Don’t Get Mad, Get Involved: Helping Your Child with Class Behavioral Issues

No parent likes hearing that their child is acting out in class. At first, most of us want to blame ourselves and figure out what we’ve done wrong. When we come up empty, we tend to put the blame on our child, and sometimes we even get angry.

The truth is, parents do the best they can and so do their children. There are a myriad of reasons why children act out at school.

Big Changes

A divorce, move to a new city, or death in the family are big life events that are hard on everyone. This is particularly true for young children who do not know how to express their feelings and have not yet developed coping mechanisms.

Sleep Issues

Has something happened to interrupt your child’s sleep patterns? Are they not getting their naps? Are they waking up frequently during the night from noisy neighbors or growing pains? Even adults act out when we don’t get proper sleep.

Self-Esteem Issues

Children develop self-esteem issues for different reasons, but one of the ramifications is changes in mood that can lead to disruptive behavior.

These are some of the reasons why your child may be acting out in school. But now the questions becomes, what can you do about it as their parent?

Talk to Your Child

First, see if you can pinpoint the cause. If it’s not something already listed, do some digging. Take your child to the doctor. Is their hearing and sight okay? Do they have any GI trouble? Are they being picked on? Are they getting enough exercise? Talk openly with your child and ask them what is going on.

Set Boundaries

If your child has never had any problems acting out in the past, they may not be clear on what is and is NOT acceptable behavior. Make it clear what you expect from that at home as well as school.

Seek Counseling

You may be able to identify and solve the issue yourself. For example, if your child was frustrated from their poor eyesight, a trip to the eye doctor may quickly solve your problems. However, if the behavioral issue stems from a big life change or poor self-esteem, you may need the assistance of a trained behavioral therapist.

If you have a child who is acting out in school and are interested in exploring treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

Sources:

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/childhood-behavioral/2018/07/8-reasons-why-your-child-might-be-having-prolonged-behavior-issues-that-arent-concerning/

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/parenting-tips/2012/07/7-hints-for-setting-boundaries-with-your-kids/

https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/children-medication.aspx

More Than a Twitch: # Signs That Your Child May Have Tic Disorder

Many children have their own unique methods of coping with the stresses of life. Come to think of it, many adults have their own coping strategies as well. Unlike adults, who often turn to things like alcohol and drugs to cope with stressful situations, children often use their body to self-soothe. Sometimes these motions are intentional, like rocking back and forth, and sometimes these movement are involuntary, as when a tic develops.

What Exactly is a Tic?

Tics are a form of abnormal, repetitive, unintentional movements or vocalizations that do not necessarily follow a rhythm or pattern like rocking does. There is usually a strong, uncontrollable urge to tic, followed by the movement, which releases tension in the child. While adults can have tics, they usually present in childhood.

What Causes Tics?

The exact cause of tics is not known, though it is believed a combination of genetics and brain abnormalities play a role. Tic disorders often run in families and can be worsened by environmental factors such as low birth weight and maternal smoking during pregnancy. Stress and lack of sleep can definitely exacerbate symptoms.

Signs of Tic Disorder

• Your child is under the age of 18.

• Symptoms present usually before the age of puberty.

• While female children can develop a tic, boys are twice as likely.

• Common tics include eye blinking, facial grimaces, shoulder shrugging, repetitive touching, or straightening the arms or legs.

• Simple vocal tics include throat clearing, sniffing, and grunting.

Tics can worsen when you child is stressed or tired and will often diminish when they are calm and rested. You may notice your child’s tics change over time, and they may also have tic-free periods that can last weeks or even months, only to have the same tic or a new tic appear.

Treatments for Tic Disorder

Many times a tic disorder won’t disrupt a child’s life and in time will end on its own. However, there are those times when the symptoms are severe enough that they cause the child stress and interferer with their schooling and social life. In these instances medication or behavioral therapy can reduce the severity of the symptoms. Relaxation techniques are also commonly used to decrease the frequency of the tics.

If your child is showing signs of tic disorder and you’d like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/provisional-tic-disorder

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/persistent-chronic-motor-or-vocal-tic-disorder

https://psychcentral.com/disorders/transient-tic-disorder-symptoms/

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.

4 Fun Activities for You & Your ADHD Child

If you have a child who has been diagnosed with ADHD, you know one of the main symptoms is hyperactivity. In other words, your child may seem to have an excess of energy, and all of that energy needs to be channeled.

Unfortunately, modern kids are far less physically active than kids from just 20 years ago. It used to be natural for kids to be outside running around and riding bikes, but many of today’s kids spend their time sedentary, watching television, and playing video games.

Clinical psychologists and psychotherapists are taking note of this change and expressing concern. Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School has said, “Being outside provides ADHD children with a more open environment to appropriately express their energy.”

And psychotherapist Terry Matlen, ACSW, agrees, “Children who are hyperactive and impulsive can release tension far easier being outside running, jumping, swinging, and playing sports than sitting indoors.”

If you want to reduce ADD/ADHD symptoms in your child, help them get their body moving. As a bonus, all of this physical movement will help your child improve their balance, coordination, and other gross motor skills.

Here are some fun activities you can enjoy with them.

Riding Bikes

Not only is bike riding a terrific aerobic exercise that is gentle on growing bones and joints (as well as aging bones and joints!), it’s a great way to explore your neighborhood or local community. When we drive by places in our cars, we tend to overlook many of the details and things that make our local communities special. But when we ride our bikes, we can take in much more.

Family Sports

If you’re lucky enough to have family members nearby, consider having a weekly family team sporting event. This could be family soccer games, touch football games, softball games, or whatever you come up with. Make the prizes fun, like losers cook winners’ dinner or losers mow winners’ lawn.

Yard Work

Speaking of mowing the lawn, having your kids help out with yard work can be a great way to spend time together while getting important tasks accomplished. Painting fences, raking leaves, and hauling things in the wheelbarrow are great ways for your kid to release energy. Plus, when you’ve completed a project together, your child will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Treasure Hunt

Whether it’s in your backyard, at the local park, or in a forest at the end of town, a treasure hunt is a creative way to get your kid exploring in the great outdoors, moving their body, and having an awesome time. Your treasure hunt could have an educational theme, like finding and solving math problems to get the next clue or learning about American Presidents with each treasure found.

 

Kids with ADD/ADHD are constantly being told to calm down and sit still. So getting them outdoors where they can move their bodies and explore will not only calm their hyperactivity and impulsiveness, but will also make them feel better about themselves.

If you or a loved one has a child that has been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

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.

Why You Should Limit Phone Time For Your Teen

When your child was small, they most likely couldn’t go to bed at night unless they had their favorite blanky or stuffed animal. Well, just because they’re “all grown up” doesn’t mean they still don’t have dependencies. Teens today can’t seem to go to bed, or anywhere else for that matter, without their beloved smartphone by their side.

When I was a teenager, my friends and I would go out bowling or to get a pizza. We’d actually make eye contact with one another and, you know, talk. But pay attention to the gaggles of teens in malls and other public spaces and they all have their heads down, eyes glued to their phones! It would seem cellphones are the modern security blanket and no teen wants to be without theirs.

In this way, you could almost classify this dependency on technology as an outright addiction. A strong word for sure, but perhaps one that fits perfectly in this case.

The University of Maryland conducted a study as part of The World Unplugged project where researchers evaluated students from 10 different countries to see what would happen when the students had to forgo their phones for 24 hours. Their results were eye opening. They found that the majority of students experienced distressed during this 24-hour period.

Another large-scale study involving more than 2,500 college students found that 60% of them admitted to being addicted to their phone.

But this addiction can sometimes lead to unhealthy mental behaviors. For instance, researchers at the Catholic University of Daegu in South Korea found that teens who used their smartphones the most showed troubling psychological issues such as aggression, depression, anxiety and tended to withdrawal more.

While more research is needed, and while not everyone in the mental health community categorizes cellphone addiction as a real disorder, yet, it is clear that teens are having trouble curbing their own technological desires.

Signs Your Teen May be Addicted to Their Phone

How do you prevent your own kid from experiencing the aggression, depression and anxiety associated with overuse of a smartphone? First, you must recognize signs that there may be a problem:

– They feel the need to respond to everything immediately. They seem unable to resist that urge.
– They constantly check their phone, even when it isn’t ringing or vibrating. This behavior actually has a name and is called ‘phantom vibration’. This is a definite sign that your teen may have an addiction.
– They are disconnected from the real world and ignore what is happening right in front of them.
– They feel anxious and even angry when they are away from their phone.

What You Can Do?

First, try speaking with your teen about their phone use. They may or may not be receptive to the talk, but it’s a good idea to make the effort before you suddenly throw down new cellphone rules and regulations.

Next, set some rules. Understand this will be hard for your teen to accept, so go a bit easy. You may want to start by saying cellphones are not allowed at the dinner table. Of course, you as a parent must follow your own rules.

Next, you might want to enforce a “no bedtime” rule. Studies have found electronic equipment like laptops and cellphones hinder sleep. Try and encourage your teen to leave their phone in their bag and try some quiet time before bed by reading or listening to music.

Above all, encourage your teen to start regulating their own behaviors. That’s what growing up is all about. Ask for their input before setting rules but be firm about enforcing them.

If you find you have trouble speaking with your teen, you may want to seek the guidance of a trained therapist who can facilitate communication and offer tools for managing any upsets moving forward.

If you would like to explore family treatment options, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

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.

Why You Should Limit Phone Time with Your Teens

When your child was small, they most likely couldn’t go to bed at night unless they had their favorite blanky or stuffed animal. Well, just because they’re “all grown up” doesn’t mean they still don’t have dependencies. Teens today can’t seem to go to bed, or anywhere else for that matter, without their beloved smartphone by their side.

When I was a teenager, my friends and I would go out bowling or to get a pizza. We’d actually make eye contact with one another and, you know, talk. But pay attention to the gaggles of teens in malls and other public spaces and they all have their heads down, eyes glued to their phones! It would seem cellphones are the modern security blanket and no teen wants to be without theirs.

In this way, you could almost classify this dependency on technology as an outright addiction. A strong word for sure, but perhaps one that fits perfectly in this case.

The University of Maryland conducted a study as part of The World Unplugged project where researchers evaluated students from 10 different countries to see what would happen when the students had to forgo their phones for 24 hours. Their results were eye opening. They found that the majority of students experienced distressed during this 24-hour period.

Another large-scale study involving more than 2,500 college students found that 60% of them admitted to being addicted to their phone.

But this addiction can sometimes lead to unhealthy mental behaviors. For instance, researchers at the Catholic University of Daegu in South Korea found that teens who used their smartphones the most showed troubling psychological issues such as aggression, depression, anxiety and tended to withdrawal more.

While more research is needed, and while not everyone in the mental health community categorizes cellphone addiction as a real disorder, yet, it is clear that teens are having trouble curbing their own technological desires.

Signs Your Teen May be Addicted to Their Phone

How do you prevent your own kid from experiencing the aggression, depression and anxiety associated with overuse of a smartphone? First, you must recognize signs that there may be a problem:

– They feel the need to respond to everything immediately. They seem unable to resist that urge.
– They constantly check their phone, even when it isn’t ringing or vibrating. This behavior actually has a name and is called ‘phantom vibration’. This is a definite sign that your teen may have an addiction.
– They are disconnected from the real world and ignore what is happening right in front of them.
– They feel anxious and even angry when they are away from their phone.

What You Can Do?

First, try speaking with your teen about their phone use. They may or may not be receptive to the talk, but it’s a good idea to make the effort before you suddenly throw down new cellphone rules and regulations.

Next, set some rules. Understand this will be hard for your teen to accept, so go a bit easy. You may want to start by saying cellphones are not allowed at the dinner table. Of course, you as a parent must follow your own rules.

Next, you might want to enforce a “no bedtime” rule. Studies have found electronic equipment like laptops and cellphones hinder sleep. Try and encourage your teen to leave their phone in their bag and try some quiet time before bed by reading or listening to music.

Above all, encourage your teen to start regulating their own behaviors. That’s what growing up is all about. Ask for their input before setting rules but be firm about enforcing them.

If you find you have trouble speaking with your teen, you may want to seek the guidance of a trained therapist who can facilitate communication and offer tools for managing any upsets moving forward.

If you would like to explore family treatment options, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

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.