Posts

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

Helping Your Anxious Child Return to School

With the summer months winding down, and the back to school sales in full force, it’s probably time for Blog-Anxious-Back-to-School-Main-Landscapeyou and your child to start the annual transition from summer camp to school! For many children, this transition is filled with excitement and happiness. For others, the worry monster might be just around the corner. Children might demonstrate tearfulness, tantrums, and frustration due to their anxiety about school.

Below are a couple suggestions to help you and your anxious child get through the first few days back at school:

Create a School Day Routine

The structure of the school day might look a lot different than your child’s summer schedule.  Before school begins:

  • Create a morning routine with a timeline of activities your child will need to accomplish. Depending on your child’s level of independence, think about how much supervision your child will need for each task.
  • Remember to adjust your child’s wake up time to fit the school day schedule if it had changed during the summer. Helping your child create this routine prior to the first day of school will allow your child to understand what is expected and can lead to lower levels of worry.

Transitional Object

Separation from parents in the first few days of school can be traumatic. For younger children, a handful of difficult drop offs is age-appropriate and should decrease over time as your child acclimates to this new routine. One way to support your child through this transition can be through allowing them to bring something to school that reminds them of mom and dad. Transitional objects should be small and minimally distracting in class. A special key chain, small plush toy, or laminated picture of the family can be used for this. Remind your child to hold or look at these objects if they are feeling worried or missing home.

If you notice that your child is having a harder than expected time, their functioning in school is being impacted, or their anxiety about school is not subsiding, reach out for additional support.

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!

New Call-to-Action

Tips for Helping An Angry Child

Everyone knows that feeling of anger. Whether it is extreme and long lasting or brief and mild, anger is an emotion that all people experience from time to time. People can successfully manage their anger by being aware of what triggers their emotions and using tools to help themselves calm down. Blog-Angry-Child-Main-Landscape

While children are smart, creative, funny, and strong they sometimes have a harder time than adults in calming themselves down and managing their anger. By helping them to recognize and understand this emotion, you can help them feel prepared and confident to navigate their environment successfully. The following are some tips for helping an angry child.

  1. Teach your child about the emotion “anger” along with other key emotions such as happiness, sadness, and fear—the movie “Inside Out” is a wonderful film that helps to explain these emotions (and others!) in a friendly and meaningful manner.
  2. Let your child know that they are allowed to feel all of these feelings and that it is normal for all people from time to time to feel anger—this helps them reduce any guilt or upset they have about their feeling of anger.
  3. Acknowledge your child’s angry feeling, ex. “I see that you are feeling angry,” and other feelings as well so that they can learn to differentiate the myriad of feelings they’re experiencing. It’s definitely confusing to do that at times, so with your help they will begin to do this on their own.
  4. After acknowledging their feelings of anger, encourage them to find something positive about the situation they’re in. Ex.) they are feeling angry about missing a day at the pool due to the rain, help them to see that they still get to play with their friend, have a treat, etc.
  5. Remind your child that they can and will feel better again—and even sooner if they try the above strategy!

These tips will certainly help any child that is feeling angry and they have the added benefit of improving your connection and relationship as well as there will be no shame or disappointment expressed to the child. If it feels like your child is having angry moments on a more than regular basis, extra support may be needed to help explore other feelings and situations that may be bothering your child. Working with a trained pediatric social worker can help explore these areas. Contact North Shore Pediatric Therapy today.

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!

New Call-to-Action

Helping The Anxious Child Using Exposure Therapy

Anxiety and worry serves a biological purpose. It helps protect us from potential danger by pumping our body with the chemicals and energy to fight or flight. However, sometimes children (and adults) experience anxiety over situations that pose no danger.BlogExposureTherapy-Main-Portrait

What’s a parent to do in this situation? When your child expresses discomfort or anxiety over something benign, like riding a bike or the neighbor’s friendly dog, a parent’s first inclination is to do anything to alleviate that anxiety. For example, a parent with a child who begins to develop worry over sleeping in their own bed might allow the child to sleep in their bed because it eliminates that uncomfortable, anxious feeling. This approach might help in the moment, but avoiding situations that provoke anxiety often further perpetuates that anxiety. This fact is the underlying theory for exposure and response prevention therapy, a treatment approach for anxiety that has been empirically validated through multiple research studies.

How Does Exposure Therapy Work?

Exposure therapy involves creating a hierarchy of situations around a specific fear with the most anxiety provoking situation at the top. In treatment, therapists can support your child in developing this hierarchy, learning coping strategies, and providing exposure to each trigger on the hierarchy starting from the bottom. While exposure therapy is typically a short term therapy for mild to moderate cases (8-12 sessions), the goal is to go slowly and at the child’s comfortable pace. You only move on to the next step on the hierarchy when the anxiety provoked by the previous step has faded.

What is the One Simple Step Parents Can Take to Help Their Anxious Child?

Help them face their fears and not avoid them. Talk to your child about how you want to help them feel comfortable in that situation and ask them to identify baby steps to slowly work towards that comfort. Exposure therapy should only be done under the care of an experienced clinician. If your child struggles with specific fears or obsessive-compulsive symptoms, seek a skilled therapist to guide you and your child in overcoming these symptoms and improving their daily functioning.

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!

New Call-to-Action

Toddler Won't Listen

Help! My Toddler Won’t Listen!

It’s not uncommon for a parent to say, “My toddler won’t listen!” It’s an exciting time for parents when their little one first starts to demonstrate an understanding of what is being said to him.  I remember how impressed I was when I first saw my nephew respond to the request of his mother to bring her a book.  But as a child enters toddlerhood, the question can change from, “Does he understand what I’m asking?” to “Does he understand AND will he do what I’m asking?”.  Parents in the United States typically raise their children with a goal for them to be independent and self-sufficient.  But at the same time, they still want their kids to listen to us as the adults in charge of their safety and well-being.  So, how do we accomplish this? Here are some tips to help get your toddler to listen.

5 Tips for the Toddler that Won’t ListenToddler Won't Listen

  1. Teach expectations and reward positive behaviors. While it would be nice if all kids were able to pick up on this by themselves, it can be very important to make your expectations explicit.  Letting him know that he needs to stay with you at the grocery store, or that he should signal to you when finished eating can decrease the chances of him engaging in behavior that is unacceptable to you.
  1. Use visuals. Remember that toddlerhood is a time of rapid growth and development, especially in the language arena.  While they are not able to hold and process as much verbal information as older children, they are learning to connect words to ideas.  One way to support this development is through utilizing visual aides to encourage their understanding.
  1. Simple language, simple concepts. Have you ever thought, does he even understand what I’m saying?  Well, he might not!  Keep your language as simple as possible.  Don’t give long explanations for your rules or why you want your toddler to do something.  Rather, give a simple command and pause.
  2. First/then. As infants develop into toddlers, the development of memory and other intellectual capacities pave the way for an understanding of temporal relationships.  That is to say, children at this age can begin to understand that before Y happens, X must occur.  For example, saying to a child, “first we clean up these Legos, then we can play outside” is much easier to understand than, “we’re not going anywhere as long as these Legos are all over the rug”.  You can use this first-then model with many tasks and routines of your toddler’s day.
  1. Empathize. Lastly, and perhaps the most important tip to get your toddler to listen is to empathize. Growing up is tough!  So, try to take your little one’s perspective.  Toddlers have different ways of thinking, feeling, and interacting with the world as compared to older children.  As caregivers, we must be aware that factors like feeling hungry or missing a nap can have a huge impact on a toddler’s ability to meet the demands of his environment.

If your toddler continues to have a difficult time following your expectations and behaving in appropriate ways, it is recommended to consult with others.  While toddlerhood is a typical stage of development, if you have concerns about your young one, it is recommended to consult with a mental health professional.

Do you have other tips on how to encourage your toddler to listen?  Please leave feedback below!


Register For Our Social Skills Group

 

NSPT offers Social 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!

motivational interviewing

Motivational Interviewing: How to Determine if Your Teenager is Ready for Change

The notion of therapy can conjure up ideas hope, support, and the development of skills necessary to instill longstanding changes. As a parent, you may have identified certain challenges or problematic behaviors that involvement in therapy can resolve, but what if your teenager does not share the same sentiments? Although there may be concrete goals and clear areas for improvement, if the client involved does not see the need to modify their behavior, change may be slow to occur. To determine if your teenager is ready to commit to change, motivational interviewing can assess if your child is willing to address the need for adjustment.

Here are the stages of motivational interviewing:

  1. Pre-contemplation: Here the client is not even aware of the presented problem and therefore is not motivational interviewingcommitted to change due to the lack of incite.
  2. Contemplation: The client is aware of problematic behavior but is cautious or uncertain about wanting to change the presented concern.
  3. Determination: The client has identified that change is something they want but are not sure how to achieve desired change.
  4. Action: The client is working towards making changes but is not stable in the change process (i.e. some changes have been made and the client is learning how to eliminate relapse to previous problematic behaviors).
  5. Maintenance: The client has achieved the changes they desired to make and work towards maintaining changed behaviors.
  6. Recurrence: The client has experienced a recurrence of the problem and works towards implementing newly acquired strategies to resolve the problem.

To evaluate the efficacy of therapeutic intervention, it is helpful to understand where the client is in the process of identification, acceptance, and desire for change of the presented problem. For example, if you determine there to be a problem with excess video gaming behavior, fearing that your child is addicted and anti-social in the process, if your child does not see this behavior as problematic, it may be hard for him to invest in change. If the child is in the pre-contemplation phase of change, sit down with him and identify the concerns inherent in the behavior (benefits and consequences of perceived changes) to help motivate the desire for change. It is important for the concerns of the child and the concerns of the parent to be transparent and in alignment to incite change.

A Licensed Clinical Social Worker can help you with talking to your teen as well.

Click here to read how you can support your teen into the transition to adulthood.

Positive Thinking Tricks for a Better Mood

Changing your child’s thinking may be a helpful way to appropriately deal with day to day conflict that inevitably occurspositive thinking tips for teens. Have you noticed that when minor upsets in the day occur, your child has a reaction that lasts a long time? Does your child tend to think of the glass as half-empty? By challenging your child’s thoughts (and your own!) you will start to see the way that more positive thinking can improve his or her mood.

Tips to Help Your Child Think Positively:

  • Challenge extremes by finding exceptions. By challenging extremes (ex. Does every single kid in the classroom really get to do that? ) you can help your child see that there are exceptions to the generalizations that he is likely making. In the example above, if your child is feeling down because some of his peers get to do something he is not allowed to do, he may utter, “but EVERYONE else gets to!” By questioning the truth of his statement in a non-threatening way, you can help him see that there are indeed exceptions.  A great way to do this is by having him list a few examples. Read more

How to Teach Your Child about Bullying

The beginning of the school year is a great time for parents and guardians to talk with kids about bullying.  Bullying is a problem which affects millions of children and teenagers.  It takes place in many forms: physical, verbal, psychological/social and through means of social media.  Read on for several tips for talking to kids of any age about bullying.

Tips for talking to kids about bullying:

  1. Teach assertiveness.  Model and teach your child peaceful ways to solve problems.
  2. Teach empathy.  Talk to your child about helping others and taking action if she observes someone being hurt or hurting themselves. This is only if the situation is safe to do so.  Help build empathy in your child by talking about examples from television, movies and books.  Ask your child how she thinks others must feel in the various scenarios.
  3. Hold children accountable.  Teach your child that if she is watching someone being bullied, then she has a responsibility to tell someone; otherwise this hurts the victim also.
  4. Get to know your child’s friends.  Encourage your child to invite her friends over.
  5. Be a good role model.  Model these skills whenever appropriate.

For more bullying resources, click here to watch our Bullying Webinar or click here to read about including bullying in your child’s IEP.

Reference: http://www.ncpc.org/topics/bullying/teaching-kids-about-bullying/what-to-teach-kids-about-bullying

What to Do if You Don’t Like Your Child’s Friend

Picture this: It is Wednesday afternoon, and your fifth grade child runs off of the school bus and into your house. You hear an extra set of footsteps and think to yourself, “Oh how nice, he has a friend over.”  You enter the kitchen to greet him and his friend when you see the refrigerator AND pantry left open.  Food crumbs and wrappers are on the floor. Your son likes his things relatively clean and tidy.  Your son cleans up after himself. His friend must be over, and to be honest, he isn’t your favorite child.

If your child has one (or a few) friend(s) that agitate you, it may be difficult at times to manage your emotions about it, as well as to be supportive of your child’s friendships.  Read on for tips to help you deal with a friend of your child’s who you do not particularly like.

Tips to deal with your child’s friend you dislike:

  • Keep discussion about the disliked peer separate from discussions you have with, or around, your child. You are entitled to not favor any of your child’s peers, for whatever reason.  However, it is important that your child is unburdened by your feelings. You can deal with your feelings by talking with a spouse or friend about it, although it is best to choose just one person with whom to share these feelings. Talking to many people about your child’s friend makes it easier for the information to get back to your child. Writing your feelings out in a journal is a safe and effective way to ‘get out’ the thoughts you have about the peer as well.
  • Look for the positives in the disliked peer, and praise them. Test yourself, and try to come up with two things about the disliked friend that are positive. Simple things such as ‘they dress nice’ or ‘they have a good hair cut’ are acceptable. Just start by finding two positives. Once you find those positives, point them out to your child’s peer next time you see him (Ex.“Your hair looks nice today.” or “You played soccer very well last night in the game.”). Focusing on the positives will help you to feel slightly better about the peer, at least in that moment. The more times you point out a positive, the better you’ll feel about the individual overall. Read more