early intervention

Kids Have Feelings too

How to promote your child to share feelings

Over the past month, my own child have came to me asking for help with feelings she was exhibiting. This was nothing new to me because my children have been taught from a very young age that displaying emotions are okay and normal, as well as learning effective ways to cope with those emotions.

Recently those conversations have became more real. The election, my youngest being attacked by a dog, anxiety around moving into a new house, new school, etc. Children have feelings too, we have to learn effective ways to allow our kids to manifest those truths, so as parents we can shape them into healthy adults who are able to process their emotions safely. 

This activity is a exploration learning about how and where children "wear" their feelings on their bodies and what we can do with them. This activity works well with children of all ages regardless if they have a mental health impairment or not. Use your discretion on how to present it to different ages of children and be aware of what it might look like. For instance my 2 year old was not able to have a detailed conversation. I used simple language like mad, sad, and happy and coded those feelings with specific colors. My very mature 9 year old was able to really have a in depth conversation around specific incidences and used a wide range of feeling vocabulary. 

Activity:

1. Have your child identify at least 3 strong emotions they have experienced over the past week or so. These feelings can be both negative and positive. I would recommend a few of each to balance things out and not be hyper focused on only the negative. 

2. Use a cut out of a body, or draw a body that will represent the child.

3. Code each feeling with a color and create a key so that children can go back and understand what color goes with what feeling.

4. Have your child paint or color where they hold or show that emotion via internally or externally on the body. For example, if I used yellow for happy, I may color my face yellow because when I am happy I smile. If angry is red, I may color my stomach area red, because when I get angry by belly tightens up.

5. Begin a discussion on when, what, where, and how. Allow your child to express emotions without judgement. Discuss how some feelings are felt in the same places and how it can be beneficial when they are feeling the negative feeling to try to think of ways to get the positive feeling back. Most important remember to VALIDATE. Nothing more annoying then telling a child they can't feel a certain way. Or they are too young to feel. 

6. Help them problem solve. No matter if the feeling is fear, anger, being left out, sad. Practice and teach children what they can do and who they can talk to.

 

Let Them Be Little.....

Providing Discipline

Uh-oh here we go...

The ugly part of parenting is here. One of the worst moments of parenting arises during the time you have to set limits and boundaries. These moments don't warrant good responses from our children. It's important to know that children need a balance of both love and limits. And those 2 words, although used separately, often time overlap. Setting limits is also a way for children to know we love them. Setting limits keeps are children safe and reassures "us" that children understand self-control. It's okay to want to place boundaries because we know what's best, or just as a response to a simple annoying temper tantrum. Setting boundaries allows for the parent/child relationship to be one of trust and security. Of course that sounds easy. But the task of setting limits or giving a consequence is much more difficult. It's both the frustration of a high pitched cry, or simply saying “no” and following through. It's all complicated, it can be challenging, and it often leads to feeling unsuccessful.

The best way to accomplish any task when it comes to raising children is the concept of "consistency". Consistency and structure is vital during the difficult moments. Kids enjoy habits, they feel better when they know exactly what to expect next. For children, it's the fear of trying something once that initially is terrifying and then realizing after the 10th time it's actually okay and is unavoidable. What we tell children when we keep things the same, is that they can feel stability. This assures children that their environment doesn't change. This does not mean that routines won't vary from time to time, because they will. But when parents say "no" to touching the hot stove, the answer will always be no. And for children that is an essential part of their development.

Structure allows children to follow routines and ease into transitions. If you ever noticed in any classroom you visit there is always a chart of some sort that is a visual reminder for children to know what their day will consist of. This is done purposely to help children stay on task, more importantly so they are aware of expectations. For very young children we see time rituals for sleep, eating, playing, etc. It's all about keeping time and expectations being met. This transpires into adult hood, as we also have to keep schedules (ESPECIALLY PARENTS). This all ties into the concept of discipline because the more we can prepare kids, and help them with consistency, stability, and structure we can decrease meltdowns that result in a consequence.

Time Out vs. Spankings

I know that some of us were raised where "spankings" were the only form of discipline. And I am not here to tell you that it was wrong. I will simple state as an early childhood mental health professional the pros and cons, and why I promote the use of time out. Spankings offer an instant reaction for parents. Some parents see this as a bonus because it takes care of the problem immediately. Children start to fear the use of pain and begin to comply out of fear. So I definitely understand why some caregivers go to that route. But does it truly offer any sort of teaching moment. What I mean by this is that spanking teaches a child that we react by hitting when frustrated. Another concern with spankings is the emotional reaction it creates for the adult. Are we hitting our child because our fuse is so thin we become reactive? Are we spanking when our patience runs thin, and we tell our minds nothing else will fix it? Think of how you feel when you spank. Make sure it comes from a place of safety. Meaning make sure it is always appropriate, if that makes sense. 

Now "time out" is not very immediate. It takes tons of time and patience to teach a child to stay in a spot and think about their choices. But what "time out" does offer is a time for your child to learn how to calm down their own bodies by giving a time for the heart rate to decrease. When we place children in time out, it allows the child to learn how to take care of themselves. Kids begin to understand that when they get upset, mad, or simply can't get their way, they are allowed to have a reaction but it doesn't warrant the attention from the caregiver. Another benefit of using time out is that children begin to learn what gets their parents attention. Children are attention seekers regardless if it's from showing negative or positive behavior. What we give attention to is often what we see the child exhibit.  For example, have you ever had to say no a million times, only to get the same response? It's because in those moments our children are getting the best of us. Try ignoring your child during those moments, and see if it results in a different behavior. So if we can begin to show a child that negative behavior warrants no attention, and positive behavior warrants praise. Guess what we will see more of, THE POSITIVE!!

Just a little more.....

1. Always start with ignoring. Literally ignore your child when they are whining, crying, or have been told no but refuse to accept it. Walk out the room, talk to a friend on the phone, begin a hobby, but just don't entertain it. This is so hard to do, because we want to say a million things. I've learned as a parent to pick my battles.

2. A cool way to extend "time out" as a way to increase childhood development is to offer "calm down" activities in the time out space you use. I place bubbles, books, a squishy toy, etc. This is a tool to use to decrease the heart rate. Allow deep breathes, or something sensory based to allow your child's body to calm down so they are more rational. The recovery is faster!

3. Try to use the same time out spot in the home. Make sure it is not the same place they sleep, so they don't associate time out with sleeping. Make sure the spot lacks distractions, and that it is safe. 

4. Time the time out. I place 1 minute for every year of age. 2 years old=2 minutes. Of course they may not even stay for that long. But be repetitive by physically helping them stay or putting them back in the spot.

5. Don't over talk. The punishment is placing them in time out. No child can listen or rationalize when they are upset. Don't begin a speech about what they should have done. Simply state the reason and place them in the spot. Trust me they will get the point.

6. Adjust for older children. Time out for older children can simply mean taking a break to go think about their actions and repair. Kennedy, 8, after a few moments will apologize because she knows she was wrong (empathy). If I threaten a consequence, such as no company, or no television, then it is exactly that. What mommy says goes. Now there is always room for compromising. I try not to argue, but if she can logically state her case, I'm always down to listen. As parents the follow through is key (consistency, structure, limits).

7. After you impose a consequence start from a clean state. No holding grudges or punishing all day because of one moment. Let your child know that behavior is redeemable, and the consequence doesn't last forever. 

Let's Practice

My go to guide is as follows....this chart allows you to understand the cycle of time out. I promise you if you resort to this every time, your child will begin to decrease the amount of defiance. This provides your child with an environment of safety and consistency. Ultimately you as an adult decide what type of discipline strategies to use in the comforts of your home. I have seen my share fair of child abuse cases to know that time out is just an overall safe strategy. And that is not stating that those who choose spanking are abusers. The point is that we are teaching children that hitting is never okay, and there are more effective ways to get what you need.

 

Remember that most children, rather you are using spankings or time out loves you just the same. Your child wants to please you, but it is natural for our children to be in need of discipline. This is how children learn right from wrong, how to follow rules, and respect authority. We aren't born with the understanding of how and why we see the world the way it is. Children's brains develop in connection with the experiences parents expose them to. So always remember when you are considering how to use discipline, remember the messages you are sending and how you want those to be remembered.  

 

Potty What!

Here I am, starting all over after having an only child for almost 7 years, and I am totally clueless on how to begin the process of potty training my almost 2 year old. My older daughter was a piece of cake, this little one, not so much. Karter is one of the smartest toddlers I know, with no bias, lol. Did I mention that she will come up to her father and I after soiling her diaper to ask to be changed. As an early childhood professional, I am a true believer of letting your child show you they are eager to conquer a new task naturally. But Karter, has mommy going crazy, as she is showing tons of signs of being ready. I posed a question to my social media mommies asking for some of the best strategies and/or tips on the secrets to potty training, so of course I had to share!

Signs of Readiness

It is important to note that as parents we naturally feel the need to compare children. If it's comparing them to kids at the park, or siblings, it's hard to not want your child to be the best at whatever they do. Children are truly one of a kind. Potty training before 2, or after entering preschool is not more genius than the other. In the same breathe if your'e truly concerned that your child is not interested I would take them to a primary health physician to get more feedback. Also notice changes in environment, and survey all aspects of your child's life that could be impacting their ability to toilet train. Some concerns may be validated by an alternative source, so be aware of your child's capabilities and move forward with that in mind. There are some truth-telling signs that your child is eager to move forward and is possibly ready to begin potty training.

  1. A decrease in wet diapers- if they are capable of waiting hours in between wet diapers, they are more prepared to be toilet trained. This tells you they have the ability to hold it until they can release. 
  2. They can announce it- in my case Karter will directly tell me "Mommy I poop", or will ask to be changed because it feels uncomfortable. She now understands her bodily functions, and the need to be clean.
  3. They have the ability to undress- fine and gross motor skills are necessary. If your child seems ready but cant pull his pants down, there's a problem. Begin to teach the process of pulling there pants up and down. Need more practice in those areas google fine/gross motor activities to help.
  4. They are curious- Nothing is more curious than your child following you to see how it's done. This means they want to know how they could possibly master it themselves. Act on your child's curiosity.  
  5. Predictability- If your child is going routinely after eating and drinking, this can make toilet training easy. As parents you know when your child needs to go and so do they!
  6. And most importantly- they demonstrate wanting to be independent, and take pride in their accomplishments- this is displayed by them having the motivation to want to be toilet trained and feeling the reward of doing so.

Okay are they ready?! Here we go....

Top 10 Potty Training Tips!

1. No Pull Ups- My mommy friends tell me this is a big no no! It feels too much like a diaper. The feel of a diaper allows your child to believe they can still soil themselves and/or are confused on if it is indeed a diaper. Allow them to feel uncomfortable, to encourage them to not want to feel that way again. I received a great tip of something called plastic undies. The idea is that they don't get the clothes wet, but the child can still feel the sense of wetness. Genius!

2. Freedom Reigns- I've heard through the grapevine that 3 complete days of nakedness does the trick. This means delegating time to just allow them to be free to hurry and get to the potty. Allow for tons of accidents. After they have mastered going to the potty naked, begin trying to implement having on clothes.

3. Favorite Undies- If your child is anything like every other kid in this world...they have a favorite character/object of some sort. I am hoping it is a character that can be brought as underwear. Encourage them to not get Dora, Trucks, Elmo wet. My daughter is obsessed with frozen. I'll make a big deal of it by saying "Don't get Anna wet, that makes her sad". Practicing feelings and potty training. Win win.

4.  Bribes- Sticker charts, treats, candy...whatever will kick in the enthusiasm. Nothing like getting an instant reward for pleasing the parentals. Make sure they are motivated by the reward, by it being something they don't get often. Don't feel comfortable giving candy, don't do it. Do what works for you and your child.

5. Special Toys- A mother shared with me, that she purchased a toy that their child only played with during potty time. I thought, GENIUS! What a way to get your child to sit still. I then thought of the massive meltdown once it's over. But hey beggars can't be choosers, pick your battles wisely.

6. Books and Music- Prep is everything. The more you expose your child to the concept of being toilet trained, the more prepared they are to complete the task. Visit your local library, and youtube for songs and books specific about going to the potty!

7. Target Practice- Make a game of it. One game a friend of mine suggested is putting a cheerio in the potty and letting their son have target practice. Sounds safe to me!

8. Big or Little Pot- Some kids prefer going to the adult size toilet, for others this can be intimidating. Find what it is your child fears so they are not super anxious or reserved about going.

9. Praise/Model- Nothing is better than positive reinforcement. You can never give your child enough verbal praise. Kids enjoy pleasing parents, and crave positive attention. The more you bring attention to it, the more likely they will do it. Praise yourself and make a big deal out of it. You go use the restroom, bring them, and tell yourself out-loud "I did it"!

8. Clock Work- Time is everything. Be routine and structured about it. Observe how long it takes your child to digest food, or hold water. Take note of your child's body and use it towards your advantage.

10. Patience is a Virtue- Allow your child to show you the signs that I covered earlier. The thought of not buying diapers is awesome, but you don't want to make for a traumatizing experience. Kids who are often rushed, regress back, or have an increase of accidents.

With all this being said. Karter is just not ready, or at least I didn't conquer it this week. She won and I'm totally okay with that. She is excelling in areas, and reserved in others. I don't blame her for wanting to be my baby for a little longer. I will continue to encourage her without being forceful. I want her to feel proud when she is ready to succeed at going. Often times we as parents rush are children to grow up, and then when they are older we wish they had stayed young. Enjoy your children just where they are. Nothing more precious than time...

Skills should be encouraged, not forced.
— Mommy Wells
 

Supporting Self-Regulation

Close your eyes and picture this:

Your 2 year old is home, running around per usual. He/she notices that their sibling is playing with a toy that sparks their interest. Your 2 year old goes and snatches the toy screaming "this is mine!" As they proceed to run with the toy, they miss a step and fumble. Not only did they just lose the ball, but now they are hurting. All you hear is screams.....

Does this sound familiar? This seems like an everyday occurrence at my home. Accidents and emotional breakdowns happening left and right, with a toddler whose only response is to cry, and a tween that has a slight attitude problem. Well I am here to tell you that we can decrease breakdowns by understanding our role in developing your child's self-regulation skills.

What is Self-Regulation?

Before I write a novel, I will simplify all that self regulation encompasses. Self-regulation is the process that your child goes through that gives them the ability to control their behaviors and emotions. Children develop at different rates, this is also true for self-regulation. It is important to understand that self-regulation does not occur in isolation. Physical behaviors such as needing to be rocked, thumb sucking, swaddled, feeding, etc.; are all driven by getting an specific need met. These are early signs of self-regulation. Emotional regulation is a child's discovery of how to manage their emotions to socialize with peers and adults. This is exhibited by learning how to share, throwing tantrums, following the rules, and saying one's needs. Demanding "this is mine!". Self-regulation involves using tools to help work and process challenging moments. Those same tools require thoughtful planning by both parent and child.  

Basically...

Basically...

Why is this important?

Self-regulation is the foundation of early childhood development. It's the seed planted to assist adults with managing emotions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If we give children the ability to learn strategies to stay calm in stressful situations. As they begin to grow into adults they will continue to use the same habits of using effective coping skills. Hence, self-regulation works as a bridge. During the preschool years children have to learn several new concepts. This includes but not limited to learning how to sit, listen, share, follow directions, and rules. This all happens simultaneously and continuously. Not to mention one day children are protected from the world by parents, the next day we are prepping them to face the world on their own (preschool). This idea can be overwhelming for little ones. The more we understand how we can guide our children to self-regulate, the more we can begin to feel comfortable about letting them go off into the world alone...

This week I will be sharing via social media, fun, simple self regulation strategies/games! I will leave you with a few simple ideas here on the site.

Allow your child to consume lots of water. Fueling with water is necessary to keep our nervous system to stay calm.

Lots of sleep. Kids can sleep up to 12-14 hours a day. And they absolutely need it! Lack of sleep makes for a challenging day!

Provide opportunities for free play/outdoor play. Let the energy out. Increase heart rate=more blood flow to the brain= brain power.

Walks... My older daughter when feeling emotional dysregulated just needs a walk for fresh air. As her body begins to increase with happy hormones that by physical activity, she presents as more calm.

Blowing bubbles is the same idea of practicing deep breathing. When you blow bubbles too quickly or too slow, it may cause for a disaster. But if you do it from the belly, at the right tempo, you get the perfect amount. Show kids how to deep breathe by using bubbles. Plus who doesn't like bubbles, lol.

Read books about feelings and that offer sensory stimulation. I love Todd Parr books, he does an amazing job displaying an array of feeling vocabulary. Usbourne children's books offers the use of sensory. "That's not my"...books use textures to stimulate your young reader. Sensory is linked with self-regulation. Offer sensory items to help keep your child regulated.

Music! Again this is linked with sensory play. Music is known to be something that allows you to stay relaxed. It is also an opportunity for your child to use both sides of their brain!

Kids Yoga! Yoga is a great way for kids to connect to their bodies, stay focused and calm themselves. Try adding 15 mins a day or after a meltdown!

Kids Yoga! Yoga is a great way for kids to connect to their bodies, stay focused and calm themselves. Try adding 15 mins a day or after a meltdown!


I would like to challenge you to allow your child during the next meltdown to do one of these as a way to redirect a challenging behavior. Take advantage of moments that provide you with an opportunity to teach. When you put your child in time out, offer bubbles; can't get a child to share, read a book about sharing. That 2 year old we discussed earlier was able to get up, come to mommy, and ask for a simple hug. The perfect coping strategy to help self regulate :-)