Lost: Does Your Child Know What To Do?

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Do you know who Paula Ebert is?  She’s the overprotective mom in the funny Capri Sun commercial.  It’s funny because if you are a parent, you totally understand Paula’s desire to protect her child at all costs, even at the risk of making a fool of herself.  But for every parent, there is that gut wrenching moment when you realize that you cannot protect your child from the world.   And if you don’t want to think about it, there is usually some awful news story that will remind you.  The reality is that no matter hard you try, at some point you will lose sight of your child.  If and when this happens, you know what to do.  But does your child know what to do?

Teaching your child how to stay safe as they continue to explore their independence and test boundaries, is as important as teaching them their ABC’s.   As the frenzy of holiday shopping and large crowds is upon us, take a minute to see how your child might answer the six questions below:

1. What is a stranger and why are they dangerous?

When Journey was about 3, I bought a book to help lead our safety discussion called   “Don’t Talk To Strangers.”  This easy-to-follow book covers various situations that children face each day—from being approached by someone they actually know, to internet danger, to being offered candy—and the safest way to handle them.

 2. What does a “bad person” looks like? 

When asked this question, Journey (like most kids) described a scary, monster-like figure.  I had to explain that a bad person does not wear a mean face and may look just like mommy, daddy, their teacher and many other safe people they know.

3. What are the rules to remember before leaving the house?

I realized that telling Journey not to talk to strangers was not enough—especially when often times, I asked her to do the exact opposite.  How many times have you made small talk with a stranger and encouraged your child to “say hello”?  Journey actually brought this to my attention and made me realize I was sending her mixed messages.  So to be clear, I emphasized that she is only allowed to speak to strangers if we are together.  If she is not by my side, she is not to speak to anyone.  Period.   She also knows that she must stay close to me (which = 5 paces away) and not run ahead of me or wander away.

 4. Do you know what to do if you get lost?

No matter how many rules are in place, at some point or another, they will be broken.  Journey knows if she does get lost, she should:

  • NOT leave the store or whatever area that we are in.
  • Go to a counter or register to ask for help (if we are in a store).
  • Ask a police officer, security guard or a mom (described as a woman who has children with her) for help.

Depending on where we are going, I have also found it helpful to identify security guards and employee uniforms upon arrival so that she knows exactly who to look for if she gets lost.

 5. What do you do if someone touches you or tries to take you away?

In the event that the absolute WORST happens and someone tries to abduct your child, they should know what to do to escape to a safe place.  I tell Journey to:

  • Yell as loud as she possibly can.
  • Kick, scream, scratch, do whatever it takes to alert those around her and get away.

6.  Do I talk to you enough about saying safe so that you remember what to do when something goes wrong?

None of these tips will matter if you only tell your child once or twice.  When I first bought the book, we read and the discussed it several times a week at the beginning and continue to read it often so that she remembers the helpful tips.  I also use weekly outings as opportunities to casually quiz her about safety dos and don’ts.  Depending on the nature, I may share a news story or show her a video of an attempted abduction and what the child did to get away.   The point of this is not to scare her, but rather give her the strength and courage to handle herself in different situations.

Journey thought this information might sound better coming from one kid to another, so she recorded a video that you can share with your child.

In Journey’s words, “Stay safe kids!”

Got any other great safety tips?  Please leave comments and I will share.

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5 Tips on How to Raise a Sugar Free Kid

There have been mixed reviews on NYC’s recent ban on the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 oz.  Although, I personally never understood how someone could drink more than that anyway.  You probably won’t believe this, but….my 6 ½ year old daughter Journey has never had soda.  Not even a sip.  She also has never had ice cream, cake and most other sugary snacks that most kids (and adults) eat.  How is this possible?  Simple.  I never gave it to her.

This journey began with a comment from Journey’s pediatrician during her 4-month check up.  She mentioned that conventional carrots carry high levels of pesticide residue and suggested that I feed her organic carrots instead.  The comment triggered something in me and I started making her baby food.  Initially, I would alternate homemade food with jarred organic.  Until I did some research and learned that most jarred baby food has a shelf life of 2 years!  Realizing that Journey could be eating food that was older than she was grossed me out!  And I never gave her food from the jar again.  (Although if it were today, I might not feel the need to make all of her food since there are so many more fresh organic options in stores.)

Keeping refined sugar out of Journey’s diet has been a challenge, but not impossible.  If you are willing to commit, follow the 5 tips below and you can eliminate (or at least lower) sugar from your child’s diet in no time.

1.    Don’t feel the need to introduce sugary snacks 

Contrary to what most Americans think, sugar (refined sugar, that is) is not a dietary requirement!  You would be surprised how many people kept asking me when I was going to give her sugar, like they were annoyed by my effort.  As if eating cake and candy is a rite of passage.  There are plenty of great snacks that don’t contain refined sugar.  To jump-start your effort, I have posted a few tips, snack ideas and easy baby food recipes.

2.    Realize it takes a village

One of the biggest reasons this experiment has worked is because our entire family participated.  Everyone respected our decision enough not to undermine our effort.  Most parents that I talk to about this say they started out trying to do the same thing but a family member—father, grandma, aunt—introduced candy or the like.  Explain to your family that you have made a decision about your child’s diet and that they need to honor your choice if they would like to spend unsupervised time with your child.  Be specific in what foods you do not want your child to eat.  Provide alternative snacks so that there is no stress about what snacks are appropriate for your child.

3.    Encourage your child to “lead” not “follow”

As your child gets older, they may wonder why they are not eating the same foods as the other kids.  This is a great opportunity to reinforce that being different is what makes you special and that it’s ok not to do what everybody else is doing.  Explain that some children eat differently because of food allergies (there is always one), religion, etc.   You can also discuss the difference between good (natural) and bad (refined) sugar, and the effect that sugar has on your body (see link to articles below).

4.    Be willing to adjust your eating habits

I openly admit that I am addicted toissugar, which is why this whole effort is very important to me.  I’m sure Journey will probably eat sugar eventually, but maybe—just maybe she won’t have the sweet tooth that I do.  But it’s kind of hard to keep eating as much sugar as I did—okay do—while listening to her tell me how unhealthy it is (thanks to tip #3).  There is no greater motivator than guilt! So now, I read more labels (wow, sugar is in everything!), use more natural sweeteners, eat much less processed food, and try very hard to eat less sugar.

5.    Don’t make a big deal about it

At just about every turn, your child will be offered sugary snacks.  Initially, it’s not a problem when they are younger and if you follow the advice above.  However, there will come a point when your child will have to make their own decision about whether or not to accept.   They should never feel like they are being “denied” anything.   That can open up a whole other can of worms by creating an unhealthy relationship with food.

When Journey is offered candy or sweets, she asks, “Does that have sugar in it?”  If the answer is yes—which it usually is—she replies, “No thank you.”  Halloween, parties, it doesn’t matter, she always declines (again, thanks to tip #3).  Although this summer, temptation got the best of her.  I pulled up to car pool after camp and there she was with a lollipop in her hand.  She gets in the car and says, “Mommy, I tried the lollipop!”  “Did you like it,” I asked as if it were no big deal.  “I loved it!”, she exclaimed.  “You can have it,” she said and gave it to me.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  Even though she claimed she loved it, she had no real desire to eat it.  I guess she just wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  She hasn’t mentioned candy or asked for it since.   Although, Halloween’s just around the corner so I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

More info about the effects of sugar:

Kids and Sugar: Is Your Child Addicted to Sugar

Sugar and Children

Health Effects of Sugar on the Body

A Few Quick and Easy Baby Food Recipes

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Below, I shared some of Journey’s favorite baby food recipes that are easy to prepare.  I have many more to share, so please post a comment if you would like me to add more. Continue reading

Great Alternatives to Sugary Snacks for Kids

Snacks don’t have to be super sweet for kids to enjoy them.  Here are some of Journey’s favorite snacks:

GoGo squeeZ Applesauce

Annie’s Homegrown Whole Wheat Bunnies (crackers)

Horizon Organic Cheese Sticks

That’s It Fruit Bar

Gnu Flavor & Fiber Cinnamon Raisin Bar

Popcorn (plain)

Fage 2% Plain Yogurt (tip: Add fresh fruit and a bit of honey or agave nectar to naturally sweeten)

Fresh fruit

Nature’s Path Organic Apple Cinnamon Toaster Pastries

Vruit Apple Carrot Blend Juice (tip: Be sure to dilute any natural fruit juice with 50% water to cut the amount of natural sugar)