Q&A Thursday: How Can I Help My Child Prepare for Summer Camp?

As a Director of a summer camp, I have a lot of conversations with parents about their children going away for the first time.  I also see more than a few homesick tears come June and July.  We wanted to give you a few tips to help prevent—or at least provide comfort in the midst of them.

Many children who struggle with homesickness have never spent the night out.  As simple as it sounds, they need practice.  You will do your child and the camp a tremendous favor if your child has a gradual experience of staying away from home before they’re thrust into a high-energy/highly stimulating environment with dozens or even hundreds of other children.

  1. Start with a family member.  Have your child pick a grandparent or an aunt or uncle to stay with for the first time.  Have dinner with them in their home and then leave early enough before bedtime that they have another enjoyable activity to look forward to.  If you leave at bedtime, their tears may be more from tiredness than true homesickness. READ MORE
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I'm Worried My Child May Have An Eating Disorder...PART 2

We’re glad you joined us as we talk through eating disorders among kids today.  This is an issue we feel passionate about.  It is one of the most addictive struggles a child (or adult) can ever face and there is much you can do as a parent to help:

  1. What you model in your home in regard to food and body image is of the utmost importance.  We tell parents often that your issues are often going to show up in the life of your child.  If you struggle with your own body image or some type of eating disorder, get help—for your sake and theirs. 
  2. Don’t make food an issue around your home.  It is unhealthy to use food as a reward.  But it is also unhealthy to focus on the fact that you are eating healthy all of the time.  Eating disorders manifest themselves in a preoccupation with food and eating.  Don’t further this by being preoccupied by food as a family.  It is important to teach your child healthy eating, but not obsessive healthy eating... READ MORE
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I'm Worried My Child May Have An Eating Disorder...PART 1

 “I think the problem is that food and I just don’t get along.”

Her struggles with food started right around the age of 11.  As a young girl, she was petite.  She had the body of a little athlete…long legs, flat stomach and teeny muscles.  But, then, as it does in the life of every girl, puberty reared its hormonal head.  At 12, she felt like a different person.  She worried about what other people thought.  She felt insecure.  And, much to her dismay, she believed that she looked “round”.  Her stomach had taken on a new shape, her breasts, her bottom and even her legs were more curvy.  And she hated it.

At 15, she sat in our counseling offices and pointed back to the age of 12 as the onset of a struggle with food that continued to plague her.  “I used to hear all of the time how cute I was.  And then it just stopped.  No one said I was attractive…or little.  No one said anything.”  So, I thought, I must be fat... READ MORE

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How Can I Help My Child With Anxiety?

What do I do when she’s afraid and I can tell the thoughts have become looping? 

That she won’t go upstairs to take a shower if I’m not upstairs with her? 

That she won’t go to school for fear of throwing up? 

That she won’t spend the night at a friend’s house? 

If you were to bring your son or daughter to Daystar, these are a few of the places we’d start:

1) Make a worry list.  Here’s an example.  When he’s afraid, the blood in his brain is literally rushing to his amygdala, which controls a fight or flight response.  This also means its not circulating as well in his pre-frontal cortex, which enables executive functioning.  In other words, he is not thinking with the part of his brain that helps him organize his thoughts, differentiate between good and bad, think through consequences, set goals, and control his impulse.  He is thinking in survival mode.  His heart rate elevates.  His autonomic system is on alert.  Basically, he is not reasonable.  (You probably know this much better than we do.)  In order to help him reason, we need to help slow down his nervous system….to come down from a 10 to a 2 or even a 4.

With many of the kids I counsel, I’ll help them come up with a “Worry List”-a list of things they can do to help calm themselves down when they start to get anxious.  Basically, they’re coping skills.  Make one of these lists with your child.  Have them tell you what makes them feel better and more peaceful...

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Q&A Thursday: My son is struggling in school...

Question: My son is struggling in school.  He comes home in the afternoon and often says “I hate school.”   Is there anything I can do to help him?  

 Check out this great article on boys and school with 3 great ideas for helping boys in school.  

What Schools Can Do To Help Boys Succeed

If boys are restive and unfocused, we must look for ways to help them do better. Here are three suggestions...

Being a boy can be a serious liability in today’s classroom. As a group, boys are noisy, rowdy and hard to manage. Many are messy, disorganized and won’t sit still. Young male rambunctiousness, according to a recent study, leads teachers to underestimate their intellectual and academic abilities. “Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools,” says psychologist Michael Thompson. “Boys are treated like defective girls.”  READ MORE

 

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Q&A Thursday: When is my child’s “fear” really anxiety?

Anxiety is considered a childhood epidemic in America today.  We see the results of this in our counseling offices weekly.  In fact, daily, I see a child between the ages of 6 and 12 who is struggling with some type of anxiety:  fear of throwing up, separation anxiety, fear of failing or making any kind of a mistake.

So, when is fear really anxiety?  What’s the difference?  We would say when the fears become debilitating.  I talk with kids all of the time about how every one of us has fears.  But what happens most of the time is that we have a fearful thought and pass right by it.  For a child (or adult) who is struggling with anxiety, that thought becomes what we call “looping.”  It’s a little like the roller coaster that is only one loop and goes over and over and over.  And my experience is that these types of loops also follow typical developmental trends. 

Tamar Chansky, who has written our favorite book called Freeing Your Child from Anxiety, has said the following about normal childhood fears in different stages of your child’s life: READ MORE

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Q&A Thursday: How Do I Help My Child Who Is Grieving?

When I walked into the room, all three of them were sitting on one couch. Their expressions were varied. Two immediately spoke and introduced themselves. One was quiet. But all three were in the middle of a tremendous loss in their lives - their parents were getting divorced. These sisters were 12, 14 and 16, and were all handling their grief very differently.

As I started counseling them over the next few months, I realized just how different each of their griefs was, and how it was a powerful picture of where each sister was developmentally. The youngest, at 12, was devastated. She was quiet in her grief and didn't know quite yet how to put words to her feelings. She was afraid that her sadness would "make her mom more sad," so she bottled it up, with it growing inside of her in ways that made it hard to concentrate and enjoy the things she loved most.

The oldest sister who was now in high school was very angry with her father. She kept trying to understand why he made the choices he had and was worried and protective of her mom. She had tears in her eyes during our conversation, much like her younger sister, but her grief had enlarged in her awareness of the family around her. READ MORE

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Q&A Thursday: What is normal behavior for a toddler?

Toddlerhood is known to be a time of discovery and exploration.  We get a front seat to fascinating physical, cognitive, emotional and social growth.  While this season of development involves discovery and wonder, it can be full of challenges and hurdles.  Let’s look at a few developmental norms for this season in our kids’ lives.  

1  Toddlers are literal.  “Don’t kid me, Mom, I know they’re my feet.”  - a 3-year-old boy in response to his mother telling him his shoes were on the wrong feet.  In terms of their cognitive development, the world is very black and white.  They won’t have an ability to see the “grays” of life until way down the road.  They need our responses to them to be concrete and literal.  

2.  Toddlers are strong-willed.  There are some benefits to being strong-willed.  Having a strong temperament and being stubborn can actually help children in terms of maintaining focus, problem-solving, attacking difficult tasks, having courage in the face of challenges, create opportunities for leadership, and standing up to difficult peers.  READ MORE

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Technology Tuesday: When Should my Child be Allowed on Social Media?

We are asked constantly about what age is appropriate for my child to have this gadget or that.  We believe that what is most important is twofold:

1) the world your child lives in socially

2) the emotional age of your child.

Something we say constantly in parenting seminars is that you don’t want your child to be the first and you don’t want your child to be the last to______________.  Fill in the blank with anything, including owning gadgets and signing up for social media sites.  If your child is the first, they will often be perceived as faster or wilder or more on the cutting edge of things, which is not where you want your child to live.  If they are the last on every trendy gadget or privilege, they will often be the ones who rebel.  You can choose one or two things to hold out on, but kids often rise to the level of trust we place in them.  You want to gradually expose them to social media and let themselves prove they are responsible... READ MORE

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Q&A Thursday: How do I bond with my baby as a new dad?

Men who invest time in bonding with an infant will find it easier to maintain and enhance that feeling as your child grows and matures.  

Here are some ideas for bonding . . . 

1. Dads, can’t remember the last time you used your gym membership?  Consider using your new gift for strength training while experiencing the added benefit of bonding and connection. 

Try the Baby Bench Press, Tot Squats or Lullaby Lunges

2.  New dad bonding exercises:

Take a bath together.  Feel nervous about handling a slippery newborn in the sink with a hand held sprayer, baby shampoo, washcloth and baby tub?  Consider drawing a warm bath, place your newborn on your lap and use the time as a rich bonding experience. 

Play Kangaroo... READ MORE

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Q&A Thursday: HELP me stop repeating myself!!

Q: I feel like I have to repeat myself over and over again before I can get my child to DO what I am asking! There has to be a better solution! HELP!

A: Repetition Doesn’t Necessarily Engender Response...

One of the biggest complaints we hear from kids is that their parents repeat themselves…over and over and over...

“Clean your room.” 

“I told you to clean your room.”

“How many times do I have to tell you to clean your room?”

And one of the biggest complaints we hear from parents is that you have to repeat yourselves…over and over and over.  This scenario doesn’t seem to be working for anyone. READ MORE

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Q&A Thursday: Helping your child cope

Q: What are some ideas to help my child cope with anxiety?

A: The Don’t Worry, Be Happy List

As we talked about recently, way too many coping skills are available for our kids today…coping skills which inevitably hurt them and hurt us as we watch them struggle.  We had a group of 8th and 9th graders at Daystar who came up with a different list (named by them, as well)…a list of things they have found that help them when they’re anxious.  We thought you might enjoy reading (and even doing) some of the following.  Put it on your fridge.  Share it with your kids.  We believe you’ll be a little less worried and a little more grateful by the end. READ MORE

 

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Q&A Thursday: How do I teach my kids to self regulate their emotions?

QUESTION:

We recently attended your Intentional Parenting Conference. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned quite a bit!! Thank you for that! 

 We have 3 children (2 boys and a girl) and my youngest is by far the most challenging. One problem I have is, after I have thrown down the gauntlet, ex. "Go to your room", my son will refuse or fall to the floor and throw a fit.

        Do I pick him up, arms and legs flying and put him in his room? If after I put him there, do I stand at the door and hold it closed?

ANSWER:

I am certain that there are dozens of people reading this question, shaking their head in agreement and saying some version of “YES!  That happens to me too.”  It’s a great question, and we will inevitably find ourselves in a power struggle with a child who won’t follow through with a consequence we’ve delivered.   A helpful question to ask yourself is “can I enforce that?”  We are advocates of only giving kids consequences we can easily enforce.  For example, rather than saying “you were disrespectful, hand me your cell phone.”   Only to have a child hold it behind their back and say “you can’t take that from me, I bought with my birthday money.”   Your options at this point are to restate the consequence ten more times or start reaching for it behind their back - neither are good choices.  

 A better option would be to say “you were disrespectful and I’m going to log on to AT & T in a few minutes and shut your phone down. READ MORE

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Q&A Thursday: Has Cutting Become Trendy With Kids Today?

“I don’t even know why I did it.  I’m sad some.  And I definitely get mad at myself.  But it’s just that I’ve heard lots of people talking about it at school.  It’s like it’s almost cool to be sad.  Why in the world would cutting be trendy?”

These words were actually spoken by a teenage girl to one of our counselors at Daystar recently.  And, the sad truth of the matter, it has.  Probably close to twelve years ago, I heard my first instance of a teenager cutting.  She was severely depressed and had been using a razor to cut marks on the tops of her legs. READ MORE

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Q&A: The Birds and the Bees Talk

Q and A:  We are often asked by parents . . . when should I have the Birds & Bees conversation with my kids?  Here are some thoughts to consider and some resources to check out. 

How to Talk to your Kids about Sex

When my (David) daughter was six and her twin brothers were four, I took them to the hospital to see a friend’s new baby. On the drive, I retold all three of my children the stories of their own births. I should have predicted what I was getting myself into. 

From the back of the car, my little girl asked, “How did the doctor get me out of Mommy’s tummy?” I responded with, “Well, that’s a great question.” (What I was actually thinking was, Where is your mom right now? I had no intention of educating our children on the nature of labor and delivery by myself)...READ MORE

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Q&A: Should I Tell My Children About My Past Mistakes?

How much should I tell my children about the mistakes I made when I was growing up?

It is our experience that children (teens particularly) often use your mistakes as license rather than example.  We have heard many kids over the years say things like, "Well, my dad did drugs when he was younger and he's fine now."  Or "My mom had sex before she got married and she and my dad are happy."  We are advocates of telling them you've made mistakes...helps them to not feel pressure to be perfect, but not necessarily being specific... READ MORE

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Q&A Should I apologize to my children?

Every week we want to address a question that you might have about raising your boys and girls. Feel free to leave questions in the comments for us to pick from every week! Let's get started!

Is it important that I apologize to my children?

We would ask you the same question, another way?  Would you have wanted your parents to apologize to you.  In our parenting seminars, we talk about how we live in a culture where we teach children to succeed but not to fail.  This is a tragic omission because we know and they do, as well, or will soon--that we all fail.  As they move toward adolescents, they become even more keenly aware of your failures.  (They're actually even more aware of theirs, but they'd rather focus on yours so they don't have to feel bad about themselves).  In light of that, we would say a resounding yes... READ MORE

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