Do 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.
Let’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.
At the very essence, the job of a pediatrician is to provide top-notch, quality medical healthcare for children from the time of their birth until they reach their 21st birthday. At Children’s Wellness Center (CWC), the wellbeing of your child’s health, physically, mentally, and emotionally, as they continue to grow is our most important priority. Whether you’re a new parent, just moved to the Atlanta/Dunwoody area, or looking to find a pediatrician that better suits your needs, we wanted to share our tips for how to choose a pediatrician for your child.
Tips for choosing a pediatrician:
Conduct a web search to see qualified providers in your area. Only those who are board-certified pediatricians can carry the distinction of displaying their Fellows of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FAAP) honor as a part of their credentials. What this means is that these pediatricians have completed the rigorous qualifications as recognized by the board to be a part of their professional organization beyond their general medical training. We suggest using the American Academy of Pediatrics as a great resource as you begin.
Talk with other parents for recommendations. They’ll be your honest reviewer because they’ll have either entrusted their kids to specific pediatricians or have family/friends who have enjoyed working with them. Online review sites can skew a patient’s opinion, especially ones that are falsified, so having backup recommendations from those you trust will help give patients better peace of mind.
Don’t be afraid to contact the pediatrician’s office you’re interested in with questions about the practice, the pediatric services offered, and their resident providers. You’d be surprised by how much you can learn from a quick phone call (for instance, were the staff friendly, knowledgeable, and actively engaged in helping address your concerns or were they dismissive and cold?) – if you’re not interested in what you heard, you know to move on to the next and you’ve saved yourself a wasted visit to their office.
If you’re not happy with a specific pediatrician, try another! There’s no reason you should be anything less than 100% confident in the abilities of your child’s pediatrician. You’re the biggest advocate for your child’s health, so it’s important to only entrust their safety and health to those that really care about helping those in need and providing their best care possible.
When we first started our practice, we wanted to create a special place of our own led by a team who treats each and every patient as if they were a member of their own family. The Children’s Wellness Center pediatricians are all parents ourselves and the practices that we share with you and our children are what we do with our own families. Our patients are an extension of us and we couldn’t be more proud to work with all of them as we watch them grow. Don’t just take our word for it though, watch what some of our amazing patients have to say about us and if you’re interested in meeting us, don’t hesitate to stop by – we look forward to meeting you!