Category Archives: Health Tips

Supporting kids after trauma

By Lizzi Kampf

As adults, we often face a variety of difficult emotions in the face of tragedy. The impact of a traumatic event can be substantial, whether it’s a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tornado, one that is man-made as we saw last week with the horrific mass shooting in Connecticut, or even one that is within a family, such as a car accident or the sudden death of a loved one. Our strong emotional reactions stem from an assault on our basic sense of safety and security. Children can experience these same emotions; however, their young brains aren’t yet fully developed and able to process them in the same way.

Many children express symptoms and feelings of helplessness and fear following a traumatic event. They may become unusually quiet, have problems sleeping, or be weary of separating from caregivers. They may react with agitation, or be unusually restless or aggressive. They may voice more worries or concerns about their own health, the health of others, and their general safety. Some children regress to behaviors they haven’t had since early childhood, such as sucking their thumb, wetting their bed, or baby talk. The good news is that children are naturally resilient and tend to return to whatever level of functioning they were at prior to the event.

Here are some things parents can do to support their children following a traumatic event:

  • Children live their lives through play. Utilize dolls, drawing, or role-playing games to help them express themselves and talk about what happened. Most kids want to talk about what they’ve experienced. Sometimes scary events need to be played out to be worked through. It helps them process what has occurred and use problem-solving skills.
  • Allow your children space to talk about their feelings. They may need to express their fears multiple times and be reassured of their safety frequently. Validate the feelings they are having and assure them that it is “normal” to feel the way they do.
  • Maintain as much structure and daily routine as possible. It can be difficult if your home is unlivable, you have to attend a funeral, or general daily life is disrupted. As much as possible, do the things your family enjoyed prior to the event, such as particular bedtime routines. Children also still need to have rules and discipline; this gives them a sense of order in the chaos.
  • Stay in check of your own reactions. It’s okay for children to witness parents having their own emotions, but they also need to hear an adult talk about how they manage those emotions. Model good self care for your child, making sure to take care of your own physical and mental health.

If you or your child is struggling following a tragedy and feel you need additional assistance, seek professional help through local crisis resources, a mental health counselor, or your doctor.

Lizzi Kampf is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker who works primarily in the Emergency Department on the St. Paul campus of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. She is also a volunteer with the Red Cross and recently returned from a deployment to New Jersey. As part of the Disaster Mental Health team, she worked to provide brief therapeutic services to individuals and families who had been affected by Superstorm Sandy. 

Navigating the holidays with food allergies

The holidays can be tough. You’re shuffling your family from school party to neighborhood shindig to a gathering with relatives. Throw food allergies into the mix, and what’s supposed to be one of the happiest times of the year can be stressful. Like really stressful.

We’re all too familiar with how exposures can be a matter of life or death for children with food allergies. We recently shared the story of Noelle Dilley (“Noelle’s story: The danger of one bite”) who suffered an allergic reaction after eating a cupcake that contained peanut butter. Sadly, she spent 31 days in our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) but is doing great today and back to her happy, spirited self.

Because food is often a big part of holiday celebrations, we want to help you navigate them with ease. We want the child in your life to be able to experience this time of the year like every other kid in the safest way possible.

So we talked with Ellen Wade and Janie Cooperman, dietitians at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, for tips. They emphasized that success is all about planning and offered these suggestions:

  1. If your relatives or neighbors are hosting the gathering, talk with them ahead of time about the menu and clearly communicate your child’s special health needs. Think about what will help your child be most safe. You may want to ask them to skip the bowl of mixed nuts or pass on the deviled eggs this year.
  2. Educate friends and family about cross-contamination. Even if a food item is removed, it leaves behind food proteins until washed with soap and water. Safe foods can get contaminated by touching other foods or residue from utensils, serving platters or even hands
  3. Bring safe alternatives for your child. Knowing the menu ahead of time will help you bring something similar so he or she doesn’t feel left out.
  4. Survey the scene upon arrival. Take a quick look for food allergens that may be present (even if you’ve already agreed on a plan with the host, someone else may have brought something). Some common offenders at other people’s homes may be food residue in play areas, dog food (may include food allergens such as eggs or milk) and bowls/platters of candy in open areas.
  5. Bring baby or disinfectant wipes to quickly wipe down surface areas your child may come in contact with, such as table tops or shared toys. Wipes are great whenever soap and water aren’t easily accessible. You can also use wipes to wash hands.
  6. Don’t forget your medicine kit! Even when you plan ahead, accidents can happen. Families with severe food allergies always need to have an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an Epi Pen, Jr) and an antihistamine such as Benadryl with them at all times.

We’ve collected a few recipes from the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network you might want to use in your holiday meal.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Milk, egg, peanut and tree nut free

Make your own granola bites

Milk, egg, wheat, peanut, and tree nut free

Parsley-potato stuffing

Milk, egg, wheat, peanut and tree nut free

Join us for more discussion about food allergies and the holidays during a Twitter chat on Wednesday, Dec. 12, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. We, along with Missy Berggren (@marketingmama), whose daughter has several food allergies, invite you to share your experiences and ask questions on Twitter. We’ll also have allergist Dr. Nancy Ott and Children’s dietitians on hand. Follow Children’s at @childrensmn and the hashtag #childrenschat.

Bios

Dr. Nancy Ott is a board-certified allergy, asthma and immunology specialist. She earned her medical degree at the University of Minnesota in 1984. She’s among Children’s professional staff and she’s been practicing with Southdale Pediatric Associates, Ltd., since 1991.

Missy Berggren is a parent to a 5-year-old girl with severe food allergies to eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish, and a 7-year-old son with no known food allergies. Her daughter’s diagnosis at 12 months old led Missy to learn about food allergies, and she now serves on the Board of Directors for the Food Allergy Support Group of Minnesota to help support other families and raise awareness of life-threatening food allergies. She shares her experiences with food allergies in helpful articles on her parenting blog Marketing Mama and is a trusted ally and advocate for parents of children with food allergies. Missy has 15-plus years of experience in marketing and communications in the health care arena and is currently the brand manager at Allina Health.

Ellen Wade is a registered dietitian and has worked at Children’s for 11 years. She’s encountered many cases of food allergies and has helped guide families in navigating allergies while still enjoying a healthy diet.

Janie Cooperman is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She currently works in Children’s outpatient diabetes clinics and inpatient eating disorders program.

 

Ramsey County kids ‘lost’ in the medical system are found at Children’s

A child is left with a family friend, and the parents are nowhere to be found.

A teacher notices bruising over several weeks and worries the student is being abused.

The police are called, and the child is taken to the Emergency Department at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota before being placed in short-term foster care.

Through the Ramsey County Shelter Program, kids who are victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment in the county are taken to Children’s in St. Paul and given a full medical screening, new clothes thanks to the Children’s Foundation and a meal. Once they get the care they need, they’re placed in short-term foster care.

“We can get these kids healthier so they have a better childhood and a healthier, long-term life,” said Dr. Kellee Street, the medical director of the program.

There have been more than 12,300 patient visits since the program’s start in 1993, said Jean Henry, program coordinator. Children’s sees an average of one to two at-risk kids per day. As of mid-November, there had been 368 visits this year.

It’s critical for police officers to know they can take kids to a safe place to be evaluated, said St. Paul police Chief Tom Smith.

“This does make a huge difference here (in the community),” Smith said.

A recent lead gift from the Peter J. King Family Foundation has helped transform the St. Paul Emergency Department, and those physical changes help it continue to be a safe space for youth in the program. The updates also improve care and dramatically cut down on patient and family wait times. (Pioneer Press story here)

Street believes the county program is one of a few, if not the only, in the United States where kids to be placed in short-term foster care are first screened by medical staff.  In other counties and beyond Minnesota, children typically aren’t screened for up to 48 to 72 hours, she said.

Often, they lack current vaccinations, have poor dental health or have increased lead levels due to exposure where they live, Street said. Elevated lead levels can result in long-term developmental problems.

Children’s staff contact the child’s provider – if there is one – or inform the county if follow-up care is needed, Street said. In some cases, the child is admitted into the hospital.

“There are things we pick up that most people would never have found,” she said. “These are kids that are lost in the medical system.”

The 411 on teen sexting

By Amy Moeller

Amy is a therapist who has worked with children and adolescents for 25 years. She works in the Adolescent Health Department at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and treats teenagers experiencing depression, anxiety, social struggles and chemical dependency. In addition, Amy co-founded The Family Enhancement Center in south Minneapolis 17 years ago. She works at the center part time with children and families who have been affected by physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Amy is married and the mother of three children. 

As if we as parents don’t have enough to worry about, sexting has become yet one more concern for us with our already technologically savvy teenagers. Although teens are typically savvier than their parents, they also lack a basic understanding of the consequences of sending and receiving explicit text and photo messages via phone or computer.

Sexting is defined as “the practice of electronically sending sexually explicit images or messages from one person to another.” Sexting comes from the combination of the two words“sex” and “text messaging” and includes the sending of provocative messages or visual images to and from cell phones and computers.

Our teens often don’t realize the dire consequences of sexting and its ability to live in cyber space virtually forever. This phenomenon is poorly studied to this date; however, this is beginning to change with more data now available about sexting and just how common it is.

Depending on the study or the survey, somewhere between 20 and 60 percent of teens are sexting. As the trend continues, parents, teachers and lawmakers struggle with how to react to a phenomenon that ultimately puts kids at risk.

In a study reported in the September 2012 issue of The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, researchers questioned a948 high school students in southeast Texas. The students were between the ages of 14 and 19 from seven public high schools. The following are amongst the most notable findings of the study:

  • 27.6 percent of teens reported having texted or emailed a naked picture of themselves.
  • Male and female teens send sexts with nearly the same frequency. Girls are asked more often to send a sext (65 percent) while boys more often ask for someone to send them a sext (46 percent).
  • Sexting is more common among older teens. They reported being less bothered by the requests to send a sext.
  • Of the females who had sexted before, 77 percent also reported having sex compared to 42 percent of the non-sexters.
  • In addition to being sexually active, girls who had sexted were significantly more likely to have also engaged in risky behaviors, such as drinking and using drugs before sex and having more then one sex partner.
  • Among the boys who had sent a sext, 82 percent were sexually active compared with 45 percent who had never sexted. Among males, sexting was not associated with more risky sexual behaviors.

In a nationally representative survey of 12- to 19-year-olds, the PEW Research Center conducted a series of focus groups with teens. Among their findings were that there tend to be three main scenarios for sexting:

  1. Exchange of images solely between two romantic partners.
  2. Exchange between partners that are shared with others outside the relationship.
  3. Exchanges between people who are not yet in a relationship, but where at least one person hopes to be.

Although the number of teens sending and receiving sexts is lower in this study, the study covered only images (not written messages) of sexually suggestive, nude or partially nude texts and videos. Again, there was no difference between girls and boys sending sexts.

Attitudes toward sexting vary among teens. Some feel it’s a major issue, and others think it’s not a big deal. Some view it as a safer alternative to sexual activity. Others see it as potentially damaging and illegal.

Legal consequences

Illegal it is. Many states are now creating legislation to address sexting after cases of sexting have led teenagers to be prosecuted for child pornography and forced to register as a sex offender. Several teens across the country are being faced with child pornography charges after sending or receiving sexually provocative pictures of themselves or other teens. Several cases have arisen that bring charges ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Social and emotional consequences

As stated above, our teens need to understand that anything can be copied, sent, posted and seen by large audiences. It does not matter the intention, or that they trusted a person not to share the photo or message. Once it is in cyberspace, it is there forever. When revealing photos are made public, the subject almost always feels humiliated. There is ridicule and the embarrassment sometimes endless. There have been some high profile cases like Jesse Logan, a Cincinnati teen who committed suicide after a nude photo she sent to her boyfriend was circulated widely around her school resulting in harassment from her classmates.

Advice for parents

  • Don’t wait for an incident to happen, talk to your teen now. Communication is key – come right out and ask them if they have been sexting.
  • Remind them that once the image is sent, it can never be retrieved. They will lose control of it.
  • Talk about the pressures to send revealing photos. Be honest about the risks.
  • Teach your child to delete anything that comes to them immediately. If they do send it on, they are breaking the law.
  • Do not see sexting as an isolated event, but as a new expression fueled by today’s technology and the social and sexual experimentation that has always been a part of adolescence.

 

 

Four reminders to prevent the flu

Flu season. It’s that time of year when we duck for cover in Minnesota. We all know someone who has battled the flu.

The flu is a serious respiratory illness, and the symptoms can be downright nasty – sudden onset of fever, cough, congestion, sore throat, achy muscles, fatigue, occasionally pneumonia, and, in extreme cases, death.

Each year, an average of 20,000 kids under 5 are hospitalized because of flu-related complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Influenza causes more hospitalizations among young children than any other vaccine-preventable illness.

“Don’t think of influenza as ‘just the flu.’  For infants and children especially, it can be a scary, very severe disease.  Prevent it,” said Patsy Stinchfield, nurse practitioner and director of infectious disease at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Here are some easy reminders to keep your family and you healthy during flu season:

  1. Get vaccinated against the flu. All people 6 months of age and over need an annual flu vaccine.  While flu vaccines are not perfect (100 percent effective), not getting one provides zero protection.
  2. Wash your hands with soap and water. At Children’s, we wash ‘em proud. You should wash your hands before and after eating, after using the restroom, after blowing your nose and sneezing.
  3. Cover your cough and sneeze. If you’re visiting Children’s, we ask that you wear a mask if you have a cough. We ask staff and visitors to stay home if they are ill and if they have a cough to wear a mask to prevent the spread of such things as influenza and other infections to our vulnerable patients.
  4. Sick? Please, stay home from work or school. If your child is sick, keep him/her home from school and daycare, too.
Visit our flu prevention website for more information.

Kohl’s Cares and Children’s Flu Prevention Tips from Children's of Minnesota on Vimeo.

Bullying, your child and you

This is a post by Amy Moeller. Amy is a therapist who has worked with children and adolescents for 25 years. She works in the Adolescent Health Department at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and treats teenagers experiencing depression, anxiety, social struggles and chemical dependency. In addition, Amy co-founded The Family Enhancement Center in south Minneapolis 17 years ago. She works at the center part time with children and families who have been affected by physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Amy is married and the mother of three children. 

“Being bullied is not just an unpleasant right of passage through childhood,” said Duane Alexander, M.D., former director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “It’s a public health problem that merits attention. People who were bullied as children are more likely to suffer from depression and low self esteem, well into adulthood, and bullies themselves are more likely to engage in criminal behavior later in life.”

I recently attended the production of Mean, an original drama performed by the Youth Performance Company on bullying. The production was timely – it’s National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month. The performance gives us a view into the lives of students being bullied and introduces us to several forms of bullying including bullying at school and cyber bullying.

Cyber bullying can take on many forms. Sending mean messages or threats via text message. Spreading rumors online or through text messages. Posting hurtful or threatening messages on social media sites like Twitter or Facebook. Pretending to be someone else online to hurt another person. Taking unflattering pictures and sending them through cell phones or online. “Sexting” or circulating sexually suggestive messages about a person.

Who’s affected?

In Minnesota, we’ve had several instances of cyber bullying reported in the media. This behavior touches all schools and students from all backgrounds.

According to the I-SAFE Foundation:

  • More than half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.
  • More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats online.
  • Over 25 percent of teens have been bullied repeatedly over through text messages or the Internet.
  • Well over half of those who’ve experienced bullying don’t tell their parents.
  • Bullying generally begins in elementary school, peaks in fifth through eighth grades and persists into high school, with very little variation between urban, suburban and rural areas.

The Cyberbullying Research Center reports that over 80 percent of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most popular form of technology and a common medium for cyber bullying.

About half of young people have experienced some form of cyber bullying and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly. Girls are at least as likely to be cyber bullies or their victims. Boys are more likely to be threatened by cyber bullies than girls. Cyber bullying affects all races, and the victims are more likely to have low self-esteem or to consider suicide.

What is bullycide?

Tragically, the set of MEAN is peppered with names and pictures of youth who have committed suicide after being bullied. What an incredibly unsettling idea that we have a name for this. The definition of bullycide is suicide caused from the results of being bullied.

Children and teens who are bullied live in a constant state of fear and confusion. Many feel the only way to escape rumors, insults, verbal abuse and terror is to take their own lives.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people resulting in 4,400 deaths every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bullying victims are between two and nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims. A staggering 160,000 kids stay home from school every day for fear of being bullied.

New bullying statistics in 2010 indicate there is a strong connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide, according to a new study from Yale School of Medicine. Suicide rates continue to increase among adolescents, and have grown more then 50 percent in the past 30 years.

What to do if you suspect your child is being bullied?

  • Get your child’s input. You need to be a confidant your child can turn to for help in dealing with bullying. Help your child see it’s not their fault.
  • Talk to school authorities. Often, bullying takes place in unsupervised areas such as bathrooms, the playground, or school buses. Make school personnel aware.
  • Teach your child to avoid the bully. Your child doesn’t need to fight back. Walk away and go find a teacher or other trusted adult.
  • Encourage your child to be assertive. Your child doesn’t need to fight back, but they can stand up straight and tell the bully to leave them alone.
  • Practice with your child. It’s beneficial to role play and practice what they are going to say to a bully.
  • Teach your child to move in groups. A good support system can be an effective deterrent against bullies. Have your child go to school and other places with trusted and true friends who can support them against bullies.

There are many activities on bullying this month in the Twin Cities. I recommend taking your child to MEAN and, while there, learn about the many resources in the Twin Cities aimed at keeping our children safe from the insidious evil that bullying is.

The YPC will perform Mean through Oct. 14 at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center in Minneapolis. For more information, visit the website

Noelle’s story: The danger of one bite

Noelle Dilley

Noelle Dilley knew the moment she bit into what looked like a chocolate cupcake it was contaminated. Tears streamed down her face as she ran to her mom.

The cupcake had peanut butter in it. Noelle, 10, is severely allergic to peanuts.

She and her family were at a church picnic. The cupcake looked tempting. It would be for most 10-year-old kids. Who would have thought it contained the one ingredient Noelle can’t have.

Noelle was tested and diagnosed with a peanut allergy – among other allergies – when she was around 3 years old after suffering a reaction to a small amount of peanut butter, said her mom, Renae Zaeska. The Atwater, Minn., family was told that with every peanut exposure, the reaction would be worse than the previous one for Noelle.

When Noelle was 5, one bite of a Butterfinger turned into a helicopter ride and a five-day stay at St. Cloud Hospital.

This reaction would be worse, Zaeska thought.

Noelle’s mouth started to burn. He ears ached. Her stomach hurt. On this day – of all days – Zaeska didn’t have Noelle’s EpiPen.

She grabbed Noelle and sped to the emergency room at Meeker Memorial Hospital in Litchfield, Minn. By the time they got there, Noelle’s eyes had started to swell and she began to wheeze. The medical team used an EpiPen and steroids. But Noelle needed additional care.

For the second time in her life, she traveled in a helicopter. She was taken to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota where she spent 31 harrowing days.

At Children’s, Noelle went into cardiac arrest and CPR was performed. Her heart started pumping again, but her lungs were so inflamed and full of mucous she was unable to use them. She was ultimately put on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), a technique that provides cardiac and lung support to patients whose heart and lungs are severely distressed.

She underwent surgery, endured numerous procedures including bronchoscopy and was tested time and time again as she recovered.

“After this whole accident, I’m terrified…I pray to God that we never have to go through this again,” Zaeska said. “I wish I could put a bubble around her.”

“For four minutes, she was gone,” she said.

Now, Noelle and her family – who were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House inside Children’s during the hospitalization– are home, where they belong.

“In the PICU at Children’s, we all have been privileged to care for Noelle and adore her family.  To see her so desperately ill, knowing that her heart and lungs stopped working, to help rescue her from her critical illness, then to see her walk out of this hospital is indescribable. This is exactly why we embrace caring for children,” said Dr. Ken Maslonka, PICU medical director.

The fifth-grader has been home since Sept. 19. She’s working with a tutor at home and continuing physical, occupational and speech therapy before returning to school for half-days.

Noelle’s school has taken various precautions to help protect her and students with food allergies, Zaeska said.

School staff has eliminated peanuts and peanut products in the food served to children, Zaeska said. They’ve created a peanut-free zone for Noelle at lunch. They’ve also added a wash basin where kids can wash their hands before entering the classroom.

The school can’t limit what parents send with their kids, however, Zaeska said.

Noelle’s parents read labels, know which companies use peanuts in food process, and check out which restaurants are “safe” and take steps to prevent cross-contamination.

Their days of dining outside the home will be fewer since Noelle’s hospitalization.

“We’ve told Noelle that we won’t eat out like we used to,” Zaeska said.

According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), nearly 6 million or 8 percent of children have food allergies. Peanuts are a top food allergen.

“The best advice for families with severe food allergies is: know to the best of your ability what your child is allergic to, always be prepared for an acute allergic reaction every moment of every day, do your best to keep your child in a safe environment away from the offending allergens at home, school, restaurants,” Maslonka said.

You can read more about Noelle on CaringBridge.

 

Teen dating 101: What makes a relationship healthy?

This is a post by Amy Moeller. Amy is a therapist who has worked with children and adolescents for 25 years. She works in the Adolescent Health Department at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and treats teenagers experiencing depression, anxiety, social struggles and chemical dependency. In addition, Amy co-founded The Family Enhancement Center in south Minneapolis 17 years ago. She works at the center part time with children and families who have been affected by physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Amy is married and the mother of three children. 

School has started and with a new school year comes new friends and people to “hang out with.” My son and his friends tell me that no one uses the word “dating,” anymore. You “hang out” with someone. When questioned further, it sounds like dating to me.

Dating has changed since I was in high school. It’s neither wholly better or worse. It’s just different. Gone is the traditional “date” where boy picks up girl, and they go to a movie or out to a restaurant. Instead, they hang out in packs for the night. For the most part, I see this as a good thing. With a group of friends, they have each other’s back. Some would argue that this increases peer pressure and what they may do in a group, they may not do alone. This has not been my experience either in my work or in my own home. Peer pressure can be present anywhere. Whether a teen has the self-esteem and the skills to resist it is the key. It doesn’t matter whether they’re on a traditional date or with a pack.

So, what does a healthy relationship look like? Since some adults have trouble with this concept, it’s paramount we educate and provide guidance to our teens as they form relationships.  As a mom, I’ve discussed the following points with my children, and I hope you’ll find them beneficial, too:

Communication

You knew this was coming, right? This is the hallmark of any healthy relationship. Communication means you can share things about yourself and about your feelings. You can express worries, fears, and insecurities without fearing the other person will ridicule them or put them down. There can be disagreements without fighting. In a healthy relationship, people stay calm and talk about how they feel.

Respect and trust

Respect each other. In healthy relationships people view each other as equals. Girls should not buy into the myth that “he is the boss.” In a healthy relationship neither person controls or serves the other.  Your partner’s wishes and feelings have value. Let your partner know that you are making an effort to keep their ideas/wishes/needs in mind.  Trust means that you and your partner are not possessive of each other. You can spend time apart and with other friends without the other person becoming suspicious.

Negotiation and compromise

Negotiation means you talk until you reach an agreement. Compromise means each person gives up a little of what they want until an agreement is reached. This is not always easy, but it is a skill children and teens will carry with them throughout life. “Give and take” is the name of the game.  Try to solve conflicts in a fair and rational way. Be assertive, not aggressive. Being assertive means you ask for what you want in a clear and respectful way. Being aggressive means using intimidation, threats or force to get what you want. If you feel you are being bullied, then the other person is being aggressive, not assertive.

Support

Be supportive of each other. Offer reassurance and encouragement to your partner. Support each other’s goals and aspirations. Encourage your partner to do their very best.

Signs of an unhealthy relationship

Parents typically discuss dating rules with their teen. They talk about where they are going, what they are doing and when they will be home. But have you discussed red flags, different forms of abuse and unhealthy qualities in a relationship?

Some of the first signs that your teen is in an unhealthy relationship is that they spend all their time with that person. They lose contact with their other friends and seem only to be with their significant other. That person discourages your teen from seeing other friends and family and interferes with their past routine activities.

Some questions to discuss with your teen: Is the other person putting you down? Does he/she harass or embarrass you? Does he/she try to keep you away from friends and family? Does he/she spy on you or want to keep constant tabs on you? Does he/she want to look at your text messages or want the passwords to your social media sites? These are all red flags and signs of emotional abuse.

Physical abuse includes not only hitting but also pushing, shoving, kicking or grabbing. In the past 12 months, one in 10 teens reported they have been hit or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Twenty percent of American teenage girls report that they have been hit, slapped or forced into sexual activity by their partners.

Sexual abuse includes not only rape but also any unwanted sexual contact or trying to constantly talk a person in to sexual things they have said “no” to.

Let your teen know that if they think they are in an abusive relationship or they have questions about healthy relationships, talk to a trusted adult. This could be a parent, teacher, school counselor, pastor or a friend’s parent.  Hopefully it will be you, their parent, but if not, give them other resources.

If you need to reach out for more help you can contact:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE

The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474

 

West Nile virus cases are up; you can take precautions

Empty water-holding containers like rain barrels, flowerpots and buckets.

The number of West Nile virus cases is quickly rising in the United States. There’s a record-setting number of  cases up to this point in the year since the virus was first detected here in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Sept. 4, 48 states had reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds or mosquitoes. The CDC received reports of 1,993 cases of the viral disease in people, including 87 deaths.

While more than 70 percent of the cases have been reported in Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Michigan, there have been cases in Minnesota, too.

“Most people — adults and children — who are infected by West Nile virus, show no symptoms at all.  The disease can present like many other viral illnesses with fever, headache, and body aches. Sometimes a rash on the trunk or swollen lymph nodes are seen,” said Dr. William Pomputius, medical director of Infectious Disease and Immunology at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. “In general, 1 in 150 people may develop severe disease with high fever, stiff neck, and nervous system symptoms, but children are much less likely than adults to have this complication. Parents concerned about their child’s health should see their health care provider.”

The latest report from the CDC serves as a reminder that we should take precautions to avoid the mosquito-borne illness.

The No. 1 way to prevent getting West Nile is to avoid a mosquito bite. We know that’s easier said than done. So, we compiled some tips from the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health to help:

  • Eliminate water-holding containers from your property. Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flowerpots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in birdbaths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.
  • Use mosquito repellent that contains up to 30 percent DEET (10 percent for children)
  • Wear long sleeve shirts and pants
  • Avoid outdoor activity during dusk and dawn, when mosquito activity is highest.