Ask the Experts Q&A: October 2019


One thing we all have in common as parents are questions. Lots of questions. Whether it’s concerning how to save for your child’s college fund, best practices for dental care, or how to talk to your child about a death in the family, it can feel overwhelming at times. While Google is handy, it can also be confusing and most importantly, unreliable.

We are so excited to introduce a new feature on Charleston Moms Blog called Ask the Experts where a team of local experts will answer your burning parenting questions in a monthly blog post. Our hope is that you get answers to some common questions that many parents have and connect with these amazing resources right here in our community!

Want to learn more about our team of local experts? Have a question? Ask it here and it will be answered in next month’s post! 

*This is a sponsored post, presented by our valued local partners. While we love sharing these resources with our readers, we have not personally vetted each individual business represented here and encourage our readers to do their own research to find the best fit for their family.

Children’s Health

Q: What do parents need to know about this year’s flu season?

A: In the 2019-2020 season, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend all people ages 6 months of age and older get the influenza vaccine. Each year researchers predict the strains that will be circulating in the following season. This year there are a few changes to the recommendations. First, the nasal spray vaccine and the injection are equally weighted; however, on a practical note it’s hard to find the nasal spray vaccine and in years past the intramuscular vaccine (“flu shot”) has been more effective. All vaccines on the market this year are quadrivalent; in other words, they vaccinate against all 4 predicted circulating strains. Children 6 months old through 8 years old getting a flu vaccine for the first time and those who have only previously gotten one dose of flu vaccine should get two doses of vaccine this year at least 4 weeks apart.

Are you wondering about the most common flu shot misconception? The flu shot cannot give you the flu! But folks do often get sick during flu season because all the respiratory viruses are circulating (ex: common cold, flu, croup, etc.) and it does take 1-2 weeks to develop immunity to the flu from your flu vaccine. Note the nasal spray vaccine is only for people 2-49yo and it is not safe for immunocompromised patients because it contains live inactivated flu virus.

Influenza is dangerous; children can be hospitalized with complications and can even die. Those who are vaccinated even if they do get sick will be less likely to get severely ill. Now is the time to get vaccinated! The recommendation is to get vaccinated before the end of October. It does take 1-2 weeks for immunity to build up and it is likely that if you get vaccinated before the end of October, you will likely be covered through the end of this year’s flu season.


Elizabeth Mack, MD, MS
Division chief of pediatric critical care
MUSC Children’s Health





Mental Health

Q: I struggle with anxiety. It comes and goes depending on what’s going on in my life. I get really uncomfortable physical symptoms like rapid heart rate, which causes even more stress because I can’t calm down. I took medication for a while, but want help managing uncomfortable symptoms that aren’t daily pills during periods of stress and anxiety. Would something like CBD oil or other natural remedy work? My friend takes it for a daily calming effect and swears by it. Any other tips?

A: Thanks so much for reaching out! I am so sorry that you are experiencing anxiety and those uncomfortable symptoms that come with it. Other symptoms of anxiety can include lightheadedness, sweating, feeling short of breath, nausea, chills or hot flashes, numbness in hands/feet, check pain/discomfort, and feeling like you are choking. Just like you mentioned, those are pretty unpleasant symptoms and of course, you want to do anything you can to alleviate these feelings. I’ve had heard so many times that people believe they are having a heart attack and are rushed to the hospital because they think they are dying.

You mentioned CBD and natural oils and whether or not they are effective. I do not have the proper training and knowledge about CBD so I cannot make any kind of blanket statement for or against a specific type of treatment like a medical doctor can provide. I also cannot make any kind of recommendation on whether or not it is appropriate for someone to try these methods. Each person is different and what is an effective treatment for one person may not work for someone else. I am very suspicious of something that claims to be a cure for everything and everyone.

Regarding CBD and oils, I have several clients who are just like your friend and they have experienced positive results. If you are curious about the benefits of CBD or natural oils, I recommend speaking with a medical provider that you trust and knows your personal medical history. Ask their opinion and whether or not they see any harm with these products.

I’m also going to suggest relaxation techniques when you notice that you are experiencing these symptoms. I teach my clients to really be present and aware of their thoughts/feelings when they are experiencing those symptoms of anxiety. So next time you notice a fast heart rate, do a quick check-in with yourself. What are you thinking about? Try to focus on the immediate here and now. Anxiety is mostly about worrying about things that may or may not happen in the future. So instead of worrying about what you can’t control, start by looking around the room. Notice the temperature. Are you comfortable? Do you notice any pleasant smells? If you are sitting down, what does the fabric of the chair feel like? By doing this, you are forcing your mind to pay attention to what you are experiencing this very moment and not be so concerned about things you can’t control in the future.

Finally, I’m going to recommend yoga and going to YouTube and searching for guided meditations. You can search your app store for mindfulness apps. I was amazed by how much free help is out there.

Amy Jackson
Licensed Professional Counselor
Sweetgrass Counseling





Oral Health

Q: Any alternatives to traditional braces for kids?

A: I love this question because THERE ARE ALTERNATIVES!! My first choice would be Clear Aligner Therapy more popularly known as Invisalign. Invisalign is a wonderful tool used by orthodontists to create a VIRTUAL tooth plan. This plan is “printed” in the form of a series of trays or aligners. The aligners are worn 22 hours a day ie they only come out when you eat and brush. Designed correctly and worn as instructed, this aligner plan can have the same result as traditional braces. Most parents quickly think, “Yeah right. My kid loses everything.” Believe it or not, Invisalign is a great option for little smiles. Some of my best Invisalign patients are my kids and teens. As adults, we are NOT the best rule-followers… try getting me to the gym without dragging me kicking and screaming… but kids are used to following instructions! They have practice and homework and rules and schedules. They typically do quite well with following our plan. What I LOVE about Invisalign for kids is the oral hygiene aspect of treatment. Kids are able to brush and floss as they normally would without the encumbrance of brackets and wires. Aligner treatment is certainly not for everyone, but it’s something to consider when thinking about orthodontics.

Sometimes a removable appliance such as a retainer can be activated to make minor tooth changes and even growth changes. Minor spacing, crossbites, and overbites can be improved with this approach. Because it is more limited in nature, this is typically a much less expensive option.

Another option is Prefabricated Myofunctional Appliances. This therapy uses a mouth guard or a series of mouth guards that the patient wears 22 hours a day. The premise is that it removes negative muscular forces during growth to allow the teeth to erupt in better alignment. This can be helpful for certain bite issues such as deepbites, but may not fully correct tooth alignment issues.

To discuss what options would work best for your child, please don’t hesitate to give us a call!

Dr. Katie Bullwinkel
Board Certified Orthodontist
Bullwinkle Orthodontics






Q: My husband and I both have separate 401k plans from before we were married, should we combine them?

A: No, married couples do not have the option to combine 401ks. Retirement accounts are specific to each individual because of the tax-deferred benefits. Withdrawals may begin when one person reaches the age of 59 ½ which is typically different times for a married couple. Withdrawals are mandatory at 70 ½, creating the same problem. While there isn’t an option to combine both qualified accounts into one, you can still achieve the same goals by allocating your investments based on your retirement plan. Reach out to us if you’d like to start or review your retirement plan today.

Caroline Mahoney, Financial Services Professional
Steven Fazio, Financial Services Professional
Riley Knudsen, Financial Services Professional

New York Life, Charleston





Q: What is redshirting?

A. This is a name for children repeating a grade, often kindergarten. We like to refer to students repeating a grade as taking a “victory lap.” It’s allowing children to succeed by giving them a bit more time.

Many people see repeating a grade as a negative, assuming that repeating a grade reflects a child’s intelligence, but that is not the case. Many times, a child is academically ready to move to the next grade, but he or she needs more time to fully develop the social and emotional skills that will help him or her in the next grade.

How do I know if my child should repeat a grade?
• First and foremost – trust the educators. Parents, teachers, and administrators need to work as a team and have open and honest communications.
• Listen to the advice of your child’s teacher. Be open to hearing about what the teacher is seeing in the classroom and what he or she thinks would benefit your child.
• Remember that each child is an Individual. Don’t rely on the path that a sibling took. Each child matures at his or her own pace.

What are the benefits of repeating a grade?
• The student develops stronger skills. Even if the student is able to complete his or her classwork, extra time spent practicing skills will only cement that knowledge.
• The student gains confidence. When skills are mastered, the student naturally feels more confident in what they can tackle in the classroom. They are more inclined to try new and challenging things.
• The student has time to develop social and emotional skills. This is something that simply can’t be rushed. Children mature at different rates, and they need time to do so at their own pace.

The best advice to give parents weighing this decision is to remember that everyone involved wants the best for the child. Teachers care very deeply for their students. Said one of our experts, “It makes teachers’ hearts happy when we know that what we are recommending will make a child successful. To see a child gain confidence and become absolutely prepared to move on to the next grade is a wonderful thing.”

Joanne Stemple
Director of Communications
Mason Prep School





Oral Health

Q: My toddler brushes his own teeth with an electric toothbrush and I go over them to make sure they’re brushed well, but I worry about missing spots when I brush them. How can I make sure we’re not missing spots to avoid cavities?

A: First off, kudos to you Mom! Sounds like you’re doing a great job with your toddler’s brushing routine. As we all know and have experienced, children this age always want to do things on their own; but you’re exactly right, to avoid cavities a parent must go over the teeth again themselves. Here are a few brushing tips to help you moving forward:

1. Toothbrush Size. Make sure the head of the toothbrush is small enough to reach the back corners of the mouth. Some electric toothbrushes are too large for toddlers; it’s fine for them to use but go over with a manual toothbrush the appropriate size.
2. Positioning matters! Brushing from behind your child allows the angle to be more natural (like brushing your own teeth) and help you get around tight lips and active tongues of toddlers. If your child is wiggly, lay them down on a bed or changing table.
3. Floss. If your child has teeth that are touching, flossing is important, as many toddlers with tight teeth can develop cavities in between from food debris that is not removed with floss.
4. Fluoride. Getting topical fluoride on the teeth can make the surface more resistant to cavities. If the toddler can spit, a small smear amount of toothpaste can be used. If the child does not spit well or wants to eat the toothpaste then we recommend dipping the brush in a child fluoride rinse for topical application.

If you’d like to see these tips in action check out our brushing videos – Following these tips will help with at-home care but don’t forget you also must take your child to a Pediatric Dentist twice a year. The dental team will be able to help demonstrate any of these tips and answer any questions you may have about preventing cavities.

Dr. Mike & Dr. Will

Board Certified Pediatric Dentists
Kids Teeth





Newborn Care & Postpartum Support

Q: My three-year-old still refuses to sleep in his own bed. What are some steps I can take to end co-sleeping?

A: The first part of transitioning your toddler from your bed to their toddler bed is having faith that they can actually do it. Confidence is contagious and if you believe in them, they will believe in themselves.

Secondly, you want to make sure that their room is set up for safe sleep. Make sure all objects like the dressers or bookcases are attached safely to the walls. All outlets are covered, blind cords are inaccessible and anything that could be ingested is removed from the room.

It’s very important to make sure that you are spending good quality time with your toddler during the day. This makes giving them time alone at night easier. This does not mean you need hours and hours of playtime together, but it does mean periods of 10 to 15 minutes of uninterrupted, undistracted time in the morning and in the evening.

Bedtime routine is crucial. Start with bath time then move to the toddler’s room for your “wake to sleep” time. During this time you talk about your family rules, one or two things that your toddler did well during the day and then discuss sleeping through the night in their bed. Use your confident face! Keep it short and simple and they will get the hang of it.

If you need more personalized recommendations email [email protected]

Liz Price
Nurse at Night





Adolescent & Family Therapy

Q: What are some good ways to show understanding and comfort a friend whose child has been given a lifelong developmental diagnosis?

A: Thank you so much for your question! Your friend is fortunate to have someone in their life to help provide support during this life transition. As you can imagine (or are possibly experiencing via your friend), a parent whose child just received a developmental diagnosis can experience a multitude of emotions. At some point, your friend is likely to become overwhelmed. It could be due to scheduling, family dynamics, financial concerns, relationship with significant other, etc. Often what a parent finds most helpful during in these situations is compassion and time. If and how you are able to provide this can be situational, but here are a few of my suggestions:

Compassion can be shown by simply calling and asking how the parent is feeling. It is easy for us to focus on the child’s wellbeing and forget to ask how the parent is handling these changes. Often just being able to provide a safe place to discuss concerns can be very helpful during this time. Try to minimize phrases like “I’m sorry” or “It will all be alright” and try to emphasize phrases like, “I’m here to listen if you need to talk” and “thank you for sharing.”

Your friend will also appreciate you maintaining interactions with their child just as you did previously or you would with any other child (unless of course, that friend has asked you to make modifications to your interaction). Continue to invite your friend and their child to activities, they may be busy or may not be ready for certain activities, but the extension of an invitation will help reduce feelings of isolation. Parents hope their children will be accepted and treated as equals and by demonstrating this it will be a good model for others to act similarly.

If you are to, provide your friend with the gift of time. This could come in the form of bringing over a meal, offering to babysit, or even having a playdate where you can “supervise” the kids while your friend can head into a room for a few minutes to make a phone call. Your friend may be managing a lot of new tasks and this leaves little time for self-care or even daily tasks such as making dinner. Providing support in this way can mean so much to a parent.

Finally, if your friend is still having difficulties and you feel you cannot support them, ensure that they have someone who can address their concerns. This can come in the form of a counselor, a support group, or other parents in a similar situation. Please be on the lookout for any changes in mental health status and don’t be afraid to encourage them to seek help for this. If you handle it in a sensitive manner, your friend will likely be appreciative that you care about their well being.

Ashlin Blum
Executive Director
Empowered Family


Want to ask one of our local experts a question?

Have a question for one of our local parenting experts or just want to learn more about them? Ask your question and it will be featured in next month’s Q&A!