Is Your Child Ready For A Sleepover?

Summertime sleepovers are a cherished rite of childhood. Those invitations may start arriving as early as kindergarten or first grade. Marni Nagel, Ph.D., a CHOC licensed pediatric psychologist, says some young children as young as ages 5 and 6 may be ready for them. Others may be more comfortable waiting until ages 7, 8, 9 or even 10 years of age.

You know your child best. “If your child has trouble sleeping through the night, is prone to nightmares, or has trouble adapting to unfamiliar situations, you may want to wait a bit,” Dr. Nagel says. “Also, you’ll want to be sure your child is capable of basic self-care skills, such as putting on pajamas, brushing the teeth and getting dressed the next morning.”

Dr. Nagel recommends trying a “pretend” sleepover in a sibling’s bedroom or in a tent set up in the backyard. See how your child handles sleeping in a different place, by seeing first how they do it within a familiar environment.

Next, transition to a family member’s house, such as Grandma’s house. It may be helpful to send along an older sibling, too.

This can be a nice transition for 5 to 7 year olds. Have your young guests come over and get into their pajamas. Then make popcorn and s’mores, and watch a movie. Do everything you would at a regular sleepover-except sleep. Have their parents pick them up by 10 p.m. It’s also great for those parents, too, because their children come home all ready for bed.

If you’re hosting, try a practice sleepover with one friend before doing an actual party with several kids. Keep a nightlight on in the bathroom, especially if you are hosting a sleepover for young children.

If it’s your child’s first slumber party at another house, ask about the schedule in advance. Find out what type of food will be served, what the activities will be, when bedtime is expected, and when your child will be picked up the next morning.

“Your child may find it comforting to know the schedule in advance. Taking along a special pillow or favorite stuffed animal and a small flashlight may also help,” Dr. Nagel says. “Of course, be ready to pick your child up if things don’t go quite as planned. There is always next time.”

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Teens, Texting and Driving

Summer is officially here – meaning summer vacation for most kids and teens! If you have a teen at home, he or she may be driving around more often than when in school. Talk openly with your kids about their cell phone use and the dangers of texting or calling while driving.

Did you know that drivers using cell phones to send text messages are six times more likely to crash than those concentrating only on driving, according to a study in the journal Human Factors? Know the Risks! For must-read tips for your teens, please click here:

Good Nutrition: As Close As Your Plate!

By: Caroline Steele, MS, RD, CSP, IBCLC, clinical nutrition and lactation services manager at CHOC Children’s

For almost 100 years, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been developing educational tools to provide nutrition information and help Americans make healthier food choices.  The original 1916 guide has been updated and reinvented over the years as our knowledge of nutrition and cultural influences have changed.  You may be most familiar with the Food Guide Pyramid which was introduced in 1992 and has served as a nutritional resource for almost 20 years.

Now the next generation food guide from the USDA is available!  MyPlate was unveiled on June 2, 2011 by First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  The intent of MyPlate is to prompt consumers to think about “building a healthy plate at meal times.”  MyPlate will make it easier to put nutrition recommendations into practice by focusing on one meal at a time.

Eating healthy can seem complicated.  There is so much nutrition information available and so many food choices that actually deciding what to put on your dinner plate can be daunting and feel time consuming.  MyPlate makes it easy.  No matter how busy you are, one quick look at your plate can show you if you are getting the variety you need to stay healthy.

Compare the foods on your plate with the MyPlate icon.  How does it compare?  Are there food groups that you should be eating more of?  Less of?  All foods fit into a healthy diet—it’s just a matter of balance.

Some hints for a healthier table:

Balance Calories
• Enjoy your food, but eat less.
• Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase
• Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
• Choose whole grains whenever possible.
• Switch to fat-free or low fat (1%) milk.
• Choose lean sources of protein such as lean meats, chicken, fish, and beans.

Foods to Reduce
• Compare labels for processed foods such as canned soups and frozen meals; choose those with lower amounts of sodium (salt).
• Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Make it fun and use MyPlate as a family!  Have kids draw the MyPlate icon then compare it to their own plates.  Getting children involved in mealtimes and food choices can help them be healthier and make better nutrition decisions as they get older.

So dig in!  Good nutrition and healthy eating are as close as your plate.

Where can I get more information?
Go to  for more information, interactive tools, and sample meals.

Visit, the website of the American Dietetic Association for information on a variety of topics including healthy weight loss, nutrition for life, and food safety.

Hyundai Cancer Institute Associate Spotlight: Jenee Areeckal, MSW

While in the midst of treatment, social workers help patients and their families through the darkest moments by showing them how strong they can truly be, and Jenee Areeckal is one such social worker.  Working with the Cancer Institute’s bone and soft tissue sarcoma, solid tumor, and histiocytosis patients, she is committed to providing patients and their caregivers the support they need during their most vulnerable times.

“It is a blessing and an honor to help our families,” Jenee said. “Each child’s strength and perseverance is both amazing and inspiring. When I am working with a patient’s loved ones, I attempt to use that child’s strength and spirit to make the family stronger.”

Jenee, a three-time cancer survivor and an amputee due to osteogenic sarcoma, knows what it is like to live through and be treated for cancer as a teen and young adult. Today she uses her story to inspire her patients and families both during and after treatment.  She is proof that life after cancer can be wonderful and fulfilling.

“I hope that by seeing me work, patients have hope that it is possible to survive and thrive after cancer,” Jenee said.
The Associates who work with the patients at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s are second to none and every Friday this month we are proud to shine a spotlight on the amazing people who make the Cancer Institute great.  All of our Associates, from our oncologists to our physical therapists to our child life specialists, are specially trained to provide our pediatric cancer patients with the support they need during and after treatment.

For more information about the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s, please click here:

Hyundai Cancer Institute Associate Spotlight: Dr. Marcos Di Pinto

The Associates who work with the patients at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s are second to none and every Friday this month we are proud to shine a spotlight on the amazing people who make the Cancer Institute great.  All of our Associates, from our oncologists to our physical therapists to our child life specialists, are specially trained to provide our pediatric cancer patients with the support they need during and after treatment.

When most people think about cancer, they often forget about psychological side effects of the disease.  The psychological issues patients and families deal with when coping with cancer can be overwhelming. The Cancer Institute has a dedicated psychology team who works closely with patients and families to help them cope with the emotional and psychological stress of cancer.

Psychologists provide an initial consultation when the patient first meets with the Cancer Institute team, and provides assessments throughout the patient’s treatment. Our psychologists possess special expertise in diagnostic testing, therapy, and counseling for common emotional problems associated with cancer.  They assess and treats such issues as depression, anxiety, phobias (to medical procedures), anger, sleep difficulties, loss and grief, and behavioral problems. Moreover, they are available for consultations with parents, schools, physicians and other healthcare providers.

Marcos Di Pinto, Ph.D., is involved with each neuro-oncology patient at the Cancer Institute right from the start.  As a neuropsychologist, he works with patients and families to help them understand how cancer impacts brain development and function.  He continues working with patients throughout their treatment and with follow-up care in the years after treatment ends.

“I have a passion for working with children with tumors of the brain and spinal cord,” Dr. Di Pinto said.  “After doing my two-year residency caring for pediatric oncology patients, I knew that I had found my calling. Working at the Cancer Institute is wonderful because I get to work with amazing patients and their families.”

Slop That Sunscreen On!

Did you know that as much as 80 percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure occurs by age 18? In recognition of Sun Safety Week, be sure to check out these useful guidelines to lessen the risk of sun damage.

    • Slop It On — Apply 30 SPF sunscreen every day. Cover all exposed skin, including hands, ears and the back of the neck. Reapply after swimming or if your child perspires excessively.
    • Keep It Cool — Schedule outdoor activities before 10 a.m. or after 2 p.m.
    • Cover Up — Outfit your children with broad brimmed hats and protective clothing that covers the arms and legs.
    • Protect Those Peepers — Choose real (not toy) sunglasses with polarized lenses for your children.
    • Babies Under 6 Months — A child is never too young for sunscreen. But it’s wise to keep babies under 6 months out of direct sunlight altogether. Their thin skin can burn after just minutes in the sun.
    • Higher SPF — While there are sunscreens made particularly for babies and toddlers, the most important thing to remember is that the higher the SPF and UVA stars, the better.

Summer is almost here – enjoy! For more sun safety information, please click here:

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