Ask the Expert

the baby years

Q: I know that reading is one of life’s most important skills. How early in a child’s life should a parent start focusing on reading readiness? What steps can we take with our 6-month-old to prepare her to read? ANSWER >

Q: We’re new parents and looking forward to camping this summer with our little guy. I’m sure the idea of camping with a baby sounds crazy to some, but we love the outdoors and want to give it a shot. Any tips to help us make it a success? ANSWER >

Q: My husband thinks swimming classes for our 6-month-old baby is a silly idea and we are just as well off going to a community pool as a family. Are there actual benefits for starting a child swimming at this age? And are there any risks? ANSWER >

Q: I know that co-sleeping with an infant is a hotly contested issue. But for those parents who choose to co-sleep with their baby, what steps should they take in order to set up the safest possible sleep environment? ANSWER >

Q: Life with a newborn has me flustered and bewildered. It seems like the crying, rocking, feeding, walking-the-floor insanity is going to last forever. I’m also dealing with extreme fatigue and roller-coaster emotions. What are some ways that I can stay balanced when my new baby totally rocks my world? ANSWER >

Q: When I recently Googled “best toys for babies,” I came up with more than 32 million results. Sure, there are endless opportunities for parents to spend their money on toys, so please help us cut to the chase: What kinds of toys are good for babies? ANSWER >

Q: Finding the right childcare setting for my 6-month-old baby seems overwhelming. What are some tips for finding the right place for him? ANSWER >

Q: Is it ok to give my baby a pacifier when he gets fussy? If so, is there a better type over another? If not, what are the risks in doing so? ANSWER >

Q: My baby is due soon and I want to make sure I purchase the best type of car seat for an infant and that I get it installed correctly – any tips? ANSWER >

Q: Can you prevent type 1 diabetes? My first child was diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes mellitus when he was 5 years old. I just had a baby and I’m wondering if there is anything I can do to reduce her odds of getting diabetes too? ANSWER >

Q: I know that newborns’ immune systems aren’t built up yet, so they’re more susceptible to illness. Being that I am a bit of a germaphobe, I am nervous about what my newborn should be exposed to. Should I be asking visitors to slather on hand sanitizer before touching her? How do I protect her without going overboard? ANSWER >

Q: Can we travel with our newborn baby? Is it safe to let her fly on a plane? ANSWER >

Q: I want to make sure I have breastfeeding success with my newborn. Is there any problem with supplementing breast milk with a bottle of formula now and then? Will this affect my baby or affect my milk supply? ANSWER >

Q: What are some tips for getting my baby on a regular sleep schedule? ANSWER >

the early years

Q: How does early music education affect a child’s learning ability? Would it be beneficial to our 3-year-old? Can he take ‘formalized’ lessons at this age? ANSWER >

Q: We’d like to get our 4-year-old involved in gardening this summer so she can learn more about how plants grow and where food comes from. What are some pint-sized projects that would be fun and easy for her to tackle in the garden? ANSWER >

Q: We’ve all witnessed a toddler screaming in a restaurant or acting out while food is on the table. Now that our daughter is entering toddlerhood, what are some ways to not only prevent this bad behavior at dinnertime, but also teach her to have good table manners? ANSWER >

Q: When I’m trying to put together lunch or make dinner, my toddler is always climbing up my leg and it’s hard to get anything done with one arm. How can I get her involved in the kitchen? Are there any appropriate tasks she can handle at that age? ANSWER >

Q: My toddler is always shouting “Mine!” as she grabs any and every toy from her playmate. I’ve told her that she can’t keep all the best toys to herself when she’s with other kids, but she doesn’t seem to get it. How can I teach her to share? ANSWER >

Q: My 3-year-old is just starting to show an interest in arts and crafts, and I’m eager to encourage her creativity. Do you have any suggestions for activities that we could enjoy together?
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Q: My 3-year-old daughter is interested in helping with chores, but the jobs she wants to do – washing the dog and vacuuming – are too big for her. What are some tasks that are just the right size? ANSWER >

Q: We’re planning to take a long flight with our very squirmy toddler. Any tips (or tricks) for stress-free flying with our tiny traveler? ANSWER >

Q: I think my son has social anxiety. He went to a birthday party – with a bouncy castle, games, costumed characters and balloons everywhere – but he still wanted to stay attached to my leg instead of joining in on the fun. Should I be worried? And are there any strategies I can use to help him get comfortable in a crowd? ANSWER >

Q: My son is a pretty good eater, but refuses to eat vegetables. What are some tips for getting toddlers to eat their vegetables? ANSWER >

Q: My 27-month-old daughter still hasn’t started talking, even though she understands almost everything we ask her to do. She’s smart, but should I be concerned that she might have a speech disability? ANSWER >

Q: I’m trying to introduce potty training to my 25-month-old, but it seems like she feels it’s more of a punishment to be on the potty than an exciting hurdle. Is there a way I can make this a fun experience for her? ANSWER >

Q: My child is having trouble with separation when I bring him to preschool. What are some ways I can mitigate his reaction when I’m about to leave? ANSWER >

the middle years

Q: Our 7-year-old can be sarcastic and sassy. I will ask him, “Are you ready to clean your room?” and, as usual, he barely looks up from what he’s doing. After I ask him several times, he says mockingly, “I don’t know. Am I?” Not sure where he learned the snarky comeback (playground, TV show?) but how should we address this bratty behavior and help him move toward a more respectful attitude? ANSWER >

Q: How do we begin to have a conversation about discrimination with our 8-year-old? Sometimes he blurts out offensive comments about others who are different from him. In one case, it was an overweight child at the park. How should parents handle this? ANSWER >

Q: My son, who is now in 1st grade, has an adorable way of saying his “R’s” as almost a “W” sound (such as “wabbit” for “rabbit” and “owange” for “orange”). But as he gets older, I worry about him being afraid to speak up in class or being teased by peers. Will he just outgrow it? Should I correct him? I don’t want to give him a complex. What should I do to help? ANSWER >

Q: It’s the season of giving and I want to teach my 10-year-old about the value of giving back. But I don’t want to drag him to a soup kitchen. Any suggestions for easy and fun things he can do that will help him see how good it feels to do something for others? ANSWER >

Q: Our 6-year-old shows no interest in sports; she would rather read, draw or play. But I do want her to have a positive experience with sports and physical activity. Do I risk turning her off to sports and activity if I “force her” to do them? Any tips? ANSWER >

Q: My 6-year-old daughter often has nightmares. She gets very upset and then comes into our bed for comfort. What might be causing these nightmares and what is the best way to help her cope? ANSWER >

Q: My 8-year-old daughter loves to perform on the piano, but is always unnerved prior to a performance. How can I help her overcome her fear? ANSWER >

Q: My 9-year-old wants to switch from glasses to contacts. Some of her classmates have them and she doesn’t want to be left out. Are contact lenses a good choice for kids this age? How do we know if she’s a good candidate? ANSWER >

Q: Is it healthy for children to be vegetarians? I am a vegetarian, but I have some concerns that my children (5 and 7) might not get enough nutrients. ANSWER >

Q: My 7-year-old child is still wetting the bed. Should I start worrying? And what can I do to help him have an accident-free night? ANSWER >

Q: My 8-year-old son is a reluctant reader. In fact, he says he hates to read. What are some ways I can help him enjoy reading and move toward a book-filled future? ANSWER >

Q: I try to teach my 10-year-old to have good posture, but it doesn’t always work. Why is good posture so important? Are there any health risks associated with bad posture? ANSWER >

Q: My child is 9 years old and her new permanent teeth have a yellowish tint to them. I make sure she brushes and she even uses whitening toothpaste sometimes. Is there something wrong or something else we can/should be doing? ANSWER >

the tween & teen years

Q: It seems that in every school across the country, kids are being victimized by bullies. As parents of a preteen, we feel at a loss for how to prevent it from happening. What are some ways to help empower our child to respond and stand up to bullies? ANSWER >

Q: My two teenage kids are masters at all things electronics, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to switch off the devices and get connected as a family – like having an old-fashioned family game night. Any suggestions for some board games that would keep teens entertained – and maybe even teach them some important skills? ANSWER >

Q: My 9th grader, who is very bright and articulate, is totally unmotivated in school, and his report card grades definitely reflect his lack of effort. Any suggestions on how we can help teach him to raise his grades? ANSWER >

Q: When I ask my teenage kid why he’s so stressed out, he gives me a long list of offenders (homework, tests, friends, the way he looks, girlfriends, no free time, etc.). Any tips on how I can help my overwhelmed teen cope with stress? ANSWER >

Q: My teenage son, a first-time job hunter, says he keeps applying for jobs, but he never hears back from anybody. How can he get an employer to take notice? ANSWER >

Q: My 15-year-old says he wants to start drinking coffee to help increase his alertness in school and enhance his athletic performance. Should I be concerned about coffee consumption at his age? ANSWER >

Q: My son tells me that vaping is the new, popular thing with teenagers and that it’s a safe alternative to smoking. What do I need to know? ANSWER >

Q: I want to motivate my 14-year-old to start exercising, but I’m having a hard time. He claims to hate working out. How can I get him away from the screens and, even more than that, enjoy being physically active? ANSWER >

Q: I don’t like to think about it, but I know the truth is that many teens try alcohol during their high school and college years, long before it’s legal for them to drink it. What can we parents do to help our teens make smart decisions and ‘just say no’ to using and abusing alcohol? ANSWER >

Q: How do I help my teenager stay safe online and act responsible on social networks?
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Q: When my teenage daughter misbehaves, I can’t just put her in a time-out like I did when she was little. And if I yell “you’re grounded,” she just sits around stewing and probably isn’t learning the intended lesson. So what is the best approach to disciplining teens for bad behavior? ANSWER >

Q: Many teens get pimples that are handled with over-the-counter treatments. But what is the difference between mild teen acne and something more serious that would benefit from a dermatologist’s help? ANSWER >

Q: It’s hard to get more than two words out of my teen. Do you have any conversation strategies to help me communicate with my son? ANSWER >