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Parent Resources

Free resources for parents

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Highchair Safety

  • Be sure the tray is locked and always secure the restraint straps.
  • Be careful of baby’s fingers and hands as you slide the tray on to prevent pinching.
  • Never leave your baby alone in a room in a highchair.
  • Keep the highchair at a safe distance from tables and worktops. A child can tip it over by pushing off with hands and feet.

General Kitchen Safety

  • Keep all cleaning products, pesticides, and other volatile and toxic substances locked up.
  • Use unbreakable dishes for feeding a young child
  • Keep step stools and ladders out of reach
  • Clean up spills immediately to prevent slips and falls.
  • Keep boxes of cling film and plastic grocery bags out of your child’s reach to avoid suffocation.
  • Don’t use long phone cords that a child could trip on or wrap around their neck.

Safer Work tops, Cupboards and Drawers

  • Never allow your child to sit on the worktop. Besides the danger of a fall, they can easily reach for items that can harm them.
  • Use cupboard and drawer Guard Latches to keep certain reachable cupboard doors and drawers off limits to your child.
  • Use cord shorteners on appliances such as electric kettles and away from where your child can pull on them.
  • Consider setting aside a cupboard for your little one to explore and play with (perhaps where you store safe items such as Tupperware and non-breakable pots and pans.
  • Keep rubbish in a tightly covered container or, better, inside a securely latched cupboard.

Kitchen Appliance Safety

  • Get into the habit of turning the handles of pots and pans toward the back of the cooker or worktop. Whenever possible, use the back burners or hobs for cooking.
  • Don’t let your child play at your feet while you are cooking.
  • Use a cooker guard to prevent your child from reaching the burners.
  • If your child can reach the controls on the front of the cooker, consider installing cooker knob covers that he/she can’t turn.
  • Never leave a boiling saucepan or sizzling frying pan unattended .
  • Teach your child that the oven is “hot” and not to touch.
  • Install safety latches on appliances such as the microwave, refrigerator and dishwasher.
  • Keep the dishwasher closed when not in use. There are many sharp edges inside a loaded dishwasher that can so easily hurt a young child.
  • Keep plug-in appliances – such as toasters and blenders in cupboards or on high shelves where your child can’t reach them. There is a risk of electrocution if a child tries to plug them in.

For a small child, the kitchen is probably the most fascinating and dangerous room in your home. There’s a great deal of potential for disaster located here in the ‘hub’ of the house. Be careful of hot liquids, hot appliances, slippery floors, possible electrocution, sharp objects, poisonous chemicals and objects your baby or toddler could choke on. The best way to make the kitchen a safer place is to keep your child out of the room by fitting a safety gate at the door. If this is not possible you can make sure that your small child is never left unsupervised in the kitchen!

Many of the safety devices featured in this article can be purchased
from UK company: Child Alert

Short of bricking up the door it may not be possible to childproof the kitchen entirely, but if you stay vigilant and follow the steps outlined above you can make it a much safer place.

BEDWETTING

Most children begin to stay dry at night around three years of age, boys sometimes take a little longer. When a child has a problem with bedwetting (enuresis) after that age, parents may become concerned.

Doctors stress that enuresis is not a disease, but a symptom, and a fairly common one. Occasional accidents may occur, particularly when the child is ill. Here are some facts parents should know about bedwetting:
* Approx. 15 percent of children wet the bed after the age of 3
* Many more boys than girls wet their beds
* Bedwetting runs in families
* Usually bedwetting stops by puberty
* Most bedwetters do not have emotional problems

Persistent bedwetting beyond the age of three or four rarely signals a kidney or bladder problem. Bedwetting may sometimes be related to a sleep disorder. In most cases it is due to the development of the child’s bladder control being slower than normal. Bedwetting may also be the result of the child’s tensions and emotions that need to be addressed.

There are a variety of emotional reasons for bedwetting. For example, when a young child begins bedwetting after several months or years of dryness during the night, this may reflect new fears of insecurities. This may follow changes or events which make the child feel insecure: moving to a new environment, losing a family member or loved one, or the arrival of a new baby or child in the home. Sometimes bedwetting occurs after a period of dryness because the child’s original toilet training was too stressful.

Remember that children rarely wet on purpose, and usually feel ashamed about the incident. Rather than make them feel naughty or ashamed, try to encourage your child and show faith that he or she will soon be able to enjoy staying dry at night.

Parents may help children who wet the bed by:
* Limiting liquids before bed (especially Tea, Coffee, Chocolate & Fizzy drinks)
* Encouraging your child to go to the toilet before bedtime
* Praising your child on dry mornings
* Ensuring that your child eats plenty of fruit and vegetables
* Allowing your child to help with changing sheets and pyjamas
* Avoiding punishments
* Waking the child during the night to empty their bladder

In rare instances, the problem of bedwetting cannot be resolved by the parents, the family doctor or the pediatrician. Sometimes the child may also show symptoms of emotional problems – such as persistent sadness or irritability, or a change in eating or sleeping habits. In these cases, parents may want to talk with a child psychiatrist who will evaluate physical and emotional problems that may be causing the bedwetting, and will work with the child and parents to resolve these problems. Treatment for bedwetting in children includes behavioural conditioning devices (pad/buzzer) and/or medications such as anti-diuretic hormone nasal sprays.

Further Information:

  • Doctor
  • Health Visitor
  • School Nurse
  • Continence advisor

Also the parent’s support group, ERIC:

ERIC (Enuresis Resource & Information Centre)
34 Old School House
Britannia Road
Kingswood
Bristol BS15 8DB

Telephone: 0117 9603060
Email: info@eric.org.uk
Website

Childproofing Your Home

by John Morrell

The best way to prepare your house for a little one? Get on your hands and knees! That way you can get down to their perspective and see what they see. You won’t believe the hazards you’ll come across just by doing this. Childproofing a house can be daunting because it means looking out for dangers that otherwise might never occur to you. With a little patience and some common sense, however, it can be done.

Tables and lamps:
In the living room, low tables with sharp corners should be padded. Watch out for free-standing or ‘standard’ lamps. These offer quite a temptation for a child who may want to grab onto one and try to pull himself up. Unfortunately this type of lamp is usually not very sturdy and may fall down on top of your child. It may be best to store these lamps until your child is out of the toddler stage.

Electric outlets:
Anyone who’s tried childproofing knows about electric socket covers. However, these won’t guard against all threats. You’ll often see one of the plugs covered; then the other has a lamp cord plugged into it. The child just has to pull the cord out to get to the outlet. I prefer using outlet covers that close automatically once something is unplugged. Speaking of lamps, when a bulb burns out, do you remove it and make a note on your shopping list to get a new one? Bad idea. You don’t want a child to reach into the empty socket and turn the switch on. Leave the old bulb in place until you replace it.

While taking that hands-and-knees tour, look for obvious hazards – a hard sweet or other small things a child may choke on under the sofa, etc. – as well as more subtle ones. Run your hand along the skirting or dado rail, where splintering could have occurred. Sand and repaint those areas.

Fireplaces:
The fireplace is always an area to watch. Move accessory sets with pokers and brushes out of the way. Remove matches or other fire starters. Use non-flammable bumpers along the sharp edges and corners of a raised stone hearth. Glass fireplace doors or a secure fire screen can help keep children away from the flames.

In the kitchen

Doors:
Using safety latches on cupboards and doors. The oven door, refrigerator door and broom cupboard should be first on the list.

Worktops:
Don’t leave handbags on a table or worktop, find a new place out of reach for young hands. Handbags can contain medication, sharp objects like tweezers or a nail file, and other things small enough to be swallowed. Clear worktops of electrical cords from items like toasters and blenders that could fall on the child if pulled.

Dishwasher:
Keep the door closed. Make sure forks and knives are pointed downwards.

Pet food dishes:
It may be disconcerting for your cat or dog, but it’s best to keep bowls of food and water and litter boxes out of reach, preferably in a garage or utility room that’s inaccessible to the toddler.

Lid and cabinet locks:
Toilet lid locks are essential if you are to keep your child away from water. Select a good one, and make sure you install it properly. Always close and latch bathroom doors. It’s also a good idea. experts say, to lock the medicine cabinet.

General Home Safety

Water temperature:
Hot water can be extremely dangerous. Set your water heater thermostat at low, or 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider loosening the bath hot water tap handle, allowing you to remove it when not in use. Install a full-length bath mat and a spout guard in the bath.

Door locks:
Bedroom and bathroom doors that can be locked from the inside could be a hazard. A child may go inside, close the door and lock it. Some locks are relatively simple to open by inserting a small screwdriver. It is a good idea to practice unspringing one from the outside – so you’ll know how to do it in the event of an emergency. Bolt type locks pose more of a problem. They are simple for a child to operate but surprisingly hard to undo if you’re on the wrong side! Consider using very small bolts, fastened on with small screws so that they will pull out when the door is given a hefty shove!

Gates:
Safety Gates are often vital to the safety of a young child. The pressure-style gate is popular because with one hand you’re able to lock it in place or pull it up. This type of gate is best in temporary situations when you have a child visiting for a little while. A swinging gate, in which a fixed jamb is screwed into both walls, is a better permanent solution. Avoid accordion-style folding gates, which can trap small fingers, or gates designed to contain pets. Try to secure the gate to a wall stud. Never anchor it to just the wallboard or plaster.

Railings:
Railings for an open landing that looks down onto a ground floor or for a staircase, the space between the posts should be no more than 4 inches. For railings with wider spaces, sheets of clear plastic can be used to close them off. For occasional use, you could try netting.

Bedrooms

Toy chests:
An old toy chest might suit the decor, but make sure it has a lid that won’t slam shut; consider replacing the hinges with spring-loaded ones.

Blinds:
Keep cords for blinds and curtains tied off out of reach from young hands.

Beds/Cots:
Try to site children’s beds or cots away from windows, mirrors and other glass items. Carefully examine older cots – they may have gaps between the posts wide enough for a child to get his or her head through. Also, remember that older cots may have originally been finished with a paint containing lead.

Night lights:
Use night lights with child-safe features. Look for night lights with completely enclosed light bulbs and safety tabs that help prevent children from removing the night light from the outlets. Cots:

Many of the safety devices featured in this article can be purchased
from UK company: Child Alert

CHILDREN & TV VIOLENCE

Children in Britain watch an average of 4 hours of television daily (source: whitedot.org). Television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behaviour. Unfortunately, much of today’s television programming is violent. Hundreds of studies of the effects of violence on television have found that children and teenagers may:
* become ‘immune’ to the horror of violence
* gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems
* imitate the violence they observe on television
* identify with certain characters, victims and/or victimisers
Extensive viewing of television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness. Sometimes, watching a single violent program can increase aggressiveness. Children who view shows in which violence is realistic, frequently repeated or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see. Children with emotional, behavioural, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence. The impact of TV violence may be immediately evident in the child’s behaviour or may surface years later, and young people can even be affected when the family atmosphere shows no tendency toward violence.

While TV violence is not the only cause of aggressive or violent behaviour, it is clearly a significant factor.

You can protect your children from excessive TV violence in the following ways:
* pay attention to the programs their children are watching and watch some with them
* set limits on the amount of time they spend with the television
* consider removing the TV set from the child’s bedroom – or making the set “Video Only”
* point out that although the actor has not actually been hurt or killed, such violence in real life results in pain or death
* refuse to let the children see shows known to be violent, and change the channel or turn off the TV set when offensive material comes on, with an explanation of what is wrong with the program
* disapprove of the violent episodes in front of the children, stressing the belief that such behaviour is not the best way to resolve a problem
* to offset peer pressure among friends and classmates, contact other parents and agree to enforce similar rules about the length of time and type of program the children may watch.
You can also adopt these measures to prevent harmful effects from television in other areas such as racial or sexual stereotyping. The amount of time children watch TV, regardless of content, should be moderated because it decreases time spent on more active and creative pastimes such as reading, playing with friends and developing hobbies.

Good News Family Care is grateful to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and whitedot.org for information and statistics contained in this article

See also: Managing Your Children’s TV Viewing

BEING A GOOD FATHER

By Christy Stewart

When thinking about their fathers, many adults remember small details – perhaps the feel of his whiskers, the sound of his deep voice, the feel of his big, strong hands or running to keep pace with his long stride. Even more memorable are emotions, such as the joy of knowing that he beamed with pride at your latest accomplishment or the opposite, crushing feeling of knowing you had disappointed him.

Fathers hold a place in their children’s hearts that, for better or worse, cannot be filled by anyone else.

If you are a father you are that person. You have that great power and responsibility, that opportunity to make a significant difference. You will never again have an opportunity to do so much good or disappoint so bitterly.

The responsibility of caring for children and providing financially for them can be a tremendous burden in today’s fast-paced world. It is easy to get so caught up in the struggle to “provide”, that the daily nurturing that children want and need from their fathers falls by the wayside.

Chances are both you and your child’s mother work long hours, rush to get home in time for dinner (at least a couple of nights a week) and too often feel irritated by the demands of children and household. Many parents say that because of the long hours away from their children, they are reluctant to set too many limits. As a result, many describe their children as becoming increasingly demanding or out of control. This can contribute to a chaotic environment at home, in which it is difficult to provide the love and nurturing that you intend to provide.

It is common for fathers to feel pulled in many directions and to feel frustrated by the lack of time available for the people they love and cherish. Complex dilemmas like these have no easy answers but there are simple things you can do that will make a difference.

* Set aside 30 minutes a day when you and your child spend pleasurable time together. During this time, ignore the phone, the mail and other household distractions. Let your child know that this is his/her time, that nothing is more important than enjoying it with him/her. The rapport you build by spending this consistent time together is invaluable.

* Set clear, kind limits. Children feel secure when they know what is expected of them. Communicate to your child that you know that he/she tries hard to please you and to do what you expect. Acknowledge that most of the time he/she succeeds in doing so. Be clear that when he/she runs “off the rails”, you will be there to step in and stop the inappropriate behaviour – in a caring, concerned manner. The purpose of these limits is to teach, not to punish.

* Solve problems with your child to guide him/her in finding appropriate ways of getting his/her needs met.

* Let your child know that it’s OK to make mistakes. When we acknowledge our own mistakes, we model important behaviour. Help your child to think about mistakes as opportunities for learning. Teach the importance of taking responsibility for mistakes and the obligation to take action to repair them. It is important not to inadvertently send your child the message that his/her mistakes are so unacceptable that he/she must hide them from you.

* Acknowledge that your child has a wide range of feelings. Your child needs to learn how to express anger, sadness, frustration, jealousy and disappointment – as well as happiness and love. When you teach your child to recognise, express and problem solve around feelings you are giving him/her the tools he/she will need to become a happy, well-adjusted adult. Teach that, while all feelings are accepted, all actions are not. Your child needs your help in learning to express feelings in socially acceptable ways.

Fathers provide a unique and necessary style of nurturing. Children need both the males and the females in their lives to be consistent sources of nurturing and guidance. It is the day-in, day-out, interested and loving presence that you provide for your children that is most needed and most appreciated. Each piggy-back ride, story read, note placed in a lunch box, call from work, time set aside to attend that school event, each special outing and concerned question all communicate your interest and the fact that you care.

Don’t be afraid of setting boundaries. “Tough love” creates a sense of security and provides opportunities to develop impulse control. Acknowledging your child’s wide range of feelings teaches that there are appropriate ways to express feelings and that feelings are an integral part of interpersonal relationships.

Think of your children as thirsty for your presence in their lives. Time will not stand still. The choices you make now will shape your relationship with your children in the years to come. You know better than anyone how precious your children are. Enjoy them.

Christy Stewart is a child development consultant in private practice.

Hope and Help for Troubled Marriages
– a Christian perspective

“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

The statistics are overwhelming! 40% of UK marriages end in divorce. In the USA the figure is nearer 50%. What a sad commentary on our society. How many of those marriages did not need to end? How many of them could have been saved? How many broken hearts do we need in this world? How many children will cry themselves to sleep wondering what has happened to their family?

Our hearts break each time we hear of another divorce in the making – but it does not have to be this way!

We must turn our eyes to our Father in Heaven. He is the ultimate counsellor, the author of marriage… the sustainer of our lives.

Marriages that are in trouble now have most likely been on a road to destruction for a long time. It just does not happen overnight! Each partner has played a significant role getting the relationship to where it is today. It takes two people to make a marriage and two people to break it… But just because it is broken does not mean it is the end!

Often each person is convinced that it is the other who has caused the “problem”. In most cases this is just not true. We must be willing to sit down and do an honest evaluation of what our part was in getting the marriage to this point. Most marriages dissolve because “needs” are not being met. Did you ever ask you partner what his or her needs are? Are you each willing to meet the needs of your spouse?

Are you willing to forgive your spouse? We are all human and can fall into walking in the “flesh”. We all make mistakes. God has given us the power to forgive. Holding anger and resentment in your heart hurts just one person: YOU! Do you want forgiveness for yourself? Then you must forgive. Jesus asked that we treat others just as He would; with love, honour, respect, forgiveness, patience, forbearance etc. How are you treating your spouse? Do you need to forgive? Release your heart of the pain today, forgive. Call upon Jesus to take the pain away! It does not matter whether the other person is willing to forgive also. You must deal with yourself first! You must see what lies in YOUR own heart, not what lies in your partner’s heart. You can’t make someone else change, they must make their own decision. If you sincerely want to make your marriage work, start with yourself. You cannot make changes if you only look to blame the other – or concentrate on their faults or actions. Humbly look into your heart and start making your own changes.

One of the biggest mistakes we hear people saying is that “someone” is MAKING me unhappy. This is just not possible! Only YOU can make YOU happy. You control your life! Are you ALLOWING someone else get the best of you? Good marriages are always the result of people who have entered the union happy with themselves from the start. They do not look to marriage as the way for them to become happy. It is unfair to your spouse to insist that they are THE ONE who will bring you your happiness.

We all change as time passes by. Sometimes the goals we had when first married are not the same. That’s OK. Do you take the time to ask one another what your goals are? Are you willing to combine your goals to walk this life together – or are you selfishly wanting everything your own way? Marriage is a combining of two spirits. A oneness, together, to make our way through life as friends, lovers and companions. This requires compromise, unselfish behaviour, love, patience, honesty, loyalty, forgiveness and most of all humility – ALL the time. These things we must do daily to remain lifelong partners in our marriage. It is also important to understand that everyone has needs and hurts. Communication is absolutely essential in a healthy marriage. We must always find time to talk. We must always find the time to see how the other is feeling. We must be willing to bear our souls to our mates when we are hurt….not bury the hurt deep inside until one day, we don’t even know the person we are married to. This happens because the anger has risen to such levels, we no longer see him or her with “love”.

We must be willing every day to look at our spouses as a “Child of God”, which we ALL are. Jesus loves both of you…..all the time! He is willing to forgive every time you ask. Can you say the same?

Many people go into marriage with expectations that are probably unattainable. Do you need to review your ideas of what marriage is? Open your bible and study God’s Word for marriage. Do you know your biblical role as a husband or wife? Did you go into marriage with the idea that “I’ll try it”? Solid marriages are built with the knowledge that this is “FOREVER”. It is this foundation that keeps the two from wandering too far apart. What is YOUR true vision of marriage? Do you both share that vision?

If you honestly desire to make your marriage work, you will need to examine yourself. Then, you will be able to speak to your partner with humility about what YOUR role has been in bringing the marriage to this point. Your own humility should be the base for the other person to examine his or her role also. This may not happen exactly in the timescale that you wish, but you must pray for this person and leave the rest to God. One of you is going to have to break the misery, the silence, the anger, the tears. Work on yourself to become the person that God has intended you to become as husband or wife. Make YOUR life the example! In God, everything is possible! Your marriage can become the marriage that our Father wants for you. Seek God every day, obeying His Word and walk in His light. He can bear your burdens, He can heal the pain and He can bring you both to a brand new life.

Give thanks to God today even for the trials in your life. God has a wonderful way of turning our bad times into such joy – don’t ever forget that. Keep Him your first priority… always.
Please note: The above does not apply to anyone suffering physical or emotional abuse. Anyone engaged in this type of abuse should seek professional counselling. This type of behaviour is not from God.
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional marriage counselling. We strongly urge anyone who has marital problems to seek any professional help they may need. Go to your Church and ask for help. That is what the “community of the Church” is there for. Do not allow pride to prevent you from seeking help. Ending a marriage will just open up a whole new set of problems. Make no mistake: the “sting” of divorce will remain with you the rest of your life. Please, prayerfully consider turning your marriage completely over to God.

Some facts that may surprise you:
Remarrriages have a higher failure rate than first marriages.
We think if we change partners, our problems will be solved. Not so!

Men, women and children all do better in intact, successful first marriages in all areas: health, wealth, satisfaction and success. Work things out and you’ll be better off in the long run.

Marriages, like everything else, go through slumps – down times.  And things often get better on their own over time. “The Case for Marriage” points out that many who said their marriages were at the bottom of the scale on marital satisfaction, when asked again five years later, reported being at the top on marital happiness. When asked what changed, many had no idea. It seems that keeping your vows – hanging in through the “for worse” times – can get you to the promised land. Get married, stay married – what a concept. Recent follow-up research, Does Divorce Make People Happy? fleshes out this earlier research. People going through unhappy periods in their marriage fantasize about getting out of their marriage and falling in love with someone new. It leads to much more happiness – in the long run – if you can fall back in love with the person with whom you have children, extended family and a history.

You CAN get past affairs, betrayals, disappointment, boredom and burnout and come out better and stronger than before.

Or, perhaps you’re in a remarriage and struggling to avoid divorce for a second, third or fourth time? The skills courses that work for first marriages, will also work for you. Take a basic marriage skills course and also search for programs and resources.

Marriage education classes aren’t just for engaged couples or newlyweds. They work for couples on the brink of divorce – couples in the ‘deep end’, who feel they’ve fallen out of love. They also work for cohabiting and remarried couples. You can learn new ways to interact – and by so doing, can fall back in love again.

May God Bless you abundantly in your life and in your marriage.

Managing Your Children’s TV Viewing

By Anna-Marie Pluhar

Managing television viewing is a tough job for parents. It requires constant vigilance, monitoring and negotiation. This is not easy because, as a society, we are often ambivalent about television. It can be a comfort, a baby-sitter or an entertainer. For most people, it has been there every day of our lives; we watched TV as children and feel we were not harmed by it. Children love television and there is some good children’s programming. Over the last 20 years however, television content and advertising have changed dramatically. We may be aware that our children shouldn’t watch too much, but we simply don’t have the time or energy to offer an alternative.

Taking Control

There are many reasons parents should control television use. Some are obvious, such as the violence and sex they may witness. Others are less obvious. Television teaches children that others will entertain them. It fills their minds with advertisements that tell them what is important about life. TV characters and advertisements often promote behaviour that parents find inappropriate and have to correct.

Television also steals time from children’s development – when they should be learning who they are, building strong relationships with their siblings, hearing stories from parents, making friends, using their imaginations, practising skills, participating in household tasks, reading, completing homework and dreaming. One set of reasons for limiting television use has to do with the content on today’s television programmes; the other concerns the fact that the time spent watching television is lost to other developmental tasks. Together, they make a powerful argument for parental control.

What are parents to do? Face the issue squarely; get as much information as you can, discuss it and decide what you want to do about it. Develop some family rules. Be consistent and energetic about “holding the line”. You can do it!

First Steps

First, know what your children are watching. It’s OK to say “no” to a programme that you feel is inappropriate. You may want to watch a programme together once so that you can discuss why you are saying “no”.

Talk with your children about what they see. For example, ask them whether what they are watching could happen in real life? Encourage them to think about what the real-life consequences might be of, for example, a car crash or a murder. Try keeping a tally of the acts of violence your family witnesses on TV for a week. Talk with your children about TV advertisements. What is really being “sold” to them – the item or the image? How do advertisements get their attention? Try taping some TV commercials and analysing them as a family activity. Encourage your children to “talk back” to the set, instead of watching passively.

Make sure the programmes children watch are appropriate for their age group. When deciding what is appropriate, target the youngest person viewing. Don’t let young children watch the news, they may become needlessly fearful.

Guidelines for Parents

DON’T…
* Use TV as a reward or a punishment. For instance, allowing a child to watch TV after he finishes his homework, as a reward.

* Turn on the TV just to see what’s on – or leave it on all day long. Instead, use the TV guide and teach your children to choose selectively.

DO…
* Develop rules for television viewing. Some families allow an hour or two a day. Some leave the TV off Sunday to Thursday or on weekends. Others allow just one “couch potato” day and then remain TV-free for the next 6 days.

* Consider removing the TV from the most comfortable room in the house. Don’t put it in a bedroom. Leave it somewhere out of the way (a cupboard or cabinet) or cover it when not in use.

* Help your children find alternatives to TV viewing (see guidelines below).

* Limit your own viewing. Model for your children the behaviour you want them to carry on into adulthood.

Principles for Developing Alternatives to Television

Children can and should generate their own play. You do not have to entertain them all the time.

It is okay for children to be “bored”. It’s part of the natural process of learning to be self-directed and resourceful.

You do need to provide children with simple materials to stimulate play. Materials should be basic so children can use them in many ways. Examples: balls, cards, crayons, paper, blocks, etc.

Expect mess! (Expect children to clean up their mess, too.)

Seek out nearby playmates for your children to encourage social development.

Foster inter-generational friendships. Children and older people enjoy each other.

Encourage your children to play with older and younger children as well as children of their own age.

Make sure your children get enough sleep. If in doubt, ask your GP or health visitor for sleep guidelines.

Anna Marie Pluhar is founder and Executive Director of the US “Television Project” which seeks to promote healthy TV viewing habits for families.

See companion article: CHILDREN & TV VIOLENCE

Sibling Rivalry

By Robin Goldstein and Janet Gallant

There are many myths surrounding the subject of Sibling Rivalry: “It’s unavoidable.” “Parents shouldn’t get involved.” “Children outgrow it.” “There’s nothing you can do.”

The fact is there is a great deal parents can do because sibling relationships are shaped in large part by parents’ attitudes and actions. Without intending to, many parents reinforce conflict. They may fail to set adequate limits on quarreling and fighting, allowing one child to dominate. They may appear, from their children’s point of view, to favour one child, place unfair demands on an older sibling or simply not listen.

Left unchecked, sibling rivalry can harm a child’s self-image and cloud lifelong relationships between brothers and sisters. Parents have only to think about their own brothers or sisters. Many adults continue to struggle with issues of competition and favoured status.

While it may not be possible to eliminate all sibling rivalry, you can take practical steps to help your children get along.

Don’t ignore it!

Step in when your children argue. If you do not get involved or set limits or make it clear that you expect your children to treat each other with respect, they will assume you accept their behaviour.

Children younger than 5 to 7 years old are too self-centred to understand a brother’s or sister’s point of view. Supervise your children and give frequent reminders about how to act. For example, say, “If you’re angry with Jack, use words but don’t hit.” You can reason with children older than 7 since they are able to consider another person’s feelings and point of view. Try “Let your brother play with you for a while so he won’t feel left out.”

With your help, siblings may be able to sit down and work out their differences. Encourage your children to come up with a solution each can live with.

Warn your children that if fighting continues, they will lose privileges or have to spend time in their rooms. Don’t be too harsh. If children feel they have been punished unfairly, they are unlikely to change their behaviour. They also unlikely to direct their anger at you – for fear of losing your love and approval. Instead, they will focus their frustration on their sibling.

Be fair

Children are often jealous of each other and believe – with or without justification – that they are not receiving a fair share of parents’ attention. Be sensitive to your children’s desire for fairness. Accept and encourage each of your children, regardless of differences. Avoid labelling or comparing. “Megan’s the stubborn one.” “I wish you were as outgoing as your brother.” If one child is clearly more talented or attractive, all the more reason to give unconditional love and equal attention to all.

Be low key about age differences

If you assign privileges or responsibilities based solely on age, one child will always be angry. “Why does Anna get to watch another video?” While it is natural to expect more of an older child, such expectations can reinforce rivalry. If a child is told, “You should know better than to fight with your sister – go to your room!” he will not come back ready to be more responsible. Instead he will feel unfairly treated and may retaliate against his sister to get rid of his anger. The younger child, seeing the older one blamed, may feel she can get away with bad behaviour. On the other hand, a younger child may become angry if her older sibling is always allowed to play outside later or sit in the front seat of the car.

Listen to your children

If your children feel their complaints are listened to, they will quarrel less. Listen to both sides and ask for suggestions. “Why do you think you have trouble getting along? How can we make things better?”

Talk to your children together or individually, or try a family meeting where each person is allowed to speak without interruption. Agree on at least one action that each family member can take to improve sibling relations.

Listening is particularly important when there is a new baby. If your older child says, “Take him back to the hospital!” she is really expressing insecurity. Tell her, “We know it’s hard having a new baby brother.” Give her extra attention. The more secure she feels, the more accepting of her sibling she will be.

Spend more time with your children

Many parents mistakenly ignore sibling rivalry because, they believe, it is “only attention-seeking”. If children fight to get attention, they may really need some! Make spending time with your children a high priority. Rearrange your timetable, if possible, so you are more available. When you get home from work, don’t start immediately on the chores. Instead, talk to your children, sit with them, play a game, or read a book.

As children move into the teenage years and spend less time with the family, encourage “sibling time” when your children go to lunch, play a game, or just hang out in each other’s bedroom.

Spending more time with your children will always pay off. It is one more way you can help them decrease their rivalry and form a strong, positive relationship.

Robin Goldstein and Janet Gallant are the authors of the Everyday Parenting series,
published by Penguin Books

Talking with Children
about Alcohol and Drugs

The issue of drugs can be confusing to young children. If drugs are so dangerous, why is the family medicine cabinet full of them? And why do TV, movies, music and advertising often make drug and alcohol use look so cool?

We need to help our children to distinguish fact from fiction – and it’s never too soon to begin. Studies show that the average age when a child first tries alcohol is 11; for marijuana, it’s 12. Many children become curious about these substances even sooner. So let’s get started!

Listen carefully

Student surveys reveal that when parents listen to their children’s feelings and concerns, their children feel comfortable talking with them and are more likely to stay drug-free.

Role play how to say “no”

Role play ways in which your child can refuse to go along with his friends without becoming a social outcast. Try something like this, “Let’s play a game. Suppose you and your friends are at Tom’s house after school and they find some beer in the refrigerator and ask you to join them in drinking it. The rule in our family is that children are not allowed to drink alcohol. So what could you say?”

If your child comes up with a good response, praise him. If he doesn’t, offer a few suggestions like, “No, thanks. Let’s go on the GameCube instead,” or “No thanks. I don’t drink beer. I need to keep fit for football”

Encourage choice

Allow your child plenty of opportunity to become a confident decision-maker. An 8-year-old is capable of deciding if he wants to invite lots of friends to his birthday party or just a close pal or two. A 12-year-old can choose whether she wants to go out to the youth club or join the school orchestra. As your child becomes more skilled at making all kinds of good choices, both you and she will feel more secure in her ability to make the right decision concerning alcohol and drugs if and when the time arrives.

Provide age-appropriate information

Make sure the information that you offer fits the child’s age and stage. When your 6 or 7-year-old is brushing his teeth, you can say, “There are lots of things we do to keep our bodies healthy, like brushing our teeth. But there are also things we shouldn’t do because they hurt our bodies, like smoking or taking medicines when we are not sick.”

If you are watching TV with your 8 year-old and marijuana is mentioned on a program, you can say, “Do you know what marijuana is? It’s a bad drug that can hurt your body.” If your child has more questions, answer them. If not, let it go. Short, simple comments said and repeated often enough will get the message across.

You can offer your older child the same message, but add more drug-specific information. For example, you might explain to your 12-year-old what marijuana and crack look like, their street names and how they can affect his body.

Establish a clear family position on drugs

It’s okay to say, “We don’t allow any drug use and children in this family are not allowed to drink alcohol. The only time that you can take any drugs is when the doctor or Mum or Dad gives you medicine when you’re poorly. We made this rule because we love you very much and we know that drugs can hurt your body and make you very sick; some may even kill you. Do you have any questions?”

Be a good example

Children will do what you do much more readily than what you say. So try not to reach for a beer or a glass of wine the minute you come home after a rough day; it sends the message that drinking is the best way to unwind. When children are present, offer dinner guests non-alcoholic drinks in addition to wine and spirits. And take care not to take pills – even ‘over-the-counter’ remedies – indiscriminately. Your behaviour needs to reflect your beliefs.

Discuss what makes a good friend

Since peer pressure is so important when it comes to children’ involvement with drugs and alcohol, it makes good sense to talk with your children about what makes a good friend. To an 8-year-old you might say, “A good friend is someone who enjoys the same games and activities that you do and who is fun to be around.” 11 to 12-year-olds can understand that a friend is someone who shares their values and experiences, respects their decisions and listens to their feelings. Once you get these concepts across, your children will understand that “friends” who pressure them to drink or take drugs aren’t friends at all. Additionally, encouraging skills like sharing and co-operation – and strong involvement in enjoyable, healthy activities (such as team sports or the Scouts) – will help your children make and maintain good friendships as they mature and increase the chance that they’ll remain drug-free.

Build self-esteem

Children who feel good about themselves are much less likely than other children to turn to illegal substances. As parents, we can do many things to enhance our children’s self-image. Here are some pointers:

    • <li “>Offer lots of praise for any job well done <li “>If you need to criticise your child, talk about the action, not the person. If your son gets a maths problem wrong, it’s better to say, “I think you added it up wrong. Let’s try again.” <li “>Assign “do-able” jobs. A 6-year-old can bring her plate over to the sink after dinner; a 12-year-old can feed and walk the dog after school. Performing such duties and being praised for them helps your child feel good about himself. <li “>Spend one-on-one time with your youngster. Setting aside at least 15 uninterrupted minutes per child per day to talk, play a game, or take a walk together, lets her know you care. <li “>Say, “I love you” – nothing will make your child feel better.

Repeat the message

Information and lessons about drugs are important enough to repeat frequently. So be sure to answer your children’s questions as often as they ask them to initiate conversation whenever the opportunity arises.

If you suspect a problem don’t let pride prevent you from seeking help.

While children under age 12 rarely develop a substance abuse problem, it can (and does) happen. If your child becomes withdrawn, loses weight, starts doing poorly in school, turns extremely moody, has ‘glassy’ eyes – or if the drugs in your medicine cabinet seem to be disappearing too quickly – talk with your child. You’ll be helping your youngster to a healthier, happier future.

Some Questions & Answers

Why do people take bad or illegal drugs?
There are lots of reasons. Maybe they don’t know how dangerous they are. Or maybe they feel bad about themselves – or don’t know how to handle their problems. Or maybe they don’t have parents they can talk to. Why do you think they do it?
Why are some drugs good and some drugs bad for you?
When you are poorly, the drugs the doctor gives you help you get better. But if you take these drugs when you’re healthy, they can make you sick. Also, there are some drugs, like marijuana or crack that are never good for you. To be safe, never ever take any drugs unless Mum, Dad or the doctor says it’s okay.

Taming Toddler Tantrums

Tantrums are a normal part of growing up. Toddler’s aren’t bad when they are having a tantrum, they are just acting their age. Almost all children between the ages of one and three have a few temper tantrums. It means they have finally discovered a sense of their own individuality. A temper tantrum every now and then is nothing to worry about; there are bound to be some frustrations. It is also worth remembering that many tantrums are a result of fatigue and hunger, or of the child being in a situation that exceeds his ability to cope.

I wish I could give you a cast-iron formula for eliminating tantrums, but I can’t. Like most of the childhood’s challenging behaviour, it will pass. Here are some suggestions to help minimise tantrums.

Discipline with Love

Successful discipline can only happen within a loving environment. Your toddler needs to feel important to you and to know that he is loved, wanted, respected and cared for. If children don’t have this, it’s both difficult and unwise to try to change their behaviour.

Be Consistent

Young children need to know what the limits are and exactly what is expected of them. They should sense that both parents are in agreement and, above all, in charge! To avoid confusing your child, discipline must be consistent and not dependent on you or your partner’s moods.

Stay calm yourself

Nothing accelerates the intensity of a tantrum more than a worked up parent. Seeing you lose your cool will only make it more difficult for your toddler to compose himself. So: don’t argue, don’t debate, don’t shout and don’t lose your temper.

Lower your voice and be convincing.

Screaming over your toddler’s screams will only encourage your toddler to scream louder. A gentle tone of voice assures your toddler that you are in control. If you are to convince your child that you mean business the ‘wimps approach’ must be discarded: ‘Maybe we will do it this way’ is interpreted by your child as: ‘If you complain and whinge enough you may be able to persuade me to change my mind’. Instead, say to your child: ‘This is the way it is going to be’. (Then make sure it is).

Do Not get physical

Resorting to physical punishment to end a tantrum is a bad idea. You would be punishing your child for something that they are unable to control.

Make the environment safe

Protect your toddler from dangerous surroundings. Move the child who is “out of control” to a setting that is safer for everyone – and everything.

Distraction

Some children can be easily distracted during a tantrum while others only get more upset. If your child can be distracted, try reading a favourite book or turn on a favourite tape, CD or DVD.

Don’t overpower your child

It can be very intimidating to a young child to have a bigger person towering over them. Bending down or sitting on the floor will help to even out the situation, making it easier to communicate with your child. Try to maintain eye contact, speak in clear, short sentences and don’t nag (otherwise you will always have to nag to get attention).

Ignore

Sometimes the best course of action is no action at all. Develop selective blindness and deafness. Your toddler will quickly realise that it’s no fun getting worked up when no one is watching. Obviously this is not feasible in a crowded store or a public place (see below for more information on how to handle a ‘public’ tantrum).

Time-Out

For some children, especially older ones, a ‘time-out’ provides a much needed cooling off period. Sending a child to his room for ten minutes not only shows him who is in charge it gives him time to calm down and take control of himself and the situation.

Public Tantrums

We all dread the thought of a public tantrum but they will almost inevitably occur sooner or later. Here are some tips on how to handle the situation.

Prevention

Avoid public outings at times of the day when your toddler is especially prone to tantrums. A hungry, tired, bored or overextended child is a recipe for disaster.

Distraction

Learn to recognise the triggers that lead to bad behaviour. Whenever you are out in public and sense a tantrum in the making, try a quick change of subject. For example: toddlers love to ‘help’ by taking things off supermarket shelves and dropping them on the floor. Why not harness this endearing quality and put your toddler in charge of placing the items you hand to him into the trolley. This will mean ‘throwing’ them in of course, so fragile items will need to be ‘sneaked’ in (along with the tempting ones like chocolate biscuits!)

Isolation

If distraction isn’t the key, try moving your toddler to a more private place. Pick him up firmly, not violently, and carry him elsewhere. Going outside or to the toilets should work. If your toddler is used to a time out, give him one now. Just because you are in public doesn’t mean you should change your method of discipline. If you don’t follow through with the same discipline as you would in a more private place this will only encourage your child to misbehave in public more often. Your child should be kept on track with firmness, consistency and more importantly, love.

Ignore the onlookers

Unfortunately some people truly have nothing better to do than to scrutinise the parenting skills of others. Learn to ignore the nosey parkers when you are in this situation. This tantrum is between your toddler and you…no one else. Concentrate on the task at hand and keep your cool.

Reinforcement – encourage good behaviour

Praise your child for good behaviour whenever you come home from a tantrum-free trip. Reward desirable behaviour with encouragement, interest, warmth, fun and attention. More tangible rewards may be given – but make sure they are genuine rewards and not ‘bribes’.

Don’t give in

It might seem hard to believe but studies have shown that your toddler wants you to be in charge – so don’t be afraid to be firm. No matter how tempted you may be, do not give in to his demands just to get some peace. Doing so will give your child confusing messages and feed and encourage the next tantrum. When you mean business speak with conviction and, most importantly, see it through.

After the tantrum

When the tantrums over, let it go. If your toddler manages to compose himself quickly, offer praise. Don’t rehash the tantrum or lecture your child about it. Most toddlers enjoy being hugged after a tantrum, as a reassurance of your love for them.

Finally….

Child care is not a scientific experiment that must be taken seriously at all times. It is OK to relax the rules, to trust your intuition and to ENJOY your fun-loving toddler.

What To Do Instead of Shouting and Spanking

by Georgia Lewis

“I won’t! You can’t make me!”

“You’re not my boss!”

“Everyone else’s parents said yes”

Children will push the boundaries at every stage of development. Even as they push, however, they desperately need the security of limits. Exercising discipline will not win popularity contests but it’s a parent’s job to set limits – so that children will be safe, respect others and learn to “do the right thing”.

How can parents discipline without getting into power struggles, causing undue resentment or resorting to harsh or hurtful methods? The most effective parents understand that discipline is teaching – not threats, punishment or put-downs. They guide their children in firm but loving ways.

What’s wrong with shouting, scolding and spanking?

Harsh physical and verbal punishment hurts children physically and emotionally; it teaches them to react in violent ways and robs them of the chance to learn skills they will need throughout life: problem solving, negotiation and co-operation. When parents simply give orders, basing their authority on power and fear, children do not develop the inner control they need for self-discipline.

The “do-it-or-else” kind of discipline also damages parent-child relationships. It makes children feel resentful, unloved and angry. Some become deceitful or afraid to confide in their parents. Although it may “work” temporarily to stop a certain behaviour, it does so at the expense of long-range parenting goals.

What to do instead

Whether dealing with toddler tantrums or teenager “back talk”, successful parents seem to agree on a few basic principles:
* Learn what is typical for the child’s age. Many discipline problems happen because parents expect too much of their children (for example, 2 year olds cannot sit still for hours).

* Plan ahead; tell your child exactly what you want. (“You can go to Sophie’s house, but if you change your plans and go somewhere else, call me first.”)

* Choose your battles! Save the heavy-duty rules for important issues, such as safety (for example, un-chaperoned parties) or values-related issues (for example, unkind remarks).

* Be consistent so your child will know you mean what you say. Work with your partner so that your child gets the same messages from both of you.

* When your child misbehaves, try to understand why. What need is not being met? How could that need be met in an acceptable way?

* Give children a lot of attention and encouragement when they are not misbehaving. Praise them when they co-operate.

* Give your child choices (if either choice is OK with you).

* Avoid threats and ultimatums (“Do it or else!”).

* Try not to nag (you’ll soon be “tuned out”) or beg (that gives the child too much power).

* Don’t bribe or make promises you can’t keep. Children do not need elaborate rewards for being good.

* Expect mistakes and help your child learn from them (“If that happens again, what can you do differently?”).

* To teach children respect, talk to them respectfully – without ridicule, sarcasm, name-calling or humiliation. Be a positive role model for your child – it is the most powerful form of teaching.

Most important, be willing to spend time with your child. Tune in to your child’s unique temperament, needs and strengths. Build a strong parent-child relationship. Love and boundaries go hand in hand. Good parenting takes time.

Discipline tips

Crawling babies and toddlers

* Prevent discipline problems by childproofing.

* Distract and redirect a baby who’s heading for trouble, or remove the child from the situation.

* Don’t call out across the room; instead go to the child with a brief, simple message, such as “That’s not for playing with – here’s a toy.”

Young children

* Prepare the child for transitions. (“In 10 minutes, it will be time to go.”)

* Be clear and concrete. (“Be a good boy” is too abstract.)

* Avoid inflexible demands and unrealistic consequences such as “Pick up every single toy right now or I’ll throw them all out!”

Older children

* Enlist the children’s help in rule-making.

* Give choices, not rigid orders. (They have to do their jobs to do but would they rather do them before or after dinner?) This gives the children some control.

* Help children learn from their mistakes. After a tantrum or blow-up, when you are both calm, talk about the incident and talk about how it might have been handled better. If the child deliberately misbehaves, remove a privilege related to the misbehaviour.

Adolescents

* Be open to change. Rules that fit your family a few years ago may be obsolete now. Let the adolescents help rewrite the rules.

* Use conflict resolution and problem-solving skills. Work with your adolescent to find solutions that satisfy both of you.

* Listen with respect and empathy but be firm if you are convinced a teenager is about to do something dangerous. Teenagers will argue, oppose and defy; however, they still need your guidance and protection.

Georgia Lewis is a Parent Education Specialist. She is the mother of 7 children
and grandmother to 7 grandchildren.