Archive for October, 2009

PostHeaderIcon Signs a child has been sexually abused

As parents and caregivers we often are uncertain of what to look for when a child has been sexually abused.  The thought or possibility that our child has been abused in any way is a parent’s biggest fear and often times a parent does not want to believe anything has occurred and overlooks the signs.  Some behaviors that children exhibit may signal sexual abuse, however they also might just be a child having seen an adult movie or something they watched on television that has adult content.  Try to remain calm but also look for the following signs that your child has been abused.  These are some indicators, however it does not mean for sure that your child has been abused and a pediatrician or a mental health professional should be contacted in order to make an evaluation.  Always better to err on the side of caution and be sure that your child is alright:

The signs of sexual abuse are the following:

Unusual discharge from the vagina or penis.  Somtimes in kids this is a reaction to a change in laundry soap or their soap, however a pedicatrician should be contacted to be sure.

When your child is repeatedly touching themselves, whether this is at home in their bedroom or bathroom or when they are out in public.  This does not mean when they casually touch themselves, all children will do this, I mean when they are compulsively touching themselves and they appear very anxious when they are doing so.

Stimulating themselves or having contact sexually with pets.

Repeatedly and compulsively drawing pictures of genitalia.

Playing with their feces.  Children, especially preschoolers and very young children find this fascinating, however beyond this age it is not a fascination.  It usually signals anger or having went though a traumatic event. 

Engaging in oral sex, fondling, or sexual contact with another child.  Sexual contact with a child much older or much younger is usually a sign for alarm, however when children “play doctor” or engage in “you show me mine and I will show me yours” is not usually a sign of sexual abuse.  Most children are curious and will engage in trying to “play doctor” at some point.  Stop this behavior and look carefully for any signs of abuse that may have occurred. 

Lastly, when a child has significant anxiety around certain people they encounter or places that they have to go.  Their fears or their anxieties should be discussed with them to try and ascertain exactly what is wrong.  Don’t ask over and over repeatedly, this will cause them even more anxiety. 

What should be done by a parent that is uncertain as to whether or not their child has been abused is to err on the side of caution.  If you are just not sure that your child has been abused and you can not get a straight answer from your child, then ask your child’s pediatrician for an evaluation.  If abuse is involved, contact a mental health professional for individual and family counseling immediately.

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 them 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 in 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 is slowly building 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.

PostHeaderIcon How to teach kids self-control

Self-control truly is a basic lesson that needs to be learned early in life.  Children must understand early that they are the ones that have control over the quality of their life and they have a choice over whether they have privileges or if they have consequences for their behaviors/actions.  If a child chooses to do what they are told then they receive privileges or get to do what they want and if they decide to not do what they are told, then their should be consequences for this.  Parents must set limits and boundaries and then stick to the consequences of their children’s choices, whether good or bad on a consistent basis. 

The basic formula to teach self-control is to give children freedom, allow them to make choices whether it is good or bad, and then deal with the consequences of their actions depending on what choices they have made.  When a child has done something good and they have listened, then praise them for it.  When they have not, then we dole out consequences.  Parents should give privileges when they have been earned and let their children know that they are receiving privileges as a result of having made good choices, no matter what the age of your child.  When a child has made poor choices, parents should empathize with what they have lost (ie.. consequences), however they should not say, “I told you so” or “I told you this would happen.”  Rubbing it in will not help matters.  Make statements such as, “That’s sad that you can’t go out with your friends” or “I feel for you that you don’t get an allowance this week, now you can’t buy that CD.” 

The goal as parents is to not control our children, but to make them do what you want them to do.  Parents need to give them the choices of what to do and make it painful for them when they make the wrong choices so they won’t want to do them again.  When we balance children’s freedoms, their choices, and hand out consequences, this is how we can teach children to control themselves accordingly.

PostHeaderIcon Common Symptoms of Childhood Schizophrenia

The symptoms of childhood schizophrenia are very similar to those of adults, however in children the symptoms become apparent to adults very gradually until the child has their first psychotic episode.  The earliest signs of this debilitating disorder for children/adolescents are when the child becomes socially withdrawn, exhibits disruptive behaviors, speech or language problems, learning difficulties at school, and other delays in their development.  Children often experience hallucinatiosn that include their hearing voices, seeing images, smelling odors that are not there.  Some other common symptoms that parents should look for are:

Impaired speech, difficulty paying attention, inability to make decisions on their behalf, a flat facial expression or a lack of any type of emotion, hearing voices, believing in make believe way beyond when it is age-appropriate, and poor social or interpersonal skills.  Also, children with Schizophrenia begin to not take care of themselves, have disorganized thinking, and often seem depressed for no apparent reason. 

If a parent is concerned about their child that they are having difficulty functioning at school, at home, with their friends, or in their ability to care for themselves, they should contact their pediatrician.  The child’s pediatrician will most likely refer out to a psychiatrist for a psychiatric evaluation to determine a course of treatment.  Childhood Schizophrenia is very difficult to diagnose for a variety of reasons, but most importantly is because it is rare.  In addition, many other disorders and childhood behavioral problems overlap with many of the symptoms of Schizophrenia. 

Treatment of Childhood Schizophrenia usually includes anti-psychotic medication/s as the core or foundation for the treatment.  Family and/or individual counseling is also recommended in order to understand the disorder and also to cope with symptoms and behaviors that are associated with the disorder.  The symptoms of Schizophrenia are  absolutely manageable with the correct treatment and treatment usually includes medications, social, and psychological treatments.