Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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How can I keep my daughter healthy at school?

July 25, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I keep my daughter healthy at school? | A parent measures cough syrup for a young child, who lays in bed.

Question: My daughter will be starting preschool in the fall as I go back to work. I’m really worried that she’s going to get sick from all the germs that other kids carry around. How can I keep her healthy?

Answer: You have a right to worry about your daughter getting sick from other kids. Some contagious illnesses and conditions are more common in larger groups than in small groups. But with a few precautionary measures, you can help prevent some of the more serious conditions.

First, make sure you vaccinate your child in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) schedule. Children under six years old are the most vulnerable for potentially life-threatening diseases, but by ensuring your daughter has the recommended vaccines for her age, you can help prevent her from catching those diseases and spreading them to others.

Less serious conditions are more difficult to avoid. For example, lice or the common cold may spread throughout the preschool. For these situations, your best defense is a good offense.

  • Wash your and your daughter’s hands frequently, especially after touching doorknobs or light switches.
  • Teach your child not to put her hands in her mouth, nose, or eyes, especially while at preschool. This practice can prevent common viruses from getting into her body.
  • Give her tissues when she coughs or sneezes to avoid spreading germs.
  • Make sure the preschool has separate bedding for nap times to avoid contracting or spreading lice.
  • If your daughter isn’t feeling well, keep her home from school until she feels better and ask her doctor for advice on proper treatment.

As your daughter grows up and goes to school with more kids, she will be exposed to more germs and viruses. While it’s okay to be concerned, take the above actions to prevent contracting and spreading illnesses. Remember, she is building her immune system, which is important for her overall health.

For more information on preventing illnesses and keeping your child healthy, see the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher 3-book set.

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When can I start leaving my children home alone?

July 11, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

When can I start leaving my children home alone? | An emergency checklist

Question: My kids are six and eight years old. My eight-year-old tells me that her friends can stay home alone but I’m not sure when the right age is to leave my kids without a parent or babysitter. When can I start leaving my children home alone?

Answer: This is a difficult question to answer because there are many factors that come into play when deciding how old a child should be when he or she is left alone. Those factors include:

The Law
Each state has its own legal age at which a child can be left unsupervised by an adult. However, the legal language is sometimes confusing. For example, in Illinois, a minor under the age of 14 “should not be left unsupervised for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor.” The law may not define what is “unreasonable,” so it’s difficult to assess the age and/or time period a child can legally be left alone.

Check with your state’s Department of Children and Family Services to see what age they say children can be left alone and honor the law.

Maturity
Even if your children are at an age in your state when they can be legally left alone, if they are not mature enough to spend time alone, take care of themselves, or react appropriately in dangerous situations, you should not leave them alone.

Think about how your daughter handles responsibility. Does she complete her chores and homework without much prompting from you? Does she listen when you talk to her and follow instructions well? If she does and is at the legal age in your state to be left alone, she might be ready to stay home alone.

Safety
As mentioned above, the oldest child (or even a babysitter) needs to be able to react quickly and appropriately if danger arises. The child should know how to use a fire extinguisher, fire escape plans, how to treat minor injuries, how to call 911 in case of a serious emergency, and more.

If you are considering allowing your daughter to stay home alone, practice emergency drills so she is prepared if something happens.

If your daughter will be babysitting her younger sibling, it’s important that she knows how to care for that sibling. Teach her about any allergies or other concerns that might affect the sibling in your absence. And always remind them both not to take a bath without adult supervision, as children can drown in just an inch of water.

These are just some of the factors to consider before letting your child stay home alone. Be sure to look into your state laws and consider your child’s maturity and safety skills before leaving her alone.

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I’m a single mom. How can I help my son not feel left out on Father’s Day?

June 13, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

Happy Father's Day! Dad, you're awesome.

Question: My son’s father left when he was less than 12 months old and I’m a single mom. He’s 9 years old now and most of his friends celebrate Father’s Day with their dads. Is there anything I can do so that he doesn’t feel left out on Father’s Day?

Answer: Growing up without a father can sometimes be difficult for a child, especially if many of his or her friends live in a two-parent household. Your son is very lucky to have a mother who cares so much about him and doesn’t want him to feel left out.

While Father’s Day traditionally honors fathers, it’s a wonderful opportunity for your son to honor a male role model in his life. This year, ask your son to choose a male whom he respects and values. It can be a grandfather, uncle, family friend, or even a brother. Arrange for the two of them to spend time together. Whether they go out for ice cream, miniature golfing, or to a movie, giving your son the opportunity to spend time with a male role model will allow him to celebrate the holiday without feeling left out.

As you ask your son to choose this male role model, be sure to also ask him how he feels about his father not being in his life. It’s important to listen to him and understand his feelings. While you cannot change the past, you may be able to help your son understand that he is not at fault and is loved by many other people, including his mother.

For more information on parental engagement from birth through high school, see the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher 3-book set.

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My son is finishing kindergarten soon and will have the summer off. How can I avoid breaking his routine and sleep cycle this summer while he’s out of school?

June 6, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A young boy sucks his thumb as he sleeps.

Question: My son is finishing kindergarten soon and will have the summer off. We established a good routine for him throughout the school year that included set times for sleeping and eating. How can I avoid breaking his routine and sleep cycle this summer while he’s out of school?

Answer: It’s wonderful that you were able to establish a routine with your son that works both for him and your family. Children and adults respond well to consistency, and that routine likely helped him focus more while he was in school.

You can still keep a similar routine this summer, but you may need to make a few adjustments. Depending on how flexible your family can be, you might try some of these tips:

  • Allow a slightly later bed and wake-up time. If it works for your family, allow your son a little extra time and fun on summer nights, as long as you can allow him at least eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Keep the same meal times. Serve breakfast within the same amount of time from waking up as you did while your son was in school. Do the same for lunch, snacks, and dinner.
  • Schedule learning and activity times. Just as your son would spend time learning in school, schedule time for him to practice what he learned in workbooks or other fun but academic lessons. Let him play and be physical around the same time he would have recess at school.

Even though your son isn’t in school this summer, you can still create a routine that mimics his school schedule by incorporating set mealtimes, learning and activity times, and bedtimes. If you are not home with him to implement these routines, make sure the daycare or babysitter can follow them.

For more information on establishing routines for your child, see the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher 3-book set.

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I want to be involved with my children’s school but don’t speak much English. Is there anything I can do?

May 30, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A empty colorful classroom with green walls, yellow, blue, and red chairs.

Question: My twins are starting kindergarten in the fall at an English-language school. My English is not very good and I’m worried that I won’t be able to communicate with the teachers. Is there anything I can do?

Answer: You are already taking the first step by voicing your concern to us. It’s great that you aren’t letting a potential language barrier get in the way of being involved in your twins’ education.

When you register your children for school, ask the registration person whom you should contact at the school for communication services. Many schools have bilingual staff or funding available for hiring translators for parent-teacher conferences and other times when you need to speak with teachers or administrators. There are other things you can do to stay involved with your twins’ school life, too.

  • Volunteer to help with events at the school. You can help decorate classrooms or the cafeteria before an event, or chaperone a field trip.
  • Take an English language class. If your twins’ school offers English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, sign up and improve your English. You might be able to better communicate with their teachers.
  • Do what you can. If the school cannot provide a translator when you need to speak with your children’s teacher, draw a picture or use a sign to fill in the words you don’t know in English. The teacher will appreciate that you are involved and trying to communicate with him or her.

These tips will help you make the most of your situation, but be sure to ask the school if they have translation services available when you need to speak with your children’s teacher or administrators.

For more information on preparing for the first day of school and bilingual education, please see the Through Elementary and Middle School book in the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher 3-book set.

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