Healthy Focus – August 2021

Get Tough, Speak Up!

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Though we teach our children to ignore taunts because they cannot be physically hurt by them, evidence shows that words can wound. Bullying is increasingly recognized not just as a hurdle of childhood, but as a public health issue with serious, long-term consequences.

Bullying can have a lasting impact on mental health and has been identified as a contributing factor to substance abuse and even suicide. Children who are bullied are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and other health complaints, even into adulthood. They are also more likely to miss or drop out of school and see their GPA and test scores drop. In rare cases, bullied children have been known to react violently: 12 of 15 school shootings during the 1990s included shooters who had been bullied. But bullying doesn’t just affect the child being bullied; children who bully are at a higher risk of engaging in violent and self-destructive behavior through adolescence and into adulthood. They are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, start sexual activity earlier, be convicted of criminal activity, and be abusive toward partners and children as adults.

Bullying can be verbal, such as name-calling and threats; social, meant to hurt the victim’s reputation or relationships, such as spreading rumors or public embarrassment; or physical, by hurting the victim’s body or damaging his or her possessions. Bullying is aggressive behavior that is repetitive and involves a real or perceived power imbalance, such as popularity or physical strength. Though any child can be a victim of bullying, it can occur due to a disability or a negative perception of a child’s sexual orientation, religion, race, or ethnicity. Bullying has recently become more pervasive and difficult for victims to escape through the emergence of cyberbullying, which takes place electronically and follows adolescents home.

Sadly, bullying can be experienced in adulthood as well as adolescence. Similar behaviors can be found in the workplace and in the home and can escalate into hazing, harassment, intimate partner violence, or stalking. These behaviors require different prevention and responses and are often subject to federal and state laws, which do not apply to youth bullying.

Many children who are bullied do not tell an adult for fear of rejection or retaliation by the bully or their peers, fear of being seen as weak or being judged, or because they have feelings of social isolation and humiliation. Signs that your child may be a victim of bullying include:

  • Frequent or unexplained injuries
  • Lost or damaged property
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
  • Faking illness or frequent headaches or stomachaches
  • Drop in academic achievement
  • Sudden avoidance of friends or social situations

In addition to modeling kindness and respect and keeping up open communication with your child, help him or her to understand what bullying looks like and how to react when it happens. Consider discussing these strategies to help keep your children happy and safe:

  • Encourage children to stay near adults or in a group of friends.
  • Encourage children to report bullying to a trusted adult.
  • Discuss how to safely stand up to bullies by using humor, clearly and confidently saying “Stop,” and walking away from the situation if these strategies do not work.
  • Encourage children to get help or show kindness when they see another child being bullied.
  • Report to police or school authorities if bullying has escalated and is endangering your child.

If your child is struggling with bullying issues at school, talk to your healthcare provider about more ways you can support your child.

 

Kids in Sports:

4 Ways to Reduce Your Child’s Risk of Sports Injuries

With concussions and other kids’ sports injuries in the news these days, sometimes it may seem safer to just keep your child safely at home on the couch next to you.

But there are many precautions you can take to help ensure that your son or daughter doesn’t end up in the ER, say experts. Here are four ways to help minimize the risk of sports injuries for your children.

1. Buy proper equipment and check it periodically.

Concussions most commonly occur from bicycling, football, basketball and soccer, with football and girls’ soccer scoring the highest number of incidents last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If your child participates in one of those sports, it’s especially important to find a helmet that fits correctly. Also, be sure to routinely inspect helmets to make sure they still fit throughout the season.

New, more effective helmets and mouthguards are always in the news, but beware the hype. It’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about the latest products designed to protect your child during sports. In addition, be sure your child wears shoes specifically made for his or her sport to help prevent tendonitis and stress fractures.

2. Focus on proper technique.

In soccer, for example, there are right and wrong ways to head the ball, so make sure your children’s coach is instructing them about the differences. In football, using improper tackling techniques can lead to injury, so coaches should definitely be covering the proper way to position the body before children begin playing.

Kids should also be coached to always warm up appropriately. A slow buildup to the season’s rigors is crucial too. Encourage your kids to do some pre-season work to build up endurance and get ready for the season so the first day out it’s not news to their body, but it’s a good idea to increase their efforts slowly to avoid stress fractures.

3. Communicate early and often.

A pre-season informational meeting with coaches to go over the safety policies of the school or club is a great idea. The meeting can include general information on what the coach is planning to do to avoid concussions and other injuries. Some programs even have kids sign a concussion form so they are aware of the dangers and can try to be more cautious.

Meetings with parents and coaches are an opportunity for kids to see that safety precautions are not just something Mom is saying, but something the coach and other players are concerned about too.

As a parent, you are the advocate for your children, so make sure you’re talking to the coach about what’s best for your child, and talking to the child to make sure they know ahead of time that the goal is to have fun, and that pushing themselves too hard is not worth the long-term ramifications of an injury.

It’s especially important to keep open a dialogue about muscle overuse when kids practice a sport year-round without any breaks. While the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend limiting the amount of sports activity, if injuries are on a growth plate, that can do long-term damage.

4. Pay attention when your kids are playing.

It’s important for parents to be present and involved in their children’s sports. By attending practices and games and watching your child play, you can see see if your is exhibiting obvious signs of dangerous habits, like leading forward with their head vs. their body in soccer.

What to do if you think your child has suffered a concussion:

* Get medical attention for your child right away.

* Keep your child out of play until a medical professional says it’s OK to return.

* Let your child’s coach know about any previous concussions.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Have you scheduled your student athlete’s sports physical yet? Call Eagle Creek Clinic at 731-407-7013 or Paris Pediatrics at 731-644-2747.