We all do it sometimes. We grab a snack and plop down on the couch to watch a movie. Before we know it the whole thing is gone. We only meant to eat some of it, but downed it in one sitting. That is distracted eating at it’s finest. It exemplifies the problem of eating without intention. Not eating because of hunger. Not even eating healthy foods usually. Just eating because it’s there.
What happened to sitting around the table and eating as a family without the tv or cell phones?
What is distracted eating?
I see many kids who always have distracted eating. Parents often worry that they’re not eating enough, but they’re typically getting too many unhealthy foods.
Distracted eating is eating when your mind is elsewhere. It’s the opposite of intentional eating, where we enjoy our meal and make smart choices about what and how much we eat.
It occurs when kids are distracted by a television or video game while eating. When any of us eat in front of the screen, we don’t focus on what goes into our mouth.
Or when parents allow kids to carry food around the house all day and take a bite here and there.
It can happen when any of us eat because it’s there and we aren’t listening to our body’s hunger cues.
The youngest distracted eaters might fit into another category all together, but they certainly aren’t intentionally eating. These are the babies who parents “dream feed” – basically feed them while they’re sleeping.
This can be because parents think they don’t eat as much as they should when they’re awake. Or maybe parents want to get one more feed in before they go to bed so baby will let them sleep.
I know many parents rely on it, but I will never recommend it for many reasons.
It can disrupt their normal sleep cycles if you feed during periods of deep sleep.
Dream feeds also feed a baby who might not be hungry or need to eat. It’s hard to know when to stop.
After the first 4-6 months most babies don’t need to eat at night, but they are trained to eat at that time.
Once they get teeth it can increase the risk of cavities if they eat without brushing teeth before returning to sleep.
There are also risks of choking, though if they’re being held, it won’t go unrecognized. A parent can use CPR techniques to help them.
As kids move into the toddler years, they often become picky with foods and eat small volumes. This is normal.
Parents need to offer healthy foods and feed small frequent meals. Think of snacks as mini meals so you will offer healthy foods – and no, goldfish crackers are not healthy foods. Young children tend to eat about six small meals a day. Each meal offer either a fruit or a vegetable and a protein to help ensure your child gets enough of these food groups daily.
Unfortunately, some parents solve the “problem” of kids not eating a lot at meal times by allowing them to carry around food all hours of the day. This might be cereal, crackers, milk, or whatever the favorite food of the week is.
This allows the child to snack all day, which means they’re never hungry, so they don’t eat at meal times. Parents will think it’s better than eating nothing, and even think that since it’s cereal or milk it’s healthy.
But it’s not.
Risks of constant snacking
Snack foods are usually highly processed and have little nutrition.
Constantly nibbling doesn’t allow the body to learn hunger cues.
Nibbling throughout the day doesn’t allow saliva to clean teeth between feedings, which increases the risk of cavities.
If kids drink excessive milk they are at risk of severe malnutrition. Parents argue that milk is healthy, but they are thinking of mother’s milk or formula for infants. Cow’s milk has protein, calcium, and other nutrients, but it is not a complete meal substitute. I have seen children need blood transfusions due to severe iron deficiency anemia from excessive milk intake. Blood transfusions. It can be that bad. Yes, your child might like milk. And he might refuse to eat at meal time. But if you keep giving milk he will never get hungry enough to eat the food offered.
Feed while watching tv
Other parents realize that kids will eat more if they feed the child, especially if the child is watching tv. This is wrong on many levels.
Once kids are able to feed themselves, it is a great skill to use. They work on fine motor skills when self feeding.
When offered healthy options, kids will eat when hungry and stop when full. When parents do the feeding, they keep pushing foods until the plate is empty. Many parents have an unrealistic expectation of how much food a child should eat and overfeed the child.
If a child is watching tv while eating, the focus is on the screen, not the food. Again, the child then doesn’t listen to hunger and satiety cues.
Self feeding is an important skill.
I see several kids each year who will be going to full day school for the first time and parents worry that they won’t be able to eat lunch because they never self feed. Many of these kids are overweight because they’ve been overfed for years yet the parents often think the child doesn’t eat enough.
Beyond the first birthday, most toddlers should be able to self feed. Many infants can do so even earlier. They don’t need a lot of teeth to eat small pieces of foods. Of course hard, round, chewy foods should be avoided for all young children, but most foods can be safely given to young kids at the table.
Don’t wait until your child is school aged to realize they’re behind on this important skill!
Eating together as a family is one of the best things you can do to raise healthy and independent children. As long as you use the time wisely.
If families eat while watching television or playing on smart phones or tablets, no one is connecting during the meal. No one is really enjoying the food or the conversation.
There are many studies that show the more often families eat together the less likely kids will develop obesity, get depressed, do drugs, smoke, and consider suicide.
Kids who eat with their families are more likely to eat healthy foods, do well in school, delay having sex, and have stronger family ties.
Help stop the habit of mindless eating.
Encourage eating at the table as a family as much as possible.
Offer healthy food choices and let everyone decide how much of each thing to eat.
If you worry that your child isn’t eating adequately, talk to your pediatrician.
MyPlate offers portion sizes for children, tips on healthy foods, activities for kids to learn about nutrition, and more.
It’s graduation season, which has me thinking of all the ways our kids grow over the years. They’re born, then just a few years later they are in kindergarten. In just a blink of the eye they get a locker in middle school. Then high school is over. The world awaits… Where does the time go? How do we prepare kids to leave the nest?
Over the years I have spent a lot of time reflecting about at all the life skills my kids have learned and what they need to learn to be successful, independent, healthy and happy.
One important thing to master is personal safety. I talked extensively about teens and alcohol in a previous post. Please take the time to review it and discuss it with your teens.
I have never really thought that school is about learning the actual subjects. It’s more about learning how to learn. How to organize. How to be responsible. I have always told my kids I don’t care what grade they get as long as they learn what they need to and do their best.
Home life is also a process of learning. We need to teach our kids how to live healthily and respectfully with others. Kids can learn to take care of themselves more and more each year. We need to teach them to be responsible with money. Ideally they will learn to argue a point without losing control of their emotions or being hurtful.
In all of this reflection, I came up with a list that I have shared with my kids, and I invite you to share it with yours.
Skills needed to leave home successfully:
Good hygiene habits
Brush teeth twice daily. Floss once a day.
Shower or bathe daily. Wash hair as needed for oil control.
Wash hands often.
Shave as needed.
Brush hair at least daily and get a hair cut regularly.
Clip and groom nails regularly, both fingers and toes.
Use personal hygiene products correctly, including deodorant, facial acne cleansers, etc.
Wear clean clothes and change underclothing daily.
Get adequate sleep to wake fresh and ready for the day. Set an alarm and get up on your own.
Eat healthy foods and limit junk food and sodas.
Be able to prepare simple healthy meals.
Take vitamin D daily.
Understand common over the counter medicine indications and how to use them appropriately.
Understand why you are taking medications (if you are), how to take them, and what is needed to get more. This depends in part if it’s over the counter or a prescription medicine.
Know your medical history, including any allergies and chronic health care problems.
Learn how to obtain your vaccine record.
Know how to take care of common injuries until they are healed.
Exercise regularly, at least 3 times a week.
healthy strategies to handle stress
Prayer or meditation
Sketch or other artwork
Talk to someone openly—don’t hold bad feelings in!
Take a long bath
Think before speaking
Schedule down time
Think about the problem from different points of view
Break big projects into small parts to be able to complete in parts
Grocery shop on a budget to incorporate nutritional balance.
Properly clean dishes and tidy up the kitchen after eating.
Balance a check book, make a budget, and pay bills on time.
Do easy repairs around the house.
Understand health insurance plans – how to get them, what they cover, what is excluded.
Manage the basics of money investment, retirement planning, savings.
Handle a road side emergency.
Find important numbers (doctor, dentist, insurance, etc).
Clean a bathroom, use a vacuum, and dust.
Sew basic clothing repairs (buttons, hems, etc).
Get help when needed.
Apply for a job and build a resume.
Choose words carefully: they can build someone up or crush someone down.
Be a good friend and responsible family member
Be clear with plans: Look at the family calendar when making plans. Get permission from all parents involved; let family know where you will be and when you will be home.
Keep a phone available to be able to call when needed. Answer calls/texts from parents and others in an appropriate amount of time!
Treat everyone with respect: family, teachers, friends, and strangers.
Require that others treat you with respect.
Do random acts of kindness occasionally.
If you feel unsafe, leave the situation. Tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
Do only things you and your parents will be proud of.
Things to do to show you are getting ready to leave the nest…
Complete assigned homework and chores without reminders or nagging.
Keep your room picked up and clothes off the floor.
Hang your towel to allow it to dry between uses.
Clear dishes from the table.
Clean up after projects or play. Return all things to their proper place after using them.
Throw all trash in the trashcan. Recycle things that are recyclable.
Responsible use of cell phone, computer, and other electronics. Turn off before bedtime to allow uninterrupted sleep.
Spend and save money responsibly. Never spend more than you can afford. Use credit cards wisely.
Take pride in your work: schoolwork, chores, job, and helping others. Do it to the best of your ability and ask nicely for help as needed. Recognize that work is not always fun, but necessary. Doing tasks with a good attitude will help.
Time organization skills: Do not procrastinate until the last minute. Plan ahead and do big projects in small steps. Be prepared with all materials you will need for a project and ask in advance if you need help acquiring items. Use tools (apps, calendar, checklists).
Take care of your things. Keep them in proper working order, clean, and put away.
Accept consequences with grace.
Know when to trust and follow others and when to take your own path. Make independent decisions based on your own morals. Have the courage to say “no” if something goes against your beliefs.
A final thought
As a mom of a college freshman on a campus where they don’t allow freshmen to have cars, we found that having his own Amazon Student Prime membership helped. We started the year with him asking me to order things, but it was easier if he could do it himself.
Of course be sure your student won’t abuse the privilege if you’re footing the bill, but if they need something and don’t have the ability to shop locally, this is a game changer! And it would make a great graduation gift.
Prepare kids to leave the nest
Don’t be intimidated by this list! Many of the ideas are things they should be learning along the way.
During the school years teachers increase expectations each year. You can do the same… start with baby steps and then really buckle down in high school to be sure they’re ready!
Some kids never leave their parent’s side when out and about, but others wander without concern and are at risk of getting lost. I’ve had one of each, so I know first hand how scary it is to have a wanderer. Many parents worry that their kids will be abducted, but the large majority of lost kids leave on their own accord. Usually there’s no foul play and they can be found relatively quickly (though it seems like an eternity for a worried parent). What can you do to keep kids from wandering and getting lost?
Many times that parents realize their kids are missing, the child hasn’t made the same realization. Parents might be scared to death, but the child is fine – they are often enjoying an adventure and completely unaware of the problem.
Why do they wander?
Distraction and fun
Most of the time they have no clue what they’re doing, especially if they’re too young to really comprehend rules. They aren’t afraid if they’re focused on something else, which can be anything that gets their attention.
It doesn’t take much to get a child’s attention, especially if you’re at a new place. The new place is also riskier because if they do get separated, they don’t know where they are or where to go for help.
Sometimes kids just want to do something fun because they’re bored. How many kids decide to play hide and seek while shopping? I’ve seen many crawl under clothing racks…
Small children can dart between people in large groups, making it hard to keep up with them without pushing and shoving others out of the way. They don’t realize when they’re focused on something that you’re not right there. Despite saying “excuse me,” I felt inconsiderate plowing through crowds to keep sight on my runner. (She was more than a wanderer…)
Parents get distracted too
Maybe you’re comparison shopping to decide which brand to buy. At some point you have to pay and talk to the cashier.
When your phone buzzes, it’s easy to answer a quick text. Studies show many parents spend a lot of time on their phones when they’re with their kids.
If you hear another child’s cry, do you look in their direction to be sure they’re okay?
And if you have more than one child, you can only really watch one at a time…
It only takes a second to look away from your own child for them to bolt and disappear.
A kid’s view
Kids don’t worry about wandering and getting lost. They get bored or get distracted.
I know one child who was lost at his brother’s sporting event. He decided he was tired and wanted to lay down, so he made it to the family vehicle and took a nap inside.
It all made sense to him, and he didn’t understand why all the parents (it was his brother’s game, so the whole team was looking for him) were upset.
We recognize that a small child roaming through a parking lot is dangerous, but he thought it was reasonable to nap in his familiar seat. He figured his parents would go to the car at the end of the game and find him.
Kids don’t think like adults. We need to talk to them about rules.
“Stranger danger” has a nice ring to it. It’s catchy to say. It’s commonly taught to kids.
But it isn’t effective or safe.
The large majority of strangers are good people. If a child is lost, they shouldn’t feel afraid to talk to the right stranger. I’ve heard of kids refusing to talk to caring adults, which delays reuniting them with their families.
The large majority of abducted (and abused) kids are victims of people they know – not strangers.
talk to kids about boundaries & rules
Kids should never be alone with an adult other than the “safe” people you’ve identified with them. This helps to protect them from predators they know.
They should know to never leave with a person unless that person knows a code word. Even if that person knows their name (it’s easy to listen and learn a kid’s name, or it might even be printed on their shirt or backpack) they shouldn’t leave with that person unless it was pre-arranged or they know a special code you’ve discussed.
All kids who are potty trained should know that there are places on their body that are private. Private mean no one should look or touch there unless you’ve given permission for that person. Permission should be given if they need help toileting (including wiping), bathing, or when it’s part of a medical check up. These private places include anything a swimsuit or underwear would cover.
See the bottom of the blog for resources on talking to kids about these big topics!
7 Ways to Keep Kids from Getting Lost
Preparation is key!
Talk to your kids about what they should do if they are separated from you.
A lot will depend on their age, maturity level and where you’re going.
If you know the place you’re going has a lot of distractions and crowds, such as an amusement park, you will need to plan differently than if you will be in a neighborhood park that is familiar or a family gathering where they know lots of people.
When you’re out and about, it goes without saying that someone needs to be responsible for watching the kids.
This is especially true if you’re going with a group. Sometimes there are so many adults, it’s easy to think someone else is watching a child, but no one is. Make it clear who is responsible for watching each child.
If there are a lot of kids for each adult to watch, have the kids pair up with a buddy. They should not leave their buddy. Schools use this system for field trips and it helps keeps track of the kids.
Remind kids that they should never be alone with an adult, even one they know, unless it’s one of their safe adults. (A safe adult is someone you trust wholeheartedly.) There’s safety in numbers!
For your own safety and to avoid mistaken intentions, never be alone with a child who is not your own unless you have permission from their parent. Having two adults around in restrooms and other private areas is especially important!
2. Give kids identifying information
Until kids are old enough to know your phone number (and be able to tell it clearly to a stranger), have them carry it around in some manner. They should know that they can pull it out when needed.
You can make a bracelet with your number. Get number beads from a craft store and kids can help string them!
Put contact information on dog tags so they can wear it as a necklace. Even boys think this is pretty cool.
There are places to make customized temporary tattoos, or you can just use a permanent marker. This isn’t my first choice, but in a pinch, we all have markers.
3. Be ready to identify
I’m that parent who didn’t remember what I dressed my kids in most days. If they were appropriately dressed for the weather, I didn’t really care. But it does matter if you’re looking for a lost child.
If a child is lost and you’re stressed, it’s especially hard to recall what they were wearing.
In today’s world of everyone carrying a phone with photo capabilities, it’s easy to snap a picture.
Take a picture of your child before going to crowded areas. This photo will not only be recent, but will also show what clothing your child has on, which makes it easier to find your child.
4. Be prepared for boredom, hunger, and fatigue
When kids are tired, sick, hungry, or bored, they’re more likely to act up or try to make it fun.
Plan the trip around nap times as much as possible. Bring a stroller to let a tired child rest if needed.
Ideally we’d all stay home when sick. Bringing kids to public areas when they’re sick spreads germs.
If they will normally eat during the time of the outing, bring along something to eat.
Make sure the snacks are not going to leave a mess.
Don’t include nut products, since leaving residues around a public place could be life threatening to another child. (There are many other food allergies, so ideally you will wash their hands and wipe surfaces after any foods.)
When you know the places you are going are not kid-friendly, try to make it into a game or at least get the kids involved.
The grocery store can be a place to talk to kids about choosing healthy foods. You can do simple math with them by figuring out how many apples you need for the family for the week or by choosing the better deal among differently sized packages.
If you know the kids will have to stay in one place for a while, such as waiting at the DMV, bring books, small toys or games to keep them occupied.
Practice with your kids what they can do if they’re separated. Their risks and abilities change as they get older, so you need to continue the conversation and adapt the plan over the years.
I sometimes would covertly watch my daughter when she ran ahead to see how long it took her to realize I wasn’t right behind her. I wanted to see what she would do when she did figure it out. By preschool she was a pro and knew what to do. She would yell my name or ask another child for help, but at least she stopped where she was and didn’t continue to run further away.
Adults look, kids stay put
I always suggest teaching kids to stay put if they realize they’re lost, unless they’re not in a safe place. If they’re in a street or other unsafe place, they should go to the closest safe location.
Kids should NEVER leave the building or area to look for you. You can teach older kids to go to the front of the store (or find a person in the uniform of the place you are) when you think they’re capable of doing this. Younger kids should just stay put.
Remind them that you will always look for them, and if they stay in one place it’s easier to find them. If they keep moving, they might go to a place you’ve already looked but left, so you won’t find them.
Remind them that it’s okay to yell for you by name or whatever they usually call you, even if they’re in a place that’s usually quiet.
When lost, it’s okay to ask for help. This is why I don’t want kids to be taught stranger danger.
They should know that if an adult approaches them when they’re not lost, they should be cautious. If they’re at a park and an adult asks for a child’s help looking for their dog, that’s not right. Adults can ask other adults for help. They shouldn’t ask kids for help.
If an adult is offering to help when a child is lost, usually that’s okay. Yes, it’s possible that they’re taking advantage of the situation, but how likely would it be that a person of that caliber would be right there when your child is lost? Most people are good.
Kids should be told to give your phone number to a person who’s trying to help. It’s okay to give their name to a person who works at the place you are visiting. It’s confusing because kids are taught to not give their name and personal information to strangers, but it can help find parents names are shared.
Kids should be taught that they should not leave the area, especially with a strange adult. It’s okay if they help the child find the front of the store or a worker, but they should NOT take the child outside the building or park.
Ask another child for help
That child can then ask the adult they’re with to help your child.
Kids are generally safer to talk to and not as threatening to a child who’s already scared.
The other adult can call your phone if your child knows or is wearing your number. (Pay attention to your phone when looking for your child and answer calls from unknown callers!)
Ask a worker for help
Kids can also look for people wearing the uniform or nametag representing the place you are.
Point out what people wear when working at the location you’re visiting. Whatever it is, be sure your child knows what to look for.
We used to stop at the front of the store routinely so my daughter could be reminded what the cashiers wore. She could talk to someone with that uniform if she was lost.
6. Meeting place
Elementary school aged kids can learn where to meet you if they get separated when they show enough maturity and confidence.
Point out a customer service desk, a landmark at a park, or an easily found place where you are going. You can both go there if you get separated.
By middle school many kids like to be able to shop or play at a park with friends. If your child displays the maturity to do this, then it’s a great way for them to develop independence. Be sure that they know a time and place to meet and how to contact you if they need you before that time.
I know “restraints” sounds so negative, but think about it.
It’s for safety, not punishment.
We restrain kids in the car because we know it can help to save their lives.
Not only can toddlers and preschoolers wander and get lost, but they can easily get injured when they’re not supervised.
Shopping carts and strollers
If your toddler or preschooler runs around, he’s not safe. If you strap him into a shopping cart or stroller, they’re safer.
Be sure to use the straps appropriately. They can keep kids from climbing or sliding out.
Our stroller just had a lap belt. The newer ones with shoulder straps would have prevented the time my daughter jimmied out of the lap belt and onto the concrete head first. I was pushing her in the stroller, trying to keep up with my son who was running ahead. I was unaware she was climbing out because I had my eyes on my son. She had quite the goose egg!
I also have become a fan of leashes for young kids. I know many people think they’re cruel and only appropriate for animals, but I have had great experiences with them.
As mentioned above, my daughter was a runner. I lost her more times than I want to admit. She hated being strapped in a stroller – as I shared above. Of course she often refused to hold hands because she wanted freedom. Family outings that should have been fun quickly became miserable.
When I first got the leash my husband was horrified.
My kids loved it.
It was a cute monkey backpack with a leash. They loved taking each other for walks around the house and even fought about who would wear it. Since it was a backpack, they could carry favorite toys inside.
In public areas my daughter would wear it happily. When my husband saw how my daughter was so much happier having “freedom” while being leashed to us in public, he was sold on the idea.
Warning: if you use one, be ready for judging looks. That’s okay. If they have a runner, they’ll understand. If not, they have no idea.
Leash and book suggestions
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These wristband harnesses are great because they allow roaming while being safe, but do not look as much like a leash. There are two sizes, which can allow a child to go a bit farther than many of the backpack styles. It’s basically like holding hands from a distance!
I suspect you’d get fewer evil looks from strangers by using the wristband, but young kids might actually prefer the backpack styles because they’re cute and they can carry “stuff” in them.
I like these because they’re insulated for food storage in addition to having a strap for safety.
Going to Disney? I can see these popular there and for any Disney fan. I lost my 3 year old briefly several times on one Disney trip…
This monkey is similar to the one my kids loved. They’re also backpacks, so they can store a few of their favorite things inside. There are many cute designs.
Parents often try to keep the crib as long as possible to avoid the problem of their toddler/preschooler leaving the bed again and again at bedtime, but eventually they all need to take the plunge and get a big kid bed. How do you get a kid to stay in a bed?
Daycares do it
It always blows me away that daycares get 1 year olds to sleep on cots.
They stay there… how???
I suspect they are following what the older kids in the class are doing and they are never left alone. That makes it easier on many levels. Parents don’t have that luxury at home when transitioning to the big kid bed.
When’s the right time?
Many parents are tempted to move their toddler to a bed before the child is really ready. Many experts advise continuing the crib until around 3 years of age.
Remember that the crib also is a place of security, so sleep problems can develop if kids are transitioned too soon.
Many kids that leave the crib before they can understand rules (around age 3) have a hard time staying in the bed.
Some kids are able to climb out of the crib, so parents think it’s safer to move to a bed. This is one solution, but you can also work on ways to keep your toddler in the crib.
Make sure the space is safe
Before you let kids sleep in a bed that they can easily get in and out of, make sure the room is safe.
This is a great time to check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Change batteries when you change your clocks.
Furniture should be secured to walls so climbing kids won’t pull them down.
Don’t allow window cords to be reachable by kids. Too many kids get hurt from cords and window coverings.
Don’t put beds near windows.
Keep all medications and poisons out of your child’s room. This includes diaper rash cream and other “non-medicine” hazards.
If you have a bunk bed, be sure kids under 6 years of age don’t sleep on the top bunk. If your little ones won’t follow the rules, you should unbunk the beds.
Make sure kids can’t get out of their room without you hearing them. They could be at risk falling down the stairs or simply get into trouble helping themselves to junk food or extra tv time.
Parents can get the child excited about leaving the security of the crib by talking about the bed before it is used.
Have kids help pick out sheets or a pillow for the bed.
Remind them during the day how big they are when they ___ (fill in the blank with “use a spoon,” “pick up a toy,” etc). Warning: This can backfire if they really are afraid of the bed and they do want to not be big, so they stop all the “big kid” behaviors.
If kids are afraid of their new bed, lay together to read books at nap and bed time.
If you still have the crib available, ask if they want to sleep in the bed or the crib. Simply having the choice might empower them to want to stay in the bed.
Feel free to leave a light or night light on in the hall (or even in the room if they prefer). Eventually they won’t need it, but it can really help if they want it!
Go through a routine of checking the closet (then closing the closet door), checking under the bed, and picking a favorite toy to be there while your child sleeps.
Use a comfort item. It’s amazing how much the power of suggestion that a stuffed toy will stay with them works!
Let them know you will check on them soon… and do, but wait a little longer each night until they are asleep when you check.
For kids who are prone to falling out of bed, decide what works best for that child.
Some parents put the mattress on the floor instead of on a bed frame, so if they roll off it’s no big deal.
Many parents use bed rails that keep kids in the bed. Unfortunately if they roll hard enough, they can get trapped between the mattress and bed rail. I know this from experience! My son would do that and it would FREAK him out. He usually went to sleep without much fuss, but after he would get stuck in the rails he was too scared to sleep. We finally just put the bed against one wall and moved everything away from the other side of the bed except a nice layer of pillows and blankets. When he fell out of bed (yes, most nights…) he landed on the pillow pile and kept sleeping. Problem solved!
Pick a reasonable bedtime
Account for all the time it will take to do all the stall tactics when picking the bedtime.
If sleep time needs to be by 7:30, and you know they will resist brushing teeth, need to potty a 2nd time, get a drink, check the closet and under the bed, and read 3 books… get started in plenty of time to do all of that and still have them tucked in for the last time before 7:30.
Ironically as kids get more tired, they get more wired, so DO NOT allow this process to run too late! They will hit a 2nd wind and be up far too long. We all know what kind of day tomorrow will be if they are up too late tonight… and it isn’t pretty! Then they are overly tired for the routine the next night, which can lead to an earlier 2nd wind and more troubles!
One trick I’ve learned that works well for older toddlers and preschoolers is the card trick.
They start each night with 3 cards.
Every time they leave their bed for another hug, a drink, to potty, etc, they surrender a card to you.
Once all 3 cards are gone, they can’t leave the bed any more.
If they have cards left over in the morning, they get a sticker for each card.
They can earn up to 3 stickers (or make it special to get an extra sticker if they have all 3 cards!)
When they reach a set number of stickers they earn a prize.
You can use cards from a regular deck, or you can make it even more fun by having your child make his own cards.
I also suggest making a simple sticker reward chart, keeping in mind how difficult you think it will be to earn stickers and set a realistic goal for all the needed stickers to be earned within a week.
If they don’t earn the prize fast enough at the beginning they might lose interest (but it needs to be enough time that they earn it). You can make it more difficult over time, as their bedtime routine gets better.
For ideas of reward charts, check out this fantastic free site!
Prizes shouldn’t break the bank.
You can find trinket toys inexpensively or even pick an “event” as a prize. Maybe your child has been wanting to go to a new park. Maybe they want to have an extra book read at bedtime.
The most important thing is that the child will want to earn the prize.
Playing the game
Go over the rules of the cards and stickers during the day several times so they know the rules before you start the system.
At bedtime minimize the talking and just let them figure it out when you ask for cards or refuse to let them have a 4th resistance tactic.
Remember that each day is new, so they start with 3 cards and you can talk up how much you know they can keep them all!
Praise all the good choices.
If they struggle with it, find positives to praise… “You kept your cards a little longer last night. I can tell you’re working on keeping them all night!”
When kids leave their bed
If kids end up in your bed in the middle of the night and you don’t want them there, you must firmly but without much discussion bring them back to their room.
Too much snuggling, talking, or other interactions will only reinforce them coming to you again.
Night after night they get to spend more time with you– that’s what they see every time you give them attention when you need to limit the interaction.
Attempt to get them to walk themselves, but if they refuse, carry them with outstretched arms facing away from you to decrease body contact.
If you don’t mind them in your bed, be sure you’re ready for a long term commitment to a family bed. Once the habit’s started it will be harder to break until the child wants to sleep independently.
Sleep deprivation makes parents do things they never thought they would… you just want to get sleep.
Yes, I’m one of those parents who succumbed to being tired and let a little one stay in my bed. I realized I was kicked and punched often throughout the night by my lovely little angel who was not a great bedfellow. She affected my quality of sleep for quite awhile. She wasn’t sleeping well either. We all needed to have our own space. Her nightly visits didn’t stop until we made a firm decision to stop the behavior.
We made a bed on the floor of our bedroom and let her sleep there. We slowly moved that bed further from our bed, then into the hall, and finally into her room. Eventually she even made it to her own bed.
If problems continue
If all else fails, talk to your child’s doctor about sleep problems.
Some sleep problems are due to real medical conditions and these should be evaluated.
If sleep problems continue, loss of sleep can affect growth, learning, behavior, and more… don’t let it get to that point!
There’s a lot of debate about pacifiers and since it’s Children’s Dental Health Month I thought I’d tackle the issue. Many parents are apprehensive to start one with a baby, yet many babies need to suck. Sucking is a natural reflex. Sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects may make babies feel secure and happy and help them learn about their world. They can even be sucking on a hand or arm when still in the womb. Many babies find their thumb or a finger to suck on and self-soothe if not offered a pacifier.
I personally was unhappy to hear of the “baby friendly” initiative at our local hospitals that discourages any pacifier use during hospitalization. I think it makes parents fear the pacifier even more than they had before and they have benefits as well as cautions.
I’ve seen more mothers get frustrated with breastfeeding when they can’t use a pacifier. I have rarely seen a problem with breastfeeding when babies are allowed to use a pacifier.
Even in the womb we can see babies sucking. A pacifier allows them to fill this need, which allows parents to have a much needed break.
Pacifiers can help with pain relief.
There’s a natural pain relieving property to sucking. Think about how addicted older kids are to sucking on a thumb or pacifier. It is soothing. Adding sugar to the pacifier for painful procedures helps pain even more.
Don’t give your baby sugar at home. It’s not good for them and can lead to cavities once they have teeth.
Pacifiers help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
We don’t know why they help, but studies show that pacifier use decreases the risk, along with sleeping alone on a firm, flat surface, on the back, without soft bedding.
Parents can control use.
Pacifiers can be weaned gradually and kids tend to outgrow them earlier than thumb-sucking.
Infants over about 4 months of age can develop other self-soothing abilities, so you can use them just for sleep in older infants and toddlers.
Keep them in the crib to decrease the risk of germ spreading from displaced/replaced pacifiers.
I like pacifiers better than thumbs
If a baby wants to suck, he will find his hand if something else isn’t offered. Babies eventually find thumbs or fingers if they want to suck on something.
Thumbs are always with a baby and child, so they can suck on them whenever they want, not just in the crib when a parent gives it.
Thumbs can get red, dry, and cracked with sucking behaviors – especially in dry weather. This can be painful to the child. The drive to suck is so strong they continue to do it despite pain. It can also lead to infections of the thumb.
Most kids will stop a pacifier habit by 3 years of age. If a pacifier is limited to sleep time only, kids are already not in the habit of sucking on something all day long. They only have to learn to fall asleep without sucking.
Thumbsuckers continue their habit more often and much longer. Often it’s not until they’re teased at school that they decide they want to quit. Until they make the decision to quit it’s hard to make it happen.
Thumbs are never clean. At least you can wash the pacifier and keep it in the crib. Kids play with their hands and you can’t keep the thumb out easily after they’ve touched everything.
a few cautions to pacifier use:
Don’t use them instead of feedings
Don’t use a pacifier to try to limit the number of breast feedings in a day, especially early on. Newborns need to eat quite a bit. Trying to “hold them off” with a pacifier will only limit your milk supply and could cause them to not gain sufficient weight.
Work with your pediatrician or a lactation consultant to be sure your baby is feeding enough if you’re feeling a need to breastfeed less.
I find that most babies can go back and forth from breast to pacifiers easily.
Most isn’t all.
If your baby seems to have trouble latching on the breast after using an artificial nipple (either a pacifier or a bottle) then stop the artificial nipples and focus on breastfeeding. (If you need to supplement, you can use a syringe, a supplementing system, a spoon, or other methods.) Continue avoiding artificial nipples until breastfeeding is going well.
Work with a lactation consultant if you have continued problems.
Pacifiers can spread infections.
Ear infections and other illnesses can spread easily from pacifier use.
Wash them regularly.
Keep them in the crib for babies over 6 months of age to avoid exposing it to germs from other kids.
Pacifiers can crack and come apart as they age. Be sure to check it regularly to make sure it’s not damaged. You don’t want it to become a choking risk.
What about teeth?
After permanent teeth come in, sucking can cause problems with the proper alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes in the shape of the mouth.
Both finger or thumb-sucking and pacifiers can affect the teeth in the same ways, but pacifier use is often an easier habit to break.
General recommendations about stopping the sucking habit
Be careful how you approach stopping a thumb-sucking habit or pacifier use. If you are too harsh or negative it will probably make the habit worse.
Use positive rewards.
Have your child come up with goal ideas and things to earn. Rewards don’t have to be expensive. It can be a trip to a special park or the ability to pick dinner or what book to read. You can also get stickers, trinket toys, an
Sticker charts are a great way to keep track of times that there was no sucking!
Think about making it more difficult for your child to suck his thumb. Keep the hands busy with crafts, toys, etc.
For the older child, talk about germs and how important it is to keep the thumb out of the mouth unless she just washed her hands.
Consider sewing socks or mittens onto long sleeve pajama tops. This will keep the thumb out of reach. (Unless your Houdini takes the PJs off.)
Using a “bad” tasting polish or tabasco doesn’t really keep kids from not sucking their thumbs unless it’s only a reminder to stop. If they really want to suck, they don’t care about the taste. But if they do want to stop and need reminders throughout the day to keep it out of their mouth, the bad tasting nail polishes can help.
Plan a countdown to not using the pacifier any longer.
Make getting rid of the pacifier a big deal, like any other special event. Find a fun name for the day, like “Big Kid Day” or “Give to baby day”.
Put the chosen date on the calendar and do a count down every day by crossing off dates. Or make a paper chain and tear off one chain daily until the big day.
Find a replacement for the pacifier, such as a new stuffed animal or blanket. The stuffed animal can even be from Build-A-Bear. Put the pacifier inside so the child knows it’s there when he hugs his bear. Whatever you choose, be sure it can be snuggled or used to replace the pacifier for comfort.
Fill a box with all the pacifiers on the big day and leave it out for the “binky fairy” to take to new babies. The fairy can leave the new comfort item. Or you can just have your child put all the binkies in the box and seal it shut with tape when he’s ready to earn the new comfort item.
The big thing is you need to get rid of all the pacifiers. If your child finds one hiding somewhere, he will sneak it and return to the habit quickly.
Books that might be helpful
Note: These are Amazon Affiliate links and I do get paid a small amount for the referral.
In this book for toddlers,Little Brown Bear finds some tricks to help him stop sucking his thumb. It can help put the idea into your child’s head.
This is not specific to thumb-sucking, but the Berenstain Bears always teach kids in a fun way. Sister bear has trouble biting her nails in this story.
Thumb Love is appropriate for the older child who wants to stop sucking his or her thumb. If your school aged child has been the object of teasing due to thumb-sucking, he or she will relate.
For many years I didn’t see many patients using tobacco. I admit I’ve been lax in talking about risks because there seemed to be more pressing things to discuss in my limited time at appointments. Recently I’m seeing more kids who are trying nicotine due to e-cigarettes. These are marketed as a safer option, giving kids a false sense of safety while filling their desire to take risks. E-cigarette use is not safe or cool.
Tobacco is a problem
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.
Nearly all tobacco use begins during adolescence, when developing brains are most at risk of developing addictions.
There are many terms used to describe the use of e-cigarettes, so it can be easy for parents to miss that kids are talking about it. The devices themselves can look like other common items.
Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), e-cigarettes, personal vaporizers, vape pens, e-cigars, e-hookah, or vaping devices are all terms used to describe the device itself.
The devices themselves can be easily mistaken for other things. ENDS can look like traditional tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. But they can also look like flashlights, flash drives, or pens, so easily hidden from adults.
Some of the more common terms for the behavior include vaping and juuling.
Dripping is similar to vaping, but uses the liquid nicotine directly on heated coils.
Liquid nicotine is called e-liquid or smoke juice.
E-cigarette use is a safer option? No!
One of the selling points for e-cigarettes is that they could be a safer option than regular cigarettes and a way for smokers to quit.
Kids are confusing the “safer than cigarettes” propaganda to mean safe. It’s NOT safer than not smoking. Period.
In fact, there are many studies showing that the amount of carcinogens (cancer causing agents) in e-cigarettes is substantial.
For parents who choose to vape in the home to help prevent their kids from inhaling secondhand smoke, you might want to even reconsider that. Vaping releases chemicals into the air that can cause problems.
E-cigarette juices are sold in flavors like fruit, candy, coffee and chocolate.
Nicotine is addictive. The more kids vape or smoke, the more addicted they become.
Although legally most states prohibit the sale of nicotine products to adolescents, liquid nitrogen is easily available to kids online.
Sadly these products are highly marketed to our kids. Sellers know that if adolescents try it, they are likely to become long term customers of various nicotine products.
Teen and tween brains
Our frontal lobe helps us make healthy choices, but it’s not fully formed until our mid-twenties. This leaves teens at risk for making very unhealthy choices and increased risk of addictions. Teen brains crave stimulation. They take risks to fulfil this craving.
Help them understand the risk as well as what to do to avoid peer pressure.
Encourage them to come to you with questions and concerns by remaining non-judgemental and being present. Encourage family meals and activities. Spend time together without screens – turn off the phones!
As discussed earlier, teen dating violence is a relatively common problem that can occur in any socioeconomic circle. It’s important to recognize teen dating violence, but it’s even better to learn teen dating violence prevention and what to do if you recognize trouble!
How we raise our children from infancy and continuing throughout their lives helps set the expectations for relationships.
Abusive home increases the risk
Children who are raised in homes with abusive behaviors are much more likely to grow up to be in an abusive relationship.
If your home is not safe make every attempt to make it so.
Children who feel unloved might look for love in all the wrong places, trying to please others and end up being taken advantage of.
Kids need defined limits, but an ability to learn and grow into independence with experience. Being firm and setting boundaries is an important part of being a loving parent.
Parents are NOT their child’s friend.
You don’t need to be a friend to be an effective, loving, parent who is well loved and respected.
As your child grows and matures, it is important that you allow them to take more responsibility for their plans and actions.
Be a role model
Kids need help learning to stand up for themselves and to deal with anger and disappointment in a healthy way. Set an example for this. Life typically presents many opportunities to model these behaviors.
Show healthy communication in your relationships. Use positive phrases, respectful words, and compliment one another.
Don’t let one partner dominate. Take equal share of responsibilities and decisions.
Do things with your significant other and with other people. Expect that your partner will also spend time with others. Don’t be overly jealous. Relationships need trust. Always spending time together isn’t healthy and doesn’t allow you to each follow your own interests.
Respect others in your life and be sure they also respect you.
If you have not learned to control your temper, learn.
Ensure enough sleep for everyone at home, as we are all more short-tempered when tired.
There are many self-help books on this topic and counseling is available if you struggle in your own relationships.
Friendships and dating relationships provide an opportunity for teens to learn and practice healthy communication, social skills, and managing strong feelings.
Teens need to develop independence while the trusted adults around them provide support and help them stay safe.
Talk to your kids about healthy choices and as they mature, allow them to make more decisions about what they do, when they do things, and who they are around. If you feel they aren’t making safe choices, let them know why.
Don’t be judgemental in how you approach things. There’s no faster way to turn a teen off to a conversation than putting him or her down or by making them feel like they’re being lectured.
Kids should be taught to respect themselves in all they do: eat nutritionally, exercise, get enough sleep, wear helmets, buckle up, stay away from drugs, etc.
Kids should be taught to respect others: say nice things, don’t ask others to do things that might cause them harm, respect their personal space and things, etc.
Teens should enforce that others treat them with respect.
If a friend does not treat them with respect, they can try first to talk with the friend about it if they feel safe doing so. If the friend does not change behaviors, they should take a break from the friendship.
Talking to teens
Start before they’re dating
It’s best to start talking about healthy relationships before your child starts dating.
Set expectations for how old they will be when they are allowed to go out in groups of boys and girls as well as when they will be allowed to go on an actual date. How well do you need to know the person they will date?
Talk about what they should do if they find themselves in a scary situation.
Discuss rules for friends coming to the house if you’re not home. Or if they’re allowed to go to a private area or if they must stay in the family room.
Talk about what to look for in a romantic partner, qualities that are important and not just superficial.
Ask how they would like to be treated and how they will treat their date.
Talk about sex. Kids who have sex at young ages are more likely to have multiple partners. Having multiple partners increases the risk of infections and dating violence.
Drugs and alcohol increase risk
Remind kids that alcohol and drugs impair our abilities to handle our emotions and actions. They do not excuse our actions, but we tend to not make good choices when we’re under the influence.
We also put ourselves at risk of a forced sexual encounter when we’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Date rape can also occur if someone slips a substance into a drink, so they should always carry their drink or get a new one from a trusted source.
Starting the conversation
Use opportunities that present themselves to trigger conversations.
If you see people arguing in a television show, talk about what was and was not effective in how they handled the situation. Ask what your kids would have done differently.
If the news reports another #MeToo story, ask what your teen’s thoughts are on the subject. Talk about recognizing unhealthy relationships and how to get out of abusive situations.
If your child asks questions, don’t shy away. Don’t assume they’re too young to hear the answer because if they’re asking, there’s a reason.
You can certainly ask where they’re coming from to help guide your answer, but answer honestly.
If you don’t know what to say, offer to talk about it at a specified time in the near future, such as after dinner that night. That gives you time to think and plan what to say but let’s your child know you want to talk. Don’t forget!
Be there to just listen if your child needs an ear. Offer encouragement and advice. Do this routinely, not just if you’re concerned about a specific issue.
If you always offer an ear without harsh judgement or unsolicited advice, your kids are more likely to keep talking. (Note: Just because they want to talk doesn’t mean they’re ready to accept advice. Ask if you can offer advice and wait until they say yes.)
Remind teens that they are never to blame if someone forces them to do something sexually they don’t want to do. They need to feel open to share this pain with you or another trusted adult so they can get the help and support they need.
What if there is an unsafe relationship?
It can be frustrating if your child’s in an unhealthy relationship but isn’t ready or willing to leave.
It can be difficult to enforce ending a relationship. Be careful in how you approach the situation. Consider working with professionals at the school or in the community.
They need to know it isn’t their fault and it isn’t under their control how another person acts. Ideally, your teen will be able to make the decision to leave the relationship.
I’ve actually seen a teen get pregnant on purpose because her parents refused to let her see her boyfriend. She decided that they’d have to allow him to see his baby (and by default, her). Of course it didn’t work as planned. She did get pregnant, but it didn’t help her relationship.
If you think they’re in immediate danger, you need to seek professional help.
There are many ways to get help
Abusers often monitor computer and phone use, so use caution.
SafeHome (KC Area)
From a safe computer, click here if you’re in the KC area. From a safe phone call 913-262-2868. (Phones answered 24/7 confidentially at SafeHome).
Dating Matters is a free, online course available to educators, school personnel, youth mentors, and others dedicated to improving teen health. Learn what teen dating violence is and how to prevent it through graphic novel scenarios, interactive exercises, and information gathered from leading experts.
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
These resources are designed specifically for teens and young adults. It is managed by the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) and offers support from trained Peer Advocates.
Call: 1-866-331-9474 Calls are answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Would you recognize signs of dating violence? Many teens don’t report it to friends or family. It can be difficult to recognize despite the significant prevalence. Victims might not say anything out of fear for their safety, embarrassment, low self-esteem, or not recognizing the abusive behaviors. Whatever the reason for the under-reporting, parents and other adults who interact with teens must recognize signs of dating violence to help protect our kids.
We want our kids to develop healthy relationships where they can have fun, grow in their own identity, and be true to their own values. Healthy relationships are founded on honesty, trust, and communication. There is mutual respect.
Dating abuse can happen in any unhealthy relationship. It happens to smart people, rich people, girls, guys, LGBT, and can happen in any community. We see news stories of abusive relationships but it doesn’t always seem real. A new bride murdered. A teen raped. A sports figure accused.
Unfortunately we don’t even know about most abusive relationships. People suffer silently. How is a parent to know?
Can a teen see risk factors before becoming involved with a risky personality?
Parents might look for the “type” of teen that they want their child to steer away from, but unfortunately, the abusers are not easily identified.
Abusers do not look like drug dealing, tattoo covered, pierced people in tattered clothing.
They are difficult to recognize on first glance because they tend to be popular, smart, good looking, and personable.
They are often good at reading people and responding to other’s desires, making them seem “perfect” initially.
Abusers manipulate others. Have you heard of gaslighting? It’s a common means to make the victim feel responsible.
They gain trust.
They weave deception.
Traits to watch for in an abuser:
Blames others for all problems
Wants to move quickly into a relationship
Does not respect personal boundaries
Denies responsibility for actions
Insulting (you’re fat, you’re stupid, no one else would love you like I do)
History of hitting or hurting others
Tries to monopolize your time and life – wants to control what you do, who you’re with, even what you’ll wear
Seems perfect initially (no one’s perfect!)
Mood swings or can’t manage anger or frustration well
What an abusive relationship might look like
Starting out – all seems great!
The relationship typically starts out well. A lot of laughs, good times.
If it didn’t, people would leave.
Power and Control cycle
Abusers have a power and control cycle that builds over time. They gain a little trust, then test with a little control.
Bit by bit they become more controlling and abusive. It builds so slowly many people miss the early warning signs and then are so swept by the cycle that it’s hard to leave.
Abusers want to know your every move, which at first might even seem flattering, but it is a control tactic. They might choose what you wear or where you go. Abusers monitor your phone calls to see who you talk to. They isolate you from your friends and even family so you lose your support group. They put you down so you feel no one else would like you or want you. Abusers make you feel less of a person and they are “good” to put up with you.
They get jealous (again, flattering on the outset because they “care”). Abusers often apologize for hurting you, but then claim it is your fault that they behave that way.
In truth, they blame others for most of their behaviors and only take credit when things make them look good.
Breakthecycle.org has a really cool interactive wheel to see the relationship between words and actions. Move your cursor around the wheel to get more information on each topic in the orange part of the wheel.
Make a family game night once a week. Volunteer in your child’s class or participate in their extracurricular activities. Take walks. Go to the park. Build a puzzle together. Turn off electronics in the car and just talk.
Make little moments count!
2. Help kids learn from their mistakes
Kids make mistakes often. This means they have many chances to learn.
If we try to fix it all for them, it teaches them that they’re not good enough to do it themselves.
Don’t be harsh with your words when kids mess up. Harsh words scar and might keep kids from trying the next time!
Support kids and help them learn what went wrong. Try role-playing to see how they could have done it differently and maybe next time they can practice how to make a better choice.
Turn your screens off to be able to give full attention to your kids. Make sure they have screen time limits too.
I’m on my computer a lot now, but when my kids were young I only worked online when my kids were in bed. (Now they stay up later than I do, but they’re not home in the evenings.)
Even when I’m on call I don’t answer my phone during family meals because I wanted to model to my kids that family time should not have interruptions from phones. (Note: there are physicians who have to answer immediately due to true emergency calls, but they calls I get should not be emergencies.)
4. Assign chores
My daughter actually laughed at this one when she was reviewing my blog.
Be a better parent than I’ve been in this regard and have your child do daily or weekly chores. I know it’s faster and easier to just do things yourself, but your kids will benefit from the work!
5. Set limits
My daughter also laughed at this one. She is totally the child who will debate any rule. She will follow them if they’re set, but she will attempt to show why the rule should be stretched. I’m proud of her for that characteristic. I don’t want kids that will just follow the leader, but I know that I can’t be an effective parent if there are no limits.
Families that eat together stay together. There are studies showing that when families eat meals regularly together, kids benefit in many ways.
We tend to eat healthier if we eat home cooked meals. This leads to a healthier overall body.
Meal times also provide time for bonding. This can lead to less drug use and depression. It makes sense. If kids are connected to their parents, they will have less need to find other ways to make themselves feel good.
Studies show that kids actually do better academically if they eat with their family at least 5 days a week.
All this and it’s less expensive to eat at home. Bonus!
7. Read together
Okay, I’m cheating with this photo a bit. I didn’t ever take pics of reading with my kids, but took one a few years ago when my daughter was reading to her cousin during a car trip.
Despite not having photos of our nighttime rituals, books were the best part of bedtime when my kids were young.
They loved hearing stories. Sometimes we’d play “I spy” with the book we’d read so many times they had it memorized. Sometimes they’d read to me – more and more as they got older. They’d often try to bargain for more reading time. Reading was a great motivator for them to get dressed and brush teeth so we could get started!
Reading together is not only a great bonding time, but it also helps to set the stage for loving a great skill. Many studies over the years continue to show that reading with children starting when they’re infants helps them learn to speak, interact and bond with parents. They will be more likely to be early readers. Reading with kids who already know how to read helps them feel close to you, understand the world around them and be empathetic citizens of the world.
8. Serve together
Doing community service or volunteering to help others has been shown to benefit not only the persons being served, but also those serving.
Kids can develop pride, learn new skills, gain empathy for others, and live new experiences by helping others.
Studies show that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.
Volunteering allows families doing things together working on something productive. They can learn about themselves and each other through helping others.
9. Make physical contact
One of the love languages is physical touch. Sometimes we hear of improper touches and it can negatively impact the way we are able to interact with the kids around us. While I feel very strongly that we need to protect our kids against abusive touches, I also know that kids (and adults) need healthy and safe physical touch.
Never invade a child’s personal space if they don’t want you in it, but physical touch can be reassuring to kids. Give a hug or pat on the back. Tickling and playful roughhousing are fun ways to give physical touch. Dance. Hold hands or make up a fun handshake. Tousle hair as you walk by.
10. Don’t minimize worries
It’s tempting to just say that everything’s okay and to not worry, but when you say that your child just feels like he’s not heard. Over time he will stop talking to you about his worries.
It can be hard to watch kids grow up and take things into their own hands, but it can be rewarding to watch them become independent.
Allowing kids to take on more responsibilities as they grow is a great way to show confidence in them. It can be hard to worry that your child will not remember all aspects of things required or that they will fail at something new, but allowing them to take ownership of things as they get older helps them learn not only the skill to accomplish things, but it also gives them the confidence that they can do things on their own.
13. Let them know you’re always thinking of them
Giving gifts is a great way to show love and affection, but don’t overdo this one.
Not all gifts have to be costly or extravagant.
Leave a little note in the lunch box.
Buy a token gift for no reason occasionally.
Be there to cheer at their game or performance.
It can be that easy.
14. Say “I love you” every day
Saying “I love you” in words is also important. Some people aren’t good at saying it, but try.
I also encourage you to not only share moments, but get in front of the camera with your kids. I’m usually behind the camera taking the pictures, so there are very few photos of me with my kids at various life stages. Be in the photos so you can all walk down memory lane together.
This is the first in a series of posts about learning and behavior I will do over the next several weeks. Parents are often afraid of labels when it comes to getting an appropriate assessment of learning or behavior issues.
I see a lot of children with various behavioral and learning issues. Teachers and parents often first think of ADHD with any problem, but that isn’t always the problem, or at least the primary one. It’s simply one of the most common diagnoses. Since it’s so common, I will focus on this topic often, but it can mimic other problems and it often coexists with other issues.
I firmly believe that kids with learning and behavioral problems cannot just “work harder” to fix the problem.
We would never ask a child in a wheelchair to “just try harder” to walk up stairs. We shouldn’t expect someone who has trouble focusing to be able to “just try harder” either.
When I’m sleep deprived, I cannot focus as well. I cannot read and comprehend what would typically be easily understood and retained. I lose track of things. I lose my temper more easily or get upset about the little things that usually wouldn’t phase me. I must put extra effort into everything, which is even more exhausting.
I liken this to how some people feel most of the time.
How can we possibly expect them to just try harder without professional assessment and treatment?
What about labeling?
One reason parents don’t want to have their child diagnosed with ADHD or any other learning or behavioral problem is that they fear a label.
What’s a label?
It’s not a diagnosis, but the way we’re perceived. Think about how many judgements and labels you make in a day.
I try really hard to not judge because it’s not my place, but those thoughts sneak into my mind all the time:
That person is rude.
That’s my shy (hyper, loud, smart, active, loving, etc) child.
That outfit is inappropriate.
That group of giggling girls is too loud and out of control.
I don’t say anything with these thoughts most of the time because it’s not my place.
I often mentally rebuke myself for having them, but I still have the thoughts.
The truth is that we all make judgements all the time. And when a child acts out a lot, he is judged and labeled.
If a child never seems to be organized, she is judged and labeled.
If a child falls behind academically, he is judged and labeled.
If a child bothers other kids in class with movements or talking, he is judged and labeled.
It happens with or without a diagnosis. The label is there.
With proper management, your child might lose the negative labels and be able to succeed!
Aren’t behaviors and focus problems from bad parenting?
If this is just due to bad parenting, how does medicine help?
Diagnosing isn’t always easy.
One of the problems with diagnosing many learning and behavioral disorders is they’re difficult to test for since there is a continuum of symptoms of normal and atypical and there are so many variables (such as sleep) that can affect both learning and behavior.
There are diagnostic tools that should be used to assess the issues at hand. Your child shouldn’t be diagnosed without a standardized assessment. There are many available, depending on the concerns (ADHD, anxiety, dyslexia) and the age of the child, and sometimes kids need more than one type of assessment. Some of these can be done at your physician’s office. Others can be done with a professional who offers that type of assessment.
While I’m all for looking for things on your own that can help a child’s behavior and optimize their learning (to be covered in a future post), I also think that avoiding the issue too long can lead to secondary problems:
accidental injuries due to impulsivity and hyperactivity
strain on family life
social issues with peers
Working with the school and seeking professional help outside of school can help your child succeed.
If a parent is not wanting to start medication, there are other things that can be done that might help the child succeed once the specific issues are identified.
Not treating ADHD and learning differences has consequences.
The children suffer from poor self-esteem because they constantly are reminded that their behavior is bad or they fail to perform at their academic potential.
They have a harder time doing tasks at school because they lose focus. They get distracted and miss important information.
Children get in trouble for talking inappropriately, acting out or for invading other’s personal space.
Social skills lag behind those of peers and they often have a hard time interpreting how others react to their behaviors.
Their impulsivity can get them into dangerous situations, causing more injuries.
Older kids might suffer from depression and anxiety from years of “failures”.
Teens often try to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
Why are you hesitant?
If you still worry about labeling your child with a diagnosis, think about what the root of your worry really is.
Remember that the diagnosis is only a word. It doesn’t define the best treatments for your child, but it opens the doors to allow investigation of treatments that might help your child. In the end most parents want healthy, happy kids who will become productive members of society.
How can you best help them get there?
Looking for more?
Many parents benefit from support groups to learn from others who have gone through or are currently going through similar situations, fears, failures, and successes. Find one in your area that might help you go through the process with others who share your concerns. If you know of a support group that deserves mention, please share!
CHADD is the nationwide support group that offers a lot online and has many local chapters, such as ADHDKC. I am a volunteer board member of ADHDKC and have been impressed with the impact they have made in our community in the short time they have existed (established in 2012). I encourage parents to attend their free informational meetings. The speakers have all been fantastic and there are many more great topics coming up!
Many parents are surprised to learn how much anxiety can affect behavior and learning. To look for local support groups, check out the tool on Psychology Today.
Choosing schools for kids with ADHD and learning differences isn’t always possible, but look to the linked articles on ways to decide what might work best for your child. When choosing colleges, look specifically for programs they offer for students who learn differently and plan ahead to get your teen ready for this challenge.
Midwest ADHD Conference – April 2018
Check out the Midwest ADHD Conference coming to the KC area in April, 2018. I’m involved in the planning stages and it will be a FANTASTIC conference for parents, adults with ADHD, and educators/teachers.