Louise Barrett Childcare

Q what should I do when my two-and-a-half-year-old won’t share her toys with our eight-month-old?

A
Sibling rivalry usually first happens when the younger child starts to crawl and puts their eye on the older child’s toys! As difficult as this situation may be to handle, having siblings teaches children important lessons about sharing and conflict resolution. It might be a good idea for your two-year-old to have some toys that she doesn’t need to share, particularly if there are some with small pieces or parts. These could be played with up high at the kitchen table or indeed, when the baby is sleeping. Always explain to your little girl that you understand how difficult it can be to share as this can be hard to accept when the baby has knocked over blocks she’s been very busy building with. At the same time, empathise with the baby who only wants to play and be closer to the much-loved older sister. Explain to your child that the baby just wants to be involved and doesn’t yet understand how ‘bigger girls’ play. Finally, and particularly when they’ve had time playing apart, find something they can do together, which will provide lots of fun and will take them one step closer to a friendship that will last forever.

Q When my two-year-old gets really angry and has a tantrum, she will bump her head against the wall. This is really upsetting to us and we usually end up just giving in and letting her have her way because we don’t want her to hurt herself. I’m worried we’re setting a bad precedent.

A
When children become frustrated and their minds outrace their ability to concentrate they can often engage in ‘head-banging’ as the sensory input they get from the banging feels better than the sensory overload they are experiencing. While it is important to stay close and ensure your child doesn’t hurt herself, try not to give the banging too much attention as your shocked or disapproving reaction might only make matters worse. At the same time, ensure you are giving your daughter lots of positive attention when the banging has stopped. Try saying that you love when she uses her words to talk with Mummy and Daddy and explain how she feels. Try not to worry too much as ‘head-banging’ is usually a self-regulating behaviour, in other words, a toddler will more often than not pull back before they seriously hurt themselves. Children who engage in ‘head-banging’ often have a deeper appreciation of music and rhythm. Develop your child’s interest in music by engaging her in marching, drumming and clapping and always ensure she gets lots of physical exercise throughout the day, which will help her control her energy levels.

Q My six-year-old son is very kind-hearted and generous, but unfortunately it is becoming a problem. He’s seen to be a bit of a pushover amongst his peers and I’m noticing them taking advantage of his kind nature. How do I teach my kid to stand up for himself without changing his considerate disposition?

A
When you’re six, making friends is a really important process as it leads us to broaden our horizons with the larger social circle that preschool and school brings. Your son will take huge pleasure in telling you, “he’s my friend, I like him.” He’ll also most likely believe any information his friends tell him, whether it’s the truth or not! The average six-year-old learns a lot from the feedback they get from their friends and these reactions play a significant role as their self-image develops. Therefore, if he is accepted by his peers, his self-confidence will grow and accordingly, if he’s ridiculed, it might plummet. In junior school, the desire to be accepted by our peers by any means can lead to unacceptable behaviour and this is why it’s really important to teach values and the difference between right and wrong at an early age. Children who are really keen to make friends can often be very soft-hearted, so it’s important to set some boundaries at an early age. Make it a house rule where your son can’t give away or lend any of his toys without Mum or Dad agreeing to it first. Also when you’ve a free afternoon or there’s a special occasion coming up, maybe make some treats for your son to bring to school to give to his friends as presents. As his confidence grows, so will his ability to make decisions that are good for everyone involved, which in turn will strengthen his friendships even more.

Q I started giving my two-year-old a biscuit once in a while when he would help me put away his toys. Now he expects a treat every time. How do I teach him that treats are not an everyday occurrence and that tidying up and chores are a part of life?

A
When our children are allowed to eat constantly throughout the day, it robs them of the chance to ever develop a proper appetite, which can create picky eating habits throughout the teen years.If children don’t come to the table at least a little hungry, they won’t be terribly keen to try new foods. Also vitally important is the fact that the more treats your little one eats, the less space or respect he’ll have for nutritious foods, which are essential for growth. Strive to create an environment where chores and tidying up are fun, do it to music or create a little song while you put things away. Create a star chart where Fridays are treat days, and only award the treat if all the jobs are completed every day. Sure your two-year-old will complain initially, but it’s important to stand firm on these matters. Habit forming in two-year-olds takes no more than two weeks, so take comfort in the fact that their objections shouldn’t last much longer than that!

Q My child has a severe nut allergy and is starting crèche in a few weeks. I will be providing the crèche with the necessary medication in case of an emergency, but I’m terrified that they’re not taking the condition seriously. He will be the only child in the crèche with such an allergy so I’m scared that the other children’s parents may not understand the danger. What can I do to ensure my child will be ok?

A
In a food allergy, the immune system reacts to a harmless food as if it was a threat and creates histamines and antibodies to fight it. The result of eating a food type that you are allergic to can be extremely serious so you are right to be dealing with this as thoroughly as you are. As parents, managing a child with allergies can be daunting, however, the thought of handing your child over to someone else to be cared for with this condition can be terrifying.
Most crèches will have some level of experience working with food allergic children. However you will need to ensure that the service is willing to work with you and learn what needs to be done to keep your child safe.
I would advise you to set up a meeting with the Crèche Manager in advance of your child starting and discuss the whole situation. Ask lots of questions including, is the entire crèche going to be NUT FREE or will it just be your child’s room? Does the crèche provide all foods for the children? Is the chef fully aware of this new child starting? Ask to see the policy, a standard policy would include factors such as making sure there is no food sharing, making sure all children wash their hands when arriving or after food, making sure the child is easily observable by a teacher during meal and snack times.
In my experience, the main area where accidents happen is during birthday parties where cakes and party food is brought in by parents. Even with the best intentions in the world, busy working parents can forget about the child with allergies. It is imperative to ensure the crèche has a stringent policy in place to manage this.
A conversation also needs to be had around what will happen if your child does ingest the food they are allergic to. Does the team have training on dealing with emergency situations, including the medication you will be providing such as EpiPens? You will need to outline exactly what your expectations are in an emergency situation.
Lastly, remember that your main goal is to teach your child to understand his condition himself. Within a few years; he will be in primary school and exposed to situations that will not be as highly monitored, so empowering him with his own tools to cope is the best gift you can give him. Remember, you are doing a great job and parenting is never easy.

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

A
There is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

A
Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.

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ASK JESSICA

Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.