How to Identify Signs of Trauma in Children

 

Image Source: Unsplash

How to Identify Signs of Trauma in Children

It’s estimated that nearly 35 million children in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event in their lives. Children involved in adoption or the foster care system may make up a large percentage of that, as many of them come from traumatic circumstances. 

Some of those children might be struggling with symptoms of trauma without even realizing it. That’s why it’s so important to understand what those signs and symptoms are. The more you can recognize some of the physical and emotional “tells” of trauma, the sooner you can ensure a child receives the help and support they need. 

If you’re a parent or caretaker, you can be better equipped to take care of children, especially foster children, if you pay attention to the possible signs of trauma. With that in mind, let’s cover a few of the common signs and how you can help to ease trauma responses.

The Most Powerful Signs

Children respond to trauma differently. Some may even repress it and have to deal with it later in life, as an adult. But, there are often signs you can look for that can hint at traumatic experiences. Some of the most powerful and important signs of trauma in children are

  • Physical effects like rashes, insomnia, or severe pain
  • Reactions to triggers, including flashbacks and anxiety attacks
  • Disassociation
  • Attachment disorders or difficulty building new relationships

Stomach and digestive issues are also often associated with trauma. Conditions like GERD and other acid reflux problems can be exacerbated by stress and anxiety. If a child in your care seems to have a sensitive stomach or is constantly sick, it could be the result of an underlying, unresolved sense of fear from trauma. 

Again, some children might internalize the effects of their trauma. That makes it difficult to notice physical signs that they could be in distress. So, keep your eyes open for other issues that might arise. For example, trauma often impacts a child’s self-image. If your child starts to struggle with their esteem or develops body image issues, it’s important to get to the root cause as quickly as possible. 

What Should You Do?

It’s important not to jump to conclusions when it comes to identifying trauma signs. But, it’s just as crucial to be diligent if you’re concerned. One of the best things you can do is reach out to experts. Counselors, caseworkers, and even pediatric forensic nurses can all be wonderful resources in confirming trauma symptoms and giving you support as you ease the effects of trauma for that child. 

When it comes to easing trauma responses, the best place to start is creating a safe, nurturing environment for the child. If you’re a foster parent or new adoptive parent, keep in mind that your child might be coming from a situation that wasn’t safe or comfortable. They might feel as though they need to keep their guard up, so they might not open up right away.

Keep your home as quiet and as soothing as possible, and be consistent in the way you talk to your child. Earning their trust is a great way to eventually initiate conversations about what they might be dealing with. But, don’t force them to talk before they’re ready, or you might end up driving a bigger wedge. 

If you’re worried that your child might be struggling with the effects of trauma and the symptoms are severe, use your resources. Don’t wait to get your child the help they truly deserve. It might not be easy for anyone, at first. But, providing a comfortable environment and utilizing professional help are great ways to help your child ease their trauma experiences and start living a happier, less anxious life. 


Author's Bio

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to child development, health and wellness, mindfulness, and productivity. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn

Stephanie and Chris’s Adoption Success Story

Stephanie and Chris's Adoption Success Story

Hi, we are Stephanie and Chris, from just right outside of Houston, Texas. My husband and I have been married for eighteen years and have adopted three amazing children and are awaiting the finalization of our last two. Chris is an accountant by day and a grilling expert by night, and I have been blessed with a flexible job that allows me to work from home and walk the kids to the bus stop and pick them up every afternoon after school.

Our two eldest boys were adopted as infants through private adoption, and we have been blessed to watch them grow into exceptional young men. Our first was a private international adoption when he was an infant, he is now sixteen and a joy to be around. Our first foster placement was about four years ago and lasted ten amazing months. While we were happy the child was able to be reunited with their family, our family came to realize the hardships of fostering. This experience taught our family about trauma and opened our eyes to the number of kids in the foster care system. Even at infantile ages, the hardships of being in the foster care system takes a toll. Although fostering had its difficulties, we are grateful we got to be foster parents to amazing children and were able to be in their lives, although it was only for a brief time.

 

Our 13-year-old daughter was placed with us when she was 10 and had experienced foster care for over 9 years . She has grown into such a wonderful young woman and has come a long way from when she first arrived. She enjoys spending time running with her dad and is constantly exploring new interests.

After going through our highs and lows of fostering, we enrolled in the Matching Assistance Program with A Family For Every Child. We eagerly filled out our family profile, submitted our home study, and by that night our adoption worker called with a match - a boy and girl. While we are still waiting for the adoption to be finalized, we have been fortunate to spend quality time with our newest additions, since they moved in with us in April of last year.

During this pandemic, our household has rarely had a quiet moment. We have had loads of outdoor time exploring different parks and hiking trails, riding scooters and bikes, and spending socially distanced time with family. We have also taken up YouTube dance and art parties for nights in. Chris and I thank God for these blessings, and for giving us the courage to work through the hardships. We are so grateful for the amazing family we have found through this journey!


You can read more success stories from AFFEC's Matching Assistance Program on our website here.

Interested in adoption? Visit this link to learn more!

How to Make Your House More Welcoming To Foster Kids

Image Source: Unsplash

How to Make Your House More Welcoming to Foster Kids

There are currently over 400,000 kids in foster care, all looking for loving homes. As a foster parent, you’re doing something wonderful to provide a stable and caring environment for those kids as they wait to get adopted. So, if you’re looking into the foster care process, take pride in knowing you’re providing something truly special to children who need it most. 

Unfortunately, many kids in the foster care system have come from unstable environments. Some of them may have experienced traumatic events and have issues with separation anxiety, anger, or depression. Others have been in the system for years without finding a forever family. 

Therefore, it’s incredibly important to go above and beyond for your foster kids when you bring them into your home. Little changes can make a big difference.

So, how can you make your house more welcoming to foster kids as you take on this new chapter?

Give Them Their Own Space

You will always want your foster children to feel like they’re a part of the family. That means including them in everything you do together. But, it’s also important that they have their own comfortable space – a place of their own. They might not be used to it, but it can provide an incredible sense of security. 

Set up a bedroom for your foster child that gives them enough privacy while still allowing you to check in on them. A comfortable bedroom that feels safe and secure can give your foster child a sense of peace. It can even allow them to sleep better at night if they typically struggle with the effects of trauma and have a hard time feeling comfortable. Poor sleep and depression can be cyclical, with one fueling the other. If your foster child is struggling within that cycle, better sleep habits can help. That starts with an environment that fosters peace, comfort, and safety. 

If you’re having a hard time putting together bedroom ideas, don’t be afraid to look online for inspiration. Keep the following tips in mind: 

  • Allow for flexibility
  • Combine function and fashion
  • Don’t get too specific with a topic
  • Ask your foster child about their favorite artists, movies, etc., and get posters framed

The design of the room you put together is less important than the room itself. As long as it’s comfortable and feels like a positive environment, the bedroom itself can help your foster child start to learn how the power of positivity can change their life. 

Share Your Personality

It’s important for your foster child or teen to feel connected to you. That doesn’t always happen right away. Some foster kids won’t even speak to their foster parents for weeks. When you let your personality shine, you’re automatically creating a more welcoming environment that doesn’t feel so stiff. 

One way that you can overcome this common feeling of distance is by sharing something personal about yourself. Are you a closet Star Wars collector? Show them your stash. Do you know how to play the guitar? Bust out a song for them. Show off your personality through interior design with a mismatched living room made of different colors and patterns. 

When you’re willing to open up and be vulnerable, they’re more likely to do the same. They might start to tell you more about their favorite things, their interests and hobbies, and even what they like to eat. Once you’ve broken the ice with them, you can incorporate their likes and wants with your everyday activities, like cooking together or getting them involved in family game night. 

 

Bringing a foster child into your home is an exciting experience, and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By making a few changes around the house, you can create a wonderful safe haven for a foster child of any age. 


Author's Bio

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to child development, health and wellness, mindfulness, and productivity. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn

National Foster Care Month

National Foster Care Month

Happy National Foster Care Month! 

This May is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate, honor and support everyone involved in helping find safe homes and forever families for foster youth around the world!

Sometimes this means connecting foster kids with family members, and sometimes it means finding a new family for them. Children enter foster care for a variety of reasons, many of which are related to parents being unable to provide or take care of them due to challenges such as drug abuse, incarceration, death or illness.

Thankfully, these kids still have a bright future ahead of them! A Family for Every Child is just one of many organizations and agencies that are working to find loving and supportive families for these children. National Foster Care Month is the perfect time to spread awareness and think about how to volunteer yourself! Be sure to take the time this month to thank foster parents and families, volunteers, mentors, caseworkers, social workers and others who are spending their time, energy and resources to find homes for the youth and children in the foster care system.


“A Family for Every Child is dedicated to finding loving, permanent families for every waiting foster child.”

- A Family For Every Child’s mission statement


You can take an active role in supporting foster youth! You may want to consider volunteering at AFFEC or some of these other options:

Social media is an excellent way to spread awareness of the foster care system and encourage those who are in it. Send your thanks and appreciation to foster parents or adoptive parents you know, encourage social workers, and more! Use the hashtag #fostercaremonth and spread awareness and encouragement about this month!

Check out what others are saying about National Foster Care Month:

 

National Foster Care Month on Child Welfare Information Gateway:

This year's National Foster Care Month campaign recognizes these principles of engagement and connection as essential to expediting reunification and permanency and promoting long-term stabilization for youth transitioning to adulthood.”

-Taffy Compaign, National Foster Care Specialist | Children’s Bureau, May 1, 2021, “Prioritizing Engagement, Connections for Youth and Families to Improve Long-Term Outcomes


 

A Proclamation on National Foster Care Month, 2021:

During this National Foster Care Month, we share our gratitude for those who support youth and families by being a resource to children in need and supporting birth parents so that they may safely reunite with their families whenever possible. We also recognize that it takes collaboration and community effort — from local organizations to Federal agencies — to support children, birth parents, and resource and kin families during challenging times.”

-Joseph R. Biden Jr., April 30, 2021, Presidential Actions, “A Proclamation on National Foster Care Month, 2021”


 

National Foster Care Month on FosterClub:


“Each May, we have an opportunity to raise public awareness for our cause — and you are invited to join in and make a difference! Below, you'll see the focus areas we are concentrating on, an assortment of social media memes you can share, and opportunities to share your story, fundraise, and take action.”


How Foster Parents Can Help Ease Trauma Responses

Image Source: Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/photos/people-woman-mother-child-kid-2566854/)

How Foster Parents Can Help Ease Trauma Responses

When you decide to open your home to a foster child, you are choosing to open your heart to a child who needs it most. The simple fact is that when children are taken into the foster care system, it is always already a traumatic event

Being separated from your parents, perhaps even from your siblings, and moving into a new home will almost inevitably trigger feelings of fear and loss. Children may suffer from guilt and shame in leaving their loved ones behind. They may even blame themselves for being removed from the home.

However, the decision to place a child into foster care is never one to be taken lightly, and it typically follows a painful history of abuse and neglect. Being a foster parent, then, means more than simply loving a child. It also means learning to recognize the signs of trauma and understanding how to help your foster child begin to heal.

Understanding the Effects of Trauma

One of the most important lessons to learn about trauma is that it doesn’t just end with the traumatic event. Its effects can reverberate for a lifetime, impacting the child’s physical and mental health for years to come. 

Sometimes the effects of trauma are not always obvious. Trauma responses in children are often mistaken for other conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

This is why, before taking a foster child into your home, it is incumbent upon you to become informed about childhood trauma and its diverse and sometimes unpredictable manifestations. Armed with such knowledge, you can create a home and family environment that can help to mitigate those impacts.

A Nurturing Environment

Children who have experienced trauma need love and security above all. For many of these children, healing begins with the experience of having a safe space to retreat to when life and memories become overwhelming. 

This is especially important for children who may have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or who may have other sensory processing disorders. A key strategy for helping calm children dealing with the emotional repercussions of trauma, particularly for children with ASD who may have challenges articulating or coping with their feelings, is to create a sensory-friendly room

Use soothing colors, such as soft blues and greens, as well as comforting textures, such as velvet, plush rugs and blankets, and soft leather upholstery. This can provide your little one with a safe haven to retreat to when they are feeling emotionally overwhelmed or sensorily overstimulated. 

The Impact on Self-Image

In addition to the risk of depression and anxiety associated with childhood trauma, a growing body of evidence suggests that those who have experienced trauma are also vulnerable to body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) and the eating disorders often connected with it. 

Children who have suffered neglect and abuse, these studies show, often internalize the abuse, tending to blame themselves rather than the abuser who is likely a parent or another loved one. Unfortunately, however, this tendency can all too easily mutate into self-hatred and a poor self-image, including a negative body image. 

For this reason, you will need to be on guard for signs of body dysmorphia and eating disorders. For instance, if the child fixates on their appearance, especially on a perceived physical flaw, or if they exhibit unhealthy eating behaviors such as emotionally overeating, eating too little, or excusing themselves to the restroom shortly after meals, then there may be a problem that requires care from a trauma-informed counselor.

Even if your foster child is not showing such troubling signs, it’s important to be aware of these vulnerabilities and to work to create an environment that supports a positive body image. The beauty industry, for example, is now increasingly endorsing a healthier and more diverse image of beauty. This is something that your child should see you actively embrace, not only in the way you speak of and treat your own body but also in the images you uphold as beautiful.

The Takeaway

There is nothing more important or more rewarding than opening your heart and home to a child in need. But caring for a foster child means understanding the effects that trauma has likely had on your little one. With the proper tools, information, and support, however, you can help your child heal from the wounds of their past and move forward into the happy and healthy future they deserve.


Author's Bio

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to child development, health and wellness, mindfulness, and productivity. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn

Upcoming April Events

AFFEC’s 2nd annual Art Auction

April 19 - May 10, 2021

 

Spring is such a wonderful season, and this year it is the theme of AFFEC’s upcoming 2nd annual Art Auction. All of the artwork has been created by artists of all ages, from kids to adults! You can have a chance to participate in the auction when it opens the last week of April. Lasting for three weeks, this inspirational and artistic event raises money for A Family For Every Child’s many programs in order to support the amazing work that is being done for foster youth!

Last year raised over $1,200. Would you be willing to help raise money for AFFEC and help us exceed our goal of $3,000?

Learn more about our second annual Art Auction by visiting our website. For more information and to get answers to your questions, feel free to contact Alex Graham at: alex@afamilyforeverychild.org or 541-343-2856.

 

Eugene Marathon

April 23 – May 2, 2021

 

The Eugene Marathon is coming up soon! Although the race won’t be in-person this year, its virtual experience means that participants can run anywhere or follow the markers that point out the regular routes. You can run for free by joining the Run for a Reason program and running for AFFEC! The Run for a Reason program makes it possible to enjoy the Eugene Marathon run while raising money to support foster youth and AFFEC’s many programs at the same time!

You can learn more about Run for a Reason by visiting their webpage. Hoping to raise $50,000 for local and national charities, Run for a Reason provides an excellent fundraising incentive. Fundraising closes the Saturday after the race, and the minimum amounts for fundraising are $250 for the Marathon and Half Marathon, and $100 for the Eugene 5k.

Here’s how you can run for AFFEC! First, you can register as part of the AFFEC team by following this link. Then, AFFEC will get back to you with a registration code for your specific race. Next, you can go out and fundraise, letting others know what you’re doing and the great reason why you’re doing it! Finally, the run will be taking place from April 23 to May 2, so don’t miss out!

Contact Alex Graham at alex@afamilyforeverychild.org to ask about how you can run for A Family For Every Child!

Hero for a Day


“Don’t forget, you are the hero of your own story.” – Greg Boyle


 

Although 2020 brought us many challenges, it is the hard times when heroes are able to make the best differences. From firefighters and medical workers to truck drivers and caring neighbors, people have been able to make a difference in the lives of those around them in many caring and heroic ways over the past year. A Family for Every Child wants to help children from the community and the foster care system know that they, too, can be heroes in the world today.

A Family for Every Child is bringing you their virtual Hero for a Day event, premiering on Saturday, March 13th, 2021. These three hours of fun for kids ages 2 to 18 will begin at 12pm via Zoom so that you can participate wherever you are.

 

Free registration is available now on the AFFEC website. With registration, kids will receive a free Hero kit filled with costume accessories, activity supplies and other fun surprises so that they can fully participate in this exciting event. 

 

Hero for a Day will be an action-filled afternoon featuring Goshen/Pleasant Hill Fire and Rescue, Eugene Science Center, Cascades Raptor Center, Bricks and Minifigs, Adventure! Children’s Museum, F.E.T.C.H. and more! Kids will be able to see super heroes and community heroes as well as people from a variety of professions. Dog trainers, firefighters and medical workers will be able to share about what they do to help out in the community, and kids will also be able to participate in fun activities, craft projects, LEGO building, and Q & A. 


“My heroes are those who risk their lives every day to protect our world and make it a better place—police, firefighters, and members of our armed forces.”

– Sidney Sheldon


 

The heart behind this event is thanking first responders and community heroes for their daily service for our community. This event also hopes to raise awareness of foster children and the foster care system, and to empower kids to know that they can be heroes. Everyone has the ability to truly make a heroic difference, and we want to show kids that we believe in their potential to do just that.

 


“I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.” – Maya Angelou


 

For more information, contact Alex Graham at events@afamilyforeverychild.org or call (541)-343-2856. You can also visit our website to learn more about AFFEC’s Hero for a Day event.

 

The inspirational hero quotes in this post were found in Stephanie Kirby’s article “50 Hero Quotes to Inspire Everyone to Make a Difference.” Click this link to check out more quotes and be inspired!

Introducing Responsibilities to Your Children

 

Introducing Responsibility at Appropriate Ages

As a parent, one of the most daunting tasks is preparing your child to be an adult. This requires a forward-thinking attitude, confidence, and an ability to trust and support your kids without doing so in a way that earns you that dreaded “helicopter parent” label.

Here are a few common responsibilities that children are given as well as a suggested time and manner in which to introduce them.

Getting Their First Phone

Smartphones are part of the modern lifestyle. They help with everything from receiving messages to keeping track of the time, the weather, and even your health. Tech titan Bill Gates waited until his kids were 14 years old to get their first smartphones. Even so, in 2016, the average age that a kid got their first smartphone was 10.3 years old

Why the discrepancy? Because the primary factor behind when to give your child a smartphone doesn’t have to do with age. It revolves around maturity. This can be tough, as denying your child their phone can be difficult when all of their friends already have one. 

Nevertheless, it’s important to consider if your child is responsible and trustworthy enough to have full access to the internet, text messaging, and all of the tools that come with a fully-operational phone. If you feel this isn’t the case, you don’t necessarily have to deny them any phone at all. There are kid-friendly phones and apps available that enable you to introduce your child to a smartphone without giving them critical things like unfettered internet or social media access. 

Handling Their Finances

The way that you handle money can make or break your lifestyle. As such, it’s an essential part of preparing a child for their future. 

Nevertheless, you don’t want to simply hand over the user ID and password for your online bank portal or your E*TRADE account and then leave your kids to figure things out in real-time. It’s important to introduce money concepts slowly, starting at a young age. 

For instance, when your kids are in elementary and middle school, you can begin giving them small jobs that they can use to earn an allowance. This helps them begin to understand concepts like bringing in an income as well as saving and spending their money. If you would like to teach your child a higher degree of responsibility with their money, there are debit cards made specifically for kids that can receive regular allowance, allow you to give bonuses for extra chores, help them to save up for specific items, and more.

Once your child is in high school, you can increase the stakes over time. For instance, you can:

  • Help them establish their budget as their income and expenses increase.
  • Open up a credit card with your child as an authorized user before they turn 18 so that they can learn to handle credit with you by their side.
  • Explain to them how to set aside cash for taxes and save up money for a car or college.

Finances are best introduced by slowly increasing your child’s involvement and responsibilities throughout their young lives. This way, they can be more prepared for adult experiences like getting their first job.

Landing Their First Job

Most Americans agree that a child is ready for their first job around 15 to 16 years old. Much like a smartphone, though, you should consider your child’s maturity level, as well as their current time commitments and work load.

It is a parent’s duty to shepherd their child into their first job with support and advice. This will allow them to handle a myriad of different responsibilities, from showing up on time to being a team player, managing work-life balance, and maintaining commitments. 

Being Responsible for Your Child’s Responsibilities

Responsibilities are a critical part of the maturation process — for adults and children alike. Part of your parenting journey revolves around the ability to take ownership over the job of introducing responsibilities to your children at the right ages.

So make a list of responsibilities, like those listed above, that you want to teach your child. Then consider when each one should be introduced, so that you’re ready to handle each item when the time comes.


 Author's Bio

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to child development, health and wellness, mindfulness, and productivity. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn

The LifeBook Program

 

One of A Family For Every Child’s many programs is the Lifebook Program, which provides special photo album scrapbooks that are put together for foster children.

Life Books and Welcome Books

A LifeBook is a meaningful collection of pictures and memorabilia designed for foster children. These scrapbooks are typically made of 8.5 x 11 pages that are compiled in an album or binder after being decorated with pictures and mementos from the child’s life. These scrapbooks are able to explain the story of the child’s birth, information about their birth parents, and the reason for their separation. The pages also include important moments of their life and adoption.

A Welcome Book is a wonderful resource that helps introduce an adopted child to their new family. These scrapbooks, which are usually made of 8 x 8 pages, help the newly adopted child become familiar with the things they will encounter as a part of this family. The family is able to introduce themselves to the adopted child through this album by including information and pictures about family members, relatives, pets, the kid’s bedroom, the house, and their school.

These books are a free resource for parents or caseworkers who would like to put one together for a foster child. When a caseworker or parent requests a book, a Lifebook co-coordinator gathers together a collection of pages that have been made by volunteers. The pages are hand-selected according to the personality and preferences of the child. The pages are then mailed off to the parent or caseworker who puts the pages together with pictures before giving the book to the child.

Impacts

These special photo album scrapbooks can make a unique impact on the children who receive them. They have the ability to explain hard things to the child, such as how they entered the foster program and into an adopted family. It is an opportunity to give the child information about their birth parents that they may otherwise not know. These scrapbooks can also help the child understand and become comfortable with the vocabulary associated with the foster program and adoption. Because most of the children receiving these books don’t have many pictures of themselves, these scrapbooks can give the child a special sense of security, stability and a positive identity.

Best of all, these scrapbooks are visible reminders of the important events in a child’s life and provide special memories that they can always look back on. In preserving these life stories, they also provide a wonderful way for a found family to acknowledge and honor the life that the child has had before coming into their home. Space is left at the end of the book to allow the child to look forward to a future of making new memories with their found family.

Volunteer Opportunities 

Volunteers can help out with the Lifebook program in several ways:

Donations of scrapbooking supplies are welcome. Some supplies such as stamps or punches cannot be used, but other items such as paper, stickers and adhesives are welcome and needed.

Because these scrapbooks are a free resource to parents and caseworkers, monetary donations are also welcome. These monetary donations can ensure that a parent or caseworker will not have to pay for postage when the scrapbook pages get shipped. If you are interested in making a cash donation, please make sure that you designate the donation for the Life and Welcome Books so that it can be sure to be used for this purpose.

Volunteers can also be involved in helping make the scrapbook pages. To get involved and to find out how to deliver the pages to AFFEC, you can contact a Lifebook Co-Coordinator. These pages do not need to be elaborate, as they need to have room for pictures and the kids’ own personalization. The scrapbook pages are created in a variety of categories including: babies, girls and boys, brothers and sisters, grandparents, parents, birthdays, holidays, seasons, school, sports, pets, faith, new rooms or places in a house, friends and more.

More Information

For more information, follow these links to learn more about:

The Lifebook Program

Ways to donate to this program

How to request a Lifebook

 

You can also contact a LifeBook Co-Coordinator:

 Gail VanGundy

 Lifebook Co-Coordinator

 541-525-3500 (call or text)

Lifebook@afamilyforeverychild.org

It’s Not Just COVID-19: Keeping Your Kids Healthy This Winter

 

Let’s face it: Parenting has always been scary. But it’s especially so when you’re trying to keep your little ones safe in the face of a pandemic. You’d do anything to protect them. But while the world’s attention may be focused on COVID-19, there are other, perhaps even more significant health threats, parents need to guard against.

Influenza

It might come as a surprise, but COVID-19 and the seasonal flu share some similarities. Both are infections that can easily be spread through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and even breathing and speaking near others. 

As frightening as COVID-19 may be, it seems to be the seasonal flu that poses the greatest risk to children in particular, especially those under 5. While children are by no means immune to the coronavirus or its severest complications, they appear to be far less susceptible to the worst impacts of the disease than are adults. 

For the flu, though, children don’t seem to enjoy such protections, which is why an annual flu shot is strongly recommended for almost all children. For children six months and older, the flu shot is generally safe and effective, not only protecting them from potentially life-threatening flu but also possibly adding a layer of protection against the coronavirus.

Common Viral Infections

Every parent knows that children are little Petri dishes on two feet. Several common childhood viruses can pose particular threats to your child. Luckily, modern medicine has given us quite a few effective means of preventing many of them: vaccinations and antibiotics.

Measles, chickenpox, and viral meningitis are especially worrying both because of their severity and because of their easy community spread. A single outbreak in a school or amusement parks, for instance, can rapidly infect dozens or even hundreds of children. 

The good news is that there are safe and effective vaccines to prevent many of these illnesses, particularly measles and chickenpox. The bad news is that, in the face of the national lockdowns and widespread fears of the coronavirus, many parents are delaying or even skipping life-saving childhood immunizations entirely.

This is a dangerous situation because these viral infections can’t just be cured with a simple antibiotic. In fact, antibiotics are not effective for viruses at all. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections. That common misconception has not only led to overprescription of antibiotics but also the emergence of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, such as MRSA.  

For viral infections though, there are few therapies, other than a handful of antiviral medications, that can be used to treat the symptoms. This is what makes prevention so crucial, from ensuring that your children are up to date on all their vaccinations, including the annual flu shot to practicing impeccable hygiene. This means washing your hands often and keeping surfaces sanitized in order to prevent the proliferation of microbes. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends handwashing as one of the most important means of preventing the spread of COVID. This goes for most other infections.

Healthy Mind, Heart, and Body

Protecting your children’s health, though, is about more than trying to shield them from infection. It’s also about protecting their hearts and minds in this frightening time. So even as you and your little ones are wearing your masks, social distancing, washing your hands, and getting your vaccines and other essential care, don’t forget emotional care

If the pandemic is scary for you, imagine how much more so it is for young ones. Remember that they’re taking their cues from you. Model calm and teach your children how to manage stress and anxiety, but let your children know it’s okay and normal to be scared, to have worries and questions. 

And then show your children how to deal with those emotions. Give them a safe, calm space. Perhaps provide older children with a journal where they can freely express their fears and frustrations. Above all, don’t forget to give yourself the same gift, because to take care of them, you also have to take care of yourself.

The Takeaway

In the last few months, COVID-19 has come to dominate our world. But when it comes to keeping our children healthy, there are other threats we must keep in mind. Fortunately, as parents, we’re far from powerless. The key is not to let the fear of the virus distract you from the many different kinds of care your child needs and deserves.


Author's Bio

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to child development, health and wellness, mindfulness, and productivity. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn