Teenage Acne: As a Parent, What You Need to Know – Part I

The scourge of adolescence, acne appears in young adults very frequently and is the cause of much concern, anxiety and even behavioral disorders that can lead to forced changes in life style. It has a wide range of presentations from tiny black dots (black heads) to large cystic reddened lesions that can lead to lifelong disfigurement. This article is to explain, at least partially, the cause, course and treatment of this common problem in an effort to ease the pain that your adolescent might go through.

At a certain time in a child’s life, usually between 12 and 16 years of age, there is an outpouring of hormones into the system as puberty begins to show itself. These hormones, along with other bodily changes, cause very small glands in the skin to increase production of a thick gooey material that then tries to make its way through tiny ducts to the skin surface. When it does, this substance becomes oxidized by the oxygen in the air and can turn a dark or black color. It also becomes more thick and tends to further block that duct. This is what is referred to as a “black head”. In this stage it is not infected and if that plug could be removed the thick material might very well ooze out and the “problem” is over.

In a certain amount of cases, however, that plug remains and skin bacteria (everyone has bacteria growing on their skin) get into the duct and begin to grow. As it grows, “pus” is produced and the duct becomes filled with white material replacing the black outer plug. This is now a small pimple or “white head”. If the situation remains unchanged and the bacteria continue to grow this can cause an inflammatory reaction and the skin around the lesion will turn red and become sore. At this point it will usually open and drain by itself. In even a smaller number of cases the pimple can grow quite large (especially if it is manipulated- attempts to “squeeze the pimple”) and cause cystic lesions which, when healed, can leave scars.

The process of pimple formation is not affected by anything your adolescent does, such as eating sweets or fatty foods, and he/she must be made aware of this.

After a certain amount of time, the initial bombardment of hormones decreases in intensity as the body acclimates to its new level of maturation and in most cases the acne spontaneously resolves.

In my next post I will address the treatment options of acne.

This Summer, Help Your Kids Fight the “Common Mold” Allergy

The term “hay fever” brings to mind pollen and ragweed allergies, but mold can be the sneaky culprit behind summer sneezing, sniffling and itchy eyes. “Many allergy sufferers assume their symptoms are caused by pollen, when they’re actually allergic to mold,” says Dr. James L. Sublett, section chief of the pediatric allergy department at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, in Louisville, Ky.

The mold truth: Forty million Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis (aka hay fever), and mold is one of several triggers — especially in summertime. Mold allergy symptoms peak in July and late summer; as humidity rises, the fungi, which flourish in damp, warm conditions, grow on dead grass and leaves, straw and other plants. Once they’ve set up camp in an adequately damp spot, they reproduce by sending spores (or tiny seeds) into the air. Inhaling these particles triggers a reaction in those who are allergic to mold. “Mold spores can deposit on the lining of the nose and cause hay fever symptoms. They also can reach the lungs, which can cause asthma or another serious illness called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis,” says Angel Waldron, spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

So how do you know if you suffer from a mold allergy? Pesky allergy symptoms are a good indicator, but an allergist can confirm the source with a skin test, pricking the skin with extracts of different types of fungi to identify an allergic reaction.

Such medications as antihistamines and decongestants can help ease symptoms from mold. But the only surefire route to relief is avoiding mold both inside and outside your home. Follow these summer tips to allergy-proof your surroundings.

Inside Your Home

Mold is an unwelcome houseguest, and it’s hard to send the fungi packing. It lurks in rooms where humidity levels are high (the basement, kitchen and bathrooms), and it can grow on anything from houseplants to old newspapers. Luckily, our targeted plan of attack will help you get rid of the fungi for good.

Keep It Clean

  • Zap kitchen hot spots. Mold loves to hang out in trash cans, refrigerator door gaskets and drip pans. Use a cleaning product formulated to kill the fungi.
  • Don’t let laundry pile up. Damp laundry (in the machine or out) is the perfect spot for mold to grow.
  • Scrub your shower. Clean your shower with a solution of diluted beach at least once a month.
  • Tidy up the fridge. It may seem obvious, but make sure to throw out old food from your pantry and fridge as soon as it expires.

Clear the Air

  • Get hip to HEPA. Be sure your central heating and air-conditioning is fitted with a high-efficiency particulate accumulator (HEPA) filter. HEPA filters can trap very small particles, including pollen and mold spores, and are sold online and at numerous home improvement stores.
  • Minimize moisture. Use a dehumidifier, especially in damp areas like the basement and the bathroom, suggests Sublett. Don’t forget to empty the water and clean the appliance regularly to prevent creating a breeding ground for mold.
  • Air out the shower. After hot showers and baths, run a fan or open a window. In bathrooms without windows, keep the door open when the room isn’t in use.

Target Mold Zones

  • Bag the shag. Remove carpeting in the basement, laundry room and bathrooms.
  • Clear the walls. Wallpaper can trap mildew in the bathroom; a cheery shade of paint is a better bet. Look for mold- and mildew-resistant paint at the hardware store.
  • Let there be light. Since most mold grows in the dark, install a light on a timer in dark rooms like the basement or closets.
  • Store carefully. Don’t put newspaper, old books, clothes, bedding or other items in damp areas where mold will latch on.
  • Water with care. Mold loves potted soil, so don’t overwater household plants.

Outside Your Home

It’s more of a challenge to eradicate mold outside your home, where it thrives on dead grass, dead leaves, straw and other plants. These five strategies will keep the fungi under control in your great outdoors.

  • Rake and mow. The lawn should be regularly mowed and raked. It’s best to have someone else do the dirty work if you’re allergic; otherwise, wear a face mask when you’re cutting the grass, digging, weeding or raking.
  • Chop and remove. Store firewood away from your home.
  • Patch the roof. Be proactive: Repair any leaks in your roof immediately.
  • De-clutter the gutters. Always keep rain gutters clear of leaves and debris.
  • Relocate compost. A compost pile is good and green — but it’s also a major mold breeding ground. Keep it as far away from your house as possible.

Building a Child’s Confidence Through Dog Training

Many people who know me and are friends with me now, have a very hard time believing that it was not that long ago that I was a nervous, insecure person with horrible self esteem, and no self confidence. And there are two things in my life that I credit for this miraculous turn around. Ginger girl training her lovely petThe first was finding the 12-step fellowship program of Narcotics Anonymous, and getting my act together. But even that had not given me the ‘personality make-over’ I so desperately craved. Those early years of recovery for me were not easy, and it did not ‘cure’ my insecurities and low self esteem. It did, however, open the door for me to get a job with an old friend who owned a puppy store…which reminded me of just how much I had always loved working with dogs. Where I had once suffered from serious depression, working with the dogs made me happy again. On a bad day, holding one of the pups and petting it made me feel so much better. And I was so fortunate that sometimes my boss/friend would allow me to take a pup home overnight. Those were always the BEST nights for me in those early years! (I hope someday he knows that I will never forget that kindness he did for me, and will forever be grateful for it!)

But as I immersed myself more and more into the canine world, and started training dogs again, I started to feel a bit more confident with each new person I worked with. One day I noticed I held my head up instead of looking at the floor when talking to people. Not too long after that, I started to notice that I was looking people in the eyes. Suddenly, I had these dogs and their owners looking to me for feedback and advice and help…. And my confidence grew more and more every day. I also started to notice that when I asked my customers to do something, they weren’t so sure about it…but when I told them what to do, they never questioned me. So I grew stronger, and again, more confident. And with my confidence growing, my body language changed as well… my shoulders weren’t so slumped, but stood taller. When I sat down, I sat erect. And I started to understand more and more the absolutely wonderful value of Pet Therapy. But although I saw this change in myself, and others who were close to me saw it, I really understood for the first time a few years ago that this could not only change my life, but I had clients with children who were quiet, nervous, shy, scared….. and it was while I worked with them, helping them to train their dogs, I saw miraculous changes in them as well!!

A great example of this was about 6 years ago. I had a client who hired me to work with her Golden puppy. She had gotten the puppy for her daughter, who had experienced some “emotional challenges” during her first year of college. She got the pup as a companion for her daughter, but the pup was being a typical Golden Retriever pup, very nippy and hyper and a bit wild, and the girl became afraid of the pup, and was becoming more introverted. So I started to work extensively with the daughter and the pup on “dog training”. I would say, “Tell him to sit.” And in this tiny little voice, she would repeat the word, and the dog did nothing. So I joked with her, “Say it like you mean it!! Let him know you mean business” and her voice got just a tad louder. I said, “Better…. Now again, louder!! He still thinks you are joking with him!” And we did this again and again. I did not allow her to get frustrated, but we kept going…. And all of a sudden, out of this shy quiet girl, came a blast of the word “SIT!” And to her utter shock, the rump on that pup went right down! This young girl’s face lit up like a Christmas tree! It warmed my heart right to the very core! And this young girl was suddenly laughing, and wanting to learn more and more! It was so exciting to see the metamorphosis of this young girl…. who went from being a caterpillar in a cocoon, to a beautiful butterfly! Her smile lit up the room! Within a few short weeks, we had him behaving well enough to walk outside appropriately next to her on the leash, and her head was high, she was smiling, and people were drawn to her and her beautiful dog! People stopped her to ask questions about the dog, and she answered them with confidence and her head still held up. We had worked with her and the dog on eye contact, and because of this, she did not look down to answer them, but looked them right in the eye as she talked with them! Her Mom cried and hugged me. It was a moment I will never forget in my dog training career, and have since repeated several times, and it still gets me every time!

So, how can YOU take your shy, quiet, nervous, child, who lacks self esteem and confidence, and use dog training to help build this up? Here is the recipe:

Start with:

  • One child (any age, any sex)
  • One dog (also any age, any sex…size and temperament appropriate)

Mix in the following ingredients:

  • Patience
  • Compassion
  • A sense of humor
  • Tons of encouragement
  • Tons of praise.
  • A Dog Trainer (optional ….If you need assistance finding a professional trainer in your area, you can find a great list of them by contacting the IACP)

Begin your regimen by putting the dog on their leash, and showing your child how to do the first easy basic command of “SIT.” Remember, even if your dog knows it, the point is to let your child be the dog’s new teacher. Have your child hold the treat in their hand, bring their hand up slowly, and tell the dog to “SIT”. If he does not do it, do not let your child get frustrated or disappointed. Listen closely to how your child said it…. Did they whisper it? Did they look the dog in the eyes? If they whispered it, tell your child, “You did it right! But I am not quite sure he heard you. Try it again, but this time a bit louder” And let them do it again. And again, and again and again. Praise your child and the dog. Laugh with your child! If your child was looking at the floor, point it out in a non-judgmental way by saying something like, “I’m not sure Fido knew you were talking to him!! Can you look him in the eyes this time…. Just to make sure he knows who you were talking to?” And let them do it again!

As your dog starts to respond more and more to your child (as they most certainly will, because dogs listen to those who are willing to lead them!) you will see your child’s confidence grow more and more each day. Then here is the amazing thing that happens with their interpersonal relationships…. The mind- set of how the dog listened and respected them when they were strong and confident with it, starts to slowly be practiced on friends. And when friends respond the same way….. well, the sky’s the limit! How do I know all this? Because it happened with me, and a young girl I once knew. And so many other children since I have become a dog trainer. Let them get involved. Let them take an active role (age and size appropriate, of course….. I would not recommend giving a small four year old the leash of a ten month old Golden Retriever…. Remember, we want to set them up for success, not failure, so know your child, know your dog, and let them do tasks together that they can accomplish!) Let them feel proud of themselves!

And one other important thing I do not want to forget to mention….. we are not trying to correct the kids, but to encourage them. So it is okay to say things like, “LOUDER!!!” or “STRONGER!!!!” or “I DON’T THINK HE’S LOOKING YOU IN THE EYE!” But be very careful of critiquing and accidentally criticizing. Remember, how your child holds the leash….. not important. How your child holds their own head up…. Super important!!!

Let’s let our dogs help us to raise happy, confident and self assured youngsters!!! And extra training for Fido is never a bad thing!!!

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Mistakes

Mistakes are part of life. Learning from our mistakes is a vital part of growing up.

In fact, research shows us that kids learn more from making mistakes, then taking the easy route and getting everything correct all the time.

So how do we talk to our kids about their mistakes?

  • Don’t sigh or scoff when your children make mistakes or when discussing their mistakes.
  • Don’t talk about how the mistake has made your life inconvenient. Never make your child feel bad because you had to exert effort to clean up after a mess, or work through the mistake.
  • Don’t ask for perfection. Instead, offer praise for their effort.
  • Don’t talk about their past mistakes. Our kids will never want to do better if they think we will just point out the mistakes they have made in the past.
  • Don’t withhold love or affection as a punishment for mistakes.
  • Do encourage your children to take responsibility for their mistakes.

Turn the error into an opportunity…a wrong into something right…

Talk to children about what they can learn from their mistakes. As parents it is not our job to rescue them when they make a mistake, but instead to help them focus on a solution to the problem so they can avoid making the same mistake again. Acknowledge that OUR kids mess up, and refrain from blaming everyone else.

Talk to children about what to do when they make mistakes, and how to right the wrong.

Thank them for being honest and admitting when they have done something wrong.

Talk about the positives, and the lessons that can be learned from the mistake.

Do tell your children about mistakes you have made. Don’t unload all of the mistakes you have made, but using good judgment, use personal examples to teach your children. Focus on what you learned and how you felt. Talk about the consequences.

Mistakes are normal – we all make them. Your kids probably feel like they make them all the time. And the truth is, they probably do – it’s all part of growing up. What we can do is help them learn from the mistakes they make so they know how to better handle situations and avoid making the same mistakes in the future.