Texas Parenting News
Proposed ban of baby walkers
Baby walkers are dangerous—they send thousands of children to the hospital every year.
The wheels on the bottom of the walker enable a child to move more than 3 feet in a second and scamper out of a parent’s reach. If close to stairs, a child can roll down the steps, which can result in broken bones and skull fractures. This is how most walker injuries occur.
A walker also enables a child to reach higher. That means a child can grab a pot handle on a hot stove or snatch a bottle of pills from a counter. A child in a walker could also fall into a bathtub or pool and drown.
Baby walkers have been banned in Canada. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a ban on their manufacture and sale in the United States.
Instead, try offering a toy to a child in a stationary activity center (looks like a walker but doesn’t have wheels), playpens, and highchairs.
For more information on the proposed ban, visit www.aappublications.org/news/2018/09/17/babywalkers091718.
Exercise during pregnancy: Benefits for body and baby
If you’re healthy and your pregnancy is normal—yes, you and the baby can benefit from exercise.
Get your doctor’s OK first.
Don’t do any activity in which you can fall or get hit in the stomach, like soccer, basketball, horseback riding, and mountain biking.
According to John J. Ratey, M. D., in the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (2008), exercise during pregnancy can benefit both mother and baby:
Exercise reduces nausea, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, and fat accumulation. Exercise cuts in half the risk of developing abnormal glucose levels, which can lead to gestational diabetes—a condition that results in overweight babies and prolonged labor. High glucose is also a risk factor for obesity and type 2 diabetes in both the mother and the baby, and these physical conditions are bad for the brain. Fortunately, exercise helps regardless of how active a woman was before pregnancy. One study showed that briskly walking five hours a week reduces the risk of gestational diabetes by 75 percent.
Studies also indicate that “infants of exercising mothers are more neurologically developed than their counterparts from sedentary mothers.” One researcher “theorizes that physical activity jostles the baby in the womb, providing stimulation not unlike the effects of touching and holding newborns, which clearly improves brain development.”
Physical activity also lowers stress and anxiety, which can negatively affect the baby.
If you’re not used to regular exercise, start slowly and gradually increase it. Find a friend to exercise with you. Doing exercise together with one or more friends will make it more fun and help you stick to it.
If exercise is already part of your weekly routine, continue it as you usually would, after a discussion with your doctor or health care provider.
The goal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. Aerobic activity, also known as cardio, is moving your arms and legs in a rhythmic way, like walking, which strengthens the heart and lungs. Moderate intensity means that you are moving enough to start sweating and that you can still talk (but not sing).
Divide up the 150 minutes into 30-minute sessions 5 days a week, or three 10-minute sessions every day. In addition to walking, you might try swimming, riding a stationary bike, or doing prenatal yoga. Also get in the habit of taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and park at the back of the lot.
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise, and avoid becoming overheated.
And pick up the routine as soon as possible after baby is born, ideally within a few weeks.
For more information, go to the website of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Exercise-During-Pregnancy.
College: Start now to plan a better future for your child
Before you say college costs too much for you to even think about sending your children to college, consider this: The more education your children have, the better off they’ll be in the long run.
According to a 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center, college grads born between 1982 and 1989 earned about $17,500 more a year than those with only a high school diploma. The college graduates also had more positive attitudes toward their jobs.
In addition, 9 in 10 with at least a bachelor’s degree say that despite the high cost, college has already paid off or they believe it will in the future.
Sticker price versus net price
The high cost of college can be scary. Besides tuition and fees to get in the door, the cost will include books and supplies (computer, phone), room and board, health insurance, clothes, and transportation (bicycle, bus fare, or car and gas).
The good news is that you have many options for lowering the cost.
Public colleges. Public or state-supported colleges cost less than private colleges.
In-state colleges. Public colleges reduce tuition and fees for students who live in the state, compared to those who live out-of-state and in other countries.
Community colleges. Two-year colleges cost less than four-year schools. They typically offer basic courses that can transfer to a four-year school.
Commuting. Depending on where you live, a student can live at home and drive or carpool to class, instead of living in a campus dorm or apartment.
Military benefits. The Post 9/11 GI Bill pays up to four years of college for children of veterans who have served at least 36 months since 9/11.
Scholarships. A student’s good grades combined with leadership and community activities can pay part or all of higher education. Scholarships may be offered by colleges, companies, nonprofit groups, religious groups, and other organizations.
Free ride for disadvantaged. Many colleges, including prestigious Ivy League schools, offer full scholarships to low-income and minority students.
Grants. Colleges, states, and the federal government offer grants that don’t need to be repaid. They are based on financial need.
Work-study. Colleges may offer programs that pay a student to work on or near campus while enrolled in classes.
Work part-time. A student may work, such as waiting tables and tutoring, which can help pay the cost of college.
Important to know: Don’t be discouraged by a college’s published price. You may be able to combine one or more options above and then negotiate with a college for a lower price. The college will look at each student’s situation and consider financial need, academic performance, and athletic talent before naming an actual price.
Even though your children are just preschoolers, you can start saving money for college now. One important way is a 529 savings plan. Named for Internal Revenue Code Section 529, these plans allow parents to prepay tuition and lock in today’s rates, or they allow families to invest in a professionally managed portfolio.
Texas, for example, offers three tax-advantaged 529 plans: the Texas College Savings Plan® (TCSP) and the LoneStar 529 Plan® (LS529), both college savings plans, and the Texas Tuition Promise Fund® (TTPF), a prepaid tuition plan.
The first two, the TCSP and LS529 college savings plans, allow families to work toward building college savings by investing in one or more professionally managed portfolios, either by enrolling in TCSP directly or in LS529 through a financial advisor.
The third, the TTPF plan, is designed to help families and individuals prepay and lock in today’s rates for all or some future undergraduate tuition and schoolwide required fees at any two- or four-year Texas public college or university.
All three plans are administered by the Texas Prepaid Higher Education Tuition Board through the Comptroller’s office. The TCSP and LS529 plans are open for enrollment year-round. Open enrollment for the TTPF plan begins Sept. 1. Texas residency requirements apply.
Before investing in the direct-sold Texas College Savings Plan® or the advisor-sold LoneStar 529 Plan®, investors should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, administrative fees, service and other charges and expenses associated with municipal fund securities. No part of an account, the principal invested, nor any investment return is insured or guaranteed.
Texas Tuition Promise Fund® purchasers should carefully consider the risks, administrative fees, service and other charges and expenses associated with the contracts, including plan termination and decreased transfer or refund value. Neither a contract nor any return paid with a refund is insured or guaranteed.
Investors or purchasers should read the plan description and agreement carefully before investing or purchasing a contract.
For more information, see the following:
College Board, 9 things you need to know about net price, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/paying-your-share/9-things-you-need-to-know-about-net-price
College Savings Plans Network State listing of 529 plans, at www.collegesavings.org/
Kiplinger, 3 benefits for military families, www.kiplinger.com/article/saving/T065-C001-S001-3-valuable-benefits-for-military-families.html
Pew Research Center, The rising cost of not going to college, www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/02/11/the-rising-cost-of-not-going-to-college/
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar reminds families to start saving for higher education on “529 Education Savings Day,” https://comptroller.texas.gov/about/media-center/news/2018/180529-529day.php
Avoid criticizing your child in public
Johnny, age 6, starts pouting when the waiter places a large pancake in front of him. “It’s brown. I don’t want it.”
“But it’s gingerbread,” his mom says. “Take a bite. You’ll like it.”
Johnny shoves the plate away and folds his arms. “No, I won’t eat it.”
When his mother starts cutting the pancake, Johnny throws a piece on the floor. Other diners in the restaurant watch what’s going on.
“What are you doing?” his mother asks. “I’m paying good money so we can eat here.”
Johnny turns away embarrassed, aware that people are staring.
“You listen to me when I’m talking to you,” Mom says angrily, jabbing her finger at him.
He becomes defiant. He wrests himself away from the table and dashes to the restroom.
Witnessing a scene like this, many of us might empathize with the boy. We admit he may have behaved badly, but no one likes to be criticized in public. As parents, we may feel that we have to issue reprimands on the spot out of fear that people are judging us for not controlling our children.
Is there a better way?
Choose a family friendly restaurant. Go at a time when you and your child are rested and in good spirits.
Talk with Johnny beforehand. Explain what will happen—ordering from the menu, using table manners, using the restroom, and paying the bill. Emphasize that you know he will behave well and not disturb other diners. Set any limits such as “We’re not having dessert.”
Bring something to keep the child entertained, such as a book, paper and crayons, or a small toy. Involve the child in conversation about the décor, food, and other people. The more involved the child feels, the happier he will be.
The first time Johnny misbehaves, remind him quietly about your earlier discussion. Keep calm, and remember that you are the adult.
If a temper tantrum ensues, take Johnny outside to calm down. Avoid talking or preaching. He probably won’t be able to hear you anyway. Afterward, say something like “This was hard on both of us. I love you, and I know you want to do your best.”
Remember that children need to learn how to act in socially acceptable ways, and that public behavior is sometimes different from that at home. Parenting has challenges, and we need to take them in stride.
For more ideas about dealing with children’s behavior in public, see “Disciplining in Public” in Parents magazine, at www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/discipline/tips/disciplining-in-public/.
Does your child need vitamin supplements? Maybe not
Johnny never eats fruit or vegetables,” a father says. “That’s why I give him a vitamin supplement every day.”
That’s a well-intentioned sentiment, but it may be misguided. The focus needs to be on food, not pills in a bottle.
Dr. Steven Abrams, a pediatrician at the University of Texas Dell Medical School, says supplements on the market are not well regulated and may contain unwanted ingredients, such as hormones, sugar, and caffeine. A multivitamin is unlikely to cause serious harm to children, but parents may be swayed more by marketing (use of cartoon characters, for example) than by children’s needs.
According to the American Academy of Pediatricians, “Most children don’t need vitamin supplements at all.” (See “A Vitamin a Day” at healthychildren.org.)
Check with the child’s pediatrician first to see if a child needs a specific vitamin or could benefit from a multivitamin. Before buying, read the label on the bottle or online. One warning, for example, says: “Accidental overdose of iron-containing products is a leading cause of fatal poisoning in children under 6.”
If a child refuses fruits and vegetables, try these suggestions:
Allow children to choose fruits and vegetables while shopping at a grocery store or farmers’ market.
Encourage children to help prepare foods—making a fruit salad, for example, or mashing sweet potatoes.
Invite children to grow vegetables, such as tomatoes, in containers or in a garden plot.
Provide opportunities to harvest fruits in season at a nearby orchard or garden stand—apples in autumn, blueberries and strawberries in spring, and watermelon and cantaloupe in summer.
Add vegetables to favorite foods—shredded carrots to meatloaf or breakfast tacos, for example.
Introduce a new fruit or vegetable at the table periodically, such as fresh or frozen pineapple. Encourage children to take a bite, but don’t force them.
Check out books from the library about fruits and vegetables, such as Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert and The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons.
Avoid buying cookies, sodas and other sweetened drinks, and other empty-nutrient foods. By not having them in the house, you avoid the temptation to eat them.