Parenting

Younger kindergarteners more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

A study found that kindergarteners born in August are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, and treated for it, than children born in September—but only if the school has a September 1 cutoff for enrollment. This raises the concern that teachers and doctors are misjudging normal behavior for a child’s age as ADHD.

The better way to discipline children

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against the use of aversive discipline techniques, such as spanking or repeatedly yelling at a child, as they can lead to problems later in the child’s life. A more positive and proactive approach to discipline that sets clear limits and has consistent, predictable consequences can work.

Holiday toys for kids: “Back to basics” is best

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

As you are shopping for the children on your gift list this year, it may be tempting to choose the latest shiny gadget, but consider choosing toys for them that encourage learning and development, creativity, imagination, language skills, and physical activity.

Giving babies and toddlers antibiotics can increase the risk of obesity

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Antibiotics are crucial tools in fighting illnesses, but over-reliance on them can have serious consequences. A new study found that babies who were given antibiotics in their first two years were significantly more likely to become obese.

Getting your baby to sleep through the night: The good (and maybe not-so-good) news

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Parents of newborns may be disappointed to learn the results of a Canadian study: even at one year, nearly half of the babies in the study did not sleep a full eight hours. However, the babies did not experience any adverse developmental effects, and parents should remember that children will eventually sleep through the night.

Is hand sanitizer better at preventing the flu than soap and water?

John Ross, MD, FIDSA

Contributing Editor

In an eight-month study of toddlers in day care, researchers compared handwashing with soap and water to frequent and rigorous use of hand sanitizer. While the results were better for the hand sanitizer group, the study conditions may not reflect real-world hand hygiene.

AFM: The scary polio-like illness

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is an illness with symptoms that are somewhat similar to polio — weakness and loss of muscle tone in the arms and legs — but with an unknown cause. AFM is more common in children and emerges suddenly, but there is no known treatment or cure.

Helping a child with obsessive-compulsive disorder

If a child has obsessive-compulsive disorder, the condition affects everyone else in the family. Understanding OCD and learning helpful strategies to support the child can ease distress all around.

What parents need to know — and do — about e-cigarettes

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

The rising use of e-cigarettes among adolescents is worrisome, because they still contain nicotine and because using them increases the likelihood of later tobacco use. Parents should educate themselves about these devices and the risks they pose.

Intensive CBT: How fast can I get better?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people learn how to overcome negative thought patterns and behaviors. Now an emerging variant on CBT aims to concentrate treatment into a more compressed time frame.