Good Growing

Winter 2024

Talking About Scary News Events

A mother leaning in close to her daughterWe often hear disturbing news about local and global events. Images of natural disasters, wars, mass shootings and other tragedies reach us every day. It can feel overwhelming. How can we talk with children about these events in a way that’s both honest and reassuring? 

Here are some ideas on how to approach these conversations — and create an always-safe space for sharing thoughts and feelings. 

Limit your family’s media exposure.

Even when we don’t seek it, we can get bombarded with scary news, including graphic images. Young children should have zero exposure to the news, and even teens need limits. Keep all news off when little ones are nearby. For older kids with phones, use content filters and other safeguards.

Start by asking what they already know.

Before any conversation, it’s important to know your child’s level of understanding — which may be inaccurate or exaggerated. This gives you a good starting point for your discussion.

Answer questions and reassure them.

Don’t volunteer too much information but do answer your child’s questions honestly and clearly. If appropriate, remind them that they are safe, and that their family and friends are safe, too. Be sure other caregivers also reinforce this message.

Check in often.

Stay tuned in to your child’s concerns and revisit the topic as often as they need. Reinforce that they are loved by responding to their physical and emotional needs. Offer plenty of physical closeness, like back scratches and snuggling on the couch; these times together can help create the right mood to talk things out.

Stick to family routines.

Healthy routines and comforting rituals are essential. Start the day with a cheery “good morning” and end it with a hug goodnight. Do family things together: eat meals, play games, go outside for a walk or a bike ride. Enforce regular bedtimes for little ones and older kids, too.

Take care of yourself.

To best care for your child, make self-care a priority. Eat nutritious foods, get regular exercise and spend time with close friends. Practice whatever helps you feel calm and centered — whether that’s yoga, breath work, meditation or prayer. (Invite your child to join you!)

Get expert help if needed.

Don’t hesitate to find professional help to boost your family’s mental wellness. Visit the Mental Health Resource Hub for more information, including how to spot signs that a more serious problem may be developing.

One of the best things about families is that we support one another through everything. Meaningful conversations and staying connected help our bonds grow even stronger!

Kids’ and Teens’ Knee Pain and Osgood-Schlatter Syndrome

Two school-aged girls playing basketballIf your active, growing child or teen complains of pain at the bump below their knee, they may have a common condition called Osgood-Schlatter Syndrome. It’s an irritation of the growth plate where the patellar tendon attaches to the shin. This condition can happen during times of rapid growth or with overuse from activities like running, jumping and squatting. There may be swelling, tenderness or pain with direct pressure or when kneeling. Also, a child’s or teen’s knees may get sore when sitting in the same position for a long time.

Osgood-Schlatter syndrome is most common among young athletes, and it typically resolves with time. Reducing the activities that cause pain can help. Home treatments include icing, taping and bracing. Stretches and strengthening routines can also help; in some cases, physical therapy may be needed. Get more information, including recommended stretches and when to seek medical help.

Preventing Frostbite

A child in a blue snowsuit laying in the snow making a snow angelPlaying outdoors is a great way for your child to get both fresh air and the movement they need each day. But in the winter when temperatures drop, extra care is needed to prevent frostbite, a skin injury caused by cold. Common frostbite sites are toes, fingers, the tip of the nose, cheeks and outer ears.

Mild frostbite — known as frostnip — results in cold, tingling, painful skin. With frostnip, the skin returns to normal after it’s warmed up. More serious frostbite is classified by degrees, the way burns are. First-degree frostbite causes skin to be paler than normal, waxy and hard while frozen, with mild redness and swelling after rewarming. Second-degree frostbite is the same as first degree, plus blisters appear after 24 hours. Third-degree frostbite creates blood-filled blisters and can cause permanent skin damage. See a doctor if skin color and feeling do not return to normal after an hour of rewarming, or if pain persists. 

Prevent frostbite by dressing your child properly in warm boots, gloves and a snug hat that covers the ears. Their clothing must also keep them dry; frostbite happens faster and is worse if the clothes and skin are wet. The longer the exposure, the greater the heat loss and the chance of frostbite. So be sure your child comes inside frequently to warm up — especially when they feel cold or have tingling or numbness.

Get more winter safety tips.

Help for Dry Winter Skin

A little boy holding his hands under the water and smiling really bigSkin can get dry, irritated and itchy during cold weather. Known as winter itch, this condition can be caused by cold, dry air outside plus heated air inside. Our bathing habits and cleansing products can also worsen the condition. To prevent winter itch, minimize hot showers or baths and limit bathing time to 10 minutes so you don’t remove natural oils from the skin. Avoid bubble baths and drying soaps; instead, use moisturizing soaps or cleansing lotions. Gently pat — don’t rub — the skin dry with a soft towel. Immediately apply a non-scented moisturizer while the skin is still damp and reapply it several times a day.

For those with symptoms on their hands, use a moisturizer immediately after hand washing. If the skin is inflamed, apply a 1% hydrocortisone cream, available over the counter. You can also turn down the thermostat, run a cool-mist humidifier and avoid irritating fabrics (such as wool) in clothing and blankets. If things don’t improve, see your child’s doctor, who may refer you to a dermatologist.

Learn about other skin conditions.

No More ‘‘CleanPlate Club’

A little boy sitting at the dinner table holding up a big bowl of carrots with a spoon in itMany parents and grandparents grew up in a house where the goal was to finish everything on their plate. But there are important reasons to end that practice. Training a child to clean their plate can lead to overeating and losing touch with the body’s natural cues that tell them when they’re hungry or full. Making a child finish everything on their plate can also cause power struggles and damage their sense of self-control. Instead, the role of the caregiver is to offer a variety of healthy foods on a regular time schedule. Then, allow your child to choose which items to eat and how much they eat — and enjoy your dining time together!

Learn more about healthy eating habits.

Giving Your Child a Voice in Their Healthcare

A teen girl getting an exam by her pediatricianYou can prepare your child to become an informed and confident healthcare consumer. Starting at an early age, allow your child to make simple decisions about their care. For example, let them decide which arm they prefer to get their shot in, or whether they’d like to sit on your lap or in their own chair. Before your visit, encourage your child to ask any questions they have. Help them create a list and review it just before the appointment. And when their provider asks questions, allow your child to answer rather than responding yourself.

Once your child is around age 13, you can expect they’ll have part of their medical visit with you in the room, and part of it alone. Soon, they’ll be on their own for the entire appointment — both the interview and the physical exam. So encourage them to bring up any concerns, big or small. Remind them that there are no questions that their healthcare provider hasn’t heard or answered before. A few days before their appointment, remind them to think about their upcoming visit and write down any questions they have. 

When it’s time for the big transition and your child will lead their own care, equip them with essential information. Help them create a list of their major illnesses, injuries and surgeries from infancy to the present.

Be sure they have their up-to-date immunization record, a list of their current medications and a brief family health history. They’ll also need their health insurance information, plus contact information for their doctors and dentist. Be sure your teen knows how to access their health information online with their own password. They can keep their information updated and make their own appointments. Stress the importance of asking questions and taking notes. Everyone needs to be empowered to take charge of their own healthcare!