Monday, December 31, 2018

How to Help Anxious Children

When children are anxious, even the most well-meaning parents can fall into a negative cycle and, not wanting a child to suffer, actually intensify the child’s anxiety. Here are some tips for helping children escape the cycle of anxiety.

Help your child manage anxiety.
The best way to help kids overcome anxiety is to help them manage and work through the feelings. Even if the things that trigger the anxiety seem minor or silly, the feelings are real and intense for the child. Talk about the feelings and triggers, share stories of others or your own past fears and anxieties, practice some calm, deep breathing, and empathize with the worry. When the child feels understood and held, he/she feels safe and strong and is better able to work toward overcoming the anxiety.

Don’t over-react just because something make a child anxious.
It is important to respect a child's fears and worries. These feelings mean something to them. It is important to try and understand what is behind them. Sometimes, well meaning parents are quick to try making things better or immediately and repeatedly remove the anxiety producing triggers. Once they are understood, a plan can be made to help the child overcome that anxiety at a pace that allows him/her to feel in control.

Express positive realistic expectations.
You cannot promise a child that their fears are unrealistic, that they will not fail a test or that another child will not laugh at her during show & tell. However, you can express confidence that they are going to be okay and they will be able to manage it. This gives your child confidence that your expectations are realistic, and that you are not going to ask them to do something they cannot handle.

Respect their feelings.
It is important to understand that validation does not always mean agreement. You want to listen and be empathetic and help them understand what they are anxious about. The message you want to send is, “I know you’re scared, and that’s okay, and I’m here, and I’m going to help you get through this.” 

Don’t ask leading questions.
Encourage your child to talk about their feelings. To avoid feeding the cycle of anxiety, just ask open-ended questions: “How are you feeling about the science fair?” 

Don’t reinforce their fears.

What you do not want to do is be saying, with your tone of voice or body language is: “Maybe this is something that you should be afraid of.” Let’s say a child has had a negative experience with a dog. Next time they are around a dog, you might be anxious about how they will respond, and you might unintentionally send a message that they should be worried.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Why Mindfulness is Good for Children

We want our children to be relaxed, creative and alert. However, finding focus and space to think in this high-speed technological world can be tricky. Mindfulness teaches our kids to tune into their thoughts and feelings, which helps develop coping skills to handle anxiety and stress. 

The following are additional benefits of mindfulness.

  • Boosts children’s mood and self-esteem 
  • Encourages positive behavior such as empathy, emotional control and optimism 
  • Aides in academic learning and improved cognitive control in the classroom 
  • Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression 
  • Reduces peer aggression and promotes positive conflict resolution 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Self-Regulation Skills for Preschoolers

You can help your child develop self-regulation skills by incorporating simple activities into their daily lives. The following are tips that will promote your child’s self-regulation skills for school and life.

Include your child in the decision-making process
Your child models your language, as well as the processes you use to make thoughtful decisions. When you weigh in your child’s ideas, you help them to develop the confidence and skills to think actively and independently.

Provide regular exploratory playtime
Playtime allows your child the ability to plan their own activities, find and develop interests, explore materials, problem solve and even use simple abstract thinking. Most importantly, these experiences support the idea that self-guided play and learning is valuable.

Provide tasks/responsibilities for your child to complete independently
Encourage your child’s independence by giving them age appropriate tasks to complete. This will spark confidence and create initiative within the child that will influence future behavior.

Engage your child in exploratory conversations
Encourage your child’s language development by engaging them in meaningful conversations. Allow for your child to explore and explain thoughts and feelings.

Support emotional and behavioral self-control

Model positive behavior management skills. Seek to understand your child’s limits and provide support to help your child gain control over his or her behavior. Encourage your child explore emotions and provide safe ways to cope with negative emotions.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Self-Regulation Skills for Toddlers

As a parent, you have likely observed that young children are not quite skilled in the art of self-regulation just yet (Tantrums!) and older children have some small capabilities (I can only handle so much before I explode!). While it is something that does develop as children mature, here are some ways to help strengthen self-regulation skills at home.

Red Light, Green Light

Most of us have played Red Light Green Light at some point, but here is a quick recap:
To play:
  • One person is selected to be the traffic cop.
  • All players stand on the starting line and the traffic cop has their back to the rest of the players. When the traffic cop says "green light," players try to run to the finish line.
  • When the traffic cop says "red light," they turn around and players have to stop in their tracks.
  • If the traffic cop catches a player moving, they are sent back to the starting line.
  • The first person to cross the finish line wins and becomes the new traffic cop.

How can you use this game to learn about self-regulation?

After you play a few rounds of the game the traditional way, switch things up. Have your child run when you say “red light” and stop when you say “green light.” This simple switch will challenge your child to actively think about and practice breaking a habit. The old rules are no longer and we have to change the way we think and process to adapt to the new rules. While on the surface, it may look easy, it’s actually some pretty serious stuff.

Mother May I? and Freeze Dance


Go ahead and try this same idea out with a variety of other games like Mother May I? and the Freeze Dance (switch up the rules - instead of taking steps in Mother May I, make it hops, do it backwards, etc. and in the Freeze Dance, dance with no music then freeze when it starts, etc.). 

Another way to encourage self-regulation is to allow for independence, so be sure to hand the over the reins to your child after they get the hang of it. You will get a moment to catch your breath and your child will enjoy feeling like they are in control. It’s a win-win!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Social Emotional Development: Ages 5 – 7 years

This area of development involves learning to interact with other people, and to understand and control your own emotions. Developing the ability to control your emotions and behavior is also a long process. Children continue to develop their social-emotional skills well into their teenage years, or even young adulthood.

The following are some of the typical developmental milestones for children 5-7 years of age.
  • Measures own performance against others
  • Feel more comfortable spending time at other places without you (i.e. a relative’s or friends’ house)
  • Continue to develop social skills by playing with other children in a variety of situations
  • Be able to communicate with others without your help
  • Start to feel sensitive about how other children feel about him or her

Red Flags
  • Not interested in playing with other children
  • Not able to share or take turns with other children
  • Dependent on caregivers for everything
  • Extremely “rigid” about routines, and becomes extremely upset when things are changed
  • Extreme difficulty separating from you
  • Is too passive or fearful, and does not want to try things other same age children are doing
  • Has extreme fears that interfere with daily activities


If you notice any of these by the time your child is 7 years old, you may want to talk to your doctor, or another health professional such as a mental health clinician, a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, or a psychologist.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Social Emotional Development: Ages 4 – 5 years

This area of development involves learning to interact with other people, and to understand and control your own emotions. Developing the ability to control your emotions and behavior is also a long process. Children continue to develop their social-emotional skills well into their teenage years or even young adulthood.

The following are some of the typical developmental milestones for children 4-5 years of age.
  • Show some awareness of moral reasoning, such as “fairness”, and good or bad behavior
  • Develop friendships
  • Express more awareness of other people’s feelings
  • Enjoy imaginative play with other children, such as dress up or house
  • Better at sharing and taking turns with other children
  • Enjoy playing games, but might change the rules as he goes
  • Stick with a difficult task for longer period
  • Controlling frustration or anger better
  • Listen while others are speaking

Red Flags
  • Not interested in playing with other children
  • Not able to share or take turns with other children
  • Dependent on caregivers for everything
  • Extremely “rigid” about routines, and becomes extremely upset when things are changed
  • Extreme difficulty separating from you
  • Is too passive or fearful, and does not want to try things other same age children are doing
  • Has extreme fears that interfere with daily activities


If you notice any of these by the time your child is 5 years old, you may want to talk to your doctor, or another health professional such as a mental health clinician, a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, or a psychologist.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Social Emotional Development: Ages 3 – 4 years

This area of development involves learning to interact with other people, and to understand and control your own emotions. Developing the ability to control your emotions and behavior is also a long process. Children continue to develop their social-emotional skills well into their teenage years, or even young adulthood.

The following are some of the typical developmental milestones for children 3-4 years of age.
  • Share toys and taking turns
  • Initiate or join in play with other children
  • Follow simple rules in games, but will always want to win
  • Begin dramatic play, acting out being animals or taking a trip
  • Might be bossy and defiant
  • Show more independence
  • Experience a broad range of emotions (i.e. fear, happiness, jealousy, anger)
  • Become more even-tempered and cooperative with parents
  • May show attachment to one friend

Red Flags
  • Not able to initiate or join in play with other children
  • Not able to share with other children
  • Dependent on caregivers for everything
  • Extremely “rigid” about routines, and becomes extremely upset when things are changed
  • Has extreme difficulty separating from you
  • Is too passive or fearful, and does not want to try things other same age children are doing
  • Has extreme fears that interfere with daily activities



If you notice any of these by the time your child is 4 years old, you may want to talk to your doctor, or another health professional such as a mental health clinician, a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, or a psychologist.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Social Emotional Development: Ages 2 – 3 years

Toddlers develop relationships with the people around them right from birth, but the process of learning to communicate, share, and interact with others takes many years to develop.

The following are some of the typical developmental milestones for children 2-3 years of age.
  • Be assertive about what he wants, and says no to adult requests
  • Start to show awareness of her own feelings
  • Begin to show empathy to other children (respond to their feelings)
  • Have rapid mood shifts
  • Show more fear in certain situations (i.e. the dark)
  • Possibly become aggressive and frustrated easily
  • Not like change
  • Want independence, but still need to be reassured by parents
  • Need a consistent and predictable routine
  • Watch other children in play, and join them briefly
  • Begin to play “house”
  • Begin to separate more easily from parents

Red Flags
  • Not interested in pretend play
  • Has extreme difficulty separating from you
  • Not starting to or responding to simple interactions with other children
  • Showing abnormal aggression
  • Shows extreme fears that interfere with daily activities
  • Extremely “rigid” about routines


If you notice any of these by the time your child is 3 years old, you may want to talk to your doctor, or another health professional such as a mental health clinician, a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, or a psychologist.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Social Emotional Development: Ages 1 – 2 years

Toddlers develop relationships with the people around them right from birth, but the process of learning to communicate, share, and interact with others takes many years to develop.

The following are some of the typical developmental milestones for children 1-2 years of age.
  • Recognize herself in the mirror or photograph and smile or make faces at herself
  • Begin to say ‘no’ to bedtime and other requests
  • Imitate adults’ actions and words (i.e. chores, talking on play phone)
  • Understand words and commands, and respond to them
  • Hug and kiss parents, familiar people and pets
  • Begin to feel jealousy when she is not the center of attention
  • Show frustration easily
  • May play next to another child, but will not really share yet
  • Be able to play alone for a few minutes
  • React to changes in daily routines
  • Share a piece of food
  • Develop a range of emotions (may have tantrums, show aggression by biting, etc.)
  • Start to assert independence by preferring to try do things “by myself”, without help

Red Flags
  • Doesn’t imitate other people
  • Constantly moves from one activity to another and not able to stay at an activity for brief periods
  • Requires constant attention to stay at an activity
  • Doesn’t show any interest in other children
  • Doesn’t “show” things to other people
  • Extremely “rigid” about routines, becoming extremely upset when they are changed
  • Too passive, and doesn’t want to try things other children her age are doing
  • Has extreme difficulty waiting for items he wants

If you notice any of these by the time your child is 18-24 months old (2 years), you may want to talk to your doctor, or another health professional such as a mental health clinician, a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist or a psychologist.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Social Emotional Development: 9-12 months

Babies start to develop relationships with the people around them right from birth, but the process of learning to communicate, share, and interact with others takes many years to develop. 

Developing the ability to control your emotions and behavior is also a long process. Children will continue to develop their social-emotional skills well into their teenage years, or even young adulthood.

The following are some of the typical developmental milestones for children 9-12 months of age.