Archive for July, 2011

5 tips so your child doesn’t grow-up to be a jerk, brat, or bully

July 28th, 2011

I’ve been reading about about the recent no-children restrictions on airplanes and in restaurants. I think  it’s an extreme response and feel that social situations are an opportunity for children to learn how to manage their behaviors in public and to develop social relationships, even when things don’t always go their way. Pick child-friendly venues such as water parks, the playground, family restaurants, the beach, or even at home in the playroom as opportunities to help your child learn appropriate social skills.

Many parent’s fear that their child may be left out or rejected by their peers or worry that their child’s behavior is not “normal” or typical. I want to share with you tips and strategies I teach parents and children during our child therapy sessions. These 5 tips will help your child have social success so they don’t grow up to be a jerk, brat, or bully.

1. Set boundaries: Your child needs to be told “NO” and as a parent it is important for you not to give in when they start to whine and beg. So when you go to the grocery store and they start to whine that they want a candy bar before dinner and you say “NO” watch how they respond, and what you do. If they blow their top with a melt-down do you give in and give them the candy bar so you’re not frustrated and embarrassed? What lessons are you teaching your child (hint: have a fit and you’ll get your needs met).

2. Give consequences: Children learn through experiences and every experience is an opportunity to learn how to cooperate, be flexible, and respect others. When your child acts out in a way that’s inappropriate think of it as a learning opportunity. For example, when your child grabs a toy and hits his sister, what do you do? If you ignore it then it sends a message that the behavior is okay, if you grab your child and yell you send a message that it’s okay to yell and grab. So think of consequences that can help your child learn new behaviors, such as speaking with your child and letting them know that their behavior is not acceptable and that the consequence is he will not play with his sister or the toy (be concrete and specific). Make sure the consequence is immediate and it is related, especially for younger children.

3. Do you rescue: When your child has a problem to you jump in to fix it? Yes, parent’s want what’s best for their children, but if you are always trying to solve their problems how will your child learn to deal with difficult situation? Ask them questions on how they could handle the situation and what they could have done differently and allow them an opportunity to explore their choices.

4. Watch your behavior: How do you respond when you get upset and things don’t go your way? Kids model their behaviors from the adults in their lives, so don’t expect your child to be calm and respectful if you are flipping another diver the bird or being rude to a sales person.

5. Create playing rules using this creativity activity: Brainstorm together with your child and have them come up with a list of positive behaviors or things they should do when playing with a friend or sibling. Then have them write the words and/or make images (depending upon their age and developmental stage). You can use markers, magazine picture, and words to reinforce the rules. Post these up at home or in the playroom and whenever your child starts to stray from the rules prompt them with a reminder “what are the rules” and give them an opportunity to self-correct. Your child will feel more invested in remembering and implementing the rules when they have taken the time to create and illustrate them.

These 5 tips will help your child create social success. Practice these with siblings and peers in locations where if your child becomes upset or overwhelmed you can help them manage their feelings and behaviors. If your child has difficulties managing frustrations and behaviors they may need additional support, and child therapy can help.

Are you worried about your child social development? Are you fearful that their social behaviors are not typical? Are you wondering if your child needs therapy and more support? We can help! Schedule a Complimentary Child Support Consultation and find out how we can help your child be socially successful.


Got an anxious child? Here’s a creative solution to reduce anxiety, stress, worry, and fear

July 26th, 2011

Stress, worries, anxiety, fear- it’s all part of life. Yet, if your child is not given the opportunity to express our fears and realize that it’s okay to feel scared (worried, etc) and learn tools to manage these feelings your child may develop an anxious disposition. Part of it may be biological, just the way we are hardwired. However, it is believed that genetics only shapes us by 50%, the remaining 50% is environment, situations, people, and perceptions. So we have control over half of our worries and can learn the tools to manage these feelings. The interesting thing about anxiety is that it is often overlooked, yet it has lasting impacts. If a child is anxious they may internalize their feelings and not get the attention that a child whom is acting out gets. However, this internalization may lead to feeling of inadequacy, self-criticism, and may trigger addictive and self-harming behavior.

Children who are anxious can learn to develop skills to self-soothe and regulate their emotional state. Providing your child with an opportunity to learn some new strategies in a way that is aligned with their natural learning process is the easiest way to help your child develop coping strategies that they will actually use.

Okay, so what’s a parent to do? Here’s a creative solution. Ask your child to create an image of what is bothering them. If there is a certain situation (like homework) or person (like a classmate) that triggers their anxiety and worries ask them to make a picture of it. Allow them to create without censorship or judgment. Ask them if they would like share what they created (“no” is an acceptable answer).

Here’s the important part, listen to what they say without offering your perspective. Instead be empathetic and validate their feelings. After listening without offering advice ask your child questions about what the person in the drawing could do or think differently so they feel more in control and less worried. Allow your child to be creative in their responses.

Allowing flexible creative divergent thinking helpings your child re-pattern their brain neural pathways helping your child think in terms of what’s possible. There are other specific biological based strategies we teach in our Comprehensive Family Support Program to help your child reduce the physiological impacts of anxiety (such as increased heart rate, panic attacks). Even if your child has normal worries this fun and creative program will give your child some cognitive and behavioral tools to tackle worries when they arise!


How to help your child (and yourself) when problems arise

July 21st, 2011

I had an amazing and inspiring story told to me and I wanted to share it with you. If you have ever experienced a challenge or a setback you may have found yourself overwhelmed and confused. As a parent if you have seen your child encounter an obstacle you may have watched as they fell part emotionally trying to figure it out. We all deal with things in a different way; there is no right (or wrong) way to feel when we encounter adversity, however we have a choice what to do in these situations. A mom I know shared with me her daughter’s story and they gave me permission to share it with you.

The mom noted her daughter, “had a huge bombshell yesterday morning, and will be resolving the issue over the next week.  The college she was attending didn’t announce which majors they were dropping until yesterday, and she found out that hers is being dropped.  She would have 2 years to complete it, but that can’t be done.  She had it all mapped out already, and knows that she needs 5 semesters.  At first she was pretty upset, but she rebounded quickly.  Her choice is changing her major or transferring.  There are less than 100 schools that offer the major in the country, and all would be quite costly.  Within a few hours she found a related major that should work with what she already has taken, and will let her pursue the same field.  Her last comment was that maybe it will actually open more doors that I don’t even know about yet”.  The mom remarked, “I was amazed at the resiliency she had, because she has been so focused in her studies”!

What can we all learn from this remarkable story of graceful resilience? That we all encounter obstacles in life and we are the ones who choose what we decide to do with our experiences. As parents you can allow your child to learn and grow from their experiences. Protecting them from scrapes and tears will not serve them in the long run and sometimes adversity shows us just how remarkable we truly are!


Summer Camp Success

July 18th, 2011

Many parents are worried about their child going away to summer camp; especially if it is the first time, your child is upset and they don’t want to go, or you are concerned because your child has a difficult time with friendships.

There are many benefits to camp and there are ways to help your child so they have a successful summer camp experience.

Summer camp benefits include:

Mastering new skills, developing friendships, learning to get along with other children, a sense of self-confidence as they encounter new experiences and learn how to negotiate differences and overcome difficulties they experience. Children learn how to follow rules and norms, adjust and modify their behaviors to fit in with the social expectations, and adapt to new circumstances (many of the skills necessary to be successful as an adult).

There is an alchemy that happens at camp. As a parent you may ask your child to wake up and do chores at home and your child may be resistant and defiant. Whereas, at camp the collective group is awake and doing the scheduled activities, regardless if your child “likes” the activities. There is a powerful social expectation at camp, and children tend to respond favorably to the requests of a counselor. Often the behaviors seen at home, such as whining and defiance, are reduced at camp or in other social situations. When I’ve asked children about this they responded that the consequences at home are different than at school or camp (or that their parent’s say will do something but never follow through). Children have told me that don’t want to be embarrassed, and would act they way they do home while at camp or school.

So if you are concerned about your child adjusting to camp, they may actually excel at camp and get along better than they would at home with their sibling.

Here are some tips to help your child have summer camp success:

  • Is it your child’s first summer camp experience? Start your child at local summer camps. You can choose a camp for a few hours a day or a full day program. Choose a camp with activities that they enjoy and they are excited about.
  • Visit the website and show your child what camp looks like and the activities they will be doing. Visit the location if necessary, and introduce your child to the staff to help with the transition.
  • If your child has special needs or you are worried about their behavior at camp, talk with the staff. Many parents worry that the camp staff will treat their child differently if they mention their child needs additional support. Be upfront about your child’s needs to ensure that the camp is a good match for your child. For example, if your child has ADHD, make sure the staff knows how to work with a child who is a hands-on active learner. The more information the camp staff have, the more they can appropriately support your child’s success, and if the camp is not a good match it is better to know that information before your child attends a program that is not suitable.
  • If your child is hesitant to go to a day camp, have them sign-up with a sibling or attend a camp with a friend. You can also volunteer for a few hours until your child becomes acclimated to the new environment.
  • Ready for an overnight camp? Pick one that offers activities your child loves, such as horseback riding camp or art camp. If your child is a reluctant camper choose a camp closer to home and go for a visit before the start of camp. Again, you can choose a camp that a friend or sibling is attending if your child is worried about going to a new place.
  • You can help your child heading off to camp cope with the transition and  make friends with these creative way to get ready for  summer camp
  • Are you looking for summer programs for children in Sarasota, Bradenton, and Lakewood Ranch FL? Click here to find out more:

To help your child be successful at summer camp you must take into consideration your child’s unique needs and interests. If you are concerned about your child going to camp and you worry that they have a difficult time separating from you, they are anxious and overwhelmed in new situations, we can help. We have programs to help your child feel more confident and develop creative skills to manage worries, anxiety, and new situations. Click here to learn more>


Are you raising a codependent child?

July 14th, 2011

In the past codependency was associated with person who enabled an alcoholic or drug addict. These days codependency has become associated with emotional dependencies in a relationship. All relationships involve a dependency on another person to some extent. However, when an individual compromises their own values and wants to avoid rejection and anger they are exhibiting codependent behaviors.

The reason why this is so important for parents to understand is that its origins start in childhood. So if you are doing the following three things you may be planting the seeds of codependency.

1. Being inflexible ( or the type A- “Superparent”)

If you are the type of person who has a rigid plan of how and when things are done you do not allow your child an opportunity to voice their choice.  If you are so in control of their schedule, their food choices, their clothing choices, or their playmates you are restricting your child from having the opportunity to explore their choices. You send out a message loud and clear to your child that they are not responsible for their choices or decisions and someone else has all the power.  As they grow older they are likely to seek out relationships in which someone else has all the power and control.

What can you do? Allow your child some freedom of choice. If it is not a safety issue then it is negotiable. Let go of the need to be in control so you child has the freedom to grow and learn, even from their mistakes!

2. Having your child meet your needs

I know many parents who fall into this trap but do not see that they are doing this. If you are not fulfilling yourself in other areas of your life, like your relationships, your work, or your passions, you may default to living vicariously thorough your child. When you spend more energy on your child’s interests and less on what gives your life meaning and pleasure you model codependent self-sacrificing behaviors. You also unconsciously teach your child that their value comes from pleasing you. The cute “look mom” behavior phase that most kids go through when they want your approval may continue into adulthood.

What can you do? Get your own needs met with positive relationships and ways to replenish yourself. Instead of constant praise ask your child how they thought they did. Encourage them to self-praise.

3. Wanting to solve problems for them

When they come home and talk about a mean peer or a problem at school what do you do? Do you react and rescue, slipping into your parent problem-solver mode and coming up with a plan of action? Essentially you are taking control of their ability to solve the problems they are encountering. This sends your child the message that they are not competent or responsible enough to figure out how to solve their problems and that someone else needs to do it for them. Imagine what this will look like as they become adults? Will they find relationships in which another person will tell them what to do?

What can you do? Safety first, everything else is negotiable! If it is not a physical or psychological safety issue allow your child the opportunity to figure out how to solve the problem.  If you LISTEN, without offering advice, your child will likely figure out some things they can do differently.

The reason why so many children have success in our programs is that we offer a safe place for them to explore their thoughts, feelings, and choices. When given an opportunity, children will come up with ways to solve their problems. As adults we can offer support and encouragement as they explore their choices.

One last important thing. If you find that you are doing one or more of the behaviors above, congratulations! That’s right, Congratulations! Why? Because it means that you are aware of what you are doing, and awareness is the first step in making changes. So the next time you notice you are defaulting to one of the behaviors above, STOP, and explore what other things you can do. If you’d like more support we would be happy to help you. Click here to schedule your Complimentary Support Consultation