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The Children's Wellness Blog

Talking to Your Teens & Preteens about Underage Drinking

April 1, 2016

Talking to Your Teens & Preteens about Underage DrinkingDo you remember the first time you tried an alcoholic beverage? Think about how old you were – perhaps it wasn’t until you were 21 or maybe it was much younger, like in your teens or pre-teens part of life. Seems the age at which our kids experiment with alcohol is getting younger and younger these days so it’s definitely a topic parents shouldn’t brush under the rug. Kids in their teens may not be the best at listening to mom and dad’s advice all the time, but the consequences of underage drinking should be reason enough to make it happen! Kids are already exposed to more adult material on television and on the internet, so being proactive parents can help encourage your teen to make responsible decisions when faced with underage drinking. Sure it can seem like a difficult subject to approach but it doesn’t have to be. The Children’s Wellness Center pediatricians get it – we’ve all had our own experiences when we were younger and we have worked with a lot of parents and their teens to encourage a healthy dialogue about alcohol. Check out our tips for talking to your teen about drinking and ways to inspire them to think before they act:

  • Block off some time – talking to your teen should feel relaxed and natural, not forced. As some of us may know, teens and preteens can have an uncanny ability to tune out parental advice if it feels too preachy. Make good use of one-on-one time, like during car rides or during meal prep, to open up the alcohol dialogue. To really be effective, don’t try to cram the subject into just one conversation but instead make it something that is discussed often so you can reaffirm your expectations of your teen when it comes to them potentially involving themselves in underage drinking.
  • Use real life scenarios – you may notice that teen drinking related accidents tend to get a lot of media coverage and more parent advocates are speaking out on the dangers of teen drinking. Use these types of tragedies to lead into discussions with your teens about drinking. Be prepared, however, to discuss your own personal experience with alcohol should your teen have questions about your younger years. By sharing negative experiences that you went through, it will possibly resonate louder and better help illustrate the importance of making sound decisions themselves. Be candid about why you chose to drink, what the consequences were, and how your outlook may have changed after the experience.
  • Spare no consequence – have you discussed the consequences your teen could face if they choose to drink? As a parent, it’s a good idea to spell out your expectations when it comes to your children and being in an environment where alcohol is present. Explain the loss of privileges to them as expected in your household and make sure they are clear on what will happen if they break your rules. If a situation arises where they are caught drinking, be sure to enforce your rules and consequences or your teen may not take your idle threats seriously in the future. Be sure to also not spare a mention of what could also happen outside of the home. Alcohol-related fatalities (whether from alcohol poisoning or drunk driving), increase in sexual activity that could lead to unprotected sex and potentially life-threatening illnesses or sexually transmitted diseases, stunted brain development, and potential for alcoholism concerns as they get older.
  • Lead by example – just as a toddler is quick to mimic the behaviors and speech of adults from keen observation, teens are just as easily influenced by our actions as well. If you drink around your teens, do so in moderation and explain why and how it’s appropriate for adults to drink – as long as it’s responsibly. Staying healthy and promoting proper habits like diet, nutrition, and exercise can be complimentary to your efforts because you can interject talks of alcohol into these types of healthy habit lessons.
  • Stay invested – the best way to stay informed with your child’s after school activity is by forming a strong relationship with them early on. If your child tends to keep to themselves you may not be aware of the stress or peer pressures they face on a daily basis and sometimes they may not want to share. Checking in frequently to see what’s going on with their friends, in school, and in their social life will encourage them to share anything and everything. They just want to feel like they’re supported and are able to live up to the expectations we have as parents. Getting to know your child’s friends and their parents can be helpful as well – if your teen’s friends are drinking, or live in a household where parents are more liberal in their views on underage drinking, there is a good chance your teen is more likely to drink (because hey, everyone’s doing it right?). Staying on top of their activities and knowing the type of supervision present can help mitigate them being in a situation that could put their wellbeing in jeopardy.

If you notice your teen’s behavior changing, like mood swings, inconsistent health complaints, or increased behavioral issues at home or at school, talk to them about what’s going on to try to get to the root of the issue. For teens that you suspect may have alcohol-related concerns, contact your pediatrician, counselor, or trusted healthcare provider who has worked with underage alcohol problems before it becomes a greater issue. Just remember, it’s never too late to start talking.

Tips for Feeding Your Picky Eaters

February 25, 2016

Tips for Feeding Your Picky EatersLet’s face it – kids can be quite resilient when it comes to having their own opinions regarding their food. While it shouldn’t be expected for your little one to love exotic food dishes at a young age, introducing new foods to children can become a power struggle for picky eaters. Even though feeding time can seem like a battle ground for parents, all of the Children’s Wellness Center pediatricians have kids ourselves and have a come up with a few tips for feeding your picky eaters that we have found helpful over the years!

Lead by example. Children are really good at observing and emulating the words and actions of adults, so setting a good physical example when eating with your children can only serve to further encourage healthy food choices throughout their life. Mealtimes should be a fun occasion where you can spend some quality time away from the television and enjoy each other’s company. If you show disdain for a particular food item or share negative sentiments about the taste, your children may pick up on the behaviors associated with the negativity (ie. not finishing their food or not even giving the dish a try and just assuming they won’t like it either). Just remember that they’re always watching and their growing minds are like sponges, soaking everything up in the process, so teaching proper nutrition at a young age is great for long-term success.

Make mealtime fun. Getting your kids involved in the meal prep portion can get them more excited and willing to experiment with their food. Part of the fun of cooking is being able to take frequent taste tests and this is a great way to have them at least try it alongside you. Let your kids feel important in mealtime decisions by having them help decide what vegetables to pair with the meal (do they want green beans or do they think cooked carrots would taste better?) or what fruit to mix in the salad for dinner. If you are the kind of parent that likes to plan healthy meals on a weekly basis, create a clever menu and have the kids help plan what is for each day. Whatever you do, never force your child to eat. As parents, we never want our kids to go hungry but breaking bad eating habits are going to be much harder if you cater to their behavior. Instead, be sure to make it clear that what’s on the table is the only option for their meal and if they don’t want it, there’s a chance they could be hungry without finishing their food. As much as their sad faces may tug at your heartstrings, don’t cook them separate food from everyone else or an alternative afterwards.

Get creative. Obviously small children aren’t necessarily going to benefit from fun food designs because infant food introduction doesn’t include a five-course meal, but older children can certainly find this method appealing. Time challenges can factor into the presentation of meals but think about a child’s likelihood to get excited for a heart-shaped sandwich versus the same square sandwich that’s served at lunchtime? Yes, carving an apple to mirror a cute kitten takes time (kudos to you if you’re that skilled) but there are a lot of pans, cooking utensils, food decorations, etc. that could make meals more fun for them. If it becomes a staple for enjoyment, they’re less likely to focus on what they “don’t like” and more on the novelty of eating Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes piled high with fruits.

The key to dealing with picky eaters is patience and lots of positive reinforcements. Remember, it’s just a phase and eventually your child will outgrow this type of “food defiance!” Don’t be hard on yourself as a parent though, yes your child needs a balanced diet with fruits and veggies to get the energy they need to grow up strong and healthy, but they’re kids and have such energetic minds of their own. With a little guidance from their trusted role models, mealtime can be made fun again.

Why Are Well-Child Visits Important?

February 18, 2016

At Children’s Wellness Center, we’re strong believers in forging strong relationships between our providers and the families we get to serve on a daily basis. We practice traditional medical care that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has outlined and this includes following the well-child visit guidelines they promote. Well-child visits are frequent check-ups that start from infancy and continue on a yearly basis once your child turns 3 years of age through high school, and until their 21st birthday.

Why Are Well-Child Visits ImportantWhy Are Well-Child Visits Important?

Well-child visits let us monitor your child’s general health and development. During your child’s well-child visit, we assess their growth and development, test their vision and hearing (for ages 4 and up), perform any immunizations that are recommended for your child’s particular age, and more because we believe early detection gives us the best chance to properly and successfully treat your child. This is also a time when we can offer advice about any concerns you may have with your child whether it is family history concerns or regarding safety and emotional issues.

All well-child visit components play an integral part to promoting a healthy childhood and some of the key benefits include:

…Prevention. Immunizations and vaccines help to protect the body from certain infections, illnesses, and diseases. The AAP has created a recommended checkup and immunization schedule from the time of your child’s birth through their teens because we believe all children should have the right to be protected from preventable infectious diseases. Well-child visits also serve as a good time to catch any concerns early on so effective treatment can be administered – even if you think it may not be worth mentioning, you never really know so we always encourage our parents to bring any concerns to our attention during these visits rather than waiting until an actual problem presents itself!

…Promotes a team approach. We believe it takes a team effort to ensure your child’s health. As parents you spend a great deal of time with your children and are ultimately their biggest advocate when it comes to their health. During well-child visits we can build a team of support for your child because there should be genuine trust among pediatrician, parent, and child. We want to be your first resource for answering any questions you may have so bring in a list of topics you want to talk about (this can range from sleep patterns, nutritional needs, behavioral development, etc.) and we can tailor your well-child visit around your child’s needs.

…Growth and development tracking. As parents ourselves, it seems our kids grow up way too fast; one day they’re tiny infants, the next, they’re loading the school bus for the first time. Well-child visits let us track their milestones (like how much they’ve grown in between visits, how they’re developing socially, and even their learning progression).

Of course the Children’s Wellness Center pediatricians are here for you and your child when they aren’t feeling well, but it’s important to also make sure your child is growing up to be strong and healthy even in the times when they’re feeling at their best! If you’d like to schedule your child’s well-child visit (you can schedule these up to three months in advance), contact Children’s Wellness Center (CWC) at 404-303-1314 today. We look forward to sharing more pediatric tips and information in the future, so be sure to check back frequently and follow the CWC providers on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to stay connected.

Does My Child Have a Cold or the Flu (Influenza)?

February 11, 2016

Does My Child Have a Cold or the Flu (Influenza)Flu symptoms are often mistaken for the common cold; they share similar symptoms of sneezing and congestion but the difference lies in the severity of the flu because it can be potentially life-threatening as the condition worsens. Typically, flu season lasts from October until May (with the most cases seen during February and March), so peak flu season is upon us and the Children’s Wellness Center providers want to make sure you know what to look for in the event your child gets sick! If you find yourself questioning, “Does my child have a cold or the flu?” – here’s what you should know:

  • What is the flu? An extremely contagious viral infection that affects the respiratory tracts.
  • How long does the flu typically last? Once you’ve come into contact with the flu virus, symptoms generally start to present themselves within a day or two. Initial symptoms can persist for several days (around 5 days) then will start to subside; fatigue and cough however can continue for up to two weeks in some flu cases.
  • What are common flu symptoms? Fever, chills, body aches, lack of appetite, fatigue, cough, sore throat, congestion, and runny nose.
  • Who can get the flu? Anyone, no matter their age can get the flu. The flu virus can be transmitted through the air if someone who already has the virus coughs or sneezes into the air. Since flu symptoms may not start to show until day two, those infected may not know they’re sick and potentially spread the virus to others unintentionally.
  • Can the flu be life-threatening? Yes, the flu can be life-threatening as the virus can lead to pneumonia and additional complications of the lungs and body’s important everyday functioning. Patients who have asthma, children under the age of 5, or those with weak immune systems, are what we may consider high risk, and should take extra precautions during peak flu season to reduce their chances of contagion.
  • What should I do if my child gets the flu?
    • Give your child plenty of fluids (one of the biggest concerns with a fever is dehydration, so drinking lots of water is key). If you’re having trouble getting your child to drink lots of water, perhaps try giving them popsicles, blended juices and smoothies, soft fruits (like melon and grapes), or icy drinks to supplement.
    • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and restricts their physical activity to not worsen their flu symptoms.
    • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help with your child’s aches and pains but it’s important to note that we DO NOT RECOMMEND giving them aspirin unless it has been recommended by your doctor first.
  • Can the flu be prevented? Unfortunately there’s no guaranteed way to keep your child from getting the flu. From schools, playgrounds, and grocery stores to play dates, field trips, and vacations, your child is likely to be in constant contact with different individuals throughout the day, so the chances of coming into close contact with someone who could potentially have the flu is increased. We recommend the following flu prevention tips:
    • Drink lots of water
    • Wash hands regularly
    • Avoid contact with used tissues
    • Don’t drink or eat after others
    • Keep your distance from anyone who may be sick
    • Consider flu vaccination
  • What are flu vaccinations? Flu vaccines help to protect patients from the flu virus but it’s important to note that they can’t prevent all strains of illness. Flu vaccines are most effective at helping prevent sickness when paired with a healthy immune system, nutritious diet, regular sleep, and reduced stress levels. We generally suggest children start receiving the flu vaccine when they’re 6 months of age and older between August and March – so there’s still time to get your vaccine if you haven’t already. At our office we offer both the flu shot and flu nasal mist for our patients – both are effective and depend on your child’s age and medical history which we would most recommend. Flu mist cannot be used for children under 2 years of age, those with a history of asthma and/or wheezing, or have used albuterol (an inhaler) within the prior two years.

Being sick is never fun and as parents, it can be extremely difficult navigating what to do when your child is sick, especially when they have the flu. The best thing you can do is to be proactive in monitoring the progression of your child’s sickness and if you suspect that your child has the flu, contact your doctor as soon as possible, especially if conditions worsen, to reduce the chances of further complications for untreated flu cases.

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