Your Toddler

Understanding Temper Tantrums

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You can usually tell when it’s coming. Your little one’s normally sweet cherubic face begins to turn a scarlet red. The eyes and mouth twist into something unrecognizable.  Squirming ramps up, tears start to flow, whining reaches a fever pitch and then BOOM- your child is spinning off into of a doozy of a tantrum.

A little voice in your head says “step away from the child.” That’s probably not a bad idea.

So, what does it all mean?

According to a new study published in the journal Emotion, it means your child is experiencing a complex mixture of simultaneous emotions including sadness and anger. I know from personal experience, it’s sometimes hard to see the sadness when the anger has the upper hand.

It’s an interesting study. Very young children aren’t able to express in words what’s bugging them. They can’t argue reasonably, defend their position, or explain why they want what they want. They are at the mercy of whoever is in charge. As you might expect, that can lead to increased levels of frustration. Get frustrated enough, and something’s going to give. But what exactly are they trying to express?

While tantrums generally involve shouting, kicking, screaming, crying and whining, the new study looked at the noises a child makes when going through a temper attack.

Researchers discovered that the sounds children make during a tantrum are not random. But have a specific pattern and rhythm.

The first challenge was to collect tantrum sounds, says co-author James A. Green of the University of Connecticut.

"We developed a onesie that toddlers can wear that has a high-quality wireless microphone sewn into it," Green said. "Parents put this onesie on the child and press a go button."

Researchers listened to and recorded more than 100 high-fidelity audio recordings and discovered certain patterns of anger and sadness.

"Screaming and yelling and kicking often go together," study co-author Michael Potegal of the University of Minnesota told National Public Radio. "Throwing things and pulling and pushing things tend to go together. Combinations of crying, whining, falling to the floor and seeking comfort -- these also hang together." And while earlier thinking suggested that a child progressed from initial sadness to anger during a tantrum, the researchers found that these two emotions actually occur simultaneously throughout the outburst.

But where one age-old theory of tantrums might suggest that meltdowns begin in anger (yells and screams) and end in sadness (cries and whimpers), Potegal found that the two motions were more deeply intertwined.

"The impression that tantrums have two stages is incorrect," Potegal said. "In fact, the anger and the sadness are more or less simultaneous."

Once understood, researchers say, this pattern can help parents, teachers and caregivers respond more effectively to temper tantrums. It can also help clinicians tell the difference between ordinary tantrums, which are a normal part of a child's development, and those that may be warning signals of an underlying disorder.

So what is the best way to handle a tantrum?

The trick in getting a tantrum to end as soon as possible, Potegal said, was to get the child past the peaks of anger. Once the child was past being angry, what was left was sadness, and sad children reach out for comfort. The quickest way past the anger, the scientists said, was to do nothing. Of course, that isn't easy for parents or caregivers to do.

"When I'm advising people about anger, I say, 'There's an anger trap,"' Potegal said.

Even asking questions can prolong the anger and the tantrum.

Many experts recommend ignoring the child when they are in tantrum meltdown mode.

Preschoolers.about.com offers these suggestions for handling a child in the throes of a tantrum meltdown.

  • If you can, try walking away, making sure that your child is safe first. Stay nearby, but make sure it’s clear by your actions that her display has no effect on you. Don’t make eye contact and don’t talk to her. When she sees that she’s not getting a reaction, she’ll eventually stop.
  • Diffuse it: If you have trouble not re-acting, there are some other techniques you can try. Soothe your child by rubbing her back and talk to her in low, quiet tones. Some parents find repeating the same phrase over and over again like, “You’re OK,” or “It’s alright”or singing a quiet song or nursery rhyme seems to work. You can also try injecting a little humor into the situation by telling a silly joke or making a funny face.

What you shouldn't do: yell back at your child or try to reason with him. While your child in the middle of an emotional outburst, there is no way to get through to him. You just have to wait until it is over.

If the tantrum is in a public place, pick her up and bring her to a more private location like your car or a public bathroom. If you can’t get the tantrum under control, put her into her car seat and go home. Unfortunately, there are some instances where you just can’t leave, such as an airplane or a train. Just do your best and grin and bear it. Others might be annoyed but your child is your concern, not anyone else.

If you child starts to bite, kick, hit or show some other aggressive behaviors, you must take action immediately. Remove the child from the situation until she can calm down.

When the tantrum is over, don’t dwell on what happened as upset or as angry as you may be. Going over what happened again and again will most likely upset your child and could cause them to begin to tantrum again. Instead, give her a hug and a kiss and move on. If you feel like you need to talk about it, wait a few hours when you are both calm.

One of the most important things to remember is that children are not simply little adults. They cannot respond on the same level as an adult and the younger they are, the less they know how to handle frustrating situations. As they grow and test the boundaries, they will learn about life by what you teach them and how you teach them.

Sources:

http://preschoolers.about.com/od/behaviordiscipline/a/Tempertantrums.htm

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health

Your Toddler

Brain Boosting Activities

The No. 1 brain booster for preschoolers is one-on-one time with parents. Even though this is a time to learn independence, the parent-child attachment is still there at this age.Could your child become the next Einstein of Physics, or Elinor Ostrom, another Nobel Laureate in economics?  As parents, we’d all like to think so.  One way to help your child develop his or her natural creativity is by engaging them in brain boosting activities.

Up until age 2, babies’ and toddler’s brains are growing by leaps and bounds every day. They develop language and motor skills faster than they ever will.  But between 3 to 5 years, that growth slows. Instead, the brain is making countless connections within its different regions. Preschoolers focus more on absorbing the world around them. Their minds are developing problem-solving skills and using language to negotiate. They’re also learning how to coordinate their bodies to do things like aim and kick a ball. “Kids should be out there exploring and getting ready for their next important job: going to school,” says developmental pediatrician Michele Macias, MD, spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and chairwoman of the AAP's section on developmental and behavioral pediatrics. The No. 1 brain booster for preschoolers is one-on-one time with parents. Even though this is a time to learn independence, the parent-child attachment is still there at this age. Some activities that are not only fun but challenging to a child’s brain are: Reading together. Books that tell a story and ones that teach counting, ABC’s, sorting and matching, and similar core concepts are perfect for developing language, vocabulary and learning skills. Pretend Play Preschool-aged children naturally have great imaginations. Though they often start pretend play at younger ages, their imagination life really starts to take hold from age 3-5. Besides being fun, imaginative play lets kids experiment with role-playing. “Much like reading, make-believe lets kids practice things they might not actually be able to experience in real life,” says child psychologist, Richard Gallagher, at New York University’s Child Study Center. Games and Puzzles From Candy Land to “Duck, Duck, Goose”, games with rules help improve social intelligence. Kids practice patience in taking turns, and learn to accept the frustration of not winning. Remembering rules, also gives those memory muscles a workout. Physical games help sharpen the brain’s motor coordination. Learn another language Research shows that younger kids can pick up multiple languages much faster than when they get older. Learning a second tongue early on also gives a double punch of stimulation to the areas of the brain responsible for storing, sequencing, and saying words, Gallagher says. A second language also helps with developing verbal and spatial abilities, and promotes better vocabulary and reading skills. An added perk: Kids get a greater sense of cultural diversity. Whatever activities you choose, make sure it’s fun for your child. Go easy on the pressure. And above all, just let your kid enjoy the sheer pleasure of being a kid.

Your Toddler

Car Seats Save Young Lives

Putting your infant or young child in an age-appropriate car safety seat significantly reduces the odds that they will die if they are in a motor vehicle accident a new study says. The study, published in the February 2009 issue of American Journal of Public Health, was done by research epidemiologists at the Traffic Safety Center in the department of environmental sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. The study shows that the odds of a your-baby dying in a car crash dropped by three-quarters if they were in a safety restraint seat. The mortality risk reduction for older children was at least 60 percent if placed in a safety seat.

"The findings from this study indicate that child restraints greatly reduce the risk of death among children three years and younger involved in severe traffic collisions," wrote the study authors. "The higher effectiveness of safety seats among infants is likely due to their overall fragility," added the authors. Car accidents are the leading cause of unintentional injury and death for children older than one year. More than 500 children younger than three died as a result of motor vehicle collisions in 2005, according to statistics quoted in the study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Your Toddler

Many Kids Still Exposed to Lead Poisoning

2.00 to read

This is one of those health concerns you heard a lot about in the 70s and 80s when the government began to take an active role in reducing the amount of lead in our everyday environment.

As long ago as 1904, child lead poisoning was linked to lead-based paints, but it wasn’t until 1971 that the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act was passed. Finally in 1978, lead-based paint was banned.  The inside and outside of homes built before then most likely were painted with a lead based paint. Since lead is slightly sweet to the taste children are tempted to put fallen paint chips, or peeled chips, into their mouths.

Lead was also an additive used in gasoline till 1986 when it was phased out of production. Tons of lead was released into the atmosphere and eventually found its way into the dirt of playgrounds, and yards.

The banning of lead in these two areas alone has dramatically reduced the number of American children with elevated blood lead levels. That’s extremely good news because lead poisoning can have terrible consequences for children and adults.

But, despite the progress that has been made in the last four decades, about 2.6% of U.S. children aged 1 to 5 years old still have too much lead in their systems, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Surveys conducted between 2007 and 2010 show that more than half a million children had blood lead levels equal to or above the recommended 5 micrograms per deciliter (mg/dl). A level at, or higher than 5 mcg/dl, is considered a “level of concern” by the CDC.

Children can be exposed to lead by inhaling it, swallowing it or in rare cases absorbing it through the skin. In the bloodstream it can damage red blood cells, limiting their ability to carry oxygen to the organs and tissues that need it. Lead can end up in the bones and interfere with calcium absorption. It can severely affect mental and physical development and at very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.

The report also noted that there are persistent differences in the blood lead levels of children in different racial/ethnic and income groups that are linked to disparities in housing quality, environmental conditions, nutrition and other factors.

Lead can be found in drinking water particularly in homes built before 1986. These homes are more likely to have lead pipes. Tap water can be contaminated through the corrosion of plumbing materials. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures that can leach significant amounts of lead into the water, especially hot water.

Another source where children can be exposed to lead is by chewing or sucking on toys. Toys that have been made in other countries and then imported to the U.S. may contain lead. The CDC has issued hundreds, if not thousands, of recalls for toys and jewelry with moderate to high levels of lead. China appears to be the biggest offender when it comes to adding lead in its children’s toy and jewelry products. Antique toys can also contain lead paint.

Eliminating lead from house paints, gasoline and plumbing has had a profound affect on reducing lead levels in our children. But lead continues to be around and parents should be aware that it is not like a virus or bacteria that has been eradicated from our daily lives.

Except when a child swallows something that has a very high lead content, lead poisoning usually occurs over a period of time with the repeated ingestion of low levels of lead. Children may not show signs of lead poisoning until symptoms appear and even those can mimic other health problems. It’s really a good idea to have your child tested for lead blood levels to make sure.

Signs of lead poisoning usually appear as:

  • Irritability or behavioral problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sluggishness or fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Constipation
  • Pallor (pale skin) from anemia
  • Metallic taste in mouth
  • Muscle and joint weakness or pain
  • Seizures

As you can see, all these symptoms can look like something else is going on. Testing is for lead is the only way to know for sure.

Sources: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=675127

http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/brain/lead_poisoning.html#

 

 

Your Toddler

Twitter Question from @MandieD79

Mandie asked:  Can prolonged use of antibiotics cause IBS in toddlers and make the lose their appetite?

Dr. Sue says prolonged antibiotic use may cause a change in “normal” GI tract (gut) bacteria.  That change may then cause some GI distress, sometimes change in stools, nausea and decreased appetite.  Not really IBS.  Wonder why they are on prolonged course of antibiotics?  Have you tried using a probiotic like Florastor to help get back normal GI flora?  It's available for kids. Thanks for the tweet!

Your Toddler

Baby Gates Responsible for Almost 2000 ER Visits

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You install baby gates to keep your little one from falling down stairs or away from areas in the house that are not baby-proofed.  But baby gates do not always prove to be safe. In fact, the number of children treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to baby gates has quadrupled since 1990.

A new study, conducted by researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, has found gates can lead to injury if used incorrectly.

From 1990 through 2010, ERs treated an estimated 37,673 children under the age of seven for baby gate –related injuries.

The study used data obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The researchers found that more than 60 percent of the children injured were younger than two years old, and they were most often injured by falls down stairs after a gate collapsed or when it was left open. Injuries caused by these accidents lead to soft tissue injuries, such as sprains and strains, and traumatic brain injuries, said the researchers.

Cuts were the main injury for 2 to 6 years-olds from climbing on the gate.

The most common injuries were bumps, bruises, cuts and lacerations. However, over 16 percent were traumatic brain injuries, Lara McKenzie, Ph.D., the senior and corresponding author and associate professor of Pediatrics, Center for Injury Research and Policy at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, told Healthline.

McKenzie offered this advice to parents, “Gates are a common, if not essential, safety device in homes to prevent young children from potentially hazardous stairways, and to limit access to restricted areas — for example, the kitchen when you are cooking. Current recommendations suggest that gates be installed in stairways and between rooms in homes with children between six months and two years of age, or until the child has learned how to open the gate or when the child is able to climb over the gate.”

Parents are not the only ones that need to be aware of these guidelines. Grandparents and caregivers should also know about the recommendations.

“When your grandkids come to visit, it is essential to have the correct types of gates in place to keep your grandkids safe in your home. You can be strategic in limiting children’s access to dangerous areas by installing gates at the top and bottom of stairs and between rooms. Also, do not use the old accordion-style gates. The sale of these gates was banned because of the risk of strangulation. Make sure any gates you use meet current safety guidelines,” said McKenzie.

The researchers offered these baby gate safety tips:

-      Use hardware-mounted baby gates at the top of stairways.

-      Gates that only press against walls, called pressure-mounted gates, are not secure enough to prevent falls.

-      Install gates in homes with children between six months and two years of age.

-      If possible, remove the gates when the child turns two, or when the child has learned to open the gate or climb over it.

-      If you can’t remove a gate because of other children in the home, use a gate without notches or gaps that could be used for climbing.

The study was published in Academic Pediatrics.

Source: Sandra Levy, http://www.healthline.com/health-news/baby-gates-injuries-emergency-room-050514

Your Toddler

Study: Preschool Kids Do Better As Adults

1.45 to read

Can preschool help your child be better prepared as an adult? New results from a 25 year study says absolutely. Have you been struggling with whether to send your child to preschool next year? Maybe a new publicly funded study can help with your decision.

According to results from a Chicago based study with children from low-income families, preschool had surprising long-term benefits. Researchers followed more than 1,000 children for up to 25 years. They tracked nearly 900 children into adulthood. What they discovered was that low-income kids who attended preschool ended up with better jobs, less drug abuse and fewer arrests than children who didn’t attend preschool. Arthur Reynolds began studying more than 1,500 Chicago kids back in 1986, and he’s kept up with most of them ever since. About two-thirds of those children went through the Child-Parent Center Education Program – the rest through traditional pre-kindergarten programs, which start later and are less intensive. The two groups had similar backgrounds, largely poor and African American. Now those kids are turning 28, and Reynolds, a University of Minnesota professor of child development, says people who had rigorous preschool are still enjoying advantages after 25 years. “There’s an initial effect on school readiness,” said Reynolds, a professor of child development at the University of Minnesota. “That kind of sets off sort of a chain reaction that leads to the changes that we see in adulthood at the end of the twenties.” The ongoing publicly funded program focuses on language development, scholastic skills and building self-confidence. It involves one or two years of half-day preschool, and up to four additional years of educational and family services in grade school. The findings were published in the online version of the journal Science. Previous studies have also found that attendance at high quality preschools produced similar results. Though many preschool kids also received extra services in grade school, including intensive reading instruction, the researchers found the most enduring effects, particularly for non-academic success, were due to one or two years of preschool. The authors theorize that those intensive early childhood experiences built intellectual - skills, social adjustment and motivation that helped children better navigate their high-risk environments. The challenges facing the low-income children were daunting, and the final results were, as adults, the average income for those attending preschool was $12,000 less than the average income. Also almost half of them had been arrested. But even though the statistics sound grim, they were not as dismal as for the kids who did not attend preschool. Preschool gave the children who attended a leg-up in the world. Experts not involved in the study still called the results impressive. "To still show really any advantage for such a long period of time is remarkable and noteworthy," said Kyle Snow, director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children's applied research center. The study's lead researcher, Arthur Reynolds of the University of Minnesota, said the differences between the groups are meaningful and translate to big savings to society for kids who attended preschool. The average cost per child for 18 months of preschool in 2011 is $9,000, but Reynolds' cost-benefit analysis suggests that leads to at least $90,000 in benefits per child in terms of increased earnings, tax revenue, less criminal behavior, reduced mental health costs and other measures.  "No other social program for children and youth has been shown to have that level of return on investment," he said. Some of the study’s results were: —80 percent of the preschool group finished high school versus 75 percent of the others. —Nearly 15 percent of the preschool group attended a four-year college, versus 11 percent of the others. —28 percent of the preschool group had skilled jobs requiring post-high school training versus 21 percent of the others. —Average annual adult income for the preschool group was about $11,600 versus $10,800 for the group that did not attend preschool. The low average incomes include zero earnings for those in prison and close to that for adults who were still in college or studying elsewhere. —14 percent of the preschool group had abused drugs in adulthood versus 19 percent of the other. —48 percent of the preschool group had been arrested in adulthood and 15 percent had been incarcerated, versus 54 percent of the others arrested and 21 percent incarcerated. Preschool offered many of the children a solid base for further education, and an opportunity to start the first grade better prepared.

Your Toddler

Water an Easy Remedy for Overweight Kids

A new study indicates that the best way to help your child keep the weight off is to give them water instead of soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks. One analysis of the diets of American children and teenagers showed they drink, on average, 235 "empty" calories in sugar-sweetened beverages each day. When those drinks are cut out, the average child does not make up for them by eating or drinking more calories elsewhere, the researchers said. A second study by Dutch researchers found children would cut out sugary drinks before they would exercise or abandon snacks.

"The evidence is now clear that replacing these 'liquid calories' with calorie-free beverage alternatives both at home and in schools represents a key strategy to eliminate excess calories and prevent childhood obesity," Dr. Claire Wang of Columbia University in New York said in a statement. In the study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Wang and her colleagues said they looked at data fro the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that included detailed questions about diet. Every 1 percent drop in soft drink intake correlated to more than six fewer calories, they found.

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Your Toddler

Another Good Reason Kids Need Enough Sleep

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By now you should know that if your child gets the appropriate amount of sleep each night, they do better in school, excel more in the activties they attempt and have fewer behavioral problems than kids who don’t.

A new study suggests that while your child is sleeping, the connections between the left and the right hemispheres of their brain strengthen, helping their brain functions develop.

Scientists have known for years that during early childhood the brain is changing constantly. New connections are forming and others are being removed.  A fatty layer called “myelin” forms around the nerve fibers and strengthens, allowing the brain to transfer information faster.

These maturing nerve fibers lead to improvement in skills such as language, attention, and impulse control. How does sleep contribute to the development of these connections? Scientists aren’t sure.

Too help find out, a research team, led by Salome Kurth, a postdoctoral researcher, and Monique LeBourgeois, assistant professor in integrative physiology at University of Coloroda Boulder, used electroencephalograms to measure the brain activity of eight sleeping children multiple times at the ages of 2, 3 and 5 years.

"Interestingly, during a night of sleep, connections weakened within hemispheres but strengthened between hemispheres," Kurth said.

They found that connections in the brain became stronger during sleep as the children aged. They also found that the strength of the connections between the left and right hemispheres increased by as much as 20 percent over a night's sleep.

"There are strong indications that sleep and brain maturation are closely related, but at this time, it is not known how sleep leads to changes in brain structure," Kurth said.

The next step will be to look at how sleep disruption may affect brain development and behavior. "I believe inadequate sleep in childhood may affect the maturation of the brain related to the emergence of developmental or mood disorders," Kurth said.

How much sleep do children 2 to 5 years-of-age need? A lot, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Their website breaks it down by age. 

  • Toddlers (1-3 years) need about 12 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24 – hour period, which can include naps.
  • Preschoolers (5-12 years) need about 11 to 13 hours of sleep.
  • School-aged children (5-12 years) need about 10 to 11 hours of sleep.

More and more studies show how important getting the right amount of sleep is to feeling and performing your best. As parents, we know how much better we feel after getting a full nights' sleep ( I know - it's not often enough!). But for children, an adequate amount of sleep not only helps them feel more rested but actually assists in healthy brain developemnt. 

Sources: News Staff, http://www.science20.com/news_articles/go_bed_brain_connections_young_children_strengthen_during_sleep-124917

 http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/children-and-sleep

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