6 Expert Tips for a Happy and Healthy Marriage

Repeat after me: Being a parent isn’t your only identity.

Sometimes, it seems as if being married today is a lot harder than ever. Whether it’s getting caught up in a super-timely project for work, taking care of the kids, or finishing chores, we’re all absorbed with our busy schedules.

We want to spend time with our spouses but things keep coming up and before you know it, “just ten more minutes” becomes a mantra in our marriages. And then we wonder why our relationships are in trouble.

Yes, it’s true that raising a family means putting in serious effort to keep the house tidy, put food on the table, as well as making sure that you take care of your kids’ needs. But as a wife AND a parent, it’s important that you also remember that your marriage is just as important — if not, more so.

After all, you can’t raise happy kids if their core foundation isn’t rock solid; a healthy family is only as strong as the parents.

Relationship ‘Rules’ the Happiest Couples Break On the Reg

What follows are some great points about how you can maintain a great marriage. The good news is that isn’t as hard as you think!

1. Setting a Routine for You and Your Relationship Is a MUST

Whether it means setting up a weekly double date with your best friend or setting aside time for just the two of you, having a routine will motivate you. Getting out of the house for some much needed fresh air is a good first step if you’re not sure where to start.

2. Be Honest About What You’re Feeling

It doesn’t matter how obvious your mommyhood stress is, chances are, your husband doesn’t fully understand what’s going on. Don’t be afraid to let him in.

3. Call in Some Reinforcements

There’s nothing wrong with getting outside help from time to time. Get rid of that mentality RIGHT NOW. Having an extra set of eyes and ears on the situation can make a huge difference.

4. Sometimes, Putting Your Marriage First Is Necessary

Hear us out. Your children are your world, end of story. But sometimes, you get so caught up in being parents that you forget that being a parent isn’t your only identity.

Kimberley Anderson says:

“I think one of the most important things that couples can do is celebrate their identities as husband and wife, rather than just a mother and a father. Parenting [is] very de-eroticizing. I think it’s important [that you] jazz things up by seeing your partner as a man and a woman and not just as the father or the mother of your child.”

How to Support Your Wife’s Body, Mind, & Soul During Your First Pregnancy Together

5. Agree to Disagree

All healthy couples fight. It’s completely natural. How you handle those arguments is what really matters. Remember that fighting isn’t about finding a clear winner, but getting to a point where you both feel heard and understood.

6. PDA Is Totally Healthy!

Showing your kids just how much you love each other will impact the way they see future relationships.

Although these quick tips are guaranteed to improve your relationship with your partner, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Whenever you feel the urge to bury yourself in your work, do yourself a favor and hit that play button again and again.

This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: 6 Easy Tips For Having A Super Happy, Healthy Marriage.

Parental Interventions to Improve Behavior Are Not Just for Youngest Kids

A new study from the U.K. finds that parenting interventions for children with behavior problems are just as effective in school-age as in younger children.

Findings from the Oxford University study run counter to the  view that interventions need to be applied early in life, when children’s brain function and behavior are thought to be more malleable

Indeed, investigators believe the research clearly shows that it is time to stop focusing on when we intervene with parenting, and just get on with helping children in need of all ages.

The study, recently published in the journal Child Development, is one of the first to test the age assumption. Parenting interventions are a common and effective tool for reducing child behavior problems, but studies of age effects have until now produced mixed results.

Professor Frances Gardner and her team analyzed data from over 15,000 families from all over the world, and found no evidence that earlier intervention is better. Older children benefited just as much as younger ones from parenting interventions for reducing behavior problems.

There was no evidence whatsoever for the common belief that earlier interventions are more powerful, and this was based on combining data from more than 150 rigorous trials.

What’s more, their economic analysis (based on a U.K. and Ireland subset of the data) found that interventions with older children were actually more likely to be cost-effective.

Said Gardner, “Where there is concern about behavioral difficulties in younger children, it is important that our findings are never used as a reason to delay intervention, as children and families otherwise will suffer for longer.

“With respect to common parenting interventions for reducing behavior problems in childhood, rather than believing ‘earlier is better’, we should conclude, ‘it’s never too early, never too late’.”

The study draws the conclusion that it makes sense to invest in parenting interventions for children at all ages showing signs of behavioral difficulties, as they are no more likely to be effective in younger than older children, at least in the pre-adolescent range, 2-11 years.

Of course, there’s more work to be done, according to researchers. The trials examined were limited to pre-adolescents, to shorter-term effects, and parent-reported assessment of child outcomes.

Future studies are needed that focus on adolescents, longer-term outcomes, and using multiple sources (e.g. observations; father reports) for assessing child behavior problems.

Source: University of Oxford

How to Have a Minimalist, Meaningful Holiday Season—And Why It’s So Important

It’s very easy to feel very stressed over the holiday season. After all, there’s so much to do on top of our regular responsibilities. There’s also pressure to have a perfect holiday—and to give lots and lots of presents, which for many of us busts budgets and creates or deepens debt. And if you’re doing all the shopping, wrapping, cooking and cleaning, you may feel more resentment than joy.

This is where minimalism can help.

People have many misconceptions about minimalism—it’s stark, sterile, cold, and the complete opposite of cozy; it’s about paring down to a specific number of possessions; it’s about deprivation and no gifts. And, of course, all these things seem incompatible with the holiday season.

But minimalism isn’t any of the above. And it’s certainly not empty of meaning or magic, which is what the holiday season is really about. In fact, minimalism prioritizes both. Because minimalism, at its core, means “removing excess [and] making room for things that are truly important in our life,” said Brooke McAlary, author of the book Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World.

For instance, what’s important to McAlary is focusing on people, presence and connection during the holidays—“as opposed to stuff, crammed schedules and excess.”

“I love the holiday season and minimalism helps me enjoy it even more,” said Rachel Jonat, who writes about simplicity and minimalism on her website The Minimalist Mom. She and her family keep a lot of white space in their calendar and limit the number of events they attend. “You can’t enjoy the season if you’re tired and stressed out.”

Denaye Barahona, Ph.D, founder of Simple Families, views minimalism as “prioritizing the things that matter most, and giving your time and attention to those things.” For Barahona, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, and spending time with family.

She and her husband focus on meaningful traditions with their young kids, such as buying an ornament (or something they can make into an ornament) every year related to an important event, vacation or change (e.g., moving to a new state). When it’s time to decorate the tree, they talk about the memories connected to each ornament.

Barahona also isn’t big on tangible gifts because they can easily become the focal point of the holiday, overshadowing relationships and meaningful events. For instance, the excitement shifts from seeing and spending time with grandparents to the unknown in the pretty wrapped packages. This is a natural human reaction, she said, as we get rushes of dopamine from opening up presents.

So what do you do? What do you when everyone is so focused on things, and stress runs rampant? Below are tips to help, and have a minimalist, meaningful and magical holiday season.

Question how you currently celebrate the season. “By questioning our current standard, we start to gain a sense of what the holidays actually mean to us and how we can create new traditions that reflect that,” said McAlary, who also pens the blog Slow Your Home.

For instance, do you want to attend every end-of-the-year party, or can you suggest a New Year catchup in January? she said. Do you want to cook a three-course meal by yourself or can you ask friends to bring their signature dishes?

McAlary also suggested focusing on how you’d like the holidays to feel. How can you make this happen?

Have honest conversations early. Start talking to your family now about expectations for gifts and events, and any new ideas or changes, said Jonat, author of several books, including The Joy of Doing Nothing: A Real-Life Guide to Stepping Back, Slowing Down, and Creating a Simpler, Joy-Filled Life. And start small. If your family is big on gifts, suggest trying secret Santa, or contributing time or money to a charity together, she said.

“When my siblings and I switched to buying gifts for a needy family—instead of each other—we started to have more meaningful holidays together. It was wonderful to no longer have to find gifts for people that have everything they need.”

Rethink gifts for loved ones. “I still buy gifts for people in my life, but instead of buying stuff just for the sake of it, I prefer to gift experiences or consumables and not perpetuate the cycle of mindless gift giving,” McAlary said. For instance, she gives movie tickets, massage gift cards or bottles of wine. She also gives charitable donations in loved one’s names.

Jonat has eliminated a lot of gift giving with family and friends in favor of quality time together. “It could be as simple as a long phone call or as elaborate as a multi-family potluck gathering.”

McAlary suggested reflecting on these questions when thinking about what to give family and friends: “What do they love to do? What can you gift to them that will help them enjoy more of it? Can you give them time or expertise? Maybe you could give the new parents some free babysitting and a restaurant voucher, or the novice gardener some seeds, time and energy? Can you cut their hair or declutter their wardrobe?”

Plus, when we make the holidays all about stuff and consumption, she said, we remove opportunities for sincere connection—even though this is exactly what we crave.

“So much growth and understanding comes from deep, unrushed conversations and given how stressed many of us feel throughout the year, I can’t think of a more important gift to give the people we love than our time.”

Rethink toys and gifts for kids. “We, as adults, get really excited about giving gifts,” and seeing our kids’ happy faces, said Barahona, author of the forthcoming book Simple Happy Parenting: The Joy of Less for Calm, Creative Kids. But this only feeds into what we’re trying to avoid: making it all about the gifts.

The key is to change how we approach gift-giving. For instance, you might refocus on getting things that your kids will use and love for a long time, items that help them learn, develop and innovate, she said. These items might not grab their attention or make their faces light up—but often the toys that do, the sparkly, loud ones that provide immediate gratification, end up in the corner of their room an hour, day or week later.

Barahona also buys her kids simple, high-quality toys throughout the year—instead of waiting until Christmas. Because it’s very hard to focus on the deeper meaning of the holiday when you’ve waited all year for certain things. Plus, kids learn through play, and her kids use these toys in all sorts of imaginative ways every single day.

McAlary and her husband also are intentional about the gifts they give to their kids, which include books, art and craft equipment, and tickets to the zoo or a show.

If you’re trying to minimize the number of gifts given to your kids, Barahona suggested sharing your why with your loved ones. For instance, she said, you might say, “It’s hard for our kids to focus on you and your relationship when there’s a lot of toys and gifts,” and “We want you to be what our kids get excited about.” 

Be intentional with your time and energy. Remember that your time and energy are precious (literally, they’re finite, after all). Think about the events and engagements you’d really like to attend. Think about the traditions you’d like to create and savor.

Jonat suggested getting comfortable with saying no. “It’s no one’s business why you can’t attend their event but if they ask, simply say you need a quiet night at home.”

Honor yourself. “For some of us the holidays are a difficult time no matter what we do,” McAlary said. And all the focus on connection and giving can leave you feeling less than, she said. “[T]ry letting go of the importance of the season altogether,” and “spend the day doing something you really enjoy”: watching a movie, making your favorite meal, focusing on what you do have in your life (versus what you don’t).

The tradition of gifts, elaborate meals, and swelling to-do lists is very strong. And “it’s very easy to lose sight of what’s important,” and focus away from your family’s values, Barahona said. The key is to be confident in the choices you’re making, she said—whether that’s limiting gifts or saying no to a party you’ve been attending for years (because it’s been years since you’ve actually wanted to attend it).

The holidays can be meaningful and magical, particularly when we remove the excess, and genuinely focus on what’s meaningful and magical to us.

Conversion Therapy for LGBT Kids Linked to Higher Risks of Depression & Suicide

A new study has found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth who experience attempts by their parents or others to change their sexual orientation — often called conversion therapy — report higher levels of depression and suicidal behavior, lower levels of self-esteem, social support, and life satisfaction, as well as lower levels of education and income in young adulthood.

According to researchers with the Family Acceptance Project (FAP) at San Francisco State University, efforts by parents, as well as external sexual orientation conversion interventions by therapists and religious leaders contribute to multiple health and adjustment problems in young adulthood.

In the study, more than half (53 percent) of LGBT non-Latino white and Latino young adults, ages 21-25, reported experiencing sexual orientation change efforts during adolescence.

Of these, 21 percent reported specific experiences by parents and caregivers to change their sexual orientation at home, while 32 percent reported sexual orientation change efforts by both parents and therapists and religious leaders.

Notably, any sexual orientation change efforts — whether by parents alone or by parents, therapists and religious leaders — contributed to higher risks for LGBT young people, the researchers reported.

However, those who experience both parental and external conversion efforts by therapists or religious leaders had the highest levels of risk, they add.

Rates of attempted suicide by LGBT young people whose parents tried to change their sexual orientation were more than double (48 percent) the rate of LGBT young adults who reported no conversion experiences (22 percent).

Suicide attempts nearly tripled for LGBT young people who reported both home-based efforts to change their sexual orientation by parents and intervention efforts by therapists and religious leaders (63 percent), according to the study’s findings.

High levels of depression more than doubled (33 percent) for LGBT young people whose parents tried to change their sexual orientation compared with those who reported no conversion experiences (16 percent). It more than tripled (52 percent) for LGBT young people who reported both home-based efforts to change their sexual orientation by parents and external sexual orientation change efforts by therapists and religious leaders, the researchers reported.

Sexual orientation change experiences during adolescence by both parents and externally by therapists and religious leaders were associated with lower young adult socioeconomic status, including less educational attainment and lower weekly income, according to the study’s findings.

LGBT adolescents from highly religious families and those from families with lower socioeconomic status were most likely to experience both home-based and external conversion efforts. Those who were gender-nonconforming and who were from immigrant families were more likely to experience external conversion efforts initiated by parents and caregivers, the researchers said.

“Although parents and religious leaders who try to change a child’s LGBT identity may be motivated by attempts to ‘protect’ their children, these rejecting behaviors instead undermine an LGBT child’s sense of self-worth, contribute to self-destructive behaviors that significantly increase risk and inhibit self-care, which includes constricting their ability to make a living,” said Dr. Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University and lead author of the study.

“That’s why we developed a family support model to help diverse families learn to support their LGBT children that we’re integrating in behavioral health, out-of-home care, primary care and pastoral care in communities across the country.”

“We now have even more dramatic evidence of the lasting personal and social cost of subjecting young people to so-called ‘change’ or ‘conversion’ therapies,” said study co-author Stephen T. Russell, Ph.D., Regents Professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Prior studies with adults have shown how harmful these practices are. Our study shows the central role that parents play. It is clear that there are public health costs of ‘change’ efforts for LGBT adolescents over the long-term. The kind of change we really need is family education and intervention.”

The study was published in the Journal of Homosexuality.

Source: San Francisco State University

Too Much Screen Time Linked to Anxiety & Depression in Young Children and Teens

New research finds that more hours of screen time are associated with lower well-being in those aged 2 to 17, with the association larger for adolescents than for younger children.

San Diego State University psychologist Dr. Jean Twenge and University of Georgia psychology professor Dr. W. Keith Campbell discovered that after only one hour of screen time daily, children and teens may begin to have less curiosity, lower self-control, less emotional stability and a greater inability to finish tasks.

Twenge and Campbell were particularly interested in associations between screen time and diagnoses of anxiety and depression in youth, which has not yet been studied in great detail.

Their findings may be crucial at a time when youth have greater access to digital technologies and are spending more time using electronic technology purely for entertainment. The issue is pertinent for health officials as they try to identify best practices for managing technology addiction.

“Previous research on associations between screen time and psychological well-being among children and adolescents has been conflicting, leading some researchers to question the limits on screen time suggested by physician organizations,” Twenge and Campbell wrote in their paper.

The National Institute of Health estimates that youth commonly spend an average of five to seven hours on screens during leisure time. Also, a growing body of research indicates that this amount of screen time has adverse effects on the overall health and well-being of youth.

Addiction to technology is not limited to the United States. The World Health Organization has recently include gaming disorder in their 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases. The organization is encouraging “increased attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder” as gaming addiction may now be classified as a disease.

Twenge and Campbell used the National Survey of Children’s Health data from 2016 to analyze a random sample of more than 40,300 surveys from the caregivers of children aged 2 to 17.

The nationwide survey was administered by the U.S. Census Bureau by mail and online and inquired about topics such as: existing medical care; emotional, developmental and behavioral issues; and youth behaviors, including daily screen time.

Twenge and Campbell excluded youth with conditions such autism, cerebral palsy and developmental delay, as they may have impacted a child’s day to day functioning.

Twenge and Campbell found that adolescents who spend more than seven hours a day on screens were twice as likely as those spending one hour to have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression — a significant finding.

Overall, links between screen time and well-being were larger among adolescents than among young children.

“At first, I was surprised that the associations were larger for adolescents,” Twenge said. “However, teens spend more time on their phones and on social media, and we know from other research that these activities are more strongly linked to low well-being than watching television and videos, which is most of younger children’s screen time.”

Among other highlights of Twenge and Campbell’s study:

  • Moderate use of screens, at four hours each day, was also associated with lower psychological well-being than use of one hour a day;
  • Among preschoolers, high users of screens were twice as likely to often lose their temper and 46 percent more likely to not be able to calm down when excited;
  • Among teens aged 14-17, 42.2 percent of those who spent more than seven hours a day on screens did not finish tasks compared with 16.6 percent for those who spent one hour daily and 27.7 percent for those engaged for four hours of screen time;
  • About 9 percent of youth aged 11-13 who spent an hour with screens daily were not curious or interested in learning new things, compared with 13.8 percent who spent four hours on screen and 22.6 percent who spent more than seven hours with screens.

The study provides further evidence that the American Academy of Pediatrics’ established screen time limits — one hour per day for those aged 2 to 5, with a focus on high-quality programs — are valid, Twenge said.

It also suggests that similar limits — perhaps to two hours a day — should be applied to school-aged children and adolescents, said Twenge.

The researchers’ findings appear in the journal Preventative Medicine Reports.

Source: San Diego State University/EurekAlert

Teaching Your Child Body Positivity

Today’s society has an image-driven culture that focuses on unrealistic standards of beauty for people of all genders, ages, and ethnicities. These standards not only have a negative impact on adults but are impacting children with alarming consequences.

Eating disorders among children have increased significantly in the past 20 years. While the greatest prevalence is among adolescents ages 13 to 18, children as young as 5 years old are dieting. More than ever, it’s important to teach children how to value healthy eating and stay active while also loving their bodies.

Here are some ways that you can teach your children to have a positive body image and develop healthy habits for life:

Be a Role Model for Your Child

Children tend to mimic the behaviors and actions of the adults around them. If children hear adults speak negatively about their own bodies, this may influence how they see themselves.

To combat this, work at being the role model your children need to see. State positive things about yourself and acknowledge that your imperfections are fine. Talk with your children about body diversity and why many media images are unrealistic. If you notice that your children are struggling with body image, be that understanding person they can speak to.

Change Attitudes Towards Physical Activity

Instead of focusing on exercise as a way to lose weight or maintain a certain body shape, have your children consider the other ways that being active can be a positive contribution to their lives. For example, physical activity helps your body reach its full potential, improves mood, acts as a social activity or artistic expression, and can be a lot of fun!

Try exposing your children to different ways of being active and engage their curiosities. They may be interested in sports like soccer or basketball, or find a passion for yoga, roller skating, or even Quidditch! If your children are concerned that they can’t pursue an activity because of their size, show them how professional athletes come in different sizes and shapes.

Develop a Healthy Relationship with Food

Moving away from the binary of “good” or “bad” foods is an important tool in improving your children’s relationship with food. These labels create anxiety around food and may lead to consequences including food restriction and feeling like a bad person because they’ve eaten a “bad” food.

Promote healthy eating by emphasizing how the nutrients in foods help people become strong and healthy. Instead of focusing on calories, explain how the vitamins in an orange help their gums, or how nuts are good for their brain. And if your child wants to have a cookie or chips, there’s no need to shame their food choices. Allow children to make some choices about the foods they eat and cultivate an environment where nutritious foods are available and appealing.

Celebrate Your Child’s Physical and Non-Physical Attributes

Teaching your children to think positively about themselves can help develop a positive self-image that doesn’t focus entirely on appearance. Practice stating what positive attributes they have and what they are capable of doing or becoming.

What are some things that your children like about their bodies? Do they like their smile, or how their body helps them climb up a tree? Don’t forget your children’s non-physical attributes — are they kind, funny, smart or talented at something? A regular practice of saying affirmations can reduce negative self-talk and build your children’s confidence.

Teaching your children body positivity and healthy habits around food and physical activity can have a lasting impact on their self-esteem, self-perception and how they interact with an image-driven culture.

This post courtesy of Mental Health America.

Low-Income Families Can Be Healthier When Basic Needs Are Met

Young children and their parents are healthier when they are able to afford basic needs, such as food, shelter, utilities, medical care, prescription medications and childcare, according to a series of reports across the United States.

When these needs are met, children are more likely to have good overall health and positive developmental outcomes, and mothers are more likely to enjoy better mental health.

The findings emphasize the need for policymakers to improve access to and effectiveness of programs that enable all low-income families to afford basic needs.

The study surveyed more than 18,000 families of children under age 4 who visited the emergency departments and primary care clinics at urban hospitals in Baltimore, Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Little Rock.

The researchers developed a composite measure of hardships that included a family’s ability to afford food, utilities, and health care, and maintain stable housing. All hardships described in the study had previously been linked to poor child and caregiver health.

This study, however, looked at the differences between children living in hardship-free families versus those in families with any or multiple hardships.

In all cities, living in a hardship-free family was linked to good overall health for children and caregivers, positive developmental outcomes for young children, and positive mental health among mothers.

Nearly half of families interviewed at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis reported that they were hardship-free. At Boston Medical Center, only about one quarter of the families surveyed reported zero hardships, which may be due to higher housing costs.

“This report provides a snapshot on our progress to ensure every family can easily afford their bills and allow children to reach their potential, and gives us a goal to ensure all children live in hardship free families in the future,” said Dr. Megan Sandel, co-lead principal investigator at Children’s HealthWatch and a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center.

The research also looked at the link between child care constraints, when parents are unable to work or attend school because of an inability to afford childcare, and hardships. In each city, parents who reported being able to access affordable childcare were more likely to be hardship free.

“High quality, affordable child care, available from infancy, is essential to families’ well-being,” says Dr. Diana Cutts, co-lead principal investigator at Children’s HealthWatch and chief of pediatrics at Hennepin County Medical Center.

Each report recommends state and local policy solutions to improve the health of children. The authors advocate for implementing policies to raise wages, along with ensuring access to programs that support low-income families being able to meet basic needs, such as food and housing security and medical care.

The authors also suggest screening for hardships in health care settings and connecting patients and their families to resources that promote health.

Source: Boston Medical Center

 

Adolescent Back Pain with Behavioral Issues May Taint Adult Health

A new study indicates that teens who experience back pain more frequently are also more likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and report problems like anxiety and depression. Sadly, adolescent back pain may play a role in characterizing poor overall health, and risk of chronic disease throughout life.

Back pain in adolescence is often musculoskeletal in nature arising from bones, joints or muscles and commonly viewed as inconsequential. Although the pain is often dismissed as trivial and fleeting, adolescent back pain is responsible for substantial health care use, school absence, and interference with day-to-day activities in some children.

In the new study, found in the Journal of Public Health, researchers assessed whether adolescents who experience back pain more often were also more likely to report other health risk indicators, such as alcohol use, smoking, school absenteeism, and depression or anxiety.

Researchers used data collected from approximately 6500 teenagers. The proportion of participants reporting smoking, drinking, and missing school rose incrementally with increasing frequency of pain. For example, 14 and 15 year-olds that experienced pain more than once a week were 2-3 times more likely to have drunk alcohol or smoked in the past month than those who rarely or never had pain.

Similarly, students that experienced pain more than once a week were around twice as likely to have missed school in the previous term. The trend with anxiety and depression was less clear, although there was a marked difference between the children who reported no pain, and those who reported frequent pain.

An important finding is that not only do back pain and unhealthy behaviors occur together, but they also extend into adulthood. This means that they are responsible for current issues, and also have implications for future health.

This association is a concern as researchers involved with the study believe the developing brain may be susceptible to negative influences of toxic substances, and use in early adolescence may increase the risk of substance abuse and mental health problems in later life.

“Findings like this provide an argument that we should be including pain in the broader conversation about adolescent health,” said the paper’s lead author, Steven Kamper.

“Unfortunately our understanding of the causes and impacts pain in this age group is quite limited, the area is badly in need of more research.”

Source: Oxford University Press/EurelAlert

Many Children Face Sleep Issues After Parent Is Seriously Injured

When children face an unsettling experience, such as the injury of a parent, it can alter their sleep habits, according to new research.

According to researchers, the serious injury of a parent can alter a child’s daily routine, and the child may observe their parent’s pain and recovery.

For the study, researchers examined whether children with injured parents had increased doctor visits for sleep disorders, such as circadian rhythm disorder, excessive sleeping, insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep walking, restless leg syndrome, and sleep disordered breathing.

They found that children of parents with both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury had a 48 percent increase in sleep visits to a doctor.

“It’s important that medical providers ask about stressors in the home, such as an injury to a parent, and ask about how their child has been sleeping,” said Saira Ahmed, M.D., a pediatrics resident at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“These conversations are important to help the family catch and treat sleep issues early to avoid physical and emotional problems down the line.”

The researchers used records from the Military Health System to locate children up to age 18 with a parent seriously injured in combat or daily life. This led to the examination of the records of 485,002 children of 272,211 injured parents, according to the researchers.

Common injuries were brain or combat injuries. The child’s median age at time of the parent’s injury was 7 years, the researchers reported.

Using outpatient pharmacy records, they compared visits for sleep disorders and sleep medication prescriptions before and after a parent’s injury.

Overall, the use of sleep medications decreased. However, following an injury, children were 17 percent more likely to seek outpatient care for sleep disorders.

This may be due to children being seen by a sleep specialist, as injured military personnel are often transferred to larger facilities for treatment, increasing their children’s access to specialty care, the researchers posit.

The researchers add that when a physician sees a new patient, especially young children, they may wean the child off sleep medications and begin behavior modification and non-pharmacological efforts to reduce sleep disorders.

The study found that teens especially had more difficulty adjusting to the injury of a parent. The study’s findings indicate that teens had a 37 percent increase in sleep visits after a parent’s injury.

Puberty and its altered sleep schedules, as well as the challenges of high school, can predispose teens to sleep issues, Ahmed noted.

“It is imperative that medical providers discuss their children’s sleep with parents and consider sleep in the care plan of children of injured parents,” Ahmed concluded.

The study was presented at the 2018 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

Graph: Adjusted Incidence Rate Ratio of Outpatient Visits for Sleep Disorders Following Parental Injury. Credit: Saira Ahmed.

Rat Study: Immune System May Play Role in Postpartum Depression

The immune system may play a role in the development of postpartum depression after a stressful pregnancy, according to a new study based on a rat model.

Researchers from Ohio State University sought to examine the possible connection between the immune system, the brain and postpartum depression and discovered that areas of the brain associated with mood regulation showed signs of inflammation.

“Postpartum depression is understudied and, as a result, remains poorly understood,” said lead author Dr. Benedetta Leuner, an associate professor of psychology at Ohio State.

“Gaining a better understanding of the factors that contribute to this serious and prevalent disorder will be key to finding ways to better help women who are struggling.”

Around 15 percent of all new moms will experience postpartum depression, which has a variety of symptoms including prolonged depression, difficulty bonding with the baby, overwhelming fatigue and hopelessness.

“At least a half million women in the U.S. each year suffer from postpartum depression, and that is probably a low estimate. It’s surprising how little we know about how it arises,” Leuner said.

Most research has focused on hormonal reasons for the disorder, though some earlier work has been done on the immune system. In those studies, scientists investigated signs of inflammation in the blood and found mixed results.

The new study looked at the medial prefrontal cortex, a mood-related brain region previously implicated in postpartum depression.

During the research, rats were stressed during pregnancy to mimic a well-known risk factor for postpartum depression in human mothers. Similar to behaviors seen in women with postpartum depression, the stressed animals gave less attention to their offspring and exhibited depression- and anxiety-like behavior during various tasks.

And, unlike the non-stressed control rats, the stressed rats showed higher levels of inflammatory markers in their brain tissue, Leuner said. In addition, the researchers found evidence that the stress might lead to changes in how certain immune cells in the brain —  called microglia — function.

Study co-author Dr. Kathryn Lenz, an assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State, said she has become increasingly interested in the role of the immune system and its subsequent effects on the brain in mood disorders, including postpartum depression.

“It was especially interesting that we found no evidence of increased inflammation in the blood, but we did find it in this area of the brain that is important for mood regulation. We’re really excited because this suggests that inflammation in the brain may be a potential contributor to postpartum depression,” Lenz said.

“Eventually, this might provide a better target for treatment, whether through medication or other techniques such as meditation, diet and stress reduction,” she said.

The findings were recently presented at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego.

Source: Ohio State University

 

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