Friday, January 29, 2010

We Interrupt this Parenting Blog for a Rant

Not that this has anything to do with parenting, but I must rant about my pet peeve: people who stop at the top/bottom of a staircase or escalator and people who come to a complete halt in a doorway. Folks, these are passageways so please keep moving. I normally start singing (aloud) Bob Dylan’s lyrics, “Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall.”

Pamela Lewis ranted about this recently in a NY Times article titled, “Don’t you know you’re in the way?” But the focus of her rant was about people on cell-phones. Not me, I am ranting about people who choose the top/bottom of the stairs or a doorway to get bewildered in. TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: That is a very dangerous place to be bewildered, so please step aside. Granted that in the spacious farmland of the Midwest, this is not an issue. But, most people in the United States live and work in cities.

Just be courteous to others and be alert to their safety as well as your own. Now that I think of it…that is a rather important message for parents to convey to their children so I’m glad I blogged about it here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Safety is Foremost and Don’t Use the Word Accident

This is the third in a series of 3 posts on Child Safety

Post 1: Better Safe than here
Post 2: Dr. Singer, Practice what you here

A recent report by the Center for Disease Control concerning childhood injury provides some very useful information. In a Washington Post article, titled “How Kids Get Hurt” author David Brown states, “Around the world, fatal injuries in children total 830,000 a year, a number equal to roughly all the children in Chicago. That’s 2270 a day, of which at least 1000 could have been prevented, experts say.”

Brown interviewed Julie Gilchrist, a physician and epidemiologist at CDC, and one of the authors of the report. Brown explains, “You won’t hear Gilchrist or her colleagues use the word accidents. That word, they say, implies that the events could not have been avoided and the damage could not have been prevented—exactly the opposite message they want to convey.”

STATS from David Brown:
**Childhood injuries cause the nation about $300 billion a year.
**In motor vehicle deaths, the risk that comes with age reflects numerous behaviors and vulnerabilities. As soon as a child is able to exert willpower, risk goes up. Of children four and younger who are killed, 30% are unrestrained. Of teenagers killed, more than half are not wearing seatbelts.

STATS from the CDC Childhood Injury Report:
**On average 12,175 children…zero to 19 years of age die each year in the United States from an unintentional injury.
**Males have higher injury death rates than females.
**Injuries due to transportation are the leading cause of death for children.

The leading causes of injury death differ by age group:
**For children less than one year of age, two thirds of injury deaths are due to suffocation.
**Drowning is the leading cause of injury death for those one to four years of age.
**For children five to nineteen years of age, the most injury deaths are due to being an occupant in a motor vehicle traffic crash.

**An estimated 9.2 million children annually have an initial emergency department visit for an unintentional injury.
**Males generally have higher non-fatal injury rates than females.
**Injuries due to falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injury: each year, approximately 2.8 million children have an initial emergency department visit for injuries from a fall. For children less than one year of age, falls account for over 50% of non-fatal injuries.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Spouse Disability Leads to Greater Marital Satisfaction?

The time has come in this blog, to add a new key word: counterintuitive. That word came to mind when I read about one study done at Brigham Young University which found that the onset of physical disability boosts marital happiness more often than not.

Consider these two Findings:
>Both men and women, regardless of age, reported being happier in their marriage after they themselves became physically disabled.

>Men whose spouse became physically disabled also experienced greater happiness in their relationship.

"The numbers show that couples seem to come together when one of them experiences physical limitations," said lead author Jeremy Yorgason, a Brigham Young University professor. The results - published in the journal Research on Aging - are based on information provided by 1,217 married people randomly selected from around the country. Researchers tracked the lives of the study participants for 12 years.

Exactly why physical limitations boost marital happiness is not fully understood by researchers, Yorgason said. One hint from the new study is that in some cases disability brings more couple interaction.

Author: I am always hesitant to be swayed by the findings of one research study, but this one is fascinating. And if it gives hope and support to couples who have been dealt this hand in life, it’s worth its weight in gold.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Reader Insists: Dr. Singer, Practice What You Preach! Now You Decide

Pediatric Nurse Cindy criticized me after reading my October column about the man I saw mowing his lawn with his infant in a snugly on his back. My question remains: Isn't there a big difference between taking action when a child appears to be in danger and the child's parent is right there? Here is my follow-up parenting column on child safety published on January 3, 2010 in the Home News Tribune:

If you see a child in a dangerous predicament, would you intervene? Assuming your answer is yes, what if the danger unfolds in the presence of the child's parent? That's a different story and I'd recommend using common sense. It burns me up to see a parent acting irresponsibly. In fact, a Connecticut mother was recently charged with a felony (risk of injury to a minor) after police discovered that her 3-year-old child wandered from their home alone and crossed a busy street.

Home News Tribune reader Cindy took umbrage with my October column that described an irresponsible father mowing his lawn with his infant in a snugly on his back. Didn't the father recognize this as a dangerous situation? Cindy insisted, "Most inexcusable is that you did see the danger Dr. Singer, but did nothing. As a marriage therapist, I am quite certain you could have communicated in an appropriate and effective way, the danger of the situation and the risk to this young child. Practice what you preach, Dr. Singer! Child safety is everyone's responsibility." You won't be surprised to learn that Cindy (an RN) worked in pediatric I.C.U. for 5 years, and now works at a children's rehabilitation hospital, where the primary diagnosis is traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury.

Cindy wants to change me from being a passive observer of human behavior into an activist. But I wonder if child safety is really everyone's responsibility? Or is it only in the absence of the child's parent?

Here's my absence-of-a-parent story that took place last January in Jerusalem in the Old City. My wife, daughter and I sat down to a slice of hot pizza in an outdoor cafe on a chilly afternoon. I noticed a mother nearby with an infant in a stroller and a young Israeli boy (about 4 years old) with a huge knapsack on his back. A few minutes later, I glanced back and saw the boy, but the woman and infant had disappeared. Had the woman forgotten her toddler? The young boy shuffled away alone and I put down my pizza, grabbed my knapsack, and followed him.

My wife asked where I was going, and I responded that I think a mother just walked away and forgot to take her toddler. The little boy proceeded up dozens of steps, which overlooked the Cardo archeological excavation, and turned right onto a busy pedestrian thoroughfare. I was 20 feet behind the toddler, when my daughter came running after me and reprimanded, "Dad, you are going to get arrested for stalking that little boy! He obviously knows where he's going and if he turns around and sees a six-foot American man following him, he'll be scared to death."

Nearby, a middle-aged woman asked us if everything was OK, and I expressed my concern that this child wandered away from his mother, and is lost and walking the streets alone. She replied, "I live nearby, and he's not lost. Children in this neighborhood usually walk home from school by themselves. It's like the old days when people felt safe about their children being on the streets."

As a father, I could not sit and eat lunch while a little lost boy (in my mind) was wandering through the streets alone. I now understand that there are significant cultural differences when it comes to child safety, and the question of whether child safety is everyone's responsibility. Bottom line for me: in the absence of a parent, take action when a child appears to be in danger.

Be Counted columnist Dr. Alan Singer is a marriage therapist in Highland Park. Respond to this column via his Web site,