That's really great advice. And, honestly, I feel like we've experienced many of these during the holidays throughout the years.
If anyone wants to share their own tips for managing holiday stress, feel free to submit and we'll post responses as the chat continues. On to some of your questions...
Dear Jennifer: As tweens become teens it can be normal for children to become more introverted and to share less with their mom. A change in motivation towards school work is also common and can be normal. Abrupt communication changes, though, can also be signs of bullying, sexual abuse, social stress, and other situations that parents need to be aware of. I would directly ask your child if he is experiencing any of these things. He will know that you care about him if you ask.
I noticed a similar shift in kids willingness to share about their day around this age. First off, if it's an abrupt change, I would talk to the teacher if something is going on at school with peers.
Also, like Dr. B. said, ask your child directly and specifically about some of the other things that he may be embarrassed to tell you on his own.
Lastly, you may have to change your method of asking about his day. Try to ask a more specific question, such as the best thing that happened, the worst thing that happened, anything surprising or unusual.
My 9 y.o.'s favorite response these days when I ask, "how was school?" is to say, "meh."
So, I let him say that because I think it's funny. But then I'll ask one or two follow up questions.
There is great variation in the personality changes associated with adolescence, and there is no one "right" age to start to see these changes.
My children are also homeschooled, so my experience is different, but homeschooled parents also see this behavior shift with their teens and tweens. It can be normal, no matter how your child is schooled.
Ugg... cavities. My colleague Dr. Kirstin Lee has written on this topic. According to Dr. Lee, almost half of American children will have one or more cavities in their baby teeth before the age of 12. HALF! There are not a lot of painful, time-consuming, costly and PREVENTABLE medical conditions that affect nearly 1/2 of our children. Yet, cavity prevention is often overlooked.
Cavities in young children have been on the rise in recent years. ToothBrushing teeth and dental care are often low on the list of priorities for busy parents and for parents who do not have dental insurance or are working with limited financial resources.
As for talking to your sister-in-law, this can be the hard part. Can you determine the barrier to dental care? Is it money? Perhaps mom or dad had a prior bad experience with a dentist? Do they have a family dentist they trust? If you can identify the barrier, it may be a more successful conversation.
So, Dr. B. raises an important point: finances. You sister may not have dental insurance or may not be able to afford it or just doesn't consider it a priority. If you want to talk to her about this, I would try to be very careful to avoid sounding judgmental.
The barrier can also be cultural. Many parents who grew up without dental care don't feel they need to provide it for their children.
Also, if you have additional resources or time, maybe you could start by offering to take your nephew to your dentist (or another one nearby). I know we get flyers in the mail all the time for dentists offering new patients deals with xrays and cleaning for less than $100. This could be a really kind gift from you. Or you could research and give her the name of local dental schools that offer free or reduced dental care.
I think the key is to think of specific ways in which you could help your nephew, especially if he is still having mouth pain, rather than trying to convince your sister that she's being neglectful.
Yes, also focus on the patient first!
I think it's pretty common to hear in preschool and elementary school that children "like" another boy or girl. That's a way of learning how to socialize and behave with peer and test social relationships.
I agree, Aisha, it can be normal for kids to say things like this. Karen, I'd be more worried if your daughter was using words like "boyfriend" or even "sex." These words would be red flags for me that it's time to talk to your daughter about where she is getting these ideas from. If they are coming from school, you can need to have a conversation with the teacher.
Obviously, this doesn't mean that young children should be dating one another! :)
I would discourage play "dating" before puberty.
I think when you daughter says she likes a particular boy, you can say something like "yes, so-and-so is a good friend." We like all our friends and classmates.
Young children also love to make comments that get a reaction from their parents.
As always, encourage group play rather than allowing two children to isolate together.
Also, it's good to check in regularly when young kids are playing together because you never know what experiments might possibly be planned. They may involve destroying certain nice things.
It is OK for children to feel that they really care for another child and they should be allowed to express this, even using the word "love" or "like." It is our job as parents to determine if there are unhealthy influences in the relationship.
Children are often unintentionally exposed to media with expressions of love that many parents don't appreciate. Talk to your kids about real love and what it means.
Thank you everyone for joining us this week and for all the excellent questions and comments we've received all year. We look forward to chatting with everyone in 2015! Have a safe and merry holiday season with your loved ones!