Why Your Child Needs Play Time With You!

When days are over-scheduled, make sure to save at least 15 minutes a day to just play with your child. Teach your child that down time is just asParents Playing with Daughter important as organized activities and daily responsibilities. It also teaches work-life balance early on, so he can better handle the stresses of school and eventually a career.

TV and video games may seem like the only thing your child is interested in, but what they truly crave is your attention and genuine connection. Video games can’t compete with the feeling a child gets when he get to share a special object, or even just a special moment, with his parent.

Tell your child to pick out 1 special toy and bring it to you so you can play together. When you’re down on the floor, on his level, look in his eyes and express genuine interest in what you’re doing together. Let him lead playtime with his imagination and excite your child with your facial expressions, sounds and your own imaginative ideas.

Quick tips for one-on-one play time with your child:

  • Play at eye-level and use loving touch
  • Unplug the electronics and give undivided attention
  • Commit to 15-20 minutes per day
  • Follow the child’s lead and join in his/her themes
  • Stimulate his/her creativity by asking questions
  • Use simple objects that can easily change meaning (i.e. a cardboard box is a car, and then it’s a hat, etc.
  • Children today don’t use their imagination enough, something they need in order to develop creativity. Designating a daily play time has a multitude of positive effects for your family.

8 Benefits of daily play time:

  • Sense of security
  • Stronger bonds
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Frequent stress relief
  • Less risk-taking behaviors
  • Less attention-seeking behaviors
  • Better mood throughout the day
  • More cooperation with rules/directions

Try it out and have a great time. Please share with us what your favorite things are to do with your child during one-on-one time!

*North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Inc. (NSPT) intends for responses to the blogs to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; all content and answers to questions should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). Questions submitted to this blog are not guaranteed to receive responses. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by NSPT to people submitting questions. Always consult with your health professional first before initiating or changing any aspect of your treatment regimen.

 

“I Don’t Know How She Does It!”: How Do We Balance Our Careers With Our Family Life?

High-powered finance executive by day, devoted wife and mother of two by night. “I don’t know how she does it!” How does she balance her career path with her family life? The movie “I don’t know how she does it,” starring Sarah Jessica Parker, sets out to explore this age-old question. So how do you do it? How do you successfully balance your professional and balancing work and familypersonal life? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers, nor is there one answer that works for everyone.

Explore these questions to decide what fits for you and your life:

1. What are my priorities at this point in my life?

  •  Priorities change over time. Your priorities may change based on your age, the age of your children, where you are in your career, and your relationships with partners, friends, relatives, and co-workers.
  • Exploring with yourself what your current priorities are can help you formulate a plan. If your priority is time spent with your children, for example, what will that look like when you have a deadline to meet? If your priority is advancement in your career, what will that look like when your family decides to go on vacation? Exploring these difficult questions beforehand can help you brainstorm possible ways to act based on your priorities.
  • Periodically asking yourself about your priorities is a helpful way to remind yourself that it is normal and okay for priorities to shift and for your answers to career/family balance questions to also change.

2. What are my boundaries?

  • Many parents discuss the importance of boundaries when it comes to their professional and personal lives. Setting boundaries is one way to maintain guidelines.
  • Questions of career/family balance occur often. Your boss asks you to stay late, but your child has a math test the next day. Your children want to spend time with you, but you have a presentation to work on. Having pre-set boundaries can give you something to fall back on.
  • Asserting and communicating your boundaries to your workplace and family is important so that everyone is informed and on the same page about the way you want to balance your professional and personal life.

3. How can I cope when things do not go the way I had planned or hoped?

  • Exploring your priorities and setting boundaries will not set answers in stone for you. Sometimes you make difficult choices in a way that you had not planned. Sometimes you cannot keep your boundaries. This is normal and okay—juggling a career with a family is extremely complicated and challenging, and no one does exactly what they planned or hoped to do every time.
  • Accept yourself as a human being that may have to make choices that you did not anticipate. Explore with yourself what can help you cope when this time comes. Do you write in a journal? Talk to a friend or spouse? Exercise? Take some alone time? What is it that works for you to feel hopeful, at peace, and confident in yourself as an employee and parent? How can you let go of possible guilty, sad, anxious, or hopeless feelings?

4. How can I gain support?

  • Balancing your career and family life is a constant process and journey, and as employees and parents, reaching out for help and support is vital for your well-being.
  • When do you need support? Recognizing when you need help is important so that you receive the support you deserve. What helps you feel supported? Take some time to think about what makes you feel refreshed, energized, calm, and happy. With busy schedules of maintaining the career/family balance, some parents may say they do not have time to engage in self-care activities. Taking time (even if it is just 5 minutes) to feel supported, however, can help you feel more energized throughout the day.

Exploring these questions about career/family life balance can help you to begin thinking about how YOU would answer the question of “How do you do it?” No two parents are exactly alike, and answering this challenging question in a way that fits with your unique beliefs, background, needs, wants, family, and career is important, rather than finding the “right” answer.

So, parents: How do you do it? Sharing your stories with each other can create connection, spark new ideas to try, and help you to see that every person balances their careers and family life differently.

Here is a list of how some of our very own North Shore Pediatric Therapy staff maintain the career/family balance:

CEO, Married, Father of 5:

“First, you can bring your kids to work once in awhile and let them experience your work world. You can also talk about issues that are age-appropriate with your children so they learn what you do and what you deal with so they become interested, learn, and grow from your work experience. This can also help them to work harder at school with their peers. Another suggestion is to ask your children if they feel they have enough time with you, and if not, ask them how would they like things to change for the better. Scheduling in one-on-one time with your children is a good way to help them feel important. Be interested in their work and what they do in school. It is important that you’re not just talking about your work but letting them know their work is also important—acknowledge their stresses and responsibilities.”

President/Founder, Married, Mother of 5:

“First, don’t forget your children at school! Oh boy, I have five and a few times when I was treating kids at NSPT late I got calls to work from the kids ‘Hi mom, I’m in the office, you forgot to pick me up!’ The best thing is that the kids knew I was working hard and loved it and they knew when I wasn’t working I was 100% all for them. Turn off all screens and concentrate on them when you are “off” and they will always be “on” for you! Second, kids actually don’t want SO MUCH attention from you. So, when they come home from wherever they are, just turn 100% attention to them. Tell them they have 20 minutes of YOU YOU YOU. You will see that after about 3-5 minutes of talking to you or hugging or whatever they need, they have other business to tend to like playing, eating, talking on the phone, homework, friends, pets, and will continue on their merry way! Third, work somewhere where you are happy. Happy mom equals happy family!”

Family-Child Advocate, Married, Mother of 3:

“We just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary on the 11th and have 3 children. Our oldest son Bill just graduated from medical school in June, our daughter Caitlin was married in May and our youngest Matthew has moved back to complete college at UIC for pre-med. All three have had learning differences so in addition to always working full time we had to factor in therapy and tutoring etc. We found that good communication and ORGANIZATION were the keys to getting it all done. In our case it was not “I don’t know how she does it”, it was always “This is mandatory for success” so it took priority and a schedule. We have a large centralized calendar and we had family meetings once a month to go over the schedule and we gave responsibility to the kids when they were old enough! Another thing that is key to getting it all accomplished is a sense of humor! Things happen and the wheels fall off of the best laid plans, but it helps to laugh!”

Clinical Consultant, Married, Mother of 2:

Make sure you leave work at work. When you come home and see your children for the first time, pay attention to them. Assign a time every night to hear about their day, talk about what they did and just spend valuable time with them. Save your work stories for your spouse after the kids go to bed. If you work from home it is especially important that your children know how long you will be on the computer for or on a conference call for. You can say to them “Mommy will be doing work for 45 minutes, but after I am done you get to choose an activity for us to do together”. You can even set a timer so they have a visual of when you will be able to bring your attention back to them. Leave weekends to family time. We call every Sunday “Sunday Funday Family Day” in our house. The children know that on that day they have our undivided attention!”

Neuropsychologist, Married, Father of 2:

“When I get home, my wife and I focus on our kids…getting them fed, going through routines, preparing for school the next day, spending time together…until they go to bed. Then, my wife and I have time together, where we process our days. Any work that I have to do, I do when everyone is asleep. So my time is spent first on my kids, then my wife, and then me.”

Occupational Therapist, Married, Mother of 2 toddlers:

“First, I love my career and my family. That helps everything. Second, I decided that the concept of balance, as it relates to career and family life, is unrealistic for me. So I have gone with the concept of seasons or synergy instead. Some weeks I’m going to come in to work early, stay late, and work on the weekends, some weeks the opposite will be true. If I expect that of my career and communicate that ahead of time to my family I don’t feel I’m disappointing them or myself during he hard weeks. Finally, I really value and prioritize my relationship with my husband – we are the ones running our crazy show together, so we need to be happy together for the most part.”

Speech Language Pathologist/Branch Director, Married, Mother of 1:

“As a mom of a 12 month old boy, I think the balance is all about finding a schedule and sticking to it. If you know what works, make sure to keep a routine that is predictable for you and your child. However, you also need to be flexible and able to change, so your schedule shouldn’t be too rigid. Most importantly, laugh! Keep a good sense of humor and go with the flow, even if things don’t turn out as planned. So what if the dishes aren’t washed and the laundry isn’t folded. At least my son went to bed happy and I have some quiet time to catch up with my husband and work!”

We would love to hear what you do, post a comment and tell us how you manage to balance work and family!

9/11/2001 Lessons for Children

We must never forget what happened on September 11, 2011. We all remember where we were the moment we heard the news. Whether we were woken9/11 Flag up by constant phone calls in Chicago, entering a class at school in Florida, watching the news in Austin or walking the streets in New York City, we all experienced a new sense of fear and unknown. How do we teach our children about September 11? What do we teach them about September 11?

These lessons must be taught at home, through books at an age appropriate level, and in the school curriculum.

Here are 6 tips to remember when teaching your child about the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks:

1) Stay age appropriate.

2) Don’t lie and say it never happened or it was not a big deal to cover up for an uncomfortable conversation, just go to Tip #1.

3) Get assistance through social workers at school or privately who can help your family cope and process.

4) Use art or music as a vehicle of communication for remembering 9-11.

5) Watch out for non verbal signs of anxiety, fear, depression, bullying, or any other red flags for children who may be at risk.

6) Teach them about what a hero is and why we should be thankful for people like Fireman and Policeman.

May we all learn from our past in order to pave a safer path for our future.

 

How Social Groups Can Help Your Child Navigate Friendships

Making friends involves an array of complex skills, from taking turns, to initiating interactions, considering others’ perspectives, negotiating, problem-solving, repairingKids Group communication breakdowns, and being flexible. For many children, these skills can be incredibly challenging, often resulting in difficulty with making friends.

What are the benefits of social groups?

Social groups are designed to help children develop and practice social skills in a supportive therapeutic setting. Many children lack the necessary skills to navigate peer relationships. Social group therapy directly teaches and practices any specific social skills a child may be struggling with. For example, research has documented that children with language-impairments often have difficulty verbally initiating peer interactions. Research has also well-documented that social group therapy can increase verbal initiation for children with language impairments. Social groups have also been found to improve skills such as:

• Greetings

• Nonverbal communication (e.g. understanding facial expressions)

• Turn-taking

• Cooperative play

• Dealing with confrontation and rejection

• Flexibility and sharing

• Initiating and joining in play

• Building confidence with peers

• Listening to others

• Problem-solving and negotiation

• Verbally communicating with peers

Should my child attend a social group?

Your child should attend a social group if you have any concerns with their ability to interact with peers. Additionally, social groups can also be a proactive way to prepare your child for social settings ahead of time. For example, a “kindergarten-readiness group” is an excellent way to encourage your child’s social skills prior to the first day of school.

Here are a few indicators that your child may benefit from a social group:

• Your child’s teacher often reports difficulties interacting with peers at school

• Your child seems to avoid interacting with other children

• You notice frequent conflicts during play dates or interactions with other kids

• Your child feels afraid or refuses to attend social gatherings (e.g. play-dates, birthday parties)

• Your child has difficulty being flexible during play activities (e.g. sharing others’ ideas, winning or loosing)

• Your child has difficulty joining in play or initiating interactions with other kids

• Your child uses physical actions instead of words to communicate with others (e.g. grabs a toy instead of asking, pushes others instead of verbalizing how they feel)

• Your child has had less opportunities to interact with age-matched peers

Last but not least, trust your intuition. If you are worried about your child’s ability to navigate friendships, then consider signing your child up for a social group. Contact a licensed therapist with questions or concerns to gain more information about whether or not your child may benefit from social group therapy. Social groups can also be an excellent way to prepare your child for school or camp ahead of time.

What is the next step?

If you think your child may benefit from a social group, contact our Family Child Advocate who can answer your questions and connect you with a licensed therapist. For more information, click the Social Skills button below:

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8 Tips for Talking to Young Children about Natural Disasters

Natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and tornadoes can be frightening and concerning for adults, so imagine how confusing and scary they can be for young children! When talking to children about natural disasters, there is a fine line between honesty and explaining in an age-appropriate way and going into too much detail that can worry a child.

Here are 8 ways you can approach talking to your young child about natural disasters in a calm way: Natural Disasters Blog

 1. Assess what your child already knows (or doesn’t know).

• When a natural disaster occurs, children are likely to hear about it on television, at school, from friends, or through conversations taking place around them. Before talking to your child, ask questions to help you understand what she already knows. This will help you understand her concerns, questions, feelings and even her misconceptions.

2. Listen to you child’s questions.

  • Children will likely have many questions when a natural disaster occurs. “How does a thunderstorm happen? What happened to the people living in ________? Will it happen to us?” Normalize this curiosity and concern by saying things like “I can understand why you would want to know that. That’s a good question.”
  • After answering, check in with your child to make sure she understood. If your child still does not understand try different, but still concrete, easy-to-understand language, until your child grasps the concept

3. Be proactive.

  • Children will likely have many questions when a natural disaster occurs. “How does a thunderstorm happen? What happened to the people living in ________? Will it happen to us?” Normalize this curiosity and concern by saying things like “I can understand why you would want to know that. That’s a good question.”
  • After answering, check in with your child to make sure she understood. If your child still does not understand try different, but still concrete, easy-to-understand language, until your child grasps the concept

4. Use simple, clear, consistent language.

  • Children will likely have many questions when a natural disaster occurs. “How does a thunderstorm happen? What happened to the people living in ________? Will it happen to us?” Normalize this curiosity and concern by saying things like “I can understand why you would want to know that. That’s a good question.”
  • After answering, check in with your child to make sure she understood. If your child still does not understand try different, but still concrete, easy-to-understand language, until your child grasps the concept

5. Demonstrate calm.

  • Children often pick up on their parents’ feelings. If you seem panicked or anxious, your child is likely to react in similar ways. Model a calm, matter-of-fact demeanor to show your child that your family is safe.
  • If you need support yourself, don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends. It can be helpful to have this kind of separate space to discuss your own emotions.

6. Reassure your child to help her feel safe.

  • When young children hear about a natural disaster and see images of destroyed homes, they may worry and wonder, “Will this happen here?” Assure your child that natural disasters are uncommon and that the chance of one occurring where you live is low.
  • Emphasize that natural disasters are no one’s fault, as your child may have anxieties about what could cause a natural disaster.
  • Inform your child of your family’s safety plan in case of a natural disaster. For example: Mommy and Daddy have a plan to keep us safe if there is ever a big tornado. We will all go to _______ in the basement and cover ourselves with a mattress to protect ourselves. Having earthquake/tornado/fire drills once per year can also reassure your child that if a natural disaster were to occur, she would be safe.

7. Be honest.

  • Honesty is key when answering questions. Some parents may want to keep some information from their children to protect them. They might say, for example: “No one died from the tornado” or “A storm like that would never happen here. This risks your child hearing about these details elsewhere. This could confuse your children and lead them to conclude that they cannot trust what you say.
  • If you do not know the answer to a question, do not hesitate to tell your child. You can even look for answers together, which can also help your child feel safe and comforted.

8. Explore your child’s feelings and provide validation and comfort.

  • Children may feel a variety of emotions after a natural disaster, such as fear, confusion, anxiety, guilt, and sadness. Some children may not openly talk about their feelings during this time, but that does not necessarily mean they are not thinking about it. When your child does share her feelings with you, provide empathy, acknowledgment, and validation.
  • In an effort to comfort their child, some parents may inadvertently minimize their child’s feelings by saying things like “You have nothing to be scared of.” A better alternative is to empathize with her feelings first and then offer reassurance. One example is: “I can understand why you would be scared that we might have a big earthquake. I want you to know that there is only a very small chance that an earthquake would happen here. And if something happens, we have a plan to keep us safe.”

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Social Work

Strategies For Smooth Sailing Into Middle School

We are at that time of year-school supply lists, the cooling down of summer, and the fall wardrobe advertisements can only mean one thing: it is “back to school” time! Transitioning back to school can seem overwhelming as it is, but the shift Middle School Boy On Near Lockersfrom elementary to middle school can create unique changes and challenges for students and parents. Knowing what changes to expect, anticipating the challenges they may bring, and brainstorming strategies to address the transition can help children sail smoothly into their middle school years!

Below are some common middle school transition challenges and strategies for smooth sailing.

Middle School Schedule Changes:

One of the biggest schedule changes is the frequent transitioning from class to class during the school day. Transitioning from a summer to school schedule is challenging enough, but adding a school schedule that is completely new can be overwhelming. Your child will experience multiple firsts: first time taking multiple classes; meeting multiple teachers; and navigating between classrooms. These firsts can understandably create anxiety about being on time, going to the right class, and remembering which teacher teaches what! Since starting middle school means starting a new school entirely, another schedule change to anticipate is a different start and end time than what your child is used to.

Middle School Transition Strategies:

  • Talk to your child about her new school schedule for a couple of weeks beforehand so she knows what to expect on the first day.
  • If possible, schedule a visit with the school to familiarize your child with the building and classrooms. Take advantage of new student orientations, and find out where schedules are distributed before school starts. Then, help your child practice going from class to class.
  • Review with your child when her new school will start and end. Listen to any concerns and help come up with a plan to address them. For example, if your child is nervous about getting up on time for an earlier start time, brainstorm ways to tweak bedtime and morning routines so that your child can feel well-rested and ready for school in the morning.

Middle School Peers:

In middle school, your child is likely to see and meet children in her class that attended different elementary schools. This change can create anxieties about whether she will know students in her classes, have friends to eat lunch with, maintain old friendships, or meet new ones. Additionally, new middle schoolers make the transition from being “big fish in a little pond” in their elementary schools to “little fish in a big pond.” Shifting from being the oldest to the youngest students in school can be scary, and your child may have fears about these unknown upperclassmen.

Middle School “Friend” Strategies:

  • Acknowledge the big change in peers. Listen to your child’s fears, concerns, anxieties, and excitements and validate your child’s feelings as normal and okay.
  • Use a buddy system on the first day. Plan for your child to compare schedules with a friend and meet at school on the first day to go through their day together.
  • “Once school starts, create a space for your child to talk openly about her social experiences and listen to your child for any hints of bullying.

Classes and Homework Load:

One of the challenges I hear most is the homework load increase from elementary to middle school. Students have homework from multiple classes with varying due dates, which can create organizational difficulties. They may feel anxious about keeping track of assignments and due dates and feel overwhelmed by the increased work load.

Middle School Homework Strategies:

  • Help organize your child’s school work by creating one binder or multiple binders with a different divider for each class.
  • Use color-coded folders (ex. Blue for science homework, red for math homework, etc) so your child can transport her homework to and from school and keep track of her assignments.
  • Use a planner to write down which classes have assignments due on specific dates. You can teach your child how to use her planner before school starts so that she is not overwhelmed when teachers announce assignments.
  • Check in with your child about homework to see the areas in which your child may struggle. If your child is experiencing difficulties, reach out to teachers about peer tutoring, after-school help, or homework club.

Extra-curricular Activities:

Compared to elementary school, middle school offers many more opportunities to engage in various activities-community service, social clubs, academic clubs, and sports during and after school. These new activities can be very exciting but can also create some scheduling challenges. With an increased homework load, incorporating every activity your child is interested in may interfere with homework, already existing activities, and his sleep and rest!

Middle School Extra-Curricular Activity Strategies:

  • Encourage your child to go to informational meetings to learn about opportunities. You can talk to your child about which activities she is most excited about and help her make a list to prioritize.
  • Flexibility is key-“Why don’t we try soccer and community service club and see how you feel in a few weeks? If we need to take something out or add something, we can.”
  • Creating a visual schedule with your child is a fun way to help her stay organized and accountable for her schedule.

Anticipating the changes and potential challenges that come with middle school can help parents and children work together to ensure a smooth transition!

Please let us know, what transition strategies have you used that have worked?

*North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Inc. (NSPT) intends for responses to the blogs to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; all content and answers to questions should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). Questions submitted to this blog are not guaranteed to receive responses. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by NSPT to people submitting questions. Always consult with your health professional first before initiating or changing any aspect of your treatment regimen.

How To Notify A Parent About Concerns You Have For a Child In Your Classroom

Teacher In Front Of Classroo Of StudentsThe start of a new school year is associated with many changes for a child’s academic, behavioral, and social functioning.  Teachers are often the first ones to identify concerns regarding a child’s academic, social, or behavioral functioning.  Bringing concerns up to a parent can always be a challenging situation.  Below are several tips that can prove useful for teachers to help identify and bring up concerns with a parent.

5 Tips For Voicing Your Concerns The Right Way

  1. Be confident.  You as a teacher have the most insight in a child’s day to day functioning.  You are able to compare the child’s development to that of the other children in your classroom.  If you suspect that a child is falling behind his or her peers with any domain in your classroom it is important to identify this and bring it up to the parents.
  2. Document.  It is always important to have actual examples to show why you have concern about the child’s performance within the school setting.
  3. Plan.  Have a plan as to what your want to accomplish and how your ultimate goal will be met.  Be specific with your feedback to parents as to what you would expect their child to be doing and also what ideas you have for that child to reach the goal.
  4. Measurable and attainable.  Any goal that you have for a child needs to be measurable and attainable.  If a child was previously standing up and walking around the classroom every 20 minutes, it would not be reasonable to assume that the child can remain seated for a full day of school.
  5. Communication.   After goals are determined and a plan is established it is vital that you and the parents have constant communication in order to ensure that the child has made progress towards the goals that are set.

How to Get a Break From Your Child When You Need To Cool Down

When you’re starting to, or already have, reached your limits with your child, how can you get away without fueling the fire?

Take Some Alone Time

Very Angry Mother And ChildWhen you get angry, it is usually best to wait until you’re calm again to have a productive talk about the issue. Instead of saying things like “go to your room”, tell your child that you need to go into your own room alone to cool down. Talk to your child about “alone time” and why it is a good thing and why everyone needs it sometimes. Explain to your child that “cool down” time helps you to think better and talk better.

Pick a name for your favorite spot to cool down, and call it something like “chill spot”, “cool down corner” or “cool chair” and tell them that this is where you might go sometimes to calm down. Tell them it is very important for you to be alone at this time, and it will be only a minute or two (as long as your child is able to be left without direct supervision). Your child should choose their own spot in the house also, and perhaps they can wait in their spot while you are taking your moment alone.

Start Out Small

If your child has a particularly hard time with this and feels overly rejected, try starting out with short increments of time and gradually increasing it as they handle it successfully. You can use a kitchen timer to set a minute or two, and let them know that when the timer goes off you will be back. I suggest giving them an immediate sign of physical affection along with verbal praise to reinforce their patience!

When you do this with your child, you are modeling extremely positive behavior! You are showing your children how to cope with anger and frustration in an appropriate way.

Teach A Lesson About Anger

When you reunite, be sure to give lots of love and praise! Show them that alone time is not about rejection, it is about making good choices. Always reinforce to a child that feeling angry doesn’t mean they are “bad” (a very common perception of theirs that I hear about often). The only “bad” part about anger is the “bad choice” they can make when feeling angry and do not take time to cool off. “Good choices” need to be taught and modeled, and what better way than to let them see you use this technique yourself!

Don’t forget to use your spouse as a resource when they are around. Have a special signal between you that lets each other know when you need them to step in, so you can take a break. Remember that you will be much more effective with your child once you are calm and that self-care makes you the best parent you can be!

The Death Of A Pet: How To Help Your Child Cope

When your family adopts a pet, it becomes a part of the family. When the pet grows old and becomes ill, inevitably you must discuss the possibility of the death of your beloved pet. For many children, losing a pet is the first experience they have with death, and the grieving process can be difficult for themYoung Boy Hugging Dog. As you talk with your children about the death of your pet, it is important to listen to their concerns, questions, and feelings.

Euthanizing Your Pet

No one wants a  pet to suffer any longer than necessary, so some families decide it is best to euthanize their pet. Euthanizing a pet involves “death by injection” for a terminally ill or suffering animal.

If you decide to euthanize your pet, be honest with your children. Talk about death before it happens using age-appropriate terms. For instance, “We all love Bailey so much. She is very, very sick and can’t do the things she used to like to do because she is in so much pain. The veterinarian said that was Bailey’s way of showing us that she could no longer live the life she was used to living. She said she could help Bailey die, so Bailey wouldn’t hurt anymore.” Make sure that young children know that very ill pets can be euthanized, but sick children never are.

Be Honest With Your Child About What Happened to Your Pet

When your pet dies, do not tell your child that the pet has run away. This explanation can leave your child wondering whether he did something to make the pet want to leave. Also, don’t tell your child that the pet has gone to a farm. This could give your child the false hope that he can see the pet again.

Although adults often talk about having to put their pet “to sleep”, it is not recommended that parents use this terminology with young children (under the age of 6). For young children, sleeping implies that the animal will eventually wake up. When the pet doesn’t wake up, young children can develop fears about going to sleep.

I also recommend that you don’t tell your children that you are putting your pet “down” because often parents will use the same term when they put an infant down for a nap. This can be very confusing for young children.

Managing Grief Over The Loss Of Your Pet

It is healthy for children to see that you are also sad about the death of your pet. It’s a great way for children to understand that being sad is okay. You can tell your children, “I’m so sad because I really miss Bailey.”

Everyone grieves differently, so if your child doesn’t cry, let her know it is okay to show her feelings any way that feels comfortable. Your child may enjoy showing her feelings by looking at pictures of the pet, drawing her own pictures, or telling stories about  positive and silly memories of her pet. Why not make a book of everyone in the family’s favorite memories of the pet, complete with photographs or drawings? It will be a great keepsake for years to come.

What Happens To The Pet After He Dies?

If your family’s religious or spiritual beliefs impact how you view death, share them with your child. There is also a poem about the death of a pet called Rainbow Bridge that has a beautiful way of describing where the pet goes once she dies. I recommend that families only share the first three paragraphs with small children, as the next two paragraphs discuss people reuniting with a pet when they die. If your child is having a particularly difficult time with the death of your pet, this can be very unsettling.

When To Adopt a New Pet

It is a very personal decision as to whether or when it is appropriate. Children should not be encouraged to get a new pet merely to “get over” the loss of their pet. A new pet doesn’t replace their beloved pet. Once your child can speak openly about the pet that died and begins to show an interest in a new pet, then the family can discuss if it is the right time.

*North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Inc. (NSPT) intends for responses to the blogs to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; all content and answers to questions should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). Questions submitted to this blog are not guaranteed to receive responses. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by NSPT to people submitting questions. Always consult with your health professional first before initiating or changing any aspect of your treatment regimen.

 

Summer is Moving Time: How To Make Moving Easier For Your Children

Family On Moving Day With BoxesSummer is a big transition time for many families and moving is often at the top of the list. There is always trepidation about moving, especially when you have children. It does not matter if you are moving across town, to another city or to another part of the world; it can all be very stressful. I personally have moved my family seven times since my husband is a Navy Chaplain and these are some tricks I have learned to make moving an easier experience for your child.

Tips for Making A Move Easier On Your Child

  •  Try not to make any big changes during the transition– don’t work on cessation of thumb sucking, potty training, or change sleeping habits. Try to keep everything status quo if you can.
  • Focus on pre- packing rooms that the children do not use much. Plan on having
    their rooms packed last so they feel somewhat protected from the chaos.
  • It helps to have a “safe” suitcase of special possessions that your child wants to take along on the move. It can include pictures, stuffed animals, and clothes, but whatever is in that suitcase will stay near your child and is not packed in a box to be sent on the moving truck.
  • Plan on having a trusted friend, relative or neighbor keep children during the actual pack out day so they are not in the “frenzy” of moving day. It is difficult for children to see strangers in the house putting everything into boxes. You will also have a much better and focused moving day experience if you do not have to do tasks such as preparing food etc. and split your attention between your children’s daily needs and the moving tasks at hand.
  • If you have hired packers, make the request to have them leave by to 7-8pm. Once they leave you will be able to resume some normal evening activities and the children will have a sense of privacy and some processing time before bed. Stick with their normal routine as much as possible and normal bedtime so you can have a few minutes at the end of the day as well.
  • For our moves, I stashed little gifts in their “safe suitcase” so they could open them when we got to our destination or as we traveled. They looked forward each day to the gift they could open. I also kept a calendar handy that had pictures drawn on it so they could keep track of the days and how we might get to our destination.
  • Keep a picture of the house you are leaving and the place you are moving posted so they can see where they are going. When appropriate, talk about how things will be when they get there. What will your room look like? Will you be sharing a room now or be alone? What will you see from your window?
  • It also helps to use the preprinted books about moving so kids can talk about their feelings. You might be surprised how they open up and share what they are thinking and feeling. It is good to discover and dispel any bad feelings as they come up.

In all things try to stay calm because your children will draw from your strength and attitude and they will watch how you handle the changes. The whole moving process will be much better with a little planning and preparation!

Have you experienced a move with children? Please share any stories, tips or tricks! Leave a comment below.