Questions And Answers
YOUR BURNING ISSUES – SORTED
I’m concerned about the new germs and bugs my child will be exposed to when she starts preschool. She’s always been home with me and rarely gets sick, but I’ve heard from so many people that crèche syndrome hits hard and fast. How can I boost her immune system? PAEDIATRICIAN DR PAUL SINCLAIR ANSWERS: You may not believe it, but I can assure you that picking up new “germs” at school is actually the best way of building an immune system. This is because exposure ensures that your child’s immune system develops the ability to fight more serious infections.
However, babies that are put into the crèche or nursery school environment when they are younger than one year of age, and especially those who have other underlying issues (such as allergies), can become chronically ill easily. Recurrent infections in the ears, nose, throat, chest and gut issues are then a problem.
Good nutrition is critical to help your child develop a strong immune response, so make sure she eats a healthy diet full of variety. If she’s a poor eater you can supplement her diet with enhanced formulas or vitamin supplements, especially ones that contain zinc, iron and vitamin A, together with a long term probiotic (whether she eats well or not).
That said, many supplements make extravagant claims that they “stop” viruses and “boost” kids during the early years. They are expensive and often children don’t want to take them. There are very few, if any, studies to show that they do anything but make expensive urine, so think twice before buying them.
Once your daughter is at preschool, encourage parents to keep sick kids at home and do so yourself. Six to eight infections a year are the norm in this age group, so don’t panic if she gets sick despite your best intentions. As long as you’re feeding your child well and deworming her at least annually, there’s not much to worry about. Additionally, all those vaccinations you took her for will prevent the majority of more severe illnesses such as meningitis and pneumonia.
What is the ideal age to start sending my toddler to preschool?
EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST CLAIRE
MAHER ANSWERS: There is no hard and fast rule about when a child should start preschool. Much depends on their readiness to separate and be among other children. However, children should ideally be attending some sort of schooling from the age of three in order to provide them with skills and opportunities they will need for success in the future.
Most preschools accept toddlers from the age of two, although this does not necessarily mean that your child is prepared to separate from you just yet. If your child experiences separation anxiety and is still younger than three, then preschool should not be forced.
If your child becomes overwhelmed by too much stimulation it may be better to ease them into preschool by attending for shorter periods of the day, or fewer days of the week. Some commonplace preschool activities, such as music, singing, playing and the noise they make, may exacerbate a quieter child’s anxieties. A smaller preschool with ten children or fewer is ideal for this child.
Around the age of two to three, children move from solitary play to onlooker or parallel play, both of which involve some elements of social interaction with other children. It is important for children of this age to be exposed to children of a similar age so that they engage with this play. Attending preschool also offers children the opportunity to develop fine and gross motor skills by taking part in activities that they may not be able to do at home. Ultimately though, the answer depends on your child and your needs.
My toddler is starting at a new preschool in the new year. We’ve also started potty training him (as the new school insists that it be done before he starts), but it’s not going well. Should I force him to potty train or drop the issue? CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST CHEVONNE POWELL ANSWERS: In order for a child to be fully potty trained he needs to be able to do a lot more than control his bladder and bowel movements. Regardless of what the preschool says, he is only ready to be potty trained if he shows these signs: 1 His age Toilet training should be conducted between 24 and 36 months. 2 Interest Does he want to use the toilet? This can be seen in his comments and general attitude toward toilet behaviours. He may also show a dislike for nappies, taking it off or making a fuss when you want to put one on.
3 Awareness Does your child acknowledge when he has had a bladder or bowel movement? 4 Focus Can he remain focused on a task for two to five minutes? It’s also crucial to look at the impact starting preschool has on potty training. Some children show regressive behaviours during stressful events, like starting school. When this happens some of their toilet skills may temporarily fall by the wayside.
My concern is not necessarily about the actual event of starting school though, but rather the pressure and expectation that goes along with potty training on a deadline. The actual process may take several months and it should not be rushed. If your child has just started the training process you’ll feel pressured to have him fully potty trained in time for the new school year. This may result in frustration and anger on your part, which will translate to your child. You also need to consider what the school will do if your child is not fully toilet trained. My advice is to follow his progress individually, and if he is not ready, hold off preschool until he has mastered the skill or find a more flexible preschool that doesn’t have such strict rules.