Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Helping Your Child Make Friends

Learning to make friends is one of the most significant tasks in a child’s early social development. A child usually begins this process during the second year of life playing alongside another toddler. Although there is not much interaction, children notice that they are not much different from others and they are not the center of the universe.

During the preschool years children develop social skills they’ll need to establish and maintain friendship. Though they’re still very self-centered, children of this age begin to initiate contacts with strangers. They negotiate roles, and they learn to compromise. Somehow they manage rejection, claim their possessions, and learn ways to settle conflicts. Friends do things to reinforce each other's acceptable behavior and even model behavior for one another.

What can parents do to guide the social development of their young children?

One important thing is to help a child learn how to approach other children, how to make contact. Your child will be watching how you do it. How you manage social situations affects the way your child views social interaction. Encourage your child to smile and make eye contact with others. It’s okay to suggest some words to use when a child wants to join others in ongoing play, and some ways to be sure she will be accepted, like "can I be the visiting grandma?" instead of "I want to play house too."

Provide times when your child can interact with peers in a safe and appropriate environment. If you think he’s having a difficult time making friends, try to arrange special play activities with slightly older children. They’ll provide examples of effective social skills. If your child is anxious about using his social skills, give him an opportunity to play with a younger child. He can take a lead role and this may give his self-esteem a needed boost.

As your child gets a little older and is entertaining a friend at home, try to stay out of the way so they can negotiate conflict and mange the give and take of friendship. Step in only when there is imminent danger or a squabble has gone out of control.

Don’t categorize and don't allow others to label your child as "shy," "bossy," or "hard to get along with." Social skills sometimes take a lifetime to perfect. We all know adults who are not experts at social interaction. Instead of referring to your child as "shy," you can say he is "cautious in new situations." This describes the behavior in a positive way which is better for the child.

Encourage a child’s positive efforts to get along with others, even when such attempts fail. Tell him you know it’s hard (especially if he’s shy). Remind your child that making friends sometimes takes a long time, so it’s important to keep trying. Ask questions and help him think about what the other child may need in a friend.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Growth Charts

Parents often wonder whether their children are growing at a normal rate and are at the “right” height and weight for their age. Growth charts are used to compare a child’s size and pattern of growth with a nationally representative reference sample of children the same age and sex. Growth charts have been used to monitor the growth of infants, children and adolescents in the United States for over 30 years. These charts provide growth curves for weight, length/stature (height) and head circumference. Health care providers use these charts as a clinical tool to assess the adequacy of growth in their patients.

Pediatricians use the charts at each well-child visit to document children’s growth. This helps them to identify major changes in a child’s growth patterns, which may indicate a potential health problem. Although most parents are familiar and comfortable with the traditional growth charts (i.e., weight and stature for age, weight for stature), the American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends calculating and plotting Body Mass Index (BMI) for age and gender starting at age two to screen for overweight and obesity. BMI charts are publicly available to consumers, and you can use them to track your child’s growth.

A new feature of the revised Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - National Center for Health Statistics growth charts (2000) is the inclusion of body mass index (BMI) for age and sex. BMI, which is based on height and weight, is used to screen children (2 years and older) and youth for overweight and obesity. The BMI charts also can be used to identify children who are underweight. The information in this publication explains how BMI charts are used by health care providers to screen for potential weight problems that could lead to chronic health conditions.

BMI is a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to estimate body fatness. BMI is calculated by dividing an individual’s weight in kilograms (kg) by the individuals height in meters (m) squared, or weight in pounds (lb) multiplied by 703, divided by height in inches (in) squared.

To down load the UF publication “Raising Healthy Children: BMI Charts” go to: An easy way to determine BMI is to use a BMI calculator available online. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has a BMI calculator available at:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Resolving Family Conflicts Before They Grow

Generally speaking, conflicts are like weeds in a garden. They are much easier to deal with if you catch them when they are small. Catch family problems early, before they grow into monsters. Here are a few guidelines you’ll find useful: Usually it’s best to address a conflict immediately. Avoid putting off until tomorrow what can be taken care of today.

When you’re stressed out, occasionally it may be best to avoid dealing with a problem until you’re calmer and more rested. Just don’t put it off for too long. And don’t make waiting to deal with problems a habit.

Keep the lines of communication with your child open. When your son can freely talk to you about his fears and frustrations, he’ll be able to sidestep a lot of potential problems.

When you see trouble beginning to brew, guide your child in a more positive direction: “Joshua, let’s take your ball and play catch outside.”

Set an example by dealing with problems early on, before they become bigger and harder to handle. And do so with a positive attitude, a smile and a touch of creativity.

Assist children in finding their own solutions to little conflicts that crop up. Help them feel safe and respected. Let them know that you have faith in their abilities. As necessary, guide children in finding peaceful solutions to their conflicts, but allow them to take as much leadership as possible.

While resolving problems before they get out of hand is important with your children, you can apply the same skill in many other areas of your life. Whether the conflict arises at work, among friends or with an in-law, there are some basic points to keep in mind.

Remember that differences of opinion are normal. Try to see conflict as an opportunity for learning and growing, and look for a solution both people can live with. Instead of attacking, calmly ask questions with an open mind. Avoid blaming and stay focused on one issue at a time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Can You Spoil a Baby?

Some parents think if they rush to their baby every time she cries they will create a spoiled baby who will grow to be a spoiled child and later a spoiled teenager. This is simply not the case! Most of us have a strong urge to attend promptly to baby’s distress (the crying bothers us). Those natural urges are quite appropriate. If we respond quickly the baby learns that he can trust you to take care of him and that trust in mom or dad leads to a secure attachment.

Research has shown that babies who get a quick and consistent response actually cry less than infants who have been left to cry for periods of time. When their needs are met, babies develop a basic sense of security that allows them to be more confident and ready to explore and learn. These babies then become more independent as toddlers.

Remember— your baby’s cry is a way of asking for something. Your baby needs you to provide for her bodily needs and offer comfort and reassurance. Sometimes if you answer quickly when your baby begins to fuss, the sound of your voice alone will be enough to soothe. Moving close and talking softly in her ear can provide comfort as can holding your hand gently on baby’s back or tummy. Very young babies often like to be swaddled. The snug wrapping provides warmth and security. Some babies seek comfort through sucking on a pacifier, wrist or thumb. Others prefer motion to soothe them— rocking, being carried as you walk or riding in a stroller or car.

Continuous low-frequency sound can also be effective in calming a baby— a ticking clock, humming with your lips pressed on baby's forehead or top of head, a music box, or singing softly— tunes can be from the Beatles to Brahms. Meeting all of a baby’s needs can be a tough job. No one does it well all the time. The key is doing it well as often as you can. You will hardly be spoiling your baby-you will be giving her just what she need to become happy and confident as she grows.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Handling Divorce Emotionally

Children can become frightened and feel helpless if their security is threatened. They depend on their parents to be emotionally stable. As while it can be scary and sad for parents to divorce, it is extra scary for children to see their parents emotionally out of control.

How parents handle a divorce will dramatically affect how their children will react and, in turn, adjust to the divorce. Children become what they experience and they reflect the behavior of their parents.

If parents handle their divorce maturely and encourage the child’s involvement with the other parent, children can grow up with low levels of conflict. How well parents handle their emotions when around their children, and how capable they are of relating to each other, determines how their children will manage the transition to a new family dynamic.

If you know a couple with minor children who are divorcing, give them this link for information on the Divorce class that is required for a divorce involving minor children in the State of Florida:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Winning Isn't Everything

Organized sports provide teens with a great opportunity for learning important skills and values. As a parent, the first step is finding the right sport and the right team or coach for your teen. Consider some reasons teens want to be involved in organized sports:

 Does the sport offer all players a chance to succeed, participate, and develop skills?

 Does it offer my teen a chance to have fun and be with friends?

When coaches and parents emphasize playing their best, never giving up, learning new skills, and having fun over scoring more points, youth begin to develop positive values about winning and losing. By seeing adult role models encourage team members to do their best and support each other and accepting each player’s abilities and limitations, teens learn respect for others.

Here are some tips for how your family can make the most out of opportunities to participate in sports activities:

 Discuss how family members can set realistic goals.

 Help your child develop a lifelong commitment to an active lifestyle.

 Encourage your child to play because he or she enjoys it.

 Allow your child to be involved in the decision making around sports. Support your child’s decisions.

 Encourage your child to try various physical activities.

 Consider the age and personality of each child. Families may need to increase efforts to manage competition and its impact on a youth’s development.

A healthy balance of competition, cooperation, and having fun is important whether the child is competing with himself or against others. Parents and caring adults need to work at creating an environment in which teens can compete in a healthy way.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Peer Pressure and Risky Behaviors

As your child becomes a teenager, she will start spending a lot more time with her friends and a lot less time with you. This is normal. Teens with friends are physically and emotionally healthier than those without friends. Friends during the teenage years provide care, respect, and trust. Your child's friends are going through the same kinds of things as your teen. They understand each other, they can talk about their problems and figure out ways to solve them, together.

Teens choose their friends, because of similar interests, or to make themselves more popular. Their peers influence issues such as style and activities. The focus is on fitting in. Before deciding to do something, teens often ask themselves, "What will my friends think?" This does not mean their decisions are stupid. It means that there is a trade-off between doing what one knows is right, and being accepted by peers. It also means you and your teen may identify different consequences of a behavior and may value those consequences differently.

For example,

 Missing the coolest party on Saturday night is not a big deal to you, but it seems like the worst thing in the world to your teen.

 For you, having unprotected sex might potentially lead to pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection, while your teen may feel not having sex might mean losing her boyfriend. This doesn't mean you're not important. When parents monitor their teen's behavior, the teen is more likely to choose friends who participate in behaviors parents approve of. Parents need to remain close to their teens and make sure teens balance family time with the time they are spending with peers. Parents with a good relationship with their teen will have more influence than peers

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Attachment: A Lifelong Commitment

Many people use the terms "bonding" and "attachment" as if they were the same. Actually they mean quite different things. Bonding has to do with the parent’s tie to the infant that occurs in the first hours of life. We think of bonding as occurring almost instantly, when the parent first has contact with the infant at birth. That may be a magical moment for parents, but babies do not quite realize the first moments after birth as critical to building relationships with parents. Although babies do enjoy the closeness they feel with parents immediately after birth, bonding is basically a parent phenomenon.

The term "attachment" refers to a relationship between baby and parent that develops gradually and builds over a long period of time— both parties take a role in the relationship— you could call it a lifelong partnership.

Babies come into the world ready to build relationships with the adults who care for them. Babies communicate with caregivers by gazing at their faces, recognizing their familiar voices, grasping their fingers, smiling at them, and crying when they need or want them.

As babies grow, they develop new ways of communicating and responding to caregivers. If parents learn their baby's cues and provide experiences that the baby finds consistent and responsive to his needs, he will develop a trust in himself and in others--a secure attachment relationship. It takes time for trust to develop, beginning from the earliest interactions between baby and caregiver through the first year of life.

Because this process is one of building a long-term relationship, even infants who did not have immediate contact with their parent (due to adoption, illness, or premature birth) can become securely attached. Even attachment that is not secure at the end of the first year may change for the better if circumstances improve.

Just as relationships between adults are based on what they do together over time, infant/caregiver attachment is also build upon all that is shared over the weeks, months and year of early childhood.