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How to Foster a Love of Animals in Children

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When a child learns to love animals, she’s learning the art of compassion and developing the necessary emotional skills to empathize with other living beings. Kids naturally seem to gravitate towards animals, but loving and properly caring for them are skills that must be learned, rather than innate abilities. When you foster a love of animals in your child, you’re helping her to learn the importance of looking out for those that have trouble helping themselves and the necessity of being gentle, patient and affectionate. Kids that are taught to look after animals and to treat them with respect are learning the fundamentals of social interaction by understanding that it’s not okay to be a bully or to take advantage of weaker beings. Instilling that love and compassion, however, can be a bit of a challenge if you don’t know where to start.

Get a Pet

The quickest and most direct route to helping your little one learn to love animals is helping them learn to love one animal in particular. One that lives in your home and is part of the family, not a puppy that’s banished to a kennel in the backyard when he struggles with housebreaking or is figuring out not to chew up shoes. It’s important that you carefully research your options before bringing a pet home, though. The last thing you want to do is present your child with a pet and encourage her to love it, only to send it away when the animal doesn’t suit your lifestyle. Remember that a commitment to pet ownership is a promise you make for life, not a decision to be made on a whim.

Model Compassionate Attitudes

When you’re trying to do something and the family dog is barking incessantly, your first instinct may be to shout something rude like, “shut up” or “that dumb dog.” While you’re only venting your frustration and saying things that you don’t mean, your children are observing you and taking cues from your behavior to determine how they’re supposed to react. Modeling respectful behavior means that you not only let your children see you behaving in a loving and compassionate manner, but that you help them to understand why it’s never okay to call anyone names or demean them, even if they’re getting on your nerves or can’t understand your words.

Think Twice About Shelter Volunteering

At first blush, volunteering at your local animal shelter may seem like an ideal way to help your kids learn about compassionate animal care if you can’t take in a pet of your own. It’s actually not the best idea, as evidenced by the policies of the shelters themselves. Many animal shelters won’t even allow kids under the age of 16 to volunteer, and there are reasons for that policy that extend far beyond insurance and liability concerns.

Helping out at a shelter will allow your child to help cats learn to socialize, to walk puppies and to learn the basics of animal care. It will also teach them to love individual animals, and can lead to heartbreak when they eagerly come in to find that a favorite has been adopted into another home. Even worse, your little one would have to deal with the inevitability of losing a furry friend if he volunteers at a shelter that euthanizes when they reach capacity. Before you start looking for shelters that will allow kids to volunteer, make sure you’re working with no-kill shelters and that your child is well prepared for the day that his favorites go home to their new, forever families.

Watch Your Language

When you’re walking down the street and you see a strange dog without a leash, the compulsion to protect your child is an instinctual one. Rather than pulling your youngster to the other side of the street with an explanation about how the dog could bite him or be dangerous, consider your language carefully. Instilling a fear that every dog could bite him is only teaching your child to fear all dogs, not to love and respect them. Try explaining that every dog is different, and that it’s smart to only approach dogs that he knows, or that some dogs aren’t used to strangers. Teaching an instinctual fear of something different not only imparts a fear of all dogs, but also sends the message that they’re to be avoided at all costs. Rather than commenting on how gross a frog is, talk about how neat his skin feels. Don’t use negative adjectives when you describe animals, because your child’s ideas are formed by what he gleans from your words.

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10 of the Weirdest Questions Strangers Ask Nannies

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There’s something about the presence of an adorable tot that makes adults feel a diminished sense of propriety and a shocking lack of boundaries when it comes to polite conversation. As someone that’s in the business of escorting cute kids around town, nannies are also uniquely placed to field some strange and even downright offensive questions. These are ten of the most bizarre questions people regularly ask nannies, and ways to respond appropriately.

  • “Is She Adopted?” – If you’re of a different ethnicity than your charges, people will still assume that you’re their legal parent. Enter awkward questions about adoption, and the necessity of explaining that you’re the nanny, not the parent.
  • “Are You a Legal Citizen?” – One of the most cruel and unfair stereotypes about private childcare providers is that the majority are illegal aliens that aren’t technically eligible for employment. For some reason, strangers seem more comfortable asking a nanny if she’s a legal resident than they would any other unknown person on the street.
  • “Do You Pay Taxes?” – The IRS estimates that less than half of all nannies and their employers pay the appropriate taxes, so this is one generalization that does have a bit of basis in truth. Still, some people seem to have no sense of propriety when it comes to such sensitive financial questions, and no compunction about asking them when the idea arises.
  • “Are Your Employers Celebrities?” – Though private, in-home childcare can often be less expensive than center-based care, there’s still a widely popular misconception that anyone who has a nanny must be extremely wealthy and probably famous. Be prepared to explain that your employers aren’t famous pop stars. Unless, of course, they actually are.
  • “Are You the Grandmother?” – Experience comes with age, which can mean that you’re a bit older than the average parent. That being said, it’s not really anyone’s business how old you are or that you’re not actually the mother of your charges anyway.
  • “Do You Plan to Have Your Own Kids?” – Caring for other people’s children and having your own aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but you wouldn’t know that from the way that some people aggressively question nannies. It’s never polite to inquire about a stranger’s plans to procreate, but that’s a simple truth that seems to escape some busybody bystanders.
  • “Don’t You Hate Spending All of Your Time With Someone Else’s Kids?” – The assumption that you’re secretly resentful of your charges and would rather work a “real job” is a rude and incorrect one, based largely in the fact that some people refuse to acknowledge childcare as a viable career choice.
  • “Don’t Your Employers Feel Weird About Having a Male Nanny?” – Male nannies, or “mannies,” are on the rise across the country. Still, outdated and rude gender preconceptions cause some people to look askance at a male childcare provider, and to aggressively question any man that’s chosen such a career path.
  • “Does Your Mom Boss Feel Bad About Working Outside of the Home?” – On the opposite end of the gender-based assumption coin is the idea that your mom boss must be wracked with guilt over “abandoning” her children. You’ll notice, however, that these people never seem to ask if Dad feels terrible about leaving his little ones behind all day.
  • “Aren’t You a Little Young to Have Children That Age?” – If you’re a young nanny, be prepared to endure judgmental stares and direct questions about your “young motherhood.” While most people will laughingly apologize when you point out that you’re a childcare provider, they’ll often leave the conversation with a comment about your ability to manage caring for children at your age.

While it may be tempting to point out how rude and presumptuous a stranger is being when he approaches you with an intrusive question, it’s best to avoid any potential for conflict when you’re in the presence of your charges. More often than not, gently correcting a stranger’s assumptions is enough to bring their impoliteness to their attention.

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10 Insect Repelling Alternatives to Bug Spray

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With the return of the warmer weather comes fresh air, longer days, summer vacation and great seasonal diversions. Unfortunately, those same warm breezes also bring bugs. Lots and lots of pesky, biting, stinging, downright irritating bugs. If you’re not comfortable fogging yourself and your kids in a cloud of DEET, there are still ways to keep those flying, tiny monsters from ruining your fun in the great outdoors. These are ten of the best and most effective all-natural alternatives to chemical-laden, commercially-available bug spray.

  • Wear Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus – Studies examined by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that essential oil from the lemon eucalyptus tree is as effective as DEET when it comes to repelling mosquitoes. It can be poisonous if large quantities are ingested, however, and so it’s not recommended for little ones that are under three years of age.
  • Dress to Repel – Mosquitoes and other flying pests will come flocking to those in dark colors or bright hues long before they start gunning for those in pastels. Make sure that you’re wearing light colors, as what you’re wearing really will make a difference in the number of bugs at your personal party.
  • Plant a Bug-Repelling Garden – If you plan to spend a lot of time in your backyard and don’t want to be bothered with flying pests, you can make a real difference in the insect life on your property by planting things that naturally repel mosquitoes and other creepy-crawlies. Geranium, marigold, catnips and horsemint are all considered bug-repelling plants.
  • Spring for Citronella Products – The vaguely citrusy aroma of citronella is quite pleasant to human noses, but it sends biting bugs running for the proverbial hills. Rather than dousing yourself or the surrounding area in chemically-dense and potentially dangerous commercial sprays, look for candles and torches scented with citronella.
  • Skip the Sweet Scents – Smelling nice attracts more than other people, it’s also a major beacon for bugs. For the warmer months, especially for outdoor events, it’s best to use unscented toiletries and skip the perfume or cologne altogether.
  • Read the Labels of Your Toiletries – The human body naturally produces lactic acid, which is a major attractor for mosquitoes and other biting bugs. It’s also present in most moisturizers and body washes that advertise as alpha hydroxy acid exfoliators, so be sure that you’re not using those products when you plan to be outdoors for extended periods of time.
  • Take Your Vitamins – Boosting your B1 vitamin intake is not only good for your body, but it can also help you repel bugs from the outside in. Look for supplements that are marketed as high in B1 content, and consider a daily garlic supplement as well.
  • Police Standing Water Sources – Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, which is why it’s so important to be vigilant about emptying sources of standing water and making sure that water fixtures in your lawn, like birdbaths and koi ponds, are regularly agitated.
  • Look for Chemical-Free Products – Just because you’re looking to cut out the chemicals from your summer routine doesn’t mean that you can’t use any commercially-available repellent products. As organic living and natural health techniques grow in popularity, it’s becoming easier and easier to find products that will repel the bugs without coating you in a film of chemical pesticides.
  • Make Your Own Sprays – Mixing essential oils like rose, geranium, basil, peppermint, lemongrass, catnip and bay leaf with ordinary witch hazel in a small spray bottle will leave you with a safe, all-natural alternative to DEET-heavy bug repellents. These ingredients can be a comparatively pricey investment upfront, but will yield several batches of spray that you can reapply as needed without fears of chemical exposure.

Biting bugs like mosquitoes are more than a nuisance; they can also transmit diseases like West Nile and other viruses. Keeping your lawn and body bug-free does require a bit of time and effort, but it’s an investment that will pay off in spades in the long run.

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How to Handle a Defiant Child in the Middle of a Meltdown

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Most parents welcome the idea of raising a child that’s capable of thinking for herself and actively seek ways of helping their kids gain age-appropriate levels of independence. When your strong-willed little angel becomes downright defiant, however, it can cause a host of behavioral issues that make parenting anything but a walk in the park. Reasoning with even a normally mild-mannered child can be a challenge when she’s in the throes of a tantrum; calming a defiant and spirited child can be exponentially more difficult. Before you chalk your child’s insolence and emotional meltdowns up to a lost-cause personality quirk, however, you should realize that there are effective ways of managing a defiant child who’s in the middle of a tantrum.

Know the Difference Between “Defiant” and “Distraught”

Before you heap punishments on your child who refuses to follow directions when she’s upset, try to objectively appraise her behavior. What comes across as defiance at first blush may actually be a complete emotional overload that makes it difficult for your child to focus on what you’re saying. It’s important that you make an effort to understand the underlying cause of what seems like a stubborn refusal to acknowledge you. If she’s completely distraught and overwhelmed by the onslaught of emotion she’s forced to deal with, the last thing that your child is going to be able to do is stop in order to follow even simple directions. Remember that your child’s brain is still developing, and it’s just not capable of consistent self-regulation at such a young age.

Remove Sources of Over-Stimulation

Temper tantrums and behavior that adults term as being “defiant” are both natural responses for children that are just coming to terms with their need for appropriate independence. That behavior can be greatly exacerbated when your child is in an environment that’s overly stimulating or overwhelming for her. Rather than trying to reason with your hysterical child as he’s having a tantrum in the middle of a busy shopping mall, think about the situation from his perspective. He’s already upset and confused; the hustle and bustle of the location and the endless stream of unfamiliar faces only make him feel more distraught. When tantrums spiral out of control in public, it’s best to remove your child from the environment until he’s able to calm himself. Explosive behavior at home may also be mitigated by removing your child to a calmer, more sedate part of the house. Blaring televisions, screaming siblings, ringing telephones and the chiming of a doorbell will make it even more difficult for your child to process his feelings, a task that’s challenging even for adults.

Be Prepared

If you know that your child is particularly prone to emotional episodes, it really pays to take advantage of the quiet and relaxed moments in your day to think about how you would like to respond to the next one. When you enter the battle with a temper tantrum or tearful defiance forearmed with a determination to react in a specific way, you won’t be as likely to give in to angry or frustrated impulses that you’ll later regret. Picture the reaction you’d like to have to a tantrum and fix it in your mind during times of calm. When the next emotional storm arises, look for the mental image of that reaction and do your best to imitate it.

Provide Realistic Consequences

The moment between the warning signs of an impending tantrum and the escalation to all-out hysteria is often a brief one, but it pays to take advantage of that last moment of coherence. Make sure that your child knows what the consequences of inappropriate behavior will be, then stick to your guns. If you’ve stated that you’ll leave a fun place to go back home for a long nap if he has a tantrum, you need to do just that. Kids need to understand that not only are there consequences for their behavior, but also that they are capable of reigning their emotions to a reasonable extent.

If you feel that your child’s level of defiance is beyond that of the average child his age, or if you’re concerned that he’s exhibiting signs of Oppositional Defiance Disorder, it’s always wise to bring your fears and suspicions to an experienced medical professional. While the vast majority of tantrums and defiant behavior are the result of kids’ natural curiosity regarding boundaries and a struggle with their developing brains’ ability to process complex emotional stimuli, there are those who do require a bit of special attention when it comes to reigning in their emotions. Your child’s pediatrician should be able to provide some information, along with any behavioral referrals she deems necessary.

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How To Prevent Your Child from Becoming Addicted to the Internet

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Internet overuse, pathological computer use and problematic computer use are three of the labels that are often used when discussing Internet addiction. This addiction or compulsion to use the Internet is becoming a serious condition for many kids. Like other addictions, it can interfere with the child’s well-being, psychological and social development and physical health. The good news is that parents can prevent this addiction by being diligent in monitoring the time spent online.

Understand What Internet Addiction Is

The idea of Internet addiction actually began in 1995, when Dr. Ivan Goldberg satirically proposed it as a disorder. His model was pathological gambling, as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Though at the time the idea was presented with tongue firmly in cheek, it is still being debated whether or not to include it in the DSM-V as an addiction. Basically, Internet addiction disorder, or IAD, is use of the computer to the extent that is impacts daily living in a negative manner. Red flags include spending more time online than with friends and family, irritation when computer time is interrupted, excessive checking of email, school or work becomes secondary to Internet use, disregard of computer use restrictions, preference for online relationships, or moodiness and depression when the sufferer is not online. Whether or not it is a classified psychological disorder doesn’t really matter to the parent who has concerns over his child’s attachment to the Internet, though. For the parent who has yet to see an issue but wants to ensure that one does not arise, the same concern is present. In both cases, the parents’ handling of the situation is going to be the proverbial game changer.

Determine Your Child’s Risk

There are certain kids who seem to be more susceptible to Internet addiction, and knowing if your child fits the profile may help you plan some early intervention strategies. Teens who have been diagnosed with such disorders as depression, ADHD, social phobia or hostility may be more inclined to use the computer compulsively. Often, kids who have feelings of loneliness or those who have been uprooted will also be included in the high-risk group for Internet overuse.

Know Your Plan of Action

Unlike drugs, smoking and alcohol, which are dangerous addictions used for self-medicating or social acceptance, using a computer isn’t inherently harmful. In fact, in many ways computer overuse is similar to over-eating. People need food to survive, yet it can become a serious problem for some. Nowadays, the vast majority of kids need to navigate the Internet for school, but they can develop quite a problem when left to their own unsupervised devices. For 8% to 12% of U.S. kids, it isn’t a matter of just saying “no.” Just as the parent of an overeater needs to monitor and assist the child in making healthy food choices, the parent of a problematic computer user will need to help her child make healthy decisions regarding computer use. Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Communications and Media, stated that, “The challenge is for parents to find a way to actually mediate the usage so children get the good aspects of it without the bad.”

One of the most significant factors in prevention is parental intervention. It’s up to you to set limits on computer use. Begin early, and set up rules so that your child is not spending hours at a time online. Make sure you offer interesting alternatives to video games and Internet interaction. Spend quality time with your child doing things that are creative and fun, and help your child develop a strong social network offline. You can do this by getting her involved in sports or offline group activities in which she’s expressed an interest. Find out what her passions are aside from the Web, and help her pursue them. Perhaps she has an interest in a musical instrument or art. Encourage her to develop her natural gifts and talents. Spend some time each month volunteering in some way that does not require working with computers. Get your child involved in your faith community though the youth program. For physical health, get your child moving and make sure she gets plenty of exercise.

Showing your child that there is a big world beyond the computer and offering assistance in navigating that world will affect your ability to mitigate any brewing issues with computer addiction. It will take a little commitment on your part and you will need to become more closely involved in your child’s life, but when you consider the alternative, it’s worth the extra work.

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20 Recipe Blogs for the Novice Chef

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There is a world of difference between simple cooking and the craft that is practiced by chefs. Being able to create a fusion of tastes, colors and textures that are beautifully presented is nothing short of an art-form. It is little wonder then that so many people who take up cooking as a hobby want to hone their skills to perfection. The craft of cookery is ever evolving, so the recipe books of days gone by are no longer enough to satisfy the novice chef. Thankfully, as fast as the food preparation industry evolves, so too does the volume of available resources for recipes. One way that novice chefs can keep up with current food trends is by following recipes from food blogs. These blogs combine traditional and modern recipes, and in a highly competitive online market, only the very best blogs hold prime positions. These 20 blogs are among the very best recipe sources for novice chefs, containing tastes and flavors from every country in the world.

Breakfasts

It’s been said that it’s the most important meal of the day, but it’s also one that is often overlooked when it comes to culinary excellence. Far too often, breakfast is a slapdash affair afforded little effort or time. Breakfast has been a staple part of the human diet for thousands of years, so it deserves its place in any chef’s portfolio of dishes. The challenge with creating unique and appealing breakfasts is in the combination of presentation, flavors and nutritional value. A healthy, hearty breakfast will set you up for the entire day, which is what the chefs in these four blogs aspire to do with their innovative recipes.

Entrées and Appetizers

Every chef knows that the appetizer should whet your appetite and prepare your palate for the main course. It can be tempting to add a little more when preparing entrées and appetizers, however, the clue is in the name. An appetizer should leave the diner wanting more, which helps stir up the taste buds in preparation for the feast that follows. Despite the smaller servings, appetizers are generally expected to be packed with flavor and color. These four blogs have perfectly refined the art of the entrée and appetizer, with recipes that are ideal for any novice chef who wants to learn the craft.

Meats, Poultry, Fish and Other Mains

This is, perhaps, the broadest recipe topic out there. It is also the most widely blogged topic in the recipe niche, so there is no shortage of inspiration available. Remember, though, that meats, poultry, fish and other main dishes may originate from countries all over the world, so ingredients may not be available at your local supermarket chain. The good news is that this will present you with opportunities to get a real taste for flavors and combinations while scouring specialty markets for the ingredients you need. These four blogs include a wide range of recipes for main dishes that you can cut your teeth on.

Vegetarian and Vegan

It wasn’t so long ago that vegetarians and vegans were largely neglected when it came to available recipes. Since the advent of the Internet and the increase in bloggers who promote healthier, greener food, this is no longer the case. Vegetarian and vegan cuisine is innovative, exciting and brimming over with mouth-watering recipes that anyone can enjoy. Every novice chef needs to ensure that they take more than a passing glance at this area of cooking. Vegetarians and vegans have varying levels of acceptance when it comes to animal products. By taking your lead from these four blogs, however, you can’t go wrong.

Baking and Desserts

Whether you are trying to satisfy your own sweet tooth or impress your dinner party guests, you’ll need to learn the art of baking and desserts. Many a host has fallen at the final hurdle due to a less than delectable offering for the dessert course. Baking and desserts are considered something of a specialty area, meaning that there is ample opportunity to gain real-life skills that could grow beyond a hobby. There is also a lot of crossover in baked goods, from entrées to desserts, so this is most definitely a required skill in all aspects of cooking. These four blogs deal with all things baked, sweet and sugary.

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15 Tips for Raising an Only Child

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Once upon a time, big families were the norm. These days, however, more parents are choosing to raise only children instead of having a large brood. Along with that decision comes the concern about what it means to raise an only child. Many parents have apprehension over the thought of their child becoming spoiled or being lonely. Just as with multiple siblings, you can raise a well-adjusted, responsible, socially engaged child by following a few rather common sense pointers.

  1. Relax – Babies and younger children easily pick up on a parent’s anxiety. Learn to relax and enjoy the wonders of childhood with your little one. It won’t last long, so you don’t want to fill the time you have with your baby with unnecessary angst about things that will most likely never happen anyway. You’re going to make some mistakes, but all parents do. Go easy on yourself and take delight in your child.
  2. Find Other Single-Child Families – You don’t need to join an only child club, but befriending other families like your own will provide socialization for the children and give you some support as you connect with other parents who may share the same or similar concerns you have about raising an only child.
  3. Set Clear Boundaries for Your Child – All children need boundaries. Children who have no siblings are no exception. Even though it may be easier to give in to your child’s various requests all the time, don’t do it. Every child will test the boundaries; some will do so constantly, testing your patience in the process. Be firm in your resolve to hold to the established rules. Some parents lean toward leniency because there are no siblings to pander to, but that sends out the wrong message to kids. Your resolve shows that you can be trusted to stand by your word.
  4. Play With Your Child – Some valuable life lessons that kids would normally learn at the hands of their siblings can be taught through you engaging with your child during playtime. You can teach your child to share as you both decide what you’re going to play. Let her know that she won’t always get to dictate what you play; you get to have a say in what games are played too.
  5. Teach Responsibility – One child is a lot easier to clean up after than two or more children. However, you also need to teach your child how to be part of a greater whole. Let him help clear the table after meals. Give him a list of chores that are age appropriate, and be clear about the consequences of not following through. Show appreciation when he completes his tasks.
  6. Find “The Other Mother” or the “Second Dad” – This person does not usurp your role, but rather acts as a secondary adult confidant and cheerleader for your child. According to Jennifer Powell-Lunder, child psychologist, parents of only children need to be on guard so they don’t become enmeshed with their child. Engaging in relationships with other trusted adults, such as aunts, uncles or close friends for support will help prevent your child from totally taking cues from you.
  7. Let Go of the Lonely-Kid Guilt – It’s okay for your child to have some alone time. You don’t need to fill up every spare moment with activities and play dates to make sure she is socialized properly. Everyone needs time to themselves, and you will find that kids who have time to themselves quickly learn how to fill it creatively with a little guidance from you. This quiet time can teach your child how to be productive and content.
  8. Let Him Be Himself – Some parents begin to live vicariously through their child. This is not healthy. Encourage your child to be the person he was meant to be. Take pride in his accomplishments, but let them be his own and not yours.
  9. Keep it Real – According to Dr. Kevin Leman, author of The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are, only children are prone to perfectionism. Let your child know that it’s all right to not be perfect in every little thing. Indeed, it is impossible to get everything perfectly right all the time.
  10. Monitor Self-Talk – You may need to interrupt negative self-talk from time to time. Only children can set impossibly high standards for themselves, and they need some encouragement to see that failure does not mean the end of the world.
  11. Teach Him to Set His Own Goals – Only children who are prone to perfectionism are also hungry for success in many cases. They strive to be the best at everything, and they can be quite ambitious. Sometimes this can be taken to extremes, so it’s wise to step in and teach your child how to create and manage realistic goals.
  12. Stay Involved – There are so many activities available to kids these days. You can enroll your child in sports, dance, acting, gymnastics, music and just about anything else you can think of. Choose a group activity so your child will have an opportunity to make new friends, but don’t overload her schedule. Involvement in a team will teach valuable lessons about working together and compromise.
  13. Let Her Off the Hook – It’s natural for children to seek their parent’s approval. For only children, this can become an obsession. Especially as she gets older, it’s important for you to let your child know that she doesn’t need to do everything to please you. Autonomy has a place in her life as well.
  14. Live, Laugh, Love – Only children have a tendency to be quite serious and very grown up in their approach to life. You can help your child lighten up and see the humor around him by being a good role model in this department. You need to have discipline, but you also need to see the humor in life.
  15. Volunteer – Teach your child to help others by doing volunteer work. There are many opportunities for families to do service together. There are also other things you can do, like taking your child shopping for Toys for Tots or gathering up things and clothes you aren’t using anymore and taking them to Goodwill and explaining to your child what that organization does.

 

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A Nanny’s Guide to Common Childhood Illnesses

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Working as a private, in-home childcare provider gives you access to more than just the hugs, cuddles and giggles of your adorable charges. You’re also responsible for their care when they’re sick, and your close proximity to them throughout the day may also position you as the only person to notice their symptoms when an illness is beginning to manifest itself. There are a handful of childhood illnesses that are more common than others, and you’ll need to be well-versed in how to recognize the early signs to ensure that your charges get the care they need in a timely manner.

  • The common cold – Everyone knows about the common cold, and there are plenty of old wives’ tales about how kids get them. Generally, the common cold is spread by germs that enter the body through the mouth or nose. Keeping little hands clean will help some in warding off this unpleasant experience. Always carry kid friendly hand sanitizer with you when going out in public and see to it that little ones do not gnaw on shopping cart handles or touch public door handles. Many stores now provide disinfectant wipes for the customer’s use, so take advantage of them when they’re available.
  • Chicken pox – Those little itchy dots can make for a miserable time for kids, and it’s one of the most common afflictions of childhood. Usually one child will come down with the pox and then others will fall one by one as it makes the rounds. Unfortunately, it usually gets spread around before the rash shows up. Kids are contagious for two or three days before the appearance of the rash through the crusting over of the blisters.

There are medicines that will help the itching, and oatmeal baths can also help keep irritation in check. Dr. Stephen Dowshen suggests avoiding the sun during the outbreak and for a few days after to prevent burning sensitive skin and increased scarring. Itching is exacerbated by heat and sweating; cold, damp washcloths applied to affected areas should help.

If you have not had chicken pox yourself and you have not had a vaccine, use precautionary measures to protect yourself while caring for an infected child. This illness takes quite a toll on teens and adults and can actually be dangerous for them, possibly leading to complications such as pneumonia, hepatitis and encephalitis. Scarring is permanent for adults who contract the disease.

  • Ear infections – Most kids experience ear infections from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your little charge has two or three of them during the year. Some children have chronic infections, meaning they are plagued with ear pain four or more times a year, or three or more times within a six month period.

Usually ear infections will occur with upper respiratory infections or colds. The estuation tube, which is much smaller in little ones, begins to swell. This tube connects the middle ear to the nose and back of the throat. Blockage here causes fluid to build up in the middle ear behind the eardrum. This build up can lead to infection due to germs multiplying, but doesn’t always happen. When it does, it often results in the child fighting off the infection and fever ensues. Temporary hearing loss can also be present as a result of the pressure on the eardrum caused by the excessive fluid.

Since some ear infections tend to be viral rather than bacterial, many doctors take a wait and see attitude rather than prescribing antibiotics. They will often suggest pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and usually the infection runs its course in a matter of a few days. If it becomes severe, then more aggressive treatment is called for.

  • Fifth disease – For being a common illness, Fifth disease, caused by Parvovirus B19, is not talked about much. It’s a rash that leaves a child looking as if she’s been slapped. It is also commonly called “slapped cheek” rash since it is the most recognized manifestation of the illness. Initial symptoms – fever, runny nose and headache – are fairly mild.  The rash typically shows up several days after the onset of the more non-specific symptoms.

Except for rare instances where the child has a very weak immune system, Fifth disease tends to be mild and usually disappears within a few days. Most kids have full recovery and future immunity to the virus. In cases where the immune system is compromised, serious complications such as chronic anemia can crop up that will require medical treatment.

The historical name, Fifth disease, comes from the rash being number five on a list of common skin rash illnesses affecting children. Measles was first on the list followed by scarlet fever, rubella and Duke’s disease.

  • Croup – This illness is common among the very young. It is often the result of infection caused by human parainfluenza viruses (not to be confused with the flu virus). The upper respiratory tract becomes infected, and fever, runny nose and cough show up as symptoms. In the case of croup, the upper airways become inflamed. This inflammation of the larynx and trachea often results in a barking cough. It can also lead to hoarseness.

Children have a tendency to get worse at night. This is especially true for the child who is upset or crying. Since the swollen tissue of the windpipe can make breathing difficult, you may hear a high pitched noise called stridor during inhalations.

Plenty of rest and fluids, along with acetaminophen or ibuprofen for discomfort and fever, are generally enough to get the child through this uncomfortable illness.

Most of the common illnesses children will contract are fairly benign and will pass within a few days. You need to be aware of what illness they are contending with though, so that you can take necessary precautions to protect your own health. If you have a strong immune system, generally you will have nothing to be concerned about; still, you need to be diligent  around those diseases that affect adults more adversely then children.

Always remember that washing hands, proper etiquette for sneezing and coughing and a healthy lifestyle will help keep most illnesses at bay. When illness does strike, lots of TLC and a nice steaming bowl of chicken soup seem to work wonders in combatting those pesky bugs.

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30 Blogs with Spice Inspired Secrets You Can Use to Improve Your Health

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Prior to the invention of modern medicines, herbs and spices were used to treat various conditions, and have been used to treat illnesses for thousands of years.  While the spices may not have cured everything, these people were onto something.  Spices help the body function better and improve your overall health.  Some spices are multi-taskers, so don’t be surprised if you see some spices in multiple categories.  Take a look at these 30 blog entries to get an idea of which spices might be able to help you.

Heart Health

Heart attacks are one of the leading causes of death in men and women, so if you can eat your way to better heart health, wouldn’t that be worth a try?  These five blog posts will explain the different spices and how they work in your body to improve your heart health.

Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation in your joints and body as a whole can cause you a lot of pain.  However, taking typical over the counter pain relievers can have adverse effects on your kidneys.  Adding spices to your daily food intake could reduce or eliminate the need to take over the counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Kill Bacteria

Several spices have anti-bacterial properties that can help improve your immune system.  By eating these spices your body can more easily ward off the germs that can cause colds and the flu.  You may be able to stay healthier simply by adding some extra spice to your diet

Improve Immune System

Spices eaten to boost the immune system aren’t weird or unusual spices that you have never heard of, they are common spices, such as ginger, curry, cloves and nutmeg.  Many of these spices show up in winter dishes naturally and can help you fight off unwanted germs.

Mood Elevator

Cinnamon is one of the most common mood elevating spices, and one that almost everyone has in their kitchen right now.  If you get up in a bad mood, why not add some cinnamon to your oatmeal or toast?  Cinnamon isn’t the only mood elevating spice; saffron has actually been shown to reduce symptoms of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome).

Improve Libido

You’ve probably the heard the saying “add a little spice to your life.”  Now you can add a little spice to your sex life.  If you find that you aren’t in the mood as much as you’d like, you might want to try adding some heat to your food.  Spicy food will increase your libido, so you can heat things up in the bedroom as well as in your food.  Try some of these spices for yourself and see if you get any results.

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20 Blogs with Inspiring Ideas to Make Kindergarten Graduation Memorable

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When your child goes off to kindergarten it’s an emotional and exciting time. After all, your baby is growing up and going off to school!  Now that you are approaching the end of the kindergarten year, you probably want to recognize the achievement of completing kindergarten.  Some schools do a formal kindergarten graduation, while others keep the graduation more low key.  These 20 blogs will inspire you and your friends with different ways that you can make your children’s kindergarten graduation an exceptional experience.  These blog entries cover the ceremony, how to make the cap, recipes for some tasty graduation treats and of course some gift ideas.

The Ceremony

If you are wondering what kind of ceremony to have for your kindergartener and his classmates, these five blog posts will help you come up with some ideas.  The kids are young, so their attention span isn’t incredibly long. This makes it’s important to keep the ceremony short and to the point.  Many times the ceremony can be held during the school day so as to not add any additional budgetary concerns by having the event at night and requiring additional staff.

The Cap

One of the cutest things you can make for your child to wear on their graduation day is a cap and gown.  Some schools choose to rent the gowns and some own them.  Many schools skip the gowns altogether, but stick with the cap and tassel.  These five blog articles will give you some ideas on how to create caps for the kids to wear that aren’t very expensive.  You can get a group of parents together and make them for every student.

The Treats

It wouldn’t be a celebration without treats.  For food, think of different yummy kid friendly snacks, such as finger foods.  While you are considering what snacks to make, try to come up with some that look like a diploma or graduation cap so that the snacks can tie into the event.  The next five blog posts will give you some tasty ideas to make for your little graduates.  Remember, these treats don’t have to be difficult or expensive to feed the guests at your kindergarten graduation.

The Gift

The graduation gift can be anything from favor bags for all of the graduates to something special from mom and dad to commemorate the day.  These bloggers have ideas for both options.  Whatever the present, make sure you take plenty of pictures of the big day so that you can create a mini brag book or some scrapbook pages to remember this milestone event.  The next five blog entries can help you figure out what gift you want to give the graduate in your life.

One of the best gifts you can give your child is your time.  These blog entries have given you lots of ideas on how to celebrate this milestone in your child’s life, but even if your school doesn’t opt to do a big ceremony you can make the day special for your graduate just by being there.  Remember, before you know it you will be celebrating your child’s high school graduation, so make sure not to miss a minute of this ride of a lifetime.

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