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Breastfeeding and IQ: Brain Food for Your Baby

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If you had the power to make your child more intelligent, would you?

Doctors and scientists agree: Breast milk is the best nourishment for babies.

Human milk provides nutrients essential to building strong human bodies that cow’s milk or formula simply can’t supply.

But does it also enhance brain function?

Recent studies indicate that yes, babies who are breastfed have higher intelligence quotient (IQ) levels and enhanced cognitive development.

What We Know About Breastfeeding and Baby IQ

Although there have been numerous studies conducted within the past decade that indicate the overall health benefits of breastfeeding, it is only within the last couple of years that researchers have looked at breastfeeding as it relates to cognitive development and IQ.

One such study, conducted in 1998 in New Zealand, collected breastfeeding information on more than 1,000 children from birth to age one.

These same children were assessed on a variety of measures of cognitive and academic outcomes from ages 8 to 18 years.

The results, published in the January 1998 issue of Pediatrics, indicated a direct correlation between the duration of breastfeeding and higher mean scores on tests of cognitive ability.

Another study, which led to similar conclusions, was conducted by nutritionist James Anderson of the University of Kentucky.

His results were published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in October 1999.

Anderson’s results confirm that breastfeeding is accompanied by about a five point higher IQ than in bottle-fed infants. Babies breastfed at least up to 6 months of age reaped the greatest benefits, while those nursed for 2 weeks or less were not affected.

What is most interesting about these findings is that, in both studies, researchers concluded that the benefits of nursing come not primarily from the maternal bonding that accompanies breastfeeding, but from the actual nutritional value of the milk. According to Anderson, that ratio is 40 to 60, respectively.

Got Milk?

The results of a 17-week-long study conducted at the Retina Foundation of the Southwest in Texas just this year were published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.

These results reinforce what the aforementioned studies found. In the Retina study, two fatty acids found in human milk — DHA and AA — that promote long-term brain function are in all likelihood responsible for enhanced IQ levels in breastfed children.

The group of newborns fed a formula containing both DHA and AA performed better than the group fed formula with just DHA and the group fed formula containing neither fatty acid in terms of memory, problem solving and language development.

How much better?

Two-and-a-half points and seven points, respectively.

Recent studies also indicate that 60 countries offer formula containing supplements of DHA and AA, while in the United States, there is no commercial formula like this available.

The Food and Drug Administration does not require this supplementation, and formula manufacturers have not taken the lead to include the fatty acids in their products.

Nature or Nurture?

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“I had heard about a study from my husband, but my choice to breastfeed had more to do with the health issues for the baby and the basic acknowledgment that breast milk is obviously the food meant for infants, since it comes along with the pregnancy and birth,” explained Kristin Galatowitsch of Princeton, Wis., mother of 5-month-old Alex.

Her line of reasoning seems to be a common thread among breastfeeding mothers.

“I had heard information relating breastfeeding to higher IQ, but didn’t use this as the sole basis for making the choice to breastfeed,” explains Karen Broeckert of Appleton, Wis. “My doctor said any length of time I nursed would be better than not trying at all.”

While this is true when considering nursing from the standpoint of physical benefits — like building healthy immune systems and getting a balance of vital nutrients — some professionals believe the “any time is better than no time” attitude isn’t accurate when it comes to the link between breastfeeding and IQ levels.

Katherine Dettwyler, Ph.D., member of the anthropology department at Texas A & M University, has researched the role of breastfeeding rituals and their results in primitive cultures as well as in today’s society.

“I have carefully read most of these studies, and find them to be carefully constructed and carried out,” she says. “The ones that include duration of breastfeeding show that the longer the child is breastfed, up to study limits of 24 months, the greater their IQ scores and school performance. The human child’s brain is growing most rapidly during the first two years of life. Since we know that some of the ingredients in breast milk are critical to brain growth and development, the results are not surprising.”

It Isn’t Unanimous

best breastfeeding app

Not all pediatric professionals or researchers agree with the findings of the three studies mentioned.

An Australian study, concluding in early 1998, followed 375 children, assessing their cognitive development at ages 6 months and at 2, 4, 7 and 11 to 13 years.

The results of this study, published in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, indicated that breastfed children scored slightly higher than their formula-fed counterparts, but only at the younger ages.

They began with a 5.5 point difference and declined to a 3.8 point difference in IQ points.

Researchers concluded that the small benefit due to breastfeeding at an early age virtually disappears at later ages. The study states one explanation could be that a small cognitive benefit of breastfeeding may be overwhelmed at later ages by the effects of other social and environmental factors.

Brighter Brains

While agreeing that IQ is partly genetic and partly the result of environmental influences, Dr. Dettwyler stresses an important fact:

Although a small point variation may not make much difference on the high end, it could mean all the difference on the low end.

“If you have an IQ of 66, with 75 points being technically considered mentally retarded, you may be able to read, but not do math,” explains Dr. Dettwyler. “Perhaps those five IQ points [gained by the breastfed child] make the difference between being able to do math or no math, between independent and assisted living, between having a real job and working in a sheltered workshop. Since none of us know ahead of time how our kids’ lives will play out, it behooves us to do what we can to give them the best possible chance.”

Whatever You Decide, Consider This

Judy Aikens of Manchester, N.H. chose to bottle-feed her children. “I didn’t have the desire [to breastfeed] and I also worked full time,” she says. “But they have been healthy and I feel that bottle-feeding has not impaired their intelligence.”

Dr. Dettwyler points out that it isn’t necessarily a matter of “impairing” a child’s intelligence as it is assisting maximum development. This comes about not only from the ingredients found in human milk, but in the relationship between mother and child.

As mentioned above, recent research places more value on the chemical makeup of milk rather than the bonding process.

Dr. Dettwyler believes that, while human milk does provide the nutrients babies need, the bonding experience should not be overlooked.

“Breastfeeding releases hormones in the mother which make her feel more affection toward her baby,” she says. “Prior to modern times, the only time a woman would give birth and not breastfeed would be if the baby died. [Without breastfeeding], a mother’s body assumes the baby has died and gears up for another attempt at reproduction. Yet she has a young baby, and the mother doesn’t have the appropriate hormones.”

Deciding whether or not to breastfeed is an intensely personal choice, and it is important that you feel you have made the “best” decision for your situation.

When considering the information and statistics available today, it is interesting to keep in mind a point made by Dr. Dettwyler:

The IQ deficit for prenatal cocaine use is only three points, which is less than the deficit for formula use.

It is natural for every mother to want to give her baby the best start. With years of research under her belt, Dr. Dettwyler sums it up simply:

“If we breastfeed them, we can be really sure we’ve given them the best possible nutritional start in life. They may end up needing those five to eight IQ points.”

Toddlers in Daycare: Easing the Transition

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Dorothy Simpson and her son Ryan faced a tough transition.

“Ryan had occupied every second of my life. I had even given up my full-time job to stay home with my baby. But then I began to realize that my baby was growing up … it was time to cut the cord,” says Simpson, a registered nurse from Florida.

Simpson and her husband decided to enroll Ryan into a part-time childcare environment. They took painstaking steps to find just the best daycare for them and to ease Ryan into his temporary separations from Mommy and Daddy.

Separation Anxiety

“To help with Ryan’s separation anxiety, we visited the center twice before Ryan’s first day,” Simpson explains. “We let him look around, see his room and meet his teachers and the other children. We made a big deal out of how fun it was going to be.”

While the drop-off on the first day was difficult for both mother and child, Simpson promised Ryan that she would be back in only a short time and left her crying son in the care of the people she had chosen to trust.

Within a couple of days, the transition was complete, and Ryan has since grown to enjoy and benefit from his time away from home.

According to Pam Solis, program coordinator at Children’s Hospital Child Care Center in San Diego, Calif., the Simpsons took all the right steps in preparing their son for daycare.

best daycare

“We ask that the parents bring the child along for the initial tour of the facility, so that the child can look at the room,” says Solis. “Then once the parents decide to enroll their child in our center, we suggest that one of the parents come with the child for about an hour, two times in the week.” Solis adds that this will lay the groundwork for a smoother transition. “When the child sees that the parents trust the situation, then the child is more able to trust it, too.”

Next, Solis recommends that the first days at daycare be short days, with the child picked up before naptime.

“Naptime seems to be the roughest time for separation anxiety, so it is best to avoid it in the first days.” Solis explained that the toddler’s time at the center should be increased each day, leading up to, and eventually through, naptime.

The child care facility should warn parents in advance about the busiest drop-off time in the mornings, so that it may be avoided at first. The bustling atmosphere of a busy center might be intimidating for a newcomer.

Once the child is brought to the center, parents should feel comfortable staying as long as they would like, getting their child settled. “However, once the parents decide to leave, they should hand the child to a teacher and give the child a kiss,” Solis says. “They should then tell the child when they will be back, say a quick goodbye and then leave.”

Long, drawn-out goodbyes prolong the separation experience and may push the child into a pattern of if-I-cry-then-mom-or-dad-will-stay.

“In my 12 years working with 2-year-olds, I have noticed that the crying lasts about five to 10 minutes. Then we are on to our activities,” says Solis.

Rebecca Escalante, director of the toddler and preschool program at Hancock Elementary School in San Diego, Calif., agrees with the steps recommended by Solis.

best daycare minionsEscalante adds that a security item might be helpful in easing toddlers’ separation anxiety. “Always pack a special stuffed animal or blanket, and enclose a picture of yourself in your child’s bag.”

Escalante also recommends sticking to a routine when it’s time to go home. “Keeping to the same pick-up time every day makes it easier for your child to soon learn that after a certain activity, Mommy or Daddy will come,” she says.

Deidra Simpson (no relation to the Simpsons discussed earlier) is a magazine publisher in Milton, Fla. who now works from her home office. However, in her past career it was necessary for Simpson to leave her daughter Emily, now 8, and her son Jayse, now 3, in daycare when they were toddlers.

“I found that the best way to make my children comfortable in daycare, and in turn keep myself sane enough to be able to leave them, was to make us all understand that this was a good thing,” she says. “Make it exciting, make it comfortable and always keep your promises.”

Proper Planning

Proper planning and transitional steps will ease toddlers into a daycare setting and through bouts of separation anxiety.

It is difficult for both parents and children to accept this first step of leaving babyhood behind and becoming separate, but before too long, parents and children alike will feel comfortable, happy and relaxed.

Grandma in Charge: When Grandparents Care for Kids

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Grandma is doing a lot more than baking cookies these days.

After raising her own children, she is stepping in and caring for grandchildren while their parents work. In the process, she is helping forge bridges between generations and strengthening family bonds.

Grandparents caring for young children is an increasing trend in the United States. Not only does this arrangement seem like a natural solution to daycare, it also suits many members of the family for financial and emotional reasons.

Dr. Janiece Pompa has seen many different family arrangements in her years as a psychologist at the University of Utah. She believes grandparents caring for their grandchildren can be a positive situation for everyone involved.

“Having grandparents care for their grandchildren can help form a wonderful bond between generations,” Dr. Pompa says. “A child’s development and sense of security is enhanced by having as many positive, caring relatives and adults in their life as possible.”

Dr. Julia Pezzi, a child psychologist in Kentucky, also understands the benefits of this arrangement.

“These parents have first-hand experience with the grandparents’ parenting style,” she says. “This allows them to be comfortable with the grandparents’ handling challenging situations with the grandchildren.”

Dr. Pezzi also acknowledges one huge benefit of having grandparents in charge: “No one is going to feel that unconditional love that a grandparent feels for the children, and the grandchildren know it.”

First-Hand Experience

Brett Sember’s grandparents provided daycare for her when she was a child. Because of that, she still has a very close relationship with them.

Sember, a mother of two living in Clarence, N.Y., chose to continue the tradition.

“When my children were infants, I could not conceive of leaving them with strangers,” she says. “My mom took a sabbatical when my first was born and has continued to care for them at least one day a week.”

Getting Started

In order to avoid conflicts, Dr. Pompa has a few suggestions.

“There should be firm agreements between the grandparents and the parents regarding the child’s routine, disciplinary practices and the type and amount of supervision,” she says.

The agreements might include everything from detailed information on acceptable foods to whether or not spanking can be used.

Grandparents must make sure to respect their own child’s parenting decisions.

“The grandparents should be very clear about their child’s values and the parenting principles that are followed in the home. Discipline will be most effective if the grandparents’ and parents’ parenting and disciplinary practices are similar between both households,” Dr. Pompa explains.

Respect is required of both parties.

“The parents will feel supported and respected if the grandparents honor their decisions with regard to parenting and disciplinary practices,” Dr. Pompa says.

“If the grandparents and their child have differences of opinion, they should be discussed and settled prior to placing the child in daycare with the grandparents.”

Although Sember did not discuss the guidelines with her parents before they began caring for her children, she and her parents work well together.

Sember points out that her parents understand what her rules are. But when a unique circumstance arises at the grandparents’ house, they are free to decide how to handle it on their own. She adds that, in the end, the two parenting parties mostly agree.

To Pay or Not to Pay

Should children pay their parents to tend the grandchildren? Dr. Pompa doesn’t believe it is always necessary.

“It depends on the grandparents’ financial situation and the psychological meaning of money in the family,” she says. “If the grandparents need the money, or feel that being paid would represent a tangible symbol that their efforts are valued, then they should be compensated at a level that is mutually agreed upon by both parties.”

Drawbacks

Although the loving concern of grandparents is a bonus, it can go too far. Dr. Pezzi acknowledges that it may be difficult for the grandparents to let the parents take control again once they arrive home.

“At times the boundaries can become fuzzy and cause friction with regard to discipline issues,” she explains.

Dr. Pompa warns that if the grandparents do not respect their child’s decisions about child rearing and vice versa, the grandchildren may learn to play both parties against the other to get what they want.

Typical Challenges

There are inherent challenges with this situation. “There may be conflict if grandparents are more lenient with grandchildren, and the parents feel the children are being ‘spoiled’ when they are at the grandparents’ house,” Dr. Pompa says.

Dr. Pompa also believes that the different focus of parenting styles in the past may cause problems to arise. She theorizes that grandparents, especially grandfathers, who were not physically and/or emotionally available while raising their own children, may attempt to overcompensate for the absence by buying the grandchildren lots of material items and going light on the discipline.

The opposite also may be true. Dr. Pompa believes sometimes grandparents feel their own children are not raising the grandchildren to behave properly, and they may impose stricter limits in the daycare situation.

Retrospect

One thing is for certain: The influence of grandparents is timeless. Michelle Smith of Chico, Calif. is proof of that.

“My grandparents cared for my sister and I during our early toddler years and on through grade school,” she says.

“Most of my happiest childhood memories took place with my grandparents, especially my grandma. We spent so much time singing. She taught us how to sing songs from the musical ‘Oklahoma’ and how to sing in rounds.”

Her grandmother also took time to create special memories. Smith recalls how they used to get dressed up and go out to a restaurant called The Copper Penny for “girl cheese” sandwiches.

Together, her grandparents were able to make her childhood magical.

“Grandma and Grandpa had a pool in their backyard and we swam and swam and had barbecues and ate shrimp cocktail,” she says. “Grandpa built a waterfall in the corner of their yard and we would take the stone path around the back of it, pretending to be explorers.”

Although Smith’s grandmother, Ardith Wilson of Montague, Calif., was not financially compensated for her help, what she gathered from the experience was priceless.

“The best part of taking care of my grandchildren was watching them grow up. I was there as they began to talk and communicate,” Wilson says.

Perhaps all parents considering this arrangement should listen to her words of advice. “The best place for children is with their grandparents rather than with a baby-sitter or in a daycare facility. Grandparents are able to give the children real love, as well as attention.”

How Old Is Too Old?

How does an adult child know when grandparents are too old to care for the grandchildren?

Dr. Pompa believes that if grandparents have any of the following characteristics, they are too old to care for small children.

  1. A grandparent with health problems who cannot keep up with the normal physical demands of caring for a child.
  2. Grandparents who feel emotionally stressed at the end of the day.
  3. Grandparents who feel irritable and end up yelling at or hitting the grandchildren.

3 Holiday Gifts Your Toddler Can Make

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The holidays will soon be here, and you can involve your toddler in the celebrations.

Use this time to start teaching your child about the value of gift giving and its real meaning. Talk to your child about gift giving on different occasions, such as holidays and birthdays. Explain that sometimes people give gifts for no reason other than to say, “Thanks” or “I love you.”

For a grandparent, aunt, uncle or daycare educator, any of these gifts your toddler can make and give from his heart are sure to be met with pleasure and delight. Note:

Use caution when doing arts and crafts. Keep a sharp eye on your toddler when working with small items such as beans and coins, which can be potential choking hazards.

 

Mother Nature Mobile

You’ll need:

  • sticks and twigs
  • pine cones
  • feathers
  • shells
  • yarn
  • ribbon or bow
  • other objects found in nature

Go on a nature hunt and ask your child to collect different objects. Tie pieces of yarn to a big stick you’ll use as the base and then tie nature objects on the other end of the yarn pieces. Take one piece of yarn and tie in the middle of the stick to hang by. Stick on a bow.

 

Decorative Beans

You’ll need:

  • an empty clean jar
  • different types of beans (dried kidney beans, chick peas, lentils, etc.)
  • a piece of colorful cloth (12″ x 12″)
  • yarn
  • an elastic

Place beans in jar by layers until it is filled to the rim. (Make sure your child resists the temptation to mix them together). Screw the lid on the jar tightly. Place the piece of cloth over the lid and fix with the elastic. Cover the elastic with the yarn and tie into a pretty bow.

 

Anything-You-Want Holder

Here’s a variation to the traditional pencil holder

You’ll need:

  • an empty and clean round container such as an oatmeal container
  • wallpaper samples and glue or shelf paper

Choose a wallpaper sample and cover the container. Place a few polished stones at the bottom to add stability. Depending on who the container is for, you can add a few items in the container and wrap with clear wrapping paper. Ideas to consider: kitchen utensils, candles, combs, brushes, tools and, of course, pens and pencils.

 

Change Container

You’ll need:

  • an clean, empty film container
  • stickers
  • coins

Have your child decorate the film container with stickers and fill it up with some coins. This makes a great gift idea for cousins, young friends or siblings over age 3.

 

Handy Placemats

You’ll need:

  • 1″ paint brush
  • non-toxic paint
  • construction paper
  • clear self-adhesive paper

Sit down with your child at the kitchen table. Paint your child’s hand (palm to fingertips). Firmly place hand on construction paper to form a handprint. Make as many prints in as many colors as both of you desire, and let dry. Optional: use markers to add information about your child such as: name, date of birth and other facts you’d like to share. Let the paint dry and cover both sides of the construction paper with the clear self-adhesive paper. You can give a single placemat as a centerpiece or in a set of two, four or six.

If your child is enjoying the activity you can also hand print an apron, a tray, a plate, a book or a T-shirt.

These holiday gifts allow you to spend one-on-one time with your toddler and give you a chance to teach some of the most basic values: generosity, sharing and love.

 

6 strategies to get your toddler to do what you want (without using the N-word)

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Has your 2 year old ever looked at you, presumably understood that she’s not allowed to press the buttons on the television remote control, smiled sweetly and pressed them anyway?

No, she’s not the evil conniver Aunt Sally makes her out to be. She’s a toddler. And with toddlerhood come the initiative, curiosity and autonomy that often has parents of toddlers at the brink of despair.

Most children under the age of 3 simply don’t understand the meaning of “no” the way parents think they should.

“A complete understanding of the word may not come until age 4 or older,” says Jane Nelsen, author of Positive Discipline: The First Three Years.

‘No’ is an abstract concept; children develop their knowledge and understanding of it gradually.

This doesn’t mean toddlers should have free rein to do anything they want. But it may explain why “no” often doesn’t work for parents of the 2- to 4-year-old crowd.

So, what can parents do when their children are torn between obeying or following their own biological urge to explore the world?

Below are six positive parenting strategies to help avoid the word “no,” and still get your toddler to do what you want.

Catch Them Being Good

Focus on the positive. It’s easy to overlook the good stuff during this time of constant temper tantrums and seemingly deliberate misbehaviors, but offering praise to a toddler is a sensible approach.

If your child completes a task such as putting her toys in the toy box, catch her at it.

Notice the action you want to her to emulate, and make a fuss over it with positive feedback.

Compliment the behavior.

Over time, you can break the cycle of negative attention and shift the focus onto good behavior. Lots of smiles, hugs and kind words will eventually encourage a repeat performance.

Turn the Other Cheek

Some toddlers view negative attention as better than none at all and will continue a bad behavior to get a reaction — any reaction.

If the behavior is not dangerous or destructive, try to ignore it. When you do, your toddler will usually try something else to gain your attention, and may move on to a new more appropriate behavior.

Caution: sometimes ignoring the behavior will increase it temporarily. Be patient.

Pick Your Battles

We often hear this advice for parents of adolescents. But choosing your battles wisely is an effective game plan with toddlers as well. If your child is spending too much of her day in time-out for misbehavior, a new approach is probably warranted. Pick a few of the “worst crimes” to work on.

The most offensive, dangerous, damaging or inappropriate behaviors are the ones you’ll want to nip. Concentrate on those few, and be consistent in their punishment. As each misdeed is corrected, you can move on to the next, working your way through a misbehavior checklist, one crime at a time.

Show or Tell

Redirect the focus of bad behavior. This approach is a simple one that really works. Quietly lead the child away and show her a new, more appropriate activity.

Diverting her attention often avoids a temper tantrum or battle. And you never even have to say the word “no.”

Show or tell a child what she can do instead of punishing for what she can’t. This tactic works especially well with pre-verbal children, whose attention spans are not as developed.

Consistency is the Key

Every time your child exhibits the inappropriate behavior you’ve decided to correct, you must reply with the same reactionary response.

Whether you remove the child from the situation, use a time out, redirect her attention or use another method, you need to be consistent with the consequences each and every time.

Toddlers come to understand and even predict what your response will be and will eventually give up the offending behavior. Again, patience is a good virtue, as this may take some time.

Supervision is Required

Parents can “teach” a young child not to run into the street, but those same parents would never allow their child to play unsupervised near a busy roadway.

Why?

“Simply because they cannot trust that the child has really “learned” the lesson and has enough self-discipline and responsibility not to run into the street,” says Nelsen.

Yet the same parents often expect children to “listen” when they are told “no” and can’t comprehend why their children disobey the second they aren’t being watched.

Simply said — toddlers require supervision.

Remember, you may have to repeat these strategies over and over before you get the results you want. But your attitude and actions will determine whether you create a battleground or a loving atmosphere for your toddler to explore and develop. Less use of the word “no” may be just the tactic your toddler needs.

The effects of divorce on children: A potential cause for bedwetting

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child suddenly wetting bed

Although the primary parties involved are parents, divorce affects every member of the family.

Children are witnesses to the stress, confusion and hurt that often accompany divorce.

With the current divorce rate at 52.4 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Vital Statistics, many children are forced to deal with divorce – and the emotional, mental and physical effects that it brings.

What About Me?

Children’s immediate concern is how divorce will affect their day-to-day life, according to Dr. Stephen Sheldon, director of the sleep medicine center at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Ill.

Dr. Sheldon explains that children may be scared, concerned, sad, angry, or may even feel guilty and will act out as a result.

“Any of these emotions can lead to a full range of reactions such as acting out, depression, regression, displaced anger, withdrawing, or a combination of any of these,” Dr. Sheldon says.

When a separation or divorce happens, the children will be told the ‘what and how’ related to telling the children – as well as what happens afterward – which can often determine the type, amount and appropriateness of a child’s reaction.

One common reaction to divorce is the occurrence, re-emergence or increase in frequency of bedwetting episodes.

“Children who have a history of bedwetting can have a reoccurrence of ‘accidents’ after learning their parents are separating,” Dr. Sheldon says.

“Younger children are more likely to experience this, but older children – as old as 12 to 14 – can find themselves bedwetting again. It is fairly common for children with no history of wetting the bed to experience this as a result of the stress, fear and other emotions.”
Kathy’s daughter had problems with bedwetting when her father moved to his new apartment in New York.

“I would find wet blankets, sheets and clothes in the laundry, so I knew something was wrong. When I asked, she cried. She was embarrassed and said she felt her father’s leaving was because of her. While she has had a hard time dealing with the divorce and I feel the bedwetting is a result, the episodes have gotten less frequent as she adapts to having two homes.”

Making it Worse

According to Dr. Sheldon, one of the most common causes for the development, reoccurrence or increase in bedwetting episodes is stress placed on children by one or both parents.

“Children feel overwhelmed when forced to choose one parent over the other,” says Dr. Sheldon.

Although the parent may not mean to put stress on their children, gestures, comments or statements can cause an increase in stress, and ultimately bedwetting.

Parents should not put their children in the middle, in a position where they have to choose between their mother and father, or make them decide where their loyalty lies.

Regardless of what one parent thinks or feels for the other, they are both still parents to the same child or children. Seeing or hearing the two people they love and trust fighting and disliking each other can be a great source of turmoil and stress for a child.

“When my wife and I divorced, our daughter had been toilet trained for a few years and really didn’t have accidents at night,” says Richard, a dad from Kansas.

“Not long after we moved into separate households she began wetting the bed. The accidents happened most frequently at her mother’s home. At the time, there was more turmoil at her mother’s home – crying, yelling on the phone while our daughter was there – and I’ve always suspected the stress had something to do with our daughter’s accidents. It did wake her if she began to wet, but left her scared and confused. It took about six months for her to ‘outgrow’ the problem – just as things began to settle down between her (now-divorced) parents.”

Check Our Reviews for the Best Bedwetting Alarms

Drying Out

Dr. Sheldon says an important factor in helping your child cope with a separation and avoid bedwetting episodes is to not only tell your child that life after the breakup will work out fine, but to also show them.

“Your task as a parent is to understand your child’s feelings regarding the issues at hand,” says Dr. Sheldon.

“You need to let him or her know that even if they wet the bed, you understand and you are not angry with him or her. The easiest ways to do this is to provide a loving home and to cooperate with your spouse, or ex-spouse, in parenting issues. Children need to be reminded that they are not the cause of the breakup.”

Jennifer, a mom in Galveston, Texas, knew that when she separated from her husband, her children would take it very hard. “When our middle son began wetting the bed at night, I discovered he took it harder than I thought,” she says.

“I did all I could to reassure him that he was not the reason his father and I separated. His father and I worked together and made sure whenever there was an issue that needed attention, we approached it together. After some time, our son learned that just because his father and I don’t live in the same house, doesn’t mean we don’t still love him.”

One way to help your child through the bedwetting period is by having him or her wear disposable absorbent underpants like Super Andies underpants.

Waking up to dry clothing and a dry bed alleviates the negative feelings and guilt a child can internalize. Especially at tough times like these, kids need all the help they can get to retain their dignity and self-worth.

Bedwetting is just one of the many behaviors that can be exhibited by children whose parents are separating or getting a divorce.

According to Dr. Sheldon, it is not the behavior that needs to be addressed, but rather, the underlying cause.

“When a child wets the bed as a result of stress due to divorce, they are not doing it so much for attention as they are in reaction to the situation,” he says.

“Address the bedwetting issue, by all means, but do not put the spotlight on it. It is not the bedwetting that is the foremost problem. Instead, address the issues the child has about the divorce. The bedwetting will be resolved as the concerns, fears and uncertainty are.”

Brace Yourself! Helping Your Child Adjust to Orthodontic Braces

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Thirteen-year-old Sara’s transformation from a child into a preteenager could be best described as a whirlwind.

At a time when this St. Louis preteen was venturing into the realm of adolescence, as most preteens adorn wrists with silver stackable bracelets and hang dangling earrings from their lobes, along came the dentist to add another set of silver to Sara’s look – this one not nearly as “cool” and far more expensive.

Sara needed braces – and head gear – to straighten her teeth.

“I am not wearing that thing,” she told her mother after a first meeting with the awkward head gear. “It looks like something a Martian would wear!”

If you’ve not already experienced the struggle, you might soon be calming your child, selling the future benefits of a mouthful of metal. But after some amount of discussion between doctor, patient and parents, you and your preteen will see that orthodontic braces aren’t so bad.

Parental Concerns

orthodontics

Dr. Michael Mahaffey, president of the South Florida Academy of Orthodontists and member of the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), estimates that although prices may vary across the country, full orthodontic treatment falls into the range of $3,500 to $4,200, depending on the condition of the teeth.

He says most orthodontists will offer a variety of payment plans, and for most families, braces will be affordable.

Upon learning the cost and possible inconveniences of braces, some parents may opt to have their kids go through life with crowded, crooked teeth. But what many don’t realize is that orthodontic problems often go well beyond a patient’s dissatisfaction with the way his teeth look.

Malocclusions, or orthodontic problems, can be very serious, and letting them go untreated can result in receding gums, bone damage, tooth wear and biting and chewing difficulties.

The AAO explains that because crooked and crowded teeth are hard to keep clean and in good condition, “this may contribute to conditions that cause not only tooth decay but also eventual gum disease and tooth loss.”

Certain problems that go untreated can even result in chronic headaches and pain in the face and neck.

For this and other reasons, the AAO recommends that all children have an orthodontic screening by age 7. This might sound young, but it’s the best way to manage many orthodontic problems that require careful monitoring of growth and development.

Seven is an appropriate age to begin correcting problems, such as discrepancy in the length of upper and lower jaws. Because the jaws are still growing, an orthodontist can use appliances to guide the jaws in a way that will even them out.

Some malocclusions, if caught early, will require less intrusive and shorter treatment (and less expensive treatment) than they would if caught at a later age. If a parent, physician or dentist notes a problem at any age, it’s a good idea to schedule an evaluation.

If your child has no choice but to get braces, one of the best ways to ensure successful treatment is to cooperate with the orthodontist. The key is to take care of the braces and keep teeth clean. If your child has to wear a bigger, more obvious appliance like head gear, you might have a hard time convincing her.

Kid Concerns

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After a year of braces and head gear, 13-year-old Sara says she doesn’t mind them, although the head gear still makes her feel a little self-conscious.

“I really didn’t want to wear the head gear in public at all,” she says, “But the orthodontist said I had to wear it sometimes if I wanted my teeth to get better, so I agreed to wear it to school, because the girls in my class are nice, and I feel comfortable with them.”

Sara and her parents made a compromise: She doesn’t have to wear the head gear in any public place aside from school.

A common complaint of kids who wear braces is soreness after the braces are adjusted.

Dr. Mahaffey explains that “today’s braces are smaller, and we use lighter, more flexible modern wires which do not cause as much pain as they did 10 to 20 years ago. Soreness lasts about three days after each adjustment.”

He recommends Tylenol to relieve any pain.

Another common complaint is that the wires jab into cheeks and gums.

Marc S. Lemchen, D.M.D., suggests that kids ask their orthodontist for a wad of wax. “If a brace breaks, [wax] can be a lifesaver once the damage is done,” he says. “Shape a bit of wax around any rough bits to shield your mouth from damage until you can get to the orthodontist to fix the broken brace.”

Prevention is the best medicine.

Kids should “become involved in the treatment,” Dr. Lemchen says.

“Ask about the process, and understand what is going on … recognize when something is wrong and learn how to handle emergencies. Avoid sticky and hard foods, and refrain from biting on pens or other objects to minimize breakage.”

Perhaps the main concern for kids with braces is the way they look.

Preteenagers are already self-conscious, and braces certainly don’t help. A child about to get braces may feel better knowing that today’s braces are less noticeable than they used to be, and a patient can even choose the color of the brackets.

The AAO says “some of today’s wires are made of space-age materials that exert a steady, gentle pressure on the teeth, so that the tooth-moving process may be faster and more comfortable for the patients.”

Another bit of good news from the AAO is that a clear orthodontic wire is currently in an experimental stage, so braces might soon be hard to notice.

The AAO can even provide a patient with a free computer-generated picture of what your preteen will look like with braces. Seeing herself with a flawless smile may reduce much of the tension that your preteen is feeling.

Dr. Mahaffey says many preteens feel better when told that countless people they see with straight teeth are the result of wearing braces. He feels that parents should help their kids to take pride in the fact that they have the opportunity to have their teeth straightened, and that kids should in fact thank their parents.

“Help kids get through the process by encouraging their progress,” Dr. Lemchen says. “And of course, always teach them to have good self-esteem.”

Most importantly, Dr. Mahaffey suggests that parents encourage kids to be confident. “Go ahead and smile,” he says. “Laugh and enjoy life.”

How to get your teenager to talk to you

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When her 14-year-old daughter closes herself up like a fan and writes dark poetry in her diary, Paula Dawidowicz of Blacksburg, Va., gently pulls her into a conversation.

Parents like Dawidowicz often wonder which is worse: the silent treatment or the grunts and snarls that seem to be more appropriate forms of communication among wild animals than they do among teens in a gentrified society.

“What I started to do was ask her if I could hear one of her poems,” Dawidowicz says. “Her poem was dark and really sad. She felt really isolated and separate. I accepted her where she was, and I started talking to her about some of the poetry I had written and the reasons why I was so glad she had come to be my child.”

As a single mother of three teenagers and a personal coach and director for the Center for Successful Communities, Dawidowicz has learned to communicate meaningfully with her children.

Her oldest son, David, 20, has a triple major in psychics, math and astronomy at the University of Massachusetts where he is a junior.

When he was living at home, David did not always want to open up or converse in a polite manner, and his mother remembers the power struggles.

“He was crossing what I considered moral barriers in my house,” Dawidowicz says. “He immediately got defensive when I tried to discuss it with him.

I said, ‘We need to talk about this,’ and he would get angry – very abrupt, did not want to talk about it, did not want to see my side of it at all.

What I found was, sometimes the language would get really out of line, not just, ‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ but vicious words, very attacking to me and basically putting me in a position where I could easily take personal offense.”

During those heated moments, Dawidowicz tried to remember he was the teenager and she was the adult.

“As much as I loved him, he did not know as much as I did,” she says. “We did work it out. I ended up sitting down with him and having a conversation, and we drew up a contract. He knew what I expected. I knew what he expected.”

Choosing Battles

To lighten tense situations, Dawidowicz uses humor. She relays stories about the silly things she did as a teenager and keeps a perspective. She also lets her teens in on the fact that she is a real person with feelings and desires.

Besides humor, another key is timing – it’s essential when it comes to having serious conversations with teens. If the conversation topic will not cause too much anticipation anxiety, set a time to talk about it.

“One of the things I found is that often if I tried to push something too much, it became impossible,” she says. “He shut down. Boys especially, but all teenagers today like to feel like they are in control.”

Forcing a child to talk on command might just build a greater wall, because the message he or she hears is that the parent’s will is more important.

Dawidowicz found that if she gave space and “picked her battles” when the kids weren’t ready to talk, they eventually responded better.

Job Perspective

Another way to get through to teenagers about the importance of proper communication skills is by helping them make the connection between communication and marketability in the work place.

Chad Foster, 45, of Atlanta, Ga., a motivational speaker and author of Teenagers Preparing for the Real World (Rising Books, Inc., 1999), created a curriculum for teens that focuses on communication skills, questioning skills, listening skills, networking skills, public speaking skills, reading and writing skills.

Foster explains to teenagers that until they have good communication skills, they really limit themselves in their opportunities both at home and in the workplace.

“The biggest challenge we face today is skills like communication, listening and people skills, those were all skills that were learned at home years and years ago, and in many cases, they are not learned at home anymore,” he says.

“Then these kids are getting out into the workplace, and they don’t have these skills. What employers are telling us across the board is these are the skills young people lack in order to be successful in the world of work.”

Foster, who is also a television host for ESPN and the father of 1-year-old Graham, says teenagers do not learn rude communication behavior overnight.

“They did not wake up one day and decide to be inconsiderate, rude, apathetic kids,” he says. “That’s something they learned over time. I think it’s also important to know who your kids are hanging out with. If seven out of eight of their friends all talk that way to their parents and treat adults that way, they are more likely to follow suit and be of that persuasion.”

Talk to Strangers

Foster speaks to more than 80,000 teenagers each year. When he does, he is quick to point out they are going to need several skills in their “tool box” to be successful.

“One of them is communication skills, the ability to walk up and talk to almost anyone, anywhere,” he says.

“What we teach in our workshops is how to talk to strangers. Forever they are told, ‘Don’t talk to strangers,’ and then they get thrown out into the real world of either high school – dealing with coaches and adults, media specialists, principals – or into the work world, and they don’t know how to talk to people they don’t know.”

Foster starts with the basics: the art of conversation. To have a conversation with an adult, it’s not necessary to have 25 questions lined up, he says.

“You just ask simple questions and listen to the answer you get from the question you ask to come up with your next question,” he says.

“Then … basically stay on three subjects: jobs, families and hobbies, because if you can stay on those subjects and ask simple questions and just base your next question on the answer you got from your last question, you can talk to anyone forever.”

Communication is a skill. It can be learned, and it only improves when it is practiced, Foster says.

“Many times, the most important communication skills between young people and adults are not learned between the young person and their parent but between a young person and another adult outside the home,” he says.

Talk During Activities

Oftentimes teenagers will talk more when they are involved in a sport or activity. Turn off the television and video games and take children outside, Foster says.

“I have a teenager who works for us, and he goes every weekend with his father,” Foster says. “They sit in a deer blind, and they have more communication taking place in that deer blind and on the hour-and-a-half drive down to that land than they ever do any other time in their lives.”

Rae Simpson of Cambridge, Mass., the author of a report, Raising Teens, published at Harvard, says parents might want to try talking to their teenager while driving in a car.

And Simpson should know, as she has lots of experience. She is the program director for parenting education and research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., and the chief consultant to the Harvard Parenting Project at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Most importantly, she has two teenage boys and a teenage daughter.

While everyone has a bad day, don’t tolerate rude behavior on a regular basis, Simpson says. “There is nothing in the research that suggests parents should tolerate behavior that is seriously against their principles or is disrespectful of parents,” she says.

“The research is very clear that it’s important to set limits with teenagers, including around their behavior with parents. So it’s a fine line essentially.

It’s important to understand they are going to be, as we all are, cranky at times. It’s also important to set expectations that they will nonetheless be respectful and handle their interactions in an appropriate way.”

Simpson says parents need to recognize their teenagers are going through developmental changes that affect their communication with parents.

Realize it is not personal. “It’s possible to say, for example, ‘I’d rather not talk about this right now. It’s not a good time,’ instead of snarling and saying something rude,” she says.

In conclusion, it’s never too late to learn good communication skills.

Parents may engage their children in conversation at the dinner table as well as during activities.

Also, keep them involved in activities where they may converse with other adults to keep their social skills fine-tuned.

5 tips for having a productive family meeting

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Has there ever been a time when something was going on at home that needed the input of the whole family, but maybe everyone was too busy to give it the attention it deserves? Or do you get the feeling that everyone is talking but nothing is ever really resolved?

That’s where family meetings come in.

The word “meeting” may sound a bit formal, but that’s OK. It carries weight, and when someone in your family says a meeting is needed to address something, then everyone knows it’s important.

The idea of having a family meeting may seem new or different, but it’s a good way for us to exchange ideas and solve major conflicts or problems.

Some problems can be solved with private chats between one or two people (15-year-old Trudy talking to Mom and Dad about birth control or 12-year-old Todd getting into trouble at school), but there are some that need everyone’s input.

If it sounds like something you’d want to start doing in your household, then here are a few tips to get you started:

Orderly But Comfortable

Meet around the kitchen table or in the living room. Turn off the TV, phone, music and any other distractions.

Allow everyone to bring a drink if they want. This shows everyone that nothing is as important as the time you’re about to share with one another.

And Nothing  is off limits

And they don’t always have to be negative. You can discuss finances, discipline, grades, privileges, dating, schedules, health, vacations, accomplishments – anything that affects the family in a marked way.

Everyone Gets a Say

From the youngest to the oldest, everyone should have their own opportunity to say what’s on their mind, uninterrupted, even if it’s unpopular or different from the rest of the family.

For example, Todd may want a tattoo. Let him explain why he wants one, even if you disagree.

You may end up saying no, but let him express his feelings. Remember, kids are kids. They think like kids, and they behave like kids. You shouldn’t expect a 12-year-old to have an adult’s reasoning.

Same goes for teenagers. Set a couple of ground rules that everyone must follow, like no name-calling and no put-downs. Or no company until the meeting is over.

Listen

Listening may be the hardest part of the family meeting, but it’s also the most important.

Listen closely to what the other person is saying.

Parents tend to correct or lecture their children, and children tend to tune out. It may take a few practice runs to learn how to listen, but it’s worth it.

If you interrupt or correct a speaker, especially a teenager, then they may soon wonder why they should even speak at all and may stop communicating altogether.

When you listen to your husband’s idea of accepting a job that will keep him traveling away from home, you’ll find him more willing to listen to yours about wanting to go back to night school.

Learn to Compromise

Almost every conflict has a happy middle ground. Allow everyone to have input into the final decision, with both sides giving a little. Provide lots of choices and alternatives.

For example, Trudy wants to go on a camping trip with a group of girls and boys her age.

The compromise: Tell her she can go as long as there is responsible adult supervision (emphasis on responsible).

A compromise with Todd’s tattoo may be to get a temporary one, or to allow him to do something that is less permanent, like coloring his hair if he’s been asking for it, or choosing a consolation prize.

If a compromise is out of the question, then a good firm “no” is fine, but it’s good to back it up with more explanation than just, “I say so because I’m your parent.”

The old adage may be true, and it may be a quick fix, but it doesn’t allow much room for dialogue.

Whatever the issue, will it matter in five years? If it will, then maybe several family meetings are in order to work on it.

If it won’t, then it’s not always a bad thing to let the kids win when it’s appropriate.

The main idea is to allow them to experience the give and take of negotiation, which will serve them well in adulthood. If they always lose a battle, they’ll stop fighting for what they believe.

If they always win, then they never understand the word no. But if they learn to compromise, then they learn a constructive way to communicate.

End on a Positive Note

Even if someone isn’t happy with the outcome of the meeting, end by saying that just getting together and sharing ideas was productive in itself, and that the main point of the meeting was communication.

Stress that a family meeting can be impromptu or scheduled. Encourage everyone to keep talking and listening. Thank everyone for their time.

Talk about the good things that are going on in their lives.

Family meetings aren’t meant to be as rigid as boot camp.

However, they do offer a structure that can, over time, become comforting and predictable – a safe haven if you will – for everyone to open up and say what’s on their minds.

With the harried lifestyle of today’s families, a little predictability doesn’t hurt. They will know that the family is important enough to set aside time for a meeting just for them. They’ll even ask for one when they need direction.

A successful family isn’t an issue-free one (we all know those don’t exist!), it’s one that communicates and makes time for itself.

Straight Talk About Bedwetting: Speaking to Siblings of Special Needs Kids

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Vanessa and Brian Miller* are the parents of 11-year-old Emily and 13-year-old Mark.

Emily and Mark both have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Mark also has central apnea and stops breathing several times during the night.

Both children are also chronic bedwetters.

Mark’s incontinence problems were compounded by the fact that he wandered the house at night. Often he would wake up on the living room couch, where he would wet the furniture.

While the Millers sought professional help, they also pursued a practical solution: absorbent undergarments.

The results have been wonderful for both Emily and Mark. “I love it!” says Vanessa Miller. “They can go on sleep-overs with no worries about being embarrassed.”

“It’s Not Your Fault”

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The Millers openly discussed the bedwetting issue with their children, and say it is a critical part of searching for a solution. “I think self-esteem is such a huge issue here,” Miller says.

According to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), the worst thing parents or caregivers can do is punish a child who wets the bed.

“Children, particularly special needs children, are not being rebellious by wetting the bed,” says Ray Blackstock of the Michigan-based NKF Patient and Family Council.

“The worst thing parents can do is humiliate or ridicule a child,” Blackstock warns. “It could leave psychological problems that will stay with the child all their life.”

bedwetting undies for the night

He adds that children are generally more accommodating than adults to try remedies such as absorbent undergarments or other solutions that help prevent bedwetting.

“Kids often handle it (bedwetting) better than the parents do,” Blackstock says.

Using disposable undergarments helps boost self-esteem since the child no longer feels guilty about having to wake the parent to change sheets or do laundry.

Michael P. Hayes, Ph.D., a psychologist in Traverse City, Mich., suggests that parents should broach the subject with the incontinent child’s siblings as well.

“Children should be able to understand what is happening to their sibling and parents should give them as much awareness of the problem as to be helpful,” recommends Hayes.

He urges parents to be supportive and nurturing and impress on the incontinent child – as well as the siblings – that they are OK.

“Tell your children that everyone has some type of difficulty, no one is perfect,” Hayes says.

Support From Siblings

Mary and John Warner’s 10-year-old son, Jake, struggles with autism and epilepsy. “We remind him to go to the bathroom before bed, just like we do to his sisters,” Mary Warner says.

bed wetting teenager alarms

When Jake does wet the bed, the Warners don’t make a big fuss about it – and neither do his sisters.

“We’ll talk more about changing the bed than the actual wetting,” Mary Warner says.

The Warners assure Jake that he is OK and help him clean up, and explain the situation to his sisters.

“They realize Jake has no control over his bed-wetting,” Mary Warner says.

“Our son has so many other things to worry about, like fitting in at school and trying to speak in a way that others understand, that we try to keep his home life as stress free as possible.”

Jake’s sisters simply accept that Jake has special needs. “They don’t think he’s very unusual at all,” Mary Warner says.

Dr. Hayes advises parents to discuss bedwetting with the siblings of an incontinent child privately in an informal, yet honest, way.

Explain to the siblings that this is something their brother or sister cannot control.

“Siblings can be given suggestions as to how to be sensitive to the problem and how they can support their sibling,” Dr. Hayes says.

Try some role-playing and ask the non-bedwetter to pretend he woke up wet. How would he feel? How would he like to be treated?

Although siblings will inevitably tease each other, it shouldn’t be tolerated where bedwetting is concerned. Instead, focus on support and understanding, not disapproval of the child.

Ways to Help on Wet Mornings

Gary and Beth Olman remember the days when their now-adult mentally impaired son, Roger, wet the bed.

“When he was old enough, around 10 or 12, he would change the sheets himself when he woke up wet,” Beth Olman says.

Dr. Hayes agrees that children who are able can change their own sheets.

“It can be a good tool to promote responsibility and ownership of the bedwetting,” Dr. Hayes says.

For Roger, it was a small sense of control over his bedwetting because he no longer needed to wake his parents for help.

Using absorbent products eliminates wet mornings and makes them good mornings for not only the child – but also the parent. Talk to your child’s doctor and discuss what options are available.

Undies absorbent underpants may be beneficial for your child, and most insurance companies will cover the cost of absorbent underpants.