Scribit Veritas

Protecting the Child, Preserving the Family, and Honoring Life

Welcome to the Blog page of the American College of Pediatricians.  Each issue of the Blog is intended to assist parents, encourage children, and enrich the family.  Read our most recent issue below, and scroll to the bottom of this page to read earlier issues.

To regularly receive our Blog by email, simply enter your email address in the box to the right and click Subscribe.  Thank you for your interest.

How to Talk to Children about a Natural Disaster

Whether someone lives in the path of a natural disaster or is not personally impacted by it’s destruction, it is safe to say that a nation as a whole is affected by natural disasters. This broad awareness extends to children who are also impacted in some way by a natural disaster, even if not directly impacted by loss. Children could be exposed to the events of a natural disaster through the media, their peers, or through overhearing conversations between adults. This could cause children to have feelings of fear or anxiety. Children are unique in that their language is largely through play so children, especially under the age of 12, often do not have the verbal ability to communicate feelings to others. Since it might not always be apparent if a child is facing emotional adversity after a stressful event, it is a good idea to reassure them of their safety and security regardless of their response to a natural disaster. Because children communicate their feelings and thoughts differently than adults, talking to them about a natural disaster could be intimidating. Here are some ideas to consider when it comes to having this conversation.

Children feel safe when they know they are loved and cared for.

To children, security is found in their caregivers. Even in the midst of tragedy, they can feel safe and secure when they know they are cared for and loved by their guardians. They have the ability to be more resilient when the appropriate care is given to them. Knowing the importance of expressing and showing care and love for children is foundational in providing them with the security they need to develop emotionally and socially.

Pay attention and listen to children.

Children learn how to deal with stress in their childhood years. Therefore, it is important that caregivers teach children how to express their emotions and thoughts in a healthy way. Listen to children when they speak so that they know they are heard and that their words are important. Though children do not have the same verbal reasoning as adults, they can reveal a lot through what they say. Listening and responding to children is a vital way to intercede in any of their thought processes that may be unhealthy or incorrect.

Example:  A child who has heard of a friend’s grandparent dying may worry that they will also suddenly lose their grandparent. They may begin to ask questions about their grandparents. This would be the time to affirm to you child that he is sage and loved and that no matter what happens, he will be able to get through it.

Implement a hopeful mindset.

Tragedy is an opportunity for children to see that good can come from a bad situation and to encourage empathy. Talk to them about real-life situations. Appropriately remind a child of something unfortunate that has happened, such as the loss of a pet or a friend that moved away. Then, affirm to them that even though they felt sad, everything was okay. This also teaches children that it is okay to talk about tough situations. You can encourage empathy in children by teaching them ways to help others. Here are some ideas:

  • Allow the child to write a letter to a friend that is facing a tragedy or knows someone impacted by a natural disaster.
  • Donate items and ask the child to help. Make sure to do your homework on where to donate and the most beneficial means of donating, but this is one way to teach children to give in order to help someone else. Some trustworthy organizations are the American Red Cross and Samaritan’s Purse.

Even though it can be difficult to interpret how a child is responding to tragedy, there are some signs to look out for:

  • Seeking more attention than normal
  • Feeling guilty
  • Avoiding chores and responsibilities such as homework
  • Wanting to stay home from school
  • Acting younger than their age

Parents and primary caregivers of children know their children more than anyone else. If your child seems to experience an overwhelming amount of stress and their behaviors are abnormal, additional help should be considered to ensure the developmental health of the child. In addition to your child’s pediatrician, here are some resources for seeking help:

» Click to show references

References

Kottman, T. (2011). Play therapy: Basics and beyond (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association. ISBN: 978-1-55620-305-3

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2012). Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event. (HHS Publication No. (SMA) 12-4732).

» Click to hide references

Comments ( 0 )

Global Obesity, Malnutrition Epidemic: Tips for Reversing the Trend

According to the findings of a recent study, the prevalence of obesity worldwide has risen from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million in the last 40 years and researchers predict that by 2025, 44% of Americans could be obese. Another study reports that 7 states have obesity rates among adults at or above 35 percent and yet another study reports that even child obesity rates are alarmingly high.

What could be contributing to this obesity epidemic?

  • Low fruit/veggies consumption. A recent CDC study found that 87% of Americans aren’t meeting the vegetable requirement and 75% aren’t meeting the fruit requirement. Most Americans eat only 1 serving of fruit and 1-2 servings of vegetables each day. However, the national recommendation is 1.5-2 cups of fruit plus 2-3 cups of vegetables per day.
  • Lack of physical activity. One recent study showed that few children meet the national guidelines for physical activity–60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) every day. Another study showed that home and school environments provide even less encouragement to be physically active for girls than boys. More than 60% of US adults do not engage in the recommended amount of activity (150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity like brisk walking plus 2 or more days of muscle-strengthening activities weekly) and approximately 25% are not active at all according to the CDC.
  • Poverty. New research shows growing up in poor neighborhoods increases likelihood of obesity. Linked to a lack of exercise amenities and healthy food sources, and increased stress in low-income areas, living in poor areas puts young people at greatest risk for becoming or remaining obese in the future.
  • Emotional eating. Children form unique relationships with food early in life, informed in part by the way they are fed and taught to use food. Some parents use certain foods as treats and rewards, like an ice cream sundae for an A on a test or a pizza party for winning a big game. As harmless as it may seem to offer certain foods, especially junk food, as a treat or as a way to soothe an upset child, studies show that parents could be unintentionally teaching their children to rely on food to deal with their emotions.

To decrease current obesity levels and avoid an epidemic of severe obesity, new food policies and improved health care training must be implemented quickly. Activity equivalent calorie labeling is one policy recently introduced in the UK. Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive at the Royal Society of Public Health, says labeling food with the equivalent exercise to expend its calories would give consumers an immediate link between foods’ energy content and physical activity which might help people to change their eating behaviors, ultimately reducing obesity. Mindfulness-based eating awareness training (MBEAT) is another intervention that can be used to lower obesity. MBEAT aims to help adolescents combat obesity by raising their awareness of what they are eating and whether they are even hungry.

Nevertheless, there are even simpler ways for adults and children alike to meet the national guidelines and increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables.

  • Start at breakfast by incorporating fruit into your child’s meal. Add a banana to her cereal or toss some berries in his yogurt.
  • Make vegetables the centerpiece of your meal instead of meat. When you serve your plate, fill it at least half full with fruits and vegetables.
  • Think ahead. Before your kids leave for school in the morning, provide a healthy snack to take with them like an apple, orange or baggie of dried fruit (and pack one for yourself to bring to work as well).
  • Consider making one meal per day (or at least one dinner per week) a large salad. If salads won’t work for dinner, pack a salad for your child’s lunch. If your child is on a free or reduced lunch program and it’s financially necessary for your child to eat a school lunch, pack a small salad or some raw veggies to supplement his lunch. A small bag of baby carrots or a stalk of celery from the grocery store won’t cost much but they can last your child up to a week of healthy snacking. This will go far in helping you and your family consume enough fresh produce.
  • Whenever possible, serve your children water and sometimes non-fat milk instead of soda and juice. Click here for estimates on how much water you and your children should drink daily.
  • Add chopped onions, carrots and celery or whichever vegetables you prefer when preparing soups, sauces, stews, beans or grains; and if a recipe calls for a certain amount of vegetables, double it.
  • Most importantly, eat dinner together as a family as often as possible. If you can have breakfast together, do that as well.

 

Research shows that kids and teens who regularly eat dinner together with their families have more healthful dietary patterns, including eating more fruits and vegetables, less saturated and trans fat, fewer fried foods and sodas, lower glycemic load, and more vitamins and other micro-nutrients. These children are also

  • less likely to engage in disordered eating,
  • more likely to eat healthier foods,
  • less likely to become obese, and
  • less likely to engage in disordered eating (weight control tactics: self-induced vomiting, laxative use, diet pills, fasting, eating very little food, using food substitutes, skipping meals, and smoking).

In addition, eating regular family meals can

  • help kids do better in school,
  • decrease the likelihood that your child will engage in high risk behaviors like sexual activity and substance abuse,
  • decrease the risk of mental health and emotional issues like depression, suicide, stress, and anxiety, and
  • improve family relations by increasing family communication and family connectedness.

Though getting your family’s nutrition on the right track may seem daunting, remember that obesity is 100% preventable and that it’s never too late or too early to encourage healthful eating habits in your family.

For more information

 

Comments ( 0 )

How Important Is Family Dinner?

For those who do not already have the habit in place, eating dinner together as a family might be a battle between parents and children or even just one more task to take on. Although it may be difficult to begin this habit or truly ensure that it occurs, recent studies have shed more light on why this particular part of the day is so critical to the development and success of children.

In 1996, the National Court Appointed Advocate Association conducted a study to look at substance use in adolescents and here is what they found:

1. For families with children under the age of 12, time spent eating together predicts fewer behavior problems.

2. Children who share frequent family meals sleep better than those who never or rarely participate in family mealtimes.

3. Frequency of family meals is related to a reduced risk of obesity and a greater consumption of fruits and vegetables.

4. Family mealtimes are a protective factor against eating disorders.

5. Children who share frequent family meals are more emotionally content, have better peer relationships, work harder in school, and have better communication with their parents than children who rarely experience family meals.

6. Frequency of family meals predicts vocabulary growth and academic achievement. Family mealtimes provide valuable opportunities for conversation and storytelling and help children acquire social skills, such as turn-taking and table manners.

7. As children move into adolescence, family mealtimes predict lower rates of drug taking, depression, and delinquency.

The research also showed that there is no cut off time point for meal times and healthy outcomes. The research gave one additional caution and piece of advice, Television viewing during mealtimes is associated with less socialization, conversation, and monitoring of children’s behavior and a greater likelihood of overeating. Thus, the television should remain off during family meals. Although the contemporary family is becoming increasingly busy and overscheduled, a very simple routine – family mealtimes – can have significant and enduring benefits for children and adolescents.”

In another study conducted by the American Psychology Association, research was done to determine how family dinner affects parent and child BMI (body mass index- a marker of obesity). In their concluding findings they stated, “Lower parent dinnertime media use and higher dinnertime routines were significantly associated with lower child BMI. Additionally, findings emphasize that promoting frequent family meals along with consistent routines and reduction in parent dinnertime media use may be important for the prevention of childhood obesity.” Clearly, it is important that parents and children spend quality time during meals in order to have lasting benefits.

Overall, family dinner provides a strong bond between family members and provides health benefits to children. Remember to put down the phones and technology, put away work and simply focus on each other. Meal time can provide some of the greatest memories that will be reflected on years down the road.

For more research on the importance of eating together as a family and information on how to do it, check out the ACPeds resources below:

Comments ( 0 )

Reconsidering Divorce

All marriages journey through highs and lows, and many couples who are at a difficult low point may decide that divorce is the best path to take. There is evidence, however, that persevering and giving the relationship time can indeed revive many struggling marriages.

In 2003, Brent A. Barlow, Ph.D., published an article in the Journal of Marriage and Families, entitled Marriage Crossroads: Why Divorce is not Always the Best Option: Rationale, Resources, and References. This research of over a decade ago, certainly still applies today.  

The article explains how many marriages eventually reach a point called “the crossroads,” during which a couple is considering whether or not they should divorce. While these couples may feel concerned about living with the difficulties in their marriages, Barlow points to study findings which indicate that the consequences of divorce may outweigh the benefits of avoiding  most marital difficulties. There are important factors a couple should seriously consider to evaluate if divorce is worth the cost, before making the move to split up. Here are some from Barlow’s article:

  • Only 30% of divorces are from couples in high-conflict marriages. It is likely that many of the other 70% could have worked through problems and stayed married. Out of the top ten reported reasons why marriages ended, “no longer in love” was the second most common.
  • Stable marriages yield benefits in all aspects of health (emotional, physical, and mental) according to decades of consistent research. Additionally, financial costs of divorce can be astronomical.
  • Though many children of divorced parents grow to be successful adults, it is irrefutable that children of divorce are at increased risk for having social and emotional problems, considering suicide, involvement in drugs and alcohol, and academic problems. According to Barlow, nearly 50 percent of parents who divorce and have children are in poverty after the divorce.
  • Barlow estimates that in the years after a divorce, 1/3 of couples regret their decision, 1/3 have mixed feelings about it, and 1/3 feel that it was the right decision. In a poll in Minnesota, “66 percent of those who are currently divorced answered “yes” to the question, “Do you wish you and your ex-spouse had tried harder to work through your differences?”
  • 86% of people who were unhappy in their marriage and then decided to stay together and “stick it out”, are happier in their marriages 5 years later, according to the National Survey of Families and Marriages. 77% of marriages who rated their marriages as “very unhappy” in the late 1980’s but stayed married, later rated their same marriages as “very happy” or “quite happy” in the 1990’s.
  • Barlow recalls that right after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011, many couples across the U.S. withdrew their divorce papers which had been on file. Sometimes having a reminder of what is truly valuable is what is needed to help rebuild a marriage.

Nearly three decades of research evaluating the impact of family structure on the health and well-being of children demonstrates that children living with their married, biological parents consistently have better physical, emotional, and academic well-being.

Barlow emphasizes in the article that there are some cases where a couple should divorce, especially in the presence of abuse and physical danger. However, this is not the majority. Love can be rebuilt and regained with patience, effort and devotion.

The best scientific literature to date suggests that, with the exception of parents faced with unresolvable marital violence, children fare better when parents work at maintaining the marriage. Consequently, society should make every effort to support healthy marriages and to discourage married couples from divorcing.

For more information and research on marriage and the negative impact divorce can have on families, check out the following ACPeds resources below:

» Click to show references

Read the full article at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/marriageandfamilies/vol10/iss1/5

Barlow, B. (2003) Marriage crossroads: Why divorce is often not the best option: Rationale, resources, and references, In Marriage and Families: 10(5). Retrieved from: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/marriageandfamilies/vol10/iss1/5

» Click to hide references

Comments ( 0 )

Soothing Crying Infants

For parents, the amount of crying a newborn baby does on a daily, if not hourly, basis can be a source of great stress and anxiety. Both mothers and fathers instinctively respond to the crying of a baby with a strong impulse to help the baby and make the crying stop. Not being able to calm a baby’s tears can cause concerned and exhausted parents to feel very inadequate, overwhelmed, and frustrated. Of great concern to medical professionals is the association between excessive crying and the occurrence of Shaken Baby Syndrome or other forms of infant abuse.

It is important to realize that it is okay and important for babies to cry. The amount of crying usually reaches its peak when the baby is around 6 weeks old. After 3 months old, it is normal for a baby to cry about an hour a day (Lerner & Parlakian, 2016).

“All infants cry as a means of communicating their needs, as self-expression, and as a way to manage and organize stress or “let off steam.” Parents can expect most babies under three months old to cry up to three hours per day” (Bruening, 2002).

A baby who cries at least three hours a day on three or more days a week, and lasting three weeks, has colic. There are no apparent reasons for why the baby with colic begins crying or stops. Colic will eventually go away, usually around 4 months old, but can still be difficult to deal with.

There are some strategies for calming a fussy or colicky baby that many parents have found to be effective. Each baby responds differently to different strategies, and may vary in how they respond from time to time. Here are a few:

  • Watch for patterns in the circumstances and times your baby normally cries.
  • Try holding the baby in different positions. Babies can be unique and particular about what positions they are most comfortable in. Examples here.
  • Making a relatively loud “shhhh” sound near a baby’s ears is thought to mimic the sounds the baby hears inside the womb. This can be calming to a baby.
  • Rocking baby back and forth. Sometimes a baby will prefer a slow rock while others will calm down with a more active motion.
  • Swaddling is a method for wrapping a baby and providing a sense of security and soothing comfort, that has been around for centuries. It is important to be very careful in swaddling the baby to not overheat them. Some research shows that laying a swaddled baby on his stomach or side is linked to risk for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.) So, a baby should be laid on her back when swaddled. Another concern about swaddling is that restricting a baby’s hips can lead to future hip dysplasia. This can be prevented by wrapping the baby with the blanket securely around his arms but loosely around the legs, leaving room for the legs to move. See some examples below.

  • Give the baby and yourself a break. Sometimes all the effort to calm the baby can actually be increasing the baby’s distress. Some research shows that babies naturally can sense and absorb the emotional state of their parent from a young age (Bunim, 2014). It could be that a mother’s anxiety and stress is felt by the baby, which only adds to the crying. If you feel overwhelmed, lay your baby down safely in another room and take some time to calm down or find someone else to help care for them. Take naps when the baby naps and try to get enough sleep.

Seek help if needed. If you ever feel extremely overwhelmed or think that you might hurt the baby, call a medical or child development professional for help and guidance. Rely on family or your spouse to support you. It is understandable to struggle, but necessary that one seeks help.

For more information on soothing fussy babies, check out this parenting handout from the National Physicians Center called Use “S’s” to Help Soothe Your Baby

» Click to show references

References

Akhnikh, S., Engelberts, A. C., van Sleuwen, B.,E., L’Hoir, M.,P., & Benninga, M. A. (2014). The excessively crying infant: Etiology and treatment. Pediatric Annals, 43(4), e69-75. doi:http://dx.doi.org.byui.idm.oclc.org/10.3928/00904481-20140325-07.

Bruening, J.C. (2002). Coping with a crying infant. Retrieved from: http://www.reflux.org/reflux/webdoc01.nsf/(vwWebPage)/CopingwithCrying.htm?OpenDocument.

Bunim, J. (Feb. 6, 2014). Is stress contagious? Studies show babies can catch it from their mothers. Retrieved from: https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2014/02/111661/stress-contagious-study-shows-babies-can-catch-it-their-mothers.

Lerner, C. & Parlakian, R. (Feb. 18, 2016). Colic and crying. Retrieved from: https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/197-colic-and-crying.

Stadtlander, L. (2016). Sensory-Based Calming Strategies for Infants. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 31(4), 18-20. https://eds-a-ebscohost-com.byui.idm.oclc.org/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&sid=85c3a308-3dfd-4640-be45-ffbda3d97018@sessionmgr104.

» Click to hide references

Comments ( 0 )

Cyberbullying: Is it Happening to Your Child?

As a parent, you generally have a good idea of when your child is being themselves or being distant or upset. There are usually pretty clear indicators that tell you when something is off or something is right. However, there are the occasions when parents cannot tell if something is wrong, they miss the signs or they are simply doubting the thoughts that something could truly be wrong.

(more…)

Comments ( 0 )

To Co-sleep or Not to Co-sleep?

 

One of the greatest concerns for new parents is the safety of their newborn babies and a controversial topic along that line is how best to put infants to sleep. As is often the case, modern medicine does not have a definitive answer for these concerned parents.  For decades, the mantra of American pediatricians has been to sleep all infants in a crib and, while the specifics of how and where to accomplish that has been modified over the years (back-sleeping, no pillows/bedding, in the same room as the parent, etc.),  the fact remains that, at least in the Western world, physicians have discouraged co-sleeping (or bed sharing).

(more…)

Comments ( 0 )

Shooting the Dog

Once upon a time, a trapper lived in a cabin in the forest, far from civilization.  His wife had died, leaving him with his small son to raise.  When food supplies ran low, he usually waited until his son was asleep for his afternoon nap, and leaving his trusty dog to guard the cabin and the boy, he would quickly go out to gather what he could from his traps or to do a little hunting.

(more…)

Comments ( 0 )

Are you Pro-life? What About Your Pediatrician?

At first, the question of having a pro-life pediatrician might seem inconsequential.  After all, isn’t the doctor just there to give checkups and shots and make sure your child is healthy?  What does it matter if your pediatrician is or isn’t pro-life?

(more…)

Comments ( 0 )

Parents are Teachers

 

Parents love their children and want to raise them so that they can succeed in life on their own someday. But, most parents lack the training to raise their children. Without formal training parents can revert to coercive, harsh punishments and threats to control their child’s misbehavior. If this is becomes the family environment, though it often happens unintentionally, there are many risks for negative consequences. If children grow up in homes of consistent harsh punishment, the risks of these outcomes increases:

(more…)

Comments ( 0 )
Page 1 of 2812345...1020...»
%d bloggers like this: