Seattle Children’s Shares Tips to Avoid Common Bike Helmet Mistakes

Parents and children who have bike helmets and wear them for every ride are off to a good start. But do the helmets fit correctly?

Proper helmet fit is vitally important in protecting against head injury whether riding through the neighborhood or commuting to school or work.

A quick look around town reveals that many people are wearing helmets that don’t fit well or aren’t adjusted in the right way.

On the Pulse shares tips for getting a good bike helmet fit.

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Protect Kids and Teens from Cold Water Shock Drowning

Warmer weather is cause for celebration in the Pacific Northwest, and many families choose to get outside to beat the heat and enjoy nature.

If your activities take you on or near the water, use extra caution this time of year as water temperatures are very cold even when air temperatures are warm.

Melting mountain snowpack makes rivers and lakes icy cold, causes rivers to run higher and faster, and raises the risk of drownings from cold water shock.

On the Pulse dives into the topic of cold water shock and how to recreate around water safely.

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Medicine Safety Reminders All Parents Should Know

Medicines can do a lot of good, but they can cause harm if they get in the wrong hands or are used the wrong way. This is true for both prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

To be sure that medicines are both safe and effective, it’s crucial to follow dosing and safety rules.

On the Pulse shares important reminders and resources for parents and caregivers to help keep kids safe and healthy all year long.

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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.

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.

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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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Winter Blues or Something More? Helping Kids and Teens Cope

A teen girl with long dark hair and glasses rests her chin in her hand while she sits by a windowWinter can be a particularly blue time of the year for people. Darker, colder days and the post-holiday letdown often cause a decline in mood and motivation.

It’s normal for all kids to experience emotional ups and downs, including the winter blues. With the COVID-related changes in school and social activities this winter, youth may be especially vulnerable to increased moodiness and irritability. But at least one in five kids will have a diagnosable mental health problem that needs treatment.

Parents can support their child or teen as they cope with seasonal sadness while being alert to the signs and symptoms of mental health problems that require expert care.

Validate feelings

One of the most powerful tools in your parenting toolbox is the ability to acknowledge how your child or teen is feeling. Check in regularly to learn how they’re doing. Listen more than you talk as you give them your full attention. Try to understand their feelings. It can be tempting to offer suggestions to “fix” problems or to force your child to look at the bright side, but it’s better that they feel heard and validated.

Encourage your child to accept and label their emotions. Ask them to think of ideas for how to cope when they start to feel sad, mad, scared or otherwise upset. Let them take the lead as they learn coping skills that work for them.

Focus on healthy habits

Fight the urge to let healthy habits slide this winter. Help your child set up and maintain a predictable schedule to provide a reassuring rhythm to their days, and yours. Work as a family to get enough sleep and exercise, choose healthy foods and drinks, and use positive ways to manage stress, like spending time on a hobby or taking a few minutes for daily meditation. Encourage your child to get outside, even on the rainy days. These habits are important for physical and mental health.

When it’s more than feeling blue: signs and symptoms of a mental health problem

Mental health problems affect thinking, emotions and behavior. They can change your child’s ability to function in school, at home or in social settings. Talk to your child or teen’s doctor if you notice one or more of the signs from this list, or if you have any question about their mental health. Notice if your child:

  • Is feeling very sad or withdrawn for two or more weeks.
  • Has severe mood swings.
  • Shows big changes in behavior.
  • Is having many problems in friendships and other relationships.
  • Has a sudden overwhelming fear or worry that does not match the situation.
  • Seems unusually irritable.
  • Displays explosive anger.
  • Has trouble sleeping.
  • Changes their eating habits.
  • Loses weight.
  • Spends so much time alone that it gets in the way of doing other activities.
  • Starts hanging out (in person or online) with peers who are an unhealthy influence.
  • Is taking new risks, like using drugs or alcohol.
  • Has lots of stomachaches or headaches.
  • Avoids school or stops doing as well as they used to in school.

Ask about suicide

Know that asking your child directly if they are thinking about suicide does not increase the risk of suicide. If they say they are thinking about suicide, stay calm and:

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help: 988.
  • Reduce the risk of suicide by removing pills and firearms from your home. If you can’t remove them, place them in a safe, lockbox or other secure place.
  • If they are in immediate danger of harming themselves, don’t leave them alone. Call 911 or a local crisis line, or take them to an emergency room.

Get help early

It’s normal to experience some sadness, and this year it’s harder to determine whether the sadness is mild and temporary, due to the change in life from the pandemic, or whether it’s more severe. Don’t wait to get help with mental health. There’s no blame or shame in mental health problems. Effective help is available and can make an important difference in helping your child or teen get back on track with healthy development and life.