Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How Do We Know What's Healthy for Our Children?

I received an interesting comment on my last post about taking care of your children’s teeth. It was from the New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation, Inc. (NYSCOF), saying that fluoride is not necessary for our teeth. I found this interesting because I’d never heard this before. I had been cautioned that too much fluoride can be harmful, but I had never heard that it is not necessary at all, nor that fluoride can be found in some foods and drinks. So, who do we believe? Do we believe government and other agencies, most dentists and toothpaste manufacturers who say that fluoride is essential for fighting tooth decay? Or do we believe organizations like the NYSCOF and others who disagree?

The truth is, as a parent, it’s very hard to know! I’m sure there are studies supporting both viewpoints. I run into this “who to believe” problem all the time. First, I read a study saying that artificial sweeteners are good for you because they’re lower in calories and not as fattening. Then, I read another that says they’re harmful or dangerous. The same goes for food dyes. I saw an article recently cautioning against too much soy, whereas a few years ago, soy was being added to everything and touted as a wonder food! When I was a kid, we were always told to drink our juice. Now, I read articles that tell me not to give too much juice to my children. I’ve read the same thing about milk. Unfortunately, there are always going to be conflicting studies supporting the pros and cons of anything we put into our bodies—and our children’s.

What’s the solution? Do your research. Be open to all points of view. Check out both sides of an issue and then decide for yourself. I have found in most cases that moderation is the key. Anything in large quantities is not going to be healthy. Know your own children. Perhaps they are sensitive to certain ingredients that may not affect other children. One of my children has several large white spots on his teeth. I’ve read that this can be from ingesting too much fluoride. But when I asked the dentist, he said, “No, the spots are probably just a natural deformity in the teeth.” Do I believe him? I really don’t know. But I do know that I have enough concerns to make sure that my children don’t go overboard on the fluoride. I won’t be cutting it out entirely, but I’ll be making sure they’re not getting “too much” either…if only I could figure out what “too much” is!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Taking Care of Children's Teeth

Did you know that February is National Dental Health Month? It’s often a tough job to get kids to brush their teeth, but it’s essential if they’re going to have good oral health. My kids started going to the dentist at age 3, which is usually a good time to start unless your pediatrician recommends an earlier start due to a specific medical condition. I highly recommend taking your kids to a pediatric dentist. Children’s dentists are accustomed to working with kids, who can often be hesitant to “cooperate” when having their teeth examined, and pediatric offices are often filled with games and toys to help children to relax and have fun. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are some “Simple Steps for Kids’ Smiles”:

1. Start cleaning teeth early. As soon as the first tooth appears, begin cleaning by wiping with a clean, damp cloth every day. When more teeth come in, switch to a small, soft toothbrush. Begin using toothpaste with fluoride when the child is 2 years old. Use toothpaste with fluoride earlier if your child’s doctor or dentist recommends it.

2. Use the right amount of fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is important for fighting cavities, but if children younger than 6 years old swallow too much fluoride, their permanent teeth may have white spots. To keep this from happening, use only a small amount of toothpaste (about the size of a pea). Teach your child to spit out the toothpaste and to rinse well after brushing.

3. Supervise brushing. Brush your child’s teeth twice a day until your child has the skill to handle the toothbrush alone. Then continue to closely watch brushing to make sure the child is doing a thorough job and using only a small amount of toothpaste.

4. Talk to your child’s doctor or dentist. Check with the doctor or dentist about your child’s specific fluoride needs. After age 2, most children get the right amount of fluoride to help prevent cavities if they drink water that contains fluoride and brush their teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste twice a day.

Parents of children older than 6 months should ask about the need for a fluoride supplement if drinking water does not have enough fluoride.

Do not let a child younger than 6 years old use a fluoride rinse unless the child’s doctor or dentist recommends it.

Early care for your children’s teeth will protect their smile and their health.

Friday, February 23, 2007

New Book: It's Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence


I’m pleased to announce the publication of my new book for families with twins and multiples. Here’s what you can expect from It's Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence:

It’s a wonderful gift to be the parent of twins, but it’s a gift that can often leave you breathless. Who, but the parents of twins, can truly understand the joys, challenges, and unexpected moments multiples bring? Susan Heim knows, and as a mother of toddler twins and two singleton teenagers, she has plenty of twins tips, twins tales, twins trivia, and more to share. Plus, she offers the unique voices of other twins parents who tackle the important questions on raising twins of any age.

Reading like a coffeehouse gab session with dozens of other moms and dads, It’s Twins! is conveniently divided into bite-size topics covering four main stages:

Twin Babies—you now have not one but two (or more!) infants at home, but the calm, reassuring experience of parents who have been there is right at your fingertips.

Twin Toddlers—potty-training, emerging personalities, preschool, shopping for (and with) two picky eaters, and many other developmental changes are coming fast. Relax, help is here!

Twin Kids—your twins are in school now, making friends, going places; their world is expanding. Discover this new world with the help of those who know the way.

Twin Tweens and Teens—those special years of forming lasting friendships, dating, rivalry, and independence. You’ll have help seeing all this from your twins’ point of view.

With lots of common sense, humor, and encouragement from other parents, It’s Twins! will help ease your anxieties, and put the fun and love back into the ever-challenging role of raising twins.

It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence can be ordered from Amazon or directly from the publisher, Hampton Roads.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Pooped Out on Potty Training

Okay, I admit it—I’m a failure at toilet training. I can state with absolute conviction that I will never write a book called, How to Succeed at Potty Training. My twin boys turned three in December, and we’re still struggling! We’ve tried it all: the big potty and the little potty; stickers; Pull-ups; “big-boy pants”; no pants at all; withdrawn privileges; bribes; Elmo’s potty video; the potty book. None have worked. If we take the boys to the potty, they will pee, but they continue to “go” in their pants, as well. Part of the reason for our failure, I feel, is that they’re twins. I’ve been told that frequency is the key—taking them to the potty as much as possible—but with two of them, we could spend all day in the john! And cleaning up accidents when they’re both doing it can get exasperating and exhausting after a while. My boys know what to do, but they just won’t commit to it yet.

I know one day that little potty-training switch will finally be flicked to the “on position” in their brains, and they’ll just make up their minds that the time is right. And, certainly, that day can’t be far off! (The pressure is on now as they won’t be able to continue with preschool in the fall if they’re not potty-trained.) But in the meantime, we sigh anew as we trudge out to buy yet another mega box of diapers. Once the twins are trained, we tell ourselves, my husband may actually be able to afford that big-screen TV he’s been drooling over!

But for now, I’m trying not to sweat this last little remnant of my children’s baby years. Once they graduate to big-boy pants, they will truly cross the threshold from babyhood to boyhood. And part of me—a very small part—may even miss those diapers that will never grace our household again.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

En Garde!

In elementary school, one of my sons joined the sports teams that are so common with kids—baseball, soccer, football, etc. None of them, however, really seemed to be the “right” sport for him. He played until he lost interest or the game got too competitive and then dropped out. I was disappointed that he had lost his enthusiasm, but I didn’t give up on finding a sport that was tailor-made for him.

One day, we were going through a book distributed by our city government that lists the offerings of sports programs offered at various community centers around town, and we came across a fencing class. Although we knew nothing about the sport, it had some appealing qualities: It was more of an individual sport, which my son prefers, and what could be cooler to a kid than handling a sword! We decided to give it a try. I made a deal with my son to try it for at least a month before he even considered quitting. Fortunately, he made up his mind long before then . . . he loved it!

He’s been playing for six months now, and is more convinced than ever that this is “his” sport. He even competed in his first tournament recently and did very well. The point of my story is not to give up in finding something that your child is passionate about. Look at nontraditional sports. Or even explore other avenues, such as art classes or even cooking! Encourage your kids to find something to do that they love!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

How to Write a Valentine's Love Letter

In the February 13 issue of Woman’s Day magazine, readers were asked: What do you want most this Valentine’s Day? Fifty-six percent responded: a love letter! That was more than double the second response—diamond earrings—from 20 percent of readers. I think this especially holds true for women. They would love for their men to tell them how they feel about them! Unfortunately, many men are intimidated at the thought of writing a love letter—they’d much rather blow a bunch of money on jewelry than have to write their thoughts—so I’ve come up with a simple fill-in-the-blank letter that anyone can personalize to write a simple but loving letter!

Dear (endearment),

The first time I saw you . . .

What I love most about you is . . .

Thank you for . . .

You will always . . .

Love,

So, your letter might sound something like this:

Dear Sweetheart,

The first time I saw you, I couldn’t take my eyes off of you. You were so beautiful! What I love most about you is how you curl up on the couch and watch football with me. You also make an awesome apple pie! Thank you for marrying me and giving us our beautiful daughter. You will always be the love of my life.

Love, Your husband

This simple letter is guaranteed to melt your loved one’s heart! (And if you give it to her with those diamond earrings, she’ll be even more ecstatic! But, honestly, just the letter is enough.)

Happy Valentine’s Day! And, please don’t lose this opportunity to tell your wife or husband how much they mean to you!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Kids and Tantrums

How often before you had children of your own did you flash a dirty look to the parents in church, at the grocery store, or in the library when their child threw a tantrum in public view? It was easy to think, Those parents have no control over their child! or That’s one spoiled kid! But for those of us who have raised—or are currently raising—children between the ages of 1 and 5, we now know that it’s frequently not the parents’ fault. Kids are going to misbehave—and most of us will, at one time or another, be on the receiving end of those disapproving stares!

I read an article in a recent issue of People magazine in which a family was forced to disembark from an airplane when their three-year-old daughter threw a tantrum right before take-off. The airline contends that the child wasn’t staying in her seat belt, constituting a safety risk. The parents retort that she was buckled in, although they admit she was certainly protesting loudly. I can’t begin to address who’s telling the correct version of this story, but what was surprising to me was that when the story went public, the airline received more than 8,000 letters about the incident—most of them supporting the decision to remove the family from the plane. Perhaps the response wasn’t a representative sample of people’s opinions, but I must admit I was surprised that more parents didn’t write to sympathize with the family after experiencing a similarly embarrassing episode of their own involving a child’s tantrum.

I agree that tantrums are never pleasant to witness. I’ve certainly heaved my own sighs of impatience when another child has made church services unpleasant (especially when day care is available). And I don’t think a small child should be expected to sit through a two-hour movie geared toward adults. But at the same time, in most instances, I try to give parents the benefit of the doubt. Sure, there are spoiled kids who know that having a tantrum will ensure that they get their way, but most children who are “acting up” are acting age-appropriately. Fortunately, they usually grow out of tantrums by the time they’re ready for school . . . to everyone’s relief!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Baby Will Teach You About Love

Most people think they know what it’s like to have love in their lives—until they have a child. Then they realize that they never had this kind of love! Your love for your child is unique and distinct from any other love you’ll ever experience.

You’ll Receive Unconditional Love:
Love without conditions is a rarity. If you’re religious, you know that God loves you unconditionally. Hopefully your parents do. Your spouse . . . well, you’re not always convinced that you merit his or her unconditional love! But the love of a child certainly falls into this category. Children are programmed to love their parents. It is a bond like no other. They just love you, no matter what. Certainly, you’re by no means perfect. Perhaps you’re a terrible cook or a mediocre golfer, and have cellulite on your thighs and no patience for heavy traffic. But none of those things matter to your child. She loves you in spite of your imperfections.

You’ll Become a More Compassionate and Loving Person: A baby who has bonded with his parents learns to need them, to want them, to love them. To feel this love, to be loved so completely, teaches you the "feel" of love. Feeling loved can open your heart to caring deeply about the well-being of others and to feeling compassionate toward them. In wanting to do all you can to ensure the protection of the helpless little being in your own household, you’ll find yourself aching for others who don’t have the same protection. Pictures of impoverished children will remind you that it could have been your child’s fate—and you’ll be more motivated than ever to do something about it.

Your Love for Your Partner Will Grow: You and your spouse now share something that no two other people will ever share—your child. And you both love your child with all your hearts. By witnessing the love your partner has for your baby, you’ll grow to love him or her even more. You will love the way he or she plays with your child or changes his diapers—for reasons you would have found totally unromantic before you had the baby. Whereas before it was "He has a cute butt!" or "He dresses nicely," now it’s "He doesn’t freak out over spit-up on his tie" and "He always makes sure we have formula in the house." Now that’s sexy! The love and tenderness that a parent shows for a child are unbelievably appealing. What man hasn’t melted at the sight of the mother of his baby lulling her to sleep in a rocking chair? It is total gratitude and love for the life you created together.

You’ll Share a Common Bond with Other Mothers: At no time will you feel more a part of the "sisterhood of women" than when you become a parent. If you’re a new mother, you suddenly feel a connection with other women. You cherish your special place in the world as the bearer of new life. You feel a bond with women who have tried to make the world safer for your child by working to end world hunger, war, or drunken driving. You feel proud to be a woman.

You’ll Love the Little Things in Life: If you were always hurrying through life before, being a parent forces you to slow down, literally and figuratively. When it takes half an hour to walk to the park because your little one keeps stopping to examine every rock and bug along the way, you’ll learn the meaning of patience, for sure. But you’ll also gain a new appreciation for the little things in life. Just hearing your child laugh at a silly story or ooh and ahh over bubbles floating through the air will make you appreciate these simple pleasures. When your little one gets all excited over the train whizzing by, you’ll see it not as an inconvenience that forces you to stop, but as a wonderful new sight and sound for your growing child. You’ll be amazed at how excited you’ll suddenly feel about M&Ms, dandelions, and worms; your child will introduce you to a whole new world of wonder! When you look back on your son’s or daughter’s childhood some day, you won’t remember the fancy clothes they had or the expensive car seat you bought. You’ll remember the sweet poem he wrote on your Valentine or the time she wanted to save the life of the spider in her room. These are the things that will matter most to you.

Parenting is the greatest textbook for Love 101. It will teach you the true meaning of love. It will show you the pleasures of love, and it will bring a love into your life that can never be taken away. You’ll become an expert in love from the time you hold your firstborn in your arms. Shower your child with love and feel it returned tenfold. Having a child will show you the way. Your life will be blessed.

Adapted from my book, Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year. Copyright ©2006.