How to Help Your Young Child Get Ready for the School Year [After Summer Break]

It’s that time of year again when big yellow buses can be seen driving around the neighborhood and school bells begin ringing. Going back to school can definitely be an exciting time for parents and children.

But for some kids, especially younger ones, going back to school after a summer break can feel overwhelming and scary. While this can be fairly common, there are some things parents can do to help their child prepare for the new school year ahead:

Check Your own Emotions

Parents of young children may also find it a bit sad to send their child off to the first day of kindergarten or first grade. Your child will pick up on your emotions so be sure to put on a good face and show them good energy.

Shop and Talk

Young children that are very nervous about starting school may not want to talk about it. It’s a good idea to take your child shopping for their school supplies and clothes and use this time to try and discuss their feelings about things. Having an activity to do can often help a child express themselves better. Also, while you want your child to be able to express their fears and worries, try and steer the conversation towards things they may be looking forward to as well. Encourage them to recognize that although change is scary, it can also be really great and fun!

Practice

Summer was most likely filled with days and nights that did not fit a tight schedule. Your child may have been able to stay up longer and sleep in later. It will be a shock for them to suddenly have to go to bed early and get up to an alarm clock. Practice getting back into the proper sleep routine before the first week of school.

Connect with Future Classmates

If your child will not know anyone in their class, try to see if you can have a playdate before the school year begins so they can meet some new friends. This will make it much easier come that first day of school when they see a friendly and familiar face or two.

Get Guidance

If you feel the stress of starting a new school year is overwhelming and your youngster and you are having a hard time handling things on your own, seek expert advice from a mental health professional who can help both of you cope.

If you’d like some help with your child’s anxiety, please be in touch. I’d be more than happy to discuss treatment options.

 

SOURCES

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/therapy-soup/2018/08/get-ready-for-back-to-school-useful-advice-from-around-the-web/

https://psychcentral.com/news/2006/08/07/control-back-to-school-anxiety/160.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-race-good-health/201308/helping-your-child-transition-school

How to Practice Self-Care as a New Mother

While there are many surprises and challenges that await you in motherhood, one of the biggest shocks may be time management, or the feeling of being overwhelmed. No matter how happy and fulfilled you may be as a new mom, if you don’t take time out of your busy day to take care of yourself, you’re not giving your precious baby your best self. Ensuring that you practice self-care might seem like the lowest of your priorities, but being rested and cared for yourself is an essential part of being a mom.

While it will be challenging, it’s not impossible to make sure you take care of you. Below are some pointers that can help.

Get Your Sleep

While sleeping for a solid chunk of time may be a pipe dream for some, sleeping when your baby sleeps will allow you to get that much needed rest. If you’re worried that you won’t wake to baby’s cries, keep a baby monitor on your nightstand or bring the crib into your bedroom. Ignore the temptation to do chores while your baby sleeps, because it’s vital that you get your rest.

Stay Well Dressed

While it’s tempting to wear your maternity clothes out of convenience and to save money, it will help you feel your best to have comfortable clothes that fit. Get a couple of outfits in your size to wear until you get back to your pre-baby weight.

Make Time to Shower

If you neglect the simple routine of taking a shower, it will take a toll on your mental health. To make sure you shower regularly, try taking a shower when someone is home. You can also bring your baby in the bathroom with you, or take a quick shower while the baby is napping.

Accept Help

Regardless if you’re single or have a partner, trying to go it alone in caring for your baby is a big mistake. You may hate to ask for or accept help, but raising a baby is a lot of work. By recruiting help, you can make sure you have enough time to not only take care of the baby, but to take care of yourself. To try and do it all yourself does nothing but put unrealistic expectations on you, giving you feelings of guilt when you’re unable to accomplish the impossible. It’s important to ask for and accept help.

Make sure your partner is making an equal effort when it comes to baby’s care, and enlist the help of family and friends. If you have a friend that loves to cook, see if they’ll cook you an occasional meal. You might also ask for help with laundry, running errands, or babysitting (even if it’s just half an hour so you can take a long hot shower.)

 

Are you a new mom looking for parenting support and guidance? A licensed professional therapist can help. Call my office at your earliest convenience, and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.

3 Everyday Pronoun Exercises to Do with Your Toddler

Long before your baby has said her first word, she’s learned to communicate. Her responses to you – such as a cry or a smile – help you understand her needs. As your baby grows into a toddler, her communication will begin to develop. She will go from babbling, pointing and simple words (such as “mama” and “dada”) around 11 months, to understanding simple commands and saying two and three word phrases (such as “all gone” and “I see truck”) around age 2.

But not all children develop language at the same pace. Pronouns can be one of the most challenging things for any child to learn. Additionally, for children on the autism spectrum or who have a language or developmental delay, it’s very common to have difficulty with pronoun usage.

Teaching Pronouns

When teaching your toddler about pronouns, it’s important to always pair pronouns with gestures as a visual cue. For example, when you refer to yourself, pat your chest; when referring to your child, tap their chest. If you’re having the child refer to themselves with “I”, “me,” or “my”, take their hand and place it on their chest.

To help your toddler improve their use of pronouns, here are three simple exercises you can practice with them daily.

1. Photos, Books & Toys
Use your child’s books and toys to learn “he” and “she.” Identify toys with boy and girl faces, or gesture to pictures in books, and talk about “he” or “she”. You can also look at family photos with your child and point to people in the pictures. “Who is that? Yes, he is daddy. Daddy is a boy. Boys are ‘he’.”

2. The “Who wants?” Game
Take something your child loves, such as a doll, toy, crayons, or some kind of treat, then ask them, “Who wants this?” For example: “Who wants a piece of candy?” To teach them, you answer “I do!” You can also model “Me!” to mix it up, once they successfully repeat the first phrase. You can also use “this is for you” and “this is for me” as you hand the treat to the child or yourself to teach additional pronouns.

3. The “I Spy” Game
When you take your child shopping or to the park, point to something people are holding or wearing to show examples of he, she, her, and his. For example, if you see a girl wearing a pink dress you can say “I spy with my little eye, something pink.” When your child identifies the girl correctly, say, “That’s right, that girl is wearing pink. She is wearing a pink dress,” or “Yes, her dress is pink.”

 

Are you a parent concerned about your child’s speech and language development? A licensed speech-language pathologist can help. Please give me a call at your earliest convenience, so we can chat and book an appointment.

How to Lovingly Parent a Depressed Child

Being a parent is the hardest job on the planet. But being a parent of a child with a mental illness can feel unbearable at times.

All parents want to do what’s right for their kids, but when your child is sick, either physically or mentally, the desire to “get it right” becomes even more intense.

If you are the parent of a child with depression, know there’s isn’t one “right way” to parent them. Having said that, here are some ways you can support and show you love your child on their way back toward the light.

Accept Your New Reality

For many parents, accepting that your child has a mental illness is extremely difficult. It is natural to want to deny the truth and pretend that everything is the way it was before the diagnosis. But invalidating reality will only make your child feel shame. Accepting the truth will help your family take the necessary steps to getting the right help.

Communicate Openly

Your child needs you now more than ever. They need to feel that they can talk to you when their world feels dark. Sit your child down and tell them they can come to you at any time for any reason. Let them know you could never be angry at them for how they feel. When they are ready to talk, listen closely and with an open mind and heart.

Help Their Body

It’s a fact that an unhealthy body effects the mind, especially with a mental illness in play. Help your child’s recovery by encouraging healthy eating habits. Limit sugar, bad fats, and caffeine intake. Make sure they get plenty of exercise. Invite them to go for a hike or bike ride with you. And finally, help them get enough sleep each night by setting firm bed times.

Talk to Them About Suicide

It’s a conversation no parent ever imagines they’ll have to have. But for the parent of a depressed child, the risk of suicide is a sad reality. Start the conversation with your child. Ask if they’ve ever thought about suicide. Asking these questions in an objective way allows your child to speak candidly with you and share their true thoughts and feelings with you.

And understand that there is no danger of a person planting a thought of suicide in someone else’s mind if it’s not already there.

Get Help

Though you can be a big support in your child’s life, you’ll need the help and guidance of a trained mental health therapist. Talk to your pediatrician for a referral. You can also get a referral from local support groups and friends and family.

If you or a loved one has a child suffering with depression, you are not alone. Please contact me to discuss treatment options.

4 Tips for Parenting an Above Average Child

If you’re the parent of a gifted child, you may be challenged with a unique set of circumstances. Your gifted child might be mentally above average, but have difficulty interacting with their peers; they may be immature, impatient, or easily bored. Your friends and family may look on in awe at your child’s abilities, blissfully unaware of the difficulties you face on a daily basis. Here are four tips to help you parent your above average son or daughter.

1. Have Your Child Assessed
Although testing shouldn’t be the sole source of identifying a gifted student, tests are a good way to identify a gifted learner. Contact your school to have your child assessed for gifted classes or programs. Since there are no national guidelines for identifying gifted students, your school district will have its own standards. You can also have your child tested by a licensed psychologist experienced with gifted children.

2. Find Programs for Gifted Students
Your school district may have special programs or classes for gifted students. Search online or check with your local library for special classes or groups. You might even consider taking your child to a class or seminar that would interest them. This will give you special alone time with your child as well as help entertain and educate your gifted son or daughter. Finding special programs may require additional time and travel on your part, but it will provide your child with unique learning opportunities that will benefit them for a lifetime.

3. Help Them Improve Social Skills
While it’s important to help your gifted child in their search for knowledge, it’s sometimes easy to forget that it’s equally important to nurture their social and emotional development. Provide your child with opportunities to interact with their peers. Contact their school or the local park or community center to find out about social or interest groups that would benefit your child, or talk to other parents for recommendations.

4. Have Realistic Expectations
When you have a gifted learner for a child, you may come to always expect their extraordinary achievement and ease in learning. However, this is not realistic; your child may be gifted with math, but have more difficulty with reading and writing, or vice versa. It’s important to maintain reasonable expectations. These expectations may also include their behavior. Despite their amazing ability to learn, your son or daughter is still a child, and will not necessarily have the emotional maturity to match their intellectual maturity. Recognize and acknowledge your child’s strengths, and be patient and supportive when they need extra help.

For additional help and resources, visit the National Association for Gifted Children at http://www.nagc.org or the Davidson Institute at davidsongifted.org.

Are you having difficulty parenting your gifted child, and need the guidance of a licensed professional? Call my office at your earliest convenience, and let’s set up an appointment to talk.

How To Help Your Child Who Is Being Bullied

Watching your child endure bullying and harassment from their peers is a difficult and painful experience for most parents. We want our children to be happy and healthy, and when they hurt, we hurt.

Whether they’re at school or just looking at Snapchat on their phones, it can be virtually impossible to try and intervene or attempt to stop bullying behavior. Although you can take steps to protect your children as much as possible by contacting other parents or appropriate school staff, you can’t always be at your child’s side to protect them. One thing you can do, however, is empower them to handle difficult situations when you’re not around.

Listen

It’s important to let your child talk, and not just to hear them talk, but to listen, pay attention, and ask questions. Make sure to set aside a quiet time for you and your child to calmly talk about the events of the day. Put out their favorite healthy snack and find out how their day went. Be silent at times to quietly encourage your child to be more forthcoming. Be patient, as your child may be ashamed, afraid, or embarrassed to talk to you about their experience being bullied.

Talk

Ask open-ended questions to encourage your child to talk about their day. “What happened on the bus ride home today?” or “What did you do at recess?”

Support

Make sure your child knows that it’s not her fault she’s being bullied. Let her know that she doesn’t deserve what’s happened, that she deserves respect, and that she’s not alone. Your child should know that you always there for her. She should also know that she has the support of her teachers and principal, and that bullying is not tolerated at school.

Empower

Empower your child by teaching them to look at the color of their friend’s eyes. Looking at their bully in the eye in this same manner will help them look up so they can appear and feel more confident.

 

Bullying is an issue that doesn’t just affect children, it also affects adults. Throughout their lives your child will experience difficult people and situations. By learning at a young age how to best handle conflict, they will have a confidence and skill set that will benefit them for life.

If you or your child require additional help coping with bullying or harassment, you should seek out professional assistance from a licensed, trained clinician. Call my office today so we can set up an appointment to talk.

Mass Shootings: How to Talk to Your Kids

After the tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, certainly no one could imagine that over the next 20 years, 200 more school shootings would occur. In the first 79 days of 2018 alone, there were 12 school shootings, compared to 9 over the entire year of 2017. Sadly, school shootings are becoming an epidemic in the United States. As the nation struggles to find a solution to the violence, our kids’ safety and security hang in the balance.

How you talk to your kids about these tragedies varies by age and per individual child, but it’s important to take note that both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend avoiding the topic with children under 8. Kids under 8 have difficulty telling if the violence they’re watching at the movies or on TV is real or fantasy, which can cause great fear and anxiety. For this same reason, experts also recommend that children under 11 avoid watching the news entirely. At this young age, children’s brains have not yet developed enough to cope with violent tragedies, and exposure to these realities can be damaging psychologically.

For children over the age of 8, or if you believe your child might hear about the incident from others, first summarize the event in a single sentence. Keep in mind that your child will use your words to tell the story to themselves in their head, so choose your words carefully. What you say should also reflect your family’s beliefs and values. Speak in a calm and matter-of-fact tone of voice, as your emotional reaction will have a long lasting impact on your child, more so than your words. Children will have a lot of questions so try to stay focused on positives, such as the people that helped and the support of the community.

For pre-teens and teens, start by asking what they know. Ask how they feel, and listen carefully to what they say. If they don’t want to talk about it, that’s okay too.

Your child may want to do something to help. Discuss what you can do together to help the victims’ families, the school, or the community. Volunteering can help us cope with tragedy as we feel the positive effects of contributing and doing good for people in need.

 

If you or your child are struggling to cope emotionally because of an incident of mass violence, a licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today so we can schedule an appointment to talk.

How To Help Your Child Who Is Being Bullied

Watching your child endure bullying and harassment from their peers is a difficult and painful experience for most parents. We want our children to be happy and healthy, and when they hurt, we hurt.

Whether they’re at school or just looking at Snapchat on their phones, it can be virtually impossible to try and intervene or attempt to stop bullying behavior. Although you can take steps to protect your children as much as possible by contacting other parents or appropriate school staff, you can’t always be at your child’s side to protect them. One thing you can do, however, is empower them to handle difficult situations when you’re not around.

Listen

It’s important to let your child talk, and not just to hear them talk, but to listen, pay attention, and ask questions. Make sure to set aside a quiet time for you and your child to calmly talk about the events of the day. Put out their favorite healthy snack and find out how their day went. Be silent at times to quietly encourage your child to be more forthcoming. Be patient, as your child may be ashamed, afraid, or embarrassed to talk to you about their experience being bullied.

Talk

Ask open-ended questions to encourage your child to talk about their day. “What happened on the bus ride home today?” or “What did you do at recess?”

Support

Make sure your child knows that it’s not her fault she’s being bullied. Let her know that she doesn’t deserve what’s happened, that she deserves respect, and that she’s not alone. Your child should know that you always there for her. She should also know that she has the support of her teachers and principal, and that bullying is not tolerated at school.

Empower

Empower your child by teaching them to look at the color of their friend’s eyes. Looking at their bully in the eye in this same manner will help them look up so they can appear and feel more confident.

 

Bullying is an issue that doesn’t just affect children, it also affects adults. Throughout their lives your child will experience difficult people and situations. By learning at a young age how to best handle conflict, they will have a confidence and skill set that will benefit them for life.

If you or your child require additional help coping with bullying or harassment, you should seek out professional assistance from a licensed, trained clinician. Call my office today so we can set up an appointment to talk.

Tips to Talking Mental Health with Your Teen / Child

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with a mental illness, you know firsthand how the diagnosis can impact your life. Mental illness is not only challenging for adults to understand but children as well. With so many myths and misconceptions surrounding mental illness, it’s easy for young people to feel anxious and confused.

With this in mind, here are some tips on how you can speak to your child about mental health.

Be Open

Your child is most likely noticing a change or difference in behavior from mom, dad, or another relative with mental illness. There is no point in keeping it a secret. Be open about the diagnosis and give the illness a name (depression, bipolar disorder…). Doing so will help alleviate some fear and insecurities as well as clear up any incorrect assumptions.

Alleviate Fault or Responsibility

Most kids naturally feel they want to help fix mommy or daddy, or they may feel something they did caused their loved one to not be well.

Reassure your child and explain that the illness is not their fault nor their responsibility.

Invite Their Honesty

While you may feel you need to keep a stiff upper lip for your spouse or loved one’s benefit, your kids should feel free to openly express their feelings, whether these feelings be fear, sadness, or anger. Listen to whatever they say without judging what they say.

Invite Questions

Your kids will have a lot of them, so invite them to ask. If they don’t feel comfortable asking questions face-to-face, use a journal. They can write down any questions they want, and you’ll write the answer and give it back to them. Knowing they can come to you and that you are still the parent will give them a much-needed sense of calm and security.

Communicate at a Level that is Age Appropriate

Preschool-age children will need different language than teenagers. They will need less details, whereas older children will want more details. School-age children will take the information shared and begin to worry what it means for them and the family. Be prepared to answer many questions concerning their safety and security.

And teenagers are a unique bunch – you will have to follow your teen’s lead. Some may speak openly, already aware to a certain extent about mental health issues. Some may seem withdrawn and not speak much at all. You will want to continue to check in with them to make sure they are doing okay.

 

Talking to your kids about mental health won’t be easy, but as long as you follow these tips, you will have an opportunity to share important information and offer love, support, and guidance.

If you feel you and your family could use some extra support in discussing a loved one’s mental illness, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to talk about counseling options with you.

How to Prepare Your Toddler to Be an Older Sibling

Telling your toddler that they are no longer going to be your only baby, is one of the toughest tasks you’d face as a parent. Becoming an older sibling is a huge transition for toddlers to make, and the arrival of a new baby brings a lot of changes to a family. It’s natural for parents to shift most of their attention to the new baby. However, it’s often hard for the older sibling(s) to adjust to these changes. They may start feeling jealous or neglected and react to these feelings by acting out.

You can make this transition smooth for your toddler, and make them excited to become an older sibling by preparing them adequately. To make this process easier, here are 5 simple ways you can prepare your toddler.

1. Break the news properly – Tell your toddler in a simple way, that ‘mommy is carrying a new baby, and you’re going to become a big brother/sister.’ Toddlers have a limited understanding of time, so it’s better to tell them when you’re almost due. By then you’d be showing, and they don’t have to wait too long to meet the baby.

2. Reassure them – Spend more time cuddling and doing fun activities with your toddler. Reassure them by saying things like ‘you will always be my special baby’. This will help with any feelings of jealousy and confusion they may be experiencing.

3. Make them part of the process – Take them through the pregnancy journey with you. Read books about babies together, and let them help you pick stuff for the new baby. Show them pictures from the ultrasound, let them feel the baby kick and ask them questions like, do you think the baby is going to have brown hair like you?

4. Give them a present – Give them something they’ve always wanted and say it’s from the baby. It will make them feel like they have a new friend.

5. Give your toddler tasks – It’s important to make your child feel like they’re taking on the new, huge role of being a big sister or brother rather than losing their position as the baby of the house. Let your toddler help you with little things like handing you diapers, and picking out clothes for the baby. Remind them that they get to do cool things like teaching the baby how to play their favorite games and songs.

Your kids are going to be the best of friends eventually, but remember that it’s not going to happen immediately. Be patient with your toddler and let them see that having a new sibling means they get a new playmate and best friend who’s also family. Walk with them through the process, and always reassure them of your love.

If your toddler is having trouble adjusting to having a new baby in the house, you can contact me to book a session.