November 3, 2017 5:50 pm
When teenagers first get their driver’s license, they’re typically excited to hop into the car every chance they get. Some teens even gain a sudden enthusiasm for running errands, just because they love the independence it brings them. In truth, this can be great for parents too, because you finally have someone else who can help with trips to the store, picking up dry cleaning, and other time-consuming jobs. Still, as we’ve often seen at Children’s Wellness Center, parents are much more hesitant to award the school commute to their teenagers when the new driver would be taking their siblings to school as well. So what’s the verdict? Is it okay to have your teenager drive his/her younger siblings to school?
As you can probably imagine, there is no clear-cut answer about how much driving experience a teenager should have before they’re comfortable enough behind the wheel to take on the added responsibility of young passengers. It’s really a question of each teen’s maturity level, willingness to follow the rules for safe teen driving, and experience level on the road. Some young drivers simply learn the skill better than others, so while one teenager may be a very safe driver after a certain number of months behind the wheel, it can take another teenager twice as long to reach that same ability level. It’s also about more than sheer driving skill. The largest danger for a teenager with young passengers is that the passengers will distract him/her, so as a parent, you should be able to objectively evaluate whether your driver is mature enough to stay focused on the road (and whether your other kids will cooperate and avoid distracting your teen driver).
If you do decide to trust your teenager with the school commute, here are a few kids safety tips to keep kids and teenagers safe during the drive:
- Make sure there are enough seat belts and the appropriate car seats or booster seats available for every child, and make sure the driver knows how to properly secure kids in these safety restraints. Have them practice this while you supervise, because people often think they know how to use a car seat when they’re actually using it incorrectly.
- Have your teenager do a dry run of the route while you ride along (several times, if necessary). This is especially true if they will be dropping off younger siblings at different elementary schools, day cares, or other facilities. If this is the case, make sure your teenager knows exactly where to drop off their siblings and what safety protocol to follow.
- Teach your young driver that if a distraction arises in the car (caused by a sibling or something else entirely), they should pull into a parking lot of another safe place to deal with it, rather than trying to multi-task on the road.
- Every teenager should know to never use their phone while driving, but explain to your teenager that this is even more important while they have the additional distractions and responsibilities of a car full of kids.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all kids under age 13 should always sit in the back seat of the vehicle, so make sure your teenager follows this car safety rule for kids. Of course, this also means that your teenager shouldn’t have more young passengers than the number of seatbelts in the back seat.
- Make sure your teenager knows that their permission to transport their siblings should not be interpreted as permission to transport their friends. In fact, Georgia’s graduated driver licensing program puts legal limits on the number of young passengers a new driver can have (other than immediate family members). As a parent, remember that you can also put further restrictions on this as well.
- Consider using a “contract” like the American Academy of Pediatrics’ teen driver agreement, which lays out the rules that both the teenager and the parents should adhere to for safe driving. Throughout the process, many teens respond better to respectful two-way conversations rather than lectures. If it seems to work for your teen, emphasize that you and he/she are a team with one goal – to get the entire family to school and back safely.
Ultimately, every family needs to make their own decisions about their teen’s driving restrictions. Whatever you may choose, our team of trained pediatric professionals at Children’s Wellness Center is here to guide you and answer your questions. To learn more about how to keep your teenager and your other kids safe, call Children’s Wellness Center in Atlanta. For more kids’ health and safety tips, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
October 27, 2017 12:08 pm
When your child has a medical issue, the solution is rather clear-cut: you take them to a doctor. But when your child is struggling with behavior rather than health issues, the path is much less straightforward. Many people simply see all behavioral issues for kids as a matter of discipline, so parents often assume that parenting their kids correctly is the only way to solve the problem, and they spend years trying one strategy after another. For some kids, though, the issue needs more than a change in parenting style, and sometimes it’s even caused by an underlying medical or mental health condition. Regardless of the reason, you’re not in it alone, and there are a number of specialized professionals you can turn to for help.
Board-certified pediatricians are experts in kids, in both their physical and their emotional wellbeing. Especially for first-time parents, just knowing whether or not your child’s behavior is normal can be the first challenge. Our pediatricians and nurse practitioners at Children’s Wellness Center have the experience to know what you can expect at different developmental stages, so if you’re concerned about a change in your child’s behavior, we’re happy to answer your basic questions. We also have the expertise to recognize the signs of certain conditions that can affect behavior, like ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, depression, and more. While we don’t conduct thorough diagnostic tests or provide a definitive diagnosis, we’ll be able to tell you if your child’s behavior may be a sign of a known condition and we can provide you with referrals to the appropriate mental health specialists who can evaluate your child and offer you more detailed answers. As your “medical home,” we also work toward spreading valuable information to our patients between appointments, so be sure to follow Children’s Wellness Center on Facebook for daily articles about physical and behavioral health for kids.
A Behavior Therapist and/or a Cognitive Therapist
For kids with general behavioral problems, talk therapy is often a great first step. There are many different methods, but for improving a child’s behavior, the two most common and most helpful are generally cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. Cognitive therapy seeks to identify the negative thought patterns that are keeping kids in emotional stress (like “I can’t do anything right,” or “If I can’t get all A’s, I might as well stop trying”) and teaching the child to break free of them. Behavior therapy, on the other hand, is useful for breaking kids of bad behavioral habits and reinforcing positive actions instead. Sometimes these two methods are used in combination with each other.
A Family Counselor
One important factor in a child’s behavior problem is his or her relationship with family members, and there are often disagreements or problems the parents don’t even know about because kids struggle with having an open and honest discussion about them. For families, learning to communicate calmly and clearly about your emotions can be a very challenging process. This is the role of a family counselor – to guide families through their difficulties and teach them how to communicate with each other and talk through any frustrations or negative feelings they may be experiencing.
Your School Psychologist
If your child’s school has a school psychologist, he or she can be a tremendous help. School psychologists are trained specifically to address the psychological needs of kids and teens and to communicate with them. Plus, because they are already in your child’s school, school psychologists can be a perfect connection to your child’s teachers and school administrators to help resolve any issues between the child and the school authorities. If your child’s behavior stems from one of the underlying conditions mentioned earlier, the school psychologist can also be a great advocate for their needs and can make sure that their teachers and administrators understand how to help your child be successful.
A behavioral problem can be a huge concern for parents, because there’s no simple “if this, do that” solution, and because it can have such an impact on a child’s future. But it really does take a village to raise a child, and you can rest easy knowing that our staff at Children’s Wellness Center is here to be the go-to village member you can rely on. If you have concerns or questions about your child’s behavior, schedule an appointment at Children’s Wellness Center to take the first step toward a happier and more peaceful home.
July 17, 2017 11:36 am
At Children’s Wellness Center, simply seeing the joy on our patients’ faces (and their parents’ faces) is enough to tell us that our pediatricians are the best in the biz. But now it’s official, because our own Dr. Julie Segal and Dr. Kirsten Mekelburg have been named among Atlanta’s top physicians in the latest issue of Atlanta magazine.
Each July, Atlanta publishes a list of some of the most well-respected and qualified doctors in the Atlanta area. The list itself is compiled by an independent organization called Castle Connolly. This company focuses solely on identifying the top doctors throughout the country by surveying other physicians as well as conducting their own reviews and investigations. Well-respected doctors throughout the US are invited to nominate the physicians they most respect in any number of specialties, from general physicians to oncologists. The doctors that have been nominated (including Dr. Segal and Dr. Mekelburg this year) are then evaluated by a physician led panel. After studying each nominee’s education and experiential background, patient feedback, contributions to the field of medicine, and more, Castle Connolly’s panel selects those they feel are most worthy of “Top Doctor” status. With such an extensive review process, we are truly honored by Dr. Segal and Dr. Mekelburg’s prestigious awards.
While they need no introduction if you’re already one of their many pediatric patients, Dr. Segal and Dr. Mekelburg both have impressive achievements and educational experiences that make them the exceptional doctors they are. While they are both board-certified pediatricians and Fellows of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Segal has been in the Atlanta area since her undergraduate and medical school training at Emory University, while Dr. Mekelburg came to Emory University for her residency after completing her undergraduate and medical school training in Michigan. Both are active in the community even beyond their work at Children’s Wellness Center. Dr. Segal is on the advisory board for Community Friendship, Inc., a nonprofit psychiatric rehabilitation facility in Atlanta, and Dr. Mekelburg serves as the Community Physician Liaison for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Outpatient and Inpatient Rehabilitation Team in addition to serving as a Clinical Instructor of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine.
The honor of this Top Doctors award is a great one, but it’s also not our first. Children’s Wellness Center has a track record of our excellent providers receiving distinctive awards. Not only did Dr. Mekelburg and Dr. Segal receive this same award from Castle Connolly and Atlanta magazine last year, but our own Dr. Gary Loventhal and Dr. Mekelburg were also named among Atlanta’s top doctors in Atlanta Parent last year as well. We take great pride in offering the best possible care to our patients, and it’s exciting when other physicians, parents, and professionals agree.
At Children’s Wellness Center, all of our board-certified pediatricians and other providers are motivated each day by the joy of keeping all of our patients healthy and happy. Awards like these are simply icing on the cake, letting us all know that other doctors respect our excellent physicians just as much as we do. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Segal, Dr. Mekelburg, or any of our other exceptional providers, contact us or access the Children’s Wellness Center patient portal. Or, to keep up with all our doctors’ achievements as well as all the latest health tips for parents and more, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
June 5, 2017 11:28 am
With our beautiful summer weather, your child is probably excited to get outdoors to play and swim, especially now that most schools are out for the summer. But as a parent, you want to make sure they’re enjoying the weather in a safe and healthy way. One of the most important factors to keep in mind is sun protection. Everyone knows that sunscreen can protect children and adults alike from sunburns, skin cancer, and other issues caused by too much sun exposure—but only if it’s used correctly. That’s why our board-certified pediatricians and other providers at Children’s Wellness Center have put together a collection of sunscreen tips for parents.
- Babies under the age of six months have very sensitive skin, so they should truly be kept out of direct sunlight. However, if you know they will be getting some sun exposure, use sunscreen on any exposed areas of their skin.
- When you’re selecting a sunscreen for your family, use these guidelines:
- Find a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (often labeled as “broad-spectrum”).
- Choose a product with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or above. Studies have shown that it is not necessary to use a sunscreen with an SPF higher than 30.
- Look for a sunscreen that is labeled as “water resistant.”
- For areas that are particularly sensitive to sunburns on a child like the nose, tops of the ears, and shoulders, use a sunscreen that includes zinc oxide or titanium oxide.
- Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before your child goes outside, to give the product the time it needs to absorb into the skin and become effective.
- Use sunscreen every day before your child goes outside, regardless of the weather. As many as 80% of the sun’s rays can still get through clouds, even in the winter.
- While it’s best to use a “water resistant” sunscreen, any sunscreen needs to be re-applied every 40-80 minutes (depending on the specific product), as well as after your child has been swimming or sweating.
- Don’t assume sunscreen is your only defense against the sun. For true protection, combine proper sunscreen use with other summer child safety measures, such as these:
- Keep as much of your child’s skin covered as possible in lightweight yet tightly woven clothing.
- Look for clothing that is labeled with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 15 or higher.
- Have your child wear a hat with a three-inch-wide brim to shade the face, ears, and back of the neck.
- Try to avoid taking your child outside between 10am and 4pm—the hours when the sun is at its strongest.
- Have your child wear sunglasses that provide at least 99% UV protection.
- Before you start using a new sunscreen for your child, put a little bit on a “test spot” of his or her skin to see if the skin becomes irritated. If so, try a different sunscreen. You may want to choose a hypoallergenic product like those offered by Neutrogena or Aveeno, especially if your child has sensitive skin or pediatric allergies.
- Remember to protect your child’s lips, too, by using a lip balm that contains sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.
- There have been claims about toxic chemicals in sunscreen being absorbed through the skin. While you don’t want your child to ingest sunscreen, there have been no proven problems from proper sunscreen use, and yet the benefits of using sunscreen have been proven time and time again, so don’t shy away from sunscreen as long as you use it correctly.
- It’s not a good idea to use a product that combines sunscreen with insect repellant for children. Sunscreen should be re-applied frequently, while insect repellant must be used sparingly for children, so to avoid getting too little sun protection or too much insect repellant, purchase these two products separately.
- Remember to check the expiration date on your sunscreen bottle before using it, and if you notice any clear changes to the consistency or color of the sunscreen, it’s time to replace it.
Parenting is all about finding balance. Too much sun exposure is harmful, but so is keeping your child indoors and away from the fun and refreshing exercise he or she can get outside. That’s why knowing how to properly use sunscreen is such a powerful tool—it lets your family enjoy the many benefits that the great outdoors have to offer while dramatically cutting down on the risks. If you have questions about your sunscreen use, contact Children’s Wellness Center for guidance. Or, for more child safety tips and health tips, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.