Tag Archives: support for parents

How to Avoid Un-Teachable Moments


Un-teachable Moments: those times when you wish your kid didn’t just see or hear that? Ever happen to you? 

How to Protect Kids from the Bad News: 

There is so much disaster, confusion and tragedy in the world right now. 

Exposure to a constant barrage of information about disasters and unstable political leaders flowing into our homes creates unintended consequences in terms of creating anxiety, uncertainty and stress. 

It’s all happening now, in real time, on our phones, on Alexa, in our cars – virtually anywhere. And it can be frightening for small children. 

Brain imprinting on developing brains:

What kind of imprint does all of this leave on children? 

All young children need to feel safe and secure, in order to grow their sense of well-being and their ability to courageously navigate their world. They do not yet have sufficient defenses to protect their innocent brains and imagination against a barrage of images and events. These horrific images create a primary imprint that becomes a future frame of reference for a young child. 

“I saw it and now I can’t un-see it,”

said a girl about a video she had inadvertently seen where somebody was shot and killed. 

Rresearch shows that chronic stress and fear is associated with significant brain changes, and possibly shows that toxic experiences actually re-form the architecture of developing brains. 
How do we protect the kids? It’s no longer 1960 when grown ups waited  until the kids are asleep for the grown ups to “catch up” on the news. 

It’s all around us. 

How to Protect and Convey Information to Young Kids: 

1. First, you can’t “un-teach” horrific images. Images become embedded in the young mind, with few defenses to protect it. Protect children from images that they aren’t equipped to handle. 

2. Limit discussing current events until YOU are emotionally regulated enough to share the information with your child at their level. 

Use my “SALT” method: 

S: SENSITIVE: be sensitive to the environment you want to create around your child. 

A: ATTUNED: become attuned to your child’s emotional state and your own emotional state when talking about issues

L: LOOK AND LISTEN: look at your child’s face carefully for reactions that they may not be able to express. Listen to their questions and reactions – answer their questions at their level. 

T:TRANSLATE: translate what you want to share in bite-size, kid-appropriate sound bites. News can be gruesome and scary.  They don’t need to know everything! 

Also: 

REASSURE: reassure your child that they are safe and you will always take care of them. 

PROTECT: above all, Protect your child from images that they shouldn’t be seeing. Save your frustration and rants over with your friends instead of using your kid as an inadvertent sounding board. 

Hopefully, with added vigilance, there will be less moments that you wish you could “unteach” – 

With wishes for a calmer world in this new year! 

 

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Talking about Those Winter Blues

Does your child's mood affect everyone in the home?
Does your child’s mood affect everyone in the home?

It is the season of the blues. Whether it is caused by lack of sunlight, too little outdoor time or post-holiday season let-down, many people are starting to feel down in the dumps – right about now. It’s not just adults, but kids too. In fact, kids can begin to feel particularly edgy as winter progresses. There may be lots of reasons for that, but I want to look at how a child’s mood can affect your mood as a parent.
Parents are like most other adults: they are subject to bouts of happiness or sadness, euphoria or depression, optimism or despondency. However unlike adults without children, parents are more likely to feel these emotions based on how their children are feeling.

As the expression goes, ‘you are only as happy as your least happy child.’

When your child is struggling, it’s hard to not let it get you down.  It’s only natural to be upset by seeing the challenges that your atypical child encounters daily.  But if you let it affect your mood, then you can’t help your child regulate his or her moods, right? Grouchy kid, grouchy mom? Not a good combination.  You have to be at your best,  so that you can help your child learn how to regulate their moods and their mental outlook.  We naturally help children self regulate; one way is by  modeling encouraging self talk:  “you can do it!” or “it’s going to be ok, just relax”, or “it will only hurt for a minute, you can handle it”, these are important prompts to help encourage kids to model appropriate reactions.

But what happens when your mood becomes so submerged with your child’s mood   that you can’t distinguish your bad mood from their bad mood? Does this mean that your own mood regulator is broken or simply you have lost the divider between what is your own mood and your child’s mood?

Separating your mood state from that of your child is important. Adults often submerge their individual identities as they raise children, they become “a family 24/7” rather than an individual in a family. This is partially a normal response but it can go too far.

Here is an example: you are on a double date with another couple and you haven’t  been out with adult company for months.  You want to enjoy yourself but you can’t because you keep remembering your child’s morose face when you left and you keep ruminating on how much homework he has and wondering if he is able to do it without you and if she was able to eat dinner without you monitoring and if they are going to get to bed, it’s a school night and they can’t be tired tomorrow morning…….and on your brain runs, unable to enjoy your adult company and special time away from your kids.

Because what happens next is that when your kid has a bad day, your mood plummets like a stone down the well. When your mood becomes dependent on whether or not Timmy has had a good day or bad day, you lose the ability to be the anchor to the family instead of a reactor. And atypical children often have moods that need to be managed, not reacted to.

Parents, work on your mood tune-up!

It is important that parents find their emotional set-point apart from how their children are doing. That way, you remember that you are still YOU, and not just your kid’s mother or father.  This will come in handy both in helping your child self regulate as well as keeping you with one foot firmly planted in your individual life as a grown up person.

5 Quick and Easy Mood Tune-Up Tips

1. Listen to a happy tune:  Research has shown that people who listen to cheerful music can improve their mood.  Listening to music actually improves people’s moods  so turn that radio dial to a happy music station!

2. Smile:  the physical act of smiling has also been shown to improve mood.  Even fake smiles reduce stress. Studies by Paul Eckman and other researchers has shown that smilers exhibited lower heart rate levels after a stressful activity than non-smilers. So even if you aren’t feelin it, paste that smile on your face!

3. Do good:  do something good for someone else. Even a small gesture, such as giving a coin to a homeless person has been shown to lift a person’s mood.  Try it for yourself and see.

4. Do good for yourself: when is the last time you took a moment to treat yourself?  No, I don’t mean that bag of chocolate chip cookies. Maybe invite a friend out for coffee or excuse yourself after dinner to go for a long walk. Alone.

 5. Shake it up: exercise raises your natural endorphin levels.  The link between exercise and mood is well researched. Studies show that within five minutes after moderate moving produce a better mood.  Too cold to go outside? Turn up the radio and dance! Even for a few minutes will raise the mood barometer.

Parents: Is Your Child an In-Betweener?

The In-Betweeners: When There’s No Diagnosis for Your Child13110733_s

What happens when your child is struggling but doesn’t have a diagnosis? It’s so much easier for parents to explain their child to a school, doctor or coach when there’s a label to go with the behavior: “She’s ADHD, please cut her some slack,”  or, “He’s on the autism spectrum, please help him make friends.”

But what about the child who doesn’t make the cut?

Take Carly,  a cute 8 year old redhead with a gap in her front teeth and a perpetual grin. Her mother brings her in to be tested because she just is having a hard time in second grade, but a full evaluation reveals that she does not meet the criteria for any disorder.  She doesn’t have ADHD or organization problems, and she is not lagging academically.  But one thing stands out: Carly is annoying. She talks a lot, laughs too loudly and is bossy.  She’s driving her classmates, teachers, parents, and everyone else crazy.

And then there is Max. Max has an IQ of 82, in the “low average” range. He is slower than most of his classmates, and is also very immature. His peers are starting to outpace him socially.  By age 10, Max is an outcast. He does not meet the criteria for intellectually challenged and he has managed to learn his academic skills with a lot of tutoring, so he is not eligible for any services.  Max is not different enough.

And Maria. Maria is a 6 year old firecracker.  She has tons of energy, is difficult to engage, and is only happy when she’s moving. An exceptionally intense child, Maria is a voracious learner but falls apart when she doesn’t get her way.  Intense? Active? Emotional? Absolutely.  Diagnosis? None.

Carly, Max, and Maria are what I call in-betweeners —kids with challenging symptoms that don’t meet criteria for a specific diagnosis.  Annoying to be around or slower to learn or intense and active, these are types of kids who are challenging to raise and even harder to teach, but don’t meet diagnostic criteria, so they don’t get a label.

Some experts call this phenomenon ‘shadow syndrome’ as in, a mild form of a specific diagnosis but not quite…..  But I prefer to see these children as “the in-betweeners” because it’s a positive term, unlike the slightly diabolical sounding “shadow syndrome.”  In-betweeners are kids who don’t quite fit in.  Their parents have a special set of needs, too.

Why is no label sometimes harder than a diagnosis?

When a child is atypical but does not meet a diagnosis, the parents can feel isolated and at a loss. You know your child is different, and you’re relieved that there is nothing more serious going on, yet it would be so much easier to deal with the difference if there was a label attached. Why?

Labels lead to services.  When your child is diagnosed with a specific disorder, there is usually a designated list of services they are entitled to, either through the school district, regional center or through private pay system.

Labels lead to awareness.  For example, when your child is on the Autism spectrum, you can educate yourself about the disorder.  There are websites, books, support groups, and specialists at your disposal. Having a diagnosis can also help a denying parent be more accepting about his or her child.

Labels lead to understanding from others. Most people now know that having a diagnosis such as dyslexia, ADHD, autism or processing disorders doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with your family.  These are neurodevelopmental disorders a child is born with.

In-betweeners and their parents don’t have these advantages.  Instead, they are subjected to head- shaking and judgment from others who think, “What is up with that kid!” or “These children are just not being parented right.”  As if parents needed more stress!

And with no diagnosis, parents tend to blame each other or themselves for their children’s problems. “What the heck is wrong with this kid? Can’t you discipline him better? We threw out all this money on testing and they didn’t find anything! It must be our fault—probably yours.”

Help for in-betweeners and their parents

Please be patient with me—God hasn’t finished making me yet.

Remember that saying?  It’s a good mantra for your in-betweener, who may outgrow his or her difference. With early intervention, a child can outgrow a diagnosis but retain some aspect of the condition. For example, a child with early sensory integration disorder may continue to refrain from walking barefoot in sand and flinch at hugs, but otherwise be able to socialize with few problems.  A child with an early speech disorder may develop into an excellent speaker but still struggle with spelling (there is a strong link between expressive language and learning to read and spell).  The same is true for in-betweeners—with help, they often can overcome many of their challenges.

On the other hand, some kids grow into diagnoses as they develop.  A child who just seems to be working a little too hard on mastering letter sounds can certainly develop a reading delay by later elementary school.  A child who is just a bit eccentric can look more than a little different by a later age.

In the meantime, there are steps parents can take and advice they can tap.  Determine the diagnosis that most closely resembles your child’s behavior, and use those resources.  Diagnoses are not exact anyway—there is no blood test that correctly diagnoses psychological issues. So based on your own observations, find out what help is available.

Is your child super-energetic? Can’t seem to stop?

Check out ADHD, hyperactive impulsive type. Your child may not meet criteria but the same tactics may help change his or her behavior.  Make sure your child is getting a high protein, low carb/low sugar diet.  Eliminate junk food and artificial coloring. http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/adhd-diets  This child also needs a strong cardiovascular workout daily.  Limit screen time and increase active play. Mindfulness techniques or yoga can also be helpful. Join the fun and learn new techniques and diet along with your child.

Learning problems but not learning delayed?

Help your child stay on top of his or her academics with enough support. There is no substitute for early intervention; find an educational therapist from the national Association of Educational Therapists  www.aetonline.org  and you can prevent a small problem from becoming an overwhelming problem later one.  Sometimes a retired school teacher or a tutor in your neighborhood can be helpful.

Socially annoying but not on the autism spectrum?

Your child will still benefit from social skills training and social stories.  Social skills training is available in many areas through the school system or privately through therapists or speech therapists.  Social stories is a technique originally developed by Carol Grey  http://www.thegraycenter.org/social-stories  to teach social cues and to better learn nuances of social communication.  Some children will benefit from speech therapy if their pragmatic language seems off, even if there is so specific language disability.

And, so many parents can benefit from the counsel of a  therapist, support group or taking their child for a few sessions of family therapy.  Don’t forget to help yourself through the process of raising an atypical child.

There are lots of different types of “in-betweeners”.   Is your child an in-betweener? Please write in and share your story.