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Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - Pave the way to your child’s smooth and fruitful transition into adulthood

Pave the way to your child’s smooth and fruitful transition into adulthood

By Vatsala Bhaskar, M.D.

 

As a pediatrician, I talk every day with parents who are committed to helping their children grow into healthy and well adjusted adults. Every stage of a child’s life comes with its own unique combination of heartwarming attributes and frustrating challenges. Children go through distinct periods of brain development as they move from infants to young adults, referred to as ‘Ages and Stages,’ which encompasses physical, intellectual, language and social /emotional changes. As a parent, having a basic understanding of these stages will help you provide the necessary support and encouragement your child needs to flourish. I’ve outlined some of the physical and emotional milestones each child faces and how parents can help navigate this remarkable journey:

Infants/Babies (0 – 2 years)

This is a critical time for developing parent /child bonding that will last a lifetime, so make sure you are available to spend quality time with them. By doing so, you will build your child’s self-esteem and help them establish caring relationships with others down the road. This is a time to provide endless positive reinforcement and keep negative feedback in check. Be at-the-ready with encouraging words and supportive actions.

Toddlers/Preschoolers (2 – 5 years)

Children can now walk, run and take in the world around them. Their language skills empower them to express what is important to them (including many questions). They have realized their role in the world and relish their newfound power to say, “No!” The proverbial meltdown is also common now.

School Age Children (6 – 12 years)

Children take on more independence and parents can help with decision-making and offering teaching moments when the wrong choices are made. Children may begin participating in youth sports, but parents should not push them too hard to win games or “be the best.” It has been proven that too much pressure to win at a young age can lead to a child losing interest in competitive sports. Parents should emphasize a moral code and the importance of becoming a ‘good citizen’ in the world.

Teenagers (13 – 18 years)

Teen years present a challenge for both parents and children. Younger teens are often taken by surprise when their minds and bodies are suddenly overwhelmed by change, much of it unwelcomed. Social pressure and a surge for independence (and parent separation) can lead to passive-aggressive behavior that frustrates the child, parents, friends and teachers. I encourage parents of middle school students to seek support by sharing their challenges with other parents during this tumultuous time.

By high school, emotions are settling and the older teenager begins to define his or her identity. Social skills are honed and relationships become more serious. As much as children may push parents away at this age, the more important it becomes to stay connected and reconfirm your undying support ─ no matter what.

Research shows children of all ages benefit most from a family life that includes a safe and secure environment supported by bonding activities, fruitful parent-child communication and consistent encouragement. While bumps in the road are part of every family’s experiences, the ability to overcome them and move forward will help set the stage for your child to become a productive and happy adult.

CentraState Medical Center’s Pediatrics Department offers a family-friendly environment supported by a specially-trained team of physicians, nurses and clinicians. In emergency situations, the Emergency Department provides a separate treatment area reserved exclusively for children which is overseen by an on-site pediatrician. If you are looking for a board-certified pediatrician, call CentraState’s Physician Finder at (866) CENTRA7; send an email to physicianfinder@centrastate.com or search online at centrastate.com.

In addition, CentraState’s award-winning Student Health Awareness Center (SHAC) offers more than 65 age-appropriate programs covering a range of critical topics, including growth and development, family life, self-esteem and character education. All programs are taught by experienced health educators who use dynamic exhibits with props, attention-grabbing audio-visual materials, state-of-the-art exhibits, and progressive instructional models to capture students’ attention and interest. For more information, call (732) 308-1850 or visit centrastate.com.

Dr. Bhaskar is a board-certified pediatrician on staff at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold. She may be reached at (732) 43