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How to Help When a Child You Love Suffers Trauma

Early trauma can leave a lasting impact on a child’s brain.  The younger a child is, the more vulnerable their brain may be to the impact of trauma.  Childhood trauma can include any negative experience that causes major stress.

Having healthy relationships with caring adults can help children who have experienced early trauma.  When children feel unsafe, they spend more time in the “survival” part of their brain as opposed to the “thriving” part of their brain where they are bonding with caregivers, learning to talk, etc.  Early trauma can interfere with learning and may lead to other health problems in the future.

You can help a child who has suffered childhood trauma in the following ways:

  • Facilitate opportunities for children to talk about what happened.
  •  Help children play out their feelings.
  •  Allow the child to talk and tell their story without pressure. Read more

What to do when your Child Doesn’t Play with Toys Appropriately

One exciting thing about being a child is all the cool and fun toys you get to play with. However, some children struggle with playing appropriately, and can be too rough and unsafe with toys. Parents sometimes have difficulty getting their children to use toys appropriately.

To help you gain better control during playtime, and keep your child and others safe, try the following strategies with your children:

  1. Model. When your child gets a new toy, model how the toy should be used. You should provide lots of prompts and hand-over-hand assistance to teach and encourage your child to appropriately play with the new toy.Infant girl playing with toys
  2. Practice. Have your child practice appropriately playing with the toy. If your child starts to get too rough with it, show them the appropriate way to use it and then have them repeat it back to you.
  3. Praise. When your child is appropriately playing with their toys, provide them with praise and let them know they are doing a great job. For example, you can say, “Suzy, I love how nicely you are playing with your dolls!” or “Josh, you are doing a great job of racing your cars and not throwing them!”
  4. Take It Away. If your child continues to play with toys inappropriately (i.e., throwing them, hitting others with them, trying to break them), immediately take the toys away. Let your child know that this is not how one plays with the toys. Talk to your child about why it is unsafe (i.e., someone can get hurt, you can break the toy or other items that are nearby, others might not want to play with you). You can then reintroduce the toy and show your child how to appropriately play with it. Let your child know that if they do not play the right way with the toy, then they will not be able to play with it for the rest of the day.
  5. Make a Story. You can also create a story about how we should and should not play with our toys. Within the story, identify the appropriate ways to play with toys and why we should play with them that way. Your story can also illustrate inappropriate behavior with the toys, highlighting again why we do not want to use toys in that manner. Review the story with your child before they go on a play date or start playing with toys. In addition, you and your child can reread the story after they misbehave with a toy.
  6. Just Not Ready. Some children just may not be developmentally ready to play with a specific toy, despite the age limits listed by the manufacturer. If this is the case, pull the toy out every now and again and see if your child is at the right stage. The toy will be much more fun for both of you when they can use it appropriately.

To keep your child playing safely with toys, always remember to model, practice, and praise; and if you have to, do not be afraid to take the toy away until your child can appropriately play with it.

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Five Tips to Help Your Child Use the Internet Safely

With recent advances in internet technology, we are able to communicate readily and quickly with long-distance friends and relatives; find information through search engines that connect us to multiple sources; and even have access to engaging, child-friendly websites that assist in teaching! The internet also presents possible dangers, however, and parents may find themselves wondering how to balance supporting their child’s access to the benefits internet provides, while ensuring her internet safety.

Below are five tips to help maintain this balance.

1. Set clear guidelines about internet use privileges

  • Explain to your child that internet use is a privilege that can be taken away if used in unsafe ways. Ask your child what websites she wants to use to confirm their appropriateness. Be sure to emphasize that this is tgirl on computer with parentso keep your child safe.
  • Decide on rules for internet use (ex. Time limit, purpose, days of the week, which sites are acceptable/not acceptable, etc.) and post them in a place where everyone in the family can see. You can have both common and separate rules for parents and children to show your child that internet safety is important for everyone.
  • Review the rules as a family and sign them as an agreement to commit to fun, appropriate, safe internet use.

2. Talk to your child about the potential dangers and benefits of the internet

  • Warn your child about the dangers of giving out personal information (name, age, birthdate, school, address, phone number, etc) on the internet and give her safe options for when she faces situations that ask for personal information. For example, “We cannot give out personal information to people we do not know because we do not know if they are safe. If a website asks for personal information, do not give it and tell mom or dad. If any person you do not know emails/Facebook messages/IMs/etc you, the first thing I want you to do is tell mom or dad so we can figure out a plan to be safe.”
  • Keep explanations age-appropriate and give enough information to be clear, but not too much information to provoke anxiety or fear. For example, “There are people or websites on the internet that can try to trick or hurt people. So when we are on a website or hear from someone we do not know, we have to be careful.”
  • Discuss cyber-bullying with your child. Ask if your child knows anyone who makes mean comments to other children on the internet or if it has ever happened to her. Let her know that if someone chooses to bully her online, it is not her fault and that she should report it to you so you can keep her safe. For more information about cyber-bullying, click here.
  • Talk about the fact that statements and information your child puts on the internet cannot be revoked. Although the internet seems more anonymous, teach your child not to write anything online to someone that she would be embarrassed to say in real life.
  • Talk also about the benefits of the internet to teach the difference between fun, appropriate internet use and dangerous internet use. Together, you can come up with a list of safe and non-safe uses and post them by the computer to remind your child of your conversation. You can also introduce your child to new, fun, interactive child-friendly websites that she can use.

3. Monitor internet use

  • Contact your internet provider for safeguard features so that you can protect your child from graphic, inappropriate material.
  • Put your computer in the family room or some public place in your home so that you can easily check in with your child about her internet use.

4. Join with your child in her internet use

  • Support and praise safe internet use by learning about your child’s favorite websites. Visit these websites together to learn about what your child enjoys. Visiting these websites can also help you to determine possible dangers to discuss with your child.

5. Create an open, safe space for your child to talk about any issues or concerns she faces during internet use

  • Emphasize to your child that your goal is to make sure she is safe and that if anything happens that makes her feel scared, confused, or upset online, she can talk to you.
  • Let your child know that you can problem solve together when something potentially unsafe happens on the internet.
  • Talk with your child in an open way by listening to her opinions and encouraging questions so that she feels comfortable and understood.

What are some of your family’s internet rules that have helped keep everyone safe? Please share with us!

 

Stranger Danger: Teaching Your Children to be Safe

Teaching children about “stranger danger” is about teaching the possible dangers they may face as they are out in the world. But, this is not as simple as saying, “Don’t talk to strangers.” I tell children that it is safe to talk to strangers when they are with a grownup they know (such as when a child is with Mom at the Stranger at parkgrocery store and the nice older woman asks what her name is).

We need to teach our children to be functionally weary of strangers. It’s important that your children feel confident rather than fearful. Having information will help them know what to do rather than being afraid if a stranger approaches them.

 

Educating children on good vs. bad strangers

Kids should be taught that not all people they don’t know are dangerous. They need to know the difference between “good strangers” and “bad strangers”. They should know that there really are more good people than bad. Sometimes, kids may need to approach a stranger for help. They may get lost in a store and need help finding you. Teach your children about the best possible stranger to approach for help.

When in public, a good rule of thumb is to teach children to ask an employee (who is easily identified by a uniform or name badge). If your child cannot find an employee, or is not lost in a store, he is better off approaching a woman for help. Although female predators exist, they are less common than male predators. Also, approaching a mom with children is usually a good bet.

Ploys by Predators and What to Do

Some strangers can be persuasive. Tell your children that adults don’t usually need help from a child. It makes more sense for them to ask another adult for directions, finding a lost pet, etc. Children should be taught to never go anywhere with an adult they don’t know.

Predators can be sneaky. They may tell your child that he is a friend of yours and you sent him to pick up your child. Or, the predator may tell your child that you have been injured or are sick and the child has to come with the predator to come see you.

What to tell your child if you can’t pick him up:

  • Explain to your child that you will never send anyone he doesn’t know to pick him up. Tell him if anyone says otherwise, the person is lying and he should get away from the stranger as fast as he can.
  • If you don’t have a group of trusted people who could pick up your child in an emergency, choose a password that you will give to the person picking up your child. The password should be something important to your family that would be difficult for a stranger to guess.
  • Tell your child never to go with anyone who doesn’t know the password and change the password after each use.

9 Stranger Danger Tips to Teach Your Children

1. Know your name, address, and phone number (this will help if the child needs help from the police to get home or contact you).

2. Never walk anywhere alone (this is great for older kids too).

3. Trust your instincts. If you feel you are being followed or something is not right, find help right away.

4. If a stranger approaches you, you do not have to speak to him.

5. Never approach a stranger in a motor vehicle. Just keep walking.

6. Do not accept candy or other “presents” from a stranger.

7. Never walk off with a stranger no matter what!

8. If someone is following you, try to remember the license plate of the vehicle and tell a trusted adult right away.

9. If a stranger grabs you, do anything you can to stop him from pulling you away or dragging you into his car. Drop to the ground, kick, hit, bite, and scream. Get the attention of others who can help you. Scream out, “This is not my dad,” or “this is not my mom!”

 

*North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Inc. (NSPT) intends for responses to the blogs to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; all content and answers to questions should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).  Questions submitted to this blog are not guaranteed to receive responses.  No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by NSPT  to people submitting questions.  Always consult with your health professional first before initiating or changing any aspect of your treatment regimen.

Keep Play Safe and Fun in the Summer Heat and Sun

With the hot and humid Chicago summer we have been having these past few weeks, it is important to be mindful of how well your children’s bodies can handle the heat. Children are still playing outdoor sports and finishing up their leagues before school starts, and some camps may still be in session. Many older children have already begun practice for fall sports. When your children are spending hours outdoors during the day, keep in mind these safety tips:Young T-Ball Player Running

Safety Tips for Sports And Activities in the Heat

  • Drink plenty of fluids at least an hour before vigorous physical activity, as well as during and after the activity. Drinking too much water right before the activity may cause muscle cramps. Drinking very cold beverages may also cause cramps, so let the drink sit out for a few minutes after taking it out from the refrigerator.
  • Sports beverages are great, as they can help replace the salts and minerals lost when sweating.
  • Allow children to pace themselves with physical activities. Start out slowly and pick up the pace gradually so as to avoid muscle cramps. Avoid overexertion.
  • Be weary of signs of heat exhaustion (heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, headaches, nausea or vomiting, dizziness and paleness).
  • If possible, stay inside in the midday when the sun is the hottest and strongest, and try to schedule sports activities in the mornings and evenings.
  • Stay in the cool shade as much as possible when outside.
  • Wear sunscreen.

Play outside safely, and have fun!

5 Back To School Backpack Tips

School is just around the corner and back-to-school shopping is in full swing! One of the most important items to buy your child is a well-fitted backpack that will ensure proper posture and comfort. Backpacks that are too heavy, too low-fitting or worn just over one shoulder can hinder a child’s spinal alignment and cause muscle strains. It is not uncommon for backpacks to cause acquired scoliosis.

5 tips to keep in mind when buying your child their new backpack

  1. Make sure to choose a backpack that has two shoulder straps. This way, weight is distributed evenly between both sides of the body. One-shoulder packs may be stylish, but can lead to spinal curvature if packed too heavy.Blue Child's Backpack
  2. A backpack should fit snugly on the lower back and should never lay below 4 inches below the waist. This way, shoulder and back muscles are not strained and a child will be able to maintain correct posture when standing and walking. A child should be able to stand up straight and not round their back or shoulders when carrying their backpack.
  3. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, a backpack should weigh no more then 15% of the child’s body weight. For example, a child weighing 100 pounds should not wear a backpack weighing more then 15 pounds.
  4. If the backpack is too heavy for the student, roller-bags are a good option. Make sure to check with school faculty to see if these are allowed within your child’s school. A heavier item, such as a large textbook, can be held in an arm instead of on the back if the backpack is too overloaded.
  5. Try to lead heavier items toward the back so that weight is evenly distributed. If certain items are not needed for the day, leave them at home to lessen the weight of the backpack.