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