KATY MAGAZINE I FEBRUARY 2019
by Natalie Cook Clark
With all the "noise" in our lives, raising a healthy and happy kid can get a little fuzzy at times. We often feel that there are so many thing that we have to be doing that it's easy to get caught up in it all and miss the little wonders that are right at our fingertips. We forget to live in the present in our desperate efforts to schedule our days and make sure our children have what they need.
The Hughes Family of Katy
1. Get Regular Check-Ups
The most obvious point when discussing raising a healthy child is preventative care by way of routine medical check-ups. "Growth and development are tracked across time, and if any problems are identified, they can be addressed promptly," said Dr. Kristi Whitenton, Medical Director for Urgent Care for Kids. "Prevention and early intervention result in the best outcomes if there are any health concerns." You will also want to schedule dental visits every six months, and have vision exams every other year (for children who do not wear glasses or contacts) and annual vision exams for children who do. "Children who don’t see well sometimes have difficulties in school if they can’t engage in active learning using all their senses."
2. Teach Hygiene and Hand-washing
When people think of hygiene they usually think of brushing teeth, washing hair, and bath time. While this is all very important perhaps the most important of all is hand washing. "One of the best ways to prevent illness is hand washing," said Whitenton. "Parents should lead by example and provide reminders to wash hands before eating, after using the toilet, following outdoor adventures, after spending time in public places, or any time hands may have come into contact with germs."
"Though we have vaccines for many communicable diseases, children are still susceptible to other illnesses such as colds and strep throat," explained Whitenton. "These are the types of illnesses that spread less when good hygiene is practiced."
3. Keep to a Schedule
"Children rely on a schedule both at home and school," said Nicole Istre, owner of Katy's Early Child Enrichment Center. "This allows children to have a lower stress level by being able to predict what is going to happen next."They feel safe and secure when they have limits and a schedule. Kids need to know what to expect," said Nelda Wilson Brooks, a Katy Marriage and Family Therapist.
Keeping a schedule also helps other members of the family stay informed with the week's activities. It also helps children know what is expected of them. Example: Each day after school spend 20 minutes on homework.
4. Discipline Them
The talk of discipline sometimes leads to debate and discussion but it really is an important part of raising children. To put it simply: Kids. Need. Discipline. "The word disciple, after all, means 'to teach'.
"Kids cannot set their own limits," explains Brooks. "Part of their development is to test limits in a safe environment. This is how they begin to learn that good behavior brings reinforcements and that bad behavior brings consequences."
Experts advise disciplining them should be in a way that they learn from. Most children learn well when a consequence fits the offense. If your child sneaks his iPad at bedtime, the iPad gets taken away for two days. If a child misbehaves at a friend's house, it's time to leave. Whatever type of discipline your family uses, experts suggest keeping it consistent and fair so children know what to expect. Some families give a warning first to give a child room to correct his mistake to help the child be aware when he's heading to a danger zone. It's also a good idea to have a dialogue about what happened, hear him out, and share ideas for doing better in the future.
One of the most important goals of parenting is to raise them to be responsible, respectful, and functioning adults by teaching them how to behave. "This is how kids learn to be responsible for their behavior," said Brooks.
And it's also important for parents to be on the same team when it comes to discipline. If one parent doesn't punish for the same offense, it can be very confusing and frustrating for children and parents. If you're not the disciplinarian in your family, you can still establish a consistent approach by backing up and supporting the parent that is.
5. Let Kids Be Kids
It's too easy in today's world to get so focused in raising these amazing adults that we forget that our children are kids! They want to be kids so while they can, let's let them.
"Be a “why not” parent instead of a “why” parent. If the activity is creative (playing in mud) and safe , ask yourself...”Why not?” said Brooks.
It’s hard for parents to step back a bit from focusing on their preschool curriculum and their child to master there phonics, mathematical skills and art techniques," says, Istre. This is also a time for children to learn their social skills, how to make friends, how to solve problems on their own and how to deal with their emotions.
6. Have a Harmonious Home Environment
It's easy to lose sight on how much our environment can impact our children. "Kids react to tension and stress," said Brooks. "If parents are fighting, often the child or children will act out to take the focus away from the parents fighting."
"No child’s home would be complete without occasional high-energy outbursts, but quiet time is important, too," says Whitenton. "It allows for a busy little mind to reset and process all the stimulation from the outside world."
"Chaotic exchanges in the home between family members can be damaging and cause a child to feel insecure or self-blaming for the negativity experienced," explains Whitenton. "Guiding children in conflict resolution by intervening to defuse escalating emotions and modeling positive communication will cultivate coping skills in children that will serve them in childhood, but will ultimately help them blossom into self-assured adults."
7. Don't Over-Schedule
Basketball, music lessons, dance, karate; how much can one child do in a week? Some Katy parents are feeling the pain of trying to put their kids in too many activities and are feeling the stress from everyone in the family. According to American College of Pediatricians, while extracurricular involvement can have a lot of benefits, parents should avoid excessive pressure and time commitments that weaken family bonds and leave children feeling exhausted or stressed The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends being selective in the organized activities you pick and to listen to your child and give him a say in selecting his activities. And most importantly, while your scheduling those activities make sure you schedule in some regular time for family meals together and downtime for your child. Photo: Emily Priddy with mom Mary Priddy
8. Get Along with Others
This is not referring to your child's need to get along with others but rather your own. Our children see us interact with so many people on a given day but of course there are some that see us with on a regular basis and this gives us a real opportunity to set example. How we interact with our exes, in-laws, teachers, and other important people in our child's life will show them how we expect them to interact with others.
"Adults are role models for their children," said Istre. "Children only know what they see and are taught by their teachers and their parents."
9. Listen to Them
"Let them know that their opinions matter," said Brooks. "Their feelings matter. They matter." Let them have say in their schedule. Let them make decisions even if it's something small like what game to play after dinner. Give them some control. If you truly don't care or should care in the order they do things before bed then let them decide. As long as everything gets done let them feel like they have some control. Showing them that you listen also shows them they can talk to you when it really matters.
10. Limit Screen Time This generation doesn't remember a time without cell phones and iPads. Even at a young age children are exposed to screen time and while it can help grow them academically through learning games, like most things, it must be accepted in moderation.
"Screen time for children should be a reinforcement for good behavior, not an entitlement," says Brooks. "Children can be rewarded for doing homework, doing chores, engaging in family time and having social interactions. For children under two years old, screen time should be limited to one hour per week. Too much screen time can cause problems in learning and development, sleep disorders, and obesity. It can also affect short attention span, lack of decision making skills, vision problems, and loss of social skills. Aggression and lack of drive to interact with others can also be an outcome of too much screen time for children."
"Children younger than 2 years need hands-on exploration and social interaction with trusted caregivers to develop their cognitive, language, motor, and social-emotional skills," states the American Association of Pediatrics. "Because of their immature symbolic, memory, and attention skills, infants and toddlers cannot learn from traditional digital media as they do from interactions with caregivers, and they have difficulty transferring that knowledge to their 3-dimensional experience." When playing on an iPad with a young child a parent should also sit beside them to maintain a level of personal interaction and engagement along with the media.
11. Eat Meals Together
Family mealtime could be the most important time you give your child. "First, meal times impact all of our senses – the sight, touch, taste, and smell of food, as well as listening to family conversation," says the American College of Pediatrics. "Family meals offer the opportunity to spend time together, reconnect after a busy day, communicate with and listen to each other, share values and ideas, and problem solve."
"Ask each child what was the best part of their day and what was the worst part," said Brooks. "Share your best and worst parts too." This is the perfect way for everyone to unwind and reconnect after the day.
But this time together could be even more important that you can imagine. According to the American College of Pediatrics:
Teens who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are two and a half times more likely to use marijuana.
Twice as likely to use alcohol.
Four times more likely to use tobacco.
More likely to have access to prescription drugs in order to get high.
Less likely to engage in sexual activity.
Less likely to experience depression.
12. Tell Them You Love Them
How often do you tell your children that you love them? "Every morning, when they leave for school, when they get home and when they go to bed," recommends Brooks. This point on the list is the reason for why we worry about all the other points.
13. Accept Them
These are your children and not mini carbon copies of you. You've had your chance to be you, let them be them.
"Allow them to have their own interests, not yours, or what you wanted for yourself," says Brooks. "Tell them you are proud of their music ability, athletic ability, academic ability, etc."
Take an interest in their interests. Take the time to see how awesome they are in their own unique and special ways, even if they are completely different from you.
14. Encourage Independence
Teaching your child how to be okay without you one day is your first order of business.
"Parents and teachers should allow children to make mistakes. Allow them to choose their own clothing, allow them to have the time to pull up their pants or put their jacket on," says Istre. School is a great place to let them practice their independence especially since parents are not there. However, giving them the chance at some freedom can be introduced anywhere.
"Tell how proud you are of their effort, not just the finished product," said Brooks. "Encourage their participation and excitement." When they are working independently you can be there supervising. "Ask them to explain their thought process about a problem," says Brooks.
Don't be so quick to step in when they appear to be struggling. For example when children are playing together at school, a play date, or the park the best thing an adult can do is to try and let them sort it out. "Allow the children to try and work out their disagreement on their own," says Istre. "An adult should only step in if the disagreement begins to get physical. In that case, the adult should help children use their words to talk through a solution."
15. Support Curiosity
"Although sometimes parents get frustrated with children’s curiosity, they should give children the opportunity to explore," says Istre. Curiosity is a sign of an intellectually stimulated child and should be fostered.
"Parents should notice when children look confused and encourage them to ask questions," explains Istre. "For younger children like toddlers, parent should allow children to pull up and crawl to explore their environment. Allow children to make mistakes, redirect, and don’t discourage. For older children parents should ask open ended questions and show interest in the world around them. This will encourage confidence and independence."
16. Build Success
"It is a parents job to help the children to be successful," says Istre. "Children should do chores and have responsibilities at home. Parent should demonstrate a strong work ethic. Teach children when they do something to do it right the first time. Parents should help children develop strong relationships and encourage them to demonstrates strong social skills. Model and demonstrate appropriate study skills. Most importantly, praise children often. Not only for their successes but for their attempts."
According to The Center for Parenting Organization, "Research indicates that those children who do have a set of chores have higher self-esteem, are more responsible, and are better able to deal with frustration and delay gratification, all of which contribute to greater success in school."
Help instill a good work ethic by setting a homework schedule and chore chart with a clear reward system.
17. Expand their Circle
It's true that it takes a village to raise a child so chose your "village" carefully and strategically. Positive role models are a must in raising happy and healthy children. Expand your child's circle beyond family by surrounding them with positive groups such as play groups, mother's day out programs, church groups, and activities. Find programs where your respect and believe in the adult leaders. Adults who exhibit the kind of behavior and work ethic that you want your child to exhibit.
What are your "Must Do's" for raising healthy kids Katy? We'd love to hear them! Email Editor@KatyMagazine.com
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