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Your Child

Different Ways for Kids to Handle Stress

2:00

If you’re alive (and of course, you are) then you’ve experienced some form of stress.

Stress can be minor, more like annoyances that add up. There’s mid-level stress that can give you a bad day, but doesn’t hang around much after that. Then there is chronic stress; the kind that can affect your health and wellbeing.  There’s also varying degrees of stress between those three layers.

Experiencing stress begins early in life and for some kids can be devastating, depending on the circumstances.

However, stress isn’t always a bad thing. It can also be a motivator or make you aware of your surroundings. It can help you find solutions to difficult problems. It is normal and even healthy for children to experience some stress, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). How well kids handle stress depends on how much support they have from others and strength inside them.

Stress cannot be totally eliminated, but it can be managed.

Sometimes medications are given to kids and adults to help reduce stress – but there are other methods that are definitely worth looking into.

Exercise:  Physical activity is a great stress reducer. The body not only benefits from exercise, but so does the brain. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted yours or your child’s energy or ability to concentrate.

Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.

Yoga: Many children do yoga to get rid of stress, pain and health problems. Yoga uses breathing and body postures to connect the mind and the body. It also helps kids manage feelings and how they act, and yoga is good for kids with anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other mental health conditions, according to the AAP.

Yoga is actually good for the whole family. It’s a good way to connect with the body, mind and emotions while sharing some peaceful time together.

Clinical hypnosis: Hypnosis can help children with irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain, and anxiety before surgery and cancer. Not to be confused with the act that entertainers use to put people into a trance-like state; trained specialists help children through hypnosis in a medical setting. Kids are asked to tune out their surroundings to change their feelings about something.

Sometimes doctors use clinical hypnosis along with guided imagery. This therapy uses all of the senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch and movement.

Meditation: Children can improve their attention span and learn how to focus better with mediation.  Some schools have found that meditation helps reduce absences and negative behaviors and improves kids’ self-esteem. One study found that students in an urban school were less stressed out after participating in a school mindfulness meditation program.

The AAP has a 10-point “Personal Stress Plan” form that can be downloaded at (http://bit.ly/2aop7IR). It is a series of questions with options for personal development. The questions are a good way for parents and kids to talk about the impact stress is having and what they can do to manage it.

Most of the methods mentioned above for reducing stress, were once tagged as “alternative” medicine. Today, they are much more mainstream and are providing families with good options for reducing the stress in their lives.

Story sources: Trisha Korioth, http://www.aappublications.org/news/2016/08/22/PPMindBody08221616

https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st

 

Your Child

Are Kid’s Sack Lunches Healthier?

2:00

For some kids who bring their lunch to school, a new study suggests that as far as nutrition goes, they’d be better off buying their meal at the school cafeteria.

Researchers found that student’s bag lunches typically contained foods that were higher in sodium and sugar with fewer vegetables and whole grains compared with standards set for school cafeterias.

The findings are not necessarily surprising, said the study's senior researcher, Karen Cullen, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

"Parents often pack lunches based on their children's preferences," she noted. Plus, she added, some other recent studies have found a similar pattern.

The study involved 12 elementary and middle schools in one Houston-area school district. Over two months, the researchers observed more than 300 students who brought their lunch from home -- noting what they ate and what they threw away.

On average, bag lunches were low on fruits and whole grains, and especially vegetables and milk.

School guidelines say kids should have three-quarters of a cup of vegetables (which really isn’t much) with every lunch. The average elementary school bag lunch had about one-tenth of that amount, according to the study.

Lunches brought from home also contained way too much sodium. The average bag lunch averaged 1,000 to 1,110 mg, versus a limit of 640 mg in elementary school lunches.

About 90 percent of the home lunches contained a dessert, sugary drink or snack chip. Guess what? Kids ate those items whereas between 20 and 30 percent of vegetables ended up in the garbage, according to the study.

Packing milk and palatable vegetables is tricky, noted Dr. Virginia Stallings, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia who specializes in nutrition.

Giving your kids money to buy it at school can help solve the milk dilemma, said Stallings, who wrote an editorial published with the study. With vegetables, though, it can be challenging to go beyond carrot sticks, she added.

"I think that's one of the advantages of the school lunch," Stallings said. "Kids can have a hot meal, with cooked vegetables." She added that schools are working on making meals that are tasty without relying on salt, and expanding to include culturally diverse choices.

I don’t really think that kid’s attitudes have changed much about school lunches in the last few decades. As long as I can remember, kids eat what they want, trade foods with others and throw out the rest. They often gripe about their lunch food whether it comes from home or the school cafeteria.. That’s just what kids do.

So, if they are going to complain anyway you might as well fix them a lunch that will help them develop strong bones and hearts. The school systems have finally started paying attention to nutrition after all these years. They’re working on creative recipes that just might temp kids to eat better.

You already know that there are way too many American children that are eating poorly, not exercising and developing diabetes at a young age. It’s important what our children eat. Sometimes a school lunch is best and sometimes a lunch brought from home is best. Many times parents split the difference and do both.

Source: Amy Norton, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/education-news-745/kids-bag-lunches-not-meeting-nutrition-guidelines-694048.html

Your Child

Sweet Potatoes May Help Prevent Diarrhea in Children

1:45

Orange sweet potatoes get high approval ratings from many pediatricians and family doctors because they offer a lot of health benefits and they taste good, so kids are more likely to eat them.

Recent research suggests they may also be helpful in reducing the cases of diarrhea in some young children by more than 50 percent.

Erick Boy, head of nutrition at HarvestPlus, said that the body converts the beta-carotene in the sweet potatoes to vitamin A the same day the food is eaten. That vitamin A is then used in the outer lining of the human gut, forming a barrier against different types of bacteria. Boy further explained that the gut uses surplus vitamin A from time to time to replace worn-out cells with healthy ones.

The researchers claimed that if a child below age 5 has consumed orange sweet potatoes in the past week, then the chances were 42 percent less that child would suffer from diarrhea. In children below age 3, the likelihood of developing the condition reduced by 52 percent.

Regular consumption of orange sweet potatoes also helps decrease the duration of diarrhea, the researchers claimed. The team observed that the duration was reduced by 10 percent among 5-year-olds and 25 percent in 3-year-olds.

This could be extremely helpful in countries like Africa, where 40 percent of the children are vitamin A deficient. This increases their risk of diseases such as diarrhea, which is one of the leading causes of mortality in children, taking more than 350,000 lives of children under five in Africa every year.

Vitamin A deficiency is rare n America, however, diarrhea in U.S. children is fairly common; typically related to viral infections or tainted food sources.

Sweet potatoes are easy to prepare and can be baked as fries or tater-tots, veggie muffins, made into soup, and mashed like regular potatoes. Many kids like their orange color and sweet taste. Besides being high in vitamin A, they contain vitamin B5, B6, thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin and are high in carotenoids. They are lower in calories than white potatoes – but a little higher in sugar.

For as sweet as they are, sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index (which means they release sugar slowly into the bloodstream).

The study was published in the journal World Development.

Sources: Guneet Bhatia,  http://www.universityherald.com/articles/20051/20150615/sweet-potatoes-may-reduce-diarrhea-in-children.htm#ixzz3djHgM93e

 

 

 

Your Child

Putting Together a Family Medical History

2:00

More often than not, many of us do not think – or even know- about our generational family medical history. Do you know what your great grandmother or grandfather died from? Are there certain diseases or medical conditions that seem to run in your family?

Honestly, I only know about my own parents and siblings. I know very little about my aunts and uncles or cousin’s medical conditions. Everyone in my extended family has passed away as well as my parents and one sibling. It’s just my sister and I left.  So, most likely I won’t be able to learn much more.

Here’s what I do know about my family’s medical history in a nutshell: My mother had emphysema as well as my oldest sister. They both smoked cigarettes most of their lives. One sister had breast cancer – one had benign lumps in her breast removed and several skin cancers taken off.  My father had high cholesterol all his life and dementia when he died. My paternal grandmother died of a stroke. My maternal grandmother lived to be 96 and was seldom sick. My mother had 16 brothers and sisters. I know one aunt had heart disease. I have no idea what other conditions the rest of them may have had, so I cannot pass that infomration on to my child. 

Why is this important? Because a medical history will help you gain insight into your likelihood of developing specific conditions. It can also provide your doctors with clues they may need to reach a diagnosis for you or your child.

Putting together a reliable and complete family medical history may require some investigative work.  It’s not a topic many people like to talk about. There was a time when families did not talk about cancer, heart disease, mental illness or any illness for that matter. Superstition and ignorance kept future generations from knowing that they might be susceptible to the same conditions. Once someone begins asking questions about their family medical history, they might learn that not only did their father die of heart disease, but so did his brother, his father, his grandfather and so on. That’s important information for you and your children and their children.

It is essential to get the right information. Make a list of relatives to talk with. Include parents, siblings, children, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, and grandparents. Ask them about current and past medical and mental health conditions, and their ages at diagnosis.

Pay special attention to conditions that developed much earlier than typical or affected multiple family members. Include pregnancy complications such as miscarriage and stillbirth, and birth defects.

Ask about deceased family members’ cause of death, other health problems, and age at death. Ethnicity is important, because some diseases are more common in certain groups. Sickle cell anemia, for example, is more likely to occur in those of African, African-American, or Mediterranean heritage.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, for instance, notes that women with a parent, sibling, or child with breast cancer might benefit more than average-risk women from starting breast cancer screenings between 40 and 49, rather than at age 50.

When your doctor knows your family history, he or she may be able to make a quicker diagnosis or start a series of tests and treatment earlier.

There are more tools available now, than ever before, to help you build a good family medical history.  A recent Consumer Reports article list these digital resources:

•       This page from the National Society of Genetic Counselors shows you how to draw a family tree.

•       The March of Dimes' Family Health History form (PDF) considers lifestyle as well as family history.

•       The Office of the Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait allows you to enter, print, and update your family medical history.

Family histories can also help identify illnesses that mimic other conditions.

Because my extended family was spread all around the country, I didn’t get to know them as well as I would have liked. They moved on and began families of their own. We got the yearly Christmas card and occasionally a notification when someone died.

I never thought about putting together a medical family history, but I wish I had. It’s a good idea to gather as much medical information about present and past family members as you can, so that future generations will have that knowledge and can benefit from your generous and investigative work.

Source: Orly Avitzur, M.D., http://www.consumerreports.org/conditions-treatments/why-your-family-medical-history-matters

 

 

 

Your Child

Kid’s Head Injury Linked to Long Term Attention Problems

1:45

Even mild brain injuries may cause children to have momentary gaps in attention long after an accident occurs, according to a new study.

The study of 6- to 13-year-olds found these attention lapses led to lower behavior and intelligence ratings by their parents and teachers.

"Parents, teachers and doctors should be aware that attention impairment after traumatic brain injury can manifest as very short lapses in focus, causing children to be slower," said study researcher Marsh Konigs, a doctoral candidate at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

This loss of focus was apparent even when brain scans showed no obvious damage, the researchers said.

The study’s results are being released as schools gear up for a new academic year combined with some sports programs that can put children at risk for head injuries.

Traumatic brain injury can occur from a blow to the head caused by a fall, traffic accident, and assault or sports injury.

Concussion is one type of traumatic brain injury. In 2009, more than 248,000 teens and children were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries or concussions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the study was conducted.  Researchers compared 113 children who had been hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury with 53 children who had a trauma injury not involving the head. The injuries, which ranged from mild to severe, occurred more than 18 months earlier on average.

The researchers tested mental functioning and evaluated questionnaires completed by parents and teachers at least two months after the injuries.

The head-injured group had slower processing speed, the researchers found. And their attention lapses were longer than those noted in the other children. But unlike other research, no differences were reported in other types of attention, such as executive attention -- the ability to resolve conflict between competing responses.

As is typical with most studies, the results do not prove a cause and effect relationship, but an association.

The take-home message from this study is that even mild head injury can lead to problems, said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, N.Y. He was not involved with the research.

"This study provides further evidence of the importance of trying to minimize brain trauma, since even when there is no visible damage on CAT scans or MRIs, there can still be a significant adverse effect on attention span and behavior," Adesman said.

This research underscores the need to protect children from head injuries through proper supervision, consistent use of child car seats and seat belts, as well as headgear when bike riding and playing contact sports, he added.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

More information on brain injury in children can be found at the Brain Injury Association of America’s website, http://www.biausa.org/brain-injury-children.htm.

Source: Kathleen Doheny,  http://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/brain-health-news-80/head-injury-may-trigger-attention-issues-in-kids-701821.html

Your Child

Study: Exercise, Once Again, Improves Kid’s Learning Skills

2:00

While the debate on whether to bring back recess to school curriculums continues across the U.S., a small study from the Netherlands once again shows that adding exercise to a child’s school day can improve their learning skills.

Researchers worked with 500 children in second and third grade, giving half of them traditional lessons while the rest received instruction supplemented with physical activity designed to reinforce math and language lessons.

The approach was a creative and unique way to helping children better comprehend math and spelling.  Instead of taking a recess break – exercise was actually incorporated into the lesson.

After two years, children who got the physically active lessons had significantly higher scores in math and spelling than their peers who didn't exercise during class.

"Previous research showed effects of recess and physical activity breaks," said lead study author Marijke Mullender-Wijnsma, of the University of Gronigen in The Netherlands.

"However, we think that the integration of physical activity into academic lessons will result in bigger effects on academic achievement," Mullender-Wijnsma added in an email to Reuters Heath.

Mullender-Wijnsma and colleagues developed a curriculum that matched typical lessons in academic subject matter but added physical activity as part of instruction. They tested it in 12 elementary schools.

Here’s how it worked.

Lessons involved constant practice and repetition reinforced by body movements. For example, children jumped in place eight times to solve the multiplication problem 2 x 4.

Children in the exercise group received 22 weeks of instruction three times a week during two school years. These lessons were up to 30 minutes long, and evenly split between math and spelling instruction.

During the first year of the study, there wasn’t a great deal of difference found between the students receiving exercise during the class and those that didn’t, when speed was the focus in the math tests.

However, after two years, children who received exercise-based instruction had significantly higher scores on the math speed exams than students who didn't. The difference over two years equated to more than four months of additional learning for the students who had physically active lessons.

When the focus was on lesson comprehension, students receiving exercise outperformed students who did not receive the exercise instruction in both the first and second year. Again, the progress amounted to about four more months of learning.

For spelling, there wasn't a significant difference between the student groups after one year. But by the end of the second year they did have significantly better test scores, once again, adding an additional four more months of learning.

For reading, there wasn’t much difference between the two groups. It's possible that physical activities may be more beneficial to learning that involves repetition, memorization and practice of lessons from previous classes, the researchers conclude.

Researchers did point out that there were limitations that could have impacted the results of the study during the first year. The exercise group received specially trained teachers and individual schools administered the tests.

The research team did not examine why exercise might have helped students do better during tests.

 Sara Benjamin Neelon, of Johns Hopkins University and colleagues write in an accompanying editorial that it’s not clear whether these types of classes would work in countries where the population is larger, more diverse and students come from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

"However, the take-home message for parents and teachers is that physically active lessons may be a novel way to increase physical activity and improve academic performance – at the same time," Benjamin Neelon said by email.

More and more studies show that exercise appears to help the brain function better in children and adults. Whether all U.S. school administrations will see adding recess or exercise back into school curriculums is anybody’s guess, but according to science – it sure couldn’t hurt and might even help students develop stronger learning skills.

The study was published in the online journal Pediatrics.

Story source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-children-fitness-learning-idUSKCN0VX26V

Your Child

Pre-teen Football Linked to Brain Changes in NFL Players

2:00

The start of a new school year also brings after-school sports programs. Late summer and fall is prime football season for many middle and high schools. In some states, it’s a hallowed tradition that boys and girls look forward to participating in whether it’s running down the field or cheering on the team.

While school football doesn’t typically offer the same ferocious body beating and brain –rattling that are seen in the National Football League (NFL), a new study shows that brain development can still be affected by playing football at a young age.

The study looked at the possible connection between a greater risk of altered brain development in NFL players who started playing football before the age of twelve as opposed to those players who began playing later in life.  The study is the first to show a link between early repetitive head trauma and future structural brain variations.

The study was small but interesting. It included a review of 40 former NFL players between the ages of 40 and 65 who played over 12 years of structured football with a minimum of 2 years at the NFL level.

One half of the players took up football prior to the age of 12 and half started at age 12 or later. The number of concussions suffered was very similar between the two groups. All of these players had a minimum of six months of memory and cognitive issues.

"To examine brain development in these players, we used an advanced technique called diffusor tensor imaging (DTI), a type of magnetic resonance imaging that specifically looks at the movement of water molecules along white matter tracts, which are the super-highways within the brain for relaying commands and information," study author Dr. Inga Koerte, professor of neurobiological research at the University of Munich and visiting professor at Harvard University, said in a press release.

The researches believe their findings add to the growing amount of scientific evidence that shows the brain may be especially vulnerable to injury between the ages of 10 and 12.

"Therefore, this development process may be disrupted by repeated head impacts in childhood possibly leading to lasting changes in brain structure," said study author Julie Stamm, currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Despite finding a link to the brain development window where kids are more likely to suffer brain injury by repeated head impacts, the small size of the study means the results may not necessarily apply to non-professionals.

"The results of this study do not confirm a cause and effect relationship, only that there is an association between younger age of first exposure to tackle football and abnormal brain imaging patterns later in life," said study author Martha Shenton, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Because of the intense publicity about and the findings of many studies on the short and long-term dangers of concussions, many school sports programs are looking at changing how they allow students to play in games associated with head injuries.  Where it was once common for coaches to let players continue playing after a particularly rough tackle or head butting, they are more likely now to insist that a field medical professional examine the child. Some schools are also implementing no tackle policies to protect very young players.

While traditional football isn’t likely to become extinct, parents and coaches can educate themselves about brain injuries and learn how to best protect young players from the chances of long and short-term disabilities.

Source: Brett Smith,  http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1113407634/pre-teen-football-linked-to-more-severe-brain-changes-in-nfl-players-081115/

 

 

Your Child

Concussion Symptoms Continue Long After Injury

2.00 to read

Symptoms such as headache, dizziness and blurry vision typically show up right after a child suffers a concussion. In a study from the emergency medicine division at Boston Children’s Hospital, researchers have found that emotional and mental symptoms, such as irritability and frustration may show up much later and hang around longer.

 "Patients and their families should expect the physical symptoms that they experience after a head injury to get better over the next few weeks, but that emotional symptoms may come on later, even as the physical symptoms subside," said lead researcher Dr. Matthew Eisenberg.

"Only by knowing what symptoms can be expected after a concussion can we help reassure patients and families that what they experience is normal, know when to seek additional help, and make sure that children are taking appropriate precautions in regard to school and sports to achieve a full recovery," Eisenberg added.

For the study, 235 children and young adults, ages 11 to 22, who were treated for concussion at a pediatric ER, answered questionnaires about their injury and were followed for three months after their visit. Patients were monitored until all their symptoms were gone. During that time they were asked about symptoms, sports activity and school and athletic performance.

The most common physical symptoms were headache, dizziness and fatigue, which tended to start right after the injury and got better over time. Researchers found that most of the children also had mental symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating and taking longer to think.

Eisenberg’s team noted that a majority of the children recovered within two weeks, however, 25 percent still had headaches a month after their injury. More than 20 percent said they were fatigued and 20 percent reported taking longer to think.

For many, emotional symptoms -- such as frustration and irritability -- were not as common right after the injury, but developed later, the study authors noted.

Dr. John Kuluz, director of traumatic brain injury and neurorehabilitation at Miami Children's Hospital, said, "It takes longer than people think to fully recover from a concussion. My experience is that kids who still have symptoms two weeks after a concussion are going to have a very hard time, and it's going to be a struggle to get them to the point where they have no symptoms."

Kuluz recommends that parents make sure concussion symptoms are not ignored and their kids receive prompt and continued treatment. He suggests physical therapy to work on balance and helping with any vision problems.

He also recommends keeping children out of school for a couple of days after the injury and then gradually letting them get back to normal activities.

Kuluz tries to get kids back to school for half a day or as much as they can tolerate until they get better. Children should not start sports again until all symptoms have disappeared and then only gradually, he added.

This study was published online and in print in the journal Pediatrics.

Another recent study looked at the effects of concussion and years of repeated hits to the brains of college football players.

Researchers found that players who had been diagnosed with concussions and those who had been playing football for years had smaller hippocampuses – a part of the brain that is critical to memory. A smaller hippocampus has been linked to depression, schizophrenia and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

The symptoms of CTE, which tend to set in years after the last traumas, often include memory loss, aggression and dementia.

“Boys hear about the long-term effect on guys when they’re retired from football, but this shows that 20-year-olds might be having some kind of effect,” said Patrick Bellgowan, the study’s senior author from the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Concussion studies seem to be popping up everywhere, and for good reason. For too many years, a concussion injury wasn’t given much attention. The common train of thought was that if you play rough sports and you get hit - you shake it off and get back in the game. That philosophy applied whether you were 10 or 30 years old.

Then professional players began to exhibit early onset dementia and depression. Teens began to complain of constant headaches and feeling out of sorts. College players had difficulty concentrating and vision problems.

Parents demanded answers and researchers began looking at concussion and its long-term impact on the brain. The new studies shed a bright light on why these symptoms were troubling.

Most young athletes will not become professional players in their chosen sport or even play on college teams. Eventually, the helmets and pads will be passed on to the next group of excited young athletes and children will choose other activities or graduate into   the “real world”.

What these types of studies tell us is that long after the games are over, children who suffer concussions may experience serious long-term effects.

The symptoms can be so similar to typical teen behavior that they get overlooked. Kids get headaches, they get tired, they forget things and they have emotional outbursts. But if your child has suffered a concussion or even a very hard hit and you notice these symptoms don’t go away, take him or her to see a concussion specialist. They may or not be related to a more serious brain injury, but a missed opportunity for treatment may change your child’s future in ways that no one ever expected.

Sources: Steven Reinberg, http://consumer.healthday.com/general-health-information-16/injury-health-news-413/kids-concussion-symptoms-can-linger-long-after-injury-687715.html

Andrew M. Seaman, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/13/us-brain-health-football-idUSKBN0DT24720140513

 

 

 

Your Child

Are Some Kid’s Behavioral Issues Really Medical Problems?

2:00

 

If a child has a cold, rash or any other number of other physical problems, just about every parent is willing to take them to the doctor for treatment. But parents typically don’t seek medical treatment when their child’s anxiety; depression, tantrums or inability to organize their homework are beyond the norm according to a new poll.

A recent University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health finds that many parents of children age 5-17 don’t discuss behavioral or emotional issues that could be signs of potential health problems with their doctors.

According to the poll, more than 60 percent of parents definitely would talk to the doctor if their child was extremely sad for more than a month, only half would discuss temper tantrums that seemed worse than peers or if their child seemed more worried or anxious than normal. Just 37 percent would tell the doctor if their child had trouble organizing homework.

Almost half of the parents polled said they didn’t see these types of behavioral issues as medical problems. Another 40 percent said they prefer to handle the problems themselves and 30 percent said they would rather talk to someone other than a doctor.

“Behavioral health and emotional health are closely tied to a child’s physical health, well-being and development, but our findings suggest that we are often missing the boat in catching issues early,” says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H., associate director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and associate research scientist in the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics.

“Many children experience challenges with behavior, emotions or learning. The key is for parents to recognize their children’s behavior patterns and share that information with the doctor. Unfortunately, our findings suggest that parents don’t understand their role in supporting their children’s behavioral health.”

Behavioral health problems, also known as mental health problems, affect boys and girls of all ages and can have an impact on their learning, social interactions and physical health.

Some behavioral and emotional issues are short lived and mild – typical childhood behaviors and responses.  However, some behaviors can be signs of long-term problems such as depression, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, mood and behavior disorders or substance abuse. All of these are medical issues that can and should be addressed by physicians or pediatric medical therapists.

“Some behavioral and emotional changes are just part of a child’s natural growth and development and just part of growing up,” Clark says. “However, health care providers rely on parents to describe how children act in their regular, day-to-day lives outside of the doctor’s office in order to identify situations or behaviors that may be signs of larger problems. This conversation between doctors and parents is an essential step that allows providers to assess the severity of the problem, offer parents guidance on strategies to deal with certain behaviors and help families get treatment if needed.”

Many children need help dealing with school stresses such as homework, test anxiety, bullying or peer pressure. Other kids can benefit from an objective third party to help sort out their feelings about family issues, particularly if there is a major transition going on such as divorce, a move or a serious illness. These significant events can trigger behavioral problems that can be addressed and worked through with a therapist.

Sometimes unseen medical issues can be tied to over-anxiousness, depression or ADHD that can be diagnosed and treated successfully under a physician’s care.

If a parent suspects that their child is withdrawing from the family or experiencing panic attacks or prolonged sadness, it’s a good idea to make sure your child has a complete physical and to discuss their symptoms with your pediatrician or family doctor.

The poll was part of a household survey conducted exclusively for GfK Custom Research for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Methods used were typical for previous published studies. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau and do not represent the opinions of the University of Michigan, the University of Michigan Health System, or the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

Sources: University of Michigan Health System, http://newswise.com/articles/temper-anxiety-homework-trouble-are-medical-issues-many-parents-don-t-realize-it

http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/finding_therapist.html#cat145

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