Back to School: How To Get Rid Of Student Apathy

This week’s blog is written by J. Cohen, the Director of Educational Coaching for LW Wellness.

Before we know it, school will be starting again. For some kids, the start of school brings excitement. But for others, it brings dread. If your child dreads school, or simply is bored by it, that makes your job as a parent that much harder.

Student apathy is one of the most common complaints from parents and teachers alike. For parents, it creates stress about student behavior, homework, and grades. For teachers – let’s face it – it makes their job almost impossible. Yes, teachers should motivate kids! It’s their job to model a love of learning and to help instill and cultivate that in their students. However, if students enter the classroom lacking motivation, or an understanding that education – as a process – is important, teachers are certainly doomed to fail.

You can’t make your child like school, but there are several things you can do as a parent to help change your child’s mindset about education. How can parents work together with teachers to impress upon kids the importance of education? And, perhaps more importantly, what can parents do before their child ever enters a classroom? Like all tough parenting issues, this one is tricky and takes intention on the part of parents. In education, parents lay the groundwork and then teachers build from there. To extend the metaphor, you’re the architect, teachers are the builders, electricians, painters, etc. The jobs of parents and educators are inextricably linked – no one can succeed without the other. Sure, it happens, but I’ll attribute those outliers to mere luck.

Below are some ways that parents can help frame education so that children view it as a necessary and valuable process. Will they enjoy every moment? Will they like every teacher? No! I don’t know an adult that likes every moment of their job, or every boss they have ever had. However, as a parent, you have the ability to help shape the way your child views his or her “job.”

  1. Always speak positively about your own educational experiences. No, I’m not suggesting that parents lie. But, selective non-disclosure is a tactic to be employed here. The more positive things kids hear about their parents’ own education, the more excited they will be to embark on their own educational journey.
  2. Show a genuine interest in your child’s day and leaning. And, no, this doesn’t mean that you have to actually understand anything they tell you. When parents ask pointed questions about children’s’ school work, it communicates to kids that their work is important, valued, and interesting. The more parents communicate these messages, the more kids will internalize them. After all, how miserable would it be, if your partner never showed any interest in your work? Kids spend about six hours of their day at school, that’s one-fourth of their day and likely one-half of their waking hours. School is a big deal to them!
  3. Reward and incentivize long-term accomplishments and successes. Homework, like any job responsibility, shouldn’t be rewarded or incentivized with external prizes. However, like in the real work word, long-term goals and performance can and should be handsomely rewarded. Yes, an educator, just gave you permission to bribe your children.
  4. And, most importantly, reach out for help if your child is struggling. A well-qualified tutor can help your child reach their academic goals, maximize their potential and effectively navigate their weaknesses. Homework can be stressful – for parents and kids. An objective and impartial third party can also eliminate any unnecessary stress caused by homework. It’s a win-win.

If you’re looking for guidance or additional help, our Educational Coaching services include Academic Coaches (Tutors); Private School Consulting, Essay Writing and Hebrew Language tutors. Check out our services at http://lwwellness.com/services/educational-coaching/. 

The Benefits Of A Psychological Assessment For Children Who Are Struggling

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Our guest blogger this week is clinical psychologist Dr. Jessica Escott. She explains the important benefits of a psychological assessment for children and outlines specific cases where the results led to positive behavioral changes.

 

As a parent, you want the absolute best for your children so it is extremely difficult to watch them struggle, whether it be in school, with friends, behaviorally or emotionally. When such struggles occur, you may seek out the school counselor, set up recurring meetings with teachers, add services and/or utilize therapy. These efforts often feel like a Band-Aid solution that only lasts temporarily only to surface again, perhaps in a new form, soon enough. You want to find the cause, but how?

 

Medical issues can sometimes seem more straightforward. For example, if your child had a persistent cough, you’d take him or her to the doctor, who would perform a check-up and, after a series of tests, you’d find out if it were virus/bacteria, asthma or a problem in the lungs. Each cause has a distinct course of treatment for the problem. A cough is only a symptom of something, just as sadness, anger, inattentiveness or failed relationships are symptoms of a deeper issue. With relationships, there are always underlying dynamics as well as coping and learning styles at play. Many think there isn’t a complementary psychological instrument to look into the mind and see where the issues lie. In fact, psychological instruments do exist but are often underutilized.  Meyer et. al. (2001) compared psychological testing with medical testing and found psychological testing to be on par with, and sometimes even more accurate than medical testing.

 

Psychological assessment is a series of personality, cognitive and/or neurocognitive tests custom hand selected for each individual situation. The tests are administered, scored, analyzed and integrated with one another in a detailed written report. Here are just a couple of examples of how a psychological assessment has helped clients:

  • A 12-year-old boy was having difficulty with friends and completing homework. Personality testing revealed themes of helplessness, negativity and coping styles of looking at the broader picture at the expense of smaller details. Cognitive testing reflected this style by highlighting his low processing speed and difficulty planning. Taken together, when approached with social engagement, the child came off as depressed and disinterested. He could not plan how to effectively engage. Instead, he would hastily read the social picture. Therapy helped him understand these situations better and give him a better skillset for developing positive relationships. His executive functioning difficulty (slow processing speed and difficulty planning) led to a diagnosis of ADHD along with corresponding educational accommodations and psychiatrist referral for medication.
  • A 17-year-old girl’s parent found her cutting herself. Therapy was stalled and not helping. Personality testing revealed that she tended to “fake good.” She wanted to please others and kept any negativity hidden in efforts to be seen as likable. Testing also revealed she had underlying anger and suicidal thoughts. Therapy was able to progress once the therapist unmasked the anger in a way that was congruent and accessible to the patient’s coping style.

 

Assessment can help shine light on any difficult situation diagnostically, educationally, psychologically and cognitively in order to provide the best evidence-based treatment for the given situation. The summer is a great time to get your child tested, as it’s a break from stressors and can start the next school year off right. I am currently offering special testing pricing for the summer to make this service more accessible to most families. For more information, please go to http://jessicaescottpsyd.com/services/psychodiagnostic-assessment/.

About Jessica:  Jessica Escott, PsyD MA is a clinical psychologist with private practices on the Upper Eastside and Scarsdale, NY. She specializes in treating adolescents and young adults through individual psychotherapy and psychological assessment. Dr. Escott has taught psychological assessment classes to psychology doctoral candidates and has conducted psychological assessments in a variety of mental health and academic settings for individuals ages 5 and up. Contact us at www.lwwellness.com to book an appointment.

The Other Side Of Rock Bottom: Recovering From An Eating Disorder

I will never forget the day that I stopped binging and purging. In my last blog, I talked about hitting my “rock bottom” moment. That was when I realized I had a problem, but although I wanted to stop, I couldn’t completely quit. Three years later (I was 24 years old and had moved to New York), I decided to attend a seminar about eating disorders at Hunter College, where I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology. The lecturer, Sondra Kronberg, talked about eating disorders and the gap between how people with eating disorders feel and what they actually do/how they act in reality. She also talked a lot about how important it is for people suffering with an eating disorder to learn how to express their needs and how, along with therapy, it is possible for someone to overcome their problem.

 

For whatever reason, the things she said and the timing all added up in my head and from that day forward, I never binged and purged again. The day I stopped binging and purging I thought was the day my eating disorder evaporated from my life. Little did I know back then that while I had stopped abusing myself in this way, the road to my recovery was still very long. It included many more days and nights of suffering and self hatred. That day, and that lecture, were huge for me, but understanding that there was a gap between what I thought and what I actually did was only the beginning. It took months and years of practicing expressing myself and learning to say “no” for me to become the woman I strived to be — a woman with her own strong voice.

 

Soon after I stopped binging and purging, I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) and I had to find new coping mechanisms to deal with my anxiety and insecurities. I missed my family back in Israel terribly and I thought I couldn’t share this with my boyfriend because he thought that I wanted to live in the US with him. And while I did want that and I loved him and his family, I also wanted to return to my country and my family. This inability to express those feelings and thoughts and gain control over that sadness and anxiety definitely stood in the way of my full recovery.

 

So once my bulimia stopped, I dealt with those feelings in a different, but still destructive, way. I lived in fear of overeating and gaining weight. I shifted my thoughts from obsessing over buying food and eating and purging to obsessing about what exactly I was eating and making sure it was 100% healthy. I became fixated on only eating organic, non-GMO, low-calorie foods. While my battle with bulimia had stopped, my struggle with eating disorders was far from being behind me.

 

During this time, I worked hard in school and found comfort in my books and in psychology. Understanding the human mind and what stood behind the various disorders gave me great insight into my history and allowed me to have more compassion toward myself and my family.

 

I was finally able to complete the missing pieces and the question marks of the vicious cycle I was stuck in for so many years through mindfulness and affirmations. What I realized I had to do was to step back and give myself the space I needed to feel and observe my feelings. To be attentive to what I felt and understand that I can have control over these feelings,  I had to learn not to allow the feelings to control me and make me do things that were disruptive to me. I gradually understood that the only way to break the vicious cycle was to accept certain things about my life and myself as a person.

 

Now, at age 42, food no longer plays such an important role in my life. I find so much joy in working with people and helping them overcome their challenges that abusing myself and my body is no longer something I want to do. I want to be healthy for myself and for my family.

 

A few month ago, I told this story to Doctor Judith Brisman who is my dear friend and one of the top eating disorder specialist in the world. She asked me if I ever called to thank Sondra Krongberg. It occurred to me that I had never reached out, and I didn’t know why. I knew her at this point, as we’ve shared mutual clients over the years, but for some reason I didn’t think of reaching out to her to thank her for that day. After all, it was 17 years ago. I ended up calling her the next day to tell her that I never binged or purged again after hearing her speak. She was touched that I had told her my story and seemed grateful to hear that affirmation, which just reiterated for me how important it is to continue to talk about my recovery process.

 

I’ve always been fascinated by people who knew me at the time and later found out I was anorexic and bulimic because they say things like, “I always thought that you were Mrs. Perfect. You seemed to have it all together always.” No one is perfect. There is no such thing as always having everything all together, and getting rid of that notion is one of the best ways to help your mental health.

 

That box that we put people in when we label them “perfect” is constricting. The second we don’t take the time to learn more about the person behind the smile or the pretty face or the fantastic apartment with the seemingly ideal family, we are doing them a disservice. I learned through Sondra’s lecture that I was living a life that might have seemed perfect to some, but I was not yet able to express what I was really feeling on the inside.

 

For anyone struggling with an eating disorder, I encourage you to keep searching for answers, keep talking to others, keep seeking professional help. It’s not something that gets cured over night, but it is something that can be overcome.