I've been good this year, Santa. Well... I've tried really hard to be good, so I am going to send you my list and hope you can do what I am asking for. Two years ago I asked for world peace, and last year I asked you to fix the economy. Now, I truly believe you exist, but you are going to have to do better this year, OK?
Actually, I don't think this year's list is too hard, so I am hoping you can manage.
1. Can you please help all the parents out there keep their children well? Leave them each a reminder about who their primary care provider is, and urge them to bring their kids for regular check ups. During those check ups, if they get the recommended immunizations, their children will be better able to avoid some serious infectious diseases. Then, if they also help their children eat healthy foods, and get plenty of exercise and sleep, they will be well on the way to a healthy life. This is very important, since I want to help children stay out of the hospital as much as possible.
2. Please help our politicians be careful not to hurt our most vulnerable children. I understand they have a serious problem and need to reduce the debt, but making big cuts in medical assistance will hurt the kids. They won't have the same access to good doctors and health care that their wealthier peers will have, and that will put them at high risk of getting chronic diseases.
3. Keep children away from TVs and computer screens. I know that is very hard for you, because I am certain that almost all the children have asked you for more computer games, touch pads and movies. But you know that if they watch a screen more than 2 hours a day, it does bad things to them. Too much screen time can increase unhealthy weight, and may predispose the child to develop ADHD, or make it worse. So bring them some really fun toys and games that they have to play outside or that get them away from the computers and TVs. Why not bring each household a "family gift" that would be a board game--something they can all do together, or a jigsaw puzzle, or other family activity.
4. Now, we have already established that you can not really fix the economy. But you may be able to help keep children safe despite the economy. See, parents get really frustrated when things are tough financially, and sometimes they take it out on their children. That is why the incidence of child abuse goes up when the economy is bad. People can't find jobs, and they can't provide for the children the way they want to. Then sometimes just one little thing goes wrong, and suddenly they find themselves letting their anger and frustration out on the little ones. The holidays turn out to be a time when parents are feeling particularly frustrated, and unfortunately we end up seeing more victims of abuse during this time. It doesn't have to be that way.
Let parents know that there is help out there.
If parents have questions or concerns about this they can call the Roanoke Children's Trust (540-344-3579) or Prevent Child Abuse Virginia (800-244-5373). Every state has a chapter of Prevent Child Abuse. And most hospitals, especially children's hospitals, can provide assistance to families worried that they might harm their child.
5. Finally, a couple of things that I REALLY need. While I would love to have both, either one would be great, and help me do a better job of doctoring.
A magic wand (so I can fix all ailments) and a crystal ball (so that I can better guide families who need to make serious decisions, and would love to know how things will turn out in the future).
Thanks a lot Santa. I will have the hot chocolate and cookies waiting for you. Love, Alice