Provider Spotlight: Lauren Palianto
Our provider spotlight today focuses on the amazing work of our friend and colleague, Lauren Palianto of Decoded Learning Center in East Hanover, NJ. Lauren is a certified Orton-Gillingham Dyslexia Therapist with an M.A. in Reading Instruction & Assessment and extensive experience working as a Special Education Teacher. Decoded provides individualized instruction focusing on students of all ages and abilities with learning differences such as: Dyslexia, ADHD/ADD, language processing disorders, working memory deficits and executive functioning challenges. Be sure to check out her website below for more information.
NJ moms and mamas-to-be share their hopes for the new year.
‘Tis the season for resolutions and whether you believe in them or not, we can all agree we’re ready to have a much happier new year. We asked NJ moms and moms-to-be to share their resolutions for 2021. Read on and tell us what you hope to focus on in the new year in the comments below. Happy 2021!
Family time can become an opportunity for social growth.
Written by Dr. Liz Matheis
Featured on Psychology Today
For nearly seven months now, we have been managing a pandemic and trying to stay healthy, physically. However, in the meantime, we have been isolated, our children have been isolated. For many, this was a needed reset. For many, it has been difficult to stay away from friends and family.
For our younger kids, this has been a confusing time. You may have or are actively seeing a regression in skills, increase in meltdowns, clinginess, and sadness because she is not able to reach for hugs from friends and family members, and the confusion as to why it is not okay. With fewer opportunities for social interaction, our children’s social skills may also be regressing.
As a parent, we’re often troubleshooting challenges as they happen. So when you suspect your child may have a learning disability, it can be overwhelming to know where to start and how to obtain the resources to best support your child.
To help streamline your next steps, we spoke with Dr. Liz Matheis, a licensed Clinical Psychologist and certified School Psychologist who specializes in assisting children and their families with Autism, ADHD, Anxiety and learning/behavioral disorders.
My mother and father maintained a circle of friends who were also immigrants to the United States. We attended an Egyptian church weekly, and this was a large part of our social life. Our friends were other Egyptian-American teens and each week, we gathered together and shared our stories about our parents’ “ridiculous” views while our parents shared their favorite meals and nostalgic stories of the motherland. I had no idea where I fit in and how to balance and manage the expectations of our culture, religion and our life in a non-Egyptian community. I wish I had someone to talk to. Someone to validate the angst I felt well into my late 20s.
Now, let’s blast forward to the present where I am waiting for my son while he gets his hair cut. He’s darting looks at me while sending a text, “Don’t come near me.” Just to make this visual complete, I am sitting about 10 feet away from him. But he waves me over and asks, “What do you think? Short enough?”
I’m so confused.
That’s my boy: He’s in the midst of a time of physical growth, emotional chaos, social changes (constantly), insecurity, and trying to figure out his identity. He’s not alone. Adolescent boys and girls everywhere struggle with anxiety, and so is my adolescent boy…
Photo from: Pexels
What Is Cyber Bullying?
Bullying is a term that’s been around for a long time. Parents understand bullying to be physical harm caused by one child to another, for some or no reason at all. The intent is to cause harm, fear, or intimidation. Well, let’s fast forward to our present day with Snap Chat, Instagram, Facebook, and whatever else that’s here or about to be here. Cyber-bullying is here. What is that exactly? It’s when a child/adolescent is being targeted and harmed by interactions over social media/the internet. However, past this definition, it can make teens feel isolated, hopeless, and cause them to lose interest in things they normally love to do. With that said, if your child shares with you that she is the recipient of a rude or hurtful message on social media, you need to know how to mediate these situations.
In the past, before the internet and social media, when someone was bullied in school, when they went home, they were able to gain a break from the bullying. Presently, that barrier doesn’t exist anymore. The bullying persists because of one tap on their phone screen and it’s right there. There is no break of respite from this type of bullying, and it is vital for parents to step in.
What Should Your Child Do?
If your child comes to you with an instance of cyberbullying, whether it be a conflict they had with a friend through text messages, a post directed at him on Instagram, or someone posting pictures of him on Snapchat without permission, the very first thing to do is make sure your child takes a screenshot (picture) of the text, photo, and comments. If the other child chooses to delete her texts or conversations, you still have a copy of the content.
Even more importantly, make sure that your child does not reply to the messages in any way since this will just give the bully the reaction he or she would like. If your child has already replied, still screenshot the conversation, but your child will also then be partaking in cyberbullying, even if they did not act first.
Next, you’ll want to have your child block the person the cyberbullying is coming from, so this doesn’t continue to happen. Also, don’t just have your child block them on the site where the bullying is taking place, have your child block them on all social media platforms where they can possibly be contacted. This will truly ensure the bully won’t be able to contact your child any longer.
What Should I Do?
You should probably keep a close eye on your child’s phone and social media accounts, just in case the bully finds another way to contact your child. If you feel as though the situation is not handled, bring the screenshots/pictures of the cyberbullying to your child’s school principal, and they have to act on the messages they see. Finally, make sure to be comforting and uplifting to your child.
Being cyberbullied makes kids feel helpless, inferior, alone, dissatisfied with themselves, and many other awful feelings. Instead of making your child feel punished by taking her phone, just establish that if anything else happens, she needs to come to you first. Depending on the severity of the cyberbullying, your child may also need to be comforted as well. If your child is highly distressed, you may want to seek counseling.
Remind your child that people only bully others when they aren’t happy with themselves and that the bully’s messages are meant to create fear, panic, and hurt self-esteem. Additionally, try to spend more time with your child, or set limits on phone use. When teens are off their phones and having fun with their friends and family, problems over social media seem less impactful to them, which is what your goal to be as a parent in this situation; help your child realize that the bully is insignificant and shouldn’t be allowed to take over their mood and happiness.
Overall, teens who are being cyberbullied need guidance and support during this time. Bond with your child, listen, offer advice, and sympathize. Seek private counseling if the impact of the cyberbullying is pervasive and begins to negatively impact the ability to attend school, maintain friendships, engage with family members, complete homework, and study for tests. The ultimate goal is to not become punitive but rather to sympathize and problem solve together while maintaining general life activities and family time.
Photo from: Pexels
As a mom of four, I am always on the go, and I make mistakes. Some days run smoothly and others, I am barely making it to the finish line. I also realize that as a therapist, we have a running dialogue in our head. We judge ourselves as parents, we judge our decisions, we judge our outcomes. I am trying to become more aware of the messages that I feed my heart and body each day and transform them into more positive messages, which will ultimately flow into my children’s daily lives.
I am a flawed mama. We are all flawed mamas, and that’s more than okay! Unfortunately, we live in a time of rabid social media where moms everywhere are posting their wonderful motherhood moments, with, what looks like, perfect children in a perfect marriage, an organized home, educational field trips, and three organic meals per day. Social media is a wonderful medium of communication, but I think we may have lost our focus here. Instead, let’s focus on how to plant the seeds of resilience in our everyday interactions with our children
Close The Circle
I lose my temper but when I do, after I have cooled down, I apologize to my kids. My hope is to close the circle and show them how I am using my words to repair and improve our communication. Sometimes, I lose my mind over Fortnight and that is okay too. I want my children to see that there will be conflicts and disagreements in life, but it is how we handle them that will make us stronger people as well as build a relationship. I want my children to know that it’s okay to lose your temper, but it is also important to turn around and apologize. It’s okay to be humble and to admit to a moment (or two) of bad judgment. I hope that this also lets them know that when they make mistakes in their adolescence and young adulthood (and they will!), it’s important for them to close the circle and attempt to make it right. I hope that my kids will internalize these conversations into their own internal ‘scripts” to use when problem solving in their own head.
Use Positive Self Talk
As parents, we have flaws. I own my flaws and I work on them – some days better than others. With that said, I realized that by reacting to my mistakes (oops! Sorry, honey, I forgot to pack your lunch last night!) with kindness towards myself, or by making a joke, my kids will see that I am not using negative language towards my mistakes and I am embracing that I am a human who makes errors (lots of them!).
Another classic positive self-talk phrase I like to use is, “I can do this!” I want my kids to see that I am afraid too, but that I’m going to use my fear to drive me towards my goal. Although certain tasks, academic or athletic skills may look like they come easily to some, sometimes it’s trying again and again (perseverance) is needed to ‘figure it out’ along the way. Learn from our errors, pick ourselves back up and come up with plan B when plan A doesn’t work. That’s true resilience right there. The grit that makes us resourceful and tough teenagers, young adults and ultimately adults.
Get Back Up
I have a blackboard hanging in my kitchen with the phrase, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up” (credited to Vince Lombardi). This mantra has set the stage for my family to focus not on life’s struggles but how you cope with them. In today’s society (and I am guilty of it too at times), helicopter parents hover over their children which prevents them from that when they fall, that they are capable of getting back up. Although it feels like I am keeping my child safe, I am robbing them of an opportunity to build resiliency.
Caroline Bologna, wrote “You Need To Teach Your Kids How To Fail: Here’s How” (see full article here: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/teaching-kids-failure-resilience_l_5c882690e4b038892f485ba9) in which she describes hovering parents who do not allow their child to fail for fear of disappointment as not only the helicopter parent, but the ‘snow plow parent,’ the ‘lawn mower parent’ or even ‘curling parents’.
All of these parents have the same goal – don’t let my child fail. The long-term detriment that this type of parenting style creates far outweighs the benefits gained in the short-term. I urge you to not only to stop being a ‘lawn mower; but to encourage your kids to mow the lawn too, both figuratively and for real!
Photo from: Pexels
Keep An Open Line of Communication
Engage your kids in a conversation about the internet on a regular basis. Review what the right steps are if they were to ever see anything that makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. By creating an open dialogue such as this, you are showing them that you are there to help them if they ever come across anything inappropriate. Also, engage them in a conversation about cyber bullying and how they should speak up if they see anything like that happening on the internet.
Make Your Expectations Clear
Tell your kids that they are not to give out any personal information online. Tell them they are not to send pictures to others and absolutely are not to make plans to meet up with anyone they speak to on the internet. It is also helpful to have computers in a common area of the house, instead of in children’s bedrooms, where you can more closely monitor their online activity. With smartphones and other devices, use your judgement on whether or not to allow your children to use their devices by themselves.
Model Appropriate Internet Behavior
Be sure you are not saying one thing to your kids and then doing the opposite. Take time to go on the internet together with your children and show them appropriate internet safety practices. Use this time to show them how you would not download anything without first knowing what it was. Show them how you are mindful about what you may chose to post on your social media accounts, since once things are posted there is no taking them back.
By following these tips, you will be proactively taking the approach of safe and productive internet use. The internet can be an extremely useful asset in many ways, but it has to be used appropriately. Keep an open dialogue and tell your children that it is okay for them to speak up if they come across anything concerning.
Photo from: Pexels
So, how can we raise kids who pursue, develop, and maintain healthy goals, careers, and relationships?
In today’s blog, featured on ADDitude Mag, Dr. Liz discusses the importance of balance in our own lives, and our children’s lives. She further explains how letting our kids make mistakes, take initiative in their social or academic lives, and explore on their own can help strengthen their social skills, problem solving skills, and independence!