Getting Beyond “How Was Your Day?”
As children grow up, their lives expand – with friends, school, sports, hobbies and part-time jobs. It’s too easy to lose touch. What are they doing? How are they feeling? How are they really feeling?
Getting children, tweens and teens to engage in meaningful conversations isn’t always easy. Rare is the kid who eagerly downloads you. (If you’re lucky enough to have one of these, soak it in!) Most kids dislike being peppered with questions the minute they get home from school. They’re apt to clam up until they’ve had time to unwind. You can help them transition by offering a warm welcome home, a snack and some space. This is also a smart approach for those kids who need to get their homework done first thing and can’t relax until it’s finished. In any case, respect their needs.
When your child is in a talking mood, let them begin the conversation if possible, so you can learn what’s on their mind. If you need to get the talk flowing, ask a specific question or share something personal from your own day. Then, let them talk. Be a good listener. Don’t interrupt, criticize or lecture. If your child brings up a problem, resist the urge to dictate a solution. Instead, brainstorm some ideas together.
Many kids are more talkative while something else is going on: riding in the car, preparing dinner or walking the dog. If your child loves to have their back scratched, their feet rubbed or their nails painted, that’s an ideal time to open up a discussion. And for some kids, bedtime is when they crave a heart-to-heart talk.
If there’s a proven time and place for meaningful conversations, it’s family meals – as long as all phones are banned from the table. You might even start the daily tradition of sharing what “Seattle Mama Doc” Wendy Sue Swanson calls BPOD: best part of the day. (Here are some great conversation-starters.)
If your child approaches you and needs to talk, give them your full attention. They need to know that they are your priority. Honest and meaningful conversations will build your child’s self-esteem and self-knowledge, and strengthen your relationship – now and in the future.
Returning to Play After a Concussion
It takes children and teens longer than adults to get better from concussions and go back to normal activities. Their brains are still growing and developing, so they need more time to heal. If a child returns to play before the brain heals, any additional bump or blow can cause more damage. This can make the symptoms last longer or cause “second impact syndrome” – a rare but devastating brain injury that happens when the brain has not fully recovered and is injured again. This is why, before returning to sports or other physical activity, children and teens in Washington state must get written approval from a doctor or other licensed healthcare provider trained to evaluate and treat concussions.
Learn about our Seattle Sports Concussion Program.
Parenting Requires Being Consistent with Rules
Being a parent means being consistent. When parents are wishy-washy and bend the rules, it’s confusing for kids, who need and crave consistency. So stick to the rules you’ve made, and be sure that all your child’s caregivers do the same.
If you are going to make a special exception to a rule, explain it to your child ahead of time so they understand it’s a one-time change. As kids get older and become more responsible, they earn new freedoms and new rules. Be sure they understand the reasons behind these changes.
Also remember that no means no. Once you’ve said no, you can’t give in to begging or tantrums. So think things through before you answer a child’s request.
Finally, keep your promises. If you say you’ll go to the park after naptime, stick to your word. Only announce it as the plan ahead of time if you’re certain you can follow through. Being consistent isn’t always easy, but it’s better for everyone!
Visit our growth and development pages for more help with parenting.
Making the Most of School Conferences
From preschool through high school, parent-teacher conferences are a powerful way to learn more about your child – and to gain insights that go far beyond their academics. For a regular conference, the timeline will be tight and the meeting will be very brief. So plan ahead. Make a short, prioritized list of topics you hope to cover. If one parent can’t attend, get their input. And ask your child if there’s anything they’d like you to ask about: their answers can be very revealing.
At the conference, let the teacher take the lead. They have their own list and will convey what’s most important in the brief time you have. While it may be tough to hear about areas where your child can improve, resist any impulse to be defensive. Listen carefully and take notes for later. When your time is up, respect the schedule and the other parents who are waiting their turn. If you need more time, ask how you can best communicate further, or schedule a follow-up meeting.
After the conference, debrief with your spouse or partner and compare your takeaways. Then at home, talk with your child about what you learned. Start with the positives, touch on areas that need improvement and problem-solve on how to improve, then restate the positives.
Teachers are experts who have special insights into your child. Most teachers wish they had more time and resources to help your child. After your conference, a personal thank-you note from your family will be appreciated more than you can imagine – and will set a wonderful example for your child.
Learn more about helping your child succeed in school.
FDA Says E-Cigs Are Tobacco Products
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) and vape pens are devices that mimic tobacco smoking, delivering nicotine in vapor form. Kids can quickly become addicted to nicotine, and e-cigs can deliver dangerously high amounts.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now considers these devices to be tobacco products. So nationwide, it’s illegal to sell them to anyone under age 18. Sellers must now verify a buyer’s age with photo ID.
This is an important safeguard, because e-cigs had been too easy for kids to buy. But clever kids have always found ways around the law. That’s why there’s no substitute for vigilant parenting. Be sure to talk with your child about the health risks and consequences.
Visit our Teenology 101 post to learn more.
Safe Cribs are Bare, Basic and Boring
SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) most often happens between the first and fourth months of life. To reduce the risk, remember the letter B. Cribs should be bare, basic and boring.
Never place pillows, stuffed animals, comforters, bumpers or sleep positioners in an infant’s crib. And infants should always be placed on their backs to sleep. If you swaddle your baby, back sleeping is even more crucial, and swaddling should stop when the baby shows signs of being able to roll over, at about 3 months of age. This is because new research shows that swaddled infants may be at higher risk for SIDS when they are placed on – or roll themselves onto – their sides or tummies.
Get more details from Seattle Mama Doc.
It’s Flu Shot Time
Everyone age 6 months and older needs a flu vaccine every year. It’s the best way to reduce the chances that you will get the flu and spread it to others.
Get the vaccine as soon as it’s available so you’ll be protected when the virus arrives. Because the virus itself varies each year, so does the vaccine. Last year’s vaccine will not protect you against this year’s virus.
This year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are recommending the flu shot only, because the nasal vaccine was not effective the last two flu seasons. If you have any questions about vaccines, ask your child’s doctor. Visit the link below for tips on helping your child prepare for a shot.
Learn more about immunizations and get tips on helping your child prepare for shots.