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4 Tips for Working with a Discouraged Child

canstockphoto11822062Four tips for working with a discouraged child…

When working with a discouraged child, work to see them as a discouraged individual. Feeling discouraged isn’t just an emotion experienced by children, it is a very relatable feeling that adults often experience as well. Children, while developmentally less mature, are not experiencing something you lack the ability to empathize with. So lets start there! Empathy can soften even the most escalated situations. Now that we are going into this situation with empathy, explore how the four tips below could be implemented when you encounter a situation with your child who may be experiencing a moment of discouragement

1. How would you want someone to react to you if you were discouraged? Think back to a time when you last felt discouraged. How would you have like a loved one to respond to you? What would have felt good, comforting and supportive? Begin to respond to your child in a similar fashion.

2. How can you encourage the child to self-soothe and problem solve independently? Encourage your child to identify the state of discouragement and empower them to problem solve to help themselves to find relief and solutions.

3. Offer yourself as a resource but don’t insist on being one. When a child is discouraged it may be nice to know they are not alone and that you are there as a resource in their life to offer support when they feel they need it. You might say something like. “I can see you are discouraged right now. I know you are a great problem solver but if you need any help problem solving or if you just need a hug, I am here for you”

4. Acknowledge, validate and commend your child for overcoming a challenging emotional experience. When you see your child may be de-escalating, has successfully problem solved, or is just finding their way through feeling discouraged, acknowledge them and their emotional work. That might look something like this. “Wow, I could see that you were really discouraged and I bet that was tough, but you really handled that nicely and found a way to help yourself through it and/or coped with that discouragement really well. I am happy you are starting to feel better”

If you identify that you may have a child struggling beyond your and their ability to cope with everyday emotions it may be a great time to explore the idea of seeking professional support. A licensed therapist can support you and your child in exploring ways to cope with difficult emotions and emotional reactions. Connecting with a therapist during hard times can aid in coping strategies and building family skills!

Melanie works closely with children, teens and parents to develop healthy and positive coping strategies. If you would like to schedule a session with Melanie D. Davis, CMHC, NCC contact Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555

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Parenting Tool: The Empowered Time-Out

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As I have worked with many families and parents, I have noticed that everyone has their own spin on the infamous Time-Out. Many families use this intervention as one of many alternatives to physical punishment. This is great! All of the research indicates that physical punishment is the least effective consequence. As a clinician I can tell you, I do not condone physical punishment, and it tends to be more damaging than educational to children. We would much rather our children make good choices because it makes sense to them, not because they fear a spanking. Fear is not empowering. You want children to develop internal controls.

Many of the Time-Out versions my clients are using when they come see me involve a timer. Some people do a minute for every year old a child is, some have a set 5 minutes every time, and some leave it open-ended and tell their children, “I’ll tell you when you are done.” These methods can turn Time-Outs into a power struggle, which you will lose every time. Children are in charge of themselves, and if you don’t get that, they will keep working to prove it to you.

If you think about your own experience in the world, many times, we can correct our inappropriate behavior as soon as we choose to. Nobody says, “Sorry, you can’t apologize for 20 minutes.” With my clinical background, and as a mother myself, I have developed what I call the Empowered Time-Out. This is a combination between your influence as a parent and a child’s power to choose. This works best for children who understand language, not tiny toddlers. This should be done with a calm voice. Here is how you do it:

  1. Educate the child why the behavior is inappropriate. Warn the child that if they continue the behavior, the consequence is Time-Out.
  2. When the child engages in the behavior again, direct them to your time out spot and remind them that they are going because they chose to keep engaging in the undesired behavior.
  3. Let them know that they can let themselves out of Time-Out as soon as they are willing to engage in the appropriate behavior.
  4. When the child comes out of Time-Out, if they choose the desired behavior thank them and give them praise. If they choose to get out and continue the undesired behavior, continue to direct them back to Time-Out with the same instructions.

Any new system of discipline is going to be hard to implement. Fair warning; your children will likely resist or may even try to take advantage as you begin this. Because this is empowering, you have to be okay if the child chooses not to engage in the desired behavior, and stay in Time-Out in order not to do it. It may be worth it to them in a moment to choose a negative consequence to prove their independence.

The whole point of this tool is to put children in charge of themselves. Our job as parents is to teach healthy behaviors, not make our children do them. So many parents stress more about what their children are doing than their children do. This tool puts you and child on the same page with the understanding that the child is in charge of making choices. You don’t have to hover with a timer and use your entire afternoon managing their choices.

If you are consistent with this, you will be surprised how well it works. With my own child, I am amazed how he has developed an internal control. At first it took more times of going to Time-Out before he would change the behavior. Now, he usually changes the behavior after one Time-Out, or simply at the warning before we ever make it to Time-Out. He simply helps himself out of Time-Out and says, “I’m ready mom.” We both go on with our day with no conflict or hard feelings. Consistently try this and I promise you will love it!

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4 Questions Every Parent Should Ask Their Child’s Teacher

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It’s Parent-Teacher conference time for many local school districts, and making those brief meetings as productive as possible is on everybody’s mind. Most likely, your child’s teacher is prepared with a specific list of items to discuss and that’s a good thing! It’s a clear indication of a teacher who’s prepared a plan to guide your child’s instruction and who can speak specifically to where your child ‘is’ in terms of  her progress.

Does that mean parents should be passive during conferences? No – and most likely teachers would enjoy more of an exchange anyway. While it can often feel a bit rushed and there can be a lot of information to choose from to discuss during a conference, theses four areas may help you organize exactly what questions are important to ask during your child’s parent teacher conference this spring.

  1. Homework. While homework is not ‘class work’ or even necessarily an emphasis of school work, it does speak to ‘soft skills’ related to school functioning. For example, how well a student is able to keep organized, work independently, follow-through with assignments, and so on. Some questions to consider as a parent might be are: is my child turning in assignments on time? Is the work completed in an acceptable manner?
  2. Class participation. Get feedback from your child’s teacher regarding her observations of your child’s engagement in classroom. Do they appear prepared? Do they listen and follow directions? Cooperate? A student’s functioning regarding following the structure and routine of the class is important, and sometimes is hard for parents to pick up on if not asked directly.
  3. Social-emotional observations and/or feedback. Hopefully you have a good sense of your child’s relationship with his teacher. However, you may want to consider getting direct feedback. Asking for direct feedback regarding your child’s relationship(s) with the teacher, other adults, and/or other students may be helpful. Does your child get along well with other students? Manage frustration well? Social-emotional functioning in school is a significant factor regarding how well a student well perform.
  4. Academics. Not just grades and progress on standardized tests, but is your child able and comfortable asking for help? Does she preserver regardless of task difficulty? Is this a strength, weakness, something to work on?

 

At best, your relationship with your child’s teacher is positive and open communication has already been established. If not, through considering these types of questions, your child’s teacher is aware that you’ve given careful thought and consideration to aspects of learning that occur both in and out of the classroom. Of course, you’re asking these in the spirit of wanting to work together to build on your child’s strengths in order to improve on weaker areas. These kinds of questions – hopefully –  send a signal to your child’s teacher that you want their feedback and that you are ready and willing to help.

Need help having conversations with your child’s teachers?

Consider talking to your child’s school psychologist.

Amy Folger at WFT can be a resource!

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Worst Things to Say to a Child Who is Grieving

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Most of us struggle in knowing how to give comfort to an adult who is experiencing a loss or death of a loved one, let alone a child.  We often struggle with understanding death as adults and attempt to protect children from having to experience this same mess of emotions as we are.   Many adults are uncomfortable discussing death and dying and use phrases that may be misunderstood by children.   At times however, our well-intentioned messages do the complete opposite of giving comfort!  Here are the top five to avoid!

1- “He/She is in a better place now”

This can be such a confusing statement to a child (or anyone struggling).  What could be better than being here alive with me?? This type of a message can unintentionally cause the child to internalize a belief that “I must have done something bad” or “I must be bad” if being dead is better than being alive and spending time together.  A better thing to say is, “Your Mom  can’t feel any more pain or suffering now because she has died and her body isn’t able to feel these things now”.

2- “We lost your Grandpa”

A young child is going to be very confused by this.  They may wonder “Did Grandpa run away?”  or  “What?! Grandpa is lost?  Let’s go find him!”.  The child may worry about their loved ones health and feel anxious if they are safe or being taken care of by someone nice.  They may worry about them being alone and scared, which is exactly how a child would feel if they were lost too!  A better thing to say is “Grandpa died last night” and answer what questions your child may have about his death.

3- “He/She has gone to sleep and won’t ever wake up”

Young children may become very scared to go to sleep after hearing this, after all, if this happened to Aunt Thelma, then it could happen to them also if they go to sleep!  Many children struggle with sleeping in their own beds following the death of a loved one, as nighttime and being alone in their bed is a perfect combination for their worries and imagination to take hold and create very scary possibilities.  It is normal for a child to experience some regression during this time, they may begin bedwetting, climbing into the parent’s bed, struggling with falling and staying asleep, as well as refusal to be alone.

4- “He/She has passed away”

This is a typical phrase we use culturally to describe the death of someone.   However, most children do not know the definition of  “passed away” is actual death.  A better way to describe death to a child is to say, “Uncle Joe died today.  This means that his heart is no longer beating, his mind isn’t thinking, his lungs no longer work and he has stopped breathing.  His body can’t feel any pain or cold or discomfort”.  Some adults feel uncomfortable about being this upfront or frank about death, but  this is actually a really important lesson every single human needs to learn.  Every single person will both live and die at some point.  It is okay to talk about this openly and honestly.

5- “You should feel happy now that they are in heaven”

Who has ever felt happy when someone has died??  You may feel peace or tenderness or even relief,  but most humans do not experience feelings of happiness and joy as part of their grieving process.  When we say statements like this to kids (or adults) we unintentionally are shaming them for feeling otherwise.  Happy may be the very last emotion they are feeling at this point in time. There are no “shoulds” in grief, especially in childhood grief.  A better way to say this is, “Its okay to feel sad and mad and any other feeling you may feel right now”.

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Accept Yourself, Commit to your Values, and Take Action to live a Vital Life

TRIUMPH

I speak with my students about vital signs and vital living when we talk about happiness. When we go to the doctor, they take our vital signs – heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and respiration – to see if we are living beings. This is what checks our vitality on the surface. Our vital signs say nothing about how full, rich, or meaningful we feel about how life and how our life can or how we believe it “should” be.

We talk about how there is “feeling happy” and there is “living happily” and many of us often struggle with living happily if we aren’t feeling happy. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy has been one of the best ways I’ve seen my clients – and myself! – shift from feeling to living. One of the most powerful quotes that I came across about the idea of being happy is that it is a feeling like any other feeling – joy, anger, disgust, fear, sadness, etc. It doesn’t last forever. And you can almost feel the collective gasp of humanity if someone has the audacity to believe that you can’t be happy forever! We all know that *one* person who seems to always be happy no matter what, but is it that they are happy regardless of the circumstance or are they living their life happily because they include the ups and the downs and the lefts and the rights?

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‘Help Your Child Thrive in School and Beyond’ – National School Psychology Awareness Week 2015

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This week happens to be National School Psychology Awareness Week. In an effort to promote our profession and  provide an understanding of what it is that we do – because it seems to be ever evolving, changing, and growing –  each year the national association designates a week in November to present a message to the public about school psychology.

Helping Students and Families Connect the Dots and Thrive in School and Beyond.

School psychologists are trained to support and help students build their strengths, skills and abilities and realize their goals. Specifically, we have the expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior to help children  and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. We help students build upon their strengths, skills, interests, and abilities to ‘connect the dots’ and thrive. This includes helping them identify and plan ways to accomplish short and long term goals, building better relationships, and finding ways to keep going even when things get tough.

As many in our community may wrestle with high emotion and confusing thoughts and opinions related to incredibly important matters of faith, family, belief, and hope for the future, being accepting and loving towards everyone, even those that are very different from us, while challenging, may be more important than ever. Kids in school, especially as they get older, become notoriously peer focused! Who is getting the A? Who has the coolest phone? Who does the teacher call on the most? Who got asked to the dance? Etc. Etc. Supporting our kids to be true to themselves, yet accepting of others can be such a difficult task.

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5 Tips for Creating Emotional Security for Your Children

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5 Tips for creating emotional security and safety for your children when they are away from home.

It is often discussed how to create a loving home that encompasses safety, love, and security.  We validate, empower and create open dialogue, encouraging our children to have voices amongst other things.  However, the world and especially school environments can be very different from home.  There are different elements to consider and prepare for to assist in creating a feeling of safety and emotional security for our children while in these environments outside of home.

Prepare your children for various encounters, The world can be a tricky place to navigate.  Even for adults, we encounter social situations that can be tough to navigate, and know how to react.  Helping your children to understand the various encounters they may have while outside your home can help reduce anxiety, and prepare them to handle these encounters with confidence.  How to interact with the bus driver, the teacher who may scold you, the children in the class who may have buddied up, the adults at church that say hello, are all wonderful encounters to prepare your child for.  Help them with ideas for these types of scenarios based on your families ideals and personal values.

Role Play.  Don’t let the classic “What would you do if?” questions disappear into he closet with your past!  These are still present and relevant questions to present to your child.  What would do if you were left out at school?  What would you do if you were being treated unkindly?  What would you do if you saw someone being unkind?  Role play situations like these and others with your child.  It will not guarantee your child handles every situation perfectly, but it will offer them some experience and ideas to better handle situations that may present themselves when they are away from home.

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Identifying and Treating Seasonal Depression

SEASONSFall time is upon us!  There are so many things that make fall a great time of year.  The food, the smells, and the holidays are all things to look forward to.  However fall also marks a difficult time for many people.  Our days become shorter, which mean we do not have as many daylight hours.  For some this transition only marks the beginning of a season change, while for others it marks a significant change in their mood.
Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is a common problem that numerous people struggle with.  Many people have symptom onset in the spring time, however the majority of people notice their symptoms start in the fall and continue through the winter months.  Researchers speculate that the lack of sunlight during these months cause a change in important chemicals like melatonin and serotonin that affect our mood, appetite, and sleep.  As a result we become more likely to exhibit depression like symptoms during months where we do not receive enough sunlight to regulate these chemicals.
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7 Rules in Shame-Based Families

Teen Family Time
Shame has been a popular psychotherapy topic in social media lately and due to its fame it is frequently on my mind.  Today I’ve been thinking specifically about shame-based families and how this toxic feeling is often handed down through generations.
Shame can be passed through a family in myriad ways.  A common path is for it to travel through family rules.  With some prompting, maybe you can recall some of your family’s rules.  What rules did your family have about touching and sexuality?  What were the rules regarding marriage, money, vacations, religion, socializing…?
In John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame That Binds You he outlines 7 rules that are maintained by shame-based families.
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Is Talking About Race Just a Phase?

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As parents, the ability to talk with our kids about race can be very challenging. Over the summer,  I had a chance to talk with KSL Radio about the term “transracial” as it related to a popular story of the fallout and national conversation about race, when a white woman chose to identify as a black woman for professional and personal reasons.  In the radio interview I addressed the term transracial as an adoption term only and I discussed the history of “Passing” in a America. What I didn’t get a chance to talk about (because we only had 2 minutes) was how to help parents of children who may hear about being transracial and feel that they, too, identify with another cultural or ethnic group outside of their own.

Click the link below to listen to LaShawn Schultz talk with KSL Radio
https://audioboom.com/boos/3288288-the-term-transracial-new-focus-in-the-rachel-dolezal-race-debate

Parents may wonder how to address it or whether to ignore it and hope it passes like a rebellious taste in music. You don’t have to be a scholar about race relations in America in order to talk to your child about racial identity. What you do have to be aware of is the relationship you have with your child and the reality of identity development in the life of an adolescent.  Adolescence can be a trying time both for the tweenager, the teenager, and their parents and caregivers. This is because identity and the ability to explore it is in a full fledged developmental process. Identity itself is a lifelong process that only begins in adolescence. Our goal in parenting through change is to help our kids navigate the questions that arise from their crises.

While racial identity development is a separate experience reserved for the lived experience from birth of a specific racial or ethnic identity, the discussion of feeling a connection and kinship to a racial group that is not part of your own and only experienced in a social interactions is different.  The ability of parents to remember and do the following 3 things will help keep your connection to your child as durable as it is flexible.

  1. Recognize that a “crisis” is not a bad thing, it is simply an unanswered question or series of questions. It’s okay to explore questions with your child because this builds critical thinking skills.
  2. Realize that your child bringing the unanswered question to you is as much a compliment as it is a hearing test. Your child wants to know if you’ll hear them and listen when they talk.
  3. While your child cannot change their racial identity, the relationship you have with them is what will change as you use your ability to talk with them as an emotional connection point.  Connection is what allows you to talk with them about race as a social construct and get underneath their questions to reach the desire for emotion and validation that is fueling the questions about their identity in the first place.

The three things are the foundation of your relational connection to your child and will make a big difference in your relationship with them all because of your willingness to understand them.

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