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The Difference Between Sensory Processing Issues and ADHD

When doing assessments, we often find that children are diagnosed with ADHD when in fact it is a sensory processing issue. Have a look at the article below to learn more about sensory processing issues and ADHD and how to distinguish between the two.

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By Peg Rosen

Constantly fidgeting and squirming. Invading personal space. Melting down in public. These can be signs of both ADHD and sensory processing issues. While they’re different issues, they have some overlap and can occur together. This table breaks down some of the key differences between ADHD and sensory processing issues.

 

ADHD Sensory Processing Issues
What is it? biological condition that makes it hard for many children to concentrate and sit still. An over- or undersensitivity to sensory input such as sights, sounds, flavors, smells and textures.
Signs you may notice ·       Seems daydreamy or confused

·       Appears not to listen

·       Is prone to tantrums and meltdowns due to lack of impulse control

·       Struggles with organization and completing tasks

·       Gets easily bored unless an activity is very enjoyable

·       Has trouble following directions

·       Struggles to sit still during quiet activities

·       Is impatient and has trouble waiting his turn

·       Is constantly moving

·       Fidgets and needs to pick up and fiddle with everything

·       Interrupts people and blurts things out inappropriately

·       Doesn’t understand the consequences of his actions

·       Plays roughly and takes physical risks

Oversensitivity:

·       Has trouble focusing; can’t filter out distractions

·       Dislikes being touched

·       Notices sounds and smells that others don’t

·       Has meltdowns, flees or becomes upset in noisy, crowded places

·       Fears for his safety even when there’s no real danger

·       Has difficulty with new routines, new places and other change

·       Shifts and moves around because he can’t get comfortable

·       Is very sensitive to the way clothing feels

Undersensitivity:

·       Constantly needs to touch people or things

·       Has trouble gauging others’ personal space

·       Seem clumsy or uncoordinated

·       Shows a high tolerance for pain

·       Plays roughly and takes physical risks

Possible emotional and social impact Trouble following social rules can make it hard to make and keep friends. Frequent negative feedback for acting out or not paying attention can impact self-esteem and motivation, making a child feel he’s “bad” or “no good.” Feeling anxious in or avoiding crowded and noisy places can make it hard to socialize. Peers may avoid or exclude an undersensitive child because he plays too roughly or doesn’t respect their personal space.
Professionals who can help ·       Pediatricians, developmental behavior pediatricians, nurse practitioners, child psychiatrists: Diagnose ADHD and prescribe ADHD medication. Psychiatrists will look for other issues like anxiety.

·       Clinical child psychologists: Provide behavior therapy to teach kids skills to manage their actions and interactions. Provide cognitive behavioral therapy to help with emotional issues related to their ADHD. Diagnose ADHD and mental health issues that may co-occur, such as anxiety. May also evaluate for learning issues.

·       Pediatric neuropsychologists: Diagnose ADHD and common mental health issues that may co-occur, such as anxiety. May also evaluate for learning issues.

·       Educational therapists and organizational coaches: Work on organization and time management skills.

·       Occupational therapists: Help kids learn coping skills for challenging situations. Provide sensory integration therapy that helps kids respond to sensory input in an appropriate way.

·       Clinical child psychologists: Provide behavior therapy to teach kids skills to manage their actions and interactions. Provide cognitive behavioral therapy to help with emotional issues related to their sensory processing issues. Diagnose ADHD and mental health issues that may co-occur with sensory processing issues. May also evaluate for learning issues.

·       Developmental behavioral pediatricians: Prescribe medication for anxiety to relieve panic responses.

What the school may provide Accommodations under a 504 plan or an IEP. Child might be eligible for an IEP under the category of “other health impairment.” Examples might include:

·       Extended time on tests, including standardized tests

·       A seat close to the teacher and away from distractions

·       A larger, more private work space to get work accomplished

·       A signal, nonverbal cue or picture card to get the child’s attention

·       Long assignments broken into smaller chunks

·       Worksheets with fewer questions

·       Written or picture schedules for daily activities

·       Movement breaks

Accommodations and/or occupational therapy, under a 504 plan or an IEP. Child might be eligible for an IEP under the category of “other health impairment,” especially if he also has ADHD. Examples of accommodations might include:

·       A seat away from distracting sources of noise

·       Sensory breaks

·       Physical activity to help regulate emotions, behavior and need for movement

·       Noise-canceling headphones or ear buds to reduce stimulation in busy places like assemblies

·       A chair that is a good fit for him so he can put his feet flat on the floor and rest his elbows on the desk

·       An inflated cushion or pillow so he can both squirm and stay in his seat

What you can do at home ·       Set rules and stick to them to help your child think before acting.

·       Create daily routines and rituals to provide structure.

·       Break tasks into smaller chunks.

·       Use visual prompts like checklists, visual schedules and sticky notes to help your child focus, stay organized and get things done.

·       Allow for breaks during homework and study time.

·       Create an organized homework and study area.

·       Help organize his backpack and check that it’s cleaned out regularly.

·       Give advance warning about changes in the schedule and explain what he can expect in new situations.

·       Track your child’s behavior patterns so you can anticipate tough situations for him.

·       Prepare your child for social gatherings or new situations so he knows what to expect.

·       Keep earplugs or ear buds handy.

·       Find outlets for your child’s energy such as exercise routines, sports or music.

·       Teach your child about dangerous situations he may not be sensitive to, such as bitter cold and burning heat.

·       Buy divided plates if he’s bothered when different foods touch.

·       Install and use dimmer switches or colored bulbs to modify lighting.

·       Shop with your child so he can pick out clothes that are comfortable for him.

·       Look for tagless, seamless clothes in super-soft fabrics.

Cognitune have just published an article looking at the best all-natural alternatives to the medication often prescribed for ADHD. If you would like to have read, click on the link below: https://www.cognitune.com/best-natural-adderall-alternatives/

 

Anger Management For Kids: Tips For Dealing With Explosive Children

– The Huffington Post Canada  |  By Alyson Schafer

Most parents are equipped to get through the inevitable tantrums and meltdowns of little kids. As children grow they gain patience, develop more skills, learn problem solving and then low and behold the tantrums subside. Or they don’t.

For some children the anger or explosiveness only gets worse as they age. It was one thing when they were 30 pounds and stomping their feet, but now they are big and can hurl a chair across the family room.

There seems to be real rage in their bellies. Scratch the surface and BOOM -– they go off. The frequency, intensity and duration of these episodes goes beyond the explanation that your kid is simply having a bad day.

If you have a child who is destroying property, physically attacking others or repeatedly berating themselves, take matters seriously. Here are some ways you can deal with the situation.

Educate Yourself About Anger 
Anger is called “the fighting emotion.” We activate our anger when we want to go to battle to fight and win. The fight, flight, freeze (F3) response in our nervous system kicks in, which increases our heart rate, sends blood to the muscles so they are stronger and accelerates our breathing so we are good and oxygenated.

These massive bodily sensations are enough to overwhelm a child. It’s a big biological event that can even feel scary -– like they are out of control.

Anger is actually a secondary emotion. Your child feels another emotion first, which is the primary emotion. And that is the one you need to discover and learn from. It’s likely one of these five triggers:

  1. Threats to self-esteem (rejection, victimization, rights removed or infringed on) that come from these common childhood experiences:
  • The feeling a sibling is preferred
    • Inconsistent enforcement of rules (this is not fair!)
    • Public correction that embarrassed or humiliated them
    • Offering help or instruction when it wasn’t needed (micro-management)
    • Seeing an injustice done to another
    • Loss of sense of control or a sense of autonomy
    • Lack of understanding of others (low empathy)
    • Others reject or deny what the child is genuinely feeling (misunderstood)

    2. Biology: hunger, low blood sugar, tired, in pain

  1. Stress/Anxiety (illness, impending divorce, moving schools, new caregiver, upcoming test)
  2. Sadness (due to death or big change in their life)
  3. Frustration (communication problems, lack of dexterity or knowledge, perfectionism and hatred of mistakes, believing that asking for help is failure or inadequacy)

If you can identify and solve the primary feeling, your child’s need to fight with anger would not be necessary.

Basic Health Check
Double check your child is eating well, sleeping sufficiently (Do she snore? Could it be undiagnosed sleep apnea?) and reduce their stress.

Is he over-scheduled? Is he feeling undue pressure to excel? Parents are notoriously blind at seeing childhood stressors but they abound.

During a Blow Up, Be Calm and Empathetic
It’s very easy to get pulled into a child’s state. Instead, you have to act in calming ways to help her de-escalate.

It’s very easy to look fed-up and roll your eyes. You are so tired of their antics. But a cold, terse composure that is meant to brace yourself for the storm only adds fuel to her fire.

Instead, communicate calm, loving support. Watch your body language. Keep your tone sweet and quiet. Your facial expression should be one of empathy and compassion.

If he will allow you to offer comfort touches (rubbing his back or a hug), do it. Show that you understand he must be deeply upset to be this angered, but keep your words sparse. Give him space and time to re-group.

Keep a Log Book 
Write a log after each blow up. Record the events leading up to the angry outburst and how it finally resolved. Be sure to record not only what your child did — but also what you and others did.

Assign an intensity rating from 0 to 10. Watch the clock to see how long the blow up lasted and record that, too. After a week or a month, can you see a theme?

As you embark on making changes, you’ll want to know things are improving. The blow-ups won’t go away over night, but if they are less frequent, less intense and shorter then you are making headway! Don’t give up too soon.

Talk About Triggers In A Time Of Calm
When children are angry, it is not a good time for productive discussions. You’re best to save your talks for a time when she is calm. Re-visit the incident that made her so mad and ask her to help you understand what was so distasteful that got her so angry. Then listen.

Listen with a goal of understanding your child and her perspective. Don’t defend or correct.

For example, if your child shares: “You let Bella go on the iPad first. She always gets to go first”. Instead of correcting and defending yourself with “that is not true, you went first last time” simply acknowledge her feelings and beliefs.

“So you feel you get passed over for your sister all the time? That I give her more privileges than you? Like going first on the iPad yesterday? Is that right? Well that would not feel very good at all! If I thought that, I would be hurt and hopping mad too!”

Proper Modelling 
Children need to learn that using aggression is not the best way to resolve issues. If you use anger as a means to get your child to listen or behave, stop immediately. You are modelling this behaviour and he is imitating you.

Teach Problem Solving
Teach your child how to solve the problems he is having through positive means. “Besides getting mad, how else could you share that you feel unfairly treated, and how else could we assure that each child gets their turn going first on the iPad?”

Try to generate a few solutions: alternating days, mark turns on the calendar, leave a sticky note on the iPad saying whose turn is next, rock paper scissors, roll dice, etc. Decide on one solution to try for a week and see if things improve. If they don’t, try another solution.

They Have Control Over Their Anger -– It’s A Choice.
Children believe that other people make them angry and that they are just innocent victims of these strong emotions that take over their bodies. Teach your child about the fight, freeze, flight response so they can recognize when they are getting triggered.

Teach her relaxation techniques: breathing exercises, taking a warm shower, going for a walk around the block, listening to calming music, tensing and releasing their muscles.

Challenge Rigid Black-And-White Thinking 
In a time of calm, help your child to challenge his own rigid thinking. Young children often see the world in black and white with no grey scale. Things are right or wrong, good or bad, always or never. It’s part of growing up to see more sides to things and add complexity to our beliefs.

“You are not either a good boy or a bad boy — you are just lovable you, wonderful the way you are.”

“Instead of rigidly thinking your sister is always beating you, you can choose to think an alternate softer thought: many times my sister gets her way, but sometimes I do, too.”

Encouragement 
Children who get angry are discouraged and we need to help fill their bucket so they feel good about themselves and improve their relationships with others in the family.

Look for their strengths and share your appreciation for what they bring to the clan. Increase your positive interactions and have fun together. Notice their gentle side.

If things don’t improve, seek out the help of a family counsellor. You’d be amazed what a few sessions can do to improve matters.

 

How Do Children Learn Right from Wrong? They learn what they live.

– Taken from aha.parenting.com (Click to see actual article)

“Dr. Laura….How will they know right from wrong when they are never taught something will happen when they do wrong?”

So today, let’s think about how children learn right from wrong.

Little ones want what they want, and they like to be in charge of themselves. But they also depend on us, the parents who care for them, and they trust us to have their best interests at heart. They may not always do what we say, but they will always, eventually, do what we do. So most of what children learn about how to behave is from what we model.

That’s why, regardless of what you consciously teach your child, he will learn what he lives.

  • When we cheerfully help them clean up the spilled milk, they learn that it isn’t an emergency, so they don’t need to cry or to blame, and can simply solve the problem.
  • When we offer understanding as we say no to their requests, they learn that they won’t always get what they want, but they get something better — a mom or dad who always understands.
  • When we’re there to listen, they learn that life can be tough, but they can always recover and find a better way.
  • When we delight in them, they learn that they’re of value.
  • When we’re forgiving of their mistakes, they learn that no one’s perfect– but they’re more than enough just the way they are.
  • When we apologize and make amends, they learn to repair the damage they do.
  • When we try to see their side of things, they try to see our side of things, and they don’t want to disappoint us.
  • When we’re compassionate in the face of their upsets, they learn that emotions aren’t an emergency and can be managed.
  • When we share with them, heart to heart, our concern that the dog is hungry because they forgot to feed him, they learn that they never want to hurt a helpless creature again.
  • When we help them come up with a system to remind themselves to feed the dog so they don’t forget in the future, they learn to manage themselves.

Conversely,

  • When we punish them for forgetting to feed the dog, they get angry at us and at the dog, which doesn’t motivate them to want to care for him.
  • When we scream at them, they learn that tantrums are ok, and they learn to scream at us.
  • When we punish them, they learn that’s how to solve problems — people with more power are allowed to use it against people with less power.
  • When we swear at another driver, they learn incivility, not to mention some embarrassing words.
  • When we lie to someone on the phone when they’re listening, they learn that dishonesty is ok.
  • When we lie about their age to get them into an amusement park, they learn that cheating is ok.
  • When we speed in the car, they learn that breaking the law is ok if we don’t get caught.
  • When we promise to play a game with them and then renege, they learn that promises can be broken.
  • When we ignore the feelings that drove their behavior, they learn that there’s no one to help them with the big scary feelings that pop out and pressure them to “do bad.”
  • When we spank them, they learn that bigger people are allowed to hit smaller people.
  • When we punish them, they learn that they’re bad people — bad for doing wrong, bad for having the bad feelings that made them do wrong, bad for being mad at us for punishing them, and bad because they know they won’t be able to stop themselves from doing it again.

Children don’t learn right from wrong by being punished, any more than they learn red from blue by being punished. Kids learn when we show them red, and also when we show them kindness, responsibility, generosity, honesty, compassion, and all the other things we want them to learn, in action, every day.

When children feel close to their parents, they want to “follow” them. Going against their parents would be going against the most important people in their lives. That’s why connection is 90% of parenting. Until the child feels the connection, she isn’t open to our direction.

Of course, the prefrontal cortex that can keep strong emotions in check to help your child behave is still developing until age 25, so your child won’t always make the right choice. But if you’re parenting with loving guidance, at least she’ll be more likely to WANT to make the right choice.

Do you have to be perfect?  No, of course not. But then you can’t expect your child to be perfect, either.

Modeling self-forgiveness and making amends is part of teaching your child to repair the inevitable small ruptures that happen between humans, even when we love each other. It’s part of how you keep your child connected and wanting to “do right.”

But what if your child knows right from wrong and still keeps choosing “wrong”? That’s our next post. In the meantime, why not go hug your child?

How to Un-Entitle Your Kids in 6 Easy Steps

– taken from mom.me (Click to see actual article)

I love making beds. I’m a rarity, I know, but there’s something satisfying about the simple act of making a bed. I love making beds so much that I tend to function on autopilot in the morning. I travel from room to room, making beds and restoring the appearance of calm to each bedroom.

Sounds innocent enough, right? Making beds gives me a few moments of focus in the morning, while I run through the mental to-do list and prepare to tackle the day. What’s the harm in that?

Cut to the day I’m running late and yell up to the kids to make their beds and meet me in the front to get shoes on and out the door on the double. They stared back at me with blank faces. While they often thank me for making their beds “neat and organized,” and are generally filled with gratitude, I completely forgot to step back and show them how to make their own beds. So when I yelled up for them to take on the task for me that day, they didn’t know where to begin. Oops.

Needless to say, we altered our plans and spent some time practicing bed-making. Now they take pride in making their own beds.

Are my kids “entitled” because they didn’t make their own beds until recently? No. But in taking on tasks they are capable of completing simply because I enjoy those tasks, I rob them of the chance to learn a new skill and build more responsibility into their lives.

When parents routinely do everything for their kids and put their kids first every single time, entitlement can occur. Over time, it can reach unbearable levels. We have to step back and guide our kids toward independence and responsibility instead of running in for the save, fixing what needs fixing and answering every demand.

In her new book, “The Me, Me, Me Epidemic,” Amy McCready takes on the problem of entitlement with a positive spin. Entitled children can trigger feelings of frustration and anger in exhausted parents who are constantly stretched too thin. That can lead to yelling and excessive punishments, strategies that typically yield little reward and cause children to fear punishment instead of making better choices.

“When kids act up, they’re doing more than pitching a fit over a candy bar (or permission to go to a party),” McCready says. “Without even knowing it, they’re on a mission to achieve the belonging and significance they crave.”

Instead of punishing undesirable behavior or constantly rewarding positive behavior, McCready outlines specific strategies grounded in positive parenting to help empower kids to grow into responsible and un-entitled adults.

“The truth is kids everywhere—from toddlers to teens—are ruling the roost and they’re not about to abandon their posts without a fight,” she says. But there are ways to make the transition away from entitlement as a family.

Check out these great tools from McCready’s “Un-Enititler Tool Box”:

1. Mind, body, soul time

Parents today seem to thrive on being busy. There is always something that needs doing or somewhere to be. But in all of this doing and going, it’s very difficult to connect with our children in a meaningful way.

It might feel like your kids are constantly interrupting you at inopportune moments, but, in the mind of a child, it’s an attempt to connect on a deeper level.

McCready suggests setting aside 10 minutes of complete focus for each child, at least once (hopefully twice) each day. Turn off the distractions and connect with your kid on his level. If he wants to make paper airplanes, make them. If he wants to dance in the rain, go for it. Establish a meaningful connection by being present and focused during that time.

2. Sail out of the wind

Do you ever feel like parenting is really just a series of power struggles? You’re not alone. Kids want things and they push boundaries to see how far they can get you to bend. That’s normal. Pushing back, however, is not the answer.

A power struggle over an ice cream cone can turn into a full-blown screaming match when parents go back and forth with kids. McCready suggests sailing out of the wind, instead. Remove yourself from the power struggle. Make a decision. Stand by the decision. And leave the power struggle behind.

3. Adapt the home environment

I think most parents wish for a cleaning fairy at some point, or at least for a few extra hands when it comes to prepping meals, cleaning the house and getting various chores done. The good news is that kids are great helpers when we empower them, especially if we adapt our homes to make them kid-friendly.

I keep my plates and bowls within reach of my little ones so that they can prepare their own snacks and help set the table. All toys are also organized at kid level so that they can be responsible for cleanup.

Take a look around your home from the viewpoint of your child. Make the necessary adjustments to empower your kids to help out in the home.

4. Ditch the ‘don’t’

Kids hear a lot about what they shouldn’t do each day. Sometimes we do this to keep them safe, other times we do it to save time or get things done. Whatever the reason, parents dish out a lot of “don’t.”

Reframe your thoughts and replace “don’t” with “do.” Empower your kids to take on more responsibility and learn new tasks by helping them learn what to do.

5. Take time for training

The bed-making fiasco reminded me that I need to think about things my kids can do, but I haven’t necessarily taught them to do. They have always enjoyed folding laundry with me, so they are great helpers when it comes to laundry day. But I find that teaching them how to load the dishwasher, how to scramble the eggs and how to make the grilled cheese makes them feel confident and increases their responsibilities in the home.

6. Create a decision-rich environment

This is a big one. Kids don’t have a ton of choices on a daily basis and that can be frustrating. A great way to stop over-parenting is by allowing your kids to make their own choices as much as possible.

Let them choose little things, like how they want their hair and what outfits to wear, to bigger things, like what chores they want to take on. My daughter mopped my bedroom for me the other day because I listened when she said that she wanted to learn how to use a mop.

Take the time to teach and empower your children, and then step back and watch them grow.

10 Alternatives To “Consequences” When Your Child Isn’t Cooperating

– Taken from one of our favourite websites: Ahaparenting.com (Click to see actual article)

Most parenting experts suggest that when children “misbehave” the best response is “consequences.” Parents are told that letting children experience the consequences of their poor choices will teach them lessons. Makes sense, right?

Well, no.

Natural consequences can teach important lessons. We all have to learn that if we don’t remember to take our lunch, we’ll go hungry.

But when most parents use “consequences” for discipline, they aren’t the natural result of the child’s actions (“I forgot my lunch today so I was hungry”). Instead, they have become for children the threats they hear through their parents’ clenched teeth: “If I have to stop this car and come back there, there will be CONSEQUENCES!!”

In other words, Consequences mean Punishment. Whether you’re threatening a timeout or the loss of a privilege, that is punishment, which is defined as causing another person physical or emotional pain with the purpose of getting them to do things your way.

Unfortunately, research shows that punishment raises kids who behave WORSE and are LESS MORAL. I know, that seems counterintuitive. But when the discipline comes from outside, the child doesn’t internalize self-regulation. He isn’t actually CHOOSING to “be good” so he isn’t building those self-discipline muscles. And since he’s being good only to avoid punishment, he isn’t building moral muscles either.

In fact, since punishment creates power struggles, kids who are punished go on the defensive and blame everyone but themselves. Inside, though, they feel like bad people — which makes it hard to “act good.” (For more on why punishment backfires, see Why Punishment Doesn’t Teach Your Child Accountability).

Worried about what you’ll do without the threat of Consequences to keep your child cooperating? Next time your child refuses your guidance and you find yourself about to blurt out a threat, try one of these responses instead.

1. Let your child solve it.

“You haven’t brushed your teeth yet and I want to be sure we have time for a story. What can we do?”

It’s amazing how children step into responsibility when we offer it in a collaborative way. They love to help, and to solve puzzles. Sometimes they just need a little respect.

2. Partner for Win/win solutions.

If your child doesn’t offer a solution that works for you, explain why and help her come up with one.

“You think you should just skip brushing teeth tonight? Hmm…that doesn’t work for me because your poor teeth would stay germy and they could get tiny holes in them. What else could we do to get your teeth brushed and time for a story? Want to put your pjs on, and then brush?”

Once your child believes that you’re serious about win/win solutions, she’s much more likely to work with you to find a solution that works for everyone.

3. Invite cooperation with your phrasing.

Consider the difference in these approaches:

“Go brush your teeth now.” – Since no one likes to be told what to do, a direct order like this often invites resistance, either direct or in the form of stalling.

“Can you go brush your teeth now?” – Many kids will reflect on this and just say No. Don’t phrase your request in the form of a yes or no question unless you’re willing to accept No for an answer.

“Do you want to brush your teeth now, or after you put your PJs on?”

“Do you want to brush your teeth now, or after you put your PJs on?” – This strategy works because you’re extending your child the respect of giving him some control, at the same time that you retain the responsibility of making the decisions you need to as his parent. Only offer options you can live with, of course.

“You may brush your teeth now.”

“You may brush your teeth now.” – Almost sounds like a privilege, doesn’t it? This is a command, but a respectful, calming one. Works especially well with kids who are over-stimulated by bedtime and overwhelmed by choices.

4. Ask for a Do-over.

“Oops. I told you to brush your teeth and you ignored me and then I started to yell. I’m sorry. Let’s try a do-over.”

This is a great way to interrupt things when you’re headed down a bad road. Get down on your child’s level and make a warm connection. Look in her eyes. Touch her.

“Ok, let’s try this again, Sweetie. It’s teeth brushing time! How can we work as a team here to get those germs off your teeth?”

5. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  • Before transitions, give ample warning AND spend a few minutes connecting with your child.
  • Think about what usually triggers problems for your child and take pre-emptive action.
  • Always leave extra time to get anything done that your child usually resists, so you’re relaxed.
  • Sidestep power struggles in general, so she’s more likely to cooperate when you really need her to.

6. When your child defies you, focus on the relationship, rather than on discipline.

A good relationship is your foundation; guidance doesn’t work without it because your child stops caring about pleasing you. A child who is rude is either very upset, or expressing her need for a better relationship with you. In either case, “consequences” will make the situation worse. I’m not suggesting you put up with rudeness, just that you see it as a red flag to do some repair work on the relationship.

7. Make sure your expectations are age-appropriate.

  • A one year old needs a baby-proofed house, not to learn by consequences how to leave the TV alone.
  • A four year old needs your help to get through the bedtime routine, not to lose reading time with you when he gets distracted and dawdles.
  • A ten year old needs your help to make the homework routine into a habit that works for him, not to lose his TV privileges. (Although screen time during the week may make it harder for kids to give their best to academics, family time, and pursuing other interests. But that’s a lifestyle choice, not a punishment.)

8. Get to the root of the problem.

Usually when kids defy us, they’re asking for help with their emotions. You’ll know this is happening when your child seems unhappy and is making you unhappy; when whatever you try just doesn’t work. At those times, your child is showing you that he has some big feelings he needs to express, and he needs your help. He may be angry, or afraid, or sad. He may just need to cry.

So if you set a limit and your child defies you, forget about punishment and consequences. This is a red flag that he needs your help. Connect with him, restate your limit with kindness and compassion, and listen to his upset. After your child gets a chance to show you all those feelings he’s been stuffing down, you’ll find him much more cooperative.

9. Engage the brain.

When humans are upset, our brains don’t work as well because “fight or flight” takes over and thinking stops. Start by taking a deep breath and calming your own emotions, to signal to your child that it isn’t an emergency. Then connect warmly with your child so she feels safe again. That moves her out of fight or flight, so she can think again. Finally, invite her brain to engage by helping her understand what’s happening:

“You are so upset. You were having so much fun playing with Daddy. Then he told you to go brush your teeth. You were mad, right? …… Then Daddy said No story tonight. Right? …. Now you are sad and mad…. I am right here. You are safe. I love you. Daddy loves you. Daddy was upset, too, but now he is here to hug you. … Let’s find a way that we can all have a good evening and feel good when we tuck you in to bed. Maybe we all need a Do-Over?”

This builds emotional intelligence in your child — and in your partner. And even if it doesn’t get you all on the same page, at least it gets you into the same book!

10. Use natural consequences.

I’m not suggesting that you move heaven and earth to protect your child from the natural outcome of his choices. We all need to learn lessons, and if your child can do so without too much damage, life is a great teacher. (Meaning, you won’t let him get a concussion to teach him to wear his bike helmet.) But you’ll want to make sure these are actually “natural” consequences that your child doesn’t perceive as punishment so they don’t trigger all the negative effects of punishment. What’s more, you’ll want to be sure that your child is convinced that you aren’t orchestrating the consequence and are firmly on his side, so you don’t undermine your relationship with him.

Consider the difference in these approaches:

“Of course I will bring your lunch to the school, Sweetie. I don’t want you to be hungry. But try to remember it tomorrow.” – Child may or may not remember his lunch tomorrow. There is no harm in doing this once or even twice, if you can do it easily. We all have forgotten things like lunches, and it is not a sign that your child will be irresponsible for life. But it is a signal that you need to help your child with self-organization strategies.

“I’m certainly not going to drop everything to bring you your lunch. I hope this will teach you a lesson.” – Child will probably learn to remember his lunch. BUT he concludes that parent doesn’t care about him, and becomes less cooperative at home. (And as my teenager says, “I would never ask a parent like that for help when I really needed it.“)

“Ok, I will bring your lunch but this is absolutely the last time. You would forget your head if it weren’t glued on and don’t expect me to always drop everything to bail you out.” – Child does not learn to remember lunch but does learn that he is a forgetful person who irritates his parent. In the future, he acts in accordance with this expectation.

Now, what about this approach?

“I’m so sorry you forgot your lunch, Sweetie, but it doesn’t work for me to bring it to you. I hope you won’t starve and I will have a snack waiting when you get home.”

Child learns to remember lunch AND feels cared about AND self image stays intact.

Retraining yourself can be tough. But as Rebecca Eanes, author of Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide says, “Throw the word “consequence” entirely out of your vocabulary and replace it with the term “problem-solving.”  You’ll be amazed at the miracles you can make.

Fear and Anxiety – An Age by Age Guide

Fear-and-Anxiety-An-Age-by-Age-Guide-to-Fears-Why-and-What-to-Do

It is very normal for all children to have specific fears at some point in their childhood. Even the bravest of hearts beat right up against their edges sometimes. As your child learns more about the world, some things will become more confusing and frightening. This is nothing at all to worry about and these fears will usually disappear on their own as your child grows and expands his or her experience.

In the meantime, as the parent who is often called on to ease the worried mind of your small person, it can be helpful to know that most children at certain ages will become scared of particular things.

When is fear or anxiety a problem?

Fear is a very normal part of growing up. It is a sign that your child is starting to understand the world and the way it works, and that they are trying to make sense of what it means for them. With time and experience, they will come to figure out for themselves that the things that seem scary aren’t so scary after all. Over time, they will also realise that they have an incredible capacity to cope.

Fears can certainly cause a lot of cause distress, not only for the kids and teens who have the fears, but also for the people who care about them. It’s important to remember that fears at certain ages are completely appropriate and in no way are a sign of abnormality.

The truth is, there really is no such thing as an abnormal fear, but some kids and teens will have fears that are more intense and intrusive. Even fears that seem quite odd at first, will make sense in some way.

For example, a child who does not want to be separated from you is likely to be thinking the same thing we all think about the people we love – what if something happens to you while you are away from them? A child who is scared of balloons would have probably experienced that jarring, terrifying panic that comes with the boom. It’s an awful feeling. Although we know it passes within moments, for a child who is still getting used to the world, the threat of that panicked feeling can be overwhelming. It can be enough to teach them that balloons pretend to be fun, but they’ll turn fierce without warning and the first thing you’ll know is the boom. #not-fun-you-guys

Worry becomes a problem when it causes a problem. If it’s a problem for your child or teen, then it’s a problem. When the fear seems to direct most of your child’s behaviour or the day to day life of the family (sleep, family outings, routines, going to school, friendships), it’s likely the fear has become too pushy and it’s time to pull things back.

So how do we get rid of the fear?

If you have a child with anxiety, they may be more prone to developing certain fears. Again, this is nothing at all to worry about. Kids with anxiety will mostly likely always be sensitive kids with beautiful deep minds and big open hearts. They will think and feel deeply, which is a wonderful thing to have. We don’t want to change that. What we want to do is stop their deep-thinking minds and their open hearts from holding them back.

The idea then, isn’t to get rid of all fears completely, but to make them manageable. As the adult in their lives who loves them, you are in a perfect position to help them to gently interact with whatever they are scared of. Eventually, this familiarity will take the steam out of the fear.

First of all though, it can be helpful for you and your child to know that other children just like them are going through exactly the same experience.

An age by age guide to fears.

When you are looking through the list, look around your child’s age group as well. Humans are beautifully complicated beings and human nature doesn’t tend to stay inside the lines. The list is a guide to common fears during childhood and the general age at which they might appear. There are no rules though and they might appear earlier or later.

Infants and toddlers (0-2)

•   Loud noises and anything that might overload their senses (storms, the vacuum cleaner, blender, hair dryer, balloons bursting, sirens, the bath draining, abrupt movement, being put down too quickly).

Here’s why: When babies are born, their nervous systems are the baby versions. When there is too much information coming to them through their senses, such as a loud noise or being put down too quickly (which might make them feel like they’re falling), it’s too much for their nervous systems to handle.

•   Being separated from you.

Here’s why: At around 8-10 months, babies become aware that when things disappear, those things still exist. Before this, it tends to be ‘out of sight, out of mind’. From around 8 months, they will start to realise that when you leave the room you are somewhere, just not somewhere they can see you. This may be the start of them being scared of being separated from you, as they grapple with where you’ve gone, and when you’ll be coming back. During their second year, they begin to understand how much they rely on your love and protection. For a while, their worlds will start and end with you. (Though for you in relation to your little heart stealers, it will probably always be that way.)

•   Strangers.

Here’s why: An awareness of strangers will peak at around 6-8 months. This is a good thing because it means they are starting to recognise the difference between familiar and unfamiliar faces. By this age, babies will have formed a close connection with the ones who take care of them. They will know the difference between you and the rest of the world, not only because of what you look like or the sound of your voice, but also because of what you mean for them. For many babies, strangers and ‘sort of strangers’ – actually anyone outside of their chosen few – will need to move gently. Babies will be sensitive to their personal space and will be easily scared by anyone who quickly and unexpectedly enters that space.

(At this age, separation anxiety and stranger anxiety can be a tough duo for any parent. Your little person doesn’t like being away from you, but they might not be too fond of the person you leave them in the care of. It can be tough, but hang in there – it will end.)

•   People in costume.

Soooo lemme get this right – you’re putting me in front of a big man in a red suit with a white beard the likes I’ve never seen before and you want me to sit on his lap? Nope. Not today. Probably not until I’m like, five. Or 72. Or when I figure that out he brings stuff. Then I might get close enough to tell him want I want, or maybe I’ll throw him a letter or something. And I don’t get the point of the big people-sized rabbits that carry baskets of shiny wrapped thin- … actually, wait. No to the rabbit people. Yes to the shiny wrapped things. Just put them where I can reach them and leave. K?

•   Anything outside of their control (exuberant dogs, a flushing toilet, thunder).

Here’s why: At around age one when your child starts to take little steps, he or she will start to experiment with their independence. This might look like moving small distances away from you or wanting to play with their food or feed themselves. With this, comes an increasing need for them to have a sense of predictability and control over their environment. Anything that feels outside of their control might seem frightening.

Preschoolers (3-4)

•  Lightning, loud noises (the bath draining, thunder, balloons bursting, fireworks, loud barking dogs, trains) and anything else that doesn’t make sense.

Here’s why: They will become very aware of their lack of control in the world. Because of this, they might show a fear of things that seem perfectly innocent to the rest of us to make no sense at all to a grown up. It can be a scary world when you’re new to the job of finding your way in it!

•  Anything that isn’t as it usually is – (an uncle who shows up with a new beard, a grandparent with different coloured hair).

Here’s why: It’s hard enough when strangers are strangers, but when favourite people look like strangers … whoa! Familiarity is the stuff of happy days. There’s so much in the world to get used to when you’re fairly new to the job. When things change unexpectedly, it can feel like being back at the beginning and having to get comfortable all over again. Massive ‘ugh’.

•  Scary noises, Halloween costumes, ghosts, witches, monsters living under the bed, burglars breaking into the house, burglars making friends with the monsters living under the bed and ganging up  – and anything else that feeds their hardworking imaginations.

Here’s why: Their imaginative play is flourishing and their imaginations are wonderfully rich. At this age, they will have trouble telling the difference between fantasy and reality.

•  The things they see on television or read in books might fuel their already vivid imaginations and come out as scary dreams. This might bring on a fear of the dark or being alone at night.

Here’s why: At this age, kids can struggle a little to separate fantasy from reality. If they hear a story about a pirate for example, as soon as the lights are out they might imagine Captain-Russell-With-The-Boat-Who-Steals-Toys-From-Sleeping-Kids is waiting under their bed, ready to cause trouble. A calming bedtime routine and happy, pirate-free stories can help to bring on happy zzz’s.

•  People in costume (Santa, the Easter Bunny, story or cartoon characters.)

Here’s why: At this age, grown-ups in dress-ups are no more adorable than they were in the baby days. If Santa doesn’t know what they want, he might just have to work harder, because there’s no way they’ll be telling him in person. Lucky he’s magic and has people on the ground who know the important stuff.

•  Being separated from you or being away from the people or pets they love.

Here’s why:  They might worry that something will happen to themselves, the people they love or a pet, particularly if something happens to someone close to them.

•  The dark and being on their own at night, particularly if they hear a strange sound or see lights or shadows on the wall.

Here’s why: The dark can feel scary at this age. With their imaginations running wild and free, they might put their own explanations to strange night-time noises or shadows on the wall. They might convince themselves that the sound of a moth hitting a lightbulb is definitely a robber, because no other explanation makes any sense.

5-6 years.

•  Being separated from you.

Here’s why: At this age, children might show a strong reaction to being separated from one or either or their parents. This comes as they start to see outside of themselves and realise that bad things can happen to the people they love. They might want to avoid school or sleepovers so they can be with you and know that you’re safe and sound.

•  Ghosts, monsters and witches – and anything else that bumps around in their wonderfully vivid imaginations. This can also show itself as a fear of the dark – because we all know the spooky things love it there.

Here’s why: Their imaginations are still hard at work so anything they can bring to life in there will be fuel for fear.

•  The dark, noises, being on their own at night, getting lost, getting sick.

Here’s why: As well as being scared of things that take up precious real estate in their heads, they might also become scared of things could actually happen. These are the sorts of things that might unsettle all of us from time to time.

•  Nightmares and bad dreams.

Here’s why:  Because of the blurred line between fantasy and reality, bad dreams can feel very real and are likely to peak at this age.

•  Fire, wind, thunder, lightning – anything that seems to come from nowhere.

Here’s why: They are still trying to grasp cause and effect and their minds are curious and powerful. They might scare themselves trying to explain where scary things come from. Lightning might mean the sky is about to catch fire. Thunder – who knows – but anything that loud surely doesn’t come in ‘cute’ or ‘chocolate coated’.

7-11 years.

•  Monsters, witches, ghosts, shadows on the wall at night.

Here’s why: Though their thinking is more concrete, children at this age will still have a very vivid imagination.

•  Being at home alone.

Here’s why: They’re still learning to trust the world and their capacity to cope with small periods of time on their own, without you. Staying at home alone might be exciting, scary or both – then there’s that imagination of theirs that might still ambush them at times.

•  Something happening to themselves or the people (or pets) they care about.

Here’s why: They start to understand that death affects everyone at some point and that it’s permanent. They might start to worry about something happening to themselves or the people (or pets) they care about.

•  Being rejected, not liked, or judged badly by their peers (buckle up – this one might stay a while).

Here’s why: This can show up at any age but it might ramp up or towards the end of these years. This is because they will start to have an increased dependence on their friendships as they gear up for adolescence.

Adolescents (12+)

•  What their peers are thinking of them.

One of the primary developmental goals of adolescence is figuring out how they are and where they fit into the world. As they do this, they will start to worry about what other people think. They also have the job of moving towards independence from you. What their friends think will take on a new importance as they start to make the move away from their family tribe and towards their peer one. They will always love you (though it might not feel that way if you’re weathering one of the storms that comes with adolescence!), but their dependency on you will shift. This is healthy and important and the way it’s meant to be. It’s all part of them growing from small, dependant humans into capable, independent, thriving bigger ones.

•  Themselves or someone they care about getting hurt, becoming sick or dying.

Here’s why: They will be very aware that accidents happen, people get sick, and sometimes you just can’t see it coming. This fear will probably have more muscle if they hear of someone around them becoming sick or getting hurt. Realising that people can break isn’t all bad for them. During adolescence, they will be particularly prone to taking silly risks. It’s all part of them extending into the world and learning what they are capable of. What’s important is keeping their fear at a level that it doesn’t get in the way of them being brave, learning new things, and finding safe ways to discover what they’re capable of.

•  how they’re doing at school, exams, failure, getting into college or university, not being able to ‘make it’ after school.

Here’s why: They’re thinking about life after high school . They want to do well, live a good life, and chase the dreams they’ve been dreaming.

•  Strangers getting into their room at night, war, terrorism, being kidnapped, natural disasters – and any other frightening thing they might hear about in the news.

Here’s why: They realise that bad things happen sometimes but don’t understand the likelihood and the rarity of such events. With their increasing time on social media, they will tend to hear about bad news more often and come to believe that the risk of it happening to them is greater than it actually is.

•  Talking to you about important personal issues.

Here’s why: It’s their job during adolescence to learn how to need you less. Adolescence isn’t always gentle with it’s developmental tasks and needing you less might be felt as ‘loving you less’. It’s not this – they love you as much as ever and however they might act towards you, what you think really does matter to them. They want you to be proud of them and they don’t want to disappoint you.

•  Fear of missing out.

Here’s why: Being connected to their friends and being a part of what’s going on in their friendship group can feel like a matter of life or death. It sounds dramatic and for them, it is – but there is a good reason for this. For all mammals throughout history (think cave-people) and in nature, exclusion from the tribe means has meant almost certain death. For our adolescents, that’s how it feels when they feel on their outside of their tribe – it feels like death. In time they will learn that they will still feel connected to their friends even if they aren’t a part of everything that happens.

What to do:

For babies.

•  Play peek-a-boo.

It will start to teach your baby that even when your face disappears, you’re still there. (That, and because the way their face lights up when they see you is gorgeous.)

•   Teach them that separation is temporary, but go gently.

Practice leaving the room for short periods at a time so your baby can learn that you will always come back. Start with a minute, then, when your baby is ready, move up from there. When you are ready to leave them in the care of others, start with people they are familiar with for short periods, then work gently up from there.

•  Always say goodbye.

Saying goodbye is the most important thing to do when you leave them. Making a quick dash while they are distracted might make things easier in the short term, but it will risk your baby being shocked to find you’re not there. This can add to their fears that you’ll disappear unexpectedly and it also runs the risk of chipping away at their trust. Have your ‘kiss and fly’ routine ready – tell them you’re leaving, a quick kiss, and let them know you’ll be back soon – or whatever works for you. It will be worth it in the long run.

For kids and adolescents.

•   Give them plenty of information.

Even though kids at this age are aware of their environment, they don’t understand all of the things that go on in it. Thunder feels really scary – it’s unpredictable, it’s loud, and for a curious, powerful, inquisitive mind, it can surely feel as though the sky is breaking. For the child who is still getting used the world, it’s not so obvious that they won’t be sucked down the plughole when the bath drains. Point out what they can’t see. (‘Water fits down the plughole, but my arm won’t fit, neither will this boat, or the vacuum cleaner, or the car, or a hippo, or my foot, or my elbow. An ant would fit – wait – maybe that’s why ants don’t have baths! If I’m away from the plughole, nothing happens to me. See?’)

Give them all the information they need to put their scary things in context, where they belong. There’s no such thing as too much talk and at this age, they’re so hungry to learn. Make the most of it. By the time they reach adolescence, you will no longer be as smart (or sought after) as you think you should be. Celebrate their curiosity and feed it. They love hearing the detail of everything you know. You’re their hero and if anyone knows how to make sense of things, it’s you.

•   Meet them where they are.

Some kids will love new things and will want to try everything and speak to everyone. Others will take longer to warm up. Unless it is a child who races towards the unknown like it’s the only thing to do, introduce new things and people gradually. There’s so much to learn and little people do a brilliant job of taking it all in when they’re given the space to do it at their own pace.

•  Play

Play is such an important part of learning about the world. So much of their play is actually a rehearsal for real life. If your child is scared of something, introduce it during play. That way, they can be in charge of whatever it is they are worried about, whether it’s playing with the (unplugged) vacuum cleaner, being the monster, or having a ‘monster’ as a special pet. Give them some ideas, but let them take it from there. Through play they can practice their responses, different scenarios, and get comfortable with scary things from a safe distance.

•  Be careful not to overreact.

It’s important to validate what your child is feeling, but it’s also important not to overreact to the fear. If you scoop your child up every time they become scared, you might be inadvertently reinforcing the fear. Rather than over-comforting, get down on their level and talk to them about it after naming what you see – ‘That balloon scared you when it popped didn’t it.’

•  Don’t avoid.

It’s completely understandable that a loving parent would want to protect their child from the bad feelings that come with fear. Sometimes it feels as though the only way to do this is to support their avoidance of whatever it is that’s frightening. Here’s the rub. It makes things better in the short term, but in the long term will keep the fear well fed. The more something is avoided, the more that avoidance is confirmed as the only way to feel safe. It also takes away the opportunity for your child to learn that they are resilient, strong and resourceful enough to cope. It’s important for kids to learn that a little bit of discomfort is okay and that it’s a sign that they are about to do something really brave – and that they have what they need inside them to cope.

•  Let them explore their fear safely.

Introduce the fear gently, in a way that your child can feel as though they have control. If your child is terrified of the vacuum cleaner, explore it with them while it isn’t plugged in. If your child is terrified of dogs, introduce them to dogs in books, in a movie, through a pet shop window, behind a fence. Do this gradually and in small steps, starting with the least scariest (maybe a picture of a dog) and working up in gently to the fear that upsets them most (patting a real dog). The more you can help them to feel empowered and in control of their world, the braver they will feel. (For a more detailed step by step description of how to do this, see here.)

•  Don’t give excessive reassurance.

If your child has had a genuine fright or is a little broken-hearted, there is nothing like a cuddle and reassurance to steady the ground beneath them. When that reassurance is excessive though, it can confirm that there is something to be worried about. It can also take away their opportunity to grow their own confidence and ability to self-soothe. Finding the scaffold between an anxious thought and a brave response is something every child is capable of. Understandably, it can be wildly difficult to hold off on reassurance, particularly when all you want to do is scoop them up and protect them from the world that they are feeling the hard edges of. What is healthier, is setting them on a course that will empower them to find within themselves the strength and resources to manage their own fear or anxiety. Reassure them, then remind them that they know the answer, or lovingly direct them to find their own answers or evidence to back up their concerns. Let them know you love the way they are starting to think about these things for themselves.

•  Understand the physical signs of fear.

Fear might show itself in physical ways. Children might have shaky hands, they might suck their thumbs or their fingers and they might develop nervous little tics. When this happens, respond to the feelings behind the physical symptoms – fear, insecurity, uncertainty.

•  Something soft and familiar makes the world feel lovelier. It just does.

Toys or special things might be a familiar passenger wherever your child goes. Let this happen. Your child will let go of the toy or whatever special thing they have when they are ready. Security blankets will often be the bridge between the unknown and familiar, and will form a strong foundation upon which they will build confidence and trust in their own capacity to cope with new and unfamiliar things.

•  Be alive to what they are watching on tv or reading in books.

If you can, watch their shows with them to understand how they are making sense of what they see. Some kids will handle anything they see, and others will turn it into a brilliant but terrifying nightmare or vivid thoughts that become a little too pushy.

•  Remember they’re watching.

They’ll be watching everything you do. If they see you terrified of dogs, it will easy for them to learn this same response. Remember though, if you can influence their fears, you can influence their courage. Let them see you being brave whenever you can.

•  Validate their fears and let them put word to their fears.

Let them talk about their fears. The more they can do this, the more they will be able to make sense of the big feelings that don’t make any sense to them at all. Talking about feelings connects the literal left side of the brain to the emotional right side of the brain. When there is a strong connection between the right brain and the left brain, children will start to make sense of their experience, rather than being barrelled by big feelings that make no sense to them at all.

•  Acknowledge any brave behaviour.

Because they’ll always love being your hero and it will teach them that they can be their own.

And finally …

It can always be unsettling when fears come home and throw themselves in your child’s way. Often though, fears are a sign that your child is travelling along just as he or she should be. The world can be a confusing place – even for adults. Of course, sometimes fear will lead to a healthy avoidance – snakes, spiders, crossing a busy road. Sometimes though, fear will be a burly imposter that pretends to be scarier than it is.

Fears are proof that your child is learning more about the world, sharpening their minds, expanding their sense of the world and what it means to them, and learning about their own capacity to cope. As they experience more of the world, they will come to figure out for themselves that the things that seem scary aren’t so scary after all, and that with time, understanding, and some brave behaviour, they can step bravely through or around anything that might unsteady them along the way.

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