RSSHealth & Wellness
By this point in a long, dreary and very cold winter, we can either burrow even deeper, becoming the ultimate couch potatoes or get out and have some fun. But with temperatures dropping, there’s more to keeping warm than just a coat and gloves.
“Our mantra is layer, layer, layer,” said Sandy Basala, Superintendent of Visitor Services at Lake County Parks. “Often times we see people come out to cross country ski either underdressed or overdressed. Underdressed is thin anklet socks, no hat or gloves. Overdressed reminds me of the little brother in "A Christmas Story" who can’t move. All of our outdoor activities—skiing, sledding and ice skating or even hiking require people to move and be active. The basic concept is simple. Be prepared to adjust to your activity level as you exercise and changes in the weather. Don’t leave home without a warm hat, gloves and the proper winter foot ware. Please, no flip flops.”
Dr. Bernard Heilicser, an emergency room doctor at Ingalls Health System, warned it doesn’t take a long time to get frostbite and hypothermia. So for parents, it’s important not only to bundle up their kids but also to keep close watch on them during this frigid weather.
“An infant or very young child can’t say my hands hurt,” he said. “They’ll just start to shiver and start to cry.”
“Parents need to keep an eye on the little ones, because if they are like I was when I was a kid, they’ll stay outside as long as possible without warming up,” she said. “Generally, children lose body heat more quickly than adults and they are also the ones not likely to pay attention to the cold. They’d rather enjoy what they are doing instead of going inside to warm up.”
Thick wool socks, thick down coat, long underwear, insulated snow pants, fleece-lined hat and two pairs of mittens—fleece mittens inside water-resistant mittens are important clothing items for both adults and children said Maddie Grimm, Director of Education for Taltree Arboretum and Gardens in Valparaiso. Grimm recommended mittens instead gloves because they help keep energy circulating between your extremities.
“In really cold winter months when outdoors you burn energy—calories—to stay warm, layering ones clothes is very important to deter illness and frostbite,” she said. “When you are playing outside in colder weather more energy is burned because you’re trying to stay warm, so keeping water on hand as well as a good fat/protein combo snack like trail mix which helps to provide additional energy to produce heat is helpful.”
Safeguard against cold and wet.
“You want to avoid sweating—evaporation is a cooling process,” said Heilicser. “So wear active-wear clothing that will take the perspiration away from the body so it won’t be retained.”
Heilicser also recommended drinking warm fluids to keep your core body temperature warm as well as fluids.
“You still need to hydrate,” he said. “If you’re exercising and are active, you’ll need to replace fluids and electrolytes.”
According to Patricia Kemp, communications manager for the American Red Cross, Greater Chicago Region, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you or your children have symptoms of frostbite such as numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration or waxy feeling skin. Also be on guard for indications of hypothermia which include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.
“If you observe someone who is out in the cold and seems disoriented, they should be brought into the emergency room in order to get their body temperature up,” said Heilicser.
Keeping as little amount of skin exposed to the elements is also another necessity said Heilicser. It’s even more important with young children who can’t keep themselves covered.
“The head, face, ears, hands and feet are generally most vulnerable,” said Basala. “We tell people to make certain they take a break when skating or sledding. If they start to shiver they should get inside and warm up. Both frostbite and hypothermia can occur when the body is exposed to the cold for an extended period of time without proper clothing.”
Chasing after a toddler all day may seem like exercise enough, but a full workout is an important tool many parents need to de-stress. Thanks to local fitness centers that offer childcare and some other creative outlets, moms, dads and kids are able to enjoy the health benefits of staying fit.
Franciscan Omni Health and Fitness, with locations in Schererville and Chesterton; and Community Hospital Fitness Pointe, located in Munster, all offer childcare facilities for members.
The Omni program accepts children 6 weeks to 12 years old for up to two hours per day at no additional charge to the member. The children can do activities such as a weekly craft, work on puzzles, color or watch TV. Younger babies enjoy the activity bouncers and swings.
The center has multiple rooms, which lets the children play within their own age group.
“A lot of these parents wouldn’t have anywhere to leave their children and even if they hired help, it’s at least $10 an hour. That adds up. I think that’s a big value with what they pay monthly,” said Adalia Gonzalez, who has been a playroom attendant at Omni for 15 years.
The staff members are CPR certified and childcare centers follow all Indiana guidelines.
“I really believe that we have a great staff and most of the staff has been here a long time,” Gonzalez said. They are also friendly and flexible with parents needs and the children enjoy their time there.
“The kids really get to know us. We’re the same people every day.”
“Your child is here in a safe environment and parents can release their stress,” she said. “That’s the biggest thing we give back to the parents. They have the ability to de-stress and be a better parent.”
Childcare is offered from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays to Fridays and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Families can use the club facilities during special hours from 2 to 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 to 6 p.m. Sundays.
Fitness Pointe also offers childcare for ages 6 weeks through 12 years.
Ginny Miceli, who has been a daycare attendant at Fitness Pointe for 13 years said when parents come back from working out, they seem more refreshed and renewed and ready to tackle the responsibilities of parenthood.
“It gives them that break that they need. It helps them de-stress from parenting. They come in with a whole better positive attitude,” Miceli said.
She said the children also benefit by learning how important it is to take care of yourself.
“They’re being taught not only to work your body but to eat better as well,” she said.
Their center is a large room put together in a great way, Miceli said. It has designated areas to play house, read books, play with blocks, do puzzles and board games. They also have game systems for older children and an outdoor space that the kids can enjoy when weather allows.
Fitness Pointe childcare is offered from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays.
Employees of community healthcare system can use the service for free. Regular members pay an additional $3 for care up to 90 minutes and $4 for two hours.
Bellaboo’s Children’s Play and Discovery Center in Lake Station recently started a new partnership that focuses on parents’ fitness goals.
Kara Mackey, general manager of Bellaboo’s, said the partnership with FIT4MOM, owned by Annette Lister, will include new programs taking place on what’s being called Fitness Fridays.
All programs are an “and play” option, which means participants come for class and can stay and play with their kids all day.
Fit for Mom is from 9:15 to 10 a.m. Fridays. Parents and children can exercise together with adults utilizing their stroller as a fitness tool as they interact with their children. It costs $130 for the eight-week program, which runs Jan. 13 to March 8.
“It’s a good time to get a nice workout and then they can stay and play,” Mackey said.
Moms who want a more intense workout can sign up for Work it and Play, a 60-minute body back program. Bellaboo’s staff members will do activities with kids during the class so moms can focus on the exercise. The class costs $175 and is also eight weeks.
“They can have peace of mind that their kids are having a great time while they’re working out,” Mackey said. “You don’t have that mommy guilt that happens sometimes,” she said.
Mackey said she’s excited about the classes and hopes people are able to take advantage of them.
“I know it’s hard to pay anything right now around the holidays but we made a concerted effort to make them affordable. They’re here as a service. We want people to utilize these classes.
Bellaboo’s also offers less strenuous classes like Music and Play and Preschool Prep and Play classes for parents and children. For more details on any class, call (219) 963-2070.
We all know that exercise is important, but this time of year it is a lot easier to bundle up in a blanket and watch television than to venture out in the cold weather for some physical activity. However, studies show that walking or doing moderate exercise for just 30 minutes a day can help maintain a healthy body weight and improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels – and those benefits are for moms, dads and kids alike.
Take inspiration from this active family.
Cathy Dilbeck from Hammond has two children ages 6 and 4, and she makes sure they have ample opportunity to stay active all year round.
“My husband Dave and I were athletes growing up and our parents kept us involved in a lot of youth programs. We are still very active today - exercising every day and playing adult sports,” Cathy Dilbeck said.
In the winter, the Dilbeck family participates in organized activities such as swim lessons and youth basketball leagues and also makes time as a family to shoot hoops during open gym or take the kids swimming during open swim at the Hammond Family YMCA. Cathy advised other families to “take advantage of youth programs that are available at your Y and parks departments. Some programs start as young as three years old – not just to teach sport skills but to keep kids active and help them build social skills.”
Keeping kids of all ages active.
When the weather is bad, it’s time to get creative with what you have around the house. Alina Kilarski from Crown Point rigged up a swing in her house for her younger kids ages 2, 5 and 7.
“It doesn’t matter what the weather is like outside, we always find time for active play,” Kilarski said.
Other NWI moms suggested hula hooping, pulling the cars out of the garage and letting the kids use that open space for jump rope or Frisbee, or building an obstacle course in the basement or living room.
If you have older kids, consider setting a family workout goal such as exercising together twice a week. Or step up to a family challenge – perhaps a local 5K – and train for it as a family. Pick something that you can do together, and it will be easier to keep each other motivated.
Don’t be afraid to get outside!
Region residents all have their favorite sledding hills but there’s more to do in NWI in the winter. Bundle up and get ready for some fun!
- Many Northwest Indiana parks departments have seasonal ice rinks and some are even free if you have your own skates. Call your local parks department for availability. Deep River Water park is another regional option and, with refrigerated ice, one that is available even in slightly warmer temps. Ice is available Thursday-Sunday until Feb. 29.
- Park naturalists at Indiana Dunes State Park lead winter hikes on the dunes and in the park’s wooded areas. Children are welcome and some of the hikes include fun activities like putting out food for animals or bird banding. Check out their website for a monthly calendar of events – most are free to the public.
- Taltree Arboretum in Valparaiso has a variety of hiking trails and is open seven days a week all winter. If you have snowshoes or cross country skies, call and see if there is enough snow to use their trails.
Staying active in the winter months can be a challenge, but it’s one with many rewards: family bonding, improved health, higher energy levels, better moods—it’s worth the extra effort to keep your family up and moving. If you can get started now, it will already be a healthy habit that’s easy to continue once the weather turns warm.
As Cathy Dilbeck notes, “I just want to remind parents how much our kids feed off everything we do. If the parents live a healthy lifestyle all year long the kids are sure to follow in their footsteps!” Start a healthy lifestyle today and your entire family will reap the benefits tomorrow.
As a special education teacher, Lisa Joesten worked every day with students experiencing an inability to focus, anxiety and an excess of unproductive energy. As a certified yoga instructor, Joesten knew how this ancient philosophy of obtaining mindfulness—an awareness of mind and body—helps people relax and focus.
“Before this school year began, I’d worked with adults, teaching yoga and I’d been practicing yoga since my younger child, who is now 10, was first born,” said Joesten, who works at Yost Elementary School in Porter. “It’s funny sometimes how things make sense. I’m a yoga teacher and a special education teacher, and it just kind of clicked. It just felt right.”
What felt right was taking her yoga to school. After talking to her supervisor, Joesten started working with the special needs kids in her school, teaching them the basics of yoga including breathing exercises, gentle body movements and simple poses like The Tree and Down Dog which help them learn balance and to become aware of mind, body and breath. Joesten noted that kids particularly love balance poses such as The Tree. Down Dog is popular too because she encourages them to bark while doing so.
“Yoga gives them strategies to focus,” said Joesten. “Yoga in general can bring a focus and calm, so if the kids are in class and feeling anxious, say about a test, breathing and yoga postures help them get everything flowing. I have some kids who are very active and it helps calm them and refocus all that energy.”
Now, because of the positive impact of providing these strategies to students, Joesten, who said that changes in behavior has been significant, is being tapped to teach other school professionals how to implement a mindfulness/yoga program in Region schools.
“It’s a way for children to slow down,” said Anita Bedouin who has taught yoga classes for children at the Valparaiso YWCA. “It shows them how to be quiet, be still and teaches them how to breathe to calm themselves.”
Bedouin taught two age groups, kids from 3 to 6 and 6 to 10. With the younger children she worked with them on breathing and relaxation poses, pairing those with making animals sounds like barking and meowing.
“It was fun for them,” she said. “A lot of yoga is about holding a pose for a long time. With mine you flow from pose to pose, to relax. It’s really amazing how it helps the kids, I could see a big difference between when the classes first started and at the end.”
Bedouin also has worked in a hospital setting with juveniles who have gotten in trouble.
“It was mostly boys and many of them would be very hyper at the beginning and at the end you could really see how it helped,” she said.
Not only is yoga considered one of the fastest-growing sports in America, more kids are becoming practitioners. The Yoga Room and Bookshop in Crown Point offers both weekly yoga classes for kids ages 4 to 12 but also summer and winter yoga camps.
“It’s a about growing fit physically, emotionally and mentally,” said Mike Zolfo, owner and director of The Yoga Room which this year celebrated its 20th anniversary. “Kids love it.”
Zolfo said the classes, which are taught by Jennifer Connelly, a certified yoga instructor, are designed to increase concentration, attention and focus. The kids acquire the necessary tools for managing stress and help build flexibility. He said the breathing exercises also help kids who have asthma. Parents can either join in the class or kids can attend class on their own.
Yoga isn’t a religion said Joesten. Instead it’s considered a philosophy practiced for health and relaxation with roots going back some 5,000 years. In Sanskrit, the word yoga means union—an integration of mind and body.
“Yoga gives kids a sense of well being,” said Bedouin noting that as many boys as girls attend the classes. “That’s why they like it.”
With New Year, resolutions to form new, good habits are abundant. But what about habits that aren't the best for your child to pick up?
It doesn’t take long for a child to develop a bad habit. In fact, many habits begin shortly after birth. While parents should be aware of what a bad habit looks like as it’s forming, they should also know how to help their child break the pattern before it becomes a more serious problem.
The following are three of the most common habits among kids and some suggestions for breaking them.
Thumb-sucking is one of the earliest developed habits, usually starting at infancy. Tae’Ni Chang-Stroman, MD, of Kids First Pediatrics on Rt. 30 in Dyer, recommended deterring your child from thumb-sucking from the start. “Try to have them use a pacifier instead” because pacifiers can be taken away, whereas the thumb is always there, making the habit much more difficult to break.
“If they already have the habit,” said Stroman, “don’t do anything with it until they’re five or six years old.” You can try to limit the behavior by telling your child he can only suck his thumb in his room or some other space, but according to Stroman, it’s not worth trying to stop it entirely. “Psychologically they can’t break the habit until they’re five or six,” he said. That is the age that kids begin school and will learn from their peers that thumb-sucking is socially unacceptable.
Some other tactics are to show them pictures of kids whose teeth are damaged from sucking their thumbs, or to put bitter-tasting flavors on their thumb.
This habit is notoriously a tough one to break, which is evidenced by the large number of adults who bite their nails. “Kids usually get this habit from their parents,” Stroman said. Parents of girls might be able to lure their daughters away from nail biting by offering to paint her nails if she doesn’t chew on them. “With boys it’s tough,” however, said Stroman. “They’re going to do it no matter what.”
Sometimes an infection called paronychia can develop as a result of nail biting, so that knowledge, or the occurrence of the infection itself, may keep kids from biting their nails. One parent interviewed had success by putting bitter-tasting, clear, no-shine polish on her child’s nails.
Biting or Hitting Other Kids
Unlike the above habits, biting and hitting are serious behaviors and should be nipped in the bud early. The key is to do so without making a scene.
When a kid bites you or someone else, Stroman recommends putting him in his crib, closing the door and leaving him there for one minute per age (if he’s one year old, he stays in the crib for one minute, if he’s two it’s two minutes, etc.). After the time frame is up, take him out of the crib and walk away without saying anything. (At the most, you can say, “No biting.”) Do this every time he bites or hits.
“They bite for effect,” said Stroman. “They’re mad at you so they bite you, or they want you to get mad so they bite you. They want attention.” Therefore, if you respond by biting them back (as many recommend) or yelling, they’re getting the attention they crave and will continue the habit.
Breaking a child’s habit can be difficult and exhausting. Stroman said staying calm is the key to success. “Is it worth fighting about? If not, don’t even start the fight. If it’s a habit where they harm themselves or others, you do have to stop it. But be very low-key. Don’t get overly emotional about it or you’ll lose focus. Be calm and constant. They have to choose to stop on their own.”
“What do you say?”
Every parent is familiar with this quiet prompting that they whisper to their kids after someone does something nice for them. Whether or not the child replies sincerely, parents are often left feeling embarrassed that they had to remind him or her to say it in the first place.
Kids and gratitude don’t always go together, but parents shouldn’t stress about that too much. Particularly with the younger set. “Infants and young toddlers operate under the assumption that the world revolves around them,” said Dr. Kathryn Huls, Clinical and School Psychologist at New Leaf Resources in Crown Point and Lansing. “Children younger than seven can be taught and encouraged to engage in thankful behavior, but typically are seeking to please others and avoid punishment at this stage of moral development.”
The understanding of gratitude progresses as children grow older. Huls said that between the ages of 7 and 12, children become less self-centered and are able to view situations from different perspectives, and by adolescence, they have the cognitive capability to fully grasp the concept of gratitude.
Interviews with 24 children ages 3 through 9 followed the progression Huls described. Her assessment that young children’s thankful expressions come from “the joy of a new toy or activity” was indicated when the children were asked what they are most thankful for. Answers like candy, cards, food and flowers were given by some of the kids younger than age 7, while the older kids responded with more relational things like family, friends, pets and God.
Some answers, even by the younger ones, were surprisingly profound.
“I am thankful that I have a family and am not alone,” said Lainey Schoon, age 6, who attends Highland Christian School.
Madison VanderMeer, age 9, of Dyer, said she’s most thankful for school “because many kids don’t even have a school.”
“The mommy” is what Olivia Carter, age 5, of Crown Point, appreciates most.
While they may not be quick to say the words “thank you” right away, kids do express gratitude in varying ways, Huls said. “Young children’s expressions of thankfulness are likely to vary as widely as their personalities,” she said. “Bright smiles of admiration, shrieks of joy, bear hugs or a string of ‘thank yous’ demonstrate their delight.”
By middle childhood, Huls said, children begin to show gratitude by doing something special for someone else or by reciprocating with a gift they have created.
When asked how they show their friends and family they’re grateful for them, the kids interviewed gave varying, but affectionate, responses.
“I try to be nice and if I really love them, I can snuggle them,” said Ethan Price, age 6, of Crown Point.
Nine-year-old Aubrey Porter of Schererville said she shows her friends and family her gratitude by “helping them when they get hurt.”
Isaac Netherton, age 7, of Crown Point, preferred to keep it simple. “I just play with them or ride bikes. I love them.”