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|Tuesday, August 24, 2010
|by William Stratbucker, MD at 08:31 PM
Robin Fisher is a physical therapist and a board certified clinical specialist at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. she is this week's guest blogger.
Now that it's back-to-school time, I want you to take a moment and think about your child's backpack. Not the style or features, but how he or she carries it and how much weight your child totes. A safe backpack weight is considered 10 to 15 percent of a child's total body weight. So, if your child weighs 75 pounds, his or her backpack (and its contents) should weigh no more than 8 to 11 pounds.
However, according to a 2009 study conducted by the American Physical Therapy Association, as many as 55 percent of children in the U.S. carry backpack loads that exceed the maximum safe backpack weight. Doing so is especially dangerous to children with young, growing muscles and joints, since carrying too heavy a load can cause injury.
I often see children with neck, back or shoulder pain in my role as a physical therapist. Backpacks can sometimes be a contributing factor, especially since children wear them daily, and if worn improperly or if they carry too much weight, it can lead to postural misalignment which leads to pain.
In addition to determining the proper weight for your child, here are some tips that will help ensure your child's backpack is safe and comfortable:
Choosing a backpack:
- Purchase a backpack with padded, wide straps. This allows your child to carry the load on more of his or her body.
- Choose a backpack with a padded back. A padded back can reduce pressure on your child's back and prevent the pack's contents from digging into his or her back.
- Buy a backpack with a waist belt. It will help distribute some of the load to the pelvis.
- If you are considering a model with wheels, take care. These styles often do not fit in lockers, cannot go through snow and still need to be lifted if there are stairs or curbs to maneuver.
- Make sure the backpack fits close to your child's body. Having a backpack that doesn't fit properly causes increased stress on the body. Ultimately, this will make the backpack seem like it weighs more than it actually does.
- Akways make sure any backpack you choose has reflective material so your child is visible to drivers at night.
Loading a backpack:
- Weigh your child's backpack before the first day of school. Be sure to weigh it again periodically, especially as the contents may change or increase during the school year.
- Load the heaviest items in closest to your child's body. They will be easier to carry that way.
- Make sure the weight is evenly distributed throughout the backpack. Uneven distribution can also causes stresses on your back, neck and shoulders. Strive for balance.
Wearing a backpack:
- Always wear both straps when wearing a backpack. Wearing one strap or carrying a backpack in one hand can cause uneven stresses on the body which can lead to bad postureand back, neck and shoulder pain.
- Use compression straps on the sides or bottom of the backpack. When tightened, these straps compress the contents of the backpack and stabilize the items inside.
- Use proper body mechanics when lifting a backpack to put on. Your child should bend down facing the backpack, lift it with his or her legs, and keep the pack close to his or her body, then put it on. Bending over can cause undue stress on your child's back.
A note on messenger bags: If your child wants to carry a one-strap, messenger-type bag, follow the same weight recommendations as with a backpack. Also, be sure that the shoulder strap goes across your child's body instead of it hanging down from one shoulder. Also with one-strap bags, tell your child to regularly alternate which shoulder he or she is wearing the strap on.
If your child is experiencing back, neck or shoulder pain, consult your physician or a physical therapist. Warning signs that your child's backpack could be causing injury include: pain when wearing the backpack; tingling or numbness in the arms; and red marks on the shoulders.
- Robin Fisher, PT, PCS, C/NDT
|Thursday, August 12, 2010
|Helping a Child Deal with the Death of a Loved One
|by William Stratbucker, MD at 12:49 PM
Nancy Kingma, MA, BSN, RN, LLP, LPC, NCC is a bereavement services coordinator at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital and director of Camp Compass. She is our guest blogger this week.
That is why I always advise parents and adults to tell children the truth about death in a gentle, simple manner that is appropriate for that child's age. Once the child has had time to process the news, the parent or adult should be available to answer as many questions as the child has-this will help build trust and allows the child to grieve.
Here are other ways you can assist a child who is dealing with the death of a loved one:
- Use the words "death" and "die." Words such as "passed," "lost," or "passed away" may be used in an attempt to soften the harshness of death. These words are confusing, especially to a small child who may reply, "If he is lost, let's go find him."
- Let the child know that feelings are okay. There are no "right" or "wrong" feelings when it comes to grief. Parents and adults can help a child to identify his or her feelings, then provide constructive ways of dealing with them. For instance, some suggestions for working through anger could be playing a game of soccer or hitting a punching bag.
- Share your feelings with the child. Just as we may feel the need to protect our children, they may also feel a responsibility to protect parents and adults. By sharing your feelings, you can both better cope with the grief.
- Assist the child in finding his or her own meaningful way of saying good bye. This could be writing a letter or putting something special into the loved one's casket.
Our region is fortunate to have another resource for parents or caregivers helping children cope with death of a loved one. The resource is Camp Compass, a one-day camp for children who have experienced the death of someone significant in their life.
The annual camp is scheduled for September 25, 2010. Each year dozens of volunteers including nurses, child life specialists, social workers, therapists, physicians and teachers join together to volunteer their time to work with grieving children. The primary goal of Camp Compass is for campers, ages 5 to 15, to have fun while grieving in a safe environment. In addition to group discussions, participants benefit from a number of activities, many of which teach coping skills, such as making memory quilts or boxes and playing games.
On the morning of Camp Compass there is a two hour parents' support session conducted by a therapist or social worker. The session gives parents an opportunity to gain an understanding of grieving children and are given tools and resources to help support their children.
I'd like to share just a few sections of a letter I received from a mother whose child attended Camp Compass. I think it will give you an even better feel for how valuable the program can be:
I can't say enough to thank all of you for the amazing experience my daughter had last Saturday with all of you....She kept repeating things like: "Mom, it was SO much fun...Mom, isn't it cool that I got to pick out my own stuffed animal?!...Mom, we even got to....we talked about..." etc....In fact, I am not exaggerating when I tell you she said "Outside of Disney World, this was the most fun camp, Mom!!...I know she felt her grief was understood, "normalized" and that, for once, there were other kids like her!! Tonight she sleeps with her garden pot nightlight, made that day, and her new "teddy" chosen from many stuffed critters that greeted the children upon their arrival at camp. I am forever grateful and have already recommended next year's camp to another mom for her children who recently lost their father in a tragic car accident....
Click here if you would to register for this year's camp or learn more.
- Nancy Kingma