5 Superpowers You Can Give Your Children

1 – Immunizations
​Staying caught up on all your child’s immunizations is one of the most powerful ways you can shield your child from a variety of dangerous, infectious diseases. They train your child’s immune system to stop a variety of villainous germs that once sickened and killed thousands of people each year.  In addition to routine childhood immunizations, families can now fight COVID-19 with vaccines available for teens age 12 and up. They’re expected to be available for younger teens and children soon.​​

2 – Resilience
Some stress is just part of life, but when it’s severe or ongoing, it can morph into “toxic stress.” Toxic stress can actually change the way children’s brains and bodies develop. But you can help your children develop the power of resilience, the ability to cope with and bounce back from stress​ful experiences. Help them gain confidence in their abilities, for example, and build a network of strong, supportive relationships–with you, and with other adults and peers. Think of it as their personal legion of allies. ​​

3 – Empathy
You may not be able to give your child telepathic abilities, but helping them build empathy can be a powerful tool in life.  Empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s thoughts, feelings and experiences. It helps children connect and relate to others in positive ways, which can reduce stress. It even helps prevent harmful bias and racism. Reading with your child is one way to help build empathy. ​​

4 – Fitness
​​Physical activity and exercise has a mighty effect on children’s bodies and brains. It builds strong muscles and bones, coordination and flexibility. It also helps combat rising rates of childhood obesity, which can lead to diabetes and heart disease. Physical activity also reduces stress, boosts mood and helps children focus at school. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids 6 years and older get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days of the week. ​​

5 – Earth Awareness
Give your children the knowledge that they can literally help save the planet! Nurture a respect for nature by spending time outdoors when possible. Discuss news they hear about climate-change-fueled disasters like wildfires and hurricanes. Mostly, help them focus on solutions. This can help reduce stress about the future and gives them the power to take action. Remind them that families, communities and nations have tools to take climate action right now, and using them can have immediate benefits for our health. Brainstorm together for ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and other actions your family can take.​​​


Source American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2021) 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.

Is it safe for families to travel yet?

​​​​​After more than a year of “pandemic ​life,” we are all eager to return to some sense of normalcy. For many families, this includes traveling. ​But for families with young children who aren’t able to get COVID-19 vaccines yet, it’s still complicated. Here’s why.

Vaccines are key

Federal experts who warned about the dangers of travel earlier in the pandemic now say fully vaccinated​ people can safely travel, with some common-sense precautions. However, they still advise against any nonessential travel for unvaccinated​ individuals. And, the problem is, vaccines aren’t yet available for children under age 12. This means that while parents who are vaccinated are protected, traveling now may still put their younger children at risk. 

While most cases of COVID-19 infections in children are mild, some do become severely ill.  Thousands of children have been hospitalized for COVID-19, and hundreds have died. In addition, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children is a condition that has been unique to children during this pandemic and can be quite serious.  

If you decide to travel

Not all vacations or trips carry the same risk. For example, traveling by car to a vacation rental home is much safer than flying to a busy hotel to spend the week at a crowded beach. The key is to think about number of close contacts you’ll likely have during the course of your travel plans.  The more contacts, the higher the risk. 

There are steps you can take to lower travel risks:

  • ​Have everyone in your family who is eligible (12 years and older) and those whom you plan on visiting, get their COVD-19 vaccine. Many COVID infections come from household contacts. By ensuring everyone is vaccinated, you’ll limit the number of suspectable contacts. 
  • Check the COVID-19 spread rates where you plan to visit. Locations with high rates of community spread means higher risk of someone in your family being exposed to COVID-19.  If the intended destination has a high rate of spread, be extra cautious when in public. Keep in mind that outdoor activities are safer than indoor ones.   ​
  • On a plane, bus, train, or other form of public transportation, make sure everyone in the family wears a mask, even those who are fully vaccinated.Keep them on at the airport or station, too. The masks should cover the nose and mouth, and fit snugly with no gaps at the sides.
  • Try to travel by car if possible. While the airline industry has taken amazing steps in helping to lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission (HEPA air filters, air exchange, electrostatic spraying), traveling by car will limit your contact with the public. In addition, the road trip experience can be a great way for older children to see new places. During any rest stops, remember to wear masks and wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Also, consider packing your own food and snacks.
  • If you must fly: Try to look for direct flights when possible. That will limit the need to change planes and walk through busy airports. Plus, the shorter the flight the better, since longer flights raise the chance of infection. Keep your masks on for the entire flight; consider opting out of meals so you don’t have to remove them. Don’t forget to bring disinfectant wipes to sanitize all the high-touch areas.
  • Pack extra masks and hand sanitizers. Along with toothbrushes, diapers, and the portable crib, be sure to tote along those important pandemic essentials. Pack at least two masks per child in case one is lost or being washed after use. When packing hand sanitizer, include a travel-size dispenser that can be stored in a purse or backpack as well as a larger container for refills. Ensure that the hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol.

Remember

COVID-19 has affected everyone and the past year has been stressful for families. The urge to travel might be tempting, but the pandemic is not over yet and it’s important to consider the risks.  As the vaccine rollout proceeds, your family will be able to enjoy a relaxing trip soon. ​


​American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright ©2021). By Gary Kirkilas, DO, FAAP, a general pediatrician at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. 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.

Summer Reading 2021

Reading can be one of the many fun activities children choose to fill their summer time. And research has shown it is also much more!

Children who participate in public library summer reading programs make achievement leaps during the summer.

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC)  reading lists below are created by children’s librarians as a resource to share with patrons, and may also be available in ebook, audio book, braille, and large print formats. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to explore this list to find resources that may match or spark their child’s interest. Connect with your local library to find out what’s happening this summer.

The 2021 Summer Reading Book List was created by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). Titles on this list were selected by members of ALSC’s Quicklists Consulting Committee. For more booklists, please visit www.ala.org/alsc/booklists.

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children. From creative programming and best practices to continuing education and professional connections—ALSC members are innovators in the field of children’s library service.

Just Breathe: The Importance of Meditation Breaks for Kids

Our kids’ brains are tired, and children of all ages really need opportunities where they can take time out each day “unplugged” to relax and focus. Meditation offers this break and helps kids function more effectively and clearly.

Children today also have reportedly high stress levels. To help them take a break, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to share meditation with their children—and teachers to incorporate mindfulness training into their lesson plans.

The simple act of teaching children how to stop, focus, and just breathe could be one of the greatest gifts you give them.

Meditation Options for Children

Meditative practices have been used since ancient times to improve health and well-being. But, just as an athlete may do different exercises, people who practice meditation often use different types.

The most common types of meditation practice are concentration, mindfulness, movement based, cultivating positive emotions, and emptying. There are specific examples and ways to practice each type.

 

Many meditation practices use breathing techniques to promote a state of calm. Mindfulness meditation on breath, perhaps the most well-known type, involves sitting quietly, resting or closing your eyes and bringing your attention to your breath. When your attention drifts away, which it is likely to do, simply usher your attention back to your breath without judgment.  You don’t need years of meditative practice to benefit from this technique, nor do your children.

There’s no doubt, however, that sitting still for any length of time can be difficult for some kids. For this reason, a movement-based meditation, such as yoga, may serve as a good introduction.

Research on the Benefits of Meditation in Children

Meditation is used to rest the mind, body and spirit. This, in turn, has many mental, physical, and spiritual benefits. Mindfulness meditation, specifically, is gaining a foothold in disease prevention and treatment.

A number of studies in school settings also show improved attention and behavior. Some research has shown benefits for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, school performance, sleep, behavior problems, and eating disorders. For example, a trial of 300 low-income, minority urban middle-schoolers using school-based mindfulness instruction led to improved psychological functioning and lower levels of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

There are also physical benefits as it calms the nervous system and decreases stress hormones. Studies have shown benefits for gastrointestinal symptoms, obesity, headaches, high blood pressure, pain sensitivity, and immune function. For example, a trial looking at the effect of mindful breathing meditation at a summer camp of 166 teens at risk for cardiovascular disease found that breathing awareness produced a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate.

Meditation Tips

Meditation does not have a set of rules, but there are some tips that can help.

  • The length of time and frequency of meditating can vary for different people and different practices. But, pediatricians typically recommend the following time frames:
    • Preschool children: A few minutes per day.
    • Gradeschool children: 3-10 minutes twice a day.
    • Teens and adults: 5-45 minutes per day or more based on preference.
  • Try incorporating deep breathing into your children’s daily bedtime routine—it can help them wind down for the night and make meditation easier to do when other situations arise.
  • Remind gradeschoolers and teens to take a few deep breaths before answering a difficult question at school, taking a test, or before an athletic performance.
  • As young children learn to manage strong emotions, deep breathing can be part of the process—especially before and after time outs.
  • While meditation can be done on your own, it can also be done with the help of a trained professional. Some counselors and individuals with training in meditation can help others learn and practice meditation.
  • Meditation is not currently covered by most insurance plans unless given by a licensed counselor. It is always best to check with your individual plan. Flexible medical spending programs may count meditation training as a medical expense.
  • There are multiple ways to learn different practices of meditation. There are books, audio recordings, videos, online training, websites, and even smartphone apps to help children meditate. Choose and practice the one that works the best for you and your child, and enjoy a calmer body, mind and spirit.

Talk to Your Pediatrician

Since meditation practices are generally safe and have many possible benefits, they can be used without much risk. As with any lifestyle change, however, it is best to discuss it with your child’s pediatrician before adding meditative practices to your child’s wellness routine.


Source: Section on Integrative Medicine (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.

Helping Children Handle Stress

​​​​As children reach their school-age years, they may experience pressure from a number of sources. These may be from within children themselves, as well as from parents, teachers, peers and the larger society.

This pressure can take many forms, to which children must respond and adapt. Whether these are events are lasting, like the divorce of their parents, or merely a minor hassle like losing their homework, these demands or stresses are a part of children’s daily lives.

There is a silver lining is that when children get the chance to practice setbacks at younger ages. They develop resilience and the tools needed to be an independent adult and handle future challenges.

​Dealing with stress in daily life

Children welcome some events and are able to adapt to them with relative ease. Other events may feel to them like threats to their own or the family’s daily routines or general sense of well-being. These stresses can be more troublesome.​ Most stress faced by children is somewhere in the middle: neither welcomed nor seriously harmful, but rather a part of accomplishing the tasks of childhood and learning about themselves.

Children may have to cope with a bully on the playground, a move to a new neighborhood, a parent’s serious illness or the disappointment of a poor sports performance. They might feel a constant, nagging pressure to dress the “right” way, or to achieve ​the high grades that can put them on rack toward the “right” college. Children may also worry about making friends, dealing with peer pressure, or overcoming a physical injury or disability.

Children are sensitive not only to the changes around them, but also to the feelings and reactions of their parents. This is true even if those feelings are not communicated directly in words. If a parent loses a job, children will have to adjust to their family’s financial crisis; they must deal not only with the obvious family budgetary changes but also with the changes in their parents’ emotional states.

Good and bad stress

Not all stress is a bad thing. Moderate amounts of pressure from a teacher or a coach, for example, can motivate a child to keep her grades up in school or to participate more fully in athletic activities. Successfully managing stressful situations or events enhances a child’s ability to cope in the future.

Children are future adults, and through these experiences, they develop resilience and learn how to deal with life’s inevitable bumps and hurdles. However, when the stress is continuous or particularly intense, it can take a toll on both the psyche and the body.

Major events, especially those that forever change a child’s family, such as the death of a parent, can have lasting effects on children’s psychological health and well-being. Minor daily stresses can also have consequences.

Sudden stressful events will accelerate your child’s breathing and heartbeat, constrict blood vessels, increase blood pressure and muscle tension, and perhaps cause stomach upset and headaches. As stress persists, it can make a child more susceptible to illness and experience fatigue, loss of sleep,  nightmares, teeth-grinding, poor appetite, tantrums, or depression. Children may become irritable or their school grades​ may suffer. Their behavior and their willingness to cooperate may change.

How stress can affect children

A child’s age and development will help determine how stressful a given situation may be. Changing teachers at midyear may be a major event for a child in the first grade and merely an annoyance for a sixth-grader. How a child perceives and responds to stress depends in part on development, in part on experience, and in part on a child’s individual temperament.

How different children cope with stress

Children’s temperaments vary, and so can their ability to cope with stress and daily hassles. Some are easygoing by nature and adjust easily to events and new situations. Others are thrown off balance by changes in their lives.

All children improve in their ability to handle stress if they:

  • previously succeeded in managing challenges and feel able to do so
  • have a strong sense of self-esteem.
  • have emotional support from family and friends.

Children who have a clear sense of personal competence, and who feel loved and supported, generally do well. Talk with your pediatrician about ways to help your child manage stress.


Source: Adapted from Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12, 3rd edition (Copyright © 2018 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.

Cell Phones: What’s the Right Age to Start?

There really is no “right” age to allow our kids to dip a toe into the digital pond, but if we pay attention to the issues, we’ll be able to decide what makes sense for our kids without getting in the way of a process that will occur whether we like it or not.

At the same time, there is no rush. We can keep the pace reasonable and developmentally appropriate and allow our kids to use technologies that make sense without granting them access to technologies that don’t make sense for their age.

Cell Phones for Safety

For example, cell phone use seems to be trickling to younger ages. Studies and reports show that middle school is the time that adoption for cell phones and technology really takes off. Before then, kids who have cell phones don’t use them as expected. Why do they have them? Families I know who give their elementary school kids cell phones do so mostly for safety issues.

  • Medical: Some children have emergency issues for which every second counts. For these kids, having access to a cell phone matters because landlines are not as easy to find as when we were kids, even in afterschool programs (although the adults supervising those programs usually carry cell phones, or should). Some families whose children have medical issues feel more secure knowing their child can reach them if symptoms start to flare. Assuming these kids are supervised, this may not be needed but does give families peace of mind.
  • Emergencies: With both parents often working out of the home, many feel more secure if kids of all ages have a way to reach them and vice versa. This is an issue every family needs to sort out independently, but if elementary schoolkids are supervised after school, a personal cell phone for the child may not be needed.

The New Normal Kids “Need”

For better or worse, we do have a new norm being established today which studies and reports are confirming. YouthBeat: The Syndicated Report by C&R Research reports on the use of digital devices by today’s kids and teens, YouthBeat confirms that today’s kids are starting very young, as young as first grade, and gravitate to:

  • TV
  • DVD
  • video
  • Computer
  • Cameras
  • Music
  • Cell phones

Use increases with age and parents provide the majority of purchasing power.

Despite views that kids “need” cell phones when they are young, cell phones use among younger kids is markedly lower than tweens and teens—22% of kids reported using cell phones, compared with 60% of tweens and 84% of teens. The percentages of use were not as wide for other digital technologies.

The Social Role of the Cell Phone

The reasons for this are likely developmental. Cell phones play a huge social role that doesn’t become interesting in a child’s life until the tween and teen years. Before that, show watching and gaming are the prominent interests and are reflected in the digital activities the younger kids gravitate toward.


Author: Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, MD, FAAP. Source: CyberSafe: Protecting and Empowering Kids in the Digital World of Texting, Gaming, and Social Media (Copyright © 2011 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.

Healthy & Effective Discipline Tips by Age/Stage

​Infants

  • ​Babies learn by watching what you do, so set examples of behavior you expect.
  • Use positive language to guide your baby. For example, say, “Time to sit,” rather than, “Don’t stand.”
  • Save the word, “no,” for the most important issues, like safety. Limit the need to say “no” by putting dangerous or tempting objects out of reach.
  • Distracting and replacing a dangerous or forbidden object with one that is okay to play with is a good strategy at this age.
  • All children, including babies, need consistent discipline, so talk with your partner, family members, and child care provider to set basic rules everyone follows.

​Toddlers

  • ​Your child is starting to recognize what’s allowed and what isn’t but may test some rules to see how you react. Pay attention to and praise behaviors you like and ignore those you want to discourage. Redirect to a different activity when needed.
  • Tantrums can become more common as your child struggles to master new skills and situations. Anticipate tantrum triggers, like being tired or hungry, and help head them off with well-timed naps and meals.
  • Teach your toddler not to hit, bite, or use other aggressive behaviors. Model nonviolent behavior by not spanking your toddler and by handling conflict with your partner in a constructive way.
  • Stay consistent in enforcing limits. Try short time-outs if needed.
  • Acknowledge conflicts between siblings but avoid taking sides. For example, if an argument arises about a toy, the toy can be put away.

Preschool Age

  • ​Preschool-age children are still trying to understand how and why things work and what effect their actions have. As they learn appropriate behavior, expect them to continue testing the limits of parents and siblings.
  • Begin assigning age-appropriate chores, like putting their toys away. Give simple, step-by-step directions. Reward them with praise.
  • Allow your child to make choices among acceptable alternatives, redirecting and setting sensible limits.
  • Teach your child to treat others as she wants to be treated.
  • Explain that it’s OK to feel mad sometimes, but not to hurt someone or break things. Teach them how to deal with angry feelings in positive ways, like talking about it.
  • To resolve conflicts, use time-outs or remove the source of conflict.

​Gradeschool-Age Children

  • ​Your child is beginning to get a sense of right and wrong. Talk about the choices they have in difficult situations, what are the good and bad options, and what might come next depending on how they decide to act.
  • Talk about family expectations and reasonable consequences for not following family rules.
  • Provide a balance of privileges and responsibility, giving children more privileges when they follow rules of good behavior.
  • Continue to teach and model patience, concern and respect for others.
  • Don’t let yourself or others use physical punishment. If you live in an area where corporal punishment is allowed in schools, you have the right to say that your child may not be spanked.

​Adolescents & Teens

  • ​As your teen develops more independent decision-making skills, you’ll need to balance your unconditional love and support with clear expectations, rules, and boundaries.
  • Continue to show plenty of affection and attention. Make time every day to talk. Young people are more likely to make healthy choices if they stay connected with family members.
  • Get to know your teen’s friends and talk about responsible and respectful relationships.
  • Acknowledge your teen’s efforts, achievements, and success in what they do―and don’t do. Praise the choice to avoid using tobacco, e-cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs. Set a good example through your own responsible use of alcohol and other substances.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2018). 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.

What’s the Best Way to Discipline My Child?

As a parent, one of your jobs to teach your child to behave. It’s a job that takes time and patience. But, it helps to learn the effective and healthy discipline strategies.

Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on the best ways to help your child learn acceptable behavior as they grow. 

10 Healthy Discipline Strategies That Work

The AAP recommends positive discipline strategies that effectively teach children to manage their behavior and keep them from harm while promoting healthy development. These include:

  1. Show and tell. Teach children right from wrong with calm words and actions. Model behaviors you would like to see in your children.
  2. Set limits. Have clear and consistent rules your children can follow. Be sure to explain these rules in age-appropriate terms they can understand.
  3. Give consequences. Calmly and firmly explain the consequences if they don’t behave. For example, tell her that if she does not pick up her toys, you will put them away for the rest of the day. Be prepared to follow through right away. Don’t give in by giving them back after a few minutes. But remember, never take away something your child truly needs, such as a meal.
  4. Hear them out. Listening is important. Let your child finish the story before helping solve the problem. Watch for times when misbehavior has a pattern, like if your child is feeling jealous. Talk with your child about this rather than just giving consequences.
  5. Give them your attention. The most powerful tool for effective discipline is attention—to reinforce good behaviors and discourage others. Remember, all children want their parent’s attention.
  6. Catch them being good. Children need to know when they do something bad–and when they do something good. Notice good behavior and point it out, praising success and good tries. Be specific (for example, “Wow, you did a good job putting that toy away!”).
  7. Know when not to respond. As long as your child isn’t doing something dangerous and gets plenty of attention for good behavior, ignoring bad behavior can be an effective way of stopping it. Ignoring bad behavior can also teach children natural consequences of their actions. For example, if your child keeps dropping her cookies on purpose, she will soon have no more cookies left to eat. If she throws and breaks her toy, she will not be able to play with it. It will not be long before she learns not to drop her cookies and to play carefully with her toys.
  8. Be prepared for trouble. Plan ahead for situations when your child might have trouble behaving. Prepare them for upcoming activities and how you want them to behave.
  9. Redirect bad behavior. Sometimes children misbehave because they are bored or don’t know any better. Find something else for your child to do.
  10. Call a time-out. A time-out can be especially useful when a specific rule is broken. This discipline tool works best by warning children they will get a time out if they don’t stop, reminding them what they did wrong in as few words―and with as little emotion―as possible, and removing them from the situation for a pre-set length of time (1 minute per year of age is a good rule of thumb). With children who are at least 3 years old, you can try letting their children lead their own time-out instead of setting a timer. You can just say, “Go to time out and come back when you feel ready and in control.” This strategy, which can help the child learn and practice self-management skills, also works well for older children and teens.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2018). 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

MARCH IS NATIONAL NUTRITION MONTH

​​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 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.

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.


Avoiding Food Traps

MARCH IS NATIONAL NUTRITION MONTH

Food traps are situations a​nd places that make it difficult to eat right. We all have them. The following tips may help your family ​avoid some of the most common traps.

Food Trap #1: Vacations, Holidays, and Other Family Gath​erings

Vac​ations

When on a trip, don’t take a vacation from healthy eating and exercise.

What You Can Do:

  • Plan your meals. Will all your meals be from restaurants? If so, can yo​u split entrees and desserts to keep portions from getting too large? Can you avoid fast food? Can you bring along your own healthy snacks?
  • Stay active. Schedule time for physical activities such as taking a walk or swimming in the hotel pool.

Holidays

It’s easy to overeat during holidays. But you don’t need to fear or avoid them.

What You Can Do:

  • Approach the holidays with extra care. Don’t lose sight of what you and your child are eating. Plan to have healthy foods and snacks on hand. Bring a fruit or veggie tray with you when you go to friends and family.
  • Celebrate for the day, not an entire month! Be sure to return to healthy eating the next day.

Other Family Gatherings

In some cultures, when extended families get together, it can turn into a food feast, from morning to night.

What You Can Do:

  • Eat smaller portions. Avoid overeating whenever you get together with family. Try taking small portions instead.
  • Get family support. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles can have an enormous effect on your child’s health. Let them know that you’d like their help in keeping your child on the road to good health.

Food Trap #2: Snack Time

The biggest time for snacking is after school. Kids come home wound up, stressed out, or simply bored, so they reach for food.

What You Can Do:

  • Offer healthy snacks such as raw vegetables, fruit, light microwave popcorn, vegetable soup, sugar-free gelatin, or fruit snacks.
  • You pick the snack. When children are allowed to pick their own snacks, they often make unhealthy choices. Talk to your child about why healthy snacks are important. Come up with a list of snacks that you can both agree on and have them on hand.
  • Keep your child entertained. Help your child come up with other things to do instead of eating, such as playing outside, dancing, painting a picture, flying a kite, or taking a walk with you.
  • Make sure your child eats 3 well-balanced meals a day. This will help cut down on the number of times he or she needs a snack.

Food Trap #3: Running Out of Time

Finding time every day to be physically active can be very difficult. However, if you plan ahead, there are ways to fit it in.

What You Can Do:

  • Make a plan. Sit down with your child and plan in advance for those days when it seems impossible to find even 15 minutes for physical activity. Have a plan B ready that your child can do after dark, such as exercising to a workout video.
  • Make easy dinners. If you run out of time to make dinner, don’t run to the nearest fast-food restaurant. Remember, dinners don’t have to be elaborate. They can be as simple as a sandwich, bowl of soup, piece of fruit, and glass of milk.

Remember

Your job is to provide good nutrition to your child and family and encourage regular physical activity. Stay positive and focus on how well your child is doing in all areas of life. It can help keep nutrition and activity change moving along.


Written by Sandra G. Hassink, MD, FAAP. Pediatric Obesity: Prevention, Intervention, and Treatment Strategies for Primary Care (Copyright © 2014 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.