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Military kids and mindfulness

Encouraging your kids to be mindful supports their mental health. Learn how to bring mindfulness into your family.

Children can boost their mental wellness by learning and practicing mindfulness. It helps them be more aware of their thoughts and feelings “in the moment” and enables them to better manage their emotions and reactions. When children and teens accept their emotions, they can avoid becoming overwhelmed and suppressing their feelings. Practicing mindfulness can help reduce anxiety, improve performance, and build resilience. Bringing mindfulness into your family can help create calm and peaceful times together. Read more...

Kids benefit from summer camp

Find out how kids have fun, learn, and grow at summer camp.

Children benefit from summer camp experiences that enable them to gain skills, build confidence, and learn responsibility. Summer is typically a time for kids to unwind from the rigid schedule the school year can bring. While parents often want their children’s summer to be relaxing, they want it to be educational as well. Summer camp offers both experiences.

At camp, your children can meet new kids and form friendships. This can build their competence in social situations, as they gain experience getting to know new people, asking questions, and sharing their own thoughts and ideas.

Camps can expose children to situations where they can practice leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills too. Whether it’s working together to build a fire or establishing camaraderie on a sports team, children can spend the bulk of their days interacting with peers and exercising decision-making skills. Camps also can help your kids explore what it feels like to take on leadership roles in a group.

The learning component of camps can lead to skill attainment. When they face new adventures and implement newly learned skills, kids’ self-esteem grows. Their confidence blooms when they work through the successes and failures of new experiences as well.

Your children’s time at summer camp also can help them learn responsibility and independence, especially if it’s a sleep-away camp. When kids have to take care of their own belongings and share team responsibilities, they grow as individuals. They also learn about cooperation and how to be self-sufficient.

Kids can learn to appreciate nature through their experiences in summer camp too. Children who spend time in nature develop a deeper sense of gratitude for the outdoors.

With summer around the corner, plan your kids’ summer camp experiences now. The 4-H Military Partnership offers clubs and summer camps for military kids. And check out your local military installation's programs and activities: Make sure to select Youth Program/Centers from the drop-down menu.

Help your military kids make new friends

During Military Children’s Health Month, HPRC takes a look at how military parents can help their kids make new friends.

Making and sustaining friendships is an important part of children’s growth and development. But military kids, who move often, might have to make new friends several times throughout childhood and adolescence. The ability to engage in conversations and openness towards others helps kids develop friendships.

What can you do to help your military kids make new friends?

  • Model friendly behaviors such as greeting new people, asking questions to encourage conversation, and treating others with respect. Be open to making new friends yourself when you move to a new location.
  • Emphasize the qualities that make someone a good friend. Encourage your kids to share and take turns. Children who are cooperative, helpful, and considerate tend to be more liked by their peers.
  • Talk openly about what it means to be someone’s friend. Friends are honest, supportive, and fun to be with. They share common interests and don’t bully or make you feel left out.
  • When your kids are younger, organize play dates with kids you think will complement your child’s personality. Before the play date, brainstorm with your child how to spend the time doing fun games and activities your child enjoys that will help build friendship.
  • Allow your school-age kids to choose their own friends while passively supervising the interactions.
  • Practice conversations your kids could have with new friends. Sharing thoughts and ideas is basic to any relationship, but especially friendships. Get your kids comfortable with telling others what’s on their mind and asking what their peers are thinking.
  • Discuss with your kids how to effectively manage through conflicts to sustain their friendships. Encourage them to be assertive and considerate.

Helping your kids make friends can impact them in the short and long term. Acceptance by peers can affect children’s self-esteem. As kids get older, friendships provide a sense of security and an outlet to relieve stress. Having good-quality friendships in childhood has long-term consequences, too. Having few or no friends in childhood has been linked to worse health in adulthood. As a parent, you can guide your kids toward making healthy friendships today.

Posted 03 April 2017

Are girls at higher risk of concussion?

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and this year’s theme is “Think Ahead.” If you have a daughter, learn how to reduce her risk of concussion.

Girls might be at greater risk of concussion—also known as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI)—than boys, so it’s important to recognize their symptoms and seek medical help. Female high school and college athletes report more concussion symptoms than their male counterparts. In addition, their reported symptoms are more severe and last longer than what boys experience.

In sports, a concussion can happen from hitting another player, ball, or surface with your head. It causes a disturbance in brain functioning and can lead to a number of symptoms, including headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, and sensitivity to light or noise. In addition, you might feel foggy, have difficulty concentrating or remembering things, or feel confused about recent events. You also might feel irritable, sad, or nervous. While concussions can happen in any sport, they’re most likely to occur in football, soccer, rugby, basketball, and hockey.

It’s not clear why girls experience more concussions than boys. Girls are more likely to report symptoms, whereas boys tend to keep their concerns to themselves. So it might be the case that boys and girls are concussed at the same rates, but girls report their injuries more often. Hormone levels and blood flow differences in the sexes also might contribute to the rates of concussion among girls. For girls who have entered puberty, hormonal changes experienced along with their menstrual cycles might impact the severity of concussion symptoms. It takes longer for a girl to be symptom free after her concussion, and that might be due in part to where she is in her menstrual cycle.

If you have a daughter, take steps to prevent her from experiencing a concussion. If she is diagnosed with an mTBI, she’ll need “brain rest” to recover. She also should limit reading, homework, and screen time. And consult with her doctor to make sure that concussion symptoms resolve and she’s medically cleared before she returns to play her sport.

Help your child face dental fear

What can parents do to help kids who are afraid of going to the dentist?

It’s important for kids to establish good dental health habits early on, but their fears of visiting the dentist sometimes can get in the way. Still, you can help manage kids’ dental anxieties by talking through worries and explaining upcoming dental procedures.

Kids who don’t go to the dentist are more likely to experience pain, tooth loss, and cavities. The good news is regular dental visits can prevent these and other oral health issues.

Many parents struggle to figure out how to help their anxious little ones feel more comfortable. When kids think their oral health is bad, they also tend to get more anxious about visiting the dentist. Still, there are things you can do to lessen your child’s worry when a dental appointment approaches.

“Coach” your kids’ emotions to help them manage fears before the visit. Validate your child’s worries by saying something such as, “It seems you’re very concerned about what it will be like to go to the dentist tomorrow.” Let your child talk about his or her feelings. And ask her or him why it might be important to visit the dentist. Reassure your child if she or he has good oral health and suggest that the appointment is to make sure nothing goes wrong in the future.

Kids can benefit from age-appropriate, realistic explanations about what to expect on their next visit. Discuss what might help him or her feel calmer and more comfortable. Let your child offer ideas first. If needed, encourage him or her to bring a favorite stuffed toy or suggest doing a fun activity afterwards, so you both have something to look forward to. Distractions, such as watching cartoons during his or her appointment, also can help relieve your child’s anxieties. And gently remind your child how the dentist can help teeth and smiles stay strong and healthy.

At home, make your kids’ oral health a priority by getting into a routine of brushing and flossing from a young age too. Doing so can help prevent tooth decay and illnesses caused by bacteria buildup in the mouth.

“Coaching” your kids’ emotions

Learn how to “coach” your kids when they’re dealing with strong emotions.

Emotion coaching is a strategy parents can use to teach their kids about healthy emotion expression. During emotion coaching, parents openly discuss and validate the feelings their child expresses. Parents encourage their kids to find ways to calm themselves when a wave of strong emotion hits. Kids whose parents practice emotion coaching have better self-control and fewer behavioral problems.  

Parents engage in emotion coaching when you’re actively and purposefully responsive to your child’s emotions. It requires that you be aware of your child’s emotional state. It also challenges you to see emotions as an important part of your child’s experience. During emotion coaching, parents accept those feelings and teach their children how to manage positive and negative emotions. Read more...

Raise healthy eaters—Part 2: Age-specific tips

Part 2 of HPRC’s “healthy eater” series explores age-specific tips to get your kids to eat healthy.

Children need guidance from their parents about eating a well-balanced diet. As they grow, your interactions with them around food will change. They’ll take on more responsibility for feeding themselves too. Still, you’ll continue to influence their eating preferences through the foods you prepare and offer to them. Read on for age-specific tips to encourage your kids’ healthy eating too. And if you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to read Part 1 about general nutrition tips for helping your children learn how to be “healthy eaters” at all ages. Read more...

Raise healthy eaters—Part 1: For kids 2–18

It’s important to teach children about acceptable eating behaviors and how to control their eating impulses. In this two-part series, HPRC offers tips to help your kids eat healthy.

How you approach feeding your children influences their food choices, the amount they eat, and their weight. While it’s important for kids to maintain a healthy weight, it’s also helpful for them to determine when they’re hungry and when they’re full.

Insisting kids eat more after they say they’re full can interfere with their ability to learn what “being full” really feels like. Trust that your child’s brain is sending signals back and forth to his or her belly, indicating “full.” And if children are offered a selection of generally healthy foods, they’ll eat the right amount and grow healthy. Read the rest of this article for specific tips you can use to help your own children eat healthfully as they grow.  

Nutrition for kids with ADHD

Filed under: ADHD, Kids, Nutrition
Helping your child with ADHD fuel with nutritious foods and drinks might boost his or her performance. Learn more.

Healthcare providers commonly treat kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with medication and behavioral therapy, but proper nutrition can improve your child’s success in school and at home too.

Nutrient-dense foods boost kids’ overall health, especially for those with ADHD. They often consume poor diets consisting of mainly white flours and sugars because kids with ADHD crave these foods. However, these foods are missing valuable nutrients needed for muscle growth and brain development. Inadequate fuel can impact your child’s behavior, mood, sleep, and even lead to constipation. However, your child can grow and perform well when he or she eats a variety of foods: whole grains, protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables, and water. Read more...

School tips for kids with ADHD

Make sure your child with ADHD maintains healthy habits during the school year. Learn more.

School’s back in session, and kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) struggle with focus, hyperactivity, and schedules. It’s especially important for them to keep a consistent routine, limit screen time, and get a good night’s sleep.

Regular routines are important for all kids, especially those with ADHD because they’re more likely to get distracted. And some might have a harder time completing their tasks. A consistent routine helps them stay on track. Tip: Hang a “daily routine” chart on your refrigerator. Make sure it includes tasks your child must complete in the morning—such as brushing teeth and hair, washing his or her face, and changing clothes—before heading out the door. Add bedtime tasks such as packing his or her lunch and backpack to the chart too. Using the chart as a guide to repeat the same behaviors every day can help your child stick to successful morning and evening routines.

Children and teens with ADHD tend to spend more time in front of screens than other kids. Follow the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation and limit your child’s screen time to 1–2 hours daily. And set up a “screen-free zone” in your house—where everyone agrees to avoid TVs, cell phones, tablets, game consoles, and laptops. Encourage your kids to move more instead: They can head outdoors or play team sports. Aerobic exercise also can help reduce inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

A bedtime routine can help kids with ADHD improve their sleeping patterns too. Make sure to establish and maintain a set bedtime. And consider removing all media and screens from your child’s bedroom. Kids also should avoid consuming caffeine before heading off to dreamland.

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