Dear Family Coach: Our son just turned 2 and has not had access to television thus far. We would like to slowly begin to introduce TV and videos into his life. Any thoughts on how we should start and what sorts of programs or videos would be safe? — Conscientious Dad
Dear Dad: Television gets a bad rap. When used in moderation, shows can provide relaxing entertainment, and even some educational stimulation. Additionally, a short program can offer a brief but significant break for the stay-at-home parent. Trying to prepare dinner and fold laundry and empty the dishwasher can be daunting work with a toddler or two death-gripping your legs. A short program can make for a win-win situation for parent and child.
The best way to introduce television is in small stints. Resist the urge to just plop your son in front of the TV for more than 15 minutes. Aim for no more than 1 to 2 hours of screen time — any screen — in a day. Have firm limits in place that cannot be negotiated, even with a tantrum. You can always add more programming, but it is much more difficult to dial it back.
There are a variety of excellent television shows and videos for young children. Preselect shows that meet the needs and interests of your child. Try to avoid just turning on the TV and seeing what's on. Instead, load up the DVR, look up shows on demand or head to the library to check out a few videos at a time.
Dear Family Coach: I've recently been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. My children, being kids, are messy and chaotic. I want to keep the house clean to help moderate my symptoms. At the same time, I don't want to overdo it and mess my kids up with my own anxieties. What's the best way to teach them to clean but not put my disorder on them? — OCD Mom
Dear Mom: How incredibly insightful you are to try to manage your disorder so it doesn't have a negative effect on your children. Recognizing that you have potential to push unreasonable demands on them is a great first step in controlling your behavior. However, it is altogether more challenging in the moment when the children are, as you say, being kids and making messes.
Before worrying about how to deal with the untidy children, find yourself a licensed therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders. It would be helpful for you to learn coping mechanisms and ways to refocus yourself when your symptoms flare. If you are already in an exacerbated state, you may also want to see a psychiatrist to discuss medication.
Children at various ages can have some responsibility for maintaining order in the home. They can learn to return their toys to the shelf and put their laundry in the hamper. But it takes years for children to be able to see crumbs or know how to put away small toy pieces or sort complex games back into the box, like a grown-up can. Before addressing their mess, remember that your kids are kids. They do not have the same need to clean that you do. Every time you feel your anxiety rising, take a deep breath, and pause before addressing them. Remember what would be a reasonable expectation for cleaning for their respective ages. If you find that their ability doesn't match your need, tidy up more after they are in bed for the night, for it's best to avoid obsessively cleaning while their watchful eyes are upon you.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.