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140528EPAteendrinking 2Graduation and party season is upon us, so consider the following facts about teens and alcohol:

So ask yourself, which style of parenting about alcohol is most likely to contribute to teen alcohol use, and which style is most protective against teen drinking? Is it a parent who says:

  1. “You will never drink a drop of alcohol while you are living in my house.” (Autocratic style)
  2. “Have a glass of wine with me so you learn to drink responsibly.” (Permissive style)
  3. “I don’t want you to drink until you are 21 because it’s illegal and it is dangerous.” (Constructive style)
  4. “You are a smart kid. I know you will make a good choice about drinking.” (Uninvolved style)

The answer

Kids who drink earlier and heavily are ones whose parents are permissive and gave reply B.

If your child believes you think it’s safe for them to drink, and if they have had alcohol with you at home, they are five times more likely to get drunk under age 21. In addition, these children have been shown to binge drink much more often.

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140515EPA poverty1I was sitting in my car at a red light recently, when a driver moving through the intersection rolled his window down and screamed an obscenity at a rumpled man holding a cardboard sign: “Get a job, you — !”

That man and the people who, forced by life’s circumstances, stand by the side of the road begging for food and spare change are frequent reminders of something we confront every day at Eugene Pediatrics — poverty.

It’s not only seeing children living and coping with poverty that upsets me. It’s a feeling that they will grow up without a key component for success — a vision of another possibility for themselves. I have a growing rage that I can do so little to help change the fate of these children and families.

This week, a little boy came to see me, and it had been too long. I saw him the day he was born, just like his siblings. Three darling kids. Their mother has struggled for all the years I’ve known her. I have seen her beaten, filthy, exhausted, frightened and assaulted by her boyfriend (but afraid to report him). I have also seen her happy, in love with her babies and hoping for a positive change in life.

We have laughed together, talked about her kids and discussed options for her. I know she struggles with drugs, alcohol and depression — they are her demons.

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140415EPA TeacherMeetingPart2 finalThe school experience. It is obviously an important one for your child and affects all aspects of a child’s life, including health. We hear a lot about the school experience at Eugene Pediatrics.

Part 1 of this two-part blog series reviewed steps to take before meeting with teachers or school officials when you have concerns.

Here you’ll find tips on preparing for the meeting and handling it to encourage the best outcomes possible.

  1. Start with the teacher, not the principal. If your input about your child’s education is needed, start the conversation with your child’s teacher. Don’t go straight to the school or district administration unless it’s an extraordinary situation. If you feel for some reason that the principal needs to be involved at the outset, when sharing your concern with the teacher, let the teacher and principal know ahead of time that you’d like to meet with the both of them.
  2. Write your concerns down. Prepare your list of concerns ahead of time by writing them out. This will help you stay focused and avoid getting emotional.
  3. Bring supporting documents. Bring tests, homework samples or whatever other documents you have to help kick-start the conversation.
  4. Ask and listen. Before you dive deeply into your concerns, ask teachers for their input and listen closely. It happens quite often that the entire issue is one of a simple miscommunication between teacher and student and can be fixed easily.
  5. Try to leave the meeting with an action plan — and a handshake or hug. Try to agree on steps both the teacher and child can take to improve the problems. Leave the meeting with good feelings so that everyone wins.
  6. Request additional help. If questions arise regarding your child’s ability to do the schoolwork, ask for a meeting with the school psychologist to talk about formal testing. This is a key step in developing an appropriate Individualized Education Plan for your child.
  7. Close the loop with your child. After meeting with the teacher, tell your child what happened in an age-appropriate way. Focus on the good outcome you and the teacher reached. Tell your child what steps you and the teacher feel they can take to help things improve.
  8. Conduct weekly check-ins. Check in weekly with your child and the teacher until you are convinced the issue is resolved.

Everyone — you, your child, the teachers and your pediatricians — wants the same thing, for your child to be happy and successful at school. Constructive steps focused on a collaborative approach enable you to support your child as best as possible throughout the school experience.

Please talk to you providers at Eugene Pediatrics if you need help regarding school issues and your child.

140403eatingdissordersblog 1When I was sixteen, I started to diet. My exercise habits increased in intensity, and as the weight melted away, friends at school complimented me. I felt a surge of control over my body and in my life that became addictive. Soon, I was 45 pounds less than my regular weight. I was anorexic.

My parents knew something was very wrong, but eating disorders were not well understood by many physicians in the 1980s. The years I spent struggling with anorexia nervosa had a profound impact on my physical and emotional health as a young adult. But, gladly, I was one of the lucky patients with an eating disorder who made a full recovery. One of my many goals in becoming a pediatrician was to help youth affected by this potentially deadly set of diseases.

Eating disorders can negatively impact every organ system in the human body. Malnutrition leads to shrinking of cardiac muscle, with loss of proper contractility and electrical signaling in the heart. Brain cells affected by the acids that a starving body uses as fuel do not function well, leading to changes in cognitive ability, thought processes and behavior. Bone-density decreases can lead to easy injury and fractures. Attempts by the body to conserve critical organ function leads to turning down, or off, of less vital organs such as ovaries and the thyroid gland. Cold intolerance, blue hands and feet, hair loss and skin deterioration are common.

Emotional changes evident during eating disorders can include depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, self-harming and suicidal tendencies.

140219DrB grandpasshopThe air hung heavy with the smell of wood shavings, varnish and dust. The hammered-tin ceiling shone high overhead, while glass-fronted cases lined the walls, filled with violins, violas, guitars and mandolins.

Every day, the lights flickered on, the phone rang, and customers arrived with their instrument cases in hand to buy new strings or bring a violin in need of repair. My grandfather would assume his usual seat at his workbench, ready to remove the back of a damaged violin and begin the delicate work of restoring it. Next to him, my eight-year-old hands worked busily with tools, wood pieces, glue and paint.

So began a typical day of my childhood, much of it spent at the Holzapfel Violin Shop. Founded in 1898 by my great-grandfather, Carl C. Holzapfel, a German immigrant who learned the fine art of instrument making as an apprentice in a luthier school in Europe, the music shop at 222 West Fayette Street in Baltimore centered my family for generations. In this special place, I learned a great deal about music, love and the meaning of family.