Don't touch that! It's Mine! Sibling issues

Don’t touch that! That’s mine!

Dealing with siblings messing with each other’s things

By Patience Domowski, LCSW

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Do your kiddos fight over who is allowed to touch what item and what toy belongs to which kid? Do your kids get super upset and overprotective of their stuff to the point of fighting frequently over it? Do you have a younger child who loves to torment their older sibling just for the fun of it? Well, here’s some help!

Let’s look at the Why this happens, What to do about it, and How to prevent it strategies.

First, Why does this happen? Why are siblings always getting into each other’s rooms, toys, clothes, etc? Often it's for a reaction or attention. So when Sibling A touches Sibling B’s toy and Sibling B gets mad, Sibling A loves to see that reaction! Sometimes it's because they want to play with the toy or are jealous they don’t have the same item. Some kids want to play with it just because it's not theirs even if they have the same thing! Often younger kids want to be like their older siblings and want to do what they do, so they get into things because of that. Some kids are just curious and get into things out of curiosity and exploration. If you can figure out WHY it will help. Often it can be a combination of these reasons.

  • To get a reaction/make sibling mad/get adult’s attention

  • For attention/wants to play with the sibling

  • Wants to play with the toy because don't have one, or because they just want to play with something different, jealous they don’t have the same thing

  • Want to be like an older sibling

  • Out of curiosity/exploring (usually very young kids)

  • Other reasons...

Next, What can we do about it? We want to look at how to shape the behavior of both the sibling that’s getting into things and the sibling that owns the things because both reactions and behaviors are important to address.

Let’s call the sibling that’s getting into the things “JJ”, and assume he’s younger, and the sibling that owns the things “Johnny”, and he’s a little older than JJ.

Here’s the scenario: JJ sneaks into Johnny’s room and starts messing with his lego creations. Johnny comes home and goes in his room and discovers this. He screams and yells and maybe even hits JJ. Mom comes in and finds everyone is crying. Now what? Let’s assume the reason JJ did this is just out of curiosity and wanting to play with Johnny’s toys, not that he was trying to infuriate him.

My suggestion: Talk to both about their behaviors.

-First try to calm everyone down. If they are out of control, send to separate rooms for some alone time until everyone is calm.

-Then talk to JJ about how he needs to ask before going into brother’s room, and also touching his things. He needs to respect Johnny’s space and toys. He should ask Johnny first if he can touch and play with his legos.

-Talk to Johnny about his reaction. Explain that JJ was just curious and wanting to check the toys out because he’s too little to build things that cool, so he likes to look at them. Suggest that next time Johnny ask JJ nicely to not touch his toys, and suggest another activity or toy that JJ can play with instead, or show him nicely how to build things with some other legos, possibly. If JJ doesn't listen, then ask mom or dad to step in.

-If possible have the siblings act this out again. Have JJ pretend to go into Johnny’s room, Johnny comes in, and practices saying nicely “Please don't touch my legos. Let’s play with your blocks downstairs”. Have JJ ask “Can I please see your airplane you built? It’s so cool!” etc… Praise the children for acting this out appropriately.

(Acting out/role-playing appropriate behavior is a more effective way of teaching good behavior, than just talking/discussing what to do next time, as the act of doing the right behavior builds ‘muscle memory’ instead of just a lecture).

Another situation. Let’s say little brother Bobby loves to make older sister Haley mad. Here’s the scenario: Haley is playing nicely with her dolls in the living room. Bobby runs in, snatches the doll and pulls its hair, throws it down, and runs out of the room. Haley starts screaming and crying. Bobby laughs. Haley chases him down, intent on bodily damage. Mom/Dad comes in and starts yelling at everyone to stop.

Suggestion: Ask everyone to calm down. Have them sit down to discuss when calm. Address Bobby first. Ask what did he do wrong and what would’ve been a better idea. Bobby: “I grabbed her doll. I probably shouldn't touch it”. If he’s able to discuss why see if he can explain (some young children are unable to answer Why questions just yet). Bobby: “ I wanted to make her upset.” Or “Dolls are stupid.” Mom can say something like “Okay, that’s not very nice, let’s think of a better way to interact with your sister”. Bobby: “I could ask her to play with me.” “I could ignore her”. Parents may need to prompt some appropriate responses, such as suggest if he wants a reaction maybe tell her a funny joke, or story, or ask her to play something together. Then talk to Haley. What could she have done differently or better? Haley: “I should’ve told mom/dad instead of chasing him and screaming”. Parents; “Right, when you scream and chase him- that’s what he wants! He’s trying to make you upset. While it's not right what he’s doing, a good way to make him stop is to just ignore him, ask him nicely to please stop, and then tell mom/dad if he isn't listening/continuing. If you keep screaming when he does these things, it makes him happy, which makes him keep doing that. I know it's really hard, because its infuriating when someone hurts your toys or grabs something from you, but if you are calm, he won’t get the reaction he wants.” Haley: “He should be grounded for a year!” …

Then have kids re-do the scenario in a better way. Haley pretends to play with doll. Bobby comes in, thinks ‘I want attention!’. He can say ‘Hey Haley, did you hear this funny joke?’ Haley can say ‘What joke?’. Then have Bobby touch her doll. Haley can say ‘Please don’t touch my doll, Bobby. It makes me upset when you touch my things.’ Praise the kids for making better choices.

Key strategies:

-Teach the one that is messing with the things to ask and respect property and space

-Teach the over-reactor child to ask the sibling to please not touch, ask first, and react calmly. Get parents to help if sibling isn't listening

-Role-play/Act out how to make better choices next time

-If behaviors continue- give out consequences to the child who touches the stuff, and if needed, the child who overreacted (if severe reaction like hitting/etc)

How to prevent this: Talk to all the children about the importance of respecting each other’s space and stuff. Gather them all together and ask them why they don’t want people touching their things, and how they feel when someone messes up their toys. Have them share with each other why it bothers them and what they would prefer. If the children are struggling to share, discuss how this makes others feel, and emphasize why it's important to share sometimes, and sometimes it's okay to keep things to yourself. Ask them how they feel when they are getting into someone’s things, and why they do it. Have the children calmly tell each other why it’s not a good idea and why it upsets them. Have the children figure out what toys/spaces are shareable- maybe the playroom and the blocks are for everyone, but the bedrooms and stuffed animals are individually owned, for example.

Remember- its okay for kids to have some items or space that is just theirs. It is good for them to have some ownership over things and it helps them feel secure to know “this is mine”. However it's just as important to learn to share spaces and toys and knowing which is which and how to respect boundaries is important for children to learn as they are growing up.

Key points: If someone asks you to stop or not touch, you need to listen. If it doesn't belong to you you need to ask for permission before touching or using it.

Don’t Lose your Temper when You Lose a Game!

Don’t Lose your Temper when You Lose a Game!

By Patience Domowski, LCSW

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No one likes to lose, but why do some people have such a hard time with it? We’ve all seen (adult) sports fans freaking out when their team loses, but often adults handle it fine. Children, however, are a different story. While most adults can process that while it's disappointing to lose, they know it's a part of life and maybe they will win the next time. Children, though often don’t think about the broader picture or the future impact and cannot accept defeat.

Does your child ‘lose it’ when they lose? Throwing their gaming controller/sports equipment, screaming, stomping their feet, having a full tantrum when they lose a game? Are they unable to accept defeat or disappointment and overreact in anger? Do the blame the opponent and declare they must have cheated because they cannot take responsibility themselves for the loss? Do you worry taking your child to their sports events that they will lose their temper if they don’t win and it will embarrass you in front of the other team members and parents? If yes to any of these, keep reading!

Here are some reasons children struggle to accept loss in games (“games” refers to video games, board games, and sports games):

  • Child puts a lot of pressure on themselves to do well, often due to anxiety, and sees losing as “failure”.

  • Parents, coaches, others put a lot of pressure on child to win all the time, instead of just ‘do your best and have fun’.

  • Child has low self-esteem and losing confirms their negative view of themselves which is already low.

  • They are teased because of their performance by siblings, peers, friends, bullies, etc

  • Parents, coaches get upset and overreact when their child’s team doesn’t win

  • Child doesn't have the coping skills or emotional maturity to handle disappointment

  • Child/team hasn't been taught good sportsmanship skills.

  • There certainly can be other reasons too.

 

Some strategies to teach your child to handle losing a game better:

  • Remind child that just because they lost doesn't mean they did anything wrong or are a bad person/team because of it

  • Build child’s self-esteem in other ways, if games/sports are not helping or child is just not good at these activities, such as finding other things the child is good at like building, or art for example.

  • Encourage child to do their best, regardless of outcome, and don’t make them feel bad for missing a shot or making a mistake

  • Remind child that everyone wins some and loses some, and they need to just try their best, and it’s okay (if they can’t handle constructive feedback, say nothing, or just point out the positives, until they are more able to handle suggestions for improvement)

  • Model good sportsmanship by handling it well when adult’s preferred professional sports teams lose or do poorly. “We’ll get them next year”.

  • Praise the good as much as possible and focus on that: “You made a good pass” or “You got one goal!”

  • Teach child that if they handle losing well, the opponent/friend is likely to want to play with them again, however if they throw a fit the other person is likely to not want to play with them anymore.

  • Role-play/practice with child on how to react if they win or lose. Have child act out saying “Good Game” at end of game regardless of the results.

  • Try not to focus or mention the score in a game, or even saying who won or lost, but just on how individual did in some moves/plays

  • Also make sure to teach children to be good winners- not bragging, or teasing the other team, but just graciously accepting the result without over-doing their reaction (no show-boating). Make sure they say ‘good game’ regardless, and shake the other team’s hands (if appropriate).

  • Point out how professionals handle loss (look up some good examples online of professional sports players) and point out how professional coaches look for good sportsmanship and want to see that behavior in pros.

  • Teach child emotional regulation skills of recognizing their own emotions and how to handle anger and disappointment (like taking a deep breath, walking away for a minute to collect themselves, thinking about the problem differently) and have child practice and act out these behaviors

  • Purposefully play a game with child where the point is for child to handle losing graciously- tell the child this is the plan. (Adult should try hard to win). Praise the child for handling it well, if they do, or have them try again if they get upset. (May need to remind child how to respond towards end of the game.) If needed, add in an incentive like a small reward if they handle losing without getting upset.

Excellent book resources to read  and discuss with your child:

  • “If Winning isn’t Everything, Why do I hate to Lose?” by Bryan Smith (available on Amazon)

  • “Bubble Gum Brain” by Julia Cook (addresses thinking flexibly, not giving up even if something is hard, handling mistakes, and growing)

  • Search on Amazon for other books on this subject.

 

Quotes:

If you’ve had a good time playing the game, you’re a winner even if you lose
— Malcolm Forbes
It is not up to me whether I win or lose. Ultimately, this might not be my day. And it is that philosophy towards sports, something that I really truly live by. I am emotional. I want to win. I am hungry. I am a competitor. I have that fire. But deep down, I truly enjoy the art of competing so much more than the result.
— Apolo Ohno
First, accept sadness. Realize that without losing, winning isn’t so great.
— Alyssa Milano
There are more important things in life than winning or losing a game.
— Lionel Messi
You learn more from losing than winning. You learn how to keep going.
— Morgan Wooten
Losing a basketball game hurts but when you see what you’ve been through, you look on it and say well if this is the worst thing that can happen to me, then I’m okay.
— LeBron James
I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
— Michael Jordan
You can’t win unless you learn how to lose.
— Kareen Abdul-Jabbar
We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out of time
— Vince Lombardi
Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming
— John Wooden

Books flyer

Feelings by Age

Feelings by Age

What your child should be able to understand and express, by age

By Patience Domowski, LCSW

 

Age 0-1: Baby can express sadness by crying, anger by screaming, and happiness by smiling and laughing. Some babies can express surprise too with a facial expression, often following by happy smile or crying depending on how they feel about the surprise. Babies usually respond to their parents and other caregivers emotions and reactions such as being more fussy if they sense mom is upset, or laughing when big sister makes a funny face at them. [Known emotions: Happy, Sad, Angry, sometimes Surprise]

Age 2-4: These little ones are just learning how to talk to express their feelings. Parents can teach them to name their feelings such as saying “I’m Happy!” or “I’m Mad!” when they are acting like they feel that way with their behaviors or facial expressions. Often these kids have very strong opinions and feelings and may show big emotions like anger and disappointment in the form of tantrums and meltdowns and excitement or anger in screaming. Parents can try to have their child say how they feel. Parents can also model this by naming their own feelings so the child learns which emotion goes with which term. For example “Daddy is sad right now because you aren’t listening and putting on your shoes.” “Mommy is so happy to see you after a long day at preschool!”

Some strategies for calming child is to teach them to take deep breaths, give themselves a hug or ask for a hug, and taking a break (such as child going to a private area to calm down, or parents and older siblings leaving them alone in one area until they are calm). Teaching these skills when the child is not upset is helpful so they are ready to use the skill when needed. Parents can also model these strategies themselves by doing and naming them. For example “Mommy is angry right now because you made a big mess when I asked you not to. I’m going to take a break and calm down. I’ll be right back.” or “Daddy is really disappointed you didn't make a good choice and hit your brother. I’m going to take a deep breath.”

Also if the child resists using a strategy to calm down, parents can offer an incentive such as use of a toy or a treat for calming quickly. Often it’s best to ignore screaming and tantrum behaviors until the child calms (if they are too upset to reason with) and then praise them when they are calm and divert to something else. At the preschool age some children are more verbal and understanding than others so it will vary based on your child’s language ability to be able to talk out the feelings and handle them appropriately. [Known emotions: Happy, Sad, Anger, Surprise, Excited, Love, Scared, sometimes Disappointed, Frustrated]

Age 5-7: These early school agers should know the names of most common emotions by now and be able to do some calming strategies. Parents should continue to encourage them to name their feelings and model handling their feelings too. These children may also be recognizing how their actions affect others’ feelings too. Some kids are very sensitive to recognizing others feelings while others are more oblivious. Helping them be aware of how their behaviors and feelings impact others is important. For example if they are mad and hit their sister, it can make their sister feel sad. Or if they are jealous and take their friends toy, the friend may be angry. Expanding their understanding of emotions can grow beyond the basic feelings to more specifics like Happy vs Proud specifically, or Angry broken down into disappointment, frustration, or fear. There are many games and flashcards/posters to use to teach the various emotions. Having children learn what each feeling is called, what it looks like on someone’s face and body, as well as what can cause that feeling is really important for them to grow in emotional intelligence. [Known feelings: Happy, Sad, Scared, Mad, Nervous, Surprised, Excited, Proud, Loved, Disappointed, Frustrated. Maybe: Jealous, Anxious]

Ages 8-10: These kids should be pretty familiar with most emotions. They may continue to express their feelings in acting out ways, but should know some strategies for coping and calming down. If they still struggle they may need to see a specialist to help. They should be more aware of other people’s feelings and be able to offer comfort to others if needed. They should be able to name an experience that would cause a feeling. For example “If my brother messes up my lego creation, I would be mad” or “If my friend got a new toy and I didn't, I would be jealous”. [Known feelings: Happy, Sad, Mad, Scared, Surprised, Anxious, Excited, Proud, Disappointed, Frustrated, Jealous, Loved, Uneasy, Annoyed, Nervous]

Ages 11-13: Preteens are hitting that hormonal puberty stage where their feelings may be all over the place. They may be getting upset and angry for no clear reason and acting out more than usual. Helping them realize its their hormones that are out of whack, not that the world is against them may be helpful in helping them calm their reactions. They may need more space and understanding as they navigate this difficult time. Parents should be understanding but also not allow them to be disrespectful either. Often preteens need time and space to calm down and think through their feelings and when they are in a better mood often talking about it can help. [Known emotions: at this age they should know most if not all the emotions, but may struggle to differentiate specific breakdowns of feelings such as anxious versus scared].

Ages 14-18: Teens should be able to name and know all the emotions and may admit to struggling with certain ones specifically- like anxiety or anger. They should know some coping strategies to calm down and be able to manage their extreme feelings. If they are extremely up and down with mood it can be a sign of a problem and they may need expert help (ask your doctor or therapist). While it’s normal to feel all the emotions at some point the teen should likely not be all over the place severely such as excitement to furious in a few minutes, for example. As they mature they should be better handling their emotions and learning how to regulate their responses. [Known emotions: All of them. They may have slang terms for some feelings].

Overall it's important to teach children of any age the names of feelings as well as how to recognize them (by facial expression and body language) in themselves and in others. It’s also important for children to learn what causes what feelings. After they learn those basic skills then they can learn calming and coping strategies to feel better such as taking a deep breath when angry or anxious (it tells your brain and body to relax), taking a break (such as walk away, go to room to calm down ,etc). After the child is calm then they can work on a strategy to solve the problem! Even positive emotions like excitement can cause problem behaviors if the child gets too silly, or screams, gets super energetic, etc and may need to calm down. Learning when and where to act appropriately is helpful too. Such as its okay to be silly when playing, or loud when outside, but not during library time at school, for example. There are many books, games, flashcards, posters, etc available for teaching these skills. Look online for ideas. Also realize that if your child has any developmental delays or autism than often these skills will be very delayed and may not come naturally- they may have to be specifically and deliberately taught. For example most children can recognize when their parents are angry, or their friend is upset, but a child with a delay or autism may be completely clueless.

If your child is struggling beyond reasonable expectation seek out help from their pediatrician, school guidance counselor, or a child behavioral therapist.

Some online printable resources: 
Free Download of Various Feelings Activities

More Fun Feelings Crafts and Activities

These are for learning ESL but can be used by native English speakers too!

There are plenty more! Just do a search on Google or Pinterest for free printable emotions activities. 

I have some books on these topics as well. "Violet" discusses Anxiety, "Brianna" discusses Depression (deep long lasting sadness), "Julian" learns about Anger, and "Lily" learns about making friends/social skills (which is related to recognizing others' feelings). They are all for sale on Amazon

Appropriate Sexual Development and Behavior in Children

Appropriate Sexual Development in Children

Patience Domowski, LCSW

 

Often parents wonder if their child’s curiosity about their body parts, or other people’s body parts is normal or a concern. What sexual exploration is normal, and what is a major red flag? Certainly some curiosity and comparison is normal in young children, but how much is too far? Also what should parents do about it? Sexual development occurs from infancy on up, however what is normal or appropriate varies by age.

It is normal for toddlers and preschoolers (ages 2-5) to want to be naked, check their genitals out, and ask about them. They may be curious about their parents body parts and want to touch their mother’s breasts, or check out their sibling’s different genitals. It is typical for children at this age to explore their bodies and want to see others, or play ‘doctor’ and examine each other. It is not normal or okay for any aggressiveness in this play, or having toys act out sexual acts at this age. It would not be normal for them to want to show their body parts to a much older peer, or talk about sex specifically.

At this age parents should teach the proper body parts names- slang terms are fine but it’s also good for the child to know the real names for their body parts. Teaching children when it’s okay to be naked (bath time) and when not (in public) is a good idea at this age. Teaching appropriate personal space as well and proper boundaries is important. Parents should point out that it’s not polite to grab someone’s bottom, or put their hand up someone’s shirt for example. Parents shouldn't try to shame or upset their children as they are naturally exploring and testing boundaries. Parents should just teach appropriate touching and boundaries calmly. Teaching children that hugs and kisses are for close family, and if they don't want to, that’s okay. It's not usually a good idea to force a child to hug or kiss anyone (such as an extended relative they don't know).

By elementary school age (ages 6-10) however children should be aware it's not okay to be naked publicly, they usually have some sense of wanting privacy when using the bathroom and changing. At this age they may want to touch and explore their own body parts. Boys are more likely to fondle their genitals than girls. It should be taught to children at this age that if they want to touch themselves to do so in the bathroom, or the privacy of their bedroom. Children should not have their hands down their pants in public, and it's not okay to be scratching body parts very visibly. Parents should respect and encourage privacy of children and start to have different gendered siblings dress in separate spaces. Children may be curious and want to peek at people changing or see naked pictures and think its funny.

At this age children can be taught “Good touch/Bad touch” and that no one should touch their private area unless helping them stay safe or healthy. For example ‘staying safe and healthy’ means that parents may need to help them bathe, (though at this age they should be starting to be able to bathe themselves with some minor supervision), and doctors may need to check out their bodies to make sure they are healthy, or an emergency responder may have to touch them in certain cases (car accident, for example) to help them if they are hurt. However no one else should be touching you anywhere on your body that a bathing suit covers. Children should be taught that if anyone tries to touch them in a way that make them uncomfortable they should tell their parents right away.

Children should also be taught at this age that is not typically appropriate to hug and kiss peers at school. They may hug close friends and family, but should not be holding hands or hugging all their classmates, and should not be kissing anyone outside the family at this age (some exceptions may apply). Parents should answer any questions children have about sex and body development as age appropriately as possible giving some a basic understanding but not too many details.

Many parents teach their children about ‘stranger danger’, however statistically children are more likely to be abused by someone they know, so it’s important to teach appropriate boundaries for themselves regardless if they know the person or not. Just because someone is a close adult friend, neighbor, uncle, or staff at their daycare, doesn't mean they should allow the person to touch them in a way that is uncomfortable or in the ‘bathing suit zone’. Children can be told to tell the person who tries to touch them to please stop they don't like that, and then try to get away from the person immediately, and tell their parents or a trusted person at their school. It is usually not recommended for children to sleep in same bed with an opposite gendered person, especially if they are much older.

It would be a cause for concern, and not normal if an elementary school child was touching peer’s genitals at school, or showing off their body to someone much older than them (if it occurs normally it would be same age), or showing fear and excessive shyness around their genitals during bath and changing. It would not be normal for sexual acting out or language, or to be caught watching porn at this age.

In the middle school/preteen years (ages 9-13) children will likely want to know more about sex and their bodies. At this age parents should teach their kids about puberty and more about their body. Both boys and girls can be given information on periods, sex, and healthy relationships. It is important to teach children the family’s values and beliefs around sexual expression. Preteens may be interested in dating and relationships. Parents should set up what is expected for appropriate boundaries- though these boundaries and relationship values vary widely between families. Some parents are open to their child having sexual relationships at this age, though most are not. Some parents are fine with their child dating at a young age, but some would rather them wait. It is important to discuss values and the pros/cons of sexual involvement at this age, and not just rely on the school to provide the basics in sexual education.

Generally children at this age should be taught not to masturbate in public, not to touch anyone in a private area on their body, and not to allow anyone to touch them in a private area. They should learn ways to resist peer pressure and decide in advance how to handle any sexual advances by peers. Sex should be discussed such as how far to go (hand holding, hugging, kissing, touching, etc…) and when to give oneself sexually to someone else and how to make that decision. Parents should also teach some basics of contraception information, even if they are encouraging abstinence.

Sexual development and changes in genitalia usually occurs during preteen and teen years during puberty. Some children will develop earlier or faster than others and some children will be more interested in it than others. Encourage children to talk to parents or a trusted teacher about their questions and concerns. Keep the conversation dialog open throughout the teen years to help them navigate through difficult decision making and peer pressures and desires as they grow older.

At any age children will ask questions and be curious. It is helpful to answer questions as truthfully but appropriately as possible. While you probably don’t want to explain exactly where babies come from to your 5 yr old you can say that babies grow in mommy’s tummy for example, which is truthful versus ‘you came from the hospital’ or a ‘stork delivers babies’, or even brushing it off ‘I’ll tell you when you’re older’, ‘Ask your mother’, etc. There are plenty of books available written for children, especially preteens, to explain puberty, sex, and other questions that parents can provide to their child to read and discuss. Parents may feel uncomfortable answering questions but it is better for children to find out the truth from their parents than to get an incorrect answer from their peers on the school bus.

To keep children safe go over how to establish boundaries (not allowing others to touch them in their private areas) and avoid dangerous situations (don’t walk alone at night, for one example). It’s okay to ask your child if they have ever been touched in a way that was not comfortable or appropriate. To keep your child safe have child abuse clearances run on any babysitters, review appropriate boundaries before child has a sleepover, meet the families of children your child is friends with, don’t allow sleepovers without supervision, don’t allow children in the bathroom with other people that you don’t know and trust, and rely on your gut if anything seems off with the other person or your child’s reaction to others has changed. If your child is suddenly upset and afraid to visit someone that they normally love to see, that is something to explore. If a toddler/preschooler doesn't let mom help him wash in the bathtub, not due to being independent but is afraid and upset to have someone touch them, or seems fearful when diaper changed, that is a cause for concern.

If a child shows any inappropriate sexual behaviors ask your child about it in a calm way such as where they learned about that, and what they are doing. Sometimes it's a misunderstanding (example: they drew a large walking stick, not a penis, in front of grandpa, or: they meant to grab their friend’s leg to stop them from running and they pulled off thier pants by accident), and sometimes it’s a cause for alarm. Try to be calm so the child opens up and doesn't shut down or feel ashamed.

If parents have any concerns about their child’s behavior not seeming to be developmentally appropriate, the child has more knowledge of sexual things than what parents have taught them, or any changes in child's behavior that seems to indicate something suspicious having happened, parents should have their child evaluated by a professional such as the child’s doctor, a therapist, or guidance counselor. If the child has been sexually abused, or even if there is suspicion parents should report it to the appropriate authorities to investigate.

Other helpful resources:

http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/saam_2013_an-overview-of-healthy-childhood-sexual-development.pdf

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/development.html#

http://nctsn.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/caring/sexualdevelopmentandbehavior.pdf

Little Tattle Tales

dam beavers tattle tale

If your kid likes to tattle on classmates at school or siblings at home, it might help to have a conversation about "tattling" versus "telling" on someone, when its necessary.

Use this Decision Worksheet to figure out if you should tell an adult about something or not. 

When your child hates writing

frustrated child writing

I hate writing! and how to fix it
by Patience Domowski, LCSW

If you child says they hate writing and its causing an issue (at school, during homework time, etc) then figure out which aspect of writing is the problem and then you can work on the solution. You child may never love writing, and that’s okay, but they need to be able to write without a full tantrum, on a regular basis, to survive at school and there’s always going to be something to write in the future in their career and in daily life.

What do they hate the most? … and how to solve it!

1)     Physical aspect of writing- the moving of the pencil across the page. Maybe it hurts their hand or its difficult to hold the pencil

Solution: Try a pen or marker because it’s easier to write with (don’t have to push hard to get a result like with a pencil or crayon). Warm up their hands with some putty, playdough. Try a pencil grip squishy. Let them type instead.

If they really struggle with the handwriting aspect get an OT eval at school.

2)     Ideas – can’t think of what to write (for open ended assignments)

Solution: Give them ideas – two or three to pick from, or write a bunch of topics on strips of paper and put in a box and they can pick from the box.

3)     Time- takes a long time to write out answers.

Solution: Reduce the amount they have to write (If needs to be 5 sentences, settle for 3 or 4, for example). Have them type it or write with a different medium to go faster. Take a break between working.

4)     Bored – writing is too boring

Solution: Find topics that are interesting to the student. Make it a game. Listen to music while writing.

5)     Behavior- they just don’t want to.

Solution: Set up a reward system. They get a reward or fun activity after writing. At school- free time after finishing writing. Homework time at home- maybe get video game or TV time after finishing.

Some kids may struggle with writing for more than one reason. If you’re not sure just try a variety of solutions and see what works. Some ideas that work across problems include let them type instead of hand write, setting up a reward system where student earns a reward for doing their writing (without a fuss), and also having them write about something that interests them, and maybe even draw a corresponding picture (if they enjoy drawing/coloring). 

For some ideas for your stuck student see my Writing Prompts  download.

Homework battles

homework battle

Homework battles

If your kid is giving you a hard time about doing homework there are a few options:

-let the teacher handle it/school consequences

-set up a reward system

-don’t allow child to play/watch TV until homework is completed

-offer help if they ask nicely

 

Parents vary on their stances on homework such as:

 

-“as long as it’s done”

-“it has to be done perfect”

-“I have no idea if he/she did it or not”

There are pros and cons of each approach. The first one is pretty typical and avoids most battles but still makes sure the work is done, the second one makes sure child is learning the work but can involve a lot of power struggles because parent makes child do it over and over to get it perfect. The third one inspires independence for your child but if they aren’t doing it the parents don’t even know until perhaps they start getting graded on homework (middle school, sometimes earlier depending on your child’s school). 

Disrespect/back talk

disrespectful child

Disrespect/Talking back

If your child has many difficult behaviors, including disrespect, I would recommend focusing on the other behaviors first. If your child is being disrespectful just to get a reaction from you, then just ignore it.

However if that is not the case, and when you are ready to focus on disrespect then try a few things:

-be respectful to your child (don’t call them mean names, belittle them, etc).

A lot of parents don’t realize that they are being disrespectful to their child. This doesn’t mean we treat child on same level authority-wise as adults, but think about would we talk to our friends or spouse the same way we address our kids? If we can talk nicer to them they will often respond nicer back.

-expect respect, and correct them by having them try again in a better way. You model/say what the child should say instead of what they did say and have them repeat it back. [See article on error correction]

-provide a consequence for constant disrespectful behavior [see article on consequences]

If disrespect continues then you might need to figure out what’s gone wrong with your relationship with your child/teen and work on that. In order for children to follow directions and be respectful, etc parents MUST have a good relationship with their child. Relationship is the MOST important thing!! Many teens will say their parents are mean to them or disrespectful so they refuse to listen to them. Or they feel their father (for example) doesn’t have a relationship with them so why would they listen to him. If you don’t have a good relationship with your child work on that relationship FIRST before expecting better behavior or more respectful responses. 

Chores - kids can do more than you think!

child doing chores

Suggestions for chores by age:

2 years old- put away toys with help, wash vegetables/fruit in the sink

3-5 years old - clean up/put away toys, hand mom groceries to put away, help sweep the floor, feed the pets (with help), pull weeds, help mom with anything

6-7years old - clean own room (may need pointers from parents to know where to put things), use dustbuster /mini vacuum, sweep floor, wipe counter/table, set the table (to some degree), load dishwasher (except glassware perhaps)

8-10 years old- help with cooking, make own sandwiches/snacks, put away laundry, load washer/dryer (with help for setting the laundry machines), take out trash, vacuum, clean bathroom (with directions provided/given)

10-12 years old- cook a simple meal (after being taught), use microwave alone, get own food, clean up, dust, clean the bathroom, put garbage cans at the curb on trash day, get the mail, put groceries away, [shouldn’t need as much direction/supervision at this age]

13 years old and up- do own laundry, cook at least one dinner/week, clean own room without needing help, and vacuum/dust common areas, clean bathroom, cut the grass, [once can drive can run errands too]

Tiperoo: Make a chart/list (or print one online – there are many freebies to pick from!) of how to do a chore and place it in the room that it is needed. For example: how to run the washer/dryer in the laundry room, how to load and set the dishwasher in the kitchen, etc.

 

 

 

You're job as mom (or dad)- for stay at home parents

stay home mom

Your job as mom

So you’re a stay at home mom. It’s your “job” to clean the house, do the laundry, cook meals, etc, right? Well yes… but it’s even more important to teach your child how to do these things and teach them responsibility or they won’t be successfully independent. Your job as mom (and dad!) is not to make your kids dependent on you- it should be to work yourself out of a job (not that your kids will never need you! Even as adults we still need our parents, right?!). “Working yourself out of a job” means you train your children to do the things they need to learn as life skills so they can be on their own one day. It’s more than just teaching your daughter how to use the washing machine or your son how to vacuum, but also requiring and expecting them to help out around the house, do their chores, and care for their things. When they go to college or move out they might be shocked there’s no magical mom-fairy that picks up their stuff, washes their laundry, etc! They need to learn these things now as children so they will be ready for their future. Start as young as possible, and expect more as they grow up. Older teens should be able to do pretty much everything around the house that the parents can do. Younger children may need help but can do more than you might think! It’s definitely harder to teach than to just do it for them but in the long run its better for your child, and it’s less work for you as they can start taking over more responsibility as they get older and there’s less for you to do. Life skills are sometimes even more important than academic skills as everyone needs these for daily living in any future living situation they may find themselves in. So remember don’t do everything for your child but teach them out to do for themselves! 

[see also article on chores by age] 

College Application steps- for teens

college sign

College application steps

(steps may vary)

1.     Identify interest/career idea/major choice- take a career interest survey or ask your guidance counselor for help if you don’t know what you want to study

2.     Look up colleges that have that major- if you need help there are websites that can help with that or ask your high school guidance counselor

3.     Think about what kind of college you are interested in: consider location- close/far from home as well as urban/suburban/rural areas, cost, programs/majors available, reputation, housing, transportation, etc

4.     Research the colleges you are interested in online- find out all about them, ask college to send you more information.

5.     Tour the college in person if possible, ask the admissions people a lot of questions, get all the info you can

6.     Apply online or on paper- try to apply to about 5 schools (more is fine!) don’t worry too much about whether they will take you or not! [Note- if you had a bad grade year/semester then explain why on the application- maybe you went through a rough break up, had severe anxiety, etc.] There are a lot of essays to write so try to apply to one per week over the summer if possible. Apply early so they will take you with early admission before they run out of space. If applying to art schools make sure you have a good portfolio that shows of your range of talent. If you need letters of reference from high school teachers try to ask them for that before end of school year as they may be hard to reach over the summer.

7.     Complete the FAFSA online with your parents- this shows what your family qualifies for with financial aid. [There is a due date for this- needs parents last tax statements and other information]/

8.     Wait to see if you are accepted- if you are accepted they will send you financial aid information, acceptance letter, paperwork, info, etc

9.     Decide which college you want to attend from the ones that accepted you

10.  Complete the financial aid information they sent and accept scholarships and grants, complete any paperwork they send you.

11. Explore other scholarships and grants besides just from the college- look online, ask if any community programs, high school, etc offer any

12. Save some money from summer jobs.

13. Explore all financial options before taking student loans

14.  Figure out housing options- live on campus, live at home/with local relatives, find apartment with roommates…

15. Keep saving money from summer jobs. Consider job on campus during school year.

16.Pack and get ready to go!! Have fun!!!!

Finding a job- for teens and adults

teen jobs

Finding a Job Tips, by Patience Domowski, LCSW

1.     Job Search- Facebook, newspaper ads, help wanted signs, online search engines, ask friends and friends’ parents, etc…

Online Search Engines
Indeed
Monster
JobGateway
Snagajob- retail jobs

Facebook groups: search- job share network, employment,etc

Ask people you know – for job suggestions, to mow their lawns, clean house, watch kids, care for pets, house sit, odd jobs, etc

 

2.     Apply- online and in person- complete at least 5-10 applications!

Apply in person: restaurants, grocery stores, retail stores, general stores- Walmart, Kmart, Target, mall stores, pharmacy stores, car washes…

 

3.     Follow up with phone call- ask to speak to the HIRING MANAGER, ask for an interview

4.     Interview- highlight your strengths, know what weaknesses you can mention if they ask, know your schedule, provide references, any related experiences, try role playing interviews with friends/parents ahead of time so you feel more confident, take a deep breath and try not to be too anxious. Try to exude confidence- why would they not hire you? You’re awesome!

5.     Follow up after Interview with a phone call – ask for the person who interviewed with and ask when you can start

6.     If they hire you- start work. Show up on time!! If they don’t take you, don’t take it personally- keep trying! (Repeat steps 1-5)

 

CareerLink- [Exton, PA]- provides workshops, job listings, job fairs, career counselors, resume help, etc

 

Emotionality/Handling Meltdowns in children

crying girl meltdown emotionality

Emotionality and handling Meltdowns

When your child is very emotional/gets upset easily/meltdowns

Do’s and Don’ts for parents~  by Patience Domowski, LCSW

Do…

·         allow your child to express their feelings (as long as they are safe)

·         provide a safe spot for your child to go to calm down

·         give your child space (if they are really angry don’t keep talking to them, let them calm down first or they will just get more upset)

·         use a “code word”  (silly secret word) for your child to say if they need space and need to be left alone when upset and respect that word by not continuing to engage with them at that time (Alternatively parents can use the word when they need child to give them space too to calm down)

·         come up with a list of coping strategies/chill skills for child to use when child is in a good mood and post it where they can see it

·         try to remind child of coping strategies BEFORE they become extremely angry (include an incentive like extra time with something or a treat if they use a chill skill to calm down)

·         try to help our child recognize the middle part between annoyed and furious so they can work on calming at that time instead of when they are super angry

·         wait until child is calm before problem solving

Remember: FIRST Calm, THEN problem solve!

Don’t…

·         tell your child not to feel angry/anxious/sad/ etc (they can feel what they feel)

·         punish your child for feeling [discipline for “behavior” not “feelings”]

·          keep yelling/pushing your child to do what you asked/discuss the problem/etc when they are getting upset

·         allow child to be disrespectful or aggressive even if they are upset. [If they do so have them apologize afterwards ]

·         threaten things you don’t mean or won’t follow through with such as a punishment

·         give in to child’s wants when they aren’t making a good choice, or after saying no already (even if it means a meltdown is coming)

 

Matching Activities

Matching can teach learning and focus and are great for young kids with autism and typical preschoolers as well! 

There are many websites with printables to make these matching activities.