The process of getting a cavity filled can be distressing for children, especially if they display fear or anxiety during dental visits and procedures. While most dental practices do their best to alleviate any anxiety that a child may experience, there are nevertheless always going to be instances related to a child’s oral hygiene which can trigger these negative emotions. One such situation is when a composite tooth filling falls out. This can happen due to no fault of the child.

In fact, it is a fairly common occurrence especially with children who need fillings in their baby teeth. As the adult teeth push down, the baby teeth loosen, become more friable, and sometimes break apart, resulting in the loss of the composite material.

Not only is this a frightening experience, but it can also be a painful one if nerve-endings become exposed. As a parent, it’s important to stay calm so that you can soothe your child as you handle the problem.

Tips for what to do if your child’s filling falls out 

1. Manage the pain

Your first priority is to manage any pain your child is experiencing. The loss of a filling exposes both the decay and the nerve-endings it was helping to cover. This may result in your child feeling a sharp pain in the affected area from merely inhaling cool air, as well as sipping hot or cold beverages.

There are several methods of pain relief that you can employ to help your child. Depending on their age, various over-the-counter treatments are available and should suffice. Ibuprofen and aspirin (or children’s aspirin depending on your child’s age) ought to do the trick. There are also over-the-counter topical analgesics, such as Orajel, that can provide temporary numbness around the tooth.

If you’re seeking a natural remedy, consider applying a bit of clove oil to the affected tooth. This is done by simply dampening the end of a cotton swab in the oil and touching it gently to your child’s tooth.

2. Fill the hole temporarily

By creating a temporary replacement for the lost composite filling, you can help to reduce the pain your child may be experiencing. Dental cement is a relatively affordable option that you can find in most pharmacies and grocery stores.

Use the adhesive or dental tack to fill the hole left by the lost filling. This can keep the tooth from becoming further damaged while covering up the exposed nerves to ease the pain. However, it is important to understand that this is not a long-term solution. Dental cement is no substitute for a proper filling.

3. Dispose of the filling

While a lost crown may be kept and reapplied by your dentist, you will have no such luck with a lost composite filling. Once the filling escapes from the tooth, there’s no way to save that particular filling.

If you or your child suspects that the missing filling has been swallowed, do not fret. Fillings can fall out without your child immediately noticing and it’s not uncommon for a child to swallow parts of or entire fillings. While it’s always best for your child to spit out the filling, swallowed fillings rarely pose any health threat to a child and should pass without a problem.

4. Call your child’s dentist

 what to do if child's filling falls out

Photo source: supplied by the author

The loss of a filling isn’t an emergency, exactly, but dentists should take it seriously. That’s especially true for pediatric dentists. They know that losing a filling can be scary and is often painful. This is why it’s a priority to get in touch with your child’s dentist. Upon calling them, they will likely try to schedule an appointment within a few days to replace the filling.

5. Advise careful cleaning

In the interim, it is essential for your child to keep the affected tooth and area surrounding clean. For the time being, it might hurt too much to brush or floss, but oral hygiene is still important.

Advise your child to brush as gently as possible. Skip the mouthwash, which can burn and irritate the affected area. Depending on the location of the tooth and how much discomfort your child feels, it might be best to avoid flossing in that area as well.

6. Avoid certain foods 

Until your child’s dentist appointment, there are certain foods and beverages you should try to avoid. Tell your child to steer clear of fruits with small seeds, such as strawberries and raspberries. Popcorn is also a no-no as the kernels could get stuck in the exposed cavity. Again, extremely cold or hot beverages are likely to cause pain.

Foods that are difficult to chew, too crunchy, or too hard may damage the tooth, as can any acidic foods. And, as always, foods and liquids high in sugar may hasten tooth decay.

7. Explain what’s next to come

Before your pediatric dentist replaces the filling, he or she will want to examine your child’s exposed tooth. She is explicitly looking for advanced decay which will need to be scraped away before reapplying the composite over the tooth.

Ask your child’s dentist and the oral hygienist to explain to your child what to expect during the procedure to alleviate any aforementioned anxiety.

The bottom line on what to do if your child’s filling falls out

If your child loses a filling, it can be disconcerting, at best. Do what you can to soothe any pain or discomfort that your child feels as a result of the lost filling while also reassuring him or her that this is not uncommon.

Last but not least, to prevent additional cavities in the future, be sure to do the following:

  • reinforce healthy eating habits,
  • teach proper brushing technique
  • schedule regular dental checkups for your child

Find ways to make brushing fun — get them a fun toothbrush, download an app for brushing, or play a song while they’re in the bathroom and praise them when they do make the effort.

Remember, healthy habits established young will really pay off as they get older!

First published on 12/21/18. Reviewed and updated on 4/27/2020

The word “homeschooling” probably doesn’t bring the same images to mind today as it once did. Thanks to the internet and the availability of lesson plans, educational materials, and full courses online, if kids are doing their learning at home, it’s probably thanks to cyber school technology.

Schooling children at home has long been a compelling choice for parents with children who don’t thrive in traditional academic settings for one reason or another. Modern cyberschool technology has made this an even more realistic option for many households, including those whose children suffer from depression or an anxiety disorder.

How Do I Know If My Child Has Anxiety?

Children are robust and inquisitive creatures, and they delight in taking the lead and directing their own activities, including how they learn.

It’s true that kids can be shy when they encounter new people and circumstances, but children shouldn’t be shy or fearful all the time. In an academic setting, children should feel comfortable and confident enough to focus intently on learning. But for some kids, anxiety can hold them back.

Be on the lookout

There are several signs of anxiety to look out for in children, including:

      • Trouble focusing
      • Frequent headaches and stomach aches
      • Shortness of breath
      • Unnatural amount of fear centered on attending classes
      • Frequent “tantrums” while doing homework
      • General restlessness

If you know a child who seems to struggle with self-doubt, shyness, or fearfulness on a daily basis, and you believe it’s impacting their academic performance, it’s possible this child is suffering from some type of anxiety disorder.

As adults and caregivers, it’s important to remember that all children are uncertain of themselves from time to time. But anxiety that manifests as a daily, preoccupying worry saps focus and will from the things that matter most — like learning.

Know what it looks like

Knowing what anxiety looks like is important because not enough people do. The Child Mind Institute’s 2015 report on children’s mental health indicated that while depression and other anxiety disorders are treatable, 80% of children with anxiety-related conditions and 60% of children with depression do not receive treatment.

It’s estimated that between one in eight and one in 20 children in the U.S. suffers from an anxiety disorder or depression. Moreover, children with anxiety who go without treatment tend to perform more poorly on academic work, avoid social engagements and important childhood experiences, and even engage in substance use and abuse.

Children shouldn’t be left to muddle through their schoolwork when anxiety is holding them back from performing as well as they could be. So is cyber school the answer?

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What Is cyber school?

First of all, what is cyber school?

A typical day at cyber school will look a little bit different for a fourth-grader than it will for a seventh or eighth-grader. There are several familiar hallmarks of cyber schools at every grade level, however.

Students at cyber school:

        • Attend virtual classes and live lessons
        • Interact with instructors and other students online
        • Engage in free-play or self-directed learning
        • Take assessments and test at times that work for them
        • Perform homework outside of school hours and submit their work digitally

At the early grade school levels, parents become learning coaches for their children. They and help them settle into productive and repeatable academic routines. Cyber school shines here in providing a degree of flexibility when it comes to how and when students tackle their lessons.

As children progress in their learning and embark on high school-level courses, students learn to take a more active hand in their own educational development and work more independently. At this point, they’ll begin interacting with counselors and others to help make postgraduate plans.

Why is cyber school a potential answer for kids with anxiety?

It’s hard to watch a child struggle with their classwork for any reason. Thankfully, the technology behind cyber school is today, more useful and accessible than ever before. The homeschooling of years past, where parents either had to do their best to teach their kids or keep a tutor on retainer, has given way to virtual classrooms and online learning experiences.

For children who can’t focus on their classwork in a traditional setting, who have high levels of fear while attending school, or who can’t attend school at all because of crippling anxiety, cyber school could be an attractive and effective alternative.

The best course for most parents with a child with anxiety is to keep them in school and continue their education while they receive treatment for their anxiety or depression. This is a difficult or impossible proposition for households that send their kids to brick-and-mortar schools. But cyber school provides another way.

Cyber school partnerships

“Cyber school” usually refers to a partnership between a local school and a distance learning technology company. This partnership makes familiar school curricula and course materials available over the internet in a semi-structured format.

Students can learn at their own pace in surroundings that they find comforting. The result is a greater focus, less fear, and the ability to more effectively balance the time they spend on education with the time they spend in counseling and treatment.

There are several potential advantages that cyber school offers:

      • Staying on top of schoolwork and deadlines can be anxiety-inducing even under ideal circumstances. Kids can work at their own pace and learn good personalized habits.
      • Children aren’t distracted by the unpredictable social interactions and unfamiliar situations typical of many school environments.
      • If a child struggles with a topic or subject, knowing they’re falling behind in a classroom setting can worsen their anxiety and further erode their academic performance and confidence. Cyberschool lets them take the time they need to understand each topic as it’s presented.

Cyber school technology

One important point to make is that many, and perhaps most, cyber school technology solutions offer some kind of peer social interaction. Attending a brick-and-mortar school each day can become too much unstructured and unpredictable social interaction for children with anxiety. However, it’s important that any distance learning technology that comes into the picture facilitates this kind of interaction.

Social Interactions

Parents of children with anxiety should be working to help their child navigate into social situations with greater confidence rather than helping the child escape from the pressure of peer interactions entirely. The critical difference is giving the child some manner of control over those interactions. And for that, cyber school excels. Some distance learning programs even offer field trips: an ideal way to ease your child out of his or her comfort zone in manageable intervals.

Treatment must accompany cyber school

The only word of warning here is a reminder of what’s already been said: If a child continues to demonstrate any of the known signs of anxiety and/or depression, it’s time to seek treatment for them. It’s entirely possible to continue one’s education while receiving help with an anxiety disorder diagnosis.

Know the signs, obtain a qualified medical diagnosis, and then explore treatment options.

Some parents who choose a cyber school to address their child’s anxiety disorder, but don’t place the same emphasis on formal treatment for that disorder, may be surprised to find after several years in cyber school that their child isn’t any likelier to pursue face-to-face interactions than they were at the start. Cyber school is a compelling route forward for children whose fear and anxiety hold them back. It may also develop into a crutch without the proper tools accompanying it.

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In the case mentioned above, where the anxious child eventually preferred “cyber friends” over friends in the real world, the answer was cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. CBT is one of the gold standards when it comes to treating depression and anxiety and imparting healthy coping mechanisms. It may or may not be joined by exposure and response prevention, or ERP, in which the patient is gradually exposed to anxiety-inducing events over time so they can learn to manage their fears step-by-step.


Students should receive one or both of these therapies while continuing their educational careers. At the end of the day, there’s no reason why an anxiety disorder or depression diagnosis has to get in the way of anybody living a productive, inquisitive, and fruitful life. Cyber school may very well open doors for students who feared they’d remain closed.


Motor skills are broken down into two categories — gross and fine. Gross motor skills are big muscle movements like walking, standing, running and swimming. Fine motor skills are more complex, involving a coordinated effort between your muscles and brain.

Fine motor skills are what allow children to complete most school-related tasks, including:

  • holding a pencil
  • drawing pictures
  • stacking blocks
  • stringing beads
  • using scissors

Between 18 months and two years old, children should be able to eat with a utensil and hold a thick crayon. At three or four, they can put together simple puzzles and draw shapes like circles and squares. Many kids learn to play a musical instrument by five or six and can copy shapes and letters. Two years later, they can tie their shoes and use rulers without frustration.

While these milestones are important, kids are unique and develop at different rates. Ongoing trouble with motor skills, though, could be a sign of DCD (developmental coordination disorder), also called dyspraxia.

The Importance of Fine Motor Skills

In the U.S., between 33 and 66% of daily activities in kindergarten schools involve fine motor skills. By practicing with your kids — whether through drawing, cutting shapes, forming letters with play-doh, etc. — you can enable them to gain strength and control over their movements.

Kids who don’t have strong motor cognition can get easily frustrated when doing tasks with their peers. These frustrations can lead to anxiety, stress and low self-esteem. By helping your child develop, you’re giving them the power to excel.

How to Help Your Kids Develop Fine Motor Skills

Now that you know what fine motor skills are and why they’re so important, it’s time to learn new ways you can help your child improve them.

1. Play board games

The pincher grasp, a significant development in motor skills, is when you hold an item between your index finger and thumb. Kids typically acquire this skill by the age of 9 or 10 months. Encourage them to practice by playing board games like Operation, Let’s Go Fishin’, Battleship and more. If old enough, you can break out a jigsaw puzzle.

2. Try finger painting

Be sure to encourage all types of finger painting, whether it be with real paint, whipped cream or pudding. As children get older, they can use thin tools like paintbrushes to develop more control over strokes and designs. You can also encourage your kids to engage in two-handed tasks, such as holding a palette of paints in one hand while painting a canvas with the other.

3. Make a meal

If they’re old enough, invite your kids in the kitchen to help prepare and serve a meal. Have them cut vegetables with a plastic knife, which encourages the use of bi-lateral skills. You can also ask them to spoon butter onto the potatoes or serve the broccoli. If your children are too young to handle dinnertime, have them “prepare” pretend food made with play-doh.

4. Invest in a playset

Playsets allow children to climb and strengthen their muscles. The more they play, the more coordination and agility they develop. On a playset, children can learn to respond to several signals at once. Take a swing, for example, where you must use multiple muscles to move. Your kids will also get to practice simple tasks like climbing platforms and maneuvering through monkey bars.

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5. Host an art contest

Coloring, finger painting, and shaping play-doh are all great ways to develop fine motor skills. Encourage your kids to create by hosting an impromptu art contest. Who can make the silliest creation? Who can finish in the least amount of time? Try to make the event exciting and fun instead of competitive. The goal is to have a good time, which allows everyone to win.

6. Learn to fold origami

Origami is a fun, creative activity that people of all ages can enjoy. Plus, cutting paper is great for developing fine motor skills because it helps build control. For the youngsters, start with paper snowflakes. You can also try making paper chains with a stapler. For older kids, try origami without the scissors. Some easy projects include a folded dog, fish or cat. If you want to challenge yourself, even more, try your hand at the infamous crane.

7. Build a scarecrow

Buttoning and tying are both critical skills to develop. We all button our shirts and pants and tie our shoelaces. To make the activity more fun, ask your kids if they want to build a scarecrow. Start by picking out the perfect outfit — perhaps a straw hat, plaid shirt, old blue jeans, and sneakers? Don’t forget to give your new creation a name.

8. Plan a rice race

This game is fun for kids and adults alike. To start, you’ll need an empty container. You’ll also need a bowl for each player. Fill each bowl will an equal amount of rice, measuring with a quarter-cup. Each player gets a pair of tweezers and a bowl of rice. The object of the game is to move the rice grain-by-grain into the empty container. The first person to empty their bowl wins.

9. Head to the garden

If the temperature is right, why not head outside to spend some quality time in the garden? Kids can establish fine motor skills by transferring seedlings into the ground. If they dig a hole with a trowel, they will work on their grasp. They use the pincer grip when dropping a bulb into a newly-dug hole. Plus, they can learn the names of the different plants and insects.

10. Create a collage

Cutting paper, as discussed above with origami, is an excellent way to develop control. Put this skill to the test — along with others — by getting your child involved in a collage project. Allow your kids to cut out whatever they desire and paste it into an entirely new creation using magazines, newspapers, old photos and more. Not only will kids get to develop fine motor cognition further, but they can also practice creative and artistic abilities.

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The bottom line

As your child grows, fine motor skills develop in a series of milestones. From drawing rudimentary shapes to tying laces and copying the alphabet, you can witness your child grow and learn. If you want to help your kids with their fine motor skills, follow the 10 tips above.


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When my daughter was young, I used to dread the transition from her summer program to her school year program even though Elizabeth was looking forward to it! Along with the change in the New England weather from beautiful hot summer days to fall and flu season, came numerous threats to my medically fragile child’s health!

Elizabeth was blind and in a wheelchair. She didn’t speak and used a lot of medical equipment to eat and breath and well, just live. Getting ready for the school year when you have a special needs child is challenging. 

For me and so many other parents, the end of summer signaled the time when we hit the reset button on our child’s educational plan. New teachers and other school personnel come into our child’s life. There are perhaps changes in classrooms or services. Definitely, this is the time when routine’s change. It’s no wonder that this was always a time when I was anxious and losing sleep.

But I learned a lot during that time that I have turned into a back to school checklist for parents of children with special needs.

A checklist for parents of special needs children to start the new school year

As a parent and a professional who advises families every day about these issues, I wanted to give you some tips that really help start off the year with your best foot forward!

1. Review your child’s Individualized Health Plan 

It is critically important that you understand what services the school and the school district are contracted to provide to your child.

  • Does it provide for therapies?
  • Is your child entitled to a one-to-one or a nurse caregiver?
  • Who will be delivering these services?

This is the time to check the credentials of all the school personnel who will be working with your child. These people are on your team for the duration of the school year.

  • Is your physical therapist a PT Assistant or a fully licensed physical therapist?
  • Will your child be meeting with a psychologist or a school counselor?

An Individualized Health Plan (IHP) is necessary when your child requires special medical attention during the school day, such as the delivery of medication, life-threatening allergies, and special food such as G-tube feedings.

The IHP will discuss what treatments are needed when they will occur and who will administer them. If you don’t have an IHP, but feel that you should, then you need to devise one and call a meeting to discuss it.

2. Update your team with any new information about your child collected over the summer

Many families use the summertime to get new evaluations and testing done. It is a time to see specialists, have elective procedures, and try new equipment or activities.

Share any new evaluations or test results with your school team. Share summer program or camp notes too. Let them know what your child has accomplished or if there has been any loss of skills. This can happen over the summer when routines change.

It is difficult for parents to feel open about sharing information with their school or school district. They don’t always feel that they are heard and sometimes the relationship is adversarial. 

It is in your child’s best interest to always have this information in their record. Even if your team ignores the information provided, at least you have come to the table with open communication. Plus, if you ever need to have a formal proceeding to advocate for your child, this will make a positive statement for your case.

School personnel often feel uncomfortable when they think they don’t have all the information. Schedule small and less formal meetings with key staff such as the teacher and the nurse, to put everybody at ease. Open those lines of communication early!

3. Tour the school and the grounds

If you are changing placement, or just changing classrooms, tour the school or the grounds to get familiar with the setting. Look for any hidden obstacles for your child and discuss mobility issues, proximity to the nurse, and any classroom spacing issues that need to be considered. Also, do you have medicine coming in with your child every day or special food or allergy considerations?

What are the emergency procedures for the school and for your child in case of emergency or crisis? When my daughter was in a new school, I would always speak with the emergency response team in the area to be sure they had all of the pertinent information about her.

4. Communicate and communicate some more

What will your ongoing communication system look like with your team at school? Many parents favor a notebook that goes back and forth from school to home. Some set up interim telephone calls. Make a list of phone numbers to call if one is not provided to you including teachers, nurses, and therapists. Make sure you know the proper procedure for classroom visits and check-ins. Many schools say they have an open-door policy, yet there are many concerns about school safety that need to be balanced as well.

5. When All Else Fails…

Ask for a meeting to discuss your concerns. It can be a formal TEAM meeting, which you have the right to ask for at any time, or it can be an informal meeting with the teacher, the administrator, or the nurse.

Formal meetings can be very emotionally charged! Bring your spouse or a friend with you to take notes and be a support. As a last resort, you can hire an advocate or an attorney to speak for you and your child. 

Ultimately, the most important issue is to be prepared, start early and advocate, advocate, advocate. I found it challenging to find school staff that would accept my daughter and stop focusing on the liability of caring for her and providing services to her. They could not look past all of her medical issues and see the little girl sitting there in her wheelchair just aching to have a great school year.

Most days it was heartbreaking, but with good advocacy and preparation, I could put folks at ease and bring them to acceptance and comfort so that she could have a good experience – and I hope that you can too!

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When someone you love suffers from an addiction, it can tear you apart. What’s more, the mere presence of the addiction completely removes your ability to communicate honestly. Being married to an alcoholic spouse is even worse. There are so many feelings involved. And, the people you love have the power to hurt you more than anyone else in your life.

Living with an alcoholic is traumatic. You’re affected from the time you wake up in the morning to the time you go to sleep at night. Still, when you know how to deal with your alcoholic spouse, life can become better. In fact, it may even lead to your spouse getting the help that’s needed to recover.

With that in mind, here are seven tips that you must read, review, and remember to help you cope with your alcoholic spouse.

1. Remember that severe alcoholism is a disease

It is very hard to believe that your spouse is no longer making an active choice to drink. However, when someone is an alcoholic, the choice to drink is no longer within their control, at least to some extent.

When problem drinking becomes severe, it is given the diagnosis of alcohol use disorder(AUD). It is considered to be a chronic relapsing brain disorder. It is characterized by the inability to stop or even cut back on heavy alcohol use even if there are adverse social, work, or health consequences.[1]

In order to fully understand this, it can be helpful to think of the way that you think of any other disease, such as cancer, heart disease, or a serious mental illness. Like those diseases, addiction is a complex disease process with biological, psychological, social, and environmental components.[2]

It is possible to make a choice to recover from alcoholism, particularly with treatment. In fact, according to a 2019 study on AUD, a quarter of individuals achieved either abstinent recovery (not drinking alcohol at all) or non-abstinent recovery (defined as asymptomatic low-risk drinking) without the benefit of treatment. However, a much greater percentage were able to stop drinking (43.2%) or cut back significantly (12.3%) if they received treatment.[3]

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than a third of U.S. adults who were dependent on alcohol are now in full recovery. So, recovery is possible as long as your spouse is willing. Further, that may eventually be the case, even if it isn’t right now.

However, until the individual makes the decision to deal with their drinking, the disease of AUD remains unabated.

2. Don’t become angry

Your instinct is to respond to your spouse with anger when you know he or she has been drinking. It becomes tiring to cope with the stress. At times, it may even become unbearable.

Even so, maintain a sense of peace and patience. It may help to find a friend you can vent to about your anger. However, try to avoid targeting your spouse with those feelings. It may help to continually remind yourself that what you’re really angry at is the disease, not your spouse.

Remember, a good temper is much more likely to have a positive effect on your spouse in the long run. What you really want to accomplish is recovery from the disease of alcoholism. Maintaining a positive attitude, even if you eventually have to leave your spouse, is the best way to achieve that.

3. Focus on yourself

If you allow it to, your spouse’s alcoholism will take over your life. In fact, in a 2013 study by the University of Buffalo in New York and supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, it was found that 50% of all marriages that involve one alcoholic spouse end in divorce.

There is nothing you can do to change your spouse’s alcoholism. That type of change has to come from within him or her.

However, what you can do is make sure you’re taking good care of yourself. Invest in your relationships with other people, with your children, and with your extended family members. Treat yourself to something you enjoy on occasion in order to give yourself a break from the turmoil at home. For instance, get a pedicure or enjoy a night out at the movies with friends. Doing these things will give you the stamina and resolve you need during this difficult time.

4. Have a simple, honest discussion but do it the right way

It’s good to talk about how your spouse’s alcoholism is affecting you, and your marriage, but make sure you choose your words carefully.

Statements that begin with “You always…” or “You make it hard to…” are only going to make your spouse defensive. Instead, choose “I” statements to convey how you feel, such as, “I’m having a difficult time sleeping at night because of the late nights you’re keeping.” Be gentle, but be firm in your statements. Above all, don’t become angry or accusing.

5. Don’t enable your alcoholic spouse or try to prevent consequences

One of the mistakes many people make is enabling their alcoholic spouses or trying to prevent consequences from occurring. This does nothing to solve the problem. Instead, it only prevents your spouse from experiencing the results of his or her actions that could eventually lead to recovery.

6. Allow your spouse to explain his or her life choices to others

Your spouse may ask you to lie for him or her or try to cover up a bad choice involving alcohol. Politely decline to do so. Remember that it is not your job to shed a good light on your spouse. Refusing to do so forces him or her to take responsibility. This may lead to a quicker recovery.

7. If your alcoholic spouse is interested in getting professional help, encourage this to happen quickly

Eventually, your spouse may come to you and express an interest in recovery. This is the time to encourage him or her to do so. You can provide website links or phone numbers to help. It is important to act fast because the determination to get help can fade as quickly as it appeared.

The bottom line when it comes to coping with an alcoholic spouse

Living with an alcoholic spouse might be one of the biggest challenges you’ve ever undertaken. However, if you follow these tips, you’ll find that you may be able to cope better.

  • remember that alcoholism is a disease
  • keep your anger at bay
  • focus on yourself
  • discuss the problem calmly, honestly, and rationally
  • don’t enable
  • act quickly when professional help is sought,

Are you living with an alcoholic spouse? What tips or advice would you give someone who is going through this experience right now?


  1. Alcohol use disorder. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Accessed 12/12/20
  2. Kimball T. Is Cancer A Moral Failing? What About Addiction? The Doctor Weighs In 2020 June 14.
  3. Fan AZ, Sanchen PC, Zhang H et al. Prevalence and Correlates of Past-Year Recovery   From DSM-5 Alcohol Use Disorder: Results From National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III. Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 2019 Nov;43(11):2406-2420. DOI 10.1111/acer.14192.>

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This story was first published Nov. 12, 2016, it has been updated for republication.

When most adults think of exercise, it usually involves working out in a gym, going to a class or lifting weights at home. For kids, however, getting exercise means being physically active while playing and having fun. Children love outside activities like running around playing tag, jumping rope with their friends, and going for walks with their parents.

Today, children and teenagers are, unfortunately, spending more sedentary time indoors than ever before. And, most of this time is spent in front of a screen. This sedentary lifestyle may contribute to childhood obesity and other lifelong health issues. Helping children internalize the importance of physical activity as a path to lifelong health and fitness is extremely important.

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So, how do you make sure your child is spending a healthy amount of time outside being physically active? Below are some fun activities that both children and parents can enjoy together!

games children

This graphic is very clever but also a bit misleading. Most sources recommend having 10 instead of 9 squares in a game of hopscotch! (see below). Graphic source: Adobe Stock Photos


Children all over the world have played this simple game, or something very similar to it, for decades! To play this game, draw a traditional hopscotch diagram like the one shown below, using sidewalk chalk or washable paint.

Number the squares from one to ten. Throw a pebble, twig or bean bag into the Outside Activities for Childrenfirst square. If this lands on a line, or outside of the intended square, you lose your turn. If this happens, pass the marker to the next player. Hop on one foot into the first empty space, and then each next numbered space, making sure to skip the number that the marker is on. At the 4-5, 7-8 and 10 markers, jump with both of your feet! When you get to the end, head back toward the start, pick up the marker- still on one foot!- and complete the course.

If you finish the course without making any mistakes you pass the marker to the next player. On your next turn, throw the marker to the next number. If you fall, jump outside the lines, miss a square with the marker or skip a number, you lose your turn and must repeat the same number on your next turn. Whoever reaches 10 first, wins!

“Red Light, Green Light

With enough room, this is the perfect game to play outside. To play this game, pick one person to be the “traffic light” at one end of the playing field. All the other players are sent to the opposite end. The traffic light turns their back on the rest of the group. When they yell “RED light” everyone must freeze where they are. When “GREEN light” is yelled, everyone in the group runs as fast as they can to reach the end of the field, before the traffic light yells to stop again. If anyone is spotted moving after the red light is called, they are sent back to the starting place. The first person to tag the traffic light wins, and gets to be the next traffic light.

Dodge Ball

Any game that involves throwing a ball at opponents, and being the smart one by dodging incoming objects, certainly screams “Teenage fun!” The objective of this game is to eliminate all players on the opposite team by hitting them below the waist with the ball. If you are tagged, or if a ball you threw is caught, you are “out.” You are then are sent to the sidelines. You can also be tagged “out” when you step into a designated dead-zone. Or, if you step over the boundary line between the two teams. You win when all the opposite team members are eliminated. You can also win if you have more players than the opposing team at the end of a timed 2-minute game.

Freeze Tag

This is a variation of original Tag where if the person who is “it” tags you, you must freeze in place. Another participant can tag you to unfreeze you, but they do so at the risk of being tagged themselves! This game can be played for hours and everyone involved has a good chance of being “it” at least once.

Scavenger Hunts

You can find all sorts of backyard scavenger hunt checklists online. However, making your own has several benefits. If you create your own, you can customize it to your own backyard and make it so that all ages can play. You are teaching the children to be creative and learn how to problem-solve.

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Other simple and free ways to keep children active

  • Skipping rocks at a nearby lake or pond
  • Rolling down a grassy hill
  • Finding the perfect climbing tree
  • Swimming or just playing in the water
  • Jumping rope
  • Riding a bike
  • Studying the ecosystem under a stepping stone
  • Setting up the game of Twister outside
  • Having a contest to see who can Hula Hoop the longest
  • Checking out your local Frisbee park
  • Walking the dog or riding a horse
  • Hiking with parents or friends
  • Playing sports with friends (soccer, softball)

This list could go on and on. There are so many different ways for kids to be active while having fun.

Related stories: Why Recess is So Important for Children

At least an hour a day

In the United States, both the C.D.C. and the American Heart Association recommend that healthy children participate in at least an hour of vigorous activity every day, preferably outside.

This can work to prevent heart disease, cancer, chronic disease, and obesity. Getting your children to play outside isn’t just for fun, it’s good for their growing bodies and minds.

By encouraging your children to spend time outside every day, moving and staying active, you are cultivating a love of exercise that will hopefully carry them well into their teenage years, as well as into adulthood!

 For more helpful tips and ideas to get your children active, check out this Ultimate Guide to Exercise for Children in School and at Home from Maryville University.

This previously published post has been updated and reformatted for republication.


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Pets and bullying are two topics one would not think to put together, but the fact is, pets can help play a major role in reducing bullying amongst kids. Interaction with animals, ranging from dogs, cats, horses, and even lizards and goldfish, has been shown to have a positive therapeutic effect on adults that increases both happiness and healing. Helping children was the next logical step in exploring the benefits of interaction between pets and humans. So, how do pets assist when bullying rears its ugly head?

Pet therapy

The therapeutic value of pets has long been known. Pets are used for therapy for a variety of conditions. They have also been found to bring comfort to people at the end-of-life. Wounded veterans and those suffering from PTSD have seen an easing of their symptoms related to pet therapy.

Programs that bring pets into prisons have reported improvements in the behavior of inmates exposed to the pets. They have a calming, relaxing effect on people because they release a hormone in the brain called oxytocin. This hormone is associated with feeling good and thinking positively. They relax people and make them feel more comfortable, and thus more willing to open up.

Pets and children

Children have a special relationship with pets. They are just learning about the world and they are often fascinated when they are responded to by a pet. It also gives them a sense of empowerment to care for another living being. This, in turn, manifests as compassion toward other people.

Children seem to make a transition from pets to other people more easily than children who don’t have pets. They also learn about social interaction from talking to and playing with a pet. They learn the basics of what is okay and not okay to do to other people. While at the same time having an unconditional companion they can talk to and tell secrets to.

Boy hugging his dog 1500 x 1613

Photo credit: Nathan Hanna on Unsplash

Pets take over the school

As a result, schools all over the country have invited programs that bring therapeutic pets for the children to play with. The benefits to the kids who participate in these programs exhibited in significantly fewer disciplinary actions. They also demonstrated less aggressive activity from compared with kids that didn’t participate in these programs.

Grades also have been seen to improve, as discipline and responsibility are instilled from socializing with the pets. Teaching them tricks and playing with them, even for as little as an hour a week, have been shown to improve the children’s overall behavior. Furthermore, programs like this grant the benefit of bringing domesticated animals to children who don’t have pets at home, providing interactions they may not have elsewhere.

Healing wounds

Bullying has been proven to lead to depression and a variety of other mental illnesses, but taking care of a pet can offset this very strongly. By giving a bullied child someone to bond with, pets can help ease the pain of being bullied by providing understanding, love, and support.

Pets, especially dogs and cats, are also sensitive to our emotions and tend to react accordingly. What better to have if being bullied than a compassionate friend that wants to make us happy? Children also talk to their pets. And this is a therapeutic way of coping with their emotions, which has the dual benefit of helping work out feelings and providing positive social interaction. This can prevent your child from being a bully!

Related Content: Scientific Reasons Why Keeping Fish Helps Prevent Loneliness

Dogs teach diversity

Dogs come in all sizes and shapes: large and small, hairy, hairless, long-snouted, flat-faced, big, floppy ears, and tiny pointed ears, to name a few. No matter what, they are all dogs and can be related to the same way. It doesn’t matter if the dog is a Labrador, a terrier, a poodle, or a chihuahua, dogs are dogs and children accept this.

Learning to accept this trait about dogs can help children associate it with humans. Horses and cats come in different colors, but dogs come in different shapes. When children see friendly dogs of different breeds interacting with each other and themselves, they apply that to their own interactions.

boy with trained-service-dog 1267 x 845The bottom line

Pets seem to have the infectious effect of making us happy because they evoke our compassion. This makes us feel good. There are many ways this can help children learn to interact with one another and adults.  But they can be especially useful in teaching kids to interact without being aggressive or violent toward one another.

Your pet gives back more to your family than is obvious, in the form of companionship, bonding, and unconditional love, all of which provide a strong shield against bullying.


First published on 4/18/17, this post has been updated for republication.

Did you ever think you’d end up being a human pin cushion science experiment? No? Well, neither did I until it seemed like it would be the only way I’d ever be a mom. So like the other 7.3 million American women and every 1 in 8 couples, my husband and I embarked on the IVF destination on our already bumpy infertility road.

As a sequential person, the IVF process seemed easy enough. Five steps: stimulation of ovaries through multiple medications, egg retrieval of ovaries, fertilization of eggs, embryo maturation, and the transfer of the embryo to the uterus. 

Even after reviewing the timeline of the steps that would come to be my guide, I wasn’t intimidated. The process seemed like a welcomed progression of knowing what was next after our ordeal through the broken foster care system where we had attempted to adopt.

A mountain of infertility medications

A mountain of medications arrived. Then my days began to consist of being poked with a needle for blood work, prodded with a speculum for an ultrasound and injected with three different medicines each night.

Each night, after rereading the directions for each medication and making sure he had the right needle, my husband would go through the draining process of injecting me. We were encouraged as it seemed my ovaries were successfully responding.

Finally, after four years of trying, we got 15 eggs from our first egg retrieval. We were elated. But most of the embryos fizzled out overnight. We, then, had to go through a two-day embryo transfer instead of a five-day blastocyst. Never had I researched embryos so much in my life.

The second round of IVF 

Did you know on the average only 25% of embryos actually go on to develop and become kids? Neither did I. So after our failed first attempt, we continued on with the second round of IVF. We had to go through the whole process again as we did not have any high-quality embryos to freeze.

Related content: What It Is And When Should It Be Considered

This time my specialists were armed with more knowledge of my body. This led to a change in the stimulation protocol. Because I have a retroverted uterus, they also used a different tube and twisted my cervix for the embryo transfer.

The result…a pregnancy, finally! Unfortunately, at six weeks, my HCG levels were not developing at a high enough level. Again, I found myself turning to the internet for answers. They saw a sac on the ultrasound but sadly it was empty. I had a blighted ovum which meant my body knew the embryo was chromosomally abnormal and miscarried the pregnancy.

To say it was devastating is a gross understatement. We were back at the starting line after four years of trying to conceive that included two surgeries: one for my coconut sized uterine fibroid tumor and one for my husband’s varicocele—large veins in the testicles. We also had a failed attempt to foster to adopt two little girls. And now, there were two failed rounds of IVF—the last one resulting in a miscarriage with a dilation and curettage (D&C) to remove the cells). We have one frozen embryo left to transfer and then our journey with IVF will be over. We will then explore international adoption.

The emotional and dollar cost of infertility treatments

Now, like every other portion of this bumpy road, we wait, attempt to get our hopes up and learn the steps for the next part of the process. Our next and unexplored step will be the Frozen Cycle Embryo thaw. This means that instead of going through the entire ovary stimulation process, I now have to wait for my period.

Once I get my period, I will take estrogen pills for two weeks, have an ultrasound, and then wait to determine the quality of my thawed embryo. Of course, after I pay the $1,200 fee [Editor’s note: the fees in this story are 2016 dollars) to get my embryo thawed.

Even though we have met our out-of-pocket deductible and have good insurance, that fee is non-negotiable. From what I was told, no insurance covers that fee. It just seems silly to have to pay to get your own embryo back.

Even with quality insurance, we have had to pay deposits of $1,500 for the first round, $700 for the second round, $1,200 for this thawed embryo, and $30 every 2-3 times we go to the fertility center. When you’re getting bloodwork at least 3 times a week, that’s at least $360 a month.

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The bumpy journey on our infertility journey

This infertility road we were thrust on has cost us so much emotionally, physically, and financially. It is truly indescribable the emotions that you feel when your body cannot produce something so natural as a baby.

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The only thing that has helped us on this journey has been the support from amazing people like you and our fertility center who navigated this road with us. To read our full story from both our perspectives hearing our honest candor as we traveled along the bumpy road of infertility. Check out our book: “Navigating the Road of Infertility.

This story was first published 11/17/16. It has been edited and reformatted for improved readability. It is being republished on 11/25/19 in honor of the 41st Anniversary of the birth of the first test-tube baby, Louise Brown.

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Intrauterine Insemination: Is It the Right Fertility Procedure for You?
IVF: What is it and When Should It Be Considered?
41 Advances in the Infertility Field In 41 Years



As children enter their teenage years, the desire to rebel is ubiquitous almost to the point of cliché. But what about those young people with chronic diseases whose burgeoning independence heralds a new era in their medical management?

Parents and carers who are used to helping their children manage their health conditions can find it difficult to step back. They find it hard to allow young people to find their own ways of managing their conditions – and making their own mistakes.

Case studies of teens living with chronic illness

  • Adam

A recent case study followed Adam [mfn]Transition from pediatric to adult-oriented health care: a challenge for patients with chronic disease Callahan, S. Todd MD; Winitzer, Rebecca Feinstein MS, MSW; Keenan, Peter RN, MS, PNP Current Opinion in Pediatrics: August 2001 – Volume 13 – Issue 4 – p 310-316 Adolescent medicine[/mfn], a type 1 diabetic who’d been managing his blood sugar monitoring and insulin regime with increasing independence since he was at primary school. In his teens, he began regularly attending his local A&E department with life-threatening diabetic ketoacidosis, requiring admission to ICU on three occasions in the months after his 15th birthday.

He was quiet and withdrawn at appointments with his consultant and barely spoke to his parents. His specialists knew that he was aware of the risks of poor management. And that he was very capable of looking after his diabetes, yet he continued regularly becoming seriously ill.

  • James

James’ case highlights the impact of chronic illness on teenagers, and the fine line between self-neglect, rebellion, and deliberate self-harm in adolescents who manage their own long-term conditions. External influences weighed heavily on James. In this case, wanting to be like his friends.  In particular, he starting drinking alcohol and finding himself unable to manage his blood sugars. And so in frustration gave up on his insulin regime. This is typical, almost unavoidable, and requires understanding and careful management. 

Teens and chronic Illness 

Chronic illness can refer to a wide spectrum of needs ranging from profound learning disability, total physical care needs and communication difficulties all the way through to people with less serious problems.  Less serious illnesses, such as eczema or allergies, still require good management practices and can have a significant impact on general wellbeing.

The level of input people with chronic conditions requires varies widely, but there are some issues common to almost all adolescents with long-term conditions. There are, however, some people who may never be able to take any control of their condition or care needs.  

Growing up with chronic illness

Teenagers with health needs requiring regular input from specialists are likely to be transferred at some point from pediatric to adult services.  This may mean that they will be expected to have a higher degree of self-management, to engage independently with services, and to advocate for themselves when they meet barriers.

The close families of these young people are in a unique position. They can help equip their teens for their future self-management, and get them through the often-difficult adolescent years, promoting independence without mutiny.

Some areas have trialed specific transitional clinics designed to ensure a straightforward switch between pediatric and adult services[i].

Addressing barriers to chronic illness management for teens

  • Fitting in

Teens want to be like their friends but they also want to be unique. They don’t have to be subject to pressure from their peers to want to fit in. They get that from within.

Any engagement with external influences can give a glimpse of a different, more desirable lifestyle. And, it’s rare that a leading role in movies or television series will be someone with a disability or chronic healthcare needs. How idyllic are the lives of TV characters who are never shown injecting themselves with insulin, discretely managing their stoma or missing parties at venues without ramps or elevators?

  • Body image

At a time of physical changes, of increasing variation from person to person, and emerging awareness of sexuality and appearance, most young people will struggle with self-image at some point. This can be particularly problematic in people with chronic health conditions, and not just those affecting their physical appearance. Family support is important, but the influence of peers, media, and societal attitudes to health and appearance are profound and need to be addressed both at home and in a wider context.

  • Risky behavior

The teenage years are well-known to be the time when people experiment with previously forbidden behaviors. This is the time when people start having sex, smoking, drinking alcohol or taking illicit drugs.  And this seems to be even more prevalent in teenagers with chronic conditions.[mfn]Health Risk Behaviors in Adolescents With Chronic Conditions Joan-Carles Surís, Pierre-André Michaud, Christina Akre, Susan M. Sawyer Pediatrics Nov 2008, 122 (5) e1113-e1118; https://doi.org10.1542/peds.2008-1479[/mfn]

Some conditions may even reduce the teenagers’ ability to assess risk or might mean that they feel indifferent to risks to their health. In addition, some medications can be affected by the use of illicit drugs or alcohol. This can place them more at risk of significant problems caused by drug interactions.

Mitigating these kinds of risks requires a multi-agency approach. A cohesive front at home, school, and any specialist services promoting an atmosphere of openness, safety, and responding without judgment or criticism.

  • Shifting responsibility

This is the time when many young people have to become independent with their medical routine. When they were very young it was easy to advise them, to make sure they used their inhalers, applied their creams, took their tablets.

Now they have bodily autonomy, and they might not want to involve their parents when they’re having symptoms. And they may not want to admit that they are struggling to fully manage their condition themselves.

Starting early, where possible, can have good results.  Even from a fairly young age, many children can take a degree of ownership over their condition and treatment, meaning a smoother transition to greater independence.

  • Bullying

Teenagers can be CRUEL. Children can be cruel. Adults can also be cruel but they’ve usually learned to hide it at least a little.

Physical or face-to-face abuse is nothing new, and it can be horrific and difficult to deal with. Institutions such as schools and care settings will have a lot of experience with bullying and should have robust measures in place to address these issues.

However, teenagers now have more avenues for cruelty and bullying than ever before. With the relative anonymity of social media, cyberbullying allows for some extremely nasty behavior. The flip side of this is that people with chronic conditions and people experiencing bullying have access to a huge network of people in similar positions, and support can come thick and fast.

Related Content:  Helping Your Child Deal With Bullies: What You Can Do

  • Gender differences

People’s likelihood to access healthcare has historically been gender-related. Broadly, and with due respect to shifting attitudes towards historic gender roles, women go to see their doctor more than men do.

Traditionally they more likely need to access medical services because of the burden of contraception, pregnancy, and birth. In addition to more likely being the main carer for young children and so attend child health checks. Women have been simply more used to routinely accessing healthcare.

This has led to some discrepancies between men and women accessing services[mfn]Doyal, L., Payne, S. and Cameron, A. (2003) Promoting gender equality in health, Working Paper 11, Manchester: Equal Opportunities Commission[/mfn], which may influence any young person in a household. Add to this a continued, though hopefully changing, pressure particularly on boys and men to be ‘strong’ and not show perceived weakness. 

Thus, we have the perfect conditions for teenage boys to hide or revolt against their medical needs. In contrast to this, though, some studies have found teenage boys with chronic conditions to have objectively higher expectations for their physical fitness. Girls, on the other hand, seemingly adapt more around their condition[mfn]Williams, C. (2000) Doing health, doing gender: teenagers, diabetes and asthma Social Science & Medicine Volume 50, Issue 3, February 2000, Pages 387-396[/mfn] –this too could influence individual teens’ access to healthcare.

The bottom line

The effect of a supportive, understanding parenting and family approach in promoting health in young people and not just those with chronic health conditions, is paramount. Allowing teenagers to develop essential autonomy while overseeing the management of their health needs can be tricky.

It can be particularly hard for parents to relinquish control when they’ve always taken charge of their children’s health and care needs. The very time when young people may be able to learn to manage their chronic conditions coincides with the period in their lives with the most hormonal, emotional and physical upheaval[mfn]Yeo, M and Sawyer, S. (2005) Chronic illness and disability BMJ; 330: 721[/mfn].

The natural changes of adolescence impact heavily on chronic condition management and vice-versa – an irony, unfortunately, lost to sardonic teens.


[1] Transition from pediatric to adult-oriented health care: a challenge for patients with chronic disease Callahan, S. Todd MD; Winitzer, Rebecca Feinstein MS, MSW; Keenan, Peter RN, MS, PNP Current Opinion in Pediatrics: August 2001 – Volume 13 – Issue 4 – p 310-316 Adolescent medicine

[2] Health Risk Behaviors in Adolescents With Chronic Conditions Joan-Carles Surís, Pierre-André Michaud, Christina Akre, Susan M. Sawyer Pediatrics Nov 2008, 122 (5) e1113-e1118; https://doi.org10.1542/peds.2008-1479

[3] Doyal, L., Payne, S. and Cameron, A. (2003) Promoting gender equality in health, Working Paper 11, Manchester: Equal Opportunities Commission

[4] Williams, C. (2000) Doing health, doing gender: teenagers, diabetes and asthma Social Science & Medicine Volume 50, Issue 3, February 2000, Pages 387-396

[5] Yeo, M and Sawyer, S. (2005) Chronic illness and disability BMJ; 330 :721




With the prevalence of mental health issues in our society, it’s astounding that we still tend to stigmatize mental illness. Many mental health misconceptions still exist.

Mental health issues often begin during the school-age years. It follows, therefore, that education about mental health should to also start at an early age. Because children spend so much of their daily life at school, mental health education logically should begin in schools.

Some facts about mental illness

Millions of people globally are affected by mental illness. In America, an estimated one in five adults experiences mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in five children in the U.S. currently have, or at some stage have had, a debilitating mental illness. Fifty percent of mental illness begins by the age of 14, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Depression is on the rise

Mental illness, particularly depression, is predicted to become one of the major health burdens in the future. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Over 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression.

As childhood and adolescent mental health disorders are so common, it’s baffling that we are not equipping our children with an understanding of mental health.

Undiagnosed, inadequately treated or untreated mental illness can seriously affect their ability to learn and grow. It can lead to negative coping mechanisms and at worst, may result in suicide.

Opportunities for mental health education in schools

The breaking down of stigma and misconceptions about mental illness has to start in schools. School is where friendships begin. It is where teens hone their sense of self-worth.

It’s also the place where children need to learn that their behavior towards others can cause serious self-worth issues. Many students experience conflicts, bullying and social exclusion at school.

Alex Crotty was only eleven when she started feeling miserable all the time. She felt disconnected from other children and empty. She suffered alone and even switched schools, but that did not help. It was only when she was 14 that she told her mother what was going on.

She was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety and was able to receive treatment. Her story reveals the difficulty young people experience when it comes to speaking out about their depression or anxiety.

Anxiety symptoms in children are often minimized or ignored

In the school environment, children face many challenges. Some are better at managing these than others.

Many children feel anxious, ranging from mild symptoms to more severe forms, such as panic attacks. When these symptoms are ignored, they can lead to depression, lack of performance and increased risk of substance abuse.

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The teen suicide epidemic

The Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” is currently in its second season. Teenager Hannah Baker is a victim of gossip, bullying, rape and body shaming. She commits suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes explaining why.

The show has many detractors, including health awareness professionals and parents who believe that it offers very little insight into the psychology of suicide. They believe it highlights just how bad things can get and how cruel teenagers can be and may even contribute to new ways for teens to think about suicide.

All of these criticisms may be fair, but the show has certainly provoked dialogue about the epidemic of teenage suicide, a very real problem. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24 in the U.S.

The influence of social media on mental health

Current research indicates a possible connection between increased social media use and mental health although it’s still unclear exactly how they are connected. What is clear is that young adults are the most active users.

Some studies show that online connections to small groups of people may be beneficial, while other research indicates a connection with anxiety, depression and eating disorders. With no long-term studies having been completed, we are still largely guessing at its influence.

The upside of social media is that teens are hardwired to socialize, and social media makes it easy and immediate. Teens in marginalized groups may find it easier to make friends and find support.

The downside of social media is that those using social media may be faced with many negatives such as toxic comparisons, cyberbullying and less face-to-face interactions. Someone’s reputation can be destroyed in minutes and face the consequences for years.

The importance of early intervention

Family, friends, teachers, and individuals themselves often notice small changes in thinking and behavior before a mental illness appears in the full-blown form. Learning about early warning signs, and taking action can help.

It can reduce the severity of the illness, and it may even be possible to prevent or delay the development of a major mental illness. Some of these signs are apathy, feelings of disconnection, nervousness, unusual behavior, withdrawal, mood changes and a drop in performance.


Mental health awareness in schools

In an article written by Nancy Barile, M.A.Ed. on the importance of mental health awareness in schools, she relates how she noticed some drastic changes in one of her students over a short period of time.

The student no longer did her homework, and she would come to school in the same clothes, although she’d previously been meticulous about her appearance. She was withdrawn and distant when Barile tried to speak to her.

Barile had some training in mental health issues and recognized that the student was in trouble. Social workers on the staff were able to speak to the student and found that she was depressed, suicidal and in need of immediate psychiatric intervention.

She was admitted to the hospital for a short while, given medication and therapy and managed to graduate with her class.

Mental health education should be part of the curriculum

We need to be working towards a school environment where students are able to recognize when they’re dealing with mental health issues and feel they can ask for help.

79% of British parents feel that mental health education should be a part of the curriculum in schools. Across the globe, parents understand the need for mental health education for children. With 50% of mental health conditions developing in children of age 14 or below, the support for the cause is growing rapidly.

Adding mental health education to the curriculum

Open lines of communication between home and school should exist where parents are able to share their concerns about their children and collaborate with teachers to address them.

Just as physical education is part of the curriculum in schools, mental health awareness and education should be too. Our children spend most of their day at school. We need to empower them with knowledge about mental illness.

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Progress is being made

A growing number of schools are beginning to realize the importance of mental health education. They are working to create an environment where mental health issues are recognized and support is offered.

School-employed mental health professionals work with teachers to provide support and with parents to better understand students’ needs and implement appropriate support.

In July 2018, New York became the first state in the U.S. to require mental health education for all students. The School Mental Health program will promote the healthy emotional, social, and behavioral development of all the students. 

It will also take into account the general well-being of school staff and families, and collaborate with other student support and services. Mental health needs will be assessed, and access will be provided to mental health services and programs.

What do we know about the effectiveness of these programs?

As reported in US News and World Report, a few small studies have found “that teaching high school students about mental health improved their attitudes toward treatment, increased willingness to seek help from a counselor and boosted their overall mental health literacy.” There is a pressing need for more studies to determine programs’ effectiveness and identify ways to improve them.

Mental health education is not yet mandatory in schools. Until it is, teachers and administrators need to help shine the light on the concept of self-care. And, they need to emphasize the fact that mental health is an integral part of health.


A cultural shift in attitudes about mental health needs to start with the young. The only way they’re going to understand more about mental health and stop stigmatizing is if they receive the necessary education.

Schools need to foster an environment in schools where mental health issues can be identified and addressed without being stigmatized. Awareness should be raised about mental health crises, such as self-harm, substance abuse, eating disorders and other negative coping behavior needs to be created.

If everyone in schools is empowered with knowledge, and dialogue is encouraged, students will have the freedom to open up about what they are going through. This will allow them to get the support they need before it’s too late.

Making mental health education a mandatory part of the school curriculum is long overdue. 

Technological innovations provide us with valuable tools that improve our productivity and access to knowledge on a daily basis. School-aged children are benefiting from living in an age of information, where everything that you could ever want to know is available at your fingertips.

Computers, tablets, and smartphones are ever present, offering not only information but also endless entertainment. Finding the right balance between screen time and life in the “real world” is a true balancing act for parents who want their children to be tech-savvy but also have an appreciation for the world around them and a foundation in exercise and the arts.

Television and video games are as enticing to children as ever before and can be played on nearly every smartphone. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, it was found that three-quarters of all teens have their own smartphone.

If left to their own devices, it is possible that parents may rarely have a face-to-face conversation with a child. Although screen time may be a very useful tool in our child’s classroom, limiting screen time outside of education will likely be met with some pushback due to the prevalence of the devices.

Technology is changing the way our childern live

Technology is changing the way our children live in dramatic ways. Two generations prior saw the development of the atomic bomb, color television, and treatments for a number of different diseases.

The younger generation now has access to the deepest reaches of the internet, where many different kinds of software and apps help to make tasks easier for the user. Still, dangers lurk around many corners in the digital frontier, requiring parents to be vigilant in a space where they may not have complete access to what their children do.

Spell check on our word processors and autocorrect on our smartphones has decreased our ability to spell many words on our own. As technology continues to advance to include voice dictation that enables students to no longer have to type their own papers, it could backfire on our younger generation.

What about 10 years from now: Will parents wonder if 3D printing and driverless cars make lives better or will our children just become spoiled and lazy?

Technology addiction

The more that we rely on technology, the easier it is to lose some of the skills associated with the tasks that apps, software and artificial intelligence take on for us.

Take notice of how much time your child is spending with a screen in front of their face to assess if their reliance on technology has become an addiction issue that needs to be addressed. The University of Michigan identified warning signs of media addiction and are as follows:

  • Unsuccessful control and restraint against social media use
  • Loss of interest in things off-screen
  • Preoccupation with devices
  • Psychosocial consequences
  • Withdrawals inward, lower tolerance and deception

Hazards and Consequences

Smartphone usage is at an all-time high, and kids are spending more and more time on their cellular devices. Mobile web usage is increasing dramatically. Creating new sites that are mobile friendly is now a must and no longer a second thought to web designers.

As a result, many people, including children, are complaining of neck pain from hunching over their screens to scroll the infinite number of websites available to them. Ergonomics are rarely taught in schools, or even offices, meaning few know how to deal with these emerging problems.

In addition to neck pain, excessive screen time can also cause strain on other parts of the body including fingers, wrists, and back. There is also evidence of narrowing of blood vessels in the eye as a result of too much blue-light exposure.

It is not only causing physical harm, but it also ricochets into other aspects of their lives as well, such as their academic work. According to The American Journal of Family Therapy, hours of daily screen time is linked to an average full-grade-level drop in a student’s GPA.

Consider limiting your child’s screen time from a young age in an attempt to deter them from relying too heavily on technology. It is recommended by the Mayo Clinic that children under two years old are not exposed to backlit screens at all.

Young children and teens should be limited to one to two hours of quality content per day. It falls on parents to determine which content is best suited to development and which is simply entertainment.

Ways to Limit Screen Time

Limiting screen time can lead to changing lifestyle habits and adopting healthier ones. For some children, it is a simple solution to put down the tablet and pick up a book.

Reading can increase literacy and vocabulary, as well as provoke the imagination in similar ways that video games engage them. It can lead to an interest in writing or content creation and a greater appreciation of the arts as a whole.

For other children, limiting screen time is valuable in getting your child moving and active. Research has found that kindergartners that were allowed more than an hour of television time per day are 72 percent more likely to be obese than their classmates that had limited screen time. To eliminate the sedentary lifestyle associated with screen time, enroll them in a team sport or exercise regularly as a family.

Setting boundaries

To help your children foster a healthy relationship with technology and screen time, set boundaries revolving around the use of devices using the following techniques:

  • Prohibit the use of televisions, tablets, and smartphones during meal times, homework hours and an hour before bedtime.
  • Offer additional time as a reward or incentive for accomplishing other goals.
  • Decrease your own screen time and lead by example.

Communicating with your children about the potential distractions they will encounter, such as the lure of screens and devices, will help to establish a better understanding of healthy use habits early on in life. Try your best to emphasize minimal use when not needed for school.

Furthermore, denying your children any recreational time with their smartphones or television may only result in them wanting it even more. Establish healthy boundaries and regulate their use to best suit their wants and developmental needs.

Recess used to be an everyday occurrence — if you drove past your local school after lunch, you’d see hundreds of children running, playing and just being children. But the push toward good test scores on the state-wide standardized tests has changed that. Now, there isn’t enough time left in the day for things like play — even extracurricular programs like art, music, and drama have taken a hit and are being left out in favor of academics.

Recent studies have found that recess is important for more than just keeping children healthy and combating childhood obesity — it also helps improve cognitive skills.


Here are 4 ways that recess benefits children

1. Social Benefits

We start learning social skills as soon as we start interacting with other people. It begins with our interactions with our parents and transforms into our interactions with other children once we reach the age where we start going to daycare, kindergarten and grade school. Unstructured play, like what our children experience during recess or at the playground, helps to build and reinforce social skills in a way that can never be taught in
the classroom.

Children learn how to lead, how to compromise and how to deal with problems on the playground. They learn how to handle these situations. More simply, through play with other children their own age, their brains make connections that we as adults couldn’t hope to teach them. These skills will carry them through childhood and into their adult lives.

2. Cognitive Benefits

In addition to the social benefits offered by unstructured play, recess and unstructured play also have some cognitive benefits that are just starting to be explored. As adults, we know how important it is to take frequent breaks, especially during work. Science has shown that taking breaks helps adults to retain information better, learn new concepts faster and improve both creativity and productivity.

Just because they haven’t entered the workforce yet doesn’t mean that children don’t also benefit from these types of breaks — and science backs us up on this. Breaks from the structure of the school day are beneficial for both the body and mind, and they help segment the otherwise monotonous day, and keep children more engaged in their studies.

Recess assists in providing a break in an otherwise academically steeped and heavily scheduled day. It helps children retain the information they’re being taught while giving them a break to help them burn off some of that childhood energy we’d all kill to access again.

Sunlight is also good for mood. Just like a dark room triggers the brain to release melatonin, the sleep hormone that controls the circadian rhythm, sunlight triggers the brain to release serotonin. This hormone naturally boosts mood and helps to increase focus. You can use sunlight, weather permitting, to naturally improve the mood of your students. This information may also explain why students who are trapped indoors during winter months often have poorer moods and increased behavioral problems.

3. Behavioral Benefits

Behavior in school can be a difficult thing to manage — these little energetic humans are expected to sit still and study for six to eight hours a day — and behave properly the whole time. This pressure leads to behavioral problems that could be avoided by simply having a break during the middle of
the day — as long as there are some rules in place to prevent problems that can occur during unstructured play.

Letting kids play is great, but be sure that they are properly supervised. Don’t interfere with their play unless there’s inappropriate behavior going on, like bullying.

This unstructured play and having the ability to burn off some energy during the day isn’t just useful for neurotypical children — it can be beneficial for those with ADD or ADHD as well. Having time to move during the day can help hyperactive students concentrate during their classroom hours, enabling them to have more successful academic careers. All of that from spending half an hour playing outside after lunch or between classes.

4. Physical Benefits

Childhood obesity is a growing problem throughout our country. Currently, roughly 18.5 percent of children in the United States are considered obese. Much of this issue can be blamed on our overall sedentary lifestyle — we don’t get out and play nearly as much as we used to, preferring instead to stay indoors and play video games or waste
time on social media. However, some of it can be blamed on the lack of recess in public schools.

Recess enables kids who might normally spend their time on computers or video games at least 30 minutes a day to run, jump, play and just be kids. According to the CDC, children should get at least 60 minutes of exercise three times a week. Getting five days of recess just about meets that recommendation.

If recess is allowed, all you’ll have to do to ensure your kids get enough time outside is to get them outside a little on the weekends. Once you do, they’ll be good to go. Now that it’s summertime, get them to spend some time in the pool or at the beach to get their weekly exercise.

Related content: What is Non-Verbal Learning Disorder?

We also tend to spend so much time indoors that Vitamin D deficiencies are becoming a problem. This vitamin is produced naturally by the body when we’re exposed to sunlight, so spending 30 minutes outdoors every day can help to offset the time that the children spend indoors during the school day. Sunlight gets a bad rep for causing skin cancer, but having a high enough level of vitamin D in your system can help prevent certain types of cancer, so it kills two birds with one stone, so to speak.

The bottom line

The benefits of recess – social, cognitive, behavioral, and physical- are as varied as the games played during this unstructured time in the school day. Cognitive benefits are just beginning to be studied, but as more of them emerge, hopefully, more and more schools will start to implement or restore recess. This change will be to the benefit of all students — including those currently in school and those who will be in the generations to come.