Family Physician Answers 5 Common Questions From Parents

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Playing Youth Development Expert Answers Most-Asked Parenting Questions

Whether you're the parent of a preschooler or teenager, you probably have a million questions—especially if it’s your first child. Kids don’t come with a manual, but family physician Dr. Deborah Gilboa, who specializes in empowering parents with knowledge about child development, might be the next best thing. Here, she answers some of the most common questions she gets from parents. 

1. My teenager seems so… distant. When should I worry? 

"The most important thing to say here is: If you're worried, don't ignore that. You are an expert in your child, and if you see that something has changed, or believe there is something to worry about, look into it," says Dr. G. Check out her 4 tips to start a conversation more easily with your teen.  

2. How much screen time is ok for little kids? 

"Your kids don't need to be entertained, but they WANT to be," Dr. G explains. "Of course, it's okay to let your children use screens when you have work you need to do. BUT, you can also go all 1991 on them and do work without them being entertained on screens all the time," she says. Get Dr. G’s tips for how to do this in a safe and productive way.  

"[Ultimately], fighting boredom builds creativity, builds tolerance to discomfort and encourages self-regulation. Since you already have those skills, it's time for your child to work on them themselves," she says.    

3. How do I deal with my kids talking back? 

"You deserve to be spoken to with respect—and your kids deserve to learn the skill of speaking respectfully. If our kids don't know how or why to be respectful, especially to adults, they're going to have a much harder time succeeding in life. And they won't look for respectful people to include in their life as they get older," Dr. G explains.  

She says there are three key things adults can do at home to get respectful behavior and put an end to the back-talk.   

4. How do I teach my kids to eat healthier? They only want junk food! 

"As kids get older, the balance shifts to them acquiring their own foods more often, and then they need to understand the purpose of food and how it best serves their body," Dr. G says.   

"What kids need to learn about are different types of foods: proteins, vegetables, and fruits + how useful it is to balance those out in our bodies. Think about food like fuel and tell them about giving their bodies great fuel so their bodies will do whatever they need them to: like have energy, be strong, grow well, play, move, run, and learn," she adds.   

5.  Is it normal for a ten-year-old to be so anxious and clingy all the time? 

"If you're seeing a new behavior or reaction, then it's important to figure out what's happening with them. Ask open ended, nonjudgmental questions about what they are worried about or why they're needing more attention," says Dr. G.    

"If this isn't a new behavior, but you expected it to disappear by this age, then that's a different issue. Most kids have short-term behaviors that come and go, but anxiety is not usually one of those. If your child has always needed help regulating their worry, has been comforted by proximity to you and struggles to be apart from you, they're going to need some help with strategies to navigate older elementary school, and definitely middle and high school and beyond," she explains.  

"You can help them by first figuring out what is at the heart of their struggle. Is it separation anxiety or social struggle or generalized anxiety disorder, or just habit? Don't feel like you should know — get your family doctor or a trusted school counselor or a therapist to help. That's what they're trained for. Your job is not to change your child's blueprint – it's to figure out how to teach them to build on the blueprint they've got," Dr. G. explains.  

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