Parental Blind Spots Can Be Deadly

Dear Mr. Dad: There are a lot of news items these days about how little parents know about what their kids are up to. Take the Florida girl who committed suicide after being bullied. How could the parents of the bullies be so ignorant?

A: In previous columns, I’ve written about the strange phenomenon of parents not recognizing (or admitting) when their children are obese. That willful blindness makes it impossible for those kids to get the help they need. We’ve also talked about how most parents believe that their children are smarter than they actually are. Why are we so in the dark? I think it’s because we want to see only the best in our children—and we ignore anything that challenges our fantasies. Let me give you a few more examples:

  • Internet dangers. You’d think that with all the coverage of cyberbullied kids who commit suicide and others who use social media to post their intention to shoot up their school, parents would pay more attention to what their children are doing online. Sadly, the parents of those two Florida cyber-murderers (let’s be honest, that’s exactly what they are), are far from alone. A recent study published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication found that parents often have no ideas of what their kids are doing online until it’s too late. For example, while 30% of young people say they’d been cyberbullied, only 10% of parents said they were aware. And while 15% of children admitted that they were the ones actually doing the cyberbullying, fewer than 5% of parents knew.
  • Asthma medication. Most parents of young children who take inhaled asthma medication don’t know what to do to make sure their child takes the medication properly. There are 10 steps parents need to go through. In a recent study of 169 caregivers of children 2-9 who had been hospitalized for asthma and required ongoing asthma treatment, only one knew all of the steps. Out of those 10, five are considered essential, but only four caregivers knew those. Although asthma is quite common, it can be deadly when symptoms are severe enough. And not properly using asthma inhalers means that the child isn’t getting medication he or she needs.
  • Infants must sleep on their back. In 1994, the government’s “Back to Sleep” campaign announced that parents should put their babies to sleep on their back, not on their stomach as the previous conventional wisdom dictated. In the years since, the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has dropped by more than 50%.However, more than a quarter of parents are still not putting their babies down on their back. According to Eve Colson, lead author of a recent study tracking baby sleep positions, “African Americans still lag behind caregivers of other races by about 20 percent in following this practice.” One of the most important predictors of whether caregivers will put babies down to sleep on their back is whether he or she got a recommendation from a doctor.
  • Pregnant women shouldn’t smoke. This one seems obvious, but a lot of women still haven’t gotten the message. Smoking during pregnancy has been shown to increase the pregnancy complications, risk of preterm delivery, smaller fetal and infant size, birth defects, and even infant death. Despite all that, the CDC estimates that the percentage of women who smoke during pregnancy has remained at about 13% for quite some time. The percentages vary greatly by state, ranging from a low of 5.1% in Utah and 6.8% in New Jersey, up to 19.7% in Tennessee and 28.7% in West Virginia. Unbelievable.

When Bigger Is Not Better

bigorexia

Dear Mr. Dad: A few months ago, you wrote a column about how boys can have eating disorders, including anorexia. Since anorexia is usually about body image, I started wondering whether boys’ body image issues could be making them obsessed with building muscle. Is that possible?

A: It’s not only possible, it’s a real condition. What you’re describing is technically called “muscle dysmorphia,” but because that’s such a mouthful, a lot of people call it “bigorexia” instead. A strange word, but one that really gets the point across. Anorexics look in the mirror and, no matter how skinny they are, they see a fat person. Bigorexics look in the mirror and, no matter how buff they are, they see a 98-pound weakling. The condition affects mainly men, but some women can suffer from it as well.
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Loving the Teen You’ve Got + Job Hunting for Teens + When to Worry + Eating Disorders

[amazon asin=B0064XB8CG&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 1: Tom Sturges, author of Grow the Tree You Got.
Topic: 100 ideas for raising amazing adolescents and teenagers.
Issues: Learning to let go; the importance of making mistakes; punishing with kindness; what rivers can teach us about adolescents; seven ways to keep the peace.


[amazon asin=145057842X&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 2: Abby Kohut, author of Absolutely Abby’s 101 Job Search Secrets.
Topic: Success tips for teen job seekers and their parents.
Issues: Why you’re on a Never Ending Interview whether you know it or not; How to be resilient in the face of rejection; The importance of LinkedIn, Twitter & Facebook to your job search; How and why you should interview your next boss; How to use retro technology as part of your new strategy.


[amazon asin=0814473636&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 3: Lisa Boesky, author of When to Worry.
Topic: How to tell if your teen needs help and what to do about it.
Issues: How to spot the warning signs of serious problems like depression, cutting, bipolar disorder, and drug abuse; specific dos and don’ts for decreasing teen struggles and suffering in the family; how and where to get professional help.


[amazon asin=B003P9XDOS&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 4: Marcia Herrin, author of The Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders.
Topic: Supporting self-esteem, healthy eating, and positive body image.
Issues: THow to broach the subject with your child; why blame doesn’t work; how to tell bad eating habits from dangerous behavior; the Maudsley Method: what it is and how parents can use it to treat their children.

The Making of an American Military Family + Purpose of Boys + Girls and Body Image

Couponing for the Rest of Us: The Not-So-Extreme Guide to Saving More

[amazon asin=0399163794&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Alison Buckholtz, author of Standing By.
Topic:
The making of an American military family in a time of war.
Issues: Adjusting to the unfamiliar (and sometimes unwelcome) role of military wife; the quiet battle military spouses wage to hold their families together during a loved one’s deployment; challenging one’s assumptions about military, motherhood, and even American citizenship.

[amazon asin=0470401826&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Michael Gurian, author of The Purpose of Boys.
Topic:
Helping our sons find meaning, significance, and direction in their lives.
Issues: What is purpose and why do we need one? How boys and girls develop purpose differently; how the loss of purpose in American boyhood is affecting families, women, and society as a whole.

[amazon asin=B002UXRZJ4&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Dara Chadwick, author of You’d Be So Pretty If…
Topic:
Teaching our daughters to love their bodies—even when we don’t love our own
Issues: What girls learn from mom’s attitudes about appearance; trigger words that set off a body image crisis; boys’ role in girls’ body image; what works and what doesn’t when talking to your daughter about healthy eating and exercise habits

The Serious Effects of Internet Porn

When I was about 10, finding porn (yes, like most boys my age, I spent a great deal of time trying to score some) wasn’t very easy. Or cheap. But today, anyone with an internet connection can find whatever he (or she) is looking for, for free, in .062 seconds. And kids of all ages are taking advantage. 30% of boys and girls have seen porn by the time they’re 11. And by age 17, 93% of boys and 80% of girls say they occasionally watch porn, according to a study by Iconkids & Youth.

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Don’t Moms Buy Everything? Ah, Nope.

Dear Mr. Dad: In last week’s column you complained that advertising ignores dads. As I understand it, moms make most purchasing decisions. Wouldn’t advertising to men alienate women? And why should advertisers spend money pitching to people who don’t buy anything?

A: You’ve raised three important issues here. Let’s go through them one at a time.

First, while mothers may make the majority of purchasing decisions, it’s not by much. Ninety percent of dad are involved in everyday buying decisions for their family. Forty percent do half or more of the household shopping every week. Single dads and at-home dads account for an even greater share, and those numbers are only going up, as the percentage of women who outearn their husbands also rises.

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