For many parents, there’s nothing quite as enjoyable as being able to cheer on your child as they participate in a sport they love. Sure we may have grandiose dreams that one day they’ll make it to the Olympics or land a contract with a professional team, but have you taken time to consider what it realistically takes for our kids to succeed in sports? Whether your child is about to start their first spring sports activity or has several years under their belts, the Children’s Wellness Center providers would like to remind everyone about sports safety 101 and ways we, as parents, can help enrich the lives of our kids with the help of sports.
Knowing when your child is actually ready to start a particular sport is a good jumping point to consider. When we use the term “ready,” we mean the stage in their growth and development when their physical, mental, and social skills are on par with that sport and the basic requirements needed to participate. Popular spring sports this time of year are soccer, baseball, softball, tennis, lacrosse, swimming, etc. but each of these are distinctly different and require a specific set of skills that will not only better equip children to actively participate, but also give them more enjoyment and encouragement to succeed. Generally speaking, many kids five years old and younger may not have the basic motor skills, behavioral maturity, and coordination for certain team sports, so introducing them to activities that involve active play, caters to shorter attention spans, and offers chances to improve skills at their own pace are all good first options (so think along the lines of running, swimming, and throwing/catching to start). By age six, children have a basic understanding of how to adapt to the requirements of basic level sports like soccer, tennis, gymnastics, martial arts, skiing, etc. – it’s at these early stages, and even up until age 12, that kids learn the rules of the game and increase their skill development within a particular sport.
Say your child has found “the” sport they’re most passionate about – what should you keep in mind then? For us, we believe it should be their safety. Sports-related injuries are something all athletes risk facing whenever their actively involved in any sport but certain factors can be detrimental to your kid’s health. Overuse injuries, overtraining, and burnout are the three general risks parents should be made aware of when preventing sports-related injuries:
Overuse Injuries – as the most common type of children sports injury, this type of injury happens from overworking the body and starts as general wear and tear (injuries to the bones, muscles, and tendons). Our kids may ignore pain during, or after practices, and continue to play through the pain rather than take the time needed to rest and allow injuries to properly heal. This not only creates consistent pain for your child but can lead to more severe or long-term health related concerns. In the same respects, it’s also recommended that your child not be limited to playing the same sport year-round. Yes, we want our children to focus on improving their skills over time, but letting them try more sport options helps to reduce the risk of overuse injuries that can become exasperated from daily, repetitive physical demands.
Overtraining – there is a common thought that the more you practice, the better you’ll get. Yes, training and practice can be the keys to sports success, but at what cost to your child’s wellbeing is it worth it? Long hours of practice, little recover time, and playing multiple sports during the same season can all contribute to overtraining and possibly overuse injuries in the future.
Burnout – what’s the point of playing a sport as a kid if they’re not having any fun? Sports can be both mentally and physically demanding – so much so that as our kids get older, sometimes they can grow to really dislike participating in something they once were very passionate about. Once they’ve reached the point where they’d rather be any place else besides their practice or game, this is what we call burnout. Burnout doesn’t just have emotion effects but it can also include physical ramifications like chronic pain, fatigue, and overuse injuries that contribute to the desire to choose another sport or quit altogether.
Sure we may not always be able to shield our kids from getting hurt while playing a sport, but it’s our duty to provide the necessary tools they need. As their parent, they need encouragement and unconditional support. We sometimes tend to project our goals and dreams onto our kids, but try to keep in mind that they have their own goals and dreams too. Sports should be fun and a time when good values, like sportsmanship, teamwork, and discipline, are instilled in kids beyond what they learn in the home – not a time to criticize their efforts or put unnecessary pressures on them. At the very core, kids are kids (not small adults) and should have the freedoms to discover what sports they love and have the opportunity to succeed in whatever way works best for them as an individual.
Summer is right around the corner and for many of us that means family vacations are getting close! Family vacations are a great way to see different parts of the world, make lasting memories, and form a greater bond with each other. From the time you start to make travel plans, to having to pack anything and everything you could possibly need while away from home, to locking down an itinerary, preparing for a trip can be an extremely involved process. On top of all that, traveling with children can add a different set of stresses for parents, especially when traveling internationally. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1.9 million American children travel internationally each year and the numbers continue to increase. Collectively we all face the same health risks when we travel, regardless of our age, but it’s our children who can be affected more seriously. To help reduce the risks of travel and help keep everyone happy, safe, and healthy, the Children’s Wellness Center providers have rounded up our top travel safety tips for the entire family.
Before you take off…know the health and safety recommendations of the country you’re visiting. Depending on where you’re traveling to, some countries require specific immunizations and vaccines before you can enter the country. When you travel to a foreign place, you’re opening yourself up to being exposed to diseases, infections, and illnesses that your body may never come into contact with in the United States. It is recommended that everyone have their current measles-rubella (MMR) vaccine to keep themselves protected and to also protect those here at home from coming into contact with a person who may unknowingly be a carrier of the measles. If you’re traveling to countries in Africa, Central America, or South America you may need a yellow fever vaccine while typhoid is recommended for those traveling to Asia, Latin America, or Africa. If you’re not sure what may be recommended or required before you travel, head to the CDC website for specific travel information and recommendations on how you can help everyone in your family avoid health concerns (note that not all travel vaccines are carried at every practice and may require a referral to a local travel clinic if required).
When travelling with children…sometimes you have to get creative. Long flights require children to have to stay seated for extended periods of time so traveling with activities (like coloring books, games, toys, etc.) can be helpful in keeping them occupied. If you have the choice in flight options, choose flights that are at night when children can sleep through a good majority of the flight only to wake up when it’s time to land! Be sure to pack bug spray, long pants and sleeves to protect from diseases that are carried by insects (malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, Zika virus, etc.) and lots of sunscreen, for skin cancer protection.
When it comes to feeding time, one of the most common illnesses many travelers experience is diarrhea. This can be caused by any number of reasons but some of the most frequent causes of diarrhea are eating raw foods (like fish or undercooked meats), drinking tap water, and consuming foods washed in local water supplies like fruits and vegetables. Stick to hot foods and bottled water if you’re traveling within a developing country or are unfamiliar with the regions local food and safety precautions.
In case of a medical emergency…devise a plan of action in advance outlining how to get proper treatment while you’re abroad. Register your family information through the U.S. Embassy located in the country you’re visiting (this can typically be done online). They’ll be able to assist you during a medical emergency and even notify family and friends back home of any incidences that have occurred. Check with your insurance company for overseas policies in advance and consider travel insurance for extra precaution, if needed. If you or any of your family members are taking medications, be sure to pack them all – and maybe even pack a little extra so you’re not risking having to go without your medications at any point. We like to also suggest packing medication in your carry-on bag, because sometimes luggage can get temporarily misplaced or lost and at least this way, important medications will be with you.
While it’s nice to be able to plan every detail of a trip, sometimes sickness or injuries occur without any warning so making sure you and your family are able to get the care you need while abroad is important. We certainly hope that everyone has a healthy, safe, and enjoyable trip abroad, and with a bit of research and proper planning, you’ll be prepared, just in case! Stay connected with the Children’s Wellness team on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube for more pediatric health and safety tips, news, and more.
At Children’s Wellness Center (CWC), we take great pride in being a small pediatric practice here in Atlanta/Dunwoody area and though we may be a little biased – we certainly have some of the BEST patients around. Like we just mentioned, we may not be a giant practice of pediatricians but the healthcare that we’ve been able to provide to parents and their children over the years is extremely important to us and something that we genuinely enjoy doing on a daily basis. For us, we wanted to start a practice that focused on health, wellness, and family.
Many of our patients have been with us literally from the start of their life and we have been fortunate to virtually watch them grown into bright and shining young adults. Choosing a pediatrician for your child is already a big decision so we are the ones that are grateful for having the chance to be parent’s first resource in times of need and even in the in between. If asked why Children’s Wellness Center knows families, while we each may have our own responses, we can all agree that it’s because we get it. We’re parents ourselves and have been EXACTLY where some of you have been or will be as you get to watch your child grow.
Often times, parents can become frustrated with the notion that they’re just a number in a system or disappointed that they are never able to fully establish a trusting, long-standing relationship with their child’s pediatrician. This is not what we see as beneficial for parents and their children. We do our best to make sure you stick with your same provider, even when booking last minute, same-day appointments (while we can’t guarantee this 100% of the time, we sure do try our best to make sure you’re not bounced between different providers each visit). For us, the idea that the best possible medical care, a partnership must be fostered between the physician and family became our practices’ main philosophy. Family not only in the sense of the parents who bring their kids in for routine well-child visits, help with illnesses, or advice on some of the perils of parenthood, but family in the sense of an ever-growing Children’s Wellness Center family.
Graduation day for high school kids can be one of the biggest days of their life. For parents, it can be a big transition as it is for teens but that’s understandable – you devoted 18 years to shaping your children into the wonderful people they are and it’s now time to let them go forth and start the next chapter in their life as independent adults. While there isn’t a lot the Children’s Wellness Center team can offer as far as tips for parents on how to deal with this phase in life, take comfort in knowing you’ve given your child all of the tools they need to succeed in college. Here’s what we suggest for preparing your teen for college and perhaps ease your mind as they venture away from home.
Get your teen vaccinated.
Depending on the state and school your teen attends, certain vaccinations may be recommended or even mandatory before being able to officially start school. The meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) is recommended to protect teens from meningitis which is a rare infection that attacks the membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord. Meningitis can be deadly and extremely contagious. Caused by a bacterial or viral infection somewhere else in the body meningitis is commonly transmitted through close contact (like coughing and sneezing) so living in dorms puts kids at higher risk as they’re constantly exposed to others. We recommend checking with your health care provider to discuss getting vaccinated to help your teen stay healthy. Other common vaccinations that pre-college teens typically receive help to fight against human papillomavirus (HPV), whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus, and flu.
Encourage healthy habits.
The biggest challenge a lot of teens face when they get to college is balancing their newfound “freedoms”. From having a pre-planned school schedule that is followed by sports and after school activities, homework, dinner, sleep, and then repeat. When they get to college they are making their own schedules, eating what/when they want, making time for social activities, and even integrating into new groups of friends. Sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition are keys that will help your teen succeed so make sure they have all the encouragement and necessary tools in place to help them make smart decisions – because parents aren’t always going to be there to offer those friendly reminders!
As an adult, we should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep daily. When we’re tired, we can become stressed out, irritable, and have difficulty concentrating on the things that deserve our undivided attention. It can also lead to increased risks of developing chronic diseases and conditions as they continue to grow (like diabetes, obesity, depression, etc.). With 24 hour dining hall options and a plethora of tempting food items that can add unhealthy amounts of fat, sugar, and salt into the mix. Regular exercise also has many health benefits and at least 2.5 hours a week of physical activity can do the trick; not only does it help to keep the mind fresh but also helps to combat the “freshman 15”.
Educate your teen.
There may be a lot of new experiences your teen is introduced to during their time at college. Two biggest concerns our parents share are their worry their child will get involved with using harmful substances (underage drinking and drug use) and engaging in sexual activity. There can be a lot of unnecessary pressure that teens put on themselves to fit in and subsequently peer pressure plays a large part in a teen’s participation in underage drinking so that they’ll better fit into a group. College drinking is already so widespread across the nation that it is sometimes thought to be the normal experience teens have – but this doesn’t mean that it is any less important or dire. Having a conversation with your teen about the dangers of binge drinking, drunk driving, and long-term health effects in advance can certainly help encourage your teen to make smarter decisions when they’re on their own.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), nearly half of the 20 million newly diagnosed sexual transmitted diseases (STDs) each year are among the youth, more specifically the 15-24 year old category. Unprotected sex puts any one at risk of infection, and while many of these STDs are treatable, not all are curable or detectable. Untreated STDs can have long term effects like pelvic disease, infertility, chronic pain, etc. – encouraging your teen to practice safe sex (whether abstinence or the use of condoms) is just as important to their safety as reminding them to pay attention to their surrounds when walking alone at night, or remembering to turn off the stove after cooking.
Teens are going to experiment with many different things over their lifetime and while we may not be able to monitor every aspect of their lives once they’ve moved out for college, we can equip them with the tools they need to make sound decisions on matters that could have long-lasting effects long after their college years.