What to Do If Your Child Has Chicken Pox

It’s likely your child will contract chicken pox at some point during his childhood, especially as he enters preschool or nursery programs and begins interacting with other children. Learning how to recognize the signs and symptoms and helping him recover from the ailments will help protect both his health and his comfort level.

The Signs and Symptoms

Chicken pox, a common virus called Varicella, often begins with a few red spots or bumps that resemble and can be mistaken for insect bites, states Dr. Williams Sears, pediatrician and founder of Ask Dr. Sears. Fever is also a common symptom.

According to Dr. Sears, children with chicken pox may exhibit the following:

  • Day 1: A few red spots or bumps are noticeable
  • Day 2: More bumps will appear and the first bumps will have turned into blisters
  • Day 3: More new bumps will appear and the second-day bumps will start to blister
  • Day 4: The original blisters will start to crust over
  • Day 5: At this point, no new bumps should appear but more blisters will crust over

By day 7, all of the blisters will crust over and the fever should subside. The total of number spots is 200 on average, according to Sears.

It may be difficult to determine how your child contracted chicken pox, but the health experts at Nemours KidsHealth say the virus can spread through the air by coughing and sneezing and with direct contact from mucus, saliva or fluid from blisters.

Even before your child develops red spots or bumps, he is contagious. Chicken pox is contagious two days before a rash or bumps even appear and until all blisters have dried, which typically takes a week, according to the experts at Nemours.

The Diagnosis

Although it may be difficult to diagnose your child with chicken pox during the first few days, it is a good idea to quarantine him until you have a diagnosis from his pediatrician.

While Dr. Sears believes a visit to the pediatrician is not always necessary, he does recommend a trip to the doctor in the following cases:

  • You are not sure about the diagnosis after two or three days have passed.
  • An infant 2 months or younger catches chickenpox.
  • Your child has a weakened immune system, such as from an immune disorder or from taking steroid medication.
  • Your child has a fever for more than five days.
  • Your child develops a moderate to severe cough.
  • Severe headaches develop, even when fever is controlled (high fever can cause headaches, which is not worrisome).
  • Significant dizziness (spinning feeling) occurs.
  • Severe headaches with vomiting and stiff, painful back of the neck or spine occur.
  • Any spots become infected, with redness spreading outward from the spot and puss draining out.
  • Your child has spots on the upper or lower eyelids, or has red, painful eyes.

The Treatment

When your child has contracted chicken pox, it is only possible to treat the symptoms and make him as comfortable as possible. Itching is one of the most prominent side effects of this ailment, so your child, especially at the toddler age, may have difficulty resisting the urge to itch the pox.

Dr. Sears recommends treating the itching with the following:

  • Cut the fingernails
  • Benadryl (an over-the-counter antihistamine) is very effective in decreasing the itching. Use it as needed. Click on Benadryl for dosing.
  • Oatmeal baths: Aveeno or other brands can be purchased at the store. This can soothe the itching.
  • Cool washcloths may help.

Keeping your little one occupied can also distract him from the itching. Get creative with games, coloring books and art projects that will keep him entertained yet comfortable while recovering from the chicken pox.

If your child is suffering from a fever, he may feel comforted by stories or a book. According to Dr. Sears, parents or nannies can use Tylenol or ibuprofen to treat the fever, but it is imperative that you avoid treating with aspirin during a chicken pox infection. If your child’s fever is below 101 and he is feeling comfortable, it may not be necessary to even treat the fever as his immune system fights off the infection.

Clutter Free: How to Organize and Design a Kids Closet

If you attempt to open the closet in your child’s room and a nightmare ensues, with clothes strewn sloppily on hangers, toys scattered on the floor and shoes mismatched throughout, it may be time for a makeover. As a nanny or parent, you know that teaching children how to organize and keep their things tidy leads to less clutter, but they may need a creative push to motivate them to free the disorder and mess from their lives and their closets.

Designing and organizing a kid’s closet doesn’t have to be a pain, either. By considering the adjustability and accessibility of how you can creatively organize, the clutter will soon disappear.

A Design for All Ages

It’s natural to want your child to become self-sufficient by encouraging him to do things like dress himself and select his clothes and shoes for the day, but a disorganized closet that is not kid-friendly could significantly impair these efforts. Consider the design of the closet when launching your child’s closet makeover, says Alla Akimova, interior designer at Archives id in New York.

Since your child is growing, you should adjust the closet rods to the appropriate height and use adjustable shelves so he can access his clothing easily. Using adjustable shelves that can be moved as your child grows will save you time and money in the long run.

“For the small kids, a little step stool will help them to become independent,” says Akimova.

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to use the bottom of the closet either, an area that is often neglected, says Akimova. “By adding a bottom shelf, it makes it easier to clean and easier to keep track of items stored there,” she says. “Usually, I would suggest using it for the shoes or short boxes.”

The middle of the closet is the ideal space for shelves and rods to add more surface space for mixed size clothes to hang and to neatly store folded clothes. Utilize the top shelves for items that are seasonal or for extra shoe boxes your child will not need to access on a regular basis.

Many closets are often built deep. Use every inch for a perfectly organized kid’s closet. If you have enough space, Akimova recommends storing large scale flat objects and large toys that your child does not use regularly in the recesses of the closet. Put a rod closer to the front of the closet and hang clothes on it to conceal these large objects.

Creative Hardware

Even though your child’s closet door is typically closed, you want the space to be appealing and welcoming. Dress up the hardware to fit your child’s personality. Themed hardware inspired by your child’s favorite characters can be added to drawers and shelves. “I prefer to use single knobs opposite to a pull because it is easier to replace ‘Elmo’ knobs to a more age-appropriate hardware in the future,” says Akimova.

Finding durable hardware and construction materials to use in a closet will also help extend the shelf life. Sturdy compartment dividers offer a sense of order, dividing sweaters from jeans and tennis shoes from sandals. Durable plywood is also a much more cost-effective choice versus particle board, says Akimova.

Particle board is sensitive to water in case of spills and is not durable for the long-term, she says. Plywood, a sturdier material to construct shelves with, can be painted and even purchased pre-finished. “It will last a lot longer and has less off gas, thus making a child’s environment healthier,” says Akimova.

Safety First

Safety plays a significant role in designing your child’s closet space. “Avoid using wire or clear plastic hangers, as they can snap if clothes are pulled down,” says Akimova. “It happens a lot and I’ve learned it the hard way.”

Falling hazards should also be a consideration. Akimova recommends against rod brackets where the bar could be lifted up and possibly fall on your child. Glass is a no-no, too. “Naturally, we would never use real glass anywhere in a small child’s room,” she says.

When constructing or installing drawers or shelves in a closet, you can safeguard your child by placing hidden magnetic locks on drawers that are too high or ones that you don’t want your child accessing. “It works better than the regular child guard, especially with the older kids,” says Akimova. “It can be easily disabled if the parent wants to let the child have access to the drawer again.”

Ouch!: Tips for Soothing Your Child When Getting Shots

It’s difficult to watch your child tense in fear when it’s time for vaccinations or routine shots at the doctor’s office. In fact, nannies and parents often feel helpless as their children cry and squirm at the sight of a needle.

There are ways you can help to ease your child’s fear of shots, though, both before you enter the doctor’s office and once you’re in the examination room. All you need are some creative strategies.

Before the Visit

The key to helping your child cope with the fear of getting shots is to prep him before you even leave your home. Begin by talking with your child about why vaccinations and routine shots are important. Stress the health benefits of preventing diseases by using calm, age-appropriate language. Phrases such as “we don’t want your tummy to hurt, so we are going to get medicine to help you” and “we want you to always feel good, so we get shots to keep the germs away” can help your child identify with why shots are necessary.

When scheduling vaccination appointments, it’s also important to avoid surprising your child when you get to the doctor’s office. Let your child know the day of the appointment that it is time to check in with the doctor to see how much he has grown and to help ward off the germs.

To help ease his worries, make the appointment for early in the morning, so he does not have anxiety and fear throughout the day. According to Madeline Vann, health and medical expert with Everyday Health, another advantage to scheduling early is that there will be time during the day for your child to be active and work off any soreness stemming from the shots.

As you get your child used to the idea of visiting the doctor for shots, avoid white lies. “Everyone, even small children, know shots hurt a bit, so there’s no point in pretending otherwise,” says Zak Zarbock, Utah-based pediatrician.

Make sure, too, that you, as the nanny or parent, stay calm when talking about shots, advises Zarbock. “The attitude of a parent certainly can increase the anxiety level,” he says. “I have a lot of parents who are freaked out by shots. A parent should be calm.”

During the Visit

Even though you may have a fear of needles or shots, too, it’s best to avoid expressing your emotions and fears in front of your child. Instead, if you need to look away, go ahead, but make sure you are comforting your child and holding his hand at the same time. If you need moral support, bring along another adult or spouse to increase both yours and your child’s comfort level.

Comfort is key when easing your child’s fears about shots. Allow your little one to hold on tight to his favorite stuffed animal or toy when he is sitting in the examination room.

A distraction will also help. Possibly give your child a small treat, such as a lollipop, to distract him from the needle approaching his arm. Just make sure that you avoid any type of food or beverage that could cause him to choke if he does begin to cry.

Making your child laugh or smile is a welcome sight during vaccinations. You can tell a silly story, sing a song or use funny voices to take his mind off of the vaccinations. Point out a cute picture or character on the wall to divert his eyes from the needle or ask him to sing the ABC’s with you as the nurse prepares his shots.

As long as your child knows that the shots will be over quickly, it may be easier to bear. When scheduling vaccinations, do your best to schedule as many as possible in one visit so your child does not face the anxiety or fear too often.

After the Visit

It is likely your child will remember the fear he felt before getting the shots – even if it proved to be painless. Praise his courage by offering a fun reward. For example, you can let him know that if he is cooperative during the doctor’s visit, then the two of you can embark on a journey to the park or celebrate with a special lunch.

“It’s fine to incentivize a little bit, to offer a reward or treat afterwards,” says Zarbock. In fact, he allows children to choose a special prize after vaccinations in his practice.

The Baby of the Family: Unique Needs of the Youngest Child

Although many times older children think the youngest child, the “baby” of the family, has it easy, that’s not always the case. The youngest child spends years trying to catch up to her siblings and model their behavior, and may also be the child with less attention from the start compared to the firstborn.

If you are caring for a child who is the youngest in birth order, it’s important to recognize the unique needs of this child, who may be struggling with feeling small as the baby of the family.

Unique Feelings the Youngest Child Faces

According to Eileen Johnson, director for Little Missionary’s Day Nursery in New York City, the baby of the family can feel small and not as capable as the older siblings. “Being younger than everyone can make a child feel unwilling to compete,” she says. “Often a youngest child will defer to others or complain to the caregiver or parent ‘I can’t draw a face’ because their sibling does it better.”

In addition, the youngest child can feel that he or she can’t really impact the family dynamic, as there is already a strong family unit with its rules already in place when he or she arrives, says Johnson. “It is important for the ‘baby’ to be allowed to have a say in how things are done,” she says.

As the baby of the family, your little one may also crave attention. “This can manifest itself in positive ways, such as performing, but may turn into negative behavior such as whining or being defiant as a way to get attention,” says Johnson. “Parents and caregivers need to be aware that the youngest child has specific needs and be aware of the child’s wish to be accepted into the group – having a unique voice in the family will help,” she says. “If caregivers can be sensitive to the youngest child’s need to belong to the group and be a contributor to the group, then acting out can be minimized.”

Meeting the Unique Needs of the Youngest Child

As a mother of four, Melissa Moraja, founder of Melissa Productions, a company focused on providing educational and entertaining products for children, found that her youngest exhibited more stubbornness than her older children.

“My youngest, who is 2 years old, expects to do everything that her older siblings can do, such as going to bed when they go to bed and even sitting in their seat in the car without a car seat,” says Moraja. “She wants things done her way and on her time frame and she thinks nothing of putting on her shoes and heading out the door to go play with her siblings, never realizing she’s only 2 years old and can get hit by a car.”

Moraja describes her youngest child as the “mini boss” in the house, as she mimics the behavior and yearns to be as old as her siblings.

How can a parent or nanny meet the needs of the youngest without minimizing her quest for independence?

“As a parent, I’ve found that my youngest needs more responsibility and independence,” says Moraja. “She craves it and she is growing up a lot faster than my other three did at her age.” Moraja attributes the fast growth to the fact that her 2-year old daughter’s best friend is her 9-year old sister.

When frustrated by the stubborn behavior, Moraja has found that she must focus on the strengths of her youngest child. “She is a great problem solver, figuring out ways to get what she wants, even if she has to yell and scream,” she says. “She responds well when I get down on one knee, look her in the eye and talk to her.”

Providing choices will also encourage a youngest child’s independence and attention-craving ways. “Giving her choices allows her to feel like she is making the decision, but in the end, there have been times when I just have to say no and be firm,” says Moraja. “As a parent, I have to stay strong and not give in to a 2-year old’s demands – and a nanny shouldn’t either.”

In the end, one of the best ways to meet the unique needs of a youngest child is to show her just how special she is with one-on-one attention, says Dr. Fran Walfish, California-based psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent.

“Parents and nannies can understand that the youngest’s demands for attention and love are not just the clinginess of a spoiled baby, but rather a child who wants a well-deserved, equal full teaspoonful of mommy,” says Walfish.

Discipline and More: The Best Parenting Books for Nannies

Even with the best training, there may come a time when a nanny is stumped on how to help a child, discipline him or keep him entertained. Luckily, parenting books offer a rich variety of tips and strategies that can keep your household or the one you work for running smoothly.

Beyond browsing the family and parenting section of your local bookstore or library, check out these books that offer advice on discipline and more.

Nanny to the Rescue!: Straight Talk and Super Tips for Parenting in the Early Years

America’s Nanny offers a large dose of healthy parenting advice with secrets for raising happy, secure, and well-balanced babies and toddlers. Babies don’t come with instructions, unfortunately, and many of today’s parents find themselves overwhelmed with schedules and demands, with little time to bone up on their parenting skills.

Often removed from grandparents and relatives, who lived next door or just down the street in times past, they have no one to guide them through the disorienting world of raising children. Enter Nanny to the Rescue! Michelle LaRowe, 2004 International Nanny Association “Nanny of the Year,” gives her tried and true solutions to childcare. Her expertise, with chapters titled “Who’s the boss?” and “Discipline is not a four letter word”, gives confidence to parents who need specific ideas for real day-to-day problems.

A proud member of Christian Nannies, Michelle also offers foundational truths that are sure to help encourage moms and dads.

Nanny 911: Expert Advice for All Your Parenting Emergencies

Regain control of your children with simple, direct, nanny-tested measures. Is your life chaotic? Are your kids running the show? Do you feel like you’re more of a zookeeper than a parent? Take heart, America. When your family’s in trouble, Nanny 911 is there on the double. Brats are not born, they’re made, and no one knows that better than Deborah Carroll and Stella Reid—Nanny Deb and Nanny Stella—the stars of the overnight hit television show on the Fox network.

Each week, up to 10 million viewers tune in to see the nannies take charge and transform one family’s utter chaos into serenity. No matter how loud the tantrums or how clueless the parents, Nanny Deb and Nanny Stella help them become the families they always wanted to be.

Now the nannies share their remarkable wisdom with millions of overwhelmed parents who are desperate for foolproof parenting advice at their fingertips. They’ll show that parents need to change their behavior first—because when there are no consequences for naughty behavior, kids quickly realize there’s no reason for the naughtiness to stop. And when mom and dad just don’t know what to do, the kids take over. You’ll learn how to confront problems head-on by using firm but loving discipline, effective communication, and the implementation of clear House Rules.

The Best Nanny Handbook: The Ultimate Guide For Nannies

The Best Nanny Handbook, written by Emma Kensington, covers all aspects of being a nanny. Complete childcare, communicating with parents, salaries, taxes, live-in situations and everything else you need to know about being a nanny is in this book. This handbook is a great reference for nannies and an excellent source of information for people who are thinking about becoming a nanny. Every nanny should read it cover to cover and keep it close by.

Supernanny: How to Get the Best From Your Children

Jo Frost, a.k.a “Supernanny,” is the answer to every stressed parent’s problems. In ABC’s primetime series, Jo works miracles on difficult children by dispensing no-nonsense rules and reassuring us that parents really do know best. The Supernanny method gives parents the know-how to tackle any problem area, be it mealtime, bathtime, bedtime, bedwetting, homework, sibling rivalry, aggressive behavior, or a child who just won’t do what he or she is told.

In an era where parents are bombarded with conflicting or guilt-laden messages at every turn and sometimes obey their kids’ commands rather than the other way around, this is an upbeat, back-to-basics approach to restoring harmony and authority in the home.

Chapters include:

  • Ages and Stages
  • Routines and Rules
  • Setting Boundaries
  • Dressing
  • Toilet Training
  • Eating
  • Social Skills
  • Bedtime
  • Quality Time

Preparing for a New Baby: What to Expect

Awaiting the arrival of a little one can be filled with mixed emotions. While you may be overjoyed that your family will be expanding, you may also be feeling nervous or scared about how to care for a new baby.

Preparing for a baby involves preparing your home, your family and your self for the changes that will occur. Most of all, knowing what to expect can minimize those trial and error moments of parenthood.

Basic Shopping Supplies

Preparing your home for a new baby is critical to ensure you have all of the products and supplies an infant needs.

Add these items to your list:

  • Car Seat
  • Stroller
  • Sling or Carrier
  • Bassinet
  • Receiving Blankets and Swaddle Blankets
  • Baby Monitor
  • Humidifier
  • Bath Tub
  • Hooded Towels and Wash Cloths
  • Shampoo, Grooming and Medical Set
  • Diaper Cream, Diapers and Wet Wipes
  • Breast Pump
  • Bottles, Bottle Brush and Drying Rack
  • Pacifiers
  • Burp Cloths
  • Onesies, Socks and a Light Weight Hat

In addition, you will need clothing that is appropriate for the weather in your area, a crib, and basic decorating materials and accessories to brighten up your baby’s room.

Arriving Home

When parents arrive home from the hospital with their newborn baby, it is a challenging and exciting period, says Natasha Eldridge, founding partner of Eldridge Overton Educational Programs. “When bringing home a brand new baby, all types of emotions are elicited, including excitement, fear and happiness,” she says. “Mom has spent the first nine months of baby’s time in utero bonding with the new child. Meanwhile, dad’s first opportunity to bond presents itself when healthy baby meets the world.”

During the first few weeks, your baby will spend time exploring her new environment. “Our homes are bright, filled with the sounds of life and the smells of our culture,” says Eldridge. “A brand new baby is taking in so much in such a short amount of time, she may cry often during the first few weeks of adjustment at home.”

Parents and nannies should be ready for sleepless nights, busy days filled with washing bottles, breastfeeding equipment and clothes, feeding and pamper changing at least every two hours, several baths and sponge baths to clean the overflowing diapers and spit up that will inevitably leak onto areas of the baby’s body, says Eldridge.

According to Dana Obleman, author of “The Sleep Sense Program,” new parents and nannies should know that newborn babies do a lot of eating and sleeping and not much else. “It’s important to let them eat and sleep as much as they want to during the first few weeks,” she says. “Ideally, you should create an eat-play-sleep pattern that allows for four to five naps per day of one to three hours each.”

According to Obleman, most newborns should only be awake for 45 to 60 minutes at a time before they need another nap. “You’ll also need to feed for about 20 to 30 minutes every two to three hours,” says Obleman. “Six weeks marks a turning point for many babies, when their sleep cycle begins to settle down and they can sleep three to five hours at a time at night.”

The Joy of Newborns

More than anything, your new baby will need a lot of love and attention, says Brandi Jordan, newborn care educator and lactation consultant with The Cradle Company.

“Humans cannot survive without touch and both babies and parents find it comforting to use baby wearing as a way to bond, such as an infant carrier that allows the baby to be worn skin-to-skin,” she says. “Talk to your baby, gaze at him during feedings and in a few weeks during diaper changes, you will see him mirroring your behaviors and looking to connect with you.”

New babies will look to their parents for everything, says Eldridge. “That longing stare they give is empowering, yet jolts most of us to realize that we are no longer just responsible for just ourselves, which can be scary,” she says. “Just enjoy the first few weeks because you will never get that time back again. There will be different stages – none better than the last – but the first few weeks will never be again, so take a seat and enjoy the new bundle of joy.”

How to Raise Responsible Kids

As a parent or nanny, it can be exhausting to wrestle with your child’s unwillingness to take responsibility. If strewn socks on the floor, unmade beds and crumbs left on the kitchen counter are any indication that your child is not taking responsibility for his or her messes, it may be time to incorporate lessons about how to respect others by learning about responsibility.

Fortunately, responsibility is a skill that can be learned. You can teach your child tips with fun, everyday activities to impress the need to be accountable for actions in life.

Allowing Allowance

So many times, children become accustomed to getting what they want, when they want it. If you have concerns that your child feels entitled when it comes to privileges that cost money, institute a weekly allowance tied to responsibilities. Karen Weldon, Colorado-based mother of four and president of The Hire Connection, says she raised four successful adult daughters by tying their allowance to household chores. “When the girls were little, they were given chores and a small allowance when work was completed,” says Weldon. “They were taught to work hard and that nothing was given to them just because they wanted it.”

As a result, Weldon says her children learned to earn items or privileges they wanted and were less likely to expect toys and opportunities on a daily basis. “They had to earn that coveted toy and they were also held accountable for their actions and were not given empty threats,” says Weldon. “When they didn’t follow through, there were consequences for those actions.”

What Weldon deems as “tough love” led to her daughters knowing upfront that she was not a wishy washy parent. “As they grew into teenagers, there was a lot of ‘tough love,’ but they always knew where we stood as parents,” she says. “Through this, they learned that if you wanted to be the best, it takes a lot of hard work and effort and that nothing is handed to you.”

Assign Responsibility

One of the best ways to teach your children responsibility is to provide them with opportunities. Assign or delegate a task each week that your child is responsible for completing, such as taking out the trash, retrieving the mail or walking the dog. It is important to first discuss your child’s preferences, allow him or her to choose one preferable task, and then assign another.

In return, your child may eagerly jump into the role because you have shown trust in her to succeed with the task.

C. Lee Reed, founder of the Helicopter Mom and Just Plane Dad website, recommends allowing your children the opportunity to care for pets to learn responsibility. “We started with a few fish, moved to a hamster and guinea pigs and finally graduated to a dog,” says Reed. “Children learn compassion, caring, unconditional love and become responsible while loving another species.”

In addition to delegating responsibilities for your child, provide the tools and resources she needs to succeed. If she’ll be caring for pets, create a plan or chart to outline how to feed, bed and provide stimulation for the animal. Teach your child how important it is to love and care for another being, suggests Reed. “We worked on my daughter’s emotional side by letting her know what could happen to her pet if she failed to take care of it responsibly,” she says. “She learned that pets get bored, hungry and can die if not loved.”

Praise Positive Actions

Many times, children are unaware of how to define responsibility. If you point out the positives in their behavior, they will soon learn how to identify responsible actions. “If you want your child to act responsibly, you need to acknowledge them and praise them when they act responsibly,” says Maggie Steele, life coach for teens and young adults. “If, for example, your teen has a curfew at 11 p.m. on a Friday night and shows up at home at 10:58 p.m., let them know how cool that is. Say something along the lines of ‘Thank you for keeping your word and acting responsibly tonight.’”

Even though it may take your child time to identify responsible actions, continue working toward the idea of earning trust being accountable, says Steele. “If your teen wants to borrow your car one night but you don’t trust him, tell him that he must earn the right to use your car,” she says. “Give him little tasks to do for the next week and make it a point to acknowledge him every single time a task is completed.”

In addition, let your child know that you are proud of him and respect him for keeping his word, suggests Steele. “Once you establish a relationship with your child in which you respect him and trust him, he will feel a deep desire to keep that trust and respect,” she says.

4 Ways to Help Children Grieve

By Marcia Hall

Sorrow is a normal emotion for any child to experience. Often when loss occurs in a child’s life, like the death of a loved one or pet, parents and caregivers avoid the subject or try to make light of the topic. Sometimes they will even give the child gifts or do something to distract him from the emotion he is showing. While this can make the adults caring for the child feel better, it does not truly help the child in any way. Your child needs to be allowed to move though the grieving process. When he is younger it is your job to guide him along this path. Below are four ways you can help your child move through the stages of grief and come out on the other side healthier, happier and ready for the many sad events life has to hold.

  • Show emotion yourself. Many adults never had positive examples of sorrow as a child, so when sadness comes to their child, their first instinct is to bottle that emotion up until they can be alone. Some parents are simply afraid that by being sad, they will make their child sadder, and they don’t wish to manufacture a reason for their child to cry. However, children learn by example. If your child sees you cry or be upset in some way about loss, it helps him understand that his feelings of sorrow are normal when he loses someone close to him. If you bottle everything up, however, you are unintentionally shaming your child into bottling up his emotions, too. Instead, feel free to cry and be angry with your child around. Talk about the love you had for the person and why that person will be missed. Make sure your child gets to see all of the stages of your heartache, even the end result of acceptance of the loss.
  • Avoid distracting him from his emotion. When a child begins to grieve, his mind often starts worrying that he will lose things closest to him. He may begin to get scared that he will lose his parents, friends, pets and siblings. No one wants to consider the worst, and when children say things like “are you going to die?” those closest to him cringe at truthfully answering that question. However, the most helpful thing you can do for your child in that situation is to answer it honestly. The truth is that yes, someday you will die. We all will. You can simply say to your child “Yes, some day I will die, but I hope to live for a very long time and I have worked hard to make sure you will be very well cared for if and when I do die.”  How you elaborate will greatly depend on your own faith beliefs.
  • Ask him how he feels; don’t tell him how to feel. While it is true that you want to show your own sorrow during the grieving process, you also want to avoid telling the child how to feel. If he seems unmoved by the loss of his pet, do not imply to him that he should be more upset. He might surprise you by not really having much feeling about it right away, only to have that emotion surface weeks and even months later. Just make sure he knows that he can talk with you about it when and if he ever feels like it. If he does have a strong emotional outpouring right away, allow it to happen. Crying and being angry are very common for any person suffering from a loss. Ask questions that might help him say how he feels. Give him time to come up with some answers. If he cannot find the words, especially when he is young, it can be helpful to say, “When I lose a pet I feel sad because I remember all the wonderful times I had with him and feel like I will miss those in the future.” This is not telling him how he should feel, but instead giving him some ideas on why he feels so sad.
  • Be with him and be understanding through all stages of grief. The number one thing you can do for your child as he is grieving is to just be present with him. It is what he needs more than anything. This will allow him time to move from disbelief to anger to negotiation to depression and finally to acceptance.

Humans will never be without loss in life. That is why it is so important for children to learn how to grieve. You can help them learn this while they are still in the early stages of life when they want help from parents and caregivers. It is so much better for them to be sad while you are able to be right by their side than for them to find themselves older and without these healthy life tools.

Dangerous Pets Families Should Avoid

There is nothing more precious than watching your children interact and play with a beloved family pet. Whether it’s a bouncy kitten or a cuddly cocker spaniel, you want to ensure that your children are safe in the presence of a family pet.

Unfortunately, not all animals respond well to the often active and energetic nature of children. Choosing the safest pet for your child means considering the risks that come with different animals before you pick out a new addition for your family.

Your child may be intrigued by a slithering snake at the zoo, but until he is older, avoid adding any reptiles as the family pet, recommends Sujatha Ramakrishna, pediatric psychiatrist and author of Raising Kids Who Love Animals. This means hold off on purchasing turtles, lizards, snakes and frogs while your children are young.

According to Ramakrishna, many reptiles carry salmonella bacteria, which cause life-threatening illnesses in young children. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control advises that children under five completely avoid direct contact with all kinds of reptiles. Even for older children, careful hand washing after handling reptiles is essential.

Pocket pets, such as hamsters, guinea pigs and gerbils, also carry salmonella, says Ramakrishna. “These animals do not like being handled and often bite children,” she says.

“Toddlers and infants should never be left alone with any kind of animal,” says Ramakrishna. “Any pet is dangerous for kids if parents don’t properly supervise their interactions and educate their children about the proper way to handle and care for their non-human family member.”

Although pets teach responsibility, nurturing and assertiveness to children, parents must be choosy when determining a good fit for the entire family.

Ferrets have become a popular family pet in recent years, but parents and nannies should be leery of the risks of adopting this furry friend as a member of the family when children are small. These cute little critters have a significant incident history of biting young children, more than dogs and other species, according to Bruce Coston, Virginia-based veterinarian and author of The Gift of Pets.

“It appears that they are more likely to attack when they smell milk on the breath of a youngster,” says Coston. “The increase in bite risk is significant.”

Beyond the risk of biting, many pets, like reptiles, can spread disease and infection or trigger allergies. In addition to reptiles and ferrets, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents with children under the age of 5 avoid the following animals as pets:

  • reptiles (turtles, snakes, lizards, iguanas)
  • rodents (hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, chinchillas, hedgehogs, prairie dogs, mice, rats)
  • amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders)
  • baby poultry (chicks, ducklings, goslings, turkeys)
  • monkeys
  • illegal exotic animals

In addition to illegal exotic animals, Coston advises against wild species, such as raccoons and wolf hybrids. It is likely that a pet raccoon could be a carrier of intestinal parasites that are fatal for humans, says Coston. “Wild species can become aggressive without warning and can have personality changes as they mature,” he says. “This includes wolf hybrids – which seldom make good pets and should never be a pet in a household with children.

Even though your family may crave originality, when your children are young, it is often a better choice to stick with the basics, such as puppies and kittens. Primarily, do your research before bringing home the family’s new addition.

Parenting experts at Nemours KidsHealth recommend parents and nannies do the following before determining the best pet for the family:

  • Read pet guides explaining the various personalities, tendencies and backgrounds of specific breeds in detail. For example, some dog breeds (such as certain terriers or Chihuahuas) are known for their feistiness and are considered less tolerant of kids — especially if they aren’t raised with kids from puppyhood. Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, on the other hand, have excellent reputations as family-friendly dogs. Also look around for guides (at your local bookstore, on the Internet, or at animal shelters) that explain how to take care of different kinds of pets. If you’re interested in rabbits, the House Rabbit Society is an excellent resource and offers printed materials on rabbits and rabbit care.
  • Set up a consultation visit with a veterinarian to talk about what you’re looking for in a pet and to ask questions.
  • If you’re thinking about buying a dog from a pet store, first ask where they get their dogs and puppies. Some pet stores purchase dogs from “puppy mills,” where they may be poorly bred and, therefore, may have physical and/or behavioral problems. It’s often better to buy a dog from a private breeder or adopt one from an animal shelter.
  • Ask neighbors and friends about their experiences with various kinds of pets.

Germ Alert: How to Keep Toys Clean

All day long, your children handle dolls, trucks and trains while crawling and running through your home with their prized possessions in tow. Even though their smiles and giggles indicate that these toys make them happy, the reality is that their toys can make them sick if they are not cleaned on a regular basis.

It’s likely that your child’s toys are exposed to germs from sticky fingers, slobbery cuddles and pet hair and dander that reside throughout your home. Ensure that your children are safe and healthy by taking extra care to keep toys free from germ exposure.

Hard Toys

Finding safe chemicals to clean your child’s trains, trucks and wooden dolls can be a challenge, especially because most toys head straight to the mouth when you’re dealing with babies and toddlers. The last thing you want is to have your child consume harmful cleaning chemicals.

An easy fix is to put hard, non-electric toys in the top rack of your dishwasher, suggest the experts at Cardinal Maids. The high heat of the water will sanitize the toys and you can opt to run a sanitize, no-soap cycle. Another option is to soak hard toys that are too awkwardly shaped to fit in the dishwasher in a diluted tub of bleach and water. If you prefer to avoid using bleach, opt for a vinegar solution to deodorize and clean your child’s favorite toys.

For a quick cleaning method while on the go, use baby wet wipes to sanitize hard toys that cannot be immersed in water or natural cleaning solutions.

Soft Toys

That treasured doll, stuffed animal or plush ball your child clings to has probably seen better days. Germs, sweat, grime and slobber all seep into soft toys, festering bacteria and becoming a harmful playmate for your child. If the soft toy does not have plastic components, simply toss it in with your next load of laundry and wash on a gentle cycle. If you prefer not to use laundry detergent, the experts at Cardinal Maids recommend sprinkling baking soda and pouring in a few capfuls of distilled vinegar in the washing machine to help kill off those germs.

Many plush animals and dolls can be dried on low, but if you are concerned about keeping all arms and legs in tact, an air dry solution may be the best option for your little one’s prized possession.

If you have a steam cleaner lying around, it can be used for more than just the floors. Use the steam cleaner to deep clean plush toys and fluff those with batteries.

You can also spot clean plush toys with an extreme dusting method. Simply place the plush toy in a sealed plastic bag with cornstarch and baking soda. You can swap out the cornstarch with baby powder if you prefer. Shake the bag to coat the soft toy and leave it in the bag for one to two hours to absorb any odors. Once you remove the toy, brush it lightly or use the vacuum cleaner hose to remove the powder and reveal a fresh and clean plush doll or toy.

Electronic Toys

Cleaning electronics is not always the easiest task. You can’t douse them with water or scrub with a sponge to remove the germs. The experts at Cardinal Maids recommend using a canned air duster to remove dirt, grime and crumbs from small grooves and buttons. If you have resistant stains or dirt still present on the toy, take a microfiber cloth and put a few drops of soap or vinegar on it to wipe down the surface thoroughly.

Beware, though, if the toy has a rusty battery compartment. You can remove minor rusting with dishwashing soap and a scrub pad, recommends Sarah Gould, lead curatorial researcher at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, Texas. “If rust remains, a little mineral oil might be used with the scrub pad or a paste made of baking soda, salt and water,” she says. “Be careful not to scrub too hard or you may remove paint and you don’t want your child to have a toy with flaking paint.”

The best option, though, is to get rid of toys containing rust to reduce the risk to your child’s health.