All parents want our children to grow healthy, happy, and strong. Find out important information about: child safety; physical, mental, and dental health; exercise; nutrition; and more.
Child development has a variety of domains including gross motor, fine motor, expressive and receptive language, self-help, and cognitive skills. Gross motor skills utilize the larger muscles to include activities like walking, jumping or throwing a ball. Fine motor skills refer to the smaller muscles like those in the fingers, hands and mouth. Expressive language is the way a child communicates what he knows. Receptive language is a childs understanding of words. Self-help skills, such as falling asleep, dressing or potty training, refer to a child’s ability to care for herself. Cognitive skills demonstrate the ability to problem-solve, remember information, imitate behaviors and learn.
Kids need regular physical activity to build strong bones and muscles and to maintain a healthy weight. Physical activity also helps children sleep well at night and stay alert during the day. These habits, if started and kept up in through childhood, can help teenagers maintain a healthy weight during years when hormonal changes, rapid growth and social influences can often lead to overeating. A healthy, fit teenager is more likely to be a healthy, fit adult.
Physical activity includes playing actively, family fun such as hiking or swimming, and anything that gets your child moving!
Why is physical activity important?
Physical activity does not always have to be led by adults.
Free play is unstructured physical activity that is chosen by the child. For example, preschoolers are engaging in free play when they play on the playground, play tag with friends, or pretend to be wild animals.
Adult-led activities are structured to have a purpose, such as encouraging flexibility, focusing on strength, or concentrating on endurance.
Do you wonder if your child is getting enough physical activity?
Ask yourself the following questions as a general guide:
The Green Hour
Studies have shown that children who spend time outdoors have lower stress levels, become fitter and leaner, develop a stronger immune system, and have more active imaginations. The National Wildlife Federation recommends that parents give their children a "Green Hour" outside every day. Even if you don't have a backyard, most community parks provide a great place for unstructured play and interaction with the natural world.
Early childhood is an ideal time to begin teaching children healthy habits and to promote healthy living. Many times young children are in the care of early child care providers who are in a unique position to impact both children and families. Whether a child is in a child care setting or home setting, the opportunity for teaching them about healthy practices is vital to combating childhood obesity.
The statistics on obesity are alarming. Children who are overweight between the ages of two and five years are five times as likely as children who are at a healthy weight to be overweight or obese as adults. One in three low income preschool aged child is overweight or obese. Obesity causes long term impacts on health for children. Children are being diagnosed with heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes. These health conditions had been formerly seen only in adults.
You have to ask the question – what has contributed to the increase in childhood obesity over the past thirty years? We've seen many changes in our society and environment including:
Foundations of healthy development include safe supportive environments, stable and responsive relationships and appropriate nutrition and health behaviors. The Center for Disease Control has developed the ABC's of a Healthy Me. The ABC's include:
Early childcare providers should partner with parents and educate on the ABC's of healthy living. By partnering with families we build support for developing healthy habits for a life time. Spruce up your bulletin boards to promote healthy habits, send home monthly or weekly newsletters which promote a healthy recipe, educate parents on the importance of active play and limiting screen time.
As adult role models, it is important to remember we are key to helping kids grow up healthy. When we model healthy habits, we are teaching them to children. Have fun being active with your kids and remember by eating healthy foods at a young age, children are developing lifelong healthy habits.
Social and emotional development is often a more complex area for parents and educators of young children to understand and measure than is physical development. We measure a child’s physical development in inches and pounds, gross and fine motor capabilities, and the attainment of specific physical milestones. But measuring a child’s development in the areas of making friends, showing compassion and empathy, negotiating successful interactions with peers and adults, and self-regulating one’s own behavior, can be much more difficult. Social and emotional development includes those skills that lead to a child’s increased self-awareness and self-regulation. Although more difficult to understand and measure, these skills are no less important than physical skills in a child’s healthy development and school readiness.
In the following article about “mindfulness,” learn some tips to teach your child to become more self-aware and focused. Future editions of Ready, Set, Teach! will help you tackle other aspects of social and emotional development.
As parents, educators, and caregivers, we understand the importance of ensuring that our children eat a well-balanced diet, exercise, sleep eight hours and maintain emotional stability.
Wait….emotional stability? Helping kids in this area can be a bit more challenging than making sure their physical needs are met. We all know about spending “quality time” with children and supporting them through positive affirmations. What else can we do?
According to Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist priest, “mindfulness” is our ability to be aware of what is going on both inside us and around us.” This idea, which originated in ancient Eastern culture, is now being taught throughout Western cultures to adults. Only recently have we begun to notice the benefits of its techniques for our children.
Being aware of how we are feeling in the present moment allows us to slow down and pay attention to our thoughts, feelings, then make better behavioral choices.
Mindfulness thinking supports the development of:
Self-Awareness: the ability to assess feelings and maintain self-control
Social-Management: regulation of emotions in order to handle stress, control impulses and overcome obstacles
Social- Awareness: an understanding of different perspectives
Relationship Skills: maintenance of positive relationships
Responsible Decision Making: thinking before deciding or acting
At the very basic level, children can be taught to practice “conscious breathing.” This is the ability to focus our attention on our breathing. To simply slow our breathing down can help to regulate our emotional selves. To teach a child conscious breathing, instruct him to slowly breathe in through his nose to a count of three: “One – two – three,” then even more slowly breathe out through his mouth: “One – – two – – three.”
For a child who enjoys drawing, use her natural interests to teach mindfulness. Instruct the child to draw a picture of her “happy place” or “safe zone” – a place where she feels most safe, calm, or happy. Then, guide her through a visualization of her “happy place” to help her improve her ability to focus her thoughts when feeling overwhelmed. (It can help to have the child close her eyes while she visualizes this place.) Focusing her thoughts in this way will help the child to maintain self-control and improves her ability to think before acting or reacting.
There are a variety of Internet sites that provide other ideas for mindfulness activities, as well as several books such as Mindful Movements: Ten Exercises for Well-Being by Thich Nhat Hanh and Building Emotional Intelligence by Linda Lantieri and Daniel Goleman. This book provides parents with activities such as meditation, mind-strengthening, and other exercises that help to instill the quality of mindfulness. Each activity takes less than 30 minutes to complete and can be enjoyed as an individual, or as a family.
Take the time to be mindful with your children. Developing such skills at an early age will have long-lasting benefits as they continue to grow and learn.
The best way to promote children's mental health is to build up their strengths, help to protect them from risks, and give them tools to succeed in life. Help children relate to others and build their confidence. Give children a chance to talk about experiences and feelings; offer encouragement and praise; acknowledge positive and negative behavior; and provide consistent and fair expectations with clear consequences for misbehavior.
Be a role model. Talk about your own feelings, apologize when you are wrong, don't express anger with violence, and use active problem-solving skills. Encourage exercise and sports. Researchers have linked a variety of psychological benefits to exercise, including decreased depression and anxiety, and improved mood states, self-confidence, sense of life-quality, and general psychological well-being. Participation in exercise and sports has also been shown to reduce delinquent behavior and boost academic performance. Suggest involvement in after-school activities. A questionnaire on body image and self-esteem found that girls who were active in a greater number of after-school activities had higher body image, self-esteem, and feelings of competence than girls who participated in fewer. Encourage strong family relationships. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston found that adolescents who were from closely knit families and maintained an intimate connection with their parents based on trust and open communication were less likely to use alcohol.
High expectations can go a long way. Studies indicate that high parental or family expectations for a child's performance may serve as a protective factor against child substance abuse.
Recognize that your children's mental health is just as important as their physical health.
Even little children get the blues. If your young child doesn't seem happy or is acting differently – try to find out what is upsetting them. If nothing seems to work, check at your child health clinic or contact your family physician. Don't demand or expect constant love and affection from your children especially if you are feeling low and your children know it. You could be putting too much of a burden on them and building up layers of guilt and resentment. Conflict between couples, divorce and separation can cause a lot of anxiety amongst children of any age. Talk them through what is happening and listen to how they feel. That way you'll keep their trust and help them deal with change.
If your family is going through change, allow yourself and others in the family to have mixed feelings. Different members of your family may feel differently about the same event. Try to let everyone express how they feel, and remember that feelings can change over time.
Some children like to have other trusted adults they can talk to, a grandparent, aunt or uncle, a teacher, youth worker or family friend. Don't feel threatened if they reach out to someone else. Remembering the fears and anxieties you felt as a child can help you see what your child might be going through and what reassurance they may need. Set some ground rules with your teenagers but be prepared to give and take on what they can and can't do. You'll be showing them that you are on their side is there something small you can do to make time for yourself? Make a deal with the kids – a trip to the park in exchange for five minutes peace and quiet. Perhaps a cup of coffee on your own, a hot bath, a chat with your friend.
Trust your own judgment. If you think your child is in need of professional help and you are at all uncomfortable with what is being offered or who is doing the offering, go on looking. When trying to get professional help seems an impossible uphill struggle, talking to friends and other members of the family could help you see other ways to ask for help and how you can get heard.
Parents are so often consumed with giving and taking care of children, they forget to take care of themselves. Many times parents feel guilty or selfish if they aren't totally focused and giving to their children. But the opposite is actually true. Taking care of ourselves and making time for our own interests can help us be better parents and caregivers. If you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed with your day-to-day responsibilities of parenting, try some of these self-care tips:
Children need to feel safe and secure. When a child is physically, sexually or verbally abused, especially by a parent or loved one, the damage lasts a lifetime. If you suspect a child is being abused, please do not wait to seek help. You may be that child's last chance.
Did You Know…
To report suspected child abuse, call the Child Abuse Hotline at: 757-437-3400. You may choose to remain anonymous.
Learn more about the Child Abuse Hotline.
Learn more about Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Are you a parent or caregiver facing a personal crisis, feeling financial stress or overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenting? There is help for you. Before you take your stress out on a child, get help now. Below is a list of resources and supports.
Parenting Education and Support Groups
Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), a form of abusive head trauma and inflicted traumatic brain injury, is a leading cause of child abuse deaths in the United States. Shaking most often results in response to a crying baby/toddler when a caregiver becomes frustrated or angry. While crying is the most common trigger for SBS, other activities such as toilet training and feeding, may also cause the person caring for the baby to become frustrated or angry.
Parent's and caregivers need to understand the frustration they may feel as a result of crying in infants. While infants usually cry to signal unmet needs, there are times when they will cry for no obvious reason. The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome refers to this as the period of PURPLE Crying.
Peak Pattern - crying peaks around 2 months and then decreases
Unpredictable - crying for long periods can come and go for no reason
Resistant to soothing - the baby may keep crying for long periods
Pain - like look on face
Long Bouts of Crying - crying can go on for hours
Evening Crying - baby cries more in the afternoon and evening
Try to soothe a crying baby using methods such as skin-to-skin contact or calming white noise. If the infant will not stop crying and is fed and changed, it is okay to place him or her in a safe spot, such as a crib, and leave the baby to cry while you take a break. It is more important to stay calm than it is to soothe the baby. Allow 5-10 minutes for the frustration to pass, then go back and try to soothe the baby. Parents and caregivers should be encouraged to ask for help when feeling overwhelmed. Adapted from the Virginia Injury Update.
Children need to feel safe and secure. Please visit the "Healthy Parents" section for more info.
Not sure how to broach the subject of saying no to drugs and alcohol with your children? Start with the truth. Be frank with them. Do your homework, and get the facts. This will show your child that the information which you are providing is credible. Avoid scientific jargon, and keep it simple.
Next, think back to when you were a preteen or teenager. Did you want your parents to lecture you about something like drug and alcohol use? Probably not; take time to have a conversation with your children -- a discussion involves give and take. Provide information to your child, but allow for input from him or her too. Allow your child to express his or her feelings about the issue. When all is said and done, our job as parents is to provide the information, as we know it, and encourage our children to make good decisions. When the conversation involves drugs and alcohol, the decision making process becomes more complex for young people. There are legal, health and peer pressure issues involved. Local police officers attribute peer pressure as one of the most powerful influences children face. Teens often feel they are invincible and believe that poor decision making will not affect them to the point that they may be physically harmed. Many young people do not take into account the health risks associated with alcohol and drug use. They feel like it will never happen to them. Be prepared for these issues. Hopefully, the relationship that you have developed with your children over the years will be strong and that bond will allow you to overcome these issues during your conversation.
When discussing these issues with your children, distinguish the difference between legal and illegal substance abuse. In America, the abuse of legal substances affects more people than the combination of all illegal drugs. Children must be presented with the fact that they will, at some point in their life, probably be faced with the decision to participate in drug abuse. As parents, it is your responsibility to prepare your children for that moment by presenting factual information to them.
Parents must build a trusting relationship with their children which involve mutual respect. Encourage open conversations with your children. During these discussions, be honest and express your feelings. Do not let emotions overwhelm the situation. Provide factual information and allow for your children to have input. Your children need to be part of the decision making process.
In the Virginia Beach City Public Schools, local officers present the Class Action program, which is a legal issues course presented to children in seventh and twelfth grades. As part of the curriculum, police officers explain the legal ramifications of drug and alcohol use to young people.
Every 15 Minutes, demonstrates the dangers of drunk driving. It is presented at two Virginia Beach City Public School high schools each year.
*Information provided by the Virginia Beach Police Department.
While you can't totally eliminate colds and flu (children average 8-10 colds a year) you may be able to prevent a few by following these tips:
Many Americans have seasonal allergies, and approximately 40% of children suffer from them as well. A runny nose, hay fever, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, coughing--all are symptoms of allergies. Is your child suffering from allergies? There are some simple things you can do to minimize the effects of seasonal allergies.
More seriously, food allergies affect approximately 5% of children and some such as peanut and shellfish allergies are never outgrown. It is important for parents of children who have these allergies to consult with an allergist regarding precautions and treatments. The most serious reaction is anaphylaxis or the swelling of the throat. Children with severe food allergies will most likely have to carry an EpiPen in case they have an allergic reaction. Visit your local allergist or go to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website for more information.
Warm weather not only brings sun and fun; it also brings pests outdoors. This spring and summer, protect yourself and your children from Lyme disease, an illness caused by the deer tick. The Virginia Beach Department of Public Health recommends avoiding tick-infested areas like tall grass and dense vegetation, and walk in the center of mowed trails to avoid brushing against vegetation. Eliminate the living places of small rodents. Wear light-colored clothing so that ticks are easier to see and remove. When working outside, tuck pant legs into socks and boots and wear long-sleeved shirts buttoned at the wrists. Conduct tick checks on yourself, your children and your pets every few hours while outdoors. Apply tick repellent to areas of the body and clothing that may come in contact with grass and brush. Select repellents specifically for ticks. Products that have 30 percent DEET or 0.5 percent permethrin are effective in repelling ticks. Ask your veterinarian to recommend tick control methods for your pets. Animals can get Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but they can't transmit the diseases to humans.
The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that 80 percent of harmful sun exposure occurs before age 18. That's because kids spend more time outdoors than adults do, especially in summer. Babies and young children can't protect themselves from sunburn, so the adults have to do it for them. The most important thing you can do for your child outdoors is protect them from sunburn. Many parents think about skin protection when they take their kids to the beach or the swimming pool but neglect it when the children are playing in the backyard or on a sports team. Sun protection is needed all the time.
What can you do? Put sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays on your child. Avoiding the hours when the sun's rays are strongest, 10 A.M. to 2 P.M., is a good idea, but not always practical. Limit sun exposure and stay in the shade as much as possible.
Each year more than 800 children drown. These incidents are not only preventable but predictable. Here are the five truths about children who drown, and what you can do to help keep your children safe around water.
The warm weather, sunshine and our beautiful coastline have most families outside more during the summer months than any other time of year. Children like to explore and we should encourage them to experience nature and discover plants, insects and the great outdoors. However, with the great outdoors comes some cause to worry or be concerned about possible stings or allergic reactions.
Every parent should have a first aid kit. Many stores sell them as prepackage kits, but you can also purchase items separately to create your own. In case of an emergency, make sure you have the following items in your first aid kit: Bandages, gauze and gauze pads, a roll of one inch bandage tape, scissors, elastic bandages, cotton swabs, sterile dressings or towels, pain reliever (acetaminophen or ibuprofen), anti-inflammatory medicine (ibuprofen), ipecac syrup (for use on advice of medical professional to induce vomiting), tweezers, hydrogen peroxide, hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, antibiotic cream, antihistamine (for allergic reactions), flashlight, tongue depressors (to be used as a finger splint), ice pack, and fluids for rehydration. Being prepared is always best in an emergency situation!
Parents used to be able to identify the neighborhood bully. You know, the big, tough kid that lived down the block. Well, today's technology has put a whole new face on the bully, or rather, has effectively masked who the bully is. As social networking sites and cell phone usage expands, the potential for being a victim of cyber-bullying also grows. Your child may be the victim of cyber-bullying if he suddenly has poor school performance, changes in eating and sleeping behaviors, difficulty focusing or completing tasks or a reluctance to engage in outside activities, attend school or use the computer. Parents should also watch for changes in behavior immediately following a telephone call or computer use. Does your child's body language indicate anxiety or fear? Does she check to see who's calling when the phone rings then hesitate to answer certain calls?
In order to combat cyber-bullying, monitor your child's use of the Internet and cell phone. Create a written contract with your child so you're both accountable. Place game systems and computers in a central location, such as the kitchen or family room, so you can see what sites he's visiting and put in place parental controls. Also, make sure to talk to your child about potential threats on the Internet and cell phone predators. Let your child know you are concerned. If you believe that she is being cyber-bullied while using the Internet or cell phone, contact your provider/web site administrator immediately and place a complaint. If you become aware of a possible threat toward another person, notify your local police department immediately. Do not wait and hope the problem goes away.
Keep Your Toddler in a Rear-facing Child Safety Seat until age 2 (not 1). In April 2009, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a new recommendation for parents of toddlers. Toddlers should remain in a rear-facing child safety seat until they reach two years of age. New research indicates that toddlers are more than five times safer riding this way in a child safety seat. The Academy had previously recommended that children remain in a rear-facing child safety seat until their first birthday.
*Here are some safety tips for car seat use:
The Virginia Low-Income Child Safety Seat Program provides convertible child safety seats and belt positioning booster seats to low income families. Virginia Beach residents can apply for a free child safety seat for their child at any Virginia Beach WIC office or at the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health, 4452 Corporation Lane. For more information, call 518-2683.
Birthdays, holidays, special occasions, these are just some of the many times in which children receive gifts. With new technologies and materials, toys are ever-changing. However, even the most popular items can present hidden hazards for your little ones. So, when checking off your list, make sure to adhere to the following safety guidelines:
: Bringing together City, Schools, and the Community for
a common mission.
GrowSmart’s mission is to promote and improve the
healthy development, school readiness, and reading
proficiency of young children, ages 0-8, in Virginia
This site was designed to provide information and resources for Virginia Beach parents, caregivers,and teachers of young children, ages 0-8.
The site is also intended for our community stakeholders who wish to find out more about the City of Virginia Beach’s early learning efforts and how you can get involved.
Address: 4525 Main Street Suite 700 Virginia Beach, VA 23462
Phone: (757) 385-0144
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| The City of Virginia Beach