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.

10 Tips for a Healthy Halloween

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This week’s guest blog is written by Andrea Berez, MS, RD. Andrea is a registered dietitian and a certified specialist in pediatric nutrition.  For more information about her services and to read her bio, check out our team page at http://lwwellness.com/about/our-team/.

 

Halloween is just around the corner, and your kids can’t stop talking about how much more candy they’re going to get than their siblings or friends. Of course, all you can think about is how little candy you and your kids can get away with, so that everyone can still have their treat, but avoid sugar highs and crashes, stomachaches, and unwanted weight gain.  

 

Not only has the obesity rate tripled in children since the ‘80s; the number of cavities in children has started increasing for the first time in 40 years. The average trick-or-treater consumes 3,500-7,000 calories worth of treats alone (one to two pounds) just on Halloween, and 3 cups of sugar, the equivalent of 220 sugar packets!  

 

In order for the average 100-pound child to burn those calories, he/she would have to walk nearly 44 hours or play full-court basketball for 14.5 hours straight! We, as parents, know that will never happen!  So, the question becomes, how can you keep Halloween a treat for your kids, without it being too tricky?  Here are some tips that you and your family can try…

 

  1. Make a plan ahead of time.  Your homework as a parent is to first decide which of these tip(s) will work best for you and your family.  The goal is that each person in the household is satisfied and you feel like you can live with the choices as well.
  2. Consider being somewhat lenient on Halloween. For some parents, letting their kids indulge on that day may be okay as long as there is a discussion of how the rest of the candy will be handled.  (This will be discussed in more detail in upcoming tips.) Again, the key is that a plan should still be in place for dealing with the days prior and following Halloween.
  3. Consider handing out less sugary foods or toys.  This can benefit both the trick-or-treaters and your family. Having leftovers of healthier foods will have health benefits for you and your family in the long-run. Examples of less sugary treats include small apples, small packages of pretzels, raisins, animal crackers, whole grain cereal or crackers, mini cereal or granola bars, trail mix (not containing candy) light/low fat popcorn, Kind Bars, mini Lara bars, and Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Bug Bites.  Examples of toys that can be given out are stickers, erasers, fun straws, glow sticks, false teeth, Play Doh containers, bubbles, pens, pencils, creepy creatures, flashing rings, and small games such as card games. The American Dental Association has taken a stance against cavities with its “Stop Zombie Mouth” campaign, offering coupons for the game “Plant vs. Zombies”, as well as coupons for other items such as hats and tee-shirts that can be given out to trick-or-treaters instead of candy.  See http://www.stopzombiemouth.com.
  4. If you like to hand out candy, purchase it the day of.  That way it’s not sitting in your house ahead of time for days for all those tempting lurkers (including yourself).  Also, consider buying less than what you think you need, because, let’s face it, you usually have lots of leftovers!  Remember to make sure you buy the most mini version of the candy that you can find. You may also consider buying candy you and your family least typically crave so the leftovers are less tempting.  
  5. Fill up before trick-or-treating.  Just like you shouldn’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, you and your kids should not go out trick or treating on an empty stomach.  If you and your kids eat a family wholesome meal or filling snack ahead of time, there will be less noshing on the treats while trick-or-treating and much less over-consuming overall.  
  6. Buy back some or all of the remaining candy.  Give your child a nickel or so for each remaining piece of candy leftover.  They’ll be excited to get a big stash for their piggy bank to help save up for that special toy or activity they’ve been wanting so badly.
  7. Or donate the leftover candy.  Many dentists have a buy back program, which supports military support groups. See http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com. Your child can also donate their leftover candy to a local food bank, hospital or shelter.
  8. Don’t make Halloween an excuse to eat candy.  Just because it’s Halloween, doesn’t mean it’s the one day of the year that you and your kids should eat candy to your/their hearts and stomach’s content (which ultimately becomes a discontent!) Don’t restrict candy for days or weeks ahead of time, as this will only cause a candy binge on that day. The motto should always be everything in moderation!
  9. Be a good role model.  Whichever of these tips you decide to try and/or adopt, make sure you follow them best.  Your family will more likely do as they see. Remember, as with everything else in life, you set the bar for how you expect your children to act.
  10. Allow your children to take part in the decision-making.  Give younger children choices for the treats (or toys) your family gives out.  Allow them to make the ultimate decision so that they’re excited about what is being given out.  If you have older children or teens, encourage them to be mindful of how much candy they eat, and to stop before they feel full or sick.

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!

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.

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.

The Power Of A Mother’s Words

Happy woman talking to her teenage daughter at home

I woke up this morning to the sound of the ring of one of the most influential women in my life calling me: my mom.

We spoke about the upcoming Bat-Mitvah of my older daughter and about other things. And at some point, my mom told me how proud she was of me, that despite my history I was able to overcome many obstacles and help others who are struggling.

Long story short, my childhood was marked with struggles and lack of a strong mother figure– not because she didn’t want to be there for my siblings and I, but because she was in an abusive controlling relationship, to name just one of many reasons. She didn’t know that not giving us what we needed was instrumental to our developmental both mentally and physically. She simply couldn’t provide us all that we needed — the love, the care, the few words that could have changed a lot for a little child. 

My childhood was an extreme case, but the truth is, we often forget the power we have as moms. The question becomes what can we do as parents to help encourage and support our children so that they don’t grow up feeling a void. Here are 10 things that I think we can all strive to do as parents that will have both short-term and long-term positive effects on our children.

  1. Love your child unconditionally. This sounds simple, but saying it out loud is helpful. This is the most basic thing a parent can do, but it’s something you have to do actively, every single day.
  2. Listen to your child without judgment. Sometimes this is harder than others, but the first thing you should do when your child is speaking is to listen and ask yourself if you are truly listening and being open to what they are actually saying.
  3. Give your child words of encouragement often. This doesn’t mean you have to compliment your child on every tiny thing that is done. However, it is so important to continually give words of support, encouragement, and affirmation in their daily life.
  4. Let you child know that you trust that they will be able to make the right decision —  even if you are not sure. Trust is so important to a child. If you don’t trust your child to make a decision, this breeds indecision, self-consciousness, and insecurity in later years.
  5. Tell your child that you are proud of them — even when they don’t get an A on their test. If your child thinks they are letting you down, it will affect them negatively. You don’t need to praise your child for failing a test, but your child should know that even if they don’t make great grades, you are proud of them as a person.
  6. Pay attention to your child and know what really makes them happy (not what makes you happy). Give special attention to the time you spend with your child. Are you really paying attention or are you on your phone? Figure out what gives them joy during the day. 
  7. When you are going through an emotional event or a trying period, be mindful when you are around your child, and don’t project your thoughts and feelings onto your kid.  If you are feeling emotionally unstable it’s hard to be a strong support system for your kid, but projecting insecurity, fear, anger, and other emotions onto your child can be so damaging. Try to separate your daily life events from your ability to support your child with words of encouragement.
  8. Enjoy as much time as you can with your children when they are young. You will not get these moments back. 
  9. Ask your child how they are feeling and really listen. Don’t wait until your child is much older to have deep conversations about your relationship. If you feel at any point that your relationship with your child is going off course, simply asking your child to talk to you about how they are feeling can go a long way. Ask them what they need from you as a parent. Young children will have trouble articulating their feelings, but as your child gets older they will be able to give you glimpses into what they want you to say — what they need you to say.
  10. Let your child feel emotions. Sometimes as parents, especially if we’ve gone through something difficult, it’s easy to tell our kids they need to be strong. Kids are more fragile than adults. Don’t dismiss any emotion your child is feeling. If they are feeling nervous, anxious, angry, sad, for frustrated, encourage them to talk about it and really identify why they are feeling that way. Don’t encourage your child to cover up their feelings, instead, allow them to open up to you.
Here’s another great website that has “101 words of affirmation that every child wants to hear.” Let’s all take a look at the list and see how many we are incorporating into our daily lives with our kids and make an effort to use more.

The Tyranny Of Perfection And How New Mothers Can Avoid It

Never fake yourself just to look perfect because perfection is never real and reality is never perfect.

As parents and child care providers we often attempt to be as perfect or as close to perfect as possible.

When I had my first child, I forced myself to breastfeed her for as long as I could because A) my grandma from Israel told me that I had to and B) I believed it was the best for my child.

I also had my mom who came from Israel helping me, and she too wanted to make sure I breastfed my daughter. When things didn’t go the way I planned and I ended up with sores on my nipples and severe pain, I thought I had no choice but to continue to be as perfect as I thought I could be.

As my daughter grew I read every possible book about child development and spent hours and hours searching the internet to make sure I knew whatever it is that I had to know in order to best understand my daughter and her needs. Of course, being a nanny for almost 10 years provided me with a lot of experience, but having your own child and having to take care of her 24 hours a day is a whole different story. 

Very soon I realized I allowed everything I read and heard to affect me, and without even being aware, I found myself comparing myself to other moms and comparing my daughter and her development to other kids her age.

As the months went by, and especially when my daughter entered pre-school, I realized that I had allowed myself to be all consumed by this idea of perfection.

What does it even mean to be a perfect mom? Is there such a thing? I wondered. While the answer is loud and clear — NO — it wasn’t as loud and clear to me as a new mom. I was surrounded by incredible moms who devoted many hours to perfecting this idea of motherhood. 

New moms are often guilty of asking other moms questions about parenthood. While it’s great to have a network and learn from one another, what I found as a new mom was that we often spend so much time comparing ourselves to other moms, it turns into a competition of who we think is doing “the best job.” Some of the questions that I remember plaguing me back then were, “How long did you breastfeed?” “How soon after giving birth did you go back to work?” “Did you have a baby nurse?” “Which company did you use?” “How old was your son before he was potty trained?” “What pre-school did your daughter go?”

Striving to be the perfect mom can be very stressful and anxiety provoking.

What would it be like if you were just trying to be a mom? Not a perfect mom and not even close to perfect. Just being a mom to your child and embracing who you are while enjoying every moment with your child. What would it be like if moms stopped judging themselves and their imperfections? What if we got rid of the self-inflicted guilt? 

Here are four simple suggestions that I wish someone had given me when I first had my daughter:

  1. Don’t try to be perfect. In fact, expect to not be perfect and to make mistakes. 
  2. Enjoy being a mom and don’t allow whatever you are reading or whatever you hear from other people to affect how you raise your kids unless, of course, you believe in whatever it is you read or heard.
  3. Accept yourself as a parent with a unique style of parenting and always listen to your own intuition. Also, accept your child for the person he or she is.
  4. When you find yourself judging or comparing yourself to other moms, know that you DO have the power to redirect your thoughts and tell yourself that it’s ok to be just where you are — and that where you are at this moment is exactly where you are supposed to be.

You will soon find that when you do the above you will be less stressed and anxious and you will enjoy motherhood in a whole different way. 

On The Anniversary Of My Eating Disorder Diagnosis…

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Since yesterday was the anniversary of my eating disorder diagnosis (26 years ago!!), I got to thinking about how grateful I am for everything I’ve been through and where I am now as a mother of three. I thought it would be a good idea to blog about motherhood, gratitude and ways that we, as parents, can help prevent eating disorders/ways for us parents to promote wellness and prevent mental illness.
limorrecovery
My anorexia arrived when I was 14 years old and stuck with me for about a year and a half. I then, secretly, became bulimic for the next 8.5 years, and as crazy as this sounds, I considered myself to be the best bulimic ever. It was all about secrecy.  Without getting into too much of the horrifying details, I can tell you that it was a terrible disease that affected all parts of my life, and thankfully, I was finally able to overcome it at the age of 24.
Now at age 41 and as a mother of three girls ages 6, 9 and 12, I have a new understanding of my mental illness at that age and why I was particularly vulnerable.
I look at my 12-year-old who is kind, happy and confident, and I think of myself as a 12-year-old. I was a neglected, abused teen whose parents couldn’t afford to keep her and was sent to live with a foster family. Yes, in hindsight this was the best thing for me, but as a 12-year-old, it felt like the end of the world. I spent many nights crying myself to sleep as a teenager.
While instilling confidence in a child and providing a safe, loving home goes a long way, I also know that eating disorders affect people regardless of upbringing. As someone who lived with the illness and understands the mindset behind it, I know that it is one of my top priorities to prevent eating disorders in young people.
So, as a parent, what can you do?

My Top 5 Tips:

  1. Teach your kids to be grateful. Gratitude is one of the biggest mindsets I have taken away from my struggle with eating disorders. It’s something that affects your whole outlook on life and allows you to stop focusing on what you don’t have and what you can’t control (both of which fuel negative eating habits). Of course, you don’t want to be one of these annoying parents who constantly nag your kids and tell them how lucky they have it (Yes, I have been guilty of this a few times), but REMEMBER that while you think your kids “struggle” if you don’t give them a lot of “stuff,” in the end it’s our job to breed gratitude in our kids.
  2. Practice mindful eating and MUTE the media. I can’t tell you how important it is to practice eating mindfully. In today’s world where everything is electronic and our kids grow up with exposure to SO much, it is essential to keep the important moments of mealtime as mindful as possible. Specific guidelines that we have created in my family include: Enjoy the food by paying attention to what you are eating and using all your senses; Talk about the good parts of your day and the least favorite part of your day. (Talking as a family and making mealtime an activity and not something your kids dread will help everyone focus on the moment); Lastly, no electronics at the table while eating.
  3. Be a role model. Model healthy eating and healthy body talk when your kids are around. I once saw my 6-year-old  getting herself on the scale and when I asked her why she was doing that she said that “daddy gets on the scale every day…”  As adults, a lot of us are guilty of this, but who is around to see it? We are also all guilty of making various comments to friends or family related to food or weight and we don’t always pay attention to who is listening. Think about what you are saying, especially when you are around your kids. “Fat talk” is so popular, especially among women, once you start the trend of NO FAT TALK, I promise your friends will follow and you will find that you are leading a healthier lifestyle!!! Make it a blanket rule that you do not discuss diets or weight in front of your children.
  4. Educate yourself and your child. Educate yourself about the various eating disorder. 10-15% of Americans suffer from some kind of eating disorder. A new study estimates that about half million teens suffer from eating disorder or disordered eating. It’s important to recognize the signs of a developing eating disorder and know that they manifest in a ton of different ways. It’s not always that you are starving yourself…
  5. Build your child’s self-esteem. You can do that by giving them choices, let them know no one is perfect, don’t draw comparisons between children, encourage independence, assign age-appropriate household chore and spend special time with your child, focusing on his or her unique qualities and gifts.
Most importantly, if you think your child has an eating disorder or even if you suspect one may be developing, seek help as soon as you can, there are a lot of free resources out there. In addition, LW Wellness partners with Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You can find out more here.

 

3 Quick Tips For A Less Stressful Week

With Halloween weekend and trick-or-treating last night, I’m sure many moms are feeling exhausted. When any kind of holiday throws off the routine, it affects children even more than parents. It makes getting everyone off to school and to do things like homework way more stressful when you are dealing with exhausted kids (who have probably had quite a lot of sugar).

Over the past weekend, I was talking to a mom who called me in a panic. She said her 3-year-old was driving her crazy. After venting for 15 minutes, she told me she felt terrible because she felt like she sounded just like her own mom, and that made her upset. She didn’t want to always feel so annoyed.

Together, we came up with a list of three action steps she could take to alleviate her stress and turn her interactions with her daughter into more positive ones. I think these are particularly relevant for any parent who is feeling extra exhausted or on-edge, especially when maybe your kids have been particularly busy or are acting out.

  1. Don’t take things personally. In general, people who don’t take things personally are more easy-going and less stressed as they don’t let situations affect them. Especially when it comes to being a parent, you can’t take your kids’ actions personally. If they are exhausted and yelling at you, this is not a reflection on you as a parent. Kids’ emotions and temperaments can be so fragile. Keeping this in mind and not blaming yourself as a parent will help you stay calm.
  2. Forget about perfection. As parents we often expect our kids to look and act “perfect,” whatever that means to each parent. When we stress out over the fact that our children don’t want to wear the outfits we picked out for them or stayed up past their bedtime or perhaps the house hasn’t been cleaned – we aren’t forgiving ourselves for being human. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect parent.
  3. HAVE FUN! We often forget that it is ok for parents to also have fun and enjoy parenting. If you think about what you do as a parent and review the past week in interacting with your children, your list will be similar to most parents I work with. When I have parents list it out, their interactions are basically a series of commands to their kids. Particularly on a fun week like this one, where there is a holiday and our kids are dressing up and acting fun, remember to take part in that joy with them. Experiencing the joy simultaneously will not only be a bonding experience, but it will help you keep focused on what’s really important.