Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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Janet Rosenzweig

POSTED: Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 5:30 AM
Filed Under: Child Abuse | Janet Rosenzweig
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Each year, April is designated as child abuse prevention month by public officials all over the United States and it serves as a reminder of the need to focus on healthy child development. Happy, healthy children grow into happy, healthy, and productive adults and strengthen the economic and social fabric of our community.  

Given the United States’ rank in child well-being in a recent UNICEF report, we need to focus extra hard this year. The UNICEF report released last May showed that the U.S. is ranked 32nd out of 34 industrialized nations in terms of child poverty, with 23.1 percent of children living in relative poverty. Other UNICEF reports have shown similar disappointments: A 2011 report shows our country is ranked 26th out of 29th for overall child well-being, and was ranked in the bottom third in every category measured including material well-being, health and safety, education, behaviors and risks, and housing and environment.

Pennsylvania Department of Health statistics tell us that in Philadelphia, more than one-third of all children live in poverty and that the city’s infant death rate is almost 50 percent higher than Pennsylvania as a whole, at 10.7 per 1000 here, compared to 7.3 for Pennsylvania.  We know that almost half of all pregnant moms did not receive prenatal care in their first trimester. We know that more than half of all kids have smoked a cigarette by the time they graduate high school, and 10 percent of them smoked before the age of 13. We need to reverse these trends.

POSTED: Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 5:30 AM
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On a beautiful Sunday morning, I was enjoying a walk in a park, admiring the views, the gardens, the art and the variety of people, when something caught my eye and took my thoughts right back to work. A mom was strolling with her two young children and both kids had their first names written in huge letters on the back of their tie-dyed sweatshirts.

I think this is a dangerous thing to do. Twenty years ago, when law enforcement stressed stranger-danger and abduction-prevention advice to parents, a cardinal rule was to avoid personalizing children's clothes. The fear was that predators could call kids by their first names and engage them through familiarity.

While I'm the first to remind anyone who will listen that the overwhelming majority of sexual abuse against children is perpetrated by someone they know, there's absolutely no reason why we should we give any predator an advantage. Kids need to know about boundary-pushing relatives or acquaintances who prey on children and youth, and that strangers can be predators as well. Adults can turn to the Take 25 Campaign from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as a resource to start the conversation in their family using the materials available in English and Spanish.

Predators who would take advantage of a child’s name on her clothing often feign familiarity and indicate that the parent sent them to pick the child up. Another recommendation that bears repeating is for families to specify a code word that a child should expect to hear from any adult claiming to know the child or his family. Preparation is so important; young children -- and many adults -- are incapable of outwitting a charming sociopath.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 21, 2014, 5:30 AM
Filed Under: Child Abuse | Janet Rosenzweig
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Fall means soccer, winter brings basketball, and then finally we get to play baseball; so go the seasons of childhood. As parents, we idealize the gifts that youth sports can bring to kids such as improving physical fitness, learning about teamwork, and experiencing the thrill of victory. But the Sandusky tragedy reminds us that even people who seem to have our kids’ best interests at heart may not.

Parental involvement with kids’ sports has always been beneficial to family relationships and children’s self-esteem. Now we’re reminded that child safety is also enhanced by the presence of a parent or other observant adult at practices and games. A convicted pedophile that I interviewed for The Sex-Wise Parent told me that “nothing makes a child less attractive than having his parent around all the time.” Most of us can’t be around all the time, but we can take steps to ensure that there is always one adult with eyes on your child.

Many youth sports teams have specific volunteer or required roles to help the team operate like “snack parent” or “equipment parent.” As the next team season approaches, think about collaborating with other parents to develop a rotating schedule for a “stand parent”, an adult to attend each game or practice to watch over and cheer for each player.

POSTED: Tuesday, December 31, 2013, 6:00 AM
Filed Under: Janet Rosenzweig | Parenting | Sex
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A very long time ago, I found my 3-year-old son standing by the wheel chair of a frail, older family member four generations his senior, saying in a taunting tone of voice, “My Mommy says I don't have to kiss you if I don't want to."

At a previous family gathering, he had been terrified when she removed her dentures, and he still hadn't recovered from the sight. Part of his recovery involved me letting him know that he was allowed to keep his distance from anyone who made him feel uncomfortable, relative or not. While he had clearly learned important early lessons about boundaries, he knew nothing at all about empathy. As embarrassing as that may have been for me, I had to remind myself that it was totally normal behavior for his age.

Empathy, or the ability to tune into the feelings of others, is a sophisticated process that takes time to unfold. It’s not fully developed until late adolescence, but there are important things that parents can do to build the early foundation. Punishing or shaming a child for blurting out a statement that embarrasses you (“Mom -- look how fat that lady is!”) doesn't help -- in fact it generally does more harm than good. As bad as you feel for the person whose feelings were hurt, your young child likely has no idea what you're upset about. A sudden expression of anger can bathe your child in shame and frustration, two emotions not at all conducive to learning. But kids do understand feeling good; the easiest way to teach young children about empathy is to let them bask in your praise when they have made someone else feel good. This starts the process for them to gradually understand that their behaviors have an effect on other people.

POSTED: Tuesday, November 19, 2013, 5:30 AM
Filed Under: Janet Rosenzweig | Parenting | Sex

Kids need to learn about their bodies and sex; parents know that. But most parents struggle to find the right way to teach them. A good book, carefully chosen, can help you teach sexual health and safety, but where to start to find the perfect book?

The local branch of a chain bookstore had sections for pre-schoolers and teens. In the area for very young kids, I found a few books with catchy titles and age-appropriate graphics, dedicated either to helping little kids learn where babies come from or how to avoid stranger danger.

While several books had good information, each book I read had at least one point that killed it for me. For example, one book offered the fact that "penises get hard so they can go into vaginas". That's no help to a child whose penis gets hard in the bath, in his sleep or worse yet, at the touch or a predator. A parent reading this book could add their own explanation or substitute their own words for the author’s.Parents may think that adding their own commentary defeats the purpose of using a book to help communicate the most sensitive points, but what it really does is underline that books are not a substitute for an on-going conversation between parents and kids.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 5:30 AM
Filed Under: Janet Rosenzweig | Sex
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If your children have access to a device with Internet access -- and it's a good bet that they do -- it's an equally good bet that they've been exposed to pornographic images.

A major study found that almost all boys and two-thirds of girls over age 13 have been exposed to online porn. Most exposure happens between the ages of 14 and 17, but thousands of children 13 and younger are exposed to sexually explicit images daily. Boys are more likely to report that they sought out pornographic images while girls were more likely to report involuntary exposure.

Impact of porn on kids:

POSTED: Tuesday, October 15, 2013, 11:17 AM
Filed Under: Janet Rosenzweig | Parenting | Sex

This is a guest post from Janet Rosenzweig, M.S., Ph.D., M.P.A., interim executive director of Prevent Child Abuse - Pennsylvania, a program of the Pennsylvania Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics. Rosenzweig is the author of The Sex-Wise Parent: The Parent’s Guide Protecting Your Child, Strengthening Your Family, and Talking to Kids about Sex, Abuse, and Bullying, (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012)

The sexual abuse stories in the news these days can be hard to read, but they provide parents and caregivers with a good opportunity to open dialogue with our kids about sexual health and safety.

Imagine the drive to soccer practice. No sooner do you get your child to remove the earphones that generally appear to be permanently implanted in their ears then the radio announces the latest development in the clergy scandal or Sandusky case. Great, just what you had in mind.

POSTED: Tuesday, September 24, 2013, 5:30 AM
Filed Under: Janet Rosenzweig | Sex | Tips
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Today's guest blogger is Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA, the national consultant for child sexual abuse prevention for Prevent Child Abuse America and the author of The Sex-Wise Parent. For more information, read her blog , follow @JanetRosenzweig on Twitter or contact DrRosenzweig@sexwiseparent.com to schedule a program for your school or community group.

No matter how much discipline we try to exert over our bodies, in some ways they're just going to do what they're going to do. We breathe, we have reflexes, when we're scared our bodies make ready to fight or flee.  And anyone who has ever diapered a boy baby has probably seen a tiny erection, a reflexive physical reaction.

It is absurd to think that a baby's genital feelings are sexual -- babies have no concept of sexuality and just naturally respond to anything that feels good. Human bodies are wired to react to many types of stimulation without conscious decision -- like getting goose bumps, or blinking. These types of bodily responses, including physical arousal of the genitalia, are called autonomic responses. They are governed by the autonomic nervous system and not conscious choice.

About this blog
The Healthy Kids blog is your window into the latest news, research and advice around children's health. Learn more about our growing list of contributors here.

If you have questions about your child's health, ask them here.

Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
Stephen Aronoff, M.D., M.B.A. Temple University Hospital
Christopher C. Chang, M.D., Ph.D Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Jefferson Medical Colg
Mario Cruz, M.D St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Drexel University College of Medicine
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. Lead Psychologist - The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic, CHOP
Gary A. Emmett, M.D. Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital & Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Lauren Falini Bariatric exercise physiologist, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, M.D. Nemours duPont Pediatrics/Bryn Mawr Hospital
Rima Himelstein, M.D. Crozer-Keystone Health System
Anita Kulick President & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting
Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA VP for Programs & Research for Prevent Child Abuse America
Beth Wallace Smith, RD Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D. Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Jefferson Medical Colg
Flaura Koplin Winston, MD, PhD Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention
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