Ask Dr. Ada – Separation Anxiety in 18 Month Old

Separation Anxiety in 18 Month OldDr. Ada: Without warning, my son, 18 months, has started crying every time we go somewhere. He is also not comfortable with other people coming to our home. Our pediatrician has been kind, but unhelpful.

Your son manifests separation anxiety. He may have had some unpleasant experience at one of the places where you left him. It may have been a real bad experience or only perceived as such; you will never know.

But he cries in protest and fear whenever he thinks that you are going to leave him with somebody else.

His clingy behavior may also reflect a strong desire for attachment. He may have strong feelings, and at 18 months he wants to be either with you or with his mom and there is nothing unusual about that; this is quite normal.

Whenever you leave the house he is afraid that you are going to leave him with someone else and he shows you his displeasure the only way he can, i.e. crying. Try to spend more time with him, if you can, during those early years, to establish a strong and secure sense of attachment between you and your child.

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Ask Dr. Ada – Selecting a Preschool

Selecting a PreschoolDr. Ada: We have just moved to a new area and are investigating preschools for our 4-year-old daughter.

All of the preschools that we’ve encountered so far seem to have a strong academic emphasis, which worries us. We need to find one that is more play oriented, so we’re considering just hiring an at-home nanny, but we worry that then she won’t have any playtime with other kids.

It is important for your 4-year-old daughter to have playtime experience with other kids. Preschool may not be absolutely necessary for a 4-year-old child if she gets enough stimulation at home, but playtime with other children her age is an absolute necessity.

I think you worry too much about an academic preschool program. All these programs provide also unstructured time for play. My advice to you is to take your daughter along for a visit to some of these programs and observe how she reacts to the place, and if she would like to go there every day.

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Ask Dr. Ada – Separation Anxiety in Children

separation anxiety in childrenDr. Ada: I have a 4, soon to be 5-year-old, the oldest of 3 kids, who has been going to the same preschool for 3 years (since he was 2). EVERY SINGLE MORNING, without fail, no matter who takes him to school, no matter how early or late we get there, he cries for 10 minutes after we leave.

We have tried every trick we can think of, including ignoring his mild hysterics when we go.

Any hope I had that he would outgrow this behavior has vanished. Any advice?

I do not know what arrangements you have for your other two kids, but it seems that the boy was not ready to separate from you at age two; he needed more time with you to establish a secure sense of attachment to you.

In addition, when his younger two siblings arrived, he was probably jealous of the attention you gave to them. So try to carve out some special time to spend with him (just the two of you) to establish a stronger and more secure sense of attachment (you can call it love) between you and your first born son.

This is important for his future relationships as an adult, because a child’s feelings in the early preschool years form a template for his feelings later in life.

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Ask Dr. Ada – Physically Active Boy Going to Kindergarten

Physically Active BoyDr. Ada: My two sons, 5 and 3½, are both very physical, energetic, into fighting play, and they have a hard time sitting still, keeping their hands to themselves, etc.

My 5-year-old is going to kindergarten this year and I am worried that he is not going to respond well to the more structured environment of elementary school. What advice can you offer?

I have seen very active and physical preschoolers who learn to settle down in a structured kindergarten environment, when there is a good experienced teacher in charge. Maintain close communication with your son’s teacher, and make sure the boy has many opportunities to engage in gross motor activity at home to release his excessive energy. You may also discuss your concern with your son’s pediatrician, who is the one to determine if the child’s behavior requires any medication

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Ask Dr. Ada – Outdated Preschool Teacher

Outdated Preschool TeacherDr. Ada: My 4-year-old son knows how to read easy picture books and likes to take one of his books to preschool to read to his friends. His teacher told me I should discourage him from doing that because it’s important for him to participate in the physical, art and music activities which the preschool provides and leave academics for grade school.

What should I do?

This teacher seems to have a dated attitude.

Years ago it was assumed that preschool children were too young to develop literacy skills, and that early reading development could be harmful and therefore should be left for school. However, our latest understanding is that most children begin to acquire literacy skills in their preschool years and that it is recommended to stimulate and encourage that development from an early age.

Explain to your child’s teacher that your son gains much social and emotional confidence from sharing his reading ability with his friends, and that this can also encourage their development. Alternatively, you could transfer your child to a more academically oriented program.

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Ask Dr. Ada – 4 Year Old Wants to Marry Mother

4 Year Old Wants to Marry MotherDr. Ada: My 4-year-old son wants to sleep with me, bugging me night after night, and saying that he will marry me.

Do I need to worry?

There is nothing to worry about this early childhood boyish wish; it is quite common.

Hug your son and gently tell him that you love him but you also love his father, for a longer time than him (from before he was even born) and that’s why you have married him, and why you sleep with him.

Explain to your son firmly that sons cannot marry their mothers and that in any case, once he becomes an adult he will find the right bride to marry and sleep with her.

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Ask Dr. Ada – 6 Year Old Too Competitive

6 year old too competitiveDr. Ada: My 6-year-old daughter is very competitive with my 5-year-old son. She always wants to be first, and he is very gentle and always gives in to her.

How should I handle this situation?

Find out from your daughter’s teacher how she is doing at school. If she has no difficulty with her friends at school, and her competitive spirit is held in check over there, this indicates she just needs firmer discipline at home.

Explain to your daughter it is not fair to always take advantage of her brother’s goodness; and that she is a good girl and therefore must be good to others. In addition, encourage your son to be more assertive and learn to stand up for his rights, and not always give in to his sister.

Play being a judge between the two (whose orders must be followed) and help the children develop better social skills.

However, if you learn that your daughter’s behavior in school is also problematic, I would recommend some counseling.

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Ask Dr. Ada – Returning to Work After Baby

returning to work after babyDr. Ada: How long should I stay at home with my baby before returning to my full time work in a law office?

Ideally, a parent should stay home with a child for the first 2 to 3 years of life. This period is important for establishing a secure sense of attachment between the child and his or her parent, which will enable the child to develop a sense of self identity, self confidence, curiosity, and motivation to learn and develop love of self and others, as well as feel joy and excitement about life.

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Out of Wedlock Births – The Problem No One Wants to Talk About

Out of Wedlock BirthsPart 3 of 3:

“It’s impossible to turn the clock backwards” declared a good friend; ”With sexual abstinence rare and the stigma of out of wedlock births small, denying women access to abortion and contraception would only increase the number of children born out of wedlock and reared in poor single parent homes,” she added, articulating the common conventional wisdom.

So what should we do? How much longer can the U.S. sustain the addition of some 1,633,471 children every year born to unmarried women? How much longer can the American economy pay the ever growing cost in welfare assistance to single-parent families, circa $330 billion in 2011, or $30,000 a year per household? (Robert Rector, “Marriage: America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty,” The Heritage Foundation, Sep. 2012).

The Effects

Moreover, as the number of unmarried families increases, so does the number of children exposed to these unstable environments. And evidence is overwhelming that children of single mothers—particularly teen mothers–are likely to produce lower cognitive test scores and have a higher incidence of aggressive behavior. They are also twice as likely to drop out of high school, and twice as likely to have a child before age 20, writes LaVar Young, (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lava-young/children-out-of wedlock, 6/7/2013). And so the negative cycle of out of wedlock births continues to grow and multiply, case by case, year after year, slowly wearing down the fabric of the American culture.

The consequences are devastating, writes Young. “If unstable families are becoming more prevalent, the effect on future generations may be astronomic—a harrowing potential, considering the already deepening divide between struggling urban communities and their wealthier counterparts.”

So what can we do? What should we do, without stigmatizing these families and their children?

The unvarnished reality is that if America does not want to be suicidal, there is no choice but to change direction. This may be tough, but there is much we Americans CAN do to slow down and even reverse this negative cycle.

How to Change

One can be encouraged that we are up to the task if we remember that we were once a nation of cigarette smokers that succeeded to outgrow this bad habit. It did require a concerted effort by American society and by individuals to achieve that goal, but we did it.

The same can be done with the problem of out of wedlock births.

  1. First, the issue needs to be taken out of the closet and be aired in public. We need to start a conversation and create a public awareness of the extent of the problem of out of wedlock births and its societal impact. Political correctness and the self-imposed taboo on voicing any critique of this phenomenon should be set aside. We need to develop a cultural understanding of the negative impact of out of wedlock births on young women (in particular teen girls), their children, and society as a whole; namely, that poor girls will become poorer with the birth of each child; their children are likely to experience great difficulties in their own lives; and American society as a whole will increasingly slide downward.

    Cultural understanding could be reached through sensitive conversations about the seriousness of the problem, to be held in schools, sex education programs, churches, academia, media campaigns, etc.

  2. American society must be resolute in disseminating a clear, unified message that out of wedlock motherhood has a negative impact on most women, their children and society as a whole.
  3. Public sponsored programs and policies should be developed to sensitively help strengthen families who are already considered fragile and increase the stability in their homes, and secondly, to prevent the establishment of new single parent families.
  4. There is a need to reconsider policies that encourage couples to remain unmarried, and create policies that encourage fathers to remain involved with their children, both emotionally and financially.
  5. There is a need to strengthen the institution of marriage. As Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation writes, marriage is “America’s Greatest Weapon against Child Poverty”; being raised in a married family reduced a child’s probability of living in poverty by about 82 percent, he explains. (http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/09/marriage-americas-greatest-weapon-against-child-poverty).

Unfortunately, marriage today is under attack. We will address this topic in our next blog. In the meantime, please share with us your thought on the problem of out of wedlock births in the space below. This topic is so important that I am considering writing about it my next book.

Let’s talk…..
Part One of Three
Part Two of Three

Out of Wedlock Births – The Problem No One Wants to Talk About

out of wedlock birthsPart 2 of 3:

“When unwed births hit 41%, it’s just not right” states a USATODAY.com editorial (2011-01-25). When the CDC report that 1.6 million children are born every year in the U.S., to unmarried mothers (Centers for Disease and Prevention, 2010) the figure is staggering. And when the NYTimes.com states that “Out of Wedlock Births Are the New Normal” (Feb 19, 2012), it is hard not to think of this as a problem.

As stated in Part 1 of this blog post, this has been a growing phenomenon in the last few decades.

From 5% in the 1950s the figure rose to the current rate of 41%. And when you take into account that the size of the American population has almost doubled during these 50 years the actual numbers are even more troubling. America cannot continue in this direction without getting itself into an enormous economic and cultural mess.

So what can we do – what should we do – to change direction without stigmatizing out of wedlock births, the mothers and their children?

How Did We Get Here?

To begin with, we must try to understand how and why we got to this point. Fifty years ago, in 1965, when unmarried births in the black community were nearing 24% (and only 3% among white mothers), Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then a Labor Department official and later a prominent senator, rang alarm bells about the crumbling black family. His report on the subject ignited a national furor, and Moynihan was accused of racism and blaming the victim.

The public conversation about out-of-wedlock births has been muffled ever since, quietly simmering on a back burner.

While the problem was spreading nationally and public policy and public health concerns focused on the welfare of the children who were born into these fatherless families, the public at large has remained silent. People do not know how to react, fearing criticism and accusations of being old-fashioned, insensitive, heartless, racist, and bigoted. And most people are oblivious to the magnitude of the problem.

Theories by social scientists to explain the rise in out-of-wedlock births varies. The conservatives attribute it to overly generous welfare benefits. The liberals blame the shortage of jobs for less educated men. Another popular explanation is the changing attitude toward sexual behavior of the last few decades.

Five Major Contributors

As I see it, several new societal developments converged since the 1950s, creating a toxic mix that led to the current situation.

  1. The birth control pill, which was introduced in the early 1960s, spread like wildfire during the 1970s. The pill started the sexual revolution, giving many women a new sense of freedom and control over their reproductive system. Many started feeling they no longer needed the protection of marriage to be sexually active. And living together without marriage became pervasive.
  2. Liberalized abortion laws were introduced in major states in the late 1960s and very early 1970s. The easy access to abortion further decreased the fear of out-of-wedlock pregnancy, increasing the rate of sexual activity outside of marriage.
  3. Shotgun marriage which was the norm in premarital sexual relations, until the 1970s (according to George A. Akerlof and Janet L.Yellen, Brookings Policy Brief Series, #5 of 186, 1996) became a thing of the past. Up to the 1970s, the stigma of unwed motherhood was so great that few women were willing to bear children outside of marriage. The custom was that “If a girl gets pregnant you married her.” But with the availability of the pill and liberalized abortion laws, shotgun marriages have slowly disappeared; and that has contributed to the rise in out-of-wedlock births.
  4. The rise in welfare benefits during the 1960s has also contributed to the growing problem. Single moms got higher rates of support for each added child. It paid to have more children with no husband around. And as a black graduate student of mine confided years ago: “You know what we say about you (the middle class) ‘We are having the fun and you are paying the bills.’”
  5. Hollywood started to glorify single motherhood and out-of-wedlock pregnancies (remember Murphy Brown in 1988?) This helped further erase the stigma of unmarried mothers.

These are 5 of the major contributors to the problem of out-of-wedlock births in the United States. What can be done to change this course? What can we do to avoid falling off the cliff?

Share with us your thoughts in the space below.

In the next segment of The Problem No One Wants to Talk About we’ll discuss possible ways to mitigate this growing problem.

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