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.