When Toddlers Refuse to Eat
Offer a variety of healthy foods for meals and snacks, then let your toddler choose what to eat and decide when they are full.
When toddlers refuse to eat, it's a worry for parents. This is a common phase, and there is probably nothing wrong with your child. But it's still smart to start with their doctor, to be sure there are no physical problems causing a lack of appetite. Your doctor will tell you how many calories your child needs each day, and will have some helpful advice for you.
You'll have more luck getting some fuel into your toddler's busy little body if you understand their point of view. A toddler's full-time job is to explore the world around them. To them, eating can be a boring waste of time that pulls them away from their adventures. But a regular meal and snack schedule will help them have the energy they need to grow, learn and play! So, make food part of the fun: Pack a lunch to eat at the park, or spread a blanket indoors, picnic-style, and offer a smiley face made out of fruits to eat. Sit with your child to make meal time special family time.
Remember that toddlers are figuring out how to use their power to control things - and they're very good at it! Don't allow food to become a source of conflict. Be calm and matter-of-fact about eating, and do not coax, bribe or force-feed your child. Beware of the trap of offering sweet treats to ensure your toddler eats something, or they may soon refuse anything else. For now, don't worry about your child eating a wide variety of foods each day. Until this phase is over, it's okay to stick with a smaller variety of healthy foods they like.
Here's a trick that can awaken your toddler's appetite: Set a very small amount of food in front of them, such as two crackers, two banana slices and two small pieces of cheese. Food is more tempting when there's just a bit of it, so your child is apt to gobble it all up. If they ask for more, offer another tiny portion. Repeat this as long as they ask for more and eat it. As soon as they stop eating, end the meal. Do this over several days, gradually increasing the portions, and you're likely to see their appetite blossom.
Read Healthy Eating: Tips for Getting Your Child to Eat (PDF) to learn more.
Booster Seats and Carpools
Results of a survey published this year found that parents of kids ages 4 to 8 often take part in carpools. No surprise, right? It helps to arrange carpools for sports practices and other activities. But, the survey also found that many parents don't insist that their child travel in a booster when riding in carpools, even if they use a booster for every ride in the family car.
Two tips for increasing booster seat use:
- Keep an extra booster seat or two strapped in your car or stored in the trunk.
- Leave a booster seat in the classroom if another parent will be driving your child somewhere after school.
Hear what Seattle Mama Doc had to say about this survey or check out our booster seat flyer (PDF) to learn more.
Answering a Tough Question
It's the one question kids ask that can cause parents to panic: "So, did you drink or try any drugs when you were a teenager?" Since the time your child was little, you've likely had some conversations about the dangers of alcohol and drugs. It's smart to think ahead about how you'll answer when your preteen or teen asks you about your experiences.
If you abstained as a teen, then the whole truth is the best, easiest answer. Maybe something like: "I did not, and I'm really glad. It was hard at times, but when my friends realized I wasn't going to do that, they respected my choice. And I saw how drugs and alcohol caused big problems for some of them."
If you did experiment as a teen, your response will depend upon your child's age. Keep in mind that lying may backfire at some point. However, there's no reason to provide the details of your own experiences. You might respond with something like this: "When I was your age, I did some stupid things. I gave in to peer pressure when I really didn't want to - because I was trying to fit in. You are a strong person and I hope you'll make smart choices. If you're tempted, let's talk about it."
Stay relaxed and be honest when the topic comes up. It's pretty great that your teenager wants to talk with you about this! If they press you for details, consider this reply: "Let's agree that when you're 30, I'll tell you all about it."
The Power of a Contract
Should you ask your child to sign on the dotted line? Many parents do! Behavior contracts help kids and parents agree on actions they will - or will not - take, and what will happen if the agreement is broken. The best contracts are simple and specific, with no fancy language. For younger kids, contracts can help them develop good habits. For instance, if chores and homework are done without reminders, then the child receives an agreed-upon prize at the end of the week. For older kids, cell phone usage contracts are popular, with loss of phone time for breaking the agreement. Since safety is crucial, it makes sense to have a skateboarding pre-teen agree to always wear a helmet. When kids begin to drive, families should set a no texting while driving policy, and other very specific rules. Talk with your child and agree on what the contract should contain - then work together to write it. Once a contract is in place, many families find there's less to argue and nag about!
Explaining Cancer to Kids
Children often become aware of cancer when a family member, friend or schoolmate has it. It's important to talk about cancer openly, and answer your child's questions. Kids may worry that cancer is contagious, like a cold. They need to know that cancer is never contagious. They're apt to ask if the sick person will get better. Parents should address this concern honestly; be reassuring without making any promises that someone will get well. Taking positive action may help your child cope. So by all means, sit down with them to make cheery greeting cards, let them donate some money from their piggy bank to a cancer charity, or enlist your whole family to participate in a community fundraiser.
Visit our cancer resources for patients and families.
Teens Still Need Check-Ups
When kids are young, they may be at the doctor's office several times a year, and yearly check-ups are routine. As they get older, kids tend to make fewer trips to the doctor. But teens need a yearly wellness check-up, even if there are no health concerns. In addition to a physical exam, the doctor will talk in private with your teen about safety, eating habits, physical activity, school performance, risk-taking behavior (smoking, alcohol, drugs and unsafe sex) and relationships. Due to doctor-patient confidentiality, teens will often share important information and concerns with their doctor that they won't share with others. If your teen is overdue for a check-up, schedule one today.
Read Your Teen's Yearly Checkup from the American Academy of Pediatrics to learn more.
Is That Belly Ache Appendicitis?
Kids can get belly aches for many reasons. But if the appendix is to blame, it's a serious medical condition. So it's important to know the symptoms of appendicitis. Pain in the lower belly is the most common symptom. Children age 2 and younger are also apt to have vomiting, and swelling in the belly. Older kids may report pain near their belly button, with the pain moving to the lower right. In most cases, the pain does not improve by lying still, and movement tends to make the pain worse. Kids with appendicitis often do not want to eat, feel sick to their stomach, and may have vomiting and diarrhea. If you suspect appendicitis, see a doctor right away.
Learn more about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of appendicitis.