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A happy & healthy new year: A dozen tips for your family

When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, you will likely wish for a happy and healthy year ahead for your family. Here are 12 ways you can make that wish come true.

  1. Inspect the house. Take a child’s-eye view of your home and remove booby traps that await your curious toddler or preschooler. Keep in mind small objects and sharp edges. Stash knives out of reach. Don’t allow guns into your home. Lock up poisons, block stairways and secure slippery mats.
  2. Practice safety on wheels. Always buckle up—not only seat belts but the chin straps of sports helmets, too. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure that child safety seats are installed correctly. When you buy a new car seat, send the registration card to the manufacturer so you will be notified of any problems or recalls. And always wear helmets during high-impact activities, such as bicycling and in-line skating. Helmets must be worn snug and level on the head for best protection.
  3. Take stock in nutrition. Good nutrition is vital to your children’s physical and mental development. Serve bone-builders such as calcium-fortified orange juice, low-fat dairy products and whole-grain, fortified breads and cereals. Don’t forget to set a good example by enjoying healthy fare yourself. Review your children’s diet with your pediatrician and ask about any special recommendations.
  4. Open new chapters. Expand your children’s horizons early—by reading to them. Even if they’re still too little to understand the meaning, they will love to hear your voice rise and fall in rhythm and rhyme. The best part: Without even realizing it, they will be motivated to become eager readers themselves.
  5. Keep a record. Are your children up to date on immunizations? Review their records. Check that they have had the hepatitis vaccine series, are up to date on the “MMR” (measles-mumps rubella) vaccine and that they have a chicken pox immunization by age two. Ask your pediatrician to provide you with a list of all necessary vaccinations.
  6. Clear the air. Studies suggest that indoor air pollution from tobacco increases your children’s risk of ear infections, chest infections and even sudden infant death syndrome. And keep in mind that the best predictor of whether your children will grow up to be smokers is whether or not you smoke.
  7. Learn a life lesson. Learning the Heimlich maneuver and CPR will prepare you for many of life’s emergencies, from helping a choking child to rescuing a baby who’s stopped breathing. Your local chapter of the American Red Cross can refer you to classes specifically designed to help infants and children.
  8. Have a plan. Draw up a fire escape route from your house and review it, step by step, with your family. Practice it until your family’s response becomes automatic. Remember to designate at least two exit routes from every room as well as a meeting place outside your home. Install smoke detectors in every bedroom and on each floor of your home and test their batteries every month.
  9. Make fitness fun. Push your baby in a stroller along a scenic route or run behind a jogging stroller. Swing, slide and climb along with your kids at the playground.
  10. Veto violence. Hitting, slapping and spanking teach children it’s okay to hit people to solve conflicts. Nonphysical forms of discipline resolve problems without creating new ones. If your children act aggressive, teach them other ways to express anger. Try role-playing new behaviors, for example.
  11. Create rituals. Saturday-morning strolls to the bagel shop. Quiet stories before bedtime. A ritual can be as elaborate as an annual trip to celebrate summer’s end or as simple and sweet as a note tucked in a lunchbox each day. No matter how big or small, sharing special traditions will strengthen your bonds.
  12. Make your children feel loved and important. Kids develop a sense of selfworth early in life. Assure your children they are loved and safe. Ask what is on their minds and listen to what they have to say. Tell them what you admire about them. And give them a hug every day.


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