Parenting

All Articles in the Category ‘Parenting’

Your Children Not Sleeping? It Might Be YOU

parent sleep

No question sleep — the good and restorative kind of sleep — changes our day. Sleep is tied to our outlook, our mood, our performance, our safety, and our sense of stress/anxiety. We’re nicer people after we sleep. I often say that after a good night of sleep I get to be more of the mom I earnestly want to be. Sleep is magical that way.

Thing is, sleep has a profound effect on our perspectives and attitudes about life. In fact research has found that sleep loss causes bias in our memory — the less sleep we have the more we focus on negative events and the more our memory builds space for memories of the negative details in our life. Yikes.

You know how it is…we all do. You start the day exhausted or you head into work tired, clutching your coffee, trying to rev up for the day. Your child didn’t sleep well through the night and therefore neither did you. Happens all the time, of course and to some parents more than others. You’re wondering (and likely doing some research online) what you can do to improve their sleep. What tricks haven’t you tried? What schedule should you be following? The hidden answer might be the last thing you’d think of …your own sleep.

Thing is, if we didn’t sleep well last night we may be misrepresenting the facts of the night.

A new sleep study published in Pediatrics showed that parents who don’t sleep well may mistakenly believe their children didn’t either. The researchers studied the sleep of 100 2- to 6-year-olds in Finland and their parents. Children wore bracelets (devices called actigraphs that track movement and quantify sleep) for a week to estimate sleep duration and quality while parents kept a sleep diary for their children and filled out a sleep questionnaire. Parents’ age and education were included as relevant variables in a the study as well as the child’s age, gender, chronic illnesses, medications, and number of siblings.

People who sleep poorly overestimate their children’s sleep problems.” ~Marko Elovainio, author of Pediatrics study

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Candy Or Medicine? Safe Medicine Storage

candy or medicine

Image c/o Strong Health

The role parents play in poison prevention is paramount. The above image shows just how easy it is to confuse medicine with candy. Especially if we message this improperly. When my boys were young I started calling liquid medicines “yum-yums” in an effort to get them to take acetaminophen or other medicine easily only to realize as I was doing it I was advertising the wrong thing…totally novice move as a mom and pediatrician. Clearly as parents we’re always a work in progress.

Safe medicine storage is one of those obvious things we feel we have under control. But numbers for accidental ingestion in the US prove we don’t. Young children are earnestly dependent on us doing this better.

Check out the above image — the packaging of medication earnestly isn’t any different to most of us than the packaging for candy. Imagine a 3 year-old trying to differentiate between the two in a moment of discovery. Pretty easy to imagine a 4 year-old stumbling upon a skittle and seriously impossible to imagine them over-riding their curiosity to explore/enjoy with their mouth. Chances are, that medication/skittle is going into their mouth.

Medication storage isn’t just for your typical over-the-counter (OTC) medications. With our households changing and many people coming though them, we have to think about prescription medications, liquid nicotine, marijuana and household products that all need to be up and out of reach. To that end, safe medicine storage is an important part of family and household safety. This week is National Poison Prevention Week so the perfect time to perfect our homes a little more. This includes any home your child plays in or stays in. Read full post »

One Image Of Parenthood

Usually I arrive here to write and share things that might help. I mean, my hope as a mom and pediatrician is to elevate research, share vulnerability, toss out the irony in the isolation of ideas trapped in an ivory tower and bring in hope for more understanding. I’m usually here to share because I believe if we swap ideas through narrative we all move towards calm and confidence or knowledge and skill as parents, caregivers, adults, children, and partners.

But today I’m just here at my kitchen counter wanting to share an incredible image. Just wanting to make sure you’ve beheld it, too. I haven’t read a single word about the image and I will keep it that way. I don’t want others’ ideas or personal narratives or their agendas to taint what I see. And my hope here is to do the same for you.

All I can say is that for me the image is a triumphant, loud reminder of the immense privilege, the singular honor, and the wired intuition we hold when we get to parent a child. I mean life happens. In all its messy truths and horrific pains, mistakes and brilliant saves, and in our jubilant discoveries and the small gifts given every…single…day. But there was moment this past Saturday, captured by a lens, that explains so much about what and how we fear, what comes flying at all of us on Planet Earth, and what we can truly handle.

Enjoy this photo worthy of a long stare. I get lost in it.

High Stakes: What Can You Explain To A 6 Year-Old?

IMG_4114A couple of weeks back my mom spent a bit of time with my little love on the sideline of his brother’s soccer game. She’d brought in an unusual pine cone to show him that she had picked up on her way in. It showcased the delicate symmetry and stun of nature — twelve seeds spiraling around a centered seed perfectly nestled in a whirly cone. It’s a marvel to hear her explain how the pine cone works to potentiate future life and it’s instructive with how well she understands it. I couldn’t have explained the process so well but I’m not the naturalist my mama is.

As I witnessed their conversation, his unrelenting questions, and the profound knowledge a parent or grandparent needs to know to satisfy a curious 7 year-old’s natural intrigue, I tripped. Not literally, but almost. I was also immediately reminded of an Einstein quote I’d read the week prior that has been STUCK in my head ever since. When you read it, you’ll know the loud truth in it. And it has me reflecting on the enormous task and wild skill it takes to raise a child. I mean our children are exceptionally creative (unclipped, if you will), wildly ready to learn about the sights and sounds around them, and innocently unexperienced. As parents and their obvious anchor, our children constantly look to us to explain.

Explaining takes great skill, inordinate preparation, and earnest mastery. Perhaps this is obvious, but the skill it takes mesmerizes me. Einstein’s quote rings out like a bell.

If you can’t explain it to a 6 year-old then you don’t understand it.

~Albert Einstein

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New Birth Control Laws: Preventing Unplanned Pregnancy

Birth ControlEasy, confidential access to affordable birth control is essential if we’re going to decrease the rate of unplanned pregnancies. The dynamics of birth control access are changing, thank goodness. As we’ve heard about parts of the world simply telling women NOT to have babies (Hello, Ecuador) we really do have to think about how women and men prevent pregnancy when not ideal. And how we support women getting information they need to make the safest and most reliable choice. This can start way before teens are sexually active.

Things are changing here in the US. As of Jan. 1, 2016 women 18 and older in Oregon can get hormonal contraceptives directly from a pharmacy, without having to go to a doctor for a prescription first. Pharmacists who supply birth control are required to complete formal training before being allowed to write prescriptions. In addition, teens and women must take a 20-question health assessment before obtaining the prescription that details risks and family history. This is why I always want parents to tell their teen if there is a family history of blood clots, family history of migraines, etc. That way, they can answer correctly!

The good news, here in the US, contraception is covered by insurance and protected by Obamacare (Thank you, Mr. President). Birth control options covered by the Affordable Care Act include: IUDs, emergency contraception, implants, pills, patches & rings.

California has also passed similar legislation that will take effect in the coming months to make it even easier for women to access birth control. National work is ongoing as well to make birth control over-the-counter. More on that to come!

When it comes to teaching our teens about sexual education, we know the topic is fraught with contentious beliefs and cultural sensitivities, and we also know that it’s really hard to speak about certain topics openly. But over and over, we are told by our kids that it’s us – the parents – their trusted adult community – they want to hear from most. Even when they squirm in the seat, DO KNOW THEY ARE LISTENING. I’ve written about this before for parents preparing those kids going off to college.

But really, talking to your teens about how to protect their bodies from sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancies, or violence should start much earlier. Normalizing the conversation appropriately for kids as young as five is encouraged in many parts of the world. We can talk about how we time growing our families in age-appropriate contexts. I’m thinking of writing a post, in partnership with a health educator, about what to say to a 5 year-old, an 8 year-old, an 11 year-old, and a 15 year-old. Would that be helpful? Please leave a comment…

I also want to offer a few great resources, thanks in part to my friend, teen advocate and digital educator, Susan Williams (@estherswilliams) for other parents to use as additions to or as guides for helping their kids understand their bodies and their decisions when it comes to sex and relationships.

There are three initiatives underway that I believe are truly shifting how sexual education and access to the right care, contraception, and information is achieved. Being able to get the right information when you need it and then being shown how to act on that information is crucial to preventing unplanned pregnancies and reducing cases of STDs. For adults who love their (our!) kids, we also need resources to help guide how we talk about sex:  Read full post »

7 Quick Tips For Healthy Mouths

oral health 1

Valentine’s Day this weekend….Even if you think it’s a card-store holiday chances are your children LOVE it. So power on Super Mama & Super Papa and learn something that makes it worth it. The American Dental Association declared February National Children’s Dental Health Month (I’m thinking because of the holiday and all those sugar hearts). This may have to do with candy…..but please read on even if you DON’T have a sweet tooth. Setting a good example and teaching children from an early age how to take care of their teeth is worth all of our time. It’s something I’m STILL working on as a parent. This matters because tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in kids age 6-11 and adolescents age 12-19. Additionally, at least 20% of children ages 5-11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth. Flossing and brushing 2 times a day changes the odds. Boom.

7 Tips For Healthy Teeth:

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Yes To No Tobacco Until Age 21

Teen smokingHear me straight: we don’t want anyone addicted to tobacco products. No question it’s an ugly habit and a terribly complex addiction. Expensive, detrimental to health, so very ugly… So I’m all for WA State House Bill 2313 (SB 6157) supporting moving the purchase age of tobacco from 18 to 21. Yes I know you can vote and enlist in the military at 18, but inconvenient or not, teen brains are not fully developed by the time they enter college-age and the effects of nicotine and the trend towards lifelong addiction are seriously grim. Complain all you want that Washington would be a “nanny state” but the facts are clear: if you start smoking at a young age, odds are that you will still be smoking as an adult. We know that more than 80% of all adult smokers begin smoking before the age of 18; and more than 90% do so before leaving their teens. We need to get tobacco out of reach so we can stop addiction before it starts. This isn’t just about public health it’s also about the health care spending of your tax dollars.

My friend and colleague Dr. John Wiesman (WA Secretary of Health), gave a press conference this week on the new bill. Here are a few staggering excerpts from his speech:

Counting cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarettes together, in 2012, 12 out of every 100 10th graders used these products, and by 2014 that number had risen to 20 out of every 100. That’s a frightening 67%  jump in just 2 years!

Both cigarettes and e-cigarettes set kids up for a lifetime of addiction and poor health.

The most effective way to stop this trend is to stop our kids from smoking before they start.

Middle school, high school and college students are still undergoing significant brain development.

Nicotine exposure during this critical time appears to affect the structure and function of the brain and may lead to lasting cognitive and behavioral impairments.

If that’s not enough reasons to support this work, I don’t know what is. But, here’s one last piece of data that will hit you square in the wallet (ouch). Each year in Washington alone, we spend: Read full post »

TV Tip-Overs Are Real

One of the most horrific memories of my residency training was caring for a little girl after she sustained a life-threatening injury from a TV and dresser tip-over. When I met her she was unconscious, non-responsive, and simply gorgeous. She was just so little and there was so much suffering around her. These real stories harbor horror but also hope.

Injuries from tip-overs are worth talking about. Securing furniture or new TV’s (especially after the holidays) are those things that end up on the long, “Honey-Do” lists that we often push aside and that we often de-prioritize. No reason really except that the tragedy just seems so unlikely. Injuries to our children from tip-overs or children who visit our homes are entirely preventable. Statistics and quick tips for how to get it done tonight below.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission  recently released this video featuring mothers who have lost their children to a terrible, but preventable tragedy: a TV or furniture tip-over incident. It’s a horrifying thing to reflect on — almost too hot to hold in your thoughts. But these parents ring out with a true reminder of the importance of always anchoring your screens and furniture. Hashtag anchor it… #AnchorIt Read full post »

It Was Never A Dress: Raising Boys And Girls To See Things Differently

Mamas are superheroes in disguise ❤️

A photo posted by The Glow (@theglowdotcom) on

Last night, around dinnertime the doorbell rang. When I opened it to find a clipboard-clad solicitor obviously looking for donations or a signature, earnestly I wasn’t thrilled. But she had me at hello when she said, “I’m here to work for equal pay and equal rights to health care.” After we talked for a few minutes, my little boy curiously also appeared at the door and asked what we were discussing. We explained and he stayed quiet. But later in the evening he said to me unprompted, “it sure made sense” that women and men were paid the same amount of money for the same job.

Then this morning I stumbled upon this cartoon on instagram. Hidden truths re-imagined in the pant suit! Something about this felt exceedingly timely with 2015 being a time where a woman is a front-running candidate for President of The United States, girls now report more than anything else they’d like to grow up to a doctor, and a time where we’re still working hard to chip away at supporting women and men equally in the workplace as they raise families. As we raise our little girls to feel unencumbered and as we raise our little boys to feel the just the same, I couldn’t help but feel the thrill from this “superhero” re-design. I say we share it with our children…also consider these 3 articles today:

3 Things To Read While Raising Girls And Boys To Value Each Other Equally:

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Parenting In 2015

My little love in the snow yesterday. Part of my #worklifebetter life hack!

My little love in the snow yesterday. Part of my #worklifebetter life hack!

Time capsule entry. Although I suppose every parent since creation felt that the time in which they were raising their children was somehow novel, I’m moved by our 21st-century digital connection to share a transparent take on being a mom and pediatrician today. It’s the end of 2015 and overwhelmingly, I think many of us are stretched thin. And although our children are more-than-ever-before extraordinary, somethings gotta give.

First things first, as a perhaps totally-exhausted-working-full-time-emotionally-laden-at-baseline mom trying to find center, I keep reaching for poetry from Mary Oliver. Here she sets me flying in a portion of her poem, Spring Azures:

Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy,

and all the tricks my body knows–

the opposable thumbs, the kneecaps,

               and the mind clicking and clicking– 

                                                                                                                         don’t seem enough to carry me through this world

                                                                        and I think: how I would like

                                                                         to have wings–

                                                                         blue ones–

                                                                          ribbons of flame.

Oh, how our minds always seem to be clicking and clicking and clicking and clicking…and those blue wings, the ones of flames? Yes, please sign me up.

A friend, a few years ago referred to their spouse as having a “busy brain” and I’ve thought on it since. Don’t all parents? Or is that the 2015 talking?

The 2015 realities aren’t surprising to any of us: the earnest tether to a smartphone, the wild ease to immediately compress and access news from the entire globe, the immense pressure to have a career wed to the impressive surge in being asked to be wildly productive everywhere (at home, at work, at volunteering, at exercising, at being present). The heavy burden of being told to elegantly role-model (hello, parenthood), the urgency we feel to then perfect raising children, all the advice (!!) out there floating around and intentionally pushed our way in social networks. And then the never-ending stream of in-arm’s-reach science of what we know to be good for us (sleep, flossing, daily exercise, leafy greens, friendship, “balance”, a job with purpose, BPA-free) and what we know even more is bad for us (sleep deprivation, unemployment, stress, smoking, divorce, bad cholesterol, processed meat, sedentary days). I mean…. Read full post »