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 Blog 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!
Q: Is it possible for me to ovulate at different times each month? I’ve been trying to track my cycle and it seems to be different each time.
A: Ovulation does not always occur at the same time every month when you are having irregular cycles. When you are tracking your menstrual cycles, it is important to count from the first day of one period to the first day of the next. A normal menstrual cycle can vary from 21-35 days. Ovulation can vary from cycle to cycle and to determine when ovulation occurs, you count back 14 days from the first day of your next period. Pregnancy generally can occur for up to 5 days before ovulation.
Barbara Head, MD
OB-GYN Maternal Fetal Medicine
Q: My 15-month-old daughter has the most stubborn eczema on her legs and trunk. I’ve tried otc creams, even a prescription cream, and nothing seems to truly clear her skin. It doesn’t seem to bother her, but it looks uncomfortable. Any tips on helping are appreciated!
A: Thanks so much for your question! Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a very common skin condition in children. Sixty-five percent of children will have eczema before their first birthday, and 90% will experience eczema before their 5th birthday. Symptoms of eczema include dry, itchy, red, scaly skin. Eczema, in combination with allergic rhinitis (“hay fever”) and asthma run in families. Remember eczema is not contagious. Here are a few key strategies in the management of eczema:
• Moisturize the skin: Apply fragrance-free moisturizers at least once a day to dry or damp skin (immediately after patting dry) over the entire body and face. Creams and ointments tend to be more effective than lotions, even though these products are often thicker and messier. Short baths/showers at room temperature are best for moisturizing the skin. Bathe daily or every other day.
• Avoid irritants: Use dye/fragrance-free soaps, detergents, and skin products. Avoid the use of fabric softeners in the dryer and wear soft fabrics such as 100% cotton.
• Avoid itching: Remind children to stop scratching. Also, keep nails short and smooth. It may be useful to place socks on the hands of older children at night to help prevent scratching. Avoid over-the-counter anti-itch creams containing alcohol as this can cause a burning sensation. You’ll want to talk about whether steroids or non-steroidal medications should be used as well.
• Triggers: Talk with your pediatrician about whether there are any triggers such as allergens or infections that worsen your child’s eczema.
Here are a few resources that may be helpful…Society for Pediatric Dermatology & American Academy of Pediatrics.
Elizabeth Mack, MD, MS
Division chief of pediatric critical care
MUSC Children’s Health
Q: How do I prepare myself for pregnancy/having another baby after a miscarriage?
A: I am so very sorry for your loss. Please know that the miscarriage was not your fault. You are not alone. Give yourself grace and time to heal. Some women want to try to get pregnant right away while others want time to grieve and mourn their loss. There is no right answer. Some medical professionals recommend waiting 6-12 months to try again. It does take about 2-3 months for your body to recover from a miscarriage. Getting pregnant before your body is ready can increase your risk of another miscarriage. Statistics from the American Pregnancy Association indicate that a woman has at least an 85% of having a healthy baby after a miscarriage.
Research shows that up to 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage in their life. In my office, I hear from women that they feel so alone and they do not know anyone else who has gone through this struggle. I tell these women that they are a mother whether they carry their baby in their arms or in their heart. You need time to grieve the loss of your child regardless of how long your carried your baby for. You will always have love for that baby; no other child can replace the child that you lost.
I encourage you to reach out for support from your partner, family, medical professionals, and other women. Communicate with your partner, share your feelings & expectations about going forward. Talk to your medical professionals. It is only natural to be anxious (especially around the time that the miscarriage happened before), so ask your doctor for reassurance that your body is ready to be pregnant again in hopes that you can enjoy the pregnancy.
Contact your doctor, a counselor, or support group if you find that you are struggling. I work with women who are scared to connect emotionally with their child until the baby is born. You may delay telling others about a new pregnancy. As a counselor, I can help you learn to express and come to terms with the broad range of emotions involved in the grieving process, from those that you may expect — sadness, loneliness, exhaustion – to those that come as a surprise, such as relief, anger, and a sense of confusion. Please contact me if you would like more information about therapy or support groups. If I am not a good fit for you, I can get you referrals to other counselors or support groups. There are support groups that meet in person or online.
Licensed Professional Counselor
Q: If my husband and I both had braces as teens, does that mean our children will need braces too? Are teeth problems hereditary?
A: Short answer… yes. Teeth problems are largely hereditary. There are many contributing factors that influence teeth AND jaw positions ie crooked teeth and bad bites. Deep bites and severe lower crowding, for example, are extremely hereditary. Other times genetic combinations balance extremes, making their children less in need of braces. In our office, we see a lot of “throwback” pictures of parents and yes, their braces-clad teenage pictures show a striking similarity to their children’s mouths.
It’s a good idea to get a consult for your child with an orthodontist around 7/8 years old (once the permanent first molars erupt), to anticipate future tooth eruption or jaw growth issues. These consults are free in our office and are very informative. We give you a comprehensive run-down of your child’s bite as well as help you best plan for possible future orthodontic needs. Call us if we can help!
Dr. Katie Bullwinkel
Board Certified Orthodontist
Q: I had an active 401k through my employer before taking time away from traditional work while raising children. Since I am not currently contributing to that account (or plan to be for the foreseeable future) or working for that employer, what do I do with that account?
A: People change jobs an average of 5-7 times in their working life leaving behind their employer sponsored retirement accounts. There are several options of what to do. Leaving them dormant subjects your portfolio to underperformance as your investment options are usually limited. You also continue to pay fees even though no one is actively managing it. The biggest advantage of an employer sponsored 401k is the employer match. (Who doesn’t like free money?)
When you are no longer at the employer and receiving the match, you should consider a direct rollover to a financial institution with more investment options and opportunities. By doing this you will still be able to continue the tax deferred growth, avoid early withdrawal penalties and have the benefit of someone actively managing it. Some people decide to cash out of their 401k. We do not encourage this because you will be subjected to the following fees and penalties: 10% early withdrawal fees if you are under the age of 59 ½ , ordinary income tax based on your current tax bracket, and raising your overall tax bracket. By cashing out your 401k you risk increasing your overall taxable income for that year, which therefore increases your overall tax bill for that year. We specialize in creating comprehensive retirement plans and maintain annual reviews. Please contact us if you would like us to answer any further questions.
Q: How can I prepare my child to transition from daycare/preschool to elementary school?
A. Kindergarten is a special year as it is the first in a child’s formal education. Yes, Kindergarten is a time to learn academic skills in the classroom, but there is also a great deal of learning to do in terms of how to behave in a classroom setting, how to contribute to the group, and how to come to school each day ready to learn. Preschool is helpful in that it establishes school-day routines, but having your child in preschool is not a requirement for success in kindergarten.
There are many things you can do at home to help your child’s transition into kindergarten. Academically, reading to and with your child is one of the best things you can do (see our August “Ask the Experts” answer for tips about reading). Exposing your child to letters, numbers, and colors is also helpful so that they are familiar with these going into kindergarten. Most important, however, is getting your child socially and emotionally ready to begin school.
- Help them learn to listen. Being able to follow directions is one of the most important skills in the classroom. To begin at home: give your child directions and ask them to repeat them back; emphasize the importance of following instructions; listen when your child speaks without interrupting to model good behavior; build on this skill by giving your child multiple directions, i.e., “Please get your shoes, put on your coat, and sit by the door. Can you tell me what I asked you to do?”
- Teach them to do things for themselves. Parents who do everything for their children are doing them no favors. We realize (and understand!) that many times it is easier and faster to do things yourself rather than have your child do them, but being self-sufficient is very important for success in kindergarten. Some age-appropriate tasks include: Brushing their teeth, putting on their shoes, put toys away, opening their own food/drink containers, setting the table for meals, laying out clothes and school supplies the night before.
- Encourage them to contribute. We tell our students that just as a family needs to work as a team, with everyone pitching in, the same is true for a school and a classroom. Giving your child chores teaches responsibility and how to be a contributing part of a team and a community. Children like knowing that what they do matters, and they take pride in being able to help. Kindergarten-age children can: bring their dishes to the sink, feed the pet and make up their bed (don’t worry about how it looks!)
- Have them participate. Sign your child up for an activity. Not only will they have fun, they will learn important skills like making new friends, listening to other adults, and following others’ rules. Scheduling playdates will help your child encounter situations where they need to share and take turns. Playing board games as a family can teach children how to win and lose gracefully.
- Teach patience and support intrinsic motivation. Take your child window shopping or fishing to build patience while helping them save money for that something special. Give sincere compliments. Model examples of dedication and talk to your child about how hard work gives a feeling of accomplishment.
- Help them be resilient. This may seem like a huge undertaking, but starting these lessons at a young age will be extremely helpful to your child – not only in kindergarten, but also in life.
- Try not using the word “can’t” at home. At Mason Prep, we like to use the word “yet” as in, “I don’t know how to read YET.” This reinforces the idea that all skills need to be learned and practiced.
- Explain to your children that learning some things can be difficult. They need to understand that not everything comes easily, and that’s normal.
- Tell (and show) your child that it is OK to make mistakes. This is another great behavior to model. When either of you make a mistake, talk with your child about what can be done next time to learn from it.
When children have developed strong social and emotional skills, they feel confident and empowered. They will come to class ready to contribute and to be positive and active members of the classroom –and that is when learning occurs.
Kathleen Thomas, Learning Specialist
Caroline Thomas, Kindergarten Teacher,
Rett Fitts, Kindergarten Teacher
Mason Prep School
Q: Will a pacifier really affect my child’s baby and/or adult teeth or is that just an old wives’ tale?
A: Pacifiers and thumbsucking are natural reflexes for children. Sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects tend to make babies feel secure and happy. And if we’re being honest these items can make parents pretty happy as well! The truth is that pacifiers can affect the teeth especially those children that vigorously suck their thumbs or pacifiers for a prolonged period of time. That’s why Dr. Will and Dr. Mike at Kids Teeth suggest eliminating the pacifier by the age of two.
Continuing pacifier use after the age of two can cause a “narrowing palate” – this refers to the narrowing of the roof of the mouth. A narrow palate can affect the way your child bites down as well as cause speech issues. When your child is first seen by a Pediatric Dentist (around the age of 12-18 months), it’s important to disclose this type of habit so the doctor can keep a close eye on it and watch the mouth development over time. We understand habits are hard to break for children and their parents. Therefore, we provide realistic suggestions and expectations for helping eliminate habits.
Dr. Mike & Dr. Will
Board Certified Pediatric Dentists
Newborn Care & Postpartum Support
Q: How do I start getting a new baby’s days and nights sorted out? I’m having a hard time getting an eight week old on a somewhat regular schedule.
A: Great question! When trying to implement a new schedule you want to start first thing in the morning. Start with feeding, allow for awake time, then lay baby down for a nap. Keep this structure throughout the day. When bedtime approaches you want to send a message to baby that the remainder of the day, their sleep will be different/longer stretches. The best way to do this is to have a structured bedtime routine. Start with bath, then take your little one back to the nursery where the environment is nice, quiet and calm. Now let’s have some Tender Time. During this time you can read a book, use baby massage, or sing a lullaby. Next, feed your baby well, swaddle tight and then lay baby down in their crib or other safe sleep surface. Turn the white noise on and turn lights out. Within a few days, your baby will strive in the newfound structure and start sleeping for longer stretches at night!
Nurse at Night
Adolescent & Family Therapy
Q: My seven-year-old son has trouble controlling his emotions. He gets really mad when we ask him to do anything, especially as it relates to turning off electronics. I keep thinking he’s going to grow out of it but sometimes he gets aggressive toward me or his younger sister. He doesn’t act that way at school, he has lots of friends and is a smart fun kid most of the time. I was wondering how can we help him control his emotions? When do you know if he should see a counselor instead?
A: First off, I am very sorry to hear that your son is exhibiting these behaviors. I know this can be extremely frustrating, especially since he is becoming aggressive with you and his sister! Since the behaviors are isolated to the home only, it is more likely that the behaviors are under your son’s control and not a psychological reaction. It is common for young adolescents to display intense reactions when asked to do complete undesired tasks, especially when they are engaged in preferred activities. For example, taking out the trash when he is playing video games.
Positive reinforcement is a strategy that can used to increase his likelihood to complete tasks while also decreasing the aggression. Positive reinforcement is utilized through providing a preferred item or activity after completion of what is asked of them. One possibility can be creating a chore chart for your son to complete prior to playing video games when he gets home from school. The best way to use positive reinforcement is to make it personal and meaningful. Please reach out for support and know that behaviors can change.