Childhood from the age of two to adolescence are mostly taken up with growing, being educated and learning to interact with the family and society at large. By the time children are five and ready to start school most of their behaviour problems will have settled down.
A growing child needs a well-balanced diet to provide all the kilojoules, vitamins and minerals that are essential to maintain physical and mental development. The child’s diet should include meat and fish with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as adequate calcium (usually from milk) to ensure strong and healthy bones.
Some children start to dislike sleep and to rebel against going to bed. Generally a child will be more amenable to an early bedtime if a regular routine is adhered to and there is no question that bedtime has arrived. A child who persistently appears for a chat after being put to bed or constantly asks for a drink of water or to go to the toilet should have their request met once, then be put to bed firmly with no further excuses for delay allowed. Of course, many children develop a fear of the dark at this time and if this is the reason for a toddler’s reluctance to stay in bed, a night-light may solve the problem.
Children should have their teeth checked every six months to ensure that the teeth are growing as they should and that they are free from decay. Checks on hearing and vision are normally carried out through the school system. A child who is suspected of having difficulties with hearing or seeing should be tested without delay, as these handicaps can affect all areas of learning and general ability to function. It is vitally important to make sure that a child has strong, healthy feet, and this depends almost entirely on their shoes. All children should have shoes that support their feet, protect them and allow them freedom to grow.
Children are affected by repeated infectious viral infections. Serious diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough are now rare since the introduction of immunisation programs. Scarlet fever and other bacterial infections can be readily cured by antibiotics. Coughs and colds are part and parcel of school life and most children will get such infections every few months. An otherwise healthy child will usually have a few days of feeling off-colour and then fight off the infection and return to health.
Accidents are a hazard of the childhood years. Obviously this is because a normal healthy child leads an active outdoor life, riding bicycles, swimming, climbing trees and taking part in various other activities. Falls, fractures, knee injuries, sprained ankles and dislocated shoulders are commonplace in the five to twelve age group. Fortunately, most of these heal quickly and completely if given appropriate care. Nevertheless some accidents should not happen. Parents need to give their child a basic understanding of safety and to steer a balance between allowing the child freedom to explore and develop its independence, and sufficient supervision and protection to ensure that serious injury does not occur. The odd sprained wrist or ankle from falling off a bike is probably inevitable in an active youngster’s life, but being knocked off the bike by a car with possible serious and lifelong repercussions is a quite different matter.