Ask the Experts Q&A: April 2020


One thing we all have in common as parents are questions. Lots of questions. Whether it’s concerning how to save for your child’s college fund, best practices for dental care, or how to talk to your child about a death in the family, it can feel overwhelming at times. While Google is handy, it can also be confusing and most importantly, unreliable.

We are so excited to introduce a new feature on Charleston Moms called Ask the Experts where a team of local experts will answer your burning parenting questions in a monthly blog post. Our hope is that you get answers to some common questions that many parents have and connect with these amazing resources right here in our community!

Want to learn more about our team of local experts? Have a question? Ask it here and it will be answered in next month’s post! 

*This is a sponsored post, presented by our valued local partners. While we love sharing these resources with our readers, we have not personally vetted each individual business represented here and encourage our readers to do their own research to find the best fit for their family.

Children's Health

Q: What can I do to prepare a toddler for having tubes placed in her ears?

A: Thanks for the question! Tympanostomy tube placement (aka “ear tubes”) is one of the most common surgeries performed. Ear tubes may be recommended when children experience recurrent acute otitis media (aka standard “ear infection”).

Generally, children will undergo anesthesia so will not have a memory of the procedure itself. The surgery is very brief (15 or 20 minutes) and is performed by a pediatric otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat surgeon). Many hospitals will allow for a tour of the facility with child life beforehand so that kids can prepare for the experience and allow for parental presence when the child goes to sleep at the beginning of anesthesia.

After the procedure, noises may seem louder to the child, and they may experience ear drainage. Though many children who undergo this procedure are infants or toddlers, for those who understand what’s happening, it’s always best to be upfront with children about what to expect!

Elizabeth Mack, MD, MS
Division chief of pediatric critical care
MUSC Children’s Health

Mental Health

Q: What are some ways I can feel less anxious about “getting everything done” as a stay-at-home-mom? I always feel pressured to make sure everything is checked off the list before I can relax and enjoy downtime either alone or with my family. Some days I feel as though my family suffers because of my anxiety and need for “perfection” as a mother…

A: If we have learned anything from this quarantine, it is that stay at home moms are absolute rock stars. The perfect mom does not exist. The pressure we put on ourselves to keep a clean house, have homecooked meals in front of our family multiple times a day, take kiddos to practices/playgroups/doctor visits, limiting screen time, have a strong connection with our partners, teach the munchkins a new language, and find time to practice self-care and take time for ourselves is just too much.

Whew, I got tired just typing all of that. Moms can be anything for a short amount of time, but they cannot be everything all of the time. I would really encourage you to look at what pressure you are putting on yourself and what does the “perfect” mom look like to you. What is the most important? If your priority right now is your kids find ways to really connect with them. Schedule fun times- Discover the world through your child’s viewpoint. Ask them to show you their favorite spot in the house/find ways to be silly and make a mess. Do things that lead to belly laughs and shrieks of joy. This is what they are going to remember. It is hard, and you got this!

Amy Jackson
Licensed Professional Counselor
Sweetgrass Counseling

Oral Health

Q: What are the best OTC medications for helping relieve the discomfort of braces for teens?

A: Discomfort with braces is pretty mild. In our office, we use the lightest forces possible to work with your body’s natural mechanisms to help achieve your ideal smile. But even with light forces, some can experience soreness. I like to compare it to the soreness after a hard workout or maybe a bruise, but definitely not like a cut or break!

Because the underlying biology for tooth movement is an inflammatory reaction, anti-inflammatory OTC pain meds can be fabulously helpful for braces discomfort. Tylenol (acetaminophen) is my particular favorite for two reasons. 1. It is effective in the pain pathway that is activated with braces but 2. It does not interfere with the cellular mechanism behind effective tooth movement.

Pain tolerance is different for everyone. If you are truly having difficultly tolerating braces/Invisalign, you can alternate Tylenol/acetaminophen and Advil/ibuprofen every 3 hours to get through the first 24-48 hours. This will tackle the discomfort from two pathways and keep you comfortable. Never exceed OTC manufacturer guidelines. Hope this helps! Be Well! -Dr Katie

Dr. Katie Bullwinkel
Board Certified Orthodontist
Bullwinkle Orthodontics


Q: How worried should people be about the effects of COVID-19 on 401k’s and other investments?

A: There are a few important rules to remember when thinking about the current market volatility. The first being buy low, sell high. This has been a lifelong message that has been engraved in our minds. This makes sense to most investors. Buy stocks when they are cheap (low) and sell stocks when they are expensive (high). However, when markets are volatile, people tend to panic and make emotional decisions. If they see a sudden drop of 20% in their portfolio they panic and their gut instinct is to get out and get into something safer. By doing this they end up selling low and locking in those losses.

This leads me to the second rule. You haven’t lost money until you go to sell. Assuming you are invested in a good portfolio, stay the course and your account will rebound. History shows that markets usually come back up again.

Finally, remember you’re investing long-term. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You have time on your side. When the markets are down, it could be a great time to consider throwing more money in because you are buying at a discount. You will typically see a return on that money down the road. Working with an advisor, especially in times like these can be a good idea. They provide peace of mind and can address any concerns before you make an emotional decision that might put your investments in jeopardy. If you’d like to discuss your investments click the link below.

Caroline Mahoney, Financial Services Professional
Steven Fazio, Financial Services Professional
Riley Knudsen, Financial Services Professional

New York Life, Charleston


Q: What do parents need to consider before their child skips a grade?

A. Typically, the underlying question parents are thinking about is, “How can I ensure that my child is being academically challenged?” Perhaps the solution is skipping a grade, but perhaps there are other avenues that would better serve the child.

When thinking about a child skipping a grade, parents should:

– Think about the LONG term, not just the next year.
Parents need to envision what life will be like for their child five years or more down the road. For example, if the child skips third grade, what does that mean for him in middle and high school? He will, most likely, always be the youngest in his grade. This means he will be a year behind in social/emotional growth and physical growth. In our experience, though these differences may not be as apparent during a child’s younger years, social and emotional concerns become more evident in middle and high school.

– Consider the day-to-day things that age impacts.
For example, a child will start driving after her peers and may not be allowed to attend some social events with classmates due to age. How will these differences affect their ability to connect with her peers?

– Look at your child’s current friend group.
Is he more comfortable with children his own age? Younger? Older? This can give parents insight into how a child may fare socially with a new peer group.

– Consider your child’s level of self-motivation and how responsible he or she is.
Ask yourself, “Does my child want more challenging material?”

– Make sure to speak with your child’s teachers.
Instead of skipping a grade, parents might want to consider talking to the faculty and administration at their child’s school about how to enrich their child’s academic career. For example, if the child is strong in math, perhaps she could attend math class with older children, or perhaps she could take a class offered online. This way, the child is challenged academically, but still has the opportunity to grow socially and emotionally with her peers.

Joanne Stemple
Director of Communications
Mason Prep School

Oral Health

Q: How common is it for kids to constantly get cavities? It seems as though every time we go to the dentist, my child has a new cavity despite our efforts to take good care of our teeth. I’m wondering if getting a second opinion or shopping around for a new dentist is necessary?

A: Unfortunately, it is not that uncommon to find new cavities often. Think about the frequency of snacking your child does throughout the day. Each time they snack or consume drinks other than water (i.e. milk, juice, sports drinks), food particles or a sticky film remain on their teeth. Have you ever looked into your child’s mouth after they eat a pack of goldfish? Give it a try! Most likely you’ll see orange food particles sitting in the deep grooves of their back teeth.

Now we all know these snacks aren’t full of sugar but the carbohydrates in them linger in their mouth and then break down into simple sugars. Bacteria feed on these sugars and produce acid, which causes tooth decay. That’s how (even if we limit our children’s sugar intake) everyday eating and drinking can still cause cavities. The more snacking throughout the day, the greater the risk for increased cavities.

Now we definitely aren’t telling you not to allow your child to snack. We suggest having a designated “snack time” instead of your child constantly carrying one around. Children should also have water with their snack to help rinse away the carbs and save drinks like juice or milk for mealtime only.

Good, old fashion proper hygiene is always an excellent defense to control the formation of cavities. Children should be brushing twice a day for a full two minutes and flossing at night. We suggest parent supervision during bedtime brushing to confirm that the cleaning actually is being done by the child, as well as being performed effectively.

As for the progression of cavities, multiple cavities can start around the same time but develop at different speeds. It is very common for a dentist to see several weak spots forming that are so small that they only need observation. Over time, some of these areas can grow into cavities that need attention but at different rates. This can cause the perception of new cavities developing even after favorable changes in proper hygiene practices.

In these cases, it is best to focus on how the improved hygiene is slowing the growth of the cavities so they all don’t require treatment at the same time. Therefore, your dentist isn’t finding “new cavities” at each visit, they are just developing at different rates. If you do have a true concern, ask your dentist. They will be happy to help you understand the x-ray and the progression of cavities in your child’s mouth and help your form a plan to prevent them in the future.

Dr. Mike & Dr. Will

Board Certified Pediatric Dentists
Kids Teeth

Newborn Care & Postpartum Support

Q: Recently, my toddler has started waking in the night screaming. It seems as though she is having nightmares that wake her up or waking up and becoming afraid, which can turn into hours of being awake at night crying (for both of us). I’m unsure how to console her and get her back to sleep soundly or what’s causing the sudden disruptions. Any ideas or advice?

A: Toddler Nightmares

Nightmares can happen to everyone but it feels so much more traumatizing when it is your toddler. It’s important to know what can cause nightmares and what you can do to help.

First, let’s discuss the difference between night terrors and nightmares.

Night Terrors:
-Occur earlier in the night
-Often happens during non REM sleep
-Will most likely not remember that anything happened
-Happens mainly in younger children

-Occur in the early morning or later in sleep
-Often happens during REM sleep
-May remember details and feelings
-Happens to everyone

Cause of nightmares:
Changes: moving, a new school, the birth of a sibling, family tension
Stress: an accident, natural disaster, traumatic event, a good imagination along with scary games or TV shows

Although we may not know the exact cause of your toddler’s nightmare, it’s helpful to have a plan in place when they do wake overnight. First, comfort them and let them know that you are always close by. Second, be a good listener. By doing this you may learn what is triggering the nightmare. Remind your little one that nightmares are not real but keep in mind that the feelings and emotions associated with the nightmares are. Redirect by talking about happy dreams or a fun memory. A soft toy, security blanket, nightlight, or leaving the hall light on can also bring comfort to your toddler.

Prevention of Nightmares:
-Ensure adequate sleep
-Happy and relaxing bedtime routine
-No screen time 2 hours prior to bed
-Outside playtime after dinner
-Decreasing sugar intake and artificial dyes
-Create a cozy sleep environment
-Avoid scary games, books, and TV shows

For more information email [email protected] or visit us on Instagram @nurseatnight

Liz Price
Nurse at Night

Adolescent & Family Therapy

Q: What are some ways to reduce stress in families stuck at home together? Lack of outlets and alone time are starting to get to us in this house!

A: First off, thank you so much for your question. As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to spread throughout the world, the more stress we feel. I am sorry for the stress you and your family are dealing with, and I hope these tips can ease some stress from your lives.

Create a Schedule

Prior to the start of the stay-at-home order, our lives were scheduled out as far as possible. Schedules typically included workdays, school activities, after school events, extracurricular activities, etc. Now almost all these events have been canceled, families are drifting through each day while hoping for things to open. The first thing you should do is create a daily schedule for schoolwork, break times, meals, etc. Also, create some excitement through scheduling fun activities. This can be something as simple as a special meal or exploring our beautiful city.

Stay Connected

Humans need to have social interaction. Social distancing is important to stop the spread, but luckily today’s technology does not stop us from social interaction. Setting up virtual interactions with family members, friends, teachers, classmates, or neighbors will allow everyone in your family to stay connected with the people they miss. These social interactions can be part of the schedule mentioned above.

Take Time for Yourself

As you probably noticed, social media has overflowed with pictures, videos, and everything imaginable to make you feel as though you are not doing enough with the family. As much as we all love our family, we also need our space. Be sure to set time aside in your schedule for things you enjoy by yourself. Read a book, watch a tv show, go for a run, or just take a nap. Alone time will allow you to rejuvenate and be better equipped to deal with life’s events.

Turn Off the Media

Besides just creating a picturesque life, social media and news continue to spread information we all know. COVID-19 is here, it continues to spread, and we are not sure when we can get back to our typical lives. The more you continue to take in the information, the more fear will spread throughout your home. Limit the information you are taking in to once a week to get an update. You will gain information through other means, but at least you will be having a positive interaction.

If life continues to be a struggle and the stress becomes too much, please reach out to a mental health counselor who can support your family’s individual needs.

Ashlin Blum
Executive Director
Empowered Family

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