Recommended Reading: Books to Build Character & Teach Your Child Important Values

By Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, FAAP

​In today’s world, children and teens are bombarded with conflicting, ever-shifting standards of ethics and morality. At the same time, you are trying to teach and instill good values at home. Fortunately, a really great book has the power to counterbalance these outside influences and teach children important lessons as they grow.

It might be a book on kindness after your child experienced or witnessed cruelty. It might be a book on expressing emotions after your child s​aw or heard scary news coverage, or maybe a book on understanding differences after your child saw someone who looked differently than they do.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Reach Out and Read have compiled the following list of books — organized by age and topic—to help you raise children who are aware of the world around them, curious, brave, kind, and thoughtful. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to review these titles in advance of sharing them with their children.

Then read together! Books are great conversation starters that can give you an opportunity to talk to your children about these issues and help them learn and understand your family’s values.

Books to Teach Kindness
Teaching kindness to children is an important skill to build and reinforce at all ages. Young children can learn how small acts of kindness help and please others, but teens can learn broader, larger concepts grounded in morals and ethics.

PRESCHOOLERS & EARLY GRADES
Stand​ in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy, by Bob Sornson; illustrated by Shelley Johannes
Those Shoes, by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
Kindness is Cooler, Mrs Ruler, by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa
What Does It Mean To Be Kind?, by Rana DiOrio, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed, by Emily Pearson, illustrated by Fumi Kosaka
Each Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Patrice Barton
Heartprints, by P.K. Hallinan

MIDDLE GRADES
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams
Wonder, by RJ Palacio
Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents, by Sarah Conover and Valerie Wahl

TEENS
Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
Rules, by Cynthia Lord

Books About Expressing Emotions
Children may see anger, sadness, and loss in parents and other adults in their lives and be uncertain how to respond. Younger children may have difficulty naming their emotions, but find it easier to identify with a character in a book. Older children may have difficulty sorting through complex feelings and worry about burdening adults who are struggling themselves. Books can help children process, clarify, and put a name to their feelings.

PRESCHOOLERS & EARLY GRADES
Moody Cow Meditates, by Kerry Lee MacLean
That’s How I Feel (Asi Me Siento), by Rourke Publishing
Have you Filled a Bucket Today?, by Carol McCloud, illustrated by David Messing
What if Everybody Did That?, by Ellen Javernick, illustrated by Colleen M. Madden
I Was So Mad, by Mercer Mayer
Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners, by Laurie Keller
My Many Colored Days, by Dr Seuss

MIDDLE GRADES
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake
Queenie Peavy, by Robert Burch

TEENS
Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life for Teens, by Sheri Van Dijk
A Still Quiet Place: A Mindfulness Program for Teaching Children and Adolescents to Ease Stress and Difficult Emotions, by Amy Saltzman MD
Learning to Breathe: A Mindfulness Curriculum for Adolescents to Cultivate Emotion Regulation, Attention, and Performance, by Patricia Broderick PhD

Books About Bullying & Harassment
Bullying and harassment are difficult topics for everyone, and they are an increasing issue in schools across the country. It’s common for younger children to repeat language they’ve heard without understanding the implications of what they’re saying. Those who are harassed (or are worried about being harassed) may have strong fear and anxiety. Children who are bystanders may not know how to respond, particularly if they fear being bullied themselves.

PRESCHOOLERS & EARLY GRADES
Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes
The Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes, Illustrated by Louis Slobodkin
Edwardo: the Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World, by John Burningham
Say Something, by Peggy Moss, Illustrated by Lea Lyon
Babymouse: Queen of the World, by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm
Bully B.E.A.N.S., by Julia Cook, Illustrated by Anita DuFalla
Confessions of a Former Bully, by Trudy Ludwig, Illustrated by Beth Adams

MIDDLE GRADES
Stitches, by Glen Huser
To This Day: For the Bullied and the Beautiful, by Shane Koyczan
Understanding Buddy, by Marc Kornblatt
Loser, by Jerry Spinelli
Veronica Ganz, by Marilyn Sachs
Blubber, by Judy Blume

TEENS
Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories, by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Freak Show, by James St James
Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli
7 Days at the Hot Corner, by Terry Trueman

Books on Listening to Others’ Views
Learning how to listen well and respect different views are important life skills. While younger children find it difficult to take the perspective of others, they gain that ability over time. Older children may become great debaters—especially with their parents. Books can offer models for engaging with others who have different views in a respectful and productive manner.

PRESCHOOLERS & EARLY GRADES
When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt, by Molly Bang
I’m the Best, by Lucy Cousins
Chocolate Milk, Por Favor, by Maria Dismondy, illustrated by Donna Farrell
The Sandwich Swap, by Queen Rania of Jordan & Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Tricia Tusa
Junkyard Wonders, by Patricia Polacco
The Conquerers, by David McKee

MIDDLE GRADES
Zero Tolerance, by Claudia Mills
The Cat at the Wall, by Deborah Ellis
The Three Questions, by Jon Muth

ADOLESCENTS
This Side of Home, by Renee Watson

Books About Respecting Differences
Children are naturally curious about others (particularly other children) who fall into groups other than their own. Think of your child’s curiosity as an opportunity to teach him or her about respecting these differences. Remember, in order to raise kids to embrace diversity, you’ll need to give them access to a variety of different cultures and traditions—books are a great way to do that!

PRESCHOOLERS & EARLY GRADES
I Like Myself!, by Karen Beaumont, Illustrated by David Catrow
Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall
Giraffes Can’t Dance, by Giles Andreae, Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees
Strictly No Elephants, by Lisa Mantchev, Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
Two Speckled Eggs, by Jennifer K. Mann
Willow, by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan, Illustrated by Cyd Moore

MIDDLE GRADES
Out of My Mind, by Sharon M. Draper
Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai
The Ordinary Princess, by M. M. Kaye

Books on Social Change & Civic Engagement
Many children are drawn to helping others—even at young ages. Maybe it is raising money for a cause or having a passion for issue impacting their community. Books can help them understand the broader concepts of social justice and civic engagement. Younger children tend to thinking of things as “good vs. bad,” but as they get older they develop very sophisticated and nuanced moral reasoning.

PRESCHOOLERS & EARLY GRADES
Grace for President, by Kelly DiPucchio, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
A Chair for My Mother, by Vera B. Williams
Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation, by Edwidge Danticat, Illustrated by Leslie Staub
House Mouse, Senate Mouse, by Peter W. Barnes and Cheryl Shaw Barnes
Being Me, by Rosemary McCarney, Illustrated by Yvonne Cathcart

MIDDLE GRADES
Zero Tolerance, by Claudia Mills
Paper Things, by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
The Kid’s Guide to Social Action, by Barbara A. Lewis
Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen
The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

TEENS
The Great Greene Heist, by Varian Johnson
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
The Plain Janes, by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
Samir and Yonatan, by Daniella Carmi
The Lions of Little Rock, by Kristin Levine
March: Book One, by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin


About Dr. Navsaria:
Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, FAAP is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and is director of the MD–MPH program there. He practices primary care pediatrics at a federally-qualified health center in South Madison and is the founding medical director of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin. Dr. Navsaria regularly writes op-eds on health-related topics, does radio and television interviews, and frequently speaks locally, regionally and nationally on early brain and child development, early literacy, and advocacy to a broad variety of audiences. Follow him on Twitter @navsaria, Facebook, and visit his website http://www.navsaria.com. ​
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Editor’s Note: Our collective thanks to the following colleagues who also helped compose this list: Amy Shriver, MD, FAAP, Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP, Perri Klass, MD, FAAP, Dina Joy Lieser, MD, FAAP, and the librarians at the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2016). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


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Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is an exciting time of year for kids. Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help ensure they have a safe holiday.

All Dressed Up:

  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
  • Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes. Makeup should be tested ahead of time on a small patch of skin to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises on the big day.​
  • When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
  • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
  • Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” obtaining decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.
  • Review with children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they ever have an emergency or become lost.

Carving a Niche:

  • Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting.
  • Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
  • Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and not on a porch or any path where visitors may pass close by. They should never be left unattended.

Home Safe Home:

  • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
  • Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  • Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
  • Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

On the Trick-or-Treat Trail:

  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
  • Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
  • Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind trick-or-treaters:
  • Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
  • Remember reflective tape for costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
  • Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
  • Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
  • Never cut across yards or use alleys.
  • Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
  • Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will!
  • Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.

Healthy Halloween:

  • A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
  • Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
  • Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
  • Try to ration treats for the days and weeks following Halloween.

Teens: The Problem with Perfectionism

Today’s teenagers have more impressive college applications than a decade ago, and far more impressive ones than their parents had. Many teenagers seem to be entering this admissions process perfectly prepared. On paper they look almost too good to be true—dream candidates for any college—socially committed and brilliant, widely experienced in summer jobs, internships, and community service projects. Their resumés suggest their teeth glimmer whenever they smile and their hair blows in the wind even as they stand still.

As we prepare these paper-perfect students for higher education, are we undermining their ability to succeed in life? As we mold them to be so well balanced, are we actually making them feel unsure of their own footing? Are they so committed to being “perfect” that they fear being anything less? The most worrisome thing about this generation of driven students may be the fear of imperfection that’s being instilled in their psyches. This fear will stifle their creativity, impede their ability to experience joy, and ultimately interfere with their success.

When we speak to parents nationwide, we hear 2 very distinct views. Some parents see their kids’ jam-packed lives as a wonderful sign that they are poised for success. Others notice that their adolescents seem burdened, and they worry that their kids are missing opportunities for happiness during a time that is supposed to be carefree, a time before they have to earn a living and support families of their own.

The first group of parents shows justified pride that their children are driven to succeed and relish their accomplishments. They recognize that successful people always put in the extra effort. They’ve held their kids to high expectations and arranged the finest opportunities, and their active parenting style seems to have paid off. Some of their children seem to have garnered all of this success while remaining joyous and self-confident. If other kids exhibit signs of weariness or stress, these parents see it as the price to be paid for success. As long as their grades remain high and they continue to be involved in many extracurricular activities, their parents believe they must be doing well, regardless of outward or inward signs of stress.

The second set of parents has equal pride in their children’s accomplishments, but they are concerned that their children are too stretched, too pressured. They notice the signs of fatigue and pressure. They fear that happiness has been sacrificed in the name of accomplishment.

All parents want the same thing—that young people become happy, successful adults. To evaluate whether they are moving toward genuine success, we need to look less at accomplishments and more at kids themselves. The process of producing students who are perfect on paper may be working for some and seriously harming others. Those who seem to be thriving may be budding perfectionists who are headed for elite colleges as a reward for their accomplishments. But they may not be headed toward a lifetime of success and are unlikely to achieve a lifetime of happiness, satisfaction, and contentment.

Some materials mention “Big Lies” that parents shouldn’t project on the next generation. The first Big Lie—that successful adults are good at everything—is applicable here in a discussion of perfectionism. When was the last time any of us was good at everything? Probably in second grade—we got gold stars on our spelling papers; we were told we were great artists when we made construction paper Thanksgiving turkeys; on the playground everyone was an athlete and got a chance at bat.

Since those halcyon days, how many adults can say, “I’m good at everything”?

Most of us do quite well at one or two things and are less talented in many more. Successful people usually excel in one or two areas. Interesting people excel in a couple areas but also enjoy exposure to several fields even if they can’t be a star in all.

So why do we push the Big Lie on teenagers that they must be good at math, science, foreign languages, English, history, the arts, and athletics? Doesn’t this unrealistic expectation only foster the drive toward a perfectionism that is bound to crash land?

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Reprinted from HealthyChild.org. Source: Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admissions and Beyond (©2006 Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MsEd, FAAP Martha M. Jablow and Marilee Jones). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

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Car Seat Checkup

​Using a car seat correctly makes a big difference. Even the right seat for your child’s size must be used correctly to properly protect your child in a crash. Here are car seat tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), but you can also read about Connecticut’s car seat guidelines on the SAFE KIDS CONNECTICUT website.

Does your car have air bags?

  • ​Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has a front passenger airbag. If the airbag inflates, it will hit the back of the car seat, right where your baby’s head rests, and could cause serious injury or death.
  • The safest place for all children younger than 13 years to ride is in the back seat regardless of weight and height.
  • If an older child must ride in the front seat, a child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness may be the best choice. Be sure you move the vehicle seat as far back from the dashboard (and airbag) as possible.​

Is your child facing the right way for weight, height, and age?

  • All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 2 years of age or reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat manufacturer.
  • Any child who has outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for his car seat should use a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by his car seat manufacturer.​

Is the harness snug?

  • Harness straps should fit snugly against your child’s body. Check the car seat instructions to learn how to adjust the straps.
  • Place the chest clip at armpit level to keep the harness straps secure on the shoulders.​

Does the car seat fit correctly in your vehicle?

  • Not all car seats fit properly in all vehicles.
  • Read the section on car seats in the owner’s manual for your car.​

Can you use the LATCH system?

  • LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) is a car seat attachment system that can be used instead of the seat belt to install the seat. These systems are equally safe, but in some cases, it may be easier to install the car seat using LATCH.
  • Vehicles with the LATCH system have anchors located in the back seat, where the seat cushions meet. All car safety seats have attachments that fasten to these anchors. Nearly all passenger vehicles and all car safety seats made on or after September 1, 2002, are equipped to use LATCH. All lower anchors are rated for a maximum weight of 65 pounds (total weight includes car safety seat and child). Check the car seat manufacturer’s recommendations for maximum weight a child can be to use lower anchors. New car seats have the maximum weight printed on their label.
  • The top tether improves safety provided by the seat. Use the tether for all forward-facing seats, even those installed using the vehicle seat belt. Tether anchors are located behind the seat, either on the panel behind the seat (in sedans) or back of the seat, ceiling, or floor (in most minivans, SUVs, hatchbacks, and pickup trucks). Always follow both the car seat and vehicle manufacturer instructions, including weight limits, for lower anchors and tethers. Remember, weight limits are different for different car seats and different vehicles.​

Is the seat belt or LATCH strap in the right place and pulled tight?

  • ​Route the seat belt or LATCH strap through the correct path. Convertible seats have different belt paths for when they are used rear facing or forward facing (check your instructions to make sure).
  • Pull the belt tight. Apply weight into the seat with your hand while tightening the seat belt or LATCH strap. When the car seat is installed, be sure it does not move more than an inch side to side or toward the front of the car.
  • If you install the car seat using your vehicle’s seat belt, you must make sure the seat belt locks to keep a tight fit. In most newer cars, you can lock the seat belt by pulling it all the way out and then allowing it to retract to keep the seat belt tight around the car seat. Many car seats have built-in lock-offs to lock the belt. Check the owner’s manual to make sure you are installing the seat correctly.
  • It is best to use the tether that comes with your car seat to the highest weight allowed by your vehicle and the manufacturer of your car seat. Check your vehicle owner’s manual and car seat instructions for how and when to use the tether and lower anchors.​​

​Has your child outgrown the forward-facing seat?

  • All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are 8 through 12 years of age.
  • A seat belt fits properly when the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat; the lap belt is low and snug across the upper thighs, not the belly; and the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her knees bent over the edge of the seat without slouching and can comfortably stay in this position throughout the trip.​

​Do you have the instructions for the car seat?

Follow them and keep them with the car seat. Keep your child in the car seat until she reaches the weight or height limit set by the manufacturer. Follow the instructions to determine whether your child should ride rear facing or forward facing and whether to install the seat using LATCH or the vehicle seat belt.​

Has the car seat been recalled?

  • You can find out by calling the manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888/327-4236 or the NHTSA Web site at www.safercar.gov.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for making any repairs to your car seat.
  • Be sure to fill in and mail in the registration card that comes with the car seat. It will be important in case the seat is recalled.

Do you know the history of your child’s car seat?

  • Do not use a used car seat if you do not know the history of the seat.
  • Do not use a car seat that has been in a crash, has been recalled, is too old (check the expiration date or use 6 years from date of manufacture if there is no expiration date), has any cracks in its frame, or is missing parts.
  • Make sure it has labels from the manufacturer and instructions.
  • Call the car seat manufacturer if you have questions about the safety of your seat.​

For information about Connecticut’s guidelines for car seats, please visit SAFE KIDS CONNECTICUT.


Source: Car Safety Seat Checkup (Copyright © 2017 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Constantly Connected: Adverse Effects of Media on Children & Teens

​Today’s children and teens are growing up immersed in digital media. They are exposed to media in all forms, including TV, computers, smartphones, and other screens.

Media can influence how children and teens feel, learn, think, and behave.
What We Know:

Here are facts about digital media use.

  • Almost 75% of teens own a smartphone. They can access the Internet, watch TV and videos, and download interactive applications (apps). Mobile apps allow photo-sharing, gaming, and video-chatting.
  • 25% of teens describe themselves as “constantly connected” to the Internet.
  • 76% of teens use at least one social media site. More than 70% of teens visit multiple social media sites, such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.
  • 4 of 5 households (families) own a device used to play video games.

Why It’s Good to Unplug:
Overuse of digital media and screens may place your child or teen at risk of

Obesity. Excessive screen use, as well as having a TV in the bedroom, can increase the risk of obesity. Teens who watch more than 5 hours of TV per day are 5 times more likely to be overweight than teens who watch 0 to 2 hours. Watching TV for more than 1.5 hours daily is a risk factor for obesity for children 4 through 9 years of age. This is in part due to the fact that viewers are exposed to advertising for high-calorie foods. Viewers are also more likely to snack or overeat while watching screen media.

Sleep problems. Media use can interfere with sleep. Children and teens who spend more time with social media or who sleep with mobile devices in their rooms are at greater risk for sleep problems. Exposure to light (particularly blue light) and stimulating content from screens can delay or disrupt sleep, and have a negative effect on school.

Problematic internet use. Children who overuse online media can be at risk for problematic Internet use. Heavy video gamers are at risk for Internet gaming disorder. They spend most of their free time online, and show less interest in offline or “real-life” relationships. 4% to 8% of children and teens may have problems limiting their Internet use, and almost 10% of US youth 8 to 18 years of age may have Internet gaming disorder. There may be increased risks for depression at both the high and low ends of Internet use.

Negative effect on school performance. Children and teens often use entertainment media at the same time that they’re doing other things, such as homework. Such multi-tasking can have a negative effect on school.

Risky behaviors. Teens’ displays on social media often show risky behaviors, such as substance use, sexual behaviors, self-injury, or eating disorders. Exposure of teens through media to alcohol, tobacco use, or sexual behaviors is associated with earlier initiation of these behaviors.

Sexting and privacy and predators. Sexting is sending nude or seminude images as well as sexually explicit text messages using a cell phone. About 12% of youth age 10 to 19 years of age have sent a sexual photo to someone else. Teens need to know that once content is shared with others they may not be able to delete or remove it completely. They may also not know about or choose not to use privacy settings. Another risk is that sex offenders may use social networking, chat rooms, e-mail, and online games to contact and exploit children.

Cyberbullying. Children and teens online can be victims of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can lead to short- and long-term negative social, academic, and health issues for both the bully and the target. Fortunately, programs to help prevent bullying may reduce cyberbullying.

Children today are growing up in a time of highly personalized media use experiences, so parents must develop personalized media use plans for their children. Media plans should take into account each child’s age, health, personality, and developmental stage. All children and teens need adequate sleep (8-12 hours, depending on age), physical activity (1 hour), and time away from media. Put together your family media plan today!


Source: Digital Media and Your Children and Teens: TV, Computers, Smartphones, and Other Screens (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Breakfast for Learning

​Nearly half of all American families regularly skip breakfast. Is your family one of them? When it comes to getting your children to school, a healthy breakfast is just as important as gym shoes and sharp pencils.
How Breakfast Betters Your Child

Breakfast has been associated with everything from:

  • Better memory
  • Better test scores
  • Better attention span to decreased irritability
  • Healthier body weights
  • Improved overall nutrition

Rise & Dine
It’s easy to see how breakfast has come to qualify as one of the nutritional challenges of parenthood. Whether it’s your own parental time constraints or your child’s busy schedule, getting the whole family ready to set off to child care and/or school in the morning, play dates, or any of a whole host of other common early-in-the-day commitments, breakfast is often neglected.

If the words “slow” and “leisurely” don’t exactly describe your morning routine, we’d like to suggest that you commit a little extra time and effort to protecting the nutritional integrity of your child’s morning meal.

Breakfast-Made-Easier Tips for Parents

Whether you opt for a simple breakfast or a more elaborate one, any effort to make it nutritious is better than no breakfast at all. Whether that means a glass of low-fat milk and a piece of wheat toast or an all-out feast, the following breakfast-made-easier tips will hopefully help you rise to the occasion and overcome some of the most common barriers to a healthy breakfast.

Schedule accordingly. While we’d like to remind you that sitting down and sharing family meals is beneficial, we’re willing to bet that sitting down to a leisurely breakfast with your kids each morning simply isn’t realistic for most of you. What is realistic, however, is making sure you carve out enough time to allow your child to eat without pressure. Especially for infants and toddlers, this includes factoring in enough time in the morning’s schedule to allow for both assisted- and self-feeding.

Fix breakfast before bedtime. In other words, plan ahead. As with just about all other aspects of feeding your child, a little advance planning can go a long way toward having a wider range of healthy foods on hand. Simple examples such as hard-boiling eggs ahead of time or having your child’s favorite cold cereal dished out the night before to pair with some presliced fresh fruit can mean the difference between time for a balanced breakfast and running out the door without it (or, as is often the case, with some commercially packaged and far less nutritious alternative in hand).

Grab-and-go breakfasts. If the reality of your schedule is such that you and your kids routinely run out the door with no time to spare in the morning, then try stocking up on a variety of nutritious foods that you can prepare and prepackage for healthier grab-and-go convenience. In addition to hard-boiled eggs, consider other fast favorites like sliced apples, homemade muffins, or a bagel with low-fat cream cheese.

Make sure sleep is on the menu. Applying the age-old adage, make sure your child is early enough to bed that she rises early enough to allow time for breakfast. No matter what their age, tired kids tend to be cranky, and cranky kids are far less likely to sit down for a well-balanced breakfast. Not only that, but sleep has proven itself to be a crucial ingredient in children’s overall health.

Broaden your horizons. You’ll certainly want to keep safety in mind when figuring out what’s age-appropriate to offer your child for breakfast, but don’t let yourself be constrained by artificially imposed labels to determine what is good to serve for a morning meal. Think protein, think fruits and vegetables, and think outside the box when it comes to expanding your breakfast horizons beyond just breakfast cereals and milk.

Look for child care and school support. Be sure to check out what breakfast options your child’s school or child care provider offers. With much-deserved attention now being paid to the food our children eat in out-of-home settings, you’re more likely to find balanced breakfast options on the menu, and your child may well be more receptive to eating them if all of his friends are eating alongside him.


Source: Healthy Children E-Magazine, Back to School 2012. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Choosing Healthy Snacks for Kids

While meals make up the majority of a child’s nutritional intake, most children eat at least one snack per day. While many of the most commonly offered kids’ snacks tend to be of lower nutritional value than meals, snacks still can support—or even enhance—your child’s overall healthy eating plan. Here’s how:

  • Use snack times as a way to increase fruits and vegetable intake. Most kids do not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Snack times offer a great opportunity to increase access and exposure to these nutrient-dense foods. Consider pairing them up with dairy products or dairy substitutes (such as grapes and cheese) lean proteins (such as celery and peanut butter), or whole-grain cereals and bread (such as a banana sandwich on whole grain bread).
  • Keep a range of healthy foods handy at home. It is much easier to make easy, healthy snacks when you keep a few key items stocked at home. Ideas include different types of raw vegetables and fruit, yogurt dip, hummus, and cheese sticks.
  • Avoid processed foods and added sugars. Processed foods (made in a factory and sold in bags and boxes) do not have many nutrients and often have a lot of added sugar and salt. In addition, children may become hungry faster after eating processed foods.
  • Teach your children to eat a rainbow of colors. Arrange your children’s foods to show the beauty of fresh, brightly colored foods. Talk about the farms where food comes from and the farmers who help grow it.

Source: Section on Obesity (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Bedtime Routines for School-Aged Children

​​​For school-aged children, a quick tidy-up is part of the bedtime routine: putting books and toys back on shelves and clothes in drawers and closets. Their room doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s more pleasant to rest and read or listen to music and stories in a tidy environment, and mornings go more smoothly if needed objects are where they belong and thus easy to find.

By the middle-school years, the weekend routine is a bit less regimented than the one for school nights, and weekend bedtimes can be later. Lights can go out at different times for different children in the family, depending on how much sleep they need. However, while your child may sleep late the next morning, try to keep weekend wake-ups within an hour or so of the usual time, especially if your child is not a creature of habit by nature. Left to sleep too long, in only a few days a vulnerable child can shift his sleep phase (periods of waking and sleeping) in such a way that he has trouble getting back on his usual schedule. School performance may suffer because he is drowsy when awoken on school days.

Keep Bedtime Routines Manageable
Unless carefully managed, bedtime routines can be drawn out almost indefinitely, thus defeating the purpose for which they’re intended. A child quickly learns that by taking charge of the show, he can significantly delay the time of going to bed. For example, he may have to repeatedly switch his stuffed animals because he can’t find quite the right combination to make him sleepy on a particular night. Or he may desperately need the answers to questions that will keep him awake if he has to wait until morning.

Allow your child flexibility within the routine, but keep things under your control by limiting the choices available. For example, let him choose different stuffed animals for bed each night, but keep him to a fixed number. Let him choose a story and a song, but not a whole book or CD. Try to keep the bedtime routine to no longer than 30 minutes.

As your child gets older, you should gradually begin to step back and let him become more in charge of his bedtime routine. Providing these opportunities during his daily routine is also a way to help him become more self-reliant.


Source: Sleep: What Every Parent Needs to Know (Copyright © 2013 American Academy of Pediatrics) The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


School Days

“What did you do in school today?”

“Nothing.”

This is a familiar exchange between parent and child. And it can be a frustrating one for an interested parent who genuinely wants to keep abreast of a child’s activities at school and yet not appear nosy. (This issue of intrusiveness becomes more of a problem with the ten- to twelve-year-old child and certainly with adolescents.)

Youngsters will usually be more responsive about their day at school if they are asked fairly direct questions at a time that is ap­propriate. For instance, when a child first arrives home from school, he might be tired and want a snack, or want to relax or play with a friend rather than rehash the day. It might be better to talk with him about school later in the day or evening. Or begin the conversation with a statement like “You look pretty hungry. Let’s have a snack and then you can tell me about your day.”

Make your questions as focused and nonjudgmental as possible. For instance:

  • “What new thing did you learn in school today?”
  • “What questions did you ask in class?”
  • “How is that book you’ve been reading in class? What’s hap­pening in the story?”
  • “Do you have any papers or artwork in your backpack that we could look over?”
  • “Is learning long division getting a little easier?”
  • “Tell me about the spelling test. Was there a word or two you had trouble with?”

Knowing that their students may have trouble remembering everything that happened in school, teachers often communicate about class and school issues through written notes. Ask your child each night if he has any notes for you.

At times your child might want to talk about school when you’re right in the middle of something else. As much as possible, try to be responsive, perhaps saying something like “I want to hear about school, but right now I’m very busy fixing dinner. Let me get this casserole in the oven, and then we can sit down and really talk.” Or “Why don’t you hop on this stool and help me make this salad while we talk.”


Source: Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Back to School Tips

Making the First Day Easier

  • Parents should remember that they need not wait until the first day of class to ask for help. Schools are open to address any concerns a parent or child might have, including the specific needs of a child, over the summer. The best time to get help might be one to two weeks before school opens.
  • Many children become nervous about new situations, including changing to a new school, classroom or teacher. This may occur at any age. If your child seems nervous, it can be helpful to rehearse entry into the new situation. Take them to visit the new school or classroom before the first day of school. Remind them that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy about the first day of school. Teachers know that students are nervous and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible. If your child seems nervous, ask them what they are worried about and help them problem solve ways to master the new situation.
  • Point out the positive aspects of starting school to create positive anticipation about the first day of class. They will see old friends and meet new ones. Talk with them about positive experiences they may have had in the past at school or with other groups of children.
  • Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school or ride on the bus.
  • If it is a new school for your child, attend any available orientations and take an opportunity to tour the school before the first day. Bring the child to school a few days prior to class to play on the playground and get comfortable in the new environment.
  • If you feel it is needed, drive your child (or walk with her) to school and pick her up on the first day, and get there early on the first day to cut down on unnecessary stress.
  • Make sure to touch base with your child’s new teacher at the beginning or end of the day so the teacher knows how much you want to be supportive of your child’s school experience.
  • Consider starting your child on their school sleep/wake schedule a week or so ahead of time so that time change is not a factor on their first couple of days at school.

Eating During the School Day

  • Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better. They do better in school, and have better concentration and more energy. Some schools provide breakfast for children; if yours does not, make sure they eat a breakfast that contains some protein
  • Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home and/or have them posted on the school’s website. With this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
  • Many children qualify for free or reduced price food at school, including breakfast. The forms for these services can be completed at the school office. Hunger will affect a child’s performance in class.
  • Many school districts have plans which allow you to pay for meals through an online account. Your child will get a card to “swipe” at the register. This is a convenient way to handle school meal accounts.
  • Look into what is offered inside and outside of the cafeteria, including vending machines, a la carte, school stores, snack carts and fundraisers held during the school day. All foods sold during the school day must meet nutrition standards established by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). They should stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100% fruit juice. Learn about your child’s school wellness policy and get involved in school groups to put it into effect. Also, consider nutrition if you child will be bringing food to eat during school.
  • Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%. Choose healthier options (such as water and appropriately sized juice and low-fat dairy products) to send in your child’s lunch.

Before & After School Child Care

  • During early and middle childhood, children need supervision. A responsible adult should be available to get them ready and off to school in the morning and supervise them after school until you return home from work.
  • If a family member will care for your child, communicate the need to follow consistent rules set by the parent regarding schedules, discipline and homework.
  • Children approaching adolescence (11- and 12-year-olds) should not come home to an empty house in the afternoon unless they show unusual maturity for their age.
  • If alternate adult supervision is not available, parents should make special efforts to supervise their children from a distance. Children should have a set time when they are expected to arrive at home and should check in with a neighbor or with a parent by telephone.
  • If you choose an after-school program for your child, inquire about the training of the staff. There should be a high staff-to-child ratio, trained persons to address health issues and emergencies, and the rooms and the playground should be safe.

Develop a Sleep Routine

  • Getting enough sleep is critical for a child to be successful in school. Children who do not get enough sleep have difficulty concentrating and learning as well as they can.
  • Set a consistent bedtime for your child and stick with it every night. Having a bedtime routine that is consistent will help your child settle down and fall asleep. Components of a calming pre-bedtime routine may involve a bath/shower, reading with them, and tucking them in and saying good-night to them.
  • Have your child turn off electronic devices well before bedtime.
  • Try to have the home as quiet and calm as possible when younger children are trying to fall asleep.
  • Insufficient sleep is associated with lower academic achievement in middle school, high school and college, as well as higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness. The optimal amount of sleep for most younger children is 10-12 hours per night and for adolescents (13-18 year of age) is in the range of 8-10 hours per night. See Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need? for more information.

Developing Good Homework & Study Habits

  • Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework starting at a young age. Children need a consistent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study.
  • Schedule ample time for homework; build this time into choices about participation in after school activities.
  • Establish a household rule that the TV and other electronic distractions stay off during homework time.
  • Supervise computer and Internet use.
  • By high school, it’s not uncommon for teachers to ask students to submit homework electronically and perform other tasks on a computer. If your child doesn’t have access to a computer or the internet at home, work with teachers and school administration to develop appropriate accommodations.
  • Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for her.
  • Take steps to help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while studying. It may be helpful to close the books for a few minutes, stretch, and take a break periodically when it will not be too disruptive.
  • If your child is struggling with a particular subject, speak with your child’s teacher for recommendations on how you or another person can help your child at home or at school. If you have concerns about the assignments your child is receiving, talk with their teacher.
  • If your child is having difficulty focusing on or completing homework, discuss this with your child’s teacher, school counselor, or health care provider.
  • For general homework problems that cannot be worked out with the teacher, a tutor may be considered.
  • Some children need extra help organizing their homework. Checklists, timers, and parental supervision can help overcome homework problems.
  • Some children may need help remembering their assignments. Work with your child and their teacher to develop an appropriate way to keep track of their assignments – such as an assignment notebook.

From the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).