Tag Archives: parenting advice

Head of the Class Mom: Shira Lahav

Meet our latest Head of the Class Mom, Shira Lahav—co-founder of Embodied Minds, a public speaking company that helps kids with presentation and self-esteem—and an amazing mom!shira

Why did you start Embodied Minds Public Speaking Consultants?
I am co-founder and consultant at Embodied Minds. I am also a Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, Registered Drama Therapist and a Psychoanalyst in training. During my time working in hospitals, I was leading communication and storytelling groups through drama. I recognized the power of expression and was helping my clients tell their stories in captivating ways, helping them connect with others. During these groups, I found myself guiding my clients therapeutically but also helping them deliver their stories in ways that engage and transmit the meaning to their audience in the most effective way. I enjoyed the process of directing and teaching my clients public speaking techniques. My business partner Leticia and I wanted to take this type of work beyond the hospital walls and so we did.

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
My secret to balancing work and family life is to constantly remind myself the importance of both and how one feeds the other. If I dedicate enough time to my family, I feel more satisfied during the week, which helps me be more focused and fulfilled at work and vice versa.

I play various roles in my life: public speaking consultant, therapist, mother, wife, sister, daughter, etc. The key is to nurture each and every role and create equilibrium. This includes leaving room for self-care. It is necessary to take care of your own needs while taking care of others. In addition, I find that good time management helps, as well as scheduling quality time with my family between busy workdays. On a more practical note, twice per week I make time to take my daughter to her activities and on the weekends, we always find a fun activity to do together as a family. Additionally, my husband and I go out at least twice per week, whether with friends or on a date. Although babysitting is expensive, date nights are extremely important and we have to keep the romance going between stressful life responsibilities.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
Not only am I a mommy to my 2-year-old daughter Lianne, but I am also a mommy to a 5-year-old Shih Tzu named Gizmo. When I first became a mom, I would walk out of the house with my brand new Uppa Baby Vista stroller and would keep getting smiles from strangers. Naïvely and faltered, I thought they were smiling at my baby, but in fact they were smiling at the fact that Gizmo was in the stroller too! Sitting below my baby, with his cute face sticking out of the basket curiously observing everyone around him, my little Shih Tzu found himself the perfect solution so he wouldn’t exert himself or his little paws.

As a result, I’ve learned the importance of multi-tasking and multi-use! Whether using the stroller for my baby and dog, or using the car seat as a spot for my daughter to sit and watch her favorite cartoons, I am always trying to find unique uses for expensive baby gear to make the most of every dollar spent. After all, we must find ways to save up for those “inexpensive” preschools! We also donate a lot, if not money then clothing or baby stuff that we are no longer using. It feels good to be able to help other families.

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
Even though I love my job and try to maintain a healthy balance between work and family life I still at times feel guilty that I don’t spend enough time with my daughter. This is probably a result of the pressure of others and my missing my daughter during workdays. At the same time, I know how important it is to teach her that a woman can do both, be a mother and have a career.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
That parenting is all about logistics and time management.

If you could give other moms one piece of advice what would it be?
Take other people’s advice with a grain of salt.

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book? “Alice in Wonderland”

What has been your favorite kids’ class?  Ballet Class at City Moves Dance Studio. [Now Midtown Movement and Dance – Ed.]

What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends? Go to Central Park and spend time on the lawn and children’s playground.

What is your favorite rainy day escape? The Children’s Museum of Manhattan on the Upper West Side

Learn more about Embodied Minds on Kidz Central Station and reserve your child’s spot now for their Public Speaking and Communications Skills Group, starting in the fall.

Head of the Class Mom: Leticia Warner

Meet our latest Head of the Class Mom, Leticia Warner—co-founder of Embodied Minds, a public speaking company that helps kids with presentation and self-esteem—and an amazing mom!leticia

Why did you start Embodied Minds Public Speaking Consultants?
I am co-founder of Embodied Minds as well as a consultant, Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, and Registered Drama Therapist. My co-founder Shira and I started Embodied Minds because we knew there was a lack of public speaking companies that focus on the reasons behind the fear of public speaking. A lot of companies emphasize the surface solutions but aren’t able to delve deeper. We, on the other hand, look at both the internal and external processes. When it comes to our Kids program, we focus on helping children and young adults increase self-esteem, improve their thought organization, interpersonal skills, build confidence, reduce their use of filler words, and more.

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
I don’t know if I yet have a secret to balancing work and family. It’s something that I’m still figuring out! My son is 5 months old so I’m still getting used to balancing the demands of my business as well as his needs. My husband and I are lucky to have a reliable nanny so when I need to focus on my business, I know my son is in good hands. However, what I have learned so far is that it’s extremely important to spend quality time with my family as often as I possibly can. Time will not stand still and our children are only getting older. Therefore, if I have a break between clients or I can avoid working through lunch, I will take a quick trip to see my son wherever he is and that sustains me for the rest of the day.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
I’m not sure if this made me a better parent or better at my job, but it was certainly when I first experienced the two needs clashing for the first time… we had a really important workshop taking place the week I gave birth to my son. Though I couldn’t physically be there, my co-founder Shira and I were literally working on the workshop while I was in labor (!) and once I had given birth. On top of that, I was answering work e-mails while in labor and took an emergency call from one of my private clients less than 24 hours after my son was born. Obviously, the boundaries were out of control to say the least, but this story to me is the epitome of the “working mom” story. In some ways, it helped me become a better working mom because I learned to create boundaries after experiencing it!

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
I adore what I do and I’m so lucky to own a business, as it provides me with flexibility and freedom. But, I would be lying if I said I don’t feel guilty that I don’t spend enough time with my son. I have to keep reminding myself that I am doing this for him, to model proper work ethic and make a living doing what I love.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
That there’s no way to plan for the overwhelming feeling of being a parent; the awe-inspiring love mixed with the chaos. I also wish I knew how quickly kids grow out of clothes! I had an idea, but could never have anticipated the speed at which it happens.

If you could give other moms one piece of advice what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes we try really hard to be the “perfect mom” and do it all on our own, but there’s no such thing as a perfect mom and there’s no shame in asking for help and support. If in the end it will keep you sane and allow you to spend more quality time with your child, why not?

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book? “The Little Boy Who Lost His Name” (Personalized Book).

What has been your favorite kids’ class?  “Rockin’ Railroad” at Kidville, but I’m moving to Long Island City and bet I’ll have a ton of new favorites!

What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends? My son is currently 5 months old so if at home, my husband and I like to pull out the playmat and play with him. If we’re going out, we love to take walks and go to the park with him.

What is your favorite rainy day escape? Any New York Public Library or bookstore that’s nearby.

Learn more about Embodied Minds on Kidz Central Station and reserve your child’s spot now for their Public Speaking and Communications Skills Group, starting in the fall.

Alternative Treatments for ADHD: Do They Work?

Mother and daughter visiting doctor
If your child is one of the 6.4 million American kids diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), he or she is probably being treated with medication or behavior modification therapy—or both. Studied extensively, these first-line ADHD treatments have been found to reduce the symptoms or negative effects of ADHD on a child’s daily functioning.

You may have also heard about alternative treatments for ADHD, such as biofeedback or special diets. But what do we really know about these treatments? Do they improve symptoms and functioning? What evidence do we have? The following brief review will help answer these questions for several different treatments.

Addressing organization, time management, and planning (OTMP) skills: In school settings, teaching OTMP skills in groups has been found to be effective for middle and high school students. In clinical settings, the only program that has been tested and found effective was created at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Child Study Center. Clinical intervention improved children’s OTMP skills and academic productivity and performance, and decreased homework problems and family conflict.

Neurofeedback: Also called biofeedback, neurofeedback is a self-regulation technique in which an individual is taught to alter his or her brain’s electrical activity in an attempt to stay focused and attentive. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend neurofeedback in its recently revised clinical guidelines for diagnosis and management of ADHD. On top of concerns about its efficacy, neurofeedback is extremely expensive and time-intensive, and may not be covered by insurance.

Cogmed: A commercially available, proprietary neurocognitive training program, Cogmed is marketed as a computer-based solution for attention problems caused by poor working memory. A 2011 study concluded that Cogmed does lead to memory improvement, but does not improve function in the area of the brain associated with ADHD symptoms.

Feingold diet: Restricted in sugar and free of additives and salicylate, this diet shows no significant benefit for ADHD except for those children with related food sensitivities.

Elimination/oligoantigenic diet: An oligoantigenic diet eliminates most known sensitizing food antigens or allergens, such as cow’s milk, eggs, wheat cereals, nuts, and more. Although the AAP does not recognize dietary interventions as effective ADHD treatments, a 2012 meta-analysis of 14 studies suggests that an elimination diet can benefit some children with ADHD.

Ketogenic diet: A diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates does not help with ADHD; however, it may offer some benefit to reducing hyperactivity in epileptic patients.

Poly-unsaturated fatty acid supplements: Some children may be helped by doses of 300 to 600 mg/day of omega-3 and 30 to 60 mg/day of omega-6 fatty acid supplements. These supplements can be continued for two or three months, or longer if indicated, as a complement to medication and behavior treatment.

Other diet considerations: Sugar does not usually affect the behavior or cognitive performance of children, but a small effect on subsets of children cannot be ruled out or proven. Iron deficiency is not linked to ADHD. Any effects of food dyes or artificial food coloring on hyperactivity are inconsistent and moderate. Herbal supplements, such as ginko biloba and kava kava, have shown no positive effects on ADHD.

Exercise: A 2011 review found exercise to have positive effects on the behaviors of children with ADHD, but not necessarily on ADHD symptoms. Exercise can be used as a supplemental—but not stand-alone—treatment.

Occupational therapy techniques: There is not enough evidence to support either the wearing of a weighted vest or the use of an interactive metronome to increase on-task behavior.

If you are considering alternative ADHD treatments for your child, be sure to talk with your doctor about evidence of their efficacy, potential costs and benefits (including side effects), what concerns the treatment will address, and how to measure those concerns.

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

Richard Gallagher, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist who directs the Selective Mutism Program and Organizational Skills Training Program at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Child Study Center. He also is an associate professor of clinical psychiatry, as well as child and adolescent psychiatry, at the NYU School of Medicine. With a PhD from Temple University, Dr. Gallagher focuses on selective mutism, disruptive behavior disorders, attention deficit disorders in children and adults, organizational skills, and parenting.

How to Prevent or Treat Infant Flat Head Syndrome

Happy laughing funny baby boy wearing a colorful shirt learning to crawl playing on his tummy, on white background
Many parents are understandably worried when their baby is referred to a doctor for an evaluation for plagiocephaly, also known as flat head syndrome—but there is no cause for alarm.

As an infant’s growing brain pushes the skull’s thin, moldable bones apart, new bone forms at expansion joints, or sutures. When pediatricians see an irregularly shaped skull, they often refer patients to a neurosurgeon or other specialist to rule out craniosynostosis, a rare condition in which a baby is born with a premature closure of one or more of these sutures.

Much more common is an easily treatable condition called positional molding or deformational plagiocephaly. This occurs when babies get into the habit of lying on one side of the head, resulting in repeated pressure that flattens that side and back of the skull.

Deformational plagiocephaly is not a brain problem, does not cause neurologic or developmental issues, and does not require surgery. It is usually a minor cosmetic issue noticeable primarily from behind. For the very small percentage of children who have a significant asymmetric frontal appearance, unaddressed plagiocephaly could affect how people treat them later in life, potentially leading to psychosocial issues.

The key to plagiocephaly is prevention. You can prevent it the same way it is corrected: by encouraging tummy time and changing your baby’s sleeping position.

Tummy Time
Unfortunately, many parents confuse the recommendation of placing babies on their backs for safe sleeping with avoiding time on their bellies altogether. Engaging in tummy time while awake is both good for babies developmentally and the best way to prevent plagiocephaly. For babies with signs of the condition, tummy time will keep them off of the flattened portions of their heads as much as possible.

When babies are awake and under supervision, position them on their bellies for as long as they can tolerate. Infants who are used to lying on their backs most of the time may fuss when put on their bellies, so it’s best to start early—within the first month or two from birth.

Early Repositioning
Early repositioning is important if your baby’s head is starting to flatten on one side or you notice that your baby sleeps with his/her head always turned to the same side—a condition called behavioral torticollis. You can change the sleeping position by propping your baby up to prevent putting pressure on the side he or she prefers.

A variety of commercial devices are promoted to counteract torticollis, but the simplest way to lift a child off the flattened or preferred side is to simply prop up that half of the body about 30 to 45 degrees. The cheapest method involves rolling a dishtowel into a cylinder, wrapping it with some tape to make sure it stays firm, and placing it vertically under your baby from the shoulder to the buttock.

Mildly abnormal face-on skull deformities can almost always be corrected with repositioning, as long as they are caught by age four or five months.

A Word About Helmets
Treating plagiocephaly with a helmet works by applying pressure to the skull in the reverse direction of the pressure that caused the initial molding. Helmets work; however, for the vast majority of children, they are not any more effective than simple repositioning and are much more expensive. That’s why it’s best if helmets are considered only for the small group of kids whose skulls are still severely misshapen at four or five months old.

At the end of the day, plagiocephaly is an aesthetic issue, particularly if it is only noticeable at the back of the head. If you are concerned about it, talk to your pediatrician—but the key thing to remember is the importance of tummy time and repositioning.

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

Jeffrey H. Wisoff, M.D. is the director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at NYU Langone Medical Center and professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics. Over the past 30 years, he has made innovative contributions to the surgical treatment of neurological disorders in children—particularly brain tumors, Chiari malformations, hydrocephalus, and craniosynostosis. A renowned expert in the treatment of craniopharyngioma and other brain tumors, Dr. Wisoff has published more than 160 scientific articles and book chapters, and has been an invited speaker and visiting professor at numerous international sites. Dr. Wisoff received his medical degree from George Washington University School of Medicine, and completed a neurosurgical residency and a fellowship in pediatric neurosurgery at NYU.

 

Why Kids Can’t Resist Unhealthy Foods at the Grocery Store

Adorable girl sit with set of good in shopping cart in supermarketParents who take their kids to the grocery store are probably used to fending off incessant requests for chips, fruit snacks, sugary cereals, soda, and other unhealthy, nutrient-poor food. This perennial battle is taken for granted today—it’s as much a part of raising children as is changing diapers or reading bedtime stories. But there’s reason to think kids wouldn’t want junk food so much if marketers didn’t target them so heavily.

Take the grocery store. A study by Dr. Brian Wansink and colleagues at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab looked at 65 cereals, finding those marketed at kids are placed half as high on grocery store shelves as cereals marketed to adults. They even found that the eyes of characters on cereal boxes, like Cap’n’Crunch and Scooby Doo, are pointed downward to make eye contact with kids, as Dr. Wansink shows in a video. “It looks more trustworthy and increases your likelihood of purchasing things,” he says.

Marketing food to kids is a $2.1 billion industry, the vast majority of it for fast food products, carbonated beverages, cereal, and candy, according to a 2012 Federal Trade Commission report. (Interestingly the foods marketed to kids are a lot less healthy on the whole than those marketed at adults).

Substantial research has found that marketing heavily influences what people choose to purchase and eat. One study found children consumed 45 percent more snack food after watching food advertising compared to those who didn’t view these kinds of ads. This is highly concerning given that one-third of children in America are overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, putting them at risk for chronic illnesses later in life, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea.

Children are bombarded with all kinds of advertising—TV commercials, giveaways, digital media communication through cell phone, emails, and websites. As the Public Health Law Center puts it, “The means by which these products are marketed are limited only by the creativity of food marketers.”

Marketing junk food with popular children’s characters and celebrities are common tactics by purveyors. Ironically, the celebrities we think of as at the pinnacle of health are some of the worst offenders. Of the ads they have made for food, professional athletes like Peyton Manning, LeBron James, and Serena Williams primarily endorse foods that are energy-dense and nutrient-poor, and the only other products they market more than food are sporting goods, according to a 2013 study by Dr. Bragg and colleagues.

In a future blog entry, we’ll tell you what you can do about all of the ads targeted at your kids.

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

Marie Bragg, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine and NYU Langone Medical Center and at the NYU Global Institute of Public Health

 Elaine Meyer, M.S., senior communications specialist in the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine and NYU Langone Medical Center

A Guide To Your Baby’s Developmental Milestones

Infant child baby toddler crawlingA new baby can bring parents much joy, but also plenty of worries—especially around meeting developmental milestones like walking and talking. Some parents receive online baby newsletters and milestone alerts and worry that their baby hasn’t developed a particular skill “on time.” The important thing to remember is that pediatricians aren’t concerned so much with exactly when your baby starts crawling or saying “mama,” but that he or she is progressing from stage to stage, and continued growth and change.

Eye Contact
It’s true that a lack of eye contact can be an early sign of a neurological development deficit, such as autism, but not all babies meet their parents’ gaze at the eight week mark. It’s normal for some infants to not make noticeable eye contact until they’re three months old. Also, parents don’t always notice when a baby has made eye contact because it can be subtle and quick. What you should look to see is some brief acknowledgment of your presence when you face your baby. It’s acceptable if he or she looks at you even if just for a little while.

Crawling
While many babies start to crawl around six months, some may not reach this milestone until nine months or so, which is within normal range. Every baby is different—there is no “one size fits all.” In addition, instead of crawling on hands and knees, some babies move along by scooting on their rear ends, propelling themselves with their upper body in an “army crawl,” or rolling. And, some babies skip to walking without ever crawling at all.

Talking
Don’t worry too much if your baby hasn’t started talking by his or her first birthday. The timing of early language development varies from child to child, and researchers have found that most “late talkers” up to age two are able to catch up to their peers by the time they enter school. It’s a good sign when babies babble and understand what you’re saying, even if they don’t have the vocabulary to answer you back yet—such as when they look for their father when asked, “Where’s Daddy?”

Growth and Development
Keep in mind that every baby develops at his or her own pace rather than according to a milestone chart. However, you know your baby better than anyone, so if you think something is wrong, talk to your pediatrician. When there is a problem, the earlier a doctor can intervene, the better he or she can help children reach their full potentials.

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

Julie G. Capiola, MD, is a clinical instructor in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone Medical Center. A board-certified pediatrician, she received her medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University and completed a residency in pediatrics at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Good Advice for Parents From A Child

When I was visiting my parents recently I was going through some of my old toys and books with my daughter and came across an old newspaper clipping I kept in my night table by my bed. it was from the late 1980s and was called “Memo From a Child to: Parents” and was published in a local newspaper. I had saved it for so many years and reading it now as a parent was especially meaningful. I now keep it in my night table by my bed and feel the message is important for all parents so am sharing it. I do not know who originally wrote this but thank him or her. I found the memo compelling as a child and I find it even more compelling as a parent. As our kids start another school year I hope parents will find this helpful.

writing. images

Dear Mom & Dad,

  •  Don’t spoil me. I know quite well that I ought not to have all I ask for – I’m only testing you. 
    • Don’t be afraid to be firm with me.  I prefer it.  It makes me feel secure.
    • Don’t let me form bad habits.  I have to rely on you to detect them in the early stages.
    • Don’t make me feel smaller than I am.  It only makes me behave stupidly “big”.
    • Don’t correct me in front of people if you can help it.
    • Don’t make me feel that my mistakes are sins.  It upsets my sense of values.
    • Don’t protect me from consequences.  I need to learn the painful way sometimes.
    • Don’t be too upset when I say, “I hate you”It isn’t you I hate but your power to
      thwart me.
    • Don’t take too much notice of my small ailments.  Sometimes they get me the attention I need.
    • Don’t nag.  If you do, I’ll have to protect myself by appearing deaf.
    • Don’t forget that I cannot explain myself as well as I’d like.  That is why I’m not always accurate.
    • Don’t put me off when I ask questions.  If you do, you will find that I stop asking and seek information elsewhere.
    • Don’t be inconsistent.  That confuses me and makes me lose faith in you.
    • Don’t tell me my fears are silly.  They are real to me, and you can do much to reassure me if you try to understand.
    • Don’t ever suggest you are perfect or infallible.  It hurts and disappoints me when I learn that you are neither.
    • Don’t ever think that it is beneath your dignity to apologize to me.  An honest apology makes me feel surprisingly warm towards you.
    • Don’t forget that I love experimenting.  I couldn’t get along without it; so please put up with it, within limits.
    • Don’t forget how quickly I an growing up.  It must be very difficult for you to keep pace with me, but please do try.
    • Don’t forget that I don’t thrive without lots of love and understanding.
  • Please keep yourself safe, fit, and healthy.  I need you and I love you.