By: Dr. Liz Matheis
It’s not. It’s about you, the parent, and the ‘stuff’ that you carried into this gig. You and I both know that parenting did not come with a manual with a colorful cover, an appendix with chapters that range from infancy to adulthood, and we certainly didn’t have to take an exam or gain a license to become a parent. If you ask me, before we decide to start a family, we should be required to take a course and gain a certificate that says, “You’ve Been Warned. You’re about to get on the bumpiest roller coaster ride of your life. You will learn and teach, you will watch and be watched, you will guide and be guided.”
When I became a parent, I had a vision of who my child was going to be. I often was lost in my daydreams of a blue-eyed little boy who would eat, sleep and follow my every instruction, who was athletic, confident and social. Well, I did have a beautiful blue-eyed boy but the rest didn’t work out like just like that.
Part of becoming a parent means that we need to understand and recover from the parenthood that we received. It means that we need to understand and become aware of the messages that were given to us, the wounds we continue to carry, the messages we continue to give ourselves that started off as our parent’s judgments, criticisms, and conditions and then became our own words that we speak to ourselves, with or without awareness.
Our Children are Not Here to Satisfy our Needs
Our children are not our narcissistic extensions. They are not here to fit into our visions and expectations of who they will and should become. Our children are born with clean slates and they have the potential to do everything, anything. But it is through our criticisms, expectations and our conditional love that creates judgments and deflates motivation and potential. We have been given by our parents, and their parents and their parents, a checklist of who we “should” become as parents and who our children “should” become. But that checklist may not be in sync with who your child is, who they want to be, and therein lies the problem. Instead, we live a life where we are “should-ing” all over ourselves.
Do the Dance
When two people dance, one person moves forward and the other responds by stepping back; one moves to the side, and the other follows. The dancers listen to the body language, feel the direction in which the pair is being pulled. Dancing is an art because there are no clear-cut rules about the exact steps. Yes, we can take dance lessons and have an idea of the type of movement, the beat, the general idea.
Parenting is a dance. A dance with no instruction on how your child will respond, what to say, how often to say it. It requires timing and awareness of what is needed, how much and when to stop. When to say something and when not to; when to guide and when to step away; when to intervene and when to let your child work it out, or not.
I know, it’s exhausting, but being in tune with your child will make your parenting more productive in that you are moving in the same direction. When you move out of sync, you, the parent, and your child become frustrated and the interaction is no longer enjoyable.
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By: Dr. Liz Matheis
The Essentials of a Successful School Year for You and Your Child’s IEP
When a new school year begins, students are not the only ones with butterflies in their stomachs. Parents of students with special needs also worry about what a new year, a new teacher and a new classroom may bring. If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), the legal document clearly delineates your child’s needs. Here are tips for creating a positive classroom experience and successful school year.
Schedule a parent-teacher-case manager meeting.
At the start of the school year, all of your child’s teachers provide written signatures that they have reviewed your child’s IEP. However, it is a brief overview and teachers are not yet familiar with your child’s program, modifications and accommodations.
After the first couple months of school, schedule a time to sit down with your child’s teachers and case manager to review academic supports and accommodations. In essence, you are setting aside this time to give teachers an overview of how your child is best able to take in information while reviewing accommodations, such as providing a word bank on a fill-in-the blank test or giving a lesson outline prior to the presentation of new material so that your child can follow the outline and add personal thoughts or notes. This is also a time for you to meet and make a connection with all of your child’s teachers, permitting them to know you by name and face.
For a Successful School Year: Put it in writing.
Once your child’s IEP meeting has been held, your child’s program goes into effect within 15 days of the IEP meeting date, with or without your signature. Sometimes, parents are misled to believe that if they do not sign the IEP, they are showing disagreement or require more time to review the document in detail. However, when you are in disagreement with an element of a behavior plan, related service or program within your child’s IEP, prepare a written letter to your child’s case manager indicating what specifically you are in disagreement about.
Integrate a sensory diet into your child’s day.
Create a personalized activity plan that can be integrated into your child’s daily schedule in order to satisfy the need for movement, deep pressure or heavy work. These types of activities satisfy proprioceptive, vestibular, auditory, visual and tactile needs for a child who may have a sensory processing disorder, difficulty sustaining attention, or is restless and fidgety.
For example, a child diagnosed with ADHD or Autism may not be able to maintain attention and focus to one task while sitting down at a desk for an entire class period. As a result, a sensory tool may include a move ‘n sit cushion, which is a seat cushion that is wedge shaped and filled with air. It is used to help fidgety or lethargic students maintain a level of alertness. A child who is restless may also need the opportunity for movement breaks within the school day. It might benefit a child like this to work at his or her desk for ten minutes and then take a five-minute break to go to the bathroom or water fountain, or to send a note to another classroom teacher or the main office.
For children who are hyperactive, a five-minute gym break for a quick run or game of basketball can be integrated into the child’s schedule to allow for a better ability to focus on class tasks.
Consult with the occupational therapist (OT) in your child’s school for additional ideas and how they can be integrated and implemented on daily basis. Overall, these strategies can help you and your child to transition into the new school year smoothly. While also giving you the chance to discuss your child’s academic program and develop a positive rapport with your child’s teachers.
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By: Dr. Liz Matheis
The new school year is well underway and I want to start and keep a positive space in my home after school. This is a big task, but I am ready to take it on.
At the end of my work day, I need time to decompress just as much as my kids need time to decompress from their school day. We are all happy that the day is over, but soon thereafter is when the grouchies kick in for everyone and it’s never pretty, especially in my house. And with everyone hustling to get homework started, finished, shift to activities, dinner, and bathing, it’s hard to keep a smile on your face and a positive tone in your voice.
I also know that my when I’m anxious, tired or overwhelmed, my children comply less with their routine and we all end up yelling or just feeling down right unhappy. Who wants that? With all the hustle that goes on each evening, how do you create a positive home environment that makes it so that everyone wants to come home? Well, here are a few ways to do this without needing to plan ahead…well, not too much!
Smile and Say Hello
I know it sounds silly, but once you are home, look your child in the eye, smile, and say hello. If you’re feeling really ambitious, give your child a big hug and kiss (as is age appropriate)! You’re reconnecting with your child after a long break from each other. By doing this, you are non-verbally saying, “You are important to me and I am happy to see you.” This satisfies your child’s need to be acknowledged by you each and every day.
Before bed, make sure you give your child your uninterrupted attention (that means no multi-tasking!) and say good night. Simple, do-able, and effective.
Discuss the High Points of Your Day
Dinner time discussion is a healthy and safe place to bond with your family members and talk about your day. Ask the question, “What was the best/favorite/highest point of your day today?” All family members are encouraged to answer that question. You can also ask the question, “What was your least favorite/worst/lowest point of your day today?” Once again, everyone gets the chance to answer. This will initiate asking questions and engaging each other about time spent apart. As a parent, this gives you an idea of your child’s strengths and struggles during the day. This will help you to ask more specific questions or gain information from your child’s teacher if you are hearing a consistent complaint about a relationship with another child or a class subject.
Please and Thank You
Manners, manners, who doesn’t love manners? We all insist that our children use their manners, but are we, as the adults, also using our manners? Our children learn to interact with each other, their friends, and with us by watching us. That means that when we are speaking with our children, instead of using a loud tone, use a quiet one, smile and keep it positive. Next time you speak with your spouse, remember to say ‘please,’ and ‘thank you’ for helping each other out and remember to use a pleasant tone. Our kids hear the tone and see our body language as well.
These are three small changes you can make to your daily routine to help make your home environment a positive one!
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By: Dr. Liz Matheis
Parenting is a dance. Each party involved brings their own energy—and between our energy and our child’s energy, there will be times when the energies will undoubtedly collide.
When you think about it, our children only live in our homes for a short period of time. Granted, the individual days may feel long, but the years are flying by. In most cases, we have our children for 18 short years; this is the most powerful time in their emotional development, and one that will shape the rest of their adult life.
When I first made that realization (while listening to one of Dr. Shefali Tsabary’s presentations), I panicked. In fact, I cried. This is the time when our children build their internal messages—when they build their sense of self as separate from us, as well as when they build their emotional and relationship foundations. This is when they develop their friendships and their sense of self-love. Our parental voice becomes internalized as their own. This voice will guide their decisions, relationships, friendships, and work habits for years to come. No pressure, right?
For me, the hardest part of parenting has been re-living and re-visiting my childhood “issues,” the ones I thought were behind me. I didn’t think “those” experiences had an effect on me any longer because I was “older” and done with them. Well, as it turns out, not so much.
You Will Be Triggered
Something your child says or does—or how they say it—will trigger you. And when you are triggered, your response will be intense, and likely scary to you and your child. In fact, your response will likely not be commensurate with your child’s actual behavior.
When I made this connection—with Dr. Shefali’s help—and discovered that I was parenting from my own childhood wounds, I was taken aback. But I also realized that many of the times when my children asked me why I became so loud or angry, it was because I was responding to a pretty benign situation with a strong sense of hurt and disappointed that had to do with my own unresolved childhood demons.
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By: Dr. Liz Matheis
As a parent of a child with special needs, you are on duty 24/7 with no sick or vacation days. Days become weeks and weeks become years and burn out becomes inevitable if you don’t take care of yourself.
I know what you’re thinking.
Easier said than done.
But preventing burn out while parenting a child with special needs is just as important as caring for your child. If you are sleep-deprived, fatigued, or feeling anxious or depressed, your ability to tend to your child is compromised. So, if you need momentum and motivation to come from your child, here it is!
Take care of yourself so you can take care of your child.
These 2 strategies can help.
#1: Ask For Help
If you have social or family support that is available to you, I encourage you to take advantage of it. If you have a friend or family member who is offering to help in the care of your child, take it. Set up a schedule where a family member cares for your child while you care for your other children. Or take time to run errands by yourself or read a book at your local coffee shop.
I’ve heard parents say, “I don’t like to ask for help. I think I can do it all by myself,” too often. You need to leave this mindset behind and ask for help. If you do not have help from a person who lives outside your home, set up a system with your partner. Tag team who is on duty and who needs to take a break for the sake of each other’s sanity! For example, divide a task that is labor intensive, like bed time, so you are rotating each night or every two nights.
#2: Take a Daily Break
Quiet time is important for you and for your family members because it gives the physical signal that the day is coming to an end, but it also gives you time to disconnect from the day and all of the stimulation that came with it. This may be your time to process the day so that you are not waking up in the middle of the night thinking of solutions or worrying about a situation or potential situation. To make quiet time happen, decide on a time to shut down the house and set aside time to decompress every evening.
You may choose to do this as a family or as the adult(s) in the house. For example, you may decide that by 7 in the evening, you will stop making lunches and washing dishes, dim the lights, and engage in an electronic-free activity.
Your self care is just as important as the care of your child. Preventing burn out while parenting a child with special needs requires investing in yourself as much as you invest in your child. Asking for help and taking a daily break are ways of making small investments that pay big dividends for you and your child.
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By: Sara Bailey
Sara Bailey hopes that by sharing her journey of grief she can provide insight and hope for others who experience loss. She created TheWidow.net as a way to share her unexpected journey of losing her husband and learning to be the best parent (and person) she can be while nurturing her grief.
If you want a simple way to ensure the safety, security, and happiness of your family, then consider putting together a sound financial plan. Financial planning now can provide stability through every stage of parenthood and give you some peace of mind. From preparing for the costs of childhood to making yourself comfortable during retirement, here are six steps to securing your family’s financial future.
Take Account of Your Finances
If you are interested in planning your finances, begin by assessing what you have. Your assets can be everything from bank accounts to real estate. Sit down and figure out exactly what assets you have and how much they are all worth. And consider the true cost of owning your home, including your mortgage, utility bills, and property taxes. Depending on your worth, the kind of assets you have, and your expenses, it may be helpful to seek out the advice of a financial expert. In fact, anyone can benefit from the advice of a financial expert when it comes to first-time financial planning.
Prepare for Your Family’s Future
As a parent, you are used to thinking about the future. You’re already taking measures to keep your family healthy and safe, so now is a good time to think about how your future will impact your finances. Savings should be a part of any family’s financial plan. New parents should think about saving for everyday costs and emergency needs for their family. Education costs begin as early as pre-school, so it is wise to be prepared. It’s also never too early to start thinking about college and retirement. One way to save on monthly costs is to reduce what you pay for auto insurance. If you live in a state with high insurance rates, you can lower these rates by bundling your insurance policy with another type of policy, such as home insurance. Other ways to lower costs include being a safe driver, maintaining a high credit score, and avoiding tickets.
Make Life Insurance a Priority
If you do not already have a life insurance policy, you should make getting one a top financial priority. Life insurance will help your family stay financially secure after you pass away. A term policy is ideal, because you’ll only be paying for it for a specific amount of time. This means you’ll need to choose the right length of term based on your age and budget. A 30-year term policy is a popular choice due to its length and affordability; you’ll be paying a set premium for the entire length of the policy, while giving your family and yourself financial peace of mind.
Plan for Healthcare Challenges
Parents typically invest in health insurance, but you may want to invest in more coverage for your family. If you are injured and unable to work for a long period of time, do you have short-term disability coverage? What about long-term care insurance? The costs of a serious injury or needing for long-term care can be staggering, but specialty insurance can help keep your family’s life on track if the unthinkable should happen.
Practice Family Philanthropy
Giving back is a wonderful way to bring your family together for a good cause. Set aside a portion of your income for charitable giving each year or set up monthly donations. Ask for input from your family to determine which causes you will support. You can even ensure your family’s future while giving back with gift options like charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts. Talk with an estate planner or financial advisor to determine what kind of philanthropy will be most beneficial to your family’s future.
Put Together a Will
Writing a will or estate plan can give you peace of mind and give your family financial stability in the future. Work with an estate planner or attorney to draft an estate plan that covers all aspects of your finances. If you have young children, be sure to appoint a guardian and set up some financial safety nets for them. Include any real estate in your will and think about including end-of-life wishes as well. It’s a tough conversation to have, but it’s one that can provide comfort to your family if ever needed.
As a parent, you do everything you can to keep your family safe, secure, and happy. So take the initiative to keep your family financially stable as well. Providing a secure financial future will ensure your children can thrive and grow into healthy, happy adults while allowing you to enjoy all of the years ahead of you.
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By: Dr. Liz Matheis, PhD
There is an abundance of information about ADHD available to us every day. Type in ADHD in children or adolescents to Google and the amount of information is overwhelming – where do I begin? With all of the information available to us, it is important for us to clarify some of the misinformation that is out there.
Let’s start with the basics and get to the heart of it:
With that said, there are some myths about what ADHD is, how it can be managed and how to teach our children the skills they need to channel their non-focused energy into specific targets.
Myth #1: ADHD is not real. It’s a disorder of the spoiled, non-disciplined child. Parents just need to be stricter and the hyperactivity and impulsivity will go away.
False, false, and false again. ADHD is a physiologically based disorder in which there are deficits of neurochemicals in the brain as well as under-developed areas of the frontal lobe, which is responsible for our executive functioning skills. What are those, you ask? They are the skills that we develop as we mature, such as time management, organization, inhibiting things we want to say, knowing how to read social situations and act accordingly.
It is not something ‘caused’ or ‘created’ by parents. It’s like saying to a diabetic that he should tell his pancreas to make more insulin and he will be fine. There is a true neurochemical imbalance.
Children with ADHD have amazing skills and capabilities. They are not necessarily functioning at a disadvantage because of their disability. Instead, they have a great ability to think abstractly, see the big picture, and have creative and imaginative ideas. They are great problem solvers and out-of-the-box thinkers.
I’ve heard teachers say that their school year was that much better because of the richness of ideas that were shared by a child with ADHD! That student was encouraged to express his ideas and thoughts that triggered more abstract ideas for others. What a way to recognize and encourage this learning style within the classroom!
Myth #2: All kids with ADHD are impulsive and hyperactive.
No, they are not. There is also the inattentive type as well as the combined, impulsive and hyperactive type. The inattentive child loses focus and can daydream often. This type of child may appear to have ‘lost’ information along the way, but is not distracting to others, fidgety or restless.
This type of ADHD can be easily missed because the ‘squeaky wheel’ tends to gets noticed, while the inattentive student may ‘fall between the cracks.’
You may wonder if your child will be able to succeed in this world and be able to get through college, maintain friendships, and hold onto a job. The answer is an absolute YES! Your child will find his areas of strength and find outlets for himself. So, she may not be a detail oriented person – she won’t choose a detail-oriented field. She may need an administrative assistant to help organize her schedule. Whichever your child’s strengths and weaknesses, he will find the field that will let him thrive and strive!
Just a little clarification on what ADHD is and what it isn’t. With the right supports at home, and accommodations at school, your child will be able to achieve great things!
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Written By: Heidi Borst
As the carefree vibe of summer transitions into the pandemonium of back-to-school season, even the best of us can get trapped in a perpetual state of chaos. And as hectic as things get, each and every moment (even a messy one) is an opportunity to create a beautiful memory. Will you really remember spilled cereal or a late bus 20 years from now? Putting those moments into perspective will help keep you calm on frenzied, overscheduled days. The next time you feel like all the juggling is making your head spin, follow these expert tips to summon your inner Om.
PRACTICE MINDFULNESS EVERY DAY
Maybe you’ve got the basics of self-care covered: You eat healthily, stay active and prioritize sleep. Or maybe not so much. Either way, there’s an oft-overlooked and extremely effective way to stave off stress and stay calm: mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness is easy; just slow down and enjoy the moment.
“Living mindfully means leaving the past behind and not worrying about the future—just being here now,” says Leo Aristimuno, a certified positive psychology life coach based in Montclair. “It means letting go of complaints…to embrace the surprises, marvel at the discoveries, nourish the connections and revel in the small joys hidden in every moment.”
Aristimuno suggests practicing controlled breathing to exercise the mindfulness muscle and create a relaxation response. “Sit comfortably and allow yourself to close your eyes for two minutes. Breathe in to a slow count of five…then breathe out to a slow count of ten…Repeat this for two minutes, controlling your breath…Your breath relaxes you as you settle into the moment, exactly as it is.” Your best bet: Try incorporating brief moments of meditation into your daily routine.
MEDITATE FOR A FEW MINUTES EACH DAY
Meditation is an important way to combat stress. Starting the practice doesn’t require a big commitment. Aristimuno recommends trying to work in five-minute breaks of quiet meditation whenever possible. The key: Keep it simple and put down the electronics.
“The beautiful thing about meditation is that it’s not about stopping our thoughts. It’s also not about being completely still,” Aristimuno says. “Instead, meditation invites us to settle, observe, accept and return. We may discover things we never noticed before, like the sound of silence, the gentleness of the breath, how tired our bodies are, the fact that right now, at this moment, I’m alive. I’m breathing, here I am. Breathing in, breathing out.” Relax, observe and breathe. Doing this for a few moments is a great way to decompress and re-center.
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By: Dr. Liz Matheis
Anxiety. It’s something we all feel. In fact, it’s normal to feel anxious. It’s our body’s way of letting us know that something is unsafe or harmful. It’s our body’s way of revving up our energy supply so that we can run or hide or think quickly on our feet. But what happens when that anxiety is something that you feel often, like every day? And it can sometimes, or all the time, get in the way of what you or your children want to do? Then, it’s a problem.
What Does Anxiety Really Look Like with Children and Adolescents?
With children and adolescents, anxiety isn’t necessarily pacing or writhing your hands. It can look different. It can actually be confusing. What you might see is:
Children who are anxious don’t always know that they feel anxious. They just know that they don’t like how they feel, they don’t know how to make it stop, and so they let you know how children know how to by. Instead, it’s very easy for parents and teachers to interpret anxious behaviors as negative behaviors and to want to create a behavioral plan or chart.
My mantra is: No Child Wakes Up and Decides to Be Behavioral. That’s not how it works. Instead, when you, as the parent, begin to notice a change in behaviors, that’s when your antennae should perk up. Instead of ‘fighting’ back, I recommend that you let your child know that you know something is different and to make yourself available as a parent to listen and sympathize.
Here are some signs to look for that may be a sign of anxiety and emotional struggle:
It’s very easy as a parent to think that your child has a behavioral problem, an Oppositional Defiance Disorder even. However, look closer. There’s a strong likelihood that your child is anxious, very anxious.
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By: Nicole Filiberti, MSW, LCSW
"Come on, hurry up and get your math homework done so we can get to soccer practice on time! You can eat dinner in the car on the way there. Don't forget that after practice you have a Girl Scout event and then when we get back we have to review your spelling words for tomorrow's test!" How many of you can relate to these kinds of conversations with your kids? Our kids today are so overbooked with activities and stimuli that it's no wonder anxiety is on the rise. The following are some tips to help families navigate all of the hustle and bustle in a balanced manner.
1. Limit the amount of commitments your child has
I still encourage the use of a rule that Dr. Liz had shared with me one day. "One activity, per kid, per season". Maybe your child enjoys playing two different sports in one season. Maybe they enjoy their piano lessons and singing in the school choir. Have a conversation with your child and narrow it down instead of automatically signing up for all of the activities at once. Take things on gradually, seeing how one activity plays out in the schedule before signing up for another.
2. Schedule down time
With schedules so packed, take a look at the calendar and notice where there are open spots. Make it a priority to keep these spots open and allow your child to have down time where there is less structure and less pressure to perform a certain way. Children need some time to unwind from the school day and busy weekends filled with activities. This is also a good opportunity to schedule quality time together as a family, which does not have to be anything elaborate. Planning a family movie or game night are easy ways to promote healthy communication patterns and family bonding. This scheduled down time should be just as much of a priority as the piano recitals, soccer games and cheer practices.
3. Check in with your child
Engage your children in ongoing discussions where you are checking in with their stress level. Tell them that it is perfectly acceptable for them to speak up if they feel they are too busy or not getting enough time to rest. Help your child develop their priorities in terms of extracurriculars and narrow down the ones that mean more to them. This will depend heavily on your child's developmental level, but it is important that as they mature, they have more of a say in their extracurricular activities.
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Madison 'Lunch and Learn' Oct. 17 about raising kids with 'grit' | Madison Eagle News | newjerseyhills.com
Event: Raising Kids with Grit
Where: Whole Foods Market, Madison
When: Thursday, October 17, 2019 at 11:30 am
What: What is grit, why do kids need it, and how can you as a parent foster it? Every parent wants to raise a child who is tough, confident, and well-adjusted. When our kids don’t have that resilience, each day is overwhelming and daily tasks are anxiety–provoking. Join Dr. Liz as she engages you in a discussion about grit and how to raise a child with resilience to learn, play, and conquer life’s small and big challenges.
Dr. Liz Matheis is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist who specializes in treating the whole child, adolescent and young adult, which includes home and school, emotionally, socially and behaviorally. She has built her practice, alongside her husband, Robert Matheis, who is also a Clinical Psychologist, in 2008. The practice remained part-time until 2012 when Dr. Liz left the school system and worked out of her home office for 5 years. The practice is now located in Livingston, New Jersey. In her private practice, Dr. Liz and her team of therapists specialize in Anxiety, ADHD, Autism, Learning Disabilities, and Behavior Management. She is also a proud mother of 3 children, ages 13, 10 and 6. They keep her on her toes and help her to connect with parents who are going through similar developmental phases with their children.
Complimentary lunch will be served by Whole Foods Market. Children are welcome. For more information, or to register call Hollenbach Family Chiropractic at 973-236-0400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Dr. Liz Matheis, PhD for NJ Family Magazine
Your Best School Year Yet
It’s a Wednesday afternoon and you’re patiently cajoling your middle schooler to start his homework. He’s avoiding it with every ounce of his being. You finally get him to agree that if he finishes his homework, he can have one hour of video games. He sits down ready and eager, but quickly realizes that he didn’t bring his math book home, can’t find his science sheet and has a social studies test tomorrow, but can’t remember which chapter to study.
If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, this ongoing struggle may be familiar, and you’re probably feeling like something needs to change. It’s common to want to avoid the medication route and seek behavioral strategies that teach your child the skills needed to organize, prioritize, get the work done and hand it in. On the other hand, medication is helpful to lots of kids with ADHD.
MAKING YOUR DECISION
Medication has side effects, and those side effects can sometimes be scary for a growing child. It’s frustrating to watch and not easy for children with ADHD. They have true neurochemical deficits in the frontal lobe that aren’t all that different from a diabetic whose body doesn’t create sufficient insulin at the right times.
So, what’s the “right” thing to do? Is there a “right” thing? The answer is no. Here’s what to consider when deciding the appropriate course of treatment for your child:
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You can begin to implement behavioral strategies, routines, boundaries and consistency from day to day. For example, create a space for your child to complete homework that’s not at the kitchen table, since your kitchen is likely the Grand Central Station of your home. It’s also helpful to implement a no devices rule while homework is being done. Create a visual schedule of morning, after-school and bedtime routines. You can also make a list of household rules and consequences and make sure to implement them consistently using a calm demeanor. You may want to start a nightly, tech-free quiet time before bed.
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By: Jennifer Mandato, LAC
Attempting to get your child to sit and study is a chore in itself, and then once you get them to sit they actually have to study. This process can bring upon a lot of anxiety for your child. Did I remember all my materials? Will this be on the test? What if I get a bad grade? What if I forget what I studied? How long should I study? As someone who was challenged by test anxiety, these questions ran through my brain before every test. As I got older and learned what tactics best suited me, anxiety lessened. Not to say it disappeared, after all we are all human, but I found the best ways to help myself.
Not every child learns the same. One child may be able to listen to the material and have it memorized, while another child may have to see it written. Think about when you have gotten a bookshelf or something to put together and it just had pictures and no written directions, was this easy or difficult? If you are a visual learner this was a piece of cake; if you are a verbal or auditory learner this may have been quite the challenge. Someone can be a visual (pictures), auditory (sound), verbal (written words) or physical (hands-on/touch) learner. Finding out how your child learns can help decide if flashcards or an audio recording of their material would be most helpful.
A designated study space
When it comes to doing homework sometimes kids can be nomads. They will plop themselves on a couch, bed, floor, wherever they may land. Unfortunately, this is not optimal for homework or studying. Your child should have a designated study area. This should be an area as free from distraction as it can and calming. For some children, this may be an office desk or kitchen table. If their desk is in their room, it is important they use their desk and not the bed or bean bag chair that may be in it. While some students use apps such as Focus Keeper to stay on track, not having it placed within reach is key. It should be close enough that they can hear the timer for their break but not close enough where they can play games and browse social media.
How to study
As many of us learned the hard way, cramming was not the best way to learn and retain information. Setting up a study schedule for an allotted amount of time before the test will help your child retain information and reduce stress before the exam. This can be done using their agenda book or a dry erase calendar in their room. Including reminders and goals will help reduce the last minute cramming and test anxiety. While they are studying, allow for breaks. As mentioned above there are apps that can be used to set an amount of time to study and time for a break. These breaks should be restorative and not involve screen time. That can make getting back to studying more challenge and cause a power struggle between you and your child.
Celebrating their hard work
Even though they may have not gotten a perfect score, celebrate their effort. Knowing that studying is difficult for your child, the fact that they were able to sit and prepare for their tests is a success. It’s the process not the product. The more encouragement and sense of pride they feel the more they will want to continue these habits to make not only you proud but they will make themselves proud!
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By: Start Here Parents
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Anxiety in children can be a very common problem. It can be a stand-alone issue, or it can tag along with other disorders such as ADHD or learning differences. Although it occurs frequently, it often goes unrecognized and untreated. Get the basic facts on anxiety disorders in children, and find out whether your family should follow up.
1. Anxiety In Children: What Is It?
Basic anxiety or worries and concerns about things that might happen is a very natural and necessary human emotion. Think of the basic “fight or flight” response that we all know so well. At normal levels, basic anxiety can keep us safe, healthy and whole.
Anxiety itself is not bad. But sometimes anxiety can become excessive. And, it becomes disproportionate to the danger or risk at hand. It can be debilitating and significantly interfere with one’s ability to conduct or enjoy day to day affairs. Being a little anxious or fearful is entirely rational. However, if a child is excessively anxious, having difficulty at school, home, in social life, it may indicate an anxiety disorder.
Experts believe that 10% to 15% or more of children experience an anxiety disorder before the age of 18. But, up to 80% of kids with some type of diagnosable anxiety disorder fail to receive treatment. Treatment that could greatly improve their quality of life, and the quality of life of their families. And, treatment that could otherwise greatly enhance their ability to function successfully as adults.
Sometimes anxieties disorders may be overlooked or ignored. Adults may brush off or misattribute otherwise troubling behavior because they think kids shouldn’t have any major worries. They don’t have the stressors commonly seen in adulthood – like money, relationships, career, health etc.
Or, other issues could be overshadowing excessive anxiety. Kids who experience ADHD or other learning disabilities may often also experience intense anxiety. Particularly, if they are experiencing undiagnosed conditions that create frustrations and problems in everyday life. The lack of meaningful explanation or a plan to address the underlying conditions may yield to intense anxiety.
Some of the more commonly occurring anxiety disorders include:
* Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Children with Generalized Anxiety Disorder will worry excessively about a wide range of everyday things or commonly occurring events. You may see this as intense anxiety about his or her own performance at school. Or, excessive performance anxiety around outside activities or sports. Sometimes these worries may seem like extreme perfectionism.
Kids with this disorder may have anxieties about others and not just themselves. For instance, intense worries about something happening to family members and friends. Or, excessive concerns about natural disasters or emergencies.
* Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorders basically revolve around worries about how others perceive you. Kids may have an intense fear of being judged by others. Or, experience worries about being the center of attention. It may show up as extreme self-consciousness. Or, unusually intense concerns about being embarrassed or humiliated. Social anxiety disorders arise most often in adolescents. But they occur in younger children as well.
* Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Kids experiencing an obsessive-compulsive disorder are beset with negative thoughts, fears or emotions that are repetitive in nature. And, their obsessive thoughts trigger some ritualistic attempt to control or repel those unwanted thoughts, fears or emotions.
This is the anxiety disorder that you will more frequently see portrayed in the movies. It may be most famously displayed in the movie “As Good As It Gets” with the locking of the doors and avoidance of cracks in the sidewalk.
Other common compulsions include repetitive hand-washing, repetitive rechecking of information, seeking repetitive assurances about the same situation, hoarding or “collecting” items of no apparent value.
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By: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D
If you’re a mom, I’m going to take a leap and say that you’re pretty exhausted. Do you know why you’re exhausted? Because you’re taking care of everyone, everyday, all.the.time. If you ask me, the words mom and overworked are pretty synonymous. Sad, but true.
When was the last time that you put some time for yourself on your list of things to get done by the end of the day? What? You can’t remember because it’s been so long? Well, guess what–it’s time. It’s time to put Mommy back on the list of priorities.
I’m a mom of 3 wonderful and overwhelming children. Each day, I find myself feeling as overstimulated as my child with a sensory processing disorder. I’ve heard my name called only about 3,002.3 times. And each time, I threaten to change my name and not tell my kids my new name! Motherhood is a relentless job that does not come with a paycheck or any time built in for respite. And nobody is going to hand you an hour or two to tend to yourself – that is something we have to do for ourselves. Even though it may seem impossible right now, it’s important for you to let something go so that you can tend to yourself before you burn out.
#1: Once the Lights Are Out…..
You know the feeling – Ahhh, victory! The kids are in bed and the house is peaceful. You know, the way it was before kids. You are not allowed to create a list of things to do that is greater than the number of fingers on one hand. Give yourself a maximum of 5 more things to get done, and then read a book, soak in the tub, stare at a spot on the wall, or whatever makes you happy.
#2: Monthly Me Time
Once a month, schedule an evening where you are not putting the kids down to bed. Ma’am, walk away from the bedtime routine, take your keys and leave your house. Do this with a fellow mommy in need or go by yourself, but most importantly, get out. Whether you are having dinner with a friend, going to see a movie, or just walk around the mall in peace because you can, do it.
#3: A Job for Everyone and Everyone with a Job
Our children are perfectly capable people. They are resourceful and good problem solvers when they want something badly enough. Give each one of your children a job to do once homework is done and after dinner. Those busy hands can be helping you to get through all of the ‘things’ that need to get done before bedtime. Enlist the help of your favorite little people and free yourself up a bit.
As moms, we are pros at taking care of everyone else around us – our children’s teachers, therapists, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, etc. We are not good at asking ourselves the question of “what do I need right now?” With that comes burnout, and when we are burned out, nobody wins, especially our children. So, if you can’t find the motivation for your self care, then do it because it will make you more available to your children when you are cared for. Now, start looking at your calendar and mark down what you will do for yourself and when!
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By: Rachael Berringer, LAC, MA
As humans, we are born with the drive to relate and connect to others. Fostering emotional connectedness from a young age is a critical foundation for healthy development. Oftentimes, when our children receive a diagnosis, there is a race against time to start services and work on skills that may be lagging. However, what often seems to be missed is the importance of emotional development and building relationships. All children, regardless of a diagnosis, desire and deserve to have meaningful relationships. When my son started in a preschool inclusion program, I had a lot of unanswered questions. Is he mature enough to be a peer model? How will he handle observing children experiencing sensory overloads and needing support to work through these experiences? After all, he is only 3 and needs support regulating his emotions as well. What I began to realize was that it wasn’t only the “peer models,” that were modeling and helping. They were all learning from one another. They are all tiny humans that desire to be loved and have friendships with one another. The Inclusion program instills values in my child through natural experiences that can’t be taught through a textbook or expensive curriculums. Inclusion programs challenges teachers to see the whole child and nurture each and every child’s emotional self.
A strong, developmentally- appropriate social/emotional emphasis is crucial in creating a successful inclusion program. Through structured social/emotional lessons, modeling emotional coaching in the moment, as well as play experiences, children learn that we all have feelings and different coping strategies. Mirror neurons fire in our brains through observation of other human beings. By exposing our children to teachers and caregivers co-regulating with other students and working them through strong emotions, we are laying the groundwork for building empathy. Students also learn how to enter into another child’s world and see the world through another person's eyes. For example, another child may share a similar passion for Mickey Mouse, however, their play may look a little different e.g. stacking or lining a figure up. With assistance and modeling from adults in the room on how to engage with students, we are teaching them how to consider others’ interests and needs. In the future, this may help our children to include other children in their play and social interactions that may not initiate on their own. I know that my hope for my own child is to be an individual who respects and includes all people.
Enhances Communication and Interpersonal Skills
As adults, an important skill to be successful in life is learning how another individual communicates and tailor our interactions accordingly. Exposing our children to inclusion settings from an early age helps them to gain an understanding that we all communicate differently. In addition, exposing young children to a variety of communication modalities help to strengthen and develop language.
Multi Sensory supports and engaging lessons help each student access the full curriculum and accommodate all learning styles.
In an age of high-stakes testing, the importance of supporting and enhancing childhood development in an educational setting is often lost. Children need to move and experience to learn. An inclusive setting supports the critical, developmental building blocks for learning that are sometimes not emphasized in all educational settings. The importance of experience and process is lost through pressure of the “product.” Multi sensory learning experiences are critical for all children to access the curriculum through their individual learning styles. Inclusive settings create a supportive learning environment, engage a variety of learners and creates a more responsive learning environment.
When I walk into my son’s classroom, it’s difficult to distinguish between the students who have individualized education plans and those who do not. This is exactly as it should be. Through my son’s eyes, each and every one of his classmates are his buddies. Some communicate with technology and sign language. Some need cool little gadgets to make their bodies feel safe and ready to learn. Some of them like Paw Patrol just like him. Most of them like to move while learning just like him. Most importantly, they are his friends. By exposing our children to these types of educational environments from an early age, we are raising children who will grow into empathic adults and creating a more inclusive world.
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By: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D
Q: I have a child with special needs (Autism Spectrum Disorder). How do I get him to try new foods when he has issues with texture? When I try to get him to eat different types of veggies or fruits he will gag. His weight is normal and he is tall for his age but I worry because he doesn't seem to eat enough. Thank you.
A: Know that every mother worries that her child may not be eating enough, but you may want to shift your focus from quantity to quality. What is the quality of the foods that he eats? Does he eat some fruits and vegetables and the bulk is carbs? Is he able to handle some sources of protein. If so, you are in good shape. Or is he eating primarily from one general food group? This may limit the nutrients that he needs to keep his insides healthy.
Think about the array of foods that your son eats - what does his menu look like from day to day? Does he have an array from foods that he can tolerate? If there is a particular texture that he enjoys, then try to bring in new foods and textures using that as your stable texture by which to introduce new ones. By that I mean, if your son likes the texture of applesauce, then you may want to introduce a new food, such as carrots along side the applesauce. Your son already has a good association with the applesauce and may be more accepting of the carrots if they sit beside the applesauce. You may even encourage him to dip the carrot in the applesauce!
Also, if he likes the texture of applesauce, how about introducing him to a similar texture, such as tomato sauce, a cream of broccoli/mushroom soup or yogurt? Many mothers have been able to sneak in extra vitamins and minerals by pureeing healthy vegetables and adding them to tomato sauce that is served over pasta! You can find these type of recipes in books such as Deceptively Delicious or The Sneaky Chef.
Another mommy-strategy is to alter the texture of some fruits and vegetables by baking or cooking them. For example, if your son is turned off by a hard apple, how about baking it so that it's softer and easier to chew and swallow? If a hard carrot is too much work or is just not appealing, how about boiling up some carrot coins? Also, if he likes a particular condiment, such as ketchup, mustard or a particular type of salad dressing, add a dollop of that next to the new vegetable and let him experiment with the flavor by using a familiar one that he likes, and just happens to be sitting right there on his plate… or at least nearby!
Another thing to keep in mind as well is that your son may not be interested in a new food/texture right away. He may need 10-15 exposures (that is, just placing it on the dinner table or on his plate) before he is interested in trying it. Don't turn it into a power struggle - expose him to the new food/texture and let him explore it. He may poke at it, smoosh it between his fingers or squeeze it in his hand. Just watch and try to stay neutral about it. You may want to ask him how it feels in his hand and wait to see if he progresses to placing the new food/texture in his mouth as another form of exploration. He may surprise himself and you and actually like it!
It's very easy to get frustrated or impatient if you find that your efforts are not well received by your son, but know that it will take time for your son to accept a new food/texture. Try to avoid threatening, bribing, begging, or demanding that he try a new food. Let it be his choice, which also puts him in a position of control. Introduce a new food/texture once every 3-4 weeks and keep exposing your son to the new food several times during that time. You may find it helpful to maintain a log of which new food you have introduced, when, how often, the way you prepared it, and your son's response to it. Keep this log and refer to it as you will begin to see patterns in your son's preferences. This may be helpful in deciding which new flavor or texture to introduce next.
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By: Liz Matheis, PhD
I know I want my children to be independent, creative thinkers, and good problem solvers. In working with parents daily, I know this is your goal too. But how do we get there? How can we turn our daily interactions into opportunities for building these skills that they will need in their adolescence, their young adulthood, and in life?
We all love our children and want to give them a life that is comfortable and happy. But is our job really to create that much comfort? Shouldn’t we give our children opportunities to fail and try again while they are still under our roof?
Ask Questions; Answer a Question With a Question
When our children are younger, we give them much direction and tell them how to do things. As they get older, our job is to direct them, but not tell them how to do it. This is challenging, because I know I think, “This will be hard for him,” “It will take less time if I just do it for her,” or “I just don’t have time for the arguing or yelling.” But then where are the opportunities for our children to practice the skills they need?
Instead of saying, “Start your homework at 3:30 p.m.,” ask, “When will you start your homework?”
Instead of saying, “Start with your math homework; it’s the easiest,” ask, “Which homework assignment do you want to tackle first? Easiest or hardest?”
Instead of answering the question, “How do I start this paper?” ask, “What’s your thesis or theme?”
Instead of giving directives, ask questions. For teenagers, it gives them the perception of being in control, which is exactly what they want. Even though you are guiding the thought process to reach the conclusions, their perception is that they figured it out, which is great too!
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By: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D
As a Psychologist, I am in the business of receiving phone calls from parents worried about their kids with disabilities. During that initial phone call, parents give me a quick run-down of their child’s symptoms, the struggles the family at large is facing, and the specific goals they would like to work towards.
During that initial phone call, I’m often left thinking, “How are you, as the parent, doing?” Parents are often surprised when I ask that question during the intake. Several parents have responded with silence, a confused, “Fine,” or “No one has ever asked me how I’m doing.” As a parent of a child with disabilities, the process of gaining a diagnosis and then figuring out life and supports and medical conditions can be overwhelming and often traumatizing. In my experience, many parents of children with disabilities and other medical needs are experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
How Does a Parent Develop PTSD?
For the parent, the initial trauma can come from realizing that “something isn’t right” with their child, researching, and ultimately gaining the diagnosis. This trauma is perpetuated when a parent begins to mourn and grieve the loss of the child they thought they would have. The next phase is accessing medical supports or services and not being entirely sure how it will work and what the outcome will be. Then, adolescence hits and some children with disabilities develop anxiety or depression.
For example, for some parents of children with autism spectrum disorder, their children may become aggressive. Some kids have been aggressive all along. As a result, parents are often concerned about safety, often hiding bruises or staying at home to protect their child so that others don’t witness the physical aggression. This becomes even more complicated when there are other children in the home and parents struggle to give them attention, nurturance and time, something they often can’t do successfully because taking care of their sibling can sometimes be a 24-hour, 7 days per week job.
Raising a child with disabilities can also take a toll on a marriage. Parents care for their kids leaving little time for themselves as a couple. Finding someone else to care for the child can be difficult. That caretaker or babysitter needs to be trained and OK with possible meltdowns, behaviors or medical needs. And the icing on the cake is that some families become one income households so that one parent can take care of the multiple needs and therapies for the child, meaning that money can be tight, which is another source of distress for parents. Sometimes the marriage doesn’t survive due to the stress and lack of supports.
Parents are also left anticipating what might trigger their child and are constantly accommodating and modifying the environment to help their child stay calm or regulated. For some children, as they become older and their needs become more complex, some parents have to make a tough decisions about whether or not to find a residential program. Throughout this process that takes place over years and years, parents can become burned out, distressed, anxious, depressed and sometimes even feel hopeless and helpless.
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Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles