The Terrible Twos: A Normal Child Development Stage

It happens to every parent: One day you notice your sweet, loving baby has morphed into a defiant, tantrum-prone child who’s moody for no reason and loves to say no. Don’t worry, it’s a normal part of child development, and your child is just pushing the envelope, testing his boundaries to see what you’ll allow him to get away with.

Here’s how to get through this tougher side of childhood.

The Terrible Twos are NormalWhy the twos can be terrible

Imagine that you’ve suddenly gone through a major developmental spurt that’s given you the ability to communicate, think, and even move like never before. It’s sort of like having superpowers – and naturally, you want to test them out to see how far they’ll get you. That’s sort of what life is like for your child during this stage. And when frustration occurs (perhaps brought on by the fact that you told him he cannot stay up past his bedtime), his mood may change, he may tell you no, or he may send a tantrum your way.

How to get through it

The most important thing to remember during this phase is to not take it personally. Just because your child tried to bite you in a fit of rage doesn’t actually mean he loves you less. He’s just frustrated. The best way to help him cope with his negative feelings is to boost his confidence, which will actually help him feel more independent (and, consequently, less frustrated). Here’s how.

Encourage exploration

Let your child feed his curiosity by allowing him to explore his world as much as possible in a safe way. If something’s not safe, tell him no – he’ll eventually come to learn what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

Offer praise

Boost your child’s self-esteem by letting him know when he’s done a good job. If he plays nicely with his friend or completes the task you asked him to (like changing into his pajamas), tell him how happy and proud you are.

Be consistent

Even though your child may be continuously reaching milestones, he might still have his bad days – don’t we all! Don’t let a tantrum or bad mood throw your resolve. Soon, he’ll grow out of it!

We’re Teaching Kids to Fear Shots: a Pediatrician’s Perspective

“How do you respond when the place that you trust to keep you healthy hurts you…or ignores your plan…or ignores you?” …”We have had an erosion of empathy in medicine. Somehow we’ve decided to ignore the fact that shots…hurt.” …TEDx Talks 11/2013

Shots hurtAs flu season hits, there is a segment of our society that won’t be protected this year – those who fear needles. In a 2012 study, 23% of those who don’t get their shot avoid the protection because of a fear of needles. While needle-less options are improving, they better get here soon: 63% of our teenagers are now afraid of needles.

For most people, the fear of needles develops around age 4-6 years of age. That’s the age when kids born since 2000 are getting 4-5 shots on one day. Before 1983, people only got 6 shots total, and mostly before age two, so not as many adults remember…and consequently, not as many fear needles. Not the same for their kids…

“Last year a paper came out and now 2 out of 3 children have a severe fear of needles. What happens when they grow up? The fear of needles doesn’t usually go away by itself. And adults who are afraid of needles are less likely to get health care, they are less likely to donate blood…and they’re even less likely to vaccinate their own kids. So when these children who were born in 2000 or later are old enough to drive themselves to the doctor…what if they don’t??” …TEDx Talks 11/2013

Given the group of kids growing up now, if we don’t start addressing this, the problems for public health are only going to grow.

“The number and the way we’re giving shots is causing needle fear …and needle fear causes people to avoid healthcare as adults. In order to keep our communities safe, doctors need to own the problem of needle pain…the solution is not to stop vaccinating…it’s to partner to start making the 4-6 year old shots better” …TEDx Talks 11/2013

There are ways to advocate to decrease pain for kids getting shots, as seen here. But to hear more about the rise and consequences of fear of needles and some of the solutions we can pursue, watch my full TEDx Talks presentation below:

What New Parents Need to Know About Car Safety

As a new parent, baby safety is your top priority – and keeping your newborn safe in the car is most likely on your mind. Here’s what you need to know about safety on the road.

Car safety for new parentsBe car-seat safe. You know that an infant car seat will help protect your child in the event of a crash. But make sure the seat has a sturdy harness system, is placed rear-facing, and has padding around the sides to support your baby. Also check that your car seat is installed safely. If you’re unsure, find a certified car seat inspector near you at

Buckle up, always. Speaking of car seats, your baby should always be in one when you’re in a vehicle. It might be more fun to hold her and buckle up together, but an infant (or a child) should never ride in your arms.

Babies in the back. You might be tempted to put your baby’s car seat up front so you can keep a closer eye on him while you’re driving, but don’t. The backseat is the safest and best for babies and children, who could easily get hurt by a deployed air bag if you were to get into an accident.

Watch the windows. To keep your baby’s fingers from ever getting pinched, always look before closing automatic windows. Keep them closed by turning on the child window locks.

Never talk or text while driving. A whopping 78 percent of moms admit to talking on their phones while driving (and 26 percent say they text or check email). You’ve heard it a million times, but here it is again: Never use your phone to talk or text while you drive – it’s just not worth the risk.

Always bring your baby with you. Don’t leave your baby alone in the car while you pop into stores to run errands, or for any reason at all. Children’s bodies heat up faster than adults’, and the temperature inside your car can jump 20°F in just 10 minutes! That puts your baby at serious risk for overheating, and even having heatstroke, or worse.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 01-06-2014 to 01-12-2014

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 10 events & stories.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

Winter is Here…And So Is the Flu: What You Should Know:

AMC Sensory Friendly Movies lineup for 2014

amc sensory firendlyFamily outings are a great way to spend time with your kids – you build memories and bond over fun activities and events. But for many kids with special needs, the typical family outing involves all sorts of challenges and obstacles that can make the experience overwhelming and frightening. AMC and the Autism Society of America have joined forces to offer first-run family friendly movies in theaters across the country, giving families impacted by autism, sensory integration issues or other conditions a chance to bring their children into a comfortable, accepting setting once a month.

During the special screenings the house lights are kept on, which is a huge relief to anyone who is afraid the dark or who likes to wander without tripping. Speaking of wandering, audience members don’t have to sit still – they are free to pace, roam, rock or dance. Many special needs individuals are sensitive to loud sounds, so the sound is turned down during these shows. This can help ease the anxiety about whether the movie is going to suddenly jump up in volume – it won’t. Guests are also permitted to bring in outside snacks and drinks that align with any special dietary needs.

In addition to allowing families to have a day out together, the movies also give the kids a common experience with their typical peers. Since the films are first-run, chances are good that classmates have also seen it in the past few weeks. This gives some children the opportunity for social connection (wasn’t it funny when…I liked it when…). Even the characters on lunchboxes and t-shirts will be familiar to the special needs child, easing anxiety and helping them feel like they are part of the group instead of an outsider.

Each monthly screening takes place at 10am local time and the admission price is reduced. Here is the 2014 lineup:

  • Saturday, January 25, 2014 – NUT JOB
  • Saturday, February 15, 2014 – THE LEGO MOVIE
  • Saturday, March 29, 2014 – MUPPETS MOST WANTED
  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 – RIO 2
  • Saturday, May 31, 2014 – MALEFICENT
  • Saturday, June 21, 2014 – HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
  • Saturday, July 26, 2014 – PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE
  • Saturday, September 27, 2014 – DOLPHIN TALE 2
  • Saturday, October 25, 2014 – BOOK OF LIFE
  • Saturday, November 29, 2014 – HOME 3-D
  • Saturday, December 13, 2014 –PADDINGTON

fun for all at sensory friendly films

Save me some popcorn!

Sensitive Screenings are gaining popularity across the country, and groups such as Music for Autism are now offering sensitive concerts. In England these are called “gentle” performances, which is a fitting name but I prefer “sensitive” since it better fits the audience.

What outings are available for special needs families in your area? Let me know!

Winter is Here…And So Is the Flu: What You Should Know

sick is no funWith the recent polar vortex creating havoc over significant portions of the US and Canada it’s hard not to notice that winter is truly here. Which makes it a good time for an update on another common winter character: flu season.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes weekly reports on the flu during the peak season, usually December through March. One month into the 2013-2014 season, the virus is steadily increasing, with 25 states – spread across the country – reporting widespread flu activity (see table below). So far this season, 1,583 flu-related hospitalizations have been confirmed and 6 children have died due to complications associated with influenza. While high, these levels are below epidemic proportions according to the CDC. Google’s flu trends report, which analyses the number of online mentions of the flu, indicates that the 2013-2014 season is high but below last year’s exceptional level.

Nevertheless, the current flu season is still a risk, particularly for young children and pregnant women. This is because the year’s major flu strain is H1N1, known for the swine flu pandemic of 2009-2010. This is a recently-mutated flu strain so many people, especially young children, do not have innate immunity. And H1N1 has previously resulted in high rates of complications for pregnant women and their babies.

The silver lining is that this year’s vaccine is a very good fit with the strains currently circulating across the country. Different flu strains tend to be prominent each year, so public health officials use worldwide surveillance data to identify the most likely strains for each year’s vaccine. This year they made a particularly good guess. And although the season has already begun, we haven’t yet reached peak flu activity, so it’s not too late to get protected. There is still plenty of flu vaccine available, including the nasal mist variety, which is great for children (and adults!) who want to avoid a shot.

States Reporting Widespread Flu Activity (Week ending December 28, 2013)

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wyoming