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  • Heather Bragg

    3 things parents don't need to panic about

    How to know the difference between normal child behavior and something requiring medical intervention.
    Early in my son’s life, I was on the phone with one of my closest girlfriends, also the mother of a baby boy, and we were talking through the challenge du jour of parenting. (I think I was talking about finding a feeding routine that worked best for my son’s reflux, and she was talking about getting her son on a good nap routine). 
    She said, “You realize we are in for a lifetime of this, right? It doesn’t end with solving these problems…we will worry about something else next, like how they are making friends in kindergarten, understanding their algebra homework, getting their driver’s licenses, taking the ACT, going to college…it’s never going to end.” 
    Sheesh. She was right. 
    The worrying possibilities can be overwhelming and endless. Here, however, are a few topics that often cause parents to worry, but rarely become problems. So cross these off your list! 
    Irrational fears
    According to The Child Anxiety Network, 90% of children between the ages of 2 and 14 say they are afraid of something, such as loud noises, imaginary figures (monsters) and natural disasters (floods, earthquakes). Different fears arise at different times in a child’s development and usually go away on their own over time. 
    If a child is fearful of things or events after a traumatic experience, or if the fear (and accompanying avoidance or physical discomfort) is impacting his day-to-day life, it may be time to seek treatment from a psychologist.
    Backwards letters (do not mean dyslexia)
    Misshapen letters—or letters that are turned around—are part of normal and expected development as children learn to interact with language. Many children who are perfectly bright and learning in a typical manner will write backward letters throughout second grade. Only when the backward letters accompany struggles with reading—such as learning phonics skills or remembering sight words—do we need to consider them an indication of a possible learning problem.
    If your child is in kindergarten or first grade, enjoy their writing, allow them to “read” it to you and tell you about the story they have written without correcting letter shapes or spelling. If your child is well into second grade and forming backward letters without experiencing any difficulty with learning to read, look into a handwriting program (like Handwriting Without Tears) that can help with the motor-memory piece of forming letters.
    If your child is any age and experiencing difficulty with early reading skills, look into testing and support both inside and outside of school. The kindergarten through second grade years are crucial years for both learning to read and forming a healthy sense of confidence around learning; difficulty during this window should be addressed immediately.
    Choppy reading aloud
    Like misshapen letters, reading aloud at an uneven pace is part of learning to read. If your child is reading to you and it does not sound smooth or harmonious, just listen and allow him to continue to work with the text. He is getting great practice with language, and your corrections may discourage him and cheat him out of chance to work out the text himself. However, if he is clearly frustrated, he may benefit from having an adult read the page first, then he can reread it. This activity can serve as a wonderful bridge to fluent reading.
    It is also possible that the book is not at his reading level—children often select books that are just a tad beyond their present knowledge and ability of phonics and word structure. The rule of thumb when it comes to selecting a book that is not too easy, not too hard, but “just right” (Goldilocks-style!) is the “five finger rule.” If a child picks up a new book, opens to the first page and, while reading this page, encounters five words that really stump her (keep track on her fingers), the book is probably too tricky right now.
    Heather Bragg

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