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Sunday, July 31, 2011

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Helping our kids maintain balance amidst the dangers


the Daily Dispatch

Keeping Our Children Safe

sunDay, July 31, 2011

Church Watch teaches local congregations about recognizing the signs of gang activity BY JASON HUFF Daily Dispatch Writer

Local church officials received a history lesson in gang activity and were taught how to recognize signs of it in Vance County earlier this year. South Henderson Pentecostal Holiness Church hosted Church Watch, a Crime Stoppers initiative that focused on educating local church leaders to ensure the safety of their churches, congregations and property. “One of the things we have discovered is gangs are recruiting from elementary schools in Vance County,” Crime Stoppers President Frank Sossamon said. “We know we have a gang problem, and now we need to diagnose a way to fix it.” Sossamon was citing results from a gang assessment project, which was funded by a $25,000 crime prevention council grant and performed by the Vance County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council. Sgt. Lamont Burchette from the Henderson Police Department informed the crowded room about gangs in Vance County and throughout the United States.

Two types of gangs

“There are two types of gangs: traditional and hybrid,” Burchette said. “Traditional gangs have instilled traditions, can have over 1,000 members, can operate in several states and have a large ambition for power. Hybrid gangs

are usually smaller gangs that haven’t established many traditions and have members move from gang to gang more often.” According to Burchette, at least 21,500 gangs are active in the U.S. and have around 731,500 members combined. An overwhelming 95 percent of high school jurisdictions and 91 percent of middle school jurisdictions in the country claim some sort of gang activity. “Gangs are moving to the country from big cities because of effective policing in cities, to seek better drug markets, and due to employment and family,” Burchette said. “We have to police gangs effectively in smaller cities.” Kids are joining gangs at earlier ages than ever before, due to family members being involved in gangs or the need for protection , he said. “When a kid has nothing, a gang will show them respect and put money in their pockets,” Burchette said. “In return, the kid will be asked to commit crimes for the gang.”

Don’t assume Burchette stressed the importance of not assuming people are in a gang because they are dressed alike. “Just because you see a group of guys walking around wearing white shirts, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are a gang,” he said. “I once responded to Maria Parham Medical Center due to a call of a gang walking through the hospital. It turns out it was a school

track team visiting a teammate, all of them wearing the same colored tracksuits.” Some people attending the meeting were confused as to why the police department or sheriff’s office doesn’t crack down harder on the local gang members. “Until they actually commit a crime, they enjoy the same rights as anyone else,” Burchette said. “We learn everything we can about the gang situation in Henderson so we can stop crimes or make arrests quickly.” HPD Lt. Irvin Robinson added the importance of stopping gang activity early, and guiding children away from gangs. “One of the biggest assets we had in gang prevention were our school resource officers, because of the help they could give kids in the schools and the information they could acquire,” Robinson said. “We don’t have them anymore, and it hurts gang prevention.” Operation ID Officer Jessica West of the HPD also presented Operation ID at the event. The program encourages local individuals, churches and businesses to engrave a unique code on their valuables so if they are stolen, they can be returned easily. “When criminals start seeing these engravings on stolen merchandise, our hope is they will not be able to flip them as easily,” West said. “It is a free service that people should really take advantage of.” A unique number, such as a driver’s license number, will be engraved on the possession. Contact the writer at jhuff@

Daily Dispatch/JAsOn huFF

sgt. lamont Burchette of the henderson Police Department speaks to church leaders earlier this year about how to recognize signs of gang activity. At rear is hPD lt. Irvin Robinson who also spoke to the group. the church Watch meeting, a crime stoppers initiative, was held at south henderson Pentecostal holiness church.

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the Daily Dispatch

Keeping Our Children Safe

sunDay, July 31, 2011


Curfew is a good idea, but youth still feel ‘cooped up’ BY MARTIN FISHER Daily Dispatch Writer

The two murders in Henderson late last year sparked discussion on what should be done to stop the inner-city style violence downtown. One resident complained to The Daily Dispatch that police might be lax in thenenforcement of city curfew ordinances. Others, however, noted that those involved were older and outside the reaches of the city curfew. Henderson Police Department Sgt. Kendall Riddick confirmed ordinances limiting activities of younger teenagers is part of the department’s regular activity. “We have a youth ordinance,” Riddick said. “It’s a part of our regular patrol function.” Riddick declined to characterize the success or failure of the program or evaluate the value of placing a curfew on or limit-

ing unsupervised activities of age-16 and younger children late at night. On Friday, two leading voices close to the tragedies of last weekend responded further on curfew issues. “One thing I would point out first is the individuals causing the violence problems downtown are typically older,” said Vance County family advocate Dorothy M. Henderson. “Especially the ones who control the gangs, they are much older than teenage.” City Councilwoman Brenda G. Peace-Jenkins pointed out that all the named individuals involved in last weekend’s murders were older than the curfew ordinance’s scope of restriction: age 16 and younger. She added her involvement in the creation of curfew restrictions was just one step in the direction of protecting city youth from the culture of late-night activities

that can lead to trouble. “I was on the panel that got those curfews together,” she said. “It’s the ones who are older who seem to be causing all the problems in recent years.” Henderson sees the curfew restrictions as a sign of failure on the part of the wider community to produce a healthy, vibrant town life that is also safe for all ages to be freely involved with. “If you notice the city streets, they’re desolate at night,” she said. “In many cities, the streets are lively, and I’m not saying in dangerous ways; here, there is almost no talking or hanging out. “A lot of times I’m glad to see people out at night,” she added. “People are closed up and separated. I think the city needs to open up, our communities need to be able to become more alive.” Henderson said she has noticed police break up

groups of people. “They run them off, especially young people,” she said. Peace-Jenkins said that the police work towards curfew goals is just a small step. It is not an answer to downtown violence. Henderson said she has spoken to youth through the week, and heard of frustrations that she says are regrettably not being heard or listened to by city leaders. She said boredom is a problem: feelings of limited activity, not necessarily related to curfew, but “cooped up at home,” she said, in ways that lead to the worst group dynamics when they do spot a chance to get out. Peace-Jenkins said she understands that problem. ‘The complaint is that these young people have nothing to do,” she said, adding that part of the problem is that downtown youth and their families have no means of transportation to some of

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Henderson said personal intervention is another need for younger teens: often it’s about a listening ear. “One interesting thing I have heard from these young people is that people aren’t listening — police don’t listen to them,” she said. ‘They feel frustrated that they will say one thing to the police, and that is seems what they say gets all turned around.” The two agreed in separate remarks that intervention in younger lives is the primary long-term way to bring about safer neighborhoods, less crime, in the future. Contact the writer at mishert

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the city’s better opportunities for positive youth interaction. “We have a wonderful place, the Aycock Recreation Center, but that is too far for many inner-city youth to walk to,” she said. “Something that seeks to help with that is the REEF Project. A lot of people are involved in this, to get it going.” Peace-Jenkins explained that project leaders have a donated building, the Zene Street warehouse near Flint Hill, and efforts have been underway to fund a renovation to develop a gym, theater, cafe and activity areas. “That is a bigger part of the answer for our younger teens, beyond curfew protection — getting youth active in positive ways.”

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The Daily Dispatch

Keeping Our Children Safe

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The dreaded sit-down: talking to your kids about alcohol Metro — One of the most important discussions parents can have with their children is a discussion about alcohol. Parents are often wary of such a discussion, fearing if they come on too strongly when discussing the dangers of alcohol that their children might be too curious about alcohol to avoid it. As difficult a discussion as it can be, parents must have an open dialogue with their kids about alcohol, and the sooner the better. The Century Council, a not-forprofit organization devoted to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking, notes that 39 percent of eighth graders, 58 percent of tenth graders, and 72 percent of twelfth graders have reported trying alcohol at least once.

To parents, such figures only highlight the importance of talking to kids about the dangers of alcohol, and why it’s best to avoid alcohol until it’s legal to drink it. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism offers these tips to parents who are ready to discuss alcohol with their child. • Make it a conversation. Adults don’t like to be lectured to and neither do kids, especially teenagers. When discussing alcohol with a child, parents should make it a conversation and avoid lecturing. Kids will be more comfortable during a conversation and are more likely to open up if they are comfortable. • Talk to kids about their views on alcohol.

The aforementioned statistics indicate that kids, even those who have never tried alcohol, are likely aware of it. Ask kids what they know about alcohol and how they feel about drinking and why they think kids drink before they’re legally allowed to do so. Listen closely, and be careful not to interrupt. Doing so will help kids recognize that their parents value and respect their opinions. • Share some facts about alcohol. Misinformation reigns with respect to alcohol, and adults and children alike are often prone to believing certain myths. However, when discussing alcohol with kids, parents should share some facts to help dispel some of the more common misconceptions

about alcohol, including: — Beer and wine are just as dangerous as hard liquor. A 12-ounce beer and a 5-ounce glass of wine has the same amount of alcohol as a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. Kids might feel they will be fine if they just consume beer and not hard liquor, but beer is no less safe than liquor, especially when consumed in mass quantities. — It takes hours for a single drink to leave a person’s system. Common “remedies” like a cold shower or a cup of coffee do not force alcohol out of the body. On average, it takes 2 to 3 hours for a single drink to exit a person’s system. — Alcoholism isn’t just for adults. Kids often feel alcoholism can only develop

in adults. However, kids can develop serious alcohol problems as well, and the earlier a person starts drinking alcohol the more likely he or she is to develop such a problem. • Discuss false portrayals of alcohol consumption. Many kids start drinking alcohol because they feel it’s “cool” to do so. Parents can dispel this popular myth by pointing out the falsehoods about alcohol promoted on television, in the movies and in advertisements.When watching a movie or television show with kids where drinking is portrayed, point out certain falsehoods that are commonly portrayed. For example, explain to kids that characters in the movies or on television are often

portrayed as having a great time while drinking, when in reality alcohol often elicits feelings of sadness or anger. • Explain the longterm effects of drinking alcohol while young. Alcohol affects a young brain in different ways than it does an adult one. In an effort to explain to kids why they should wait until they are legally allowed to drink, explain that drinking while the brain is still maturing can lead to longlasting intellectual effects, which can impact how well kids are able to do in school and beyond. To learn more about talking to kids about alcohol, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at

The Daily Dispatch

Keeping Our Children Safe


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tips from the Vance Co. Parenting Task Force A child overhears a news story and asks, “What is rape ?” Uncomfortable, mom might tell her to be quiet and change the subject. Mom could say, “The man gave the lady a ‘bad’ touch.” Even young children can understand and need to know there are some places on their bodies that are okay for someone to touch, and other places that are not. Teach her that anyone who gives her a bad touch should be reported to the parent, even a relative. Source: Ann Burrows, Cooperative Extension

Abuse harms the entire community It comes as no surprise that research confirms child abuse and neglect not only have long-term impact on a child‘s life, but also on the whole community and our society. Children who experience abuse develop toxic levels of stress. While positive stress may help children grow, consistently high levels of stress become toxic to a child and actually damage the developing structure of a child ‘s brain. Exposure to toxic stress changes the way a child ‘s brain is built. The area that controls the fight-orflight survival mechanism overdevelops, while areas that control emotion, cognitive thinking and an understanding of risk and

consequence are stunted. The changes to a child ‘s brain caused by exposure to toxic stress can lead to significant behavioral changes. The overdeveloped fight or-flight center seeks calm and pleaMary Helen sure Jones through N.C. Cooperative things Extension like food, drugs and sex. The cognitive center is less prepared for academic success. The part that controls risk or consequence is not prepared to make appropriate decisions. Problems now concretely linked to child abuse and neglect include behavioral and achievement problems in school; heart, lung and liver disease; obesity and diabetes; depression, anxiety disorders, and increased suicide attempts; increased criminal behaviors, illicit drug use and alcohol abuse; and increased risky sexual behavior and unintended pregnancies. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (2005) shows that the long-term impact of child abuse and neglect is not simply an impact on the individual victim. Problems linked to child abuse and neglect tax health care, education and criminal justice systems. Child abuse affects a community’s quality of life and economic prosperity.

Protecting children North Carolina law requires all adults to report suspected child maltreatment, which includes abuse and neglect. Child abuse may be defined as a “non-accidental injury or pattern of injuries to a child inflicted by a parent, guardian, caretaker, or custodian. This may include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Neglect is any serious disregard for a child ‘s supervision, care or discipline.” Reports may be made locally to the Vance County Department of Social Services at (252) 436-0407.

Dispatch Photo/Ashley Steven Ayscue

Mock wreck a graphic teacher Earlier this year, Northern Vance High School students got an up-close look at what happens when you mix drinking and driving (or texting and driving). The mock wreck was presented to give students a visual image heading into their prom festivities Saturday. Participating in the effort were Vance County Fire Department, Vance County Rescue Squad, Vance County Emergency Operations, Bearpond Volunteer Fire Department, Vance County Sheriff s Office, Vance-Granville Community College, N.C. State Highway Patrol, NCURT, Duke Life Flight, Cokesbury Volunteer Fire Department, Drewry Volunteer Fire Department, Townsville Volunteer Fire Department and Watkins Volunteer Fire Department.

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In the wake of the unthinkable If a child confides in you that he/she has been abused: • Do not promise, “I won’t tell anyone.” • Do not push the child into giving details of the abuse or ask direct questions of the child. This could harm the investigation. • Do not betray the child’s confidence to others not directly involved with helping the child. • Do report the abuse by calling the Vance County Dept. of Social Services at (252) 4360407. By Mary Helen Jones, N.C. Cooperative Extension

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The Daily Dispatch

Keeping Our Children Safe

Safety tips for young Web surfers Metro — Parents have woranyone in the chat room. Also, ried about their children since the ensure kids never arrange to meet beginning of time. Such worry is up with anyone from chat rooms. If part of being a parent, and parents kids do make a few online friends will worry about things both large they want to meet in person, and small. always be sure to accompany them One relatively recent concern to any such meetings and insist on for parents involves the Internet. meeting their new friends’ parents Over the last 10 to 15 years, the as well. When meetings do take Internet has become established as place, they should always be in a a must-have in homes. Parents go public place, such as a library. online for a number of reasons, and • Limit time spent online. kids are now often required to use The Internet can be a valuable the Internet as part of their schoolresource, but spending too much work. But as useful and convenient time online can be just as detrias the Internet can be, it can also mental as spending too much time prove dangerous, particularly for on the couch watching television. young kids. Criminals who prey Limit the amount of time kids are on children have taken their acts allowed to spend online. The longer online, counting on kids’ innocent kids are on the computer, the more and trusting natures in order to likely they are to drift toward take advantage of children, which Web sites where their safety can can lead to emotional and/or physibe compromised. If kids only get cal harm. a set amount of time to surf the Parents have every right to Internet, they’re more likely to worry when their kids go onvisit only those sites they need to Allowing children to keep their own computer in line. However, there are ways to and not ones that can put them in their bedroom could make them more susceptible safeguard kids from some of the harm’s way. to online criminals who prey on kids. Internet’s ills. • Keep the computer in • Emphasize the protection the family room. Keeping the of personal information. Many Web family computer in the family room, should be discussed in terms of popular sites ask visitors to fill out certain forms where Mom and Dad can monitor kids’ social networking sites. Caution kids when visiting. When discussing the online usage without peering over their against sharing too much information, Internet with kids, tell them to inform an which could potentially make them shoulders, is another way to safeguard adult whenever they visit a Web site that susceptible to online predators. kids from the Internet. If kids have requests they fill out a form or questiontheir own computers, be it a desktop or • Preach caution in chat rooms. naire before continuing to the site. All laptop, in their bedrooms, then parents Kids can be especially susceptible to the Web sites must tell their visitors how might never truly know what their kids dangers of the Internet when they enter personal information is used, but kids of- chat rooms. If parents are going to allow are doing online. High schoolers might ten cannot understand the privacy policy kids to enter chat rooms or contribute be able to handle having a computer in or will immediately click the “Agree” box their bedrooms, but younger children to online message boards, go over a few below the policy. should be restricted to using the family basics with them beforehand. First and Since kids don’t have their own credit computer in an area where their Internet foremost, tell them to never share their cards, protecting personal information address, full name or phone number with habits can be easily monitored.

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VGCC student breaks down the pros and cons of Facebook Vance-Granville Community College student Lynwood Roberts II of Oxford recently made a presentation for his fellow students, as well as college faculty and staff, entitled “Saving Face on Facebook .” Roberts made the presentation as part of his participation in the N.C. Community College Student Leadership Institute. He was among just 30 students from across the state selected to participate in the 2010-2011 institute, which seeks to enhance the leadership quality of student participants and to better prepare them for professional and civic responsibilities. Roberts’s presentation was intended to educate college students on the positive and negative effects of using the popular social networking site, which boasts more than 500 million active users who spend 500 billion minutes per month on the site. Roberts, who has been a Facebook user since 2006, said that the site, which is popular worldwide, makes it easy for any person or group to create a page and post large amounts of information online. Facebook is particularly popular with younger people. “Some teenagers are now calling it ‘Fakebook’ because many people are using it to present a less than honest image of themselves,” Roberts reported. He listed Facebook ‘s positive effects for students, including that “it helps groups of students to communicate information and stay connected, there are several ‘apps’ geared toward helping students, and students and graduates can learn to use it to promote their own businesses.” On the negative side, Facebook can lead to a lack of privacy. “Students need to be wary of posting personal details that you don’t want your future employers to read, and you can find yourself being associated with others who are doing something embarrassing,” Roberts said. Also, Facebook use is becoming addictive for many people, and may promote weak virtual long-distance relationships over face-to-face interaction. As for safety, Roberts said the best advice — obvious though it may seem to some — is: “You need to know a person well in the real world before making them your ‘friend’ on Facebook .” 451 Ruin Creek Road - Suite 101 Henderson, NC 27536 Phone 252-492-9565 1417 College Street Oxford, NC 27565 Phone 919-693-PEDS (7337) 317 Central Avenue Butner, NC 27509 Phone 919-528-PEDS (7337) Excellence in Pediatric Care

The Daily Dispatch

Keeping Our Children Safe

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Taking a stand against to the Cyber bullies of the world ARA — The days of the schoolyard bully who set out to take your lunch money or shove you in a locker seem like a dream to the children of today. Today’s kids face bullies who utilize technology to take schoolyard antagonism to a whole new and oftentimes dangerous level. Cyber bullying is the use of technology and information by a minor to torment, threaten, harass, embarrass and otherwise humiliate another child. The Internet, social networking sites, cell phones and other digital and interactive technologies are used to take the bully’s message to a greater audience than ever before, giving them more power to leave their

victims humiliated on a global scale. “It is much easier to bully online than in person,” says Dr. Mirjam Quinn, assistant professor of clinical psychology at Argosy University, Chicago. “It is easier to reach a large audience online, there is less, if any, adult supervision governing online behavior and the Internet provides a — sometimes false — sense of anonymity that may lead individuals to behave more aggressively than they would in real life. It is also easier to dehumanize a victim online, since the bully doesn’t see, thus can ignore, the victim’s immediate emotional reaction,” Quinn explained

“Victims who experience cyber bullying reveal that they were afraid or embarrassed to go to school. In addition, research has revealed a link between cyber bullying and low self-esteem, family problems, academic problems, school violence and delinquent behavior,” says Eric Kurt, academic director of the Web Design & Interactive Media program at The Art Institute of Indianapolis. ”Cyber-bullied youth also report having suicidal thoughts, and there have been a number of examples in the United States where youth who were victimized ended up taking their own lives,” says Kurt. How do your protect

your kids? Set appropriate boundaries and monitor their activity. “The Internet really isn’t as anonymous as it seems — it is very much real life,” says Quinn. “Your parenting rules in real life can and should very much inform the decisions you make about parenting rules regarding cell phone and Internet use.” “It is important that you have access to the technology your child uses the most,” says Kurt. If your child has a cell phone, you should communicate that you can and will monitor the text messages that are received and sent. “It’s not a matter of privacy invasion, but of being a parent active in the life of your child,” says Kurt.

“Parents should look at and set privacy settings on the sites their children are using. They should also have a list of user accounts that a child has created on the Web, along with the passwords,” says Kurt. Both Kurt and Quinn encourage parents to talk to their kids about appropriate behavior online. Teach them to never post something on the Internet or send a text message that they wouldn’t say to a parent or family member. “Once you send a message or an image out into the world via the Internet or text message, you have no control over where it goes and who will receive it,” says Kurt. “Assume that anything

posted can, and often will, be made public. If you don’t post anything disrespectful, irresponsible or vulgar, then you don’t have to worry about who is viewing it.” “If bullying ever crosses the line into intimidation or sexual harassment, or affects your child’s ability to feel safe when she is around the bully, then the other child’s parents, the school, community leaders and (depending on the severity of the situation) the police should be contacted immediately. Your child may initially become angry with you for ‘overreacting,’ but you are doing the right thing by showing him that you will take care of him and keep him safe no matter what,” says Quinn.

So, when do I start letting my child ...? Metro — Kevin McCallister is the protagonist of the iconic ‘90s movie, “Home Alone.” Kevin — age 8 — is mistakenly left at home during the Christmas season after his family flies to France to celebrate the holiday. Kevin must defend his home against bumbling burglars and generally fend for himself. The premise of “Home Alone” is a humorous one,

and Kevin is certainly smart and self-sufficient for his age. Yet in real life, the idea of letting an 8-year-old stay home by himself is one that would raise a few eyebrows. In fact, many states have laws in place that regulate the age at which a child is legally able to stay home alone. ... stay home alone? Age limits vary according to area and can be verified by

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the Daily Dispatch

Keeping Our Children Safe

sunDay, July 31, 2011

Back-to-school phobias are common for children of all ages BY GINA DEMENT Five county Mental health authority

Most children experience some nervousness at the beginning of a new school year. New teachers, new classes and a whole new routine can leave even the most eventempered child frazzled and exhausted in the first few weeks. Usually, children settle into a routine and quickly work through their early jitters. For some children, however, normal anxiety gives way to more serious fears. Phobias are common in children. In fact, the majority of specific phobias appear by the time the sufferer is seven years old. Children may not share their fears, so it often


child to use appliances unattended. ... shower or bathe alone? This is really a case of personal preference. The American Academy of Pediatrics Policy states that children under the age of 4 should not be left alone around or in water due to the risk of drowning. Parents can gauge whether a 5- or 6-year-old child is mature

falls to parents to monitor their kids. Here are some things to look for in children of various ages: • Common phobias in elementary school-aged children include fears of thunderstorms, animals and the dark. School-related phobias may also develop, such as a fear of bigger kids or a fear of a teacher who is perceived as “mean.” Children of this age often demonstrate their anxiety by regressing. They may become clingy, refuse to go into the classroom without a parent, and cry or throw tantrums. They may also freeze or run when confronted with the feared situation. Physical complaints such as stomach aches are also common, and

usually follow a pattern. • Middle school is a time of immense pressure for many kids, as they struggle to establish their identities, forge more adult friendships and begin to plan for their futures. The most common phobias in this age group tend to focus on school-related topics. “School phobia” is a general term that applies to any fears that make the child reluctant to go to school. School phobia is thought to be related to separation anxiety, but may also stem from bullying or humiliation, or a simple reaction to new pressures. Many kids of this age react to their fears through defiance. They may become argumentative or withdrawn, develop friendships with

troublemakers, skip school or even turn to alcohol or drugs. Some children regress instead, becoming clingy and overly dependent on the parent. • High school is a whirlwind time of changes and pressures. Kids of this age are torn between wanting to become adults and wanting to extend their childhoods. They worry about their grades, wonder if they will get into good colleges and struggle to develop adult relationships with their friends and dating partners. Teens generally display many of the same phobia symptoms as adults. They may refuse to participate in certain activities. They may shake, sweat or show signs

of illness before or during a confrontation with the feared activity.They may also turn to alcohol or drugs as an escape. They may spend a great deal of time alone, and may gradually develop depression or other disorders. Although some phobias spontaneously go away without treatment, others will gradually worsen until treatment is obtained. However, it can be difficult for parents to know how to help, especially if the child is reluctant to discuss the situation. If you notice a change in your child’s behavior, talk to him or her about your concerns. Keep your tone light and friendly, as kids are extremely perceptive to the moods of others. Ask him

directly about his fears, but avoid making accusations. Fears are extremely common in children, and most kids outgrow them within a few months. Therefore, phobias are usually not diagnosed until the child has had the fear for at least six months. Nonetheless, you know your child best. If the fear is overwhelming or has begun to take over the child’s life, speak with your family doctor. The doctor will rule out physical causes and, if appropriate, refer your child to a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment.

enough to shower or bathe on his or her own, since at this time some children experience embarrassment or issues of privacy as they become more aware of their unclothed bodies. Even if the decision is made to allow unsupervised bathing, parents can regularly check in on the child to ensure that he or she is alright. Leaving the door open or encouraging the child to sing a song so that a parent can hear him or her is another option. ... take a shower instead of a bath? Again, this is an issue of preference for both

the parent and the child. Some kids take to showering like a duck to water. Others are insecure in the shower and prefer bathing. If a 5- or 6-year-old child is capable of washing his or her body and rinsing shampoo from his or her hair, parents can allow them to shower alone and see how things go. Install a nonskid bath mat to help prevent falls. In addition, limit the shower time to 5 or 10 minutes to lessen the chance for hijinks. ... stay alone overnight? Although a teenager may be able to stay alone overnight

by age 15 or 16, this decision is entirely subject, and child’s maturity level should carry significant weight in the decision-making process. It is also important for parents to realize that laws regarding partying that involve underage drinking often place the responsibility on parents — some of whom have served jailed time as a result of teens getting out of hand. Parents should think about whether the child is the one who wants to stay home alone overnight or if it’s the parents’ wish to go away sans kids. If the child doesn’t

feel comfortable no matter the age, he or she shouldn’t be left alone until they feel comfortable alone. ... babysit another person? There are no rules governing the acceptable age at which a child can watch another child. The University of Michigan Health System offers guidelines that no child under the age of 12 should be allowed to babysit. Usually by age 14 a child is mature enough to watch a sibling for a little while. Unless the sitter is well known and comes recommended by others, parents may want to insist their

babysitters are at least 14 or 15. Leery parents can share childcare duties with other friends who have kids. There is no guidebook for parenting, and many times caregivers must use their own judgement when deciding whether a child is physically and emotionally ready to do many of the things adults take for granted. While there are laws governing when a person can drive or drink alcohol, there are no such guidelines for many other important milestones. Parents often have to use their own discretion.

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The Children are always ours, every single one of Them. By James Baldwin

If your child is in crisis, contact the Five County Mental Health Authority call center at 1 (877) 619-3761.

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Daily Dispatch: Special Section: Protecting Our Children - July 31, 2011