Are You a Drama Mama? Know When to Back Off

Your child has a fight with a friend. She’s in tears; you’re furious and ready to defend her. But should you? In this age of helicopter parenting, it’s hard not to step in when you see your child in a social dilemma. But that’s not always the answer.

“In recent years, I’ve seen a trend of mothers confronting other mothers – by phone or email, or in person – to resolve their kids’ social issues; I call it ‘Mama Drama,’” says Joyce Marter, a psychotherapist and the owner of Urban Balance LLC in Chicago. “It’s problematic on several levels: It not only crosses boundaries, but also prevents kids from developing coping skills and learning that it’s not a perfect world where everybody always gets along and gets included.”

Laurie Zelinger, a child psychologist and the author of Please Explain Anxiety to Me! Simple Biology and Solutions for Children and Parents, agrees. “Social slights occur and recur throughout life,” she says. “You lived through them, so your child deserves the opportunity to live through them too.”

Here are some common kid dramas your child may face, and how to help her survive them – without being a drama mama.

Drama: Your second-grader is hurt because she didn’t get invited to a classmate’s birthday party.

Solution: Don’t call the birthday child’s mom and demand an invite for your child. Not only is this rude, but it also puts the mom in an awkward position if she has limited space or money for the party.

Instead, help your child deal with her disappointment by sharing your own sadness about times when you were left out of parties or clubs. Remind her that she didn’t invite the entire class to her last birthday party, and, if the classmate isn’t a close friend of hers, point that out. Finally, suggest a get-together with her true pals. “The real problem might be that she needs more social interaction,” says Marter.

Drama: Your son complains that no one plays with him at recess.

Solution: Talk to your child about being excluded, and make supportive statements – “I bet you never expected that to happen” – to validate his feelings. “If you ask too many questions, you’ll sound like a detective and put him on the defensive,” cautions Fred Zelinger, a child and family psychologist in Cedarhurst, N.Y. “You’ll end up getting less information than you would in a normal parent-child conversation, where he tells you something and you respond with a comment.”

Call or email his teacher, explain the situation and ask if she’s noticed anything that might be causing the problem. Maybe your child is being left out because he doesn’t play fair or gloats too much when he wins. “You can’t force other kids to play with him at recess, but you can coach him on his behavior and how to engage a different group of kids,” says Marter. “Urge him to be assertive and say things like, ‘I want to play this game too.’”

Drama: Your 10-year-old is on the outs with her BFF — whose mom just happens to be a good friend of yours.

Solution: Since you’re close with the other mother, it’s OK for both of you to help the girls resolve their differences, according to Marter. First, ask your daughter what caused the rift, keeping in mind that she’s telling only one side of the story. Be supportive – “It hurts when your friend is mad at you, doesn’t it?” – and suggest she try a heart-to-heart to end the fight.

From there, discuss the issue with your friend – without placing blame on anyone: “It’s hard to watch our girls go through this. It’s probably just a misunderstanding. Let’s get them to sit down and work it out.” Says Marter: “Give your child the tools she needs to have an effective conversation with her friend, but don’t have the conversation for her.”

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 02-17-2014 to 02-23-2014

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:
College football recruiter says scholarship offer was nixed because of athlete’s Twitter posts Parents please share this with your kids!

His House Burned: Now He’s Trying to Keep Your Family Safe

Junk Drawer batteryOn April 21, 2011 Dave Miller survived an extraordinary and terribly painful experience – he watched as his house burned down. The cause – something he never would have suspected: his old 9-volt batteries.

Ironically the fire was the unintentional result of an act he (like many of us) performed regularly to keep his family safe: every Daylight Savings Time he replaced the batteries in his smoke detectors. According to Dave, after installing the new batteries, he had placed the old 9-volt batteries in a paper bag to take to recycling and stored them in the garage. That is where the blaze began.

Here is Dave’s story…

According to the official fire report, the loose batteries came together and shorted. Unfortunately, with 9-volt batteries it doesn’t take much – especially since the positive and negative terminals are located on the same side and so close together. For those of you that read this and wonder how is this possible (like I have to admit I did upon first reading this), according to an advisory issued by New Hampshire’s Fire Marshall, and echoed by firefighters and insurance adjusters around the country, the danger is in fact, very real. Junk drawers are an especially volatile environment.

According to Grandview, MO, Fire Department Chief Chuck Thacker a 9-volt battery can easily spark and fuel a fire, especially in the inviting environment of a household junk drawer. “There’s all the other stuff; car keys, whatever else in there,” he said. “If the conditions get right, you touch something against the two contacts, then you could have a heating event.” The chief said it only takes one metallic object; something like a paper clip, key or bit of steel wool touching the battery’s posts to fuel a fire.

For Dave Miller, batteries in a paper bag that got bumped by a laundry bin resulted in a house that burned down. And a message that he is on a mission to pass on to other families:

There’s only one safe way to dispose of a 9-volt battery. Place a piece of electrical tape over the terminals so that they’re completely covered. What takes a few moments could save your home, or your family’s lives.

Other key fire safety messages he hopes you will share with your family are posted on his website:

  • Get out and stay out – this is your number one goal in a fire!
  • Every second matters. Don’t waste time gathering belongings – they aren’t worth your life.
  • Make sure every exit is clear.
  • Know two ways out of every room.
  • Fire extinguishers are tools for escape only. If a fire is larger than a small trash can, a fire extinguisher won’t put it out.

One final thought:

…on its packaging, battery company Energizer suggests that travelers cover battery terminals with insulated tape.

…on that note, I think I will be taping all my future batteries before disposal. What about you???

Your Stay Healthy Guide for Common Kid Ailments

Your kids may come home from school this winter with something more worrisome than homework: sniffles, tummy bugs and even (ick!) lice. Now that students are cooped up in overheated classrooms all day, schools can be breeding grounds for any number of ailments.

Sick day TLCYou probably can’t avoid sick days entirely; according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average schoolchild gets 8-12 colds and 1-2 cases of diarrhea in a year, and the Centers for Disease Control reports an estimated 6-12 million head-lice infestations per year among 3-11 year-olds. But there are steps you can take to minimize the risks and keep your whole family healthier, such as washing your hands often, eating right and staying up-to-date on vaccinations. And don’t give in when the kids beg to stay up a little longer: “Getting enough sleep helps your immune system fight off whatever might be coming your way,” advises Rebecca Jaffe, MD, of Wilmington, Delaware, a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

If you want to know about staying healthy, steering clear of the typical list of school yard sicknesses and the best way to treat them, here are the health facts about five common contagions:

Colds and flu

Cause: Viruses.

Symptoms: Stuffy nose, sneezing, mild sore throat and cough for colds; fever, aches, severe cough for flu.

Spread by: Droplets on hands or released into air by coughs or sneezes.

Prevention: Use a tissue to sneeze, cough or blow your nose; discard immediately and wash hands. Teach kids to sneeze into their elbow if there’s no tissue handy. Don’t share cups, water bottles or utensils.

Treatment: Rest and fluids. Give antihistamines and non-aspirin pain medications for colds; antiviral meds for flu if prescribed by your pediatrician. (Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections such as strep throat.)

Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)

Causes: Virus, bacteria or parasites.

Symptoms: Diarrhea, vomiting; may include fever, headache, chills.

Spread by: Contact with infected person or contaminated food or beverages.

Prevention: Frequent hand-washing. Disinfect surfaces your family touches often – doorknobs, keyboards, etc. – as well as the kitchen counter and other areas used for food preparation.

Treatment: Bed rest and an oral rehydration solution to prevent dehydration; gradually give bland foods such as toast, bananas and applesauce. See your pediatrician if your child runs a high fever or if vomiting and diarrhea continues for more than a day. Keep your child home until she’s been symptom-free for 24 hours.

Conjunctivitis (pinkeye)

Causes: Virus, bacteria, allergies.

Symptoms: Reddish eye and lower lid, itching, discharge and painful inflammation.

Spread by: Contact.

Prevention: Wash your child’s hands frequently and warn him not to rub or touch his eyes. Don’t share towels or washcloths.

Treatment: See your pediatrician for a prescription eye ointment.

Infectious skin rashes

Causes: Rashes can be caused by bacteria (impetigo), a virus (fifth disease) or mites (scabies).

Symptoms: Itchy, oozing blisters (impetigo); reddish rash on face and body (fifth); intensely itchy pimple-like rash (scabies).

Spread by: Impetigo and scabies can be spread by touching the infected area or handling the affected child’s towels or clothes; fifth disease is transmitted by saliva and mucus.

Prevention: Frequent hand-washing and use of tissues; avoid sharing towels.

Treatment: Varies by type. For impetigo, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics, antiseptic soap and bandages; for scabies, prescription creams; for fifth disease, acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed.

Head lice

Cause: Red-brown insects about the size of a sesame seed that live and lay whitish eggs (nits) in human hair. Unpleasant as they are, lice don’t spread disease, and having them doesn’t indicate poor hygiene.

Symptoms: Itchy scalp, especially around the ears or nape of the neck.

Spread: Head-to-head contact.

Prevention: Discourage children from sharing hats, combs and other hair gear. Tie back long hair in braids or ponytails.

Treatment: Ask your doctor to recommend an anti-lice shampoo and follow instructions carefully. Use a fine-tooth louse comb daily for a week to remove any remaining bugs and nits. Wash clothes, hats, bedding and stuffed animals in hot water and dry on a high setting. Ask your school nurse when your child can return; some schools have a “no-nit” policy, but the AAP says there’s no need to keep children home if they have no active lice

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 02-10-2014 to 02-16-2014

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:
**MAJOR RECALL ~3.8M Graco child car seats – 11 models from 2009 -2013 – due to buckles that may not unlatch & could trap child

How Can Genetics Impact Your Child’s Oral Health?

Family DNAYour child’s oral health depends on a variety of different factors, including how often he or she brushes and flosses at home, the number of times he or she visits the dentist, and even genetics. Like many other aspects of your health, oral health is affected to a degree by your genes. While a majority of oral health issues are caused by poor habits, there are some oral health problems that can be inherited. As a parent, you have the ability to help your child maintain a healthy smile for a lifetime. By knowing what factors play a role in the health of your child’s mouth, you can take the proper steps to ensure that your child will develop healthy teeth and gums.

One of the most common issues that people know to be passed down from generation to generation are crooked teeth. If you have crooked teeth or had to have braces at some point, there is a good chance that your child will also be born with crooked teeth. Misaligned teeth can also result from having too small a jaw, another feature that is a product of your genetic makeup. A small jaw doesn’t always allow enough room for adult teeth to come in, so they become overcrowded. Fortunately, there are several different orthodontic procedures that can help correct these issues. Children are encouraged to have their teeth checked at a young age (usually by the time the first baby tooth erupts), so these issues can be detected and treated early on. Interceptive orthodontics can be used to treat patients as early as age 5. This can sometimes completely eliminate the need for treatment in the future.

Recent research has also found a genetic link to periodontitis. Periodontitis, also known as gum disease, is a leading cause of early tooth loss. It often occurs in members of the same family, and some forms can develop during childhood. Up to 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible to developing periodontitis. Studies have found that if you as a parent have periodontitis, your child is 12 times more likely to have the same bacteria that leads to gum disease. In addition, those who were born with an immune deficiency are up to 20 times more likely to develop periodontitis.

Another common problem amongst children is cavities. According to Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease amongst children. Over 50% of children ages 5-9 have at least one cavity, and 78% of teenagers around age 17 also have at least one cavity. Similar to the development of gum disease, your child might be prone to cavities because of certain genetic variations.

If any of these oral health issues run in your family, talk to your dentist to find out if your child might be at a higher risk of developing any of these problems. Knowing that these issues might exist in their genetic make-up can make it easier to prevent problems from persisting down the road. There are plenty of preventative measures and treatments that can be done to combat most all types of oral health problems. Schedule regular check-ups, and ask your dentist what you can do at home to help your child maintain healthy teeth and gums.