What can parents do to help a child with anxiety?

Touch them…. ground them….let them borrow your calm… them “HOW” to handle their feelings. If your child is struggling or whining…STOP what you are doing and try this HOLD and hug your child…this will help to “ground” your child….he/she is off balance….once he/she reclaims her balance…your child will be able to calmly move on.
****But let’s face it…..whining can drive a parent crazy…but we need to understand that whining is COMMUNICATION….it is an immature….childlike.way (but remember she is a child) to ask for help. Your child is trying to communicate that she is feeling overwhelmed…..she needs to “borrow your calm” so she can LEARN HOW to self-regulate her own emotions. Taking 10 or 15 minutes to teach your child to self-regulate is much more helpful then experiencing the dysregulation/overload of emotions……..….and you’ll probably won’t remember what had been so important before or what you had been rushing to anyway.
*TOUCH YOUR CHILD: If your little one is feeling anxious, touching them will initiate the release of neurochemicals that will start a relaxation response. Touching is one of the most healing things we humans can do.
*GROUND YOUR CHILD: You can ground your child by holding them. When a child feels anxious, they feel insecure and out of control. You can help your child feel grounded by holding them…hugging them….research supports that touching and hugging brings on a significant reduction in the stress hormone, cortisol. Body socs/weighted blankets etc are also helpful!
*LET THEM BORROW YOUR CALM: BE a calming influence: Little ones aren’t able to articulate what their body is feeling like…but they know their body needs to be grounded. So although you are busy….stop…..and allow your little one to sit on your lap…cuddle….let them hear your breath…feel your calmness….model it…show them how to relax…..let them feel safe by you showing them that they ARE safe. But remember after a quick cuddle…..allow them to move on and “be brave”….encourage it….you don’t want to inadvertently reinforce their anxiety by giving them something positive (a cuddle) every time they become anxious. Cuddle them, then encourage them to try something that will ultimately move them towards learning an effective response, even if it’s just holding steady and breathing.
*TEACH Teaching self-calming techniques will provide your little ones the skills necessary to calm themselves. Saw this great suggestion in an article: **** First, find your child their very own soft toy pet. Make sure it’s an animal that’s fairly lifelike – a dog or a cat or something else that they would be happy to have against them. If you can get one that’s sleeping, all the better. At bedtime, tell them that the puppy/cat/whatever, let’s say, puppy, has fallen asleep too. Put it in against their tummy or nestle it into the side of them and tell them that they have to try to keep the puppy asleep by breathing and moving very gently so as not to wake it up. This will focus them on their own body and develop their capacity to control their breathing – a valuable skill.
Team them HOW to use breathing techniques: Remember. breathing initiates the relaxation response, a process discovered by Harvard cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson. When triggered the relaxation response instantly sends out neurochemicals that neutralize the fight or flight response. The relaxation response will decrease blood pressure, lower heart rate, lower pulse rate, reduce the oxygen in the bloodstream and increase alpha brain waves, which are all associated with relaxation.Have your child practice breathing every day so that when he or she is in the midst of anxiety, it will be easier to use effective breathing. Effective breathing comes from the belly, rather than the chest. Have your child practice their strong breathing by placing a soft toy on their tummy when they lie down. If the toy moves up and down, their breathing is perfect.
STILL NEED ASSISTANCE? We’re here to help! Call Suzanne @973-658-7767

Why kids Lie? Should we worry?  What can we (as parents) do?

Parents, why do kids lie? You’ve  heard the stories…fibs……fish tales…..big lies…white lies….whatever you call them.  It is not unlikely that during the course of childhood….your kids will lie!  Sometimes it happens out of the blue…sometimes it’s pretty intense….BUT the question is—why???

Well, the function of most behaviors include–trying to avoid, trying to gain something or simply due to sensory pleasure.  Most parents think that children lie to avoid a consequence or to get something they really want…….these are definitely the common motivations of telling a lie…… but there are other less obvious reasons why kids might not be telling the truth.

Some research suggests that children may lie just because it’s a novel idea and they are just “trying it out”…..they are looking to see what might happen when they lie?……or what will it do for them?  Or even….what will they get from it?  

Other times…. lying might be just an effort to boost self confidence or make them feel powerful….talented or just in an effort to gain attention from someone or just make them feel special in the eyes of someone…..

Conversely, sometimes lying is done in an effort to deflect….move the attention away from themselves.  Some children who suffer from anxiety and/or depression might even lie about their symptoms to get the spotlight off of them.

On the other hand, sometimes lying is just and “impulsive”….many times children diagnosed with ADHD lie as part of their impulsivity (one of the hallmark symptoms of ADHD).

Finally, sometimes kids just lie (like adults) to spare feelings….in this case the little lies and understanding when and if to do this falls under the area of understanding “social skills”……but whatever the case…….most lying is benign.

However, if you feel you sense that there is something more going on and you need support… Suzanne at 973-658-7767…..We’re here to help!!

ADHD and School Supports (504 Accommodation Plan/IEP)

Has your child been recently diagnosed with ADHD? Do you know that your child is entitled to a 504 Accommodation Plan at school to accommodate his/her disability?

On July 26, 2016 the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance to schools clarifying their responsibilities and how they should be helping students with ADHD.

Main Points:
· “The Letter” explains the Existing 504 Rules and also expanded the understanding of how these rules apply to students with ADHD;
· “The Letter” expands the scope of “who” is eligible for a 504;
· The July 26, 2016 OCR Dear Colleague Letter Does Not Have the Force of Law, but should be given deference by schools and the Courts;
· School Districts are asked to “pay attention” to this letter and the interpretation of this letter which was created by the office of civil rights.

Some of the top messages include:

-Right to Evaluation and Identification: Districts must appropriately and timely evaluate and identify students suspected of having ADHD:
-Section 504 requires more than just accommodations if needed for the students needs to be addressed. Requires appropriate accommodations AND services at no cost to the family. Districts must document and provide appropriate placement and services, regardless of cost. May include instruction and/or related services;
-Executive Functioning difficulties and non-academic behavior/social problems cover students with ADHD may also be eligible due to disruptive behavior, social skills issues, or problematic behavior such as not turning in homework or talking out of turn even if their grades are adequate;
-Students with Inattentive Type or Ability to Hyper-focus Shouldn’t be Ignored or Excluded. Schools have an obligation to evaluate inattentive type students and take into account extra parent effort and avoid discounting impact due to ability to hyper-focus for preferred tasks. Inattentive students are subject to protection because this involves thinking/learning;
Schools cannot make the parents responsible for their evaluation process
-District cannot make parent responsible for necessary elements or cost of evaluation. Cannot preclude evaluation or eligibility because parents can’t access private doctors/evaluators. Cannot require parents to pay for any element of the evaluation process if required by the school to determine eligibility;
-A good evaluation includes both medical and psychological (**Neurological Evaluation);
-504 Requires FAPE, not just accommodations and should not be limited to services that are free or low cost to the district and can include services that are also provided under IDEA, such as Special Education or related services through an IEP, if such services are necessary to receive a free and appropriate education under Section 504;

If you still have questions….we’re here to help! Call Suzanne @ 973-658-7767

Raising Resilient Children

In my last blog I wrote about the natural instinct for most parents to try and shield their children from any discomfort…pain…fear…or anxiety…as to try and make their lives as easy and stress free as possible. BUT many try to change the course to meet the child rather than allowing our children to rise and meet the challenge. We all want our children to be happy… but not allowing our children to face challenges, learn from choices and problem solve can actually thwart their ability to develop resilience…..think of it like this….resilience is like a muscle…it will atrophy if you don’t exercise it…so we must allow them to USE it so it gets stronger……
Remember…our job as parents is to model…teach…and coach our children through challenges…rather than removing or steering them away. Look at this way….in our effort to PROTECT our children we may be inadvertently thwarting their growth and ability to develop RESILIENCE. Children who know and BELIEVE that they WILL be ok….who know that even when they fall down…they can get up…WILL brush themselves off and keep going!!! THESE ARE THE CHILDREN WHO DEVELOP THE RESILIENCE to navigate the more difficult challenges that life can sometimes throw their way….these are the children who become strong, confident and emotionally strong individuals.
So ask yourself:
As a parent, am I constantly doing things for my child that they are actually capable and developmentally ready to do for themselves?
As a parent, remember and emphasize to your child that failure is a part of learning and if we never fail…we are not challenging ourselves enough:
As a parent, recognize the process and the effort rather than the outcome….you want to put value on learning and problem solving…rather than having a myopic focus on success;
As a parent, remember to create opportunities to allow your child to help others….THIS IS KEY….giving back and helping others boosts self-confidence, mastery of skills, feelings of worth and value;
Still need assistance? Call Suzanne @ 973-658-7767

How to Help our Children Tolerate Anxiety?

Whenever our children are hurting…our immediate reaction is to remove the hurt….fear….or whatever is getting in the way.  Anxiety is no different…the temptation to remove our children from that feeling of anxiety is strong…..but here is the problem….AVOIDING anxiety or whatever is causing it teaches them that the only way to feel safe is to AVOID. This makes sense in the moment…but it can really be doing them an injustice,,,,,we also don’t want to go the other way….and MEET their anxiety by telling them there’s nothing to worry about. They won’t believe it anyway. The option is to ride the wave with them. Breathe, be still, and stay in the moment so they can find their way there too. This is hard – an anxious brain will haul them into the future and try to pair them with a lot of ‘what-ifs’ – which can really fuel the anxiety. It is important to let your child know immediately that you get it…. that you see them…., and that you know they can do this. They won’t believe it immediately….but that’s OK…the brain learns from experience…. so the more they are BRAVE and learn to tolerate the feeling of the anxiety…. the more they are brave!!!  

***A book for kids about anxiety is ”Hey Warrior”~~ this book looks at “being brave” and learning to tolerate the feeling of anxiety and understanding why anxiety feels the way it does, and where the physical symptoms come from. It  is a powerful step in turning anxiety around. Anxiety explained, kids empowered! For ages 5-12 (and up!).


Still need assistance?  Call Suzanne @ 973-658-7767

Tweens/Teens and Anxiety

Tweens/Teens and Anxiety~~a Serious Issue with Serious Ramifications if left untreated…but what is normal tween/teen anxiety and when should I seek treatment for my child?

Adolescence and puberty is a roller coaster ride~ it is a time of big changes inside and outside your child’s body: body development and an influx of hormones….the need for acceptance of peers…academic pressures and much more……no wonder why this time causes stress and anxiety! But when does normal anxiety turn into more troublesome behaviors? Here are a few things you should look for:

~ Does your child appear to be withdrawing? Tweens and teens who feel they can’t cope with the social pressures may start to keep to themselves more as a “defense.” If you see your child backing away from activities and friends he or she use to enjoy…….talk to your child and explore why his or her behavior has changed to determine if there’s a specific source of anxiety which could be eliminated.

~ Does your child often complain of not feeling well or a having an illness? Often tween and teens begin to complain of vague physical symptoms like a headache or stomach and even may ask to stay home from school. Of course…. first rule out any real medical issues…you can also begin by treating the symptoms as if they’re purely physical…such as an antacid to settle an upset tummy or more fruits and veggies to improve digestion~~plenty of water to keep hydrated….but if these interventions fail to resolve your child’s concerns….explore with your child if he or she is “worried” about something at school. Often a deeper inquiry will reveal that the source of the physical discomfort is also psychological. Talk about what is causing stress such as academics or friends (or are there family issues at home a divorce or marital issues impacting your child? )…help your child learn to cope with any of these challenges.

~Does your child appear to be excessively moody? Moodiness and tweens/teens seems to be a normal expectation but sometimes there is a sadness and/or moodiness that persists for more than a couple of weeks…this may be a sign of true depression…. which is a close companion to anxiety. If your child gets into a mood that doesn’t resolve quickly….check in with your pediatrician to see if professional mental health treatment may be needed.

~Does your child have low self-esteem? Remember…. this is a hard time and many tweens do not feel comfortable with their changing body (and all the other things that come along such as acne)…your tween or teen may be so preoccupied with a fear of peer rejection that he or she no longer has an accurate sense of himself or herself. You can help this to some extent by reminding your child of all his/her talents and positive attributes. But it is developmentally appropriate that children this age are more concerned with what their peers think… don’t be disappointed that he or she has a difficult time believing you and your encouragement alone.

~ Finally, does your child have an extreme concern of being embarrassed? Tweens and teens during this time can be almost paralyzed by the fear of even the smallest amount of negative attention from peers. Being called on in class, tripping or falling…being teased for their appearance….these feelings of embarrassment can go from a mild fear to a source of serious social anxiety~~~leading to many serious ramifications such as school refusal.

So… a parent, if you are still unsure if your child’s anxiety is normal prepubescent behavior or if it is something that may require professional intervention….we’re here to help! Call Suzanne at 973-658-7767

Having a Panic Attack? Try this 5 Step Grounding Technique

Having a Panic Attack? Try this 5 Step Grounding Technique~~~( a few have asked to have a bit more information on the Grounding technique~~hope this helps!)

In Grounding…there are 5 steps that may help to reduce symptoms of a panic attack, anxiety, trauma triggers, and/or other unwanted emotions or thoughts. With any type of trigger, emotion, or thought that needs coping skills, it is important to always remember your breathing!!! Always start with deep breathing as the introduction to any coping skill. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold the breath for 5 seconds, and breathe out for 5 seconds. Continue this pattern until you find your thoughts slowing down (repeat 3-5x).

Begin the Grounding technique~~
1. What do you see? Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. Maybe it is a bird, maybe it is pencil, maybe it is a spot on the ceiling…. however big or small, state 5 things you see;
2. What can you touch? Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. Maybe this is your hair, hands, ground, grass, pillow, etc, whatever it may be, list out the 4 things you can feel;
3. What do you hear? Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This needs to be external…do not focus on your thoughts; maybe you can hear a clock, a car, a dog park. or maybe you hear your stomach rumbling, internal noises that make external sounds can count, what is audible in the moment is what you list;
4. What do you smell? Acknowledge TWO things you can smell: This one might be hard if you are not in a stimulating environment. If you cannot automatically sniff something out, walk nearby to find a scent. Maybe you walk to your bathroom to smell soap or outside to smell anything in nature, or it even could be as simple as leaning over and smelling a pillow on the couch, or a pencil. Whatever it may be, take in the smells around you;
5. What do you taste? Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like, gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch? Focus on your mouth as the last step and take in what you can taste;

These “5” steps are a way to “ground” yourself in the NOW! Grounding takes you OUT of your HEAD and helps stop the thought flooding. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy it is believed that your thoughts are directly linked to how you feel and although we feel like we lose control of our thought processes, we have tools that can help us gain back a sense of control and lead to healthier thought patterns. In moments of panic…anxiety or triggered trauma it is important to stay present to focus and help find symptom relief. Hopefully this coping technique can help you or someone you know stay present, stay grounded, and stay healthy.
Still need support? Call Suzanne at 973-658-7767

Anxiety and Children: What Some Phrases Might Be Telling Us

Anxiety and Children: What Some Phrases Might Be Telling Us~~

Children often struggle to communicate their feelings. Many times children don’t even realize that their “worries” are a problem. They might even believe that whatever is going on in their head is “normal”… they don’t even think about asking for help.

A recent article on the Child Mind Institute’s Website pointed out some possible phrases or “code” words that children might be be using in an attempt to communicate to a parent~ “Hey I’m Anxious…help me!”

~~Here are some below:

1. “I have a headache.”~One adult explained, “It was easier to explain that something physical was going on as opposed to something that was invisible.”

2.“What’s wrong with me?”~One adult shared, “I didn’t realize I had anxiety and my parents didn’t either. They just thought I was being dramatic when I would burst into tears crying….or “What is wrong with me?’ I was a chatterbox, so my silence was a sign my anxiety was in full swing.”

3.“I’m tired.”~One adult shared, “When I was a kid, I experience sleep disturbances for a very long time. The whole process of going to school, getting through the day, trying not to be bullied and coming home was always mentally rehearsed the night before. It was around fourth grade that I started seeing the school’s social worker to create plans to self-soothe and keep the anxious thoughts under control, so sleep was one less thing to worry about.”

4. “I’m sorry.”~one adult shared, “I constantly apologized for things that weren’t really an issue, or I just wouldn’t interact.”

5. “Can’t we stay home?”-One adult shared, “I hated going out places because the noise bothered me.”

6. “You do it.” One adult shared, “I had such a hard time placing an order for food that I would tell whoever I was with what I wanted and have them place the order.”

7. “Is it time to leave yet?” One adult shared, “I always said this because crowds of even more than two people would trigger my anxiety. I couldn’t wait till said events or functions were done.”

8.“Don’t leave me.” One adult shared, “I was very anxious about being abandoned as a child. I believed people would leave me if I wasn’t good enough, and it would be my fault.”…..whenever my parents would want to leave me, I would beg them not to leave because I was too anxious. Or if they didn’t pick me up at the exact time they said they would from the babysitters, I would call them constantly until they answered.”

9.“I Want to go home.” One adult shared, “I used to tell my dad this every time he would take me to my mother’s and he would get extremely confused.”

10. “Can you turn on the hallway light for me at night?” One adult shared, “I lived in fear for a few years that someone was going to come into my room and kidnap me. The light didn’t help. I would lie in bed for two hours just waiting. I still don’t sleep well.”

11. “Don’t make me.” One adult shared, “I’d tell my parents this when I didn’t want to go to school in the morning.”

12. “I don’t feel well.” One adult shared, “My stomach hurts. I remember being sent home several times because I was sick and no one ever knew what was wrong with me. Shortly after I’d get home my stomach pains would cease and I’d be fine. Of course I couldn’t have known on my own that I was just anxious.”

~~DOES ANY OF THESE SOUND FAMILIAR? If you feel your child may be struggling…we’re here to help! Call and ask for Suzanne at 973-658-7767