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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.

Fit kids for life

September is National Childhood Obesity Month. Learn how to help your kids get active and stay healthy.

There’s an obesity epidemic in this country, and it’s not just affecting adults. Childhood obesity impacts more than 23 million children and teenagers in the U.S., putting them at risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol.

More recently, the U.S. military has taken action because it considers childhood obesity a threat to our national security. Many young adults aren’t fit to fight. Now’s the time to instill healthy exercise habits in your kids to help them become healthy adults.

Regular exercise can build strong muscles and bones and promote overall health. It’s especially important that children exercise and learn healthy habits early on. Exercise also can boost kids’ self-esteem, improve sleep, and stimulate learning in school.

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, including:

  • Aerobic exercise for most of the 60 minutes. On most days, this can include either vigorous-intensity activities (such as running, swimming, and jumping rope) or moderate-intensity activities (such as walking or skateboarding). Make sure to include some vigorous-intensity exercise at least 3 days each week. Check out Let’s Move! for ideas on how to get active as a family.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities. These can include playing tug-of-war, exercising with resistance bands, or climbing on playground equipment. Strengthening exercises should be done at least 3 times a week.
  • Bone-strengthening (impact) activities. These can include running, jumping rope, basketball, tennis, and hopscotch. Impact activities, which strengthen bones and promote healthy growth, also should be done at least 3 times a week.

Learn more about DoD's efforts to help keep your kids active and healthy. Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page for resources and tips to help raise awareness about National Childhood Obesity Month too. And visit HPRC’s Staying Active section for ideas on how to boost your family’s fitness.

Back-to-school ABCs for Total Family Fitness

Filed under: Family, Kids, School
School starts soon! Find out how to make a Total Family Fitness transition back to school this fall.

As summer vacation comes to an end, the transition back to school is just around the corner. Now’s the time to review the ABCs of a Total Family Fitness transition back to school: Awareness, Bedtime, Calmness, Diet, and Exercise. This is your chance to lay a foundation for your family’s healthy habits throughout the school year. HPRC's Total Family Fitness approach focuses on the health, wellness, and resilience of your family. It can help optimize and strengthen your family’s performance by integrating strategies that impact their mind, body, relationships, and environment—many of the same strategies used in the Total Force Fitness model for Warfighters. Read more...

“Smart snacking” for kids

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
In the past 25 years, young children have greatly increased the number of snacks they consume. Try these “smart snacking” tips to help keep your kids healthy.

Almost 1 in 3 children starts school either overweight or obese—but giving healthy snacks to your preschoolers can get them off to a good start. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends healthy snacks as part of early childhood nutrition, especially since younger kids have small stomachs and might not be able to get all their nutrients at mealtime.

Over half of children ages 2–6 eat 3–5 snacks daily. Sweet and salty snacks (including sugary drinks) make up nearly 30% of their daily calories. These energy-dense foods also are linked to excess weight gain.

But there are ways to get the proper nutrients into their little bodies without going over their daily calorie needs. 2–3 healthful snacks can be just the ticket. Here are some helpful hints for “smart snacking.”

  • Think food groups. Many traditional snacks are carb-based with little nutrition and empty calories. Include 2 food groups per snack, such as whole-grain cereal with dried fruit, peanut butter on apple slices, plain yogurt with chopped fruit, or nut butter on whole-wheat bread or cracker.
  • Fill in the gaps. Young children can be picky eaters, especially at mealtime. Eating a snack in-between—such as fruit, vegetable, or protein (for example, chicken, egg, or nut butter)—can make up for what they’ve missed.
  • Timing is important. Limit snack time to 10–15 minutes to prevent overeating. And avoid eating too close to mealtime.
  • Portion size matters. Kids are small so their portions should be too. Limit portion sizes to half of adult ones, except they’ll still need about 2–2½ cups of dairy daily.
  • Think easy access. Store healthy-snack portions in baggies or containers at home. Take them on the go too!

Visit HPRC’s Family Nutrition page for helpful resources on nutrition, healthy recipes, and more.

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