Health Care Issues Facing Families Today

Close-up of a toddler and mother using a touch screen tablet.

Modern parents face many challenges and concerns. The world is constantly changing with new developments and technology, raising important questions such as “How much screen time is OK,” and “How can I help my child build healthy habits?” There’s no manual for raising a child, but Jasmin Makar, MD, of Town and Country Pediatrics, recently shared tips and local resources for parents in a radio interview with Sue Hall on KOIT’s Today’s World program. The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Q: Could you please talk a bit about the Stanford Medicine Children’s Health pediatric network.

Dr. Makar: I work at a practice in San Francisco called Town and Country Pediatrics and we recently joined Stanford Medicine Children’s Health. The Stanford Medicine Children’s Health network consists of pediatric practices that are scattered all over the Bay Area, extending from Monterey all the way to Marin. But I know for us at Town and Country Pediatrics, by joining Stanford, it opened up several more plans for us, meaning we can accept even more patients so it’s been a good thing for us.

Q: What is the overall philosophy of medical practices today for families?

Dr. Makar: At Town and Country Pediatrics, we want to work with parents to find the solution that’s going to work best for them. — whether it’s making a medical decision or strategizing how to manage some of the behavioral issues that everybody struggles with during the course of parenting.

Q: The concerns for parents are constantly evolving, what are some common questions you are asked?

Dr. Makar: Many of the questions that we get as pediatricians are not so much about medicine, but about behavior and routines and healthy habits. One question that comes up often for me and across all the age groups is about screen time. Screens are so pervasive; you can’t get away from them. People always ask me, “How much screen time is OK for my child?” For me, it’s not just about the quantity, but also about the quality of the screen time.

Parents should know what their kids are watching and should be watching with them at times. Parents should actually participate with their kids and play some video games; see what it’s all about. Ask your children questions about what they enjoy about what they’re watching or playing, and be a role model.

Our kids are watching us, and they’re picking up the good and the bad. They are looking to their parents to provide the boundaries, but also to be an example. So, I would try to avoid screens at meals. When you’re having a conversation, turn your phone off, put it away and make some eye contact. Then I would say no screens in the bedroom, even television. Forget about the little screens and the big screens, too. Everybody’s sleep deprived enough already.

Q:  What about media exposure, such as watching the news when something bad happens. What do you advise?

Dr. Makar: I think it’s always important to contextualize everything for your children. If you’re going to expose them to it, you’re going to need to give them some backstory so that they can have a better understanding. If something is frightening, then definitely having discussions about it. Talking about it is what’s going to alleviate your children’s anxiety the most.

Q:  It can be a nerve-wracking time, especially for new parents. is the website, chock full of information about the network and blogs and parent tips and stories that can help.

Dr. Makar: I think that many people in the Bay Area don’t have extended family around to ask those kinds of basic questions, so they’re looking for answers. I will say that googling these things is not always a great idea because you can get some scary information. That’s where pediatricians come in, they can help parents navigate through the ups and downs of parenting.

Q: So, on the teenage end, at what age do pediatricians stop seeing kids?

Dr. Makar: In general, we see kids into college. If you think about it, the brain hasn’t fully developed until the mid-20s. So, a lot of the issues that the college-aged kids are facing are not quite the same as adults. We do find that we can be quite helpful to those kids. They’re still coming to us during breaks from school and summer vacations for immunizations and to check in. Stanford offers all these great programs for high schoolers and for kids going off to college. We just try to get these kids, so that they can become advocates for their own health.

Q: What can families can do to protect their kids’ health?

Dr. Makar: Getting the flu shot every fall is a great start to the school year. Children are at much higher risk for complications of influenza, so we really want to protect those that are most vulnerable.

Also, with the measles outbreak across different parts of the country, immunizations are a hot topic. I would say in San Francisco and the Bay Area in general, many parents are well-informed, well-educated and up on the science and the evidence, so we have pretty good rates of immunization.

Jasmin Makar, MD

Q: What’s some of your philosophy with your own children? Is it the same with your practice?

Dr. Makar: Yes, absolutely. I’ve got to walk the walk. It’s a lot of trying to be a good role model. I tell my parents when they bring their kids to me, never take anything personally. If your toddler has a tantrum or gets upset with you, try not to take it personally, when your teenager rolls their eyes at you. These are all common developmental behaviors. I also tell them to try to have family meals. Studies have shown that having regular family meals helps every member of the family, not just the kids’ mental health and physical health, but it also helps parents and their stress levels. It’s even been found to boost a child’s overall GPA.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add for our families out there?

Dr. Makar: Get your flu shot by Halloween. And, wash your hands. Those are the two best ways to stay healthy during the cold and flu season, which is going to be upon us really soon.


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