Your Child

Exercise Boosts Kids’ Grades!

2:00 to read

We all know that exercise is good for the heart, lungs, weight-control and now a new study suggests that it’s good for increasing academic performance as well.

The Dutch researchers reviewed several prior studies conducted in the United States, one from Canada and another out of South Africa. What they discovered was that all the studies showed that the more physically active students are, the better they do in the classroom.

"We found strong evidence of a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance," the researchers, led by Amika Singh of the Vrije Universiteit University Medical Center at the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, said in a journal news release.

"The findings of one high-quality intervention study and one high-quality observational study suggest that being more physically active is positively related to improved academic performance in children," the authors noted.

A total of 14 studies were reviewed. They involved students between the ages of 6 and 18. Some studies were smaller, working with 50 students, while another study had as many as 12,000 students. 

Researchers noted that students who exercised had increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain. These school-age children did better in the schoolroom. The analysis suggests that exercise also increases the levels of hormones responsible for curtailing stress and boosting mood, while at the same time establishing new nerve cells and synapse flexibility.

In recent years, there has been increasing evidence that has shown that many functions of the brain are highly dynamic, or “plastic”, meaning that the brain is able to continually change in response to stimulus and experience. This flexibility is thought to be a key property in allowing the nervous system to support short-term and sustained changes in output, associated with learning and memory.

Other studies have shown that people with early dementia benefit from exercise. Again, the increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain helps improve memory and learning function.

So, getting the kids off the couch and onto the playground (no matter whether it’s a public playground or the backyard) can help children stay physically fit and mentally alert.

The Dutch researchers would like to see more high quality studies conducted in this area of investigation.

"Relatively few studies of high methodological quality have explored the relationship between physical activity and academic performance," they acknowledged. "More high-quality studies are needed on the dose-response relationship between physical activity and academic performance and on the explanatory mechanisms, using reliable and valid measurement instruments to assess this relationship accurately."

It’s a pretty safe bet though, that the more a family exercises together, the healthier everyone will be.

The findings are published in the January issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Sources: /

Your Child

Grandparent Program Improves Children’s Behavior

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Grandparents usually look forward to spending time with their grandkids and are often the first call when parents need help with babysitting or time for themselves. While many grandparents are quite capable of overseeing their grandchildren, a refresher course in childcare and communication can offer resources grandparents may not have considered.

In a recent study conducted in Australia, researchers found that grandparents who participated in an updated grand-parenting program designed to encourage better communication between generations and give grandparents a parenting "refresher" course, reported fewer behavior problems among children.

"The main reason we wanted to focus on grandparents is that there still aren't that many parents getting involved with parenting programs," James Kirby, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health.

The new program is an updated version of a similar program called the Triple P-Positive Parenting Program that has been available for about 30 years.  The sessions focus on parenting, the relationship between grandparents and parents and unhelpful emotions - such as anxiety, stress and anger. The program takes about 15 hours to complete. The newer version focuses on grandparents, last nine weeks and involves seven groups and two phone sessions.

For the new study, the researchers recruited 54 older people who were providing at least 12 hours of care per week to grandchildren who were between ages two and nine.

Twenty-eight grandparents were randomly assigned to participate in the program. The others served as a comparison group.

All of the grandparents and parents periodically completed questionnaires about the children's behavior, their own parenting styles and confidence and the grandparents' adjustment.

At the beginning of the study, all of the children scored similarly on a scale that measures the severity of behavior problems between 0 and 36 and the frequency of those problems between 36 and 252. Higher scores indicate worse behavior.

The children whose grandparents participated in the program began the study with an average behavior severity score of about 13 points and a frequency score of about 122 points. Those fell to about 7 and 101 points, respectively, after the program.

Among children whose grandparents didn't participate in the program, behavior severity scores remained the same at about 11 points throughout the study. Scores reflecting frequency of behavior problems increased from about 116 points at the start to about 119 at the end.

None of the average scores for either group reached the cutoff for clinical significance, however. At that point, children should possibly be examined for behavior disorders or other conditions.

The standout changes noted in the research were that the grandparents who participated in the study reported improved confidence and less depression, anxiety and stress, compared to those who didn’t take part in the program. "We're helping with the grandparents' own mental health," Kirby said. "And - at the same time - we're also helping to reduce the child behavior problems."

Six month after the sessions, the results from the program continued to hold true.

The ultimate goal, Kirby said, is to create a shorter version of the program. But they're already in the process of turning the resources from their study into published resources for people to use.

"Don't undervalue the contribution of grandparents," Kirby said. "They can have a significant influence on the improvement of child behavior."

A lot has change since people of grand-parenting age raised their own children. Safety guidelines, such as making sure a baby sleeps on his or her back, have been updated, as well as other safety precautions that were not known twenty to thirty years ago.  Parenting 101 courses are available in many cities and can be found through Internet searches or talking with a family doctor. These are great refresher courses for grandparents to check out.

Many families simply couldn’t get by without the help of their parents. Grandparents around the world step up when called upon, sometimes raising their grandchildren when parents are either not able to or are no longer alive.  They deserve a big hug and thank you. Oftentimes, they add a positive dimension to a child’s development and life they would not otherwise receive.

Source: Andrew M. Seaman,


Your Child

New Guidelines for Treating Sinus Infections

1.45 to read

Kids get runny noses. But is it caused by allergies, a simple cold or something more serious like a sinus infection? If your child has a history of sinus infections, a new review of clinical guidelines may be just what the doctor ordered.

A recent review of the research looked at the most current studies related to acute bacterial sinusitis in children.

The review offers physicians new guidelines for treating sinusitis in children. In the new guidelines, doctors may wait up to three days before beginning treatment with antibiotics and are discouraged from giving children x-rays.

The study, written by Michael J. Smith, MD, from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, reviewed the most recently published research available for treating bacterial sinusitis in children.

Smith’s research led to several changes in guidelines for treatment.

Children can contract viral sinusitis or bacterial sinusitis. Viral sinusitis usually develops when a child has a cold or allergies.  Bacterial sinusitis tends to make a child feel sicker than viral sinusitis. A child with bacterial sinusitis usually will have more facial pain and swelling than someone with viral sinusitis, and might also develop a fever. Acute bacterial sinusitis is usually diagnosed when a child with an upper respiratory infection improves then spirals downward with worsening symptoms.  Five to ten percent of children with an upper respiratory infection develop acute bacterial sinusitis.

Dr. Smith looked for all randomized, controlled trials that had been published since 2001, when the last guidelines were published.

He located 17 studies that related specifically to treating acute bacterial sinusitis in children.

The current recommended treatment in the new guidelines is prescribing the antibiotic amoxicillin.

Doctors should prescribe this antibiotic if a child comes in with very severe symptoms of sinusitis (a runny nose with non-clear mucus and a fever over 102º Fahrenheit for at least three days).

If a child has a runny nose, cough and minor fever for more than 10 days, doctors can treat the child right away or, with the parents' input, wait up to three days to prescribe antibiotics, according to the new clinical guidelines.

The new guidelines that came from this systematic review recommend that doctors do not give children x-rays.

The new guidelines also suggest that children who get better at first and then have worse symptoms (acute bacterial sinusitis) should be treated right away.

The review and guidelines were published in the June journal of Pediatrics.

The signs and symptoms of bacterial sinusitis are:

- A stuffy or runny nose with a daytime cough that lasts for 10 to 14 days or longer without improvement

- Continuous thick green mucus discharge from the nose (sometimes with post nasal drip).

- Persistent dull pain or swelling around the eyes.

- Tenderness or pain in or around the cheekbones.

- A feeling of pressure in your head.

- A headache when you wake up in the morning or when bending over.

- Bad breath even after brushing your teeth.

- Pain in the upper teeth.

- A fever greater than 102°F (39°C).

Some of the symptoms listed above are the same as viral sinusitis, so it’s really best to take your child to his or her pediatrician or family doctor for a correct diagnosis.

Sources: Dominique Brooks,

Your Child

Boys Entering Puberty Earlier

1.45 to read

For years scientific studies have indicated that girls are entering puberty at a younger age. Now a new study, focused on boys, says they too are starting puberty up to 2 years earlier than the average age. 

The study was conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP.)  It involved more than 4,100 boys, aged 6 to 16, in 41 states. Pediatricians were recruited to participate in the study and reported their findings to the research network. Half of the boys were white, and the rest were evenly divided among African-American and Hispanic boys.  The pediatrician visits took place between 2005 and 2010.

What the researchers found was that the white boys started puberty at age 10, a full year and a half earlier than what has been considered the normal average.  The African-American boys started puberty at about 9 years of age, about 2 years earlier than the average. The Hispanic boys were about 10 years old -the average age for boys of Mexican –American heritage. The new study also included boys from other Hispanic backgrounds.

Puberty development was measured by examining the size of the boys’ testes and the start of pubic hair growth. Testes enlargement was seen at age 6 in nine-percent of white boys, almost 20 percent in African-American boys, and seven-percent in Hispanic boys.

Pubic hair growth started about a year later than testicle enlargement in all groups. That’s about the normal time pubic hair growth begins, but it began at an earlier age in conjunction with the testes growth. 

So what does this mean for young boys?

"If it's true that boys are starting puberty younger, it's not clear that means anything negative or has any implications for long-term," said Adelman, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on adolescence. But it might be advantageous for parents to talk their young boys sooner about the birds and bees. Children this young are not always prepared for the physical changes that occur to their bodies and may not be emotionally equipped to handle these changes. 

The study also eliminated boys with other health concerns such as thyroid abnormalities, brain tumors or chronic medical conditions that required certain medications.  All these conditions have been associated with possible early puberty.

The reason for early puberty in boys was not a part of the study, but researchers have suggested that obesity and hormone enhancing products may be contributors.

The study contained other limitations that doctors say could have skewed the results. Testes were measured only once and pediatricians were volunteers and not randomly selected leading to the possibility that early maturing patients were overly represented.

The results will probably not be established as the new average age of puberty for boys until more research studies are completed and support this study’s results.

The bottom line seems to be at this point, that parents should keep a close eye on their boys as they mature. If you see that your youngster is entering puberty at a younger age that normal, talk to your pediatrician about what to expect and how to talk to your boy about the changes he is going through.

The study was published in the October edition of the online journal Pediatrics.


Your Child

Push-Up Bikini Tops For 7-Year Olds?

Push-up bathing suit tops for a 7 year old? There has been plenty of dialogue in the carpool line and in the media about just how far are some compaines going to attract younger and younger retail buyers. Just what message are we sending young girls? What do you think about the marketing of padded push-up bikini tops for girls as young as 7 years old? Is it sexualizing little girls or just another fad that will come and go without any harm being done?

From parents to child psychologists, just about everyone is weighing in with strong opinions. The target of all this anger and opinion is the retail store Abercrombie and Fitch, no stranger to controversy. Their latest offense is the marketing of a padded push-up bikini top to their youngest clientele:  7-14 year old girls. After tremendous push back from parent groups and negative media attention, the company has changed the description of the top from “the push-up triangle” to a “lightly lined triangle” to go along with the tiny bikini bottoms. This is not the first time the store has gotten into trouble with parents. In 2002, they removed a line of thong underwear sold to girls in pre-teen children's sizes after parents mounted nationwide storefront protests. The underwear included phrases like "Eye Candy" and "Wink Wink" printed on the front. In 2005, the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania launched a “Girlcot” of the store to protest the sale of T-shirts displaying messages such as "Who needs brains when you have these?", "Available for parties," and "I had a nightmare I was a brunette." Handling touchy topics is nothing new for the store, and the resulting publicity could be just what they were hoping for.  To be fair, A&F is not the only store that promotes “sexy” clothing for children, but they are the ones currently in the spotlight. Dr. Robyn Silverman, a child development specialist, and Dr. Janet Taylor, a psychiatrist, spoke with the "Today" show’s Meredith Vieira on the topic of sexualizing young girls. Both felt that this kind of marketing is injurious to girls, and that communication between children and parents is imperative for children to grow up with a good sense of self and body image. Dr. Silverman commented that the padded bikini top is another layer of sexualizing young girls which may contribute to negative emotional and identity problems such as eating disorders, depression, poor self image, low self esteem and sexual health problems. When Vieira asked “all of that because of a padded top?” Dr. Silverman explained:  “It’s not just this. It’s this plus the sexualized dolls, plus other sexualized clothing, plus the messages out there. All these things together create a picture that says you must look sexy in order to be acceptable.” So, you might wonder, where does that leave parents? Experts agree that parents are the ones in charge of what their children wear and what is brought into the home. They don’t have to support stores that don’t support their values. As the old saying goes… money talks, and when you spend your money elsewhere, that speaks volumes. Parents must also be open to talking with their young boys and girls about body image, sexual media messages, and to asking their children’s opinions about what they see and hear. Sometimes the most shocking incidents are perfect teaching moments. To see the entire "Today" show interview with Dr. Silverman you can log onto It wasn’t so long ago that parents didn’t have to worry so much about sexual images coming at their children every time they turned around. With today’s constant media attention it’s understandable that parents are sometimes overwhelmed and frustrated by the sheer amount of sex, violence and bad examples their children are seeing and hearing. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are doing the best you can, and that by good example and steadfastness in trying to reach out to your child -that in the end, he or she will adapt and learn the lessons you teach. Body image seems to play an important role in how children see themselves and their peers. offers these boosting body image tips. As you will see, body image is only one component of a good overall sense of self-value. As preteens try on different looks, parents can help by being accepting and supportive, providing positive messages, and encouraging other qualities that keep looks in perspective. Be sure to: •       Accept and understand. Recognize that being concerned about looks is as much a part of the teen years as a changing voice and learning to shave. You know that in the grand scheme of things your daughter's freckles don't matter, but to her they might seem paramount. As frustrating as it can be when they monopolize the bathroom, avoid criticizing kids for being concerned about appearances. As they grow, concern about their looks will stop dominating their lives. •       Give lots of compliments. Provide lots of reassurance about kids' looks and about all their other important qualities. As much as they may seem not to notice or care, simple statements like "you've got the most beautiful smile" or "that shirt looks great on you" really do matter. Compliment them on other physical attributes, such as strength, speed, balance, energy, or grace. Appreciating physical qualities and capabilities helps build a healthy body image. •       Compliment what's inside too. Notice out loud all the personal qualities that you love about your kids — how generous your son is to share with his little sister, the determined way that your daughter studies for her tests, or how your son stood by his best friend. Reassure them when they express insecurity. When you hear "I hate my hair" or "I'm so little," provide valuable counterpoint. •       Talk about what appearances mean. Guide your kids to think a little more deeply about appearances and how people express themselves. Talk about the messages that certain styles might convey. One outfit may send the message "I'm ready to party!" while others might say "I'm heading to school" or "I'm too lazy to do laundry." •       Set reasonable boundaries. Be patient, but also set boundaries on how much time your kids can spend on grooming and dressing. Tell them it's not OK to inconvenience others or let chores go. Limits help kids understand how to manage time, be considerate of others' needs, share resources, exercise a little self-discipline, and keep appearances in perspective. •       Be a good role model. How you talk about your own looks sets a powerful example. Constantly complaining about or fretting over your appearance teaches kids to cast the same critical eye on themselves. Almost everyone is dissatisfied with certain elements of their appearance, but talk instead about what your body can do, not just how it looks. Instead of griping about how big your legs are, talk about how they're strong enough to help you hike up a mountain. Having a healthy and positive body image means liking your body, appreciating it, and being grateful for its qualities and capabilities. When parents care for and appreciate their own bodies, they teach their kids to do the same.

Your Child

School Bullies Bully At Home, Too

Kids who bully at school bully at home too.Research shows that children who bully at school are likely to also bully their siblings at home.

While the results may not sound surprising, they do help give the matter some perspective. The study involved 195 European children ages 10 to 12. Each had a sibling no more than four years older or younger than them. Children were given questionnaires that asked whether they were a victim of bullying, or bullied their peers at school, and whether they were a victim of bullying by a sibling or bullied a sibling at home. "Children with older male siblings were the most victimized group," said Ersilia Menesini of the Universita' degli Studi di Firenze, Italy. Significantly more boys than girls said they bullied their sibling - who was most likely to be younger than them. It's likely that this form of sibling bullying is all about maintaining a position of dominance, the researchers figure. "However, for girls, bullying is mainly related to a poor quality of sibling relationship and not to birth order," Menesini said. "In fact, high levels of conflict and low levels of empathy were significantly related to sibling bullying and sibling victimization." Children who bullied siblings were likely to bully their peers, while victims at home were likely to also be victimized at school. "It is not possible to tell from our study which behavior comes first, but it is likely that if children behave in a certain way at home, bullying a sibling for instance, if this behavior goes unchecked they may take this behavior into school," Menesini said. The behavior doesn't necessarily end with growing up. Other studies have documented significant bullying in the workplace. The results were published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology.

Your Child

Littlest Couch Potatoes Face Mental Health Risks

Young children who spend lots of time in front of television and computer screens have high levels of psychological distress.Young children who spend lots of time in front of television and computer screens have high levels of psychological distress and being physically inactive may make matters worse according to new research. The study, published in the journal Pediatrics includes a group as young as four-years-old. Previous studies of "screen time" have been in adolescents and teens said the lead researcher of the current investigation, Dr. Mark Hamer of University College London.

"We replicated the earlier findings in older adolescents that show too much TV and screen-based entertainment is associated with poorer measures of mental health," said Hamer. To make their determinations, Hamer and his team looked at 1,486 boys and girls ages four to 12 years old. The children's parents completed a test called the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire that assesses childhood mental health issues, such as hyperactivity, emotional symptoms, conduct problems and peer problems. About one in four children logged at least three hours of screen time daily, while 4.2 percent had abnormally high scores on the questionnaire, indicating high levels of psychological distress. Children with more than 2.7 hours of screen time daily had 24 percent higher scores on the test, signaling more distress, than kids who had less than 1.6 hours of daily screen time. Heavy television and computer use plus low physical activity further increased distress scores by 46 percent. Children started to show worse mental health at the highest screen time level, which was around three hours per day, Hamer noted. The current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that parents limit their child's screen-based entertainment time to less than two hours per day. Current guidelines also advise that children spend at least one hour in active play daily. "I think it's really a question of sort of limiting screen-based activity and just trying to encourage more physical activity," Hamer said. "That's the key message."

Your Child

How Much Pizza is Too Much?


Just about everyone loves pizza. These days, there are enough specialty toppings to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. So, it’s understandable that people don’t like to hear or read anything negative about America’s favorite fast food.

 But… and where pizza is concerned, there is always a but… kids that consume too much pizza – notice I said too much not any- are not only more likely to pack on the extra pounds, but consume more fat and sodium than is recommended for healthy diets.

Researchers behind a new study from the Health Policy Center at the Institute of Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), examined dietary recall data from children and adolescents aged 2-19 who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2003 and 2010.

During those years, children between the ages of 2 and 11 took in fewer calories from pizza by 25 percent. Among teenagers, who actually ate more pizza than the younger group, there was also a decline in intake calories from pizza.  Good news so far.

However, looking at the calorie intake from pizza during 2009 to 2010, pizza made up 22% of the total calorie intake among children and 26% of adolescents' calorie intake on the days when it was eaten.

The younger children took in an additional 84 calories, 3 g of saturated fat and 134 mg of sodium on days that they ate pizza, compared with pizza-free days.

For adolescents the count was substantially higher. Pizza days meant an extra 230 calories, 5 g of saturated fat and 484 mg of sodium - 24% and 21% of their recommended daily intake. Not so good news.

Pizza as a snack between meals had the biggest impact on the children’s diet. Children took in an extra 202 calories and teens an extra 365 calories in addition to their regular meals. Ouch.

It’s really no surprise that kids (and adults) rarely eat less of other foods during pizza snack days to compensate for the extra calories, fat and sodium – we just usually don’t.

Researchers also noted that calorie intake from school cafeterias was about the same on pizza days as it was on non-pizza days. They believe the reason for that is that most school cafeteria food is similarly high in calories. In 2015, that may be changing with new school food policies. Let’s hope so anyway.

Pizza in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad food choice-depending on where it comes from. Homemade pizza can be lower in calories, fat and sodium. You get to decide what kind of crust is used and can substitute lower fat and sodium ingredients to build your own healthier meal. Plus, it taste good!

Because of its huge influence on the diet of American youths, the authors suggest that pizza should be specifically addressed as part of nutritional counseling.

"Curbing pizza consumption alone isn't enough to significantly reduce the adverse dietary effects of pizza. It's a very common and convenient food, so improving the nutritional content of pizza, in addition to reducing the amount of pizza eaten, could help lessen its negative nutritional impact." Said lead author Lisa Powell, who is professor of health policy and administration in the UIC School of Public Health.

Typical fast-food pizza is packed with sodium, fat and calories. This study simply points out that it’s easy to overload on it because it’s convenient and not very expensive. But, it can have a devastating affect on kid’s health when not eaten sensibly. The extra fat, salt and calories add up to more weight, higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure and diabetes. Not anything you really want for your kids or yourself.

The study was recently published in the journal Pediatrics.

Source: David McNamee,

Your Child

Diving Safety Tips


Diving into a pool or lake is one way to cool off during the hot summer months, but if you aren’t careful, fun can turn to tragedy in a few quick seconds.

Every year there are hundreds of people who are paralyzed from neck and spine injuries after diving head first into shallow lakes and pools according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the American Spine Injury Association and the Cervical Spine Research Society.

"Everyone needs to be trained to dive safely," AAOS spokesperson and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brett Taylor, said in a news release from the group. "Safe diving skills don't come naturally, they have to be learned. With neck and spine injuries being the most common diving injuries, a good rule of thumb for divers is to dive feet first in unknown water."

The biggest obstacle to safe diving is shallow water. Experts say that you should always check the depth of the water and make sure that it is deep enough for diving. If you're diving from a high point, make sure the bottom of the body of water is double the distance from which you're diving.

Murky water in lakes and oceans can also present a danger. With unclear water you can’t see sand bars or objects below the surface. The heavy rains during the spring have lifted some lake levels far above normal making it difficult to see what may be lurking just below the surface.

Experts also warn that kids and adults should never dive into an above ground pool. These pools tend to be shallower than in-ground pools.

Only one person at a time should stand on a diving board. Dive only off the end of the board and do not run on the board. Do not bounce more than once, because the rebound effect could knock you off your legs or throw you off balance.

After diving, immediately swim away from the area of the diving board to clear the way for the next diver. It’s easy to forget that another child may be right below the next eager diver. It’s particularly important for parents to keep an eye on who is in the pool or lake and where they are.

Don't body surf near the shore. Doing so puts you at risk for neck injuries, as well as shoulder dislocations and fractures. These waves can pack a heavier punch especially when a beach has been recently replenished.

Pools, lakes and oceans can be a refreshing retreat when the temperatures reach into the 90s and 100s, but make sure your kids are playing it safe when diving in.

Source: Robert Preidt,


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