Posted in Education, Family, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

When your child doesn’t have any friends

This article is not about homeschooling; however, this is always the first question I get asked since I’ve decided to do it, and was honestly my first big concern: How will my daughter socialize?

Making friends was never easy for her, keeping them was even harder. One on one she seemed to play great, but you throw another kid or two or twenty (daycare/preschool) in the mix and forget about it.

Why is socialization important?

No one can deny that people have to be able to communicate, work, and live with each other. Unless you go off grid you will have to come in contact with others. But besides the necessity of it, there are other perks for children to be able to socialize.

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For younger children, being in a daycare/preschool/play group can help teach them patience, empathy, and help them with their fine motor skills. Young children inspire one another so if your child is late to the party on walking, they may do it sooner if they are around other kids who walk. Same with talking. Same with bad habits too, so be warned.

These early interactions start to create soft skills that your child will need for the rest of their lives.

The second big one, especially for children who are a little older, is self-esteem. Having friends and others that are like minded, helps boost your self-esteem. Being lonely, feeling alienated, and feeling isolated can destroy it.

Currently, I am in several ADHD Groups and I can’t tell you how many times I see moms saying things like “my son didn’t have anyone show up to his Birthday party” or “my daughter never gets invited anywhere”. It breaks my heart. Those kids know that they are being shunned and that can be devastating to their self esteem.

 

Is it as important as it’s made to sound?

Image result for gif about being loner

I think yes and no. Like I stated above, older children may suffer more without it, but the skills start in the toddler years. However, do I think you should throw your kid in every social opportunity that pops up because it’s crucial that they interact with kids everyday? No.

The first classroom is your home. You are teaching your child from day one whether you are meaning to or not. Back in the day, that was the only education. Parents, family members, or tutors (for the wealthy) taught all the children together.

TIMELINE OF EDUCATION SYSTEM IN AMERICA– pretty interesting but may make you leery of the education system if you’re not already, js.

The government stepped in and slowly enacted Compulsory Education Laws, state by state, starting in Massachusetts in 1852 and ending with Mississippi in 1917. Why does this matter? It’s just to show that children weren’t shut ins prior to being forced into public schools (or private even). But it also shows that they weren’t in classrooms full of other students either (and a lot were working horrid hours and conditions doing child labor but that’s a different post).

It has been proven that you need socialization to have a healthy lifestyle. Even if you are anti-social, you interact with people in one form or another and we as a species need that. What I think is overblown is HOW much young children need.

Under 5, the emphasis of social interactions should be on the family. This is the where the child should feel safest. This is where their trust should build a foundation, in their homes. I don’t just mean parents either: grandparents, cousins, siblings, etc. Play groups, community events, and family events are great ways to get doses of interactions for them as well. If they have to go to daycare because you work (been there) then that’s fine. Don’t do it JUST for the socialization aspect is all I’m saying.

How can I help my struggling child?

For whatever reason some kids (and adults) are just born smooth, confident, and/or friendly. Some kids are not. It’s something they have to work on. The set-up of a large classroom may be an overwhelming place for them to try and make friends.

If you find your child isn’t getting the interactions they need with other kids here a few things to try:

Image result for lonely child

Give them a chance to socialize in smaller groups: that’s easier for younger children (like mentioned above); however, there are options for all ages. The Scouts, art groups, summer programs (look for ones with smaller class sizes), STEM clubs, and other similar programs are a good way to socialize with children in a smaller setting with a similar interest. This helps with having an ice breaker and may have students from other schools they haven’t had a chance to interact with during the school year.

Play Groups/Play Dates: I was kind of anti play dates when I first had my daughter but as more and more of my friends had kids I was okay with it (socialize much?). It was a good way for me to get some adult time while my kids got to play with someone new.

Family exposure: I think it’s easy to overlook just how important it is to visit family when you have children. They need that interaction just as much as your grandparents, parents, and other family members do. With technology being what it is, it may be easy to write off actually visiting each other but make a point to do so.

Pen Pals: Because of the above mentioned Facebook post problem I kept seeing I decided to start a Facebook group to meet Pen Pals (for kids with ADD, ADHD, ASD, and any other disorder that may hinder their social skills). This could be great outlet for your child to make a friend at their own pace!

Pick-A-Pen Pal

Buddy Bench: in case there are any teachers or daycare professionals reading this I just heard about the Buddy Bench (it’s not new but it’s new to me). It’s where there is a designated spot (like a bench) that if a child goes to recess or break time and doesn’t have a friend to play with, they go to the Buddy Bench. That helps other kids who also don’t have a friend to play with find each other. Brilliant. Obviously this would not work with older kids the same way but maybe a different variation of the same idea could be implemented.

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Posted in Education, Family, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Impulse Control, or lack there of

Stop hitting your brother.

Get your hands off your brother.

You can’t make your brother dance if he doesn’t want to.

Put down your brother.

He’s not a puppet, stop trying to make him talk.

No you can’t sit on his lap you’re twice his size.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST STOP TOUCHING YOUR BROTHER!

…impulse control. It’s one of the most difficult symptoms of ADHD that I have encountered. The endless talking, the inability to stop touching things, the constant

movement. More importantly, the lack of control. It’s hard as a parent and someone who grew up in a strict home to understand “can’t”. (Warning: Double negatives ahead) She can’t not touch him. She can’t not move around the couch. She can’t not speak over anyone else who is trying to speak to you. Anyone. Ever. And then of course is the backlash of “that’s just being a kid.” Just to clarify there’s a huge difference between a hyper child and a child with ADHD. A hyper child may have some issues keeping their hands to themselves, but in a child with ADHD you can see the physical discomfort as they try to restrain but can’t. If you haven’t had to see it that’s wonderful but I assure you it’s a problem.

Now that I have a better understanding of my daughter and what she’s going through I know now that no medicine is ever going to be able to help her in this area. Some parents can use the available treatments out there but even so, no amount of medication is going to work without some cognitive intervention.

How to handle impulse control:

    1. It’s okay to get mad/sad/frustrated. Just try to not project that onto your child. Yes, they need to be made aware that their behavior is not okay, and that it is causes conflict; however, making them feel guilty or responsible for your bad feelings is a bit much for a young child. For an older child, like 8 and up, I think they should know that what they are doing is causing you stress. That way you can work together on a plan of action.image
    2. Repeat yourself constantly. Something I loooooathe doing is repeating myself. I repeat; I loathe repeating myself. Did I mention I loathe it? Loathe what? Oh, repeating myself. Sometimes this is how it feels to talk to my daughter but I have to. I have to tell her many times that it’s time to put on pants. Most kids will putter and delay the inevitable but when impulse control is an issue it can take hours. Literally. Just to get dressed. One piece of clothing at a time; “Go put on your shoes”, “Please go get your shoes”, “I know that’s a beautiful a picture you just drew when I thought you were putting on your shoes but now you really need to put on your shoes”, “You know what? You can put them on in the car.” – not the best ending but it happens.
    3. I do believe in praising a child for being able to do something that is difficult for them. I think that it builds esteem, creates a bond, and gives them incentive. I do believe in special treats and awards. However, when my daughter started saying things like “if I’m good all day at school today I can have a snack when I get home right?” and I said, “Why don’t you be good all day at school today because that’s what you’re supposed to do and it will make me happy?” I got “the look” but we did have a good day that day. Awards can be over done but I feel like praise can’t, as long as it’s genuine. Kids are smart, and if you start praising them for every little thing (“Oh my gosh you walked down the hallway and didn’t trip that’s AMAZING”) they will know it’s not sincere. Praising for things that are milestone with impulse (“I’m so proud that you were able to get dressed before breakfast today, thank you.”) I think builds that positive experience.
    4. Routines. I’ve already posted about the importance of routines but consistency is crucial when teaching impulse control. If you do (blank) than (blank) happens and you feel (blank). This statement works for good and bad instances. Consistent punishments and consistent rewards are necessary when trying to change behaviors. We have a schedule for after school: snack, play outside, come in and help set table, eat dinner, play alone, bedtime routine.
    5. Learn the beauty of physical work. Chores. Wonderful chores. Cleaning up her bedroom has little appeal (although sometimes she really gets into it). However, doing things she sees me doing like the dishes, setting the table, feeding the cat, wiping down counters and tables; are all things she likes to do on her own. It occupies her, burns some energy, and keeps her out of trouble. I am starting a chore chart soon so we will see how that goes. Also, running is a godsend. Make up reasons for them to run. I like to pretend that the swing set in the furthest corner of our yard is the safe zone. So, she has to run from there to the house several times per game.
    6. Along the same lines, games are great tools for learning a new skill. Simon Says is one of my favorites. We play inside and out. When inside I like to put down colored paper in the hallway and make her go back and forth. If she steps off the square before I say the next “Simon Says” she loses. This teaches her to wait and listen to instruction before acting.
Posted in Education, Family, Mental Health, parenting, toddlers

Sports and ADHD

 

I have been doing a lot of research on the topic of ADHD (if you can’t tell by some of the other posts) and to help kids (and parents) better cope with the disorder. It’s actually pretty fascinating how the mind works and how ADD and ADHD affect it.

School is starting soon, and that means classes and sports will also be starting. You may be wondering what’s the best sport or activity to put your child in, especially if you have noticed some hyperactivity. (Note: I don’t think every kid who is hyperactive has ADHD and I do think it’s extremely overly diagnosed. But some of this information is good for any child who needs a little extra help burning off some energy).

It has been proven that children who participate in extracurricular activities do better in school. I would be wary of doing too many activities as you don’t want to burn your child out, but getting them involved and interested in at least one thing early on can lead them into a lifelong appreciation for the activity.

What do sports teach? Teamwork, listening skills, discipline, social skills, focus, and above all, in my opinion, a sense of accomplishment. Children with ADHD and ADD tend to suffer from low self-esteem, especially as they get into elementary and middle school.

What do activities like music and art teach? Discipline, structure, a way to calm down, and again, a sense of accomplishment.

This article will focus on sports. The biggest question I keep seeing is “should I put my child in an individual sport, or a team sport?” It may seem daunting picturing your hyperactive child trying to work as a team and you may want to do an individual sport. Or, you may see this as an opportunity for them to challenge themselves and work with others. Below are options for both.

 

Martial Arts:

young children doing karateBenefits: teaches self-control, discipline, individualism, accomplishment, respect

You do not have the issue of struggling to work as team but they will need to understand how to share their time. Each student usually gets a chance to try a new skill or lesson on their own. This may be hard for a child with ADHD or ADD but something they can overcome. They will also have to learn new skills by step-by-step instruction.

 

Swimming:

Benefits: can be very physically demanding which is good for ADHD children, gets one on one with coaches, still has team to work with even though rated individually

Make sure to research swim lessons or teams in your area. In some places this may be an expensive route but there have been many success stories. Obviously, Michael Phelps being one of the most popular.

Gymnastics:

Benefits: physically demanding, physical awareness, improves focus, great for children with sensory issues as well

TImage result for gymnastic toddlerhe only downside I see to gymnastics is most children with ADHD and ADD suffer from impulse control problems and reckless behaviors. When learning difficult maneuvers, it may be something to consider and to monitor closely to lessen any injuries. Of course, most coaches and instructors know this and are trained to handle these behaviors.

 

Horse back riding:

Benefits: out in nature, learning patience and calmness, learns to respond and appreciate the animal

This may be one of the most expensive activities that you can find for children but again there have been many success stories. I would wary of horseback riding for those children with more severe ADHD as horses are animals. I love horses and horseback riding personally, but I have been thrown off of one as well and it is scary, not to mention dangerous. If your child doesn’t have a sense of how to control their impulsivity, at least a little, I would recommend working on that before trying horseback riding.

Soccer:

Benefits: team camaraderie, constant movement, little downtime between activities, sense of accomplishment

As with any team activity the biggest issue is learning to deal with losing and learning to work with others. That can be a turn off for some parents or a driving factor for others. I think just being open with your child beforehand that they may not win, but that’s it okay, will help with this so they are prepared for that. Soccer also has a very young starting age (some places as young as 2) and goes through most high schools so it’s something your child can grow with.


Baseball:

Benefits: teamwork, patience, sportsmanship, discipline

My biggest problem with baseball is that there tends to be a lot of downtime. If your child is playing outfield there may be lulls in time where they are not running or doing something active. This tends to let the mind wander and leads to boredom, which then leads to them not paying attention. Again, for especially hyperactive children, baseball may not be the best fit.

 

Basketball:

Benefits: concentration, teamwork, constant movement, sense of accomplishment

There are many mixed reviews about basketball and ADHD. For one thing, it’s a good sport because it is so high energy. On the other, it’s tough for some children because you must have serImage result for basketball elementary schoolious focus and keep the ball in sight at all times. Many ADHD students struggle with this and can get frustrated during the game. My advice is, if you want to go this route, is to explain it as a trial. Tell your child there are many other things they can try to do if basketball doesn’t seem to be fun for them. If they are struggling with paying attention to it too much then they won’t enjoy the game and that defeats the whole purpose.

 

One thing worth mentioning is (just like with school and having a great teacher) any sport can be as good or as bad as the coach you get. If you have a coach who is understanding and patient then your child is more likely to succeed at whatever it is they are doing.

 

Posted in Family, Gardening

Why Start a Family Garden

Remember that Lima bean experiment you did in school with the wet paper towel? You got to watch over time the roots grow and the bean start to sprout into a plant. Other than that one tiny bean I don’t recall any sort of gardening or growing of food education when I was in school. There are some schools now that have programs for this but most do not. That is why I am doing a four part post on why you should garden with your children, what the advantages are, how to do it successfully, and some fun activities to incorporate.

Chances are you have at least one place that you remember as a kid, which was outside, that you liked to go to. Maybe it was a relative’s garden, or the woods behind your friend’s house, or even the local farmer’s market. I remember a friend of the family had an old plantation. In his backyard was a small bush lined maze with four pockets. Inside were things like a bird bath, or a fruit tree, or different kinds of plants, but walking through there just transported me to somewhere else when I was younger. You can make a small magical area for your kids right in your own backyard. Don’t stop reading if you think your yard is too small or you don’t have the area that would be needed. Even window plants, porch plants, indoor gardens, and other small areas can work.

                                                                                               (Results may vary, fairy not included in all gardens, not typical outcome)

With STEM education still on the rise learning environmental science can never start early enough. Getting firsthand experience with nature and watching things grow can give you child an educational boost in the science department. Also getting kids outside and working in a garden starting a young age will make them less likely to become couch potatoes. Childhood obesity is no joke and is still, even with all the great resources out there, a major problem. If your child starts to appreciate the outdoors and everything they have to offer you can probably avoid this problem. They will be getting physical exercise while gardening and learn a sense of responsibility. If you are growing fruits and vegetables then learning good nutrition and becoming interested in eating these natural foods will also create healthier children.

On top of everything you will bond. You will start something that you and your children do together that will become almost a tradition. Something they will remember and (hopefully) keep up into their teen years when they are the hardest to reach.

Another huge plus to gardening and growing foods with your children is improving their self-esteem. Some signs your child maybe experiencing low self-esteem can range from not trying new tasks, cheating at games or on tests, becoming withdrawn, being over sensitive of other’s feelings about them, and even trying to be too helpful at home. Gardening can instill responsibility and also give them a sense of pride. They can show off what they have done and say “I made that grow”.

Even though we do not want to cheat per say I found a great list of plants which are easier to grow. Seeing the end product and their plants be successful can be crucial to keeping their interest in gardening alive, especially in the beginning. There are also ideas for indoor and potted plants.

See list here. 

A good garden is something you can work on all year long, so don’t assume you can only use this as a way to bond in the spring and summer months. I will show you in the activities post how to make some of the garden excitement last throughout the year.

More on this to come…