Browsing Tag


Family Nudity Is All About Comfort Level, NOT Sexuality

By February 15, 2016 1 Comment

Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton caused an online uproar back in October after he posted a partially obstructed picture of himself in the shower with his 2 year old son on Instagram, which you can see to the right. Comments and concerns raised by this situation ranged from positive and supportive of bathing with own’s own small children to outraged and accusations of child abuse. So, what is the “right” answer?

When parents ask me how to address nudity, I usually ask them to reflect on their own levels of comfort with nudity. The general rule with respect to parents’ and children’s nudity is that everyone needs to be comfortable with how much is bared. In particular, it is very important that parents agree on how much nudity they are comfortable with showing in front of their children. If parents have very different views about their comfort levels, I advise families to err on the side of modesty. That way no one feels uncomfortable.

Tags: , , , , ,
Categories: Ages + Stages, Mental, Emotional, + Behavioral Health, School-Aged Children, Toddlers + Preschoolers, Tweens + Teens

Planning A Pregnancy in the Time of Zika

By February 9, 2016 1 Comment

Like a lot of couples, my wife and I have waited to start a family until the time was right for us, which just so happens to be now-ish.  Unfortunately the right time for us has coincided with the spread of the Zika virus in North America, a virus that shows an association between infection with it during pregnancy and an increased risk of microcephaly (reduced brain/head size) in newborns. The Zika virus is not a new virus from a historical perspective, however, the newly accepted correlation with microcephaly seems to have given the virus a significant amount of media attention.

For any expectant parent – or couples planning on getting pregnant, like my wife and me  – the possibility of a Zika infection is terrifying.  My wife and I are the kind of people who like to arm ourselves with information, so let’s dive into Zika virus infections and take a look at some facts and figures.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Categories: Infectious Disease + Vaccines, Pregnancy, Birth + Family Planning

Recent Reports of Skin-to-Skin Benefits Fail to Mention Key Infant Safety Risks

By January 5, 2016 1 Comment

Last week, news of a recent study trickled  across my newsfeed, touting the benefits of skin-to-skin contact with infants. That study, published online by the American Association of Pediatrics,  presented evidence in support of Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), which is a method that involves infants being carried and held with prolonged skin-to-skin contact (S2S).

As is often the case, though, the mainstream media picked up the story and ran with it, touting the potential benefits of the practices, while making no mention of any risk. But there are risks – and I believe a parent needs to be aware before putting the practices into place.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Categories: Accidents, Injuries, + Abuse, Ages + Stages, Newborns + Infants, Science 101 + Mythbusting

Confessions of a Toddler School Drop-Out

By December 14, 2015 No Comments

This post originally appeared on the Graham’s Foundation blog on December 3, 2015

Three weeks ago, my toddler dropped out of school. My husband and I didn’t anticipate it. We started in September just like everyone else…with adorable “first day of school!” pictures on our front porch and excitement for everything my son would learn, and the new friends he would make.

It was a leap of faith for us to try out a group childcare setting in his second winter of life. My son, now 21 months old, was born at 31 weeks and 6 days in January of 2014. When he was discharged from the NICU in late February of that year, we- like all preemie parents- feared colds, flu, and RSV. We limited visitors, bought stock in hand sanitizer, and checked proof of TDAP and flu vaccinations at the front door.

With a thriving toddler interested in learning and socializing, we decided to graduate from the parent-nanny caregiver model and enroll him in a Montessori program four mornings per week. We took careful note of the advice from fellow parents about sickness in the first year of school or daycare.

“He will definitely get sick, but then his immune system will be unstoppable for the rest of his educational career,” they promised.

We thought we’d see a few bad illnesses this year, but for the most part he’d just have a chronic runny nose.

Boy – were we wrong.  

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Categories: Ages + Stages, Infectious Disease + Vaccines, Toddlers + Preschoolers

Science Fair Projects: Lessons in Parental Torture

By December 9, 2015 2 Comments


I was a science fair nerd from the 3rd to 10th grade, so I can say with certainty that I put my parents through seven years of unabridged science fair hell. Parents who are working on those projects now, can you imagine? Seven years of what you’re doing right now?

Hopefully this post offers you some solace, because your cursing of the science-fair-powers-that-be is not unique. In fact, I’ve been watching science fair rage trickle across my social media feeds all week, and hearing about it for decades (from, ahem…my mom). So if you’re one of these frustrated parents, just know that you’re not alone. There are many, many others trying to guide their children to success on this required and often exhausting homework project.

I do have mixed feelings about science fairs, because as a student I loved learning about science through my participation in the fair. However, I should be clear: that only happened AFTER I was being guided by actual scientists for my projects. We’ll get to that in a moment.

What you should know is that the frustration you’re feeling as a parent (or are about to feel) is normal and officially generations old. Parents or not, most of us understand this feeling since we also remember what it was like as kids to put these projects together. I’m going to go out on a limb here and hypothesize (oh-ho-ho!) that the whole process was nearly as ridiculous then, as it is today.

Tags: , , , ,
Categories: School-Aged Children, Tweens + Teens

Big-Ticket Political Debates Avoid Key Health Science Topics. Here’s Why.

By October 14, 2015 1 Comment


CNN’s first Democratic Presidential Debate aired on Tuesday night, reminding us here at The Scientific Parent that scientific issues that affect our health aren’t a priority in big-ticket politics.

If you caught our coverage of CNN’s Republican Presidential Debate last month, you might have seen my *ahem* slightly irate post about how Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson sidestepped acknowledging that vaccines and autism are in fact, not connected. While it was disappointing, it wasn’t surprising.

Regardless of which side of the mythical party line you stand on, there’s one thing that’s pretty obvious…politics, particularly political campaigns, aren’t heavily driven by scientific or quantitative topics (as this science literacy drinking game reminds us). Driven by the behavioral science of voting and viewing patterns, yes. But political scientific topics like vaccines and vaccine legislation, a healthcare system that focuses on maintaining good health rather than our current system that focuses on care for chronic illness, or maternity leave legislation, to name a few?


Tags: , , , ,
Categories: Policy, Politics, + Pop Health, Science 101 + Mythbusting

Should You Treat Your Child’s Cold or Flu With Traditional or Homeopathic Medications?

By September 29, 2015 4 Comments


We’ve entered that time of year when many of us try to stay indoors as much as possible, cringe at the mere sound of someone coughing, and stock up on hand sanitizer in attempts to ward off illness. Cold and flu season has begun and, as usual, our children are the most susceptible to these viruses.

As the father of two, I know that parents want to ensure that our kids are healthy and happy, it’s in our nature, so when our kids become ill, we want to fix it immediately. But are the cough and cold medications you find overflowing in the aisles of your pharmacy the best option for easing your child’s symptoms?

As a pharmacist I speak with parents all the time who grab a bottle of cold medicine off the shelf that makes the most promises of relief on the label. If the parents seek my advice I often tell them it would be wiser to put the bottle down and offer their kids comfort measures at home like warm soup, a humidifier, and lots of fluids instead. I know this seems counter-intuitive – I’m a pharmacist! Most people assume I see medication as the solution to every problem. Not so.

First, it’s important to note that over-the-counter cold and flu medications can’t cure or shorten the duration of those illnesses, they can only offer temporary symptom relief while the virus runs its course. The infection and symptoms will end when the child’s own immune system has won the battle.

Tags: , , , , ,
Categories: Ages + Stages, Infectious Disease + Vaccines, Newborns + Infants, School-Aged Children, Toddlers + Preschoolers, Tweens + Teens

How to Help Your Child Learn Self-Control

By August 31, 2015 2 Comments

Helping your toddler or your child of any age learn self-control can be very difficult because in order to be successful, you must also have good self-control. As a tired parent, this is not always easy. And so my first advice to you, different from all of the other advice I’ve seen on disciplining children, is to look after yourself as much as you can to make sure that you are as ready as you can be for the challenges of parenting.

A toddler sees himself or herself as a very powerful human being. He or she is moving on their own, can eat by themselves, is learning to manage bodily functions and is modelling everything you do. This developmental period is the time to be a good model and is the ideal time to guide the process of learning self-control.

To start with the most basic advice on discipline, here is a simple page of excellent suggestions that you can print out, from the website of the Canadian Pediatric Society.  If you are looking for something with a bit more theory, this guide from the National Institutes for Health in the United States is very good.

With this advice in hand, let me offer you the biggest lesson that I learned about child discipline.

This lesson fixed in my mind after seeing my oldest child through her toddler years. What I learned is that our most basic activities, like eating and sleeping or active times, all follow a routine that becomes internally set. This is especially true of small children. In my experience, parents who do not follow their young children’s inner rhythms can expect trouble. A hungry or tired child is more likely to lose self-control, just as their tired or stressed parent does. It’s always best to be respectful of those needs and the payoff of recognizing and respecting them is that a child can more quickly develop self-control in other areas.

Another thing to remember is that very young children do not understand long, verbal explanations, so say things simply: “No, that’s hot!” You want your child to realize when you’re saying that something is dangerous, to stop immediately. If they do not stop, you will have to intervene to physically keep them safe. If they do stop, praise them – be sure they understand that they’ve done the correct thing.

You must also do your best to be consistent. If your child cannot clearly understand from you the best way to act, he or she will not be able to learn how to act. It is in this situation that one observes a child testing the limits of acceptable behavior. While some children test the limits regardless, not knowing the limits makes this far more likely.

The follow-up to consistency is following through. Following through is very difficult, especially in the grocery store line with all eyes on your screaming toddler who wants a treat. The first thing to try is to divert the child’s attention – for example, see if they can help you to unload the cart. You can remind them that there is a healthier treat at home. But it may just be that you will have to hold a screaming child to ensure that they don’t harm themselves and wait until they have settled down to pay for your groceries.

Most people in the store will be very sympathetic and even helpful, a reinforcement to your lesson that bad behavior is not acceptable. Another thing I remember when this happened to me was that all the other small children nearby managed to be “perfect” while my child was misbehaving. This was no accident since most children want to behave well and nothing focuses them better than someone their own age not managing their own behavior. Grocery store lines can also set the stage for an excellent opportunity to tell them how proud you are of them. In fact, say this whenever it applies – we can all use extra reminders that we are learning well.

Every parent has heard about time-outs and there is no more effective method to remind a child that self-control is absolutely necessary. Find a safe place for these and be prepared to stay with a very young child while they calm down. Many people use a timer but it is important that a child understand that he or she is taking the time to settle down and be ready to apologize for what they have done. If it takes resetting the timer several times for a child to settle, then reset the timer. A child who has settled will likely be sorry for what has happened and that is the sign that they are ready to finish a time out.

Adults modelling good self-control helps children learn good self-control as well - photo: K. Kruckenberg

Adults modelling good self-control helps children learn good self-control as well – photo: K. Kruckenberg

I want to end back where I began and remind you how important your behavior modelling is in helping your child to learn self-control. If you are tired and stressed and not managing your own actions well, your child will notice. At the very least, their confusion about your distress will make it harder for them to know how to act. Explain to the extent that you can, “I’m worried (sad, upset, etc.) today.” Give yourself an easier time and be mindful of what might help you manage yourself. Find some things that you love to do with your child that you both enjoy and do those things.

We do not really teach our children self-control, we help them to learn. Every child deserves a parent who loves them enough to care that they learn this important lesson and, some days, you both deserve a day off to enjoy each other.

You can read more of Dr. Gail Beck’s work on The Scientific Parent here.

Tags: , ,
Categories: Ages + Stages, Mental, Emotional, + Behavioral Health, Toddlers + Preschoolers