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.
Image by: Thrive Global
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.
Image by: Shield Healthcare
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!
Image provided by: Shield Healthcare
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