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Your Teen

Overweight Girls Start Periods At Earlier Age

1.45 to read

Early-onset menstruation is linked to later health problems such as breast cancer, said Sarah Keim, a researcher at The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, who wasn't involved in the new study. Girls who get their period early in life are also more likely to have sex sooner than their peers, Keim added, which increases the risk of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.It's nothing new that girls are getting younger and younger when they have their first period, but experts worry that the current obesity epidemic could be fueling that trend.

Overweight or obese girls get their first period months earlier than their normal-weight peers, according to a Danish study. Early-onset menstruation is linked to later health problems such as breast cancer, said Sarah Keim, a researcher at The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, who wasn't involved in the new study. Girls who get their period early in life are also more likely to have sex sooner than their peers, Keim added, which increases the risk of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. About 17 percent of American kids and teens are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For the study, researchers used information on body mass index (BMI) -- a measure of weight in relation to height -- and age at first period from about 3,200 Danish girls born between 1984 and 1987. The girls started their period just after they had turned 13, on average, which is about half a year later than in the U.S. Keim said part of the reason for this difference may be that African-Americans tend to start their periods before white girls. On average, a girl got her period about 25 days earlier for every point her BMI increased. For a female of about average height and weight, a one-point change in BMI is equivalent to about six pounds. Overweight and obese girls, for example, got their period three to five months before normal-weight girls, said Anshu Shrestha, a graduate student at UCLA School of Public Health, who worked on the study. There has been past research showing a link between BMI and when girls start menstruating. However, since this study was done more recently, it shows that the link is holding up in today's generation, Keim said. The researchers also found that a girl's mother's weight was related to when her daughter started menstruating, but less so than earlier work had hinted. For every point her mother's BMI when pregnant went up, the girl's period came about a week earlier, according to the new study, which was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility. Keim said the Danish findings reinforce the importance of keeping a healthy weight. "It's important for your entire life, starting from very early on," she told Reuters Health. "And it can even affect your children's health." Talking to your daughter about Menstruation. Most girls begin to menstruate when they're about 12, but periods are possible as early as age 8. That's why explaining menstruation early is so important. But menstruation is an awkward subject to talk about, especially with preteen girls, who are often embarrassed by this discussion. So what's the best way to approach this ticklish topic? If your daughter asks questions about menstruation, answer them openly and honestly. Provide as many details as you think she needs at the time. It's OK to let your daughter set the pace, but don't let her avoid the topic entirely. If she's not asking questions as she approaches the preteen years, it's up to you to start talking about menstruation. Don't plan a single tell-all discussion. Instead, talk about the various issues - from basic hygiene to fear of the unknown - in a series of short conversations. Consider it part of a continuing conversation on how the human body works. Remember, your daughter needs good information about the menstrual cycle and all the other changes that puberty brings. If her friends are her only source of information, she may hear some nonsense and take it for fact. To introduce the subject of menstruation, you might ask your daughter what she knows about puberty. Clarify any misinformation and ask what questions she might have. It may be helpful to time your conversations with the health lessons and sex education your daughter is receiving in school, or you could broach the subject before a routine doctor's appointment. You can tell your daughter that the doctor may ask her whether she's gotten her period yet. Then ask if she has any questions or concerns about menstruation. Girls might prefer to learn about menstruation from a female family member, but sometimes that's not possible. If you're a single father and you're not comfortable talking about menstruation, you might delegate these conversations to a female relative or friend. The key is to make sure the information is relayed somehow. The biology of menstruation is important, but most girls are more interested in practical information about periods. Your daughter may want to know when it's going to happen, what it's going to feel like and what she'll need to do when the time comes. - What is menstruation? Menstruation means a girl's body is physically capable of becoming pregnant. Each month, one of the ovaries releases an egg. This is called ovulation. At the same time, hormonal changes prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If ovulation takes place and the egg isn't fertilized, the lining of the uterus sheds through the vagina. This is a period. - Does it hurt? Many girls have cramps, typically in the lower abdomen, when their periods begin. Cramps can be dull and achy or sharp and intense. Exercise, a heating pad or an over-the-counter pain reliever may help ease any discomfort. - When will it happen? No one can tell exactly when a girl will get her first period. Typically, however, girls begin menstruating about two years after their breasts begin to develop. Many girls experience a thin, white vaginal discharge about one year before menstruation begins. - What should I do? Explain how to use sanitary pads or tampons. Many girls are more comfortable starting with pads, but it's OK to use tampons right away. Remind your daughter that it may take some practice to get used to inserting tampons. Stock the bathroom with various types of sanitary products ahead of time. Encourage your daughter to experiment until she finds the product that works best for her. - What if I'm at school? Encourage your daughter to carry a few pads or tampons in her backpack or purse, just in case. Many school bathrooms have coin-operated dispensers for these products. The school nurse also may have supplies. - Will everyone know that I have my period? Assure your daughter that pads and tampons aren't visible through clothing. No one needs to know that she has her period. - What if blood leaks onto my pants? Offer your daughter practical suggestions for covering up stains until she's able to change clothes, such as tying a sweatshirt around her waist. You might also encourage your daughter to wear dark pants or shorts when she has her period, just in case. Your daughter may worry that she's not normal if she starts having periods before, or after, friends her age do, or if her periods aren't like those of her friends. But menstruation varies with the individual. Some girls have periods that last two days, while others have periods that last more than a week. It can even vary this drastically from month to month in the same girl. The amount of blood lost each month can vary, too, usually from 4 to 12 teaspoons (about 20 to 60 milliliters). It's also common for girls to have irregular periods for the first year or two. Some months might even go by without a period. Once your daughter's cycle settles down, teach her how to track her periods on a calendar. Eventually she may be able to predict when her periods will begin. Schedule a medical checkup for your daughter if: - Her periods last more than seven days - She has menstrual cramps that aren't relieved by over-the-counter medications - She's soaking more pads or tampons than usual - She's missing school or other activities because of painful or heavy periods - She goes three months without a period or suspects she may be pregnant - She hasn't started menstruating by age 15 The changes associated with puberty can be a little scary. Reassure your daughter that it's normal to feel apprehensive about menstruating, but it's nothing to be too worried about and you're there to answer any questions she may have.

Parenting

Bedwetting Accidents

1:45

I’ll admit it; I was a bed-wetter on and off until I was about 6 years of age. The biggest hurdle I faced in getting past leaving a little puddle of urine in the bed during the night, was visually realistic dreams. I would actually see myself get out of bed, walk to the bathroom and sit on the toilet. Unfortunately, I was only dreaming and would awaken after feeling a wet spot in the bed. It was quite embarrassing.

An accident in a friend’s bed during a sleepover was the last straw.

It took several pre-bedtime experiments to finally help me make it through the night dry; but eventually I was able to tell reality from dreams.

How common is bedwetting? Nocturnal enuresis (the medical name for bedwetting) is involuntary urination that happens at night during sleep after the age when a child should be able to control his or her bladder.

About 13 percent of 6 year olds wet the bed, while about 5 percent of 10 year olds.

Bedwetting sometimes runs in families – if one or both parents wet the bed when they were children, odds are that their children will too.

Most of the time, bedwetting goes away on its’ own. Until that time, it can test a parent’s patience and cause a child plenty of anxiety.

To help a child cope with this uncomfortable time, reassure your child that bedwetting is a normal part of growing up for many kids, and that it will not last forever. If you have stories of your own experiences, this would be the time to share them with your little one.

My child also wet the bed and one sure way to stop her tears of embarrassment was to tell her one of my own personal experiences.  It didn’t take long to switch from sobbing to laughing over our shared nighttime horror.

Kidhealth.org offers these tips for breaking the bedwetting spell:

- Try to have your child drink more fluids during the daytime hours and less at night (and avoid caffeine-containing drinks). Then remind your child to go to the bathroom one final time before bedtime. Many parents find that using a motivational system, such as stickers for dry nights with a small reward (such as a book) after a certain number of stickers, can work well. Bedwetting alarms also can be helpful.

- When your child wakes with wet sheets, don't yell or punish. Have your child help you change the sheets. Explain that this isn't punishment, but it is part of the process. It may even help your child feel better knowing that he or she helped out. Offer praise when your child has a dry night.

Sometimes, bedwetting can be a signal that there is a medical condition that should be checked out. If it begins suddenly or is accompanied by other symptoms, talk to your pediatrician.

The doctor may check for signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI), constipation, bladder problems, diabetes, or severe stress.

Call the doctor if your child:

•       Suddenly starts wetting the bed after being consistently dry for at least 6 months

•       Begins to wet his or her pants during the day

•       Snores at night

•       Complains of a burning sensation or pain when urinating

•       Has to pee frequently

•       Is drinking or eating much more than usual

•       Has swelling of the feet or ankles

•       Is 7 years of age or older and still wetting the bed

Bedwetting can be a sign that a child is under a lot of stress. Often, when a child loses a family member or pet, is doing poorly in school or is frightened about something, they will suddenly start wetting the bed – even if they’ve never done it before or have mastered the art of getting through the night dry.

Your support and patience can go a long way in helping your child feel better about and overcome the bedwetting.

Remember, the long-term outlook is excellent and in almost all cases, dry days are just ahead.

As for me, I had to find a touchstone to let me know the difference between dreaming and actually getting up to go the bathroom. It was the bathroom light switch. If I actually touched the light switch and turned it on, then counted to five before moving, I was really awake. If the light was already on and I walked to the toilet and sat down- I was dreaming.

Story source: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/enuresis.html#

 

 

Your Child

Gluten-Free Diet Not Recommended for Healthy Children

2:00

A “gluten-free “ label on a food product is one sure way to increase sales as the popularity of such items continues to rise.

For people with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, eating gluten can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, upset stomach and bloating. However, for healthy adults and particularly children, there are many reasons to avoid going gluten-free according to a commentary recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics, by Norelle Reilly.

Dr. Norelle Reilly is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center and the director of pediatric celiac disease in the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.

In a recent Time Magazine article, Reilly lays out four reasons why healthy children should not be on a gluten-free diet.

1. Gluten is not naturally toxic except for people with celiac disease, however, in almost all children, gluten travels through the intestine without causing disease and will never lead to problems. To date, science has not shown that there is a toxin in gluten that makes it bad for our bodies. A balanced diet containing fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and a variety of carbohydrate sources is the best way for healthy children to stay healthy, Reilly notes.

2. A gluten-free diet may not provide balanced nutrition for children. Some people assume that gluten-free food and healthy food as the same thing. Not necessarily so, says Reilly.

Many gluten-free substitutes for items such as breads and cookies are actually higher in fat and calories than gluten-containing varieties. Gluten-free items such as some cereals and breads may also not be nutrient fortified to the same degree as those with gluten. Folate and B-vitamins are often added to our usual starch staples, silently protecting people whose diets may not be very balanced from deficiency. Without these quiet sources of nutrition, vitamin deficiencies could develop, she writes.

Gluten-free foods are often fiber deficient, which is important for gastrointestinal health, including maintaining regular bowel movements. Quite commonly, children who initiate a gluten-free diet become constipated. Increased consumption of rice, a common gluten substitute, may also expose children to more arsenic in their diets, as arsenic is frequently present in the earth where rice is grown.

Reilly says that growing bodies and brains require balanced nutrition. For those children who need a gluten-free diet, balance can be implemented safely and healthfully with the guidance of an experienced registered dietitian to help avoid all of these and other nutritional pitfalls.

3. Have your child tested for celiac disease before putting them on a gluten-free diet. You can’t know for sure whether your child is gluten sensitive or has celiac disease until a physician has tested them. Symptoms alone are not enough to determine whether your child has celiac disease. Being on a gluten-free diet before having your child tested can make it more difficult to determine whether he or she actually does or does not have the disease.

Reilly suggests that if you are concerned that your child may have a problem with gluten, speak to your child’s doctor before banning it from your child’s diet. A child with celiac disease needs special monitoring over time and their family members may need to be tested. Even if you plan to give the diet a try regardless of the test result, it is extremely important for your child and family’s health to know why the diet is necessary.

4. A gluten-free diet is hard to maintain and expensive. For children who require this limited diet for long-term health, parents, schools, and the medical teamwork to make the child’s experience in school and at home as easy as possible.

Reilly notes that the children she has treated for celiac disease would trade in their gluten-free diet in an instant if they knew gluten would not make them sick.

In addition she adds, gluten-free foods are incredibly expensive and for many families the diet can be challenging to financially sustain in the long run.

Many adults prefer a gluten-free diet, but Reilly cautions that parents should check with their pediatrician or family doctor before putting their healthy children on the same eating plan.

Story source: Norelle Reilly, http://time.com/4329517/4-reasons-why-your-kids-should-not-be-gluten-free/

Daily Dose

Homemade Cure for Coxsackie?

1:30 to read

Desperate times call for desperate measures…or so it seems according to several of my patient’s mothers who have resorted to all sorts of “cra-cra” stuff to “treat” their child’s “HFM” - hand foot and mouth infection.  Remember, HFM is a viral infection that most children get in the first several years of life. It may cause all sorts of symptoms but in a classic case the child develops a macular-papular (flat and/or raised) vesicular rash on the palms, soles and buttocks. In some children the rash is fairly mild and in others it can look pretty disgusting and uncomfortable…but it has to fade away on its own…with time.

 

There has been a lot of HFM in our area and much anxiety among parents about this infection….fueled a lot by social media identifying who has HFM and where they go to school and how many cases there are. (too much information!!). Parents are even posting…places to “stay away from”. So, some of my patient’s parents are scouring their child looking to see if there might be a bump..and could this be HFM and if so, what do I do to “stop” it!  That would be “nothing” besides good hand washing..as this is a viral infection and you may be exposed to it almost anywhere.

 

Since coxsackie virus has been around for years, this means that most adults had the virus when they were young.  But, several moms and dads whose children have HFM have also shown me a rash on their palms and soles, that I presume may be HFM? They are kind of freaked out and may be uncomfortable too…but this is not life threatening.  Even so,  several parents are resorting to THE GOOGLE to get their medical information… and one young mother kindly brought me all of the stuff that she had gotten to treat her son’s HFM as well as hers.  She was earnest in hoping that this was the “cure”…and did I know about all of these remedies?

 

Here we go, her potions!  Epsom salts for baths as this is an “antiviral”, turmeric and ginger in veggie juice, crushed garlic which she was mixing with small amounts of orange juice and squirting into her toddlers mouth with a syringe, lavender essential oil and lastly “virgin” coconut oil massages.   

 

I was most impressed that her sweet toddler was eating, drinking and bathing in all of this!!! Unfortunately, despite her best efforts it took about 2 weeks for his rash to totally disappear and she kept him under house arrest for most of that time!!  He really could have gone out long before that as he was over his acute illness, but she wanted every “mark” to have faded. She was most chagrined to hear that he might get HFM again. I am not sure the her “voo-doo” did any good, except in her mind. 

 

Lastly, if you do resort to “internet medicine” remember the oath, “first do no harm” and check with your pediatrician about some of the advice you might find on-line, not everything may be safe.

 

Daily Dose

Ear Infections

1:30 to read

Musings from the very busy pre-holiday pediatric office:  with all of the advances in technology over the last 30 years why is it that examining a child’s ears and visualizing their eardrum continues to be challenging?  I started thinking about this while examining a very unhappy, strong and febrile toddler….probably the 20th patient of the day. 

 

During the “sick season” many of the patients who come to my office are young children whose parents are worried that they may have an ear infection.  This concern is one of the most frequent reasons for pediatric office visits. While I realize that many of my colleagues are in the operating room operating on brains or doing open heart surgery (truly saving lives) the one advantage that they have is that their patient is under anesthesia while they are doing complicated procedures. Which only means that they are not trying to wrestle, cajole, or coax a child into letting them look into their ear canal, and then only to find that you can’t see a thing as the canal is full of wax (cerumen).  

 

At times examining ears can be fairly simple and straight forward, but some days it seems that it may be easier to attempt to fly than to look at a 16 month old child’s ears. Today was one of those days. It seemed that every child I saw had a temperature over 102 degrees, and they all had “waxy” ears. While there are several ways to remove wax from the ear canal, none of them is easily done in a toddler, especially when the wax is hard and difficult to remove. Having 3 children myself and one who had recurrent ear infections and tympanostomy tubes, I know what it is like to have to hold your child on the pediatrician’s exam table while they irrigate or “dig” wax out of the ears.  Not fun….!!!  But, at the same time I realize that this is the only means to see if the ear is infected and if there is the need for an antibiotic. 

 

With the advent of the HIB and Pneumococcal vaccines the incidence of ear infections has dropped significantly, as these bacteria were common causes of otitis. But, ear infections are still the #1 reason that a child receives an antibiotic, especially in the first 2 years of life.  Therefore, a good ear exam is one of the most important things your pediatrician does, as I know you don’t want your child to receive an unnecessary antibiotic!

 

Please know that pediatricians do not enjoy making a child uncomfortable, but somehow that ear drum needs to be seen…especially in a sick child.   

 

So…why has some brilliant medical device inventor not found a way to wave a magic wand over a child’s ear to “tell me” if their ear is infected?  To date, I have not seen any “new” ways to accurately examine an ear other than with the otoscope…and a clean ear canal…which means unhappy children (and parents ) while I try to clean their ears.  

 

Remember, don’t use q-tips in your child’s ears and if your pediatrician has to struggle a bit to clean out  your child’s ears, it is only because they are doing a good job!!  I am waiting for the “easy” button….surely it is coming…maybe Santa will bring it!

 

 

   

Daily Dose

What New Babies Need

1:30 to read

I have many friends whose own children are now having babies and they always ask, “what all do we need to have/buy for a new baby these days?”  While many things have changed since I had my own children, many have not,  and I still think “less is more” is a good adage to follow, especially for a newborn.  We all have a tendency to buy too much, or the “latest and greatest” only to find out that it is not necessary.

Carseat - a rear facing car seat is a must for your newborn!!!  Look at all of the reviews on line and pick which seat works best for you.  Do you want one with a base that you can also clip on to a stroller?  Remember your baby will sit in a rear facing car seat until 2 years. This is one item I would spend my money on!!

The baby needs a place to sleep so buy a crib and a good mattress.  If you are going to have more than one baby I would buy something that will last through several children. I like having a crib (rather than a toddler bed), as your baby will be in the crib for several years and then can move to a regular bed…no need for an “in between”.  Do not use an “old” crib that has drop sides, due to safety concerns. So that means the one that I had kept in the garage (from my kids) was a throw away! I usually move the first child to a bed when I need the crib for the next baby…no specific age. Bumpers are no longer recommended, so that saves money too!

Changing table or dresser for the millions of diaper changes.  It is so helpful to not have to bend over each time. I would also buy a diaper cream (Dr. Smiths, Destin or Butt paste) to have on hand….your baby will probably get a diaper rash at some time during their time in a diaper.

Baby bath tub: while you can bathe your baby in the sink, the newer bathtubs do make it easier for a newborn and you can use it in the tub as well until your baby can sit up alone. Remember, you will NEVER leave your child in the tub alone…even with all of the seats, rings and things  that they sell to support your baby!!  For bathing I like gentle bath wash like Cetaphil, Cerave, and Eucerin products….good for all skin types.  Pick one!

Swaddle blankets: WOW there are a million on the market and they all “claim” to help your baby to sleep better. I don’t think any of the products say “it will also takes weeks to months for your baby to sleep through the night” , no matter what you use.  I do like the thin swaddle blankets as they are useful for a number of things besides swaddling. Once you have your baby have the nurses show you how to swaddle (quick and easy).  The Miracle Blanket, Woombie and Halo also make it easy to swaddle as well. Pick one (or two) and stick with that.  Remember, your baby is going to be put in their crib on their back whether swaddled or not!! NO TUMMY SLEEPING.  

Diaper Bag: again their are a million out there in all shapes, sizes and price points. In the beginning you need to have a pad for changing (you will end up changing that baby all sorts of weird places), diapers, burp clothes, wipes…as your baby gets bigger you will have bottles, cups, toys all shoved in there too. All of my patients seem to have a travel size Purell strapped to the side of the bag as well. I would get a bag that you can wipe out as there will be spills of all sorts of stuff in that bag I assure you!  Somehow, over time you go back to “less is more” and the diapers end up in your purse!!  

So…that is a start. Will do another post on some other products in the future. 

 

 

Your Baby

Ditch the Smartphone Apps to Monitor Baby’s Health

1:45

If you use a smartphone app to monitor your baby’s vital signs, a new research paper suggests that you may want to send those apps to trash.

The apps are linked to sensors in a baby’s clothing and are marketed as a way to help parents be aware of things like breathing, pulse rate and oxygen levels in the blood and sound alarms when infants are in distress. But they aren't tested or approved for U.S. sale like medical devices and there's little evidence to suggest these monitors are safe or effective, said Dr. Christopher Bonafide, lead author of the opinion piece in JAMA; an international peer-reviewed medical journal.

"I’ve been there myself, peeking in the door of my son’s room late at night, making sure I could hear him breathing," Bonafide, a pediatrics researcher at the University of Pennsylvania and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said by email to Reuters.

Marketing ads of the monitors stop short of saying they can diagnose, treat or prevent illnesses, however, they do promise parents peace of mind that comes from an early warning system when something is wrong with babies' health, the study authors write.

Promotions for some apps also play into parents’ fear of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), suggesting that parents can have peace of mind that their baby is just sleeping,

The AAP advises parents not to use monitors like the ones paired with smartphone apps for home use because there's no evidence this reduces the risk of SIDS.

Instead, parents should rely on prevention efforts proven to work, like breastfeeding and sleeping in the same room with their babies, the AAP recommends.

"Perhaps in the future there may be a technology that is in development to lower the risk of SIDS," said Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, a co-author of the AAP guidelines and pediatrics researcher at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, New Jersey.

"However, we are not there yet," Feldman-Winter - who wasn't involved in the paper, - added in an email to Reuters.

Sometimes, we as consumers, assume that if something is for sale- particularly a health related item- that it has been approved or tested by a U.S. governmental agency. That’s not always the case. Smartphone applications can be created and sold relatively easily these days without any assurance the app actually performs as promoted. Parents of newborns are a good market for anything that promises to keep their baby safe.

New smartphone-integrated monitors currently available in the U.S. or expected to debut soon include Baby Vida, MonBaby, Owlet, Snuza Pico and Sproutling.

Some pediatric health experts express concern that using apps to monitor a baby’s health actually reduces the parent’s ability to know their own baby’s unique habits, body and cues that he or she may be in distress.

"We have lost sight of what babies need in order to keep them safe, and many parents and grandparents today do not realize that it is the presence of a responsive and vigilant caregiver that keeps a baby safe, but believe the job can be outsourced to a smartphone/video-monitor/technomattress etc," said Helen Ball, director of the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab at Durham University in the UK, in an email. Ball was not involved in the paper.

Ball believes that the best way to keep our babies’ safe is to use our eyes, ears and touch to respond to and monitor for any health concerns.

Story source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-safety-baby-monitors-idUSKBN1582RA

http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2598780

Daily Dose

Your Child's Sitter

1:30 to read

Do you ever leave your child with a babysitter or caregiver? Weird question right? But some parents never want to leave their child with someone else....and I am not sure that is healthy for either parent or child.   

I recently had this discussion with parents of a 3 year old child who was having a terrible time with separation anxiety. While many children go through stages of separation anxiety, by the time a child is 3-4 years they are typically past this stage. When I was talking with this family they told me their child had never been left with anyone.  

I guess as a working mother I was incredulous. What? Had the parents never gone out to dinner or to a party, a concert, lecture  or even on a night away for some much needed “couple” time?  They told me that they would occasionally call in grandparents but typically took their child everywhere with them.  (I think there are many places such as movies, adult restaurants, and other venues that might not want the 2 year old in tow).   I suppose some would say the child was fortunate, but I really believe that as a child reaches age 2ish they need to begin learning to separate from their parent. Not for days or weeks, but for either a play group, a pre school program, the gym nursery or something where the child is learning a bit of independence.   

While some parents are quite fortunate that they don’t have to leave their child to go to work every day, the concept of leaving your child for any hour or two with a trusted babysitter should not cause anxiety for the parent and ultimately not the child. Separation is an important milestone, as your child learns that while you may leave for an hour or two, you always return. There is security in that knowledge. They will also learn how to interact with  other adults and children, which is often different than they do with their own parents.  (Ask any teacher about that phenomena). 

Autonomy and independence are typically traits that parents desire for their children.  Parents also need to have some autonomy as well.....I think this makes for a better parent child relationship in the long run.  Little steps in separating become bigger steps as a child grows older....starting with a babysitter or nursery for an hour or two on occasion is often the beginning. 

Your Teen

10 Reasons Teens Act The Way They Do

2:30

Anyone in the midst of raising a teen knows that the adolescent years can be some of the most difficult to get through and understand.

As a parent or guardian of a teenager that wants to be more independent, but also needs supervision and guidance, the times can be challenging indeed.

If that’s the position you find yourself in, you may be asking – what’s going on in that youngster’s brain? Actually, there’s a lot happening!

There are several scientific reasons an adolescent brain can be similar to a toddler’s: After infancy, the brain's most dramatic growth spurt occurs in adolescence. Here’s 10 things you may not know about your teen’s brain.

10. Critical period of development. Adolescence is generally considered to be the years between 11 and 19. It’s easy to see the outward changes that occur in boys and girls during this time, but inside, their brains are working on overdrive.

"The brain continues to change throughout life, but there are huge leaps in development during adolescence," said Sara Johnson, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Parents should understand that no matter how tall their son has sprouted or how grown-up their daughter dresses, "they are still in a developmental period that will affect the rest of their life," Johnson told LiveScience

9. The growing brain. Scientists used to believe the greatest leap in neuronal connections occurred in infancy, but brain imaging studies show that a second burst of neuronal sprouting happens right before puberty, peaking at about age 11 for girls and 12 for boys.

The adolescent's experiences shape this new grey matter, mostly following a "use it or lose it" strategy, Johnson said. The structural reorganization is thought to continue until the age of 25, and smaller changes continue throughout life.

8. New Thinking Skills. This increase in brain matter allows the teenager to become more interconnected and gain processing power, Johnson notes.

If given time and access to information, adolescents start to have the computational and decision-making skills of an adult. However, their decisions may be more emotional than objective because their brains rely more on the limbic system (the emotional seat of the brain) than the more rational prefrontal cortex.

"This duality of adolescent competence can be very confusing for parents," Johnson said, meaning that sometimes teens do things, like punching a wall or driving too fast, when, if asked, they clearly know better.

Sound familiar?

7.  Teen tantrums. While teens are acquiring amazing new skills during this time, they aren’t that good at using them yet, especially when it comes to social behavior and abstract thought.

That’s when parents can become the proverbial guinea pig. Many kids this age view conflict as a type of self-expression and may have trouble focusing on an abstract idea or understanding another's point of view.

Particularly in today’s heavy media influenced world, teens are dealing with a huge amount of social, emotional and cognitive flux says Sheryl Feinstein, author of Inside the Teenage Brain: Parenting a Work in Progress (Rowman and Littlefield, 2009.)

That’s when they need a more stable adult brain (parents) to help them stay calm and find the better path.

6. Intense emotions. Remember the limbic system mentioned earlier (the more emotional part of the brain)? It’s accelerated development, along with hormonal changes, may give rise to newly intense experiences of rage, fear, aggression (including towards oneself), excitement and sexual attraction.

Over the course of adolescence, the limbic system comes under greater control of the prefrontal cortex, the area just behind the forehead, which is associated with planning, impulse control and higher order thought.

As teens grow older, additional areas in the brain start to help it process emotions and gain equilibrium in decision-making and interpreting others. But until that time, teens can often misread parents and teachers Feinstein said.

5. Peer pressure. As teens become better at abstract thinking, their social anxiety begins to increase.  Ever wonder why your teen seems obsessed with what others are thinking and doing?

Abstract reasoning makes it possible to consider yourself from the eyes of another. Teens may use this new skill to ruminate about what others are thinking of them. In particular, peer approval has been shown to be highly rewarding to the teen brain, Johnson said, which may be why teens are more likely to take risks when other teens are around.

Friends also provide teens with opportunities to learn skills such as negotiating, compromise and group planning. "They are practicing adult social skills in a safe setting and they are really not good at it at first," Feinstein said. So even if all they do is sit around with their friends, teens are hard at work acquiring important life skills.

4. Measuring risk.  "The brakes come online somewhat later than the accelerator of the brain," said Johnson, referring to the development of the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system respectively.

At the same time, "teens need higher doses of risk to feel the same amount of rush adults do," Johnson said. Not a very comforting thought for parents.

This is a time when teens are vulnerable to engaging in risky behaviors, such as trying drugs, sex, getting into fights or jumping into unsafe water.

So what can a parent do during this risky time? "Continue to parent your child." Johnson said. Like all children, "teens have specific developmental vulnerabilities and they need parents to limit their behavior," she said.

It’s when being a parent to your child instead of trying to be their “friend” is more difficult but much more important for their physical and emotional safety.

3. Yes, parents are still important. According to Feinstein, a survey of teenagers revealed that 84 percent think highly of their mothers and 89 percent think highly of their fathers. And more than three-quarters of teenagers enjoy spending time with their parents; 79 percent enjoy hanging out with Mom and 76 percent like chilling with Dad. That’s not 100%, but it’s probably more than you thought.

One of the tasks of adolescence is separating from the family and establishing some autonomy, Feinstein said, but that does not mean a teen no longer needs parents – even if they say otherwise.

"They still need some structure and are looking to their parents to provide that structure," she said. "The parent that decides to treat a 16 or 17 year old as an adult is behaving unfairly and setting them up for failure." 

Listening to your teen and being a good role model, especially when dealing with stress and the other difficulties life can present, can help your teen figure out their own coping strategies.

2. Sleep. Ah, yes, sleep. Although teens need 9 to 10 hours of sleep a night, their bodies are telling them a different story. Part of the problem is a shift in circadian rhythms during adolescence: It makes sense to teen bodies to get up later and stay up later, Johnson said.

But due to early bussing and class schedules, many teens rack up sleep debt and "become increasingly cognitively impaired across the week," Johnson said. Sleep-deprivation only exacerbates moodiness and cloudy decision-making. And sleep is thought to aid the critical reorganization of the teen brain.

"There is a disconnect between teen’s bodies and our schedules," Johnson said.

Shutting down the electronics an hour before bedtime has been shown to help teens as well as adults get to sleep quicker and sleep better. No computer, TV, video games or cell phones.

1.The “I am the Center of the Universe” syndrome. You may have noticed that your teen’s hormones are causing quite a bit of havoc. Experts say that’s to be expected. But you may still wonder- what the heck is going on with my kid?

The hormone changes at puberty have huge affects on the brain, one of which is to spur the production of more receptors for oxytocin, according to a 2008 issue of the journal Developmental Review.

The increased sensitivity caused by oxytocin has a powerful impact on the area of the brain controlling one’s emotions. Teens develop a feeling of self-consciousness and may truly believe that everyone is watching him or her. These feelings peek around age 15.

While this may make a teen seem self-centered (and in their defense, they do have a lot going on), the changes in the teen brain may also spur some of the more idealistic efforts tackled by young people throughout history.

"It is the first time they are seeing themselves in the world," Johnson said, meaning their greater autonomy has opened their eyes to what lies beyond their families and schools. They are asking themselves, she continued, for perhaps the first time: What kind of person do I want to be and what type of place do I want the world to be?

Until their brains develop enough to handle shades of grey, their answers to these questions can be quite one-sided, Feinstein said, but the parents' job is to help them explore the questions, rather than give them answers.

And there you have it. Teen’s brains are exploding with new data, confusing signals and dueling desires. It’s a tough time in one’s development- but rest assured, what you teach them by example and compassion as well as how you gingerly help guide them will last a life-time. Even when you do the best you can, there are no guarantees that they will turn out the way you’re hoping they will – they are after all- individuals with a will and a mind of their own. But now you know a little more about why your teen acts the way they do.

Story Source: Robin Nixon, http://www.livescience.com/13850-10-facts-parent-teen-brain.html

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