Dr. Laura's Meaningful Psychological Services
|Posted on June 23, 2021 at 8:00 AM|
Balancing parenthood with any other aspect of life is a challenge. Becoming a parent presents some amazing opportunities to face anxiety and stress. Through it all and during whatever stage of parenting you may be at now, taking care of yourself is essential. Here is an excellent article with some practical and realistic strategies for self-care as a parent. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/Pages/Finding-a-Self-Care-Ritual-That-Works-for-You.aspx" target="_blank">Finding a Self-Care Ritual That Works for You
|Posted on May 27, 2021 at 5:20 PM|
To avoid spoilers, read this post by Dr. Kanaris, sex therapist and psychologist, first. It’s not what you think! https://cyberinfidelityhelp.com/a-love-letter/
Then, read on...
Is technology serving you well or do you feel like you are being controlled by your phone, emails, social media, or other screens? There are excellent ways that technology can be a wonderful tool. We can connect with people in real-time across the world, keep in touch with teachers and students or start therapy. We can learn about almost any subject, and track our steps, food and water intake, sleep, and mood. We can make new friends, date, and work. I challenge you to check in on yourself- is technology a tool or your boss? How is your digital wellness? https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_technology_can_be_part_of_a_happy_life?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=a9b4cd037d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_GG_Newsletter_May_25_2021&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-a9b4cd037d-50850427
|Posted on August 26, 2020 at 3:20 PM|
As we are preparing for a new school year and are making decisions for our families, ourselves, and careers, we may feel anxious, stressed, or tired. This is to be expected given the unique stressors we are facing right now. Together, we can manage this.
My hope for this school year is that we can:
-practice resilience, patience, and kindness
-be thoughtful, considerate, and informed
-be reasonable, logical, and rational
-appreciate hard-work, dedication, and energy
-be flexible, fluid, and adjustable
-make decisions that are the best for our individual needs and family circumstances
-have fun, learn, and grow
Whether it is in-person learning, remote instruction, online schooling, or homeschooling, we can be better and stronger together. Let’s show kindness to each other, ask questions, follow guidelines, offer help, accept help, and be reasonable with expectations and demands. Have a great school year!
|Posted on September 24, 2019 at 11:50 AM|
My oldest started Kindergarten earlier this month. While I have seen many families make this transition professionally, going through it yourself is so powerful and can be very different.
There is so much for families to cope with during this time. There are grown-up anxiety, worries, planning, scheduling, and emotions. There are child-size worries about making friends, who to sit with at lunch, how much work there will be, and when will they be able to go back home again.
Letting go of your child is good, healthy, and important. We can prepare them to be strong. We can teach them to be a hard-worker. We can show them how to work through conflict. We can model how to cope with big feelings. We can show them how to accept other children. We can demonstrate compassion. We can help them solve problems.
We will grow right along with them. As parents, we can grow stronger, more hard-working, and a better conflict resolver. We can cope with our big feelings more effectively. We can accept others, even when they are different. We can show compassion. We can be better problem solvers.
Thank you to all of the teachers and school staff who are working so hard to develop resilience and academic strengths in our children and who are keeping them safe.
Have a great school year!
|Posted on August 19, 2019 at 3:45 PM|
Will you pick me up on time?
Can I sleep in your bed?
Am I going to get sick from touching that?
Are monsters real?
Do I have to go to school?
Has your child asked you one or more of these questions? These are examples of worries that are being communicated to a parent. How do we know which are normal and expected worries and which are excessive and disruptive? How should we respond to worries? Does my child need therapy?
For answers to these questions and detailed background information about anxiety, which is a normal human emotion, and anxiety disorders in children, watch this webinar for parents: https://adaa.org/webinar/consumer/when-worry-about-your-childs-worry
Wishing you all a healthy and brave start to the school year!
|Posted on June 24, 2019 at 5:35 AM|
Do you believe the world is a terrible and frightening place? Are you nervous each time you go to a new place? Do you stress when your children separate from you? Are you scared to take risks? Do you have trouble relaxing?
These are just a few of the elements depicted in the new The Secret Life of Pets movie.
I won’t give you any spoilers in this post, so don’t worry!
Easier said than done, right? Worry is so common and a hard behavior to break. However, it is very treatable and it is possible to live a more worry-free life.
The Secret Life of Pets 2 depicts how anxiety can develop, how we can be overprotective of our loved ones, and how we can make our world really small. The movie also shows how important and beneficial challenging worries can be.
If you are a parent, child, or just movie-going lover, go ahead and see this movie. Then challenge yourself to face a fear!
|Posted on May 22, 2019 at 4:35 PM|
Play is so vital and important for both children and adults. For several years in my practice, I have observed many families rushing from school to multiple after school structured activities for multiple children with multiple conflicts. Kids express feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Our high achieving students struggle with balancing clubs, sports, and HW and when to turn down additional responsibilities. Parents struggle with which opportunities to take and pass on.
This Ted Talk illustrates the importance of play from a biological perspective and the relationship between play and mental health.
|Posted on April 22, 2019 at 1:40 PM|
Yes, just yes! This month, I am sharing a presentation by Dr. Hynes, Superintendent of Schools in Patchogue-Medford. This talk provides some insight into whole child learning, mental health, physical health, social emotional growth, and raising children to be successful and healthy adults.
|Posted on January 17, 2019 at 12:35 AM|
Sunny days, sweeping the clouds away. Gosh, I really like Sesame Street. Maybe it’s the Nostalgia of familiar songs (“1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10..11, 12” and characters. Maybe it’s the high-quality programming that provides information useful and helpful to young children. Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t have to worry about inappropriate ads or content when my children watch or read a Sesame Street story. Whatever it is, Sesame Street is an approved and celebrated aspect of childhood in my book.
Sesame Workshop has a meaningful way of tackling difficult and serious topics and can really make a difference with the population who views it. There are many families and children struggling with hunger and homelessness right now all over the world, including our own neighborhoods. Take a look at the https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/12/health/sesame-street-homeless-muppet-bn/index.html?utm_source=CNN+Five+Things&utm_campaign=3fa1cedc8e-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_12_12_12_56&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6da287d761-3fa1cedc8e-86111485" target="_blank">link to learn how Sesame Street helps kids to understand and cope with this part of life.
May you always find yourself with shelter, not be hungry, and be able to make this world a bit kinder.
|Posted on September 18, 2018 at 12:10 AM|
The question of how much time children and teens should be spending on screens is a common concern for parents. We live in a technology driven world. Children are immersed in advancements early on, both at home and in the classroom. But how much is too much? Where is the line drawn between appropriate, helpful, and purposeful time using screens and inappropriate, excessive, and harmful time engaged with screens?
These resources outline some recommendations and useful information regarding the use of screen time in families. It is my hope that each family can develop an appropriate media plan and can enjoy using technology to advance social-, emotion-, and cognitive-growth, and connection with the world.
Digital Guidelines: Promoting Healthy Technology Use for Children- American Psychological Association
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx#planview" target="_blank">Family Media Plan- American Academy of Pediatrics
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Where-We-Stand-TV-Viewing-Time.aspx" target="_blank">Where We Stand: Screen Time- American Academy of Pediatrics
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/is_screen_time_toxic_for_teenagers?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=0ed365ab9b-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_08_28_03_50&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-0ed365ab9b-50850427" target="_blank">Is Screen Time Toxic for Teenagers?- Greater Good Science Center
|Posted on June 18, 2018 at 3:35 PM|
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Did you know that Mr. Rogers has had an impact on childhood development for over 40 years? I am sharing a briefhttps://youtu.be/fKy7ljRr0AA" target="_blank"> video of Mr. Rogers from the late 1960s that illustrates several important aspects of childhood and the impact us grown-ups have on children.
As you watch, consider the role of these factors in your and your children's lives: trust, media, violence, coping with emotions, problem solving, communication skills, and kindness.
Then, catch an old episode of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood or the newer spin-off, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.
How do you want to raise your children? What lessons are we teaching kids with popular media today?
|Posted on October 16, 2017 at 1:00 PM|
As a parent of a preschooler and an infant, I have developed a different perspective of many elements from my professional training. I didn't really truly know how challenging parenting can be until I lived it.
Here are just a few concepts that I have gained a new and different appreciation for after becoming a parent:
How challenging managing typical toddler behavior can be.
How stimulus control, when children respond a certain way to one stimulus, (I.e., one parent) and a different way to another, affects behavior.
How easy it is to take non-compliance personally.
How easy it is to resort to yelling.
The pressure to do more.
The pressure to do less.
Increasing awareness of possible judgment.
Increasing awareness of parenting expectations.
How intense sleep deprivation really is.
The challenges faced when planning child care.
How every second of your life must be accounted for.
How exciting a child- free 30 min trip to Target can be.
How exciting witnessing childhood milestones can be.
How often we check and make sure our children are breathing.
How easy it is to say "stop" and "no" instead of "keep the plate on the table" and "yes, you can have some after dinner."
What rushing truly is like.
How spit up and a poop explosion can dramatically affect your schedule.
How precious sleep is.
The importance of family time.
The importance of prioritizing your marriage.
The desire to have multiple roles.
How much anxiety can be present when making parenting decisions.
How scary ER visits are.
The challenges of caring for a sick child.
The challenges of caring for a healthy child.
How deep love can go.
Our appreciation of life events and circumstances change as we have more experiences throughout our life span. I am eager to see how my perspective changes in these areas as my children grow.
How has your perspective changed?
|Posted on July 17, 2017 at 1:00 PM|
The way we think about our world, experiences, past, present, and future matters. For this reason, I am sharing this interesting article I came across about the way we think about parenting. I hope that you find it as inspiring and helpful as I do.
Being the parent of a toddler is not an easy task. For those parents out there, I am sure you can relate. Days can be long. Nights can be short. Sleep can be lacking. Energy can be completely sapped. During these challenges, however, are tiny little eyes and ears soaking up how you approach stress, your experiences, and how you model coping skills. This includes how you parent. Little ones are paying attention to so much more than we think.
This article highlights a pivotal change in thinking as a parent- the true privileges we experience in the day-to-day moments as a parent. I hope that it challenges you to change your perspective and embrace the fun and difficult moments in the day.
https://www.parent.co/two-words-can-transform-parenting/" target="_blank">The Two Words That Can Transform Your Parenting
|Posted on October 10, 2016 at 8:00 PM|
For those of you following this blog for a while, you may remember a few years back when I wrote a piece about taking day-trips for families. While hopefully helpful and interesting, that post was written from a different perspective- the outside observer.
This month, I returned to these same two locations I initially visited, but this time as a mother. How wonderful it is to see the same exact thing from a different perspective. In my case, through the eyes of a toddler.
Being able to see the world around us in a new way is truly amazing. I never noticed how colorful certain fish were or how big a pig could be. My toddler was able to point out different details and offer amusement, saying "wow" at some cool things that we as adults may take for granted.
Of course, traveling with a toddler also presents a reminder about how important self-care is. As adults, we may be on the go all the time and constantly push ourselves to complete our tasks or make the next appointment on-time. With a toddler, however, we can slow down. We can linger here and stare there. We can and should take breaks for potty and food and shade.
We are also reminded that we can see different sides to things. There are many perspectives to each experience in our life. Going to the same place we have been to before but with different people can change the experience. Hearing someone else's viewpoint on their role in a scenario can help us understand the experience better.
We can see the whole world differently. We can care for ourselves, our families, and friends. We can see the moon, the clouds, the trees, the fish, the animals, the grass- everything- in a whole new way. Try seeing the world through a young child's eyes for a while. I bet it will be amazing!
|Posted on August 7, 2015 at 9:15 AM|
Shortly after deciding the topic of this month's post, my plan was reinforced by watching Pixar's new movie Inside Out. What a great way to view and learn about our emotions! Once again, Pixar had me tearing up, laughing, and adoring this wonderful gem of a movie. Isn't it funny how some children's movies are so appealing to grown-ups too? I suppose this is a goal of Hollywood since children can't take themselves to the movies so parents should have some fun too!
Ok-back on topic here. My goal for this month is to discuss the importance of experiencing a healthy range of emotions. When I set up therapy goals with my clients, we work together to design goals that are reflective of a healthy and meaningful lifestyle. Not only is a goal to be happy all the time unrealistic, it is unhealthy.
There are many lessons that can be learned from Inside Out. I will do my best to avoid spoilers, but I forgive you if you stop reading now and return after you have seen the movie (and I hope you do). The movie outlines a fascinating view of our brain map and emotions. We see core memories, personality traits, long-term memory, imagination, and filing systems. We also see how emotions play a large role in our behaviors, actions, and choices. We also see how emotions are kicked into gear by how we interpret the environment.
As a parent, I understand the desire for our children to be happy all the time. I even noticed myself on Team Joy for a while there. Sadness was dragging us down. A deeper look into our lesson here is that Joy isn't everything we need. Each of our other emotions play a key role in our well-being. When working together and in healthy amounts, our emotions keep us safe, and allow us to take risks, experience happiness, connect with others, cry it out when needed, get feedback that something is wrong, identify poor fit in our environment, laugh, resolve conflicts, have our own opinions, be resilient and develop our own personality.
I hope you will be able to spend time being mindful of having a healthy range of emotions and expressing them appropriately. Enjoy some time with friends and family, catch a movie (I definitely recommend Inside Out), read a book (perhaps my e-book The Summer it Rained: How Boppy the Beagle Learned to See the Sun Behind the Clouds), and pay attention to your emotions when they are activated. There is some good information available to you there.
|Posted on September 12, 2014 at 8:15 PM|
I can't believe it is already time to go back to school. The stores are buzzing with parents and kids (young and college-aged) reading supply lists, choosing new backpacks, selecting the best sheets for the dorm room, and grabbing deals on folders, crayons, pens, and notebooks. The other day while shopping in a popular retail store, I overheard several parents complaining about their childs' teachers, schools, and communicating feeling "bad for kids these days."
One of my goals in sharing this piece with you today is to help stop this cycle of negative feelings about school and to help support kids, young adults and families have a smooth, successful, and happy transition back to school. If you are a college student (or soon to be college student), I hope to also provide some strategies for a great transition back.
Here are some strategies for kids transitioning back to school:
Work With, Not Against, Your Child's Teacher
It is easy to get wrapped up in negativity when hearing other parents complain about their child's experience. Give the teacher and school a chance to get to know your child and family while you learn about them. Ask questions, attend any Meet the Teacher Nights that are offered, and learn about the structure of your child's day, classroom expectations, rules, supplies, etc. It is also helpful to get the contact information for your child's teacher so you can have open communication with them. Be patient when waiting for responses. You are trying to get to know one or two staff members while they are working on getting to know 20-30 kids and families.
Understand Goodness of Fit
The fit between a child and teacher is very important to consider and evaluate, as it affects the success of your child in school. Listen to your child when they tell you about their school day. Read the homework assignments. Ask about classroom behavior modification systems. Observe any behavior changes in your child. Communicate any helpful strategies that have worked in the past for your child with the new teacher. For example, let the teacher know if your child is more successful with writing assignments when there are lines on the paper or if your child responds well to reinforcement or taking breaks. The best way to do this is to establish a desire to have open and consistent communication with the teacher early on.
Utilize the Team
School should be a positive place for your child. There are a number of people on your child's team who are available in the building to help make the experience great. These team members include the teacher(s) and any other classroom staff, the school psychologist and/or social worker, nurse, and principal. The team also includes you (the parent) and the child (depending on age). If your child receives special education services, the team may also include a speech therapist, occupational therapist, or physical therapist. Everyone benefits from working together. Utilize team members when needed, as everyone presents their own unique role and area of expertise. Problems can be solved by communicating openly with team members.
For college students:
Know Your Schedule
Make sure you access your schedule prior to the semester starting and classes beginning. Double check any room changes, class cancelations, or professor changes. You will have a limited time frame once the semester starts to make changes to your classes, so be sure to attend all classes and confirm they are the right day/time/course for you.
Parents: Support and Encourage But Don't Hover
You have a young adult now. Let him/her explore the new life of college. Educate them about safety, health, and any concerns you have as a parent. Students- you are going to have more independence than ever before, especially if you are living on campus. Seek support when needed and enjoy this added responsibility and privilege. Let your family know if you need more or less from them.
Get to know at least one other student in each of your classes. They could be a great support for you. Having the contact information of at least one other student can be a lifesaver if you need to miss class for any reason, don't understand an assignment, or want a study buddy. A note of caution- the most accurate information will always come directly from the professor. Therefore, be sure to always communicate absences as soon as you can to the professor and confirm you have correct information for what you missed. In addition, most colleges have plenty of resources available for free to students. These include a counseling center, tutoring center, professor office hours, library, computers, financial aid office, and more. Information for these can usually be found on the college's website or class syllabi.
School, no matter at what age, should be fun. Practice mindfulness, try new experiences, communicate openly with teachers and professors, make new friends, join clubs, and get support when needed.
There are plenty of resources available at schools and in the community. You can research the website of the district or campus, visit the local library, or do simple online searches. In my practice, I provide services for parents, such as the online Behavior Management Group as well as services for college students, such as the online College Suite. I also work directly with schools using a School Consultation Model to support children and teachers in the classroom.
#BacktoSchool, #College, #schoolsuccess
|Posted on February 5, 2014 at 8:30 PM|
A few days ago, I watched a group of parents protesting the Common Core and high stakes testing outside of a local school district on the news. There were parents expressing concern and dissatisfaction with district and sate educational policies. There were children communicating frustration, confusion, and feelings of failure. This is not the only public outcry for support, help, and change in recent months. A brief online search will show you a variety of videos and written works professing similar concerns. This negative experience that students, teachers, administrators, and parents are communicating is sad and serves as a motivator for change.
I have spent the last several months working with families and speaking with school staff to understand the challenges related to the Common Core and state testing and to develop practical strategies for coping with these changes. I am saddened by the idea that there are capable children who feel like failures as a result of new academic requirements.
The following are some helpful strategies that families can utilize to understand and support their child's educational experience.
Help your child to discover and utilize effective coping skills. Teach your child to focus on areas of success, not failure. Encourage
them and provide support. Listen to what your child is communicating to you. Avoid "showing" them how to do the work. How you learned to complete a problem is likely very different than they are learning it today.
Work with, not against your child's teacher and district. The Common Core is not a district initiated change, it is a federal change. Understand the differences between the Common Core and high stakes testing. Contact your district to learn about which tests your child will be taking, when they will be taking them, and the options available for opting out or receiving accommodations.
Be informed. Do your research. Ask questions. Communicate any concerns with the teacher. Get clarification from the teacher about how work should be completed. Get examples.
It is very important for parents to be informed about their child's day-to-day educational experience. You can learn more about the Common Core by visiting these websites:
If you would like to learn more about high stakes testing, you can contact your district, or (if you are a NYS resident) visit http://www.p12.nysed.gov/assessment/
Remember, you can be an advocate for your child and teach them to advocate for themselves.
|Posted on December 12, 2013 at 8:35 PM|
Celebrating holidays with family and friends can be challenging. There may be more people, sounds, visual stimuli, and expectations. Many families experience heightened stress around the holidays, especially if you have a child with special needs. Here are some strategies that may be helpful to remember when celebrating during this holiday season.
If you are traveling by train, bus, or airplane, it is important to research certain information prior to your trip. It may be helpful to call ahead and find out wait times, what waiting areas are like, traffic conditions, possible detours, places to sit, places to eat, location of bathroom, when rest stops will be, etc. If you are travelling by car, look ahead for traffic and construction. Waiting is a difficult skill for many individuals with special needs (and for some individuals who do not have special needs too!). Some facilities (such as amusement parks and airports) may offer shorter wait times or early board times with appropriate documentation.
Pack, pack, and pack! Pack even if you are just traveling a short distance or you are not traveling at all. Have reinforcers, toys, books, and snacks available at all times. These can be lifesavers at a holiday gathering. It is also important to bring any behavior plans, coping skills charts, token economies, and communication assistance devices. If you child engages in dangerous behavior (e.g., eloping, unsupervised cooking, fire playing, etc.), make sure to have preventative measures in place in each new setting. Your child will still need support (and maybe a little extra support) when celebrating with family and friends.
Decide in advance how you would like to communicate information about your child and his/her needs to friends and family. Your doctor may have brochures you can share, depending on how detailed you would like to be. It is helpful to let other individuals know what modifications may be made and how your child may respond. Many families find it helpful to work out a plan in advance for responding to challenging behavior, should it occur in the presence of new people or people your child is not with very often.
Even though the holiday season can be stressful, remember to “be” (see November’s blog). Have fun with your child. Let them know they are loved and will be safe and you are both prepared to handle challenging situations.
Remember, you will never be able to predict everything. Sometimes a monkey wrench is tossed into the situation. Model good coping skills when this happens. Change can be OK and growth may even occur when challenges are experienced.
Warm Wishes for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!
|Posted on October 17, 2013 at 9:40 PM|
It's October, which means that school has been in session for a while, the leaves are changing beautiful colors, the temperature is cooling, and the holidays seem to be just around the corner. October is also a month during which many children and families (and some grown-ups too) are getting ready for Halloween. They are shopping for costumes, candy, and decorations. Many kids like to do the decorating themselves, allowing them to express independence and creativity.
Some homes are decorated with spider webs and pumpkins. Others are grounds for mock cemeteries with RIP stones on the lawn or have elaborate haunted houses available. Some homes have human size fake bodies covered in blood or with missing body parts stationed in front. Many people will enjoy these decorations in the spirit of Halloween. Many will not.
What about people who suffer from anxiety? What about children who have nightmares at the first look of a scary cartoon? What about adults with a fear of dying, getting injured in some way, or getting lost where they can't escape? How are these individuals affected?
People with anxiety may experience Halloween differently. We are all individuals and can tolerate different types of stimuli. Some will have nightmares (yes, even grown-ups), want to avoid certain settings (trick or treating at certain houses, parties at school, scary movies), or become fearful.
This is important to remember as you decide how you will celebrate. If you are a parent and your child suffers from anxiety, you know your child best. If you are an adult, you know yourself best. It is OK and healthy to decide which festive activities to participate in.
There are many programs designed for children that are actually very scary. Many "kid friendly" shows and movies can present concepts that may be difficult to understand such as kidnapping, death, illness, witchcraft, and ghosts. As a parent it is important to be sure that you are permitting your child to experience material that is appropriate developmentally and emotionally.
Now, let's not be confused with exposure treatment for anxiety. A general rule of thumb is that when we avoid something we are anxious about, it reinforces our anxiety, making it more difficult to face that situation in the future. This is true. Within the context of Halloween, however, I believe it is OK to avoid certain stimuli that are not needed for healthy development or functioning. If your child cannot attend school during the season because he/she is afraid of the parties, decorations, or costumes, it is important for him/her to attend school anyway. This would be a case when anxiety can be inadvertently reinforced if the child is permitted to stay home. A talk with the teacher may help to modify classroom stimuli to make it safer for your child to be there. Working with your child on coping skills can also help him/her feel safe in school. If your child wants to avoid scary movies, then this is OK. Let them. One does not need to be exposed to scary or horror films in order to develop appropriately. One does, however, need to be educated. See the difference?
And for you grown-ups out there who love horror films and Halloween parties, have fun! For those of you who want to crawl into a hole instead of watching the "however many nights of Halloween" specials on TV, then read on. It is OK that you do not like this material. We all have different tastes, interests, and levels of tolerance. Decide how you would like the next few weeks to be for you and make a plan.
Trick or treating is another interesting activity for people with anxiety. Think about it. You dress up in a costume, walk up to a stranger's door (or hopefully someone you know and have determined is safe to trick or treat from), knock, wait for someone to answer, say "Trick or Treat," hold open your bag or bucket, say "thank you," walk away, and repeat. Also, you have to stay with your friends and family, possibly walk a long distance in unusual clothing, and accept whatever treat has been given to you. Not such a simple process, right? Trick or treating can be a great way to practice social skills, follow a routine, and be exposed to new and unpredictable situations. However, how important a life skill is it to knock on people's doors and ask for treats? You decide.
Consider all of this information as you decide, either for yourself or your children, how to participate in Halloween. You can choose the specific activities to join, consumes to wear, stores to shop in, parties to attend, houses to trick or treat at, movies to watch, or candy to eat. Utilizing your power to choose is a great skill to practice for healthy development and functioning.
So, what is Halloween for you? A good treat or a bad trick?
|Posted on August 19, 2013 at 9:45 PM|
Taking a trip to a new place with a child can be exciting and terrifying. You pick a day. You pick a place. You pick the people to join you. You pick what to bring. What you don't get to pick is your child's mood that day. You don't get to pick the prices. You don't get to pick if anyone is going to be sick or healthy that day. You don't get to pick the weather. This is all OK.
I recently took two day trips (or 1/2 day trips) to child friendly locations, an ecology center and an aquarium. There were many families at both. Both settings involved animals or other living creatures. Both settings were crowded, involved walking, were unpredictable, and included outdoor and indoor activities. Some adults have difficulty when faced with situations that have these qualities. Many children also experience a level of discomfort mixed in with excitement for traveling to a new place and seeing cool species. Now imagine a child with special needs. How is he/she feeling and dealing with the unpredictability of animals, shows, and events? How is he/she coping with being surrounded by lots of strangers, tall people, little people, strollers, wheelchairs, and animals? How is he/she managing the energy and perseverance of walking great lengths in the hot sun? The answer? It depends. There's that phrase again (in case you missed my last blog post, read through it and "it depends" will make more sense to you). A better question might be- how are mom and dad handling these factors? Are they comfortable or distressed? Are they laughing when they read a schedule wrong and missed an event, or are they yelling because their child is unable to sit for 20 minutes to wait for the next showing?
Children look to the adults and others around them for cues about how to think, feel, and act. This can be very useful, or it can be unhelpful and even hurtful. Parents can model appropriate coping skills and behaviors for their children in these difficult (even though they are fun) situations. Children with special needs may need some additional support. Consider calling the locations in advance and find out what accommodations they offer. These may include preferential seating or parking, use of headphones, early entry/exit, and reduced waiting times. You may want to consider bringing snacks, toys, and coping items (book, blanket, picture cards, etc.) with you for your child to use during stressful situations. If your child uses a communication device, bring it with you and allow your child to have access to it at all times. Remember, this is their voice. Listen to your child. Ask a relative, close friend, or professional to take the trip with you. This may help the child and parents feel more successful and relaxed when additional eyes, ears, and support are available. Prepare your child about the upcoming experience and let them know that there may be some unpredictability and this is OK. We can call these events "monkey wrenches." Adults-this is for you too. Sometimes life throws you a monkey wrench such as rain on the day you wanted to go to the beach or get that yard work done. The point is-change is all around us and it can be good. Part of preparing your kids for what to expect to reduce unpredictability is actually preparing them for change and monkey wrenches!
Have fun during the rest of summer (it's not over yet!) and plan a trip to take in the next few weeks. Just be sure to actually have fun and don't stress about the monkey wrenches. If you have fun, you're kids probably will too.