Creative Conversation Starters: Get Your Child to Talk to You

Having regular conversations with your child can be beneficial in many ways. You get to learn more about each other and further develop your relationship with them. Additionally, you can helblog-conversation-starters-main-landscapep
their confidence, self-esteem and their social skills.

I understand it can be difficult to find time between your busy schedule and their busy schedules, so we have to get creative! Some ideas of times you can maximize to get conversations with your child can be during a car ride to and from their activities, in a waiting room, during dinner and before bedtime as a part of their routine!

Get the Conversation Going

When I say conversation, it doesn’t have to be dry. Get creative with topics that may be fun or interesting to your child!

Here are some ideas to use as conversation starters:

  • Check in with your child daily. Ask about their day, what was something interesting that happened to them, what did they like about their day or what is something that could have been better.
  • Play 20 questions by thinking of an object, animal or person and have the child ask 20 questions to find the answers by only asking yes or no questions. Take turns!
  • Telling a story! If you or your child can’t think of one, you can go in a circle and say a word each to tell a silly story.
  • Take turns telling jokes.
  • Play would you rather with your kid. Ask age appropriate questions like would you rather not be able to go outside all day or not be able to go inside all day? Would you rather have a pool filled with chocolate chip cookies or Oreo cookies?
  • You can have a jar of questions at the dining room table. Place previously written questions in a jar and take turns going around the table answering them. The questions can be general like what is your favorite food, sport, vacation, music or movie? You can purchase one already made.
    • You can also incorporate specific questions if you are wanting to work on a particular area such as self-esteem. Then you can add questions such as: what do you like best about how you look? What do your friends say they like about you? What do you do that gives you confidence?
  • Play games that allow for open conversation. There are many out there including Chat Pack, Scruples, or Thumball are a few favorite.

Remember

Remember the point is to get the conversation going and have fun with your child! This helps further develop your relationship with them, because you are creating opportunities for them to share, problem solve and to know they can discuss anything with you. You are modeling appropriate behaviors, social skills and self-esteem. Who better to teach them this than you! Remember to really listen and respond in cool/calm way, there is no judging their response if they are being silly or answering sincerely. If you want to mold their response because you feel they could have done better you can ask: “What is another way you can answer that?” or “How would that feel if that was you?”

Resources:

http://idealistmom.com/raise-kind-kids/

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Social Work

10 Tips for a Positive, Fun and Confident Transition Back to School

The next few weeks are full of big and exciting changes! Back-to-school time can be full of fun and excitement, but also can bring up worries and nervous feelings. It is normal for children to Blog-School-10Tips-Main-Landscapeexperience sadness, worry or feel unsure as they embark on new classrooms, new friends, and new experiences. With support and help to manage their emotions, young children can be successful and experience delight and fun in their new adventures.

Teachers work hard to provide children with the support and encouragement for a smooth and positive back to school transition and help to build comfort and confidence at school.

Parents and families can continue the support and encouragement at home to help their child feel successful and happy as they head back to school with the following 10 tips:

  1. Talk through the steps of a new situation so children can know what to expect and can feel prepared. It also allows you to see how they might be feeling about it. Children don’t need to repeat it or have a long conversation about it, just the basics on what to expect can help.

Talk about, draw or write down the steps to a new experience (even if your child isn’t reading yet), visuals provide a concrete guide that children like to follow. It is helpful to talk during a calm moment the night before, during meal time, or earlier in the day. Provide the steps clearly and concisely and let them know what you expect.

Talk about specifics that are new like car line and drop off. Talk through the steps of car line. “First we will pull up in line with the other cars, we will wait our turn, I will let you know when it’s time and then a teacher will come to the car door to walk you into school. We will wave goodbye and you will walk safely and calmly into school.” Provide specific cues on what you would like to see from your child.

  1. Practice! Children love to move and be independent. Physically practicing a new task gives them the confidence to do it on their own when it’s time.

Take a walk up the stairs and let them show you their new classroom. Give the children the opportunity to be the leader and teach you all about the new classroom, materials or a new rule. Walk through the front door or observe older friends during car line together.

  1. Acknowledge their feelings and listen to their thoughts and worries. We often don’t experience just one emotion around new experiences and they are all normal and okay! Remember to acknowledge, not fix.

Let them know you understand: I know it can be sad to say goodbye to your teacher and friends.  Share a time you felt nervous at doing something new. Children love to hear about adult feelings and know that you have different feelings too!

  1. Be encouraging and show confidence that they will be okay! Children take their cues from adults so our ability to manage our emotions and stay calm and positive is important.

A calming hand on a shoulder, practicing three deep breaths together to be calm, noticing our own body and actively trying to relax, and being consistent with the drop-off will model calm, consistency and confidence for your child.

  1. Consider a routine or ritual that can support a positive drop off.

Listen or sing the same song daily or have a special goodbye high-five upon arrival. Allow these moments to help cue to children that it is time to say goodbye.

  1. Make a calendar together that shows what day school starts.

Children can mark off the days with X’s or stickers to feel prepared and know what to expect.

  1. Share a plan for after school or when you get home so that your child can predict the end of the day. Knowing that they will have special time with you will allow children to feel safe and secure, to explore, and work hard at school.

Have a special after school activity planned on the first day like walking to the park, eating a favorite meal together or getting in PJs right after school to relax and watch a movie.

  1. Take time for quiet time or special moments and extra hugs leading up to the new school year and as they adjust to their new routine and schedule.

Plan for a fun snack together outside or listen to calming music in the car ride home.

  1. Anticipate that there will be upsets and tiredness. Transitions are hard for everyone. Young children are working hard to regulate and focus to meet the expectations of their new classrooms and get to know the rules. This takes a lot of work and often results in upsets and tiredness at home. Be patient and flexible.

Just like we may want to come home and relax on the couch after a hard day, children may need a little more time, support, and understanding to manage expectations and emotions they are experiencing during big transitions. Offer help to complete a task rather than another verbal reminder. Allow extra time to get ready in the morning or to get ready for bed. Slowing down and supporting will allow for a positive, peaceful transition for all.

  1. Focus on familiar routines and consistency at home. Stick to a morning and bedtime routine as best as you can (even if you have been able to move away from it over the summer or as they got bigger). Routine and rituals provide children with a sense of stability and safety so they can go out and explore their world with confidence!

Bring back that favorite book and read it nightly or add in time where each family member shares a feeling or experience from their day over dinner or before bed.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Social Work

Handling the Death of a Family Pet

Pets, be it a furry dog, fluffy cat, or bright orange fish, become honorary family members quite quickly. Dealing with the Death of a PetHave you glanced at the latest family drawing your child created at school? My guess is the family pet is in the mix. Handling the death of the family pet can be an overwhelming and emotional experience not only for parents, but for children in the family as well. Below are some ways to help your child through this difficult time:

Planning the Goodbye

Although some pet deaths are unexpected, when they are not it is important that your child be able to take part in the goodbye process in an age-appropriate way. This could include writing a goodbye letter to their furry friend or drawing their pet a picture. These activities can help with the grieving process as they allow your child to review positive memories and experiences, as well as express their feelings in a healthy way. For younger children, it may also be helpful to read children’s books addressing this topic as a jumping off point for parent-child conversations related to your pet.

Informing your Child’s Support System

Letting your child’s teachers and caregivers know about the recent passing of a pet can create a safe environment for your child to express their feelings. Children, just like adults, may seem off, irritable, or sad during these times. When adults caring for children are made aware of recent events, they can be on the lookout for these emotional changes and be more accommodating as needed.

Moving Forward After Death

Each family is different regarding their interest in continuing to care for a pet. As the grieving process unfolds it may be helpful to speak with your child about the possibility of adopting a new family pet. Although your previous pet is irreplaceable, the process of adopting a new pet can allow for your family to work together and create a caring home for a pet in need.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Social-Emotional and Behavioral Red Flags for Toddlers and Preschoolers

It might be hard to imagine what mental health concerns may look like for your toddler or preschooler. Red FlagsHowever, it is important to realize that children experience the same emotions as adults do. They experience happiness, sadness, anger, fear, loneliness and embarrassment, however, they do not always know how to express these feelings in appropriate ways, so it’s important to look for red flags. When their feelings get too big, children do not always have the words to use to express themselves, resulting in using challenging or unsafe behaviors to express these big feelings. These behaviors make learning, play and relationships at home, and in the classroom difficult and can be very distressing and frustrating for everyone involved.

Here is a list of common red flags that can help you to determine if your child needs support:

  • Separation Anxiety:
    • Extreme distress (crying, tantruming and clinging to you) when separating from you or knowing that they will be away from you.
    • The symptoms last for several months versus several days
    • The symptoms are excessive enough that it is impacting normal activities (school, friendships, and family relationships).
    • The continuation or re-occurrence of intense anxiety upon separation after the age of 4 and through the elementary school years.
  • Social Concerns:
    • Little interest in playing with other children.
    • Poor body awareness that impacts relationships with peers
    • Failure to initiate or to participate in activities
    • Difficulty making eye contact with others
  • Behavioral Problems:
    • Defiance: Failure to follow rules or listen to directions and is often argumentative with adults.
    • Overly Aggressive Behavior:
      • Temper tantrums that last more than 5 to 10 minutes.
      • Excessive anger through threats, hitting, biting, and scratching others, pulling hair, slamming/throwing objects, damaging property, and hurting others.
  • Difficulty with Transitions:
    • Difficulty focusing and listening during transitions
    • Extremely upset when having to transition from one activity to another. Before or during each transition, your child may cry excessively or have temper tantrums that last more than 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Excessive Clinginess or Attention Seeking with Adults
    • Excessive anxiety related to being around new and/or familiar people/situations.
    • Child freezes or moves towards you by approaching you backwards, sideways or hiding behind you. Your child behaves this way in most situations and no matter how you support them, they continue to avoid interacting with others.
  • Attention concerns:
    • Difficulty completing tasks and following directives on a daily basis.
    • Easily distracted and has difficulty concentrating or focusing on activities.
  • Daily Functioning Concerns:
    • Toileting: Difficulty potty training and refuses to use the toilet.
    • Eating issues: Refusing to eat, avoids different textures, or has power struggles over food
    • Sleeping problems: Difficulty falling asleep, refuses to go to sleep, has nightmares or wakes several times a night.

Children can exhibit concerns in the above areas off and on throughout their childhood. It is when these behaviors begin to impact peer and family relationships, cause isolation, interfere with learning and cause disruptions at home and in school that it is time to reach out for support.

Who can help?

  • Licensed Clinical Social workers (LCSW),
  • Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors (LCPC),
  • Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT)
  • Psychologists

Therapists will work with your child to help them to learn how to handle their big feelings and behavioral challenges. Therapists will use a variety of modalities during sessions including play, art, calming and self-regulation strategies, behavioral therapy, parent-child therapy, and parent education and support. They can also provide parent support and coaching to assist in diminishing the challenging behaviors at home. Often these professionals will collaborate with your child’s school and can provide additional support for your child within the school setting.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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The Increasingly Crucial Family Calendar

Oh no, was that today?” How many times have you uttered those words? With work BlogFamily-Calendar-Main-Landscapeschedules, school schedules, soccer, ballet, etc. a family calendar is a must have! When my children were young we kept a large paper calendar hanging on the kitchen wall, but calendars have come a long way since then. Although some people still opt for the paper calendar, there are many electronic calendar options available today that make organizing hectic family schedules a snap.

Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind when selecting a family calendar:

  1. Who will be using the calendar? Is the calendar intended for iPhone use only or can it be accessed by Android users? Can existing calendars be imported? For instance, with Cozi you can import your Google calendar.
  1. What printing features are important to you? Many calendar systems have the weekly view option but are you interested in printing a monthly view? Google calendar allows you to print the entire month at a glance.
  1. What additional features are you looking for in a calendar? Do you want daily reminders for appointments? What about menu planning or even chore reminders? With Famjama you can manage teams and groups, send email blasts, and share events with friends!

Using an electronic family calendar allows you to add appointments, view schedules, and plan ahead for upcoming events. With an electronic calendar you can set reminders, and send notifications to other family members. You can even use the calendar as a visual tool to prevent your child from becoming over-scheduled!

For a more detailed review of the best family calendars check out “The 6 Best Family Calendars” blog by MomOf6.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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How to Help Your Child Cope with the Suicide of a Friend

For a child losing a friend through suicide brings up a lot of questions and emotions, such as why did this happen or what could have been done? A teen or adolescent may have copingwithsuicide-mainmany mixed feelings or may feel “numb.” Whatever they are feeling, your role as the parent is to help them and be supportive. Reassure the child whatever feelings they might experience, they have permission to let them out. If they want to keep to themselves for a while, let them. Don’t tell a child how they should or should not feel. Also, don’t discourage them from expressing negative emotions like anger. Talking about suicide will not increase the risk that others will go on to take their own lives. In fact, like a death from any other serious illness, suicide is now part of the family’s health history. Knowing the truth about mental illness and suicide enables all surviving family members to be appropriately vigilant about their own health moving forward, and take preventative steps.

Although it’s understandable that adults naturally wish to protect children from pain or bad news, shielding children from the truth can undermine trust and create a legacy of secrecy and shame that can persist for generations. You can protect children best by offering comfort, reassurance, and honest answers to their questions.

A child may experience the following feelings and that’s okay:

  • Abandoned – that the person who died didn’t love them.
  • Feel the death is their fault – if they would have loved the person more or behaved differently.
  • Afraid that they will die too.
  • Worried that someone else they love will die or worry about who will take care of them.
  • Guilt – because they wished or thought of the person’s death.
  • Sad.
  • Embarrassed – to see other people or to go back to school.
  • Confused.
  • Angry – with the person who died, at everyone.
  • Lonely.
  • Denial – pretend like nothing happened.
  • Numb – can’t feel anything.
  • Wish it would all just go away.

Tips on Explaining Death to Children and Teens

  1. Use the correct language- never use euphemisms. Do not use phrases as Grandma went to sleep or went away. These explanations can lead young children to become afraid to go to sleep or worried when parents leave the house and “go away.”
  2. Be honest with them and encourage their questions and expressions of emotions. It is important that kids know they can talk about it (even if you don’t have all the answers) and be sad, angry, scared, or whatever emotions they feel.
  3. Kids often will repeatedly ask the same questions; it is how they process information. As frustrating as this can be, continue to calmly tell them that the person has died and can’t come back. Also, do not discourage their questions by telling them they are too young.

If you believe your child could benefit from speaking with a specialist, click here.

Resources

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

An Age by Age Guide on How to Talk to Children About the Paris Attacks

CHILDHOOD DEPRESSION CHECKLIST

 

Find Out If Your Child Has A Possible Childhood Depression Disorder With This Easy To Follow Checklist.

 

C  Users Owner Pictures NSPT Website Photos sad boyWhat is Childhood Depression? 
We all know when an adult is sad and depressed – they cry easily, prefer to be alone, and can verbally express their feelings. It is often hard, however, to identify depression in young children because it often mimics other disorders and concerns, including inattention, impulsively, aggression and learning problems. The free checklist includes warning signs for parents and teachers should look out for.

Depression is a fairly common childhood disorder.  Recent studies have indicated that anywhere between 6 to 8 percent of children and adolescents exhibit symptoms of depression that are characteristic of a diagnosis of major depression.

With This Easy to Use, Free Depression Checklist You Will:

    • Identify issues and have the opportunity to provide appropriate help to enable your child/student’s success.
    • Have a great tool to identify Depression Symptoms at your next visit with your pediatrician.

 

  • Have a true understanding if you should seek outside help!

 

This Checklist is a must for any parent, teacher or physician looking to find answers!