Is Your Child’s Anxiety Making You Feel Anxious?

My friend Cindy recently invited me to attend a screening of the film “Angst” at her daughter’s school. “Angst” is a film that explores the causes, and effects, of anxiety and offers resources and strategies to counter the challenges of anxiety. Children and teens who suffer, or who have suffered, from anxiety give candid interviews in the film and share how anxiety affects their lives. “Angst” is definitely worth seeing as it conveys how truly exhausting every day can feel for young people with anxiety.

How can you tell whether your child’s level of anxiety is typical and appropriate, or something that a parent should be concerned about?

Typical anxiety is an expected response to a potentially stressful situation and it doesn’t happen very often. Typical anxiety can morph into an anxiety problem when a child’s intense feelings of worry last for an extended period of time and are out of proportion to the actual situation.

For example, typical anxiety is feeling nervous about an upcoming test and the anxiety decreases as soon as the test is over. But with an anxiety problem, a child may feel nervous about a test AND feel nervous every single morning before school AND feel worried about a weekend birthday party AND feel anxious about a trip scheduled six months in the future. Further, children and teens with an anxiety disorder may have physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches and trouble sleeping.

What can you do?

Take your child’s fears seriously but express your confidence in her ability to handle the situation. Remind your child of past successes and what strategies have worked in the past.

Try to avoid unintentionally rewarding your child’s anxiety. For example, allowing your
child to miss a field trip or to stay home from school on a test day. By doing so, you are
conveying the unspoken message that your child’s fears are well-founded because
your child knows that you would make them go to school and take the test, or attend the
field trip if you thought it was truly safe.

And once you allow a child to miss an event that is making him anxious, your child
knows that opting out is definitely an option for future events.

The key is to ask yourself: Is my child’s anxiety interfering with his or her functioning in everyday life?

If you think your child’s anxiety rises to the level of a problem, I suggest you consider having him evaluated by a mental health professional.  Your child can learn coping strategies that you can practice at home and that will make life easier for your child.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by your child’s anxiety, I am here to help! I can offer you strategies that will decrease your own anxiety and will allow you to teach your child coping strategies. Please give me a call at 310-849-6751 or email me at jerirochman.jd.ms@gmail.com

Best,                                                                                                                                                                                         Jeri

Helping Your Child Discover Their Passion

The weather is warming up and summer is just around the corner – Hooray! Summer is the perfect time to provide your child with opportunities to explore new interests. And just as we teach children how to learn, we need to teach them how to pursue a possible new passion.

To discover a passion, a child needs time to sample an interest as well as work through the challenges that are innate to learning a new skill. Allow your child to choose a non-academic activity that sparks their interest. In addition, ask your child to make an agreement with you that she will give this new activity a sufficient amount of time to allow for some mastery of this new skill. Much of the joy of a passion is the feeling of, “I am good at this!” – but that emotion can only be obtained through time and effort.

Parents can create a supportive environment by taking a true interest in their child’s activity. Learn the rules of the sport that your child loves to play or take your child to the grocery store to purchase the ingredients for the fabulous dessert that your child wants to bake. Let your child see that you believe their passion has true value.

Parents should strive to allow their child’s interest to belong to them. Fight the urge to fantasize about how your child’s activities will look on a college application. Remind yourself that your child doesn’t have to excel at their hobbies or interests. Your dreams and expectations are not a component of your child’s passion. Instead, allow them to enjoy their activity for the sheer love of it without any preconceived goal in mind. And if your child’s passion wanes in six weeks or six months, so be it. There are so many opportunities to try something new!

Parents can role model how to develop new interests by challenging themselves to try a new activity. For example, why not enroll in a photography class, learn how to surf, or try a new volunteer activity? Ask yourself, “What would I try if I knew I couldn’t fail?” and then give it a go! As adults, we know we can try something without being graded on it or without any thought about a possible award. Give your child that same gift of freedom to try something new without any expectation on your part. You just might be amazed at what happens!

If you would like to learn more about how to help your child get the most out of summertime, let’s talk about it! You can email me at jerirochman.jd.ms@gmail.com or call me at 310-849-6751.

Best,                                                                                                                                                                                        Jeri

 

ADHD – It’s All In The Family

In a recent New York Times article, “Helping Kids with ADHD, and Their Families, Thrive,” Dr. Mark Bertin, a developmental pediatrician, noted that when a child has ADHD, the whole family can feel challenged. Dr. Berkin stated that research shows that parents of children with ADHD are more anxious, more stressed, and feel less confident.

For parents of children with ADHD, this might not be ground-breaking news. Children and teens with ADHD often have struggles from waking up in the morning to facing the challenges of the school day, from dealing with the anxiety of homework to an inability to wind down at bedtime. It is painful for parents to observe their child struggle so mightily and not always see the results that would make it all worthwhile.

To add to their stress, parents may feel that the people in their lives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings, might not understand and mistakenly view the child with ADHD as just being lazy or disrespectful.

Parents understand that they can assist their child by providing structure, setting goals and giving positive feedback. But, as Dr. Bertin points out, when parents are already feeling overwhelmed by work or other obligations, it is really hard to do all the things that professionals suggest that they do for their child with ADHD.

So, what to do? Dr. Bertin suggests that parents practice their own self-care so that they have the strength and positive outlook to assist their child. In addition, parents can look for the areas where their child is successful and help their child build on those foundations. Parents should also make sure their child is receiving appropriate interventions at school and seek resources to help with homework issues.

Dr. Bertin also suggests that parents view ADHD as a delay in self-management skills and remind themselves that their child will learn these skills with support and time to develop. When viewed as a developmental delay, assistance and support can be offered in a practical, problem solving manner.

Parents may feel less anxious by remembering that, with interventions and accommodations, their child will catch up and learn the skills necessary for independence. But, in the meantime, parents may need to practice their own deep breathing as they remind themselves that their child is doing the best that he or she can.

If you are feeling challenged by your child’s ADHD and would like to learn how to decrease your stress, let’s talk about it! Please email me at jerirochman.jd.ms@gmail.com or 310-849-6751

Best,                                                                                                                                                                                          Jeri

Assist Your Child With Spring Cleaning Their Backpack

Spring is here! It can feel so good to open the windows in your home to the warm breezes after months of cold weather. Spring is the time when many of us give our homes a thorough cleaning. And it is also a wonderful time to encourage your child to clean out their backpack and stay organized in the final stretch of the school year.

Ideally, students should clean out their backpacks once a week. Often I work with students on organizational skills and a backpack clean-up has uncovered completed but never turned in homework, signed permission slips that never made it to the teacher, and other assorted important paperwork.

Staying organized is one aspect of Executive Functioning skills. The three main areas of EF are working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control.  We need our EF skills so we can pay attention, organize/plan/prioritize, start tasks and stay focused until completion, regulate emotions, understand different points of view, and self-monitor our behavior.

Keeping a backpack organized, keeping a planner up to date, getting completed homework from backpack to the correct bin, and bringing important school documents home from school all require executive functioning skills. Some students need support so that they can internalize these skills.

The following are tips to help students keep their backpacks organized:

1.) Only put water bottles in outside pockets to prevent leakage onto books/papers.

2.) Keep an ID card with student’s name and phone number in an interior pocket in case backpack is misplaced.

3.) Use a zippered pouch for pens, pencils and erasers to reduce “floating items” in backpack.

4.) Use a large clear plastic bag for dirty PE clothes.

5.) Designate one area of backpack for pencil bag, wallet, etc. and a separate area for textbooks, folders, and binders.

6.) Keep a lightweight 3-hole-punch in backpack so all important papers can be immediately 3-hole-punched and placed in binder in appropriate area.

7.) Make a copy of permission slips that are to be returned to school and tape them on refrigerator as a reminder of event.

Encourage your child to take everything out of their backpack on Sunday evenings in preparation of the upcoming week. Help your child create a system for binder organization. For example: TKO – Toss any unneeded papers, Keep important papers for test prep in school binder behind designated dividers, Organize papers in a keep-at-home binder that may be needed later in the semester.

Be patient with your child. For some people, executive functioning skills are easily mastered while challenging for others. Remind your child that while EF skills have absolutely no correlation with intelligence, staying organized can help make school life more manageable.

If you would like to talk about how to assist your child with executive functioning skills, I am here to help! Please give me a call or send me an email at jerirochman.jd.ms@gmail.com

Best,

Jeri

 

Teaching Your Child About Cyberbullying

I volunteer weekly as a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line, a free 24/7, confidential text message service for people who are in crisis. People in crisis can text to 741741 and be connected with a trained crisis counselor who will assist the texter to achieve a sense of calmness through active listening and collaborative problem solving.

During my shifts on the Crisis Text Line, I engage with people of all ages who are experiencing a wide variety of stressful situations. But a large number of people who text in  are children and teens who are experiencing feelings of anxiety and despair due to cruel comments on their social media platforms.

Now that it is common for children as young as 8 to be given their own cell phone and access to social media, the need for education about cyberbullying is essential. Parents should start this conversation with their child on a very basic level, and as their child matures, the conversation can go deeper.

Teach your child the basics of texting:

DO re-read your words before you hit “send” to male sure it says what you want it to say. DO only send a message that you would want to receive.

DON’T hit “send if you would be embarrassed if anyone saw your message. DON’T hit “send” if your message is mean or full of gossip or rumors. DON’T hit send if you know you could be in trouble for using swear words.

If your child is being harassed or cyber-bullied, offer support and assistance. I suggest the following approach:

Explain to your child that there is no need to keep mean texts, or the sender’s identity, a secret. Explain that all texts are public and the sender chose to send the text knowing full well it could be viewed by many people. Show your child how to make a copy of the texts to possibly share with law enforcement or school. Empower your child to block the sender so he or she can no longer  be a bother.  Empower your child to hit “delete” if there are further emails from annoying people. Let your child know that he or she  has power and control over his or her phone and does not have to answer or return phone calls or texts from people he or she doesn’t like.

Teach your child that the golden rule applies to all phone use whether it be texting, instagram, or gaming online: treat others the way you want to be treated.

And advise your children of these words to live by: Nothing is private anymore. Your texts and photos will remain forever for everyone to see.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by your child’s use of social media and would like to talk further about issues involving cyberbullying, please call me at 310-849-6751 or email me at jerirochman.jd.ms@gmail.com. I am here to help!

Best,                                                                                                                                                                                              Jeri