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The Family Center: enrichment programs for families and professionals

Help Your Kids Develop Good Sleep Habits

Ask the Experts by Mohsin Maqbool, M.D.

Q. How can I get my kids to have good sleep habits?

A. When it comes to good sleep habits, the old saying "early to bed, early to rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise" has never been truer.

The amount of sleep needed for optimal brain development in children varies with age. Newborns sleep up to 20 hours per day. The sleep requirement decreases in toddlers down to 12 to 14 hours of nightly sleep with naps during the day.

Tips to maximize good sleep habits:

Read more: Help Your Kids Develop Good Sleep Habits


Help for Aging Parents

Ask the Experts by Mary Ellen Brayton

Q: My mom is 85 years old and lives with me now. I take care of her practically 24 hours per day. I have an opportunity for a new job, but I don't know what to do with mom and can't afford 12 hours a day care at my home.

A: We hear stories like this all the time when talking with families. An option that might work well for some seniors and their families is combining in-home care with an Adult Day Center. A professional in-home caregiver could help get your mom up and ready for the day and then take her to an adult day center in the afternoon where she could stay until you can pick her up on your way home from work. 

Q: Why should I hire an agency to care for my mother when it seems cheaper to hire an aide directly?

A: There are both legal and personal risk issues involved in directly hiring a caregiver. Some things to consider include: criminal and reference checks, tax withholdings, liability and worker's compensation insurance, bonding for personal property theft, and arranging for replacements if the caregiver does not show up for a shift or becomes ill. Professional in-home care companies can help to alleviate these concerns. 

Read more: Help for Aging Parents


About Hookah Smoking

Ask the Experts by Samuel Fawaz, M.D.

Q. There is a lot of talk about the dangers of hookah smoking. What is hookah?

A. Hookah is a single or multi-stemmed water pipe for smoking tobacco, where smoke passes through a water basin and is then inhaled into the lungs. 

Q. My teenage son doesn't smoke tobacco, but he says his friends are hookah smoking. Should I be concerned?

A. Yes. According to the World Health Organization, hookah smoking is becoming the largest public health concern in the world, most notably with kids 18 and older. A recent study found experimentation with hookah for 14-year-olds was 23 percent and rose to 40 percent for 18-year-olds. Hookah is also believed to be a gateway to kids trying illegal drugs. 

Read more: About Hookah Smoking


Enhance Your Brain Health

Ask the Experts by Mary Ellen Brayton

Q: My husband and I are grandparents and want to keep up with our grandchildren. What are some suggestions to help us enhance our brain health?

A: Listed below are some helpful hints:

Maintain a healthy diet. A heart-healthy diet is the same sort of diet that keeps the brain healthy. Some examples: control your portion size, eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, limit unhealthy fats and cholesterol, chose low-fat protein sources like lean meat, fish, poultry, egg whites and low-fat dairy, reduce your sodium intake, create daily menus with the strategies above to put your plan into action, but do allow yourself the occasional treat!

Stay socially active in order to help build new connections and thought processes. Stay connected to the people that have been important in your life and maybe even build new connections. 

Read more: Enhance Your Brain Health


Traumatic Brain Injury Warning Signs

Ask the Experts by Ajit A. Sarnaik, MD

Q. When should my child seek medical care if he has been hit in the head? 

A. If you are a parent, chances are you've seen your child experience more than one bump in the head. But when do you know if your child needs just a little comforting or the bump or injury requires immediate medical attention?

The good news is most bumps in the head are minor, but Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about half of all patients hospitalized with head injuries are less than 20 years of age. Boys are also injured twice as often as girls. 

Parents should look for the following warning signs after a bump in the head to determine if medical attention is warranted:

Read more: Traumatic Brain Injury Warning Signs


Dealing with a Protective Pet's Reactions to Caregivers

Ask the Experts by Carolyn Van Dorn

Q. My mother is currently in a Rehabilitation Facility recuperating from a fall. Her beloved dog Bella has been staying with me while she is there. Once home she will need the help of a Nurse Aide and visits from a Physical Therapist. Bella has been quite a challenge to have in my home due to her strong personality. She is so protective of my mom I am worried about how she will react with strangers moving and touching her. Am I wrong to be concerned?

A. Absolutely not. Many of our clients have pets in their home and we have never had an issue arise. It is completely dependent on the personality and temperament of the individual dog. If you already know she is a "challenge", you should be concerned.

Professional Dog Trainer Ray Kerimian from Razor K-9 Private 1-on-1 Dog Training ( says that this is not such an uncommon situation.

Read more: Dealing with a Protective Pet's Reactions to Caregivers


The Family Center is a Constant Compass

From the Director

The families that we meet all see changes in the path of their lives. Some are caring for newborns, preparing for kindergarten, transitioning to the middle school years or starting the college selection process. Others are managing relationships, health issues, stress and grief, including coping with the challenges of caring for aging family members.

In all its 13 years of service, The Family Center has been a constant compass – guiding people with questions toward those who can help.

Some of the families that first came into contact with our presentations for newborns continue to attend our presentations for students in upper grades. Some now are part of a "sandwich generation," caring for children while caring for elderly parents or relatives.

We’ve responded with resources designed to encompass this range of need and help families find a way ahead.

Read more: The Family Center is a Constant Compass


Avoiding Childhood Obesity

Ask the Experts by Donna Morrison

Q: I'm worried about my daughter's weight and unhealthy eating habits, but I don't want to put her on a diet. What else can I do to help her lose weight and eat healthier foods?

A: First, it's important to focus on good health without overemphasizing body weight. Introducing healthier options for snack and meal times will provide your child proper nutrition, while also promoting positive eating behaviors.

Portioning is extremely important in the fight against childhood obesity, so be sure to plan appropriately sized meals. Getting the entire family involved is another great way to adopt and promote a healthier lifestyle without setting apart one child. Additionally, you can review the National Dietary Guidelines at for information regarding the primary food groups, nutritional values and portioning.

Read more: Avoiding Childhood Obesity


Stress Management Success

Ask the Experts by Jill Wrubel

Q. Do you think that companies should be providing stress management programs for employees and families?

A. There are two distinctive styles of leadership emerging throughout "best companies to work for" from what I have observed over several decades. There are those that have implemented programs for employees, their families and local groups to be able to participate in to manage stress through both holistic and wellness offerings --- and those that don't. 

It is this paradigm shift in leadership that is transforming how we look at the best companies to work for,  as they are driving functional excellence through the roof, and this is being demonstrated through employee engagement scores: morale, job satisfaction and overall health and well -being are improving! 9 things I have found to be TRUE: 

Read more: Stress Management Success


Suicide's Warning Signs & the Struggle to Notice Them

Ask the Experts by Mary Petersen, LMSW

Q. After a loved one committed suicide, I hear many people report feeling guilty because they did not notice any warning signs prior to the incident. Could there have been signs someone failed to notice? 

A. Guilt is often pronounced when loss results from suicide. Loved ones erroneously feel they could have done something to prevent the tragedy, and they feel powerless. I believe human beings often find it easier to accept that they could have done something and failed, rather than admit helplessness. 

Suicide is difficult to predict, sometimes even with professional mental health training. Many people are depressed or isolated, but despite those traits often being referred to as potential "signs" of suicide, those conditions in and of themselves will not necessarily lead to suicide. In addition to depression and isolation, suicidal people also have feelings of pervasive and persistent hopelessness. They believe life will not get better, nor do they have the emotional endurance to tolerate what may seem like insurmountable obstacles to recovery.

Read more: Suicide's Warning Signs & the Struggle to Notice Them


Caring for family members who become incapacitated

Ask the Experts by Michael Kelly

Q. If my loved one becomes incapacitated can I arrange for their care and manage their financial affairs?

A. There is no inherent right to act for another person who is incapacitated based on a relation to them, except for a parent/child relationship. Express legal authority is required to do so. This applies to anyone age 18 and over.

Q. How does one obtain express legal authority to act for another?

A. It depends on whether or not authority was given to another to act for the incapacitated person before they became incapacitated.

Read more: Caring for family members who become incapacitated


Slowing Down...

Ask the Experts by Marla Ruhana

Q: I find myself so irritable, short fused, and I feel it is leading to anxiety and depression. Is this possible? 

A: Yes, it sounds like you are experiencing detrimental effects of stress, which can lead to anxiety and depression. Can you think of what might be precipitating your irritability?

Q: My husband has been out of work for two years and since he lost his job, I've been working full time and caring for the kids. I do not like my job at all, it is simply a paycheck. Do you think that is why I am irritable? I don't like this as I was never edgy like this before my husband lost his job. Then again, I only worked 20 hours per week at a job I enjoyed.

A: Seems you just answered your own question. It is difficult to juggle life's changes and challenges and most of us aren't even aware how overextended we are with multiple life stressors. I admire you for recognizing changes in your mood and behavior and inquiring as many seem to be experiencing stress overload.

Read more: Slowing Down...


Talking to Teens About Suicide

Ask the Experts by Mary Beth Garvey

Q. My kids and their friends are struggling with the suicide of a classmate, and they respond to this tragedy in such different ways. How do we talk to our teenagers about suicide?

A. The suicide of a young person impacts the whole community. In general, the severity of the response correlates to how connected they were to the deceased. Many of us feel incredibly vulnerable when confronted with the suicide of a young person, and there is often a wide range of emotional responses, which may include helplessness, anger, fear, guilt, shock, anxiety or confusion.

Talk candidly with your kids about the suicide, despite wanting to protect them. An honest discussion about what happened, based on the facts, helps adolescents feel taken care of and reinforces safety, security and trust. Knowing that the loss can be discussed constructively will help them to feel more in control.

Read more: Talking to Teens About Suicide


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