1. A Parent’s Guide to Doctors & Pediatricians

    Showing up with your 15-year-old to a pediatrician’s office can be an awkward experience. A waiting room full of toddler’s toys and Sesame Street posters won’t exactly make your teen feel like they have come to the right place. As a result, many parents wonder when it’s time for their child to stop seeing the pediatrician and start seeing a doctor that handles adult patients.

    Ultimately the choice is up to you and your kids, but many parents make the change from pediatrician to adult physician at age around 13. Around that age, an adolescent begins to have questions about sexual health, hormones, and other issues they may not want to discuss with the doctor they have been seeing since early childhood. Even if you don’t switch doctors, you should make sure to give your child some alone time with their doctor at around this age so they can ask certain questions they may not feel comfortable asking around you.

    There are some benefits with sticking with a pediatrician through age 18. If your child has a chronic condition your pediatrician has been working on, it may take time an effort to catch up a new doctor. If your child and doctor have good rapport, you may not need to switch.

    For an in-between fix, check out whether there’s an adolescent medicine specialist in your area: Google “adolescent doctor” or “young adult doctor” plus your city or town. These doctors are great for high school age kids, and can provide a stopgap between a pediatrician and an adult doctor.

    A lot of kids make the switch to a new doctor at age 18 when they go to college. Having a doctor near where they go to school has a lot of practical advantages, and age 18 is a good time for soon-to-be-adults to start making their own medical choices.  

    There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to making the switch from pediatrician to young adult doctor or adult doctor. What is convenient for your family and who your child feels most comfortable with should influence the choice the most. Make sure to keep your child involved in the discussion – after all, they’re the patient! 

     

  2. Child Identity Theft

    Just when you thought the world of cybercrime couldn’t get any scarier, this alarming trend rears its head. Children are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals. What is behind this trend, and how do you protect your children from becoming the victims of identity theft?

    In many ways, kids are the perfect target for identity thieves. Their social security numbers and credit files are completely pristine, and these blank slates are exactly what cyber criminals need to take out fraudulent loans and credit cards. These scams can go undetected for a long while because it doesn’t occur to parents to check their kids’ credit ratings.

    There are certain red flags of which you should be aware. If you suddenly get an influx of credit card or loan offers addressed to your child, there is likely a problem. Collections calls, IRS notices, and bills addressed to your little one are all signs that someone is maliciously using your child’s social security number.

    If you suspect something is amiss, you’ll need to check your child’s credit score. This is a bit more involved than checking your personal credit score, as you’ll need to provide your child’s information plus information proving that you are the child’s guardian. Use a variety of companies (many are free) to run several credit checks; different companies draw on different databases, so using just one won’t necessarily unearth fraud.

    A blank credit file means there is no credit activity related to your child’s SSN – if you come across that, consider yourself in the clear. If there is illegal activity, you can freeze your child’s credit, which will prevent any further damage. Make sure to also file a police report and gather as much documentation as you can. This will make it easier to restore your child’s credit, and may help catch the cybercriminal. Some states even allow you to create a credit report for your child and freeze it as a preventative measure.

    When it comes to preventing identity theft, you need to be as careful with your children’s information as you are with your own. Protect their SSNs and personal data, especially online, and if you think something might be amiss, don’t hesitate to take the steps outlined here. 

     

  3. What to Wear for Graduation

    Graduation season is here, and all the ceremonies and celebrations are an opportunity for kids of all ages to look their best. Whether your child is attending a graduation ceremony for a big brother or sister, or graduating themselves, now is the time to give some consideration to what they’ll wear.

    Before you jump into shopping, look through the information provided by your son or daughter’s school. Is there a graduation dress code? What is the policy on jewelry? Makeup? What do you think people in the audience will wear? Also take note of where the graduation takes place. Is the ceremony outdoors? How hot will it be? Chance of rain?

    Once you know a bit more about the ceremony you can start shopping. Suits for boys and party dresses for girls is standard graduation wear. If wearing a robe, kids only have to look dressy from the shins down: boys can wear their dress shoes and slacks with a T so they stay cool and comfortable during the ceremony; girls can wear dressy shoes with leggings or tights. After the ceremony ends and you snap some pics of the graduates in their robes, they can change into their full outfits.

    Make sure your graduate or attendee wears comfortable shoes (especially for girls who sometimes choose fashion over function). They’ll be wearing these shoes through the graduation ceremony, the celebratory meal afterwards, and graduation parties. You want them to be comfortable!

    What about choosing the actual dress or suit? If you’re picking out a first suit for your little guy, try to go for something versatile – could he wear it to a fancy dinner? A family wedding? Will your 8th grade girl’s graduation dress work as a prom dress in a few years? You know best about your child’s future plans, so choose dresswear that might work well for upcoming events.

    Once you and your child choose an appropriate graduation outfit, you can sit back and enjoy the event. Snap lots of pictures and take a moment to pat your child and yourself on the back for all your hard work. And don’t forget to thank their teachers, too. Happy graduation! 

     

  4. Negotiating with Kids

    When kids reach age 5 they enter what some parents call the “little lawyer” phase. Everything becomes a negotiation. They want just 15 more minutes of play before bed, or they outright refuse to eat certain foods. Parents often find themselves frustrated at the fact that every situation becomes a prolonged standoff. And it can be difficult to know when to put your foot down, when you should negotiate, and when to let your child ‘win’ the argument. Here are some tips for dealing with the little lawyer of your family.

    Softening an ultimatum with choices is a good way to avoid a fight or a more drawn-out negotiation. Instead of saying “Go clean your room!” try “What part of your room do you want to clean first?” or “What music do you want to put on while you clean your room?” Simply building some choice into your command can be enough to satisfy that budding need for independence.

    Take advantage or your child’s newly developing empathy when negotiating. If they refuse to eat the vegetables you cooked, turn the tables on them. Ask, “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” or “How do you think I feel when you don’t eat the food I worked hard cooking for you?” This is precisely the kind of thinking you want to encourage in your child, and can often lead to a truce both sides can accept.

    However, you’ll have a hard time negotiating with your child if they don’t understand that you mean business. Let them assert their autonomy, but draw a clear line in the sand as to when you’re engaging in a negotiation and when you’re issuing a command. Giving your child some leeway to exercise choice and negotiation in certain cases will make a command that much more meaningful.

    Don’t forget to have some fun with negotiations. If your child wants 15 minutes more playtime tonight, let him or her plead their case. You may be surprised how convincing they can be!

     

  5. Tattle Battle!

    Is tattling a problem for your child? Do they tattle too much, or are they hesitant to share important problems for fear of being labeled a tattletale? As a parent, how do you keep tattling in check?

    Kids begin to tattle between ages 5 – 10. Many kids tattle because they’re testing out a newfound sense of wrong and right, which is ultimately an important part of their development. But they need your guidance to understand how to respond to certain kinds of wrongdoing.

    Playacting can be helpful here. Describe situations, like witnessing bullying or littering, then let your child decide whether they should alert an adult, intervene themselves, or just ignore the behavior. Make sure they’re aware of certain things they should always tell an adult.

    For some kids, tattling is a way to vent frustrations. They may not want you to do anything other than hear them out. In these cases, all you need to do is offer a sympathetic ear. Validate their feelings of anger towards a person or behavior. Let them know that even adults need to gripe sometimes.

    Don’t validate tattling, though. When kids tattle, you don’t want to reward them, but you also don’t want to scold them, punish them, or make them feel as if their concerns are being brushed aside. As a solution, don’t praise them for actually tattling. Instead, try praising them for being attentive. If you find they’re REALLY attentive, assign them something else to observe and relay to you. Ask them to look for 3 examples of kindness to report. Sure beats hearing about yet another playground name-calling incident.

    If you find the tattling habit persistent and hard to break, it may be tied to insecurity. Kids who feel unable to control their surroundings will sometimes engage in constant tattling because it makes them feel more powerful. This bad habit won’t exactly endear them to their peers or build their confidence. When they come to you to tattle, offer support and advice but resist the urge to get actively involved. Give praise when they are able deal with an issue on their own.   

     

  6. Fun & Easy Science Experiments for Kids

    Sometimes it takes a little extra spark to ignite a child’s interest in science. Many parents will read or draw with their kids, but much fewer are comfortable exploring scientific concepts. However, there’s no reason you can’t make science a part of everyday play. You don’t need to be a science wiz yourself, and you definitely don’t need to know the answer to every question your child may have. Simply having fun experimenting will introduce your child to the fascinating world of science.

    Here are some fun experiments that are easy, kid-friendly, and relatively mess-free to perform at home:

    Taste Testing: Explore the connection between taste and smell with this simple experiment. Blindfold your child and have them try a small piece of red apple then an equally sized piece of green apple. They should be able to taste the difference. Now try the same thing while they pinch their nose shut. Suddenly tasting the difference is a real challenge! Use this experiment to talk about the five senses and how they interact (learn more here).

    Baking Soda + Vinegar: Mixing baking soda and vinegar to create a fizzy eruption is a classic science experiment for good reason; it illustrates so many scientific concepts! Mixing two ingredients shows your little chemist a basic reaction.  Make things a little more complicated by mixing the ingredients in a lightly corked bottle. Watch the cork fly off and explain the buildup of force behind the impressive pop (learn more here).

    Making a Rainbow: A CD, a glass with some water in it, or a crystal – these are some of the household items you can use to create a homemade rainbow. Shift the light to see how it affects the size and colors of your rainbow. Make sure to use natural sunlight. Reflecting onto a white piece of paper is the easiest way to see the vivid results. Use this experiment to explore the light spectrum, and explain how all light contains these colors (learn more here). 

    Egg Parachute: The goal is simple: use household items to design a parachute that can float an egg to the ground from a given height (a roof or 2nd floor window should be sufficient). This is a great group activity because everyone can try their own design. It also serves as a launching pad for discussing physics – and making omelets.  

     

  7. Putting an End to Picky Eating

    image

    Do your kids have certain foods they can’t stand? Is it a constant fight to get them to eat these foods? How do you win that fight? 

    The battle over eating habits usually starts when a child is around 2 years old. At this age, children begin developing preferences and realizing they have choices. Often being picky at the dinner table is simply a manifestation of this development.

    For parents trying to provide nutritious meals, however, it can be a nightmare.

    What’s the best thing to do when a child rejects certain kinds of food? Keep in mind this behavior is likely co-motivated by A) disliking the food and B) wanting to out how you’ll react. If your child refuses to eat something during dinner, ask them to please hang out at the table while the rest of the family eats. If they get hungry later, serve them something similar. Let them know they have the “right” to reject food, but doing so will not earn them a tastier option later.

    image

    Cater to your child’s need to make choices – in small ways. Serve broccoli, but leave it up to your child to decide what plate they get to eat it off of. Furthermore, offer them a choice of toppings like cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, or even ketchup. This allows your child to exercise their newfound autonomy without turning mealtime completely upside-down.

    Slightly older kids, in the 4 – 7 age range, are highly susceptible to peer influence, and you can use this to your advantage. Try putting your child in a situation where other kids his or her age will be eating a healthy variety of foods. Point out, subtly or not, that the people your child admires aren’t so picky. An older sibling, babysitter, or other role model can show the way.

    Don’t expect change overnight. If your child refuses to eat asparagus, it will take more than one meal to change their mind. Ask them to take just one bite of asparagus, even a lick or a nibble will do. It will take time, but eventually your child will grow to like a lot of the stuff you serve them – even healthy fare. And the sooner you can get your little one eating fruits and veggies regularly – even with a dab of ketchup here and there – the more likely they’ll be to adopt healthy habits for life.   

     

  8. Overcoming Jealousy

    Jealousy is something we all experience. In many ways it can be helpful, as it can drive us to achieve on the same level as someone else. However, as with most negative emotions, kids often need help managing their jealous impulses. How can parents be of assistance?

    Jealousy can take many forms, and the first step in dealing with your child’s jealousy is identifying its nature. Many younger children get jealous of others’ possessions and privileges. Siblings will often fight over who gets to use Mom’s iPad or who gets to control what’s on the TV. In many of these cases, it’s your role to step in as the impartial referee. Put a simple system in place and enforce it: time sessions on the iPad to ensure fairness, and alternate control of the remote on the breaks between TV shows.

    If you find yourself refereeing huge numbers of showdowns, you may need to plan some activities that will encourage your kids to work cooperatively. You should also ask your children whether the object of their jealousy is really appealing, or whether it’s just appealing because a sibling or friend owns it. This can open their eyes to the role jealousy plays in distorting their feelings.     

    As kids get older, they often experience jealousy towards their peers. You may hear your child say something like “I wish I was as good at math as Clara” or “why is everyone on the baseball team better than me?” These are great times to illustrate the power of hard work to your kids. If they express dismay at their inability to do something, help them practice it. Let them harness that jealousy and turn it into self-improvement. Plot a practical path to improvement with them – and cheerlead along the way.

    But what if your little baseball player really has no hope of getting as good as the other kids?

    Jealousy regarding things one cannot change, or jealousy regarding inadequacies, real or perceived, can be the hardest to overcome. These jealousies don’t stem from wanting what someone else has as much as low self-esteem. In these situations, parents should try to help their children build self-esteem and confidence. Praise them, but praise them honestly. Remind your kids about the things they are good at, and ask them whether it really matters if they’re not as good at something else.

    Lastly, ask your child to try and accept the things they truly can’t change. This is the last and most important step in overcoming jealousy, and a major milestone in their maturity. 

     

  9. Toys that Teach

    Savvy parents are always looking for new and engaging ways to educate their kids. Whether your child is pre-school age or struggling in an academic subject, a little boost to enhance their learning experience is always beneficial. But how do you make it fun? 

    Many parents and kids have already discovered the value of learning through play. When you teach with toys, that most dreaded school subject becomes a lot less intimidating. Here are some of our favorite teaching toys:

    Scientific Playsets: Many of today’s great scientists can trace their interest in the natural world to a childhood science playset. Not only do such toys inspire young imaginations, they allow children to get some firsthand experience with the scientific method. Kids get to collect and record data, observe change over time, and begin to grasp the forces at work in the world around them. A science playset could turn your little one into a lifelong lover of science.

    Arts & Crafts Sets: Unfortunately, many of today’s school curriculums underemphasize arts education, so parents must take it upon themselves to develop their child’s creativity. A set of markers, paints, jewelry making supplies, or other artistic supplies can give your child a wonderful creative outlet. With the right art set, they’ll develop eye-hand coordination, the ability to think outside the box, and an eye for form and color.

    Building Toys: Industrious kids love Legos, blocks, K’Nex, and other building toys. These kind of toys involve some creative thought and some analytical thought, making them a versatile educational tool. Kids get to explore their imagination while learning about physics, engineering, and material science. What structures will your kids dream up?

    Adventure Kits: These toy sets are designed for exploring the outdoors. They often contain a camera, binoculars, a compass, walkie-talkie, and other adventuring equipment. Your child can observe nature, snap some pictures, and get some fresh air – all while having a blast!

    Word Games: Games like Scrabble and Boggle are a great way to expand your child’s vocabulary and improve spelling. They also force players to think on their feet. Your kids may be hesitant at first, but after a few games with you they just might get hooked. Before you know it, they’ll be the ones teaching you new words!

     

  10. Time-Out Alternative: Time-In

    When it comes to dealing with a child’s bad behavior, the time-out is one of the most tried and true tools in a parent’s kit. The prevailing wisdom is that it gives kids a few minutes to cool off, reflect about what they have done, and realize that their actions have consequences.  However, there are lessons a time-out doesn’t teach, like regulating your emotions, cooperating with your parents, or deescalating. Some parents are doing the exact opposite of the time-out and using a technique known as the time-in.

    A time-in is when you sit your child down calmly to comfort them and talk about the bad behavior. As opposed to a punishment, the time-in lets you find out what pushed your child to a certain behavior and create a cooperative plan to stop it from happening again. Most negative behavior doesn’t come from nowhere, so a time-in can help a parent understand what is going through their child’s mind. It also helps children reconcile and further examine their negative emotions.

    Many kids, when left to their own devices during time-out time, will blame others as opposed to really thinking about what they have done. Kids can have trouble sorting out their actions and their emotions. A time-in lets you, the parent, take control and say “Emotion X is okay, action X is not” and from there move the conversation to “What is a more productive way to deal with emotion X?”

    Another problem with the time-out is that it loses its effectiveness after a certain age. Are you really going to give your teenager a time-out? Probably not. By getting into the habit of talking through problems now, you establish a lifelong habit of talking through your child’s inappropriate behaviors.

    Many parents are skeptical of the time-in because they don’t want to feel they are rewarding a bad behavior. The first thing to remember is that a time-in is not a punishment, but it’s not a reward either. It’s simply a different, more proactive tool for dealing with problem behavior. Try it out – you may be surprised at the results.