Why donate blood?

January 17, 2013

January is National Blood Donor Month, celebrating the efforts of people whose blood donations provide lifesaving support to millions of people in need. But for various reasons—including fear of needles, being too busy, thinking that they don’t have enough blood to spare or that they are too old—only about 10% of the population actually donates blood. In most states, you only need to be 17 years old to donate blood; you should also be in good health and weigh at least 100 pounds.

If you have never considered donating blood, or if you have been making excuses as to why you shouldn’t donate, stop to think about the many reasons why donating is a great idea. First, think of donating blood as a “gift of life” that a healthy individual can give to others who are injured or sick. It’s pretty neat to think that your blood donation could actually save up to three lives! That’s pretty good for just an hour of your time. It can help you feel good about yourself to know that your donation will make a positive difference in someone’s life.

When you make a blood donation, you will help ensure that blood is available when you or someone else close to you needs it. This is especially true if you have the blood type O-. The O- type is called the universal donor because this blood type can be transfused to people of all blood types. Most of us don’t think about needing blood, but it’s comforting to know that there’s a supply of it available when we or someone we love might need it. But in order for organizations like the American Red Cross to keep a blood supply on hand, people need to regularly donate blood.

And last but not least, don’t forget about everyone’s favorite part of donating blood–the free cookies and juice you get after you’re all done! After doing your part to help ensure that blood is in good supply for those who need it, you certainly deserve a sweet treat.

Interested in donating blood? Visit RedCrossBlood.org to make an appointment to give blood at one of the many donation sites across the United States.


Fun Indoor Fitness Ideas for Kids

January 8, 2013

Even if the weather isn’t currently ideal for outdoor play, children can still be active and get exercise indoors. According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease and Prevention, children and adolescents should engage in 60 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity every day. So instead of having your kids watch TV or play video games when the weather isn’t ideal for outdoor activities, suggest these indoor activities that are both fun and promote fitness.

Catch-and-Tap-a-Balloon race: After blowing up a few balloons and releasing them into the air, ask children to gently tap them in the air so they don’t touch the ground. Make it a competition of how long they can keep the balloons airborne. Just remember not to leave young children unattended with balloons, since popped balloons could pose a choking hazard.

Freeze Dance: Dancing is a fun, creative way for children to burn some calories. Have one child be the DJ by putting on some great dance music, and instruct the rest of the kids to dance up a storm. When the DJ pauses the music and says “freeze,” the dancers stop and only resume dancing when the music goes back on. So that every child has an opportunity to dance and to rest, have them take turns on being dancers and being the DJ.

Tick, Tock, Beat the Clock competition: Make a list of activities that can be done in place, such as running in place, hopping on one leg, doing sit-ups or doing jumping jacks. Using a timer or stopwatch, choose one of those activities with different intervals (easiest 2 minutes, hardest 5 minutes) and see how many moves they can make within the time sequence. The child who can do the most within that time limit is the winner. Remember to change up the order of the exercise activity to make the game more interesting and challenging.

These impromptu indoor “workouts” not only get children to build muscle and keep active, but also allow them to burn off the excess energy they may have from being cooped up in the house. This leads to calmer kids, which means less frazzled parents!

For more fun ideas on how to incorporate more exercise into your household, if you are a Health Advocate member, reach out to your Personal Health Advocate or Wellness Coach.

Tackling Bullies at School

January 2, 2013

At school, bullying can incorporate much more than just one student pushing or shoving another. Bullying actually represents a wide variety of behaviors, such as physical and verbal aggression, emotional aggression (for example, spreading rumors or gossip), sexual aggression and cyberbullying.

Bullying is the first form of violence that many children and teens experience. Youth bullying is a significant problem nationwide. According to Pacer’s National Center for Bullying Prevention, statistics show that 160,000 children in the U.S. miss school each day as a result of being bullied.

Bullying doesn’t just damage the child who’s being bullied—since being in an environment where bullying happens isn’t conducive to learning, every student in the classroom can be affected. Children learn best in environments where they feel safe, respected and are encouraged to take risks.

Health Advocate is pleased to share some tips and resources that can help you confront bullying that happens at school.

What to watch out for
What are some common signs to watch out for if you think your child or teen is being bullied? According to http://www.stompoutbullying.org, pay close attention if your child:
• Comes home with torn, damaged, or missing pieces of clothing, books, or other belongings
• Has unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches
• Has few, if any, friends with whom they spend time
• Seems afraid of going to school, walking to and from school, riding the school bus, or taking part in organized activities with peers
• Finds or makes up excuses as to why they can’t go to school
• Takes a long, out of the way route when walking to or from school
• Has lost interest in schoolwork or suddenly begins to do poorly in school
• Appears sad, moody, teary, or depressed when they come home
• Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches or other physical ailments
• Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams
• Experiences a loss of appetite
• Appears anxious and/or suffers from low self-esteem

What to do if your child is being bullied
Teachers and parents can play a critical role in creating a climate where bullying is not tolerated. Collaboration between parents, school personnel and the community is essential in stopping the bullying behavior so that children feel safe and protected. Plus, parents and teachers should talk with children about bullying, letting children know that if they feel they’re being bullied, they should speak up.

If your child is being bulled at school, report the incident even if your child doesn’t want you to get involved. Remember that as a parent, you are your child’s advocate. It’s always important to speak with your child’s teacher first and not go directly to the bully’s parents. For more information on what to do, check out Pacer’s National Center for Bullying Prevention’s helpful resource “Three Steps to Take If Your Child is Being Targeted by Bullying at School.” Go to http://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/info-facts.asp

If you are a parent of a bullied child, know the laws on bullying. Many states have laws that address bullying, but the laws tend to vary. For information on each state’s bullying and harassment laws, visit http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/index.html
If you have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) such as the Health Advocate EAP+Work/Life service through your workplace, consider speaking with a counselor who can help you find the right resources to help you and your child handle a bully. You can also check out the following online resources for more information:
http://www.stopbullying.gov– Provides information from various government agencies on what bullying is, what cyberbullying is, who is at risk and how you can prevent and respond to bullying.
www.pacerkidsagainstbullying.org – This site enables kids and teens to take a stand against bullying. It also provides a section where kids can write their stories about being bullied.
www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/bullying_tips_for_parents.page – Provides tips and resources for parents to help their children deal with bullying.

What if your child is the bully?
If you have seen or heard about instances of your child engaging in bullying, Pacer’s National Center for Bullying Prevention recommends taking the following action steps:
• Talk with your child to get a better idea of why the bullying is happening.
• Confirm that their behavior is actually bullying and not the manifestation of a disability.
• Continuously teach your child empathy, compassion and respect—bullying is a behavior that can be “unlearned.”
• Make your expectations clear. Let them know that bullying is not OK, and make sure they understand the consequences that will occur if the bullying continues.