Toddler Multiples

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Fire Safety Exit Strategies: What to do when you have 2 or more Infants

3 girls in firetruckOctober is Fire Safety Month. If you have school age children you may have developed an emergency exit plan with materials from the school. This article focuses on infants and toddlers strategies but has information for all. Resources in English and Spanish are at the end.  Don’t forget to change the batteries in your fire/smoke detectors!

We all know how important it is to have a Fire Safety Plan, including two ways to exit from every room in your home.  But how does that plan change when there are more babies than adults? What if you are alone with 3, 4, 5, or 6 babies?

A good place to start is with prevention and preparation.  Working smoke detectors on every floor of the house and inside and outside each sleeping room are essential. New smoke detectors are available that let you record a mothers voice. They have been shown to be very effective in waking children. Of course fire extinguishers and an escape plan are important too.  Most local fire departments can help you make a family fire escape plan, and may even come out to your home to do a fire safety check.  It is also a good idea to let the firehouse that would respond to your home know how many babies you have.  That way should the worst happen they would  know how many babies need to get out. Depending on where you live, you may also want to contact your EMS or ambulance / rescue squad that an emergency call to your house may involve multiple children. Planning ahead and practicing often can mean the difference between life and death.

Most experts agree that you have less than 3 minutes to exit a burning building, which may not be enough time for many trips.  If at all possible,  carry everyone out in one trip, which we all know is easier said than done.  Here are a few ideas on how to minimize the number of trips, hopefully only one trip!

The Big Grab Method:

For co-bedded infants, who are usually snuggled together anyway, you can probably reach your arms around from either end and grab them all.  They will probably wake up and be upset that they are squished against their siblings, but at least they will be safe.  I know I had no problem picking up three babies with this method and I have pretty short arms.

Laundry Basket Method:

If there is a laundry basket nearby, which there most likely will be, dump out the clothes and fill it with babies.  Drag or push the basket down the hall to stay below any smoke.  If you are on the second floor, back yourself down the stairs sliding the basket of babies down as you go.

Blanket/Beach Towel Method:

Keep a large thick blanket or towel in the sleeping area.  (Fire blankets are available for purchase commercially, but any thick blanket will do.)  The goal would be to provide some insulation from any smoke or fire gases. The blanket would contain some clean breathable air and also act as a filter.  For very small infants you can lay the blanket on the floor, lay all the babies next to, or on top of each other and wrap the blanket up around both sides.  Hold both ends at the top, kind of like how you see “bundles “ hanging from the mouth of a stork.  If there is smoke, drag the entire bundle of babies down the hall to the exit to stay below the smoke.  As soon as you are in fresh air, remove the babies so they can breathe normally.

If you need to go down stairs and they are too heavy to carry (say three or four 6-12 month olds) just drag the bundle down the stairs.  The kids might end up a little bumped and bruised, but they will be alive.

If you just need to get out quick and the air is clear, pick up the whole roll and out you go.  The towel or blanket will keep you from dropping anyone.

Bail Out/Relay Method:

If you are on the first floor, and there is a window, open the window and start passing babies out the window.  Most 0-6 month olds can’t roll or crawl away yet so they will stay where you place them.  If you are alone, think of this as a relay.  First you get the babies all out of the window, then yourself out, then you start moving them away from the house.  Also, as soon as you open the window start screaming for help, hopefully someone will hear you and come running to help shuttle babies away from danger.

Sling Method:

If your nursing sling or carrier is close by, you can put a baby or two in the sling and have your hands free for carrying other babies or directing another child out.  Be careful with this method not to spend too much time getting babies situated in the carrier.  Remember in case of a fire, you only have 3 minutes to escape, so if it takes you 5 minutes to put on and adjust your sling, you will need another method.

Apron Method:

Commercially there are “apron-like” garments designed specifically for evacuating large numbers of babies.  Many hospitals and day care centers have these.  Safe Babies® infant emergency evacuation apron is one product that can carry up to four babies.

Stroller Method:

Of course a stroller can be the quickest mode of transportation, but there are very limited circumstances where this is an option.  How many of us keep a stroller near the bedroom? Also, in the case of a fire, you should never use an elevator, so you could be in for a bumpy ride.  But if you are on the first floor and the stroller is close, don’t over look the obvious.  Throw them in and roll as fast as you can to safety.

You can always combine methods or make up your own.  The most important things is to make sure everyone gets out, and once you are all out, don’t go back in for anything.

Make sure you don’t forget the older children as well.  It is easy to see how a parent would worry first about the children trapped in cribs, or who are unable to walk.  So make sure you teach your older children how to escape on their own.  Children as young as 3 can follow a fire escape plan they have practiced often.  Fire drills are a good way to keep preschool children and toddlers involved.  They also give you a chance to figure out what method will work best for you.  If you are in a two-parent household, run the drill three ways: With Mom Only, With Dad Only, and with Both Parents.  You might be surprised at what method works best in each scenario.

Also be sure to continue to run your practice drills as the children get older.  The bigger they grow the harder they are to carry, so you might need to adjust your plan.  The exit routes in your home will also change with the addition of baby gates, locked doors and toys, toys, everywhere.  Continued practice is key.

If you have doors that must be opened with a key, KEEP A KEY by each door, and REPLACE it when you use it.  Whether it is a child’s room or the front door, you don’t want to have to look for the key.  Hang it on a hook out of the reach of the little ones.  Ideally every door should open without a key, but eventually, babies become toddlers that you may have to lock them in the house to keep them from escaping into traffic without your knowledge.  So, if you have any doors locked, be sure to keep a key by the door or you may have just blocked your best escape route.

If you have babies that require medical equipment, work that into your plan.  I don’t mean that you should try and carry all the babies and all the equipment out in one trip.  Sometimes one baby and a tangle of cords is difficult enough, let alone multiple babies and multiple cords.

If your babies are attached to monitors, oxygen, or feeding tubes, know what you can do without for a few minutes, and how to quickly disconnect to escape and call 911.  When the ambulance arrives, paramedics will be able to monitor/stabilize breathing & heart rates and transport your child to a medical facility equipped with any medical equipment you could have possibly had in your home.  Medical equipment can be replaced, a child can not.

We all hope we will never have to use your escape plan, but it is comforting to know that you have an Exit Strategy should you need it.

 

Resources:

Fire Safety for Kids (interactive games and activities)

Fire Prevention Tips

Fire Safety Coloring Pages

Lista de verificación de la Semana de Prevención de Incendios –

 

12 Tips for Teaching Children Gratitude

Tired of bickering, jealousy, and selfishness? Kids are naturally materialistic and self-serving– but the good news is that gratitude can be taught. And from gratitude flows joy.

Tricks for Teaching Children Gratitude and Creating a More Joyful Home:

  1. Surprise them! Avoid too many choices: Surprises help children see something as a gift, not an entitlement. Having too many choices breeds unhappiness– you are always wondering if you could have something better. One night, we tried to have a conversation with our children about where we might go for our summer vacation. Within five minutes, Disney World was not good enough. Everyone had a better idea, and no one was going to be happy with whatever we came up with. I put a prompt end to that conversation, and about a week later, I announced that I had a big surprise– we were going to Mt. Rushmore! I showed off my plans for our national park camping vacation, and they couldn’t have been more excited. Our low-budget road trip turned out to be a fabulous success.
  2. Talk about the best parts of your day: Find some time each day to talk about what you are thankful for– perhaps at the dinner table, before bed, or while you are driving in the car. Ask your children, “What was the best part of your day?”
    • For older children, try keeping a gratitude journal. Gratitude journals have been shown to be an effective approach to helping children be happier: One study had 221 sixth- and seventh-graders write down five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks. Three weeks later, these students had a better outlook on school and greater life satisfaction compared with kids assigned to list five hassles.
  3. Teach your children their past: What are your family stories of hardship and perseverance? My husband’s great-grandmother ironed for a living– her iron is now a bookend in our house, reminding our children what hard work really means. As a child, my grandmother washed dishes for ten cents per week during the depression. We keep her picture in our study, and tell our children her story. Not sure of your past? Just take a family trip to the history museum, a battlefield, or other historic site. You will return home grateful.
  4. Help your children serve someone who does not “need” charity: It’s great for kids to participate in scout food collections and other community charity programs, but these events only occur a few times per year and you rarely meet the people you are serving. Find someone in your everyday life for your children to serve regularly, even if this person doesn’t really need charity. We have a neighbor who lives alone and appreciates our left-overs so she doesn’t have to cook for one person. Our kids love to bring her food. One night they were all griping about how they didn’t like the dinner I made, until I asked them to bring a plate to our neighbor. Suddenly all the complaining stopped and they were out the door with her food, eager to have the opportunity to serve her.
  5. Focus on the positive, all day: I tell my children several times each day, “Attitude is a choice.” Choosing to have a positive attitude is actually our #1 house rule. It’s an all-day effort to constantly turn around the whining, jealousy, and complaining and instead focus on positive. “I’m thirsty!” needs to become, “Mommy, may I please have a drink?” “Where are my shoes?!” has to change to “Daddy, can you please help me find my shoes?”
  6. Say “Thank you:” Teach young children to say “thank you” as part of a full sentence, for example, “Thank you, Daddy, for making dinner.” Encourage school-aged kids to say thank you throughout the day, especially when you help them get ready for school or drive them to activities. Have them thank coaches for practice and music teachers for lessons.
    • Struggling to get your children to say “thank you” without reminders? For ten years I reminded my children to say “thank you” when they were served at a restaurant, but I just couldn’t get them to do it without prompting. Now, if they forget to say “thank-you” they have to seek out their server and personally thank them before leaving. No more reminders necessary…
  7. Lead by example: How many times per day do you say “thank you”? Have you told your children what you are thankful for today? Our children are watching our every waking move. We can’t ask them to be grateful if we are not. Come home and talk about the happy parts of your day, making a conscious choice not to complain.
  8. Teach “‘Tis better to give than to receive.” Even toddlers can buy or make gifts for others: Take young children holiday shopping at the dollar store. Challenge them to pick out gifts for others without buying something for themselves. It’s hard!
  9. Make time for chores: Most children have about four hours between the time they get home from school and bedtime. During those four hours, they have to accomplish homework, extracurricular activities, dinner, bath, and bedtime. It’s hard to find time for chores. Without chores, children just can’t understand what it takes to run a household– they will take clean laundry and dishes for granted. Find age-appropriate chores for your children, even just 5-10 minutes per day. Consider leaving time-intensive chores for the weekend, such as yard work, bathroom cleaning, and linen changing.
  10. Let big kids take care of little kids: They say you can’t really understand what it takes to raise a child until you have your own children. Perhaps, but giving big kids responsibilities for little kids will start to help them have an attitude of gratitude towards their parents. Pair up big kids with little kids to get chores done or get through homework.
    • School aged children can read books to toddlers or help them get dressed. Your older children will gain self-confidence and a sense of responsibility, and the relationship they build with their younger siblings will last a lifetime.
  11. Give experiential gifts, not stuff: Too many toys? How about gifting a membership to the children’s museum, a soccer registration fee, or a camping trip? Experiential gifts build relationships, not materialism.
  12. Monitor your children’s media: Our children are bombarded with age-targeted marketing that they are too young to resist or understand. Media fuels materialism. It is our job to carefully monitor their media so that they aren’t dragged into marketing and made to feel incomplete or unfulfilled.

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Making Sense of Senseless Violence

parent hug childHere’s some expert advice to help you and your kids cope with the seemingly unending string of catastrophes, from our friends at HealthDay.

“We’re just inundated,” said Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who worked with survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Even with a tragedy occurring thousands of miles away, he said, “because of 24-hour media coverage you can feel threatened . . . feel that the wolf is at the door.”

The list of recent tragedies seems relentless:

  • Mass killings in Dallas, Orlando, Brussels, Istanbul and Paris, to name a few.
  • Police shootings across the United States.
  • Babies born with abnormally small heads and brains because of a mosquito-borne virus.

Manevitz said it’s normal to feel sadness, confusion or anger in the face of catastrophes. “Anyone can feel a sense of helplessness that the world is a dark and dangerous place,” he said.

But because today’s 24/7 news cycle can trigger what he calls “acute stress reactions,” Manevitz said adults need to put these events in perspective.

How? By distinguishing between the possibility of something occurring and the actual probability.

Zika virus, he said, was a concern for anyone attending the Olympics this summer in Brazil. But in reality, what are the odds of a Zika-carrying mosquito infecting someone in New York City or Chicago or Seattle?

Some people cope with unsettling news by shutting themselves off from the media. For others, getting as much information as they can helps them put the odds of a threat in context, said Manevitz.

“But people with a susceptibility to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety or depression may have a more amplified reaction,” he said.

For young children, he recommends restricting media coverage. Kids 7 and younger don’t understand what they’re seeing and can become anxious or sleepless, Manevitz said.

For older kids, “it’s best to be involved with what they see so you can explain what’s happening and put disasters in context,” he explained. “Tell them, ‘We have police and firemen to keep us safe.’ ”

Also, share your feelings with children, tell them the truth and reassure them, he added.

As difficult as these topics may be to discuss, parents shouldn’t avoid them, says the American Psychological Association.

“Children often learn or know when something sad or scary happens. If adults don’t talk to them about it, a child may overestimate what is wrong or misunderstand adults’ silence,” according to the association.

Sharing troubling news can also have long-term benefits. “When parents tackle difficult conversations, they let their children know that they are available and supportive,” the psychologists’ group notes.

Manevitz added that parents must keep their own emotions in check. “Parents are role models of coping skills for their children,” he pointed out.

He offers other coping mechanisms for parents to share with their children. For instance, you and your child can write a letter to a victims’ organization or make a donation to a relief agency. Also, discuss your own family disaster plan — what to do if a lockdown occurs at school, for instance.

For young and old, it’s important that you “don’t allow the small possibility of something happening impact your life,” Manevitz stressed.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers this advice to parents of children:

  • You are their biggest influence. When you can manage your own feelings, you can make disasters less traumatic for your kids.
  • Encourage dialogue. Listen to your kids. Ask them about their feelings. Validate their concerns.
  • Answer questions. Give just the amount of information you feel your child needs. Clarify misunderstandings about risk and danger.
  • Be calm, be reassuring. Discuss concrete plans for safety. Have children and teens contribute to the family’s recovery plan.
  • Shut off the TV! News coverage of disasters creates confusion and anxiety. Repeated images may lead younger kids to believe the event is recurring. If your children do watch TV or use the Internet, be with them to talk and answer questions.
  • Find support. Whether you turn to friends, family, community organizations or faith-based institutions, building support networks can help you cope, which will in turn help your children cope.

SOURCES: Alan Manevitz, M.D., clinical psychiatrist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; American Psychological Association; U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Genetic Insights May Help Lessen Developmental Delays

parent and child readRecently Canadian researchers found a precise genetic cause for seven out of every 10 children suffering from a previously undiagnosed condition that caused developmental delays.

In many cases, the genetic analysis led to groundbreaking discoveries. Researchers discovered 11 new disease genes linked to developmental delays, and described new physical traits and symptoms for a number of known diseases.

The investigators recruited 41 children who were suffering from these delays, which could range from delayed walking and talking, to more severe problems like epilepsy or autism, explained senior researcher Dr. Clara van Karnebeek, pediatrician and biochemical geneticist at BC Children’s Hospital and principal investigator with the Center for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics at the University of British Columbia.

Using traditional urine and blood tests, the researchers screened the children for 90 known metabolic diseases tied to developmental delay, and found that based on those tests, the children didn’t qualify for any of the known illnesses.

The researchers then performed an analysis of the children’s exome, the part of their genetic structure that guides the creation of proteins essential for the body to function properly.

Thanks to the genetic results, researchers were able to help 17 of the 41 children with treatments aimed directly at their genetic condition, she said.

“One of the parents explained the difference she saw in her son before and after,” van Karnebeek said. “Before, he was head-banging thousands of times a day, injuring himself. Afterwards, he calmed down. He was able to come home and have dinner with the family and watch TV.”

Many large medical centers and commercial labs are able to conduct these sorts of analyses for children with previously undiagnosed developmental problems, she said.

However, the genetic screen is expensive at this time, costing a couple of thousand dollars, on average, van Karnebeek added.

Dr. Edward McCabe, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes, called the study an “impressive investigation.”

“As sequencing gets cheaper, it’s the way we need to go to identify the cause of disorders in these patients,” McCabe said.

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How to Shape & Manage Your Young Child’s Behavior

parents with kidsHelping shape your children’s behavior is a key part of being a parent. It can be difficult as well as rewarding. While at times it can be challenging, a few key principles can help.

Modeling Behavior 

Children learn by watching everyone around them, especially their parents. When you use manners and good coping strategies, you teach your children to do the same.

  • Point out sharing among adults. Children often feel that they are the only ones who have to “use your manners,” “share,” and “take turns.” So when adults share, point it out to your children. For example:
    • “Daddy is sharing his drink with Mommy. Good job sharing, Daddy!”
  • Model good ways to calm down. Teach your children how to calm down when they are upset or frustrated. For example, if you are frustrated about sitting in traffic, you might say:
    • “Mommy is really frustrated right now. Please help me calm down by taking 10 deep breaths with me.”
  • Teach children to say how they feel. If you are really frustrated, you might want to say, “You are driving me crazy right now.” Instead, try to express your actual feelings: “Mommy is really frustrated right now.” This teaches children to say what they feel instead of making critical or hurtful statements. Then help your children do this when they are upset. For example:
    • “It looks like you are feeling sad.”

If your guess about how they are feeling is not accurate, allow your children to correct you.

Behavior + Attention = More Behavior

If you are like most people, you’ll leave your children alone if they are behaving well, but when your children are misbehaving, you’ll direct your attention to them. This tends to backfire. The attention around the misbehavior actually increases the misbehavior as a way to get more attention from us!

The best way to improve behavior is to give children a lot of attention when they are doing something you like and remove your attention when they are doing something you do not like.

An easy way to increase good behaviors is by describing their behaviors and praising them when they make a real effort. For example:

  • “Good job listening the first time!”
  • “Good job using your inside voice.”

It can be hard to get in the habit of doing this, but it gets easier and easier as you do it.

The Attention Meter

When children get enough positive attention from you, they don’t need to act out to get attention. Remember to fill your children up with plenty of love and affection throughout the day, every day. A very easy way to do this is to spend quality time with them. Playing with your children for just 5 minutes will go a long way, especially right after getting home from work or after an errand. When playing with your children, let them pick the toy and lead the play. It’s tempting to tell your children what to do or ask a lot of questions, but it is best not to do that. Try instead to just describe what your children are doing (“You are working so hard to build a tall tower” or “You are stacking those blocks”) and give praise: “Great job sitting so still while we are playing.”

Another way is to give attention to children for good behavior, yet not distract them while they are behaving, is to gently touch them in a loving way; for example, simply touch their shoulder or back. It is recommended you give children 50 to 100 brief loving touches every day.

You can decrease bad behaviors by ignoring them, but this only works if you are giving your children lots of attention for their good behaviors. The simplest way to do this is through planned ignoring. Ignoring means not talking to, looking at, or touching your children when they are behaving badly. The key to ignoring is making sure to give your children positive attention as soon as the bad behavior stops, like saying:

  • “You are quiet now; it looks like you are ready to play.”

It is important to not ignore unsafe behaviors that need immediate attention from you.

Special thanks to our friends at healthychildren.org for these tips!

September 6th, 2016|Articles, Parents of Multiples, Toddler Multiples|