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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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Clair Mellenthin LLC: Rise in Depression in Preschoolers

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Clair Mellenthin visited Fresh Living to talk about depression in preschool age children.

Click the link below to see what Clair has to say!

http://kutv.com/features/fresh-living/clair-mellenthin-llc-rise-in-depression-in-preschoolers

 

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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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5 steps to Stress Reduction

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Muscle relaxation has always been a staple in stress reduction, but is often not something we jump to when we recognize stress or other uncomfortable emotions. In fact, we often unnecessarily carry emotional stress in our muscles long after a stressful event or situation has passed. To combat the negative effects stress has on our bodies and minds many researchers and clinicians suggest engaging in activities like yoga or deep breathing. When we hold tension in our muscles we are sending our brain the signal to release cortisol, the stress hormone. This is a good thing if we need to be primed for action, but can have adverse effects on our mental and physical health if we don’t counter act the cortisol after the stressful even has passed. In the fast-paced world we live in, with near constant stressors being thrown our way, it is rare that people can or do take the time needed to fully relieve their muscles of the stress impact, and thus it builds throughout the day.
Maybe you cant skip that stressful work meeting to go to a yoga class, but what if you could de-stress without leaving the office, or even de-stress in the stressful moment itself. You can. Here is a 5-step tip to help you tap into stress reduction throughout the day.

1- Check in with yourself throughout the day to see if you are feeling stress. Even little amounts of stress can have a big impact on your mental and physical health. Being aware of when we are feeling stress is the first step to stress reduction.

2- Rate your stress level on a scale of 0-10 so that after the muscle relaxation you can have a gauge of how it worked and if you need to take a few more seconds to relax and bring yourself further down the scale.

3- Do a body scan to assess how and where your body is holding the stress? Are you feeling tight, tense, pain, aching, fidgeting, or tingling? Are there any more subtle areas are holding tension?

4- Consciously release the tension of this area as you exhale. Imagine the muscle relaxing even if you can’t fully feel it right away. Drop your shoulders away from your ears, let your hips and legs rest heavy on the seat, and soften the muscles in your face and neck.

5- Repeat. Now that you’re more relaxed notice if there are other areas in need of relaxation.

This activity done frequently in short periods of time throughout a day may have a bigger impact on your stress reduction than that yoga class you’ve been meaning to get to. So the next time you get cut off on the freeway, overloaded with another task at work, or frustrated with your child notice how your body responds and let go of the tension in your muscles.

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Power of Play

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I was lucky enough to be featured on Dr. Christina Hibbert’s podcast Motherhood a few weeks ago.  We spent an hour talking about the importance of Moms in their child’s life- focusing on the power of play!

Play is a crucial part of healthy development for our children, and guess what? It’s an essential part of a healthy YOU, too. Through play, we can better understand our children, their needs, and what we can do to help them through the hard times. We can also strengthen relationships and build connections that last a lifetime. And when we approach life and motherhood more playfully, we not only set the example for our kids; we actually learn, create, relax, and live better, too. In this episode, I’m talking with Clair Mellenthin, LCSW, an expert on play therapy, and she’s got some valuable lessons each of us needs to hear about the power of play—for us, for our children, and for our families. Don’t miss this fun, fact-filled, play-inspiring episode! And visit my website DrChristinaHibbert.com for more on this and other “Motherhood” topics!

http://webtalkradio.net/internet-talk-radio/2015/11/09/motherhood-moms-kids-the-power-of-play/

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Five Real Life Skills for High Tech Kids: Dr. Julie Hanks Studio 5

We live in a technology-saturated world, and our kids are often more adept at the newest gadgets than we are! I’ve found that parents are sometimes weary about the newest developments in the tech world. But these are the times we live in, and the internet will never go away. The online world can improve our lives or it can distance us, so I invite adults to embrace the good it can bring. However, there are certain skills that our children may be (somewhat) lacking in how to function and have relationships in a non-virtual way. Here are 5 real life skills for high-tech kids.

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Finding the Holiday Spirit (Part 2): Navigating Family Issues as a Couple

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As discussed in the first part of this series, couples often face challenges between the two of them during the holiday season.  However, the stress doesn’t stop there.  Couple’s often find themselves struggling to enjoy the season because of family-related issues, and the pressure that can come from trying to celebrate with everyone that is important to them.  In the second part of this series, I contribute to sharing some helpful ways for couples to navigate through these obstacles, and make the holidays enjoyable for everyone.
Click the link below to read:
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/11/13/3-ways-to-navigate-family-issues-as-a-couple-during-the-holidays/
The end of the year can be such a special opportunity for couples to connect in unique ways, and strengthen the relationship that exists between them.  Don’t let the potential stress of this time prevent you and your partner from taking this opportunity, and having a very happy holiday season!
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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Getting an Accurate Diagnosis

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a topic that comes up frequently throughout my week; as a school psychologist in an elementary school, teachers often refer students for suspected problems with attention and concentration, hyperactivity, and impulse control difficulties. In my outpatient practice, I’m on the ‘other side’ of this equation, meeting with families often referred from school teams for suspected problems of this nature. Typically, these referrals seem appropriate and everyone is on the same page. Occasionally, the members are not. As in, ‘my child’s teacher told me my child has ADD and needed accommodations! Now what?!’ It gave me pause and consideration for this weeks blog.  Just who can and can’t diagnosis ADHD ? What might an assessment for ADHD include? Should school staff be bringing this subject up to parents to begin with? And, is it ADD or ADHD ?

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