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ADHD & heart screening tests?

If your child takes medication for ADHD, are regular electrocardiograms necessary? Well, it depends on whom you ask, apparently. The American Heart Association says yes, and the American Academy of Pediatrics says no.

For more details, visit today’s post on this topic on the “On Parenting” blog, written by Nancy Shute–it’s an excellent blog, by the way, one that I look forward to reading each week myself.

Coping Skills for Kids–part 2

Yesterday, I defined coping skills.
Today, I’m listing some ways to help your child improve their coping skills.

  • First, talk to your child about emotions.  They need to be able to recognize their own emotions (as well as the emotions of others) in order to cope with them! 
  • Second, define the term “coping skills” for your kids, and talk about when you use them.  (Give concrete examples.)  Tell stories of times in the past when you saw your child handling their emotions well–what specifically did you see them do? Talk about that and praise your child. 
  • Third, sit down with your child, and brainstorm things your child likes to do.  Riding her bike?  Playing with the dog?  Reading a book?  Check!  The parent should write down every idea your child identifies, plus a few of your own.  It’s fine if the list includes video games, eating candy, and/or clothes shopping, but just make sure that there are healthy/free/easy/quick/always accessible activities, too.
  • Fourth, once you’ve got a rough list of fun activities, make a fun art project out of it!  Rewrite the list on a big piece of paper, and decorate it together with your child.  Maybe even draw tiny pictures representing some of the activities!  (just have fun doing it.)  Talk about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.  Post the final version up on the wall somewhere prominent–the fridge, for example.

Now, you’re ready!  The next time your child is mildly upset, do this:

  1. Validate their feelings.
  2. Ask if they’d like some help from you.
  3. If they say yes, walk with them over to the list, and have them pick 1 thing.
  4. Do the activity.  Alone or together, their choice.   (one of the great things about this step is that your attention is built-in praise for your child’s positive behavior–using a coping skill is a big positive, and one that we want to encourage!)
  5. When you’re done, process!  Talk about your child feels now, as compared to before.  Be sure to clarify at some point that the coping skill doesn’t ‘fix’ the original problem–it simply makes us feel a little better in the moment. 

So, if you go through these steps, and rinse/repeat a number of times, then you will likely find that your child starting to make this a habit–a positive habit!  And soon, you’ll see your child using their coping skills for upsets that are bigger than “mild.”  Ahhh, a very happy achievement this will be!  

Coping Skills for Kids, part 1

Today’s post is a basic description of coping skills.  You probably already know all of this, but sometimes we all need a refresher.  (or is that just me?)  ;^)

A coping skill is any trick, technique, or habit that you use to “deal with” something.  For example:

  • When you feel anxious, you might say to yourself: “I’m okay, I can handle this, it’s
    going to be okay.”  That’s called “positive self-talk. 
  • Going for a walk is a positive and healthy coping skill.  A fast walk uses physical
    exercise to moderate/expend the excess energy and brain chemicals that strong emotions produce. 
  • Asking for a hug from someone you love.  That hug helps us cope in many ways: it reminds of of our connection to another; it produces oxytocin–a ‘feel good’ brain chemical; and it provides physical grounding.  Plus, it just feels good.  :^)
  • Other examples of grown-up coping skills: scrubbing the tub, mountain biking, talking to your best friend, journaling, drawing/making art, cooking, singing, playing guitar, gardening, meditation/praying, playing, deep breathing.

There is also such a thing as a negative coping skill.  For example, alcohol/drugs, withdrawing from social contacts, or even veg-ing out in front of the TV can each be negative coping skills.  A little of any of these coping skills is fine and normal.  However, using them too often, too much, or exclusively causes side effects that make things worse.

As adults, we take for granted how many coping skills we’ve developed over the years.   But  trust me–you do know a lot!  It’s just that your coping skills are so familiar to you now that they are invisible.  ;^)

Come back tomorrow for more details on how to help your child improve their coping skills.

WOW! I really like how you clicked on that link just now! ;^)

Praise is another one of the classic parenting techniques that is now subject to some controversy.  I don’t mind tipping my hand here–I’m firmly in the pro-praise camp.  But, like so many other areas of parenting, the devil’s in the details, so to speak…  The way that praise is given makes a huge difference. 

Alan Kazdin, president of the APA and the director of Yale’s Parenting Center has written a book called “The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child.”  I’m reading it right now (just page 39 so far) and will post a review when I’m done.  (hint: so far I like it a lot.)  The thing that drew me to his book was his instruction on how to praise.  I’ve been searching for some concrete, simple, and easy directions for some time now… after hearing one too many meaningless “good jobs!”.  (sometimes from my own mouth, btw.  sigh.)

So, Kazdin says to think of these 3 guidelines on how to praise:

1. Be very, very enthusiastic!!!  (I’ve watched the DVD that comes with his book, and he really, really means this.)  Super, super, super enthusiastic.

2. Be specific.  Ditch the generic ‘good jobs’ and replace them with specific descriptions of what you liked: “I’m really impressed that you put your toys away the first time I asked you!” 

3. Reinforce with a touch. 

He also says that praise should be immediately following the desired behavior, clearly linked to that desired behavior, and frequently given.

I’m interested to hear from any parent readers who try this–does it feel different from what you’re doing now?  How does it go over with your kiddos?