Category Archives: parenting

Coping with dementia: a workshop for kids and families

It’s tough to deliver the news that a beloved grandparent has Alzheimer’s disease. But no one ever expects to have to tell his or her own children that a parent has been diagnosed with dementia.

But it happens.

About 10% of people under 65 will have a dementia, says Jan Dougherty, RN, director of Family and Community Services for Banner Alzheimer’s Institute.

More on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

With the number of parents having children over 40, adds Dougherty, chances are that if a parent does develop early onset dementia, they may have adolescents or teens in the home.

No matter if it is a parent or a grandparent, kids are embarrassed by the changes they are seeing, says Dougherty, so finding others who are in similar situations can be very helpful.  Children and adults can become easily overwhelmed by the disruption that a dementia diagnosis can cause.

It’s important for parents and caregivers to be open and honest with children in any situation where rapid and significant change, such as memory loss, is likely to occur, says Cardon Children’s Child Life Specialist Courtney Kissel. That helps to maintain a trusting relationship.

Explaining a diagnosis to younger children about a parent- or a grandparent – can be a challenge.

One of the tips Kissel recommends is to ask the child to picture the memories that the person has in list form, written on a chalkboard that will, over time, be erased. The more recent memories at the top of the chalkboard will disappear first, and the memories from the early years of life at the bottom of the chalkboard will be the last to fade away.

A workshop, sponsored by the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, aims to help families to come together to learn more about dementia and how to cope with the changes.

Dougherty hopes that her team will identify some ways to keep kids and families connected on an ongoing basis –so they won’t feel alone.

Kids, Families and Dementia Workshop
Saturday, March 31
Franciscan Renewal Center, 5802 E. Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, AZ

Families participating in this workshop with their children will gain age-appropriate information about Alzheimer’s disease/related dementias, explore methods to provide age-appropriate support for kids living with a person with dementia, identify ways for adults and children to stay connected to the person with dementia, join with others in like situations and explore ongoing ways to stay connected and supported.

Individual: $10
Family of 3 or more: $25

Pre-registration is required for the conference. The deadline is March 26. Call: 602-839-6850 or email

Additional information, including the workshop schedule of activities.


Snoring linked to behavior problems in children

Children who snore or who have other sleep-related breathing problems are more likely to have behavioral problems years later, says a new study to be published in the April 2012 issue of Pediatrics.

Researchers asked a group of parents about their children’s snoring, mouth breathing, observed apnea and behavior, starting at age 6 months and then periodically until age 7 years.

By age 4, the children with sleep-disordered breathing were 20 percent to 60 percent more likely to have behavioral difficulties. By age 7, the likelihood jumped to 40 to 100 percent.

The worst symptoms were associated with the worst behavioral outcomes, meaning that the kids who faced more serious sleep-related breathing problems also tended to be more likely to struggle with behavior issues.

Study authors conclude that sleep-disordered breathing early in life can have a strong effect on behavior later in childhood.

Kids who have these difficulties may miss out on critical periods of brain development that researchers believe take place during deep sleep.

The study findings suggest that these symptoms may require attention as early as the first year of life.

Dr. Mark Brown, pediatric pulmonologist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, and a member of the Arizona Chapter of the AAP, weighs in on kids and snoring:

 When should a parent be concerned about snoring?

  •  When a child can be heard snoring outside of their room.
  • When a child has disrupted sleep with short “pauses, snorts, or gasps” in their sleep.
  • If the child is having behavioral problems, a short attention span and problems at school.
  • If the child, especially an older child, frequently falls asleep during the day (i.e. in the car, during a TV show or movie, while reading).
  • In severe cases, there can be difficulty with weight gain or obesity, or high blood pressure.

Is a little light snoring okay?

Light snoring without any of the above associated signs/symptoms may be “normal.” If there is any concern, the parent should consult with their child’s primary care physician.

How do you know when snoring needs medical attention?

 If any of the above signs/symptoms are seen or if the parent is unsure about the significance of their child’s snoring they should consult with their child’s primary care physician.

RAK Archives: More on the consequences of too little sleep, and what families can do about it.

RAK Resources on respiratory issues: Take a Deep Breath by Dr. Nina Shapiro

Find out what technicians at the Sleep Center at Cardon Children’s Medical Center learn by watching children sleep:

Of hoopla, red ribbons, and hope

All of the players were in place.

Phoenix Children’s Hospital top brass. Community leaders. Patients, families and friends.

A  stage for local TV stations with their tripods and cameras.

CEO Bob Meyer strapped on a back-pack style safety vest.

Meyer climbed in to the basket of a blue cherry picker attached to a large crane, taking along a giant pair of red-handled scissors.

With a dramatic unfurling of the Kitchell Construction banner placed  front and center to hang from the basket, Meyer ascended toward the huge red ribbon wrapped around the façade of the new eleven story patient tower. A couple of snips, and the ribbon fell away as the crowd cheered.

It’s a massive project. The expansion will grow the hospital from 345 beds to 465 beds and on to 625 when the full build-out is completed in 2013.

With more beds, a larger facility, and room for state-of-the-art technology such as Arizona’s first 256-slice CT scanner, PCH is poised to meet the demands of Arizona’s pediatric population boom.

PCH Chief of Critical Care, Dr. Heidi Dalton, says the expansion not only brings more room for privacy for families, hi-tech communications systems for staff, and enough beds to serve sick kids—in the past, at times the hospital had to turn kids away – but that it also has begun to attract top doctors from other areas outside the state.

Dalton, recruited from a career in Washington, D.C., is thrilled with the clinical research she’ll be able to do in a stand-alone hospital, with more resources than what many doctors find available in academic positions at hospitals associated with universities.

“It’s allowed me to bring a vision…my own vision as the chief, to what we’re going to become. We have every sub-specialist known to man here –even more than in D.C. It’s awesome for the Valley.”

Stephanie Peterson visited with her son Chance, 6, to watch the ribbon cutting. Chance recently had surgery at PCH for a kidney blockage.

“We’ve been in and out of E.R.’s all his life, we’ve gotten so many different stories of belly aches, constipation. It was the doctors here that finally listened to me, and finally fixed him. Between urology and nephrology — within weeks, he had surgery.”

Stephanie says the single rooms, with their privacy and quiet, will make a huge difference for families and kids. “I’m a little jealous- the private rooms would have been amazing. Trying to share a room with another child can be rowdy, it can be difficult- some are quiet, some are not.”

Chance has recovered and will likely not remember too much about his experience, but Stephanie thinks he’ll always know that he doesn’t have to be afraid of medical procedures because of the way doctors and nurses approached his care.

“He knows how to sit back and let them do what they need to do for him. The way they treated him…they talked to him like a little person– not just a child that they needed to hold down and do something to. That was an amazing thing.”

Buddy Padilla, 14, a PCH patient who also sits on the Children’s Advisory Board (CAB) said that patient perspectives were considered during the expansion. “And that’s different from what the parents experience.”

Buddy, who was born with a rare chronic disorder that affects the intestinal tract (most kids don’t survive this particular illness past age one) offers first-hand knowledge to PCH about how patients are affected by gastro-intestinal issues and procedures. “We are going to have input, we are going to try our best to help out with this hospital, too.”

Yeira Hernandez, 7, climbed out of the back of a Phoenix Fire truck with the CAB members to watch Meyer elevate to cut the ribbon. Yeira copes with digestive problems and is being treated at PCH.

Her mom, Yanet, carefully managed Yeira’s I.V. tubes, which prevented Yeira from swirling around in her rainbow skirt.

Yeira wasn’t too chatty this morning for our interview. But that’s okay. The word on her shirt tells you everything you need to know about her.

It was a big day to celebrate- with confetti, fire engines, and a flying CEO.

Especially for anyone who understands what research, a new facility, and a crew of caring professionals truly mean to a little girl and her mom.

“A big hospital makes a big difference,” said Yanet, “because of the hope that it brings for cures and treatments.”

All photos by Daniel Friedman.

©Raising Arizona Kids Magazine

New study: Kids and sports drinks don’t mix

Too much sugar. Tooth decay. Obesity.

That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics wants to decrease or eliminate consumption by children and adolescents of sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade.

Sports drinks, which contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes and flavoring, are intended to replace water and electrolytes lost through sweating during exercise.

But as it turns out, kids like the taste of these beverages because they’re sweet –and many parents figure they’re good for kids.

Although sports drinks can be helpful for young athletes engaged in prolonged, vigorous physical activities, in most cases, says the AAP, they are unnecessary on the sports field or the school lunchroom.

“For most children engaging in routine physical activity, plain water is best,” says Holly J. Benjamin, MD, FAAP, a member of the executive committee of the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, and a co-author of a new report released Monday, May 30 in the June issue of Pediatrics.

It’s better for children to drink water during and after exercise, says Benjamin. The AAP also does not recommend that sports drinks be served with meals.

Report findings also conclude that some kids are drinking energy drinks –which, unlike sports drinks,  contain large amounts of caffeine – when their goal is simply to rehydrate after exercise.

That can be dangerous, say researchers.Energy drinks can also contain other substances not found in sports drinks that act as stimulants, such as guarana and taurine.

According to the AAP, caffeine – by far the most popular stimulant – has been linked to a number of harmful health effects in children, including effects on the developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems.

Energy drinks can also interfere with a good night’s sleep.

Energy drinks are never appropriate for children or adolescents, say study authors. In general, caffeine-containing beverages, including soda, should be avoided.

Labels can be confusing; it can be tough to tell how much caffeine a product actually contains. Some cans or bottles of energy drinks top out at more than 500 mg of caffeine.

That’s the  equivalent of 14 cans of soda.

Child life specialists converge in Phoenix

More than 900 child life professionals, educators and students will be at The Sheraton Phoenix Downtown today through Sunday for the largest annual gathering of child life specialists in the world.

The 28th annual event is being hosted by the Child Life Council (

Child life specialists are experts in child development who encourage optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to healthcare and hospitalization. They promote effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities. They provide emotional support for families and also play a vital role in educating caregivers, administrators and the general public about the needs of children under stress.

Conference attendees will choose from more than 50 educational sessions in which they’ll learn everything from practical hands-on techniques to the latest developments in child life research and theory. Child life specialists from a diverse group of nations, including the US, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Serbia, Israel, Kuwait, China, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand are attending.

The Local Conference Planning committee is comprised of child life specialists from many Arizona programs, including: Phoenix Children’s Hospital; Cardon Children’s Medical Center, Banner Thunderbird Medical Center, Tucson Medical Center, University Medical Center, Children’s Rehabilitative Services, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Scottsdale Healthcare, Ryan House and John C. Lincoln – Deer Valley.

Eight-year-old Sarah plays with then Child Life Specialist Heather Walton. Photo courtesy of Phoenix Children's Hospital.

Read about Sarah Maurer a former cancer patient at Phoenix Children’s Hospital who is pursuing a career as a child life specialist.

Listen to Sarah talk about her experience with childhood cancer.

Why spanking doesn’t work

I was looking at a map display at Arlington National Cemetery with my daughter when a little guy, around 4 years old, tucked in between us to get a look, too.

“Get away from there!” said the man with the boy. As I turned to see where this stern voice was coming from, and the little boy moved out of the way of the map, I sensed what was coming. I watched as he crouched and cowered on the gravel behind us.

Whack, whack, whack. “Don’t you ever do that again!”

What was lost was a teachable moment about waiting your turn, learning about maps and understanding the history of a precious American landmark. I wish I understood why some parents feel that corporal punishment is an effective way to discipline a child.

A study in the May issue of Pediatrics asked nearly 2,500 moms how often they’d spanked their 3-year-old children in the past month. The researchers also asked questions about the level of aggressive behaviors shown by the child.

Even after accounting for parental “risk” factors, such as parenting stress, alcohol use and other types of aggression within the family, frequent spanking at age 3 increased the odds of higher levels of aggression at age 5.

Despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics against spanking, most parents in the U.S. approve of and have used corporal punishment as a form of child discipline.

Researchers state that this study suggests that even minor forms of corporal punishment increase the risk for a child to behave in aggressive ways.

Do you spank your kids? Why or why not? Not sure why you feel the way you do about spanking?

Reading about the ages and stages parents go through can help. Former Raising Arizona Kids writer Teresa Immerman wrote this story in 1990…but the info still resonates today.

Listen to Proactive Parenting’s Sharon Silver talk about what kind of message spanking sends to a preschooler.

Cutting the grass? Check out these lawn mower safety tips

Over 600 children undergo amputations each year due to lawn mower-related injuries.
According to the Amputee Coalition of America, for kids under the age of 10, major limb loss is most commonly caused by lawn mowers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that adolescents and older kids are most often hurt by lawn mowers when trying to earn money or taking on cutting the grass as a chore.

But lawn mower accidents are preventable.

When using any type of lawn mower, follow these guidelines:

· Never allow children to play on a lawn mower, even if it is turned off.
· Never allow a child to ride on a riding lawn mower with you.
· Keep your children indoors and do not allow other children to play nearby while you are mowing.
· Children should be at least 12 years old before operating any lawn mower and at least 16 years old to operate a riding mower.

The Amputee Coalition of America provides a safety checklist based on information from the American Academy of Pediatrics. They recommend keeping the list near mowing equipment.

Pick up stones, toys and debris from the lawn to prevent injuries from flying objects.
Use eye and hearing protection.
Start and refuel mowers outdoors, never in a garage.
Blade settings – ADULTS ONLY

Only use mowers with automatic shut-down abilities, such as those with a control that stops motion when the handle is released.

Don’t mow in reverse unless necessary, and watch out for others.

Wait for blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel roads.