Parenting advice

The week's best parenting advice: May 31, 2022

Talking to kids about Uvalde, another reason to take pediatric mental illness seriously, and more

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Talking to kids about Uvalde

There is no script for talking to kids about mass shootings, so before you do, stop to consider your specific child's circumstances, writes Melinda Wenner Moyer. Are they anxiety-prone? Will they hear about it at school or on social media? Different children will require different approaches. If you decide to discuss the Uvalde tragedy with your child, do your best to remain calm, and go out of your way to find ways to make them feel safe. "We have to find ways to reassure them, as uncertain as we feel," Wenner Moyer writes. And check your media consumption. "Blaring the TV or radio news throughout your house or car could very well overwhelm your kids," says Wenner Moyer. Instead, watch the news in private, and encourage your kids to stay off social media, or at least help them to find reliable sources of information.

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Another reason to take pediatric mental illness seriously

It's well established that children with a mental illness are much more likely to develop a substance use problem in their lifetimes, but a new study suggests that psychiatric treatment can help. A team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) did an extensive review of literature on the subject and found no evidence that treating psychiatric disorders with medication increases the risk of developing a substance use disorder. For some disorders, such as ADHD, major depressive disorder (MDD), and psychotic disorders, medication reduced the incidence of substance abuse down the road. The finding "affirms that we need to identify and treat psychiatric disorders early in life," said Timothy Wilens, chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at MGH. "Picking it up early and treating these kids as long as they require treatment leads to a much better outcome when it comes to substance use disorders."

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Watch out for formula scams

Parents desperate to feed their babies amid the ongoing formula shortage are turning to informal channels like Facebook, and getting scammed, writes Amy Joyce in The Washington Post. In a recently issued consumer alert, the FTC warned parents that formula scams are "popping up online and tricking desperate parents and caregivers into paying steep prices for formula that never arrives." It's not clear exactly how widespread these scams are, but unfortunately, they are taking place on legitimate exchanges such Free Formula Exchange, and a Facebook formula group called Formula Finders, where moderators do their best to crack down on scammers. "The cynic in me is not surprised because in every crisis, there are always going to be opportunists looking to take advantage of people," said Keiko Zoll, the founder of Free Formula Exchange. 

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Men can get postpartum depression, too

Postpartum depression doesn't just affect moms, but there is no established criteria for diagnosing it in dads, so it often goes untreated, writes Sara Novak in Fatherly. Many men are unaware that it's a possibility, and those that do are often too ashamed to speak up about it. Finding help can be difficult, because very few mental health professionals specialize in paternal postpartum depression. Plus, postpartum depression manifests differently in men than women. It often shows up later, and is characterized by different symptoms, such as anger, irritability, withdrawal, substance abuse, or tension and pain in the body. Perhaps worst of all, medical professionals don't routinely screen for it. These aren't problems that individual fathers can readily solve, but "the more men that seek help, the better an understanding experts may develop of the disorder," Novak writes.

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None us of know what we're doing

A recent survey of parents with kids under two found that parents consult Google about six times a day, or 2,000 times a year, to answer questions about their babies, reports Jen McGuire in Romper. The most common questions were about which baby products are best, what to do about diaper rashes, feeding, and of course, why their baby is crying or not sleeping. Perhaps most relatably, "38% of parents surveyed admitted they were surprised by how little they actually knew about caring for a newborn in that first year," McGuire writes. And nearly half "wish they could tell themselves that they were doing a better job than they realized."

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