Posts made in September, 2013

Fall is Here! New Starts, New Expectations, New Rules

Posted by on Sep 23, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off on Fall is Here! New Starts, New Expectations, New Rules

Fall is Here! New Starts, New Expectations, New Rules

With fall and back to school, everything changes. New schedules, new routines. This is a great time to look at what you expect of your child and how to work together to make family life run smoothly. Now is a great time to make changes in rules and limits. Mornings are now busy, and we have to get up and out! Some kids are great at this; others need more help.  No television in the morning is very important if you have kids who do not get ready easily (TV can be a show stopper)! Some kids get sucked in and everything stops…not a good idea in the morning, when they need to be moving and getting ready for their day. Even eating breakfast in front of the TV can slow them down. No TV, unless they are all ready and waiting for when it is time to leave, then, maybe as a reward, if they can easily turn it off when it is time to go. Afternoons should be as consistent as possible. Physical exercise is always good for many reasons. Social time is also terrific in the afternoons. Homework time should be structured. Establish when the best time for homework will be. Some kids like to get right to it after school, others need a break. However, you should not expect kids to do homework too late—they are just too tired! Make contact with your child’s teacher(s) now. Let the teacher know you are the kind of parent who wants to be involved—any problems, you want to know, sooner, rather than later. Some parents may not want to be bothered, so teachers may hesitate to contact them until there is a major crisis. You do not want to be that parent. You also want to be very positive with your child about school. You and the teacher work together. You want to encourage your child to talk to you about any problems at school. “You know Mom and Dad are good at solving problems” They need to know they are not alone in dealing with school problems. Now is the time to set up expectation for chores. “Summer is over, now it is important for you to do these chores every day.”  Make it clear. I love charts because kids are visual and concrete. Even young kids can set the table. Chores are important. “We are a family and we work together,” is an important message. Hold your breath because what you can do better, in two seconds, may take your child ten minutes. Don’t do it! Kids need to work and realize they are an important member of the family and that being a family member means both GIVE and take. Review bedtimes and bedtime routines. Kids need about ten hours of sleep. With getting up early for school or day care, they need to go to bed early. Make the bed time clear and the routine easy and with a purpose. I am not a fan of big bedtime rituals. Wash, brush teeth, pajamas, read, goodnight. Keep it simple and consistent. This is also the time of year to think about what role screen time will play in the lives of your children. How much TV, computers, video games, phone time is enough, how much...

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Anxiety and Summer

Posted by on Sep 23, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off on Anxiety and Summer

Anxiety and Summer

Long Days of Summer Summer is here and if your child is on the anxious side you may find that they easily turn into “homebodies.” They just want to stay home. “I don’t want to do that! I hate going there. Why do I have to?” Gone are the days for most kids where there is a large group of neighborhood kids up bright and early and running outside to play. Some suburban neighborhoods look like ghost towns in the summer because parents are working and kids are in camps. If your child is home for the summer months, the big attraction, especially for boys, is often the computer. Playing games until very late at night for hours and hours and then sleeping late is a common pattern for anxious kids and kids on the spectrum. Girls tend to gravitate towards social media and TV shows and movies. Sitting alone, even when “talking or playing with friends” is not healthy for hours and hours a day. Interacting on the computer is not the same as face to face interaction. Computer interaction does not strengthen social skills in the same way that being and doing with peers does. “Why is this a problem? They are at school all year, don’t they deserve a break?” It is a problem because they are isolated and not engaged in activities that build self-esteem. Anxious children cling to their comfort zone and avoid anything that feels uncomfortable. Getting out and being challenged, learning new things, meeting new kids, initially may be anxiety provoking. Assuming the activity is a good match for your child, it will reap great rewards. New friends, skill development, physical exercise, and separation from parents are all important tools to help your anxious child feel more confident and less anxious. Camps are expensive, but some have scholarships for low-income families. Communities often have inexpensive or free summer activities. If that is not an option, a schedule for the summer becomes important. Up and out early, consistent bed time, limits to screen time, social interaction with peers, physical exercise. As a parent, you are in charge and can make the summer an active healthy one for your child. Talk about it, share ideas, but make it clear this summer will not be a summer of social isolation, little exercise, unlimited screen time or being attached like velcro to Mom or Dad. It may initially be a battle, but kids settle into routines and respond to what is expected. Screens are not the enemy, they have their place but like everything else, need to be used in moderation. Anxious kids can easily hide behind screens, so they need limits because they can’t easily limit themselves. Physical exercise is like medicine for anxiety and depression. The battle of getting your kids up and out of the house will pay off when they are healthier and ready to face the social, emotional and challenges of back to school after an active productive...

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The Birds and the Bees for Kids on the Spectrum

Posted by on Sep 23, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off on The Birds and the Bees for Kids on the Spectrum

The Birds and the Bees for Kids on the Spectrum

Recently, a 13-year old patient of mine did not understand why her mother would not give her nail clippers in the middle of a church mass. Her mother looked at me and said, “It was a teachable moment.”  This mom clearly gets it. Her daughter is on the autism spectrum and did not know mass is not a time to cut your nails.  She now knows. No clipping nails in church. It is a rule, she gets it. Kids on the autism spectrum usually get the “puberty talk” at school and parents have the “sex talk” at home. The problem is, like everything else, they learn the facts, but facts alone do not help them to navigate this complicated time in their lives. Everyone knows they have social difficulties, they have trouble with non-verbal social cues and they often have trouble knowing what is socially appropriate. What is more social and non-verbal than sexuality? How is it we forget that they may need a very different kind of sex talk then their typical peers? Many kids on the spectrum act inappropriately sexually when their intent is completely naive.  A patient of mine, who happens to be academically brilliant, went on a religious retreat with other teens. After a day of activities and prayer, the rabbi asked the group to close their eyes and pray. He then said, “Would anyone like to share their thoughts?” My patient immediately raised his hand and said, “I just can’t stop thinking about how much I want to go across the room and touch Mary’s breasts.”  The kids all burst out laughing and the rabbi looked horrified.  My patient had no idea what the fuss was about. Fortunately he was with a group of kids who knew him, and knew he had Aspergers. However, even so, Mary was deeply embarrassed and, if her parents were not so understanding, you can imagine their reaction. “A boy said that to my daughter in front of all the kids at a religious retreat?” I have had other patients on the spectrum who have gotten into more serious trouble for sexually inappropriate behavior,  and also had no clue what they did wrong.   Speaking inappropriately about sexual feelings, masturbating in public, taking inappropriate pictures, touching random peers or asking to be touched in a sexual manner, all without awareness of the consequences, are common among kids on the spectrum. We all know, there is zero tolerance for inappropriate sexualized behavior,  and kids on the spectrum are not given a free pass. As parents, we know they had no bad intent, but we also know the impact on others can be hurtful, no matter what the intent. And the consequences can be not only social and emotional, but legal. They may also become targets themselves.  Just as they often do not realize they are being bullied, they may not realize when they are being taken advantage of by someone in a sexualized manner. Kids on the spectrum are vulnerable due to their difficulty in understanding social interactions. They may need both protection from others, and, supervision to protect others, as they learn appropriate sexual behavior and how to manage their new sexual feelings. These kids need to be taught the rules of sexual behavior, just like they learned the rules of other social behaviors.  It is not fair to them for us to assume they know. Depending...

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The Good Enough Parent

Posted by on Sep 23, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off on The Good Enough Parent

The Good Enough Parent

When I first read Donald Winnicott’s phrase ” the good enough mother” years ago, my first reaction was, “I don’t want to be just good enough!  I want to be a great mother!” Through years of experience as a mother and child therapist, I now appreciate how important the concept of “good enough” parenting is. With so many books, courses, television shows and yes, even blogs, about how best to parent your children, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.  Listening to other parents can be very supportive unless the conversation turns to what is “best” for children. Then it can feel intimidating, at best, and critical at worst. We all want to give our children the very best, but what does that mean? Private lessons? Tutors? Camps? This can become very expensive very fast, especially when you have more than one child. How much structured activity is enough, how much is too much? Even what we feed our children can become a source of stress. Sugar? No sugar? Organic? Who can afford all the “shoulds” we hear about when it comes to taking care of our children? There is no “best” way to be a parent. There is no perfect parent. And, much to our frustration at times, there are no perfect kids, at least none in my house. We all learn as much as we can,and  remember the best of our childhoods, and try to offer that to our children. We also remember what we didn’t like about our experience as a child and try to do it differently this time around. “Try” is the important word, because so many times, the words we hear coming out of our mouth sound very much like what we heard as a child! Parenting is also value laden. We are teaching our children values every day. The importance of sharing, being organized, being healthy, working hard, these are all common values. Then there are the more personal values about religion, sexuality, money, helping the less fortunate, nature and even things like risk taking, questioning authority, and respect. Our political views get transmitted to our children, without us even trying, as do our opinions about many things. So many personal aspects of our parenting style have nothing to do with right or wrong, and everything to do with who we are as people. We are imperfect and our parenting will not be perfect. This time of year, there are so many options for after school activities. How much is enough? How much is too much? Diversity in parenting needs to be stressed. Different parents have different needs. Some parents need to work, others feel the need to stay home. Some parents, like some children, thrive on lots of activities, or else they feel bored. Others prefer a calmer, simpler existence, or else they feel stressed out. Children are the same, some love lots of activities, others prefer more down time. There is no “right” or “wrong” about this. The important question is “What works best for our family?” We stumble along doing the best we can and if we do our jobs, it will be “good enough” and our children will leave us. In the end stressing about the best way to parent is a waste of time and energy. Think “good enough”, and leave the stressing to be perfect to...

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