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Driving-325Remember how exciting it was to get your driver’s license as a teenager? I do. It was exhilarating. But now, as the parent of two teenage drivers, my excitement for them is often overshadowed by anxiousness and worry.

As parents, we want to protect our kids. When it comes to driving, the best way to do that is to demonstrate how to be safe behind the wheel. Lead by example, and teach your teenage driver these important rules:

1.   Turn off your cell phone. It’s not safe to call or text when you drive.

2.    Always keep your headlights on.

3.    Don’t speed.

4.    Minimize distractions, like eating or changing the radio station.

5.    Practice defensive driving. Have your teen imagine different scenarios and how they would handle them.

6.    Never drive when you are upset.

7.    Never drive with anyone who has been drinking or using drugs. This may seem obvious to your teen, but it’s worth repeating.

8.    Know exactly what to do in the event of an accident, and talk about it with your teen.

Under Oregon law, for the first six months that your teen has their license, they are NOT allowed to drive with passengers under 20 years old unless they are a member of the driver’s immediate family. You can read more on the state’s provisional license requirements and restrictions in the Oregon Parent Guide to Teen Driving. This is a good resource.

In addition, here are some steps you can take as a parent to help protect your young driver:

1.    Delay car ownership. Kids who must ask their parents’ permission to use a vehicle reduce their risk of getting into an accident by half.

2.    Make sure your teen is driving a safe vehicle, one that is easy to maneuver, with airbags and good tires. Bigger, heavier cars are also safer for young drivers.

3.    Discourage driving after 9 pm until your teen is more experienced on the road. Oregon law already bans driving between midnight and 5 am for the first year your teen is licensed (with a few exceptions).

4.    Every time your child leaves the house, remind him or her to drive safely. It’s important for them to hear those words repeatedly.

5.    And my favorite tip: Pray for their safe return! I always do.

Having regular conversations about safety, practicing driving together and leading by example will go a long way in ensuring your teen makes smart decisions behind the wheel.

God bless all of us parents whose kids are new drivers. Emotionally, it may be one of the most difficult phases for moms and dads, as children transition to young adults. It definitely requires a leap of faith!

Posted by on in News
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.

150721NewHPVRecsWhen a new and improved Human Papillomavirus vaccine, called Gardasil 9, became available earlier this year to better prevent cervical cancer, doctors and parents quickly asked: What about kids who have already finished their Gardasil 4 series?

As the name indicates, Gardasil 9 covers nine strains of the potentially deadly virus, compared to the four-strain vaccine many children have received.

Human Papilloma Virus is the cause of cervical cancer, penile cancer and genital warts, affecting both young women and men. This virus: spreads quickly by skin-to-skin contact, is extremely contagious, and is known to infect millions of young adults in the U.S.

Ten thousand new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year; 4,000 deaths annually make cervical cancer the No. 1 cancer killer of 20- 30-year-old women in this country.  

HPV vaccination has proven to be safe and highly effective over many years of use and is already showing impressive declines in the number of new cervical cancer cases in immunized women. The vaccine is strongly recommended for girls 9- to 26-years-old, and boys 9- to 21-years. The shot is given as a series of three injections over 6 months, and is intended to be given before children are old enough to be exposed to the virus.

We have waited eagerly for information on what to recommend to those who’ve finished some or all of their HPV series with the earlier 4-valent version. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for the CDC recommends:  

•    Girls who have already finished their entire series of the Gardasil 4 vaccine may benefit from a single dose of Gardasil 9 to help protect them from the other serious strains of HPV.

•    Boys who have already finished their entire Gardasil 4 series do not need to be boosted with the 9-valent shot because of the lower burden of disease on their gender. Penile cancer is much less common in men than cervical cancer is in women.  

•    Girls and boys who are partially immunized with the Gardasil 4 vaccine (they’ve had one or two doses but need to finish the series) should receive the broader Gardasil 9 vaccine for all subsequent doses.

Eugene Pediatrics is one of the first pediatric clinics in our region to switch entirely to this improved, highly effective vaccine.  

I cannot stress enough how important it is to immunize your tweens and teens against this virus. By doing so, we can defeat one of the top cancer killers in this country.

150706LawnMowerSafetyA common question parents ask this time of year is: When is my child old enough to mow the lawn? Before a child takes on that job, ask yourself: Does he or she exhibit the maturity, good judgment, strength and coordination that the job requires?

In general, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should be at least:

·      12 years of age to operate a walk-behind power mower or hand mower safely
·      16 years of age to operate a riding lawn mower safely

Before allowing your child to mow the lawn alone, show him or her how to do the job safely. Be sure to supervise your child's work until you are sure that he or she can handle it alone.

When mowing, be sure to follow these safety tips:

·      Ensure that children are indoors or at a safe distance from the area you plan to mow.
·      Clear the mowing area of any objects, such as twigs, stones and toys that could be picked up and thrown by the lawn mower blades.
·      Make sure your mower is in good condition and protective guards, shields, the grass catcher and other safety equipment are placed properly.
·      Wear sturdy closed-toe shoes with slip-proof soles, close-fitting clothes, hearing protection and safety goggles or glasses with side shields (especially when mowing near gravel).
·      Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary. If you must mow in reverse, look for children or objects behind you.

Tagged in: Safety Teens Tweens