Anxious Children: Knowing What to Do

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While every child is anxious at some point, the moments of anxiety tend to be short-lived and do not interfere with daily activities such as school, relationships or social interactions. Children who experience chronic anxiety issues may need professional help to overcome their fears. Two common types of anxiety seen in children are separation anxiety and social anxiety. It is important to parents to know the signs and symptoms of distress so that they can monitor behavior and get help if needed.

 

Separation Anxiety

 

Separation anxiety is common, especially in young or shy children. Tearful and tantrum-filled partings are common in most young children and usually show up when a child reaches about a year old. I remember my children clinging to the hem of my skirt whenever we went somewhere new. It was always a chore to pull them off. Toddlers and preschoolers who are used to being home with Mom or Dad may exhibit separation anxiety when their routine changes. In time, the anxiety will pass as the child adjusts to the new schedule. Older children with separation anxiety may refuse to go to school, complain about having headaches or stomachaches when at school or are overly clingy when the bus rounds the corner. Parents should reassure and encourage anxious children when they encounter a new situation. Prolonged episodes of separation anxiety, beyond kindergarten may require professional assistance.

 

Social Anxiety

 

If your child has a difficult time coping in social situations or is uncomfortable interacting with peers, they may be suffering from social anxiety, or social phobia. Children who suffer from social anxiety think that they will make mistakes in front of others that will make them look bad or that they will be embarrassed. For some children, the anxiety may be so intense that it escalates into a panic attack. Children avoid social situations to keep from feeling uncomfortable. Parents of children, who exhibit a reluctance to be engaged in social situations, especially teens, may need to have their child evaluated by a professional so that they can provide adequate help. It is important to set a good example for your child from an early age. Shy parents should make an effort to speak to strangers in front of their children and demonstrate courteous behavior when around those that they do not know. We have to remember that our children see us as role models and will imitate what they see.

 

 

Treatment

 

While it is possible that your child’s anxiety is just a phase that will pass, it is imperative to stay aware of anxieties that interfere with “normal” daily functioning. Severe anxiety problems in children are treatable, and early diagnosis helps with the success of the treatment. Depending on the nature and the severity of a child’s anxiety, treatment may involve any one or combination of the following; individual psychotherapy, medications, family therapy, consultation from the school and behavioral therapy. Having a close and open relationship with your children helps you to be aware of behavioral indicators of anxiety.

 

About the Author: Susan Patterson is a homeschool teacher and a freelance writer who is interested in the health and welfare of children. She writes for a number of health education sites and recently finished an article for Family Cord.

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After the Diagnosis: Coping with your Child’s Sensory Processing Disorder

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So, you have just been told that your child has a sensory processing disorder (SPD) and all sorts of thoughts are running through your head. On the one hand, you may be relieved that your child’s behavior has a name, while, on the other hand, you may be frustrated by the overwhelming thought of coping with a child with “special” needs. Relax, chances are you have been coping, and now that you have a diagnosis, you will find that there are many more tools available to you to help both you and your child deal with the issues of a sensory processing disorder.

 

What is a Sensory Processing Disorder?

 

Sensory processing difficulty is often present in kids that struggle with autism, ADHD, developmental delays and OCD. However, it is also possible for a child to have a SPD without any other diagnosis. Children who are sensory deficient have meltdowns and wild mood swings on a frequent basis. They may do fine at home, but when you take them to a busy spot like a store they get over stimulated and start to become anxious. Children and teens who have SPD can be either overly sensitive or under sensitive to an extreme. Having sensory issues has been described as having a traffic jam in your head, it is just too much information at one time, and the kids do not know how to make sense of it all.

 

Routines

 

Now that you have the diagnosis it is time to get a routine started. Routines work well for parents and children with SPD. The more predictable you can make things, the less likely that your child will have a meltdown. Although it is impossible to keep your child in a routine 100% of the time, do your best, and it will make for a much calmer life. Try your hardest to do the same thing at the same time each day. If you are an organized person, this should not be overly difficult. Although it does take some spontaneity out of your day, it is well worth it in the long run. As your child ages, routine should become a little less necessary.

 

Eliminate Food Dyes and Processed Foods

 

Reduce sugar and processed foods as much as possible. The more whole foods you can incorporate into your child’s diet the better. Food dyes and preservatives often irritate children and can cause an overstimulation. Fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, organic meat and healthy fats will ensure that your child is getting all of the nutrition and none of the fillers.

 

Find a Support Group and Take Care of Yourself

 

You will most likely be working with an Occupational Therapist who will develop a treatment program for your child. It is imperative that you have open and honest communication with the therapist and that you feel comfortable talking to him/her. It is also important that you surround yourself with supportive people who understand what you are going through. You need time away time to reflect and time to be with other people who can offer advice and support. Taking some time away is a great way to recharge your battery and help you cope. Remember, if you are no good to yourself you can not help anyone else!

 

About the Author: Susan Patterson is a homeschool mother and a freelance writer who writes for a number of parenting, health and education sites including Family Cord.

Remedies for Anxious Children: Conventional vs. Natural

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There are several different ways to handle anxiety in children, and no one way is right for every child. They key to treating anxiety disorders in children sometimes lies in using several techniques at one time. Diagnosing the problem is the first step to finding the right treatment. Whether you choose a natural method or a more conventional method is a personal decision and one that requires much research.

 

Conventional Methods

 

Conventional treatments should only be administered after a thorough medical evaluation. This may involve a consultation as well as a physical evaluation and possibly blood tests. Doctors often prescribe a low dose anti depressant to relive the symptoms of anxiety. Your child may receive a referral to see a psychologist for therapy in addition to medication. However, sometimes physicians prescribe a high schedule of psychiatric drugs first before really digging into the nature of the problem. Parents must always be on guard because ultimately, medication masks the symptoms but does not take the root of the problem away. In addition, there is always the fear of a great many side effects when taking medication.

 

Alternative Therapies

 

Many parents, who are uneasy about placing their children on prescription drugs, use a number of alternative methods. Some parents find that simply by adjusting their children’s diet they see marked improvement in their anxiety. Eliminating caffeine, sugar and refined products may lessen anxiety symptoms. A diet rich with vegetables, lean protein and whole grains provides balanced nutrition. A whole food supplement rich in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B complex help to keep the nervous system healthy and help support the production of neurotransmitters.

 

Exercise should be a vital part of any alternative therapy program. Relaxation techniques such as stretching, yoga and t’ai chi, help anyone to relax. Fresh air and plenty of sunshine are also mood-enhancing. Cardiovascular exercise releasing endorphins and allows the body to burn oxygen more efficiently. Deep and controlled breathing will help ease panic attacks, if this happens to be a problem. Teaching your child how to breathe effectively can be a great resource.

 

Play therapy is a popular technique that is often carried out by a qualified psychologist that has proven to be helpful for some children with anxiety disorders, especially younger children. Children can re-enact their fears and anxieties through play which allows them to step outside of themselves and think more clearly about their anxiety.

 

 

Natural Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies

 

A number of herbal and homeopathic remedies may help your child deal with their struggle against anxiety. Often used in coordination with other alternative therapies, homeopathic remedies are gentle and often just as effective as allopathic drugs without side effect or danger of addiction. Some commonly used herbal remedies include St. John’s Wart and Scullcap. As with any therapy, it is always wise to seek medical advice before starting treatment.

 

About the Author: Susan Patterson is a homeschool mother and a freelance writer with an interest in health. She writes for a number of family and health-related websites including Fertile-Future.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder: Tips From a Parent Who Knows

Angry at world!

There is nothing easy about raising children, especially since they do not come with a manual. When something goes wrong, there really is not help line or technical support person to call to help you rewire your child and get them back on track. While all kids can be challenging from time to time, raising a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) can be incredibly stressful. Children with ODD tend to have regular tantrums, argue, challenge authority figures and exhibit unruly or disruptive behavior frequently. Most children begin to display the signs of ODD before they are 8 years old. It may be hard to tell what is wrong at first, but over time, the symptoms get worse until your child’s behavior disrupts the family or their classroom. Knowing which battles to fight is a critical element to success in parenting a child with ODD. If you try to win them all, you will soon be running for the hills. For a long time, I was determined to win ever battle with my ODD child until I realized that 90% of my day was fighting battles, and it truly zapped all of the life out of me and took me away from my other children. Now I pick my battles very carefully, I don’t argue back, and I set reasonable limits that my child understands. Here are a few things I have learned from my experience with my ODD child.

 

Tip One: You Cannot Satisfy Your Child

 

No matter how hard you try, you just cannot satisfy your ODD child. Remember, their thinking is not rational. They beg for your attention all day long. The pull at your skirt when you are on the phone, they interrupt you when you are speaking to other people, they make unreasonable demands of your time, and the list goes on. No matter what you do, you just cannot seem to satisfy your child. You tell them to leave you alone and then you feel bad. First, you have to stop beating yourself up, which is very counterproductive. Second, you have to understand that you will not every completely satisfy your child, so stop trying.

 

Tip Two: Find a Support Group

 

Parents who do not understand what ODD is will often be critical of your parenting and want to find blame in you for the way your child is. Don’t listen to them, but find a group of parents who have children with ODD and set up a regular time meet. You will look forward to the advice, support, and most of all, being in an environment with parents who understand. If there is not a group in your area, take the initiative and start one. Parent will appreciate the effort.

 

Tip Three: Teach Your Child Problem Solving Skills

 

The biggest shortcoming of parents who have defiant kids is thinking that their children need more structure. Yes, children need structure, but they also need coping and problem solving skills. Kids with ODD cannot make a decision and even something as easy as what to wear can create an incredible amount of stress on them and you. Sometimes getting them up in the morning is like lifting an elephant and getting them to do homework or chores may be just as difficult. You have to remember that ODD is not a self-esteem issue it is a coping problem. Break problems down into simple steps and help your child formulate a plan to solve them. The more tools you can give your child, the happier everyone will be.

 

About the Author: Susan Patterson is a freelance writer, homeschool teacher and the mother of an eleven-year-old child with ODD. She writes for a number of health and family sites and recently finished an article on the importance of cord blood banking.

Aspergers Syndrome: The Warning Flags

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Aspergers syndrome presents itself in children in a variety of ways, although one similarity and usually the “trigger symptom” is a child’s inability to cope with social situations. Apart from this, children with Aspergers tend to be very different, and it is even difficult to tell, in some children, that there is a problem. Knowing the warning flags will help with early identification and treatment, which can save children and parents significant distress down the road.

 

When Do Symptoms Become Noticeable

 

It is often when a child starts preschool that warning flags start to appear. This is especially true if children have not been exposed to a wide variety of children or have not participated in social situations. In preschool children are encouraged to interact with their peers and it is often at the teacher’s suggestion that children are tested for Aspergers syndrome.

 

Social Issues

 

Social settings make many children with Aspergers very uncomfortable. They avoid eye contact or stare at others, have a difficult time reading body language and allowing others to take turns when playing and often monopolize a conversation or speak out of turn.

 

Preoccupation with A Few Interests

 

Besides having difficulty in social situations, children with Aspergers sometimes become fixed on one particular topic and are almost obsessed with the topic. Everything they do is related to the topic from speech to reading, movies and even communication. For instance, a child may be crazy about dogs and spend all their time focused only on dogs. While there is nothing wrong with children having an interest, it may be an indication of a problem if the interest is the only thing that the child talks about.

 

Formal Speaking

 

Older children with Aspergers may have a very formal style of speaking that is advanced for their particular age. The child speaks in this manner without even being aware that it sounds different than other children his/her own age.

 

Delayed Motor Development

 

While others are riding bikes and catching balls, children with Asperger’s have a difficult time coordinating movements. Crawling and walking may be delayed. Younger children may struggle even with using a spoon and fork correctly. This can also be displayed in poor handwriting.

 

Not Understanding Speech Tone or Pitch

 

A very frustrating thing for children with Aspergers and their family is the child’s inability to understand different speech tones or pitch. They may not be able to understand a joke or will take a sarcastic comment literally. Their speech may be flat and without pitch and accent which makes them difficult to be understood.

 

Diagnosis and Assessment

 

While having one or even a few of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that your child has Aspergers, it is always good to be aware. In order to diagnose Aspergers correctly, a child must have a combination of symptoms and a very difficult time coping in social situations. Although Aspergers syndrome is similar to Autism, children with the condition have normal language and intellectual development and generally make more of an effort than Autistic chidlren to have friends and engage in activities. If you suspect that your child may have Aspergers, it is imperative that you seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis and coping plan.

 

 

About the Author: Susan Patterson is a homeschool mother and freelance writer with an interest in family health. She recently wrote and article covering the benefits of fertility preservation.

A Mother With An Autistic Child: A “Typical” Day

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Each day I wake up I remind myself that I am a parent of an autistic child and that I am only human. Short of being a miracle worker, I can do the best I can but have to remember not to beat myself up when we have a bad day. Expecting life to be difficult works best for me, and when things go great I am amazed and exceedingly happy. If there is one thing that I have learned in the last four years, it is that having two good days in a week is an excellent goal to shoot for, but it is unlikely that the entire week will go smoothly. Here are a few things that happen during the day when I am home with Jake.

 

I wake around 6:30am and sneak into the shower for a quick wake up. I have two other children, 8 and 9, to get dressed and on the school bus by 8:15am so I have to move fast. With any luck, Jake will sleep until they are out the door. He usually gets up around 8:30am so I always want to be sure I am ready. Getting up early also allows my other two children a very tiny bit of Mommy time, which is sometimes hard to get.

 

I stand ready and alert to face the day. My schedule in hand, I take a deep breath and go to rouse Jake. The bathroom routine can take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour depending on how cooperative Jake is being. We do the same thing each day. Wash face, brush teeth, comb hair and use the bathroom. We do not leave the bathroom until Jake has had the chance to count the shower curtain hooks three times over. We have been counting shower curtain hooks for two years now I am hoping that we may switch to something new soon, but it is unlikely to happen.

 

We move from the bathroom to the bedroom where I allow Jake to play with his hot wheel car collection for about thirty minutes while I make his bed and start laundry or tidy up his room. He gladly sits down on his play rug in the same spot each day (the rug is worn where he sits) and plays without speaking. So far so good, no outbursts or angry behavior, it is going well. He lines up all fifty of his cars repeatedly and seems to enjoy what he is doing. I resist the temptation to introduce any new activities for fear he will throw a tantrum.

 

We eat breakfast together each morning. Jake always has Cheerios and melon squares, and I always have a bagel and a grapefruit. Jake becomes uncontrollably upset if I try to switch up my breakfast in any way. If I try to get him to eat something different at breakfast, he will usually gag on the food or throw up. It is just not worth the anxiety so we stick to the same breakfast each day that works best. Jake always stacks his melon before he eats. This behavior has earned him the nickname “ Little Stacker”.

 

We are working on increasing Jakes vocabulary, and I spend one hour a day with him using photos and pictures to help him form words. He has been doing very well so far and has added several new words to his list in the last six months. Some days he responds very well, and others he will sit with his head on the table, virtually unresponsive. I have yet to figure out what triggers the unresponsive behavior; however, I keep showing him the pictures whether he is looking or not so as not to break the routine.

 

After learning time, we head outside for some sunshine and fresh air. He sits on the swing and waits for me to push him ten times. If I push nine he has a fit and if I push eleven he has a fit. We count together, and he always smiles when we get to ten.

 

After lunch, we usually watch a few videos and hopefully Jake will take a much-needed rest so that I can rest and get ready for my other children coming home from school.

 

Jake enjoys playing with his dog and his balls and spends much of his free time sorting, stacking or counting. These are all very common behaviors of children with autism. We go to therapy twice a week, and Jake seems to be making more progress with communication. It is likely that he will go to preschool next year, and we are all hoping that he will be responsive and benefit from that time. For now, we focus on routine, lots of love, nothing spontaneous, structure and no pressure. While we may be unsure of what the future holds for Jake, we remain optimistic that he will continue to make improvement and continue to be happy…. most days.

 

About the Author: The author has done extensive research into Autism and has offered us a glimpse into what it is like to be a parent of a child with Autism. She is a freelance writer who contributes regularly to parenting and health education sites. She recently wrote an educational article regarding sperm banks.