It's easy for us parents to get wrapped up in our own thoughts and responsibilities, and can sometimes forget that our children are not always 100% responsible for their decisions. This article from greatschools.org helps explain the physiological influences that go behind some of our children's nonsensical thoughts and actions.
Screens, Phones & Technology - Oh My! Dr Liz speaks about our kids and screen time on Mom Talk Radio with Maria Bailey
Our children are engrossed in social media, their computers, IPADS, IPhones, IPads, TV and anything other screen or social platform. The initial intent of the screen was not for long term and prolonged use on a daily basis.
What should we do as parents?
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.
Let's work together on raising our children with resilience to learn, play, and conquer life's small and big challenges!
Prepared by Chrissy Sunberg, M.Ed., AAC
Executive Function Skills Accommodations For Your Child At School
Is it possible for a student to have a high IQ and still fail school classes? The answer, sadly, is yes. You may have a student who is able to learn and retain new concepts and apply them, but maintaining school materials, remembering to write down homework assignments and turn them in, managing time, prioritizing assignments are all skills known as executive functioning skills that our kids are not born with, nor are these specific skills taught specifically to our children.
According to Dr. Russell Barkley, an ADHD guru, executive function (or EF) refers to the cognitive or mental abilities that people need to actively pursue goals. In other words, it’s about how we behave toward our future goals and what mental abilities we need to accomplish them.
EF is made up of seven skills:
3. Non-Verbal Working Memory
4. Verbal Working Memory
5. Emotional Self-Regulation
7. Planning and Problem Solving
When a student has a deficit in one or more of the EFs, they may experience some difficulty in school with planning, organizing, motivation and problem-solving.
So how do we help our children at school? If you have a child diagnosed with ADHD, you may be eligible for a 504 Accommodation Plan or Individualized Education Plan (IEP) if you child requires a special education program and other services.
If your child doesn’t have a 504 Accommodation Plan, reach out to your child’s Guidance Counselor and request one along with a diagnosis provided by your Pediatrician, Neurologist or Psychologist. If you feel that your child requires an IEP, prepare a written request for a CST meeting for your child.
If your child already has a 504 Accommodation Plan or IEP, you may want to consider adding any or all of the following accommodations to help build and maintain your child’s EF skills on a daily basis:
Next time you encounter a student that turns in all their assignments late or can’t seem to get to class on time, they could have lagging executive function skills. Remember, our children don’t wake up with the intent to forget to hand in their homework, or leave their books at school. Dr. Ross W. Greene says, “They would if they could.”
When our children haven’t yet developed their EF skills, it doesn’t make sense to be punitive. Instead, when a child is struggling with a particular EF skill, help them build it up instead of breaking them down.
For more information on EF, you can look up Dr. Thomas Brown or Dr. Russell Barkley, both gurus on executive functioning.
Join Dr. Liz and the parents of Mendham on Thursday April 12, 2018, 10am
at Mendham Township Elementary School
as she presents on the topic of "Raising Kids With Grit"
Today's blog comes to us from Cleveland Clinic.
Coloring is a great way to express yourself. It is a healthy and positive way to let out some of your stress, while also having a little bit of fun!
Prepared by: Michelle Molle- Krowiak, Ed.S., LCSW
Journaling as a Tool for your Anxious Child
The concept of journaling has been around for a long time. The idea is to have a sacred and private place to write down your private thoughts. Those thoughts, good or bad, then have a home, a place to live.
Anxious Thoughts are Distracting
In working with anxious children, adolescents, adults and their parents, anxious thoughts can be mean, popping up during times when you should be having fun with a friend or at a birthday party, listening to a lesson in class, or doing homework. Anxious thoughts are distracting and sometimes, they come back again and again and again and again and again and again.
Oops! I hit ‘Send’
I know you’ve had a moment or two in your life when your feelings were so angry or so hurt, and you wrote a text or an email and it felt good to write it out, right? You felt relieved because you got the swirl of thoughts and feelings out of your head and body, out onto a screen, and you knew the other person read it with all of your intent. Have you ever regret hitting send because the emotion was a little too raw and intense, and maybe with a little bit of processing, you could have expressed your thoughts more directly and with less emotion? Join the large club of the “Senders of the Regretted Text/Email! Hello, my name is (insert your name here)!”
The Intimacy of Writing
A safe and productive way of expressing your thoughts and emotions without the “danger” of hitting the send button is journaling. In our technology driven world, sadly, the art of writing is lost. Our children are lost in the world of abbreviations (LOL, LMAO, TTYL, TU, GM, etc, etc, etc). The act of writing has strong neuropsychological benefits. The multi-sensory aspects of generating a thought, transferring it to paper, the physical act of writing, reading over what you read and making changes to your thoughts (or grammar, or punctuation) is a complex process that taps into executive functioning skills, emotional expression, and communication. It’s an intimate process that also allows gives you freedom to express your deepest thoughts and feelings, whether they are for sharing or for private consumption only! In essence, it’s allowing you or your child to re-connect with your thoughts, feelings, and yourself. That’s an activity that a lot of us have stopped doing because of our rushed lifestyles, overbooking ourselves and our children, and ‘running’ and rushing to get to bed. Where is our downtime? In essence, journaling allows you to reconnect - with yourself!
Think About It
Another way you can use that handy dandy journal is to share your thoughts and struggles in between sessions with your Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CBT).
When you and your therapist are sitting together, it’s hard to remember what happened in the last week or two weeks. By documenting your thought journey, it’s easy to reference what triggered illogical or negative thoughts that increased anxiety or lowered self esteem. When you are able to discuss together, you now have insight about how you were feeling in that moment and where you are now in your thoughts. What a powerful way to make the connection that how you felt in that moment (no matter how negative or powerful), the feeling does pass, and things doget better.
Even if you don’t end up sharing your journal with your therapist, journaling takes those irrational thoughts or fears and makes them visual and tangible without judgement, just in black (blue, red, pencil) and white!
Show Your Gratitude
In our practice, we encourage parents to sit down with their child at bedtime and create a new routine of using their journal to identify worries so that they can get ‘rid’ of them and hopefully, sleep well. We also encourage the practice of gratitude – for every worry, identify one thing you are grateful for (e.g., I had a great lunch today, I finished my homework quickly today, I loved the sunshine today, etc). We start with the worries and end with the things we are grateful for as a way of pumping those endorphins and promoting positive feelings about one’s self and day.
We didn’t share with you anything you didn’t already know, but it’s all here in one place for you to read and practice. Pick up a journal for yourself or your child and get that pen, pencil, crayon or marker moving!
'Inside the 6th Graders Brain’ is a fantastic article written by GreatSchools.com which is truly relevant to me here and now! As the mom of a 6th grade young man, it’s as if this article was written for me to read! He is my oldest so I’m learning as we go. Middle school, body growth, and brain development is where it’s at! Fellow moms of budding adolescents, read this and be reassured that it’s all part of growth and development!
Dr. Liz Matheis was interviewed by All Business Media FM Radio for the Professional Round Table on March 22, 2018!
Today's article comes to us from Child Mind Institute, and talks about how to effectively discipline your child.
Yet again, we are happy to share that Miranda Dekker, LCSW has joined Psychological & Educational Consulting, LLC!
Miranda is an experienced Licensed Clinical Social Worker with experience in working with children, adolescents and their families. She brings her expertise in eating disorders to us.
Prepared by: Stephanie Fredericka, LCSW
Easier Said Than Done
How many times per day do you get angry, and repeat the mantra “it’s okay, just breathe.” When our kids become angered or upset, we tell them to do the same thing, but it becomes cliché real fast and that’s when we think, “Yeah, right.. easier said than done!” With so many of the kids that I work, they shared that just breathing doesn’t work, so that got me thinking… why doesn’t breathing work?
More than likely, just as with any skill, it takes practice in order to become comfortable doing it or applying it. Breathing is a great coping mechanism to use with anxious and overwhelmed children to help regulate them, but how can we get them to become comfortable using it? I started using shape visuals to help them practice and focus on their breathing. Rather than breathing, which may seem ambiguous or formless, I did some research and found a visual that kids can use when they could be breathing to calm their brain and body.
How Do Shapes and Breathing Connect?
Look at these two pictures: a star and a square. On the star, you will notice that at each point, there is a specific direction. Holding your breath at these points, exhaling on the next line and inhaling on the following line, helps create focus on and guide to the breath. This visual provides more than just words to our children, which is especially important for our anxious little ones.
There are two ways to use these visuals: hold one in front of you and trace the line when you engage in the breathing, or to visualize each point of the figure and to inhale and exhale. For the kids who need some extra grounding technique, using their finger to slide from one side of the figure to the next maintains engagement for a strategy that can be so simple yet so difficult. Through visualizing and breathing, our kids can begin to oxygenate their bodies and brain which gives the message, “I am okay. No danger here.”
Time To Practice Breathing in Shapes
Shape breathing is one of many effective tools to add to your child’s coping skills toolbox. This technique can be used when feeling upset, overwhelmed, angry, anxious, or to just bring a little calm to your day. It’s a great idea to practice these breathing visuals in the morning or at night, to start the day off right or soothe a child before bedtime. Lower the lights and play some calming music or use visualization to whisk the family away to a sunny beach, allowing your mind to relax as you follow the shapes. With this practice, deep breathing will become easily accessible and comfortable to use.
Remember, breathing is one of the essential elements towards a less stressful lifestyle. Here’s to taking a deep breath!
Today's blog, from Psychology Today, is in line with our recent blog about raising resilient children. This article lists 10 very clear ways we are weakening our children’s ability to be gritty.
Today's blog comes to us from Child Mind Institute, and talks about what to do (and not do) when children are anxious.
Prepared by Dr. Liz Matheis
Well, actually, I learned a great number of things and I don’t even know where to begin. Let me first reflect on my thoughts – what a powerful visual depiction of the negative impact of sustained interaction with technology! As a mom, it was a big, fat, GOOD MORNING, LIZ- WHERE YOU BEEN? To make it digestible, I’m going to break it down into sub-topics.
Technology is Everywhere
My generation grew up with a phone on the wall, and then we progressed to the cordless phones – wow! We had one computer in the house and it was used to type papers. Our kids have no idea what we mean when we share that we grew up in homes with one phone that was connected to the wall, and you went as far as the cord would take you.
In fact, schools are providing Chrome Books and IPads to our kids to complete their assignments. Sounds great in theory, but our kids are using these devices for pleasure for the majority of the time. I thought I was going to fall off my seat when I heard that the average child is spending 6.5 hours on a screen … and that’s before they use them for any type of school-related tasks!
Our Kids and their Developing Brains
From having taken extensive courses in neuropsychology and child development, I knew that our kids’ brains are not fully developed, but I don’t think I appreciated how much our kids are truly unable to self monitor their use of a phone or IPod. I figured there would be an internal clock that would go off in my son’s brain when he had had enough.
Our children’s frontal lobe has several more years to develop the ability to work on those executive functioning skills - self regulation, sustained attention, inhibiting a response (such as clicking on SnapChat), and self monitoring. Our kids do not have the fully developed skills to finish homework first and then go onto Instagram. This is not an innate ability and they are UNABLE to put down the very reinforcing IPad, Chrome Book, IPhone, IPod or video game. Embrace that idea as a parent because we cannot put this responsibility on our children alone; we have to intervene.
Sigh…. The original intention of social media, such as Facebook or Instagram, was to help connect people from far and near so that we could “keep up with each other” even though we may not interact on a regular basis. For example, keeping up with a high school or college classmate. That was the intention created by one adult for other adults. But then it fell into the hands of our children, for whom it was not intended. Our young girls are posting pictures with the hopes of getting “liked”. The comments usually found under a girl’s picture are about her appearance (e.g., “Beautiful. You look amazing. Gorgeous!”). Young girls become obsessed with checking how many likes and by whom. They focus on getting the right pose from the right angle and with the right people. Not sure if you are aware, but there are several apps where our kids can make their skin look clearer, their eyes bigger, their nose and thighs smaller. OMG! The goal of our young girls is to appear ‘sexy’ without overdoing it.
The Impact of Technology on Homework & Studying
We know that when the phone is near a child working on homework, there very little actual work getting done. Your child may be ‘working on homework’ for 3 hours with very little completed. So what is actually happening? Distraction. Your child is working for small spurts of time with little continuity, and constant shifting (e.g., “25/3 is… oh look who texted me? OMG, did he really say that? Let me text my friend and tell her that he texted me…. Oh yeah.. 25/3….).
Our children are trying to multi task at a time in their development when they cannot. The sad thing is that they ‘think’ they are multi-tasking and completing tasks well, but in reality, they are actually not. They are also overstimulated which tires their brain and decreases their ability to complete homework effectively or study. In fact, it may take up to three times longer to learn new information or a skill.
And when you have an overstimulated and distracted child, do you know what their biggest physical complaint is going to be? Inability to sleep, choppy sleep, or not enough sleep. Do you know why? Because their screens are in their room, sitting right there, within reach. So they reach for them and play games or text or look up information, and hours of precious sleep are lost.
What Can We Do as Parents?
I know this is going to sound so obvious, but we need to limit our children’s’ screen time. You know this but you also know that your child is content when he is on his IPad or playing a video game. Setting those limits will definitely create some resistance, but as the parent, you have to resist back because you are aware of the backlash of having full access to technology and the screen. Let’s talk specifics:
Parents, get off your phones and devices too!
As parents, we are busy with our jobs. We try to answer our emails and respond to text messages quickly. Yet, we are also spending exorbitant times on our devices, leaving little time to look at our children face to face, and hold a conversation that goes back and forth for a minimum of 5 full sentences. We find that our kids are preoccupied with their devices, so we turn to ours, and then there we are; two people sitting sharing a common space.. and an electronic device.
So I have to ask, how did the others before us work when the only way to make a phone call or return an email was to sit at your work computer and use the phone with the cord on your desk? Why can’t we limit our work to designated times? Why do our jobs occupy our time at home too? Were the working parents before us better at designating time for work and time for family? Perhaps. Or, are we addicted to our phones for purposes other than just our work?
During the “Screenagers” viewing, there was a little girl, maybe 5 or 6, who described her interactions with her mother as a few words exchanged and then her mother returning to her phone, and back and forth. That saddened me because I wonder if my children would say the same thing about me??
Let’s Find a Balance again..
I didn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know, but how mind blowing all at the same time. We are the authority figures for our children and we have to set limits. Limit the time that our children are on their devices, and for us to know who they are talking to, which websites they are visiting, which games they are playing, and which apps they are downloading. They may not like us for it, but share your thoughts about danger, having time off of the device, interacting face to face, and set that limit. We may find that our children are better able to talk, in full sentences (LOL!) and find other things to do to occupy their free time. They may complete their homework and study more efficiently instead of multi-tasking. And, it’s also up to use to be good role models for our children with how much we use our devices.
In the interest of your and your family’s well-being,
Over the years, our children are more anxious and less capable. What happened? Read Dr. Liz's blog with MommyBites.com where she offers everyday parenting strategies to build our child's resilience.
Today's blog was prepared by Chrissy Sunberg, M.Ed., AAC
ADHD – There’s an Accommodation For That
It’s no secret or surprise – our children with ADHD or learning disabilities are going to need accommodations within their home and school environment. Although some may argue that we are not preparing our children for ‘the real world’, it’s important to give our children the space and time to gain the skills they will need in the future. These skills we often reference are really executive functioning skills, confidence and the ability to self-regulate in disguise.
What is Your Child’s Learning Style?
First things first, how does your child processes information most naturally? There are two general learning styles: visual spatial and auditory sequential.
Visual Spatial Learning Style
This learning style is commonly seen in children with ADHD or a learning disability. In essence, this is the type of learner who thinks in pictures, not words. For example, if I said the word ‘bike’, the visual spatial learner would imagine a picture of a bike. This is also the type of learner that thinks in big picture terms. Instead of following the sequence of one detail after another in order to reach the big picture, this is the type of learner who sees the big picture first, and then needs help breaking down that big picture into its details. In fact, details are a bit treacherous and boring.
Auditory Sequential Learning Style
This learning style is best characterized by the student who thinks in words. Again, if I said the word ‘bike’, this type of learner would envision the letters, ‘b-i-k-e’. This child with this learning style is an auditory learner that is in tune with the details and is able to build on the details until the big picture is gained. That is, this is the step-by-step learner who is analytical and attends well to details.
By understanding your child’s learning style, you will be able to direct your teacher how your child learns best, and to also use the types of strategies that are best suited to your child’s needs at home. For example, for the visual spatial learner, note cards are boring and a horrible waste of time. Instead, draw diagrams, watch a video, or discuss how the concept works. Color, songs and music are also great ways to help your child to learn new information that can be overwhelming or tedious.
At home and at school, because our children don’t process the details of how to maintain an organizational system, we have to use their visual spatial tendencies to help them stay organized.
Share these strategies with your child’s teacher and create a supportive plan for your child. You can also use these strategies at home:
Time for a Sensory Break!
Is your child sensory seeking or are they under stimulated? The need or avoidance of sensory input can lead to poor focus and distraction, as well as restlessness and fidgetiness. Consult with your school or private Occupational Therapist (OT) to gain an understanding of your child’s sensory profile. Use those sensory strategies both at home and in the classroom:
By understanding your child’s strengths and how he processes the world, you and your teacher will be better able to reach your child at home and in school with less resistance and greater ease.
Today's blog is prepared by Nicole Filiberti, LSW
The Perfectionism of Anxiety in Children…
The need for perfection is a big part of anxiety in children. Is it an inborn trait? Is it a message that is actively or unconsciously communicated from parent to child? Helping children to dispel these thoughts is equally as important as identifying the origins, because together, a child can then find relief.
What are the signs of perfectionism in a child?
It’s very easy to interpret perfectionism as ‘behavioral’ because a child may engage in the following, which can be easily perceived as intentional or manipulative:
How to Help Your Child Un-Do Perfectionistic Standards
“Has there ever been a time when you didn’t need to be perfect?”
Ask your child this question as it will help you figure out when the perfectionistic standards began and where they may have originated. As parents, we may be subtlety (and without any bad intention) began to provide tangible or verbal praise for earning perfect scores. Also take a look at your child’s peer group - is there an element of competition regarding academics? Answers to these questions can help you address the root cause of this unrealistic drive for perfection.
Model Less than Perfect Behavior
When we make mistakes as parents, we often feel badly as we ‘should’ be able to do things correctly and serve as good role models for our children. That is actually the opposite message that we wish to communicate to our children. How many times have your said, “I’m an idiot! I burned the chicken!” Our children hear these phrases and begin to internalize that errors are not okay.
It’s important for us as parents to calmly admit to a mistake and think about how to correct it versus becoming angry, yelling, or making derogatory statements towards ourselves. Our children internalize these statements and use them towards themselves.
Explore the Gray Area
Children who strive for perfection are very often "black and white" thinkers. As parents, we need to create situations that allow for gray area thinking. That is, discuss a situation that may have happened in the news, in town, or with a friend. Discuss with your children all the possible reasons that a particular outcome happened. For example, Mrs. Smith had a car accident. How could that have happened? Maybe someone didn’t see a red light and then crashed into her; maybe she missed a red light and crashed into someone else; maybe she lost control of her car; maybe she fell asleep at the wheel; maybe the other driver fell asleep at the wheel. By engaging in this kind of thinking pattern, it then makes it easier for your child to attribute a low test score to difficult material, or that a friend not saying hello in the hall does not automatically mean that it was because she was upset with you, but rather maybe she didn’t do well on her math test, or that she isn’t feeling well.
Even Celebrities Are Not Perfect
We all perceive celebrities as being perfect, having perfect lives, and eating perfect meals. But guess what - did you know that Michael Jordon did not make his high school basketball team? A quick Google search for "celebrities with ADHD" will yield a large list of people who struggle and are less than perfect. Find people on that list who your child identifies with and likes. It will make it easy to relate back to their celebrity role models and realize that they were, indeed, not perfect either.
Perfectionism is a common struggle for many children and teens. Incorporating some of these habits into daily life can help lessen the desire for perfection and ultimately, lead to a reduction in stress and anxiety levels for those who need it.
I'm sharing another blog with Big City Moms about strategies in helping your shy child.
Eager to hear your thoughts, feedback and strategies that you've used with your own child!
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis is licensed Clinical Psychologist who specializes in assisting children and their families with Autism, AD/HD, and other learning/behavioral disorders.