In It For Health

Where health and psychology intersect

Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Susan Bartell’

A Teachable Moment: Summer structure is essential for kids and teens

Posted by Dr. Susan on June 4, 2012

For parents and kids alike, summer is associated with freedom from the hectic school year schedule and with the chance to take a deep breath and relax for a few weeks. Bed times are later, house rules become more flexible, and playtime stretches out into the evening hours. This change, as well as the chance to slow down, are great for everyone’s psychological well-being. That being said, even in the summer, it is important for kids to maintain a routine. In fact, too much ‘relaxing’ isn’t healthy for kids or teens.

To begin, excess screen time (TV, computer, video games, phones), is no better for kids in the summer than it is during the school year. Your child may not have homework, but the opportunity to be active outside, spend time with friends, and take advantage of experiences that are unique to summer, will all be diminished by spending too much time engaged with a screen—whether at home or on the go. Therefore, the summertime rules for screen time should not be very different from the school-year rules. The maximum recommended total screen time should not be more than two hours a day for kids and teens, no matter what time of year it is!

Next, it can be easy to allow your child to have a later bedtime in the summer. The sun sets at a later time, and there is no school the next day (although some kids must get up for summer camp). While it is tempting to allow kids and teens to stay up as late as they choose and then sleep as late as they desire the next morning, this is not in their best interest.  In order to grow healthily, feel happy and behave well, kids and teens need a minimum of eight hours of sleep, and most need nine or ten hours. In addition, the eight hours of sleep that begin earlier in the night, are much better quality than when these hours begin later at night. Finally, when you allow kids—and especially teens—to create their own sleep schedule, they will often stay up well past midnight, and then sleep away a good part of the day. This is not a healthy way to spend the summer, and it becomes more difficult for them to adjust back to a school year routine. Therefore, while it is fine to allow some flexibility in your child or teen’s summer bedtime routine, it is important to enforce a reasonable bedtime, ensuring that your child gets enough, good quality sleep.

Finally, while it is important to slow down in the summer, kids and teens function much more healthily, and are less likely to get in trouble, when they have structured, supervised activity. For example, did you know that the rate of marijuana use amongst teens is much higher in the summer months than at any other time of the year? This is because in the summer so many more teens are allowed to spend every day, for weeks, with little to do and barely any supervision. Even younger kids with little structure are more likely to get into fights and become cranky and hard to manage because they are bored. So, while it may be summertime, parenting must still include organizing a regular schedule of activities for your child, and supervising older kids and teens to ensure that they are doing more than just hanging out and sleeping the summer away.

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Mayor Bloomberg, banning sodas will only make the obesity problem worse!

Posted by Dr. Susan on May 31, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg of NYC wants to ban sugary soda larger than sixteen ounces…

Really! How about if Mayor Bloomberg and all the other local, state and national politicians focus their attention to issues that are actually their business. We do NOT live in a dictatorship, we are allowed to drink and eat whatever we want.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that we or our kids should be downing large quantitites of sugar (or fat), in fact I’ve written a bunch of books about being healthy.That being said, if the politicians stopped fighting with each other and spent their time focusing on education, real economic improvements and other issues that crucial to the welfare of the United States, maybe people–adults, teens kids–would be more likely to become healthy.

So you’re asking…how  exactly are politics and health related? Actually, very much so…

If you tell a child over and over again that he isn’t as smart or successful as the other kids, then you throw in a dysfunctional family life, with parents fighting all the time, and then you don’t even give him the tools to improve things, I guarantee you that this child is MUCH more likely to feel depressed, hopeless and worthless. As we all know, when someone feels really bad, he’s less likely to care about how he looks, he’s more likely to eat emotionally and he’s less likely to be motivatefd to make healthy changes.

Sound like anyone you know? Perhaps our WHOLE country!! Our education systems throughout the entire U.S. are embarassing compared to so many other countries, we are struggling economically, and our ‘parents’ (the politicians) are constantly bickering and outright fighting.

No wonder we are overeating sugar and fat–talk about needing to self-soothe!

So this brings me back to Bloomberg and his suggested ban on super-sized sodas….

Mr. Bloomberg and ALL the other politicians who think that controlling our calories is going to make a difference. The obesity rate in this country is a SYMPTOM, not the underlying problem. We need you to make changes that will actually make us feel valued, valuable, safe and secure. Then we’ll stop binge-eating junk food!

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A Teachable Moment: Make the most of moving up

Posted by Dr. Susan on May 6, 2012

The month of May is all about graduations, moving up ceremonies and commencements. It is a time to feel a little sad about “how fast they grow up”, and to feel joyous about the wonderful milestones and accomplishments. This year I have, a child graduating from high school, another from middle school, and two nieces leaving elementary school!

Whether your child is facing a significant graduation, or simply moving from one grade to the next, this time of year is filled with mixed feelings, not only for you, but for your child as well. You might be surprised to learn, that not all kids are excited or happy about leaving a school, grade or teacher. Many are sad to leave the classroom in which they have accomplished so much, or the routine to which they have become accustomed. They may miss a teacher with whom they have formed a strong relationship, and they often worry that they won’t have friends in their class next year. Of course, some kids make the transition easily and are excited to move on and up! Never the less, just about every child feels some small worry and ambivalence about transitioning. In order to help your child face the transition in a positive and optimistic manner, it is important to be aware of the feelings that he or she may be experiencing. Here are a few ideas that will help you and your child say goodbye to this school year in a positive and optimistic way:

Focus on facts: Remind your child about all that he learned during this school year, and point out that next year will be just as productive. For example, this year he may have read his first chapter book, but next year, he’ll read a whole series! This year he learned how to play basketball, but next year he’ll be a comfortable part of the team. The more you focus on positive milestones to reach in the upcoming year, the easier it will be for your child to be excited, rather than ambivalent.

Make memories: Saying goodbye to people and places is a natural part of life, and one that your child will confront many, many times over the course of a lifetime. It is important to validate your child’s sad feelings and help her cope with them. Give her a camera and encourage her to take it to school and take pictures and video that will document the building, classroom, teachers and classmates. Help her create an album or scrapbook with the pictures that she can keep as a positive reminder of this school year.

Encourage emotion: Most kids have been socialized (by the media and their peers) to believe that they should be thrilled that school is ending. However, many children and teens enjoy the learning, the structure, and the time with friends, much more than they value a long vacation. However, they keep these feelings hidden because they don’t think it is ‘normal’ or ‘cool’ to feel sad about school ending. You can help your child understand his feelings, but reminding him that all feelings are normal and that it is okay to be upset about school ending. The more opportunities your child has to talk about his feelings, the more easily he will make the transition.

You should not be embarrassed to talk about your feelings as your child grows up. It can be beneficial to talk to other parents in order to share feelings about your child (and you) reaching these milestones. Remember that all feelings are ‘normal’!

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