October 15, 2009

Raising children is both an exciting and challenging experience. To help American parents work through the challenging aspects, Cooperative Extension specialists from across the nation have joined together to offer a comprehensive series of free parenting e-newsletters through eXtension.

The e-newsletters, named Just-In-Time Parenting, will use research-based information to discuss the developmental aspects -- emotional, mental, physical and social -- of raising a child from birth to adulthood. Along with each newsletter there are additional tips on the Web site for parents who want to find out more about a particular topic. Parents can send questions electronically to specialists involved with the project. Newsletters for the first five years are already online and recently, a prenatal section was added for expectant parents.

"We've really put together some wonderful resources for parents with children of all ages," said Carole Gnatuk, child development specialist with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Gnatuk and Ahlishia Shipley, a doctoral student in the UK Department of Family Studies, researched and wrote the three prenatal issues of the e-newsletters. These cover topics related to all three trimesters of pregnancy and child birth including the baby's development in the womb, healthy habits during pregnancy, managing stress, couples communication and selecting a doctor and hospital. While the e-newsletter has a lot of information for expectant mothers, it has beneficial information for expectant fathers too. Several articles discuss the important role a father plays during pregnancy and child development.

"A benefit of this newsletter is that parents get to look forward to upcoming stages of a child's life and better understand his current behavior and what he is capable of doing developmentally. This allows the parent to have more reasonable expectations for each of their children, and gives them a better idea of guiding and disciplining without needing to punish," Gnatuk said.

An advantage of having the publication online is that, when new research becomes available, the specialists can update the newsletters much quicker than paper publications.

Parents can choose to download the newsletters directly from the site or subscribe to have them delivered periodically to their e-mail address. They are available online at http://www.extension.org/pages/Just_In_Time_Parenting_eNewsletters.

The school-age and teen sections are still under development for the eXtension Web site, but Gnatuk said parents with questions may visit "Parenting 24/7," a Web site hosted by the  University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service at http://parenting247.org/.