Posts

12 Things You Must Know Before Finding a Child Psychologist

12 Things You Must Know Before Finding a Child Psychologist

If you are a parent who believes your child might benefit from seeing a child psychologist, first of all, you are not alone. I also know firsthand that the process can be extremely overwhelming. If you have no experience with the process, it can be quite intimidating to think about putting your precious child in the hand of a professional.

As a mother of three girls, I have had several situations where I thought I needed an outside professional opinion. For example, last year, my 10-year-old started hiding sandwiches in her closet and became extremely aware of her physical appearance. I noticed that she had started bringing back most of her lunch home after school and would only eat small quantities at mealtimes. First I told myself to ignore my instincts and just hope that her behavior would subside. However, after finding five sandwiches in her closet and other places, I decided that I should consult a psychologist. Since I suffered from both anorexia and bulimia and was aware of the genetic predisposition, I chose to be extra cautious and make sure there was nothing serious going on with my daughter. I am also fortunate enough to work with colleagues who are experts in eating disorders, so I had easy access to professional who could provide me with the support I needed. I realize, though, that for most parents and other caregivers, the search can be quite daunting and challenging.

If you are seeking a child psychologist, it is most likely because you have either noticed something is not right with your child in terms of behavior or performance, or a professional such as a pediatrician, school psychologist, teacher or a friend has suggested that they see someone for support.

Acknowledging your child needs help can be difficult, but unfortunately, the search can be even more difficult. One of LW Wellness’ child psychologists, Dr. Allison Patterson, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist, compiled a list to equip you with some knowledge before you begin your search.

Searching for a child psychologist could be a daunting task for parents.  Many are not sure how to start and what should even be considered. Here are some ideas of things to consider when searching for a child psychologist to be sure they are a good fit for your child AND your family.

Tip #1

Environment– Upon visiting a potential office, take special note of the environment and atmosphere of the office itself. You first want to be certain the psychologist’s office is child friendly and has developmentally appropriate toys or activities to engage your child.

Tip # 2

Experience– Inquire about the experience the psychologist has with your child’s age. A psychologist who specializes in adolescents may not be appropriate for your preschool aged child. Does the psychologist have experience working with schools and other related service providers? Understanding the school setting would be important since your child spends a significant amount of time in that environment. You want to find someone who has significant knowledge about the specific issues you are looking to address.

Tip #3

Theoretical Orientation– There are various theoretical orientations such as behavioral, cognitive behavioral, psycho-dynamic, or family systems. Some approaches provide more concrete strategies to implement and require interventions from the child’s environment. They may focus on the responses of the adults in your child’s life to enact positive changes. Others may be more long term, require more frequent visits, and may not include parents in the process. It’s important to have a brief understanding of the different orientations and be prepared to work with the psychologist.

Tip #4

Location– Consider the amount of time it would take to travel to and from the office.  The amount of time in transit should not exceed the session time. Some psychologists may even be available to work in your child’s naturalistic environment such as their school. This is sometimes helpful in developing skills in the environment where struggles may occur. For example, working on social skills in the context of the child’s peers may be most effective in enacting change and developing skills. Regardless, if getting to and from the psychologist’s office is a major burden on you and your child, it will become too much of a distraction from the work done in the session.

Tip #5

ScheduleBe certain that the time for the session is manageable for your child and your entire family’s schedule. Young children will be more available to benefit from treatment if they are not exhausted during the session. Also, consider availability for parent sessions.  Are evening hours or early AM appointments necessary for your family and if so, is that an option that is available? Find a time where the appointments aren’t disruptive but also can be made a priority.

Tip #6

FlexibilityTalk with your psychologist about his/her various approaches to helping children with their specific problems. Choosing a psychologist who develops a treatment plan based on your child’s specific needs rather than a set formula is crucial.

Tip #7

ConsultationIt is important for the psychologist to be able to consult with all the adults who care for the child to ensure consistency. This could include parents, teachers, caretakers, speech pathologists or occupational therapists.  A multidisciplinary approach to treatment with children allows the psychologist to gain a better understanding of the child’s struggles and provide support in various environments.

Tip #8

Parent involvement and educationFind out how much parent involvement is expected and encouraged. If you are looking for tools to carry over in the home environment, be certain the psychologist is willing to meet with families. Is the psychologist available to answer questions, respond to emails or be available for phone calls? Evaluate your own commitment and willingness to attend sessions independent of your child. Consider the amount of time you are willing to invest.

Tip #9

Fee- It is important to consider the fee, insurance reimbursement possibilities and inquire about what is covered in that fee.  Are consultations with teachers, caretakers, phone calls, team meetings included in the price or do they have a different fee scale.  Some therapists rates may be higher but they include some consultation. For example, they may not bill for a 20 minute conversation with the child’s speech therapist.

Tip # 10

Credentials– The term Licensed Psychologist is a regulated term by New York State.  Other professionals can call themselves psychotherapists, counselors, or behaviorists but the term psychologist is a regulated term that only those who went through rigorous training and supervision are entitled to use. Further, insurance companies often provide reimbursement only to those with the License Psychologist credential. One must achieve a doctorate to be considered for licensure but not all doctors have the license.

Tip #11

Background check- For safety, it may be good practice to inquire about a background check prior to allowing a professional to work with your child

Tip #12

Temperament– Many parents choose to have either a phone consultation or meet the psychologist at the office prior to committing to ongoing treatment for their child. In this meeting, you as a parent could also assess if the psychologist would be a good fit for you and your child. Is the therapist’s temperament one that could fit with your own? Trust your instincts — if you don’t feel comfortable chances are it is not a good fit.

The above tips are important to keep in mind when seeking a child psychologist near you. It is also important to familiarize yourself with prominent figures in the child psychology world, which will help empower you as a parent to make smart decisions and to be an educated consumer when looking for a child psychologist. While there are several figures, the three I find most useful for parents seeking a child psychologist are Adler, Erikson and Piaget.

No worries, I will not be giving you too much information, but only information that I believe can empower you as a parent and as a consumer seeking a child psychologist.

Let’s start with my favorite psychiatrist who is also trained in psychotherapy: Alfred Adler. He worked closely with Sigmund Freud, whom I am sure many of you are familiar with, but Adler is best known for his approach of looking at the individual as a whole. Adler believed that when children feel that they are not loved and don’t belong to this world they develop feelings of inferiority (what he called an inferiority complex). According to Adler, what people, particularly children, need most is a kiss and a hug and to be empathetically seen for who they truly are. Only then will they be able to be what they were truly meant to be in this life. Think about this for a moment. Think about yourself as a child or as an adult. How would you feel if your parent or friends saw you for who you are and loved and accepted you unconditionally and supported you throughout your journey? What are your passions? What would you have truly done if you could have choices without the social, parental or other societal constraints that might have pressured you? You don’t have to answer at this moment, but when it comes to our children, it is important to be aware of this. Now, think of this in the context of seeking a child psychologist. Are you seeking a child psychologist because you think your child is performing according to your expectations? Are they realistic? What are they based on? It might be a good idea to write these down and share with the child psychologist you choose. We often project our own anxieties and insecurities onto our children and as a result they develop anxieties and take on some of the parents’ fears, insecurities, etc.   

The next theorist that I think you will appreciate learning about is Erikson, who is best known for his psycho social theory. Erikson developed eight stages of development and a virtue associated with each of these stages. His stages are age appropriate trust vs. mistrust (age 0-18 months, virtue = Hope). Autonomy vs. shame and doubt (18 month- 3 years, virtue = Will), initiative vs. guilt (3-5y years, virtue= Purpose), industry vs. inferiority (5-13 years, Virtue = Competence), Ego identity vs. role confusion (12-18 years, virtue= Fidelity), intimacy vs isolation (18-40 years, virtue = Love), generativity vs. stagnation (40-65 years, virtue= Care), ego integrity vs. despair (65+ years, virtue= Wisdom). He focused on how people’s sense of identity develops and how people develop or fail to develop abilities and beliefs about themselves, which allows them to become productive, satisfied members of society.

Thinking about my three girls (ages 8,10 and 13), I found it helpful to think about their development in the context of Erikson’s stages because it helped me as a parent put things in perspective. For example, my daughter Shiloh, who is 8 years old, for the most part feels a sense of competence. During this stage of her development (Stage # 4 Industry Vs. Inferiority) I encouraged and reinforced her to take initiative and achieve her goals. However, if a child at that age is not encouraged, or restricted, then the child will begin to feel inferior and therefore will not reach full potential.

I also have great respect for Piaget because he was the first psychologist to make a systematic study of cognitive development. He was able to show that young children think considerably different than adults. Here are Piaget’s stages of development:. Sensorimotor (Birth-24 months), Preoperational (2-7 years) Concrete Operational (7-12 years) and Formal Operational (12 years-Adulthood).

Why are these important?

Piaget noted that all children shared certain developmental patterns. This can be helpful for you whether seeking a child psychologist or just curious about child development. They are easily understood. Back to the example of my 8-year-old, Shiloh, who is in the concrete operational stage (Age 7-12). I found it to be extremely helpful to read that Piaget found this to be a MAJOR turning point in the child cognitive development because it marks the beginning of logical or operational thought. This is good news for us parents! Because it means that the child can now work things internally in his head rather than physically try things out in the real world.  

You might think this is going too deep and you don’t need to know all of this, but the truth is, as a parent you have to be an active participant in your child’s therapy, so educating and empowering yourself with the basics of child psychology will help you be an educated consumer, ask the right questions and ultimately help your child succeed!

If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists or dietitians, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!

10 Tips From A Dietitian Nutritionist for Picky Eaters

 

“I know! She eats anything! I can’t believe it!” your friend exclaims, referring to her 5-year-old daughter as she chomps away on a Salmon Avocado Roll, while your child eats “orange mac and cheese only, Mom, not the white kind!”

Is your friend’s daughter more advanced? More gifted? More mature? Not at all! Your friend’s child is simply different from yours, and that’s OK. 

Feeding troubles affect up to 25% of normally developing children and up to 35% of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. That’s a lot, right? It’s a common issue to have, but it’s not a problem — it’s something you can work with and overcome together as a family. It’s important for everyone in the family to understand what the “picky eater” is going through, so you can all help out. Many families work with a child dietitian nutritionist to help them along this tricky path, and you may want to, as well. It’s always good to seek help if something isn’t working for you or your family.

Here are 10 tips for families with picky eaters so you can understand where your child is coming from, and help them eat well in the process.

1. Establish A Routine

It’s important to have a routine. As adults, we should also look into this, because it’s been proven that our bodies are happiest when we have a specific schedule to stick to. Studies have shown that children and adults who eat at the same time every day are less likely to be obese and have lower BMIs and blood pressure than people who eat at random points throughout the day. According to Gerda Pot, a professor at King’s College London who was interviewed by the Times, appetite, digestion, and how our body processes food are actually linked to circadian rhythms. This means that our bodies follow a 24-hour pattern in relation to food, just like how our bodies need sleep. It’s so interesting! But it can be so hard to stick to a schedule…

Here are ways to feed your child in a way to encourage their appetite by establishing a routine.

  • Consistency — Serve small meals and snacks at consistent times of the day, with 2–3 hours between each meal and snack time, allowing the child to become hungry before the next meal. Young children feel most comfortable with scheduled mealtimes.
  • Beverages After — Offer milk, nutritional beverages, juice, soup, or water at the end of the meal or snack, and not before, in order to prevent filling their stomachs.
  • Duration
    • Eating should begin within 15 mins of the start of the meal.
    • Meals should last no longer than 20–30 mins.
    • When the meal is over, all food should be removed and only be offered again at the next planned meal. You should not become a short order cook!

2. Respect Your Child’s Appetite

Your kid may not be hungry! And even if they are, it’s important to never force or bribe your child into eating. Forcing or bribing creates pressure, which can lead to children eating even less in the long run. Positive tactics like praise or a gift can also create pressure, though. It’s hard to remember this when you’re trying to get your child to eat, but, believe it or not, pressure in any way makes kids like food less.

What are examples of pressuring messages or tactics?

  • Praise (“Oh my gosh, you are such a good boy for eating that! Good job!”)
  • Shame or guilt (“If you loved me then you would eat this…”)
  • Bribes (“If you eat this, I’ll give you a toy after dinner!”)
  • Distraction (“Just watch your favorite TV show while you eat this…”)
  • Threat or force (“You have to eat this or I won’t let you go to that birthday party this weekend.”)
  • Pressuring therapy (“We’re going to have to bring your nutritionist back for therapy if you don’t eat this…”)
  • Nutrition admonitions (“You need more spinach to grow stronger…”)

So what should you do?

  • Start to learn and notice your child’s hunger signals.
  • Allow your child to choose how much or how little of the offered food to eat. Don’t make them clean their plate!
  • Respect your child’s natural inner signals of hunger and fullness. They will change from day to day, so be open for differences!

3. Make Food Fun

Let your child have fun with food! Food is a glorious thing, and we should treat it as such, as long as we aren’t negatively affecting others in the process. Why not enjoy it? Cut pieces of toasts into silly shapes! Make funny faces with fruit on the plate! Make everything on the plate the same color in different shades! When we understand that food is meant to be enjoyed, we’re more apt to be curious for more options. Discover your playful side, too!

Here are some ways to make meals fun for you and your child:

  • Make Faces On Plates — Paint plates at a paint studio or buy plates with faces on them, so you can move the food around to become different parts of a person’s head. Spaghetti can be the hair, broccoli can be the nose, corn can be the teeth, and so on.
  • Be A Monster — Allow kids to act like monsters destroying and devouring their food, as long as they don’t make a mess around the house, or as long as they take responsibility for cleaning up afterwards. The spinach can be the grass in the yard, the chicken can be the house, the pasta can be the fence… and THEY ARE THE MONSTERS EATING THE NEIGHBORHOOD!
  • Grow Your Own Food — This gives kids a chance to see where it came from, and have a hand in the process. When a child plants something and watches it grow from seemingly nothing over a long period of time, it makes it rewarding to try a bite of what they saw growing on the windowsill or in the garden!
  • Watch Cooking Shows Together — Shows like “Master Chef Jr.” are a great way to get kids excited about food. When they see other children their age making food and becoming masters at cooking, it makes it more exciting. Try some of the recipes that you see on the cooking shows together! Notice what excites your kid, and incorporate that meal into your next plan.
  • Use Dips And Spreads — Get kids to eat their fruits and veggies by offering fun things to dip the food into. It’s fun to try different tastes, and the physical movement of dipping gets them connected to their food in a different way.
  • Eat A Rainbow A Day — Focusing on color is a great way to get kids to try different food groups. Encourage them to try to eat something of each color of the rainbow every day, and keep track of what they ate already!
  • Make Up Your Own Food Names — Teach children the proper names of foods, but come up with your own silly words for them, too. A green smoothie can be “monster juice” and pineapple can be a “ferris wheel.” Ask your kids to help you come up with their own funny names!
  • Make Food Into Fun Shapes — Does your kid have an obsession with the solar system? Cut things into stars and circles for the planets! Are they learning to spell? Make the food spell out their name on a plate. Make the meals look fun and enticing, and your child may be more keen to try a bite or two… or more!

4. Be Creative

Systematically introduce new food! Provide some of your child’s favorite foods together with a small amount of new food. If the child refuses a new food, offer just one bite of the new food without tricking, hiding, bribing or forcing. (If the child continues to refuse after three attempts, do not force the child.) Attempt to reintroduce the new food after a few days or weeks. A child’s preference often changes, even if it takes a few tries!

5. Minimize Distractions

Avoid allowing television, tablets, toys, electronics or books at mealtimes, as this takes away the experience of eating. Instead, engage children using food or by allowing children to self-feed.

6. Establish Rules

Don’t make a second meal if your child refuses the first one. Having a second option always available, like a salad or a bowl of cereal, takes the pressure off both parent and child, because everyone knows the child will still be able to eat something. (If your kid wants to have a sugary bowl of cereal every night, obviously this option doesn’t work for you!) Your child should know that you will not drop what you’re doing to make them what they want, even if they don’t like what’s offered.

Everyone should wait at the table until they are excused from the table. This means that if your child doesn’t want the meal, they still have to sit at the table until everyone else is finished, whether they eat or not.

Whatever your rules are, stick to them as much as you can.

7. Be Patient

Encourage independent feeding – allow for food spillage and age-appropriate mess during mealtimes; cover the floor if it makes cleaning up after meals easier.

Maintain a neutral attitude during feeding time and never become or even appear angry. Your child shouldn’t associate anger with food!

Be patient with your kid, but also be patient with yourself! This may be a trying experience for both of you, but if you give in to what your child always wants to eat, they won’t grow.

8. No Sweets As A Reward

Dessert is not a reward for eating well. This teaches your child that the dessert is the best part, and they should save room for it. It only increases your child’s desire for sweets! Think of making your family’s typical dessert fruit or yogurt, or only offering dessert once or twice a week.

9. Have Your Child Help

Ask your kid what they want! What vegetables and fruits are they craving? Have them help you pick out healthy food at the grocery store. They can help you prep the meal, too! Many kids love to help wash veggies, set the table, or stir a sauce.

10. Set A Good Example

  • Eat Together As A Family — Families should eat together as often as possible. Three-four times a week is what you should aim for, and if you can get more than that in, great! Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be dinner. It can be breakfast or lunch. It also doesn’t have to be a home cooked meal! Eating together can include ordering your favorite takeout every once in a while.
  • Try Things You Don’t Like — If there is a particular food that you yourself don’t like, tell your child you are going to try it prepared in a different fashion to see if you like it in a new way. Show your child that people can change, and it’s ok to try things again.
  • You Have To Eat Your Fruits And Veggies, Too! — Don’t tell your child to eat a nutritious meal and then only serve yourself the pasta and tomato sauce. Do what you’re asking your kid to do.

 

Should I seek the help of a CDN Certified Dietitian Nutritionist?

It’s OK to ask for help. There is a certified dietitian nutritionist in your area who has trained for this, and who may know the ups and downs better than you do. Why not seek the help of a professional?

If you want to find a dietitian nutritionist, ask your pediatrician about where to start. They can lead you in the right direction on where to look in your area.

Or, ask us! We’re always happy to help you find a dietitian or nutritionist who’s right for your family. We’ll match you with a professional specialist, and their expertise, knowledge, and planning tools will help you solve your picky eater concerns. Whether you want to seek the advice of a licensed dietitian nutritionist, a therapist, a fitness guru, or a tutor, we’re your one-stop-shop to help you and your entire family — adult or child. Contact us for more information!

 

7 Actions That Will Scare Off Your Nanny

I’ve worked as a nanny, worked with families, hired a nanny myself and monitored nannies so I’m very familiar with the conflicts and issues that can arise when someone else comes into your home and plays such an integral role in care-giving.

It’s not easy as parents to hand over control and it’s not easy as a nanny to completely meld into your family. I often blog about red flags when hiring nannies and ways to help train and properly communicate, but sometimes it’s good to look at your own actions and what you may be doing as a parent that sends red flags up to your nanny.

We all know it’s good for our children to have consistency, so if you are constantly finding yourself with nannies who quit or seem unhappy, it’s a good idea to make sure you are doing everything in your power to give your nanny a reason to stay.

Here are some parent actions that drive nannies off:

  1. Unrealistic expectations. It’s fine to have a schedule and outline what you want your nanny to do with your kids when it comes to enriching activities, healthy eating and a bedtime. It’s not OK, however, to expect that the schedule never need to be adjusted.
  2. Failure to communicate. So many times I talk to parents who have grown annoyed with their nannies and started to resent them, but they have never communicated with their nannies about the behaviors that bothered them. For example, if your nanny does little things like leave the kitchen messy after mealtime or load the dishwasher a certain way you don’t like you have to communicate this. These are small things that can be fixed but if you let them build up and start resenting her without communicating what you want and how you want it, it’s a recipe for disaster.
  3. Changing the plan. Continually making last minute changes or always coming home later than you say you will are two really easy ways to drive your nanny off. Try to set out a consistent schedule at least a week in advance and always apologize and ask – not assume – if your nanny can handle last minute changes.
  4. Never letting your nanny be “off the clock.” I know a lot of people keep weird hours and sometimes think about things they want to tell their nannies at all hours of the night. It’s best to establish a set time when you communicate with her, however. A nanny shouldn’t feel like she has to respond to your calls and texts all night and weekend long in her time off.
  5. Money issues. Not paying your nanny in a timely manner is also hugely off-putting. Other smaller things, though, you may not think about. For example, you may tell your nanny that you will reimburse her for expenses like cab fare and things like getting your kids a snack at the park. It’s really best to leave cash for her ahead of time, though, because those expenses can rack up. Nannies who are continually shelling out their own money on your kids will get resentful very quickly. It’s also uncomfortable for a nanny to have to remind you to pay her.
  6. Bad-mouthing your nanny to your friends. This can – and will – often get back to your nanny. Be careful how you speak about your nanny when she’s around and when she’s not. Also be careful when your kids are around because they will pick up on things that could get back to her. If you have an issue, you should address it with her face to face.
  7. Undermining your nanny in front of your children. There might be times when you walk into a situation and want to save the day, but if you go against what your nanny has already told your children prior to your arrival, you are completely stripping her of all her authority.

It can be really difficult to recognize behaviors in ourselves and it’s always easier to throw blame on someone you are paying to look after your children, but like in all relationships when conflict arises, it’s good to look at your own actions first.

If you’re interested in more information about our services as they relate to your nanny, check out our nanny consulting page.

What Is Nanny Monitoring? How I Became A “Nanny Spy”

To understand how LW Wellness Network came to be, it’s important to also understand my background as a Nanny Spy. You might be wondering what Nanny Monitoring is, and why it’s such an integral part of what we do here as a family concierge service, so let me give you a little background.

I worked as a nanny for many years before becoming a mom myself and hiring nannies of my own so I definitely understand the business from both sides. My first Nanny Spy job came to me quite naturally, before I even realized this was such an important service that many parents were looking for and need.

After seeing one particular nanny always come to the same park with the child she was looking after and consistently neglect him to the point where I felt it was getting dangerous, I asked around and was able to contact the mother. She was so grateful to me and this idea that I would “spy on nannies” kind of sprang from there.

My first actual assignment as a nanny spy was, as you can imagine, a very nerve-racking — and yes very exciting — experience!!!

The client had hired me for eight hours to follow their nanny and report back on exactly where the nanny was and what she was doing with the child during the day. It might sound a little odd, but these parents had grown suspicious of the woman looking after their 3-year-old son and they felt they could get peace of mind if I was able to bring them back some hard evidence and facts.

They were obviously hoping I would report back that the day had gone smoothly and their son was in capable, loving care the entire time, but in the event that this wasn’t the case, they wanted that knowledge so they could immediately fix the situation.

In this particular case, nothing too alarming happened. I did witness the nanny flirting with guys; the child was definitely not her main focus. I saw her talk to a strange man at Central Park, which I definitely thought was a red flag.

The most disturbing part, though, was that I was able to witness her bad mouthing the family to other people. She said that the parents were never home and that kid was super hyper and required a lot of attention.

All of this I reported back to the family. While I didn’t feel the child was in grave danger, I did recommend that they sit down and talk with the nanny, as it seemed like the relationship had been damaged and was no longer productive for them all.

As the years went by, I spied on hundreds of nannies and wrote countless reports for parents and it became clear to me that what I was doing was protecting the innocent children from being emotionally/physically abused or neglected by their child care providers.

My passion and mission in life is to prevent mental illness and promote wellness in families. The Nanny Spy service is not about “spying on” or “ratting out” your nannies. It’s really about giving peace of mind to parents, documenting red flags, and stepping in if the situation is at all dangerous for the child.

Many of the nannies I observe are incredible, loving, giving nannies and they help protect children and do their best to create a healthy, well-balanced environment. However, the few who I find are not doing their jobs and either neglect or abuse the child, or they are not mentally or physically well for the job, help reinforce the importance of what I’m doing.

LW Wellness Network is a family concierge agency dedicated to bringing vital resources to parents as they raise their children. We’re all about collaborative care giving and open communication when it comes to parents and nannies.

If you’re interested in more information about our services as they relate to your nanny, contact us today!