Jennifer Hanes, DO
Dr. Hanes is a mom of a seven-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son, an emergency physician who’s board-certified in integrative medicine, and the author of The Princess Plan: Shrink Your Waist, Expand Your Beauty, in Austin, TX.
What’s your favorite parenting tip? When my kids were babies, I started to teach them sign language. Most people use sign language while their kids are babies, but then they stop using it when their kids begin to talk. I found that continuing to sign has tremendous benefits for toddlers, and beyond. For example, when my kids were toddlers and we were at a park, if one of them was misbehaving, I could sign to them to stop, rather than calling them out in front of their friends. Also, sometimes my kids were able to sign things before they were quite able to say them.
I think that knowing sign language also helped my kids learn to read. Sign language is very logical, and it helped them to learn their letter sounds and how to spell. For example, some words, such as park, are finger-spelled. So to sign park you actually sign the letters P, A, R, K. So my son could spell park at a very early age.
Sign language is very easy to learn. One day when my daughter was five years old, she was signing with a deaf girl at the playground. The little girl’s mom was very touched, and I was so proud!
What surprised you most about parenting? How exhausting it is!
How do you get your kids to eat healthy food? I give my kids exotic foods like mashed avocados and black beans. They enjoy a wide variety of foods, not just typical “kids” foods.
How do you work exercise into your family’s life? I fit in some exercise time when my kids are at the playground, playing on the equipment with them. I’ve lost more than 70 pounds since my son was born!
How do you recharge your batteries? I take a yoga class once a week.
Dr. Hanes’s Q&As