Safety at School: Helping Your Child Be Prepared
Do you remember being a young child at school, practicing safety drills for fires and natural disasters? Today, kids may also practice lockdown drills so that they know what to do in case there’s a threat of violence at school.
Fairly often, we hear news reports on radio and TV about a local school being in lockdown. It may be triggered when a threatening stranger is in the vicinity, or when a violent act has happened nearby (such as an armed robbery) and the suspect has not been caught. During a lockdown, students are brought inside, doors are locked, shades are drawn and students wait silently with their teacher in the safest spot in the room until the threat is gone and an all-clear is given. During a lockdown, no one except law enforcement may enter or leavethe school; in some cases this may include its parking lots.
Every school has its own safety plan, usually created in partnership with local law enforcement. (It covers threats from outsiders, as well as from its own students.) It is worth becoming familiar with your school’s lockdown procedures and other safety protocols – including what actions your child would be expected to take. You can help at home by ensuring your child understands what they need to do to stay safe at school.What should they do if they see a weapon, or hear students talking about one? What should they do if they see an online threat?
You know your child best, and what causes them to worry. It is useful to recognize that talking about this subject or going through school lockdown drills may lead to your child feeling anxious for a time, and even interfere with their sleep. If this happens and your child seems worried, encourage them to talk about how they feel. Be a calm and careful listener. Remind them that being prepared is always best, even for something that they are really unlikely to experience. Reassure your child that you and their school are always working to keep them safe.
Take a look at the Suggested Points to Emphasize When Talking to Children section of Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers to learn more. Or visit Disasters and Scary Events: Helping Children Cope for tips on how to help your child after a difficult event.
Immunizing Your Child
Vaccines work by triggering our immune systems to create antibodies, thus making our own defense systems stronger. The vaccines currently recommended protect kids from 16 different diseases – some very serious and even life-threatening. Vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and pertussis are currently circulating through communities, so it’s especially important to have your child immunized on time. Infants should get their first shot (for hepatitis B) at birth, before leaving the hospital. The first dose of several other vaccines is recommended at 2 months of age. A baby’s system is strong enough to handle getting many vaccines at once. If you have questions, be sure to ask your baby’s doctor.
Learn more about immunizations for you and your family.
Open Up the Conversation About Puberty
As kids approach and move through puberty, they wonder and worry if they are normal. They need honest, accurate information – and are often confused by what they hear from friends or see in the media. Puberty can be tricky to discuss, especially if a parent feels uneasy about it. And sometimes, a normally chatty child simply refuses to talk about it with Mom or Dad.
Your child’s doctor may recommend a book or an educational video to help get the conversation started. Many families find that taking a class is the best solution. Seattle Children’s offers two separate classes for boys or girls ages 10 to 12, who attend with their parent or guardian. For Boys Only and For Girls Only are lively, reassuring two-part classes packed with facts about the physical and emotional changes puberty brings. Parents report that the class opens up the topic for future conversations at home.
The Truth About Added Sugar
Most adults and kids eat too much added sugar, which means sugar put into processed foods, or that we add ourselves at the table – like syrup on pancakes.
Too much sugar causes weight gain and tooth decay, and can lead to other serious health problems. Some people notice that too much sugar affects mood, energy, appetite or the ability to concentrate. Research shows sugar can affect our brains much like drug addiction. Because of sugar’s effects, some people have trouble with moderation and others choose to avoid it entirely.
For most people, it works to enjoy a little added sugar on occasion – balanced out by a healthy diet and an active lifestyle. Even if you skip desserts, you may still be eating more sugar than you think. Added sugar often “hides” in foods like juice, yogurt, bread, cereal and even soup. (One recent study found that 88% of juices and other drinks marketed for infants and toddlers contain extra sugar!)
It’s best to eat whole, unprocessed food whenever possible. When you do buy packaged foods, read labels carefully. Know the many names used for sugar, including fructose, dextrose and corn syrup.
To reduce your family’s intake, consider high-sugar foods as special-occasion treats, rather than everyday foods. And, by all means, kick the soda habit. The American Heart Association says children should have no more than 3 to 4 teaspoons (12 to 16 grams) of sugar a day. But one 12-ounce can of soda contains 10 teaspoons (40 grams) of added sugar. If you can make plain water your go-to drink, that’s a big step in a healthy direction.
Read Overloaded on Hidden Sugar or Feeding Your Family (PDF) to learn more.
It’s Spring – Time to Garden!
Kids who grow their own food are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables. It’s fun to grow a garden, and you don’t need a lot of space or farming experience. Many vegetables will grow happily in containers or a small patch of your yard. Start small and simple, with yummy things that grow easily in the Pacific Northwest like beans, carrots, snap peas and cucumbers. Most kids love potatoes – and digging them up feels like finding buried treasure! If you don’t have any space, ask a friend or neighbor to loan you a spot in their garden. Your local P-Patch community garden may also have plots just for kids. Many daycares and schools grow gardens, too. Here’s to good growing and happy harvesting!
Read Vegetable Gardening in the Pacific Northwest: Great Tips for Beginners to learn more.
Let’s Help Support Families
We can all help prevent child abuse and neglect through simple yet powerful actions. Start by being a friend to the parents you know. Ask how their kids are doing and provide a friendly ear. If they seem to be struggling, suggest doing something together with your kids, or offer to babysit. Also be a friend to the children you know. Remember their names, smile when you talk with them and ask them about their interests. Showthem you care. Talk with neighbors on your block or in your building about looking out for each other’s kids. If you can, support programs in your community that help families and children. In doing so, you’re building a stronger, happier world for us all!
Visit Connect the Dots to learn more.
Dust Mites, Allergies and Asthma
Dust mites are microscopic spiders that live in every home. They can cause big problems for kids and adults with allergies and asthma. Unlike bed bugs, which are about the size of an apple seed, dust mites can’t be seen with the naked eye. And unlike bed bugs, dust mites don’t bite us; they eat the dead skin cells we shed. Dustmites themselves don’t cause allergic reactions, but their waste products do. (Yes, it’s gross!) Dust mites live mostly in our couches, mattresses, pillows and bedding.
Read Living with Asthma (PDF) to learn more about dust mites and other allergy and asthma triggers, and get environmental control tips to help you reduce allergens in your home.