks while watching TV. Try to eat only in designated areas of your home, such as the dining room or kitchen. Eating in front of the TV can make it difficult for children to determine feelings of fullness, encourage overeating and develop a habit of eating while watching.

Encourage your children to drink more water. Over consumption of sweetened drinks and sodas has been linked to increased rates of obesity in children

Don’t use food to punish or reward. Withholding food as a punishment may lead children to worry that they will not get enough food and they may want to eat whenever they get a chance. Foods used as rewards (as sweets often are) can lead children to believe that these foods are better or more valuable than other foods.

Be conscious of food that is consumed outside of home. Pack lunches and snacks to offer healthier eating choices. Choose healthier restaurants and healthier items at restaurants when eating out.

Pay attention to portion size and ingredients. Read food labels and limit foods with trans fat and sugar. Make sure appropriate portions are served. Labels usually provide guidelines for this. 

Healthy snacks provide protein and fiber (or both) and makes you feel full.

Enjoy these:

  • Bean dip with veggies
  • Oatmeal
  • Non-fat Greek Yogurt
  • Low-fat string cheese stick and fresh fruit
  • Pistachios

Avoid these:

  • Chips
  • Crackers
  • Granola or Cereal Bar
  • Pretzels
  • 100-calorie Cookie Snack Packs

Encourage your facility parents to sign up for Recipes for Healthy Living e-newsletter.

Resource: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics