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4-year-old best friends believe they're twins, melt hearts: 'They don't see color'

A pair of 4-year-olds who are convinced they’re twins are stealing millions of hearts across the country.

Jia Sarnicola and Zuri Copeland of Miami met at school and became fast friends. Their June birthdays are days apart, and this year, they celebrated with a combined party. Now, they proudly proclaim they’re twins.

>> On HotTopics.TV: Biracial twins who went viral for their looks celebrate a very big milestone 

“They have very strong personalities and are both super outgoing, well-spoken, intelligent and not afraid to tell you what they want. They hit it off right away,” Jia’s mom, Ashley Riggs Sarnicola, told ABC News.

Zuri’s mom agreed.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

“It is unbelievable. They connected very well immediately,” mom Valencia Copeland said. “It was amazing how they’ve gelled together.”

Jia is blonde and white, and Zuri has black hair and is African-American.

“They don’t see color. We’ve never talked to them about it, period,” Sarnicola said.

Photos shared to Instagram show both girls’ families enjoying outings together, such as concerts and playdates.

On Facebook, Sarnicola shared a story about an incident that happened at a recent birthday party that proved the strength of the girls’ bond.

Sarnicola explained that Jia started crying because a little girl told her that she and Zuri weren’t really twins.

>> Read more trending news

Jia quickly told her, “You don’t know anything because we have the same birthday and the same soul,” Sarnicola wrote on Facebook. “When she said that, it took me aback. It was so sweet.”

How to explain gun violence to children after the Texas church shooting

Last month, Jane Ripperger-Suhler, a child psychiatrist at the Texas Child Study Center in Seton, had this advice for parents about how much they should say about a deadly mass shooting, such as the one in Las Vegas or the one in Sutherland Springs.

Be careful about who is watching with TV with you and how you explain it, she advises.

>> PHOTOS: Dozens dead, wounded in Texas church shooting

“It really depends on the developmental level of the kids,” she says. Consider how you think your children will take what they see on TV, she says. “I wouldn’t watch a lot with preschooler.”

For kids already in school, you can watch some with them, but be prepared to talk about it and answer their questions. You can ask things like: “What do you think about this?” “What questions do you have?” Gage if they want to talk about it, but, she says, “I wouldn’t force them to talk about this.”

>> Mass shooting at Texas church: Live updates

Explain things in the simplest yet factual way you can. You could say, “A man shot some people at a concert. I guess he was upset about something,” she says. Or in this case: “A man walked into a church and shot people.”

You can focus on how you are feeling, that you’re upset and that you also don’t understand why this happened, but be careful about how you are reacting. “If a parent swoons or becomes frantic, a child is going to do likewise.”

>> Devin Patrick Kelley: What we know about the alleged Sutherland Springs Baptist Church shooter

Most importantly, remind kids that they are safe; that you will keep them safe, and when they are at school, their teachers will keep them safe.

If your child seems to be fixated on what happened in these shootings, you could encourage them to draw, build something or act something out if they don’t want to talk about it.

>> On Statesman.com: Complete coverage of the Sutherland Springs church shooting

If they don’t seem to be able to move on after a few days, are afraid to go to school, are too scared to go to bed, are having physical symptoms of stress or behavior problems, get them help sooner rather than later, Ripperger-Suhler says.

Be especially aware if a child has experience a trauma before. Watching this scene on TV will not cause post-traumatic stress disorder, she says, but it can be more traumatic and disturbing to some kids.

>> Read more trending news 

Ripperger-Suhler says it’s important to go about normal life. And for many families, that normal life may mean going to church on a Sunday.

If your children express some fear about it, reassure them that you will keep them safe.

Girls with nagging moms grow up to be more successful, study says

Did your mom often nag you about homework and chores as a child? 

Her fussing may be the root of your success, according to a report

>> Read more trending news

Researchers from the University of Essex in England conducted an experiment to determine how a girl’s upbringing can affect her life as an adult.

To do so, they examined the lives of about 15,000 girls between the ages of 13 and 14, following them between the years of 2004 and 2010.

After analyzing the results, they found that daughters with stricter parents were more likely to attend college and snag higher-paying jobs. They were also less likely to become teen moms. In fact, parents with high expectations were believed to reduce a teenager’s chance of becoming pregnant by 4 percent, compared to those with “middling aspirations.”

On the other hand, the scientists correlated less pushy moms and dads with poorer grades among kids as well as low-earning wages and unemployment. 

“In many cases, we succeeded in doing what we believed was more convenient for us, even when this was against our parents’ will,” said lead researcher Ericka Rascon-Ramirez. “But no matter how hard we tried to avoid our parents’ recommendations, it is likely that they ended up influencing, in a more subtle manner, choices that we had considered extremely personal.”

Researchers presented their findings at the Royal Economic Society Conference in the U.K. Want to learn more about the findings? Read additional details at the Daily Mail

Dad is just as emotional as his newborn as baby gets vaccinations

This is the story we all need when life is getting you down.

As almost any parent will tell you, it is horrible to see your child in pain, no matter if it is an accident or something that will be beneficial to them later, like vaccinations.

One dad has shown that he fully understands what his little boy is going through and he’s using the viral video, which has more than 12 million views, to get a message across to all fathers: Be in your child’s life.

>> Read more trending news

Antwon Lee took his son Debais to his two-month checkup. During the visit, the baby had to get his latest vaccinations and the first-time dad was just as worried as his son.

Lee told the Cox Media Group National Content Desk that he had no idea the video was being recorded during his son’s doctor’s visit.

You can hear him talking to him, telling Debais, “You’re gonna stay strong,” and, “It’s OK to cry,” as Debais looks to hang on dad’s every word. After being transferred to the exam table, Lee and Debais clutch hands as the inevitable comes, both the shots and the tears that follow.

As Debais starts crying from the shock of the shots, Lee also starts to break down in between giving his son some tender kisses to take the pain away.

After the trauma to both dad and son was over, Lee scooped up Debais, telling him, “They did you wrong. I know. I know. They did you wrong.”

While 12 million views could have meant money for Lee, he would rather not license the viral video and said that he’s overwhelmed with the response to the clip, telling the National Content Desk, “My spirit is [worth] way more than money.”

“I gotta jump on my knees because God has blessed me with my child. It’s a beautiful thing,” Lee said. “I pray [that] all the fathers need to be in their child’s life.”

Dad's Ben Affleck-inspired Halloween costume sparks outrage from other parents

A Nebraska man sparked backlash after a parent posted a picture of his costume in a Facebook group.

>> See the photo here

According to KETV, the ordeal began when Hugo Mendoza wore a black, hooded robe while holding a duffel bag and a toy gun — the orange cap indicating that it was fake was missing — while attending the Monster Mash Bash with his girlfriend and daughters at Oak View Mall in Omaha. Desirae Anson, who was attending the event with her children, recalled that family members told her “You know, we should probably go,” believing that a shooting was about to take place. A picture Anson later posted of Mendoza in a Facebook group received about 800 reactions and 500 comments.

>> On Rare.us: Married couple who survived the Las Vegas massacre has met a sad end

Mendoza defended himself to KMTV, saying he was simply wearing a costume inspired by “The Town,” a 2010 movie starring Ben Affleck which depicted bank robbers.

"I mean, if it was something bad, why would they sell it? I was there to have a good time with my daughters and my girlfriend. I wasn’t there to scare little kids or make people feel uncomfortable," he said.

Anson held her ground, saying that she couldn’t tell if the gun was real or fake. Others in attendance, including Amber Hall, also voiced discomfort as the scene reminded them of the Van Maur shooting, which occurred at Westroads Mall in 2007.

>> Read more trending news

“In 2007, I was going through the Omaha Police Department recruit academy and, as part of that, we watched the mall, the Von Maur shooting,” Hall recalled. “The videos, the radio calls, since then even now, that’s all that’s ringing through my head.”

Oak View Mall and Westroads Mall owner GGP has since said that it did “not allow any form of mask, prop or costume deemed inappropriate or offensive.” The Omaha World-Herald attempted to contact mall security about the incident, but the person who answered the phone could not comment.

WATCH: Florida police, firefighters dance to 'Thriller' for Teal Pumpkin Project

Officers and firefighters in one Florida city are showing off their dance moves in a viral video to raise awareness about food allergies this Halloween.

>> Watch the video here

According to WTSP, the Tarpon Springs police and fire departments re-created Michael Jackson's "Thriller" music video for the Teal Pumpkin Project. The annual campaign by Food Allergy Research & Education aims to make Halloween "more fun and inclusive for millions of children with food allergies and other dietary restrictions," according to its website. Participants place a teal pumpkin on their doorstep and offer non-food treats like toys to trick-or-treaters. Learn more here.

>> Read more trending news

The police and fire departments also are raising money for the nonprofit CURED, the Campaign Urging Research for Eosinophilic Disease. According to a police press release, "many children with Eosinophilic diseases cannot eat or ingest food orally." To make a donation, visit the foundation's website here.

Opioid crisis: Parents share emotional story of childhood friends who overdosed on same day

Parents of two Gwinnett County, Georgia, teenagers are warning others about the fast and easy way kids are getting their hands on powerful drugs.

>> Watch the news report here

Earlier this year, 18-year-old Dustin Manning and 19-year-old Joseph Abraham died just hours apart.

Manning and Abraham were Little League teammates and knew each other when they were younger.

Their parents said they hadn’t been in touch in years, but their lives took similar paths.

Both men started using drugs in middle school, and they both spent time in drug treatment centers.

>> Read more trending news

It was only after they died that their lives connected again. 

“I never thought that I’d never get to see him grow old,” Joe Abraham’s mother, Kathi Abraham, said.

Their parents believe they bought the same toxic mix of heroin and fentanyl. Police said it appears the teens bought the drugs from the same dealer.

“They said it happened within 20-30 seconds after he sniffed it, he was gone,” Dustin Manning’s mother, Lisa Manning, said.

Hoda Kotb shows off baby daughter's adorable 1st Halloween costume

Hoda Kotb is so excited to celebrate her baby girl Haley Joy’s first Halloween that she showed off her little one’s adorable costume ahead of the big night, People reports.

>> Kim Kardashian West dressed up as Cher for Halloween, and people are loving it

“I couldn’t wait!” Kotb captioned a photo of Haley donning a plush Jack-o’-lantern costume and a huge smile.

>> See the photo here

>> On Rare.us: Hoda Kotb shares yet another precious photo of her daughter Haley 'just because'

The “Today” host adopted Haley back in February, and her life hasn’t been the same since, saying, “There’s a line of demarcation: before Haley and after Haley. Every day after Haley is better than every single day before.”

>> Read more trending news 

Kotb is now navigating motherhood for the first time with some help from boyfriend and the man Hayley calls dad, Joel Schiffman. The proud mom has been active about sharing pictures and milestones with fans on social media.

>> On Rare.us: Hoda Kotb’s latest picture of her 'everything,' daughter Haley Joy, just might be the cutest one yet

“It’s one of those things where you think you’ve done it all, you think you’ve felt it all. But I just didn’t know that this kind of love existed,” Kotb said after welcoming Haley Joy into her life.

Pit bull attack: Child's death reignites official's call for banning breed

A Lowell, Massachusetts, city councilor plans to call for a citywide ban on pit bulls following the death of a 7-year-old boy. Police told WFXT that the boy was brutally attacked by two dogs of that breed. 

>> Watch the news report here

Candles and flowers now sit at the place where a little boy was mauled to death Saturday night.

While the Middlesex District Attorney handles the investigation, a local lawmaker is calling for a citywide ban on the breed that caused this tragedy.

City councilor Rodney Elliott believes this is an issue of public safety. Although he knows banning pit bulls is a controversial issue, he believes that's the necessary measure needed to keep people safe.

>> On Boston25News.com: 7-year-old mauled to death by dog in Lowell

Elliott believes the city of Lowell is too crowded, and therefore there's no room to safely keep pit bulls. 

"I just don't want to see this happen again," Elliott said. 

However, this isn't a new cause for Elliott as he's been calling for a pit bull ban for years. In 2011, following a number of pit bull attacks, he helped spearhead an ordinance to regulate pit bulls and pit bull mixes within the city limits – and it passed. 

"We're an urban city. We have 108,000 people living in 13 square miles. You can go to some very densely populated areas in the city and I think that would be appropriate," Elliott said. "I don't think the law in the books is effective enough, and I do think the responsibility is on the owner, but if we didn't have pit bulls in the city, this attack would never have happened."

>> On Boston25News.com: Neighborhood mourns 7-year-old boy mauled to death by pit bulls

The state then passed its own law prohibiting cities and towns from labeling specific breeds as "dangerous" and regulating them. Elliott believes it should be up to each community to make that decision.

"At the very least, give us the authority to implement strong measures as we did in the past to hold dog owners accountable," Elliott says.

However, many strongly disagree with Elliott, saying the majority of pit bulls are gentle, loving creatures. 

WFXT reporter Stephanie Coueignoux spoke with Mike Keiley, the director of adoption centers for the MSPCA by phone. 

Keiley told WFXT that proper training, socialization, and spaying or neutering a dog play a large role in their behavior. 

>> On Boston25News.com: Family and friends hold vigil for 7-year-old killed by dogs in Lowell

"These particular dogs are the dangerous animals that we are talking about. There are so many other pit bulls out there that never would be involved in this type of situation," Keiley said.

Elliott said there are 74 registered pit bulls in Lowell, but he says many more are being illegally bred. Overbreeding is a problem that can easily lead to overly aggressive dogs. 

Keiley said the issue arises when people who aren't properly trained mate two overly aggressive pit bulls together and can end up breeding an increasingly aggressive generation of dogs. 

"I think that's why you're seeing aggressive dogs continuing to be in the community because they're continuing to be allowed to breed and continued to give a bad name to this breed of dog," Keiley said.

>> Read more trending news

Keiley said pit bulls are loving and gentle by nature, but lack of training and care can lead to aggressive behavior. 

The department of public health said the number of injuries caused by dog bites is a "pretty rare set of circumstances." 

In 2014, 189 people were hospitalized due to dog bites, which accounts for a total of 0.3 percent of all hospitalizations in Massachusetts for that year. 

Elliot said that if Lowell can ban raising chickens because of health concerns, the city should be allowed to ban pit bulls for safety reasons. 

"That makes no logical sense to me. There are other animals and species in this city, in this state, in this country so when we feel there is a problem with a particular breed – and there is," Elliott said.

Last year, on Oct 3, a citywide ban on pit bulls went into effect in Montreal following a pit bull attack that killed a woman in Pointe-aux-Trembles, Quebec. 

The attack has since been contested by animal rights organizations and pit bull owners who say the ban is senseless and that there was no forewarning regarding the ban. 

Elliott plans on raising the issue at a council meeting Tuesday.

The MSPCA said Lowell is one of a number of local cities with what they call an overpopulation of pit bulls, so the organization is now offering free spaying and neutering of pit bulls in those communities. 

More information regarding their "Pit Pals" program for spaying and neutering pit bulls and to check if you're eligible to receive those services for free, check out their website here.

Why more US teens are suffering from severe anxiety than ever before — and how parents can help

Nearly one-third of American adolescents and adults are affected by anxiety, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It’s the most common mental health disorder in the country.

» RELATED: What is anxiety and how can you overcome it?

And when it comes to teens, severe anxiety is becoming more crippling each year.

In fact, over the last decade, anxiety has surpassed depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services, the New York Times reported.

» RELATED: Anxiety and depression do not define who we are

The data comes from the American College Health Association’s 2016 survey of students about the previous year.

Sixty-two percent of undergraduate students in the survey reported “overwhelming anxiety,” a significant increase from 50 percent in 2011.

A separate survey from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, asks incoming college freshmen whether they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year.

>> Read more trending news

In 1985, when the institute began surveying students on the issue, 18 percent said they felt overwhelmed.

By 2010, 29 percent said they did. And in 2016, the number jumped to 41 percent.

And since 2012, the Washington Post reported, the Boys Town National Hotline has seen a 12 percent spike in teens reaching out via calls, texts, chats and emails about their struggles with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

» RELATED: Teens and the distorted reality of social media

The rate of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers has also doubled over the past decade.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mirrored a national trend in suicide rates across the board.

» RELATED: The suicide rate for teen girls is the highest it’s been in 40 years — Is social media to blame?

But the research found suicide rates among 15- to 19-year-old girls doubled between 2007 and 2015, reaching a 40-year high.

That means for every 100,000 American girls in 2015, five committed suicide.

For teen boys, the rate rose by more than 30 percent.

» RELATED: ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ shows how adults can mess up teen angst

What’s causing the rise in teenagers with severe anxiety?

Anxiety, along with depression, cuts across all demographics, including both privileged and disadvantaged teenagers.

But privileged teens are among the most emotionally distressed youth in America, Arizona State University psychology professor Suniya Luthar told the New York Times.

» RELATED: How to keep your kids safe on social media 

“These kids are incredibly anxious and perfectionistic,” she said, but there’s “contempt and scorn for the idea that kids who have it all might be hurting ... there’s always one more activity, one more A.P. class, one more thing to do in order to get into a top college. Kids have a sense that they’re not measuring up. The pressure is relentless and getting worse.”

But helicopter parents aren’t always to blame. Many students internalize the anxiety and put the pressure on themselves, Madeline Levine, co-founder of Challenge Success, a nonprofit aimed at improving student well-being, told the Times.

» RELATED: The more social media you use, the lonelier you feel, study says

Another expert, psychiatrist Stephanie Eken, said despite the cultural differences, there’s a lot of overlap among teens regarding what makes them anxious.

Eken mentions factors range from school, family conflicts, what food to eat, diseases, how they’re perceived by friends and notably in the last few years, Eken told the Times, to a rising fear about terrorism. 

“They wonder about whether it’s safe to go to a movie theater,” she said.

A lack of close, meaningful relationships is also a major factor.

» RELATED: Should kids be watching new Netflix series on teen suicide? 

Experts have long said hormonal, mental and physical changes associated with puberty may leave teens especially vulnerable to anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders.

And social media doesn’t help, Eken said, adding that teens are always comparing themselves with their peers, which leaves them miserable.

When Times reporter Benoit Denizet-Lewis visited Mountain Valley, a nonprofit that offers teens need-based assistance for $910 a day, a college student at the facility said, “I don’t think we realize how much it’s affecting our moods and personalities,” he said. “Social media is a tool, but it’s become this thing that we can’t live without but that’s making us crazy.”

» RELATED: This social media platform is the worst for cyberbullying 

But social media can also be used to “help increase connections between people,” CDC suicide expert Thomas Simon told CNN in August. “It's an opportunity to correct myths about suicide and to allow people to access prevention resources and materials.”

Still, Simon acknowledged that cyberbullying can greatly impact vulnerable youth.

More from experts at NYTimes.com.

How parents can help

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 80 percent of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder are not getting treatment. And anxiety disorders are highly treatable.

While anxiety can be a normal reaction to stressful environments and situations, there are specific symptoms associated with anxiety disorders.

Generally, someone with anxiety disorder would have fear or anxiety that is out of proportion to the situation or inappropriate for his or her age.

The anxiety would also affect normal day-to-day function.

Two questions parents should ask themselves: Is my child more shy or anxious than others his or her age? Is my child more worried than other children his or her age?

» RELATED: Nighttime cellphone usage linked to poor mental health among teens

According to Lynn Miller, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia, those questions can help predict a child’s potential of developing an anxiety disorder.

If you notice overwhelming feelings of anxiety in your child, the ADAA suggests seeking help and talking to a professional.

While antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can offer relief from symptoms, they’re not treated as cures. Instead, talk therapy is often recommended.

More tips from ADAA.org.

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