Thursday, August 29, 2013

Quality Childcare Now, More Involvement with School and Teachers Later

Most employed parents of young children would agree that it can sometimes be difficult to put their sons and daughters in the care of others during the workday. Feeling confident about the quality of these daycare arrangements can make all the difference to parents’ peace of mind.

Of course, good-quality childcare has other benefits, too. In fact, new research in the journal Child Development suggests that good childcare may also increase mothers’ involvement with children’s schools further down the road.

About 1500 children and their mothers were tracked from birth to age 5. Over the years, researchers visited the children’s childcare settings to rate their quality. Then, once the children began kindergarten, teachers and mothers themselves rated how involved and active mothers were with the child’s schooling.

Mothers of children who had attended high-quality daycare in the first 5 years of life were significantly more involved with their kindergarten child’s school experience. What made the difference? When children’s early caregivers were sensitive and responsive and provided stimulating learning activities, parents provided more enriching home environments and children developed stronger academic skills. The pay-off was stronger school-to-parent ties once the child was in elementary school. Importantly, this was true regardless of the family’s income or the mother’s level of education.

These findings provide yet more evidence of the importance of children’s early learning environments. In this case, ensuring that all children have access to quality childcare arrangements can strengthen ties between schools and parents and support children’s development during the elementary years.

Course: Carol Church, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New evidence on smoking and pregnancy

It’s no secret that smoking is bad for your health – and, for pregnant women, has serious impacts on the health of their unborn babies. Smoking during pregnancy not only  increases the chance for early labor and miscarriage , but also  lowers the unborn baby’s heart rate, limits the oxygen he receives, , and increases his risk of lung disease later in life.

Now there is new evidence that provides pregnant mothers with one more reason to avoid smoking: A new systematic review published in the British Medical Journal found that children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy were more likely to be overweight.

The analysis reviewed a total of 30 prospective studies to identify factors during pregnancy and infancy that led to obesity in childhood. Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy were 47% more likely to be obese.

The review also found that children were significantly more likely to be overweight if their mothers were overweight before giving birth, or if they were fed solids before they were 4 months old.

There were also some factors that seemed to protect against childhood obesity. Breastfed babies were 15 percent less likely to be overweight in childhood. Babies who gained weight more slowly during infancy were also significantly less likely to become overweight as children.

The review offers some solid guidelines for mothers during pregnancy and while caring for young infants. The authors also noted medical professionals could use the findings to develop screening guidelines for pregnant mothers and young babies.

The bottom line: Nutrition and health during pregnancy and infancy has an important impact on a child’s health and well-being.

Source: Cornell University Extension

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Key Factors for School Achievement

Key Factors That relate to School Achievement
1.  Child’s motivation and self esteem
2.  Parenting styles
3.  The parent’s relationship with their child
4.  The parent’s relationship with the school

Tips for Building the Parent/Child Relationship
1.  Accept your child for who he/she is.  Avoid comparing your child to siblings or another child .
2.  Have standards and reasonable expectations for your child.
3.  Set reasonable and clear limits on behavior.
4.  Encourage your child to make his/her best effort.
5.  Show you have confidence in your child’s ability to solve problems and to do a good job.
6.  Praise his/her efforts and improvements in a sensitive way.
7.  Offer help when your child needs it, but do not do the work for him/her.
8.  Listen carefully to your child’s school-related issues and other concerns.
9.  Demonstrate your love through actions and words.
10. Be caring and supportive.
11.  Set a good example.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What we know about custodial grandparents

About 2 percent of children in the U.S. are being raised by their grandparents with no parent living in the home, according to the U.S. Census bureau. But what do we know about these families? And do grandparents face any particular parenting challenges that differ from more traditional households?

Researchers at the College of Human Ecology and the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research are experts in these complex relationships. They’ve published a research brief that summarizes the best way to support these families. While it’s not a comprehensive systematic review, it provides an overview of much of the evidence available on this important topic, and provides tips to caregivers who work with these families.

Among the findings summarized in the brief:
  • Most children in the custody of grandparents have some contact with their biological parents. In some cases, these interactions are helpful and positive, although others can have a negative effect. But the research clearly shows that parents play key roles in the lives of children being raised by relatives.
  • Educational programs that help biological parents become more involved in their children’s lives can benefit the entire family.
  • Confidential counseling for children is important because research shows children often feel torn between their caregivers and their biological parents.
There are plenty of other resources out there for grandparents living with grandchildren.  The U.S. Census Bureau provides statistics on grandparents raising grandchildren.  And a British non-profit organization called Mentor UK conducted an international review of the evidence on the topic with some insightful information.

“Despite the growth in the numbers of custodial grandparent families in New York and across the U.S., we actually know very little about relationship quality and parenting in such families,” said Kimberly Kopko, senior extension associate at the BCTR. “The goal of our research is to learn more about grandparents and the teenagers that they are raising and to use the findings from our research to inform policies and programs to help address the needs of grandparent-headed families.”

Source: Cornell University Extension

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Apart, Not Broken: Dads learn, connect & Create

Are you a divorced or separated father? Do you want to move:
past fear, pain, & guilt? 
Create the life you want with your child? 
Manage your relationship with your ex-partner?  Be the creator of your future?
Contribute to ground breaking research that will help other fathers?

The University of Wisconsin Madison This program is being evaluated through the University of Wisconsin, Madison as part of the doctoral program  of Shelly D. Mahon.  Please click on the link below to get more information or sign up.  Once you fill out the registration form you will be asked to: 
1.      Respond to the informed consent form and brief survey. Receipt of your consent form indicates that you read the consent form and are agreeing to participate in the program.
2.      Complete the short pre-program survey. You will be asked to complete this survey again at the end of the program.
Participating fathers who complete the program will receive a certificate of completion, a $25.00 Amazon gift card, and be entered to win an iPad! 

Learn: Listen to fathers' real experiences and insights. Have access to information and recommendations that can make a measurable difference in adjusting and parenting after separation or divorce. 
Connect: Join an online community of fathers. Learn to use creative strategies to connect with your child and manage your relationship with your ex-partner.
Create: Feel powerful in your ability to be the dad YOU want to be. Create the relationship YOU want with your child by building on your existing strengths, starting new traditions, and creating lasting memories.

This program is equipped with:
o    Videos reflecting the real life experiences of other divorced fathers;
o    A discussion forum for you to connect and share with other fathers;
o    Online tools for sharing photos, calendars, communicating & more; 
o    Current and concise information about divorce & parenting after divorce;
o    Engaging activities for you to enjoy with your child; and
o    Additional resources for you to build your own parenting toolkit.

This innovative, multi-media program is:
o    Free: No Charge!
o    Confidential: Private, online support education program
o    Efficient: Brief, 12-week series of ~30 minute sessions
o    Flexible: Spend as much time as you want on the aspects that fit your needs
o    Convenient: Available 24/7, worldwide, anywhere with an Internet connection
o    Ongoing: Starts when you register!
To register:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What we know about autism therapies

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 88 American children have an autism spectrum disorder – developmental disabilities characterized by delays in social interaction and communication, cognitive difficulties  and repetitive behaviors.

Autism appears in children by three years of age and typical treatments include medicine and therapy. Now there’s a new meta-analysis investigating behavioral interventions to treat autistic children.

The analysis looks at 33 systematic reviews and 68 intervention studies of autistic children. The review – published earlier this month in the journal Pediatrics – found that some intervention programs did help improve behavioral symptoms.

Intensive behavior programs – which include therapy for at least 25 hours a week – were found to be moderately effective at improving core deficits such as adapting to change, decision-making and memory. The evidence showed these programs were particularly effective when they began shortly after diagnosis, and when they address the concerns of the family and offer opportunities for them to participate.

The authors agreed that there is plenty of room for improvement.  They suggested that comprehensive therapy programs need to address even more deficits including social communication, language, play skills, aggression and preoccupation with rituals.

They also identified gaps in our knowledge about autism therapies.  Researchers need to
- Develop uniform outcome measures so that future systematic reviews can more easily pool data.
- Conduct more studies on pre-verbal or non-verbal children to determine the interventions that help them best.
- Assess how individual, specific therapies impact core deficits such as IQ and communication skills.
- Collect more evidence to determine the most effective dose and duration of therapies.

All in all, the take home message is that behavioral therapy does help children diagnosed with autism, but that researchers have a long way to go to ensure that interventions are doing all that they can to help autistic children develop and thrive.

Source: Cornell University Extension.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Reading the same book repeatedly helps your child learn!

You may get bored when your child reaches for the same book every night but “repetitive reading” can actually help a child learn new words.

Some children have favorite bedtime books and always reach for them. Some parents, thinking more is always better, buy lots of different books to provide variety.

Half of a group of three-year-old children were read the same book while three different books were read to the others. The children were all tested a week later. Those who heard the same story repeated several times learned 3.6 new words on average while those who heard different stories remembered only 2.6 words.

Obviously a child needs some variety and some repetition. But maybe when Baby reaches for the same book every night, Mommy or Daddy could stifle their yawn and bow to Baby’s wisdom!

The important thing is to keep reading. Read often. Read with enthusiasm. Point to pictures and words while reading. Ask Baby to point to the picture. And don’t forget to let your child see you read to yourself. Children learn the behaviors we model.

Source:  Marilyn Heims, M,D., author of the parenting newsletter Parents Kids Right.