Thursday, September 6, 2012

Raising Emotionally Healthy Children

We all know our children have basic physical needs. They also have basic emotional needs. Dr. Newmark has written a book that identifies 5 essential and basic emotional needs. Here is a little bit of info about he and his wife's mission and book.
Raising Emotionally Healthy Children Free Downloads
Raising Emotionally Healthy Children Power Point Overview

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Early Childhood Essentials


Researchers have found that we can have a significant impact on a child's brain development by providing them certain experiences when they are young. These experiences help their brain grow and develop.

Here are 6 SIMPLE, but SUPER IMPORTANT things that will make a difference in the future of your child's  lives. 
(Try not to over do all these things or beat yourself up over what you haven't done, just do the best you can, and know that kids are resilient and you can still have a tremendous effect on their development.)

Talking is extremely important for brain development. Talk to your kids all throughout the day. Ask them questions, acknowledge their responses and respond back. Describe things you see and do through out the day. Talk to them about things they seem interested about. Talk about things that remind them of something else they have seen or done before. Dianne McGuiness, PhD, states that "A child is learning essentially nothing when we are talking to others, or older children". Young children learn from the one on one, back and forth conversation with someone. 
Tips for Talking
Babies- Talk lots! Talk in your baby talk voice. This is called parentese. ( Example-"Oh sweeeet baaaaby!" Parentese is the slow, high/low, dramatic voice that adults all of the world tend to use with babies. Parentese actually helps puts emphasis on important sounds in the language and babies love it!  Let them see your mouth when you are talking to them when possible. Make eye contact when you can. Let them respond to your questions with noises and coo's and then respond back to their sounds, like you are having a conversation. Talk to them about the things they are paying attention to.
Toddlers- Continue to talk! You will sound kind of like a sports caster. Describe things and situations, label objects,  feelings, and what you, they and others are doing through out the day. Ask questions. Let them respond. Respond back to their response. Talk about things that they are interested in at any given moment. If they are really paying attention and interested in something, that is the best topic to discuss, describe, and talk about. They are soaking in a lot more vocabulary than you think!
Preschoolers- Keep talking! Have conversations about things they seem interested in. Try not to dominate the topic, but let them take the lead sometimes. Extend their vocabulary just a little bit at a time. There is no need to make all your conversations a teaching exercise or worry about trying to correct their grammar. Just say it the correct way when you respond back. They'll get it in time.

Touch is a human need. Give your child hugs, cuddles, kisses, massages, high fives, etc. This kind of touch helps a child feel secure, builds self-esteem, and is important for developing a bond and attachment between two people. Touch also helps the emotional part of the brain develop. When a person is touched, the receptors on their skin send signals to their brain, which form new connections between the brain cells. If the emotional part of the brain does not develop properly, it can have many damaging effects on brain growth and development. Touch helps a person feel like they are a needed and wanted organism. Bruce Perry, MD, PhD and a leading expert in childhood trauma states that touch is "as critical a nutrient as a vitamin". Touch is crucial for a child's brain to grow and develop to it's full potential.

Responding to needs
Responding to young children in a consistent way builds trust. When a child feels secure, and can trust that their needs are going to be responded to and they are safe, it builds the limbic system. The limbic system is the emotional part of the brain, which helps in learning, motivation, memory, emotions and helps them develop healthy emotional relationships, trust, affection, and intimacy. Most experts and studies agree that you can't spoil a young baby by responding to them when they need attention(cry). This consistent response helps them build trust in YOU and trust in the world around them. It is a crucial and important part of their development. 

Responding to feelings
Children need us to acknowledge their feelings (identify what they are feeling), and support them and teach them healthy ways to calm down and deal with negative/uncomfortable feelings. Learning to cope with feelings and problem solving is a skill, just like math and reading and takes lots of practice, teaching, and modeling.  Their emotional health is a critical part or their health and well-being. 

Help create a predictable schedule
*Regular meal/snack times- healthy food options
 *Respect nap times and bedtimes most of the time 
(Rest allows a child's brain to unwind and store the information it has been taking in. Without rest a child's brain is more stressed and prevents optimal brain functioning)
*Daily play time-play is their work and is how they learn
*Daily physical activity
(Get outside and let them play-this helps reduce stress for them and is great exercise)
*Daily dose of TLC and attention
(Kids need attention and if they can't get it in a positive way, you can count on them acting out to get it in a negative way.)
Responding to limit testing:
As children get a little older, not only do we respond to needs, but also have to balance out wants. Many times we have to set limits on what they want. When they test limits and disobey, most experts encourage caregivers to follow through with logical consequences in a matter of fact way (with out a lot of drama, yelling, lecturing, etc). This allows the consequence to do the teaching and the kids learn from their own experience. As parents and caregivers, we obviously all have our moments and lose our cool, and don't always respond consistently and calmly. We're human! The great news is we don't have to be perfect parents to raise healthy, happy kids. Admit it, apologize, forgive yourself, and try to do better. Keep working at it. Practice makes better.

Reading to children helps them learn about language, about the reading process, and builds their vocabulary and comprehension. Remember, the best reading session is one you both enjoy. Don't stress it if they don't read for long, or if you don't make it through the entire book. Keep it fun. When kids are young it is SO important that the associate reading with enjoyment. Snuggle, use a fun voice, and ask them questions to keep them interested. (What's that? I wonder what will happen next...This reminds me of...Why do you think...?)

 Play is important because it is the main way that young children learn about themselves and the world around them. Allowing open-ended, free play is great for kids. In this type of play we follow their lead and allow them to guide the play. We get down on their level, and let them pick and guide the activity. We just play along, and withhold teaching, advice and suggestions. This type of play helps them feel powerful, allows them to try out different roles, work through feelings, and develop an imagination and creativity. Playing with open ended materials is a great way to get them to use their creativity. Creativity will help them become good problem solvers in the future, so encouraging this type of play is great for them. 
Another type of play is adult led play. In this type of play the adult sets the rules and guides the play more. In adult led play, the child will learn skills like how to follow rules and instructions, and can develop strategies, teamwork, and good sportsmanship. (sports, games, coloring books). This can be a lot of fun too.
Scheduling regular 1 on 1 time with a child can be very beneficial. This play time is an opportunity to connect and strengthen our relationship with them. It is also a great way we can help their brain grow and develop. Even 15 minutes of uninterrupted, quality time a day with a child has great benefits and has been shown to decrease problem, attention seeking behaviors in kids. Singing, reading, and rhyming are also great ways to add play into the day. These activities are great for language development.
Set limits on tv play time. Playing with real objects and with real people and learning about things in real life is way more effective than learning about something through tv.

Take care of yourself
 If you are a primary care giver, PLEASE take care of your needs too! If you are not meeting your own needs, the child's needs are going to be neglected as well. You simply can't help fill up someone else's tank, when you are running on empty yourself.  Studies have shown that a child's stress level is greatly impacted by the parents stress level. Give yourself some TLC when you need it! Your kids will benefit from it and so will you!

Helpful Links

Bright from the Start by Jill Stamm
Growing a Reader by Diane McGuiness
Growing Up Again by Jean Illsey Clarke
Dealing With Disappointment by Elizabeth Crary

Embrace your child's temperament

We are all born with a certain temperament. Our temperament is our nature or disposition-the way we naturally tend to act and do things due to our genetic make up. Just like a cookie has unique ingredients that give it it's flavor, our unique temperament and personality ingredients make us who we are and influence how we think, feel, react, and behave.

There are some parts of our temperament that can not be removed or changed because they stem from our biological make up. Although we can't change some of these characteristics, we can certainly learn to accept and understand these traits and influence and guide development in positive ways.

Understanding our child's temperament and our own temperament can help us accept our child for who they are, and give us insights on challenging behaviors and conflicts. Most importantly though, understanding temperament can help us create healthier, more realistic expectations for our child and allow us to create an environment where both parent and child can learn, grow, and develop as unique individuals.

Temperament traits are not good or bad, they all have advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation, but some combinations of traits are more difficult to handle than others.
Researchers(Thomas, Chess, and Birch) studied and identified 9 traits. Take the quiz below and learn more about what temperament traits you and your child have.

Read the questions below and see what you and your child’s temperament traits reveal.
Use a scale 1-5. (1-Low/Mild…3-Medium/Moderate…5-High/Extreme)

1. Energy and Activity Level: How active is your child? Are they pretty mellow most of the time or are they bouncing off the walls with energy most of the time? Most kids are somewhere in between.
•           You____________________________________
•           Your child_______________________________
2. Regularity: Does your child settle into schedules and routines quickly? Do they have pretty regular patterns in their eating, sleeping, toileting, and other habits?
•           You____________________________________
•           Your child_______________________________
3. Adaptability: Does your child adjust easily to transitions in the day or new situations and environments? Do these changes cause them a lot of stress? Does your child hesitate to join into new situations or do they join more gradually? How do they respond to new people? Do they tend to withdraw and avoid new situations or dive right in?
•           You____________________________________
•           Your child_______________________________
4. Intensity: Does your child react in mild and quiet ways when they are excited or upset? Or are they pretty intense?
•           You____________________________________
•           Your child_______________________________
5. Persistence/attention span/frustration tolerance: How long does your child stick to a task?  A long time or short time? How long do they resist limits? Do they get frustrated easily?  The great thing about persistent kids is they can persevere and stick to a task when it is tough. The negative side is they can be pretty stubborn to rules and authority.
•           You____________________________________
•           Your child_______________________________
6. Distractibility/Soothability: Can your child stay focused on tasks for long periods of time or do they get distracted easily? Do they complete tasks or do they jump from one uncompleted task to the next? Can they be soothed easily when they are upset?
•           You____________________________________
•           Your child_______________________________
 7. Sensitivity: Is your child affected a lot by sensory stuff? Are they particular about smells, tasters, temperature, textures, sounds, lights, etc.?
•           You____________________________________
•           Your child_______________________________
8. Mood: Is your child happy and cheerful most of the time or are they often irritable and upset?
•           You____________________________________
•           Your child_______________________________
9. Approach/Withdrawal: Does your child approach new people, food, or situations with curiosity and excitement or do they usually resist most new things.
•           You______________________________________
•           Your child_________________________________

Hopefully this information will help you begin to accept and embrace your child’s temperament, rather than kicking against it. By doing this, we can help them develop an accurate view of themselves with a focus on their strengths, and an awareness of their tendencies and weaknesses. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dealing With Different Temperaments

Dealing with Different Temperaments!
Now that you have an idea of your child’s temperament, it can be extremely helpful to use that information to help you as you deal with challenging behaviors.
Think about their temperament traits and see what ideas you can come up with that might help you to deal with behaviors that challenge you. I will give you some examples, but since every kid is different, and parents value different things, YOU are going to be the one that can come up with the ideas that will be best for your unique situation.

High Energy
Channel energy into appropriate, fun activities
Child proof the house
Set clear, consistent limits
Provide nutritious snacks to refuel, they tend to snack more than eat big meals
Don’t expect them to sit too long at mealtime
Provide rest periods in the day (even if not sleeping)
Make sure they get plenty of sleep at night
Try to create a calm (not rowdy) atmosphere after dinner, so they can calm down
Notice the signs when their intensity is rising
Try to sooth or distract to decrease intensity
Provide them a place to “cool down” if they need to
Teach them what is okay and not okay to do with their intense emotions
Try to keep your voice and manner calm, if you’re intensity increases, so will theirs
Introduce them to new things several times- repetition
Break new things into manageable parts- segmenting
Allow them time to observe before they join in
Give them a heads up about changes before hand
Provide time for transitions during the day
Set clear, consistent limits
Offer choices to share control
Provide routines, especially at bed time
Provide rest periods during the day
Teach them how to share control with other kids
Provide reassurance when you are leaving, that you will return
If they test limits, follow through with a logical consequence
Break big jobs into smaller jobs
Give encouragement when they complete the smaller tasks of a big job

Some of these ideas for dealing with different temperaments were gathered from the book "Understanding Temperament" by Lyndall Shick.

More Tips on Temperament
INSIGHTS Temperament Program Goals