Tips for Parents
Note: For questions about medical or legal issues, please consult a healthcare professional or lawyer. The comments, questions, and answers here are not a substitute for information from a medical doctor or lawyer.
Keep Your Cool
The next time everyday pressure builds up to the point where you feel like you’re losing control—STOP! Try these simple tricks to remain calm.
- Take a deep breath … and another.
- Close your eyes and imagine you’re hearing what your child is about to hear.
- Press your lips together and count to 10—or better yet, to 20.
- You might try putting your child in a time-out. Remember this rule: one time-out minute for each year of age.
- Put yourself in a time-out. Think about why you are overwhelmed and come up with a plan.
- Phone a friend.
- If someone you trust can watch the children, go outside and take a walk, take a hot bath or splash cold water on your face.
- Exercise. Do some pushups or jumping jacks.
- Turn on some relaxing music.
- Pick up a pencil and write down as many positive words as you can think of. Save the list.
- If you need more help, it’s okay to call the NM Crisis and Access Line at 1-855-662-7474 anytime, day or night.
Make sure you really know who’s watching your child. Do they have what it takes? Ask yourself these questions:
- How does your friend/partner/caretaker treat and interact with other children (nieces, nephews, or friends’ children)?
- Does your partner/friend/caretaker:
- Treat other people in his/her life with disrespect?
- Get angry when you spend time with your child?
- Get angry or impatient when your child cries or has a tantrum?
- Call your child bad names or put them down?
- Think it’s funny to scare your child?
- Make all the decisions for you and your child?
- Put you down or tell you that you’re a bad parent or that you shouldn’t have kids?
- Pretend when he/she hurts your child that you are to blame or that it’s no big deal?
- Scare or threaten your child by using guns, knives, or other weapons?
Your child could be at risk if you answered “yes” to even one of these questions. Never leave your child alone with someone you don’t trust to keep your child safe.
Click here to find childcare in your area and find out if you qualify for financial assistance here.
No Kids in Hot Cars
Here are some simple tips you can follow to prevent heat stroke tragedies involving cars:
- “Look Before You Lock”: Always open the back door to check the back seat for children before leaving your vehicle.
- Create a reminder to check the back seat:
- Put something you’ll need like your cell phone, handbag or briefcase, employee ID, or even a shoe in the back seat so that you have to open the back door to retrieve that item every time you park.
- Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When you put the child in her car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat.
- Never leave children alone in or around cars, not even for a minute.
- Make sure you have a strict policy in place with your childcare provider about daycare drop-off. Everyone involved in the care of your child should always be aware of his whereabouts. If your child will not be attending daycare as scheduled, it is the parent’s responsibility to call and inform the childcare provider. If your child does not show up as scheduled, and they have not received a call from the parent, the childcare provider pledges to contact you immediately to ensure the safety of your child.
- Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in driveways or garages. Ask home visitors, childcare providers, and neighbors to do the same.
- Keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children.
- If a child goes missing, immediately check inside passenger compartments and trunks of all vehicles in the area very carefully, even if they are locked. A child may lock the car doors after entering a vehicle on her own, but may not be able to unlock them.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 911 immediately. If the child seems hot or sick, get him out of the vehicle as quickly as possible.
- Be especially careful during busy times, schedule changes, and periods of crisis or holidays. This is when many tragedies occur.
Parents of Infants (0-3)
During the busy and exciting days that make up the first weeks of parenting, remember to take good care of yourself as well as the new baby. Here are some tips on how to survive the early weeks.
- Get as much rest as possible. Sleep when the baby sleeps, and take turns with your partner sleeping late on weekend mornings.
- Eat nutritious meals. If a neighbor or friend offers to help, ask him or her to bring you dinner or do your grocery shopping.
- Join a parenting group. You’ll learn more about caring for your baby, and you’ll meet other parents who share your interests and concerns.
- Don’t expect too much from yourself. Housework won’t always get done, but eventually, you will get back to a routine.
- Call your doctor or clinic with any questions or concerns you may have. This will save you from needless worry.
- Visitors can be helpful, but don’t let them interrupt your rest, or your family time together.
- Dads—don’t let mothers have all the fun. Spend lots of time caring for and playing with your baby. It’s incredibly rewarding!
- Be sure your infant receives necessary immunizations and visits to the doctor as required.
- If you have older children, be sure to let them know every day that you love them.
- If you find yourself getting frustrated and angry with your baby, call for help. Ask a responsible caretaker (see below for examples) to take care of the baby while you take a break.
- If you need support from an expert, learn how you may be able to schedule a free home visit.
Don't Shake the Baby!
More than 1200 babies are treated for Shaken Baby Syndrome in the U.S. each year, and 20 percent die as a result of their injuries. Shaking can cause blindness, swelling of the brain, severe developmental delays, cerebral palsy, and death. Crying is the number one trigger for caregivers shaking a baby—the key is to have a plan in place for when a baby cries.
What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?
Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is the diagnosis given to many serious—and sometimes fatal—injuries that can occur when infants or young children are violently shaken or their heads are impacted. Not only is it a serious type of head injury, it is a serious form of child abuse.
Babies’ brains are very fragile and their neck muscles are not strong. When they are shaken, their heads flop back and forth, causing the brain to slam against the inside of the skull. This causes the blood vessels to tear and blood to collect inside the baby’s skull, causing irreparable damage to the brain.
SBS occurs most frequently in infants younger than six months old, but older children can receive severe injuries from shaking.
How can I calm a crying baby?
Check physical needs first: Is the baby hungry? Thirsty? Does he/she need to be burped? Too hot or cold? Is his/her diaper dirty? Also check for signs of illness or fever. If you think the baby may be sick, seek medical attention immediately.
If your baby isn’t experiencing any physical needs, try one of these tips to calm your crying baby:
- Gently rock the baby, hold the baby close, or walk the baby
- Stand up, hold the baby close, and repeatedly bend your knees
- Sing or talk to the baby in a soothing voice
- Gently rub or stroke the baby’s back, chest, or tummy
- Offer a pacifier or try to distract the baby with a rattle or toy
- Swaddle the baby with a soft blanket
- Take the baby for a ride in a stroller or in a car seat in the car
- Turn on some music or noise, such as a vacuum cleaner or clothes dryers
Try each of the above for a few minutes before trying something else, or try a few together. If nothing works, it is okay to leave the baby in a safe place like a crib or infant seat and take time to calm down. Leave the room. Take a few deep breaths. Call a friend or family member.
Why is my baby crying so much?
You should always respond when your baby cries—but sometimes, no matter what you try, you might not be able to stop the crying. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and your baby won’t stop crying, remember:
- Crying is how babies communicate. You cannot “spoil” babies by picking them up when they cry. Being held is reassuring and comforting when babies cannot express themselves any other way.
- Babies start to cry more frequently around two weeks of age. The crying increases and peaks in the second month of life.
- Infants may spend 4 to 5 hours a day crying. They generally cry more in the evenings. It’s frustrating, but it’s also normal.
- Babies often cry intensely when they are physically fine, even though they may look like they are in pain.
- Sometimes babies may need to cry to relieve stress, and it’s okay to let them cry.
- The crying will eventually stop.
As a parent or caregiver, you are human. You have limited energy, patience, and tolerance. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, helpless, and even angered by the constant demands of a baby. When you feel this way, find a way to calm yourself before you do something you’ll regret. Read “Keeping Your Cool” below for tips on how to calm down.
Babies sleep safest:
- In a crib
- On their back
How can I keep my sleeping baby safe?
- Use a crib! Sharing a bed with your baby greatly increases the risk for accidentally suffocating him.
- The mattress should be firm and fit snuggly in the crib’s frame, and sheets should fit tightly around the mattress.
- Place the baby on her back to reduce the risk of suffocation.
- Keep the room temperature comfortable for a lightly clothed adult.
- Use infant sleep clothing that doesn’t cover the baby’s head. Infants are typically comfortable with one layer more than an adult would wear to be comfortable in the same environment.
- For the first six months, keep the baby’s bed in the same room as her caregiver in order to be attentive to her cries.
How can I avoid dangerous sleeping situations?
- Although they may be cute, pillows, blankets, bumper pads, and toys can suffocate your infant.
- Despite popular belief, items like wedges and sleep positioners can increase the risk of infant death due to suffocation. If the infant shifts at all, the soft objects can actually trap the baby in a fatal position.
- Sleeping with your infant may be more convenient and look peaceful, but the risk of rolling onto or pinning the baby and suffocating him dramatically increases.
- Each baby should have his own bed—even multiples and other siblings increase the risk of suffocation.
- Adult beds, air mattresses, beanbags, reclining chairs, sofas, etc. are not made for babies and can cause suffocation.
- Any loose cables, wires, or strings around the crib could be fire hazards and/or wrap around your baby’s neck and strangle her.
- If you do not place your baby on his back to sleep, his airway may not be clear.
- Avoid exposing your baby to smoke both during pregnancy and after birth, as exposure to smoke is a major risk factor for Sudden Infant Death (SIDS) and Sudden Unexplained Death Syndrome (SUID).
How can I help my baby sleep comfortably?
- Give your baby active play time during the day, including “tummy time” that allows the infant supervised play while lying on his belly. Tummy time strengthens back, arm, and neck muscles, is important for coordination development, and decreases the risk of Flat Head Syndrome.
- You can reduce your baby’s stress by responding quickly to her needs during the day.
- Putting babies to bed when they start to look tired, but are not asleep, helps them learn how to fall asleep on their own.
- If your baby seems restless at bedtime, try putting her down 30 minutes earlier. Sometimes babies can get fussy and energetic if they are overtired.
- Give your baby a pacifier (never a bottle) when he goes to sleep. If the baby does not want the pacifier, do not force it into his mouth or reinsert if he discards it in his sleep.
- Have a bedtime routine to allow your baby to wind down, like giving a bath, massaging muscles, spending quite time together, or reading a book.
- Talk or sing softly to your baby before bed. The sound of your voice is very soothing to your baby.
- Use dark colored shades over windows near your baby’s sleeping area so no light will wake him up.
- Make sure your baby’s nose is clear before bedtime. A cool-mist humidifier may help with congestion. Dust regularly and remove dust collection items from the baby’s area.
- If your baby is teething, check with your pediatrician to see what medications or pain-relieving options may be available.
- Make sure you do not put your baby to bed with a wet diaper, which can cause her to wake up.
- Place a warm towel on your baby’s crib sheet and remove it just before you place him down.
Parents of School-Age Children (4-12) and Teenagers (13-18)
Help with Homework
Students and adults across New Mexico can obtain homework help, study tips, and career assistance with the click of a mouse. The New Mexico State Library, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, maintains a statewide subscription to Brainfuse, an online tutoring and education portal. New Mexico students of all ages have access to one-on-one help with homework, state-aligned skills building, writing assistance, a foreign language center, and a 24/7 question center.
Every family has values about how people should be treated. One parent might feel strongly that people should never hit others, while another parent might believe that if someone hits a child then that child should hit back. That attitude does not match school policy and would result in suspension. Students come to school with lots of different values, so families should discuss how to follow school policies and laws.
How is dealing with bullying and harassment different from when parents were kids?
Earlier generations used to say “Boys will be boys” or “kids just being kids.” We understand now that bullying can have tragic effects on a child’s emotional life. We also have laws against sexual harassment because inappropriate sexual behavior gets in the way of kids learning in school (and adults at work).
How do I know if my child is a victim, a bully, or a witness?
We know that all kids are witnesses to bullying. Kids see pushing, shoving, hitting, teasing, name-calling, and threats almost every day at school and in the neighborhood. Some experience bullying in their own homes.
No matter how good a school is at reducing bullying, the reality is that there will always be bullies seeking victims. There will also be witnesses who wonder what to do. How much they see and how much it affects them depends on the person—but watching other children be bullied or harassed has the effect of intimidating the witness. The message is clear to all kids: keep quiet and don’t get involved, or you can be the next victim.
Offer support by talking with children about what they see and how it makes them feel. Help your child understand how standing up and speaking out against bullying helps to stop bullying.
Finding out if your child is a bully may not be easy. A lot of young people are good at hiding that behavior. It’s only when the bully or harasser is caught at school that a parent might find out about their child’s inappropriate behavior.
If you suspect that your child might be bullying, it’s a good idea to discuss that concern with both the child and a school counselor. Young people who think they can treat others with disrespect often grow up to be adults who feel the same way. Counseling can be a vital tool for helping young people deal with their anger in healthy ways.
If your child is a victim, you may or may not know it. Some kids are very vocal about being treated badly. Others hide so as not to get into further trouble with the bullies. It is important to create a safe place at home where your children feel they can talk.
Working with a child who has made a mistake or broken a school or family rule offers a learning opportunity. Let your child know that everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes help us learn how to problem-solve and deal with disappointment. Making mistakes does not mean that one is a failure. Talk and work with your child so that they know they can come to you when something goes wrong, and you will be able to discuss it together.
- Take all feelings seriously. Don’t say “It’s dumb to feel that way, don’t let it bother you.” Instead, say “I hear you—you’re really disappointed, aren’t you?”
- Praise each child for her uniqueness. Do not make comparisons between children; it will only lead to competitiveness and fighting.
- All of us need to feel good at something Let your child overhear you say something positive about him, like “Adam swam the whole length of the pool by himself.”
- Put your child in situations so she can see herself differently. “Can you get a screwdriver and help me tighten this wheel on my bike?”
- Find opportunities for your child to experience success. Let him make a batch of cookies or build a model or grow a plant in the garden.
- Give choices: “Do you want to wear jeans or sweats to school?” If she says “shorts,” say “That’s not a choice because it’s too cold; the choices are jeans or sweats.”
- Give your child a chance to figure out the answer to his questions. Instead of quickly answering, say “That’s a good question—what do you think?”
- Encourage your child to use resources, like “Maybe the librarian can help us get information” or “Your grandmother might know how to do that—why don’t you give her a call?”
- Encourage your child’s dreams and aspirations; do not take away hope: “You want to try for the swimming team? That will be a great experience.” If she does not make it, say “I bet you’re disappointed, aren’t you? Let’s decide we’re going to practice some more and try again.”
- Don’t dismiss fears as “silly.” It is natural for children to have fears. Listen to your child’s fears. Tell him “It’s OK to have fears; I’m here to take care of you. What can we do to make you feel better?”
Parents of School-Aged Children (4-12)
For help finding childcare in your area, click here.
You may qualify for the Child Care Assistance program.
Child Care Assistance provides financial support to help you pay for the cost of childcare. The Child Care Services Bureau (CCSB) pays some or all of your childcare costs each month. The payment is made directly to your childcare provider.
The Child Care Assistance Program subsidizes the cost of childcare for families at or below 400% of the federal poverty level that are working, in school, or searching for employment.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as no more than 7% of a family’s annual income. To date, no other state has enacted a childcare support program that provides no-cost care to such a broad economic demographic.
Call or visit a Child Care Services Bureau field office. You will need to bring the following information with you when you apply for services:
- Current proof of countable earned and unearned income for applicant and biological parent, stepparent, and/or legal guardian living in the household, if applicable
- School schedule for the applicant and biological parent, stepparent, and/or legal guardian living in the household (if applicable)
- Documentation of Incapacitation, if applicable
- Documentation of Custody/Dependency, if applicable
- Verification of birth for all applicant children
- Photo Identification for the applicant
- Proof of New Mexico residency, such as a lease/rental agreement or utility bill
Are you eligible for childcare assistance?
This survey provides a quick and easy way for New Mexico residents to determine if they are eligible for ECECD programs.
Getting Your Child Ready for Kindergarten
For more information on free pre-kindergarten (PreK) programs, click here.
Parents of Teenagers (13-18)
What should parents do when they find out their child is gay, lesbian, or bisexual?
One common response is to wonder, “How could she do this to me?” This may not be rational, but it is a human response to pain. Remember that your child is the same person he or she was yesterday. The only thing you have lost is your own image of that child—that loss can be difficult, but you can emerge from this period with a stronger relationship with your child.
Your child’s decision to be open and honest with you took a tremendous amount of courage. And it shows an equally tremendous amount of love, trust, and commitment to their relationship with you.
How can I support my child?
Reading this is the first step to supporting your child—you have shown that you are open to new information. Supporting your child now should be a natural extension of your general support as a parent: talk, listen, and learn together.
Questions and answers reposted with permission from Positive Images.
Drugs and Alcohol
Talking about tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs is not always easy because the issues are complex. Many people can use substances like alcohol and prescription medicines responsibly. Some people do not.
Alcohol abuse and drug use is not new. What is new is how early kids are experimenting with alcohol and other drugs. According to the New Mexico High School Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey (YRRS), substance use rates among New Mexico high school students are some of the highest in the nation. Families can take the lead in preventing drug abuse and the accidents and health problems that result from the misuse or abuse. The ultimate goal is supporting young people so that they can cope with the stresses of everyday life without being dependent on tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs.
How has the issue of drug abuse changed from when parents were kids?
Concerns that were once only focused on college students are now concerns about students in high school, middle school, and late elementary school.
How can parents keep their child from drinking alcohol and driving or riding with someone who has been drinking alcohol?
Teenagers need to see that the adults in their lives don’t drink and drive. It’s not always easy to take the car keys from a loved one who says, “I’m fine to drive,” even when the person is clearly drunk, but parents need to have strict family rules about drinking alcohol and driving. For example, if a teen is found to be drinking and driving, then the right to use the car is taken away for a year. Too dramatic? Not when you consider that a person driving under the influence of alcohol cannot only kill him or herself, but others on the road as well.
Talk to your children about the importance of designated drivers, and make sure they know that they can always ask you for a ride instead of taking risks.
How can I limit my child’s access to drugs?
The Internet makes it fairly easy for people to buy and sell drugs illegally. Controlling these sites is nearly impossible. In many ways, addressing drug abuse comes down to “supply and demand.” Parents can’t control the supply of legal and illegal drugs, but they can have a huge impact on their child’s demand for drugs. Talking about the health and legal repercussions of drug use can have a huge impact on a young person’s decisions.
Young people who feel supported by a caring family, healthy friendships, and a safe community will cope better when confronted with the normal temptations of alcohol and drugs.
How can families handle addiction within the family and encourage recovery?
Addressing addiction to alcohol or other drugs is one of the most important things a family can do. It’s a sign of health, strength, and compassion to address a family member’s problem.
Getting help for an adult or younger family member requires finding outside support. Recovery centers, counseling, and groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) offer vital support to people with addictions and their families. Every person needs the right type of intervention to address an addiction or emotional dependence on alcohol or other drugs. Fnd substance abuse help near you.
Youth can become involved in gangs for a variety of reasons, whether it’s intimidation, the desire to belong, or the perceived need for protection in a group. Parents can help their children resist these pressures by doing some of the following:
- Help the child become involved in athletics or other group activities that interest her/him.
- Limit unstructured time by encouraging after-school activities or a job.
- Teach social skills that enhance self-esteem.
- Keep an open line of communication with your child.
- Set reasonable rules and enforce them consistently.
- Know your child’s friends and where they hang out.
- Keep track of your child’s work at school.
Youth suicide is a serious public health problem in New Mexico. Suicide is a leading cause of death of New Mexicans between 15 and 24.
What part does mental illness play in suicide?
Approximately 90% of youth who commit suicide have a mental health condition, most commonly a mood or substance use disorder. In NM, close to a third of high school students reported symptoms of depression: feeling sad or hopeless every day for two weeks or more in the previous year. Youth who reported persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness reported attempting suicide more frequently than youth who did not report these feelings.
What are other risk factors?
- Previous suicide attempts: Teens that have attempted suicide in the past are much more likely than other teens to attempt suicide again in the future. Approximately a third of teen suicide victims have made a previous suicide attempt.
- Family history of mental disorders, substance abuse, or suicide: Teens who kill themselves have often had a close family member who attempted or committed suicide.
- Stressful situation or loss: Teens who are already at risk because of mental illness or substance abuse can be triggered by stressful situations like getting into trouble at school or with the police, fighting or breaking up with a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and fighting with friends or with family.
If you need immediate help call the New Mexico Crisis Line right away at 1-855-662-7474, or 1-855-227-5485 (TTY).