Stories about: Parenting

Please don’t judge: Supporting a friend whose child has a mental health condition

Larson family holding hands and jumping
Shannon Larson and her family (photo courtesy of Jennifer Shore Photography)

When my children were younger, I was always able to help them maneuver the difficulties of growing up. If it was their fear of going to school, attending playdates or being hesitant of trying a new activity, I was there to cheer them on, nudge when needed and assure them that everything would be okay.

But as both of my children entered their teenage years, their anxiety and fears became more pronounced and debilitating, manifesting in panic attacks and depression. As a parent, I understood that my children would need more than just my reassuring words, which eventually led me to Boston Children’s Hospital Department of Psychiatry for their care. Over time, my children began to thrive once again. And in the meantime, our family learned a few lessons along the way that I would like to share.

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How to manage family life when your child has cancer

Valerie Graf and family
Valerie, with husband Doron, son Evan and daughter Ruby

When our daughter, Ruby, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at one and a half years old, my husband and I were immediately transformed from working parents with two young children, to parental caregivers for a child with cancer. Between hospital stays, medications and appointments, there was so much to keep track of. It can be overwhelming at times, but there are ways to manage life after your child is diagnosed with cancer.

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Why parents really need to talk to their children about the news

Black and white image of family watching news

These are strange, anxiety-provoking times. That’s true no matter where one lives or where one sits on the political spectrum; for all of us, it’s upsetting and confusing.

If it feels that way for adults, just imagine what it’s like for children who catch snatches of information and conversations they don’t really understand. That’s why it’s really, really important that parents talk to their children about what is going on in our country and our world. It’s important for two reasons:

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Down syndrome: Reimagining what’s possible

Ella kisses baby Juila on the cheek.
Photo credit: Nicole Starr

I first met Ella Gray Cullen in the Advanced Fetal Care Center (AFCC) of Boston Children’s Hospital, shortly after she had received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Like many parents expecting babies with conditions that can be diagnosed prenatally, she wanted to know more.

We talked about the additional medical screenings that would be recommended for her daughter to evaluate for cardiac defects and other conditions that are more common in children with Down syndrome. We discussed the developmental supports through Early Intervention and school that would be available to help her daughter learn and develop to her best ability. And, we talked about breastfeeding.

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