Blog Posts

Protecting the Child, Preserving the Family, and Honoring Life

Welcome to the Blog page of the American College of Pediatricians, which we call Scribit Veritas.  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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Children’s Mental Health

When it comes to mental health, children are often not at the forefront of the conversation. There are many reasons this is true. For example, children have not yet mastered coping strategies, so when they are expressing how they feel, they can sometimes exaggerate and over-dramatize. To an extent, this is true, but does not mean that a child’s responses and behaviors should not be addressed with utmost thoughtfulness. As a parent, it is important to know what certain behaviors could be indicating and the impact on children whose mental health has not been managed well.

Common mental health disorders include anxiety, depression, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

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Teaching Children To Wash Their Hands

Hand-washing is one of the simplest and least expensive ways to prevent illness and the spread of infections.

It is crucially important for children to wash their hands during every season of the year, but especially when the common cold, flu, and other viruses are being passed around more frequently in the environment. Flu activity increases beginning in October and usually peaks between the months of December through February.

It’s a good idea to teach children fun ways that encourage them to wash their hands so that they can create a habit of hand-washing early, having established the habit already once they are older. Children should also be taught times when it is especially important to wash their hands and know the hand washing procedures that best benefit one’s health.

Peak times when hand-washing is critically important according to the CDC:

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Don’t Let the Media Control the Stage for Teaching Your Children

We are entering an era in which our children may spend more time with the fictional or real people on the TV or tablet than they do with us.

“In 1970, children began watching TV regularly at about 4 years of age, whereas today, children begin interacting with digital media as young as 4 months of age.” By the time children are approaching adolescence, they are viewing various kinds of digital media around 8-10 hours a day on average, often using two or three electronic media devices at once (Radesky, J.).

It is very unlikely that the high amount of media use will go away. It is a fundamental way of interacting and finding entertainment for most children and teens in our society. Children need parents to teach them how to use the media as a tool to achieve positive goals, interactions, and learning.

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Making family meals a priority, and a possibility, again

In Part 1 of Family Dinner (Are family meals worth it?) we learned about different views to family meals.  For the most part we have seen that family meals are still good thing to strive for.  Many of us still have a hard time making it a routine part of the day or week.  Sometimes, it doesn’t even seem like a possibility! To help parents out, here is a list of things to help make family meals a possibility again.   

5 Ways to Bring Back Family Meals

1) Change your mentality about family meals: For some, dinner can be extremely stressful.  If this happens to you, stop and look around. Think to yourself, “What would make family meals good for MY family?”  For many families, this is the ONLY time to be able to talk as a family (2).  If you think negatively about family dinner, chances are that’s exactly how it will turn out. Keep the dinner table a positive place.  If we keep a positive mindset, problems can become opportunities.

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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.

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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:

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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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