By Ron Huxley, LMFT
Some children find school an exhilarating challenge, while others are overwhelmed. Parents of young children can help them by being more involved in school. If you have the time or a flexible work schedule, you can participate in the classroom one day a week. This affords you the opportunity to observe your child and to help the teacher, who probably has his or her hands full. You can see what problems your child has adjusting to the school routines and find ways, by modeling the teacher, to help your child. Your presence also gives the younger child a feeling of security to know mom or dad is close by. Unfortunately some parents do not have this flexibility to take off a day and participate in their child’s classroom. You can still stay involved by attending parent/teacher conferences, calling the teacher periodically to see how your child is doing, and keeping informed about overall school events as well as your child’s individual performance.
Parents can also reduce their child’s school daze by helping them learn good study skills and overcome homework malaise. Self-discipline can be a difficult trait to build, but it is crucial to academic success. While IQ is important, a child’s feeling of confidence in herself and her ability to master a subject is also critically important. Make sure your child knows how to study and finds it a positive, rewarding experience. You can do this by using the “Homework Hassles” parenting tool. In addition, you should encourage children’s natural curiosity to learn. Provide opportunities to discover new things. Get excited about your child’s projects, both at home and school. Post school work on the refrigerator door as if they are pieces of famous artwork. And talk regularly with your child about his feelings about school. Is he afraid of another student? Does he think the teacher is nice or mean? What is it like riding the bus, or eating school cafeteria food, or playing at recess? Who are his friends and why does he like them? Even busy parents can find time for these discussions.
Use communication parenting tools to validate a child’s feelings about school without getting caught up in them at the same time. Remember that empathizing with a child (hearing about feelings and acknowledging their validity) is different from sympathizing with a child (feeling what they feel, be it mad, overwhelmed, or dazed). The former allows the parent to help solve problems while the latter get parents caught up emotionally in the problem.
FREE Parenting Tool: Behavior chart to help your son or daughter find some success (and you find your sanity) at home and school. Click here to download right away!
Night Terrors: What are they and why do they occur? -
Most parents have comforted their child after the occasional nightmare. But if your child has ever experienced what’s known as a night terror (or sleep terror), his or her fear was likely inconsolable, no matter what you tried.
A night terror is a sleep disruption that seems similar to a nightmare, but with a far more dramatic presentation. Though night terrors can be alarming for parents who witness them, they’re not usually cause for concern or a sign of a deeper medical issue.
During a typical night, sleep occurs in several stages. Each is associated with particular brain activity, and it’s during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage that most dreaming occurs.
Night terrors happen during deep non-REM sleep. Unlike nightmares (which occur during REM sleep), a night terror is not technically a dream, but more like a sudden reaction of fear that happens during the transition from one sleep phase to another.
Night terrors usually occur about 2 or 3 hours after a child falls asleep, when sleep transitions from the deepest stage of non-REM sleep to lighter REM sleep, a stage where dreams occur. Usually this transition is a smooth one. But rarely, a child becomes agitated and frightened — and that fear reaction is a night terror.
During a night terror, a child might suddenly sit upright in bed and shout out or scream in distress. The child’s breathing and heartbeat might be faster, he or she might sweat, thrash around, and act upset and scared. After a few minutes, or sometimes longer, a child simply calms down and returns to sleep.
Unlike nightmares, which kids often remember, kids won’t have any memory of a night terror the next day because they were in deep sleep when it happened — and there are no mental images to recall.
What Causes Night Terrors?
Night terrors are caused by over-arousal of the central nervous system (CNS) during sleep. This may happen because the CNS (which regulates sleep and waking brain activity) is still maturing. Some kids may inherit a tendency for this over-arousal — about 80% who have night terrors have a family member who also experienced them or sleepwalking (a similar type of sleep disturbance).
Night terrors have been noted in kids who are:
· overtired or ill, stressed, or fatigued
· taking a new medication
· sleeping in a new environment or away from home
Night terrors are relatively rare — they happen in only 3-6% of kids, while almost every child will have a nightmare occasionally. Night terrors usually occur between the ages of 4 and 12, but have been reported in kids as young as 18 months. They seem to be a little more common among boys.
A child might have a single night terror or several before they cease altogether. Most of the time, night terrors simply disappear on their own as the nervous system matures.
Coping With Night Terrors
Night terrors can be very upsetting for parents, who might feel helpless at not being able to comfort or soothe their child. The best way to handle a night terror is to wait it out patiently and make sure the child doesn’t get hurt by thrashing around. Kids usually will settle down and return to sleep on their own in a few minutes.
It’s best not to try to wake kids during a night terror. Attempts usually don’t work, and kids who do wake are likely to be disoriented and confused, and may take longer to settle down and go back to sleep.
There’s no treatment for night terrors, but you can help prevent them. Try to:
· reduce your child’s stress
· establish and stick to a bedtime routine that’s simple and relaxing
· make sure your child gets enough rest
· prevent your child from becoming overtired by staying up too late
Understanding night terrors can reduce your worry — and help you get a good night’s sleep yourself. But if night terrors happen repeatedly, talk to your doctor about whether a referral to a sleep specialist is needed.
Could Your Child Have Too Much Self-Esteem? -
Parenting in the Middle Ground
As with most parenting challenges, we are called upon to strike an all-too-elusive balance between two extremes: the tough love approach, typified by “tiger mom” Amy Chua, who advocates criticism, corporal punishment and name-calling of children who must earn their self-esteem through accomplishments, and the phony praise approach, common among some modern American parents, who cheer their children on whether they’ve earned it or not.
There’s more to effective parenting than either extreme offers. Here are a few ways to find the middle ground:
Keep it Real. High self-esteem isn’t a problem — it’s false self-esteem that knocks kids off course. Instead of applauding your child’s every move, reserve your praise for noteworthy accomplishments and behaviors. Praise should go beyond accomplishments to include personality traits that make your child who they are, such as being a good friend, telling the truth and working hard.
When you do praise your child, be specific and focus on effort rather than the end result. Telling your child you’re proud of all the effort they put in to getting an A on their test is more helpful than saying, “You’re so smart.” Knowing exactly what they did well will enhance your child’s sense of self-worth.
Encourage Strategic Risk-Taking. Self-esteem forms when children challenge themselves. Create opportunities for your child to try new things, and when fears and setbacks arise, encourage them to keep trying rather than giving up or rescuing them.
Acknowledge Strengths and Weaknesses. Children need to know that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. If you pretend your child is great at everything, this may artificially inflate their ego or send the message that perfection is expected — a set-up for low self-esteem.
Embrace Mistakes. Overprotective parents do a disservice to their children’s self-esteem. From mistakes and setbacks children develop resiliency and faith that they are worthy even if they don’t always “win.” Share your own stories of overcoming obstacles and work through problems with your child so they can be successful next time.
Love Unconditionally. Self-esteem flourishes when children know that you will always love and accept them (though you may not always like their behavior or decisions). This message comes through clearly when parents are generous with their affection and listen attentively to their children’s thoughts and feelings.
Reward Social Success. True self-esteem stems from close ties with other people. A 2012 study shows that positive social relationships during youth are better predictors of adult happiness than academic success or financial prosperity. In addition to reinforcing a child’s intellect or athleticism, celebrate their ability to empathize with or help others and encourage them to participate in activities that build social connections.
Avoid Comparisons. Your child needs to be respected for their individual talents and abilities. Resist the temptation to compare your child to their friends or siblings, even if the message is positive. Instead, emphasize your child’s strengths and help them work on their weak spots.
Set Realistically-High Expectations. Children do best when they know what is expected of them. Set clear rules and consequences and follow through when a rule is broken. This predictability lets kids know that discipline and constructive criticism aren’t personal attacks but violations of pre-established rules.
The Byproduct of a Healthy Relationship
The so-called “self-esteem movement” is not a complete abomination. Kids should feel “good enough” and “smart enough,” so long as those sentiments don’t cross the line into “better than” or “smarter than,” particularly if they’re not based on genuine accomplishments and abilities. As parents, this is one area where we can start taking it easy — no more nurturing self-esteem for its own sake but instead doing the things that naturally build self-esteem, like spending quality time as a family.
(Repairable) Damage done today:
1 toilet paper holder broken off wall
2 curtains pulled down
3 15 towels full of pee
4 pack and play (that they were not in) broken
5 crib sheet torn
6 holes in walls = 3
7 1 broken necklace
8 2 questionable stains on the wall
9 puzzle ruined from landing in pee puddle
10 milk spilled on pillow
11 floor still sticky after being mopped twice
The radical commitment of foster parents!
Identifying Teens at Risk for PTSD:
Many teens are exposed to emotionally traumatic events, putting them at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A new study found online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry helps clinicians target those who are most vulnerable to developing PTSD.
Researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital analyzed data on 6,483 teen–parent pairs from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, a survey of the prevalence and correlates of mental disorders in the United States.
They discovered that 61 percent of the teens (ages 13 to 17) had been exposed to at least one potentially traumatic event in their lifetime, including interpersonal violence (such as rape, physical abuse or witnessing domestic violence), injuries, natural disasters and the death of a close friend or family member.
Nineteen percent had experienced three or more such events.
Investigators determined the risk factors associated most strongly with trauma exposure included:
Of all teens exposed to trauma, 4.7 percent had experienced PTSD under DSM-IV diagnostic criteria.
Risk factors for PTSD included:
Recovery from PTSD was complicated if the teen:
Need help for your teenager and live in the Redding, California area? Ron Huxley, founder of the Parenting Toolbox, is open to helping families through his private practice starting September 2013. If you prefer a consultation (not therapy) via Skype or email, click on the “Parenting Answers” link here or contact Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are a lot of very good parenting techniques available to parents in the form of parenting books, videos and classes. I have written and taught them myself. What you don’t often hear about is how to “do” parenting when the rubber hits the road. How do you get through the daily grind of life and keep a cheerful face and engage your child (or for some us multiple children)? My best parenting advice is this: Be silly. I know, parenting should be serious, shouldn’t it? The truth is that it is serious way too often.
Silliness is a useful way to lighten up the mood in the home and to engage bored or irritable children. Over the years I have used variations on the silly theme with mostly good effect. Here’s a few to try on and see how they fit for you:
Change the game rules Parents can get exhausted playing the same old game of “Go Fish” or “Sorry.” Anything done hundreds of times can be hum drum. Spice it up by changing the game rules. Use a pirate voice when playing a card game. “Argh, give me your fours!” Narrate the characters in the book you read at bedtime every night. Act it out instead of reading it. This weekend I played my niece, nephews and grandson Ping Pong Poetry. Every time you hit the ball you have to rhyme a word: Ping, sing, ring, thing, king, etc. It resulted in several belly laughs.
Tell a joke This is perhaps the simplest silly strategy. Have a long car ride? Tell a few Knock-Knock jokes. OK, you might have to do a Google search first to come up with a few but it will be worth the research! I have one I told me kids over and over again. They groaned every time I would start to tell it but I could tell by their smiles they loved the “tradition” of it as well. Want to hear it? “How do you make a hanky (handkerchief) dance? Put a little boogie in it.” Made you laugh? I know it is a little irreverent but isn’t that the point here?
Make up a song Need to get your kids to focus and march in a file through a store without touching everything? Come up with a marching song and sing it (quietly) as you go down the aisles. Preschool teachers do this all the time to get kids to clean up their mess and move to a new classroom activity. Use it at home too.
Food can be fun Got a picky eater? Dinner time always turns into a fight? Use the food to create some fun. Put coloring food into the milk. Make a game out of how slowly you can eat. Wiggle your nose at others around the table and see who can catch who doing it. Eat in courses, switch seats for each one or use your opposite eating hand to do it. Make faces out of the foot as you place it on the plate. We often use special pancake forms on the griddle to make dinosaur shapes. A lot of food is package in shapes of animals or other character. I enjoy biting their heads off. Sorry, but I do. Have a crunching contest - keeps kids focused and eating mom!
Wear funny slippers My sister-in-law came over for the weekend and wore fluffy pink slippers most of the weekend. She was comfortable and the kids loved making fun of her. Keep a full house of people energized and in good humor. Alternate this strategy by wearing bright clothing, mix patterns or act cool in your shades. I am sure you have a few silly tricks up your sleeve.
Share them with us by leaving a comment or Facebook post or Tweet us! Let’s pool our silliness ideas together and use it to increase cooperation, enjoy each other more, and decrease stress levels.
Reposted from Parenting Toolbox April 2011.
Adoption Parties’ Help Form New Families:
According to the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), at one recent activity day event in Kent 34 out of 54 children found possible links to new foster parents.
The events are designed for people who are already well advanced in the adoption process.
They get to meet children at play while the youngsters enjoy face, painting, climbing and other activities.
The children’s foster parents or social workers attend the event to support them.
It is part of a scheme to help speed up the process and find adoptive parents for those children who may be more difficult to place.
More than 6,000 children are going through the adoption process with only 1,800 prospective parents approved and waiting for a child.
Sometimes parenting just seems like a game…that you can never win.
The other team has more energy, more time, and more players. To help parents improve the odds, we’ve come up with some new “game plans” that might even the score.
Follow the Leader is a parenting tool that can be used in two ways:
As a game; and as a “redirection” tool. When using this tool as a game, parents can invite their children to play “follow the leader.” This game is fun on family trips or vacations. Families with more than one child can have each child take turns leading the family hike or singing a song. The leader has the power to choose which forest path to take or which song to sing. Each child (and parent) gets the opportunity to be the leader, thereby encouraging equality and fairness. When used as a “redirection” tool controlling children can be direct their need to take charge of a particular task, such as getting the family together for dinner or organizing a wood gathering party for the campfire. This is a great game to replace power-struggling.
Freeze Play is a parenting tool variation of the old stand-by: Time-Out
Time-out is usually conducted by isolating or excluding a child from the rest of the family or classroom. In this traditional form children are sent to their room, a chair in the kitchen, outside the classroom door, or left facing a wall. Time-Out has a number of disadvantages, the primary one being that it involves the use of punishment that may seem harsh to some parents and children. Some children may become out-of-control or physically destructive when put in isolation or exclusion time-out. Fortunately, parents can use a different form of time-out, that behaviorists call “nonexclusionary time-out.”
Nonexclusionary time-out, like isolation and exclusionary time-out, eliminates reinforces (interaction with others). It accomplishes this by freezing the moment of interaction with the child for a very brief, but poignant amount of time. For example, if a child starts whining when told they must wait for dinner to eat, the parent can firmly but evenly, say, “freeze!” The parent then avoids eye contact (i.e., attention during the discipline) for a few seconds and the child is prohibited from communicating during this time. Afterwards the parent can nonchalantly carry on the task at hand or use Time-In or educational parenting tool. Be careful not to place too much emphasis on talking about the misbehavior afterwards as it might inadvertently reinforce the child to misbehave again for the attention it gains.
It might be necessary for the parent to tell the child what is going to happen during “freeze play” and the expectation that there will be no communication/eye contact during that time, so that the child knows why the parent is “acting this way.” In addition, the old rule of thumb for time-out, one minute for every year of life, can be used in Freeze Play by substituting seconds for minutes (e.g., one frozen second for every year of life.)
Huddling is a parenting tool shorten version of a family meeting without all the fuss or preparation time.
Huddling is a quick, informal, type of family meeting that any number of family members can have together and can occur at any time or place. Football players do this before every play to make sure the team knows what the plan is and to make clear everyone’s job. Family members can stop whatever they are doing to have a quick, little meeting about a specific problem or task. Parents can play the captain by telling the family to “huddle together.” Put arms around one another for support or just gather together in a circle, face in. Talk about the problem or task and assign jobs or ask for quick input. Decide on a plan of action and say “let’ go!” Parents can use this tool at the zoo to decide what they are going to go see first, at the restaurant to decide what everyone wants to eat, and at home to decide what toys need to be gathered up before going to the park. While these “game plans” don’t guarantee a winning season, they can coach parents on new ways to improve their performance and their satisfaction in parenting.
OK, let’s play!
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You can get more quick tips to change your family dynamics and have the family you dreamed about by contacting Ron now! Click here for more information.
The 101 on Fidgets:
I think of a fidget as any small item or toy that helps keep one’s hands busy and helps them focus while completing an activity. Almost anything can be a sensory fidget. Even basic household items or small party favor toys can make great fidgets. You can make your own fidgets, or buy them from catalogs, online or even in local stores such as Target, a party store, a craft store, or the dollar store.
A Toy or a Tool?
I have found fidgets to be a very helpful tool for me for many years. When I was much younger, I was taught that fidgets were to be used as a tool, and not like a toy. A tool is something that can help one focus, while a toy can distract both the individual playing with the fidget and others around them. This can be a hard thing for an individual to understand as some of the best fidgets that I have found are indeed toys, but they make great tools.
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