How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex at Any Age

Let’s lay out some things research advises us to avoid when communicating with our children about their sexuality.

When it comes to talking about sex with our kids, most parents immediately assign it a headline like, “The Sex Talk: Causing Irrational Panic and Avoidance for Parents Everywhere Since the Beginning of Time.”

It’s no secret that the U.S. isn’t exactly known for its exemplary sex education programming, and many recent studies have shown the negative effects that stem from this. So how do we talk about sex with our kids when most of us have grown up in homes that either didn’t talk about sex at all, or talked about it in hushed tones and mumbled voices?

Regardless of opinion on public sex education, parents can feel empowered in their ability to create their own sex education in their own home. We have decades of research showing us the positive effects of talking about sex truthfully with our kids early on.

So let’s lay out some things research advises us to avoid when communicating with our children about their sexuality.

Don’t wait

Most parents avoid the sex talk with their children like the plague, only coming to the realization that, when they finally do decide to sit down with them, their children have already amassed loads of inaccurate information from far less desirable sources.

Sex is around every corner of our society, whether it’s on the cover of a women’s magazine, on a billboard, or on TV. Avoiding the topic is not preventing our child from learning about sex. It does, however, prevent them from learning accurate information about sex.

The Dutch are known for being at the forefront in talking with their children about sex. They begin having many, small, age appropriate conversations right out of the gate. The Netherlands reports higher rates of positive first sexual experiences, a significantly higher rate of birth control use, and a teen pregnancy rate that is five times lower than the U.S. 

It appears, as with any significant matter, denial is not our friend.

Parents of toddlers

You can begin to provide proper names for body parts and functions, as well as explaining which parts of our body are private and which are public. It is never too early to introduce good touch verses bad touch, and that no one ever touches our private parts besides our parents or doctors when we’re making sure they are healthy and safe. Conversations about safe touch should continue throughout every age and stage.

Parents of elementary-aged children

You can take cues from your child in moments when natural curiosity arises. Oftentimes, this occurs during bath time or when kids are exposed to another child’s genitals during a diaper change, etc.

When a child asks about body parts, tampons, or how babies are made, take it as a great opportunity to lay the basic groundwork of the egg and the sperm: “A woman has an egg, and a man has a sperm, and together they create a baby.” Keep it simple, short, and sweet.

Starting to have conversations about sexuality at this age lessens the embarrassment factor in spades. Because your child doesn’t yet have the ability to process much abstract thought, they will not automatically think of mom and dad in the context of sex. It’s also a great way for parents to ease their way into conversations about sex.

Parents of older elementary aged children

You can take advantage of many great resources to aid in your child’s understanding of their body and changing emotions during puberty. The child is now old enough to understand not only the connection between love and sex, but also how respect and affection enter into an intimate relationship.

Sex and gender roles in the media are a topic ripe for discussion as parents explain the differences between TV and real life. Unfortunately, in our world, if your child doesn’t hear about pornography from you, they will see it or hear of it elsewhere.

Parents of teens

You can create numerous opportunities to talk about sex, healthy boundaries, and intimacy. We need to be deliberate in countering the many confusing messages teens get from society, emphasizing that they, in fact, have rightful ownership of their own bodies and have full control of their sexual behaviors.

We must also provide language to help them understand their own sexual feelings and desires, recognizing their emotions as well as their desire for intimacy and relationships. 

Teens deserve to be empowered and informed about their own anatomy and how to be safe during sex. This does not mean you are condoning your child having sex. Conveying our own values and expectations and equipping our near-adults with information to keep them safe are not mutually exclusive.

Don’t beat around the bush

Creating alternative names for our body parts communicates to our children that there is something wrong or shameful about them. So avoid the good ol’ wee wee and hoo hoo that most of us grew up with.

Also, discussing all things sex and body related with openness and honesty demonstrates to our child that they can approach us to talk throughout their growth (as opposed to the sixth grader on the bus).

Find a way to be objective

Talking about sexuality with our child doesn’t need to be the emotionally laden time bomb most of us imagine. When parents sort our their own thoughts, views, and emotions regarding sex and intimacy in relation to their child, they will be able to enter into the conversation from a neutral and supportive stance.

This also means letting go of what we see, know, and have come to learn about sex through our own subjective lens and seeing things from a new and natural perspective. Human sexuality is a natural and healthy.

Avoid judgement and lectures

If you want to be your child’s source of information on sexuality, it’s best to bite your tongue and become a good listener. Give your child the space to talk without feeling judged or criticized.

They listen closely when we place harsh judgements and criticisms on others. Questions are key in these discussions, and parents are often surprised at the reasonable and healthy conclusions their children come to when given the opportunity.

Focus on do’s instead of dont’s

Most parents naturally trend toward discussing what not to do and often forget to place emphasis on what to do when it comes to sexuality and personal safety. If your child learns how to react when stuck in a dangerous or uncomfortable circumstance, they will be much more likely to remember it in the heat of the moment.

Explicitly stating our values on sex and intimacy, as well as the reasoning behind them, gives children the opportunity to think critically about the topic and increases the chance they internalize what they are taught.

Don’t waste the opportunity

Discussions about sexuality need not only be about anatomy, but can also incorporate a myriad of crucial social and emotional topics, including relationships, intimacy, self-expression, gender roles, health, and self respect, to name a few. Pretty powerful stuff, right?

Discussing sex is a springboard to teaching your child about healthy boundaries in relationships, what defines an intimate relationship, and how to take care of themselves both physically and emotionally.

Unsurprisingly, the Dutch begin a curriculum using these concepts as early as kindergarten. Children are shown images of physical affection, such as hugs, and asked why the people might be hugging. Teachers prompt them to think about how they feel when engaging in these same interactions with their favorite people.

Children respond with insightful reactions such as, “It makes me feel warm on the inside.” These lessons are designed to get kids talking and thinking about what kind of physical intimacy feels good, and what doesn’t.

Go boldly where most parents haven’t gone before

While society has lots of inaccurate and confusing messages to offer our children, parents have the power to offer more. Research indicates it’s time for us to grow up and start getting more comfortable with attitudes on sexuality.

You have more influence than you may realize. Teenage boys and girls alike report that parents are the most influential factor in their decisions about sex. Whether it seems like it or not, your child takes cues from you on how to view their own changing body. These exchanges form the lens through which they’ll interpret their intimate relationships.

So let’s get past mistaking openness for permissiveness. We can empower and inform our kids while still making our values and expectations clear.

3 Simple Ways Water Can Calm Your Children

As one of our most important natural resources, water provides so many benefits including improving our health and happiness.

Water is everywhere. Our bodies are 70 percent water and about the same percentage of the earth’s surface is covered in water. It’s no surprise that throughout time people have been attracted to water for its many beneficial properties – like beauty and tranquility.

Now, science actually shows that being in and around water can calm our bodies and minds. Wouldn’t you love to be able to calm your children using something as simple and available as water? Here are three ways that water can help your children relax.

Observe it

Have you ever lost yourself in the beauty of the ocean, a flowing waterfall, or even an aquarium? You are certainly not alone. Water is known to give us a sense of peace and serenity. In fact,  medical studies have found less cortisol (the stress hormone) and more serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine (the feel-good hormones) in people as they spend time in, on, or around the ocean.

A couple years ago, marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols dove into this topic in his book “Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected and Better at What You Do.” He believes that we all have a “blue mind,” which he describes as “a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment” that’s triggered when we’re exposed to water.

When we’re around water, our brain becomes engaged in our environment and we enjoy pleasant sensory stimulation. We become so focused on the water that we enter a mindful state. As a result, we enjoy lower stress levels; relief from anxiety, pain, and depression; improved mental clarity and focus; and better sleep.

Water also inspires a sense of awe, as we take in the vastness of the ocean or swim in a large lake. These experiences make us aware of and appreciate our place in this immense world. Such awe-inspiring experiences boost our mood, making us feel happier and calmer. This happens because our nervous system reacts in the opposite way to awe than anxiety. Instead of the “fight or flight” response kicking in, awe keeps us still and relaxed, benefiting both our body and mind.

Water also provides soothing sounds that help us feel calm, as evidenced by all the relaxation and sleep aids that use sounds of water – whether it be crashing waves, the pitter patter of rainfall, or the rush of a flowing river.

Why does the sound of water cause this reaction? Studies show that it’s based on how our brain interprets different noises. These slow, rhythmic whooshing sounds are non-threatening, which is why they calm us down. Also, the sound of water is a type of white noise that helps drown out other noises that might cause us concern. 

Find ways to expose your children to awe-inspiring water scenes and sounds, such as:

  • Plan trips where you can visit impressive water sights like Niagara Falls, the turquoise sea in the Caribbean, waterfalls in Hawaii, and the Great Lakes.
  • Visit marine nature centers and aquariums.
  • Spend time at the beach and encourage your children to express how the scene makes them feel in creative ways like writing, painting, or singing about it.
  • Go fishing or on a boat ride or cruise.
  • Listen to water sounds to calm your children at bedtime.

Baby girl playing in a small swimming pool

Immerse yourself in it

Spending time in water has a tremendous soothing effect. Some believe this is because it’s reminiscent of the time we spent in our mother’s womb surrounded by amniotic fluid. It may also be related to how the water makes us feel weightless and free.

Studies show that floating can actually change our brain waves and reduce cortisol levels, therefore making us feel more relaxed. There is an actual floating therapy now where individuals can visit a float center to spend time in a dark, private room floating in water as a form of meditation. A 2001 study in the Journal of the Canadian Pain Society found that spending time in a flotation tank effectively decreased anxiety and depression and increased optimism.

Swimming is also known to boost endorphins that increase feelings of well-being. Plus, the rhythmic strokes and sound of water make swimming very relaxing. Research shows that swimming produces the same relaxation response as yoga, increasing calming chemicals and allowing us to enter a meditative state. When we swim laps, we can focus simply on our strokes and breathing, making it easy to shut off all the noises and activity going on outside the pool.

Baths and showers have been used as ways to escape daily stress for ages. By practicing some mindfulness during a bath or shower, we can really focus on the sensations on our skin and the sounds of the trickling water. This helps us be in the moment and forget our worries.

Look for opportunities for your children to spend time in water:

  • Sign them up for swim lessons or join a swim team.
  • Encourage them to practice floating on their back in the pool.
  • Choose vacations where you can enjoy swimming and water sports.
  • Turn bathtime into a mindfulness moment by asking them questions about how the water feels and sounds.
  • For older children and teens, visit a spa or float therapy center together. 

Drink it

Let’s also not forget how critical water is to our health. By simply drinking enough water throughout the day, children can minimize feelings of stress and anxiety. Water plays such an important role in how our body functions. All of our organs, including our brain, need water to work properly. If we’re dehydrated, our body is strained and we can become stressed and edgy. Dehydration can actually cause symptoms that feel like anxiety, such as dizziness, muscle fatigue, headache, feeling faint, increased heart rate, and nausea.

Dehydration has also been linked to higher cortisol levels. According to the Calm Clinic, water appears to have natural calming properties. Drinking water can be soothing, and our body can benefit from the added hydration when we are stressed.

It is so important that we encourage our children to drink enough water every day to help them stay balanced. The amount of water a child needs depends on several factors like activity level and local weather, but in general children should drink at least six to eight cups of water per day.

Your children will probably need more water if they’re participating in sports. It’s suggested that they drink a half cup to two cups of water every 15 to 20 minutes while exercising. For specific recommendations, see the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) developed by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

As one of our most important natural resources, water provides so many benefits including improving our health and happiness. Have fun exploring new ways for your children to enjoy water through their senses – and you will be grateful for how calm they are as a result.

Makeup Helps Me Feel Like More Than Just a Mom

I learned how to contour from some of the best in the business. Drag Queens. I’m the most made up mom at the bus stop, and that’s fine by me.

I’m trying to rub sticky mascara from my eyelids. I know I probably should have taken it off the night before, but the kids needed to be put to bed. So, I’m left with the dregs of waterproof mascara gumming up my eyelashes.

Because I makeup, honey. I may have three kids under the age of six, I may not have any free time whatsoever…but I love my makeup like Tammy Faye Baker, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

I wasn’t always like this. In college, the drag queens taught me how to contour, so I’d swipe bronzer under my cheekbones and over my nose (no blending – eek!), brush on some mascara, and be done with it.

Slowly, I added more: eyeliner, mostly, to my eyelid on both top and bottom. Liquid foundation and concealer to cover up the zombie-dark circles under my eyes. I bought everything from the drug store, Wal-Mart, or Target.

Then I got married. I learned, during my wedding makeover, how to put on eyeshadow, and what colors work for me. I got them from a real makeup counter. Even after all that education, I wore mostly one color – brown.

I was content for years. My eyeliner and my bronzer, they comforted me. I was so obsessive, we joked, I had to put on makeup in the middle of the desert – which I could, and I did, on a trip to Death Valley.

I never dunked my head for fear of running mascara, and my mascara always ran, mostly because I couldn’t find a decent waterproof formula. It smeared into half-moons by mid-afternoon. I yelled at my husband for not telling me, and chalked it up to motherhood.

Then I saw some videos on YouTube. By then, I had three children and absolutely no time on my hands.

These videos showed how to really contour. They involved multiple colors, and most importantly, blending and finishing with a real foundation powder. These people prepped their faces with primer. They set them with a finishing spray that seemed suspiciously like hairspray. There were different brushes involved.

I remembered the drag queens. I can do that, I thought.

So one morning, I left my bedroom and bathroom doors open. I broke out the bronzer. I broke out the white eyeliner from a palette, because I’m so pale. I swirled it all together with a big poofy brush my friend had made me buy.

The kids were, from the sound of it, jumping off the couch. But my complexion looked like that of a Disney princess.

I went all out. I bought powder foundation at an exorbitant price. I watched YouTube videos on how to do my eyes: tightlining, I learned, is when you put eyeliner on the insides of the wet part of your eye. It makes your lashes pop. I learned how to really put on eyeliner, not just swipe some brown and call it a day.

By the time I was finished, counting the lipstick I now wore, and the finishing spray, my makeup routine took approximately 35 minutes, four kinds of eyeliner, four powders, and two kinds of primer. I did not care.

That 35 minutes saw my children mostly unsupervised, though they wandered into the bathroom occasionally, and I always emerged for screaming. They used my inattention to tear all the covers off my bed, construct a massive pillow fort, and play squirrels that just so happened to bounce at regular intervals. I didn’t care.

Well, I cared, because I’d have to put the bed back together, but for 35 glorious minutes, I wasn’t a parent. I had abdicated my children to their own will, and I was glamorous. It filled some deep need in me; I needed something more than parenting. I needed something for myself. I found it in probably-too-expensive makeup.

I’m still at it. Sometimes I put on “Scooby Doo” while I Google Image search for eyeshadow schemes. Other times I kick my kids into their playroom while I try to replicate a smokey eye, which I will transgressively wear all day. Sometimes I downplay my eyes, smear on some red lipstick, and send selfies to my husband. He likes that.

I’d put my makeup on to go to the mailbox, as the saying goes. I love the way it makes me look: from Plain Jane to Glamour Girl. It makes me something more than a stay-at-home mom in yoga pants. I may be herding three small children, but I’ve got some killer eyeliner. And I love it.

 

Posted on Categories First PersonTags

What a Little Attention Can Do: My Momover Experiment Week 4

This spring I turned 40, my daughter turned one, and to commemorate both, I bought an unlimited month-long hair and makeup package, “The Ultimate Zsuzs,” from a little salon down the street.

My intention is to explore how, or if, radically upping my grooming game will impact my life. Below is the final installment, week four. Click here to read about weeks one, two, and three.

Momover Day 22

On the eve of my final week of unlimited access to hair styling and makeovers at a salon on my block, my family took a much needed weekend in the woods about sixty miles away.

If a woman puts lipstick on in a forest, does it make a Zsuzs?

I wore no makeup.

Day 23

I found myself thinking about the expressions of pity and mild disgust that people use about older women: “She really let herself go.” That is actually my greatest hope for myself and all women, that we let ourselves go, abandon hangups and resentments. That we release toxic notions of self, beauty, motherhood, partnership. I would love to not just let myself go but really let myself go.

Day 24

On the train ride back to the city my family and I sat across from a college-aged woman who applied make up and styled her hair for the entire 80 minute ride. She had a kind of effortful Kendall Jenner look, albeit the working class version. She was very alien to us as I suspect we were to her as well.

Day 25

Knowing full well that I squandered three of my last days of the Zsuzs, I endeavored to commit hard core in the final stretch and try something adventurous for each of my final three visits.

Meg, who co-owns the salon, did my hair half up in a braid – a little wild, untamed, and super pretty – then gave me an intense navy-grey eye. The photograph of my face (like all photographs for this story) downplays the amount and intensity of the color. It’s just the nature of phone camera photography to not be capable of capturing how elaborately I was actually made up.

So you’ll just have to trust me that the color was extreme — and yet, drum roll – I loved it! I picked a destination about which I was curious, a new indie movie house, Metrograph, on Ludlow Street, where they have a lounge and a restaurant and everything is hyper chic, and I took myself there after the baby went to sleep.

I was so pleased to be comfortable with something so adventurous. My go-to dressed-up look for the past fifteen or more years had been a blow out. A hair stylist would straighten out the curls and the frizz and shellack me up like a beauty contestant. I see now that it was a kind of self-protective helmet.

In my 20s when my first book was published I did dozens of TV appearances and readings and I think the blow out helped me transition into a less vulnerable state, helped me hop in to an identity wherein I felt confident. In my 30s, when I started writing for the Wall St. Journal, they were sending me out to cover galas every week, and again, I think that blown out hair helped me feel self-assured, helped me feel like I fit in at the Waldorf Astoria or Cipriani or wherever the masters of the universe were meeting that week to philanthropize.

These were all opportunities where being less of who I am — less messy, less complex, less vulnerable (and, on some level, less ethnically Jewish) — was what I thought I wanted.

At 40 I wanted to find a dressed-up look that, rather than slip me neatly into a category of urban, rich, trendy, polished, professional, emotionally placid and controlled woman, suggested a hint of the wildness, the complexity, the emotionality, the creativity of my mind and my life and my curiosities. What kind of beautiful woman has the fortitude and grace for these turbulent times? Sorry folks, not the beauty contestant and not the socialite.

My husband and I don’t have that many opportunities to really dress up but every so often we are invited to something fancy and now, with my wild blue look and wild braided hair, I was really ready for that.

Now it was also possible for me to zsuzs myself up with the braid and the blue eye and go to the movies, or to a bar, to take on the adventure of the city like I used to when I first moved here for college. I’d found an expression of beauty that was exciting made me feel at home. Refined glamour or fancy glamour had always felt phony to me, like I was projecting a lifestyle I didn’t have, and aspirations that weren’t mine.

Day 26

I became aware — because of writing this series — that on several occasions I’d described the process of putting myself together as a dignifying process, which meant that on some level I thought of my home life as undignified.

That’s a rather intense concept, and likely insulting to people who do domestic labor, and probably worth my time to unpack. What exactly lacks dignity in my efforts to keep a home running? And how can I make my home a place of genuine retreat and not just a throbbing, scrambling To Do list?

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Day 27

I said I wanted to try bold things so Meg did a big cat eye and an almost fluorescent red lip. She loved it.

I did not. It felt utterly not me. Way too much theatricality in a Betty Page-style that didn’t resonate. But I wore it anyway to a conference in Middle Eastern American theater that I was covering. I felt like sticking with looks that were outside my comfort zone was part of the experiment. I was open to my opinion of it changing.

But it didn’t change. When I wasn’t immersed in the work and remembered how done up I was, I felt embarrassed.

Day 28

I met with a friend who is an editor at a magazine for a drink last night and got an assignment from the magazine the next day.

Did I get the gig because I had attended to my hair and makeup before we met up for the drink? No, I got the gig because I had several hundred features under my belt and a strong pitch — but the Zsuzs helped. I’d been wanting to write for other publications for years, but between trying to get pregnant, being pregnant, and having a new baby, I just didn’t have the bandwidth.

The Zsuzs had had a strange course. Initially it depleted me but eventually it energized. I was finding myself with a new energy for my career, a new energy to network, to present myself in new ways, to conceive of new projects. It put fuel in my tank. It got what was stalled moving.

Day 29

I went for my final appointment at Joli Beauty Bar and Chardé, Zsuzsi, and Meg were all there with flowers, a card, and a chocolate cake for me. I was very touched and pleased to see that it was as important for them to convey that a genuine relationship had formed as it was to me.

Meg did a blow out and a bright teal eye.

Zsuzsi asked, “What do you say to doing fake eyelashes?”

“I say yes,” I replied.

After the appointment, I met up with the same friend I’d seen during the first week of the Zsuzs. She remarked how differently I was talking about hair and makeup from when we’d last met for a fancy drink. 

In the end it had been a transformative process — not on the top ten most transforming events of my life, but still powerfully and mysteriously life-altering. I attended to my face and body and brought myself into a routine of grooming. I saw that beauty was less fraught and more fun at 40 then it had ever been before. I tried a wide menu of looks for hair and makeup and landed on a handful that I really loved and felt either at ease with or pleasantly charged in.

What coalesced was a greater desire to be out in the world and pursue curiosities and opportunities. And with that comes an infinite realm of possibility.

Group of women involved in the momover experiment

How to Jump-Start Your Morning Productivity

So much of having a productive morning is about setting yourself up for success the night before. Hit the ground running with these eight practices

Do you look around in a daze by noon wondering where on earth your day has gone?

So much of having a productive morning is about setting yourself up for success the night before.  Hit the ground running each day by incorporating these eight practices into your nighttime routine:

1. Empty your brain.

Write down everything you need to do or remember for tomorrow.  Trying to keep it straight or worrying that you’ve forgotten something makes for restless sleep when your head hits the pillow.  Get it all down on paper so that you can sleep undisturbed.

2. Now cross things off your list.

Most of us will write down way more than we can reasonably accomplish in a day.  Identify the items that you can eliminate as unnecessary, share with or delegate to someone else, or push off to a later date without issue.  Prioritize what remains.

3. Map out a rough schedule.

Lying awake wondering whether you’ll be able to get it all done tomorrow?  Make sure that you will by sketching out a rough framework for your day – maybe a 30-minute jog in the morning, an hour-long meeting in the afternoon, 45 minutes of soccer practice for your kid . . . you get the idea.  You’ll be able to see at a glance whether you have room to breathe or you need to pare down your to-do list further.

4. Tidy up.

It’s maddening to trip over toys and search fruitlessly for clean breakfast dishes before plopping down at a paper-strewn desk to work.  Don’t kill your morning momentum by forcing yourself to pick up yesterday’s residue as you go along.  Before bed, run through a quick clean-up routine so that you can move through your morning refreshed and unhindered by disorganization.

5. Get it together.

Make your morning run more efficiently by having your stuff ready to go.  Make lunches the night before.  Pack up your briefcase or laptop.  Find your keys and ensure that your electronics are sufficiently charged.  Have your kids load everything they need into their backpacks the night before.

6. Decompress.

Give your brain the opportunity to unwind before you hurl it into another busy day.  Carve out time at night to sit, go for a walk, read a book, listen to music, or do whatever calms your spirit.

7. Go to bed on time.

Don’t overfill your day to the point that you run yourself ragged late into the night before hitting the hay.  Set yourself up for tomorrow’s successes by prioritizing the physical and mental benefits of sleep in your schedule.

8. Set your alarm.

You’ve primed yourself for a productive day tomorrow!  Don’t throw it away first thing by hitting snooze five times before running out the door without your shoes and middle child.  Set your alarm to wake you with time to spare, and then get moving!

Half a million kids have elevated blood levels of lead, according to the CDC – and Elmo

More than half a million kids have elevated blood levels of lead, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We all care about lead in Flint now, which is great,” Oliver said. “Unfortunately, the problem is not just in Flint. A USA Today network report found lead contamination in almost 2,000 additional water systems spanning all 50 states.” (To see your neighborhood’s risk of elevated lead levels, head here.)

At least 2.1 million homes have lead paint exposure risk and kids under six years old. As a result, more than half a million kids have elevated blood levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New Study: Concussions Can Negatively Alter Parent-Child Relationships

The young brain is particularly vulnerable to injury and one of the first visible signs of social difficulties in young children is a decline in their relationship with their parents.

The incidence of concussion is particularly high in the preschool years — up to around 2% of children aged 0 to 5 years per year.

A new study by researchers at CHU Sainte-Justine mother-child research hospital (affiliated with the University of Montreal) reveals the adverse effects of mild traumatic brain injury on the quality parent-child relationships.

“The young brain is particularly vulnerable to injury because the skull is still thin and malleable. In the months following the injury, one of the first visible signs of social difficulties in young children is a decline in their relationship with their parents,” said Miriam Beauchamp a researcher at Sainte-Justine, professor of psychology at the University of Montreal and senior author of the study.

Knowing that good parent-child relationships are synonymous with better social skills later in life, the researchers stress the importance for parents to monitor behavior changes in their child in the weeks that follow the trauma and adjust accordingly during this period.

Given the relatively limited social and cognitive skills of preschoolers, a concussion at this age can slow the development of new abilities, for example, certain communication skills.

“The quality of parent-child interactions following concussion was significantly reduced compared to non-injured children,” said Gabrielle Lalonde, BSc, a doctoral student and first author of the study.

“If, as parents, you notice the effects of the accident on your own psychological state, or behavioral changes in your child that make them interact differently and that persist more than a few weeks, you should talk to your family doctor or a neuropsychologist,” said Beauchamp.

Source: Newswise.com: Concussion Can Alter Parent-Child Relationships

+ Further reading: Concussion: Why Kids are Most at Risk

 

Millions of Maternal and Child Lives Could Be Saved Every Year for Less Than $5 a Person

Improving care at the time of birth gives a quadruple return on investment.

By spending less than $5 per person on essential health care services such as contraception, medication for serious illnesses and nutritional supplements, millions of maternal and child lives could be saved every year, according to a new analysis led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Improving care at the time of birth gives a quadruple return on investment.

By spending less than $5 per person on essential health care services such as contraception, medication for serious illnesses and nutritional supplements, millions of maternal and child lives could be saved every year, according to a new analysis led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The findings, published April 9 in The Lancet, suggest it is possible to save many lives by broadly expanding basic services in the 74 low- and middle-income countries where more than 95 percent of the world’s maternal and child deaths occur annually.

“Many of these deaths could be prevented if high-impact and affordable solutions reached the populations that needed them most,” says study leader Robert Black, PhD, a professor in the Department of International Health at the Bloomberg School. “Our analysis shows that expanding access to care to keep more mothers and children alive and healthy is feasible and a highly cost-effective investment.”

Interventions ranged from improving pregnancy and delivery care, to treating life-threatening infectious diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria, and better childhood nutrition. These services, they found, could prevent 1.5 million newborn deaths, 1.5 million child deaths, and 149,000 maternal deaths — equivalent to half of all maternal, newborn and child deaths annually. They could also prevent 849,000 stillbirths, or more than a third of all annual stillbirths.

Original source: Newswise 

5 Strategies to Reduce Your Kid’s Anxiety You Can Implement Today

As a Child and Family Therapist, the concern I hear most is “I think my child may have anxiety, and I’m not sure how to help.” Here are research-based tips.

As a child and family therapist, the concern I hear most often is, “I think my child may have anxiety and I’m not sure how to help them.”

I don’t need to travel as far as my office to see the various ways anxiety impacts children in today’s world. As a mom of three, I see firsthand how the world incites excessive stress in our kids.

Our children are encompassed in a culture of fear: fear of health and safety, fear of not being the best, fear of not fitting in, fear of failing a test, fear of not making the team, and the list goes on and on.

With 1 in 8 children experiencing anxiety (and many more feeling stressed), it would be difficult to deny that our kids are facing an inordinate amount of pressure in their daily lives. Luckily, there are some straightforward, research-based, hugely effective strategies that you can practice with your kids in order to start lowering their anxiety today.

1| Be a media monitor

Evidence shows that exposure to news programming and fictional media such as video games, movies, and TV shows can cause children to experience fear and anxiety.  When children are exposed to violent or aggressive content, their brains process it in the same way as if it were actually happening to them.

This means stress hormones are triggered, and the amygdala goes into overdrive creating an anxious response in the brain. In addition to this, if children are exposed to mature content that their maturing brain can’t yet process, it will leave them feeling overwhelmed and anxious.  With the barrage of media sources out there today, resources such as Common Sense Media are invaluable for assisting parents in setting these essential boundaries.

2 | Harness the power of helpful thoughts.

Positive thinking has become a cliché, but I assure you, it is a powerhouse in terms of lowering anxiety. The thoughts your child has in any given scenario will shape their feelings and behavior.

You, as a parent, have the ability to pay attention to your child’s language and alert them to negative thought patterns that contribute to anxiety.

Good indicators of negative thinking are the use of exaggerations, extremes (I always, I never), or speculative statements such as “what if…” or “I might…” Assist them in challenging the thoughts that are not based in fact or reason, and collaborate with them to come up with a more reasonable and self-affirming statement.

3 | Become breathing buddies.

Odds are, you will be present with your child in a moment during the day where either of you may be feeling stressed. This is a great opportunity to experience the massive power of a few good quality breaths. Sit up straight, draw your breath into your abdomen, and count to four during each exhale and inhale.

There is no faster way to calm down an anxious physiology (lower stress hormones, lower blood pressure, and increase oxygenation to the front brain promoting problem solving) than taking good impactful breaths.

4 | Engage in beginner mindfulness.

A very practical way to begin sowing seeds of mindfulness with your child is practicing gratitude. Take a minute to each share three things you are feeling thankful for at that moment. When our brains are focusing on gratitude the part of our brain responsible for maintaining anxiety is forced to shut down. You are also helping draw your child’s thoughts into the present moment as opposed to ruminating in the past or speculating about the future.

5 | Be a safe haven.

Many kids work through tough feelings that contribute to anxiety through talking. Demonstrating you are available and present will encourage your child to share their thoughts and emotions. When they are sharing, resist the urge to criticize or lecture them. Repeat back to them what they shared and empathize with how they are feeling. Utilize the powerful listening skills of acceptance, validation, and empathy, and you will demonstrate to your child that you are a supportive resource to turn to when they are feeling anxious or stressed.

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