My child wants to play tackle football
WHAT YOU MIGHT THINK Never. Concussions are
too big a risk.
REAL-WORLD STRATEGY When his son, Zian, wanted to
play tackle football, Mark Thrun, M. D., admits it scared
him. “I’m a public health doctor, so I knew the risks,” he
says. “But as I looked into it more, I educated myself
about the risks that exist in all sports.” Zian now plays in
“We feel the good he gets from football—positive,
careful coaching; teamwork; physical exercise—makes
it worth it,” says Thrun. But he pulled Zian out of one
league: “We felt there wasn’t a culture of safety among
the coaches and parents.”
Still, Thrun worries just about every Saturday.
“Football is the leading cause of concussion in Zian’s
age group,” he says. “But it’s his passion, and for us, the
benefits outweigh the risks.”
MAKE IT SAFE With concussions occurring in about
40,000 high school athletes each year, some experts
suggest that tackle football shouldn’t be allowed until age
10. “There’s no hard science yet to prove that is the best
age,” says Paul Stricker, M.D., a sports pediatrician in San
Diego. “But since we’re learning it’s the cumulative damage
that’s most worrisome, there’s no reason to start contact
before 10. Kids can learn skills without the tackle element.”
Programs are responding: Pop Warner, the largest
youth football program, now restricts head-to-head
contact. USA Football offers an online checklist for
parents to ask coaches about their training, tips for
fitting a helmet, and spotting signs of a concussion.
Others form leagues based on size and maturity, as well
If your child is eager to play, Stricker says, “Educate
yourself, watch a coach in action before letting your kid
join the team, and make sure the league follows the latest
My child wants to walk around the
mall with friends
WHAT YOU MIGHT THINK Without supervision, kids
are likely to misbehave. And they could be abducted.
REAL-WORLD STRATEGY “We have a downtown
area where tons of kids shop,” says Shannan Younger, a
mom in Naperville, Illinois. “At first, I let my 11-year-old,
Megan, shop with a friend on their own for about 15
minutes when I was at a store nearby. And we’ve worked
our way up, also letting her walk around at an enclosed
mall with a friend for up to an hour while the friend’s
mom was also shopping there. She is getting to the age
where there is a strong urge for freedom, and I want her
to know I believe in her.”
MAKE IT SAFE Many kids are ready for this by 11 or 12,
Johanson says. Start small, and let kids shop on their
own for an hour. “If they meet you at the appointed
place and on time four or five times in a row, you can go
a little further,” he says. “You might say, ‘ You can shop
for a few hours while I go to lunch nearby.’ Safety issues
come down to trust, which a child must earn before you
can give them more responsibility.”
RECALIBRATE YOUR WORRY METER
PARENTS WORRY ABOUT … BUT SHOULD BE MORE AWARE OF …
A child being kidnapped by a random person is
extremely rare, accounting for just 3 percent of cases.
RISKS UNDER THEIR NOSES
Someone familiar to the child—an acquaintance, neighbor, or even
family member—is usually the perpetrator. Seventy-eight percent
of abductions are committed by a parent or family member.
One in 10 children under 14 require medical attention
for an injury each year—not a negligible amount—but
sports are a great way for kids to stay active.
Kids in sports are 40 percent less likely to struggle with weight;
23.9 million kids between 2 and 19 are overweight or obese, which
can lead to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
It’s real, but studies consistently show that bullying in
school is more common—and more harmful.
OVERALL SCREEN TIME
Kids between 8 and 18 spend an average of 71⁄ 2 hours a day in front
of a screen, increasing their risk for being overweight or obese.
better homes and gardens | school 13
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