Eat, Sleep and Breathe…Kids

A blog about parenting and teaching.

The Importance of Quality Time September 10, 2010

Filed under: parent category — daramackay @ 4:02 pm

As an educator and child care provider, I have had the privilege of meeting many different children, and have encountered many different families.  I have met children who are perhaps ‘over-parented’ and children who are definitely ‘under-parented.’  My thought has always been that the more quality time a child spends with his or her parents, the better chance they have of being successful in life.  Parents are the foundation for the human beings their children will become, and even in this busy world, it is my belief that they still need to make sure their children are taken care of in all facets of their lives first and foremost.  This doesn’t necessarily come down to quantity of time spent with them, but to quality time.  Even if a working parent only has an hour or two a day to spend with their kids, they can still make that brief time count towards their emotional, intellectual and physical development.

I recently polled some parents around me about what kinds of activities they do with their kids.  I know what I do with my own kids, but I was curious to see what other parents do, and how they differ or are similar.  What I found out was that many parents in my circle are doing a great deal of physical activity with their kids, among other things.  The results are encouraging to see, because at least a few parents out there are stimulating the physical side of the lives of their children as well as their creative and intellectual sides.

While most parents listed the common activities children do, like playing with dolls or other toys and going to the playground, they also listed taking part in sporting and physical activities with their children.  Some parents play soccer, or go swimming or go for walks. Others take their children sledding and skating and for bike rides.  I found it very uplifting to see that stay at home parents and working parents alike find time to integrate physical activity and play into their relationships with their kids.

Parents polled also listed many educational activities.  Firstly, most parents said they read to their children often, and if their kids are older, they take turns reading to one another.  This activity not only builds literacy and fluency in language and learning, but it also provides a wonderful forum for parent-child bonding.  One parent I asked said she takes her two year old to museums, and another cited going exploring in a new country they recently moved to.  Yet another mentioned going to the zoo.  As for me, my daughter is very artistic and creative, so we spend a lot of time making crafts, drawing, painting and making jewelry.

Other things many parents said they do with their children is have special snack time after school and eat dinner as a family.  In today’s society, many families are on the go most of the day and yet at least some parents are still taking time to have meals and snacks with their kids.  Having a meal as a family tends to foster togetherness, and allows parents and children to unwind and discuss all the things they did that day.  Many parents also take their children out for special treats like hot chocolate, and in my family, a common destination is Starbucks.  My daughter gets her special steamed flavored milk while my husband and I enjoy a therapeutic cup of coffee.  We all get to sit around a table, enjoying our treats and talk to one another without the hustle and bustle of life dragging us down.

What I found in talking to a few different parents is that they all have something in common.  They all take at least a few moments per day to spend quality time with their kids.  When parents are working or kids are in school all day long, it can seem like the hours pass too quickly, and before you know it, it’s bedtime.  I know I sometimes blink and my day is gone, leaving me wondering exactly where it went.  Even if it is only fifteen minutes of reading time, or half an hour in the back yard or the park, many parents are making sure their children are being emotionally, intellectually and physically stimulated.

I have had the unfortunate experience of meeting children whose parents do not spend very much quality time with them, and the effects are often clearly seen.  These children crave attention, and will seek it in positive and negative ways.  Many children who act out in school are doing so because they want the attention of an adult in their lives, whether it is getting praise or discipline.  Other children pressure themselves to overachieve and ‘please’ their parents and teachers by doing perfectly in school, though this behavior is less common than acting out.  Children need the attention of their parents and caregivers, and they will do many things to attain it.  It is an unfortunate reality that many families are ill equipped to care for all of the needs of their children, and we see the effects time and time again in the school system.

Children whose parents spend time with them on a regular basis tend to perform better in school, are more confident in their abilities, and do not crave negative attention as much as those who are neglected at home.  Children whose parents do activities with them like the ones above will have a better chance of being successful in our society, because they are being taught the skills necessary to live and function as a part of it.  This is only a small piece of the puzzle, but it is very significant.  Children need guidance, challenges, play, and emotional, creative and physical outlets.  Their parents are the people who can facilitate these things, and I am pleased to see many parents doing so.  If we parents can take time out each day to help our children grow, we will surely see the positive effects of it later on in life.

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The Skinny on Breastfeeding September 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — daramackay @ 12:48 am

Western culture has shied away from many ancient practices in lou of more convenient ways of living.  One of these practices is breastfeeding.  Many western mothers have chosen to formula feed their babies as opposed so they can provide an alternative way of nourishing their babies that is perhaps more convenient, or easier for the working mother to do.  In recent years however, agencies such as the World Health Organization and Health Canada have begun to advocate breastfeeding as the primary or exclusive way to feed babies up to six months of age, and then continuing the practice of breastfeeding to two years and beyond.  The benefits of breastfeeding are vast, and include both baby and mother.

For an infant, breastfeeding has many positives.  Firstly, the makeup of human milk is such that the relatively undeveloped digestive system of the infant is able to handle the proteins in the milk, thus allowing the maximum amount of nutrients to pass from the milk to the baby’s body.  Proteins in cow’s milk, for example, are much larger and harder to digest.  Many adults have difficulty digesting the lactose found in cow’s milk, and it is much more difficult for the immature system of an infant.  Another thing infants gain from being exclusively breastfed are the immunological  benefits.  Not only does colostrum, the substance the baby gets in the first days of life, contain high amounts of immune boosting agents, but the continuation of breastfeeding has shown to possibly reduce susceptibility to gastrointestinal infections.  Babies who are breastfed are getting immune boosters for both bacterial and viral infections.

Another benefit for infants is that the level of most minerals is lower in breastmilk than in cow’s milk or formula.  This means less waste.  The baby’s kidneys are not developed enough at this stage of life to concentrate waste, so the baby loses more nutrients when given cow’s milk or formula. The nutritional elements of breastmilk also contribute to the intellectual development.  Babies who are breastfed tend to have higher IQ test scores than babies fed by other means.

There are also many benefits for the mother who breastfeeds her child.  Firstly, breastfeeding has been correlated with lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer.  Other benefits include more rapid weight loss, as a woman’s body stores up excess fat to use in the production of breastmilk, and the only way to lose that fat is to breastfeed.  There is also the cost effectiveness of it.  Breastfeeding is absolutely cost free.  The only thing a mother has to spend money on is feeding herself properly, but she does not have to consume more food than normal.  It is also convenient, when the mother has become used to nursing her baby.  She does not have to worry about warming bottles in the middle of the night, or packing bottles of formula in the diaper bag with the plethora of other things a baby requires for an outing.  If nursing in public is uncomfortable, there are covers a mother can use to make sure there is no exposure of her breasts, and many establishments have rooms specifically for nursing mothers.  Finally, there is the bond breastfeeding creates with an infant.  Mothers and infants bond no matter how they choose to feed them, but breastfeeding includes skin on skin contact, which is soothing for a baby and a mother.

There are some drawbacks to breastfeeding that every mother contemplating doing it with her baby should know.  When breastfeeding, the initial stages are uncomfortable and can be even painful.  Once a baby learns to latch properly, the soreness will dissipate until periods of teething or increased nursing.  There are ways to treat the pain, and the most common one is the use of lanolin oil on the nipple.  As breastfeeding continues, the pain and discomfort lessen.  Another drawback is the discomfort and pain of clogged milk ducts, which can lead to mastitis.  Mastitis is an infection caused by a clogged duct, and comes with flu like symptoms.  Most of the time, a duct can be unclogged by using a hot compress and continuing to nurse from that breast or expressing milk from the breast while massaging the clogged area.  If mastitis occurs and does not clear up on its own, there are medications available.

There is also the drawback of a mother having her body virtually ‘on call’ for the baby.  She cannot venture too far away for too long a time without needed to either express milk or feed her baby.  A baby may or may not take a bottle of expressed milk, and it becomes difficult to get time away from the infant.  Working mothers who choose to breastfeed must express milk at work and at home in order to ensure her milk supply does not decrease and that the baby has enough to eat.  It is a time consuming and tedious process, but it can be done.

There are many more benefits and drawbacks to breastfeeding, but the most important consideration is that human milk is produced naturally by a woman’s body specifically for her baby.  Formula companies try to mimic breastmilk in the makeup of their product.  It is the most natural way for a mammal to feed its young, and humans are not excluded.

 

Everything Kids September 3, 2010

Filed under: parent category — daramackay @ 3:43 pm

“Raising children is a full-time job.”  This statement has departed from millions of parents’ mouths, and is a cliché for a reason.  Raising children is a full-time job.  In fact, it is more than that.  Raising children is a life.  Before a person has children, they are free to live their lives in whatever way they choose.  They can stay out until all hours of the night and sleep until noon.  They can work 60 hours per week and eat takeout every night.  They can focus solely on their own, singular lives and not worry about how it is going to affect someone else.  When a person becomes a parent, all of these possibilities fly out the window.  A child is a responsibility for life, and said life must change accordingly.

Parenthood has an incredible amount of joys and triumphs.  It is exhilarating, fulfilling and utterly amazing.  It also has its particular challenges.  As mentioned above, the life of a parent must change from a focus on oneself to a focus on a child, who will need his or her every need met by you.  There are many theories out there about how to raise a child; theories on discipline, diet, how to teach them things, what to teach them and many more.  The problem is that there is no manual for this job.  A parent has to constantly troubleshoot and improvise, and we do our best with what we have.  There is no one way to raise kids.  Every household is different, and different things work for different people.

My goal in this blog is to explore some of the many facets of raising children, presenting information from different sources and walks of life so that parents can be as informed as possible.  The best way to arm yourself for the upcoming events is with knowledge.  The more knowledge you have, the better, so you can make informed decisions on what is best for your child and your family.  Stay tuned for articles on many topics, including discipline practices, feeding infants, teaching your child how to read, write, count and more.  As a mother, teacher and childcare professional, my life centers around children, and I look forward to imparting what I learn to my readers.  I hope we can have a wonderful and ongoing conversation about which practices work best for you, and which ones don’t.  Parents need a network in order to stay sane and healthy, and nowadays, we don’t often have that.  I look forward to embarking on this journey with you!