This time of year most of my friends, patients, and colleagues are in full holiday mode: they’ve prepared for large family gatherings, are taking vacation from school, or working on setting their New Year’s resolutions. Most people are both stressed with the preparation but also in a good mood and excited to spend time with family and friends.
As I start the New Year and reflect on the memories made this holiday season, I’m also reminded that I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m in good health, a spouse who loves me, happy kids, solid housing, and if I need anything I have a great group of family and friends who I trust to help (this includes emotional and financial need). However, I’m routinely reminded of my privileges as I drive along the freeway and see the tents set up by the homeless, view media accounts of children being bombed in countries overseas, or take care of patients whose parents pull me aside to tell me they can’t afford to purchase any gifts, I know I can’t take my life for granted.
Recognizing my privilege, I ask myself, ‘How can I, as a parent, teach my children to not take things for granted and recognize humanity in others?’ This is a big question without simple answers, but I wanted to share a few tips my parents taught me while growing up.
- Volunteer. This exposes you to new people; teaches you skills such as showing up on time, work ethic, and humility; and can be extremely rewarding.
- Donate. Donate time, money, skills, etc. There is going to be someone who is in need of help and can benefit from your donation, no matter how big or small.
- Have empathy. Everyone has a story, but they may not share the details.
- Treat people with kindness. A smile for the person holding a sign on the street corner acknowledges their existence and shows that you see them even if you don’t give them anything else.
- People will always remember how you made them feel. The emotions that accompany actions have significant impact. You may not be remembered for what you said, but you will be remembered for how people felt when they were around you.
I hope you and your family have had a good start to 2017. Have a wonderful New Year!
This post continues our discussion on transgender youth.
What we know: transgender persons have higher incidence of depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, assault. The media has had story after story of transgender persons being treated horribly. Identifying as a different gender than what was assigned at birth is hard. The parents and family have to cope with changed expectations and it can be difficult to ‘get it right’ (i.e. say the preferred name, use the preferred pronoun, and accept that the baby you were raising as one gender is different than what was anticipated).
A new research study was released in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics in March 2016 that is very encouraging for parents of transgender youth. In the study, researcher recruited children who identified as opposite of their natal sex in daily life. They did not include gender fluid youth. Children used pronouns that matched their identified gender, presented as the identified gender in all contexts (such as school, home, in public), and were ages 3-12 years. These transgender children who were supported in their identity by their families did not have differences in depression when compared to controls (controls included siblings and a group of gender and age-matched peers). Read full post »
Our country just witnessed the democratic process of the United States this week as the 45th President Elect was voted into office. This election has divided the country over the past year as our 2 major political parties tried their hardest to convince the people that they could do a better job as Commander-in-Chief then their opponent. So now what? Regardless of how we voted, there are some common things we can teach our kids. Here are the points I’ve discussed with my own kids and my patients:
- If my side lost, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. If my side won that doesn’t mean all my problems are solved. The amazing thing about living here is that even if I disagree with my neighbor, I’m free to do so. I have a right to disagree or agree. There are so many inequities in our country that still need work. These haven’t changed over this week and won’t change unless we the People use our democratic process as it was intended. So let’s get to work. Encourage your teens to write letters to their State representatives about issues important to them. Be involved in your community. Get to know your elected officials and if you have a strong stance on a topic, tell your legislature about it.
- Inclusion. Get to know people who are different from you and be open to hearing other people’s stories. We can learn from each other and recognize that we might have more in common than anticipated. Afterall, every parent I know wants the same thing for their kids: opportunities for financial stability, long healthy and happy lives.
- Humility. No one person is right all the time. Be open to ideas that differ from yours. You may find a compromise that benefits more people. This doesn’t mean you back down and ignore your values, instead be open to listening instead of jumping to assumptions about the people around you.
- The Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Hatred is intolerable. If you witness a hateful act against someone, remaining silent is passive acceptance.
- Voting matters. Half of the people eligible to vote did not. Our right to vote is a privilege. Many countries don’t offer the same opportunity for the citizens to have a say in how the government works. Every vote does matter. This election, it wasn’t just the Presidency that was on the ballot. There were local initiatives related to public transportation and education. We elected our governor and state representatives. Your vote is your voice. Use it! For women and under-represented minorities, the right to vote is fairly new. People fought long and hard to gain this equality.
- Acknowledge our differences in order to learn from each other. I’ve already addressed this above. But the only way to continue making improvements on the inequalities in our country (such as education discrepancies between rich and poor, lack of jobs for those without higher education, unequal pay between genders, the list goes on and on) is to acknowledge if we have a privilege, then work hard to decrease the inequality that lead to that privilege.
Last week the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) annual conference occurred. This meeting is a convergence of Pediatricians around our nation to cover topics that span the range of childhood development. In the past, the AAP had fairly rigid guidelines on the use of media for kids. It was recommended that children under the age of 2 avoid all screen time and those over age 2 limit to no more than 2 hours a day. This month, the AAP has revised the recommendations to reflect newer research and national trends. Read full post »
What’s in a name? When my husband and I chose the names of our kids, we thought a lot about them. A name sticks with you, it’s what you write on forms and papers everyday, it’s the first thing your teacher reads about you when they see their roster for the year. People will make assumptions and have ideas about your just by reading your name (think about how many actors and actresses changed their given names to have more appeal!). So for someone whose gender identity doesn’t match up to their given name, a name can also validate (or not) who they feel they are.
Gender identity is our personal perception of our gender. It is innate and very much based on the individual. Gender may or may not align with chromosomes and anatomy. For Some, gender is the opposite of chromosomes. For others, gender is more fluid. Some languages do not have gender categories, but the English language does. When describing my own children, I often use the pronouns she and her. My oldest child identified herself as a girl around age 2 1/2. I recall it very vividly (plus it was only a year ago. I was at the store buying diapers. There was a pink box and a blue box. Previously she would ask for the blue box (which had a pirate and car), but this particular day she was adamant that she wanted the pink box. I was a bit shocked and asked her why. Her response: ‘because I’m a girl.” Read full post »
Guest Post by: Jennifer Hannon – University of Washington School of Nursing
You’re at your teen’s high school on a Saturday morning watching the big soccer game. Your child goes up for a header and clashes with a member of the opposing team and they both go down. There’s a pause, but eventually your child gets back up and continues playing. During half time, your child tells the coach that he has a headache and the coach does a field side concussion test. The results: your child has a concussion.
A concussion is not just a temporary headache; it is a traumatic brain injury that can cause short term and long lasting effects in school, at work, at home, and in relationships. According to the Center for Brain Health, “depending on the size and location of the injury [traumatic brain injury], cognitive deficits and behavioral issues often emerge1.” Some of these long lasting issues can include memory problems, lack of inhibition, increased anger, increased agitation, personality changes, lack of concentration, problems with organization and problem solving, and language difficulties1. These are not problems that your child needs or wants while trying to play sports, get good grades, and get into college, especially if it is preventable.
Some tips to preventing a concussion during sports according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)2:
- The CDC says that your child should always wear a well-fitting helmet during contact sports such as football, ice hockey, boxing, lacrosse; as well as when skating, playing baseball, snowboarding, horseback riding, skiing, and sledding.
- Always play by the rules of the sport.
- Practice good sportsmanship.
- If you have a concussion or suspect you may have one, do not return to play until you have been evaluated and given permission by your doctor in order to prevent further injury and possibly even death.
How to recognize a concussion, some symptoms include2:
- Headache, nausea, vomiting, clumsiness, dizziness, blurry vision, feeling tired, sensitivity to light and noise, and numbness or tingling.
- Irritability, sadness, anxiety, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating/focusing, difficulty remembering things, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much.
If you suspect you or your child has a concussion visit your primary care provider to find out how to best heal from this injury, when it is safe to return to sports and school, and how to prevent it from happening again. Without proper healing time and treatment, the chance of a repeat concussion and severe injury from such is drastically increased. Help you and your child, keep an eye out for preventing a concussion.
- Concussion | Center for BrainHealth. 2015; http://www.brainhealth.utdallas.edu/research/research_topic/concussions.
- Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Heads up: preventing concussion. http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/headsup/pdf/Heads_Up_factsheet_english-a.pdf. Accessed on 5-3-2015.
Tips from guest blogger: Dr. Carolyn McCarty
A recent study (from 9/13/16) on concussion in teens caught my attention this week. Sports related concussions in teens can lead to multiple symptoms including dizziness, headache, fatigue, poor sleep, poor concentration, and mood disturbances such as depression and anxiety. Though symptoms usually resolve within a few weeks, they may linger. For teens who continue to have post-concussive symptoms, the results can be debilitating. They may miss school, fall behind in their classes, become socially isolated (especially if unable to participate in their sports or activities of interest), and have symptoms of irritability, depression, and even thoughts of suicide. Treatment for teens who have prolonged symptoms can be a challenge. Read full post »
Depression is a topic that can be hard to tackle. If you’re a teen who is depressed, you may feel shame, guilt, or like no one will hear you if you try to reach out for help. If you’re a parent of a depressed teen, you may feel helpless or frustrated; you may even be unaware. An interview of a teen who struggled with depression caught my attention this week. She provided some insight on how she had symptoms during 7th grade, she didn’t feel like she could talk to any adults in her life. As she searched for ways to manage her mood, she ultimately found a path towards improved communication with a parent and a voice to speak up about a topic often swept under the rug.
To read the interview click here.
Read full post »
My conversations with colleagues and friends have been dominated by the discussions of two topics: politics and sending my kid off to college. Both are full of emotions and both are full of opinions and ideas. As many of my colleagues are dropping off their first born kids at university campuses, they’ve shared their thoughts, fears, excitement, and emotions. Most of the things they’ve discussed with me would not have crossed my mind! These discussions are ones I hope to remember when I’m in the same situation and I’d like to share some of the tips I’ve learned with you. Read full post »
Thinking back to my first pregnancy, I recall going to an ultrasound appointment to look at the infant’s anatomy. The ultra sonographer asked my husband and me if we wanted to know if we were having a girl or a boy. We weren’t even parents yet, but everyone in our social circle was asking if we knew ‘what we were having,’ so we responded ‘yes!’ In our culture, we automatically think about gender in binary terms: girl or boy. This way of thinking is convenient for people whose gender aligns with the sex assigned at birth: it allows grandparents to purchase pink or blue baby clothes and helps parents pick a name. In our culture, identifying your gender comes up with everything from filling out job applications to choosing which public restroom to use.
But what about those babies who do not have a binary sex assignment (such as those who are intersex)? What about youth who identify as a gender other than what their chromosomes say? What about those people who don’t feel male or female, but identify as somewhere in between? Just because something is ‘convenient’ for the majority doesn’t make it correct. Read full post »