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Beyond Flu What Illness Should You Watch Your Child For

Children’s colds

It’s normal for a child to have 8 or more colds a year.

This is because there are hundreds of different cold viruses and young children have no immunity to any of them as they’ve never had them before.

They gradually build up immunity and get fewer colds. Most colds get better in 5 to 7 days.

Here are some suggestions on how to ease the symptoms in your child:

  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids.
  • Saline nose drops can help loosen dried snot and relieve a stuffy nose. Ask your pharmacist, GP (*physician) or health visitor about them.
  • If your child has a fever, pain or discomfort, children’s paracetamol (*acetaminophen) or ibuprofen can help. Children with asthma may not be able to take ibuprofen, so check with your pharmacist, GP or health visitor first. Always follow the instructions on the packet.
  • Encourage the whole family to wash their hands regularly to stop the cold spreading.

Cough and cold remedies for children

Children under 6 shouldn’t have over-the-counter cough and cold remedies, including decongestants (medicines to clear a blocked nose), unless advised by a GP or pharmacist.

Children’s sore throats

Sore throats are often caused by viral illnesses such as colds or flu.

Your child’s throat may be dry and sore for a day or two before a cold starts. You can give them paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce the pain.

Most sore throats clear up on their own after a few days. If your child has a sore throat for more than 4 days, a high temperature and is generally unwell or unable to swallow fluids or saliva, see your GP.

Children’s coughs

  • Children often cough when they have a cold because of mucus trickling down the back of the throat.
  • If your child is feeding, drinking, eating and breathing normally and there’s no wheezing, a cough isn’t usually anything to worry about.
  • If your child has a bad cough that won’t go away, see your GP. If your child also has a high temperature and is breathless, they may have a chest infection.
  • If this is caused by bacteria rather than a virus, your GP will prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection. Antibiotics won’t soothe or stop the cough straight away.
  • If a cough continues for a long time, especially if it’s worse at night or is brought on by your child running about, it could be a sign of asthma.
  • Some children with asthma also have a wheeze or breathlessness. If your child has any of these symptoms, take them to the GP.
  • If your child seems to be having trouble breathing, contact your GP, even if it’s the middle of the night.
  • Although it’s upsetting to hear your child cough, coughing helps clear away phlegm from the chest or mucus from the back of the throat.
  • If your child is over the age of 1, try a warm drink of lemon and honey.

Find out more about coughs.


A child with croup has a distinctive barking cough and will make a harsh sound, known as stridor, when they breathe in. They may also have a runny nose, sore throat and high temperature.

Croup can usually be diagnosed by a GP and treated at home. But if your child’s symptoms are severe and they’re finding it difficult to breathe, take them to the nearest hospital’s accident and emergency (A&E) department (*ER).

Read more about the symptoms of croup.

Children’s ear infections

Ear infections are common in babies and small children. They often follow a cold and sometimes cause a high temperature. A baby or toddler may pull or rub at an ear.

Other possible symptoms include fever, irritability, crying, difficulty feeding, restlessness at night and a cough.

If your child has earache, with or without fever, you can give them paracetamol or ibuprofen at the recommended dose. Try one first and, if it doesn’t work, you can try giving the other one.

Don’t put any oil, eardrops or cotton buds into your child’s ear unless your GP (*physician) advises you to do so.

Most ear infections are caused by viruses, which can’t be treated with antibiotics. They’ll just get better by themselves, usually within about 3 days.

After an ear infection, your child may have a problem hearing for 2 to 6 weeks. If the problem lasts for any longer than this, ask your GP for advice.

Find out more about ear infection (otitis media).

Glue ear in children

Repeated middle ear infections (otitis media) may lead to glue ear (otitis media with effusion), where sticky fluid builds up and can affect your child’s hearing. This may lead to unclear speech or behavioural problems.

If you smoke, your child is more likely to develop glue ear and will get better more slowly. Your GP can give you advice on treating glue ear.

See glue ear for further information.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

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How to Tell if Your Child Has a Concussion

Head Injuries and Concussions.

When in doubt, Check it out.

Concussions have gotten a lot of press lately and when we think about concussions, we typically think of sports and athletes but the truth is that concussions and possible head injuries can happen anywhere and while we cannot have our children walk around with a helmet everywhere they go, we can be aware of the most common signs and symptoms of head injuries and possible concussions so that we, as parents, can make better decisions for the safety of our children.

Please allow me to preface this information with a better safe than sorry approach. If you, at any time, feel that your child has suffered a blow to the head and feel that they should have an exam to be sure everything is ok, then do it. You can drive the child to the hospital if the child has no signs or symptoms or you can call 911 and have them taken to the ER if the child is showing any of the following signs or symptoms.

How does a concussion happen? A concussion can happen when the head receives a severe blow or the body can be shaken to the point that it effects the brain. This can happen from something as small as a fall from tripping or something as severe as a football tackle or baseball hit to the head.

What are the most common signs and symptoms of a concussion that I should be looking for?

  • Severe Headaches. With the child receiving a blow to the head, a headache might be expected but if the headache persists or becomes severe then a trip to have it assessed is in order.
  • Your child is not acting like their normal self. The tricky part of head injuries is that they do not have to manifest immediately. Some signs and symptoms can take hours to start manifesting themselves and observation of the child is in order. If the child is not acting as they normally do, for example a child that is suddenly sluggish or unable to focus or remember things could possibly have a head injury and needs to be examined.
  • Nausea and or Vomiting. It is not uncommon for a person with a head injury to become nauseous or vomit shortly after sustaining the injury.
  • A loss of coordination. A person who has suffered a head injury or concussion may lose coordination and may not be able to walk or even stand.
  • Vision problems. Blurred vision or a loss of vision in one or both eyes is a sign of a head injury. The best answer, in this case, is calling 911. There is no timetable on how long this could last and it is best to have this person transported and evaluated at the hospital.
  • Slurred Speech. This is one of the easier signs to assess as the person will not be able to speak as they normally do.
  • Disruption of sleep. If a child that has suffered a head injury earlier in the day or previous days is having difficulty sleeping, this is something that should be assessed by a doctor and requires immediate attention.

While this is just a list of some of the most common symptoms, the ultimate decision is up to you. As I said above and as I tell all of the patients I encounter with these types of injuries. To know for sure we need to go get it looked at. The longer these symptoms go undiagnosed and untreated, the worse they can become and the greater damage they can cause. When in doubt check it out.

How Yoga Can Improve Your Child’s Life

I began practicing yoga two years ago and immediately knew I had found something amazing. As I have developed my personal flow I have come to cherish the space it gives to express myself. It has aided me in dealing with anxiety and depression and has taught me how to channel my energy in  a very positive way. These benefits don’t just apply to adults. Children can also benefit greatly from learning the mindfulness practice.

Yoga is a way of connecting your mind, body, and spirit through movement. During a flow the practitioner moves their conscious attention away from the exterior world and into their own body. This makes it an especially good practice for children who are developing the internal mental framework they will use to understand the world around them. It also is a practice in grace and strength and will aid a child whose body is changing rapidly.

Here are some reasons why you should develop your child’s yoga practice.

Yoga is an excellent coping mechanism. It can help children process new information and experiences by giving them an avenue to channel excess energy and emotion. When they feel overwhelmed, yoga can bring them back into their body and place their awareness on the one thing they can control, themselves.

Yoga teaches emotional and physical boundaries.  For adults who practice yoga, our mat is our sacred space. It is where we come to move and feel without judgement. Teaching children how to  create this safe space for themself introduces them to boundary setting. Allowing them to express themselves fully on the mat shows them there is a time and a place for everything and it’s okay to take space when they need it.

Yoga is physically difficult. It takes strength, balance, and coordination. It is a tiring activity that doesn’t take much space and can be done anywhere without any extra tools. Even the mat is a matter of preference. Children are still developing their muscles and coordination. Yoga challenges both without placing too much stress on their bodies.

Yoga will increase your child’s ability to focus. The postures require complete attention and an awareness of every part of their body from their fingertips to their bellies. When a child practices focusing on a certain point on their body (like their core when they’re practicing downward dog) they increase their ability to focus on other things like words and numbers when they’re reading or in math class.

A consistent yoga practice will help children grow more confident and help prepare them mentally and emotionally for the ups 

and downs of life.

Here are  a few basic poses you can try with your child.

Downward Dog: From a standing position, lean down until you can put your hands on the floor and step your feet back until you create a V shape. Let your head hang loosely. Try to distribute your weight evenly between your hands and feet and draw your belly in. This posture is great for your back and neck and helps strengthen the wrists as well.

Tree Pose: Stand on one foot and draw the other foot into the inner thigh of the standing leg. Bring palms together into a praying position at your chest and breathe deeply. Switch feet. This posture helps with balance and coordination and is very calming because it requires a lot of focus.

Child’s Pose: Sit on your knees and bend forward until your chest touches your thighs. Rest your arms by your side. This is a very comforting posture and is great for taking some time and space to just breathe.

For more great children’s poses check out Kid’s Stories.

Don’t forget Savasana. Savasana is the meditative practice at the end of every session. Here encourage them to breathe deeply from their belly and pay attention to how their body feels now that they are finished stretching. It is a time of peace and calm.

That centered feeling is why we practice. It is the ability to consistently find that calm place no matter what is going on around us that makes yoga such a beautiful experience. It is the practice of being at peace when everything else is chaos.

For more information on the health benefits of yoga check out:


Editor’s note: Always consult your child’s pediatrician before beginning any new exercise routine. 

Teaching Your Special Needs Child How to Eat On Their Own

Children with special needs can take longer to learn how to eat independently. Read these top tips for mealtimes.

Eating a meal can be particularly challenging for children who have disabilities. A lack of fine motor skills (like finding it hard to hold a fork), sensory restrictions (like being paralysed or unable to see) and co-ordination difficulties are some of the many reasons that may delay the learning process. This can be frustrating for you and your child.

Author Deborah French has four children, two of whom have special needs. Her eldest daughter, Amariah, has Down’s syndrome and her son, Henry, has autism spectrum disorder. “Socialising with others generally includes eating together,” she says. “So learning how to eat neatly is crucial to helping our children to integrate.”

Deborah, who also runs cookery classes for children with special needs, came to realise that nagging her children about their table manners wasn’t working. Instead, she developed practical solutions to help them learn, with rapid results.

Deborah’s top tips for happy mealtimes

1. Be patient

“When stress or frustration controls your reactions while trying to teach your child, they will reflect your mood and act accordingly. They will fear your reaction to their mistakes, and as a result will not be able to give their best efforts. Give instructions calmly, with positive reinforcement.”

2. Invest in a funky child-sized apron

“As your child gets older, even though it may still be necessary for them to wear a bib to protect their clothing, this can also be demoralising and embarrassing in front of other family members or peers. An apron is more discreet and will help eliminate any negative feelings your child may harbour before mealtime has even begun.”

3. Encourage your child to help lay the table

“Irrespective of the nature of your child’s disability, take the time to involve them in preparing the table for dinner. Even watching you collect cutlery, cups and napkins helps your child to feel they have participated. During this process, talk your child through what you are doing and why. For example: ‘We use a fork to pick up pieces of food on our plate instead of our fingers. That way, the fork gets dirty and not our fingers’.”

4. Use heavy cutlery and solid crockery

“As parents, we instinctively opt for plastic or disposable utensils to avoid breakage and to make cleaning up easier. But for a child who has either low or high muscle tone or difficulty with their fine motor skills, a plastic fork simply feels like air. These children need to be able to feel the cutlery they are holding. The same is true for plastic plates and cups, which are unstable and easily knocked over. Solid cutlery and crockery will make it easier to teach your child how to eat.”

Read about other eating equipment that can help.

5. Take the time to eat with your child

“If you eat your evening meal later than your child, compromise by ensuring that during your child’s mealtime, you too are seated at the table. Even if you enjoy your coffee or a smaller version of what your child is eating, they will be encouraged by your presence. You can then talk about your food and how you eat with your cutlery. Take note of how quickly your child imitates your actions.”

6. Keep a standalone mirror and wet cloth handy

“The most effective way of teaching self-awareness to a child is to let them view themselves. Even as adults, how often after enjoying a meal with friends have we been unaware that a chunk of food, usually green in colour, has become wedged between our front teeth?

“Apply this theory when helping your child to understand food residue on their face after eating. Before they leave the table, place the mirror in front of them and encourage them to look at their reflection and clean themselves using the wet cloth.”

7. Encourage your child to clear their place

“Again, irrespective of your child’s disability, teach them how to participate in the cleaning up process after eating according to their ability. This may involve them handing their plate to you or taking it to the side to be washed; alternatively wiping their place clean as best they can. Any level of participation helps to develop their self-awareness and obligations at mealtimes.

“It’s important to remember that everyone likes to feel valued and needed. When you give your child responsibilities, they feel important to you and the family. This in turn boosts their self-confidence and speeds up the learning process.”

Read our interview with Deborah about parenting children with special needs.

Specialist eating and drinking equipment

To help your child learn good eating skills, you may find that specialist eating or drinking equipment will make a real difference. The Caroline Walker Trust, a food charity, recommends a number of helpful aids to eating that parents of children with learning disabilities may find useful for their child.

These include:

  • Different shaped cups, with one or two handles, of different weights, materials, transparencies and designs. The cups should be designed not to shatter or break if they are bitten.
  • A transparent cup can be helpful when helping someone to drink, because you can see how much liquid they’re taking.
  • Cutlery of differing shapes, sizes, depths and materials. Again, the cutlery shouldn’t shatter if it is bitten. Solid plastic cutlery or plastic-coated metal might be better for people who have a bite reflex when cutlery is placed in their mouth. Shorter-handled cutlery is easier to manage, and hand grips or irregularly shaped handles may help someone in using a utensil.
  • Plates and bowls that do not slip, have higher sides to prevent spillage, or are angled to make access to food easier.
  • Insulated crockery that keeps food hot if mealtimes are lengthy.
  • Non-slip mats that support crockery.
  • Straws, which can help those with a weaker suck and can have different widths.
  • Feeding systems that deliver food to the diner’s mouth through, for example, a rotating plate and a mechanical or electronically controlled spoon. Some systems are powered, others are hand- or foot-operated.

For more information and details of suppliers, visit the Living Made Easy website.

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Video: Childhood Squint – How to Identify and Treat It

John Sloper, a paediatric consultant at Moorfields Eye Hospital explains the causes of squints, a misalignment of the eye. He describes how to identify the symptoms and the treatment options..

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

What Is Childhood Squint:

  • Occurs when the two eyes point in different directions and as a result see different things and the brain can’t combine the images – vision in one eye deteriorates (amblyopia)
  • Amblyopia is very common and affects one child in 20
  • Squints can occur in children at any age although it commonly occur in babies between 4-6 months old or children ages 2-3 and it’s important up to about age 7 because that’s the age at which it can affect the development of vision


  • Parents will notice the two eyes are not pointing in the same direction
  • Lazy eye is more difficult to diagnose because it can also occur because the focus in the two eyes is different


  • First question is whether vision is affected in both eyes
    • Glasses are first line of treatment
    • Patching good eye to develop vision in poor eye
    • Improvements typically seen in 80% of children
  • Goal of treatment
    • Good vision in both eyes
    • Get the eyes to work together (achieved with a minority of children)
    • Make the eyes look straight (helps the children socially)
  • Surgery is an uncomfortable 2nd option, but children bounce back quickly
    • Good vision results are usually permanent
    • If eyes work together results are usually long lasting
    • If not, the affected eye may drift over 20-30 years and can be corrected with further surgery as an adult
    • Surgical complications are extremely rare
    • Squint surgery is typically a single day procedure with no overnight hospital stay required
  • Results
    • Squints are common and a lot can be done to improve them, however it is important to treat children with squints early – as the earlier they’re seen, typically the better the outcome of the treatment.

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How to Get Kids to Talk About Their Feelings

If you’re worried about a child, encouraging them to talk can be very helpful, whether you’re a parent, grandparent, friend or teacher.

If you think a child you know has a problem, it can be hard to know how to start talking to them about it.

When there are problems at home, such as parents fighting, divorce or a death in the family, children can become withdrawn and upset.

Being able to talk to someone other than a parent is sometimes very helpful for children. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers or even a counsellor can all offer support.

Look for clues in their play

Children express themselves through play as well as words. You can learn a lot about how they’re feeling by simply spending time with them and watching them play.

Stressed and upset children often play fighting games with their toys. Comment on this by saying, “There are a lot of fights going on” or “It seems pretty frightening”. This can help to get them talking about what’s bothering them.

Even if you don’t start a conversation, you’ll be making the child feel more comfortable with you, paving the way for them to open up to you about their problems.

If you can get them talking, gently ask what’s wrong. But if the child doesn’t want to open up, let the subject go, then repeat the process at another time until they’re ready to tell you what’s bothering them.

If a child is too frightened to talk

If you’re worried that a child you know might be being abused at home, it can help to ask a question like, “Is mummy getting very cross with you? You can tell me about it if you want to”.

A child might not understand that they’re being abused. They may simply see it as a parent being angry or annoyed with them.

Children who are being sexually abused often don’t talk about it because they think it’s their fault or they have been convinced by their abuser that it is normal or a “special secret”.

Children will often ask if you’re going to tell anyone about what they’ve told you. Never promise not to tell, but explain that you’ll only tell other people who want to help.

If you suspect abuse, encourage them to call ChildLine** in the UK (0800 1111) or ring the NSPCC** yourself (0808 800 5000) in the U.K. and get advice about how to report it.

If a child is aggressive or misbehaving

If a child is fighting or being aggressive, they’re doing it for a good reason, and talking may help you discover the reason.

Start by telling the child that their bad behaviour is unacceptable and why – for example, because it will harm other people or get them into trouble. Then offer them the chance to talk about why they’re angry.

This might not work instantly because an angry child might not listen to you straight away. Don’t give up. Children are aware when they’re behaving badly, and it’s important to find out the reasons why.

If your child is grieving

Young children don’t always understand what death means. It helps to explain it by saying, “Nana’s died. She’s not going to be with us any more”.

Watch children carefully if someone close to them has died. If they seem tearful or withdrawn, encourage them to open up about how they’re feeling by talking about the person who’s died.

You could say something like, “It’s very sad that Nana has died” or “I feel sad that Nana has died, and sometimes it’s hard to understand why people die”.

If you’re still worried about your child

If you are still concerned about your child after talking to them, see your GP (*physician) for further advice.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

** Resources outside the U.K.:

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