College Survival Care Package- A Doctor/Moms Perspective on Essential Items

Has your child settled into their new school, dorm life with a roommate, and eating cafeteria food 24/7?   It’s definitely a big transition for both parent and teenager. You may have initially spent hours decorating and assembling their room to provide comfort in their new surroundings, but what might have been overlooked is the fact that being in this new environment is akin to starting kindergarten when it comes to germs, illnesses and infections. I remember my son could not believe after seeming so healthy, how many coughs, sore throats, stomach bugs, and pains resurfaced when living in such close quarters with other teens that also weren’t always up to par with their hygiene? (right, how often is your child really washing hands, doing weekly laundry, getting enough sleep…)  So as a mom and a pediatrician, here are some college survival items that your freshman, just may appreciate receiving from you in the mail.

College Survival Care Package – Checklist of What to Send

Hydration- Drinking lots of water is a must, so sending a reusable water bottle that they can fill and carry throughout the day is a must

Sore Throats –  lollipops, sucking candies, lozenges  (to help soothe scratchy throats)  tea bags and a microwaveable mug

 Fever/ Pain -  Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen,  as the nearest pharmacy may be miles away, and often they just don’t want to get out of bed to head to the store

Hives/ Allergic skin reactions- antihistamine like Benedryl/Zyrtec/ Claritin/ Allegra

Skin Rashes- Cortisone cream, antibacterial ointment, and a good hydrating moisturizer to keep skin intact

Athletes Foot/ Fungal Infection  - antifungal creams, shower shoes, clean socks and extra towels (in case they aren’t doing their laundry often enough)

Stomach Upset- antacids, ginger and chamomile

Coughs- a jar of honey, extra pillow to prop up head at night

Nail Care- keeping nails short and clean decrease spread infection- nail clipper/nail file

Disinfectant – Air fresheners/ Lysol cleaner, Laundry detergent pods, hand sanitizer

Healthy Snacks  - nuts ,dried fruit, popcorn- for on the go or late night

Sleep/ Rest - ear buds to listen to music to help fall asleep, eye mask, lavender oil, magazines

Probiotic- boosting immune support and balancing digestive tract daily 

First Aid supply- ace bandage, bandaids, cold pack/ice pack, thermometer,

 These essential items will surely  be appreciated by any child  away on their own, especially for the first time.  What else do you think would be helpful?  Let me know in the comments.


Healthy Homework Habits-Tips for Kids

Back to School is a great time to reset and impart some easy straightforward routines and strategies that can really help take the hassle out of homework time for your child.  As a pediatrician I am of the mind that homework should be to reinforce what was taught in school and should not be endless hours of just rote or busy work. More time spent is not always better or productive. The professionals I consult with agree that in general homework should be about 10 min per grade, so a second grader should not have more than 20 minutes of homework likewise a 9th grader should not be bogged down with more than 90 min (approx. 1 ½ hours/ night) including all subjects. I remind parents all the time that children also learn important skills through free play, whether they are drawing, doing a puzzle, riding a bicycle or other extracurricular activities. They are acquiring new skills in creativity, decision making, judgement, socialization and much more. It just makes sense that the sooner homework is finished the more time for other more preferred activities.

 Here are some of my tips to make homework time more productive and less of a hassle for your child.

Homework Tips

1 Create a study space. This can be whatever works best for you and your child. It can be a small desk or using the kitchen table. Make sure this is enough space for your child to spread out all necessary books and papers. The same location  adds consistency and it helps your child to know ahead of time where to go and how to prepare to start their homework.

2 Keep supplies in one location.  Starting off organized by having pens, paper, pencil sharpener, books, stapler, etc… easily accessible and in one designated school supply area (whether it’s a cabinet or even a big box),  having what you need, when you need it, cuts down on procrastination. Being prepared means your child can jump right into their studies.

3. Avoid Distractions. I know this is easier said than done. However most importantly avoid electronics likes cell phones, texting and messaging during homework time. It is a good idea to have a designated basket or charging area where phones are stored during homework time. Also want to limit background noise so turn off TV’s, radios as this will improve focus on the task at hand as well as increase efficiency and hopefully finish homework even sooner.

4 Make a Plan. Having a daily attack plan before starting homework is helpful and lets both you and your child know what is expected. If  there is a lot of homework consider adding in specific breaks after each homework task is complete or discuss if you think your child do it all in one setting?  You know  your child best. Set realistic expectations. You always want to set your child up for success. Breaks in my opinion are ok and often needed, just make sure your child knows how long is allowable. I would say a break to stretch and a healthy snack may be in order after a challenging or longer homework subject. The key is having clear communication plan prior to starting homework time.

5 Watch the Clock. There is no one right time to do homework but as a pediatrician and mom I can tell you from a load of experience that getting homework done early on after school is often ideal. It is never easy to get going and the longer your child waits to do it, not only are they tired, there’s much more resistance, procrastination and difficulty paying attention.  I believe homework is usually best to get out of the way, so having your child do it when they get home can be ideal and then once it is done the natural consequence of relaxing or playing with their toys or socializing with friends can occur. This truly cuts down on the homework battles.

6. Stay Involved.  This doesn’t mean you should do your child’s homework for them to get straight A’s. Their homework is meant for them and to gauge what was taught or needs more help learning.  It’s good to monitor and check homework when necessary and to make sure it’s done completely, but avoid making it your responsibility.  Its important to have open communication with your child’s teacher and let them know if your child is having difficulty with a particular concept or subject.  In fact, if the teacher hears that over half the kids in class had difficulty they should find another way for the information to be taught. There are many ways to learn not just one. And part of being involved is attending school events and activities (when possible) so your child sees that you value school and their education.

 Lastly, remember as a parent, be a role model. Let them see you also incorporate these techniques in to your daily life as well. Your kids will look up to you and eventually thank you for taking the time to teach them responsibility, organization and time management.

Also, check out my colleagues blog that has amazing tips and tools that will help keep your home and kids organized for Back to School


Diary of Your Child's Milestones First year- Part 2

So here is Part 2- the second half of baby's first year is also filled with some sweet and fun milestones that you don't want to miss. Compare your newborn baby's first picture to how they are now, and their abilities and changes by their first birthday! Isn't life amazing?  Read on for some more exciting milestones-

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Baby Milestones the First 6 Months - Part 1

One of the biggest joys of parenthood is watching and capturing your baby's first milestones. Its truly amazing how much they learn to do physically, socially and cognitively in such a short period of time.  No two children are ever exactly the same but in general miletones occur in a generalized time frame and order. This blog is part 1 of some very exciting milestones that occur from newborn to age 6 months. Remember to have fun with baby and don't do too much comparing to other babies, but if you ever have questions or concerns please bring it up with your pediatrician





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Making Ends Meet: Side Gigs That Can Provide a Substantial Second Income

Hey everyone, welcome to my first guest blog by Eric Kelly I thought it was such a great topic because we all know raising kids and finding quality time is a real balancing act. In fact, I too have recently started a so called side gig. Not only as Dr.Jen do I care for kids health and wellness but also integrate the importance of self care for parents too. It’s a necessity when raising kids, not always a luxury and so I want to let moms/dads know its ok and allow them time to care for themselves without the guilt, but also as a role model for their kids. (the added income is a plus too) Here is my side gig for skin care and wellness from the inside and out. Read on from Eric about the many other opportunities regarding side gigs- and find what works for you and your family.


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Making Ends Meet: Side Gigs That Can Provide a Substantial Second Income

Sometimes, single parents need help making ends meet. It’s a shock to the financial system to be reduced to a single income after years of sharing expenses. Many people are taken by surprise and find themselves falling behind, not knowing where to turn for help. There may be relatives who can help out, but that’s not a sustainable solution. As a single parent needing to spend time with your kids, it’s tough to find a second source of income when it means being away from home for more than eight hours a day. Kids need emotional support, a role model, and help with their homework. That’s why a side gig can be the perfect solution, providing a valuable source of extra money while keeping you home at night.

Child Care

If you’re home with the kids, providing child care services can be a natural fit. There are lots of people out there who need child care services at different times of the day or night. You may know other single parents who are working a second job in the evening or on the weekends, which gives you a ready-made clientele. You’ll need to be sure your home is large enough to accommodate extra kids for a few hours a day and that you have plenty of toys and activities to keep them busy.


There are many opportunities via the gig economy for people who have specific skill sets. Freelancing allows you to work from home and set your own work hours. The key is finding the right niche depending on whether you’re a writer, graphic artist, website designer, and so on. Many companies need transcribers, fast and accurate typists who translate recorded items into written documents. Or, if you have a background in editing, there are lots of opportunities for proofreaders.


Use Your Creativity

If you’re a creative person who enjoys making crafts and giving them as gifts, there’s a side gig out there for you. Websites like Etsy are clearing houses for people who want an easy way to find a clientele online. There’s really no limit on the kinds of things you can sell, anything from handmade dolls to comforters can earn you extra money. Scrapbooking is a popular skill among people looking for someone to make theirs look nice. Or, you could try selling scrapbook layouts on the internet.

Virtual Assistant

Companies and websites often need help from a virtual assistant, someone who works off-site handling administrative duties like arranging conference calls, handling expenses, and responding to inquiries for bloggers. If you have a secretarial/administrative background and can multi-task, there are lots of VA opportunities out there for you.

Doggie Love

Pet sitting and dog walking are in-demand services these days as busy professionals look for ways to keep their pets happy during the week. It’s easily done from your home, and if you have a pet yourself, you’re on your way: your customers will have a ready-made playmate. If you’re only home in the evening, make it known that your services are available in the late afternoon and evening. You might be surprised at how many people need your services in the evening and on weekends.

The gig economy has opened a whole new world of money-making possibilities for people in every conceivable situation. It’s ideal for a single parent struggling to keep food on the table and maintain a nurturing home environment for healthy children. It takes a willingness to hustle and work hard, but it can make all the difference for you and your family.


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Tips on Teething for Toddlers and Babies

I love giving live seminars with mom and baby together as it's so helpful and satisfying when moms can get the information they need and ask their specific questions.  I was also introduced to an amazing new teether by that's great for small hands to play with and chew on, made of high grade silicone, dishwasher safe, and no place for germs to hide. Here's a few take aways from my talk and enjoy the live video as well below

Teething 101 Tips and Myths

Developmental age 3-4 month babies drool alot and learn to put hands together this is normal development and not necessarily at all teething

Hereditary -    most babies start to have teeth erupt around 6 months of age (yes it can be sooner) or  even not until after age 1

Helpful Hint-   massage gum with clean finger

                        use high quality teethers to gnaw on for comfort

                         try  a cold wet wash cloth to suck on 

                        if severe use a pain reliever only as needed


                      Use alcohol to rub on gums for pain- it can get absorbed and potential                                       intoxication

                     avoid gels with numbing properties (benzocaine) potential serious side effects   and can numb back of throat  difficulty swallowing

                    avoid homeopathic teething tablets (unregulated and may contain                                                   belladonna)  thats's a  hallucinogen

                    No to Amber teething necklaces- no evidence to support decreases pain of                                   teething  and is a choking and  strangulation risk

Myth- teething causes fever

                     Fever is not a symptom of teething-, nor is severe diarrhea , vomiting and if not drinking:or extremely irritable- if concerned see your pediatrician-

Truth           Teething is a diagnosis of exclusion- toddlers get sick often with colds, fevers stomach bugs, ear infection  and more, so don't blame teething until other causes are ruled out. We don't want baby to suffer if he has something else that needs treatment.





Self Care To Do List- Healthy Habits for New Moms

 This seemed like a great topic post Mother's Day. As a pediatrician and mom of three, I wish I could go back in time and give myself the gift of this blog post. The stress and mommy guilt is real, but I am telling you it doesn’t have to be that way. Self-care is a necessity for your own health, and for your baby too. Just as I preach healthy habits in kids, we as moms need to continuously support our own healthy habits to be positive role models, and to feel good ourselves! You, my friend, are worth it. Read on for my tips that are a necessity to staying sane , especially in the baby period.


Introducing Solids to Baby- When to Start and What Foods to Give Baby

This is one of the most fun and exciting milestones in the first year of life, when you start to feed solids to your baby. Its gonna be messy so be prepared , relax and have fun with it. Don't get too crazed right away about how much baby eats ( most will end up on face, bib and floor) Just as a guide, baby need only a few tablespoons to start out as a meal. Most nutrients are  still supported by either breast milk or formula.

When to start?  Baby is often ready between 4-6 months. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends if exclusively breastfeeding can wait until 6 months then add in supplemental food.  Also baby needs to be able to sit with little support, keep head up, look interested in food, reaching out, and ability to swallow purees without tongue thrust reflex- spitting it all out. 

Rice Cereal- The biggest Dr. Jen  NO- NO  Avoid putting rice cereal in bottle!  It's unnecessary sugars, often adds on too much baby weight/ calories than necessary, interferes with long term health and no evidence it promotes sleep. Please wait to feed baby purees with a spoon unless your pediatrician tells you otherwise. And another word about that rice cereal. - I tend to tell parents to avoid it, as again its just starch/ sugar and has unfortunately a lot of Arsenic in it even if you buy organic or brown whole grain rice. If you give cereal try barley, or oatmeal . But remember cereal does not need to be your baby's first food. Read on....

What foods to offer at the start ? I recommend giving purees before going to finger foods.  Introduce fruits, veggie, as well as beans, meats and grains. In addition (unless your pediatrician says otherwise, or your baby has very bad eczema or food allergies) you then want to add in the most highly allergic foods around 6 months  (peanuts. tree nuts, fish, seafood ,eggs, wheat, soy ,milk) in small amounts  but frequently throughout a week. We now have research to back up early introduction of these foods can help reduce the risk of a food allergy in your baby. So don't be scared to start these foods- if you have more questions please speak with your baby's doctor. And remember to avoid any foods that can be choking hazards , so when moving on from purees makes very small soft pieces of  foods and avoid honey until age 1 due to risk of botulism.

The whole idea of food introduction is to give a wide array to your baby to get them used to different flavors and then soon textures as well. The bland days are gone for baby. You can add spices and seasonings just avoid adding excess salt and sugar..It's especially important to have baby start taking foods high in iron like the fortified cereals but also meats, beans, eggs, dark green veggies too. Watch my video to hear what I have to say about the best order to give new foods to baby .I think you may be surprised by my answers!! - Dr. Jen