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Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship with Drew Pearson

Daily Dose

Marketing Healthy Foods to Kids

1:15 to read

The marketing of foods to children continues to be a hot topic.  As any parent knows…by the time your child is 3, 4 or 5 years old…they can often point to the box of sugary cereal with their favorite cartoon character on it, or identify a sign (McDonalds, Chic-Fil-A, Pizza) although they are not yet reading.  Companies are very clever when it comes to marketing…especially to children who drive a lot of consumer choices.

But, a recent article in Pediatrics shows how marketing may also drive healthy food choices. The study entitled, “Marketing Vegetable in Elementary School Cafeterias to Increase Uptake”, looked at the number of students who chose fresh vegetables from the salad bar at 10 elementary school cafeterias in a large school district over a six-week period.

The study included four different groups. In the first group the schools displayed vinyl banners with branded cartoon vegetable characters. These banners were then wrapped around the salad bar bases. The characters displayed “super human” strength related to eating vegetables (the Popeye of my generation - with his spinach).  The second group of schools showed short television segments which had vegetable characters delivering healthy nutritional advice. In the third group of schools both the salad bar banners and TV segments were used to promote healthy nutrition and food choices.  The fourth group was the control group and received no intervention.  The intervention schools also had decals with the vegetable characters placed on the floor which directed the children to the salad bars.

The results?  Nearly twice as many students ate vegetables from the salad bar when they were exposed to the banners.  More than 3 times as many students who were exposed to both banners and TV segments went to the salad bar (more girls than boys ). Interestingly, the marketing campaign also increased the number of students who chose a vegetable serving in the regular lunch line as well. 

So, it seems that branded marketing strategies may be used in a positive way to promote healthier food choices among young children.  Now we just have to get the advertisers to change some of their branded messaging aimed at young children from the “junk” to the healthy foods, as we have data to show that kids will choose good foods…especially if their super heroes like it too!

Daily Dose

Over-scheduling Your Kids

1:30 to read

Are your kids busy with activites this weekend?  Is your child going to be over or under scheduled?  It is sometimes difficult to find a happy medium.

 

I am still a big believer in the “one sport” per season rule and one other activity..maybe two if the third activity does not require a weekend game or practice.  So, what does this look like for a child in elementary school….soccer, fall baseball or football for the fall season, as well as girl scouts, boy scouts, debate team, chess team, and then maybe piano or flute lessons?  You can change that up in anyway and substitute dance, gymnastics, volleyball, a foreign language class…but you get the picture. In this way your child should have several days a week with “NOTHING” to do after school…except go outside and play!  This gives the parent or caregiver a break as well from driving all around to transport to the venue for the practice or game.

 

I hear so many complaints from parents who are in a constant state of stress from trying to figure out transportation for their child to the soccer practice that conflicts with the football practice and the lacrosse practice. This also requires trying to  juggle the multiple games on the weekend that go on for hours one after the next, and even on Sunday mornings.  When I hear the parents complain about this ridiculous schedule I am also seeing the children who are over tired, burnt out and may even have stomach aches and headaches due to the stress of being over scheduled.

 

While every parent is well intended and wanting their child to have as many opportunities as possible in both athletic and other extracurricular activities, a parent also needs to sometimes say “no”.  Discussing the logistics as well as the time commitment for each activity, in an age appropriate manner, may help a family decide which activity stays and which one is “punted”.

 

So….sit down before you and your child are overwhelmed and pick the activities that you will do this fall…but leave some room for being bored. Boredom is a noun that we need to hear more often.

 

Daily Dose

More Teens Testing Positive for STD

1.15 to read

I was thumbing through one of my many journals and came upon a recent study which had some surprising data regarding teens, sex and STDs. This study was from Emory University released in the journal Pediatrics. The researchers looked at the rates of 3 sexually transmitted infections which can be detected in urine, and found that more than 10% of teens who had said they were abstinent tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease. This is the second study, the first being released in 2005, which also showed that there were not significant differences in STD rates between teens who had pledged to be virgins until marriage and those who had not. In other words either teens are not being truthful about their sexual history (are you shocked?) or they had “forgotten” that they had had intercourse in the last 12 months. In either case the results of this latest study might indicate the need to perform routine urine STD screening tests on all teens, rather than only those teens who admit to having sexual activity. In the latest study, 14,000 youth agreed to provide a urine specimen to check for 3 common STDs:  Chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomniasis.  More than 11,000 of the teens in the study said that they had had sexual intercourse in the last 12 months, while 3,000 teens reported no sexual intercourse during that time. Of these urine samples, there were 964 that tested positive for a STD, 118 of these were from teens who denied having intercourse in the last 12 months, and 60 of those said they had never had sexual intercourse in their lives.  Really?? This was quite an interesting study to me as I routinely ask my teenage patients about sexual activity, and while I think many of my patients are honest with me (as I tell them it is important to be honest so that I may treat them appropriately). I am also not naïve enough to think that they are all completely open and truthful. In this study 10% of those found to have an STD claimed to have been abstinent for 12 months and 6% claimed that they had never had penile/vaginal contact. Maybe there is a question of semantics?   It may be that we need to have even more specific questioning surrounding the “definition of abstinent”.  I often have teens ask me about a specific incident that they were involved in and they say “Does that count as sexual activity?”  This study speaks to that issue, differ people have different definitions of abstinence. The most important message from this study is that we doctors may need to be testing all teens for STDs on routine urine specimens.  The sexually transmitted diseases in this study need to be treated with appropriate antibiotics, not only in the patient but also their partners. As both a doctor and a parent, I know that the reality is that teens, for many different reasons, are not always truthful.  A simple urine specimen may be the best way to make sure that we don’t miss potentially serious infections. That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow. Your thoughts? Let me know! I would love to hear from you.

Daily Dose

Mom Judging

1:30 to read

This whole “mommy judging” is really becoming too much!  The latest involves Christy Teigen and her decision to go out to dinner 2 weeks after the birth of her daughter.  Why is she being judged about going out with her husband?  Even a new mother needs to eat!

When I am seeing a newborn for their first visit to the pediatrician I spend a great deal of time talking with the baby’s parents about the stress of having a newborn. While there are so many “highs” after bringing a new baby home, there are also the “lows” of feeling overwhelmed, sleep deprived, and feeling as if you aren’t prepared to be a parent (even after taking every class and reading every book).  For many parents just hearing that they are experiencing “normal” emotions is reassuring.  

During these discussions (while I am usually rocking that sweet newborn) I also inquire as to whether there are family or friends nearby,  or any other help in the home…knowing that “all hands on deck” can be a wonderful feeling when you just need a break, and yes, every parent, especially new parents need to have “a break”.  Whether that is a nap, or a long shower, or a quick trip to the store to pick up that special “sleep sack” you know will help your baby sleep…a break is healthy.  

A new mother also needs to eat and sleep to ensure that she is making milk in order to successfully breastfeed her newborn.  I remember being a new mother, even 30 years ago, and skipping meals because I was either “too tired”  to eat or “too busy” and my husband being wonderful and saying, “your Mom is going to keep the baby for an hour or two while we go out for a quick dinner!”.  While I am sure that I had a bit of trepidation about leaving our son,  and also figuring out how to nurse him just before we darted out the door,  I went!  The good news was that there were no cell phones or social media to interfere with our “new parent” quiet dinner out. i did not have to call home or text every 30 seconds to check on the baby, and my mother was quite capable of babysitting for an hour or two. No one was posting a picture of us leaving our baby, or commenting that I was “ a bad mother” for leaving my home….in fact, the whole event went unnoticed.  What I also remember is the feeling of re-connecting with my husband (who was also a new father), and having a quiet, nutritious dinner which re-energized us for another long day or night….

But now fast forward to 2016 and the CONSTANT connection with the world!!  Add in a celebrity who is being photographed day and night and whose every move is discussed and dissected. In this case being judged as a new mother for going out to dinner.  Christy did not take her new baby out to a crowded restaurant (you know how I feel about that), nor did she leave her baby home unattended.  She did not put her baby at risk at all. What she did do, was go out for dinner with her husband, albeit with lots of paparazzi following her. Going to dinner does not mean she “is an unfit mother”, it has nothing to do “with bonding with her baby” or “neglecting a newborn”.  So, she didn’t get to make a choice on her own, she didn’t put the issue out there for public comment either….she simply went out to dinner. Enough…leave her and other new mothers alone.

 

 

Daily Dose

New Year New You

1:30 to read

With the New Year upon us what better time to talk about changing some habits.  Why is it that habits are certainly easy to acquire, but difficult to change?  I saw a book on The New York Times Bestseller list about “Habits” and I am committed to reading it this year.  

I know that we started many “bad” habits when my husband and I were new parents, and I talk to my patients every day about not doing the same things I did.....but, even with that knowledge there are several recurrent habits that I wish parents would try to change....or better yet, don’t start.

Here you go!

#1  Do not have your baby/child sleep with you  (unless they are sick).  This is a recurrent theme in my practice and the conversation typically starts when a parent complains that “I am not getting enough sleep, my child wakes me up all night long”.  Whether that means getting in the habit of breast feeding your child all night long, or having your two year old “refuse” to go to sleep without you...children need to be independent sleepers. Some children are born to be good sleepers while others require “learning” to sleep, but either way your child needs to know how to sleep alone. I promise you...their college roommate will one day thank you.

#2  Poor eating habits.  Family meals are a must and healthy eating starts with parents (do you see a recurrent theme?). I still have parents, with 2, 3 or 4 children who are “short order cooks” which means they make a different meal for everyone.  Who even has the time?  Sounds exhausting!!  Even cooking 2 meals (breakfast, dinner) a day for a family is hard to do for 20 years, but enabling your children to have poor eating habits by only serving “their 4 favorite foods- is setting them up for a lifetime of picky and typically unhealthy eating.  Start serving one nutritious family dinner and let everyone have one night a week to help select the meal. Beyond that, everyone eats the same thing.  Easy!  If they are hungry they will eat.

#3  No electronics in your child’s room. If you start this habit from the beginning it will be easy....if you have a TV in your child’s room when they are 6-8, good luck taking it out when they are 13-15.  First TV in their room should be in a college dorm.  For older children make sure that you are docking their electronics outside of their rooms for the night. Everyone will sleep better!

These may sound easy....so give it a try.  

Happy New Year!

 

 

Daily Dose

Dealing With Family Stress

1.15 to read

With all of the chaos going on in our world it seems that every patient or patient's parent is feeling a lot of stress right now. The most interesting thing is that children are quite intuitive and pick up on the stress around them, from parents and teachers to friends, and even from the background conversations playing on radio and TV.

It certainly seems that it is quite difficult to get away from all of this right now. For school age children (grades one - 12), and even the college set, one semester over and gearing up for the next half of the year and mid-term exams are just around the corner. It is just a tough month.

From headaches to stomach aches, and sleeplessness to fatigue and anxiety, these symptoms may all be a manifestation of stress. The best way to help stress is to acknowledge it and then figure out how to face it in a healthy manner.  

Deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and even listening to your favorite music are all good ways to relax and unwind. A good way to de-stress as a family?  No TV after dinner. Play a game, talk to each other, go to the YMCA or the gym as a family. This is the perfect time to get those endorphins flowing with positive energy, and exercise is a great way to do that.  

Put the cellphone away (you and your kids) no distractions because you may miss something! A walk with your family is free, and you might be amazed how much better everyone feels at the end of their day.

That's your daily dose, we'll chat tomorrow. How do you deal with stress? Let me know...would love to share your success story!

Your Toddler

Thumb Sucking

2.00 to read

I admit it – I was a thumb sucker for way too long. My thumb and mouth didn’t part company until I was in first grade. The fear of getting caught during a sleepover at a friend’s house was enough for me to finally call it quits.

It’s normal for babies and toddlers to suck their thumbs. Babies are born with the urge to suck as part of their survival. They also use it as a way to soothe themselves when they feel hungry, afraid, restless, sleepy or bored. Toddlers carry on that natural instinct as they find their way in the world.

By the time children are around four-years-old they’ve typically stopped sucking their thumb and found replacements for self-soothing. Occasionally, children (like myself) will continue to suck their thumb out of habit.

Some experts say that if a child is still sucking their thumb by the age of six, they may be doing so because of emotional distress such as anxiety.

Thumb sucking isn’t a problem under the age of four, but if a child continues- with great intensity- after five or six years old, they could be setting themselves up for dental or speech problems.

Prolonged thumb sucking may cause their teeth to become improperly aligned (malocclusion) or push their teeth outward. If the thumb sucking stops, the teeth most likely will align correctly, but the longer the sucking continues the more likely orthodontic treatment will be needed.

Extended thumb sucking may also cause speech issues such as lisping, inability to say Ts and Ds, and pushing the tongue out when talking. A speech therapist may be needed to help correct these problems.

How do you help your child stop sucking their thumb? It takes a lot of patience.

One place to begin is to pay attention to what triggers the thumb sucking. Does your little one start when they are bored, sleepy, or unsure about something? Redirecting can help. Busy hands help keep thumbs from going into the mouth. Give your child a large stuffed animal to wrap their arms around or have them help hold the book when you are reading to them. Offer a squeezable rubber ball or finger puppets to grasp when they are watching TV.  The key is to offer an alternative at the times you notice they are the most likely to want to suck their thumb.

Ask your child to not suck their thumb in public and gently remind them when you see them doing it. Let them suck their thumb at home, but start the process of being self-aware in public. Kids often unconsciously slip their thumb into their mouth. A reminder helps them notice what they are doing.

You can also start talking to your child about why it’s time to give some thought to stopping. In age-appropriate language explain how thumb sucking is okay for younger children, but as children get older they learn how to stop. Ask them questions like “Do you see (insert name of an older child or adult here) sucking his or her thumb?” They’ll think about it more and start to decide whether they want to continue. It’s a process that takes time.

Punishing or shaming your child is absolutely the wrong method to address thumb sucking. This approach not only doesn’t work, but also lowers a child self-value and can create an even stronger desire to thumb suck. It’s like quitting anything you’re doing that may not be good for you in the long run- the worse someone tries to make you feel about it- the more you want to do it (think overeating, smoking, drinking.)

You can also talk to your pediatrician or family doctor for his or her suggestions on how to help your child. For older children, behavioral therapy may be beneficial.

There are products that are nasty tasting that can be swabbed on your child’s thumb, but some experts think that approach is cruel and more like a punishment than a humane way to help a child outgrow a natural inclination.

Most kids will simply quit sucking their thumb when they are good and ready. Helping your child reach that point may require patience and creativity, but in time his or her thumb will cease to be a constant comfort companion.

Sources: http://children.webmd.com/tc/thumb-sucking-topic-overview

Daily Dose

Breaking Bad Habits

1:15 to read

Do any of your children bite their nails or suck their thumbs? If so, are you always saying, “take your fingers out of your mouth, they are dirty”, or “if you keep biting your nails you will get sick due to all of those germs on your fingers”!  I was guilty of saying those very things to my own children, and I also remember being a nail biter and my mother saying the same thing to me.

Well, who would have thought that a study just released today in the journal Pediatrics might make us parents eat our own words (it wouldn’t be the first time).  The study, “Thumb-Sucking, Nail-Biting and Atopic Sensitization, Asthma and Hay Fever” suggests that “childhood exposure to microbial organisms reduces the risk of developing allergies”.  Who knew that there might be something so positive coming from a “bad habit”.  

This study was done in New Zealand and followed over 1,000 children born between 1972-1973 (dark ages) whose parents reported that they either bit their nails or sucked their thumbs at 5,7,9 and 11 years old. The participants were then checked at ages 13 and again at 32 years old to look for an allergic reaction ( by skin prick testing) against at least one common allergen.  And guess what…at 13 years of age the prevalence of an allergic reaction was lower among those children who HAD sucked their thumbs or bitten their nails.  Incredibly the the findings persisted almost 20 years later!  This study even looked at cofounding factors including sex, parental history of allergies, pet ownership, breast feeding and parental smoking… none of which played a role. 

So, while not advocating for children to suck their thumbs or bite their nails (which unfortunately I did until high school when I decided to have nails to polish) there may be a silver lining….a protective effect against allergies that persists into adulthood. 

Lemonade out of lemons!!!

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