Jumping into the New Year with Healthy Coping Skills

2023 is the Year of the Rabbit, symbolizing courage, kindness and good fortune. While specific celebrations vary across Asian cultures, including Vietnam where they’ll welcome the Year of the Cat, many practices emphasize family and reuniting with relatives.

The new year is also a great time to recommit to healthy habits — and try some new ones. This year, in addition to focusing on physical health, your family might want to set some goals to boost your mental and emotional wellbeing.

On the Pulse shares some helpful ideas from the latest edition of Good Growing to get you started.

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Healthy Sleep Habits for School-Age Kids

As featured in Good Growing

Studies consistently show that less than half of all school-age kids get enough sleep most weeknights. While the most recognized consequence of inadequate sleep is daytime sleepiness, children commonly manifest their sleepiness as irritability, behavioral problems, learning difficulties and poor academic performance.

Some sleep disruptions are normal and are connected to age-related changes. Others are symptoms of an actual sleep disorder. Whatever the reason, sleep problems can affect the entire family and should be accurately diagnosed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 6 to 12 get between 9 and 12 hours of sleep each night, and that teens get 8 to 10 hours. Quality sleep provides immense benefits and children who regularly get enough sleep have healthier immune systems and better overall mental health. Additionally, they have sharper memories and better behavior, which are key to success in school.

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Ringing in the New Year with Positive Reinforcement

The new year is an ideal time for parents to renew their commitment to using positive reinforcement with their children.

Positive reinforcement includes specific and immediate praise when spotting a child doing something kind or helpful.

 

For example, using phrases like:

  • “Your bedroom looks amazing, thank you for putting all your clothes and toys away!”
  • “Thank you for trying all the different foods on your plate without me asking.”
  • “I appreciate how patient and generous you’re being with your little sister right now.”
  • “Thank you so much for brushing your teeth without me asking you!”

This kind of approach is also particularly beneficial if the action is the opposite of a problem behavior that a parent or caregiver is trying to reduce. When encouraging a new behavior, it is important to offer specific praise as much as possible, as it may help a child learn how to better manage their stress and frustration. It is a logical tool that teaches and strengthens the behaviors we want to see.

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Feeling Blue? What Parents Should Know About Seasonal Sadness in Kids and Teens

Winter can be a blue time of year for people of all ages, particularly as the days get shorter, darker and colder. These ‘winter blues’ can include feeling seasonally sad, irritable or fatigued, and can sometimes cause a decline in mood and motivation.

While it’s normal for all children to experience emotional ups and downs, including the winter blues, at least one in five kids will have a diagnosable mental health problem that needs treatment.

“People have high expectations around the holidays,” said Dr. Elizabeth McCauley, associate director of Seattle Children’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine. “And sometimes those expectations are too high for what the holidays will bring. You get a mental image that things are supposed to be perfect, like in a story book. But the reality can be more down to earth.”

Here are some supportive ways that parents and caregivers can help their child or teen cope this winter, while staying alert to the signs and symptoms of mental health concerns that require expert care.

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Talking to Kids and Teens about Risky Viral ‘Challenges’

As featured in Good Growing

It’s important for parents and kids to talk about the dangers of viral ‘challenges.’

These dangerous stunts can involve ingesting things, such as biting into a liquid laundry pod or eating an intensely hot pepper. Other challenges can include dares that urge kids to get high or faint by taking several antihistamines, hyperventilating or through choking.

Some challenges circulating in schools push kids to steal items such as the restroom soap dispenser or a teacher’s coffee cup. There are also dares that involve shoplifting specific items from a grocery store.

Not surprisingly, many of these challenges are designed to create sensational social media, urging kids to capture their stunts on video and share them online. These viral moments, however, have caused serious injury among youth, school suspension or even arrest and prosecution.

Social media often glamorizes these kinds of stunts, so tweens and teens can feel the temptation to try them. Youth do not always think through the real risks or consequences, and stunts that seem silly or fun can result in injury. This is true for games like the ‘duct tape challenge,’ which boasts the goal of escaping after being bound by friends in the super-sticky, heavy-duty tape.

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What Parents Should Know About RSV

You may be hearing about a respiratory infection that’s hitting babies and young children particularly hard this year, sometimes resulting in hospital stays. The current headlines are referring to RSV, which is short for respiratory syncytial virus.

On the Pulse asked Dr. Tony Woodward, medical director of emergency medicine at Seattle Children’s, to share information about RSV in an effort to help parents and caregivers keep their families as healthy as possible through this viral season which also includes flu and COVID-19.

What is RSV?

RSV is a virus passed from person to person that affects the nose, throat and lungs. People of any age can get RSV, but it’s most serious for young children and older adults. Most kids are infected with RSV at least once before they’re 2 years old. For healthy people, RSV usually results in a cold, but some people get very sick, developing bronchiolitis, wheezing/asthma or pneumonia.

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