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Daily Dose

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

1:30 to read

Many of the patients that I see who have problems with attention and focus as well as other behavioral and learning issues have been started on all sorts of different medications. For some children their medications seem to be “working well”. But, for some children it has been difficult to find the “right” medication to alleviate all of their symptoms.  Studies have shown that anywhere from 10%- 30% of children with ADHD do not respond favorably to stimulant medications. Therefore,  it is not uncommon for their parents to inquire about the use of alternative or complementary medications. In several cases their parents have already started “dietary supplements”, which at times they are reluctant to admit to, or ask for my opinion.  

Interestingly, there is recent data regarding dietary supplements that parents and pediatricians should be paying attention to…and open to discussing.  A study that was presented last fall at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry showed that omega-3’s “could augment the response in children aged 7-14 years who were receiving psychotherapy for depression and bipolar disorders”. There have been  studies as well that have shown “significant improvements with Omega-3’s relative to placebo for problems including aggression as well as depression and anxiety symptoms”.  There are also numerous studies looking at ADHD symptom improvement in those using Omega-3’s, and again the results have been mixed, made even more difficult by the fact that ADHD is a subjective diagnosis.  

Another issue that requires more study is how these fatty acids actually work within the body and brain. Omega-3’s are an important building block of the brain and it is present in the brain's cell membranes, where it is thought to facilitate the transmission of neural signals.  Current thought is that these fatty acids may change the cell membrane fluidity and may also have anti-inflammatory effects….but a lot of research continues on the issue of mechanism of action. 

Several of the studies looked at dosage of the Omega 3 fatty acid supplements and “it seemed that there were more positive trials related to higher daily doses of  certain omega 3 fatty acids including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA).  There need to be further studies to address the amount and ratio of these Omega-3’s as they are used for supplements. 

So while the research continues as to the effectiveness of Omega 3’s on focus, mood, behavior and learning it is important for all children to consume enough Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. Eating fatty fish a few times a week would be beneficial for the health of all children - and the decision to supplement beyond that may be a topic for discussion with your own physician. 

 

Daily Dose

Teach Your Kids Good Manners

1.15 to read

Spring is always a busy time of year with end of school parties, proms, graduations, and lots of invitations.  These invitations are often sent not only to parents but many times they are sent to the kids as well. Some invitations have a reply card or say “please reply” or RSVP.   

Do your kids know what RSVP means?  Although it is French, surely everyone still knows it means “reply if you please”. Has RSVP been replaced by LOL and OMG? It is a common courtesy to respond to an invitation and one that all children need to learn (maybe some adults as well). 

Over the years I have had to explain this courtesy to my own children. Sometimes they just did not understand why I bugged them to reply in a timely matter.  After looking at the bulletin board where I would put check marks and dates by our response, I would often ask them if they had replied as well? This question was often answered with, “Not yet, trying to decide, or “ They know that I am coming ” or lastly “ I’ll do it later”.  Such answers did not seem to be exactly what I had hoped to hear. Of course, I couldn’t relent until we had closure on this issue and I knew that they had responded.  I was the bothersome mother after all!

For many years they seemed clueless as to head counts and party prep. I would re-iterate that by getting an idea of how many people are going to attend any event the hosts can make sure that there are enough seats for everyone coming, or enough food to eat and drinks for all. Otherwise, you either spend way too much over buying or end of scrounging as you didn’t plan on that many people. “Whatever”, right? 

Well, now that they are older, they were just complaining to me that they had not heard from guests for a party that they were planning. “How do I know how much food to order?”, “How do you rent tables and chairs if you don’t have a head count?”  “Why do people wait till the last minute to reply?”  “Didn’t their parents bug them about replying?”  And finally, music to my ears, “Mom you should write a blog about learning to reply to invitations”! 

So...here it is. Teach your kids (beginning at early ages) how to reply to a party. Have them pick up the phone to reply to the 5 year old birthday party, or learn to write an email response when they are accepting an invitation to attend an event. Teach them to reply in a timely manner, and if something does change, let the hosts know.  Lastly, I still don’t see any reply messages that say “text me if you are coming”, but I am sure that is just around the corner.  

Good manners are ageless and timeless.

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

Your Kids Need Protein!

1:30 to read

Nutrition and healthy eating habits are always a topic of discussion during my patient’s check-ups.  Interestingly, I hear many tweens and teens tell me, “I am now a vegetarian”.  While I am thrilled that my patients are developing an awareness about their nutrition, I am equally amazed by what they think a vegetarian diet is.

Many a parent has cornered me before their child’s check up concerned about their child’s recent announcement that they are vegetarians and it has actually caused some heated family discussions surrounding nutrition and dietary requirements. The parents say that their child just decided that they no longer wanted to “eat meat” and that they were vegetarians. 

So…many of these new “vegetarians” don’t even like vegetables, and a few are confused by the difference between a vegetable and a fruit. When I ask them if they eat broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, eggplant and potatoes, I find that more than a few turn their noses up at most of those suggestions and simply eat potatoes as their vegetable of preference. They also eat avocados, and are surprised to find out that it is a fruit, but it is a good source of healthy mono unsaturated fats.  A few are a bit more adventuresome and actually eat a wide variety of vegetables including lentils and black beans as a source of protein.  

The same thing goes for fruits although for the most part they do admit to having a broader palate when it comes to fruits that they will eat.  Apples, bananas, berries, grapes are all favorites and many of these kids will eat fruit all day long.  Fruit is healthy for sure, but also contains sugars (far preferable to the sugar in the M & M’s I am eating while writing). 

The biggest problem with their “vegetarian diet”?   They just eat carbs! So I have coined the term “carbohydratarian” to describe them. Most of these patients are female and they eat carbs all day long.  They have cereal, toast, bagels for breakfast, followed by grilled cheese, french fries or a quesadilla for lunch and then dinner is pizza or pasta, and maybe a salad (lettuce only).  They like crackers, bread and almost all pasta (rarely whole wheat ). Rice is another favorite.

I too could probably eat a lot of these carbs every day….I think many people enjoy their carbs. But these kids are not meeting many of their nutritional requirements. They are getting very little protein! They are also growing…some at their most rapid rate during puberty. When I talk about adding protein to their diet they are often reticent to add eggs, fish or beans to their food choices. 

If your child decides that they want to change their lifestyle and might consider becoming a vegetarian or vegan, I would encourage you to have them meet with a certified nutritionist to explore their likes and dislikes as well as to educate them as to their nutritional needs.

 

I must say…..very few of these patients have maintained their vegetarian lifestyle, but if they choose to, they need to know the difference between a fruit and a veggie!

 

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!!!

Daily Dose

Kids & Cellphones

1:30 to read

There is a new study out from the National Toxicology Program in which rats were exposed to radio frequency radiation for nine hours a day for two years beginning in utero.  They compared these rats to those that were not exposed and interestingly some of the male rats developed tumors in their hearts and brains and the controls did not.

I am writing about this as another deterrent to giving children a cell phone at a young age and for not having a home phone. While it is too early to say if this study has any bearing on humans and obviously the exposure was heavier than normal, this may serve as another deterrent to giving children a cell phone at a young age. It may also help to bring “land lines” back into the home. 

Call me old school, but I continue to believe and counsel patients, having a home phone is still important.  Without a home phone how can you call your child when you are away and they may be home with a babysitter….and not depend on the caregivers cell phone?  I also think that some children may be ready to stay at home for 30 min to an hour at a time while their parents go to the store, or pick up a sibling from school etc. before they are ready for a cell phone. By having a home phone the child has a means of contacting their parents, neighbors or emergency personnel and don’t risk losing a cell phone or any of the other numerous issues associated with owning a cell phone.

A home phone also gives children an opportunity to learn how to answer a phone and begin “screening” phone calls for the family and to learn phone etiquette….which is not always taught when parents are answering the cell and handing it off to their child.  What about the days when we were taught to say “Hello, Hubbard residence” when answering the phone?  Or having your mother sit by your side while you called a friend’s house and started off the conversation with, “may I please speak to…Sally?”. Phone etiquette was such an important part of every child’s life.

Once your child does have a cell phone it also seems that they may spend more time isolated from the family when on the phone….and may spend longer amounts of time on the phone than when the phone was in the family kitchen. Even my grown children often go outside to take their cell phone call….wonder what they are talking about, me?  I digress….

The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to recommend that parents should limit the use of cell phones by children and teens. A cell phone is not a toy and emits radiation.  Keeping this source of radiation away from our children for as long as possible seems prudent while more research continues…and this study just gives parents a bit more ammunition when their 6 year old starts off with, “everyone else has a cell phone…when can I have one?”.  

 

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Daily Dose

Teaching Your Kids About Their Private Parts

Why do parents give their child's private parts nicknames instead of real names? If you have a child who is over the age of 15 months I know that you have played the game  "where’s your nose, where’s your eyes, where’s your ears?” It is a favorite for both parent and child as a toddler learns to point to various body parts. This game is also an important milestone in observing a child process language (receptive speech) and follow a command.  But, what happens after your child has learned the usual body parts?   In other words, what about the rest of their anatomy, specifically their “private parts”.

This topic came to mind the other day while I was seeing a little girl who was complaining of burning and itching with urination.  This is not an uncommon problem in the 3-6 year old little girl set, and part of the physical exam involves looking at the child’s “private parts”. As I begin talking to both the parent and child I always start off with the statement, “I am going to look at your vagina, and it will not hurt”. I also say “no one else should pull your underpants down and touch your vagina. The only people that can touch your vagina are you, your mother or father, and the doctor. These are your private parts, they are covered by your underwear and never let a stranger or even a friend pull down your underpants”. It is important that this age child understand who may or may not pull down their underpants. But, with that being said, it is always amazing to me how many parents say, “we don’t call it a vagina or penis”, and on this occasion the mother said, “Dr. Sue means your bunny hopper!!”  Okay, really? What in the world is a “bunny hopper?”  Why would a parent not name the body parts correctly and where do these names for vagina and penis find their derivation? Over the years I should have kept a list of “secret names” for vagina and penis as I have heard many. From the “princess patch” to “peanut” to “bo-hiney” you name it, there seem to be many parents who either are uncomfortable, or just cannot bring themselves to use the correct word for genitalia. Even Oprah has her word, “va-j-jay”. I submit that we go back to the correct anatomical name. It is so important to teach your children the appropriate words for penis and vagina. Just as they learn eyes, ear, nose, knee, foot, toe they need to know the names of their “private parts”. If you begin with the correct words it never seems awkward or uncomfortable and is no different than naming any other body part. You will be surprised at how easily your child accepts these words, but uses them appropriately too.  It is also important to name body parts correctly, especially if there is ever a question of inappropriate touching or abuse, in order that a child can correctly explain what happened. I still have to laugh when I hear all of the different names a child hears when a parent discusses genitalia, it must be confusing.  But regardless of what you name it, a penis and a vagina are private parts and need to be covered by our underpants, keep repeating that message to your child. What do you think? Would love to hear from you!

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