Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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Summer Water Safety

June 19, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

Two children swim in a pool.

The first day of summer is almost here. The weather is heating up and our kids love to be around water to play, cool off, or simply hang out. Children love to go to pools, rivers, and beaches. While these are great places for your family to swim, it’s important to take safety precautions to prevent water accidents.

  • Never leave your child unattended in or near water even if there is a lifeguard on duty. Assign an adult who knows how to swim to watch your child while you are occupied. Never leave a child responsible for another child in water.
  • Get certified in CPR and first aid by the American Red Cross. In a worst-case scenario, you may be able to save someone’s life. 
  • Be close to your child (at least an arm’s length) when in the water. Remember that beaches and rivers have currents and are unpredictable. You want to be close enough to be an immediate aid to your child if needed. 
  • Be extra careful and always use a life vest, floaties, or foam swimwear as an extra precaution. Do not rely only on the swim gear to protect your child in water. The best practice is to use U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
  • Establish clear rules before going near or in water, keeping everyone’s safety in mind. Stick by these rules and follow through with consequences if the rules are broken so your kids respect them. 
  • Swim classes are great to teach yourself and your child to swim as an additonal safety precaution. Search for affordable swim classes in your area, like at the local YMCA.

As a parent and caregiver, know that accidents can be prevented if you are careful when your children are near or in water.

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Traveling with an Infant: 6 Best Practices

May 6, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

A baby sleeps in the back seat of the car as her parent drives.

Traveling with an infant is a daunting task. My children are older and easier to travel with now, but they were a handful when they were younger. The more practice you have traveling with an infant, the easier it will become, as you will learn what works best for your family. For example, ground travel was always easier for us than air travel. Here are some tips to make traveling with your infant less stressful.

  • Make a List. We have so many things in our mind that it is impossible to remember everything. Make a list to facilitate the process of packing for your trip. Be sure to include EVERYTHING you use for your infant (for example, a hotel might not have sensitive soap or cream).
  • Access Bag. Whether you are flying or traveling in a car, you will need a bag to access frequently-used items like diapers, wipes, medicines, formula, snacks, extra clothes, a blanket, and toys to make the trip comfortable for your infant. Keep this bag accessible.
  • Think Clean. Always carry anti-bacterial solution, a changing pad, wipes, and a first-aid kit.
  • Air Travel. If you are flying, remember that breast milk, baby formula, and baby food are considered medical necessities and can exceed 3.4 ounces. Your baby will need to be screened by TSA, but you can consult with the Transportation Security Officer if you have concerns or questions. Before takeoff, have your baby suck on something (pacifier or bottle) to avoid pain from the change in air pressure.
  • Road Trip. Make frequent stops if you are traveling a long distance to allow time to take your baby out of his or her car seat to stretch. Use car shades on the windows to avoid sunburns and play familiar baby music to calm your baby in the car if needed.
  • Schedule. Attempt to stay on or close to your baby’s schedule. Keep him or her alert during the day and try to keep nap times on schedule to avoid confusion and over-tiring.

Remember to have fun and enjoy your time with your baby. Don’t over-stress. It gets easier to travel after you do it over and over.

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My Story: Choosing a Daycare

March 18, 2014

By Ana Vela

Ana's sonogram

My husband and I live 1200 miles away from our families, work full-time jobs, and are expecting our first child. I never imagined that I wouldn’t have family nearby to help us raise our child. Growing up, my mother raised my siblings and I herself. As a grandmother, she has helped raise my two nieces. Naturally, I had planned for her to help raise our child as well.

I thought this was only common where I grew up, but I was surprised to discover that the U.S. Census Bureau indicates 49 percent of children ages 0–4 with employed mothers were still cared for by a relative. Only 24 percent were in a center-based care facility. It is nice seeing how common it still is to have relatives help with childcare. Since that is not an option for us, we really didn’t know where to begin our search. Here’s what I learned from trying to figure this out.

Discuss what you’re looking for.
Before we started searching, my husband and I decided that we needed to be on the same page about what we want in childcare. We came up with a list of what we are looking for:

  • Budget-friendly childcare
  • English and Spanish language accommodations during care (it’s important for us to promote bilingualism with our child)
  • Convenience and flexibility (hours, location, emergency plan)
  • A welcoming, diverse, friendly, and safe environment

Start researching ASAP. 
I quickly discovered that some childcare facilities have waiting lists now for care that starts in July! Start your search six months prior to needing the care. Ask other parents for recommendations either in person or in online forums, read online reviews, and drive around to find nearby locations.

Look at available resources. 
I discovered that many states have nonprofit organizations that provide online lists of quality childcare resources and referrals in your area. Many of the lists include information such as accreditations, ratings, and years of service. If your employer offers any kind of benefits for childcare, talk to them for information. My husband’s company hosted a childcare fair where he met with several daycare centers to ask questions and get rates.

Understand care options. 
Through research, we discovered there were several options for childcare (listed in order from least to most expensive):

  • At-home daycare
  • Off-site daycare facilities
  • Au pair or nanny services (an au pair is a foreign visitor who lives with you and provides childcare)

Know your budget and stick to it. 
Some employers offer benefits such as flexible spending accounts for childcare, matching contributions, discounts, and priority placement on waitlists at certain daycares. This information helped my husband and I set a budget for childcare. We want to choose care that’s within our budget to ensure we are not stressed over finances and that we have a safety cushion for emergencies.

Visit the options. 
I learned that many sites allow one free day of care for your evaluation. Take advantage and schedule tours to ask questions. Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • Are you accredited by NAEYC?
  • Do you accommodate cloth diapers or only disposable?
  • How do I provide breast milk for my child?
  • What is the child-to-teacher ratio?

Choosing childcare is a big decision and we are very nervous about it. We still have several visits to make before we make a final decision, but as long as we stay true to our list of needs and wants, we are confident we will make the right choice.

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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.

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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.

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