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Kids of All Ages Want You to Read to Them

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Once your child can read by herself—especially if she has to read independently for 15 or 30 minutes each night for homework—you might figure she doesn’t really need you to read aloud to her anymore. Maybe it’s harder to find the time, or she seems too old for bedtime stories. However, kids ages 6 to 11 wish their parents read to them more often, according to a new study from Scholastic.

The study found that 54% of children ages under age 5 are read aloud to at home five to seven days a week, as compared to only 34% of kids ages 6 to 8 and 17% of kids ages 9 to 11. Nearly one in four parents stopped reading to their child entirely by the time she was 9. However, 86% of 6- to 8-year-olds and 84% of 9- to 11-year-olds (and even 80% of 12- to 14-year-olds) said they either liked or loved being read to.

I’ve got nothing against Ivy and Bean, but the truth is that sometimes the books at your child’s reading level just aren’t as interesting as ones that are a bit too hard for her to tackle on her own.

For the last few years, I have been reading to my daughter, now 10, while she eats breakfast. One reason I started this routine was just to distract her so she’d sit still and eat, but it has really helped her get her more excited about books. And I’ve been able to introduce her to titles she might not have chosen on her own. “Sometimes it’s easier and more fun to listen to a book than to read it yourself,” she told me today.

Ten minutes at a time, we read all three of The Land of Stories books, by Chris Colfer, for example, and she’s recommended them to all her friends. The cover of E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan (one of my childhood favorites) looked boring to her, but I insisted we give it a try, and she loved it. Although she’d read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by herself, she got scared when she started reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It was less scary when I read it to her, and I’m hoping that she’ll go back to finish the rest of the series on her own. Since she had enjoyed reading Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind on her own, we’re now reading Stella by Starlight, the author’s newest book about a North Carolina girl’s encounter with the Ku Klux Klan in the 1930s. It’s already sparked a lot of discussion.

Part of me wonders whether I’m robbing her of the opportunity to read these great books on her own, but maybe she’ll go back and read them again someday. Right now, I feel lucky that I can share the experience of reading them with her.

Diane Debrovner is the deputy editor of Parents and the mother of two daughters.

Image via Shutterstock

3 Things to Help Kids Read
3 Things to Help Kids Read
3 Things to Help Kids Read


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Are You an Emotional Grown-Up?

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

I can’t stop thinking about the inspiring talk I heard recently by Robin Berman, M.D., author of the book Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child With Love and Limits.  One of the most challenging parts of parenthood, she said, is being an emotional grown-up.

It’s hard enough to deal with all the practical and financial aspects of adulthood. But when you’re tired or stressed or frustrated, it can take a lot of self-control not to have your own meltdown. Or to say something critical or sarcastic or insensitive that you’ll regret later.

Of course, the opposite of acting like a grown-up is acting like a child. While it’s perfectly normal for a little kid to be moody and self-centered and out-of-control sometimes, it’s our job as parents to put our own needs and issues aside and focus on what’s best for our kids. That doesn’t mean we should be selfless or indulge their every whim, but we have to be mature enough to take the high road, to think before we speak, and to not expect our kids to make us feel better.

I’m sure you can tell plenty of stories about other parents you know who’ve taken the low road. However, we all have moments when we’d like a Mommy do-over.

Just one of my own examples: My 10-year-old has been having nightmares lately, and she’s been calling for me repeatedly through the night. She gets truly frightened, and I have to sit with her and help her do breathing exercises and visualize happy scenes instead of scary ones. But we’ve both been losing a lot of sleep. There have been nights when I’ve seemed angry about being woken up (again), and I hate that. So I’ve apologized. The nightmares aren’t her fault. I want her to know that I have faith that she will get through this rocky patch and that I’m here to support her.

“No parent ever gets it right the first time…parenting is the ultimate in on-the-job training,” writes Dr. Berman. “Lucky for us, kids are very forgiving. “

Here are some other quotes that have stuck with me:

“Parenting is a divine invitation to be your best self.”

“You wouldn’t cough on your child without covering your mouth. So make sure your unresolved issues don’t infect your children.”

“If you feel your control or patience waning, remind yourself of the role you want to be remembered for: hero, not villain; protector, not persecutor.”

“Why is it we pay more attention to recharging our smartphones than to recharging ourselves? If we were smart, we’d pay attention when our battery light started flashing ‘low.’”

“No matter what difficulties you run into with your children, keep imagining them at their best. Believing things will get better gives you both something to hold on to until they do.”

Dr. Berman is the newest member of our expert Board of Advisors, and you’ll be hearing more of her voice in our pages. Treat yourself to a copy of her book.

Diane Debrovner is the deputy editor of Parents and the mother of two daughters. 

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

Photo of mom and daughter with painted faces via Shutterstock

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Too Sick to Party?

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

My daughter Jane’s 10th birthday was on January 18th, but her party was supposed to be this past Saturday. Zoe, one of her good friends from sleep-away camp, has a birthday on January 19th, so we’d planned a joint slumber party at my house. All their camp bunkmates were coming from three different states, and the girls couldn’t wait for their reunion.

Sure enough, Jane woke up on Friday with a bad sore throat, but her temperature was normal. She often gets strep, so I took her to our pediatrician’s early morning walk-in hour for a strep test. I told the doctor that I had seven girls sleeping over the next night. “Uh-oh, let’s hope it’s strep,” she said. “That way, Jane can start antibiotics and in 24 hours, she won’t be contagious anymore.” But the test was negative.

When we got home, her temperature was 99.8.° Although her school’s policy is that kids have to stay home if they a fever over 100,° I let her stay home anyway to take it easy—maybe she’d feel better soon. For most of the day, her temperature fluctuated a little below and above 100,° and we agonized over whether we should cancel the party.

In my heart, I knew that would be the right thing to do. After all, I hate it when a kid comes over for a playdate who’s sneezing and coughing all over the place. But I didn’t want the girls to be disappointed. Maybe Jane just had a run-of-the-mill cold, like tons of kids at school have all the time. I hate to admit it, but I was seriously tempted to just quietly give her some Tylenol and hope she felt fine enough for the party.

Zoe’s mom and I delayed our decision for as long as possible. She reminded me that one of the girls who was coming had a brother who’d just gotten home from a long stay in the hospital after spinal surgery. But after dinner, Jane’s temperature started rapidly rising up over 101,° We had to cancel.

At first, Jane was furious with me. “We’ve been waiting to have this party for months!” she cried. I said I was sorry, and told her I understood how frustrating it was to be sick. I promised that we’d reschedule the party. Zoe—who could have been just as angry—was an understanding friend. On Saturday afternoon, she and her family sent Jane (whose temperature was then 102.5°) a big bunch of get-well-soon balloons.

All the other moms were great. They sent texts with smiling emoticons, and we found a new party date a month from now when all the girls were again free. One of the moms emailed: Good life lesson! Things don’t always work out!

That made me think of the smart books, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus, by Parents advisor Dr. Wendy Mogel—about how disappointments help kids become more resilient, but parents often protect their kids from them. Maybe this was the blessing of the cancelled party: Learning that disappointments are part of life—just like winter germs—and we just need to deal with them best we can.

Is your child too sick to go to school? Take our quiz.

Diane Debrovner is the deputy editor of Parents and the mom of two girls.

Hand Hygiene Basics
Hand Hygiene Basics
Hand Hygiene Basics

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Tags: | Categories: The Parents Perspective

Being Smart About Antibiotics

Monday, January 12th, 2015

I’ve been battling my annual cold that morphs into a nagging cough. Although I wish could take antibiotics and be done with it, I know they won’t really have any effect on the virus that made me sick. Similarly, whenever my daughter has a bad sore throat and I take her to the doctor, I admit that I kinda hope she does have strep throat—because then we’ll get a treatment that works and she’ll be healthy enough to go back to school in 24 hours.

However, pediatricians prescribe more than 11 million unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics each year for children and teens who have viral ear and upper respiratory infections, according to a study from the University of Utah. It’s not because they’re bad doctors, but more likely because parents are eager to give their kids antibiotics just in case they might help.

The problem, of course, is that they can also cause harm: Overuse of antibiotics has led to a scary increase in antibiotic resistance. One way this may happen: When you take antibiotics for a viral infection, the antibiotic attacks other (healthy) bacteria in your body, and can promote antibiotic-resistant properties that are then shared with other bacteria, say experts at the Mayo Clinic. Another factor: Not finishing an entire course of prescribed antibiotics. Let’s say your kid does have a bacterial infection but feels better on day 4 and hates the taste of the medicine. You might figure she doesn’t need to take it for a week. But this can leave lingering bacteria that become stronger and multiply.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause at least 2 million illnesses each year and 23,000 deaths in the U.S. (The situation is even more serious in other countries; this article about the epidemic of antibiotic-resistant infections in newborns in India is heartbreaking.) Last fall, the federal government launched a new national strategy to combat resistance, which includes tracking infections to try to slowing their spread, and also supporting research. Part of the problem is that developing new types of antibiotics has not been a priority for drug companies.

I was grateful to read the news that smart scientists are doing the nitty-gritty research needed to dig up—literally—new antibiotics. As reported in the journal Nature, researchers at Northeastern University have discovered a new way to extract antibiotics from bacteria that live in dirt. Animal studies suggest that that the novel antibiotic they found has a unique ability to resist resistance.

For now, if you or your kids have a cold, home remedies and TLC are your best bet. (My new favorite tea is Stash Lemon Ginger.) If a cold lasts longer than two weeks, it makes sense to check in with your doctor because it might be caused by something else. In fact, a chronic cough is one of the most common reasons why children see the doctor.

Take our quiz to test your cold and flu IQ.

Diane Debrovner is the deputy editor of Parents and the mother of two daughters who’ve frequently had coughs, croup, and strep throat, but not one ear infection. You can follow her on Twitter @ddebrovner.

What Does Whooping Cough Sound Like?
What Does Whooping Cough Sound Like?
What Does Whooping Cough Sound Like?

photo via Shutterstock

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Tags: | Categories: Babies, Big Kids, Health, News, Safety

The Most Dangerous Toy

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Scooters are cool, but they’re sending kids to the emergency room. Toy-related accidents increased almost 40 percent between 1990 and 2011, according to a new study in Clinical Pediatrics by researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and foot-powered scooters were the #1 cause of injuries such as lacerations and fractures.

My older daughter had a Razor scooter when they first became popular—even before organizations like Safe Kids Worldwide and the American Academy of Pediatrics had issued safety guidelines. I remember watching her and a friend come speeding down a hill in the park and thinking, “This is an accident waiting to happen.” Fortunately, she never got hurt.

In addition to wearing helmets, kids should be wearing knee pads and elbow pads, urges study senior author Gary Smith, M.D., Dr.P.H., a Parents advisor. However, our editors have noticed that fewer kids are wearing them these days—and the rise in stunt scooters may encourage more dangerous scootering. Any child younger than age 8 needs to be closely supervised when scootering. And parents, if you’re riding with your kids, set a good example and wear a helmet too.

Buy the safety gear you need here. 

It Worked For Me: Safety Solutions
It Worked For Me: Safety Solutions
It Worked For Me: Safety Solutions

Photo via Shutterstock

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Tags: | Categories: Big Kids, Fun, Health, News, Safety, Toddlers