Taking Care of Your Grandchildren (page 3)
When you take care of your grandkids — whether it's for a few hours or a few days — you're probably anxious to put all of your great parenting experience to good use.
But you may want to brush up on a few child care basics. Though you raised healthy kids in a safe environment, in recent years much research has been devoted to child safety. Government agencies and medical experts have developed a slew of safety standards and laws to keep kids healthy and out of harm's way. And as a result, many new products are available that make it convenient and economical for parents — and grandparents — to meet those new standards.
Whether you're caring for grandkids at their house or in your home, these tips can make the experience enjoyable — and trauma-free — for all of you!
Thorough hand washing — particularly after going to the bathroom and before preparing or eating food — is now recognized as one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of any illness, from the flu to infectious diarrhea.
To really get rid of germs: wet your hands with warm water, then rub with soap for at least 15 seconds (long enough to sing a few rounds of "Happy Birthday") before rinsing well. In a public restroom, dry your hands on a disposable towel, then use that towel to turn off the faucet.
Teach your grandkids this important habit to help the entire family stay healthy. If you have a tough time getting them to make a stop at the sink, try soaps with bright colors, fun shapes, or appealing smells. Or have them sing a favorite song during the scrubbing.
Know what medications you can give your grandchild in the event of illness. If you have any questions, call the child's doctor before giving any over-the-counter medications.
Also, kids who are 12 years old or younger should never be given aspirin, as it has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness that can cause nausea, vomiting, and behavioral changes, and often requires treatment in a hospital. Also, never give a child medications that have been prescribed to someone else, whether it's an adult or child. Even if two people have the same illness, they may require different drugs with different doses and directions.
Infants younger than 1 year old should be placed on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Infants should not be placed on their stomachs or their sides to sleep. Babies should sleep in a crib or bassinet on a firm mattress, without soft bedding, plush toys, or other soft objects. Loose bedding, such as blankets and sheets, should be tucked under the crib mattress to avoid covering the infant's face.
Other ways to lower the risk of SIDS include:
- Keep room temperature comfortable and avoid over-bundling.
- Give the infant a pacifier at naptime and bedtime, but do not force it if the baby refuses it.
- Do not replace a pacifier that has fallen out during sleep.
- Do not expose the infant to cigarette smoke.
In addition, infants who sleep in the same room (though not the same bed) as their mothers have a lower risk of SIDS. Consider having a crib or bassinet in the room where you or the child's parents sleep.
TV, Computers, and Video Games
Kids under 2 years old should not have any time in front of a screen, including TVs, DVDs or videos, and computers. After age 2, kids should have no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming a day.
Offer your grandkids a variety of free-time activities to try instead of TV or videos, video games, and the Internet. The TV should be turned off during meals and homework, and you can set a good example by limiting your own TV watching.
To help you decide what programs are appropriate for your grandchild, look for age-group rating tools on some TV programs and video games (they're usually listed onscreen).
Immunizations are one of the most important ways to keep kids — and everyone around them — healthy. Find out if your grandchildren are up-to-date on all their immunizations.
Also, it's particularly important for grandparents to get annual flu shots, which are recommended for everyone over 6 months of age, including adults. Flu shots usually are given between September and mid-November and throughout flu season. Also make sure that you have had the Tdap vaccine. This is particularly important to help decrease the chance of spreading pertussis (whooping cough) to your grandchild. Pertussis can cause very serious illness or death in infants.
Babies and children should be in child safety seats that meet current standards. All kids younger than 12 years should ride in the back seat with the appropriate safety restraint.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants and toddlers ride in a rear-facing seat until they are 2 years old or until they have reached the maximum weight and height limits recommended by the manufacturer.
All kids 2 years or older, or those younger than 2 years who have outgrown the rear-facing height or weight limit for their car seat, should use a forward-facing car seat with a full harness for as long as possible.
Booster seats are vehicle safety seats for kids who have outgrown forward-facing or convertible car seats but are still too small to be properly restrained by a vehicle's seatbelts.
Many states have laws requiring booster seats for kids up to 8 years old and 80 pounds, or 4 feet 9 inches tall. The AAP states that kids should use a booster seat until the car's lap-and-shoulder belt fits properly, which is typically when they've reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years old.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have safety seat laws and more than half have booster seat laws. Ask your local government office or department of motor vehicles about child safety restraint laws in your state.
Even if your state does not require booster seats for older children, put safety first when traveling with your grandkids. Follow manufacturer recommendations and instructions and do not exceed weight limits.
Use a firm crib mattress. To avoid suffocation hazards, keep soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib, including pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed toys, etc.
Cribs manufactured after 1974 meet current safety standards, including slats that are no more than 2-3/8 inches apart so that infants can't get their heads stuck. A crib that has been in the family for generations may not be suitable or safe — cribs made before 1974 may be covered in lead paint, have slats that are too far apart, or pose other safety hazards.
Before using a crib, check the side rails for locking devices. Remove mobiles when an infant is 5 months old or can get on his or her hands and knees.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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