Pass the “Playboy”—I Need to Relax

Years ago, I tried to explain to a girlfriend that looking at hot women was good for me—after all, I argued, a few minutes of fast breathing and increased heart rate every day would help lower my risk of having a heart attack or a stroke, just like doing aerobics or jogging would. That relationship […]

Forget the Savage Beasts, Will Music Soothe My Child?

Dear Mr. Dad: My 9-year old son is having some medical tests in a few weeks, some of which involve drawing blood, and he’s already getting nervous. He’s had shots before and did okay, so I don’t think this has anything to do with needles. When I ask him about it, he says he’s worried about how much it’s going to hurt. Honestly, I’m a little nervous about the whole thing too. Is there anything I can do to help him?

A: You have my sympathy. My youngest went through a seemingly endless series of procedures, including some pretty heavy duty blood draws. Fortunately, she’s like me in that she seems to enjoy watching needles go into her arm. Still, like your son (and most other normal human beings), she’s not wild about the pain.

It’s good that you’re thinking about this now. Pain during medical procedures can traumatize kids and may have long-lasting negative effects (just think of how many people are scared of going to the dentist). Before you schedule the lab work, talk to your pediatrician. There are topical anesthetics than can minimize the pain of the needle sticks. And your doctor may be able to order a mild sedative for your son, as long as it won’t interfere with the blood tests.

I also suggest that you talk to the lab tech about bedside manner before the blood draining starts. With my daughter, the phlebotomist laid out 19 vials on the table. I have to admit I was a little freaked out, thinking she’d have no blood left at all. My daughter seemed to take the whole thing in stride, but it would have been somewhat less shocking to take the vials out one at a time.

One of the best ways to help your child is to distract him—something a number of studies have found is very successful at reducing pain and anxiety during medical procedures. You could read him a story, sing a song together, recite a poem, watch a video, let him play a game on your smart phone (as long as he can do it with one hand), or even do breathing exercises. As I’m sure you know, the patterned breathing used in many childbirth prep methods doesn’t actually reduce pain; it just makes it a little easier to get through.

One of the simplest distractions of all is to simply bring your MP3 player and a few of your son’s favorite tunes. A new Canadian study found that children who listened to music while having IV needles inserted into their arms in the Emergency Room were less stressed than those who didn’t listen to music.

Lisa Hartling, a researcher at the University of Alberta and the study’s lead author, found that besides reducing the children’s stress levels, there were also some positive “secondary outcomes,” including lowering the children’s heart rate, reducing the amount of pain they perceived, and making it easier for the provider to actually do the procedure.

Hartling also noted that playing music reduced parents’ anxiety, which leads me to perhaps the most important thing you can do: try to relax. Our kids take cues from us on how to behave, especially in unfamiliar or potentially frightening situations. If you look (and act) nervous, worried, or scared, your son will immediately assume that there is something to be nervous, worried, or scared about, and he’ll behave accordingly.

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Expectant Fathers Lag Behind Moms in Pregnancy Acceptance

expectant mom+dad

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m very concerned about my husband. We’re just a month away from our due date and although he has been very involved and attentive throughout the pregnancy, in the last couple of weeks he’s becoming more and more withdrawn. He seems annoyed with me a lot, and when I try to get him to talk about his fears and anxieties as an expectant father, all he says is that he has them. That’s it. Will I ever get my old husband back again or am I going to be in this thing alone?

A: What you’re going through is pretty common. That doesn’t make it any easier, but sometimes it’s comforting to know that you’re not alone. It may also help you to know that there’s a very good chance that your husband will return to normal fairly soon after the baby arrives.

When I was doing research for my book, The Expectant Father, I made an interesting discovery. Dads-to-be are generally a trimester behind their pregnant partners. Here’s what I mean.
[Read more…]

The Secret to a Longer Life? Follow Directions

It seems that there’s a new study out every day proving that eating certain foods (like more veggies and less meat) or doing certain things (like getting enough exercise and sleep) can improve and/or extend your life. Reading—and thinking—are a good first step. But they’re not much unless you actually do something to make some […]

You and Your Anxious Child

[amazon asin=1583334955&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Anne Marie Albano, author of You and Your Anxious Child
Topic:
Free your child from fears and worries
Issues: What causes anxiety? What’s normal–and what’s not; Annihilating anxiety; when and how to get help; treatment options, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication.

Freedom from Fear and Worry + No Mind Left Behind + Feeling Like An Outsider

[amazon asin=1583334955&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Anne Marie Albano, author of You and Your Anxious Child
Topic:
Free your child from fears and worries
Issues: What causes anxiety? What’s normal–and what’s not; Annihilating anxiety; when and how to get help; treatment options, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication


[amazon asin=0399534555&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Adam Cox, author of No Mind Left Behind.
Topic:
Understanding and fostering executive control–the eight essential brain skills every child needs to thrive
Issues: How do children develop coordination, handedness, depth perception and other important skills; skills to emphasize during the magical windows of learning in kids, from birth through age six; what if your child has no interests in sports at all?


[amazon asin=1402748841&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Leonard Felder, author of Fitting in is Overrated.
Topic:
The survival guide for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.
Issues: The importance of being unique and different; giving children the strength to be individuals and, at the same time, to navigate the subtleties of belonging and making good friendships.