Seattle Mama Doc

A blog by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson.

A mom, a pediatrician, and her insights about keeping your kids healthy.

5 Days of Guided Imagery: Day 1 – Send Love, Feel Better

Today marks day one of our 5 Days of Mindfulness with Dr. Hilary Mead, a child clinical psychologist at Seattle Children’s. Throughout the week we will be sharing seven guided meditations and imagery via the Seattle Mama Doc podcast. We invite you to include your children and your entire family for each of these episodes as they’re great for all ages!

In the first of seven podcasts, Dr. Mead leads a meditation via guided imagery that helps create a greater sense of connection, well-being and love for others and yourself. This meditation practice has data to support its effectiveness in increasing the daily experiences of positive emotion.

For this meditation, you will begin by focusing on sending loving-kindness to someone else as it can be difficult to give it to yourself first. It is such a lovely thing…

Learn more about mindfulness from Dr. Mead here:

Stay tuned for more podcasts and blog posts this week as we continue our 5 Days of Mindfulness series.

5 Tips for Teaching Mindfulness to Children and Teens

As promised, Dr. Hilary Mead, a child clinical psychologist in Outpatient Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Seattle Children’s, is back to share her tips on using and teaching mindfulness to our kids. If you missed her first podcast on mindfulness, listen to get a better understanding of what it means to be mindful. And how easy it may be to build it into your everyday life.

Mindfulness is about being in the moment you’re in, aware, accepting what’s unfolding and being non-judgmental of yourself and your relationships. Using mindfulness with children and teens can help them cope with pain-related conditions or emotional, behavioral or mental conditions. This includes depression, panic disorders or trauma. Children can use mindfulness to boost mood, improve coping and gain a sense of control over their experiences with mental challenges.

With that said, here are Dr. Mead’s tips for teaching and incorporating mindfulness into your entire family’s life: Read full post »

Be Sun Smart – Improving Childhood Sun Exposure

It may not always be the sunniest here in Washington, but that doesn’t mean we’re safe from sun exposure and skin cancer risks. In fact, Washington had the 10th highest rate of skin cancer in 2013 (we beat out sunny states including Florida, California and Arizona). Part of that has to do with the population that lives here (non-Hispanic Caucasians have higher rates of skin cancer) but in general it’s a reminder that sun exposure and UV radiation can happen in even this horrific, rainy climate!

Childhood can be a time of potent sun exposure. The majority of sun exposure and sunburns occur during childhood and teen years. Because UV sun exposure and UV light is the #1 preventable cause of skin cancer, as you reduce the amount of exposure for your children you reduce the risk of them being diagnosed with skin cancer later in life.

When it comes to sun exposure and UV light, there are two types you need to know about:

  • UVA radiation causes Aging, deeper skin damage and wrinkles skin. It is constant throughout the entire year, regardless of the season or heat index. That’s why sunscreen while out in the snow in the winter makes sense!
  • UVB radiation causes Burning and is what SPF helps protect you from when using sunscreen. It is most intense in the summer in North America as the earth’s rotation and angle increases sunlight intensity.

In the quick podcast below, you can get smarter about the sun and how you consume it.

Read full post »

Quick Video Q & A on Vaccinations

BBC invited me to discuss vaccinations and help answer some popular questions parents have about them. View this short Q&A video on BBC where I share the following answers to these common questions:

  • Can vaccines cause autism? We don’t know what causes all of autism spectrum disorders but we do know that vaccinations do not lead to the development of autism. More info worth reading here on Autism and Vaccinations from Autism Science Foundation — a non-profit working to support families with autism spectrum disorders and the research that helps guide and empower improved prevention and treatment.
  • Is it safer to space out vaccines? It isn’t safer to space out vaccines. Not a single study that finds a delayed schedule is safer than one spaced out. No data, for example, that an MMR shot is safer at age 3 than at age 1. Why wait while measles outbreaks do continue? Waiting only increases overall risk.
  • Should I be worried about the chemicals in vaccines? We know more about the safety of vaccines than we do about some of the foods we eat. The ingredients and rigor around the science of vaccines is tight. See recent post with info about ingredients or this info and Q&A on ingredients in vaccinations.
  • Isn’t it my personal choice? When you get your child vaccinated on schedule you’re not only protecting your child’s health, you’re protecting your community’s health. And your own family’s.

You can also view a BBC story on vaccination hesitancy or listen to a recording of its radio story where they discuss areas with higher levels of families delaying or opting out. As a reminder, in the US about 9 in 10 families do follow recommendations to get their children vaccinated on-time, keeping us all safer. Magic in medicine…

Vaccination Hesitancy: 4 Myths Explained

Vaccination hesitancy or concern about getting your child their shots isn’t new. But it has recently been gaining attention in the media. In February, Robert Kennedy Jr. offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who could turn up a study showing that it is safe to administer vaccines to children and pregnant women. Let me start by saying that there are countless studies and data in support of vaccination safety. So the offer and claim should be given/received over and over and over again.

I mean, COME ON.

However, with politicians using their platform to blast these fallacies and doubts about vaccination, I worry there is a new sense of unease growing among parents. This unease is causing pediatricians to worry about what’s to come in the coming years for families and their safety.

The below chart from the American Journal of Health Behavior and shared by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) depicting the various types of parents and their responses to vaccinations helps frame up who we are. Even with all of the hoopla in the media, studies have found only 16% of parents are fence-sitters or worriers about immunizations. That means there’s a lot of distortion in the voices that are being heard in these conversations, which is causing “health advocates” and others to question if they should continue moving forward with vaccinating their children.

It’s my job as a pediatrician to make sure you hear the other 84%. The following are four of the most common myths that cause parents to worry about vaccinations, and most importantly, why they shouldn’t worry as much with real data to back it up. Read full post »

Mindfulness With Children And Teens

Cultivating mindfulness is clearly a concept all of us want to improve while parenting. Good news is there are ways to incorporate strategies that are mindful in every day activities; being mindful might be easier than it seems and it’s less “way out there” and voo-doo than it seems at first glance, as well. The practice of mindfulness isn’t just for the kale-eating-uber-natural-super-zen families — this, in fact, is for us all.

Mindfulness: paying attention in this moment, non-judgmentally.

Honing focus and taking in the luxuries of raising children is a daily treasure. But living mindfully, intentionally, and without judgment — right in the present moment — is a simple concept and yet hard to practice every day. Luckily, I had Dr. Hilary Mead, a child clinical psychologist in Outpatient Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital talk through what we know about mindfulness in pediatrics and in children, how we use it specifically to boost mental health, and when it can be implemented easily into our everyday lives. She’s a pro at supporting children and teens, and their parents, in incorporating mindful practices into life.

There isn’t really failing at mindfulness — Dr. Hilary Mead

This podcast is really good. Really….I suggest you listen to Dr. Mead….I just loved what she taught me and how she guides mindfulness.

Read full post »

Getting Out Of Town With Children: Anchors of Happiness

Spring has sprung (hurrah!) and summertime is oddly just a couple of months off. A co-worker reminded me this week that school is out in 2 months. What?

As the rituals of summer near I’m reminded of the power and value in creating memories that break the mold of routine. Trips, time away, adventure, and creating a sense that the world is truly as big as it is. This starts and gains value right from home at the kitchen counter…

Recently, I’ve seen a series of online parenting articles about how family vacations throughout childhood are “anchors of happiness.” That they make and enhance a child’s life. At first glance it seems like pressure. It’s just been Spring Break, or is this week for you, and the pressures of watching families on Facebook fly off to Aruba are real… But I think there is something more essential to talk about here. Not the need or want to plan a luxury vacation, but the pristine opportunity to think on and prioritize exploration with our children. Clearly children notice and in my heart I know it’s meaningful.

The simple exercise of moving around our city or county or state or country or continent to different places with our children, during breaks from school and work, is magic. From planning a trip with your children to taking an actual vacation, there are a lot of data driven benefits – enjoyment (joy!), memory-making, cultural exposure and simple protected time away from school and work together to reflect on what matters.

In one article I read about family-vacationing, I saw this:

  • Only 25% of kids say they talk to their parents about something of great importance to them in a weeks time

Ohhhhhh, no! I decided to vet the above data with my 10 year-old. Puffed up with great pride that just in the last week I’d brought up the temperature of space, talked about the implications of a recent political scandal, worked on his school project together and generally been a stimulating conversation partner and “master mom” I said, “do you think we talk about things of great importance every week?” He paused and said, “No, I don’t think so.”

OH, no. Gotta get out of Dodge… Read full post »

I Like The Film Alike, A lot

Many of us struggle knowing which pitch or tenor to take in balancing the responsibilities, rigors and rule-following of regular school and work-life with the need to extend boundaries to live with our children in poetic, artful ways. How and when to comply, and how and when and why we sometimes don’t want to. It’s ultimately tricky and nuanced, yet the opportunity to live in color is just so profound.

Life is precious and unpredictable.

Thing is, sometimes we just miss the moment with our children. Sometimes we really are too demanding, too rigid, perhaps too purposeful. At least I know I am and can be. When I realize I’ve been blunted or on-task in ways that separate me from my children’s mindfulness or creativity or I’ve stunted my children in any way, it can feel a tiny bit like despair. Like a big, juicy #momfail.

I must say, I like Alike, a lot. This sweet film embodies the pulse of the challenge in living mindfully and playfully with children and the immensity of its import in daily life. There is a moment in this film that feels as tremendous as the love we feel for our children in real life. I cried witnessing it.

Everyone is born creative. Creativity can be especially fluid and accessible during childhood (some experts and parents and teachers and artists, of course, worry we work creativity “out” of children as they grow with our schooling structure and rigidity). Thankfully, children often get to live days that make space for the creative process and the exploration and silliness so wonderful in being alive that we stop making space for as we “grow up.”

Although this beautiful short film doesn’t offer any answers it moved me immensely.

I’ve been reflecting on mistakes I’ve made (ohhhhhhh, parenting is so tough!) but it also brewed a sense of optimism in me. I saw a glimpse of the big huge opportunity illuminated in each new day that unfolds. Enjoy, enjoy!

 

New Data On Preventing The Flu And Whooping Cough

Many of us have probably experienced influenza (the flu) at some point. Sometimes we really know it, sometimes we don’t. Previous data has even found that in a typical influenza season (winter) as many as 10 to 40% of all children get exposed or actually get influenza in a given year.

Sometimes the infection from influenza is mild (“just a cold”) but sometimes it’s a horrific long-lasting-high-fever-achy-pneumonia-hospital-causing infection. Sometimes it’s worse. Hard to predict why we all don’t experience the same virus the same way each time we’re exposed.

Those under age 5 and those over 65 years of age are at highest risk from influenza. The reason: young children have an unexposed, immature immune system that doesn’t work as well fighting against influenza as a 12 year-old where as the elderly have a tired immune system that just doesn’t work as well as it did during young adulthood. Each year children die from the flu that could have been prevented. The flu vaccine isn’t perfect in protection, and this year it’s got about a 50% chance of totally protecting you — far better than 0% when you don’t get it at all!

New data out proves that flu vaccine helps prevent death in children. News any mom or parent or pediatrician wants to hear and share.

For infants and elders, the flu can be deadly. For new babies, pertussis (whooping cough) can be, too. The good news is that these illnesses are vaccine-preventable. This post is just a reminder of the power of vaccines to prevent pain and suffering and new data that continues to support our use of whooping cough shots during pregnancy for moms and babies and flu vaccines for children every year.

Two studies from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlight just this by establishing vaccine effectiveness for reducing death and serious infection. Take these as reminders of why we vaccinate our children and ourselves! Read full post »

How Genetic Technologies May Change How We Approach Parenthood

Seattle writer Bonnie Rochman has a new, smartypants book on genetic testing. It’s not a “how-to,” per se, rather a storytelling look and near confessional at how confusing it can feel when you’re pregnant (or plan to be) and faced with the marketplace of ideas and opportunities for knowing more from genetic testing. Simply put, she articulates the quandary nestled in the “to know” or “not to know” more about your expected baby, genetically speaking.

In the book (and the podcast and TV seg she joined me for —  included below) Bonnie talks of her own journey as a mom but also interviews researchers, geneticists, families, expecting parents, and ethicists along the way. It’s researched; the pages of notes and references at the end could overwhelm, if you let them. Thankfully, the book reads like a story and yet Bonnie doesn’t shy away from complex ethical spider webs like the implications (for some) in getting tested for fatal diseases and the option to enter the abortion debate. More than anything, Bonnie takes on the reality that when it comes to prenatal genetic testing, the tests themselves, the official guidance, and the technology itself is moving faster than our public and medical understanding…

Read full post »