better bedtime routines

A Better Bedtime Routine

Bedtime.  For many adults, bedtime means it’s finally time to shut down and rest.  How peaceful!  However, if you’re a parent of young ones, the simple statement, “It’s time for bed.” likely carries a very different meaning.  In my experience working with families of children of various ages, it is not uncommon for bedtime to be a time of stress, arguments, and frustration among the entire family.  I write this blog not because I have the clear, simple answer for solving the “bedtime problem”, but to inform you of the importance and benefits of having a bedtime routine.

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know that I strongly believe that there is no one “best” or “correct” way to do things when it comes to raising children.  Consider the individual needs of your family and children as you read on.  While this is not intended to be a prescriptive, step-by-step “how-to” guide, considering the information below can help you instill healthy sleep habits in your children and ease the transition into bedtime.

Building a Better Bedtime Routine:

  • Yes, you have to go to sleep!better bedtime routines
    • Many individuals have a false understanding of what exactly happens when our bodies go to sleep.  Although we think of sleep as a time to shut off, our body and brains are hard at work during sleep, especially during childhood.  Sleep is a critical activity for healthy brain development beginning at infancy.   As infants grow into children and adolescents, sleep remains an important aspect of growth and development.  According to The National Sleep Foundation, “sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs.”  The experts go on to state, “Our bodies all require long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones.”
    • Lack of sleep can contribute to increased difficulty problem-solving, controlling emotions, paying attention, learning, and effectively communicating one’s needs.
  • How much sleep is needed?
    • While adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, one-year-olds need roughly 11 to 14 hours, school age children between 9 and 11, and teenagers between 8 and 10. (sleepfoundation.org)
  • OK, so sleep is important. But bedtime is always such a challenge!
    • Have routines- When things are predictable they are less stressful. Having a before-bed routine will reduce stress and promote healthy sleep (falling asleep easily, staying asleep throughout the night, and waking up refreshed).  For some, it may be helpful to have a visual schedule.  Activities like reading a book, brushing teeth, and bathing can be easily depicted through pictures.
    • During the hour before bed, have your child engage in a calming activity. This will help encourage the body’s transition to sleep mode.  Realize that there is no one perfect calming activity for all children.  For some it may be playing with Legos, others it’s drawing, reading, or writing.
    • In continuation of the above bullet point, it is recommended to avoid certain activities before bed. Participating in activities that are stressful or exciting are likely to make the transition into bedtime more difficult.

What do bedtime routines look like in your home?  Do you have other tips to share with readers regarding children’s bedtime routines?  Your comments are welcome below!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

the consequences of coddling

The Consequences of Coddling

coddling

What’s happening above?  Why did it used to be the student’s fault for bringing home a poor grade?  Why today is it the teacher’s fault if the student brings home an F?  One way to understand this shift is to consider the idea that many children today are coddled by their parents.  Oxford Dictionaries defines coddle as “treat in an indulgent or overprotective way”.  So, the question is, what constitutes “indulgent” or “overprotective”? What are the consequences of coddling?

Parenting is tricky, we know this.  Often it is a challenging task to find the balance between pushing our children to realize their full potential, and providing them with a caring, nurturing environment so they can experience unconditional acceptance and love.  The ways parents raise their children is closely connected to the parent’s culturally-embedded goals for childrearing.  In the United States, goals of autonomy and independence are generally highly valued.

What are the Effects of Coddling?

As children develop from infants to preschoolers, to young children, and then adolescents, they continuously acquire and refine their abilities to meet life’s challenges.  Because of this, the amount of support or “protection” needed from parents also evolves.  If parents provide too much instrumental support by not allowing their children to fall, or avoiding challenging tasks all together, they are implicitly sending a message that their child is unable to handle difficulties.  While I’m certain that even these parents are well-intended, creating such an invalidating environment may be accomplishing the opposite of their intended goals (according to, Hardy Power and Jaedicke et al. (as cited in DeHart et al., 2004)).

In general, parenting characterized by warmth, support and a reasoning approach to discipline is consistently associated with such positive child characteristics as cooperativeness, effective coping, low levels of behavioral problems, strongly internalized norms and values, a sense of personal responsibility and high levels of moral reasoning. (p. 428)

As readers are already well aware, disappointments, frustrations, and discomforts in life cannot be avoided.  The trick when it comes to raising children is not to sidestep such experiences all together, but rather to help our young ones learn to manage these upsets effectively.  Remember, there is no one right way to support, encourage, and nurture your children.  My hope is that after reading this, you are armed with additional considerations to guard against coddling your little ones.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Sources: DeHart, G. B., Sroufe, L.A., & Cooper, R.G. (2004). Child Development: Its nature and

course (5th ed., p 411-441). New York: McGraw-Hill

Anorexia

Top Warning Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is term that is often loosely thrown around to describe someone who is skinny or overly weight-conscious, however there are clear criteria that characterize this serious disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders V, Anorexia Nervosa diagnostic requirements include:Anorexia

Restriction of energy intake leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health

Intense fear of gaining weight or of becoming fat, or persistent behavior that interferes with weight gain even though at a significantly low weight

-Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence on body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or persistent lack of recognition of the seriousness of the current low body weight

If you are concerned that a loved one exhibits harmful/restrictive eating habits, low body image, and obsesses about thinness check the facts outlined by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders regarding the presence of Anorexia:

-deliberate self-starvation with weight loss

-intense, persistent fear of gaining weight

-refusal to eat or engages in restrictive eating patterns

-perpetual dieting

-excessive facial/body hair due to the inadequate consumption of protein

-abnormal weight loss

-abnormal hair loss

-absent or irregular menstruation

Consult your family physician or schedule an appointment with a mental health provider if these symptoms develop or persist for effective treatment options.


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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

eating disorders

Does My Child Have An Eating Disorder?

Are you concerned that your child is demonstrating symptoms of an eating disorder? There are many common misconceptions when one evaluates for the presence of an eating disorder such as the person needs to “be skinny,” “be female,” and “be obsessed with food and calorie counting.” Although these can be factors, eating disorders are an equal opportunity affliction and can affect individuals across size, shape, gender, race, and age. Eating disorders are indicative of a person’s unhealthy relationship with food and his or her unrealistic expectations for weight that negatively impacts the individual’s overall quality of life. Although food is a primary component in the diagnosis of eating disorders, the food itself is a maladaptive tool to cope with a range of emotions and can serve as a false method for power and control.

What are some symptoms of eating disorders?eating disorders

The restriction of calories, skipped meals, consumption of large amounts of food, purging, or loss of control when eating can all be manifestations of other underlying socio-emotional concerns. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, “almost 50% of people with an eating disorder meet the criteria for Depression.”  Psychological factors to be aware of when determining the presence of an eating disorder include:

  • Difficulty with mood regulation
  • Reduced impulse control
  • The need for control
  • Perfectionism
  • Parental dieting
  • Need for attention
  • High family expectations
  • Preoccupation with food, weight, body
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Consumes tiny portions of food
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Depression
  • Distorted body image (i.e. thinking they are fat or overweight when it is not the case)

Eating disorder treatment includes individual and group psychotherapy to gain strategies to become aware of and avoid maladaptive behaviors, challenge negative core beliefs about weight, and enhance self-esteem. Additionally, nutritional counseling and medication management for the treatment of the underlying depression or anxiety can be added as needed.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Toddler Won't Listen

Help! My Toddler Won’t Listen!

It’s not uncommon for a parent to say, “My toddler won’t listen!” It’s an exciting time for parents when their little one first starts to demonstrate an understanding of what is being said to him.  I remember how impressed I was when I first saw my nephew respond to the request of his mother to bring her a book.  But as a child enters toddlerhood, the question can change from, “Does he understand what I’m asking?” to “Does he understand AND will he do what I’m asking?”.  Parents in the United States typically raise their children with a goal for them to be independent and self-sufficient.  But at the same time, they still want their kids to listen to us as the adults in charge of their safety and well-being.  So, how do we accomplish this? Here are some tips to help get your toddler to listen.

5 Tips for the Toddler that Won’t ListenToddler Won't Listen

  1. Teach expectations and reward positive behaviors. While it would be nice if all kids were able to pick up on this by themselves, it can be very important to make your expectations explicit.  Letting him know that he needs to stay with you at the grocery store, or that he should signal to you when finished eating can decrease the chances of him engaging in behavior that is unacceptable to you.
  1. Use visuals. Remember that toddlerhood is a time of rapid growth and development, especially in the language arena.  While they are not able to hold and process as much verbal information as older children, they are learning to connect words to ideas.  One way to support this development is through utilizing visual aides to encourage their understanding.
  1. Simple language, simple concepts. Have you ever thought, does he even understand what I’m saying?  Well, he might not!  Keep your language as simple as possible.  Don’t give long explanations for your rules or why you want your toddler to do something.  Rather, give a simple command and pause.
  2. First/then. As infants develop into toddlers, the development of memory and other intellectual capacities pave the way for an understanding of temporal relationships.  That is to say, children at this age can begin to understand that before Y happens, X must occur.  For example, saying to a child, “first we clean up these Legos, then we can play outside” is much easier to understand than, “we’re not going anywhere as long as these Legos are all over the rug”.  You can use this first-then model with many tasks and routines of your toddler’s day.
  1. Empathize. Lastly, and perhaps the most important tip to get your toddler to listen is to empathize. Growing up is tough!  So, try to take your little one’s perspective.  Toddlers have different ways of thinking, feeling, and interacting with the world as compared to older children.  As caregivers, we must be aware that factors like feeling hungry or missing a nap can have a huge impact on a toddler’s ability to meet the demands of his environment.

If your toddler continues to have a difficult time following your expectations and behaving in appropriate ways, it is recommended to consult with others.  While toddlerhood is a typical stage of development, if you have concerns about your young one, it is recommended to consult with a mental health professional.

Do you have other tips on how to encourage your toddler to listen?  Please leave feedback below!


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NSPT offers Social Services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

how tp prep your child for a new sibling

How to Prep Your Child for a New Sibling

Have a little one at home and another one on the way?  You might be thinking, “No problem, I’ve done this before!” However, this time may be a little different.  Through all of your doctor’s appointments, new room preparations, and pregnancy aches, you have a child who may be feeling any number of ways as she prepares for her new baby brother or sister.  If there’s already more than one little one at home, one might expect that reactions to the third or fourth child will be the same as when your second one came.  But beware…things change. Here is how to prep your child for a new sibling.

My primary piece of advice when preparing your child for a new sibling is to follow her lead.  Some kids might have lots of questions and show great interest in talking about the new baby.  Others might act as if you never even told them the news.  Don’t worry, kids react to these changes in all different ways.  Make yourself available to your son or daughter, while never forcing the topic.

With so much going on in your life right now, it can feel overwhelming to stay on top of all of this.

Below are some tips that parents have found helpful when preparing their child for a new sibling:

  1. Discuss changes that will occur when the newborn arrives, and start early! A newborn will bring how tp prep your child for a new siblingmany changes to the entire family, such as different responsibilities for all members of the household.  If your child will have to make significant changes such as moving his/her bedroom, try to make this change long before the newborn arrives.  This will help your little one not feel like they are being displaced by their new brother or sister.  While sharing is expected among siblings, let your son/daughter know about things that will remain theirs and stay constant.
  1. Read books about welcoming new brothers and sisters. Your local librarian is a great resource for age-appropriate books about the arrival of a newborn and books are a great way to learn about life transitions. While reading a book on the topic may spark rich discussion, it also may not.  Don’t be discouraged though; give your child time to let the changes sink in.
  1. Allow your son or daughter to be part of the planning and preparation for the newborn. Whether it’s setting up the baby’s room, looking at ultrasound pictures, or purchasing items for the nursery, having your son or daughter participate in the preparations, may help ease some of their anxiety.
  1. Expect some mixed feelings. Children’s emotions often seem all over the place. One minute they may be talking excitedly about their role as a big brother/sister and the next minute showing zero interest or even stating that they do not want to be an older sibling.  People’s emotions are often mixed about life transitions/changes, so remember to let your child know that it’s normal to have some mixed feelings about the new addition to the family.
  1. Lastly, be prepared to provide some extra support to your son or daughter, possibly more so than he or she typically requires. Of course this depends on each parents individual schedule and what time/life permits. However, spending lots of family time together and focusing on this special time you have together before the new addition arrives is important. If your child seems anxious about the arrival of the new sibling, reassuring him or her of their relationship with you will be helpful.  Maybe show them pictures from when they were a baby, so they see what it was like. While there may be lots of time and attention given to the newborn, let them know you’ll still be sure to make time for them.

Click here for 5 Roles to Assign a Sibling of a New Baby!

If you have concerns about how your child is adjusting to a new baby in the family, click here to meet with a social worker.

 

Building Self-Esteem in Children

Building Self-Esteem in Children

A child’s self-esteem is very important as it helps with his daily successes. If a child is able to start off the day with a positive outlook then the child will be able to follow directions in class and become a better learner. A child can build self-esteem by forming and maintaining positive relationships with family, friends and other people he comes in contact with, for example, teachers, therapists and other adults. A child can also build self-esteem when he hears positive praise, when he does something good or when he is able to learn and master new skills. Often times a barrier can be placed in front of a child that will cause him to lose his self-esteem. Negative comments from people such as adults or bullies are the fastest thing that can tear a child down.

How can we teach our kids self-esteem?Building Self-Esteem in Children

  1. Praise the child
  2. Be there for the ups and downs. Use the down times for teaching and educating.
  3. Accept the child for who they are
  4. Allow the child to be themselves
  5. Don’t just celebrate the wins but teach from the loses

Is there a point where you are being too positive and too much of a cheerleader?

Children need to know that they are supported in every arena they enter. When it starts to hinder the child is when realistic expectations start to be forgotten and children are expected to do things that are over his head. Too much cheerleading can cause the child to lose hold of what is expected and what is required. There needs to be a fine line with building positive self- esteem and enabling children.






Sensory Club for Kids - Chicago

How To Help Your Child Find The Right Friends

Helping children navigate their social environment can be challenging terms of developing self-initiation, advocacy, and flexibility skills. What is your role as a parent in facilitating the development of your child’s new friendships?

How to Help Your Child Find the Right Friends:

  1. Have your child develop a list of “friend criteria” that a peer has to meet to be considered a friend. For example, “friend criteria” may include nice, kind, asks questions of others, is respectful, and is inclusive. Thishelp you child make the right friends helps your child differentiate levels of intimacy between peers that are classmates, acquaintances, friends, and even best friends. When a child can determine positive qualities in a peer that meet his list, he can begin to ask these individuals to have playdates and increase exposure to enhance the level of intimacy. On the contrary, if a child is referring to a peer as a “friend” but this individual is not nice or exclusive of your child, this check list will help him see what a friend should be.
  2. Role-play scenarios with your child about how to initiate with another child in social situations. Develop several examples of conversation starters and follow up questions to enhance your child’s confidence when engaging with peers. Utilizing the “friend criteria” will also help your child discern if a peer is worthy of continual approaching depending out the outcomes of these initiations (i.e. if your child asks a peer to play but that peer continues to say no, teach your child to identify other peers they can play with since this individual does not meet their description of “friend criteria”).
  3. Teach your child age-appropriate communication and self-advocacy skills when expressing his needs to friends. Arming your child with calm and direct verbal and non-verbal skills can help them accurately express their thoughts and feelings to peers as well as handle any conflict that may arise.

As a parent, try to teach your children the skills to be the friends they are seeking. If a child is kind, communicative, inclusive, and compassionate, they can begin to recognize similar qualities in others.

Read here for tips to raise your child’s social IQ!






teens and transitions how to help your child

Teens And The Transition To Adulthood: How To Support Your Child

If you have a teenager at home, then you know how exciting of a time adolescence can be. With the excitement, however, brings a variety of challenges. As boys and girls begin their journey of becoming young men and women, parents are faced with having to constantly respond to the changing needs of their sons and daughters. Parents of teenagers will often notice that their relationship seems to change with their child during these years. While young teenagers are eager to separate from their parents and make their own choices, parents feel the pull to ensure that their teens are making choices that will be beneficial for their future. How do you support your teen as he/she transitions to adulthood?

We know that adolescence is a time of change. Physical, psychological, and social changes can create some real discomfort for a young teenager. Although it is no simple task, parents can do a great deal to support their young ones through these changes. The following are some tips for parenting your adolescent child.

How to Support Your Teen as He/She Transitions to Adulthood:

  • Encourage your son or daughter to speak to you about the changes he/she notices including the desire toteens and transitions how to help your child be more independent.
  • Allow your child to make mistakes so long as safety and long-term future are not at risk. Talk to your teenager about the consequences of his or her choices in an empathic and understanding way.
  • Set clear and firm limits but allow for your teenager to have choices when possible; children of all ages need to have some say. Parents should collaborate with their children to set parameters and still allow for some “supervised” autonomy.
  • Help your child develop routines and structure to stay organized, especially when it comes to school. Teenagers are continuing to develop executive functioning skills and need your support to create and maintain solid systems for balancing home, school, and social life.
  • Be comfortable asking for help. If your teenager’s transition into and through adolescence seems especially difficult, be assured there is help available. Working with a social worker or other mental health professionals can provide you with support that is specific to you and your child’s situation.

 

help your child cope with divorce

How To Help Your Child Cope With Divorce

Now that the dust has settled and the formation of two separate households has emerged, how do you prepare your child to cope with the changes that occur because of divorce? Even though parenting may appear distinct and different, it is important that co-parenting remain a priority. How each parent arranges their day-to-day affairs can be incongruous, however overall expectations for the child must remain consistent.

Consistency is key in terms of helping your child transition in to this new post-divorce arrangement, help your child cope with divorceas it reduces any anxiety about what will happen next. Two households with stark contrasts in terms of routines, structure, and discipline might be confusing for the child and facilitate splitting behaviors as the child develops an awareness into which parent will best meet his needs with the least resistance. This may create a disparity in following directions and engaging in compliant behaviors across contexts. Maintaining similar modes of discipline and expectations will reaffirm that even though both parents are not under the same roof, there is uniformity in parenting which can be comforting to the child and prove effective in instilling parental core values in children.

Here are 3 tips on how to help your child deal with life after divorce:

  1. Maintain open and honest communication. Invite your child to process his feelings, both positive and negative, about the situation at hand. This will allow the child to mourn the loss of his previous perception of “family” and to adopt and transition into a newer version of “family.” Provide your child with creative outlets to draw, communicate, or conceptualize what family means to him now (i.e. a child might draw something that illustrates family equals 2 houses instead of 1 house).
  2. Never bad mouth your ex in front of your child. Maintaining positive sentiments about the child’s other parent will enhance positive feelings of the other parent in the eyes of the child. Just because there is strain in the parental dyad does not mean that child needs to take sides. Also, this ensures the child feels safe to discuss the other parent in your presence. Otherwise, the child might feel anxious about sharing his positive feelings about the other parent to you and feel caught in the middle.
  3. Communicate with your ex. Make sure that you are both on the same page about core values and expectations so you can reinforce each other as challenges arise. If for example, the child has been told at Mom’s house during the week that they cannot go to soccer practice over the weekend if they don’t comply with bedtime routine M-F, Dad would have to uphold that consequence. What is so important too is that Mom approve this consequence with Dad before offering it. If dad is not ok with compromising soccer, Mom and Dad would have to come up with another option. The more the parents are on the same page, the better, as this will reduce stress during the already stressful time brought on by divorce.

Click here to read about dating after divorce.