Currently browsing kids mental health posts

5 Steps That Teach Your Kids to Stress Less

Being a kid means being carefree, right? Not necessarily. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association of 1,206 kids ages 8 to 17, one-third say they worry a help take away the stressgreat deal or a lot — and more than one-third report that they’re stressing more this year than last.

Why are kids so stressed? Dr. Caron Goode, author of Help Kids Cope with Stress and Trauma, says that the onslaught of media (television, radio, the Internet and mobile devices) in kids’ lives is a very real source of increased stress. Parents can shield kids from some adult stressors, like the evening news and violent TV programs, and should avoid over-scheduling their activities.

However, we can’t protect our children from every stressful situation that life throws at them.

No-one could have predicted a year of COVID, and just when we thought we were out of the woods and heading for a “normal” back-to-school, the Delta variant turned our kids’ worlds upside down again. Unpredictable and stressful – yes it has been, but debilitating – it doesn’t have to be.  We can get our kids through this!!  (editor’s note)

To do this, it’s important to teach them to recognize the signs of stress and learn how to react in a positive, healthy way — especially now, when they are starting a new school year and coping with the additional stresses of meeting teachers and fitting in with classmates. Goode offers these practical tips for helping your kids stress less:

1.  Identify the root fear.

The first thing parents need to do is to sit down and listen to what kids are worrying about. Maybe it’s the fact that Dad is unemployed or that the latest fire on the West Coast or hurricane in the Gulf has hurt the environment.

  • Goode says that when kids express a general anxiety, it’s important for parents to help them identify it more specifically by rephrasing their concerns. Example: “It sounds like you’re worried that Dad lost his job.”
  • Then Goode suggests probing further to get to the root source of the fear. Example: “What worries you about Dad not working?” (Perhaps it’s not having enough money for those new jeans.)
  • Lastly, channel the child’s concerns into a positive, affirmative action to help dissipate their feelings of helplessness. Example: “Let’s come up with a plan for you to earn some money doing chores, so you can save up for those jeans.”

2. Recognize the signs of stress.

Parents can help kids recognize the signs of stress in their own bodies so they can take steps to calm down. Signs of stress include:

  • Shortened breathing
  • Pounding heart
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling that “the walls are closing in”

3. Practice self-soothing techniques.

Goode suggests practicing the following techniques with your kids, so they’ll know how to do them on their own:

  • Hand on the heart. “Research shows that when placing a hand on the heart and imagining something calming like a beach, the heart will be calmer within five minutes,” says Goode. “Kids can easily bring down their anxiety levels using this technique.”
  • Deep breathing. This lowers blood pressure and heart rate, helping the body to relax. Goode says even just five deep breaths can help alleviate stress.
  • Blow away stress. Goode suggests telling children to close their eyes and imagine that their worry is a dark cloud hanging overhead. Tell the child to name the cloud, see the cloud, describe it, and then blow it away with a few deep breaths. This helps the child clear his mind.
  • Positive imagery. Tell your child to imagine sunshine in her heart. Describe a bright light that feels calm and peaceful. The child can hold onto the light and use it to zap worries later. This technique is especially helpful for children dealing with bullying or an illness, because it gives them a sense of control.

3. Blow off steam.

Getting regular exercise — even for just 15 minutes — can seriously reduce stress because it releases energy and endorphins. “When the body is in movement, there’s less inclination to focus on a negative mental stream,” says Goode.

4. Walk the dog.

Goode says that walking the family dog together can be one of the best ways to help a child stress less. “Children who walk a dog will usually talk things out with a parent if they walk together.” In addition, says Goode, stroking a pet has been shown to release oxytocin, the chemical responsible for bonding, which has a calming effect and reinforces closeness between a parent and child.

5. Connect with your kids.

Above all, Goode says, the antidote to stress is connection. “I believe this technology-driven generation is missing the face-to-face conversations and the family dinners where we talk things out,” she says. Make connecting with your kids a priority. Turn off the technology. Schedule a family game night or a Sunday outing. That’s the kind of connection that keeps kids grounded, even in the face of stress.

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.”

Do NOT let A Predator Make Your Child a Victim

As Parents we want to protect our children from all harm and evil! We can’t! But we can be informed and keep our children savvy and enlightened!

Predator pic1There are predators out there and our children are their targets. What I’m going to talk about will shock and horrify you. It will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. Some of you might even want to stop reading here because this is the subject of horror movies and nightmares. This is something most of us would rather die than imagine happen to our children. But I implore you to continue, this is too important to ignore.

As a medical professional, I have seen firsthand the toll something like this can take on a child. The effects are devastating and life long. The incidence of crimes against children is on the rise. I’m sorry to have to tell you that unfortunately the times we live in are too dangerous to turn a blind eye.

I have some staggering statistics that are probably going to make you sick. I also have some tools to EMPOWER YOU and your CHILDREN! You do not need to be a helpless victim!

According to family watchdog an online Sex Offender Registry

  • 1 of 5 girls and 1 of 6 boys will be molested before their 18th birthday.
  • 90% of all sexual assaults against children are committed by someone whom the victim knew.
  • The typical sexual predator will assault 117 times before being caught.
  • The re-arrest rate for convicted child molesters is 52%.
  • That your child will become a victim of a sex offender is 1 in 3 for girls & 1 in 6 for boys. **Source: The National Center for Victims of Crime
  • Over 2,000 children are reported missing every day.

Background on Registered Sex Offender Laws:

The U.S. Congress has passed several laws that require states to monitor registered sex offenders; the Jacob Wetterling Crimes against Children Act, the Pam Lychner Sex Offender tracking and Identification Act and Megan’s Law.

On March 5, 2003, The Supreme Court ruled that information about registered sex offenders may be posted on the Internet. Good for us!

Let’s take advantage of these laws!!! This is Not about Vigilantism! This is about being INFORMED! This is about KNOWING where REGISTERED SEX OFFENDERS in YOUR AREA LIVE and WORK!!

Here are some excellent places to start:

  • National Sex Offender Public Website where you can search by name
  • National Alert Registry
  • Search for Sex Offenders in your area if there are offenders in your area there is a key to show you where they work and where they live. You can click on these boxes and a picture of the offender will pop up.
  • iTouch also has 2 great applications! 1 is free. It allows you to download 3 free searches of Registered Sex offenders in your Area. For a Small one time fee you can download the full program which lets you search whatever zip code you want! This would be very useful while traveling!
  • The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children “NCMEC” is a WEALTH of information!! As the nation’s resource center for protecting children they have NUMEROUS free online downloadable publications that EVERY parent needs to take advantage of! Their prevention and safety education programs and materials contain information and tips that will help you keep your children safer.  I suggest you go to this site at your leisure and READ READ READ!! It could very well save you some heartache!

For decades, children were taught to stay away from “strangers.” But this concept is difficult for children to grasp and often the perpetrator is someone the child knows. It is more beneficial to help build Children’s confidence and teach them to respond to a potentially dangerous situation, rather than teaching them to look out for a particular type of person.

Here are some tips to help you take some first steps to help them avoid becoming a victim:

  • Make sure you know where each of your children is at all times. Know your children’s friends and be clear with your children about the places and homes they may visit. Make it a rule for your children to check-in with you when they arrive at or depart from a particular location and when there is a change in plans. You should also let them know when Predators - NCMECyou’re running late or if your plans have changed to show the rule is for safety purposes and not being used to “check up” on them.
  • Never leave children unattended in a vehicle, whether it is running or not. Children should never be left unsupervised or allowed to spend time alone or with others in vehicles as the potential dangers to their safety outweigh any perceived convenience or “fun.” Remind children to never hitchhike, approach a vehicle, or engage in a conversation with anyone within a vehicle they do not know and trust. Also they should never go anywhere with anyone without first getting your permission.
  • Be involved in your children’s activities. As an active participant you’ll have a better opportunity to observe how the adults in charge interact with your children. If you are concerned about anyone’s behavior, take it up with the sponsoring organization.
  • Listen to your children. Pay attention if they tell you they don’t want to be with someone or go somewhere. This may be an indication of more than a personality conflict or lack of interest in the activity or event.
  • Notice when anyone shows one or all of your children a great deal of attention or begins giving them gifts. Take the time to talk to your children about the person and find out why that person is acting in this way.
  • Teach your children they have the right to say NO to any unwelcome, uncomfortable, or confusing touch or actions by others and get out of those situations as quickly as possible. If avoidance is not an option, children should be taught to kick, scream, and resist. When in such a situation, teach them to loudly yell, “This person is not my father/mother/guardian,” and then immediately tell you if this happens. Reassure them you’re there to help and it is okay to tell you anything.
  • Be sensitive to any changes in your children’s behavior or attitude. Encourage open communication and learn how to be an active listener. Look and listen to small cues and clues indicating something may be troubling your children, because children are not always comfortable disclosing disturbing events or feelings. This may be because they are concerned about your reaction to their problems. If your children do confide problems to you, strive to remain calm, reassuring, and nonjudgmental. Listen compassionately to their concern, and work with them to get the help they need to resolve the problem.
  • Be sure to screen babysitters and caregivers. Many jurisdictions now have a public registry allowing parents and guardians to check out individuals for prior criminal records and sex offenses. Check references with other families who have used the caregiver or babysitter. Once you have chosen the caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing. Ask your children how the experience with the caregiver was, and carefully listen to the responses.
  • Practice basic safety skills with your children. Make an outing to a mall or park a “teachable” experience in which your children practice checking with you, using pay telephones, going to the restroom with a friend, and locating the adults who may be able to help if they need assistance. Remember, allowing your children to wear clothing or carry items in public on which their name is displayed may bring about unwelcome attention from inappropriate people looking for a way to start a conversation with your children.
  • Remember there is no substitute for your attention and supervision. Being available and taking time to really know and listen to your children helps build feelings of safety and security. 1

In conclusion, YOU HAVE A RIGHT to keep your children safe!

  • You have the right to know if Registered Sex Offenders are in your neighborhood! Be aware! Predator pic-addl
    • Check the registry by location for sex offenders located near Daycare centers, Schools, Camps, Church or anyplace you may be leaving your children, even Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
    • Check the registry by name for Church Officials, Teachers, Neighbors, Counselors, Private instruction Tutors, Bus Drivers, after school Activities leaders, Coaches etc.
    • Check them often. Take nothing for granted. Everyone is suspect.
  • Consult NCMEC’s prevention and safety education programs and materials for additional steps you and your children can take to help them feel empowered, and to know what they can do if they find themselves in a situation where they feel scared or compromised.
  • Finally, observe and listen; and TEACH CHILDREN to recognize and respond to anything that scares them. Children are very perceptive by nature. You are not ruining their childhood by talking to them when they are young. You may just be saving it!

Sex offenders place themselves in situations where children are! They make themselves appeal to children. This is NO Accident! Be SAVVY. We have the tools to fight these predators! LET’S USE THEM!

Leslie Mayorga R.N. BSN

1 “Know the Rules…General Tips for Parents and Guardians to Help Keep Their Children Safer” National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Mindful Meditation for Families – Calm the Chaos

One path toward shifting your thoughts, particularly your judgmental or negative thoughts is through sustained non-judgmental attention or meditation. Meditation is the experience of sustaining one’s focus on a thought, word, sensation or sound in order to calm the mind. Mindful meditation is the act of calming your mind and body through non-judgmental sustained attention.

If you are prone to rumination, negative thinking or catastrophizing, mindful meditation is a skill you may wish to explore. If you find that you are overwhelmed with work, life, people, finances, holidays or parenting cultivating a sense of peace and calm, developing more neutral thoughts, and appreciating what you have in the moment will likely help decrease your experience of stress. Health benefits abound for families.

Let’s say you are ready to feel better, to think more positively and to feel less distressed. Begin by simply adding ten minutes of mindful meditation to your day. You can do it in the morning right when you wake up, in the evening before you go to sleep or anytime you feel fidgety, anxious, overwhelmed, sad, angry or depressed. Meditation can take place anywhere, in the mall, in the swimming pool, or in your car. You need not “go somewhere” to meditate. Meditate where ever you are.

Start with your “Beginner’s Mind” allowing yourself to relax into the experience as though you have never been in this moment before.

  1. Sit in an upright position with your ribs aligned over your hips and your shoulders aligned over your ribs. (I prefer to lie down, you can as well, if you wish)
  2. Close your eyes to reduce distraction and breath.
  3. 1-2-3 in, 1-2-3 out, in through your nose out through your nose or mouth.
  4. Bring your focus into your breath, feel your breath moving in and out, see your breath, color your breath, feel your breath oxygenate your blood and feed the cells of your body.
  5. When your mind wanders in a relaxed manner, bring your focus back to your breath.
  6. Feel your body relax, experience your minds reflections.

For children who are restless, consider having them lay with a warm blanket or a heating pad. Often the warmth and containment in space help them relax. Music from Stressfreekids.com is also a great help. In fact, I use their stories and sounds in my office regularly.

After about fifteen minutes you may slowly open your eyes and note how you feel calm, refreshed and ready for what life has in store for you. Over time you may choose to extend your mindful moments. You may choose to meditate up to 45 minutes a day. You may choose to meditate or pay mindful attention when you grocery shop, pump gas, or talk with your neighbor. Feel the intimacy in your relationships grow as you give your conversational experiences with friends, your undivided mindful attention.

You may bring mindfulness into your parenting by increasing your undistracted, sustained attention with your children. Through mindfulness, you will naturally experience being more “present” with your children. You may lose your keys less often and even yell less, as your mindful experiences allow you to live more peacefully and non-judgmentally in the moment.

Peaceful moments to you.

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

For books and resources you may choose to visit The UCLA Semel Institute and The UCSD Center for Mindfulness.

Why Kids Really Lie – and How to Stop It

Kids tell little lies every day – about who spilled the juice and whether they brushed their teeth – but they don’t always mean to deceive. “Lying is a self-protective device that children learn to use at different ages and stages,” says education professor Sally Goldberg, developer of the blog Parenting Tips with Dr. Sally. “It’s perfectly normal, but how you handle it is important.”

Learning why kids lie is the first step in getting them to stop.

The Age: Toddlers

Why Kids Lie: Kids as young as 2 and 3 may tell simple lies (e.g., “I didn’t try to sit on the sleeping dog”), usually to avoid something unpleasant or to get something they want. But they don’t always grasp that fibbing is wrong.

Coming Clean: Don’t accuse your child of wrongdoing and ask her to fess up; that just sets her up to lie. Instead, focus on why her action is problematic. “When the dog is sleeping, he gets scared when something lands on him. He squealed because he was startled, and he may even be hurt.”

The Age: Preschoolers

Why Kids Lie: Fear of punishment is still a driving force behind lying. But at this stage, kids have rich imaginations (“Elmo ate a cookie in my bed!”) that easily transform wishful thinking to reality. Boasting (“I can do 1,000 somersaults in a row!”) is the kid version of keeping up with the Joneses.

Coming Clean: Don’t bother arguing that Elmo is a puppet on TV. Simply focus on what happened – someone ate a cookie in the bedroom, which isn’t allowed – and suggest a way to fix it: “Should we go clean up those crumbs together?”

The Age: Elementary school kids/Preteens

Why Kids Lie: By this age, lying has become a misguided survival tactic. It’s not at all unusual for kids to lie occasionally to avoid punishment and skirt their chores, but now they’ll also lie to boost their self-esteem, impress their friends and otherwise assert control.

Coming Clean: Try to determine what drove your child to lie, and help her find better ways to address the problem. If she said she did her chores, you may need to adjust your expectations; if she insists there’s no math homework (because she’s having trouble in math), offer to do it together.

Parents need to teach the value of honesty, says Goldberg. Let your kids know that lying can hurt their credibility and relationships. Thank them when they tell the truth, even if it’s ugly. And model honesty yourself.

My Roller Coaster Kid: Calm Things Down and Enjoy the Ride

Up and down, over and under, so the roller coaster goes. Are you worn out just thinking about it?

roller coaster kidLife with an intense child is like a ride on a roller coaster, some moments are thrilling, others calm, still others fear-inducing. Intense kids feel so powerfully, they see more, hear more acutely and feel more deeply. Of course, they have to share all of it with you, ’cause life can be just so overwhelming. It’s almost like in their meltdowns and fits they say, “Here Mom, hold this.” Meaning, hold my pain, suffering and overload for a moment while I try to gather myself together.

What seems like a behavioral issue to many, the school, your parents, (you know what I’m sayin’) is more likely a problem of brain mediation than willful non-compliance.

You see, children want to be calm and happy. Evolution encourages children to strive – to live well, be loved and thrive. When children are willful, obstinate, unhappy or anxious, this is not their healthiest state. Their behavior and mood signal an imbalance in their body and brain.

So what can you do about it?

  1. Know that the limbic brain is older and in the case of intense kids, momentarily more powerful than the frontal lobes. So plan for those amygdala melt-downs and prepare calming strategies with your child ahead of time. Talk about the times they feel like they are going to lose it and ask them if you can help by offering some pre-planned calming solutions like taking a walk, a bath or a bike ride. Consider calming music from advancedbrain.com (sound health) or calmmeforhealing.wmv.
  2. Know that food and nutrition matter. Remember, it is not what you eat but what your body assimilates that is important. Consider whole food pharmaceutical grade vitamins, a transition to whole food and protein at each meal to help your child’s brain have better access to healthy nutrients.
  3. If you need more help see a developmental pediatrician, pediatric psychologist or neuropsychologist who specializes in cognitive and limbic calming strategies. Meditation, yoga and brain exercises can help increase neuronal connections thus harnessing the power of the Thinker to manage the Caveman.

Intense kids are creative, intelligent and lovable, you just have to plan for the squall…after all living on the coast is beautiful, it just storms sometimes

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

familycoach-book-smallerThis post reflects Dr Kenney’s “The Family Coach Method” used in practice for a number of years, and released for publication just this past September. The Family Coach Method is ‘rug-level,’ friendly and centered on the concept of families as a winning team – with dozens of age-appropriate sample conversations and problem solving scenarios to guide a family to the desired place of mutual respect, shared values and strengths. The goal is to help children to develop the life skills, judgment and independence that can help them navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex world. The Family Coach Method is also being taught as an Educational Series where parents can join with other moms and dads in live calls with Dr Kenney.

« Previous PageNext Page »