The Sitter Cafe Blog

A Conversation About Child Care
and the common challenges faced by parents

Monday, October 29, 2007

Child-Care Labor:
Deciding what to pay your babysitter
By Wall Street Journal columnist Sue Shellenbarger

Work & Family

© October 25, 2007; Page D1

What to pay the occasional Saturday-night baby sitter may seem like a simple matter. But my talks with parents about the topic often end with an anxious question. One mother told me she pays her sitter "above the market," then in the next breath asked, "Is that above the market, do you think?" Other parents think they pay well but are mystified that sitters never come back.

As a pricing puzzle, paying the sitter ranks right up there with valuing mortgage-backed securities. Sitter pay ranges wildly, based on a sitter's age, credentials, experience, job duties and region. Couple that with the fact that sitter-pay rates are soaring at triple the overall inflation rate, and you've got a real pricing mess.

Average pay for a teenage baby sitter for one child has risen 39% in the past five years, says Runzheimer International, a Rochester, Wis., consulting firm that researches living costs; the consumer-price index rose 13% over the period.

L.J. Kolek, 36, Westport, Conn., who grew up thinking of baby sitting as a $3- to $4-an-hour job, sometimes finds that hard to swallow. After paying an experienced, college-age sitter $14 an hour recently for an evening when his son slept nonstop, he recalls thinking, "I can't believe I'm paying this amount for someone to watch my kid sleep.”

But he and other parents are increasingly willing to pay more for highly qualified sitters. Jessica Griffith, St. Paul, Minn., says that although she pays her sitter, a well-qualified woman in her twenties, more than six times what she once earned herself as a teenage sitter, "we'd rather go out less often and have the peace of mind."

Regional differences in pay further cloud the picture. A teenage sitter for one child can command an average of $14.84 in the New York City area, more than twice the $7.33 paid sitters in Dallas, Runzheimer says. Rates average $9 in Washington, D.C.; $8.67 in Chicago, and $8.64 in Los Angeles, based on data collected by researchers living in 350 locations.

Add more children to the mix; ask a sitter to do light housekeeping or provide her own transportation, or insist on a sitter in college or beyond, and rates rise sharply. Rates offered by parents where 60% or more have two or more children and want a college-age or adult sitter willing to do extra tasks, reflect these premiums. Such parents are offering $16 to $18 an hour in New York; $14 to $16 in Chicago or Washington; $13 to $16 in Los Angeles and $10 to $12 in Dallas, says Michael Cravens, CEO.

In a morass like this, you need a pay strategy. First, figure out the range you can afford, then set your rate at the low end, says Michael Gerard, executive director of The Sitter Cafe [], a sitter-search site. This will enable you to manage bonuses, tips and other extras. "Sitters won't remember that you paid a bit less per hour than some parents, but they'll always remember that you give them an extra $5 or $10 tip," he says.

Second, be thoughtful about those extras. Genevieve Thiers, CEO of, a sitter-search site, recommends giving a $1- to $3-an-hour raise after a year, and doubling pay on a sitter's last job before the new year. Consider adding a few dollars for commuting, especially for short jobs, she says. Jean Dolan, Newtown, Pa., pays a bonus when a sitter tidies up the house without being asked.

Finally, don't make the common mistake of assuming money is all that matters to a sitter. Several sitters I interviewed ranked pay as only the No. 3 incentive to stick with a family, behind feeling safe in the home and feeling trusted and respected by parents. Examples include sticking to agreed-upon pay rates, refraining from calling home every half-hour, and returning home when you say you will.

"What's important to me," says Torrye Hart, a 20-year-old sitter from Travelers Rest, S.C., "is the interpersonal relationships with the family."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Thorough Nanny Background Check
Requires a few inexpensive searches
By Wall Street Journal columnist Sue Shellenbarger

Work & Family Mailbag

© October 18, 2007; Page D3

Q: I need to hire a nanny. Can you offer tips for background checks? How can I cover the basics without launching an FBI investigation?     D.P., Plano, Texas

A: For candidates over 18, a background check is a good idea and can usually be done for roughly $100 to $200 or less. The first step is to verify a candidate's Social Security number and past addresses; this tells you where to search for any arrest or criminal records, says Michael Gerard, executive director of The Sitter Cafe (, Solon, Ohio, an online sitter search service.

Second, you'll need a county criminal-records check from each county where the candidate has lived, to uncover any assault, theft, check-kiting or disorderly conduct cases -- "the common types of convictions you're looking for," Mr. Gerard says. Third, you'll need a check of criminal and sex-offender records in the states where the candidate has lived. You also should have the candidate's driving and credit records checked, Mr. Gerard says.

Getting all this information requires access to county courthouses, as well as motor-vehicle departments and credit bureaus. Licensed private investigators can conduct such searches, and some nanny agencies will arrange background checks. They also can be purchased online at such Web sites as... Be aware that this type of background check by law requires a candidate's written permission. Another option: The Web site offers background-check services at the applicant's request.

Finally, the background check is only part of a thorough screening, Mr. Gerard adds. Also ask for and verify candidates' employment history, and interview references in depth.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ending Daycare Crying

By Jonathan H. Gerard, PhD

A crying child inevitably has the effect of making a parent feel guilty for leaving him or her with a babysitter or when dropping the child off at day care. To solve this problem one might consider two important truths.

First, the tears may make a parent feel guilty, or regretful, but unjustifiably so. Most likely, whatever it is the parent is about to do is something at least indirectly necessary for the well-being of the child, whether it is going to work or shopping or to a class or a meeting.

Feeling guilt may lead to showing regret and showing regret ultimately reinforces the child's tears. A parent who gingerly continues on his or her mission will quickly extinguish such behavior rather than reward it. But who among us has easily been able to do this? Truth number one: you needn't feel guilty for leaving a child behind if the reason is legitimate and the child is left in good hands.

Second, the child's tears have a purpose and that purpose is not to express pain. It is to change your behavior. At the risk of minimizing the child's feelings or sounding cynical, I suggest that the child is, at some level, seeking to manipulate the about-to-leave parent into not leaving.

I say this only because manipulation is a strategy you can win. You are smarter and more clever than your child -- at least for now.

Here's what to do to extinguish that transitional crying that comes with separation. As your car begins to approach the day care center (or as you are getting ready to leave the house) look earnestly into your child's eyes and say, 'I know it upsets you when I leave (you at day care) and that's ok. I used to cry, too, when my Mom left me to go to work (or school, or to go 'out'). Crying is a way to tell me you're unhappy about it. I understand. So if you want to cry, this is a good time to start. We are almost there. (Or, 'I'm almost ready to leave.')' Urge your child to cry. Practice a few times until you can say it with conviction and confidence.

Instead of trying to get your child not to cry, encourage him or her to cry. If you do this, you will be letting the child know that crying is not going to change your mind or your schedule. There will no longer be any reason to cry and at some pre-conscious level he or she will realize that. The child may feel out-manipulated, and get angry with you, but he or she will not cry. Theorists of change call this 'symptom prescription' and it works to solve many problems.

Related Information:

Handling Separation Anxiety
Tips For Easing The Transition

By MaryAnn X. Meddish, CPN
reprinted with permission from the autor and
The International Nanny Association - INA

As the new school year gets into gear, many parents and caregivers of preschoolers and kindergartners may discover that their little ones are not adjusting well to change – or the idea of being away from their caregiver. Experts agree that separation anxiety is a dilemma faced by scores of parents and nannies around the world. Some children are likely to adjust on their own. Others may experience more difficulty adjusting to change – even after the first few weeks of school. With some guidance, your charge can overcome separation anxiety.

According to experts, separation anxiety is overcome when a child develops a sense of self-confidence. Last fall, each time I dropped off my cute and social 20-month old at school, he melted into a puddle. This behavior lasted for about a month and then one day he surprised me as he ran into the classroom and yelled “goo-bye” over his shoulder. But for some children, gaining confidence and adjusting is not so easy.

Here are some ideas for smoothing the transition to school:

Instill a Sense of Independence
Children who cling and hide behind you when you talk to a stranger will likely need some help adjusting to their new environment. During your charge’s time away from school, gently nudge him into independence. For example, I gave my toddlers money and coached them on how to make a purchase from a store clerk. I allowed them to practice being independent by taking them to various stores to complete a few tasks by themselves. Standing nearby, I watched as they purchased bread from the bakery, M&Ms from the store and paid for postage at the post office. After successfully completing a task, I praised them for doing such a great job.

Completing simple tasks such as these can help to instill a sense of independence and foster positive self-esteem. In my experience, it is beneficial to teach independence by starting with baby steps. Consider allowing your charge play alone in a room. If the child is not comfortable playing alone, prepare to join in by asking them to retrieve something from another room. I would say: “Please go to the play room, get a red Duplo and show it to me.” When they return with item I would say, “Beautiful! Now, please go put a green one on top of this one and come show me.” I suggest repeating this process until the little one is comfortable accomplishing these small play tasks on their own. Soon, the child will be confident enough to go to the play room and build a structure with blocks, or draw a picture for you – all on their own.

Handling Drop-Off and Pick-Up
During drop-off, as parents and caregivers give their little ones goodbye hugs, it is not uncommon to see them ignore the tears and heart tugs that follow. The consensus is that children generally settle in and participate once they realize their caregiver isn’t around. The child usually gets distracted by playing and will only occasionally realize their parent or care provider isn’t there. That is, until the first adult arrives for pick-up. Then, a child who suffers from separation anxiety will likely want their adult too! As children form a bond with their teachers and classmates, and begin to become familiar with the new routine, they tend to grow more comfortable with the idea of being dropped off. However, until your young one reaches that stage, prepare for some heart tugs during drop-off and pick-up times. Here are some solutions:

  • Create a Drop-Off Routine
    Consider doing the same thing every morning and create your own special way of saying good-bye. Walk your child to the classroom, greet the teacher, help put the backpack away, and plan to kiss your child and say “I love you, have a good day” as you walk out. Avoid sneaking out. Instead, attempt to make the drop-off short and sweet. Avoid lingering around the classroom to have a discussion with the teacher. It’s important that teachers focus on getting the class settled and involved in an activity. On the same note, if you do chat with someone, plan to have your conversations in the hallway to ensure you are not a distraction.

  • Acknowledge your child’s Feelings or Fears
    If your child cries or seems anxious, let him/her know it’s OK to feel that way. Validating a child’s feelings and fears is one more way to help build their confidence and self-esteem.

  • Pack a “lovey” item to comfort your child
    Ask the teacher if personal ‘lovey’ items are permitted in class. If they are, pack a small comfort item like stuffed animal, blanket or towel into your child’s bag. Be sure to let the teacher know your child has a special item that will help to provide comfort after you leave. If the school prohibits ‘lovey’ items, pack a small family photo instead.

  • Get to Know Classmates
    Get to know a few of the parents who have kids in the same grade level at the school and arrange a play date. If you receive a class list, contact some or all of the class members’ parents to orchestrate a class play-date at a nearby park or at your home to help the children and adults become acquainted. Your child will likely begin to feel more comfortable, both in school and out, as s/he becomes more familiar with new friends.

  • Build Anticipation
    Talk your child and read stories about what school will be like. Talk about the new friends he or she will play with and the fun things they will do. Visit the school’s playground to make it a familiar place and involve your child in selecting school supplies. If possible, meet the teachers and visit the classroom before school starts – take advantage of the orientation sessions that many schools offer.

Remember that the separation anxiety that comes with going to school is a normal stage of development. Every child will eventually master this stage and become comfortable away from their parents and care providers.

Ms. Meddish offers insight from more than 20 years of nanny experience. She is a graduate of the Northwest Nannies Institute in Portland, OR; and a graduate of Starkey Institute’s SANP program in Denver, CO.

Related Books For Chldren:
"The Bus Stop" by Janet Morgan Stoeke
"How Do Dinosaurs Go To School?" by Jane Yolen
"Yellowbelly and plum Go To School" by Nathan Hale

Saturday, October 6, 2007

'Baby Einstein': not such a bright idea?
By Amber Dance, LA Times Staff Writer - Aug 7, 2007
© 2007 Los Angeles Times

Poorer vocabularies result of viewing, study finds. Researcher says 'American Idol' is better.

Parents hoping to raise baby Einsteins by using infant educational videos are actually creating baby Homer Simpsons, according to a new study released today.

For every hour a day that babies 8 to 16 months old were shown such popular series as "Brainy Baby" or "Baby Einstein," they knew six to eight fewer words than other children, the study found.

Parents aiming to put their babies on the fast track, even if they are still working on walking, each year buy hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of the videos.

Unfortunately it's all money down the tubes, according to Dr. Dimitri , a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Christakis and his colleagues surveyed 1,000 parents in Washington and Minnesota and determined their babies' vocabularies using a set of 90 common baby words, including mommy, nose and choo-choo.

The researchers found that 32% of the babies were shown the videos, and 17% of those were shown them for more than an hour a day, according to the study in the Journal of Pediatrics.

The videos, which are designed to engage a baby's attention, hop from scene to scene with minimal dialogue and include mesmerizing images, like a lava lamp.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children under 24 months.

The Brainy Baby Co. and Walt Disney Co., which markets the "Baby Einstein" videos, did not return calls from the Los Angeles Times.

Christakis said children whose parents read to them or told them stories had larger vocabularies.

"I would rather babies watch 'American Idol' than these videos," Christakis said, explaining that there is at least a chance their parents would watch with them — which does have developmental benefits.

Listen to the NPR interview with Christakis

Read The TIME magazine article

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

An Apple a Day - Fun Apple Activities
By Jolanda Garcia

Fall is here and what better way to mark the season than with a month of apple-related activities? It’s the time of year for freshly-baked apple pies, apple festivals, and Johnny Appleseed’s birthday! Take a trip to a farmer’s market or to an orchard to pick your own apples. Have a party to celebrate Johnny Appleseed’s birthday. Serve apple pie and apple juice and plant apple seeds in his honor. These activities will also partner up well with your fall, farm, or harvest themes.

Apple Tidbits

Relate these interesting facts about apples to children to pique their interest and get them excited about apples...:

  • Apples come in all shades of reds, greens, yellows.
  • 2500 varieties of apples are grown in the United States and 7500 varieties of apples are grown throughout the world.
  • The pilgrims planted the first United States apple trees in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
  • Apples are a member of the rose family.
  • The most nutritious part of the apple is the skin.

Make Your Own Applesauce

Applesauce is easy to make. Five pounds of apples makes about 2 quarts of applesauce. Peel, core and slice apples into quarters. Put slices in a pot and partially cover with water. Boil apples until they are soft. Let children use a potato masher to mash the apples to make applesauce. Add sugar and cinnamon to taste.

Dried Apple Rings

First, peel, core, and cut apples into chip-sized circles. Then, dip the circles in fresh lemon juice. Use a wire cutter to cut a clean, white-coated clothes hanger. Next, decorate the hanger with some apples made out of craft paper and add the apple rings. (Don’t let the apple slices touch each other.) Finally, hang the apples in a dry, airy spot and let them dry for one to two weeks. Tip: Rotate the apples every day.

Apple Tasting

Next time you go to the grocery store with your child, point out all the different kinds of apples. Tell your child their names. Buy a few different kinds, and when you get home, let your child try them. Ask your child how each one tastes, how each one is different, and which one is his or her favorite. To add to the fun, purchase or make different things that are made from apples, such as applesauce, dried apples, apple pie, apple butter, and apple cider. Let children sample the treats.

Apple Toss

Set out a laundry basket or a bushel basket and red bean bags or small red balls. Use masking tape to tape a line on the floor. Place the basket a couple of feet away from the line. Have child stand behind the line and try to toss the balls or bags (apples) into the basket.

Plant Apple Seeds

Talk or read a story about Johnny Appleseed and how he planted apple seeds. Provide children with small paper drinking cups, apple seeds, potting soil or dirt, and water. Have children first fill their cups with soil. Then, have them place finger in the soil to make a small hole. Next, have them drop in a seed. Dampen the soil with a small amount of water. Place cups in a well-lighted area and water occasionally.

Apple Relay

To play, you need one apple for each team. On the word "go," a team member places an apple on the back or hand of the first player. The first player races to the end of the course and back without letting the apple fall off her back or hand. If the apple falls off, that player has to stop where she is and put it back on. Once the apple is back in place, she keeps going from where it fell off. When the player gets back to her team, she puts the apple on the back or hand of the next person in line. The first team to finish wins.

Apple Smile

Cut an unpeeled red apple into wedges. The wedges should look like a smile. Spread one side of an apple wedge with peanut butter. Add three or four miniature marshmallow “teeth” along the edge. Spread another apple wedge with peanut butter. Place it on top of the marshmallows for a big, toothy grin.

Visit to find a bushel full of other terrific apple-related ideas.

Jolanda Garcia is a former teacher and educational content designer. Her goal is to provide parents and teachers with quality resources to promote their children's development and creativity. Visit her websites at: for resources and activities to promote healthy eating habits in young children.

Article Source:

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Stress-Relief for the Nanny-Set
By Michael Gerard

A new 20 page 'board stock' book introduces the idea of a nanny to young children.

Hilary Lockhart’s "My Nanny and I" helps transition young children into their new child care setting. In fewer than 200 words the author describes a day with the nanny that is filled with activities, fun and learning. Going to the park, playing dress-up and making arts & crafts are all part of this wonderful book. Fear of being left with a 'stranger' is quickly forgotten as children are introduced to their new care provider.

My nanny is coming
We're going to have fun
We'll play in if it rains
Or play out if there's sun

She will teach me to count
Play puzzles and blocks
To help me get dressed
And put on my socks

Featuring 3 different nannies and full of life illustrations by Edison Gonclaves, this high-quality 'lift-the-flap' book features a photo frame where you can personalize your copy by inserting a picture of nanny and child.

Most importantly, children come to understand that at the end of the day a parent will return home.

My Nanny and I will help ease the transition of bringing a nanny into the family, break the ice for the child and their new caregiver and help create a loving bond between nanny and child.

This book is so cute, so adorable and so absolutely necessary.

With text and beautifully effective illustrations describing everyday activities, My Nanny and I teaches very young children in a reassuring way that the nanny will be there while parents are away, and that mom or dad will be home at the end of the day. The book, entirely self published and printed by the author with resources from around the globe, is of excellent quality -- notwithstanding some punctuation choices that bear the mark of rushed editing.

It’s a simple idea that as adults we take for granted.

No less frightening than being left at school, the idea of being left at home with a stranger can be terrifying for a child. My Nanny and I helps teach toddlers what to expect while in the care of a nanny.

The deceptively simple, rhyming text and first rate illustrations make this a great story-book. When introduced as part of your child’s 'read-aloud' bedtime repertoire it will help prepare him or her for life with nanny.

Think of My Nanny and I as "Stress-Relief for the Nanny-Set".

US $7.99
Board-Stock: 20 pages
Illustrated by Edison Goncalves
Publisher: Children First Publishing (September 7, 2007), Mesa, AZ
ISBN: 0755475526

Friday, September 14, 2007

Defining Food Allergies

Today, it is estimated that 20% of American children have allergies.

In the last twenty years, we have seen an epidemic increase in allergies, asthma, ADHD and autism, including a:

  • 400% increase in food allergies
  • 300% increase in asthma, with a 56% increase in asthma deaths
  • 400% increase in ADHD
  • and between a 1,500 and 6,000% increase in autism.

    The male/female ratio for food allergies is 2:1 and the male/female ratio for asthma is 3:1.

    Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but 90% of all food allergies are caused by one of the following: wheat, eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish and shell fish.

    Industry funded organizations cite data from 2002, stating that the FDA estimates 2 percent of adults and up to 8 percent of young children suffer from food allergies.

    According to this five year old data, at least 1 out of every 17 children under the age of three has a food allergy, about 30,000 people require emergency room treatment for food allergies and an estimated 150 die.

    If you walk into a preschool classroom anywhere in America, the number of students with food allergies tells a much different story, suggesting that these statistics are underestimated and that the problem is far more pervasive than industry groups would have you believe.

    Even more striking is the fact that asthma, another allergic reaction, accounts for almost 5,000 deaths a year, while at the same time, there has been an increase in the number of people with Celiac's Disease (a wheat allergy).

    Food allergy symptoms can range from mild to life threatening and may include:

  • hives
  • itching
  • swelling of the face, lips, tongue and/or eyes
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • cramps
  • itching and tightness of throat
  • difficulty breathing
  • wheezing
  • in extreme cases, anaphylactic shock.

    Anaphylactic shock is a severe allergic reaction that often includes swelling of the face, lips, mouth and throat and it can lead to a drop in blood pressure, shock and unconsciousness. If not treated immediately with epinephrine, anaphylaxis can be fatal.

    Some children may outgrow their food allergy, although increasing evidence suggests that this autoimmune disease may take a progressive nature resulting in additional food allergies, asthma and other related conditions.

    As novel proteins and toxins have been introduced into our food and vaccine supplies in the last ten years, these chemicals appear to create a toxic overload in our children, impacting their immune systems, nervous systems and gastrointestinal systems (in which 70% of our immune systems are found).

    Allergies can also involve inflammation in the lungs (asthma) and brain (ADHD).

    For more information on Food Allegies and a Support Community, visit
    Families With Food Allergies:

  • Food Allergy Basics:
    What You Need To Know To Keep Your Kids Safe
    From Kid's Health

    When Marcy prepared a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for her son Ben's lunch that morning, she did it because they were running late for day care and it was the quickest thing she could put together. But shortly after Ben began eating his lunch, his child-care provider noticed he seemed to be trying to scratch an itch in his mouth. After he vomited and began wheezing, the care provider sought medical treatment for Ben, who was later diagnosed with a food allergy, in this case to peanuts.

    Along with milk, eggs, wheat, soy, and shellfish, peanuts are among the most common foods that cause allergies. For some kids, food allergies can cause only minor discomfort, like a little tingling in the mouth. But for others they can be severe, causing difficulty breathing, for example.

    Learning how to recognize an allergic reaction will help you get your child the medical care needed if a reaction occurs. If your child has already been diagnosed with a food allergy, it's important to know:

  • how to accommodate your child's dietary needs
  • what emergency preparations to make in case your child has an allergic reaction

    What Is a Food Allergy?

    With a food allergy, the body reacts as though that particular food product is harmful. As a result, the body's immune system (which fights infection and disease) creates antibodies to fight the food allergen, the substance in the food that triggers the allergy. The next time a person comes in contact with that food by touching or eating it or inhaling its particles, the body releases chemicals, including one called histamine, to "protect" itself. These chemicals trigger allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, or cardiovascular system. These symptoms might include a runny nose, an itchy skin rash, a tingling in the tongue, lips, or throat, swelling, abdominal pain, or wheezing.

    People often confuse food allergies with food intolerance because of similar symptoms.

    Food intolerance:

    • doesn't involve the immune system
    • can be caused by a person's inability to digest certain substances, such as lactose
    • can be unpleasant but is rarely dangerous

    The symptoms of food intolerance can include burping, indigestion, flatulence, loose stools, headaches, flushing, or nervousness. A person with food intolerance can usually eat small amounts of the particular food without having any symptoms.

    According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), up to 6% of children in the United States under age 3 have food allergies. They are less common in adults but, overall, food allergies affect nearly 4 million people.

    Doctors can't predict which kids will have food allergies and which kids won't, but some factors may place a child at higher risk for developing food allergies. The tendency to become allergic in general is inherited. Many kids with food allergies come from families whose members have a history of other allergies.

    Certain other health conditions are associated with severe allergic reactions to foods. For example, people with asthma are at greater risk for developing severe reactions from food allergies.

    There's nothing you can do to completely eliminate the possibility that your child will develop food allergies. However, breastfeeding (especially exclusive breastfeeding that is not supplemented with infant formula) can help infants who are especially prone to milk or soy allergies avoid allergic reactions. When an infant consumes only breast milk, he or she has a decreased exposure to foods that can cause allergies. Some doctors also recommend that allergy-prone babies not be fed solid foods until 6 months of age or later to avoid exposure to allergenic foods.

    Some Common Food Allergens

    A child could be allergic to any food, but there are eight common allergens that account for 90% of all reactions in children:

    • milk
    • eggs
    • peanuts
    • tree nuts (such as walnuts and cashews)
    • fish
    • shellfish (such as shrimp)
    • soy
    • wheat

    In general, most common food allergies are outgrown in childhood. Of kids who are allergic to milk, eggs, wheat, and soy, 55% of them outgrow those allergies by the time they are 3 years old. When it comes to nuts and seafood, 25% of kids with those allergies outgrow them by the time they are 3 years old.

    Because allergens affect multiple parts of the body, an allergic child may experience a wide variety of symptoms within a few minutes or up to 2 hours after coming into contact with the food. Typically the first symptom is itching; other symptoms involve a rash, gastrointestinal symptoms, nausea, diarrhea, respiratory symptoms, and swelling.

    A common skin symptom of a food allergy is hives, or raised red itchy bumps on the skin. Swelling of the face, throat, lips, and tongue also may occur, often within minutes of contact with the food. Respiratory symptoms such as wheezing and trouble breathing or gastrointestinal symptoms such as sudden abdominal pain and vomiting also are common reactions.

    When a child has a serious allergic reaction with widespread effects on the body, this condition is known as anaphylaxis. A child with anaphylaxis, which can involve the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and other body systems, may:

    • feel dizzy or lightheaded
    • lose consciousness
    • have a rapid heart rate
    • have difficulty breathing because of a swelling in the throat and airways
    • have a life-threatening drop in blood pressure (also known as anaphylactic shock)

    Without rapid emergency medical treatment, children with anaphylaxis can die if they are unable to breathe or if they collapse due to shock.

    Medications that increase the heart rate and blood pressure, such as epinephrine, are often needed to control any kind of severe allergic reaction.

    Diagnosing a Food Allergy

    you suspect your child may have a food allergy, it's a good idea to contact your child's doctor or an allergy specialist. The doctor will take your child's medical history and ask questions about specific symptoms and your child's diet. To help identify specific allergens, the doctor may ask you to keep a food diary for your child with details on what foods are eaten and when symptoms occur.

    Before diagnosing your child with a food allergy, the doctor will look for any other conditions that could be causing symptoms. For example, if your child seems to have diarrhea after drinking milk, the doctor may check to see if lactose intolerance could be causing this instead of a food allergy. In rare cases, a child is sensitive to dyes or food additives such as yellow #5 or monosodium glutamate (or MSG, a flavor enhancer commonly used in Asian and other foods), which can cause symptoms similar to those of a food allergy.

    Another condition that may mimic food allergy symptoms is celiac disease, in which the child is not able to tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat and certain other grains. Occasionally, a reaction can be caused by eating cheese, wine, or fish with high levels of histamine, a chemical occurring naturally in the body that in larger amounts may cause symptoms such as hives and rashes.

    may recommend an elimination diet to help diagnose and identify a food allergy. During an elimination diet, a child avoids eating any food that is suspected of causing an allergy and the doctor follows the results to see if allergy symptoms disappear. If they do, the food will then be reintroduced to see if the child's symptoms reappear.

    also may be done to diagnose a food allergy. This procedure is usually performed in the doctor's office. The doctor will prick or scratch the child's skin with a plastic or metal prong with a small amount of allergen on it, placing the suspected allergic substance on the skin. If the child develops an itchy bump surrounded by redness (also called a wheal) within 15 minutes of the skin prick, the child is considered allergic to that substance.

    For children who have extremely severe allergic reactions or other skin conditions such as eczema, the skin test may cause irritation or other more serious reactions. Your child's doctor may also do blood tests that check for antibodies for specific allergens.

    Treating a Food Allergy

    After diagnosing your child with a food allergy, the doctor will help you create a treatment plan. No medication can cure food allergies, so treatment usually means avoiding the allergen and all the foods that contain it.

    Often, allergists will instruct parents to completely restrict the allergen from the child's diet. But it can be difficult to eliminate the offending food and maintain an otherwise nutritious, balanced diet, so it may be helpful to consult a registered dietitian about your child's diet.

    Your child also may be advised to avoid foods containing similar allergens because they could cause a reaction as well. For example, a child who experiences hives and wheezing after eating shrimp probably will be told to avoid other shellfish such as lobster and crab. Your child's doctor should provide you with information about foods to avoid, ingredients to be careful of, and support groups for parents of children with food allergies.

    Although there's no cure for food allergies, medications can treat both minor and severe symptoms. Antihistamines may be used to treat symptoms such as hives, runny nose, and abdominal pain associated with an allergic reaction. If your child wheezes or has asthma flares (also called attacks) as the result of a food allergy, the doctor will likely recommend that a bronchodilator such as albuterol (which can be inhaled from a handheld pump device) be taken right away to reduce breathing difficulties. But remember: If your child experiences an allergy-triggered breathing problem, it's important to seek emergency medical treatment immediately, even if your child has been given breathing medications at home or school to treat the reaction.

    Epinephrine is often used to treat severe allergic reactions. If your child has severe food allergies, it's a good idea to have epinephrine within easy reach for quick use at all times. This may mean keeping epinephrine in your home, car, briefcase or purse, and also at relatives' homes, and your child's day care or school.

    Signs and symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:

    • feeling of warmth, flushing, or tickling in the mouth
    • red, itchy rash
    • hives
    • feeling of lightheadedness
    • shortness of breath
    • wheezing
    • severe sneezing
    • anxiety
    • cramps in the stomach or uterus
    • vomiting or diarrhea

    If your child has a food allergy reaction severe enough to cause wheezing, you should seek emergency care immediately instead of using an inhaler to treat the wheezing. As soon as you recognize that your child is having a severe reaction, call 911 and explain your child's condition. Quick treatment can mean the difference between life and death for children with the most severe food allergies.

    Feeding Your Child With Food Allergies

    Feeding a child with food allergies can be challenging. You'll need to familiarize yourself with food labels and ingredients lists so you can avoid your child's particular allergen. Below are a few suggestions of what to watch out for.

    If your child is allergic to:

  • Milk: Avoid cheeses, butter, creams, and yogurt. Also avoid lactose-free milk as well as foods with ingredients such as casein and whey.

  • Eggs: Avoid cakes, cookies, pastries, mayonnaise, and egg substitutes. Also avoid foods that contain ovalbumin, often abbreviated as Ov. Some fresh pastas and soups may also be prepared with eggs. In addition, the doctor may advise against a flu shot for a child with an egg allergy because the flu vaccine contains small amounts of egg protein.

  • Soy: Avoid soybeans, soy nut butter, soy sauce, soy protein, soy oil, and tofu. Also avoid any food with lecithin in the ingredients list.

  • Peanuts: Avoid any food that contains nuts, as well as peanut flour or peanut oil. You will also want to prevent your child from eating Asian foods (which are often cooked in peanut oil), egg rolls, chocolate, candy bars, and any pastries that may contain nuts. If a food's ingredients include hydrolyzed plant or vegetable protein, avoid it because it may contain peanuts. Although peanuts and tree nuts are two different foods and are not actually related, children who have peanut allergies are advised to avoid tree nuts (and vice versa) because about 30% react to both allergens.

  • Tree nuts: Avoid almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, cashews, and macadamia nuts. You'll also want to keep your child away from nut butters or any product that mentions nuts in the ingredients list, including ice cream or crackers, unless you know them to be nut-free.

  • Shellfish: Avoid crab, lobster, shrimp, snails, clams, and oysters, as well as other types of shellfish. Children who are allergic to shellfish may be able to tolerate fish that swim, such as flounder or cod, but testing may be needed to determine any sensitivity to those foods. Alternatively, children who are allergic to fish that swim may tolerate shellfish. Marinara sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salad dressings, and hot dogs and deli meats may also contain fish or shellfish ingredients.

    In general, if your child has severe food allergies, it's a good idea to be cautious about allowing your child to eat processed foods. If you cook with whole-food ingredients and bake from scratch, you'll greatly decrease your child's risk of exposure to an allergen.

    And just because your child has a food allergy doesn't mean that favorite kid foods have to be out of reach. Many of your favorite family recipes can be easily modified to fit your child's special needs. For example, in recipes calling for milk, substitute equal amounts of juice or water to preserve consistency. If your child has an egg allergy, you can substitute a mixture of 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) of baking powder, 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) of water or milk, and 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) of vinegar for each egg. For more information about food substitutions and allergen-free recipes, look to food allergy organizations such as the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (access their website by clicking the Additional Resources tab), which publishes cookbooks and recipes for parents of children with food allergies.

    Beginning in 2006, packaged foods that contain some of the most common allergens must be clearly labeled. Food makers are required to clearly state, in or adjacent to the list of ingredients, whether the product contains milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soybeans. This new law only applies to foods labeled after the start of 2006, so there may still be products on the grocery store shelves that were packaged before then, which don't have information about allergens.

    Even so, eating packaged foods or dining in schools or restaurants could bring your child into contact with hidden sources of the allergen. Even if a food does not initially contain the allergenic food as an ingredient, your child could be exposed to it due to cross-contamination. In cross-contamination, a pan, utensil, dish, or surface used to prepare an allergenic food could contaminate a food that wouldn't normally cause a reaction. For example, cheeses and deli meats might be cut with the same slicer, which could be dangerous for a child with a milk allergy who orders a cheese-free sandwich.

    Planning is key to helping your child enjoy meals and snacks and avoid allergic reactions. In general, it's safer to pack your child's food yourself than to rely on restaurants. If you do visit a restaurant with your child, it's important to ask detailed questions about the preparation techniques and ingredients used to make the food. And consider choosing simply prepared menu items such as cuts of meat, steamed vegetables, or baked potatoes instead of complicated dishes that contain many ingredients.

    Traveling with a child who has food allergies can be challenging, but many hotels and airlines offer options to make it a little easier. When making reservations with an airline, it's a good idea to tell the representative that your child has food allergies. With prior notice, some airlines will avoid serving peanut snacks during the flight and most will serve your child allergen-free meals. To ensure your child's safety, confirm your child's special meal before boarding the plane and ask the flight attendants how the food is prepared so you're sure there's no chance of cross-contamination. At your destination, consider staying in a hotel or motel offering small refrigerators or hot plates that will allow you to prepare meals in your room.

    Although packing your child's lunch will avoid cross-contamination and ensure that your child eats only allergen-free foods, you also may be able to work with your child's school cafeteria to manage your child's allergy. Talk to the school's nutritionist for detailed information about the ingredients in breakfast or lunch menus, and discuss food preparation practices to determine if cross-contamination could take place. Some schools even provide peanut-free tables or rooms for children with severe peanut allergies. It's important to be open with teachers and school administrators about your child's allergy so they can help keep your child safe.

    Other Tips for Avoiding Reactions

    The key to successful management of your child's food allergy is being prepared. Depending on the severity of the allergy, your child's doctor may recommend that your child carry prescription medication, such as epinephrine, in case of a severe allergic reaction. You may also be instructed to keep antihistamines close at hand to treat your child in case of an emergency.

    Unfortunately, mistakes can happen even when you and your child are being careful. Because of the potential severity of allergic reactions to food, your child should wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace with the allergic condition inscribed on it. In an emergency, medical personnel or doctors will know that your child has a food allergy.

    Try to work with your child's school or child-care center to find ways your child can be supervised to prevent contact with allergenic foods. Find out who would give your child treatment and discuss your child's allergies with that person, making sure that they have any necessary medications.

    Although breastfeeding is one way to delay a child's exposure to allergens, certain allergens from foods in a mother's diet can be passed through breast milk and cause a reaction in an infant. If your family has a history of food allergies and you are breastfeeding your child, discuss your situation with an allergy specialist or your child's doctor. The doctor may recommend that you eliminate major allergenic foods such as dairy products, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, fish and shellfish, and soy from your own diet.

    If you must eliminate a major component of your diet - such as dairy products - consider consulting a registered dietitian to ensure that your diet is balanced and provides enough calories for good health while you're nursing.

    A final crucial step in protecting your child is stressing the importance of healthy habits. Teach your child to never share or trade food at school or at a friend's house. If the allergy isn't outgrown, you'll need to teach your child how to read food labels and ingredients lists and to ask how food is prepared when eating away from home.

    Article © 2005 from:
    Updated and reviewed by: William J. Geimeier, MD
    Date reviewed: July 2005
    Reviewed by: Stephen McGeady, MD

    For more information and support, visit
    Families With Food Allergies:

  • Thursday, August 16, 2007

    By "Coffee Queen" from Hub Pages

    Parents and often struggle with how best to have preschoolers spend their free time. Research has long found that home environment can make a huge difference in kids' cognitive and other abilities. And summer, particularly for toddlers and preschoolers, is the time that parents (and grandparents) have with children that can really help kids grow emotionally, behaviorally and academically while also having a ton of fun!

    Below is a research-based list of recommendations for creating an educational environment for a toddler and preschool age child during the summer months.

    Every day, parents/grandparents should:

    1. Create opportunities for imaginative play. Some form of daily "pretend play" improves emotional/behavioral skills. And emotional/behavioral skills predict academic performance later in life. A couple of suggestions of how to create an environment that support imaginative play might include:

  • Fill a costume chest with dress up clothes and old kids Halloween costumes. You can get great deals on EBay for all sorts of kids' costumes!

  • Play the Magic Elevator. Spread a towel on the ground for your 'elevator.' Step in and push the pretend button to travel to different floors. Describe each step: 'The door is opening' (show with your hands). 'We're getting on the elevator' (step on the towel). 'We're pushing two' (push button). 'We're going up' (look up), etc. Get off at different floors and describe what you see at each one. Visit the whispering floor, the jumping/ flying floor, the eating ice cream floor, the walking backwards floor, the tiger floor, etc.

  • Restock your arts supply kits with scissors, markers, crayons, pens, paints and lots and lots of paper. There are tons of activities that go beyond just drawing that really helps kids stimulate their imagination and abstract thinking skills. Here are just a couple:
    Rock Family - Collect enough rocks to represent each member of your family. Paint the rocks either to look like each person. Place your new Rock Family in your garden or near the front door

    Life-Size Paper Doll - Take a long piece of butcher paper and have your child lie down on top of it (his or her entire body needs to fit within the edges with a good margin around the sides). Trace around your child's body with a Sharpie. When your child stands up, you will have an outline that you and your child can dress and decorate however you wish.

  • Have on hand some form of building blocks. Wedgits are great for any age - very young toddlers can mix and match shapes and colors. Regular old building blocks and legos are, of course, classics and instrumental in helping kids put their imagination to work. For older preschool age children, the Quadrilla Basic Set is an elegantly simple wooden block set that allows kids to create magnificent marble runs and understand elemental physics!

    2. Include physical play. Some sort of physical play helping children develop gross (ball throwing, bike riding) and fine (handwriting) motor skills matters too. There is a direct correlation between the gross motor skill development of a preschooler and long term health. Summer is wonderful since it just charms all of us outdoors. In addition to splashing in a pool, running on a beach, tumbling on a lawn and all the other great joys of summer there are some activities you can do with your preschooler that help them develop both those gross motor skills and fine motor skills on rainy days.
  • Make an obstacle course. For gross motor skills, creating an obstacle course within your own living room with arrows using masking tape - of chairs to climb over, tables to climb under, pillows, couch cushions, boxes, step stools, hula hoops (if you have them) - and using different movements - crawling, walking, climbing, walking backwards, tiptoeing - on a rainy day is an excellent way for children to learn how their bodies move though space and a sense of balance.

  • Bead necklaces. Beading necklaces is wonderful for eye hand coordination (for younger toddlers be sure to put a piece of tape around the end of the string to make it easier to bead!)

  • Play Operation. Playing the game Operation is terrific for helping kids master the precision and strength needed someday to write letters. And when this fun game prompts you to clarify for your little one that he doesn't in fact have a wishbone down near his belly button, then you've just found yourself an early biology tool too!
  • 3. Integrate the ABCs and 123s into daily activity. We know focus on cognitive areas such as ABCs and 123s matters enormously. For example, how well a child reads at the end of first grade predicts how well they read in later grades, graduation rates and even their income level as an adult. There are so many very simple ways that parents can reinforce those basic literacy and numeric concepts at home.

  • Count and count again. Research shows that toddlers internalize counting when this is closely integrated with daily living. So if your toddler is helping you cook, count the number of times you each are stirring and then hand off the wooden spoon "1,2,3,4,5 stirs; now it is your turn". When half the family is sitting at the dinner table, talk about joining the other three people pointing at each one "1,2,3 and you make 4" when your child sits down. You will be amazed at how quickly your toddler picks up this behavior and starts counting on his/her own!

  • Sprinkle your home with visual toys and cues - such as alphabet wall art, puzzles, blocks, tracing paper - for your child to just pick up and play with at will. The more they interact with the ABCs and 123s, and there are some wonderful tools to help them do so, the more quickly they will pick up these building blocks to later academic success. Some of our favorites are eeBoo wall art, Leap Frog's ABC bus and Melissa and Doug's ABC and number puzzles.

  • Plan ABC and 123 Activities. Make time to do fun, creative activities that reinforce the ABCs and 123s. There are dozens of ways to do that. Here are a couple of our favorites;

    - Create your own ABC book. Start by cutting even size paper that will make up the pages of the book. Over the course of a week or so, create the pages in the book. Start with 'A', write a capital 'A' and a lowercase 'a'. Talk about an item (that you can draw - like apple) that starts with an 'A'. Draw the item next to the letters. Talk about the item and the letter, if you can find it in your house, find the object. Make it something special that your child can look forward to doing every day. Get stickers (with letters and objects if you can) and have your child decorate the pages with stickers and crayons. Do a letter or two a day. At the end of the alphabet, punch holes on the side of the paper and put ribbon through the holes to make a book that your child can keep.

    - Set up a room in your house like a grocery store. Put some of your kids' favorite foods on tables and other low pieces of furniture -- these will make the aisles of the grocery store. Then give your kids something to use as a basket. Then give the kids some money -- real or pretend -- to use to 'buy' their food. Not only is this activity fun, but you can use it to teach young children colors, shapes, counting, and food names. Older children can learn about making a recipe, finding food from all the food groups, and addition and subtraction. And, who knows, the next trip to the grocery store might be a little more fun for them!
  • Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    By Jenna Forrest from Hub Pages

    Five year old Shakira is a brilliant interpreter of the voiceless, understanding the needs of plants, animals, babies, the elderly and infirm, even the organs in her own body. She sees and feels the energy and emotions in the room, evaluating others' intentions, moods, and their tone with precocious wisdom. She looks between words for the essence of a message by reading a person's posture, gestures, and facial expressions. This ability to feel what others are feeling makes her very slow, careful, anxious and sometimes highly reactive.

    At seven, Nathan still sucks his thumb. He appears to be clingy and needy. Nathan is the type of kid who will suddenly announce a startling insight which brings him intense love, awe or joy, then a moment later becomes deeply burdened with empathy or deep compassion for a person in despair, a character suffering on TV, an animal without water in his bowl or an insect that someone wants to kill.

    Some of Brennen's ten year old insights are adult-like in their nature. He may prefer to read rather than play. He might work intensely on a project rather than watch TV. He is very socially aware and he feels guilty about not being able to do enough to save the world. His deep concern for the world often makes him appear defiant and stubborn as he resists using products or participating in activities that may harm the Earth or its inhabitants.

    Like Shakira, Nathan, and Brennan, your child is quite different from most other kids, and it is troubling to you. In fact, your child's quirky behavior is starting to bring daily stress and frustration into your life. Your child of course is not being intensely sensitive on purpose. Still, you're frustrated. You've tried everything to help your child get along better in the world and in the family. You have consoled her, tried to make suggestions to fix his problems, avoided her tantrums, indulged his neediness, and when all of that didn't work you resorted to threatening and punishing her stubborn or emotional behavior, and that made everything even worse.

    You may be at the point where you're wishing for a magic wand to make everything better between you and your child. The good news is, there is a panacea: Let him or her feel your warmth and understanding. That's all. Sounds easy, right? Well, while real life often gets in the way of simple solutions like offering understanding, over time, parents are finding, with sensitive kids it actually works wonders.

    One parent writes, "Here's how understanding my child's motivations helped me win with my six-year-old sensory-driven daughter:"

    "The main thing I've found helpful with my daughter Julia is to work extra time into the day so I don't have to rush her. She really takes her time with things and once I put myself in her shoes, I've realized that she's not doing anything "bad," she just is very detailed, resulting in things taking a long time.

    "For example, when she eats, she takes forever. But if you watch her, it's not that she's not eating. It's that she is eating very slowly. She seems to really take the time to chew and taste her food.

    "When she puts her sandals on, she takes the time to really put them on correctly... readjusting both the toe and the ankle velcro so they feel just right.

    "The seatbelt... makes sure it's not twisted and is just right.

    "Feeding the cats... takes time to make sure they both get exactly the same amount of food.

    "Just tonight, I saw her staring at her dish during dinner (we were having spaghetti), and I reminded her "It's getting late, we need to finish up." She said, "Look Mommy, it's the breast cancer ribbon!" She had been looking at the spaghetti and noticed that there was a piece in the shape of the pink ribbon.

    "Building extra time into our day has made a huge difference. Instead of letting her "pokiness" drive me crazy, I just allow extra time for her to "smell the coffee."

    "That said, we were having an issue in kindergarten earlier this year with her teacher reporting that she was "not staying on task and not getting her work done in the allotted time." After watching her and talking with her, I figured out the problem!

    "If she had a worksheet that instructed her to color every picture that begins with the letter "D," she would REALLY color it! The dog would have a pink hat, brown body, blue eyes and red leash. I realized that she was coloring everything to perfection and that was what was taking her so long. It's not that she didn't know the answers or that she was doing "other things."

    "What solved the problem was explaining to her that sometimes when you color, it's to make things look pretty, like when you're making a picture or a book cover. But other times, you're just supposed to quickly color it to show you know the answer... those don't have to be "perfect." The problem cleared up immediately and I received a phone call from the teacher within just two weeks that she's doing much better with not having "unfinished work."

    While this mother's advice may not help you the next time your sensory-driven child comes home from a sleepover party sobbing with overwhelm, it may help you prevent it from happening in the first place. By following her example and practicing the tips below, you and your sensory driven child are both poised to win.

    Tip number one - understand.
    Get informed. Once you start to learn about the inner struggles that sensory driven kids experience, you begin to realize that your child feels terribly guilty about her heavy emotions and wishes she could just be "normal." He also knows he is more clever, wise, and perceptive than most. You'll learn that behind your child's anxious or defiant behavior is a deep and nagging need to have his or her intense feelings acknowledged. Spend time talking with your child where he or she can open up. For example, plan for spending time with her in nature or work together with him to create a calm uncluttered quiet environment that's free from chemicals and other subtle annoyances. As you spend time together, let your child know that you know he or she is wise and special and has very important things to offer the world.

    Tip number 2 -- validate.
    As you have likely found in the information-gathering stage suggested in tip number one, some children find their senses so overwhelming that they truly believe their presence in the world is a mistake, that they don't belong on earth because nothing feels right and nothing fits right. It can be life-changing for your sensory driven child to hear and experience two main messages repeatedly: "You belong in the world" and "you belong in our family."

    Tip number 3 -- accept.
    What works for most children most likely will not work for super sensory kids. Your sensitive child's reasons for doing what he does runs deep. Punishing that behavior can cause your child to lose confidence in himself and feel helpless. Rather than rushing your child to make a decision, for example, you might say, "I know that choices might frustrate you and take you longer that others, but it's because you're weighing countless outcomes and looking at all the details." That tells him you realize that being thoughtful or picky about his choices, (his clothing, his food, or his friends) is part of who he is and that it's ok. This allows him to accept the sensory-driven part of himself that's telling him what does and doesn't feel good. Letting him know that you understand it's his nature to feel things deeply and consider things slowly tells him that you are there for him and that you two can work as a team to deal with any decisions, challenges or upsets that may come in the future. While it may seem that this form of patience encourages slow behavior, it actually builds confidence towards his making quicker decisions in the future.

    Tip number 3 - empathize.
    Sensory-driven kids have a hard time finding enjoyment in life because their senses are often rubbed raw. When they finally find fun, sometimes they can't bear for it to end. When enjoyment is quickly taken away from a young supersensory child, it can be especially traumatic, because he or she doesn't know when the fun will return. Before punishing the temper tantrum that sometimes starts when the fun ends, try to empathize by saying, "I know you're mad and I know you want to keep all the toys, because you're having fun and sometimes fun seems far away." Make an effort to enlist your child in consoling, enjoyable and nurturing activities where no strangers are present to balance their anxiety and soothe their senses.

    Tip number 4 - relate.
    "Everybody hates me." "I feel so alone." "I hate the world." No matter how extreme and unrealistic your child's declarations sound, try to relate by sharing a time in your life when you felt the same way. Without offering suggestions or changing the subject, remember out loud how you felt the world was against you and then simply listen to your child, allowing him or her to explore and express his or her feelings freely.

    Tip number 5 -- empower.
    At every single moment, your child is paying very close attention to every word on television, every song lyric, every sigh between you and your spouse; analyzing it, evaluating it and searching for the meaning behind it. It is your child's choice what he or she will do with that information once it's processed. In the four steps above you've taught your child through experience and circumstances that she is safe, that he isn't alone, that she can trust her nature and that he can process is feelings out loud. With this foundation in place, you can empower your child to make healthy choices based on the sensory information they have collected.

    All in all, setting a goal of having compassion for how your child experiences things, your consistent effort and presence will pay off for both of you, stimulating a parent-child bond that relieves your child of the anxiety that lies at the root of his or her over-the top behavior.

    JENNA FORREST, B.S.A. is the author of Help Is On Its Way, the first memoir written specifically to unveil the shocking secrets that sensitive kids keep hidden.

    By Katie Moseff - from Hub Pages

    What can you do for your child?

    No one truly enjoys conflict. When that conflict centers around our children, it is particularly uncomfortable. Parents of learning disabled children may feel especially vulnerable when conflicts come up at school through the teacher, administration, or other students. Not only do parents want to protect their child, they also want to maintain the school as a safe and positive environment for their child-conflict may seem to threaten that security.

    You may find that your child has been labeled ADD or ADHD. This would truly show itself at home as well as in school.

    In school they sometimes label normal students as learning disabled. Sometimes that student may just have a problem with behavior. Teachers have problems dealing with bad students, so they want to judge them and place them in a special class with (LD) classification. This in turn hurts the student because they are now placed in remedial classes with students that are behind because they have behavioral problems. This will put the student behind while creating that mental theory of them not being able to learn. In truth they can learn, but because of behavior problems, and over crowding classes causes people or teachers to misrepresent students with this classification.

    Unfortunately, because of their close emotional attachment to the child, parents were often seen by the professionals to be less than helpful to the process and consequently, even their legitimate concerns were essentially ignored by professionals.

    If you feel that you child is not learning because of behavior problems and not learning problems. The government has in place a testing system that can judge the grade level of the student. The government also has implanted IQ test for grade school children. These kind of test can tell whether the child is developmentally delayed, have learning problems, or just a bad student in the classroom. The school normally gives the texts every so often but a parent can request that the school test their child with an IQ test before labeling them as a child that has (LD).

    It is important for parents of labeled children to remember that "normal" children also have conflicts at school. Sometimes conflict may come up as the school year gets started, while your child is adjusting to the new routine and the teacher is getting to know all of the children. Be sure to keep a folder or file box with all of your child's learning plans, progress notes, past report cards, doctor's reports, and anything else related to academics or the learning disability. If you are called for a visit due to a problem, it is good to have this file handy so you can share information the teacher may need to meet your child's unique needs.

    The school will need to provide basic services for your child as outlined in the legal document, the IEP or the Individual Education Plan. This plan is a legal document and does bind the school to deliver needed services as outlined in the plan, it is created after careful testing and consultation with professionals and educators. Keep your copy handy for any problems that may arise.

    If the problem is related to something your child did or said, make sure you do hold your child accountable. Children with learning disabilities who are placed in a public school do best when parents expect good behavior from them. Explain to your child what they did, talk about the effects this behavior had on others, and be clear with consequences. Get a good reading on whether your child understood the rules or whether they were not clear for them.

    One of the most common conflict parents with a disabled child face center around the education plan (IEP.) When these conflicts arise in the classroom or in the school it is important to meet them head on-remaining firm, clear, and calm about the services your child needs, referring to the plan that was agreed to, and continuing to expect the school or teacher to make the agreed accommodations. There are multiple channels you can follow if the expectations of the education plan are not met. It is important that you remain very involved in your child's education when an IEP is in place, sometimes certain provisions of the IEP are not followed, and the consequences to your child's learning can be profound.

    Again, remain involved, urge on behalf of your child, and hold your child accountable for problems they can control.

    Monday, August 13, 2007

    NANNY 411:
    Make The Right Call
    Jean Chatzky Monday, July 23rd 2007 © NY Daily News All Rights Reserved
    Relationships are always complicated, but the one between parents and a nanny can be stickier than most.

    With reality shows like "Nanny 911" and "Supernanny" on TV, "Mary Poppins" on Broadway and "The Nanny Diaries" movie due out this fall, nannies have never been more in the spotlight.

    In the real world, the profession is getting a push from the fact that so many parents need to work or want to work after having kids. Nannies aren't just for the well-to-do.

    "This is increasingly a middle-class choice, because so many women are in families that require two incomes," said Lucy Kaylin, author of the new book, "The Perfect Stranger: The Truth About Mothers and Nannies."

    "For many people, this is simply a more reasonable solution than day care," Kaylin said. As a working mother myself, I know first-hand how hard it is to leave your kids in the hands of a veritable stranger. The list of qualities you want in a nanny is already a mile long, and when you add in feelings of jealousy and guilt it's hard not to succumb to all-out nitpicking.

    But the truth is this:
    Julie Andrews is not going to show up at your door.

    Here's what you should keep in mind when hiring a nanny:

    Set your priorities
    Before you start the interview process, you have to know what you're looking for. List the duties of the job, the hours and how much you can afford to pay (the norm is $10 to $15 an hour). Keep in mind that their first responsibility is your child, so you don't want to distract them with other chores. Next, take some time to jot down qualities you'd like to see in a candidate to narrow the pool. Experience, flexibility and a calm demeanor all come to mind.

    Ask around
    The best way to find top-notch service, whether it's a nanny or a dentist, is word of mouth. Try co-workers. Some will be able to recommend one or, at the least, a referral service, said Pat Cascio of the International Nanny Association. If you use a service, check it out it with the Better Business Bureau. A good one will supply references, a background check and employment history.

    The interviews
    A couple of tips from Cascio: Have candidates name several different activities they'd suggest for your child, and ask how they feel about your parenting philosophies. A good nanny's answers will be age specific where applicable, and will indicate a desire to follow your guidelines. Instinct will tell you when you've found the right one. A good plan is to hire on a trial basis for the first few weeks.

    Lose the guilt
    It may take a bit of time to adjust, but eventually you've got to come to terms with your decision to return to work. If you let it get to you, you'll be miserable, and you'll probably make the nanny and your kids unhappy, too. "At a certain point, you have to accept that you're not there and you've hired someone else to be there. That's when you can move forward," Kaylin said.

    Don't micromanage
    If you look for mistakes by your new nanny, you'll find them. As a parent, you might even make the same ones. I'm not a fan of nanny cams or other snooping devices. Instead, drop by from time to time.

    If you've chosen well, you shouldn't have to leave a million lists or require a daily log of every feeding and diaper change. ---

    With Arielle McGowen
    Jean Chatzky is the author of the best-selling book, "Make Money, Not Excuses." She hosts a daily show on "Oprah & Friends" on XM Radio and writes columns at She also is the financial editor of NBC's "Today" show.'

    How To Know If You've Snagged Mary Poppins
    from MSN

    1. Your child lights up at the first sight of her. Kids look forward to the time they spend with their nanny if she's warm, caring, and patient. And you're doubly in luck if it's not just the kids who like having her around. "I consider myself very lucky to have my nanny," says Toni Lewis, a Los Angeles architect. "If she weren't my nanny, I could see being friends with her."

    2. Your kids can't stop talking about all the wonderful things she says and does. You may find a caregiver who can do everything well, but if she truly enjoys being in the company of children, your kids will know it. Her love will shine through every day she's with your child.

    3. She comes up with creative solutions to problems and works with you to provide the best possible care for your child. If your child has run out of paint, for example, she'll find some household supplies your child can use to fashion an objet d'art. If your child isn't sleeping, she'll turn to you for advice and help. It shows that she takes her job seriously when she both takes initiative and collaborates with you.

    4. She arrives on time. Other signs she's reliable: She gives you ample warning when she's unable to care for your child because of an emergency, and even helps you find a substitute caregiver. She's considerate of your needs and respects the terms of your contract. "My nanny was always there at our agreed-upon time," says Kirsi Tikki, a professor from Port Washington, New York. "If she was sick, she let me know right away."

    5. She makes an effort to stay connected. A nanny who takes her job seriously will keep you informed of daily activities by writing you notes, filling out a daily report, or setting aside some time for the two of you to catch up. She'll understand that you'll want to know how your child is doing, and will keep you abreast of any problems, big or small.

    6. Your child volunteers new songs and words, and shows off his many projects. The best nannies are aware of and cherish children's curiosity. They'll try to answer questions, elicit imaginative responses, and think up creative ways to teach new skills. And because his activities are so much fun, your child will want to display his prowess.
    7. Your child's room is clean, and so is your child. Excellent care includes cleanliness and good health. Your nanny will practice good hygiene around your child if she truly has his welfare in mind.

    8. Accidents are infrequent. A good nanny makes safety a priority at home and on the road. She'll hold your child's hand when they cross a street on the way to the park, keep the safety gate to the kitchen closed at all times, and buckle up your child in the car seat.

    Saturday, August 11, 2007


    By Jonathan H. Gerard, PhD

    Taking Aim At Night-Time Fears

    It is a common phenomenon of childhood to develop a fear of monsters for a brief period of time, usually between the ages of three and eight—inevitably at bedtime. Parents need to be careful, when responding to this fear, not, inadvertently, to reinforce it. As we think about a solution to this “problem” we want to be careful not to create an even greater problem.

    This means that you should not seek to ameliorate a child’s fears by doing anything that will encourage that fear. For example:

    1. Do not tell a child that, if he or she is afraid of a monster, he or she may delay bedtime and come sit with you, the parent, for a while. This will just teach a child how to get to stay up later with you—without helping to reduce his or her fear.

    2. Do not sit with your child in her bedroom, keeping her company until she falls asleep. Over time, you’ll find yourself a prisoner of her bedroom.
    3. Do not let your child sleep in your bedroom. That, too, will become a problem that outlives the “monster.”

    Also, do not deny your child’s “reality” by denying the existence of monsters. You won’t convince him and in the process you’ll only make yourself seem ignorant and irrelevant in his eyes. But at the same time, do not openly lie to your child, confirming a belief in monsters that you do not share.

    We have found these two solutions to be of value—the first for younger children, the second for older. Try them in this order. With luck and pluck, you won’t even need the second one—so you can hold it in reserve in case a fear of monsters returns.

    1. With a gleam in your eye and a smile on your face, tell your child that she has nothing to fear. You have a can of “Monster Spray” that your mother (father) used when you were her age. Say, “Wait here while I get it.” (Only adults will note the irony of the command “wait here”. What else would a child in bed do?)

    Then get a spray bottle with some water in it or a plant water mister or some such. Wait 5-10 minutes before returning. Bring the can or bottle into your child’s room. If she is asleep (this often happens while she’s safely waiting for your return) save the solution for the next time she complains and proceed as follows. If she’s still awake, do this now:

    Say, “This Monster Spray ‘repels’ all monsters. They can't get past it. I’m going to spray the windows and doors with it so that they cannot come into your room. But I have to tell you, It only works for three days. Remind me to spray again in three days.”

    Then spray the entire outline of every window and doorway into the room. Remember to spray a line across the the bottom of the doorway and both around the closet and under the bed! Spray lightly, though thoroughly so your child can see the spray being applied. (Obviosuly, don't spray anything that will be toxic to your child. Do not use a cleaning spray as these usually contain harmful chemicals.)

    Your child will now feel safe and affirmed and fall asleep. Note that the gleam and smile we mentioned at the start are important. In her fear your child may not notice this body language and will, instead, respond to your verbal cues and real actions. But with hindsight, once the fear is outgrown, your child will recall your affect and come to understand this response of yours as making a fun game of a problem while totally detoxifying it. In this way you will not risk losing the trust of your child.

    Also note that the point is to allay the fear without inviting it back. Let your child remind you when it's time to spray again - don't bring up the subject unless she brings it to you.

    A SECOND SOLUTION for older children or to use if the first one fails—is this: After you tuck your child into bed, tell him that you, too, worried about monsters when you "lived in _________" (make it a different place than where you live now so that it seems as far away as possible). Give him the bottle of Monster-Spray (or a water-pistol filled with monster-spray) and explain that "this enabled me to sleep safely. No monster ever made it out of my house alive."

    Your child will soon fall asleep, quickly loosing his grip from the monster “weapon”, knowing he now has some control over his fear. Leave the weapon in his room for as long as he needs it. Do not remind him of it or initiate a discussion of monsters.

    Do not remind him of his fears. Do not risk embarrassing him of a fear that may only recently have been real, but which now is outgrown. Never take credit for helping your child overcome his or her fear. This diminishes self-esteem. It is your child who found a way through the fear. If he or she brings it up at some point in the future, praise his ability to overcome it relatively quickly. Normalize it by pointing out that all children have a fear of monsters “when they are young.”

    You can spend a lot of energy trying to figure out why your child suddenly developed a fear of monsters. We recommend you spend your energy on more personally useful tasks. It does not matter what the origin of the fear is, so long as you can help your child overcome it without raising your own anxiety level and without replacing the problem with a greater one. The tools we recommend (spray, golf club) are the implements by which your child will overcome his fear by himself.

    © 2007 The Sitter Cafe LLC - Childcare Solutions – All Rights Reserved


    By Jonathan H. Gerard, PhD

    It is not unusual for children to fall out of bed at night. (It is not unusual for grownups to fall out of bed at night but this is not a column of sex advice.) The problem for your child inevitably comes during those first few nights or weeks when you have transferred him from the safety of a crib to the initially more dangerous environment of a bed.

    Here’s what many parents do to try to prevent their children from falling out of bed: They say, “Don’t fall out of bed.”

    At first blush this seems like pretty good advice. Why, then, do so many children decline to take it? It has nothing to do with bad memory or rebelliousness or inexperience in a bed or even with a disinclination to take advice. (This latter comes only with increasing adulthood.)

    The reason that children do not seem to listen to your heartfelt and useful advice has to do with the way you say it. First of all, you are telling your child to remember something. Remembering is a mental activity that is hard to do during the day and that one rarely does in one’s sleep. Secondly, you are asking your child to remember NOT to do something. This amounts to a second order abstraction that may seem easy but is really hard—for adults as well as for children.

    It is rarely good advice to tell someone to remember not to do something. Remember not to burn the toast. Remember not to let the toilet paper run out. Remember not to overdraw your checking account.

    Do not tell your child to do any of these things. Here is what you should say, in order for you to help your child remain safely on the bed all night: “Remember to sleep against the wall.”

    © 2007 The Sitter Cafe LLC - Childcare Solutions – All Rights Reserved

    Friday, August 10, 2007


    A nanny is NOT a housekeeper. These ads posted for a nanny/housekeeper are ridiculous! It's like hiring a nurse/gardener! Would you ask your landscaper to reorganize your garage? If so, that's ridiculous! He may use tools that you keep there, but his skill set and work is not related to organizing a garage. Similarly, just because a nanny works in the house all day does not mean she should be cleaning it. I realize some people want to limit the amount of "outsiders" in the house, and while that is understandable, it's ridiculous to ask your nanny to clean the house.

    Many of you want someone educated that can help develop your child's mind. You'd like someone cultured that can encourage your child(ren) to explore what New York has to offer and who can teach them proper etiquette. You'd like this person to help your child with homework and school projects. Often these people are college educated. You're hiring people with Bachelor's and Master's degrees, often people with educations not far off from yours (maybe they didn't go to an Ivy League School because they didn't come from advantage, but they are well educated, nonetheless). It is an insult to ask these people to scrub your toilet. I don't care if you add $10,000 to the yearly salary. It's ridiculous.

    I am a parent who has a wonderful relationship with the nanny who has been with our family for four years now. Before her, we went through several nannies. I believe we made mistakes in our search before, and I want to share our knowledge with parents I believe are making similar mistakes. Everyone should be as lucky as we are with Eva, our nanny.

    What I Learned (the hard way)...

    1. Separate the cleaning from the caring
    Hire someone to come in two or three times a week to clean. It's not expensive. I see parents offering 50K to their nannies. Take 7K out, and you can pay a terrific housekeeper to come in a few times per week. Most good nannies won't mind tidying (putting dishes in the sink or dishwasher, picking up after the kids - teaching them to pick up after themselves - and leaving a room generally neat after using it.

    However, you're better off paying someone to clean floors, windows, blinds, curtains, do laundry, vacuum, dust, and clean the kitchens and bathrooms. Your nanny will be able to focus on the childcare.

    We ask Eva to do general tidying (as mentioned above). We also ask her to do the grocery shopping and run household related errands. Trust me, she has PLENTY to do while the kids are in school. She grocery shops, goes to the tailor, the shoemaker, the drugstore, the library, the dry cleaner's, etc. She also cooks on nights when my husband and I work late. (We don't ask for gourmet meals, just healthy, tasty ones.) She uses the time while the kids are at school to prepare the meals, so that when dinnertime comes, only the actual cooking needs to be done. (Thus, she can focus more on the kids and less on cooking.)

    Some days she has free time while the kids are at school. This is not horrible, and I don't feel cheated. She works very hard and makes our lives a lot less stressful, so I'm content. Eva works 10- 14 hour days, so I think it's good for her to have some down time. If she ends up with three free hours, what does that mean? She only worked 7- 11 hours that day? I certainly do not feel cheated.

    2. Hire someone with a college education who speaks fluent English
    Before Eva, we had several people, and I noticed my children's speech and vocabulary getting worse and worse. I wasn't thrilled with the fact that when I couldn't be home to do their homework with them, they went into school with tons of mistakes on it. Eva sits with them and when they get something wrong, she explains why it is incorrect and guides them towards the right answer, never telling outright. My children do very well in all of their subjects. She helps them brainstorm to come up with interesting and exciting science and social studies projects. She reads to them in a great variety of voices and accents. Even though my third grader reads on a sixth grade level, he loves listening to her stories! We have a twelve year old, and Eva keeps a good eye on her. She tells us the "real scoop" on which boys our daughter is interested in, which kids move "too fast," etc. Because she's young, the kids don't put their guard up as much around her, and she sees and hears a lot more than most parents!

    3. Make sure you pay her enough so that she can live nearby
    Choose a nanny who CAN stay over with notice if you need her to, but is live out.

    After a string of nannies arriving late (not always their fault, sometimes the MTA IS unreliable), and being exhausted from the commute, we tried a live in situation. My husband and I missed the privacy. There are advantages to both live in and live out. So, we set up a space where a nanny could stay over if she needed to. Then, we looked at what rents were within a half hour commute of our house. We figured out the cost of living out within a half hour of our house, and based our nanny's salary on that.

    Suddenly, the quality of applicants improved drastically. Eva is a certified teacher. It just makes more sense for her to work as a nanny. Friends of ours saw how well our situation was working out, and they bought a studio twenty minutes away for their nanny. They subtracted 15K- 20K from their original salary offer. They have a great nanny too. Their nanny has a degree from Wellesley, and is very sweet.

    The point is, our nannies live close. They stay over if it's needed, but they have their own private space to have guests and alone time, and we have our space to have quiet life as a family (or on rare occasions when all the kids are out, as a couple). Everyone is much happier, and there's no underlying resentment on anyone's part.

    4. Treat your nanny as family
    You want your nanny to treat your kids as if they were her own (or better), so treat her like family. We offer Eva the opportunity to come on some family outings and trips (not all). We give her proper paid vacation time. She gets medical and dental benefits. She gets a cost of living increase (so that in [one year] she won't be making less than she was in [the previos year], which would be the case if we paid her the same amount). We offer her investment advice (she'd like to buy a home in a few years).

    But the thing that's made the MOST difference is accepting that she is a person with a life. My sister-in-law first gave me the idea. She said that she noticed she had less trouble getting Saturday night sitters when she said they could bring a friend over. I have gotten heat from people for saying this before. I realize that I don't know who Eva is bringing into my house. But I trust her judgment. Otherwise I wouldn't leave her with my children. So, occasionally (not frequently), she'll have a friend over for a tea in the afternoon. We've made it okay for her boyfriend to stop by briefly. When her sister was in town, she would stop by the house in-between sightseeing. As a result, Eva is in no rush to leave our house at the end of the day. She doesn't feel trapped.

    The idea is, make the workplace a social, happy place, and productivity improves.

    5. Don't be jealous of your nanny.
    This is the toughest piece of advice. I sometimes am envious of all the time Eva spends with my kids.

    But because of her, I don't stress when there's traffic. I know she'll be there when I get home. I don't have to deal with details like whether my blazer will be dry cleaned for tomorrow's meeting. It always will. I don't have to worry if my daughter is off somewhere doing who knows what in someone's basement. Eva keeps tabs on her. When my husband and I come home, we spend quality time with our kids. We don't deal with the stressful details of daily life that we used to deal with. We talk and play and relax together.

    Yes, it costs us a lot more than it used to cost us. There are even some things we couldn't do because we have Eva. But our lives are so much better because of her.

    Thursday, August 9, 2007

    for posting at The Sitter Cafe

    It may seem easy and obvious, but we have found that many parents simply do not place ADs that effectively communicate their child care needs to the correct group of sitters or nannies. Please take a few minutes to review the information below; It is certain to help you craft an AD that generates the types of responses you want.

  • About Your Phone Number and Email Address

    It's never a good idea to put your telephone number or email address in an AD or Job Posting. Your subscription to The Sitter Cafe includes a secure, private email messaging system that allows sitters to REPLY to your ADs privately, and anonymously.

    A sitter may become very uncomfortable when your AD asks them to reply outside of the secure messaging system provided. Since it might force them to reveal personal contact information, sitters may be reluctant to reply to your AD if you request direct communication immediately.

    Parents and sitters use the private messaging system to communicate anonymously until they are comfortable with each other. This is particularly important to high school age sitters as they are taught to use extreme caution when communicating online.

    An additional benefit of using The Sitter Cafe secure messaging system is that all of the replies you receive from sitters are safely stored in your Sitter Cafe mailbox and are available to you from anywhere you have internet access.

    Keep in mind that you may always make your own email address and/or your telephone number available to sitters who read your AD by changing the COMMUNICATION PREFERENCES from your control panel. That way, when a sitter view's your PROFILE they will see the communication options that you prefer, in addition to being able to use our internal messaging system.

  • Timing Is Everything

    If you wait till the last minute to place an AD sitters will not have the opportunity to receive your email and respond in time. While many sitters check their email once a day, it can take others up to three days or more to review the messages in their mailbox.

    If you advertise for a position months ahead of time, great sitters who might otherwise respond to your Job Posting will ignore it because they are either not thinking out that far into the future, or simply do not know what their schedule will be three months from now. School schedules, sports commitments, band practice, other jobs - all of the things that make up the busy life of students and young adults have to taken into consideration.

    Put yourself in the shoes of the care provider when you decide to place an AD for a job; what would you want to know about the position - and when would you want to know it!

  • Understand what you're looking for and how to communicate your needs:
    A MOTHER'S HELPER Lives out and works for a family to provide childcare and domestic help for families in which one parent is home most of the time. May be left in charge of the children for brief periods of time. May or may not have previous childcare experience.

    A BABYSITTER is defined as someone who provides supervisory, custodial care of children on an irregular full-time or part-time basis. No special training or background expected.

    An AU-PAIR is a foreign national, usually high-school or college age, visiting the United States through the US Cultural Exchange Program for up to two years to experience American life. Lives as part of the host family and receives a small stipend in exchange for babysitting and help with housework. May or may not have previous childcare experience.

    A NANNY is employed by the family on either a live-in or live-out basis to undertake all tasks related to the care of children. Duties are generally restricted to childcare and the domestic tasks related to childcare. May or may not have had any formal training, though often has a good deal of actual experience. Nanny's work week ranges from 40 to 60 hours per week. Usually works unsupervised.

    Your Ad should state the hours of the job and the range of the pay rate. Even if you are very flexible, few adults (college kids) are going to answer ads that are vague about hours and salary. Care providers are looking for work - not something to do with their spare time. Put yourself in their shoes and think 'what would I want to know about the job?'.
  • What A Sitter Needs To Know From Your Ad:
    • Days Per Week
    • Number of Hours Per Day
    • Start time and End time
    • Hourly Salary
    • Do I Need A Car
    • Ages and genders of the children
    • Are There Any Pets to Care For
      (many people are allergic - especially to cats)
    • Do the kids have any special needs
    • Basic job responsibilities
    • Start Date
    • End Date
    Sitters do not need to know from an AD that you are a single parent or that your home is 'wonderful' or that your kids are delightful. Leave that kind of personal information out of your ad.

    Personal information should be shared with a sitter only once you are comfortable with them. Be Smart - Be Safe!