Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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5 Important Bath Safety Tips

January 16, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

Parents take care of a baby while bathing him.

January is Bath Safety Month, which is an important time to discuss the importance of water safety with caregivers of a young child. I remember working with a family 10 years ago who had a beautiful and healthy baby boy. One day, the mother was busy, as we all are. She had food on the stove for dinner, she still had to bathe her baby and her five-year-old, and continue her many tasks at home.

The mother thought it would be okay to multitask as she usually did. She left the water running in the tub without the stopper and left the baby and brother in the tub while she ran to check dinner in the kitchen, which was only a few steps away. In a matter of seconds, the older brother decided to play with the toilet paper in the tub. The paper began to clog the water and it began rising. Remember, only an inch of water is needed to drown a baby. When the mother returned, her baby was face down, his skin was blue, and was unresponsive. She called 911 and did the best she could to provide aid to her baby. He survived, but he now needs intensive therapy, has a g-tube for his nutrition, and needs lifelong medical care. I’m sorry to begin with such a sad story. Accidents like this one occur frequently, but can be prevented.

The Center for Disease Control reported that the highest drowning rates for children are between the ages of one to four. Drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional deaths in the United States. Nearly one in five people who drown is a child. As a parent and caregiver, remember to always supervise your child when he or she is around water. There are five tips I want to share to make bath time safer for your child.

  1. Never leave your child unattended in a bathtub and/or around water.
  2. Never rely on a child to supervise another child near water.
  3. Do not use bath seats or rings without supervision.
  4. Limit the amount of water in the bathtub. Do not use too much soap or shampoo, which can cause the child to be slippery and fall face-first into the water.
  5. Ask about CPR classes and get trained as a safety precaution.

Remember that drowning can be prevented. You can learn more about water safety through the Start Safe: Water program. We can never be too informed about how to keep our children safe.


A New Parent’s Guide to Taking Care of YOU

January 15, 2014

By Nely Bergsma

A new mom cares for her baby

It has been my personal experience that when we become mothers, we instinctively become selfless. We focus on our child wholeheartedly, attempting to make his or her world perfect in every aspect. We read every parenting book we can find, research nutrition that will maximize our child’s development, and are ready for every doctor’s visit. Our child’s health and development is and will remain a priority for decades to follow until the cycle of life runs its course. But what about you? Are you prioritizing your health and your continued development? Are you reading, researching your nutrition, and preparing for your doctor’s visits with the same focus and priority that you dedicate to your child? In my experience, probably not.

I have been a parent for twenty-three years now. I have watched my two children grow into amazing, independent beings. I have been witness to their successes and their struggles, their joys and their sadness. I know that I could not have supported their development as well as I have if I had not taken the time to focus on me. By taking care of my overall health (mental and physical), I was able to participate in their lives to the fullest as the best parent I could be.

  • Simple things such as personal grooming, exercise, and social activities helped fight the reality of a post-pregnancy body (which no one tells you about) and the many emotions that come with parenting.
  • During the first months it is suggested that you establish a routine for your baby. Why not establish a routine for you and your baby? When he or she naps, exercise, take a shower, dress for the day (no sweats, no pajamas), or eat a nutritional snack. You would be surprised how far this goes towards your post-pregnancy survival and establishing a strong, consistent parenting style.
  • As you look toward reaching milestones with your child, establish milestones for yourself to reach along the way as well. Take time to reflect on what you want for yourself now that you are a parent. How will you manage your life while being responsible for the development of another?

Once you discover those things that will bring balance to your mental and physical health, you will instinctively be the best parent you can be. Whether you are staying home on leave or will remain home, establishing this routine for both of you from the start will shape you and your child’s relationship for the years to come.

Nely Bergsma is the co-founder and executive director of the Penedo Charitable Organization (PCO). Nely co-founded PCO, along with her sister and our program author Sunny P. Chico, to support at-risk girls in the same Chicago neighborhood where she and her sisters grew up. PCO works with teachers, psychologists, and social workers to mentor at-risk girls from sixth grade through high school, providing full scholarships to those who complete the program. Founded in 2009, PCO now serves 40 girls, adding 10 new participants to the PCO family each year.


4 Ways to Make Reading to Your Baby Fun

January 9, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Video by Libby VanWhy

The more experience your child has with books, the easier it will be to teach him or her to read. It may seem silly to read to an infant or a younger child who does not yet speak. He or she can’t understand what you’re saying, right?

The truth is, we don’t really know how much a baby can understand before he or she starts to speak. But we do know that by reading to your very young child, you are helping his or her brain develop. As if that was not enough, it’s also an opportunity to bond with your child, and can even be fun for you!

To show you how fun reading to a young child can be, the YOU Parent team filmed this video, demonstrating a few tips.

  • Exaggerate your voice.
  • Use different voices for different characters.
  • When reading about animals, make their sounds to help your child identify the sound to the animal.
  • Point out words on the page and sound them out.

Next week is Book Week, so what better time to practice these techniques when reading with your child? Be silly and dramatic—you’ll both be smiling from ear to ear!


The Gift of Reading

December 30, 2013

by Dr. Bruce Marchiafava

A father reads to his children

Of all the subjects that we learn during our education—from kindergarten through graduate school—the single most important is reading. Because reading is the key that opens the door to the accumulated knowledge of our civilization, whatever line of work we pursue, we’re likely to depend upon reading to some degree. College professors read constantly, while electricians need to read technical manuals. We read in our daily lives, from shopping to insurance policies to road signs.

Learning to read is a complex process. For several decades, reading experts have argued over the various techniques to teach reading; phonics or whole language or some combination of both, or even some other method. Parents don’t need to understand these techniques or take sides on which is best. Your role is more basic, and more important: to introduce your child to reading by reading to him or her.

When to start reading? Shortly after our first child was born, a friend of ours—a teacher and principal—gave us a gift for the baby. It was a little plastic “book” of eight pages, mostly pictures but some words. I asked him when we should start reading to our son and he said, “Now. Six months is not too soon!” We followed his advice with both children, reading to them right up to first grade. By then, they were able to read some stories to us.

As your child’s first teacher, you will be teaching him or her many lessons. Reading should be at the top of this list. Here’s a little lesson plan for doing this:

  • When and Where. Set aside a regular time. Just before bed is good; this is a great preparation for going to sleep. Whatever time you select, make certain it’s a quiet time: no TV, no music, no talking by other family members. Try for at least three times a week.
  • What. Stories that will interest and entertain your child. At the beginning, the stories should have lots of pictures and simple stories, with basic words. Later, you can introduce longer stories, with more action in them. The vocabulary should grow and the pictures become more elaborate.
  • How. As you read a story, you can point to figures in pictures (“duck,” “cow”) while saying the word. Then point to the word and the picture, to link them. You could show how two words that sound alike (“duck,” “truck”) mean different things. When you finish the story, ask your child questions about it. What did you like? What did the pig do? What does the fox say?
  • Who. You can begin with infants; although they will not understand (and have a very limited vocabulary), they can listen to your voice and can look at the pictures. Each month, they will understand more and acquire more words. Gradually, they will recognize some written words, identifying the sounds and explaining the meaning. By kindergarten, your children are likely to be reading on a very basic level, or at least have acquired pre-reading skills.

Teaching reading by reading to your child is enjoyable and very effective. It is also one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. Books contain the knowledge, dreams, ideas, imagination and fantasies of our world. They open the doors to science, to mathematics, to history, poetry, literature, and to careers in the adult world.

Not bad for a few minutes each night with your child.


Early Childhood Food Aversions

December 4, 2013

By Noralba Martinez

Early Childhood Food Aversions

The holidays are coming and food is always part of them. We all have different food preferences and so do children. I have worked with many children who do not enjoy eating as much as other children their age. Some children, however, have medical issues that arise because of their eating.

I remember working with an 18-month-old who would refuse to eat any food with texture. He preferred yogurt, milk shakes, broth, and bananas. His mother thought it was only a picky eater phase and that he would be over it fast. He would gag, vomit, or simply refuse to open his mouth if the food his mother offered had any bumps or clumps. His special diet caused a lot of stress on his mother. It was a long struggle for this family. Together, with an occupational therapist, the family slowly introduced gradual textures and helped this boy tolerate new foods. After several months of therapy, he now can eat a variety of foods without a battle.

Significant food aversions can directly affect each child's family and can typically make eating together a stressful event. It’s important to understand what a food aversion is. According to, a food aversion is categorized as sensory difficulty and is a common feeding disorder found in early childhood. There is a combination of inability to tolerate oral stimulation, anxiety, and defiance when experiencing a food aversion.

Your child’s relationship with food begins when you first introduce solid foods. Talk to your pediatrician about when to begin introducing your child to cereals and baby food.  You need a lot of patience and time to begin feeding your baby with a spoon. Remember until now, your child’s mouth muscles are used to nursing. With practice, your baby will graduate slowly to table foods. If not, then you could be facing some stressful times. This problem could be related to food aversions.

What are the signs of food aversion? Around 6-10 months of age, when you begin to introduce your child to a variety of baby foods, he or she may begin to show dislike for certain textures, colors, temperatures, and smells of foods. Since your baby is too young to tell you that he or she does not like the food, your baby will tell you in some other way, such as:

  • Spitting
  • Gagging
  • Vomiting
  • Refusing to eat

What should you know about addressing food aversions? There are different approaches to helping a child overcome this issue. Remember that your child cannot control this and needs your help.

  • Never force your child to eat.
  • Be patient.
  • Work closely with your pediatrician to seek the appropriate help for your child.
  • Be consistent with the sensory diet and strategies that you try.     

With patience, consistency, and the right support, you and your child can overcome food aversions and children can grow up with a healthy relationship to food.

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