Making Back-to-School a Breeze with Classroom Sensory Strategies for Teachers

It’s that time of year again! Each new school year is an exciting time not only for students, but also for teachers! They have worked diligently all summer to prepare their classrooms in order to welcome their new students. Creating a learning environment to fit the needs of each unique student is a big task, but with an understanding of sensory processing and self-regulation and implementation of simple classroom strategies, back-to-school can be a breeze! Blog-Sensory-Classroom-Main-Landscape

What is Sensory Processing?

The classroom is a rich, sensory environment that enhances students’ development. For some students, however, their unique patterns of sensory processing may affect their ability to fully participate in activities. Sensory processing is the body’s ability to filter out important information that is taken in via many sensory pathways and utilize that information to provide appropriate responses within the environment. There may be some students who are over-responsive to input within the classroom, such as covering his or her ears when the fire alarm rings or avoiding art projects that include messy play. For other students, they may be under-responsive and seeking input within the classroom, such as difficulty sitting still at his or her desk and being too rough with peers or classroom materials.

What is Self-regulation?

Sensory processing has a profound impact on self-regulation, which is the ability to maintain an optimum level of arousal in order to participate in daily activities. Self-regulation is a critical component of learning, as it can impact a student’s attention, emotional regulation, and impulse control. Providing individualized sensory experiences increases self-regulation, attention, and overall participation.

Sensory Strategies to Increase Self-regulation Within the Classroom:

Auditory

  • Provide clear, precise, and short directions
  • Ask students to repeat directions back to you
  • Place felt pads or tennis balls on the bottom of chairs to decrease unexpected, loud noises
  • Use large rugs to absorb sound
  • Offer headphones, ear plugs, or calming music
  • Create a “cozy or quiet” corner

Visual

  • Minimize bright or florescent lights
  • Reduce “clutter” within the room, such as art projects or decorations on walls
  • Reduce the amount of words and pictures on worksheets
  • Provide directions on the student’s eye level to increase visual attention
  • Utilize visual schedules
  • Seat students near the front of the room or near you

Tactile

  • Incorporate messy play, including sand trays, finger paint, and shaving cream
  • Do squeezes with Play-doh
  • Utilize hand fidgets while seated at desk or circle time
  • Offer modifications to activities for over-responsive students

Proprioception/Vestibular

  • Incorporate heavy work into the daily routine. Heavy work is any resistive activity that provides deep pressure input to the muscles and joints which provides increased feedback about body position in space.
    • Wall or chair push-ups
    • Animal walks during transition times
  • Utilize sit-and-move cushion or therapy ball for seated work
  • Provide alternatives to sitting at a desk, such as standing to complete work
  • Implement group movement breaks
  • Assign classroom “helpers”
    • Carrying heavy items
    • Pushing in chairs
    • Picking up objects off the floor
    • Passing out papers

Remember, you know your students best! Get to know their individual characteristics and needs prior to implementing these strategies. Whenever possible, consult with an occupational therapist at your school! With the use of these simple strategies, your classroom will provide the best environment for all students to learn and grow!

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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Top Sensory Strategies for Use in the Classroom

Promoting your child’s success at school can be a challenging task, particularly for parents of childrenSensory Strategies with sensory processing difficulties. Communication between parents, teachers and school personnel is critical for establishing a safe, supportive and enriching environment. Children with sensory integration difficulties may have enormous problems in the classroom, not because of a lack of intelligence or willingness to learn, but rather resulting from difficulty coping with a neurologic system that isn’t organizing and responding appropriately to a variety of sensory stimulation from the external world.

A well- organized sensory system is important for everything a child does, especially when it comes to maintaining focus and attention in the environment of a classroom. While the child with sensory integration difficulties can benefit from a sensory-smart classroom, so can every child. All children benefit from a calm, distraction free classroom where they can feel more in control, and in turn, improve their schoolwork and social skills.

The following is a compilation of sensory strategies for use in the classroom to promote the learning potential of every child, including those with sensory processing challenges:

Provide “Heavy Work” Opportunities:

Heavy work gives necessary input to the child’s body, helping him develop an improved body awareness and regulating his system. Allow the child to take responsibility in the classroom by completing specific “jobs.”

  • Carry books to the library, or to another teacher
  • Hand out papers to the class
  • Watering plants in the classroom
  • Push/pull heavy items in the classroom, i.e., chairs, boxes, class supplies
  • Erase the board
  • Empty wastebaskets or recycling

Seating Modifications:

Providing movement opportunities on the child’s seat, or at his desk is a great way to provide necessary sensory input many children crave, while also helping to increase their attention during stationary, table top tasks.

  • Tie a Theraband around the front legs of the child’s chair
  • Provide a wiggle seat to place on the chair surface
  • Allow time for “chair push-ups,” especially before seated writing tasks

Keep Those Hands Busy:

Many children with sensory processing challenges have a need for tactile input, resulting in constant touching of objects, and other classmates. For these kiddos, maintaining an optimal arousal level with regular (and non-distracting) tactile input is important.

  • Place a Velcro strip on, or inside of the child’s desk, or on the edge of his seat
  • Give the child a small bottle of lotion (with a calming scent, such as lavender) to place in his desk, or in his back pack, for those times when he needs to move his hands
  • Experiment with fidgets in a variety of forms: worry stone, paperclips, squeeze ball, necklace fidgets, bracelets, zipper pull fidgets, etc. (For some children, however, these items may be too distracting. If the object is decreasing attention, opt for the sensory input as noted above with Velcro placed on the desk itself.)

Movement Breaks:

All children need frequent breaks from work to get up and stretch and move their bodies. Frequent gross motor breaks help to “wake-up” the body and reset the brain, increasing arousal levels, resulting in improved attention and a calm body

  • Provide simplified yoga routines
  • Try jumping jacks, or marching around the classroom (or at the desk)
  • Try “animal walks,” such as bear walk, crab walk, or frog jumps
  • Recess time with active play including running, jumping and climbing

Reducing Visual and Auditory Stimulus:

For those children who become overwhelmed with too much visual input, or noise in the classroom, try the following strategies to help them maintain attention and focus.

  • Use low light, or natural light as much as possible versus fluorescent lighting
  • Provide a “quiet space” in one corner of the classroom where children can complete work with less distractions (adding beanbags to sit in this space would be a great addition as well)
  • Play quiet, rhythmic music
  • Eliminate clutter on bulletin boards
  • Place a curtain or sheet over open shelves containing games, art materials, toys that may be distracting

Snack Time:

Chewing, biting, or sucking on hard, crunchy items can be very regulating and calming for kids with sensory challenges.

  • Parents can pack chewy food items such as a bagel, or dried fruit to provide great oral proprioceptive input
  • Teachers may want to allow a water bottle with a thick straw to be kept at the desk (adding a little lemon to the water may help arousal levels as well)
  • Parents can pack a wide-mouth straw for eating items such as yogurt and applesauce
  • Provide crunchy fruit and veggie snacks such as apples, carrots and celery

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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Teacher Tips: Accommodating an Anxious Child

Sometimes anxiety can be easy to identify, such as when a child is feeling nervous before a test. Blog-Teacher-Tips-Anxiety-Main-LandscapeHowever, in some children anxiety may look like something else, such as ADHD or a learning disorder.

The following is a list of tips to use in the classroom to accommodate a child with anxiety:

  • Some children may participate in therapeutic services. Therefore, it is imperative to talk with parents/guardian about strategies that work (and do not work) at home. Teachers can use and modify those strategies to help in the classroom.
  • Also, checking in with parents regularly is important to ensure that accommodations are helping and determine necessary adjustments

Homework & Assignments

  • Check that assignments are written down correctly
  • Using daily schedules
  • Modifying assignments and reducing workloads when possible
  • Allowing the child to take unfinished assignments home to complete

In the Classroom

  • Preferential seating that is less distracting
  • With regard to class participation
    • Determine a child’s comfort level with closed ended questions
    • Use signals to let the child know his/her turn is coming
    • Provide opportunities to share knowledge on topics he/she is most confident
    • If possible, only call on the child when he/she raises his/her hand
  • Extended time on tests
  • Provide word banks, equation sheets, and cues when possible
  • Allow for movements breaks throughout the day & relaxation techniques
  • Determine a discreet way the child can indicate he/she needs a break, such as a colored card the child places on his/her desk to signal he/she needs a drink of water, to use the restroom, or any other strategy to lessen feelings of anxiety
  • Allow the use of a fidget for children who have difficulty paying attention

Please refer to the following websites for additional information about anxiety in children and accommodations that can be used, or modified for use, in the classroom.

Resources:

http://www.worrywisekids.org
http://www.childmind.org/en/posts/articles/2015-4-13-anxiety-classroom
http://kidshealth.org/parent/classroom/factsheet/anxiety-factsheet.html
http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/anxiety-disorders-school

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!

Puberty for Children With Autism

One of the most popular questions I get asked from parents of young children with autism is, “What is my child’s future going to look like?” While early intervention is a crucial part of the treatment of autism, thinking ahead to what puberty and the teenage years might look like is an important consideration, as well. Puberty and adolescence are difficult times for every pre-teen, and adding the challenges that come from having a diagnosis of autism can feel overwhelming to you, your child, and your family. It is important to go into this time with tools and strategies to help your child feel as comfortable and confident as possible, while also finding ways for your child to increase their independence in these areas.

Self-Care Skills for children with AutismBlog-Autism-Purberty-Main-Landscape

Self-care skills such as bathing, using deodorant, brushing teeth, and general cleanliness are topics that arise for every pre-teen. For children with autism, simply just stating about what needs to happen may not be enough. Saying, “You need to go take a shower,” may not have the same effect as, “It’s really important to take showers everyday so that our bodies are clean and smell fresh. This way we feel comfortable and healthy, and other people around us do too.”

Using specifics such as this may help children with autism clue in to the “whys” of cleanliness. Additionally, providing visual schedules on the steps of showering, hand-washing, teeth brushing, dressing, etc., can help your child ensure that they are completing each step of the process, while still practicing more independence than if they had a parent or caregiver walking them through the routine.

Friendships/Social Skills

Fostering friendships and forming appropriate relationships with peers and adults at the time of adolescence can be extremely challenging. At this point in life, each child is starting to develop at different times, while interests and abilities are forming at different times and in unique ways. One highly effective strategy to help children with autism understand and participate in social situations are, the very aptly named, social stories.

Social stories can be custom tailored to each individual/situation, and break down any topic clearly using pictures and simple words. For example, a child who struggles with approaching peers in a group could benefit from a social story that focuses on what to say when approaching a group, what to do after saying, “Hi,” how to engage in a simple conversation, and how to say goodbye. These steps would be broken down using pictures (either real or found online), and simple sentences that match the child’s level of understanding. At the age of adolescence, it can be very powerful to have the child themselves be a part of creating the social story so they feel ownership and understand the content on a deeper level.

In addition to social stories, engaging in role-play with peers, adults, siblings, etc., can be very beneficial in helping a child with autism know what to expect in social situations. Practicing scenarios that are likely to happen in real life can help reduce or eliminate some of the anxiety and fear surrounding peers and socialization. For example, having a child practice what to do if someone says something unkind to them, or what to do when they are invited to a birthday party can set the child up for a successful interaction, rather than a situation where they might feel apprehensive or uncomfortable.

Functional Living Skills

By the time a child reaches the age of puberty, there are certain skills that we hope to see them engage in independently. This might be taking on simple chores around the house, making themselves a snack, or taking care of a pet. For all children, including those with autism, it is important that they have exposure to these types of functional living skills, as these will benefit them throughout their lives.

Using the aforementioned social stories, visual schedules, and explaining why we wipe the tables or feed the dog are all helpful strategies, but sometimes those are not enough. Using reinforcement strategies such as token charts/reinforcement systems can be a helpful tool to ensure that your child is participating in the functional activities of the home. For example, a child may be able to earn a star or token for each expected chore completed. Once all tokens have been earned, the child can have access to a highly preferred item such as a video game or special activity.

This token system should start with a few demands, which can be increased as the child shows success. This gives a tangible means of connecting the completion of functional/expected activities to earning a desired effect.

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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Speech and Language Games to Play on Spring Break

Spring Break – the weather is (hopefully) bright and sunny, flowers are beginning to Speech and Language Gamesbloom, and the kids are out of school. What better way to spend this week off than to take a vacation with the whole family. Not only can a Spring Break vacation be a wonderful way to recharge, it can be a great time to grow your child’s speech and language skills, all while playing games.

Many different types of games can help children with language development while also entertaining everyone in the family. These games can be played anytime and easily incorporated into any Spring Break vacation!

Speech and Language Games:

  • Car games: road trips can be a great way to spend quality time with our families. Playing word games on these long road trips can foster close relationships and increase phonological awareness (the knowledge of sounds and their rules in language).
    • With younger children, look at road signs for words beginning with A, B, C, and so on, to encourage letter identification skills. Whoever finds the most wins!
    • For older children, take it one step further and play Name-Place-Job. For example, if someone sees a sign for Baltimore (letter B), he or she has to come up with a name and job to go with it: “I’m Beth from Baltimore, and I’m a beekeeper.” Not only does this game involve more advanced skills (like alliteration), it encourages creativity and vocabulary growth.
  • Board games: board games are fun and educational for the whole family, and many of them are language-based – perfect for facilitating language growth.
    • Elementary-aged children can play Apples to Apples or Apples to Apples, Jr., both of which encourage vocabulary development and word-association networks.
    • Children in middle school can play Taboo, a game where the speaker describes a word to his or her team without saying “taboo” words. Taboo incorporates higher-level, more abstract language skills, such as idioms, multiple-meaning words, and comparing and contrasting.

Spring Break is the perfect time to enjoy some quality family time and focus on language skills.

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 Teachers Can Help a Child With Tourettes

When you look at someone with Tourettes, all you see or hear are the tics. You don’t see the constant struggle, the constant commotion that is going on inside the person’s body. Although it might be easy to assume that when a person is not ticcing, they are okay or calm or not experiencing anything related to Tourettes, more often than not, that assumption would be entirely incorrect.

Here are a few tips on how teachers can help a child with Tourettestourettesteachermain

  1. Trust that if the person did not have an urge to tic, they would not be doing the tic. Know that although there might be some level of control for some kids some of the time, it is difficult to control and takes an inordinate amount of energy. The consequence of “not-ticcing” is often delayed tic-bursts, decreased concentration, lost instructional time and/or social time, and muscle soreness.  The consequence of ticcing is often embarrassment, shame, isolation, muscle soreness, decreased concentration, loss of instructional and/or social time.
  2. Ignore the tics. Don’t worry what the other kids will think or if they will become distracted. Be the role model. Keep on and so will the kids. They will get used to the noises just like you would get used to hearing the sound of a fire truck if you lived near a station or the smell of baked goods if you worked in a bakery.  If the noises bother you, just remember they bother the child a whole lot more…and he can’t walk away from himself.
  3. Remember that, as bad as the tics can be, they are usually just the tip of the iceberg. The common Tourette Syndorome (TS) co-morbid conditions are OCD, ADHD and Learning Disabilities.  Your student is battling, not only a body out of control, but some major disabilities that even adults have difficulty living with.  Remember this is a real, neurological disorder that the child did not ask for and does not want.
  4. Learn as much as you can about the disorder(s) and the child. Just because you knew one kid with Tourettes in the past does not mean that you know anything about the current student. Listen to the parents. Contact the child’s private clinicians. Ask questions. Above all, if the adults in the child’s life feel it is appropriate, talk to the child!  Let him know you are trying to understand, that you will do your best to protect him from the bullies, and that you care.  Let him know it’s okay to tic if he needs to and come up with safe places if he needs to leave the room.
  5. Does your student have behavioral issues? It’s possible that things you think are “bad behaviors” are manifestations of Tourettes. The shouting out? Tourettes. Doing what the teacher says NOT to do?  TS is a disorder of disinhibition. If the child hears “Don’t run” he will most likely feel compelled to run. If he knows he shouldn’t be saying certain words or doing certain things, the premonitory urge will center around those words or those actions and it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for him to control the urge.
  6. Work with administrators to schedule a teacher in-service for all the adults working with the child, including the related arts teachers, lunch monitors and bus drivers. TS does not go away when the child leaves your room. Children with TS need to know that there are in a safe place with understanding adults who will support them.
  7. With parent permission, set up a peer in-service. Have someone who is knowledgeable about TS speak to the students. There are organizations that have teens, young adults and adults who can provide this service.  This will help all the children, including the one with TS, feel less fearful and more comfortable with each other.

Click here for more information on what it’s like to live with Tourettes.

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About the Author: Shari was the 3rd person in IL to be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (1976). Her parents co-founded the IL TS chapter along with several others, including Joe Bliss. In 1978, while at a board meeting in her parent’s home, Mr. Bliss told Shari about his theory of premonitory urges and provided some tips and tricks on how to control the tics. It was the first time Shari felt “understood” and attributes much of her success to Mr. Bliss and his strategies. She co-founded the Illinois Tourette Resource Network in 2014 and is honored that she can continue the legacy of providing TS support to the Illinois community.

Reading Skills By Grade (7-10)

Reading Skills: A Grade by Grade Guide (7-10)

Ready, set, school! Wondering what reading skills your child should have by the end of their respective grade? Refer to the grade-by-grade guide below, based on the Illinois’ common core standards.

By the end of 7th grade your child should be able to:

Analyze how elements of a story interact Analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds on a verse or stanza Analyze how a drama’s or poem’s form or structure contributes to its meaning Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal with a historical portrayal of the same time period
Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound Analyze how two authors writing about the same topic shape their presentations of key information

By eighth grade your child should be able to:

Analyze the extent to which a filmed or live production of a story or drama stays faithful to or departs from the text or script Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events, or character types from myths, traditional stories, or religious works Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development Analyze how a text makes connections and distinctions among and between individuals, ideas, or events
Analyze in detail the structure of a specific paragraph in a text Evaluate advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums to present a topic Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound Analyze two or more texts on the same topic that provide conflicting information

By ninth/tenth grade your child should be able to:

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences from the text Provide objective summaries of texts Analyze how complex characters develop over the course of a text Analyze how the structure of a text, order of events, and manipulation of time create mystery, tension, or surprise
Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the US Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work Analyze seminal US documents of historical and literary significance

All standards have been reported from the Illinois State Board of Education. Additional standards are expected that have not been stated above. If you are concerned with your child’s reading skills, seek the guidance of a neuropsychologist who can help refer you to the appropriate support system.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview 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!

Holiday Birthdays

How to Make Holiday Birthdays Special

Happy Birthday to me! As I sit here writing this it is November 27, Thanksgiving Day, and yes, it’s my golden birthday. A holiday birthday. Hooray! Not! Here I am 27 years old, and I’m still bitter about sharing my birthday with the Turkey. Please don’t let this happen to your child. Don’t let them grow up to be bitter, turkey – resenting, happy birthmas – hating brats. Maybe my suffering won’t be in vain if it helps you save your child from the same fate! Okay, so maybe I’m getting a little dramatic here, but for a kid this is how it feels sometimes. Don’t let the “specialness” of the holiday take away from your child’s own special day.Holiday Birthdays

Here are some ideas to make your child feel special on his holiday birthday:

  1. Make it about them. I made this #1 for a reason. They need to be #1. If their birthday was August 3rd they would be #1, so don’t make them feel any less because they share their birthday with Cupid. Give them a day that’s about them. Celebrate on a different day. If your child’s birthday is on a holiday you should still acknowledge it on the holiday – maybe light candles on a small cake and let them open one small gift. However, it is best to throw any parties on a different day. Usually a week or two before is best, because no kids like to have to wait even longer just because the Pilgrims ate dinner with the Indians on their birthday like 5 million years ago (I know the numbers are a little off, but come on I’m dead on in kid math)! Some families choose to celebrate ½ birthdays instead, so that they have a better budget to focus on their child’s birthday. Or you could take a tip from Alice in Wonderland and have a Very Merry Un-Birthday party – just so long as you make it about your kid.
  1. Separate presents, separate presents, separate presents. Don’t try fooling your kid with the old “we’ll combine your gifts and get you an extra big Christmas gift.” Ha! Yeah right! Your kid is only going to fall for that one once, and remember fool me once! This rarely (if ever) actually happens, and even if it does – kids don’t like to have to wait. At least give them a somewhat decent gift on their birthday, and then give them a better gift for the holiday.
  2. Let them help pick the theme. A Valentine themed birthday may seem cute when they’re little, but they are not going to like sharing their day with Cupid for long, and unless your child is currently crazy about Frozen® – they are not going to be crazy about a Winter Wonderland theme for their December birthday. Let them help pick the theme. If they don’t have an idea you like try giving them a few options, but let them have as much say in it as their brother or sister had for their birthday.
  3. No holiday wrapping paper! Don’t wrap their birthday gift in Christmas paper. I cannot stress enough – your kid wants to feel special on their day. Please wrap their birthday gift separately. If you don’t want to buy more paper, try using the comics section from a newspaper to wrap their gift. Kids love that kind of stuff!
  4. Keep it fair. Keep in mind what you spent, and how much effort was put into their siblings’ birthdays. Try to keep it fair.
  5. Communicate with them. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to make your kid feel special. Just communicate with them. Let them know how special they are to you, and how much you love them. That’s the most important part!

That’s it. My rant is over. Hopefully, my suggestions will help some other kids.

Whatever you may be celebrating this month, I wish you- Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, and of course Happy Birthday!

childhood friendship

Help! I Don’t Like My Child’s Friend

Have you ever found yourself saying “I don’t like my child’s friend?” As children develop their autonomy and sense of self, their friendships often times reflect their interests, values, and status in the social environment. Whether it is in school, on the soccer field, or in religious school class, children are exposed to a variety of peers and have many opportunities to connect with others to satisfy a sense of stability within the social fabric of their world. Although the acquiring of peers can be a validating and comforting process, what is the role of the parent when your child has identified a “bad egg” that you just can’t stand???

Tips When You Don’t Like Your Child’s Friend

childhood friendship

Help! I don’t like my child’s friend

  1. Recognize and monitor your feelings. These feelings are your feelings and not the same sentiments that your child experiences. Be cognizant of how you talk about this friend and the non-verbal language that you may communicate (not asking questions about this one particular friend, using a sarcastic tone, exasperated speech when you find out your child spent all of recess/lunch with this person, closed off posture, etc.) as these send messages to your child about how you feel about their friend. Your negative feelings may cause your child to become tight-lipped about their future interactions, therefore reducing the ability to process why this person might not be great friend material. On the contrary, your child may become awkward or cut-off from their friend but not truly understand why they are not a good fit. Check your emotions before dialoguing about this friend to turn every opportunity into a calm, teaching opportunity.
  2. Identify the value that your child finds in this friend and help them to develop more appropriate boundaries and relationships. Sit down with your child and find out what value and function this friend serves. Are they loud but nice? Impulsive yet inclusive? Are they mean yet popular? Help your child create a list of criteria that constitutes “good friends” and help them see that popular is not as important as being inclusive, kind, and share common interests. Also it is important to note that just because the friend might be loud or impulsive, does that constitute not being a good friend? Everyone has a variety of qualities and in this situation, do the good outweigh the bad as no one is perfect.
  3. Get your eyes on the situation to oversee what you perceive as negative to, in fact, determine if this person is a negative influence. Have your child invite their friend over to observe their interactions, how this person treats your child, and to evaluate all qualities to determine if your bias is accurate. Where does your bias come from? Your experiences, both positive and traumatic from growing up. Sometimes working overtime to prevent against negative experiences in your child’s peer relationships limits their bank of experiences and the lessons they can learn even from situations that may seem upsetting.

Read here for valuable tips on how to help your child find the right friends.

a beginning babysitters guide-discipline basics

A Beginning Babysitter’s Guide – Discipline Basics

Discipline. Uh oh! Not the D word! Discipline is one of my least favorite parts of babysitting. It is not pleasant for you or the kid, but sometimes it is necessary. Luckily I’ve found some great ways to handle discipline and even prevent the need for it in many cases.  Hopefully these discipline basics will help you out.

 Discipline Basics for Babysitters-Prevention:

  • Prevention is key as you may have noticed from my other blogs, I am all about being proactive anda beginning babysitters guide-discipline basics prepared. Many people don’t realize how much they can do to prevent bad behavior and the need for discipline. Surprisingly there is actually a LOT you can do to help.
  • Energy – It’s a fact of life. Little kids have lots of energy…. And they need to let that energy out. Sometimes lazy or tired people try to force these kids to sit still and watch TV or play by themselves, but the kid just can’t seem to do it. Then they get in trouble, throw a fit, and continue to act up for hours on end! This can all be prevented.

Look for things they already have around their house to play with and get energy out. Maybe you’ll even hit the jackpot like I have with the  3-year old I batmansit right now (he’s “too old” to babysit, and he calls himself batman all the time – so yes, I batmansit). His parents bought him his own mini bounce house and put it in his basement play room. I love that thing! He gets to bounce his little butt off and let all of his energy out. I told them it was a present for me just as much as him! Yes, the kids you sit for most likely will not have their own private jump-jump, but look around and get creative. Start a game of Simon Says or Monkey See Monkey Do or better yet take them outside and let them run!

  • Attention – Many times kids act up as a plea for attention. Sometimes it can be difficult when sitting for a baby with an older sibling. The baby requires lots of time and attention, but the older sibling kind of gets the shaft. Get the older sibling involved in something you’re doing with the baby, talk to and play games with him while you hold the baby, and focus 100% on them once the baby goes to sleep. Just that little bit of attention can prevent meltdowns later.
  • Communicate – A lot of problems can be prevented if you communicate in advance with the kid about what is going to happen. If you let them know “we’re going to go to bed in about an hour” etc… it helps ease them into it.

I have another great example with my little “batman”– usually at bedtime he asks about his parents, and I remind him that “Mommy and Daddy will be here when you wake up.” He knows that to be true, but still likes a little extra re-assurance. However, we are about to have a big change. This weekend I will be watching him two days in a row with an overnight stay. This is a big step for him, so I’ve been slowly working him up to it. We’ve talked about it for the past 3 or 4 weeks, so he knows what is coming and has now accepted it. He’s even excited now about our upcoming “pajama party.” This little bit of communication has probably saved me a long day and night of tears!

What to Do When Prevention Does Not Work:

Although preparation is a life-saver, it is not going to prevent every problem. Sometimes, you will ultimately have to discipline your “little monster.” Here are the basics steps to effectively handle the task.

  1. Talk to their parents in advance – find out what the house rules are before the parents leave, and how they discipline bad behavior (This way you never have to guess at whether a kid’s statement about how “Mommy or Daddy always let me do this.” is true or not.)
  2. Give a warning – In a calm yet firm tone explain to them that if the behavior continues, he will receive “______” as a consequence.
  3. Stick to your guns – If you warn the child and he continues then you have to follow through or he will walk all over you forever – he now owns you! 😉
  4. Take a deep breath and don’t make it personal – Sometimes a kid can try your last nerve, and it can make you want to lose it. You should never take out your anger on a kid. Take a deep breath and administer the discipline with a clear head.
  5. Remove the problem source – If he abuses something he loses it. End of story. If he is hitting a sibling with something, or blasting the TV too loud, then simply take access to the item away and explain thathe can have it back when he begins to behave.
  6. Time out is a sitter’s best friend – Time outs are really the easiest method, and most parents will approve of this tactic. Calmly sit the child in a quiet area and tell him to stay there. Set a timer – a good rule of thumb is one minute for every year of the child’s age (2 minutes for 2 year old, 5 minutes for a 5 year old etc…) When the timer goes off, go over to the child, make eye contact, and calmly remind him why he was in a time out. then explain what you expect from him in the future, ask if he is ready to go play nicely. This might also be a good time for a hug.

There you have it! Hopefully, discipline doesn’t seem to be quite so scary now. Stay tuned for more upcoming blogs with more great tips and tricks of the babysitting trade trade!

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