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Q&A: Keys to Being an Empowered Parent For Your Child

The Cariloop Team | September 8, 2023

This Q&A is a companion piece to our monthly customer webinar. Become a customer of Cariloop or contact us to learn how you can get access to this exclusive content. 

Caregivers and parents play a vitally important role in ensuring the physical and mental health and well-being of their children. Different parenting practices lead to variations in early childhood health.

Dr. Wendy Whittington and Dr. Amish Nishawala discussed in depth with parents about how they can become confident and empowered caregivers. From your baby’s first shots and tantrums to learning differences and hard days, parents can learn to handle and prepare for the stressful moments in parenthood, understand the importance of emotional maturity and be empowered to ask for help.

Our speakers had an outpouring of questions to answer, and we were not able to get through all of them during the allotted time. So, here are our experts’ answers to some of the most common questions from parents:

Q: Are parents caregivers?

A: This is a resounding “yes!” Parents are, in fact, caregivers and it’s helpful to think of themselves as such so they can get the support they need. And it isn’t just parents who parent. There is a lot of wisdom in the old phrase “it takes a village” so what we cover here applies to parents, grandparents, those who work with children and so on.

Q: How can a parent or caregiver of a child help themselves grow in emotional maturity?

A: This is a vast topic, and I want to focus on a few key parenting moments that illustrate why emotional maturity in parents is necessary to raise resilient children. What does this mean? You can’t teach someone how to ride a bike unless you know how to ride a bike. So, in turn, if you can’t manage your feelings and emotions, how can you help someone else learn how to? 

As we learn to handle our emotions as parents, we can help our children learn to do the same, particularly in times when it’s challenging, like with stress or illness. Using different techniques or the support of a professional is often helpful.

Q: How do I raise happy, healthy, kind and respectful children? How do I raise confident, self-aware, resilient girls?

A: It starts with the parents. Are they happy, healthy, kind and respectful? Are they emotionally mature? Think of The Giving Tree as a metaphor: can they be a tree with strong roots, that can handle life’s ups and downs, and help shelter a young tree? A parent’s emotional resilience serves as a template for a child to see how to deal with life’s challenges and handle their own emotions.

To raise confident girls, don’t limit them based on your own biases of what boys and girls are supposed to do or be. Avoid societal and cultural stereotypes that teach girls what they can/can’t do, can/can’t become.

Q: How can I help my young child gain confidence when speaking to adults? She speaks softly/nervously when she asks questions.

A: The key is tuning into your child’s temperament. There are many types of temperament. Some kids are very socially engaging, others are slow to warm up. Is the temperament affecting the child’s ability to enjoy their life? If not, then parents can support it and go with gentle tweaking.

If yes (not able to make friends, participate in school, enjoy activities that their peers enjoy), then ask your pediatrician who may refer you to additional support. And, avoid telling your child how not to be. For example, I hear well-intentioned parents say, “Don’t be shy! Why are you so quiet? Speak up!” This doesn’t help the child, because the message is “Don’t be yourself, be something else.”

Q: How should my parenting differ when caring for grade school kids with ADHD and Dyslexia?

A: When parenting a child with extra needs, recognizing it’s okay to ask for help and being strongly rooted in that opens you to receiving additional support in two ways:e

  • Expanding the parenting toolbox. The standard toolbox that most parents have will not be enough. Ways to expand this toolbox may include learning extra skills with the support of their pediatrician or other providers and services.
  • Outside help: These children often benefit from extra services such as an IEP, tutoring, psychologists, psychiatrists and medications. 

Q: How should my approach to parenting change when caring for a child with autism?

A: Autism occurs as a spectrum. All kids will have extra needs, some much more than others.

Care starts with what was mentioned in the previous question. A big difference with a child with autism is to always consider that the child does not fully understand what other people are feeling or thinking, and may not have the ability to formulate the steps necessary to solve problems.

Q: When a child goes through a traumatic experience, how do we work to rebuild their trust?

A: The most important thing here is to realize that trust builds steadily over time when a child sees that a caregiver is present and available. Kids need time to talk about trauma at their own pace. Letting them know that you are okay to talk about it gives them the space to share when they are ready. Working with a specialist who understands trauma-informed care is often beneficial.

Q: How do you help encourage independence in young children?

A: Avoid “snowplow” parenting. This is where the parent walks in front of the child, clearing the path of all dangers. The child doesn’t have to pay attention to where they are going and always has a smooth road. They are unprepared for the day they will have to navigate the road themselves.

Instead, walk hand-in-hand with your child on the path. Pointing out the potholes and bumps. If they stumble, you have their hand to steady them. As they get older, you let go of their hand and walk side by side, showing/explaining. They learn from how you react when you stumble. One day, they will be able to walk the path by themselves and teach someone else how to do so.
If you’re ready to take full advantage of your employer’s pediatric support benefit through Cariloop, email helpme@cariloop.com today to get started.

Expert Spotlight

Amish Nishawala, M.D.

Pediatrician, Private Practice, New York, NY

Dr. Nishawala has practiced pediatrics for 25 years, providing evidence-based, compassionate care that focuses on helping parents raise healthy, resilient children. Dr. Nishawala is known for his down-to-earth, practical advice presented clearly with good humor. He has worked in a variety of clinical and socioeconomic settings, rural areas and city centers. While caring for children in foster care and homeless shelters at the Children’s Aid Society, he learned the importance of empowering caregivers, and this has shaped his practice ever since.

Wendy Whittington, M.D., MMM

Chief Care Officer, Cariloop

Dr. Whittington is a board-certified pediatrician with 30+ years of experience in healthcare. As Cariloop’s Chief Care Officer, she is passionate about changing healthcare for the better. She believes supporting family caregivers is the right thing to do and solves some of our healthcare system’s biggest problems.