Archive for the ‘
Questions ’ Category
Friday, December 6th, 2013
As we mark the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, it is a salient time to consider the substantial public health challenges that were raised by that tragedy – and that still remain. Three are most prominent.
School safety is an ever-present concern. Although no school can eliminate the potential for a tragedy, strides are being made at many schools across the country to put into place practices and technologies to keep children as safe as possible. It has been suggested that 90% of school systems have made some type of concrete change to improve school safety in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy. Lock down drills have become a reality for children, practiced with the regularity and acceptance of a fire drill. Teachers and administrators are trained to know how to react in the event of an attack and how to best try to secure the safety of their students.
Some schools have video surveillance systems in place that are monitored for potentially suspicious activity. Schools may have changed their policies concerning entry at different times of the day. And at some schools there is a police presence or security guards in place. Yet these types of changes will undoubtedly need to be evaluated, and potentially evolve over time. It does appear, however, that that sad and startling day at Sandy Hook Elementary promoted a nearly universal awareness that no school can be assumed to be safe – and that every school needs to take a comprehensive approach to trying to best ensure their students’ safety.
Gun control – always a polarizing topic – remains a hotly contested issue in the aftermath of Sandy Hook. There have been some actions to promote gun control in some states, and some reactions to ensure gun owner’s rights in other states. As the swinging pendulum of gun control plays out across the country – evidenced by the current swirl of debate surrounding how access to firearms should be regulated – what remains most clear is that we are no where close to coming up with a focused effort to reduce the likelihood of someone with a gun entering a school and killing children and adults. Most influential – and sobering and inspiring – has been the efforts of Sandy Hook parents to promote a ‘cultural change campaign’ to properly orient our attention on violence prevention, particularly gun violence aimed at our children. It is hoped that this effort will inspire a change in our collective mindset that will do away with the philosophical rhetoric about the pros and cons of gun control and gun rights and focus instead on ways to prevent gun violence from permeating our schools.
Mental health remains another core public health issue that has been illuminated by the Sandy Hook massacre. We have yet to get a good handle – at the most public level – on the burdens faced by those with mental illness, the importance of properly recognizing and treating those who suffer, and the myths and realities about the risk posed to society by some individuals. What can be stated with confidence is that despite the substantial progress made over the last few decades in the identification and treatment of mental illness, we simply need much more support for research and intervention.
This unfortunately comes at a time when our national finances are such that research funding has been cut dramatically over the last few years. We just witnessed a government shutdown that kept scientists away from doing their work. Deciphering the inner workings of the brain, the effects of genes on development, and the impact of a multitude of environmental factors that convey risk for mental illness is a task of extraordinary complexity. Bringing sustainable, evidence-based interventions to those in the population who need them is a daunting undertaking. Until we grasp how important this effort is, and embrace how much financial support it will take, we may find ourselves wondering and debating if a future shooting could have been prevented via advances in knowledge and practice.
Although these three public health challenges remain, it is good to know that they are at least not being dismissed or are fading away. We may eventually look back on that horrific day at Sandy Hook Elementary as a turning point and catalyst for making real and sustainable progress in our efforts to keep children safe in school.
More on Sandy Hook
Sandy Hook via Shutterstock.com
Add a Comment
Joe Biden Answers Your Gun Safety Questions
Gun Control, Health, Kids Health, Mental Health, public health, Sandy Hook Anniversary, Sandy Hook Shooting, School Safety | Categories:
Behavior, Health, Must Read, Parenting, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting, Stories
Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
The debate circulates periodically in the parenting world – is it better to be an only child, or to grow up with siblings? Research findings will be cherry picked to support whatever position is endorsed. Personal experience will be cited. But as someone who has observed families – lots of families, all across the country – in many settings (research and clinical), I have a very simple answer to the question of which is better:
Now, of course there are plenty of unique features to being an only child, or being a sibling. But there is so much variation out there it seems absurd to me to claim that, structurally, being an only child versus having siblings is inherently preferable. And I’m not inclined to be swayed by trends in certain studies that point to small statistical effects. Only children are not “spoiled” unless a parent spoils them. There are plenty of “spoiled” children who have siblings. Growing up with a sibling can set a platform for the most intimate and long-lasting relationship a person may have. Then again, there are siblings who can’t stand each other. Some kids who don’t have siblings wish they did – and others grow up fine without one. Come up with any scenario and you can find someone who fits the profile – and someone who doesn’t.
Let’s face it, what really mattes is how a child is brought up – whether there is only one, or more than one, child in a household.
Raising an only child has unique demands. Raising more than one child does as well. But in either case, there’s either good parenting, or not so good parenting – or put another way, a healthy family climate or one that is problematic. That’s the big effect you will see in the data that will tell you plenty about a child – and what kind of person they become.
Plus: Are you ready for another child? Take our quiz and find out!
Sesame Street Lessons: Brothers and Sisters
Debate via Shutterstock.com
Add a Comment
Health, Kids Health, Only Child, Parenting, Siblings, Singletons | Categories:
Behavior, Health, Must Read, Parenting, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting, Relationships
Monday, October 28th, 2013
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued new guidelines on kids’ screen time – some of which will become incorporated in the well-child visit with a pediatrician. Here’s a breakdown of the key things to know:
Why Issue New Guidelines Now? It’s been over a decade since the AAP issued formal guidelines – so the current “2-hour” limit on screen time is quite dated. As noted in the AAP report, media use is a “dominant” force in kids lives. School-age kids may be spending 8 or more hours looking at a screen – teens might spend close to 11 hours a day. Some of this is productive time, some of it should be avoided. Thus, new guidelines are offered to help parents regulate screen time and give their kids a platform for making good choices to use screen time wisely.
What Are The Two Key Issues For Parents? Pediatricians will be counseled to ask parents two questions during well visits:
- How much recreational screen time does your child or teenager consume daily?
- Is there a television set or Internet-connected device in the child’s bedroom?
Let’s start with “recreational screen time.” It’s acknowledged that kids now use screen time for a variety of purposes – including educational ones. So rather than have an arbitrary number of total “screen time” hours as a guideline, the purpose here is to regulate and limit recreational time. Here the less than 2 hour rule will apply, which is more than reasonable. Kids need to spend time doing other things – like moving their bodies. Trying to cap recreational screen time is realistic and sensible.
The issue of screen time in a kid’s bedroom follows the same principle. Clearly some kids are doing homework in their room and will be using a computer. The point here is to develop some consistent and good practices – especially establishing a rule for turning off the electronics well before bedtime. Using technology is not a good way for kids to unwind and prepare for sleep – and we know that many kids do not get enough sleep. So while having screens in bedrooms – especially with mobile devices – may be common (though not necessarily endorsed), using them right up to bedtime should not be a common practice.
What About Babies? The AAP still does not love the idea of babies staring at screens. Nearly any professional who studies babies will tell you that they need to look at faces, hear voices, and interact with people a lot. This is not going to happen if parents are preoccupied with their mobile device while baby plays with a tablet. So the bottom line is to discourage (not ban) screen time for babies – specifically kids under 2 years of age. It may be added as a corollary that interactive time with baby is more than highly encouraged.
How Do You Make All This Happen? Pediatricians will suggest making a family home use plan for all media, keeping these recommendations in mind. This is a very solid idea, given how much time many of us spend with technology, especially mobile devices that become omnipresent. It will be important to come up with a realistic and enforceable plan for your family and your kids that considers the when and where and how of screen time – including a plan for becoming familiar with and monitoring the content of what your kids are watching. Having some type of plan – and these sensible suggestions to follow – can help parents proactively manage screen time at a time when it is, indeed, “dominant” in our society.
What career will your kiddo have? Take our quiz and find out! Plus, check out our 10 favorite apps for preschoolers.
Baby With Laptop via Shutterstock.com
Add a Comment
American Academy of Pediatrics, babies and technology, Health, iPad, Kids Health, mobile devices, screen time for kids, teens and technology, TV | Categories:
Behavior, Health, Intervention, Must Read, Parenting, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting, Stories
Thursday, September 5th, 2013
Schools in 19 states are calculating each student’s Body Mass Index – BMI – and sending the information to parents. The point, of course, is to inform parents if a child is clinically obese – or getting to that point.
There are a number of opinions about this practice. Elisa Zied has illustrated – in her The Scoop on Food blog – the pros and cons of this approach as a method for combating childhood obesity. We know we need to do something to bring down rates of obesity in kids. But is this approach worth pursuing?
I suggest it isn’t.
The reason is that providing information without suggestions for change is typically not influential. I attended an early childhood summit at the Boston Children’s Museum last spring, and it was clear that public health experts believe that parents need strategies for handling a range of complex issues that face them and their kids rather than facts and figures. Simply telling them that their child is obese, without providing real support and ideas for changing that picture, will probably not do much at all. And some worry it will only encourage poor self-image. Look at it this way. If a child is doing poorly in school, the report card that gets sent him lets the parent know that. But without any information about why the child is doing badly (Is the material too hard? Do they need a different study routine? Is there a possible learning disorder? Are they goofing around in class too much?), and without conversation between the school and parents about the next steps, that information does not typically lead to a solution.
Schools do have the potential to educate and influence parents as well as their kids. Rather than sending home a BMI score like it’s another grade, it would make sense to consider educational programs for parents and kids that take on the causes of obesity. They could share strategic information such as the types and amounts of food kids should be eating – and illustrate the caloric realities of fast food. They could provide suggestions for parents who are struggling to buy healthy foods because of the costs – and give them some real options for changing their kids’ diets. Genetics is part of the cause for some – some kids are just more prone to putting weight on easily – and the reality of that should be discussed. More information about how much exercise kids need – and how they should get it – should be part of the mix.
I’m not saying that schools should do this. But I’m saying that if schools want to play a meaningful role in combating childhood obesity, they will need to do much more than just providing a BMI score.
Body Mass Index via Shutterstock.com
Add a Comment
BMI, Childhood Obesity, Health, Kids Health, schools | Categories:
Behavior, Genetics, Health, Intervention, Must Read, Parenting, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting, Stories
Monday, July 15th, 2013
If your child is a fan of Glee, then you have probably heard of the sad death of actor Cory Monteith. Here are a few tips for talking to your child about his death:
Remember That These Kinds Of Deaths Are Important To Your Child: For tweens and teens, celebrities are important. Kids follow their lives – especially in this age of social media when they have more access than ever to information. They will undoubtedly have emotions (not just sadness but others including anger) stirred up by the death of someone they never met who nonetheless played a role in their life. Be sure to honor and respect that and not be dismissive. Which leads to the next tip …
Think Back To When You Were Young: We all have experienced deaths of celebrities that touched us. Remember how you felt – and the questions you had – when you experienced the death of a public figure. Reflecting on your own experiences will provide a good reminder of what your kid may be feeling and thinking right now.
Start A Conversation: Given that your child is thinking about Monteith’s death – and will continue to hear a lot more about it – it’s important to let them know they can talk to you about it. So just start a conversation – any icebreaker will do. The goal here is not to probe or question or deliver information – it’s just an opening so that they know it’s okay to discuss with you. Let them do the talking and concentrate on listening – find out what’s on their mind. You can even be explicit and say it’s okay to talk more about it whenever they want.
Follow Their Lead: Kids are different. Some will want to talk about it frequently and in detail. Others may just mention something in passing now and then. Some might be emotional, some very calm. Be sensitive to their personalities and do what you do naturally – be supportive and responsive whenever they bring it up.
Be Honest But In An Age Appropriate Way: Monteith’s struggles with addiction are well publicized. You should be ready to have a discussion about addiction and substance use with your kids. Monteith had reported abusing substances in his teen years and your child may be aware of this. You can be respectful of the sadness of his death while, at the same time, discussing honestly the dangers of substance use and abuse, especially in the teen years. Do keep it simple and brief and factual – and anticipate follow-up questions that you will answer in the same style.
Support Your Child’s Efforts To Do Something: Some kids may be motivated to do something. Write a letter, post something online, make a collage. It’s healthy for them to act on their emotions and it’s important to support their efforts. Again bear in mind the first tip – even though they didn’t know Monteith they are still experiencing some type of grief and learning that it’s okay to act on that is a good (if sobering) message.
Be Ready For Deeper Questions: For some kids, the death of someone young, talented and successful can be hard to process. They might have questions about how this could happen. It’s a good time to have a sensitive conversation about how Monteith was as human as anyone else – and how bad things can happen to anyone. Depending on age and personality, some kids might want to talk about death in general – so be ready to have an open conversation on that very big topic (again being a listener first and a talker second).
Cory Monteith via D Free/ Shutterstock.com
Add a Comment
Cory Monteith, Cory Monteith Death, Glee, Health, Kids Health, substance abuse, Talking To Kids | Categories:
Behavior, Health, Must Read, Parenting, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting, Stories