PostHeaderIcon Social skills in school

Many students struggle with adequate social skills in school, which has the potential to affect the child in an adverse way. The first step in helping a child who struggles with social skills is to identify his/her social skills deficits. Understanding what a child can and can not do is crucial in order to develop appropriate interventions to help them. Children may experience difficulty performing certain social skills due to their lack of knowledge or their lack of strength in consistently performing a social skill (ie.. standing up to a bully at school.)

Negative consequences of poor social skills can cause a child to show signs of depression, anger, or anxiety, can cause them to perform poorly at school, has the ability to cause their peers to reject them, and lastly can cause a child to experience significant difficulty in their interpersonal relationships with parents, teachers, and their peers.

There are four main areas of social skills for children to learn in order to then establish interventions that are appropriate. 1.) Conflict resolution skills or dealing with teasing, bullying, being excluded from activities 2.) problem-solving skills or asking others for help or decision making 3.) Interpersonal skills or sharing, waiting your turn, or joining in activities at school 4.) survival skills or listening, follow directions, or ignoring distractions in class. Interventions that address social skills with children are comprised of teaching the child emotional/behavioral concepts in order for them to learn NEW behaviors. Social skills should emphasize teaching new social skills rather than punishing the child for behaviors when they are negative.

Social skills training of a child should include:
Providing positive strategies primarily and using punitive strategies only when positive strategies to change social skills are unsuccessful
Enhance social skills by increasing the frequency of appropriate behaviors when they are displayed
Emphasize appropriate behaviors by modeling, coaching, and role-playing appropriate social skills
Provide opportunities with their peers in order for the child to be able to practice appropriate social skills

Schools should help children with social skills by:
Providing an individual approach to the child that tailors to their social strengths and deficits
Address the child’s individual abilities/disabilities
Include parents or caregivers in order to reinforce the skills taught at school in order to promote consistency of behaviors across all of the child’s settings or environments

The end result for children that have developed good social skills is a more positive and safe school environment, better ego strength and coping skills for the child for future interactions in life, and better conflict resolution skills in all of their personal relationships, and a higher frustration tolerance.

PostHeaderIcon Lifestyle changes for individuals with ADHD

Individuals with ADHD, whether it is a child or an adult often need to make changes in their lifestyle in order to be successful at home, school, or work. Often times kids or adults need to adapt or make changes in their daily routines in order to be more functional on a day-to-day basis.
First and foremost, they should have positive contacts with others. What I mean by this is, individuals need to feel truly connected with those around them or in other words there needs to be a good and positive support system in place. Secondly, reduce the amount of electronics in your life. Studies really have shown that too much time spent on technology is a precursor to ADD. Thirdly, getting enough sleep is a key to proper functioning. Anyone who does not get enough sleep has difficulty concentrating and paying attention throughout the day. A proper diet is also essential to being able to function at an optimal level for adults and kids. Too often, especially seen with adults, ADHD suffers try to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol in order to function and cope with life. Proper exercise is also a key lifestyle change that helps those ADHD. Exercise stimulates the production of epinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. Medications that treat ADHD comprise of these very things. Lastly, either prayer (whatever your religious or spiritual beliefs) or meditation will help calm the mind.
Making these necessary lifestyle changes will help kids and adults better deal with the symptoms of ADHD on a daily basis.

PostHeaderIcon Divorced Parents need to co-parent

Co-parenting is a term that is heard alot lately since divorce has unfortunately become so prevalent in our society. Parents often struggle with making joint custody of their child or children work and co-parenting is imperative for the best interest of a child. Parenting in a cooperative manner provides stability for children, which means that both parents have to put aside their own anger and hostility and put their children first.

However, this is often very difficult for parents to do as a result of parent’s dealing with their own anger issues that likely caused their divorce in the first place. Remaining amicable with each other is absolutely imperative!! When parents place their children in the middle of their fighting, it forces the child to feel as if they have to “pick sides” or have to be careful what they say to either parent and they end up playing the mediator role. Often heard from children that are in therapy is, “my parents bad mouth each other and I just want to be left out of it, I don’t want to hear it.” For children, it becomes a virtual tug-of-war and they feel like the rope!

Of course co-parenting is not an easy task and one or both parents make the task that much more difficult by acting in an immature fashion throughout the process and by exhibiting petty; childish behaviors. While the marriage is over, the fact of the matter is that your job as parents is not and your children have to come first. Children that have parents that work together and are amicable towards each other realize that their parents are putting aside their own differences for their best interests. Believe me, children really appreciate this! If a child is confident that both parents love them and are cooperating with each other, then children feel safe and secure. Children that feel secure are happy children that are not riddled with anger and anxieties.

The goals of co-parenting are for both parties to have consistent rules, discipline, and to problem solve issues together for the best interest of the child. Parents are modeling for their children that people that disagree with each other are able to work together in a healthy way. Children do not need to receive conflicting messages from parents as it results in children learning to manipulate their parents and it also causes children to have difficulty adjusting to their parent’s divorce.

PostHeaderIcon How to write a kid’s behavior contract

Every child has one or more behaviors that parents/teachers would like to change. Whether a child is displaying mild behavioral problems or very serious ones, each child could benefit from a simple behavioral plan to change the unwanted behavior. Behavioral contracts, which is a signed contract between a child and their parents or teachers, helps mold or change the behavior/s of kids that are disrupting either the classroom or the home environment. Typically, the unwanted behaviors comprise one of the following areas: not listening or having to repeat yourself to your child a thousand times a day (ie..will you pick up your room, will you brush your teeth, will you please do what you are told), physical aggression (hitting, throwing things, punching, kicking, or pushing other kids including their siblings), and anger or attitude problems (ie… sighing heavily, rolling of the eyes when you are talking to them, refusal to do what they are told, or talking back). Now there are a vast number of either behavioral problems that are specific to each child, however most unwanted behaviors fall in one of these three categories.

So, how do we change a child’s behavior through a behavioral contract?

A behavioral contract sends the message to the child that whatever particular behavior is written on the behavioral contract is an unwanted behavior that the parents or teachers want changed as soon as possible. First, we need to write up an agreement between you the parent and your child. Pick a particular behavior that you want changed and then write up the consequences for not obeying the rules. For example, lets say that you want your child to quit hitting or pushing his eight-year-old brother every time your head is turned. The behavior is you want physical aggression to stop in your home and if your child can go a week for example without hitting/pushing his older brother than he gets a reward that you determine (ie.. taking him/her to McDonald’s, going to the park, etc…). However, the consequences for not following the behavioral contract is also determined by you and for example you may decide to not let your child watch television or ride his bike for 3 days.

Each behavioral contract is customized to your child and whatever behavior you would like to change. The key to a good behavioral contract is to only pick 1-2 behaviors to change at a time and be consistent in rewarding them for good behavior and consistent for handing out consequences when their behavior is bad. Do not give up on your child, be patient with them. Most likely your child will mess up and make bad choices, but keep with your behavioral plan until you start to see more positive behaviors.

PostHeaderIcon Kids and a Sense of Entitlement

How do we as parents get our kids back from the clutches of materialism. Over the past several years as a therapist I have noted that children/teens are becoming more and more entitled. What I mean by this is that kids want what they want when they want it!! When parents bring their children in for counseling more often than not it is for behavioral problems, especially when their children are in elementary school or younger. As children get older, they become more and more exposed to television and what is being advertised on commercials. Everything they see on TV is a “must have it.” They seem to want more and more stuff that is being advertised and they are trying to keep up with what everyone else at school has as well. All kids want to fit in with their peers, however the way to do this is not by having what everyone else at school has. What I hear parents generally say is, if my kid goes into a store and they don’t get what they want or they hear the word “no” they throw a fit right there in the middle of the store or they sulk for hours. Alot of children will even go as far as hitting, kicking, and throwing things in order to get what they want. More often than not parents will give in and buy their child what they are whining for and have only reinforced the child’s behavior problems. So how do we prevent kids from being so materialistic in today’s age of immediate gratification. Nobody seems to want to wait for what they want and they want everything “right now.” As parents we need to try and get our children back from being so materialistic, “stuff” really does not bring happiness.

What can we do as parents:
1.) All kids learn by modeling behaviors/actions. This means that parents must set the right example. Parents must also wait for what they want to show their kids that no one gets everything they want all the time. Take your child shopping with you on a regular basis and avoid buying yourself or them anything other than what you went to the store to get. Just because they want the newest video game does not mean you have to get it for them.
2.) Take your child to places where people are less fortunate and have them volunteer their time. There is nothing more humbling than seeing someone less fortunate than you and serving others. Younger children especially do not understand the concept that everyone does not have food and shelter and lots of people in the world are truly struggling. This will help put things in perspective for your child and hopefully will instill a sense of gratitude and thankfulness for what they do have. Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer.
3.) Spend time with your child and turn off that television. Kids are increasingly spending more and more of their day watching television, texting, playing video games. A majority of kids spend the better portion of their day tied to technology. If your child is watching commercial after commercial that advertises “things they must have”, then it will be harder to convince them that they don’t truly need all of that “stuff.”
4.) Practice telling your child “no you can’t have that.” Delayed gratification is a key in teaching our children about disappointment. Your other family members such as grandparents, aunts, uncles should also be told to not buy your child things that they ask for. Just because your child goes into a store does not mean that they should leave the store with something. Yes, when you first tell them “no” they will throw a tantrum in the store, however they will eventually get used to not getting everything they want all of the time.
5.) Lastly, we must teach our children about money. Children that are in elementary school understand the concept of money and have them pay for things for themselves with their own money. If you go into a store with them and they want something, make them pay for it with their money. If they don’t have enough money, then they should not get what they want. Teach them how to budget when they are young.

PostHeaderIcon Treatment of ADHD

Treatment for ADHD, whether it is a child or an adult, should be a comprehensive plan and should include a number of different interventions to choose from. What works for one child/adult may not necessarily work for another child/adult. Assistance given should be done so over a long-term basis as ADHD is often not a short-term problem. The following steps should be considered for treatment of ADHD.
1.) Diagnosis is tantamount in treatment of ADHD. Several other medical and psychiatric disorders highly resemble ADHD symptoms and you want to be sure you are treating the right problem. 2.) A plan that promotes your talents/strengths as these will help you compensate for ADHD symptoms. 3.) Education-you must know exactly what ADHD is and how it affects you. 4.) Lifestyle changes-change in diet, exercise, sleep habits, study habits, etc… 5.) Structure-as individuals with ADHD are often scattered, unorganized, the more structure or scheduled life is, the easier life will be for an individual with ADHD. Make lists, schedules and post them throughout the house. 6.) Counseling-whether it is psychotherapy, career counseling, vocational counseling, family therapy, as ADHD affects others in your life as well as schooling and work performance. 7.) Other types of therapies-such as physical or occupational therapy, exercise programs, nutritional supplements, or tutoring. 8.) Medication-medication is prescribed only as needed and is a personal choice. Some are willing to take medications for ADHD and some are not. Medication should never be used alone and should only be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

PostHeaderIcon Social skills in kids on the Autism Spectrum

One of the hallmark symptoms of children with a diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum are deficits in social skills. A child’s difficulties with social skills has a huge impact on their ability to be accepted socially. Specifically, children on the Autism Spectrum, whether the diagnosis is Autism, Asperger’s, or PDD NOS, they struggle with understanding social cues and the thoughts and feelings of other children. They typically have difficulty as well in modulating their emotions, which for adults often translates into inappropriate behaviors. Children with Autism often do not take turns, can not hold a conversation with another child, and do not make eye contact with those with whom they are speaking. In addition, a number of kids with Autism lack an ability to understand the consequences of their own behavior and how their behaviors affect those around them.

Those working with children with Autism, whether it is the child’s teacher, parent, other familly members or professionals, a child with autism needs to be taught specific social skills. Social skills will not come naturally for a child on the Autism spectrum and need to be modeled for them. Social skills are best taught through role playing the appropriate behaviors. For example, model with the child taking turns, sitting and waiting while someone else is talking, and through playing childhood games. In addition, explain the meanings of specific facial expressions, gestures, and personal space/boundaries to them. Model what is appropriate and what is inappropriate making sure to convey that everyone has feelings/emotions that are different than their own.

PostHeaderIcon Problem Solving for Families

All families have their share of problems and unfortunately during a crisis, family members panic. There can be any number of things that constitute a crisis for a family and some of the biggies are: using drugs, depression, self-mutilation, your child has thoughts of hurting themselves, staying out all night, sexting, death of a family member or loved one, having committed a crime, gang activity, or having underage sex. What constitutes a crisis for one family might not necessarily be a crisis for another family. So what do we do as a family to work through a crisis situation without completely having the family unit fall apart.

First of all, we should be prepared as a family before a crisis strikes. Parents should be alert to the early warning signs of the crisis. Watch for odd or unusual behaviors, lying, or in other words if your child/teen begins to act differently.
Stay calm. Losing your cool will not reassure or instill confidence in the rest of the members of the family. Yelling and screaming has never solved a single, solitary problem.
If your child or another family member is in danger then the danger must be removed immediately. This often means that the police have to be called if the situation has escalated to this point.
Work through a particular problem and do not focus on the person. Attacking or pointing the finger at a person during a family crisis is also not helpful. This just puts the person on the defensive and will most likely escalate the problem. Put your energy into solving the problem and not blaming and criticizine a person.
During a crisis, try to keep a normal routine. This is hard to do but this has a stabilizing and calming effect on all of the members of the family.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. This is a key to working through any type of family crisis. If family members shut down and don’t talk to each other than nothing ever gets solved. Give each other your undivided attention. If your child/teen needs to talk about something, then let them talk. Convey to them that you are their for him/her no matter what.
Utilize any and all resources at your disposal to work through the crisis. This could be a pastor, a therapist, other family members, support groups, friends, or your community mental health center. Work through the problem, no matter what it is with your child. Children/teens need reassurance that they are safe and loved, no matter what has happened or what they did.

PostHeaderIcon Anger in Parent-Child Relationships

Anger, yelling, shouting, sarcasm, and profanity are not what was intended for the parent-child relationship. However, this is all too frequently occurring in our homes today. Consider this scenario for a moment. You ask your child to simply sit down and complete their homework. You have asked your child three times to sit down and complete their work nicely and then as a parent you lose it and start screaming your head off. Anger is now permeating the room. As a parent, you feel gratified because you now see your child sitting their completing their homework, however your child has internalized the whole experience and is tense and frustrated while completing their homework. Unfortunately, your child is most likely not completing their work to the best of their ability. The parent is usually so angry though that they do not feel guilty about what has happened until they have had a chance to calm down.
The effects of this scenario are the following:
1.) This type of parent-child interaction whether it occurs frequently or infrequently decreases or diminishes the parent-child bond.
2.) The parent has just modeled very poor problem-solving and coping skills to deal with situations that arise. Your child is learning that yelling and screaming and anger will bring about results.
3.) The child now does not want to ask their parent for help in the future because they are anticipating a similar scenario to the one that has just occurred. Anger or belittling comments will bring about avoidance on the part of the child to go to a parent and ask for help or assistance. The child now feels alone and isolated when they have problems and need “to talk” to their parents.
4.) Anger festers and builds and the parent slowly builds an angry child. Of course, the outcome was favorable in as much as you got the homework completed, however the long-term results are poor.
As parents, we need to find other means to get our children to do as they are told. Yelling, anger, and sarcasm are negative means with very negative outcomes. Children respond in a more positive manner when a behavioral management plan is used and consistent boundaries with consequences are given for their behaviors/actions.
As a parent, if you require assistance please consider parent/child counseling as a means to resolve the situation with your child. In addition, there are a number of wonderful books out on developing and maintaining a good relationship with your child/teen.

PostHeaderIcon How do kids develop social skills?

One of the greatest struggles that all of us experience in our life is how to get along and interact with those around us. For young people and teens, problems in this area leave them with deficits in functioning with others. What happens in this case is that children are unable to make themselves feel understood, feelings of hostility or anger, and a sense of unimportance. If children do not learn these social skills as children what they are left with as adults is the inability to function in their life and in their workplace. None of us lives in a box without having to relate and interact with those around us. Unfortunately, much of the decline in social skills stems from the decline of interaction between family members as a result of time children spend playing video games, listening to music, and watching television. These particular activities that children engage in does NOT require social interaction. If social skills are not practiced then they can not be adequately developed.
The skills necessary for effective social interaction between children are the following abilities: listening, cooperating, communicating, sharing, empathasizing, and negotiating. The very foundation of these skills is listening to one another. This means the ability to initiate and maintain a meaningful exchange of perceptions. In other words, we need to teach our children what others are saying from their point of view. What inhibits the development of these skills is a lack of respect for others perceptions and feelings.
The keys to success for developing interpersonal skills in children are the following:
1. Practice dialogue with them that is respectful and considers other’s feelings.
2. Teach children to become skillful in listening, empathizing, and negotiating/sharing with others.
3. Practice different social situations with them and practice over and over to make sure they are interacting with other children appropriately in different situations. Their efforts will be successful and unsuccessful but continue to encourage them.
The best practice by far to teach children appropriate and effective social skills is to have meaningful interactions and family time when they are at home after school. If their entire evening is spent in front of the television set or playing video games, these necessary skills will never become part of their everday life.