Calm Your Children’s Back-to-School Anxiety

Last updated on December 11th, 2021 at 09:33 pm

Imagine starting a new job every year — with a new boss, new colleagues and new projects. Sound a bit stressful? That’s how the start of the school year feels to many kids. Most children experience anxiety when they don’t know what to expect, says Dr. Andrea Weiner, a child and family therapist and the author of The Best Investment: Unlocking the Secrets of Social Success for Your Child. “It’s fear of the unknown,” says Weiner. “Parents need to give children an understanding of what they will be in control of.”

Try these tips to ease some anxiety your kids may have:

How will I know where to go?

Whether your child is starting kindergarten or middle school, moving to a new town or just switching schools, he’s bound to be anxious about getting around the building. Where’s the bathroom? Which stairwell leads to the library? How long will it take to get from one classroom to another? Remove the guesswork (and the anxiety) by taking a tour a day or two before school starts. (Just call the school office and explain the situation.) Time how long it takes to get from one place to another, and point things out along the way. Getting the lay of the land ahead of time will give your child a sense of control before the first bell rings.

Will my teacher be nice?

Teachers are usually in the building setting up a day or so before school starts, so when you take your tour, ask if you can to stop by the classroom and introduce your child to the teacher. This is especially important to young kids who have no basis for comparison. If you know of older children who’ve had this teacher, you might want to ask them about their experience and then pass on the information to your child. (Don’t have the kids talk directly to each other unless you know the older child has good things to say!)

What will I be doing every day?

Kids love routines and get a great deal of comfort from knowing what their regular schedule will be. For kindergartners and first-graders, explain that the teacher will go over everything on the first day of class (and probably for the next few days after that). The teacher will describe the rules of the classroom, what he expects from the students and what they will be doing during the day. For kids starting middle school, explain that they’ll probably get a printed schedule showing the days, times and locations of all their classes.

Will I have friends?

The social aspect of school is a huge cause of anxiety for kids of all ages, whether they are new to the school or old-timers. Returning kids may worry that none of their friends will be in their class, and that they’ll have to form new friendships. New students may not know how to reach out to other kids. Weiner recommends giving kids some conversation starters to take the pressure off. Suggest they ask such questions as “I like your backpack; where’d you get it?” and “What did you do this summer?” They can also share some of their doubts: “Did you understand that assignment? I didn’t get it at all.”

Will I be able to keep up?

All kids worry about their academic performance, according to Weiner. The chaos of attending school during a pandemic didn’t make things easier. The important thing to tell them is that effort counts much more than grades do. Parents should stress the importance of trying and learning, as opposed to succeeding. Say something like, “Some subjects may be harder for you than others, and that’s OK.” And remind your child that teachers really are there to help.

“Most kids think they’re the only ones who are afraid,” says Weiner. “Remind them that everyone is in the same situation and feeling the same way. It helps kids deal with the anxiety a little better when they know everyone is in the same boat.”

Who At Your Kid’s School Is Certified in CPR or Basic First Aid??

Last updated on December 11th, 2021 at 09:37 pm

Editor’s Note: With the COVID Delta variant placing our kids at a higher risk, and hospitals and EMS systems stretched way beyond capacity, we’re thinking this may be something you just might want to know.

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It’s a simple question really. How many people at your child’s school are certified in life saving CPR and basic first aid? The answer may surprise you. I am often on the other side of this question training the administrators and teachers in cpr and first aid, and praising them for spending the time and money to go beyond the bare minimum and make sure their entire staff is trained and the children are safe, but putting my oldest child in school for the first time this year made me curious to know the answer to this question.

As a concerned parent I placed a call to Miami Dade public schools and was alarmed to find out that at a public school here in Dade county only two people are required to be certified in CPR and basic first aid. This is a dangerously low number considering that some of the schools here in Dade County have over 5000 students. Not to mention what would happen if one or both of these people calls in sick or goes on vacation? Then you run into the possible situation of having nobody on campus that day required to be trained. Not good. With the normal everyday injuries at schools, the knowledge of basic first aid is a must and add to that the growing number of sudden cardiac events in schools around the country and you will see that having a basic knowledge of first aid and CPR together is also a must and therefore the bare minimum of safety by some schools just will not do.

What would cause a school to keep only the bare minimum of people trained in something so important? Is it that the administrators and staff don’t care about the children’s safety and only do the bare minimum because they have to? Of course not. The answer as usual is money. Now obviously what needs to happen is the schools need to increase the number of people trained in cpr and basic first aid, but like anything else training costs money and with school budgets shrinking by the day and teachers coming out of their own pockets more than ever to make up for the lack of funds, asking a school to budget in training for an entire staff just does not seem possible. So what can you as a concerned parent do? Well if you are certified to train the staff in cpr and first aid then you can do as I have done and donate the training to the school and staff for free, or you can do as some parents here in Dade county have done and that is to raise the funds for the training themselves by having a bake sale or a car wash or some other fundraising event and hire a company to come out to the school and train the entire staff. I cannot think of a better use for that money than the safety of our children.

The bottom line is no matter where you live the people looking after your children, whether it is a school, a daycare or even grandparents need to be trained and know how to react when your child needs help. So go ahead and do as I did and ask the question as to who is certified here and what can I do to help?

Be Safe.

Do NOT let A Predator Make Your Child a Victim

Last updated on December 11th, 2021 at 09:34 pm

As Parents we want to protect our children from all harm and evil! We can’t! But we can be informed and keep our children savvy and enlightened!

Predator pic1There are predators out there and our children are their targets. What I’m going to talk about will shock and horrify you. It will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. Some of you might even want to stop reading here because this is the subject of horror movies and nightmares. This is something most of us would rather die than imagine happen to our children. But I implore you to continue, this is too important to ignore.

As a medical professional, I have seen firsthand the toll something like this can take on a child. The effects are devastating and life long. The incidence of crimes against children is on the rise. I’m sorry to have to tell you that unfortunately the times we live in are too dangerous to turn a blind eye.

I have some staggering statistics that are probably going to make you sick. I also have some tools to EMPOWER YOU and your CHILDREN! You do not need to be a helpless victim!

According to family watchdog an online Sex Offender Registry

  • 1 of 5 girls and 1 of 6 boys will be molested before their 18th birthday.
  • 90% of all sexual assaults against children are committed by someone whom the victim knew.
  • The typical sexual predator will assault 117 times before being caught.
  • The re-arrest rate for convicted child molesters is 52%.
  • That your child will become a victim of a sex offender is 1 in 3 for girls & 1 in 6 for boys. **Source: The National Center for Victims of Crime
  • Over 2,000 children are reported missing every day.

Background on Registered Sex Offender Laws:

The U.S. Congress has passed several laws that require states to monitor registered sex offenders; the Jacob Wetterling Crimes against Children Act, the Pam Lychner Sex Offender tracking and Identification Act and Megan’s Law.

On March 5, 2003, The Supreme Court ruled that information about registered sex offenders may be posted on the Internet. Good for us!

Let’s take advantage of these laws!!! This is Not about Vigilantism! This is about being INFORMED! This is about KNOWING where REGISTERED SEX OFFENDERS in YOUR AREA LIVE and WORK!!

Here are some excellent places to start:

  • National Sex Offender Public Website where you can search by name
  • National Alert Registry
  • Search for Sex Offenders in your area if there are offenders in your area there is a key to show you where they work and where they live. You can click on these boxes and a picture of the offender will pop up.
  • iTouch also has 2 great applications! 1 is free. It allows you to download 3 free searches of Registered Sex offenders in your Area. For a Small one time fee you can download the full program which lets you search whatever zip code you want! This would be very useful while traveling!
  • The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children “NCMEC” is a WEALTH of information!! As the nation’s resource center for protecting children they have NUMEROUS free online downloadable publications that EVERY parent needs to take advantage of! Their prevention and safety education programs and materials contain information and tips that will help you keep your children safer. I suggest you go to this site at your leisure and READ READ READ!! It could very well save you some heartache!

For decades, children were taught to stay away from “strangers.” But this concept is difficult for children to grasp and often the perpetrator is someone the child knows. It is more beneficial to help build Children’s confidence and teach them to respond to a potentially dangerous situation, rather than teaching them to look out for a particular type of person.

Here are some tips to help you take some first steps to help them avoid becoming a victim:

  • Make sure you know where each of your children is at all times. Know your children’s friends and be clear with your children about the places and homes they may visit. Make it a rule for your children to check-in with you when they arrive at or depart from a particular location and when there is a change in plans. You should also let them know when Predators - NCMECyou’re running late or if your plans have changed to show the rule is for safety purposes and not being used to “check up” on them.
  • Never leave children unattended in a vehicle, whether it is running or not. Children should never be left unsupervised or allowed to spend time alone or with others in vehicles as the potential dangers to their safety outweigh any perceived convenience or “fun.” Remind children to never hitchhike, approach a vehicle, or engage in a conversation with anyone within a vehicle they do not know and trust. Also they should never go anywhere with anyone without first getting your permission.
  • Be involved in your children’s activities. As an active participant you’ll have a better opportunity to observe how the adults in charge interact with your children. If you are concerned about anyone’s behavior, take it up with the sponsoring organization.
  • Listen to your children. Pay attention if they tell you they don’t want to be with someone or go somewhere. This may be an indication of more than a personality conflict or lack of interest in the activity or event.
  • Notice when anyone shows one or all of your children a great deal of attention or begins giving them gifts. Take the time to talk to your children about the person and find out why that person is acting in this way.
  • Teach your children they have the right to say NO to any unwelcome, uncomfortable, or confusing touch or actions by others and get out of those situations as quickly as possible. If avoidance is not an option, children should be taught to kick, scream, and resist. When in such a situation, teach them to loudly yell, “This person is not my father/mother/guardian,” and then immediately tell you if this happens. Reassure them you’re there to help and it is okay to tell you anything.
  • Be sensitive to any changes in your children’s behavior or attitude. Encourage open communication and learn how to be an active listener. Look and listen to small cues and clues indicating something may be troubling your children, because children are not always comfortable disclosing disturbing events or feelings. This may be because they are concerned about your reaction to their problems. If your children do confide problems to you, strive to remain calm, reassuring, and nonjudgmental. Listen compassionately to their concern, and work with them to get the help they need to resolve the problem.
  • Be sure to screen babysitters and caregivers. Many jurisdictions now have a public registry allowing parents and guardians to check out individuals for prior criminal records and sex offenses. Check references with other families who have used the caregiver or babysitter. Once you have chosen the caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing. Ask your children how the experience with the caregiver was, and carefully listen to the responses.
  • Practice basic safety skills with your children. Make an outing to a mall or park a “teachable” experience in which your children practice checking with you, using pay telephones, going to the restroom with a friend, and locating the adults who may be able to help if they need assistance. Remember, allowing your children to wear clothing or carry items in public on which their name is displayed may bring about unwelcome attention from inappropriate people looking for a way to start a conversation with your children.
  • Remember there is no substitute for your attention and supervision. Being available and taking time to really know and listen to your children helps build feelings of safety and security. 1

In conclusion, YOU HAVE A RIGHT to keep your children safe!

  • You have the right to know if Registered Sex Offenders are in your neighborhood! Be aware! Predator pic-addl
    • Check the registry by location for sex offenders located near Daycare centers, Schools, Camps, Church or anyplace you may be leaving your children, even Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
    • Check the registry by name for Church Officials, Teachers, Neighbors, Counselors, Private instruction Tutors, Bus Drivers, after school Activities leaders, Coaches etc.
    • Check them often. Take nothing for granted. Everyone is suspect.
  • Consult NCMEC’s prevention and safety education programs and materials for additional steps you and your children can take to help them feel empowered, and to know what they can do if they find themselves in a situation where they feel scared or compromised.
  • Finally, observe and listen; and TEACH CHILDREN to recognize and respond to anything that scares them. Children are very perceptive by nature. You are not ruining their childhood by talking to them when they are young. You may just be saving it!

Sex offenders place themselves in situations where children are! They make themselves appeal to children. This is NO Accident! Be SAVVY. We have the tools to fight these predators! LET’S USE THEM!

Leslie Mayorga R.N. BSN

1 “Know the Rules…General Tips for Parents and Guardians to Help Keep Their Children Safer” National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Executive Function: Helping Your Child’s Brain Take Charge

Last updated on December 11th, 2021 at 09:34 pm

Joey is a seven year old referred by his pediatrician because he has difficulty paying attention in school. His mind wanders, he responds to his teacher’s questions in class with “What, I don’t know,” and he is a bit self-conscious about his declining grades. Joey is a super sweet little boy, he does not squirm in his seat, bother other kids or anger the teacher. She simply wonders, “Why is he always day-dreaming?”

The answer, as pediatric neuropsychologist Dr. Paul Beljan says is, “Joey’s boss is out.” Here’s “ADHD and Executive Function: When the boss is out” a blog-talk-radio episode on the boss in Joey’s brain.

Joey’s boss resides in the frontal lobes of the brain. His boss is in charge of the executive functions that help him to preview, plan, think, inhibit, organize and execute tasks of daily living. I call this area of the brain “The Thinker.” You can read all about The Caveman and The Thinker here in The Family Coach Method.

Let’s learn a little about what are executive functions, how do we assess them and how do we improve them?

What is Executive Function and why does it matter?

The executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal. Executive functions are the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.

Executive functions take place in the frontal lobes, specifically the neocortex of the brain. If you’ve never heard of an executive function that’s no surprise yet, you use them every day. When you get up, choose your outfit, make your bed, make your coffee and plan your day, you are using your executive functions. Planning, organizing, holding information in your immediate memory, inhibiting your behavior, making good choices and managing your emotions are all activities mediated by executive function.

Let’s look at a description of a few executive functions. Think about yourself, your spouse and children. How do you see these functions evident in the behavior of those you care about? What might you, your child or spouse need more of?

Executive Functions

  • Inhibition – The ability to stop one’s own behavior at the appropriate time, including stopping actions and thoughts. The flip side of inhibition is impulsivity; if you have weak ability to stop yourself from acting on your impulses, then you are “impulsive.”
  • Cognitive Shift – The ability to move freely from one situation to another and to think flexibly in order to respond appropriately to the situation.
  • Emotional Control (self-regulation) – The ability to modulate emotional responses by managing one’s feelings. I call this using one’s thinker to manage one’s caveman.
  • Initiation – The ability to begin a task or activity. This includes the ability to independently generate ideas, appropriate responses and useful problem-solving strategies.
  • Working memory – The capacity to hold information in mind for the purpose of completing a task. Working memory is what you are using right now as you read this article. You are holding the information in memory and thinking about it.
  • Planning/Organization – The ability to identify, plan and manage current and future task demands.
  • Organization of Materials – The ability to create order in work, play and storage spaces.
  • Self-Monitoring – The ability to monitor one’s own internal feelings and performance in order to manage one’s thought, behavior and feelings.

We can improve executive function through a variety of activities. Play is a modality I often use.

As I sit and play with a child I teach them how to approach the play environment, how to choose, arrange and interact with toys, art or play materials. I teach the children that every activity has a beginning, middle and end. We begin a task, participate in the task or activity and then end the experience by putting materials away and making a conscious choice regarding what we will play next. Managing our feelings, body space, speed of movement and impulsivity are also well-addressed through play.

Brain Training is also another modality of executive function enhancement. Cognitive training or brain training consists of a variety of exercises designed to help improve functioning in areas such as sustaining attention, thinking before acting, visual and auditory processing, listening, reading – areas in which ADHD individuals often experience difficulties.

Modalities include computer work, person to person motor-cognition work and neurofeedback.

If an individual is having attentional or learning problems, tutoring or drill and practice in academic areas are often not effective. The principle underlying cognitive brain training is to help improve the “core” abilities and self-control necessary before an individual can function successfully academically. The exercises “drill for skill” directly in the areas where basic specific cognitive difficulties occur.

Brain Training is like exercise for the brain with specific exercises for specific neuropsychological functions or deficits. The key is to build neuronal connections. Activities that include a motor and cognitive component may work best but the research is not to a degree that one can assert Brain Training is yet an Evidence Based Treatment. In a few years, we’ll surely know more.

Research is ongoing as to what forms of brain training are effective. The key is to personalize your choice of program. The methodology of the program needs to meet the needs of your child. Does your child have attention challenges? Is their issue inhibition? Reading social cues? Staying on topic? Dyslexia?

Some programs include Luminosity, Captain’s Log, COGMED, MC2, Brain Gym and Brain Builder. If your child has not had a neuropsychological or executive function evaluation that may be a first step.

If you need to know more about the specific skills you wish to enhance in your child, a neuropsychologist can do an assessment of executive function.

Here are some excellent books on the topic http://www.researchild.org/resources.

Valuable Links

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This post reflects Dr Kenney’s “The Family Coach Method”. Used in practice for a number of years, The Family Coach Method is ‘rug-level,’ friendly and centered on the concept of families as a winning team – with dozens of age-appropriate sample conversations and problem solving scenarios to guide a family to the desired place of mutual respect, shared values and strengths. The goal is to help children to develop the life skills, judgment and independence that can help them navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex world.

Don’t Pull Your Hair Out Over Brushing Your Kids’ Teeth

Last updated on December 11th, 2021 at 09:34 pm

mother and daughter brushing teethWhining at tooth-brushing time can make you want to pull your own hair out. We know a better solution than threatening to take them to the dentist and pulling their teeth out instead.

How exactly can you get your kids into the bathroom and brushing their teeth correctly?

Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger when it comes to having problems getting kids to follow through with tooth brushing. Survey results show that just 58% of children brush their teeth 2X a day. Your goal is to get your kids into the bathroom and brushing their teeth correctly? Here are 5 tips to peace and quiet in your home as well as healthier mini-me’s.

1) A special trip to the store for toothbrush shopping

Everyone likes buying new things; it just makes you feel better. Children are no different.

  • Before the trip, do some talking around them that you are planning a big excursion for an important purchase for their health, something that will really help them in a special way. Let them know that they’re going to be allowed to choose their very own “special” toothbrush.
  • You are smart because you are using psychology to help you get to your goals: kids brush teeth and reduce dental disease. It’s a well-known fact that when a child chooses a toothbrush on their own, they are making a much deeper commitment. They actually own the decision when it’s their choice. And, they are much more likely to actually use it.
  • Go for the counter at the drug store with the colorful brushes, action figures and cartoon characters. It may seem elementary, but they are going to do much better if they own the toothbrush in their mind.

2) Establish a pattern of behavior

Timing is everything. Like any routine, once it’s learned, it becomes a habit and is not fought against. The trick is to make it fun, easy and forgettable (as to the stress part of it).

As a child develops, the one thing that is comforting to him or her is being in a routine.

Routines give them a sense of security, helps them to develop the discipline necessary to do boring things…such as following good oral hygiene practices!

3) Happy Time

Could it be that kids just mimic what they see their parents doing? The average person does not brush their teeth for the full two minutes that dentist’s recommend. Why would a kid know any different? We need to be better role models, certainly. I know it’s boring to brush for two minutes, but there are payoffs if we do.

Cooperation comes from making it a fun game, a happy time. Perhaps some of the following suggestions will do the trick.

  • What if you also brushed as the child brushed? Just that could make it a fun time.
  • Prop a favorite doll on the bathroom shelf above the child. At tooth brushing time, take the doll down and have your child practice brushing the doll’s teeth. Next, tell them how happy their doll is with them and the job they did. Finally, suggest they give it a try on their own teeth.
  • YouTube has in its archives many “toothbrush songs”. To make brushing fun for your kids fine one for each day of the week and play a different song each time. You’ll notice that most are two minutes long, just the right amount of time to brush thoroughly.
  • If you can create a game of it all, you will win big time. When they go the full two minuted duration, they win. When they make all the right moves, brushing inside and outside, they win. Be sure they get a prize when they compete the game!

4) The family that brushes together stays together.

As I mentioned, do this as a group. Child, mom and dad doing the tooth brush shuffle!

  • When the time comes to whisk away the sugar bugs, make it a big deal. Excitement sells lots of things, even tooth brushing. The fun you generate on your way to the bathroom will pay off in spades when you visit the dentist in a few months.
  • Kids want in on the fun. Curiosity can get them to follow you both to the bathroom. There the brushing can begin. Talk about the doll or the super hero figure needing to be saved from sugar bug attack. Make it fun time for the child.

5) Electric toothbrushes work for kids

As adults, most of us probably use an electric toothbrush because they are absolutely the best for us. The truth is, kids absolutely love them, too.

Several electric toothbrushes are available specifically made for children with colorful designs, audio jingles and sound effects to encourage children to brush longer.

  • You may want to start slowly; gradually increasing the brushing time from one minute to two minutes.
  • I like to divide the effort into eight parts, inside left, outside left, inside right, outside right all on the top and then do that same four sections on the bottom teeth.
  • Don’t forget to brush every tooth on every side, not just the tops of the teeth or just the front six teeth.

Some of the most fantastic success stories we have heard came from our small patients getting an electric tooth brush and using it to whirl away the sugar bugs. Try it, you’ll see!