Stories about: anxiety

VIP treatment for kids with urinary issues

The Voiding Improvement Program (VIP) at Boston Children’s Hospital helps kids overcome a wide variety of urinary problems, including difficult toileting issues like daytime and nighttime bathroom accidents and urinary tract infections. Here’s a look at how the VIP can help your children.

Boston Children’s Hospital Voiding Improvement Program (VIP) is available in Boston, Peabody, Waltham and Weymouth. To learn more, visit the program’s website. Also, check Thriving in the coming weeks for a post on how parents and doctors work together to help kids overcome daytime and nighttime wetting issues.

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Millions of children have mental health disorders while treatment budgets shrink

When feeling stressed out by the hectic pace of modern life, it’s easy to get wistful for the carefree days of youth—when it seemed the only thing we had to worry about was getting along with the other kids in the neighborhood.

But according to a first-of-its-kind report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on childhood mental health, those days are gone or may never even have existed for a huge portion of America’s children.

Analyzing data collected over the past six years, the report shows that millions of kids—as many as one in five—are currently living with some form of mental health disorder. Attention deficit disorder is the most prevalent condition reported, affecting more than 4 million kids nationwide, but other behavioral issues such as anxiety and depression also were heavily documented, affecting 2.2 and 1.8 million children respectively.

While it’s unclear whether or not the numbers in the report mean that these conditions are really more common in kids today, or if parents, clinicians and teachers are just getting better at identifying them, the bottom line is clear: the issue of mental health disorders in American children is too big to ignore.

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The science of stress

Adolescence is a hard time for just about everyone. School pressure, changing relationships, craving the independence of adulthood while clinging to the security of childhood; it can all lead to a lot of emotional turmoil. But while the stress of growing up may be almost universal, how teens handle it varies wildly.

Data shows that poor reaction to stress can lead to the onset of mental illnesses and associated problems like substance abuse or antisocial behavior. In many cases, the first signs of these disorders surface when the person is feeling stressed. Research also shows that adolescents who have experienced trauma or adversity when they were younger, like the death of a close relative or abandonment by a parent, are more likely to have mental health issues triggered by stress, compared to people who have never faced that kind of hardship.

Even though there’s plenty of research linking stress and early adversity to mental disorders, there are very few studies looking at how the two are connected. Why does early life adversity or trauma make some people more prone to mental illness, especially when dealing with stressful situations? And if warning signs are identified early enough, can these problems be avoided? These are questions Boston Children’s Hospital researcher Kate McLaughlin, PhD, is trying to answer. McLaughlin, along with Margaret Sheridan, PhD, are analyzing how teenagers’ brains react to stress. The project involves over 200 adolescents, some with mental health issues and some without, as well as teens who have experienced early life adversity and others who haven’t.

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Weathering the storm with children who have chronic illnesses

As Boston prepares for Hurricane Sandy, many people are buying last minute supplies: canned goods, water and extra batteries.  But for families with chronically ill children, disaster preparedness is more complicated. Many of these children require steady access to medication, clean water, electricity and often need significant help getting from place to place, so having a strategy in place to provide those items after a catastrophe can be crucial.

“The immediate loss of support resources for kids with medical needs is the biggest obstacle these children and their families face after a disaster,” says John Murray, PhD, RN, CPNP, CS, FAAN, director of Nursing Research in Surgical Programs and the Emergency Department at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Families should be prepared for the worst case scenarios. That way, if they do happen, they won’t be caught completely off guard.”

Disaster plans should cover the basics like safe meeting spots and access to stored supplies, but should also address the specific needs of chronically ill children, like having access to electricity that can run a respirator or having plenty of water to clean feeding tubes. To be best prepared, Murray suggests parents call local electricity and water providers, alert them to your family’s specific situation and ask about their emergency support services. This is especially important for electrical devices, as power outages can go on for some time after larger-scale disasters. “If your child needs steady access devices requiring electricity, you need to have a back up generator in case there’s a prolonged blackout,” he says. “Your local electric company or organization that supplies your medical equipment should be able to provide you with one based on your child’s needs.”

If your child needs steady access devices requiring electricity, you need to have a back up generator in case there’s a prolonged blackout.

Murray also suggests having an emergency information form that contains contact information for medical providers, friends and family, which could be incredibly important if parents and children are separated after a disaster. Depending on the child’s needs, detailed information about his condition and care should also be readily available. For instance, instructions on medicine dosage or techniques for managing a breathing tube may be particularly useful if the parent and child are separated after disaster strikes.

“Try to make the instructions succinct, because you don’t know under what situation they’ll be needed,” he says. “It’s possible the person reading them won’t be used to this type of situation or have access to everything you normally would. The notes in your disaster kit should take account of that.”

(Click for a copy of the American Academy of Pediatrics Emergency Information for Children with Special Needs Form, or create your own based on your child’s requirements.)

It’s also important to remember that major disasters can cause young children significant stress. To help alleviate some of their worry, you might consider involving your children in the creation of your family’s disaster preparedness. Engaging them in activates like trips to the grocery store to buy emergency supplies, or showing them how you contacted power companies to alert them to your family’s particular medical situation, can be empowering and help them feel safer. (Read our expert’s tips on lessening anxiety in children worried about natural disasters.)

“Knowing there is a disaster preparedness plan in place is going to help relive a lot of stress for kids,” Murray says. “Having them be involved with the preparation just drives home the point that your family is ready should something happen.”

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