Consistency may be the “secret sauce” in parenthood. Anything from helping children survive temper tantrums to helping your children eat more diverse foods, providing consistency with expectations and daily routines may be the very special thing we do that allows our children to thrive. Like most challenges in life, talking about and identifying the need for consistency is easy, implementing it throughout our daily lives is much more of a challenge. Finding and securing a consistent bedtime is one place where this “secret sauce” may really work. New data on sleep patterns for young children drives this point home. Getting your children to bed at the same time each night is powerful.
A study out today in Pediatrics evaluated data from over 10,000 children in the UK. As a part of a larger study (UK Millennium Cohort Study) researchers collected bedtime data at age 3, 5, and 7 years for children. They found children with nonregular bedtimes had more behavioral difficulties. Further, as children progressed through childhood there was incremental worsening in children’s behavior scores as they were exposed to more and more inconsistent bedtimes. Read full post »
It’s the first day of school for us today. This time of year is momentous.
The photostream on Facebook this morning is striking: children in pressed shirts with clean backpacks. It’s obvious the cameraman for each photo is smiling, just so much pride… There is something clearly resonant with we adults about a clean slate, a new day, a first moment of each new grade level. We have our memories tucked neatly into our pockets (yes, I know my 1st grade teacher’s name) and this first day often represents an important line in the sand. First day of school is clean, hopeful, and sincerely wondrous for most. I told someone yesterday I’d move a mountain to be present for first day drop-off.
I know today is also complicated for some parents. Not everyone can get time away from work for the drop-off at school or the bus pick-up. Some parents have doctor’s appointments or illness that prevents an easy morning and send-off. Nearly 1 out of 10 children are living with their grandparents. So today isn’t all white-picket-fence-two-parents-at-the-door perfect for all children in the US. But for most, it’s a very exciting transition.
I also know amidst the sparkle of the fresh start today we have to remember that the beginning of anything does come with significant anxiety for many children and teens (and their parents). The rapid ramp-up to full speed this week required by early start times and homework schedules with afternoon +/- sports practice can incite anxiety and real fatigue for children, especially those with social phobia, underlying anxiety, depression, or learning challenges. Here are a few quick reminders that may ease the September transition for us all.
4 Tips When Starting School
Sleep is essential.
Preschoolers: 10-12 hours of total sleep (night time sleep + naps). Most children naturally get tired and ready for bed between 7pm and 9pm at night. Most 4 year-old phase out their nap prior to turning 5.
School-age children: 10-11 hours total sleep. Most children get to bed around 8pm but as they near age 12, they may naturally “phase shift” later into the night. That means as they age and go through puberty, many tweens aren’t really tired until around 9pm or 10pm. Puberty brings on changes to their sleep cycle and thus shifts them later.
Our 4 year-old swam across the pool this past weekend for the first time. After years of swimming lessons this was a reason to celebrate: big throw! I hate to admit it but I’ve really disliked doing swimming lessons. Both boys often brought more tantrum and tears than tangible joy to the pool deck. After a day at work I would often leave evening swim lessons embarrassed, exhausted, or somewhat disappointed. They felt like #fails. So when we got across the pool this past weekend, we were all delighted. Finally the big win.
Swimming across the pool doesn’t mean I’m off the hook, of course.
I will say, however, that eating those veggies has paid off. Now that we’re finally swimming I’m thrilled we did lessons early. There is a lot more both our boys still need to learn about water safety and skills they’ll both need to be strong swimmers. For example it’s much harder for them to swim in the lake than the pool secondary to the waves and distractions. They still don’t understand risks of the water. So we have years of swimming lessons ahead but I’m feeling optimistic with the epic win last Sunday.
New data published in the last few years encourages swimming lessons earlier, as early as age 1 to 4 years. Data finds early swimming lessons reduce drowning risk in those children most at risk–toddlers (especially boys). Although swim lessons are never a replacement for close supervision, there may be some protection against drowning when children get started early. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says this about early swim lessons: Read full post »
Juice is never necessary is a child’s diet. Unpopular as this is to say, juice is always an extra, add-on, treat-type part of what children should eat. High in sugar and low in nutrition, excess juice in a child’s diet is linked to poor nutrition, obesity, and dental cavities. Although 100% juice comes from fruit, after it’s smooshed and pushed through machines to produce clear juice it’s separated from much of the health benefits (fiber) from whole fruit.
Late last week the FDA provided an updated “action plan” and recommendation for monitoring inorganic arsenic levels in apple juice. Back in 2011, the controversy about arsenic in apple juice began when Dr Oz presented data on his afternoon television show that was quickly rebutted by Dr Richard Besser on Good Morning America. Dr Oz reported high levels of total arsenic (organic and inorganic) in apple juice but there were concerns of unnecessary scares. Up until this point, the FDA wasn’t mandating arsenic levels in apple juice. After a cascading series of events (much criticism and then more reports and analytics) it is now more widely accepted that up to 10% of apple juice may have higher levels of inorganic arsenic than we tolerate in drinking water. Inorganic arsenic consumption can damage organs in our body and in high quantities it’s linked to an elevated cancer risk. Organic arsenic isn’t harmful to our body (it passes right through) and is found naturally in many foods we eat like shellfish or seafood.
Consequently, the FDA has decided to decrease the level of inorganic arsenic they tolerate in commercial apple juice to that of levels acceptable in drinking water (10 parts per billion). Inorganic arsenic in our diet typically comes from food contaminated with and/or grown in soil with high levels of inorganic arsenic (animals fed food with arsenic or food grown in contaminated fields with heavy industrial products). In the past couple of years arsenic has enjoyed quite a bit of media spotlight, especially in light of evolving 2012 information about elevated arsenic levels in rice (cereal, noodles, white or brown organically grown or not). Because of this, most pediatricians now recommend offering infants rice cereal only once weekly. As with all concerns about the food we eat, moderation is key…5 tips: Read full post »
As we approach the 4th of July, a quick reminder about injuries and ways to protect your children. Each year, preventable injuries occur in young children and teens from fireworks. Children between the age of 5 and 14 are the highest risk for firework injuries—over double the risk of the rest of us. Serious injuries occur including devastating injuries to the eyes and face. Not surprisingly, the most common injuries are burns. Even sparklers can cause serious burns; sparklers burn at up to 2000 degrees, as hot as a blow torch and hot enough to melt some metals.
As you prepare for the long weekend and take time with your family and friends to celebrate the incredible freedom we enjoy here in the United States, make sure your family is safe if you choose to use fireworks. Remind teens about safe driving, avoiding alcohol on the road, and distractions. A crummy fact: the 4th of July ranks as the deadliest day of the year for teen drivers.
Tips And Facts For Preventing Family Firework Injuries:
The most important (and likely most obvious) reminder is to never allow children to light or set-off fireworks. Injuries often occur when fireworks malfunction or are not set-off properly.
Don’t use or ignite homemade fireworks. All 6 firework-related deaths in 2012 in the United States occurred secondary to use of illegal or homemade fireworks.
If you have fireworks in your backyard, make sure you have a garden hose and bucket of water ready and full while enjoying fireworks in case of any emergency or fire.
Light fireworks one at a time, and move back quickly! Don’t ever allow your family members or friends to re-light a firework that didn’t go off properly or perform as expected.
All ages considered (children and adults), 3/4 of firework burns and injuries occur in boys and men. Males are most injured from firecrackers, sparklers, bottle rockets, roman candles, and re-loadable shells.
Here’s a complete, updated infographic from the Consumer Product Safety Commission about firework injuries and source of the drawing included here!
Last day of school this week. The backpack is nearly as big as his body; that’s no optical illusion and the body-to-backpack proportionality serves up a dutiful reminder for me that my little boy is still small. To me it feels like he’s perfectly diminutive amidst the big surroundings of his school– it’s boards and doors towering high enough to accommodate the 8th graders yet inclusive enough to welcome him gently into grade school.
It’s clear that as Kindergarten lands in the rear-view mirror my hearts aches. I know I’m supposed to celebrate his growth and accomplishment for finishing. And I do. Yet all I can think about today is the reality that now that he’s technically a first grader he is also a bona fide “school-aged boy.” In pediatrics that does mean something altogether different. In fact once a child is 6 years of age, we often tell families it’s fine to come in for well child care check-ups every other year, absent concerns, until a child is 11 years of age. Growth typically is steady and stable, children advance in school, and routines are made–this is “school-age.” Fortunately even though some of this time between 6 and 11 may be very routine, even in 1st grade, a friend reminded me last night, “They are still made to believe they are the center of the universe.”
Every parent ahead of us warns us about the speed of travel through parenthood. They reflect on the g-forces of time and the flash of light between Kindergarten and the day they find themselves standing in an archway with a mature child at the end of high school. Often those ahead of us couple the warning about the velocity with an instruction. “Savor this time,” they say. And so many of us do. We savor, we relish, we reflect, and we love. It isn’t always perfect and pretty, there are tantrums and accidents, mess-ups and failures, but we do savor and we really are present in the moment so often.
Sometimes I want to scream out that we parents (of young children) –we get it, too.
I’ll admit though that amidst the myriad of moments this past year that I have felt mindful and present, I’ve also had plenty of others where I lacked attention.
The CDC declared an outbreak of Hepatitis A over the weekend that has affected over 30 people in 5 states. Preliminary information confirms the source of the outbreak stems from organic frozen berries that were sold at Costco stores (including stores in Washington) yet sickened people thus far are in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California. No cases have been reported in Washington to date. The berries: Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend, a frozen berry and pomegranate seed mix, have now been pulled from shelves and people who purchased these berries from February through May are being contacted.
The amazing thing about this outbreak: there’s been no reported cases of Hep A in children under age 18.
In the United States, Hepatitis A typically spreads through contaminated food handled by someone with the infection. Rates of Hepatitis A infection tops 5,000-10,000 cases annually in the US while they are far higher in the developing world because city water sources can get contaminated (see below). Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended before international travel.
The lack of children with infections from this outbreak is logical and potentially illustrative.
Sun protection is essential in childhood. Here’s 3 golden rules, backed by science, for you to use when purchasing, applying/re-applying sunscreen, and protecting children from the sun. Remember, more important than any ingredient or any particular SPF number or brand is the way you use a sunscreen: the best sunscreen is one used early and often.
Sun-protective clothing (those UV shirts, shorts, and hats) is an awesome, affordable, and easy way to protect children from sun without the hassle of sunscreen. Risks for skin cancer increase with sun exposure, family history, and sunburns in particular. Protecting your children from excessive sun exposure and sunburn is an anti-cancer move. That’s power.
3 Rules For Protecting Children From Sun Exposure
Respect the brilliant sun; know your local risk. Enjoy the sun but be smarter. After surviving melanoma, I’ve been forced to change the way my family lives with the sun to decrease our risks. I’ve learned a ton about letting the UV index guide me. UV index is a measure of the radiation you are exposed to when outside. Radiation from the sun increases cancer risk, increases skin aging (wrinkles!), while it decreases eye and immune health. UV index varies with the time of year, the type of weather, the latitude, and the time of day. Check out your UV index today (by zipcode) and download the free app (search “UV index” in your smartphone). Make a habit to check the UV index every day to get a sense of your family’s exposure–I guarantee it will surprise you. Even on cloudy days, the UV index midday can rise to levels that will encourage you to protect your skin. Don’t be scared of the sun, just be smarter. Read full post »
Last week I served lunch at my son’s school. It was a hoot, really, serving an entire K-8 school lunch. Dishing out lasagna, broccoli, pizza, and grilled cheese provided all sorts of insight into what lunch is like in 2013. My son didn’t choose exactly as I’d predict (see below). When a 33-year prospective study published today which connects childhood ADHD with adult obesity, it got me thinking we need to be more involved in how (not just what) our children eat at school. For those children with and without attention challenges.
Previous studies have found that ADHD may increase risk for unhealthy weight because researchers theorize inattention and compulsive behavior in life changes eating patterns. We’re clearly dependent on regulation for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. The study published today followed boys from age 6-12 years into adulthood, spanning 33 years. Results in this small sample suggest childhood inattention and hyperactivity conferred a two-fold increase in being obese as adult. The study included only Caucasian boys. The development of obesity in those men was found regardless of their ADHD continuing into adulthood or not.
It’s well established that children who are overweight have a higher risk of being overweight or obese adults. And what makes this research important is that unlike previous studies, it didn’t matter if the boys ADHD remitted in adulthood. Meaning that even if boys outgrew their ADHD, their risk of adult obesity persisted. Researchers theorize that those eating habits and attention challenges of childhood may change lifetime risk. Because the findings go against previous data that unlinked obesity and ADHD in adulthood, it will likely trigger more research. Read full post »
Common Sense Media Screen Image http://www.commonsensemedia.org/mobile-app-reviews/roxies-maze-ing-vacation-adventure
It’s been a relief to realize that there is great online content for my 6 year-old. He still doesn’t use the computer (outside of school). The main reason, I’ve not been in a rush to enmesh him in technology. It’s clear he’ll catch on fast when it becomes important to him. Previously when reading up about apps and games, I always felt like nothing suited his timid-conflict-averse mentality. So when we found a couple beautiful apps last night, I was pumped. Screens can be delicious. Later this week, my 6 year-old and I set off on a trip alone, just the two of us. He’s joining me on a work trip to The Netherlands (speaking here) and although real books will tide him over at times, there is somewhat of a saving grace in the fact that the iPad exists.
I’m seriously thrilled. I can’t wait for this special trip with my son and this time together.
But I’m also normal– there are parts of me very cognizant of the 10+ hour plane trip ahead of us. As a working mom on a working trip, he’ll be stuck amidst a few meetings. On the plane, we’ll read books, work on his journal, yet ultimately I’ll need to plug into my work for a few hours. When I do so, I’m thrilled that the iPad will be on his lap. Living in 2013 does have unique parenting luxuries and one of them is some of the brilliant screens out there. Screens can be great fun for us all when we do it right.
Last night, my husband and I spent some time online reading about good apps to load. We were sincerely delighted to find a couple gems (see below). We ended up completely entranced by 2 apps, in particular. I can’t wait to show these to my 6 year-old on Thursday.
Thoughts On Apps For Young Children:
I love using Common Sense Media to learn about new apps, games, movies, and books. Not only do they provide age-based filters for search, they detail enough about the platforms that I can really cater to my kids’ individual interests and limitations (my 6 year-old is scared of most movies and really hates any kind of conflict). You can search by ages (if you’ve got more than 1 child with access to a device) or by interest (dinosaurs, sports, or magic) and you can also just quickly browse the “editor’s picks.” Read full post »
Seattle Children’s provides healthcare for the special needs of children regardless
of race, sex, creed, ethnicity or disability. Financial assistance for medically
necessary services is based on family income and hospital resources and is provided
to children under age 21 whose primary residence is in Washington, Alaska, Montana