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Daily Dose

Sleep

1:30 to read

Back to school bedtime routines are very important!  Now that kids are having to get up, (often before the sun comes up) 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.

 

Start the school year with the 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

Bullying

1:30 to read

Schools around the country are opening their doors as a new school year begins. 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.  

 

  

Parenting

Back-to-School Jitters

2:00

Where did the summer go? Some children will be headed back to school in less than a week and others within the next couple of weeks. It’s not uncommon for kids to be a little anxious as the big day draws near. Your child may be feeling a lot of emotions right now, ranging from high anxiety to  “I can’t wait.” That's understandable. Think back on how you felt when you started a new job or were moving to a new part of the country, it’s quite similar but without the benefit of life experience to help you process the changes.

Besides the unknown of a new school year, there’s the challenge of getting back into an early morning routine and the addition of after-school activities to everyone’s schedule. It’s a hectic time but with a lot of patience and a little smart planning, it can go smoother than you might think.

If your child’s school offers an orientation or back–to-school night, one way to help ease your little one’s fear is to take them and let them see the school, meet their teachers and say hello to some fellow students before classes begin. A familiar face or two can help make the transition go a little smoother during that first week of school.

If your child is able to meet his or her teachers, give them time to talk and get to know each other, if only briefly. Let your child answer any questions the teachers have instead of answering for them. You might even help your child come up with a few questions they can ask the teacher.

You could check with the teacher and see if he or she would mind having a picture taken with your child. As school day approaches, you can show it to your child talk about meeting their teacher. A little thing like that can help your child develop a familiar feeling for the teacher before school starts.

Since it’s always a good idea to read to your youngster, choose books with a back-to-school theme. There are lots of children’s books that tell meaningful stories about kids facing the challenges of moving to a new school, the first year of school, making new friends and lots of other possible scenarios in story form.

Get organized! Easier said than done, I know. If you’re organized and ready for school it not only relieves some of the pressure on you, but for your children too. Chaos or uncertainty about where to go and what to do adds fuel to a child’s concerns about whether everything is going to be OK or not. 

Let your child help create a study area in the home. Being involved in at least some of the decisions can help make this a personal adventure that they have some say in.

All kids need enough sleep and getting into a good sleep routine can help ease them into the changes school is going to require. As you already know from experience, a tired child is more likely to feel overwhelmed, nervous and cranky.  If you haven’t already, start the new bedtime routine now so that you don’t have the arguments and resistance during the first days of school when everyone is trying to find their footing.

The main thing to remember is that your child, whether it’s their first day to attend, or their last year of school, is going to feel a little jittery. Reassure him or her that everything is going to be fine. The new schedule, classmates, studies and activities will be familiar sooner than they think. Let them know that you understand how the unknown can be a little scary, but that this is also a time when good things can happen as they explore all their new opportunities. 

 

Daily Dose

Over-scheduling Your kids

1:30 to read

Most schools in my area are starting in the next week or so….which also means after school activities are also getting ready to begin. 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

Science & Vaccines

1:30 to read

August is National Immunization Awareness Month and it seems appropriate that while heading to NYC for business I managed to watch the in flight movie “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”.  I had read the book years ago and I have recommended it to many, as it is such a great “read” about an incredible woman who unknowingly changed medicine and science. The movie was produced by Harpo Productions and Oprah Winfrey stars….that alone is enough to get you hooked!

 

The story is sad but true. Unfortunately in the 1950’s we did not have laws to protect patient rights…but Henrietta’s life and her story changed all of ours.  Why?  Because the cells that doctors at Johns Hopkins took from her during her treatment for cervical cancer were ultimately used to grow more cells…which would be used over and over again in developing vaccines and so many other medical break throughs!!!  It is incredible that these cells which are named HeLa cells (after the initials of her first and last name) literally changed the world of medicine. I know not everyone knew her story when studying HeLa cells…but I am hopeful more and more remember her due to this excellent book and now HBO movie. 

 

I was amazed by this story which demonstrates the science (albeit from unfortunate circumstances) that enabled scientists to begin to develop vaccines.  I continue to be amazed at those who “don’t believe in vaccines”. Just as Henrietta’s HeLa cells have changed our medical and scientific world, so have vaccines.  During Henrietta’s life the United States was in a state of panic as  countless children and adults came down with polio and many died or were paralyzed.  But after HeLa cells were found to propagate, the cell cultures were used to meet the needs of researchers working on the development of a polio vaccine. A HeLa factory was opened at theTuskegee Institute to manufacture HeLa cells.  This cell line was ultimately instrumental in  testing the vaccine and demonstrating the development of antibodies against polio. Subsequently, Dr. Jonas Salk’s vaccine was approved and given to children and the polio epidemic was stopped in the United States.

 

Pure, eloquent science - which reduced disease and save lives. The panic against polio subsided…but we are now “too complacent” about infectious disease. We even take vaccines for granted, while some choose not to be protected by a vaccine??  Hundreds and hundreds of researchers have come and gone since the first HeLa cells were used…but Henrietta’s legacy and her “gift” to science remain.  We all need to know more about the woman from whom those precious cells had come….and say thank you.

 

Talk to your doctor and make sure your children are protected!

 

 

 

  

 

Daily Dose

Paddling in School

1:30 to read

I just finished reading an online post from a pediatrician in another state whose daughter has just started kindergarten. It seems that in her state, and her school, they may still “paddle” children for misbehaving. WHAT?!?!

In fact, the school sent a note home with her child that re-iterated the “school rules” surrounding paddling and asked that the parent sign the note that they agreed to paddling. Are you kidding me…what parent would sign a note agreeing to let someone HIT their child?  Parent’s have been arrested for spanking their children in a public place….but now you can let someone else paddle your child? 

I talk to parents about discipline even before their child turns one. Many a parent will tell you I am “the strict” doctor.  From the beginning, I discourage spanking (although I will admit to spanking my own children several times during their childhood - usually out of total frustration and never felt good about it) and begin with some simple strategies. For example when your 6-7 month old learns that they can make a new shrieking sound to get attention “ignore the behavior” and it will often go away.  Or, what about telling your child that you “will not pick the food up off the floor if they throw it” and then following through….they will not go hungry I assure you.

As children get older I discuss re-directing, time-out, taking away a toy.  For the older child it may be taking away screen time, missing a birthday party and for the teens taking away the cell phone,car or being grounded at home with parents.  But spanking and paddling is never part of the discipline/behavior modification discussion. And now I find out that there are still 19 states that allow paddling in their schools!! 

The mother of this child had not been aware of this rule. She could not believe that she was asked to sign a form to allow her child to be paddled. In this case we are also talking about 5-7 year olds who are just starting school where they will begin to learn school rules and expectations of kindergarten and 1st graders. Every teacher seems to have many strategies for discipline and behavior modification. Not one that I spoke with mentioned spanking or paddling. I am not sure that I even agree with taking away “recess” for misbehaving from this age group…(another conversation)  but certainly not corporal punishment.

The interesting part of this story is that the behavior issues were related to little boys “playing guns”  while they were on the playground. The school has a “zero tolerance for acting out play with guns”  but allows you to hit a child???  What kind of mixed message is that about violence? I know that while raising our three sons, despite our protests about violence and guns,  they seemed to turn anything we gave them into a “play gun” and that was long before they were ever even given a Nerf gun. 

Do your schools have policies regarding corporal punishment? I feel as if I have gone back in time 50 years - only all of this information came from that entity called the internet!!!

 

Your Child

Should Schools Ban Peanut Butter?

As a result of the increasing number of peanut allergies, some parents are petitioning schools to ban peanut butter from lunch menus and snacks.Peanut Ban

Nearly 400,000 children are allergic to peanuts and many parents do everything they can to make sure their child is not exposed. As a result of the increasing number of peanut allergies, some parents are petitioning schools to ban peanut butter from lunch menus and snacks.

“Over the past few years because of the increased incidences of peanut allergies, more and more schools have been banning peanut butter and 18% of schools have bans in place and that number seems to be growing. But there is a lot of controversy around this on both sides of the equation,” says pediatrician Dr. Sue Hubbard. Dr. Hubbard says it is very hard to ban an entire student body from taking anything with peanuts as it requires a large amount of label reading education by children and parents. She says it is important to have a dialogue with your child’s teacher, school and school nurse to alert them to a food allergy. “The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network does not believe the peanut butter should be banned in schools. They are of the belief that you should have something called a “PAL” plan to protect a life from food allergies

Your Child

Why Kids Should Learn Handwriting

1:45

I think it’s fair to say that handwriting is becoming a lost art. Computers, tablets and phone keyboards have made actual writing with a pen and paper almost obsolete.

What was once an integral part of a child’s daily school lessons, today, gets about one-fourth the instruction time. What is surprising is that in the not too far future, some kids may never learn penmanship at all.

If keyboards become the most popular form of communication, is there really a need for printing and cursive skills? Yes, according to some educators. Not only will children lose the personal touch of handwriting but will they also lose the benefits learning penmanship offers the developing brain.

Putting pen to paper stimulates brain circuits involved with memory, attention, motor skills, and language in a way punching a keyboard doesn't.

"There is this assumption that we live in the computer age, and we don't need handwriting anymore. That's wrong," says Virginia Berninger, PhD, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington.

Indiana University psychologist Karin James, PhD, recently published a study looking at brain scans of preschoolers before and after they learned to produce letters, either by printing or typing. Before the lesson, the children couldn't decipher between a random shape and a letter, and their brains responded similarly to each. After they learned to hand-draw a letter, brain regions needed for reading lit up at the sight of the letter like they do in a literate adult. Learning to type a letter yielded no such change.

Other studies have shown that preschoolers that practice handwriting read better in elementary school.

Handwriting also requires concentration and teaches brain circuits responsible for motor coordination, vision, and memory to work together. "If in the future we were to take away teaching handwriting altogether, I worry there could be real negative impacts on children's development," James says.

Timed right, cursive also comes with some unique advantages. Berninger's research suggests kids who link their letters via cursive get a better handle on what those words look like and end up being better spellers, she says. Cursive also allows them to compose their thoughts faster than in block handwriting or via typing (at least until about seventh grade, when their brains become mature enough to manage two-handed typing quickly).

Berninger says parents can offer their children extra guidance with learning handwriting even before their child begins school and through their early years. Some children may learn these skills quicker and some may need a little more practice. But on an average:

Preschoolers can strengthen motor skills by playing with clay, stringing beads, working through mazes, and connecting dots with arrows to form letters.

From kindergarten through second grade, children should master block letters.

Third to fourth grade is when kids can begin and master cursive.

By fifth grade, children should continue to write by hand while being introduced to typing by touch (not just hunt and peck.)

As I’ve become more accustomed to using my computer or phone to communicate with others, I’ve noticed that my own handwriting skills are beginning to suffer. Cursive isn’t as fluid and readable as when I handwrote more often and my eye, hand and pen coordination isn’t near as comfortable as it used to be. 

I hope future generations will not lose the art of handwriting, not only because of the developmental benefits it offers, but because each person’s handwriting is unique to them.

Story source: Lisa Marshall, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/handwriting-matters-kids#1

Your Teen

Schools Start Too Early, Teens Sleep Deprived

2:00

It’s a battle that is picking up steam, whether to start school a little later so teenagers can get the sleep they need or keeping schedules as they are for the sake of planning before and after school activities.

Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that teenagers are biologically programmed to go to bed later than most adults and sleep later in the morning.

Last year, the AAP issued a set of guidelines recommending that school schedules are modified across the U.S. to start at 8.30 a.m. This way, children and teens would be able to meet the recommended sleep hours per night during school days.

Fewer than one in five middle and high schools in the United States start at 8:30 am or later, as recommended, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The same recommendations suggested that indeed, the biological rhythm of teenagers particularly is very different than that of adults. While they need 8 and a half to nine and a half hours of sleep per night, their circadian rhythm doesn’t allow them to go to sleep before midnight or a little after.

School nights are particularly difficult for adolescents because in order to get the rest they need, they have to go to bed earlier than their minds and bodies are set to fall asleep.

The CDC released a new study supporting the recommendations of the AAP. According to the findings, 83 percent of U.S. schools still start before 8:30 a.m. On average, the starting time was calculated at 8:03 a.m., based on data collected from 39,700 combined schools, middle schools, and high schools between 2011-2012.

Depriving teens of that sleep could wreak havoc on their academic performance, the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"Getting enough sleep is important for students' health, safety, and academic performance," said Anne Wheaton, lead author and epidemiologist in CDC's Division of Population Health.

"Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need."

The issue is driving a heated debate between supporters of later school start times and school administrators.

Safwan Badr, former president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine stated:

“It makes absolutely no sense. You’re asking kids to learn math at a time their brains are not even awake”.

On the other hand, Daniel Domenech, the executive director of the School Superintendents Association stated with regards to changing school starting time:

“It’s a logistical nightmare. This has been going on forever, and kids have been graduation from school and going to college. It certainly doesn’t seem to have hurt them all these years”.

Some experts note that the long-term consequence of sleep deprivation is hurting our teens and has been for quite some time.

Judith Owens, the director of sleep medicine at Boston’s Children Hospital suggests that chronically sleep deprivation characterizes the majority of today’s teens. This results in increased risk of onset depression, substance abuse, unhealthy BMIs. Long-term effects of sleep deprivation result in type 2 diabetes or heart diseases.

There are things that parents can do to help their teens at least rest better if they can’t fall asleep earlier. The first and foremost agitator for sleep is viewing or being on a computer or smartphone right before bed.

Recent studies have shown that the use of any electronic device in the hour before bedtime was associated with an increased risk of taking longer than 60 minutes to fall asleep. In particular, the use of a computer, smartphone or MP3 player in the hour before bedtime was strongly linked with taking longer to fall asleep.

Make your teen’s bedroom a quiet place that can be a retreat at night from busy schedules and social media.

Your teen can take a hot bath or shower before bed to boost deep sleep. Then keep his or her room cool (about 68 F) to cool down the body. One study showed that sleep happens when the body cools. Wakefulness occurs when the body temperature warms up.

Aromatherapy helps some people fall off to sleep. Certain scents are shown to be relaxing such as orange blossom, marjoram, chamomile, and lavender. You can apply these oils before bed or put them on pillows, sheets or in potpourri. If candles are used, make sure they are put out before getting in bed. 

Having a regular schedule can help the body adjust. Going to bed at the same time each night can assist in adjusting the body’s circadian rhythm.  

More high schools are considering changing their schedules to a later start time, but currently most schools are keeping with the typical earlier schedules. You may not be able to convince the school board to start school at little later, but you can help your teen find what works for them at night to help them get the amount of sleep they need to function at their best.

Sources: Bonnie Gleason, http://www.trinitynewsdaily.com/chronically-sleep-deprived-teens-need-schools-starting-time-changed/3209/

http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/u-s-teens-start-school-too-early-need-more-sleep-study-1.2506322

http://teens.webmd.com/features/8-ezzz-sleep-tips-teens

 

 

 

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