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Feelings Thermometer: A Helpful Tool for You and Your Child

26 May

cartoonnursebyiosphereWhen do you traditionally pull out the thermometer to take your child’s temperature? Perhaps when your child does not seem to be behaving like themselves, such as when they are more lethargic, irritable, or when your child feels hot to the touch, looks pale, or when they express they are not feeling well.

Depending on what the thermometer reads, your reaction will likely be different, right? Suppose you find your child has a high fever. As a parent, you may decide to immediately call the doctor, give medicine to lower the temperature, have your child take a cool bath, and rest. If the temperature is ‘slightly above normal,’ you may monitor the situation and take the temperature again. You may still keep your child home and give medicine but you may not feel it is necessary to call the doctor. Finally, if your child’s temperature is ‘normal,’ you may decide to simply continue with your child’s regular daily routine and reassess later in the day.

It is clear that the thermometer is a useful tool that tells us important information about your child’s current physical health. So now imagine applying this tool to measure your child’s feelings or current mental health state. Continue Reading

Help for the Anxious Child, Anxious Teen, and Anxious Parent: Part 2

22 Mar

AnxietyFearPuzzlebyStuartMilesIn a previous post Help for the Anxious Child, Anxious Teen, and Anxious Parent, I shared the importance of building your own toolkit and your child’s toolkit for coping with anxiety. The focus of that post was on learning how to calm down the body by changing your breathing.

In another earlier post, I shared one of my favourite techniques for containing and placing a time limit on worries and anxiety, entitled The Worry Jar Technique: Help Your Child Overcome Worries and Anxiety. While this strategy is very helpful for children, it can also be adapted for parents and teens by for instance, writing anxious thoughts and worries in a journal.

So now that you have a good foundation, let’s add some more helpful strategies to your toolkits. Continue Reading

The Teenage Brain: Understanding Adolescents and Their Risky Behaviours

14 Mar

GroupofFriendsonTheSquarebyVladoThe teenage years have forever been characterized as a time of turmoil and change. It is during adolescence that youth are trying to discover who they are, where they belong, their likes and dislikes, and what they want for their futures. In order to exert their increased independence and to help prepare adolescents for adulthood, teens will pull away from their parents and move towards their peer groups. Indeed, the majority of the adolescents I have worked with are incredibly loyal to and protective of their friends (sometimes caring more about their buddies than about themselves).

An aspect of adolescence that is often concerning to parents (and to adults in general) is teenagers’ tendency to engage in experimentation and risky behaviours as part of this self-discovery process. Continue Reading

How to Effectively Communicate with Your Teen: 7 Parenting Tips

16 Feb

GirlwithUnhappyMother In my clinical work with troubled teenagers, it is often the case that there is a real communication breakdown between these adolescents and their parents. These teens often feel that their parents do not understand or respect them, do not listen to what they have to say, and cannot relate to their experiences. They may report feeling isolated and closed off from their families, rejected, hurt, angry, anxious, sad, and lonely. In general, these adolescents have built up a “protective wall” between them and their parents (and sometimes the rest of the adult world) behind which they retreat. Because of problems with trust, these teens do not easily let their walls come down or let others see their vulnerabilities and insecurities.

It is important for you, as a parent, to keep the communication doors open with your teen. There are steps you can take to help maintain open communication. Continue Reading

The Worry Jar Technique: Help Your Child Overcome Worries and Anxiety

02 Feb

Nervous-ChildIt may seem like your child worries a lot of the time and about everything. Children can worry about all sorts of things, such as safety issues, tests and school work, friends, family, health, the planet, and more. They may seek reassurance and ask you questions repeatedly about their worries. By asking you about their worry, your child may feel better for a short while, but then some time later, you may notice that your child asks you again about the same worry. This tells you that your child’s worry did not go away (as you had thought or had hoped). Click here for more information on children’s anxiety.

In a previous post called Help for the Anxious Child, Anxious Teen, and Anxious Parent, I introduced breathing techniques as a good foundation for the toolkit to cope with anxiety and stress. I also presented in another post about the “What If” Game the idea of distancing yourself and gaining a new perspective over worries by recognizing the ‘game’ the mind is playing and calling it like it is.

In this post, I will share with you about the worry jar, which is one of my favourite techniques to help an anxious child contain their worries. Continue Reading

Steps for Taming Your Child’s Anger

26 Jan

What is Anger?

character-kicking-shows-stress-and-anger

Anger is an emotional reaction to a real or perceived threat. Anger signals to us that something is wrong. Anger is a normal feeling we may experience when our personal DANGER alarms are turned on. Anger helps to prepare the body to “fight” when the “fight, flight or freeze” response of the autonomic nervous system has been triggered. That is, anger gives us the energy we need to right wrongs or combat threats. The problem with anger is that it can get too big and out of control very quickly. This is what happens when the little spark becomes a flame and then a raging fire. And, in general, it does not feel good in your body to be mad or to have someone be mad at you.

How we learn to cope with our own anger and teach anger management to our children is a different story. Continue Reading

Help for the Anxious Child, Anxious Teen, and Anxious Parent

03 Jan

Kids and teens have worries and experience stress and anxiety just like their parents. Indeed, we can feel anxious, worried, overwhelmed or stressed at any age – young and old alike.

Sometimes anxiety may seem to run in the family. Ever notice that your child or teen is anxious just like you? That is because children are very perceptive and attuned to their parents, almost like they have antennae where they can essentially pick up and sense your moods and signals. Children watch closely your actions and behaviours and they listen carefully to what you say (even though they are busy playing or doing other things).

The upside of this is that children learn not only from what you teach them but also from observing you. You can help your child or teen, both directly and indirectly, manage and cope with stress and anxiety. I know it is a cliche, but it is very important that you practice what you preach.

Where to begin? Build your toolkit, build your child’s or teenager’s toolkit.

The first and most important tool is to change your breathing. Continue Reading