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Is it Normal? Introducing The Spinoff’s new parenting advice column

Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes introduces our new advice column: Is it Normal? – a place for parents to ask experts the questions they Google at 2am.

I am a worrier. I would die if anyone saw my Google search history. Many late night searches begin: “Is it normal for a three year old to…” or “Does a five year old normally do…”

Sometimes I just want reassurance and that’s where mum threads on the internet are just so handy. They’re usually relentlessly positive. If you’ve never seen one of these threads they’re usually like:

“Hi mamas! I just wanted to know if this is normal? I am really stressed out because my baby is a potato? I just didn’t realise for ages but now I know for sure that my baby is an actual potato. Is this normal what should I do?”

And the answers will be:

“Mama! You are doing amazing with your potato baby! I can tell your baby is going to make a wonderful hash brown some day. You are a great potato mum don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not OK to have a baby potato every baby is different and why can’t you have a potato for a baby!”

and

“My baby is also a potato. It was strange at first to have a potato instead of a baby but now my potato is 15 and he’s about to become a gratin and I couldn’t be prouder!”

and

“My baby is a parsnip. It’s totally fine! Heaps normal!”

and

“Wait till your potato is a teen! That’s where the trouble starts. They just want to get baked all the time”.

Please forgive me. The point is – you’ll always find reassurance online. And we all need it. But sometimes you’ll be wanting real advice. Not the kind you get unwanted from Great Aunt Ethel who wants to fat shame your delicious six week old or the NEVER helpful kind from the likes of your Uncle Morty who needs you to know that he never had the kids in bed even though he literally never looked after his kids ever.

Real advice (in my humble view) should be non-judgemental, take-it-or-leave-it, actually useful and able to be put into practice (none of this give your kids caviar to help them be adventurous with food bullshit). It should be from someone with experience, maybe even qualifications if that’s appropriate; it should be from someone without an agenda, from someone who genuinely cares about children and parents.

Because while reassurance is easy to find on the net, it can be so confusing trying to find solid advice. If you ask for specific advice in a parenting group, you’ll likely get a thousand answers and most of them will be from people so sleep deprived they’re basically ghosts.

This is where things like “What kind of toothpaste should I use for my four-year-old” quickly goes from “anything with flouride is fine” to “FUCK YOU GLENDA YOU BITCH FLOURIDE IS SATAN’S JIZZ” and you’re just like “what on earth I just wanted to…I’m sorry I’ll delete omg”.

So I’m on the hunt for these experts and I already have a bunch I’ve approached. The great people that they are means they’ve all said yes. So now I need your questions! Email me at emily@thespinoff.co.nz with “Is it normal?” in the subject line and we’ll start finding answers for you.

We’ll kick off with our first question. Thank you to all of the reader submissions we already have!

“My five year old had an accident at his school assembly. He was so upset he wouldn’t move, and when I picked him up he was sobbing. I felt awful. He says he just ‘forgets’ to go to the toilet. Is this normal for a five year old? How should I handle this?”

Our expert to answer this questions is Laura Morley. Laura is the author of Potty Talk, teacher and parenting coach at  Looloo-Toilet Training Solutions, based in Auckland. When she is not hanging out with her three kids and her horse Oscar, you will find her talking wees and poos with parents and educators throughout NZ and Australia. Her post for The Spinoff Parents “How to get your child to poo on the toilet” was published in November.

“It can be so upsetting as a five year old at school to have an accident, especially in such a public place as school assembly. Lots of five year olds do get nervous or forgetful and can leave it too late to get the toilet. If you are worried then you should check with your doctor that your child does not have a medical issue such as a urinary tract infection or constipation. These can cause a child to loose the ability to read their body signals and therefore have accidents. 
 
It really helps to reduce their anxiety if they have a plan to follow, that they have practised in case it happens again. I would recommend that you help him feel prepared by packing a change of clothing in a separate bag with some wipes.
 
Have a chat with your child’s teacher to make an action plan for him to follow. Then before school one morning walk him through the process of what to do if he has a wee or poo accident at school. For example, get him to tell the teacher, go to his bag and get his clothing, walk to the school office with a friend, get changed in the toilets etc.”
 *
Thanks Laura! Get your questions in to emily@thespinoff.co.nz to get solid non-judgement answers from people who know what they’re talking about.
Emily x


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