Friday, November 30, 2007

You Were My Voice When I Couldn't Speak

I've been pretty sick for a week now, and I've had no voice for about 4 days so far. Trying to communicate what you need or meet the needs of others when you have no voice is quite difficult. As a teacher, it's what I do all day every day.

But I've been blessed to have help from those I work with and the students themselves who helped me do what I usually can do on my own. They were my voice when I couldn't speak.

This song, sung by Celine Dion has always meant a lot to me, and I'd like to share it with you. As parents and teachers, we do everything on this list just about every day. If no one has said it to you lately, thank you for being what kids need. Thank you for being there, present in the moment.


For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see
For all the joy you brought to my life
For all the wrong that you made right
For every dream you made come true
For all the love I found in you
I'll be forever thankful baby
You're the one who held me up
Never let me fall
You're the one who saw me through through it all

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'coz you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

You gave me wings and made me fly
You touched my hand I could touch the sky
I lost my faith, you gave it back to me
You said no star was out of reach
You stood by me and I stood tall
I had your love I had it all
I'm grateful for each day you gave me
Maybe I don't know that much
But I know this much is true
I was blessed because I was loved by you

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'coz you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

You were always there for me
The tender wind that carried me
A light in the dark shining your love into my life
You've been my inspiration
Through the lies you were the truth
My world is a better place because of you

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'coz you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'coz you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

Monday, November 26, 2007

Give it a Listen

On November 27 and 28 I will be on the Focus on the Family daily broadcast talking about BEING YOUR CHILD'S BEST ADVOCATE.
You can tune in here

Find out more about the book that is the focus of this broadcast,
STANDING UP FOR YOUR CHILD (without stepping on toes).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Chick that Fell Out of the Nest

"I don't want to do this," she said between sobs. "I just don't want to be here."

I handled her registration form like a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest. We'd picked out her classes for next semester and even though Kallie (not her real name) wanted to go back to her high school and drop out of our early college program, it was my job to register her for the next semester.

"I've talked to them both over and over again," she said. "They don't understand. I'm just not ready to be here. It's too much. It's all too much!"

"This looks like a much better schedule this time," I said pointing to the computer print out. "I think you'll enjoy if you give it a chance."

She ignored my encouragement.

"What can I do to get thrown out of this program?" She said with a sly smile, knowing she'd get a rise out of me. Yet, she was that desperate.

"Don't jeopardize your future by doing something stupid," I said. I was wearing my "mom" hat now. The thing was - I agreed. I knew that Kallie was not ready for this transition to early college. After all, it's not for everyone.

As parents we believe we know what's best for our children and hate it if someone tells us differently - even when it's our own children. It's hard to let them make their own decisions about what's best for them when we're used to making those decisions for them.

How do you know when it's time?

Consider first, how high are the stakes? Then, how much prior experience have you given them to make decisions on their own? Finally, will this decision help or hinder their march towards maturity?

Kallie had mapped out all the reasons she wasn't quite ready for the responsibility thrust upon her. Her parents didn't listen.

How do you know when to shove the baby bird out of the nest and when to hold them back away from the edge? It may be too comfortable for them in that nest. Without a good shove, they'll never learn how to fly for themselves.

Right now Kallie's view of her nest is from the ground. She may need to be hand fed and protected a little more than the rest if she doesn't get back into the nest. Or she may discover that she is indeed strong enough and able to fly - she just won't know until she tries.

Her parents know her better than I do, but for me all I can do is show her the way and keep the predators away. The rest, is up to her.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

How to Handle What You Don't Want to Hear About Your Kids

I have two parent conferences scheduled for Monday. Needless to say I'm a little nervous about one of them. Unfortunately two of my students were involved in an "academic honesty" issue and the father of the girl who confessed decided his best reaction to me on the phone was to "F" this and "F" that as loud as he could.

This is not my fault. I'm not the one who cheated and got caught. Yet, he's angry with me and the school.

Our children are not perfect. They are going to make mistakes. They will make foolish decisions. And they will get caught. Sometimes teachers and other adults in authority will have mercy on them; sometimes they won't. Regardless, how do you respond when your child gets caught in wrong-doing?

And what does the way you respond teach your kids about advocacy?

Think about it. . . and then pray for me on Monday during that conference!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Too Much Homework?

See if this sounds familiar.

From a mother of two elementary age girls in Colorado -
"Nicole is really struggling with 5th grade, and I am starting to get frustrated and even angry. I'm not angry with her, I'm angry with the amount of work that is given a 10-yr-old. Her homework takes her so long every night that most days, she has no time to play with her friends and I don't think that's right. If we have an afterschool activity, like gymnastics, forget it. She can't even complete the amount of homework that is given her.

We're going to have a conference with her teacher next week. But honestly, school is SO STRESSFUL FOR ME. Why should I have to be so stressed out over my FIFTH grader? I dreaded school starting for this very reason. I wished summer would last forever because when they are in school, it takes so much time out of my day and puts so much stress in my life.

Anyway, I'm starting to wonder if I should take her out and homeschool the rest of 5th grade. But that may be an overreaction. I need to get over to her school, talk to the teacher and even the principal if necessary, and get this girl some help. Also, get ME some help. I am in tears over this."

So what's a parent to do? Do we tell our kids to suck it up and deal? Do we accept it as the school trying to instill a strong "work ethic" into our wee ones?

It depends.

The purpose of homework is all too often in dispute. There's a great article in Parents Magazine that offers guidelines to help you know when to step in and stand up for your child over this issue.

Here are the recommended signs that your child has too much homework:

What are signs that your child might be getting too much?

If he starts to hate school, like my daughter did, that might be one, as are nightly hysterics over homework.

The National Education Association recommends that kids have a total of ten minutes per grade level of homework per night. Anything above that is excessive.

The bottom line is that a child will understand a concept better if he has time to work on five problems, rather than struggling to race through 50.

A good school is not determined by how many hours of homework their teachers assign.It is not something to boast about!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tug of War

The older our children get, the more they want to do things on their own. It can be unnerving to let your child go out into that cold, cruel world by himself; you never know what might happen!

I remember when my first born son, Christopher, swatted my hand away when I went to button his shirt at age 3 and said, "No, Mommy, I do!"

He learned to soothe himself to sleep, feed himself, and do all sorts of "big boy" things all while I watched. Taking a calculated step back is not always easy to do. When he went down the slide without my help - I trembled and held my arms out anyway. He walked into his kindergarten classroom so excited that he forgot to say goodbye to me - I silently stood in the doorway and watched him enter a world he didn't know before that day. Later on in his late teens he drove to visit his aunt and uncle five hours away (see post on Apples & Chalkdust blog)- 250 miles - while I anxiously watched the clock and waited for his phone call to tell me he was safe.

This letting go wasn't always easy - in fact it felt more like a tug-of-war.

But it's hard to know when to let go - you don't want to let go too suddenly or your child may tumble to the ground. It might be a good idea to ease up on your grip a little at a time, so that when you do let go your child finds himself standing straight and tall and not flat on his back.

Monday, August 06, 2007

How to Stand Up for Your Adoptive Child

Copyright 2007, Thomas Rockwell Photography, Indianapolis, IN
Guest Columnist: Sherrie Eldridge

Standing up for your kid is a hot topic among those with adopted children.
Adopted people, no matter what their age, are often the brunt of ignorance, insensitivity, or cruelty. Take, for instance, the school-aged child that is asked to do a family tree and then singled out by the teacher who wants him to tell what makes his family different because he’s adopted. Adopted people, in fact no one, likes to be singled out as different. That is judgment! Or, take the kindergartner that is singled out and pushed from a circle in a game, listening to taunts that she’s adopted. That was me, and I won’t tell you how many years ago! After talking with many adoptees, I know that they receive many taunts today:

• How much did he/she cost?
• Why is your skin dark and your parents’ skin is light?
• Where did YOU come from?
• Who are your REAL parents?
• Where are your REAL parents?
• Oh, you have three of your OWN and one ADOPTED kid?

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute reports that 60% of the U.S. population is directly touched by adoption. Either one has a relative or close friend that is an adopted person. However, the media is usually the source of the public’s education about adoption, and the media, for the most part, is back in the 1800’s!

Not all insensitive remarks come from bad intentions. Sometimes we feel awkward and don’t know what to say. Nevertheless, I try to teach parents, kids, teachers….anyone who will listen…how to stand up to insensitive remarks and/or bullies by using the method created by Marilyn Schoettle, M.A. from the WISE-UP Power Workbook. She recommends four ways for kids to “take their power back” when misunderstood or mistreated, for we all feel victimized when hurtful things are said. Learning these four options helps adopted people, or anyone. The letters in the word WISE are the acronym that represent the four choices:

• W=Walk Away. Turn your back and walk away. This communicates a strong message to the sender. “Your message was terribly inappropriate.”
• I==It’s Private. “I don’t feel like talking about it right now.”
• S=Share. Share some of your feelings. “I feel embarrassed when people say things about adoption or adopted people that aren’t correct.”
• E=Educate. Educate your listener about adoption. There is such a need for this. “Who are my REAL parents? Well, I have two sets of real parents—one that gave me my personality, body, and birth, and my mom and dad that give me love, nurturing, character building, and everything a kid needs. Thanks for asking.”

I applaud Vicki for writing this book because it meets such a need for adoptive families and I predict her book will be popular among them.

Speaker and author, Sherrie Eldridge, an adoptee herself, is passionate about assuring those touched by adoption that they can grow because of the unique challenges adoptive family living presents. She is the author of the highly acclaimed books Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew and Twenty Life-Transforming Choices Adoptees Need to Make and Forever Fingerprints…An Amazing Discovery for Adopted Children. As President of Jewel Among Jewels Adoption Network, Inc., a non-profit adoption educational organization, she offers extensive online resources, including inspiration, encouragement, projects for parents and kids, newsletters, and workbooks. For speaking, contact her at

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Antipsychotic Drugs for ADHD on the Rise

(Photo By Joel Salcido for USA TODAY first appeared 5/02/06)

Evan Kitchens, 10, suffered severe side effects as a small child before being weaned off atypical anti-psychotic drugs.

According to a special report published in the St. Petersburg Times today, "more and more, parents at wit's end are begging doctors to help them calm their aggressive children or control their kids with ADHD. More and more, doctors are prescribing powerful antipsychotic drugs. In the past seven years, the number of Florida children prescribed such drugs has increased some 250 percent," reported Robert Farley.

There is so much to this issue, I can't encapsulate it in a blog post. But the concerns are many. How often are antipsychotic drugs actually necessary? How much of a child's environment affects his behavior and emotions? Have we counted the costs? All of them?

One pediatrician interviewed for this article said this. "Some parents are so stressed out, they come in seeking a pill," Dr. Esther Gonzales said. It's easy to medicate kids; "it is very hard to change environment."

There is more divorce and more drug abuse, more domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse. Working parents are overwhelmed. This may be one collection of reasons, but I don't think working parents are the only ones overwhelmed. We need to study that more.

Do the side effects outweigh the potential benefits of the drugs? I don't know.

Anyone out there have personal experience with this issue that you can share? Help us understand how you battle on behalf of your child.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Give Me an 'A'! - for ADVOCATE

(Photo courtesy: The Victoria Advocate; appeared on this website)

"The Fischer family sought legal counsel, San Antonio's Anderson & Duke P.C., and is willing to go to court if Wycoda is not allowed to be a cheerleader."

Read the rest of the article here.

One of the principles behind Standing Up for Your Child without Stepping on Toes is:

Guiding Principle #3 – Keep the long term best interests of your child in mind when you intercede. It may seem like a good idea to get your child what he wants at this moment, but in the long run it may be detrimental to his character. We live in an instant society that wants what it wants right now which counteracts the long term values of persistence, perseverance, and long-suffering.

Do you think this family has stepped over the line here? Have you ever felt compelled to do the same? It's not easy sometimes to discern when to step in and when to step back.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Your Child's Worst Enemy

(painting by Julia Lucich

My mother always said that I was my own worst enemy. And she was right. The same can be said for my own children. At one time or another our kids get in their own way of getting what they want or need. Sometimes it's our job to protect them from themselves.

Sometimes that means being the "bad guy" or "raining on their parade" but as the grown up, the one who has already "been there, done that" we need to believe in our own credibility. You actually do know better.

The older they get, the higher the stakes get for our kids. The older they get, the less time we have to impart all we wanted to on their lives.

Time is short - so as I argue with my 16 year old that he can't and shouldn't buy an overpriced light sabre on EBay and save his money instead, I need to win the argument. Today I'm the bad guy. Today I'm the unfair mom. Today he doesn't like me very much and won't talk to me.

But that's part of the job too.

Stand firm and do the hard thing. They'll thank you later.

Friday, July 13, 2007

What Do You Think? - "Snakes" (I mean "Kids") on a Plane!

This story, along with others, is getting a lot of attention right now. Have you ever been on an airplane with an annoying or unruly toddler or child? If you were a mom or dad in that situation, what did you do and how did you feel? Did you know that once the doors of the jet closes, you are under the strict jurisdication of the FAA and must follow whatever they deem is necessary to secure the safety of passengers. As we learn how to stand up for our children, how does this situation challenge your advocacy skills?

Watch and Let Us Know What You Think

You'll need a version of Windows Media Player 7 or higher to view the video. If you need to download it, go to The video player is supported by Microsoft IE 5.0 and above.

Friday, July 06, 2007


Every Friday I'll offer you a piece of advice that may apply to standing up for your child. Grab this quote and write a response to it on your own blog. Invite others to check back here every Friday to respond to our weekly quote. Leave a comment before you go on your way.

The mother- or father-bear behavior that surfaces when your child is threatened must be tamed if you're going to accomplish anything.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

PROMise Me

I meant to post this a long time ago, but never got around to it. This is our oldest son, Christopher. He will be a senior in high school this year. He went to his junior prom this spring- without a date. He and many of his friends met there to celebrate together. They had a blast and I am so happy he went. He rented his own tux (without having to match it to a girl's dress!) and drove himself to the beachside restaurant where the prom was held. He came home late, but not too late. He was safe. I was relieved.

Before he left for the evening, I went over my "list of promises" with him, knowing he's heard it all before. It never hurts to say it one more time.

- Promise me you will drive safely.
- Promise me you will be polite to everyone you meet there.
- Promise me you will not do anything "stupid." But if you do, you will find a way to make it right.
- Promise me you will call if you find yourself in a situation you're not comfortable handling on your own.
- Promise me you will come home safe and sound.

He promised. . . I waited up and watched for his headlights. Around midnight they grazed the front of our house and I relaxed.

The promises we solicit from our children should be no different than those we make to them. They aren't guarantees, but they point us all in the right direction.

What promises do you hope your child will keep?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Four Tips for First Job Frustrations

"I want a different job," our youngest, age 16 said when he came home from work. He's a server in the dining room of a retirement village near our home. His brother works there as well, but in a different building.

"What happened this time?" I asked.

"My manager just yells at me for no reason. I feel targeted. It's like I can't do anything right," he was frustrated, and I would be too.

He was already on the hunt for a new job when he voiced his ever-increasing anxiety. He's only been there for three months. This particular job has high teenage turnover. Kids come and go all the time. I'm sure it can be just as frustrating for a manager as it would an employee. But we had a golden opportunity to help our son navigate through this turmoil and not run from it.

We all prefer the path of least resistance, but it doesn't often lead us where we want to go. Perseverance and a strong work ethic can overcome a multitude of job related frustrations. But how do you encourage your teen to stick it out when all they want to do is quit?

There were some things we realized our son wasn't prepared to handle in this job, and addressed those first. These four issues go a long way to longevity and job satisfaction.

You only have to work your assigned hours. Sometimes employers take advantage of teens in the workplace by asking them to come in on their days off or stay "just a little longer" past their shift or come in earlier than was scheduled. In these instances, your teen can say "No. I'm sorry but I can't do that." Legally he or she is within his rights to say "no." But most teens don't know that and are afraid to say "No" so they begrudgingly do what their boss says.

For more information for what the child labor laws say about teen workers, click here.

Make sure you are always doing what you're supposed to be doing. It's easy in a work environment with other teens to go along with the crowd and maybe not do what you're supposed to do. During a "shift meeting" our son got called out for talking, but he wasn't the only one. It didn't matter that his friend didn't get called out; what mattered was he wasn't doing what his boss expected him to do. Encourage your teen to go above and beyond, regardless of what anyone else is doing. If they do feel targeted, this will take away any amunition their boss may have had to pick on them.

Do your job with a happy spirit. Even if they have to fake it for a little while, encourage your teen to put on a happy face while at work. It will make him feel better and show his boss and those he serves that he respects the position and those he works with.

Don't get caught up in workplace drama. It's easy to be a whiner when everyone else is whining, but learning to rise above the "drama" in a workplace is something we all have to learn how to do. If that alienates you from the other kids at the job, so be it. You're not there to impress them. You're there to impress your employers and those you serve.

As tempted as we may be, as parents, to run interference for our teens in their first and subsequent jobs, it's crucial that they learn how to stand up for themselves. This is the perfect time to give them the tools they need and then send them out to practice on their own. If things do get out of hand, or there are safety, health, or legal consequences due to bad management, then of course, step in.

Do you have a first job memory that you can share that illustrates some of these concerns? However you handled it way back when doesn't matter. What matters now is how you'll help your teen handle it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Crossing the Line

Would you break the law to get your child what he or she needs?
Consider this story in today's Los Angeles Times. . .

Schools Call Roll at a Border Crossing
"Children who are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants but live in Mexico cross every morning to get a better education for free in Arizona, breaking the law that requires them to live within the boundaries of the district. To many of their parents, who have ties in both countries, not living in the district is the educational equivalent of jaywalking."

Parents do it all the time.

Consider this article as well - Would you break the law to get your child an education?

Do we stretch the truth with our pediatrician so he'll write a prescription for an antibiotic when it isn't quite time for one? Do we lie about our child's age to get him on a particular sports team?

This is such a difficult topic, but it is so common. I'm not here to judge. I just would like to hear your justification for why you do what you do.

I'm not innocent here, but I made a choice a number of years ago to let that tactic go from my life.

Just curious about your thoughts.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Do You Have the "Right" Doctor?

Even though we didn't go to medical school, we are ultimately responsible for our own healthcare as well as our children's. We have to learn how to advocate for health needs, and that requires asking the right questions. If you are getting ready to choose a physician or you have a physician and you're not happy with him or her, there are some questions or concerns for you to consider and you look for ways to stand up for child in the exam room (or even the waiting room).
  • The waiting game - how long do you find yourself waiting in the outer waiting room for your appointment? Does it seem like your appointment time is just a "suggestion"? How does the front office staff respond to inquiries about when you should expect to be seen? Do they voluntarily offer reasons for the delay or do you have to pry it out of them? How about once inside the exam room? Do you find yourself waiting there just as long? By itself, this isn't a reason to change doctors, but if it one of many complaints, you'll want to consider it.
  • Appointments - is it difficult for you to get an appointment when you or your child is sick? This is a problem. Many doctors schedule in "sick" appointments so they can squeeze last minute patients in. Don't you hate it when it's Friday and you call and they can't get you or your child in to be seen and you know you have the whole weekend to get through in hopes you can get in on Monday? This shouldn't happen. Consider it a red flag.
  • Second Opinions - there are medical issues that require a second opinion. Is your physician discouraging about getting one? If so, find a new doctor!
  • Bedside Manner - personality does play a part in patient care. If you don't get along with your doctor; if his manner is too abrupt or makes you uncomfortable, switch. You have to trust this person if you are going to trust his diagnoses and advice.
  • Record Keeping - your medical records are just that - YOURS. If a doctor does not permit you to see or have a copy of your records, there's a problem.
  • Is the Doctor in? - Do you find that you spend most of your time with the nurse or the nurse practitioner? Does your doctor only show up the last few minutes of the appointment? Remember that you are paying to see the doctor, and not his nurse or physician's assistant. Consider this a red flag as well.
  • Can You Hear Me Now? - is your doctor a good listener, or does he barely acknowledge your words or concers? A good doctor is a good listener and respects his patient's words.
  • Front Office Staff - are they friendly or rude? The front office staff are the first ones you encounter and often reflect the doctor. Either the doctor is also rude or doesn't care that his staff is rude. He should care.
  • Follow Up - does your doctor return your calls or queries or do you find yourself waiting and then always being the one to follow up with him instead? Good doctoring is also about relationship.
  • Too Many Prescriptions - sometimes doctors push drugs and/or vitamins on patients when it is not necessary in order to push products the drug companies "encourage" them to push. Often these drugs are more expensive or don't have a generic alternative. If you don't need it, don't fill the prescription and find someone who isn't a pill pusher.
  • To Treat You is to Know You - don't expect your doctor to remember everything about you, but he should be familiar enough with your medical history to ask about specific instances. If it feels like a first meeting every time you see him, find someone else.

Only you can decide which issues are hot buttons for you and your family. Each in isolation may be worth persevering through, but three or more in conjunction should make you take pause and reconsider your healthcare provider.

Monday, June 04, 2007

When Illness Forces You to Stand for Your Child

Guest Columnist: Ellen Schneider

Our daughter, Abigail, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was in the second grade.

My husband and I immediately sat down with the assistant principal and the school nurse to discuss Abby’s medical condition and what care she would need while in school. For the two years that Abby attended this school, we never had a problem. I would visit Abby’s class every September and explain to her classmates what Type 1 diabetes was, how it would affect Abby, symptoms to look for, and how to treat them. I asked them to take turns being her buddy and escorting her to the nurse whenever she needed to test her blood sugar level. I worked with Abby’s teachers and the homeroom parents to ensure that Abby would have suitable snacks to eat during school events and the ever popular birthday parties.

I obtained information from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s website on advocating for your child in school and printed out their recommended wording for a 504 Plan, which we modified and discussed with school personnel. The 504 (Health) Plan allows you to make special requests and we modify the plan and discuss any changes with the school administrators and nurse each June. Second graders ate lunch at 10:30 am and had a snack in the classroom at 1 pm. Having lunch so early would negatively affect Abby’s blood sugars, so we included a request that Abby eat snack at 10:30 am and eat her lunch when her classmates were eating snack. Since exercise lowers her blood sugar, Abby’s 504 Plan states that she have gym scheduled before lunch.

Any time Abby feels “weird” due to blood sugars being too high or too low, she leaves her classroom and visits the school nurse. It was very important to us that this also be written into the 504 Plan. While not critical in second grade, this point becomes more important as Abby gets older. It means that if Abby needs to visit the school nurse while the class is taking an exam, whether a subject test or a standardized test, she is allowed extra time to complete the exam. By planning ahead, we hope to prevent any problems when Abby takes the SAT exams.

Abby now attends middle school and the nurse is not comfortable treating Abby’s diabetes. While there are other children in the school with Type 1 diabetes, Abby requires more insulin and more frequently than the other students. This nurse hasn’t always treated Abby and her diabetes appropriately. She has told Abby that her food choices weren’t suitable, that Abby should take more control of her diabetes and finger-test herself (because the nurse didn’t want to do it), and that Abby should use an insulin pump, like some of the other students.

It is the nurse’s responsibility to administer insulin when necessary—not make recommendations as to Abby’s care. We let Abby dictate her own level of involvement. Abby began finger-testing and drawing up insulin when she was comfortable with the procedures. Abby will use an insulin pump when, and if, she decides to use one.

The most serious problem, however, involves the administering of insulin when Abby’s blood sugar levels go over 350. The 504 Plan states this and the nurse has a written protocol, signed by Abby’s endocrinologist, detailing the amount of insulin to administer depending on Abby’s blood sugar level. The protocol requires no thought. If Abby’s blood sugar is X, nurse gives Y amount of insulin, regardless of the time of day. It’s simple. Unfortunately, one day the nurse didn’t give Abby insulin because it was 10:30 am, and “too early in the day” to give insulin. Nor did the nurse call me to ask about it. What made this even more frightening was Abby’s blood sugar level was the highest it had ever been, yet I didn’t even get a phone call.

The next day I stormed into the nurse’s office demanding to know why insulin wasn’t given. Totally unsatisfied with the nurse’s response, I insisted on meeting with the principal to discuss the situation. He promised to question the nurse and get back to me, which he didn’t. Two weeks later, I sent a letter to the nurse’s supervisor alerting her to the nurse’s extremely negligent behavior. The supervisor called and we discussed possible solutions. I’m pleased to report the nurse has since acted in a more appropriate manner. If you don’t fight for your child, who will?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Guiding Principle #1 - Be Mindful of What You Model

To prepare for the anticipated release of STANDING UP FOR YOUR CHILD (without stepping on toes), due in stores in July, I will present to you one by one the guiding principles in this book.

First things first.

"Be Mindful of What You Model"

Just as women's fashion eventually mimics that which is seen on the runways of Milan and Paris, our children mimic what they see in our behavior and hear in our words. For better and for worse, they're watching closely. How we negotiate on their behalf is witnessed and filed for later use in their minds.

What you model matters. Are you a Buddy, a Bully, or a Hero when you advocate for your kids? Find out.

Read the first chapter of STANDING UP FOR YOUR CHILD without stepping on toes.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bus Stop Bullies

Today's news about a school bus crash in Turkey that killed 32 people, including students on a field trip, spurs me on to talk about why we have not gone to great lengths to protect our children on their school buses. What can we do as parents to advocate for safer buses?

Below is an article I posted previously about our responsibilities when it comes to school bus safety. Some of us keep our kids safe by driving them ourselves, but not everyone has that luxury.

Bus Stop Bullies

State of the art school buses are beginning to ramble down suburban streets, rural back roads and urban avenues. Push-out windows, high-visibility strobe lights, roof escape hatches, stop sign arms, cross padded high-back, flame-retardant seats and modified handrails on bus steps might make riding on a school bus safer than in the family car.

So why are more and more parents driving their kids to school instead?

“I wish we didn’t have to sit in the same seats all year,” a third grader complained.

“I don’t like that my kids have to wait for the bus in the dark,” Tallahassee, Florida mom Amy Convery said when she found out her elementary age child would have to be at the stop by 6:15 a. m. “It’s just not safe enough.”

The United States isn’t the only country wrestling with trying to get more kids to ride the bus to school. School authorities in Newport, Wales are replacing 24 double-decker school buses that were so old, vandalized and plagued by badly behaving students that drivers were refusing to drive them.

It’s hard enough keeping track of 50 kids on a regular, yellow American school bus. Can you imagine trying to monitor two floors of a double-decker?

But technology is a wonderful thing.

In New Jersey and some counties in Florida cameras have been installed above the driver in order to capture the behavior of students en route. If there’s a problem, the camera will catch it (them). Unruly behavior that distracts the driver and bullying that harasses students are caught on tape and reported directly to the school.

Does that make everyone feel safer? Not yet.

One of the greatest dangers to students traveling on a school bus isn’t the other kids on the bus or an easily annoyed driver. It’s the rest of us on the road with them who are more concerned about getting past the stopped yellow icon of American education and getting to work on time.

“Motorists not paying attention is our biggest problem and the biggest safety threat to the children we transport,” said Tom Boyd, general manager of Murphy Bus Co. in Middletown, New Jersey.

What’s the solution? More cameras.

Stop-arm cameras can now be used to capture the make, model, color and even the license plate number of a vehicle that fails to stop for a school bus. Sgt. John Sutton of the Brick Police Traffic Safety Division in New Jersey said that if a vehicle runs the red lights of a school bus and is caught on tape, they can receive 5 points on their license, a fine no less than $100 and 15 days of community service or jail time.

As extreme (and expensive) as these measures may seem, I applaud those school systems who choose to invest in the safety of the most precious cargo on our planet – our children.

Now if we could just do something about that boy who keeps putting his gum in the Jane’s red-haired pigtails! Let’s hope he gets caught on tape too.

Copyright 2004 - 2007 Vicki Caruana

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Swim Coach Dad Pushes Daughter

Have you ever had to "discipline" your child in public? How we discipline them, correct them, and even confront them about their misbehavior is scrutinized, criticized, and categorized. This father is under fire for the way he handled a personal matter with his daughter - on camera and at a public sporting event in which she was competing.

According to the AP,(March 28) - Ukrainian swim coach Mikhaylo Zubkov was reunited with his swimmer daughter Kateryna after an Australian court declined to extend an intervention order against him Thursday.

Now we all have something to say about it. We all feel the need to stand up for this girl against her father. Whether he was right or wrong; whether we should or shouldn't; I caution you about stepping into that ring. Take some time first to decide whether or not you belong there.

Does this mean that we turn a "blind eye" to injustice against children around us? No, it doesn't. But we need to ask ourselves if we're in it for the long haul or just the moment. Children need long term advocates, not just adults to get involved when it suits them.

And it is a matter of "casting the first stone" as well.

After watching this, you probably have a good size stone in your hand. Are you really ready to let it fly?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

5 Tips for Transforming Your Kids into Spiritual Champions

Guest Columnist: Jim Burns, Homeword

Just because you are raising your kids in a Christian home doesn’t mean that they’re automatically getting the spiritual training they need. Parents need to be intentional about bringing their children up with Biblical values. They won’t just learn them by accident. We need to step up our efforts in making the spiritual growth of our kids a top priority. Recently, George Barna, noted Christian researcher and author, was a guest on our radio broadcast, HomeWord with Jim Burns, and he provided keen insights, sharing five tips for transforming our kids into spiritual champions.

1. Help Kids Grasp Their Purpose. No one ends up on earth by accident. God places us here for a purpose. That purpose relates to how we fit into God’s kingdom -- how we will know, love and serve God in this life, and then become a blessing to everyone with whom we come in contact. The problem is that even though a person’s habits and mindsets are formed at an early age, many parents have no plan for helping their kids discover who God has created them to become, and thus leave this to circumstance and chance. Parents are key to helping kids discover their purpose. This means helping kids establish a Biblical worldview, as well as teaching them about their uniqueness and value as a child of God. It also specifically means reevaluating the definition of success, transforming it from a popular cultural view (good job, good citizen, making money, possessions…) to a Biblical view (commitment, faithfulness, servanthood, sacrifice…).

2. Fan the Flames of Passion. Too often, our kids see little passion in Christians. This generation of kids, mosaics as Barna defines them, don’t want to just spend time on earth during their lifetimes. They want to pour themselves into a cause, to make a difference with their lives. There is nothing more important in life than loving and serving God. So our kids need to see a burning passion for Christian life -- loving God and loving their neighbors -- embodied in their parents. We have got to give our kids a reason be passionate about their faith.

3. Strengthen Kids’ Perseverance. Helping our kids develop perseverance means that, as parents, we have to be proud of the fact that we’re Christ-followers. We’ve got to face the fact that living out a dynamic faith means that there will be opposition and persecution (see 2 Timothy 3:12), and that we are willing to make a stand for our faith. Part of the strength to persevere comes from involvement with a community of fellow Christ-followers (the church) who can encourage our kids, support them and pray for them. Further, our God calls us to challenges that are beyond our own means to accomplish. This is by divine design and forces us to rely upon God in order to be up for the task. This reliance, fostered by an intimate relationship with God, builds perseverance. As we talk about the need to rely on God to our children and then model that same reliance in our own lives, this key quality of perseverance will grow in their lives.

4. Help Kids Tap into the Power Source. Kids don’t naturally understand the power that is available to them to make a difference with their lives. They need to be taught that our ultimate power source is God. The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, declared that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is available to each Christ-follower (see Ephesians 1:19-20). Still, our kids are growing up in a culture that boasts other power sources (money, influence, force…). Parents must help kids discern that while other power sources have a place, their ultimate source of power comes from God. It comes back to parental modeling, once again. Our kids see who and what we rely on in difficult circumstances, or when we want to accomplish something. Our lives need to demonstrate that we are plugged into and rely upon God for our strength.

5. Point Kids to True, Lasting Pleasure. We live in a culture that places ultimate value on personal satisfaction and pleasure. Yet, the pleasures our world affords are often fleeting (see Hebrews 11:24-26). God’s Word provides a different take on what real pleasure looks like. True pleasure comes from the fulfillment experienced in loving and serving God. It’s about living a life of sacrifice, living for more than just ourselves. There’s no doubt that this is difficult to do – for us and for our kids – and as our kids take a stand for what is right, rejecting some of the pleasures their peers are seeking, they will lose friendships along the way. But part of the cost of being a Christ-follower is embracing self-sacrifice, for God’s higher purposes. Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). It is in this apparent paradox that our kids will find true, lasting pleasure.

Transforming our kids into spiritual champions is definitely a process. Parents need to intentionally think through what success looks like in their kids’ lives. What is the end point of your parenting years? No one can hit a target that is undefined. Random, spontaneous parenting is a recipe for failure. But it’s not too late to start! Begin thinking through what you want your kids to look like as they mature into adults. Make a simple list of what you want to see happen in your child’s life. Then, start small. Take a small step, right away. Remember, doing something, even small, with intention is better than doing nothing every time. The important thing is to begin the process!
Give us your comments on this article by clicking here. Click here to download this tip sheet (WORD / PDF).

This article is reprinted with permission and originally appeared on

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sex Education: School or Parent - Who Rules?

(this cartoon originally appeared on Advocates for Youth)

Guest Columnist: Brenda Nixon

Imagine yourself as a ten-year-old blissfully walking to school; kicking pebbles as you go, listening to the birds, thinking about recess, kickball, and what’s in your lunch. Then invading your world booms the authoritative voice of the school counselor, “Ejaculation can happen during sexual intercourse, when the penis is inside the woman’s vagina. It can also happen while a boy is sleeping. This is called a nocturnal emission or ‘wet dream.’”

Explicit? Yes! Make you a little uncomfortable? Perhaps! How do you think it makes a 10-year old feel? This quote is from a curriculum given to children in a coeducation class at Boone Elementary - my daughter’s public school in KC, Missouri. It was told to Laura, then 10, without her having asked and without my knowledge or consent.

My husband, Paul, and I became informed one evening when Laura brought home her permission form in which she scrawled an emphatic, “No!” Asked why, Laura described her embarrassment and disgust at having to sit through the counselor’s comments on “breasts and breastmilk.”

Over dinner, we expanded our questions about the presentation and Laura’s thoughts and feelings. Thinking she had absentmindedly left the permission form in her backpack I asked, “When was it given to you?” Then, Laura’s bombshell reply, “When we were leaving the presentation.” Paul and I realized that our daughter was made uncomfortable in a guidance class she did not request and in which we had no foreknowledge.

So we called the school to learn what was being taught as “guidance curriculum.” After discussions with the counselor and principal, my husband and I informed several parents. They, like us, were unaware of the curriculum and naturally, had strong opinions. Some parents hadn’t even seen a parental permission form. We all met with the counselor, principal, and district’s Director of Personnel to share our concerns.

Many issues surrounded the curriculum and its implementation. We shared our daughter’s embarrassment, asking the counselor to consider a young girl’s feelings. Every parent objected to a coed environment for sexual instruction in elementary school.

One parent disapproved of schools doling out these intimate facts maintaining her right to be her child’s sex educator. The callous disregard for parental rights to informed consent had each parent righteously indignant. We questioned why the “teachable moments” philosophy is not applied to sex education.

I reminded these educators of the “too much too soon” practice of overloading kids with particulars before they are ready. My daughter’s knowledgeable counselor forgot - or never learned - child development. That the frontal lobe of the human brain, which controls reasoning, social conscience, and judgment, develops gradually and isn’t fully functional until the early teens. Therefore, children may get the sex facts but have limited ability to apply them to appropriate behaviors.

It was a tense yet productive confrontation. Reluctantly, these administrators agreed to suspend teaching the curriculum until they canvassed all parents with permission forms. Further, they agreed to release permission forms with a lengthy notice so parents could preview materials and make an informed choice on their child’s participation.

Additionally, the school board, upon hearing of our concerns, began a policy to forever correct this oversight. To adopt a policy that permission forms are given with a standard two-week notice would protect the rights of the parents - who advocate for their children.

Parents, be ever vigilant in protecting your rights. Be knowledgeable of what is going on in your child’s classroom and school. Ask questions, keep up communication with the teacher, attend PTA and school board meetings, and get to know your school administrators.

Always be an advocate for your child. She is depending on you to protect her from unwanted sexual information whether it’s from the public school, the media, or an individual. Children learn better only when they feel safe and comfortable.

As a parent, I encourage you to adopt the prayer of Robert Louis Stevenson, “Give us the strength to encounter that which is to come.”

Editor's Note: As advocates we need to be pro-active and not reactive. Talk to your child before someone else does.

©1999, Brenda Nixon

Brenda Nixon ( is a speaker, author, educator and mom. Her book Parenting Power in the Early Years is available at and her website.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

(photo originally posted on

Today's media bombards our children with images and ideas that they are just not equipped to process. It's getting harder and harder to watch what they watch, listen to what they listen to, and play what they play on the computer or video game console. As parents we can stand in the gap by previewing as much as possible those things that their little eyes see and their little ears hear.

I wrestled with bringing the following issue to your attention as it is controversial and somewhat horrifying. But if we're going to stand up for our children, we need to be informed. I want to tell you about a new RPG (role playing game) available for computer that is sweeping the country, both because some people are just plain twisted and others are dangerously curious.

"Super Columbine Massacre RPG!" created by Danny Ledonne, has hit the streets with a game that puts the players in the roles of the Columbine shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, as they shoot up the school.


That is the question of the day. The firestorm surrounding this game has been reported all over the internet and in gaming magazines like GameInformer. My fifteen year old son called this game to my attention as a horrifying example of game developers gone wild. A few years ago, when I spoke to 3 million radio listeners about choosing video games for children, the most violent game quoted was tame in comparison to this one.

With real security camera footage, news footage, and the killers personal diaries and other writings, this game turns the knife in the already fatally wounded souls who gave their lives that day and their families. My outrage was hard to contain.

But I have to do as I prescribe. Make sure I know the opposing point of view before I spout off about my own opinion. My opinion must be based on evidence and the only way to get that evidence is to do my homework. If you want to do your homework too, you can read for yourself what the game developers say about their product. Discernment comes after careful investigation. In order to stand firm for your child, take the time to know your opposition.

My personal opinion is that there is no place for this product, no matter how artfully the developers tried to convey their message. It is not necessary to see through the eyes of these killers in order to understand what happened and why. I'd rather focus on how God triumphed that day instead.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Buzz and Hum of Life

Welcome to Guest Columnist: Patricia Lorenz
Buzz, buzz, buzz…hum, hum, hum. Buzz, buzz, buzz…hum, hum, hum. The sound is rhythmic, never ending. It's a soft sound, pleasant. Reminds me of the ebb and flow of waves crashing into rocks and then quietly returning back to sea. But this sound is even softer than that. This sound could be the background for relaxation tapes of the living earth.

This buzz-hum is the sound of four fluids being pumped into my son Andrew's veins. The buzzing isn't as soothing as the hum, but nevertheless, at times is has the power to lure both of us towards slumber in his hospital room.

This young man is supposed to be hyped and careening through his last four weeks of his senior year in high school. He's supposed to be bragging to me about how many hits he got in PE softball today. Writing that last essay for English class. Or rattling off his list of graduation gift requests. Getting the brakes fixed on his motorcycle.

Instead this 18-year-old, 6'3" skinny drink of water is lying still with three IV poles lined up like soldiers next to his bed pumping antibiotics, steroids, a saline solution and red blood cells into his left arm. Ulcerative Colitis eats at his intestines like an infidel who tears into town to do nothing but wreck havoc.

Doctors, nurses and lab technicians poke and prod and stick needles and various plastic and metal things into his body. Granted, they do it lovingly and with tremendous compassion, but they still do it.

I watch, wait and do typical Mom things…rub his back, feed him ice chips, chatter about the real world, fluff his pillow, go on clutter patrol in his room and ask enough questions so I understand what's being done to my youngest child.

For the first three days I'm so calm and serene I amaze myself. During a particularly quiet moment while reading a magazine I read a quote by Sam J. Ervin Jr. Religious faith is not a storm cellar to which men and women can flee for refuge from the storms of life. It is, instead, an inner spiritual strength which enables them to face those storms with hope and serenity.

Of course, I say to myself, I am filled with hope and serenity. Otherwise how can I profess to be a woman of faith? Feeling quite smug with myself, I bask in my serenity, proud of my tower of strength attitude.

By the end of day four my son is cranky. Four days without food or water punctuated with pain and constant intrusions into his personal space, have left him unable to put any social skill programs into his body's computer. He's running on two cylinders instead of eight so he snaps at me, complains about everything, declares that he's sick of visitors and phone calls and in the end reduces me to tears. I'm not such pillar after all.

That night, still in my son's room, I whimper to our pastor, Father Tom, who has come for a visit. "What's wrong with me? I'm losing it. Where's my serenity? Doesn't my faith guarantee serenity?"

"Nonsense," he says. "You can't be in the same room with someone 18 hours a day for four days without losing it. Happily married couples can't even do it when they're perfectly healthy. You need to get out of here. Go for a walk. Take care of you for awhile. I'll stay."

I leave, afraid that if I don't I'll burst into loud shaking sobs. I head for my friend Betsy's house where we walk, talk (mostly me blathering about the whole week with all its gruesome details) and finish off the visit with brownies and hugs.

Two hours later I'm back in my son's room. Our pastor leaves, the last poking, prodding and injections are completed for the day and once again, I've settled into a chair next to the IV pumps.

Buzz, buzz, buzz. Hum, hum, hum. As I listen I begin to understand more about faith. I learn that it's there and that it flows like medicine through an IV, sure and steady. Sometimes it buzzes. Sometimes it hums. For now, the humming lulls me to sleep.

Editor's Note: How can you step aside, even briefly, to take care of your own needs, so that you will continue to have the strength to stand for your child?

Patricia Lorenz is an art-of-living writer and speaker, the author of seven books, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Tea Lover's Soul and Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover's Soul, (to be released in October 2007), the top contributing writer for Chicken Soup books in the country with stories in 30 of them, a contributing writer for 17 Daily Guideposts books, and the author of over 400 articles and stories. To hire her as a speaker contact her at or

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Who Stands for This CHILD?

Guest Columnist: Paul Petersen

Pretending Leads to Reality
(photo curtesy of

It now appears Dakota Fanning was wearing a flesh-tone body suit (or a two piece suit) when she acted out the rape scene in "Hound Dog." Defenders of the production company were silent for two weeks when the controversy erupted, and now offer up this "cover up," days later, as proof that they were, in fact, concerned about the propriety of wardrobe worn in this rape scene using the talents of a twelve year-old child. These same voices are silent about what Dakota was wearing when she filmed the mutual masturbation scene. I keep pointing out to these people that it wasn't what Dakota was wearing, but what she was doing!

Allow me to explain why I'm so concerned over this betrayal of what it means to be a child and the risks unique to kid actors:

I have maintained for years that the key to the skills of the stand-out child actor, that kid whose ability to portray a range of emotions that audiences find irresistible, is most often a result of a dysfunctional home life where the child's ability to manipulate the emotions and attitudes of the adults in the house…or siblings for that matter…is actually a survival skill. When you are born into a home with problems, you learn to cope. The decision to allow Dakota Fanning, a pre-teen, to participate in sexual situations filmed for commercial purposes does not bode well for the future when the certain effects of this decision begin to weigh on the real-life person inside the actress.

An abundance of young performers come from fractured backgrounds, from homes that have seen divorce, substance abuse, and financial setbacks, homes led by adults who have been described as undisciplined dreamers who have a fascination with the world of escapist entertainment. The reality of some homes is that they are emotional mine fields. The growth and development of the exceptional child born of difficult circumstances…orphaned at four, sent to live with draconian relatives, marooned on a deserted island…dramatic devices used from Tarzan to Oliver, is a story-telling device that resonates with everyone.

The Historical Reality of performers of a tender age is rooted in the ancient caste system. Performers breed other performers…whether you are talking about India and their two-thousand year-old caste of jugglers and magicians, or the Vienna Boys Choir (actually called the castrati, with all that implies) and dear Beethoven born to a lesser musician-father, or the vaudevillian families like the famous Little Foys or the hoofers that reared Jackie Coogan. In these families there were traditions and vast experience that armored the talented child and provided better guidance for life in The Biz. Show Folk are, in fact, unique.

The problems that have become so cliché, former kid star in trouble, or dead…is a fairly recent phenomenon…. and its causes can in some instances be traced to the sudden emergence of a Star Child in a family devoid of any coping skills for the consequences of life in the performing arts. The Hollywood Dream of being discovered in the malt shop is less than one hundred years old.

So, what can young performers…kid actors in particular…teach us? What is it about their experience that has relevance to the civilian world in which most of you live and work?

I will begin with what I hope will be an illuminating story about the mind of the young…and how the natural in-born ability to believe in "twelve impossible things" like the Red Queen is an integral part of a young performer's interior growth and development.

In 1956, at age ten, I auditioned for a role on Ford Television Theater. The part was to portray a child who has to watch his father get hanged. There was gut-wrenching dialogue as this boy witnesses the hanging, nearly a half-page monologue with tears indicated. I got the part, even endured the process of getting what we call a Flipper to make sure that my gap-toothed grin was masked because I was playing John Derek as a boy. The dramatic device was, of course, to give insight to John Derek's subsequent adult behavior. Everybody with me so far?

It's a part…a juicy actor's part…and I got it. Do you know why? Because I saw the noose, saw my father swinging by his neck until dead, and the words written for me flowed out of me as freely as my tears. Even on the audition in a room full of worn out casting people I saw and felt exactly what the writer needed. When I actually filmed this traumatic scene the impact was even more powerful, for now I was surrounded by a starkly lit prison window with bars I could cling to, and there was the shadow of the noose swinging on a wall…and I was, if anything, better than I was on the audition.

A man who would later play a role in my hiring on The Donna Reed Show watched me that evening in 1956 and would later become a most unlikely friend, Harry Cohn…King Cohn, owner of Columbia Pictures, the most hated man in Show Business…or so they said. On the night we filmed my scene in "Black Jim Hawke" this cigar-smoking man came up to me and said, "It's hard to make a movie crew applaud, kid. Did ya really see your father swingin' in that noose?"

"Sure," I replied. "Didn't I make you see him, too?" Harry Cohn chuckled and nodded his head. "Yes you did."

My friends, it's fifty years later and I still remember that event, not as an actor's moment, but as a ten year-old boy witnessing his father's death by hanging with all the internal drama, the sense of abandonment, fear for my mother 'left poor behind,' and I am to this day affected by that memory, which my rational self tells me was just pretend, but my heart knows was real. Such is the young person's rich internal life.

I am trying to tell you that for a gifted child actor asked to portray a difficult emotionally loaded scene that over time there is NO difference between reality and pretend. In order to convince an audience to suspend disbelief you must, internally, believe utterly in the character and event you are portraying. That's the gift…and the curse.

Complicating this "fact" is the continuing reaction of the audience who are also left believing…and continues to believe…that what they experienced in the theater was and IS real far into the future. Do I have to explain the distortions of memory over time?

If you don't believe my words, please consider Jodi Foster portraying the young prostitute in "Taxi Driver." Jodi's unforgettable performance as "Iris" has become so mythologized over the past 30 years that most people believe absolutely that they saw Jodi Foster at 12 years-old fully naked and physically engaged in on-camera sex. Martin Scorsese's powerful direction created that impression, but if you review this film you'll see that your "impression" of nudity and sex does not square with the actual film footage.

This mistaken impression is what Jodi has had to learn to live with…as well as the unwelcome fact that the image of "Iris" remains one of the favorite images of pedophiles all over the world.

When you're young, Invisible Friends are real. There are monsters under the bed. Perhaps you have forgotten how intensely you felt things in third and fourth grade when a casual insult cut you to the quick, but at the time, my friends, it was real. So are fighting parents and toys your family can't afford. Some people, especially those who are cut off from sympathetic support systems, cannot endure the time it takes for wounds to heal, or wait for perceptions of past emotional events to evolve.

And I'm not so sure we ever get old enough to deal with these assaults on our senses. The cumulative load of what Jules Ffiefer called "Little Murders" are, for some people, simply unbearable and they can see no way out…no tomorrow, no recovery. For some people, the only clear and unambiguous message that can cut through the pain is to end it all…death of Self as a tactic.

Over the course of my life I have been asked several times if I ever thought about suicide…asked by family members, friends, and interviewers. My response has always been, "Hell no. I want to see how the movie comes out." Too glib by half, I know, but I'm a Hollywood Kid. What can you do?

In the shallow underbelly of Hollywood where I now spend so much time I see hopelessness in the lives of those former kid stars now estranged from show business again and again…nearly always coming from people, young and old, male and female, who have isolated themselves from human contact and particularly that contact which comes from the fellowship of a working environment, or rather an environment of common interests…such as a school, or what we call the extended family…and particularly the community of show folk.

Nobody knows where Dakota Fanning will be in fifteen or twenty years. Odds are heavily stacked against a sustained career in the Business for anyone. What we can be certain of, based on the work Dakota has already done, is that her name and image will never go away. Never. And now that image will carry the baggage of her participation in a movie that, if exhibited, will almost certainly result in the criminal prosecution of the major players involved.

You are kidding yourself if you think this is only a movie. You do not have to be Edgar Cayce to foresee the potential for disaster. The internal workings of a child on the threshold of womanhood who has been raped…and raped for public consumption…cannot be predicted, nor can her encounters with people exposed to that image be guaranteed to be in any way "uplifting."

In the end, you see, it will not matter how we deal with this rat's nest, but how Dakota Fanning comes to terms with what was done to her.

That's as real as it gets.

Paul Petersen

For more information about child performer advocacy, visit A Minor Consideration.

(Reprinted with permission. This editorial first appeared on

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Standing Up When Everyone Else is Sitting on Their Hands


Say what you like about Oprah, but there are times when her ability to stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves always impresses me. I'm sure her publicist has something to say about each of her choices, but seeing a need (as most of us do) and doing something to fill that need (something most of us don't do) are two different things. In a recent story reported by Denis Farell/AP, Oprah Winfrey opened the doors of her $40 million South Africa "leadership academy," giving 152 impoverished young women a shot at a brighter future. "Students, who are all from South Africa and can be of any race, have been chosen based on factors ranging from financial hardship (the girls' families must have a household monthly income below $700) to compelling personal histories."

Of course, we here in the United States welcomed her back home with a wall of criticism wondering why she sends so much of her own money overseas when plenty of U.S. schools could use the support. We're always quick to criticize others when what they do shines a light on what we're NOT doing. Our job is to stand for the children placed in our care, and to do it to the best of our ability. Oprah doesn't have children of her own. Her quote says it all. "I now know this is why I never had children myself. These are my girls, and I love them, every one of them. This is the proudest, greatest day of my life. When you educate a girl, you educate a family, a community - you change the face of a nation."

This is a powerful statement, one I pray parents of girls will consider strongly. Teach your daughters well! Let's not worry about what others do and don't do for children. Make sure you stand strong for your children and hopefully they won't need an Oprah in their life later to stand for them. But I'm glad when there's no one else around Oprah and those like her take a step forward to stand in the gap.

For those of you who have daughters, I love this song by John Mayer. Enjoy!