Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Quick Tips and Parenting Advice

Parents are busy. You're taking care of babies, chasing toddlers, running school aged children around to various activities, and trying to dechiper the behavior of adolescents. Though there are often a number of questions that arise about children and parenting, there isn't a lot of time to spend researching them. Because of that, Child Therapy Chicago is going to start sharing some quick tips and parenting advice on everything from child development and handling challenging behavior to supporting kids during difficult times and being a good parent. We hope that these brief tips and guidance with provide at least a bit of insight into child behavior and parenting and encourage you to  read more as time allows.

Please feel free to email us at info@ChildTherapyChicago.com if you have questions you would like answered or a topic you would like to see addressed.

Watch for your first tip....coming soon.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Causes of Problematic Sexual Behavior in Children

The previous blog post was about problematic sexual behavior in children. Such behavior typically creates anxiety and concern for parents and caregivers. In order for the behavior to be adequately addressed, it must first be explored to determine potential underlying causes leading a child to act out in sexual ways.

When we refer to problematic sexual behavior, we are talking about behavior taking place either alone or with other children. The behavior does not seem lighthearted and curious, nor does it align with a child’s developmental level. This behavior is difficult to stop by parental request and leads to complaints by others. When children seem more preoccupied with sexual behaviors than other interests at their age or are sexually engaged with children with a significant age gap, there is cause for concern. More often than not, these children are engaging in sexual behavior because of disturbances in their environment. The following factors may be considered when assessing a child’s behavior:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Is My Child's Sexual Behavior Normal?

Sexual exploration and curiosity is a normal and important element of a child’s development. When parents and caregivers allow children to naturally and spontaneously explore their bodies, ask questions, and model the values they wish to instill, they foster the development of healthy, natural and positive sexuality. These children do not typically exhibit sexual problems since the behavior is playful, involves no element of coercion, and is easily amendable if parents ask the child to stop.

In her book Understanding Your Child’s Sexual Behavior: What’s Natural and Healthy, Toni Johnson Cavanaugh discusses a continuum of behaviors and identifies a continuum of problematic sexual behavior, or behavior that may be of concern and outside the scope of healthy inquiry. These categories of children, ordered by size from most to least, include those who are sexually reactive, children who engage in mutual sexual behavior with other children and those who molest.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Kids and Summer Activities

The Final Countdown…to Summer Break

We all remember those final days of school, energy flowing through the hallways, the anticipation of summer break and the excitement that came with it. Students become antsy, rambunctious, and slowly lose their focus and motivation in the classrooms and even at home.  It can be a very trying time for not only children, but the school staff and parents as well.

Parents face many challenges as the school year comes to a close including: their child being “burnt out” and exhausted, the anxiety of having them home all summer, and the infamous question of “What am I going to do with the kids home for the next two and a half months?” Many parents talk to us about their conflict between providing structure to their child over the summer versus allowing them their break and free time. We have found there is an important balance between the two.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Teenage Risky Behavior Declining

STUDY: Denise Duval Tsioles, PhD, LCSW and Fox News on teenage risky behavior declining and positive impact of Internet and social media.
Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Fox News contacted Child Therapy Chicago to get our expert opinion on the positive impact of the Internet and social media on teens being more responsible now than in the past.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

National Day of Unplugging: Put Down Your Smartphone

National Day of Unplugging: Denise Duval Tsioles, PhD, LCSW talks to Fox News about people putting their smartphone down.
Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Fox News contacted Child Therapy Chicago to get our expert opinion on taking a break from mobile technology. National Day of Unplugging is meant for people of all backgrounds to embrace a day of rest, without the use of mobile technology.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Successful Potty Training

Teaching children how to use the potty represents a significant milestone in their development. The goal of potty training should be for children to participate in their own training process by recognizing the need to use the toilet and signaling this need to their caregiver.

Before successful potty training may be achieved, the following key points should be considered:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sleep Problems: Understanding and Managing Children’s Behavior

Dealing with children who have trouble sleeping can be frustrating for both parents and caregivers.  By bedtime, parents are tired from a long day and wish for their children to be put down quickly and quietly. This, however, is rarely the reality as most children demand attention by begging for another story or playing one more round in a game. The key to managing sleeping difficulties is...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Selfies Psychology

"Selfies" Psychology: Denise Duval Tsioles, PhD, LCSW talks to Fox News about the possible meaning behind teen self portraits displayed via social media. 
Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Fox News contacted Child Therapy Chicago to get our expert opinion on selfies. From a developmental perspective, adolescence is a time of identity formation. So, it is normal for teens to be focused on their image.

Social media provides an outlet and an audience for feedback. However, when all teens do is post pictures and they become totally engrossed in the process, this could suggest that they have feelings of insecurity and they are attempting to bolster their sense of self worth through the feedback of others.

It could also indicate they do not have a lot of friends. Putting themselves out there on social media is a way to feel connected to and engage with others.

So, the more intense teens are with these "selfies," the more likely something is going on with them and these photos become a way to fill a need for attention, confidence, security, recognition, etc.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Teens and Social Media: How to Protect Your Kids Online

Social media is becoming a major source of communication, especially for teenagers. Currently, 95% of teens are online and 94% have a Facebook account. As teenagers gain access to the internet, parents are becoming concerned about how to protect and keep their children safe while they are online. Here is what you need to know:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Talking To Your Kids About Sex

FOX News Interview: Teaching Your Teen About Body Image

Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News
Child Therapist Denise Duval Tsioles, PhD of Child Therapy Chicago talks about how parents can teach their teens about sex and what real people look like.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Jesse Jackson Jr. Sentencing: Effect on the Children

FOX News

Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Fox News contacted Child Therapy Chicago to get our expert opinion on the emotional effects on the children in the wake of the Sandi and Jesse Jackson, Jr. sentencing. Watch the video above to learn more.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Feeding Baby: Building a Secure Attachment



In addition to meeting the basic physiological need of nourishment, feeding serves an important function in a child’s emotional development. When a child is fed, not only does instinctual gratification occur but the foundations of love, nurturance, trust, and a secure attachment are made.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Children with Special Needs: Sexual Development and Adolescent Disability


Sexual development is a multidimensional phenomenon inextricably tied to self-esteem and the capacity to connect with others. The ways in which children and adolescents develop sexually have a strong impact on their ability to successfully navigate this process as an adult. Sexual development is complicated for adolescents with physical disabilities or cognitive, social, or emotional delays, whose identities are oftentimes erroneously equated with asexuality or reproductive inability. Sexual experimentation and behavior is as common among teens with these challenges as in their counterparts, emphasizing the need to discuss sexuality with these youth and ensuring that societal and psychosocial barriers do not hinder their development.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Teaching Emotions: Engaging Non-Emotionally Expressive Children


One of the simplest ways to communicate with children is by talking to them about their experiences. So what happens when children are unable to use language to express their feelings? 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Games for Children: Board Games and Child Development


Board Games for Kids

Latency-aged children, around the ages of six to eight, enjoy board games. Board games are a way for children to express their feelings and are typically a preferred style of communication over talking. Board games are a great way to bond with children while promoting mastery over the developmentally appropriate tasks of middle childhood. When playing board games, children learn patience and self control - to wait their turn, sit still, share, and manage their feelings - be it tolerating loss or exhibiting appropriate expressions of satisfaction by beating an opponent. Children, at this age, are also concerned with rules and structure and demonstrate varying styles of play, which may or may not follow what is written on the instruction box. 

How do children’s games offer insight into children’s inner worlds?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Parenting Advice: Spoiled Child. Is It Possible to Spoil a Child?

Is it possible to spoil a child? The simple answer is "no." Some parents worry - or are told by others - that if they respond too quickly or too often to a crying, fussing child, the child will become spoiled. This is not the case.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sleep Schedule and Feeding Schedule: What Is Better - A Schedule or a Routine?

Parents of infants and toddlers often talk about "schedules." Children have schedules for sleep, feeding, bathing, activities, etc. But what is meant by "schedule?" Do parents actually follow a schedule or is the child's and parent's pattern of behavior more of a routine? And which is better - a schedule or a routine?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Social Media and Teenagers

How Social Media Affects Teenagers 

A major topic of discussion among parents is the effect of technology and social media on the development of children and adolescents. The issue is certainly relevant, considering that 95% of children between the ages of 12-17 are now online and 80% of them are using social media websites (Pew Research Center Internet and American Life Project, 2011). Undoubtedly, there is value to the connections created via social networks, including access to resources and the ability to build a sense of community when one faces physical, geographical, or even social limitations. Nevertheless, it is important for parents to offer guidelines and invite conversations around social media usage to facilitate their teenagers’ optimal growth.

Consider the following areas when assessing social media in the lives of your adolescent:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Parenting Tips: The Decision to Parent in the City

If you are a parent raising a child in the city, a soon-to-be parent or even considering having children, you have probably gotten a lot of advice from family and friends about parenting in the city. Some may suggest that you get a different, likely larger, place to live, move to a new location, potentially outside of the city, purchase a new vehicle, etc. Their advice is valid, as some have been through the process and they have made a thoughtful decision that fits their needs and lifestyle. Their choices might not be in line with yours, though.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

New Moms: Motherhood and Identity Changes

Many people spend a lot of time, energy and resources on family planning and conceiving, and just as many are surprised by a new addition to the family. Regardless of how one arrives at a family, there are a lot of concrete resources like books, manuals, classes and trainings available that can help a parent-to-be feel "prepared" for the new baby's arrival. From breastfeeding to diapering to CPR to introducing a sibling, one can educate oneself about what to expect when they are expecting. However, fewer resources are available to help a new or soon-to-be parent prepare for or cope with unexpected emotional and psychological challenges a new baby may raise.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Parenting Tips: Finding Balance

One of the best things parents can do for their children is to make time for themselves. So many well-intentioned parents focus all of their time and energy on their children. It is extremely important to be attentive to children and meet not only their need for physical care and safety but attend to their social and emotional needs as well; about that there is no doubt. What can happen, though, is sometimes parents forget about tending to their own needs. They truly believe that the best thing they can do is focus on doing everything for everyone else all the time. While this sounds like a very good, unselfish deed, it can, in fact, be detrimental to the parents, children, and their relationships.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Teenage Substance Abuse


Adolescents who abuse substances begin their relationship with drugs without the intention of becoming addicted. Drugs are used for a variety of reasons; many believe adolescents use substances in order to feel accepted and help diminish social anxiety or feel a sense of excitement and power. Usually, when teenagers turn to drugs and alcohol, they do so to help manage their emotions – either trying to numb or block out certain feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, anger, fear, resentment, lack of self worth, etc., negative past experiences or sensations – and/or to feel in control. Substance misuse is indicative of impairment in an adolescents’ sense of who they are. Drugs serve the temporary function of soothing unwanted emotions and providing a false sense that the adolescents are in control of their feelings.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gender Identity: Transgender Parenting and Child Development

The parent and child relationship is likely the most powerful relationship each person has ever experienced. From day one, there are challenges, struggles and rewards like in no other relationship. The relationship provides the foundation for one’s ability to communicate - to listen and to be heard. It creates one’s ability to love and be loved and to experience conflict or disagreement but then to heal and reconcile. The parent/child relationship provides life’s sustenance, which results in one’s confidence that their environment will provide for basic needs (food, shelter, creative and intellectual stimulation). Ideally, the relationship develops one’s capacity for confidence in both his or her own identity as well as trust in the stability (the extension of identity - availability, presence, existence) of an available parent. Every parent/child pairing also has its conflicts and challenges. It is the continuity of love and care from parent to child that provides the rich foundational qualities listed above, and this protective and fundamental relationship always needs to be supported. 

There are many things that can put stress on a parent/child relationship, though none quite as unique as when one or the other experiences turmoil with his or her gender identity.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Helping Children: How to Talk to Children About Traumatic Events

In the wake of the Sandy Hook, Connecticut school shooting, parents have been wondering how to talk about difficult or traumatic events with their children. Many questions arise as to what and how much to say to young children when something potentially frightening or anxiety provoking occurs and how to handle their responses. Conversations can range from discussions of traumatic natural disasters or the recent school shooting in Sandy Hook to talks about divorce, parental health problems, or even age appropriate questions about loss and death.

Here are some things to keep in mind when helping children understand and work through provocative and scary situations:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Good Parenting: Make It Your New Year's Resolution

Happy New Year!

We at Child Therapy Chicago wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year and encourage one simple but important new year's resolution -- to always keep trying to be a good enough parent. Much has been written about this concept and we address it frequently. Good enough parenting is not about being perfect, never getting upset, and responding or reacting to children the right way all the time; it is about building a relationship of trust, warmth, security, and positive regard by being as reliable, predictable, consistent, supportive, and encouraging as often as possible. When things do not go as planned, which can happen a lot, good enough parenting is about the repair and recovery from those moments. Children learn about relationships and develop their sense of self from their interactions with their parents and caregivers. When things go well in the relationship, great. When there are less than ideal moments, that is ok too. Parents and children can talk about and process those difficult times, which helps children learn how to deal with feeling of upset and disappointment and how to work through them and move forward with their sense of self still intact.

So, for 2013, resolve to keep working on being a good enough parent. The rewards for parents and children are priceless.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Role of the Adult in Child’s Play

In a previous post (The Importance of Play), we briefly explained how the role of play in a child’s world is of great importance to his or her psychological and physical development. To reiterate, play, for children, is work. Children use play to act out scenarios or events that are consuming their mental energy and they play about them over and over until they have processed enough to move on. Even the most typically developing children are consumed by the massive amounts of information and relational experiences that they must navigate every day and play helps them work it out.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Anorexia: More Than a Body Image Distortion for Young Adolescents


Teens with eating disorders, such as anorexia, often have a distorted image of their body and they have difficulty maintaining an average body weight. Young people who are struggling with anorexia typically believe they have multiple physical abnormalities, which they try to change through various means, whether it is starvation, vomiting, or extreme exercise. The continued aspiration to “fix” something about their physical body, however, most often serves as a mask for underlying feelings of insecurity and worthlessness, which they are fiercely striving to hide.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Child Nutrition

Beginning in utero, one of a mother’s primary concerns is typically what to feed her child. A pregnant woman’s body gives the nourishment of her growing fetus top priority, even at the expense of her own general health, physical/nutritional needs, or quality of life. Once the baby is born, whether breast or bottle feeding, that baby is getting all of his or her sustenance from its caretaker. Food is also a source of nurturance and serves as a means of bonding between parent and child. Even into adulthood, food can be source of comfort. A tremendous amount of pressure is placed on parents to provide just the right kind and amount of nutrition (and, thus, emotional nurturance) to children. While most people want to provide the very healthiest foods for their offspring, there are a lot of ways that make doing so complicated.   

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Parenting Help: Self-Care and Stress Management

Much like it sounds, self-care is the act of taking care of oneself. This term applies to many categories, and the concept is frequently applied to taking care of one’s physical health. For example, when someone has a cold, taking a day off from work, getting rest, and eating chicken soup might feel like just what is needed. When a person breaks an arm, going to the hospital for an x-ray and a cast is a no-brainer. For a headache, most people reach for the ibuprofen. No problem. However, when it comes to mental or emotional health, the answer does not seem to be so easy. Reaching for the Prozac is rarely as easy as grabbing the Tylenol, and the recipe for chicken soup for the soul is not in the cookbook next to the chocolate chip cookie recipe. Caring for mental and emotional needs is a personal, often difficult and undervalued pursuit, yet it is very important, especially for parents. Aside from personal barriers, there are often external barriers that prevent parents from attending to these needs. Some come from a person’s culture, from society at large, and others may come from opinions of the person’s peer group or partner, and still yet, a lack of awareness, information or resources. However, when a person feels overwhelmed, frazzled, or stressed out - it is a sure indicator that it is time for self-care.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Good Parenting

Parents bring their life histories with them into their parenting philosophies and practices, and it usually happens without awareness. This means that, while parents might bring the very best intentions and the very best traits of their own parents, their values, and their ideals, sometimes previous life experiences can get in the way of building healthy relationships or effective parenting.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Understanding Parents' Own Histories and the Influence on the Parent Child Relationship

By the time parents reach adulthood, they have experienced a lifetime’s worth of relationships, both good and bad.These relationships exist with caregivers, siblings, peers, friends, and so on. A normal effect of having relationships is that they leave indelible impressions upon the psyche, which create  templates, often unconscious, about how particular kinds of relationships are supposed to work. In a sense, people become “programmed” as to what to expect from others (parents, friends, partners, etc.) and how they feel about themselves based on previous experiences with people already in these roles, and the impressions start during even the earliest days of infancy.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Effects of Divorce on Children

When parents divorce, they worry about the emotional effects on the children and they wonder how to best handle the situation. They have hurt feelings, and although they want to keep the children out of the middle, this is not always easy.

There are several ways parents can help children get through the emotional difficulty and confusion of divorce and make sure they are not caught in the crossfire:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dealing with Divorce: Co-Parenting after Divorce

Divorce is never easy. When parents have relationship problems and separate, not only do the children experience many different emotions but the parents do as well. It is important for parents to be able to manage their emotions so they can learn how to deal with divorce and find ways of successfully co-parenting the children.

There are several things that parents can do to cope with the difficulties of divorce and work together as parents:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Teenage Relationships with Parents; Adolescence and Puberty


A young person’s transition to adolescence is influenced by individual characteristics as well as contextual factors. These dynamics may affect the relationship between adolescents and their parents. During puberty, conflict often arises, as adolescents are experiencing hormonal and physical changes and are going through a developmental process of ongoing definition and redefinition of themselves. Typically, these conflicts are only mildly intense, though frequent and annoying, and focus on rule/regulation disagreements.
  
Family conflict is often experienced when: 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Normal Sexual Behavior in Children


Child psychosexual development begins at a young age and occurs within the context of a child’s environment. Families have an important influence on the sexual behavior of their children. Parents’ own sexual adjustment, level of comfort with children’s sexual development and feelings related to their own sexual selves re-emerging with a child’s sexual maturation, play a role in the appearance and exhibition of child sexual behavior. Families more open to or tolerant of certain age-appropriate behavior, such as nudity or co-bathing, may be more encouraging of child sexual exploration, while maintaining boundaries, and more likely to recognize the behavior as such. Children may also pick up on social cues, imitate adults in their homes or in popular culture, or learn to conceal certain behaviors they recognize are not socially appropriate. Typically, a child’s interest is a matter of curiosity. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Attachment Parenting

"Attachment parenting" is a term coined by pediatrician William Sears. It is a parenting philosophy based on the principles of attachment theory. Parents who are sensitive to their children's needs, empathic, and emotionally available, help children form secure attachments. Secure attachments promote healthy social and emotional growth and well being.

Parents want their children to have positive relationships, feel confident, be able to tolerate disappointment, be responsible and accountable, be kind, and get along in the world. To foster this, it is important for parents to remember these basic things:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Importance of Empathy

Parental responsiveness to children's emotions is an important part of child development. Parents who are able to offer moments of empathic understanding not only help reduce their children's anxious, sad, or angry feelings, but make them feel understood. This helps children learn to manage emotions and handle future disappointments.

There has been some debate about contemporary parenting and over-indulging children's emotions. However, empathy helps teach children that feelings matter; when they believe their feelings matter, they begin to recognize the value of others' feelings as well. This awareness promotes appropriate behaviors, positive relationships, and self restraint.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Parenting Teenagers

A big topic of discussion among parents of adolescents is how to talk to teenagers. Raising teenagers can feel like a daunting task, at times. Parents often experience periods of frustration, exhaustion, and bewilderment as well as a sense of helplessness, hopelessness, confusion, and failure.

Communicating with your teenager does not have feel so exacerbating if you can keep these few basic things in mind:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Potty Training Tips

Summer is here! For many parents of toddlers, that means school is out, schedules change, and activities are being planned. Parents of toddlers often wonder, "Is this a good time to start toilet training?"

Though there is no exact age to start potty training, typically, many toddlers develop the physical, mental, and emotional skills to tack the task by 18-24 months. For others, those skills may emerge closer to age 3 or 4.

What is most important is that the child and parents are ready and the process is experienced as a joint, pleasurable venture; not something that feels forced, required, shameful, overwhelming, completely frustrating or exhausting. Without a patient, calm, supportive, consistent, nurturing environment, there is the risk that a child may feel inadequate or badly about him/herself, believe he/she is disappointing parents, or experience anger. Resentment and frustration may then breed in both the child and the parents. For toddlers, potty training represents a psychological need to give up some part of him/herself. though liberating, it can be frightening too.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Overview of Greenspan's DIR/Floortime Model

There are many treatment methods available to support learning, appropriate behaviors, social and emotional growth, and relationships with children on the autistic spectrum. Many of these techniques are behaviorally based, which can provide some structure and containment for children. However, to fully develop a child's long-term capacity to interact in the world, relate to others, problem solve, tolerate frustrations, and enjoy engaging, relationally based approaches to treatment are the way to go.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Time Out for Toddlers: Controversy

How effective are time out techniques? That depends on how and why they are being used. There has been increased discussion lately on child discipline techniques among both professionals and parents. Here are some of the themes:

1) Time outs are being misused and/or overused.

2) Time outs might temporarily stop the immediate disruptive behavior but they do not address the reasons for the behavior in the first place.

3) Time out discipline should not be used to correct behavior, as it may be experienced solely as punitive and not as an opportunity to learn self regulatory skills (i.e., how to help children calm and learn to self soothe).

4) The parents' needs tend to be met with a time out (e.g., quieting the child) but have the child's needs been met?

5) Parents tend to put children in time out because they are frustrated and overwhelmed and do not know what else to do; children tend to act out because they are frustrated and overwhelmed and do not know what else to do. Typical toddler time outs do not necessarily teach either parents or children "what else to do."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Social Emotional Development

A tremendous amount of attention is paid to promoting intellect in children. In many large cities across the country, parents find it necessary to compete to get children into good preschools, standardized tests are common place throughout grade school/middle school and there is an exorbitant amount of pressure on kids in the 8th grade to get into the "best" high schools. But what about social and emotional skills or emotional intelligence? How do these affect children's development?

Friday, April 27, 2012

How to Connect with Kids: Kids and Technology

There are so many ways parents can connect with their children. Would you ever imagine that disconnecting could actually be a good way for parents and children to connect and strengthen their relationships? A recent post in Mamapedia entitled, "Disconnecting to Re-Connect," speaks poignantly to this idea and inspired some additional thoughts on the topic.

"Disconnecting," in this context, does not mean detaching from relationships with kids; it is about families freeing themselves of technology, for periods of time, in order to strengthen relationships. Technology is all around us and has become a significant part of families' lives. Cell phones, iPads, laptops, video games, high tech TV and movies, and children's electronic educational toys abound. Parents and kids can easily get lost in the world of social media and communication - Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email, blogs, etc. While these things can make various aspects of life easier and be excellent resources, they also have the potential to be distracting to relationships.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to Connect with Kids and Support Behavior Change

The best way to effect change in children's behavior is to be engaged with them. Being engaged with children goes beyond giving them instructions and explaining appropriate behavior. It is about exploring the behaviors to try and understand where they come from and what they really mean. Parents can do this by:

1) Talking about feelings with children - modeling the expression of feelings (sharing how you feel) and mirroring emotions (acknowledging and empathizing with what the child must be feeling).

2) Thinking about the context of the behavior - why might the behavior be happening now and what purpose does it serve (how does the child's behavior feel to you - like he/she is scared or anxious and acting out or needing attention)?

3) Giving words to children's experiences - using metaphor, stories, and real life examples to demonstrate reasons for behaviors and ways to make change, that children can relate to, so they can begin to connect their feelings to their behaviors.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Lorax and The Hunger Games: How these Books and Movies Promote Good Parenting, Enhance Child Development, and Support Family Connections

The month of March was ushered in by the Lorax and takes its leave with the Hunger Games. These two books, turned movies, are capturing the attention of children and teens across the country. Kids are excited and they are talking about it.

The Lorax, with its vibrant colors, bold animation, and lovable characters (so fitting of Dr. Seuss) maintains its environmental and social commentary in a whimsical way that connects with young children's budding empathic sides and their curiosity about the world. The Hunger Games, though a much darker commentary, seems to get at the core of young teens' struggles with identity and related feelings of belonging, importance, relationships, values, and beliefs. Children and teens, so touched by these stories, are reaching out to share their experiences with their families.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Toddler Sleep Training

The last post offered insights into why some toddlers have sleep problems. This post will address some basic sleep training techniques and provide video instruction on how to get your toddler to sleep in his/her own bed.

Question: When is the right time to make bedtime more pleasurable for a toddler having sleep problems?

Answer: The right time is once the underlying issues have been uncovered and processed, the child is feeling understood, more comfortable, and safe, and any parental problems are better under control.

When bedtime has been scary for toddlers or they have not been sleeping in their room for some time, it is important to make their space feel comfortable, safe, and consistent. Here are some ways to do that:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Toddler Sleep Problems

It is not uncommon to see sleep problems in toddlers. For some toddlers, getting them to bed is the issue. For others, it is keeping them in bed. Some toddlers fall asleep and stay asleep...as long as they are in their parents' bed. All of these scenarios can be challenging for parents and children.

First and foremost, it is important to try and understand what is behind the toddler sleep issues. When children's sleep is frequently dysregulated, this suggests there is something going on with them physically or emotionally. They may not be able to verbalize how they feel but their behavior is speaking for them.

There are myriad reasons why toddlers experience sleeping problems, including:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Teenage Self Esteem

For an upcoming issue of Community Health Magazine, I was asked to speak about the topic of teenage self esteem, particularly for adolescents suffering from acne. The main point I hoped to stress was that adolescence is a difficult time, in general. Teens are trying to figure out who they are in relation to themselves, their families, and their friends. It is a time of identity development. Needless to say, struggling with acne can certainly have an impact on one's sense of self and, thus, their identity. However, some kids enter this life stage with a more solid, well developed sense of self. For those teens, there tend to be fewer ramification of severe acne. For adolescents with a more fragile sense of self, it may take a bit more support and understanding to help them work through their feelings and continue on the path of healthy identity formation.

To read more, look for the article in the upcoming edition of Community Health Magazine

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Emotional Safety

What does it mean to create an emotionally safe environment for children?

This was the topic of a recent discussion in Motherhood Later than Sooner. The author suggests that to create emotional safety for children, they need to experience an environment where they feel supported and encouraged to express their feelings and concerns and where they can develop an awareness and respect for others. Parents can do this by:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Violent Video Games: Effect on Children

A student writing a paper on children and violent video games recently asked me about the psychological effects on children who excessively play violent video games and if playing violent video games relieves stress or breeds more anger. Here are my thoughts:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Gifts for Children

What is the most valuable holiday gift for children?

The thing children remember the most about holiday time is the experience itself. Ask anyone; while they may remember a significant gift or two from their childhood, what comes to mind most prominently about the holidays is the time spent together, the experience of giving and sharing, and the creation of traditions. These are the important things. Holiday family traditions -- they have the potential to leave the most long lasting, happy and comforting memories that can be shared generation after generation.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Over" Parenting: Is It a Problem?

I was recently asked to respond to some questions about "over" parenting for a UK parenting website, yano.co.uk. Below are the questions with my responses:

Do you think that "over" parenting is a legitimate problem? If so, how serious do you think it is and what implications have you noticed in your academic/clinical work?

“Over” parenting or “helicopter” parenting are terms that have become more prominent in the past several years. Is it because it is actually becoming an issue or are people just noticing it more now? It is not clear. One could argue that parents who are “overly” involved in their children’s lives are concerned about their well being and safety, given the many challenges in society today (e.g., economic, social, educational, etc.). On the flip side, some might say the parents’ concerns about their children actually stem from their own personal fears and anxieties that are being projected onto the children. Either way, it is not a bad thing for parents to be involved in their children’s lives, as long as children have room to grow and develop.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sibling Rivalry: Understanding Children's Behavior with the Birth of a New Sibling and Promoting Healthy Relationships

Children, at any age, can have different reactions to the birth of a sibling. Toddlers may exhibit physically aggressive behavior while adolescents' reactions may be more verbal. These behaviors are not always solely directed at the sibling, but might even show up in peer relationships (e.g, bossiness, hitting, etc.) or relationships with parents (e.g., disobedience, anger, etc.). The older child may begin to regress and appear more "needy" (e.g., a child who was potty trained may have more "accidents," the child cries more or does not want to sleep in his/her own bed, etc.). Some children, who seem to display no reaction at all or become overly excited, are also likely having some mixed feelings about their new sibling. The birth of a new sibling inevitably changes the family dynamics but there are things parents can do to help each child grow individually and together.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Toys that Promote Child Development

With the holidays fast approaching, parents often wonder what the best toys are for children to help promote their development. Nowadays, stores offer a range of computerized and electronic toys, games and gadgets as well as educational videos and interactive books for children. While some of these items can enhance learning, there are a number of simple, traditional toys that have stood the test of time when it comes to supporting child development. They are:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sexualized Behavior in Children

Children exhibit a range of sexualized behaviors; it is part of their development. Psychosexual development begins in infancy and early childhood with an interest in exploring one's own body then, during latency, moves to a curiosity about the bodies of others.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Parents - What Is Your Attachment Style?

The last post spoke to attachment patterns in children. Patterns of attachment, born from early childhood relationships, are evident in parents, as well.

Mary Main examined how parents reflected on their childhoods and important relationships to gain some understanding about how they internalized their early connections and experiences and, thus, how they related in the present. Four typical patterns emerged:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Attachment Patterns of Children

What is your child's attachment style?

Much has been studied and written about attachment patterns in children. Attachment is an important concept; it is the part of the relationship between parent and child that makes the child feel safe, secure, and protected. It's about availability. A child who experiences the parent as consistently available (i.e., present, warm, responsive, supportive and encouraging) tends to be able to successfully manage emotions and behaviors and can establish and maintain positive relationships. Children develop different styles of attachment based on their interactions and experiences with their parents.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Female Friendships - How to Handle the Drama

"She's my best friend.... I hate her!" Parents frequently hear these statements from their middle school/junior high and young adolescent daughters. One minute their child has a best friend and the next, they cannot stand each other. Parents feel the drama and they sometimes do not know what to do.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Children Are Growing Up

Yes, it's true; children grow up. When children start to make the move from latency to adolescence, parents usually have mixed feelings. While they are excited to see their little ones growing up and becoming their own individuals, it can also feel sad to watch them move away.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Child Development: Adolescence

The final segment of child development...

Adolescence

According to Erikson, adolescence is the period of Identity versus Role Confusion. Peers and community are a much more significant part of adolescents' lives and development. Identities are experimented with and adolescents are beginning to establish an adult sense of self.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Child Development: Years Six to Eleven

Continuing the exploration of child development...

Years Six to Eleven

According to Erikson, age six to eleven is the period of Industry versus Inferiority. Children are in school, thus, peer relationships, different kinds of structured activities, rules and cooperative play are important.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Child Devleopment: Years Three to Six

Continuing the exploration of child development...

Years Three to Six

According to Erikson, age three to six is the period of Initiative versus Guilt. Family and peer interactions support personal and social growth. Quality time with parents/caregivers, that encourages taking initiative, is important. This is also the time when children begin to more readily identify with the same sexed parent.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Child Development: Years One to Three

Continuing the exploration of child development...

Years One to Three

According to Erikson, age one to three is the period of Autonomy versus Shame/Doubt. Children have opportunities for autonomous behavior - given their newly developing skills - yet can experience shame and doubt if unsuccessful or unsupported in their learning.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Child Development: The First Year

While the first three to five years of a child's life are a pivotal part of development, children are constantly growing in many ways. The next several entries in Child Therapy Chicago will highlight some of the major aspects of child development, from birth through adolescence, in the following areas: physical/motor skills, language/cognition, and socialization/sense of self.

The First Year
This is the stage of Trust versus Mistrust, according to Erikson. Children need consistent and frequent contact with a primary caregiver. Having their needs met helps establish a sense of trust, which contributes to overall development.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Social Work Today Article - Building a Practice in a Digital World

Check out the article in Social Work Today - Building a Practice in a Digital World. It highlights how digital media - including blog websites - is being used in social work by clinicians. I was interviewed for it.

I have gotten a lot of feedback that a more dynamic website like this - Child Therapy Chicago - has greater appeal than something that just provides static information about a private therapy practice. One parent acknowledged that, in addition to my credentials and background, it made him feel I was more "real" and that I had something to offer. Thus, he opted to bring his child to me.

So, thank you all for your ongoing support. I hope you continue to enjoy the posts. If you have any questions or suggestions for blog posts, please feel free to email me.

Thanks!

Denise
dduvalphd@gmail.com

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Typical Toddler Behavior or Cause for Concern?

 "Is our child's behavior normal or should we be worried?" This is a frequent question from parents considering psychotherapy for their child. The response is usually, "How does it feel to you?" This may seem simplistic but how parents feel about their child's behavior is very telling. If the behavior feels unusual, it probably is.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Is Chicago a Good Place to Raise Children?

This post was inspired by a recent article entitled, Is NYC a Good Place to Raise Children? -- Laura Houston, Motherhood Later....than Sooner.

Parents often wonder if it is a good idea to raise children in the city, and they get their share of opinions from family and friends. As Laura points out, this decision is based on parents' values, resources, and their ability to find balance.

Most people can think of reasons to raise their children in the suburbs - good schools, small communities, ample green space, less traffic and crime. These are some of the arguments. So, why raise children in the city? While some of these reasons may hold true for the suburbs as well, they highlight even greater potential benefits of raising children in an urban environment.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ChicagoNow

In the spirit of sharing knowledge, select Child Therapy Chicago posts will now also be available on ChicagoNow (a Chicago Tribune website) in their Life and Style section. I was invited to be a contributing blogger. To see a summary of Child Therapy Chicago posts on ChicagoNow and/or to look at comments made on other blog posts, you can click on the profile Denise Duval, PhD, LCSW - Profile and check back regularly for updates.

The posts made to ChicagoNow highlight child development, behavior, social, and emotional problems, parenting, school issues, peer relationships, etc. with a focus on issues affecting Chicago families. If you have any particular topic areas you would like to see discussed, want to share a thought, opinion, or advice, please feel free to email your comments to Denise@ChildTherapyChicago.com.

Thanks for your ongoing support!

Keywords: Child Therapy Chicago, ChicagoNow, Chicago Tribune, child behavior, social problems, emotional problems, parenting, school issues, peer relationships

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Adoption

This entry is in response to a blog post in ChicagoNow on 3-12-2011. The author openly shares his experiences being adopted at six days old and feeling the emotional ramifications of it well into adulthood.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Helping Children Handle Divorce

The entries this month have been dedicated to helping parents understand the impact of divorce on their children and finding ways to best manage the separation and changes. Children and their parents experience a number of feelings, have so many questions, and wonder about the future when divorce is imminent. There are numerous factors to take into consideration when talking to children about divorce (e.g., age, developmental level, relationship between the parents, feelings of separation/loss, anger, guilt, blame, etc.) and it can be difficult to understand all of the dynamics involved. Below are a couple of links that may provide additional resources when helping children understand divorce.

Mom's House, Dad's House - Children and Divorce Article

Mom's House, Dad's House: Making Two Homes for Your Child

Mom's House, Dad's House for Kids: Feeling at Home in One Home or Two

Children and Divorce: Helping Kids Cope with Separation and Divorce

Children and Divorce: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Helping Children Understand Divorce

key words: children and divorce, child well-being, children's feelings, grief and loss, parenting, psychological growth

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Children and Divorce: What You Should Know (Cont.)

The last entry looked generally at the potential effects of divorce on children and how they can be managed when the parents' separation is fairly civil and their emotions are in check. What happens, though, when parental emotions run high?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Children and Divorce: What You Should Know

No matter how civilized the separation, divorce affects children. At minimum, it usually means a change of schedule and routine, different living arrangements, separate vacations, family outings and gatherings, and an altered pattern of time spent with each parent. Some children feel sad and confused, others wonder if they are to blame for their parents' problems, and some are angry or frustrated. It is not uncommon for children to experience any or all of these feelings, to different degrees, at various times.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Night Terrors

Night terrors are not unusual in young children, but they can be very unnerving for parents. Night terrors are often related to a disruption in the normal sleep and dream cycle and stem from stressful or anxiety provoking experiences for the child. When children are overwhelmed or over-stimulated emotionally during the day and have not had a chance to process their feelings, these feelings seek escape and may express themselves at night.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Parents as a Secure Base

Toddlerhood is a time of great change for children; among other things, children are self aware, language is developing and motor skills are improving by leaps and bounds. This is a period of exploration and growth and parents serve as a secure base in this process.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Too Much Time with Your Children?

It's nearly impossible to spend too much time with small children unless the parents' involvement hinders the children's ability to play freely, explore, initiate interactions, or be creative. Children thrive developmentally and psychologically from consistent, regular, positive interactions with their parents. In order for parents to maintain this consistency and these positive interactions, though, they need to have some time to themselves and together. This time promotes emotional and physical regeneration as well as strengthens relationships. The more revitalized the parents are, the better the interactions will be with the children. This leads to a healthier and happier the family.

This post is in response to a mom who wondered if it was possible that she was spending too much time with her 2 and 4 year old children. Mamapedia January 5, 2011

http://www.mamapedia.com/questions/5869549819772665857

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Grief and Loss

With the new year comes new goals, hopes, and challenges. It can also mean letting go of some things from the past - an activity, a friendship, a loved one who passed. The idea of letting go can lead to grief and loss in children.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What Kids Really Want for the Holidays - YOU

Yes, kids like presents, holiday decorations, cookies and candy and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. As much as it is an exciting time, it can also be a lot for kids to handle as well. When asked, kids repeatedly say the best parts of the holidays always have to do with time spent with the family - going shopping alone with dad to pick out someone's gift, sharing a simple dinner alone with mom while everyone else is out, looking at holiday lights together, or making paper snowflakes and drinking hot chocolate together on a cold day. These are the things kids remember and cherish. This time spent together is what helps strengthen relationships and build self worth.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Good Enough Parent

Parents do not have to be perfect; they just need to be "good enough." Sometimes things happen that distract parents' attention (e.g., an emergency arises, the parent is sick, etc.) and they cannot respond as quickly as they would like or they react atypically (e.g., raised voice, harsh tone, but not abusive, etc.) to their children. As long as parents interact with their children in nurturing and attentive ways more often than not, the children should be fine. It is the consistency of the positive reactions and the ability to repair after negative interactions that count.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Truth About Lying

Why do children lie? Believe it or not, lying can be understood as part of a child's development. It represents a child's attempt to alter a situation and/or protect the self; sometimes it is a way to avoid feelings of shame/guilt, to connect with someone else, to feel a sense of pride about something or to feel in control.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Children Exposed to Violence

Recently, the Chicago Tribune posted an article online (November 3rd, 2010) entitled, “Safe from the Start Seeks to Help Kids Exposed to Violence: Program Provides Counseling to Children, Caregivers.”  Pillars, a local social service agency, developed this program to provide therapeutic treatment to address the psychological damage to children who have been exposed to violence. The article talks about the different ways in which children can be exposed to violence and lists some behavioral indicators to watch for that suggest a child may be traumatized. Some of these indicators include: sudden changes in sleep patterns; crying, clingy behavior; unusual fear; easily startled; disruptive behavior; tantrums; regression in developmental skills; and lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities. Maintaining routines, providing reassurances of safety, and talking, responding, and listening to the child are a few of the ways to begin to help the child work through a traumatic experience.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Importance of Play

Bruno Bettlelheim (The Importance of Play) said it best when he wrote, "If we wish to understand our child, we need to understand his play." Play is a child's work. Children grow developmentally and psychologically via play. Play is an expression of emotions and provides a means of working through and mastering fears, worries, anxieties, etc. When children play, we also get a glimpse into their inner life and begin to understand how they view the world around them.

Have you ever wondered why a child wants to engage in the same fantasy game over and over and over, likely driving his parents crazy? Well, he's working. Watch the child closely and see what you can learn.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's the Little Things that Matter

Relationships are key to a child's healthy growth and development. Acknowledging a child's presence, encouraging play, learning and exploration, praising accomplishments, tending to scrapes and bruises and chasing monsters away from the closet all help make a child feel important, valued, self-assured and safe. This consistency in regard and security promotes a child's overall well-being. Sometimes it's these little things that matter the most.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Parental Relationship Problems and the Effects on Children

Parents who are having relationship problems often worry about the effect of these problems on their children and wonder if they should seek therapy for themselves and/or their children.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Therapy is Not a Four Letter Word

Over the years, therapy has moved in and out of vogue. It used to be thought of as something only for children who were abused and neglected. Over time, it has become more recognized as a valuable service for any child struggling with interpersonal issues, peer, school or social problems or when there's been a significant event or change in the family. Children can't always recognize their feelings and speak about them but they know something isn't "right." They also don't always want to talk about these feelings with their parents. Why? Children don't want to worry their parents; they want to protect them. So, having a space - outside the family environment - where they can be helped to uncover and process the things that don't feel "right" can make a world of difference for a child, improving self esteem, peer relations, school performance and family relationships.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Importance of Childhood Experiences and Relationships

Children are made up of their experiences and early relationships are pivotal to their personality and character development. As such, it is important to understand these early experiences and relationships in order to make sense of why a child might be behaving in a certain way, reacting to some things in a particular manner, seeming very sensitive, having trouble managing his/her emotions, struggling with peer relationships, experiencing anxiety in school, etc. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Child Therapy Chicago

The terms "therapy" or "psychotherapy" and "counseling" are sometimes used synonymously. I am a psychotherapist with a doctorate degree in clinical social work. My advanced clinical training was based on the principles of psychodynamic psychology. My philosophy is that all behavior has meaning.  Children's behavior is a window into their internal world. Getting to the root of what is happening internally for the child is the key to effecting behavior change.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Children's Behavior

Children’s behavior has meaning. This is true even when it might not seem so.  ‎‎I am here to help children make meaning of their experiences in order to work through what troubles them.  I also welcome working with parents to help them better understand their children.