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Health Information Blog : Double Duty
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I'm a pediatrician by training with an undergrad degree in journalism. I spend my days teaching and mentoring future pediatricians. My wife and I spend our evenings and weekends keeping up with very active twins. This blog will chronicle my thoughts on current children's health care issues and trends, trials and tribulations as a parent and husband mixed in with a lot of life experience.


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photo William Stratbucker, MD
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Teaching Children to Give
by William Stratbucker, MD at 02:10 PM

The holidays are here and even if you are not particularly "into" the season, you will most likely be around those who are. It is often said that this season is about the children. It is a season of giving and we at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital hope that your family finds loved ones healthy and if not, that they are well cared for.


We've reminded you through Twitter and Facebook to be on the look out for common safety hazards which can take the joy out of this time of year. We've covered how to keep young children active during time off from school, including the kid-favorite - the snow day.


Most have done their shopping that they needed to do or were able to do by now. Many families in our area have had to cut back on the giving. This is an important time to teach children that not every year is the same for a family. Many parents have had to explain why their children will not be receiving as much this year. During a season that should be focused more on giving, this seems to be the perfect chance to steer your child's attention from what might be on their "list."


Our family participated in the Santa Claus Girls package delivery on Saturday. Both of our kids made personal deliveries to the front doors of very grateful families. It was a good experience for all of us. While taking phone donations at the STAR 105.7 "Think Outside Yourself" Radiothon on Thursday last week, a mother called. She said her three children, ages 10, 7 and 5, decided to allow her to forgo purchasing one gift each for them so that they could donate the collective $25 to Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. That night, I presented this idea to my children. My son said, "Can the present that I don't get be clothes?" He is five and it's a start.


Many of you have thought of very creative ways to invite your children to give this time of year and year around. I'd like to hear from you. How do you teach your children to give?


Happy holidays on behalf of everyone at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Family Pets
by William Stratbucker, MD at 07:23 AM

My first blogged piece of advice could be to not have a family pet. That will, however, not be my advice as there are countless scientific studies suggesting many health benefits come with pet ownership.


Children can learn aspects of responsibility and parents can learn how long it takes for the children to shirk that responsibility. If you wanted to avoid the breeds of dogs that, according to national statistics, are more likely to bite a child, you would avoid the Rottweiler, Pit Bull and German Shepherd breed. Dog ownership has been reported to lower the chance of children developing asthma if exposed to the pets early in life. There is some risk of allergies when owning any pet and reptiles can carry some communicable disease. Pregnant women should not change cat litter boxes due to the risk of toxoplasmosis. So, there are some things to consider. If you are considering a pet and wondering what kind to get, here's an article to read as you research the decision.


As a pet-owning family, you take a risk. You sign up to, more than likely, deal with the loss of a family pet and for a child, or anyone bonded to Fido, it can be a tragic occurrence. Our family recently experienced the loss of a pet when our turtle Patrick died.


Our daughter had learned in a book that turtles can live to be 100. I knew anything short of that for Patrick was going to be hard to explain. Trying to be a good dad and knowing the significance of this event, I made a plan. My wife and I called our two 5-year-olds to the dining room table.


My wife said "we need to tell you something serious."


They came.


I said, "I went to check on Patrick. He must have gotten sick. He died."


My son's eyes got huge and I noticed because it took my daughter a few seconds to realize what I had just said. We explained we could bury him. We talked about turtle heaven. We shared some of the memorable times with Patrick. They asked a couple questions and then my daughter, unexplainably, started laughing.


She talked, laughed and asked questions about whether she could play with Patrick outside. She was clearly in denial. Our son seemingly skipped this stage of grieving.


They asked to say goodbye and I showed them Patrick who was now in a small cardboard box suitable for a turtle coffin. We talked some more and then it hit her. She exploded with tears and cried and wept the rest of the evening.


She wrote a note for Patrick and taped it to his box. We made plans to bury him after their dentist appointment the next day.


Just before bed, our daughter said, still weepy, "Patrick didn't get to live to 100, when I get to heaven, I'm going to visit Patrick."


A few minutes later she said, "Can we get a dog?"


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