“The activities that are the easiest, cheapest, and most fun to do – such as singing, playing games, reading, storytelling, and just talking and listening – are also the best for child development.” – Jerome Singer (professor, Yale University)
“The activities that are the easiest, cheapest, and most fun to do – such as singing, playing games, reading, storytelling, and just talking and listening – are also the best for child development.” – Jerome Singer (professor, Yale University)
“Men should learn to live with the same seriousness with which children play.” – Nietzsche (philosopher, writer)
Netflix has released an original show about teen suicide. 13 Reasons Why is about a teen girl who commits suicide and how she choose to share her decision with her peers and family. The show has been praised and criticized for it’s portrayal and highlighting of the tragic issue of teen suicide. If you have a child/teen who has seen, is watching, or is interested in watching the show, Jennifer Taylor has some tips on how to put the fictional show in perspective and discuss with them the key points of the story. Read Jennifer’s full article here!
Racial tensions in America are high as opposing movements are vying to be heard. It is so important to discuss these matters with your children so they understand what racism is, and how to cope with it. According to Erlanger Turner, Ph.D., children often model adult behaviors, so it is also important to understand your own feelings on the issue of racism, and present ways to cope with disappointment or anger. Read the full article here!
Adults are no strangers to stress. we face stressors and challenges everyday, and hopefully, we know how to cope and combat that stress. Children also experience stress, but it may manifest itself in as a physical affliction rather than emotional distress. Stress in children is often misinterpreted as illness or bad behavior. The Psychology Foundation of Canada has some tips and signs to help you identify when a child is stressed. Read the full article here!
As with any publicized violent or traumatic events, it is important to discuss with your children what it means and why it happened. The events in Charlottsville, VA. have sparked many concerns and discussions. LA Times reporter Sonali Kohli discusses tips from professionals about how to broach these difficult topics with your children, and why it is important to do so. Read full article here!
“Play is the highest form of research.”
– Albert Einstein
Donna Hammontree had some great reasons for keeping those creepy play therapy dolls in your playroom. Even though they may not be the playroom favorites, they can often be implemented by a child to portray someone or something related to fear, anger, anxiety, and even guilt. “They may hide the dolls, lock them up with my play chain, or throw them away in a pretend garbage can. Sometimes they add guards around the dolls to provide extra security. Or, we may dress up as a superhero and find the dolls together. This frequently leads to better coping at home,” said Hammontree of her practice with the dolls. Read the full post here!
It’s back to school time and that means back to school stress. Each new grade comes with new challenges- and new fears. The best way to curb back to school anxiety is to talk to yours kids and make sure they know that just because they feel nervous about something doesn’t make it bad or scary. Its OK to feel that way about things. Dinner conversations and unstructured play time are the best ways to debrief and find relief from the stressors of new school experiences. Read full article here!
Childhood stress is on the rise according to Julia Grochowski. Stress in children does not manifest itself in the same ways as adults. When a child doesn’t have the language to express what they are feeling they may say that they feel badly physically. They may have a tummy or head ache. The best way to differentiate between a tress induced ache and a physical ache is to pay close attention to when the child is experiencing it. If it is consistently occurring during a time of possible stress (school, tests, homework, etc.) There is a good chance that the child is not being difficult or sick, but that they are stressed. Read full article here!
Teen years are some of the hardest to navigate for parent and child. Dr. Sheryl Ziegler says the best way to close the gap between you and your teen is with more listening and less criticism. Parents who have teens who are active on social media should also be familiar with the social media platforms. Focus on common experiences. Read the full article here!
Aggression or bullying can be defined as any action that inflicts physical or mental harm upon another person. Girls usually differ from boys in the type of aggressive behavior they exhibit. While boys tend to inflict bodily pain, girls most often, though not exclusively, engage in covert or relational aggression. Girls tend to value intimate relationships with girls, while boys usually form social bonds through group activities. Aggressive girls often gain power by withholding their friendship or by sabotaging the relationships of others.
Relational aggression is calculated manipulation to injure or to control another child’s ability to maintain rapport with peers. For example, a relational aggressive girl may insist that her friends ignore a particular child, exclude her from their group, form secret pacts to humiliate the child, call her names, and/or spread rumors about her.
Examples of manipulation include, “If you don’t play this game, I’ll tell Sara that you called her stupid,” or “You have to do what I say, or I won’t play with you.” Children in preschool have been observed excluding peers by saying, “Don’t let her play,” or using retaliation, “She was mean to me yesterday, so she can’t be our friend.” In older girls, the gossip can be more vicious, for example, “I saw her cheating.”
Though often subtle, nonverbal communication of an aggressive girl is unmistakable. For example, she may roll her eyes, glare, ignore, turn away, point, or pass notes to a friend concerning the rejected child.
In 1995, Crick and Grotpeter found that members of groups run by aggressive girls appeared to be caring and helpful toward each other. However, they also observed a higher level of intimacy and secret sharing in these groups. This closeness puts followers at risk because the aggressive child is privy to personal information that she can disclose. They also noted a higher level of exclusivity in groups run by relational aggressive girls. In other words, the followers usually have few other friends to turn to if they are rejected by the aggressive child, hence they continued to conform for fear of being isolated. They found a higher level of aggression within these groups.
Girls often feel pressured to be compliant and not show negative emotions. When they cannot assert their true feelings directly, resentment lingers and their anger manifests itself indirectly. Excessive relational aggressiveness can become a habit that can cause a lifetime of problematic relationships. Therefore, a girl who exhibits this behavior needs adult intervention and guidance. It should be stressed that these girls often have leadership ability, but they need assistance to channel it in a positive direction.
Relational aggression in girls has a negative affect on school climate and culture, as well as on the perpetrators and their victims. According to Crick, relational aggressive girls are disliked more than most children their age. They exhibited adjustment problems and reported higher levels of loneliness and depression. These girls often have difficulty creating and sustaining social and personal bonds. Ridiculed children have adjustment difficulties, as well. The rejection and hurt they feel can last a lifetime. They are more likely than peers to be submissive, have low grades, drop out of school, engage in delinquent behavior, experience depression, and entertain suicidal thoughts.
Leah Davies received her Master’s Degree from the Department of Counseling and Counseling Psychology, Auburn University. She has been dedicated to the well-being of children for over 44 years as a certified teacher, counselor, prevention specialist, parent, and grandparent. Her professional experience includes teaching, counseling, consulting, instructing at Auburn University, and directing educational and prevention services at a mental health agency.
Liana Lowenstein, MSW, RSW, CPT-S, has offered up some great tips for therapy first-timers. Children often have questions about what to expect from their appointment, what the appointment means, and why they have to go. Lowenstein has some answers to ease their minds and make their first therapy appointment less intimidating. Read full article here!
“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul”
– Friedrich Froebel (founder of the concept of kindergarten)
Parenting a child with obsessive compulsive disorder can seem like an impossible task at times. Children with OCD can have a difficult time understanding why they have the impulses they experience and how to manage them. For parents, it can be hard to answer their questions and help them navigate the unknown. Natasha Daniels has shared some great tips on parenting children with OCD; how to help them understand the disorder, and actions to help manage it.
Cognitive Restructuring is an effective tool in play therapy. It is a combination of play therapy techniques including games, art, and bibliotherapy, paired with discussions about the child’s feelings throughout the process. Donna Hammontree explains how using cognitive restructuring helps children better understand their own thoughts and feelings, and shows them how those thoughts and feelings effect their actions.
What is Play Therapy anyway? Play Therapy (PT) is a specialized practice defined by the Association for Play Therapy. This article helps define play therapy practice with information on the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s, and why’s. “PT uses the child’s natural inclination to learn about themselves, relationships and his or her environment. Through PT, children learn to express feelings, modify their behavior and develop problem-solving, communication and social skills, ” says registered play therapist Adrianne Albarado Ortiz.
Brigham Young University is working to research autism with the goal to better the lives of the families that touched by the disorder. BYU uses a combination of disciplines to research autism from different angles including psychology, physiology and developmental biology, statistics, molecular biology, BYU’s Counseling Center and BYU’s MRI Research Facility. “The work is often painstakingly slow, ” says Cynthia Glad of BYU. “The sessions aren’t always successful, but when they work, the resulting images are very valuable. Findings are presented internationally and at the BYU Autism Translational Research Workshop.”
Counselors of Child Protective Services are undergoing a more rigorous psychological evaluation to ensure that they are fit to work and protect the children in the communities they serve. There is no higher priority than the safety of the children, many of whom have gone through traumatic events leading up to the intervention of CPS in their young lives. “The new testing regimen involves a more rigorous psychological test than that relied on in the past, as well as a face-to-face interview with a forensic psychologist,” says reporter Lauren Novak. “They will set a ‘high bar’ on traits such as empathy, maintaining appropriate boundaries with children, managing anger and stress and a proper understanding of the impact of abuse and neglect. The process also screens for indications of inappropriate sexual proclivities.”
Want your child to fess up? Try not showing anger. Sounds obvious, but it can sometimes prove easier said than done. But a new study shows that children are more likely to confess their misdeeds when they know their parents will show understanding and calm evaluation of the issue, rather than un-managed anger. “Convey that you’re going to listen without getting angry right away,” says researcher Craig Smith. “As a parent, you might not be happy with what your child did, but if you want to keep an open line of communication with your child you can try to show them that you’re happy that your child has told you about it.”
Watching your children suffer from irrational beliefs and partaking in bizarre rituals is heartbreaking. The parenting handbook left out the chapter on how to parent children with OCD. How are you supposed to react? How can you help them stop their compulsive behavior? Should you be stern? Should you ignore it?
Parenting a child with OCD is one of the hardest jobs a parent will ever have to face.
Repeatedly I sit on the opposite side of the couch talking to nervous and uncomfortable children. They whisper to me how they have silly beliefs. I offer them reassurance and they reluctantly tell me more. They sheepishly tell me how they must touch corners, or count in their head, or wash their hands every time they have a bad thought. They apologize for their bizarre thoughts and stare at me, waiting for me to officially declare them “crazy.”
No matter how often this happens it breaks my heart. I tell the children that I have heard this before. That they are not alone. That there is a name for this. That it is common. And that there is help. Their eyes open wide and they say, “there is?!” with palpable relief.
You can help your children by explaining to them what OCD is and how it affects their thinking. If you don’t understand OCD yourself, it is helpful to acquire this knowledge so you are better prepared to help your child. If you are unsure of the signs of OCD read OCD in Children: Are you Missing the Signs.
There are some great books that help children understand OCD on a child-friendly level. Some parents shy away from using the word OCD, but I have found that children find great comfort in knowing that their issue has a name and that they are not alone. My favorite children’s book on OCD is What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck by Dawn Huebner. An informative book for parents is What to Do When Your Child Has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by Aureen Wagner.
Often children don’t know how to talk about their OCD. They are embarrassed by their thoughts. They are dependent on their rituals. When you tell them to stop doing ritualistic behavior they may feel like you are attacking them – not their OCD. They sometimes feel angry. Why would you tell me to stop doing something that is keeping me “safe.”
Help your children externalize their OCD by giving it a name. You can call it Mr. Worry or Mr. Bossy. Some kids like to get creative and come up with their own names. I have had kids call it Mr. Germs or Mr. Numbers depending on their OCD theme.
One approach is to tell your child something like:
Mr. Bossy is a trickster and he likes to boss you around and make you feel worried. He wants you to avoid stuff and follow his silly rules. When you do what he wants he grows bigger. When he grows bigger he can bother you more. When you turn into Super (insert your child’s name here) – you can fight Mr. Bossy and beat him. When you ignore him, or argue about his silly rules, you shrink him and make him smaller – less powerful.
Books on OCD can help you reiterate this message or help you create one of your own if this approach doesn’t resonate with you or your child.
When your child has a problem you want to fix it as soon as you can. This can make parents overzealous with their efforts to beat their child’s OCD for them. Unfortunately, this is your child’s battle. You can offer your help and guidance, but you can’t fix this for your child. In fact, if you point out every ritualistic behavior you see – you may unintentionally cause your children to become more secretive about their OCD issues. Stopping ritualistic behavior does not happen overnight. Initial success may be as simple as them just recognizing it is an OCD thought or being able to briefly delay a ritual.
One area you do have control over is your participation in rituals. Some children involve their parents in their ritualistic behavior. If possible, you do not want to enable or participate in rituals. You can tell your child, “I am not helping Mr. Bossy boss you around. You can listen to him, but I won’t!” This might take some time to build up to if you’ve been participating in their rituals for a while.
Children can get defensive about their rules and rituals and they may not want you to recognize any new rules or behaviors. Even though children do not want to have OCD, they are often slaves to the rituals that provide them with brief relief from their worrying. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye out for odd or irrational behavior.
Often when one type of OCD behavior has been eliminated – another rule or behavior replaces it. That is why it is important to give your children the skills to beat OCD and not just the specific behavior or rule they are currently doing. When you discover your children are doing a new ritual gently address this with them and let them know you are here to help them beat Mr. Bossy.
OCD can be a challenging issue! It can consume little minds and impede their social and emotional growth. The sooner children are given the skills to overcome their OCD the better the long-term prognosis will be. I encourage you to follow these tips, educate yourself by reading books on OCD and seek out professional guidance and support for you and your child as needed.
If you know a family struggling to parent a child with OCD, share this article with them.
Natasha Daniels is a child therapist and author of Anxiety Sucks! A Teen Survival Guide and How to Parent Your Anxious Toddler. She is the creator of AnxiousToddlers.com and the parenting E-Course How to Teach Your Kids to Crush Anxiety. Her work has been featured on various sites including Huffington Post, Scary Mommy and The Mighty. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest or making parenting videos for Curious.com.
My seven year old child has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and if you think ADHD is simply not being able to focus or stay still, you are wrong. So very, very wrong. Children with ADHD can be impulsive, anxious, easily frustrated, and highly sensitive. They can be socially awkward, have low self esteem, and be very defiant. The list goes on and on and ADHD affects children differently. While one child with ADHD may have a difficult time making and keeping friends, another child with ADHD can be the most popular kid at school. Each child with ADHD is unique and so are their symptoms. Even ADHD medication can affect children differently. What works wonders for one child’s focusing could turn another child into an emotional wreck. When it comes to treating ADHD, it’s a whole lot of trial and error unfortunately, but once you find something that works, it can be a Godsend for your child and your family.
My child’s behavioral therapist has taught her some wonderful coping mechanisms, like deep breathing and imagining she is in a forest when she is feeling overwhelmed. At home, my child and I do role playing and act out situations that may arise in real life, so when they do happen, she will know what to say and do.
My child has taken role playing and her love for acting (She started Drama this year) and turned it into her very own play therapy as a way to cope with her ADHD. She comes up with a situation that she has recently found herself in and has her toys and dolls act it out in a video. She has covered topics such as becoming distracted in school and starting ADHD medication. This is great therapy for her, because it helps her to really think about the situation and her feelings and it is all on her terms. The best part of all is she is providing the therapy for herself through playing, which I think is absolutely amazing. We decided to turn her videos into a series called The Shiny Playground on My Little Villagers’ YouTube channel. She hopes her videos will help teach other young children with ADHD that they are not alone, as well as educate children without ADHD about what it is like for children with ADHD. She is helping bring ADHD Awareness to the world and she is only seven years old! Kids with ADHD are truly amazing!
She also hopes that The Shiny Playground videos will inspire other children with ADHD to do their own play therapy at home. Not only is it a great way for children to work through their emotions and really think about what is going on in their lives, I am finding that it is teaching my child excellent life skills. For example, she is learning great organization and planning skills. She organizes the scenes, characters, and most important of all, the scripts. She carefully plans what the story will be about, which is helping her learn to not be so impulsive and to be more patient. She is also learning to control her behavior better. On her very first episode of The Shiny Playground (Sam’s Classroom Trouble), she was very excited and practically screaming in the video. After I explained to her that her screaming may hurt people’s ears, she has been making a conscious effort to keep her voice at a reasonable volume. Parents of children with ADHD know how difficult it is for our children to pause and take note of their behavior and then alter it, so for my child to do this is truly remarkable to me.
If you have a young child, we hope you will show them The Shiny Playground series and encourage them to do play therapy at home. If you or your child has an idea for The Shiny Playground, please leave a comment. My child would love to hear your suggestion! Thank you!
Thank you to Cristina Margolis for this truly inspiring post! To see more from Cristina on her website, click here!
First thing’s first. The title is very misleading, but it got you to click on the link, didn’t it? 🙂
All parents know what grounding is. It’s what they do with their children who misbehave. Currently, my three year old is grounded from the iPad for hitting her sister. However, parents of children with anxiety may practice a different type of grounding.
Grounding techniques are used for adults and children who exhibit anxiety. Anxiety can be terrifying and make you feel like you are not in control. It is almost as if you are having an out of body experience. During an anxiety attack, you may freeze up and go into a complete panic. Not only does anxiety affect you emotionally, it can affect you physically. Your body may sweat and shake, you may have trouble breathing, your heart rate may increase, your hands and feet may tingle, and you may feel dizzy and nauseous. It is downright frightening, especially for young children. Fortunately, there are anti-anxiety attack techniques called “grounding.” They are given that name, because they keep you “grounded.” Their purpose is to help you reorientate yourself and bring you back to reality.
Children with ADHD often feel overwhelmed at times, which can bring on strong feelings of anxiety. According to a study done at the National Resource Center on ADHD, up to 30% of children with ADHD have also been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. My own daughter with ADHD has anxiety attacks every now and then. I have tried numerous techniques to help her get through her anxiety attacks (including having her look at a calm down jar and spend time in her calm down space at home), but the following technique (what I refer to as “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Blast off”) is great, because it can be used no matter where you are.
“5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Blast Off” – How To Help A Child Having An Anxiety Attack:
What are some other techniques you have used for your child or yourself to get through an anxiety attack?
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Thanks to Christina Margolis for this awesome submission! Check out more from Christi at mylittlevillagers.com
Theme: Identifying Feelings, Anger, Anger Management, Cool down strategies
Recommended Ages: 5th Grade +
Goals: Identify anger as an emotion, Describe inappropriate responses to anger, and learn appropriate responses
Materials: Wooden slate, Hammer, Nails
This activity involves story-telling, discussion, and physical activity. The goal as noted above, is to assist children in developing the ability to identify anger and learn appropriate responses when angry. The combination of story-telling, discussion, and physical activity keeps children engaged.
Begin by asking, “Is anger good or bad?” The typical response from most students is “bad”. This question always leads into a great discussion about anger and angry behavior. During this phase of the discussion the group leader draws attention to anger as an emotion that is neither good nor bad, but simply a feeling. The leader should emphasize that the problematic aspect of anger is not the feelings associated with it, but instead the reaction to those feelings. It is the way anger is handled that can be deemed as “good or bad,” “helpful or not helpful,” or “appropriate or not appropriate.”
Introduce the story by reading the title and read the first paragraph (Full Story Below):
“There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.”
Ask the students why the father wanted his son to hammer the nails into a fence. As part of the discussion include the idea that losing our temper is a common response to anger, but there are a number of other reactions that may follow anger as well. Encourage participants to identify some of these responses, as well as identifying the circumstances that lead to anger. Encourage participation by letting the participants know that they will be granted the opportunity to hammer a nail into a piece of wood, similar to what the father suggested his son do in the story. Individually, students may be called on to answer one or more of the questions posed, and after expressing their opinions on the topic, they are guided in hammering the nail into the wood. Upon completion of the hammering activity, continue with reading more of the story:
“The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.”
Propose to the students that learning to control anger really takes practice. Ask the students what are some good or appropriate responses to anger that can elicit a calming effect. Explain to the students that those who engage in the conversation will have the opportunity to come up to the slab of wood, and pull out one of the nails that were hammered into it. Once all the nails have been removed from the wood, guide the students in a discussion about what they think the purpose of this activity is? Draw special attention to the outcome associated with pulling the nails out of the wood before reading the conclusion of the story:
“The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.”
Part of anger management is trial and error, looking for what works in helping to calm down. There is no universal technique, as individual differences require something slightly different for each person. Anger management is not a prescribed direction, but rather suggestions or guidelines that allow for individuals to adapt the various techniques in a manner that is personally beneficial. Successful management of anger requires us to learn that there are alternative responses available to us, and training ourselves to not automatically revert to the negative reactions. Students should be encouraged to discuss their personal cognitive schemas associated with anger management. What sets them off, and in response, what do they feel is the warranted response to address that anger? Specifically focus on appropriate versus inappropriate anger responses, centering discussions on negative consequences that may be the result of certain responses, or the cause of certain responses. Follow-up discussion should center on the lasting effects of inappropriate responses to anger. Students sometimes believe that if they do not physically touch someone, their response is still appropriate, or if they apologize for their actions after the fact, it makes everything alright. Frequently there is a permanency to actions. People are sensitive to words just as much as they are to physical aggression. Forgiveness is something many people will eventually and/or willingly grant others, but forgetting the way that person made them feel is something many people have challenges letting go of. Words and actions can never be taken back, and the scars they leave behind are long lasting, regardless of how much the perpetrator changes. Learning more appropriate responses is the key, as it is the decrease and elimination of inappropriate responses that will contribute to positive relationships.
There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.
The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.