The TV show "Andi Mack" on the Disney Channel has done a great job in highlighting real life experiences. Imagine being thirteen years old and on your thirteenth birthday you find out that your cool older sister is really your biological mom. And the parents raising you are actually your grandparents. Yes this is Andi Mack. But what is important here is who is there for the child and remember the adults are the role models. And while we are role models, while the child is learning from the adults and about their own life, as we mature as adults and caregivers, we learn just the same.
Andi Mack
Disney Channel, 2017

While it is not unusual to have grandparents raising grandchildren but perhaps not necessarily raising them as their own child since birth. But as with Andi Mack, finding out at thirteen, and not necessarily on purpose, the pressure can be overwhelming to the child, as well as each adult involved and how they relate to the child. While I am on the topic of grandparents raising their grandchild as their child, and perhaps not too often as their own, but similarly are many single parents who have a significant other such as a boyfriend or girlfriend who fills the role of a parent that might not be in the child's life. Having a positive role model can be a benefit to the child's development. But nevertheless can also have major developmental, emotional and sociological influences as well, if life experiences change.

In this show, Andi Mack, is full of these experiences. It illustrates how difficult life change can be. From early life and inter-personality family issues while a teen is developing, learning from the adults in the child's life to the peers they influence from.  Remember us, as "adults" are the role models. While we feel they fill so much of our own lives, we are there for them. As an adult caregiver, regardless of biological or not, if you are in a child's life it is up to you to be a positive role model and be there for the child. And while that wonderful child in your life means the world to you, they not only learn form you, but you learn of yourself.

And what to learn from all of this? Change and acceptance takes time. Time to take it all in. Sometimes we need help accepting, dealing with everything. As a teen, and even the caregivers. Talking to a therapist for the teen and adults can always be a big help too.
Perhaps you never had the chance to take swim lessons or never had the need to know how to swim. As long as you stay away from water bodies you are fine but when you least expect it and need to know how to swim, will not only put you at risk but also your loved-ones who will survive you. Everyone should know how to swim.

As a former lifeguard we are trained in preventive strategies and understand that drowning can occur when we least expect it. We also know that a victim who is drowning is silent. They do not have time to yell out for help like in the movies. They drown silently, but tragically. A victim can loose consciousness  in only two minutes and result permanent brain damage in 4-6 minutes of submersion. There are times when someone see's a loved-one in trouble in the water and tries to save them, but only becoming a victim themselves. This can be because of their inability and lack of training on how to help someone who is drowning that puts them at risk, but sometimes a natural instinct sets in and they act to-save, even though they do not know how to swim.
Contact your local parks and recreation department or  American Red Cross for a swim class near you!
This is what happened recently when a brave father, who did not know how to swim, instinctively jumped in the water to help his son, but unfortunately lost his own life. He is a hero and his child was saved by a bystander.  Knowing how to swim will not make you a lifeguard because it does not train you in prevention or rescue techniques. But knowing how to swim can save your life (and a loved one) when you least expect the need to know how to swim. Whether it is helping a loved one or a similar tragedy. Every day in the United States, on average, 10-people die from unintentional drowning (CDC) and one in five are children ages 14 and younger.  The most common drowning location is private swimming pools, followed by lakes, rivers and ponds. In addition to preventable drowning related deaths and near-deaths, even survivors among those who have drowned also carry significant emotional and psychological trauma from their loved ones who have died.

If you do not know how to swim, whether you are a parent or not, have nieces or nephews,  or even if you feel that you are not around water, remember when the need arises and that unexpected instinct kicks in when you least expect it, the life you save can be yours and also will help reduce risk of emotional and psychological trauma among your surviving loved ones. Find a swim class near you by contacting your local parks and recreation department or local  American Red Cross.
I came across this wonderful article, written by Caroline Bologna of The Huffington Post, "This Little Girl Wanted A Poop-Themed Birthday Party, So Her Parents Threw Her One" and wanted to share with parents. As someone who is fortunate to have a wonderful child in my life, I have experienced similar requests and as a parent or caregiver it is important to model healthy behaviors (responses) and also validate (acknowledge) your child's feelings and thoughts.  Further as a cognitive-neuroscientist myself, this is an opportunity to show the importance of how we respond to the child that can promote healthy changes in brain development and learning, throughout their child and teen years.

Many times as an adult, your child will ask for something that, as an adult, sounds out of the social norm, but when we remove our adult "hats" and think about it, it makes perfect sense. It is the wonderful curiosity and uniqueness of a child who is learning that makes sense.

Picture This Little Girl Wanted A Poop-Themed Birthday Party, So Her Parents Threw Her One “I tried suggesting other themes, but she always insisted on poop.” By Caroline Bologna
The way we respond to their comment or requests overtime, will result in significance changes to their brain development and affects learning. If we ignore these comments or requests, or make it sound like the child has a bad idea, this will have negative consequences overtime, especially if repetitive. So instead of encouraging the child to think and come up with creative ideas, overtime, this discourages the child from thinking on their own and expressing themselves. For a child to be able to grow up to be independent and successful throughout school we want to encourage the child to think, come up with and express their ideas and be creative. This is how the child learns and applies what they learn in school, from their peers and from their environment. So when a child comes up with something that is somewhat out of the norm, consider it and embrace the idea. This encourages them, increases self-esteem and promotes learning. And of course as adults, we know how important  self-esteem is to child development, because those with higher self-esteem are less likely to worry about income, social status or use alcohol, drugs or sex to help make them feel better. Instead they feel more content, respect themselves, are happier and healthier.

So anytime your child makes a request that might be out of the social norm or out or your comfort zone, remember be positive, think about it, and so long as it is not unsafe, embrace it. However if it is out of your comfort zone and you feel embarrassed it could be you might have lower self-esteem that you have learned, blocks you from trying things or being different. This is common if you have learned this so it is not your fault, but ask yourself if you want to cycle the same pattern of behavior to your child. So for your child's sake, try your best to accept what your child is suggesting, despite being embarrassed or insecure. 

For me, I had parents that modeled positive behaviors which improved my self-esteem, so it was easy to embrace this with my child. Several quick
examples come to mind. As a male I have gone to the office wearing a sparkly bracelet and another time gone to a meeting with one fingernail painted pink. When my little girl would make me a bracelet or painted my nail she was so happy knowing I would wear it. I was equally as proud to have as well. When people noticed I told them my little girl made it for me. They understood and thought it was such a great thing to do. This helped build her self-esteem, improved learning, and also I loved it.

Finally, The Huffington Post article. As I did, by acknowledging my child, similarly, this parent also validated her child. The mother did come up with other ideas, but the child was determined. The mother's response, helped her child stimulate creativity, improved her self-confidence, improved brain and social development, all by validating (acknowledging) the child to continue with her idea. The mother modeled positive behavior by setting boundaries, but yet allowed the child to express what she wanted. And the mother established some great ideas for her child's desire. It's quite unique. I love the "pin the poop on the toilet" game idea. It's something this child will always remember and why? Because it was her idea and her mother acknowledged it.

Remember, this is not only important to your child's ideas but anytime your child is talking, it is important to model positive behaviors in how you respond, but also always validate (acknowledge)
them. So when your child or teen  expresses themselves, respond and acknowledge them, their ideas, feelings, etc. in a positive and helpful way.

It's that time of year when parents and children start to think and talk about summer camp. Whether it is a summer day camp, equestrian riding camp, or a traditional overnight summer camp, as a parent you need to know what to look for to make sure it is an appropriate camp for your child but also to ensure it is a safe camp.

As a parent myself, an injury epidemiologist, and a former summer camp counselor for four summers, I know when selecting a camp for my child, that all summer camps are not alike and just because it is a designated summer camp does not mean they are all safe. When I first took my child to an equestrian riding camp, I wanted to know if they were certified. For example the American Camping Association (ACA) does certify summer camps. I learned quickly that equestrian summer camps do not have such certification, unless it is part of a traditional overnight summer camp.
Equestrian day summer camps do not have to meet the safety standards and requirements that are required among ACA Accredited summer camps. However this does not mean that the camp might not be safe. However a parent must know what to ask and what to look for. For example the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) does certify those who are trained to teach riders. However there are no guidelines specifically for summer camps. As a parent I also wanted to know if they have safety requirements to protect children from injury and if the staff who work with children if they have been screened to make sure they do not have a criminal background. Even further,  what emergency planning are in place in case of an injury. Unfortunately some camps we searched did not have any and some had very little. Because of my background and training I knew what to look for in the summer camp, but many parents might not be aware.

So we developed the Pro Consumer Safety Summer Camp Guide for Parents which has been approved by both the American Camping Association and the Certified Horsemanship Association.  This guide helps parents to make sure the summer camp is appropriate for their child. It gives the parent the necessary questions to ask to ensure the staff and administrators have systems in place to sustain a safe, protective and encouraging educational environment for their child. Don't just assume because it is a summer camp that it is certified, they have emergency protocols in place, they have safe educational practices or safe and psychologically healthy staff. As a parent myself, this guide will help empower you as a parent to know what questions to ask and what to look for to make sure the summer camp provides a safe and healthy learning environment for your child. 

Even when purchasing a new car seat or booster seat, make sure it has the required Federal sticker which allows  for use in the United States. This sticker is always required. It has valuable information such as manufacturer and model name, date of manufacture, expiration date, etc. This sticker informs you that it is allowed for use in the United States. It also provides information needed to check for recalls and related use information.

This sticker is white, generally rectangular in shape and can be found on the bottom or back of the car seat or booster seat. For infant, rear-facing only car seats, there are two stickers, one for the car seat carrier and one for each base.
Look for the required Federal sticker on your car seat (similar as to the above). This shows any expiration dates, information to check for recalls and illustrates that the seat has met Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) Number 213 of Title 49, Part 571 and legal to use in the United States. In addition, the car seat or booster seat will have contact information in the U.S. to contact the company for recall, problems, registration information, etc.  If the car seat or booster seat does not have this sticker, do not use it! If it is a new car seat or booster seat without one, return it for a refund immediately!
If this sticker is not found on the car seat or booster seat, even if you are sure the seat is allowed in the United States (i.e. well known brand such as Evenflo or Britax) or you know if it once had a sticker because you used the seat for a previous child, it is not legal to use. It needs this sticker to be valid. If you are not able to find this sticker DO NOT use the seat. This is equally as important if renting a car seat from a car rental or baby gear rental as well. When in question, always check with a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician to confirm.

If purchasing a car seat or booster seat ONLINE, make sure it has this sticker and appropriate instructions that show it is allowed for use in the United States. There are some car seats for sale on trusted websites such as Amazon and eBay, for example, that do not have these stickers and are not allowed for use in the United States. Remember a car seat or booster seat without this sticker is NOT safe, nor legal and has not been crash tested under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213. As a result it is not clear how that car seat or booster would  perform during a car crash.  This puts your child at risk of severe injury or death in the event of a collision. Further the driver and/or parent are at risk of being ticketed because of driving with a child without a U.S. approved child restraint system. So if it does not have this sticker, return it for a full refund immediately. Anytime you are unsure always talk with a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.

Festive feasts and holiday treats are a favorite part of the holiday and Hanukkah season. Children are especially eager to help prepare goodies and learn about cooking. Remember, having children around the kitchen requires a care and supervision. 

Kitchen Safety                                    
  • Never leave food that is cooking unattended
  • Turn all pot handles toward the back of the stove
  • Keep flammable items, such as towels & dishrags, away from the stove top
  • Never put water on a cooking fire…use baking soda or flour to help put it out
  • Turn off all appliances before leaving the kitchen

Cooking with Child Helpers       
  • Before introducing children to the kitchen, make sure you have taken essential safety steps such as having a fire extinguisher nearby
  • Wash your hands frequently as well as your children
  • Never leave a child unattended in the kitchen
  • Never carry a child while cooking
  • Make sure you & your child wear close-fitting clothing when cooking
  • Always supervise a child when using the microwave
  • Children under age 10 should not handle the stove, electrical appliances, sharp utensils or hot dishes
  • Be sure to keep hot liquids and foods away from counter or table edges where they can be easily knocked off by children
  • Unplug appliance cords when not in use and keep them out of children’s reach

U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline:
1-800-256-7072 (TDD/TTY)
Food & Cooking Safety                   

Wash hands & food-contact surfaces often. Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen & get onto cutting boards, knives, sponges, & counter tops.

Don't cross-contaminate--don't let bacteria spread from one food product to another-especially true for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

Cook to proper temperatures. Foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness.

Refrigerate promptly. Refrigerate foods quickly keeps most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Keep refrigerator set at 40 F & freezer at "0" F, check settings occasionally with a thermometer.

Remember to follow these tips to help keep you and your family safe this holiday season. Watch out for all of the eight part serious on holiday safety including Cooking, Stress-Free Holidays, The Holidays After Loss of A Loved One, Shopping, Child Safe Gift Guide, Gift's and Child Boundaries, and Family Holiday Activities and more.

You can also visit Winter Holidays and Winter Sport Safety or read or print Holiday Times for all your holiday safety needs.

For questions, contact

The holidays are a great time to share special times with your children. Different activities can help stimulate their creativity and learning while making new traditions that will last them a lifetime. They will cherish and remember these experiences and activities more than any purchased gift.
Remember today is a gift. Live in the moment with your child today. This is why we call is the "present".

  • Bake & decorate cookies (from scratch of course-No cheating!). Have younger and older children take part in helping age-appropriate tasks
  • Go Christmas caroling with friends
  • Watch Christmas movies and have hot chocolate
  • Make decorations and ornaments. Have the children create their own for your own home or for gifts. Keeping in mind that small parts of 1 3/4 inch  is a hazard to infants and toddlers.
  • Have older children take part if planning holiday decorating and even holiday treat and recipe planning
  • Give a child one special ornament each year for the tree. That way when they will have a childhood collection of their own ornaments
  • Make your own Christmas gift "year"
  • Have older children create a holiday-related family game
  • When children create something special they made such as a Christmas cookie or ornament, preserve to use as ornaments for future years
  • Have the kids help create their own Christmas song
  • Have older children choose one day per week while out of school to go do something different, from a scavenger hunt, to looking at Christmas lights, making holiday crafts, etc.
  • Make a scavenger hunt with a holiday theme with your children and their friends. Write holiday facts on small papers with something small like a candy cane, then hide with a hint for another find.
  • Visit a holiday ice show or ballet
  • Take plenty of photos to use as a holiday scrap book for future years
  • Take a short trip. Either a day trip or weekend outing. Many cities and regions have their own special holiday features. Find out more by searching online for something special. Have older children help in the search and choices
  •  Plan a visit to one of the Polar Express train rides near you
  • Santa from around the world
  • Make your own Christmas cards
  • Take a drive or walk to look at Christmas lights and decorations
  • Attend a local Christmas parade
  • Have older children plan a few holiday season meals and cook before Christmas
  • Go to the snow, if possible, make a snowman, go sledding, play. Be a kid with your kids!
  • Go ice skating with your children
  • Go skiing or snowboarding, again if you are near snow or plan a trip (see Winter Sports). Taking time for Christmas activities and games as well
  • Between Thanksgiving and Christmas take time to have a several fun holiday theme meals or desert enjoying Christmas music and holiday activities
  • Make a gingerbread house or cookies for decorations. Play Christmas music have hot chocolate as you create
  • Get creative with the children. Look at the stars and create your own holiday related constellation as a gift 
  • Create holiday stories. Then make into small holiday books
  • Make an advent calendar and each day from December 1st to December 24th write a little note with a Christmas fact for your child to have each morning
  • Visit museums or community holiday events
  • Read or make up holiday stories for your children. These can be used throughout the holiday season. Small short stories before bedtime and later to be used as a small book for a gift when they are older
  • Save your mobile phone photos by year on your hard drive so later you can make an annual childhood scrapbook. A great gift when they come home from college
  • Create a new tradition of having the children, and adults, make one gift. Being creative it can be by hand, it can be a song, a play, a card, a poem, whatever they choose
  • Play a game with your children while listening to Christmas music and having a holiday desert
  • Attend a professional or local, school Christmas play
  • Contact Santa at the North Pole

Remember to follow these tips to help keep you and your family safe this holiday season. Watch out for all of the eight part serious on holiday safety including Cooking, Stress-Free Holidays, The Holidays After Loss of A Loved One, Shopping, Child Safe Gift Guide, Gift's and Child Boundaries, and Family Holiday Activities and more.

You can also visit Winter Holidays and Winter Sport Safety or read or print Holiday Times for all your holiday safety needs.

For questions, contact

If this is your first holiday after loosing a loved one, these steps offer an easier way to get through the holidays.

The holidays are time of joy and cheer, but after the loss of a loved one, especially the first holiday, can be the most difficult. The empty space in your heart and life can leave you anything but happy and cheerful. If you have lost a loved one recently, here are nine tips to help you get through the holidays, while honoring the memories of your loved one. After reading this section, find out about A Letter Release: To help get through the loss of a loved one.

  • Plan something different. Try not to recreate the past. Celebrate the holidays differently, however that may be. Go to a restaurant; visit old friends or relatives; go someplace you have never been before; if you choose to put up a Christmas tree, make new, or buy, decorations for it; have a special thought or some way of honoring and expressing your loved one together. 
  • Keep it simple. Do not stress about gifts. Buy less or maybe just for the children. Or make homemade gifts. Keep it simple and different. You can have a fun activity by making decorations with others. For meals keep them simple too. Go out to eat, make different foods, etc.
  • Take care of yourself. Find time to relax. Eat nourishing healthy meals. Avoid alcohol since it can intensify depression and keep you from sleeping well.
  • Plan to keep busy. Grief can take all your energy away and even though we know we need to get up and do something, we do not have the energy. Have friends help you plan things to keep you busy. If you need to rest is fine but keep busy so you do not start feeling down or depressed.
  • Pay attention to how you feel. It is OK to let others know how you feel. If you begin to feel down and depressed talk with anyone. Let them know you need to talk and express how you feel to them. When you let people know you have experienced a loss of a loved one and need to talk, you will be surprised how people will offer to listen and help. So let others know how you feel. Be gentle to yourself and to others as well.
  • Express your feelings. Expect to feel some pain from your loss. This is normal. When you feel sad during the holidays, this is normal. Experience tears and express how you feel. Talk with others. Have faith in yourself and know you will get through this and will be fine.
  • If you need help get help from others. Grieving is difficult and should not be done alone. Share your feelings with others. If a friend or family member is not able to give you the support you need, call and talk with a lifeline counselor 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255 (FOR VETERANS PRESS “1”, EN ESPAÑOL OPRIMA EL 2)
  • Give something of yourself to others. One of the most helpful things you can do to help you feel better is to help others, especially during the holidays.  And do this in honor of the loved one you lost.
  • Remember to express your feelings, make plans to keep busy, do something different with others to honor your loved one, and if you need help call the lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Doing something different with others this holiday season can help you create new traditions to honor your loved one and get through the holidays in a different but special way.

Remember to follow these tips to help keep you and your family safe this holiday season. Watch out for all of the eight part serious on holiday safety including Cooking, Stress-Free Holidays, The Holidays After Loss of A Loved One, Shopping, Child Safe Gift Guide, Gift's and Child Boundaries, and Family Holiday Activities and more.

You can also visit Winter Holidays and Winter Sport Safety or read or print Holiday Times for all your holiday safety needs.

For questions, contact

The holidays are a wonderful time of year for both adults and children. However relationships, finances and physical and emotional demands can result in holiday stress. The following are some causes, which you might relate. The good news is, with some helpful tips you too can have a stress-free holiday.

Relationships: Relationship tension among family, friends, and intimate partners, can become worse during the holidays. And if you're facing the holidays without a loved one, you may find yourself lonely or sad. Family relationships: Especially if you are together for several days, conflicts among family members are bound to arise with so many needs and interests to accommodate. Intimate partners: Whether you are dating or recently married or living together, tension often arises when deciding when both want to follow their own traditions, but yet want to be together.

Finances: Like your relationships, finances can also cause stress at any time of the year. But overspending during the holidays on gifts, travel, food and entertainment can increase stress if you spend beyond your means.

Physical demands: Activities such as shopping, attending social gatherings, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, and preparing holiday meals can wear you down. Feeling tired can also increase your stress, creating a vicious cycle. Then in addition to stress, add lack of exercise, and overindulgence in food and drink can result in holiday illness. Getting plenty of exercise and sleep are good ways to help manage stress and fatigue.


  • Expect less! Don’t compete with past holidays or try to make this one “the best ever”.  Set realistic goals, pace yourself, and organize time.  Write a list of the most important activities and things to do. Don’t plan too much. Be realistic about what you can do. Don’t spend too much time preparing for one day (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.).
  • Allow yourself to feel: The holiday season does not automatically make feelings of sadness or loneliness go away. Allow yourself to feel however you feel but talk with others about how you feel when you begin to feel down.
  • Let go of the past!  Don’t be disappointed if your holidays are not like they used to be.  Life brings changes.  Each holiday season is different and can be enjoyed in its’ own way.  You set yourself up for sadness if everything has to be just like the “good old days”.  Especially with the loss of a loved one, keep memories in your heart and dedicate new traditions to them and look toward the future.
  • Do something for someone else.  Try volunteering to help others.
  • Enjoy “free” holiday activities: Drive and look at Holiday decorations, go window shopping.
  • Do not drink too much.  Alcohol is a depressant. Drinking can make you feel more depressed.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new.  Celebrate the holidays in a way you have not done before.
  • Spend time with “supportive” people who care about you.  Even those who care about you might not always be supportive (both family and friends). Make new friends if you are alone during special times.  Contact someone you have lost touch with.
  • Spend less and not over what you can afford. Make gifts & be creative. Don’t get caught up in the “buying trend”.
  • Take care of yourself! Get plenty of exercise, sleep, and time to relax by living in the moment.
  • Find time for yourself!  Don’t spend all your time providing activities for your family and friends. 
  • If you are depressed or need someone to talk to, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

 Source: National Mental Health Association

Remember to follow these tips to help keep you and your family safe this holiday season. Watch out for all of the eight part serious on holiday safety including Cooking, Stress-Free Holidays, The Holidays After Loss of A Loved One, Shopping, Child Safe Gift Guide, Gift's and Child Boundaries, and Family Holiday Activities and more.

You can also visit Winter Holidays and Winter Sport Safety or read or print Holiday Times for all your holiday safety needs.

For questions, contact

Be a positive role model by teaching your children that the holiday season is a time for giving and how to be realistic. Remember trying to meet all of your child’s wishes can cause stress to you and your bank account.
  • Let them know if a toy is unsafe or too expensive
  • Let them know that you and Santa will do their best to get them a special gift
  • Enjoy time with your children. Have them choose a craft or activity at least once a week. Bake cookies, write a story, or make up a game, even as a gift. Your children will remember these moments much more than anything you will ever buy!

By simply setting boundaries and validating your child will help give you and your child a much happier holiday.
Get this!
Not This!

Validate your child’s feelings

So plan ahead, be aware and ready to respond, because you know you will hear “I want…”. So as you shop, when you hear “I want”, remember to first validate their feelings. Even if you are shopping for others, still validate them by letting them know you are happy they showed you what they would like. Acknowledge them by asking them to remember that item and write it on a list when they get home. Then, if they keep asking then simply remind them again that you are shopping for others and let them help you.
Set boundaries with your child

Plan ahead, when you take your child to any store during the holidays, let them know what your intent is. Let them know what you are shopping for. If gifts for others, try to have them help by asking for their ideas. Let them know that it is okay if they see something they like, but this is not the time for us to buy it.

Remember to follow these tips to help keep you and your family safe this holiday season. Watch out for all of the eight part serious on holiday safety including Cooking, Stress-Free Holidays, The Holidays After Loss of A Loved One, Shopping, Child Safe Gift Guide, Gift's and Child Boundaries, and Family Holiday Activities and more.

You can also visit Winter Holidays and Winter Sport Safety or read or print Holiday Times for all your holiday safety needs.

For questions, contact