Pacifiers in babies and children: Encourage or discourage?

There’s a lot of debate about pacifiers and since it’s Children’s Dental Health Month I thought I’d tackle the issue. Many parents are apprehensive to start one with a baby, yet many babies need to suck. Sucking is a natural reflex. Sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects may make babies feel secure and happy and help them learn about their world. They can even be sucking on a hand or arm when still in the womb. Many babies find their thumb or a finger to suck on and self-soothe if not offered a pacifier.

Baby friendly?

pacifiers, thumb suckingI personally was unhappy to hear of the “baby friendly” initiative at our local hospitals that discourages any pacifier use during hospitalization.  I think it makes parents fear the pacifier even more than they had before and they have benefits as well as cautions.

I’ve seen more mothers get frustrated with breastfeeding when they can’t use a pacifier. I have rarely seen a problem with breastfeeding when babies are allowed to use a pacifier.

Studies do not support the thought that pacifiers affect breastfeeding rates.

This Cochrane Review also failed to show problems.

Things to love about pacifiers:

Babies have a natural desire to suck.

Even in the womb we can see babies sucking. A pacifier allows them to fill this need, which allows parents to have a much needed break.

Pacifiers can help with pain relief.

There’s a natural pain relieving property to sucking. Think about how addicted older kids are to sucking on a thumb or pacifier. It is soothing. Adding sugar to the pacifier for painful procedures helps pain even more.

Don’t give your baby sugar at home. It’s not good for them and can lead to cavities once they have teeth.

Pacifiers help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

We don’t know why they help, but studies show that pacifier use decreases the risk, along with sleeping alone on a firm, flat surface, on the back, without soft bedding.

Parents can control use.

Pacifiers can be weaned gradually and kids tend to outgrow them earlier than thumb-sucking.

Infants over about 4 months of age can develop other self-soothing abilities, so you can use them just for sleep in older infants and toddlers.

Keep them in the crib to decrease the risk of germ spreading from displaced/replaced pacifiers.

 

I like pacifiers better than thumbs

If a baby wants to suck, he will find his hand if something else isn’t offered. Babies eventually find thumbs or fingers if they want to suck on something.

Thumbs are always with a baby and child, so they can suck on them whenever they want, not just in the crib when a parent gives it.

Thumbs can get red, dry, and cracked with sucking behaviors – especially in dry weather. This can be painful to the child. The drive to suck is so strong they continue to do it despite pain. It can also lead to infections of the thumb.

Most kids will stop a pacifier habit by 3 years of age. If a pacifier is limited to sleep time only, kids are already not in the habit of sucking on something all day long. They only have to learn to fall asleep without sucking.

Thumbsuckers continue their habit more often and much longer. Often it’s not until they’re teased at school that they decide they want to quit. Until they make the decision to quit it’s hard to make it happen.

Thumbs are never clean. At least you can wash the pacifier and keep it in the crib. Kids play with their hands and you can’t keep the thumb out easily after they’ve touched everything.

a few cautions to pacifier use:

 

Don’t use them instead of feedings

Don’t use a pacifier to try to limit the number of breast feedings in a day, especially early on. Newborns need to eat quite a bit. Trying to “hold them off” with a pacifier will only limit your milk supply and could cause them to not gain sufficient weight.

Work with your pediatrician or a lactation consultant to be sure your baby is feeding enough if you’re feeling a need to breastfeed less.

Latch problems

I find that most babies can go back and forth from breast to pacifiers easily.

Most isn’t all.

If your baby seems to have trouble latching on the breast after using an artificial nipple (either a pacifier or a bottle) then stop the artificial nipples and focus on breastfeeding. (If you need to supplement, you can use a syringe, a supplementing system, a spoon, or other methods.) Continue avoiding artificial nipples until breastfeeding is going well.

Work with a lactation consultant if you have continued problems.

Pacifiers can spread infections.

Ear infections and other illnesses can spread easily from pacifier use.

Wash them regularly.

Keep them in the crib for babies over 6 months of age to avoid exposing it to germs from other kids.

Choking risks.

Pacifiers can crack and come apart as they age. Be sure to check it regularly to make sure it’s not damaged. You don’t want it to become a choking risk.

What about teeth?

After permanent teeth come in, sucking can cause problems with the proper alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes in the shape of the mouth.

Both finger or thumb-sucking and pacifiers can affect the teeth in the same ways, but pacifier use is often an easier habit to break.

General recommendations about stopping the sucking habit

Be careful how you approach stopping a thumb-sucking habit or pacifier use. If you are too harsh or negative it will probably make the habit worse.

Use positive rewards.

Have your child come up with goal ideas and things to earn. Rewards don’t have to be expensive. It can be a trip to a special park or the ability to pick dinner or what book to read. You can also get stickers, trinket toys, an

Sticker charts are a great way to keep track of times that there was no sucking!

For thumb-sucking

Think about making it more difficult for your child to suck his thumb. Keep the hands busy with crafts, toys, etc.

For the older child, talk about germs and how important it is to keep the thumb out of the mouth unless she just washed her hands.

Consider sewing socks or mittens onto long sleeve pajama tops. This will keep the thumb out of reach. (Unless your Houdini takes the PJs off.)

Using a “bad” tasting polish or tabasco doesn’t really keep kids from not sucking their thumbs unless it’s only a reminder to stop. If they really want to suck, they don’t care about the taste. But if they do want to stop and need reminders throughout the day to keep it out of their mouth, the bad tasting nail polishes can help.

For pacifiers
Plan a countdown to not using the pacifier any longer.

Make getting rid of the pacifier a big deal, like any other special event. Find a fun name for the day, like “Big Kid Day” or “Give to baby day”.

Put the chosen date on the calendar and do a count down every day by crossing off dates. Or make a paper chain and tear off one chain daily until the big day.

Find a replacement for the pacifier, such as a new stuffed animal or blanket. The stuffed animal can even be from Build-A-Bear. Put the pacifier inside so the child knows it’s there when he hugs his bear. Whatever you choose, be sure it can be snuggled or used to replace the pacifier for comfort.

Fill a box with all the pacifiers on the big day and leave it out for the “binky fairy” to take to new babies. The fairy can leave the new comfort item. Or you can just have your child put all the binkies in the box and seal it shut with tape when he’s ready to earn the new comfort item.

The big thing is you need to get rid of all the pacifiers. If your child finds one hiding somewhere, he will sneak it and return to the habit quickly.

Books that might be helpful

Note: These are Amazon Affiliate links and I do get paid a small amount for the referral.

In this book for toddlers,Little Brown Bear finds some tricks to help him stop sucking his thumb. It can help put the idea into your child’s head.

This is not specific to thumb-sucking, but the Berenstain Bears always teach kids in a fun way. Sister bear has trouble biting her nails in this story.

Thumb Love is appropriate for the older child who wants to stop sucking his or her thumb. If your school aged child has been the object of teasing due to thumb-sucking, he or she will relate.



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E-cigarette Use In Our Kids – Let’s Stop It!

For many years I didn’t see many patients using tobacco. I admit I’ve been lax in talking about risks because there seemed to be more pressing things to discuss in my limited time at appointments. Recently I’m seeing more kids who are trying nicotine due to e-cigarettes. These are marketed as a safer option, giving kids a false sense of safety while filling their desire to take risks. E-cigarette use is not safe or cool.

Tobacco is a problem

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.

Nearly all tobacco use begins during adolescence, when developing brains are most at risk of developing addictions.

In 2016, e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among high school (11.3%) and middle school (4.3%) students. In 2017, nearly a third of high school seniors report vaping.

About 3 million adolescents in the US vape. Those who start using nicotine by vaping are more likely to transition to traditional cigarettes.

Monitoring the Future 2017 Survey Results
Source: Monitoring the Future 2017 Survey Results

 

Vaping by many names and looks

There are many terms used to describe the use of e-cigarettes, so it can be easy for parents to miss that kids are talking about it. The devices themselves can look like other common items.

Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), e-cigarettes, personal vaporizers, vape pens, e-cigars, e-hookah, or vaping devices are all terms used to describe the device itself.

The devices themselves can be easily mistaken for other things. ENDS can look like traditional tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars, or pipes.  But they can also look like flashlights, flash drives, or pens, so easily hidden from adults.

ENDS liquid nicotine delivery systems
This image from the AAP shows the various types of ENDS.

Some of the more common terms for the behavior include vaping and juuling.

Dripping is similar to vaping, but uses the liquid nicotine directly on heated coils.

Liquid nicotine is called e-liquid or smoke juice.

E-cigarette use is a safer option? No!

One of the selling points for e-cigarettes is that they could be a safer option than regular cigarettes and a way for smokers to quit.

Kids are confusing the “safer than cigarettes” propaganda to mean safe. It’s NOT safer than not smoking. Period.

In fact, there are many studies showing that the amount of carcinogens (cancer causing agents) in e-cigarettes is substantial.

For parents who choose to vape in the home to help prevent their kids from inhaling secondhand smoke, you might want to even reconsider that. Vaping releases chemicals into the air that can cause problems.

Accidental ingestion of liquid nicotine is a growing problem. Common symptoms of ingestion include vomiting, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, increased saliva, and feeling shaky. One teaspoon of concentrated liquid nicotine can be fatal for the average 26-pound toddler.

e-cigarettes, vaping
E-cigarettes are a threat to health. Source: Facts For Parents About E-Cigarettes & Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems

Liquid nicotine is enticing and available

E-cigarette juices are sold in flavors like fruit, candy, coffee and chocolate.

Nicotine is addictive. The more kids vape or smoke, the more addicted they become.

Although legally most states prohibit the sale of nicotine products to adolescents, liquid nitrogen is easily available to kids online.

Sadly these products are highly marketed to our kids. Sellers know that if adolescents try it, they are likely to become long term customers of various nicotine products.

Teen and tween brains

Our frontal lobe helps us make healthy choices, but it’s not fully formed until our mid-twenties. This leaves teens at risk for making very unhealthy choices and increased risk of addictions. Teen brains crave stimulation. They take risks to fulfil this craving.

As their brains are growing, experiences and substances affect it. Developing brains can learn and remember things efficiently, but negative experiences and substances also get integrated efficiently. This means teens are more likely to develop addictions than adults.

Kids who vape just once are more likely to try other types of tobacco. Their developing brains make it easier for them to get hooked.

One in 4 teens who use an addictive substance will become addicted, compared to one in 25 who first use an addictive substance after the age of 21 years.

About 90% of adult smokers started before their 18th birthday.

Talk to your kids

E-cigarettes and liquid nicotine are a danger to our kids.

Our kids are bombarded daily with suggestions and choices.

They will see propaganda that encourage vaping online, on television, and in retail stores.

Talk to your kids about all risky behaviors.

Learn 6 ways you can help protect your kids from risky behaviors.

Help them understand the risk as well as what to do to avoid peer pressure.

Encourage them to come to you with questions and concerns by remaining non-judgemental and being present. Encourage family meals and activities. Spend time together without screens – turn off the phones!


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Teen Dating Violence Prevention & Treatment

As discussed earlier, teen dating violence is a relatively common problem that can occur in any socioeconomic circle. It’s important to recognize teen dating violence, but it’s even better to learn teen dating violence prevention and what to do if you recognize trouble!

Family relationships

How we raise our children from infancy and continuing throughout their lives helps set the expectations for relationships.

Abusive home increases the risk

Teen Dating Violence Prevention & Treatment.Children who are raised in homes with abusive behaviors are much more likely to grow up to be in an abusive relationship.

If your home is not safe make every attempt to make it so.

Stop the cycle!

SEcurity

We need children to feel loved and secure.

Children who feel unloved might look for love in all the wrong places, trying to please others and end up being taken advantage of.

Love unconditionally!

Parenting

Kids need defined limits, but an ability to learn and grow into independence with experience. Being firm and setting boundaries is an important part of being a loving parent.

Parents are NOT their child’s friend.

You don’t need to be a friend to be an effective, loving, parent who is well loved and respected.

As your child grows and matures, it is important that you allow them to take more responsibility for their plans and actions.

Be a role model

Kids need help learning to stand up for themselves and to deal with anger and disappointment in a healthy way. Set an example for this. Life typically presents many opportunities to model these behaviors.

Show healthy communication in your relationships. Use positive phrases, respectful words, and compliment one another.

Don’t let one partner dominate. Take equal share of responsibilities and decisions.

Do things with your significant other and with other people. Expect that your partner will also spend time with others. Don’t be overly jealous. Relationships need trust. Always spending time together isn’t healthy and doesn’t allow you to each follow your own interests.

Respect others in your life and be sure they also respect you.

If you have not learned to control your temper, learn.

Ensure enough sleep for everyone at home, as we are all more short-tempered when tired.

There are many self-help books on this topic and counseling is available if you struggle in your own relationships.

Peer relationships

Friendships and dating relationships provide an opportunity for teens to learn and practice healthy communication, social skills, and managing strong feelings.

Teens need to develop independence while the trusted adults around them provide support and help them stay safe.

Talk to your kids about healthy choices and as they mature, allow them to make more decisions about what they do, when they do things, and who they are around. If you feel they aren’t making safe choices, let them know why.

Don’t be judgemental in how you approach things. There’s no faster way to turn a teen off to a conversation than putting him or her down or by making them feel like they’re being lectured.

Respect

Respect self

Kids should be taught to respect themselves in all they do: eat nutritionally, exercise, get enough sleep, wear helmets, buckle up, stay away from drugs, etc.

Respect others

Kids should be taught to respect others: say nice things, don’t ask others to do things that might cause them harm, respect their personal space and things, etc.

Demand respect

Teens should enforce that others treat them with respect.

If a friend does not treat them with respect, they can try first to talk with the friend about it if they feel safe doing so. If the friend does not change behaviors, they should take a break from the friendship.

Talking to teens

Start before they’re dating

It’s best to start talking about healthy relationships before your child starts dating.

Set expectations for how old they will be when they are allowed to go out in groups of boys and girls as well as when they will be allowed to go on an actual date. How well do you need to know the person they will date?

Talk about what they should do if they find themselves in a scary situation.

Discuss rules for friends coming to the house if you’re not home. Or if they’re allowed to go to a private area or if they must stay in the family room.

Talk about what to look for in a romantic partner, qualities that are important and not just superficial.

Ask how they would like to be treated and how they will treat their date.

Talk about sex. Kids who have sex at young ages are more likely to have multiple partners. Having multiple partners increases the risk of infections and dating violence.

Drugs and alcohol increase risk

Remind kids that alcohol and drugs impair our abilities to handle our emotions and actions. They do not excuse our actions, but we tend to not make good choices when we’re under the influence.

We also put ourselves at risk of a forced sexual encounter when we’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Date rape can also occur if someone slips a substance into a drink, so they should always carry their drink or get a new one from a trusted source.

Starting the conversation

Use opportunities that present themselves to trigger conversations.

If you see people arguing in a television show, talk about what was and was not effective in how they handled the situation. Ask what your kids would have done differently.

If the news reports another #MeToo story, ask what your teen’s thoughts are on the subject. Talk about recognizing unhealthy relationships and how to get out of abusive situations.

Answering questions

If your child asks questions, don’t shy away. Don’t assume they’re too young to hear the answer because if they’re asking, there’s a reason.

You can certainly ask where they’re coming from to help guide your answer, but answer honestly.

If you don’t know what to say, offer to talk about it at a specified time in the near future, such as after dinner that night. That gives you time to think and plan what to say but let’s your child know you want to talk. Don’t forget!

Emotional support

Be there to just listen if your child needs an ear. Offer encouragement and advice. Do this routinely, not just if you’re concerned about a specific issue.

If you always offer an ear without harsh judgement or unsolicited advice, your kids are more likely to keep talking. (Note: Just because they want to talk doesn’t mean they’re ready to accept advice. Ask if you can offer advice and wait until they say yes.)

Remind teens that they are never to blame if someone forces them to do something sexually they don’t want to do. They need to feel open to share this pain with you or another trusted adult so they can get the help and support they need.

preventing teen violence
Preventing Teen Dating Violence. Source: VetoViolence

What if there is an unsafe relationship?

It can be frustrating if your child’s in an unhealthy relationship but isn’t ready or willing to leave.

It can be difficult to enforce ending a relationship. Be careful in how you approach the situation. Consider working with professionals at the school or in the community.

Advice to get out of a relationship will be better received if your teen understands how their relationship is not healthy. Help them understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.

They need to know it isn’t their fault and it isn’t under their control how another person acts. Ideally, your teen will be able to make the decision to leave the relationship.

I’ve actually seen a teen get pregnant on purpose because her parents refused to let her see her boyfriend. She decided that they’d have to allow him to see his baby (and by default, her). Of course it didn’t work as planned. She did get pregnant, but it didn’t help her relationship.

If you think they’re in immediate danger, you need to seek professional help.

There are many ways to get help

Abusers often monitor computer and phone use, so use caution.

SafeHome (KC Area)

From a safe computer, click here if you’re in the KC area.  From a safe phone call 913-262-2868. (Phones answered 24/7 confidentially at SafeHome).

Safety Plan (Love is respect)

Love Is Respect has a great safety plan for teens who are planning on leaving an abusive relationship.

DATING MATTERS®

Dating Matters is a free, online course available to educators, school personnel, youth mentors, and others dedicated to improving teen health. Learn what teen dating violence is and how to prevent it through graphic novel scenarios, interactive exercises, and information gathered from leading experts.

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline

These resources are designed specifically for teens and young adults. It is managed by the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) and offers  support from trained Peer Advocates.

Call: 1-866-331-9474 Calls are answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Text: “loveis” to 22522

TTY: 1-866-331-8453

Web: www.loveisrespect.org

 

Teen dating infographic

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Teen Dating Violence: Recognition

Would you recognize signs of dating violence? Many teens don’t report it to friends or family. It can be difficult to recognize despite the significant prevalence. Victims might not say anything out of fear for their safety, embarrassment, low self-esteem, or not recognizing the abusive behaviors. Whatever the reason for the under-reporting, parents and other adults who interact with teens must recognize signs of dating violence to help protect our kids.

Relationships

Teen Dating Violence: RecognitionWe want our kids to develop healthy relationships where they can have fun, grow in their own identity, and be true to their own values. Healthy relationships are founded on honesty, trust, and communication. There is mutual respect.

Dating abuse can happen in any unhealthy relationship. It happens to smart people, rich people, girls, guys, LGBT, and can happen in any community. We see news stories of abusive relationships but it doesn’t always seem real. A new bride murdered.  A teen raped.  A sports figure accused.

Failed recognition

Unfortunately we don’t even know about most abusive relationships. People suffer silently.  How is a parent to know?

Can a teen see risk factors before becoming involved with a risky personality?

Abuser characteristics

Parents might look for the “type” of teen that they want their child to steer away from, but unfortunately, the abusers are not easily identified.

Abusers do not look like drug dealing, tattoo covered, pierced people in tattered clothing.

They are difficult to recognize on first glance because they tend to be popular, smart, good looking, and personable.

They are often good at reading people and responding to other’s desires, making them seem “perfect” initially.

Abusers manipulate others. Have you heard of gaslighting? It’s a common means to make the victim feel responsible.

They gain trust.

They weave deception.

Traits to watch for in an abuser:

  • Blames others for all problems
  • Jealous
  • Impulsive
  • Wants to move quickly into a relationship
  • Criticizes others
  • Does not respect personal boundaries
  • Denies responsibility for actions
  • Takes risks
  • Insulting (you’re fat, you’re stupid, no one else would love you like I do)
  • History of hitting or hurting others
  • Tries to monopolize your time and life – wants to control what you do, who you’re with, even what you’ll wear
  • Seems perfect initially (no one’s perfect!)
  • Mood swings or can’t manage anger or frustration well

What an abusive relationship might look like

Starting out – all seems great!

The relationship typically starts out well. A lot of laughs, good times.

If it didn’t, people would leave.

Power and Control cycle

Abusers have a power and control cycle that builds over time. They gain a little trust, then test with a little control.

Bit by bit they become more controlling and abusive. It builds so slowly many people miss the early warning signs and then are so swept by the cycle that it’s hard to leave.

Abusers want to know your every move, which at first might even seem flattering, but it is a control tactic. They might choose what you wear or where you go. Abusers monitor your phone calls to see who you talk to. They isolate you from your friends and even family so you lose your support group. They put you down so you feel no one else would like you or want you.  Abusers make you feel less of a person and they are “good” to put up with you.

They get jealous (again, flattering on the outset because they “care”). Abusers often apologize for hurting you, but then claim it is your fault that they behave that way.

In truth, they blame others for most of their behaviors and only take credit when things make them look good.

Cool tool

Breakthecycle.org has a really cool interactive wheel to see the relationship between words and actions. Move your cursor around the wheel to get more information on each topic in the orange part of the wheel.

Signs of an unhealthy relationship:

  • One or both people try to change the other
  • Control: one person makes most or all of the decisions
  • Isolation: one or both people drop friends and interests outside of the relationship
  • Fighting: one or both people yell, threaten, hit, or throw things during arguments
  • Verbal abuse: one or both people make fun of the other’s opinions or interests
  • Jealousy and control: one or both people keep track of the other all the time by calling, texting, or checking in with friends
  • Relationship moves quickly to “serious”
  • Mood swings, anxiety, depression, personality changes
  • Physical signs: bruises, cuts, scrapes, showering immediately when coming home
  • Abused feels guilty and “at fault” and makes excuses for their partner
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Multiple sexual partners

Follow your instincts

If you suspect something is not right, act on your hunch and take action to address issues and leave the relationship early if problem behaviors persist.

 

If your teen is in a relationship with someone who is violent, your teen may:

  • Avoid friends, family, and school activities
  • Make excuses for a partner’s behavior
  • Look uncomfortable or fearful around a partner
  • Lose interest in favorite activities
  • Get lower grades in school
  • Have unexplained injuries, like bruises or scratches

If you think your teen might be an abusive person:

Teens who use physical, emotional, or sexual violence to control their partners need help to stop. Don’t make excuses if you think your child has a problem.

If your teen is abusive, he or she may have these characteristics:

  • Jealous and possessive
  • Blames other people for anything that goes wrong
  • Damages or ruins other people’s things
  • Wants to control a partner’s decisions
  • Constantly texts or calls a partner
  • Posts embarrassing information or pictures about a partner online

Next up:

How to prevent and seek help for teen abusive relationships.



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Show Your Kids Love On Valentine’s Day and Every Day

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m sharing 14 ways to show your child love.

1. Make time to be together

make time to be together
Make special memories and have daily routines together.

It goes without saying that the more time you spend with your family, the more bonding you can enjoy. This photo is from a time that I agreed to be in a show with my theatrical daughter, but not all family time has to be such a huge commitment.

Make a family game night once a week. Volunteer in your child’s class or participate in their extracurricular activities. Take walks. Go to the park. Build a puzzle together. Turn off electronics in the car and just talk.

Make little moments count!

2. Help kids learn from their mistakes

learn from mistakes
We learn best from our mistakes.

Kids make mistakes often. This means they have many chances to learn.

If we try to fix it all for them, it teaches them that they’re not good enough to do it themselves.

Don’t be harsh with your words when kids mess up. Harsh words scar and might keep kids from trying the next time!

Support kids and help them learn what went wrong. Try role-playing to see how they could have done it differently and maybe next time they can practice how to make a better choice.

Check out Bright Futures for more information on learning from mistakes.

3. Turn off screens and tune in

screen timeThere are many studies that show parents are distracted by their phones and computers.

Turn your screens off to be able to give full attention to your kids. Make sure they have screen time limits too.

I’m on my computer a lot now, but when my kids were young I only worked online when my kids were in bed. (Now they stay up later than I do, but they’re not home in the evenings.)

Even when I’m on call I don’t answer my phone during family meals because I wanted to model to my kids that family time should not have interruptions from phones. (Note: there are physicians who have to answer immediately due to true emergency calls, but they calls I get should not be emergencies.)

4. Assign chores

chores for kids

My daughter actually laughed at this one when she was reviewing my blog.

I’ve never been really good at enforcing chores on a regular basis despite the fact that I know they help kids build self confidence and grow into productive adults.

Be a better parent than I’ve been in this regard and have your child do daily or weekly chores. I know it’s faster and easier to just do things yourself, but your kids will benefit from the work!

5. Set limits

set limitsMy daughter also laughed at this one. She is totally the child who will debate any rule. She will follow them if they’re set, but she will attempt to show why the rule should be stretched. I’m proud of her for that characteristic. I don’t want kids that will just follow the leader, but I know that I can’t be an effective parent if there are no limits.

Kids need structure and limits so they can feel secure and learn within safety boundaries.

There are tips on limit setting for strong-willed kids on Aha Parenting that I really like.

6. Eat family meals together

eat as a family
Eating together has so many benefits. Make the time regularly!

Families that eat together stay together. There are studies showing that when families eat meals regularly together, kids benefit in many ways.

We tend to eat healthier if we eat home cooked meals. This leads to a healthier overall body.

Meal times also provide time for bonding. This can lead to less drug use and depression. It makes sense. If kids are connected to their parents, they will have less need to find other ways to make themselves feel good.

Studies show that kids actually do better academically if they eat with their family at least 5 days a week.

All this and it’s less expensive to eat at home. Bonus!

7. Read together

Read reading together

Okay, I’m cheating with this photo a bit. I didn’t ever take pics of reading with my kids, but took one a few years ago when my daughter was reading to her cousin during a car trip.

Despite not having photos of our nighttime rituals, books were the best part of bedtime when my kids were young.

They loved hearing stories. Sometimes we’d play “I spy” with the book we’d read so many times they had it memorized. Sometimes they’d read to me – more and more as they got older. They’d often try to bargain for more reading time. Reading was a great motivator for them to get dressed and brush teeth so we could get started!

Reading together is not only a great bonding time, but it also helps to set the stage for loving a great skill. Many studies over the years continue to  show that reading with children starting when they’re infants helps them learn to speak, interact and bond with parents. They will be more likely to be early readers. Reading with kids who already know how to read helps them feel close to you, understand the world around them and be empathetic citizens of the world.

8. Serve together

serve others
Serving others not only helps those you’re serving, but has also been shown to help the giver.

Doing community service or volunteering to help others has been shown to benefit not only the persons being served, but also those serving.

Kids can develop pride, learn new skills, gain empathy for others, and live new experiences by helping others.

Studies show that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.

Volunteering allows families doing things together working on something productive. They can learn about themselves and each other through helping others.

9. Make physical contact

physical contact
Healthy physical contact can show love.

One of the love languages is physical touch. Sometimes we hear of improper touches and it can negatively impact the way we are able to interact with the kids around us. While I feel very strongly that we need to protect our kids against abusive touches, I also know that kids (and adults) need healthy and safe physical touch.

Never invade a child’s personal space if they don’t want you in it, but physical touch can be reassuring to kids. Give a hug or pat on the back. Tickling and playful roughhousing are fun ways to give physical touch. Dance. Hold hands or make up a fun handshake. Tousle hair as you walk by.

10. Don’t minimize worries

anxiety worry
Don’t minimize your child’s worries.

It’s tempting to just say that everything’s okay and to not worry, but when you say that your child just feels like he’s not heard. Over time he will stop talking to you about his worries.

If you have a hard time understanding your child’s anxieties (or anyone’s anxieties) read this great metaphor from Karen Young at HeySigmund.

Acknowledge the fears and teach your kids how to overcome them.

HeySigmund is one of my favorite blogs. It has great articles on helping kids learn to manage their anxieties.

11. Praise the effort

praise
Praise the effort, not the end result.

Our society tends to reward everything. Participation trophies are not helpful at growing resilient kids.

Poorly worded and empty praise can reduce children’s desires to take on challenges, lower achievement, reduce motivation and even make kids more interested in tearing others down.

Learn to show your kids that you’re attentive with phrases that show you acknowledge their effort or character traits without praising results.

For more on giving helpful praise, see Michelle Borba’s 6 New Rules for Praising to Raise Kind, Successful Kids.

12. Let them learn independence

independence
Let kids do things independently so they can grow into independent adults.

It can be hard to watch kids grow up and take things into their own hands, but it can be rewarding to watch them become independent.

Allowing kids to take on more responsibilities as they grow is a great way to show confidence in them. It can be hard to worry that your child will not remember all aspects of things required or that they will fail at something new, but allowing them to take ownership of things as they get older helps them learn not only the skill to accomplish things, but it also gives them the confidence that they can do things on their own.

13. Let them know you’re always thinking of them

thinking of the ones you love
Do little things to show you’re always thinking of them.

Giving gifts is a great way to show love and affection, but don’t overdo this one.

Not all gifts have to be costly or extravagant.

Leave a little note in the lunch box.

Buy a token gift for no reason occasionally.

Be there to cheer at their game or performance.

It can be that easy.

14. Say “I love you” every day

Saying “I love you” in words is also important. Some people aren’t good at saying it, but try.

I love you
Say “I love you” often!

I also encourage you to not only share moments, but get in front of the camera with your kids. I’m usually behind the camera taking the pictures, so there are very few photos of me with my kids at various life stages. Be in the photos so you can all walk down memory lane together.


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Labels – Why should my child be diagnosed?

This is the first in a series of posts about learning and behavior I will do over the next several weeks. Parents are often afraid of labels when it comes to getting an appropriate assessment of learning  or behavior issues.

I see a lot of children with various behavioral and learning issues. Teachers and parents often first think of ADHD with any problem, but that isn’t always the problem, or at least the primary one. It’s simply one of the most common diagnoses. Since it’s so common, I will focus on this topic often, but it can mimic other problems and it often coexists with other issues.

I firmly believe that kids with learning and behavioral problems cannot just “work harder” to fix the problem.

We would never ask a child in a wheelchair to “just try harder” to walk up stairs. We shouldn’t expect someone who has trouble focusing to be able to “just try harder” either.

When I’m sleep deprived, I cannot focus as well. I cannot read and comprehend what would typically be easily understood and retained. I lose track of things. I lose my temper more easily or get upset about the little things that usually wouldn’t phase me. I must put extra effort into everything, which is even more exhausting.

I liken this to how some people feel most of the time.

How can we possibly expect them to just try harder without professional assessment and treatment?

What about labeling?
ADHD kid messing around
Kids with ADHD get distracted easily and have trouble staying on task.

One reason parents don’t want to have their child diagnosed with ADHD or any other learning or behavioral problem is that they fear a label.

What’s a label?

It’s not a diagnosis, but the way we’re perceived. Think about how many judgements and labels you make in a day.

I try really hard to not judge because it’s not my place, but those thoughts sneak into my mind all the time:

  • That person is rude.
  • That’s my shy (hyper, loud, smart, active, loving, etc) child.
  • That outfit is inappropriate.
  • That group of giggling girls is too loud and out of control.

I don’t say anything with these thoughts most of the time because it’s not my place.

I often mentally rebuke myself for having them, but I still have the thoughts.

The truth is that we all make judgements all the time. And when a child acts out a lot, he is judged and labeled.

If a child never seems to be organized, she is judged and labeled.

If a child falls behind academically, he is judged and labeled.

If a child bothers other kids in class with movements or talking, he is judged and labeled.

It happens with or without a diagnosis. The label is there.

With proper management, your child might lose the negative labels and be able to succeed!

Aren’t behaviors and focus problems from bad parenting?

Probably in part due to this stigma, parents worry about how the diagnosis will reflect on the child and family. If a child has an infectious disease or  a chronic condition such as asthma, there is much less hesitation to assess, diagnose, and treat the illness.

If this is just due to bad parenting, how does medicine help?

Diagnosing isn’t always easy.

One of the problems with diagnosing many learning and behavioral disorders is they’re difficult to test for since there is a continuum of symptoms of normal and atypical and there are so many variables (such as sleep) that can affect both learning and behavior.

There are diagnostic tools that should be used to assess the issues at hand. Your child shouldn’t be diagnosed without a standardized assessment. There are many available, depending on the concerns (ADHD, anxiety, dyslexia) and the age of the child, and sometimes kids need more than one type of assessment. Some of these can be done at your physician’s office. Others can be done with a professional who offers that type of assessment.

There is no proof that electroencephalography (EEG) or neuroimaging is helpful to establish the diagnosis of ADHD.

So many excuses to wait…

There are many reasons for parents to be hesitant to begin an evaluation when their kids are showing signs of a learning or behavioral problem.

  • Some think it’s just a phase.
  • Many wonder if another few months of maturity will help the child.
  • Some think the child is just misbehaving and stricter rules or harsher punishments will help.
  • Others think the child is just looking for attention and giving more praise will help.
  • Some parents think it is because of the other children around — you know, “Little Johnny is always messing around in class so my Angel Baby gets in trouble talking to him.”
  • We should try something else. (Linked blog is from a parent who shares her story.)
Why not wait?

While I’m all for looking for things on your own that can help a child’s behavior and optimize their learning (to be covered in a future post), I also think that avoiding the issue too long can lead to secondary problems:

  • academic failures
  • poor self-esteem
  • depression
  • drug/alcohol abuse
  • accidental injuries due to impulsivity and hyperactivity
  • strain on family life
  • social issues with peers

Working with the school and seeking professional help outside of school can help your child succeed.

If a parent is not wanting to start medication, there are other things that can be done that might help the child succeed once the specific issues are identified.

Not treating ADHD and learning differences has consequences.

The children suffer from poor self-esteem because they constantly are reminded that their behavior is bad or they fail to perform at their academic potential.

They have a harder time doing tasks at school because they lose focus. They get distracted and miss important information.

Children get in trouble for talking inappropriately, acting out or for invading other’s personal space.

Social skills lag behind those of peers and they often have a hard time interpreting how others react to their behaviors.

Their impulsivity can get them into dangerous situations, causing more injuries.

Older kids might suffer from depression and anxiety from years of “failures”.

Teens often try to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

Why are you hesitant?

If you still worry about labeling your child with a diagnosis, think about what the root of your worry really is.

Remember that the diagnosis is only a word. It doesn’t define the best treatments for your child, but it opens the doors to allow investigation of treatments that might help your child. In the end most parents want healthy, happy kids who will become productive members of society.

How can you best help them get there?

Looking for more?

Many parents benefit from support groups to learn from others who have gone through or are currently going through similar situations, fears, failures, and successes. Find one in your area that might help you go through the process with others who share your concerns. If you know of a support group that deserves mention, please share!

ADHD

CHADD is the nationwide support group that offers a lot online and has many local chapters, such as ADHDKC. I am a volunteer board member of ADHDKC and have been impressed with the impact they have made in our community in the short time they have existed (established in 2012). I encourage parents to attend their free informational meetings. The speakers have all been fantastic and there are many more great topics coming up!

Anxiety

Many parents are surprised to learn how much anxiety can affect behavior and learning. To look for local support groups, check out the tool on Psychology Today.

Autism

The Autism Society has an extensive list of resources.

Dyslexia 

Dyslexia Help is designed to help dyslexics, parents, and professionals find the resources they need, from scholarly articles and reviewed books to online forums and support groups.

Learning Disabilities 

Learning Disabilities Association of America offers support groups as well as information to help understand learning disabilities, negotiating the special education process, and helping your child and yourself.

Tourette’s Syndrome and Tic Disorders 

Tourette’s Syndrome Association is a great resource for people with tic disorders.

General Support Group List 

For a list of many support groups in Kansas: Support Groups in Kansas .

School information

Choosing schools for kids with ADHD and learning differences isn’t always possible, but look to the linked articles on ways to decide what might work best for your child. When choosing colleges, look specifically for programs they offer for students who learn differently and plan ahead to get your teen ready for this challenge.

Midwest ADHD Conference – April 2018

Check out the Midwest ADHD Conference coming to the KC area in April, 2018. I’m involved in the planning stages and it will be a FANTASTIC conference for parents, adults with ADHD, and educators/teachers.

Midwest ADHD Conference
The Midwest ADHD Conference will be held in April 2018, in Overland Park, Kansas.


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Scared of the Auto-flush Toilet?

I’ve known many kids over the years who are petrified to sit on an automatic flush toilet. Often it’s because they’ve wiggled on the seat and had the toilet flush when they were still sitting. Scary!

My daughter went through a period where she refused to use public toilets. It was really difficult when we were on vacation. She refused to even try to go to the bathroom all day until we got back to the hotel. She was 3 years old and we called her the camel. She held it all day without accidents, but that isn’t healthy. She was stubborn and I hadn’t thought of this trick yet.

auto flush toiletThe trick?

Cover the sensor. Show them that the toilet won’t flush with the sensor covered. Uncover it and flush when their business is done.

You can use toilet paper (just be sure it won’t slip off) or a post it note.

Sometimes a solution is pretty easy once you try it!

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When should you potty train your kids?

It’s common for parents to ask for help with potty training. Sometimes they’re just done dealing with diapers. Or there’s another baby coming soon. Often it’s tied to wanting to be able to start preschool. Most preschools in our area require 3 year olds to be potty trained. Even daycares often require toddlers to potty train before moving up to the 3 year room. This move is usually accompanied by a price decline, which parents are excited to have.

It’s not about the parents…

Unfortunately, kids need to be ready to potty train. This typically happens between 18 months and 3 years, but it can be normal to not be ready until 4 years of age.

Note: Nighttime dryness is not correlated with potty training. When kids are deep sleepers, they often urinate in their sleep despite perfect daytime control.

Types of potty training:

I never knew there were so many ways to potty train a child until I started paying attention to the many varieties parents asked about. It seems parents read more on this subject than I ever did when my kids were that age. I will list all the types I’ve heard about, but I don’t endorse most of these. More on that later.

  1. Infant potty training: the parent watches for infant cues and holds baby over the toilet (or wherever they want baby to pee/poop). The parent makes a noise each time baby pees/poops, and that sound becomes associated with toileting.
  2. Behavior modification: the parent gives the child a lot of fluids and puts him on the toilet frequently. When the child is successful on the toilet, he gets a reward. They are reprimanded for accidents. This is often called “train in a day”.
  3. Child-oriented: the parent educates a child about toileting and gets a potty chair for the child, but potty training only happens when a child shows interest. The parent uses praise and encouragement.
  4. Parent-led: the parent sets the stage by allowing the child to get comfortable with the potty chair before the training begins. You do practice runs before going live. The parents offers praise and encouragement and simply changes clothing if there’s an accident.
  5. Bare bottom: just as this sounds, you let the toddler/preschooler run around naked with the expectation that they’ll figure out what’s going on.
Mechanics of bowel and bladder function

Babies technically have the ability to hold their stool and urine much earlier than they are ready to potty train. Simply being able to hold urine or stool for a time doesn’t mean a child is ready to potty train. Some kids tend to hold urine or stool too long if they potty train too early because they don’t want to take the time to sit on the toilet. If they hold their urine, it can lead to over-distention of the bladder, daytime urine accidents, and urinary tract infections. If they hold their stool they become constipated, which can lead to abdominal pain, poor eating, and stool leakage.

Pros and cons to the various types

There are infant training proponents. I am not one simply because I think it’s time intensive and it trains the parent, not the child. If you’re interested in training your baby, check out Infant Toilet Training. I haven’t read any of the references listed after the article and have no experience with it. I’d love to hear comments from parents who have tried it – please comment below.

I hear many urologists discourage early potty training, but studies (here and here) fail to show that training early leads to long term problems. For one urologist’s view, take a look at The Dangers of Potty Training Too Early.

There is relatively little research on the best approach to potty training, but the American Academy of Pediatrics supports the child-oriented approach based on expert opinions. One study found that children who had problems with daytime accidents or urinary tract infections were more likely to have been rewarded and punished during toilet training and children with no problems with the bladder and urination were more likely to have been encouraged by their parents to try again later. It also showed that waiting past 18 months correlated with fewer problems with urination years later.

My thoughts and recommendations
If kids are falling asleep on the potty because they’re sitting too long, it’s time to give it a break!

I think a child needs to be mature enough to be able to stop what he or she is doing and take the time to go to a toilet.

A child needs to be able to communicate the need (through words or sign) to go to the bathroom.

Ideally a child will be able to remove clothing and get on the toilet without much assistance.

Parents should encourage and praise kids for good results in the toilet. I would not recommend any negative consequences for accidents since negative consequences correlate with long term health consequences in studies.

Many kids show a temporary interest in potty training, but as I share from my own stories, it doesn’t always last. I advise to not push the issue. Put them back in diapers for awhile and try again later. They know they will win this fight. They simply pee or poop whenever and wherever they want or they hold it too long, which can lead to physical health problems for them.

When to wait on potty training:
  • If a child shows no interest in going to the toilet.
  • If a new baby is on the way.
  • If the child is afraid to sit on the toilet.
  • If a move is planned.
  • If there will soon be travel.
  • If a child doesn’t have the ability to communicate the need to toilet.
  • If the child resists.
In the end, most children will potty train.
They will not go to kindergarten in a diaper.
Empower your kids with information on how things work.
Praise them for good results.
Don’t yell or belittle kids for accidents.
If you’re frustrated, take a deep breath. Training doesn’t last forever. If it’s too much to deal with, give it a break.
The more you can make it pleasant for your child, the more you will enjoy parenting!

References

When should my child start shaving?

In my last blog I discussed the common question about when it’s appropriate to start using deodorant or antiperspirants, which led me to think of all those questions beginning, “When is my child old enough…”

One of these questions: When is my child old enough to shave?

This is another question without a one-size fits all answer.

Girls and boys differ in needs and ages of puberty.

I told my own daughter that she could shave her legs when she needed to shave under her arms, since I know that under arm hair becomes longer during puberty, which is also when leg hairs thicken and grow. This just seemed like an easy answer to me. We are born with hairs on our legs, so deciding when those hairs are too long is tricky. It’s not of a question of age, but one of quantity, color, and thickness of hairs.

When a boy starts to get visible peach fuzz on his upper lip it may be time to consider shaving, but it depends on the hair color, length, and his desires. Some schools include a “no facial hair” policy, which forces the issue.

Kids can be naturally hairier than their friends, making them feel self conscious. Some have dark hair, others light hair. Puberty increases hair growth on the arms, legs, armpit, and in the groin in both sexes. In boys it also increases hair growth on the face. The age of puberty varies widely. Culture plays a part in the family’s decision whether or not to shave body hairs.

The maturity of a child should be considered. A girl with thick, dark hair entering puberty at 9 years of age who is getting teased at school about her hairy legs might have a strong desire to shave, but if her fine motor skills are weak and she cannot safely handle a razor, it might not be appropriate for her to shave yet – at least not with a standard razor.

Options for hair removal

If a child has body hair that is bothersome and they want it removed but they are not able to safely use a standard razor, options might include other forms of hair removal, such as the chemical hair removal products, waxing, electric razors, or allowing a parent to help them shave. Each of these has its own issues to consider.

Chemical

Chemical hair removal products generally work by weakening the hair so that it is easily broken off at the skin level. These products might lead to skin irritation or allergic reaction, but are well tolerated by most people. If you are planning to use it on the face, be sure to get a product specifically for the face and test a small area first to be sure they don’t react to it negatively. Chemical hair removal products are relatively easy to use, can be done at home, and last for several days. Young children should be supervised so that the chemical does not get on other body parts or all over the bathroom…

wax

Waxing is an option for many girls and women. It can also be used for boys and men, though is less commonly used by men. The benefits are that it lasts several days and over time might cause the hair to grow in thinner (or not at all- which might not be a great idea for a boy who one day might want a beard). It can be painful, which might not be tolerable for some kids. You can go to a salon for a professional wax, but this is more expensive than the many do-it-yourself kits you can buy at local stores. Look online for tips on how to find the best waxing product for your needs and how to wax.

electric

Electric razors offer the benefit of a safer cut, but can take more time and often don’t get as close to the skin as a standard razor. If your child is using an electric razor, warn about the hazards of using something electric next to a water source (such as the sink or tub). There are many types available, and I would recommend searching for reviews online prior to purchasing. Follow package directions on keeping the razor clean.

razors

If you allow your child to shave with a razor be sure to get a new one just for that child. Never share razors since this can lead to sharing of germs that cause infection. Talk about when to change the razor blade. It depends on how often (s)he shaves, how large of an area being shaved, and the body hair type. Someone with thick, coarse and curly hair that grows super fast will need more frequent blade changes than someone who is shaving fine peach-fuzz hair off every few days. Any blade that’s rusted must be changed immediately. When a blade feels like it’s tugging on the hair instead of gliding smoothly, it is time to change. If you’re using an older blade and notice nicks or rashes or razor-burn bumps, it’s past time to change it. After each use a razor should be rinsed clean of all hairs and soaps/creams and allowed to dry. Don’t lay it in a soap dish because it will stay wet. Wetness allows germs to grow and encourages rust, both of which are dangerous.

Other considerations

The choice of using a shaving gel or cream or just shower soap is a personal choice.

If you would be most comfortable shaving your child’s skin, you can certainly try this with his or her permission. Be careful though, because if you nick the skin, you will never be forgiven! Kids are like that…

The best time?

When it comes down to when it is the best time to shave, I think it is a very personal decision.

I’m sometimes asked about the bumps and skin irritation that come from shaving. This blog about natural remedies for razor bumps was shared by the author and has some tips that might help.

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When should my child start wearing deodorant?

I get asked all the time when kids should start wearing deodorant or antiperspirants.

When Depends

deodorant, puberty, adolescent, body odorThere’s no standard answer since kids have different needs.

Some kids are active outside and simply carry the smells of the great outdoors and sweat on their body. This isn’t puberty sweat, just musty body odor in most young smelly children. Sweat in general makes conditions ripe for bacteria to grow on our skin, and the bacteria make us smell. Kids enter puberty at different ages, and puberty affects how we smell in addition to many other obvious things because sweat glands become more active.

First things first: get clean!

Body odor is often related to bathing, since some early elementary school aged kids shower independently, but don’t do the best job at actually using soap in all the areas it’s needed. Or they argue about needing to get clean daily. Every other day might work in the winter (if they don’t sweat a lot with play) but in the summer they need a daily cleansing if they smell offensively.

Daily bathing

The first step I always recommend is making sure kids who have that funky smell shower (or take a bath) daily with the same cleanser that the parents use, not a baby wash. Many families buy baby washes for the first year of life and keep using them during toddlerhood and childhood out of habit. Baby washes don’t lather up well (which leads to less body surface areas getting lathered up) and aren’t designed to get the oil, dirt, and smell off like regular cleansers. There really is no need to continue to use these washes for kids beyond infancy.

Talk to your kids about getting soap suds on all body parts. I think using a shower pouf with a body wash makes it fun for kids to see all the bubbles – and it helps them to see what parts are done and which need suds. If your child likes to play in the bath tub, it might help for them to end with a quick wash and/or rinse in the shower, since they’re sitting in the dirty water during the bath. It’s hard to wash the submerged body parts with soap, since the cloth or pouf rinses out under water. They will need to stand to wash the lower half of their body properly.

A note about the poufs

Be sure to show your kids how to rinse the bubbles out of the pouf after the shower or bath and hang it to dry between uses. You’ll also want to wash the poufs weekly. I usually throw them into the washing machine with our towels, but that takes the life out of them more quickly than soaking in vinegar and water.

Hair

It is tricky for kids to massage all parts of their scalp when washing hair, so show them to use their fingertips up and down then side to side to cover all parts of the head. The frequency of how often hair needs to be washed can be debated. Hair can trap pollen and other outdoor smells and the scalp’s sweat can lead to funky odor, so hair needs to be washed at least a couple days per week and daily for those with allergies to pollens that are in the environment at that time.

Face

Kids won’t want to get soap in their eyes so many parents just have them rinse with water, but many kids need to actually wash with a mild soap or cleanser. Eyelids can get what my parents used to call “sleep dust” – little crusties – if they are never washed. You can use a baby “no tears” shampoo to wash eyelashes if needed or a mild soap or cleanser with closed lids and careful rinsing. When kids start getting oily skin on the face they should wash it twice a day. A quick reminder not directly related to cleaning: A daily moisturizer with sunscreen is great all year long for our faces, which are exposed to the sun and elements every day.

Armpits

While it seems obvious when you’ve talked to your kids about having smelly pits, you’d be surprised that it doesn’t always equate to kids being conscious of washing those pits. With soap. Kids just don’t make the connections you think are obvious.

The whole back

It is hard for any of us to wash our own back, so show your kids how to use a back scrubber or wash cloth to reach all areas.

Belly, arms, and legs

Again, have them look to see where the suds are and where they’re missing to hit all the areas.

feet

Show kids how to hold on to something when washing their feet and consider adding a non-slip surface to your shower or tub. Have them wash one at a time so they can stand on the non-soapy foot. Soapy feet are slick!

Between the legs

Kids need to be taught to wash between the buttocks and around their genitals, with special care given to rinsing these areas well. Trapped soaps can irritate the skin and cause rashes, so rinsing should get special attention in these sensitive areas. I really like removable shower heads that can come down to help rinse, but kids can also use several cups of clean water to rinse hard to reach areas. Girls might need to sit in the tub to do this rinsing with a cup because it’s hard to splash the water up between skin folds sufficiently.

Clothing

Kids might have a favorite shirt that they want to wear every day, but clothing (especially shirts, socks, and underwear) must be washed regularly. Putting stinky clothes on a clean kid just makes the kid stinky.
Avoid polyester (except the special polyester in performance wear- designed to wick sweat away) and rayon clothes, since they do not absorb the sweat well. Cotton is a great choice: it absorbs sweat well and is relatively inexpensive.
If kids have sweaty feet, white socks might be better than colored ones due to the coloring irritating the feet. Changing socks when the feet get sweaty, such as after playing a sport, can help. Changing shoes and allowing each pair to dry thoroughly between wears can help too.

Deodorant vs Antiperspirant?

Deodorant is used to cover up smells. It’s often what I recommend for those younger kids who sweat during active play or outside in the heat.
Antiperspirant is designed to decrease sweating and often is mixed with a deodorant. Before puberty a deodorant is probably sufficient, but during puberty our sweat glands are activated and we sweat a lot more, especially under the arms, on hands and feet, and in the groin. It’s personal choice if one wants to decrease underarm sweating with an antiperspirant.
Over the years I have seen many concerns with the aluminum in antiperspirants – everything from it causes Alzheimer’s to it causes cancer. Studies do not support those claims. You can read more about the proposed risks of antiperspirants on WebMD.

When is sweating abnormal?

Sweating is abnormal if it’s excessive for the body’s needs or if a child has other signs of puberty before the normal ages (8 years in girls, 10 years in boys- some sources say 7 years in girls and 9 years in boys).
There are many reasons for excessive sweat that are relatively uncommon, so I won’t go into detail here. If you think your child sweats excessively or is entering puberty too early, please take him or her to their doctor to be evaluated. (A phone call isn’t sufficient because they will need to look for associated signs and symptoms on an exam.)

Next up…

I will cover “When should my child shave?” next since it’s also a very common question!
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