Archive for the ‘ Health ’ Category

You Can Keep Using Your Spray Sunscreen

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Yes, just the other day we said not to use it. And if that precaution makes you feel better, by all means go ahead. But for parents like me, and my college roommate who asked my advice the other day because spray sunscreen is the only kind her son will tolerate, there’s no need to feel bad if you continue to use it. I say this after asking Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., pediatrician, mom, and melanoma survivor, who wrote our most recent story on sun safety. She’s passionate about the topic, so hers is an opinion we especially trust.

There’s no definitive proof yet that it’s harmful (the Consumer Reports story from earlier this week is based on a 2011 announcement by the FDA that it’s studying the effects of spray sunscreen on children; no conclusion has been reached). So ultimately, says Dr. Swanson, it’s a matter of risk/benefit: “I still believe the best sunscreen is the one you like, as data shows you’ll use it more. And really, the best sunscreen is the one put on early and reapplied often. But we need to take new evidence and information seriously. So if you plan to continue to use spray sunscreens, mitigate risks.” Here are Dr. Swanson’s three tips on how to do that:

1. Spray it only outside

2. Only use it away from the face

3. Have kids close their eyes and mouth and hold their breath while spraying it

Photo: Small boy crawling towards water at the beach via Shutterstock.

How to Apply Sunscreen to Your Baby
How to Apply Sunscreen to Your Baby
How to Apply Sunscreen to Your Baby

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University Recruits 9-Year-Old Basketball Prodigy, But Is It Appropriate?!

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Kids Playing SportsI grew up playing soccer and basketball. I wasn’t any good, though. I was lucky to get my own coach to notice me, so I definitely wasn’t thinking about college recruiters. Well, a 9-year-old girl in Florida is the complete opposite of me.

Jaden Newman of Orlando became the youngest basketball player ever to be recruited by a Division I women’s basketball program when the University of Miami sent her an official recruitment letter back in April. The 4-foot 7-inch phenom has been making a name for herself while dominating the court against boys three years older than her. Her skills have landed her on TV shows including Good Morning America and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

And Jaden isn’t alone. More and more, news stories have emerged of college programs going after young athletes before they even start high school. The New York Times profiled a 14-year-old soccer player who already committed to playing at the University of Texas. Then 8th-grader Dylan Moses landed the cover of ESPN The Magazine after receiving scholarship offers from many of the top NCAA football programs in the country. Jaden’s 12-year-old brother, Julian, has also made a few headlines of his own.

But, is 9 years old too young for colleges to contact potential players?

While the gut reaction may be, “Of course!”, I’m in favor of the early recruitment. I understand the arguments “Let kids be kids” and “They don’t need the extra pressure,” but I believe the attention offers encouragement more than pressure.

My older brother grew up playing baseball, and unlike me, he was pretty good. I remember going to games and hearing chatter of how professional scouts took notice of him as early as middle school. The encouragement that he could possibly have a future in the sport he loved made him work harder. And that was because HE loved it, not my parents and not his coaches. He was the one who wanted to pursue baseball.

Of course, like many things in life, responsibility falls on parents and coaches not to create extra pressure on young athletes. Kids should play sports because they love it, not to meet expectations. And if kids are growing up with goals of going to college (and not goals of just becoming rich and famous), please, let children get excited about scholarship offers — especially girls. Women athletics don’t get the same amount of money, sponsorships, press coverage, respect, and attention as men’s sports, so if the goal of earning a college scholarship encourages more girls to participate, is it a bad thing?

I absolutely believe that there should be strict guidelines about the frequency and the ways that colleges reach out to young athletes, but to me, being recruited is not about creating extra pressure if kids show early interest in sports. It’s about creating a goal, a goal that could lead kids to an amazing opportunity. Now, parents, coaches, and universities need to make sure they’re doing their part to ensure young athletes can maintain their passion for the sport without feeling the added pressure, too.

Tell us: Do you think there should be an age limit on universities contacting future athletes?

How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer

What career will your child have? Take our quiz to find out!

Image: Image of happy friends on the grass with balls looking at camera via Shutterstock

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Stop Summer Slide

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

“School’s out for summer.” I used to play that Alice Cooper song for my son on the last day of classes (the Muppets version) as a celebration of his 10-week break from homework (and pencils, books, and teacher’s dirty looks). But as it turns out, I probably shouldn’t have been hailing his educational break. The National Summer Learning Association says that students lose about two months worth of skills in mathematics during the lazy days of summer. And as we reported, kids of all ages score lower on the same standardized reading, spelling, and math tests in September than they do at the end of the previous year in school.

The reason for this “summer slide,” a.k.a. “brain drain” or “summer slump,” is obvious: Kids—and, to an extent, parents—tend to view July and August as a break from learning, a time to enjoy the beach and the pool and recharge. R&R is all fine and good. The real problem is that many children wile away the days watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the Web. Kids spend three hours in front of a screen for every hour they crack a book during the summer—and more time than they spend outdoors. According to a new survey from the nonprofit kid’s literacy group Reading is Fundamental, only 17 percent of parents say reading is a top summer priority for their kids, and 60 percent don’t worry about their child losing reading skills during this time.

Actually, you really shouldn’t worry, because it’s easy to do something about it. A nonprofit organization called TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment) offers lots of screen-free ideas to inspire your family to play and learn together. Try incorporating some of these fun, mind-building activities into your kids’ break. Also consider downloading these educational apps, which at least turn screen time into learning time. And check out ideas here and here, along with a video chat with Soleil Moon Frye (the former star of “Blossom”) about how to stop summer slide.

I don’t pretend to have any magical suggestions for preventing this phenomenon. I worry about my kids and their tendency to gravitate toward watching sports events and Disney shows. To minimize this, we encourage reading and writing for pleasure, try to get them out of the house as much as possible, and look for teachable moments in leisure-time settings, such as digging for hermit crabs at the beach and calculating batting averages and ERAs at baseball games. Granted, these are no substitute for cracking the books, but at least they should leave our children be better prepared when their teachers see them in September.


Back to School: Handling Worries
Back to School: Handling Worries
Back to School: Handling Worries


Two little girls with magnifying glass outdoors in the daytime via ShutterStock

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What Would You Do To Improve Your Child’s Life?

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Today I spoke with Tim Freeman, father to 5-year-old Eleanor (both at right). When she was 2 1/2 years old, she was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome, a genetic neurological disorder that leads to severe disabilities. It affects girls almost exclusively, and is particularly devastating because they often start out developing normally for the first year or so, and then begin to regress to the point where they can no longer walk or talk. My cousin Nora was diagnosed with Rett more than 30 years ago; she has never spoken, she’s been confined to a wheelchair since childhood, and her health is very fragile. Many girls and women with Rett Syndrome have severe scoliosis, require a feeding tube, and have frequent seizures. Eleanor doesn’t have any of those impairments, thankfully, and her father says she’s happy and even comfortable in her own skin, though she doesn’t walk or talk.

Just over a year ago, Tim made a career change, and took a job as program director for the Rett Syndrome Research Trust. This nonprofit has one focus: to fund research that will identify a cure for Rett, and until then, effective treatments. Launched in 2008 by executive director Monica Coenraads, mother of a now 17-year-old daughter with Rett, RSRT has already committed $20 million to research. Of all the money raised, an impressive 96 percent goes directly to research. If you’re inclined, there are many ways to support the work of the RSRT, including by donating money directly, attending one of the many fundraisers taking place nationwide, or even by ensuring that a percentage of your online purchases are donated to the nonprofit.

Tim says that there is “great promise” for Rett’s future. “It can be cured,” he explained. “It’s not going to happen next year, or maybe in five years, but it could happen in the next decade.” Among the most exciting findings about Rett is that it has been reversed in mice. “There’s a long road between reversing it in mice and reversing it in humans,” he conceded, but what’s especially important is that the age of the mice didn’t matter. So expanding upon this research is as crucial for a child like Eleanor as it is for a grown woman like my cousin. It practically takes my breath away to imagine what it would be like to get to really know Nora after all this time.

I asked Tim what it’s like to work for RSRT, given how connected he is to the cause. His response was simple and poignant: “Every moment of every day I’m trying to change my kid’s life. It’s a lot of work, but it doesn’t feel like a job. My daughter struggles every day, and I’d do anything, I’d give away pretty much anything, to improve her life.”

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Yes, Margaret, Fathers Do Matter

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said, “A father is a biological necessity but a social accident.” In effect, she meant to suggest that dads are irrelevant in a child’s life (beyond conception, of course). That likely was never true, but it is an even greater fallacy today.

A new report by the Pew Research Center indicates that there are 2 million stay-at-home dads in this country (some father groups estimate the number would be closer to 7 million if it included caregiver dads who work part-time out of the home). And a growing number of them do so by choice rather than by economic necessity.

Whatever the case, men are more involved and more accepted as caregivers than ever. A new book by Paul Raeburn, Do Fathers Matter: What Science is Telling Us About The Parent We’ve Overlooked, analyzes research showing that dads have a profound influence on their kids—socially, developmentally, economically, psychologically. They are role models and companions, and their positive presence is a big plus for kids. Here’s some of what we know now:

• Men use bigger words and longer sentences around babies than moms, which may help boost their language development.
• Dads’ tendency to let kids figure things out for themselves helps them become better problem-solvers.
• A father’s early involvement with his daughter leads to a reduced risk of early puberty and teen pregnancy. Higher math scores, too.
• Healthy interaction with dad helps a child forge strong, fulfilling relationships later in life.
• Kids who feel close to their fathers are twice as likely to go to college or get a steady job after high school.
• Kids with nurturing, involved fathers develop stronger social skills, are better at sharing, and make friends more easily.
• The more physical, exciting play style of dads—playing tag, wrestling—helps teach kids emotional self-control.

Although the research on this subject is still in its infancy, it’s clear that dads aren’t merely relevant but essential to their kids. I know. I’ve seen the impact my actions—both good and bad—have had on my two kids. On balance, I’d like to believe my daily involvement, engagement, and influence have had a positive impact on their development. And I know for certain the great joy, wonder, purpose, and fulfillment that they’ve brought to my life.

I’ll bet a lot of guys feel the same way. So does our magazine. That’s why our June issue featured a dedicated section for dads only. It explores the challenges modern fathers face in trying to juggle work and family (sound familiar, moms?). A humorous chart shows how guys evolve from denial to acceptance during the early years of fatherhood. We chronicle 12 skills kids learn best from dad, from telling a joke to throwing a baseball (also check out All-Star Adam Wainwright’s pitching 101 video). And one dad’s list of the 17 things he’ll miss most when his kids gets big is touching—and something that, a decade or two ago, would far more likely have been written by a mom.

So as Father’s Day approaches, let’s hear it for the dads. We may still be praised (and, in some cases, expect praise) for doing the same caregiving tasks moms are expected to perform, and we may never get to a point where the work of parenting is shared 50-50. But dad, you’ve come a long way, baby.

Find out more about new research on fatherhood from Paul Raeburn. Learn why involved dads are important and what happens when men become fathers

Kids Talk about Loving their Daddy
Kids Talk about Loving their Daddy
Kids Talk about Loving their Daddy

Father’s love photo via Shutterstock

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