Category Archives: Family Tips

Toy Safety

Guest post by Consortium for a Healthier Miami-Dade.

recallsEach year, thousands of children age 14 and younger suffered serious eye injuries, even blindness, from toys. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 251,700 toy-related injuries in 2010 throughout the United States.

You can prevent toy injuries by following some simple tips when choosing toys as gifts. Look for labels that assure you the toys have passed a safety inspection – “ATSM” means the toy has met the American Society for Testing and Materials standards. Choose age appropriate toys by following the recommended age labeling on the item, and inspect all toys before purchasing.


Under 3 years old

• Avoid buying toys that may have small parts that pose a choking danger.

• Avoid marbles, balls and games with balls

• Avoid toys that have sharp edges and points.

 Ages 3 to 5

• Avoid toys that are constructed with thin, brittle plastic

• Do not give crayons and markers unless they are labeled “nontoxic.

• Teach older children to keep their toys away from their younger brothers and sisters.

Ages 6-12

• Consider safety equipment toys for sports

• If you buy a bicycle for any age child, buy a helmet, too. • If buying a toy gun, be sure the barrel, or the entire gun, is brightly colored so that it’s not mistaken for a real gun.

 For more information on Toy Safety visit:

Social media and texting are not like diaries and journals

girl textingNews of the apparent suicide of a local 12-year-old Central Florida girl who was allegedly the target of bullies has brought heartbreak not only for the pre-teen’s loved ones, but also parents and child protection advocates throughout the community.

“Bullying” has changed dramatically with the introduction of the social media and texting. Professionals clarify that the reason cyber-bullying can be so devastating to target children is that the use of technology allows the child to be repeatedly humiliated and victimized in front of not just one or two, but perhaps an entire audience of children, again and again. Such experience can do great harm to a child’s esteem and confidence.

DCF has teamed up with Echo, a Central Florida mobile and digital media company, to offer some tips to parents, not only of children who may be victims of cyber-bullying, but those parents whose children may be an aggressor:

  • Monitor your child’s technology. This includes social media outlets and phones. Ensure that the communication to and from your child is appropriate, if not, intervene.
  • Look for changes in your child’s behavior. All children manage difficult experiences with other children differently, what may not greatly effect one child, may be significantly hurtful to another. If a child suddenly doesn’t want to participate in an activity, school or with other friends, find out why.
  • Be an example. Children are led by example, be a model to your child in how you treat or talk to others.
  • Take action. If you are concerned that your child may be the subject of bullying, whether on-line or in person, talk to your school and engage the parents of the other children that are involved.

What about the tech side of things?

  • Parents should always have passwords to children’s accounts.
  • Set privacy settings, do not rely on a child to do so.
  • Monitor chat and direct messengers, often times harsh words aren’t obviously shared on walls or in public, but in side messages, chats, or texts.
  • Check browser history for past search term to know what sites your child visits.

Concerned about respecting your child’s privacy? Remember, social media is two-way communication, different than that of a journal or diary. Monitoring communication can help a parent better protect a child from harm, especially those inappropriate parties who may reach out to a minor online. Echo experts note that parents don’t have to be tech savvy to monitor online activity or frequent Facebook and shouldn’t be intimidated. Learning some of the basic monitoring tools is sometimes as simple as logging into email.

Good communication with a child, long before they engage in social media, is important. Asking children for passwords or access doesn’t need to be seen as a threat, or invasion of privacy, rather an expectation of a protective and vigilant parent.

Our heartfelt condolences are extended to the loved ones of the 12-year-old victim.

Minutes away from the unimaginable

Guest post by a Florida mother of three daughters, ages 2, 3 and 5. This incident occurred when her youngest daughter was under the age of 1. 

Woman Kissing the Top of a Baby's HeadWe were minutes away from the unimaginable as we experienced the scariest moment as parents.

We were watching TV as our girls were sleeping safe and soundly in their beds, or so we thought. Around 11:15 p.m., my 12-month-old daughter let out two blood-curdling cries I NEVER want to hear again. I ran to her room, knowing something was not right.

I found her completely trapped under her bumpers, strangled by the ribbons that tie them in place. I tried to pick her up, but it was wound so tightly around her neck I couldn’t move her. I screamed for my husband to grab scissors quickly as I continued to try and free her. Seconds seemed like hours as I watched her gasping for air. Somehow I managed to completely rip the ribbons from the bumper so I could pick her up and untangle her.

I never really understood why it was recommended to remove bumpers from cribs, but NOW I DO! As my girls got older, I figured they were big enough and strong enough to turn their heads, move, etc. to escape.  I NEVER even thought about strangulation from the ties.

I am just thankful she was able to let out those two cries so we could help her in time. I spent all night thinking up the “what ifs” and checking on all my babies.

So please, if you have babies … remove your bumpers and give them some extra cuddles today!

Visit for more info about safe sleep. 

Back-to-school: Focused and calm

Guest post by Jennifer Evans, a licensed mental health counselor at DCF who specializes in child trauma.

Young Boy LearningNow that school has begun and the children are settled into their routine, you might be noticing that a child suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) might still be having difficulty when they get home.

Here are some good tips for helping you child stay focused and calm while at home (they may even be helpful for all children!).

  • Create a place for homework. Creating a secluded space helps your child stay focused.  This place should be free of clutter and distractions.  Try finding a quiet corner in the home away from where the other family members could distract the child. It is important to stock this area with everything your child will need for homework projects and nothing more.  Even the smallest things, like needing a snack or drink will send the child into an escape from focusing.
  • Use rewards and structure to keep your child motivated. Create a calendar allotting the amount of time needed for your child to finish homework and the activities to do after homework is complete.  Go over the homework with your child and make sure there are no careless errors that can easily occur withchildren diagnosed with ADHD.  Encourage them to “slow down” and re-read the directions for clear understanding and enhancing focus.
  • Use a point system or stickers to encourage positive behaviors over the school year. If the child has had trouble in school in the past, creating a point system to reward the child upon advances can help encourage good studying and behavior. Create a chart with the subjects in school on it; give stickers or check marks to indicate when the child has reached an obtainable goal. Whether getting A’s in a certain subject, or completing homework without a distraction, obtainable rewards are important for the child to buy-in and build confidence. The important thing is to make these goals realistic and reflect your child’s needs.  Goal setting should start off simple and work towards the greater goals.  The chart should be placed in the study area for your child to continue to reference and encourage positive behaviors.

For more information regarding study tips for your child checkout these websites.


Mother and father in one

Guest post by Hannah, a single mom to a beautiful 4-year-old boy, as well as a blogger for Direct4tv.

Being a single mom or dad is no easy feat. Juggling between a full-time job, your child, household responsibilities and a modest social life only leaves you more exhausted and strained. At a low point in your life (we all have them) you may have asked yourself “what am I going to do?” There is no one answer for this question, or resolving the issues and stress you may encounter on your parental journey, but realizing that you have the strength to do it is the first step.

Here are three reminders and tips to help you navigate the job of both mother and father in one.   

1. Ask for help.

Sounds easy, right? Not so much. When it comes to our children, we feel as though we should be able to handle everything they need. Reality is its hard taking care of a child, especially on your own. Everyday tasks like errands and cleaning seem impossible to complete at the end of a long work day, while also trying to have time with your child. If you have family around, ask them for help. Chances are they just want the best for you and your child and are more than willing to help you. You don’t have to struggle with all of life’s duties on your own. Talk to your boss about altering your work schedule. Have your groceries delivered. You’ll be less stressed and happier overall, and so will your child.

2.  Get your “me” time.

This is more important than you may realize, and much more difficult to get than you know. Having your personal “me” time to do whatever it is you love is like recharging your batteries. This is where asking for help comes in. Ask a grandparent, other relative or friend to watch your child for a few hours so you can hang out with a friend, go to a movie or get a pedicure. Try to get some “me” time to do whatever it is that makes you feel like you at least every few weeks. It’s so important to take care of yourself so you can properly take care of your child.

3. Minimize your life.

That’s right, cut out everything that is unnecessary or that gives you a headache. If you commute too far for work to have any quality time with your child, try looking for a job closer to you or adjusting your work schedule to get more time, if you can.  If chores give you a daily headache, balance them out over the week and ask your child to help. In addition to that, you need to know your limits. Focus on what you can do and go from there. It’s not always easy, but you will be glad you live a simpler life, being a good, single parent.

Single parenthood is the hardest job you will ever have. It’s difficult, tiring and sometimes sad. Keep your head up and remember to ask for help, minimize your life and have “me” time when you need it. A child is precious gift; they need you more than anything else. If you are managing the role of both mother and father, know that life is always changing, but right now you are all your child needs.

If you are in need of help, dial 2-1-1 for resources in your area.

The author works with Eddie D. Shackleford, Editor of Direct4tv; you can follow him at @Eddie20Ford.