Texas Parenting News
Plan ahead for summer
Before you know it, summer will be here. Taking time now to plan for those long, hot summer days can help you make it more fun—and less challenging—for your family.
Plan safety outdoors
Typically families expect to spend more time outdoors. Some safety tips:
Provide helmets for everyone while riding bicycles, scooters, and skateboards.
Avoid bites from ticks, which can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease, and other illnesses, by wearing long sleeves, long pants, and tick repellent especially in grassy and wooded areas.
While swimming or playing in water, keep children within touching distance.
Have children wear sunscreen (SPF at least 15) and protective clothing while in the sun. Avoid exposure during the middle of the day.
Encourage everyone to drink water frequently to avoid dehydration. Don’t wait until thirsty.
Avoid areas with poison ivy and their vines. After hiking or playing in wooded areas, wash skin with a mild detergent to remove the oil that can cause an allergic reaction.
While barbecuing, keep children away from the grill, even after you have taken off the cooked food. The grill can still be hot enough to cause serious burns.
For more information on summer safety, see Summer Safety Tips for Kids, Camp PBS Parents, at www.pbs.org/parents/summer/summer-safety-tips-for-kids/.
Plan to keep learning going
Summer is a great time to learn more about what interests and engages your child. Help avoid the brain drain that teachers often report when children return to school in the fall.
Read. Read. Read. Borrow books from your preschool and the local library. Read stories aloud and talk about the characters, the plot, and your child’s reactions. Ask questions to encourage conversation.
Encourage reading and writing by inviting children to help plan weekly menus, write grocery lists, and cook with simple recipes.
Invite children to help select fresh fruits and vegetables when you go grocery shopping or visit the local farmers’ market. Nutrition experts recommend that at least half your grocery shopping should consist of fresh or frozen produce, one-fourth protein, and one-fourth whole grains. Avoid processed foods as much as possible.
Provide math practice by inviting preschoolers to count flowers, birds, insects, red cars, and other objects as you walk, drive, and play. Remember that counting requires matching numbers to objects, not just memorizing numbers in sequence.
While watching baseball games, talk with children about numbers of strikes and balls, outs, runs, and innings. Besides an exercise in counting, this activity introduces addition.
Sing with children, and invite them to clap to the song’s rhythm. Visit a friend or relative who plays the guitar or piano and observe the child’s interest in learning how to play.
Start a rock or seashell collection, and encourage children to sort by color, shape, size, and texture. Or collect stamps, coins, or Matchbox® cars.
Provide crayons, paints, and paper for creative activities. Offer scraps of paper, ribbon, lace, and photos cut or torn from old magazines and junk mail to make collages. Focus on children’s creative expression, not resemblance to real objects. Avoid coloring books.
Provide puzzles, blocks, Legos®, or Lincoln Logs and talk about shapes, colors, and construction. Research shows that block play improves math skills.
Join children in at least an hour of active play, such as hiking and games. Physical activity contributes to healthy brain development.
Take children to a local museum, zoo, live theater or music performance, botanical garden, or college campus to provide children with rich cultural learning experiences.
Visit a state or national park. Research the park online beforehand to learn about native plants and animals, geology, and history. Encourage your child to text short messages and photos to friends and relatives.
How to talk to children about war and violence
News about mass shootings, wars, refugees, and crime can be disturbing for children. As parents, how do we explain such violence to calm their fears and yet help them understand the world around us?
Difficult as the subject may be, talking is important.
You know your children best
Be alert to your children’s feelings and behavior. Do you notice signs of anxiety – extra trouble sleeping, poor appetite, or physical complaints?
Some children may not be able to express their feelings in words. They may draw disturbing pictures or act out with toys or other children.
If children include violence in their pretend play, observe it from a distance to learn more about what children know about it. If the play becomes too frightening for a child, step in gently and ask how they might have fun without being scary or hurtful.
Don’t force children to talk until they are ready.
Choose a quiet place and time to talk
Give your full attention to the child’s words and gestures. Don’t be planning what to say next.
Focus on questions the child asks. Find out what your child knows: “What have you heard or seen about it?”
Don’t overload a child with information. A few sentences may be enough.
Explain simply. Use words and ideas your child can understand.
Be honest. Children usually know when you’re not telling the truth.
Be prepared to repeat explanations or have several conversations. Some information may be hard for children to accept or understand.
Acknowledge children’s feelings. All their questions and concerns are important. Asking a question repeatedly may be a way of asking for reassurance.
Let your child know if you’re feeling sad or anxious, but don’t burden your child with your fears.
Be reassuring, but don’t make unrealistic promises. Ask: “What do you think people should do to help?”
Remember that children learn by watching and listening to you and other adults.
Avoid stereotyping groups of people by race, nationality, or religion. Use the conversation as a way to teach tolerance and explain prejudice.
If your child feels reassured by knowing that events are happening far away, that’s OK. A young child may need to think that way for a while to feel safe.
Monitor your family’s TV viewing. Avoid TV news and action films that contain violence.
Be consistent with daily routines. Children feel reassured by regular meals, school, bath, and bedtime rituals. Family events like birthday celebrations, religious observances, and holiday events can help with stability.
Inform caregivers and teachers about your discussions with children.
Be aware that children who have recently experienced loss or trauma may need extra support.
If children seem unable to shake their fear and anxiety, consider a visit with a mental health professional.
For a list of resources, see Coping with Violence on the website of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, www.naeyc.org/content/coping-school-shooting.
Baby wearing: It’s trendy and fun
If you’re expecting a baby, chances are a friend or relative has raved about baby carriers. These strap-on, cozy contraptions allow you to move around freely while keeping your baby close to your body.
Here are some reasons that can help you feel good about using one.
Bonding. The close proximity enhances the bonding and attachment that is essential for the baby to develop trust and feel secure. It also promotes communication, allowing you to learn the baby’s cues and respond to them instantly. Research shows that held babies cry less.
Convenience. You can do many tasks, such as laundry, shopping, and working at the computer, and still tend your baby. You avoid the exhaustion of carrying a child in your arms and the awkwardness of pushing a stroller through crowded aisles, over steps, or on bumpy sidewalks.
Sharing. Both Mom and Dad can take a turn and form attachments of their own.
Physical development. The stimulation gained from getting in tune with Mom’s or Dad’s breathing, heartbeat, and movement can help babies learn to regulate physical responses and control balance. The child’s weight also serves as a fitness booster for the adult.
Many factors go into the safety and comfort of a carrier. You may wish to delay purchase until after your baby is born and you’ve had a chance to give the carrier a few test runs.
Check the carrier’s weight limits. Some are designed for tiny newborns and others for older infants. If you plan on using one from birth, check the lower limit first.
Consider how easy it is to strap on the carrier and put the baby in it. Also consider how comfortable it feels when you’re wearing it.
For newborns, who have no head and neck control at birth, avoid a carrier that curls the baby’s body into a “C” shape or where the head drops to a chin-to-chest position. This can pinch off the windpipe.
As you learn to use the carrier, keep one or two hands on the baby to be certain that all buckles are secure and the position is safe and comfortable.
When using the carrier, check often to make sure the baby’s head is up and above the fabric, the face is visible, and the nose and mouth are not covered by any part of the carrier, your body, or your clothing.
If your baby falls asleep while in the carrier, check often to ensure that head and neck are straight and face is uncovered. For naps, it’s best to put the baby in a crib, and remember, Back is Best.
Until the baby’s neck is strong enough to support the head (4-5 months), have the baby face you in the carrier. After that, the baby will enjoy facing outward at times and feel stimulated by the sights and sounds.
Never drink hot liquids, such as coffee or tea, while the baby is in the carrier.
Never drive a car or ride a bicycle while wearing the baby.
For more information, see Best practice tips for baby wearing, BabyGearLab™, at www.babygearlab.com/a/11099/Best-Practice-Tips-for-Baby-Wearing.