December 30, 2010

Sensory Friendly Films for 2011

In partnership with The Autism Society, AMC Theatres brings Sensory Friendly Films to families affected by autism on a monthly basis to select communities.

The program provides a special opportunity for families to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment. The auditoriums dedicated to the program have their lights up, the sound turned down and audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing!

Upcoming Sensory Friendly showings* include:

January 8 - Yogi Bear

February 12 - Gnomeo & Juliet

March 12 - Mars Needs Moms

All shows are at 10:00 am local time.
*Dates and films are subject to change.

Click HERE for a list of participating theatres.


December 21, 2010

Traveling With Kids

I was a guest this morning on Great Day St. Louis offering some tips on how to make traveling with the family a little easier for parents!

December 20, 2010

December 15, 2010

Rituals Give Hope, Add Dimension to Family Life

If you're a parent, I suspect you can remember saying, “If we can just get the baby out of diapers, things will be so much easier.” Perhaps you were a stay-at-home mom who uttered to herself more than once, “I cannot wait until the kids are in school all day.”

Fast-forward 15 years. Your baby turns 16 and he has a driver's license. You wish he were still driving his Cozy Coupe around the cul-de-sac. Fast-forward another five years. Your daughter turns 21 and she stays out all night partying with friends. You get misty-eyed remembering when she used to toddle around the house and take afternoon naps.

You ask yourself where the years went. What you wouldn't give to sit in your grandmother's rocking chair and sing your son to sleep one more time. You rummage through a stack of old VHS videotapes in search of the one with the footage of your daughter getting on the school bus for her first day of kindergarten.

Parenting is a journey full of momentous occasions. Some of them are happy, some are sad and some are bittersweet. Moments don't have to end. As a parent, you can keep these moments alive by establishing family rituals.

For my son's first birthday, I bought a personalized audio cassette of a space creature singing Happy Birthday greetings to him from the moon. Every year on his birthday -- he's now had 18 of them -- that audio cassette awakens him. He grumbles about how juvenile it is, but there's a smile on his face that tells me he would be disappointed if one year I didn't play that birthday greeting for him at the crack of dawn. I really need to have that cassette transferred to CD to extend its life if I want to be able to continue to play it for many more years.

I always insisted my children eat dinner before they would go trick-or-treating on Halloween. I suppose the maternal side of me was convinced that dinner would cancel out the sugary treats they would be enjoying later that evening. The year my children were 2 and 4, I made Sloppy Joes and served them with barbecued potato chips and dill pickle spears. It was an easy dinner to prepare, and one they could eat quickly before heading out the door. I've made that same meal every Halloween. My daughter calls from college each Oct. 31 and says she wishes she were home for that traditional meal. I hope my future grandchildren will enjoy eating Sloppy Joes.

Each year on the first day of school, I would position my children on the front porch. With their new lunch box in one hand and their new backpack in the other, I would snap a photo that would go into the family photo album. The day I overheard my two teenagers flipping through photo album, talking and laughing about those first-day-of-school photos, I paused, smiled and told myself that this moment is what parenting is all about.

Rituals can be serious. They can be funny. Rituals build memories that last forever. In times of stress or sadness, they can provide hope. Rituals give us something to look forward to. By incorporating rituals into your family life you will be adding another dimension to your parenting journey. Now sit back and enjoy the ride.

December 14, 2010

Understanding Your Child’s Temperament

Every child is born with a unique temperament style that affects how they react and respond to their world. In the late 1950s, temperament research began with the work of Alexander Thomas, Stella Chess, and associates. Temperament is stable and differs from personality, which is a combination of temperament and life experiences, although the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Here are three main styles of temperament.

Easy or Flexible This type of child usually has a positive, low-intensity mood, eats and sleeps regularly, has infrequent emotional outbursts and is usually pleasant and cheerful. About 40% of the population falls into this category.

Difficult or Feisty About 10% of the population falls into this category. This type of child may be fussy, hard to transition, often unpleasant or disagreeable and has tantrums. On the other hand, this type of child may burst with energy and explore things with great intensity. It's easy to want to scold, punish or resent a child with this temperament.

Slow to Warm Up or Cautious Some might call this a shy child or a highly sensitive child. This child might observe a lot on the outside of things. About 15% of the population falls into the category of always being at his own pace.

About 35% of the population can't be categorized into a temperament as they have features of all three. Parents who understand their child’s temperament have an easier time dealing with challenging behaviors.

What Type of Parent Are You?

There's no right or wrong way to parent but your parenting style can strongly influence the failure or success of your child. Let's take a look at the three basic styles of parenting identified by psychologist Diana Blumberg Baumrind in 1966.

Authoritarian Parents are "too hard." They have a tendency to over-control their children, with absolute rules and standards. They emphasize a high degree of control, which may cause a child to feel rejected and isolated.

Permissive Parents are "too soft" and are the opposite of authoritarian parents. They exercise a low level of control over their children, and make very few demands upon their children.

Authoritative Parents fall in-between these two extremes. They have considerable control over their children and seem to have appropriate expectations for their children. This is the style most recommended by parenting experts.

The way you parent may be one of these styles or it may be a combination. If you;re not feeling successful with your parenting I encourage you to consult with a parenting coach or a therapist to learn techniques to parent in a more authoritative style.

December 8, 2010

How Will Play Therapy Benefit A Child?

Play therapy is implemented as a treatment of choice in mental health, school, agency, developmental, hospital, residential, and recreational settings, with clients of all ages.

Play therapy treatment plans have been utilized as the primary intervention or as an adjunctive therapy for multiple mental health conditions and concerns such as e.g. anger management, grief and loss, divorce and family dissolution, crisis, trauma, and for modification of behavioral disorders such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism, aspergers, academic and social developmental, physical and learning disabilities, and conduct disorders.

Research supports the effectiveness of play therapy with children experiencing a wide variety of social, emotional, behavioral, and learning problems, including: children whose problems are related to life stressors, such as divorce, death, relocation, hospitalization, chronic illness, assimilate stressful experiences, physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, and natural disasters.

Play therapy helps children:

* Become more responsible for behaviors and develop more successful strategies.
* Develop new and creative solutions to problems.
* Develop respect and acceptance of self and others.
* Learn to experience and express emotion.
* Cultivate empathy and respect for thoughts and feelings of others.
* Learn new social skills and relational skills with family.
* Develop self-efficacy and thus a better assuredness about their abilities.

Above information is from the Association for Play Therapy

How to Keep Traveling for the Holidays Stress Free

A few days before you leave, tell your children where you’ll be going and how you’ll be getting there.

On the day you’ll be leaving outline exactly what will be happening.Even very young children feel less anxious when they’re given explanations of how things work even if they don’t understand all the details. If you’ll be flying you can say, “First we’ll drive to the airport, then we’ll go through security, and then we’ll get on the plane and fly to Grandma’s.”

If you’re flying take along a “busy bag,” filled with books, deck of cards, silly putty, spiral pad of paper and crayons/markers, pipe cleaners, MP3 player or iPod, with familiar music and headphones. You can even make a puppet from a barf bag. But don’t break out the toys before you have to - be creative.

Traveling by car can be made less stressful by playing games, whether electronic hand-held games or guessing games played by the entire family. Stopping for breaks also may help.

Bring some snacks and pack them where they are easy to reach. Freeze dried fruits, crackers, and dry cereal all travel well.

December 6, 2010

Need an Inexpensive Holiday Gift For a Child?

Head to a dollar store and purchase a shiny new cookie sheet, cookie cutters, plastic knives and craft sticks. Include a batch of homemade play dough.

Here's my favorite recipe.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Food coloring

Mix dry ingredients in a saucepan. Add oil, water and food coloring and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat when dough begins to pull away from the sides of the saucepan and forms a ball. Pour out and knead a few minutes. Store play-dough in a plastic bag or airtight container.

Use the cookie sheet for a play dough surface. It's easy to clean and the edges keep the play-dough contained. Plastic knives, craft sticks, and cookie cutters make great tools. An empty plastic bottle can be a rolling pin. Encourage your child to roll out the dough into long snakes. Pinch and twist the snakes into shapes, letters of the alphabet and their name. All these activities increase hand strength and strengthen fine motor skills.
Add a gift bag and a card and you’ve created a one-of-a kind gift for under five dollars.

December 5, 2010

Board Games Teach Life Lessons to Children

When I was a child growing up on a farm, my family would spend cold winter evenings sitting on the family-room floor, playing Monopoly.

We would set the game board up on a card table, with the legs folded underneath it. This enabled us to slide the game under the bed at the end of the day. The next evening we only had to slide it back out and pick up where we had left off. This would continue for several days.

During the course of my childhood, several of the little green houses and red hotels had become lost. Occasionally one might be found under a sofa cushion or in the pocket of a pair of my brother's jeans. Our Monopoly money was very well worn. Sometimes, when money was changing hands, someone would get aggressive, and the money would accidentally get torn in half. Several of the bills had been mended with tape that had yellowed over time. Who would have ever imagined that 40 years later, one could go to, download a PDF and print replacement money?

In my work as a play therapist, I encourage parents to play board games with their children. What's that, you say? You already play games with your children? Is it Guitar Hero? Is it X Box or any of the other video games on the market today? These are all wonderfully entertaining games, but when was the last time your family played a good old-fashioned, traditional board game?

Many of the games you played as a child are still being manufactured today. Do you remember Sorry!, Trouble or Chinese Checkers?

In addition to Monopoly, I suggest you consider - depending upon the ages of the family members who will be playing - Candy Land, Hands Down, Yahtzee. Another favorite board game from my childhood was Hi Ho Cherry-O. The dog swallowed one of the cherries, so we improvised and substituted the pointed end of a broken red crayon.

Board games imitate real life. For example, you have to cooperate and wait your turn. There are rules you have to follow. Someone will win and someone will lose. Board games have an element of learning as well. If money has to be counted, you are learning math. If you have to spend money, you are learning how to budget. By observing the behavior of adults during the game, children will learn how adults deal with winning and losing.

Ask yourself what you are modeling during the game. Do you lose graciously? Do you win without rubbing it in?

Sometimes adults will intentionally lose a game to allow a child to win. I suggest you play as well as you can and let the chips fall where they may. If a child is disappointed at losing, it's a good learning experience for him or her. Children will be able to take what they learned playing a board game and incorporate it into real-life experiences.

When there is tension or distance among a family, a board game can serve as an ice breaker. Remember the old game Don't Break the Ice? It's a perfect game to ease some of the tension and get family members interacting again.

Because board games provide an opportunity to interact with people, they promote social skills. Board games bring people together, both young and old. Board games can strengthen bonds between family members. Playing a game provides parents with an opportunity to start conversations with their children. It's a refreshing change from the traditional question, "How was school today?"

Caution: Playing board games together as a family can cause spontaneous laughter, fun and a good time.

December 3, 2010

Increased Family Stress During the Holidays

The stress that surrounds the holidays can make family gatherings uncomfortable. This is especially true in families with there is already some tension amongst family members.

During family gatherings, treat your family members with respect and try to focus on their good qualities rather than what has caused the tensions between you. If someone becomes confrontational with you, take a deep breath and tell the person that you will discuss things with them another time and that you want the family event to stay positive and focused on the spirit of the holiday season.

Making a plan about how you will deal with an uncomfortable situation will put you at ease and allow you to enjoy family gatherings.

December 2, 2010

Having a hard time deciding what toys to buy for holiday gifts?

The toy aisles are jammed packed this time of year and the number of electronic toys amazes me. Technology has become a big part of our lives and it's no different for children. However, I can't help but wonder what effect electronic toys have on children. I feel they inhibit creativity by not encouraging a child to use their imagination.

If you're purchasing toys for children this holiday season I'd like you to consider the following:

Blocks, traditional board games, Legos, puppets, art supplies, Lincoln Logs, a tea set, puzzles. Think back to the toys of your childhood. Which ones bring back memories? By giving a special child in your life a toy that doesn't require batteries you will be encouraging their creativity. Once the child has opened your gift, get down on the floor and play with them. You'll be creating new holiday memories for both you and your favorite child.

December 1, 2010

De-Stress the Holidays

The holiday season is here and your children may be bouncing off the walls in anticipation of holiday preparations, parties and the gifts they hope to receive. Even though they are exhibiting happy energy it can get out of hand.

An over-eager child might break ornaments while helping decorate the tree. They might drop the plate of cookies you baked for the neighbors or give away secrets about what's in the packages.

Resorting to telling them they'll be on Santa's naughty list might not be effective. Here are some suggestions for how to get things under control without curbing your child's excitement.

* Write down on the family calendar when special events will occur. This eliminates your child continually asking when it's time for the family gift exchange.

* Even with all the extra events, keep your child's routine as consistent as possible and make sure they're getting enough sleep.

* Enlist your child to help with gift wrapping. Just be sure to have an extra roll of tape on hand because kids love to play with it.

* Have your child make place cards for the family dinner or even help clean the house in preparation for guests.

* Suggest they play a board game or other quiet activity. This will have a calming effect and bring their excitement level down a notch.

When a squabble breaks out, start singing a holiday song. What child can resist a chorus of Jingle Bells or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?

As 2010 comes to a close do you find yourself feeling frustrated that your methods of discipline don't seem to be working anymore? Is your New Years resolution to find some new tools for your parenting tool box? Not sure where to start?

I can help! For the month of January I'm offering a Parent Coaching session at a reduced rate of $25.00 off the regular fee.

The session can be conducted by phone or in person at a time that's convenient for you. I will work collaboratively with you to find solutions to your most challenging parenting problems.

Just mention this blog entry when you contact me for your reduced fee.
Limited to one parent coaching session. Offer expires 01/31/2011

November 29, 2010

I was a Guest on KMOX

I was a guest of Monica's Adams on her Health and Fitness show this past Sunday, November 28th.

You can listen to the podcast HERE

November 8, 2010

Children and Chores

Do your children have chores? Is it easier to just do things yourself? In my work as a parenting coach I often hear parents describe how much time and patience it takes to allow children to do things for themselves. I remind parents that assigning children chores teaches them what's involved in running a household and that they're an important member of the family team.

Here are some guidelines for establishing chores with your children.

Choose age-appropriate chores

Choose chores based on your child's age and physical ability but don't underestimate your child's ability either.
Preschoolers can usually complete two simple jobs. As your child gets older they can be responsible for not only more chores but also ones that are more challenging.

Don't expect perfection

Your idea of how to properly make a bed is probably going to be very different from your four year old. Don't turn it into a struggle and don't resort to redoing what they've already done or they'll feel inadequate and resist helping out.

Be very specific

Instead of saying, "Clean your room," say "Put the books on the shelf, the stuffed animals on the bed and the dirty clothes in the hamper." Without step-by-step instructions young children often feel overwhelmed and don't know where to begin.

Put it in writing

Children often need a reminder to do their chores. A visual schedule with photos of your child doing each chore is an effective reminder. Hang it where everyone in the family will be able to see it.

Suggestions for age-appropriate chores for children

Ages 2-3: Put toys away, put clothes in hamper, fill pet's food dish

Ages 4-5: Make own bed, empty wastebaskets, fold laundry

Ages 6-7: Set and clear table, help make and pack lunch, sweep floor

Ages 8-9: Put away groceries, help make dinner, vacuum

Ages 10 and up: Cook simple meals with supervision, baby-sit younger siblings with adult present, change bathroom or change bed linens

If your child forgets or refuses to do their chores don't do them yourself. Remind them of what they need to do and if they're uncooperative then there should be a consequence. If children aren't expected to follow through they might start putting off chores hoping that you will do the chores for them.

Having children do chores might seem like more trouble than it's worth. Keep in mind that chores teach children responsibility, self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment. They learn that being a part of the family team includes contributing to the functioning of the home. This in turn will help them grow into responsible, independent adults.

Have you assigned your children chores but your children aren't completing them? Have you tried every approach possible and nothing is working?

Parent Coaching can help! Sessions can be conducted by phone or in person at a time that's convenient for you. I will work collaboratively with you to find solutions to your most challenging parenting problems. Email support between coaching sessions is included in the coaching fee.

Would you like me to speak at your next event? I'm a frequent speaker at parenting events, moms groups and educational programs. My topics include but are not limited to "Managing Challenging Behaviors in Young Children," "Positive Discipline" and "Helping Siblings Get Along." Contact me regarding availability.

November 1, 2010

PAT Workshop at the Clarkson Valley Early Childhood Center

I'm facilitating a workshop on Thursday, November 4th at the Clarkson Valley Early Childhood Center. If you reside in the Rockwood District I encourage you to attend.

The topic is "Managing Challenging Behaviors in Young Children." Here's a description of what will be covered: Children often exhibit challenging behavior when they don't have the skills needed to display more appropriate behaviors. This presentation will help parents understand why challenging behaviors occur and offer strategies to better manage those behaviors.

Click HERE for more information.

October 4, 2010

The Top 3 Parenting Mistakes

When parenting it's not always easy to know what to do in various situations. From time to time we're going to mistakes. That's inevitable. In my work as a Parenting Coach I see the same mistakes being repeated over and over. This month's parenting tip takes a closer look at the top three mistakes parents make and how you can correct them.

1. Dismissing your child's feelings

"You've been mad long enough." "It's silly to feel that way." "You're too sensitive." Ever say those things to your child? When you do you're dismissing your child's feelings and your child doesn't feel heard or understood. Think about it this way. If you called a friend and shared that you'd had a terrible day (a flat tire, a sick pet, the washing machine stopped working) and your friend said, "Get over it. You really do make too much of these things, " how would you feel? Brushed aside, dismissed? Chances are your child feels the same way if you dismiss what he or she is feeling. Try saying something like, "That sounds really frustrating," or "I can see why you're mad," the next time your child is expressing an emotion. I can almost guarantee your child will react differently once they feel heard and understood.

2. Not following through on consequences

The only thing worse than not having rules and consequences is not enforcing consequences. Do you threaten your child but never follow through? Are your consequences so unreasonable that you simply can't follow through with them? Let's say your child leaves his bike in the driveway. You tell him three times to put his bike in the garage and he simply ignores you. You're frustrated so you resort to this threat, "If you don't put your bike in the garage I'm going to throw it in the trash!" Your child continues to ignore you. Why? Because he knows you'd never throw his bike in the trash. This would be a more appropriate consequence, "If you don't put your bike in the garage you won't be allowed to ride it for a week." This is a consequence you can follow through with and you've now given your child a choice. He can choose to put the bike in the garage or he can choose to lose it for a week. His choice. Just make sure you follow through if he decides not to put his bike in the garage.

3. Over-explaining things

If you tell your child ten times to put his pajamas on and he doesn't respond what makes you think the eleventh time will do the trick? Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Are you using too many words? Many children tune you out when you ramble on and on and on. Be matter of fact and state only what needs to be said. What is the age of the child to which you're explaining things? If your child is a preschooler he's not developmentally able to be rational. The cognitive ability to be rational doesn't begin to emerge until the age of seven so use only as few words as possible. Sometimes over-explaining turns into a verbal tug-of-war and the next thing you know you and your child are arguing and the original subject matter is forgotten. It takes two to argue so if you remove yourself from the argument it can't continue.

Side Note:

Not recognizing your parenting mistakes is almost as big a problem as not trying to fix them. Is what you are doing working? If not, then you probably need some new tools in your parenting tool box.

September 30, 2010

12 Things Teachers & Schools Wish Parents Would Do

Katy Farber, teacher and author of Why Great Teachers Quit and How We Might Stop the Exodus, shares 12 Things Teachers & Schools Wish Parents Would Do.

1. Establish a daily family routine, including healthy eating and sleeping habits.
2. Build your child's self-esteem by expressing interest in your child's schoolwork and affirming the child's worth through positive messages.
3. Communicate openly with the school and contact the school when you are aware of issues concerning your child's success.
4. Approach your child's teachers directly with an issue rather than going to the school office or principal first.
5. Express high and realistic standards for your child.
6. Check on homework regularly and ask questions about your child's work.
7. Read aloud daily to/with your child.
8. Connect everyday experiences to what is your child is learning at school.
9. Use community learning opportunities. Expose your child to the library, museums, the theater, concerts, etc. Encourage your child to join clubs, scouts, afterschool sports or fine arts, and other community programs.
10. Monitor out-of-school activities and set expectations for appropriate behavior.
11. Model learning at home by playing games, reading newspapers or magazines, and discussing current events.
12. Volunteer to help in your child's classroom, as much as you reasonably can. Parents and teachers have the unique and powerful opportunity to develop a strong, supportive relationship that can motivate and inspire children to do great things. We owe it to our kids and to ourselves to find ways to build positive partnerships and a respectful climate. By doing so, we not only can give our children the best education possible, but we also increase the likelihood that teachers will stay in the field doing what they do best.

Source: Cafe Mom Blog

September 10, 2010

ADHD Awareness Week, September 13-17

NEW YORK, NY – Four national organizations – ADHD Coaches Organization (ACO); Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA); ADDitude magazine; and Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) – are issuing a joint call to the public to assist children, adults, and families who are affected by ADHD. On the occasion of ADHD Awareness Week, September 13-17, they’ve compiled evidence-based information and links to available resources and supports at www.adhdawareness2010

September 2, 2010

Teaching Children About Money

People have strong feelings and opinions about money. Children think parents have an unlimited supply of money. Ever heard these from your child? "Just go to the money machine." or "Use your credit card." It's vital that parents take the time to teach their children about money and good money habits.

An allowance is a good first step in teaching children how to manage money. Don't tie the allowance into any specific chores. Some chores are required to make the household run smoothly and everyone in the family must help with no pay. Chores for pay are chores that go beyond normal day to day running of the household.

For a young child you might consider giving them $1.00 a week. Break the allowance into coins such as dimes or quarters. This allows them to easily count their money and place it in containers labeled, "SPENDING," "SAVING" and "SHARING." 

You might request that they put a dime into sharing, two dimes into savings and the rest into spending. For quarters it might be one to share, one to save and two to spend.

Consider a charitable cause to teach your child the importance of giving.

Tie saving money to a goal. Find a picture of the item your child wants to buy. Hang the picture where it can be seen so they keep the goal in mind.

Side Notes:

Older kids and teens can benefit from having a savings account at the bank.

Kids spend less impulsively when it's their own money.

The best way to teach your children about money is to be a good role model.


August 4, 2010

Too Many Words

From this weeks Love and Logic e-newsletter:

"That boy is going to be the death of me. He never listens. I tell him and I tell him, but do you think he cares what I say? No! Not in the least. I don't know how he is going to learn if he never listens."

We've all heard the parent who talks like this, and I'm sure you've said to yourself, "Now we know the problem, too many words and not enough actions."

How old were you when you learned to shut out your parents' lectures? Lectures didn't work for our parents and they seldom work for us. They don't even bring out the best in our spouses.

The best rule of thumb is:
Keep it short.
Keep it polite.
Make it a question.

"Oh, Darla, I noticed that you were being a bit snippy with your friends when we were in the car. Do you ever worry about losing their friendship because of that?"

It's possible you might get a snippy answer like, "No, besides it's none of your business."

Instead of lecturing, stick with your polite questions. "Oh, sweetie, that might be true, but if not, do you have a plan? Good luck."

Polite questions get kids thinking. Lecturing shuts the door to listening.

Jim Fay

July 14, 2010

Psychological Effects After A Child Abduction

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Alisa Maier was safely returned home after being abducted by a stranger. It was an even bigger relief to learn she hadn't been physically harmed.

Children are resilient but even when children are recovered and reunited with their family the trauma does not necessarily end. There can be long-lasting effects psychological effects on the child such as anxiety, fear of being around strangers, nightmares, and even mistrust of familiar adults and family members. Some children may stop growing emotionally, socially and academically and regressive behaviors may appear.

Due to all the media attention psychological effects can extend beyond the victim and family to children and adults not even connected to the crime. Parents are fearful it could happen to their child and children may fear they too could be abducted. This fear and the emotional stress it brings on can stay with parents and children for long periods of time.

Pay attention to any changes in your child after such a trauma and be open to discussing your child's concerns. Validate any feelings they may have and reassure them that you will help keep them safe. If their fear escalates you may want to consult with a mental health professional.

July 7, 2010

Pam's Parenting Tip of the Month

How to Help an Anxious or Stressed-Out Child

How often have you said to your child, "You need to calm down!" How often have you given that same child a suggestion on how to calm down? Self-calming doesn't come naturally to children. It needs to be taught.

Purchase a pump bottle of lavender scented hand and body cream. Lavender has a soothing, relaxing quality. Make a label for it that reads "Calming Cream."


When you find your child is feeling anxious or stressed put a small amount into your hands and rub it into your child's hands, arms and legs. It not only serves as a distraction from whatever is going on in the moment it's also a nurturing gesture. "Calming Cream" can even become a part of your child's bedtime routine to encourage relaxation.

Keep the bottle of "Calming Cream" in a handy location and over time your child will learn to use it when feeling the need to self-soothe. Your child might even become like Austin who, upon seeing his mother looking harried at the end of a busy day, said, "Mom! You want me to rub your hands with some calming cream?"

June 19, 2010

I've Relocated My Office

As of June 21st, 2010, I have moved my office to the Wildwood Plaza Professional Building, just east of the intersection of Baxter & Clayton Roads. View a map HERE

June 1, 2010

Five Things To Do With a Cookie Sheet

School’s out and it can be challenging to find easy and affordable activities to keep kids busy. Using things you probably have around the house you can provide your kids some creative opportunities. Head to the kitchen and dig out those old cookie sheets.

1. Grab the magnets from off of the refrigerator and encourage your child to create a picture by arranging them on the cookie sheet. Don’t forget to snap a photo of your little one’s masterpiece.
2. Line the cookie sheet with a layer of rice. Using their finger or an unsharpened pencil they can practice writing letters and words.
3. Finger paint with your child’s favorite flavor of pudding. Clean up is as easy as licking their fingers!
4. Cut a piece of butcher or parchment paper to fit the cookie sheet. Add a few dollops of different colored paint in random places. Have your child place a couple of marbles on the cookie sheet. While holding the cookie sheet in their hands they slowly move it back and forth to allow the marble to roll through the paint. Makes a unique design on the paper that makes a handsome display when dry.
5. Make some homemade play dough (see recipe below) dig out some cookie cutters and a plastic knife and watch your child craft cakes, cookies, pizza and pancakes.

Let’s Make Play Dough!
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Food coloring

Mix dry ingredients in a saucepan. Add oil, water and food coloring and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat when dough begins to pull away from the sides of the saucepan and forms a ball. Pour out and knead a few minutes. Store play-dough in a plastic bag or airtight container.

WARNING: Use of play-dough can cause creativity to go wild!

BONUS TIP: Need a gift idea for a child with a summer birthday? Head to a dollar store and purchase a shiny new cookie sheet, magnets, play dough, plastic utensils, cookie cutters, markers and a pad of paper. Add a gift bag and a card and you’ve created a one-of-a kind gift for under ten dollars.

May 26, 2010

Meal Times Should Never Be Battle Times

From today's Love and Logic e-newsletter:

* Model good eating habits (of course, this is the hardest part).

* Provide healthy meals.

* When your kids complain about the meal or refuse to eat, say, "Dinner will be on the table until 6:30. You may either eat it or see if you like what's served for breakfast a little better."

* Resist the urge to nag, remind or warn.

* With great empathy, allow them to be hungry until the next meal.

With most children, this approach works great. Sometimes they eat a lot, sometimes they eat a bit, and sometimes they eat nothing. Overall, they learn to eat what their bodies need to stay healthy.

Are you familiar with RIF?

Reading Is Fundamental is the oldest and largest children's and family nonprofit literacy organization in the United States.

The RIF web site has a Parent Section with all kinds of tips and activity ideas to help you motivate your kids to read.

The section for kids, Reading Planet, has all kinds of activities and online animated stories.

RIF is a great resource that encourages kids to read. I suggest you add using the RIF website to your list of summer reading activities.

May 24, 2010

Picky Eaters

Are meal times challenging at your house because your child is a picky eater?

If it's the eating habits of your toddler that concern you rest assured that toddlers are notoriously picky eaters. They'll go for a long period of time eating the same foods over and over then suddenly refuse that food. They may balk when you offer them a new food. What's a parent to do?

Sometimes toddlers are willing to try a new food if they see mommy and daddy enjoying it. If they don't want to try the new food keep putting it on their plate over the course of several meals. Some toddlers need to be exposed to a new food a dozen or more times before they decide they like it.

Toddlers like to fight over food so don't make a fuss about it or it will become a much bigger deal than it needs to be. As long as there's something on the plate that your toddler will eat don't worry. Over time they'll develop an interest in other foods.

If it's your preschooler that's picky about meals try taking them to the store with you and have them select a new food to try. Start with a fruit or a vegetable. Once you've taken that food home have your child help prepare the food. Children who are involved in selecting and preparing new foods are much more likely to eat them.

By instilling good food habits in your young child you will ward off your older child becoming a picky and demanding eater. Often parents try to accommodate their picky eater by making them a meal separate from the rest of the family. Don't allow yourself to become a short-order cook! "But my child will go hungry," insist many parents. It won't hurt a child to miss a meal now and again. He'll eat when he's hungry. Teach your child that you prepare one meal and everyone eats the same thing. If your child isn't used to you approaching mealtimes this way she may raise a stink. Don't give in. Stick to your plan and soon your child will realize they can no longer manipulate mealtimes.

Do not allow yourself to become your child's short-order cook.

May 11, 2010

Children and Anxiety

There are times when children deal with feeling anxious about things such as dogs, storms, the dark, being away from mom or being in new situations. Sometimes a child will suddenly become anxious about something that's never bothered them before.

When it happens there are things parents can do to help ease the anxiety.

* Pay attention to and acknowledge your child's feelings. Don't dismiss their anxiety, even if it's unfounded, because to them it's very real.

* Stay calm when your child becomes anxious about a situation or event.

* Introduce them to things they can do to calm themselves down when feeling anxious such as taking deep breaths, listening to calming music, etc.

* Don't punish mistakes or lack of progress as your child is learning to overcome the anxiety.

* Be flexible and modify expectations during stressful periods. This may include allowing for extra time if transistions are stressful for your child.

With time and patience your child's anxiety should steadily decrease. If it doesn't or if it increases you may want to consult with your pediatrician or a therapist.

April 30, 2010

Is Eating Out With Your Kids More Trouble Than It's Worth?

Do your children throw food, yell, crawl under the table when you eat out?

Is it so embarrassing and uncontrollable that you've given up on taking them out to eat?

Make restaurant experiences less dramatic and more enjoyable with these suggestions;

Select a family friendly restaurant. If you're not sure if the place is kid friendly go there sometime without your child to scope it out.

Request a booth in a spot that won't be distracting should your child fidget.

Take along a bag of small toys, crayons and a coloring book or a quiet electronic toy to entertain your child while waiting for your food. Use this bag for only eating out so your child won't be bored with the contents

Order an appetizer right away or ask for bread or crackers so your child has something to munch on.

One last suggestion that I used when my own children were small was to phone in our food order ahead of time so it was ready to be served shortly after we sat down. Less time for you to have to entertain your little ones and less time they have to wait equals a more enjoyable meal for the entire family.

April 27, 2010

Understanding ADHD

Perhaps your child has been given a diagnosis of ADHD or it's been suggested that he or she needs to be evaluated to determine whether or not they have ADHD. No matter which situation you find yourself in it's important to understand the different types of ADHD as they can be confusing.

1. ADHD, Predominatly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type

2. ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type

3. ADHD, Combined Type

The type of ADHD your child has will determine the best way for you to parent your child. There are numerous books and web sites available that can help you better understand ADHD and offer parenting suggestions. However this can be a challenge as what works with one child won't necessarily work for another.

Sometimes it can be helpful to consult with an expert who can help you navigate parenting your ADHD child by offering insights and suggestions based upon your particular situation. If you are seeking more effective ways to parent your ADHD child contact me via email or call 314-681-8272 to schedule a consultation. I offer support, encouragement and strategies you can easily implement.

April 24, 2010

Brag Calendar

I got this idea from a fellow play therapist.

Hang a calendar above your child's bed. Each day write one thing one positive thing about your child or one positive behavior your child did. At bedtime you verbally shares what was written. It sets a positive tone and it's much easier for both child and parents to fall asleep knowing the day ended on a positive note.

April 13, 2010

Involve Your Kids in Gardening

Now that spring has arrived your thoughts may have turned to cleaning up the yard and doing some gardening. What a perfect opportunity to involve your kids in something that gets them away from the TV and video games and provides them with some fresh air and exercise.

Take them along to the nursery to select plants and flowers. Kids are much more likely to help when they have some input .

Give them a small shovel and have them ready the flower beds. I've never met a kid who didn't love to dig in the dirt! Stake off a section for your child to have his or her own little garden.

Teach them how to properly water and weed. A small child will probably have a difficult time distinguishing between a weed and an expensive perennial.

Take photos of the garden at the beginning stages and along the way so your child can observe the progress. Come wintertime your kids can help plan what you'll plant in next years garden.

When the planting is done and they're covered head to toe in dirt get out the garden hose and let them spray each other down.

Including your kids in the planning of the projects as well as the actual work will give them the opportunity to learn the satisfaction that comes from a job well done and you'll see their self-esteem blossom along with the flowers.

April 4, 2010


.....The St. Louis Center for Play Therapy Training.

Providing affordable continuing education opportunities for play therapy credentialing.

March 29, 2010

Make Clean Up Time Fun Time

Is the family room cluttered with toys and it's driving you crazy? Grab a kitchen timer. Tell your kids it's time to play "Beat The Clock."  Set the timer for 15-20 minutes and race to get as much done as possible before the alarm goes off. Making clean up time a game can really motivate kids. And just think about how much you'll laugh watching one another rush around the room.

Ever played "Beat The Clock?" Did it work?

March 27, 2010

Mistakes Parents Make

There are two big ones: Talking too much and giving explanations that aren't needed.

Pay attention to how many words you're using. If you use too many words your child will just tune you out. If you've given your child the same explanation ten times and it's not resulted in your child listening or responding, than what makes you think the eleventh explanation will work?

Most of the time we think that if we can get our child to understand things from our perspective the situation will end in our favor. Children, especially one youngs, aren't capable of being rational. Yet we continue to explain things over and over with no results.

Use less words and speak using a calm, firm voice and see if your child responds to you.

March 25, 2010

Talking to Kids About Sex

It's so important to talk to your children about sexuality starting at a young age. Even preschoolers know that boys and girls are different. Use that as an opportunity to start teaching them about respect for their body and being respectful of others.

Pay attention to the messages you are sending your child about sexuality.

It's not unheard of for girls as young as 8 to begin menstruating so I encourage you to not wait until you feel your children are old enough to understand because in reality there is no magic age at which to talk to them about sex.

March 23, 2010

Do You Lie To Your Kids?

That was the topic on March 18th when I was a guest on "Great Day St. Louis," on KMOV.


Do You Yell At Your Kids?

When your child doesn't comply or does something that's unacceptable does it push you over the edge and you react by yelling?

Is the yelling effective or does your child tune you out? If it's not effective why do you still do it?

Parents usually yell when they're feeling frustrated and stressed out. Parents who yell often have children who yell. I often have parents tell me they want their child to stop yelling yet they themselves are yelling. If you want your child to stop yelling you're going to have to reign in your own habit of yelling.

It's not easy to break the yelling habit but here are some suggestions:

Know what triggers your yelling. If your child's messy room sets you off then have a plan for what you will do and say the next time you lay eyes on the mess. Close the door so you can't see it. Then, when you've calmed down, speak to your child about cleaning up the mess.

Leave the room. If siblings are squabbling and you normally yell at them to stop, take a deep breath and leave the room.

Talk in a soft voice. Sometimes when you use whispering instead of yelling your kids will pay more attention to you.

Think about how you want your child to remember you. Do you want your kids to remember you as a mom who yelled all the time or as a mom who was calm and in control?

Are you a yeller and if so does it work for you?

If you're a recovering yeller what advice can you offer moms who are trying to quit?

March 22, 2010

I was featured on KSDK's Moms Like Me Prime Time Special on March 17th. My segment begins at 4:25.


March 19, 2010

When was the last time you enjoyed being with your kids?

Life is chaotic, there's work, shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning and bills to pay. Sometimes parents are so busy with the daily stuff of life that they forget to just put everything aside for a few minutes and enjoy being with their kids.

You don't have to go anywhere and you don't have to spend any money. You can play a board game, bake some cookies, dance to a silly song, snuggle on the sofa or rough house. The activity itself doesn't matter. The fact that you're doing something spontaneous with your kids is what's really important.

When was the last time you enjoyed being with your kids and what did it include?

March 2, 2010

March 2nd is Read Across America Day

NEA's national reading celebration takes place each year on or near March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Across the country, thousands of schools, libraries, and community centers participate by bringing together kids, teens, and books, and you can too!

This is my favorite Dr. Seuss book. It's a great book for encouraging kids to talk about feelings. 

February 24, 2010

How to Help Your Child Deal With Disappointment

One mistake parents often make is trying to prevent their child from experiencing disappointment. Yes, it's difficult to see your child hurting when she doesn't get invited to a birthday party or he doesn't make the baseball team. You may be tempted to call the parent and the coach and ask why your child wasn't included or even give them a piece of your mind.

Stop for a moment and think about it. What message would you be sending to your child if you tried to heal that disappointment? How is "fixing" things for your child going to help them navigate the disappointments that are bound to happen during his or her lifetime?

Here's what I propose:

Acknowledge the disappointment. Is he mad, sad? Validate whatever he's feeling.

Help your child to see and understand that life is full of disappointments. Share a personal experience from your own childhood and explain how you dealt with it. Then help your child come up with a way to cope with the disappointment he is currently experiencing. Coping skills don't just happen, they have to be taught and as a parent it's part of your responsibility to teach them to your child.

Ask your child what she can do to make herself feel better. You may need to offer suggestions the first time around but over time your child will learn what works best for her. Reading a book, doing something physical, painting a picture, etc., are all good ways to redirect disappointment.

Sometimes children are disappointed when they've made a mistake. They may feel like they're not a good baseball player if they strike out or they make feel they're a failure at math if they don't get an A on their test. In these situations it's important to take a close look at why your child feels the need to be perfect. Are you setting too high of an expectation? Do you show your own disappointment when your child doesn't measure up? Sometimes it helps to step back and be more realistic in what you expect from your child.

Once you've helped your child navigate a disappointment you can use what was learned to help her through the next one. You can remind her that she figured out how to deal with it once before and that you know she can do it again.

February 18, 2010

Nose Picking and How to Stop it

You're in the car driving your four year old to dance class. You sneak a peek of her in the rear view mirror and you're horrified to find her vigorously picking her nose. You find it disgusting and gross and hope she's not picking in public. You decide to ignore it hoping she will stop on her own.

Two weeks later she's still picking her nose and you can't take it anymore. You start nagging and threatening punishment if she doesn't stop but that doesn't seem to be effective. What can you do?

The first thing I suggest is investigating whether it's related to the season. Winter months and dry indoor air can lead to excess mucus, dry nasal membranes, etc. She might get the feeling that "something's up there" so she picks. Perhaps a saline nasal spray or a humidifier would be helpful. Keeping her fingernails short and snag-free can be a deterrent to nose picking.

Also take into consideration what's going on when she is picking her nose. She might be bored, curious or trying to get your attention. Try keeping her fingers busy with a squishy ball, a finger puppet, or bandages on the tip of her finger especially when you're out in public where you don't want to have to be correcting her. Same goes for when you're at home. Give her something to do with her hands rather than telling her not to pick her nose.

Nose picking is unsettling but most kids try it at some point. As a parent try not to let it get to you and approach resolving it in a calm manner.

February 10, 2010

Unwanted Behaviors in Your Child

I often have parents express concerns about recent behavioral changes in their child. It's very concerning to parents when their otherwise agreeable child is now regressing, being overly dramatic or defiant or exhibiting behaviors that the parent has never seen before. Parents feel confused and helpless because nothing they do to correct the problem seems to be working.

I suggest taking the approach at looking at what changed when these behaviors started. Was there a move? A new baby added to the family? An illness, a death, etc.? Even though children are resilient and adapt to new situations that doesn't mean they adapt without any struggling. Often a child's reaction to a new situation is a change in behaviors.

Once you've pinpointed when the problem behaviors started you can then put a plan in place to address the unwanted behaviors. That may include ignoring the behaviors, redirecting it or giving your child more positive attention instead of attention for these negative behaviors.

Kids want and need their parents attention and they will do whatever it takes to get that attention. Pay attention to how you are responding to these unwanted behaviors. Are your responses fueling the fire? If so then you may have a difficult time getting these behaviors to stop. Put a plan into place as to how you want to respond to these behaviors and see if over a period of a few weeks, with consistency on your part, the unwanted behaviors go away.

February 3, 2010

Are you noticing changes in your five year old?

Do some of his behaviors seem regressive?

Is she clingy and doesn't want to be separated from you?

Has he told you he wants to stay at preschool and not go to kindergarten?

Are all of these behaviors not typical for your daughter?

When I was a pre-K teacher I would hear these concerns from parents every year around the end of January or early February. The parents would understandably be very concerned and ask me for advice. As a child therapist I still hear parents express these same concerns about their five year old.

I validate the parents concerns and then I ask if they're recently registered their five year old for kindergarten? The answer is usually "Yes!"

I then proceed to explain to parents that this is a big transition for their five year old. Everyone is telling them how grown up they are and talking non-stop about how great it will be to go to kindergarten. The child feels torn. They're excited to be growing up but they're also apprehensive about leaving preschool and all the familiarities they're grown accustomed to.

It's a big step for a five year old and as parents you can help them with that transition. If you see the above mentioned behaviors take a few minutes to give your child an extra hug and ask them if they're feeling sad or scared about leaving preschool and going to kindergarten. Validate whatever they are feeling and offer helpful suggestions such as driving by the new school and taking a photo of them standing in front of it. Mark on the calendar the day your child will be going to the school for a visit and/or kindergarten screening. Make sure that during that visit you point out the bathroom because not knowing where the bathroom is located is a big concern for a soon to be kindergartner.

Put less emphasis on growing up and more on making the transition easier for them.

January 30, 2010

The Great Trade-In

Now through February 20th at Babies R Us and Toys-R-Us trade in cribs, toddler beds, strollers, travel systems, car seats, pack and plays, bassinets, high chairs and swings, from participating brands and receive 25 percent off a new item that meets the latest safety regulations.

The focus of the great trade-in program is safety. In addition to possible recalled items it also focuses on any baby care products that might be older and not compliant with the current safety standards.

More information HERE

January 29, 2010

IEP Checklist iPhone application

The Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC) is pleased to announce the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) Checklist iPhone application. The IEP is an individualized program designed to support the educational needs of school aged students with disabilities. This new IEP app helps parents of students with special needs become better-informed advocates by making IEP information easier to access.

The IEP app is offered free of charge. A special IEP app launch reception is being held on Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 4:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City.

To download the IEP Checklist app, visit the Apple iTunes store, and type IEP Checklist in the search box.


Managing Your Child's ADHD

Executive function is the ability to plan ahead, organize, follow through, and finish tasks. Children with ADHD are often challenged by an inability to use their executive function successfully. As their parent you need to take over as the executive and guide your child while they slowly learn their own executive function skills. Here are some things you can do:

When communicating with your child make eye contact before you give him an instruction. Then check to see that he understood you. Say, "Tell me what I want you to do."

Give directions one at a time, not a long list that can overwhelm her. Use “When....Then” directions. For example, "WHEN you finish putting your clothes in the closet THEN you come downstairs and help me fix dinner."

Putting those directions into a check-off list can be helpful. As your child completes each step he checks it off and moves onto the next one. This will keep him on track and it will help him visually see that he's making progress.

When your child begins and completes a task successfully praise her for it. The next time she has a similar task and she feels overwhelmed or doesn't know how to begin, remind her of the time she was able to move through a task step by step and complete it. Tell her you know she can do it again. Then help her get started.

Parenting a child with ADHD is never easy. You have to be patient, consistent and you have to repeat things over and over. Over time, your support and encouragement will allow you to slowly move away from the role as your child's executive and into the role of his assistant.

January 27, 2010

How to Stay Connected to Your Child When Parenting in Separate Households

I work with many parents who are separated, divorced or never married and they all share similar frustrations regarding the challenges of parenting in separate households. They miss their children when they're with the other parent and their children miss them as well.

There are some things you can do to help your child feel close to you even when they're not with you.

* Make a small photo album with photos of you and your child. Whenever they're missing you they can look at the photos for an instant connection. They can sleep with it under their pillow. Include photos from when they were a baby up to the present day. It will serve as time line and help them understand the transitions that are a part of your family. Remember to add new photos on a regular basis.

* When your child leaves your home to be with his or her other parent send along a t-shirt you've recently worn. When your child misses you he or she can wear the shirt, cuddle with it, and sleep with it. It will have your smell which can make you seem close. You could also send them one of your hats or a piece of jewelry, etc. Something of yours that they can hold onto is very comforting to a child.

* Make a habit of calling your children the same time each day. Some parents call in the morning and again at bedtime. Work out a system with your co-parent and your child will look forward to those daily phone calls. Web cams are another way of staying in touch.

Staying connected to your child can be challenging but with a little creativity and effort you can help your child feel close to you even when you're apart.

January 23, 2010

Managing Sibling Fights

"Mom! He hit me!" "She called me dumb!" "Mom! He's thinking about touching me!" It's inevitable. Siblings are going to squabble. Parents often wonder why it happens and why it seems to happen all the time.

There are many reasons why siblings fight. They might be tired, hungry or bored. During winter months when days are short and time outside is limited siblings may be spending too much time together. If the fighting doesn't let up maybe it's time to have them take a short break from one another, feed them a healthy snack or help them find something different to do.

It's also possible they're fighting because it gets your attention. If it's late in the day and you're cooking dinner, feeding the baby and trying to finish laundry, your other two children might be needing some attention from you. They act up knowing it will get a reaction from you. Perhaps you need to stop what you're doing and give them your undivided attention even if it's only for ten minutes.

If the squabbling doesn't involve one child hurting the other you may want to try and ignore what's happening. If it's a petty argument don't get involved. See if they can find a solution. If the arguing escalates you will need to step in. Separate them so they have some physical space from one another and ask each one to tell their side of the story. Your job is to listen and to validate what they're saying. "You're mad because she came into your room without asking." "You're mad because he wouldn't play with you.' Don't chose sides. Ask them what they can do to solve the problem. If they're unable to come up with a reasonable solution you will have to offer one. You may have to teach your children how to make deals with one another.

Teach your children how to play with one another. Show a younger child how to ask his older sibling "Would you play with me?" Provide different activities that children of different ages can do together such as play dough or blocks. Teach them how to trade toys instead of grabbing what they want.

One of the best ways to prevent siblings from fighting is to avoid comparing your children. That's one of the big reasons why siblings fight with one another. "Why can't you be more like your brother?" "Your sister gets better grades because she studies harder than you." Hearing comments like that encourages a child to become competitive with siblings which can lead to even more fighting.

Take a close look at how you are responding to the sibling fights. Are you coaching your children or have you resorted to being a referee?

January 20, 2010

Praise vs. Encouragement

We praise children because we want to acknowledge their efforts and build their self-esteem. If we constantly praise a child he will learn to expect it whenever he completes a task regardless of the effort that he put into that task. Over time that child may learn to seek praise not for his own self-satisfaction but to please others.

Comments of praise we often say to children may include, "You're the smartest kid in your class!" "That's the most wonderful painting I have ever seen!" "You're such a good girl!"

Sometimes our praise can be seen as an evaluation. Especially when we use words such as "best," "wonderful," or "perfect." If you often praise your child with these words how will your child feel the day he makes a mistake and isn't perfect? Will he feel ashamed and guilty that he didn't meet your expectations? Will he try to blame his mistake on someone else so he won't be at fault? Will he be discouraged and not try as hard the next time because he doesn't want to be seen as less than perfect?

Encouragement on the other hand focuses on effort not the end results. Instead of praising your child with "That picture is so pretty!" you could encourage your child by saying, "You used lots of colors," or "You really enjoy painting." If your child received the highest grade in her class on her math test you could offer encouragement by saying, "You got a high score because you studied before the test."

However, if your child didn't study for her math test and received a low grade, you might be tempted to shame your child and say, "That's what happens when you don't study." or "I'm disappointed in you." Instead you could say, "I wonder what you need to do to get a better score on the next test?" This will encourage your child to figure out a strategy as well as motivate her to try harder instead of giving up.

Take a closer look at the messages you are sending to your child by the words you use. Are you praising or are you encouraging?

January 18, 2010

Don't Hide Your Feelings

I often work with families who are in the midst of a crisis. Emotions are running high and mom and dad's parenting techniques are no longer effective. They're understandably concerned about their child who is suddenly fearful of being separated from them and is anxious about everything.

The crisis that brought them into my office has them admitting that they too are feeling many of these same emotions. They're trying very hard to hide their feelings from their child. They want to be strong and not let their child see they're vulnerable as they're fearful this would cause their child to feel even more anxiety.

This crisis affected the entire family yet mom and dad aren't talking about how they feel. Their daughter is getting the message that she's the only one who is experiencing such intense emotions.

I encourage the parents to stop pretending they're okay. I suggest they sit down with their daughter and be honest with her. They need to tell her that they too are feeling scared and anxious. By validating her feelings and sharing their own they're telling her she's not alone. They should enlist her help in coming up with suggestions for what they can do to calm themselves and get through this challenging situation.

Once they've weathered this current storm they'll feel good in knowing they got through it together. It will also be a life lesson that they can fall back on the next time their family faces a difficult situation.

January 13, 2010

Are You a Play Therapist in the St. Louis Area?

Are you looking for a way to connect with other play therapists? I encourage you to join a new group, “St. Louis Play Therapists,” on Facebook by clicking on the link below:


This is a private group with the majority of information on the page only visible to the members. The group will be frequently updated with links to resources and conferences. Networking is an invaluable resource and I encourage you to participate.

January 10, 2010

What Type of Parent Are You?

There's no right or wrong way to parent but your parenting style can strongly influence the failure or success of your child. Let's take a look at three basic styles of parenting which were identified in 1966 by psychologist Diana Blumberg Baumrind.

January 9, 2010

Teaching Young Children About Feelings

It's important for children to recognize and name feelings. Young children are usually able to understand four basic feelings of Happy, Sad, Mad and Scared.

Stick puppets are a fun way to help your child learn to identify these feelings.

You can draw these feeling faces or have your child draw them. Better yet, draw them together. Attach them to a  craft stick using tape. Now it's time for the feelings puppet show to begin! Stand a two-pocket folder on its end for a puppet stage. Take turns with your child telling a story using the feeling puppets. Ideas for a story might be, "Grandpa and Grandma are coming for a visit," "My favorite toy  is lost," "Mom won't let me have a cookie." or "It's dark in my room." At the end of each story discuss with your child ways to cope with each feeling. "When you're feeling mad you can take three deeps breaths."  "When sad you can sing a song to feel happy."

When the show is over the puppets can be stored in the pockets until it's time for the next feelings puppet show.

January 7, 2010

Let's Make Play-Dough!

The winter weather has brought snow and frigid temperatures. Schools are canceled and parents are looking for fun things to keep kids occupied. I suggest making play dough. Here's my favorite recipe.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Food coloring

Mix dry ingredients in a saucepan. Add oil, water and food coloring and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat when dough begins to pull away from the sides of the saucepan and forms a ball. Pour out and knead a few minutes. Store play-dough in a plastic bag or airtight container.

Use cookie sheets for a play dough surface. It's easy to clean and the edges keep the play-dough contained. Plastic knives, Popsicle sticks, and cookie cutters make great tools. An empty plastic bottle can be a rolling pin. Encourage your child to roll out the dough into long snakes. Pinch and twist the snakes into shapes, letters of the alphabet and their name. All these activities increase hand strength and strengthen fine motor skills.

WARNING: Use of play-dough can cause creativity to go wild!

January 5, 2010

Attachment Disorder Support Group

Are you parenting a child who has been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder?

Are you looking for help and support from other parents who are facing similar challenges?

An Attachment Disorder Support Group has been meeting monthly, in West St. Louis County, since the spring of 2009. It's a place where parents can feel supported and heard, learn more about the causes and treatment of Attachment Disorder, and network about available resources.

Our next meeting is Thursday, January 21st at 7pm.

We meet at my office at 15332 Manchester Road, Suite 209 in Ellisville 63011.

For more information and to RSVP contact me via private message, email me or call 314-681-8272.

Join us and learn you're no longer alone and finally understood.

January 1, 2010

How Are You Doing?

It's a new year and a good time to take a close look at how you interact with your children. The next time you've had a difficult moment ask yourself the following questions:

Would I want someone to say to me what I just said to my child?

Am I talking to my child in such a way that he hears what I'm saying instead of tuning me out?

What am I trying to to accomplish with my child?

If your answers are not what you want them to be don't beat yourself up. We all have moments where we're not the parent we want to be. Take a deep breath and say to yourself, Tomorrow is a "great big do-over." Then take a few moments to re-frame that difficult moment and think of how you can handle it differently next time.

Just as it takes time to break a bad habit it will take time to change the way you interact with your child. Take it one small step at a time and be aware that success lies in the trying.