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How To Have a Conversation With Your Teenager

Getting teenagers to talk openly about what’s bothering them can be hard. Follow these tips to help get them talking to you about their worries.

1. Ask, don’t judge

Start by assuming they have a good reason for doing what they do. Show them you respect their intelligence and are curious about the choices they’ve made.

If you don’t pre-judge their behaviour as “stupid” or “wrong”, they’re more likely to open up and explain why their actions made sense to them.

2. Ask, don’t assume or accuse

Don’t assume that you know what’s wrong. Rather than asking “Are you being bullied?”, try saying “I’ve been worried about you. You don’t seem your usual self, and I wondered what’s going on with you at the moment? Is there anything I can help with?”.

3. Be clear you want to help

If you suspect your child is using drugs or drinking excessively, be gentle but direct. Ask them, and let them know that you’ll help them through any of their difficulties.

4. Be honest yourself

Teenagers will criticise you if you don’t follow your own advice. If you drink too much alcohol yourself, for example, they’re likely to mention it (“You can’t talk!”). Make sure you’re acting responsibly yourself.

5. Help them think for themselves

Instead of trying to be the expert on your teenager’s life, try to help them think for themselves:

  • Discuss the potential implications of poor behaviour choices. For example, “How does smoking dope make you feel the next day? So, if you feel like that, how’s that going to affect you playing football?”
  • Help them think critically about what they see and hear. “So Paul said X: is that what you think?”
  • Help them feel that they can deal with life’s challenges. Remind them of what they’re good at and what you like about them. This will give them confidence in other areas of their lives.
  • Information is empowering. Point them towards websites that can give them information on drugs, sex and smoking so they can read the facts and make up their own minds.
  • Help them think of ways they can respond and cope. “So, when you feel like that, is there anything you can do to make yourself feel better?”
  • Encourage them to think through the pros and cons of their behaviour.

6. Pick your battles

If they only ever hear nagging from you, they’ll stop listening. Overlooking minor issues, such as the clothes they wear, may mean you’re still talking to each other when you need to negotiate – or stand firm – with them on bigger issues, such as drugs and sex.

7. If they get angry, try not to react

Teenagers often hit out at the people they most love and trust, not because they hate you, but because they feel confused.

Don’t think that they mean the bad things they say (“I hate you!”). They may just feel confused, angry, upset, lost or hormonal, and they don’t know how to express it.

8. Help them feel safe

Teenagers often worry that telling an adult will just make things worse. You need to be clear that you want to help them and won’t do anything they don’t want you to.

This may be particularly important with bullying. If your child opens up to you about bullying, explain that it isn’t acceptable. Listen to their fears and reassure them it’s not their fault.

Help build up their confidence by reassuring them that you’ll face the problem together.

9. Avoid asking questions they won’t answer

Sometimes you’ll find out more about your teenager if you ask open questions. If they have an eating disorder, for example, asking confrontational questions like “What did you eat for lunch?” or “Have you made yourself sick?” may mean you get a dishonest answer.

Sticking to open questions such as “How are you?” or “How has your day been?” helps your teenager talk to you about how they’re feeling.





Reflux in Babies: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Advice

Babies often bring up milk during or shortly after feeding – this is known as possetting or reflux.

It’s different from vomiting in babies, where a baby’s muscles forcefully contract.

Reflux is just your baby effortlessly spitting up whatever they’ve swallowed.

It’s natural to worry something is wrong with your baby if they’re bringing up their feeds. But reflux is very common and will usually pass by the time your baby is a year old.

This page covers:

Signs and symptoms

When to get medical advice

Causes

Tests

Treatments and advice

Signs and symptoms of reflux in babies

Signs that your baby may have reflux include:

  • spitting up milk during or after feeds – this may happen several times a day
  • feeding difficulties – such as refusing feeds, gagging or choking
  • persistent hiccups or coughing
  • excessive crying, or crying while feeding
  • frequent ear infections

When to get medical advice

Reflux isn’t usually a cause for concern and you don’t normally need to get medical advice if your baby seems otherwise happy and healthy, and is gaining weight appropriately.

But contact your midwife, health visitor or GP (*pediatrician) if reflux starts after six months of age, continues beyond one year, or your baby has any of the following problems:

  • spitting up feeds frequently or refusing feeds
  • coughing or gagging while feeding
  • frequent projectile vomiting
  • excessive crying or irritability
  • green or yellow vomit, or vomiting blood
  • blood in their poo or persistent diarrhoea
  • a swollen or tender tummy
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • not gaining much weight, or losing weight
  • arching their back during or after a feed, or drawing their legs up to their tummy after feeding

These can be signs of an underlying cause and may mean your baby needs tests and treatment.

Causes of reflux in babies

It’s normal for some babies to have reflux. It usually just occurs because a baby’s food pipe (oesophagus) is still developing.

It normally stops by the time a baby is a year old, when the ring of muscle at the bottom of their oesophagus fully develops and stops stomach contents leaking out.

In a small number of cases, reflux can be a sign of a more serious problem, such as:

  • gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) – a long-term form of reflux where stomach contents are able to rise up and irritate the oesophagus
  • a cows’ milk allergy – this can also cause a rash, vomiting and diarrhoea; many babies will eventually grow out of it and can be treated by removing cows’ milk from their diet
  • a blockage – rarely, reflux may occur because the oesophagus is blocked or narrowed, or there’s a blockage in the stomach and small intestine

Tests that may be needed

Most babies with reflux don’t need any tests. It can usually be diagnosed based on your baby’s symptoms.

In rare cases, the following tests may be recommended if your baby’s reflux is severe or persistent:

  • endoscopy – a narrow, flexible tube with a camera at the end is passed down their throat to look for any problems
  • barium swallow – this where your baby is given a drink containing a substance called barium before an X-ray is taken; the barium shows up on the X-ray and helps highlight any problems in their digestive system

These tests will normally be carried out in hospital.

Treatments and advice for reflux in babies

Reflux doesn’t usually require treatment if your baby is putting on weight and seems otherwise well.

The following treatments and advice may be offered if your baby appears to be in distress or their reflux has a specific, identified cause.

Feeding advice

Your midwife or health visitor may want to check how you feed your baby and suggest some changes to help with their reflux.

These changes might include:

  • burping your baby regularly throughout feeding
  • giving your baby smaller but more frequent feeds
  • holding your baby upright for a period of time after feeding
  • using thicker milk formulas that are less likely to be brought back up – these are available to buy without a prescription, but only try them if advised to by a healthcare professional

If your doctor thinks your baby could have a cows’ milk allergy, they may suggest trying special formula milk that doesn’t contain cows’ milk.

Read more general breastfeeding advice and bottle feeding advice.

Medication

Babies with reflux don’t usually need to take any medication, but sometimes the following medicines may be offered if your doctor feels the problem is severe:

  • alginates – these form a protective barrier over stomach contents, stopping them travelling up and irritating the oesophagus
  • proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2-receptor antagonists – these reduce the level of acid in the stomach, so the stomach contents don’t irritate the oesophagus as much

Alginates may be used if changing the way you feed your baby doesn’t help. PPIs and H2-receptor antagonists may be recommended if your baby appears to be in discomfort or is refusing feeds.

Surgery

In a very small number of babies – most often, babies with serious underlying conditions such as cerebral palsy – an operation may be needed to treat GORD by tightening the ring of muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus.

Surgery may also be needed if there’s a blockage or narrowing in the oesophagus, stomach or small intestine.

 
Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.





How to Overcome Sleeping Challenges with Your Young Child

Lots of young children find it difficult to settle down to sleep and will wake up during the night.

For some people, this might not be a problem. But if you or your child are suffering from lack of sleep, there are some simple techniques you can try.

Every child is different, so only do what you feel comfortable with and what you think will suit your child.

If your child won’t go to bed

If your child won’t go to sleep without you

More sleep tips for under-fives

Help your disabled child to sleep

Help with children’s sleep problems

If your child won’t go to bed

  • Decide what time you want your child to go to bed.
  • Close to the time that your child normally falls asleep, start a 20-minute “winding down” bedtime routine. Bring this forward by 5-10 minutes a week – or 15 minutes if your child is in the habit of going to bed very late – until you get to the bedtime you want.
  • Set a limit on how much time you spend with your child when you put them to bed. For example, read only one story, then tuck your child in and say goodnight.
  • Give your child their favourite toy, dummy (*pacifier) (if they use one) or comforter before settling into bed.
  • Leave a beaker (*cup) of water within reach and a dim light on if necessary.
  • If your child gets up, keep taking them back to bed again with as little fuss as possible.
  • Try to be consistent.
  • You may have to repeat this routine for several nights.

If your child won’t go to sleep without you

This technique can help toddlers (over 12 months) or older children get used to going to sleep without you in the room.

It can also be used whenever your child wakes in the middle of the night.

Be prepared for your child to take a long time to settle when you first start.

You can use strokes or pats instead of kisses if your child sleeps in a cot and you can’t reach them to give them a kiss.

  • Have a regular, calming bedtime routine.
  • Put your child to bed when they are drowsy but awake and kiss them goodnight.
  • Promise to go back in a few moments to give them another kiss.
  • Return almost immediately to give a kiss.
  • Take a few steps to the door, then return immediately to give a kiss.
  • Promise to return in a few moments to give them another kiss.
  • Put something away or do something in the room then give them a kiss.
  • As long as the child stays in bed, keep returning to give more kisses.
  • Do something outside their room and return to give kisses.
  • If the child gets out of bed, say, “back into bed and I’ll give you a kiss”.
  • Keep going back often to give kisses until they are asleep.
  • Repeat every time your child wakes during the night.

See more tips from Barts Health NHS Trust on helping young children to sleep (PDF, 219kb).

More sleep tips for under-fives

  • Make sure you have a calming, predictable bedtime routine that happens at the same time and includes the same things every night.
  • If your child complains that they’re hungry at night, try giving them a bowl of cereal and milk before bed (make sure you brush their teeth afterwards).
  • If your child is afraid of the dark, consider using a nightlight or leaving a landing (*hallway) light on.
  • Don’t let your child look at laptops, tablets or phones in the 30-60 minutes before bed – the light from screens can interfere with sleep.
  • When seeing to your child during the night, be as boring as possible – leave lights off, avoid eye contact and don’t talk more than necessary.
  • Avoid long naps in the afternoon.

Help your disabled child to sleep

Sometimes children with long-term illnesses or disabilities find it more difficult to sleep through the night. This can be challenging both for them and for you.

Contact a Family has more information about helping your child sleep.

The Scope website also has sleep advice for parents of disabled children.

More help with children’s sleep problems

It can take patience, consistency and commitment, but most children’s sleep problems can be solved.

If your child is still having problems sleeping, you can talk to your health visitor.

They may have other ideas or suggest you make an appointment at a children’s sleep clinic, if there’s one in your area.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.





Talking To Your Kids About Your Cancer

If you have cancer, discussing it with your children may be difficult. But listening and talking to them can be reassuring, as well as helping them understand your diagnosis.

Keep it simple

Children may have heard things about cancer that frighten them, so speak to them honestly and simply about what you’re going through. Ask them what they think cancer is and explain anything they don’t know.

Be honest

Explain it in language your children will understand. The word “cancer” becomes less frightening for everyone if it’s described as cells that have grown faster than other cells in the body.

Create time and space to talk

Choose a time and a place to talk to your children where they’re most likely to listen and feel at ease, and where you won’t be interrupted.

Let them know they can always ask you questions and talk to you about how they feel, especially if they’re sad and upset. They need to know you’ll listen to their worries and help them cope.

Reassure them

Let them know that even though you’re ill, you still love and care for them. Explain how your illness might affect your moods and feelings, but that you’ll always love them.

Be clear

You don’t have to tell them everything at once. Just be clear about the situation you’re in. If you don’t know the answer to any of their questions, say so. It might be a good idea to read about it together, or ask a doctor or nurse to explain things.

Be positive with them

Try to be honest yet hopeful, but be careful not to make promises you’re not sure you can keep. Most of all, your children need to know that everyone’s doing all they can to make you better, that you still love and care for them, and that there are things they can do to help.

Children under six

Young children react to being separated from you and to changes in their routine. Ask people who your children feel safe and familiar with to help look after them or take over some of the things you usually do. Young children need consistency, so it’s a good idea to have the same person helping if possible. Always try to let them know in advance about any changes to their usual routine.

If you’re in hospital, have a regular time to call home or when they can call or text you. Make sure they have a photo of you and tell them you’ll be thinking about them. Prepare them in advance for what they’re likely to see when they visit you, and tell them about the different people who are there to help you.

Children aged 6 to 12

Children aged 6 to 12 can understand more about the cancer and its effects on the body. Use simple, straightforward language and short sentences to explain things, and don’t overload them with information.

All children need reassurance that:

  • nothing they or anyone else did or thought caused the cancer
  • cancer isn’t like a cold and you can’t catch it – it’s OK to sit close, hug or kiss

Teenagers

Teenagers may find it hard to talk to you or to show you how they feel, and at times their behaviour may be difficult.

Help them see that talking about feelings is a positive and mature way of coping. Encourage them to talk to someone close, such as a relative or family friend. Ask them what they think and include them as you would an adult. But don’t forget, they still need your guidance and support, and keep the usual rules and limits.

More support

Cancer Research UK has information on talking to children about cancer, with links to useful books and leaflets.

Macmillan also has information and advice on talking to children about your cancer.

Breast Cancer Care has resources and support about talking to children of various ages about breast cancer. The charity has produced a picture book called Mummy’s lump, which can be useful for younger children.

Healthtalk has articles and videos of people talking about their experiences, including:





Video: What Pregnant Women Should Know About Pre-Eclampsia

In this brief video, NHS Midwife Suzanne Barber explains the warning signs of pre-eclampsia. Find out more about pre-eclampsia here

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

  • Pre-eclampsia usually affects women in the 2nd half of their pregnancy.  If left untreated it can put both the mother’s and the baby’s health at risk as it could lead to your child being born prematurely or failing to grow as expected in the womb.
  • Early indication are often detected by your community midwife or GP (*family doctor) during an ante-natal (*prenatal) check. Women with pre-eclampsia have high blood pressure and protein in their urine.
  • Pre-eclampsia could come on quickly. If it does, symptoms may include:
    • Swelling: face, hands, ankles
    • Severe headaches that don’t go away
    • Visual disturbances
    • Upper abdominal pain
  • You are more at risk of pre-eclampsia if you:
    • Are overweight
    • Have had kidney disease
    • Have diabetes
    • Have high blood pressure
  • If you are diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, you will have more active antenatal care and will be monitored more closely, however if there is cause for concern, you may need to be admitted to the hospital, and it may be advised that you have your baby earlier than expected.
  • Your GP or midwife may advise you if supplements can help lower your risk of pre-eclampsia.
  • If you feel unwell and experience any of the symptoms described above, see a midwife or GP.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

 





Sun Safety for Kids: Healthier Skin for Life

How do I Keep My Child Safe In The Sun?

Exposing your child to too much sun may increase their risk of skin cancer later in life.

Sunburn can also cause considerable pain and discomfort in the short term.

That’s why babies and children need to have their skin protected between March and October in the UK.

Tips to keep your child safe in the sun

  • Encourage your child to play in the shade – for example, under trees – especially between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at its strongest.
  • Keep babies under the age of six months out of direct sunlight, especially around midday.
  • Cover exposed parts of your child’s skin with sunscreen, even on cloudy or overcast days. Use one that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or above and is effective against UVA and UVB. Don’t forget to apply it to their shoulders, nose, ears, cheeks, and the tops of their feet. Reapply often throughout the day.
  • Be especially careful to protect your child’s shoulders and the back of their neck when they’re playing, as these are the most common areas for sunburn.
  • Cover your child up in loose cotton clothes, such as an oversized T-shirt with sleeves.
  • Get your child to wear a floppy hat with a wide brim that shades their face and neck.
  • Protect your child’s eyes with sunglasses that meet the British Standard (BSEN 1836:2005) and carry the “CE” mark – check the label.
  • If your child is swimming, use a waterproof sunblock of factor 15 or above. Reapply after towelling.

Read more about summer safety for younger children.

Sunlight and vitamin D

The best source of vitamin D is summer sunlight on our skin. Because it’s important to keep your child’s skin safe in the sun, it’s recommended all babies and young children aged six months to five years should take a daily supplement containing vitamin D, in the form of vitamin drops.

See more about vitamin D for babies and young children.

How to apply sunscreen

An expert explains why it is important to protect your skin from sunburn to help avoid skin cancer. She also gives advice on how to apply sunscreen correctly and what to look out for when buying sun cream.





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