Teen Drivers and Summer Road Safety

Whether your child is running to the neighbors, the pool, riding his bike in the street or high-tailing it to catch the ice cream man; summertime brings out scads of children on our residential streets. So as parents, we need to remind our children, our new teen drivers and ourselves to keep a watchful eye and share the roadways.


Educate Child Pedestrians

Safe Kids USA reported in “Remind Children and Teens of Pedestrian Safety” (D. Kohnle, May 2011) parents should discuss with their kids about street safety several times throughout the summer:

  • Obey traffic signals and signs.
  • Pedestrians must stop, look left, right, then left again before crossing street (paying watchful attention while crossing.)
  • Always walk against traffic on a path or sidewalk.
  • Whenever sunlight is faint, take a flashlight while wearing reflective clothing or gear.
  • Take the safest route to a regular destination, such as school or a friend’s house. The route should have the fewest intersections.

Parental Tips for Teens

“Adolescents aren’t the best defensive drivers,” says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “This is a time where teen’s brains aren’t capable seeing consequences for their actions.”

Teenager car crashes are responsible for approximately 3,000 lives each year. The CDC reports, “Car crashes are the #1 killer of teens.”

With this frightening statistic, makes you want to hide the keys to the family car, huh? However, the problem is teens must learn to drive defensively and attentively, so they will grow into responsible adult drivers. And practice is the only way for them to perfect this skill.

1. House rules: Parents need to be crystal clear with their teen driver on the rules of the road. These are the family rules, not the state troopers. For example, no cell phone usage or texting while driving (however, texting is now illegal), only one other friend may be in the car when on the road, limit time on the highways to non-rush hour periods, no drinking, drugs, etc…)

  • Teen drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a crash than experienced drivers.
  • The risk of a fatal crash increases when teens have friends in the automobile.
  • Night-time crashes increase 50% for 16-year-olds in comparison to daytime percentages.

2. Increase supervised driving time: Even if you think your adolescent is prepared for solo trips on the road, keep supervising them. Not only are they learning the physical techniques of driving a vehicle, but mentally they may have issues with not knowing the roads and the town like you may assume they know. With the anxiety of getting lost, on top of reading road signs and heavy traffic, it can be overwhelming even to a seasoned driver.

3. Hold child back: If you don’t think your child is a safe driver, there is nothing wrong with holding them back from getting behind the wheel alone. Plus, the more accidents for these young adults, the higher insurance premiums to deal with for YEARS to come.

4. Parent/teen contract: These can be effective for many families. Contact your insurance company or check online for these contracts so you can discuss expectations of your child.

Slow it Down!

Just remember this summer when you are rushing your kids to baseball games and practices, we all need to slow it down in residential areas. My grandfather used to always say,

“When you are driving down any residential street, you should be concentrating on looking for little feet underneath parked cars. If you see feet running under the front of a parked car, you can stop your vehicle before the child will get out in front of you.”

This “visual” leaves quite an imprint, and I hope it will for you as well. Please pass this story on to your new teen drivers and hopefully all of us can make our streets a bit safer for our “little ones” who haven’t learned to stay out of the roadways!

(Update to article: Please check out Safe Kids Worldwide’s guidelines printable for summer safety)

previously published in Simply KC magazine in July 2011 issue




November 2012


One of my fondest childhood memories involves my grandfather taking me by the hand on Thanksgiving and sneaking us into the kitchen when no one was looking. Grabbing a handful of black olives, we would place them on our fingertips, laugh and gobble them off our fingers before anyone would catch us. It was our secret, every year! There is no other relationship that compares to the one of a grandparent and grandchild. The connection is beneficial for everyone – not just the grandchildren and grandparents, but the parents too!

Why is it Important?

“I was very close to my grandparents, so creating bonds for my kids is extremely important to me,” says Overland Park mother of three, Trisha Farnsworth. “We institute bonds with both sets of grandparents – one lives in town and the other a few hours away. We get together often and have created many traditions . . . some just in the past few years. We have holiday traditions: like a hayride and bonfire with my parents in the fall, and birthday brunches with my husband’s parents.” Some grandparents are excellent influences on their grandkids and are able to teach them about their family’s history and culture that may get left out in the daily rush. The more time grandchildren spend with grandparents, the more opportunities they have to learn from them. “Overnight trips to Grandma’s house, for example, may be less traumatic than sleepovers with peers and can help kids develop independence,” says Nemours Foundation. This is a time for parents to get some much needed “couple time,” and a chance for the grandkids to spend quality hours creating traditions with their grandparents. This can bolster a child’s self-esteem and provide them with confidence and security as well as make grandparents feel appreciated and needed.

Establishing a Connection

Despite today’s busy family schedules, it can be difficult to dedicate regular time with grandparents. Joan Brown, an Overland Park non-stereotypical matriarch, shares how her extended family routinely makes time for each other. “We are blessed with six grandchildren – only three of which live in the Kansas City area. But (my husband) and I don’t fit the typical grandparent profile…we both work full-time and often spend a considerable amount of overtime at our jobs,” says Mrs. Brown. “Early on in our marriage – the second for both of us – we decided to continue an Italian tradition that started with my mother’s family years ago…Sunday dinner…At the beginning of our marriage, it was a vehicle to bring our two families together…We now use our Sunday dinners to connect with our grandchildren,” she says.

Long Distance Bonding

Nothing can compare with actual time spent together, but it can’t always happen. Time, distance, health issues can play parts in separating children from their grandparents; but an effort to schedule this shared time is essential for both generations. Have your kids call their grandparents when exciting things happen at school, or they have an event coming up. Video tape it and send it to them in an email. This way they won’t feel as if they are missing out on everything. Webcameras are a fun way for kids to interact with their grandparents. Even developing a pen pal relationship with grandparents is great and excellent for kids writing skills!

Safe Environment Away From Home
For most grandparents it has been quite awhile since they raised children in their home, and safety regulations have changed substantially since then. Even though their idea may be, “Well, I raised you, and you turned out okay,” might be fine for them; you as the parent need to find an effective way to get your point across. A walk-through of “Grandma’s” house is helpful to show them hazards such as: medications, shampoos/soaps, and cleaning products which probably are not locked up. Assist grandparents to identify small choking hazards in their house as well. If you do this before the kids arrive, then they can just enjoy their time with your munchkins. One of the beauties of hereditary is that gene pool traits pop up randomly and sporadically. So the chance of a grandchild and grandparent finding something in common is . . . well, grand! Try doing crafts, painting a landscape, cooking a favorite recipe, learning to knit, tie a Windsor knot or change a tire! And remember, communication is key to any successful relationship!


Bully-proofing Children and Building Self-esteem



Bullying isn’t original for this generation of children; but perhaps the methodology of preventing your child from being threatened by the proverbial “thugs” has changed. You don’t have to start your preschooler in Karate or dress them in designer clothes to ensure they won’t get picked on because, unfortunately, genetics plays a mean hand in this longstanding battle.


Children who are smaller, weaker, and appear shyer than other classmates are typically targeted by bullies. There’s no gender discrimination when it comes to bullying – both boys and girls can be targets AND bullies. However, kids who easily get emotional (i.e., crying, angry), or “give in” to their bully, puts them at a higher risk for being repeated targets.

Bullying can occur anywhere: at school (recess, lunch room, bathroom, hallways, or any place a teacher isn’t watching), when adults are absent (around the neighborhood, on the way to school, church or extra-curricular activities) or via computers or cell phones (emails and texting are increasing in severity and frequency of harassment). Bullying can be verbal, social and/or physical, or it can be one or a combination of these; but each type is just as destructive to the psyche of the bullied child. Examples of bullied attacks:

Verbal: Threatens, teases, taunts, speaks hatefully.

Social: Excludes child from events and stories, start rumors about them.

Physical: Pushes, slaps, punches, kicks, chokes.


If you believe your child isn’t being bullied, it’s still beneficial to have the “bully conversation” with your family. They may know someone being mistreated and want to help, OR you could be wrong and someone is actually picking on your child. When there are no distractions and emotions are calm, ask your child, “Do you like all the kids in your class?” “Does everyone get along?” “Is anyone getting picked on or bullied?” Then educate in these areas:

1.      Ask for help: Adults may need to mediate when the bullying occurs. Tell your child it’s appropriate and not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It’s not the child’s fault they are being attacked. “If a store is being robbed, doesn’t the store clerk call the police for backup?”

2.      Make more friends: Four against one is better odds. If your child has friends who will stick up for him and verbally defend him, your child’s self-esteem will increase and he will find strength in numbers.

3.      Extra-curricular activities: Being involved in a group, school club, or sports team will makes them feel like they “belong.” Just make sure they don’t join the same team as the bully.

4.      Alerting school officials: Let everyone involved in your child’s life at the school know about the bullying, so they can intervene. If school officials don’t know of the problem, protect your child. Speak with the principal, the guidance counselor, and your child’s teachers. It takes a team to stifle this type of behavior.


If your child needs to approach his or her bully and training needs to take place, there are a few skills you can work on to get your kiddo through self-esteem “boot camp.” First you verbally educate her on how to stand up to the bully. Then you must “play act” these skills with your child. Usually, you will have to do this repeatedly or she won’t muster up the strength to address the bully. First, she must look the bully in the eye while standing tall and staying as calm as can be. Then she should announce her “catch phrase” and walk away strongly and proudly. This is NOT an easy task…hence, practice with your child.

Teach your child to say in a clear, firm voice: (AAP recommendations)

  •  “I don’t like what you are doing.”
  • “Please do NOT talk to me like that.”
  •  “Why would you say that?”


If you discover your child displaying bullying behavior, don’t waste time because typically their actions worsen with time. Take bullying seriously, and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), follow these guidelines for the child:

  • Set firm and consistent limits on your child’s aggressive behavior. Be sure your child knows that bullying is never OK.
  • Be a positive role model. Children need to develop new and constructive strategies for getting what they want.
  • Show children that they can get what they want without teasing, threatening, or hurting someone. All children can learn to treat others with respect.
  • Use effective, nonphysical discipline, such as loss of privileges. When your child needs discipline, explain why the behavior was wrong and how your child can change it.
  • Help your child understand how bullying hurts other children. Give real examples of the good and bad results of your child’s actions.
  • Develop practical solutions with others. Together with the school principal, teachers, counselors, and parents of the children your child has bullied, find positive ways to stop the bullying.

According to Sydney Sauer, School Counselor at Heartland Elementary School in Overland Park, KS, “All elementary school counselors address the topic of bullying. Three books I frequently recommend for parents to read are Queen Bees and Wannabes, by Rosalind Wiseman (especially for 4th and 5th graders),  Bullies & Victims: Helping Your Children Through the Schoolyard Battlefield  by SuEllen Fried, and Barbara Coloroso’s book, The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander.”  The picture book, One, by Kathryn Otoshi is an excellent resource for 5-10 year olds to supplement parental “anti-bullying” education.

As always, if you see your child’s behavior progressing or spiraling out of control, make sure to consult with your child’s medical provider.

What’s your bullying story? Were you or your child ever victims of a bully’s attack? Does your child’s school have an interesting policy on bullying? Is this information useful to you and your family? Please share below in the comment section… Stacey

Want to follow my blog?  Don’t cost nuthin’!  Scroll to the top right side of the page to “FOLLOW BY EMAIL” add your email address, then click on “SUBSCRIBE.” Blogs will be sent to your inbox as they are posted.

© 2012, Stacey Hatton.  All rights reserved.



SIMPLYkc Magazine

PARENTING – July 2012 issue


It was just another game for Madison Rebel, a fifteen year-old Olathe, KS girl who was playing post for the team “KC and One.” In the middle of the game, as she was going up for what seemed like a normal rebound, a girl undercut her, her legs went straight up in the air,  and she dropped head first on the hard woods. In an instant, her promising basketball career came to a devastating halt on October 21, 2011.

Just hearing what happened to her in the following days, it is unreal to imagine that she stood up after that hit, didn’t lose consciousness and actually finished the game. “People think that because you have a concussion, you have to have passed out cold; but that’s not true,” Madison shared. So what is a concussion or brain injury then?


The definition of a concussion is a “temporary loss of normal brain function,” lists Nemours Foundation – one of the nation’s largest children’s health systems. “Concussions and other brain injuries are fairly common. About every 21 seconds, someone in the United States has a serious brain injury.” After all concussive symptoms have resolved and the neurological exam is normal, the diagnosis can be made:

Simple concussions have symptoms that resolve in 7-10 days and Complex concussions have persistent symptoms which last longer than 7-10 days. If the person loses consciousness for more than 1 minute or has a seizure at the time of the injury it is automatically in this category. Also, if a previous concussion has ever occurred, an automatic diagnosis of “complex concussion” is given. This more serious, but rare condition is called second impact syndrome.

Recognizing Symptoms

Nemours states, “Anyone who sustains a head injury should stop participating and be removed from the activity or sport. Even without a loss of consciousness, it’s important to watch for symptoms of a concussion.”

Common initial symptoms: (Nemours)

  • a change in level of alertness
  • extreme sleepiness
  • a bad headache
  • confusion
  • repeated vomiting
  • seizure

Symptoms for an immediate emergency room visit:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • One pupil is dilated more than in the other eye
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion, restlessness, or agitation

Madison’s Following Days

Carla Rebel (Madison’s mother) said, “Madison’s symptoms didn’t start until the next day.” Carla lovingly prods her daughter to remember the symptoms so they would be accurate – for Madison’s details are heartbreaking for any parent to hear, let alone speak of. “I was dizzy until my eyes blacked out. I had the worst headache I’ve ever had,” said Madison. “Very nauseous for a couple of days, but I never threw up. I was sensitive to light and sound. Basically I lived in a dark hole.” She continued, “Then about two days after (the concussion), my body started to tingle, especially my arms and legs and I was super tired – sleeping all the time, but I kept waking up with night traumas.”

Due to Madison’s condition, she was unable to attend school. First she missed a week, and then resumed with half-days. In addition, Madison developed memory problems and couldn’t focus well in school. The doctors recommended to the Rebel family that sleep was essential for healing her brain injury, so Madison started her school day at “third hour” and went to the end of the day.   Carla said Olathe East has been excellent in accommodating her daughter with resources, testing assistance and working with her schedule.

The most horrific part of this story is Madison has had a constant headache for seven months. It has never ceased. This injury has taken a straight “A” student, basketball star and benched her old life. “It stripped me of my identity,” said Madison. “Everything was taken away from me.” That is until she started meeting other kids at her school who suffered from the same condition. One of her confidantes acquired her brain injury while playing volleyball and another friend was a football player. “It’s good to have other people to talk to about this.” Carla says she compares stories and doctor’s notes with one of the other friend’s mom for support.

Prevention of Re-Injury

Madison’s team of specialists has given her the thumbs up to return to basketball. According to her doctors, the exercise should help her injury, not harm it at this point. But as a parent, how do you not worry she won’t reinjure her brain in a sport which is so active? She has switched to a different basketball position, a forward, so she isn’t “where all the pushing and shoving is.” She also takes it easier when she needs to. Madison says the running seems to make her feel better, so she is happy she has returned to the sport she loves and missed.

More Information

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection offers, “To help ensure the health and safety of young athletes, CDC developed the Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports initiative to offer information about concussions to coaches, parents, and athletes involved in youth sports. The Heads Up initiative provides important information on preventing, recognizing, and responding to a concussion.” For more information visit: www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/youth.html.

© 2012 Stacey Hatton. All rights reserved.




SIMPLY kc Magazine – June 2012 issue

PARENTING:  by Stacey Hatton

When was the last time you enjoyed taking your young children grocery shopping? The day before never?

Little kids are not wired for this mundane activity.  You have them strapped into a shopping cart, facing you, and expect them to sit quietly and not whine when you aren’t entertaining them? I know there are a handful of über parents with their Photoshopped babies cooing and posing while allowing them to perform price comparisons, sorting of coupons and use their barcode scanner apps, but this is NOT the norm.  Most parents need to consider how to improve their shopping trip by keeping their children safe, planning ahead, and building up the child’s self-esteem.

General Safety Stats                                                                                                             According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), “Every year, thousands of children are treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for falls from shopping carts. Falls from shopping carts are among the leading causes of head injuries to young children and most often occur when children stand up in the child seat or the cart basket.”  Usually, this is because the safety equipment on the cart is not being used correctly, or when parents are looking away, the kids are able to “Houdini” their way out of restraints. The CPSC continues, “Children can also fall from the shopping cart seat even when an infant seat, infant carrier or a car seat is placed in the cart seat.”

Preventing shopping cart falls: (Source: CPSC)

  • Use seat belts to restrain your child in the cart seat.
  • Stay with your child at all times.
  • Don’t allow your child to ride in the cart basket.
  • Don’t allow your child to ride or climb on the sides or front of the cart.
  • Don’t allow a child to push the cart with another child in it.

Planning is Essential                                                                                                                        

The Nemours Foundation suggests “setting rules about (your child’s) behavior before you go.”  Trying to establish rules at the market is not the best place to get your child to focus on your instructions.  There are too many distractions for the child to participate in a successful errand.                                                                                         

Infants – A full tummy and dry diaper before the errand are necessary.  If you can get a sleeping baby in her carrier placed into the large portion of the cart, you are as good as gold.  Granted you don’t have much room for groceries, but there are too many accidents of carts and infant seats to chance it.  Toys or a bottle can save you when her patience runs low.

Toddlers – If you have to bring your toddler, make sure you follow the tummy/diaper advice from above.  (Actually, don’t we all do better at the store with a full stomach and empty bladder?)  Make sure to have your child belted securely into the cart.  One quick turn of your head and they will dive for the fruit snacks.  If they are continually impatient or fussy, pull out the sippy cup and your prepared container of Cheddar bunnies or their vice of choice.

Preschoolers – This age is easier for public adventures.  Most enjoy helping and playing games.  You can have them locate certain fruits and vegetables to build their vocabulary.  A game of “I Spy” works well in the inner aisles, and having them find colors and shapes, can keep them entertained.  Educating your child instead of having to say “No!” the entire trip can be fun and stimulating.

Heidi Prentice, an Overland Park mom of two, makes grocery shopping time a festival of fun for her kids. “…each gets a balloon and that distracts them through the fruit and vegetable aisles. A cookie keeps them good through most of the store, until they get to the deli area where they have their cheese course.”

Follow-up Instructions                                                                                                                      When leaving the grocery store make sure to thank your children for their assistance and/or good behavior during the errand.  Making them feel as if you couldn’t have done the job as successfully without their help or company will make the trip a positive experience for them, and odds are they will behave better the next trip. Or if you would rather bang your head against the meat freezer instead of take your child to the market; you can always opt for a sitter, your spouse, a family member, or trade with another struggling parent to watch your kids while you go alone!