May I have this dance?

Handwritten invitation

I’m a cynical guy. Have been most of my life; it’s a cross you bear when life gets you down, and you let it keep you down. So when I heard about our local Daddy/Daughter dance, my cynical side took over for a minute and in my head said, “Heck no, I would never be caught dead there.” But I decided it might be a good bonding experience for my girls and me.

To crack out of my cynical shell a bit, I decided to amp it up and buy a card for each girl to “officially” ask them to the dance. Each girl read her card and started to get excited about going. I could tell this was going to be something we would all remember.

And we will.

Outfits were picked out, and after a small meltdown because of lack of sleep, the three of us had dinner and talked about things we’ve never talked about before. Our youngest wants to be a teacher, and our oldest wants to be a world-famous dancer before she owns her own dance studio.

After dinner, it was time for the big event — the dance. I’m what you call a wedding dancer, good for a couple of slow dances and one theme dance (chicken, hokey pokey, etc.), but that’s the extent of my experience.

For some reason I was nervous, not in an “Oh, I hope they have a good time” nervous, but more of an “I hope I don’t make a fool out of myself … or them” nervous. When we walked in, all of that nervousness went away when I saw all the other dads with a “now what” look on their face. I knew I was among friends.

We checked in; each girl was presented with a corsage, and after a glass of punch, we hit the dance floor. Couldn’t tell you any of the songs we danced to, but I can tell you I haven’t seen my girls smile that much in a long time.

Looking around the room at one point in the evening, all I could see were dads excited to be with their daughters, daughters excited (and some mortified) to be with their dancing dads. It was something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Two young sisters at a danceIt also made me think of the future and how one day we’ll be on the dance floor again, years from now, dancing at their weddings. It’s weird how you get excited for that day, but don’t want this day to end because you want them to be your little girls forever.

We can’t stop time, but we can take little pieces of it and keep it in our heart for safekeeping. Too much of life is built around getting the biggest house or the fanciest car, but if you ask me, doing the chicken dance with my daughters is more of what life’s about and the life I want to live.

Take a minute, let the music take over, and remember there is nothing hokey or pokey about the hokey pokey if you’re doing it with the ones you love.

– Jim Pesta is a Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

How to keep your kids safe from airbags

SRS airbag logo on car

Cropped image. Hector Alejandro, Flickr. CC license.

There is no question: Airbags save lives. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) “Frontal airbags reduce driver fatalities in frontal crashes by 29 percent and fatalities of front-seat passengers age 13 and older by 32 percent.”

There are, however, circumstances when airbags can actually contribute to an injury. Recently my dad and stepmom were involved in a crash where the airbags kept them both alive and mostly uninjured. Unfortunately, the airbag deployment also left my stepmom with 50 percent hearing loss in one ear.

Here are a few steps you can take to reduce the chances that an airbag will injure you or the ones you love.

Sit properly

  • Drivers should sit with their chest at least 12 inches from the steering wheel and all passengers must wear their seatbelts properly.
  • Adjust the seat headrest so it is positioned higher than the top of your head. The headrest is designed specifically to reduce risk of neck injury in a crash.
  • Forget “10 and 2” on the steering wheel. Current driver’s training curriculum instructs new drivers to lower hand positions to 9 and 3. Lowering hand positions prevents forearms from being positioned directly over the area of air bag deployment. AAA produced this video on the right way to hold a steering wheel.
  • Do not lean against the window where there are side-impact curtain airbags and instruct your rear passengers to do the same. This was something that I had never thought about in the past.
  • Never put items on top of the dash (including your feet) or where airbags may deploy. Use your vehicle manual to familiarize yourself with the location of airbags in your specific car. Anything on top of an airbag could go flying in a crash and injure yourself and other passengers.

Keeping children safe

  • Never put a rear-facing car seat in front of an airbag. This video shows exactly what happens to a child seat when used improperly.
  • Children should be at least 13 years old before they ride in the front seat. An airbag deploys at around 220 miles per hour! Shorter children can be severely injured at that speed, especially at lower heights. If you absolutely must put a younger child in the front seat, move the seat back as far as possible to get as much distance between the passenger and where the airbag would deploy.
  • Some cars have airbags within their seat belts referred to as “inflatable seat belts”. When installing a car seat or booster in these seating positions, you must ensure that the car seat manufacturer will allow installation or use with their seat. In some 5-point harnessed seats, the lower anchors of LATCH can be used alternative to the seatbelt for installation, but there are weight limits that must be considered. If you have inflatable seat belts, check with your car seat manufacturer for compatibility or use this quick list provided by Safe Kids.

– Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health System


Super Bowl party recipes: Chipotle black bean dip with garlic pita chips

Football cookie picks in grass

Unaltered image. Anders Ruff Custom Designs, Flickr. CC License.

The Super Bowl is Sunday! If you’re looking for a delicious, healthy treat to serve at your Super Bowl party, whip up this chipotle black bean dip with garlic pita chips. They’ll be a fresh alternative to chips and dip.

Chipotle Black Bean Dip


  • ⅓ cup bottled salsa
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon each: sugar, ground cumin, dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon minced canned chipotle chile in adobe sauce
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black soybeans rinsed and drained
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped


  1. Combine salsa and remaining ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl once.
  3. Store dip covered, for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.


Makes 8 servings (Serving size equals 3 tablespoons.)
Each serving counts as 1 starch.

Nutrition analysis per serving

  • Calories: 70
  • Fat: 5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 190 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 6 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Sugars: 2 g
  • Protein: 4 g

Garlic Pita Chips


  • 6 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 (6-inch) whole wheat pitas, split in half horizontally
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil-flavored cooking spray


  • Wrap garlic cloves in foil. Bake at 400°F for 45 minutes; cool 10 minutes.
  • Squeeze to extract garlic pulp, discard skins.
  • Spread garlic pulp evenly over pita halves. Spray pita halves with cooking spray.
  • Cut each pita half into eight wedges; arrange on a baking sheet.
  • Sprinkle wedges with salt and pepper.
  • Bake at 400°F for 7 minutes or until crisp.


Makes 4 servings. Serving size is 8 chips.
Each serving is 1 starch.

Nutrition analysis per serving

  • Calories: 90
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 460 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 20 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Sugars: 0 g
  • Protein: 4 g

Both recipes adapted from Cooking Light, August 2003.

– Mary Ligotti-Hitch, R.D. is a registered dietitian with the Weight Control Center at Beaumont Health Center. Did you know the Beaumont Weight Control Center offers cooking classes for kids? Learn more about these free sessions for kids age 6 and up.

Minors and sexting part two: What parents can do

iPhone in jeans pocket

Unaltered image. Martin Abegglen, Flickr. CC license.

In Part One, we covered the definition and prevalence of sexting in minors. Today, we review potential consequences, and most importantly, how parents can help kids make better choices. Special thanks again to Judge Derek Meinecke of Oakland County’s 44th District Court and Ms. Stephanie Wright, MA, LLP, LPC, of Beaumont Children’s Hospital’s Ted Lindsay Foundation HOPE Center, for their invaluable input on this topic.

What criminal charges are involved with sexting? Judge Meinecke clarifies: Cases are dealt with individually based on the facts, and in many cases criminal prosecution is neither necessary nor appropriate. However, felony charges are a “necessary evil” for circumstances involving predatory behavior. Unfortunately some young people are not innocent in their intentions, and if we de-criminalize this behavior simply because the parties involved are all under 17, we create a dangerous loophole for child pornographers and pedophiles.

Age is an important distinction: Currently, 17-year-olds are treated as adults in Michigan and can be charged with distribution of child pornography. Even if you just turned 17 last week, this changes everything in the eyes of the law, so parents and teens alike should be aware of this legal game-changer.

Aren’t we over-reacting? Isn’t this just a high-tech version of what teenagers have always done? Maybe, maybe not. A 2012 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine study found higher rates of “risky sex behaviors” (e.g., multiple partners, using drugs or alcohol before sex, etc.) in teen girls who engaged in sexting behaviors. Girls may be more stigmatized for sexting than boys. The authors note, “Sexting may be a new type of sexual behavior in which teens may (or may not) engage.” (p. 832). For many teens, sexting behavior is not sinister, but being digitally savvy does not equal maturity and life experience (AAP, 2011). Even if sexting is just the latest version of sexual exploration, it can have long-term serious outcomes.

What can I do as a parent? All experts agree: The number one thing you can do is to have open, honest conversations with your kids. Yes, it will be awkward! They may ask you some pointed questions about your own past, or share information with you that is hard to hear. However, Judge Meinecke says, “You can be an extraordinarily dynamic parent and really help your kids” by taking time to be educated. Most importantly, he says, we need to be there for our kids, but “not as a friend or as an executioner.” We can be a source of information for our kids, a safe place. Ms. Wright shares this view: “They’re going to make mistakes. They’re still kids. But we need to educate them, not lecture.” As parents we have the responsibility to help set appropriate boundaries, but if our kids sense our extreme discomfort with the topic, they won’t open up. Ms. Wright suggests middle school as a good time to start the conversation, “The earlier you start talking about it, the better.”

You can also reach out to your pediatrician or family physician. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to be involved, and for doctors to talk openly with their patients and families about teen sexting.

Keep computers in public areas of the house and monitor usage. This AAP article suggests you are honest with your kids about this and show them you know how to use whatever apps they’re using.

Just like helping kids avoid the dangers of drugs, alcohol and smoking, there is benefit to making them aware of pitfalls, but a strictly fear- or punishment-based approach will turn them away. Being involved appropriately in your teenager’s life helps prevent future missteps, and real life ”face time” discussing difficult issues can create a strong, healthy relationship between you and your son or daughter.

– Lori Warner, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D, Director, HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s Hospital

Minors and sexting part one: Not just child’s play

 Hidden girl sitting in doorway playing with cell phone

This is part one of a two-part series: Here, we’ll cover the basic facts about sexting among minors, and begin to discuss possible consequences. In Part Two, we’ll review legal issues and other consequences in more detail, as well as give ideas for parents and teens to help prevent a snap decision from turning into lifelong regrets.

Special thanks to Judge Derek Meinecke of the Oakland County 44th District Court and Ms. Stephanie Wright, MA, LLP, LPC, of Beaumont Children’s Hospital’s Ted Lindsay Foundation HOPE Center, for their invaluable input on this topic. Thanks also to Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica R. Cooper for publishing a brochure for minors.

Hold the phone! What is all this talk about sexting? Maybe you’ve heard of court cases or even found some sketchy content on your child’s phone. Personally, I knew very little about the prevalence of sexting among minors, but learned more after being asked to contribute to a story in the Providence Journal.

What is sexting? Sexting is defined as “the act of sending sexually explicit photos, primarily between cell phones.” It’s important to note that in Michigan, creating, soliciting, possessing or distributing sexually explicit photos of a minor (someone under 18 years old) is a felony. These charges can carry four to 20 years in prison! In addition there would be fines and court costs, and mandatory entry in Michigan’s sex offender registry.

How much does it happen? Estimates vary, and the numbers of teens owning cell phones has increased since a 2009 study by the Pew Research Center, “Teens and Sexting”. That study found 4 percent of teens ages 12 – 17 had sent explicit photos, and 15 percent admitted to receiving such photos. Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica R. Cooper’s informational brochure states that 40 percent of teens state they’ve been shown explicit photos or messages originally intended for someone else. Twenty percent of teen girls and 33 percent of teen boys report having posted nude or semi-nude photos of themselves.

Why do it? Sexting is not unusual and peer pressure can be intense to look. The ability to make rational judgments and use our long-term thinking skills isn’t fully mature until at least age 25. Teenagers also typically don’t believe that the bad things they hear about will actually happen to them. So even though they may be aware of the possible consequences, they may think, “Sure, but my boy/girlfriend would never do that!”

Stephanie Wright, MA, LLP, LPC, HOPE Center behavioral consultant, says that teens may think sexting is fun, exciting or “no big deal.” It’s not until the consequences are explained that they even begin to think of what may go wrong.

Often, sexting occurs between couples who are dating, or even as a way of initiating a relationship. Although the images may have been willingly created and sent at the time, one bad fight and suddenly what was intended for one person’s eyes only is being forwarded to many others. As the Cooper brochure states, “Once you hit send, you lose all control over any image you have sent.”

Another contributing factor may be the sheer volume of explicit material available on the Internet. In the past, boys might find their dad’s Playboy magazines and ogle the centerfold. This is worlds away from what kids see today with just a few mouse clicks. “The vast amount of material out there at the disposal of a young person whose Internet access is not being monitored is terrifying,” says Judge Derek Meinecke (Oakland County 44th District Court). He notes that even if your child’s access is monitored, his or her friends’ parents may not be as aware, and they may share this content with your child. Judge Meinecke also feels that viewing explicit content online, which is often impersonal and misogynistic, may set a tone regarding what the minor then expects in his or her own relationships as they grow older.

What should we do about it? All this information can be scary and overwhelming. Being a parent or a kid today is in some ways harder than it used to be, says Judge Meinecke. However, he also points out that parents today have resources available today that our parents never had. The Beaumont Parenting Program Blog is a great example!

In Part Two, we will further review potential consequences for minors who sext, and provide expert recommendations on how to talk to your children about this topic. Stay tuned!

– Lori Warner, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D, Director, HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s Hospital

Estate plans for children: Are they necessary?

Do you have a child heading off to college soon? How about a child who is turning 18? Although he or she may not have substantial assets to protect or distribute if something unfortunate should happen, it may be beneficial to look into having your child execute powers of attorney for health care and financial management.

In Michigan, your child is considered an adult at 18. Without a properly drafted and executed Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care naming a parent to act as the child’s agent in the event of the child’s incapacity, you, as a parent, may be unable to access your child’s medical information or make medical decisions on their behalf should they be unable to do so.

By having your child execute both a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (including a HIPAA authorization) and a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Management, you will have access to your child’s medical information and can assist with his or her treatment if necessary. You will also be able to access your child’s financial and banking information and assist with managing those assets as well.

Alycia WesleyAlycia P. Wesley is an estate planning attorney with clients that span all generations. However, as a mother of three young children Alycia is especially familiar with the estate planning needs facing families with young children. To learn more about this topic you can email Alycia at or call her at 248-645-9300.

Setting intentions for your family in 2016

Scrabble tiles

The new year is the perfect time to think about making positive changes in your home. Family life is busy and the idea of doing more can sound overwhelming. I’m here, as a parent and former educator, to share a list of simple things you can do in your home this year to make a positive impact.

Choose three of the suggestions from this list and jot them down in your calendar, on a sticky note, or set a reminder on your phone once or twice a week to remind you on what you have committed to. Better yet, tell your children about this goal, they never seem to forget a thing! Remember accountability is key to creating new habits.

  • Read books before bed. You can view some book ideas here.
  • Have a dance party in the kitchen
  • Pick a night of the week to play board games or puzzles after dinner
  • Start a family journal and take turns writing in it
  • Create a 2016 time capsule. During the year, add special memories into this capsule and look at it on January 1, 2017.
  • Designate a space for all school work to go throughout the week. Sit down on the weekend and look over your children’s work. Ask them questions and make meaningful comments.
  • Take time to make a video and remember the special moments in your life. Check out the free app One Day to help you get started.
  • Cook dinner together
  • Writes letters to relatives for their birthdays or just because
  • Look at old photos together
  • Include your children in your trip to the grocery store. Give them a list of items they are in charge of finding each week
  • Sit down and play with your child


Empowering Kids with Character. A few months ago I started a private Facebook group for parents and teachers to inspire each other with simple ways they can make a positive impact in the lives of the children they are raising or teaching. We would love for you to join us!

– Maria Dismondy is a mother of three, reading specialist, fitness instructor and bestselling children’s author living in Southeast Michigan.


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