Boy smilingTerrible stories about sexual assault and harassment are everywhere. How can we help ensure our boys and girls will ever go through these experiences? We can help them become both confident and compassionate, and teach them about consent from a very young age. Consent isn’t only about sex: it’s about everyone’s right to control their own body. We all need to set our own boundaries, and respect others’ boundaries too.

It takes practice to build any skill. Young children can learn to set boundaries by exercising the power of consent. For example, during a tickle-fight, if your child says “stop” or “no,” stop immediately and continue only if they request it. When greeting family or friends, let your child decide if they want to give a hug, fist bump or verbal hello. And when it comes to food, allow children to decide if and how much they want to eat (see Think Roles, Not Rules, for Eating).

We can encourage our kids to speak up for themselves and express their full range of emotions. They mustn’t hide their feelings or pretend everything is okay if it’s not – and they should never “just go along” with anything they’re not comfortable with.

Of course, our kids must understand that we may override their consent when their safety and well-being are on the line. Buckling into their car seat or wearing a helmet or getting a vaccine shot are not choices for them. But be clear that very few people can veto their consent: maybe just mom, dad or another trusted caregiver.

It’s crucial that kids learn to hear and respect another person’s “no” or “stop.” Teach them to seek a friend’s verbal consent on the playground before chasing them or pushing them higher on the swing: if that child says no, it’s wrong to continue. We must respect others’ belongings as well as their bodies, so remind your child to ask permission before playing with a friend’s toy or borrowing something from a sibling. And be sure they understand that getting consent once doesn’t mean you always have it – you must ask each time.

A huge part of parenting is teaching empathy. Encourage children to put themselves in another’s place, and really imagine what that person might be feeling and thinking.

It’s essential that all kids learn the concept of consent. Building a healthy culture of respect starts with families!

For tips on talking to your child about sexual assault, read Talking to Your Kids About Sexual Assault.

For Vaccines, Stick With the Schedule

Girl getting vaccinatedThe Child Immunization Schedule precisely maps out when children should receive which vaccines. Every year the schedule is evaluated by our nation’s best disease experts and pediatricians, and it’s revised when needed.

Vaccines are scheduled based on two factors: the age when the body’s immune system will work the best, plus the need to provide protection at the earliest possible age, before a child is likely to be exposed to a disease.

Parents may wonder about spacing immunizations further apart, but babies really can tolerate receiving multiple vaccines on the same day. In fact, healthy immune systems fight off thousands of daily threats.

Remember, it’s always OK to ask your child’s doctor about vaccines.

Visit Childhood Immunization Schedule: Why Is It Like That? to learn more.

When to Use Urgent Care or Walk-In Clinics

Parent feeling sleeping childs foreheadUrgent care is the best option for non-emergency medical care (like minor illnesses and minor injuries) when your doctor’s office is closed and you can’t wait for treatment. Your insurance company or doctor’s office may have a nurse hotline to help you decide if urgent care or emergency care is needed, or if you can wait for your regular doctor.

Urgent care clinics are open on evenings, weekends and holidays. Some urgent care clinics offer appointment times, so call ahead and ask before arriving. Even if you have an appointment, be prepared to wait; patients who are more ill may be seen first.

Keep in mind that urgent care offers limited services. Certain tests like ultrasounds, CT scans and MRI studies are not usually available; if your child needs one of these tests they may be sent to a nearby emergency room.

Check with your child’s doctor before you are in need of urgent care to see which clinic they recommend. Seattle Children’s has clinics in Bellevue, Federal Way, Mill Creek and Seattle. And always remember: if your child’s illness or injury is life-threatening, call 911.

Learn more about Seattle Children’s urgent care clinics or use our symptom checker for help with deciding if you can treat your child at home.

Spring Safety-Gear Check-Up

Boy in bike helmetSpring is a great time to check your family’s bike helmets and life jackets, to be sure they’re in good shape and still fit properly. Invest a bit of time now, before summer arrives and someone misses out on  a spur-of-the-moment bike ride or boating adventure.

Inspect bike helmets for cracks and other damage. Discard helmets that are in any way damaged. Then check the fit. A helmet should sit level and rest low on the forehead, one or two finger widths above the eyebrows. The straps should be even and lay flat against the head, forming a “Y” under each earlobe. The buckled chin strap should be just tight enough so that one finger fits between buckle and chin. If a new helmet is needed, get one that meets safety standards, fits properly – and that your child likes.

Check life jackets for wear and tear and throw them away if you find punctures, tears, rot or mildew. Check for a good fit: when fastened, a jacket should be snug yet comfortable. Lift your child by the jacket’s shoulders and be sure their chin and ears don’t slip down. Younger kids need a jacket with both a collar for head support and a strap between the legs. If a new life jacket is needed, be sure it’s U.S. Coast Guard–approved, and that the size and weight specifications match your child. (Never buy a life jacket for your child to “grow into.”)

Be sure to check out Seattle Children’s free helmet fittings and giveaways and low-cost life jacket sales!

Ear Wax Is Normal

Profile of girlEveryone has ear wax. It’s not a sign of poor hygiene. In fact, it serves a purpose: it helps to keep water and germs out of the ear canal, and it protects the skin in the ear canal.

Ear canals clean themselves, so follow the silly old advice and don’t put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear! This means don’t use cotton swabs or other tools to try to remove ear wax. Doing so can actually push the wax far back into the ear and block the canal, or even damage the eardrum. Instead, clean behind the ears and wipe the outer ear with a washcloth or a tissue after bathing.If ear wax causes hearing problems, pain or a feeling of fullness in the ear, see your doctor. 

To learn more, read about ear discharge.

ADHD Facts

Kid in blue T shirt holding a sign that says ADHD in crayonAttention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects about 1 in 10 kids and can cause problems ranging from mild to serious.

The signs and symptoms may include always being “on the go” or restless, being impulsive with actions and words and having trouble paying attention. Kids with ADHD often get distracted, and may have trouble completing things.

The disorder is caused by a problem with the brain’s development, and it is often genetic: passed from parent to child. Kids with ADHD may have other medical, emotional and learning problems.

Typical treatment combines medicine with behavior modification therapy. If you suspect your child has ADHD, talk with their doctor.

Read ADHD: Facts for Families (PDF) to learn more.

Think Roles, Not Rules, for Eating

Man and boy eating at a picnicMany people grow up with the “clean your plate” rule. But research shows this can backfire and harm a child’s eating habits, now and in the future. Instead of rules, try roles. A parent’s role is to offer healthy food, while a child’s role is to decide what and how much to eat of the food that is offered. (And there’s no reason to prepare special food for your child.)

If a child doesn’t eat much, that’s OK: wait until the next meal to offer more food. As simple as this may seem, it helps kids learn to pay attention to their body’s natural cues that signal if they are physically hungry or full. Also, always try to eat with your child during mealtimes, from babyhood through the teen years.

Read more about healthy eating habits.