What’s the Deal with Family Separation?

Why Pediatricians Worry about Family Separation:IMMIGRANT-CHILD-CRIES-06-18

Sadly, we have lots of data about the damage done to children when they are separated from their families.

  • In Romania during his tenure as communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu felt that the Romanian economy would improve if there were simply more Romanians, and so he pushed people to have children that they did not have the resources to care for. As a result, there were many Romanian children who grew up in orphanages.
  • In Australia, about 1 in 10 Aboriginal children were removed from their families to be raised by white Christians between 1910 and 1970.
  • In China right now many children, known as “the left behind,” live in outlying villages while their parents move away to work.

When children are separated from their families, their bodies suffer a stress response and secrete cortisol and adrenaline. These molecules initially damage and in the end can kill brain cells. Brain cells cannot repair themselves, so this kind of toxic stress can destroy both the white and gray matter in the child’s brain, resulting in permanent brain damage and lower overall brain activity.

Kids who are separated from their parents at a young age – those Romanian kids, the Aboriginal kids in Australia – have lower IQs, suffer the long term effects of PTSD, and their fight or flight response can be permanently broken. Their brains have trouble distinguishing what is safe from what is dangerous, so they will be scared of things that they should normally know are safe.

Those stolen Aboriginal kids have twice the rates of criminal arrests and gambling, and 60% more alcoholism.

Separated kids have more aggression, tend to withdraw from normal relationships, and have significantly higher rates of anxiety and depression. They are more likely to have high risk behaviors, get pregnant as teens, and commit suicide. It can affect their emotional development, which can lead to less resilience and adaptability later in life.

They are also at higher risk for long term physical problems including hypertension and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.

To quote Dr. Hansa Bhargava at WebMD,  it can even potentially change their DNA, “affecting how their body and brain function for the rest of their lives.”

There is no doubt that separating kids from their families is as much child abuse as beating them, even before you add in how they are treated while being held in cages in constant light, noise, and cold, without the watchful eyes and comfort of their parents.

How Did This Happen So Suddenly?

First, some background. Entry into the US without a visa was perfectly legal (with an entrance fee) until 1929, when it was made a misdemeanor. Thousands of Mexicans were prosecuted for illegal entry between 1930 and the beginning of WWII (85-99% of the inmates in the booming border prison business were Mexican). Mostly white people got a pass.

World War II hit and suddenly we desperately needed those Mexican agricultural workers. We said “come on in!” and didn’t prosecute much again until 2005.

In the early 2000s life is places like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras became a lot more dangerous. Gangs proliferated, and people came to our borders in increased numbers seeking a safer life for their families. Between 2003 and 2005 the number of illegal entries at our southern border went from 4000/year to 16,500/year; in 2010 it was 44,000; it peaked in 2013 at 97,000.

Recently the numbers overall have gone down but the number of families coming through has increased.

The immigration crisis is here.

So we reacted. A 1997 court had ruled that the government is must release children from detention in not longer than 20 days (Flores vs Reno) to either the parents, an adult relative, or a licensed program. In 2015 they expanded this to apply to children arrested with their families, not just unaccompanied minors.

Since we did not have enough beds for so many, this resulted in the practice of “catch and release.” Immigration aimed at prosecuting people who were dangerous to our national security, gang members, and criminals who had committed felonies rather than simple misdemeanors, and let families go.

On 4/6/2018 Attorney General Sessions announced a new policy of “zero tolerance.” This required every adult crossing the border illegally to be arrested and prosecuted for the misdemeanor offence of illegal border crossing, leaving their children stranded alone.

These kids – more than 2300 as I write – are now being housed in cages. We’ve seen pictures only of the older boys; the government will not allow any photos other than the ones they release themselves. The babies and toddlers are apparently being housed in “tender care” facilities, where the staff care for them but are not allowed to touch or comfort them. Hitler did this to babies as an experiment, to see how babies would do with food and care but no love. They all died.

They currently have no plan for returning these kids to their families. Some parents have been told they will never see their kids again. Some have already been deported to their home country without their children; other parents have been looking unsuccessfully for their children for weeks.

So when the head of HHS says we are not separating families, she is lying. When our president says he is merely following the Democrat’s laws, he is lying. There is no law, just a new policy that he could reverse with one order. When Sessions defends this with the Bible… I just can’t.

Session’s says he hopes that knowing this will happen will keep people from coming – an experiment, on babies. Trump says if the Dems sign his Immigration Bill (fund the wall, disavow the Dreamers) he will end it.

Yesterday the UN’s Human Rights Council criticized the practice of family separation, saying “The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable…People do not lose their human rights by virtue of crossing a border without a visa.”

So today we left the Human Rights Council.

So What Can We Do About  It?

First, we must stop separating families now. There is a bill in the House right now – S.3036 – to stop it. 100% of the Democrats have signed it, 100% of the Republicans have not. Our reps are playing political games while children suffer. Call your rep and let him know you want this stopped. Here in Alabama that rep is Senator Shelby at 202-224-5744.

Donate to KIND (Kids in Need of Defense).

What can we do long term?

  • We can help South American countries to become safer places, so families can stay in their homes.
  • We can aim better. Prosecute the people who have committed felonies, who might be a danger to our national security, and who are gang members.
  • We can allow asylum claims for domestic violence and gang violence.
  • We can better fund our court system so that it does not take 2-3 years to work through an asylum claim.
  • We can use ankle bracelets to make sure the adults show up for their court dates, but can work and care for their children in the interim.
  • We can get big brains who know a lot more about immigration than I do to work on a bipartisan solution, instead of using these kids as pawns in a political game.
  • We can work together, Democrats and Republicans, to solve problems instead of acting like toddlers fighting over a prize.

We as Americans are abusing and damaging children to win political points. It must end. We have to be better than this.

 

 

 

Che, Che, Che, Changes… and Children

Change- just aheadBack-to-school season is the perfect time to think about how change impacts children, how to help them through it, and the positives that come when kids learn to be flexible and resilient.

Humanity is naturally comfortable with routine. We are confident in our ability to get through the day when we have done it all before. We are secure, and safe. We don’t have to particularly think about anything. To varying degrees, we all like to know what to expect–whole books are written about it!

This need for routine and stability is far more pronounced in a child. A toddler has no real sense of time–they live in the moment, and the future is a complete unknown. Older kids may have a better sense of time, but surprises can still incite strong emotion. Teens have so many changes going on already that seemingly small transitions can make them feel overwhelmed and out of control.

Yet change is inevitable, and the pace of change increases every day.  Parents today change jobs and geography more than did any previous generation; divorce is more common; the 24 hour cycle flings news at us continuously from around the planet.

Improvements in technology and rapid changes in our cultures remake our world the minute we turn our backs. So…

How to help children cope with change:

  • Be a good example. If you take things in stride and don’t appear worried or scared, they will imitate your reaction.
  • Build strong relationships. If they know they are loved and secure, a move or loss will not be so overwhelming.
  • Stay Healthy. Eat nutritious food, exercise, and get enough sleep. Everything is easier to deal with if you feel good and are not tired.
  • Warn them that change is coming. Imagine if even something as wonderful as Christmas happened without advance warning. There’s a tree in the living room, Dad is dressed up in a crazy suit, everyone is excited, and all the normal routines are suspended. Scary stuff! Let them know what is coming, and give them time to process.
  • Explain what is happening, and why it is happening, at their developmental level. Answer their questions. Give them information about the changes that are coming, and explore the possibilities. Imagine the good things that could happen as a result of the change as well as the bad and scary stuff.
  • Keep to routines when you can. Morning regimens, family meals, and bedtime routines are the foundation of a good day. Nothing feels safer than snuggling up with someone who loves you and a bedtime story.
  • Allow them their feelings. Don’t discount them. If the thing they are angry about the most with Grandma’s death is that no one will give them Tootsie Rolls anymore, nod solemnly and say you understand.
  • Expect bad behavior. Kids will regress with transitions, and will act out if they feel insecure. Discipline them in exactly the same way you would have before the change, because if they get away with bad behavior it will heighten their anxiety. If they still get a time out for saying that bad word, then things must not be that different. Bad behavior successfully disciplined establishes new borders and validates their security.
  • Let them have an impact on the change. Let them choose some flowers for an event, or the color of their new room for a move. Humans feel better when they have done something, no matter how small. Action shrinks fear.
  • Carve out time every day for a little one-on-one. ‘Nuf said.
  • Allow time for relaxation and fun. Laugh. Listen to music. Renee Jain, MAPP has a few excellent mindfulness activities for children here. I especially like her practice of “dissolving a thought.” Kids can devolve into what is called catastrophic thinking and spiral downward into a place where nothing is right with the world, and nothing ever will be. Mindfulness practice can stop that spiral and bring them back into the moment.
  • Avoid activities that increase stress, like competitive sports or games. This is not the time to play Monopoly. Simplify your schedule, and let things go.

Change is inevitable; learning to deal with it is a necessary skill. Kids who can adapt to new situations are better at everything from learning vocabulary to making friends to succeeding in the workplace.  Being able to manage your emotional responce to change is part of being a grownup. Knowing when to accept change and when to insist that you have an impact creates a fulfilling life. Last, seeing the good that can come from a transition is how you grab an opportunity.

The ability to adapt is one of the things that made humans special since we first started using that opposable thumb. Encourage your kids to learn it.

 

Domesticated Momster

 

The Blogger's Pit Stop

We Hold These Truths…

Young Teenage Girl Standing And Looking On Empty Picture Frame

Truth: all humans are created equal. We can sometimes distinguish ourselves by our actions in life, but to believe that one person is inherently better than another because of something they were granted unearned at birth–whether it be skin color, religion, sex, or bank balance–is to live in a juvenile world of fairy princesses. Such a world is not fair to our daughters, or our sons.

When I was growing up, sexism was acceptable and assumed. It was displayed out in the open without shame, because obviously women were not equal to men. We weren’t strong enough to be bosses, couldn’t do math, and we made decisions based on emotion rather than fact. Daughters were expected to be mothers, teachers, or nurses.

Young women today tell me that no one is sexist anymore, but it has not been extinguished so thoroughly. It simmers beneath the surface, creeping unnoticed through our subconscious. This election brought it bubbling to the surface.

A woman I know took me to task years ago for saying how ridiculous I thought it was to have a president who couldn’t pronounce the word “nuclear.” She told me that I needed to have more respect for the office that he held, even if I hadn’t voted for him. That woman, this week, said on the internet that Hillary Clinton was a “rat-faced whore.”

How is it possible to contain those two thoughts in the same brain and not notice the imbalance? Deeply held, unconsidered prejudice.

Amy Richards said, “the last time most of us had a powerful woman in our lives, we were children and she was our mother.” We have no picture in our heads of what a powerful woman should look like. We expect the impossible of every woman–she must be pretty, personable, useful, bright, successful–so we apply that in the extreme to a woman who is breaking down walls. Then we stir in a little jealousy because who does she think she is to accomplish so much more than we did? As Ms. Richards added, “we punish her for excellence and success.”

The State Department and the Senate Intelligence Committee made mistakes in Benghazi, and four people died. Investigation into the incident found many at fault; the report mentioned Clinton one time. She did, however, assume responsibility, because she was  Secretary of State.

97 people died in  20 embassy attacks when George Bush was president. Only one was ever investigated at all.

The recent email scandal occurred because Clinton used her private account for official business, rather than a State Department account. This was common practice at the time, and indeed both Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice did the same, as did the head of the CIA. No-one has called Colin Powell a criminal and demanded that he be jailed.

The anger toward this one woman is out of proportion, an extreme overreaction caused by beliefs instilled in our brains when we were still too young to reason.

I understand that people do not want to vote for someone just because she is female. We want our children to grow up in a world free of bigotry, not just reverse its direction. But I hope that they do not refuse to vote for her out of unconscious sexism. We are not obligated to vote for a woman simply because she is a woman; we are obligated to not blindly swallow the lies people spew out of a rancid sea of prejudice, because we have daughters.

To fairly evaluate a female presidential candidate we need to see past the overlay with which prejudice has painted them; we need to allow a strong woman to be a positive thing; and we need to look at actual facts.

Dig in. Think. Then Vote.

DomesticatedMomster
The Blogger's Pit Stop

4th of July Safety: Tips from the Doc

safety signSunshine, water, and fireworks. What else could you need? To avoid the ER afterwards!

Oddly, most 4th of July injuries actually have nothing to do with fireworks, and everything to do with parents being so busy that they are not as watchful as usual. Sports are more dangerous when we want to impress cousins. Teenagers tend to get more reckless during a celebration, and young children sneak away quickly.

Most injuries are from everyday activities and household objects made dangerous by the craziness. So,…

Top Ten things that will land you in my office after the fireworks:

1.  Drowning: The 4th is all about water. Every year pediatricians see drownings and near drownings on the 4th. Never leave any child alone for even a moment near open water, whether it is an ocean, a bathtub, or a water bucket.

All it takes is one moment of inattention for a child to slip away. If there is open water, you need to be within touching distance and focused on your child. Pools should be fenced in and closed off with a self-latching gate at the end of the day, and all the toys should be put away. Life vests are fabulous for a parent’s mental health and relaxation (swimmies and floaties are not life jackets). Life preservers and a shepherd’s crook should be placed obviously nearby wherever kids are swimming. For more tips on water safety, check out my summer safety tips.

2.  Fireworks: I know, it’s obvious, but it had to be on the list. Please leave them to the professionals. It’s not worth months in the burn unit and doing physical therapy.  No-one thinks it will happen to their kid, until it does.

3.  Choking: Toddlers will put anything in their mouths. This means that everybody needs to pick up his or her stuff. Items over 1¼ inch in diameter are generally safe. Items smaller than 1¼ inch can go straight into their gut or lung. The most dangerous items to swallow are button batteries and magnets; the most dangerous to choke on are grape sized (older children’s toys, hard candy) or stretchy (balloons, plastic bags, marshmallows). Clean up!

4.  Allergic reactions: Holidays provide a banquet of things to irritate children’s allergies. Plants, foods, cigarette smoke, bonfires and other people’s homes and pets come to mind. Avoid them if your child has allergies.

5.  Fires and electrical injuries are especially common during holidays. Decorations can be flammable, candles and fires are commonly nearby. Frayed and loose wires easily start fires. I have had an astounding number of children run through banked campfires after dark. Block them off please!  Keep your eyes open for dangers.

6.  Poisonings: The one I see most is an overdose on Grandma’s meds. At Grandma’s home they are left on countertops; at your home they are in her purse. A left over drink is also a common way to poison children. A little alcohol can drop a child’s blood sugar and throw him or her into a coma.

7.  Alcohol inside the grown-up: does this really need explanation?

8.  Dehydration/Food poisoning: Watch their intake. It’s hot and the kids are running around in endless circles. Bring lots of water (the stuff mother nature made for you, not the stuff with caffeine and sugar added). Food left out in the heat for hours can grow things that cause vomiting and diarrhea. If you don’t know where it came from and how long it’s been there, don’t eat it.

9.  Scarce common sense: If it doesn’t seem safe, don’t let people pressure you into it. Make them wear that bike helmet! Trampolines and motorized vehicles (Sea Doos, dirt bikes) are never a good idea.  Feel free to let watching your kids take precedence over seeing Uncle Joe’s trophy or Aunt Mary’s vacation photos. “He’ll be fine” doesn’t make him fine. Keep an eye on him.

10.  Politeness: Feel free to be rude and head for home when the kids get tired, if a situation feels out of control, or if your child is being exposed to something you aren’t happy with. Use the munchkin’s youth or fatigue as the excuse for you to head home, relax and read a bedtime story.

The point of celebrations is to solidify relationships and give hope for the future. Focus on family, rejoice in the day and be careful.  Keep plans simple, pick fewer things to do, and do them together. Be safe and stay healthy.

Children in the Aftermath of Trauma

Sad child on black background. Portrait depression girlWe try to protect our children from as much as we can, but sometimes life has other plans.

The murders in Orlando have taken over our thoughts, our conversations at home and with friends, the internet, and the television waves. Our children are being bombarded by the nightmare in front of the TV at home, in conversations with friends, and with questions asked by their peers. It can be too much for a child to deal with.

Your child’s experience of an event will vary depending on their age,  personal style,  life experience, and  closeness to the disaster. A toddler will only care that his or her parents seem to be upset. Older children will hurt for the people involved, worry about friends and relatives that are not within their sight, and worry that it could happen to them sometime, at some other event. What seemed exciting to discuss with friends during the day becomes frightening after the lights go off.

Listen to them talk, and be patient when they ask you the same questions over and over. Reassure them, let them know that such things are extremely rare. Answer questions truthfully, at their own developmental level. Never lie.

Monitor what your child sees and hears – adult conversation and the media can magnify fear and confusion and increase their trauma. Repetition can intensify anxiety; pictures can get locked in their heads.

After the event symptoms of post-traumatic stress may appear, even in children not directly involved. They may be sad or moody, easily angered or irritable. They may be afraid to go to public venues. They may have trouble sleeping or sleep too much. Appetites may suffer. Your child may be anxious when his or her people are not all nearby, and wake from nightmares.

Children frequently have concentration problems after a trauma, and their grades will suffer. They may regress developmentally: your independent youngsters may become clingy, or need help doing things they had been able to do on their own. They may avoid activities they previously enjoyed, and withdraw into themselves. They may become anxious at the thought of going to school, or of being separated from mom or dad.

They can also develop physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches. They may try to exercise more control on their environment, setting up their toys in a particular way, wanting their schedule to be predictable, or demanding activities they find reassuring. Teens may act out or try alcohol or drugs in an attempt to feel better.

Helping them may be as simple as listening. Be available and receptive but don’t push. A younger child may open up and tell you his story when you break out toys or art supplies; an older one may talk if you tell her a similar story about yourself, when you were scared or worried. Schedule time for just the two of you, and wait.

Children may try to hide their symptoms: they think they should be stronger, they don’t want to be a burden, or they think they are abnormal for having the problem. They may even feel that the disaster was their fault; children are not always logical. Allowing them to bury their symptoms will only erode their spirit from the inside.

Also, be a good example. Take care of yourself, eat healthy food, sleep, and discuss events calmly. Turn off the TV and stay off the web. Exercise. Take breaks to play, read a book, and do something unrelated to it.

Keep to recognizable routines– routine is reassuring and safe. Require reasonable behavior: if they still get in trouble for using that bad word, then everything must be OK. They may test you with bad behavior just to get that reassurance. Don’t spoil them with extra treats, because it will frighten them. Things must be really bad if The Parent gives me toys or lets me eat candy.

Lend a hand to other people. It will help to know that you have the power to help and comfort.

The traumatic symptoms may last quite a while. Triggers like parents going out at night or a security guard at a local festival may bring everything back. Fear of it happening again may linger. An anniversary will renew their anxiety.

If time passes and stress is affecting their lives, think about having them see a counselor or getting them into a peer group with similar concerns. We all need a little help sometimes.

My mom also used to say, “Time heals all wounds.” And with a little help from their guardians it always will.

Top 10 Tips for Successful Summer Vacations

little cute girl near the pool with a circle for swimming

School’s out! Time for the Family Vacation. So how do you have fun without going insane? I, of course, have a top ten from the Doc:

10. Pack a simple medicine kit: don’t waste a day of vacation at my office, refilling the prescription you forgot at home. Take:

  • any prescription meds your child sometimes needs, even if they haven’t used them in a while (asthma and allergy meds come to mind)
  • frequently used over-the-counter stuff: acetaminophen or ibuprofen, an antihistamine, insect repellant with DEET (the other stuff really doesn’t work, and insect borne encephalitis is unpleasant), sunscreen, and hand sanitizer
  • basic first aid supplies (band aids, gauze pads, tape, antibiotic ointment, cortisone cream, alcohol, tweezers, scissors, thermometer)

9.  Write out a budget before you go. I know, I am a fun sucker, but it has to be done. Know how much money you have and where you plan to spend it. Give the kids an allowance for souvenirs. They will be more careful with money they consider their own, and they will not be constantly asking for things. “Can I have that?” can be answered with “Sure, it’s your money. But are you positive that is where you want to spend it? There might be something better later…” Also, knowing how much you yourself have to spend will save you stress and regret later.

8.  Keep to healthy foods most of the time. (Here I go, sucking out the fun again!) Kids will have more energy, feel better and have a better attitude if they are nourished. And it’s cheaper. Have a basket of fruit available, some whole grain crackers, cheese, peanut butter, popcorn – food with nutrients. Don’t waste valuable vacation time sitting in the drive thru line and arguing over food.

7.  Keep to established routines when you can. Bring along a book for that bedtime story, keep bed time the same, set aside time for their bath. Kids don’t always deal well with change, and vacations are all about change. A few familiar routines will help them feel less stressed. And a full night’s sleep is an absolute necessity if you don’t want an emotional wreck for a kid.

6.  Keep an eye on the little ones. You are in a different environment with new dangers. Distractions abound. Kids on vacation get lost, or get into Grandma’s meds or the local pool. Check out my summer safety tips.

5.  Find interesting things to keep their brains busy. Bored kids whine, and then they find their own version of interesting things. Have a stock of books, games and videos for the car. Bring a journal for them to write in, and art supplies. Explore the area you travel to – Google it before you go. See the sights, hit the museums, find the local artists and craftsmen. Check out ideas to abolish summer boredom.

4.  Keep your own mind open to new and different ways of doing things, so that your kids will do the same. Kids internalize their parent’s judgments, and they will close down their minds and wipe possibilities out of their lives if that is the example you set.

3.  Keep them physically active as well. A tired kid is less stressed, sleeps better, and is not sitting around thinking of ways to get into trouble.

2.  Keep stress to a minimum. Use a GPS if you’re driving: arguments with the navigator have ruined many a vacation. Keep your expectations in line with the actual possibilities, to avoid disapointment. Don’t overschedule – leave time for that relaxing hike and to have a conversation over dinner. Stay within your budget – your hindbrain will know you are overspending and your stress will mount. Stressed out people snap at each other and cannot enjoy time or family.

1.  Align your vacation with your priorities, then toss out the rest. What are the goals of this vacation? Relaxation, family time, memories, enrichment, joy? Plan the vacation and activities that will get you there, and don’t let exhaustion, stress, and fear get in your way. Don’t stop at Uncle Joe’s house if you know he will stress you out; don’t vacation with those friends who overspend or forget to pay their half of the bill. Don’t worry if the kids are getting dirty or if your Aunt Judy wouldn’t approve. Just say no, open up, and relax.

And have a fantastic vacation!

Why Did My Kid React to That Food?

Little chief-cook tasting the carrotKids can have reactions to food for many different reasons. They can be allergic, sensitive, intolerant, or have problems because the food contains poisons or has drug effects.

Food allergies are caused by a child’s immune system reacting to a food, similar to the way they can react to pollen or bug bites. Allergic reactions are usually to the protein in the food rather than the sugar or fat, and are usually immediate. The most common severe reactions are to tree nuts, peanuts, and shellfish. Less severe reactions are most common with cow’s milk, eggs, soy, wheat, and fish.

Celiac disease is in this category. People with celiac are allergic to the gluten protein in wheat and react with their immune system if they are exposed to even a tiny amount. Gluten allergy was worth a whole blog all by itself: A Gluten Free Blog.

80-90% of the time, kids will outgrow allergies to eggs, wheat, milk, and soy by 5 years of age. They outgrow peanut allergies only 20% of the time. (Do NOT experiment with this!) Fewer will outgrow allergies to tree nuts and seafood.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  • Skin rashes. Hives, or whelps–itchy raised patches with pale centers and red rims. Hives move around, fading in one area to reappear in another. Antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) help the symptoms.
  • Breathing problems. Food reactions can make kids wheeze, make their throats feel tight, and give them sneezing fits.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and  diarrhea.
  • Circulatory symptoms like paleness, lightheadedness, and loss of consciousness.
  • Severe reactions can involve several of these areas, and are called anaphylaxis.

Food sensitivities and intolerances are not allergies. Some children can be sensitive to the common effects of a food and react strongly. For example:

  • Apples, pears and bananas contain pectin and can be constipating (useful if your child has diarrhea). Some children can get stopped up if they eat too many.
  • Dairy products can also constipate–some kids will never poop again if they eat a lot of cheese. (This may be a slight exaggeration.)
  • Sugar can cause diarrhea, so children may have problems if they drink a lot of juice. (Interestingly, we have never been able to prove that sugar makes kids hyper.)
  • Kids can react to dyes and preservatives in foods–they will feel nauseated or tired, and we have proven that red dye can make them hyper.
  • Lactose intolerance is an reaction to the sugar in milk. People who are lactose intolerant are missing the enzyme (lactase) that breaks down the sugar in milk (lactose). They get bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

There are certainly plants that contain toxins (poisons) in themselves–poisonous mushrooms, apple seeds, and belladonna are examples–but most poisonings are accidental, usually from foods that have spoiled:

  • C. Botulinium bacteria grows in improperly canned food and in cans that have rusted through.When we used to give Karo syrup for constipation, the bacteria would grow in Karo left on a cupboard shelf and children would die, paralyzed by the neurotoxin (nerve poison) that the bacteria produced.
  • Staph Aureus can grow in spoiled food and produce a toxin that is usually self limited in its effect, giving kids cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Clostridium perfringens produces a similar toxin, and is frequently the villain in cafeteria incidents and contaminations in soil and sewage.
  • Salmonella can grow in spoiled meat, eggs, and milk and give your child diarrhea, vomiting and fever.
  • E. coli is more likely to grow in beef, but can be found in mishandled produce. Same unpleasant symptoms.
  • Shigella is common in daycare outbreaks. It causes the same nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever, but has the added risk of seizures from the toxin it produces.

Foods can also have drug effects. The best examples of this are drinks (coffee, tea, energy drinks) and food (chocolate) that contain caffeine. Caffeine makes kids restless, shaky, and interferes with their sleep. In large doses, as with energy drinks, it can produce a rapid heartbeat, muscle tremors and seizures. There were 20,783 emergency room visits from energy drinks in 2011; 5 people died after consuming them. The youngest was a 14 year old girl.

Foods can also be irritants. For example, babies can get rashes around their mouths or diaper rashes from acidic foods.

People do not react to a food solely because it is a GMO (genetically modified organism)–GMOs are not something you need to avoid unless you have a reaction to the particular item. GMO wheat produces the same allergens as non-GMO wheat; if you are allergic to one, you will be allergic to the other. Also the subject of an entire blog: What’s the Deal with GMOs?

In conclusion, not every food reaction is a food allergy. Avoidance or treatment of the food reaction varies with the actual cause. If a child has an anaphylactic allergic reaction to peanuts, he or she never needs to be around peanuts again. They may outgrow other allergies. If they get gassy from a lactose intolerance, they can take lactase tablets when they eat dairy. Kids who become constipated with apples or cheese need to limit the number they eat. It is always important for every child to not be fed spoiled food or energy drinks.

Knowing in what way your child reacted to a food determines what you do about it in the future. Knowledge rules.

Domesticated Momster
Rhyming with Wine
Rhyming with Wine

Lessons from a Child

Astronaut child

Children never question what they like and do not like. They are nothing if not decided.

My grandson, the other day, looked at lasagna and said No, I do not like the look of that, and will therefor not taste it. He said that with a twist of an eyebrow, not actual words, since he is not yet two. Luckily, he was afterwards convinced that just one taste would not kill him, and proceeded to devour the entire plate. Not so bad, lasagna.

We somehow lose that connection as adults.

Where does it go–that focus; that confidence that we know ourselves?

I think we get directed. Steering is involved. People suggest. This is good, you will like it. You look pretty in that, you should wear that more. Rich guys have that, you should want it too.

Our cultures push a little in one direction.

Our gender angles a bit to the side.

Our age limits possibilities, tamps them down.

Our situation tailors our activities that way.

As we go through life we lose ourselves, and the directions we could have grown had we not been trellised on a frame.

We seldom take a moment to sit and think, I used to find dinosaurs fascinating. I used to write, draw, sing… I always wanted to try running, the guitar, scuba diving…

Adults get disconnected, in their adultness.

Let us today vow to follow the immediate example children display for us.  Hmmm. Flavor…. Good! Hmmm. Uncomfortable… Bad!

What might we be capable of if we rediscover who we are from the inside out; figure out what we actually enjoy, find interesting, and want to spend our lives doing rather than fitting into the frame society has designed for us? It is so easy to believe that our amazing children can be anything, do anything… Why not apply that to ourselves as well? We will never discover that we can draw if we do not pick up a pencil, that we are good with the elderly if we do not volunteer, that we can do, if we do not try (switched up Yoda a bit sorry).

Can we create ourselves the way our children do, isolating ourselves during that moment of exploration from the expectations created by our histories and circumstances? Put that pencil to paper without looking behind us to make sure no one sees?

How better to teach our children that they can be connected and fulfilled than by doing it ourselves, and being a good example?

Celebrate the world’s rebirth this spring and try something new.

Domesticated Momster

Donald Trump, and Accountable Parenting

Cute girl of school age in superhero costume

Our current crop of political leaders is making me nuts. We’ve gone from “I cannot tell a lie” George Washington to “I cannot tell the truth” Donald Trump, and the American people have accepted it, because it is the new norm. What happened to honesty, integrity, and caring for our fellow humans? The politics needed to get elected have destroyed the integrity needed to do the job.

I usually tell people that the most important concepts in parenting are unconditional love, acceptance of and respect for the child, security, and consistency. In honor of this election, I would like to add one more to the list: personal responsibility. Perhaps I can sneak it in as a subset of security.

Eleanor Roosevelt said “…our children must learn…to face full responsibility for their actions, to make their own choices and cope with the results…the whole democratic system…depends upon it. For our system is founded on self-government, which is untenable if the individuals who make up the system are unable to govern themselves.”

Responsible behavior trickles down. When the individual people who run our government do not hold themselves accountable, our organization’s leaders will follow that example, and bad behavior will flow down to our workplace and family. If everyone you know is behaving badly, why then should you be any better?

Because your children are watching.

Our candidates have not been good examples.  According to the Pulitzer Prize winning website site PolitiFact Donald Trump tells the truth 3% of the time, and “Pants-on-Fire” lies 19% of the time. Ted Cruz is at 22% true or mostly true, and 7% Pants-on-Fire lies. Clinton and Sanders tied at 51% true or mostly true, and 2% and 0% fiery pants, respectively.

Recently I was asked if an online publication could put my blog about Food Marketing to Children on their site. I was honored, and said yes.

They edited it a bit. They took out every reference to particular fast food advertisers, thus gutting the info on marketing techniques advertisers use to attract children. Apparently it is unacceptable to offend McDonald’s by suggesting that they advertise fast food. They removed my book from my bio (hmm…) and replaced it with fabricated hospital affiliations. I was told that it would not be sent for final approval until I approved the edits, so I spent two days working to fix it. When I sent back the version I approved, I learned that the gutted article had been sent forward at the exact same moment they were assuring me that it would not.

When I expressed my disapproval, I was told “This is our editorial process and it has been in place for five years. It has never been a problem.”

It reminded me of Han Solo in Star Wars shouting, “It’s not my fault!”

“We always do it this way,” and “It’s the other guy’s fault,” are classic techniques to evade personal responsibility. Lack of accountability has become expected and acceptable. Bad enough in politics and organizations, it is soul destroying when done by parents in the sight of their children. “It was the other guy’s fault,” easily breeds “The teacher didn’t tell us we had homework.” “The boss just doesn’t like me,” can become “There’s no point in trying, it won’t work out anyway.” Evading responsibility imperils things like learning, achievement, self-confidence and pride.

We want our children to have pride in their accomplishments, good relationships, and success in their chosen work. The only way to get there is “to face full responsibility for their actions, to make their own choices and cope with the results.” Gotta love Eleanor Roosevelt.

The first step in teaching them to be accountable for their actions is to be so yourself. Children will follow the example they see–and if that example is not as honorable as it should be, they may not become the person you hoped they would be. Forget to pick up the school supplies? Accept blame and let them put you in the time out chair. Don’t try to shift blame to your demanding boss. Hurt somebody? Apologize. When we hold ourselves accountable, we become better people, and our children follow our example.

Getting the job is not the final goal; doing the job is.

One more quote, because Maya Angelou says it better than I ever could: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Make your children feel secure and proud to claim you as their parent-not disappointed and ashamed by your actions. Teach them that they can accomplish anything they dream of if they make their choices, and cope with the results.

And get out and vote.

Domesticated Momster