Research Finds Virtual Reality Can Help Treat Anxiety

A new study published in the Journal of Medical Signals and Sensors has added to research showing that virtual reality (VR) can be helpful to help treat claustrophobia. The software in this study simulated an elevator moving to the tenth floor and also a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) device). Researchers found that it was helpful to reduce anxiety and was accessible and easy for people to use it. The study also examined different dimensions of how playable the game was, including how motivation, satisfaction, effectiveness, usability, and learnability. 

This study adds to the emerging, promising research using VR technology as a way to address various types of anxiety disorders. Another recent study has examined whether virtual reality could be used social anxiety as well. VR technology is not just limited to the therapist office either. One large study found that immersive virtual reality could be used as a distraction tool to reduce pain, anxiety, and help with anger management in the emergency room. Another study found that VR can help successfully reduce anxiety in children undergoing dental procedures. VR can also teach mindfulness skills to help people with generalized anxiety disorder

Virtual reality technology creates simulated real-world environments so that people can work on their fears of certain situations. Studies have used VR games with advancing levels to simulate elevators, houses, tunnels, corridors, caves, and basements. These VR simulations can be used in therapies like exposure therapy for phobias. Exposure therapy is a type of behavior therapy to treat anxiety disorders and gradually puts the person in real-world situations that triggers anxiety. Over time, one is able to face the threatening condition with less anxiety over time.

Furthermore, the gamification of VR treatment can also be a useful way to engage and incentivize participation in exposure therapy by providing levels and positive rewards.  One game simulated four VR rooms that gradually became darker and smaller over time and found that anxiety decreased each time people played.

Several studies have found that VR therapy can help shorten the length of treatment for anxiety and save on time and cost. It can also help therapists be able to provide more exposure therapy in an accessible way in therapy sessions either in person or remotely and in settings like hospitals and emergency rooms.

Some of the challenges of this technology is how expensive the computer system and VR glasses.  Nevertheless, the research in VR in the treatment of anxiety disorder is fast becoming a promising tool.

Article written by:

Marlynn Wei, M.D., J.D., is a board-certified Harvard and Yale-trained psychiatrist and therapist in New York City.



Here are the 5 things Oprah understands about childhood trauma that excite us most

1. Dr. Bruce Perry knows what he’s talking about. Frankly, there’s a lot of clinicians that think they understand the effects of trauma. But they don’t. Bruce Perry, Daniel Siegel, and Bessel van der Kolk do. We’ve been following their work for years and molding our treatment model accordingly. We wish others would too.

2. It’s a brain thing. When trauma occurs within the critical early stages of life, it affects the brain. It’s not just a “phase that people get over” or “outgrow” as many people believe.Rather, childhood trauma requires early and effective professional help.

3. “It” should be called developmental trauma. This makes far more sense than the term reactive attachment disorder (RAD), which is in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5. The current definition of RAD in the DSM-5 is failing clinicians, and therefore, kids and families. Trauma during the critical early developmental years hinders development. Therefore, children remain cognitively “stuck” in those toddler years. Let’s call it what it is and define the disorder accordingly so clinicians can start to recognize and treat it effectively.

3. Childhood trauma is an important topic for our culture. Absolutely. Childhood trauma doesn’t just affect children. It follows them through adulthood. It fills our prisons. It enters our schools, alongside mental illness. With guns. Time to wake up.

4. A lot of people working in philanthropic organizations to help “disadvantaged, challenged people…are working on the wrong thing,” said Oprah. Yes, struggling people need education, healthy living, housing, and jobs. But if we don’t help them with their “hole in the soul”, as Oprah so perfectly puts it, nothing will help them. We need to work on their trauma so they can lead healthier lives.

Furthermore, to put children with childhood trauma in residential treatment centers, rely upon behavior modification techniques, or treat them for substance abuse issues won’t touch the trauma either. They need a relationship-focused milieu combined with attachment specialists to make a difference (ahem…we’d love to grow our program but need support and resources).

5. What happened to the Parkland, Florida shooter? As Oprah said, we need to look beyond what’s wrong with these violent children. We need to look at what happened to them. Trauma begets trauma in our families, communities, and in the world. To put resources toward gun control and mental health is good but we need to look at the “hole in the soul” too. And we need to support those raising them.

Awareness is vital. As Oprah said, if we “could get on the tabletops right now to get people to pay attention to [treating childhood trauma],” we would. We’d like to be a dancing emoji too, Oprah. But we also need people to act.

Here’s what’s we’ll be listening for Sunday night—

This Sunday, March 11 will be a big night for the trauma community. The people who “get it” will gather around to hear Oprah’s interview with Dr. Bruce Perry about childhood trauma on 60 Minutes on CBS at 7:00 p.m. ET. While we’re ecstatic that Oprah understands childhood trauma, here’s what we hope she covers as well—

1. There’s an army of loving, amazing adults all over the world caring for children with developmental trauma. Yet, they get blamed and shamed when they ask for help. People who raise children suffering the effects of childhood trauma, including adoptive and foster families, “get it” because they live it every day. Sadly, most people don’t understand this basic concept. Instead, their friends and family, as well as clinicians, educators, case managers, and policy makers ignore them. Or worse, they often blame them for their children’s problems. Parents can’t do it alone.

2. There’s a severe shortage of professionals and resources to address this huge worldwide problem. Even if professionals have heard about childhood trauma, they often don’t know what to do about it. We’re happy that people are starting to talk about “trauma-informed” practices. But, actually, people have been “informed” for quite a while. We need to train clinicians to effectively diagnose and treat it.

3. Many children with developmental trauma also have co-morbid mental illnesses.We believe that people who abuse and neglect children do so as a result of their own trauma combined with mental illness. So their children are at high-risk for childhood trauma and genetic mental illness too. Yet, most clinicians have a difficult time deciphering, and therefore diagnosing and treating, these many issues. Children can’t begin to work on their trauma if the effects of mental illness get in their way.

4. Children with developmental trauma don’t want to attach. Due to early abuse and neglect, children with developmental trauma live in “survival mode”. This means they’ll do everything they possibly can to protect themselves from attachment—even though that’s the very thing they need most. Children with developmental trauma use manipulation and disturbing behaviors to push away those who try to get close to them in devastating ways. To simply put caring adults in their lives isn’t enough. They need training and professional help.

5. Our foster care system fails kids battling childhood trauma. Foster and adoptive parents don’t get what they need to effectively care for children with developmental trauma. To deny them resources and training lends to the cycle of children in and out of the foster care system, perpetuating the effects of trauma.

6. Love alone won’t fix childhood trauma. Adoption and foster families can’t save these children on their own. Although a stable and loving environment is vital, it’s only the beginning.

Awareness is a giant first step toward effectively treating childhood trauma. “I’ve done a lot of stories in my lifetime,” said Oprah. “But I think this is the key…I think this could be a game changer. I just want people to listen.” Oprah, we whole-heartedly agree. But parents in the trenches and organizations like ours need resources and a giant megaphone to save more of these children. We’re glad Oprah is listening. And we’ll be listening too this Sunday night.


By Nichole Noonan, Institute for Attachment and Child Development Communications Director

6 more things we hope Oprah Winfrey covers about childhood trauma this Sunday night


What To Do If You Suspect Depression in your Kid

We see a lot of parents struggling with raising kids with Depression. Sometimes it’s situational, which happens often in our community when other problems are not identified or yet well-managed, like Learning Disabilities, ADHD or Anxiety. And sometimes it’s chronic — a co-existing diagnosis of Clinical Depression. Regardless of whether it’s a primary or secondary diagnosis, it is profoundly dangerous and scary for everyone involved –kids and parents, alike.

How do you know if a teen is “moody” or depressed?

You don’t. So you’ve got to take responsibility for your child’s health care and find out for sure.

Some signs to look for include:

  • Change of energy;
  • Change of friends or retreat from friends;
  • Change in music or entertainment interests;
  • Tendency to “seclude” or hide;
  • Single-word responses;
  • Deterioration of schoolwork;
  • Retreat in the house;
  • Stopping participation in family or household events or chores;
  • Tendency to say no to things that they usually like;
  • Stopping familiar activities like exercise, sports, etc.

Depression can also come out a lot like Anger:

  • Screaming,
  • Fighting,
  • Picking fights,
  • Picking at everything,
  • Being rude (especially when you know that’s not what a kid’s generally like)

How DO you broach the conversation?</h2

Trust your instincts here, Mom and Dad. This is one of those times that I think parenting should be a Democratic Dictatorship: be transparent with your child, get her input — and then make a decision and take action.

You might say something like: “I love you, I’m worried about you, and I don’t know how to help you. It’s my job to take care of you and keep you healthy, and I need some help to do that. If it turns out you’re just a moody teen, then that will be great to know, and we’ll figure out how to handle it together!” (Depending on your relationship, as a humorous aside, you can make a joke here about what happens if YOU turn out to be over-reacting. Personally, my kid would love pizza for a week!) “But if you need some additional support that I can’t provide, I need to know that. I want to be the best parent I can be for you – and that means making sure I take care of all aspects of your health.”

THEN you can give your child some options – different therapists, perhaps, or methods for evaluation — so that she can be part of the decision-making and feel some control for her own life. But ultimately, it’s a parent’s decision.

It’s Not Rational

Be clear: Depression is not rational. You can’t plan for it. And it requires a quick response, because it is incredibly dangerous, sometimes with VERY little warning.

From a parent’s perspective, managing Depression requires strength, direction, and commitment. It means not worrying about being fair, or how you look as a parent. It means doing everything you can to keep a child safe.

And, to some extent, that means accepting that there is only so much you can do by yourself. This is NOT something you SHOULD know how to navigate. You need help – and you don’t want to wait too long to get it.

That’s a hard shift for a parent to make – we fool ourselves into believing that we should know what to do with our kids because we’re the parent – even when we’re exposed to circumstances that are completely foreign to us! But it’s better to be overly protective and proactive, than to spend the rest of your life mourning the loss of your child and burying yourself with regret and guilt.

Bottom line: Whether your child is Moody or Depressed – if you’re concerned, don’t ignore it. Get some help – and get to the root of what’s going on for your child.


Raising Grandkids: What to Do When the Honeymoon Ends

Jan is a sixty-five-year-old grandmother who was given custody of her two grandsons, aged 8 and 15, after her daughter was jailed for drug abuse. “At first, it was a joy to have them in our house,” said Jan, whose grandchildren came to live with her one year ago. “They seemed so happy to be here. But then the real problems started. Now, my older grandson either just plain ignores me or he talks back—I don’t know which is worse. And the younger one is starting to follow suit. I’m starting to wonder where we went wrong.”

Raising Grandkids: When the Honeymoon is Over

Like Jan, often when you first take your grandchild in, there’s a honeymoon period where the change of environment and absence of stress from the old living situation gives your grandchild the chance to show his or her best side, which is great. Sadly, all too often the honeymoon ends. And the problematic behaviors emerge—sometimes slowly, sometimes with great rapidity. Either way, it knocks the family off balance. The honeymoon should be expected, but grandparents should not be deceived into thinking that a magic solution to the family’s problems has occurred by having the grandchildren come live with them. If the honeymoon never ends and your grandchild always does great, that’s beautiful.  But sometimes these kids are initially being manipulative, and are using their skills to try to “con” their grandparents. It’s my experience that this is a very common thing for kids to do. So if the period of calm ends and the disruptive behavior emerges, I tell grandparents “Don’t blame yourself. This is just the end of the honeymoon. And you’re starting to see the child in the light of his true problems.”

If You’re Helping to Raise Your Grandchildren While Their Parents are Working

Many grandparents are watching their grandkids in the daytime while a single parent or even both parents are working. So in effect, those kids have two sets of parents and two parenting styles to cope with, and those styles may not always be in sync.

If the picture is that there’s a working single parent and that you are raising the child during the work hours, it’s very important that you and the child’s parents sit down and come to a common understanding of how you’re going to manage behavior, what the limits are, and the range of consequences that are appropriate. New situations will present themselves every day, and you may get frustrated from time to time and feel like you’re going back to the drawing board, but stick with it—it’s very important that all the adults in the child’s life are on the same page.

The difficulty here is that grandparents don’t like to be told how to raise their grandkids, thinking that they’ve raised their own children and know how to do it just fine. And parents don’t want their kids to be raised outside of their own philosophy. This can become a point of conflict between grandparents and their children. Communication and a willingness to look and learn by both parties will prevent this problem from becoming a crisis.

When You Have Custody of Your Grandchildren Because of Parental Addiction, Abandonment or Neglect

Children who are living with their grandparents because of parental addiction, neglect or abandonment bring a whole set of other problems to deal with. These kids are already programmed to deal with the negative environment they came from, and may not be ready to move into a family situation where there are boundaries and rules. What grandparents have to remember is, when your grandchildren move in with you, you are their new family.

In my private practice, I knew many grandparents who raised their grandchildren because of parental neglect, abandonment, incarceration or substance abuse. Frankly, these grandparents had their hands full. Often their grandkids came to them with a constellation of inappropriate behaviors already firmly in place. It was very hard for these grandparents to try to change that behavior or intervene in the child’s life.  And there are generational difficulties, as well as physical problems with caring for children when you’re older. Your energy levels and mental flexibility may not be what they were when you were parenting young children yourself.

If the picture is that the grandparents are raising the child because of parental neglect, abuse or abandonment, above all, the parents should not be allowed to undermine the authority or rules the grandparents have put in place. You should limit or forbid visits until the parent is willing to comply with that. That’s because the grandparents have now become the primary parents, and the birth parents have to take a secondary role. It’s all too easy for the secondary parents to judge grandparents and be critical of their efforts, because it helps the birth parent not look at his or her own irresponsibility and neglect. But this should not be tolerated, especially in front of the children. The grandparents and the birth parent have to communicate, share thoughts and ideas, and then come to some method of operating together.

I want to be clear: such meetings should not become a forum for birth parents to be abusive, oppositional or defiant to the grandparent. This is all too often the case. Grandparents should not accept blame from birth parents who have lost their ability to meet their own parenting responsibilities.

“You’re not my mom! I don’t have to listen to you!”

When your grandchild says, “You’re not my parent!” I think the best strategy here is to agree with the child.  You can say, “You’re right, I’m not your mom. But you live in my house now, and these are the rules in my house.” Do not condemn the mom or dad or get into a discussion about it. All you have to say is, “There are the rules here, and there will be consequences if you don’t follow them.”

When kids say “You’re not my mom or dad,” what they’re really trying to do is take the power away from you. Focus on what your role is: Caretaker. That means you should inform the child what the rules are in your house. The whole idea here is to avoid a power struggle. What your grandchild is doing is inviting you to a fight. And remember, you don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to. Avoid the power struggle, and calmly state what your role is and what the rules are. It’s very important to verbalize no judgments about the mother or father. Judgments will only lead to more anger and resentment, which will lead to more power struggles.

I want to add that I really admire and respect grandparents—or anyone who adopts or takes in a child who has behavioral problems. In my opinion, they’re amazing. But that doesn’t mean that you can do it alone. And just as parents need help, so do grandparents, and I urge you to get the help you need to successfully live with and raise these children.

For Grandparents whose Grandchildren are Being Physically Abusive

First of all, if your grandchild is being physically abusive to you, you should call the police. There’s no excuse for physical abuse. You did not work all your life to be abused physically in your later years. If you want to be a martyr and allow that, that’s your choice. But understand this: choosing to be a martyr doesn’t help the child. If you think you are doing it to help that child, what you need to understand is that the most important thing for that child is to have powerful limits set for them. And if they won’t accept the limits imposed by you, then you need to look outside the home for entities with more power, such as the police and the social service system. Often you’ll hear grandparents state that they don’t want to call the authorities because they’re afraid their grandchild will end up in group home or institution. My response is clear: if he’s physically hurting you, robbing you, or abusing you, maybe he needs to be in a group home or institution where the resources are available to teach him how to manage himself.

I don’t say this to be harsh. I say it with complete empathy for your situation. The fact remains that kids who are physically abusive, steal, set fires, or destroy property often need more resources than the ordinary family has to offer. These behaviors should be taken very seriously indeed, because they can be precursors of much larger problems.

If You’re Considering Taking in a Grandchild, Ask Yourself: Are You Able to Manage a Child with Behavioral Problems?

In my experience, many of the grandparents I worked with were very committed to their grandchildren, but were in fact just plain tired. They had lived their lives, they had worked like dogs, they had raised their kids, and now when they were dealing with their own failing health and financial problems, they felt obligated to take on the burden of raising their grandchildren. While I respect the generosity of grandparents tremendously, I wouldn’t always advise people to try to manage a behaviorally disordered grandchild. Each case is different. Remember, if the kid is well-behaved and knows how to manage himself, accept authority and recognize limits, the grandparents can do fine. But behaviorally disordered children are not only draining, they require people who have acquired special techniques in order to manage them.

Parenting Today Ain’t What it Used to Be: Get Help if You Need It

Many of the behaviors grandparents have to address today were not part of the youth culture 30 or 50 years ago: The blatant disrespect, the demand for autonomy, the open defiance to rules. These things were present, but not at the level of intensity they are today. Grandparents I met in my practice often reported to me how shocked and discouraged they where when their grandkids did not accept their authority or the limits they set.

My advice to grandparents in cases where inappropriate behaviors start to emerge is to get help. That help can be outside the home in a counselor’s office, or that help can be inside the home through a training program like The Total Transformation. If these children have behavior disorders, you’re going to see all that goes along with that: manipulative behavior, risk taking, rigidity, senseless defiance. Remember not to blame yourself if these behaviors emerge: grandparents need as much help as anybody else in dealing with these issues.

Article (Found on the webpage of Empowering By James Lehman, MSW

Report: There are 40 million slaves worldwide; most are women and children

A United Nations agency warns 40.3 million people across the globe were subject to some form of modern slavery in 2016. Among them, about 28.7 million — or 71% — were women or girls forced into sex, marriage or labor.

The 2017 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery report released Tuesday found modern slavery in every region of the world. The report didn’t specify how many of those victims were in the United States during 2016, but a Walk Free Foundation index estimated that number to be about 57,700.
The report was compiled by the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO), the Walk Free Foundation and the International Organization for Migration. Modern slavery has no legal definition but includes human trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage and forced marriage. Put simply, the report said modern slavery is “exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power.”

The majority of the world’s modern slavery in 2016 took the form of forced labor, which accounts for about 24.9 million of modern slavery victims. These are people being forced to work in factories, farms and elsewhere under threat or coercion. It also includes the sex industry. The rest, about 15.4 million people, were living in an unconsented forced marriage, which often included labor.
Andrew Forrest, chairman of the Walk Free Foundation, said the number “shames us all.”
“This speaks to the deep-seated discrimination and inequities in our world today, coupled with a shocking tolerance of exploitation,” he said.

The regions most prone to modern slavery were Africa, Asia and the Pacific. And Europe and Central Asia.

About a quarter of modern slavery victims were children, including those forced to marry as children and those in sexual exploitation. About 1 million children were victims of commercial sexual exploitation in 2016 and 3.8 million adults were in forced sexual exploitation. Women and girls accounted for 99% of sexual exploitation victims and 88% of forced marriage victims.
The ILO also released its Global Estimates of Child Labour report, which estimates about 152 million children worldwide subject to labor.

The modern slavery report said ridding the world of slavery will require interventions on the economic, cultural, legal and social forces assisting slavery.
“This has to stop,” Forrest said. “We all have a role to play in changing this reality — business, government, civil society, every one of us.”


Follow Sean Rossman on Twitter: @SeanRossman

Human trafficking growing problem in metro Atlanta

EAST POINT, Ga. – Authorities said human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity in the United States and metro Atlanta is among the top cities.

Law enforcement officers said metro Atlanta’s reputation for having one of the world’s busiest airports, being a convention city and having a growing entertainment industry makes it a prime location for what is called modern day slavery.

“The same reasons we enjoy living and working and being in this area, are the same reasons that attract both the demand and supply side of human trafficking,” said Special Agent Brian Johnston with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Special Agent Johnston was one of several panelists who took part at an East Point community meeting, Tuesday evening. Leaders spoke about the growing human trafficking problem, adding that most of the cases in Georgia involve runaway teens or abandoned children.

Johnston said human trafficking is a very lucrative business. He said some criminals on their first or second convictions who know if they get caught again could face a long sentence, will swap over and begin exploiting children because they know they will make money and possibly never be caught.

“The average age of entry here in Georgia is about 13 and a half years old and what’s really particularly disturbing about that, most of the time in law enforcement we come in contact with them when they are 16 or 17 years old,” said Special Agent Johnston.

Despite what some may think, that human trafficking is a foreign problem, officials say it’s right here in our backyard.

“They are looking for children that are out on the streets, they are looking for runaways, they are looking at children who want to be a part of something, they are looking for love in the wrong places,” said Clayton County Chairman Jeff Turner.

“It is said that an exploiter is going to approach a child within 48 hours of being homeless,” said Special Agent Johnston.

The director of security for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport said the airport is educating their more than 60,000 employees to know what to look out for.

“We are so accustom to thinking it’s an older man and a young child or a young teenager, it could actually be someone of their age who has been groomed to help solicit other children into this type of lifestyle,” said Jan Lennon, Director of Security at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Experts said the community could also look out for warning signs of human trafficking. Some examples include an older boyfriend, multiple runways, branding (tattoos) and not maintaining eye contact.


By: Nathalie Pozo

Georgia Car Seat Safety Guide

IMG_0201Georgia Car Seat Safety Guide
With more than 2,600 children under 13 involved in a car crash every day, or one child every 33 seconds, parents need to be extra vigilant about keeping kids safe in cars. And while most families put kids in car seats, the latest research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that 59 percent of car seats are not installed correctly.

What does Georgia law say about Child Passenger Safety?
In Georgia, there is legislation to ensure children are riding in child passenger restraint systems while in a passenger motor vehicle. According to O.C.G.A. 40-8-76 (Georgia Code) children under eight years of age must ride in an approved child restraint system and the driver shall provide proper restraint of a child in a child passenger restraint system appropriate for such child’s height and weight and is approved by the U.S. government. It is very important for parents and caregivers to understand that while the law is important to know, it is also critical to understand what is best practice for children who ride in car seats and knowing the appropriate car seat to use.

Best Practices in Child Passenger Safety
– Find a Child Safety Seat Fitting Location in Georgia
– Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible.
– Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size, choose a seat that fits in your vehicle, and use it every time.
– Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions (check height and weight limits) and read the vehicle owner’s manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or lower anchors and a tether, if available.
– To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements.
Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.
– Car seat recommendations Georgia(Image courtesy of

12 Years and Under
Birth – 12 Months
Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ride rear facing for at least 2 years to protect their neck from injury in case of a car crash. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.

1 – 3 Years
Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.

4 – 7 Years
Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.

8 – 12 Years
Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there. Typically, children can’t graduate out of booster seats until they are at least 4 foot, 9 inches to make sure seat belt fits properly.

The Ultimate Car Seat Guide from Safe Kids Worldwide

The Ultimate Car Seat Guide gives parents and caregivers practical tips to keep kids safe in cars. Having worked one-on-one with millions of parents, coalition and staff experts offer best practices to give caregivers the best way to protect kids in cars at any age, from birth to booster seat. We have tips that make car seat buying, installing, fitting and changing easier to understand. The tool is not intended to take the place of a Child Passenger Safety Technician, reading labels or following manufacturer instructions. But there are many people who just can’t get to a car seat event or inspection station. This website is designed so we can raise awareness and reach as many people as possible with helpful information to keep kids safe in cars. Because most families will access the website on their phones, the information needs to be short and easy to understand. The Ultimate Car Seat Guide is a web app, meaning you simply visit a website to access it; no need to download anything. It is always available even if they change or lose a phone.



Getting Involved at Your Child’s School

IMG_0100Whether their kids are just starting kindergarten or entering the final year of high school, there are many good reasons for parents to volunteer at school. It’s a great way to show your kids that you take an interest in their education, and it sends a positive message that you consider school a worthwhile cause.

Many schools now have to raise their own funds for activities and supplies that once were considered basic necessities, and parent volunteers are essential to organizing and chaperoning these fundraising events and other school activities.

Reasons to Get Involved
Parent volunteers offer a huge resource and support base for the school community while showing their kids the importance of participating in the larger community.

Not only will the school reap the benefits of your involvement — you will, too. By interacting with teachers, administrators, and other parents on a regular basis, you’ll gain a firsthand understanding of your child’s daily activities. You’ll also tap into trends and fads of school life that can help you communicate with your kids as they grow and change (all without intruding on their privacy or personal space).

Even if you haven’t been involved in the past, it’s never too late to start. In fact, it may be more important than ever to get involved when kids reach secondary school. Some parents may experience “volunteer burnout” by the time their kids enter high school or decide that the schools don’t need them as much then. Many parents who volunteered a lot of time during their kids’ elementary years return to full-time careers by the time their kids are teens, so there’s often a shortage in the secondary schools.

Finding the Right Opportunity
One of the best starting points for getting involved is a parent-teacher conference or open house. These are usually scheduled early in each school year, and are a great opportunity to approach your child’s teachers or principal about volunteer involvement.

If you have something to offer, or if you just want to help out in whatever way you can, discuss the possibilities with teachers, who might arrange something with you personally or direct you to a department head or administrator who can answer your questions and make suggestions. It’s also a good idea to join the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) or parents’ advisory council.

Here are just some of the ways a parent volunteer can help:

  • act as a classroom helper
  • mentor or tutor students
  • help children with special need
  • help organize, cater, or work at fundraising activities such as bake sales or car washes
  • act as a lunchroom or playground monitor
  • help to plan and chaperone field trips, track meets, and other events that take place away from the school
  • help to plan and chaperone in-school events (dances, proms, or graduation ceremonies)
    organize or assist with a specific club or interest group (if you have an interest in an activity that isn’t currently available to students, offer to help get a group started — for example, a chess club or cycling team)
    assist coaches and gym teachers with sports and fitness programs or work in the school concession stand at sporting events
  • help the school administrators prepare grant proposals, letter-writing campaigns, or press releases or provide other administrative assistance
  • work as a library assistant or offer to help with story time or reading assistance in the school library
  • spend some time with a specific club or interest group (ask the the teacher who sponsors the group)
  • volunteer to speak in the classroom or at a career day, if you have a field of expertise that you’d like to share
  • supervise or judge experiments at a science fair
  • Remember that not everyone is suited for the same type of involvement — you may have to “try on” a number a few activities before you find something that feels right. If you’re at a loss for how you can help, just ask your child’s teacher, who will likely be glad to help you think of something!

Questions to Ask
When you offer to help out, find out how much of a time commitment is expected and if it will be ongoing. Are you going to repair the costumes for the spring musical or will you be expected to keep the drama department’s supplies in good condition year-round? Are you chaperoning a track meet or coaching the whole season?

Be sure to ask if any financial costs are associated with your volunteer activities. If you’re chaperoning a field trip, for example, find out if you’ll be required to pay for transportation and admissions costs. Ask if you’ll need to transport students in your own vehicle or if a school bus will be provided.

If you’re organizing or helping out with an activity that will take place off the school grounds, be sure to find out if there are any specific school regulations you need to keep in mind or any liability issues you should consider.

Getting Started
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when signing up to volunteer:

Make it clear before you begin just how much time you’re willing to volunteer. Even stay-at-home parents don’t have an unlimited amount of time to volunteer — many parents have other activities and interests, as well as other kids to care for. Don’t be afraid to say no if you’re being asked to do more than you feel comfortable with — just try to say it early enough so that someone else can be found to take your place, because many trips and activities can’t be taken unless the school has a certain number of chaperones or supervisors.
Start small. Don’t offer to coordinate the holiday bake sale, the band recital, and a swim meet all at once. If you’ve taken on too much, find out if you can delegate some duties to other interested parents.

Don’t give your child special treatment or extra attention when you’re volunteering at the school. Follow your child’s cues to find out how much interaction works for both of you. Most kids enjoy having their parents involved, but if yours seems uncomfortable with your presence at the school or with your involvement in a favorite activity, consider taking a more behind-the-scenes approach. Make it clear that you aren’t there to spy — you’re just trying to help out the school.

Get frequent feedback from the teachers and students you’re working with. Find out what’s most and least helpful to them, and ask what you can do to make the most of the time you spend on school activities. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open among teachers, administrators, students, and volunteers, and to be flexible and responsive as the needs of the students and the school change.

Remember that volunteering not only benefits your kids, but will enrich the classroom, the whole school, and the entire community by providing students with positive interaction, support, and encouragement.

And don’t underestimate the students — you may feel that what you have to offer might not interest them or might be above their heads, but you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised. You’ll help build skills, confidence, and self-esteem that will last beyond their school days.
Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD