April 17, 2013

The Boston Tragedy: How to Talk to Kids When Bad Things Happen

In light of the recent Boston tragedies, I feel that it is important that we help our kids process hard information. Often we focus on praying for the victims, talking about what the next move for the government should be and we forget that little eyes are watching and ears are hearing. As disturbing as the Boston chaos has been for us, it can be worse for our children. SO we can’t let them get lost in the shuffle. To that end, I wanted to encourage you parents to reach out to your kids and help them through this difficult time.

If your kids are in elementary school, I suggest doing the following:

  1. Initiate conversation. Don’t wait until they come to you. Kids are listening to the television and to their friends talking so they are thinking about the bombings. Initiating discussion won’t put ideas or fears in their minds, talking them through will help alleviate their fears.
  2. Use simple language. When telling them about the tragedies, you can say that someone who is very disturbed set bombs off on innocent people. Don’t tell gory details but say that people were hurt and many are in the hospital.
  3. Talk about good and bad. It’s good to tell kids that there is evil in the world and people who do very bad things. You can’t sugar-coat this. However, tell them that there are far more good people. Talk to them about all of the thousands of folks who ran to help the victims and the others who opened their homes to house those who were stranded.
  4. Give them something to do. I always tell my kids to pray for those who are in trouble. Even young children need to participate in a solution. Asking them to pray helps them feel that they can make a difference. Also, this helps strengthen their own faith and helps them learn to pray reflexively when life gets tough.
  5. Give them reassurance. Tell your children that the chances of things like this happening to them are extremely small. That’s the truth. Children may have nightmares and worry about someone coming to your home and setting a bomb. SO, tell them that your job as Mom and Dad is to protect them and that you feel very confident in your abilities to do your job well. Finally, it’s important to tell them that God sees everything and He will help them. If they question why God didn’t help the people who died simply state that you don’t understand.

If your Kids are in Junior High or High school:

  1. Initiate asking about their thoughts. By asking your kids about the bombings, you give them the freedom to express their worries and fears. All kids get scared- even the tough ones and worry about something like this happening to them. So take the initiative to talk about the events and work hard a t listening. If your kids don’t want to talk at first, don’t push; just reopen the conversation a few days later with something like “What are your friends saying about the Boston tragedy?”
  2. Broaden the scope of the conversation. When talking about violent people, make sure to discuss reasons why people commit violence. You can talk about mental illness, evil or different religious convictions people may have. Then, discuss that most people don’t do this. Talk about those who helped the victims and the kindness of others. If they want answers as to why bad things like this happen, tell them that you don’t understand. Don’t feel the need to be able to explain such violence.
  3. Give them something to do. As with younger children, it is important to give kids a way to help. Encourage them to pray, send letters of support or join with others who are already offering assistance. It is important that older kids feel connected in some way if they want to.
  4. Help allay fears. Many older kids become frightened that the world is growing more violent and they become very down about it. While random violence is increasing, it is important to continue to give kids hope. It is helpful to tell them that the chances of this type of violence striking them is still small but that coming together as a community is important in trying to solve these issues.
  5. Don’t Preach. As tempting as it is to begin telling our kids why bad things happen from a spiritual or political standpoint, on the heels of a tragedy, the best thing to do is simply diffuse anxiety. You can always talk about your beliefs about spiritual or political issues as they relate to the tragedy later and this will help your kids listen more. If you do this too quickly, they will tune you out.

April 11, 2013

Who Wants to Care for Melissa Harris-Perry’s Children? Apparently They Don’t Belong to Her

I don’t really know if MSNBC commentator Melissa Harris Perry has kids, but if she does, they might feel confused. The outspoken Perry recently told viewers that children should not be “privatized” rather, she states, children belong “to the community.” Huh?

First of all, children are not commodities or organizations to be made private or public so this notion is absurd from the outset. Secondly, I think that she’s misstating what she really means to assert: that children should be cared for less by their parents and more by the government. That would have been more accurate but would not have sat as well with listeners. After all, assuming full responsibility of ones offspring is one of the most primitive and fundamental instincts of human beings. Mothers are protective, nurturing, and tuned into providing everything from nourishment to love for their children. To state that someone other than a mother (or father) can compete with these instincts is ridiculous.

But I get what Ms. Perry wants. She wants the government to assume care for our children because she and her ilk don’t believe that parents are doing a good enough job. Consider the recent Federal Court decision to release age restrictions on kids who can buy Plan B. Here is a perfect example of the government “caring” for kids because their parents are too ignorant, mean or unaccepting of teen behavior. In this case, I can tell you as a pediatrician who has cared for many sexually active teens over the years, this decision is just plain bad medicine and furthermore, when a child is 13, avoiding pregnancy is just the beginning of her problems if she needs Plan B. Who will care for her mental state, infections she will likely get or the emotional upheaval of having sexual partners (who, statistically will probably be much older than she is?)

Ms Perry’s statement is one more pitch to have the government get on parents’ way, And this makes me mad0 both as a mother and a pediatrician. Research shows unequivocally that parents are the most powerful influence in a child’s life when it comes to keeping them out of trouble and helping them succeed. Does she not read the research?

I encourage you parents who want to keep control over the decisions made about your kids to stay on guard. When the government threatens to wedge its influence between you and your kids, don’t allow it. Make you voice heard and make it loud.

P.S. - If you haven't you seen the recent ad from Melissa Harris-Perry of MSNBC News click here. It’s made its rounds through social media, drawing criticism from parents and others.

April 9, 2013

My 7-year-old Is Wetting the Bed Again

I recently heard from a mother who has a seven-year-old son who is having issues with bedwetting. She says that her son potty trained at three and wore Pull-ups® at night until he was about five. Finally, he was dry all night long for two years. Then, out of the blue, he started wetting the bed. She is wondering if this is normal or if she should take her son to the pediatrician.

Most parents know that boys take longer to potty train than girls. The average age for daytime dryness for boys is three years old. That means there are some boys who are 2 ½ years old and others who are 3 ½ years old who are still working on using the toilet. The process can be painfully slow for parents but it is important to be patient because boys don’t have control over their bladders until they are older.

Most boys don’t stay dry all night long until they are closer to 4 years old. This mother’s son was within the normal range for nighttime dryness. Once boys stay dry at night, they usually don’t regress. Her son, however, did regress and she wants to know what’s up.

Enuresis is the term used for wetting. Children can have daytime enuresis or nighttime enuresis, and the causes can be different. When a child never stays dry during the day or night, he has primary enuresis. This is quite common. In fact, 16% of five-year-olds, 13% of six-year-olds and 5% of ten-year-olds have primary enuresis.

If, however, a child potty trains completely and stays dry for a period of time and then begins wetting again, he has secondary enuresis, as this mother’s son had.

Many different things can cause secondary enuresis and below are some of the most common:

Urinary tract infection – It is important to go to the doctor and get a urinalysis on your child to see if there is any sign of infection.

Overactive bladder – Often enuresis is caused by a bladder muscle which is overactive. There are exercises and medication that can help with this.

Constipation – Often children who have chronic constipation will get urinary tract infections and this will cause daytime or nighttime wetting

Disturbed sleep – If children have poor sleep quality (sleep apnea, snoring, etc.), they can experience enuresis.

Underlying medical problems like thyroid disease, diabetes or sickle cell disease. These are problems that your physician would detect.

Neurological injury – If a child has had an injury to the nervous system, this can cause enuresis.

Trauma – If a child has been traumatized by abuse (particularly sexual abuse) enuresis can occur.

If a child has been dry for a long period and then begins wetting, it is important to take him to the pediatrician for a thorough physical exam and preliminary evaluation for other problems. Once the cause has been found, it can be adequately treated. Sometimes, however, no cause is found and the child simply needs help retraining.

April 3, 2013

Victoria’s Secret Wants Your Little Girl

Victoria’s Secret’s latest ad campaign, “Bright, Young Things,” features lacy, colorful thongs with words like “Wild,” “Feeling Lucky?’ and “Call me” written on them. Despite the company’s insistence that this campaign is not aimed at young girls, parents of pre-teens are outraged, believing these sexual messages are indeed targeting their daughters.

I hope that you find this as offensive as I do. If you don’t, read on.

Marketing cigarettes, alcohol, and sex to our kids has been a source of concern for the American Academy of Pediatrics for years because numerous studies show that advertising changes a teen’s behavior. If you make cigarettes look sexy, kids buy them and smoke them. That’s why we killed Joe Camel, remember? If you market seductive underwear to little girls, they are at higher risk for starting sexual activity. Period.

Research shows that if a girl begins having sex before she is 16 years old, the number of sexual partners she has over her lifetime increases dramatically. And when a girl has more partners, she is at risk for contracting one or two of more than 30 sexually transmitted infections, like HPV, which causes cervical cancer.

In fact, in March 2004, a Congressional Hearing was held regarding prevention of cervical cancer in girls because then head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Julie Gerberding, publicly stated that the best way to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer in women was to do two things:

1. reduce the number of lifetime sexual partners, and
2. help a young girl delay her sexual debut as long as possible.

Consider this irony: we immunize girls as young as 10 years old against the cancer-causing HPV while letting them buy underwear, which can put them at higher risk for getting it. Can you imagine if we immunized kids against lung cancer but allowed them to buy clothing with cigarette references on them? There would be public outrage.

Encouraging young girls to be “sexy” can lead to devastating physical health problems, but it does more: it can lead to psychological and emotional harm. First, data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health shows that when a girls starts having sex at a young age she is more likely to become depressed. Currently, a staggering 20% of teens report a lifetime of depression before finishing adolescence. We parents and physicians need to be doing everything in our power to drive these numbers down and not allow the numbers to rise. If selling sex to young girls can contribute to their becoming one of the 20%, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to speak up.

Second, when advertisers sell our daughters sex, they encourage them to believe that their identity equals their sexuality. But not even a healthy sexuality; rather a cheap one where girls are reduced to sexy playthings.

We want our girls to believe that their identity stems from their character, their uniqueness (not sameness), and their intellectual or physical achievements.

In a passionate letter to Victoria’s Secret, a father by the name of Mr. Dolive wrote about his feelings. I encourage you to read the entire letter. He said:

“As a dad, this [the words on underwear for young girls] makes me sick. I believe that this sends the wrong message to not only my daughter but to all young girls.
 I don’t want my daughter to ever think that her self-worth and acceptance by others is based on the choice of her undergarments. I don’t want my daughter to ever think that to be popular or even attractive she has to have emblazon words on her bottom.

I want my daughter (and every girl) to be faced with tough decisions in her formative years of adolescence. Decisions like should I be a doctor or a lawyer? Should I take calculus as a junior or a senior? Do I want to go to Texas A&M or University of Texas or some Ivy League School? Should I raise awareness for slave trafficking or lack of water in developing nations? There are many, many more questions that all young women should be asking themselves … not will a boy (or girl) like me if I wear a “call me” thong?”

Bravo, Mr. Dolive. You are speaking for not only hundreds of thousands of parents, but also for the young girls themselves. They want to know that they are more than sexual objects and that their value comes from being strong young women, not sexy playthings for boys.

So let Victoria’s Secret hear from you mothers and fathers. Selling sexy lingerie to adult women may be fair game, but selling it to our little girls isn’t.