Ask the Experts

Because children are not born with an owner’s manual that tells us the best way to care for them, it is often a trial and error process. Ask the Experts is a collection of articles that cover topics of interest to parents and caregivers with children from infancy through adolescence.

Articles are organized by age in the categories below.
Early Years 0-6
Middle Years 6-12
Teen Years 13-19
All Ages

Keeping Up with Kids Language Skills During Summer Break

Ask the Experts by Sara Martin

Q: I’m concerned about keeping up with my daughter’s language skills during summer break. I am always hearing about the summer slide and I don’t know what I should be doing. 

A: This is a great question! During summer, there are many ways to keep up with language skills. Many of these suggestions can be done year-round.

First, ramp up the reading. Visit the library and check out new books often. Read with your daughter everyday. If she’s old enough to read, take turns reading. At least 20 minutes a day is recommended!

Read more: Keeping Up with Kids Language Skills During Summer Break

Summer Break Doesn’t Have to be Stressful

Ask the Experts by Charmaine Johnson-Fuller  

Q: I work from home and struggle with summer break and maintaining a good balance. How can I create a schedule that supports my business and family over summer break? 

A: Summer vacation can be a stressful time for parents that work from home.  

How can you make summer vacation a win-win for your business and family? Below are the 5 things that will help create a winning formula to support your summer fun.  

  1. Goals – What are your goals for your family and business over the summer? Knowing these will keep you from getting caught up in parenting and business FOMO (fear of missing out). 

Read more: Summer Break Doesn’t Have to be Stressful

The ability to smile with confidence during the childhood years can make a valuable difference

Ask the Experts by Dr. Jennifer Mertz

Q: Why does it seem like kids are getting braces earlier and earlier these days?

A: The American Association of Orthodontists recommends children are seen by an orthodontist by the age of 7. This is not so we can put braces on your child even earlier. We recommend some form of orthodontic treatment in only a fraction of the young kids we see. Some problems may be easier to correct if they are found and treated early.

Around the age of 6-7, some of the adult permanent teeth have come in and so have the first set of adult molars, “the six-year molars”. This initial examination helps to identify any concerns the parent may have for their child. Your orthodontist may suggest early interceptive treatment to normalize the eruption of permanent teeth, to reduce the risk of dental trauma, to correct harmful habits, or assist in jaw growth.

Read more: The ability to smile with confidence during the childhood years can make a valuable difference

The Importance of Parent-Child Language Interactions

Ask the Experts by Kristen DeVooght and Dorothy Heitjan

Q: What are some practical strategies parents can use to build their child’s language and interaction skills?

A: Language is the foundation of learning.  Development of language occurs in the pivotal years between birth and 5 years of age. The role parents and caregivers play during this time is monumental.

There are three main strategies parents can use to bolster their child’s language and vocabulary skills. Read more: The Importance of Parent-Child Language Interactions

Understanding Cyberbullying

Ask the Experts by Det. Ryan Schroerlucke

Q: I monitor my son’s social media accounts periodically and some of what I see on his feed makes me uncomfortable. He says I’m overreacting. How can I help him understand the difference between sarcasm/joking and cyberbullying?

A: The definition of bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Cyberbullying uses technology to degrade, harass or humiliate another person or group of people and makes the victim(s) feel as though everyone in their peer group knows what is going on.

The problem with kids thinking they’re being sarcastic or “just joking” on social media and through technology is that it can be interpreted different ways by different people. If your son thinks what he sees (or does) is meant as a joke, but the person targeted takes what is written as literal and harmful, it is bullying. Over time, and with repeated targeting, the victim is more likely to skip/drop out of school, get lower grades, turn to substances or alcohol and show poor self-esteem. Read more: Understanding Cyberbullying

Smart Parenting

Ask the Experts by Lori Warner, PhD

Q: My daughter’s school has an online “parent portal” where I can see all her grades and assignments. How often should I be checking it? What should I do if I see something is missing?

A: Some schools limit updates and give families and students guidelines of how best to use this tool. Helping your daughter take ownership of and responsibility for her own learning experience and relationships with teachers is crucial. When we swoop in and “handle” something for our children, rather than discussing, supporting, and coaching them through handling it themselves, we communicate to them that we don’t think they can do it. The exact frequency of checking the portal is up to you, but multiple checks per day is likely excessive and will lead to stress for you, your daughter, and her teachers.

Read more: Smart Parenting

Planning helps foster successful intervention with loved ones

Ask the Experts by Jeff and Debra Jay

Q: My dad is a great guy and has always been a good father. He’s also been a big drinker as far back as I can remember. It never really concerned us much, to be honest, but he’s older now and the drinking is taking him away from us. We can all see it. We’re all worried. I’ve talked with my mom and brother about it, and, together, we asked our dad to cut back. He did for a week or so, but now he drinks like he always did. We read your book, “No More Letting Go,” which helped us understand that alcoholics lose the ability to choose and they push away help. That is exactly what we are living. I love my dad. I want to help him with dignity and respect. What road should we take forward?

A: We’re glad you reached out with this question, because how you choose to help a loved one suffering from addiction is very important. It defines who you are as a family and determines the quality of the journey you take together. It’s not just ambushing someone into accepting help. That approach can end in disaster, even if the addicted person agrees.

Intervention well done should be thought of as a spiritual negotiation that preserves family relationships, is a message of love, is choreographed to get the right kind of results, builds a family team that knows how to support the addicted loved one before, during and after treatment. When done properly, 85% of people agree to get help that day. Most of the other 15% accept help in a few days or weeks.

Read more: Planning helps foster successful intervention with loved ones

Bonds Formed in Children with their Parents Have a Tremendous Impact

Ask the Experts by Evon N. Foster, LMSW, IMH-E®

Q: Is a healthy attachment relationship necessary for the development of infant/toddlers?

A: Optimal development (physical, cognitive, social and emotional) of infants/and toddlers through nurturing, protective, secure and stable relationships with parents promotes readiness to learn.

You may wonder how? Parental nurturing styles and response to young children is impacted by life stressors, lack of support, parent’s history, mental illness and substance abuse. Without a secure relationship, children can become insecure, anxious and disorganized. These are children who become an overwhelming part of the mental health and juvenile system.

Read more: Bonds Formed in Children with their Parents Have a Tremendous Impact

Empty Nest: A Bittersweet Transition

Ask the Experts by Mary Petersen

Q: My child just left to go away to college, and I am struggling with the adjustment to an empty nest. What would make this easier?

A: Parents put a great deal into the raising of children in anticipation of helping them someday leave the nest and transition to independence. Yet, parents are still often surprised to find that once children are launched it can leave a big hole in their lives. But this transition is also a beautiful thing that allows children to spread their wings in the way they have been prepared to do. It also gives parents a new freedom they haven’t had for many years – but now with the wisdom of maturity to enjoy it more richly.

Read more: Empty Nest: A Bittersweet Transition

Checklist for Aging

Ask the Experts by Dana Constand and Carolyn Van Dorn

Q: My husband and I are getting older. We realize that there are healthcare, financial and lifestyle plans that we should put in place now as a protective measure for our future. Where do we start?

A: There are many things to consider as we age. Will you stay in our home or do we want to downsize? Who will make healthcare decisions if you are both unable? Who will manage your money? How will your bills be paid? What happens when one of you is gone— perhaps one spouse handled the finances and the other cooked, one handled car maintenance, the other plumbing snafus, etc. Will you be able to take care of the things your spouse/partner handled? Who will show you? It is best to think about what you may need and put plans in place while you are healthy and have the time to carefully consider your options for these important life decisions. 

There are legal solutions to address healthcare and financial decision making.

Read more: Checklist for Aging