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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.

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The Importance of Motherhood

Abraham Lincoln is famous for saying, “All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”

There were two women he called mother, his own “angel mother”, who died when Lincoln was 9 years old, and his step-mother who also had a powerful, uplifting influence in his life. It wasn’t prestige, wealth, or social prominence that caused the deep feeling of reverence and respect Abraham had for his mothers. Though uneducated and illiterate herself, his step-mother Sarah Bush Johnston, helped nurture his love of reading. After marriage to Abraham’s widower father, Thomas Lincoln, she turned their shabby, dirt floor house into a home by immediately setting to work on arrangements for flooring and infusing hope into their lives. Abraham and Sarah shared a tight bond throughout her life. To him, she was the person who saw who he could become and ever encouraged his success.

“All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother”- these weren’t casual, meaningless words for Abraham Lincoln. But the general feeling of love and appreciation for mother is , of course, not unique to the president.

Mothers are a powerful influence for good, a strength and bulwark for society.

Studies consistently show that having a mother who is present, nurturing, concerned, and involved does a world of good in a young child’s life. A 2012 study from Washington University School of Medicine actually  found that children who received warm, maternal nurturing in early childhood ended to develop a larger hippocampus- the learning, memory, and stress response center in the brain (Dryden, 2012). A mother like this holds many jobs. She acts as a teacher, a comforter, a nurse, and a mediator. Her job requires an understanding of medicine, psychology, math, management, cooking, cleaning, interior design, exceptional leadership skills, and undying patience to name a few. No mother is perfect, and this too can benefit a child, as they learn to deal with struggles and imperfections in life.

Whether a mother can stay home full-time with her children or works during the day, her job as a mother has a moral importance that stands above the roles that any source of money can offer. So many mothers know how it feels to sacrifice and work tirelessly for the love of their child. They deal with the tedious and heart-breaking moments, but they do not see raising children as a burden. To them it is a matter of love.  

There are activist groups that don’t support the value of mothers to children and society or even agree with the existence of mothers in the traditional role. Despite the knowledge from child development research on the necessity of an attachment with a nurturing parent, there are those who believe that children are nothing more than a burden to women. The care of children, they assert, deprives women of the chance to reach the “real” important positions in life and levels of comfortable living. In doing so, they discredit the impactful and noteworthy qualities that women uniquely have and the fundamental role of a mother in every child’s life.

Women feel that the majority of society does not recognize the position of a “stay-at-home- mom” as a real job. Some of society views it as selfish on the part of the mother, or even degrading to a woman. However, as almost every person who babysits for a long period of time soon learns, working a job may likely be easier. Women who decide to stay home choose to do so because of their desire to provide the best nurturing and education of their young children, as the woman who is most important in their child’s life. Many mothers whose situation does not allow them to do this and must work a job, still center their focus on their home and the raising of their children- to their life-long benefit.

When the main priority is the wellbeing of children and the happiness of the family as a whole- the unpaid but rewarding job of a mother becomes much more crucial. We must see the roles of “stay-at-home” mothers as perfectly equal to the role of the breadwinner in achieving that priority.

Motherhood is a role, and in some opinion’s a calling, that is sublime, essential, and profound. How much we all owe to our “angel mothers”.

For articles and research on mother’s essential role visit:

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References:

Dryden, J. (2012) Mom’s love good for a child’s brain. The Source: Medicine and Health, Retrieved from

https://source.wustl.edu/2012/01/moms-love-good-for-childs-brain/.

MacLean, M. (2012, Oct 28). Sarah Bush Lincoln. Retrieved from: http://www.civilwarwomenblog.com/sarah-bush-lincoln/

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3 Reasons Why You Should Exercise During Pregnancy

It’s 6 AM and your evil alarm is screaming, “Wake up, wake up, wake up!” You groan internally, remembering your new exercise goal. “But do I have to exercise?” you ask no one in particular.   

Finding motivation to exercise can be hard. With so many things to do in a day, exercise isn’t always a favorite item on the to-do list.  

Once you add pregnancy into the mix, exercise can seem near impossible! With less energy, morning sickness, and all sorts of physical changes, exercising may feel like the last thing you want to do.

But what if exercise could actually help?

Here’s the good news: It can! In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that healthy women get 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week during pregnancy.1*

But why is it that exercise during pregnancy is so important? And how can it affect you and your future baby?

1. Physical Benefits

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Language in the Toddler and Preschool Years

 

During the toddler and preschool years, most children are building their vocabularies rapidly. Since toddler age, children employ an innate skill called fast mapping, in which they quickly connect and contrast new words they hear with words they already know, and thereby almost instantly learn new words when hearing them even only once.

Parents and teachers are often boggled by how quickly young children can comprehend new words each week. In the preschool years (ages 3-5), children are still increasing their knowledge of words and ability to use them. They likely will begin to recognize letters, to write their own name, to recognize rhymes and other word patterns, and be interested in the written words that are around them. Several developmental characteristics are common for toddler and preschool-aged children as they continue to build their use of language:

  • Overextension- Young children are likely to “overextend” and apply a term that describes one thing to all other things that are similar to it. For example, a very young child may say “daddy” to describe all adult men, or use “doggy” to describe any kind of mammal.
  • Under-extension- Similarly, a child might think that a term that can be used more generally can only be used for the one thing that they are familiar with. They might think that “the park” is only that one particular place by their home, and may correct you if you describe somewhere else as a “park”.  
  • Over-regularizationThis is a very common error that children make while in the toddler and preschool years. Over-regularization occurs when a child applies a perceived grammar rule from one word they know to other words incorrectly. We have all heard children that say “sheeps” for more than one sheep, or who say “I drinked the water” instead of “I drank”, or “I goed to sleep.”
  • Word creation- As children learn how useful and powerful language can be, they may make up their own creative terms for objects or actions, or give creative names to their toys and favorite people.

Responding to Developing Language Skills

  • When a child says a word or sentence incorrectly, avoid telling them they are wrong, but instead simply repeat back to them the correct form of what they said. “By directly correcting a child, we may inadvertently halt the learning process, stop the conversation, or even take the fun out of communicating. So, remember to correct your child’s speech and language gently” (Kaplan). For example, if a child says, “Daddy runned really fast!” You might respond with, “Yes, daddy ran very fast!”
  • Recasting is a term used by early childhood specialists for repeating what a child says while inputting correct grammar and sentence structure.
  • Expansion means to respond to your child’s sentences with correct grammar and added detail. If a child says, “Daddy runned fast!”, you might respond with, “Yes daddy ran very fast and he caught the blue ball!”
  • Your children will learn rapidly from observing you and listening to you speak. You might model for them how to say please and thank you to someone when you are out in public or at home. It is important to use the correct words for things, even if it is tempting to repeat a child’s adorable use of “laster-day” when they mean to say “yesterday.”

The years while children are developing their mastery of language are exciting! Children will benefit immensely from the adults in their lives communicating to them and paying attention to what they say.

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References

Cortese, R. (2017). Helping toddlers expand language skills: tips for encouraging kids ages 0-5 to talk. Child Mind Institute, Inc. Retrieved from: https://childmind.org/article/helping-toddlers-expand-their-language-skills/

Kaplan, T. Talking matters: strategies for encouraging your child’s language development. Retrieved from: http://slhs.arizona.edu/sites/slhs/files/strategies-for-encouraging-your-childs-speech-language-development.pdf.

PBS Parents. (2017). Preschooler talking milestones. Retrieved from:  http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/reading-language/reading-milestones/preschooler-language-development-milestones/preschooler-talking/

Photo obtained from www.pexels.com

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Teaching Your Kids to Cope with Stress

 

It’s probably not news to you that the American Psychological Association found “most Americans are suffering from moderate to high stress” (1) Whether it’s dealing with difficult coworkers or changing one too many poopy diapers, we all have things that stress us out on a day-to-day basis. But the question is, how do you handle that stress?

In the movie Miss Congeniality (2), FBI agent Gracie Hart has a pretty rough day at work. Watch how she handles it in this video clip (3).

 

Instead of turning to friends or family for support, Gracie tries to drown her sorrows in ice cream. (We’ll talk about why that’s not the greatest way to cope later.)

The way that you choose to handle stress affects both you and your kids. Your kids learn how to handle their own stress by watching what you do. Because how you respond to stress impacts your overall health, it’s important to practice healthy coping.

When Stress Takes Over

Stress isn’t always a bad thing. However, when we let stress take over, it can be more harmful than it is helpful. As the National Institute of Mental Health explains, “Health problems can occur if the stress response goes on for too long or becomes chronic” (4). Here are just a few of the health problems that may pop up for you or your kids if stress isn’t handled well.

  • Physical problems. When stress is pent up for too long, it can result in aches and pains, digestive problems, obesity, an overall weakened immune system, and even heart disease (5).
  • Emotional problems. Stress can also affect people’s emotions, causing irritability, feelings of helplessness, and a sense of being overwhelmed (6). Prolonged stress can even contribute to depression and anxiety (7).
  • Cognitive problems. Not only this, but stress can impact your ability to think clearly. When you don’t deal with stress, it can lead to forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, and more (8).

What Won’t Help

Because stress can cause all these problems, sometimes our instinct is to push stress aside and pretend it’s not there. Unfortunately, this way of “coping” doesn’t really help. Here are some common coping mechanisms that you should avoid:

  • Overeating. Like Agent Hart, it can be easy to drown your sorrows with a gallon of ice cream, or any other comfort food. While ice cream is yummy, it won’t actually help you work through your stress.
  • Turning to addictions. A lot of times, people fall into addiction as a coping mechanism, whether it’s addiction to drugs, alcohol, pornography, or sex. Even too much social media or Netflix can be a sort of addiction used to get away from your problems.
  • Overworking. When life is too hard to deal with, sometimes people throw themselves into their work even more. Once again, this is just another way to avoid dealing with stress.

A lot of these unhealthy coping mechanisms are simply things we use to distract ourselves. Russell Friedman, CEO of The Grief Recovery Institute, calls these mechanisms STERBs — short term energy relieving behaviors. STERBs are essentially anything “that creates the ‘illusion’ that we’re dealing with” our emotions and stress (9).

But it turns out that when we try to ignore stressful life events, the problem just builds up. These coping mechanisms don’t help long term and can be seriously detrimental.

So what can you do instead? How can you help yourself and your kids avoid all those negative impacts of long-term stress?

What Will Help

Thankfully, there are some things you can do that will help manage your stress. Here are a few suggestions from the CDC.10

  • Take care of yourself. Taking care of your physical health can do a lot to minimize stress. As you eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly, your body will be more prepared to cope with whatever demands you’re facing.
  • Seek support. Instead of burying your feelings, find someone to talk to. Seek out help from friends, family, or even a counselor. Sharing your problems with others will really help lighten the load.
  • Simplify. Be willing to take a break when you need to! Adjust expectations of yourself and be willing to say no to things. Know how much you can handle and how much is just too much.

Practice Coping

If ice cream has been your go-to answer to stress, it may take some practice to change your habits. But as you steer clear of STERBs and find healthier ways to cope, you’ll help both yourself and your kids. Practice taking care of yourself, talking with other people, and taking a break as needed.

And as your kids watch you cope with stress in a healthy way, they’ll learn to manage their own stress better too.

Pictures retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/work-stressed-accounts-2005640/.

References

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1. Stressed in America. (2011, January). Monitor on Psychology, 42(1), 60. Retrieved from American Psychological Association website: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america.aspx

2. Petrie, D. (Director). (2000). Miss congeniality [Motion picture]. United States: Warner Bros. Pictures. THESSALONIAN31N. (2016, July 2). Miss Congeniality ice cream scene [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WR0yTY5G5c0

3. 5 things you should know about stress. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health website: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml

4. Stress effects on the body. (n.d.). Retrieved from American Psychological Association website: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-body.aspx

5. Bressert, S. (2016). The Impact of Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-impact-of-stress/

6. 5 things you should know about stress. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health website: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml

7. Bressert, S. (2016). The Impact of Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-impact-of-stress/

8. Friedman, R. (2009, December 4). Tiger uses STERBs — do you? AKA what Tiger Woods and an 85-year-old widow have in common. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/broken-hearts/200912/tiger-uses-sterbs-do-you-aka-what-tiger-woods-and-85-year-old-widow-have

9. Coping with stress. (2015, October 2). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/coping_with_stress_tips.html

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What Parents Should Know about Marijuana

If you are a parent who wants your teenager or child to grow up with a healthy, drug-free life, you are unfortunately in a kind of war zone. Why is it a war zone? Because  there are many adults and teenagers who would promote marijuana and other drug use to young people. To help teens avoid the pitfalls of drugs in their youth, parents must take some pretty bold stands. Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug for teenagers. (2) They are more likely to use marijuana than to use tobacco. (6) Marijuana’s effects lead to immediate and long-term problems of which many teens are unaware.

How Many Teenagers are Using Marijuana?

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Person-Centered Language for Those with Dis(abilities)

Society has come a long way in the treatment of those with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD). In the past, those with I/DD have been seen as “inadequate,” and have been treated poorly, often times placed in institutions. Overtime, society has grown in knowledge of these diagnoses and towards the mindset of inclusion. Still, the need remains for progress towards a perspective that provides the understanding that these individuals have an identity – one that is far beyond their diagnosis. Even if there is not currently someone in you or your child’s life with an Intellectual or Developmental Disability, there could be at some point in the future. This is an opportunity to help your child understand differences in others and how to extend compassion.

Here are some important points to remember when helping your child understand differences in others:

  • They are aware when someone looks or acts differently.
  • They should know that no one is perfect.
  • They should be encouraged to be kind.

Having a Person-Centered approach helps navigate the way in which we can speak to and about these individuals. Person-Centered thinking makes the independent rights and abilities of the person a priority, regardless of their diagnosis. These examples (below) give us an idea of how modern culture addresses the I/DD population and how we can instead speak with words that encourage their identity as a person first.

  • Artwork by autistic man to be on view in Brooklyn Museum for advocacy fundraising efforts.

This sentence displays the independence and capability of the man, while still being labeled with his disability. A Person-Centered approach to making this statement could be saying, “Artwork by a man with autism to be on view in Brooklyn Museum for advocacy fundraising efforts.”

  • The disabled girl had the chance to be a part of her community through the recently opened fully-inclusive playground at the local park.

The Person-Centered approach to making this statement could be, “the girl with a disability had the chance to be a part of her community through the recently opened fully-inclusive playground at the local park.”

The difference between wording in each of these examples is slight, though the Person-Centered mindset behind them is what continues efforts towards inclusion and acceptance of I/DD individuals in society. Ultimately, it is Person-Centered thinking that helps navigate the way we communicate about and with people that have disabilities.

In this topic, the most important message to share with your children is to treat others kindly despite differences you can or cannot see from the outside.

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References

Robert L. Schalock, Ruth A. Luckasson, and Karrie A. Shogren (2007) The Renaming of Mental Retardation: Understanding the Change to the Term Intellectual Disability. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: April 2007, Vol. 45, No. 2, pp. 116-124.

Gjerde P, F: Culture, Power, and Experience: Toward a Person-Centered Cultural Psychology. Human Development 2004;47:138-157. doi: 10.1159/000077987

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Developmental Delays – What You Should Know

We are constantly hearing more about developmental delays in our society. Whether this is because more awareness is being brought to the topic or because there are more cases of individuals with developmental delays, you should know what exactly a developmental delay is and what potential signs are.

Before reading further, acknowledge that all children are different and develop at their own pace. Keep in mind that sometimes drawing attention to a newly developed behavior can make it worse. When the pace of a child’s development or their behavior becomes outside of the norm, it may be a good idea to seek a second opinion from your pediatrician or other trusted health professional.

The term “developmental delay” serves as an umbrella for many different conditions. Types of developmental delays along with potential signs are as follows:

Speech, Language, and Hearing

Into the first few months of a child’s life, you should begin to see their personality blossom through expression by making noises or by reacting to the noises that surround them.

  • By 4 months, your child should display a response to loud noises, be babbling, and begin attempting to mimic sounds. Read this article for more information about babbling.
  • By 7 months, your child should display a response to sounds around them in daily life.
  • By 1 year, your child should begin to say their first word. Of course, these are single words like “mama” or “dada.”
  • By 2 years, your child should have a vocabulary of at least 15 words and begin saying two-word phrases.

 Vision

Being able to see faces and objects is important to a child’s development. If signs of vision delays are present, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible so that a child can establish a foundation for learning through seeing shapes and letters, for example.

  • By 3 months, your child should notice hands, follow objects with their eyes, be able to move both of their eyes in all directions, and should not be crossing their eyes frequently.
  • By 6 months, you should not frequently see one or both of your child’s eyes turning in (or out), they should have recurring eye drainage. They should be following objects that are both close and far away (6 feet) with both of their eyes.

Movement

Delays in movement are known as motor skill delays and include both fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills refer to small movements such as using a pencil, pressing buttons on toys, or picking up blocks. Gross motor skills refer to movements on a larger scale such as rolling over, sitting, or walking.

  • By around 4 months, a child should be reaching for and grasping objects, bringing objects to their mouth, supporting their own head, start beginning to roll over, and should press into their feet when placed in a standing-up position on a hard surface.
  • By 7 months, your child should be putting objects into their mouth, be able to roll over in both directions, and sit up independently.
  • By 1 year, a child should be able to crawl and stand with support.
  • By 2 years, children are typically able to walk and should be walking in a heel-to-toe order.

Emotional/social

Establishing a secure attachment with their caregiver is a crucial component to a child’s development. If any of the following signs are not present, contact your doctor.

  • By 3 months, your child should smile at others and acknowledge new faces without displaying emotions of fear.
  • By 7 months, your child should desire closeness with caregivers and show affection. It is a warning sign if they’re unable to be soothed during the night, if they do not smile or laugh, and if they are not responsive to a game of “peek-a-boo.”
  • By 1 year, children should exchange gestures with others such as smiling and waving.

Cognitive

Cognitive delays can often surface through play with a child and are often associated with other developmental delays; for example, a child who does not press a button on a toy could be evaluated for both cognitive and motor delays.

  • By 1 year, a child should look for an item that he/she knows is hidden and should point to pictures and objects.
  • By 2 years, a child should understand basic functions of simple objects like cups and utensils and should understand simple directions.

To Conclude

During the early years of their life, when children are unable to advocate for themselves, their circumstances are chosen for them. Be aware of typical patterns of development and seek help if warning signs are present so that children have every opportunity to grow healthily into their next stage.

Helping Your Child Make Friends

Our brains are hard-wired to develop social relationships, and infants as young as 4 – 6 weeks demonstrate social skills with their smiling and cooing. Research consistently demonstrates the importance of our social relationships, including friendships, in our overall health.

However, the social skills necessary to develop friendships must be learned and reinforced in childhood to assure lifelong skills. This is even more important in today’s environment, filled with social media in which friends are more virtual than real. Below we’ve provided some practical information for parents on helping children develop and maintain healthy friendships.

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Approaching the New Year: Handling change

This time of year brings about a great deal of change, even if it is as simple as change in routine. Children are home for Winter break and are setting back into normalcy following the holiday season. If there was a loss in the family over the last year, the holidays are a time when their absence is emphasized. On the other hand, the holidays are also a time when children are around many family members. This could be something they are not accustomed to. It is important to know that these familial situations impact children, too. Then, soon enough, they will be preparing to return to school, changing their pace once again. Parents should know how these shifts affect a child as their response to this change can be represented by challenging behaviors. As we dismiss the holiday season and merge into the new year, consider the following topics dealing with children and handling change.

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The Holidays: A Time to Nourish Healthy Eating Habits

Food brings people together, creates an atmosphere of comfort as the smells of a favorite meal waft through the air, and supports family traditions as recipes are handed down year after year. While the holidays are often a time to indulge, they can provide parents with a unique opportunity to teach their children healthy eating habits. Here are some helpful tips to remember as we enter a season of holidays and celebration:

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