Texas Parenting News
Prevent child abuse
When we see or hear on the news that a child has been abused, we cringe. Every parent wants safety, good health, and happiness for their children.
Yet, the reality is that abuse occurs in every community. The children most at risk for abuse are children younger than 4 years old and those with disabilities.
What is child abuse?
Child abuse is any intentional harm to a child younger than 18. It can include beating and other physical abuse, failure to provide for a child’s basic needs (neglect) such as food and shelter, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse, such as constantly criticizing a child or withholding love.
“In many cases, child abuse is done by someone the child knows and trusts—often a parent or other relative,” according to the Mayo Clinic. In families, physical abuse can happen when parents get angry and go overboard on discipline. But fortunately, society is trending away from spanking and other harsh punishment. Today it’s generally prohibited in child care facilities and many schools. Pediatricians strongly oppose it based on recent evidence that spanking can lead to more aggressive behavior and an increased risk of mental health disorders and cognitive problems in a child.
When the going gets rough
Caring for a baby and raising young children can often be stressful. It’s especially so if you’re alone without a supportive partner or you’re worried about buying food and paying the rent.
Help is available. Talk with other family and friends about how to cope with stress in a healthy way. You may find that a friend or neighbor can watch your child for a few minutes until you cool down.
If you’re a first-time mom, call a community help group. For example, Nurse-Family Partnership (nursefamilypartnership.org), can send a nurse to your home—for free—at regular intervals who can offer advice and support.
Learn what’s normal in a child’s development. Crying and other annoying behavior may be a child’s natural attempt to communicate with you—about hunger, pain, or need for attention, for example. Take a parenting education class, or join a neighborhood parenting co-op (or organize one).
Watch a mother or teacher that you admire. How do they guide a child’s undesirable behavior?
If you think you might abuse your child, seek help immediately. Call a help line such as
Childhelp 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
Prevent Child Abuse America 1-800-CHILDREN (1-800-244-5373)
Know your child’s caregivers
Check references on babysitters. When you use a relative or friend as an occasional babysitter, make sure the person is trustworthy, shares your parenting style, and really enjoys caring for children.
For routine out-of-home care, choose a program that is licensed and has a good compliance record—this applies to both center-based and home-based programs. Your child is too precious to risk care in the hands of someone whose references are questionable or who routinely violates rules established to protect children’s health and safety.
Make frequent, unannounced visits to the program and remember it’s your responsibility to keep child release information up to date. (Under law, a program cannot release your child to anyone other than those people you have designated).
As your child grows older, get acquainted with your child’s friends and their families. When your child goes to friend’s home for a birthday party or sleepover, make sure a responsible adult is supervising activities.
Make sure your child understands that in a scary or uncomfortable situation, it’s OK to say no. It’s OK to leave immediately and seek a trusted adult. If the child can’t get away and something bad happens, it’s OK to tell you or another adult about it, with no risk of punishment.
Carefully determine when you will offer children the use of electronic devices—including smart phones, tablets, computers, and digital assistants like Echo, Siri, and Alexa. Monitor children’s use and model the behaviors you’d like to see. Review and employ the parental controls on every device, check privacy settings on social media, and limit screen time. Set rules—like not sharing personal information or responding to inappropriate messages—and consequences for violations. Remember—our overall goal is to keep children safe while helping them become discerning, wise adults.
ABC’s of safe sleep for baby
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), or crib death, usually occurs in healthy babies for no apparent reason. The incidence of SIDS has declined in recent years because health care providers and caregivers have been advising parents to follow the ABC’s of sleep:
A The baby sleeps Alone, not with parents or others.
B The baby sleeps Back side down, facing up.
C The baby sleeps in a Crib, not on a couch or other soft surface.
While SIDS may have various causes, many believe the chief cause is accidental suffocation. When placed face down or surrounded by soft bedding, babies may be unable to move their heads to breathe.
For more information, see the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/sids/conditioninfo/reduce.
Prescription: Play with your child
On your next doctor visit, don’t be surprised if your child’s doctor writes a “prescription for play.”
A 2018 report from the Academy of Pediatrics suggest doctors do just that. The report outlines the importance of play in children’s healthy development. Beginning in infancy, play can enhance physical skills, boost a child’s learning, create healthy relationships with others, and lay a foundation that will last a lifetime.
Play here means activities that are fun and spontaneous. You don’t need expensive toys. Rather, household items such pots and pans, oatmeal boxes, and wooden spoons will just do fine. Nor do you need a swing set or jungle gym. Instead you can skip along a sidewalk, play catch in the backyard, or play hide and seek.
Play also includes responding to an infant’s giggles and coos, singing, reading to children, working a puzzle together, and engaging children in conversation. A routine car ride or grocery shopping trip can become a game of discovery and joy. Families with children with special needs can often find play opportunities in the community.
The prescription for play comes in the wake of a public push for school achievement and an explosion in video games and other electronic devices. Such societal shifts have squeezed out time for free play and person-to-person interactions. Seeing these shifts, pediatricians have called for reintegrating unstructured, creative, hands-on play into children’s daily lives.
For more information, see the article “The Power of Play” in the journal Pediatrics, at https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/142/3/e20182058.