Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Children Most Vulnerable to Climate Change

Children are among the most vulnerable members of society. Natural and man-made disasters often affect children more than adults because they are unable to fend for themselves. This is doubly true in poor countries, where children often suffer from malnourishment and illnesses such as malaria or HIV.

Climate change brings with it drought and flooding along with food shortages and violence. The resulting toll on children in the developing world may be catastrophic.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hyperparenting: The Helicopter Parent and Carl Honore with a Stinger Missile

When we went to visit daycares before Curious Boy was born, many of them tried to impress us with their school-like settings and workbooks for 3 year olds. Now, I'm a big fan of letting kids be kids for as long as possible, and Philosopher Mom is a pediatric occupational therapist. We both kept our mouths shut and ran like hell to a family-style home daycare down the street. Getting kids ready to succeed in school is one thing, but forcing them to attempt tasks before they are developmentally ready can really make them suffer.

The hyperparenting trend, where you schedule all of the life out of your kids life is having an incredibly detrimental effect on children's happiness.

Author Carl Honore, who also wrote "In Praise of Slow", has released a new book called "Under Pressure: Rescuing Childhood from the Culture of Hyperparenting". He has been making the rounds on CBC Radio 1, and it seems as though we have a lot in common. He suggests that getting kids into too many activities and putting too much academic pressure on them early on can be ruinous for a child's mental health and actually be counter-productive. He present the case of Finland as a contrast to North America. Children in Finland to not enter school until the age of 7, there is virtually no homework assigned during elementary school and Kumon/Sylvan type tutoring is unheard of. Fins consistently score very highly on internationally standardized tests and rate themselves as 3rd happiest in the world. Certainly something to think about, while you are crying becuase Aiden didn't get into the right preschool and now his chances of going to MIT are shot.

Listen to Carl Honore on Sounds Like Canada
and on the phone-in segment of Radio Noon (Part 1 and Part 2)

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Monday, April 21, 2008

MSPI Wiki: A new online resource

We've made an effort to document our struggle with MSPI, and to collect online resources and to give advice to people who have written to us. Hardly a week goes by without someone telling me how lost and scared they were when their child was diagnosed with MSPI, and how helpful this blog has been. This response has been wonderful, but it has also made me realize that a blog is not necessarily the ideal setup for creating a community that can offer support and advice.

With that in mind, I have created a wiki where people can join, add their stories, questions, recipes and what ever else they can think of. A wiki is only as good as the people who use it, all you MSPI parents out there PLEASE JOIN!!!!!

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Health Canada will Recognize Bisphenol A as dangerous.

In the wake of Enivronmental Defence's report on BPA in baby bottles that was released in February (and commented on extensively, here too). In our house we've stopped using polycarbonate plastics, and Health Canada seems to be all set to agree with me according to a report in today's Globe and Mail.
Ant Defense
This would be quite the ground-breaker. Health Canada is sometimes criticized for failing to take the lead on many health issues, often waiting to see what the FDA and EPA do. In light of the over-politicization of those agencies it is heartening to see Health Canada be so proactive in protecting the health of Canadians.

via TreeHugger

Parental Behaviour Affects Quality of Child's Sleep

A new study done at Montreal's Sacre Coeur Hospital and set to be published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine shows that parental behaviour can dramatically affect the way kids sleep.

Parents also reported their behavior at children’s bedtime (including whether they lulled children to sleep, laid them down awake or stayed with them until they fell asleep) and during nighttime awakenings (including comforting children in bed, taking them out of bed, giving them food or bringing them to the parental bed for cosleeping).

“Early (age 5 to 17 months) sleep disturbances predicted maladaptive parenting behaviors (e.g., mother present at sleep onset, giving food/drink after child awakens) at ages 29 and 41 months,” the authors write. “Some parental behaviors in turn predicted future bad dreams, total sleep time of less than 10 hours per night and sleep-onset latency [delays in falling asleep] of 15 minutes or more. However, most relationships did not remain significant in adjusted models that controlled for early sleep problems.” Cosleeping after nighttime awakening remained associated with more than 15-minute delays in returning to sleep, while the mother’s presence at the beginning of sleep appeared protective against such delays.

The results support the notion that some parental behaviors develop in response to early sleep problems, the authors note. However, they also indicate that such parental behaviors could have negative effects. “Parental strategies that were effective for early sleep difficulties (e.g. giving food or drink) may later become inappropriate to the child’s age and needs. Mothers might adopt the inappropriate response of giving food or drink to 29- to 41-month-old children awakening (which is associated with bad dreams and shorter total sleep time at age 50 months) because they commonly attribute infant cries to hunger and come to believe that infants cry only when hungry,” the authors write.

“Our findings clarify the long-debated relationship between parental behaviors and childhood sleep disturbances,” the authors conclude. “They suggest that cosleeping and other uncommon parental behaviors have negative consequences for future sleep and are thus maladaptive.”

This last paragraph surprises me. My understanding, from my experience with both kids, and from reading the article, is that the real problem is that parents fail to adapt their behaviour as children get older. Cosleeping with infants is one thing, cosleeping with a toddler or young child is another. Parents need to remember that their kids needs change, sometimes very rapidly and it is important to be aware when a strategy is no longer working.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Groovy Joovy Caboose

You may remember my agonizing over double strollers before Zen Girl was born. We finally opted for the Graco Quattro Duo. Since Curious Boy was only 17 months old when his sister came along, this seemed like a good choice. Big wheels for winter, easy to attach a Snugride, big basket. Now that CB is older, heavier and can walk further, the traditional stadium double stroller is showing its weakness. In addition, it takes up most of the trunk in our 2006 Civic. The big wheels and stylized frame make the Duo heavy and a bit tough to steer.

With that in mind we recently picked up a Joovy Caboose. Its small and light, with one normal forward facing seat and jumpseat/platform for the older kid. Its cheap too. Curious Boy loves being able to stand when he wants, and we like being able to strap him in when we need to.

The low price has its drawbacks though. The handle doesn't adjust and the tray on the forward seat does not come off or on easily. In addition, the wheel bearings are cheap and the plastic used for the tray and forward footrest resemble nothing so much as polypropylene disposable plastic containers.

Joovy does make a Caboose Ultralight which comes in at 21 lbs compared to the regular 26lbs and more than twice the price. I hope that the higher price comes with better finishings.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Whew.... where did I go? Sunshine Kids Radian Edition

Somehow, it's been weeks since I posted anything other than a product recall or food warning. One thing I've been meaning to talk about is our recent acquisition of two Radian car seats by Sunshine Kids Juvenile Products. As part of our ongoing effort to be the greenest family on the block, we resisted the temptation to get a bigger car when Zen Girl came along, opting to squeeze everything into our 2006 Honda Civic. The Radian, with it's steel frame and narrow profile allows us to put them next to one another and still have room for an adult (me) next to them. We could even fit three of the seats in the back of the car. The LATCH connectors are very easy to use, avoiding bloodied and bruised fingertips that used to come from taking the seats in and out.

The car seats also fold for easy transportation. I'm a huge fan of these seats.
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