Archive for the 'Child Development' Category

Five tips for raising emotionally secure children

little girl hugging her dad and a teddy bear

If you read my post on Tuesday, you know I believe that a strong emotional security is one of the most important qualities you can instill in your child. Here are five tips to help you along your journey of bolstering that emotional security.

  1. Consistency. I can’t stress this one enough! Children thrive on routine and consistency because it makes them feel safe and secure in knowing what to expect. This starts in early infancy and carries through into adolescence.

    Consistency on the part of adults is of prime importance. When you act consistently, children know where they and their surroundings stand. Otherwise, children can feel confused and become unpredictable. Always do as you say. Be consistent in your actions and follow through with promises or consequences.

    Children sense chaos, so when things are getting chaotic, I often ask myself, “Am I staying consistent?” If not, I try to regroup and create a sense of routine in any way possible, this helps create a safer, more predictable environment, which in turn helps children feel more secure in the happenings of their lives.

  1. Encouragement. This is simple but very important! Try to let your children know that they are good at things, that they are nice people, and that you like them. It’s important that they know that we don’t just love them, but that we like them. We like being with them, we like spending time with them.

    We generally tell our children when they fail, when they annoy us, or when we feel let down by them, but we may forget to mention the good things. Thus, many children get the impression that they aren’t “getting it right” and can easily feel emotionally insecure and develop a poor self-concept. Remember, success breeds success. Children need to have successful experiences and have their achievements recognized to develop self-esteem and emotional security.

  1. Listen and explore their feelings. Try to accept your child’s reality. If a child is upset or scared about something (regardless of how irrelevant or trivial it may seem to you), accept that this is the real feeling of the child.

    Rather than brushing over the issue/feeling or trying to fix the problem (as we tend to do as parents), dig deeper. In other words, ask what the child is feeling and then help to go through these feelings to either accept or work around the worrying feeling. This can lead to your child’s better understanding of his feelings and teaches good coping techniques. The result: Your child feels more emotionally secure.

  1. Realistic expectations. Keep your level of expectation within the realms of the child’s ability. It is great to challenge our kids to be the best that they can, but keep it realistic. We shouldn’t expect kids to do more than they are capable of achieving. Success is a progression of small steps, not one giant leap.
  1. Lead by example. This is one of my favorites! Children are always watching and listening. It is extremely important to lead by example, in our daily interactions with our partners, our loved ones, our friends, our community. Be aware of how you interact with your children. Be aware of how you interact with others. Listen to yourself. Stay aware that children emulate us and use us as role models.

    Hey, I get it. We are all human and we lose it sometimes. But if you start focusing on what your children are doing or how they are feeling, you may start to see a mirror image of yourself in your children (like a *gasp* “I’ve become my mother” moment). Stay cognizant that we lead by example in our everyday interactions. When our children see us as confident, responsible, loving, mature, and secure parents, they will emulate the way we interact and sense the way we feel. Strive for your own emotional security and chances are your children will sense it and feel more secure themselves.

– Dr. Hannan Alsahlani is a Beaumont pediatrician and proud mother of four girls.

Let’s secure our children’s emotional security

four girls cuddled under blanket

I just kissed my four daughters good night and tucked them into bed. Surrounded by love, cuddles, giggles, and an immense sense of joy, it was a sweet ending to a rough day. I laid down and the first thing that came to mind was emotional security and feeling secure. I’m nowhere close to a perfect mom, I have my ups and downs. Life comes like a tornado at times and then settles down and we see the sun. Today I am seeing the sun and I am grateful for the sunny days.

Then the word security popped up again. I know my children feel secure; I am sure of it. Another thing I am absolutely sure of: As parents we must strive to make our children always feel secure. Not just by telling them they are safe and secure, but by our actions. Regardless of our children’s ages, it’s never too early to implement the sense of emotional security in their lives.

One of the most important qualities you can instill in your children is a deep sense of security in themselves and their world. Secure children grow up to be more confident, resilient, and empathetic, and they persevere in difficult situations.

There are a few things that help nurture my children’s developing sense of emotional security:

  • Security in one’s self. I am capable of taking care of myself. I am in control of who I am and what I want to be.
  • Security in the people around them. There are people in my world who will protect me and be there for me when needed.
  • The way they view the world. My world is a safe place that I can explore with confidence and free from fear.

To feel secure in themselves, children first need to feel secure in their world. If the family feels safe, then the child feels safe and secure. As a child grows up, this sense of security is internalized. We must show our children that unconditional love is unrelated to their actions, appearance, social standing, or achievements. With unconditional love comes emotional security.

I’m not sure I always felt secure growing up. Maybe it is for this reason I’ve been hypervigilant to make sure my daughters felt secure from infancy. I tell them, “You are safe, you are loved, you are special, you are strong, you are fierce, you are unstoppable, and you are capable,” before they sleep at night, when they wake up in the morning, and any chance I get.

I’ll be honest. Today was a rough day for me with lots of stressors and lots of very sick kids at work. When I came home and my daughters hugged me, immediately they could tell it was a rough day. My girls sat me down, asked me to take a deep breath, and together said, “Mommy,  you are safe, you are loved, you are special, you are strong, you are fierce, you are unstoppable, and you are capable,” and then they hugged me.

In that moment I knew I had done something right. Without question, I felt safe, emotionally secure and home again.

As I watch my 6-month-old sleep on her baby monitor, as I peek in on my 2-year-old hugging Mickey Mouse in her crib, and as I kiss my sleeping 8 and 9-year-olds’ sweet sleeping cheeks, I feel relieved knowing they feel secure. And for now, in this moment, I know I am helping them grow into emotionally secure human beings. I truly believe this is one of the greatest gifts I can give them.

You can give your child this amazing gift, too. Check back on Thursday for the second article in this series: Five tips for raising emotionally secure children.

– Dr. Hannan Alsahlani is a Beaumont pediatrician and proud mother of four girls.

 

Singing helps speech and language development

little girl singing at piano

Unaltered image. David Simmonds, Flickr. CC license.

As a speech-language pathologist, I often incorporate singing songs and dancing during my therapy sessions as a fun way to target speech and language goals. It is common for my patients’ parents to ask, “Why songs?”

Children’s songs are very beneficial because they often include simple verbiage and repetitive language, and are commonly motivating to children. Those three key factors are recommended for early language learners in order to encourage engagement, whether vocally, verbally or physically.

Simple verbiage is important to a child who isn’t speaking yet or to a child who is beginning to speak. Why? Simple language increases attention and children are more likely to imitate. The longer and more complex sentences are, the more likely a child will lose attention and interest. Songs made for children are often short and use common vocabulary words that most children are familiar with.

Repetitive language enhances understanding of words or phrases, and increases practice opportunities for children to imitate or attempt to imitate. Typically, the more often children are exposed to an object, activity or place, the more comfortable the children become. This concept also applies to songs. The more repetitive a song is, the more children can anticipate the words and/or actions. This can help elicit more vocalizations and imitation attempts.

Songs are motivating! They capture a child’s attention and motivate them to imitate because they want to join in the fun. Being silly, laughing, and dancing with your child is a great way to bond, but also encourages your child to participate in the activity.

How do songs improve receptive language skills?

Receptive language is your child’s ability to comprehend experiences, words, people, etc. Songs often include concepts such as counting, body part recognition, animals, and more. Children tend to learn these concepts with ease when they relate to something more concrete and when it is fun! Many songs also build your child’s ability to follow directions and improve auditory memory (hearing information, processing, and later recalling).

Recommended songs:

  • Wheels on the Bus
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It

If you want to make some of those well-known songs a little more entertaining and challenging, try a few of the five tips toward the end of this related article.

Song use also supports understanding reciprocal communication, vocabulary development, rhyming, concentration, spatial reasoning, and fine and gross motor skills. Use songs and enhance speech and language skills!

– Lauren DeClercq, M.A., CCC-SLP, Speech and Language Pathologist, Children’s Speech and Language Pathology Department, Beaumont Health

Making memories through reading

dad reading to boy and girl

Cropped image. Paul Hamilton, Flickr. CC license.

I’ve been speaking about play and reading to parent groups for many years. I’m not a teacher or reading expert by any means, but it’s been very easy and fun to be an advocate for the importance of reading to (and with) children.

Many of us already know the value of reading and I always ask my groups, “Why should we read to our babies?” The answers are plentiful: brain growth, cognitive connections, vocabulary development, language skills, bonding, fun, etc.

Then I ask another question: “Do you remember being read to as a child?”

Not everyone has such a memory, but those who do often remember the books as well, such as Berenstain Bears, Golden Books, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, etc.

And there is always an obscure title mentioned with a smile and a brief nostalgic nod.

Looking deeper, these memories come from time spent together as child and parent with books at the center. Memories that incorporate books and reading are there for the making! Some fun ideas include:

  • Family trips to the library.
  • Gathering books to donate.
  • Saving an allowance to buy a book.
  • A special book that only grandma reads with them.
  • Planned reading time together, taking turns reading to each other (especially good for older children).
  • Talking about favorite books at dinnertime.
  • A book exchange with neighbors and friends.

It’s hard to predict what memories will linger as we grow into adulthood, but these activities are valuable even if long forgotten.

– Betsy Clancy is a group coordinator for the Beaumont Parenting Program.

Code brown: Adventures in potty training

Little girl potty training her teddy bear

Cropped image. Manish Bansal, Flickr. CC license.

Take 1

At 18 months old, my daughter, we’ll call her C, started to show an interest in the toilet. I thought it was too early, but my mom insisted on getting her a potty. “She’s ready, honey,” Mom would say.

What do you know? On the first day we had the potty, she pooped in it. I squealed with delight. High-fives were flying. I was jumping up and down, yelling to my husband to come and see. All while my inner monologue was running wild: “Could it be?! C is diaper free at a year-and-a-half?! Do I have one of those mythical children who potty train themselves at a super young age?! This. Is. Amazing.”

This enthusiasm, however, was apparently quite terrifying because C wouldn’t even look at the potty, let alone sit on it, for weeks afterwards.

Take 2

We stopped being potty pushers and decided to take a more relaxed approach — we would let C tell us when she’s ready to start. However, around the two-year mark, a group of kids in her daycare class began potty training and we needed to jump on the bandwagon.

“But she’s not ready. Real underwear? She’s too little for that. Can’t we wait a little longer?” I begged her teacher. Nope. We had to reinforce at home what was being taught at daycare. Fine, way to be totally logical. We’ll try again.

Take 3 and 4 and 5…

At daycare, potty training progressed nicely. In the beginning, she often had accidents when they were outside playing (she didn’t want to stop to go to the bathroom) or during naptime. Lately, it’s been very infrequent, maybe once a week if that. Go daycare!

At home, it’s a different story. Rarely will C use the toilet and we never leave the house without a diaper or training pants on. I don’t get it. We’ve tried everything: sticker charts, chocolate chip bribes, positive reinforcement, commando weekends. I don’t know if I can read another “How to Potty Train Your Toddler in Three Days” article.

We’re constantly taking her into the bathroom and sitting her on the toilet with no results. On several occasions just moments after we leaving the bathroom, she had an accident (once hilariously on my husband while they watched TV; it was an especially juicy bowel movement).

Another favorite: going poop in the bathtub. I guess it is relaxing. But seriously C, a “code brown” is never a good way to kick off the bedtime routine.

So here we are nearly year after her toilet interest piqued and still changing diapers. Friends and family say not to worry. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “It’s best to avoid assuming that your child will begin training by a certain age.”

Most of my brain agrees – she’s only two and half. I get it; she has plenty of time. However, a small part of me is confused — why is potty training going so well at daycare and not at home? What’s their secret? Is C is just trying to fit in with the cool kids and go to the bathroom on the toilet? (I guess there’s worse forms of peer pressure.) But seriously, do I need a parade of toddlers to come through my house every hour and use the bathroom so C will too?

Oh, potty training. One of these days, we’ll figure you out. In the meantime, let’s commiserate. Share your potty training adventures in the comments below.

– Anne Hein is a volunteer with the Beaumont Parenting Program and mom of a strong-willed toddler. 

Helping my daughters feel full of themselves

mom and daughter doing push ups

When my eldest daughter was in kindergarten, she came home from school one day and asked me why she had a pudgy tummy. She proceeded to point to a very thin lamp base in my bedroom and said, “I want to be skinny just like that.” I will never forget that moment — partly because I was horrified but mostly because it became the catalyst for the kind of role model I was to become for my girls around body image and self-acceptance.

During this time, it became clear to me that there was nothing I could do about what others would say to my daughter about her body. I realized I couldn’t predict what effects would be long-lasting versus what she would brush off.

And so, in my attempt to gain some control back, I adopted some absolutes around my own behaviors as they related to my body. I figured if I could practice what I preach, perhaps they would follow suit?

  • If I talk about my body, I’m mindful of my word choice. I use words like healthy and strong. I try to focus on all the things my body can do, not on what it looks like.
  • I try to model gentleness in the way I care for myself. There are little ways to do this: choosing scented body creams and shower gels, using essential oils in our diffusers and on our bodies, resting our bodies when they are tired, etc.
  • I eat. I choose healthy foods and unhealthy ones too. I love my sweets. I take second helpings. I try to model moderation. I remind my girls that food is the fuel our bodies needs to work: the better we feed it, the better it works for us.
  • I don’t talk about carbs, fat or calories. Instead I try to provide my family with balanced meals and snacks that speak for themselves.
  • I drink water. I encourage my family to drink it too. I even buy fun and fancy cups to keep water accessible all day.
  • I move my body. I take the stairs instead of the escalator. I ride my bike to the store. We walk the dog. I workout. I sweat.
  • I never say “I am fat,” or “I feel fat,” in front of them.
  • If I’m watching what I eat, I don’t call it dieting. In fact, I don’t call it anything.
  • I try to stay away from using the word perfect at all.
  • I don’t talk about other people’s bodies, only my own.
  • When I need a break or feel grouchy, I go workout or take a walk. When I get home, I tell anyone who is listening how much better I feel.
  • I ask my husband to brush the girls’ hair when they get out of the shower. Listening to his compliments as he brushes their hair also plays an important role in my girls’ developing sense of self.

Ultimately I want my girls to feel full of themselves. I want them to take care of their bodies, to appreciate the work it does for them, and to feel confident about all the unique ways their bodies are developing. And in the meantime, I will continue to do my part to be the best role model I can be.

– Andree Palmgren is a volunteer with the Beaumont Parenting Program and mom of four kids ages 14, 12, 8 and 4.

Helping your child recover from a sports injury

soccer injury

Kids will be kids. That’s what they say, right? Unfortunately with kids playing sports at the level they do today, we have to deal with cuts, scrapes and bruises, but now also orthopedic sports injuries. Some of these require emergency room (ER) visits and doctor follow ups, but many of them can be healed at home with proper immediate care and a good recovery plan.

In this article, we talk about home recovery from mild sports injuries. It’s important to note that anytime there is concern about a broken bone, uncontrolled bleeding, head injury, or infection (such as tetanus), you should see a doctor right away, often at your local ER or urgent care center.

The first step is calming the pain and inflammation after injury. When the body is injured, swelling occurs from the inflammatory process the body elicits to prevent further damage to tissues; when swelling is high, pain usually follows quickly. We use the R.I.C.E. protocol to reduce and control this process, which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Usually the rest, ice and elevation all happen together—for example stopping soccer practice to place ice on your ankle while elevating it above your heart. The elevation above the heart level, which usually requires lying down, allows gravity to help move the swelling back toward the heart, doubling the effect.

Compression (e.g., wrapping an ACE bandage around the ankle) occurs after the icing and prevents more swelling from occurring. Icing should be done no more than 10–15 minutes at a time and always with a barrier between ice and skin. Fun fact: Ice can burn the skin as easily as heat! Anti-inflammatory medication is also an option to reduce inflammation, but always at the recommendation of a physician to ensure the proper dosing and safety for your child.

After the swelling and pain are reduced, your child may be itching to return to his or her sport, but it’s important to have a slow return back to full performance to allow for greatest potential of no reoccurrence or reinjury. This may be participating in only practice with the ability to take a break if pain returns, staying away completely and doing exercises at home, and/or coming to physical therapy in addition to return to sport. Teachers and coaches must be made aware of the injury and should be accommodating to your child during recovery. If your child is too young to understand his limits or her coach is pressuring without accommodating, then you, as a parent, must take charge of your child’s recovery and keep away from the sport for extra time. When our muscles are working at only 50 or 60 percent, they are more susceptible to additional injuries from overworking or incorrect form. Taking extra time away and addressing the targeted area allows muscles to recover fully before being asked to perform at a high level.

So how do I know what to do for my child? For a complex injury or if you really are clueless, that is what your local physical therapist is for! Depending on the severity of the injury, your child may need to see a specialized sports medicine doctor, but we can evaluate your child and create a specific exercise program in just a few sessions. Sometimes three or four sessions to watch the healing and learn some exercises is all it takes. However if we identify fundamental issues that may have contributed to the injury, therapy may continue for a while. Remember, often kids listen better to instruction coming from someone other than mom or dad.

A good start on a minor injury is to exercise that body part starting with non-weight-bearing (called open-chain in rehab world) and progressing to weight-bearing (called closed-chain). For hand and upper extremity injuries, children should start with no weight and slowly add weight or resistance. Please keep in mind that pre-pubescent children should never perform heavy or repeated weight lifting, due to the integrity of growth plates.

So now that your child is ready to return to her activity, remember slow and steady wins the race! The hardest thing to do is hold back, but often times injuries feel fine with day-to-day work and we aren’t truly sure of where our healing is until it is tested. Not to mention, after a break from working out, everything is a little rusty and just like we need to work back up slowly to full strength, so do our children.

For any other questions or if you feel your child needs a skilled evaluation for his injury, give us a call at any of our Center for Children’s Rehabilitation locations in Grosse Pointe, Royal Oak, Macomb, and West Bloomfield.

– Lauren Sofen, PT, DPT, PCS, Physical Therapist, Beaumont Health Center/Neighborhood Club


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