What’s Working For Me: A Game To Help Stressed Kids Feel Better

Children often have feelings and thoughts of which they are not mindfully aware. Those thoughts and feelings about life experiences or specific situations can cause feelings of unease that increases anxiety.

At the heart of it, the cognitive side of anxiety (because there can be quite a strong biological side as well) is about the perception that one does not possess the necessary skills to cope with or manage specific task demands in daily life. As an example, a child might be stressed about a vocabulary test if the words are difficult for the child to read, remember and retrieve. A child might be anxious about going to lunch when he feels he might not have the skills to seek out a table mate and feel less alone while eating lunch.

So we have an activity in our book of 70 Play Activities called What’s Working For Me that helps children think about what might be working and what might not be working about a specific life circumstance. The children are then empowered to find new thoughts, words and actions to cope in a new way with the situation. You can use it for a variety of circumstances, let your creativity guide the way.

Let’s look at the lunch example. We would say this….quietly, one on one with the child.

“Joey, I see that you are hesitant to go to lunch each day. I’d like to know more about what that is like for you. Are you open to playing a thinking game with me about lunchtime?”

“Let’s write down a few things that are working for you when you go to lunch. Then we can fill out our What’s Working for Me planning sheet and develop a plan to make lunch time better for you.”

What’s Working For Me

T: Let’s think about what you like about lunch.

J: “Well, I’m usually hungry, so it’s good to eat.”

J: “I like the days when they serve grilled cheese.”

J: “When Sam is at school, I usually sit with him.”

T: “Great! let’s write that in the green box, What’s Working For Me.”

T: Now, what don’t you like about lunchtime?

J: “I hate sitting alone.”

J: “Sam is sick a lot so then I have to sit alone.”

J: “No one asks me to sit with them.”

J: “It’s embarrassing.”

T: “Thanks for sharing that with me, I can see how it could feel sad to eat lunch alone.”

T: “We have a third box on our What’s Working For Me planning sheet. Let’s brainstorm how lunch could look differently so you can feel better about going to lunch.”

T: “If lunch were better for you, what would that look like?”

J: “Well, I’d have a friend to sit with all the time.”

T: “Who else besides Sam, might you like to sit with?”

J: “Jessica but she sits with her friends.”

T: What if you asked Jessica, “Hey Jessica when Sam’s not here, may I sit with you guys at lunch?”

J: “She’d probably say, ‘No.’

T: “What might be a good time to ask her? Would the best time be right before lunch, or might you ask her in class one day to plan ahead for the situation?”

J: “I could try to ask her in the morning before school.”

T: Okay let’s write that down and maybe even practice the words you will use.

T: “Then we can even write a few more ideas, about other things you can do to make lunchtime a happier time for you.”

As teachers, clinicians and parents, you know that conversations with children might be really straight-forward or you might need to help them along in the conversation. Be patient, ask reflective questions or ask the child to tell you a bit more, “Help me understand that better.”

Just letting stressed children know that they can solve a difficult situation by looking at what is working and what they’d like to see be different is empowering and can lead to better daily experiences.

*****************************************************************************************************************************

70-play-hi-res-150x197Written for teachers, educators, and clinicians whose work involves playing, talking or teaching children who would benefit from better executive function and social-emotional learning skills, 70 Play Activities incorporates over 100 research studies into printable worksheets, handouts, and guided scripts with step-by-step directions, to empower children to learn and behave better. “With 70 Play Activities we aim to improve the trajectory of children’s learning by integrating the newest neuroscience with activities children love!” With over 70 activities designed to improve thinking, self-regulation, learning and behavior, your tool-kit will be full and your creative brain will be inspired to craft your own meaningful exercises. 70 Play Activities is available at amazon.com

 

Getting Braces: How to Find an Orthodontist You Can Trust

Beautiful braces smileFirst things first: I hope you had a wonderful holiday. My 9-year-old daughter, Kate, believes in Santa, so the last couple of weeks at the end of the year were filled with wonderful anticipation (“Will he bring me a Harry Potter wand?”) and good behavior (the Santa card is better than any time-out chair). Speaking of magical creatures that leave presents, Kate is also fond of her visits from the tooth fairy. And that brings me to what I’d love to share with you today.

I wasn’t prepared for what happened at her pediatric dentist’s office recently during a routine cleaning. Her dentist checked the teeth for cavities (none – yay!), put on a couple of sealants, told her she needs to floss a little better (we’re working on that), and then the surprise: She handed me a couple of business cards for local orthodontists. I must have stood there with my mouth wide open, but words weren’t coming out. What was in my head: My kid has lots of baby teeth left! Why on Earth would she need to see an orthodontist now? The dentist suggested that Kate get a consultation before her next visit – and then got called away for an emergency.

I’m sure I could have phoned the dentist the next day to follow up, but I hit the Web instead. And I found out that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that kids see an orthodontist by age 7 to check for crowded teeth or misaligned bites. The crowded-teeth issue actually rang a bell; I remember from previous visits that Kate’s dentist suspected that her mouth might be too small for her big-kid chompers. But I was still feeling uneasy because I’ve heard from my friends who have older kids that you can go to three orthodontists and get three different opinions. So I decided to call Ted Sherwin, a family dentist in Orange, Va., and spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry, for some straight answers.

Sherwin acknowledged that it can be difficult for parents to reconcile the treatment recommendations from various orthodontists, but he also pointed out: “There is more than one path to successful results.” Hmm. Sherwin added that an orthodontist recommendation from a family dentist you trust is golden. And you don’t have to stop there. After a little more digging, I found that HealthGrades.com, an independent website, allows patients to comment on the medical or dental care they receive from a particular practitioner.

As it turned out, one of the business cards Kate’s dentist handed me was for an orthodontist that my friend had also recommended. With two thumbs up, it seemed smart to try him first. We’ve got an appointment in a few weeks.

In the meantime, Kate is eagerly anticipating another visit from the tooth fairy. “Do you think that instead of giving me money, she can get Daniel Radcliffe to call me?” asked Kate. My response: “No, sweetie, the tooth fairy doesn’t take special requests.”

A Key Tool in Flu Prevention: Your Child’s Elbow

Children Flu Sneeze Elbow SickYou can help stop cold and flu season in its tracks by helping your child learn to take a hands-free approach to hygiene. In other words, teach your little one to cough and sneeze into the crook of the elbow instead of into the hand.

Here’s why: If your child blocks a sneeze with his hands, the germs then spread to anything he touches – desks, chairs and pencils – and they can remain contagious for several hours.

And it doesn’t take much of a sneeze to start the spread of germs. Just one “achoo” releases thousands of infectious droplets into the air. It’s no wonder scientists estimate that about 80 percent of infections are transmitted by hand!

You can help make this stay-healthy strategy a habit by designating a “sneeze spot” on your kid’s sleeve with a sticker. But why is the elbow the safest spot to catch a cough? Unlike the hand, it doesn’t touch much of anything.

Finally, make sure your whole family does the elbow sneeze all year long – not just during cold and flu season – to remind your child to follow suit.

My Middleschooler has Frequent Headaches – Should I Worry?

Preteens and teens often suffer from frequent headaches. There are many potential causes of headaches, and it is often difficult to determine why they occur. Here’s what to do and when to worry:

1. Take your child to the pediatrician. A physical exam can eliminate somewhat obvious issues, such as hypertension or visual problems.

2. Have your child keep a “headache diary.” It may help to document when headaches occur, how long they last, what makes them milder and what circumstances surround their onset. If a triggering event such as diet, stress or anxiety consistently occurs before a headache, treatment and prevention become much easier. If nothing is evident in the diary, medical tests may be necessary.

3. Get medical attention. A series of symptoms require more advanced medical attention, including:

  • Worst-headache-of-my-life symptoms
  • Headaches occurring with exertion
  • Headaches associated with nausea or vomiting
  • A stiff neck
  • Seizures
  • Recent head trauma before the onset of the headache
  • Blurred vision, slurred speech or serious behavioral changes
  • Increasing frequency
  • Headaches that impair daily functioning