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Solutions1I’ve been spending some time reflecting on a troubling trend unfolding around us.

In a previous blog, I shared my thoughts on recent national and international violence, unrest and families in crisis—it seems as if the world has gone mad. I’ve also become anxious and disheartened watching our own beautiful community follow suit.

I believe our societal decline is due to multiple factors: technology gone awry, an acceptance of violence, loss of common kindness, excessive focus on our own selfish needs, and a lack of a moral compass.  

When I think of how I as an individual can affect change on a global level, I feel helpless. I do, however, believe that we can all work together to take back our little corner of humanity. In our own lives, in our families, in our schools and workplaces, we CAN make meaningful changes. But it must be purposeful. And it probably won’t be easy.

Making positive changes to alleviate problems and heal the broken relationships around us begins with:

•    Getting rid of some of your technology. I’m serious. What did you do before you had a smartphone? You were fine. Do we really need to check our email 50 times a day? No. Do we really need to send 2,000 texts a month? Again, no. One mom told me her son gave up his iPhone for Lent and she said, “For 40 days, he was the nicest kid I’ve ever known.” This technology stuff may be entertaining, but it’s addictive so let’s rein it in. Start with small changes. I am making a personal pledge not to take my smartphone on family vacations. What pledge are you willing to make?    

•    Simplifying your family’s life. Giving up activities and obligations to allow more time to just be together is not easy, but the benefits will outweigh the loss. Use the extra time together to talk—really talk. Discuss your thoughts, your goals and your beliefs.   

•    Choosing happiness, positive thoughts and kindness. What we say, what we watch for entertainment, and how we let our minds wander has a direct impact on us. I believe happiness is a choice and we need to actively seek it. It’s hard when we are surrounded by lots of negativity, especially as of late, so we all have to work on having a positive attitude.

•    Becoming a giver more than a taker. Volunteer. Help others. Donate. There are thousands of ways we can give back to society and raise up others. We need to do regular activities with our families that benefit people around us, instead of spending so much time thinking about what we want for ourselves.

•    Believing. If you are a person of faith, worship more often and include the kids. Don’t just sit and listen to the sermon from the back row; become actively involved in your church. If you’re not into organized religion, talk with your children about your own beliefs about what’s right and wrong. Give the kids and yourself things to believe in, reasons to cherish life, and ideas about future directions they can take that will be positive and help the world.  

•    Supporting charities that support families. Now more than ever, our local community needs to support organizations that work to address mental health issues and drug and alcohol addiction. We need to offer a hand, whether it be financial assistance or volunteer hours, to groups that inspire better parenting, happier people and healthier minds.

The time is now. We need to act together to make a positive difference in our community. Please share your ideas, too. Together, I believe our power for good in the world is far greater than we can even imagine.

Posted by on in News

151124ProblemsWhen I was growing up in Eugene, violent crimes were nearly unheard of, but recently it seems like murders and other horrific offenses are becoming commonplace on the front page of our local newspaper.

We’ve seen multiple young children who’ve been badly abused. A number of our teenage patients have attempted suicide these past few months. We’ve experienced a flood of kids suffering with anxiety or depression who come into our office accompanied by parents in crisis.  

Something has shifted in our community, and I’m worried. I’m sharing my thoughts with you in the hopes of starting a dialogue that will lead to solutions. Why is there so much pain and suffering in our community? And what can we all do collectively to reclaim a peaceful, healthier city?  

As a pediatrician, watching kids and families over the last 20 years, I’ve made a few observations:

•    Kids and adults spend too much time absorbed in technology. The average teen spends more than 8 hours a day in front of a screen, but less than 10 minutes talking to their parents. Many studies have shown that the brains of young children do not develop correctly when they live in cyberspace. According to research, the number of hours a day a teenager spends engaged with technology is directly proportionate to symptoms of reported anxiety and sadness. Screens are replacing our time together and parents and children are drifting apart.

•    The pace of life is too fast. It used to be that you called someone, left a message and received a call back the next day. You had breaks in your day that allowed you time to think, to reflect, to give thanks and to plan. We are now constantly deluged with emails, texts, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, tweets, and many other forms of input and interruptions. And we’ve come to believe that our responses are supposed to be immediate. I am not convinced the human brain was designed to tolerate this much information, this fast.

•    Violence and rudeness have become a normal part of society. So much available information is too graphic, intense, and negative for kids—and often for adults—to stay in a positive frame of mind. Back in my day, we were introduced to Space invaders, one of the earliest and graphically simple video games where the goal was to defeat waves of aliens with a laser cannon. Compare that to Call of Duty, today’s wildly popular series of first-person shooter games that has been criticized for glamorizing violence. Look at the content of TV shows like SpongeBob SquarePants and Modern Family, as well as movies, books and other forms of social media. Unkindness, disrespect and sarcasm have replaced good manners.  

•    Our society is increasingly self-oriented and negative. Instant gratification and material wants have replaced the thread of volunteerism and community service of my grandfather’s generation. Complaining and whining about trivial matters has, in many ways, suffocated our ability to recognize our blessings and to be thankful for them.

•    Faith, a sense of a higher purpose, and appreciation for the value of life has waned. I’m not just talking about religious faith—which certainly offers a framework for making good choices to many believers—I am talking about kids and families who appear to be without a guiding moral compass.  

We must also support programs that seek to help people and families stricken by mental illness, and drug and alcohol addiction. And we need to support programs that address social afflictions like homelessness and food insecurity.

In an upcoming blog, I will share my own opinions about ways we can work to change these worrisome trends. But for now, I invite you to share your own thoughts about what’s troubling our society these days. My hope is that we can start a conversation that can potentially lead to positive change in our community. God bless us as we seek to heal our community - somehow.

shutterstock 25609120“All I really need to know [about life] I learned in kindergarten.”

So says the book title. And in my case, it was kindergarten plus third grade. That’s when I experimented briefly with a life of crime. It’s also when I learned I wasn’t cut out to be a criminal because of excess guilt.

Eugene used to have a wonderful variety store called Reed & Cross. It was a combination garden and clothing store, wedding gallery, cooking shop and café.

When I was only eight years old, I saw some shiny garden rocks on display. To my little eyes, they were beautiful — gray, white and black stones buffed to sparkling perfection. Perfect for my GI Joe action scenes. (I was 100 percent tomboy as a kid.)

My mother and I would go to Reed & Cross at least once a week, and after ogling the shiny rocks several times, one day I slipped a single one into my pocket when no one was looking. I had shoplifted!

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Posted by on in News

130912epablog1One of the greatest joys of my relationship with my husband is our children. The shared pride we have for our children brings us together. But it has also been a frequent source of disagreement for us over the past 15 years. (How could two pediatricians ever expect to agree on the many aspects of child-rearing?!)

To avoid becoming part of the sad statistic — 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce — my husband and I have had to work hard at staying together.

In my 15 years of pediatric practice, I’ve had many wonderful couples come to me with their new baby, and they were completely in love with each other and their child. Slowly, they drifted apart and, ultimately, divorced.

Pediatricians care about family dynamics so much because it impacts the emotional health of kids. Although every family and couple is unique in their strengths and challenges, a few common struggles in the couples that split have emerged:

Spending very little time together as a couple. All the time and energy is devoted to kids, work and everything else in life, leaving little time for mom and dad.
Poor communication. Not talking enough, or talking in a negative or opposing style.
Disagreement over parenting issues, especially discipline.
Choosing hobbies for kids that feel exclusive to one parent.
Unequal participation in family activities.

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Posted by on in News

shutterstock 131878190In my last blog post on parenting, I shared one axiom I have lived by as a parent, the 90-10 rule that stressed the benefits of meting out positive over negative comments to children.

In this blog post, I cover another that has made me a better parent — Two-Way Talking, which I developed when my first child entered kindergarten.

One day I realized that every time I picked up Jack from school, I pumped him for information about his day: “Sweetheart, tell me everything that happened to you today!” But I never told him about my day. And he was often too tired to say much, which I found supremely frustrating.

So, after some months of this fruitless sort of exchange, I started our car rides home by telling him in an age-appropriate way about my day. The thoughts often came out like this: “While you were at school today, Mommy saw 24 sick kids and I loved helping them.” Or, “Someone yelled at me at a meeting and it made me sad, so I called your daddy and then I felt better.”

During these short recaps, I tried to share about my job and why I love it, about hard challenges I faced, and how I coped with life. In other words, I told my kids something “real,” and hopefully, imprinted my positive outlook on life.

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