Monthly Archives: July 2013

Teaching your children and teens financial responsibility

Shhhh.  Don’t tell your kids, but it’s almost time for school!  Just starting school is costly, with all the supplies and book fees, sports, extracurricular activities, field trips, etc.  The school year requires planning, budgeting, and financial decisions.  Those are skills you’ve acquired over a lifetime.

But what about your child?  Does she need to start learning those skills, too?  Do you want him to grow up able to manage money and work?  Where to start?

The good news is that it’s never too late to begin teaching the importance of financial responsibility.

  • Start with chores.  These should be age-appropriate and reasonable.  Even a toddler can help put toys away, and they love to “help” by pretending with their toy vacuum cleaner or child-sized leaf rake.  Elementary aged children can set the table for meals and put their dirty dishes in the sink, make their beds and collect trash.  Teens can contribute with yard work and house cleaning.
  • Build a sense of accomplishment.  Lavish praise for a job well done.  Post of checklist of chores in a prominent place, and check them off when done.  Allow your child some choices:  “Would you rather set the table or clear it after we eat?”
  • Tie chores to allowance.  Make expectations clear up front.  Keep the allowance reasonable as it relates to family finances.
  • Set some rules about handling money.  Determine percentages for saving, giving to charity, and spending.  Discuss the benefits of long-term saving.
  • When your teen nears driving age, talk together about the privilege (and cost) of using the family car, and decide well in advance what costs the teen will assume.  Be clear about how one earns—and loses—the privilege of driving.
  • Teach your teens the value of work by encouraging them to get a job, but make sure that job doesn’t interfere with school.
  • Help your child open a bank account.  When in elementary school children can start savings accounts, and when teens start a job they can open a checking account.

With your help, your children can grow up financially healthy, with good attitudes about spending and saving.

Artwork by Molly

Artwork by Molly


© 2013, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

The truth about poison ivy

There’s that little bumpy rash, trying to keep from scratching, pink lotions…  Just reading the description makes you start to itch.

More time out of doors in the summer leads to more exposure to lots of things, including poison ivy.  But there are lots of myths about how it’s spread and how to treat it.

True:  The rash results from exposure to a poison ivy plant.  All poison ivy is three-leaved, but it doesn’t all look the same.  Sometimes the leaves have a reddish tint; sometimes the plant is all green.  It can grow low to the ground or vining up a tree.  Leaves can be quite small or 8 to 10 inches across.  The rule often quoted is:  “Leaves of three, let it be.”  Good advice.

True:  It’s the oil of the plant that causes the rash.  So, it’s possible to get a rash even if you were wearing long pants through a poison ivy patch, by touching the clothing later.  Some people have contracted poison ivy when burning brush, as they inhaled the smoke.

False:  You can get a poison ivy rash by touching someone else’s rash, especially if it is oozing fluid.  This is only true if there is still oil from the plant remaining on the rash—an unlikely scenario.  You can, however, get the oil from the fur of a pet that has been out of doors.  And if you have the oil on your hands, any skin that you touch can develop a rash.

False:  Some people are immune to poison ivy.  While it’s true that everyone’s susceptibility level is different, exposure to enough of the plant oil can cause anyone to break out in a rash.

According to an article by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), if you believe your child has been exposed to poison ivy, wash the affected area as soon as possible with soap and water for several minutes, and wash the clothing immediately.  Use calamine lotion 3 or 4 times per day to reduce itching, and/or 1% hydrocortisone cream to decrease swelling.  Call your pediatrician if the rash covers a very large area or doesn’t respond to treatments, if there’s a severe rash on the face, a fever or any other indication of infection, or a new outbreak.

The best treatment of all is to avoid contact with the plant in the first place, so teach your child what it looks like.

Shelby, age 5

Shelby, age 5

© 2013 MBS Writing Services.  All rights reserved.

HPV vaccine: the who, what, when, and why

You’ve heard of HPV (Human Papillomavirus), but you may not be sure what it is or what (if anything) you should do about preventing it in your children and teens.

[Most of the information that follows is adapted from the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (see here at CDC).]

THE WHAT:  HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), and there are more than 40 types of HPV. It’s unrelated to HIV, herpes, or any other STI.  HPV can cause genital warts, cervical and other types of cancer.

There are two types of vaccine.  Cervarix is for females only, and protects against cervical cancers.  The other, Gardasil, is for both males and females, and protects against genital warts as well as cancers of the cervix, anus, and vulva.  As of 2012, over 46 million doses had been distributed in the US (most of them Gardasil).  The vaccine is considered to be very safe and highly effective.

THE WHO AND THE WHEN:  Both males and females can contract HPV, from genital contact or from oral or genital sex.  It’s recommended that preteens (ages 11-12) of both sexes receive the series of three doses so that they can develop an immune response before they become sexually active.  Gardasil is considered effective in teenagers and young adults through the age of 26.

THE WHY:  Since a person can contract HPV even if he/she only has one sex partner, and since someone can have HPV for years without symptoms and therefore not even know that she or he has the virus, parents should consider whether this vaccine is right for their preteen or teen.  The very good news is this: studies indicate that the vaccine is highly effective:  the HPV rate of transmission in adolescents is declining faster than expected.

Ask your pediatrician about this.  That’s why we’re here.

artwork by Camille

artwork by Camille

© 2013, MBS Writing Services

All rights reserved.

Swim safely!

Though it’s been so rainy here lately you could almost go boating in your back yard, it IS summer, and we know that hot days will return and the kids (and grownups!) will want to go to the pool to cool down.

Of course, you want your family to be safe, so here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re swimming this summer.

  • Make sure your children learn how to swim, but don’t become overconfident of their abilities.  The American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendation is that children age 4 and older should have formal swim lessons.  (See their specific advice here.)  Those at highest risk of drowning are toddlers and teenaged boys.
  • Don’t dive into anything shallow, or where you can’t see the bottom.  This includes ponds and creeks, but also pools that have become cloudy.  Spinal cord or other serious injuries can result.
  • Follow the rules set by lifeguards.  It’s their job to protect your safety while you have fun with your friends.
  • Never allow any child to swim unsupervised.  A responsible adult should always be present, even if it’s just at a wading pool.  Don’t leave a wading pool with water in it.
  • If you have an in-ground or above-ground pool, make sure it’s properly fenced and that the gate is locked.  No matter how much you tell your children not to go into the pool area alone, it can be very tempting!

That AAP article cited above contains good information about lifejackets, boating, lakes, and piers.  It also spells out more about fencing, swim lessons for children younger than 4, and other water safety specifics.  Check it out.

Stay cool this summer, and be safe!

Joel, age 10

Joel, age 10


© 2013, Melissa Bane Sevier

Summer reading FUN!

Is your child gaining or losing ground this summer in reading?  According to RIF (Reading Is Fundamental), children who don’t read during the summer lose two months of reading achievement.  That’s why teachers have to spend so much time each fall reviewing the previous year’s studies.  All it takes to stop this slide in reading sharpness is, well, READING!

Summer reading can be lots of fun.  Here are some suggestions.

  • Read with your child.  Take turns reading aloud to each other. If you have older children and teens, let them suggest one of their favorite books for you to read.  Then discuss it over lunch or after supper.
  • Show how reading can make things more interesting.  With small children, teach them to read road and store signs.  Write a note or make a greeting card.  For older children, plan a trip, even if it’s just to the mall, with a map.  As you’re driving, your child can follow along the route.  Go online together and read about your destination.  (Check out other summer reading ideas from RIF.)
  • Always pack a book—for trips to the pool, grandma’s, the doctor’s office.
  • Plan regular visits to the library—it’s free.  They have great events, and your children can learn the joy of picking out their own books.  Here are the lists of summer activities at Scott County and Lexington Public Libraries.

So, when your children tell you they’re bored this summer, help them find a good book and open up a world of learning and adventure.  And be happy that you’re also keeping them on track for going back to school.

portrait of Queen Dr. Riebel and self-portrait of Princess Ava, age 5

portrait of Queen Dr. Riebel and self-portrait of Princess Ava, age 5



© 2013, MBS Writing Services