“I Don’t Know How She Does It!”: How Do We Balance Our Careers With Our Family Life?

High-powered finance executive by day, devoted wife and mother of two by night. “I don’t know how she does it!” How does she balance her career path with her family life? The movie “I don’t know how she does it,” starring Sarah Jessica Parker, sets out to explore this age-old question. So how do you do it? How do you successfully balance your professional and balancing work and familypersonal life? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers, nor is there one answer that works for everyone.

Explore these questions to decide what fits for you and your life:

1. What are my priorities at this point in my life?

  •  Priorities change over time. Your priorities may change based on your age, the age of your children, where you are in your career, and your relationships with partners, friends, relatives, and co-workers.
  • Exploring with yourself what your current priorities are can help you formulate a plan. If your priority is time spent with your children, for example, what will that look like when you have a deadline to meet? If your priority is advancement in your career, what will that look like when your family decides to go on vacation? Exploring these difficult questions beforehand can help you brainstorm possible ways to act based on your priorities.
  • Periodically asking yourself about your priorities is a helpful way to remind yourself that it is normal and okay for priorities to shift and for your answers to career/family balance questions to also change.

2. What are my boundaries?

  • Many parents discuss the importance of boundaries when it comes to their professional and personal lives. Setting boundaries is one way to maintain guidelines.
  • Questions of career/family balance occur often. Your boss asks you to stay late, but your child has a math test the next day. Your children want to spend time with you, but you have a presentation to work on. Having pre-set boundaries can give you something to fall back on.
  • Asserting and communicating your boundaries to your workplace and family is important so that everyone is informed and on the same page about the way you want to balance your professional and personal life.

3. How can I cope when things do not go the way I had planned or hoped?

  • Exploring your priorities and setting boundaries will not set answers in stone for you. Sometimes you make difficult choices in a way that you had not planned. Sometimes you cannot keep your boundaries. This is normal and okay—juggling a career with a family is extremely complicated and challenging, and no one does exactly what they planned or hoped to do every time.
  • Accept yourself as a human being that may have to make choices that you did not anticipate. Explore with yourself what can help you cope when this time comes. Do you write in a journal? Talk to a friend or spouse? Exercise? Take some alone time? What is it that works for you to feel hopeful, at peace, and confident in yourself as an employee and parent? How can you let go of possible guilty, sad, anxious, or hopeless feelings?

4. How can I gain support?

  • Balancing your career and family life is a constant process and journey, and as employees and parents, reaching out for help and support is vital for your well-being.
  • When do you need support? Recognizing when you need help is important so that you receive the support you deserve. What helps you feel supported? Take some time to think about what makes you feel refreshed, energized, calm, and happy. With busy schedules of maintaining the career/family balance, some parents may say they do not have time to engage in self-care activities. Taking time (even if it is just 5 minutes) to feel supported, however, can help you feel more energized throughout the day.

Exploring these questions about career/family life balance can help you to begin thinking about how YOU would answer the question of “How do you do it?” No two parents are exactly alike, and answering this challenging question in a way that fits with your unique beliefs, background, needs, wants, family, and career is important, rather than finding the “right” answer.

So, parents: How do you do it? Sharing your stories with each other can create connection, spark new ideas to try, and help you to see that every person balances their careers and family life differently.

Here is a list of how some of our very own North Shore Pediatric Therapy staff maintain the career/family balance:

CEO, Married, Father of 5:

“First, you can bring your kids to work once in awhile and let them experience your work world. You can also talk about issues that are age-appropriate with your children so they learn what you do and what you deal with so they become interested, learn, and grow from your work experience. This can also help them to work harder at school with their peers. Another suggestion is to ask your children if they feel they have enough time with you, and if not, ask them how would they like things to change for the better. Scheduling in one-on-one time with your children is a good way to help them feel important. Be interested in their work and what they do in school. It is important that you’re not just talking about your work but letting them know their work is also important—acknowledge their stresses and responsibilities.”

President/Founder, Married, Mother of 5:

“First, don’t forget your children at school! Oh boy, I have five and a few times when I was treating kids at NSPT late I got calls to work from the kids ‘Hi mom, I’m in the office, you forgot to pick me up!’ The best thing is that the kids knew I was working hard and loved it and they knew when I wasn’t working I was 100% all for them. Turn off all screens and concentrate on them when you are “off” and they will always be “on” for you! Second, kids actually don’t want SO MUCH attention from you. So, when they come home from wherever they are, just turn 100% attention to them. Tell them they have 20 minutes of YOU YOU YOU. You will see that after about 3-5 minutes of talking to you or hugging or whatever they need, they have other business to tend to like playing, eating, talking on the phone, homework, friends, pets, and will continue on their merry way! Third, work somewhere where you are happy. Happy mom equals happy family!”

Family-Child Advocate, Married, Mother of 3:

“We just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary on the 11th and have 3 children. Our oldest son Bill just graduated from medical school in June, our daughter Caitlin was married in May and our youngest Matthew has moved back to complete college at UIC for pre-med. All three have had learning differences so in addition to always working full time we had to factor in therapy and tutoring etc. We found that good communication and ORGANIZATION were the keys to getting it all done. In our case it was not “I don’t know how she does it”, it was always “This is mandatory for success” so it took priority and a schedule. We have a large centralized calendar and we had family meetings once a month to go over the schedule and we gave responsibility to the kids when they were old enough! Another thing that is key to getting it all accomplished is a sense of humor! Things happen and the wheels fall off of the best laid plans, but it helps to laugh!”

Clinical Consultant, Married, Mother of 2:

Make sure you leave work at work. When you come home and see your children for the first time, pay attention to them. Assign a time every night to hear about their day, talk about what they did and just spend valuable time with them. Save your work stories for your spouse after the kids go to bed. If you work from home it is especially important that your children know how long you will be on the computer for or on a conference call for. You can say to them “Mommy will be doing work for 45 minutes, but after I am done you get to choose an activity for us to do together”. You can even set a timer so they have a visual of when you will be able to bring your attention back to them. Leave weekends to family time. We call every Sunday “Sunday Funday Family Day” in our house. The children know that on that day they have our undivided attention!”

Neuropsychologist, Married, Father of 2:

“When I get home, my wife and I focus on our kids…getting them fed, going through routines, preparing for school the next day, spending time together…until they go to bed. Then, my wife and I have time together, where we process our days. Any work that I have to do, I do when everyone is asleep. So my time is spent first on my kids, then my wife, and then me.”

Occupational Therapist, Married, Mother of 2 toddlers:

“First, I love my career and my family. That helps everything. Second, I decided that the concept of balance, as it relates to career and family life, is unrealistic for me. So I have gone with the concept of seasons or synergy instead. Some weeks I’m going to come in to work early, stay late, and work on the weekends, some weeks the opposite will be true. If I expect that of my career and communicate that ahead of time to my family I don’t feel I’m disappointing them or myself during he hard weeks. Finally, I really value and prioritize my relationship with my husband – we are the ones running our crazy show together, so we need to be happy together for the most part.”

Speech Language Pathologist/Branch Director, Married, Mother of 1:

“As a mom of a 12 month old boy, I think the balance is all about finding a schedule and sticking to it. If you know what works, make sure to keep a routine that is predictable for you and your child. However, you also need to be flexible and able to change, so your schedule shouldn’t be too rigid. Most importantly, laugh! Keep a good sense of humor and go with the flow, even if things don’t turn out as planned. So what if the dishes aren’t washed and the laundry isn’t folded. At least my son went to bed happy and I have some quiet time to catch up with my husband and work!”

We would love to hear what you do, post a comment and tell us how you manage to balance work and family!

Bossy Girls: How To Manage Your Daughter’s “Diva-ness”

Bossiness can be perceived in different ways. Some people see it as being rude and controlling. While others view it as an bossy girlindividual knowing what they want and standing up for it. No matter how it is viewed, most parents do not want their children to be bossy. Many parents fear that their children will lose friends if they are bossy and absorbed only in themselves.

3 suggestions to help you manage your bossy daughter:

1. Talk About It.

Help your daughter understand what it means to be a good friend. Provide situations in which she has been a good friend by cooperating, appropriately playing, and making decisions with her friends. Also, discuss situations in which she has not been a good friend by acting bossy and controlling situations.

Help her realize that being bossy and controlling is not okay and have her identify more appropriate ways to interact with her friends. For example, stress the importance of listening to her friends and sharing and taking turns on what they want to do. Cooperation is another skill that can be taught, as well as teaching her to make suggestions and provide choices rather than just being demanding.

2. Practice.

After you discussed more appropriate ways for your daughter to play and interact with her friends, you should role-play different scenarios. Provide different situations in which she can either be a cooperative friend or a bossy friend. Have your daughter explain what she would do in the different situations. Throughout these role-playing exercises, provide your daughter guidance and feedback.

3. In the Moment.

When your daughter is playing with her friends, you want to be able to catch her in the moment. When she is appropriately playing with her friends and being a good friend, provide praise for these nice interactions. If you observe her being bossy, pull her aside and let her know that she is being bossy and not being a good friend and explain why.

Instead of calling your daughter out in front of her friends, it is best to talk to her in a different room or even whisper in her ear. If she continues the behavior after you bring it to her attention, give her a time-out. Let her know that when she is ready to be a good friend she can go back to playing with her friends. While in time-out, you can have her write an apology letter to her friends or after the time-out, you can have her verbally apologize to her friends.

If your daughter gives attitude toward you, let her know that the way she is acting is not okay and have her restate what she said in a nicer tone/manner. If she continues to be bossy or rude do not grant her request until she can make the request in an appropriate manner.

Sugar Not to Blame for ADHD

Sugar has been hypothesized for years as being a major culprit in the rise of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

In fact, this notion was so popular and accepted that it was actually paired as the correct answer to the statement, “The major cause of hyperactivity in North America” on the Kid with junk foodtelevision show Jeopardy in January of 1987 (Barkley, 2000). It is surprising that such claims have been made and still held onto today even though not a single scientific study has supported them.

Why people blame ADHD in children on sugar:

Why do parents and many practitioners hold on to such claims then? Why is the idea that sugar will make you hyper so popular? One suggestion has been postulated by two psychologists from the University of Kentucky in a study published in 1994 is the power of psychological suggestion.

In this study, the authors created a condition in which the mothers of several boys who rated their children as being “sugar sensitive” were instructed that their child was either given a drink with sugar or a sugar free drink; when in fact none of the children were given any sugar in the drinks. The mothers were then asked to rate their child’s behavior after they were given the drink.

Results indicated that the mothers who thought their children had ingested a sugary drink rated their children as being more hyperactive.

The mothers were also:

  • More critical of their physical activities
  • Maintained closer physical proximity to their children
  • Talked more frequently to the children then the parents who thought the child consumed the sugar free drink.

What this study indicates as pointed out by Barkley (2000) is that “what parents believe about a dietary cause of hyperactivity (e.g. sugar) not only can bias their reports but also can change the way the parents treat their children.”

Causes of ADHD:

So, sugar does not cause ADHD, but what does?

What numerous research articles have indicated is that both genetic and environmental factors produce the cluster of symptoms that make up the condition. What is known is that genetics has(have) the largest factor in the expression of ADHD. Research has indicated that up to 80% of the variance in the expression of ADHD symptoms is directly related to genetics (Marks, Trampush, & Chacko, 2010).

Beyond genetics, research has demonstrated the importance of two major neurotransmitters in the expression of the condition: dopamine and norepinephrine. Thus, it comes as no surprise that majority of stimulant and non-stimulant pharmacological interventions for ADHD target these two neurotransmitters.

Overall, much hype has been made regarding the impact that sugar has on the expression of ADHD; specifically many individuals hold the notion that sugar increases hyperactivity. Not a single empirical research study has supported that notion. What research has supported is that the cause of the disorder is the same cause of the majority of mental health disorders; a combination of genetics and the environment.

Teaching Turn Taking

While sitting at the park you begin to wonder why it appears to be so effortless for other kids to enjoy playing and interacting together when your child has a difficult time with what seems to be such an easy activity. Relax, we have all Kids taking turnsbeen there.

Teaching turn taking is a challenge for all kids and is even more difficult for kids on the autism spectrum. I say it is difficult but NOT impossible!

Strategies to help your child engage in turn taking activities:

Rule-based games:

There are several types of activities that involve turn taking. Rule based games are simply just board games. This is probably one of the easiest games to use to teach turn taking. It is important to teach your child the rules of the game and more importantly the outcome of the game. Since these games are predictable, children tend to understand it better because there are no surprises and they know the expectation.

You can also adapt these types of games depending on your child. If your child has difficulty with fine motor skills, you may choose different game pieces to use. There are several Iphone/Ipad applications called TurnTaker that helps prompt your child to know that it is their turn. Rule based games are also a great tool to help facilitate reciprocal conversation and appropriate use language.

Pretend Play:

Another easy way to teach language to all children is through the use of pretend play. During this time, most kids take on different roles and use these roles to develop a theme. It will provide your child with multiple opportunities to use the language that they are acquiring. It also gives them control over what happens next.

Once a “script” has been developed, it is important for you to begin to change parts of the script or involve others.

Cooperative Activities:

This is most commonly seen at schools or homes with other peers/siblings. I like to teach this by having two or three children working on the same project, such as a painting-but only allowing them access to one or two paintbrushes. This forces the children to ask each other for the brushes. You can also teach this by giving each child a puzzle to complete, but giving the pieces to another friend in which they have to ask each other for. If your child is non-verbal, you can teach them to point or use PECS pictures to mand for the pieces.

Tips for turn-taking activities:

  1. Make sure to use social stories whenever possible. Social stories are dialogues that are easy for the child to read and follow. It should be short, detailed, and specific.
  2. Modeling. You can use yourself or other peers to model the correct behavior.
  3. Visuals. Use visuals to help your child understand what is expected of him/her. It can also be used to help teach the rules of the game. Example: If playing Guess Who, you can make a picture prompting them with questions to ask (picture of boy and girl, brown hair vs. blonde hair etc).

Feel free to leave a comment with your turn-taking strategies and stories.

How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Child

Many parents struggle with issues related to getting their children to sleep and helping them to stay asleep. I have probably been asked the question “How much sleep does my child need?” more than any other question in my career. Parents are frequently more aware of the impact of their child’s sleep onSleepy Child their own functioning when they find themselves awake for the third night or more in a row trying to deal with onset or maintenance insomnia in their little ones. Adults are quick to perceive the daytime fatigue, poor mood and declining cognitive skills in themselves following poor sleep.

Typically, daytime fatigue is a less commonly reported side effect in young children following decrease sleep. More common complaints include hyperactivity, behavioral problems and subtle learning difficulties. In fact, studies have shown consistently that children who sleep one hour or more less than their required total sleep time each night have twice the rates of ADHD, three times the rate language and spatial deficits and significantly lower scores on measures of sustained attention.

Why sleep is critical to kids:

One of the reasons sleep is so critical to the developing brain is that this is a period where many hormones, such as human growth hormone, are released. Disruptions in sleep cycles can lead to inadequate hormone regulation, which has enormous impacts on
development. In addition, REM sleep, which is critical for consolidation of new learning, makes up a higher percentage of total sleep time and deficits in this area can impact learning and school performance. Sleep is not simple a passive, restful process, but rather a period of the lifecycle devoted to ensuring adequate development.

Total amount of sleep children need:

While the individual needs of a child can vary, total sleep time (including naps):

• First year is 13-14 hours per day

• Ages 3-8 require about 10-12 hours

• Adolescence, around 9-10 hours.

In fact, though adolescents experience a “phase shift” (they stay up later and want to sleep in later) during their teens, their need for sleep varies only slightly from younger children and the rates of daytime fatigue due to decreased sleep become more apparent. In fact, in a large scale study, high school students reported the greatest fatigue in classes before 10:00am and their grades in these classes (regardless of the subject) where significantly lower in 55% of the students. In addition, 25% reported falling asleep in class the previous week.

Reasons why your child may be staying up late:

With the increasing data on long-term deficits in cognitive and behavioral performance in young children with inadequate sleep and correlational data of declining grades in sleep deprived teens, one would think that more emphasis would be placed on ensuring healthy sleep habits in children. However, the data suggests otherwise.

• Increased homework

• Demanding parental work schedules

• After-school activities have lead to later nights for many children.

• Conditions such as sleep disordered breathing, some allergy medications, restless limbs

• Poor sleep habits

Most, if not all sleep problems are treatable with good routines and habits, addressing underlying causes of sleep disruption and environmental changes. If your child has problems getting to sleep, staying asleep, arising too early or snoring, please contact a specialist. These are not problems to be ignored or taken lightly.

Milestones for Kid’s Success

Active BabyHow do we identify the milestones our kids need to succeed? How fast should your child be developing mentally and physically? Does every child develop on their own schedule or should you compare your child to the “norm”?

Milestones are important to be aware of because if children are not in the general range of normal or typical development, parents need to be proactive and start asking questions.

7 Steps to Measuring Milestones and Making Sure Your Child Is On The Right Track:

1) Use a check list and log your child’s new skills.

2) Make a separate checklist of areas you may feel your child is behind on.

3) Read well-respected parenting blogs and articles by licensed professionals to stay on top of what your child should be doing

4) Read E-Books and Popular Publications that include Milestone Checklists and Guides For Parents and Doctors

5) If your child is delayed in a developmental area, move on it quickly. Better safe than sorry.

6) Make a visit to your MD and tell him/her your concerns.

7) Visit the necessary specialists and find someone you can trust and do what you need to do.

Always trust your instincts as the parent and remain proactive!

What Will Happen During My Child’s Pediatric Therapy Visit?

Concerned Mother With BoySetting Straight Therapy Myths

If you, your pediatrician, your child’s teacher or someone else important in your child’s life just told you that your child would benefit from physical, occupational, or speech and language therapy services you are probably feeling a little overwhelmed and uncertain about what to expect.

Some questions you may have about your child’s therapy

  • Will they put my child on a couch and talk to him/her?
  • Will they attach electrodes to the affected area? Read more

How To Motivate Children With Autism Using Reinforcers

Reinforcer SetA common difference between children with autism and typically-developing children is their motivation for social feedback and other natural consequences that occur for learning to take place. Typically, developing children have an easier time learning because they are motivated by social feedback from their parents and teachers. But with a child with autism, it is not always as simple as saying “great job!” to encourage learning. Without motivation, it can be very difficult to gain the attention of an autistic child, and even more difficult for learning to take place.

So, how do you motivate a child diagnosed with autism?

Reinforcers Can Help Motivate Children!

Reinforcers motivate children to learn new skills. Often times, children with autism are not readily motivated by social feedback or other natural consequences received from parents, teachers or peers. Insensitivity to social consequences and signals is a core aspect of the disorder.

How To Find A Powerful Reinforcer: Read more

An Introduction on Interventions for Executive Functioning

As discussed in my previous blog “What is Executive Functioning”, executive functions are the skills that help organize and guide a child through daily life.
There are many aspects of executive functioning:

  • Organization

  • Planning

  • Problem solving

  • Working memory

  • Initiation of tasks

  • Impulse control

  • The ability to monitor the effectiveness of one’s work

While these are different skill sets that require various accommodations and interventions, they all have several things in common.  The most common link between the various interventions is that they must involve a real-world, structured approach to teaching problem solving during everyday activities. The problem that we see all too often with clinical interventions, which don’t include practice in the child’s ‘real-world,’ is that the child may be a rock-star when completing tasks in a contrived clinical setting but still may struggle within the classroom. Read more

Basic Principles and Practices for Teaching Children With Autism New Skills

Teaching new skills to children with autism can be very difficult. It is important to first understand the fundamentals of behavior.

Behavior is an important part of teaching because in order to learn a new skill, a child must understand what response is desired and when. A child learns when a response is desired by experiencing a stimulus (i.e. item/request/instruction) and discrimination (Sd- discriminative stimulus).  A child simultaneously learns there is a desired response and discriminates that the response is only desired in the presence of the Sd. For example, if you are teaching a child to say “book” in the presence of a book, the Sd would be the book itself and the desired response would be saying “book.” That child will learn to say “book” only when that book is present. Later on, that child may begin saying “book” in the presence of new books, a pattern called generalization.

So, why is behavior important in teaching a new skill? It is important because a child’s response IS a behavior!

 Descriptions Of Behaviors:

Reflexive Behavior is our bodies’ natural reaction to environmental stimuli (e.g. blinking when someone blows in your eyes, or jerking your leg when someone hits your knee cap). These behaviors are called reflexes and occur without being learned. Read more