No matter what age children you have, problems happen. Problems that leave you stumped, forcing you to turn to others for advice. Whether your brood is in the potty-training phase or in those scary post-pubescent years, here are some new books to help you keep your head above water. Take a parenting time-out, and instead of screaming, try reading.

Expectant parents and parents of infants especially first-time parents frequently turn to books for help, and often several books. As a mother of three, I kept a trusted stack by my bed during those early years. A good volume to add to your collection is The Kidfixer Baby Book by Stuart J. Altman, M.D. An instructor at NYU Medical Center and the Albert Einstein Medical Center, Altman is also a practicing pediatrician with a Long Island pediatric group called Kidfixers. Perplexed parents would love nothing better than being able to chat with a physician about their worries. Reading The Kidfixer Baby Book is the next best thing. Avoiding what he calls "techno-speak," Altman writes in an informative and often entertaining style. Adding to his book's humor are a handful of James Thurber-like line drawings scattered throughout, the work of illustrator Zacharyl Judd Scheer.

Topics (there are many) are clearly organized, covering everything from pregnancy issues to sleep and feeding difficulties, immunizations, symptoms and special concerns of working parents, divorced parents and parents of multiples. A look at some of the chapter subtitles reveals how informed and reassuring Altman's insights can be: "Some common lumps, bumps, and spots"; "Don't panic fever is a good sign"; and "Why your child always seems sick, and some straight talk about antibiotics." And when all seems impossible, be heartened by Altman's conclusion that raising a child is "not impossible" and "certainly easier than programming a VCR."

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