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Top Preschooler (3-5 years) Questions

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Health & Safety

Q: The dentist wants to fill a cavity in my preschooler's mouth. I'm worried. Should I do it?
Q: Should my preschooler get a flu shot?

Eating & Sleeping

Q: How much sleep should my preschooler be getting?
Q: Does my preschooler still need a nap?

Behavior

Q: My preschooler plays too rough with his baby brother. How do I get him to stop?
Q: My preschooler won't poop in the potty anymore. What is happening and how can I stop it?
Q: Other Moms in my preschooler's class encourage competition between the kids. I don't agree. How do I avoid that?

Education

Q: Should I start my daughter in kindergarten at age 4 or age 5?
Q: I'm not happy with my child's preschool--but my child is happy. Should I change schools?
Q: Other kids in preschool are already reading--my kid's not. Should I push the issue?




Health & Safety

Q: The dentist wants to fill a cavity in my preschooler's mouth. I'm worried. Should I do it?

A: Many adults are terrified of the dentist themselves, so it's no wonder they want to protect their kids from the dreaded drill....

The doctor says:
"Cavities can be a serious problem in children and may lead to lifelong problems with their adult teeth. Filling cavities is sometimes preferred over removing diseased teeth. Parents who have concerns about any suggested medical or dental treatments or procedures for their little ones should make sure they discuss those concerns in detail with their doctor, dentist, or other healthcare provider before agreeing to go through with them. Sometimes getting a second opinion helps relieve concerns as well."
--Dr. Rachel Franklin, Mom of twins, Associate Professor of Family Medicine and author of "Expecting Twins, Triplets and More: a Doctor's Guide to a Healthy and Happy Multiple Pregnancy"

Momlogic Moms say
"My dentist wanted to fill a 'pinpoint cavity' in one of my son's baby teeth," says Linda, Mom of four. "But since it wasn't causing him pain and would probably fall out soon anyway, we decided just to leave it. I was really worried about the anesthesia, so I'm glad we didn't do it."

Other Moms say:

  • Trust your instincts.
  • It's not that big of a deal. One mom says, "My 4-year-old had a crown!"

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Q: Should my preschooler get a flu shot?

A: This year, for the first time, the Centers for Disease Control are recommending that all children age 6 months to 5 years get a flu shot. (In previous years, the age range was 2 to 5.) Why the change? Studies have shown that children under 2 are more likely to be hospitalized by flu--especially if they have asthma or other chronic health problems. (Babies under 6 months of age are too young to be vaccinated.) The best time to get your child vaccinated is October or November; kids getting the flu shot for the very first time will need two doses, so have your child get the first one in September. For more information, go to cdc.gov/flu/protect/children.htm.

The doctor says:
"Yes, your preschooler should get a flu shot. Small children are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from the flu, and they're one of the groups that's most likely to spread this serious infectious disease to the elderly and infirm--who have the highest risk of dying from it. Soon it may not even be a question of choice: The Centers for Disease Control are considering making the annual flu vaccine a requirement for young children. As with certain other vaccines, they'll have to get it before they can attend day care or preschool."
--Dr. Rachel Franklin, Mom of twins, Associate Professor of Family Medicine and author of "Expecting Twins, Triplets and More: a Doctor's Guide to a Healthy and Happy Multiple Pregnancy"

Momlogic Moms say:
"I have given my kids a flu shot in preschool," says Julie, Mom of two. "It was recommended by the doctor, so I did it."

Other Moms say:

  • While you're at it, get vaccinated yourself--and have your husband, your nanny, and anyone else who watches your kids get the flu shot too.
  • Your doctor will most likely let you know when it's time for your child to get the shot each year.
  • If your child has asthma or allergies, make sure they get the shot every year before flu season starts.

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Eating & Sleeping

Q: How much sleep should my preschooler be getting?

A: It's one of the most difficult choices in life: Should you 1) Withhold naptime from a child who might need it, and risk having said child throw a tantrum in Wal-Mart at 5 p.m., or 2) Force naptime on a child who might not need it, and risk having said child be jumping on beds at midnight?

The sleep expert says:
"Your preschooler should continue to nap until he's unwilling to do so. The loss of the nap often starts with your child being unable to nap on certain days but not others. Follow your child's lead, allowing him to snooze when he needs to. If he doesn't nap on any particular day, you'll want to move his bedtime up so it's 30 to 60 minutes earlier than normal, as he'll be very tired. Once he gives up the nap completely, aim for a nice early bedtime--say, 7:00 p.m.--so he'll get enough sleep."
--Jill Spivack, MSW, is a psychotherapist and co-founder of Sleepy Planet, where she provides pediatric sleep consultations, leads general parenting groups for first and second time mothers.

Momlogic Moms say:
"Is your child impossible at dinnertime without a nap? That's a sign they're not ready to give it up," says Jackie, Mom of three. "But if daytime sleep means your child is up till all hours, you may want to tolerate a little tired behavior at the end of the day just to save your sanity at night. My son dropped naps right at his third birthday. My second son is trying to drop them now, and he's almost 2 ½. It depends on the kid."

Other Moms say:

  • Don't push it.
  • While transitioning, your child may nap at school but not on weekends--or vice versa.
  • Kids shouldn't stop napping until they're close to 4.
  • Even if your child doesn't want to nap, a quiet, restful period in the afternoon can help make for a more peaceful evening: Mandate 30 minutes of "head on the pillow" time during the day.

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Q: Does my preschooler still need a nap?

A: Most preschoolers would rather eat broccoli than admit they're sleepy. Not to worry: They have lots of other ways of letting you know when they're not getting enough rest.

The sleep expert says:
"Many children give up their naps around their third birthdays, but some continue to nap until they're four. Kids who nap one and a half to three hours during the day generally need 10 to 11 hours of sleep at night; those who don't nap will need 11 to 12 hours at night."
--Jill Spivack, MSW, is a psychotherapist and co-founder of Sleepy Planet, where she provides pediatric sleep consultations, leads general parenting groups for first and second time mothers.

Momlogic Moms say:
"My 4-year-old gets a two-hour nap every day and sleeps about 10 hours at night," says Diane, Mom of three. "I don't know if 12 hours is enough for this age, but she's happy most of the time. If she skips her nap or stays up past her bedtime, she's a nightmare!"

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Behavior

Q: My preschooler plays too rough with his baby brother. How do I get him to stop?

A: Sad but true: Sibling rivalry starts young.

The parenting expert says:
"This can usually be attributed to jealousy. Parents tend to carry their babies around as a matter of course, and that kind of rubs the older child's face in it--it turns the baby into a wonderful object that the older child wants to get at all the more. As far as the preschooler's concerned, they've been booted out of the throne room and there's a new king or queen in town!"
--Noel Janis-Norton, learning and behavior specialist, mom of three, and creator of the Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting program.

Lessen your older child's jealousy
Noel Janis-Norton recommends the following:

  • Comfort your crying baby in other ways--don't make picking him up your default reaction. "Most people carry their babies around too much," Janis-Norton says. "It teaches the baby that being picked up is their only comfort--that the only right place to be is in his parent's arms. Instead, goo and gah and stroke him where he is, whether he's in his crib or bouncy seat or on the floor."
  • Ensure that you and your husband each commit to spending quality time alone with your preschooler every day. "Even 10 minutes will do," Janis-Norton says. "What's important is that your child knows it's coming. Doing this will feed your preschooler's need for attention, so he won't be driven to get it in negative ways."
  • Protect your older child's playtime. "Preschoolers get annoyed when crawling babies get into their Lego constructions or whatever," Janis-Norton notes. "Make sure your older child can play undisturbed. It's hard to be friendly to someone who's wrecking your game!"

Momlogic Moms say:
"Show your older child the right way to touch baby. I had my son practice on a doll," says Kathi, Mom of two. "It worked!"

Other Moms say:

  • Don't just correct him when he's being rough--praise him when he touches baby gently. ("You're being so sweet, you're not making the baby cry. Good job, honey!")
  • Empower him by emphasizing the fact that he's older. (Say, "You're a big boy, so you need to treat the baby gently.") That way, he'll want to obey.

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Q: My preschooler won't poop in the potty anymore. What is happening and how can I stop it?

A: You ask your child why she won't poop in the potty, and she says, "I'm afraid." Afraid of what, you wonder--the Ty-D-Bowl man? Granted, he was kinda creepy....

The pediatrician says:
"During potty training, some kids become fearful of leaving behind a poop. This is very common, even if there were some early successes. For kids who were pooping well, lack of pooping may mean constipation, so the first step is to call your pediatrician and sort out whether this is a behavioral or medical problem. Once you figure that out, your pediatrician can guide you to the best treatment for your child. I've always felt that the term 'potty training' is a misnomer: It should be called 'potty guiding.' I suggest that you back off a bit: If left to their own devices, the majority of children will become fully potty-trained by the time they're 4."
--Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, FAAP, is the CEO and Chief Editor of Pediatrics Now

Dr. O'Keeffe's potty-guiding tips:

  • Allow your child to continue to use pull-ups.
  • Reward her when she recognizes that she needs to have a bowel movement.
  • Continue to encourage her to use the potty, but let it be on her time frame and not yours.

Momlogic Moms say:
"As frustrating as it can be, don't freak out," says Jackie, Mom of 3. "My potty-trained preschooler regressed for a bit too--I think because his little brother got attention when his diaper was changed. I just kept reminding him that big boys poop in the potty."

Other Moms suggest:

  • Reward your child for proper pooping. Give him or her stickers; if your child poops in the potty five times in a row, make a special trip for new underwear (let your child pick it out).
  • Try to understand your child's point of view. "I went to a child psychologist," says one Mom. "She said that some kids see flushing their poop as discarding part of themselves, and this is very troubling to them. I thought that was an interesting perspective!"
  • Tell a white lie. One Mom admits, " I bought a new brand of training pants and told my son that they would not work for poop, only if he had to pee when he was asleep at night. There was some whining and moaning but it got him on the potty."
  • Don't bribe your child with food. Says one Mom, "My best friend gave her kid chocolate ice cream every time she'd poop in the potty. It was going great until one day out of the blue she pooped in her underwear. My friend asked, 'Why didn't you poop in the potty?' and her little girl said, 'Because we're out of ice cream!'"
  • Don't make a big deal out of it.

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Q: Other Moms in my preschooler's class encourage competition between the kids. I don't agree. How do I avoid that?
A: Think scary soccer-Mom syndrome only happens in high school? Think again.

The therapist says:
"Competition in life is inevitable, but a competitive environment is not ideal in a preschool. It's supposed to be a positive experience! Talk to the teacher and find out if she encourages competition in the classroom. If you don't like the answer you get, look for a new school for your child--one in which the philosophy is closer to your own, and where you'll be more liable to find like-minded parents."
--Rosanne Tobey, LPC, is a New Jersey-based therapist who specializes in individual, couples and family therapy.

If it isn't possible to enroll your child in a different school....
Rosanne Tobey suggests that you:

  • Give extra support to your child to help him or her thrive in this potentially negative environment.
  • Use the fact that you feel differently from other Moms as an opportunity to teach your child lessons about patience, acceptance, and inclusion.
  • Get your child to share his or her school-day experiences with you. During playtime, talk to him about how his day was. Ask what they do at school and how they do it. If he expresses any concerns, explain to him that different people have different approaches to life--not better, just different. Says Tobey, "With a bit of effort, you can use this experience to help your child develop valuable coping skills that will serve him well throughout his life."

Momlogic Moms say:
"When parents make dumb comments like, 'Sarah's doing so much better at her letters than Johnny is,' I always remind them that every child develops differently and that it's not a competition," says Tina, Mom of two. "I mean, c'mon, this is preschool, people! They'll have plenty of time to be competitive in high school. Let kids be kids!"

Other Moms say:

  • Encourage your child to just do the best she can.
  • Tell your kids to follow the teacher's rules, not other parents'.
  • Make sure your child knows he won't always win.

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Education

Q: Should I start my daughter in kindergarten at age 4 or age 5?

A: It's a tough decision. The last thing you want is to have your child be held back later on!

The therapist says:
"Kindergarten is the first step in your child's formal educational career, and it's important that your child's experience is a positive and encouraging one. Therefore, you don't want to rush your child into something she's not ready for. If you do, you run the risk of putting her in a situation where she's struggling to keep up with the class--and that could undermine her self-confidence. If you question your child's readiness for kindergarten, talk to her pediatrician. Also, many schools screen children prior to accepting them into their kindergarten program. Ask these professionals for input, then go with your instinct. Do you feel your daughter's ready for kindergarten? There's a big difference developmentally between age 4 and age 5; if you or any of the people you consulted feel that she isn't ready, don't push it. Instead, enroll her in one of the many 4+ programs that are now available. A 4+ class will help her develop the necessary skills to succeed in kindergarten when she eventually does go."
--Rosanne Tobey, LPC, is a New Jersey-based therapist who specializes in individual, couples and family therapy.

Momlogic Moms say:
"Schedule a meeting with the principal or admissions director at the kindergarten you'd like to attend," suggests Jean, Mom of two. "Ask them what they expect of entering kids. Visit the class. What is the average age? How would your child fare in the classroom environment? Once you have all of the information, go with your gut--you know your child best."

Other Moms say:

  • Let your child's maturity level--not his or her intelligence--be your guide.
  • Ask your child's preschool teacher what he or she would advise.
  • When in doubt, wait.

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Q: I'm not happy with my child's preschool--but my child is happy. Should I change schools?
A: The real question is: Should you trust a 3-year-old's judgment? We're talking about a person who thinks The Wiggles are amazingly talented....

The therapist says:
"It really depends on what you're unhappy about and how much time your daughter has left at her school. If she's unsafe or the school is in any way inappropriate, you should change immediately--even if she's obviously happy. However, if she's in her last year and she's safe and well cared for, then I would let her finish out the year without change. That said, if your daughter's at the beginning of her preschool career and you can find a school that both meets your expectations and provides for your daughter's needs, I would definitely suggest changing--even if it's just for one year. A school that you approve of and appreciate will positively impact your attitude, which in turn will enhance your daughter's experience. (She'll notice how much more supportive, upbeat, and involved you are.) The bottom line is, she could be happy anywhere. If you're happy as well, you'll both enjoy the preschool experience more."
--Rosanne Tobey, Licensed Professional Counselor

Momlogic Moms say
"If you're not happy with your child's school, there's probably a good reason for it," says Stefanie, Mom of three. "I'd trust your gut and change schools. Kids are highly adaptable; they could have fun at a factory for the day. My child still talks about an absolutely horrible preschool we visited about five times before I realized the place was filthy and they sat the kids in front of TV when the parents weren't around."

Other Moms say:

  • If your child's education is being compromised, switch. But if you just have a personal issue (like, you hate the other parents) but the school is fine, suck it up.
  • Take your concerns to the teachers and school administration before you decide.
  • Nothing in life is perfect. Sometimes you have to learn to deal with the good and bad. Running away is not the answer!

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Q: Other kids in preschool are already reading--my kid's not. Should I push the issue?
A: Every mom wants her child to be "normal," so when other kids seem to be developing faster, it's hard not to fall into the comparison trap.

The therapist says:
"No. The main purpose of preschool is to help socialize children and prepare them for kindergarten. While it's true that some preschools have become more than that, your child is still successful if he can write his name and play well with others. Children generally don't learn to read until they're 6 or 7 years old. It's great that some of the kids in your son's preschool class are reading already, but there's nothing wrong with your son because he isn't. It doesn't mean he's behind. Reading is a developmental issue, so don't push him if he's not ready. If you do, you run the risk of pressuring him to learn tasks that he doesn't currently have the ability to perform--and therefore setting him up to fail. That could have a significant negative impact on his academic experience for years to come."
--Rosanne Tobey, LPC, is a New Jersey-based therapist who specializes in individual, couples and family therapy.


To gently encourage your child's interest in reading...

Rosanne Tobey recommends the following:

  • Read to your child each day.
  • Leave books your child might enjoy around his or her room.
  • Support your child and build his confidence by praising him for the gifts he does have.

Momlogic Moms say:
"Some little kids are way into drawing; others really like letters and/or numbers," says Stefanie, Mom of three. "You should always let your child's interest level be your guide. There's no reason to rush kids into learning something they aren't ready to learn. My daughter is pre-reading, but that's only because she loves looking at letters and learning their sounds. She has no interest in learning to pick up after herself, however."

Other Moms say:

  • Your child will probably learn how to read in kindergarten.
  • Even siblings learn to read at different paces.
  • It never hurts to chat with your child's teacher.
  • Read to your child at bedtime each night; it will foster a love of books.

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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
nicole December 7, 2008, 7:02 PM

My child goes to K-5 and he is getting ready to be 6 in 2weeks.The problem is we are still potty training.He will not say anythng he will just go on himself and not care about the consequences.Im am totally embarressed every time the school calls and tell me.What should I do??Help in Gville SC


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