by Sari Harrar
There’s plenty to stress about with Frankenstorm Sandy bearing down on the East Coast - with high winds, flooding and black-outs on the way. But as I packed an emergency bag, downloaded computer files, walked a dog who wasn’t in a hurry to do her business, hauled out lanterns and flashlights and urged our daughter to finish her laundry and pack ‘just in case ... I realized that freaking her out wasn’t contributing to smart emergency preparedness.
How can you get kids ready for uncertainty? Stay calm. Help them understand the nuts-and-bolts of the situation, at a level that’s right for them. And understand how kids may react - becoming fearful (younger kids may wet the bed again or revert to baby talk), angry or even sick (stomach aches, headaches, sleep problems).
What did one in seven girls and one in six boys have in common in a new Canadian study? These 10-year-olds got bullied several times a week at school -- most often by fellow students who called them names, taunted them and tried to turn them into social outcasts.
But many of these potential victims had something special on their side that buffered some of bullying’s damaging effects on mood and self-esteem -- the support of friends, classmates, parents and other adults. Researchers from the University of British Columbia found that bullied kids felt depressed, anxious and dissatisfied with their lives. But those who had positive relationships with other people had higher levels of self-confidence and felt better about life than kids who tried to cope on their own. This was especially true for girls.
This study deserves parents’ attention for two reasons:
Gary A. Emmett, M.D., Pediatrics Professor- Thomas Jefferson Univ. & Director, Hospital Pediatrics- TJU Hospital
by Gary A. Emmett, M.D.
Multiple studies show that when children witness or - even worse - are personally assaulted, there are long-term consequences for their health and behavior. Children caught up in the web of violence have much higher chances of:
- Poor school achievement
- Early sexual activity
- Participating in violence themselves.
A recent New England Journal of Medicine study looked at the experiences of more than 5,000 fifth graders in three different urban areas - Birmingham, Ala., Houston and Los Angeles. It focused on health disparities between African-American, Latino and white children. One finding was the chances that a child witnessed the threat of injury, or saw actual injury caused by a gun, were four times higher in African-American children than in white children. When the researchers took socio-economic status into account, African-American kids were still twice as likely as white or Latino kids to have witnessed violence even when they lived in similar neighborhoods and had similar incomes.
Rima Himelstein, M.D., Crozer-Keystone Health System
by Rima Himelstein, M.D.
Bullying. It has happened to many of my patients; maybe it’s happened to your child, too. When it happens to celebrities like actor Kate Winslet, who was called “Blubber” and locked in an art-room closet, or former President Bill Clinton, who was called a “fat band boy” and hit in the jaw ... then it starts to gain more attention.Comedian Chris Rock is another star who was bullied in school, and he knows that bullying is no laughing matter. It is such a serious problem that October has been named National Bullying Prevention Month.
It’s about power or, rather, the imbalance of power. Bullying is a form of youth violence in which there is an imbalance of power with one child or group of children causing harm, fear, or distress in another child through repeated attacks. Bullying may take various forms:
- Physical, including hitting, punching and kicking
- Verbal, including teasing, name-calling or racial slurs
- Cyberbullying, including harassing e-mails, text messages, or internet posts
Making the move from cozy elementary school classrooms to the big-league world of middle school – with locker combinations to remember, class schedules to learn, more homework and all those big kids roaming the halls – is easier when new middle schoolers have this on their side: Good friendships.
Last week, Healthy Kids gave parents a Philadelphia counselor’s advice on helping kids of all ages make and keep friends. Now, there’s even more proof that friendships matter more than ever when for 6th- or 7th-graders entering middle school or junior high. Girls and boys with friends who do well in school and respect the rules – and who steer clear of kids flirting with trouble – consistently did better academically in a recent University of Oregon study.
Good friends in middle school did even more – kids with close relationships with other well-adjusted kids at age 13 were more likely to be happy, productive young adults at age 24, the same researchers found in an earlier study. Why? The way kids navigate the intense social scene of the early teen years has lasting effects (something any adult who struggled through the shark tank of junior high knows all too well).
Helping kids succeed in first grade may have a lasting mental-health benefit: Lower risk for depression in seventh grade and beyond. That’s the conclusion University of Missouri researchers arrived at after tracking 474 boys and girls from grammar school to middle school.
It makes sense - and it’s just one more reason to help your learners do their best. “We found that students in the first grade who struggled academically with core subjects, including reading and math, later displayed negative self-perceptions and symptoms of depression in sixth and seventh grade, respectively,” said researcher Keith Herman, associate professor of education, school and counseling psychology in the MU College of Education. “Often, children with poor academic skills believe they have less influence on important outcomes in their life. Poor academic skills can influence how children view themselves as students and as social beings.”
The scientists quickly point out that not every child is an academic whiz kid - and it’s important for parents to recognize and let kids know they value all types of intelligence. “Children’s individual differences will always exist in basic academic skills, so it is necessary to explore and emphasize other assets in students, especially those with lower academic skill relative to their peers,” Herman said. “Along with reading and math, teachers and parents should honor skills in other areas, such as interpersonal skills, non-core academic areas, athletics and music.”
Could an hour on the playground, a bike ride or a walk in the park do more for your child’s math and reading scores than more studying? How about good relationships with you and with their friends? Could be.
It turns out that a healthy heart, strong lungs and good relationships are leading factors determining whether middle schoolers get good grades in these core subjects. Or at least, so says a new University of North Texas study, presented at the American Psychological Association's 120th Annual Convention earlier this summer.
According to lead researcher Trent A. Petrie, Ph.D., professor of psychology and director of the university’s Center for Sport Psychology , “cardiorespiratory fitness was the only factor that we consistently found to have an impact on both boys' and girls' grades on reading and math tests. This provides more evidence that schools need to re-examine any policies that have limited students' involvement in physical education classes."
An attitude adjustment - from griping to gratitude - could have profound health benefits for teens, a new study says. Researchers from California State University measured the gratitude “levels” of 700 10- to 14-year-olds, then checked back four years later.
Compared to the least grateful kids, those who were the most grateful had:
- gained 15 percent more of a sense of meaning in their life;
- become 15 percent more satisfied with their life overall (at home, at school, with their neighborhood, with their friends and with themselves);
- become 17 percent happier and more hopeful about their lives;
- experienced a 13 percent drop in negative emotions and a 15 percent drop in depressive symptoms.
Positive-psychology researchers have been looking at the effects of gratitude in adults for years, but this is one of the first studies to look at it in teens. The good news for parents is that helping kids develop gratitude may have fairly quick results.
by Rima Himelstein, M.D.
Having two of my kids headed to college this fall, I would be alarmed if their schools were on The Princeton Review’s annual list of the “best party schools”. That being said, college drinking happens everywhere, including schools that did not make the list. As parents, we need to get educated.
We need to know that college students regularly celebrate “alcoholidays,” which are drinking festivals that are complete with costumes and relevant theme drinks. Some refer to alcohol as “liquid courage” for its ability to lower inhibitions, and may use it as an excuse for sexual behavior. And when college students drink, they often binge drink with the intention of getting drunk.
by Sari Harrar
When I was little, the Disney movie Peter Pan inspired me to jump off furniture — trying to fly like Peter, Tinkerbelle and Wendy. Today, researchers say kids and teens who watch movies (and TV shows) where characters smoke and/or have sex open an earlier door for making those choices in real life. And ratings that keep more teens out of theaters showing films with this stuff influences some to say No longer.