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Monday, March 3rd, 2014
Editor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.
The daily choreography of dressing, feeding, teaching, and transporting our kids is daunting, and often leaves precious few moments for truly enjoying them. When you think about how much time we spend stressed out with our young kids, you can’t help wondering how many more meaningful moments we could capture from each long, hard day if we could only decompress some of those stressful minutes. Well, you can! Let’s start with one of the toughest challenges: bedtime.
Perhaps no period of the day is more stressful for parents than the minutes leading up to bedtime; they can be chaotic and tense. The kids are bouncing off the walls, hyperkinetic from a full day of action, impossible to calm down. You’re exhausted and need the kids in bed, asleep, to regain your mojo (or to go to bed yourself!). But they need one more glass of water or one more story. They suddenly remember the homework they forgot to do, the friend they forgot to text, or that their favorite team is on TV tonight (“please, mom, just one more minute!”). The night-light isn’t bright enough, the hallway is too noisy, the closet is scarier than usual. Kids are at their imaginative best when finding ways to delay or disrupt bedtime.
There is lots of advice out there addressing the best ways to calm and quiet the kids before tucking them in. As spring nears, with warmer weather and longer daylight on the way, one of my favorite techniques is a pre-bedtime pajama walk. Not only does it give kids gentle, tranquil moments when they can decompress from their hyper after-dinner activities, but it also gives parents special moments with their kids that otherwise might have been lost to TV, social media, and video games. Or, worse—these moments might have been wasted yelling and screaming at each other. The key to pajama walks is the pajamas. First, get the kids completely ready for bed: teeth brushed, faces washed, pajamas on. Then take their hands for a walk, or put them in their stroller, on their tricycle, or on their two-wheeler, and meander slowly around the neighborhood. No snacks en route (their teeth are already brushed!); don’t kick a soccer ball along the way or bring baseball mitts; postpone animated conversations until tomorrow. These are the mellow moments.
I’ve given a lot of thought to why pajama walks work so well—and they do work well! It’s because kids understand the concept of “going someplace.” They go to Grandma’s house, to the store, to preschool or school, to the park. But “bed” isn’t “someplace,” and kids don’t get the idea of going to bed, so they don’t — they dawdle and fuss and resist. The beauty of pajama walks is that kids are going someplace, so they (and you) can bypass the drama of bedtime inertia. It may take a couple of laps around the block, but by the time you return home with your kids, they will be in a fresh-air trance and ready for a bedtime story; they may even fall asleep on the way and just need your tender transfer into the house and under the covers.
And now it’s time to find your mojo again.
Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
Image: Father and son walking at night via Shutterstock
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bedtime, bedtime routines, family time, harley rotbart, harley rotbart series, no regrets parenting, pajama walks, parenthood, parenting, parenting style, sleep | Categories:
Big Kids, Child Development, The Parents Perspective, Toddlers
Thursday, November 21st, 2013
Bear with me if this post isn’t entirely coherent. I didn’t sleep much last night. Or the night before that.
We’re all parents, and you know what I’m talking about: that terrible parenting purgatory of broken, inadequate sleep. Oh, everyone warns you (a little too gleefully) when you’re pregnant: “Sleep now!” As if sleep is something you can squirrel away in a bank, and take out later. Imagine? “I’d like to make a withdrawal please. Three extra hours of sleep.” If only.
Other parents, depending on how cranky they are, are more ominous: “You’ll never sleep again!” That’s not quite true. Things settled into a predictable, normal sleep pattern more nights than not when my youngest was about three (sorry, parents of newborns!). But then we got all sleep-screwy again when we added another kid, our sweet third child, to the mix.
As an editor at Parents, I have access to a lot of sleep advice, and in fact edited this story, “How to Get Your (Second) Baby to Sleep,” by Cara Birnbaum, currently in our December issue. The tips in it helped us all get more sleep, until we recently got off track when the baby was sick and one parent was traveling, and 3 a.m. wake-ups resumed. It’s time to re-read it again. (Did I mention the “baby” is two?)
One of the most helpful insights I learned from the story was this one: Having your little one in the same room as a big sib won’t ruin all the hard work you did getting your big kid to sleep at night. Older kids spend a fairly large amount of the night in deep sleep, and it takes a lot to wake a sleeping child, even if she and the baby share a room. This was my biggest hurdle to putting an end to middle-of-the-night visits with my baby: I was afraid her crying would wake her nearby sister. I was surprised, though, how often my big girl snoozed through those wake-ups, once I put my mind to working through them. Another great tip: Get your big kid on your team, prepping her for a week of some crying while “we teach your baby brother to sleep,” and maybe planning a couple of “sleepovers” with whichever parent isn’t on baby duty.
Check out the whole story in our December issue or here. And for a refresher on getting a baby down, check out this video, “How to Establish a Bedtime Routine:”
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Monday, September 30th, 2013
My children, who are in kindergarten and third grade, were born at the very end of the summer, so their annual well visits always dovetail nicely with back-to-school checkups. But because I was late to book their appointments this year, and because Saturday-morning slots are hard to come by, we have to wait until mid-October to see the pediatrician. I definitely know two topics I want to bring up. Is my younger daughter’s constant “What?”s just a habit she’s gotten into, or is anything wrong with her hearing? (She seems to hear me fine when she’s in the way-back seat of our car and I’m whispering something to my husband that I’d rather my kids not hear…) And is my older daughter’s vision okay, even if she puts on my glasses and says she sees “much better”? (I only question it because she freely admits she prefers how she looks with glasses.)
I really wish I could’ve had these matters resolved before school started. In our September issue we ran a story called “Is Your Child Ready to Learn?” that thoroughly outlined all of the ways that a child’s health and ability to learn are entwined. The story was a part of a partnership we have with a wonderful organization, Children’s Health Fund, which is dedicated to providing top-quality healthcare to children who don’t have access to it. The experts at CHF gave us a list of the most crucial questions every parent should ask–and bring up with the pediatrician if there’s any concern.
1. How well can my child see? I was really surprised to learn that between 5 and 10 percent of preschoolers and 25 percent of school-age children have a vision problem, according to the American Optometric Association. But less than a third of children have their vision tested before they start school. By age 4, your child should be screened annually. Definitely mention it to your doctor if you notice that your child holds books really close to his face or sits super close to the TV or computer screen or squints even when the light isn’t bright.
2. Could she have a hearing problem? Children who’ve gotten frequent ear infections are especially vulnerable to temporary hearing loss, which can last three months or longer. As with vision screens, your child should be checked each year starting by age 4 at latest. If your child has any kind of speech delay, or if she seems to ignore you when you call her name, or turns the volume way up, or says her ears hurt or that she hears noises, these are all red flags worthy of your doctor’s attention.
3. Is he overly stressed? You may not think to bring up issues like anxiety with your pediatrician, especially in the course of a typical 15-minute checkup. But your doctor needs to know if there’s anything worrying you about your child’s mental health. Perhaps you’re not even sure if your child’s stressed. Some possible physical signs are frequent headaches, stomachaches, nail biting, hair-pulling, and bedwetting.
4. What does she eat? Not surprisingly, children who don’t get enough to eat are at high risk for poor school performance, since they’re just too distracted by their hunger to concentrate well. But children who are overweight or obese (which is a third of all kids in this country) are also at risk because if they don’t get proper nutrition, their brain simply won’t function the way it should. Even a child with no weight or hunger issues can be affected by poor nutrition if she doesn’t get enough fruits or veggies or if she refuses to eat entire food groups. If you suspect your child’s diet isn’t adequate, tell your doctor so you can work together on strategies to improve it.
5. How’s he sleeping? It’s no shock that there’s a direct link between how much sleep a child gets and how well he does in school. Research has proven that sleep-deprived kids have more behavior problems: They’re easily distracted, often argumentative, frequently overactive (a way to help them stay awake), and may be misdiagnosed with ADHD. Tell your pediatrician if your 5- to 11-year-old doesn’t get at least 10 hours of sleep each night, or if you notice any other red flags, including snoring, restless sleep with sweating, or mouth breathing.
6. Could she have asthma? This is the most common chronic disease in childhood and often develops before a child turns 5. One misconception about asthma is that it causes a child to wheeze. That’s not always true. For many kids, the only symptom is a chronic cough–either at night, or when the weather is cold, or as a result of exercise. Let your doctor know if you notice any of these signs, particularly if there’s a family history of asthma or if your child had eczema as a baby (which is often a sign that asthma will come later).
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asthma, Children's Health Fund, diet, hearing problems, learning, mental health, obesity, overweight, school, sleep | Categories:
Health, Must Read, The Parents Perspective