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3 Ways To Help Your Child With Anxiety & Stress

Posted on Nov 14, 2017 3:30:00 PM by Laurel Robinson

According the the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 40 million adults in America suffer with a form of anxiety. Children are not immune to anxiety, although they may have a hard time labeling what they are feeling.  

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Is your child stressed out or anxious? Do they dread going to certain places? Do they procrastinate, or have nervous habits, or get stomachaches?  Do they resist activities by acting up? Do they focus only on the negative and what might go wrong? These are all signs of anxiety.

How can we as parents help our children through this?

First, be compassionate. If you have ever felt nervous about something you can identify with what your child is feeling.  Even though our kids’ anxiety sometimes comes up in the most inconvenient ways (nausea, avoidance behavior, last minute crises), we need to take a step back and remember that parents are the protectors of children. We also, in a sense, represent the Lord to our kids.  We are their first mentors and disciplers. So, even if we are worried about getting to work late, having a mess on our hands, or embarrassment, we also need to consider the experience that our child is having in this moment. We must pray for wisdom: does this child need “tough love” right now to push through -- or a timeout and a listening ear?  Most likely they need our reassurance, but we should not dismiss their fears.  It can be a tricky balance.

Second, empower the child.  Anxiety is not alway as simple as “mind over matter,” but sometimes mental tools and strategies can be helpful. Encourage your child to do their best and focus on the positives.  Remind them that you will be here for them no matter what. If they are worried about their performance, walk them through what “doing your best” will look like.  For example, there is only one winner in a race, but the rest of the runners are still successful and accomplished if they have trained, practice, and persevered. They have overcome their own obstacles and perhaps beaten their own records. This is worth celebrating!  While you are giving your child this pep talk, check your own motives. Have you been pressuring your child to perform, compete, dominate?  If so, pray and surrender your child’s future to the Lord once again.

If you have techniques that help you when you are anxious, share them with your child.  Simple things like taking a deep breath, repeating a calming phrase or verse, or distracting yourself from obsessive thoughts can be helpful.  They may sound simple, but they are not necessarily things that a child would come up with on their own.  Practice them together until they can do them independently.

Third, talk to their teachers. Explain the strategies you are using, so that your teacher can reinforce them and possibly report back to you any progress or problems. This can create a positive cycle of improvement, or at least provide you with more information that you can use as you go to the next step.

If these changes in approach do not seem to bring any results, you might consider therapy. Child therapists, using play therapy or therapy animals, can get your child to reveal the troubling thoughts they haven’t mentioned to you.  Sometimes it is surprising, such as a bad dream they didn’t even want to revisit, or an experience that they didn’t want to relive. Once they speak about it, the therapist and parents can address the issue.  

Therapists can also help you identify when your child may need some further help such as medicine.  Some forms of anxiety are more deep-seated and beyond the realm of behavioral therapy.  Naturopaths might help you consider helpful modifications to your child’s diet, or ways your child get better sleep.

When you see signs of stress and anxiety in your child, do not ignore it, hoping it will go away.  Talk to other adults in their life to see what may be causing it, and be your child’s closest advocate. Having the support of family goes a long way toward healing.

 

For more helpful information see:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/renee-jain/9-things-every-parent-with-an-anxious-child-should-try_b_5651006.html

https://adaa.org/tips-manage-anxiety-and-stress

6 Ways To Help Your Child Stay In Touch With Friends Over the Summer

Posted on Aug 1, 2017 2:26:31 PM by Laurel Robinson

Now that the kids have had a few weeks to relax and enjoy “doing nothing,” parents might be feeling like it is time to be proactive about finding ways for kids to see their friends over the summer break. 

 6 Ways To Help Your Child Stay In Touch With Friends Over the Summer

There are a variety of reasons to work on this goal:

  • A desire for our kids to maintain relationships that started in school but have not continued into the summer due to schedule conflicts or geographical challenges.
  • A desire for our kids to make NEW friends in addition to the kids they were with every day at school.
  • A desire to keep our kids from getting swallowed up in screens for several hours a day.  

On that last point, most kids will vigorously make the case that  spending time with friends is NOT mutually exclusive with looking at screens. This is true: there is video chatting, texting, online hangouts, and of course, getting together and playing video games.  We may not be able to convince kids that there is more to life than facing a screen, so we will have to help them discover it themselves!  As adults, we know that some of the most valuable times with friends are face to face, and that when we go through a little bit of “boredom,” we can end up being very creative and having a lot of fun!.


The first step is reaching out. Social media is helpful for getting in touch with people.  If you can’t find them online, call a mutual friend to make the connection.  Most parents would be happy to receive an invitation for their child to come and hang out for the day.  It can take a few tries to make contact, and a few tries to find a time that works for everyone, but press on!  If you have never met the parents before, you might want to invite the whole family to meet your family at a local ice cream or snowball stand, so you can all be more comfortable getting in touch (and swapping kids) in the future.

 

Some ideas for ways that kids can spend time with their friends:

Host a party.  Let your kids plan it!  It doesn’t have to be a special occasion, or an expensive event.  Rather than do a lot of cooking, you can host a potluck meal, or an ice cream social, or have an evening party with a bonfire (and s’mores, of course) or glow sticks and popsicles. For older kids, there are “murder mystery” party kits, and you can also find online a kit for hosting your own “escape room” party.


Lawn games.  Water balloons, corn hole, badminton, and croquet are all fairly easy to obtain. Most of them can be played with just two people who would otherwise be hanging around bored. Don’t forget Nerf gun battles!


Board games.  There is an abundance of (sneakily educational) board games available. If you don’t have any, chances are your kids’ friends will!  If you want to buy some but don’t know where to start, check out some mom bloggers’ reviews of board games. Homeschooling blogs may also have some good suggestions. These personal reviews are often helpful because as you read the reviews, you will get a feel for whether it’s your kid’s style of game or not.  If you don’t have board games on hand, get creative: pull out a jigsaw puzzle, or take three easy ones and mix them together to provide a challenge.


Dance party.  Get a few tweens together -- especially girls -- and play some of their favorite songs from your favorite music streaming service, and it will soon turn into a singalong.  Add a twist by playing “freeze dance”-- everyone dances while the music plays, but  freezes when the music stops (at random intervals). Depending on the group, they may soon be playing one song over and over so they can choreograph their own moves to it.


Share a good deal.  Check Groupon, LivingSocial, Certifikid and similar sites for great deals on camps, trampoline parks, plays, or local fairs.  Invite a friend to join your child on one of these. Vacation Bible school or other church-sponsored camps are another great opportunity to invite friends to join your child in some fun.


Make a video.  Rather than simply consuming media, let your kids experience the work and play that goes into creating it!  If your kid and his or her friends are so inclined, give them a camera and let them make videos, just for fun.  From stop-motion videos to tutorials, almost any interest could become inspiration for a video. If you have software and the kids have the interest, the video could even get edited and shared (with your approval, of course).

Don’t let the summer slide by.  Make a phone call or two today, and get some “play dates” on the calendar!

8 Creative Ways To Keep Your Kids Active Over the Summer

Posted on Jun 27, 2017 11:10:08 AM by Laurel Robinson

How can we keep our kids active over the summer? It’s great to celebrate the end of a school year and let the kids’ brains have a little change of pace, but most parents don’t want their kids to start up a new pattern that involves a lot of sitting in front of a screen.  How can we encourage them to get some physical activity over the summer months without hearing the words “I’m bored?”

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There are the traditional options--bike riding, roller skating, swimming, games that involve running, and passing a ball or hitting a tennis ball against a wall. However, here are some other ideas that might help you stretch into new territory:

Plant a garden.  Your children may take interest and ownership in a few flowers or vegetable seeds planted in their own designated spot.  In addition to watching the growth over the weeks, your young gardeners may find themselves enjoying outdoor time weeding plants, arranging rocks or twigs decoratively, watering, or even composting!


Paint or build.  If you have the space, set your kids free with some paint and let them “decorate” the back of the shed,  large rocks, or some other area on your property. You can also work together with some scrap materials to build something that they have designed. It doesn’t have to be perfect; the process of thinking and creating will strengthen important areas of their brain!


Walk the dog(s).  If you have a dog you may already have your child walk it. However, if your neighbors or friends have dogs your child may be interested in getting some experience with them. This could even lead to a paying job in the future!


Host a neighborhood event. Whatever your child is already interested in, is there a way to turn it into a social event or a fun contest?  Chalk drawings, scooter races, water balloon fights, art shows, or even a litter pick-up -- the possibilities vary widely based on your neighborhood and your family.


Hit the trails.  There are many great hiking trails, some only half a mile and others longer.  Some trails have sights such as a waterfall or old buildings to reward the diligent.  (Here is a list of scenic hikes in Maryland. In the sidebar, current local events8 Ways to Keep Kids Active Over Summer 2.png are listed.) Kids are great at finding “treasures” along the way.  My daughter found a horseshoe and an empty turtle shell one year and they are still treasures in her bedroom. Check the weather ahead of time, pack some snacks, and plan a hike on a day that is going to be pleasant so the kids will want to do it again!  (Remember to check for ticks afterward!)  


Parks and libraries.  There are also several parks which have playgrounds, fields for ball practice, batting cages, paved paths for biking, and perhaps good Pokemon scouting! Check the event listings of parks as well at your local library for activities.


Go Fishing. Liberty Reservoir and Piney Run Park are just two locations where Maryland residents can go fishing. There are smaller ponds in local areas, as well. Be sure to get a fishing license.  It will last a year!


TV trainer. If it’s not a good day to go somewhere, keep an exercise  DVD on hand.  There are plenty at the library (and online) which are geared specifically for kids.  Pilates, yoga, dance - one of these should get your kids moving!  One of my not-so-active kids enjoys learning dance routines from videos on YouTube.


As parents, we can model being active -- not to mention a willingness to  “try new things.” Even if you only do some of these things once and decide they are not for you, you can be proud of yourselves for trying something new -- and it may lead to a new friend, or idea, or a funny story to tell.  


Happy Summer!

Punishment vs. Discipline

Posted on May 23, 2017 12:46:33 PM by Laurel Robinson

What is discipline? What is punishment?  As we parent our children, these terms can overlap and get blended together, but more important is how we live them out.

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The Meaning of Discipline

In Ephesians 6, the Apostle Paul tells children to obey their parents, “for this is right.” He reminds children that it is a commandment, not a suggestion -- and one with a promise: that it may go well with you, and you will live long in the land. In many places in the Bible the Lord tells parents to discipline their children so that they may learn to live well.  

Parents should heed the verse that follows, as well: “fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Parents are told to keep our kids in line, and it is our job to train them up in the way they should go. However, we should never boss, bully, berate, or belittle our children. We must be careful not to let our selfish desires distract us from the goal:  we are to be teaching what will ultimately manifest as self-discipline in their lives.


The Mandate of Discipline

We have a moral obligation to train our kids in good character.  Along the way we have to make them do things they don’t want to do.  This is discipline. Even if they don’t like it at first we must remain strong in enforcing standards that the Lord commands -- or simply rules that society (or safety) mandates.  

It doesn’t always come easy; we have to train them to control their tempers, their tongues, and their appetites -- things that we all continue to battle even into adulthood. Parents have to be creative in finding what motivates each child to obey. For some children a stern word will suffice. For others, a stronger deterrent is necessary.  One important (and difficult) key is consistency of rules.

When my kids were little I had to strap them into their car seats every time we got into the car.  There was no negotiating, and I did not question whether I should do it.  Because of this consistency the kids knew to expect it, and there was little balking at it. However, there were other issues I was inconsistent with enforcing. Sometimes I made them clean up all their toys when they were done playing; other times I forgot. Kids will pick up on the inconsistency and they will challenge rules that are only enforced some of the time. It’s important for parents to think through which rules and standards they really need to enforce and make a plan for doing so. Of course there is room for adjustment and reconsideration, but if the rules keep changing inexplicably no one will be happy.


The Problem of Punishment

If we were to ask a child, he/she may say that “punishment is when parents don’t like what the kids did, and they inflict pain or take away privileges.” The problem with this is his/her perception.  Try to be sure that your kids know that discipline is more than just punishment, but that it’s for the sake of their character and their future.  We discipline because we love. As the Bible says, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11) Shortly before that, the author of Hebrews points out that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves.

Ultimately, parents will have to know their own motives and remain in constant prayer. Sometimes a parent will need to admit that she lost her temper or served up too much “consequence” for a particular infraction. Though this is a humbling experience, it is also a powerful lesson for our kids when we model apologizing and experience reconciliation in our relationship. If you feel that you have been too harsh, do not hesitate to humbly apologize. It will not detract from your role as the person who must train up your child; in fact, it will teach your child something very powerful about how to live.


The Role of Love languages

You might also take your child’s love language into consideration when deciding on discipline.  For example, if a child’s love language is physical touch, then she will be very sensitive to any corporal punishment or withholding of physical affection. A child who thrives on words of affirmation may wither under a verbal scolding.  What is mildly effective for one child could be devastating for another. Discerning parents who know their children well can modify discipline strategies accordingly. (For more information on love languages, and to take a free online quiz to assess your child’s primary love languages, see http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/)