Monday, September 24, 2012

15 Minutes A Day

When I watch TV, I always see exercise DVDs or cooking shows advertising the wonderful things you can do in 15 minutes. I wish someone would create a segment about the wonderful things you can do for your child and family in 15 minutes!

The benefits of giving your child, each one if you have multiple, undivided attention for at least 15 minutes a day:
1.) you reconnect with them
2.) they get the opportunity to reconnect with you
3.) opens up communication
4.) creates a feeling of value and importance in the child
5.) increases their feeling of self-worth
6.) can stimulate growth in the parts of their brain that work on building lasting relationships
7.) gives you insight into your child

Surely, if we can spend 30-45 minutes getting ready in the morning and another 30 checking Facebook/Twitter in the evening, I can find 15 minutes to be with my child.

There is a catch though. These 15 minutes have to be uninterrupted. No phone calls, no other siblings, no focusing on what you are cooking for dinner. It is all about the child. This might sound easy, but think about your typical day and how often you give something or someone your entire attention for 15 probably doesn't happen that often. That is our culture. We multitask. Successful parents do not multitask their children.

Ideas on how to spend those 15 minutes:
For toddlers and pre-school, play. Yes, it is that simple. Get down on their level, turn your phone off, and get messy. You could teach them one of your favorite games growing up or engage in one of theirs.
For school age, tweens, and teens, let them guide you in what would be fun for them. Maybe it is a Sonic run for slushies just the two of you. Maybe it is sitting on their bed talking about their day. Let them be the leader, but you be the initiator.

Another catch (yes, there is another) is that this time can not turn into teaching, disciplining, or correcting time. If it does then the 15 minutes does not count. These 15 minutes are relationship building, connecting, and "bucket filling" minutes.

Try it out and see if you notice a difference.  I am willing to bet that you will see your child differently and will have fewer negative interactions with them throughout the day.

"Connection before correction."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Crucial Cs

This is material that I learned in a training from KC Play Therapy Institute. It is adapted from Terry Kottman, Ph. D., RPT-S, NCC, LMHC

I give this handout to almost every parent and teacher I work with. I find it is often a "game changer" for how they work with a child.

In order to SURVIVE and FLOURISH, children must master each of the Crucial Cs.

COURAGE - children need courage - the willingness to face life's tasks and take risks even when they do not know if they can succeed. Children with courage feel hopeful. They are willing to take risks and believe they can handle challenging situations. They are resilient.

Children who do not have courage feel inferior to others and inadequate. They do not take risks and tend to give up without trying. They frequently avoid challenges.

CONNECT - children need to connect with others. Those who do connect with others, feel secure, are able to cooperate, and can reach out and make friends. They believe they belong.

Children who do not have the skills necessary to connect will feel isolated and insecure. They make seek attention (usually negative, self-distructive ways) in order to feel that they have a place in the group or family.

CAPABLE - children need to feel that they are are competent and capable of caring for themselves. Those who do feel capable, have a sense of competence, self-control, and self-discipline. They are self-reliant and assume responsibility for themselves and for their behavior. They believe they can do whatever they set their minds to doing.

Children, who do not feel capable, frequently feel inadequate and frequently try to control others or let others know that they cannot be controlled. They frequently become dependent on others or seek to overpower others.

COUNT - children need to feel they are significant - that they count. Those who feel that they count believe that they make a difference in the world and that they can contribute in some way to others around them. They feel valuable and valued, and they believe that they matter.

Children who do not feel as though they count feel insignificant. This belief is painful to them, and they may; react to their feelings of hurt by trying to hurt others. Many children who feel that they don't count develop poor self-esteem and may give up, try to intimidate others, or overcompensate by acting superior. Other children feel that they count only "if" - their sense of significance is conditional.
So, where is your child's weak point?  When they act out, is it to prove that they count or trying to connect?  If you can find these areas of need, then you can be intentional to build them up and help them to see themselves having all 4 of the Crucial Cs. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Top 10 Reasons Parents Give for Not taking their Children to Counseling

I hear many reasons from parents about why they had such a hard time coming to counseling or approaching a therapist.  As a parent myself, I understand these and have often felt them.  However, also, as a parent, I have to put aside my own fears and stigmas and do what is best for my child. 

Here are the top 10 reasons I hear for not going to counseling:

10. Only really emotionally disturbed people go to counseling
     Truth - Counseling is for everyone, even counselors.  The purpose of a counselor is to help their client achieve their goals.  All of us have goals and when we have an advocate to partner with us on those goals, we can achieve them quicker and easier.

9. Counseling is too expensive
     Truth - Yes, some counseling is expensive, but not all counseling has to be.  Some insurance plans cover mental health, but if yours does not, you still have options.  You can ask different counselors for their rates.  Many counselors work off a sliding scale that is based on income.  As an intern therapist (which are Master's level students working on their licensure), I often saw clients for $10 an hour.   

8. I can't take off work every week to take my child to counseling
     Truth - As a family therapist, I strongly value the family being present for sessions.  Many family therapists and child therapists feel this way also.  I work evening hours just for this reason.  I also travel to pre-schools or other schools to see the child there so the parent does not have to leave work and bring the child to my office.  Many counseling agencies also provide these services. 

7. I don't want my child to think there is something wrong with them
     Truth - I'm going to be honest with this one.  Most kids already know that something is not right, or that something different is going on.  The relief that I witness in a child when they know their parent has validated these feelings and made the child's wellness a priority is amazing.  Often times, this is the beginning of healing for many children.  When we as parents deny that something is going on, we hinder our child from growing and continue to allow the issues to occur.

6. I can fix it myself
     Truth - Yes, there are a lot of things that a parent can do to help their child.  But, there are also things that 1) you might not know how to do and 2) your child is going to hear and respond better to someone that is not their parent...especially teenagers. 

5. It really isn't that bad, plenty of kids act worse
     Truth - There are all levels of severity that I see in my office.  I even see children for preventative work.  A child (or adult) does not have to be at a certain level of "badness" to go to counseling.  If there are things that are negatively influencing the child or family, a counselor can help.

4. He/She is too young to go
     Truth - As a play therapist, I have training in infant and toddler counseling.  I also work with foster families and adopted children.  Research has shown that the earlier an issue is presented and worked on in counseling, the better long term results that occur.  The longer a child has to develop bad habits, low self-esteem, negative coping skills, etc. the harder they are to correct.

3. I don't want my child to have a diagnosis or label that will follow them around
     Truth - If you use your insurance to pay for counseling your child will most likely have to be given a diagnosis so that insurance will see the counseling as medically necessary.  However, if you look around you will be able to find counselors that do not bill through insurance and do not have to give a diagnosis to a young child. 

2. I don't know who to go to
    Truth - Unfortunately, this one does not have an easy answer.  It takes some digging and time to find the best counselor for your child.  There are many different types of counselors, all with unique personalities.  This allows for all children to be able to have a counselor out there that fits with their personality and needs.  You can look online for a list of Registered Play Therapist here. You can also check with your child's school counselor or school professionals on who they would recommend in your area.

1. I am just plain uncomfortable with the idea of counseling and somebody telling me how to raise my child.
     Truth - It is okay to be uncomfortable and to have your guard up when starting counseling.  You will need your "mommy radar" or "daddy radar" to help you know if you are finding the right counselor for your child.  Ask a ton of questions and do your research.  Also, if you are with a good counselor, they will not tell you how to raise your child, but rather give you option and new ideas that you can choose to try.  A counselor is there to be your partner, helper, and advocate for your child and family.  They are not their to condemn you or make you feel like a bad parent.  A great counselor will help build you up so that you can be the best parent you can be for your child.

It doesn't hurt to check your options and see what is out there for your child.  You might be surprised at all of the resources that are available.  Also, if you are in my area, feel free to schedule a free interview/consultation.  I offer a free 30 minute time to families that are unsure if counseling is a good fit for them.  They can come in and hear more about what counseling I offer and see if their child could benefit or not.  I find this gives parents the opportunity to "test the waters" without having to make a commitment right away.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Playful Balloons

I wanted to give parents and teachers some fun and inexpensive ways to play with their children.  Balloons are always a big hit in the play room. 

Here are some fun ways to play with a balloon:
  • Balloon Volleyball - hit the balloon back and forth and try to keep it from falling to the ground
  • Feeling Face Balloon - draw different feeling faces on the balloons with sharpie markers
  • Balloon Dance Around - blow up a balloon but don't tie it.  let it go and then mimic the way it fell to the ground by dancing
  • Shaker Balloons - fill a balloon with different things (pennies, rocks, glitter) and then blow them up.  see the different ways they move and fall.
  • Stress Ball Balloons - fill balloons with flour, rice, water, etc. to create squeezable stress balls
  • Balloon Pop - blow up a bunch of balloons and put a prize in one.  come up with creative ways to pop the balloons to find the prize
  • Air Balloon - use only your breath to keep the balloon in the air
Here are a couple websites with even more ideas:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Car Survival Kit

Do your kids struggle with getting along in the car?  Is the car usually the first place that things "erupt"?  Do you dread having to drive your kids somewhere because you know they will get into a fight? 

You are not alone!  So many of my parents come to my office with stories about their car rides to school, home from school, and even to my office.  We have worked together to come up with a Car Survival Kit to help keep the peace in your car.

You might want to tailor it to fit your family, but here is the general template:

  • A small plastic box with a lid
  • Small notepads and pencils for each child (great for writing down their issues rather than yelling about them)
  • Headphones (don't have to plug into anything but can drown out the sound)
  • Peppermints or jolly ranchers (use these as sort of a "time out".  whenever they have one in their mouth they can not speak but are to spend the time calming down)
  • Small bottle of 'magic lotion.' (This is the lotion that I use to heal hurts -inside or outside ones- in my office.  It is just lavender scented, sparkly lotion.  If one sibling calls the other a name, then the magic lotion can be used to help them feel better).
  • Fidget toys (slinky, tangle, stretchy things, stress balls)
  • Markers or crayons to draw about their feelings
  • An eye mask or two

I hope this kit helps you and your family from needing to pull the car over and manage an argument as often.  The families that have incorporated this kit have said that the children enjoy car rides now and are even improving on sharing and communicating with each other.

Feel free to add a comment about what you would put in your Car Survival Kit

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sensory Play

I talk about sensory play a lot!  It is one of the things that I use in my practice as well as my daily life with my own child.  I am a firm believer that keeping our senses regulated helps us to control our behaviors and better understand the environment around us. 

However, sensory play and regulation is crucial in the classroom as well.  I have seen students that were struggling with acting out find ways to calm themselves down and be a successful student again after engaging in sensory play.  After working with many teachers on ideas for sensory experiences in their classroom, I thought that these things could also be set up at home.  I have begun working with parents to set up sensory stations at home and educating them on the benefits of how to use them so their family is calmer and their child is more regulated.

Here are some of the most successful sensory stations that I have used:

Rice Tray
I choose to use rice instead of sand in the classroom or inside the home, because it is easier to clean up and it is cheap.  I also prefer rice over beans because you can vary the color and it smells better.  You will want to base your tray size from the age of your students.  For a kindergarten classroom, I would probably use something similar to a shoe box.  It is deep and small.  For middle school or older, you could use something much larger and less deep. 
I then put various colored rocks, stones, and other objects in a bag next to the tray.  I also have a rake, shovel, cup, etc.  These allow for the child to explore in the rice tray, gaining the full sensory experience.
The location of the tray should be somewhere off from the rest of the class and in a quiet place.  I found that most teachers like to keep it close to their desk so they can be near the student that is using it.  What you don't want is a student that is disregulated trying to soothe and calm themselves down in the rice tray, and then being surrounded by a bunch of other loud students.
Here is a link on how to color rice: How to Color Rice

Scented Play Dough
This works great to help a hyper or energetic student to refocus.  I had the teachers take small Ziploc bags with a small amount of scented play dough and keep them in their desk.  Whenever they would notice a student getting off task or fidgety, they would hand them the play dough to use for 10 minutes.  For older students, the teacher just left some out on her desk and the students would use it as needed.
Here is a link to make your own: Scented Play Dough

Weighted Animals
These are simple to make.  I just open up a stuffed animal (I try to find something shiny and unisex so the boys like it too) and add some beans, colored floral stones, or whatever I have around.  I then stitch it back up.  It's not always a pretty stitch, but that is usually part of the appeal to the kids.  I have the teachers let a "special helper" get to carry the animal or care for the animal.  I tell the teacher that a student who seems like they just need a hug or just need some time on their own is perfect for this "special helper."  The added weight in the animal helps to provide a unique sensory experience that can re-center and regulate their body.  This also worked great for students that had a hard time in line and with transitions during the day.
Here is a link to buy weighted objects: Weighted blankets and animals

Music or Quiet Station
This is in a small corner of the classroom, or for older kids, could just be a portable cd player they can have at their desk.  I include comfortable headphones, not the ones that go inside of the ear, a CD player, and a nature or relaxation cd.  Sometimes the noise of the classroom, cafeteria, gym, or recess can be too much for some students, so having the soothing nature sounds can help them to regroup and get ready to participate in the classroom.

There are many more sensory play activities that you can incorporate into your lesson plans and use if you find that your students are really benefiting from the extra sensory experiences.  However, if you keep these few around your classroom and use them regularly, you should notice a decrease in outbursts and misbehavior.

For parents, if you have a child who seems to be struggling in the classroom, these are great things to suggest to your child's teacher.  You could even make a small sensory kit for your child to take to school and use as needed. 


108 E Central Ave.
(On the square, above Table Mesa)
Bentonville, AR 72712

About Me

Licensed Associate Counselor, Licensed Assoicate Marriage and Family Therapist, Registered Play Therapist