5 Parenting Goals to Start the New Year

​​​Helping to make your family stronger, safer and more harmonious may not require a complete overhaul, but rather a few strategic tweaks.

Here are five simple and concrete parenting goals to set for the year ahead.

1. Get everyone vaccinated for flu. The flu shot​ is the best way to protect yourself, your children, and other loved ones from the flu. It’s especially important this year as COVID-19 still spreads. ​Call your pediatrician to make sure your children are up-to-date on other immunizations. Teach them good hand hygeine​ habits as a way to help prevent the spread of germs.

2. Do good digital. What are your kids watching on TV and online? Devote some time to researching age-appropriate media. Make a family media use plan, and try to prevent gaming from becoming an unhealthy habit. Remember that screen time shouldn’t always be alone time. Watch a show together. Play a video game together. Understand what they are doing and be a part of it.

3. Get outside more. Spending time outdoors can be a great mood booster, and help families get physical activity and vitamin D while enjoying time in nature. Spending time outside also give your child’s eyes a healthy screen-time break.

4. Keep kids riding rear-facing as long as possible, up to the limits of their car seat. This will include virtually all children under 2 and most children up to age 4. If you are past the car-seat stage of parenting, congrats! If you’re still in the thick of it, check for any new car seat laws that may be going into effect in your state in the new year. Remind anyone who transports your child by car.

5. Practice some self-care. When was the last time you had a check-up? Got proper rest? Once a baby is no longer a part of your body, it’s easy to forget that tight association between how you care for yourself and how you care for your child’s health. We also know depression and anxiety can happen to both moms and dads during and after pregnancy. If this is you, you are not alone. Help is near.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2020). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Baby’s Temperament

Consider these two babies, both from the same family, both girls:

The first infant is calm and quiet, happy to play by herself. She watches everything that happens around her, but rarely demands attention herself. Left on her own, she sleeps for long periods and eats infrequently.

The second baby is fussy and startles easily. She thrashes her arms and legs, moving almost constantly whether awake or asleep. While most newborns sleep fourteen hours a day, she sleeps only ten, and wakens whenever there’s the slightest activity nearby. She seems in a hurry to do everything at once and even eats in a rush, gulping her feedings and swallowing so much air that she needs frequent burping.

Both these babies are absolutely normal and healthy. One is no “better” than the other, but because their personalities are so far apart, the two will be treated very differently, right from birth.

Like these babies, your infant will demonstrate many unique personality traits from the earliest weeks of life. Discovering these traits is one of the most exciting parts of having a new baby. Is she very active and intense, or relatively slow-going? Is she timid when faced with a new situation, such as the first bath, or does she enjoy it? You’ll find clues to her personality in everything she does, from falling asleep to crying. The more you pay attention to these signals and learn to respond appropriately to her unique personality, the calmer and more predictable your life will be in the months to come.

While most of these early character traits are built into the newborn’s hereditary makeup, their appearance may be delayed if your baby is born quite prematurely. Premature babies don’t express their needs—such as hunger, fatigue, or discomfort—as clearly as other newborns. They may be extra sensitive to light, sound, and touch for several months. Even playful conversation may be too intense for them and cause them to become fussy and look away. When this happens, it’s up to the parent to stop and wait until the baby is alert and ready for more attention. Eventually most of these early reactions will fade away, and the baby’s own natural character traits will become more evident.

Babies who are less than 5.5 pounds or 2.5 kg at birth (low birth weight), even if they’re full term, also may be less responsive than other newborns. At first they may be very sleepy and not seem very alert. After a few weeks they seem to wake up, eating eagerly but still remaining irritable and hypersensitive to stimulation between feedings. This irritability may last until they grow and mature further.

From the very beginning, your baby’s temperamental traits will influence the way you treat her and feel about her. If you had specific ideas about child rearing before she was born, reevaluate them now to see if they’re really in tune with her character. The same goes for expert advice—from books, articles, and especially from well-meaning relatives and friends—about the “right way” to raise a child. The truth is, there is no right way that works for every child. You have to create your own guidelines based on your child’s unique personality, your own beliefs, and the circumstances of your family life. The important thing is to remain responsive to your baby’s individuality. Don’t try to box her into some previously set mold or pattern. Your baby’s uniqueness is her strength, and respecting that strength from the start will help lay the best possible foundation for her high self-esteem and for loving relationships with others.

Source: Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Goodreads Best Books of 2020

Earlier this month, Goodreads announced its Best Books of 2020. The Annual Goodreads Choice Awards is the only major book awards decided by readers, and here are their pics for the young readers in your life:

Best Picture Books
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

Best Middle Grade & Children’s
The Tower of Nero by Rick Riordan

Best Young Adult Fiction
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction
The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

Best Graphic Novels & Comics
Heartstopper: Volume Three by Alice Oseman

Additional books were nominated in each category. Click here to see all of the results and get reading!

10 Non-Tech Holiday Gift Ideas to Promote Kids’ Language & Learning

​​​Children of all ages are filling their holiday wish list with things like tablets, cell phones, wearables, headphones, and other tech-related gifts. But it’s important to find a balance and ensure that today’s connected kids ha​ve some quality off-line time, too. The holidays are a great time to get back to some of the basics in childhood play that foster communication and social interaction. Here are some ideas for a low-tech holiday gift list:

Traditional toys remain superior to electronic toys for children’s language development. For example, when toys talk, parents talk less—and subsequently, kids vocalize less. Blocks, dolls, musical instruments, cars, trains, shape-sorters, and other low-tech toys get kids—and parents—talking, singing, playing, and interacting. These all help build foundational communication skills.

Books always make excellent presents, and sharing the joy of reading is a lifelong gift.

  • ​For infants and toddlers: Books with textures inviting touch are ideal, as are colorful board and picture books.
  • For children learning how to read: Give books appropriate to their skill level to facilitate emerging literacy.
  • For older children: Find engaging chapter books and book series. Family members can take turns reading chapters aloud. This may be the start of a family book club.

​​Board, card, and conversation-based question games are great to enjoy and play as a family. They get everyone talking and laughing and build some great memories. There are games for all age ranges. And what better time of year than winter to begin family game nights for building conversation, connections—and fun!

Costumes and other dress-up accessories allow kids to use their imaginations and foster creativity. Children’s language skills expand as they make up dialogues, tell stories, sing, and take turns.

Building toys, blocks,​ and crafts make for some fun indoor activities to occupy kids on cold days. They also help hone fine motor skills for all ages. For young children, motor skills are closely linked to language development.

Outdoor toys such as balls, sleds, jump ropes, and yard games encourage running, jumping, sports and other active play. Physical activity and movement prime children for learning.

Puzzles — ranging from basic options for young children to complex types the whole family can attempt as a team—spur conversation while building analytical, problem-solving and other skills.

Cooking supplies work as fun gifts for children of almost any age. Involving young kids in making and trying new foods offers a wealth of opportunity for conversation and language-building, including likes and dislikes, tastes, textures, and more. For older kids, cooking together sets the scene for family bonding. Following recipes also helps improve reading and comprehension skills, planning, organization, sequencing, and following directions.

Crayons, colored pencils, coloring books and other writing supplies are a childhood staple, and they help children build fine-motor skills. Coloring also helps young children build their vocabulary and learn their color names.

​Tickets to child-friendly shows, sporting events, or other performances are great gifts, as they allow parents and children to enjoy special activities together. These outings promote family interaction, conversation, and bonding. In addition, memberships to local zoos, museums or aquariums make great gifts for entire families to enjoy!

Of course, technology gifts will likely remain on your child’s shopping lists year after year—the reality of growing up in today’s world. Parents can help their children balance their online and off-line lives. If you do give your child a technology-related gift, use it as an opportunity to lay out some ground rules and make a family media plan.

Copyright American Academy of Pediatrics and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association/ASHA Leader. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Are holiday gatherings OK during the COVID-19 pandemic?

For many families, the holidays are about getting together with relatives and friends. But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, gatherings with people outside your household continue to be risky this holiday season. Public health experts say that small household gatherings are some of the main ways COVID-19 cases spread so much again this fall.

With some extra planning and lower risk activities, though, your family can create lasting memories while lowering the risk of being exposed to or spreading COVID-19. Here are some tips I’m sharing with families in my practice this year:

  • Celebrate with members of your own household. Limit any in-person celebration to people you live with. Cooking with your children and decorating ​your home are great ways to enjoy each other’s company while protecting your family and others from COVID-19.
  • Find creative ways to share the experience remotely. Prepare a favorite recipe with extended family over video chat. Share what you are grateful for or light candles together virtually at the start of the holiday meal. Set up a group video call to sing songs, play instruments, share stories, open gifts together or count down to the New Year together.
  • Consider a drop-off treat exchange. Another way to share the holiday spirit is to prepare cookies or other special holiday treats for family and neighbors. Instead of exchanging them in person, delight them with a doorstep drop-off.
  • Shop online and help elderly or higher-risk loved ones. Do any grocery or gift shopping online with delivery and curbside pickup options, if possible. Consider holiday food deliveries to elderly relatives. If you need to shop in person, go when stores are not as busy.

Tips for a virtual holiday gathering with grandparents

With so many families turning to video conferencing platforms for their celebrations this year, the American Speech-Language​-Hearing Association recommends finding different ways to communicate for older adults who may have difficulty hearing. Try using closed captioning or a larger screen, and make sure that they are closer to the computer and speakers to better hear and see facial expressions. Limit side conversations to give everyone a chance to speak and be heard. ​

If you do have an in-person get-together…

Make sure everyone understands that gatherings with people outside your household can be risky. Here are some ways to help make them safer:

  • Keep the gathering small and short. Keep your guest list as small as possible and reduce the amount of time you would usually visit.
  • Wear cloth face coverings and keep your distance. People who live together can sit together, but arrange for those from different households to stay at least 6 feet apart—especially while eating. Remind everyone to wear cloth face coverings when they’re not eating.
  • Open windows and stay outside when possible. Open windows for better ventilation. If weather permits, gather outdoors. Stay a safe distance apart from others and wear cloth face coverings with multiple layers or medical masks, even outside.
  • Safer serving. Avoid buffet or family-style dinners and choose one person do the serving or get individual meals if ordering out. Remind children to wash hands often, and keep hand sanitizer within reach.
  • Take safety steps beforehand. For two weeks before the gathering, remind guests to follow steps that lower the risk of COVID transmission. This includes wearing cloth face coverings, physical distancing, and limiting outings and social gatherings as much as possible. Consider offering your guests a “self-screening” checklist and ask them to join you virtually if they realize they are at higher risk of exposing the group to COVID-19.
  • Safer travels. Guests traveling for the get-together should drive with family members in a private vehicle, if possible, and wear masks at gas stations and rest stops. Anyone who has to fly should be extra careful around groups clustered near security lines and concourses, wear masks in airports and on planes, and hang back until lines have thinned.

REMEMBER…Do not host or participate in any in-person festivities if you or anyone in your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is still at risk of spreading it to others; has had any symptoms of COVID-19 within 48 hours of the gathering; is waiting for viral test results; could have been exposed to someone in the last 14 days; or is at high risk.

Stay safe this holiday season and your family will be even more grateful for your traditions in the years to come.

©2020, American Acadym of Pediatrics. Article by Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP, is a practicing pediatrician, author, and mom in Atlanta. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Keep the Holidays Happy During COVID-19


The holiday season usually is a joyful time. Many families look forward to gathering with relatives and friends, exchanging gifts and celebrating traditions. But COVID-19 and physical distancing have brought a new kind of stress this holiday season.

There are ways families can cut down their stress during the holidays. Sticking to routines as much as possible, exercising, eating healthy food, and getting plenty of sleep can help. Pay attention to how much time your kids—​and you—spend on screens. And avoid the pressure to spend a lot on gifts, focusing on the simple joy of spending time together.

If your toddler’s tantrums or teen’s mood swings seem more intense during the pandemic, though, it could be a sign that they need support to manage emotions and behavior.

Beyond “normal” holiday stress

Even if your family does not know someone who is directly affected by the virus, it may be hard for children to manage their feelings. When making plans, parents should think about how their child has handled holiday stress before.

COVID-19 is harder for some families

During a normal fall or winter, children and adults may feel lost, sad or isolated. Most times, a parent or another caring adult or friend can help a child or teen manage their stress. Your child’s stress this holiday season may depend on your family’s hardships. Think about getting extra support this year if your family is affected by the stress of:

  • job loss, homelessness, not enough food, problems with remote work and learning.
  • a parent or caregiver with mental health, substance use or health issues.
  • frontline workers (such as a police officer, firefighter, doctor, nurse or restaurant worker).
  • children with special health care needs or a mental health condition.
  • racial or ethnic minority groups.
  • grieving the loss of a loved one.

​When to seek help

​If a child is struggling for more than two weeks, it might be time to get help. Here are a few symptoms to watch for:

  • An infant or young child clings to parents, has sleep problems, doesn’t eat as much, or a preschooler starts thumb sucking or bed wetting.
  • An older child or adolescent acts fearful, anxious, or withdrawn, argues more or seems to be more aggressive. They also might complain more about stomachaches or headaches.
  • A teen or young adult gets into trouble, can’t focus, hides problems because they are afraid, feels bad about the problems, or feels like they are a burden to their family.​

Finding joy during the holiday season

Spend a few moments each day enjoying the company of your children this holiday season. It can bring your family closer and boost your mood. Try using extra downtime to do these things together as a family:

  • Use your talents to help others, volunteer and give back to the community.
  • Talk about your family’s culture, heritage, values and spiritual beliefs. Cook together​, for example, making favorite family recipes.
  • Find ways to play and laugh together. Consider making special cloth face coverings to wear during the holiday season
  • Aim to be present in the moment. Teach kids to use mindfulness and relaxation to cut down on stress.
  • Practice gratitude as a family.


It is perfectly fine to call your pediatrician. Get help right away if you are worried that your child might hurt themselves or someone else. Your pediatrician can help determine if any mood problems are caused by underlying health conditions or medications. They can put you in touch with psychologists, psychiatrists, or social workers.

We are all going through unprecedented times, and the holiday season will not take away how difficult that feels for a child. Instead, families can try to focus on ways to give to others. When they learn to share their time or talent with those who have less, children build resilience that will last long after the pandemic is over.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2020). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

12 Tips to Keep Families Joyful this Season

  1. Stick to Your Child’s Usual Sleep and Mealtimes Schedules

    It’s not always possible when you are juggling the demands of shopping, cooking and travel to stick to your child’s usual sleep and mealtime schedules, but maintaining household routines will help ward off tantrums and maintain holiday cheer.

  2. Take Care of Yourself Mentally and Physically

    Children sense the emotional wellbeing of their parents and caregivers, and if you cope with stress successfully, your children will learn how to do the same.

  3. Don’t Overspend on Gifts

    Don’t feel pressure to overspend on gifts. Consider helping your child make one or two gifts. The chances are these will be the gifts most treasured by a parent, grandparent or special adult.

  4. Participate in a Volunteer Activity with Your Child

    Participate in a volunteer activity and include your child, whether it’s helping serve a holiday meal at a local food bank or shelter or writing letters to members of the armed forces who can’t be home for the holidays.

  5. Toys Don’t Need to be Expensive or Electronic

    Toys don’t need to be expensive or electronic to make great gifts, but they should be suited to the child’s age, abilities, skills and interest level. Be cautious about toys that contain button batteries or magnets, which can be swallowed by small children and cause serious internal damage.

  6. Be Mindful About Digital Gifts

    Speaking of toys, if you are considering a digital device for a child or teen, such as tablet, smartphone or game system, think about the purpose of the device and the rules you want to set around its use. Our customizable family media plan can help you set these rules for your family.

  7. Cook with Your Children

    Cooking with your children can be a great way to bond over a family recipe and offer a sense of accomplishment to budding chefs. Be sure to follow food safety guidelines, wash hand frequently and keep hot foods and liquids away from the counter’s edge. More kitchen safety tips here.

  8. Decorate for the Holidays

    When decorating, watch for fire hazards. If you have an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled “Fire Resistant,” and if it’s live, make sure it’s fresh and not loosing too many needles. Keep it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters.

  9. Watch for Small Removable Parts

    Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to prevent them from swallowing or inhaling pieces. Find more decorating safety tips here.

  10. Remember That Other Homes May Not Be Childproof

    When visiting friends or family, remember that the homes you visit may not be childproofed. Keep an eye out for danger spots like unlocked cabinets, unattended purses, accessible cleaning or laundry products, stairways or hot radiators. When visiting others or hosting guests, make sure that any medications are stored safely away from curious kids. Pay special attention to narcotics and other prescription medications.

  11. Clean Up After a Holiday Party

    After a holiday party, clean up immediately. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or come into contact with alcohol, tobacco or vaping products.

  12. Spend Time Together as a Family

    Most important of all, enjoy the holidays for what they are- time to enjoy your family. Find ways to spend time together, whether it’s on a sled outdoors or over a board game or good picture book.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright @ 2019). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.