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The three best parenting resolutions (and an easier way to make them)

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy December 31, 2012 07:21 AM
It's that time again: time for New Year's resolutions, when we resolve to do things differently and better. As parents, responsible for the lives of our children, it's particularly important that we strive to do things better. 

The problem with resolutions, though, is that they aren't always easy to keep. There is a reason why we've been doing things the way we have been. And the realities of daily life can get in the way of our best and most sincere intentions.

There are three resolutions I think all parents should make, because they could have a real effect on your child's current and future health and well-being. They are simple and obvious, but not necessarily easy. Which is why I'd suggest that instead of setting a specific goal, you should think of the resolutions in terms of leaning into them.

Leaning into things means changing direction and changing your thinking--but in a gradual way. It's about having faith. It's about pushing yourself, bit by bit, in a way that allows the change to take hold.

So here are my suggestions:

Help your child eat better (I did say that these resolutions were obvious). As a pediatrician and a mom I am very aware that lots of kids don't have the greatest diets--and I'm keenly aware of the obesity epidemic and all its scary ramifications. I'm also keenly aware of how hard it can be to make changes in our diets. We like what we are eating; that's why we eat it.

I'd love it if everyone could have five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, make their meal plates look like the one at choosemyplate.gov (half fruits/vegetables, a quarter whole grains, a quarter protein), cut out all sweetened beverages, and eat only whole grains and low-fat dairy. Oh--cutting out junk food and fast food would be excellent too. But every change counts. Just getting those vegetables on the plate--and getting your child to eat a few bites--would be great. Try packing water instead of juice for snack--and swapping grapes for cookies. Do some meal planning and shopping together--even better, cook together once a week. Think small changes--but steady ones. Maybe one manageable change a week. For recipes and other ideas, check out the Healthy Family Fun website.

Get your child more active. We are a remarkably sedentary society, and this is really bad for us. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be physically active for at least an hour every day. This doesn't have to be a sports practice; active play (like at the playground after school) is perfectly fine. In fact, active play is great--because it makes exercise easy and fun.

Think easy and fun as you lean into this one. Being active could be taking the stairs, or walking to school instead of driving. It could be building a snow fort (and having a snowball fight). It could be dancing in the kitchen while you make dinner--or an active video game. While signing your child up for a sport or activity is a great way to ensure regular exercise, also think about things you can do together--like skating, or family swim. That way you can set an example (kids pay attention to what we do more than to what we say), and also...

Spend more time with your child. By this, I mean not just being in the vicinity, although that's certainly good, but giving them your undivided attention. Maybe it's that family swim--or a story at bedtime. Maybe it's a shopping trip with your teen--or a game of Checkers. It doesn't have to be long if you can't manage long--but put your child in the center of the time.

I'm an outrageous multitasker, so this will be my big challenge--but I'm resolving to put aside my  iPhone and laptop and just be with my kids for whatever pockets of time I can manage. Liam and I are going to tackle that Lego Ghost Train bit by bit (here's hoping we have all the pieces--he keeps leaving them out on the floor). I am going to teach my fashionista 11-year-old to sew. I'm still working out what I'll do with my big kids...but I'll figure it out.

It's not just about bonding. It's about keeping in touch--about knowing what's going on with them and what they are thinking and feeling. It's about giving support and making sure they know how much you love them. This is crucial when it comes to mental health, and to keeping kids out of trouble as they get older. It has as much to do with their well-being as diet and exercise.

Remember, with all three of these resolutions it's as much about finding out what doesn't work as about finding out what does. That's what leaning in lets you do. Every family and every kid is different. There's always something that can work, with some faith, perseverance, imagination--and lots of love. Which, really, is what parenthood is all about.

Happy New Year, all of you. May 2013 be a really good year for you and your families.


Parents: are you part of the bullying problem? Take this quiz.

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy December 27, 2012 07:45 AM
Did you know that at least one in ten middle school students reports being bullied?

That's a lot of kids--and one of them could be yours. Bullying is a serious problem. The more we study it, the more we understand that not only is it dangerous and damaging while it's happening, but victims (and bullies) have a higher risk of mental and physical problems long after the bullying has ended. 

Children who have something different about them, such as being overweight, having a learning disability or neurological problem, or a different sexual orientation, are at higher risk of being victims of bullying. Even children with health problems have a higher risk--a recent study showed that a third of kids with food allergies are bullied just because of their allergies!

We are also learning that adults can sometimes be part of the bullying problem--by ignoring it, encouraging it, or even doing it themselves. And most of those adults have no idea that they are doing it. 

Are you part of the problem? Answer these questions:
  • When you want your child to do or stop doing something, do you every use phrases like "don't act like a sissy" or "you throw like a girl!" or 'you're getting fat"?
  • Is "tough love" part of how you parent?
  • Do you spend limited time talking to or being with your child?
  • Have you ever wondered if your child might be bullied--and not said or done anything?
  • Have you ever wondered if your child might be bullying someone--and not said or done anything?
  • Do you praise your child for being aggressive?
  • Would you be proud of your child for being successful and popular--even if you suspected he or she might be bullying people?
  • Do you ever talk about other people in a demeaning way in front of your children?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you may indeed be part of the problem. It's time to take a long, hard look at yourself and your parenting, and make some changes.

Here are a few more questions:
  • Do you know the signs that a child might be a victim of bullying?
  • Do you know the signs that a child might be a bully?
  • Have you talked to your child about cyberbullying--and about what they do online?
  • Do you regularly tell and show your child that you love them no matter what?
If you answered no to any of those, it's time to start learning--and talking.

To learn more about bullying and how parents can be part of the solution and not part of the problem, visit www.stopbullying.gov


My response to the NRA: don't you have any other ideas?

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy December 23, 2012 11:21 AM
Ever since I read the transcript of the NRA's press conference last Friday, their first public response to the Newtown school shootings, I have been getting more and more upset. 

Honestly? Our response to the deaths of those first-graders should be to put armed guards in every school? All they could come up with was: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun"?

There are so many problems with this idea.

It could be really frightening for children, obviously. And there's the very real possibility of terrible accidents or mistakes or the guns of the armed guards being stolen or misused by others. 

But there's also the simple fact that kids go to other places besides schools. Like movie theaters and malls, for example, where we've had other mass shootings. Or playing fields. Or museums, day care centers or swimming pools. Is the idea to have armed guards at all these places too?

I read a really powerful blog by a Newtown mother whose daughter was born the same day as one of the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In it, she talks about a visit to Israel, and how there were armed guards everywhere--including accompanying children on field trips. It seems to me that if we follow the NRA's suggestion, that's where we are headed. And that is not how I want us to live. 

I did not grow up with guns. I do not hunt. I am afraid of guns, and will likely never own one. I admit that my bias is against guns--but I do understand that others feel differently and passionately about them. I respect that difference--it's the right to have differing viewpoints that our country is built upon. I think that's what the second amendment was trying to do: protect people against tyranny.

But I start to lose respect when the laws favor gun owners over victims. And it made me lose respect when I found out that pro-gun lobbying has prevented the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes for Health and other Health and Human Services agencies from using any injury prevention money to advocate or promote gun control, as Drs. Kellermann and Rivara wrote about in their recent JAMA article. This has effectively stopped any government research about what kind of gun control might work--research that could have prevented the Sandy Hook shooting.

So, NRA, can you try again? It's just not as simple as arming the good guys. We can't get the good guys everywhere--and even good guys screw up, and sometimes the bad guys will shoot before the good guys can (which is what I think might have happened at Sandy Hook if an armed guard had been there). You are smart people, and I know you are as devastated by the deaths of those innocent children as anyone else. Can you please offer an idea that doesn't involve more guns? Can you work with us to understand the complicated problem of violence and find strategies and solutions that will really keep our children--and all of us--safe?


How much cow's milk should your child drink?

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy December 20, 2012 06:03 AM
It's a question I get all the time: how much cow's milk should my child drink?

Cow's milk can be part of a healthy diet for children; about 70 percent of children drink it on a daily basis. Milk has protein and calcium--and it's fortified with Vitamin D, a vitamin that is very important not only for healthy bone growth, but for the prevention of some chronic diseases, including autoimmune, respiratory and heart diseases. In fact, the Committee on Nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that children who don't drink at least 1000 mL (about four cups) of milk daily should take extra Vitamin D. 

That sounds like kids should be drinking at least four cups of milk a day--but that may not be such a good idea. 

Fortified milk may be high in calcium and vitamin D, but it's low in iron. Not only is it low in iron, but drinking a lot of it interferes with the body's absorption of iron and can even cause small amounts of bleeding in the intestine, further lowering the amount of iron in the body. And when children drink a lot of milk, it can fill them up and make it less likely that they will eat enough of other healthy iron-containing foods like meat or dark leafy vegetables (I see this often in my practice). In fact, drinking a lot of cow's milk is a common cause of iron deficiency. That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics Bright Futures guidelines recommend that children should only drink two cups a day.

So which is right? Two cups or four cups? A study just released in the journal Pediatrics helps doctors and parents answer this question. Researchers in Canada studied more than a thousand children ages two to five, looking at their diets, their lifestyles, and their vitamin D and ferritin (a test that measures iron) levels. 

Their answer to the question: two cups is right--with some caveats.

The biggest caveats have to do with the fact that Vitamin D is a sunshine vitamin--our bodies literally make it with help from the sun. If you have dark skin, you don't absorb those important rays as well--and during the winter, when we all tend to stay inside more, we get less exposure to sunshine. The researchers found that dark-skinned children who didn't get extra Vitamin D during the winter would need 3-4 cups of milk to get enough Vitamin D--but when they got that much, their iron levels went down. So supplementation is probably the better way to go.

Another interesting caveat had to do with bottles. Kids who drank milk from bottles didn't seem to get the same bump in Vitamin D from drinking more--and were more likely to have iron deficiency. The researchers weren't sure why this is, but said maybe parents don't realize how much milk their kids drink when they use a bottle--and kids who take milk from bottles might drink other things like juice from it too, and be otherwise more likely to fill up on fluids instead of eating a healthy diet.

So--here are the bottom lines for parents when it comes to cow's milk:
  • Give your child two cups a day.
  • Have your child play outside whenever possible, not only for Vitamin D levels but for overall health.
  • If your child is dark-skinned, or you spend very little time outdoors, talk to your doctor about taking a Vitamin D supplement, especially in the winter.
  • Ditch the bottle as soon as possible (by a year--sooner if you can).

Cow's milk isn't absolutely necessary for a healthy diet--there are other ways to get the nutrition it offers. If your child isn't drinking cow's milk for whatever reason, talk to your doctor about the best way to be sure that he or she is getting enough calcium, vitamin D and protein.

For more information on healthy diets for children, visit the Nutrition page of the AAP's healthychildren.org website and KidsEatRight.org, which has great (and practical) information from the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Please: let's honor the Newtown victims with action

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy December 17, 2012 06:15 AM
I don't know how to move forward after the shootings of the children in Newtown.

A lot of it has to do with the fact that I have a first grader. Whenever I close my eyes, I have visions of a gunman storming into his school. My son's classroom is just off the main lobby--it would be his class a gunman would get to first. When I see the list of names, I see my son's name and the names of his friends instead. I feel the searing, splitting, blinding pain I would feel if he were killed. I don't know how I would go on living if that happened.

These things happen and after the shock of them we are somehow supposed to move forward. We talk about terrible it is and about coping and then we get back to daily life. But I am stuck. I don't want to move forward. I don't want those children to have died in vain.

There are things we can do. We should have done them a long time ago. Let's do them now.

We have to do something about the guns. When our founding fathers ensured our right to bear arms, I really don't think they had semiautomatic rifles in mind. There is just no reason for any civilian to own a gun designed for maximum carnage. All guns should be hard to get--and we need to take real responsibility for knowing and controlling who has access to them. 

Equally important is making mental health services widely and easily available. Right now, they aren't. In many areas, there are long waiting lists just to get an evaluation, let alone to get ongoing treatment. We should think about mental health care the way we do about other health care, and put the same energy into making sure that each and every person has access to it--and can afford it. It's easier to get a gun than to get mental health care in this country. We should be ashamed.

We also need to be more vigilant and proactive when it comes to the people around us. We don't know many details yet about this shooter, but in other incidents it always seems like people say that the shooter was a loner, or seemed disturbed, or said worrisome things...and yet nobody reached out or did anything. It wasn't their business, they weren't sure, they thought somebody else would do something...now, the vast majority of loners and disturbed people and people who say worrisome things don't go on a shooting rampage. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't reach out or tell somebody when we hear, see or know something that worries us. Even if we don't save a life, we could make a difference. We need to stop minding our own business and start being our brother's keeper.

Please. In memory of those beautiful innocent children who were murdered, let's take action. In their honor, let's do something to stop this from happening again. 

Let their deaths be not just another atrocity but the exact moment that we began to change things for the better.



In wake of the Connecticut school shootings, what parents should do first

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy December 14, 2012 04:12 PM

Like everyone, I am devastated by the news of the Connecticut school shootings. I start to cry when I think, even for a nanosecond, of what it would feel like to be one of those parents who lost a child.

It's going to take us a while to process all of this--to understand exactly what happened and why and what we can learn from it. In the meantime, here's what I think parents should do now with their children:

1. Turn off the television--or at least, don't watch any news coverage with your children anywhere nearby. It's too much for anyone (I had to stop watching the one video I saw), let alone a child.

2. Reassure your child that you, and so many other people, are always working to keep them safe. Talk about all the helping people, like policemen and doctors and firefighters. Remind them that things like this are really rare.

3. Hug them. A lot. No yelling at them today. For anything. I mean it. Today is a day to appreciate them and know just how lucky you are that they are alive and well.

 

Here are some videos (thanks to my friend Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson) with advice on how to talk to children about events like these: 

http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/aurora-colorado-shooting-explaining-tragic-events-kids-16824791

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3v4ZyirhIs

The American Academy of Pediatrics also has resources on their website to help children and families cope.

Five signs your teen could be in an unhealthy relationship

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy December 13, 2012 06:05 AM

Your daughter has a new boyfriend. He seems nice enough, but there’s something about the way he talks to her sometimes that makes you worry: is he as nice as he seems? 

Teen dating violence is a real problem—and it’s not rare. One in five adolescents report some kind of violence (including psychological)—and up to one in eight report physical violence (girls are more likely to experience physical violence than boys). Think about that: in a high school classroom of twenty kids, that would mean four are in an unhealthy relationship—and two of those four are being beaten. 

A study just released in the journal Pediatrics gives us more reason to worry; it says that young adults who experienced dating violence as teens were more likely to be heavy drinkers, smoke marijuana, be antisocial, be depressed, and think about suicide. 

Not what we want for our children.

What makes it hard is that it’s not always easy to pick up on dating violence. Abusers can seem remarkably charming. Victims can be reluctant to admit it’s going on—and often are made to feel like the problems are their fault, not the fault of the abuser. Even signs that should seem obvious, like bruises, get explained away (“I fell at school.”) So parents need to be very watchful, and ask lots of questions. 

Here are five signs your teen might be in an unhealthy relationship (I’m saying daughter here, but it could be son too): 

He doesn’t always treat her with respect. This sounds obvious, but it’s something worth thinking about carefully—because we can sometimes dismiss small things we shouldn’t dismiss, both as victims and as onlookers. Does he belittle her? Does he make fun of her in front of others? Does he say unkind things to her about how she looks, what she does or what she says? Does he show up late, or bail on her, or not call when he said he would? Each time it happens it may not seem like a big deal, but if it’s frequent, it is a big deal. 

He smothers—or otherwise acts obsessed. It can seem sweet at first when he calls all the time or wants to be with her every moment. But when it doesn’t let up, and when it starts to get in the way of your daughter seeing friends or doing activities she likes to do, or when he wants to know what she is doing and who she is with all the time, or if he is often jealous, it’s a warning sign of problems. 

Your daughter changes her habits for him. We all like to please our partners, and a few changes aren’t bad—sometimes they can even be welcome (like starting to wear clean clothes regularly). But in a healthy relationship, each person appreciates the other for who they are.  It’s not good if your daughter suddenly is wearing different clothes (especially if they are sexier), is giving up friends or activities or is otherwise acting in ways that are, well, just not her. 

He hurts her physically in any way—or she has an unexplained injury. Ask questions. Make sure the story makes sense. It is never, never okay for someone to physically hurt another person. Sometimes when we are in the thick of it, we lose track of that—but it’s a really important message to teach our children. 

Your daughter seems more sad, irritable or anxious than before. Healthy relationships make us happier. If we aren’t happy, there is a problem. 

If you are seeing any of these things, sit your teen down and talk. As upset and even angry as you may be, talk to her in a loving, supportive way. Be patient, and be ready to try again if she says there is nothing wrong. It can take a while for someone to be ready to talk about these things. 

To learn more about teen dating violence and what you can do about it, check out the Teen Dating Violence page of the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Parenting to prevent sexual abuse

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy December 10, 2012 07:11 AM
In the wake of the recent news that a known sexual offender raped and molested children for years, many of them in a daycare north of Boston, it's hard not to be scared as a parent. You can't help thinking: could this happen to my child?

It certainly brings home the fact that if your child is in daycare you should be asking lots of questions--not just when you choose the daycare, but on a regular basis. You should be sure that the daycare is licensed (the one where this happened wasn't); the Department of Early Education and Childcare has an online database and you can also call if you want more information. You should ask lots of questions about how and with whom your child spends his or her day, get references and have ongoing conversations with other parents, and be alert for anything that doesn't seem right to you.

But there are other things that parents can do to help prevent sexual abuse--and make it more likely that they will know if (God forbid) something does happen:

Talk to your kids. This sounds obvious and silly, but many parents actually don't spend all that much time each day talking to their children. It takes patience, and time. It takes building a culture within your family of daily sharing and listening. It's very worth the effort; not only will it make you closer as a family, but it will make it easier and more natural for your children to tell you about anything that happens to them.

Teach your child about body parts. Do it in the bathtub or at other natural times of nakedness. Teach them the actual names; it will help if a child ever needs to explain anything. Make sure they know which parts are their private parts, which nobody should look at or touch except the people you say are okay. Which leads into...

Talk about good and bad touches. This is an obvious offshoot of talking about private parts, but bad touches don't necessarily involve touching breasts or genitals. A bad touch is any touch that makes a child feel uncomfortable--and those are the instincts you want to teach your child. Which leads into...

Teach them that no grownup should ask them to keep a secret. So much of abuse and sexual predation begins with secrets, and as with touches, they aren't always sexual. So teach your child that grownups shouldn't be asking children to keep secrets. (You may end up finding out about birthday or Christmas presents you weren't meant to, but that could be an added benefit.)

I get that these are really hard conversations to have. Don't do it all at once--do it in bits and pieces as moments come up. And do it with hugs and reassurances that you and all the trusted grownups around them are always working to keep them safe. The idea should be to empower your children, not scare them.

Be watchful, and trust your instincts. Pay attention to changes in behavior or offhand comments or things that happen that seem odd, and ask questions. Be a little paranoid. I'm not advocating total paranoia, because a. most people in the world are good, b.you don't want to raise a paranoid and anxious child and c.you will make yourself crazy. But keep your antennae up, and if something doesn't seem right to you, don't ignore it.

There's no guarantee of safety, obviously. As we've been hearing in the coverage about John Burbine, while there were some suspicions, many people had no idea at all what was happening. That's the thing about predators like him: they do a remarkably good job of hiding what they do. 

But If you do these things starting when your child is small, and work to maintain ongoing conversations and support when they go through adolescence, you will go a long way toward keeping your child safe.


Dying with peace and dignity: the Engage with Grace movement

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy December 6, 2012 07:57 AM

Have you ever talked with your loved ones about how you want to die? Do you know what their wishes are for their deaths?

 

We don’t want to die, of course—and we don’t want our loved ones to die. We don’t want to think about it, let alone talk about it. But we all die at some point--there is no escaping it. And if we don’t talk about it, we can lose the chance to have or give the good, peaceful death that each one of us deserves.

 

I have lived this. My son, who was born severely disabled, died when he was a year old. As we realized that he was going to die, it was unthinkable to me and my husband that our baby would suffer. We had no choice but to think about it and talk about it. We used all our medical knowledge, and asked for help. Our son died a good, peaceful death in our arms, surrounded by family.

 

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Jim Sept 09.jpg

I used everything I learned from that experience to help my friend when he asked me to be his health care proxy. Jim had pancreatic cancer. From the start, it wasn’t good—but we wanted to be hopeful. We tried surgery and radiation and chemotherapy. He wanted nothing more than to live; I loved him desperately and wanted the same. So did his doctors, who gave him amazing care.

 

He wasn’t going to live, though; this became slowly but undeniably clear. It became a question of time. And as it became a question of time, it became much more than that: it became a question of how he was going to use that time, how he was going to live--and how he was going to die.

 

It’s especially hard to talk about death when you are in the middle of it. Not only is it uncomfortable, it feels like giving up. Patients and families don't want to give up on life. Doctors don’t want to give up either—after all, we are supposed to make people better. And if the doctor isn’t bringing it up, it’s really hard for the patient to bring it up—it’s not easy to question your doctor, and maybe if your doctor isn’t bringing it up there’s hope, right? But sadly, sometimes there isn’t. And the chance to die where and how you want can slip away while you wait to have those conversations.

 

I wish I’d known about the Engage with Grace movement when Jim was alive. It would have helped so much to know about their One Slide project, their list of questions that we need to be asking ourselves and our loved ones. They are five simple questions about where and how we want to die, who we want to advocate for us, whether we have a living will or advanced directive. It would have made those really hard conversations with Jim and his doctors easier.

 

We did have those conversations, finally, and stopped treatments so Jim could come home and be with his friends and family and community—who, with his doctors, cared for him beautifully and gave him a good, peaceful death.

 

My friend and fellow doctor-blogger Bryan Vartabedian wrote this about the Engage With Grace movement:

Each of us has a story – it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  We work so hard to design a beautiful life – spend the time to design a beautiful end, too.  Know the answers to just these five questions for yourself, and for your loved ones.  Commit to advocating for each other.  Then pass it on.  Let’s start a revolution.

Read about the Engage with Grace movement. Ask the questions. Have the conversations. Give yourself and your loved ones the gift of a good, peaceful death.


It's time to rethink football

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy December 3, 2012 07:40 AM
Kids should not participate in an activity that has a high risk of bumps to the head. Nobody should.

That's what I immediately thought when I saw the front page of today's Boston Globe, with Deborah Kotz's great story about contact sports and brain injury. In a study of autopsies of deceased athletes' brains, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found that most of them had signs of brain damage after suffering repeated head injuries.

It's also what I thought after reading the story about how in one recent Pop Warner football game, five 12-year-olds got concussions. Five of them. Really?

Now, I understand that football is as American as apple pie, that it is steeped in tradition and is held close to the hearts of many people and many communities. I mean I understand that this is true--what I don't understand, honestly, is why.

Have you ever heard the Bob Newhart baseball sketch, the one where he plays a game marketer on the phone with the guy who invented baseball? It's really funny--and a bit of an eye-opener as to just how absurd some of the rules of baseball are. I was thinking about that sketch this morning, and how football might look to us if we stepped back from it for a moment.

Imagine that your child came home with a permission slip to play a new sport. Let's call it...Bonk (I know, I could do better, but whatever). The game of Bonk, the slip says, involves speed and agility and is great for cardiovascular conditioning. However (this is where the permission part comes in), one of the requirements of the game is collisions between players. These collisions obviously carry a risk of injury, especially to the head--and they want to be sure that parents are aware that these head injuries could lead to brain damage, particularly when they happen more than once (which is entirely possible, given the collision requirement of the game). Not to worry, though, there will be helmets and they'll watch the kids closely and if they get a concussion they will have them stop playing for a while. Which should help, but doesn't guarantee that they won't get brain damage.

Would you sign that slip? I don't think you would. But we let our kids take these risks all the time in football. 

This is not about putting kids in bubbles. As I've said in blogs before, I think we go overboard sometimes when it comes to worrying about injuries and kids. Which makes the whole football thing puzzle me even more--we want to wrap our kids in bubble wrap when they go to the playground, but we knowingly put them at risk of brain damage when we send them out to play Pop Warner. What's up with that?

Players in the NFL, even college players, are old enough to make their own decisions about what risks they are willing to take for their sport. But kids rely on us to make those decisions for them. We didn't know before just how dangerous football and other contact sports were. We do now.

It's time to rethink contact sports--and keep our kids safe.
 
 
 
 
 
Boston Children's has a great Sports Concussion Clinic. If you think your child may have had a concussion during an athletic event and would like them to be evaluated by one of Boston Children's Sports Medicine physicians, call 781-216-1328. To learn more about concussions, check out the Boston Children's web page or the Traumatic Brain Injury page of the website for the Centers for Disease Control. 
 

About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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