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Daily Dose

When Parents Date

1:30 to read

I recently saw some patients of mine who are now teens. They were brought in for their check ups by their father who i had not seen in some time.  He has a boy and a girl about 16 and 14 years old.  I knew that there had been some “issues” within their family, but is had actually been several years since i had seen them.

As it turns out the parents had divorced, the mother had some problems with addiction and the father now had custody of the children. He was trying to get “everything back on track”, including visits to the pediatrician.  

After seeing each of the kids alone and talking to them, they actually seemed to be doing extremely well. They had seen a counselor during some of the more tumultuous times and were happy to be in a “stable” environment and had “less family stress” as they put it. They were both doing well in school, had lots of friends and were involved in different sports and school activities.  They said that their sad had been instrumental in getting things “back to normal”, or back to a “new normal”.  

I also visited with the dad and he told me he had a new concern.  He was really happy about how well his children were doing, all good.   It seems that he had just started dating agiain, and he was not quite sure how to handle the subject with his kids.  He told me that he had had several dates and his kids wanted to know....what’s next?

I had to laugh a bit, as we had just discussed his children dating and going to Homecoming. My response was,  “be honest with them”.  If you asked your teen after 2 dates “where is this going?”, they would probably reply, “dad, who knows, we’ve only had 2 dates...I’m not getting married!”.

I told him I would tell his children the same thing,  in a manner of speaking. I would acknowledge that I was enjoying dating, that I had no plans to get married any time soon, and did not even know if i was ready to be “exclusive” ( is that the adult version of Facebook official?) with anyone at this point.  

I would also make it clear that I would keep them updated if and when things changed, but in the meantime they did not need to worry. Their dad would be there everyday to get their breakfast, have dinner with them and continue their “new normal”. It was just such a good feeling seeing all of them happy!

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Buckle Up This Summer!

Your Teen

Parents Need to Have the “Sex Talk” With Their Kids

2:00

Let’s face it, talking to your child about sex isn’t something a parent looks forward to, but a new study says teens who have had a serious conversation about sex with one or both parents are more likely to use condoms or birth control is they are or become sexually active.

“The take home message is that parents do matter, and these conversations do matter,” said Laura Widman, lead author of the new paper and an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

While the more information you can present to your child in a way that addresses the health aspects of sexual activity is good, parents don’t have to be experts says Widman, “Just having the conversation is important,” she said. “That’s the good news.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of high school students have had sexual intercourse. Almost 60 percent of high school students surveyed who have had sex said they used a condom when they last had sex, but 14 percent of sexually active teens said they did not use any birth control the last time they had intercourse.

Young people, aged 15 to 24, make up only a fraction of the sexually active population, but they bear a disproportionate burden of sexually transmitted diseases. And while teen pregnancy rates have dropped significantly, there were still 625,000 teen pregnancies in 2010, and nearly half of them –273,000 — gave birth.

Widman noted that results from the study showed that teens who communicated with their parents about were more likely to communicate with their sexual partners and to use condoms.

“We know that being able to communicate with a partner about condom use is one of the best predictors of whether teens use condoms or not,” Dr. Widman said. “So providing kids with the language they need and getting the message across that the subject is not off-limits or taboo can make a difference in their behavior.”

Some parents worry that talking about sex with their child somehow sends a message that they are approving of that behavior. However, studies have found that children who are comfortable talking about sex are actually more likely to delay sexual activity and be older when they first have intercourse.

“Parents fear that if they bring these issues up, they’re signaling that it’s okay to have sex, but that’s completely untrue – we know that parents who bring it up, and bring it up regularly, their kids are least likely to have sex,” said Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, a professor of social work at the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work and author of an article about that topic that was published recently in JAMA Pediatrics.

Parents aren’t the only ones uncomfortable talking about sex, so are their kids.  In a 2012, half of the kids surveyed said they were uncomfortable talking to their parents about sex. Only 19 percent of the parents said they were uncomfortable having the “sex talk” with their child.

Children often think that if they ask questions, their parents “will overreact or assume they’re having sex,” said Dr. Guilamo-Ramos, who has developed some pointers on talking with your children.

If you’re wondering how to start that conversation with your child, the Office of Adolescent Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has these tips:

·      Use current events, pop culture or developments in your social circle to start conversations about sex, healthy relationships and contraception. It’s not a one-time chat, Dr. Guilamo-Ramos said. “Talk to your child on a regular basis.”

·      Take on the tough topics, like birth control and sexual orientation.

·      Pay attention to a teen’s romantic relationships. Teens in intense romantic relationships are more likely to have sex, especially if the partner is a couple of years older than your child.

·      Address your child’s concerns, not just your own. “They want help with the real life pressures they’re experiencing in social situations,” said Dr. Guilamo-Ramos. “Talk with them about what a healthy relationship looks like, and help them come up with strategies and short one-liners that will help them get out of tough situations.”

·      Make sure to talk to your sons, not just your daughters. “Parents’ messages are often more directed to girls than boys,” he said. “And boys aren’t getting the information they need.”

The findings from the North Carolina State University research stem from a large analysis of adolescent health data, based on more than 50 studies involving 25,314 teens over the course of 30 years. The link between parental communication and safer sex practices, while modest overall, is strongest for girls and for teens that talked with their mothers, according to the research, published online in JAMA Pediatrics

As with most studies, the results do not prove a conclusion, only an association. 

Source: Roni Caryn Rabin, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/why-parents-should-have-the-sex-talk-with-their-children/?_r=0

 

Parenting

Back-to-School Jitters

2:00

Where did the summer go? Some children will be headed back to school in less than a week and others within the next couple of weeks. It’s not uncommon for kids to be a little anxious as the big day draws near. Your child may be feeling a lot of emotions right now, ranging from high anxiety to  “I can’t wait.” That's understandable. Think back on how you felt when you started a new job or were moving to a new part of the country, it’s quite similar but without the benefit of life experience to help you process the changes.

Besides the unknown of a new school year, there’s the challenge of getting back into an early morning routine and the addition of after-school activities to everyone’s schedule. It’s a hectic time but with a lot of patience and a little smart planning, it can go smoother than you might think.

If your child’s school offers an orientation or back–to-school night, one way to help ease your little one’s fear is to take them and let them see the school, meet their teachers and say hello to some fellow students before classes begin. A familiar face or two can help make the transition go a little smoother during that first week of school.

If your child is able to meet his or her teachers, give them time to talk and get to know each other, if only briefly. Let your child answer any questions the teachers have instead of answering for them. You might even help your child come up with a few questions they can ask the teacher.

You could check with the teacher and see if he or she would mind having a picture taken with your child. As school day approaches, you can show it to your child talk about meeting their teacher. A little thing like that can help your child develop a familiar feeling for the teacher before school starts.

Since it’s always a good idea to read to your youngster, choose books with a back-to-school theme. There are lots of children’s books that tell meaningful stories about kids facing the challenges of moving to a new school, the first year of school, making new friends and lots of other possible scenarios in story form.

Get organized! Easier said than done, I know. If you’re organized and ready for school it not only relieves some of the pressure on you, but for your children too. Chaos or uncertainty about where to go and what to do adds fuel to a child’s concerns about whether everything is going to be OK or not. 

Let your child help create a study area in the home. Being involved in at least some of the decisions can help make this a personal adventure that they have some say in.

All kids need enough sleep and getting into a good sleep routine can help ease them into the changes school is going to require. As you already know from experience, a tired child is more likely to feel overwhelmed, nervous and cranky.  If you haven’t already, start the new bedtime routine now so that you don’t have the arguments and resistance during the first days of school when everyone is trying to find their footing.

The main thing to remember is that your child, whether it’s their first day to attend, or their last year of school, is going to feel a little jittery. Reassure him or her that everything is going to be fine. The new schedule, classmates, studies and activities will be familiar sooner than they think. Let them know that you understand how the unknown can be a little scary, but that this is also a time when good things can happen as they explore all their new opportunities. 

 

Daily Dose

Kids Say the Cutest Things!

1:15 to read

I am back post holiday with some of the cutest things I heard from my patients......this is such a great time of year to engage the little ones in conversation and they do “say the darndist things”.  

I was doing a check up on a 4 year old, precocious verbal little girl. The Christmas holidays are an easy time to chat about Santa and what a child is asking for.  When I asked this little girl she had a long, very specific list. I also asked her if she had gone to sit on Santa’s lap....she said she “had already seen him”.  Her mother added that the last time her daughter sat on Santa’s lap and he asked her what she wanted, the little girl looked right up at his sparkling eyes and said, “I just saw you last week, have you already forgotten?”.  

It is also the height of “sick” season so the office is really busy!  We also try to keep the well children away from sick patients. So, I was seeing a 6 year old for a check up and as I left the room I said, “I don’t want to see you for another year!”, to which the child looked at me wide eyed and said, “that hurts my feelings, I like to see you”.  

Do you have an “elf on the shelf”?  Why in the world did I not think of that clever idea....but as a parent you need a “year round” elf to help your children remember about good behavior.  When I asked a 5 year old little boy what he wanted for Christmas he quickly said, “an elf that I can touch and play with, my elf is boring”.  

I am thinking about a “bunny on the shelf”, what do you think? Might help change behavior for another 2 months of the year....as a parent I think that is a great idea.

 

Your Child

High Cholesterol Putting Kids at Risk for Heart Attack

2:00

Abnormally high cholesterol levels are putting American children at higher risk for a heart attack or stroke later in life. One in five kids has high cholesterol according to a review of 2011-2014 federal health data compiled by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Overall, slightly more than 13 percent of kids had unhealthily low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol -- the kind that actually might help clear out arteries. The CDC says just over 8 percent had too-high levels of other forms of cholesterol that are bad for arteries, and more than 7 percent had unhealthily high levels of "total" cholesterol.

Obesity was seen as a major contributing factor, the CDC said. For example, more than 43 percent of children who were obese had some form of abnormal cholesterol reading, compared to less than 14 percent of normal-weight children.

Not surprisingly, rates of abnormal cholesterol readings rose as kids aged. For example, while slightly more than 6 percent of children aged 6 to 8 had high levels of bad cholesterol, that number nearly doubled -- to 12 percent -- by the time kids were 16 to 19 years of age, the CDC said.

Knowing how obesity can impact the heart, cardiologists were not shocked by the findings.

"When one looks at the data it is clear that the obesity epidemic is responsible for a substantial portion of these abnormal cholesterol values," said Dr. Michael Pettei, who co-directs preventive cardiology at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. "Approximately one-third of U.S. children and adolescents are either overweight or obese.

"Clearly, the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) recommendations to screen all children for cholesterol status, and to take measures to prevent and manage obesity, are more appropriate than ever," he said.

Dr. Kevin Marzo, chief of cardiology at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., agreed.

"Abnormal cholesterol is a key modifiable risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, in adulthood," he said. "This study confirms that preventive strategies must start in childhood, including healthy eating habits, regular exercise, and maintaining ideal body weight."

The AAP recommends that all children begin having their cholesterol checked between the ages of 9 and 11.

An acceptable total cholesterol level for a child is below 170 with LDL below 110. A borderline reading in total cholesterol is 170-199 with LDL between 110-129.  And a high classification in total cholesterol is above 200 with LDL above 130.

There may be other reasons a child can have high cholesterol such as diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease or an underactive thyroid. If an initial test shows high cholesterol, your pediatrician will check your child’s blood again at least 2 weeks later to confirm the results. If it is still high, the doctor will also determine if your child has an underlying condition.

Some children can also have high cholesterol that is passed down through families.  It’s called familial hypercholesterolemia and is an inherited condition that causes high levels of LDL cholesterol levels beginning at birth, and heart attacks at an early age. Any child with a family history of high cholesterol should begin having his or her levels in infancy.

The findings were published Dec. 10 as a Data Brief from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

Sources: E.J. Mundell, http://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/high-cholesterol-health-news-359/one-in-five-u-s-kids-over-age-5-have-unhealthy-cholesterol-cdc-706032.html

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Cholesterol-Levels-in-Children-and-Adolescents.aspx

Your Child

Does a Full Moon Make Kids Hyper?

1:30

There are lots of strange things associated with a full moon such as werewolves come out, it causes lunacy, blue moons are actually colored blue and a full moon makes kids more hyper than usual.

A new study actually looked at whether a full moon has any impact on children’s behavior and found that they do sleep a little less, but only by a few minutes.

The study failed to find a link between the occurrence of the full moon and kids' activity levels, debunking the myth that kids are more hyper during a full moon.

The study "provides solid evidence … that the associations between moon phases and children's sleep duration/activity behaviors are not meaningful from a public health standpoint," the researchers, from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa, Canada, wrote in the March 24 issue of the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics.

The idea that the moon effects people’s behavior goes back to ancient times, but studies have found no evidence that that is true.

In the new study, researchers analyzed information from more than 5,800 children, ages 9 to 11, from 12 countries around the world (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Finland, India, Kenya, Portugal, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States).

Unlike much of the previous research on children's sleep, the new study did not rely on parents or the kids themselves to report how much sleep the children got. Instead, the children wore accelerometers — which are devices similar to fitness trackers that record body movement and can be used to monitor sleep — 24 hours a day, for at least seven days.

Results showed that children's activity levels — including the amount of time they spent doing high- and low-intensity activity, and their sedentary time — were about the same during a full moon and new moon (the phase of the moon when it is not visible from Earth).

However, children's sleep time was about 5 minutes shorter on nights with a full moon, compared to nights with a new moon. This is about 1 percent of children's total sleep time, the study said. From a health standpoint, such a small effect "is unlikely to be important," the researchers said.

Why children got a bit less sleep on nights with a full moon wasn’t clear. One reason could be the brightness of the moon during that time.

The study was conducted over a short time and did not track the children for a full month. The finding does not prove that the full moon causes children to sleep for shorter periods, the researchers said.

Future studies are needed "to determine if the human biology is in any way synchronized with the lunar cycle," or if the full moon has a greater influence on certain groups of people, the researchers said. "Whether there is science behind the myth or not, the moon mystery will continue to fascinate civilizations in the years to come."

Story source: Rachel Rettner, http://www.livescience.com/54433-full-moon-children-sleep.html

Daily Dose

Walking to School

1:30 to read

Now that school is back in session and the temperatures are cooling off, an easy way to get you and your child some extra exercise is to walk to school!!  I am thinking it should become a weekly event across the country - how about “walk to school Wednesdays”?

 

I realize that not everyone lives in an area where it is possible to walk to school. But, there are many children who do live close enough, but they are typically driven to school by parents or in a carpool.  I practice in an area where it would be easy for many children to walk to school, but when I ask them if they walk to school they typically give me a quizzical look and answer “no”.  

 

Many parents are concerned that their children don’t get enough exercise and this is a way to sneak in some daily exercise.  Walking together also gives parents a time to talk with their children. It is really a gift of time together. I remember that my children could walk to school for the several years when we lived nearby their elementary school. They are really some of my fondest memories, coffee cup in hand and the dog on a leash and walking the boys to school. It was a sad day when they said, “mom, we want to ride our bikes”.  They would meet some of their other friends (I was the helmet “cop”) and off they went.  No more talks with their mother or holding hands to cross the street…but growing up.

 

There are other perks of walking too!!!  Think about avoiding those long carpool lines. What about the gas that is saved and less pollution for the environment.  No one arguing about sitting next to the window or what radio station to listen too either. And for those children who tend to get car sick…this is a great solution!

Daily Dose

Family Dinners!

1.30 to read

Do you still have family meals?  Or maybe I should ask, did you ever have family dinners?  I seem to ask this question quite frequently during check-ups and I am finding that more and more teenagers answer “no” to that question.  That worries me. 

Family meals, or in this case I am really talking about dinner, has been and remains such an important part of the day for teens. As busy as families are, the ritual of gathering together for an evening meal has actually become even more important.  

So many teenagers are up early these days and heading to school even before the sun is up, and therefore family breakfasts don’t seem to be as feasible for many. But every family needs to make the time to eat together at some point during the day, and dinner may be the best time.  

There have been numerous studies to show that adolescents who routinely eat meals with their families actually perform better in school, are less likely to use drugs or consume alcohol and are also less obese.  That’s a lot of positive effects for just having dinners together.  

But, when I bring up the subject of family meals, many parents as well as their adolescent children tell me that they are “just too busy” to eat together!  How can that be?  Everyone has to eat, and whether dinner is a four-course meal or just a quick meal brought in from the local “take out”, having everyone gather around the table is important. 

The family dinner table is the place to discuss the workday, school day, and anything else that a teenager might want to “talk” about.  Whether the topic of the night is sports, politics, school projects, the next school dance, or the latest teen “angst”, it really doesn’t matter. Dinner is the time to just talk.  

And even if everyone at the table is not always talking, they are listening.  I know it may be hard to believe it, but even the “uncommunicative” teen gets a lot out of just being at the table “en famille”. Surprisingly, the quiet teen may begin to engage when given the opportunity to be with the family. 

So, you do not have to commit to 7 nights a week, but maybe start off with 2-3 family dinner nights a week, make a schedule and see how it goes. You may be surprised at how much everyone “gets” out of a family meal. I also am willing to bet that everyone eats a bit healthier as well when you sit down for a meal rather than eating on the go.  

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