Category Archives for "Children 0-5"

Jun 08

“If It Bleeds, It Leads” – Talking to Children About Tragic News Headlines

By Kristyn Buchanan | Children 0-5 , Kids 5-12 , Parenting Tips , Teens 13 and Over , Trauma

Welcome back our guest blogger Marly Hinestroza, as she discusses about tragic media headlines, the effects on children, and how you as a parent can help!

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On 01/13/18, at 8:00 am HST, I was trying to entertain eight 9 year old girls who had just woken up from a birthday-sleepover party for my daughter, when I received an alarm on my phone that read “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Many people have shared what it was like to be in Hawaii during this “mistake” and I echo many of the sentiments of fear, anger, confusion and sadness so I won’t go into that (Coping with Hawaii’s Ballistic Missile False Alarm). Luckily, my fight or flight instinct kicked in and fight prevailed so I managed to get my daughter, her friends, my 18 month old and 2 year old lab into the laundry room with as many provisions as I had ready for hurricane season, because who prepares for incoming missiles? Right…

“If It Bleeds, It Leads”

Barely a month later, on 2/14/18 as I’m ordering lunch with a friend, the headline start to roll across the screen – “Mass shooting in Florida High School.” So my heart drops and I think “what must those kids be going through? Those parents? What if it was my kids? Why is this happening?!”

There is so much going on in the world and it is close to impossible to shut all the “noise” out and keep it away from our children. Whether they are on social media or not, news spread like wildfire and children are talking about it. News stories are coming up in sessions with school age children and teens who have “heard that” or “read this on Facebook.” News stories are also coming up in sessions with parents who are struggling with how to talk to their children about how bleak the world seems to be some days.

Shortly after the shooting my daughter’s elementary school sent out a letter in an attempt to reassure parents that they have drills to prepare for the unfortunate. I asked my nine year old if she’s done the drills, tried to gage if she understands why and tried to ensure she knows what to do even though just the thought of it makes me sick. Then she told me something that chilled me; she told me that a teacher asked her if her light up shoes (which she loves and wears almost daily) have an on/off button and that when they have a drill she has to turn them off because she won’t want the bad guy to see her… Later on I saw a viral post on FB about light up shoes and I cried the tears I didn’t allow myself to shed when talking to her.

How to Talk To Your Child About Tragedy

At this point I realized that I myself don’t quite feel prepared to talk to my children about the tragedies in the world, which some days seems to be daily occurrences. I don’t want to address any of it with my nine year old, and does my 18 month old even need anything from me in the days following a tragedy that is being covered on every media channel, social media app and seemingly everyone around me? The answer is YES. Yes, no matter the age our children have needs that we must meet during times of national and international tragedies. There are many articles on this topic and at times the sheer amount of information available can be overwhelming, however, there are some common themes when talking to children about tragedies in the world:

Listen, allow them to express themselves and reinforce that they are safe.

Start where the child is. From infants to adolescents our children speak to us both with their words and with their actions so no matter their age it is important that we listen to them.

-Infants and toddlers may be responding to you and how you are coping with the stress, listen to the cues they are giving you.

            Signs:
  •         Sleep regressions
  •         Change in appetite
  •         Excessive crying or screaming
  •         Increased irritability or sadness
  •         Shows anxiety/startles easily

If you notice these signs in the days following a national or international tragedy that is being broadcasted widely take a moment to assess how you are responding to it. Limit your exposure to it as much as possible, especially when interacting with your infant or toddler and take care of yourself. The NCTSN provides a comprehensive list of signs to look out for.

School age children are also looking at you and how you are responding to the events but they are likely to also be receiving information from other such as teachers, peers, older siblings or even TV and social media. Listen to what your child knows already and correct misinformation as well as provide facts in simple, clear and concise age appropriate terms. If they have an explanation that implies they understand something has happened, that it is over and those able to help have done so (police, EMTs etc.) and they are safe either because it happened in a place far away or because they have been reassured their school and caregivers will protect them then don’t take away their sense of safety. This is the explanation they need to feel safe and although we know that unfortunately tragedies can happen nearly anywhere and at any time, we don’t want to burden our children with that knowledge.

            Signs:
  •         Regressive behaviors (i.e. thumb sucking, bedwetting)
  •         Difficulty focusing
  •         Excessive temper, irritable, sadness, anxious
  •         Difficulty sleeping
  •         Frequent headaches or stomach aches

-Adolescents may be even more exposed to tragic news as it is more common for them to be on social media, however they probably still have many questions and misinformation about what has happened. An adolescent may not know how far away or close an event is to them, they may wonder why it has happened and what is being done about it and have misconceptions about what can actually be done. As with younger children, gently correct misinformation by offering facts in simple and clear language. Remember that they are getting information from many sources and whatever gaps they have are being filled in by their imagination and what they are piecing together. It is also important to listen to them in whatever way they choose to present the information, whether they tell you what they know and how they are feeling or using friends as examples. Don’t remove the mask by saying “I bet you’re feeling that way too.” Or “Sarah doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” The American Academy of Pediatrics has a website called Healthy Children where you can find articles including phrases to say and what not to say for natural or man-made tragedies and loss.

            Signs:
  •         Difficulty focusing
  •         Increased irritability and anger outburst
  •         Withdrawing from others and activities they enjoyed
  •         Change in appetite
  •         Difficulty sleeping

No matter the age, be open to having the conversation – it is better that they get the information from you than from others. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting in CT I listened to an interview with Dr. Benjamin Shain, MD and he was asked by the interviewer when to talk to children about these tragedies, are there times to avoid such as before bed? His response was no, if children are talking about it, it is best to address it then and provide clear and concise answers. Ultimately, no matter the age, they are looking at you for how to navigate these very overwhelming situations and they need to feel safe and reassured.

Give Love

When in doubt, my new internal mantra has been “I don’t got all the answers, so tell me who does. All I really know is that we really need love!” – Landon McNamara  (great song with Island vibes and a powerful message). Yes there are horrific things going on and somedays it feels very overwhelming but one thing we can do is GIVE LOVE. So no, it won’t be easy to have these conversations with our children and as much as we wish we didn’t have to, we need to. We need to listen to them, allow them to express themselves and help them feel safe.

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Marly A. Hinestroza-Gaviria, LCSW

Ms. Hinestroza-Gaviria is a Resilience Trainer for FOCUS Hawaii working with military families and couples. Marly has worked as a certified Multidimensional Family Therapist with adolescents and their families dealing with adolescent high-risk behaviors and/or substance abuse. She has experience working with children from infancy to adolescence and their families providing assessments, individual and family therapeutic interventions, service coordination and crisis intervention. Marly earned her Master of Social Work degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey.

 

 

Jun 01

Anxiety in Children and How to Help

By Kristyn Buchanan | Children 0-5 , Kids 5-12 , Parenting Tips

Let’s welcome back one of our guest bloggers, Kim Martinez, as she dives into the topic of children with anxiety.

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Parental Support of Children with Anxiety

When your child has anxiety, it can very stressful as a parent. Many parents ask me what they can do at home to support what I am working on with their child in their counseling session. I believe that it is most important to not offer advice but to listen when they are sharing their feelings- with no judgment.  

Anxiety is the body’s way of dealing with the need to fight, flight or freeze. The child struggling with anxiety is not trying to worry and feel anxious, they are trying to cope with their body’s need to deal with the “tiger” it thinks it is about to be attacked by. The body doesn’t know the difference between an actual tiger and the fear of being laughed at if you answer a question wrong in class. The body responds the same way to the two different fears.

When a child is anxious, they feel their heart racing; their palms sweating and they feel like they are disappointing themselves and others due to the way they are “acting”.

There are healthy and safe ways to help your child cope with their anxiety.
  1. Work with them on practicing their breathing techniques they learned while in session. Practicing makes it more likely they will use the technique when it they are struggling the most. It will be more like second nature.
  2. Ask your child how you can best support them when they are feeling anxious. They may need a hug, a moment alone or a reminder to use their relaxation techniques. Every child is different and every time they feel anxious may not be the same.
  3. Help your child to create a safe space where they can go to be alone and regulate (effectively manage and respond) to their anxiety.
  4. Have a plan for when you and your child are away from the house and they are struggling to regulate their anxiety. Parents and children often chose a word or phrase the child can use to let the parent know the child is struggling and needs to move away from whatever activity they are engaged in. This way, the child is not embarrassed by their anxiety and the parent can support the child in a way that is predetermined.
  5. Positive feedback about how they handled their anxiety with specific praise will help them feel good about themselves and let them know you have noticed them trying their best.  Criticism and negativity fuel their anxiety so it’s best to use positive feedback.

    Often, anxious children have anxious parents.

    Making sure you are managing your own anxiety is key to a calm household.  Children learn by watching and parents are the greatest models for appropriate behavior. Spending time relaxing after a hard day and letting your child know that is how you handle a hard day at work helps them to understand healthy coping skills.

Stressful Mornings make anxious, stressed out kids

Lynne Kenney, PsyD and Wendy Young, LMSW, BCD write in “Bloom, 50 Things to Say, Think and Do with Anxious, Angry and Over-the-top Kids” that the keys to lowering morning stress are consistency, routine, family needs system, parents teaching how-to’s, getting out of your emotional brain, collaborating with teachers, parents responding to their own childhood chaos, and consistent eating and sleeping routines.

Tips from Kenney and Young:

-Keep things consistent with rules and expectations

-Write down and keep visible the morning routine

-Family needs system is the actual way a family believes things should be done such as how a bathroom is cleaned

-Parents should teach the children the best way to accomplish a task for independence

-The parent or child may need help regulating their emotions in the morning so they can think clearly

-Work with the teacher if your child is struggling with homework so the mornings don’t have an added stressor

-Get help for your own past/childhood traumas or issues so you can parent with less stress

-Have consistent eating and sleeping routines so everyone’s brains are working the best they can

How Play Therapists Can Help Your Child with Anxiety

Credit: Liana Lowenstein’s “Creative CBT Interventions for Children with Anxiety”

1-Cognitive behavioral style therapy may be used

2-Parents will actively participate in collaboration with the therapist

3-Games and art based techniques will be utilized in the playroom

4-Parents coaching children between sessions to use what they have learned

5-Understanding that progress takes time and does not happen on a timeline

6-Lifelong coping skills will be taught

7-Relaxation techniques will be taught

8-Treatment goals will be created specific to your child

Finally…

Recognize that anxiety is real. If a child feels that a parent is belittling or denying the existence of their anxiety, they will try to hide it or minimize it, which will cause the anxiety to grow.  Check with your pediatrician for a respected children’s play therapist near you.

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Kim Martinez

Ms. Martinez is a child and family counselor in Tampa, Florida. She specializes in anxiety, ADHD and divorce/step family issues using art, play, sand tray and creativity in counseling. Kim believes in helping families, children and adults find their “True North”. 

Check out her website at www.yourtruenorthcounseling.com

 

 

Mar 16

Helping Your Child Navigate Difficult Emotions

By Jen Taylor | Children 0-5 , Kids 5-12 , Parenting Tips , Teens 13 and Over

Welcome Alyssa Caldbeck as our guest blogger this week as she explores navigating a child’s difficult emotions.
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Parenting is the most challenging job you’ll ever have. Weathering the storms of your child’s vast and varied emotions can feel like tricky territory. Experts on the subject of emotional intelligence say that it is best taught at home within the family. Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Daniel Goleman have written extensively based on research about the relationship between children and parents with regard to emotional intelligence in their book Raising Emotional Child The Heart of Parenting.  They have found that when parents serve as an emotion coach for their children, those children adapt to difficult circumstances more readily.

Understanding Emotional Intelligence

Unlike intellectual intelligence which can be measured and is pre-determined potential for absorbing, recalling and utilizing information, emotional intelligence is learned. Emotional Intelligence  is defined as the ability to recognize emotion, identify and name emotion, to manage those emotions in a way that is adaptive and to feel empathy for others. Emotional intelligence requires particular brain activity largely occurring in the front part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) which is headquarters for executive functioning skills. Young children are only beginning to develop the upper part of their brain.  They don’t have all the pathways created in their brain to control themselves yet. Children are more likely to develop better coping mechanisms if parents help children learn how to identify their emotions. Additional aspects of helping children learn to handle their emotions effectively include assisting children in healthy emotional expression and teaching them to have empathy for others.

What is an Emotion Coach?

The term emotion coach is used in reference to a parenting technique where the parent helps their child understand their (the child’s) emotions.  When parents engage in emotional coaching, their children learn how to react to emotions in healthy ways and more about how emotions work.

How Can You Be an Emotion Coach For Your Child?

Being an emotion coach with your child starts with you recognizing their emotions. Here are some steps you can take to be your child’s emotion coach and help your child handle their emotions.

1.Raise your own level of emotional awareness.

Practice noticing and naming your feelings rather than allowing your emotions to drive your actions.

  1. Become familiar with the continuum of parenting styles.

Aim to land in the middle of these parenting styles where you exercise authority when your child’s safety is at risk or healthy boundaries need to be set.

  1. Practice coping or calming strategies when you have overwhelming feelings of frustration, sadness or anger.

Take responsibility for your own feelings and actions.  Know when it’s time to take a break. Practice deep breathing or another method to help you return to calm. When a human being’s limbic brain (that’s the headquarters for emotions, reactions and memory) becomes “flooded” the pre-frontal cortex (where reasoning and executive functioning occurs) goes offline temporarily . It’s best to give yourself some time and allow your limbic part of the brain to cool off and settle down. This will give you a better chance of returning to rational and reasonable thinking when responding to your child.

  1. Be a model for your child when it comes to emotions.

Allow your child to observe you identifying whatever emotions you experience.  Give them chances to witness you making it a point to calm yourself before acting or speaking further. Once you are calm, return and explain how you are now ready to use your words and make decisions.

  1. When your child is beginning to experience an emotion, reflect with empathy.

An example would be “I can see you are beginning to feel frustrated that you can’t get the top of your PlayDough container. You really want to get it off.  It seems to be stuck.” When your child has an experience of feeling heard and seen it helps them to begin to formulate their own ability to identify what they are feeling and why. Young children do not have words or the ability for abstract thinking (understanding why they are having their feelings). They do have an ability to learn new words that they can associate with the emotional experiences they are having.  This helps the development of their executive functioning skills.

  1. Forego punishing and seek opportunities for teaching and learning.

It is understandable and common for you to have your own intense emotions when your child is experiencing big emotions.  This is often when parents get to the point of disciplining a child for having these types of feelings. Trying to diminish big feelings by issuing consequences or punishment can actually create more of an emotional response.  Your child may have emotions about the consequences issued and still be left with the emotion(s) they were feeling that got them in trouble. Teaching the child more appropriate ways of handling their feelings is missed when parents focus solely on punishments for emotional reactions.  

  1. Catch feelings in their early stages with your child.  

When you see feelings starting such as sadness or frustration speak to your child before their brain becomes fully flooded. Within that window you can wonder aloud about what might be going on..  An example would be, “I wonder how we could work together to get that lid off the PlayDough container.” You can join with your child to find possible solutions after you’ve reflected what you notice they are feeling.   “If we think about it together we can find a way to get it open.” Emphasizing the “we” lets your child know they are not alone in dealing with their feelings and you are there to help them. Meeting the emotion being expressed before shifting into problem solving  will help improve the outcome. Daniel Siegel’s video Connecting to Calm explains this more. He offers useful written information in this reference sheet.

  1. Find delight in your child often.

This is not the same thing as piling on the praise. Praise is when you as an extrinsic force decide your child  is “good” or worthy of your approval. Delight and encouragement are when you reflect the child’s intrinsic qualities. Purposeful delight is when you notice your child’s effort, creativity, persistence, patience, joy and reflect with your own felt sense of celebratory noticing aloud. An example might be to smile and with an excited voice say, “Wow! Look at all the work you have done on this puzzle! You’ve been trying to find all the pieces and it looks like you’re almost there. You’ve kept trying and you almost have the whole puzzle together!”

  1. Avoid adding to the intensity of the emotion your child is experiencing.

Be with your child and allow them to express themselves.  Let them get their feelings out while keeping them safe. Limit the talking you do with your child and avoid asking why they are acting this way.  Children, even young toddlers can often have their own process when adults don’t interfere with this ability. What can happen is as adults we get impatient or focused on moving on from this experience or want it to end.  

Despite a temper tantrum or intense emotional response feeling like it last forever this has shown to not be the case. When a person is emotionally triggered research has indicated it takes less than 90 seconds for the chemical surge to take hold and leave the bloodstream.  The intensity related to the initial flooding of the emotions can peak and dissipate within this timeframe. Any response after 90 seconds is related to the person not letting go of the emotion or continued input feeding the same emotional loop (external input such as an adult talking to child, other sensory input or stimuli).  

The key to keeping emotional responses within this timeframe is to feel the feelings, acknowledge them, and let them pass.  This can be explained to children when they are in a calm state. It can be taught as imagining the emotion as a wave coming in and out or on the emotion moving away by floating on a cloud.  Adults can practice the same strategies to not let their emotions linger.

  1. Accept all feelings and realize children will experience negative emotions.

A child’s emotions are not always logical and may seem to come out of nowhere.   However, a child’s feelings are very real to them.  Adults are not happy all the time. The truth is we don’t always handle our feelings the best.  Children are not little versions of adults.  It is not realistic to expect a child to always handle their emotions when we as adults struggle with this too.  Children need to be able to have an array of feelings (positive, negative, big feelings) and it be OK.  

 

Why Be an Emotion Coach For Your Child?

As a parent, you are the main influence in shaping your child’s abilities to work through the natural emotions of childhood.  By working to help them develop emotional intelligence you are empowering and supporting the development of an intrinsic sense of worth and value.   You set the tone and example for whether it is possible to experience emotions and get through these feelings without letting the feelings overtake and drive actions and responses.  Starting this process and teaching early gives children the ability to build on having the success of handling their emotions effectively.

Conclusion

Rather than feeling like this is one more feat you have to tackle as a parent simply find daily opportunities to label, model, and practice emotions.  This can be done by identifying emotions in everyday situations. Have an open discussion of what the emotion being displayed is and what could be done to handle the emotion in an appropriate way.  

Embarking on the journey of serving as your child’s emotion coach can be an important step you take for yourself, your family and your child’s development.

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Alyssa Caldbeck, LISW, RPT

 

Alyssa Caldbeck is a Licensed Independent Social Worker and aRegistered Play Therapist. She specializes in attachment, trauma, and adoption concerns in children and adolescents of all ages.  Alyssa is an EMDR Certified Therapist and Consultant in Training with Ana Gomez. She has completed specific adoption mental health competency training (Training for Adoption Competency) with the Center for Adoption Support and Education. www.alyssacaldbeck.com.
Mar 09

Early Signs And Intervention

By Jen Taylor | Children 0-5 , Kids 5-12 , Parenting Tips

Let’s welcome our latest guest blogger, Leanna Rae, as she begins a series of articles on early signs of sensory and motor immaturity and early intervention!

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Learning is much more than classrooms and tests.  Children start at a young age exploring their environment through their senses (sensory learning) and working to understand how to move through and interact with it (motor interaction).  The sensory motor interaction is interdependent and essential to all learning.

How a child behaves and physically moves gives us insight into how they process information from the world around them.

Does your child display any of the following?

Sensory motor movement (sensory perception and motor skills) is the primary vehicle through which we learn and express what we have learned.  These “behaviors” mentioned above are signs of an immature neurological (sensory motor) system and indicates that the brain and body are not getting the proper stimulation or connection needed to support learning.  

Physiological Foundation

There are foundational physiological skills the body needs to master for the brain to meet the task of higher level thinking. Our ability to move through space (coordination) and organize information and relationships in the world around us (emotional and social intelligence) forms the foundation for successful academic learning.  Simply put, without a fully functioning sensory motor system, the brain cannot operate at its best. Your child expends an enormous amount of energy in constructing and filtering a world of objects, sights, sounds, textures, colors, shapes, dimension and directions. When the physiological skills are not in place, daily school activities like siting in a chair, tracking words across the page to read fluently, being able to copy from the whiteboard to paper without losing their thought or information, etc.  becomes a conscious effort and learning is compromised. 

In life, it is easier to start off on the right path as a young child versus having to make corrections latter in adolescence and adulthood where the cost of energy and time is much greater. Early intervention supports your child’s developing mind and body, creating fluid and harmonious learning. In this series of articles, we will address what interventions and approaches lead to academic achievement, social growth, and emotional maturity.

Resources

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/sensory-processing-issues/how-sensory-processing-issues-can-affect-motor-skills

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/schooled_in_sports/2016/06/researchers_draw_link_between_physical_activity_academic_success.html

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Leanna Rae, MSSW, RMTi, CPLC

Ms. Rae has over 16 years of experience in the field of social work providing neurodevelopmental tools for children and adults to help with social, emotional and cognitive growth and learning. She is the co-founder and Executive Director at Kid’s Brain Tree Fort Worth,  www.kidsbraintree.com.

Feb 11

Working with Gifted Children in Play Therapy: Part 1

By Jen Taylor | Children 0-5 , Kids 5-12 , Play Therapy , Professionals , Teens 13 and Over , Uncategorized

Our next guest blogger is Dr. Jessica Stone who dives into the world of working with gifted children.


     I have quite a few gifted clients.  I am unsure how they find me; is it word of mouth within the community? Is it my listing on the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page, http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/ ?  May be the presentations I have given on gifted children? Is it the advocation I provide for gifted students in my school district?  I am really not certain.  What I do know is that I am immensely interested in helping gifted individuals and I have personal and professional experience in this arena.  

     There are a lot of different topics to cover when speaking about gifted people.  The wonderful thing about a blog is that information can be imparted in a quick, informal manner which will hopefully spark thought, share important information, and provide avenues to pursue further explorations.  A limitation is that a blog is short with around 1,000 words.  Apparently, I am quite verbose, because I could really go on, and on, and on…  What I will do to make sure we cover a few topics adequately is to break it up into a series.  If you have topics you would like to be covered, please leave a comment and I will work to include it in a future blog.  

A little about my belief system

     Fundamentally, philosophically, and theoretically I believe strongly in using a client’s language and interests in our therapeutic sessions.  This language can include the actual spoken language, vernacular, cadence, etc., but can also include their interests such as music, books, games, and toys.  Historically I have spoken with therapists about using songs and Pokémon cards/characters in therapeutic ways.  More currently, I speak with therapists about using board games and digital tool interests in therapeutic ways.  The language of children is somewhat fluid.  It is important that we as play therapists “go with the flow” of the fluidity.  When a client has particular types of needs, it is important for therapists to incorporate them into the therapy whether they are strengths or areas which need assistance.   

How did I become interested in working with and understanding gifted clients?

     Working with gifted clients fits for me in multiple ways.  I was designated as gifted as a child.  Even writing that makes me cringe a little bit.  What did I just divulge?  How will it be interpreted? What will people now expect of me? Do they think I am bragging? I went through stages as a child where I was proud of myself, where I was ashamed; stages where I didn’t want to be different, and where I was happy to be different… There are pros and cons associated with being gifted.  Ultimately, I have landed in a place where I both like and dislike some aspects of this thing called gifted, but it is who and how I am.  The bigger question now is, “how can I help children who might struggle with this gifted ‘thing’?”

When one of my children was about 16 months old I was cooking dinner at the stove and he was building with Duplo Legos behind me.  He had one of those buckets of the blocks so there were plenty to choose from.  We were chatting periodically while I cooked and he built.  Suddenly he said, “look mommy”.  When I turned around I almost fell over.  He had built a structure which reminded me of the Eiffel Tower and it was perfectly symmetrical in shape and in color.  I took pictures.  I was fascinated, proud, and frightened… very, very frightened.  I thought: “What on earth am I going to do with him?  How will I know what his needs will be and how will I assist him in getting them met?”  Since then I have had multiple children identified in my family, and each of them are quite different in personality, abilities, and needs.  

The older my children became, the more I began to understand the variability, stigmas, and challenges associated with being gifted.  I started to think that if I am struggling with this – a person who was classified as gifted, a psychologist, and a mom – then others must be also struggling.  How could I use my experience and knowledge to be helpful?  I began to research, observe, and listen to people of gifted families.  I began to work with gifted children therapeutically.  In some ways, it was the same process as with other children.  In some ways, it was different.  I believe those differences are important for the therapist to understand.  

What does it mean to be gifted?: A beginning

It is fascinating that the very word “gifted” sparks a flurry of emotions. Quite a few people in gifted families feel as though they will be negatively judged if the term is used in conjunction with a family member or themselves.  Using the term can seem like a person is bragging or that they feel their child is superior in some way.  Perhaps this is true in rare circumstances, but overall families are using it to indicate that their child has particular needs.  

It is my very strong belief that if we picture the normal bell curve (below) and look at the portions to the left of the -1 and to the right of the 1 standard deviation (SD) delineations, we can see that these are two very important ends of the spectrum.  The portion to the left of the -1 SD indicates the portion of the population who have special needs associated with a lower intelligence quotient. The further left you move, the more significantly the difficulties effects the person and support system.  I believe the 1SD portion to the 3SD portion to the right of the curve, the gifted population, also indicates those who have special needs and the further one moves to right, the more significantly the IQ level effects the person and the support system.  It is simply the other end of the spectrum.  The needs are significant and addressing them effects multiple aspects of their academic, emotional, and social development.

I will let you chew on all this for a bit while I write up the next installment… to be continued.

Resources

https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/what-giftedness

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/gifted_101.htm

 http://sengifted.org/about-seng/


 

Dr. Jessica Stone

Dr. Stone is a Licensed Psychologist and RPT-S who works in a private practice in Fruita, CO. She has been providing psychological services to children, teens, adults, families, and prospective parents since 1994.  Dr. Stone has been involved with the Association for Play Therapy in numerous capacities since 1993, including serving as CALAPT Branch President. She has presented nationally and internationally, and has been published in the fields of psychology and play therapy. She is the co-founder of the Virtual Sandtray App and VR programs.www.jessicastonephd.com www.sandtrayplay.com  

Jan 27

The Empathetic Child

By Jen Taylor | Children 0-5 , Kids 5-12 , Parenting Tips , Teens 13 and Over

Welcome guest blogger, Adrienne Jeffries! She brings to light the realities of nurturing the Empathetic Child!


Being a Social Worker and having at least one empathetic child, I am fascinated by the subject and others’ experience of this gift. Some call it Discernment, others go as far as calling it psychic abilities. Whatever you call it, it is special, you are special, and it is a gift you are blessed with, although sometimes it seems like a double edged sword. It is hard to feel others’ feeling as if they are your own all the time, everywhere you go.

Empathetic Adult VS. Empathetic Child

Like with any muscle or skill the more you utilize it and practice it the more skilled you are in utilizing it. It’s one thing to have it yourself as an adult. You have hopefully developed some coping skills and worked on your own mindfulness and abilities to regulate yourself and your feelings and emotions. It’s another thing to suspect that your child may be an empath. Children haven’t had a chance to learn to deal with the sudden onset of another’s feelings or walking into a crowded place and all of a sudden feeling waves of happiness, sadness, loneliness, anger within a couple of minutes time. They aren’t prepared with how to handle evil energies coming to them or any types of spirits visiting them, that is scary for a child. The gift of being an empath is rarely ever discussed, prepared for, accepted or understood by others’ unless, of course you share this gift are aware of it and are accepting of it in yourself. I am writing this post because I think those of us that are empaths, could do better by being empathic to our own children, whom we may have passed these abilities on to, and better prepare them for what they can, and will experience. The first step is identifying if your child might be an empath to know how to better prepare them. If we are able to help them be appreciative and accepting of all such a gift provides they are less likely to resent the gift and won’t want to give the gift back.

Signs That Your Child May Be An Empath

  1. Kids that are empaths are extremely tuned into others feelings and are very sensitive to their emotions as well as others emotions, thoughts (sometimes), and intentions (good or bad). They have even been known to experience physical pains because others are experiencing ailments in those parts of their own bodies. It is important with suspected or know empathic children to be open and honest with them in age appropriate ways as they will have an idea of what is going on anyway. They are very good at reading and getting subtle clues from body language, picking up on the energy in the room, and can get a vibe of the atmosphere.
  2. Someone may have been described as, or you may even describe your child as, needy, shy (I was often described as this), antisocial ( as I sit upstairs alone an type, while a group of family is currently downstairs), fussy, over-sensitive, emotional, bleeding heart, worrisome, compassionate, empathetic. Worse, these children may have been diagnosed with a social phobia, anxiety disorder, or even depression ( myself having been diagnosed as all three!). These children need extra help and support dealing with such intense emotions. It can be easy to make a child that is so sensitive feel worse if you, the adult, aren’t careful in how you handle help with all they are dealing with. It doesn’t help that these children often feel lonely and different than others.
  3. Empathic children will often complain of different physical symptoms such as aches and pains. These children often suffer from stomach aches, headaches, as well as other bodily symptoms. Often offering them a hug and reassurance is helpful. Their pains are very real for them, and  they may well be a result of someone else’s feelings around them . Children don’t always know how to express their feelings in clear ways and this may be a way that they experience negative energies.
  4. Empathic Children are often very responsible for their ages. You may say, ” Why is a kid that’s responsible a bad thing?!,”. Sometimes empathic kids take on responsibility and worries that are too much for their age. They are too young to deal with how the mortgage is going to get paid, or to take care of their parent who is depressed or passed out drunk on the couch.These kids often live their lives making others happy, doing all they can to help others, as well as trying to heal and fix situations and people. In this way it is often like a child that struggles with anxiety. It is important to help your child to learn to relax, let go of their worries ( and others’ worries), enjoy themselves, and to just be kids and have fun and laugh. It is also important to remind your little empath that it is not their job to make other people happy. This is a lesson we could all learn to accept!
  5. Your child may be an empath if there are certain people, places or situations they just don’t like or are uncomfortable in. This can be hard, especially if you or a family member don’t understand being an empath. Imagine going to a family party and your child just won’t hug a certain family member, not only that but they have a very strong reaction to that person in a negative way. While it may be uncomfortable for you, and maybe even embarrassing, know that your child is struggling and is uncomfortable as well. It is really important that despite maybe not understanding their desire not to be around certain people, they and their intuition should be trusted and not forced to be around the person, those feelings are coming up for your child for a reason. Your child may just withdraw or seem unhappy and may not verbalize what feelings are coming up for them about a certain person or situation, so as not to make you unhappy. Remember us empaths are always trying to make others happy! So while your child may not always give a voice to these feelings and emotions, there may be the above mentioned signs. It is important to listen to them and to validate their feelings.
  6. There seems to be a hypothesis that many with the gift of being an empath have been through some sort of trauma. This would make sense, given that those who have gone through trauma are often hyper-vigilant and are very adept at reading subtle cues that others give off.
  7. There are also many empaths that seem to think it be somewhat of a genetic trait, in that it can be    passed down or that multiple people in a lineage can and do experience this gift.
  8. Your child may be an empath if they seem to have a “knowing” or if they have predicted things were going to happen, and they did.
  9. These children are highly sensitive and may have strong reactions and feel overloaded to certain sights, smells, sounds, intuition and feeling emotions more strongly than others. Bright lights may be overwhelming, strong smelling perfumes and foods, or even certain sounds. They often prefer softer fabric and being out in nature has a calming effect, they also prefer having just a few close friends. They are often overstimulated by people, crowded places,noisy environments, and stress. These children may struggle at theme parks or fairs, playgrounds. I remember my daughter just stopping at the entrance to a playground and staring and taking the scenery in, rather than running and joining the fun like the other kids.
  10. These children are often considered kinder, gentler, and quieter than their same aged peers. They are often very good listeners, and are very compassionate individuals. They often will surprise you with intuitive and insightful comments about others or you or themselves, that seem beyond their years.
  11. Empathic children are sensitive to scary or sad scenes in books and movies.
  12. Children that are empaths have a strong connection to nature, plants, animals and even stuffed animals, they don’t handle animal violence well.

Most kids naturally have 1-3 of these traits. The more of these traits that you recognize in your child, the more empathic they are!

Closing thoughts

It is important to be open and honest with empathic children. They will know if you are lying to them and there is no point in trying to keep things from an empathic child, or adult for that matter. While this  doesn’t mean sharing all of your problems with them, but to acknowledge it, in an age appropriate way, explain, and reassure that you are the adult and that they are things you will handle, and that your child doesn’t need to worry about it.

Remember, empathic children are dealing with a constant barrage of excess emotions. They value being listened to and not being judged when it comes to expressing what they are dealing with and going through. They need reassurance and benefit from love, hugs, and compassion of what they are experiencing. Helping to teach them skills to cope with all their experiences is also vital to your little empath learning to use, accept, and even grow their skills with their gift.

Resources for the article:

https://www.learning-mind.com/empath-child/

https://www.lifecoachcode.com/2017/07/31/traits-child-empath/

Resources for more information:

The Empath’s Survival Guide- https://www.amazon.com/Empaths-Survival-Guide-Strategies-Sensitive/dp/1622036573/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1514151961&sr=8-4&keywords=empathic+child

The Highly Intuitive Child: A Guide to Understanding and Parenting Unusually Sensitive and Empathic Children- https://www.amazon.com/Empaths-Survival-Guide-Strategies-Sensitive/dp/1622036573/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1514151961&sr=8-4&keywords=empathic+child


Adrienne Jeffries, MSW, LCSW-A
Mrs. Jeffries has worked with adults and children, helping them navigate their mental health concerns, symptoms and traumas. She is finishing her licensure hours in Elizabeth City, NC to be fully licensed in September 2018. Adrienne is a military wife and mom to a toddler, preschooler, and 3 dogs, who just accepted a counseling position in a local school system. In her spare time she enjoys all forms of creativity, learning, reading, and spending time with her family.

Jan 17

You Are AMAZING

By Jen Taylor | Children 0-5 , Kids 5-12 , Play Therapy , Play Therapy Interventions , Professionals , Trauma

That is the name of Holly Willard’s coloring book and the subject of her course Sexual Abuse Treatment Methods Using Play Therapy from the 2017 Play Therapy Summit.

Holly takes this topic very seriously and it is obvious during her heartfelt presentation that sexual abuse prevention is one of her passions.

And that’s because she knows the statistics.  You probably do to:

  • 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused
  • 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused
  • 75% percent of perpetrators are well known to the child

I even created a nifty little graphic to remind everyone of those numbers.

For Those Who Love Resources

If you are a fan of directive play therapy interventions and techniques, then Holly’s course Sexual Abuse Treatment Methods Using Play Therapy is right up your alley.

I have not counted them all but I know there are at least a dozen different resources and play therapy techniques included in her course.

Her coloring book, You Are Amazing, is just one page after another of directive interventions.  But she is not just promoting her book.  She is genuinely promoting relationship enhancing techniques that also build self esteem and resiliency.

And she knows of tons of resources.

My absolute favorite are these Superhero finger tatoos that she uses from Amazon (no affiliate links here…just sharing).

You get more tatoos than capes, so Holly recommends using construction paper for capes to stretch the value.

She uses them to talk about all the characteristics about the child that make them super.

It’s a cool way to build the self-esteem and talk about the special powers they have.

See 5 More Resources from her course in the  Facebook  group today.

It’s still all about the relationship

Holly shares so many directive play therapy strategies in her course, but at the end of they day, she really wants people to remember that what they are doing is enough.

You can have all sorts of cool books.

There are dozens more cool techniques that you can use.

But, she reminds us that many of these play-based interventions came FROM children DURING sessions.  It was through a child’s ability to be vulnerable in sessions that many directive play therapy interventions were created.

And Holly (and I) want you to remember that you are doing good work.

And as Holly says,

“JUST KEEP PLAYING AND DOING THE GOOD WORK THAT YOU’RE DOING.   BE THERE WITH THE CHILD AND THAT IS GOING TO BE WHAT THEY NEED.”

Jan 12

The Value of Unstructured Play

By Jen Taylor | Children 0-5 , Parenting Tips

Play.”

That was the answer my three year old son gave when I asked the same question I ask every Friday afternoon.  The question is, “What do you want to do this weekend?

Now, sometimes, my children will say “go to the beach” or “go hiking.”   We are an extremely active family and are usually doing something pretty adventurous.  They have said, “go on a road trip” or even random wish list things like “ride in a boat” or “go on an airplane.”

And my son was not alone.  When I asked his twin brother and his four year old sister, they both nodded in agreement.

We just want to play.”

A Weekend of “Just Play”

So that is exactly what we did last weekend.  We stayed at home for basically the whole weekend (minus one short trip to the craft store for some art supplies for both me and them) and they got to play.   Now, three toddlers playing together for an entire weekend is actually pretty relaxing for this mama!

(FINALLY…it took a lot of work to get them to this point).

Aside from the occasional fights over toys or the tears about a minor boo-boo, it was actually pretty entertaining to watch them just play.  And I can promise you that I had NOTHING to do with their plans and am not making this stuff up.

“Just play” turned out to include some of the following activities (named by them):

Hatchimal: They took turns hiding under a blanket and being petted and stroked until they “hatched.”

Family: My four year old plays “mom” and one of the boys plays “dad” and the other plays “baby.”  This includes symbolic play of bedtime, mealtimes, etc.  This one is especially fun because they actually change their voices to act out the roles.  (Be prepared to see yourself reflected…you may or may not like what you see).

School:  I think this one is a favorite for all kids, but they included rehearsals of all the activities that are part of their typical day care days (but this time, they get to play the teacher). Lots of singing in this one.

Gymnastics:  Now, they do not actually KNOW gymnastics, but they pretended to take lessons and did a lot of forward rolls.  This DID prompt me to show them my one and only gymnastic skill- a cartwheel.  For toddlers (and my skeptical husband who thought I was too old to cartwheel), this was pretty impressive.

Artwork:  During our one excursion to the local craft store, I got them each a poster board and some foam stars and they came home and made “boards.”  We played Moana and Frozen soundtracks on my beloved Sonos (I’m up to three now) and they were sprawled out in the hallway making scribbles and art.  Upon completion, they each wanted them hung on their bedroom doors.

**This gave me time to work on my own art project- A DIY board to display all the hikes that my adventurous little toddlers are completing in Hawaii.

 

Jumping into the “Pool”: On the back patio, they took turns jumping off a little metal table that I have and into “the pool” (which was just the grass).  I don’t even know all the details of this one, but it included a lot of giggling so it was obviously pretty fun.

And those were just the ones that I witnessed or could overhear.  Mostly, they played upstairs.  This involved some jumping on (and off) the bed, lots of running and quite a huge mess.  No one was injured and  nothing was broken so we call that a success!

Lessons from Unstructured Play

Now, my children are not special.  What they did this past weekend is what all children love to do.  Play is the language of children.  This is not something special that I taught them because I am a play therapist.  But, to have the opportunity to play WITHOUT ADULTS is some what of a privilege these days.

Here’s what that unstructured play does for them:

Conflict Resolution Skills:

This skill is the most critical and the hardest to “butt out of” as an adult.  Through unstructured play, they negotiated roles of who was going to be what, figured out the storylines and came up with plans that they all enjoyed.

But not all the time…

They are toddlers, remember? Of course there were times that someone came down and complained to me, “Jackson did this” or “Sarah, won’t let me do that.”

TIP:  Reflect the feeling but do not solve the problem.

I would typically say, “You’re mad at Sarah because she won’t let you play with the babydoll.  Did you tell Sarah you were mad?” And he would say no and then I could hear him say, “I’M MAD AT YOU SA-YAH.”   Sometimes that means that she works it out with him right then and other times it means that they stop playing together for a little while.   But, they worked it out nonetheless.

Mastery Skills:

Rehearsing and acting out the events that occur in our family routine and in their school routine all leads to better mastery of those skills.  Because they get to have more control (and get to have the power of being the authority figure for a change), they can try on new roles and attitudes in a safe and developmentally appropriate way.  They want to succeed and this was another chance for them to practice and rehearse the things that they are learning.

TIP: Reflect the behavior without always becoming the teacher again yourself.

This might sound like, “You love singing about the months of the year.  You’re getting a lot of practice in today.” But I would not say “You missed October again.”  Not in this moment.  We have plenty of opportunities to practice getting this 100% correct.  But when they are playing out mastery skills themselves, it is more important that they practice the PROCESS rather than just be reminded of the OUTCOME.

Creativity and Problem Solving:

Throughout the weekend, there were plenty of things that just didn’t work out.  Cartwheels, for example, are just not something that they are capable of at this time.  But, they found plenty of ways to make their imaginary gymnastics class more exciting.  This included the use of pillows to take their forward rolls to another level.  (And, from what I could tell from downstairs…probably more jumping on and off the beds).

Yes, of course, my toddlers come to me when they have a problem.  “This is not working. Can you fix it?”  Any many times, they actually do need my help.  But MORE times, they don’t.

TIP: Avoid rushing in with possible solutions to a problem. 

Usually, I would start by saying, “Hmm.  I wonder what you think needs to happen here.”   And usually they have an idea that we can try.  It might not work (and I may know that going in), but during unstructured play time, I would usually refer problem solving back to them.  And if their idea doesn’t work…I wouldn’t offer the solution.  Back to “Hmm…that didn’t work out how you wanted it.”

Inevitably, they either find a solution that does work or leave it for a while and go do something else. But the process of solving problems is both incredibly important for the development of critical thinking skills and for building self-esteem.  And don’t think that this encourages quitting.  It actually promotes the concept of frustration tolerance because when you are struggling with solving a problem, you actually need to try a few things, take a break and think about it more, come back and try some more, etc.

And a host of other social-emotional skills are learned

The list goes on and on.  Children practice communication skills through unstructured play. They practice motor skills (both fine and gross motor skills).   They practice this attachment concept called  “rupture and repair.”  That’s when their relationship is going well and then something happens – the rupture– (like someone gets mad and hits someone) and then they fix it –the repair– (like offering an apology or a hug).

We practiced those skills A LOT this weekend.

What do you want to do THIS weekend?

And on Friday, I ask again, “What do you want to do this weekend?”

And my typically adventurous family says,

Go hiking.”

So that is what we will be out doing this weekend.  And maybe go to the beach.  And, because they are kids, they continue to use their imagination to pretend they are flying down the mountain like PJ Masks.

And we will develop other skills, like doing hard things and appreciating the awesomeness of nature.  A balance between structured and unstructured play is always my goal.

What are your plans?  Do they include time for unstructured play?

Want tips on how to play WITH your child?  Read about the power of a 30 minute play session with you and your child here.

Aug 13

Adjusting to a New Baby in the Home: Lessons from MTV’s Chelsea Houska

By Jen Taylor | Children 0-5 , Parenting Tips

If you are adjusting to a new  baby in your home and you have another child in the home that is school age or younger, you may find some unexpected behaviors in your otherwise normal child.  This is completely expected!  In fact, if it doesn’t happen, I would be more concerned.

Oddly enough, during a recent episode of MTV’s reality show, Teen Mom 2, there are some great opportunities to see this process in action.  Fan favorite, Chelsea Houska does some things well (and there’s an opportunity where I wish she would have said something a little differently).

For those of you who don’t watch Teen Mom 2, let me give you the set up:

Chelsea Houska was originally on 16 & Pregnant, where she showcased her pregnancy with her first child, Aubrey.  Chelsea’s story continued on Teen Mom 2 and details the problems with Chelsea and Aubrey’s father, Adam.  They are not together and he is (according to the show), not very involved in Aubrey’s life. Aubrey is now seven. Chelsea married Cole last year and she had her second child, Watson (announced in January 2017).  In the show, Aubrey was SUPER excited about this new baby!

In a recent episode, Chelsea introduces Watson to the MTV audience and talks about the fact that Aubrey is suddenly afraid of sleeping in her own bed, “because of monsters.”

She and Cole perfectly implement a wonderful technique to help with this fear called Monster Spray.  Watch it here.

Now, Monster Spray IS a great intervention!  I recommend something like this to people all the time. And it works pretty well.  And Chelsea and Cole execute it perfectly.  They make it fun, they role play, Aubrey has a great time with this activity.

But it doesn’t solve the problem.

Chelsea becomes even more frustrated (probably because she is exhausted from her newborn and not sleeping much herself) and has a talk with Aubrey in the car.

MTV posted this article about it which includes the following summary of the interaction:

“Your attitude has been so bad lately and so negative, I don’t even understand why,” Chelsea told Aubree.  A hesitant and visibly upset Aubs initially revealed that she is “tired sometimes” but then further elaborated that she doesn’t want to miss out on special moments with her brother. “It’s just that he’s so cute, and when I have to go to bed, you guys get to be with him and I have to try to go to sleep,” the seven-year-old explained. “You get to have fun with him.” From there, Chelsea stressed that she and Cole are the parents and Aubree is the kid and “that’s how life goes.”“I don’t like getting mad at you and yelling — I don’t like that,” Chelsea stated. “I want us to get along. Let’s work a little harder,” she added, as Aubree listened.”

What Chelsea gets right (in my opinion)

  • They talk in the car instead of face to face which is much less confrontational and less threatening.
  • Chelsea poses her question from a place of curiosity (I don’t understand why) which gives Aubrey a chance to explain.
  • Chelsea admits that she has had some negative behaviors too (getting mad and yelling)
  • She ends it with a plan to work together and a stress that they are all in this together.

The opportunity for improvement (that I see)

I love Chelsea and I understand her struggle.  She is a good mom and has a great bond with Aubrey.  But, I think that she missed a big opportunity to connect with the REAL feeling that Aubrey is expressing.

What Aubrey says is that she doesn’t want to miss special moments, and that when she has to go to bed she is missing out on those moments while her mom and Cole are enjoying them.

People will say she is jealous.

But that’s not it (at least not all of it).  She is jealous.  She is jealous that she’s missing out.  Underneath the jealousy, she FEELS LEFT OUT!

She is SAD.  She is so excited about having a new brother that she is SAD that she will miss something cool.

In another part of the episode, she gets frustrated that new baby Watson smiles more at Cole than he does at her.  Chelsea responds with something like, “that’s his dad so of course he does that.”

Again, she misses the feeling!  Aubrey is WORRIED that her new baby brother doesn’t like her.

What I wanted her to say

In the car:

You are worried that you are missing special things with Watson while you are sleeping.  (imagine her nodding or saying yea).  I see you came up with a way to stay up later by saying you were afraid of monsters, so that you could spend more time with him.  I’m wondering if we can find a special way for you and Watson to say goodnight that is just for the two of you.  Have any ideas?

About the smiles:

It makes you sad that Watson doesn’t smile at you like that. (imagine child nodding).  You know, sometimes I get a little sad too when Watson does things for Dad before he does them for me.  That’s totally normal. Right now, he’s missing out. But I am so excited for him to figure out how amazing you are though because you make me smile all the time (make a silly face).

I just wanted to her ACKNOWLEDGE THE FEELING first. Then, problem solve, then set limits as needed.

Final Thoughts

And remember, if you have a new baby, it’s 3-6 months minimum for everyone to adjust to what is going on. There is no magic solution that makes this easy.  Older siblings have a mixture of excitement and worry and that is expected.  Parents are no different.  Chelsea is a good mom and they will all be just fine.  And so will you.

Jul 02

10 Tips for Traveling With Toddlers Without Going Crazy

By Jen Taylor | Children 0-5 , Parenting Tips

If you are planning on traveling with toddlers this holiday week, then you might have some anxiety (or dread) about leaving home, but I can tell you that IT CAN BE DONE.

And more importantly, it can be FUN.

Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

#1  Be Prepared to Bring A Lot of Stuff

Now, obviously, this is if you are traveling by car.  If it fits…bring it!  Seriously.  Because babies and toddlers don’t always do well with change.  The more familiar things you have, the more they feel like they understand what is going on.

For real…one time we took apart our twin boys’ CRIBS, packed them in our van, put them together in our cabin and then took them back apart for the road home. Just because we knew they would sleep in their own cribs.  And they did..and let me tell you, it was so worth it!

#2  Traveling By Plane (CHECK IT)

So, take advantage of the ‘kids under 2 fly free’ while you can.  You can’t bring cribs very easily, but you can check A LOT of stuff for free.  Like THREE infant convertible car seats (you know, the super heavy ones).  Yup…you don’t have to pay to check those.   Some people complain about them getting banged up but ours made it just fine.  Bonus: kids can chill in them while you are waiting for your rental car!

 

And you can check your stroller at the gate.  You would be surprised how helpful strangers are when they see you lugging all of this stuff around.  (And no, we did not hand out goodie bags to the passengers on the plane as suggested by some and it was all just fine).

#3  YouTube Is Your Friend (But Not For Daniel Tiger or whatever is your go-to cartoon)

This tip is for BEFORE you leave.  Go on YouTube and search for wherever you are going.  100% guarantee that there is a home movie of someone going there too.  (Now, if you are going to Grandma’s…find a video of the town-or have Grandma take a video of their house)

Show your toddlers videos of people going to the places that you are going.  This builds excitement about your trip by including them in the planning but it also makes them feel like they have been there before.  (A little bit of recognition of the place when they arrive makes it feel familiar which is good!).

#4 KEEP A SCHEDULE

Everyone says that it’s not possible to keep a schedule when you are traveling.  That is true to some degree, but at least try.  We work really hard to maintain naps (we left Sesame Place amusement park, took naps in the car (with A/C of course), and then went back in).   It can be done.

Now, your relatives might try to convince you to “Loosen Up” or as my uncle once said, “Take them off the clock” but don’t listen!  It’s a trap.  You know as well as I do that children that do not nap are no fun to be around.  AND, you’ve seen this chart that explains what time your children will get up depending on how late they go to bed, right?

 

Do everyone a favor and just put your children to bed at their normal time.  It’s better for everyone involved!

#5  ENTERTAINMENT

Okay, so if you were going to be strapped into a five point harness for a 7 hour road trip, you would probably need something for entertainment.  Same is true for toddlers.  Plan ahead with multiple options for entertainment.  And yes, use the screens here.  Movies, TV shows, games…whatever they fancy.

This summer, the Moana soundtrack is on heavy rotation.  And, I have to say I actually love it.  Just be prepared to sing this in the shower because you can’t get it out of your head.

#6  SNACKS

This one goes without saying, but never travel anywhere with toddlers without snacks of some sort.  Be the mom that gives them Gummy Bears and M&M’s or the one that has portioned grapes in a container but just have snacks.  Always!

We’ve been to 14 states with our toddlers, and we have finally come to our senses and ordered an electric cooler to keep milk and fruit and PB&J sandwiches in.  Not sure what took us so long, but you know they put those picnic tables at rest areas for a reason.  It’s so you don’t have to eat French Fries at every single pit stop.   This is the one we just ordered but going old school with ice is still a winner!

#7 STAY BUSY

Most people go on vacation to relax, but there is really no such thing when you have toddlers around. They are going to get into stuff.  They are going to get into Grandma’s collection of breakable, expensive things.  They are going to climb on things and jump off things. They are going to drive you crazy.

Stay busy!  Go places…even if it’s just the neighborhood playground.  Find something for them to do where they are allowed to run and jump  and climb.  And do this on the daily! And do it until they are ready to take a nap or go to bed.  Wear them out!

#8 BUT KNOW YOUR LIMITS

You have to be careful with #7.  When traveling with toddlers, there is a delicate balance between keeping them busy and running them ragged.  Typically, this means do something active for a couple of hours and then stopping to either rest or eat.

If you push too hard (especially if you miss too many naps or stay up late), then this crazy thing happens where they get uncontrollably hyper and wild.  That is bad!!!

#9 Make Sure You Are IN The Photos

Mom’s are usually pretty good at snapping great pictures while traveling with toddlers.  But, are you in any of them?  These times are priceless and it is important to have evidence of all of this fun.  Get a selfie stick if you must but most strangers are more than willing to snap a photo for you. Don’t even try to get everyone to look in the same direction.  Just take a few and pick the one where YOU look the best.

 **My tip here is to always ask someone who has a nicer camera than you do! And that’s not because I’m worried that they will steal mine.  It’s because they probably know how to take a picture that is in focus and actually has the background of the place you are visiting.

 

And last but not least…

#10 RECOVERY DAY

And my absolute best tip for traveling with toddlers is to schedule a recovery day for just you.  That means, the day after you return from this epic trip, your kids go to day care and you stay at home.  You can spend this day unpacking, doing laundry and getting your life back in order.  OR, you can spend it actually relaxing (you know, that thing that you are supposed to do on vacation but can’t).  I promise you…you will thank me for this one.

 

Where are you going with your toddlers this summer?  Let me know in the comments!

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