Category Archives: preteens

Bullying is a serious matter

October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. That means now is a good time for us to talk about this important subject.

Bullying can occur at school or on the bus, in the neighborhood, on the playground— anywhere. Cyber bullying is also on the rise, where people use the internet or phone apps to harm others.

At the very least, bullying lowers self-esteem. But as we know, continual bullying can cause children and teens to withdraw socially, may create depression or other mental health issues, and can even result in physical harm.

Parental awareness is essential. It’s almost certain that your child will, at some point, either be on the receiving end of bullying behavior, or will bully someone else, or both. An article on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website references a study from 1999, in which four out of five teens admitted to participating in bullying behavior at least once a month. Those who have been bullied often go on to mistreat others.

Conversations about appropriate behavior and language need to begin early between parent and child. Don’t hesitate to correct your child or teen when you hear name-calling or witness unkind behavior, even between siblings. They can learn early the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Teach them how to express themselves, especially when hurt or angry, by using language that doesn’t cross the line into disrespect. Don’t tolerate violent acts against people or animals.

Of course, your kids are not always near you, and you won’t be aware of everything that happens to them or everything they do. Continue the conversation about bullying; remind them to walk away from confrontations and to inform a responsible adult if they experience or witness bullying. Talk about kindness; role-play sticky situations. Monitor their internet and cell phone activity and discuss what you find there.

Teach your kids some nonviolent and non-confrontational ways to handle conflict. There are excellent resources for this in the article mentioned above, also here and here.

Remember that school counselors and other therapists can be really helpful if your child or teen is a victim or perpetrator of bullying, and our office can always make a referral.

As children get older, remind them that they help create a safe environment for others. They can be a positive force by refusing to contribute to an atmosphere of hatred.

As the school year continues, things can get very hectic. Don’t forget to pay attention to what’s going on with your youngsters. Ask questions, be supportive, get help when needed. Let’s keep our schools and community safe for everyone’s children.

© MBS Writing Services, 2015, all rights reserved

Artwork by Shawna

Artwork by Shawna

Breast development in boys?

As odd as it may sound, about three quarters of boys will develop some breast tissue early in their puberty.  This is a normal physical reaction to the increase of hormones, including estrogen, in the male body as it matures.

Gynecomastia, as it’s called, is a source of concern for many boys because they are unprepared for it and think something may be wrong with their bodies.  And, of course, it comes at a time in their lives when they may already feel insecure about their physical and sexual development, when they may already be uncomfortable in the locker room at school

Gynecomastia can start as tenderness or soreness around the nipple and can manifest in one or both breasts.  Most of the time, the tissue will only grow a half inch or so, and often will be just around the nipple.  It can take a couple of years to go away, but normally it will go away.

You should also know that certain medications, both prescription meds and illegal drugs, can cause gynecomastia.  In particular, anabolic steroids, marijuana or heroin can lead to gynecomastia, as can insulin and other prescription drugs.

The information for this blog was gleaned from an article on the website for the American Academy of Pediatrics, an article which contains much more information about male puberty and what changes a boy may expect in his body.

If your son has gynecomastia, make sure he knows the condition is common and will resolve itself with time. Show him this article.  Encourage him to talk to his physician who can assure him that nothing is wrong with his body or his development.

 

© MBS Writing Services, 2015, all rights reserved

Back in School, Part 4: Friends

While you are worrying about your child’s academic year, he is probably more concerned about friends.  Honestly, he has a point.  While academic skills are an important part to future success and happiness, so are the social skills that help us make and keep friends.

Children at a very young age are usually too self-centered to have friends.  This isn’t their fault; it is just a normal developmental stage.  If you watch a couple of toddlers on a play date, they will usually engage in what is called “parallel play,” meaning they play side-by-side, but not really together.  Even so, you can start to teach them to share, not to grab toys away, etc.

By school age, most children want friends, whether it is just one or many.  Good social skills are learned from parents, teachers and peers.  Here are some behaviors you can teach your kids that will serve them in school and throughout their lives.

  • Kindness.  Use kind words and tones around the house.  Don’t allow your children to be unkind to their siblings, to pets or to adults.  Everyone responds positively to kindness, and no one likes a bully.
  • Politeness.  (See our post on manners.)
  • Assertiveness.  You don’t want your child to be aggressive toward others, but you want her to be able to assert her opinions and express her feelings without being overbearing.  This takes practice, and it can be something you encourage through conversation, questions, and even role playing.  For example, “What will you say if your friend wants to play kickball and you’d rather swing?”  They can learn from you the give-and-take of good relationships.
  • Meeting and greeting.  Teach your youngster to introduce himself and to ask questions about another person.  They can learn to shake hands, make eye contact, smile.
  • Listening.  Hearing what another person has to say is as important as expressing your opinion.

Here’s a really nice FREE online resource entitled 101 Ways to Teach Social Skills to Children.  While the games and activities are designed for groups, many of them can be adapted for use within the family—a fun way to learn appropriate ways of behaving in different settings.

Every school in Scott County has a counselor who can observe behavioral issues both in and out of the classroom, and who can meet with your child and/or other students if needed.

A final word:  pay attention to the friendships your child/teen is forming.  Get to know his friends and their parents.  Make sure their behavior isn’t out of line with what you expect from your own kids.

The friendships we form in childhood and adolescence may or may not last a lifetime.  But they teach us skills and behaviors that are timeless.

© 2014 MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

Back in School, Part 3: Teachers

Every morning when you send your child to school, you are putting her into the educational, social, emotional and physical care of other adults.  This can be intimidating at times, but it doesn’t have to be.

The vast majority of teachers are in classrooms because they want to be, because they care about the students and love the material they teach, and because they want to make a difference.  They spend time in the classroom trying to instill in youngsters the love of learning.  And they spend time outside the classroom preparing lessons, grading work, and keeping the mountains of records and paperwork required by the school system.

Most of all, they want every child—your child—to be successful.  That success is far less likely without your support.

  • Speak positively about your child’s teachers.  If you hear complaints from your young student, listen with an objective mind. 
  • Establish a relationship with a teacher.  If you can volunteer at the school, wonderful.  Your schedule may not allow that, so find other ways to be in touch.
    • Stay connected.  Most teachers and classrooms have a website.  Send the teacher an e-mail when you appreciate something he’s done for your child or if you have a question.  If there’s ever a problem, you will have built a positive base for your relationship, and the problem will be easier to deal with.
    • Attend parent-teacher conferences.  These are important for everyone concerned:  student, teacher, family.  You will learn things about the classroom and how your child interacts with adults and classmates, and will come away with a much more rounded picture of the education process in that particular class.
    • Make appointments.  Don’t wait for a conference if you have questions or concerns.  Face-to-face meetings are helpful and teachers want to be available to you.  They will want to hear from you sooner rather than later.
    • Reinforce at home what’s happening in the classroom.  From spelling tests to chemistry homework, from learning how to talk out problems with fellow students to deciding what to eat for lunch, the teacher and you are on the same team.
    • Of course, if there is ever concern about inappropriate or illegal activity by a teacher or any other adult, notify the authorities immediately.

Teachers are on the front lines of helping your child develop in age-appropriate ways.  Support them, connect with them, and thank them.

© 2014, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

Back in School, Part 1: Staying Healthy

Now that your child is back in school, the sometimes easy-breezy days of summer have turned hectic with schedules, deadlines, homework, complex relationships.  For the next few weeks we’ll be running a series about things to keep in mind during the school year ahead.

Today we start with how best to insure a healthy year at school.

You already know the best way to stay healthy, but it bears repeating:  prevention is always the best medicine.  Here are some pointers.

  • Checkups.  Has your child had her annual well child checkup?  If not, now is the time to schedule it.  The doctor will look at health history, height and weight, and will discuss age-appropriate health topics with you and your child.  If you have a specific concern (social behaviors, learning difficulties, chronic ear infections, etc.) to discuss, you’ll want to let the office know when you call for the appointment to make sure they schedule a longer visit for you.
  • Immunizations.  Yes, we harp on this a lot, but it’s for good reason.  Immunizations protect children, families, and even whole communities from dangerous diseases.  The state requires that you keep certain ones up to date; we have others we recommend.  Check with our office (or on the patient portal) for your records.
  • Exercise.  Sitting all day at school, then coming home and sitting in front of the TV or at the computer and homework desk is not good for your kid.  He needs to get moving.  Don’t expect physical education classes to provide all the exercise he needs.  Unstructured play is good for all children, and organized sports are a great way to learn things like discipline, teamwork and a sense of accomplishment.
  • Germs.  Let’s be honest.  There’s no way to avoid germs at school.  Uncovered coughs and sneezes, shared desks and close quarters give viruses all sorts of opportunities to infect students.  Some exposure is good to develop immunity, but keeping hands clean is a great way to stave off colds and flu.  Send hand sanitizer to school in your children’s backpack, and remind them to clean their hands before eating and after they use the restroom.  Every time.  Don’t share drinks or eating utensils.  And, while we’re at it, remind them not to share combs, brushes or hats, which is the most common way to spread head lice.
  • Sleep.  A good night’s sleep is an essential ingredient in the learning process.  Sleep also helps mood and strengthens the immune system.  Set a regular bedtime and stick with it, making sure your child or teen has an age-appropriate amount of sleep.
  • Balanced diet.  Eating right feeds both body and brain.  This webpage at the American Academy of Pediatrics site lists several of their articles regarding diet.  Don’t forget we have a dietician on staff who can help you come up with an action plan for your young athlete, picky eater, diabetic, or can help you plan easy lunches and snacks to pack for school.

Keep these things in mind throughout the school year and they will help your child have a successful and healthy school year.

© 2014, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

Talking to your kids about alcohol and drugs

Every parent worries about their child’s health, including whether or not that child will use drugs or alcohol.

It’s a valid concern.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several studies in 2011 showed that:

“among high school students, during the past 30 days

  • 39% drank some amount of alcohol.
  • 22% binge drank.
  • 8% drove after drinking alcohol.
  • 24% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.”

In addition, 40% of high school students have used marijuana at least once, and 25% have been offered, sold or given illegal drugs on school property.

What can parents do to prevent drug and alcohol use and abuse with their own children?

There is no single answer, and some children and teens will use or abuse substances no matter how hard parents try to keep them safe, but here are some things that may help.

  • Start young.  Teach them how to say “no” when they don’t want something.  Show them how to be strong in the face of peer pressure.  Make sure they know the dangers and consequences of drugs and alcohol use.
  • Educate yourself.  Don’t hide from statistics, but learn from them.
  • Be firm.  Set rules and stick to them.
  • Be an example.  Don’t abuse alcohol or consume illegal substances.  If you drink, be responsible and don’t EVER drive intoxicated.  Keep alcohol and prescription drugs inaccessible to your youngster.  Never offer alcohol to an underage person.

If you think your child or teen is drinking or taking drugs, talk to your pediatrician or school counselor.  They can find you the right kind of help.

© 2014, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved.

When testicle pain can be a surgical emergency

Sudden, severe testicular pain should always be taken seriously.  It can be a sign of testicular torsion, a dangerous condition that requires immediate surgery.

Testicular torsion occurs when the spermatic cord inside one testicle becomes twisted, which cuts off blood supply to the testicle.  If surgery isn’t performed within 6 to 12 hours, then the testicle might have to be removed.  There is even the danger of permanent infertility.

While testicular torsion can occur at any age, it is most common between the ages of 12 and 20.  Rapid growth of the testicles during puberty can cause torsion, as can exercise or an injury.  However, torsion can occur during inactivity, even while asleep.

If your son complains of extreme testicular pain, even if it goes away, report this to your pediatrician.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), up to 50 percent of patients with testicular torsion have had scrotum pain before.

Other symptoms:  the scrotum can become enlarged, red, and very painful; abdominal pain may accompany torsion, along with nausea and vomiting.

The AAP article also tells how the condition is diagnosed:

  • “Physical examination by a urologist;
  • Urinalysis, to detect presence of white blood cells;
  • A radionuclide scan or scrotal doppler ultrasound, to assess blood flow to the testicles;
  • Some urologists will take a patient with typical symptoms of torsion directly to the operating room.”

The bottom line:  take testicular pain very seriously.  It could be an emergency.

© 2014, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

Manners? Yes, please.

Summertime is easy—so they say.  It can also be an easier time to remind children and teens about good manners.  Hopefully, you will have more times of relaxed conversation when you aren’t trying to juggle homework, school and extracurricular schedules all at once.

Manners are important because they remind us of the value of every human being.  Saying please and thank you is respectful, whether those words are spoken to someone in the family, a teacher or coach, or a complete stranger.  Being helpful ingrains kindness in the helper and encourages it in the recipient and observer.

What are age appropriate manners?

  • Ages 2—5.  Teach children to say please and thank you at the right times.  Children at this age usually love to help people, so encourage that tendency.  At the playground, they can help a younger child, with supervision.  At home, they can learn to pass the potatoes.  When meeting someone, they can shake hands and learn to answer questions that are asked.
  • Ages 5—7.  As the child develops physically and emotionally, so should their moral growth be progressing.  Teach good phone manners by practicing in a game.  Have a “manners night” once a week at the supper table, where everyone has to speak politely and initiate good conversation.  Give a small reward at the end of the meal for the person who showed the best manners.
  • Older children.  Learning to smile and maintain eye contact during a conversation is important as children grow.  They can learn to ask people about themselves, and to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate questions.  Your suppertime conversations can engage their imaginations and teach them how to talk to other people.
  • Teens.  When our children mature into teens, they often become less receptive to their parents’ helpful instructions on manners, but that doesn’t mean you can let them off the hook.  By now they should know your standards, and you should be able to witness them using their manners at home and elsewhere.  Teens who are mannerly, you may tell them, will likely advance at school and work because others respond positively to our good behavior.

Perhaps the main thing to remember about teaching manners to your children is this: be an example.  Use please and thank you when you remind them about their chores.  Treat your spouse and other adults and youngsters with respect.

If you are often cross with them, they will reflect that attitude back to you and to others.  But if you treat them and others kindly, they will learn to mimic that behavior, both consciously and unconsciously.

Expect good manners from your children and that is likely what you will get.

© 2014, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

Appendicitis

Do you ever wonder whether abdominal pain warrants a call to the doctor, or even a visit to the emergency room?  How can you tell?

One worry with children and teens is appendicitis.  The appendix is a small, tubular-shaped organ in the lower right abdomen, that has no known function.  Sometimes it can become inflamed and needs to be surgically removed.  If left alone, an inflamed appendix can rupture and cause very serious illness.

Appendicitis can occur at any age, and is often difficult to diagnose.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a great article here about appendicitis.  The main symptom is pain, which begins as a “vague stomachache near the navel,” and then is described as a combination of a sense of fullness and pressure on the lower right side.  Here is the complete list of symptoms they give, some of which are similar to stomach viruses, and some of which are different:

  • “Persistent abdominal pain that      migrates from the midsection to the right lower abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Gas pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Low fever, beginning after other      symptoms
  • Tenderness in the right lower abdomen
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Elevated white blood cell count
  • Appetite loss.”

Call your doctor immediately if your teen or child experiences these symptoms.  Have him lie quietly and “don’t offer water, food, laxatives, aspirin or a heating pad.”  Any movement can increase her pain.  If appendicitis is suspected, a blood test (to determine white blood cell count) will likely be taken, possibly with other diagnostic tests.

 

© 2014 MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

 

I’m thirsty!

School is almost out and warmer weather is on its way.  Hydration is always important, but never more so than when you’re active in warm temperatures.  What are the best things to give your kids to drink, and are there drinks they should avoid?

First, drinks to avoid completely:

  • Energy drinks.  Make sure you know the difference between sports drinks and energy drinks.  Energy drinks contain stimulants like caffeine and are not appropriate for children and teens.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:  “Caffeine… has been linked to a number of harmful health effects in children, including effects on the developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems.”  Caffeine is a drug, and is addictive.
  • Caffeinated soft drinks.  (See bullet point above about the ill effects of caffeine on children and teens.)

Drinks that are okay for occasional use:

  • Sports drinks.  These replace electrolytes and calories lost from prolonged exercise.
  • Non-caffeinated soft drinks.  They are okay on special occasions, but only for older children.  Sodas are acidic and therefore are harmful for teeth.  Add sugar to that equation and you could be creating some real dental health problems.
  • Sugary drinks, carbonated or not.  These have been linked to childhood obesity in children as young as 4.  As with soft drinks, all sugary drinks can cause tooth decay.
  • Fruit juices.  Better options than carbonated drinks, and often a good source of vitamins, they are still calorie rich and shouldn’t be overused.

Drinks that are best:

  • Water.  Always the best way to hydrate, water can be a great part of the healthy child’s diet throughout the day, even when they’re not thirsty.  Your kid doesn’t like water?  Check out the flavor packets and squirts that add flavors to water.
  • Low fat milk.  If your child or teen can tolerate milk, it is an indispensable source of calcium.  If she is unable to drink milk, talk to the pediatrician about alternate sources of calcium.

Finally, a note about very young children.

  • Nothing but breast milk or formula should go in a baby’s bottle.  Even fruit juice is too sugary and can lead to tooth decay.  Read here about beverages for the very young.
  • Children can start learning to use a cup at about 6 months.  Still, limit juice to 4-6 ounces per day until the age of 2.
  • Wean completely from bottles at about 12-15 months of age.

What we drink becomes habit, and starting good drinking habits in childhood is an excellent way to build healthy bodies and teeth for a lifetime.

© 2014, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved