How To Manage Your Child’s ADHD: A 5-Week Child Psychologist Plan

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ADHD and ADD are acronyms that you are likely familiar with by now. Many parents and medical professionals are concerned about the marked rise of ADHD over the last decade. Numerous people believe that the diagnosis is too readily given, and that ADHD medication is overused on American children. I have had many parents ask me to write about this topic, and I wanted to bring in an expert to help you with some skills and tools to manage your child’s ADHD.

 

According to the new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S., nearly one in five high school-aged boys and over one in ten school-aged children have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

 

To give you a better sense of how serious this in the U.S., an estimated 6.4 million children age 4 through 17 have received an ADHD diagnosis at some point in their lives. This is a 16 percent increase since 2007, and a 41 percent increase in the past decade!

 

Before I discuss the most effective ways to manage your child’s ADHD, I think it’s helpful to first discuss the criteria that pediatric psychologists use to diagnose a child with ADHD. ADHD can only be diagnosed if an individual displays at least six symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity impulsivity.

 

Symptoms of inattentiveness include the following: difficulty sustaining tasks or play activities, not listening when being addressed directly, failing to finish school work or chores, being easily distracted, forgetfulness, frequently losing items, and avoiding tasks that need prolonged mental exertion.

 

Symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity include the following: frequently fidgeting or squirming in a seat and getting out of a seat, running or climbing in inappropriate situations, difficulty playing quietly, excessive talking, interrupting, intruding on others, and seen as “on the go” or restless.

 

The onset of these symptoms must be before the age of 12, and they must be persistent for at least six months. Finally, the symptoms must not be motivated by anger or the wish to displease or spite others.

 

If you think your child might have ADHD, I highly suggest that you consult with a local child psychologist who can best assess and determine the correct diagnosis.

 

Let’s assume that you find out that your child has ADHD — now what? First, I suggest reading the book “Driven to Distraction” by Dr. Hallowell. I love this book because the psychiatrist, who is an expert in ADHD, presents ADHD in a positive light, which I think can help people see it as an asset rather than a disorder. I have other books that I highly recommend, but this one will be a good intro to start!
Once you have a good grasp on what ADHD is, it’s time to take some steps for you and your child. Here are five actions you can take that help you work with your ADHD child.

 

It’s important to note that nothing happens overnight. If we try to introduce many changes in one day, we are less likely to follow through with them, and we become overwhelmed by all of the newness. Take these steps one week at a time! Solidly focus on one task a week, and gradually add in each of the other tasks. Your child will not benefit from disrupting your entire routine. Focus wholly on just one step, and know that it is enough to do just that.

Our 5-week Plan

This is the plan that one of our trusted providers, a top child psychologist, uses with her clients.

Week 1: Hold Your Child Accountable

Many parents and educators wonder how accountability is important for a child with ADHD. They think, “If my child’s disability is out of his control, is it fair to hold them accountable for their actions?” The answer is unequivocally yes. Your child’s ADHD does not prevent them from understanding consequences, and the first step to maintaining consistency in behavior is to not excuse them from accountability. Furthermore, help them remain accountable by showing you have faith in their abilities, and expecting them to do what is needed. Do not make excuses because of ADHD, rather encourage the appropriate behavior and hold you child accountable.

 

Here is what to do the first week:

  • Initial meeting and rapport building with your child psychologist: This is the MOST important week, as without a strong rapport and trust of our provider, your child will not be able to make the progress we expect.
  • Introducing CBT skills through activities such as games/playing sports
  • The focus of CBT is on how people think.
  • Noticing details about child’s behavior (i.e. he has automatic, reflexive thoughts and interpretations of events). Catching those thoughts and analyzing what one is thinking at a particular moment is extremely important. Provider will be able to assess child’s way of thinking by understating their way of thinking and helping to guide the child to think in a more constructive/positive way.

 

Week 2: Create Consequences

There are many healthy techniques to use to discipline your children – all of which will help you to restore safety and calm things down, reinforce rules, teach children, and help them find a way to make amends.

Natural Consequences

  • The first are Natural Consequences, which happen automatically without any action on your part. For example, if your child does not wear a raincoat on a rainy day, he will get wet. If she forgets her lunch, she will be hungry.
  • You can use Natural Consequences whenever the result is not morally, physically, or emotionally damaging. They are highly effective because as the saying goes, “Experience is the best teacher.”

Logical-Related Consequences

  • The second type is Logical-Related Consequences, where you step in.  For example, if your child won’t dress properly for the weather, she may not go out. Or, if he does not clean up a toy, you may clean it up and then he is not allowed to play with it for a specified amount of time.
  • This works well when there is a specific issue and the consequences are clear.
  • Logical Consequences are imposed by the parent. However, logical consequences are different from punishment in some important ways:
    1. Logical consequences are planned in advance by the parent. They are not reactive or angry responses.>
    2. Logical consequences are often planned with input from the child.
    3. Logical consequences make sense in relation to the behavior. They are “logical.”
  • Logical consequences require time and are thought out on the part of the parent. They need to be planned in advance to be most effective. There are some basic guidelines that can be helpful to parents in developing logical consequences.
    1. Give your child a choice and speak to them in private about the consequences
    2. The Three Rs and an H for Logical Consequences is a formula that identifies the criteria to help ensure that logical consequences are solutions, rather than punishment.

The Three Rs and an H of Logical Consequences

  1. Related
  2. Respectful
  3. 
Reasonable
  4. Helpful

Details:

  1. Related means the consequence must be related to the behavior.
  2. Respectful means the consequence must not involve blame, shame or pain, and it should be kindly and firmly enforced. It is also respectful to everyone involved.
  3. Reasonable means the consequence must not include piggybacking and is reasonable from the child’s point of view as well as the adult’s.
  4. Helpful means it will encourage change for everyone involved. If any of the Three Rs and an H is missing, it can no longer be called a logical consequence.

(These could also be renamed as the Three Rs and an H for Focusing on Solutions.)

Tools that will help you better connect with your child and empower them:

  • Learning about your child’s core beliefs and using exposures to practice those beliefs.
  • Core beliefs can be positive in the case of someone who is confident in their ability. They can also be negative in the case of someone thinking they’re bad at a particular task.
  • Emotional exposure is also one potential strategy that’s traditionally associated with phobias and traumatic experiences. One tries to challenge the emotion and negative thoughts enough that they can bring it down to a manageable level.
  • Normalizing stressful and negative emotional tasks can make them more approachable.

 

Week 3: Suspend Privileges

Obligations vs. Privileges

As part of imposing consequences, you may suspend privileges. But before you can do so, you need to understand what privileges are. Sometimes parents get so caught up in giving to their children that they miss what power they do have.

Your relationship with your children can be categorized as:

  • Parental obligations – what you absolutely must give your children, such as basic nutritious food, proper medical care, school attendance, and respect.
  • Privileges – what you choose to give to your children, such as special foods that meet their preferences, outings, sports, and activities.

The delineation between a privilege and an obligation may be different in different households. For example, in one family, playing a sport may be a privilege, while in another, once registered, it may become an obligation. The idea is to figure out what in your household is a privilege and as such can be taken away when necessary.

 

Week 4: Foster Time Management Skills

Children with ADHD suffer from “time blindness,” meaning they lack the ability to stay aware of time and use it well. This leads to wasting time, and lack of productivity. In order to help your child with “time blindness,” try to make time external. If you make time physical, rather than conceptual, you can help your child see how much time has passed, how much is left, and how quickly it’s passing. Do this by using measurable things like clocks, timers, counters, or apps.

 

Week 5: Teach The Importance of Respecting Adults

It is important to establish a healthy relationship between the child and the adults in their life. They must understand what is, and is not, appropriate to say to their authority figures. They must understand that there is a right time and place for certain behaviors and language. What will begin to help your child understand this is building a strong relationship with a positive role-model (i.e. his coach).

Executive Functioning

Children with ADHD tend to struggle with the following core executive functions:

  • Self-awareness
  • Inhibition
  • Verbal working memory
  • Emotional self-regulation
  • Self-motivation
  • Planning and problem solving

What Can Help With These Struggles?

  • Enforce Accountability (as described above in week 1)
  • Foster Time Management Skills (as described above in week 4)
  • Write It Down
    • Help the working memory by making information visible using notecards, signs, sticky notes, lists, journals, etc. When your child sees information right in front of them, it will be easier to jog their executive functions and help build their working memory
    • Also consider getting a planner- this can be an essential step to helping with time management. This will be a place to keep track of deadlines, homework, and also fun activities such as sports practice and birthday parties.
  • Offer Rewards
    • Help self-motivation by making motivation external using rewards</
    • Children with ADHD have trouble motivating themselves to complete tasks if they do not have immediate rewards
    • It is best to create artificial forms of motivation like token systems, or daily report cards
    • Reinforce long-term goals with short-term rewards to help strengthen the child’s sense of self-motivation
  • Make Learning Hands On
    • Making a problem as physical as possible, like using jelly beans or colored blocks to teach math, or word magnets to teach sentence structure, will help to reconcile the verbal and non-verbal working memory
  • Stop to Refuel
    • Emotional self regulation can be deleted when a child works too hard over too short a time (i.e taking a test)
    • Take frequent breaks to refuel during tasks that stress the executive system
    • 3-10 minute breaks are best in order to aid the child in getting the fuel they need without getting distracted or losing track
  • Get Physical
    • Exercise will give a boost to a child’s executive functioning
    • Physical activities help to refuel, and can help your child cope with ADHD symptoms
  • Sip on Natural Sugar like a Juice
    • During a test or project, have your child sip on a lemonade, a fruit juice, or sports drink for just the right amount of natural sugar (not too much added sugar, though!)
    • The glucose will fuel the frontal lobe, which is where the executive functioning comes from
  • Show Compassion
    • Children with ADHD are generally just as smart as their peers, but their executive functioning problems keep them from showing what they know
    • It is important to show compassion and a willingness to help them learn
    • Do not revert to yelling at your child for their mistake, instead, try to understand what went wrong, and help them learn from it

What About After the 5 Weeks?

From our experience, when parents stick to this plan, they start to see a change by the end of 4 weeks after meeting with a children’s psychologist. It takes anywhere from 12-30 weeks to fully change a behavior, so stick with it. Just remember that, step by step, you are making a positive change in you and your child’s life. Families who are committed to this plan have a high success rate with this 5 week plan! Keep at it, be vigilant, and you will see drastic differences. You’ve got this!

Interested in finding the best child psychologist in your area? We can help! Call us for a free consultation, and we’ll set you up with one of our incredible providers.

How Do I Achieve My Best Personal Fitness?

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Everyone is always talking about becoming a healthier version of themselves, but often people can’t articulate what that actually looks like. Do you know what changes you can make to lead a consistent healthier lifestyle? What tools do you need to achieve your fitness goals? There is no wrong time to start the process of becoming a better you, so why not make this your year. It doesn’t matter that this year has already started, either — don’t let that be your excuse! Here are some tips and pointers on how to lead a fitter life, and how to keep it that way. It is your life, after all — why not start now?

Before you get overwhelmed, remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day! Be strict with yourself on following through with goals, but don’t make it impossible to succeed by adding too many changes at one time. Start with incorporating small changes into your life.

Here are a few things that fit and healthy people do in their day-to-day lives that you can easily do too, with a little encouragement from others and follow-through from yourself. Once these become habits, they will start to become your daily routine, and you may be surprised you ever lived life a different way!

What Do Healthy People Do?

They Eat Well

This one’s a no brainer. But, did you know that many studies show that eating well is more important than exercising if you’re trying to lose weight? Think about this: If you eat a Snickers bar, that’s 220 calories, which is equivalent to running for 25 minutes. It’s much easier to not eat that Snickers bar than it is to run for 25 minutes. Exercise is incredibly important for our all around daily life, but eating well goes hand in hand with feeling healthy and fit. Eating nourishing foods, like lean protein and fiber, helps us feel full longer, stay more alert, and propel ourselves toward our exercise endeavors.

 

They Refrain From Fad Dieting

The word “diet” evokes a particular response in most people. You may feel like you are constantly thinking about going on a diet, but never do, or when you do, you can’t keep the weight off for long. This is because there is no “quick fix” for being healthy, although we are easily persuaded into thinking there is. Fad diets work for a short amount of time, so you may see quick results, but they are usually unsustainable in the long run, which is why we put the weight back on after we’re finished with the diet. Sometimes, we put on more weight than we lost after a fad diet, which can feel even more exhausting. Stick with small changes you can make to your daily routine, and add on new habits every week, so you can change your lifestyle, instead of quickly trying to change your body.

 

They Prioritize Sleep

This one’s a doozy. You know it. I know it. And yet we don’t do it. Why is it so hard to find time to sleep? We feel so great when we get enough of it, so why can’t we prioritize this precious commodity?

We cannot eat well or stay motivated to work out if we’re tired. I know that if I’m up late, I will often set my alarm to wake me up later and forgo the exercise to get a few more zzz’s, which in turn makes me irritated that I didn’t exercise. I’ll often eat worse throughout the day, too.

How to help? Make a bedtime schedule, and stick to it. Give yourself an extra hour in your routine as “getting ready for bedtime”, so you are in bed with the lights out at your designated sleep time. Helpful things for that hour before sleep are an epsom-salt bath, herbal tea with a book, or relaxing yoga poses. Make it fun! This is a lovely part of your day you can look forward to. And make sure to turn off your phone, because the blue light interrupts your sleep cycle. The sooner you turn off your phone and stop looking at it before bed, the better you’ll sleep.

 

They Exercise Every Day

Exercising every day is easier than you think it is. It’s not about “pushing yourself to the limit” or running for an hour every morning; it’s about incorporating activity into your everyday life. For example, if you have a dog, make it a priority to take him or her on a brisk walk for thirty minutes each day (your dog will thank you for it, too!). Or, on your lunch break, do a few flights of stairs. You’ll find that the more you exercise in the little ways, the more you’ll want to start adding movement into your life, like tacking on a yoga class at the end of your day, or getting up a bit earlier for a morning swim. Stop thinking of exercise as a negative thing, and start thinking of it as a fun way to add quality to your life!

There are a few useful ways to help keep you accountable for exercising every day.

  • Make a goal chart. Put it somewhere visible, like on your fridge. Make it for a week at a time, so it isn’t so daunting, and include one goal you have for each day. When you accomplish that goal, color that day in a fun color, so you can see your progress! It’s helpful to have a fun visual to see, and helps you stick to the plan.
  • Download a personal fitness trainer app. There are some free apps available, but paying a few bucks for one is a good investment. These help you track your progress, and help motivate you to keep going.
  • Find a personal trainer and fitness instructor. If you meet with a weekly trainer, they’ll make you want to exercise every day, because they’ll know your goals, see your progress, and reflect what they notice back to you. They’ll encourage you to work toward your full potential as your personal cheerleader. It isn’t just about you meeting your goals, it’s about someone holding you to them. Which brings me to the next item that healthy people do, which is…

 

They Meet With A Personal Fitness Trainer

You may feel like you don’t need someone to help you achieve your fitness goals, but even for the pro, a trainer is incredibly helpful. If you’re a beginner, a private personal fitness trainer will help you acknowledge what you need to change. They will help you identify and rework your eating habits. They will listen to your needs and concerns about your body, and come up with a strategy unique to you to get you where you want to be physically. They are on your team, and they want you to succeed. Check out more on our website about the personal trainers we use and let us know if you’re interested in one of them! We might be biased, but we really love them.

 

How Can I Help Myself Get There?

Make It Easier On Yourself In The Morning

If you plan to work out the next morning, set everything up the night before. I mean everything. Pick out your workout clothes, fill up a bottle of water and put it in the fridge, set out your work clothes for after your workout, and make your lunch. The less you have to think about the next morning, the more you are apt to actually get out of bed and start moving. You won’t be stressed in the morning, and it’ll make you feel better the whole day after your workout.

Learn What Your Body Needs To Eat

You don’t need to eat as much as you think you do. “Portion control” is a scary term, but it really just means that you should listen to your body. Drink two full glasses of water before you eat each meal (often we’re actually thirsty, not hungry), and slow down. Enjoy your food! Food is great, after all, so why not really take time with it? Eventually, you will start to realize what your body needs, and you may not need to eat an entire plate. Leaving food at the end of your meal is OK. Eating your whole plate is OK, too! Just make sure it’s what your body is asking for. Eating nutritious meals also helps with this, because our body craves less of it when we are getting the proper nutrition.

 

Don’t Aim For Perfection

You are not perfect. Sorry to break it to you, but you’re just not. So why pretend that you are Superwoman by expecting your body to perform miracles? Set small goals for yourself that you know you will be able to accomplish. You’ll feel better as you start to transform your daily routine, and as it starts to stick.

 

Find A Workout You Love

There is something for you! I promise! You may think you hate working out, but there is an activity that will make you feel great. You may not be jumping for joy to do it every single day, but it’s the kind of thing that once you start it, you love it. What is it for you? It could be salsa dancing, a mud run, jumping rope, swimming, or jogging with your best friend. Working out doesn’t have to be a chore; it can be something that adds joy to your day.

 

Make Working Out a Social Activity

Similar to having a personal trainer fitness instructor, a personal trainer group fitness instructor works wonders. Find a studio and a class that you love, and stick to it. You’ll meet people in the community who will expect to see you at the group classes, which will hold you accountable. You can also make it a group activity with friends: Take a weekly class together and grab a bite to eat after! Or, instead of grabbing a coffee on a friend date, suggest that you go on a walk together instead. Find social media accounts that inspire you to get up and move. You may even want to create a fitness account of your own!

 

How Do I Find My Personal Fitness Trainer?

Below are ways to find a fitness instructor and personal trainer to work with your personal fitness goals. If you are looking for a personal trainer, this might help you narrow down which type of personal fitness trainer for hire you’re looking for.

Remember, we specialize in matching you with the people you need to reach your health and fitness objectives. If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for nutritionists, dietitians, teachers, and trainers, we’ll chat with you to find the best fit!

 

Go To A Local Gym

Most gyms have many personal trainers on staff, so ask your local spot about their options. If you have a gym you already love, it’s a great place to start, because you’ll just add it to your pre-existing routine. If you don’t go to a gym regularly, this is still a great option, because a fitness gym personal trainer will teach you how to use each machine, how much weight to use to achieve your goals, and how many reps you should do. They will essentially teach you how to be able to work out on your own, while still holding you accountable. A Snap Fitness personal trainer or a 24 Hour Fitness personal trainer are both good places to start your search, and they’re available around the country.

 

Hire A Trainer To Come To Your Home

A personal fitness trainer at home is a solid option for busy schedules, because you don’t have to find extra time to make it to the gym. These trainers will often work with what you already have in your home, so it depends on the kind of workout you’re looking for to know if this is a good option for you. Yoga, kickboxing, small weights, and cardio can all work with limited equipment.

 

Meet A Trainer In A Local Park

Lots of trainers meet their clients in a local park! Wander Central Park any day of the week and you’ll see people working out with one another. This is a great way to find a space for free, be outdoors, and meet in a central location. The drawbacks are rain and… people staring at you. But hey, that might help! Check out a personal fitness trainer directory for your area by looking online to see which trainers will provide this service.

 

Work With A Trainer Online

An online personal fitness trainer can be a good option for those who prefer to stay at home but want their trainer to be a specific person. Maybe the trainer doesn’t live in your area, or maybe it’s more affordable than having the trainer come to your home. Whatever your reason, if you don’t feel like you need someone in the flesh, but you still want that extra push, look into this. Many people nowadays also use a fitness personal trainer app for their workouts.

 

Now What?

Go forth and be fit! It’s time to take your life in your hands to become the best possible version of yourself. You only live once, so what are you waiting for?

What tips and advice did we miss? Let us know below in the comments! Check out our website, email us, or call us for more information on how LW Wellness can help you in your search for fitness and nutrition!

Get Your Blood Flowing With This 20 Minute Circuit

This week’s blog is written by Tracy Treible, a Certified Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor. You can find out more about Tracy and the services she offers by visiting our team page.

Movement; it’s important. Now that I’m not 18 anymore, things hurt. Sometimes I wake up with a stiff neck from sleeping in an awkward position, or my sinuses get irritated and a pounding headache ensues. Whatever the reason, my body doesn’t always feel great. While my state of health is ahead of the majority, my body still aches and I know how easy it is to give up and spend the day on the couch. Tempting, yes, but I put on my big girl pants and I move. I stretch, I walk, I yoga, I MOVE. I promise that 9 times out of 10 you will feel better after you move.

Circulation

Brisk walking or hopping on the elliptical can elevate your heart rate and increase circulation. Increased circulation can help bring blood flow to the areas that need healing like that sore muscle, that throbbing head, or menstrual cramping.

Mind over matter

Getting yourself moving can also take your mind off of whatever is ailing you. Taking the time to breathe and do some light stretches allows you to focus on the current movements and not on the discomfort elsewhere.

Endorphins

Exercise releases endorphins; we’ve heard this since forever because it’s true. These happy little neurotransmitters help to reduce our perception of pain and stress, so why not let your body do its job and get the chemicals flowing!

Remember, everyone is different, and may have different levels of tolerance. If the pain is so bad that any movement seems impossible then you should probably go to the doctor. If you have a fever, stay in bed. If you can’t put weight on your ankle, DON’T. Be sensible while keeping in mind that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, and bodies at rest tend to stay at rest.

Here is a quick 15-20 minute circuit you can try at home to get your blood flowing and raise those endorphins. Do each movement for 30-45 seconds and move on to the next. Run through the entire circuit 4-5 times, stretch and be proud of yourself!! Happy Moving!

  • Squats (aka sit in a chair and stand back up)
  • Bicycle Crunch

  • Front kicks
  • Pushups (if you can’t do a pushup from the ground, do it from the wall or counter top)
  • Plank

  • High knee march
  • Lateral Lunge to vertical reach

  • Single v-ups

  • Glute bridge

  • Jumping jacks

What Makes You Happy? And How Can You Do More Of It?

I woke up this morning and reflected on a meeting I had last night with John (name has been changed), a very smart, successful businessman and father of two young children who found out last year he had a tumor and that he might only have a week to live. To make a long story short, further testing revealed that the tumor was treatable, and with chemo, he would most likely make a full recovery. The moment John found out the new prognosis, he felt like he had a new lease on life and vowed to live different from that point forward. He promised to no longer procrastinate on doing the things that he loves or has always wanted to do and to focus more on the people and activities that bring him joy.

 

Upon completion of six months of chemotherapy, John realized that getting the horrific news was the best thing that could have happened to him. On the work front, he changed things in his company and started only doing business with clients he actually wanted to work with. He also invested more time with his family and friends and started focusing on causes that are close to his heart.

 

As I was reflecting on John’s story it got me thinking about how it took a life-threatening diagnosis for him to decide to make a change and dedicate more of his life to the people and things that truly make him happy. Do we all need to get bad news before we do what makes us happy? What if we stop everything we are doing right in this moment and think about what happiness really is?

 

Clearly, I’m not the first one to ask this question — this is an age-old story. But the more I thought about what this means in my own life, the more I wanted to share my conclusions with others and inspire them to think about feasible changes that could start right now. All too often we put off happiness because we wait for external forces. How often do you think, “If only I had more money, I could travel more and vacation more with my family.” Or, “I never have time to relax. I would be a happier person if I just had more time in the day to spend focusing on me.” The truth is, we all probably know people with more money or who seem like they have more time or who get to go the places we always dream about. But are those people actually happier?

 

Seeking happiness starts from within, and the best thing to do is to come up with a clear understanding of what actually brings joy to our lives. So, a great first step is to meditate on what truly makes you happy internally. I encourage you to close your eyes for a few moments and try this guided mediation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDAIO74O27s

 

Then, create a list of things that make you happy or a list of goals that you want to achieve. For some it helps to think of this as a bucket list — what would you do if you only had a short amount of time to live? I took a break from writing to meditate and create my own list, and here’s what I came up with:

 

  1. Spend more quality time with family and friends
  2. Get my Book published and help inspire and empower others with my story and coaching Method called KARMA
  3. Invest in my health and wellness (work out more/do Yoga/eat healthier)
  4. Help people on a larger scale (more talks/presentations)
  5. Work with people, groups, causes on the prevention of mental illness and promotion of wellness
  6. Travel to India and Thailand and other countries and learn as much as I can about other cultures
  7. Empower at risk youth with skills and tools that can help them become more successful in our society

 

I think I could probably spend hours coming up with more to add to this list, but I figure this is a good start. What did you come up with? I’d love for you to share what’s on your happiness list in the comments section here on the blog or on Facebook.

 

Then the question becomes, how can we make this list actionable? I suggest reviewing your list and focusing in on one thing that you currently do, but not as often as you like. What would it take for you to do more of that tomorrow? The next week?

 

What if we set a reminder on our phone to remind us to do one thing each day that makes us happy. It can be a very small thing like getting your nails done because you know that will relax you or reading a book with your child (without thinking about your long to-do list or looking at your phone every few minutes…). The point in actually doing what makes you happy is to FULLY be present while doing it. If achieving your happiness goals seems impossible, break a larger goal into smaller, more manageable ones first! Feel free to share your goals and consult with a professional if you need some guidance and support.

 

I will end with one of my favorite quotes:

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” — Abraham Lincoln

What Are You Thankful For — Even After Thanksgiving Is Over

There are many reasons to love Thanksgiving, even for a foreigner like myself who never celebrated this holiday prior to arriving in the US. Spending time with loved ones and remembering why you are thankful is a wonderful thing with very positive emotional and physical implications. This past weekend, seeing everyone sharing in person and on social media how grateful they are for the people in their lives put me in a good mood and got me to thinking. While I think it’s an incredible thing that happens once a year, I started to wonder how we can take the spirit of Thanksgiving and carry it with us throughout the year.

 

The act of taking just a brief movement and pausing to think about what we are grateful for doesn’t take long, but it’s so helpful in shaping how we approach our days and interact with the people around us. I decided I would start by writing down five things I am most grateful for:

 

  1. My loving, supportive family
  2. My health
  3. My friends
  4. My education
  5. Financial stability

Unfortunately, we get wrapped up with the busyness of  life and we go through our days as if we are on auto pilot. We don’t always pause to think about what is truly important to us. It’s also easy to get bogged down by the things we don’t have or the problems we are experiencing in our relationships. So let’s stop and ask ourselves, “Why are we here today? What is really important in our lives?” I am just as guilty as most of you for not taking the time to really stop and be grateful, so I thought that maybe if we all made an effort to make gratitude a priority the week after Thanksgiving, we could start a habit that would stick around for longer than just a day or a weekend.

 

There is much evidence to support the theory that it takes 21 days for an action to become ingrained in us and actually transform into a habit (you can read more about the power of the 21 day transformation here). So I’m challenging you to write down something you are grateful for every day for the next three weeks. Feel free to share. I want this project to #inspiregratitude.

 

Obviously, my list of gratitude is longer than just five, but I think beginning with an overall top five list is a good place to start. Go ahead and pause for a few moments and write down your list. Your items can be general or specific — the important thing is not to judge your own list or compare it to others.

 

Family is number one on my list. However, after writing it down I started thinking more about it. I thought about the fact that despite having three miscarriages I have three healthy, beautiful girls, but I don’t always make it a point to let my girls know how thankful I am to have them in my life. So, prior to writing this blog I went to each of them and looked at them with love and admiration and told them how much I love them and how thankful I am that they are my girls. (My oldest one who is 13 of course had to say, “Ok mom I know. Don’t get all emotional.” But my 10-year-old and 8-year-old responded that they love me too.)

 

Sometimes we expect others to just assume that we are thankful even for things that are seemingly unimportant. Saying thank you and expressing gratitude can be a very rewarding experience for both sides. So after writing down what you are grateful for I encourage you to find one person to share that sentiment with. Creating a culture of gratitude can start with you, and it can start today.

 

I hope you all have a wonderful week. I’m thankful to each and every one of you who reads my blogs and the entire community we have created at LW Wellness.

Identifying Eating Disorders in Young Children: What Can You Do As A Parent?

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If you’ve read some of my recent blogs, you are probably somewhat familiar with my journey and years of struggling with an eating disorder. Most of those blogs focus on my young adult years, but these past few weeks, I’ve been approached by several moms who are concerned about their kids developing disordered eating habits or worrying that their young child might already have a serious eating disorder.

 

As a mother of three girls and as an eating disorder therapist, I’m acutely aware that the average age for children developing eating disorders has dropped from 12 to 7 in recent times. That figure sounds crazy even to me, but I know firsthand how real it is.

 

I was recently approached by a frantic mother whose 7-year-old daughter had been told by her grandfather that she shouldn’t eat the whole bagel because it would make her fat. This mom was so upset because she said she worked so hard to instill healthy eating habits in the house and avoided using the word “fat” or obsessing over body image. However, that one comment had made her daughter obsessed with the idea that she was fat and she started to use language like, “I feel really fat today.”

 

This brings up several things that parents should be aware of. First, we may think of eating disorders as something that only affects teenagers and young adults but it can actually affect children of any age — both boys and girls. Second, it’s important to realize that as a parent, we aren’t the only voice our children hear. They are susceptible to comments from family members, friends, teachers, television, and any other voice they deem trustworthy. Of course it’s essential that you model healthy eating habits and refrain from talking about your own weight or obsessing over diets around your children, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t getting conflicting information from somewhere else. So it’s not enough to establish healthy eating habits in your home because, let’s face it, we can’t guard kids from the outside world all the time.

 

If you hear your child make a comment about being “fat,” it’s important to ask yourself what this evokes in you as a parent. How do you feel when your child talks about this topic? This will establish awareness, which will help you best deal with the issue. Dismissing it or not acknowledging your own reaction to this as a parent will only further the problem.

 

When responding to your child, you want to give them your full attention. Make eye contact, but speak in a regular voice. While it’s not something that you want to dismiss, you also want to avoid blowing a comment out of proportion or giving it too much attention.

 

So what’s a good response to a child who says they feel fat? Start by asking a follow-up question. “When you say you feel fat, what do you mean? What are you actually feeling? Fat is not an emotion or a physical feeling so use your words to help me understand what you mean by that.” Getting your child to open up about their true feelings is an important first step. From there the conversation can continue.

 

Talk to your child about negative self-talk and steer them away from it. Children will often compare themselves to other children (“I’m heavier than my friends at school”) or make comments regarding how their clothes look on them (“I shouldn’t eat this because my shirt is too tight”). One study found that 81% of 10 year olds are “afraid of being fat,” and they are taking the issue into their own tiny hands by dieting, which can often lead to eating disorders. Additionally, with the focus on childhood obesity in this country, the way that food and weight gain are talked about in school and at home can trigger issues. We get into the idea of food and weight being good vs. bad and the fear that instills can be very powerful. I found a good explanation of this from a trusted online resource: “By temperament, most of the children at risk for anorexia are often focused on doing the right thing and doing it perfectly. They focus on the details (don’t eat bad foods) and miss the big picture (balanced diet and health).”

 

It’s also important to be aware of any major changes in your home life, as children who are experiencing anxiety, family problems, or any kind of issues with peers will sometimes turn to unhealthy eating habits as a way of gaining control in their lives.

 

Finally, the strongest advice I can give you is this: If you think you need to consult with a specialist, don’t hesitate. When problems are picked up on at a younger age it’s much easier to work through them then when unhealthy habits and thought patterns have become ingrained.

 

Being a parent is challenging and it doesn’t come with a guide. Often the issues facing your kids are much different than the ones you may have faced growing up. A good first step is to stay close to your kids and keep the dialogue open. As a parent, you want to be able to help your child but remember that it’s also OK to ask for help.

 

If you think your child might be struggling with eating disorders or body image issues, asking questions is a great first step. LW Wellness Network can provide support, counseling, and guidance for families working through these types of problems. We know that every situation is different because every child is different. Visit us at: www.lwwellness.com and on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/RecoveringTogetherEatingDisorderSupport/. Another wonderful resource is the “Parent Toolkit” from NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association). You can find this at: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/sites/default/files/Toolkits/ParentToolkit.pdf.

 

I’d love to hear from other mothers with any questions, comments, or fears you might have regarding your children and establishing healthy eating habits so comment on the blog or reach out on our Facebook page!

What Keeps You Going? Discovering The Tool That Will Pull You Out When You’re Struggling

When I was 15 years old, and still very much dealing with my eating disorder, I met a man named Peter who told me, “You can be whatever you want to be.” For a lot of people, this is an obvious statement. It’s something I tell my daughters all the time. But for me, this was the first time I had heard these words.

 

At this point in my life, having been sent to live on a kibbutz at a young age and growing up with an abusive and controlling father, I was simply concentrating on survival. However, this man, Peter, opened up an endless world of possibilities to me with those simple words of affirmation.

 

My way of thinking at that time was still very problematic. I spent so much time hating myself. All I could see when I looked in the mirror was someone who was stupid, ugly and fat. However, the idea that education was something that could pull me out of my situation and open doors for me gave me hope. Education began to represent my way out of poverty and to freedom from everything I so desperately felt trapped by.

 

Of course, back then, I didn’t know that I would go on to spend 13 years in higher education, but learning became my salvation. Education paved the way for me to begin understanding my life much better. Peter helped me get my visa to the US and helped me get into the Institute of English in San Francisco. From there I went on to pass the TOEFL exam and be admitted to Golden Gate University, a private university that had many international students.

 

School never came easily to me, but I was incredibly hard working. I had made myself believe that coming to the United States would fix my eating disorder. I believed that once I removed myself from my dysfunctional family and began my education I would be able to leave binging and purging in the past. I had yet to learn how deep-rooted my issues were and wasn’t able to comprehend all the underlying issues for my eating disorder. Still, I credit education as a big part of my survival.

 

I felt privileged to be in school, and I knew that education would give me the opportunity to lead a good, fulfilling life. Unfortunately, with the stress of being in school and the pressure of having to work so much to pay for it, my bulimia got much worse during my first few months at the university. That dream of coming to school in the United States magically curing my eating disorder slowly crumbled.

 

My head was filled with so much information and I was filled with so many emotions. I needed a way to get it all out, to release all the stress and emotions. All I could think about was binging as much as I could and purging as many times as possible. I was overwhelmed with work and school, and I had a difficult time focusing and completing my assignments on time. I felt that I was losing control of myself and regressing once again.

 

After my first year of college, I realized that I loved biology and psychology, and I wanted to study something that would combine both. Biopsychology was the field that I was interested in, but I worried about the limitations of my language skills and my lack of ability to concentrate and complete tasks. I was also very confused about some of my previous relationships. I was able to sort through that mess of feelings through self-reflection, writing and opening up to a family member, and decided that the best thing for me would be to put all my energy into school and avoid getting involved emotionally with any men.

 

This thought was a big turning point in my life: the realization that I could feel competent, whole and safe without having a man in my life to protect me. I was deeply happy to be free and independent. Education served as the empowerment I needed at that point — and it would continue to empower me for years to come.

 

If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know that at that point I still had many years of recovery ahead of me. I write all of this, though, because I think it’s important to recognize the small steps that you can take to shift your perspective. It’s also a reminder that words of encouragement and support can change other people’s lives. What if, today, you said to someone in your life, “You can be whatever you want to be”?

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.

A Note To Those Recovering From An Eating Disorder

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As a therapist, I help many people overcome challenges in their lives. There’s a common misconception among many clients I’ve treated that mental health professionals all come from a strong foundation and haven’t dealt with the thoughts and feelings they are experiencing. The truth is, though, I became a therapist because of the struggles I went through and because I know firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate life when you are dealing with challenges that seem outside your control.

One of the biggest challenges I ever faced was recovering from a severe eating disorder that plagued most of my adolescence. Overcoming my demons and eventually learning healthy coping mechanisms made me the person, the mom and the therapist I am today, but it wasn’t an easy process. I used to struggle with sharing my recovery story because it involves remembering such a dark period in my life, but then I realized opening up about my story of hitting rock bottom could help others going through something similar or simply inspire others to work through their past, which inevitably includes dark moments.

My “rock bottom” moment happened when I was working as a nanny in San Francisco and was living with my sister. I had a nervous breakdown after binging and purging for over five years. I was 21 years old, single, poor and depressed after deciding to leave my abusive and controlling boyfriend. I was working as a nanny and a tutor so that I could pay for my education.

That week I had worked for about 50 hours, in addition to being a part-time student at Golden Gate University where I studied international business. I came home on a Friday evening after I stopped at a local grocery store to stock up on food that I was going to binge on as soon as I got home. My sister was at work and I had the opportunity to eat as much as I could. I thought about the number of times that I binged and purged that day and when I counted I scared myself. It had been 15 times… my record was 30 times a day but while serving in the army I was able to reduce the binging and purging to three times a day so I was hopeful.

When I got home I knew that something was wrong but I couldn’t identify what it was. My thoughts were racing and all I could focus on was eating as much as I could and then purging. I couldn’t wait for the moment when I felt the sign of relief — which for me was lying on the bathroom floor like a drug addict and enjoying feeling high after purging everything I had eaten. All the excess noise in my head would clear for about half an hour. This relief came with a ridiculous delusion that I was somehow lighter and more powerful afterward.

I don’t want to bore you with all the details of that evening, but that night after lying on the bathroom floor for about an hour, I knew that something wasn’t right. I tried to get myself up and I wasn’t able to. My heart was racing fast and I felt like the ground was pulling me down and gravity was winning. Was this how I was going to end my life? That thought had crossed my mind many times before, but this time it felt real. I was 21 years old. I felt stupid, ugly and fat, and at that moment, I knew I had to pull myself together and write something so that I could share it with other girls who felt like me.

This moment from 21 years ago feels like it was just yesterday. I am 42 now, married to the man who I met at age 21 and I have three girls. But that moment will forever be ingrained in my mind. Somehow I pulled myself up that night and I started writing what I wanted to be my memoir. No name. Just words on a page.

I ended up writing over 100 pages that night of what I thought would be my story that would be published after I died. The beginning of my imaginary book was, “As I am writing these pages, I am dying from this horrible disease that has taken over my life for the past seven years…”

Many words followed, disclosing personal information about my family and life and horrible things that happened to me in my childhood that I had never shared with anyone. When my sister got home that night, she confronted me.

Everyone around me knew that something was terribly wrong with me. While they knew I had broken up with my boyfriend and it was a very messy breakup, no one could have imagined I was as sick as I was with bulimia and depression. I had hidden it very well.

Looking back at that time is painful, but it’s also eye-opening. This was simply the beginning of a very long process to recovery. Looking back now, I obviously see so many problems with my thoughts and behavior, but I think one of the biggest ways people can help themselves when they are nearing rock bottom is by sharing with someone you can trust. I lived with my sister and we were very close. Had I opened up to her sooner I think the recovery process would have started much sooner.

The point of me writing this note is to express to those on a similar journey that you are not alone. Everyone has a different “breaking point” so to speak, but what really helped begin to pull me out of that dark place was writing. It was the first time I was acknowledging my demons, which is the first step in any recovery efforts.

I encourage you if you are reading this and it sparks something inside you — maybe you are on a similar journey or know someone who is — to reach out and share your questions and comments.

How To Tap Into Your Mommy Intuition And Why It’s So Important

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Happy Mother’s Day!

In honor of this special holiday honoring moms, I wanted to blog about something that is often uniquely associated with mothers: intuition.

As moms, we often talk about intuition and wonder what specifically that means. We know intuition is something that’s important for us to be in touch with, but when it comes to dealing with that in actuality it seems to be a very challenging task.

How can we become more aware of our intuition? How can we teach our children that when they feel something they shouldn’t ignore it?

I have a great example. I was standing in the elevator with my 7-year-old daughter. On the sixth floor, an older man walked on and my daughter looked at the guy, made a strange face and whispered to me, “He is strange…”

My first response was to scold her for being disrespectful and tell her that she needs to be nice to everyone, but then I looked at her kind, innocent face and I realized…. She felt something that wasn’t right about this strange man. Weather it was right wasn’t the point. The point is that when your child or anyone you know for that matter tells you about how he or she feels about someone else it is important to be aware of those feelings and to take them into consideration.

Especially when it comes to our children, we want to teach them to be aware of their feelings because intuition can help get them out of dangerous situations. Children are often better than adults at listening to their intuition. They tend to make decisions off how they feel and don’t worry as much about how they will be perceived.

Intuition is the ability to understand something immediately without the need for conscious reasoning. Mother’s intuition has actually been well-documented by research. It makes sense. You are the expert when it comes to your child so your “gut feelings” are going to be more accurate than someone who has only known your child for a brief time. Children, in particular, often aren’t good at expressing how they are feeling, but as a mom, you learn to read their cues. You know their faces, their moods, and their body language. Therefore, you can probably sense when your child isn’t feeling well before he or she is even showing physical symptoms of being sick.

It’s productive for mothers, and really all people, to learn to become more connected to their intuition. Of course, we have to be careful to not let fear guide our actions. There are several things you can do to become more connected with your intuition – and a big one is meditation. Taking time to sit still, breathe, and be in the moment allows all the clutter to leave our minds. The more present and focused you are, the more you will be able to listen to your heart so to speak.

Another suggestion is to pay attention to your dreams. This doesn’t mean you need to analyze every dream you have, but if you are having recurrent nightmares about something there’s a good change your subconscious is uneasy about something. Also, pay attention to your body. What is it telling you? Like my daughter in the elevator, if someone or something makes you feel uneasy you should be responsive to that feeling and take the time to identify why you are feeling that way. Most adults have learned to shut down a lot of their anxiety because they believe it’s a hindrance to their daily life. It’s important to remember that we shouldn’t ignore our feelings because they can be helpful.

For more ways to tap into your intuition, check out this list.