Twirls Hair

Children (and adults!) have “nervous habits.” These are often little useless movements or actions like rubbing the forehead, cracking knuckles, nibbling at fingernails, shaking legs back and forth, rocking back and forth and so on. Hair-twirling – taking a strand of hair and wrapping it around a finger – is a popular nervous habit from infancy onward.

If your child engages in hair twirling, consider the following tips:

Nervous Habits Reduce Feelings of Stress
Those who understand the human energy system can often describe how a nervous habit contributes to feelings of soothing and comfort. For instance, when people bump into something, they’ll often instinctively rub the injured part of their body. This is because humans are wired to help themselves heal without even knowing how or why they are doing it. They rub the injury instinctively – not because they’ve been told to do it. The rubbing activity brings increased blood circulation to the area and also brings energetic healing to the wound. Indeed, the whole business of “hands on healing” has to do with the energy stored within our bodies that can be transferred through hands to another part of our own or another’s body. In a similar way, rubbing the head, nibbling fingers and so on, initiates energetic healing that reduces stressful feelings and increases calm.

Children and teens engage more in their favorite nervous habit when they are more stressed. This increased stress may be due to outside pressure like school exams or internal pressure like fatigue. Tired children will often curl up on their mother’s lap and twirl their hair. The twirling activity acts like a pacifier, calming their internal agitation, exhaustion or fear.

Hair-Twirling is Not Hair Pulling
Some children will not only twirl a strand of hair, but then they will pull it out of their head. This habit is called trichotillomania. It is a mental health disorder which is a type of impulse disorder. Hair-pulling is a compulsive activity – one that is very difficult to stop without professional assistance. Hair-pulling, like hair twirling, occurs more often when a child is experiencing stress, but it’s real purpose is to reduce anxiety.  In other words, hair-pullers have more internal pressure than simple hair twirlers have. Moreover, hair-pulling leads to feelings of helplessness and shame when left untreated. Hair-twirling usually doesn’t bother the person who does it. Hair-pulling is best treated by a child psychologist.

Helping Your Child Stop Hair-Twirling
Toddlers frequently engage in hair-twirling and as they become a little older, they just as frequently grow out of the habit. Therefore, the best thing to do for young hair twirlers is NOTHING. However, if your child is still twirling her hair when she is six or older, you can help her in a few ways. Nagging is not one of them. Besides being detrimental to the parent-child relationship and to the child’s development, nagging is also completely ineffective as a deterrent to hair twirling! What helps more, is reducing the child’s stress and re-directing her behavior.

Stress-reduction for children and teens can often be accomplished with Bach Flower Therapy – harmless vibrational remedies (water) that are available at health food stores. The Bach remedy Agrimony is particularly helpful for those who have bad habits. However, a consultation with a Bach Flower Therapist can be most helpful – read up on the descriptions of the 38 remedies to pick the ones that most fit the profile of your child (you can find more info online and on this site). Up to 7 remedies can be mixed together in one “treatment” bottle and used until the twirling subsides. If twirling begins again, start giving the remedy mixture again. Continue off and on in this way until the twirling has stopped completely.

Anything you can do to reduce stress in the house will be helpful in a general way. Quiet parenting techniques and a happy relationship with your spouse can only help. However, a child’s hair twirling can certainly happen even in a very low stress environment and even when she is very emotionally secure. It’s really more a matter of personal stress style, inherited tendencies and so on.

You might try giving your child something to hold in her hands when you notice she has been twirling. The hands, as discussed above, have energy centers that can help regulate stress. Holding or playing with something in the hand is a more socially acceptable soother than hair twirling. You can get your child a worry stone (a smooth stone for rubbing) or a fidget toy of some kind. Always give her something to DO with her hands instead of just asking her to stop playing with her hair.

In order to break the habit, you can also give your child a hairstyle that makes twirling very hard to do – tight braids or very short hair. It takes about 21 days to break a habit, so after that period, you can probably go back to her old hairdo. However, NEVER give a child a hairstyle that she doesn’t like as this can actually be traumatic for her.

If the hair twirling won’t stop and it bothers you or the child, consult a psychologist. A professional can offer techniques that are used for more intense issues like trichotillomania but that will also help with hair twirling.

Child Pulls Down Another Child’s Pants

When you go to pick up your 4 year-old from daycare, the teacher gives you some unpleasant news: your little pre-schooler has pulled down a playmate’s pants. Embarrassed, your child’s victim cried till his mommy picked him up a little while ago. Meanwhile, your son is still running around the classroom laughing. Even though he was reprimanded immediately and sent to the “thinking chair” for 15 minutes, he doesn’t seem to be remorseful.

How should you react? Is a child pulling down other kids’ pants a serious matter? Is your child a deviant? Has he been sexually abused? Why isn’t he feeling guilty or ashamed of himself?

First off, the good news. When it comes to really young children like toddlers and pre-schoolers, pulling down another child’s pants rarely has anything to do with sexual malice or sexual maladjustment. In all likelihood your child thought that it would be a funny thing to do, and the ensuing laughter by peers probably confirmed his or her belief. Targets of pants-pulling tend to be random playmates; in young children, attacking someone in this way is not generally an act of deliberate aggression against someone they do not like. (This is not equally true for older kids, however. For instance, a 10 year-old who pulls down another child’s pants may very well be targeting an “enemy” or otherwise engaging in angry, bullying behavior.)

This said, it’s still a behavior worth correcting. Correcting the behavior is an opportunity to educate your child about issues of privacy, in a way that is appropriate to his or her age. Most importantly, a child who pulls down a playmate’s pants is lacking in the trait of empathy. To help a child acquire more empathy, use the technique of “emotional coaching” on a regular basis. This skill essentially involves naming a child’s feelings BEFORE solving problems or addressing issues. Naming feelings can take place all day long. For instance, when a child says, “I don’t want to wear my gloves today,” a parent can name feelings BEFORE deciding what to do about the gloves. It might sound like this, “I know. It’s a bother to pull those gloves on and off all the time. It can be annoying, right?” Then the parent can “solve” the glove problem any which way he or she desires. For instance, “You’ve had a cold this week and I really think the gloves are important to help you get better and stay better. I’d like you to put them on anyways.” Or, “You don’t have to wear them, but I’d like you to take them so that you have them in case you get cold.” When you tell a child to stop calling his brother names and the child says, “He broke my model!” you can name feelings FIRST before solving the brother problem. “That must be so frustrating! You really worked hard on that model. No wonder you are upset with him!” Now solve the problem whichever way you want. For instance, “However, you still can’t call him names. You can tell him you don’t like what he did and you can tell me if you need help. You can tell him that you aren’t going to play with him tonight because you’re upset. You just can’t insult him or hurt him, do you understand?” Of course, you may also use discipline to discourage the child from name-calling. You can discipline the child who broke the model and so on. The step of emotional coaching has been shown in large research studies to help improve a child’s emotional intelligence, making him more empathetic to others and more socially aware. This helps prevent misbehaviors like pulling down people’s pants!

The following are some tips on how to deal with a child caught pulling down another kid’s pants:

Find Out Where Your Child Learned to Do It
Start by asking your child where he or she got the idea to pull their playmate’s pants. Did your child see it on television? Then explain that certain things on T.V. are not O.K. (and perhaps try to supervise your child’s T.V. experience more closely till he is a little older). Did someone else in the playground start it, and your child just followed along? Then maybe teaching them about not joining unacceptable behavior is in order. Or was your child dared by an older sibling? Then you may need to have a talk with your other child as well.

Explain Why Pants-Pulling is Wrong
Young children are likely still unaware that their behavior is wrong. Take the opportunity to teach them about privacy, and emphasize why it’s important for kids to respect it. Explain that people wear clothes like pants and underpants because they don’t want to be naked around people who are not in their family (keep in mind that toddlers and preschoolers are often naked in their own homes while they are getting dressed and undressed and when having their baths). Share how pulling down another child’s pants at school or in the park can make that child feel exposed, upset, emabarrassed and uncomfortable.

Ask How They Would Feel if Someone Else Pulled Down Their Pants
To encourage empathy, ask your child how he would have felt if the situations were reversed, if it was HIS pants that were pulled down. How would he feel if other kids laughed at him? More often than not, your child will say that he will not like it. Teach him “The Golden Rule” – do not do unto others that which you don’t want done to you!

Use Discipline
To help reinforce the lesson, tell your child that you do not want this to happen again. Let your youngster know that if you find out that he has done this again, he will have a punishment at home (tell him exactly what punishment you have in mind – for instance, losing dessert, going to bed early, losing T.V. or computer privileges or whatever you think is appropriate and would act as a deterrent).

What to Eat When You are Pregnant

Taking care of a baby begins way before an infant is born. By eating right and keeping physically fit, expectant moms can already ensure that their child’s development starts on the right track.

The following are some tips on eating when you’re pregnant:

Have a Nutritional Chart Handy When Planning Your Meals
What constitutes a healthy diet for a pregnant person is basically the same as what constitutes a healthy diet for anyone. It’s that “unpregnant” people harm only themselves when they ignore the basics of sound nutrition, whereas a pregnant woman hurts both herself and her baby. Moreover, it is the baby who is at greatest risk because he is in a crucial developmental phase. Good nutrition at this stage of life can make the difference in some cases between healthy and unhealthy development. For instance, the consumption of excess alcohol can permanently damage a fetus. While a healthy diet does not ensure a healthy baby, it is just one step that mothers can take. So now is the time to pay greater attention to lifestyle and nutrition than ever before.

An RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) chart for expectant mothers can help you plan your menu. Your obstetrician or a licensed dietitian should have a copy. You want to stack up on the basic requirements: protein, carbohydrates, calcium, and essential vitamins and minerals.

Lean meats, fishes and poultry are excellent sources of protein. For your and your baby’s daily energy needs, rice, starchy vegetables like potatoes, whole grains, breads and cereals are excellent sources of carbohydrates. Milk, milk products like cheese and yogurt, as well as most leafy vegetables are good sources of calcium. Most meat products, fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamins and minerals. Enjoy nuts, seeds, soy snacks, natural sweetners, herbal teas – there’s plenty of delicious and nutritious offerings in our stores today.

As much as you can, stay clear of overly processed products such as commercial cakes and pastries, or microwavable meals. At their safest, they contain empty calories and high sugar: stuff that you and your baby do not need. At worst, the chemicals used to preserve them can be harmful to your baby. Eating foods high in preservatives, as well as eating hot meals in Styrofoam or plastic plates should be avoided.

Make Sure You Get Folic Acid
Folic acid or vitamin B9 has been found to be critical to fetal development. Folic acid is especially important during the first weeks of pregnancy, when the brain, the skull and the spinal cord are developing. Inadequate folic acid during pregnancy can result into serious fetal problems, including neural tube defects, spina bifida and anencephaly.

An expectant mother is advised to take 400 mcg of folic acid until the twelfth week of pregnancy. Folic acid can be found in green vegetables such as spinach, most lentils, fortified grain products like cereal and pasta, as well as liver and liver products. There are also folic acid supplements available in the market, just make sure you get your doctor’s advice before making any purchase.

Stock Up on Iron
When a person is expecting, she has around 50% more blood than she usually does when not pregnant. This means that pregnant women would need significantly more iron in their system — the nutrient essential in the production of hemoglobin, that part of red blood cells that distribute oxygen across all parts of the body. Iron is also critical in the development of the baby during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

Iron can be found in abundance on red meat, green vegetables and fortified green products. There are also iron supplements available in most drugstores.

Know What to Avoid
Pregnancy is notorious for giving women cravings. Giving in to cravings is generally okay, most of the time they are a result of the hormonal imbalance that naturally occur during pregnancy. But it helps to be reminded that not all cravings are healthy for the baby.

Alcohol, for example, should be avoided. Drinking excess alcohol can result in a condition called fetal alcohol syndrome – a huge umbrella of irreversible mental and physiological defects in an infant. Check with your doctor regarding acceptable levels of alcohol.

Caffeine must be avoided as well, or at least taken in very, very small amounts. Taking caffeine, which is found in most coffee, tea and sodas while pregnant can result into low birth weight and even miscarriage.

Expecting mothers are advised to be careful as well of unpasteurized cheeses (e.g. feta cheese, blue cheese) as they can often contain microorganisms that can be life threatening to an unborn child.

Expectant mothers should avoid consuming anything known to be toxic. This would include second hand smoke (and of course, smoking is contra-indicated as it compromises oxygen supply to the baby), certain legal and ilegal drugs and certain herbs and vitamins. Check with a qualified naturopath before consuming natural products as some are contra-indicated in pregnancy.

Wakes Up Soaking Wet

It’s only natural for babies and untrained toddlers to urinate during the night. This is why toddlers and preschoolers normally wear diapers in the night even when they’re toilet trained during the day. But what if your child tends to wake up soaking wet? That is, your child wets his diapers so thoroughly that all the sheets are also wet or damp in the morning?

Consider the following tips:

Your Child Drinks Too Much Fluid Before Bed
Frequent urination during the night can simply be due to a large intake of water before going to bed. To minimize the possibility that your child will wake up soaking wet, limit your child’s drinking 2-3 hours before bedtime. In addition, discourage your child from drinking known diuretics, like caffeine-based soda, coffee-based drinks, and juices (many parents find that apple juice increases urination in their youngsters). And it also helps to encourage your child to pee right before going to bed.

Your Child Has a Tendency to Hold His/Her Bladder During the Day
Is the frequency of your child’s daytime urination within normal range (around 3-5 times a day)? If your child barely pees in the morning, then consider the possibility that he may be holding it in, which can lead to more frequent urination at night. Encourage daytime urination by taking your toddler or pre-schooler to the toilet at regular times throughout the day. Limit juice intake to the morning time, and give generous amounts of fluids up until mid-afternoon. Give a small glass of liquid with dinner and an even smaller drink in the evening if the child expresses thirst.

Consider Medical Conditions that Cause Frequent Urination
If your child has been waking up soaking wet for awhile, it’s best to visit a pediatrician. Although it is most likely that your child simply urinates heavily, it is important to rule out possible health issues that may be responsible. There are many conditions that can cause frequent urination in a child, one of which is diabetes. Early diagnosis will obviously be helpful way beyond solving the bed-wetting problem.

Maybe Your Child Has Outgrown a Diaper
Sometimes the problem is as simple as a diaper that is too small or poorly fitted. Experiment with different sizes and brands to see if a more absorbent product with a better fit helps to prevent leakage and wet sheets. Woolen diaper covers are very absorbant and help to prevent leakage through clothing and bedding. Although these can be found in speciality shops and online catalogues, you can also knit them up easily yourself: use machine-washable wool to knit a rectangle to fit your baby’s diaper area. Sew together at the sides, leaving an opening for the legs. Thread elastic through the top, to adjust to waist size. If you are a more proficient knitter, use some shaping at the crotch (knit 2, purl 2 for that portion) or go as fancy as you like!

Consider Nightmares and Night Terrors
If your child’s morning wetness is accompanied by anxiety, fear or other symptoms of nightmares or night terrors, then consider an emotional reason behind frequent nighttime urination. Changes in the child’s routine, moving home, birth of a new baby, parental conflict, starting nursery, changing babysitters – any stress can affect the operations of the body and particularly the digestive system. If the soaking is a relatively new situation, consider the possibility of stress and see if there are ways to help the child through it. A child psychologist may be helpful as well.

Baby Wants to Sleep with Parents

Many babies want to sleep in their parents’ bed. They like the body warmth, the comfort and sometimes the nursing. But many parents like their babies to sleep in their own cribs!

If your baby wants to sleep with you, consider the following tips:

Your Baby is Normal
Throughout the ages, babies have slept next to their parents. In olden times, no one had multi-room homes in which a baby could have his own nursery. The cradle was in the parents’ room and just as often, the baby was in the parents’ bed. Mothers nursed their infants throughout the night until they weaned them around the age of two or so, depending on the culture. Modern life is so different! Working mothers, bottle-fed or supplemented babies, room-to-room intercom systems and a completely different lifestyle has resulted in an era of babies separated from their moms at night. If your baby doesn’t appreciate the innovations of the culture, don’t worry – he’s in good company! Normal babies want to be held day and night. They like to sleep on people’s bodies. In our nuclear family, this usually means that babies want to be with their parents. In previous times, babies may have been happy to sleep with any number of people who nurtured them – siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles and whoever else was nearby and available.

You are Normal Too
You want a good night’s sleep so you can function and feel well the next day! While many parents do enjoy sleeping with their babies for the first couple of years (Dr. Sears calls this “attachment parenting”), many parents just can’t sleep with someone kicking around them in bed, pulling at their nightgown for all-night feedings, or otherwise disturbing their peace. If you can’t sleep well with your baby in your bed, it’s important for everyone’s well-being that you find a way to keep your child OUT of your bed! A tired, resentful parent is not only miserable, but also at risk for doing some poor daytime parenting as well.

If you are one of those parents who don’t mind the baby being in bed with you, then definitely go for it! There is nothing wrong with a baby sleeping with his parents. Do some research on safety issues; you will find all sorts of information showing that babies who sleep next to their parents have less risk of SIDS (sudden-infant-death syndrome) and conflicting research showing that they have more. You will have to draw your own conclusions. However, keep in mind that many, many people are currently sleeping with their babies and we’re not hearing about a high fatality rate from this practice. If we did, the practice would have been legally prohibited by now. Some parents find it easier to have the baby in bed with them than to have to get themselves out of bed a couple of times a night to tend to the child in another room. Such people say that they feel more rested having the baby by their side than they do having him down the hall.

Keeping the baby out of your bed. You will almost certainly have to tolerate some amount of crying in order to train a baby to stay in his own room. Whatever method of education you use, (and there are MANY!), the child will likely complain with tears and temper for a number of days or even weeks. However, once the crying has stopped and the baby has caught on to the fact that his bed is elsewhere (because you have consistently refused to take him into your bed), you may find that your child sleeps peacefully throughout the night. Both you and the baby can get quality sleep. Sometimes, the baby will still awaken once or twice in the night for feedings or even attention. However, you and your spouse may be able to take turns at nightime care and both of you will be more rested than you might be with the baby right in your bed.

It is important not to make exceptions once the child has been trained to sleep in his crib in his own room. If he is ill, keep him in his own room – even if YOU have to sleep there too. If you are going back to bed, give yourself peace of mind by keeping a baby monitor on loud and clear. Moving him into your bed because he has an earache or because you’re on vacation or because he’s teething, can completely disrupt the baby’s ability to stay in his own bed. You may find that you have to go through the entire training process all over again.

Colicky Baby

Inconsolable crying in babies is understandably anxiety-provoking to parents. After all, crying can be caused by many things, pain and illness included. When parents have tried all means of soothing a child, it’s easy to imagine the worst. If only babies would be able to speak and tell their parents what’s wrong!

If you have a child who tends to cry and fuss frequently, for no understandable reason, consider the possibility that your child has colic.

What is Colic?
Colic refers to the condition characterized by a healthy baby who tends to have periods of intense crying, fussing and/or screaming for no known reason. Traditional medical definition classifies colic as crying episodes that last more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks, although variations of colic outside these parameters also exist. It is believed that colic affects 1 in 5 infants.

Symptoms of colic typically appear within one week after birth, and can last up to the baby’s fourth month – after which they generally go away on their own. While crying episodes can happen anytime within the day, it usually reaches its peak during late afternoon or early evening.

What Causes Colic?
The exact cause of colic is still unknown, although many theories exist. This is why the phrase “healthy baby” is critical in the condition’s definition; infections, diseases and all kinds of illnesses have been ruled out in most (but not all) cases of colic. Proposed explanations for colic include overfeeding, gastro-intestinal upset, allergies or sensitivities, a child’s innate temperament, anxiety in a household, and difficulty adjusting to the environment outside the womb. Research findings so far show no bias towards any one of these explanations.

In general, colic is harmless, and is not associated with developmental delay or impairment of any kind. In fact, the bulk of the impact of colic is felt by the parents. Colicky babies have been known to trigger fatigue and burn-out, feelings of helplessness and inadequacy, as well as anxiety and depression, among their primary caregivers.

What can Parents Do?
Traditional soothing techniques for infants are specially recommended when caring for a colicky baby. These techniques include rocking the infant gently in one’s arms, singing to the baby and walking the baby outdoors he or she is upset. Changing the baby’s position, e.g. turning them on their stomach, and swaddling (wrapping the baby in a warm blanket) have also been found to be helpful.

There are also medications that are specifically for colic, although many have expressed concern regarding medicating someone so young. It’s best to consult your pediatrician if you want to know your pharmaceutical options for dealing with colic.

Some nursing mothers have found that adjusting their own diet helps reduce their babies colic. For instance, removing gas-inducing foods like beans and cabbage may help the baby. Or, removing dairy products, wheat products or common allergens might sometimes make a difference. Some parents have discovered that their crying baby is reacting to something in the environment like cotton clothing or baby creams or powders – and when they remove the offending substance the colic suddenly stops. However, the majority of parents with colicky babies cannot trace down a specific trigger. They and the baby just have to deal with the upset.

Obviously, parents must pay attention to self-care. It’s easy to get defeated by the stress of caring for a colicky baby. There’s loss of sleep from the baby’s crying, frequent trips to the doctor to figure what’s wrong, worry over the baby’s health, and just the effort of keeping the child calm when he goes into one of innumerable cryng spells. When parents can get some time off of caring for their baby, they will come back more refreshed and able to handle some more stress. Babysitters can help or parents can relieve each other, taking turns caring for the baby as much as possible. It’s important to get out of the house, see other people, exercise and have some fun; all of this strengthens a person to deal with the hours of crying and fussing. Picture the baby growing a bit older and a lot quieter – it WILL happen! Realize that colic is temporary and keep your eye on what’s up ahead.

When should Parents be Concerned?
Excessive crying among infants is such an ambiguous symptom to interpret. It can be colic or something else. To be safe, parents need to check-in with their pediatrician regularly. They should always note any other symptoms that accompany crying such as fever, skin rashes, diarrhea, vomiting or developmental delays. Most colic is nothing but colic and will disappear on its own in a matter of months.

How to Burp Your Baby

Babies can suffer from the effects of gassiness whether they are being breast or bottle-fed. It happens because infants who are not yet skilled in nursing, tend to swallow air along with their milk. This is why feeding time should always include burping time. Burping releases the air that infants swallow. The process helps prevent the accumulation of gas in the baby’s stomach, which can result to gas pain, irritability, spitting up and feeding fussiness.

The process of burping a baby is relatively simple. In fact, it can be as easy as holding your baby upright against your chest, their chin on your shoulder, while you gently rub or pat their back. Just being help upright can help the air come up after feeding. You have to mind possible milk spits though when you burp a baby. Spitting milk is normal and doesn’t harm the child. A parent, on the other hand, may want to have a towel over their shoulder handy just in case.

There are also other ways of burping a baby aside from holding them against your chest.

Some parents prefer to lap-burp. In this method, babies are placed on their stomach in a parent’s lap, their tummy’s against the parent’s thigh for gentle pressure and their head supported so that it’s higher than the body. Again, gentle patting or rubbing of the baby’s back can get the child to burp. If the child doesn’t burp immediately, just be patient. The process can take as long as ten minutes.

Another method of burping a baby is by sitting them upright on one’s lap and cradling their chin gently using the palm of one’s hand. Gently lean the baby forward while applying gentle pressure on the tummy. A parent’s partner can also pat the baby’s back while this is happening to facilitate burping.

How often burping is required differs from baby to baby. Typically, once after every feeding is adequate. But like adults, different babies have different styles of nursing, which is why some kids are more prone to gassiness than others. Bottle fed babies also tend to have more gas than those who nurse from their mother’s breast. For babies who tend to accumulate gas more frequently, burping twice — once within the feeding session, and one more after getting fed — is recommended.

Babies with colic need to be burped more often than those without the condition as well, as prolonged crying can cause them to swallow air. Burping a colicky baby after a crying session is recommended.

Teaching Your Kids How to Express Themselves

Communication occurs on two levels: verbal and non-verbal. Verbal communication consists of our words. Non-verbal communication consists of facial expression, tone of voice, gestures and actions. Both verbal and non-verbal messages are important in successful communication, however, some experts believe that non-verbal communication is actually the more important of the two.

Children start out as non-verbal communicators; parents interpret their needs as they are expressed through crying, fidgeting, moving their bodies and their hands. Although this method works fairly well, it can be frustrating for both parent and child. Often, it is impossible to decipher the baby’s message! Parents are naturally eager to teach their children how to become better communicators. Fortunately, babies are very interested in learning to speak and many will acquire some language as early as one year of age. Others will first talk only after their second birthday. Whenever language appears on the scene, parents can help their kids learn to use it effectively by encouraging verbal communication skills.

Here are three ways that parents can help their toddlers communicate better:

Spend Time Translating Non-Verbal Communication into Words
Instead of responding immediately to a non-verbal request, invest time teaching your child the verbal alternative of what they are trying to say. For example, if they point to a glass of juice to communicate that they’d like a sip, you can say “You want juice? Okay. Can you say ‘I want juice?” Or if they are whining or moaning because they want to go home, encourage them to say “I want to go home.” Whenever a child relies on body language instead of using his words, simply remind him to use his words. Give him the actual words to say (this makes it easier for him at first). Reinforce his efforts by responding to his words immediately. You can also offer praise. For instance, if the child says “I want juice,” the parent can say “Good talking! Here is some delicious juice for you!”

Mirror Back their Feelings
An area where reading a child’s non-verbal communication is helpful is in the identification of feelings. The ability to know what one is feeling is an important skill for children to learn, and is considered as the foundation of emotional intelligence. Kids can’t always tell what they are feeling so it’s up to parents to teach them about feelings and how to identify them.

One way parents can help their children identify their feelings is by a processes called mirroring or reflecting. In this process, parents simply present back to the child the feelings that they read in their actions or facial expressions. For example, a child who comes home and slams the door is probably feeling angry. Parents can say “You seem angry” as acknowledgment of the feeling observed (only AFTER naming the feeling and addressing it, would the parent begin to teach the child that slamming a door is not an acceptable way of expressing that feeling). Or a child who falls into tears after saying that her playmate just moved away can be told “I can see how sad you are that she moved away.” While the intervention seems minor, it can teach children on how to be more self-aware when it comes to their emotions. The naming of feelings is called “emotional coaching.” It is a skill that has very powerful, positive effects on child development, especially in helping to raise a child’s emotional intelligence (E.Q.).

Encourage Deliberate Non-Verbal Communication
Sometimes words are really not enough. There are many messages, both positive and negative, that can be communicated better through non-verbal methods. The key is in communicating non-verbally effectively and intentionally, instead of using non-verbal communication as a substitute for verbal messages.

One way to encourage appropriate non-verbal communication is to model it. When you verbally tell a child, “I love you so much!” add a physical gesture of love such as a big hug or a kiss. Encourage your child to let a sibling experience his or her love in a similar fashion (“tell the baby how much you like her and give her a big kiss on her head to show her”).  Teach kids to back up their words with actions: “Let’s make Daddy a birthday card and we’ll go to buy him a gift. We’ll say Happy Birthday and give him his card and his gift after supper tomorrow night.” Teach children to show interest by looking at a speaker. Teach them how to express anger in safe and acceptable ways (i.e. “When you are mad at your brother you can use your words to tell him and you can speak in a firm voice. You cannot go and break his puzzle.”) Sometimes we have to teach older children how NOT to show their feelings: for instance, it may be important for a 12 year-old girl to learn NOT to cry whenever she feels insecure or sad. Teach her to use her words (“I’m afraid you’ll be mad at me”) and how to control her facial expression and body. This will take practice and may benefit from professional intervention. However, by teaching the child to use age-appropriate communication strategies, you are actually helping her to be more socially appropriate. This will help her with her social skills and lead to more success and self-esteem.

Fear of Strangers

Around 5 or 6 months of age, many babies begin to develop a fear of strangers. This fear tends to peak in intensity between 8 and 10 months and then gradually diminishes by around 15 or 16 months. However, some toddlers remain somewhat afraid of strangers and some may appear shy all the way through childhood. The amount of fear of strangers that a baby or child experiences depends mostly on that youngster’s genes. A child with loving parents and patient caretakers can be very fearful of strangers just because he or she is a fearful child in general. On the other hand, a child may be extremely friendly to everyone even during the peak “stranger anxiety” phase simply because he or she has inherited an extroverted, people-loving, confident nature.

Stranger Anxiety
Many psychologists see “stranger anxiety” as a positive developmental stage in infants. It indicates that the baby can distinguish between primary caregivers like Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, Nanny and so on – and actual strangers or non-family members. This is an important skill for intimate bonding later on. The ability to really care who hugs you is healthy and a precursor for strong intimate relationships in adulthood. However, a baby needn’t demonstrate terror of strangers in order to indicate his ability to distinguish loved ones from strangers; showing a preference for loved ones is enough of an indication that Baby knows the difference. If your baby cries hard when being handed over to a stranger, however, try to see it as a positive sign, even though it is temporarily upsetting for that stranger.

Sometimes the “stranger” is Grandma or Grandpa. If the baby doesn’t see relatives on a regular basis, he or she may consider these people to be strangers. This can be insulting or hurtful for relatives. However, your job is to do what is best for the baby – not for the adult. Therefore, don’t force an upset baby to stay in the arms of a stranger just to try to make the stranger feel better. Rather, take the baby back to your own arms and tell the other person, “Baby likes to look at you from here – he’s very attached to Mommy right now. In a few months he’ll be asking for YOU to pick him up!” If the other person doesn’t like this reality, don’t worry – he or she will get over it eventually. Meanwhile, you have taught your baby that you will respond to his or her cries and meet his or her needs. This helps the baby develop trust in the environment. When the baby has lots of trust, he or she will have an easier time trusting people appropriately.

Just the Right Amount of Fear
As the baby grows, you will want him to be appropriately fearful of strangers. In other words, you don’t want your preschooler running up to strange men in the park and playing with them. You want them to feel appropriate levels of comfort with known people and appropriate levels of discomfort with unknown people. It can be tricky to teach children to have “just the right amount” of fear and not to have excessive, paranoid or insecure feelings that make them uncomfortable all the time. Here are some tips on how to “stranger proof” your child without terrorizing him or her:

  • tell your child that most adults are very nice and that it is safe to say “hello” to people who say “hello” to them. However, tell them that they don’t need to talk to adults who they don’t know beyond returning a greeting.
  • tell your child to come straight to you or their caregiver if an adult seems to want to talk to them. Just tell them that you or the caregiver needs to meet the adult first.
  • tell your child never to go anywhere with an adult they don’t know but DO NOT tell them about how adults can hurt and kill children and so on. Instead, provide adequate supervision for your very young child; do not leave small children out of your sight for even a moment.
  • when your child is a little older and is ready to go to school, explain that adults don’t need to talk to children and if an adult tries to talk to them, they should not answer, but instead quickly get themselves to a safe adult (one they know!).

As stated earlier, some children are afraid of strangers because they have a fearful nature. They just don’t like meeting new people. When introduced to an adult by their parents, they hide behind Mom’s skirt and suck their thumb (if they’re little) or stare silently (if they’re older). If your child is like this, you might try a treatment of Bach Flower Therapy. The remedies “Mimulus” and “Cerato” can be helpful. A Bach Flower Practitioner can recommend a specific mixture of remedies best suited for your child. These harmless preparations can help ease fear of people out of the child’s system over time. Social skills groups can also build up a skill repetoire that helps children feel more confident in social situations. If the fear is interfering with the child’s life, a trip to a child psychologist can help reduce anxiety and build healthy coping patterns that will serve the child well throughout life.

Daytime Accidents

You thought that you and your child already passed the stage of toilet training. You child has been dry 24/7 for months now and has learned to consistently let you know when he needs to go to the bathroom. You have already happily excluded diapers from your weekly grocery list. It’s frustrating then to find out that your child has had an “accident.”

Dealing with daytime accidents, purchase when a child already finished the toilet training process, can make a parent feel like a failure. However, parents need to realize that accidents are a normal part of the extended toilet training process and occur long after earlier stages of toilet training have been completed. In other words, toilet training is a longer term process than most parents realize. A period of consistent dryness is routinely followed by periods of frequent “accidents.” Accidents often happen simply because the child is distracted with other things. Patience and consistency are what’s required from parents at this point, so that the lessons learned during earlier toilet training can be reinforced.

The following are some tips for parents dealing with daytime accidents:

Gently Remind Your Child About the Need to Go to the Bathroom
When you notice that your child is “dancing” or squirming, ask him or her to take a timeout to the bathroom. If your child’s underwear is already wet, or you’ve seen the puddle on the floor, gently accompany your child to the toilet. Your child may already be done urinating, but the visit can be a helpful reminder that no time will be saved by not going to the bathroom; the child must go anyway. This helps the child to realize that time is actually SAVED by going to the bathroom before urinating since there will not need to be washing up and changing clothes.

Don’t Get Mad
As with all the stages of toilet training, don’t get upset at your child for the accident. Don’t punish him or her for it either. Urination is a natural body process and sometimes difficult for a child to control. You don’t want to embarrass or shame a child for something he or she can’t help.

Establish Regular Bathroom Habits
Daytime accidents can be prevented by having regular bathroom habits. Invite your child to go to the toilet immediately after waking, around two hours after breakfast and two hours after lunch. They don’t have to go if they don’t need to, of course, but making it a part of the day can help them keep their toilet training in mind until they do it automatically.

Watch Out for Signs That They are Trying to Hold it in
Kids often hold in their urine when they are distracted, e.g. they are watching a good show on TV and they don’t want to miss anything. Watch your child for signs that they might be holding it in. These signs can include fidgeting or crossing legs. When you see the signs, remind them that they need to go to the toilet. Holding urine in is not healthy.

Consider Underlying Medical Conditions
If your child’s daytime accidents persist for weeks despite your interventions, consider consulting your pediatrician. There are many conditions that can cause frequent daytime accidents, including diabetes and urinary tract infections. Pharmaceutical interventions are also available to relax the bladder.

Be Patient During Transitions
Your child may already have mastered toilet training, but current stress in their life can cause the lesson to be temporarily forgotten. If they are undergoing stressful transitions, e.g. a move to a new house, then just be patient. The day time accidents can be merely an emotional reaction, and will go away once the child feels more secure.