Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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Socializing Your Baby

April 4, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Socializing Your Baby | Just as you are your child’s first teacher, you are your child’s first friend. Taking his or her social cues from you, your child will slowly learn which faces and noises elicit reactions and how to mimic your facial expressions. | A dad smiles with his daughter.

Just as you are your child’s first teacher, you are your child’s first friend. Taking his or her social cues from you, your child will slowly learn which faces and noises elicit reactions and how to mimic your facial expressions. Eventually, he or she will start interacting more frequently by babbling, smiling, and crying around you to communicate. Those early communication skills are your child’s first steps toward socialization.

Since so many of your baby’s social skills are the result of interacting with you, it’s important to communicate often with him or her. In the first month, you can encourage these skills by making exaggerated facial expressions—raising your eyebrows, opening your eyes and mouth wide, sticking out your tongue—while speaking to your baby.

As he or she grows, keep talking to your baby as much as you can. Talk through your chores, as you change diapers and dress your baby, even as you prepare meals. These verbal cues slowly help your baby learn to talk and build the bond between you.

This Baby Center article details the monthly social developmental milestones for babies, which can help you know what to look for as your baby grows.

Every baby is different, and every parent has different expectations and needs for their child. The socialization skills and activities outlined above are easy to do at home, but what if you want to get out and expose you and your baby to other youngsters and parents?

There are plenty of options, from play dates with friends and their babies to classes at socialization centers like Gymboree. This mom, Brittany, wrote about her experience taking her eight month-old to a class, saying it helped her daughter interact with other youngsters and improve her motor skills. As your baby gets older, he or she will start taking an interest in other babies and you can begin nurturing those social skills, too.

While your baby is young, enjoy the bonding time as you teach him or her to socialize through interactions with parents, grandparents, siblings, and close friends. The parental bond will be the strongest social bond in the first year, so enjoy it!

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Easy Ways to Clean Your Child's Toys

February 7, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Easy Ways to Clean Your Child's Toys | A young girl plays with soft, plastic blocks on the floor.

If you're a parent and you're online, you've seen the news about Sophie the Giraffe. Yes, Sophie can develop mold on the inside if your teething child drools into the air hole, or if you ignore the manufacturer's cleaning tips and immerse it in water (even if that water is soapy or part bleach).

This news has sparked a bit of panic in parents—and rightfully so—as many people are allergic to mold and we want our kids to be healthy.

So how can you best keep those toys clean and prevent green fuzzy spores from forming on and inside them? These tips will get you started.

Good, Old Fashioned Cleaning Solutions
Use a clean sponge or cloth soaked in hot water and soap to wipe down the surfaces of your child's toys and play areas.

If they need a stronger scrubbing, make a paste out of baking soda and water to scrub, and add vinegar for extra power.

You can even create a mild bleach solution. To be safe, confirm the proper ratio of bleach to water with your pediatrician. I have read that one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water should be fine, as long as you allow the solution to dry before giving the toy back to your child.

Let The Machines Do The Work
Plastic or rubber toys that don't have an air hole can usually go in the dishwasher on the top rack. If the toys are smaller, put them in a mesh bag first and tie it up tight so they won't get loose.

The mesh bag method also works in the washing machine, especially with Legos and other smaller toys. Instead of wiping each block down by hand, you can clean them at once one load.

Follow The Instructions
When in doubt, look at the manufacturer's cleaning tips on the box or online to see what they recommend. Some fabric toys can be tossed in the washing machine, but some should be spot-treated. Wood toys should be wiped down but not put in the dishwasher, as the heat may dry out or splinter the wood.

In the case of Sophie the Giraffe, the manufacturer recommends wiping her off, but not soaking her in water. Since Sophie has an air hole, water can get trapped inside and turn to mold. Keep that in mind when washing any toy and make sure you drain and dry it properly.

Do you have any toys that you've found tough to clean? Tell us in the comments below or email us at info@youparent.com and we'll help you find a safe way to clean them.

Tags :  healthbabyinfanttoddlersafety
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Life Skills for Every Age

January 3, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Life Skills for Every Age | Try teaching your child these life skills for his or her current—and future—age.

We spend at least 12 years in school expanding our academic minds and wading through social, emotional, and physical waters, but in all that time, we never take a class on life skills. Perhaps that is because those skills are better taught through experiences than in a classroom setting, and also because those skills can be learned before school begins and after it ends. Try teaching your child the life skills below for his or her current—and future—age.

Early Childhood
Infants
Babies start learning life skills from the moment they are born. Swaddling and holding your baby establishes comfort and trust between the two of you. Speaking and reading to your baby will help him or her learn to talk and read sooner than if you didn't practice these skills.

Toddlers
There are many things that toddlers can start doing to care for themselves, but you will probably need to help them start or finish these tasks. For instance, you can teach your toddler to put a shirt or pants on. He or she might need help with the armholes or taking the shirt off, but practice makes perfect.

Another big step for toddlers is learning how to hold a cup and eventually learning how to drink from a cup without a lid and without spilling. Use this learning opportunity with caution—start with a sippy cup with a lid and use clear liquids, staying away from more expensive furniture or rugs until your child has mastered this skill.

Elementary
Kindergarten through 3rd grade
Once your child starts kindergarten and elementary school, social life skills will become more important. Model positive behavior by resolving disputes with your parenting partner or your child in a calm manner. If your child witnesses you arguing with someone else, talk to him or her about it afterwards, explaining in simple terms what the argument was about, how each person felt, and how you resolved it. Ask your child what he or she does at school when there is a disagreement to apply this concept to his or her life.

4th through 6th grade
At this stage in a child's life, academics become more rigorous so it's a great time to establish and/or cement strong study habits, as they will be even more important in middle and high school and on through college, especially as your child's social life expands. Boost your child's excitement about studying by creating a special study area for him or her.

Middle School
Even though you've been teaching your child about hygiene as he or she has grown up—including brushing teeth, washing hands, showering, etc.—puberty has its own hygiene rules.

Talk to your child about the importance of regular showers and where to clean (those armpits will be getting stinky now!), whether or not to start shaving, changing grooming habits, etc. Helping your child learn how to care for an adult body will save him or her from some of the embarrassment that comes with puberty.

High School
Exercise is an important part of a child's life, which is usually done through gym class, sports, and playing with friends. But as kids get older, they become less active, especially if they are not in sports. Since high school sports are more competitive, it's harder for less athletic teens to get the exercise they need.

Make an effort to incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise a day into your teen's life. It can be as easy as an after-dinner walk every evening or finding an activity that he or she enjoys, like skateboarding, snowboarding, or golf. Getting in the habit of daily exercise now will help your teen stay healthy in college and beyond.

What life skills have you taught your children? Share your ideas and stories in the comments below.

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Parent Engagement in the Early Years

November 15, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Parent Engagement in the Early Years | Several examples of how you can practice parent engagement throughout the early years—from day one through kindergarten. | A father reads with his young children.

When raising a child, it’s hard to know when parent engagement begins. With a baby, you’re doing your best to meet the baby’s needs and fit in sleep when you can. Once the baby becomes a toddler, you’re working on small things, like motor skills and reading. But when should you start actively being an engaged parent?

The answer is at the very beginning, but the shape of parent engagement changes as your child grows. Here are several examples of how you can practice parent engagement throughout the early years—from day one through kindergarten.

Infancy and Stress
Raising a healthy and secure child starts in infancy as you hold, soothe, and interact with your baby. That nurturing helps the child develop a healthy sense of self that will allow him or her to better cope with stress when he or she gets older.

In addition to that nurturing, you can further help your baby by keeping your stress away from him or her. When you are stressed, your body produces toxins that affect your major systems. Babies and children can sense your stress as well, so keep the stress away by taking deep breaths, practicing yoga and/or meditation, and seeking therapy if necessary.

Toddlers and Vocabulary
Help your child develop his or her vocabulary by experiencing new things together.

For example, if you live in the city, take a day trip to the country. Your child will see new things and ask about them. If you see a silo on a farm, explain that it is used to store grain. Once your child seems to understand, point to the silo and ask what it is. Help your toddler continue to learn these vocabulary words by taking pictures and looking through them at home, asking him or her to name the things seen during the trip.

Early Childhood and Preschool
When your child is around three years old, you might consider sending him or her to preschool to start the formal learning process and prepare your child for kindergarten. Attending preschool can provide your child with many benefits, such as:

  • Learning concepts and skills, like colors, shapes, numbers, and letters.
  • Learning to play, share, and cooperate with others.
  • Learning to talk and listen to others, along with new words and proper grammar.

Starting Kindergarten
When entering kindergarten, it’s important that your child starts making his or her own choices. You can encourage making smart choices by giving your child healthy options. For example, ask your child if he or she wants yogurt or an apple as a snack. Does he or she want to play t-ball or basketball today? These options allow your child to eat healthy and exercise regardless of the choice, while it also empowers your child to have control over something in his or her life.

It’s not difficult to practice parent engagement. It’s as easy as nurturing your child, encouraging him or her to learn new things and meet new people, and slowly helping him or her learn to be independent.

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How can I stop my mother-in-law from telling me how to parent?

October 18, 2016

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I stop my mother-in-law from telling me how to parent? | A new dad sits in bed with his wife while his mother argues with them while holding the baby.

Question: I just had my first baby and my mother-in-law is driving me crazy! She’s telling me how to do everything, even breastfeed! She has an opinion about formula, diapers, swaddling, how to hold the baby—the list goes on and on. I’m about to lose my mind—how can I stop her from telling me how to be a parent?

Answer: We’ve all been there. As soon as the pregnancy or adoption announcement goes out, the unsolicited parenting advice rolls in. It seems unstoppable. You start by politely smiling and nodding, agreeing even when you don’t. But once the baby comes, there is neither time nor patience for being polite. And of course, the advice that hits the biggest nerve is from your mother-in-law.

This is one of the most common questions we receive from friends and YOU Program workshop attendees and the answer isn’t simple. It depends on your and your parenting partner’s relationship with your in-law. It depends on the advice they’re offering. It depends on a lot of factors.

There are two key starting points:

  1. Take a breath and remember that it comes from a good place.
    Your mother-in-law loves her grandchild and wants to pass along advice that helped her raise your partner. But she might not understand that parenting trends come and go, safety expectations change, and most people only want advice when they ask for it.
  2. Assess the advice.
    If it’s a clear safety violation to follow her advice, then stop her right away and explain the current safety rules or laws. For example, if Grandma says it’s okay for a two-year-old to ride in the front seat of the car, you need to stop her immediately and explain why that’s unsafe and where your two-year-old should be sitting instead (in a strapped in car seat in the back seat).

From there, here are some ways to deal with common issues.

Giving Birth
If your parenting partner and you would like privacy during the birth or right afterward, communicate that to close family and friends as soon as you have decided. Be proactive about announcing this decision so everyone knows your expectations. Let them know you’d like some privacy as a family before they come to visit the baby.

First Visits at Home
If parents or parents-in-law want to stay with you after the birth of your child and you’re comfortable with it, be proactive about asking for help.

Think of things you need help with that won’t interfere with what you need to do with your new baby: laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. By giving them something to do, they can be helpful while you take care of the baby’s immediate needs.

If your in-law seems to take too much of a hands-on role with your baby, you or your parenting partner need to quickly explain that you are now in the parent role and your in-law is now in the grandparent role. Explain the differences, like the new parents needing to establish a routine for the baby with them, and the exception to the routine is with the grandparents. The grandparents need to respect your rules for your baby, not the other way around.

Parenting Advice
If your mother-in-law is persistently offering opinions that you disagree with, you and your parenting partner should discuss them privately to ensure you’re on the same page. Then, figure out who should talk to Grandma.

Some people are more comfortable with the child directly addressing the issue with their parent. For example, if Dad’s mother is critical of the way Mom is feeding the baby, Dad can gently tell his mother that her criticism is hurtful to both him and you and that you are following your doctor’s advice.

If Dad’s mother is with Mom alone a lot, it might be better for Mom to address the opinions directly. Again, be gentle but firm. “I really appreciate your advice and you did a great job with Dad, but this is something I want to figure out for myself. If I’m having trouble, I’ll be sure to ask you for help and advice.”

Remember those starting points and that your mother-in-law means well. At the same time, it’s a good opportunity for you to start setting boundaries for your new family. Hopefully, everyone in the family will soon settle into a routine with your baby and you can get the help you need but not the advice you don’t.

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