Currently browsing pre-teen health posts

Athlete’s Foot – A 12-Year Old Boy’s Cautionary Tale

Children's bare feet resting on grassWhen our son Elliott turned 12, he was by nature independent-minded, stubborn and argumentative (but cute!). Add to his natural tendencies the typical behavior of tweendom, and it was not surprising we ended up in the situation that led me to write this post.

This is a cautionary tale about boys, stubbornness, personal hygiene, failed parental nagging….and athlete’s foot.

Elliott had for months paid no attention to taking his shoes off when he got home from school or came in after playing. Since he’s often home a couple of hours before we return from work – and our first thought in the door is usually not “Dude, have you taken off your shoes yet??” – we frequently discovered his shoes still on at bed time.

It doesn’t help that he has genetically sweaty/smelly feet (particularly noticeable as he nears puberty) – and is often out shooting hoops with friends or tearing through the neighborhood in search of spies – which all just adds to the wet, warm biome in his shoes. But we’d given him ample reasons and months (years?) of coaching about the need to let both his feet and his shoes breathe, and yet he still didn’t listen.

Sometimes you just have to let them fall, fail, learn for themselves. So when Elliott came to me last week to show me the scaly scabby area on the bottom of his foot – which I’ve since discovered is the “moccasin” variety of athlete’s foot – I made sure to connect the dots between his behaviors and this undesired outcome. The next day I came home to find his sneakers propped up in front of the lit fireplace, drying out! And now he is putting anti-fungal cream on the bottom of each foot (yes, it’s on both) two times a day – and was excused from gym class (which he loves).

So, if you have a tween boy who isn’t responding to your gentle prodding – or well deserved nagging – about personal hygiene, feel free to use this cautionary tale.

And for added impact, here are some things about athlete’s foot I wish I had known earlier:

  • Athlete’s foot does not just come with a rash…it itches, stings and burns!
  • This fungal infection can spread to other parts of the body – including the hands and groin area
  • It can be difficult to get rid of, especially if it spreads to the toenails
  • Infection of the toenails can result in thickened, cracked nails – or they can fall out
  • More severe infections may require prescription ointments and anti-fungal pills
  • After you have had athlete’s foot once, you are more likely to get it again

My Middleschooler has Frequent Headaches – Should I Worry?

Preteens and teens often suffer from frequent headaches. There are many potential causes of headaches, and it is often difficult to determine why they occur. Here’s what to do and when to worry:

1. Take your child to the pediatrician. A physical exam can eliminate somewhat obvious issues, such as hypertension or visual problems.

2. Have your child keep a “headache diary.” It may help to document when headaches occur, how long they last, what makes them milder and what circumstances surround their onset. If a triggering event such as diet, stress or anxiety consistently occurs before a headache, treatment and prevention become much easier. If nothing is evident in the diary, medical tests may be necessary.

3. Get medical attention. A series of symptoms require more advanced medical attention, including:

  • Worst-headache-of-my-life symptoms
  • Headaches occurring with exertion
  • Headaches associated with nausea or vomiting
  • A stiff neck
  • Seizures
  • Recent head trauma before the onset of the headache
  • Blurred vision, slurred speech or serious behavioral changes
  • Increasing frequency
  • Headaches that impair daily functioning

5 Things Not to Say to Your Tween Daughter

The tween years are all about developing a positive self-image, good decision-making, healthy self-discipline and better mood regulation. What you say to your tween and how you use your nonverbal language to communicate with her may have a lasting impact on her view of herself. As conflicts arise you might find yourself blurting things out that you wish you could take back. Reflect on some common parent-daughter foibles to help yourself stay on the path to positive communication with your tween.

If you catch yourself being judgmental or shaming breathe through it, after reading these five things not to say to your tween, you’ll make better choices next time.

“Your dad noticed.” Tweens can be nervous about what other people see and notice about them, especially their dads. The father-daughter relationship is an important one. Your tween’s first line of dealing with boys who become men is in the relationship between father and daughter. If a tween’s dad is going to notice things about a tween, it’s time for him to speak directly to her. The tween years can feel uncomfortable to a dad, at times. Help your husband to talk openly with your tween about her relationships, her body and her friendships. The more comfortable dad is the more comfortable your tween will be.

“I don’t like that friend.” The tween years are a time when children move from practicing in their relationships to making choices about whom to befriend and who to avoid. If you feel your tween could be making better choices in her friendships help her to identify what makes a good friend. Talk with her about what kinds of friendships make her feel happy, safe and “lifted up.” Open-ended questions that allow self-reflection and not self-judgment such as “How do you like your friends to talk with you?” and “When you share something private with a friend, what are you hoping she does with that information?” will help your tween to develop the skills to observe and reflect on her relationships and improve her decision-making skills.

“You’re too young to like a boy.” With the changes occurring in a tween’s body and brain, developing attraction to boys is a natural process. Often in fourth and fifth grade tweens begin to notice boys. Having crushes can be expected, although not required. Instead of telling your tween how she is allowed to feel guide her to develop attractions that are based on honesty, caring and compatibility. Part of the growing communications with her girlfriends will be drawing comparisons about whom they like. Encourage the freedom to feel differently than her friends without making the object of their affection out to be a “bad guy”. Discussing what they like in boys and what they do not like is the beginning of sorting out whom they will date in high school and college. The tween years are when you lay the groundwork for healthy choices and good decision making about courting behavior. Open communication is the first line to healthy decision-making and problem solving.

“I never want to hear you say that again!” As your tween begins to define herself as a person independent of how you think and feel, she’s going to say things you wish had not come out of her mouth. Instead of being directive and setting up a control struggle wonder aloud about what she meant and help her to understand that what she says in the world reflects on whom she is inside. Gentle direction will win almost every time over bossy intimidation.

“You’d be beautiful if…” You were a tween once. How did it feel when others told you to lose weight, hide your big ears or wear different clothing? Research shows that the developing self-image of a tween persists through adulthood. So help your tween love herself as she is. If she needs to get more exercise, to eat better or choose less revealing clothes, show her the path to success with loving guidance not shameful embarrassment.

Hey mom, you might be new to this whole ‘tween-thing’, your tween is as well, so open-up, talk it out and seek advice from friends you trust. You’ll get the hang of it, just as your tween will.

My Son Has Gynaecomastia (Man Boobs) – What Can He Do?

Gynaecomastia (*gynecomastia) (sometimes referred to as “man boobs”) is a common condition that causes boys’ and men’s breasts to swell and become larger than normal. It is most common in teenage boys and older men.

What are the signs of gynaecomastia?

  • Signs vary from a small amount of extra tissue around the nipples to more prominent breasts. It can affect one or both breasts.
  • Sometimes, the breast tissue can be tender or painful, but this isn’t always the case.

What causes gynaecomastia?

Gynaecomastia can have several causes.

Hormone imbalance

Gynaecomastia can be caused by an imbalance between the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen. Oestrogen causes breast tissue to grow. While all men produce some oestrogen, they usually have much higher levels of testosterone, which stops the oestrogen from causing breast tissue to grow.

If the balance of hormones in the body changes, this can cause a man’s breasts to grow. Sometimes, the cause of this imbalance is unknown.

Obesity

Some growth in breast tissue is not due to extra body fat from being overweight, so losing weight or doing more exercise may not improve the condition. However, a common reason for gynaecomastia is that being very overweight (obese) can increase levels of oestrogen, which can cause breast tissue to grow.

Newborn baby boys

Gynaecomastia can affect newborn baby boys, because oestrogen passes through the placenta from the mother to the baby. This is temporary and will disappear a few weeks after the baby is born.

Puberty

During puberty, boys’ hormone levels vary. If the level of testosterone drops, oestrogen can cause breast tissue to grow. Many teenage boys have some degree of breast enlargement. Gynaecomastia at puberty usually clears up as boys get older and their hormone levels become more stable.

Older age

As men get older, they produce less testosterone. Older men also tend to have more body fat, and this can cause more oestrogen to be produced. These changes in hormone levels can lead to excess breast tissue growth.

Other causes

In rare cases, gynaecomastia can be caused by:

  • side effects of medication – such as anti-ulcer drugs or medication for heart disease
  • illegal drugs – such as cannabis or anabolic steroids
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • a health abnormality – such as kidney failure or liver disease
  • Klinefelter’s syndrome (a rare genetic disorder)
  • lumps or infection in the testicles

Treatment for gynaecomastia

If you’re worried about breast tissue growth, see your GP (*doctor).

If your GP thinks treatment is needed, there are two types of treatment for gynaecomastia:

  • surgery to remove the excess breast tissue
  • medication to adjust a hormone imbalance

Your GP can discuss the treatment options with you. Read more about male breast reduction surgery.

Procedures such as breast reduction surgery are not usually available on the NHS, unless there is a clear medical need for them. For example, if you have had gynaecomastia for a long time, it has not responded to other treatments and it is causing you a lot of distress or pain, your GP may refer you to a plastic surgeon to discuss the possibility of surgery.

Always see your GP if the area is very painful or there is an obvious lump. Sometimes, the lump may need to be removed. Gynaecomastia is not related to breast cancer, but if you’re worried about breast swelling, see a GP.

Read the answers to more questions about men’s health.

Further information:

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

NHS Choices logo


From www.nhs.uk





How to Raise a Confident, Assertive Child

Let’s face it. It’s a tougher time to be growing up, and the data confirms it. Bullying is fiercer. Peer pressure is tougher. Kids are also more aggressive at younger ages. Girls are meaner. Of course we can’t always be there to pick up the pieces or help our kids stand up for themselves, nor should we. After all, the more our children see us as their rescuers, the more they learn to rely on us to solve their problems.

The secret is help our kids learn how to be more assertive and speak up for themselves. Here are seven ways to help your child learn to be respectfully assertive especially in those more difficult situations when they need to hold their own!

1. Model assertiveness

Be the model you want your child to copy. Don’t be meek. Stand up for your views even if they may not be unpopular. Let your kids know that even though you might feel uncomfortable, you always feel it’s best to stand up for your rights or the rights of others. Your child is watching your behavior and will copy. So ask yourself if you are an example of assertiveness you want your child to copy? For instance, do you speak up to your girlfriend who is pushing you to do something you may not want to do? Or what about holding your own to that relative who wants you to allow your young kids to watch that PG movie you feel is inappropriate?

2. Be a democratic household

Hold debates. Use family meetings. Listen to each child (it doesn’t mean you agree with them). When kids know their opinions count they are more likely to speak out and feel comfortable doing it.

3. Acknowledge your child’s assertiveness

Let your child know you value people who speak their mind. Reinforce your child’s assertiveness. “I like how you spoke up!” Encourage those confident, assertive behaviors in your child. Let her know you honor her opinions.

4. Find less domineering friends

If your child is a bit more timid and always hangs around a bossy playmate, provide him the opportunity to find a less domineering pal so he will be more likely to speak up and gain confidence.

Watch out for domineering siblings as well. Make sure your child has the opportunity to practice his voice and not be squelched by a brother or sister (or even other parent).

5. Provide early leadership opportunities

Research from the Girl Scouts of America says kids say their confidence in speaking up and leading others dwindles by the fifth grade. Kids also tell us they gain that confidence is by entering into activities, clubs, team building, etc. and the earlier the better.

So provide opportunities for your child to be a member of a team, take charge of a project or lead others. You might enroll your child in public speaking or theatre to build confidence in speaking in front of others!

Find a platform that fits your child’s passions, talents, and comfort level!

6. Teach your child C.A.L.M. assertion

Here’s a skill that I’ve shared with hundreds of kids around the world-and I do mean that literally. I’ve taught C.A.L.M. to kids in Taipei, Colombia, Finland, Malaysia, Mexico, Canada as well as hundreds of schools from coast to coast in the US. It is a strategy that boosts assertiveness, but also helps the child learn to defend himself to others and hold his own. It’s the basic skill to stop teasing, negative peer pressure as well as bullying and victimization.

The photo image on the right is high school students who are teaching the skill to elementary students in a near by school as part of their service learning project. The “cross age tutoring” model is also a fabulous way for children to learn a new new skill.

There are four steps to learning the skill. Each part is essential. You may need to help your child practice each of the four steps separately until he or she can comfortably use all four parts on his or her own.

4 Steps to Being Assertive and Staying C.A.L.M.

C – Stay Cool

If you get upset, ticked off, cry, pout you don’t appear as confident.

A – Assert

Teach your child a few comeback lines to say in different situations. “No!” “Not cool.” “Because I said so!” “I don’t want to.”

L – Look Eye to Eye

The best way to appear more confident is by using eye contact. If your child is timid or eye contact is difficult, suggest he look between the persons’ eyes on the spot in the middle of their forehead. I’ve also taught children on the autism spectrum to look behind (or through the person). The trick is to “appear” confident.

M – Mean It!

Teach your child the difference between how a wimpy and a strong voice sound. Then encourage your child to assert himself using a strong and firm tone–but not yelling tone–to get his point across.

7. Role-play “assertive posture and voice tone”

Kids learn best from seeing and practicing skills. So help your child rehearse assertive phrases like: “Stop it!” “No, not this time, thanks!,” “Hey, cut it out!”

Practice using the skill so your child has a firm-sounding tone and until your child has the confidence to hold his own without you. And when he does, congratulate yourself. You will have taught your child a critical skill that he will need to use in every arena of his life but now and forever.

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What to Expect with Puberty, for Boys

Puberty is the process of growing from a boy into a young man. Here’s what to expect.

When will I start puberty?

boys and pubertyIf puberty hasn’t started yet, don’t worry. Most boys begin when they’re around 13 or 14 years old, but some start earlier and some later.

We all grow and change at different rates, and there’s nothing you can do to make it happen sooner or later. Your body will change when it’s ready.

It’s normal to feel confused or worried sometimes. It can help to talk to someone you trust, such as your dad, mum, brother or a trusted teacher.

What will happen to my body?

There are plenty of signs that puberty has started. Every boy is different, but here are some of the most common changes to look out for:

Getting taller

Your body grows, and it may become more muscular.

Bigger penis and balls

Your testicles and penis grow, and they may feel itchy or uncomfortable.

Unexpected erections

Your body produces more hormones, so you might get erections when you least expect them.

Spots and sweat

Hormones can make you sweaty and spotty, but as long as you have good personal hygiene you can still look and feel healthy. Find out about acne.

Wet dreams

You start producing sperm, and you may have wet dreams in which you ejaculate (release fluid containing sperm out of your penis) while you’re asleep. This is normal.

Hair growth

Areas of your body become more hairy, including your armpits, legs, arms, face, chest and around your penis.

Deeper voice

As your voice begins to break, you might sound croaky for a while, or you might have a high voice one minute and a low voice the next. It will settle down eventually.

Mood swings

You may have mood swings and feel emotional, but your feelings will settle down in time.

Find out more about boys’ bodies, including penis size and sperm.





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