3
Nov

Electronics Before Bed | Sleep Problems in Children

electronics-before-bed-sleep-problems-in-childrenChildren develop sleep problems when they use portable media devices, such as tablets or smartphones, before bed.  They have more difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, are more sleepy during the daytime, and are twice more likely to sleep less than children without access to their devices before bedtime.  A JAMA Pediatrics review (reut.rs/2fkjL1j) of 20 studies that involved children using these portable media devices. The review excluded their use of PCs and TVs before bed.  It included over 125,000 children between the ages of 6 and 19 years old.
 
 Even more interesting, is the fact that sleep problems are also more likely in children who had their portable media device near them at bedtime, even if they didn’t use it before bedtime.  If they receive texts or use social media, then they are more likely to check their devices throughout the night.  Before you know it, after checking the texts, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat & other social media, several hours of precious  sleep may have been lost.
 
So many of us are guilty of using out smartphones in the middle of the night.  We’ve commonly woken up, after a deep sleep REM cycle, checked our smartphone, and interrupted our sleep.  A good amount of sleep for most children is 10 hours per night, for teens it lowers to 9 hours per night.  For a child, this has a huge impact on their education the next day as well.  If sleep problems exist, learning difficulties are more likely to occur when they are sleepy during the daytime. 
 
Next time you use your smartphone before bed, think about how it could negatively impact your own sleep.  Poor sleep is linked to many potential negative health consequences, including dementia.
 
Please consider protecting your child’s sleep by making sure they don’t use their smartphones or tablets before bedtime, turn them off or remove them from their bedroom at night.
12
Mar

Common Core Education Changes

Common Core, Flip ClassroomCommon Core has officially hit third grade in my son's school.  This year has been a year of many education system changes.  Aside from all the changes Common Core mandates (www.corestandards.org), he is also using Canvas, an online learning management system, and we are using Remind (www.remind.com).  As a result, his learning life has changed.  
 
Common Core means more time on the internet, more time on math, and more communication with the teacher.  This is an excellent advantage of this new curriculum.  Communication between teacher and parent helps the students do their best work.  We also receive reminders via an app, Remind.  I’ve actually become reliant on it.  As a result, when there have been times that a reminder wasn't given, it felt as if something went terribly wrong.
 
My son definitely needs a computer now.  The school uses “a flip classroom”, which essentially reverses the learning model.  The lesson is at home on the computer.  The review at school the next day solidifies the lesson through exercises, projects, explanations, and discussions.  Students view the next day’s math lesson the previous night on the internet.  The math lesson is a YouTube video prerecorded by one of the third grade teachers.  After each class, there is a small quiz available on the Canvas website.  The results of the quiz informs the teacher which students need more help with the next day’s lesson.  It helps me as well to know what lessons my son needs help with day by day.  Why is this so helpful?  With so many required learning strategies, there simply isn’t enough time in the classroom to learn them all expertly.  Hence, teaching, reviewing, and learning continue at home, more so than it did pre Common Core.
 
The Canvas website has also been a huge change.  Canvas is all-encompassing.  It has links to every math lesson from the beginning of the year.  It has science lessons, writing assignments, homework assignments, and even encourages students to offer positive feedback to fellow classmates on their weekly writing assignments.  Canvas  also allows students to send messages to each other's inbox.  It’s wonderful that this is all available in one place.
 
Some features of Common Core are very good.  Math can be broken down into many strategies.  These are strategies that I learned on my own over the years.  It’s nice to know that my son is learning them earlier.  However, simple math is more complicated because there are so many new strategies to learn.  Since there isn’t enough time to learn them all in the classroom, parents need to be more involved.
 
The most important change this year has been the excellent communication between his school and us third grade parents.  A special meeting explained Common Core to us.  The third grade teachers work as a team to maximize children's success with Common Core.  His teacher is amazing.  We communicate in person and via email on how to make the most of his strengths through this growth period filled with so many changes.  
 
My son has begun his journey with computer education, online lessons as "flip classrooms”, and intranet social communications between classmates.  I feel like a dog learning new tricks, some of which I like a lot, and others, not so much.  Either way, this old dog is learning the new tricks.  The reality is that education changes are just one aspect of his life that is changing.   At the end of the day, one thing is never going to change; I am a mom who is always there for my child.  I will always support and encourage him to be and do his very best!
5
Aug

First Day of School

school, home, family, childrenThis is a Flashback post!  Somehow, I never published it, but seeing as school starts this month, it's quite appropriate.  Not to mention it's filled with memories for me.  This still applies to everyone's first day at school.   Enjoy!
 
Our son just started Kindergarten. It was really exciting! I didn’t cry, but was amazed by the flashbacks of when I was little girl in school. I loved to learn. It was great to be with other kids. Kindergarten was filled with playtime.
 
Kindergarten sure isn’t playtime anymore. And everyone doesn’t have the same experience anymore either. Previously, regulated daycares & pre-K classes didn’t exist. As for my son, he has been in daycare since he was 3 months old. You’d think he’d be ready. But it’s just as hard for him as the other kids who have stay at home mommies. He had to say goodbye to his old routine, his old friends, his old teachers, basically to the life he knew for over 5 years. Now, playtime is over; it’s learning time with a little bit of playtime. After school, there’s the bus ride to daycare too. He has a long day. That’s hard on anybody.
 
Did I mention it’s hard on us too? No one likes change. And this was a lot of change. This house wakes up earlier. He has to eat breakfast within a certain timeframe. Lunch bags need to be prepared. How is a 5 year old going to carry a backpack, a lunch bag & a snack bag? How is he going to put it all up, repack stuff, coordinate all those little things? I don’t know; but it’s been done by others for years. It’s just my turn this time.
 
Technology has changed as well in schools. My son’s teacher has his homework schedule on her blog which is very convenient. She also offers communication via email. Remember when it used to only be notes and/or phone calls? Even the PTA is modernized. The PTA has its own website with many helpful links. They even have a Facebook page. If we want to know what the PTA school functions are, we may refer to the website and Facebook. For example, Family Bingo Night was run by the PTA with details online. Relying on technology, a lot can be accomplished. I must say, I’m amazed that this school is using technology as a part of communication, not a replacement for it. It’s a public school that has family at its heart.
 
Despite all the changes, there is one thing that doesn’t change … the human experience. Letting go isn’t easy. Trusting others to teach your kids & care for them isn’t easy either.
 
Yet, somehow, we are surviving. He’s starting to make friends, but it’s not as easy as in daycare. And he feels it. Positive affirmations and pep talks are given. Reviewing the day, homework, and coaching are done. Clearly, our roles have expanded. I must admit I’m feeling more tired than before. Great news is that he is excited. In the end, that’s all that matters.
So, this Pediatrician, this Mommy, is going through growing pains along with my patients’ moms. It’s nice to bond with families at this special time in our children’s lives. It’s nice to share in the difficult times and the joyous ones as well. After all, being a parent is the toughest and most rewarding job of all.
 
Here's a helpful resource.  Being prepared for your child's first day of school with this checklist should help to minimize your stress (http://bit.ly/1xGZO8E).
18
Dec

Sandy Hook School Shooting | Children Coping with Crisis

children, schoolThe tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT, has affected us all. 

My first grader returned to school Monday.  It was a hard day for us, as it was for many parents.  Over the past weekend, Facebook had many, many parents asking each other if other people's young children knew about what happened.  Also, parents wanted to know how and what to tell their children about this national disaster.

In general, young children do not need many details. In fact, it is important to keep it simple. For example, you can say, "A bad thing happened at a school far away/nearby. A man hurt/killed some people/teachers/kids there. Some people died there. This bad thing rarely happens. Everyone is making sure that every school is super safe. Everyone is doing their best and working together to make sure that this never happens again."

Keep in mind the age of your child, their true nature (quiet vs. talkative), their natural coping style (internalization vs. outspoken).  This is especially important as each child is different.  Whereas older children may want a long discussion on this topic, small children, might only want a little bit.  Be prepared that they will likely return to the conversation at a later time.

Most important, be truthful. Children can usually tell if you are avoiding the truth.  They can also sense when something is bothering you.  They may not be able to verbalize it, but they can definitely feel it.

Above all else, be kind to yourself. Know what you can handle at any given time, on any given day.
Understand that you and your child may grieve or ask questions differently. You may not be able to have this discussion when your child wants to do so.  If that's the case, you can keep it brief.  Let them know that everyone is keeping them as safe as can be. Let them know how much you love them. Explain to them when it is a better time for you to talk about it, if you can. Remember that it's okay to have many feelings, such as anger, sadness, confusion, guilt, and more. Children may not know this. In general, it is good to remind them that it's okay to feel the way they do.

Suffice it to say, there are many excellent resources that can help you have this type of discussion with your children. My goal here is to give you some resources that you can turn to, if needed.
If you would like to learn more about helping your child cope with death in general, in the aftermath of a disaster, and in the aftermath of school shootings, I've provided several links that are truly helpful.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has the following articles:
"Helping Children Cope With Death", http://bit.ly/RAe1nk
"Talking to Children About Disasters", http://bit.ly/UDxXRV

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has the following audio:
"AAP Offers Resources to Help Parents, Children and Others Cope in the Aftermath of School Shootings", http://bit.ly/1zmUARo

The National Association of School Psychologists has an excellent article on helping children cope when there is a national tragedy, entitled,  "National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope", http://bit.ly/12khEQ4

National Center for Crisis and Bereavement has an article entitled, "Guidelines for Responding to the Death of a Student or School Staff" (http://bit.ly/1k2wUaX).

My prayers and thoughts are with all who have been affected by this tragedy in Sandy Hook. There are no words that truly convey all of the emotions I have at this moment.  Never did I envision such a tragedy. This crisis at Sandy Hook has reminded me to be grateful for everything in my life. Those brave children and teachers have reminded me how much love there really is in the world. The life they lived and the love they shared reminds me to live and love. May God bless the memories of the angels of Sandy Hook, keeping them on our hearts forever.

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