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Texas Parenting News

What children need at home


For preschool children, much growth and learning takes place at home. Whether or not children are in a child care program or preschool all day or part of the day, the people, the space, and daily activities at home are important. Parents can improve children’s growth and learning by meeting the following needs:
Consistent caregivers who keep children safe, engage them in conversation and play, tell them stories or read to them, and provide affection and encouragement. They don’t need to be placed in front of a TV or computer.
Nutritious meals and snacks served with low-fat milk (after age 2) or water, not sodas and fruit-flavored drinks. Children don’t need sweets as rewards for learning or being good. They don’t need cake, cookies, or other desserts after every meal.
A safe place to sleep, eat, and play. Children need time and space for vigorous play (such as the outdoors) as well as play surfaces and objects where they can use their hands and fingers. They need space for storing their clothes and toys, all within reach. They don’t need their own rooms.
Play materials that can be used in many different ways, such as boxes, blocks, paper, crayons, and books. They don’t need a TV, VCR, CD player, or computer. They don’t need flash cards, worksheets, and coloring books.
Predictable routines for meals, play, cleanup, and sleep. Children need active and quiet times as well as opportunities to learn to do things by themselves as they grow. They don’t need constant hurry and excitement, nor do they need isolation and boredom.
A few simple rules and reasons for following them. Children need training and guidance in learning to cooperate, taking responsibility for their actions, understanding that everyone makes mistakes, and choosing proper behavior. They don’t need lectures or punishment, but do need to learn that there are natural and logical consequences to inappropriate behavior.


Keep children in school despite loss of home


The loss of a job, a natural disaster, domestic abuse, and other hardships can put families out on the street. Homeless families may move temporarily to a shelter, the home of a family member or friend, a hotel, car, a campground, abandoned building, or another place.

Even though you may live in a temporary situation, you can keep your kindergarten and school-age children enrolled in school. Federal law—and state law in Texas—guarantee public school enrollment.

When you contact a school, provide information that will assist the school staff in helping you receive all the services you need. Ask questions such as the following:
What transportation is available to keep my children in the same school?
If we have to change schools, who can help me transfer records quickly?
How can my children receive free meals?
Is any tutoring available for my children, and how do we get it?
If my child has disabilities, how do we get testing and services?
Are sports, music, field trips, or other activities available for my children?
Are school supplies, uniforms, or other requirements available if we cannot afford them?

For a list of offices that assist the homeless in Texas, call 1-800-446-3142 or go to the website at


When to talk to children about alcohol’s dangers


TV news reports about teen deaths in car wrecks and other accidents can strike fear in the hearts of parents. What is the appropriate age, you may ask, to talk to children about the dangers of alcohol?

Age 8 is about right for a serious talk. Before that, parents can do two things that are more effective than talking. One is to develop a close, trusting relationship with children that you can build on as they grow. Another is to show by example that your own drinking, if any, is responsible.

Before children leave elementary school, they will have seen thousands of images on TV that drinking is fun, even glamorous. By middle school, children may find it easy to get alcohol and feel pressure from friends to try it. According to a recent national survey, a third of eighth graders reported they had drunk alcohol within the past year.

Well, you may think, it’s only alcohol, and not hard drugs. Actually, alcohol is a powerful, mood-altering drug. Teens who drink face risks of accidental injury and death, earlier and more frequent sexual behavior, and problems with school work. Their chance of becoming an alcoholic is quadrupled compared to those who delay drinking until adulthood.

Moreover, drinking before the age of 21 is illegal. Getting caught can mean an arrest and fine. Subsequent violations may lead to jail, lawyer fees, and driver’s license suspension.

But such consequences can be avoided if parents have healthy relationships with their children. Some tips:
Establish open communication. Avoid lecturing and cultivate listening. Encourage conversation and calmly acknowledge feelings, your own and your child’s.
Accept children as they are, without hurtful teasing, harsh criticism, or comparisons to other children.
Show you care. Ask about school and friends. Spend time together playing catch, riding a bike, or going on a walk.
Explain the reasons for rules: “Bedtime is 9 o’clock because that will give you at least nine hours of sleep. That means you can wake up more easily and think better at school.”

For an informative brochure on preventing underage drinking, published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, see, retrieved July 3, 2014.


What’s in your medicine cabinet?


Families with preschool children need to take a serious look at the home medicine cabinet. This unassuming storage unit may pose hazards not only for curious tots but also absent-minded adults—as well as snoopy houseguests.

Location. In many homes, the medicine cabinet is hung above the bathroom sink. Toddlers can be particularly inventive in finding a way to clamber onto the countertop and open the mirrored door.

In addition, the heat and humidity from showers and baths can cause some drugs to deteriorate. It might be better to store medicines and vitamins in a cool, dark, and dry place such as a linen closet, pantry shelf, or drawer. Any storage should be locked and out of children’s reach.

Clean-out schedule. Review the medicine cabinet contents at least once a year. Discard outdated and damaged products.

Original containers. Keep all items in their original containers to prevent anyone from taking the wrong substance.

Essential contents. Families with preschool children need a few standard items to respond to illness and injury.
Digital thermometer. Most can be used in the mouth, in the rectum, or under the arm. The average normal body temperature is 98.6 Fahrenheit. If babies or toddlers have temperatures of 102 or 103, call the doctor.
Rubbing alcohol. Use it to clean the end of the thermometer before and after use. Alcohol can also be used to disinfect tweezers, ear rings, combs and other personal items. It’s flammable, so keep away from flames.
Soap. Rinse minor cuts, scrapes, and burns with cool water, and wash the skin around the wound with soap and water.
Sterile gauze and tape or plastic bandages. Cover minor wounds to prevent further bleeding and exposure to bacteria. Minor burns, in which the skin isn’t broken, usually can be left unbandaged.
A pain reliever such as acetaminophen. Never give aspirin or related drugs such as salicylate or salicylic acid to children because of the risk of their developing Reye’s Syndrome, a serious disease that can affect the brain and liver. Ibuprofen is not recommended for pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, and children younger than 12.
Saline nose drops or spray, and bulb syringe. Use these to clear a baby’s stuffy nose. Avoid buying medicines for colds (antihistamines, decongestants, or cough syrups) unless specifically recommended by a doctor or pharmacist.
Calamine lotion. Apply to skin rashes, such as poison ivy, to relieve itching.
Sunscreen with SPF of 15 or higher. Use on bare skin of children and adults to prevent sunburn. Keep babies younger than 6 months out of the sun or have them wear hats and cover-up clothing when going outdoors.


Use caution
Before giving or taking any over-the-counter medication, read the directions on the label, even if you have used the product many times. Pay special attention to directions for children. Make sure prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs are in child-resistant packaging.

Talk to your doctor about digestive problems such as stomachache, diarrhea, and vomiting. The doctor will ask about other symptoms and suggest a treatment, if needed. Medicines such as Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol are for adults only; administering the children’s versions is often unnecessary.

Vitamins and supplements that contain iron can be deadly if ingested by children. Iron tablets are a leading cause of accidental death in children.

Never refer to medicine as candy. Children may get the idea that they can explore brightly colored boxes and bottles to find sweet treats.

Post the phone numbers of your child’s physician, pharmacy, and local poison control center near the medicine cabinet. Remember that you can call 9-1-1 in an emergency.

For more on updating your medicine cabinet, see “Stocking your medicine cabinet: What to have and why” by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension at, retrieved on July 2, 2014.