Getting Your Children to Volunteer

Childwise logoKathleen GansterChildwise: A column for parents of children from birth to 21

By Kathleen Ganster

We all want compassionate children and a good way to get them thinking about others is to have them volunteer at a non-profit or organization in your area.

But how do you choose where and when they should volunteer? How many hours provide a meaningful experience? How do you entice a child to want as opposed to make them give to others?

Linda Robins, Volunteer Coordinator for North Hills Community Outreach shared some tips and ideas for helping to not only find a volunteering experience for your child, but one that means something to him.

“I always tell people to check out the organization first. You don’t want to call a place and say you want to volunteer without really knowing what they do,” she said.

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The Case Against Claus

Kathleen GansterChildwise logoChildwise: A column for parents of children from birth to 21

By Kathleen Ganster

Santa Claus, that big, old jolly elf that everyone loves and believes in. Well, maybe not everyone.

I decided before I had children that I was not going to “do Santa” with my kids. It was one of the few before-children decisions that I actually stuck to.

“Back in the day,” I had read an article written by a child psychologist that gave what I refer to as “the case against Claus.”  That was too many years ago for me to be able to state my source, but in a nutshell the author said when we follow the Santa Myth, you are essentially lying to your children and that they may have unrealistic expectations on what they will receive for the holiday.

A child in an apartment in New York City is never going to get a horse as a house pet, no matter how well he behaves, she stated.
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Childwise: How Do You Choose a Family-Friendly and Safe Holiday Vacation?

Childwise logoKathleen GansterBy Kathleen Ganster

Families often travel to visit other family members or to take their own holiday vacations over the school breaks.

When my husband and I stayed at a hotel this summer that he had selected due to their affiliation with a major hotel brand, it was a nightmare. It was something out of a bad movie, but even worse than our awful predicament – there were just the two of us and no other available rooms in town, he had checked – there were families staying at this place. I was horrified thinking young children were staying in this filthy place.

So I asked two of my friends who are also experts in the travel industry – how do you chose a hotel that is clean and safe? And what are other family friendly travel tips?

Patti Jo Lambert, public relations specialist for the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, but perhaps more importantly, is the mom of three boys, 6 to 14. Like most families, vacations are a special time for the Lamberts.

“We have a very busy schedule so getting away together on vacation is really important to me.  I want my boys to always remember the unusual experiences and fun we had together while they were growing up,” Lambert said.
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Childwise: Can Sports Be Safe?

Kathleen GansterBy KatChildwise logohleen Ganster

You can’t turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper or magazine without reading something about the dangers of concussions in sports.  As the mother of a son who broke his back playing football, I know there are other dangers of sports as well.

But sports have many rewards for children and can be safe.

Diana L. Malone, Ph.D., is the Training and Consultation Coordinator for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and point of contact for the Supporting Student Athletes website . Dr. Malone works with educators, coaches, parents, and student athletes on sports-related injury issues including concussion management, sudden cardiac arrest and heat-related illnesses.

The first aspect is to choose a sport that your child will enjoy and one that is appropriate for your child.

“Parents should take into consideration physical size, physical ability and where the child’s sports interests fall,” she said.

Once a sport is selected, parents should know the rules and regulations that organization or school follows.
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Grandparenting – Drawing That Fine Line Between Love and Interference

Kathleen GansterChildwise: A column for parents of children from birth to 21

By Kathleen Ganster

The thoughts of grandparenting are usually of love, cookies, fishing and joy. But that isn’t how it always turns out.

The role of a grandparent can be tough. The grandparents may want to spend more – or less – time with their grandchildren than parents allow. And they may want to buy more things, give more advice or do more for their grandchildren than the parents want.

It can all be a delicate balancing act between loving enough and interfering with parenting.Childwise logo

And like everything else, open communication may help solve a lot of issues before they even begin.
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Balancing Activities and Academics

Kathleen GansterChildwise logoChildwise: A column for parents of children from birth to 21

By Kathleen Ganster

And so it begins…the first day of school, band practice, football practice, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, play practice, SAT prep classes, volunteer work at the local senior citizen center, student council meetings and a part-time job. And did we mention homework for all those AP classes?

When is participation in activities coupled with academics enough and when it is too much?

Just as parents may struggle with life-work balance, high school students may struggle with an academic-activities balance, said Dr. Jered Kolbert, program director of counselor education and associate professor at Duquesne University.
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Childwise: Traveling With Teens

Childwise logoBy Kathleen Ganster

Before you know it, your teens will be out of the house, living on their own or at the very least, so busy with jobs and social lives that they wouldn’t want or be able to take a vacation with you.

That said, traveling with teens can be both a joy and a nightmare. As the well-worn veteran of many travel trips, I know from first-hand experience that traveling with teens has a lot of advantages – and some disadvantages.  And like most travel, planning in advance always minimizes stress.
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When Should You Get a Pet for Your Child?

Kathleen GansterChildwise logoChildwise: A column for parents of children from birth to 21

By Kathleen Ganster

What child hasn’t begged his parents for a dog?

One of my favorite stories is that of a friend of mine who told of pleading with his parents for a dog. His father wisely told Rick that the novelty would wear off and he wasn’t about to walk Rick’s dog. Finally, the dad relented, Rick got his dog and quickly, the novelty wore off. When he would whine about taking care of the dog, his dad would reply, “Excuses don’t walk the dog.”

How can you avoid excuses? When do you know if your child is ready for a pet?

Childwise went to Gilda Arroyo, Humane and Environmental Educator for the Animal Rescue Shelter and Wildlife Center ( for advice for parents.

“I look at the maturity level of the child, not the age. What level of responsibility is the child ready for?” she said.
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Allegheny County Offers Swimming Pool Safety Tips

Swimming Safety Tips

Photo Credit: quinet via Compfight cc

The Allegheny County Health Department and the Department of Emergency Services are offering advice for all residents on how to stay safe and avoid danger while enjoying swimming pools this summer.

The Health Department’s Child Death Review Team examined nine local pool-related child drownings between 2000 and 2012 and found that, in several cases, children drowned despite knowing how to swim. They either did not have proper adult supervision or there was no barrier, such as a fence, between themselves and the water. In addition to the child deaths, at least five adults have drowned in swimming pools since 2000.

Most drownings involving children and adults, as well as general pool-related injuries and infections, can be prevented by taking the following precautions while enjoying residential or public swimming pools:
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Eating Disorders

Childwise: A Column for Parents of Children from Birth to 21

By Kathleen Ganster

It isn’t uncommon for children as young as first grade to start worrying about their weight in this day and age. More young people than ever before, especially young women are fighting eating disorders.

What do you, as a parent, look for in your daughter (please note, young men can suffer from an eating disorder, but far more young women are affected with this condition) that may be a sign that she has an eating disorder?

And what do you do if she does have one?

Childwise asked Joan Schenker, parent education coordinator at Anchorpoint Counseling Ministry, former elementary and middle school counselor, and creator of the workshop,  “Selling Kids Out: Body Image & the Media,” for tips and advice.
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Allowing Your Toddler to Explore While Keeping Him Safe

Kathleen GansterCChildwise logohildwise: A column for parents of children from birth to 21

By Kathleen Ganster

Every toddler needs to explore and declare his independence, but it can cause some nervous moments for parents.

Sharna Olfman, Ph.D., professor at Point Park University, clinician, and book editor of the Childhood In America Book series (Praeger Press) gave Childwise some useful advice for parents of toddlers.

The key, she said, it to understand the developmental stage of your child.

“Toddlers are discovering selfhood. They are learning that they have their own thoughts and that these thoughts could be different from their parents,” she said.

Allowing them to explore this selfhood and their new found autonomy while being safe is the challenge.

“If you allow them to exercise age-appropriate autonomy, it can make it less tempting for them to do it in a frustrating manner,” said Olfman.
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Keeping Your Teens Safe During Prom and Graduation Season

Kathleen GansterCChildwise logohildwise: A column for parents of children from birth to 21

By Kathleen Ganster

Every parent of teens has to pause for at least a moment when their children go to the prom and/or graduation night with its ensuing parties.

In light of the recent Steubenville rapes, it will cause even more concern this year when our young men and women head out the door in their finery and graduations gowns.

For suggestions and tips on keeping your teen children safe, I talked with Deborah Gilboa, MD and known as “Doctor G.” A family physician, international speaker, author and mother of four, Doctor G is also the host of WQED TV “iQ: martparent!” .

“Talk to your child. Ask him or her what their concerns are,” she said, “Use your children to educate you, then take your cues from them.”

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Childwise: Fire Safety

Childwise logoKathleen GansterChildwise is a medical advice column for parents of children ages birth to 21. 

By Kathleen Ganster

It seems every time we turn on the news, there is a fire to report, sadly often with fatalities. Keeping your children safe from fire – and preventing a fire – is important to every parent.

To provide some helpful fire safety tips I talked with Chris Vitale, Manger of Injury Prevention, at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Taking some simple measures goes a long way in fire prevention and safety, according to Vitale.

“It is important to realize that children are curious about fire. It is better to explain it to them about how dangerous it is and to prevent any opportunity they have to accidentally cause a fire,” she explained.

Vitale said that for children under 5, the most common burns are scalds.

“We tell parents don’t bath your children in the sink. They can reach over and turn on the hot water before you know it,” she said. And parents of infants should never carry something hot while carrying the child.

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Childwise: Down Hill, Down the Slopes – Keeping Your Children Safe

Kathleen GansterChildwise is a medical advice column for parents of children ages birth to 21. 

By Kathleen Ganster

It is winter in Western Pa. which usually means snow and what child doesn’t want to sled ride? Others will want to head to the slopes with their parents for skiing and snow boarding.

As fun as those outdoor, winter sports are, it is imperative to take safety measures because those same sports can also be very dangerous.

Childwise logo

Dr. S. Joshua Szabo is an orthopedic surgeon with Tri Rivers Surgical Associates and a physician for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and gave us some advice for keeping children safe this winter.

The first thing to keep in mind with children is to remember, no matter what their skill set, they are still children, said Dr. Szabo.


“They don’t have the attention span and focus of adults. And when they are done, they are done,” he said.

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Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Announces 2013 Winter-Spring Community Education Calendar


Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC is offering winter and spring classes for children and adults at several locations throughout the greater Pittsburgh area through the Community Education Program. Registration for classes is required and scholarships are available. For more information or to register, please visit or call 412-692-7105.

Alone at Home – $10 per family

Children ages 10 and up with their parent(s). Discuss physical and emotional readiness, appropriate behaviors and creation of a family safety plan for children home alone.

  • UPMC East, Monroeville, Tuesday, March 5, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • Pine Center, Wexford, Wednesday, March 6, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • UPMC South, Bethel Park, Wednesday, March 13, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • Pine Center, Wexford, Wednesday, May 1, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • UPMC East, Monroeville, Wednesday, May 8, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • UPMC South, Bethel Park, Wednesday, May 15, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • UPMC South, Bethel Park, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • Pine Center, Wexford, Thursday, Aug. 8, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • UPMC East, Monroeville, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 7-8:30 p.m.

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