The week's best parenting advice: April 26, 2022
Helping kids with climate anxiety, an ode to epidurals, and more
Helping kids with climate anxiety
Teaching kids about environmental issues is important, but it's possible to overdo it, writes Mia Taylor in Parents. Excessively alarming children about climate change "doesn't serve any purpose," says psychiatrist Ziv Cohen, who treats patients with eco-anxiety. "It's just going to lead to anxiety in the child that they're not going to be able to cope with." When climate change does come up, offer children hopeful talking points and specific ways to help the planet, such as participating in environmental clean-up efforts or household efforts to cut back on emissions. And if you're worried you've overdone climate talk, remember that it's not too late to shift the narrative. "Children are very adaptable," explains Dr. Cohen. "If in retrospect you feel you've been too anxious or alarming, you can rebrand the discussion and give them a more positive or supportive stance that's more helpful, and they will accept that."
An ode to epidurals
Amil Niazi's birth plan was simple: get an epidural. And she doesn't regret it. "I was in labor for almost 24 hours," Niazi recounts in Romper, "Because of the epidural I was able to sleep, listen to music, and crack jokes with my husband. I thought about the baby and this strange new life that was coming, but I also thought about nothing, a rare privilege. And most importantly to me, I felt like myself." While she understands why some women prefer the natural route, Niazi suspects that the shame that many women feel for using it is unwarranted and outdated. "People still see labor and delivery as a woman's first opportunity to martyr herself in motherhood, to begin her life as a mom in suffering, in constant deference to the idea of who she should be rather than who she is or wants to be."
What parents need to know about the hepatitis surge
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a nationwide health alert about clusters of serious hepatitis — inflammation of the liver — in previously healthy young children. Cases have been identified in Alabama and North Carolina, as well as overseas, in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Common causes of hepatitis, such as toxic chemicals, autoimmune disorders and viruses that cause chickenpox and the common cold, have been ruled out in the Alabama and U.K. children. Officials suspect adenovirus may be linked to the current surge, as many of the affected kids tested positive for the virus. Parents don't need to worry about the illness going unnoticed, said Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist. Children with a serious case will become increasingly fatigued or jaundiced with abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. If you don't observe any symptoms, "the child has such mild symptoms it does not matter," she explained.
American kids are behind on routine vaccinations
Kindergartners in the United States fell behind on routine childhood vaccinations during the pandemic, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine coverage of kindergartners fell just below the 95 percent target coverage threshold during the 2020-21 school year, raising concerns that deadly childhood illnesses like measles will spread. Enrollment in Kindergarten also fell by around 10 percent, "meaning that about 400,000 additional children who had been expected to start school but did not may also have fallen behind on routine vaccinations," report Benjamin Mueller and Jan Hoffman in The New York Times. Coverage declines are due in part to missed well-child checkups, which some families avoided for fear of catching COVID, as well as disruptions to schooling, such as eased immunization requirements for remote learners. Some pediatricians report that opposition to COVID-19 vaccines has "prompted more resistance to ordinary vaccines, too."
Should kids be screened for anxiety?
The United States Preventive Services Task Force has drafted a new recommendation that all kids be screened regularly for anxiety from age 8 up, reports Rhitu Chatterjee in NPR. Most mental illnesses manifest in childhood, and anxiety often goes undetected for a long time. Screening for it will allow doctors to identify at-risk kids early, and treat the illness before it gets out of hand. "The earlier a child is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat," writes Chatterjee. The panel declined to recommend screening for suicide, a decision that worries some physicians. "We know that many youth who are thinking of suicide do not tell anyone, and so we do need to screen," says Christine Yu Moutier, the chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The recommendations are open for comment until May 9th, and won't be finalized until the end of the year.