Next to colds, throat infections are the most common reason children see the doctor. It is important to realize, however, that young children do not know what it means when someone asks them if they have a sore throat. Therefore, if you are inquiring about this symptom, ask your child if it hurts when he swallows. You would be surprised how many children will say yes to this question even if they just told you they do not have a “sore throat.”
When a pet dies, parents often want to give the animal a funeral so their children can “memorialize” the pet as a member of the family. In many parts of the country, it is illegal to bury a pet because the body may attract scavengers such as rats. In these jurisdictions, the family’s veterinarian commonly disposes of the body.
Because I live in an area that prohibits animal burials, I encourage families to still have a memorial service; only in this case they bury a memento instead of the pet. Children can pick a favorite toy, a picture, or even write a poem or heartwarming anecdote about the animal. This approach follows community rules, but lets children have some closure regarding their pet’s death.
Many children have difficulty separating from their parents when they begin nursery school. My wife came up with a terrific idea to help our son adjust to school. First, she asked the director for a class list two months before school began. Then she called all of the parents on the list and invited them and their child to a Sunday morning play session at the school playground. She told parents that she would be there with our son every week, but that other people could come whenever they wanted to. By the time school began, our son had met everyone in his class and knew half of the children pretty well. His transition in September was much easier than his mom or I would ever have predicted.
Time Out is one of the most effective behavior techniques you can use with children. Although most doctors recommend Time Out for aggressive behaviors such as hitting or biting, parents sometimes overuse Time Out by choosing this punishment for just about any infraction their children commit. There are a number of behaviors that children exhibit during the day that are bothersome, but do not reach the level where a person could get hurt or something might be broken. In this instance, it is helpful to use a lesser punishment, which I call Time Off. Time Off is an action that grows out of what psychologists call “I” messages, i.e., “I don’t like it when you…” The types of actions that Time Off helps control include annoying behaviors such as teasing or being disrespectful.
The difference between Time Out and Time Off is the following: In Time Out, the child has to sit in a specific location for one minute per year of age. If the child talks or gets up, the “clock” is reset and Time Out starts over. In Time Off the child has to go somewhere else in the house and must stop the behavior that led to the punishment. There is no set time, but the child cannot come back until he is ready to act normally. As a further incentive to get children to comply with the punishment, children who do not follow the rules of Time Off will subsequently have a full-fledged Time Out.
Older brothers and sisters learn quickly that babies only drink breast milk or formula. Once you start feeding your baby jarred foods at six months of age, an older sibling may think it is okay to share his food with the baby. Therefore, make sure to tell your older child that even though the baby is now eating from a spoon, he is still too little to eat “big-boy” food. If your older child is interested in feeding the baby, you can supervise spoon-feeding once the baby has demonstrated that he is a competent eater. Make sure that you stay alert for sharing even though you have warned your older child to keep his “macaroni and cheese” to himself.
Lots of kids continue to wet the bed at night even though they are successfully using the potty during the day. (Even at six years of age, 12% of kids wet the bed.) Most parents use Pull-Ups during this period of nighttime wetness to make the morning routine easier for everyone. However, most kids become dry gradually and many of them will still be in Pull-Ups even though they are dry three or four nights per week. If your child is dry at night, you do not need the Pull-Up away the next morning. In most cases, a child can reuse a dry Pull-Up five or six times before it gets so tattered or baggy that it needs to be thrown away.
Sooner or later most children will miss a friend’s birthday party because they get sick or come down with a contagious illness. It can be very difficult to explain to a young child why she cannot go to someone’s party. Instead of worrying about making other kids sick, your child will focus on what she is missing (this self-centered behavior is completely normal in young children). One way to handle this situation is to call the birthday girl’s parents and ask them to save a little piece of the party for your child. They can keep a few decorations, a goody bag, and two pieces of cake and ice cream. Then, when your child has recovered, she can go to her friend’s house with her present and they can have a mini-party together.