Tag Archives: teens

Drugs and young brains

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), one in four young people (ages 12-17) who uses illicit drugs will also develop a dependency. This is a much higher rate than that for adults.

Why? No one is certain, but there are some known factors.

Heredity is one of those factors. Is there an addict or alcoholic (recovering or otherwise) in your family’s history? If so, be aware that this one factor can greatly increase your child’s chances of developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol. You should talk to your teen about this with the hoped-for effect that she will choose to be more careful.

Here are some other factors listed in an AAP web article:

  • “Untreated psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and personality disorder. For these youngsters, as well as for those with untreated attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other learning problems that interfere with academic and social success, taking illicit drugs may be their way of self-medicating.
  • Temperament: thrill-seeking behavior, inability to delay gratification and so forth.
  • An eating disorder.
  • Associating with known drug users.
  • Lack of parental supervision and setting of consistent limits.
  • Living in a family where substance abuse is accepted.
  • Living in a home scarred by recurrent conflicts, verbal abuse and physical abuse.”

Start the conversation about drugs and alcohol early on, in age-appropriate ways. And don’t assume that just because you’ve had this talk once, that’s good enough. Young people are confronted with opportunities on a regular basis, so make sure that you leave the door open to talking with you about it.

Not sure how to begin? Here’s another great AAP article entitled “Talking to Teens about Drugs and Alcohol.” It gives great advice about a conversation that is essential to your child’s health.

Educate yourself about drugs and alcohol. Have open conversation. Don’t abuse substances. Help your teen stay healthy and free from addiction.

© 2016, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

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

Diabetes overview, type 1

Diabetes is a disease that can hit at any time of life from childhood to old age.  It can be a scary diagnosis, and it’s certainly not one a parent wants to hear.  Even so, new medical advances are constantly being made that can limit the bad effects of diabetes, and early diagnosis and treatment are always important.

Diabetes is not uncommon among children and teens.  According to the National Institutes of Health (and the National Diabetes Education Program—NDEP) article from which we have drawn much of the information for today’s blog, “About 208,000 young people in the US under age 20 had diabetes in 2012.”  Those numbers are growing.

The disease is classified into two categories, called type 1 and type 2.  Both types mean there is an elevated glucose (sugar) level in the blood, which is caused by problems with insulin production in the pancreas, and/or how that insulin acts on the body.

Type 1 diabetes, though only 5% of all diabetes cases, accounts for nearly all diagnoses in children under age 10.  It’s actually an autoimmune disease, in which the child’s own immune system destroys the beta cells of the pancreas that produce insulin.  (Insulin is the hormone that regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates, including sugars, and fats.)

Usually, symptoms of type 1 diabetes don’t appear until the disease has destroyed most of the beta cells.  According to the same article cited above, “Early symptoms, which are mainly due to hyperglycemia, include increased thirst and urination, constant hunger, weight loss, and blurred vision. Children also may feel very tired.”  If you are suspicious that your child has type 1 diabetes, seek medical attention immediately.

So far, there is no cure, but type 1 diabetes is managed through careful monitoring of blood sugar levels, and insulin administration by pump or injection.  The amount and timing of insulin doses is determined by taking into account food and beverage intake, physical activity, and the presence of any illness.  This management must be under the care of a physician who understands diabetes.

There are many ongoing studies into type 1 diabetes.  Perhaps in the not-too-distant future there will be a cure, or at least a way of pre-determining who is at risk and finding ways to treat the disease before it has destroyed the body’s ability to produce its own insulin.  The future is promising.

© MBS Writing Services, 2015, all rights reserved

Back in School, Part 2: Homework

If it seems that with the new school year your kids’ amount of homework has increased, that’s likely true.  Each year a new grade brings with it increasing amounts of responsibility, including homework.  Some homework can be started during the school day, but often it needs to be finished after hours.

Homework can sometimes seem overwhelming, both for your child and for the whole family.  Here are a few helpful tips.

  • Attitude.  If you treat homework as positively as possible, that will help your young student.  Doing schoolwork at home has many up sides, including letting you in on how things are going at school.  You’ll learn what your child is studying and how easy or difficult a particular subject is for him.
  • Assistance.  You shouldn’t do your child’s homework, but there are many things you can help her with.  Memorization is one of the biggest.  Make practicing for spelling and arithmetic tests fun.  Make flash cards together out of scrap paper cut into squares.  Use free online websites to get ideas or even create games around specific words or subjects.  Prepping for a social studies test about Mexico?  Make sure you understand what topics are being covered, and look at some web videos that show art, culture and travel.
  • Time.  This is the biggie, isn’t it?  You’ve been thrown from sleeping in and days by the pool, to waiting for the bus and trying to decide what to have for supper and how you’ll get everyone where they need to be when they need to be there.  Every day is crunch time.  How to schedule in homework?
    • These first few weeks are important in figuring out which subjects and days of the week will require more time.
    • Negotiate with the students in your house.  They may need a little down time to play a game and have a snack when they first get home, or they may prefer to get homework out of the way.
    • Do a back-off timetable from bedtime.  Figure out when they need to be in bed, about how much time homework will take, and work out with the students when and how they’ll get the work done.
    • If the time is overwhelming and your child is spending far too much time with homework, talk to the teacher.  This is important information for any teacher to know.
  • Space.  Find the right space where you can keep an eye on computer screens while also limiting distractions.
  • Support.  The Scott County Library has online help from 2 p.m. until midnight, a great local resource.  Many teachers and classrooms have their own website where homework assignments may be posted.  For middle and high school, get familiar with the Infinite Campus site, where you can follow grades and attendance.  There’s even an app in the Apple Store.
  • Involvement.  If you see problems developing, don’t wait.  Talk to your child’s teacher right away.  Usually they’ll have good ideas for helping your youngster’s academic progress at home.  If you worry that there may be a medical problem or learning disability, contact our office for an appointment.

Homework is an essential tool in learning, both now and in developing the right skills for a lifetime.  With your help and encouragement, the students in your family can do well.

 

© 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

Video games—pay attention to what your kids are playing

As technology increases at home and school, video games have increased in number.  Each year they become more realistic-looking and exciting.  But they are also often violent, and may contain language and themes inappropriate for your youngster.

Playing video games has benefits, to be certain. They help young people learn eye-hand coordination and computer skills, things they will need to keep up in the modern world.

But there are down sides, too.  Big ones.  Questions and concerns about content top the list, but you should also be aware that many online games require the sharing of personal information and location.

First, content.  The debate continues regarding whether or not violent video games encourage violent behavior.  Opinions abound, but the bottom line is that you should monitor and decide what your child or teen can or cannot play.  In addition to violence, language and themes may often be too adult.

  • Understand ratings.  The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) rates virtually all video games in terms of content, age-appropriateness, and interactive elements (including whether or not location and other information is shared).  All three of these areas are important.
  • Content and age-appropriateness.  The ESRB website has a great video and also written language to help you understand ratings and how they define words such as “animated blood” and “adult humor.”  The basic content and age ratings are:
    • Early Childhood;
    • Everyone;
    • Teen (13 and up);
    • Mature (17 and up);
    • Adults only.
    • Pay attention!  Games rated “Mature” have truly adult themes (sex, violence, language) and are simply NOT appropriate for younger ages.  Even those with a rating of “Teen” may surprise you with their level of violence and tasteless language.
    • PREVIEW.  Learn about games before you buy.  This website at Common Sense Media is a great source of information.  If your youngster is asking for a particular game, look for the title here to see some screen shots and other details.
    • Interactive elements.  If you are concerned about private information being shared, or worry your child or teen might be connecting (accidentally or purposefully) with people you don’t know, READ THIS.

One important note about violence.  Whether or not your teen or child plays violent video games, you should pay attention if he exhibits violent behavior.  If she is violent with you or other family members, with schoolmates or with animals, talk to your pediatrician about finding a counselor.

Bottom line:  know what your child is doing, watching, playing.  Video games are fun, but you need to be aware of content and privacy.

© 2014, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

 

My head hurts!

A headache is a common complaint for some children and teens, and nearly all kids will get one every now and then.  Causes are numerous.  Usually, a headache is nothing to worry about, though there are times when you should go to the ER or call your doctor immediately (see below).

Headaches can be caused by things like strong smells, stress and anxiety, a cold or the flu, allergies, even changes in the weather.  Other common causes include:

  • Hormonal changes.  Puberty is often a time when headaches begin or worsen.
  • Diet.  Nitrates and caffeine, in particular, can cause headaches at any age.  Does your child or teen get a headache several hours after drinking a caffeinated beverage?  Or eating a hotdog?
  • Lack of enough sleep.  Make sure your child gets an age-appropriate amount of sleep every night.

Some children have migraines, which can (but don’t always) run in families.  The pain can be strong and on one side of the front of the head or the other.  Your child may express a need to lie still in a dark room, and other symptoms may include nausea.

If your child’s headaches are not severe, pay attention to patterns before coming to the see the doctor.  Keep a diary of food and beverage intake (paying special attention to caffeine and nitrates), amount of sleep, allergy attacks, even weather conditions.

There’s an app for that.  Here are a couple of phone apps that can help you keep a headache diary to determine what some of your triggers (causes) might be.

If headaches are bad and persistent, see your pediatrician.

Keep in mind there are times when you should seek medical help immediately.

  • If your child has suffered a blow to the head in an activity, fall, or accident and has a headache.  This could be a sign of concussion.
  • If the headache is severe and other symptoms include high fever.
  • If the pain is sudden and severe.
  • If the headache awakens the child at night.
  • If the headache is accompanied by dizziness, weakness, or other neurological symptoms.

By paying attention, you may be able to help your child or teen reduce their number of headaches, and if they are severe, to get help immediately.

 

© 2014 MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

Gun safety

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 44 million homes in the U.S. have at least one gun.  In this season when your youngster may be visiting in homes of friends and relatives, or even spying for hidden stashes of gifts, it’s a good time to review gun safety.

  • If you own a gun, it needs to be unobtainable for a young person, not just out of sight.  Children, even the very young, have an incredible knack for finding hidden things.  A three-year-old, for example, found a gun hidden between his parents’ mattress and box springs.  Guns should be unloaded and locked away in a cabinet for that purpose (preferably one that doesn’t have a glass or other see-through door).  Ammunition should be kept in a separate, also locked, location.
  • Talk.  Tell your children about the dangers of guns.  Be clear about rules and firm about what privileges will be taken away if they break those rules.
  • Ask.  If your child or teen is going to someone else’s home, ask whether or not that home has guns and, if so, how they are stored.
  • Don’t assume.  Children are inquisitive; teens want to fit in.  If they see a gun, no matter how well they know your rules, they are likely to want to touch it and play with it.
  • Also, don’t assume that your child would never choose to be violent toward herself or that he would never choose to harm others.  Young people, no matter how good the parenting and how delightful the child, often make bad judgments, especially in the heat of a moment.  In addition, mental illnesses such as depression can surface at nearly any age.
  • Some more statistics from the AAP:  A gun kept in the home triples the risk of homicide.  The risk of suicide is 5 times more likely if a gun is kept in the home.

 

For more information from the AAP, check out this link or this video.

 

Remember, safety is a huge part of staying healthy.

artwork by Corinne

artwork by Corinne

 

© 2013, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

Our own dietician on staff!

Did you know that Georgetown Pediatrics has our very own dietician?  Amy Crist has been with us for about 9 months and is available by appointment through our office.

Working part-time for us, Amy is a registered dietician (RD) with a master’s degree, has also worked at Georgetown Community hospital, and makes her home right here in Georgetown.

Amy loves working with infants, children, adolescents and their parents in developing healthy eating habits, including those who have dietary restrictions.  She is a frequent speaker at local elementary schools to teach children about healthy eating and nutrition.  She’s even led a support group on breast feeding.  She is happy to have an appointment with you and your child or teen to discuss:

  • breast feeding,
  • dietary restrictions and planning as a result of disease or condition (diabetes, drug therapies, etc.),
  • concerns about weight or eating disorders,
  • helping the whole family develop healthy eating habits,
  • diet and sports,
  • picky eaters,
  • and anything else you want to talk over with a dietician.

Call our office and set up an appointment soon!

Amy Crist, our dietician

Amy Crist, our dietician

© 2013, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

Calcium for teens

You might think that once your son or daughter hits older childhood and puberty, the need for calcium drops.

Actually, the opposite is true.  The recommended daily allowance (RDA) increases to 1300 mg of calcium for children and teens aged 9-18.  Essential bone growth and development are continuing in these years, and it’s important to lay a strong foundation with calcium.  Calcium in the teen years can help stave off osteoporosis in later life.  Unfortunately, many adolescents, especially girls, don’t receive enough calcium to meet the RDA.

Another important note:  our bones stop absorbing calcium in our early 20s, so you are “banking” the calcium you take as a teen for later years.  That doesn’t mean you no longer need calcium after your teenage years, but it does highlight the importance of getting the right amount of calcium while the bones are still absorbing it.

What are good sources of calcium?  There are two:  food and supplements.

Milk and milk products are the best food source, with skim milk providing all 1300 mg in 4 ½ eight ounce glasses per day.  Not everyone likes milk, and some can’t drink it because of lactose intolerance.

The American  Academy of Pediatrics lists these other food sources for calcium:

  • “Most foods in the milk group: milk and dishes made with milk, such as puddings and soups.
  • Cheeses: mozzarella, cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, cottage cheese.
  • Yogurt.
  • Canned fish with soft bones, including sardines, anchovies, salmon.
  • Dark-green leafy vegetables, such as kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok-choy.
  • Tofu, if processed with calcium sulfate.
  • Tortillas made from lime-processed corn.
  • Calcium-fortified juice, bread, cereal.”

Supplements are a good option, but be sure that any calcium supplement also contains vitamin D which aids in calcium absorption.  A daily multivitamin does NOT provide enough calcium to meet the RDA.  Don’t take all the supplements at once.  It’s best to take part of the supplement in the morning and part later in the day.  Check with your pediatrician for additional recommendations.

As you teach your teens to build strong life skills, don’t forget to help them build strong bones as well.

artwork by Audrey

artwork by Audrey

© 2013, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved