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January 2004 Issue
Kidsafe: Parents make healthy children; healthy children become healthy adults.
by Michael Fick
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An ADHD diagnosis checklist, for example, at Pediatrics Magazine may help you decide whether your kid’s rambunctious nature needs professional attention, tougher love (i.e. discipline), or greater challenges to hold his interest. Broken leg, broken brain … there’s no stigma with either; they just require different kinds of doctors. Stuff breaks, and sometimes it takes a pro to fix it.

[But I have to inject this. Because many medical articles, including this series in Newsweek, are supported by pharmaceutical firms, we should all question the media’s drug recommendations. Nobody would be drugging my hypothetical kids into submissive automatons until I was educated in the field and it was proven that they have harmful brain chemical imbalances correctable only by safe drugs. Adult ADD is even more suspect and some whistleblowers condemn it.]

Must we keep kids in bed to keep them safe? Yes, that’s certainly part of the solution. Inadequate sleep contributes significantly to obesity (for both kids and adults), depression and other serious mental illnesses, inattention or fidgeting or even full-fledged ADHD symptoms, lower grades, automobile accidents, sleepwalking, night terrors, trouble getting to sleep, and narcolepsy. Sleep deprivation is serious, and kicks in far sooner than you might think, at 14 hours per day for babies, 10 hours for sixth graders, 9:15 for teens, and 8 for adults. But not even 15% of kids with sleep deprivation symptoms have them on their medical records, and in one study not even one percent of sleep-deprived kids received effective treatment.

Fixes include less noise and light in kids’ bedrooms, enforcement of bedtime, later morning classes, diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders, bedtime routines for kids, and no TV near bedtime (that inane stuff actually excites kids). Chronic sleep deprivation is as life-threatening as smoking or obesity, but early childhood development of good sleep habits can avert many lifelong sleep deprivation problems.

Your homework assignment as parents of children or adolescents is to identify the most prevalent health threats in their lives, research them, decide on a course of action, act to reduce that threat, then repeat with the next item on the list. Then at some point we must all get on with our lives, quit worrying about every little thing, and have fun. Fun in itself is a great health booster, as long as it doesn’t include hang gliding in thunderstorms or ... gasp … sleeping only six hours per night.

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