Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rush to the ER for Behavioral Problems?

Traditionally, parents have made trips to the emergency room when their kids have fallen off the monkey bars or come down with pneumonia. But NBC News recently ran an article by Dr. Tyeese Gaines about ER visits to see psychiatrists. In a 2011 John Hopkins study, researchers found that the majority of young patients' ER visits were for disruptive behavior such as verbal altercations, disruptive classroom behavior, and running away.

Emergency rooms are adept at handling acute physical problems like lacerations, broken bones, and asthma attacks, but psychiatric issues require more time and resources than the ER is prepared to handle. But the real question is, "Why are parents taking their kids to the ER for these problems anyway?"

Dr. Gary M. Blau says, "[Parents] don't know what to do. They're not sure what mental health conditions are and whether to be concerned about them or not." It often comes down to discipline, according to Tanya Haney-Miller, a school counselor in New Jersey.

And discipline begins when children are quite young. In your own babysitting co-op you probably notice that some children respond more appropriately to adults than others. You may even notice that your own kids are some of the less responsive.

While your kids are still young, set firm boundaries for them. Kids feel safer when they have firm boundaries, and they will respect both your authority and the authority of other adults if you reassure them from the start that you have their best interest in mind and your not afraid to take a stand for their best interest (even a stand against them).

To avoid finding yourself in an emergency discipline situation with nowhere else to turn to except the emergency room, prepare early. Begin disciplining your children when they're young. Develop a cohesive community with your babysitting co-op, so you can discuss these issues with friends who have the same goals for their own children. Your regular babysitting co-op planning meetings are a great place to discuss discipline, get ideas from other parents, and tackle problems before they grow too large.

How have you worked to tackle discipline problems in your own home and babysitting co-op?

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