Parents want the best for children, but our peculiar culture drives us to make decisions that do not always benefit our children. Watch Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford, share powerful wisdom from her experience in working with thousands of youth as she explains, “How to Raise Successful Kids.”
“Young people spend the majority of their day at school. It’s where they spend most of their time outside the home. If we want to create a healthier generation, we need to start with healthy schools.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are the perfect back to school snacks. But, have you ever wondered what causes those spots you see on some fruits and vegetables? Are they safe to eat? Educator Elizabeth Brauer may change how you pick your produce after watching her TED talk: Are Spotty Fruits and Vegetables Safe to Eat?
by Chris Marchioni, MD, Executive Director, Healthy Learning Paths
“My family suffered enormously due to this reluctance to raise a fuss. Why hadn’t a concerned uncle or aunt followed up on his or her suspicion that, despite appearances, something wasn’t quite right with Dr. Sam and the house on Highland Avenue? Why weren’t there ever any extended-family holiday gatherings at a house that seemed designed for them? How come the doc’s kids had such trouble looking you in the eye? Why didn’t someone break through the veneer of gentility and modesty to rescue us?” asked Frank Shorter in his new book, My Marathon, Reflections on a Gold Medal Life.
Within days of listening to Mr. Shorter speak about his personal marathon of abuse, three individuals shared their painful stories with me asking the same question, “Why didn’t anyone find a way to help?” From college sports such as the Penn State sexual abuse scandal to some religious organizations where clergy abused children for decades to inside the walls of their very own homes, too many children experience violence, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect in what is a disturbing epidemic in American culture.
Do you know someone who has been abused? Have you been a victim of abuse?
You are not alone.
In fact, some studies predict that 1 in 5 children will be sexually abused by the time they reach the age of 18. Similar studies predict that 50% of all children will experience either sexual abuse, other violent physical abuse, emotional trauma, or neglect by the age of 18. Research shows child abuse occurs across all education levels, all income levels, all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and all religions. So how do we solve the problem of child abuse?
Prevention is the key. But for prevention to work, we must first abandon denial and admit the problem. Giving ourselves permission to speak openly and honestly about child abuse without casting judgement or shame on the many victims opens the door to find a way to help children and help each other.
One of the most important steps is to talk among ourselves or with health care professionals about the pain we carry from our own experiences. Finding a safe and trusted environment to share these stories helps healing and gives others the strength to feel and process their pain and disappointment to reclaim emotional and physical health. While this may create anxiety, it can also be liberating as the walls of loneliness and guilt are replaced by bridges of friendship and understanding. Once we help ourselves, we will find the power to effectively work together to help children to prevent child abuse.
Thank you, Mr. Frank Shorter for courageously sharing your story and starting this conversation.
by Chris Marchioni, MD, a fan of Fathers
Almost 50 gathered with no idea of what to expect. Some doctor was talking about how kids learn. Do doctors really understand what helps kids learn? After all, aren’t schools the experts when it comes to learning for kids?
True or false: nutrition is important for healthy brain development in kids. “Overwhelmingly true,” shouted the audience. True or false: Nutrition helps kids do better in math. “Of course this is false,” laughed the audience.
Do you agree?
Healthy nutrition feeds and grows a healthy brain for a child. Healthy nutrition helps a child perform better in math, reading, writing, science, and even peer relationships. Yes, this is true. This is why a doctor is an expert when it comes to learning for kids. A child’s health has a huge impact on the success of a child’s learning.
Filled with questions, hands in the room popped up like kernels of popcorn sizzling in hot oil. One concerned mom had a point to make, “Poor families can’t eat healthy. It’s too expensive.” Some in the room nodded in agreement, while others went to work using their problem solving skills. One by one courageous parents shared solutions. “I buy fruits and vegetables that are on sale and in season. Wednesday is the best sale day at my grocery store. I buy frozen fruit and veggies in the winter that don’t have added sugar or salt.”
The concerned mom insisted loudly, “Look, I work at a grocery store. There is no way poor families can afford to eat healthy.”
Do parents who are poor have the right to make their own decisions? Do parents who are poor love their children just as much as anyone else? Of course they do. Wealth does not measure love or caring. Even parents who have limited resources love their children and want the best. In fact, these parents work hard and make sacrifices for the health and education of their kids. Parents who are poor have the right to make their own decisions. None of us have the right to take away their power.
At the end of the discussion, a father waited patiently in line to speak to the doctor. When he approached the doctor, there was a tear rolling gently down his cheek. In a strong voice, he shared, “Thank you for what you said. I am one of those poor fathers who does not earn much even though I work very hard. I love my children and care deeply about their health and learning. No one has ever explained to me how important nutrition is for learning and development of my children. This was the best program that I have ever experienced. I will make changes now that I understand what my children need. I am grateful.”
In that room of 50, at least one father refused to give away his power and that made all the difference.
Happy Father’s Day!
by Chris Marchioni, MD, an admirer of Moms
Thank you for giving me a baby brother
When I asked for a baby doll.
You taught me that people are more precious than toys.
Thank you for encouraging me to work harder
Rather than showering me with praise.
You taught me that praise lives within my own soul.
Thank you for feeding others
Even when our table was bare.
You taught me helping others is more powerful than accumulating wealth.
Thank you for watching me struggle with problems
Rather than running to my rescue.
By letting me practice, I grew the confidence and courage to face challenges.
Thank you for granting me the privilege
To make my own mistakes.
Now, I have control over my destiny even during recovery from failure.
Thank you for trusting me to cook, clean, and sew
At the age of 5.
You taught me skills that I mastered, enjoy, and use all my life.
Thank you for ignoring the popular trends,
Social media, and latest gossip.
You taught me to use my brain and my heart to find my own brand of happiness.
Thank you for caring about our family, neighbors,
Friends, country, and especially our Earth.
You showed me that each one of us has the power to make this world a better place.
Thank you for teaching me how to work hard
Even when I thought I reached my limits.
You taught me that working hard is something to never take for granted. Now, I understand that the best things in life are not what you are given, but what you earn.
Thank you for showing me how to laugh and appreciate humor
Even during the most challenging of times.
You taught me not to take myself or my problems too seriously.
Thank you for sharing love not through toys, games, and material things,
But through stories, family meals and traditions, going without comforts,
And putting others first even under criticism.
You taught me compassion, independence, and how to carry a gentle strength that serves as my life compass.
by Shayna Whitehouse, PhD, School Psychologist, Instructor, Mom
Who wants a healthy brain? Hope you answered, “I do!” Are there things you can do to keep your brain healthy? Absolutely! By the way, did you know that the brain is the key to mental health? That’s right, mental health is the health of the brain. What makes for a healthy brain? Glad you asked. Read on.
Secrets to a healthy brain:
- Eat fresh fruits and veggies, brain food!
- Practice a regular sleep pattern
- Find some outdoor activities you enjoy
- Get to know your emotions, see them as your friends
- Learn to communicate your feelings calmly and clearly
- Practice controlling your emotional impulses
- Think of ways to solve daily problems successfully
- Ask for help from family, friends and professionals
- Remember, we are all in this together, so let’s help each other out
Even when we think we have it all under control, sometimes things go wrong. That’s part of being human. We all have moments when we need support from each other. We may find our brain crying out in pain. During these times, our mental health suffers. It happens to everyone at some point in life, so let’s not be embarrassed or isolated. Let’s find the courage to ask for help. Fortunately, Colorado has several ways to ask for help.
The State of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners have ways for us to ask for help during a crisis. Their help lines are detailed on their site: http://coloradocrisisservices.org/. They even have phone and text numbers available to all individuals to ask for help. The new text message crisis line is safe and encrypted just like banks encrypt their transactions. The phone and text lines are available to offer help when we need it. The crisis phone and text lines:
Phone: Colorado Crisis Support Line [1-844-493-TALK (8255)]
Text: Anyone can text the word TALK to 38255 anytime, from anywhere in Colorado and ask for help for you or someone you care about.
Remember, brain health is the key to all health, so never hesitate to ask for help to take care of your brain.
by Chris Marchioni, MD, Healthy Learning Paths
Recently, I was in a meeting with a group of smart strong people. As we were discussing strategies for our nonprofit, a member of the group asked, “So what is healthy anyway?” Good question, in fact, great question!
Let’s think about this through a child’s eyes. What messages do kids get about being healthy? Is it going to the gym, lifting weights, and completing the WOD (workout of the day)? Is healthy running a marathon? Does healthy mean filling up on green smoothies after yoga? Or maybe healthy is downing a handful of vitamins? What about fitting into tight jeans or going to a tanning session? Is that healthy? Caffeine, chocolate, and wine, they are all in the media frequently touting health benefits. With all these things that are supposed to be healthy, we should all be in great health, right? Guess again.
It seems that there are many brands of healthy bouncing around today. But what do kids need to know to stay healthy? How do kids learn to sort out what is healthy and what is marketing confusion? Let’s start by distinguishing between health and healthy. All kids want to enjoy good health. According to the World Health Organization, “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (illness).” Wow! So health is a lot more than just not being sick. In all the messages about health, how often do kids get to hear about mental health and social well-being? Maybe it’s time to bring mental health and social well-being into the discussion of health and healthy.
Healthy is an adjective that describes choices that one makes that lead to a state of positive health. For example, if one choses to eat broccoli over cream puffs, this is a healthy nutrition choice. If one choses to use appropriate communication skills such as, “I am frustrated,” over punching someone in the face, this is a healthy social emotional choice. And if one chooses to stop running a marathon over passing out, this is a healthy physical, mental and social emotional choice. So how often do kids hear about healthy choices? Probably not often enough.
Want to try something simple, fun, and healthy? Wherever you are and even if you don’t have kids, practice some healthy choices for mental health. For example, you can take a walk with a friend because exercise is a healthy choice for mental and physical health. Or you can share a kind word and a smile with a child, friend or even a co-worker. Practicing kindness is a healthy choice for mental and social emotional health. Kind words are golden in a child’s eyes. Sharing laughter is priceless!
So let’s get started to experience health and make healthy choices by sharing a few kind words! You are terrific and very much appreciated for reading this article! Please, pay it forward!
by Shayna Whitehouse, PhD, School Psychologist, Healthy Learning Paths’ Instructor, and Mom
What is a smile?
♥ A friendly communication
♥ A connection between people
♥ A sign of happiness and enjoyment
♥ A reflection of humor
♥ A shared moment of joy
♥ A picture of kindness
What do smiles make better?
♥ Your health
♥ Your overall mood
♥ Your relaxation
♥ Your connection with others
♥ Your happiness
♥ Your experience everyday
I was reminded of the power of smiles and the importance of spreading them when I was teaching about communication at a partner school. The children had to communicate together to get a ball from one side of the room to the other and make sure that all classmates were included. While they were passing the ball, they looked each other in the eyes, smiled and said their neighbors’ names to pass the ball. It was electric and contagious! When one student received a smile, they passed it to the next student along with the ball! Soon, each student was smiling and giggling! And the ball made it across the room with ease. A smile is a simple gesture that conveys so much and enhances the feelings of joy and sharing between children and adults.
February is a month of connection and kindness. Our society gives us plenty of reminders to share the celebration of connection and love with our family. But this lesson from the classroom made me realize how important it is to share a simple connection with others. A smile serves as a friendly gesture, a shared moment with another, an infection that increases the well-being of others. A smile often breaks walls, changes a tense moment into a relaxed moment, or provides an offer of connection to someone who may really need it. Did you ever imagine that you have the power to help someone simply by sharing a smile?
As we enter the month of February, let’s remember to share special moments with our family and loved ones. Let’s make an active effort to smile with others. Smiles improve your mood, your overall health, and quite possibly spread a little bit of joy and connection to others, lightening everyone’s load!
Be healthy and happy, and share a smile!
by Chris Marchioni, MD, Executive Director Healthy Learning Paths
With the New Year, comes new opportunities and challenges. What if all of our challenges are simply unrecognized new opportunities? Could this be the key to solving the many challenges we face? What if the power to make this world better for our children lives in each of us?
Listening to children helps us recognize this power lives in each of us. A grateful mother shares her true story of a young child named Miguel. Miguel was a typical active boy, curious with innocent eyes, and full of excitement for exploration of life even when struggles crossed his path. Like many children, he hungered for learning through first-hand experience. One morning Miguel rushed out of bed bright and early before others were awake. His mother heard a noise and was startled to find Miguel with his face pressed against the sliding glass door. “Miguel, what are you doing up so early?” she asked. With a wide smile and saucer eyes, Miguel answered, “I can’t wait to see what the sun will bring for the new day!” He stood ready to welcome whatever the new day would bring. For Miguel, every challenge was a welcomed opportunity to conquer.
The image of this young child’s spirit burns in my mind. What if each of us carried such excitement for every new day? Each day is an opportunity to act to help someone. Each new day is an opportunity to be an advocate for a child. Children are doing the best they know how to do. They depend on guidance from caring adults. A simple act of kindness such as listening to a child makes a difference. Taking the time to play outside with a child shows play is healthy for all of us. Advocating for the safety of children sends a message that we care about children and they are important. Each of us has the power to turn challenges children face in health into opportunities. No one can take away all the pain and suffering of mental and physical illness for children, but each of us can take away some.
Let’s be a voice for the child who has no voice. Let’s work together to help children experience the joys of being healthy. Health is not a number, shape, or size. Health is a state of being. A state in which we develop the tools to keep our minds, bodies, emotions, and spirits in balance. A state where we can be excited about what the sun will bring for every new day during this New Year!