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Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship with Drew Pearson

Daily Dose

Sleep

1:30 to read

Bedtime routines are very important!  Many kids are getting up earlier and earlier for some sort of practice (often before the sun comes up) so going to bed on time makes everyone in the house wake up in a better frame of mind and mood for the day ahead.   

 

Bed time battles are typical for a toddler who has learned to ask for “one more book”, or for the elementary school child who swears “they are not tired” but who falls asleep during bath time.  But who knew there would be even more battles with teens and their electronics??

 

Numerous studies have shown that electronics disrupt sleep.  But, trying to convince your adolescent son or daughter that they need more sleep is a daily struggle. While the studies on sleep recommend that teens get between 8 to 9 hours of sleep, most teens are not even close to that!  (90% report less than 9 hours).

 

During the summer teens keep all sorts of crazy hours and many get the majority of their sleep during what we would consider to be “daytime” hours…as they go to bed at 2 or 3 am and sleep past noon.  So, the minute that school resumes after summer vacation they already have sleep issues trying to “re-adjust” their biological clocks…and then you throw in the use of electronics right before bed and you have the perfect storm for sleep deprivation and daytime fatigue.

 

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that “adequate sleep duration on a regular basis leads to improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life and mental and physical health”.  There isn’t a parent around who doesn’t want happy, rested, studious and healthy kids…of all ages. If you throw in less moodiness for teens who get more sleep most parents would sign their teens up on the spot.

 

Why do we all need to disconnect from electronics in order to have better sleep?  That blue light from the electronic screen…of any shape for or fashion works against sleep. It signals the brain to suppress melatonin secretion, which is the hormone that makes us get sleepy at the end of the day. The light from the screen also confuses the brain of it being daytime and increases alertness which may delay sleep…even after turning off the screen.

 

Try this new family rule, parents included, that all screens (phones, tablets, computers) will be off and docked outside of the bedroom at least 30-60 minutes prior to bedtime. While your teen may insist that they won’t use the phone, it is often too tempting to not “cheat” once you are in your own room and asleep. 

 

While this may initially be hard to enforce, once it is the family routine it becomes less of a battle. Everyone will have an easier time falling asleep and staying asleep, and maybe get a few more hours of “shut eye”.    

 

 

Daily Dose

Breaking Bad Habits

1:15 to read

Do any of your children bite their nails or suck their thumbs? If so, are you always saying, “take your fingers out of your mouth, they are dirty”, or “if you keep biting your nails you will get sick due to all of those germs on your fingers”!  I was guilty of saying those very things to my own children, and I also remember being a nail biter and my mother saying the same thing to me.

Well, who would have thought that a study just released today in the journal Pediatrics might make us parents eat our own words (it wouldn’t be the first time).  The study, “Thumb-Sucking, Nail-Biting and Atopic Sensitization, Asthma and Hay Fever” suggests that “childhood exposure to microbial organisms reduces the risk of developing allergies”.  Who knew that there might be something so positive coming from a “bad habit”.  

This study was done in New Zealand and followed over 1,000 children born between 1972-1973 (dark ages) whose parents reported that they either bit their nails or sucked their thumbs at 5,7,9 and 11 years old. The participants were then checked at ages 13 and again at 32 years old to look for an allergic reaction ( by skin prick testing) against at least one common allergen.  And guess what…at 13 years of age the prevalence of an allergic reaction was lower among those children who HAD sucked their thumbs or bitten their nails.  Incredibly the the findings persisted almost 20 years later!  This study even looked at cofounding factors including sex, parental history of allergies, pet ownership, breast feeding and parental smoking… none of which played a role. 

So, while not advocating for children to suck their thumbs or bite their nails (which unfortunately I did until high school when I decided to have nails to polish) there may be a silver lining….a protective effect against allergies that persists into adulthood. 

Lemonade out of lemons!!!

Daily Dose

Bullying

1:30 to read

The incidence of bullying continues to rise even 1 month into the school year. While excitement and a bit of anxiety are typical emotions for children as they find out their new classes and teachers, there are a group of students who have tremendous anxiety about going back to school….those children who have been victims of bullying.

 

It depends which study you read but somewhere between 10-29% of students report having been bullied. This represents around 13 million kids.  Some studies also show that somewhere around 6-10% of school aged children may be chronic victims of bullying.  No matter the number or statistic, bullying is an ongoing problem among school aged children and may have long last effects on both the child who has bullied as well as for the child who was bullied. 

 

Bullying by definition is “unwanted aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves either a real or perceived power imbalance”. Bullying behaviors are also typically repetitive. Boys are more likely to be bullies and may bully boys or girls while girls tend to bully other girls more often. 

 

There are different types of bullying. It may be physical (not as common), verbal, exclusionary, or cyberbullying.  All of these types of bully behaviors cause psychological and/or physical distress for the victims.  Victims of bullying are more likely to miss school and will have absences for “unknown” reasons where they may just report “not feeling well”.  These children  may often have frequent headaches and stomach aches without any physical findings.  I find that in many cases of bullying a child has been “well all summer” and the physical distress returns once school resumes. Victims of bullying also report difficulty in school with focus and concentration as well as depression and isolation.

 

The majority of bullying takes place at school, especially at times when there may be less supervision by teachers…during recess, lunch time,  bathroom breaks, and on playgrounds.  Unfortunately with the advent of cyberbullying and the use of cell phones, tablets and computers to send mean texts or emails more and more bullying may be occurring outside of school. 

 

Just as teachers need to be aware of bullying at school, parents need to know what their children are doing online. Now is another good time to discuss or re-visit the issue of online bullying and review your own family rules for posting or texting, reminding your child that anything they post may be seen by anyone. Don’t post or send anything to anyone that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others. It just takes one person forwarding a message for it to become “viral” and it will remain in that “mysterious cloud” forever!

 

Prevention of bullying requires that students, teachers, administrators and parents all work together.  Encourage your child to report any bullying behavior or concerns that they have and to get the school year off to a good start. 

 

One last statistic: parents who are involved with their children (including their online lives) and have clear and concise rules are less likely to have children who are either those who bully or are victims of bullying.  

 

  

Daily Dose

Over-scheduling Your Kids

1:30 to read

Are your kids busy with activites this weekend?  Is your child going to be over or under scheduled?  It is sometimes difficult to find a happy medium.

 

I am still a big believer in the “one sport” per season rule and one other activity..maybe two if the third activity does not require a weekend game or practice.  So, what does this look like for a child in elementary school….soccer, fall baseball or football for the fall season, as well as girl scouts, boy scouts, debate team, chess team, and then maybe piano or flute lessons?  You can change that up in anyway and substitute dance, gymnastics, volleyball, a foreign language class…but you get the picture. In this way your child should have several days a week with “NOTHING” to do after school…except go outside and play!  This gives the parent or caregiver a break as well from driving all around to transport to the venue for the practice or game.

 

I hear so many complaints from parents who are in a constant state of stress from trying to figure out transportation for their child to the soccer practice that conflicts with the football practice and the lacrosse practice. This also requires trying to  juggle the multiple games on the weekend that go on for hours one after the next, and even on Sunday mornings.  When I hear the parents complain about this ridiculous schedule I am also seeing the children who are over tired, burnt out and may even have stomach aches and headaches due to the stress of being over scheduled.

 

While every parent is well intended and wanting their child to have as many opportunities as possible in both athletic and other extracurricular activities, a parent also needs to sometimes say “no”.  Discussing the logistics as well as the time commitment for each activity, in an age appropriate manner, may help a family decide which activity stays and which one is “punted”.

 

So….sit down before you and your child are overwhelmed and pick the activities that you will do this fall…but leave some room for being bored. Boredom is a noun that we need to hear more often.

 

Daily Dose

Teaching Good Playground Manners

We saw democracy at work yesterday and this is a good time to parlay those lessons to our children and the playground. Teaching our kids to play nicely with one another and to be inclusive begins in toddlerhood and continues throughout their childhood. Children need to learn to share the swings and monkey bars, and to invite others to play with them. The sandbox is another great place to learn to play in unison, while working together to build castles and cities in the sand. It is easier to build a city with a group than alone.

Play with your children on the playground so that they may watch how you interact with other children and share and involve others while playing. Young kids need to learn that pushing, hitting and bullying is not appropriate. It is age appropriate for young children to show some of these inappropriate behaviors, but with parental guidance children learn the importance of sharing and how to manage group play. By the time your child reaches elementary school these appropriate play behaviors should be instilled in them. Keep practicing. That's your daily dose, we'll chat tomorrow.

Daily Dose

The Truth Behind Lies Parents Tell

1.30 to read

What an interesting study I came across recently regarding lying. Guess what, it was not about children lying, but rather about parents lying to their children. While reading the article, I must admit that I too have been guilty of some of these “tall tales” or “white lies” while parenting my own children. The study was published in the  Journal of Moral Education (there is a journal for everything!). In this article, the researchers found that while parents teach their children the importance of telling the truth, parents often resort to lying to get their children to perform tasks, or change their behavior, or even to make them happy. The mixed messages that children receive from parental “lies” may prevent a child from understanding how to navigate their own world without telling lies. Many parents reported telling lies to their children to shape their child’s behavior. Think of all of the things we say each day from, “if you don’t eat your vegetables you won’t grow taller”, to “if you don’t wear a coat you will get sick” and my favorite, “if you don’t stop crying Dr. Sue will give you a shot!” (my friends used to call me when we had young children and tell their own children this), no wonder doctors are scary. That lie never worked in my house! It is a fine line to decide when something is an out and out lie, versus being a little less than truthful, especially with young children. Teaching your children about being polite, and not hurting feelings, often requires being less than truthful. How do you explain that is inappropriate to call someone “fat” when they really might be? Same thing for telling someone you don’t like what they are wearing or how their perfume smells, we are often not truthful, but sparing the truth seems to be a lot nicer. I guess this also goes for telling “everyone” they did a good job, when one of your children made an even bigger mess while trying to clean up. But at least they tried right? Or giving everyone a prize, even though they were not all really winners. We parents often lie on the spur of the moment because it is easier than telling the truth. We often don’t think how it might affect our children in the long run. If lying is consistently used by parents, real opportunities for children to learn about the truth and sometimes the consequences that come with that knowledge, may be missed. Bottom line, we all need to think about those little white lies, and in some cases, even when it seems easier to tell a “little lie”, rethink what you are going to say. I think this is called, “thinking before you speak” and that is sometimes hard for both parents and children. What little lies (wink) do you tell your kids & why?  Share it with us and leave you comments below. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue.

Daily Dose

Teens and Sexting

1.30 to read

Sexting, the combination of the words sex and texting, is the practice of electronically sending explicit images or messages from on person to another. There has been a lot of media attention in recent years looking at legal cases involving teens and sexting as well as cases of bullying or harassment of the teen who’s picture is spread beyond the intended recipient.  

But data on teen sexting has been lagging and different authors site numbers somewhere between 1% of teens to 30% of teens who have engaged in sexting.  There is now some new “real” data out of The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston that not only looks at the prevalence of sexting among high school students, the study also looked as the relationship between sexting and sex and risky sexual behaviors. This was a really interesting study! 

The study looked at 948 high school students from 7 public schools in Houston area, over a 2 year period.  Participants ranged in age from 14-19 years and were in either 10th or 11th grade.  

So, 28% (that’s more than 1 in 4) of teens reported having sent a naked picture of themselves via text or e-mail (sexting).  There were no differences between the number of boys and girls who sent a sext. However, 68% of girls reported having been asked to send a sext, compared with 42% of boys.  But, 46% of boys had asked someone to sext compared to 21% of girls.  Of those who were asked to send a sext, girls (27%) more often reported being “bothered a great deal” by this than boys (2%).  Almost all girls and half of the boys were “bothered a little bit” by having been asked to sext. 

Age also played a role in sexting with the proportion of teens who reported having been asked to send a sext peaking at 16-17 years of age (61%) and declining in those 18 years and older (53%). 

Lastly, for both boys and girls, teens who had “sexted” were also more likely to have begun dating and to have had sex than those who did not sext. The study also showed that teen girls who engaged in “sexting” also engaged in more high risk sexual behaviors, admitting to multiple partners and the use of drugs or alcohol before sex. 

Yes this is yet another topic for discussion among parents and their teens and also for pediatricians to discuss with their adolescent patients.  Office visits keep getting longer;  discussing sexting may also be a way for doctors to discuss sexual behaviors with teen patients.   

Daily Dose

Tummy Aches

1:30 to read

I am getting a lot of phone calls and texts with concerns about  tummy aches. I have even started seeing patients in the office with complaints of “my tummy hurts”, and we are just in the first week of school. I know that school nurses are dealing with this common complaint as well.   Amazingly, I don’t see very many complaints of tummy aches during the “lazy days of summer”…but once school starts they seem to become more prevalent.

Don’t get me wrong…while the tummy aches are real and painful, they are usually not due to anything serious.  In many cases I see,  the abdominal discomfort may be due to a bit of anxiety and stress that often comes as children get back into the classroom.  While the child may not be aware of “stress”,  their body does sense it and the gut responds with abdominal pain. 

The children that I am already seeing are all healthy and growing well. They do not appear to be “ill” when I see them, but will complain that their tummy hurts. When I have them point to where the pain is, they typically point right around their belly button (periumbilical).  If asked to point to the one place where it “hurts the most”  they typically still cannot localize it…it’s just all over! Having generalized pain is typically a good sign, rather than having point tenderness in one area.  Upon further questioning they do not have a fever, have not had vomiting or diarrhea, DO NOT wake up in the middle of the night with abdominal pain and often cannot remember if they “pooped“ today or yesterday but usually swear that their “poop” is “normal” . (I am not always sure about that - stool history in kids is quite hit and miss!) 

A few of the children say that eating makes their tummy ache worse while others report it feels better if they eat. They typically are not having issues with a specific food.  (It also depends what they are given to eat - often they will eat their favorite food if given the opportunity).  

For some of the children the pain is “bad enough” that they come home from school, but once home their parents report that after an hour or so they seem better.  Other children stay in school, but the minute a parent picks them up they start saying “my tummy hurt all day at school”!  

I remember that one of my sons often had tummy aches during the school year and we were talking about it the other night (he is now an adult).  He says he remembers being worried about school and “hiding” in the morning when it was time to go to school (I would be looking all over for him as his older brother was already out the door, and anxious that he would not get to school on time,  while I had the younger brother on my hip as I searched the house).   Talk about getting a stomach ache…mine was in knots by the time I would get to work.  It would only be several hours later when I would get the phone call from the school nurse that he was there with a tummy ache.  He now says that he remembers that by the time he was 8 years old it all just changed and it went away. 

Many times all it takes is a little reassurance that the tummy ache is not serious. I tell the children that everything on their exam is normal which is a good thing. Sometimes it seems to help a tummy ache if I prescribe the child some extra fiber and maybe a Tums  a good source of calcium too). Who knows if it is placebo effect… but just by doing something they feel a bit of relief. The one thing I do know…they need to keep going to school and it usually gets better once they are settled back into a school routine.  

 

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