Don’t let these every day parenting issues freak you out even more.
Be prepared for when you child eats a bug, has a night terror, or wakes up barking like a seal.
Breath holding spells – in a typical breath holding spell, a young child cries, either from a tantrum or a fall, etc., and then holds his breath (involuntarily) and briefly passes out. Although it sounds scary and the episode might look like a seizure, these kids usually quickly wake up and are fine after. Kids who have breath holding spells are often prone to repeated spells though, so you do want to warm other caregivers so they don’t freak out if your child has one. Eventually, kids outgrow having them.
Febrile Seizures – parents often describe their child’s first febrile seizure as ‘the worst moment of their life.’ Febrile seizures typically occur when a fever rises rapidly, but although they are scary, they are usually brief, stop without treatment, don’t cause any problems, and most kids outgrow having them by the time they are about five years old.
Nosebleeds – a nosebleed that doesn’t stop is certainly scary, but with proper treatment, most nosebleeds will stop in ten to twenty minutes (if not sooner), even if your child wakes up in the middle of the night with a bloody nose for what you think is no reason.
Night terrors – often confused for nightmares, a child having a night terror will wake up in the early part of the night yelling and screaming, which is why parents think their child is having a nightmare. The scary thing though, is that their child will be confused, likely won’t recognize you, and might act terrified – and it all might last for as long as 45 minutes or more. Fortunately, night terrors are normal. Your child likely won’t even remember what happened the next morning. And they eventually stop.
Eating a Bug – “Kids eat bugs all the time. Few if any symptoms are likely to occur.” – that’s a quote from the National Capital Poison Center, who must get more than a few calls from worried parents about their kids eating bugs. Or finding the evidence later – when you see a dead bug in their diaper…
High Fever – pediatricians have done a lot of education about fever phobia over the years, but parents often still get scared that a high fever is going to cause brain damage or hurt their child in some other way. Try to remember that fever is just another symptom and doesn’t tell you how sick your child is.
Playing Doctor – even though it’s natural for young kids to be curious about their bodies, the average parent is likely going to be scared and upset if they “catch” their kids playing doctor. Understand that it is usually a normal part of child development and don’t turn it into a problem by making it into more than it is.
Hives – a child with classic hives might have a red raised rash develop suddenly all over his body. And since hives are very itchy, that child is probably going to be miserable, which can make hives very scary, even though without other symptoms (like vomiting or trouble breathing), they typically aren’t a sign of a serious allergic reaction. The other thing about hives that can be scary is that even when they go away with a dose of Benadryl, they often come back – sometimes for days, but often for weeks. And your pediatrician might not be able to tell you what triggered them.
Croup – your child goes to bed fine, but then wakes up in the middle of the night with a strange cough that sounds like a barking seal, has a hoarse cry, and it seems like he is wheezing. Scary, right? Sure, but if you realize he probably has croup and that some time in the bathroom with a hot shower (getting the room steamy can often calm his breathing), you’ll be ready for this common viral infection.
Choking – while choking can be a life-threatening emergency, most episodes of choking aren’t. In addition to learning CPR and how to prevent choking, remember that if you child “is still able to speak or has a strong cough” then you may not have to do anything, except maybe 911 if he or she is having some breathing difficulties. It is when your child is choking and can not breath at all (and can’t talk and isn’t coughing) that you need to quickly react and do the Heimlich Maneuver while someone calls 911.
Even with a little foreknowledge and preparation, many of these very common pediatric issues are scary. Don’t hesitate or be afraid to call your pediatrician for more help.
You could just parent by instinct, but it is much better to supplement your instinct with a little helpful advice from some of the parents who have come before you.
While some of these things experts figured out through years and years of research, others are simply tips that folks figured out after making mistakes and understanding that there must be a better way to get things done.
Vaccines are safe, necessary, and they work.
Sleep is good. For everyone. Learn to help your baby sleep through the night by the time they are four to six months old.
Three years is not a magic age at which every kid is potty trained. Some take a little longer. The main potty training mistake you can make is to push your kids when they aren’t ready.
Some kids continue to wet the bed at night, even after they are potty trained.
Don’t give aspirin to kids, even teens. It is a risk factor for getting Reye syndrome.
If you still have them, safely dispose of mercury thermometers and syrup of ipecac.
Experts don’t recommend that you use hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds any more. You can usually substitute soap and water instead.
“Starve a fever; feed a cold” is an Old Wives’ Tale, like not drinking milk when your kids have a fever or diarrhea. It is not a real thing. If your child is sick and hungry, let them eat their regular diet. If they are sick and don’t want to eat, encourage them to at least drink a lot of fluids, and add bland foods, until they are ready to eat more.
A green or yellow runny nose almost certainly means that your child has an infection, but unless it has been lingering for weeks or your child has a persistent high fever, then it is likely a viral infection that won’t respond to antibiotics.
When your doctor prescribes antibiotics for your kids, think about whether the prescription is because your sick child needs it or because the doctor thinks you want it. Consider asking if your child might get better without antibiotics.
Don’t force kids to “clean their plates” or eat foods that they really dislike. Picky eaters who are forced to eat are probably more likely to grow up to be picky adult eaters.
Most kids, unless they are missing out on one or more food groups or have a chronic medical problem, probably don’t need a daily vitamin.
Don’t just ask your kids if they are being bullied. Also ask if they ever bully or see kids getting bullied. Someone is doing the bullying.
All kids are different. Don’t compare them. Or at least don’t compare them too much. But talk to your pediatrician if your child’s growth and development really seems off-track compared to most other children.
Some kids are harder to discipline than others. Try something else or get help if what you are doing isn’t working.
Taking extra unnecessary risks, like hiding a loaded gun in the house, not having a fence around your backyard swimming pool, letting your kids ride a bike without a helmet, or letting them ride an ATV, etc., will increase the chances that your kids get hurt. Think about safety.
Not every kid wants to play or is going to be good at team sports.
Being on a “select” sports team probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. The selection process is just as likely to involve the fact that you can pay to be on the team and take extra lessons or classes, as it is to about your child’s skill level.
For perspective, always remember that no matter how good or talented you think your child is, there is always another kid playing at a much higher level. That’s why so few end up playing in college or at higher levels.
At some point, you child might say “I hate you!” Be ready, and understand that it almost certainly has nothing to do with you.
The ‘free range kids’ movement is the opposite extreme to ‘helicopter parenting.’ Don’t fall for parenting fads.
And don’t believe everything you hear or read about parenting. Kids do come with instructions – good instructions, you just have to know when and where to get them. And who to trust.
Otherwise you could end up making all of the same mistakes that all of the rest of us have already made.
For More Information on Things Parents Should Know
The American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement has shifted over the years.
They still don’t recommend that boys routinely get circumcised though.
Instead, the latest recommendation, which was published in a 2012 policy statement, states that:
…the benefits of circumcision are sufficient to justify access to this procedure for families choosing it and to warrant third-party payment for circumcision of male newborns.
While the health benefits of getting circumcised, including prevention of UTIs, penile cancer, and transmitting some STIs, outweigh the small risks of the procedure, the AAP states that parents still need to decide if circumcision is in the best interest of their male child, thinking about their own “religious, ethical, and cultural beliefs and practices.”
Don’t get your child circumcised because you think it will be too hard to clean his intact penis and don’t get your child circumcised because you think everyone else is doing it and he will have problems in the locker room. Those aren’t good reasons.
It is also important to keep in mind that if your child is circumcised, the AAP also states that babies should be given “adaquate analgesia,” (that’s pain control) including:
penile nerve block techniques
nonpharmacologic techniques, like positioning and sucrose pacifier, can be used as an adjunct to a penile nerve block
And of course, the AAP came out with a policy statement in 2010 against the “traditional custom of ritual cutting and alteration of the genitalia of female infants, children, and adolescents, referred to as female genital mutilation or female genital cutting (FGC).”