March 31, 2011

Helping Children Deal With Disappointment

Parents often try to protect their child from experiencing disappointment. Admittedly it's difficult to see your child hurting when they don't make the sports team or get invited to a friend's party. You may be tempted to call the coach or the parents and ask why your child wasn't included or ask if they can make an exception. If you take that route are you teaching your child the best way to handle disappointment?

A better approach would be to help your child understand that life is not always fair and it's full of disappointments. Here are some things you can do to support and encourage your child when they're facing disappointment:

* Acknowledge what they're feeling. All feelings are okay. Is your child feeling sad or mad? Perhaps she would like to draw a picture that shows what she's feeling.

* Ask your child what he can do to help himself feel better. Does he need to be alone or with someone? Maybe he needs to do something that makes him feel good about himself. That might include a physical activity, an art project, cooking, etc. Ask him how you can help.

* Remind your child of the last time she was disappointed and what she did to deal with it. It's helpful for a child to remember that they're capable of finding solutions to problems such as disappointment.

* Take a look at yourself. As a parent you should be modeling good ways of coping with disappointment.

Be mindful of teaching your child how to accept disappointments, learn from them and move on. Learning how to manage disappointments as a child will prepare him or her to handle larger challenges later in life.

March 29, 2011

"Catch" a Feeling

Use a permanent marker to draw feeling faces onto an inflatable beach ball.

Toss the ball to a child. When he catches it have him identify the feeling face under one of his hands. He can also share a time when he experienced that feeling. It's a simple and fun way to teach kids about feelings.

March 27, 2011

It's Hard to be the Middle Child

I need some help with my three year old daughter. Her older sister just turned five and her little brother just turned one. I think she might be struggling with being the middle child and trying to find her place in the family. She often says, "I want to be a baby.”

She has no interest in potty training. She will not sit on the potty and was more interested before her brother was born. I know not to push and I try very hard but I am ready for her to use the potty! I have tried all the things that worked with my oldest and nothing works. She will be going to preschool in the fall and I want her to be potty trained. Our pediatrician says in her mind she is not a big girl and until she sees herself as such, she won't be ready. I know he’s right, but is there anything I can do to help her see herself as a big girl?

She bites her toenails sometimes, picks her nose and hits her sister. I think she does these things partly because she knows I don't like it. I have tried to ignore the behaviors and when I have she has done them less. Could she be doing these things to get my attention or a reaction from me? I pay special attention to her when I can. I hate that she wants even negative attention. She is also extremely clingy sometimes and wants to be carried around. Sometimes I give in and other times I insist she is a "big" girl and not a baby.

Do you have any suggestions?

I think your observations are accurate. It's hard to be the middle child and your daughter is still trying to fit into that special place in your family. Here are some suggestions:

*Validate her need to be a baby. Tell her you know it's hard to not be the baby anymore. She needs to be heard and understood. Perhaps you could have a one-on-one time with her where she is allowed to be a baby for a few minutes.

*Regarding potty training I suggest you tell her that you're not going to remind her anymore to go to the potty. Tell her that she is in charge of putting her poop and pee in the potty. Give her the responsibility and she may just take it instead of making it a power struggle with you.

*Give her little tasks that she can easily accomplish so she feels successful. Then slowly build on those successes. That will help her feel like a big girl more than telling her.

*Continue ignoring inappropriate behaviors and "catch" her being good. Comment when you see her doing something appropriate. Kids will take any attention they can get and they learn that they get more attention with negative behaviors. When you draw attention to good behaviors she will do more of them because she knows it will get your attention.

*Don’t overlook the positive qualities in your daughter. Quite often we spend so much time focused on the negative behaviors that we lose sight of the child. Validate her needs and try to be understanding and patient.

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March 23, 2011

Parenting a Shy Child

Parents are often concerned when their young child is shy. Shyness is often evident when their child experiences a new situation. Parents look around at other children the same age and feel that their child is not as social as other children.

Concerned parents feel they need to do something to help their shy child. They will often enroll their child in numerous activities thinking that more exposure to social situations will help overcome the shyness. It may have the opposite effect. The child may feel so overwhelmed with so many new situations and people that he becomes fearful and has even more difficulty in social situations or he may even regress.

I think the first step is to take a closer look at the reasons for your child's shyness.

Could shyness be a part of her temperament? Is she more introverted than extroverted? If most of your family members are extroverted and she's introverted it's perfectly natural to want her to be like the rest of you. Respect her for the temperament she was born with and try not to change her.

Some children are more cautious in new situations and around new people. Try not to compare him to other children his age as each child develops their social skills at their own pace. A slow-to-warm up, cautious six year old may one day be the teenager who stops and thinks before acting impulsively.

If the child is a preschooler she is still developmentally learning how to navigate social relationships. If she is already participating in social settings look for small signs of progress. Most shy children navigate social situations gradually so applaud the small steps she is making. Tell her you're proud of her for saying hello to a child or adult she didn't know. Build on her strengths.

Pay attention to how you and other family members refer to your child's shyness. Do you use the word shy to describe him? It's possible he takes on some of the attributes of shyness because that's what he hears from the significant adults in her life. If your child hears often enough that he's shy he may start using shyness as an excuse for not trying.

Children learn by watching the people around them and that's usually their parents. Take note of the social behaviors you're role modeling for your child.

Most children outgrow shyness but if your child is struggling consider getting professional help.

March 22, 2011

What Color Are Your Feelings?

Provide your child with a simple outline of a body. You could use a cookie cutter as a pattern.

Let your child select from markers or crayons. Suggest that they color in the parts of the body, using different colors, that represent their feelings. For example, ask them what makes someone feel sad. Then ask them to name what color sad would look like. Perhaps they'll say blue is the color they think of when they're sad. Have them use the blue crayon to color in the part of the body that feels sad.

With young children you can expect them to be able to identify four feelings:
Happy, Sad, Mad and Scared.

A variation of this activity would be to bake cookies using the body shaped cookie cutter and use different colors of frosting to identify the feeling colors.

March 17, 2011

FREE Mental Health Services to Military Personnel and their Families

Give an Hour is a non-profit organization providing free mental health services to U.S. Military personnel and their families affected by the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The services are provided by volunteer therapists. I'm a provider and there are many more across the metro area. Go to the web site Give an Hour to learn more.

Going Through a Divorce and Worried About Your Children?

"We're getting divorced" are not the words any child wants to hear from their parents. Unfortunately they're words that sometimes have to be said.

How parents tell their child about divorce needs to take into consideration the age of the child and what he or she is able to understand from a developmental perspective.

Our culture tells us that children are resilient and they'll recover from the effects divorce. However, that resilience probably won't happen without some parental guidance and reassurance that they will be able to adjust to the changes in the family. The effects of divorce on a child can be lifelong if attention isn't paid to helping the child adjust.

If you're divorcing you need to know as much information as possible to help your child make a good recovery. Consulting with a therapist or parent coach about what to say to your child is a good starting point. A professional who is experienced in helping families adjust to divorce will help you better understand how your child perceives divorce, possible effects on your child and how you can help your child manage the many emotions they are feeling.

Don't assume your child will be okay after a divorce and don't hesitate to ask for help.

March 14, 2011

Inexpensive Paint Smock

Cut a six inch circle in an old hand towel to make an inexpensive paint smock for a young child. The child can wipe their hands right on the smock and it's easy to clean by throwing it in the washer with other towels.

March 9, 2011

Is Your Child Afraid of Monsters?

I offered some suggestions this morning on Great Day St. Louis for easing the fear of monsters.

My segment begins at the 5:00 minute mark.

March 8, 2011

Do Parents Ask Too Many Questions?

This was the question recently posed to me by the home and family editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. You can read my response here: Parents Talk Back by Aisha Sultan

March 2, 2011

Grab Your Hat and Read with the Cat!

March 2, 2011 is the 107th anniversary of the birth of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to the world as Dr. Seuss. In honor of Dr. Seuss the National Education Association has adopted March 2nd as the annual date for Read Across America.

Across the country, thousands of schools, libraries, and community centers participate by bringing together kids, teens, and books. Seussville has guides and activities to celebrate reading with young people.

Observe the day by reading Dr. Seuss books to your child. Your child might even enjoy dressing like his favorite Seuss character.

Here are some of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes:

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose."

"Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way."

"Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you. "

March 1, 2011

Is Your Child Exhibiting Separation Anxiety?

Start leaving your child with people you trust at an early age.

Start out with short periods of time and then slowly increase the length of time. It will make your child and you feel more comfortable with the separation.

Never sneak away when you leave your child. Create a good bye ritual. Include a hug, a kiss, and an “I love you,” You might also want to kiss the palms of your child’s hand and have your child save those kisses in their pocket. If they miss you, they can reach into their pocket, pull out a kiss and place it on their cheek.

You may also want to read your child the book The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.

Little Chester, the raccoon, doesn't want to leave his mother to go off to school. His mother shares a little secret of "the kissing hand" by kissing the palm of his hand. She tells him if he gets lonely at school he can just press his palm against his cheek to feel that his mother's love is with him. He gives his mother a kissing hand too. A great story to share with children who may be anxious about making new friends or leaving the comforts of home.