Parenting

All Articles in the Category ‘Parenting’

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

Read full post »

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:

Read full post »

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:

Read full post »

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 »

Quick Tips For Healthy Winter Skin

Winter SkinWinter tests our skin differently than summer. This is because of cold temperatures, recirculated air (without outside humidity) and lots of exposure to the elements. If you think your skin looks older in winter, you might be right. Winter skin is likely really dry and probably chapped, making us perhaps look a bit like we’ve been at this a while…same can be true of your child’s skin. Giving your skin the TLC it needs during these dark months will keep it healthy (and looking great) once it’s time again for spring exposure. Lots of OTC lotions and creams to choose from. Here’s a bit on which and why:

Dry Skin And “The Itch That Rashes”

Winter is also a time when we see an increased risk for eczema flare-ups, a chronic, relapsing condition that brings incredibly dry, itchy patches of skin. The icing on the cake is that eczema primarily affects kids! A recent study suggests at least 10% of children in the US suffer from eczema, the “rash that itches.” A patch gets started, a child can’t help but itch it and the rash blooms. Between 2000 & 2010 pediatric cases of eczema came close to doubling and while this condition not only affects how skin looks and feels, it can have a direct impact on a child’s quality of life. Nearly half of kids with eczema report a severely negative impact on their quality of life, including sleep deprivation (from the itching), activity restriction and even depression. If your child suffers from eczema, talk to your pediatrician to create an action plan for combating these dry months and hopefully avoiding such severe tolls and trolls on everyday life.

Protecting Your Skin From Sun

Read full post »

Calming Down And Talking To Our Children About School Violence

Gun Safety family on hillSchool violence and threats of violence are scary and seem to be happening more and more frequently, but the fortunate reality is that they remain rare.  I’m almost telling myself this like a chant — trying to keep myself centered. Because like many other parents I’ve talked to, instead of worrying about my son getting lice at school I kiss him good-bye and say a blessing for safety. Happened today again.

2015 has been hard for all of us in this respect. The increased media discussions about violence are shaking us up and focusing light on violence, especially from guns and mass shootings, in ways no one ever wanted or could imagine.

Although mass shootings are dreadfully more common now than in the past, the rate of crime at U.S. schools that involve physical harm has been declining since the early 1990s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fewer than 1% of all homicides among school-age children happen on school grounds or on the way to and from school. The vast majority of students will never experience violence at school or in college.

Still, it’s natural for kids and teens (and those who adore them, feverishly) to worry about whether something may happen to them. To help them deal with these fears, it’s important to talk to children who are in the know when these tragedies happen, and to know what your kids watch or hear about them. This helps put frightening information into context. This helps build trust.

Children should be informed about a disaster as soon as information becomes available. Children can sense when critical information is being withheld and when trusted adults are not being genuine; this, in turn, undermines their trust and sense of safety and compromises the ability of these adults to be later viewed as a source of support and assistance. Even very young children or those with developmental disabilities can sense the distress of trusted adults. Children also often overhear or otherwise learn information about the events, such as through the Internet or social media or from conversations with other children. We probably need to shift the conversation sometimes away from talking our children out of having legitimate concerns to how do you deal with your concerns.” ~Dr. David Schonfeld

8 Tips To Support Your Children’s Understanding Of School Violence

Read full post »