Dr. Dean Sidelinger

Pediatrician’s Corner

Good Physical Health – Good Mental Health

May is Mental Health Month.  Parents, you may think this doesn’t apply to your young kids, but it does. As parents we can support not just our children’s good physical health, but we can help make sure they have good mental health.  The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these tips that parents can do to keep their children healthy:

  • Catch your child being good!  Praise her for even small accomplishments like playing nicely, helping with chores, or sharing.
  • Look for places for your child to play with other children of the same age and make sure they are watched by a trusted adult.
  • Read with your child every day as part of a special family routine.
  • Limit television, or other time in front of a computer screen, to no more than two hours a day for children ages 2 and older.  Children younger than 2-years-old do not need any time in front of a screen.  Never put a TV in a child’s bedroom.
  • Turn off the TV before the evening meal and talk with your child during the meal.  Make time to sit down for regular family meals when you can sit and talk to your child about his or her day.  Play the “high-low” game by taking turns sharing the best and not-so-good parts of the day.
  • Have bath time after the meal, and then read books with your child in preparation for bedtime.  This will help your child to settle down and sleep well at the end of the day.
  • Provide regular bedtime routines to promote healthy sleep.  This time of day can become a calming time for you to be together with your child.
  • You are your child’s first and most important teacher!  Model behaviors that you want to see in your child.  What you do can be much more important than what you say.  Your child is watching and learning from you.
  • Everyone gets angry and stressed!  Help your child to work through these feelings.   Tell him or her that it is okay to be mad, but it is never okay to hit someone or break things.
  • Give your child choices when he or she is oppositional.  For example, if he or she does not want to sit in the car seat, ask “Do you want to buckle your car seat yourself or should I help you do it?”

Keeping Kids Safe at Home

Sometimes we don’t think about safety in our own home, until something happens.  That is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you take a few minutes to look around your house and do a few things that will help keep your child and your family safe.

  • You should have smoke detectors in your home.  There should be at least one on every level and outside bedrooms.  Check them monthly to be sure they are working.  Change the batteries at least once a year.  Pick a date you’ll remember; for instance, your child’s birthday!  Develop a fire escape plan and practice it so you’ll be prepared if an emergency does occur.
  • Put safety plugs that are not a choking hazard in all unused electrical outlets so your child can’t stick her finger or a toy into the holes.  Keep electrical cords out of reach and out of sight.
  • To prevent slipping, carpet your stairs where possible.  Be sure the carpet is firmly tacked down at the edges.  When your child is just learning to crawl and walk, install safety gates at both the top and bottom of the stairs.  Avoid accordion style gates, which can trap an arm or a neck.
  • Certain houseplants may be harmful.  Your regional Poison Help Line will have a list or description of plants to avoid.  You may want to skip having house plants for a while or keep them out of reach.
  • Check your floors constantly for small objects that a child might swallow, such as coins, buttons, beads, pins, and screws.  Sometimes it is best to try to look at the room the way your child does.  Simply, get down on the floor and look around for harmful objects.
  • If you have wood or tile floors, don’t let your child run around in socks.  Socks make slippery floors even more dangerous.
  • Keep cords for window blinds and drapes away from children by cutting the loops or wrapping them on wall brackets they can’t get to, as they can get caught in the cord if it is not tight or out of reach.
  • Hard edges or sharp corners on tables or other furniture can injure your child if he or she falls against them.  If possible, move furniture out of places where your child plays, especially when he or she is learning to walk.  You also can add stick-on cushioned protectors to the corners and edges of your furniture.
  • Make sure large pieces of furniture are stable and can’t tip over easily.  This also includes things like televisions that may be on top of other furniture.  Anchor bookcases and TV stands to the wall.
  • Open windows from the top if possible.  If you must open them from the bottom, put in window guards that only an adult or older child can open from the inside.  Never put chairs, sofas, low tables, or anything else a child might climb on in front of a window.
  • Never leave plastic bags lying around the house, and don’t store children’s clothes or toys in them. Dry-cleaning bags are particularly dangerous.  Knot them before you throw them away so that it’s impossible for your child to crawl into them or pull them over his or her head.
  • A gun should not be kept in the home or environment of a child.  If you must keep a firearm in the house, keep it unloaded and locked up.  Lock ammunition in a separate location.  If your child plays in other homes, ask if guns are present there, and if so, how they are stored.

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