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Growing Pains

POSTED: Thursday, July 4, 2013, 6:00 AM

7:30 a.m.  My 16-year-old son wakes up on a beautiful summer morning after 9 hours of sleep. He’s singing in the shower, a sign that he has had enough sleep.

8:00 a.m.  He sets out a tasty breakfast of cereal, low fat milk and whole wheat toast.   He’s also taking his calcium with vitamin D pill. He’s even cleaning up his dishes. Wait! Is it my birthday?  No.  That was last week.

8:30 a.m. Headphones on (he heard me when I explained to him about noise-induced hearing loss and why he should ditch the ear buds), iPod on his favorite music, and he’s off!  He’s headed to his volunteer job at the children’s hospital. He loves volunteering.  Not only does he feel more positive about himself since he started volunteering, but I also noticed he’s doing better in school. No complaints here! 

POSTED: Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 6:00 AM

As Groucho Marx once said, “Getting older is no problem. You just have to live long enough.

If only getting older were so simple.  For some teens and their families, the teenage years are filled with stress and turmoil. And why wouldn’t they be? After all, the child is becoming an adult, moving from dependence on parents to independence and greater self-reliance. This transition may involve indecision, anxiety, conflict and rebelliousness. If you are a parent of a teenager living through these experiences, hopefully you will find comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

In early adolescence, they may argue with you. Teens begin to analyze the world around them and compare their values with those communicated by friends and the media. As a result, they may argue with their parents and challenge their authority. The same child who idolized his or her parents just a short time ago now thinks of them as ordinary human beings, capable of making mistakes.

POSTED: Monday, June 17, 2013, 10:49 AM

It seems to be the accepted norm that siblings will fight and torment each other. But researchers say sibling bullying should be treated as seriously as bullying from a peer. In fact, being picked on by a brother or sister can be harmful to a child’s mental health, found a study published online today in Pediatrics.

More than 3,500 children and teens aged 1 month to 17 years or their parents were interviewed for the study about various levels of aggression shown by siblings and peers as part of the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence.

They looked at the range and extent of sibling aggression experienced by the children, including instances of physical assault with and without a weapon or injury; stealing something with or without force, or breaking siblings’ things on purpose; and saying things to make the child feel bad, scared or not wanted around.

POSTED: Tuesday, June 4, 2013, 9:22 AM

In medical school we had a joke:  What is the biggest organ in the body? The answer, “skin,” made us chuckle.  Little did I know that skin would end up being the cause of so much distress to my teenage patients.   

Why do teens get acne? Here’s what my teen son says: “It’s a ball of pus caused by hormones going crazy.” Interestingly, he’s right. The “ball of pus” is a pilosebaceous unit (sebaceous gland and hair follicle) that has become blocked with sebum (an oily substance), dead skin cells and the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes.  These changes are induced in normal puberty by “hormones going crazy”—the increase in testosterone seen in both boys and girls. 

Acne is common in teens: 80 percent have had it at some point. Unfortunately, “misery loves company” doesn’t make a teenager feel better about his or her own acne.  In fact, one study found that teens with severe acne were two to three times more likely to think about suicide than those with little or no acne.  

POSTED: Friday, May 31, 2013, 6:00 AM

Today’s guest blogger is R. Rao Gogineni,M.D,, head of the division of child & adolescent psychiatry, at Cooper University Hospital and associate professor of psychiatry at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.

Depression in adolescents has gotten needed attention from the scientific community only in the last two decades. The chance of being afflicted with depression is about 10 percent in a lifetime. Twice as many girls as boys struggle with depression. 

What we’ve also found is that other mental illnesses often times accompany teen depression, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic, social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) ,eating disorders, substance use disorders and conduct disorders.

POSTED: Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 6:00 AM
Filed Under: Growing Pains | Rima Himelstein | Sex

Most of my teenage patients have one hand attached to their cell phones during their medical visits. Sometimes they’re answering their parents’ texts about what time they will be done, and sometimes they’re texting their partners to tell them they have chlamydia.

Given that texting has entered exam rooms in my office, I was not surprised to read the results from the 2011 Pew Internet & American Life Project. Pew surveyed 799 U.S. teens 12 to 17 years of age and their parents; they carried out focus groups with 57 teens. Here is what they found:

  • 75 percent text and 63 percent say they text every day.
  • Texting is trending up: the median number of texts rose from 50 per day in 2009 to 60 per day in 2011.
  • Older girls text the most, with a median of 100 texts a day—more than 3,000 texts a month!—compared with 50 texts per day for boys their age.

And then there are hyper-texters. One in 5 teens are “hyper-texters,” texting more than 120 times a day.  Hyper-texters are more likely to have sex, engage in binge drinking, use illegal drugs or be in a physical fight than teens who text less. 

POSTED: Monday, April 29, 2013, 10:37 AM

It’s difficult to hide: multiple slash marks on the forearm. Many try to cover-up the painful reminders of a very bad day while some tell me openly all of the details. Either way these are the patients that are amongst the most distressing to me as a doctor and as a mother.  And at the same time they are the most intriguing. They almost all say the same thing: they were not trying to kill themselves…but they cut themselves for other reasons.

Cutting is one type of “non-suicidal self-injury” (NSSI). In teens, NSSI most often involves cutting, but also can be burning themselves or banging their heads. Cutting is usually done on the arms, stomach, or thighs with a sharp object like a razor blade, knife, or scissors. To parents it may be out of the expected, but it’s usually not out of the blue. 

NSSI is an outward sign of an inward pain. Teens often cut themselves in response to emotional pain or distress. When they cut, they feel a rapid physical release of emotional pain that is otherwise too difficult to tolerate. Surprisingly, studies have shown that people who self-injure have little or no physical pain even when tissue damage is severe.  After cutting, they still feel badly, but they feel calmer and better able to manage their feelings.  It often begins as an impulse, but cutting can quickly become a habit that is difficult to stop.   

POSTED: Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 5:55 AM

Dictionaries define “body image” as a subjective idea of one’s physical appearance based on self-observation and other people’s reactions. In other words, it’s what a person thinks of his or her own body.  Nowadays, more than ever, many of our teens’ body images are surprisingly negative. 

Models of “perfection.” The media play a large role in shaping young women’s ideas about how they should look. They generally show underweight women as the ideal body type. Often the images are unhealthy, and difficult—if not impossible—for most females to achieve. The average female fashion model today is 25 percent thinner than the national average weight. These images can lead our girls to think that their own bodies are not attractive or acceptable and that their value depends on how they look.

Teens can access these images 24/7. A national survey found that 8- to 18-year-olds spend an average of 7-1/2 hours a day using entertainment media.  Make sure you’re sitting down for this statistic: the American Academy of Pediatrics found that by the time students begin college, they have watched more than 25,000 hours of television–more time than they spent in school! 

About this blog
The Healthy Kids blog is your window into the latest news, research and advice around children's health. Learn more about our growing list of contributors here.

If you have questions about your child's health, ask them here.

Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
Stephen Aronoff, M.D., M.B.A. Temple University Hospital
Christopher C. Chang, M.D., Ph.D Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Jefferson Medical Colg
Mario Cruz, M.D St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Drexel University College of Medicine
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. Lead Psychologist - The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic, CHOP
Gary A. Emmett, M.D. Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital & Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Lauren Falini Bariatric exercise physiologist, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, M.D. Nemours duPont Pediatrics/Bryn Mawr Hospital
Rima Himelstein, M.D. Crozer-Keystone Health System
Anita Kulick President & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting
Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA VP for Programs & Research for Prevent Child Abuse America
Beth Wallace Smith, RD Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D. Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Jefferson Medical Colg
Flaura Koplin Winston, MD, PhD Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention
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