Archive for January, 2012

Are we over medicating children? The #1 thing you need to know!

January 25th, 2012

Are you reaching for medication when your child has a problem, are your child’s teachers diagnosing your child, is your pediatrician recommending medication for your child? Here’s what you need to know to make an informed decision.

Think about the problems children have such as they are not paying attention at school, they may get really upset at their siblings and yell and hit, they may act out or shut down when they encounter a problem with school work, or say they don’t care. Perhaps they have a difficult time transitioning between homes if you are separated or they don’t listen, are disrespectful and moody.

There may be some underlying mood issues, anxiety problems, or attention difficulties, but as a parent you are really not quite sure.

Let’s say you go to your pediatrician’s office and ask questions. Your pediatrician may have studied mental disorders and will likely have the latest research available to them on what medications will fit the symptoms offered by pharmaceutical reps whose sole intention is to provide information to sell their product.  So your child appears to fit the criteria for anxiety, here is a pill and the problem should be resolved, right?

There is more to this picture, and when your child is having difficulties you want to make sure that you are addressing the issues, rather than masking the symptoms with a pill.

The #1 thing you need to know before you make the decision to medicate your child.

Is it a behavioral or communication issue?

The teacher at your child’s school thinks your child has ADHD because your child can’t sit still and focus. You notice your child rushes through their homework, they quickly answer questions and it’s sloppy, you try to help, but they just want to be done. A visit to the pediatrician’s office may lead to a label of ADHD and some medication. If your child is diagnosed correctly they now have the right medication to help them focus; but they will still need to learn strategies to help them think about choices and consequences, tools to help them stay on task during difficult situations, and help them organize and process information without getting upset.

However, children often end up in the doctor’s office for medication, when it is a behavioral or communication issue.

Let say you and your partner are inconsistent and give mixed messages to your child, especially during homework time, or you may become frustrated and yell at your child during homework time and now when they do school work they are fearful of your response and they shutdown.

Or perhaps your child has learned behaviors to manipulate and get out of school work that they don’t want to do (at school and at home). Maybe they are embarrassed to ask for help in school when they don’t understand, so it’s easier to act out. You may find that your child is focused and on-task in the afternoon class after recess, and cannot concentrate and gets into trouble daily in the class just before lunch.

Some parents want their child to focus and do homework right after school, but if your child has been at a desk all day they may want to run around or play with their toys/electronics, and it may be too difficult to focus on homework right then.

There are so many different variables in determining if it is a behavioral or communication issue, and if medication is right for your child.  Here’s what you can do as a parent to help make an informed decision.

  • Talk with each of your child’s teachers and find out how often the problem occurs, when, and with whom. Find out what are the consequences when they exhibit that behavior (you may find they are getting their needs met, such as getting more attention or 1:1 time).
  • Talk with other people who work with your child. Ask coaches, tutors, lesson teachers what behaviors that they see.
  • Observe your child with their peers, what behaviors do you notice?
  • Track the behaviors at home, when do they occur, how often, how intense are they, what was your child doing when it occurred, who else was there?
  • Track your and your partner’s/spouse’s (if applicable) responses before and after your child’s behaviors occur. What were you doing/saying, how did you react?

When you seek out help for your child you have a very clear picture of what’s happening, where and when. If the issues are communication or behavioral related a psychologist or therapist can help you and your child develop new coping strategies. If the issues are medical issues, this information will help your pediatrician or psychiatrist diagnose and find the right medication for your child. If you are unsure whether it is a medical related or behavioral/communication issue (or perhaps all three) set-up a consultation with a therapist or psychologist who specialize in working with children and families.

Whether or not you choose medication, there has been research on the benefits of therapy and the National Institute of Mental Health notes some disorders can be treated effectively through therapy alone. If you are in the Sarasota, Lakewood ranch, Bradenton, Venice Florida area and you would like more support we can help. Schedule a Support Consultation here.

If you don’t live in the area, don’t worry. I created parenting resources to help children and teens you can immediately download and implement to help your child.


School is calling and it’s not the phone call you want to get

January 10th, 2012

The phone rings, it’s your child’s teacher calling from school to let you know they think something is going on with your child. They are acting out in class, they got in an argument with their friends during recess, they did something inappropriate, their grades are dramatically slipping, or perhaps they were crying in class. Your child’s teacher is concerned, and so are you!

As a parent one of the most worrisome calls to get is the one from your child’s school. Your mind begins to race, you want more information, you want to make sense of what happened, and you want to know “why”? Before you become reactive or overly concerned there are some important steps you can take to best help your child.

7 steps you can take to best support your child after you get the dreaded phone call from your child’s school:

1.    Stay calm- Being reactive and blaming will not help the situation and will likely close down communication. If you need to process the information and you feel like you are going to become upset, ask the school staff if you can call them back in 15 minutes. Take time to process the information, go for a brief walk, take a few deep breaths, or splash cold water on your face. If you are upset and need to vent, do so with a loved one, friend, or therapist. Explain that you need to talk and ask them to just listen.

2.   Find out the facts- Talk with the staff who witnessed the behaviors or problem. What happened before the situation, who was there, do you know what was said or done, is this a one time occurrence or has this happened before, did something out of the ordinary happen prior to the situation, what did my child say or do, and how was it resolved? Be neutral and try to find out the specifics of what happened.

3.      Ask the school what support they have in place to help with this problem- Find out if the school has resources to help or other professionals they recommend to support your child. If necessary, setup a meeting with your child’s school staff, including teachers, counselors, resource staff, and principal.

4.      Listen to your child- If an incident is upsetting or you cannot comprehend your child’s behaviors (like they failed 4 tests or they hit another child) it is easy to become reactive and angry when you talk with your child. If that’s the case your child may become withdrawn, may hide the truth, or they may become reactive and blaming. Calmly ask your child to explain what happened and that you will listen as they explain without interruption. After they are done sharing their version (and you have listened for 2-3 minutes without interruption) then ask clarification questions.

5.     Deal with the “I dunnos”- Adult translation: “I don’t know” or “I know, but I don’t want to tell you because I’m embarrassed, ashamed, or know you’ll be angry or disappointed or I’ll be in big trouble”. This one may push all of your parenting buttons, because you want to understand what happened and why, so you can sort of if your child needs more support and/or what are the consequences for their behaviors.  When asking clarifying questions many children shutdown when you ask “why”. Instead of asking “why”, ask questions such as “tell me more”, “then what happened”, “how did that feel”, “help me understand”?

6.      Sort it out- Is it a one-time situation, does this behavior happen with your child in other settings? Does your child need some tools to manage their behaviors and feelings? Is there something else going on and you need some professional support? Do they need an academic evaluation, is there a need for a visit to the pediatrician or therapist, is this normal?  What often appears to be bad behaviors, such as acting out, poor grades, or shutting down, may be issues with processing, comprehension, organization, impulsivity, anxiety, depression, or anger. A professional can give you a more clear picture of what’s going on with your child and can teach you child tools and techniques to manage their behaviors and emotions, and collaborate with educational staff and tutors (often without the need for medications).

7.     What are the consequences- All behaviors have consequences. Some are natural, such as failing a test when your child refuses to study. Some are consequences parent’s choose, such as no electronics for a week. Take time to consider the consequences for your child’s behaviors. Perhaps the school has implemented a consequence of no recess and that is enough of a consequence to help your child understand the effect of his/her behaviors. Be aware that using punishments for a child who is struggling with learning disabilities or emotional disabilities may amply negative behaviors and be emotionally harming. Again, if you are unsure if the behaviors are normal, consult a professional for an assessment and more support.

If your child goes to school in the Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, or Venice area and they are experiencing problems at school, we can help.

Need some immediate support? Immediately access and download parenting resources to help your child NOW!


Creative Tips to Reduce Stress

January 9th, 2012

Are you feeling overwhelmed and stressed out?

When your brain is stressed out it becomes flooded with peptides and hormones and you may be unable to process information.

Take a creative break!

Color a Mandala- Trace a circle the size of a paper plate and use colored pencils or markers and fill in the circle with any pattern or designs. Notice how you feel calmer and more centered.

Play with play-doh- Squish the colors, play with shapes, smell the dough. These sensory activities will help you calm and self-soothe.

Do a brain dump- If you’ve got too many thoughts swirling around in your head you can easily become overwhelmed. Take a piece of paper and write down all the things that you’re feeling stressed about. Then rip it or crumple it up and throw it away. Pick one thing to focus on and give your full attention to that.

Create a calm collage- Look though magazines and cut out words and images that are calming and centering. Paste them on paper and put them above your desk. When you need a reminder, look at the image.

Doodle- Research published in the Applied Psychology Journal suggests that doodling while listening will help you remember details. Have a pad colored pencils or markers and a pad on-hand during your next meeting.

If you have stress in your personal life or you’re worried about other family members, your work may be affected.
Need more support?