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Kids Can Have Better Eyesight if Parents Know What To Do

Mom and child in park look at plants

Just like teaching them to brush their teeth, parents can help their children take better care of their eyes. That is, if the parents themselves know good vision habits. A new study shows that when parents are taught eyecare basics, they pass them on to their kids. A new parenting course helps them to learn. 

Myopia Rising

Many studies, including this new one in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, reveal the eye condition Myopia is rampant among school-aged children.

Myopia is the technical term for being near-sighted or short-sighted. The condition changes the shape of the eye and causes things in the distance to look blurry.

Covid has made the worldwide trend worse by leading to much more screen viewing and an indoor-based lifestyle. At this rate, the Brian Holden Vision Institute predicts, by 2050 every other person will be nearsighted.

The fact that half of all humans will wear glasses may not seem like a big deal until you consider Myopia makes it easier to develop vision-destroying diseases. In the words of JAMA Ophthalmology, “One in 3 persons with high myopia will eventually become visually impaired or even blind.”

The journal authors point out another fact parents may not know: “Many ophthalmic diseases are caused by unhealthy behavior.”

In other words, eye problems can be PREVENTED.

Thankfully, another study in the same AMA journal shows Myopia rates drop among kids if parents teach them healthy eyecare habits.

In the study, teachers in China sent some of the parents of their students weekly eyecare tips via WeChat. Other parents received no special instruction. The result: “the 2-year cumulative incidence rate of myopia in the intervention group was significantly lower than that in the control group.”

Toward Better Children’s Eye Care

Exactly how do kids maintain good vision? Science is learning more.

“Both electronic screen use and outdoor activity have recently been reported as key factors influencing the onset and progression of Myopia in school-aged children,” say the JAMA journal authors.

Messages from the Chinese teachers boiled down to 3 simple habits (which The Durable Human previously detailed here): Continue reading

Wellness Habits Help Families Adjust Post Pandemic

Woman, Man and Little Child read a Book

Starting simple wellness habits can help families move beyond the pandemic, which took a heavy toll on health, social skills, and confidence. New surveys reveal the extent of the damage, but point to avenues for healing and durability.

Even though the pandemic caused “major disruptions” in their children’s lives, many parents believe family bonds grew stronger. “Most parents set out to create safe and loving homes for their children, which led to closer positive relationships” according to an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Family Snapshots survey done with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

But even as they tried to create a sense of comfort, parents and care givers were under stress. The pandemic changed the nature of almost half the jobs held by those who had been working full- or part-time.  

1 Billion Meals Not Served

Many more American families did not have enough to eat. “Estimates suggest food insecurity in households with children more than doubled,” according to Eliza Kensey, associate research scientist at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Black and brown families were disproportionately affected, as were families in rural communities.

During the first two months of the pandemic, kids missed out on an estimated 1 billion free or reduced-price school meals. 30 to 40% of those meals have yet to be replaced, Kinsey’s analysis shows. “Loss of access to school meals, such as we saw with school closures during the COVID pandemic, puts millions of households at increased risk of food insecurity,” Kinsey explained in a SciLine media briefing

In households with enough food, children’s weight crept upward. In a small study of mainly non-hispanic white children after the first 5 months of quarantine, “the majority of children experienced accelerated weight gain above and beyond what is observed during a typical 3-month summer,” according to a report in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

The authors point to “the potential negative consequences of prolonged periods of time quarantined at home where children are removed from their ‘typical’ daily structure and routine.” The lockdown effect, they add, “could be even greater on children from racial or ethnic minority groups.”

The Eyes Have Had It

woman and boy look at desk top computer screen

Of the millions of children who could attend online school, many had aches and pains on a daily basis, according to a March 2021 parent Pulse Survey by the Digital Wellness Lab of Boston Children’s Hospital. Chief among them: eye pain, headaches, and blurry or double vision. 

“I see a huge increase in my practice,” reports Larry Jones, a doctor of optometry and president-elect of the American Optometric Association. The AOA held an emergency summit in March 2021 because of what organizers consider “a burgeoning crisis” for children’s eye health.    

Continue reading

Helping Children Cope in Turbulent Times

Little girl covers her eyes as if in fear

Like their parents, kids who witness real-life chaos like the riot at the U.S. Capitol can feel traumatized. Even those who don’t watch can be lightning rods for their parents’ anguish. These strategies help children handle difficult emotions and can lift worry from their shoulders.

Check in.

“Don’t wait for them to bring it up. Ask how they’re feeling,” advised Duke University School of Medicine psychiatry professor Dr. Robin Gurwitch in a SciLine media briefing. “That way, you can get a sense of their understanding, validate their feelings, and correct misperceptions.” When you set aside your phone and give them your full attention, kids feel more safe and secure.

Relieve their guilt.

If your kids see you are scared, angry, sad, or frustrated, they may think it’s their fault. Explain to them that “these emotions are normal and have nothing to do with anything they did,” advises the parent advice website, Common Sense Media.

Freely dispense hugs.

A hug is “a combination love potion, muscle relaxant, and tranquilizer,” says The Durable Human Manifesto. Dispense copious doses. Touch can be more powerful than words and is certainly an effective supplement.

Let them play.

“When we adults feel angst, we deal with it by playing it over in our minds or talking to someone we trust,” said Nancy Carlsson-Paige of Defending the Early Years in a Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood webinar. “Children don’t have those tools. The ways kids process their experience is through play.” Open-ended playthings like dress-up clothes, play doh, and/or cuddly pets give kids maximum expressive leeway. Continue reading

12 Durable Tips for Better Distance Learning

Girl doing math on laptop

After a crushing disappointment, it became almost a miracle.

The broadcast journalism grad students from Syracuse University were supposed to spend the summer of 2020 in Washington, D.C. With media credentials dangling from their necks, they’d chase down interviews and comingle in our pop-up newsroom like network correspondents. Then, as for countless other students, their dreams were dashed. Because of the pandemic, the program would be all online.

But they rose to the challenge. Students pitched stories on Slack, did interviews on Zoom, and wrote scripts in Google Docs. We on the faculty fine-tuned the video and audio of their news reports with the powerful Frame.IO. We got the job done.  

Although I’ve been wary of digital fixes in the past, I’m the first to admit: our program was saved by technology.

As the world heads into the first full school year of the pandemic, digital teaching tools will be crucial, especially since more than half of U.S. K through 12 schools expect not to return to a physical classroom. “We have to demand that the internet is a public utility and that it is installed for families that don’t have access,” says Merrie Najimy, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Yet, last spring’s quick switch to online learning has largely been deemed a failure—and kids are still feeling the pain. Pediatricians across the U.S. report an unprecedented number of patients with anxiety and depression borne by disrupted school and home routines.  

So what’s a parent to do?

Luckily, we’ve learned from our mistakes. Based on the hard won experience served up on Zoom by boots-on-the-ground parents and education experts, here are 12 ways parents can help their kids do school better:

Continue reading

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