Saturday, August 28, 2010

Car seat safety - Rear Facing is Safer!

I have ten car seats... it's insane.  When my fourth child was born, the oldest was only five years old - so everyone needed a car seat.  And of course, my husband needed to have car seats for his car so that we wouldn't be moving them around all the time.  Then as the kids grew, we had to move to booster seats for the older ones.  Thus... ten car seats..

"When can I turn the car seat around?"  It's one of the most common questions I get from parents.  If your child is a big baby, then you may be anxious to turn him around to give him more space.  Several times, parents have told me that their child seems to "squished" in the car seat facing backwards, and that their child's legs seem cramped.  If your toddler is a picky eater and seems to be stuck at the 18-pound mark forever (like my daughter was), then you wonder if you child will be three years old before you can turn her around!

Many parents (including me) look forward to the day that they can finally turn their child around to be forward-facing in the car seat.  It's a milestone of sorts.  Your child can turn around like a "big boy" or "big girl."  Finally, you can see what your baby is doing (although you shouldn't be doing this while you are driving!). 

Studies have shown that rear-facing is much safer for young children.  They are disproportionately top-heavy, with their heads being big relative to their necks and bodies.  Therefore in a front-on impact, the rapid forward and back motion that a child's neck and head sustain can result in severe injury and even death.  In some European countries, it is even recommended that children stay rear-facing until 4 years of age!  I imagine that they much have a different type of car seat than what we have in the U.S. that allows larger kids to be comfortable.

It is recommended that you keep your child rear-facing as long as possible, up to age two years if you can.  Many states have laws that require rear-facing positions for children under 20 pounds and/or under one year of age.  This is good, but please realize that even longer is better.

Take a look at this video that shows the dramatic difference between forward and rear-facing car seats.

In addition to staying rear-facing as long as possible, studies have shown that five-point harnesses are safer.  Once you move your child from an infant seat to a toddler/convertible seat, look for those that have five-point harnesses.  There are also booster seats that have these as well. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to School Guide (Part 2 of 2)

The end of summer and the end of sleeping in late… well, at least for most kids.  My kids have no idea how to sleep in.  My oldest is always awake by 6:30 a.m.   Only now, since he has learned how to make his own breakfast, can I sleep a few minutes longer before the other 3 kids roll into my room and jump into my bed.  But enough about my kids, what about yours?

If your child has taken advantage of the summer schedule and has been sleeping in, it is important to begin the shift back to school hours several days before the first day of school (a week before if you can).  It’s very much like being jet-lagged.  It takes about two days at the new time zone before you can really feel functional and normal again.  Imagine how hard it will be for your child to focus and be successful at school if he is jet-lagged those first few days!
High school students are biologically wired to sleep until noon and go to bed after midnight.  In the summer, many fall naturally into this sleeping pattern.  Also, studies have shown that teenagers need at least 9 hours of sleep every night.  This is generally impossible during the school year with the amount of homework and the number of activities kids today have.  

So, it’s not all bad to let your child sleep in during the summer.  However, when school begins, it will be a terrible jolt to your teenager’s system if you don’t have her transition her sleep patterns at least several days before the first day of school.

For your elementary school child, do the same, and be sure to prepare him for the new routine.  Teach your child her bus number (if she’s riding the bus).  Have her learn her new teacher’s name.  Talk about the activities and enjoyable things that he can expect with the promotion to the next grade level.    

In your mind, plan the schedule.  It’s good to have some “down” time right after school that is not academically-oriented.  Try to encourage exercise or physical activity during this time.  In most schools, there is only limited physical exercise (recess or P.E.) and then the rest of the day, they are sitting in a classroom.  Giving your child some time to run and play after school will actually help him to focus on homework.  

For more helpful hints about getting ready to go back to school, take a look at offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Back to School Guide (Part 1 of 2)

It’s hard to believe that the summer is coming to an end.  And (yay!), school is about to start again.  While I love the freedom of summer, going to the pool, and vacations, there is something reassuring about the regular schedule that the school year brings.  Even better, the kids are busy everyday and they can stop climbing the furniture (literally) in my house.

The other day we were shopping for back-to-school supplies and the happy looks on my children’s faces as they clutched new backpacks and lunchboxes was enough to warm any mommy’s heart.   I remember that I LOVED getting new school supplies.   Of course, I was pretty geeky.  One of my favorite new school supplies was my first compass – the shiny new math tool was the coolest thing I’d seen thus far (told you, I was a geek)!  But even if you didn’t love school, I’ll bet that you also enjoyed getting brand new notebooks, book covers, and pens/pencils.   (Remember the Trapper Keeper?)

While getting new supplies is fun, the actual transition from summer freedom to school lockdown may not be as enjoyable for your child.  Here are some helpful hints to make the change a little smoother:

Preschool (ages 2 to 4 yrs)
If this is your child’s first time in preschool, then you may have just as hard a time with this transition as your child will.  Don’t worry – most kids make the adjustment without difficulty.   Even if your child attended last year, the summer is a long time to be off.   A week seems like an eternity at this age.  It’s a good idea to prep your young child at least a few days before school starts up again.   

Talk it up:  As with any change (weaning off the bottle, sleeping in a big-girl bed, and so on), it may take your child a few days to fully adjust.  Talking about school ahead of time helps to set expectations.  “You are a big girl and soon you will be going to big girl school!  They will have all kinds of great games and lots of new friends!” 

Visit the school:  It helps if the classroom isn’t completely new to your child.  It’s like being taken to a foreign country and then dropped there without any further instructions as to what to do.  The transition will be easier if you read books about going to school, visit the classroom, meet the teacher, and perhaps see some kids in action having fun at the school.  Most preschools will allow an introductory visit for the child.

Make the drop off short and sweet:  Children can sense your emotional levels.  So, by prolonging the drop off, they can sense that something is not quite right.  Your own anxiety and concerns about the drop-off may be detected by your child and he will act accordingly.  The preschool teachers have done this many times, and they know how to make your child happy after you leave.  Just give a quick hug and kiss, reassure him that you’ll be back soon and that his teacher will help him if he needs help.  If your child is more anxious or shy by nature, it may help to give him a little token to give him some sense of security.  A small photo of you, a small piece of a favorite blanket or a similar comfort item can be kept in his pocket.  Drop him off quickly, and then call back in an hour to see how he’s doing so that you can relax.  Chances are he’s having fun with playing with all the fun things at school and meeting new friends.

Do you have a school-aged child or older?  Stay tuned for Back to School Guide (Part 2 of 2).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Welcome to my blog!

As I sit here in front of my computer at nearly midnight before we leave for vacation, I wonder to myself how all the supermoms do what they do.  I'm a working mom, and like many others, I sometimes feel like I'm overstretched.  I want my kids to have exposure to all the great things that life as a kid offers - lots of playtime, activities, and fun.  But I have only so much time to spend with them doing this.  So, I sign them up for tons of activities -  which they love (for the most part).  And then I spend much time in front of a calendar trying to figure out how to get my oldest to Tae Kwon Do while the third one has ballet class starting five minutes later across town!  At the same time, I'm checking backpacks and getting lunchboxes ready for the next day and shoving dinner into my mouth since I haven't eaten yet.

I think that supermoms have a source of energy deep within them that drives them.  These are people on a mission, and a commitment to not wasting a moment of this precious time that we have with our kids.  In many parenting books, you can find references to the "helicopter parent" or the "overscheduled child."  I'm concerned that this gives supermoms (and superdads) a bad name and perhaps a guilt complex.  

As long as your child seems happy and doesn't show signs of being stressed (such as chronic stomachaches, fatigue or excessive crankiness, aggressive or withdrawn behaviors), then there's no need to be too concerned that you are overscheduling your child.  In today's world and in many areas, it is no longer possible for children just to play in their backyards unsupervised anymore.  Our generation spent many hours unsupervised as children, exploring on our own, inventing and devising new schemes, and just generally doing things that would horrify us today if our own kids were doing the same!

It's a different world, and it requires a different style of parenting.