Monthly Archives: July 2013

With Hurricane Season in full swing, here are tips for talking to children about disasters

traumaWithin seconds, a peaceful summer day can be turned upside down by traumatic events close to home or beyond state lines. For a child, a terrorist attack in Boston or a tsunami halfway around the world can leave them confused and worried about their own safety. In the summer, children who are home from school are more likely to hear about them. Also, in Florida, hurricane season increases the likelihood of a disaster striking close to home.

Here are some tips for helping children deal with trauma:

Be Clear: Talking about tragedy, injury and death can be very difficult for anyone. Being clear and only answering what the child is asking will help them to understand without getting into too much graphic detail. Try using dialogue like, “When people die, their bodies stop working.”

Be Available: Let your kids ask the questions. Start by asking them, “What do you think happened?” Allow them to guide the conversation where they need to go to help them cope.

Stay Calm: Children learn emotional reactions and coping through adults. The way adults react to events is often the way the child perceives and reacts to the event. It is okay to cry and show concern and emotion, and then to show appropriate ways to cope and heal. Try using dialogue like, “It is okay to feel confused and hurt. Sometimes people cry to show how sad they are. This allows their body to feel better.”

Normalize Their Feelings: When a tragedy happens it can be confusing and often kids are uncertain of the emotions they are feeling. Use this opportunity to discuss emotions and the way kids are feeling and explain how you can cope. Try using dialogue like, “Often people feel sad when something like this happens. It is hard to understand why someone would do something like this.”

Understand How Children Cope: You may see your child try to act out the traumatic event through their dolls or other toys. This can be scary for a parent to see, but kids will often replay the event as a way to cope. You can use this opportunity to discuss their play and their memory of the event. This is a great time to clarify and normalize their reaction again. Try doing an activity to help provide closure for your child.

Notice Changes in Behavior: Often the effect of trauma on your body does not happen until weeks after the event. This is a normal process of coping. If your child’s behavior dramatically changes for an extended amount of time, consult a professional. Common symptoms of trauma include sleeplessness, over/under eating, extended sadness for no immediate explanation, extended traumatic play, lack of focus/concentration, and nightmares.

More info at

Finding a preschool

87803131_smallFinding a preschool for your child is a very important decision. Before you know it, the 2013-2014 school year will have begun. Here are some questions and resources that may help you as you look for a school for your young child (be sure to check out back-to-school discount info at the bottom of the post!):


  • Is the facility licensed by the State of Florida? Some Florida child care centers also earn a Gold Seal designation, reflecting quality in the level of care and supervision provided to children.  Visit our online search to identify licensed child care providers and see inspection histories.
  • Are all teachers are up-to-date on training requirements?
  • Does the facility meet all staff-to-child ratios?
  • What kind of curriculum do they offer? Is it developmentally appropriate?
  • Do staff have positive, nurturing interaction with the children?
  • Do the children appear to be happy and comfortable in their surroundings?
  • Are the children constantly supervised? Is each staff member responsible for the same children each day?
  • How do they keep parents informed about their child’s progress and school updates? How frequently are communications sent to parents?
  • Does the facility have clean, safe surroundings?
  • Do they provide healthy, nutritious snacks and/or meals?

Here are the minimum ratios of children:teacher required by law:

child care

Additional information and requirements regarding all the above issues are detailed in the Florida Administrative Code Child Care Standards.

If your child is 4 years of age by September 1, your child may be eligible for Florida’s FREE VPK program.

In addition, the back-to-school sales tax holiday will be August 2-4. During this period, no Florida sales tax or local option tax will be collected on sales of clothing, footwear, and certain accessories selling for $75 or less per item, on certain school supplies selling for $15 or less per item, and on computers and certain related accessories selling for $750 or less per item when purchased for noncommercial home or personal use. This is the first time that computers and related accessories have been included in the holiday. Check out the Florida Department of Revenue website for more info.

 Have a safe and wonderful school year!

Forgotten in the car

It can be hard to understand how an adult can forget a child in a car, but it can happen to anyone – even good, loving families. Children can easily be left behind in the car when parents are distracted, rushing, multi-tasking or have a change in routine. This is especially true during the summer months when kids are out of school and may have a different caretaker or driver. The video below shows just how easily it can happen. 

In just 10 minutes, the temperature of a parked vehicle can rise 20 degrees. The crack of a window, even by inches, is no match to combat the rising heat. This heat can be deadly, especially for children because their body temperatures rise five times faster than adults.

Here are some tips to keep your kids safe this summer:

  • Be sure to check the back seat before you leave the vehicle.
  • Put your purse, briefcase, lunch, etc. in the backseat so you are sure to look before you lock the door.
  • Do not let your children play near vehicles; they may accidentally lock themselves in.
  • If there is a change in plans and someone else is dropping the kids off at summer camp, have them call you at drop off so you know everyone made it safely.

In the state of Florida it is a criminal offense to leave a child unattended in a vehicle; however, sadly for some parents, the loss is much greater than that of any arrest or prosecution.

Anyone who sees a young child, vulnerable adult, or animal left unattended in a vehicle during these extreme summer temperatures should contact emergency personnel immediately.

For more Summer Safety Tips, visit

A Night Out

Guest post by Denise Beeman Sasiain, foster mother to Summer, 17, who will stay with her foster family as she enters adulthood; Isabella Hope, 3, who they’ve had since birth and adopted last year; Xavier (aka X-man), 2, who they are in the process of adopting; and Daniella Joy, 1, who they’ve also had from birth and recently adopted.

Pierre and X-man. Yum!

Pierre and X-man. Yum!

My husband, Pierre, and I planned a much-needed dinner night out and brought X-man along with us. 

The restaurant was an amazing Italian place in the Grove, with a young man crooning live to Frank Sinatra songs.  Pierre was tired from a long week, but we felt that a night out would encourage and recharge.

Unfortunately, being more disturbed than pleased by the busy restaurant and the Micheal Buble look-alike, X-man started to whine … and then howl. I saw the struggle in my husband’s eyes as he said, “This was a bad idea.”  With Xavier in his arms, Pierre stood up and walked over by the bar. That’s when something magical happened …

Pierre starting singing “a la Frank Sinatra” while he danced with X-man in his arms. Across the room, I could see the frustrated toddler disappear in front of my eyes.  With X-man’s arms around the back of Pierre’s neck, they looked each other straight in the eyes. Xavier grinned and stared, mesmerized as his father sang to him.

So much love!

So much love!

I was so proud of my husband. He dug down deep and found more to give. That “more” was enough to entertain and transform our boy for the rest of the evening.

Back at the table, Pierre continued to play and interact with X-man. He kept him entertained by chewing on his arm and razzing his neck . X-man gave back with smiles, laughs and sparkling eyes.

Xavier, who normally has to compete for our attention along with our three other children, felt like the center of our world for the evening. Instead of a quiet night out for my husband and me, we had a bonding time with our son.

One of the great things my husband and I love about being foster parents is that it helps us each of us to continually grow and become “more” as a person.  In order to meet the ever-changing and challenging needs of our kids, we feel a constant drive to become better parents and better people.

The most important reason to become a foster parent is to dramatically change the life of a child. But as a bonus, it’s a great road to self-actualization and an impetus for personal growth.

Editor’s note: If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, please visit

Drowning can happen to anyone – even experienced swimmers. Be safe this 4th of July!

So far this year, the Florida Abuse Hotline has received 40 reports of children drowning. The state loses more children under the age of five to drowning than any other state in the nation. As we go into the 4th of July holiday, it is important to emphasize supervision and swim safety while spending time with friends and family around the pool.

To combat this horrible statistic and other dangers, the Florida Department of Children and Families is launching a summer series of weekly public service announcement (PSA) videos online to promote prevention of tragedies like drowning. For the first PSAs, DCF has partnered with the Florida Department of Health to produce two short videos:

There are many layers of protection that can prevent drowning deaths:

Supervision: Someone should always be actively watching children when they are in the pool. This means don’t play around on your phone or get involved in a big conversation while watching the kids. Drowning can happen in just a few minutes. Designate a “Water Watcher” to keep an eye on swimmers.

Barriers: A child should never be able to enter the pool area unaccompanied by an adult. Barriers physically block a child from the pool. Barriers include: child-proof locks on all doors, a pool fence with self-latching and self-closing gates, as well as door and pool alarms. Pool covers may also be used but make sure it is a professional cover fitted for your pool. A simple canvas covering can be a drowning hazard and entrap a child in the water. Florida law requires barriers for home pools.

Swimming Lessons: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 4 and older learn to swim in order to help prevent drowning. It also encourages caregivers of children ages 1-3 to consider swim instruction for their child, as studies have shown it reduces drowning incidents. Caregivers should learn to swim as well.

Emergency Preparedness: The moment a child stops breathing there is a small, precious window of time in which resuscitation may occur, but only if someone knows what to do. Even if you’re not a parent, it’s important to learn CPR. The techniques are easy to learn and can mean the difference between life and death. In an emergency, it is critical to have a phone nearby and immediately call 911.

Have a wonderful, safe 4th of July!