Ask Amy: How Do I Help My Child Feel Safe Despite the Recent Paris Attacks?

My child is asking lots of questions about the recent attacks in Paris. I’m not sure how to address it with her. Any suggestions?

Such events can leave all of us feeling sad, mad and scared and children may be particularly reactive, which makes them feel unsafe. When children are directly exposed to such events, they can become traumatized, and the emotional impact of trauma can last a very long time if it goes unnoticed. Some children who may not experience the trauma directly may be exposed to it nevertheless through sensationalized newscasts, and there is evidence to suggest that children can be just as traumatized by this kind of indirect contact as well. It is important that parents have information about the impact trauma has on children and how to help them understand and cope with these events.

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First, when something traumatic occurs, it is important to give children an honest, yet age appropriate explanation of what happened. They will almost certainly hear about it through television, schoolmates, etc., so it is best that children receive information from their parents. Second, it is imperative to reassure children, that you will do everything you can to keep them safe. It is wise to limit children’s exposure to newscasts. I don’t mean shield them from it entirely, just limit. Children do not have the reasoning abilities or coping mechanisms to deal with what they might see or hear. It is important to permit children to talk about their feelings and reactions. Although such conversations can be painful, especially if we’re experiencing our own reactions to the trauma, they do help all of us in the long run. One of the worst things we can say to our children is “get over it,” or “you can’t talk about it.” Denial of the child’s reactions can lead to larger problems later. Give them the facts such as, “the bad guys are in jail.”

Sometimes traumatized children look quite “normal” on the surface after the event, and then experience post-traumatic symptoms, weeks, months, or even years later. Many children are quite resilient when dealing with traumatic events, but it is good for parents to know what to look for when their child might be struggling. Here are some signs that might indicate problems for your child: nervousness, agitation, difficulty concentrating, refusing to go to school, angers quickly, aggression, nightmares, won’t sleep alone, startles easily, reverts to younger-age behaviors, fears separation, personality changes. Although these signs could be related to other things, they might indicate your child has been traumatized. The sooner it is treated, the better the outcome is likely to be for the child.

 
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.

There’s Hope For The Yellers!

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

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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

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.

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.