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Tips of the Week for February, 2018

10 Things Parents Can Do to Prevent Suicide
02-27-2018

 

As children grow into teenagers, it becomes more challenging for parents to know what they are thinking and feeling. When do the normal ups and downs of adolescence become something to worry about?

It's important to learn about the factors that can put a teen at risk for suicide. Spend some time reading these ten ways you can help prevent a tragedy from occurring. The more you know, the better you'll be prepared for understanding what can put your child at risk.

1. Don't let your teen's depression or anxiety snowball.

Maybe your child is merely having a bad day, but maybe it's something more if this mood has been going on for a couple of weeks.

  • Fact: 9 in 10 teens who take their own lives were previously diagnosed with a psychiatric or mental health condition or disorder—more than half of them with a mood disorder such as depression or anxiety.

Depressed people often retreat into themselves, when secretly they're crying out to be rescued. Many times they're too embarrassed to reveal their unhappiness to others, including Mom and Dad. Boys in particular may try to hide their emotions, in the misguided belief that displaying the feeling is a fifty-foot-high neon sign of weakness.

Let's not wait for children or youth to come to us with their problems or concerns. Knock on the door, park yourself on the bed, and say, "You seem sad. Would you like to talk about it? Maybe I can help."

2. Listen—even when your teen is not talking.

Not all, but most kids who are thinking about suicide (this is called suicidal ideation) tip off their troubled state of mind through troubled behaviors and actions. Studies have found that one trait common to families affected by a son's or daughter's suicide is poor communication between parents and child. However, there are usually three or more issues or factors going on all at once in a child's life at the time when he or she is thinking about taking his or her life.

These include but are not limited to:

If your instinct tells you that a teenager might be a danger to himself, heed your instincts and don't allow him to be left alone. In this situation, it is better to overreact than to underreact. See How to Communicate With and Listen to Your Teen.  

3. Never shrug off threats of suicide as typical teenage melodrama.

Any written or verbal statement of "I want to die" or "I don't care anymore" should be treated seriously. Often, children who attempt suicide had been telling their parents repeatedly that they intended to kill themselves. Most research supports that people who openly threaten suicide don't really intend to take their own lives; and that the threat is a desperate plea for help. While that is true much of the time, what mother or father would want to risk being wrong?

Any of these other red flags warrants your immediate attention and action by seeking professional help right away:

  • "Nothing matters."
  • "I wonder how many people would come to my funeral?"
  • "Sometimes I wish I could just go to sleep and never wake up."
  • "Everyone would be better off without me."
  • "You won't have to worry about me much longer."

When a teenager starts dropping comments like the ones above or comes right out and admits to feeling suicidal, try not to react with shock ("What are you, crazy?!") or scorn ("That's a ridiculous thing to say!"). Above all, don't tell him or her, "You don't mean that!." Be willing to listen nonjudgmentally to what he or she is really saying, which is: "I need your love and attention because I'm in tremendous pain, and I can't seem to stop it on my own."

To see your child so troubled is hard for any parent. Nevertheless, the immediate focus has to be on consoling; you'll tend to your feelings later. In a calm voice, you might say, "I see. You must really, really be hurting inside."​

4. Seek professional help right away.

If your teenager's behavior has you concerned, don't wait to contact your pediatrician. Contact a local mental health provider who works with children to have your child or youth evaluated as soon as possible so that your son or daughter can start therapy or counseling if he or she is not in danger of self-harm.  However, call your local mental health crisis support team or go to your local emergency room if you think your child is actively suicidal and in danger of self-harm.

5. Share your feelings.

Let your teen know he or she is not alone and that everyone feels sad or depressed or anxious now and then, including moms and dads. Without minimizing his anguish, be reassuring that these bad times won't last forever. Things truly will get better and you will help get your child through counseling and other treatment to help make things better for him or her..

6. Encourage your teen not isolate himself or herself from family and friends.

It's usually better to be around other people than to be alone. But don't push if he says no.

7. Recommend exercise.

Physical activity as simple as walking or as vigorous as pumping iron can put the brakes on mild to moderate depression.

There are several theories why:

  • Working out causes a gland in the brain to release endorphins, a substance believed to improve mood and ease pain. Endorphins also lower the amount of cortisol in the circulation. Cortisol, a hormone, has been linked to depression.
  • Exercise distracts people from their problems and makes them feel better about themselves.
  • Experts recommend working out for thirty to forty minutes a day, two to five times per week.
  • Any form of exercise will do; what matters most is that children and youth enjoy the activity and continue to do it on a regular basis.

8. Urge your teen not to demand too much of himself or herself.

Until therapy begins to take effect, this is probably not the time to assume responsibilities that could prove overwhelming. Suggest that he or she divide large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones whenever possible and participate in favorite, low-stress activities. The goal is to rebuild confidence and self-esteem.

9. Remind your teen who is undergoing treatment not to expect immediate results.

Talk therapy and/or medication usually take time to improve mood. Your child shouldn't become discouraged if he or she doesn't feel better right away.

10. If you keep guns at home, store them safely or move all firearms elsewhere until the crisis has passed.

  • Fact: Suicide by firearm among American youth topped a 12-year high in 2013, with most of the deaths involving a gun belonging to a family member, according to a report from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Any of these deaths may have been prevented if a gun wasn't available.

If you suspect your child might be suicidal, it is extremely important to keep all firearms, alcohol, and medications under lock and key.

Additional Information:


 
Last Updated
2/3/2016
Source
Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health (Copyright © 2015 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

All information provided by HealthyChildren.org.  For additional information please go to https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/emotional-problems/Pages/Ten-Things-Parents-Can-Do-to-Prevent-Suicide.aspx

Brushing Up on Oral Health: Never Too Early to Start
02-19-2018

As the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other children's organizations report, tooth decay (also called early childhood caries, or ECC) is the most common chronic children's disease in the country. As a result, it is very important that parents work with their pediatrician to establish good oral health care from the first weeks of their baby's life. Although most of us think of dental care in relation to our own dentists, parents will be working closely with their pediatrician even earlier than with a dentist.

Since pediatricians see young infants and children frequently for preventive health care visits, they are in an excellent position to identify children at risk for dental health problems, coordinate appropriate care and parent education, and refer affected and high-risk children to pediatric dentists.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that dental caries is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever in children. More than 40 percent of children have tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten. Children with dental caries in their baby teeth are at much greater risk for cavities in their adult teeth.

Health care professionals know that tooth decay is a disease that is, by and large, preventable. Because of how it is caused and when it begins, however, steps to prevent it ideally should begin prenatally with pregnant women and continue with the mother and young child, beginning when the infant is approximately 6 months of age. Pediatricians have become increasingly aware that their own proactive efforts to provide education and good oral health screenings can help prevent needless tooth decay in infants.
For parents who wish to establish good dental health for their infants, the following general guidelines may be of help:

Fluoride and Your Child: Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in many foods, and it also is added to the drinking water in some cities and towns. It can benefit dental health by strengthening the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to acid attacks that can cause tooth decay. It also reduces the ability of plaque bacteria to produce acid. Check with your local water utility agency to find out if your water has fluoride in it. If it doesn't, ask your doctor if you should get a prescription for fluoride drops or chewable tablets for your child.
Check and Clean Your Baby's Teeth: Healthy teeth should be all one color. If you see spots or stains on the teeth, take your baby to your dentist. As soon as your child has a tooth begin to use a smear (size of a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste. Clean the teeth at least twice a day. It's best to clean them right after breakfast and before bedtime. Once your child turns 3 you can begin to use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. When your child is able, teach him to spit out the excess toothpaste, but don't rinse with water. As your child gets older let her use her own toothbrush. It is best if you put the toothpaste on the toothbrush until your child is about age 6. Until children are 7 or 8 years old, you will need to help them brush. Try brushing their teeth first and then letting them finish.
Feed Your Baby Healthy Food: Choose drinks and foods that do not have a lot of sugar in them. Give your child fruits and vegetables instead of candy and cookies. Be careful with dried fruits, such as raisins, since they easily stick to the grooves of the teeth and can cause cavities if not thoroughly brushed off the teeth.
Prevent Tooth Decay: Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle at night or at naptime. (If you do put your baby to bed with a bottle, fill it only with water). Milk, formula, juices and other sweet drinks, such as soda, all have sugar in them. Sucking on a bottle filled with liquids that have sugar in them can cause tooth decay. During the day, do not give your baby a bottle filled with sweet drinks to use like a pacifier. If your baby uses a pacifier, do not dip it in anything sweet like sugar or honey. Near his first birthday, you should teach your child to drink from a cup instead of a bottle.
Talk With Your Pediatrician About Making a Dental Home: Since your pediatrician will be seeing your baby from the first days and weeks of life, plan to discuss when and how you should later develop a "dental home"—a dentist who can give consistent, high-quality, professional care—just as you have a "medical home" with your pediatrician. Usually, your dentist will want to see a child by his first birthday or within six months of the first tooth's emergence. At this first visit, your dentist can easily check your child's teeth and determine the frequency of future dental checkups.

Last Updated
10/3/2014

Source
Adapted from Healthy Children Magazine, Winter 2007

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

All information provided by HealthyChildren.org. For additional information please go to the following site: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/oral-health/Pages/Brushing-Up-on-Oral-Health-Never-Too-Early-to-Start.aspx
 

14 Ways to Show Love for Your Child This Valentine's Day
02-07-2018

The following are some ways you can show your child how much you love them on Valentine's Day or any day.​

  1. Use plenty of positive and encouraging words when talking with your child. Try to avoid using sarcasm or mockery and get rid of put-downs from the words you use as a parent. Children often don’t understand your purpose, and if they do, these messages can create negative ways of talking and connecting with each other. Be a good role model by treating others how you would like to be treated.

  2. Make an extra effort to set a good example about how to connect and talk with other people at home and in public. Use words like "I'm sorry," "please," and "thank you."  Children learn a lot from observing and imitating their parent’s behavior.

  3. Respond promptly and lovingly to your child's physical and emotional needs. Be available to listen to your child when he/she wants to talk with you even if it’s not the best time for you.  Ask your child “How was your day?” and listen to the answer. If you see signs of anxiety or depression, ask your pediatrician for advice on how to help.

  4. When your child is angry, grouchy or in a bad mood, give him a quick hug, cuddle, pat, secret nod or other sign of affection he responds to and then consider talking with him about the event when he’s feeling better. Never respond in violence if your child is in a bad mood.

  5. Use non-violent forms of discipline. Parents should start using both rewards and restrictions many years before adolescence to help establish ways to encourage strengths and address concerns during the teenage years. Allowing children of any age to constantly break important rules without being disciplined only encourages more rules to not be followed. No matter what your child has done, keeping an open line of communication with the child is crucial.  

  6. Make plans to spend time alone with your young child or teen doing something she enjoys on a regular basis. Encourage your child to be active by going on walks, bicycle riding, or playing ball with you.  Consider sending a Valentine’s Day card to your older child or teen. Think about making Valentine’s Day cards together with your preschool or younger school age child. 

  7. Mark family game nights on your calendar so the entire family can look forward to having ways to enjoy spending time together. Put a different family member's name under each date, and have that person choose which game will be played that evening. Turn off cellphones and/or tablets during these family times.

  8. Consider owning a pet if possible. Having a pet can help make some children, especially those with chronic illnesses and disabilities, feel better by increasing their physical activity, enhancing their overall positive feelings, and offering another way to connect with someone they care about.

  9. One of the best ways to have your child learn more about good food choices is to encourage him to cook with you. Let him get involved in the entire process, from planning the menus to shopping for ingredients to the actual food preparation and its serving. It is wonderful when families eat together as much as possible. Good food, good conversations. These are excellent times to model healthy food choices.  Refrain from using any electronic device, including your own phone, during meals.

  10. As your child grows up, she'll spend most of her time improving upon a variety of skills and abilities that she gains in all areas of her life. You should help her as much as possible by encouraging her and providing the tools and teaching she needs. Start reading to your child beginning at six months. Avoid TV in the first two years, monitor and watch TV with your older children and use TV time as one topic for conversation time with your children. Limit computer and video games.

  11. Your child's health depends a lot on the care and support you offer during his early years. By taking your child to the doctor regularly for well child or preventive health care visits, teaching him how to be safe from injuries, providing a healthy and nutritious diet, and encouraging good amounts of sleep, physical activity, and exercise throughout childhood, you help protect and strengthen his mind and body. Model these behaviors for your child(ren) on a daily basis.  A good place to start is by the use of seat belts or child passenger safety seats every time you are in a car.

  12. Help your child foster positive relationships with friends, siblings and members of the community. Consider inviting friends or neighbors to spend time drinking tea, having a meal, playing a game, or helping others in need.  Encourage your child to play sports or be involved in activities that show teamwork.

  13. One of your most important gifts as a parent is to help your child develop self-esteem. Your child needs your steady support and help to discover his strengths. He needs you to believe in him as he learns to believe in himself. Loving him, spending time with him, listening to him and celebrating lessons learned from his mistakes and successes are all part of this process.

  14. Don't forget to say "I love you" to children of all ages!

Published
1/30/2018 12:05 AM

All information provided by HealthyChildren.org.  For additional information, please go to the following site: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/14-Ways-to-Show-Love-for-Your-Child-This-Valentines-Day.aspx

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