What the family of an 8-year-old COVID-19 victim wants you to know

"Everyone associates it with old people, as they think they're the only ones who are going to get it, but that's not true," Jennifer Morales told FOX 8. "My sister got it."

What the family of an 8-year-old COVID-19 victim wants you to know

A family who lost their 8-year-old daughter to COVID-19 is speaking out in the hopes of saving other children. Second-grader Aurea Soto Morales of North Carolina died on June 1 after brain swelling led to a coma. Her illness began on May 28.

Her parents tested positive for COVID-19 first. Morales' older sister, 17-year-old Jennifer, told FOX 8 that she and her late little sister then began feeling ill.

Jennifer says she's not sure where her family caught COVID-19 as she and Aurea had mostly been staying home with their mom, Araceli, who is a stay at home parent while their dad, Salvador, worked construction as an electrician. "It's awful," Jennifer told ABC 11. "I wasn't expecting a child to die, especially not my sister."


"Everyone associates it with old people, as they think they're the only ones who are going to get it, but that's not true," she told FOX 8. "My sister got it."

Jennifer and Aurea's mother, Araceli Morales Martinez spoke to reporters this week as well, explaining in Spanish that this is "a nightmare I never imagined living...It's such a large pain. I ask all mothers take care of their children, please."

Hearts are broken for the Morales family and a Go Fund Me has been created to help pay for Aurea's hospital bills and her funeral.

Morales family


Aurea is the first child to die from COVID-19 in North Carolina. According to the State Epidemiologist. Dr. Zack Moore, "While most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe, this is a tragic reminder for all of us that COVID-19 can be a serious illness for anyone. We want to encourage people to protect themselves and others by wearing face coverings, waiting at least six feet apart and washing hands often whenever you leave home."

According to a recent study published JAMA Pediatrics, kids and teens are more at risk for COVID-19 than previously thought (but the researchers say "it important to emphasize that the overall burden of COVID-19 infection in children remains relatively low compared with seasonal influenza" and stress that well-child appointments and preventive pediatric health maintenance should be a priority bow as "children continue to face a far greater risk of critical illness from influenza than from COVID-19". )

Kids with underlying health conditions are at the greatest risk for COVID-19, but kids without these conditions (like obesity, diabetes, seizures or chronic lung disease) are also at a lower risk for the virus.

"The idea that COVID-19 is sparing of young people is just false," said study coauthor Lawrence C. Kleinman, professor and vice chair for academic development and chief of the Department of Pediatrics' Division of Population Health, Quality and Implementation Science at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. "While children are more likely to get very sick if they have other chronic conditions, including obesity, it is important to note that children without chronic illness are also at risk. Parents need to continue to take the virus seriously."

Like Aurea, 5-year old Skylar Herbert died after COVID-19 caused her brain to swell. Both her parents worked as first responders. Her mother, Vonnie was a Detroit police officer for 25 years, and her father, Ebbie is a Detroit firefighter. Skylar was the first child in Michigan to die from COVID-19.

Go Fund Me

As infectious-disease specialist Janet A. Englund told the Washington Post, after Skylar's death, "The numbers are low...Until it's your child."

Aurea was Latina and Skylar was Black, and according to experts at the United Nations, minorities are at greater risk for COVID-19 due to the systemic racism prevalent in our society and our health care systems. As NPR notes, "In 42 states plus Washington D.C., Hispanics/Latinos make up a greater share of confirmed cases than their share of the population. In eight states, it's more than four times greater."

And according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the death rate for Black Americans is almost double other racial groups, and this isn't just a problem in the U.S. In England and Wales the death rate for Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people is almost twice the fatality rate for white people.

"The appalling impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minorities is much discussed, but what is less clear is how much is being done to address it," Bachelet said. "Urgent steps need to be taken by States, such as prioritising health monitoring and testing, increasing access to healthcare, and providing targeted information for these communities."

The families of children like Aurea and Skylar want people to understand that COVID-19 is still a threat to children...but it's more of a threat to certain children because of racism. If we want to protect children we need to follow public health guidelines regarding social distancing and hand hygiene, but we also need to hold public health officials and the entire health care system accountable for the way white supremacy has made children of color more vulnerable to this disease.

In This Article

    How one company is making a huge difference for LGBTQ youth

    Take notes, all you other brands, this is how it's done

    Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

    This article is sponsored by H&M. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    We spoke to Chris Bright (he/she/they), Director of Public Training at The Trevor Project, who works closely with H&M. Chris shared with us the Trevor Project's important mission, and what all brands should do to best support LGBTQ youth today.

    1. For those that do not know, what is The Trevor Project's mission? What is it all about and its impact on society?

    The Trevor Project is the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people, and LGBTQ youth are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight or cis peers. Our mission is to end suicide among the estimated 1.8 million LGBTQ youth under the age of 25 in the U.S. who seriously consider suicide each year.

    Founded in 1998, The Trevor Project launched TrevorLifeline, the first 24/7 national lifeline supporting LGBTQ youth in crisis alongside HBO's broadcast of the Academy Award-winning short film Trevor. The first calls were answered that night. Since then, we have grown from reaching several thousand LGBTQ youth per year to becoming the preeminent resource for LGBTQ young people in crisis, directly serving over 200K LGBTQ young people in the last fiscal year alone. We work tirelessly to save young lives by providing support through our free and confidential crisis programs on platforms where young people spend their time — online and on the phone. In addition to TrevorLifeline, we offer 24/7 digital crisis services including TrevorText and TrevorChat, as well as TrevorSpace, the world's largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ youth.


    H&M + The Trevor Project

    2. Can you describe the nature of the relationship/partnership the Trevor Project has with H&M?

    Our collaboration with H&M has been remarkably successful, with H&M driving awareness of The Trevor Project and our services among its audience while also demonstrating its strong support of LGBTQ young people. H&M first partnered with us in December 2020 during our "Every Single One" holiday campaign, where they donated $250K in matching funds for Giving Tuesday. This helped The Trevor Project have our best-ever Giving Tuesday moment.

    Our work together has had extensive impact, allowing H&M to engage employees, customers, and community members in conversations about LGBTQ Allyship through Trevor's resources and mission. We're thankful for H&M's support, which helps us continue to operate and improve our 24/7 life-saving crisis services so we can serve more LGBTQ young people.

    3. Why was H&M the right company to partner with?

    H&M is an established yet relevant brand that has the attention of young people, and we're always so thankful to partner with youth-facing brands that can not only spread messages of love and support, but also can increase the awareness of our crisis services and resources. We know that H&M genuinely cares about creating a better future for LGBTQ young people.

    4. What do you see as the biggest challenge or struggle for LGBTQ kids today?

    LGBTQ youth are incredibly diverse, with so many intersecting identities and unique experiences — making it difficult for me to pinpoint what might be the single biggest challenge or struggle for all LGBTQ youth today.

    What I can say, however, is our research reveals numerous challenges or struggles that may be more prevalent across the board for LGBTQ youth. According to our 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, which captures the experiences of nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 24 across the U.S., nearly 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. Over 94% of LGBTQ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health and more than 80% of LGBTQ youth stated that COVID-19 made their living situation more stressful.

    What's clear is that while there is no single biggest challenge or struggle for our LGBTQ youth today, it's critical that we find ways to uplift and support each and every LGBTQ young person that we can.

    5. Since it's back to school time, are there stressors or situations that are uniquely heightened for LGBTQ youth, other than the standard new school year jitters, that people don't necessarily know about?

    Our research has found that LGBTQ youth who reported having at least one LGBTQ-affirming space had 35% reduced odds of attempting suicide in the past year, with LGBTQ-affirming school environments having the strongest association with reduced suicide attempts. Since the onset of COVID-19, the volume of youth reaching out to us has significantly increased, at times nearly double our pre-COVID volume. Feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety have been heightened as a result of the pandemic, further emphasizing the need for LGBTQ youth to have access to spaces that affirm their identities, such as gender-neutral bathrooms, trans-inclusive sports, and positive extracurricular activities such as Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs).

    LGBTQ youth who reported having at least one accepting adult — whether it be teachers, coaches, or counselors — were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year. The Trevor Project created the Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention, which includes requirements for teacher training, mental health instruction for students, and policies and procedures for suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that as in-person learning returns, schools provide LGBTQ students with safe learning environments where they can feel empowered, supported, and accepted by their peers and educators.

    H&M + the Trevor Project

    6. In what way is the support that The Trevor Project provides crucial to LGBTQ youth, especially as it pertains to suicide prevention?

    The support that The Trevor Project provides is so crucial because suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people — and LGBTQ youth are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight or cis peers. LGBTQ youth reach out to Trevor because we are LGBTQ-affirming and a trusted provider of crisis services. All of our volunteers are highly-trained to answer calls, chats, and text from LGBTQ youth 24/7 when they are feeling suicidal or need a safe, non-judgmental place to talk.

    Almost three-quarters of youth stated that they either would not or were unsure if they would have another service if The Trevor Project did not exist. We aim to be there for every young LGBTQ person in crisis with a clear message: you are loved, your life has value, and you are never alone.

    7. What do you think the responsibility is for brands to be involved in pro-social, activism-related work?

    Everyone can play a role in creating change and building progress in our society. Brands — especially those with large platforms and influence — have a responsibility to fulfill that role as well. We recognize H&M and our other brand partners for helping spur progress on important issues, and we encourage others to follow suit. Beyond the essential financial support that brands can provide to nonprofits like The Trevor Project, there's also a direct benefit for the community when brands are loud about their support of Pride; we've found that more than half of youth said brands who support the LGBTQ community positively impact how they feel about being LGBTQ. Finally, it's important to remember that Pride doesn't begin and end in June — the opportunity to support Pride is 365 days a year. We are thrilled to have H&M as a year-round partner for The Trevor Project, demonstrating their authentic support for our work.

    8. What is one of the biggest impacts or positive results you have seen come from the partnership between The Trevor Project and H&M?

    We wouldn't be able to do the work we do and make the progress we've made without our brand partners like H&M. The Trevor Project has experienced significant growth in the last few years with the implementation of our five key program areas: crisis services, peer support, research, education and public awareness, and advocacy. Since 2019, we've been working to scale our volunteer training to increase the number of crisis services counselors on a yearly basis. In addition to original, intersectional monthly research briefs, our research team launched the world's largest survey of LGBTQ youth mental health in 2019, and has released a total of three national, annual reports. We've ramped up Trevor's advocacy work on the local, state, and federal levels to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, including bills to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy that have been in introduced in 40 states. H&M's partnership helps us advance this work by raising significant funds and awareness for our mission. During June 2021, when H&M served as one of our key Pride Partners, our crisis counselors served over 19,500 crisis contacts with free, confidential support via phone, chat, and text.

    9. How important is it for LGBTQ+ youth to see allies in popular culture, be it a celebrity or high profile person, mainstream brand, etc.?

    LGBTQ representation in the mainstream media is extremely important as it makes LGBTQ youth feel seen, validated, and confident that they are not alone. Over 80% of youth said that celebrities who are LGBTQ positively influence how they feel about being LGBTQ, and more than half of youth said brands who support the LGBTQ community have a positive impact on their LGBTQ identity. As we continue to see increased visibility for marginalized communities in popular culture, diverse images will become normalized, which in turn creates a safer, more accepting world for all of us.

    10. For people who want to get involved with a cause like The Trevor Project, what is the best way to make a difference?

    There are a number of ways to get involved with The Trevor Project – from making a donation (TheTrevorProject.org/Donate) to applying to be a volunteer (TheTrevorProject.org/Volunteer) to spreading the word about our resources.

    Affirming spaces and support systems work to save young LGBTQ lives. People can be active in their communities to ensure that more safe, affirming spaces are available and thriving. Even making an effort to respect someone's pronouns and encouraging those around you to do the same can make a huge difference. Our research has also found that LGBTQ youth who report having at least one accepting adult were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt. If you get the opportunity, be that one person for a young person in your life.

    If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project's trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat www.TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678.

    Our Partners

    This incredibly soft comforter from Sunday Citizen is like sleeping on a cloud

    My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

    When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

    One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

    I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.


    Honestly, it's no wonder. Originally designed as a better blanket for luxury hotels and engineered with textile experts to create this uniquely soft fabric, it has made my bed into the vacation I so desperately want these days.

    The comforter is made up of two layers. On one side is their signature knit "snug" fabric which out-cozies even my most beloved (bought on sale) cashmere sweater. The other, a soft quilted microfiber. Together, it creates a weighty blanket that's as soothing to be under as it is to flop face-first into at the end of an exhausting day. Or at lunch. No judgement.

    Miraculously, given the weight and construction, it stays totally breathable and hasn't left me feeling overheated even on these warm summer nights with just a fan in the window.

    Beyond being the absolute most comfortable comforter I've found, it's also answered my minimalist bed making desires. Whether you opt to use it knit or quilted side up, it cleanly pulls the room together and doesn't wrinkle or look unkempt even if you steal a quick nap on top of it.

    Also worth noting, while all that sounds super luxe and totally indulgent, the best part is, it's equally durable. It's made to be easily machine washed and come out the other side as radically soft as ever, forever, which totally helps take the sting out of the price tag.

    My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

    Here is my top pick from Sunday Citizen, along with the super-soft goods I'm coveting for future purchases.

    Woodland Snug comforter

    Sunday-Citizen-Woodland-Snug-comforter

    The bedroom anchor I've been looking for— the Snug Comforter.

    $249

    Braided Pom Pom Throw

    Because this degree of coziness needs portability, I'm totally putting the throw version on my list. It's washable, which is a must-have given my shedding dog and two spill-prone kiddos who are bound to fight over it during family movie night.

    $145

    Lumbar pillow

    sunday-citizen-lumbar-pillow

    What's a cozy bed without a pile of pillows?

    $65

    Crystal infused sleep mask

    sunday citizen sleep mask

    Promoting sleep by creating total darkness and relaxation, I've bookmarked as my go-to gift for fellow mamas.

    $40

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

    The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

    We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

    All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

    And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


    Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

    Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

    Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

    Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

    When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

    Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

    Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

    You've got this.

    Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

    The Motherly Birth Class

    pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

    Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

    $79

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


    Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)

    $139

    Secret Agent play set

    Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    Stepping Stones

    Stepping-stones

    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

    $99.99

    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

    $30

    Sensory play set

    kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $19.95

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Foam pogo stick

    Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

    $16.99

    Dumptruck 

    green-toys-dump-truck

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

    $22

    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

    $14.99

    Pull-along ducks

    janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $16.99

    Rocking chair seesaw

    Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

    $79.99

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $79.99

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $24.75

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    Managing your child’s eczema? A psychodermatologist explains the important link between skin and stress

    Teaching your child to reduce stress can set them up for a lifetime of healthier skincare habits.

    natashayummyphoto/Twenty20

    If your child is suffering from eczema, you know the struggle: the endless scratching, the sleepless nights, the constant overwhelm of prescriptions and appointments and tricks you've been meaning to try. You're likely already working with a pediatrician or dermatologist to find the right treatment plan—and that's the best first step. But did you know there's a huge connection between stress and eczema? That means your child's mental health—and your own–could be impacting their atopic dermatitis, too.

    Like many of life's little problems that seem to spiral out of control, inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and mental health share a mind-body feedback loop: Inflammation in the skin can communicate with the brain—causing anxiety, depression, tiredness and foggy thinking. At the same time, all that stress can trigger more inflammation...which causes more stress...which triggers more inflammation...and the vicious cycle continues.

    The science on this is clear—and that's why organizations like the American Academy of Dermatology and the National Eczema Association promote stress-reduction methods like solid sleep and mindfulness as important tools for treating conditions like eczema.


    What's a lot less clear is exactly how this information should be applied to young kids. Sure, we know that sleep is essential for skin repair and a daily meditation practice can significantly reduce stress—but where does that leave our littlest ones, the ones who suffer from high rates of eczema but aren't exactly pros when it comes to their wellness routines? The ones who aren't always capable of articulating how they're feeling? The ones whose sleep patterns are understandably unpredictable?

    "Family dynamics come into major play when working to reduce stress in kids," explains Amy Wechsler, M.D., a psychodermatologist (she's double board-certified in dermatology and psychiatry, and specializes in the intersection of both fields) and author of The Mind-Beauty Connection.

    Much like the body and mind are connected, so are you and your child. Here's what you need to know about how stress affects their skin—and how your stress affects their skin—when it comes to managing eczema.


    Stress increases cortisol, which causes trouble for the skin

    When it comes to cortisol—the body's chief stress hormone—balance is everything. "Too much cortisol causes trouble," explains Dr. Wechsler. "You want it around when you need it, and gone when you don't."

    Cortisol gets pumped up in stressful situations: When the body is under physical or emotional duress (yes, like when your babe wakes up screaming in the middle of the night), it goes into fight-or-flight mode and amps the production of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. But when the body produces too much cortisol, it can suppress the immune system and cause an inflammatory response in the skin.

    Dr. Wechsler says it's especially important to help kids avoid chronic stress, which happens when they're under prolonged or back-to-back attacks without relief. "Chronic stress can cause the epidermis to become leaky," says Dr. Wechsler. "The skin becomes more dry and also lets in potential allergens and sensitizers—the exact opposite of what's good for an eczema patient," she says.

    Sleep is essential for keeping cortisol levels low

    So how, exactly, can we keep cortisol levels under control in kids? One very simple answer is solid sleep—for both little ones and their parents. "It would be difficult to overstate the importance of sleep," says Dr. Wechsler. "Cortisol is lowest during sleep, which is why good sleep is so important. It gives the body a break and allows time for the skin to heal."

    Think of it like this: The more hours of restorative sleep your child is getting, the less time they're spending with raised cortisol and the more time they're spending with the good molecules that heal—like endorphins, growth hormones and oxytocin.

    Plus, Dr. Wechsler points out that when a child isn't sleeping, the parents usually aren't sleeping either—which can increase stress in the parents that trickles down to the child. (Keep reading for more on how stress flows both ways in the parent-child dyad.)

    Your all-important mission: Figure out the best sleep strategy for your family—by any means necessary. Considering co-sleeping? Research shows that mamas who co-sleep get more sleep than those who don't. Perhaps you need an expert intervention? A sleep consultant can personalize a sleep strategy that's unique to your child.

    Address the itch to improve sleep and reduce stress

    Another big barrier to sleep—and healing? The awful itch factor that many kids with eczema experience, which can disrupt sleep and set off another snowball effect. "It's another chicken and egg thing, because if kids are really itchy with eczema, that can impact their sleep," says Dr. Wechsler. "And then if they're not sleeping well, they're not healing as fast—because healing happens during sleep."

    Keep in mind that itchiness is subjective and will present differently for every kid: Some might have large patches of eczema that aren't bothersome at all, while others might have small, isolated flare-ups that keep them up at all hours of the night and distracted during the day. (Which both—you guessed it!—lead to more stress.)

    To break the itch-scratch cycle, Dr. Wechsler says it's important to address food and environmental allergies, implement an eczema-friendly skincare routine and enlist help from an oral antihistamine when necessary (just ask your ped). "When we follow this protocol, it's common to see itchy skin—and sleepless nights—improve very quickly," says Dr. Wechsler.

    Mindfulness and meditation provide major health benefits for kids

    Breathwork, mindfulness, meditation and gentle movement aren't the typical activities that come to mind for kids—especially babies and toddlers. But we're doing our kids a major disservice if we underestimate their interest and ability to learn these techniques, which can help them feel better in their bodies and boost their overall health—skin included.

    There's plenty of fascinating research on the power of mindfulness for stress reduction in kids—like a new study out of Stanford University School of Medicine that shows kids who practice mindfulness not only sleep longer, but also gain a better awareness of their stress and stronger skills for coping with it.

    So what's the key to teaching stress reduction techniques? "I've found that kids are surprisingly capable in these areas, especially when we model it for them," says Dr. Wechsler. Getting started doesn't need to feel formal or forced; start small and introduce little habits into your daily routine, then build until these techniques are organically woven throughout every day.

    Stack your child's shelves with books that introduce mindfulness (try Listen Like An Elephant or Breathe Like a Bear from Kira Willey), grab a deck of mindfulness cards for kids and play quick games (like "drop anchor") and mini moments (like "the mindful bite"). Look to technology for help, too: Queue up CosmicKids yoga and mindfulness classes on YouTube (there's a theme for every kid's interest), and start a shared breathwork practice with apps like Breathwrk or Mindful Mamas.

    Don't underestimate the healing power of your touch

    Applying lotion (and then applying it again and again) is a fact of life for many families with eczema—but it's also an opportunity to elevate a simple skincare task into something more special.

    "Kids need their parents' hands on them," says Dr. Wechsler. "A gentle body rub while massaging in cream after a bath can be a very relaxing experience that lowers cortisol levels, increases circulation and boosts helpful hormones like oxytocin and endorphins."

    Of course, it's important to use the right body lotion or oil on eczematous skin—something that offers maximum benefits without any stinging or discomfort. Dr. Wechsler suggests pure safflower oil or a fragrance-free cream like Cetaphil Pro Eczema Soothing Moisturizer or Eucerin Baby Eczema Relief Flare-Up Treatment).

    To reduce stress in your child, start with yourself first

    You're devoted to taking care of your child—but when's the last time you checked in on the person who's responsible for them? "Sometimes you're so focused on your kid that you forget about yourself," says Dr. Wechsler. "But we can't talk about managing the toddler's stress without talking about managing the parents' stress, too." Once again, it's all interconnected.

    Dr. Wechsler explains that when parents struggle to manage their own stress or mental health, it can negatively impact their child's treatment—whether it's by failing to stay on top of their at-home skin treatment plan, or by projecting your own stress and compounding theirs.

    Let's look at scratching as an example. For a child with itchy eczema, the urge to scratch can be overwhelming and hard to ignore. And for the parent, all that scratching can be triggering: You're worried they'll damage their skin or cause an infection! It's irritating! You've reminded them dozens of times not to do it and they just. won't. listen!

    In these trying times, it's more important than ever to stay calm and collected. Dr. Wechsler says problems arise when parents aren't able to react mindfully, but find themselves snapping, nagging or bringing negative attention to the issue (which can increase stress in the child) instead. To model a healthy response, Dr. Wechsler suggests taking a few deep breaths and then calmly redirecting the child to a tactile, hands-on activity (great for diverting their minds and fingers away from the itch) or teaching them to grab a cooling ice pack to calm the flare-up.

    And just remember to keep things in perspective. "I have seen cases of children in my practice who have mild eczema and are totally fine, but then it's the parents who are really upset and not handling their emotions well," says Dr. Wechsler. "Kids pick up on reactions and emotions. If the parents are showing their child their anxiety, worry or stress, the child will often feel that way, too." She suggests working through those emotions when you're alone with a partner, friend or therapist.

    If you feel overwhelmed or extremely anxious about your child's skin condition, Dr. Wechsler recommends checking in with yourself first. "Just take a moment to reflect and notice how you're feeling and how you're sleeping," she says. If you're struggling, identify the areas where you can get help—and don't be ashamed to ask for it. To take the absolute best care of the little one you love, it's essential to start with yourself.

    Children's health

    Manager's viral post about flexible working hours is making moms feel seen

    Because life happens whether you're on the clock or not.

    LinkedIn

    If there's one thing we've all learned during these past 18 months, it's that we're capable of being a lot more flexible than we probably ever thought we could be. Because, well, we've had to be. Primarily when it comes to work.

    We've all learned the importance of being a little more understanding, and one manager is hitting the nail on the head about being flexible at work in a LinkedIn post that has gone viral. And it's resonating with working moms, big time.


    Raise your hand if you're a woman and you've found yourself apologizing to your colleagues and supervisors about having to duck out of work or call off because your kids are sick. How about going into immense detail to "justify" why you need to take time off for your family? Yep, I see you've all got your hands raised!

    Though employees, women in particular, have basically been conditioned to do these things, this LinkedIn post basically gives us the validation that it's OK to not be a machine—because life happens.

    Megan Witherspoon, the Vice President of Communications at Altria, wrote about flexible working hours from a manager's perspective and it quickly went viral. Why? Well, it's a must-read. So go ahead and dive in.

    "I DO care that your daughter is home with yet another ear infection," she writes. "I DO NOT care that you'll be offline for 2 hours this afternoon for her doctor's appointment."

    Since we're all in for an anxiety-ridden school year when it comes to sicknesses—even the common cold ignites panic in most of us now—this line is especially validating to read.

    "I DO care that a bus driver shortage means you don't have reliable transportation for your son," she continues. "I DO NOT care if you need to get back to me in an hour after picking him up from school."

    Witherspoon also talks about the importance of taking vacation time and prioritizing your mental health, because a healthy employee is a happy employee. And happy employees stick around—because they want to.

    She concludes her post by reinforcing the idea that, as a boss, she cares about the things that are happening in the lives of her employees. And that as long as your work is done and done well, it shouldn't matter how or when you do it. Especially now, amid an ongoing pandemic that impacts our lives in ways both big and small every single day.

    Life happens. Flexibility is a valuable currency—at home and at work.

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