By April Anthony
Managing children’s health needs, as well as our own, is a constantly changing and challenging process. This is especially true this time of year when winter weather, cold and flu season and the holidays add stress to daily routines and health habits.
SafeCare Colorado, a free parent support program, gives parents of young children a head start in balancing their children’s health and safety needs with life’s demands. Our parent support providers visit parents in their homes, helping them build their knowledge of child health, home safety and parent-child interactions.
The following are examples of tips we give parents. They are relevant year-round and can serve as helpful reminders even for the most seasoned parents.
Make sure children and family members wash their hands often. Make it game. Have your child sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or their ABCs while washing to ensure their hands are thoroughly clean. Remind them to use their “cough catcher” (coughing or sneezing into their elbow).
Know your child’s daycare or preschool sick policy, and use common sense. You know your child best. Even if they don’t have a bad cough or high temperature, a day of rest and cuddles could prevent a little cold from turning into something more serious. If you work, have a plan for when your child is sick. Consider who might be available to care for your child or how to manage taking a day off work.
Have a child health manual on hand with information on treating common illnesses and injuries at home. Call your child’s health care provider if you’re unsure about how to care for your child when they are sick or f. Heath care providers are on call evenings, weekends and holidays. If you cannot reach a health care provider, call a nurse hotline. We recommend the free ParentSmart Healthline at Children’s Hospital Colorado: 1-855-KID-INFO (543-4636). Always keep the Poison Help Line handy: 800-222-1222.
At your child’s next wellness visit, ask their provider about over the counter medications and supplies to have on hand to treat common illnesses at home. When your child is sick, keep a log of their symptoms, temperature and time/dosage of medicine. This will ensure you have the information you need when you speak with a health care provider.
A balanced diet that includes fruit, vegetables and whole grains helps keep children healthy and builds their defenses against illness. ChooseMyPlate.gov/kids has tips and tools to help you meet your child’s nutrition needs, and activities to help kids learn healthy habits. Have a plan for providing your child healthy snacks and lunches during their long winter break. Community resources such as Women, Infants and Children are available to help parents who are unable to provide their children sufficient nutrition. We can help connect you to these resources. Call 970-871-7686.
Have a plan for keeping your child busy and minimizing screen time. Gather craft supplies, check out books or audio books from the library and have board and card games ready for older children. Daily activities can be made into fun games for younger children. Roll some dice and have them jump the number of times shown on the dice. When you’re folding socks, have your child toss them into the laundry basket. Do your best to help keep your child on a good sleep routine during days off school or daycare.
SafeCare Colorado is a free and voluntary program for parents with children five and younger in Routt and Moffat counties. The program, which involves weekly sessions over the course of four to six months, is for parents who can use extra support building healthy and safe futures for their children. Health care providers and community organizations that know of families who could benefit can make an online referral or call 970-871-7686. Referrals also can come from family members, and parents can inquire about it for themselves.
April Anthony is Women and Family Program Manager at Northwest Colorado Health.