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Your Teen

Headlines: Another Teen Suicide

On September 6, 2007, the Centers for Disease and Prevention reported suicide rates in American adolescents (especially girls, 10 to 24 years old) increased 8%, the largest increase in 15 years.The sad and desperate story of a college student who killed himself after a roommate secretly videotaped him having sex, and streamed it live on the web has made headlines across the world.

18 year old, Tyler Clementi, was embarrassed and humiliated by the invasion of his privacy. He jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. Unfortunately, Tyler is not the only teen who thinks suicide is the only way to end his suffering. On September 6, 2007, the Centers for Disease and Prevention reported suicide rates in American adolescents (especially girls, 10 to 24 years old) increased 8%, the largest increase in 15 years. Amazingly, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-to-14-year-olds. The current headlines demonstrate that it is more important than ever that parents are aware of the symptoms of depression and substance abuse.  Suicides increase substantially when the two are combined. What symptoms should I look for? - Change in eating and sleeping habits - Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities. - Violent, rebellious behavior, or running away - Drug and alcohol use. - Unusual neglect of personal appearance - Marked personality change - Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of     schoolwork - Frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc. - Loss of interest in pleasurable activities. - Not tolerating praise or rewards. A teenager who is planning to commit suicide may also: - Complain of being a bad person or feeling rotten inside. - Give verbal hints with statements such as: “I won't be a problem for you much longer,”    “ Nothing matters,” “It's no use, and I won't see you again.” - Put his or her affairs in order, for example, give away favorite possessions, clean his or her room, throw away important belongings, etc. - Become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression - Have signs of psychosis (hallucinations or bizarre thoughts.) What should you do if you notice these symptoms in your child? If a child or adolescent says, "I want to kill myself," or "I'm going to commit suicide,"  always take the statement seriously and immediately seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional. People often feel uncomfortable talking about death. However, asking the child or adolescent whether he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful. Rather than putting thoughts in the child's head, such a question will provide assurance that somebody cares and will give the young person the chance to talk about problems. If one or more of these signs occurs, parents need to talk to their child about their concerns and seek professional help from a physician or a qualified mental health professional. With support from family and appropriate treatment, children and teenagers who are suicidal can heal and return to a healthier mental outlook.

Daily Dose

Teaching Your Child Independence

1.45 to read

I recently interviewed a professor at a major university about her research on "helicopter parenting". It was amazing to me to hear her discuss her findings on college campuses where parents continue to hover over their "almost" adult children by working on their papers, calling or visiting professors about grades, and even trying to register for classes for their kids. Oh my gosh!!

My chance to stay connected to my kids while in college has passed but I do remember when they did not return my phone call.  This study makes me think their professors would?  Our guest even discussed parents who work on their children's resumes for jobs, go on the interviews and I guess deposit their paychecks for them once they are employed? When does this all stop?

I think the one of the greatest lessons you can teach your children is independence and resilience. We have discussed this over and over on our radio show, online, through twitter , facebook and I discuss this frequently in my practice.

I am as guilty as any parent of wanting to stay close to my kids. I miss them a lot and wish they would call more often just to chat (why would they do that when they were not chatters even while living at home)? I have even been known to email them with the condition that their allowance would not be deposited that month if they did not pick up the phone rather than send me a text "school is great, remember it is first of the month".

To teach this independence you have to start young, and I mean when they are toddlers. You have to let them fall down; there is not a way to prevent every fall. You have to get rid of the bottle and teach them to use a cup, let them feed themselves even if it is messy and learn to put themselves to sleep at night. And that is just the beginning, but these are all things that parent's need to know. It is time to get back to the basics, including letting young adult children go to college classes alone. I am not about to write a college essay, I might not pass.

How do you teach your kids independence? Let me know and share with other parents!

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 a parent I think that is a great idea.


Your Child

“Opt-Out” of Letting Schools Sell Your Child’s Personal Information!


If your child is in school, you may have unknowingly given the school the right to sell your child’s private information to data brokers and marketing companies. It happens every year and many parents don’t know they could have signed a form preventing the sale.

Schools are allowed by federal law to sell your child’s personal information to anyone unless you fill out an “opt-out “ form. If you don’t fill it out, personal information such as your child’s name, address, email, telephone number, age, gender, height and weight and photo can be sold.

Not only can your child be subjected to a ridiculous amount of advertising from marketing companies, anyone can use that information to locate your child if they really want to find him or her. They can also contact your child through personal emails or phone and have a picture to identify them.

"Directory information may sound innocuous, but it can include sensitive information about each student that is quite detailed," said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum. "And after the school releases this data, it is considered to be public information and you've lost control of it. I don't think most parents know this."

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), a student's directory information includes home address, email address, telephone number, date and place of birth, height and weight, the clubs or sports teams they've joined - even a photograph.

FERPA was written before the creation of the Internet, when a student's personal information was stored in a file cabinet and privacy was not such a big issue. Today, the data is just what a stalker, abuser or identity thief needs.

FERPA also gives parents the right to see what “directory information” the school has about their children. You have a right to block or limit access to that information. But, the window of time you can do that is short, sometimes just a few weeks after school begins. Once the time frame expires, you cannot stop the release of your child’s personal information until the next school year.

This is especially important for domestic violence survivors who are hiding from their abuser. Information that's released without their knowledge could jeopardize their safety.

"When there are situations where the survivor has left with the child and has custody of the child and they're living elsewhere, they want to know that their abuser doesn't know where they are living," said Kaofeng Lee, deputy director of the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence. "If this information is available, the abuser could get access to where this child is going to school which will pinpoint exactly where the family is now living and make it possible to find them."

Many schools do not do a good job in letting parents know about the form. Some have even neglected to provide the form to parents and some schools have worded the forms in such a way as to discouraged parents from signing them.

It’s a battle for your child’s data and parents need to be aware that they have the right and the means to protect that information from getting out to marketing firms and individuals.

Congress is scheduled to review FERPA to see what further privacy protections are needed to keep students and families’ information private in the digital age. Until then, parents have to seek out and make sure that the opt-out forms are signed, sealed and delivered.

A warning to parents; this isn’t a one-time fix either. You must sign these forms every year that your child attends school.

Source: Herb Weisbaum,




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Back to School

Back to School Stress

Daily Dose

Who Knows Their Phone Number?

1.15 to read

Can you recite your spouse and your children’s cell phone numbers? Trying to remember 7 digits used to be easy but now I think our brains are losing the ability. I am finding more and more children who do not know their own home phone numbers (many don’t have a “home phone” to remember, there are just numerous cell phones at the house ).  One of the first things children used to memorize was their home phone number, it was a proud accomplishment for a 4-6 year old.  

Now that we have “smart phones” I think memorizing addresses and phone numbers is becoming a lost art.  Our brains are just not absorbing the numbers when all we have to do is push a name or say a command and the number is dialed.  Maybe not as smart as we think?

I guess the first question is: do you even have a home phone or do your kids call your cell phones?  Do they know your phone numbers by memory? Can they recite them to a teacher or a police officer if necessary?   I posed this question to several young parents this week, and they all kind of laughed and said, “you know I had not really thought about it”.

I see kids as young as 1-2 years using the iPad, also know as “my pad” and they use words such as “refresh”, “swipe”, “password” and “app”  so easily.  They can call their parents when they are just 12-18 months old by pushing the picture on the screen.....but do they ever know the number they are calling?  Do children still know about calling 911, or do they look for the icon of the police?

Keep teaching your children their phone numbers...they may need to call you at some time without having an “app for that”!

Daily Dose

The Perfect Baby Age

Im often asked what is my favorite baby age? I love 4-5 month olds for a number of reasons.I am in love with 4–5 month old babies!!  I have decided that that age is “the perfect baby” and I want to clone them.  I think I would call it a “Chia Baby” and market it as the baby that is the PERFECT companion and only needs to be watered!

For anyone who is reading this and has a newborn, hang in there as this happy baby will be here before you know it and for the rest of us, we know looking back, that this age baby is the one that we long to hold again. I am fortunate that I get to hug, hold and snuggle with babies every day.  I must tell you that not every age baby is my “favorite”.  But give me a 4 month old and I am in heaven. The 4-5 month old baby does all of the following things:  typically sleeps all night, or at least 6-8 hours, smiles all of the time, coos (record those sweet noises as they don’t last), laughs at everything you say, even if it is not funny, and lastly, doesn’t move when put down, doesn’t talk back, and requires only a liquid diet. I mean is this God’s perfect child or what!! I do think this age baby gets photographed the most often, as they are just so happy and cute. These precious pictures are an important photo memory too, as there were many other nights during my parenting that I looked at those precious pictures and longed for that sweet baby (especially when your teen is arguing about a curfew etc). These are the pictures that are adorning my bedside wall that make me smile right before I fall to sleep. While I cherish all of my children’s photos, the 4 month old photos of each of them hold a special place in my heart. When I see a 2 month old infant and the parents are still tired and wondering when/if their baby will sleep and get happier and on a schedule etc, I tell them just hang in there, only 2 more months and you will have the baby you dreamed of taking home from the hospital. The problem is, you have to go through the newborn stage to get to this precious age.  Why do you think all of the babies on TV are so cute, cuddly and happy? It is usually because they are 4–5 month olds “posing” as an infant.  I am sure the Gerber baby on the box is a 4 month old. I want to “check this age baby out” like a library book, and return it in a month, and get another one. Do you think I am on to something?! I am ready to start the “Chia Baby” so let me know if you want one. I am sure they will sell out quickly! What baby age is your favorite? Let me know!

Your Child

Playing With Food May Help Picky Eaters


If your child is a picky eater, encouraging them to play with their food may help them overcome the reluctance to try new foods according to a new study.

Researchers in the United Kingdom asked a group of 70 children – ages 2 to 5 – to play with mushy, slimy food while their parents observed, watching to see if kids would happily use their hands to search for a toy soldier buried at the bottom of a bowl of mashed potatoes or jelly. Children who wouldn't use their hands were offered a spoon.

Parents and researchers each rated how happy the kids were to get their hands dirty on a scale of one to five, with a higher number indicating more enjoyment. Children could get a total score as high as 20, a tally of the scores from researchers and parents for play with both the mashed potatoes and the jelly.

Researchers also gave parents a questionnaire to assess children's so-called tactile sensitivity, quizzing them about things like whether kids disliked going barefoot in the sand and grass or avoided getting messy.

The study found that kids who liked playing with their food were less likely to have food neophobia (the fear of trying something new) or tactile sensitivity.

"Although this is just an association, the implication is that getting children to play with messy substances may help their food acceptance," lead study author Helen Coulthard, a psychology researcher at De Montfort University in Leicester, U.K., told Reuters Health by email.

Previous research has linked food neophobia to limited fruit and vegetable consumption. Courtland and her team wanted to see if they could establish a link between touching food and tasting unfamiliar foods.

Courtland suggested that parents of picky eaters begin introducing new foods to their child by creating “food art.” Food art is making pictures or images with different foods on a plate.  The first step is letting your child make a picture or design by arranging various colored foods on the plate.  Don’t pressure them to taste their creation, but wait till they are ready to give it a try. Make it a game and eventually begin encouraging them to taste what they have created. Start small and expand to larger food groups and pictures.

Offering as much variety as possible from a young age also helps children experience lots of textures and flavors, which may minimize their fear of unfamiliar foods.

You’re probably going to have to join in on the taste experimentation to show how good these food pictures taste! You might also take a picture of your child with their creation on your phone and then show it to them – to make it a little more fun.

It’s fairly normal for kids to go through a period of refusing to try new foods, though most kids will grow out of this phase by the time they start school. However, there are some children that carry new food aversion on into adulthood. It isn't necessarily harmful as long as the children maintain a healthy weight for their height, pediatricians say.

But over time, neophobia can make it very difficult to enjoy social engagements. Parents that have a hard time trying or enjoying new foods themselves too often pass that trait onto their own children.  Most of the time it’s just a phase that kids go through and finding creative ways to help them work through it eliminates the problem.

Source: Lisa Rapaport,




Daily Dose

Weird Skin issue?

1:15 to read

Have you ever heard of dermatographism??  This is the phenomena that occurs in some individuals when you scratch their skin and it seems to “welt” up? .I remember doing this at slumber parties and writing people’s names on their back..we thought it was really weird and cool at the time.  Never expected that I would go on to be able to “name that tune” later in life.

Dermatographism is actually a form of hives which occur when you simply stroke or scratch the skin, and it affects about 5 percent of the population.  It is typically a benign reaction, and most people are otherwise healthy.  It is also known as skin writing, because people realize that when they write letters on their arms, chest or back that within several minutes the skin has become raised and red (hives) and the writing is visible.  The hives usually fade within 30-60 minutes, although on occasion may last for hours.

It is really unclear as to why this occurs, but seems to be some type of allergic reaction and histamine and other inflammatory mediators play a role.  In some people this reaction may also occur when exposed to extreme cold or heat.

Although some parents have recognized dermatographism in their younger children, it is actually more common in females and teens….maybe that is why I have the memory of slumber parties and experimenting to see who might have this “interesting” skin.  We didn’t have cameras to take pictures of the art work we drew, but there are even artists now posting all sorts of pictures of their “skin art” on websites.

In most cases there is no need to be concerned and the condition may not be life long.  It seems that moisturizing the skin may help a bit as you are less likely to scratch your skin. It may also  help to take an antihistamine such as benadryl (diphenhydramine) or zyrtec (cetirizine) which may help to block the reaction.

But, if you or your child is lucky enough to have dermatographism, it makes for a good show and tell and party conversation.  


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