Food Allergies-what’s a parent to do?

Food Allergies are everywhere. In the past few years the number of children diagnosed with food allergies and sensitivities has sky rocketed. Research is ongoing, but one of the theories is that we helped create this problem by avoiding foods in infancy. When I think back to the advice given around introducing solids, we were very cautious. We instructed families to avoid peanuts and nut products for 1-2 years. We skipped the seasoning, the healthier fats, and were generally afraid to give foods that were not overly basic-at least in the beginning. 

Interestingly, other countries did not take this approach to food allergies. In many other cultures, a wide variety of foods is offered as early as 3 months. These foods are mixed together. The foods have spices. And as a result, food allergies are not as prevalent and children are better eaters. Interesting, right?  

So the pendulum has swung back and we are now sending a different message. Pregnant mamas are encouraged to eat a wide variety of foods, including peanut butter. Breastfeeding mothers are also told to eat everything in the hopes that the ever-changing milk taste and scent will improve our countries picky eaters. See this article which I thought was interesting as well: 

http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/well/2016/03/28/how-breast-feeding-can-broaden-a-childs-diet/?_r=0&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fm.facebook.com%2F

 

Additionally, we hope that there will be fewer food allergies and sensitivities. What a wonderful concept-eat well and your children will benefit when you start at conception and continue throughout their lifetime. Is this a brilliant new idea? I think it is common sense, but what do I know.

 

But the truth is that some of us have food allergies. And this is tricky. Finding foods to eat that will not upset a baby’s tummy, let alone cause and anaphylactic response, is hard. It may seem quite daunting at first. This is because we are creatures of habit and we eat what is familiar to us. So change then becomes hard. 

 

Here is an approach to consider. Pretend you are in another country and you are not familiar with the local foods and produce. Imagine that everything is new and different. You need to look at it, read the label, and do a little homework to figure out how to prepare. It can be a game if you will. There will be success and failure of new recipes. But eventually you get steady on your feet and figure out this new style of eating. See that is not so hard is it?

 

I recently was introduced to a website that I found extremely helpful. http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/page/recipes-diet.aspx

It has so much information that I was immediately impressed. There are recipes, research, links to online support, etc. If you have a child with a sensitivity or food allergy I would highly recommend it.

Do you have any tips?

Go To The Playground!

I feel fortunate to live close to 3 parks/playgrounds that we can walk to.  My kids love it!  And aside from the obvious benefits of getting them outside and moving, there are the hidden reasons playgrounds are important…

1)  Playing with peers helps develop social skills.  It provides opportunities to make connections (for parents too.)
2)  Kids can use their imagination to create new games.  My son has been obsessed with American Ninja Warriors this summer.  He uses any playground we find to help him “train.”  And according to his doctor this really helped him with his core strength.
3)  Being outside is calming.  The fresh air, time away from screens, and listening to the sounds on the playground are unique.

Why do you love the playground?

Read this article for a list of the best cities for finding playgrounds:

https://www.fatherly.com/the-25-best-cities-for-kids-to-play-outside—fatherly-report-1247315890.html

Vaccines-I love them!

It’s not exactly a bumper sticker worthy tag-line, but it is the truth.  I have had several friends and colleagues work on polio eradication over the years.  Nigeria is a victory for them and for all of us who support vaccination.

But there is a new phase of anti-vaccinations.  “Now doctors are calling attention to a similar problem: Some parents are shunning the vitamin K shot routinely given to newborns to prevent internal bleeding.”  I have overheard the discussion on the why parents should consider the vitamin K shot at birth.  And the truth is, I just sort of shake my head in disbelief.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH is one of the world’s foremost medical research centers) we have been giving vitamin K to babies immediately after birth since 1961.  It helps prevent anemia and brain bleeds because it helps with blood clotting.  There are evidence based studies that support the use of this vaccine and others.

Let’s work with the physicians who study these and other vaccinations regularly.  Keep lines of communication open and listen to the folks who went to medical school, residency training, and study this routinely.  And please get your child the vaccinations they need!

Then read this:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/23/us-health-polio-nigeria-idUSKCN0PX2RF20150723

Do French Kids Have ADHD More Than American Kids?

I found this article really interesting.  I read the book Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman several years ago with my book group.  We had a great conversation about social norms as they relate to parenting.  If you haven’t read it, I recommend it!  The French, along with many other countries, do it differently.  Is it better?  In some cases, I think it is.

The idea that the French use a totally different system of diagnosing ADHD is fascinating.  But what I appreciate more is the idea that they are going to determine why the children are having difficulty to see if there is an underlying social context problem.  Revolutionary, I think not.

While diagnosing children is a tough business, I think that people throw around the names of possible problems too easily.  I have families coming into my office all the time saying-  “The teachers think he may have a sensory integration problem.”  Now everyone is getting into the business of putting kids into a category.

Don’t get me wrong, some children do need a diagnosis in order to get services.  And often times, teachers have a great sense of a child’s performance and needs.  But I think it is the American culture that allows us to feed into all of these issues.  We need to name it in order to help/fix the kids.

Let’s change the culture for the sake of our kids, please.  What do you think?

Here is the article that I am referring to:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/suffer-the-children/201203/why-french-kids-dont-have-adhd

Getting Kids To Love Reading

Mondays are always a little chaotic in my house, most houses actually.  As I tried to get my children out of bed, my son greeted me with “Mom, I just want to stay in my bed and read.”  He had curled up with the latest Diary of A Wimpy Kid book and became absorbed in the story.  Truth be told, these are not my favorite books, but he LOVES them!  He sits in his room day after day reading and re-reading the stories complete with cartoons.  And you know what, I have learned to embrace it.

But I have also started to introduce him to other graphic novels and elaborate comic books too.  I go to the library and search for books that I think will appeal to him since he is not wise enough to choose new series willingly.  He loves his favorites so much that he can not look beyond them.

Ultimately, I hope that he will learn to love more complicated text.  I hope he will yearn to dive into a book that does not have pictures.  But I know that will come with time.

My tip for encouraging reading:

-Read to them early and often.  Snuggle up with that little baby and teach them from an early age that books are amazing.  Show them pictures, make up your own text, and don’t be discouraged when they aren’t that interested.

-Let children see you reading, and not just on a screen.  If they see how much you get enthralled with the words that seem to jump off the page, they will want to read too.

-GO TO THE LIBRARY!  I cannot tell you how many people are missing the wonderful community that exists in every town.  Check it out and see if your child is old enough to get a library card.

-Find a favorite book from your own childhood and read it with your child.  You will be amazed to see how this can transport you back in time for a few short moments.

-Turn off the screens.  Did you know it is Screen Free Week?  “On May 4-10, children, families, and communities around the world will rediscover the joys of life beyond the screen. Unplug from digital entertainment and spend your free time playing, reading, daydreaming, creating, exploring, and connecting with family and friends.”  Try to decrease your screen time this week even if you can’t eliminate it all together.

And for the record, we were late for school due to the reading yesterday, but it was all worth it!

Here is another article from the authors of well know children’s literature with additional insights:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2015/05/04/advice-from-kids-authors-how-do-you-get-kids-excited-to-read/

Supporting Passion

As a child, I was the one who tried many different extracurricular activities and gave up many more.  My list included dance, gymnastics, cake decorating, horse back riding, soccer, skiing, and art.  So if you add up all of my adventures over the course of my childhood, I was well rounded!  Did I have passion as I tried these things on for size?  I would say the answer was no.  Did I have fun in the process?  Yes!

I think there is a lot of pressure to expose children to lessons and activities at such an early age.  And if these activities are done in efforts to have fun, it’s fantastic.  But what happens when kids don’t share our enthusiasm for a sport of activity?  What happens when they want to QUIT?

As parents, it is often difficult to accept the exploration of childhood.  Watching your child struggle at a sport they may not be cut out for because their friends play can be hard.  Watching them give up an activity that you felt they were good at is also a challenge.

My favorite quote from this piece is: “For most children, childhood isn’t about passion, but rather about exploration. Our job as parents is to nurture that exploration, not put an end to it. When we create an expectation that children must find their one true interest so early in life, we cut short a process of discovery that may easily take a lifetime.”

Spring sports are about to commence in New England.  You will find me supporting my children on the soccer field and the tball field.  Will they be passionate about these activities?  Time will tell.  But I will let them try to do things they love in life, because that is essential to happiness.

Read this article from the New York Times.

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/04/08/our-push-for-passion-and-why-it-harms-kids/?emc=eta1&_r=0