Health headlinesby Health Day on Mar. 04, 2008, under Body
Study says that ‘sex talk’ with your kids should be ongoing
Parents may not want to hear this, but new research suggests it’s not a good idea to just have that one big “sex talk” with your kids.
Instead, the study recommends that you encourage an ongoing dialogue about sex with your children – even if it makes you uncomfortable – so your kids are less likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors.
“It’s important that parents set a foundation early on in talking with their kids about sex so that it becomes part of the norm in their household,” said study lead author Steven Martino, a behavioral scientist at RAND in Pittsburgh. “As children grow and have experiences, you want them to feel it’s natural to talk to their parents. When asked where they’d like to get their information, kids say from their parents more than anyone else.”
Martino said he realizes that some parents feel uncomfortable talking about sex with their children. And, he said, it’s OK to let your children know that you’re uncomfortable, but explain that it’s such an important topic that you need to talk about sex anyway.
Martino’s study included 312 teens and their parents. Both parents and adolescents completed baseline questionnaires, and the researchers had the teens complete their surveys in private rooms and assured them that their parents would not be given any of the information they provided.
The parents were then randomly divided into two groups, with half attending an eight-week worksite-based parenting intervention class called “Talking Parents, Healthy Teens,” designed to improve communication with their teens. The other parents just completed the survey and received no intervention.
Follow-up surveys were completed at one week, three months and nine months after the intervention began. The surveys were designed to assess 22 sex-related topics, such as the consequences of sex, how to make decisions about when to have sex, how to say no if you didn’t want to have sex, how well condoms prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and more.
The researchers then assessed the breadth of communications – how many of those 22 subjects the parents had discussed with their teens, and how often.
They found that when teens and their parents had more conversations – repetition – teens reported feeling closer to their parents and felt they could talk more openly with their parents about sex and other topics. A greater breadth of communication was associated with a perceived ease of discussing sex between parent and child, according to the study.
Results of the study were published in the March issue of Pediatrics.
“You can’t just have the big sex talk once. Discussions need to be ongoing,” said Dr. Lea deFrancisci Lis, a child psychiatrist at New York University’s Child Study Center in New York City.
DeFrancisci Lis pointed out that, like most studies, this one didn’t establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship. “We can’t say that kids whose parents talk about sex openly with them will have less sex,” she said. “But, research has shown an association between parents who are more open and kids who wait longer to have sex, have less teen pregnancy and less sexually transmitted diseases, so communication is really important.”
Both experts recommend starting to talk about sex at a young age, properly naming the body parts. DeFrancisci Lis said that when a new sibling is on the way, that’s a great time to discuss where babies come from. For parents who are really uncomfortable talking about sex, books can help open discussions, she said.
Martino added that watching TV or movies with your child can provide teaching situations and may make the dialogue feel more natural. The same goes for some of the lyrics in teen music, he said.
On the Web:
www.4parents.gov/talkingtoteen, 4parents.gov has more information about talking to kids about sex.
Surviving daylight saving switch
Planning ahead and following a few simple steps can help you minimize the impact of lost sleep when the clocks go ahead one hour on March 9, says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
The academy offers the following tips to cope with the return to Daylight Saving Time (DST):
- Begin to readjust your sleep schedule a few days prior to the time change by going to bed an hour earlier.
- Modify your eating schedule by having dinner one hour earlier.
- Be careful when driving or operating machinery on the day of the time change.
- Avoid napping, particularly before bedtime.
- Keep a light schedule – such as minimizing driving and avoiding strenuous physical activity – on the Monday after the time change.
- Eat properly, stay hydrated and remain physically active.
“The conversion to DST, with its forced loss of one hour of sleep and a change in sleep schedule, can sometimes result in complaints of disrupted daytime functioning,” Dr. Ron Kramer, medical director of the Colorado Sleep Disorders Center, said in a prepared statement. “This problem, surprisingly, can last as long as one to two weeks in some people, especially in the ‘night-owl’ type of person.”
But he added that the change can be a good opportunity to examine your sleep patterns and behaviors.
On the Web:
www.sleepfoundation.org, the National Sleep Foundation has more information about sleep.
Study links poor working memory to low school scores
Poor working memory, rather than low intelligence, could be the reason why some children are underachievers at school, says a British study.
Working memory is the ability to retain and manipulate information. An example would be doing math without the aid of pen and paper or a calculator. Students need working memory for a variety of school-related tasks, such as following teachers’ instructions or remembering sentences they’ve been asked to write down.
Using a new tool that they developed, a team at Durham University surveyed more than 3,000 children of different ages and found that 10 percent of them suffered from poor working memory, which seriously impairs their ability to learn.
The study authors also found that poor working memory in students is rarely identified by teachers, who often believe children with this problem are inattentive or have low intelligence.
If poor working memory – believed to be genetic – isn’t identified and addressed in children, it can affect their long-term academic success and prevent them from achieving their potential, the researchers said.
The tool they developed and used in this study is a combination of a checklist and computer program that can be used in the classroom to assess memory capacity in children as young as 4 years old.
“From the various large-scale studies we have done, we believe the only way children with poor working memory can go onto achieving academic success is by teaching them how to learn despite their smaller capacity to store information mentally,” lead researcher Dr. Tracy Alloway, of Durham University’s School of Education, said in a prepared statement.
“Currently, children are not identified and assessed for working memory within a classroom setting. Early identification of these children will be a major step towards addressing underachievement. It will meant teachers can adapt their methods to help the children’s learning before they fall too far behind their peers,” Alloway said.
On the Web:
www.kidshealth.org/kid/health_problems, the Nemours Foundation has more information about children and memory. Under “Brain and Nervous System,” click on “Memory Matters”
Study: Obese children face more complications during surgery
Obese children are much more likely than normal-weight children to have breathing-related problems during surgery, says a University of Michigan Health System study.
The researchers, who looked at 1,380 normal-weight, 351 overweight, and 294 obese children, aged 2 to 18, who had elective, noncardiac surgery, found that obese children had a higher rate of difficult mask ventilation, airway obstruction, major oxygen desaturation (decrease in oxygen in the blood), and other airway problems.
Specifically, the study found that:
- 19 percent of obese children and 11 percent of normal-weight children experienced major airway obstructions.
- Almost 9 percent of obese children and 2 percent of normal-weight children experienced difficult mask ventilation.
- 17 percent of obese children and 9 percent of normal-weight children experienced major oxygen desaturation.
- Obese children also had higher rates of asthma (28 percent vs. 16 percent), hypertension, sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes, all of which contribute to problems during surgery.
However, despite the increased risk of adverse events among the obese children in this study, none suffered significant illness.
The study is published in the March issue of Anesthesiology.
“Based on current trends, it is likely that anesthesiologists will continue to care for an increasing number of children who are overweight or obese, so it is vital that we are aware of the higher risk they face in the operating room,” lead author Alan R. Tait, a professor in the department of anesthesiology at the U-M Health System, said in a prepared statement.
About 15 percent to 17 percent of children and adolescents in the United States are obese, according to background information in the study.
On the Web:
http://kidshealth.org/parent, the Nemours Foundation has more information about childhood obesity. Search for “obesity” and click the “Overweight and obesity” result.
Pelvic floor disorders affect 1 in 3 women, study finds
One-third of women in the United States have one or more pelvic floor disorders, and age has no significant effect on these disorders, says a Kaiser Permanente study.
Frequent urge to urinate, incontinence and dropped pelvic organs are among the symptoms of such disorders.
The study of 4,000 women (80 percent had given birth) found that 25 percent suffered from anal incontinence, 15 percent from stress urinary incontinence, 13 percent from overactive bladder, and 6 percent from dropped pelvic organs (pelvic organ prolapse). The women in the study were aged 25 to 84. The findings were published in the March issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
“These conditions really affect a woman’s quality of life. Many women think this is just something they have to deal with as they age, and there isn’t anything they can do about it, but that’s not true,” study author Jean M. Lawrence, a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente’s department of research and evaluation in southern California.
A previous study by the same team of researchers found that vaginal births double the rate of pelvic floor disorders, compared with Caesarean deliveries or never giving birth.
“One of the myths surrounding pelvic floor disorder is that it affects only older women, but the truth is these conditions are extremely prevalent and extremely debilitating. But because the subject matter isn’t cocktail conversation, women feel isolated and don’t seek support and treatment,” study co-author Dr. Karl Luber, a urogynecologist in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medial Center, said in a prepared statement.
Women with symptoms of pelvic floor disorders should consult with a doctor trained in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, he advised.
“Among the available options for treatment for these common disorders are physical therapy to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, devices that can be fit to support your vaginal walls, and surgery. Many of today’s surgeries are very noninvasive and can be done as an outpatient,” Luber said.
In the United States, more than 15 million women have stress urinary incontinence, 16 million have an overactive bladder, and one in 10 suffers from anal incontinence, according to information in a news release about the study.
On the Web:
www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics, the U.S. National Institute of Child Health & Human Development has more information about pelvic floor disorders. Click on “P,” then click on “Pelvic Floor Disorders.”