Author: Yolanda Evans, MD, MPH

Transgender Youth: Support your child’s gender identity

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. Parents and family have to manage changed expectations and it can be difficult to ‘get it right’ (i.e. say your child’s preferred name, use their preferred pronoun, and accept that the baby you were raising as one gender is different than what was anticipated).

A 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 »

Talk to your kids about politics

november-2016Our 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

New AAP recommendations on Media Use

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 »

Transgender Youth: pronouns and names

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 »

Concussion and depression

girls-basketballTips 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 »

Teens and depression

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 »

Sending your teen off to college

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 »

Transgender Youth: Defining Gender

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 »

Eating Well over summer break

Family mealWith the high rates of obesity in our country, families nationwide are trying to find ways to promote healthy and balanced eating. One common conundrum is that finances are often tight and buying fresh produce that only lasts a few days before wilting, shopping at the farmer’s market, or buying organic food just may not be feasible. Incorporating exercise into a busy day is also challenging. A research study last year that showed kids (regardless of household income) on summer break may not be making the best choices around food, so for parents, discussing healthy balanced eating year round with children and teens is important. Read full post »

Should my teen have a cell phone

person textingWith the majority of the adult US population having smartphones, it’s nearly inevitable that tweens and young teens (kids ages 10-13) will ask parents for a cell phone too. My oldest is 4 and she routinely asks to watch the tablet or look at videos on my phone. Whether or not your family provides a cell phone to your tween is a completely personal decision and you may be considering one for many reasons (safety, the ability to know where your teen is, etc). Here are some of the things to consider (that you’re likely already thinking!): Read full post »