Good Growing

Summer 2024

Tantrums, Fits and Meltdowns

A boy sitting and crying on grassTantrums are typical during the toddler years — just think of a child throwing a dramatic fit at the grocery store. But tantrums can carry on through childhood. Tweens and teens may angrily crumple up their homework or stomp away and slam a door.

Tantrums happen when kids are not able to express their complex emotions through words. Instead, they communicate with dramatic behavior. These displays of emotion are more apt to happen when kids are overwhelmed, frustrated, tired or hungry.

So, besides remaining calm, how should parents respond to tantrums? Depending on the child’s age and the circumstances, it’s generally wise to ignore the behavior in the heat of the moment if possible. Kids usually need some time and space before they’re ready to talk things out. Then, we can listen carefully, show empathy and validate their feelings. And we can offer some help to solve the problem that’s causing them such frustration.

Meltdowns are upsetting and tiring for everyone. So, it’s worth the effort to equip kids with the skills to prevent them. Help your child notice and name their feelings. Work with them on some ways to calm themselves as they feel their emotions start to build. Young children might take slow, steady breaths, relax their bodies and count slowly to 20. Older kids can learn to identify their triggers, so they can use some self-calming techniques before they’re overcome by emotions.

School-age kids and teens may benefit from a Distress Tolerance Box. This is a box or container filled with objects that will help soothe and distract a child when they have strong negative emotions. It can contain things like comforting photos, art supplies, puzzles, a favorite plush animal, tactile toys, scented lotion, an inspiring quote or an encouraging note.

Keep in mind that angry behavior may indicate that your child is reacting to something. Whatever’s bothering them may be having a greater impact than you realize, or it might be something you don’t even know about. So make time for meaningful talks. Encourage them to open up and share what’s on their mind. Then, be an active and compassionate listener.

And don’t forget the basics. Ensure your child is well rested, fueled with nutritious food, hydrated and getting plenty of physical activity. Be a role model when you yourself feel frustrated; remain calm and take care to express yourself in a clear and respectful way.

Also remember that out-of-control behaviors can indicate more serious emotional-health issues. If you have concerns, talk with your child’s doctor.

See Strategies for Managing Problem Behaviors or Behavior Basics class to learn more.

Swimmer’s Ear

A girl with her hand against her earSwimmer’s ear is an infection of the skin in the outer ear canal. It can happen after a child swims, when trapped moisture allows bacteria to grow.

The main symptom is ear discomfort. With mild cases, a child may complain of itchiness or a clogged feeling. More serious cases can be very painful, and it may hurt to touch the outer ear or chew food.

While some kids never get swimmer’s ear, others may be prone to it. To prevent this problem, be sure your child removes water from their ears after swimming — by using the corner of a towel or by shaking their head. A few drops of a mixture of half white vinegar and half rubbing alcohol in the ear after swimming can also help prevent infection.

If you suspect your child has swimmer’s ear, see a doctor, who will examine and clean the ear canal and may prescribe antibiotic drops.

Learn more about treating swimmer’s ear.

Bug Bites and Bee Stings

A boy holding an ice pack against his cheekMost insect bites and stings are easy to treat at home, and kids can usually go back to their regular activities right away. But sometimes, a child can have a serious reaction after being bitten or stung. Be sure you know what to do.

Call 911 if your child:

  • Has a hard time breathing.
  • Passes out or is very weak.
  • Has had a bad reaction to a bite or sting in the past.
  • Develops bumps or a rash in areas away from the bite or sting.
  • Suddenly starts vomiting or having stomach pain.

If it hurts or itches at the area of the bite or sting:

  • The insect’s stinger may still be in the skin. Remove it by gently scraping the skin with the edge of a credit card or driver’s license.
  • Clean the bite or sting with warm, soapy water.
  • Apply ice or a cold pack over the area to reduce swelling.

See a doctor if:

  • You have trouble getting the stinger out.
  • The bite becomes warm or hot, or red and very painful.

If your child has a bad reaction to insect bites or stings, ask their doctor about an emergency care kit and/or shots to prevent future bad reactions.

Bookmark our symptom checker for care instructions illnesses and injuries.

Water Beads Are Dangerous

A picture of water beadsWater beads are super-absorbent gel beads. Before being exposed to water, they can be as small as the tip of a pencil. However, they can grow up to 1,500 times their original size. While they’re usually sold for use in vases and gardens, these soft, squishy beads are sometimes marketed as children’s toys or for sensory play or tactile therapy.

Water beads are potentially very dangerous, and they should not be in any home where young kids live or even visit. If ingested, the risks to children include choking, poisoning and life-threatening bowel obstructions that require surgery. From 2021 to 2023, Washington Poison Control reported a 383% increase in water bead-related cases affecting children 5 years of age and younger.

If you suspect your child has ingested a water bead but their breathing is not affected, call Poison Control right away at 1-800-222-1222. If someone is choking on a water bead, call 911 immediately.

Dynamic Warm-ups

Teen girls performing dynamic warm-upsWarm-ups are important to help prevent injuries and improve performance for athletes of all ages. Exercises like jumping jacks, arm circles, side shuffles, walking lunges and squats are a great way for your child to help their body get ready to practice or compete in their sport. These activities, known as dynamic warm-ups, help your child slowly increase their breathing rate and heart rate as they stretch their muscles through a range of motion. Warming up this way increases blood flow to the muscles and lubricates the joints, preparing the body for increased movement.

Encourage your child’s coach to provide time for warming up, focusing on the parts of the body most used in their sport. Then, be sure to get your young athlete to the field, court or pool with plenty of time to take part in these warm-ups.

Learn more about preventing sports injuries.

Prevent Suicide: Ask the Question

An illustration with hearts and words that read "Are you thinking about suicide?"Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24. Rates of suicide in young children and teens have been going up in recent years. Young people everywhere of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities and income levels die by suicide. The good news is that we can all work together to help prevent it.

Start by learning to ask the question: “Are you thinking about suicide?” It can be an uncomfortable topic to talk about. While it might feel hard to ask, it is crucially important. Research shows that asking about suicide does not give someone the idea to die by suicide, and it does not increase their risk of suicide.

In fact, talking about it creates a safe space for children and teens to get information. Asking directly about suicide can be the difference between life and death. It offers relief to someone who may be struggling and helps them feel noticed and heard.

Visit this page for guidance on words you can use to ask the question and how to support your child, no matter their answer.

Remember, thoughts of suicide are more common than you might think, and it’s important to recognize when a child or teen may be struggling.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between changes that commonly happen as children age versus changes that are warning signs of mental health concerns. That’s why it’s so essential to ask your child or teen if they’re thinking about suicide even if you don’t notice any warning signs.

Check out this public service announcement for encouragement to ask your child if they’re thinking about suicide.