Monthly Archives: August 2020

Why Our Children Will Die Too Soon

After decades of advancements in modern day medicine, why are mortality rates increasing in 2016? Regrettably, today’s parents can expect to live longer lives than their children, a sad commentary on today’s lifestyle. Bottom line… the obesity epidemic amongst the children of America is shortening their lifespan, causing mortality rates to head in the wrong direction.

America’s first lady has been championing the anti-obesity cause in America’s schools. Of course public school officials should remove access to sugary high calorie beverages from our nation’s cafeterias. However, our children spend less than 20 percent of their time in the classrooms. What good does it do when a child can’t drink high calorie beverages in school when their home refrigerator is full of sugar laden beverages?

I recently heard someone ask “what was the most important thing we can teach our children?’ The answer was to teach our children how to be when they leave us. In other words, prepare them for life when they’re out on their own. Remembering my early years as a parent, I knew my daughters were learning about life “through my eyes”. I was always aware of the responsibility I felt as a role model. And that is what I would hope would be at the top of the job description list of every parent, as a caring teacher of our children.

For today since this is an article about obesity and mortality rates, this is my plea to the parents of young children. The national focus encouraging healthier diets in public schools has placed a spotlight on America’s obesity crisis. Indeed, inaction on the matter will have startling results, including a lifespan for members of our newest generation from two to five years lower than that for the previous generation, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Think about this for a moment-with all the medical advances our society has produced; this generation’s children will have life expectancies less than their parents. The glaring culprit is in my mind, fast food (I have never seen a child turn down a french fry), video games, and other screen activities that discourage physical activity.

And, whenever we hear about the high incidence of obesity, we’re reminded of today’s diabetes epidemic. In the U.S., diabetes affects tens of millions of Americans, costs some $174 billion a year, and ranks as the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. And studies indicate that the greatest risk factor for type 2 diabetes is being overweight, a characteristic shared by 85 percent of diabetics. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, nine in ten cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented through exercise, healthier diets, smoking cessation, and other healthy behaviors. Even modest weight loss has been found to help people with diabetes achieve and sustain blood glucose control and live healthier, longer, and more active lives.

Complications from diabetes, as reported by the Defeat Diabetes Foundation, are legion. Most troubling, in my opinion, is that diabetes sufferers are 65 percent more likely than their peers to develop Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, high proportions of people with diabetes incur damage to their nervous system, including carpal tunnel syndrome and impaired sensation in their feet or hands. And people with diabetes are two to four times more likely than others to develop heart disease and six times more likely to suffer a stroke. Not surprisingly, people with diabetes live an average of six fewer years than their nondiabetic peers. All this from a condition that more often than not can be prevented by reducing consumption of the sugar, carbohydrates, and processed foods so prevalent in the American diet.

Point being, parents of young children in the U.S. need to fully acknowledge and understand the health risks their children are facing today and in the years to come. They’re facing the challenge of being overweight and the increased chances of becoming a child diabetic. A young diabetic today will face a 65% greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in their later years. Moreover, a diabetic lives six years less than non-diabetics. Diabetic children have a much greater health disparity than people without disabilities.

The message is very loud and clear. But it must be heard, understood, accepted and acted upon! The key to good parenting begins with loving our children yet we must take it one step further. We need to start with accepting that we control how long our children will live. We hold their mortality in the palm of our hands. When we pacify them with French fries and sugary drinks, WE ARE GUARANTEEING to help shorten their life span. They’ll die too soon and long after we’re gone. Is this the legacy you want to leave with your children? I hope not.

Copyright 2016

Allan Checkoway, RHU

Children Found Raised By Dogs

The topic of feral children has fascinated me for several years. Now, to find out that two children were found in the Ukraine, living amongst wild dogs; has further provided researchers with questions regarding language development and human psychology.

Victor: The First Feral Child Documented

Victor was an 11 year old boy found in January 1800 near Saint Sernin sur Rance, in southern France. Victor survived 11 years by living in the forest; he crawled around on all fours and snuck food from people’s gardens.

It is thought, that since he had no human contact for the first 11 years of his life that he probably gained the social skills that he had from animals. He did not wear any cloths and his body had several old and new scars from living in the wild.

When found, Victor could not speak human language. Researchers at the time tried to re-socialize Victor to more appropriate social norms of the time and tried to teach him language. They made barely minimal progress.

Victor lived to age 40, which was probably the average life span of that time. He was never able to be socialized to live the type of life that most of us would think of as normal and healthy. Since Victor’s case, psychologists and sociologists have been very interested in language development in cases of social neglect.

Feral Children in Modern Society

In 1991 an 8 year old girl was found in Novaya Blagoveschenka, Ukraine. Her name was Oxanna Malaya. At the time she was discovered living in the backyard of her family home in a dog kennel.

She had befriended the dogs in the yard and basically took on their behaviors and actions. She walked on all fours, growled and barked. She would defend the territory in an aggressive display similar to that of an angry dog. She had minimal human language abilities, but would communicate like her canine companions through animal-type actions.

Also, in Mirny, Ukraine in 1999, a young boy was discovered, named Edik. Edik was 4 years old at the time he was discovered. Edik was living in a run-down apartment on his own, in a very poverty stricken area of the Ukraine.

He had wild dogs co-habitating in the apartment with him, some say at any given time he had at least three dogs with him.

Researchers believe that it was the symbiotic relationship between the human and animals that strengthened the bond, and created the “pack” mentality between the boy and the dogs. The dogs found that the boy would provide some source of food, regardless of how infrequent; which meant that the dogs did not have to hunt. In exchange, the dogs provided the boy with affection and companionship.

What Have Oxanna and Edik Accomplished Today?

Today, Oxanna and Edik are not classified as true feral children because of their previous human socialization and the fact that they did have some basic language skills early on.

But to this day, their language skills still lag behind their chronological development to this day. Researchers believe that Oxanna’s language skills will always lag behind other people her age because she was discovered past the age where the brain can regain those skills to full functional capacity.

Edik on the other hand has made good progress. His language skills as still behind other children his own age. But researches believe that he will be able to regain enough language that he will function well in society. They believe it is solely based on the fact that he was discovered young enough that the brain can still learn the basic foundation needed for language development.

Today, Oxanna and Edik live in care homes where they interact with other people and staff. Both Oxanna and Edik have dogs at the homes where they live so they can still enjoy them as pets. They are no longer dependent on these animals for survival so their relationship with the animals has changed a lot.

Both Oxanna and Edik now walk on 2 legs, like the rest of us and wear clothing in a socially appropriate way. It took months and years for both of them to learn these basic social norms. An update from 2010 indicates that Oxana is now trying to locate her birth mother and father to learn more about herself.

Children – The Building Blocks of Every Nation

I saw him lying half-awake under a push cart. His tender and fragile face told me that something must be making him sleepless – something must have been bothering him at such a young age when other children of his age don’t have to carry the weight of the world. I was to have a series of such sleepless night when I was haunted by the image of that boy. Here I was lying on a neatly made bed, my hunger satisfied with homemade food and an air conditioner whirring, thinking about that boy. I wondered how many such children are out there in my locality and across the entire nation. His image – poorly clad with the body left to the mercy of the blood sucking insects – contrasted with the eternal bliss I was living in was more disturbing. I was trying hard not to ruminate about the boy; thankfully the chores at the office let me go easy on myself for a while.

I could not erase the image of the boy from my thoughts for days together. Whenever I bumped into kids of the same age I thought about him. For me he represented the society’s poverty and indifference towards the future generation. We are so lost in the maddening crowd and so caught up in the race of life to stand out, pause and ponder.

When we are deeply involved in the thoughts of succession at work place and economic or social development that we let the governments take care of other issues and do not even think for a minute who would address the core issues of poverty, lack of basic civic amenities and even basic education for children? These incidents made me see beyond and think how one could take the responsibility of these issues and work on them rather than fret at the sight of kids who are seen on the streets either begging or getting flogged accused of stealing? They are deprived of their childhood; their dreams crushed under child labour and exploitation as sex workers. Basic education and healthy life are their fundamental rights but who will fight for their cause?

Do you know there are *an estimated 158 million children aged 5-14 engaged in child labour in India which is one in six children in the world is a child labour. Millions of children are engaged in hazardous situations or conditions, such as working in mines, working with chemicals and pesticides in agriculture or working with dangerous machinery. They are everywhere but invisible, toiling as domestic servants in homes, labouring behind the walls of workshops, in plantations hidden from public view.

*Nearly 13 per cent of all children in South Asia are engaged in child labour which equals around 44 million. Of these children, 29 million live in India, where the child labour rate is 12 per cent. Within India itself there are vast divergences between states in the incidence of child labour, ranging from 32 per cent in Gujarat to 3 per cent in Goa and Kerala.

If these kids are the future, who will develop them into strong pillars that supports the very existence of our nation?

With these lingering thoughts I and my friends sat back sharing our concern for some Chai-biscuits. I realized that even they shared similar concerns and ideas on the same issue. Many of the like minded friends offered to help volunteer for this cause and wanted to put in time and effort to bring a change in the lives of such underprivileged kids. but that was not it. This was a temporary solution. What happens when we have transformed our lives growing professionally and personally with a shift from Chai-biscuits to green tea & Cookies like a sophisticated social being? What would happen when this passion and concern just dies out like any other interest in our life due to work and personal qualms?

This is a question which each and every citizen of this country or any nation facing similar development issues should address to create a harmonious and equitable society and develop a sustainable solution for the future.

There are numerous NGO’s coming up that work for the development of such underprivileged section of the society with support of International agencies to mainly provide education and other fundamental rights. For example Paatshala, an NGO involving youth towards buiding a better tomorrow. An well designed model for Private- Public Participation (PPP) would work wonders for growth of any developing nation. May be the first step towards taking up responsibility would be to collaborate with such NGO’s to create a better environment socially and economically and a school of thought for the younger generations to blossom and grow.

(*Data gathered from UNICEF statistics on Child Labour in South Asia)

To know more on Paatshala and latest programs visit: http://www.paatshala.org/

Mentoring Children

All parents hope that their children will grow up healthy, happy, and productive. They aspire to have children who have the skills to contribute to their own well-being and to the well-being of their families and community. There is no magic bullet for developing these capacities in children. Literally thousands of programs have been developed to support families in their efforts to help children to become competent, confident, caring young people who have positive social connections and good characters.

Children have the potential to succeed in life and contribute to society. However, not all children get the support they need to thrive. By all estimates, an astounding 17.6 million young people – nearly half the population between 10 and 18 years of age – live in situations that put them at risk of not living up to their potential. Without immediate intervention by caring adults, they could make choices that undermine their futures. The presence of caring adults offering support, advice, friendship, reinforcement and constructive examples has proved to be powerful tools for helping young people fulfill their potential.

Mentoring is a structured and trusting relationship that brings young people together with caring individuals who offer guidance, support and encouragement aimed at developing the competence and character of the mentee. A mentor is an adult who, along with the parents, help young people bring out strengths that are already there. They are good listeners, compassionate and teach children how to live an honorable life. A mentor is not a foster parent, therapist, parole officer, or cool peer. The role of a mentor is not to “fix” young people but rather to help them achieve their full potential. Enforcing competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, and contribution to self and society, help develop a child into a productive and respectful adult in later years.

A mentor’s main purpose is to help a young person define individual goals and find ways to achieve them. Since the expectations of each child will vary, the mentor’s job is to encourage the development of a flexible relationship that responds to the young person’s needs. Using influence and resources as a decision maker, adults can bring new hope to young lives through the power of mentoring. A mentor encourages positive choices, promotes high self-esteem, teaches respect for oneself and family, supports academic achievement, and introduces the young person to new ideas. Youth who meet regularly with their mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking alcohol (Public/Private Ventures study of Big Brothers Big Sisters). About 40% of teenager’s waking hours are spent without any companionship or supervision. Mentors provide children and teens with a valuable place to spend free time. Children learn to make thoughtful choices, fulfill their commitments, acknowledge their mistakes and account for their actions. By taking control of their lives, children realize they can achieve more than they ever dreamed possible.

I encourage you to think of the mentors in your own life-a coach, teacher, or another caring adult, and take a few minutes to consider all the contributions they made in your life during your developing years. I know throughout my own adult life and business career, I have been greatly rewarded by years of mentoring children and young adults into productive, happy individuals that are successful in life. Children need someone to believe in them. Often times, children lack the attention needed to reinforce morals, values and self esteem on a daily basis. It makes all the difference in the world during times of indecision in their lives to have that reinforcement. Mentoring develops children into young adults who have confidence, determination and self-awareness.

Mentoring is recognized throughout the US as an important part of a child’s life and some states have already proposed legislation to the Senate. The Coalition of State Mentoring Partnerships has worked closely with Capitol Hill staff and Senators to advocate this legislation. The Mentoring for All Act 2008 (S. 3200) is one of the most significant legislation actions to benefit mentoring. Please call; send emails or letters to your Senators urging support for the bill.

Divorcing With Children the Right Way

After 20 years preparing divorce papers there is one issue that I feel deep passion about. Divorcing with children.

There are a lot of people who choose to remain married for the sake of the children which I have strong opinions about as well.

When you decide to get a divorce it is very important to keep the children in mind. Raising children is the most important job you will ever have. You can go through a divorce and provide your children with a safe and loving structure through the entire process, if you handle it correctly.

First and foremost, children should never be subjected to any of the details of the divorce. Children have the capacity to understand different things at different ages but the one thing that should never be done is discussion about the details of the divorce in front of the children.

I know this is easier said than done. You may be angry, confused, scared, and a myriad of other emotions. The key is to remember that children process differently and they simply are not emotionally equipped to process these emotions.

There is a right way to speak to the children, depending on ages, about the divorce. It is important that you demonstrate the positive aspects of how their lives are going to change. Do not dwell on the negative, they do not need to know this.

Never and I will said it again, never put your spouse down in front of the children. You may believe that this will help you get what you want but what you are doing is harming your child. A child subjected to this will be confused and will probably feel guilt. Remember, you are talking about their hero. That’s right, children’s heroes are their parents. Think about it, parents are the protectors, the teachers, and the caretakers. Of course children will see parents as heroes.

It is important to remember that there was a reason once upon a time that you chose to marry your spouse and have children with him or her. Sure things have changed but there was a time when you obviously thought enough of them to marry them. Allow your children to love the other parent and even encourage that.

You have to separate the relationships. Your relationship with your spouse is different than the relationship with your spouse and child. You need to always put your child first and do everything in your power to foster a good and positive relationship between your spouse and children.

Make sure your divorce includes a Parenting Plan. All of the things that can possibly come up that may cause a problem should be addressed in this plan. Having this will cut down on confusion when situations arise.

If you have a volatile relationship with your spouse, you can agree to do all communicating through the mail or email. This is a very effective way of keeping the negative to a minimum.

By showing your children that you and your spouse can still co-parent without remaining married will offer a stability that will help your children cope through the divorce process and beyond.

Do not make the children suffer for adult problems. Always remind yourself that anytime your children are subjected to these negative issues you are bringing them a sense of guilt and instability.

We all want the best for our children and the first step in that is be the best for your children.

How Can Adult Children Differentiate Guilt From Shame?

Based upon my seven-year recovery efforts in three twelve step programs, I have discovered that there are terms whose definitions are so closely related, that most would think that there was no difference between them. But there are and those differences, while subtle, can aid a person’s understanding of the effects of his dysfunctional upbringing. Here I refer to the terms “guilt” and “shame.”

When Harper Lee published the prequel to her Pulitzer Prize winning novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” in 2015, she entitled it “Go Set a Watchman.” That term, “watchman,” refers to everyone’s personal monitor, or conscience, which watches and assesses his misdeeds, whether they be lies, cheats, or injustices, and generates emotional, neurological, and physiological responses that are less than pleasant and settling, such fitful night sleeps, until the infraction is owned, confessed, and appropriate amends are made. In other words, the person feels “guilty.” And therein is the definition of the first of the two terms. Guilt is what a person feels for his misdeeds or infractions, provided his “watchman” is in working order. Experience has indicated that not all are.

Because alcoholism is a disease, it causes a malfunction of it, as toxins intercept the neuro-receptor links that otherwise alert a person of his actions and generate feelings of guilt. Add the unquestioned repetition of detrimental behavior on his own offspring he himself most likely experienced as a child, denial, ignorance, and the lack of remorseful, regretful, or empathical feelings that would ordinarily prompt him to correct his actions, and it ensures the perpetuation of intra-generational child abuse.

Although this parent’s conscience can be considered broken and beyond working order, that of his children, who helplessly field the chaos of their upbringings, also become faulty because of them.

When my own child abuse left me amiss to understand what I initially considered justifiable punishment for infractions I could never determine, it created a hairpin trigger in my brain, bypassing the reason for it (because there was none) and generating the guilt. I learned that I was guilty even when I was not.

“I grew up with guilt and blame, amidst harsh criticism and constant fear,” an Al-Anon Program member shared in its “Courage to Change “text (Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 1992, p. 120). “Even now, after years of recovery, when past mistakes come to mind, I tend to react with guilt, exaggerating the significance of my errors and thinking very badly of myself.”

Because of my own propensity toward this emotion, I accepted responsibility for the actions of others when I was in school or at work. If it was discovered that an error had been made, I flushed red, misbelieving that I had somehow caused it, when, in fact, I had not, and sometimes falsely led people into thinking that I had because of my very (faulty) reactions.

Reduced to the same powerless, voiceless child, even as an adult who had once been cultivated as a victim, and forced to accept the blame and burden my father could not, I was unable to defend myself against such apparent injustices.

“Before recovery, most adult children assume they are wrong whatever the situation might be,” according to the “Adult Children of Alcoholics “textbook (World Service Organization, 2006, p. 15). “If a mistake is make on the job, the adult child takes responsibility for it. If someone feels upset, we think we might have done something to cause the feelings in another… Because of our shaming childhoods, adult children doubt and blame themselves in a knee-jerk reaction that is predictable and consistent, yet rarely observed until recovery is encountered.”

It continues by emphasizing the absurdity of this dynamic (ibid, p. 115). “Many adult children doubt themselves, criticize themselves, and feel inadequate without much prompting. Who, (for example), could have his house burglarized and feel at fault for the burglary? An adult child! Who could feel guilty for asking someone blocking a driveway to move? An adult child!”

Contrasted with guilt, which is an unease or regret for a wrongful or neglectful act against another, shame is what an adult child feels for what he is-or at least believes that he is. His childhood is once again the culprit for this faulty reasoning.

“Being shamed by our parents or a relative represents the loss of being able to feel whole as a person,” the “Adult Children of Alcoholics” textbook advises (ibid, p. 200). “Shame tramples a child’s natural love and trust and replaces it with malignant self-doubt. With shame, we lose our ability to trust ourselves or others. We feel inherently faulty as a child. As adults, we can have a mistaken sense that something is wrong with us without knowing why… This represents a loss of feeling valued as a person by our family.”

Shame is thus the feeling-and mistaken belief-that a person is inherently flawed–that he is inferior, less-than, inadequate, defective, and not equal to others.

Demoralized by their upbringing and subjected to parental projections consisting of their own negative and inadequate feelings during some two decades of their upbringings, adult children soon adopt this misbelief.

But Al-Anon’s “Courage to Change” recognizes this as a distortion with an affirmation, which states, “Today I will love myself enough to recognize shame is an error in judgment” (op. cit., p. 57).

For an adult child, his ability to recognize his errors in judgement about both his pervasive feelings of guilt and shame, and the difference between the two, can immeasurably aid his recovery.

Sources:

“Adult Children of Alcoholics.” Torrance, California: World Service Organization, 2006.

“Courage to Change.” Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 1992.

Dental Tips for Children’s Oral Health

While oral sickness is easy to prevent, there are still lots of children that get tooth decay. Such kids often experience pain, find it hard to sleep, and at times, undergo major dental treatments – like tooth extraction with general anesthesia.

When a child gets cavities at a much younger age, it can be assumed that he/she will also develop cavities when his permanent teeth develop. For this reason, it is crucial for kids to have good oral hygiene habits when they are still very young.

Eat the Right Foods

Children should eat a variety of nutritious foods, especially in childhood when they are still going through the developing years. This is the time when their eating behavior is established. It is critical to encourage kids to have healthy eating habits that can lead to good oral health and welfare.

Provide children with different nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, natural yogurt and meat.

  • Refrain from giving them snacks in between meals, since it is the most vulnerable age, when they could acquire cavities.
  • Encourage them to drink lots of water (from at minimum of 1 liter/day to a maximum of 2 liters/day), particularly if you stay within an area with fluoride, to protect teeth from cavities.
  • Try your best to reduce your child’s intake of sugary drinks like sodas, energy drinks, fruit juices and syrups, since these sweet drinks can cause tooth decay.
  • Reduce their consumption of sweet drinks, particular in between meals.

Brush your teeth properly.

Brushing teeth using a proper technique is a must for the maintenance of healthy teeth and gums. Observing good oral hygiene at a much early age reduces the risk of acquiring gum disease at a later age. Teach them to brush their teeth at least twice daily – in the morning and in the evening, as well as after eating meals.

  • It is recommended for infants to use a soft toothbrush, and for children 18 months to 6 years to use toothpaste (in a pea-sized amount) with less fluoride.
  • Supervise your child (up to 7 years old) whenever he/she brushes his/her teeth.
  • Instead of rinsing the toothpaste, encourage your child to spit it out.

Observe Safety while Playing

Whenever your child plays contact sports like cricket, football or hockey, when their mouth is more prone to injury, he should use a mouth guard during games and workout. A mouth guard is often worn when playing sports, while other activities also require a face guard or helmet.

Practice Healthy Habits at an Early Age

It would benefit children to develop healthy habits early in life. Habits such as brushing teeth regularly, eating a nutritious diet and visiting a dentist regularly allow them to maintain good oral health. The moment the first tooth of your child appears until 1 year old, he/she should have oral health checked. Based on a child’s oral health, the dentist/pediatrician will recommend when to visit the dental clinic.

  • Whenever there is any dental problem, go immediately to the dentist to have it checked.
  • Make dental visits a part of your child’s normal routine.
  • Make a dental appointment early in the day, when your child is not yet tired.