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May 21

By Natasha Daniels

Parenting an introverted child can be confusing if you are not an introvert yourself. You may not even realize what you are doing wrong. Why is she so upset? What did I do? Introverts have some basic rules. If you understand what they are – parenting them will go much smoother!

If you are an extrovert – your introverted child might completely baffle you? I have worked with parents who have said things like, “We are so outgoing. How did we have such an introverted child?” and “What should we do to help her?”

For starters – she doesn’t need help. At least – not for being an introverted child. Being an introvert isn’t a problem in and of itself. We are all wired differently. Some of us get energized being around others and some of us get depleted. Many of us understand these type of kids because we are introverts ourselves.

The bigger problem emerges when an extroverted parent doesn’t understand their introverted child. When you birth a child who is wired completely differently than you – parenting can become a struggle.

To give you a quick cheat sheet – here are 15 things you should NEVER do to your introverted child.

Embarrass them on purpose.

Some parents have a jokey personality. They like to tease and poke fun at their kids. They aren’t doing it to be mean – they are doing it to be funny. Unfortunately, your introverted child will completely miss the humor in this type of interaction. Worse – it has the potential to make them resent you.

Force them to have discussions with others.

I get it – you want them to be social. You want them to talk. But, forcing them to talk with others isn’t going to work. An Introverted child needs to feel comfortable in order to open up. If they are pushed into talking too soon – they will withdrawal completely.

Orchestrating social interactions.

Maybe you see another quiet kid on the playground. You think this is your time to help your child make friends. You call the kid over. Introduce the child to your child. You wind up talking for your child and the conversation is going south quickly.

There is nothing wrong with helping your child jump start a social interaction – but know when to back off and let the conversation naturally flourish or die a quick death.

Make fun of them in front of others.

There is only one thing worse than making fun of an introverted child – and that is making fun of them in front of other people. Introverted kids can be highly self-conscious and they are more likely to get embarrassed over things you might think are no big deal.

Put them on the spot in front of others.

Did your child forget to do a chore? Did they say thank you too quietly or not at all. Putting your child on the spot and scolding them in front of others will just make them want to curl up and die. There will be no learning curve in those moments. If you want to correct their behavior – address it after the audience has left.

Ask them to perform in front of other people.

Maybe your daughter has the most beautiful voice or your son tells the funniest jokes. Introverts don’t want to be on stage and do not appreciate an unwanted spotlight on them. Avoid putting them on show and asking them to perform for others. You might think it is cute – but most likely they will not.

Talk for them – when they do not want you to.

People ask your child a question and you are quick to answer for them. He’s too quiet. He’s too shy. He won’t answer quickly enough. Give your child some space to talk for themselves.

Over schedule them.

Many kids are over scheduled – but some kids flourish with an abundance of activities. In general an introverted child needs more down time. They get overwhelmed with too much stimulation and need to recharge at home.

Plan back to back activities with no down time.

If you have a busy day – be sure to plan some down time in between. Think of your introvert’s social energy as a battery. Every time they are out their battery is getting depleted. Your home is the charging station. An introverted child needs to be recharged frequently.

Force them to go outside and play when they want to recharge inside.

A seven hour school day can be completely exhausting for an introverted child. They might want to come home and just collapse. You might feel uncomfortable with your child just sitting on the couch or lying on their bed reading. However, that might be just what your child needs after a long school day.

Belittle their quiet demeanor.

The worst thing a parent can do is demean their child for being an introvert. I witness this all the time and it makes me cringe. Telling your child, “stop being so quiet” or “just go up and talk to them!” doesn’t help and only makes them want to withdrawal even further.

Consider them rude when they have a hard time saying hi to acquaintances.

An introverted child may have a hard time saying hi to acquaintances. People might walk past them and they might ignore their hellos. They are not being rude. Introverts can have a hard time being friendly to acquaintances. Instead of scolding them – teach them that a nod or a smile would be the polite thing to do.

Be loud and draw attention to yourself when you are around their peers.

An introverted child can be acutely self-conscious around others. When you are loud and rambunctious around their peers – that might mortify them (just sayin’).

Ask their peers questions.

An introverted kid might be on high alert around peers. When you swoop in and start asking their friends questions – this can be unnerving for your child. They might worry about what you might say or do. You might be thinking – what could I possibly say that would be embarrassing? But remember – your idea of what is embarrassing and their idea of what is embarrassing are two completely different things entirely.

Disclose personal information in front of other people.

You might think it is no big deal to talk about silly things your child did as a baby or what cute mistakes they made when they were younger – but to the introverted child this can feel like ridicule. Even the most mundane facts about an introverted child can be perceived as personal and private information to them.

Not all extroverted parents do these things to their introverted kids. You don’t have to be an introvert to successfully parent an introverted child. Taking the time to read your child’s cues and respect their boundaries will go a long way. Even if you don’t understand why they get embarrassed so easily or why they don’t talk as freely – respecting their feelings is huge!

Feb 3

By Rick Nauert PhD
New research suggests overparenting, known as helicopter parenting, may hinder a child’s development. Investigators found this can occur when parents become too obsessed with homework, particularly in middle school and high school.

Investigators from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) followed 866 parents from three Brisbane Catholic/independent schools.

They found those who endorse overparenting beliefs tend to take more responsibility for their child doing their homework and also expect their child’s teachers to take more responsibility for it.

“There is concern this greater parental involvement in ensuring homework is completed, particularly in high school, is actually impacting the child’s ability to take responsibility for their homework or understand the consequences of their actions,” said QUT Clinical Psychologist Dr. Judith Locke.

“The irony is a helicopter parenting style with the goal of fostering academic achievement could be undermining the development of independent and resilient performance in their children.

“Parental involvement is a child’s school experience is considered an important factor in their academic success and homework is a key aspect of that.

“However it seems some parents may take the notion too far and continue to assist children at an age the child should be taking most of the responsibility for their academic work, such as the senior school years.

“Parental assistance with homework should slowly reduce as a child gets older and daily parental involvement in an adolescent’s homework would be developmentally inappropriate.

“These parents appear to not only help their child more, they also expect their child’s teachers to help them more, particularly in the middle school and senior school years.

“We know from recent research, that there may be a point where parental assistance ceases to be beneficial, especially as children reach adolescence and young adulthood, and can result in poor resilience, entitlement, and reduced sense of responsibility.”

Dr. Locke said studies in America which reported on parental over-involvement in a student’s university life found it to be extremely detrimental.

“Some parents choose their adult child’s subjects, edit, or complete their assignments and badger lecturers to improve their child’s grades,” Dr Locke said.

“When these parents are making these decisions or providing academic pressure it has been found the adult student disengages from their education and often has increased depression and decreased satisfaction with life.

“The results of this study may go some way to explain why some parents are continuing to be highly involved in their adult child’s academic life.”

The study will be published by the Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools.

Researchers used the new Locke Parenting Scale (LPS) overparenting measure to quantify parenting involvement. Participating parents completed online questionnaires about their parenting beliefs and intentions, and their attitudes associated with their child’s homework.

“Parental help can be constructive by showing interest and coaching them to complete their work, but unconstructive assistance includes telling a child the right answer or taking over from them when they are completing school tasks,” Locke said.

“Those who scored highly on the LPS measure in our study may have been reacting to greater academic difficulties of their child and without an objective measure of the child’s academic skills we cannot rule that out.

“However, this study is one of the first to indicate that overparenting may result in parenting actions and expectations of their child’s school which may not enable children to fully develop academic responsibility and self-regulation skills.”

Locke believes future research should examine whether extreme parental attitudes and reported behaviors have a negative effect on students or result in children taking more responsibility for their homework.

Source: Queensland University of Technology

By Janice Wood
New research supports the old adage “you are what you eat.”

In a new study, researchers from the University of Granada in Spain report that nutrition before birth and in early life “programs” children for long-term health, well-being, brain development and mental performance.

As part of the five-year NUTRIMENTHE project, researchers followed more than 17,000 mothers and 18,000 children across Europe.

They looked at the effect of B vitamins, folic acid, breast milk versus formula, iron, iodine and omega-3 fatty acids on the cognitive, emotional and behavioral development of children from before birth to age 9.

The researchers found that folic acid can reduce the likelihood of behavioral problems during early childhood.

Eating oily fish is also very beneficial, not only for the omega-3 fatty acids (which are building blocks for brain cells), but also for the iodine content. Iodine content is important because it has a positive effect on reading ability in children.

Many other factors can affect mental performance in children, including the parents’ educational level, socioeconomic status and age, as well as the genetic background of the mother and child.

This can influence how certain nutrients are processed and transferred during pregnancy and breastfeeding and, in turn, affect mental performance, according to Cristina Campoy, M.D., Ph.D., who led the project.

“It is important to try to have good nutrition during pregnancy and in the early life of the child and to include breastfeeding, if possible, as such good nutrition can have a positive effect on mental performance later in childhood,” Campoy said.

She noted that future studies should include research on genetic variation in mothers and children “so that the optimum advice can be given. This area is relatively new and will be challenging.”

Source: University of Granada, Spain

Oct 26


1. Talk about feelings.

Describe how sadness, happiness, anger, and other emotions feel in the body. Teach your child to recognize and name emotions as she feels them. You can do this beginning when she is very young by saying, “You look angry. Your face is red, and your body is tense.” As she grows older, talk to her about how to handle her emotions. Teach her ways to move through sadness, deal with disappointment, calm anger, maintain happiness, and so on. She will benefit from this lifelong.

2. Accept and validate all feelings.

As parents, we often only like to see positive emotions in our children. Anger tends to trigger our own anger. Sadness makes us worry, and so we want to wipe it away quickly. We may dismiss disappointment or anxiety in hopes that these feelings will just go away in our children. We want to see them happy all the time, but human beings aren’t happy all the time, and it’s important for your child to learn that all emotions are normal and okay to feel. He needs to know, of course, that all behavior isn’t acceptable (for example, he can’t throw things because he’s mad), but it’s perfectly okay to feel mad. Don’t dismiss feelings that make you uncomfortable, but sit with your child through them. Often, they just need you to listen and show understanding.

3. Play games that build emotional intelligence.

We have a long list of many emotions that we act out in our homeschool day. Yes, emotional intelligence is part of our curriculum. Acting out emotions with your bodies or with puppets or toys is a great way to build emotional intelligence. Look through magazines or books and talk about what emotions are shown on people’s faces or give your child blank faces and various eyes, noses, and mouths to create their own faces. There are even some really neat toys that build emotional intelligence, such as Meebie and Kimochis.

4. Use conflicts to teach problem-solving skills.

Rather than sending your child to time out when she goes head to head with a sibling, teach her to look for a solution. “I understand that you are upset because your brother wants the same toy you are playing with. I won’t let you hit. How can we solve this?” If your child doesn’t offer up solutions, give her a few to choose from. “You can take turns with the toy. How does that work for you both?”

5. Set a good example.

Handle your own emotions well, especially in front of your children. Rather than yelling or using a harsh tone, be direct and kind. “It upsets me when you throw your food” is preferable over “all you do is make messes and drive me crazy!” Be honest about your feelings without exaggerating or dismissing them. “I’m feeling sad right now. Sadness is okay, it passes,” and of course, if you’re happy and you know it, let them know!

*Editor’s Note: Purchase Emotion Coaching: The Heart of Parenting video program and other resources for parents at the Gottman Store This article originally appeared on and has been reprinted with the author’s permission.

Oct 1

7 Ways Your Childhood Affects How You Parent


Most parents who look into the eyes of their brand new baby see whatever lies ahead as a clean slate. Nothing turns our focus more toward the future than having a child. Yet, attachment research tells us that the biggest predictor of how we will be as parents is how much we’ve been able to make sense out of our own past. So, while the last place we may be looking when we become parents is at our own childhood, that’s exactly what we should be doing if we want to be better present-day parents to our children.
Even though what happened to us in childhood shows up in our parenting, this doesn’t mean we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our parents. In fact, no matter what distress or even trauma we endured in early life, what matters most is how much we’ve been able to feel the full pain of our childhood and create a coherent narrative of our experience. By processing what happened to us, we are better able to relate to our own kids and provide the nurturance they need. We can come to recognize that are our “instinctive” reactions are not always representative of how we want to parent. We can start to understand why our kids trigger us the way they do.
This process isn’t about blaming our parents. Our parents were people, and all people are flawed, with positive traits we aim to emulate and negative traits we’d like to emancipate from. Yet, recognizing the ways our parents or other influential caretakers affected us is part of growing up and becoming our own person. With this in mind, we can start to notice the ways our history is infiltrating our parenting, distorting our behavior and hurting both ourselves and our children. A good way to catch on to this is look at seven ways our childhood can affect how we parent:
1. Imitating – It’s no great mystery that, particularly when we become parents ourselves, we start to notice negative traits we have that are similar to our parents. Our kid spills somethings, and we shout “Now look what you’ve done!” It’s an expression we’ve never even used but often heard in our old household. We may have plenty of good things we got from our parents, but what hurts our children is when we fail to recognize the maladaptive ways our parents treated us that we are now repeating. An extreme example of this is physical punishment. Many parents justify hitting their child simply because that’s the way their parents disciplined them, dismissing that there are countless proven studies that say corporal punishment only has detrimental effects. We shouldn’t justify harmful actions, big or small, because we learned them from our parents. Instead, we should aim be the generation that breaks the chain.
2. Overreacting – On the flip side of imitating our parents’ behavior, we may react to a destructive early environment by trying to compensate for or rebel against our parents’ way of treating us. We may be well-intended when we try to do it differently, but we often inadvertently go overboard. For example, if our parents were overbearing, we may react by being too hands-off with our kids. While we felt intruded on growing up, our children may not feel cared about. When we swing too far the other way, we are still distorting our behavior based on our history. Rather than deciding on the qualities that matter to us, we are still reacting to things that happened to us.
3. Projecting – Much of the reason we overcompensate for our parents’ mistakes is that we project ourselves or how we felt as kids onto our children. We may see them as our parents saw us, as “wild” or “incapable.” We may typecast them as the “bad kid” or the “baby.” We may feel sorry for them, projecting that they hurt in the same ways we hurt or are angry in the same ways we were angry. We may see our kids as an extension of ourselves, and then put pressure on them to either be like us or excel in ways we weren’t able to. We may expect them to carry on our own dreams or pursue our interests rather than finding their own. When we project ourselves onto our kids, we fail to see them as the separate individuals they truly are. We may miss the mark – meeting the “needs” we think they have rather than providing an attuned response to them – and behaving as if we are parenting our child selves.
4. Recreating – For many of us, it can be hard to trace the ways we recreate our early emotional environment in our adult lives. However, even if our early circumstances were unfavorable, we developed certain psychological defenses that may cause us to seek out these same circumstances when we start our own family. For example, we may subconsciously choose a partner who replicates a dynamic from our past. We may find ourselves seeking rejection, the same way we felt rejected as kids. These situations may not be pleasant, but they have a familiarity that we may be unconsciously drawn to. As kids, disagreeing with or fearing a parent can feel life-threatening. As a result, we may internalize our parent’s point of view or create a familiar family environment for ourselves in adulthood. This replication ultimately exposes our children to the negative atmosphere of our own childhood.
5. Being defended – The adaptations we make to get through tough times we experienced as kids can become psychological defenses that affect us throughout our lives. These early adaptations may have served us well when we were little, but they can hurt us as adults, particularly as parents. For example, if we had a parent who was rejecting or frightening, we may have kept to ourselves as kids, feeling self-sufficient and not really wanting much from anyone. This may have helped us get our needs met in our early years when we were dependent on our parents for survival, but as an adult, this attitude can limit our relationships. We may have trouble opening up and being nurturing toward our own children. We may have trouble accepting love from them. Part of growing up, means knowing our defenses and finding ways to live free of these early overlays on our personality, discovering who we really are and what we really want. How do we want to be with our own children? What example do we want to create for them?
6. Getting triggered – No matter how good our intentions, we are bound to feel triggered by our kids at moments of frustration. We are often stirred up or provoked by current day situations that remind us of pain from our past, even if we are not conscious of what is creating the distressing feelings. Often in these moments we feel transported back into the old, painful situation. We may act out in ways that are either parental or childish, but we aren’t really being ourselves. For instance, when a child doesn’t behave, we may “lose it” the same way our parent was enraged toward us, or we may feel terrified the way we felt as kids when we were punished by our parents. When we have intense or seemingly exaggerated reactions to our children, it’s important to look back at what about our own experience could inform the current situation.
7. Listening to a critical inner voice – Our insecurities and self-attacks tend to be cranked up when we become parents, because having our own kids reminds us of when and where we developed these self-perceptions in the first place. Our “critical inner voice” starts to take shape very early in our development when we internalize negative attitudes our parents had toward us and themselves. Perhaps as children, we felt unwanted or powerless. Then, as an adult, we continue to see ourselves as undesirable and weak. When trying to be strong with our own kids, we may feel bombarded with critical inner voice attacks that make it difficult to think clearly or act rationally, thoughts like, “You can’t control him” or “She hates you. You’re such a terrible mother!” Or if we had a father who felt ill-equipped to deal with us when we were born, we may find ourselves having voices like “How are you going to take care of this baby? You don’t know how to be a father.” These critical inner voices are the dialogue of a sadistic coach we all have internalized to some degree. The more we can challenge this inner enemy, the freer we will be to decide how we really want to act, and the less likely we will be to pass this line of thinking on to our children.
Knowing ourselves and making sense of our experiences helps us to differentiate, to shed destructive layers from our past that limit us in our lives and become who we really seek to be. This process is essential for parents, and it’s one I will be teaching both a free Webinar this August and an online course on this fall titled “Compassionate Parenting: A Holistic Approach to Raising Emotionally Healthy Children.” For all parents, looking for answers on how to be the best parent they can be, the key is often to venture into yourself and to do so with strength, curiosity and compassion.

Sep 8

Talking with Children about Infidelity


By Jenna Cyprus
The recent Ashley Madison hack exposed 32 million users for their involvement with the now-famous adultery-inspired dating site. It seems like a relevant time to discuss an issue that’s frequently shoved under the rug or ignored altogether. That issue involves children and marital infidelity. While spouses are obviously greatly affected by romantic affairs, psychologists argue that children may take the brunt of the blow.

If you’ve had an extramarital affair — or your spouse has cheated on you — there are obviously personal issues to sort through. In most cases, though, couples try to keep things under wraps and avoid telling friends and family members. However, what do you do with your own children? Is your affair a secret to them and should you keep it that way? Or should you come clean and tell them what happened?

Impact on Children

Making generalizations about how individual children will respond to an unfaithful relationship between parents is challenging. However, according to a survey of more than 800 children who have once been caught in the crossfire, the following emotions are common:

Loss of trust.
Roughly 75 percent of respondents say they felt betrayed by the parent who cheated. Furthermore, 70.5 percent say their ability to trust others was affected. Around 83 percent of respondents now feel like “people regularly lie.”
Confusion is a long-term effect of parental infidelity. If the infidelity occurs when a child is young, they may grow up to believe marriage is an illusion of love — or a sham. If the parents stay married during an affair, the child may become deeply confused about the meaning of both love and marriage.
Anger is a common emotion for adolescents. This anger typically is displayed toward the betraying parent and may be accompanied by violence or sadness. If not dealt with, this anger can lead to long-term resentment.
Young children often feel shame. If the affair is a secret, they feel the weight of hiding something from the world. If the affair is public, they may feel embarrassed and different.
It’s possible that children are more likely to be unfaithful in their own relationships if they know their parents were, too. While 86.7 percent of respondents say they believe in monogamy — and 96 percent don’t believe cheating is morally right — 44.1 percent say they’ve been unfaithful themselves.
To Tell or Not to Tell?

With so much on the line, many parents are unsure of what to do. On the one hand they want to be as honest as possible with their children, but on the other they don’t want to cause long-term issues such as a lack of trust, confusion, anger, shame, and infidelity. What are you supposed to do?

According to Rick Reynolds, the founder of a website dedicated to helping couples overcome infidelity, much depends on the timing of the situation and how much knowledge children have regarding the affair. “If the infidelity is a current event and the children don’t know about it, then absolutely do not discuss it with them,” says Reynolds. “Children don’t need to be involved in their parents’ marriage.”

If young children suspect something is wrong in the marriage, you should confront the issue with as few details as possible. You may want to say something like, “I didn’t treat your mother (or father) the way I promised her I would, but I’ve apologized and it won’t happen again.”

“If they are under 10, don’t lie,” Reynolds says. That means you must be truthful when asked a direct question. Otherwise, the consequences of lying may be more damaging than exposing the infidelity. However, that still doesn’t mean you have to tell them everything. You should avoid giving details and only discuss basics. “If there was a pattern of behavior, tell them about the pattern, not how many times sexual contact occurred,” Reynolds advises. “Details, such as names, aren’t important.”

In the end, the most important thing you can do is protect your children. While it may be difficult to cooperate with your spouse in the aftermath of an affair, it’s important that both parents coordinate their efforts and take a consistent parenting approach. Nothing is more disastrous than two parents playing a blame game and putting down each other. Not only does this hurt the child’s view of marriage, but it can drudge up additional resentment.

The reality is that you can’t give a perfect response to an imperfect situation. According to psychologist Kate Scharff, “It’s inevitable. At some point your child will stump you with a loaded question to which you have no idea how to respond without lying or revealing the too-painful truth.” It’s okay to tell your child you need time to gather your thoughts. There’s too much on the line to make rash decisions.

Sep 7

By Christine Schoenwald for

Parents, are you listening?

The way parents should discipline their children is a very polarizing topic. Some people think parents should always speak positively to their children, while others advocate firm discipline.

It’s difficult to know which way to go when your toddler has thrown their plate of chicken fingers onto the ground and is scream-whining at the top of their lungs.

There’s No Such Thing As Parenting the “Right” Way

An article on Medical Daily talks about a new study that may have the answer. While positive parenting tactics work well in many cases, time-outs and other punishments are more effective over time for children who have become defiant or violent.

“By investigating how the effectiveness of disciplinary responses vary by the type of noncompliance in toddlers, this study showed how to reconcile the contradictory recommendations of positive parenting and behavioral parent training with each other,” wrote Dr. Robert Larzelere, a professor at Oklahoma State University, and Sada Knowles, a doctoral student in the study.

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A voluntary sample of 102 mothers provided detail descriptions of 5 discipline episodes including hitting, whining, defiance, or just not listening.

After analyzing the mothers’ responses, the researchers discovered that the most effective disciplining tactic depended in part on a child’s behavior, and also whether the behavior was short-term versus long-term:

These were the top 3 most successful disciplining tactics:

Compromise. The winner of the most effective way to discipline a child was offering compromises, and was found to work no matter how badly the child was misbehaving.
Reasoning. This works best in the case of slightly annoying behaviors such as whining, but weren’t effective with defiant children or children that hit.
Time-outs and taking something away. These worked best when stronger punishments were needed.
4 Styles of Parenting and How They’re Affecting Your Family

However, if mothers used compromise as their go-to punishment when dealing with a defiant or violent child, they’d encounter more bad behavior, not less. Reasoning was the most effective way to discipline a child over a longer time span with the same types of children.

Strong punishments (such as time-outs) cut down on the bad behavior in the most oppositional kids, but only if used less than 16 percent of the time.

Remember: there are no bad kids, just bad behavior. And as long as you’re consistent with your punishment, actually try to communicate with your child on their level, and are aware of whether a punishment strategy is working or not, you’ll have a lot more success when handing out punishments.

Better sleep leads to better control of ADHD symptoms for children. Here are parent-tested solutions for a good night’s rest.
by Jeanne Gehret and Patricia Quinn, M.D.

The Sleep-Deprived ADHD Household
Getting a good night’s sleep can be a big problem for ADHD families. A British research study shows that three times as many children with ADHD have difficulty falling or staying asleep and 57 percent of the parents of ADHD children slept less than six hours. More than half of the kids got up four times during the night. Almost half woke up before 6:00 a.m. It doesn’t take much to figure out what’s going on here: When children are awake, it’s hard for parents to get any shuteye.

Sleep Deprivation Has a Huge Impact
Sleep deprivation makes both adults and children irritable, impatient, and less efficient at everything they do. Adults who haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep are more likely to miss work. Studies show that not getting enough rest can worsen ADD/ADHD symptoms, leading to loss of emotional control. It can also adversely affect working memory, a problem many of our children suffer from.

The Attention Sleep Connection
There’s a biological reason why children with ADHD tend to sleep less: Many of the same regions of the brain regulate both attention and sleep. A child who has attention problems is likely to have sleep problems, as well. You can’t change your child’s biology. But there are ADD-friendly strategies to help kids overcome their sleep problems. Here’s what you need to do.

Avoid Sleeping Pills
Most sleep medications that work well for adults haven’t been adequately tested for their safety and effectiveness in children. That goes for the over-the-counter sleep aid melatonin, as well as prescription sleeping pills. Doctors sometimes prescribe clonidine for ADD children who have trouble falling asleep. The drug does make it easier to fall asleep, but many kids who take it awaken around two o’clock in the morning.

The Value of Exercise
Have your child exercise–jog, jump rope, ride a bike, walk–in the morning or during the day. Physical activity helps our bodies make the transition between the phases of sleep. Also, since exercise places physical stress on the body, the brain increases the time a child spends in deep sleep.

Set a Realistic Bedtime and Stick to It
Accept the fact that your child may need less sleep than other kids his age. If you put him to bed too early, there’s a chance that he’ll just lie there, wide awake, becoming increasingly anxious. Whatever bedtime you establish, enforce it consistently — on weekends as well as during the week. Letting your child stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights will disrupt his circadian clock; come Monday morning, he’ll wake up with something akin to jet lag.

Nighttime Rituals
Evening rituals signal the brain and body to slow down. The hour or so leading up to your child’s bedtime should be devoted to reading, listening to music, or some other calm, relaxing activity. Violent TV programs and video games should be strictly off-limits at this time. No roughhousing, either. Tell or read a bedtime story to a younger child. Allow older children to read in bed. Be sure your child has her favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Older kids may prefer to cuddle with a squishy, soft pillow.

Eat and Drink Right for a Good Night’s Sleep
Avoid eating and snacking two or three hours before bedtime. Digestion, especially of foods containing caffeine or sugar, can keep your child up. If he insists on snacking, give him warm milk, saltines, or a little turkey, which has the natural sleep-inducing chemical tryptophan.Your child should drink enough water during the day to prevent his asking for a glass of water at bedtime–and his subsequent bathroom break later.

Keep the Room Dark
In addition to cueing your child that it’s time to go to sleep, darkness eliminates the visual distractions that keep him from falling asleep. If a child can’t see his toys, he’s less likely to get out of bed to play with them. What if your child is afraid of the dark and needs a light on to fall asleep? Make sure that the light is dim, and that it goes off once he falls asleep (use a timer). Choose a clock with a face that lights up only when a button is pressed. Reduce light from windows by putting up blackout curtains.

Look Into Relaxation Routines
Deep breathing or listening to soothing music can make it easier to fall asleep. A foot rub or back rub relaxes a restless child. Have your child focus on breathing while visualizing an elevator gently ascending and descending with every inhalation and exhalation. Consider an evening prayer.

Dress for Sleep Comfort
Chilly feet keep some children awake; wearing socks may send them into dreamland.
Remove any scratchy tags from pajamas.
Don’t combine flannel pajamas and flannel sheets. The fabrics may stick together and make it difficult to turn over in bed.
If the room is warm, all-cotton sleepwear can prevent sweating–and tossing.
Air conditioning or a fan will cool down the room–and the whirring sound of the fan blades is calming.

Refusing to Go to Bed
Some ADHD children—especially those with oppositional defiant or anxiety disorder—will do anything to avoid sleeping. Try a behavioral approach: Give strict orders for your child to stay in bed between certain hours. Sit outside her door and calmly tuck her back into bed if she gets up. After a few nights, you’ll no longer have to sit vigilantly outside. Don’t attempt this unless you have the resolve to follow through. If you allow your child to break the rules, even once, you’re sunk.

Take Action
Dealing with an ADD child’s sleep problem isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort. Given the consequences of chronic sleep problems—for the entire family—it’s best to take action sooner rather than later.

Aug 6

Okay to Punish Children — If Done Correctly


By Rick Nauert PhD

Although recent parenting books have called for positive parenting with “no drama” discipline, a new study suggests parental discipline still has its place.

“Parental discipline and positive parenting techniques are often polarized in popular parenting resources and in parenting research conclusions,” says researcher Robert Larzelere, Ph.D., of Oklahoma State University.

Larzelere presented his findings at the American Psychological Association’s 123rd Annual Convention. He explains that “scientifically supported parenting interventions for young defiant children have found that timeouts and other types of assertive tactics can work if they’re administered correctly.”

In his presentation, Larzelere said his research team interviewed 102 mothers who provided detailed descriptions of five times they had to discipline their toddlers for hitting, whining, defiance, negotiating, or not listening.

Offering compromises was the most effective tactic for immediate behavior improvements, regardless of the type of behavior. Reasoning was the next most effective response when mothers were reacting to mildly annoying behaviors, such as negotiating or whining.

Punishments, such as timeouts or taking away something, were more effective than reasoning when dealing with a toddler who was acting defiant or hitting. However, punishments were the least effective tactic for negotiating and whining children and reasoning was not effective when used with children who were defiant or hitting.

An expanded view provides a different perspective as researchers discovered longer-term effects revealed a different pattern.

When the moms were interviewed two months later, those who offered compromises too frequently to the children who were hitting or acting defiant said their children were acting worse, Larzelere said.

Reasoning, however, was most effective over time for these children, even though it was the least effective response immediately. A moderate use of timeouts and other punishments (less than 16 percent of the time) led to improved behavior subsequently but only for these defiant children.

In another presentation at the same symposium, Ennio Cipani, Ph.D., of National University, said the reason timeouts don’t work or are viewed negatively is because they are not used properly.

Cipani and colleagues have been able to observe, in real time, the mistakes parents can make in implementing timeout as part of their in-home services. For example, parents should not make spur-of-the-moment decisions to use a timeout. Rather, they should tell their children ahead of time which behaviors (e.g., hitting, yelling at other children) will put them in timeout and always follow through, he added.

Examples of his work are used in his resource guide for parents, Punishment on Trial.

“Our clinical case findings, have shown that timeout used consistently for select behaviors and situations significantly reduced problem behaviors over time” Cipani said.

Child behavior therapy can also help parents and children who are struggling, said David Reitman, Ph.D., of Nova Southeastern University, and Mark Roberts, Ph.D., of Idaho State University.

Roberts presented information on the Hanf method of parenting, based on the work of Constance Hanf, Ph.D., which allows for an initial stage of positive discipline (i.e., rewarding children for good behavior) and eventually moves into more authoritative parenting techniques (i.e., timeout).

“Allowing the child a second chance to comply with parent instructions by offering a warning for noncompliance has proven beneficial. The number of timeouts during initial therapy declines, while the necessity and effectiveness of timeout remains,” Roberts said.

“Over time both parent instructions and warnings becoming increasingly effective, reducing the necessity of timeout for noncompliance.”

Reitman suggested that parents of typically developing children may view behavior therapy as concerned solely with punishment rather than having broad value for promoting positive child development.

“People who are critical of behavior therapists because they try to ‘control’ children’s behavior are not mindful of behavior therapists’ efforts to convey to parents the value of connecting positively with the child,” Reitman said.

“Therapists can help parents understand the problem, facilitate changes in the environment, and help the children acquire the skills they need to become successful.”

Source: American Psychological Association/EurekAlert

Aug 2

Are You a Bullied Parent?


By Sean Grover, LCSW

Have you ever seen a child bully or boss around his parents? A child who talks down to them, disrespects or even mocks them? Embarrassing, isn’t it?

A generation or two ago, it would have been unthinkable for children to bully their parents. Today, nearly everyone knows a parent who is bullied by his or her child. Pay a visit to your local playground or stroll through a shopping mall. You’re bound to see the bullied parent dynamic in action.

On the surface it looks like an angry child harassing a parent who’s just too tired to say no. Underneath, there is much more going on. You’re likely to find a child who has learned how to exploit his parents’ insecurities to get what he wants.

And here’s the worst part: the longer a parent surrenders to the temper tantrums, threats and manipulations, the harder it is to break these bullying tendencies. As parents cede power, children grow more aggressive. Sensing a leadership void, they begin to lose respect for their parents and decide to fill the parenting role themselves; they start to parent their parents.

Over the years, I have listened to hundreds of bullied parents in my office. Though they hail from difficult cultures and communities, their child’s bullying is shockingly similar and equally as dismal. So, which parents are most likely to be bullied by their kids? Good question. They actually fit into two broad categories:

Bullied by their own parents.
Parents who were raised in homes with punishingly strict parents tend to be too liberal and accommodating with their own children. They set out to undo their painful childhood by giving their children the freedom and permissions that they were denied as children. By failing to address their child’s bossy behavior, and constantly gratifying their demands, they enable bullying and instill an unhealthy sense of entitlement and privilege in their kids. This backlash against authoritarian parenting of the past is at the heart of the bullied parent dilemma we find ourselves in today.
Absent or neglectful parents.
Adults who experienced absent or neglectful parents often have a difficult time parenting. They had no parental model to internalize, no example to follow. When faced with tough parenting choices, they defer difficult decisions to their partner or even to their kids. They are more comfortable being a friend rather than a parent. Though this may sound appealing, it induces much irritation in children. Deep down they want their parents to be parents, not playmates.
To end the bullying nightmare in your home, you’ll need a new parenting toolbox. Start with these simple steps.

Come to grips with your own history.
In my book and workshops, I spend a lot of time asking parents to reflect on their childhood. For example, did your own parents have light qualities? Did they have dark qualities? Reflecting on how you felt about the way you were parented helps you form an empathic attunement with your child. You will understand him or her better.
Also by considering your parents’ choices, you can begin to make more conscious decisions about the kind of parent you want to be. Rather than parenting in opposition to your parents’ choices or repeating their mistakes, you will be empowered to move your parenting in a fresh new direction.

Make new choices.
Giving into bullying is easy; standing your ground isn’t. When faced with a parenting dilemma, the right choice is rarely the easy one. Setting limits and boundaries, putting aside time for homework and computer hours may not sound exciting, but are essential to soothing the bully in your child. Even though children may resist it, they crave structure. Structure calms anxiety, contains worries, and helps children to better navigate their feelings and impulses.
Increase self-care.
Nearly all bullied parents live in a world of perpetual self-neglect. You can see the fatigue in their eyes and sense their exhaustion. They are suffering from parent burnout and don’t even know it. They don’t exercise, eat or sleep well; they don’t spend quality time with friends. If this sounds familiar, jot down this phrase and hang it on your fridge: self-care is child care. Parents who don’t take care of themselves are terrible role models. After all, who wants a parent who’s whiny and plays the victim all the time?
Get support.
Turning around a bullying situation is going to be a battle, so you’ll need extra troops. Reach out to school officials, family, friends, and mental health professionals. Break the silence on your situation. Gather an anti-bullying team and expand your support base. Along the way you’re likely to discover that your situation is not unusual. In fact, many parents silently struggle with the same issues. You’ll feel relieved to know that you’re not alone, and also pick up helpful strategies along the way.
Find ways to enjoy spending time together.
If you’re constantly nagging and badgering your child with demands, it’s only natural that he or she will nag and badger you back. Nothing sours a relationship more than relentless negativity. If you find yourself constantly trading insults with your kid, it’s time to hit the pause button. Stop cataloging complaints, put away the to-do lists, and find a way to have fun. Enjoying time together is the single most powerful intervention you can make to get your relationship back on track.
If you’re a bullied parent, don’t fret. We all are sometimes. We give in to our children’s demands now and then to purchase peace, or we look the other way to avoid conflict. But if you give in too often and bossy behavior starts to take root, the sooner you pull the plug on it, the better — for your own sanity and your child’s. When parents take control, everyone benefits.

Jun 21

Happy Fathers Day, Emotionally Neglectful Dad


By Jonice Webb PhD

Father’s Day is easy for all of the people who feel loving, loved and close with their dads. If your relationship with your father is strong and uncomplicated, I hope you will give him the wonderful Father’s Day that he so deserves.

But the world is full of people who have more complex relationships with their dads. If you feel either confused or disappointed about your father, there’s a fairly good chance that it’s because of hidden CEN (Childhood Emotional Neglect).

Do you get irritated or snap at your father for apparent no reason?
Do you cringe a little inside when you have to talk to your dad?
Does being alone with your father make you feel awkward or uncomfortable?
Are you uncertain whether your father loves you and/or is proud of you?
Do you sometimes feel that your dad doesn’t actually know you very well?
Do you look forward to seeing your father, and then often feel vaguely let down or perplexed afterward?

All of these questions are designed to highlight something that is missing from your relationship with your father; something that’s invisible and typically hard to pinpoint, but which is absolutely vital for a healthy father/child relationship:

Emotional Connection

When you grow up emotionally disconnected from your father, you don’t necessarily realize it. Yet there are many fathers who don’t directly damage their children by actively abusing them. They may provide well materially, and they may even love the child. But they don’t know how to emotionally connect, often because their own fathers didn’t emotionally connect either.

Men are subject to emotional discrimination in today’s world, but that discrimination was far worse in previous generations. Our fathers and our fathers’ fathers were trained to hide their feelings from the world. Emotion is weakness, they were told. Legions of men raised their children caught between two opposing forces: Be tough; and be a good father. Unfortunately tough, emotionless men do not make very good fathers.

If your dad was abusive, toxic or mean during your childhood, has never taken responsibility for how he hurt you, and continues to harm you to this day, then you owe him nothing. just do whatever helps you feel better to get through the day. Father’s Day is your day to focus on yourself. No guilt allowed.

Follow these Steps to help you get through Father’s Day with your emotionally neglectful dad:

Acknowledge that your father, however well-meaning, failed you in one very important way. A way that matters and has impacted you greatly.
Acknowledging this basic truth does not make your father bad. You are not trying to blame him; only to understand him, and yourself.
Put a special focus on yourself this day. Recognize that it may be a more complex day for you and your father than it is meant to be, and that’s okay. Make sure to take care of yourself today.
Make a promise to yourself that you will deal with your own empty spaces and blind spots; the areas left vacant by your emotionally neglectful dad.
Today, decide that you will not pass insidious, invisible Emotional Neglect down to your children. You will give yourself what you never got, so that you can also give it to your children.
Your father gave you a lot, but also failed you. Both are true. Today, try to focus on what he did right.

That will be your Father’s Day gift to him.

Happy Father’s Day.

To learn more about how to fill in the empty spaces and blind spots left by Childhood Emotional Neglect, and how to make sure you do not pass it on to your children, see and the book, Running on Empty.

May 10

My Mother – The Narcissist


By Sarah Burleton NY Times bestselling author

I used to never think of my mother as having an actual mental condition. I would always just refer to her and her behavior towards me and everyone else in her life as crazy, evil, or just plain nuts. But after I wrote my bestselling book, Why Me, I got a lot of emails from people with mothers like mine; selfish, self-centered, vain women who really shouldn’t have had a child in the first place.
So what was my mother like and what was it like growing up with a mother who I believe now, suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder? While there are many more characteristics and traits of someone with this disorder; these experiences are what stand out in my mind.

• My mother was a fantastic story teller. And by story teller; I don’t mean she made up little fairy tales at night for me and my sister. She always had a story in any situation that outdid what anyone else was sharing. For example; someone we knew had just returned from a concert and was sharing their story with us about how amazing it was. But Mom had been to a better concert, had better seats, actually went backstage with the band; and wouldn’t you know that one of the band members actually wrote a song about her?

My Mom’s story wasn’t true of course; I wouldn’t figure that out until I was an adult. But that was just how Mom was my entire life. No matter what anyone else did or had experienced, Mom had it either done it better or had it worse. No one could one-up her and she was a pro at knocking any achievement I had won and making it clear that she was alpha dog and always would be.

• Nothing was ever good enough for Mom and it was everyone else’s fault that she was so miserable. Mom wanted a fat bank account, lobster every Sunday, luxurious vacations, and designer clothes; none of which was possible on my stepdad’s salary and her lack of employment. She felt that she deserved to be a millionaire and would often mock and threaten my stepdad with leaving him and finding a richer man. Every Christmas and every birthday I could see the disappointment written on her face when no present was good enough or expensive enough for her.

It was hell growing up with a woman like this because I was often used as a punching bag when she got frustrated to the point of no return. When we couldn’t afford steak for dinner; I knew that I better hide out in my room for the night. When Mom couldn’t afford to get that new pair of shoes she’d been eyeing for weeks; she would force me to shoplift them for her or suffer the consequences. Nothing – and I mean nothing was ever good enough for Mom.

• Mom didn’t have many friends and even as a child, I could understand why. Mom wouldn’t befriend someone just to have a friend to hang out with, exchange recipes, and chat on the phone. If Mom suddenly had a new “friend”, it was because she found someone that she could take advantage of. If she thought someone could move her up socially or financially; she would slide up to them and put on her fake smile in an attempt to weasel her way into their life and use them for what she wanted.

Mom used everyone in her life; including her children. There was never a sense of right and wrong with Mom – she did what she wanted when she wanted to. If anyone got in her way they got hurt and not once did I see Mom remorseful for the pain she would put me through and the countless other people whose lives she affected negatively. It was all “owed” to her.

• Mom was jealous of everyone; and not a healthy jealousy. The green-eyed monster would take over her life at times and everyone would suffer for it. If we were walking down the street and she saw a woman coming that she thought was prettier than her, my poor stepdad would hear about it for hours afterwards as she would scream and yell and accuse him of checking this random woman out. If the neighbor landscaped their front yard; Mom would have us all out there in the yard all day every day until she was satisfied that her yard looked better. She wanted everyone to want her, envy her, and want to be her.

It was sickening growing up like this because not only was Mom jealous of complete strangers; she was jealous of me – her own daughter. As I became older and began to hit puberty she would refer to me as her sister in public. She had multiple affairs on my stepfather when I was a child and would flaunt her boyfriends in front of me; as if she was showing off how many men she could get. It gave me a very warped perception of what a mother/daughter relationship was and how a woman should act.

I feel like my childhood was a crazy dance and I was moving as fast as I could to try to please someone who was impossible to please. I spent my childhood needing attention and praise from Mom, and she was too selfish and focused on herself to do anything but hurt me and put me down. I don’t even feel like I knew who I was for the first half of my life because I became whatever Mom wanted me to become; I had to – it kept her happy and may have spared me a beating or two.

It wasn’t until I was an adult and had completely cut Mom out of my life that I began to realize who I was, what I wanted out of life, and what was important to me. I couldn’t even focus on myself until I was strong enough to completely leave her and my childhood where it belonged; in the past. I was tired of having anxiety, feeling unloved and unworthy of love, and catering to everyone’s feelings but my own. Leaving Mom and her selfish ways in the past was difficult, but necessary to move forward with MY future.

Don’t be afraid to leave the past behind; it’s your life and you are in charge of it. Once the narcissist is out of your life; maybe you will realize how awesome you really are.

Stay involved, don’t take sides and other tips for handling a break-up in the family

When a family is disrupted by divorce, it’s common for children to experience feelings of anger, frustration and sadness. Some children, though, resort to blame in order to cope with the new family situation, and refuse to speak to one or both parents as a result. “When a child behaves this way, it’s often because they blame you for the divorce,” says Melody Brooke, a family therapist in Richardson, Texas. Parents can combat the blame game by fostering open communication with their children who are coping with divorce.

Stay Involved

Even though your children may be giving you the cold shoulder, it’s important to stay involved in their lives and continue to show them that you care about them. Attend school events, send cards and notes, continue to call even if they won’t speak to you, and include them in all family activities, says Brooke. “The only thing you can do is continue to love and support them and be there for them even when they don’t want you to be,” she says.

Validate Feelings

An angry child needs time and support to work through these feelings. A teen who understands the complexity of relationships may feel betrayed by one or both parents during a divorce. Encourage your child to talk through these feelings with you, a trusted friend or family member or even a professional counselor. Taking the steps necessary to open the lines of communication, even if it isn’t with you, shows that you view her feelings as valid.

Keep in Contact

Every boy and girl needs a mother and a father, so it’s imperative that both parents stay in close contact with children after a divorce, even if they refuse to speak to you. “Do not allow your child not to have contact with one parent,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills, Calif.-based psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent.” “It is destructive to the child to have zero contact with a parent.”If the child is resisting contact with one or both parents, Walfish recommends contact with reasonable boundaries or even supervised visits. “Both parents must give permission and enforce contact with both parents,” says Walfish. “The courts decide on custody, so the only time not to allow contact is in the case of child abuse, and in those situations, the court assigns a monitor to supervise visits.”

Resist Taking Sides

When the family split is fueled by negativity and hostility, children often shift the blame to one parent and sometimes try to cease contact. Even if your child doesn’t want to speak to your ex-spouse or even you, resist the urge to fuel the blame game.

“Often, the parent who is not rejected by the child knowingly, or unknowingly, colludes with the child by saying bad things about the rejected parent,” says Walfish. “The child feels an alliance and protectiveness toward the jilted parent.” This behavior only adds fuel to the fire and can disrupt the relationship he or she needs to have with one or both parents.

Mar 15

Setting Healthy Expectations for Your Children



One of the challenges of parenting is figuring out when to accept your children as they are, and when to push them to be more. Here are some guidelines and suggestions for how to begin to set healthy expectations for your kids, and for yourself.

1) Learn about child development.

You can save yourself a lot of grief by knowing how broad the range of normal really is. You want to make sure that you’re not expecting 5-year-old skills out of your 3-year-old. Just looking around at other kids and comparing isn’t a helpful way to assess.

Healthy expectations start with educating yourself. Knowing the benchmarks and milestones (behavioral, emotional, cognitive, social) will guide you.

2) If you are seeing developmental lags, talk to your pediatrician and see about having your child formally assessed. If your child is on target, be grateful.

Sometimes parents are obsessed with their children being exceptional. But simply being where you’d expect they’d be at a given age is a beautiful thing, and worthy of appreciation.

If there are lags and your child is under 3, there are many services available for assessment. Over that age, it might be through your health insurance or the school district. Being an informed advocate is crucial.

3) Examine your own underlying motivations and assumptions.

We all want to raise happy, well-adjusted individuals. But based on our own life experiences, we tend to want add-ons. We want our kids to be popular, maybe, or to excel in sports or academia.

Consider where those extras are coming from for you. Perhaps you want your kids to be what you weren’t, or maybe you want them to have what made you happiest. Maybe you’re expecting your child to validate you as a parent, or to represent you in other people’s eyes. Children can’t be the primary source of your fulfillment; if you’re trying to make that happen, then you’ll put too much pressure on yourself and on your children.

Sometimes we internalize ideas from our own families of origin that might not apply to our current life, or to our children. For example, your family might have taught you that academic success is essential for a healthy, productive life. That would then make it incredibly difficult for you to accept a child with learning disabilities, or one whose talents are less suited for academia (for example, a child who might want to work with their hands.)

4) Identify your child’s strengths and difficulties. Alternate between them as areas of focus.

You don’t always want to point out deficits; you can’t always praise them. You want to find a healthy balance that leads to honest self-assessment. Eventually, you won’t be there to set the expectations, and your child will need to do it on their own. Model how to do this.

Notice how your child is experiencing you. As an ally and source of support, or as a taskmaster? Have open dialogue about how they see you, what you’re trying to do as a parent, and how you’re doing it. Let them evaluate you. Take their feedback seriously.

5) Distinguish between effort and outcome.

Praise your kids for the effort expended, rather than the outcome achieved. If you’re overly focused on the results, they will be, too. That puts them under more stress and at greater risk for mental health problems.

Let’s face it, sometimes kids are going to fail, regardless of how hard they tried. But it’s better to reward them for trying at something where they didn’t do well than to overly focus on their success in an area that didn’t require much work.

Self-esteem–the sense of authentic worth, mastery, and competence–is built through struggle, and that takes effort.

***Holly Brown is a therapist and author of the page-turning family drama Don’t Try to Find Me about a teen runaway and the family who’d do anything to bring her home, including launching a social media campaign that will expose their secrets and change their family forever.

Jan 3

The Cause of Autism May Not Be Unknown



Today, the often-repeated refrain is, “The cause of autism is unknown.” Yet, even though most so-called autism experts generally admit that the cause of autism has not been proven, they generally offer only non-environmental theories.

Bernard, et al., found in a 2001 article in Medical Hypotheses that mercury in certain vaccines caused autism. Cannell, also in Medical Hypotheses (2007), theorized that autistic children suffered from a lack of Vitamin D. Giulivi, et al., in a 2010 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, blamed autism on something called “mitochondrial dysfunction”–the brains inability to produce energy.

A 2011 study by Ozonoff in Pediatrics which looked at more than 600 cases of autism and found that if a child has the disorder, a younger sibling has a 19 percent chance of also having it, concluded that autism is genetic. However, this statistic does not prove genetics as the cause, since it could explain family parenting patterns.

While none of these theories has been validated, much research has meanwhile been done with mothers who suffer from postpartum depression or major depression. A study by Laura Murray in the Journal of child Psychology and Psychiatry in 1992 showed that children of severely depressed mothers develop severe cognitive and relationship problems by 18 months (the time when autistic symptoms begin appearing). Salvanos, et al. studied 291 mothers and infants and found a strong link between postpartum depression and autistic traits. The article appeared in European Psychiatry (2009).

Other researchers, J. Hallmayer et al., stated succinctly what some have intimated. “We have to look at both sides of the coin.” His study in the Archives of General Psychiatry provided scientific evidence that both genetics and the environment produce autism. Using state records, the researchers, who were all at Stanford University, identified 192 pairs of twins in which at least one of the two had some form of autism. Among these sets, there were 54 pairs of identical and 138 pairs of fraternal twins.

What they found was that the genes twins share can increase the risk of getting autism by about 38%, but the environment that twins share may increase the risk an estimated 58%. The environmental risk is nearly twice that of genetics.

Evidence is accumulating that maternal depression leads to severe developmental problems in children. A study by the Kennedy Krieger Institute released on their website in 2008 found that 46% of mothers of autistic children reported being depressed following pregnancy. Ainsworth, in her famous study of attachment (Ainsworth, et al., 1978), found that children could develop an avoidant attachment, with symptoms very like the symptoms of autism, when they had a mother who was avoidant toward them as infants.

The increasing number of such studies seems to indicate that there is a relationship between a mother’s depression (and hence neglect) and a child’s subsequent development. The developmental defects brought about by postpartum depression are similar to those of autism. It therefore seems to follow that there is a relation between postpartum depression and autism.

The universal tendency to protect the feelings of mothers has perhaps led to the environmental theory of the cause of autism to be ignored. Mothers feelings are important. They do the very best they can, and they don’t get the credit they deserve. And it should also be noted that there are good reasons why mothers might suffer from depression, postpartum or otherwise, and they do not intentionally seek to harm their babies. I would suggest, however, that raising emotionally healthy children should be our number one priority. If it is true that postpartum depression leads to developmental defects, that is something that should be taken notice of.

Some would say that even if a mother has postpartum depression for a month or two, any damage done to the baby can be overcome later on. This is true, early damage can be overcome. However we are learning how crucial those first weeks and months of life are–and indeed, how crucial the prenatal period is, for development. Harm done then can affect a person’s personality and health the rest of his or her life if it is not caught in time.

Even if we don’t buy into this theory completely, we can still take precautionary measures. Common sense tells us a mother suffering from severe depression will not be able to provide the attention a newborn needs.

Therefore, if a mother has postpartum depression and can’t care for her baby, perhaps–for the sake of the child–someone else such as the husband or aunt or grandmother should step in.

Jan 3


I’ve got some pretty recent experience with this one, as my almost three-year-old has been alternating between intensely delightful and intensely–well, intense.

This can apply to your toddler’s tantrums (which tend to be brief) or meltdowns (which are protracted bouts of screaming and oppositional behavior that can go on for minutes to–worst case scenarios–more than an hour.) What’s key is focusing not on what they’re doing, but on what you should be doing yourself.

Challenging, I know, but here are some ideas to get you on a better path.1) Remember that your child will react to your reactions.

You might feel like there’s nothing you can do to prevent certain meltdowns, or to halt them once they’re in progress. And you might be right. But you do have the power to make them worse.

When your toddler is already feeling out of control, they’ll cue off your response. If you seem to be losing it, too, that can prolong the situation.

2) Be willing to step away if you need to, in order to regain your own composure.

Sometimes we think we’re helping our kids by staying close, even if we’re being triggered. We don’t want to abandon them in their hour of need. But sometimes staying close is only making the problem worse (see #1.)

3) Step away earlier than you think you need to, and do it in a healthy way.

If you remain in the situation too long, you’re more likely to register irritation and to become snappish. So it’s better to notice your own rising emotion and to say calmly (because you can still be calm), “I’m going to be over there, and when you’re calm, we can talk.”

The “over there” might be in the same room, or it might be outside the door, listening for when your child has calmed down. (Stay as close as you need to in order to ensure safety, while still giving you as much space as possible to regain your equilibrium.)

One thing that’s worked for me with my daughter when she is obsessively repeating the same thing (“I wanted the other diaper!”), I tell her that I want to talk to her, I want to be near her, but I won’t talk anymore about that one thing (i.e. “I’m not going to talk anymore about the diaper.”)

4) Know that your goal is to teach your child self-regulation, and you can only do that if you model it.

Enough said. Refer to #1-3.

5) Recognizing your limitations is a positive. Denying them only gets you in more trouble.

We all want to be good parents. If we’re constantly pushing ourselves to meet lofty standards and getting down on ourselves when we can’t meet those standards, we’re actually making a hard job even harder.

That’s true for the way you see your child. At this age, they’re going to have tantrums, and meltdowns. Accept that it’s going to happen, no matter how proactive you are. Because if you don’t accept it, you might be more apt to be frustrated and embarrassed (especially if it’s in public.)

Toddler meltdowns are not a sign that you’re a bad parent. It’s a sign that they’re in a developmental stage that is all about testing boundaries and limits and finding their voice.

Be kind to yourself, and to them.

***Holly Brown is a therapist and the author of the page-turning family drama Don’t Try to Find Me. For more on the book, visit her author page.

By TRACI PEDERSEN Associate News Editor

Parents should encourage their preschoolers to begin writing very early, even before they enter a classroom setting, according to new research published in the Early Childhood Research Quarterly. The study reveals how early writing — especially when it occurs before any formal education — plays a significant role in improving a child’s literacy level, vocabulary, and fine motor skills.

“Parents in the U.S. are obsessed with teaching their kids the ABCs,” said Professor Dorit Aram of TAU’s Jaime and Joan Constantiner School of Education. “Probably because English is an ‘opaque’ language. Words do not sound the way they are spelled, unlike ‘transparent’ Spanish or Italian.”

“Parents are using letters as their main resource of teaching early literacy, but what they should be doing is ‘scaffolding’ their children’s writing, helping their children relate sounds to letters on the page even though the letters are not transparent.”

Scaffolding is using a supportive, step-by-step instruction process to help the student slowly gain understanding and independence.

Aram has spent the last 15 years studying adult support of young children’s writing. A major factor of this support is using what she calls “grapho-phonemic mediation,” in which a caregiver actively helps a child break down a word into segments to connect sounds to corresponding letters. For example, parents are using this method when they ask their child to “sound out” a word as they put it to paper. This is different from the traditional model of telling children precisely which letters to print on a page, spelling it out for them as they go.

“Early writing is an important but understudied skill set,” said Aram. “Adults tend to view writing as associated with school, as ‘torture.’ My experience in the field indicates that it’s quite the opposite — children are very interested in written language. Writing, unlike reading, is a real activity. Children watch their parents writing and typing, and they want to imitate them. It is my goal to assist adults in helping their children enter the world of writing by showing them all the lovely things they can communicate through writing, whether it’s ‘mommy, I love you’ or even just ‘I want chocolate’.”

The researchers observed 135 preschool children (72 girls and 63 boys) and their parents as they attempted to write a semi-structured invitation for a birthday party. They analyzed the degree of parental support and assessed the children’s phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, word decoding, vocabulary, and fine motor skills. Overall grapho-phonemic support by the parents was most positively linked to children’s decoding and fine motor skills.

“Scaffolding,” or parental support, was most useful in developing early literacy skills. “The thing is to encourage children to write, but to remember that in writing, there is a right and a wrong,” said Aram.

“We have found that scaffolding is a particularly beneficial activity, because the parent guides the child. And, if that parent guides the child and also demands precision in a sensitive and thoughtful way — i.e. ‘what did you mean to write here? Let me help you’ — this definitely develops the child’s literary skill set.”

Dec 7


The hope is that they become resourceful adults. The hope is that they learn to take life’s ups and downs and continue on. The hope is that they will recover from setbacks and mistakes, and persevere — even becoming stronger as they go. For most parents, the hope when raising children is that they will grow to be mentally tough adults. And in order to grow mentally tough adults, we have to raise mentally tough kids — as it turns out the process begins very early on. So how do we teach our kids to be mentally tough? Here are five ways:

Teach Don’t Tell. “Sit Down.” “Do Your Homework.” “Clean Your Room.” While these orders may be necessary, they don’t teach your kid anything other than compliance. And often, if said too much, they can cause your kid to tune you out. If you want to teach, the first thing you need is an engaged learner. So how do you get your kid engaged? You stop directing, and start asking. “Do you know why you have to sit down?” “Do you know why you have homework?” “Do you know why you have chores?” Asking your kid these questions — and many more — as oppose to simply issuing orders, causes her to think, become engaged, and learn why she has to do the things you are asking. And understanding the purpose of things not only leads to better engagement and cooperation, it leads to better frustration tolerance — which is a huge part of being mentally tough.

Raise Your Standards. Kids are a reflection of you. Everything you do, what you say, how you respond to others, becomes your kid’s reality. And yet, probably every parent has lost it at some point. But when you lose emotional control in front of your child, when you become defensive, fail to admit your mistakes, blame others, or act unkindly, your kids pick up on this too. And what you expect of yourself, is what you expect of your kids. So if you want your kids to grow to be mentally tough, show them what mental toughness is. Be a model of it. Show them how to take setbacks and use them to become better. Show them how to go after a goal, and don’t stop until you get there. Show them how you hold yourself up to the standards you set. And then when you set the standards for them — or better yet, encourage them to set them for themselves — they will know how to reach them. Having high standards, and reaching them, is a huge part of being mentally tough.

Let Them See Reality. Reality is not a cell phone at 9 years old. Reality is not a big house with a swimming pool. Reality is not the next new video game. Reality, for the majority of the world, is much more basic than that. Food on the table, a roof over the head, clothes on the back. As much as our kids are shielded from it, the majority of the world’s population lives well below our standard of living. Yet this may not be the best thing when it comes to teaching mental toughness. A kid who grows up with a certain standard of living, will expect to continue this standard of living as an adult. Yet unfortunately, this is just not possible for most college grads, who face an uncertain job market, and massive student debt. And this is a huge blow for most kids who grew up thinking that everyone has a nice house, nice car, and new clothes. So instead of shielding your kid from this harsh reality, show them what reality is. Let them see that life exists outside of their world and that people do just fine without cell phones, nice clothes, fancy cars, and big houses. Let them see that mental toughness is about knowing that your strength exists on the inside — in yourself — and is not defined by the things you have.

Practice Gratitude. According to researchers Richard Tedeshi and Lawrence Calhoun, two researchers who study post-traumatic growth, focus group reports of people who have gone through incredibly traumatic experiences and come out stronger, all relate one commonality: a feeling of gratitude. Gratitude for the life they have. What gratitude does is help survivors find a sense of appreciation when everything seems to fall apart — and it ultimately helps them continue on. And in order to teach your kids gratitude, show them what gratitude is — being grateful for what you have, as oppose to always wanting more. Show them how to find the positive in every situation — and there is one. Because mental toughness is about continuing on — even against the odds.

Teach Adaptability. Learning to adapt, according to Tim Harford, author of Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure, is what separates not just successful individuals, but business and corporations, from the unsuccessful ones. The case that Harford makes is that adaptation is an evolutionary principle that has real world implications. Being able to take risks while not selling the farm, making mistakes, and then adjusting the approach based on mistakes, are the three components that define adaptability and as Harford notes, those who do not take risks do not evolve, because the landscape is always changing and what works for today may not work tomorrow. So if we want to be successful, we have to adapt. But learning to adapt is also a part of being mentally tough, because the truth is, things do not always go your way. So how do you teach your kids to adapt? Encourage them to try new things, even if it means taking a risk, and them let them know that mistakes happen, they are part of the learning process, and when they do, ask them what they learned, and what they can do different next time. Lastly, if you want to teach your kids to adapt, show them how you adapt when things don’t go your way.

Teaching toughness to kids is not an overnight process, but it is one that builds upon itself. Because once kids learn what it is, and that it’s something you — the parent — value, they naturally want to do it more. Yet while toughness for most kids is pretty instinctive, it is also highly linked to the environment in which they are raised.

Dec 2

Once again, we had an amazing experience at CHADD’s (Children and Adults with ADHD) annual conference, and we want to share our biggest “aha’s” with you! This year it was in Chicago – and as the snow was falling outside, we were talking with attendees at our booth, learning from other experts, and doing a workshop for parents.

As always at CHADD, we were jazzed by the experience. Over the years it’s become a kind of reunion for us, because we met each other at CHADD in 2010, and we launched ImpactADHD’s website as an Innovative Program in 2011!

While we were talking with parents throughout most of the conference, we did find our way into some sessions and keynote speeches! And as is always the case, there was a lesson to learn from every session we attended!

So we decided to use this week’s Guest Expert article to share a few tidbits of what we have learned from MANY experts over the years – at the CHADD conference, and beyond. Some of these tips may not be new to you, but we’re confident they’ll be useful.

Messages for Managing ADHD

You can’t start treating ADHD until you recognize that it’s real. Acknowledging it – and accepting it – sets you on the road to management. When you stop blaming yourself, or your child, you can take major steps towards improvement.

After acknowledging ADHD, it’s time to get informed! Information is a powerful antidote to self-blame. With better understanding, you can begin to take steps that really help in management.

While the most common recommendation for managing ADHD is medication, in one form or another nearly every professional we encountered recommended coaching. For individuals. For families. For parents. When asked the best way to balance “creativity” with the “need for structure,” Dr. Ned Hallowell responded: “Get A Coach.”

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A strength-based approach to managing ADHD, coupled with a belief in possibility of success, is incredibly powerful. Without intervention or effective treatment, ADHD can devastate lives. With hope and a focus on talents, people with ADHD achieve extraordinary success.

The identification and treatment of ADHD relies on a combination of scientific analysis and informed observation. ADHD is not a one-size-fits-all kind of diagnosis, and treatment protocols are equally as diverse, depending on the individual.

Success depends on the use of structures. Hallowell says, “Team up with someone with structure and yield to it.” But the structures must match an individual’s abilities, and be implemented in the context of positivity and realistic expectations.

In addition to coaching, mindfulness is another non-medication-based approach that can be really effective in managing ADHD. Simply placing attention on what’s most important can shift your approach to all kinds of complications. For parents, mindfulness encourages you to choose priorities – is a clean room more important than academic success?

People “medicate” or “manage” their ADHD in a number of ways outside of prescription medication. Some of them can be very positive strategies (sleep, brain-training, exercise, meditation, nutrition, & food management), and some not necessarily healthy (caffeine, illegal drugs, alcohol, sexuality, thrill-seeking/risk-taking behaviors, anger, procrastination). Recognition of how we are “self-medicating” – for better and worse – can lead us to more conscious management. For example, anger can be something that people with ADHD use to help them focus. Depending on time and location, it can be helpful, or particularly irritating!

Sleep. It’s so important. Can’t underestimate it’s role in complicating ADHD, or helping to manage it better.

Medication alone is generally not a sufficient treatment for ADHD. Accompanying treatments like coaching, therapy, organizational management, mindfulness and others are critical to success over a lifetime!

Executive function deficits do not necessarily respond directly to medication, and they are at the core of the challenges people with ADHD face every day.

Co-existing conditions, like anxiety or learning disabilities, add to an individual’s frustration, and it’s important to manage each diagnosis, not just treat each one separately. People with ADHD may have to work harder than their peers in some aspects of life, especially in school. Acceptance of that reality can help parents find more compassion, and kids find more determination.

Mastering motivation is key to accomplishing any task for an individual with ADHD. Motivation doesn’t come naturally, necessarily – it needs to be consciously identified.

ADHD symptoms are contextual. Dr. Tom Brown explains that an individual’s ability to perform any given task will depend on the circumstances. If someone is distracted by intense emotions or loud noises, for example, she may not be able to concentrate, even if she could do the same task perfectly at another time.

Dec 1

7 Ways that Parents can Help


Is your child easily distracted? Does homework that should take 45 minutes end up consuming two hours? If so, you are probably a frustrated parent. Chances are you have learned that punishing inattentive behavior doesn’t work. The question is: What works? Here are some ideas that might do the trick for managing ADHD and homework.

Set Up the Correct Type of Study Space
Most inattentive students need a fairly quiet place to study, but a small group of these students thrive on the hum of a busy area. To determine the type of space your child needs, you’ll need to do some detective work. For two days, have your child do his homework in a well-traveled area and then switch to a quieter area for the next two days. If you determine your child does better in a quiet place, find a couple of areas free from household action, but close enough to monitor his activity. Interestingly, kids retain more information when they vary the place in which they study. Switching locations every day or few days is a good idea.

Don’t Fear the Floor
For some students, sitting at a traditional desk isn’t productive; however, there are other options. One is an exercise ball chair (www.sitin¬ which is a sturdy exercise ball in a steel frame with a comfortable back rest. Another option is a lap desk ( — a mini-desk that lies across your child’s lap. With a lap desk, the student can sit on the couch or another chair more comfortably. Some children actually perform better doing their homework standing up. Still others need to stand, pace, or even lay on the floor; therefore, don’t fear the floor!

Make a Mountain a Molehill
Depending on the age of your child, he may only be able to focus well for 20 minutes at a time. Often, the time you spend refocusing his efforts after 20 minutes may be better spent giving him a break so he can recharge and begin again. This can be done in two ways – by task or time.

By task – Fold a worksheet in half. Instruct your child to do the top half, show it to you, and then finish the second half. Allow him to choose the problems or questions he wants to do first. When he’s done with half of them, go on to the rest.

By length of time – Set the timer for 5, 10, or 15 minutes. Tell your child, “Work as hard as you can for this time. When the timer goes off, you can daydream or play for 5 minutes.” Another option is to set the timer for a length of time for which you absolutely know he’ll be successful. When he succeeds, lengthen the span by a minute.

Let Her Fidget
Various studies have shown that distractible students can actually attend better when they are given something to hold or touch. A few good options are the Tangle Junior (, Wikki Stix (, or even a simple stress ball. By simply manipulating these toys in their hands, many students are better able to focus.

Insist On Exercise – The Miracle Drug
Aerobic exercise almost immediately elevates the chemicals in the brain that increase attention and focus. These chemicals act a bit like Ritalin or other medications used to treat ADHD. With frequent aerobic exercise, a distractible student can improve his ability to learn, so be sure to encourage your child to get out and exercise regularly.

Nag No More
If you feel like the only way your child can focus and finish is with your constant reminders, try a different method. Ask your child how many reminders she’ll need to finish an assignment. If she says she’ll need two reminders, then stick to that number. When she’s off track, state that you are giving a warning and then walk away. At any point when you see that she’s doing the right thing, praise her diligence. By giving warnings and positively reinforcing on task behavior, constant reminders will be gone for good.

Keep a Homework Log
Teachers may be unaware that homework is so problematic. They only see the final, corrected product, not the inordinate amount of effort behind it. For at least one week, jot down the date and length of homework. You may also want to document any reasons you see for your child’s homework struggles. Meet with the teacher and share the information you’ve recorded. Ask for suggestions to help your child accomplish homework tasks. Remember, students should be spending about 10 minutes per grade level on homework per night.

Try using a few of these strategies and see what works with your child. Odds are he or she will be focusing and completing work in no time at all!

By Bob Cunningham

My daughter got her first IEP last spring when she was a fifth grader. She started attending middle school this fall and it seems to be taking a long time for the school to line up some of her service providers. Is there anything I can do to help get her IEP going at the beginning of the school year?

Unfortunately, this problem is not uncommon. Schools often have to deal with faculty and staff leaving and new faculty and staff starting. Schedules sometimes change at the last minute. A new school year may also come with shifts in policies and procedures.

All of these changes help explain why it can be challenging to transition your child’s IEP services from year to year—and especially from school to school. These kinds of things can fall through the cracks. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help the transition go as smoothly as possible for your child.

I’m grouping my advice for you in three buckets: what you can do now, what you can do to prepare for next year and how you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

What You Can Do Now That the School Year Has Already Started

If the new school year is off to a bumpy start, here are a few things you can do to help get your child’s IEP services up and running.

Send your child’s teachers an email about accommodations and modifications. Last-minute schedule changes mean it’s possible some of her teachers might not have read her IEP or might not even have a copy of it.

That’s why it’s good to reach out to her teachers as early as possible in the school year. Be brief but also specific about which accommodations and modifications help your child succeed in the classroom. You can also attach a digital copy of her IEP, just in case the teachers don’t have one handy.

Ask the service providers to check in with your child. Let’s say your child is going to be working with a special education teacher and with a speech-language pathologist. If these people are already working with other students in the school, it could help your daughter if they check in with her to see how things are going.

They can do this even if they haven’t started to provide her services. But they might not check in with her unless you request it.

Keep track of the related services your child is missing. Taking good notes can help you be specific when you ask the school to make up these sessions.

Keep in mind that kids are often pulled out of the classroom to receive speech therapy and other related services. Ask the school to consider your child’s strengths and weaknesses when scheduling the make-up sessions. It won’t help for her to miss classroom instruction if she’s likely to have a hard time catching up in those subject areas.

It might also not be best for her to be pulled from recess or elective classes, especially at the beginning of the year when she’s trying to reconnect with friends and make new ones.

What You Can Do to Prepare for Next Year

Once your child has started receiving all of her IEP services for this year, you can start to think about how to help get things off to a better start next year.

Ask for an IEP meeting at the end of April or beginning of May each year. This is late enough in the year that most schools will know of at least some of the pending staff and schedule changes. It’s also early enough that the end-of-year crush of paperwork hasn’t started to overwhelm many teachers and administrators.

Request a summer meeting with an administrator. Ask to meet with the principal, assistant principal or another year-round employee during the months when school isn’t in session. Summer is a great time to speak with someone who’ll be able to make sure your child’s services are put into place quickly.

The two weeks after the Fourth of July might be an especially good time to schedule this meeting. Most of last year’s issues will be wrapped up by then, next year’s have not yet emerged and administrators tend to take their vacations in August.

Send a copy of your child’s IEP to certain people. This is particularly important if your child will be switching to a new school next year. As soon as you can, send a copy of the IEP to the counselor or administrator at the new school. And as soon as you find out who will be teaching your child next year, consider sending those teachers a copy of the IEP too.

When you send someone a copy of your child’s IEP, include a little introduction. Mention that you and your child are looking forward to the new school year. Include some suggestions about what most helps your child get off to a good start in a new school year.

Talk to your child about positive ways to remind teachers about what’s in her IEP. Practice talking to teachers at home. This can help your child feel more comfortable speaking up in school.

For example, she could practice saying, “Last year I got to do my in-class writing on a computer, and it really helped me. I have an IEP for it, so I hope I can use a computer in your class, too.” Teachers are likely to get things moving if a student points out that she has an IEP and mentions something specific that really helps her.

How You Might Want to Think About Tone

Delays in starting up IEP services are frustrating. But parents who escalate tensions with the school may not make as much progress as parents who remain calm and cooperative. Here are a few things to consider.

Learn about your child’s rights. The law is clear. IEPs are to be fully implemented on day one of each school year. But when things aren’t getting done, you’ll have to decide what you can tolerate and what you and your child cannot tolerate.

While you’re deciding this, think about which parts of the IEP are the most important to put into place first.

Look for ways to work with the school. While there’s no legally acceptable reason for a school not to implement an IEP right away, it usually makes sense to look for ways to cooperate with the school while making sure your child is getting what’s she needs most. At the same time, it’s good to document all delays in case the situation doesn’t improve.

If the delays last for more than a few weeks, request an IEP meeting to formally address your concerns or even to ask that the school pay for private services. If that still doesn’t resolve the issue, consider requesting an impartial hearing by contacting the school or the school district’s special education office.

Be calm, clear and focused in your communications. Remember that communication between you and the school is the key to making sure your child’s IEP services are in place as soon as possible. Simply talking to teachers or administrators about your child doesn’t usually get the result you want. I recommend that you follow up in writing.

You’re also likely to get the best result if your emails or letters hit each of these three targets:

Ask for something specific.
Make clear that your request is based on your experience with what most helps your child.
Remain optimistic about what a great year awaits your child with the new teacher or school.
Clear, concise, positive communication can help everyone focus on what’s most important. In my experience, that’s the best way to get things done.

About the Author
Bob Cunningham, M.A., Ed.M., serves as in-house advisor on learning and attention issues at Understood.


Anxiety What If Questions

“What if I don’t get asked to the dance?”

“What if you run out of gas and can’t pick me up from school?”

“What if we get robbed?”

“What if… [insert your child’s anxious thought here]?”

If your child’s anxious, it’s likely they do something I like to call what-iffing. This is the tendency to ponder possible future scenarios and then worry about them excessively in the form of ‘what if’ questions. As a parent, you also worry excessively… about your child’s worrying. You want to ease their pain. You may try to reassure them with words, comfort them with hugs, or even yell at them in frustration. If your child is not assuaged by any of these methods, please know you are not alone. Please also know there are approaches that can help.

Here’s the thing: Humans are natural-born time travelers. We travel to the past and future on a regular basis using just our minds. In fact, research shows that 47 percent of the time, we’re actually thinking about something other than what we’re doing. I’m sure you’ve been driving somewhere and have ended up at your destination without knowing exactly how you reached there. You see, we all have an uncanny ability to wander off with our minds, but ruminating on things that have yet to happen can be troubling as studies show that we tend to overestimate the uncertainty of the future.

Don’t get me wrong; thinking about the future has value. It helps us plan and set goals. It unleashes our creativity and imagination. The flipside is that our ability to visualize the future can be so realistic that if we’re worried about something, it can activate our nervous system. So, while we are the only species on Earth thinking critically about the future, we are also the only ones who can throw ourselves into a full nervous system response from a simple thought.

In other words, what-iffing about the future can be perceived by your child as some

By TRACI PEDERSEN Associate News Editor

According to new research, they need a vivid and detailed picture depicting their future success. Simply knowing that they have the right grades or skills doesn’t seem to motivate.

“Students who have chronic self-doubt may need an extra boost to pursue the dreams they are certainly able to achieve,” said study author Dr. Patrick Carroll, assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Lima campus.

“This study finds that what they really need is a vivid picture of what will happen if they succeed.”

The study, published in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology, involved 67 undergraduate business and psychology students at Ohio State.

The college participants signed up to learn about a faux new master’s degree program in business psychology that would train them for “high-paying consulting positions as business psychologists.”

The goal was to get students interested in the (fake) program in order to observe their reactions to varying levels of validation to their new career dreams. (The researchers followed a protocol to help students who may have been disappointed that there wasn’t a real program.)

The students read a brochure about the business psychologist program and then filled out several questionnaires.

They were asked to rate their self-confidence that they could become a business psychologist, whether they were excited about the possibility of this career, whether they thought they could be admitted to the business psychology program, and whether they intended to apply. They were also asked their overall GPA.

The participants were then divided into four groups. Students in the control group were given an information sheet indicating no GPA requirement for the program. The other three groups were given sheets indicating the GPA requirement was .10 below whatever they had listed as their own GPA.

In one of these groups, a “career adviser” simply pointed out that the students’ GPA was higher than the requirement. In another group, the students were given slightly stronger validation: The adviser told the participants that they were exactly what the program was looking for and that it was unlikely they would be rejected if they applied.

The last group received the most validation: Not only were they told that they were qualified and unlikely to be rejected, but the adviser added that it was likely that they would be accepted with full funding and excel in the program and would graduate with several job offers in business psychology.

In the end, the students once again filled out forms asking how confident and excited they were about becoming business psychologists and whether they expected they would be admitted. In addition, the students were given the opportunity to actually apply to the program.

The results were striking. The students in the control group and those who were simply told their GPA exceeded the program requirements showed no self-confidence related to becoming a business psychologist and were unlikely to apply to the program or even ask for more information.

“Even when students learn that they exceed some external admissions requirement to become a business psychologist, they still have to decide whether that means they should pursue that career dream instead of any others,” Carroll said.

“They may need more validation than that to pursue this career goal.”

However, when the adviser clearly detailed the vivid prospect of success, the students were excited about pursuing the new career.

In fact, students who were given the most vivid validation had higher levels of self-confidence immediately after meeting with the adviser. They were also more likely to actually apply to the new program.

“Self-confidence played a key role here. Students felt more confident that they could really be successful as a business psychologist when they received a detailed picture from their adviser,” Carroll said.

“Sometimes students have the grades, the motivation, and the ability but simply lack the necessary self-confidence to wholeheartedly invest in the pursuit of a realistic new goal,” he said.

“This work shows how parents, teachers, and counselors can steer students into the right direction to achieve their dreams.”

Source: Ohio State University, Lima

Oct 18

By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor

A new study suggests music therapy may be used to reduce depression in children and adolescents with behavioral and emotional problems.

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast found children who received music therapy had significantly improved self-esteem and significantly reduced depression compared with those who received treatment without music therapy.

Investigators also found that those who received music therapy had improved communicative and interactive skills, compared to those who received usual care options alone.

In what researchers say is the largest study of its kind, 251 children and young people were divided into two groups; 128 underwent the usual care options, while 123 were assigned to music therapy in addition to usual care.

All were being treated for emotional, developmental, or behavioral problems. Early findings suggest that the benefits are sustained in the long term.

Sam Porter, Ph.D., of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University, who led the study, said, “This study is hugely significant in terms of determining effective treatments for children and young people with behavioral problems and mental health needs.”

Valerie Holmes, Ph.D., of the University’s Centre for Public Health, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, and co-researcher of the study, said, ”This is the largest study ever to be carried out looking at music therapy’s ability to help this very vulnerable group.”

Ciara Reilly, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust, noted, ”Music therapy has often been used with children and young people with particular mental health needs, but this is the first time its effectiveness has been shown by a definitive randomized controlled trial in a clinical setting.

“The findings are dramatic and underscore the need for music therapy to be made available as a mainstream treatment option. For a long time we have relied on anecdotal evidence and small-scale research findings about how well music therapy works. Now we have robust clinical evidence to show its beneficial effects.”

Mar 12

OCD, Lying, Hyper-responsibility & Honesty



OCD, Lying, Hyper-responsibility & HonestyMy son Dan was an honest child; an unusually upfront, truthful boy, who as far as I know, never lied to me. Teachers and relatives would comment on his honesty as well, saying things such as, “If we want to know what really happened, we ask Dan.”

Enter obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Now Dan is telling us he doesn’t realize his fingerprints are all over the walls. He said he’d recently eaten, so that’s why he wasn’t hungry at dinnertime. He couldn’t go here or there because he was too tired. These were all lies (which worked) to cover up his obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Even after he was officially diagnosed and his secret was out, he’d still lie. He always said he was “fine,” despite the fact that he was obviously so not fine. He lied about his feelings, he lied about taking his meds, and he lied about his thoughts. And not just to his family.

My hunch is he lied to the first few doctors he saw, or at the very least, wasn’t completely honest with them regarding the symptoms of his illness. Like so many others with OCD, he was embarrassed and scared. What would people think of him, or what would become of him, if others knew what horrible thoughts were going on in his mind?

And so OCD often turns sufferers into liars. Whether it’s due to the fears mentioned above, or some other reason — related to stigma perhaps, or even commanded by OCD? — those with obsessive-compulsive disorder often do whatever they can to cover their tracks. They become sneaky and deceptive, courtesy of OCD.

What I find ironic is that many of these same sufferers deal with honesty issues as part of their disorder. For example, some people with OCD are so afraid of lying they might have to review their entire day in their minds to make sure everything they said was true. Or they might always answer “I don’t know,” or “maybe” to questions because if they answer “yes” or “no” and then change their minds, they would have lied. Others might even confess to “bad things” they never did, but how do they know for sure they didn’t do them? So the right thing to do is to own up to the wrongdoing.

Concerns that revolve around hyper-responsibility often involve being honest and doing the right thing to keep loved ones, or maybe even the whole world, safe. And of course, scrupulosity is all about upstanding moral behavior, which involves telling the truth. Being truthful is very important to many with obsessive-compulsive disorder, except when it comes to covering up their illness.

So once again we see the disconnect between what sufferers strive for and what OCD delivers. Those who value truth and honesty become deceitful. They struggle to be certain all is well, but OCD, being the insidious disorder that it is, goes ahead and makes sure the opposite happens. All is far from well, and in fact, lives can be destroyed.

While OCD has the capacity to target what is most important to us, and sabotage our lives, we don’t have to let it. If you have OCD, please be truly honest about your disorder and seek help. Don’t let OCD win. Fight back with exposure and response prevention therapy and regain control of your values and your life.

Mar 11

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a childhood disorder that affects anywhere from 6 to 10 percent of children. It is characterized by a negative set of behaviors in a child directed toward the adults in their life, and can sometimes be mistaken for disorders that share some characteristics, such as conduct disorder and even attention deficit disorder.

The diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder is given by mental health professionals to describe a set of behaviors a child is exhibiting that include:

Often loses temper
Argues with adults and authority figures
Refuses to comply with adult requests
Blames others for his mistakes
Deliberately annoys people
Is easily annoyed by others
Is angry/resentful and spiteful/vindictive.
Sound like a child you may know?

If a child exhibits four or more of these behaviors for six months or longer, he would likely be diagnosed with ODD, unless there was an alternative explanation (for example, if he’s experienced some kind of trauma or if there’s another disorder or condition at play). The most important factor to consider is frequency and intensity. All kids exhibit some of these behaviors, but not to the extent of an ODD child. ODD may develop at any time, over time, and may be secondary to another diagnosis. In other words, it might co-exist with ADHD or a mood disorder.

With oppositional and defiant kids, there are very different levels of misbehavior. You might have a young child who’s having temper tantrums, or an older adolescent who’s exhibited ODD behavior for years and who feels justified in being verbally or physically abusive, or punching holes in the kitchen wall.

A common trait of kids with oppositional Defiant Disorder is that they often see themselves as victims and feel justified in acting out. And sadly, they see so many examples of people in our culture who act out — from rock stars to athletes to politicians — that they feel even more justified in what they’re doing.

Parents are often intimidated by their ODD child’s behavior because it’s so difficult to deal with; sometimes it just seems easier to give in than to deal with trying to manage and respond differently.

Again, it’s important to remember as a parent that you can change at any time. You might feel defeated because of your own stress levels, feelings of blame or failure, and exhaustion. But here’s the truth: you can learn to respond in such a way as to reduce the acting out behavior.

Here are four things you can do as a parent to effectively manage your child with oppositional Defiant Disorder:

Respond without anger: It’s important to respond to your ODD child without anger—try to be as calm and matter-of-fact as possible. Just acknowledge the behavior, state it as you see it, explain how it will need to change and then remove yourself from all arguments. You really have to pick your battles and decide what’s most important to you—and ultimately to your child.

Be clear and consistent: The nature of oppositional defiant behavior is to wear parents down so that they eventually give in. You need to be strong, clear and consistent in your follow through.

3. Do not take things personally. Do not take your child’s behavior personally. When your ODD child acts out, as hard as it might be, stay as neutral and objective as possible. You need to be clear and concise and not get pulled into a power struggle—it’s really not about you, it’s about your child and what he needs to learn. We as parents sometimes need to be great actors and actresses with our kids. The key is to keep practicing calm, consistent parenting and following through.

Don’t be your child’s friend—be his parent: Remember, being a parent is not a personality contest. There are times when he won’t like you—he may even shout, “I hate you,” or call you foul names. But if you keep setting limits with your child and follow through by giving him consequences and holding him accountable, then ultimately you’re doing the best thing for your child.

Believe me, I know from experience that it’s difficult to manage ODD behavior. It takes work and support from partners, friends, and the school system; it requires all the important adults in a child’s life working together to help change the behavior, but it can be done.

Feb 16

Should Mindfulness Be Taught In Classrooms?


By TRACI PEDERSEN Associate News Editor

Should Mindfulness Be Taught In Classrooms?The practice of mindfulness has been shown to counteract the heavy toll of anxiety, stress, chronic pain, and illness on the body and mind; and if kids could learn these skills in school, they would be in great shape by the time they were adults, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., a renowned proponent of applying the practice of mindfulness in schools.

Kabat-Zinn believes that in bringing mindfulness training to K–12 classrooms — what he calls “contemplative education” — students and teachers both will be able to reap the immense physiological benefits.

Kabat-Zinn is a professor of medicine emeritus and the founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

He recently addressed the Harvard Graduate School of Education on this topic.

“The reason I started this work in the first place is that I thought … it would be valuable if human beings actually knew how to meditate, how to really befriend themselves in a way that wasn’t to have an effect, not to get some good feeling … but because anything else is a kind of living a diminished life,” he said.

Mindfulness “allows us to meet the full catastrophe of the human condition. Difficult things happen, terrifying things happen, unwanted things happen, but the real question is how we’re going to be in relationship to them. That’s the challenge. And that’s what mindfulness is about,” he said.

“What we’re talking about is skill development. Compassion is a skill, kindness is a skill, attention is a skill, awareness is a skill,” he said. “So it’s not just for stress reduction.

“The development of these deep, positive, pro-social qualities for interacting, for relating, for emotional intelligence, and also for all of the intellectual qualities” that can be subverted by lapses in “our capacity to pay attention, sustain attention, and penetrate to the root of what’s actually going on … to me, if you learn that in school, you’re going to be in really good shape as an adult.”

Such efforts would change not only the immediate experience of learning for students, but also their lifelong pursuit of knowledge, he added.

“Real education never ends. You’re pulling on something that’s already intrinsic inside. It’s not like putting stuff in, it’s not like filling a pail. Instead, it becomes a love affair with learning. There’s very little that’s not really interesting if you, in some sense, are grounded in who you are.”

Source: Harvard University

By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor

Teens’ Bonds With Parents Can Impact Romantic RelationshipsIn new research, the University of Alberta’s Dr. Matt Johnson found that the relationship between parents and teens — however stormy or peaceful — may influence whether those children are successful in romance, even up to 15 years later.

In the study, Johnson explores the complexities of the romantic ties that bind.

“Being aware of that connection may save a lot of heartache down the road,” according to Johnson, who reviewed existing data that was gathered in the United States over a span of 15 years.

Johnson’s findings, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, revealed a “small but important link between parent-adolescent relationship quality and intimate relationships 15 years later,” Johnson said. “The effects can be long-lasting.”

Investigators discovered, perhaps not surprisingly, that good parent-teen relationships resulted in slightly higher quality of romantic relationships for those grown children years later.

However, the study also suggests a lesson in self-awareness when nurturing an intimate bond with a partner.

“People tend to compartmentalize their relationships; they tend not to see the connection between one kind, such as family relations, and another, like couple unions.

“But understanding your contribution to the relationship with your parents would be important to recognizing any tendency to replicate behavior — positive or negative — in an intimate relationship.”

“That doesn’t mean parents should be blamed for what might be wrong in a grown child’s relationship,” Johnson added.

“It is important to recognize everyone has a role to play in creating a healthy relationship, and each person needs to take responsibility for their contribution to that dynamic.”

Researchers based their findings on survey-based information from 2,970 people who were interviewed at three stages of life from adolescence to young adulthood, spanning ages 12 to 32.

Source: University of Alberta

Until now, little research has been conducted on the association between parents’ friendships and the emotional well-being of their adolescent children. A new study from researchers at the University of Missouri suggests that mothers’ friendships with other adults can impact their adolescent children’s relationships with their own friends, particularly the negative aspects of these relationships such as conflict and antagonism.

Gary C. Glick, a doctoral candidate at MU, and Amanda Rose, professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, studied the development of friendships and other peer relationships during adolescence and their impact on psychological adjustment. They found that adolescents may mimic the negative characteristics of their mothers’ relationships in their own peer-to-peer friendships suggesting that mothers can serve as role models for their adolescents during formative years.

“Mothers who display high levels of conflict with friends may signal to their children that such behavior is acceptable, or even normative in friendships,” Glick said. “Additional findings suggest that adolescents internalize their reactions to their mothers’ conflict with adult friends which may lead to anxiety and depression.”

Previous research of this type focused on elementary-aged children, but MU researchers wanted to expand their study to focus on the formative adolescent years. Youth ranging in age from 10 to 17 and their mothers were polled separately to measure perceived positive and negative friendship qualities in both groups. Results showed that positive friendship qualities were not always imitated by adolescents; however, negative and antagonistic relationship characteristics exhibited by mothers were much more likely to be mimicked by the youth studied.

“We know that conflict is a normal part of any relationship – be it a relationship between a parent and a child, or a mother and her friends – ch conflict generally isn’t going to be good for children. Parents should consider whether they are good role models for their children especially where their friends are concerned. When things go awry, parents should talk with their children about how to act with their friends, but more specifically, how not to act.”

Glick anticipates that future research may include how conflict resolution may be incorporated into parental methods in the home.

Dec 13

Parental stress linked to childhood obesity


Parental stress is linked to weight gain in children, according to a new study from St. Michael’s Hospital. The study found that children whose parents have high levels of stress have a Body Mass Index, or BMI, about 2 per cent higher than those whose parents have low levels of stress. Children with higher parental stress also gained weight at a 7 per cent higher rate during the study period than other children.

Those figures may sound low, said lead author Dr. Ketan Shankardass, but they’re significant because they are happening in children, whose bodies and eating and exercise habits are still developing. Plus, if that weight gain continues and is compounded over a lifetime, it could lead to serious obesity and health issues.

Dr. Shankardass, a social epidemiologist with the hospital’s Centre for Research on Inner City Health, studied data collected during the Children’s Health Study, one of the largest and most comprehensive investigations into the long-term effects of air pollution on the respiratory health of children.

The childrens’ BMI was calculated each year. Their parents were given a questionnaire to measure their perceived psychological stress that asked how often in the last month they were able or unable to control important things in their life and whether things were going their way or their difficulties were piling up so high they could not overcome them.

Dr. Shankardass said he believes this is the first study to link parental stress to weight gain in such young children. His research was published in the journal Pediatric Obesity.

Dr. Shankardass, who is also an assistant professor in psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University, said it was not clear why the link between stress and obesity exists.

He said parents could change their behavior when they are stressed, to reduce the amount of physical activity in the household or increase the amount of unhealthy food available. Parental stress could also create stress for the children, who cope by eating more or exercising less, or whose stress leads to biological changes that cause weight gain, he said.

Dr. Shankardass said that rather than focusing only on getting parents to change their behavior, it would be useful to focus on interventions that can support families living in challenging conditions, such as making sure they have a reliable supply of healthy food, an opportunity to live in a nice neighbourhood and other financial or service resources to help cope with stress.

“Childhood is a time when we develop inter-connected habits related to how we deal with stress, how we eat and how active we are,” Dr. Shankardass said. “It’s a time when we might be doing irreversible damage or damage that is very hard to change later.”

Dr. Shankardass noted that more than half the students followed in the California study were Hispanic, and that the effects of stress on their BMI was greater than children of other ethnic backgrounds. He said this was consistent with other research which has suggested that Hispanic children may be more likely to experience hypherphasia (excessive hunger or increased appetite) and sedentary lifestyle. Future research should consider other reasons that Hispanic children are more susceptible to parental stress, including differences in how Hispanic parents respond to stress or how Hispanic children perceive stressors or cope with stress.

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