Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Starting the new school year can be a time of great excitement… and anxiety. Help calm your child’s fears (and your own) with these teacher-approved tips.

Meet the new teacher.
For kids, one of the biggest back-to-school fears is “Will I like my new teacher?” Breaking the ice early on is one of the best ways to calm everyone’s fears. Take advantage of your school’s open house or back-to-school night. Some teachers welcome phone calls or e-mails — another great opportunity to get to know each other before the year begins.
If personal contact with the teacher isn’t possible, try locating the teacher’s picture on a school website or in a yearbook, so your child can put a name with a face. If your child’s teacher sends a welcome letter, be sure to read the letter together.

Tour the school.
If your school hosts an open house, be sure to go. Familiarizing your child with her environment will help her avoid a nervous stomach on the first day. Together you can meet her teacher, find her desk, or explore the playground.
With an older child, you might ask him to give you a tour of the school. This will help refresh his memory and yours.

Connect with friends.
A familiar friend can make all the difference when heading back to school. You might try calling parents from last year’s class and finding out which children are in your child’s class this year. Refresh these relationships before school starts by scheduling a play date or a school carpool.

Tool up.
Obtain the class supply list and take a special shopping trip with your child. Having the right tools will help him feel prepared. While keeping basic needs in mind, allow for a couple of splurges like a cool notebook or a favorite-colored pen. These simple pleasures make going back to school a lot more fun.
School supply lists also provide great insight into the schoolwork ahead. Get your child excited about upcoming projects by explaining how new supplies might be used. Let him practice using supplies that he’s not used before — such as colored pencils or a protractor — so he will be comfortable using them in class.

Avoid last-minute drilling.
When it’s almost time to stop playing, give a five-minute warning. Giving clear messages to your child is very important.

Chat about today’s events and tomorrow’s plans.
While it is important to support learning throughout the summer, don’t spend the last weeks of summer vacation reviewing last year’s curriculum. All kids need some down time before the rigors of school begin. For some kids, last-minute drills can heighten anxiety, reminding them of what they’ve forgotten instead of what they remember.

Ease into the routine.
Switching from a summer to a school schedule can be stressful to everyone in the household. Avoid first-day-of-school mayhem by practicing your routine a few days in advance. Set the alarm clock, go through your morning rituals, and get in the car or to the bus stop on time. Routines help children feel comfortable, and establishing a solid school routine will make the first day of school go much smoother.


10 Ways to Stay Safe at the Waterpark

Water parks across the country are the hot spots for people to cool off and beat the heat in the summer. All these water attractions, cooling sprays, waves, and wild rides are great fun, but it’s important to stay safe when you’re visiting a water park. So, before you head off to your local water park, make sure to read over our 10 ways to stay safe.

1. Dress for the day.

You’ll be outside, in the heat, most of the day. You need to dress appropriately to keep from getting sunburned, experiencing heat stroke, or getting dehydrated. This includes wearing water shoes, a hat and a loose t-shirt when you need a break from the water, and sunglasses. Be sure to keep a close eye on younger children and monitor how much time they have in the direct sunlight.

2. Wear sunscreen.

Along those same lines, be sure to apply waterproof sunscreen 30 minutes before you arrive at the park and reapply it throughout the day. Waterproof sunscreen needs to be reapplied every 80 minutes if you’ve been in the water, especially if you’ve dried yourself off with a towel in between applications. The FDA also recommends using a lip balm with SPF 15 or higher while in the sun.

3. Stay hydrated.

Being in the sun all day and playing in the water can get your body dehydrated rather quickly. Drink plenty of water and try to avoid any caffeinated sodas or drinks with artificial sweeteners. These beverages will contribute to dehydration, so water is always your best option. You’ll need more water than you usually drink when inside because you’ll perspire out a lot of the hydration.

4. Keep an eye on your kids.

You need to know where your kids are at all times at the water park. Even if there is a lifeguard on duty, don’t depend on them. Always watch your children or be in the water with them. Lifeguards are responsible for scanning large areas and can sometimes miss things. Plus, it’s not their responsibility to baby sit children and should only be used in case of emergencies, which you don’t want to encounter.

5. Know the four “toos.”

There are some “toos” that can quickly turn to dangerous circumstances if not monitored correctly. Don’t get too tired, too cold, too far from safety, or too exposed to sun. If you notice your children mentioning any of things or if your instincts tell you the family has been in the sun too long, take a break in a shady spot or go indoors.

6. Wear a life vest.

According to an American Red Cross survey, 30 percent of parents think floaties are an appropriate substitute for supervision. No matter how old your children are, a life vest should be worn and an adult should supervise at all times.

7. Know the rules.

Each park has different rules, so be sure to read all posted signs before sending your children off to enjoy the fun. Water parks are filled with different features and slides, each appropriate for different ages. Read all safety procedures and precautions relating to height, age, swimming ability, and medical condition. Be sure to follow the rules and ask the lifeguards or staff if you have any questions.

8. Don’t run around the pool.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, but it’s important to remember not to run around the park to keep everyone safe. Running on slippery decks or sidewalks can be very dangerous. Avoid an unnecessary trip to the emergency room for stitches or a broken leg by simply walking instead of running while in the park.

9. Know how to swim.

Every member of the family should at least know the swimming basics before going to the water park. The best thing for anyone to do to stay safe in water is to know how to swim. Both adults and children should know how to swim to help avoid drowning accidents. Teach them at home if you have a backyard pool, or consider signing your children up for swimming lessons to help get them comfortable.

10. Keep young children in shallow areas.

There are different areas with varying water depth levels at most water parks. Keep younger children and toddlers in the shallow play areas. Most water parks have zero-depth entry pool with sprays, fountains, and water games that may be better suited for your younger children than going on any of the water slides or in the pool.
What safety tips do you have for water park fun?

How to Prevent Siblings from Fighting

Parenting siblings can be a tricky endeavor, and nannying them can be even more difficult. You are likely walking into a dynamic that has long been established, so tweaking behaviors and fostering friendships between siblings to encourage harmony might take a little more effort.

In Dr. Bill Sears’ 20 Tips to Stop Quibbling Siblings and Promote Sibling Harmony, the world renowned pediatrician, author of over 30 childcare books and father of eight (two of whom grew up to join a medical practice together!), shares his survival skills for creating a peaceful home.

We share how some of those tips can translate into great advice for nannies and caretakers:

(Don’t) Let Them Fight it Out

The old school of thought was to let kids duke it out, believing they’d eventually get over whatever problems they had without interference. It was thought that somehow floundering through conflicts and coming out on the other side, no matter how bad it escalated, was an important life lesson. Limitless fighting can have negative long-term effects, though – and drive you insane in the short-term!

“If children are in danger of hurting someone or damaging property, stop the fight. Siblings who are allowed to fight as kids are more likely to fight as adults. For small tiffs, such as toy squabbles, teach children to handle it themselves. Simply state the consequences and what you expect, ‘I’ll be back in one minute. If you kids haven’t learned how to share the toy or work it out, the toy goes in the garage,’” offers Dr. Sears. “You can either time-out the toy or time-out the kids. You’re giving them two messages: you expect them to be able to work it out themselves, but you’re giving them the unequivocal consequences that if they don’t, you will.”

The New Kid on the Block

Toddlers and preschoolers will likely see you as their favorite toy, and serious jealousy and ill feelings can form when they sense you are (by necessity) investing more time in their new little brother or sister.

“We would wear our infant in a baby sling, which gave us two free hands to play a game with the older one,” says Dr. Sears. “While feeding baby, we would read a book to the sibling, or just have cuddle time. As baby gets older, place him in an infant seat or on a blanket on the floor to watch you play one-on-one with her big brother or sister. This entertains two kids with one [nanny].”

Sibling Squabbling vs. Sibling Abuse

A certain amount of low level bickering is bound to pop up now and then. Disagreements over toys, who took the last fruit leather and whose turn it is to help clear the table are pretty inevitable and working them out together is a natural part of growing up. But when these squabbles turn mean-spirited, escalate to the physical, or tend to be one-sided in a consistent manner – a more worrisome bullying pattern might be forming.

It could be one child who is older, who uses that power and experience to undercut a younger sibling emotionally or uses their physical inequality to force them to concede. It could just be a matter of one child (regardless of age) having a stronger personality, who tends to stampede over the more passive brother or sister. Regardless, when you recognize the beginnings of sibling abuse, it must be nipped in the bud – both to spare the self esteem and confidence of the weaker child and also your relationship and position of authority with both of the children. Bad habits are hard to break.

“Be watchful for aggressor/victim roles,” says Dr. Sears. “Your job is to protect [the] children, even from one another. How siblings behave toward one another is their first social lesson in how to behave in a group. Children need you to monitor put-downs. If you don’t, you’re not doing your job. By remaining silent, the victim concludes you’re siding with the victimizer.”

Make New Friends

Fostering friendships between siblings to cut back on the battles means creating a sense of empathy and compassion. This can be difficult when you enter the picture to two “sworn enemies”. Let them take on roles as teacher, comforter, entertainer or assistant to the doctor (you) in times of bumps and scrapes to help them see their sibling in a new light. Assign them small tasks to do cooperatively, and offer a joint reward at the end.

Know Your Limits

As a nanny coming into a home, you might be walking into a situation where the kids were allowed to beat on each other, call each other names, throw toys at each other and scream or slam doors during fights. While you can’t change the rules of the house, you don’t have to tolerate that type of behavior when they’re under your watch either.

Children understand there are different modes they must abide by in life and different rules and regulations that must be followed or there are consequences to be faced. They don’t run around the classroom yelling, interrupt the teacher when she’s teaching or steal treats from kids at the lunch table when they’re not looking (hopefully), and they can be taught that they must abide by your rules when in your presence – and that those rules might be different than what their parents allow. You are the person in authority and clearly laying out your limits or expectations and being consistent with the consequences will reap a speedy turnaround. Be prepared, though; this could take a little education in a formerly-free-for-all household.

“Offer calm verbal reminders, such as ‘That’s a put-down,’ as one sibling belittles the other. Or, issue a look that says ‘don’t even think about it!’ [when boundary lines are being threatened],” suggests Dr. Sears. “Head off fights at the first squabble, before they get out of hand. In our family, we have set certain ‘maximum allowable limits’, which are behaviors that we insist upon to like living with our children, and the children are taught to respect these.”

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