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Dec 27

Growing up, I always thought of myself as being perfectly healthy. I never broke a bone and had never been to the hospital except when I was born. I played all kinds of sports—tennis, golf, baseball, soccer, ultimate Frisbee and was on a freestyle skiing team (which by itself should have given me at least a couple of fractures with all the insane things I did on skis). I was surrounded by reckless kids, who always had their arms in slings, but for some reason, I never got hurt. So I started to think I was invincible and for most of my childhood that concept was never challenged. 


Maybe I'm Not Superman 


That is, until I was diagnosed with SVT, or supraventricular tachycardia. SVT is characterized by episodes of a rapid heart rate that come as fast as they leave. I would experience a rush of blood to the head, feel light-headed, be short of breath, physically feel the rapid heartbeats, and sometimes experience chest pain. I figured this was just because I was working so hard on the tennis court (or wherever I was when it happened) and that everyone experienced the same thing. 


So I never mentioned it to anyone. 


My mom was a medical reporter at the time for The Plain Dealer and she would always bring her stories home with her to the dinner table, like what she witnessed while observing a back surgery or when a patient had cups of fat scooped out of her that looked like mustard. This habit of hers grossed us out on more than one occasion, but one story sticks out: my mom talked about a story she was working on about the new catheter lab at Akron Children’s Hospital that used new 3-D technology that made it easier for certain heart surgeries to take place without using as much radiation as in the past. 


Who knew I would have surgery in that same catheter lab a couple years later? 


A Former Superman's Kryptonite 


A couple of days before my surgery I had to go in and give a blood sample. My Mom told me not to watch. I didn’t listen and passed out and had to be carried out of the room. I wish there was a funny story to go along with this, but there isn’t. I went home scared to death about what was going to happen just a couple of days later. 


I'm going to be honest; it’s scary. My parents and Dr. John Clark, the director of the Arrhythmia Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, kept reassuring me that my condition wasn’t life-threatening, but I was still very scared. 


I was only 15-years-old and had a lot of stuff I still wanted to do in my life. I had no idea what I was getting into or why this was happening to me, a kid who had never before been in any sort of medical trouble. I spent the entire week before the surgery worrying about what might happen to me: who would get my room if I died, who would take care of my dog, Sophie? I couldn’t imagine not being apart of my family. I found not thinking about what was coming and just living in the present was the best thing to do emotionally, but I couldn’t help but think of how much of a big deal this was for my parents.


From a Cape to a Hospital Gown 


My surgery was scheduled for 8:00 a.m. We got there early, which meant I had to sit in the waiting room of the children’s hospital surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of crying babies for an hour, dressed in nothing but a hospital gown. When my turn came, they took my naked backside into the operating room. The nurses were all very nice. They chatted me up and asked me what kind of music I wanted to listen to during surgery. I told them Frank Sinatra. 


And then I was out. 


When I woke up, I didn’t actually become conscious until several hours later. I drifted in and out of sleep, and it took what seemed to be days (but was in reality only a few hours) to be able to think and move for myself. My father spent the night in the hospital room with me, and together we watched “Everybody Loves Raymond” until he went to sleep. I once again flirted with sleep while nurse after nurse came in to check my vitals and help me relieve myself into a bottle. (I would hate to have that job). For some reason, it got funnier and funnier for me to ask the nurse “Am I alive, doc?” every single time she came in, which was at least once an hour. 


She didn’t find it nearly as entertaining as I did. 


A Superman Recovery


The next morning, I was wheeled around in a wheel chair—not because I necessarily needed it, but because that was protocol and I sort of wanted to—to various rooms in the hospital where I was given an echocardiogram and several other tests to not only show me exactly what happened but also prove to the doctors that they did indeed fix what they set out to fix. Then they gave me some painkillers and sent me home. I had a migraine and they told me it was probably due to anesthesia. The only thing on me that was sore was the tiny incision near my groin where the doctor put the catheter into my artery so he could work on my heart. 


I then spent the next week recovering with mandatory Xbox sessions, lots of ice cream and naps my mom deemed “medically necessary.” 


I was allowed to start playing tennis again a couple days later, but I didn’t attempt it for at least three weeks because I was sort of scared to try it. But as soon as I started running around the court, I felt my heart skip a beat and then start fluttering. I panicked and almost felt like crying. I was sure the surgery hadn’t worked. 


I had to wear the event monitor strapped around my chest again to determine what was going on. The good news was the surgery did work and I wasn’t having another SVT episode. My heart was reacting normally to physical exertion but apparently, I had never experienced that feeling before. 


It was then that Dr. Clark, my parents and I realized I had probably had SVT for a lot longer than we knew. I had no idea what a normal heartbeat felt like. 


Three years post-surgery, I’m doing great. 


Parents, I can honestly say I have no idea what you’re going through to have your child undergo something like this. I did witness firsthand what my parents went through, and can give you advice based on that. 


Here are some things to keep in mind: 


1. Be there: don’t let your child go through this alone. It’s hard enough knowing you have to go through heart surgery, of all things. Yes, medically it’s not that big of a deal. But like most surgeries, it’s a huge deal to the patient, especially if he’s as young as I was. I'm not saying smother him/her, but just be there for him/her, comforting, understanding, and most importantly, loving. It doesn’t really matter what terms you’re on with your child, when he’s broken down to the core, he’ll inevitably reach out to those that are closest to him: his parents. 


2. Relax: Be relaxed and understanding. You’re not helping anyone if you try to go through this process freaking out. What helped so much was my parents acted as if it was no big deal—that did wonders to help me cope. There’s no need to make a bigger deal out of this than it has to be. 


3. Spend the night: Having my father stay with me all night was really helpful. It’s a small gesture, but it meant a lot to have him there whenever I turned over during the night. 


4. Don’t smother: One of the things my parents did to let me regain some of my dignity was let me feel like I was independent enough to handle this, even though I was completely dependent on them every minute. 


What I Know Now...


I went through this process with my parents, but it was the first time any of us had faced anything like this. So, knowing how hard that was, here are some things I wish we would have known: 


1. How good the surgeons are at what they do: Prior to this procedure, I thought no matter how “minor” the operation was, something could go wrong. However, I realized by going through it personally how easy this operation really is and how good the doctors are at performing it. They said at the beginning there were indeed risks, but they only tell you what can go wrong because they’re supposed to. I didn’t necessarily believe the doctors when they said the possibility of risk was slim, but I definitely do now. 


2. Do not watch them take blood from your arm: I know you’re going to want to watch it but don’t. Fight the temptations; fight the urge. Trust me, don’t watch it. 


Advice for Kids Going Through The Surgery


Kids going through the surgery, this next part is for you. I'm going to give you some advice on how to handle things, what to do and what to expect. It’s frightening, I know. There are so many unanswered questions, and I know you are feeling uneasy right now. That’s completely natural and normal. However, there are some things you can do to try to make this process just a little more bearable. 


1. Trust those that are over you: this means doctors, your parents and anyone else who’s “in charge” of you during this process. They know what they’re doing. I know it might not seem like it at times, and sometimes you just want to inform them it’s not actually about them but about you. However, they really do want what’s best for you. I put myself completely at the mercy of my parents and the surgeons, and things worked out perfectly and the surgery went off without a hitch. Your parents really do love you, and they’re doing everything they can to make you feel comfortable and at ease with this entire situation. 


2. Get on your doctor’s good side: if you do this successfully, and your surgeons and doctors legitimately like you, then life gets a whole lot easier for everyone. Not only do your doctors actually feel passionate about making you healthy again, but you also feel better about the entire thing. The nurses are supposed to be nice, but it makes their job a lot easier if you’re easy to be nice to, if you know what I mean. Yes, it stinks being in the hospital and having to do all of this stuff, but this is a nice objective way to make your day and experience just a little bit brighter. 


3. Be good to your parents: they’re just as scared as you are, if not more. All they want is your safety and wellbeing, so just let them worry a little. That’s what parents do. It’s their job to provide for you and make sure you’re safe, so just let them do their job. 


4. Relax: don’t get yourself all worked up over something that is considered a minor surgery. It’s a big deal, huge in fact (I mean it is heart surgery), but there’s no use in spazzing about something that you don’t need to spazz about. Be calm, be cool, be collected and you’ll get through it just fine.



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“What should I do?” my friend asked as we stood together, the sky darkening to that place where it is neither dark nor light, that unsettling in-between feeling creeping up on all of us.


Despite clearly articulated expectations, the kids’ mom was MIA, not answering her cell phone and two hours late returning the children to their primary home. Forget about the now-missed appointment. Agitation was turning to fear. There was nothing to do but wait.


Nearly two-and-a-half hours late, my former friend drove up, mildly apologetic and mostly excited about the great street festival they’d been attending. Irked that her exuberance was met with anything less than a shared enthusiasm for the great life adventure she’d just shared with her kids, she became defensive and dismissive. We can imagine it didn’t go well from there.


This was early in their divorce, but continues to define their dynamic 10 years later. The biggest difference between then and now is my friend’s ability to accept what he cannot change, and trust that his kids will be okay.


Over the years I’ve accompanied many friends and clients through divorce. Encouraging, supporting, listening. I’ve helped people re-discover themselves in enviable ways, re-connecting to their own passions and re-directing their lives. Sometimes, there has been inspiration amidst the disappointments. That is the positive side of divorce.


At other times, though, I’ve supported people through a different kind of personal growth. You know, the kind we commonly refer to as “learning experiences,” which we all know is a euphemism for “hard knocks.” In those cases, the life lesson always seems to be about learning to Let Go.


When divorcing with children, the relationships don’t end, they change. Sometimes couples do a great job of co-parenting and keeping the children’s best interest at the forefront of their relationship. But when the responsibility load was already lopsided in the marriage, or when one of the adults has a fractious relationship with mature behavior, attention on what is best for the children can be a struggle.


When a divorce results, ultimately, from a severely dysfunctional parent, the other parent’s focus often turns to damage control. 


You may recognize this dynamic: one parent is “the responsible one,” and the other gets to play. One parent sets guidelines and limits, and the other makes exceptions and pushes boundaries. The responsible parent often struggles for years in this cycle before finally bringing the marriage to an end, only to discover that the divorce does nothing to eliminate the pattern.


So how does the “responsible” parent survive the constant struggle? 


Well, sometimes she just has to learn to deal with it. Over time, she learns to:


recognize what’s not in her control

believe in the resilience of children

trust that the solid foundation she sets is enough to stabilize her children


When she does it well, she tries not to vilify the ex-spouse in front of the children, and she is there to support them when they are (inevitably) disappointed by their other parent.


At other times, the complications are compounded when there is an ineffectively managed and/or severe mental illness at play -- Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, or Bi-Polar. In this case, he:


fights for primary custody to maximize the safety of his children

doles out visitation/supervision as necessary, depending on the health of the ex-spouse

tries desperately to help his children maintain a relationship with their other parent


This, as you might imagine, has been a painful process to witness, albeit humbling and character-building. 


In either scenario – with an ex-spouse who is irresponsible because of selfishness or illness -- the “surviving” spouse goes through a process similar to the Kubler –Ross stages of Death: 


denial (usually while they are still in the marriage); 

anger (early stages of divorce); 

bargaining (this part happens again and again, and again); 

depression (when the reality and the finality sink in); 

acceptance (a sort of peace and letting go)


Ultimately, this final place of letting go is a gift, despite the pain that brought it present. It provides a different perspective on viewing the world that is free from the need to control. It has at its core a universal trust.


I was laughing with my friend, lately, about his reactions to his children’s mother. Now, he is able to laugh at some of the more absurd situations. He has learned to select his battles carefully, and to let go of things that once would have posed monstrous obstacles in his life. 


The good news? This tendency has translated to all aspects of his life. And while he wouldn’t choose for his children to go through it all again, he is grateful for the gifts that letting go have brought into his life. 


Elaine Taylor-Klaus is the co-founder of ImpactADHD.com a virtual coaching community for parents of kids with ADHD. She is a regular columnist on ShareWIK.com and MySpecialNeedsNetwork.com, and writes for “Living Without” magazine. Elaine coaches women and parents from around the country, on the telephone, to live full and empowering lives. She works together with her husband, David Taylor-Klaus, in their company, Touchstone Coaching.


Read other Elaine Taylor-Klaus columns here.


©ShareWIK Media Group 2012

Recently I presented to a group of parents about the differences between trauma and grief. When a child dies due to a tragedy or traumatic event, the whole community mourns. Some children are directly impacted. They may have witnessed the event or have known the deceased. Some are indirectly impacted. They heard about it at school, saw it on the news and can see that their parents are visibly upset. 

 

Whether you and your children are directly or indirectly touched by the event, here are some themes to consider about grief and trauma reactions:


When you are grieving, the generalized reaction is sadness. When you are traumatized, it is TERROR.

 

When you are grieving you can usually talk about what happened. When you are traumatized, you do not want to talk about it.

 

Grief reactions stand alone. Trauma reactions include grief reactions.

 

Guilt that accompanies grief includes thoughts like “I wish I would have…if only I…” Guilt that accompanies trauma feels like “It should have been me. It’s my fault. I could have prevented it.”

 

When you are grieving, your dreams may be about the deceased. When traumatized, your dreams are often nightmares where you are the potential victim. In addition, your child may have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep and may want to crawl into bed with you.

 

Grief does not include flashbacks. Trauma includes flashbacks, startle reactions, hyper-vigilance and numbing.

 

The pain associated with grief is about the loss. The pain associated with trauma triggers tremendous terror and an overwhelming sense of powerlessness.

 

What can you do?

 

Give children opportunities to ask questions and talk about what happened.

 

Be honest. Use simple language that is appropriate to your child’s developmental level.

 

Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t have answers to their questions.

 

Listen, don’t lecture. Use phrases like “We’ll get through this together.”

 

Monitor television watching and video games.

 

Help children understand that there is no right or wrong, good or bad emotion.

 

Model and encourage healthy ways to express feelings such as through exercise, art, music and nature.

 

As a parent you model effective grieving. Remember that you are grieving too. There are resources and help available in your community. You do not have to go through this alone.

 

Parent toolkit: http://www.hospicewr.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Final-PTO-Toolkit.pdf

 

Diane Snyder Cowan is the mother of two grown daughters and a national leader in using music in grief therapy, as well as the director of Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center of Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.   She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To learn more about Diane, visit her blog.


Read other Diane Snyder Cowan columns here

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Once in a while something crosses my desk that I must share with my 70 million readers to save them from any grave parenting dangers. (Oops! Did I say 70 million? I meant seven. Sorry.) Recently, an urgent notice called to me. The FDA has issued a warning on 39 million Spinbrushes,* claiming broken brushes led to broken teeth and cut mouths. Apparently these toothbrush heads might- maybe- possibly- once- in- a- while pop off causing a choking hazard.

*In full disclosure, I have bought my children [apparently violent] Spinbrushes. We are currently not dead.


The recommendation suggests “checking the brush head is tightly connected to the brush handle. If it detaches, do not use.”


Really? Huh. So my kids shouldn’t use broken things? How many high-level government meetings did this one take?


The warning also tells us to “supervise children and inspect for damage on loose brushes.”


Have you ever, after your child turned four, stood there hovering, analyzing how he’s brushing his teeth?  If so, and you’re not employed in an office which has diagrams of gums and teeth on the walls, please skip this column and search “Helicopter Parenting.”


When my children were old enough to say “can I have a little privacy here,” I did not supervise toothbrush rituals. I confess sometimes when they brushed their teeth, I snuck away to fold laundry, wash laundry, dry laundry, or let the dog out. Or do his laundry.


I also have never inspected my kids’ toothbrushes for loose bristles. I took their word for it when they said they needed a new toothbrush. And we went from there.


 I now have several nagging questions to the FDA:


1.       Can we do a study on why the toothpaste ends up on the mirror?


2.       Can the FDA issue a stern warning TO CHILDREN to not spray airborne toothpaste particles at your sibling? Would it be wrong to issue an FDA directive to children and husbands to CLEAN THE BATHROOMS ONCE IN A WHILE?


3.       How do they let me be a parenting writer? Not one editor has checked to see if I am making these mistakes with my own children, like apparently, unknowingly, letting them use these projectiles of danger. Twice a day.


 But because here at my house we play by the rules, I want to make the FDA officials happy. Perhaps I’m an FDA Enabler.  Perhaps I fear the parenting editors. Perhaps I worry about the tax dollars spent on warnings and lawyers.


Perhaps it was the ominous pre-recorded call I received when I went to file this column. It was from the grocery store, stating I had once purchased a spinning toothbrush in question. While I stood there dumbfounded they were able to pinpoint specific 2011 purchases and warn me, I remember hearing the words  “battery” and “burst” and “recall” and “contact customer service.”


I guess I’ll throw them out now. 

Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in books, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs.  Visit with her hereon Facebook or on Twitter @writerandmom.


 

For more Kristine Meldrum Denholm columns, click here


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Apr 07

Sitting in a Persian restaurant in Dubai last week, a friend from India listened as I told him I was having a hard time connecting with this week’s ShareWIK topic of colon cancer, and that I was grateful for my lack of connection to that devastating diagnosis.

 

To this, my friend replied in his liltingly beautiful Indian accent, “So many people think diet is the most important thing to health. In my country we say, ‘It is not so much what you eat that kills you; it is what eats you.’”


The closest to colon cancer I have been, through my 50+ years, is having two acquaintances who had colectomies. Both had intensely ulcerated colons. Fortunately, neither had colon cancer.

Both had, it seems to me now, laid their health on the altar of trying to control out-of-control lives and expectations. Admittedly, I am only capable of making that observation because I myself have been known to suffer from the overwhelming desire to control. 


As I thought more about what my friend said, I tried to overlay it onto the people who'd had colectomies. Ultimately, I connected my own control-itis  to “what eats me.”

 

The first person I knew to have a colectomy was a man with a high-powered sales job. When his boss made impossible requests, he would say yes on the spot, and then wonder how to meet the commitments. His instant yessing kept him in constant motion, fear, and the kind of intensity that eats people alive. Though he ultimately said, “TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT,” his colon was already destroyed. Last I heard, he’d been through several surgeries to construct an internal pouch, and an infection had almost killed him.

 

The second acquaintance had huge regrets for pushing herself to cram several years’ worth of studies into two. Throughout her work on an advanced degree, she fought colitis, depression, and an abusive boyfriend. Her colectomy came in her late 20s. Through the years she softened somewhat on the anger toward herself, alternately loving her ileostomy because it had saved her life, and hating it, because of her reliance on bags and tape.

 

Back to Dubai, and What I Know: We are never too healthy, wise, self-actualized, or “recovered” to be immune from what my friend said about harming ourselves more – or at least as much – by what we let EAT US, as opposed to what we eat. We can act out this self-cannibalization in any aspect of life: relationships, work, health. Whatever we seek to control will ultimately control us. Whatever we fear will keep returning until we face the fear and let it go. Whatever we cling to too tightly, too intensely, we will crush, not keep. Or if we do “keep” it, it usually fails to flourish.

 

In Dubai I was saying goodbye, for a while, to my daughter who, at 19, is starting an amazing adventure thousands of miles and several continents away.

 

Jet lagged and unrealistic about how much saying goodbye to my youngest child would affect me, I ended up sobbing about halfway through a 14-hour flight back to Atlanta, as she stayed behind to begin her trip to Africa. My imagination, desire to know what was going on with her, fear, and frustration over my lack of control, literally made me sick on the way home. That I was sitting next to a man who kept popping open beers and watching violent movies didn’t help. But please! With my deep faith and spirituality, blah, blah, blah, I had the expectation that I would KNOW how NOT to let things, like a lack of information, eat at me. 

 

And so here I am, on Good Friday, having returned to Atlanta as the mother of a capable adult daughter who is living abroad for a while. She is beyond my control. (Truly always has been!)

I am at the crossroad of faith and fear.

 

The advanced degree I am now called to earn is in letting go and letting God. This multinational iteration is tough stuff, pushing every button from my frantic childhood. It is testing every muscle of my faith. Calling me to try, learn, ask for help, pray, meditate, listen, surrender, and embody at the cellular level that my love – and worry – will not save the people I love. Letting go and letting God is not a “one and done” thing. The letting go must be done over and over and over again – lest what I am clutching so tightly eat me alive.

 

This Easter I have the opportunity to learn all of this at a deeper level. I get to internalize faith that will free me to do good work, go about my life, and, I hope, stay healthy while this precious young woman is far away and beyond my sight. If I will accept this new stage of our development and trust God, I may save my gut – and my loved ones – from a lot of upset.

 

That said, I am stepping out in faith to plant my cut flower garden. Some of it will grow from seeds I gathered and saved from last fall’s final blossoms. I believe this little garden will be in full bloom in about six weeks, around the same time my daughter and I return home together, God willing.



Read more articles by Carey Sipp here.


Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available at Amazon.com; to check it out, click here.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


May 07

It’s a Saturday night and my family has decided to go out for dinner. As we get out of the car, my boyfriend hands me the keys and asks if I could put them in my purse, along with his sunglasses. My son asks if I could stash his MP3 player and his earbuds.  My nephew wants to know if I have room to hold the book he’s been reading in the backseat. Suddenly, my purse is bulging and I’ve become my family’s suburban pack-mule.


If women were meant to haul stuff, God would have given us pouches.


Of course, it didn’t start out this way.  In the beginning, man carried the boulders and fire and skinned animals.  Then suddenly the tribe goes off to hunt (or play poker or golf or whatever) and you’re left holding down the cave and finding a place for everything they drag in.


And once you have children, you can kiss your hands-free days goodbye. Life as a mom is a lot like life as a roadie (minus the trashed hotel rooms).  And I should know. When I met Jon* 20 years ago, he was the ponytailed, one-earring’d, barefooted bass player for a band called Blue Wolves. During our courtship, I would walk into the club where he was playing, take a seat close to the stage, and promptly start yelling, “Take a break!” ignoring the dirty looks of the patrons who actually came to hear music.  


I didn’t care; I was with the band. I wanted to steal a second with my boyfriend in between sets.  And you have to admit, there’s something exciting about being with the boy in the band. For some people, like former political press tart Lisa Baron, it’s like campaigning with the candidates. For others, it’s like dating the boss.  Me? I always went for the underemployed and over-their-credit-limit musicians.


As the weeks went by, I morphed from adoring girlfriend to equipment-lugging roadie. I know you’re thinking – how much equipment does a bass player really need? But bands don’t believe in every man for himself (until the group gets a record deal). It’s more like family, and “I’m with the band” translates to hauling drum kits, guitar cases, amps, keyboards, and all kinds of stuff you’ve never heard of, but to which everyone is pointing and yelling for you to grab and be careful not to spill beer on.


I went from having one boyfriend to having five teenage children in a matter of months.


So it was a natural transition for me, after I married my musician boyfriend and we had a son, to carry a bag of baby essentials that would have made Pattie Boyd proud. I not only toted my tot’s juice boxes, diapers and toys, but a Boy Scout-worthy kit of medicine, Barney music, and enough goldfish for anyone who might be stranded with us at the playground should a storm – or a temper tantrum – arise.


I was continuously on the lookout for the perfect kid-stuff carrier that was both hip and sensible, with enough pockets for all my supplies while being able to withstand an assortment of fluid calamities. (This was long before Kate Spade and Michael Kors got into designing designer baby bags, so my searches went unsatisfied.)


I began buying clothes with clever pockets – cargo pants with compartments from calf to thigh. Jean jackets with an inside pocket like the suits worn by gin joint owners during Prohibition. I even had a pair of sneakers with a tiny zippered pouch in which I could tuck a few bucks and my car key. I was determined to stay baggage-free.


Today, with my husband now my ex and my son about to turn 16, I’ve got plenty of baggage – but I’m nobody’s roadie.  And yet, every morning, as I walk downstairs to start my day, I realize my hands are full. I’m carrying cups for the dishwasher, magazines for the recycle bin, books for the library – items that have landed upstairs when their rightful place is downstairs.


And that’s when it hit me, the need for the perfect carrier at this stage of my life: The Bra Pocket. I was already improvising this invention. With all the things I pick up each morning, I’d simply tuck my cell phone in my bra. Then I’d slip in a receipt for something I needed to return later. A few coins for the charity box we keep in the kitchen. A lipstick I wanted to put in my purse. And suddenly my bra was stuffed.


Truth be told, there were some evenings I’d get undressed and find that darn receipt I’d been searching for earlier in the day at the Macy’s counter.  Or coins would fall out as I unhooked my bra. Once I stabbed myself with a pen as I bent over, forgetting I’d stashed it there when the day began.


I started asking other women if they put paraphernalia in their bras. Let me tell you, their brabjects were boundless: iPods, hand lotion, driver’s license, measuring tape, nail polish, safety pins, tampons.


I realized there was not only a need for The Bra Pocket, it was my duty as a woman in the hands-free world to make it happen. If they could make hoodies with pockets on the sleeves, shoes with pockets on the tongue, flip-flops with a slot for a bottle opener – why not bras with nifty little niches to hold our necessities?


And (are you listening, Gina?) if they can just put a tiny fan in my bra to prevent my stashed M&Ms from melting as well as to cool my hot flashes, I’ll have the perfect package for all of my membrabilia.  


And I seriously doubt my son will ask me to carry anything of his ever again.

 

Ginger is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 15-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regularShareWIK.com columnist, skirt.com skirt setter, and a blogger for Huffington Post’s divorce vertical (www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce). She has contributed to More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared dozens of local and national TV and radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia. 


 

For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


The first ten years of my life as a parent really sucked.  No, they didn’t really suck. It’s more like, they sucked up every ounce of energy I had, and then wanted more.


My journey started out complicated, and that course has never changed. I have been destined to raise at first one non-traditional child, followed by two more kids who learn differently. For our family, atypical neurology is what I call “the new normal.”


Parenting a kid with unidentified, complicated issues is like walking onto a tightrope, watching as your safety net is removed, and continuing on without a net, uncertain that there will be a safe landing on the other side. 


You’re out there on the wire. It’s not like you really have a choice. But you’re committed. It’s terrifying. You’re sure the crowd is watching. And you feel simultaneously responsible and irresponsible. You have lost your confidence because for some reason that net really made a difference. And you are all alone. Except for the child on your shoulders. 


The only safety net for your child is you.


Desperately seeking definitive answers, specialist after specialist offering diagnoses that didn’t tell a whole story, the years of not knowing took their toll. My guilty little secret? The first ten years of parenthood were the most painfully difficult years of my life (something I’ve never let myself say to anyone for fear of somehow offending my children).


Don’t get me wrong.  I passionately loved my kids, whom I wanted more than anything in the world. I had the privilege to stay at home, and I put every ounce of myself into dutifully doing everything possible to give my kids the best life I could offer. 


I was a happy, grateful, stay-at-home mom. And I felt miserably in over my head, lost and alone in a world that no other parent I knew seemed to be experiencing. Did I mention those early years were really tough?


When my newborn began to scream at two weeks old, it set the stage for the next decade. As her peers went to ballet and karate, she went to vision and occupational therapy.  As her peers established authentic friendships and experimented with spend-the-nights, she changed schools, and then she changed again.


Longingly, I saw parents of kids with food allergies, ADHD, autism and other challenging issues receive clear diagnoses and find common ground with each other. They discovered what they were dealing with, connected, shared, learned and helped each other move out of denial and into acceptance. 


I watched from a distance, isolated by the most unsettling part of all -- the not knowing.


Before diagnosis, there are often years of not knowing filled with anxiety, confusion, and few companions on the journey.  It is a scary, lonely place to linger.


For me, the prospect of a clear diagnosis offered hope, clarity, and an end to the isolation. Without it, I felt adrift, directionless in a vast sea. 


In retrospect, I must have thought I needed a definitive diagnosis to find common ground with other parents. I let my fear that I didn’t know ‘the’ answer prevent me from joining any group to get the support I really needed. 


Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming myself for this. I really thought a diagnosis was my golden ticket for admission. I didn’t realize that the access point to end the deepest part of my loneliness was not in diagnosis. It was in sharing my experience with others.


So whether you’re clear on your child’s challenges, or you’re still trying to figure it out, here’s What I Know that can help you shorten your learning curve, and end the isolation:


1. Seek Connection: Even if you’re lucky and you have a friend, or a parent, or a sister who will listen, there is something powerful about connecting with others who share your experience. Without a clear diagnosis, those other parents can be difficult to find. But they’re out there! Don’t stop seeking. Reach out to other parents who understand even part of your experience. Get on Listserves, and blogsites. Other parents are your lifeline.


2. Find your Group: You have enough information to seek support, even without a clear diagnosis. You owe it to yourself. For almost every ailment or challenge there is a group, or a movement, or some collaborative effort for support – and they are generally really open and accepting of anyone who wants to be involved. Connection is powerful. Success is a team sport.


3. Step Outside the Lines: While diagnosis opens the door to community, for both parents and kids, it is not the only entrance. If you don’t have a definitive diagnosis, then focus on a challenge area (like executive function), or find a general group (like Learning Disabilities Association).  For example, I created ImpactADHD.com to train and coach parents of kids with ADHD. But it also provides a great support to parents of all kids who are challenged with similar symptoms like inattention, impulsivity and executive dysfunction. Don’t wait for a perfect fit – make it work!


For me, after nearly 18 years on this journey, I no longer feel alone on the ride. But to be clear -- I am still very much ON the ride. One of my children continues to defy a clear diagnostic path – she is truly one of a kind – and that poses interesting challenges. But I’m grateful for the clarity that I DO have. I appreciate my connections with many different communities. And we continue to chart new paths every day.


So, yeah, the first ten years of parenthood sucked for me.  But that doesn’t have to be your first ten years -- or five years – or one.  I think back to how hard it was without other parents who understood my world, and I cannot fathom how I made it so long. Other parents offer support and strength, validation and encouragement. They can help you enjoy the ride.  Yes, ENJOYing the ride is possible!


And, guess what? While the journey is not exactly what you expected it to be – ok, it’s not at ALL what you expected – it’s a pretty exciting adventure. It helps a lot when you find others who can ride with you through the laughter and the tears. 




Elaine Taylor-Klaus is the co-founder of ImpactADHD.com, a coaching & training community for parents of kids with ADHD. She is a regular columnist on ShareWIK.com and MySpecialNeedsNetwork.com, and writes for “Living Without” magazine. Elaine coaches women and parents from around the country, on the telephone, to live full and empowering lives, and is passionate about working with the parents of kids with complex needs. She works together with her husband, David Taylor-Klaus, in their company, Touchstone Coaching.


Apr 25


It’s possible to reflect on this since my daughter was released from hospital and will recover.

 

I passed through this with some professional perspective: too often, like any clergyperson, I have assisted parents whose child was ill—or worse.  Have been, and leavened by, the vicissitudes of the mortality drama, the stomach-turning sojourns in hospital waiting rooms, the phone calls skewed by both static and caution, the attempts to be civil and helpful to well-meaning friends who want information, the inability to forbear the intrusions of others who just yearn for gossip or control.

 

My second daughter, Debra, an accomplished international journalist living happily in Tel Aviv, just recently engaged to a wondrous young man who is now—and immediately—proving his mettle as a life partner, was sick with some kind of meningitis.  Debra, with pinwheel eyes and hearty laughter, just spent two grueling weeks in the hospital, finally under the care of the neurology department.  

 

The doctors at last determined that her condition, indicated by an unyielding wave of excruciating and inexplicable headaches that have turned over the sockets of my daughter’s soul, was ultimately treatable.  They have yet to offer a conclusive diagnosis, which is maddening.

 

The full slew of the most ominous outcomes has been eliminated; I know that Debra will recuperate, now at home.  But I also know that she has been sick and uncomfortable and certainly frightened and beyond exhausted.  Like anybody in her situation, she has endured IVs, injections, scans, painful spinal taps, eye pressure tests, a few classic hospital missteps, and the general gloom of clinical incarceration.

 

I live in San Diego, some 9,000 miles away.  The cyber-miracles of this era, from Facebook to Skype to Whats-App texting to cellular phones in general, have served to somewhat bridge this harsh geographical gap.   The technology, for which I’m of course grateful, has nonetheless failed to cure my most urgent need: to be there with and for her, to really see what her situation is, to touch her hands, to tell her things that live in my heart that cannot be transmitted digitally.

 

And yet, she is a grown woman, with a dedicated partner, and a host of friends.  Even if I had proximate access, I’d have to accept the boundaries and rules that are attendant to “parenting” an adult child who wants my attention but does not need my coddling.   I can’t read her a story, or cleverly soothe her anxieties with platitudes that worked when she was a little girl.  I can only listen—even as I clearly understand that whatever anguish and frustrations are peeling my skin have no analogy with my daughter has been physically and emotionally enduring.

 

It doesn’t matter how old she is or where she is.  When your child is sick and vulnerable and scared, her location is right in the middle of your heart—the one place that cannot be dialed.  It can only be felt and it only hurts—with the exact measurement of your love.

 


Ben Kamin is one of America's best known rabbis, a multicultural spiritualist, NYT Op-ed contributor and author of eight books, including his latest, "ROOM 306: The National Story of the Lorraine Motel."   He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. 


To find out more about Ben, go to www.benkamin.com.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



When your children get to the tween/teen stage, they will tell you exactly what is wrong with you. They will also beg to not be seen with you. You may think you’re not bad-looking for a 40-something, and you’ll fancy yourself as fairly cool because you’ve seen the Stones in concert a few years back but this fails to impress them. They will search “Mick Jagger age” and point out that he is 69.


Tip: accept this as an adolescent phase of development.


In the span of a recent two days, I counted seven instances of critique. First, my texting abilities. “Mom, you are the only person who texts in complete sentences, using capitals and periods and perfect spelling.”


“Well of course! I’m a writer! Besides, how can you type all those letters and symbols? It takes me forever to decode them!”


They roll their eyes.


“And why don’t you use ‘chat’ on the computer? You write out full emails.”


“People our age don’t like ‘chat,’” I explain. “It interrupts what we’re doing.”


The eyes roll again. “That’s the point. Then they can talk to you right away.”


“Your generation is too immediate!” I argue. This, I realize, is a useless phrase.


The next day I am bringing my son into school after a doctor’s appointment to notice my third transgression.


Boy: “Mom, can’t you just drop me off?”


Me: “No.”


Boy: “Do you have to walk in with me?”


Me: “Yes, I have to sign you in that you had an appointment! Otherwise they will think you are tardy or kidnapped or—“


Boy vanishes into the school, his mother a distant sight. All of these middle school kids must think each other is orphaned.


Later that evening, for my fourth infraction, I am watching American Idol. Two contestants are singing a new song “Somebody I Used to Know,” which I enjoy, and to the kids’ horror, I begin singing along, tapping my feet, dancing.


Me: “Hey, what song is this? I really like it!”  


The kids are aghast.


“Mom! It’s been out for, like, months!”


Me: “Really? I never heard it before! It’s great!”


Them: “Of course you haven’t. They don’t play it on YOUR stations.”


Me: “Well, I’m going to download it. I love it.”


Them: “It’s already downloaded. We all have it on our iPods.”


I think for a moment. “Can you figure out how to get that download onto my phone?”


My son finds my phone and downloads the song there in 3.5 seconds.  (Note to self: learn how to do these things, so you don’t have to ask preteens for tech help anymore.)


Next up, my fifth critique is issued. My nine-year-old says: “Mom, the other day it was embarrassing you were blasting music with the windows down in the car.”


Me: “That is one of the true joys in life! Turning up music you love and singing along with the wind whipping your hair!”


 “Yeah, but they were 80’s songs! Mom, no one drives up to the school blasting 80’s music. Seriously, Mom?”


The next morning, my 12-year-old asks me to sign a permission slip to a museum. He warns me of my sixth potential offense.


Him: “Just sign the front. Don’t sign the back.”


Me: “Why? What’s the back?”


Him: “It says you’ll chaperone.”


Me: “Well you know how much I love museums!”


Him: “Exactly. Whatever you do, don’t sign the back.”


Again, I am deflated.  I remind them how they used to say they wanted to live next door to me when they grew up. They remind me they were four.


Later, I am taking my youngest for a walk with the dog when I am met with my seventh constructive criticism in the eyes of our nation’s youth.


“I don’t know how to tell you this,” she says.


This phrase strikes fear in a mom’s heart. “What is it baby?” I ask.


“Um…I read one of your columns on the computer. The one you wrote about our dog humping the blanket.”


“Oh! Well I’m not sure I’m going to submit that one! And that really wasn’t meant for you to see.”


“Yeah, I know,” she said. “Because it really isn’t appropriate.”


They’re turning the tables on me! My music, horrible; my writing, suspect.


“Give me another chance with that piece,” I ask my newest editor, Mini-Me. “I’ll rework it and make it better?”


“Well that’s good,” she says. “Because that story would be embarrassing to Buckeye.”


And for heaven’s sake, never embarrass the dog. 


Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in books, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs.  Visit with her at www.KristineMeldrumDenholm.com, on Facebook or Twitter @writerandmom.


 

For more Kristine Meldrum Denholm  columns, click here. 


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


May 01


I came home last week with a cloisonné vase and an alabaster tiger.  I was doing a little housekeeping while visiting my mom at the assisted living facility.  These two objects were gifts I had given to her in the past and now they would live at my house.  Why, I thought, was I saving these objects?  I was thinking about how to determine their monetary value.  Maybe their only real value was the memories I assigned to them.


If I have given these gifts in the past, then was it wrong that I took them back?  I didn’t want to see them get lost, or maybe I just didn’t want my memories to be lost.  What makes an object valuable is based on its price on the commercial market, but the memories, as they say, are priceless.


So what was I going to do with them?  I could keep them on my already crowded bookshelves.  I could hand them down to my children, who may or may not want them.  I could sell them on eBay.  I had no plan for all of my mom’s stuff that I would relocate, but this was a good time to take stock.


I began to look around my house and to take stock of my own stuff.  The inventory consists of antiques or almost antiques…or maybe just old and gently used items.  I still have my kids’ cherished collectibles… baseball cards, sports trophies, school photos and report cards.  And then there are boxes and scrapbooks filled with photographs…memories of the past that document our lives.  


Material culture is about our need for consumption, and our relationship with those objects we choose to have in our lives.  What we have helps us, as a society, to define who we are.  And that is when I started thinking about Mothers’ Day.  


I am making a list of gifts I want to give my children and grandchildren.  They are not gently worn and can’t be sold on eBay.  They won’t wear out.  They will, I hope, be examples of what I consider the valuable things I own:

Iris bulbs… from my garden, given to me by my mother, and a tribute each spring to Mother Nature.

Recipes… for a handful of special treats …forgotten cookies, black bottom cupcakes, the unforgettable trifle.


Time… to walk, to attend festivals, to pick apples and to fish…and to share those times together.


Words…my list of words that can bring back a special memory and a chuckle… flying buttresses (makes them laugh every time they see the architecture), tulip (it’s my replacement word for a rather undesirable five letter word that irreverently refers to women), Carl (our universal name for catfish), hoot (when we have a good time, it’s a hoot!)


I have five of my mom’s lamps, a cabinet, a chair, dishes and clothes.  But of greatest value to me is her piano sheet music.  I will keep it near her electronic keyboard that sits in my basement where, one day, maybe one grandchild will pick it up and begin to play the music that has been handed down to him.   


That too is priceless.




Susanne Katz is a registered mediator with Mt Vernon Counseling, coauthor of A Woman's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce, and an arts and living columnist for Atlanta Jewish News.com.  She is also a regular on ShareWIK.com.


More Susanne Katz here.

  

 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


May 22

I saved my youngest son’s life this week. 
 
My youngest son, Robby started choking at dinner earlier this week.  As soon as I realized he wasn’t kidding around, I walked over to him, told him I was going to put some pressure on his stomach and asked him to stay calm. 
 
“I’ll get it out, bud, I promise,” I told him.  But as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I started praying I remembered how to do the Heimlich maneuver.   He was no longer making any noise. 
 
It was 1986 when I took a CPR class, held in the dingy basement of a church down the street from where I lived in Hawaii.  At the time, I remember wishing I never had to use most of what I was learning and if I did, that I would be able to recall half of it.     
 
My first test came when I had to dislodge a large piece of meat out of the throat of my oldest son, Sean, when he was 3.  Thankfully, it all came back to me then.  But that was 20 years ago. 
 
I took my place behind Robby, put my left hand on his abdomen (just above his belly button) and my right hand over my left.  The dining room fell silent, the wait staff hovered close by and I felt all eyes on Robby and me.   Using both hands, I pulled in and up gently on his abdomen, lifting him out of his chair.   Nothing.  I did it again.  And again.  Finally, out popped a very thick, 2 ½ inch piece of shrimp. 
 
As I hugged him from behind, he croaked, “Thanks, mom,” looking back at me.   I was so relieved he was ok, I almost did a Herky in the middle of the dining room.  Knowing he was probably embarrassed enough by all the attention his choking caused, I hugged him again instead, tighter this time.  My legs felt wobbly. 
 
After I sat down, I put my hands under the table so no one could see that my hands were shaking. 
 
Maybe you took a CPR class long ago; or perhaps you’ve never learned how to do the Heimlich maneuver.  Regardless, I think a refresher course is in order.  You never know when you’ll be called on to save someone else’s life and when you are, you want to be ready.



 



Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com.  


For more columns from Diana Keough, click here.
 


©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2012

May 22

I saved my youngest son’s life this week. 
 
My youngest son, Robby started choking at dinner earlier this week.  As soon as I realized he wasn’t kidding around, I walked over to him, told him I was going to put some pressure on his stomach and asked him to stay calm. 
 
“I’ll get it out, bud, I promise,” I told him.  But as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I started praying I remembered how to do the Heimlich maneuver.   He was no longer making any noise. 
 
It was 1986 when I took a CPR class, held in the dingy basement of a church down the street from where I lived in Hawaii.  At the time, I remember wishing I never had to use most of what I was learning and if I did, that I would be able to recall half of it.     
 
My first test came when I had to dislodge a large piece of meat out of the throat of my oldest son, Sean, when he was 3.  Thankfully, it all came back to me then.  But that was 20 years ago. 
 
I took my place behind Robby, put my left hand on his abdomen (just above his belly button) and my right hand over my left.  The dining room fell silent, the wait staff hovered close by and I felt all eyes on Robby and me.   Using both hands, I pulled in and up gently on his abdomen, lifting him out of his chair.   Nothing.  I did it again.  And again.  Finally, out popped a very thick, 2 ½ inch piece of shrimp. 
 
As I hugged him from behind, he croaked, “Thanks, mom,” looking back at me.   I was so relieved he was ok, I almost did a Herky in the middle of the dining room.  Knowing he was probably embarrassed enough by all the attention his choking caused, I hugged him again instead, tighter this time.  My legs felt wobbly. 
 
After I sat down, I put my hands under the table so no one could see that my hands were shaking. 
 
Maybe you took a CPR class long ago; or perhaps you’ve never learned how to do the Heimlich maneuver.  Regardless, I think a refresher course is in order.  You never know when you’ll be called on to save someone else’s life and when you are, you want to be ready.



 



Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com.  


For more columns from Diana Keough, click here.
 


©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2012

May 22

We have been looking for a summer job for the past several weeks, my son and I. Yes, I said “We,” even though I have a full-time career.  But at the in-between age of 14 ½, my son requires some help. Of course, he would debate this point. My son believes that if he fills out an application, hands it to the manager and the manager says he will call, the job will soon be his. 


What is MTV teaching these kids?


As a mother, I am still at the stage where I believe what I say and do can make a real difference. So one day, I tell my son we are going to work on his resume. Again, there’s that “we.”  Then I take my son to make copies of his resume.  As I tell him about my first “real” job, as a 14-year old office lackey at my eye doctor’s office, it hits me that my son can’t even get a file-and-make-copies-job as he puts his document in the Xerox machine and out comes a blank piece of paper.

It’s not Music Television that’s failing my son, it’s ME.

My enabling tendencies did not disappear the moment my son’s father and I divorced; it appears that they simply transferred to my son, and it is I who needs an intervention, not my son.

I am unable to help myself from “helping.” The following week, I explain to my son that he needs to revisit the places to which he’s applied; I was told by one grocery store bagger that my son needs to update his online application every month and to “bug” the manager.  When I relay this to my son, he clearly thinks this is some kind of sick joke.

“Why would bugging the manager make him give me a job? I’d just be annoying him.”

Now, many of you can likely hear your own parents’ job-search advice replaying in your mind: “You need to show persistence and initiative; let the employer know you really want the job.”

 I remember the summer I graduated from college. I had graduated Magna cum Laude, interviewed with several large companies, had several call-backs, but I still did not have a job.  I came “home” to continue my search.

After four years of living on my own, coming back to my parents’ house was not exactly what I had in mind.  Worst of all, after a full day of interviews, my dad would greet me at the door with unending questions and “helpful advice.” Still, it is my father who instilled in me my deep work ethic, attention to detail, and respect for employers.

I just wish I knew how he did it.


I do know that I reacted to him much the same way my son does to me when asked, “Where did you look for a job today? What did you say? What did they say? Did you look him in the eye? Did you smile?” (The Jewish inquisition is an ancient parenting strategy in our culture. It’s why so few of us ever live at home past the age of 18.)


Although I have a vested interest in my son getting a job and getting off the X-box, my friends tell me I need to let him make it on his own. And my son would actually agree with this.  In fact, one of our funniest moments is him hissing at me as he got out of the car to apply for a job at a restaurant he had never been to. “LET ME DO IT ON MY OWN, MOM! IF I FAIL, THEN I’LL LISTEN TO YOU.  I’VE GOT IT UNDER CONTROL!”

“You’re right,” I said from the driver’s seat. “Go ahead; the restaurant is in the corner over there.”

My son paused mid-door-slam. “What? Come with me! I don’t know what to do!”

You can’t make this stuff up.

I got out of the car and walked through the parking lot with him, giving the barest of instructions. “Ask if they have any job openings. Ask to fill out an application. Write legibly.” Then I waved him off.  

My son did not get the restaurant job. Or the grocery store job. Or any of the other jobs he applied for. However, he has worked as a volunteer for several weeks at our local nature park, and he’s doing data entry at our community center. He also canvassed the neighborhood with a babysitting flyer and not only got his first gig, he got a call back from the same family.

Obviously, he does know what he’s doing.   And what he doesn’t know, he’ll learn.


With any luck at all, so will I.


Ginger Emas is the mother of a 14-year-old son and the author ofBack On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 More articles by Ginger Emas, click here.

 

 ©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

Today’s world of education is fraught with potholes, even for a typical child.  Strong statement, I know.  As a parent of two adults, one with a learning disability and one without, and a teacher for over 40 years working with typical and at-risk youth, I speak from experience. 


I can’t speak for the generation that went before me.  I reject the nostalgic concept that life a generation ago was more kind.  However, I do believe that today’s school aged child faces enormous challenges. 


One area of angst that almost every parent experiences occurs during the first few weeks of school.  Unless your child attends a school in a small community that knows each family and the children who are being nurtured in their midst, there are simply too many unknowns.  A great many parents experience a feeling of free-floating anxiety during the first few weeks of school.  Most classrooms are comprised of extremely diverse students (not a bad thing) and the expected pace of academic progress allows for little “getting acquainted” time.  As a result, many parents vie for their position next to the teacher so they can garner, perhaps, some special attention for their child. 


At the end of the day, parents have lots of questions: Is the assigned homework an appropriate amount?; are the friends the child is making good for him/her?; is the curriculum a good fit for their child?  It appears that “danger” in the form of rejection, failure or unhappiness, lurks beneath every student’s desk.


Although I am a solution-based professional, I do not see one easy solution.  Little can be done to make a large school smaller or an overwhelmed teacher more attentive and responsive. I do think that increased communication between parent and school is a good beginning.  Setting aside some time at the end of the day for the parents to talk with the child and each other is also a way to, at least deal with current perceptions – or misperceptions – before they become overblown.  


Every parent needs to be able to allow their child to experience the school day without running interference for them.  However, they also need to be prepared to move in to address issues that go beyond the child’s ability to extricate himself or herself.  Sounds schizophrenic, doesn’t it?  


Today’s parent must walk that very thin line between letting the child learn from life’s experiences and addressing situations (such as bullying or sexual harassment) that require immediate adult management.


As with most problems, timely and honest communication is the key.  If a child feels safe with his or her parents, and knows that special time to talk about school is routinely set aside in the family, they can establish a routine of conversations that allow the parents to get a bird’s eye view of the school experience. And, then they can determine if their advice and support from home is sufficient or if they need to bring in school administrators to address an issue. 


Even if their child is not a talker, they have established a safe and positive routine that will serve them well as a family. 

 

Jacque Digieso has been an educator for over 40 years.  She and her husband Joe co-founded The Cottage School in Roswell, GA, to educate adolescents with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and other special educational needs. The school currently serves close to 150 middle and high school students.  Jacque and her husband have two sons, one of whom is adopted, and a handful of grandchildren. 

Check out Jacque's Cottage School blog here, follow her on Twitter @cottageschoolGA, and check out her Facebook page here. For more of Jacque Digieso's ShareWIK columns, click here.

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

May 31


In our patient safety improvement efforts with healthcare teams across the world, we consistently instruct on the principles and importance of assertion, especially during high stress care.  High stress care is emergent care that requires immediate action, expedited decision-making and a balanced workload among all team members.  The stakes are high in these life-threatening situations and being assertive related to a plan, treatment, or course of action is crucial to patient safety.  


Assertion is a key tenet of high performing teams.  Teams of doctors and nurses develop hierarchies that support team structure but can be detrimental to patient safety when leaders make mistakes.  Within steeper hierarchies, junior team members, patients, and family members find it difficult to raise concerns or suggest an alternate course of action.  In some Asian cultures, assertive behavior can even be misinterpreted as being rude.  For patients and families, being assertive especially during high stress care events and settings like the Emergency Room (ER) can be difficult due to the high personal emotions related to your symptoms or those of your loved one.  


Recently, I attended a conference of patient safety professionals in Washington, D.C. where we simulated a high stress care event based on a true story of an eight-year-old boy who was brought to the busy urban ER by his mother.  The ER was understaffed and overloaded due to a multi-vehicle accident.  The young boy had seen his pediatrician the day before due to a low grade fever, headache, lethargy and unusual loss of appetite.  He had also developed a mild rash on his back.  The ER physician and staff were treating multiple sick patients and saw little urgency for the young boy so he was triaged as a low priority patient.


By the time the boy was seen, he was getting much worse and his mom was becoming very concerned but remained patient during the treatment process as the staff came and went while multi-tasking for other ‘more serious’ patients.  When the physician finally came in to see the boy, he spent little time assessing the child having reviewed his records and having complete trust in the pediatrician who had treated and released the boy just the day before.  


The mother tried to tell the doctor of her new concerns but they were constantly being interrupted by pagers, cell phones and other staff requesting the doctor’s immediate attention to other patients.  Unfortunately, the mom never got a chance to bring up the new rash on the child’s back, which may have been a clue of a more serious infection related to meningitis.  The child was discharged with instructions for ibuprofen but returned the next morning to the ER with a high fever as the infection had worsened requiring admittance to the intensive care unit.  The prognosis for recovery was now very grim.


Being assertive doesn’t mean you have to be rude but you must take a firm yet respectful approach to getting the attention to your greatest concern as a patient or in this tragic case, a parent of a sick child who has no one else to advocate for them.


Follow these four steps for asserting your concerns especially during high risk care events:

  1. Make an opening statement:  “I need your undivided attention.”
  2. State the concern:  “My child is getting worse and he has an unusual rash on his back.”
  3. Offer a solution:  “I believe you need to examine my son and run some further tests.”
  4. Obtain an agreement:  “I am not leaving until you have completed a thorough exam.”

Remember, you are an expert about you!  Be assertive even if it feels like you’re being a little rude.  Your safety and the safety of your loved ones depend on it!  Speak up, be empowered, and be heard.


Steve Powell is an experienced facilitator, practitioner, communicator and proven leader with over 25 years of experience in human factors education and teamwork training. For more information, click here

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Jun 04

It’s not something you receive, like a text message, or a certified letter, at, say 10:07 AM on a Tuesday.  It’s a creeping, incremental awareness, a ghostly, ghastly series of howls and whispers and missed opportunities; vicious mistakes this one and that one and you yourself made four months, six years, even 30 years ago; a pile of resentments and seriously psychotic errors committed by people that were thrown together by biology and fate and who now, sadly, tragically, dynamically, are at clinical war with each other.

 

Privacy issues will prevail here, obviously, but when a man is 57, albeit happy in his own personal life and career work, creative, and yet still finds that the primary source of any stress remains his birth family and its surviving members—that’s dysfunction, that’s old, and that’s tiring.  One of the overriding commonalities of this, as one sips red wine and commiserates at dinner parties with other aging baby boomers amid their own “sandwich generation” stories and grievances and umbrage (and the occasional tender narratives that make most of us envious), is how universal this is.  Everybody seems to have a sister or a brother they can barely even discuss, though they do with unbridled vehemence and hurt and dismay.  Sibling estrangement, and/or disenchantment with a parent are well-known to me, and so deeply set into my physiology that they are part of the chemistry of my spleen.  They are nonetheless better accepted than constantly rationalized; even the early Bible overflows with such accounts and, true to life, none are ever fully resolved.

 

    In varying degrees, no one is fully guilty and no one is sweetly innocent in these sad, sometimes biblical conflicts that are attendant to the DNA’s of assorted family groups.  Parenting skills are not necessarily parceled out to people just because they are parents; favoritism, vengefulness, and a litany of insecurities are transferred from one era to the next and a new generation of children suffer grievously as they become adults and parents having inherited the reassignment of a lot of anxieties and neuroses.  The early and sudden death of a parent, as was the case in my family, exacerbates the complexities and sharpens the edges; woe unto the countless families who really were not prepared or equipped to deal with such a calamity.

 

A real symptom of family dysfunction is the invariable declarations of “I won’t do such-and-such until so-and-so apologizes to me!”  Now, apology is an act of grace and dignity in human life that is often in order but is surely best received when self-initiated.  Legislated as a conditional statute among historically bickering family members already laboring under years of aberrational thinking, suspicions, and jealousies, it serves only to raise the temperature and deepen feelings of guilt and inadequacy. 

 

I hope I’m doing okay with my own children and stepchildren.  Safe to say that nobody is owing anybody an apology and we travel together well and we all enjoy talking, board games, the movies, a spontaneous meal out, keeping a bit of distance from one another’s business, and nobody can even recall the last time somebody was screaming or slamming doors from one generation to the next.  We're not perfect, but we're not percolating, either.

 

Ben Kamin is one of America's best known rabbis, a multicultural spiritualist, NYT Op-ed contributor and author of eight books, including his latest, "ROOM 306: The National Story of the Lorraine Motel."  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To find out more about Ben, go towww.benkamin.com


For More Ben Kamin articles, click here

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


There are two things I propose to ban from society: the “reply to all” button and poorly run meetings, (which at its core is the same thing).  Both, I find, are a colossal waste of time. As a parent, whether or not you are adult ADD, you want tasks and chores to move along, so you can get to the next task. These two useless time-grabbers, if abolished, would save us HOURS!  And if we have more time, we have more focus! Voila, a less-stressed, more focused family.


Why does the reply-to-all button exist for parents? Let’s ban it. Too much discussion and distraction is going around. Like when a mom suggests via a class email: “Should we have a party for our kindergarten teacher? Please reply to all.” Therein lies the problem. 


Of course have a party for the teacher on her last day. She has given a great deal to our children. But everyone responds, “Yes!” Or, “GREAT idea!” Or, “I can’t be there but Sammy will bring in cookies!” and we get 30 responses to this effect, which only distracts us. 


To find the answer, you must read each email to discover the date and time of the class party. Of course, this causes further emails: “Can you all bring in something? Hit ‘reply to all’ so no duplicates!” Which then causes 30 more emails, that say “carrots” and “apples” and “pretzels” and “peanut butter crackers," which then brings an admonishment to the poor soul who volunteered anything with peanuts: “There is a peanut allergy! NO!” Of course a responding slew of emails: “I'm so sorry, I forgot!” and "It's okay!" yet the poor woman  is banished from the mom circle for trying to insert a little protein into the class snacks. 


The ‘reply to all’ mode then continues with a question about paper plates: “I vote a spring theme!” and “How about a light blue color, representing the sky, which means ‘the sky is the limit!’” And then it is decided "the sky is the limit" would be great for a kindergarten theme. And that is the last email you will read, at 11:35 p.m., as your face hits the keyboard.


In the morning, you will be met with your child’s team attempting a fundraiser in which everyone must bring in an item for a spa basket to be raffled. “Can everyone sign up for an item (or five) and hit ‘reply to all’? Grown men will email: “I will pick up a loofah on the way home.” And, “We do not have enough people signed up to buy bath products. Would someone buy a cooling mask?” Then 15 more emails. And by default, Susan and Jerry are the lucky parents who need to figure out what a cooling mask IS, because they’ve just wanted the emails to stop, so they signed up for it.  


I realize, though, receiving 450 emails in the course of a day,  is preferable to going to a live MEETING, another time-suck, where small things are discussed in an attempt to bring a consensus. I once sat in a meeting where we discussed, for a half hour, should we buy green and red or blue holiday paper plates?  I've been in an employee picnic committee  meeting where we discussed—for an hour-- hot dogs and hamburgers versus grilled chicken for employees. At this point I had to be led away, restrained from yelling, “LET THEM EAT CHICKEN! I DO NOT CARE! THERE IS OTHER WORK TO BE DONE! LET’S MOVE ALONG PEOPLE!”


Obviously, I am productivity-oriented. I do not like to waste time with trivial decisions which can best be given to a dictator and a worker. I will take either role.


Which brings me to why I believe in dictatorship in social settings. Not the type as in oppressive world leaders, but in minor decisions, like loofahs and paper plates.  You need consensus to use life support on a loved one; you do not need consensus about who's bringing baked beans.


If you want someone to bring products to the next function, simply email: “Bring. 300. Paper. Plates." Or, “The company will provide chicken at the employee picnic. Don't come if you don't like it.” Fine! See how nicely dictatorship works? 



  

Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in books, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs.  Visit with her hereon Facebook or Twitter @writerandmom.


For more Kristine Meldrum Denholm  columns, click here.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


The American philosopher and poet George Santayana declared that “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  Nowhere is that more true than with children of alcoholics.  About a year and a half ago I wrote an article that talked about my experiences growing up with a mother who could at least be considered a heavy social drinker but was probably more like an alcoholic.  There were three of us children in the house and each of us remembers the experience through our own lens.


My lens chooses to recall the times when my mother was sober and how she could be loving and attentive to our needs.  Of course I remember the episodes when she over-consumed and was quite the beast to be around, but I don’t hold those times against her.  What I did take out of that situation was how I was going to break that pattern she had started and create a healthier environment in which my own children would be raised.  I certainly am not perfect, but I think I did a pretty good job creating a stable, safe home life upon which my children could depend.


However, not all of my siblings remember things the way I do.  One of my sisters has struggled with substance abuse throughout her adult life and unfortunately she has passed along those behaviors to her children.  I should make it clear that I do not understand the personality of an addict and how one can continue to choose to put themselves and those around them in physical and emotional danger.  I know that very tough decisions have to be made but that is part of my point here – you make your own decisions.


So, how does an adult decide to create an environment for her own children that so closely resembles the one in which she was raised and has complained about so bitterly?  


I have watched my sister with sadness and disappointment as she has repeated the behaviors that I saw in my own mother: the over-exuberance associated with the early stages of a heavy drinking episode when one feels they are the life of the party.  Perhaps you have seen those moments yourself when someone gets louder and louder thinking they are funnier and smarter, meanwhile you want to crawl under a table from embarrassment.  I remember the look my mother would get as she was making her point in a conversation; it is the same look I have seen in my sibling thirty years later.


Next comes the downhill slide of that manic rise when the alcohol begins its depressive track -- this is when she gets irritable, defensive, and irrational.  It is at this stage of the game where I look to make a quick exit.  There is nothing good that comes out of the moments to follow.


All of this is followed up the next day by the stale smell of alcohol emanating from every pore of the body and a general sense of dishevelment.  It is a day of remorse, denial, and perhaps forgiveness from those who were witness to the behavior from the day before.  Add all of these together and you create a roller coaster pattern of unstable events.  Now, combine that with young children in the home and you have planted the seeds for the next generation to be completely screwed up.

The fall-out from all of this looks like children and young adults with coping issues, anxiety problems, attachment disorders, a lack of motivation and in general a sense of things just not being right in their own world.


So this situation begs the question in my mind: did my siblings learn from the past or have they doomed themselves to repeat history therefore continuing the cycle of alcoholic dysfunction?  There is no question that alcoholism is a nasty disease that can have a stranglehold on a person and those around them.  But if you truly want to rewrite history for yourself and your children, you will need to make some tough choices and heed the lessons from your own past.


Margaret Anderson is the mother of three teenagers and a middle school teacher somewhere in the Midwest.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 
  

 For more Margaret Anderson articles, click here.



 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Jun 03


(NOTE: The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that each year approximately 40 million debilitating illnesses or injuries occur among Americans as the result of their use of tobacco, alcohol or another addictive drug. Addiction and substance abuse is not just an individual problem, but one that affects families and communities. NIDA estimates substance abuse costs the United States an estimated $484 billion per year.)

 

 

 

Once again, I am in a throwdown with God, and things won’t be easier until I do this: surrender to all the control I want to have, the approval I hope to gain, the fear I hold onto (fear of angry people and people in authority are my big ones), the perfectionism and procrastination I cling to that causes me to be late on timely commitments.  I surrender. There are other character flaws I can add to the list, but I am powerless over wanting to do everything all at once, so I give up, too, on completing that list.

 

It’s time to turn in work and I am afraid. Truly, there are probably 10 pieces I’ve already written that would be good and good enough. But as the child of an alcoholic, even though I am 56 years old, I still feel overwhelming self-doubt and fear when I am not practicing the kind of self-care I know I need.

 

As one of almost 30 million children of alcoholics (COAs), I know I am not alone in having this deep-seated fear.  When my fear overpowers my faith, I start trying to run things, and “forget” to practice the self-care that helps me remember that I am not in control.

 

(Note to self: remember when trying to control things I need to take a deep breath, ask God for help figuring out how to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  ACTION:  I take a break for 1.5 hours to attend support meeting. It is no coincidence that the topic is giving up control. God sure gives me what I need when I admit I do not have all the answers.)

 

My fellow "co-addicts" and I developed unhealthy relationship patterns in response to growing up with alcoholics or others addicted to substances or compulsive behaviors. I call what we have an addiction to “toxic intensity.”

 

Despite years of humbling work in therapy and support groups, if I become fearful, angry, excited, or arrogant, I can flat-out find a way to recreate the toxic dysfunction I knew as a child. Denying  there is a part of me that still has that childlike fear will kick my butt every time I forget.  What is even more amazing is that when I am in that fear, I tend to attract others who are also in their fearful, child-like states, and together we can make a monstrous mess that may take years to untangle. There are plenty of us around (again, there are almost 30 million children of alcoholics; further, one in four school children says alcohol or drug use causes trouble at home).

 

Whether at work or at home, on a phone call with a customer service person in India or Indiana, those of us affected by the chaos of addiction can trip and trigger and bring out the very worst in each other. The spiral continues.  And widens. The disease, which is really the devil, loves that.  We can become the very people we do not want to be instead of the peaceful, productive, mature people we are.

 

When I am triggered, I have to stop and do what I wrote about in my book, the book I would love to rename as simply “TurnAround Parenting.” I am not “The turnaround mom, but one of millions of parents/people affected by the alcohol and drug abuse of others.  There are many millions more, too, affected by the behavioral addictions of others: overeating, overspending, addictions to sex, pornography, and work.  We are all part of a tribe of humans who seem to feel fear, guilt, and shame at a deep, toxic level. Feeling these emotions so deeply, we hope if we are blessed with children, that they will be healthy, and not debilitated by the family legacies that may lead us to act out the very behaviors we swore we would not repeat.

 

I am a mom who prays that I have stopped mid-trigger to breathe deeply and seek peace, one of the most important forms of self-care. I pray that I have done enough deep breathing, boundary setting, support system building, peaceful time seeking, toxic intensity avoiding, healthy relationship building and such that my children won’t have the central nervous system wiring I inherited that makes me forget self-care, struggle with setting boundaries, forget about the sane people who love me, and sometimes succumb to the toxicity of “the dark side,” i.e.fear-based judgment, control, procrastination.

 

It is so easy to abandon self-care right now. Though my stepdad is in end-stage Alzheimer’s, it is my MOTHER who just went into hospice. He took care of himself, working out, eating well, doing rewarding volunteer work. She took care of him and everyone else. The irony is rich and sad and the lesson is right in front of me and my fellow children of chaos: we can be triggered into old behaviors by situations big, such as the illness of a parent, or small and every day, such as the early return of a loved one (YIKES! I’M NOT FINISHED CLEANING!). We can know how to care for ourselves and still end up killing ourselves trying to save others, to attain perfection, to control situations, to justify abuse, to make decisions, and to deny reality.

 

Denial wants me to forget that I cannot do it all.  Fear wants me to freeze and stay in indecision while decisions are made by others.  Denial  wants me to believe situations in my life that are NOT normal ARE normal, and that situations that ARE normal are NOT. Fear wants me to obsess about all of this, and miss being in the moment, so there are even more regrets.

 

It’s like a giant game of whack-a-mole. Every toxic mole hit is replaced by three more, so there is no way to win. The only way to win is to put the hammer down and walk away from the game.

 

So the lesson learned is that we don't need to keep repeating the lesson.  I surrender.

Today the healthy part of me – the part that is winning in this woman-against-self struggle – knows God has it under control.

 

If I will just take care of myself, and pull the plank from my own eye, I won’t have to kill myself trying to take the speck from anyone else’s.  And we will all be happier, healthier, and less likely to become toxic.


There is help for Children of Alcoholics is at nacoa.org (National Association for Children of Alcoholics) and adultchildren.org (Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization Worldwide, Inc.) 

 

Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available here


Read more articles by Carey Sipp here.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

     A few decades ago, a kid like my 12-year-old son Schuyler may have been labeled as spacey, absent-minded, creative, forgetful, or lazy depending upon the perspective of the viewer.  But by viewing his struggles through the lens of Attention Deficit Disorder (of the Inattentive variety) we’ve been able to better manage our frustrations and devise strategies for addressing the problem.  


     ADD/ADHD symptoms, like all psychiatric issues, fall on a continuum of severity.  Because Schuyler has a mild case, we’ve not invested in the $1000 testing battery, filled out the parent and teacher checklists, nor met with a psychiatrist to discuss medication.  Parents of children with more serious and disruptive cases may need to take those steps to chart a course of treatment for their child. I recognize that we are fortunate.   


     As the second child, Schuyler came into the world wired differently than his older brother.  He was incredibly sensitive to nuances of emotion and human interactions.  His heightened responsiveness also meant he was overwhelmed by sensory stimulation: too much light or heat or volume sent him into a crying jag. His Dad and I, both psychologists, chalked it up to his DNA; of course, we’d bring a highly sensitive kid into the world.  


     In elementary school we noticed problems.  His teachers would comment that while he performed well in class, he was not good at completing homework assignments and dropped balls academically.  Each year his teachers had different interpretations of the problem.  His third grade teacher put a positive spin on it: “Lots of gifted kids march to the beat of their own drummer.”  (What parent doesn’t like hearing their kid is “gifted”?)  His fourth grade teacher viewed him as simply disorganized and worked on developing systems for remembering homework, projects and tests.  (I appreciated her pragmatic approach).  His fifth grade teacher, a military man, seemed less patient, perhaps viewing him as the undisciplined product of touchy-feely parents.


     Schuyler’s self-concept hinged upon the opinions of his teachers, rising and falling based on his slip-ups and the subsequent interpretations and judgments of the key adults in his life. None of them mentioned Attention Deficit Disorder.  Perhaps they were being respectful of our profession; perhaps they’d been warned not to diagnose kids.  I had a stereotyped notion of the disorder, assuming ADD kids bounced off walls, were loud and difficult to manage.  Schuyler was sweet and easy, just forgetful and absent-minded. 


     But by the end of fifth grade, I was at my wit’s end.  Schuyler could not keep up with his things.  He'd lose his sweatshirt on the playground the first day he'd bring it to school. In the mornings he’d step over the backpack that had been strategically placed in the middle of the hallway.  Day after day he came home without the necessary books for homework or having written down the wrong assignment. 


     My husband and I tried to temper our reactions, but Schuyler could sense we were frustrated.  He wanted us to be proud of him and he’d get very down on himself.  Sometimes at night he’d share his fear that he wasn’t as smart as his classmates or he couldn’t handle school.  


     Finally, I Googled “Symptoms of ADD” and there was a spot-on description of my child.  I learned that children with ADD/ADHD may be:


- Inattentive, but not hyperactive or impulsive.

- Hyperactive and impulsive, but able to pay attention.

- Inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive (the most common form of ADD/ADHD).


     Since he was neither hyperactive nor impulsive, I delved into the description of “Inattentive signs and symptoms:"


    "It isn’t that children with ADD/ADHD can’t pay attention: when they’re doing things they enjoy or hearing about topics in which they’re interested, they have no trouble focusing and staying on task. But when the task is repetitive or boring, they quickly tune out.  Staying on track is another common problem. Children with ADD often bounce from task to task without completing any of them, or skip necessary steps in procedures. Organizing their schoolwork and their time is harder for them than it is for most children.  Kids with ADD/ADHD also have trouble concentrating if there are things going on around them; they usually need a calm, quiet environment in order to stay focused."


     There was something liberating about this description.  I decided to share my discovery with Schuyler.  “Schuyler, I think you have ADD.”  His reaction? He cried tears of relief, saying, “You finally UNDERSTAND me!” …and now he better understood himself.  


     Schuyler just completed his first year in middle school, a year of lockers, five different binders, six teachers and multiple classroom changes.  It was a year of juggling sports, music and drama, of new friends and new routines. 


     Thankfully his school focuses on helping sixth graders get organized.  His favorite teacher did a daily after school “Backpack Check” to be certain he had the right books.  While there were some dropped balls, he made it through without major trauma and without medication.  


     We realize we’ll need to be vigilant for the next several years.  Whenever we got lazy and didn’t check his backpack or look online for upcoming tests, he’d slip into old habits.  The new habits are still not established and it’s too easy for balls to get dropped.  


     Next year we’ll tighten the reigns, easing up when he’s on top of things.  Rather than sending him to his room to do homework, we’ll sit with him and check it when he’s done.  We’ll get test schedules from the teachers and study with him to reduce his anxiety about being under-prepared.  


     We’ll also feed him healthy food and be sure he gets to bed at a decent hour.  We’ll try not to over-schedule him since he drops balls when he’s juggling too many of them. We’ll better monitor his video game usage since it steals his time and attention from academics. 


     In other words, we’re going to have to be focused, attentive and conscious parents for a few more years.  As tempting as it is to back off, middle and high school will involve more social, extracurricular and technological distracters than ever.  By trying to instill good habits now, we hope that he’ll need less external support down the road and may be able to avoid medication in high school or college.      


     You might be thinking, “Why NOT just put him on Adderall?”  While his attention might improve, at this point we believe the costs outweigh the potential benefits for him. He’s already quite thin and we worry about the appetite suppressant quality of stimulants.  We don’t want him either losing weight or getting low blood sugars, which can lead to migraines (another downside of his environmental sensitivities).  We don’t want to create sleep problems, increase his anxiety, set him up for the energy drop when the dosage wears off, make him prone to future drug addiction, or, worst of all, change his personality.  


     So for now we are focused on a behavioral approach.  Re-wiring his brain from the outside isn’t easy, but it seems like a solid investment of our time and energy.       


Dina Zeckhausen is a nationally known clinical psychologist and author who specializes in treating eating disorders and body image in both adults and adolescents. She is a weekly columnist for ShareWIK.com. You can visit her on the web at dinazeckhausen.com and MyEdin.org.


For more Dina Zeckhausen articles, click here.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

For better and for worse, and for many years without awareness, ADHD has always been a silent member of my family. Like the “Not Me” ghost in a Family Circus comic, ADHD’s presence was always there, responsible for much, held accountable for nothing.


Twenty years ago I didn’t know a damn thing about ADHD. Frankly, neither did anyone else, including the vast majority of the medical and scientific communities.


Years of trying to manage a household of ADHD without a diagnosis, much less a true understanding of the complications facing us, was like the cart leading the horse -- woefully ineffective, and incredibly frustrating.


With each diagnosis in my ADHD family of five came a broader understanding of the breadth of ADHD’s reach, the extent to which its tentacles stretched into every aspect of our personal and professional lives.  With ADHD, there is no piece of ourselves that is unaffected: personal performance, relationships, even sexuality are all impacted by this alternate brain-wiring.


Reflecting on these decades brings a mixture of gratitude for what I now know, and sadness for the years that I didn’t understand…my husband, my daughters, my son and myself.


With an eye toward returning to graduate school -- I wanted to help other parents struggling to raise kids with complex needs -- I was diagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities at the age of 41. Go figure!  I got myself tested. Soup to nuts, I completed a full, psycho-educational evaluation. 


My diagnosis should have come as no surprise -- there was no way my husband shouldered all of the genetic responsibility for our family’s complex, neuro-biological soup. Still, I was jarred by the results. Something about the realization that these lurking challenges had gone undisclosed my entire life was really unsettling. 


Truth is, all of a sudden, my entire life made sense. 


I remember random tears in the first few weeks as I grew to understand why:


    • I’d had to work so damn hard in college, 
    • I always felt stupid despite my obvious intelligence, 
    • I chose a major I hated just to prove that I could do it (and to avoid the agony of course selection, much less the lottery system), 
    • I avoided a major I would have loved because I couldn’t trust my memory on tests (papers were my thing),
    • I never went to graduate school (because I was so burnt out after college),
    • I was such a slow reader,
    • I’d never felt successful despite appearances to the contrary,
    • I always felt chaotic and out of control,
    • I’d self-medicated since the age of 15,
    • I couldn’t comprehend feeling “done” or having “nothing to do,”
    • I couldn’t sit still…


I could go on – 41 years fell into place. A bright girl, who caused no trouble, with enough anxiety to propel me to action, I had flown successfully under the radar screen for four decades. Such is life.


Fast-forward to present day. I have learned to integrate my challenge areas into my life. I am well established in a new career as a writer and a coach, and I have started two successful companies. 


I share my story to challenge the so-called stigma of diagnosis, and to empower parents to support their kids. It breaks my heart to hear parents say things like, “I don’t want to pigeon-hole” him, or “I don’t want her to see herself that way.” Just this month, “Additude” magazine’s newsletter subject read: “I hope the world won’t judge my ADHD child.” 


Seriously, the world is going to judge. It’s what people do. It’s our job, as parents, to teach our kids to confidently understand and accept themselves so that they do not ACCEPT the ignorant judgment of others. 


When you have ADHD, certain aspects of managing life are difficult. It’s a plain and simple fact. To pretend it’s not hard – to try to mask the problem by treating the symptoms, without understanding the core issues – just makes it that much harder…and does a number on your self-esteem, to boot.


The clarity that diagnosis brings is empowering. Diagnosis gave me permission to focus on my strengths, and outsource those areas that are particularly challenged. For the first time in my life, I actually feel successful – in part because I no longer beat my head against a wall trying to do things that my brain is simply not well-suited to do.


More importantly, my grasp of the realities of ADHD has profoundly changed the tenor, direction and ‘success’ of my role as a parent. Awareness lets me provide the members of my family with the appropriate expectations and support they needed to manage ADHD’s impact on their lives. 


I have come to believe that Parents are the Missing Link in the treatment of ADHD. I feel so strongly about the importance of parents that I’ve co-founded a national organization, ImpactADHD.com, to bring the effectiveness of coaching and the tricks of a coach-approach to training parents of kids with ADHD. It’s an incredible resource, and long overdue.


So, to the millions of parents who are managing the challenges of raising ADHD children, here’s what I know (for absolute certain!) will yield extraordinary results for you, your children and your family:


  1. Learn about ADHD and the wide range of treatment options available – think outside the box!
  2. Consciously shape your kids’ understanding and acceptance of themselves. Allow diagnosis to be a boost, not a bust.
  3. Identify your kids’ strengths and encourage the heck out of them.
  4. Re-define success and set expectations that are in alignment with your values.
  5. Take the long view: this is a marathon, not a sprint.
  6. Learn to take a coach-approach with your kids. It’s remarkably effective in helping them to achieve the ultimate goal: independence.
  7. Seek support for yourself, not just for your kids. Whether it’s a coach (my bias), a therapist or a support group, you’ll find greater success and enjoyment when you feel connected to others who understand.


I don’t believe in living with regrets, and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today had my story had a different beginning or middle.  But sometimes I can’t help wondering what my life would have been like had my mother known 40 years ago what I know now.  


If you are raising a child with ADHD, you have the power to make a difference. Use it!



Elaine Taylor-Klaus is the co-founder of ImpactADHD.com, a virtual coaching community for parents of kids with ADHD. She is a regular columnist on ShareWIK.com and MySpecialNeedsNetwork.com, and writes for “Living Without” magazine. Elaine coaches women and parents from around the country, on the telephone, to live full and empowering lives. She works together with her husband, David Taylor-Klaus, in their company, Touchstone Coaching.



 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 




Jun 13



It’s estimated that there are about 30 million adult children of alcoholics in the US, and that today, one in four school children (or 13.5 million children ages 5 - 17) lives in a home where there is alcoholism or drug addiction. If you add in addictions to food, spending, the Internet, sex, codependency, and what I call “Toxic Intensity,” or the addiction to self-generated angst, it is likely that a far greater percentage of children -- and adults -- are living with the effects of addiction.


You see, addiction of any type has a negative impact on every member of the family, not just the addict. While the statistics below are about children of alcoholics, as revered pollster George Gallup, Jr., points out, “any type of addiction makes parents unavailable to their children and is damaging to them in other ways as well. The resulting neglectful and abusive behaviors are most often unintentionally passed on from generation to generation, perpetuating cycles of addiction and abuse.” The stress and insanity of living with addiction attacks the immune system of every member of the family.


I can speak to this damage on two levels, first, as an advocate for children and children of alcoholics. According to the National Association of Children of Alcoholics (NACOA), “children of alcoholics experience greater physical and mental health problems and higher health care costs than children from non-alcoholic families.” NACoA reports that for children of alcoholics:


  • Inpatient admission rates for substance abuse are triple that of other children.
  • Inpatient admission rates for mental disorders are almost double that of other children.
  • Injuries are more than one-and-one-half times greater than those of other children.
  • The rate of total health care costs for children of alcoholics is 32 percent greater than children from non-alcoholic families.


Speaking on this from the second level, as an adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA) myself, I concur. I spent a lot of time in the doctor’s office as a child, and have had, over the years, some of the typical health and depression issues detailed in the groundbreaking report: The Health and Social Impact of Growing Up With Adverse Childhood Experiences, The Human and Economic Costs of the Status Quo by Dr. Robert Anda, MD, MS.  


I know that my immune system requires extra help in the form of supplements and self-care. And, I must be mindful of my addictions to toxic intensity and sugar.


Addictions succeed when they are making their addicts, and those around them, sicker. My addictions want to compromise my immune system by having me yield to rushing, over-committing, eating sugar, worrying, not being in the present. The result can be a bad cold, a bout of bronchitis, a sinus infection, or saying and doing things I will regret.  


The greatest defense against my immune-busting addictions is my own spiritual immune system – my internal Jiminy Cricket conscience/judgment – that tells me when I am headed away from healthy actions and toward unhealthy actions such as rushing, over-promising, and that urge to please people at almost any cost. My strongest weapons are two words: THANK YOU and NO.


When I am at my best, the thank you comes the first thing in the morning – thanking God for rest and the hope of a new day. Then I make a gratitude list for the blessings in my life. This is an immune booster of the highest order, generating joy, helping me plan my day, and helping to keep negativity away. (Negativity is another addiction that wants us dead.  If you are a child of chaos, you’re familiar with negativity, and know how seductive it is. To steer clear of negativity, it’s best to limit exposure to negative people and stay in gratitude.)


Gratitude helps me plan my day so I can use the NO to stay away from the unimportant but urgent time wasters and stress makers that can push me/my immune system toward overload, and away from health. 


These are important lessons for this adult child of chaos, who is grateful, today, to continue moving away from chaos and disease, and toward life and health.  

 

Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Find Carey's book here.


Read more articles by Carey Sipp here.


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 


It's a good idea if you can be prepared for that special time every June when the school decides to give you your children back for three months. This strategic move on their part wreaks havoc on parental schedules, as we are trying to make money to afford our little angels: working parents must find babysitters or day care; stay- and work- at- home parents strive to keep their children occupied in the house, organizing their schedules around their kids' activities (so they are free to chauffeur.) So we enroll our kids in camps, and set up activities and play dates and youth groups, in an effort to stimulate their mind, body and spirit, which in turn will eventually prepare them for the Xbox neighborhood championship they have set up.



You will realize in just a week that the cost of entertaining your loveys, though, is high. Here is a financial (and nervous) breakdown for your reference. Parents with babies and toddlers, you may wish to print this out to aid you in your financial planning.  



  1. A one-week day camp is at least $150, times three kids, because you can’t just let one kid pick a camp, so your total is $450. But these “day” camps are often just morning camps until noon and an optional lunch, which might take you until 1 pm; by 2:30 you will be hearing “I’m bored” and still have a full seven hours to keep them occupied.
  2. All the ice cream and popsicles you buy so that they won’t go running to the ice cream truck: $20 per week.
  3. Ice cream truck they run to anyways: $15 for three treats. (If you attempt to climb onto the top of the truck while no one's looking and sledgehammer the truck's speakers, you will be required to pay extra.)
  4. Lemonade and cups for their lemonade stand: $10
  5. More lemonade because they drank it all and now they have a customer: $10
  6. Sunscreen: $10 per bottle, which lasts two days.
  7. Additional sunscreen, because they lost the first bottle: $10.
  8. Kids home for the day tend to visit the pantry, and food is consumed at a much higher rate. Boxes of granola bars, fruit snacks, and graham crackers will be gone in a day, so you are looking at $20 a day; don’t forget the lunches you will be making @ $5 a day per child.
  9. Bandaids and antiseptic needed for the skateboards and bikes, $10 a week; co-pays on ER visits and eventual orthopedic surgery for the arm they break when jumping off the swing or falling from the monkey bars will likely be thousands.
  10. Incidentals—things you do not budget for, but crop up anyways: books from the summer reading list at school (you really think you’re going to get the two copies the library has?) $30 per child; park or museum fees, parking costs, movies and popcorn, rainy day Chuck E Cheese afternoons ($300, but it enables them to win a Tootsie Roll after 75 games), and the $2,489 water bill, because you kept the sprinkler on for a total of 90 days, minus the three days it rained.  
  11. Your child’s baseball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer or football coach will likely suggest a personal coach ($75 hour), a “strength and conditioning” camp for five-to-eight-year olds, and the newest bats, mitts, shin guards, and other assorted equipment. Say no, but if you insist, go ahead and spend the four grand. There will be a store coupon arriving in the mail the day after you buy the stuff.


 

Of course, if you should be so selfish as to actually require things for yourself, like food, your actual summer cost could be much higher. Expect an upwards of $42 million by the time the child reaches 16, at which point he will not be allowed near the car, unless he has a job that will earn him $42 million.

 

In no way am I suggesting that it isn't worth it. We love our (money-sucking, yet sweet and smart) children! But a word of advice to new parents: you may want to get on a first name basis with a Quicken Loans rep.   Happy summer!  


Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in books, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs.  Visit with her at her website, on Facebook or Twitter @writerandmom.


 

For more Kristine Meldrum Denholm  columns, click here.  


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 




Summer brings a bit of relief from the hectic school year schedule, but it also brings  stream of prospective families with horror stories about their previous school experiences.  Usually, they are tired, desperate and angry. Some are sad and defeated.  All of them deserved better.


I think I mentioned the young Hispanic student who enrolled at 17 with 11 credits and still in the ninth  grade because she had yet to pass a full year of the integrated math program our county adopted a few years ago. As an aside, the county is now un-adopting it, but those students caught in the middle have suffered greatly.  Maria had failed the second semester of Math I as a freshman.  Her sophomore year they put her in Math II, which she failed.  Her junior year they enrolled her in Math I, II and III….can you say “why don’t you just drop out?” That was exactly what she was preparing to do when her mom brought her to us.  She completed this year with stellar grades and will continue toward graduation with a steady pace.


Last week I listened as a mom described her ADHD son’s experience in ninth grade this year.  When she arrived she was quiet, soft spoken and very polite.  She described her son’s elementary years in a small private school as easy going and positive.  He was well liked and proud of himself.  


For middle school, although she knew his  reading was not strong, she moved him to his local school for financial reasons.  Her daughter had attended there and had done very well.  It did not take long for her son to begin to fall behind, but the staff did not respond  to her request for testing.  The more he failed the more he became the class clown.  By the end of middle school she had sat through several meetings that had described the problems, but no solutions had been implemented.  


He left middle school with a plan to have testing done early in the year and have a behavioral plan in place. None of that happened.  As she began to describe the failure of the school to do the testing that was recommended from middle school, the IEP’s where the teaching staff ganged up on her son, and the final recommendation from the school team that next year he be assigned to the school that handles behavior disordered students, her entire demeanor had changed.  


She literally snarled each time she described the conversations she had with the school administrators.  Her body language was tight and her gestures became aggressive.  She spoke with sarcasm and added little asides that clearly communicated her rage. I could not help but recognize the journey she and her son have been on.   Although her story was not unique, the total disregard of the educators to serve this child and the total disrespect that they both had endured was powerful!  I have not met her son yet, but I know there is a happy, capable young man inside him somewhere and am hopeful that we will be able to help him find himself again.


For the last two months, we have absorbed the hurt and anger that prospective families carry with them. It is not just the teen whose self-esteem is damaged.  Parents and siblings also carry the labels, misconceptions and failure of the identified “problem child” as well.  I wish I could tape these interviews and send them to the school administrators who so quickly discard these teens. I have been known to send them graduation invitations so they can see the end result.  Bet you can guess how many have attended.


Children who learn differently do not need to experience the apathy and misperceptions of the adults who are charged with guiding them through this journey.  Perhaps progress will be made in addressing the injustices so many of our teens experience.  Until then, we must take every opportunity to identify them, listen to their stories, and help them find a better path to success.   

   

 Jacque Digieso has been an educator for over 40 years.  She and her husband Joe co-founded The Cottage School in Roswell, GA, to educate adolescents with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and other special educational needs. The school currently serves close to 150 middle and high school students.  Jacque and her husband have two sons, one of whom is adopted, and a handful of grandchildren. 


Read Jacque's blog, follow her on Twitter @CottageSchoolGA, and check her out on Facebook.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC





[Montage from last summer: Work-At-Home Mom hires a sitter to take the kids to the pool so she can work. On day one, the plan fails when the babysitter comes back to her office with the three kids. Flashback shows the lifeguards telling the sitter a PARENT needs to supervise kids. Mom calls the homeowners association; rep confirms that nannies, sitters, older siblings and 17-year-olds—even if lifeguards themselves—cannot take kids to the pool. Mom’s summer entertainment plan must be revised.]


ACT 1: Den door closed, Mom working, on phone praising bosses and clients for allowing work-at-home office in a peaceful environment.


Scene1: Child enters without knocking.


Teen: Mom, I can’t empty the trash, I did it yesterday.


Mom: [hangs up phone] WHAT? Do I ever not feed you because I fed you yesterday? Please empty the trash, honey.


Teen: What I’m saying is, ask my brother to do it. I did it last.


Mom: Please leave now. I have work to do. Get your work done, and I will drive you wherever today.


Teen: But—


Mom:  [Gets up, closes door.]


Scene 2Working successfully for another 30 minutes; Child Number Two notices the closed door to the office, so chooses to yell through the door.


Tween: MOM!!!! I’ve totally grown out of my cleats, and I need new ones before practice tonight.


Mom:  [Scratching head, didn’t I just buy him cleats? Or was that another child?] Try and wear them a little longer honey. We can only get some if I can finish this work! Oh, wait! That new store just opened of used sporting equipment by the grocery store. I’ll get there this weekend.


Tween: Mom, that’s gross. A lot of stinky feet have been in those cleats before me. Can I get new?


Mom: Better idea. Can you go look in the garage and see if your brother has any old cleats that fit you?


Tween: Do I have to?


Mom: Yes, and can you spend 45 minutes doing that?


SCENE 3. [Child Three can be heard crying. Mother feels guilty she is working and not doing more mothering, so she leaves office to examine crying child for blood or fever.]


Mom: Are you OK?


Child: Yeah, but Jamie won’t play with me. She says I’m not in her private club.


Mom: [hugging child] Well, go knock on Sally’s door! Or how about creating something? You’re good at writing books!


Child: Jamie says it’s stupid to do books.


Mom: That Jamie is WRONG!


Child:  I’m bored.


Mom:  [Sighs, now overcome with guilt that she isn’t working; she wants happy, paying clients.]  You are resourceful. Find something to do -- books, puzzles, crafts-- I have to get back to work.


Child: Will you play with me?


Mom:  [Feeling guilty that life goes by too fast.] OK.


Scene 4: After half hour of Wii Dancing, mom and child make lunch, when mother pauses to look at the schedule: she must get Child One to a lesson, Child Two to a practice, and Child Three to a doctor’s appointment.


ACT II. [Mom chauffeuring kids, wondering if she can work again late tonight? She pulls over at a gas station, to fill up the tank reading empty, and check her phone calendar.]


Teen:  Really Mom? Gas now? We’re going to be late to my practice.


ACT III. [Upon losing it at teen, Mom composes herself, planning for two options. One: legally adopt a sitter who is a lifeguard at that pool and put that before the Pool Committee; or two: get up at 5 a.m. to work at least four hours before kids get up. Mom, breathing deeply.]


ACT IV. [Clock showing 4 a.m. instead. Mother brewing coffee, muttering, as she throws beach towels into bags. She has enrolled the kids at the 4:30 a.m. swim team practice. Seems it was the only way she could hire the pool lifeguard.]


 Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in books, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs.  Visit with her at her website, on Facebookor on Twitter @writerandmom.



For more Kristine Meldrum Denholm  columns, click here. 


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


We are a dog family. Our friend Darcy used to say that when she dies, she wants to come back as a dog in the Taylor-Klaus house.  I guess you might say we take our pet rearing seriously. At the very least, we have taught our kids to be safe and conscientious pet ‘owners.’


Shortly after we began our married life, my husband and I rescued an adorable hound-like puppy.  We named him Hobbson, for the wry butler in the movie, “Arthur,” but mostly because he looked like Winston Churchill. After all, who wants to name a dog Winnie?  


We tested out our parenting chops with Hobbie. We laughed endlessly about the antics of a puppy and arranged our weekends around walks to the park. We went to owner training school (let’s be serious, we know who’s really being trained!), and installed a doggie door so that Hobbie could use our spacious back yard independently.


When Hobbie was six months old, we created Irish twins with the addition of a new puppy. Sasha was the world’s most precious, even-tempered Rottweiler, small enough to fit into the mailbox. Those two lovely animals raised each other well, despite our nervous, hyper-attentive new-parent over-involvement. We were raising 175 pounds of black-and-brown fur and teeth.


And then, we had kids.


Raising a kid is a lot like raising a dog, really. You are responsible for another living being, and for everyone and everything s/he touches.  It impacts your time, your emotions, and your wallet. You can have the “nature” versus “nurture” argument all day long, but what you do as a parent, or alpha dog, makes a huge difference. 


Animals change the playing field when you have kids in your home. A girl and her dog can have the most wondrous relationship imaginable, but it is inherently dangerous. Success comes when you create a conscious environment and keep a safety mindset.


At one point, I had my doubts. There was a particular episode in Sasha’s youth when I was afraid we had made a big mistake. She had discovered a Brillo pad under the house and appeared with it in her mouth. I tried to get the pad away, but I was honestly afraid she would bite me when I tried to get her to drop it.  


I remember the face-off – 18 years ago –  as if it were yesterday – the dog’s jaws clamped tight, dribbles of pink bubbles sliding down the chin and dripping to the ground.  A stalemate. It is hysterically funny in retrospect, but at the time I was just hysterical.


I didn’t know what Sasha was capable of doing and I was afraid. I knew she loved me, but would she bite me for the temporary desire of the Brillo pad? It was certainly within the realm of possibility.


You never know with kids, I mean, with dogs. We love them, cherish them, nurture them.  And then we wonder who they will be, what choices they will make, and how that will influence us.  Will it come back to bite us?


As we raised our three kids – and several of our friends’ kids, too – into a household of dogs, we taught them to have a healthy respect for all animals, no matter how domesticated. My kids (and my husband) never met a dog that was a stranger, so we taught them:


  • to approach new dogs cautiously, 
  • to ask permission of their owners, and
  • to hold out the backs of their hands to be sniffed.


If I could be afraid of my dear Sasha, then anything was possible. My kids learned to proceed with caution before playfulness (not an easy task for a passel of ADD kids!).


It’s worth noting, here, that my friendly, playful spouse had learned that lesson the hard way. In fact, you might say a big black chow had to bite him in the butt to teach him what he needed to teach his kids.


While there are certain breeds of dogs that have a greater reputation for aggression than others – pit bulls are the most obvious example – there are no ‘bad’ breeds, only bad owners. When people raise their dogs without deliberateness - when they train them to be violent, or worse, treat them poorly – they perpetuate the stereotypes and exacerbate the danger. 


Dogs are animals, and we must always remember that their basal instincts are not rational. How we raise them makes a difference. How we teach our kids to be with them matters every bit as much.


So, what do I know now?


  1. There are no bad breeds, only bad owners.
  2. Dogs are instinctive creatures and we must be aware of that at all times.
  3. We must teach our kids to be hyper-vigilant when meeting new animals.
  4. Dogs offer a great way to teach kids to take on responsibilities at home.
  5. What a dog offers a family is extraordinary, and is worth the risks. It’s critical to acknowledge the risks, and prepare for them appropriately.


Oh, and one more thing. If you think you might want to come back as a dog in our home, you’ll have to take a ticket and get in line. Darcy’s got first dibs.



Elaine Taylor-Klaus is the co-founder of ImpactADHD.com, a virtual coaching community for parents of kids with ADHD. She is a regular columnist on ShareWIK.com and MySpecialNeedsNetwork.com, and writes for “Living Without” magazine. Elaine coaches women and parents from around the country, on the telephone, to live full and empowering lives. She works together with her husband, David Taylor-Klaus, in their company, Touchstone Coaching.




 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


You know the old phrase “You are what you eat”?  Never has that been more important than when it comes to children and their brain development.  Numerous studies have been done that prove that nutrition directly affects the brain’s ability to develop, which of course then affects your child’s ability to learn.  If you are interested in reading the government’s information on study outcomes, check out its Food and Nutrition Information Center on the web.  


However, it doesn’t take a formal study to see the effects of a proper diet on a child in the classroom. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is something all of us have heard since we were children, but have you ever stopped to evaluate why?  Look at the word itself – breakfast – which literally means ‘break the fast’.  Over the course of the eight hours or so that we have been asleep, our bodies have used up all of the energy provided from the food we last consumed.  In order to supply our brains, muscles, and vital organs with the proper fuel to begin fully functioning, we need to stimulate them food.


And not just any food!  While television commercials love to influence our food choices towards cereals with cute creatures toting how great they taste and how quickly available breakfast is just by popping a waffle in the toaster, these sugar-laden foods may be more trouble than they are worth.  Foods that score high on the glycemic index cause a sharp rise in blood sugar.  While the consumer may experience a quick burst of energy from that fuel, the effect is short and the drop in blood sugar is drastic.  


For example, I know how my own body reacts to poor breakfast choices.  I am a big cereal eater but have learned over the years that I have to eat a high fiber cereal with protein in order to avoid a massive mid-morning hypoglycemic attack.  Since I have switched to a higher quality cereal, I no longer experience that empty-pit feeling in my stomach, nor any of the other symptoms such as irritability, inability to focus or hostility.


Better choices for breakfast can be found in whole grains with lots of fiber and high protein foods such as eggs and nut butters that fall low on the glycemic index.  Like I have experienced, the whole grains and fiber will stay with your child longer and provide a more consistent source of energy, while maintaining more appropriate blood sugar levels.  Those steady blood sugar levels fueled by the appropriate foods will result in a happy student who is able to focus, retrieve information, and feel comfortable throughout the morning.


As children, we were taught to make food choices based on the Food Pyramid.  Remember learning that in school?  The base of the pyramid was for carbohydrates, the next level was for fruits and vegetables, followed by meats, proteins, and dairy, capped off by fats and sweets.  I don’t know about you, but I always focused on the top of the pyramid like it was the goal to achieve.


The USDA has adopted a new image called Choose My Plate, which makes a lot more sense than the pyramid.  The plate is color-coded for the types and portions of foods that should be on your plate when you eat.  This is an easy visual tool to share with your children that will help them learn the basics to proper nutrition.  


Good eating habits begin at home.  Schools and teachers are all ready to support the positive behaviors upon which you are trying to instill in your children.  Not only does breakfast start the day right for children’s growing bodies, it will help them get off to a great start on their school day.


Margaret Anderson is the mother of three teenagers and a middle school teacher somewhere in the Midwest.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 
For more Margaret Anderson articles, click here.



 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Aug 06

It’s definitely a dangerous world. Much more dangerous than the world I grew up in. But it’s not just international or religious terrorism, although that’s what gets the most attention.


Every day, we hear about another murder – or multiple murders, most recently in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater, or now south of Milwaukee in a Sikh temple. On the fringes of the political debate, we hear some talk about gun control. Statistics comparing the U.S. to other countries as far as killings with guns are paraded in the headlines of the newspapers and on our TV screens.


Then there are also the headline-grabbing stories of pedophiles.


But wait! Many of those stories are not about recent events. Whether the perpetrators were football coaches or priests, as the stories unfold, we learn that their crimes against children had been going on for years, even decades. We just didn’t know about these youth and the assaults on them. Sexual abuse wasn’t reported or even talked about when I was growing up.


That doesn’t mean sexual predators haven’t been around forever.


Sometimes the media reminds us that as much as we worry about the stranger in the mall, or the guy lurking in an old, beat-up car near a school bus stop, the predators are usually someone the children know.


I know. I was sexually abused by a family member when I was about 12 years old. It was, obviously, distressing, but I didn’t mention it to my parents for years. I was in high school when I finally told them. Their first question was whether I had dreamed it or not. I told them, truthfully, that I had asked myself the same question. 


But really, how could I have dreamed something like that as a child? I remember details that I couldn’t have imagined as a protected child in the mid-60s.


Fortunately, my parents believed me. They knew how the situation could have happened and they knew the family member. Again, fortunately for me, once I shared this traumatic event with my parents, I pretty much put it out of my mind. And, psychologists might argue with me, but I don’t think the horrendous experience marred me for life.


But I was reminded of the incident recently when I heard about an elementary school student whom I know. I am going to be very vague about the particulars, but again, the predator was someone known to the child, and to the parents. This child, too, didn’t tell anyone right away. Only when the child started having emotional issues did the truth come out.


So what can we learn from this? I don’t think it’s the fact that the world is dangerous especially for innocent, vulnerable children. It always has been, and it probably always will be. Instead, I think parents and teachers need to worry more about the fact that children are reluctant to tell anyone about these sexual attacks. They are embarrassed or feel responsible or feel dirty; I’m not sure of the reason why I didn’t say anything for years. 


I’m not a professional therapist by any means. Nor am I a parent. But somehow I believe that disgusting, uncomfortable topics of conversation should not be ignored or avoided. I understand that parents feel they are protecting their children from the ugliness of the world, but I wonder if they are really protecting themselves from having these difficult conversations. Somehow adults must establish a trust, openness, an acceptance, willingness and an ability to convey all of that to our children. The children must believe that they can share their experiences, good and bad, with someone immediately. Only then might we minimize the chances that more children are abused.


Jan Jaben-Eilon is a long-time journalist who has written for The New York Times, Business Week, the International Herald Tribune, the Jerusalem Report and Womenetics. She was a founding reporter for the Atlanta Business Chronicle and was international editor for Advertising Age before she fulfilled a lifelong dream of moving to Israel. Jan and her Jerusalem-born husband have an apartment in that city, but live in Atlanta.

 

In November 2006, she was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer and has kept a blog on her cancer journey since December of that year. 


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved. ShareWIK does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information, please read our Additional Information, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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