How to Help When a Child You Love Suffers Trauma

Early trauma can leave a lasting impact on a child’s brain.  The younger a child is, the more vulnerable their brain may be to the impact of trauma.  Childhood trauma can include any negative experience that causes major stress.

Having healthy relationships with caring adults can help children who have experienced early trauma.  When children feel unsafe, they spend more time in the “survival” part of their brain as opposed to the “thriving” part of their brain where they are bonding with caregivers, learning to talk, etc.  Early trauma can interfere with learning and may lead to other health problems in the future.

You can help a child who has suffered childhood trauma in the following ways:

  • Facilitate opportunities for children to talk about what happened.
  •  Help children play out their feelings.
  •  Allow the child to talk and tell their story without pressure. Read more

Tips for Improving Your Child’s Social Skills

Why don’t they just get it? When it comes to appropriate social interactions, it can be surprising when a child does not innately posses the tools and skills to foster successful conversations and peer relationships. This should not be alarming, as social skills can be acquired like any other skill; we all go to school to learn math and science, and without assistance one might not understand these concepts. Social skills function the same way – without education and practice, children may struggle in social situations.

It is important for children to understand the rules of language (e.g., using language, changing language, and following rules) in order to succeed in various social environments. Using language comprises greeting (“Hello”), informing (“I am watching TV.”), and requesting (“Can I watch TV?”). Children also need to learn to change language, depending on the environment. Children will adjust their message depending on their needs, the needs of their communicative partner, the age of their partner (e.g., talking to a baby differently than talking to your principal), and based on their environment (e.g., yelling on the playground is acceptable, however yelling in the classroom is not). Children will learn to follow the rules of conversation as well, including taking turns, staying on topic, reading verbal and non-verbal cues, and understanding personal space boundaries. If your child is struggling with any aspect of social language, the tips below can help!

Tips for Improving Your Child’s Social Skills:

  • Ask questions: Model how to ask peers or adults questions. Examples may include the following: asking how someone’s day is going, asking likes/dislikes, or asking communicative partners to elaborate or repeat phrasing in order to aid in listener understanding. Utilizing these strategies will help children better interact in social situations.
  • Answering questions: Talk with your child to help him learn that answering questions can help further a conversation and will allow for the back-and-forth flow of an interaction.
  • Topic maintenance: Children will often change the topic to something of interest to them. Help your child practice topic maintenance skills by each taking turns picking the topic and see if you can each make 5 questions/comments for a non-preferred topic.
  • Role playing: Pretend that you and your child are in different social situations and adjust your tone of voice, volume, and message based on each scenario. Different scenarios include talking to a teacher, explaining a favorite game to an adult, asking a peer for help with homework, ordering in a restaurant, and not getting your way.
  • Non-verbal skills: Alter your non-verbal skills when your child is telling you a story. This will help your child to pick up on signs of confusion, frustration, boredom, and anger. Explaining that non-verbal skills are integral parts of social interactions can help children to learn to maintain eye contact and use whole-body listening.

For further information, please read Social Skills: Improving Social Skills to Enhance Socio-Emotional Health or click here for more information from a licensed speech-language pathologist or a licensed clinical social worker.

Co-written by Ali Wein

Positive Thinking Tricks for a Better Mood

Changing your child’s thinking may be a helpful way to appropriately deal with day to day conflict that inevitably occurspositive thinking tips for teens. Have you noticed that when minor upsets in the day occur, your child has a reaction that lasts a long time? Does your child tend to think of the glass as half-empty? By challenging your child’s thoughts (and your own!) you will start to see the way that more positive thinking can improve his or her mood.

Tips to Help Your Child Think Positively:

  • Challenge extremes by finding exceptions. By challenging extremes (ex. Does every single kid in the classroom really get to do that? ) you can help your child see that there are exceptions to the generalizations that he is likely making. In the example above, if your child is feeling down because some of his peers get to do something he is not allowed to do, he may utter, “but EVERYONE else gets to!” By questioning the truth of his statement in a non-threatening way, you can help him see that there are indeed exceptions.  A great way to do this is by having him list a few examples. Read more

Social Thinking: Improving Social Skills to Enhance Socio-Emotional Health

What is social thinking?

Social thinking is what we do when we interact with people. For successful social interactions, it is important that the individual take in and process information embedded in both verbal and non-verbal cues and process how to effectively respond based on the context and topic of presented material. Joint attention, knowledge of expectations regarding behavior, and mental flexibility are all key components for appropriate social relationships.

What happens when social skills are impaired?

When a child has difficulty with focus, understanding the context of the environment around them, and lacks knowledge of how their behaviors make others feel, social thinking may be impaired. Social skills deficits can have profound effects on your child’s academic performance, feelings about self, ability to connect with others, and ability to achieve desired wants and needs. Read more

Socialization Concerns in School

Many times there is an over emphasis on the academic aspects of a child’s school day.  Now, of course, academics are vital and should be put on the forefront in school.  However, what is just as important is the child’s social and emotional functioning.  Unfortunately these are often domains that are left unnoticed until they become a major problem with a child’s day-to-day academic achievement.  It is important that teachers identify any possible socialization or emotional concern that one of their students may be exhibiting, prior to it becoming a major concern for that student’s daily academic life.  Teachers should be on the lookout for various warning signs regarding socialization or emotional concerns.

Warning signs for social or emotional concerns:

  1. The child prefers to be by himself at recess.
  2. There is an increase in argumentative or oppositional behavior.
  3. The child ‘avoids’ or ‘escapes’ certain classes and situations by repeatedly going to the nurse or bathroom.
  4. The child appears more irritable or becomes easily frustrated.
  5. The child cries easily.

Many children will engage in a variety of the above behaviors at some time, and just because one or two of them appear, it does not mean that there needs to be a rush to intervention.  However, if a teacher does notice any of the above behaviors in a child, it is definitely recommended that he or she bring up this information to the child’s parent.  The parent may be able to provide some insight as well as help the child attain some needed interventions.

How to Teach Your Child about Bullying

The beginning of the school year is a great time for parents and guardians to talk with kids about bullying.  Bullying is a problem which affects millions of children and teenagers.  It takes place in many forms: physical, verbal, psychological/social and through means of social media.  Read on for several tips for talking to kids of any age about bullying.

Tips for talking to kids about bullying:

  1. Teach assertiveness.  Model and teach your child peaceful ways to solve problems.
  2. Teach empathy.  Talk to your child about helping others and taking action if she observes someone being hurt or hurting themselves. This is only if the situation is safe to do so.  Help build empathy in your child by talking about examples from television, movies and books.  Ask your child how she thinks others must feel in the various scenarios.
  3. Hold children accountable.  Teach your child that if she is watching someone being bullied, then she has a responsibility to tell someone; otherwise this hurts the victim also.
  4. Get to know your child’s friends.  Encourage your child to invite her friends over.
  5. Be a good role model.  Model these skills whenever appropriate.

For more bullying resources, click here to watch our Bullying Webinar or click here to read about including bullying in your child’s IEP.

Reference: http://www.ncpc.org/topics/bullying/teaching-kids-about-bullying/what-to-teach-kids-about-bullying

What to Do if You Don’t Like Your Child’s Friend

Picture this: It is Wednesday afternoon, and your fifth grade child runs off of the school bus and into your house. You hear an extra set of footsteps and think to yourself, “Oh how nice, he has a friend over.”  You enter the kitchen to greet him and his friend when you see the refrigerator AND pantry left open.  Food crumbs and wrappers are on the floor. Your son likes his things relatively clean and tidy.  Your son cleans up after himself. His friend must be over, and to be honest, he isn’t your favorite child.

If your child has one (or a few) friend(s) that agitate you, it may be difficult at times to manage your emotions about it, as well as to be supportive of your child’s friendships.  Read on for tips to help you deal with a friend of your child’s who you do not particularly like.

Tips to deal with your child’s friend you dislike:

  • Keep discussion about the disliked peer separate from discussions you have with, or around, your child. You are entitled to not favor any of your child’s peers, for whatever reason.  However, it is important that your child is unburdened by your feelings. You can deal with your feelings by talking with a spouse or friend about it, although it is best to choose just one person with whom to share these feelings. Talking to many people about your child’s friend makes it easier for the information to get back to your child. Writing your feelings out in a journal is a safe and effective way to ‘get out’ the thoughts you have about the peer as well.
  • Look for the positives in the disliked peer, and praise them. Test yourself, and try to come up with two things about the disliked friend that are positive. Simple things such as ‘they dress nice’ or ‘they have a good hair cut’ are acceptable. Just start by finding two positives. Once you find those positives, point them out to your child’s peer next time you see him (Ex.“Your hair looks nice today.” or “You played soccer very well last night in the game.”). Focusing on the positives will help you to feel slightly better about the peer, at least in that moment. The more times you point out a positive, the better you’ll feel about the individual overall. Read more