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Showing posts tagged with: parenting

What Is Anxiety? And How Can I Help?

anxious girl An increasing number of phone calls and emails I receive are from parents expressing concern that their child is exhibiting anxiety. They are questioning if their child is okay, and if more professional help is needed. To help answer some of your questions, here are notes from a talk I recently gave a local elementary school on the topic of anxiety: Most peo,ple, of all ages occasionally have feelings of anxiety, or stress. A small amount of anxiety is normal and can even motivate us to stay alert, to be focused, and to be aware. Most anxious kids (and adults) are worried about what MIGHT happen — that something will go wrong, or feeling like danger is just around the corner. Anxiety is felt physically, emotionally, and in the way people view the world around them. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions. And the most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Children with GAD might worry excessively, be very hard on themselves, strive for perfection, seek constant approval or reassurance, have trouble concentrating, experience sleeping problems, and be irritable. Children and teens may also have physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or muscle tension. It might cause them to miss school, be late to school, or to avoid social activities. It is common for children and teens to avoid talking about how they feel, because they're worried that others (especially their parents) might not understand. They may fear being judged or being considered weak. And the less they talk with someone who can help, the worse they feel. It is very difficult to know when our children are dealing with typical, normal stress, or when perhaps our child is dealing with an Anxiety Disorder. If you feel that your child’s level of anxiety is lasting a long time, is out of proportion to their real situation, and is affecting your child and family on a daily basis, then I would recommend consulting with your pediatrician. The goal is to manage anxiety, not to eliminate it. Don’t avoid situations just because they make your child anxious. We can’t remove what makes our child feel anxious, but we can teach them what to do when they feel anxious. Respect but don’t enforce, your child’s anxiety. “I understand that you are nervous about the doctor’s visit. But I will be with you and we will do this together.” Learn and teach deep breathing and relaxation techniques. Massage, sound machines, and counting to 10 can help in stressful moments, and when your child feels their anxiety building. Pay attention to how you respond to and handle your own stress. It’s not fair to put your personal adult stress on your children. Share your own stories of how you overcame your own anxieties. Be aware of what stress we are putting on our kids. Have reasonable expectations for your children, and remember what it’s like to be a kid. They can’t be perfect – because there’s no such thing as perfection. Respond with empathy – consider their view. They need to feel heard and understood before they can be ready to listen themselves. “It is hard to speak in front of your class; that can be scary. So let’s practice together so you can feel more confident tomorrow.” Ask open ended questions. “What do you think your test will be like?” is a more supportive question than “Are you worried about your test?”. And finally, be calm, be loving, be patient, and be a good listener. Your kids aren’t misbehaving when they are feeling very anxious; they are simply still learning to navigate their lives. And some kids need a little more help, or a little more time. Have any questions? Please feel free to email or call me.

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Time to Enjoy YOUR Holiday Traditions

holiday card (2) As we head into our final weeks of holiday preparation, I want you to identify your most favorite holiday traditions. Opening one present on Christmas Eve? Lighting the candles together on Hanukkah? Having a family dinner on Christmas Day? (Going to a movie on Christmas morning with my kids is my favorite tradition which we will again do this year.) We all have our favorite things from our childhood that we want to continue with our kids, and some we feel obligated to continue. But now you are the parent and you get to decide what your holiday traditions will be. The truth is that we can't do everything and we can't have everything that we want (or think we want). I see families being stressed and anxious and bothered by the holidays, and unable to fully enjoy this time of year. I would like to see you and your family enjoying the holiday season with anticipation, excitement, and joy; not with dread, exhaustion, and high expectations. Look at the difference between “need to” vs. “want to”. When you hear yourself saying “I need to do mail holiday cards”, stop and ask yourself if you need to or if you want to. If you truly need to, then either do it yourself or get others to help. But if you don’t NEED to, if you really WANT to, then do it with joy. Let’s teach our children that the holidays are a time to be together, to connect, to enjoy each other. If we demonstrate that the holidays are stressful and filled with pressure trying to fit everything in, that is the lesson they will take with them into their adulthood. Let’s teach our kids the true meaning of the holidays: peace and love and fun and excitement. So go ahead and write a letter to Santa, light the candles together, pull a tag from the Giving Tree, or go to a movie. Enjoy your five most favorite traditions. But do them all with joy and love, and let go of the rest. My family joins me in wishing you and yours a memorable, fun, and safe holiday season and a happy, healthy 2018.

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My Favorite Holiday

Thanksgiving Photo I love Thanksgiving. I call it the "F" holiday: fall, family, friends, food, football, and fun. I love that there are no gifts, only those of being together and connecting. I love cold mornings and cool days. I love the smell of roasting turkey. As a child, I loved getting together with my extended family. Now, my family and I love hosting friends at our home who are missing their families. Come on, it's a great holiday! Thanksgiving is a day when you don't have to worry about what your kids eat. Serve every dish family style, and let your kids choose what they want to eat. Maybe you have a kid who will not eat turkey, stuffing, OR mashed potatoes. (I know, weird, right?) So you can also serve macaroni and cheese, and not just to your child, but as another side dish for every guest to enjoy. And encourage your kids to put black olives on their fingertips and eat them one at a time. (I know, weird, right?) Encourage, but don't force, your child to eat. Let this be a relaxing meal, for you and for them. Thanksgiving is the holiday I use to begin teaching children about charity, about sharing with those less fortunate, about thinking of others before themselves. So this week, go grocery shopping with your kids. Let them fill the cart with canned goods and a turkey, and then drive directly to a homeless shelter or food bank. Have your children experience the joy of giving. What a valuable lesson to teach your kids. I hope you and your family have a very Happy Thanksgiving, and a fun long weekend. Perhaps I will see you at the San Francisco Zoo the Friday after. That is where my kids and I always go on the busiest shopping day of the year. We like walking in fresh air and being together more than fighting crowds and being consumers. Whatever you do, it's a chance to create some family memories, so just have fun together. Enjoy!

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Four Academic Lessons to Teach at Home

Learning Is Fun photo Four Academic Lessons to Teach at Home Every parent wants their child to have a successful school year. Here are four lessons we can teach our kids at home, so they are better prepared for the lessons they learn at school. Teach Your Children to be Organized When children feel organized, are confident that they know what to do, and have all their needed materials, their confidence go up, and so does the quality of their work. Prepare a checklist of things your child needs to bring to and from school every day. Put a copy by the door at home and one in his backpack. Check often to see if your child is remembering the items on the list. Create a system with your child for recording their homework assignments. Even young children can use a planner or calendar. Pack backpacks at night. Gym clothes, notes for the teacher, school books, and homework can be packed in the evening, leaving just a lunchbox to be added in the morning. Design a plan for how kids will remember to turn in their completed assignments. Many kids do their homework, but fail to turn it in. A separate "Homework Binder" might help. Teach Your Children to Manage Their Time Wisely Some homework assignments are due in one week, two weeks, or longer. Teach your kids how to complete those assignments without waiting until the last minute. Record all assignments on a calendar by breaking it down into small pieces. For a book report, the steps might be: choose the book, read the book, write the outline, create the cover page, type and print the report, put all the parts together. Add "Work on book report" to the list of nightly assignments. Plan how much time is needed for homework each night. Completing the toughest assignment first might work for some kids, while others will wait until after dinner for a parent to help with that one. Use the "First this, and then that" method. "First you complete your homework and get your backpack ready for tomorrow, and then you can watch TV." Teach Your Children How to Focus While many teens do their homework in a sea of distractions, we need to limit the distractions that our younger kids experience. Give your child a snack when they get home from school. It is hard to focus when hungry. Keep the computer in a public place, and restrict the use of email or games while doing their work. You do not need to keep a constant vigil; you do need to check often. If they do make the choice to break the rule, then they will lose the use of the computer for fun that night. Find a quiet place with few distractions for a homework station. Playful siblings and the TV can be huge distractions, and so the homework station should be fairly quiet. Teach Your Children How to Enjoy School Our children have many years of school ahead of them, and many get burned out at a young age. The goal of school is to learn to love learning, not to get straight A’s. It is our job to promote a healthy, fun, and encouraging attitude towards school. Praise the effort, not the result. Hang some of their work on the fridge, and sometimes hang a paper with mistakes. Ask your child to tell you one thing about school each day; they don’t have to share every detail. Remember that it is your child’s assignment, not yours. Allow your kids to do their own work, supplying help when they ask for it. It’s okay if they make mistakes. Volunteer at the school when possible, go to Back-to-School night, get to know the teachers and students, and support the school’s policies and rules.

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The Value of Chores: What, When, and Why?

What? Here are some suggestions, though you know your child best. Remember sometimes kids are more capable than we give them credit for, so ask them which chores they think they can do. They just might surprise you. Ages 2-3: Hang wet towel on hook, put toys in bins, put trash in the garbage can, throw dirty clothes in hamper, wipe up spills, help put away groceries, dust the coffee table Ages 4-6: Help fold towels and socks, sort dark and light laundry, assist in meal planning, wash vegetables, help to empty dishwasher, feed the pets, clean room, use whisk broom and pan Ages 7-10: Use an alarm clock, prepare own snack, load and empty dishwasher, put away clean laundry, complete homework, read to younger siblings, cook simple foods, water plants Ages 10+: Manage an allowance, make bed, operate washer and dryer, mow the lawn, cook a meal, wash the car, babysit younger sibling, haul garbage and recycling cans to curb Teenagers: Every single thing you can do. (Legally.) When? Today. Now. Not many parents of grown kids tell me “I wish I had given my kids fewer chores when they were young”. Most wish they had given their children more chores and more responsibilities. So start today, no matter your child’s age. It’s never too late.Siblings Doing Dishes Why? Because a family is a team, and the team works better when everyone pitches in. Because assigning chores says that you believe in your children, you have confidence in them, and their help is needed and appreciated. Because completion of chores makes children feel capable, valued, and helpful. Because chores helps children learn time management, the value of hard work, and how to work as a team. Because successful adults know how to do laundry, make beds, empty dishwashers, mow lawns, care for pets and plants, work with others, and clean up their own mess. And it is our job to teach them how to do these things, and more, one small step at a time.

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Your Favorite Traditions…With Joy

Holiday Newsletter Photo As we head into our final week of holiday preparation, I want you to identify your five most favorite holiday traditions. Opening one present on Christmas Eve? Lighting the candles on Hanukkah? Having a family dinner on Christmas Day? (Going to a movie on Christmas morning with my kids is my favorite tradition.) We all have our favorite things from our childhood that we want to continue with our kids, and some we feel obligated to continue. But now you are the parent and you get to decide what your holiday traditions will be. The truth is that we can't do everything and we can't have everything that we want (or think we want). I see families being stressed and anxious and bothered by the holidays, and unable to fully enjoy this time of year. I would like to see families enjoying the holiday season with anticipation, excitement, and joy; not with dread, exhaustion, and high expectations. Look at the difference between “need to” vs. “want to”. When you hear yourself saying “I need to do mail holiday cards”, stop and ask yourself if you need to or if you want to. If you truly need to, then either do it yourself or get others to help. But if you don’t NEED to, if you really WANT to, then do it with joy. Let’s teach our children that the holidays are a time to be together, to connect, to enjoy each other. If we demonstrate that the holidays are stressful and filled with pressure trying to fit everything in, that is the lesson they will take with them into their adulthood. Let’s teach our kids the true meaning of the holidays: peace and love and fun and excitement. So go ahead and write a letter to Santa, light the candles together, pull a tag from the Giving Tree, or go to a movie. Enjoy your five most favorite traditions. But do them all with joy and love, and let go of the rest. My family joins me in wishing you and yours a memorable (and fun) holiday season and a happy, healthy 2017.

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When Sad and Scary Things Happen

Unfortunately, we are dealing with another tragic terrorist attack in our world, this time in Paris. It is on the news, on-line, and being spoken about in public. Our children ARE hearing about this, and they do have questions. Here are some tips to help our kids: 1) Limit access to TV and news on-line. Remember that many restaurants have TV's. 2) Pay attention to how you are acting, and to what you are saying. Your kids are always watching you - so please show your strength and calm. 3) Be willing to talk with your kids, and answer all their questions. 4) Watch the language you use. Avoid big words (death, always, never). Use small words (hurt, sometimes, a few). 4) Share what Mr. Rogers advised: "In a scary time, look for the helpers. Because there are always helpers". Please let me know if you have any questions, or if you just want to talk. If you are having a tough time with this, it is difficult to take care of our children. So please be sure to take care of yourself. When we fly, we are told to put our own gas mask on first, and then help our children. And please share your coping ideas here - let's all work together to get through another tough time.

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A Potty Training Success Story!

A potty training success story shared with me by one of my coaching clients. Maybe this can help you and your family. Congrats to Mom, Dad, and Jackson! "When my son, Jackson, turned 2 we started introducing the potty. My husband and I talked about it daily and would mention, “one day you will pee in the potty like Mommy and Daddy.” At 3 he decided, before bath time, to pee in the toilet and we got super excited! He did it a few times but then went back to wetting his pants and refusing to pee in the toilet. Of course we then moved to bribery with candy and toys, which worked for a while, but then he decided that wearing his pull up was better than our bribes. My husband and I decided to take a break on trying to "force" the issue. By the time he turned 4, I was at my wits end. Asking him to use the potty turned into unbearable tantrums and frustrations. Finally, I talked with Susan and she gave an excellent idea! Both Jackson and I looked at the calendar (I have a giant one hanging on the wall), circled a date, and said “no more pull ups after this day.” Then each evening before bed, we would mark a red X the day counting down. Sure enough, since that day, we have had no accidents, fully potty trained (during the day AND night), peeing AND pooping in the toilet!! We couldn't have been any prouder! Or more shocked! It has been a full 2 weeks and has been great!! Thank you, Susan!"

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