Keeping Your Kids Ahead of the Class

gadda1With abundant choices available from daycare to nannies to 2s programs to pre-school, parents in New York City have a tough decision to make about childcare in the early years. More and more parents are looking for a one-stop solution that nurtures their child from infancy through pre-K while developing a familiar, social experience with a structured, learning environment.

With this in mind, the Kidz Central Station team recently toured the newly opened pre-school/daycare on 2nd Avenue called The Goddard School of Murray Hill in Midtown East. This is a play-based school with a focus on meaningful interactions with the children. 

We met Owner Rami Singh, a former Finance exec who developed a passion for early childhood education after becoming a father of two super adorable children who are now enrolled at the school. Like many of us, he found a void when considering the childcare debate. What is the choice for those of us who want a family feel experience for our kids that takes full advantage of these early, impressionable years?  His answer was to build it himself.

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A great advantage of The Goddard School of Manhattan in Murray Hill, which opened in November 2017, is the facility.  It is housed in a clean, vibrant space full of sunlight and brand new and spacious classrooms. And by clean, we mean the space is cleaned 3x a day!  The hallways are decorated with fun animal shapes, a world map, daily schedules, teachers’ curricula, and inspirational quotes. An outdoor rooftop playground is soon to come! There are more than enough areas to store strollers inside the building. Singh’s thoughtfulness for his venture shines through in the details, such as the international themes in the decor and even the intricate details in the rock climbing wall in the gym.  It is a truly modern space. We will say, from our experience, this is not easy to find in Manhattan. When many of us were searching for daycare years ago, we found many schools in the basements of buildings with cramped spaces that did not appeal to us.

Fantastic space aside, the curriculum and teachers are the real stars at this new school.  More than anything, the school strives to go beyond typical daycare and provide a “whole child experience” that appreciates each child’s individuality and taps into each child’s way of learning.  To that end, the curriculum is designed and then refined with the focus on the children, not the teachers or the parents, but the children.  The toys, the activities, the class layout, the schedule all focus on the children’s age and abilities.  We were intrigued by their philosophy of  F.L.EX to provide “a Fun Learning EXperience.”  That means giving children the freedom to have fun while discovering and exploring with hands-on activities, customized lessons, and nurturing encouragement.  In our opinion, the school was succeeding in this.

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We witnessed the positivity and warmth of the teachers firsthand as we toured the school.  The classrooms were filled with smiling faces and the teachers were happy to meet with us and let us see their classrooms in progress.  Each teacher is responsible for constructing the curriculum for his/her classroom to balance independent and cooperative learning with outdoor playtime.  For example, a Toddler full day schedule would include music, social skills, creative arts, yoga, nature studies, sign language, and Spanish among many other activities.  A Preschool schedule would include many of the above mentioned activities in addition to handwriting, math, science, dramatic play, computer lab, chess, reading readiness, and language arts.  It’s a full day schedule with many breaks built in such as nap/quiet time, snack and lunch as provided by the school, outside play, and circle time.

Many current parents give high marks to the school and enthusiastically recommend it to others.  They are are sent daily reports via app with photos and videos from the day.  They feel included in a cooperative and collaborative environment that takes their children’s progress and needs into account. The parents tout the engaged teachers, the beautiful facilities, the custom curriculum and the caring owner as pros.

The school is open through the summer and offers a camp that incorporates STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) learning.  They are developing a variety of themes to tailor to each child’s interests using play-based learning both inside and outside of the classroom.  And the rooftop playground (again, a huge plus in our books) is expected to be completed in July when camp opens.

We, also, want to highlight the several security measures in place at drop-off and for entering the building. Parents/caregivers must check in on a touch screen with a security code at drop-off and pick-up so that every child is accounted for. And there is a security code and Biometric Hand Scanner required to enter the school facility.  We appreciated this added layer for the children’s protection. 

The Goddard School of Murray Hill is a franchise of the nationwide The Goddard School and is currently accepting applications and tour requests. It is located at 751 2nd Ave between 40th and 41st Streets. It welcomes children from infancy to age 6 and offers year-round full day 7AM – 6:30PM schedules or half day depending on your needs. Please check them out for yourselves!  Click here.

Rewarding Kids for Good Behavior: A Bad Idea? (Part 1 of 2)

Close Up Of Girl Eating Iced Donut


This is the first post of a two-part series that aims to provide information to parents about rewards and how to use them strategically and systematically to teach children skills and modify behaviors.

Most parents have found themselves uttering something to the extent of, “If you are good, I’ll buy you a piece of candy,” at one point or another.  Although rewarding appropriate behaviors can help modify behavior over time, parent concerns about rewarding and incorrect use of rewards often get in the way.

Frequently, parent concerns center on the principle of rewards. Common concerns along with considerations for these concerns include:

“I don’t want to reward my child for something he/she should be doing.” This concern often arises when there is a mismatch between parent expectations and the reality of child behavior. While this can happen for a number of reasons, parents ultimately have a choice here of accepting the behavior as is or working to change the behavior over time. For instance a parent whose 3 year old tantrums in stores when she is told no could simply accept the tantrums as the reality of shopping with a young child. However, most parents will be compelled to either try things in the moment that may make the behavior worse or avoid stores with the toddler, which does not teach the skill of staying calm and listening in these settings. Rewards used strategically can help turn a behavior that a child is not doing but “should be” into a routine habit.

“My child will become dependent on rewards.” This concern revolves around the idea that a child will need rewards in order to do anything and may even refuse tasks in absence of a reward. Here, it’s important to remember that rewards help facilitate skills and change habits over time. Once habits are formed, rewards are no longer necessary. Many parents have experience with this if they used small prizes for toilet training and can chuckle at the absurdity of giving their teenager M&Ms for using the potty. It is true that some children try to negotiate for rewards once they understand how rewards work. Negotiation can be reduced by having a clear and specific reward plan in place from the beginning.

“Rewards ruin a child’s intrinsic motivation.” This concern comes from research on rewarding and motivation. Findings from this research have fueled a backlash against incentive systems. When considering rewards for your child, it’s important to remember that there are more details to these studies that have been overlooked at times. Specifically, one of the major studies examined motivation for tasks that were enjoyable to participants before they were rewarded. If you are considering rewards for your child, there’s a good chance that your child does not find the task enjoyable and motivating on its own.

“Rewards are unnatural and not the way the world works.” Some parents worry that rewards do not prepare children for adulthood. While there are a number of examples of rewards in everyday life including working for a paycheck, another consideration here is that the use of rewards to form positive habits in childhood helps increase the likelihood of success in adulthood.

“Reward systems don’t work.” Parents will often say that they’ve tried rewards and they don’t work.

Stay tuned for our second post on rewarding kids for good behavior, which will discuss tips to help you use incentives effectively to address problem behaviors.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Stephanie M. Wagner, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. She serves as the co-director of the Early Childhood Clinical Service at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.

The Route to Success?

SA_2017_BeeBots_002When it comes time to apply to kindergarten in New York City, many parents are considering charter schools, and that often means exploring Success Academy’s well-known programs. While there is no single way to find the best kindergarten for your child, talking to the school and listening to parents are great ways to start. Kidz Central Station spoke with Success Academy and with Success Academy parent Alpa Patel to ask some questions you might have. So, if you are wondering, “Is Success Academy right for my child?” or “Should I apply to a charter school in New York?”, read on.

Kidz Central Station: What makes Success Academy different from other charter schools and from other schools in general?

Success Academy: Success Academy schools are distinct from other schools in our firm commitment to progressive pedagogy and to educating the whole child. We believe deeply that doing is at the core of learning, and Success scholars receive only 80 minutes of direct instruction (teacher up front) throughout the day. The rest of the day is devoted to discussion, small-group instruction, and hands-on learning — including inquiry-based science five days a week beginning in kindergarten (our students carry out more than 100 experiments each year!).

Our scholars explore and create through arts, chess, sports, recess, board games, creative writing, and project-based learning — and for kindergartners, blocks play and choice time. We believe that schools vastly underestimate the capacity of each child to think and achieve at a high level. Giving scholars the opportunity to do the “intellectual heavy lifting” as they grapple with challenging, complex problems and ideas makes learning not only engaging and appealing, but also deep and lasting. This progressive approach cultivates in our scholars a true zest for learning, and prepares them for the rigor and independence needed to succeed in college and in life.

Kidz Central Station:  Why/how did you choose Success Academy for your child?

Success Academy Parent: This past year, we switched our son to Success Academy for 3rd grade. After attending K-2 at our zoned public school, he was unmotivated and disinterested in school and adopting lazy habits. We were frustrated with the lack of communication and feedback to parents. We had heard about Success Academy Union Square, which is in our neighborhood, from other local parents and knew of its reputation for academic rigor. At first, we were concerned that he might not be able to adapt to such a steep step up in standards, but we also knew he couldn’t continue on the apathetic path he was on. Kids accept challenges more easily than we think. Now, we wish we’d moved to Success Academy  sooner

Kidz Central Station: Describe the typical Success Academy student

Success Academy: There is no “typical” scholar at Success. Our curriculum and instruction are very rigorous, and at the same time our schools are designed to ensure that every child receives the support and attention they need to meet their full academic potential. We provide individualized supports to scholars who need them, and acceleration for scholars who are ready to skip ahead. We celebrate, and work hard to cultivate, the “ACTION” values of Agency, Curiosity, Try and Try, Integrity, Others, and No Shortcuts. Our scholars tend to work hard, treat each other with great kindness and respect, and have a real enthusiasm for learning.

Kidz Central Station:  What do you and/or your child like best about Success Academy?

Success Academy Parent: Our son constantly praises Success Academy when comparing to his old school. He enjoys being recognized for his achievements. He clearly understands what is expected of him and receives frequent updates on his progress. We like best that Success Academy has taught him to enjoy learning while understanding that school is important.

Kidz Central Station: We hear students take on advanced topics in early grades. Could you give some examples?

Success Academy: We introduce scholars to advanced ideas and concepts from a very young age through rich texts, complex problems, and purposeful discussions that help them make connections between their intuitive understanding and academic content. For example, any five-year-old can — with great precision — divide a cookie in equal parts to share with two friends. In kindergarten math, we introduce basic concepts of division and fractions through these kinds of real-world problems.

Our project-based learning (PBL) units use engaging topics to tap into scholars’ natural curiosity and push them towards advanced analysis and mastery. For example, during our second-grade Brooklyn Bridge PBL unit, scholars conduct experiments to learn the engineering principles behind bridge construction, build their own model suspension bridge, and paint the Brooklyn Bridge in art. In social studies, they read different historical accounts of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, and debate the question of whether Emily Roebling was indeed the project’s chief engineer, as many historians now believe. They learn about labor and transportation conditions in New York City at the time the bridge was built, and write letters as 19th-century New Yorkers advocating for the bridge or for safer working conditions.

Kidz Central Station: What are kids reading in various grades?

Success Academy: Our approach to teaching literacy stems from our deep-seated belief that if children love reading and read exceptionally well, they can teach themselves anything. To that end, our literacy curriculum introduces scholars to great literature and emphasizes critical thinking, knowledge-building, and the thoughtful discussion of ideas.  Kids read and analyze poetry, biography, history, fiction, myths, and fables, and write copiously in a range of genres.

In kindergarten, titles include The Story of Ferdinand, Caps for Sale, and Corduroy; in third grade, they might read My Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth, The Whipping Boy, and The Wizard of Oz. In fourth grade, titles include The Phantom Tollbooth, We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, and The Rescuers. We are also passionate about poetry and by the end of fourth grade scholars have read poems by Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Shel Silverstein, Maya Angelou, Victor Hugo, and many others.

Kidz Central Station:  What is parent involvement like at Success Academy schools?

Success Academy Parent: If you have chosen Success Academy, then you will be involved in your child’s education. Many parents attend Community Circle meetings, volunteer as class parents, chaperone field trips, or meet with teachers to discuss schoolwork. We can text or email teachers and expect quick responses. When my son was sick one day, his teacher called and texted updates from the nurse’s office. Parents are accountable for their child’s homework completion and attendance. For example, my son’s class has been rewarded for 10 consecutive days of no absences or tardies a few times this year. And that takes dedication from parents.

Kidz Central Station: What is the one thing parents who are considering Success Academy should know, more than anything else?

Success Academy: Success Academy schools are truly joyful, celebratory houses of learning were scholars feel seen and loved. We place a huge emphasis on fun and silliness, and have regular, themed “spirit” days when scholars and teachers dress up as Dr. Seuss characters, superheroes, or 100-year-olds (to celebrate the 100th day of school). Days our peppered with dance parties, wiggle breaks, and celebrations of scholars who have displayed exemplary ACTION values like kindness to others and curiosity. Each class develops a strong identity as a team and community, striving to outdo other homerooms with class cheers, dances, and skits at Community Circle each week. This premium on joy and engagement informs our entire academic and co-curricular program. As our CEO puts it, “We believe that to fall in love with learning, schools have to be incredibly joyful places where kids are engaged, puzzled, and inspired every day. For that reason we prioritize things like chess, science five days a week, field studies, art, soccer, and music.”

Success Academy is currently accepting applications. The lottery deadline for the 2018-19 school year is April 1, 2018. Learn more and apply here.

 

Great Sports Summer Camp Options

Not many years ago the best way for a young athlete in NYC to get a solid summer sports camp experience was to attend a sleep away camp outside of the city. Not anymore! In today’s robust youth sports scene, NYC is home to a wide array of summer sports day camps for kids of every age and skill level. Here are some great choices for this summer. As with other sought after programs spots are filling up quickly so don’t wait!

Downtown Giants
A mainstay of the Lower Manhattan youth sports scene since 2006, Downtown Giants runs two football camps for players ages 7-17. The June camp at the Battery Park fields focuses on flag football with drills, skills and games. A July camp, held at Chelsea Waterside field adds some tackle football drills to its flag football lineup. Whether your child is looking to get better for the fall flag or tackle football seasons or is just looking for a fun time, both camps will meet your needs. Highly skilled and energetic DTG coaches run both weeklong camps.

Mo’ Motion
Mo’ Motion offers several exciting summer camp options including its full-day Camp Motion Hoop & Travel (boys grades 4-8), Multi-Sport (co-ed grades K-6), Overtime (co-ed grades 5 and up) and its Camp Motion Hoops half-day camp (co-ed grades k-4 in AM and grades 5-10 in PM sessions). The camps provide targeted basketball training, top-level instruction, games and exercise as well as visits to other parks, ping-pong tournaments, bowling and boxing. Camps are held outdoors in Riverside Park and indoors at the Brearley Field house on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Columbia Sports Camps
Not only do attendees of Columbia University’s Little Lions Day Camp (co-ed ages 6-12) get to enjoy the school’s historic campus in Morningside Heights, they also have access to its top-notch athletic facilities. Little Lions is a kid-centered, fun-based camp that aims to keep kids physically and creatively active with a combination of classic PE games, backyard favorites, sports, arts and crafts, and special surprises run by a highly trained, eclectic staff. For older kids Columbia also runs 17 specialized sport-specific camps run by Division I coaches and Columbia student athletes.

Grapplin’ Gorillas
Grapplin’ Gorillas’ is one of the few youth wrestling programs in New York City, but it’s summer camp is about more than grappling and takedowns. In fact, it’s all about movement. In addition to teaching wrestling fundamentals, the camp incorporates non-wrestling games, dance and yoga into each day’s activities. Wrestling groups are created by both age and skill. The camp is open to boys and girls ages 4-13 and takes place at The Center at West Park on West 86th Street in Manhattan. Outdoor activities such as nuke ‘em, kickball and capture the flag are played in Central Park.

Riverside Parks
Taking advantage of the scenic fields and courts in Riverside Park between 96th and 110th streets, the Riverside Parks Conservancy offers a weekly low-cost, high-quality sports camp experience for children ages 4 to 14. Sport choices include baseball (run by Kids of Summer), basketball, soccer (run by the Carlos Oliveira Soccer Academy), tennis (Riverside Clay Tennis Association), flag football and multi sport. The camps run from June 4 – August 24.

Dutch Total Soccer
For budding soccer stars, Dutch Total Soccer is running a series of camps that offer instructional training and game play. Camps are held at Aviator Sports in Brooklyn and are for boys and girls ages 5 – 15 (camp for players ages 5-7 are half-days).  All camps are geared to help players progress through team play and age-appropriate individual skill development and to challenge them mentally, all in a fun camp experience.  A low staff to camper ratio means all participants will have the benefits of a personalized training environment.

PGA Golf Camp
Just a short drive to the Dunwoodie Golf Course in Yonkers offers beginner to intermediate golfers (ages 8-14) the opportunity to participate in a four-day PGA Junior Golf Camp.  There are four sessions running from July 9 to Aug. 23. Each day includes three hours of hands-on instruction lead by certified PGA Professionals who focus on developing golf skills (full swing, short game, rules and etiquette) while keeping the experience fun and engaging (games and activities). Half-day camps are designed to inspire new golfers and further the development of those playing at an intermediate level. Campers are always grouped by age and playing level. Students will also receive on-course playing time.

PSG Academy NY
Given their belief that the US has many talented soccer players with promising futures, PSG NY works to provide those players with high-quality practices led by certified and experienced coaches from countries that built world champions. As such, PSG Academy’s NY summer camps offer training similar to top European academies with emphasis on technical work, small-sided game and scrimmages. In addition to NYC camps on Randall’s Island and in Brooklyn, PSG also holds camps in New Rochelle and the Hamptons. Coaches provide players with personal evaluations on technical and physical skills at the beginning and the end of each week.

Kids in Sports
Kids in Sports summer camps are filled with the sports and activities kids love including baseball, basketball, floor hockey, football, lacrosse, soccer and volleyball. Cooperative games emphasizing the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship are a staple of all camps and all ages.  Camps always feature a low ratio of coaches to campers.  Younger campers also participate in arts and crafts, story-time and other free-play activities.  Choose from indoor camp in Manhattan (ages 2.5-6) and outdoors on Randall’s Island (ages 4-8 with transportation included)

Kids in the Game
Kids in the Game runs weekly camps for kids ages 4-14 in Park Slope, the Upper West and East Sides, Inwood and Riverdale. Camp counselors include current and former college athletes, teachers, and fitness coaches to ensure kids get the most fulfilling and enriching experience possible. Activities include sports, arts & crafts, zumba, and swimming.  Offsite field trips have included visits to a NY Yankees/Mets games, Bronx Zoo, LEGOLAND, and area museums.

How to Support Your Transgender or Gender Expansive Child

transGender is not as simple as boy or girl and is composed of many parts. A child’s sex assigned at birth is an assignment or classification given to an infant based on physical anatomy. Gender identity is an individual’s sense of being male, female, neither, both, or other genders. For many individuals, their sex assigned at birth and gender identity match (i.e. they are cisgender). For other individuals, sex assigned at birth and gender identity do not match (i.e. they are transgender or gender expansive).

Transgender and gender expansive youth face a number of challenges in the community due to stigma and discrimination. They are at high risk for mental health issues including suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression when they are not supported in their identities.

Here are some suggestions to help parents and caregivers best support their transgender and gender expansive youth. Regardless of where your family is on the gender journey, these ideas can help you provide the most supportive environment for your child.

1. Listen, validate, and accept: Parental acceptance is the single largest protective factor for transgender and gender expansive youth. Youth who have support from their families have similar mental health rates and diagnoses when compared to cisgender peers. Provide a space for your child to have open conversations. Ask open ended questions like: “How do you describe your gender?” or “What does gender mean to you?” Follow your child’s lead and provide a supportive stance. Use the name and pronouns that your child prefers.

2. Find support for your child (if needed): Your child might feel like they would like support from the community or from mental health providers, though it is certainly not required. If they do, look for clinicians who provide gender affirmative care. You might want to find a team of gender affirming providers including primary care, psychology, and endocrinology if your child is medically transitioning.

3. Require respect within the family and promote pride in your child’s gender identity: Always promote that family members and friends use preferred name and pronouns for your child. Celebrate your child’s identity and encourage others to do so.

4. Advocate: Transgender and gender expansive youth have a number of different challenges that they face on a day to day basis. For example, these children and teens might not know how to talk to their school about their preferred name and pronouns, what restroom to use, or how to correct someone who is misgendering them. Parents can play a huge role in helping advocate for their child by talking to the school administration or becoming more involved within the transgender community. Learn as much as you can through reading and take part in advocacy groups.

5. Find support for you: It is normal for parents to have their own emotional processes around their child coming out as transgender or gender expansive. It is important for parents to find their own support if they feel as though they are struggling with their own reactions. Parents can join support groups aimed towards parents or confide in friends and family.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Samantha Busa, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. She sees patients for evaluations, individual therapy, and group therapy as part of the Gender & Sexuality Service  at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone. She also conducts individual and group therapy for anxiety disorders, mood disorders, tics and Tourette disorder, trichotillomania and body-focused repetitive behaviors, and school refusal using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy, and habit reversal training.

Top Flu Facts to Keep Your Child Healthy This Winter

faverAs a pediatrician in a busy New York City practice, I have been asked lot of questions from concerned parents about how bad this year’s flu season has been. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I’ve been asked this flu season.

Why should I bother with the vaccine if it’s not effective?
While there have been a lot of headlines about how this year’s vaccine is not that effective, it is still a good idea to get vaccinated—while the vaccine is certainly not 100% effective, we still recommend parents vaccinate their children (and get the vaccine themselves!).  The latest midseason estimates by the CDC show that the vaccine is about 36% effective overall (25% effective against influenza A H3N2 virus strain – which is the most commonly circulating and virulent strain this season so far, 67% effective against influenza A H1N1, and 42% effective against influenza B virus strains). Among children aged 6 months to 8 years, the flu vaccine reduces the risk of seeking medical attention because of the flu by more than half – about 59%! Even if your child contracts the influenza virus after having received the flu vaccine, the severity of your child’s illness will likely be decreased. Additionally, the side effects of the vaccine are very minimal and significant adverse events are exceedingly rare, so the benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh the risks.

Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?
No, the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. The vaccine that is administered this season is the inactivated flu vaccine, which contains virus particles that have been altered such that it is impossible for them to cause infection. Generally, the vaccine may at most cause a low-grade fever, headache, nausea, or soreness at the site of injection. Remember that it is still possible to get the flu even after having received the vaccine, but it would likely be less severe. Also, keep in mind that we tend to administer the flu vaccine in fall or winter months when other viruses are already circulating so it is entirely plausible to fall sick with another virus shortly after receiving the flu vaccine.

Is it too late to get the vaccine now?
The earlier you get the flu vaccine the better, but I would still encourage anyone to get it now, especially as we are seeing such a high incidence of the flu. The flu season is likely to last several more weeks at least. The flu vaccine is one of the only ways to help reduce your risk of contracting influenza and spreading it to others. Keep in mind that it takes about 2 weeks after receiving the vaccine for your body to generate antibodies to help protect yourself from the flu virus.

I see in the news that people are dying of the flu—how worried should I be?
Influenza is a viral illness that can and does cause severe complications and possibly death in some patients every year. However, it is important to remember that most people who contract the flu develop relatively mild illness and recover fully within one to two weeks. There are certain individuals who are at high risk for developing influenza-related complications. These people include children under the age of 5 years (and especially under the age of 2 years), adults aged 65 years and older, pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals, and those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or kidney disease. That being said, there are ways to help protect yourself and your loved ones. Firstly, get the flu vaccine every year and encourage your friends and family to do the same. This is one of the most important steps in protecting yourself and your child from influenza-related complications. Secondly, practice good hand hygiene and avoid contact with anyone who might be sick. Thirdly, if your child does get sick with flu-like symptoms, please be proactive and bring your child in to be evaluated as soon as possible – there are things that we as doctors can do to help. Ask your child’s pediatrician if your child would benefit from antiviral treatment for the flu.

Should I avoid taking my child to the pediatrician, with so many sick kids in the waiting room?
In general, most practices have a way to isolate people who are sick and sanitize waiting areas and exam rooms. For children who have fever and/or cough, we offer medical masks for them to wear if they are able when they check in. If you’re setting up a well appointment for your child, I’d recommend you see if there is a time of day to come when there aren’t as many people in the waiting area, to minimize flu exposure. That’s especially important for small infants or newborns—I’d suggest coming in first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. You shouldn’t skip it altogether though; it’s still a good idea to see your doctor whenever you or your child needs to.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Madhavi Kapoor, MD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, and a pediatrician at NYU Langone at Trinity.

Head of the Class Dad, Scott Heifetz

Meet Head of the Class Dad, Scott Heifetz—Founder and Director of Launch Math + Science Centers—and an amazing parent!SH-with-Kids

Tell us about yourself. Why did you start Launch Math + Science Centers?
I’m an aerospace engineer by trade, with many years of experience running small businesses. When I was growing up many of my friends did not appreciate math and science. Until they entered college and realized that math was the language of the many fields they wanted to pursue (physical therapy, architecture, etc.) did they realize they made a mistake by choosing not to pursue math and science courses throughout high school. Launch’s mission is to inspire and motivate children to love and learn math and science in the hope that kids will realize that these subjects are the key ingredient to doing “fun stuff” as an adult (like building rockets!). We accomplish this goal by providing engaging math instruction and exciting STEM enrichment classes for kids from toddlers to 8th graders.

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
It’s difficult. There is no secret. I am an absolute workaholic but I also try to be the best dad I can be. I have two girls ages 5 and 2. There is nowhere else I’d rather be than with them.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
I’m not sure if this story applies but… Before I got married I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted kids. Indifferent you might say. I also wasn’t sure I had the patience for kids. So what did I go and do? I started a business that requires 100% involvement with kids. I didn’t do it because I loved kids. I did it because I was extremely passionate about inspiring kids to pursue math and science. The bonus that came from the experience of starting the business was that it turns out I love kids and I do have patience for them (more for them than myself).

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
The challenge has been to accept less than perfection in my professional life so as to provide what I want for my kids (in terms of time).

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
That I would enjoy them as much as I do because I might have started earlier!

If you could give other dads one piece of advice what would it be?
Expose your child to as much as you can (in terms of what the world has to offer), and let them decide what they want to do with their lives. Intrinsic motivation is more powerful than anything else.

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book? Iggy Peck Architect
What has been your favorite kids’ class (other than your own!)? Swim class, mainly because it’s a full morning family activity on Sundays.
What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends? Besides swim class, going to the playground.
What is your favorite rainy day escape? A princess movie with my 5 year old.

Learn more about Launch Math + Science Centers and reserve your child’s spot now for their upcoming STEM-focused winter break and summer camps.

Teach Your Kids How to Win (and Lose) Like an Olympian

learn-to-skate-429537_1920Starting next week, viewers around the world will turn their attention to Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. If your children are watching the Games, they may aspire to compete themselves one day. If they haven’t already shown interest, your kids may suddenly want to try their hand at bobsledding, skiing, or skating.

There is a lot of conflicting data about competitive activities for children, but for the most part experts agree: it’s not about the competition itself, but about the values placed upon it.

Let your children try a variety of activities. Today’s kids have many specialty and school teams available, but focusing on a single activity too soon can lead to burn out and injuries. Even if they start out loving basketball, have them try baseball or dance or swimming, too. Young bodies shouldn’t repeat the same intense movements over and over; they should move in a variety of ways while they grow.

Don’t protect your kids from failure. The value of losing is a concept many of us struggle with even as adults, so start now helping your kids become comfortable with it. We’ve learned that children afraid of losing will quickly cease trying to challenge themselves. Instead they’ll “stick with what they know,” and only aim for goals they know they can achieve. Growth happens when children aren’t afraid to try something challenging just because they might fail.

Teach your children to value effort, responsibility, kindness, and discipline, rather than “talent” or “skill.” When a player on the other team scores, remind your child to celebrate his effort. When a member of the relay team lags behind, have your child thank her for never giving up.

You might ask, how do I do that? How do I acknowledge my child’s efforts without focusing on the win? What if my kid loses or gets embarrassed? We enroll our kids in activities so they’ll have fun, be active, and socialize, but if we aren’t careful, kids often end up playing to please their parents. Instead of celebrating their own tenacity and drive, kids begin to expect our celebration of them—and to be devastated when they don’t get it.

There are two types of praise that you can give your children. The first is called person-centered praise and includes phrases such as “you’re so smart!” or “you’re a good kid!” This type of praise places emphasis on traits that are assumed to be inherent and concrete—you are either smart, or you are not. You are a good athlete, or you are not. It does not leave room for skill-building, second-place trophies, or a failed exam.

These trait-based compliments become internalized by our kids, especially at a young age. Any result that doesn’t support the internalized narrative—say, a lost race—leaves kids questioning their inherent worthiness. (Am I a terrible athlete because I didn’t win?) This damages their sense of self-worth and creates a heightened sense of vulnerability. In short, kids who receive mostly person-centered praise are terrified of failure because failing might mean they really aren’t [smart/talented/an athlete/an artist]. So stop telling your kids how great they are!

Wait, what? Yep! Science tells us to stop with all of the “person praise” and switch to what we call process praise. It takes some time to develop this skill, but the results are invaluable. To do it:
1. Praise the strategy (e.g., “You found a creative solution to that problem even when you felt frustrated.”)
2. Praise with specificity (e.g., “I noticed you were very careful when you carried your friend’s bag to the car.”)
3. Praise the effort (e.g., “I can tell you’ve been practicing your leaps and turns!”)

With process praise, neither the trait (goodness, talent, intelligence, etc.) nor the outcome (a winning game or the aesthetics of the painting) are mentioned. With process praise kids learn that a terrible game doesn’t mean “I’m a bad athlete,” it means, “I tried really hard but I didn’t practice last week – how can I try differently?”

Remember, most of your children won’t ever compete at the highest level of sport, and even if they do, they won’t be able to do it forever. The values you instill in them now will long outlast their ability to play.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Hayley Adkisson, LCSW, is the senior social worker for the Divisions of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Rheumatology, Nephrology, and Infectious Disease at the Fink Children’s Ambulatory Care Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone. She also serves as a clinical social worker for NYU Langone’s Adolescent Gender Clinic and NYU Langone’s Pediatric Celiac Disease and Gluten-Related Disorders Program. Ms. Adkisson specializes in adolescent medicine, chronic illness, survivorship of sexual trauma, and mood disorders.

Baby Bonding Basics: How New Dads Can Jumpstart Their Baby Bond

baby-dadIt’s not unusual for new fathers to feel nervous that they aren’t bonding with their baby. Moms generally have biology on their side for the process of bonding and feeling attached to their newborns—first, they’ve had nine months of pregnancy to begin that process as they share one body. Then through birth, skin to skin contact, breastfeeding, and the sensitive dance of learning to respond to baby’s cues, mom and baby nurture that bond outside the womb. Dads may also have different messages from society or their own experiences that make their early involvement feel less important or less skilled than new moms, and this frame of mind is kind of self-fulfilling.

If a dad is having a hard time feeling the love for a tiny stranger, there are a couple of things that are likely to help. The first is, don’t beat yourself up about it and remember there isn’t just one way to be a great dad; bonds will form and grow and strain many times over the course of your child’s development. Be patient.

The second is, get to know your baby and put in the time you would to grow any new relationship. Here are some helpful tips on how to do that:

•Spend skin to skin time, what is referred to as “kangaroo care,” with your infant. There are numerous positive benefits to your infant’s health and biological regulation, and the tender moments with that little one on your chest will make sweet memories for you too.
•Start having those heart to hearts with the baby, even when he can’t talk back. Talking to infants stimulates their language development; the more infants hear and connect to the world around them, the better off their vocabulary, social skills, and cognitive development will be. Do this with face to face chats, and narrative play by plays as you go about your day with baby.
•Be proactive in asking your partner how you can divide up baby care responsibilities. There is a lot of attention right now on mothers feeling the weight of “mental load” in the family. New parents can try to avoid some of this uneven burden by working out a system for communicating needs and day to day responsibilities. Give yourself room to make your own approach to feeding or playing instead of feeling (or getting the message) that you have to do it just like mom.
•Do something you enjoy and find a way to incorporate your baby. For many dads, quality time can be taking a walk with baby in the carrier and telling him or her about your favorite spots. Maybe you can introduce baby to your love of cooking, or music. Sharing experiences and finding alone time to bond are helpful even when infants cannot yet respond as interactively.
•If it can be done in your family, take on some of the feedings to give your partner a break and let you in on the close contact as your baby eats. If not, try sitting with your partner during some feedings and provide moral support, a neck rub, or extra set of hands.

Bonding sets the stage for a secure attachment, one that is warm and responsive. For both moms and dads (and caregivers in any arrangement), a secure attachment that is formed in the first year or two of development helps promote a worldview for the infant that people can be trusted, the world is a place to explore and enjoy, gives them more confidence, and a host of benefits for social and cognitive development.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Lauren Knickerbocker, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. Dr. Knickerbocker specializes in treating selective mutism and anxiety in young children, ADHD and difficulties with organization and time management, disruptive behaviors, and parent management training. She is also the co-director of Early Childhood Service at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center, a part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital.

Holiday Help for Picky Kids

snacksPicky eating can be a huge stressor for parents and children alike throughout the year, but it may be particularly pronounced during the holiday season, especially when you’re around relatives who are overly zealous in their advice giving.

Here are 5 tips to get you through the next holiday party with minimal meltdown:

Model healthy eating. While you may not be able to control exactly what your kids are willing to eat, be open to trying new foods yourself! Remarking on your feelings as you scoop an unfamiliar vegetable dish onto your plate, then commenting on the different flavors, can help to reinforce your child’s openness to trying something new, without overtly targeting his or her behavior.

Tell stories. The holiday season is always a time for reflection, and food stories should be no exception. Kids love hearing about their parents’ and relatives’ childhood. Thinking back on stories of your own picky eating – with subsequent discovery of how delicious that food actually tastes – will help to encourage children to create their own narrative. Fun stories about cooking disasters or competitions in the past can also bring a light-hearted mood to food and mealtimes.

Maintain your routine. Parents will often prepare a separate meal for their picky eaters before attending a holiday meal to avoid the food struggle. This may be useful, but it can also backfire and throw your child off their usual eating schedule, leading them to be hungrier later at the party, loading up on the dessert table, and sugar crashing later in the evening. Encourage your child to survey the food options and seek out 1 or 2 items that he or she would be willing to eat. Gently remind them that this is dinner time, and if they don’t eat now they may feel hungry before bed. Even if your child only picks crackers and bread, these are healthier (and reinforce socially healthy behavior of eating with the group!) than skipping dinner and choosing 4 cookies with a slice of cake when the desserts roll out.

Avoid using dessert as a reward. Urging your child to take three bites of broccoli so that they can “earn” dessert sets the foundation for an unhealthy relationship with food. Offer a few choices to your child, particularly foods that they have accepted in the past, and then move on. Remember Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility – as the parent you are responsible for the “what” and “when,” children are responsible for “how much” and “whether” or not they will eat. Dessert may not always be an appropriate option to offer, and that’s okay too!

Mealtimes should not be a battlefield. Ultimately bargaining, cajoling and feeling frustrated with your child’s picky eating may take away from the spirit of the season. Remind your child (and yourself!) that family traditions and holiday parties are more about conversation and connecting with friends and relatives. Food and family meals are a vehicle to facilitate coming together, but shouldn’t overshadow holiday celebrations.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Bridget Murphy, MS, RDN, CDE, CDN is a registered dietitian and clinical nutritionist at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.