What I Wish Parents Knew
Teachers, school nurses, and even waiters deal with children all day, every day—and they have news for you. Here, wise tips from the pros.
Slather 'em in sunscreen. "Eighty percent of sun damage occurs before the age of 18," says Jody Levine, a pediatric dermatologist in New York City. Later in life, it shows up as wrinkles and skin cancer. "Apply sunscreen during your morning routine. It doesn't have to be sunny for people to wear sunscreen, as damaging rays are always shining, even through window glass," she says.
Go low-carb in the morning. "Make kids eat a real breakfast, not a sweet breakfast," says Judy Bearman, the nurse at St. Mary's Episcopal School, in Memphis. "The simple carbohydrates in doughnuts, strudels, and juice enter the bloodstream quickly, giving them energy but leaving them groggy by 9 A.M. I see so many stomachaches in my office mid-morning, and the kids are just hungry." Ideally, children should get protein (like a scrambled egg) and some fat (at least 2 percent milk) to keep them full until lunch.
Don't share all the gory details. When it comes to possibly unpleasant situations, like getting a shot or pulling a tooth, "give children only as much information as they can handle," says Hope Zimmerman Waxman, a pediatric dentist in New York City. "Kids get anxious when you present too much detail. We might say, 'You have to come back to wash a tooth' or, of a shot, 'It's like a mosquito bite.'"
A mild fever is no reason to panic. "Parents have fever phobia, where they look at a number, not at the child," says Stephanie Freilich, a pediatrician in New York City. "If your child is older than two months, a low fever in and of itself is not dangerous. It's the body's way of fighting something." (For children under two months, consult your doctor, because different rules apply.) There is no need to rush to the ER when the mercury inches above 98.6. But you should be concerned if your child also has severe diarrhea, is vomiting, or appears lethargic.
Don't offer a kids' menu at home. "The child needs to adapt to the parents, not vice versa," says Peter Waldstein, a pediatrician in Beverly Hills. "Parents say to me, 'I make dinner and little Johnny doesn't eat it, so I make him a grilled cheese.' I guarantee if you don't make the grilled cheese, he'll eat dinner. Every child has an appetite."