Tag Archives: questions

Opening up Communication so Sadness and Stress Doesn’t Turn to Depression

 

Q. I’m concerned about my almost 15 year-old boy. He is depressed and with good reason.  He is slightly on the spectrum and has A.D.D. (no hyperactivity). We’ve moved twice in 14 months and we’re currently renting. He is a creature of habit and our lives have been very unpredictable for almost three years. He lost his baby brother when he was 6 and had to deal with Mom and Dad’s grief. He is totally quiet and therefore doesn’t make friends. Being stuck at home doesn’t help. He has never really talked much, especially about emotions. How can I help him open up?

A. Everything you have described is life events that have been out of your or your son’s control. Very hard but this is life happening. These are situations that people have to deal with. Depression has all to do with how those events are perceived and dealt with. If your son’s emotions are swept under the carpet, ignored or criticized, then he will be left feeling unheard, alone, misunderstood, etc. – fertile ground for depression. But if his feelings are acknowledged, even if your son doesn’t do much talking, then he is left with the sadness, grief, or anger about the situations, but everything is out in the open and feelings usually do not fester to cause depression.

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June ’18 Q&A – Refusing the Toilet, Unrealistic Expectations and Huge Feelings

Refusing the Toilet

Q. My 3 yr old daughter goes to a small home daycare and uses the toilet there without accidents but refuses to use the toilet at home. I understand that it’s more of a control issue than a potty training issue. I have been letting her wear pull ups at home as long as she puts them on herself. She still refuses to try the toilet. There hasn’t been any event that I can think of that would have scared her. She is very verbal and will tell me that she just doesn’t like to use our potty. She won’t poop at daycare either. She holds it until she gets home and gets a pull up on and then she goes.

Do you think I am doing the right thing by letting her wear pull ups at home? I have tried not letting her, and she lays on the floor and screams. I am trying to make it her idea to use the potty and am trying not to make a big deal about it. She is so stubborn about it that when we “ran out” of pull ups she wore the same one for the entire day. When it leaked down her leg, she changed her pants 4 times, but still refused to use the toilet. Any ideas? I have tried everything (stickers, rewards, bribes, presents, running out of diapers/pull ups, picking out her own underwear, we made a potty for her babies, she has a potty and a seat for the toilet, tried going naked).

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If I Don’t Punish or Give Consequences, What DO I Do? How to Use Problem Solving

Even after I outline problem solving to a frustrated parent of a child who just keeps pushing the limits, I get the same reply. “Yeah, okay, but what do I DO?”
It’s hard to understand at first that logical words, emotional understanding and empathy, and asking the child to think is actually DOING anything. We are so accustomed to grounding, time outs, taking away privileges, threatening, and withholding. It’s hard to think a respectful process of working it out is doing something.


What’s hard is dropping the notion that we have to make our children miserable in order to teach lessons.

Break it down. If you do any of the above, you are necessarily causing hurt (understanding behavior). The misguided thinking is that if our children are miserable enough, they will decide not to do the deed again and voila—learning takes place.

Well, yes, learning takes place, but not the kind you are counting on. What they feel is anger, frustration, resentment, misunderstood, unheard. What they learn is:

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October ’17 – Grieving, Transitions and News Anxiety

How to Deal With Grieving

Q. My 3.5 yo nephew’s adored grandmother has just died. She lived far away and he and his mother have just spent two weeks with her. They just got back only to discover that she died right after they left. My question is how his parents should handle this with my nephew. She was very special to him and he was very, very fond of her. Should they be honest, should they just say that she has gone to heaven – how honest would you recommend they be with a 3.5 year old’s processing of the news and his handling of grief?

My sister in law’s first reaction was to not tell him but I feel that’s a mistake yet completely respect where its coming from. They are going back but leaving my nephew here with me for the week so he can go to school and they can be kid free to grieve themselves and attend to the family unencumbered. But do you think it’s important that he go back too? Apparently the funeral will be brief, a cremation and no mass or eulogies etc, so not sure how much he would get from being there?

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5 Things Never to Ask Your Child Right After School

You want to interact and make connection when your kids get home from school. Your kids do too but not in the way you might think.

You’ve missed them, you want to know what they did all day, how they got along, if they had any problems. But questions can feel like an interrogation.

  1. How was school today?
  2. What do you have for homework?
  3. When are you going to do your homework?
  4. What did you get on the test?
  5. What did you learn today?

They have just spent a long hard day meeting (or not) expectations, doing things they might not want to do, following orders, coping for hours, and hopefully working hard and learning. Probably the last they want to do is go over their day with you. They need a break. They need to know here is the place where I can be myself. They need to chill.

Each of these 5 questions is filled with an expectation.

How was school?

What if school was terrible? Your child may or may not want to tell you because he has a picture of exactly how you will react with his answer. Does he want to tell you the truth and upset you and immediately ask more questions? Or does he want to make you happy so you won’t do the above. Even if it all went well, he doesn’t want to go through the details of the day.

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Childhood Beliefs: The Keepers of the Secrets
Children's beliefs

When long-held childhood beliefs are dashed, parents need to pick up the pieces and initiate children into the keepers of the secrets.

“Mom, you’re the tooth fairy, aren’t you?” accused my nine year old daughter out of the blue one morning holding the evidence in her fingers. Molly had conducted a private test after finding an old tooth (who knows where). She put her tooth in the appointed spot. But this time the tooth fairy had not taken it, nor left money in it’s place.

Busted. “Yeah, it’s true,” I said smiling to myself. This was not hard. She was clearly old enough to know that there was no fairy who flew in her window to leave her money for a tooth. She was disappointed but her disappointment was tempered by her pride in her detective skills.

Molly followed me into the bedroom while I was making my bed. From the opposite side of the bed, she said, “Mom, if I ask you a question will you tell me the truth?” Here it comes, I thought. Amazing. This was exactly the same setup (across a bed my mother was making) and the same wording I used to ask my mother way back when.

“Yes, I will,” I said thinking again that she was definitely old enough.

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Communication 101: How to get your child to listen
Apologize

Communication is the core of the parent/child relationship. It makes or breaks connection. It’s not so much what we say but how we say it that conveys meaning to our children. We may want to get a point across, but tone of voice and body language determine whether the child hears what is intended or a different message entirely.

“What is it you want?” can be said with genuine curiosity and encouragement or with criticism and judgment. One reading tells the child, What you want is important to me. A different reading says, You are annoying. Leave me alone.

Good communication requires knowing when to ask questions and when to make statements. There are times for each. Usually we get it wrong.

Your child is upset. You know this because of her emotions or behavior. You want to know why, so you ask:

  • What’s wrong?
  • Why are you so upset?

Or you can’t avoid the temptation to teach if you know what happened:

  • When are you going to learn to just walk away?
  • Why do you keep provoking him?

When we want children to tell us what’s going on, we ask questions—the last thing kids want to hear, especially because they often don’t know. Questions at this stage can block communication, especially when children are not sure how their answers will be received.

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How We Say It Makes or Breaks Connection

Communication is the core of the parent/child relationship. Communication makes or breaks connection. It’s not so much what we say but how we say it that conveys meaning to our children. We may intend to teach a lesson or get a point across but our tone of voice and body language determine whether our child hears what we intend or an entirely different message.

“What is it you want?” can be said with genuine curiosity and encouragement or with criticism and judgment. One reading tells the child, What you want is important to me. A different reading says, You are an annoyance and an inconvenience. Leave me alone.

Good communication requires knowing when to ask questions and when to make statements. There are times for each. Usually we pick exactly the wrong time.

Imagine your child is clearly upset, which may show up directly in her emotions or in acting out behavior. This is the time when we want to know what is going on and so we typically ask:

  • What’s wrong?
  • Why are you so angry?
  • Why did you hit your sister?

Or we cannot avoid the temptation to get our teaching in there:

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Look for the Helpers

What should we say to our children in the wake of this horrific school shooting? How can we ease their fears and answer their questions, not to mention ours? We look for the right thing to say just as we look for the motive of the killer—to make it all make sense, fix what needs fixing, feel better and move on. This tragedy is the worst yet—mainly because I don’t think we can ever again promise our children that they will be safe and believe it in our hearts to be true.

There is an abundance of advice on the internet, but the most helpful I have seen is words from Mr. Rogers.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.” Fred Rogers

Our faith can rest assured that this is true. From the parents and families of the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School to the school children and their families all over the world who have been cut to the bone by this disaster—we must all know there are helpers among us and around us.

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