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5 Strategies to Conquer Your Kid’s Doctor Phobia

Parents aren’t always naturals at soothing their children’s fear of doctors or dentists. But there are things they can do to make the visits less upsetting, says Meghan D. Kelly, M.S.Ed., C.C.L.S., director of the Phoebe H. Stein Child Life Program at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Besides staying calm, keep this advice in mind:

Doctor Phobia Strategy No. 5: Be up front. “Believe it or not, I’ve seen some kids coming in for surgery whose parents told them they were going to Toys”R”Us,” says Kelly. Not helpful. If you’re going for a routine checkup, explain to your kids that in order for them to have strong bodies and healthy teeth, their doctor needs to check if everything is working well. Describe what the doctor might do: look in his ears, listen to his chest, etc.

Doctor Phobia Strategy No. 4: Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Promising “no shots” is a bad way to get kids through the door — unless you’re 100 percent sure there won’t be any. An artful omission is OK, though. “You can say, ‘I’m not sure what’s going to happen today, but I trust the doctor to decide what you need,’” says Kelly.

Doctor Phobia Strategy No. 3: Acknowledge the fear. Denying that something might hurt or telling your crying child to “be a big girl” will only make her feel ashamed and more anxious, says Kelly. Instead, validate what she’s feeling and offer coping strategies, such as “If you want, I can count to three. When I’m done, it will be over.”

Doctor Phobia Strategy No. 2: Use comfort strategies. Giving kids choices makes them feel a bit more in control,

Doctor Phobia Strategy No. 1: Use low-key language. If a shot is unavoidable, stay away from words like “sting” or “burn.” Instead, Kelly suggests saying, “You’re going to feel the doctor pressing on your arm. It might feel warm, and then it will be finished.”which ultimately eases anxiety. Let them decide where they’d like to sit during the exam — on the table or on a chair. Use the art of distraction. Chat about a favorite show or read a picture book you’ve brought along.

If your pediatrician seems insensitive to your child’s fears, set up a time to address your concerns. If she still doesn’t get it, it may be time to move on.

4th of July Strategies for Special Needs Kids

July_4th_fireworks - fun from a distanceThe 4th of July is an exciting holiday, but for special needs kids it can all be a bit too much. Think about it: fireworks are basically EXPLOSIONS! Things blowing up can be challenging for someone who is sensitive to loud noises. Also, fireworks can’t happen until nightfall, which may mean staying up late. For typical kids that may be a treat, but some special needs kids find a disruption in daily routine very upsetting. Also, barbecues and parties may bring unfamiliar and even dangerous foods to children on a special diet. Plan ahead, be prepared, and you and your special needs kid can have a great time.

Planning ahead is essential. Pre-pack a bag of comfort items, medications if necessary, and any foods that fit your child’s dietary plan. Many special needs children find that earplugs or noise-reducing headphones help in loud situations.

If you are going to a live fireworks display, consider a vantage point that is a bit farther away. You will encounter smaller crowds and much less noise, while being able to enjoy all the colors and patterns. We found a spot across the freeway from a show and were able to see not only that one but also several other displays in our area, without battling for parking or having to cover anyone’s little ears. Some shows even simulcast a soundtrack on a radio station so check your local listings.

Speaking of local listings, another option is to watch fireworks on television or on Youtube. You might even want to do this in preparation for a live show as part of desensitization (or as theatre folk call it, rehearsal). Rehearsal is a great way to prepare for a big event, and it can be fun, too. Role play a visit to a dentist or hair salon several times with your child, and be sure to switch roles now and then!

The following social story comes from National Autism Resources where you can buy many great tools, toys and other items to help on your journey with your special needs child. You can personalize this story to fit any holiday or situation.

Fireworks Social Story

Every year we celebrate my country’s birthday on the 4th of July. We celebrate the 4th of July with fireworks. Fireworks are a fun way to celebrate.

  • Sometimes fireworks make loud noises and have bright lights. That is OK.
  • If the fireworks get too loud I can cover my ears with my hands or put on my ear muffs.
  • If I don’t want to look at the bright fireworks, I can close my eyes or look away.
  • I can watch the fireworks up in the sky or I can watch fireworks stay on the ground. If the fireworks are on the ground I will not touch them. I will let an adult light the fireworks so that I will be safe.
  • If I am scared, I will hug my mom or dad. Hugging my mom or dad might help me feel safer.
  • After the fireworks end, I will clap. I will be happy that I got to see the fireworks.

Teachable Moments: Valuable Lessons on Life and Love for Kids

Meet Jack Bear. For such a little guy he offered many opportunities to teach our kids very valuable lessons about life and about love.

Here is a part of Jack’s story.

Jack was given up when he was 10 years old. By all reckoning that is old in dog years- perhaps 70 years old. It seems he was no longer fun and no longer desired. I always found it hard to imagine giving up a dog for no other reason than age but here was Jack. Then again in many adult relationships we see an end, perhaps a separation or a divorce. To outsiders it may seem that there is no good reason.

Teachable Moment 1– things change, feelings and perceptions, wants and desires and it does not always make sense. Often the truly innocent are caught in the middle and pay the highest price. Things will change in the lives of our children that especially to them make no sense and seem unfair.

From the time he was given up he began to cry non-stop- an unwanted behavior. His crying combined with the fact that he was old and funny looking- undesired characteristics- he was perceived as unadoptable. Differences real or perceived are one reason kids bully each other. The beautiful picking on the less so and the big picking on the small and the “normal acting” picking on those whose behavior is outside the expected or desired. Jack had all three.

Teachable Moment 2– Value the differences don’t condemn them. Jack eventually stopped crying and became a loved member of the family. No- he was never like the rest of our dogs-never played with other dogs at the park. He was not identical to the other dogs- he was his own dog. Teachable Moment 2.5– be yourself. His smaller size, this ‘flaw’ made him a perfect lap dog- better than many others. In this case his size was an advantage.

Teachable Moment 3– there are a myriad of ways to look at things and when we do so we open up tremendous opportunity. I never thought I would grow fond of a funny looking, old, Toy Poodle with the name Jack Bear- I did. See Teachable Moment 1- things change and sometimes perceptions and feelings change for the better. Our daughter never saw Jack’s flaws, was never bothered by his crying, his looks or his age. Teachable Moment 3.5 – one truly good friend who sees the real you and all your potential is worth more than 100 lesser or false friends.

Jack’s health failed him. He developed cataracts and went blind. His teeth fell out and his hearing failed him. He had to be hand fed and could not always control his bladder. In other words he grew old as we all will.

Teachable Moment 4- we will all grow old and we will all die. We need to help kids to understand that this is a natural life-path. Yes seeing loved ones sick is never easy- in fact it is down-right hard. It is natural to feel anger and to feel sad. There is a natural progression of emotions. Understanding this does not erase the pain but it does make one feel unique and less alone.

Teachable Moment 5– as the saying goes,” it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.” It might seem better to avoid the pain but closeness, love and friendship though often painful are the greatest gifts in the world. My life was so much more enriched by having Jack in my life than not.

Teachable Moment 6– we can all find teachable moments, sometimes in the unlikeliest of places if we just take the time to look. Thanks Jack- Bear, rest in peace.

9 Ways to Help Your Perfectionist Kid Feel “Good Enough”

Perfectionist kidsOf course we want our children to reach their potential and to excel. Of course we want them to get those great grades and succeed. But often kids feels so much pressure that they become obsessed to doing everything so perfectly to an unhealthy degree. And that can leave them feeling anxious, frustrated and worried most of the time.

Another problem with perfectionists is that they often put those pressures on themselves. “Will it be enough?” “What will others think?” ”Why did I miss that one point?”” I have to stay up later…I won’t get a perfect score!” ”But it isn’t GOOD enough I need to work harder!”

Because they’re never satisfied and always pushing themselves, they are often frustrated with their performance. Of course always wanting to be perfect to an extreme can take a toll on our children’s emotional health as well as disrupt their lives.If they keep up that push, push, push, never-good-enough pace, all that heightened stress can put them in jeopardy for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, migraines headaches, and even suicide. Perfectionists are also more at risk for emotional, physical as well as relational problems.

But let’s keep in mind that this isn’t just a “big kid issue.” Even preschoolers are beginning to exhibit this problem. We see this “I’m never good enough” concept especially in our gifted and talented kids. Here are signs to watch for:

Signs of Kid Perfectionists

  • Always comparing themselves to others; can’t stand coming in second place or doing worse than others; wants to be the best and anything less not good enough
  • Migraines or headaches, stomach aches, trouble sleeping, or other physical ailments before, after, or during a performance
  • Too cautious about trying something new that may be outside of his area of expertise and mean he may not excel
  • May put others down. All in an effort to be their best and make the other person feel less perfect – or inadequate
  • May put the same high standards on others
  • Worrying it won’t be good enough; or fears failure. Avoids difficult or stressful tasks; leaves work unfinished out of fear it won’t be perfect
  • Concentrates on the mistake instead of the overall job or how well he performed
  • Way too hard on himself; can’t laugh at himself or his own mistakes

Though some of our kids are just hard-wired with that inborn tendency to always push, push, push themselves to the max, max, max, there are things we can do. For instance, we can teach them coping skills so they can lower their stress and we can show them how to set more realistic expectations. And we can also take an honest appraisal by tuning into our own expectations and example to make sure some of that push they put on themselves really isn’t coming from us. Here are a few tidbits of proven parenting advice from my book to help you help your child survive, cope and thrive in this wonderful world.

Helping Perfectionists Survive, Cope, and Thrive

1. Lighten the child’s load

Start by honestly checking his schedule: Is there any time for just downtime or play? Is there any of those activities that can be eliminated or reduced? Teach your child he can always go back and finish up an activity, but give him permission to just plain enjoy life. (You may need to remind him and chart that time into his schedule so she does take time to glance at the clouds or just do plain nothing for a few seconds anyway.) While you’re at it, do take an honest assessment at the classes, programs, activities, clubs, etc.

Perfectionist lane

Ask three questions:

  1. Are they ones that stretch my child without snapping him?
  2. Are they tailored to my child strengths and capabilities?
  3. Does my child really need them all?

2. Teach her to be her own “time-keeper”

If she works hours on her writing but actually does a great job the first time through, set a time limit on how long she can work on a particular activity. Then help her log her own time.

3. Teach stress busters

Show your child a few simple relaxation strategies such as taking slow deep breaths, listening to soothing music, walking, or just taking ten and lying on the couch to help improve her frame of mind and reduce a bit of that intensity—at least for a few minutes.

4. Help your child handle disappointment

The inner dialogue of a perfectionist is self-defeating. “I’m never good enough.” “I knew I’d blow it.” So help your child reframe his self-talk by teaching him to say to a more positive phrase that’s less critical and judgmental and more reality-based such as: “Nobody is perfect.” “All I can do is try my best.” “I’ll try again next time.” “Believe in myself will help me relax.”

5. Start a family mantra

One way to help your child realize that mistakes don’t have to be seen as failures, is to come up with a family mantra such as: “A mistake is a chance to start again.” Or: “Whether you think your can or that you can’t you’re right.” Then pick one phrase and say it again and again until your child “owns it.” You might even print out a computer-made sign and hang it on your fridge.

6. Teach “Take a reality check”

Perfectionists imagine something horrid will happen if they hit the wrong note, don’t hit the high beam, or don’t make the standard they’ve set for themselves. Your role is to challenge their views so they don’t think in such all or nothing; black or white thinking, and help them dispute the belief.

For instance: Kid: “I know the moment I pick up my pencil I’m going to forget everything I studied all year.” You: “That’s never happened in your entire life. Why now?”

Show your child the advantages and disadvantages of being a perfectionist. Explain what you can control verses what you can’t. Redefine success as not perfection, but excellence.

7. Watch your example!

Are you a perfectionist? Is nothing ever good enough? Do you berate yourself for every little thing? Beware, research shows that moms who are perfectionists or who base their self-esteem on their kids’ achievement are more likely to have perfectionist kids. Watch out! Your kids are watching!

Remember, the parenting goal is not to change your child, but to help her learn coping skills and expectations that will reduce her self-made pressure. Stress stimulates some kids, but it paralyzes others. So tune into your child.

8. Get real about abilities

Don’t try to turn your child into the “Superkid Perfect-in-Everything. Instead, be more practical about your child abilities and be honest with her. Start assessing and refining her natural strengths—her artistic flair, his creative nature, or her musical pitch. Then monitor, encourage and strengthen those traits and skills so she doesn’t try to push herself so hard in too many areas but instead narrows her focus and has a more realistic assessment of her talents.

9. Make sure there’s time for fun

Encourage laughter and just sitting outside every once in a while and watching the clouds drift by. Teach your child she can always go back and finish up an activity, but give her permission to just plain enjoy life.

Tailor your expectations to your child’s natural nature and development. Temper any tendency to “push her harder” (perfectionist kids are their own best pushers). Those are the true secrets that help our kids reach their potential and utilize their gifts.

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Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at amazon.com.

 

How to Bring out Your Kids’ Best Behavior

If you’re the parent of a perfect child – one that never whines, argues, lies or misbehaves – this article isn’t for you. But if your child is guilty of any (or all) of the above, don’t despair. He’s just doing what most kids do. So how do you go about changing his negative behavior? Use positive reinforcement, says child behavior expert Noel Janis-Norton, author of Learning to Listen, Listening to Learn (Barrington Stoke Ltd). Here are some tools you can use to bring out the best behavior in your child:

Descriptive Praise

Instead of lecturing your child when he does something wrong, praise him when he does something right. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But for many parents, it’s trickier than they think. “Because humans are more inclined to notice what’s wrong in a situation, we are much more aware when there’s a problem,” says Janis-Norton. “It takes hard work and discipline to notice when children are doing things right, such as not whining or not interrupting.”

The key is to notice – and casually comment on – every little thing that your child is doing that is right, just OK or not wrong. “Descriptive praise is a powerful motivator,” says Janis-Norton. “It catches kids doing the right thing and inspires them to think of themselves as considerate and capable people. The rationale is: What you notice, you get more of.”

Traci McPhereson, 34, of Los Angeles, has seen it firsthand: “My 4-year-old twins responded almost instantly to descriptive praise. I’d say, ‘I see you’re not hitting your sister’ even when my son was just sitting on the floor doing nothing. Sometimes I feel insane saying stuff like, ‘You’re not whining and crying!’ or ‘You’re not sucking your thumb!’ but hey, it works! The positive changes in their behavior have been enormous.”

Reflective Listening

When a child is upset, parents instinctively want to defuse the situation by asking her what’s wrong and then giving advice. Or if she explodes with anger, they’ll get angry, too, and yell at her to stop it. In both cases, parents can calm things down simply by showing empathy, using a technique that Janis-Norton calls reflective listening. “That’s when a parent mirrors what the child is feeling. “It helps to deal with the emotion that’s dominating the child and get it resolved.”

It takes discipline on your part to step back and think before you respond, but the payoff is huge. If your child has lost his temper and is throwing things around, you could send him for a time-out and make him even angrier. Or you could take a step back and say, “You must be very angry about something. I’m sorry that you’re so upset. Can you tell me what happened?” Chances are your child would stop for a second to think about how he feels.

It’s often hard for a child to put what she’s feeling into words. “But when you use reflective listening, over time it will teach your child a vocabulary for expressing her feelings so that she doesn’t bottle them up inside and act on them inappropriately,” she says.

Action Replays

The next time your child misbehaves, be kind and rewind. Instead of scolding, repeating, reminding or lecturing, Janis-Norton suggests you try what she calls an action replay. “This is how parents can follow through with the rules they’ve established with their kids,” she says. “It’s simply asking the child to do things again, but this time the right way.”

Randall says dinnertime is the perfect opportunity to utilize action replays in her house. “My daughter, who’s 3, hates to use her fork,” she explains. “Whenever she starts to eat her food with her fingers instead of her fork, I say, ‘Let’s do that again. Show me how you’re supposed to be eating your food.’ Once she uses her fork, I give her descriptive praise, like ‘See, you knew just what to do,’ and then everybody’s smiling again. It’s nice to be able to avoid arguments that may have otherwise erupted.”

“Plus, doing an action replay will boost your child’s self-esteem,” concludes Janis-Norton, “because she’s now proven to herself that she can indeed succeed.”

Heather Randall, 39, of Sun Valley, Calif., most recently used reflective listening when her daughter had a nightmare. “I went into her room and asked her to tell me about it,” she explains. “Instead of responding with, ‘Don’t worry, it was just a dream, go back to sleep,’ I said, ‘You’re so frightened. Nightmares can sure be scary, can’t they?’ She stopped crying, thought about it for a second, and replied, ‘They sure can.’ After that, she nodded right back off to sleep.”

Calm Your Children’s Back-to-School Anxiety

Imagine starting a new job every year — with a new boss, new colleagues and new projects. Sound a bit stressful? That’s how the start of the school year feels to many kids. Most children experience anxiety when they don’t know what to expect, says Dr. Andrea Weiner, a child and family therapist and the author of The Best Investment: Unlocking the Secrets of Social Success for Your Child. “It’s fear of the unknown,” says Weiner. “Parents need to give children an understanding of what they will be in control of.”

Try these tips to ease some anxiety your kids may have:

How will I know where to go?

Whether your child is starting kindergarten or middle school, moving to a new town or just switching schools, he’s bound to be anxious about getting around the building. Where’s the bathroom? Which stairwell leads to the library? How long will it take to get from one classroom to another? Remove the guesswork (and the anxiety) by taking a tour a day or two before school starts. (Just call the school office and explain the situation.) Time how long it takes to get from one place to another, and point things out along the way. Getting the lay of the land ahead of time will give your child a sense of control before the first bell rings.

Will my teacher be nice?

Teachers are usually in the building setting up a day or so before school starts, so when you take your tour, ask if you can to stop by the classroom and introduce your child to the teacher. This is especially important to young kids who have no basis for comparison. If you know of older children who’ve had this teacher, you might want to ask them about their experience and then pass on the information to your child. (Don’t have the kids talk directly to each other unless you know the older child has good things to say!)

What will I be doing every day?

Kids love routines and get a great deal of comfort from knowing what their regular schedule will be. For kindergartners and first-graders, explain that the teacher will go over everything on the first day of class (and probably for the next few days after that). The teacher will describe the rules of the classroom, what he expects from the students and what they will be doing during the day. For kids starting middle school, explain that they’ll probably get a printed schedule showing the days, times and locations of all their classes.

Will I have friends?

The social aspect of school is a huge cause of anxiety for kids of all ages, whether they are new to the school or old-timers. Returning kids may worry that none of their friends will be in their class, and that they’ll have to form new friendships. New students may not know how to reach out to other kids. Weiner recommends giving kids some conversation starters to take the pressure off. Suggest they ask such questions as “I like your backpack; where’d you get it?” and “What did you do this summer?” They can also share some of their doubts: “Did you understand that assignment? I didn’t get it at all.”

Will I be able to keep up?

All kids worry about their academic performance, according to Weiner. The chaos of attending school during a pandemic didn’t make things easier. The important thing to tell them is that effort counts much more than grades do. Parents should stress the importance of trying and learning, as opposed to succeeding. Say something like, “Some subjects may be harder for you than others, and that’s OK.” And remind your child that teachers really are there to help.

“Most kids think they’re the only ones who are afraid,” says Weiner. “Remind them that everyone is in the same situation and feeling the same way. It helps kids deal with the anxiety a little better when they know everyone is in the same boat.”

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