Back to School – Tips for An Easy Transition!

It’s hard to believe it’s already that time of year again! The lazy, hazy days of summer are coming to an end and a new school year is dawning.

For moms and dads, this is often a happy time as they are weary after having the kids at home all summer. Most kids, however, are usually not happy about the end of their summer fun. The beginning of a new year can be a hard adjustment for some kiddos or a simple transition for others.

Getting back into a school routine or at least a more consistent one is tough, but can sure make a difference in the way your child adjusts to the new year. Soon, the nights of staying up a little later, sleeping in a bit longer and all manner of summer fun will be a thing of the past. Here a some ways to make the transition easier:

  • Consider easing back into your school routine by beginning about two to three weeks before school kicks off.
  • Gradually begin to tweak your bedtime schedule so that everyone is getting to bed earlier. Equally as important is waking up earlier in the mornings.
  • Teach them to be organized and make decisions about their clothes the night before. This translates to less stress in the mornings.
  • Give them opportunities to be independent and responsible. Set them up for success by giving them responsibilities at home so they can experience what it is like. For example, you might make it their responsibility to pack their backpacks and lunchbox.
  • If a new school is on the horizon this year, a peek inside might help allay any anxiety your child is having. Go to the building and let them see where they will be going each day.
  • Implement a daily homework routine. Whether that is immediately after school, after their snack and a little downtime, or even after dinner for teens, having a set time established helps everybody.
  • Prepare them for the separation from you, particularly if this is their first year to attend school or if you have an anxious child. Let them know what the morning drop off will look like. Be specific. “I’ll be able to walk you into your classroom the first week of school and after that, I’ll drop you off in the carpool line.”
  • We set the tone for the family. Get enough rest and get up early enough so that you aren’t rushed. Allow time for the unexpected.

Kids take their cues from us. If we are excited about the new year and happy with their teacher, chances are they will be too. If we’re anxious and worried that they might not be in the class with their best friend, worried that they might get lost trying to get to their classes on time with all of their materials or unhappy because they didn’t get the teacher we wanted, they will probably unhappy be too.

Hoping your family gets an A+ on this transition into another year of school!

Family Spotlight: Wendy Stem

In the spring of 2011, after our older daughter Abigail had started second grade, she began experiencing frequent stomach aches. They would usually come in the evening around dinner time, she would become flushed in the face and just need to lie down. After six months of doctor’s visits that included everything from strep throat to allergy tests and even an endoscopy, the stomach aches went away.

Parenting With Amy

Six months later, our younger daughter Sarah, shortly after starting first grade, began experiencing the same symptoms. Unfortunately, Sarah’s were more intense. She had stomach aches, cramping, and painful constipation. She became fearful of several things including being sick, going to school, and being by herself. There was a lot of crying, a lot of screaming, and several trips to the pediatrician’s office. After testing for a few things, it was becoming clear that Sarah was on the same path that Abigail had been on. Fortunately, this time around, our pediatrician recommended visiting with Amy to investigate the possibility of Sarah’s symptoms being related to anxiety.

During our first visit with Amy, she assured me that all of Sarah’s symptoms, while they could be something physical, aligned with a child feeling anxiety. Because Sarah is very verbal, often times we feel like we can reason with her and explain situations, but trying to explain Sarah’s anxiety to her and tell her the “right” way to view it was clearly not helping. Amy has helped us better understand the viewpoint of the anxious child. She has helped us learn how to talk with Sarah in such a way as to acknowledge what she is feeling, to help Sarah feel validated in what she is feeling, instead of feeling differently or wrong about it. The following spring, Sarah was doing very well in her first grade class.

It was late that same spring that we had a huge family change – we decided to take an assignment overseas with my husband’s company. We all felt nervous but very excited. We were busy with plans, selling our home and getting ready to move in August when we were delayed by an indefinite amount of time while we waited on immigration paperwork. We moved into a small apartment that was fun for the first week, but the reality of leaving our home, our neighborhood, friends and routine soon hit. We were all grieving, not sure how long we would be in this apartment and not sure what our lives would look like when we moved overseas. It was an emotional, scary time.

We were all feeling quite uncertain about what we were doing, but it is Sarah who is somewhat of the “thermometer” in our household. She felt all of the insecurity and emotion intensely. We had crying and screaming fits, periods of deep sadness, even a period of time when Sarah did not want to get off of the couch to play.

I am so thankful we were able to reach out to Amy again. She was a neutral person with whom Sarah could talk, and who, according to Sarah has great dolls to play with! As her parents, we had this idea that we could just tell Sarah how to “fix” what she was feeling by doing something different, acting a certain way, or believing something specific. One of the most important things we have learned from Amy is how to validate our children and their feelings. Simply being able to listen to them and acknowledge what they are going through as being normal has given them a confidence to work through a lot of these anxious moments.

While nothing about our move overseas was easy, we have done it. Our first move was an amazing adventure, but definitely filled with moments to practice the skills we have learned from Amy! The adjustment continued to be filled with sadness, anxiety, and a little anger, but both girls started new schools overseas, made many new friends and enjoyed an amazing experience. We continue to face fears and anxiety, but with an openness to talk, acknowledge, and validate. We have learned to be aware of our stressors, to recognize what are reactions to anxiety and to reach out for help when we need it, all of which is an ongoing process.

Our girls are now entering seventh and fifth grades, and we have made another overseas move. We have faced the grief of leaving another home, the sadness of leaving friends and the anxiety of not knowing what the next months will be like. Sarah and Abigail have both felt this intensely and have had the same feelings manifest. However, they are beginning to recognize and verbalize how they are feeling, and we know we can work through it as a family. We are thankful for the skills we have learned from Amy, and thankful that we are able to continue to seek her guidance and resources!

Wendy Stem

Ask Amy: Screen Time

Q: How do I decide how much screen time is appropriate?

A: That varies from family to family. Just yesterday, I met with a Mom that gives her kids 30 minutes, 3 times a day – only because it’s summer. During the school year, it is 30 minutes after school and an hour a day on the weekends. I spoke with another family last week that allows it on the weekends only, and yet another family that doesn’t have any specific time constraints with their kiddos. As you can see, there are many different opinions here.

Parenting With Amy

It depends on your child too. Some children can’t handle much before their behavior changes, while others can. Older kids and teens probably need more time than younger ones. I’m not a fan of electronics in their bedrooms, nor do I think it’s a good idea at bedtime. Electronics used as a babysitter is not advocated either.

When I speak of screen time, I’m including all of it…TV, computer, iPad, iPhone, gaming devices and the like. I encourage you to think about the adverse effects of being so immersed in the electronic world. Research is showing us that children with too much screen time are not as socially adept, have more behavioral problems, sleep difficulties, obesity and aggressive tendencies, to name a few. I’m seeing more and more kids that have difficulty with reciprocal conversation and the ability to make eye contact. They do not get to practice these important social skills when they are connected electronically. We know, for development, children need to and should be playing, being creative, experimenting and being relational. This is how they learn.

Media is part of our culture. Let’s help our kids make good decisions about it.

There’s Hope For The Yellers!

HURRY UP!” or “HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU?” Do either of those sound familiar?

pwa_feature_yelling_2

I don’t think any of us ever plan to yell at our children, but the reality is most of us do. Some of us yell a lot, and some of us yell occasionally. If you grew up in a home of yellers, most likely you’re a yeller too.

We tend to think that we need to get louder for our kids to hear us. Actually the opposite is true. The louder we get, the less they hear. And besides that, nobody likes to be yelled at.

Yelling at kids:

  • disconnects us from them
  • scares them
  • teaches them it is ok to yell
  • teaches them they don’t have to comply until we yell
  • creates tension and stress in your home
  • makes them the target for your anger

If you’re ready to change the trajectory of your family, you can! It is not an easy habit to break, but it can be done with great diligence. To do this, the focus is on you, not your kids. It is not our kids that make us yell, contrary to what many parents believe. It is all about us – our behavior and the choices we make in the moment. Self-control is the key.

Alternatives to consider:

  • Catch yourself, and identify your triggers. (Are you tired, mad, or stressed?)
  • Take five. Tell your kids that you are feeling frustrated, and you will be back in five minutes to start over.
  • Apologize and ask them for forgiveness. Tell them you are working hard to break this habit.

Benefits:

  • The tenor in your home will change.
  • Your child’s attitude toward you will change.
  • You’ll be a happier person.

This habit does not change overnight. Take one day at a time and even consider enlisting someone to help hold you accountable.

I’m willing to bet your kids will thank you for it one day.

There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy

 

 

 

Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more.

Family Spotlight: Jennifer Milner

My grandmother once told me that, in parenting, there are only two things you need to say to your child.

Two things. That doesn’t seem hard, does it? Just two things, and you’re a great parent? I was eager for a pencil and paper and could see myself in the future as a new mom: Did I say the “two things”? Check! Cross “parenting” off the list!

But the problem, my grandmother told me, isn’t that people don’t say two things to their kids; it’s that most people say the wrong two things to their kids.

Most people, she explained, say, “Here’s who I think you are,” and “Here’s what I am going to do for you,” when what a parent should say to his child is “Who are you?” and “What do you need from me?”.

I often come at my children with pre-conceived notions about how a conversation is going to go, or what they’re going to need from me that day, and I continue to be surprised at my surprise when those notions are turned on their heads! I remember when my second daughter began to eat solid foods, and I eagerly introduced her to all the foods her older sister had loved so much as an infant. I was shocked when my little one didn’t like avocado, and I can even remember saying to the messy, crying little six-month-old in a bewildered voice, “but your sister LOVED avocado as a baby!”

That was the first time I realized that my younger daughter was, um, a completely different person than my older daughter, and that all my expectations of how it “should” go were about to be dashed. My youngest wasn’t a sequel to a hit novel – she was a blank page waiting to be filled; an undiscovered country begging to be explored.

My oldest is now ten and my younger daughter, eight. I have learned over the years that I parent best when I don’t try to come in as the expert on Who They Are, or with a problem preemptively diagnosed, and the prescription already written; instead, I’m the most useful to them when I try to reverse engineer the situation. What is the problem (who are you?) and if I can picture the desired solution, then how can I work backwards from that to figure out how to get to A from Z (what do you need from me)?

This past fall, we went through a “valley” time in family life – lots of sibling squabbling, door-slamming, disrespectfulness, and more. Their bad attitudes were wearing on the whole family, and our usual discipline methods were not cutting it. So I tried to work backwards through the issue.

The problem – a lack of respect for other family members, and a lack of self-control when dealing with anger and frustration. Rather than heaping consequences on each child for bad behavior, I wanted to encourage good behavior and good choices. But how to do that without outright bribing the girls?

We ended up handing each child a big stack – and they were fairly big – of one dollar bills. “This,” we said to them, “is yours to spend on the family in two weeks, any way you want. We’ll go bowling, or to the movies, or ice skating – you name it. Start planning it now, and we’ll look forward to it!”

Both girls lit up.

“But here’s the catch,” we continued. “Every time you slam a door, speak disrespectfully, are mean to your sister, and so on, we will take a dollar out of that stack. So your behavior over the next two weeks is going to determine whether or not we go for a night at the movies or we all split a single cone at Braum’s.”Their actions, we explained lovingly, have real consequences on the whole family. When one of them acts out, the whole family suffers, and we wanted them to see that in a very real way.

At the end of the two weeks, each girl had nearly all her money left. (Yeah, I was shocked too!) They worked hard, and you could see that as their outward choices changed, their hearts softened as well. Patience grew, and disrespect shrank. One girl took us ice skating and out for cookies, and the other treated us to a family movie day. And on each girl’s “special” day, she was beaming with pride the entire time, bursting with joy at providing such fantastic quality family time. We made sure to praise her throughout the day, saying “Thank you for the choices you’ve made over the past two weeks. It’s because of your patience and grace and kindness that we are able to have this great family time together!”

It’s so easy to stop checking in, I know. When I’m busy and rushed, I fall back on what I think I know of my girls. I forget they’re constantly changing, constantly growing, and I need to continuously look at them and ask them those two questions: Who are you, right now? And what do you need from me, right now?

I don’t always find the answers the same way. Sometimes the girls will tell me themselves; sometimes I find the answer after much quiet reflection; and sometimes I turn to an expert like Amy to help me figure out the reply to those questions. I’ll be the first one to tell you I don’t have all the answers.

But I never stop asking, and it has absolutely shaped who I am as a parent.

Jennifer Milner

Family Spotlight: Debbie Fischer

Structured Doll Play

My husband and I, along with our two sons – ages 4 and 1 ½ years, recently underwent a cross-country move. As corporate relocations tend to go, we moved into a temporary apartment and a preschool that happened to have openings for both boys. Within 2 months, we moved again – this time into our permanent house and, a few months later, to a preschool located near the house. That’s two house moves and two preschool moves in six months.

While our 4-year-old, Graham, had treated the initial move like a grand adventure, the final switch into his permanent daycare was less than smooth. His teachers weren’t as fun (so he said), and the other kids weren’t his friends. Since switching preschools, he started to have more tears about going to school in the morning. Over the next few months, the resistance to attending preschool dramatically increased. He had frequent tummy aches, would sob at drop-off, and ultimately required a teacher handoff at the door. He even began to cry about going to school when we’d tuck him into bed at night, knowing it was coming the next morning. Soon, our normally-awesome sleeper started to wander into our bedroom at night.

When my husband and I would ask him what was going on he’d either say that he didn’t like his teacher or the kids at school were mean to him. One morning, my husband had Graham strapped in the car – ready to go to school – when Graham said he had to make a potty stop. I stayed behind to take him to school after he was finished.

I poked my head into the bathroom to let Graham know that I would be the one taking him in that morning. He looked up at me from the toilet and tears started rolling down his face. Through a strained voice, he said, “Mommy, I am feeling very sad.” We ascertained that he did not actually need to go potty, but rather was delaying the inevitable school drop-off. We washed up and moved to the living room couch to talk more about it. There, he told me that kids at school were being mean to him.

My husband and I, frankly worried about bullying, scheduled a parent-teacher conference to learn more. When I told his teacher about his most recent delay tactic of asking to use the bathroom, she chimed in that he was excessively asking to use the restroom at school too. This is a great school, with incredibly patient teachers, so when they use the word “excessive”, I knew it wasn’t an exaggeration. The teachers also reinforced that they were seeing no issues with the other children at school. In fact, they said, Graham regularly plays with almost everyone in his class. Of course, there are normal disputes over toys, etc, but certainly nothing out of the ordinary.

They were pretty certain we were dealing with garden-variety separation anxiety. They gave us some ideas on how to deal with it at home. They assured us that separation anxiety can ebb and flow, and creep up every now and again without much warning – especially if a family has undergone so many changes in a short period, as ours had.

We tried the tactics that the school gave us, but none of them seemed to help, so I called Ms. Amy. She had been a great help to my son while we were still in the Dallas area, and she knew Graham. Amy agreed this sounded very much like separation anxiety and, among other great tips, suggested we try structured doll play to provide Graham with some additional comfort with our school drop-off/pick-up routine.

I tried it that very night. I asked Graham if he wanted to play a new game with me. He was very excited to try something new! I told him we were going to play “School Drop-off,” and he immediately picked out dolls and stuffed animals to represent each member of the family. The dolls sat down for breakfast together, like we do as a family, then the daddy doll told Graham’s doll that it was time to go to school. As my son’s doll approached the toy car, he stopped and spoke – through his doll voice – and said, “I don’t want to go to school.” I had the daddy doll ask him why. My son’s doll said, “Because I poop a lot… I have diarrhea.”

This was not at all what I was expecting to hear, but it instantly made sense! A few weeks back, Graham had a little stomach bug and had a potty accident at school. School policy dictated that he had to wear a Pull-up for the rest of the day. At the time, it didn’t seem to phase him, but apparently the incident had left some deeper marks than we all knew.

I focused on my doll again, and used the daddy doll to tell him that he was sick then, but he is not sick now and that those types of accidents would not happen anymore. We played through the rest of the drop-off and pick-up routine. Graham loved it so much he asked to play it again two more times!

The next morning, I expected his anxiety to magically be gone, but it wasn’t. It seemed a little lessened but not by much. We briefly reinforced what the daddy doll had told the Graham doll the night before as he left for school. That evening, Graham asked to play “School Drop-off” again, so we did, and there was no talk of dreading school the next day. His drop-off the next morning was just a bit smoother.

Throughout that week, the drop-offs became increasingly easier. The potty break requests during school dwindled as well. Now, almost 2 months later, we have no mysterious tummy aches, no night-wakings, and no significant anxiety about drop-off at preschool. Graham still doesn’t love the idea of going to school on a Monday morning, but it’s nothing like it used to be. He even comes home talking about friends he’s played with that day. Every now and then, he will ask to play “School Drop-off” with me, but the interest in it usually dwindles about halfway through. He doesn’t seem to need it anymore.

I couldn’t believe how effective structured doll play was for Graham. Not only that he was excited to play it but that he was instantly able to tell me what he was feeling – where weeks of asking had only led to canned answers. As his doll was telling mine all his worries, it was a little bit of an awkward transition for me to process what he was telling me as a mother, then respond as a doll character. It was also apparent to me how long it had been since I had played dolls and pretend. I felt pretty rusty – it’s not as easy as it used to be, and felt a little silly too. Also, in not so little ways, my reaching out to Graham with an idea for a game, and making a concerted effort to leave behind household chores to get on the floor for some focused play time, made him feel valued and loved as well.

I can’t thank Amy enough for these lessons!

Debbie Fischer

Bedtime: Why Won’t She Just Go To Sleep?!

Imagine the perfect night – you help your child get ready for bed, read a bedtime story, say prayers, tuck her in, hug and kiss her goodnight and leave the room. She drifts off to a peaceful sleep, you get adult time, and you don’t hear from her, or see her again until the next morning. What a perfect and seemingly simple way to end the day, right? Wrong. Rarely does this scenario exist, especially in the early years.

Bedtime battles can be one of the biggest battles parents face. Some kiddos don’t want to go to bed because of a fear, others don’t want to be separated from their parents, others worry that they might miss something, and some just have a hard time falling asleep. If there are real emotional issues, it’s best to help your child work through those or she will never be able to get off to a peaceful night’s sleep. The last thing you want is for bedtime to turn into a power struggle.

The goal should be for them to learn to fall asleep by themselves, stay asleep and wake up feeling rested and refreshed the next morning. We are teaching them that establishing good sleep habits early in life is a healthy way to take good care of our bodies.
Truth be told, there are certain things we cannot make our children do and going to sleep is one of them. Let’s focus on what we can control and consider what we can do to ensure bedtime does not turn into a battlefield.

  • Establish a set evening routine to develop good habits. This does take time but it is imperative to do it and stay consistent if you want a successful bedtime outcome.
  • Give them a 30-minute warning, signaling it’s time to begin to wrap things up and finish what they are doing – no new activities and, please, no screen time.
  • Create a peaceful environment. Calm parents contribute to an easier bedtime. When there is stress during their day, our kids have greater inability to fall asleep because of the stress hormone, cortisol. It prohibits them from being able to calm themselves.
  • Allow them unhurried time to transition. This might include a bath, jammies, teeth, chat, story, prayers, hugs and kisses before you say goodnight and leave their room.
  • Stand firm if they try to keep you engaged by getting up after the bedtime routine has ended. This is where things can go awry quickly. They need to tell you one more thing, get one more drink of water, have one more kiss and so on. If this happens, kindly say “it’s time to go back to bed” and gently lead her back. No talking, no getting angry – very scripted and rehearsed. You might have to do this repeatedly until she gets the message that you will not tolerate her manipulation.

Bedtime can be a sweet and meaningful way to end the day. Having these patterns established can take some of the stress out of it, and allow everybody to sign off for the day while feeling good about the closeness of the parent-child relationship.

Sweet dreams.

There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy

 

 

 

Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more.

Ask Amy: Solutions to Summertime Boredom!

In this edition of “Ask Amy”, our reader asks what she can do to keep her little one busy during summer vacation.

Amy gives several great solutions to the age-old summertime boredom. As parents, it isn’t our job to be the entertainer all time. We can actually create an unhealthy dependance in our children by always providing activities. Listen to these create tips to help develop creative thought and imagination in your kids. For more great parenting tips, go to: www.parentingwithamy.com.

If you have a parenting question, let us know!

There’s Always Hope,

Need more help? Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?” While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services. Click Here to learn more!

Potty Training: Power Struggle or Perfect Timing

Potty training, gone bad, can create huge problems in families and create stress in the parent-child relationship. When this happens, no one wins. Parents start the process determined they are going to make their child use the potty and some kids are simply not ready. If that happens in your home, please go ahead and put it on hold Parenting with Amytemporarily. Why, you ask? Potty training will never be a success with that dynamic.

Almost every single time there is a potty issue and it is not a medical issue, there is a determined child and a determined parent involved. This is the worst combination of personalities because power struggles emerge in all their glory. If parents don’t learn how to work with their child’s strong will, not only will we have potty issues, we’ll now have parent-child relationship problems which creates emotional and behavioral problems.

Here is the bottom line. It’s impossible to make someone use the toilet. We can make them sit there, but we cannot make them go. That is absolutely something we cannot control.

Learning to use the potty is a huge developmental task and successful potty training depends on emotional and physical readiness of your child, not chronological age. Some 2 year olds are ready; others have no interest whatsoever.

If kids are ready and if parents have the right mindset, potty training will be fairly easy. Readiness is the key word to consider before beginning the process – both child and parent readiness.

Is your child ready?

All of the following tasks occur naturally in kids, somewhere between 2 and 4 years of age. The more yes’s, the more ready they are.

  • Does she understand basic directions and follow them?
  • Is she expressing any interest in the potty?
  • Does she talk about wanting to wear panties?
  • Does she fuss about a wet or dirty diaper?
  • Can she stay dry for long periods of time?
  • Does she like to please?
  • Is she saying or acting like she wants to be more independent?

Are you ready?

If you’re feeling stressed about potty training or feeling overwhelmed with life, it might not be the right time to start. Wait. Keep in mind that teaching your child to use the potty should be as natural as teaching her how to work a puzzle. Can you:

  • Be positive
  • Use humor
  • Relax
  • Understand this is something you cannot control
  • Be tolerant and patient when accidents happen
  • Start when no other big events or issues are going on
  • Block off at least 3 days to be at home and commit to the cause

Potty Training is a Process

  • Expect accidents. Many of them. Respond and refrain from reacting. All you need to say is “Accidents happen. Let’s get cleaned up.” To punish, shame or guilt is never effective.
  • When you start, it’s panties or underwear all the time, except, of course, naptime or nighttime.
  • Never force a child to sit on the potty until she goes. This is seen as punishment. It will blow up in your face.
  • Be aware that already anxious and fearful kids sometimes withhold, so watch for constipation.
  • The process can’t be rushed.

What if your child is resistant? 

Go into this prepared to deal with it. Consider calling a halt…only temporarily though, if you are met with pushback. Continuing to deal with a child that is not receptive will be a considerable drain of your time and energy. What this usually means is that she is not ready. Honestly, the worst thing you can do is to push through and continue. I’ve never, ever seen anything good come out of this scenario.

It’s hard not to feel embarrassed and compare when other kids seemingly have no potty issues and yours is still having accidents. Remember this is your child’s process and one that she needs to be the boss of. Potty training takes time. It WILL happen. She will not go off to college in a pull-up.

When it does, I’d say a potty dance is in order!

There’s Always Hope,

PWA_sig_amy

 

 

 

Need more help?  Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?”  While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services.  Click Here to learn more.

 

Family Spotlight: Jennifer Eckert

Then:

Wow… thinking back to the time period that brought us to Amy’s door – sometimes it feels like it was so long ago, and sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. Desperate is the word I would use to describe that time period. Although it was scary and I was completely at a loss as to how to parent my child, I am so grateful that I was desperate and vulnerable enough to get help. Amy provided exactly the tools, support and comfort we needed.  I would say to any parentEckert Family struggling with an issue with their child – be desperate and vulnerable. There is no shame in not knowing what to do.

Our son, Josh, was a handful – well, he still is. I remember the exact moment when I knew we had a “passionate” child on our hands – he was 13 months old, not verbal yet, but full of things to say. He was standing at the refrigerator, banging on it and screaming for milk, but only in sounds that a mom would know what their child wanted. He was desperate, too. He couldn’t talk but boy did he want and need to. Since Josh couldn’t talk, he was physical. He would hit, throw, run away from me. I was really at a loss. I remember sitting in the pediatricians office just crying to the nurse practitioner about my 2-year old. I “didn’t know what to do!” Thank God for her, and for my desperation, because that moment led me on a path towards help, answers and finally feeling like everything would be “okay”.

How:

The nurse practitioner suggested we start by calling Amy Meyer and a speech therapist. Thankfully, Josh’s non-verbal abilities were pretty easily fixed. I think he was just stuck, and once he got “unstuck” verbally, he has not stopped talking since! Josh becoming verbal, although not overnight, was helpful because he could tell us what was going on, instead of being physical.

The play therapy was quite a journey. First, Amy was wonderful – she was non-judgmental and caring – she was all that we needed. As I mentioned above, I think that is the most important aspect of the process of therapy I received, and still carry with me today, is that “everything is going to be okay”.  I didn’t always know what that would look like, and it might not be pretty to everyone else, but I knew in my heart that we would all be okay, because we were getting help.

Through play therapy we learned what behaviors to care about and what to let go of. Josh was (and still is) all about control. For example – Josh hated to have me brush his hair. Well –my goodness, to have a child go to pre-school without great looking hair – what will people think? Hmmm.. we found out quickly that was a battle we really didn’t need to fight. What a relief!  I was so happy to receive “permission” from Amy that certain behaviors were okay. A particular issue that I remember is that Josh never – truly never – sat down to eat dinner. He always stood up. I cannot tell you how we fought with him over that issue! When we discussed it with Amy, we all agreed that as long as he was with us at the table, ate his food and helped clean up, it was fine that he stood up. Something like this may not fly in another household, but it truly had to in ours because we had to learn that compromise was the key. I feel so grateful that early on, we were able to get to know this child, get to understand that things might look different with him –and that’s “okay”. I can honestly tell you that if we had not gone through those years with Amy, I would be further into the pit that I was in at the time.

There were many situations when I really gave into Josh because it was just so much easier. I was tired of fighting every single little thing with him. I think we made a lot of mistakes by letting Josh have control, and letting him run our family at certain times because it was just such a whipping to stay strong and do the “right” thing. As we learned from Amy, consistency was, and still is, the key.

Now

Oh gosh – Josh is now 10, almost 11, and time certainly does fly! We met Amy when Josh was 2 or 3. I remember talking with Amy and she told me that more than likely,   Josh was ADHD. Because Josh was only 2/3 at the time, he was too young for a formal diagnosis, but I am here to tell you she was right on the money. Amy suggested we go to a diagnostic psychologist and Josh was formally diagnosed at 6 years old (when he was in kindergarten). Since then, we continue to learn a lot about Josh everyday. I really think that since we were so open to help when Josh was young, it has enabled us to be so throughout our parenting journey with him and our other two children (Callie – 13 and Truitt – 6). Since Josh formally stopped seeing Amy, my husband and I have checked in with her a couple of times and I truly feel like I can call her anytime to make an appointment and receive her counsel.  We reached out to her when we knew it was time to take the nest step and have Josh diagnosed – I knew she would be the best source for us. We reached out to her when I was worried about a new problem that arose – sometimes you just need a refresher and a safety net as a parent, and she provided that for us.

Am I the “perfect parent” now because we went to therapy? Nope, I am far from it.  I am flawed, human – I make mistakes daily, hourly. But, I know that we gleaned so much from our time with Amy and I still use that knowledge everyday. I am open to realizing that each of my children is unique and needs different things from me. I realize some things are worth the battle and some are not. One aspect that has stuck with me from going to see Amy is that Josh is who he is. I cannot make him be someone different, I cannot make him be compliant when that is not his nature, I cannot have all the control. That being said, I know that because he is strong willed, we need to be vigilant about helping him realize his strengths and weaknesses. We are fumbling through this process, but we are trying to maintain the tools we learned from Amy to the best of our ability.

Hopefully we are raising great kids that will turn into great adults. Thank goodness we are not alone. It brings me comfort knowing that I can still reach out to Amy.

Jennifer Eckert