Wants to Sleep with Parents – School-Aged Children

While people know that babies and toddlers often want to sleep in their parents’ bed, they may not realize that this desire can also occur in school age children. Children aged six to twelve may refuse to sleep in their own rooms for a variety of reasons. Knowing WHY a child wants to sleep with his or her parents can help guide appropriate interventions.

If your child insists on sleeping in YOUR bed, consider the following:

Fears and Anxiety
Many children have anxiety and fears that cause them to seek parental comfort in the night. For instance, a child may be afraid of the dark (ghosts, monsters and other unnamed demons). Or, a child may be afraid of robbers or other night-time invaders. Some children have had a traumatic experience that leaves them feeling afraid and vulnerable. Some children have separation anxiety – a type of anxiety whose main feature is fear of being separated from caregivers or significant others. Some children have an anxiety disorder that causes them to feel high degrees of anxiety for no particular reason. Many types of anxiety become more intense when a person is alone and they also worsen when a person is in the dark and when the person is unoccupied – all of the conditions that occur when a person is in bed at night!

If fearfulness or anxiety seems to be the culprit, you can try “self-help” techniques with your child first. For instance, you can give your child Bach Flower Remedies that address the particular type of fear.These harmless, water-based preparations are added to a bit of water, milk, chocolate milk, tea, juice or other liquid 4 times a day until the fear has disappeared. Mimulus helps specific fears like fears of robbers and also separation anxiety. Aspen addresses vague fears such as fears of the dark. Rescue Remedy addresses fears that come from a traumatic incident as well as overwhelming terror of being alone in one’s room, Rock Rose may help panic that seems to be occurring for no known reason. Bach Flower Remedies are available in health food stores. Instructions for their preparation are available on this site (see article called Bach Flower Remedies).

There are also practical, behavioral interventions that can be used. For example, allowing a frightened child to sleep with the light is a method that may help. Eventually the child will learn to sleep with the lights off. Unless the child has a sleeping disorder, there is no need to be concerned about the short-term use of this strategy. Similarly, the door of the room can remain opened. Also it’s fine to put on some relaxing (and distracting!) music or white noise or even a CD with relaxation strategies.

Another technique that works very well on fears is EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. This is a short sequence of acupressure that involves tapping on one’s own body at 8 different points. There are numerous online video clips demonstrating the technique for both adults and children. There are also many books on the subject. and lots of mental health professionals who use EFT in their practice, both as a treatment modality and an educational tool.

Meditation, breathing, visualization and many other easy and powerful self-help techniques are available for the self-help reduction of anxious feelings. Look for a mental health professional who can teach both you and your child how to use these strategies. Meanwhile, be sure to respond to your child’s fears compassionately. Use Emotional Coaching (the naming and accepting of feelings) to knowledge and welcome anxious feelings; stay away from mockery, criticism, lectures and reprimands. Not only will these do absolutely nothing to remove the fear, but they will harm the child and your parent-child relationship. On the other hand, compassion and acceptance can soften the fear and help it shift, while building and strengthening the parent-child bond.

If your own efforts to help reduce your child’s fear or anxiety level don’t work, take your child to a child psychologist. A mental health professional will be able to help your child manage fears effectively.

Adjusting to Change
Sometimes children react to change by seeking the comfort of their parent’s bed. When parents have separated or divorced or when one parent has passed away, for instance, many children “move into” their parent’s bedroom. If the family has moved to a new location, this is even more common. Instead of settling into his or her own new room, the child wants to sleep with the parent.

The problem of allowing the child into the single parent’s bed is that the child may be in no rush to leave that bed. In fact, the parent may also be finding comfort in the child’s presence after separation, divorce or death of a spouse. However, the parent often heals with time and develops a new relationship. Eventually the parent will want his or her new partner in that bed and will have to ask the child to remain in his or her own room. Trying to make the change at this juncture can cause the child to deeply resent the new partner.

When the child is having trouble with change, you can use the Bach Flower Remedy called Walnut which helps people adjust to new circumstances more easily. You can also bring comfort tools into the child’s new room – items such as large stuffed animals, CD player for bedtime sleep programs, healing crystals, special blankets or special toys. Be patient; it can take time for the child to make the necessary internal changes.

If these methods aren’t enough to allow the child to feel comfortable in his or her own room after a period of months, however, then seek professional help. This can often bring about the desired change.

Seeking Attention
Sometimes children want more parental contact. This can happen when parents have long working hours or travel a lot or are otherwise physically or emotionally unavailable for the child a lot of the time. It can also happen just because a child is particularly needy of parental attention – this is an inborn characteristic.

If you suspect that your absence is the reason your child wants to be in your bed, see if there is a way to give a few more minutes of quality time each day to your child. If you can’t be there in person, perhaps you can have other types of contact (email, skype or chatting/texting). Or, perhaps you can have more intense quality time when settling the child to bed. Maybe you can make a special time on the weekend to have more intense contact. Sleeping with the child is not healthy for the child’s development and therefore it is NOT a good idea to try to make up for inadequate parenting time by having the child in your bed.

If you suspect that the child is simply needy, consider offering the Bach Flower Remedy called Heather. If the child is both needy and manipulative, try Chicory. Alternatively, speak to a Bach Flower Practitioner for assessment and preparation of an appropriate mixture of remedies to help reduce neediness.

Strong Willed
Sometimes your child just WANTS to sleep in your bed. Firm and consistent rules can be helpful with this kind of youngster. Be careful not to give in to tantrums, whining, pleading or other dramatic behaviors. Make a simple rule: “No sleeping in our room. You have to sleep in your room.” Then stick to it. Use the 2X-Rule of discipline if the child comes to your room after his or her bedtime (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for detailed instructions on how to use the 2X-Rule and choose negative consequences). Repeat your rule and add a warning the second time the child shows up in your room: “We told you before – no sleeping in our room; you have to sleep in your room. From now on, when you come into our room, such & such consequence will occur.” Apply the consequence if the child shows up in your room a third time.

In addition to (or sometimes even instead of) discipline, you might consider experimenting with the Bach Flower Remedy called Vine This remedy can help reduce stubborn and strong-willed inborn tendencies, helping the child to retain his leadership qualities while becoming more flexible and cooperative with others.

Sullen and/or Uncommunicative

Kids – and especially teenage kids – can sometimes withdraw from family communication and particularly from communication with their parents. They may retreat in different ways. Sometimes they sulk around the house saying very little to anyone including family, friends and others. Sometimes they don’t say much to their parents while they maintain contact with other family members and/or they talk non-stop on the phone to their friends, text madly away or chat avidly online. Sometimes their mood is morose for just a few hours and then they’re “suddenly” all happy again. But sometimes they withdraw for weeks or months on end. These silent and sullen periods are confusing for parents; how can parents tell if their child needs professional help or if he or she is just being a kid who needs space?

If you are dealing with a sullen or uncommunicative youngster, consider the following tips:

No One is Happy and “On” All the Time
Neither children nor adults experience constant positive moods. It’s normal for all of us to feel stressed or low, off and on throughout a day. Circadian rhythms alone (our biological clocks) affect our moods and energy levels, as does our diet, our exercise (or lack of it) and the various life stressors that each day brings. It’s important to give kids space to be a little irritable or quiet; they – like the rest of us – may need recovery time. Therefore, there’s no need to panic when you see that your child is in a mood. Instead, note the child’s mood and ask if there’s anything you can offer. For instance, you might say something like, “You seem a little down. Do you want to talk or do you need a little neck rub?” If the child declines on both counts, you just say “O.K.” and move on. You have shown an appropriate level of interest and concern without being intrusive or annoying. However, if the child is normally pretty balanced and then enters into an unremitting low, sad-looking mood for two weeks straight, you should express more concern. “Honey, I’m getting concerned. You’ve looked really sad for two weeks now and this isn’t like you. Is there something going on that is hard for you to deal with or are you feeling sad for no reason in particular? I don’t mind if you don’t want to talk to me about it – maybe I’m not the right person. But if you’re having trouble getting into a happier place, I want you to know that Dr. So & So is very nice to talk to and she might be able to help.”

Normal Needs for Privacy
Mood issues aren’t the only reason that kids withdraw from communication with their parents. Sometimes they are just expressing a normal need for privacy. No one likes their life to be a completely open book. You don’t share everything with your child and your child doesn’t need to share everything with you. If you don’t give enough privacy voluntarily, then a child may take it by refusing to open up. One way to offer privacy is to avoid intensive questioning. For instance, don’t ask your child detailed questions like “Who did you talk to today? What did you talk about? What is Bobby doing this weekend? Were you invited? Why not? Have you spoken to Carey lately? Don’t you think you should?” and so on. Children subjected to such inquisitions often learn to give very little information about anything. However, even when parents don’t ask much, teenagers are notorious for wanting to keep a private life. They may have no noteworthy secrets; being quiet doesn’t always mean that the youngster is engaging in suspicious activities. It may just be a case of privacy for privacy’s sake (i.e. “I don’t tell my mom who I see on the weekend not because I have something to hide, but just because I don’t feel like telling her.”). Sometimes, of course, excessive secrecy does indicate a problem behavior. However, usually there are other behavioral clues that contribute to a suspicious picture (for instance: a sudden drop in school marks, red eyes, unusual irritability, strange behavior, a change in behavior and so on). A lack of open communication by itself, is not necessarily cause for concern and in fact, is considered to be pretty normal in adolescents.

Set Appropriate Boundaries
If your child is otherwise happy and well, it is fine to set boundaries for the expression of sullen and uncommunicative behavior. For instance, if your kid is able to talk nicely to his or her friends and others, then go ahead and ask him or her to speak nicely to the folks at home as well. Make sure, however, that you are being mostly positive and pleasant yourself – check your communication ratio. Are you 90% positive and only 10% in the criticism-instruction-discipline section with your teenager (80-20 with your younger child)? If not improve your own pleasant behavior first and then ask your child to do the same. There is no need to allow rude behavior in the home and doing so gives your child the wrong message that family members aren’t real people with real feelings. It’s fine to say something like, “You don’t have to have a long conversation with me if you you’re not in the mood, but when I greet you please just look up for a moment and say ‘hi.’ It’s not acceptable to completely ignore a person who is talking to you and especially,  your parent.” If the child continues to ignore you after you’ve provided this information, something deeper may be going on – perhaps there are parent-child relationship issues, discipline issues or mood issues that would be best treated with professional help.

More Serious Mood Issues
When a previously happy child suddenly becomes sullen and/or uncommunicative for an extended period of time, he or she might be suffering from an internal or external stress. Internal stresses include mental health issues like social anxiety or depression. External stress includes life events like marital breakdown, failing grades or bullying at school. In children and adolescents, depression often shows up as irritable mood rather than sad mood, and is accompanied by other behaviors like changes in eating and sleeping patterns, a tendency to isolate from people, excessive low self-esteem or insecurity, changes in energy and other symptoms. If you are concerned about whether your child’s behavior requires professional intervention, ask your doctor for a referral to a child and adolescent mental health professional with whom you can discuss the issue.

Worry about the World Situation

Reading the newspaper, listening to the news or watching the daily bulletin on TV can be a stressful exercise for anyone. Bad news in all its graphic detail is flashed before the viewer’s eyes: violent storms, terrorism, crime, fatal accidents, human rights abuses and more. Watching, hearing and reading this sort of content on a regular basis could cause anyone to worry about what’s going on in the world. However, children are particularly susceptible to negative impressions, tending to overvalue images and information not only because of emotional vulnerability, but also because of a lack of knowledge, experience and perspective. In addition, some children are particularly vulnerable to the impact of the media because they are natural born “worriers” to begin with. Once exposed to distressing information, these youngsters may run with it: “Will we die in a tornado?” “Are we going to have a war?” “Will the robbers come to our house?” “Professional worriers” can obsess about, talk about and even dream about world problems like  terrorism, war, famine and natural disasters. .

If  your child worries excessively about the world situation, consider the following tips:

Validate Feelings
Address the worry directly by inviting your child to tell you about it. Your child’s worry may be exaggerated, but very real and distressing for him or her to experience. You can help your youngster release some of this fear by welcoming his or her thoughts and feelings without judgment or correction. This form of listening is called Emotional Coaching. It consists of naming and accepting feelings, and summarizing what your child is saying. For instance, if your child says “I’m scared of the terrorists” you can say, “I’m glad you’re telling me. Yes, terrorists are scary because they hurt people.” Even though you are acknowledging your child’s fear – and his right to be afraid – , you will still be helping  him to calm down just by listening and naming his fear. Because you are not avoiding it or trying to talk him out of it in any way, the child experiences your lack of fear of his fear. This is what calms him down: your ability to name his feeling calmly. If the child asks questions like, “are terrorists going to come here?” you can name his feeling and speak the truth as you see it: “I know you’re scared that terrorists will come. I don’t know if they will or not but I hope they don’t. It’s really up to God. We will do the best we can in any situation in which we find ourselves.” In other words, you are not making false promises. If there is only a tiny chance statistically of certain kinds of disasters happening in your geographical location, it’s fine to say this as well. For instance, “I know you’re afraid of earthquakes. Our area is very unlikely to have one because it’s never had one yet. And there’s nothing we need to do to prepare for one. Therefore, when you find yourself thinking about earthquakes, you might be better off putting your attention on a happier thought or idea.”

Calm Anxieties
Children who worry obsessively (think too much about the world situation and its potential negative consequences) may benefit from the Bach Flower Remedy White Chestnut. This remedy helps to calm a noisy mind (in both children and adults). Two drops in any hot or cold liquid, 3 or 4 times a day, can be taken until the negative obsessing stops. If worries return, start taking the drops again.

You can also teach your child how to use EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to put a stop to worrying. There are many online resources teaching EFT and there are also many therapists who can offer both treatment and training. EFT helps children of every age learn how to use acupressure to effectively eliminate all kinds of stress and anxiety, including worrying about the world situation.

Another technique to offer your child is to help your child refocus his or her attention when worries come up. Talk about the fact that worries don’t solve the world’s problems but they do cause personal stress. Explain that we can choose which thoughts and feelings we will pay attention to and that we don’t HAVE to pay attention to a thought that pops into our mind if that thought is not making us feel comfortable. Instead, we can put our attention on a completely different, very good feeling thought. For instance, instead of thinking about possible terrible events, one can think about one’s pet or one’s favorite ice cream cone! It’s important to focus attention on the better feeling thought for a number of moments.

Books and internet resources can also teach children and teens (and adults) techniques to help stop worrying.

If these self-help measures are insufficient to reduce your child’s worries, a mental health professional may be able to provide further help in relieving your child’s worry habit.

Activism vs. Helplessness
A child’s worry about world events is often wrapped in feelings of helpless and/or overwhelm. The feeling of being a potential victim is indeed disturbing. However, parents can help empower their kids through inculcating healthy attitudes toward factors outside of one’s control. Instead of just brushing off a child’s worry with  “we can’t do anything about those things, Honey”, or “we already have more problems than we can handle without having to worry about what’s going on halfway around the globe!”  parents can take the opportunity to instill in their kids social awareness and social concern. By teaching children that there ARE actions that they can take, parents give children a way to take some control of their lives and the world they are living in. This sense of control is, itself, an antidote to worry. There are lots of books in the public library about children who were able to make a difference in the political realm simply by raising money or writing letters. Parents can inspire their kids by reading these stories to them. Parents can actually teach children how to write a letter to government officials or how to give charity to help victims of terrorism or natural disasters. In other words, parents can convey the message that when there is a problem, people of all ages must step up to the plate to help solve it.

Experiences Frequent Headaches

Recurring headaches are common in both children and adults. Headaches, although uncomfortable and annoying, are most often transient and harmless on the physical level. Usually headaches are a bodily response to emotional stress; once the stress is properly addressed, the headaches will decrease or even disappear. Sometimes headaches are caused by external physical factors (see examples below). Of course, there are also rare occasions when headaches are an actual sign of disease or injury. It always pays to be cautious when kids complain about frequent pain of any kind. A trip to the doctor can not only help rule out health issues but can also provide information on controlling the frequency, duration and intensity of headaches and migraines. Similarly, a trip to a naturopath, osteopath, or cranial sacral specialist may be able to provide assessment and treatment interventions that can help.

If your child has  frequent headaches consider the following tips:

Stress  
Life is actually not a bowl of cherries for children – it is stressful! Kids and teens have social challenges, academic problems, sibling issues, issues with their parents, step parents, other family, and many other issues as well. They feel pressure and stress just like adults do. Stress can cause many bodily symptoms, including stomach aches, anxiety, depression, illness and of course, headaches. If your child tends to complain about frequent headaches, try to address stress factors first. Perhaps she has too much on her plate. More rest, improved nutrition,  increased support and a more balanced schedule will usually help reduce anyone’s stress-related headaches. Or, perhaps there is something going on in your child’s life that is overwhelming, frightening or otherwise disturbing. Try asking your child about this possibility. If you use Emotional Coaching (naming and accepting feelings without offering education, judgment or criticism of any kind), your child may open up to you. Sometimes just talking things through can relieve significant amounts of stress. Also teach your child that everyone needs to talk to someone – having a friend, a school counselor, a parent or a professional to talk to can really keep stress in its place and prevent it from wreaking physical or emotional havoc.

If you do suspect that stress is the culprit behind the headaches, you might also teach your child specific stress-management self-help strategies. HeartMath is a simple, child-friendly program for stress reduction that helps reduce stress and manage pain. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is another one that kids and teen can use to help calm upset and troubled emotions. There are many books on emotional regulation and stress-management geared specifically to children and teens – bring them home from the library; your kids will have a chance to learn strategies for releasing stressful feelings. This is especially important for those kids who just don’t “open up” – the exact kids who are most prone to physical manifestations of stress.

Stress that doesn’t completely resolve with self-help home measures is best addressed by a mental health professional.

Vision Issues
Headaches, especially those symptomized by a throbbing pain near the nape, can be a sign that a child is experiencing vision problems. The strain of reading the blackboard when one’s vision is less than 20/20 can cause frequent headaches. The same goes with spending long periods in front of TV screens and computer monitors. In all cases of regular and frequent headaches, a trip to an ophthalmologist is recommended. Very often, a child doesn’t realize that he or she is not seeing properly or has other eye-related issues.

Nutritional Factors
Missing meals can cause a cascade of chemical effects leading to headaches. For instance, skipping a meal lowers blood sugar, which in turn increases blood pressure which can cause headaches. Dehydration is also a possible cause of frequent headaches in children. Not having enough fluids in the body can cause the constriction of tissues in the brain and the spinal cord, leading to headaches.

Sensory Overstimulation
In today’s age of iPods and mp3 players, kids’ ears often get abused. In fact, a very recent study released by BMC Neurology has revealed that cranking up the music for even just an hour or two is associated with pounding headaches among teenagers. (In addition, long-term exposure to loud music using earphones can result into tinnitus, the perception of sound, e.g. ringing or buzzing, when none exists.)

Viral Infections
Headaches have been known to be associated with various viral infections. This is because issues with the nasal pathway as well as the throat can cause constrictions in the blood vessels in our head. When the infection is treated, the headache disappears. Fortunately, bed rest and a diet rich in fluids and vitamin C can usually address symptoms associated with the common cold, cough or flu. There are also many over-the-counter medications, herbal products, essential oils and other medical and natural interventions that address the whole umbrella of symptoms associated with viral infections.

Sensitivities and Allergies
If your child’s headache tend to occur after exposure to a particular food, pollutant or situation, then consider the possibility of an allergy or sensitivity-related headache. Eating foods rich in soy sauce, for example, has been known to trigger mild to severe migraine in some children. However, any food sensitivity can trigger frequent headaches and a child may be sensitive to any food group. For instance, many children have been found to be sensitive to wheat, gluten, milk, sugar and/or eggs. In order to rule out allergies and sensitivities,  consult an immunologist or an allergy specialist. Many naturopathic practitioners also test for food insensitivities.

A Final Thought
It is not only unpleasant, but it is also uncomfortable and draining to suffer from routine headaches. You may have to use a multifaceted assessment and treatment process in your attempts to relieve your child’s pain. However, when people are willing to pursue all avenues, they almost always find a measure of relief from pain.

Very First Day of School

The first day of school is an important milestone in a child’s life – and in the life of the child’s parents as well! Whether this happens when the child is 2 or 3 or older, it marks a definite transition in the youngster’s developmental journey. It is a turning point between the time that the child is educated only by his or her family and the next couple of decades in which he or she will be educated by so many other adults. Gone are the days when the little one was held in the 24/7 warm embrace of home and family; now he or she ventures out daily into a world of activities and people outside of the parents’ jurisdiction. No longer restricted to the social life offered by siblings and/or a carefully selected tiny group of peers, the child is inducted into close contact with other children who are strangers to the family. The first day of school brings a large and enduring change in the child’s universe.

If you want to make this important transition happen as seamlessly as possible, consider the following tips:

Meet the Staff
In a way, teachers and other school personnel are strangers to you – it can be anxiety provoking to leave your child in their care. It helps if you can get to know the school personnel before school begins. Sometimes schools wisely arrange an introductory meeting for both parents and new students. If your child’s new school doesn’t have this practice, however, see if you can set up an appointment with your child’s teacher(s), even if only to meet for a couple of moments and introduce yourself and your child. While you’re in the school building, stop by the principal’s office to say “hello” to whoever happens to be around (including the secretarial staff). Try to meet the school nurse, the traffic guard, and any other staff members that your child will be dealing with. This is a great way to help prepare your child and to also establish important parent-staff relationships. Remember, you may be working with these people towards your child’s development for a long time. If you are reading this at some point AFTER your child’s first day at school, you can still do the school tour and introductions anytime; when you are picking your youngster up one day, just make it a point to introduce yourself to his or her teacher and then search out other staff members and repeat the exercise.

Prepare Your Child
Although your child will undoubtedly be excited about his or her first day at school, he or she may also be scared. Those who have had previous experience in structured day care or playgroup settings will likely find the transition a bit easier, but there’s still a new building, new teacher and new peer group to contend with. Those who’ve been at home with a parent the whole time, may be quite anxious about the separation about to occur.

You can prepare your child by taking him or her to the actual classroom BEFORE the school year starts. In addition, use bibliotherapy (the use of books) to explore the topic of “First Day at School.” There are child-friendly internet resources on this subject as well. Explain what will happen in detail (i.e. “Mommy will drop you off with your teacher and then go shopping. Mommy will come back when she’s finished shopping to pick you up” and take you home for lunch.) It really helps for the child to have an idea of where the parent is and what he or she is doing while the child is at school. Even if the parent isn’t going shopping, it might be easier for the youngster to accept that the parent is occupied somewhere outside the house than to know that the parent is going home without him or her. Also explain to your child that some children in the class may be sad for a few days and some may be fine. However, the sad ones might be crying. Explain that they need to get used to being in school and this can take some days, but soon they will stop crying. Let your child know that it’s hard to hear other kids crying. Reassure him or her that the crying children are safe and will soon stop. Recommend that your child concentrate on doing a puzzle or listening to the teacher carefully, so as not to become upset at the crying of the children.

Get Ready
One way to take the stress of preparing your child for his first day, is to make sure that everything is in order. This includes getting your child’s bags, school supplies and clothes ready as early as the night before. Plan what you want to place in your child’s lunch box ahead too; don’t raid the refrigerator 10 or 15 minutes before. Put gas in the car, or contract with a school bus. Make sure the all your paperwork – enrollment forms, IDs, permit to enter school premises, etc. – are organized. Go to sleep peacefully, knowing that you’re ready for the day.

Consider Bach Flower Remedies
The Bach Flower Remedy walnut is a safe, child-friendly way to help ease transitions and new beginnings. Particularly if your child finds change difficulty, give him or her 2 drops of the remedy in liquid, 4 times a day for the week before school starts. Continue for 2 weeks or more AFTER school begins.

If your child actually panics at separation, consider offering the Bach Remedy called Rescue Remedy. This remedy helps calm states of hysteria and overwhelm. It is available in liquid, spray, candy and gum forms. Give your child some the night before school, the morning of and also just as the child is going into school.

If after a number of weeks of school, your small child still has intense separation anxiety despite these measures, you might decide to postpone school for a few more months or even another year. Alternatively, you might consider arranging a consultation with a child psychologist. The professional can assess your youngster and provide useful interventions.

Difficulty Swallowing Pills

Pills are everywhere in our modern life – even natural supplements tend to be in pill or tablet form. It’s important that children know how to swallow pills because they may have to take a medicine that comes in tablet form.

The following are some tips on how to deal with kids who have difficulty swallowing pills, tablets or capsules:

Try Treating the Fear First
Fears can often be treated with self-help first. Of course, if your child’s fear of swallowing is intense, provoking feelings of overwhelm or panic, consult a child psychologist – often a short course of treatment can fully resolve the problem. However, if your child is willing to let you help him or her at home, then you might consider a simple intervention that helps many people who have fear of swallowing pills –  EFT (emotional freedom technique). This form of acupressure involves tapping on the body while feeling the fear. It is easy to learn and easy to do – you’ll find d lots of “how-to’s” on the internet – just search for “EFT fear of swallowing pills.” There are special demonstrations for children as well. Sometimes, it only takes a few minutes to cure a fear of swallowing pills using this technique. If you prefer, you can take the child to a mental health professional who is trained in EFT or a similar intervention. Again, the professional may be able to solve the problem in just one session, although it sometimes takes longer.

If your child still has difficulty swallowing pills despite your own interventions or that of a professional, consider the possibility of a physiological cause for the problem and ask your doctor to investigate the matter further.

Provide Positive Reinforcement
If your child is trying to conquer the problem at home, keep in mind that he or she is dealing with something that is truly difficult to overcome. Even adults sometimes have a problem with this activity! Be careful not to mock or minimize the problem your child is having. Instead, provide understanding (“I know it’s hard”) and encouragement (“you can do it” ) as they are trying. Celebrate victories with praise and even a small reward for persevering and trying.

Try Alternative Preparations of Medications and Vitamins
Until your child can swallow pills, you can work around the problem. Be careful not to give up, however; fears of this kind do not tend to vanish on their own – avoidance of the issue simply prolongs it. Meanwhile, however, you must still give the child his or her medications. Therefore you need some temporary solutions.

In general, medications for young children are in liquid or chewable tablet form. However, kids may come to need a particular drug that has no kid-friendly formulation. Medications for ADHD for example, are often still in tablet or capsule form. Until your child learns to swallow pills, you can ask your pediatrician or pharmacist if they know of liquid alternatives that you can use, or if there is a way to transform the drug into liquid without losing its potency.

Break It Down
Perhaps the pill is really too big for your child. The good thing is, some pills can be broken down into smaller pieces. Many pharmacies do sell tools for cutting pills neatly, so you won’t have to worry about breaking yours into a pulp. Dividing a pill may mean more pills to swallow, but it’s worth it if it will give your child an easier time.

Dissolve It
Or you can grind the pill into powder and add it to a fruit juice. (In the case of capsules, you can simply break open the capsule for the powder inside.) If the pill is tasteless, your child won’t even notice that he or she is drinking medicine. If the pill has a distinctive taste, choose a particularly strongly-flavored drink, such as a fruit concentrate. Note though that you must always ask your pharmacist first of dissolving the pill in liquid will alter its effect on the body.

Dip It or Bury It
If the pill is small enough, you can dip the pill first in peanut butter, ice cream or gelatin. Doing so might help it slide down your child’s throat easier. It will also make the taste of the pill more palatable to a disgusted child.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

In some households, one parent is the “nice” one while the other is the “disciplinarian.” Children, of course, tend to prefer the nicer parent. The other parent – the “bad” cop – is often resentful. This parent knows that children need boundaries, limits and guidance and wants to do the best for his or her child. He or she wants support from his or her spouse. When the other parent refuses to offer that support – or worse, supports the child instead of the spouse – the “bad cop” is often extremely resentful and upset. The upset only serves to reinforce how “bad” this adult is in the eyes of the both the spouse and the child. It is no fun being a bad cop!

If you are finding yourself in the position of being the “bad cop” in your parenting team, consider the following tips:

Follow the 80-20 Rule
Each parent needs to be both “nice” and also firm. Each needs to show love and offer appropriate guidance. In other words, each should follow the 80-20 Rule independently, being 80% good-feeling and 20% education-oriented (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for an in-depth explanation of the 80-20 Rule). Unfortunately, one parent cannot make the other follow this ideal ratio. Your spouse may refuse to engage in appropriate discipline and education. However, that needn’t be a problem for you. As long as you remain 80% good-feeling in your interactions with your child, your child will feel a strong and healthy bond with you. Your child will accept your guidance gracefully, because he or she will trust and love you. At the same time, your child will recognize that the lenient parent is a lenient parent – someone without much backbone. They will sense that parent’s weakness and, while maintaining affection, lose some respect.

Working Uphill
Often, lenient parents not only fail to apply rules and limitations, they also try to prevent the other parent from doing so. “Don’t worry that Mom said you had to be in bed by 9 – you’re out with me and we’ll get home whenever we get home” or “I know Daddy said you had to write out lines, but I’ll explain to him that you’re really sorry for what you did and you don’t need to write out anything.” In this case, it is very hard to institute rules, boundaries and consequences. However, don’t give up in despair. As long as you don’t exceed your 20% allowance for unpleasant-feeling communications (which includes, by the way, all instructions and corrections), you will still have tremendous influence over your child. If you give your youngster a punishment and the other parent tells the child he doesn’t have to cooperate with it, you can appeal to the child directly: “You and I both know that I warned you that you would have to go to bed early if you keep chasing your brother. Your father said you could stay up, but you know full well that you have to go to bed early. This isn’t between you and your father. It’s between you and me.” Then, if necessary, use the “jail” form of the 2X-Rule for effective discipline (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for complete information on how to carry out discipline using the 2X-Rule).

Be Aware of the Impact of Your Marriage
Children don’t want their parents to fight, losing feelings of security and respect when they do. Instead of fighting with your too-lenient spouse, aim to perfect your own discipline style, improve your 80-20 Ratio and become an overall excellent parent. At the same time, work on improving yourself as a spouse. This produces the best outcome for kids – far better than ensuring that each parent does the exact same style of parenting.

Resources and Support Groups for Parents

Parenting is a big job and often a stressful one. Fortunately, there are resources that parents can draw on to help support them through the parenting journey. Let’s examine the more commonly available ones:

Community Support Groups
Communities can help parents through their support groups. A support group is an organization of people who share similar experiences, interests, and/or backgrounds. It might meet regularly for structured or unstructured activities like meetings,  forums or focus groups. Or a support group can function as an informal network of people you can call upon if you need help.

What Kinds of Support Groups are Out There?
There’s a support group for almost every parenting need. To start with, there are parenting groups that focus on child rearing techniques and approaches. There are also parenting support groups specific to certain parenting issues and challenges – for instance, there are groups for parents of diabetics, parents of children with cerebral palsy, parents who suffer with depression and mood issues, single parents, fathering, blended families and so on. Some groups are primarily educational in nature while others are therapeutic and supportive. There are also some advocacy groups that promote or support specific causes to advance the needs of groups of parents. If a support group for your need doesn’t yet exist – start one!

What can Support Groups Do for Me?
Research shows that people benefit enormously from support groups of every kind. The camaraderie of like-minded people with shared goals reduces stress, helps reduce disease and unhealthy coping methods and enhances quality of life. In many cases, friendships formed in support groups develop into lifelong relationships.

Where can I Find a Support Group?
There are many institutions that have support groups; a quick search online can provide you with a list of support groups in your area. Churches typically have a fellowship group for parents; schools have parent associations. Interest groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Positive Parenting Network, and League of Parents with Disabilities also host support groups. The same can be said of professional associations and government regulatory commissions like the American Academy of Pediatrics or the American Autism Society. Your local social services branch of government may run an extensive network of programs and groups for parents.  Even your chamber of commerce may have relevant groups such as groups for working mothers  or those who are running home businesses. Hospital programs often run postpartum groups and usually can refer parents to other community-based parenting supports as well. Ask your doctor and your pediatrician for a directory of parenting groups and resources. You can also call your local Child & Family Agency for a listing of relevant groups. Your child’s school probably has guidance and counseling services that can also point you to groups and resources.

These days you don’t even have to leave your home to find a support group. There are also many online support groups where quality information and peer encouragement can be found. Websites, blogs, forums, mailing lists and social networking sites are homes to various support groups on the net. Just make sure you pick support systems that actively police itself against the proliferation of inappropriate or inaccurate information. Look for online groups that are community sponsored such as those established by hospital, university and government programs, or groups that are organized by highly trained and trustworthy helping professionals.

Getting Your Child to Talk to You

“You never listen to me!”

Many children feel that there is no point in talking to their parents. From experience they have learned that their parents are very poor listeners. In fact, their parents seem to want to talk a lot more than they want to listen; they are more interested in getting their point (or their sermon!) across than finding out what their child has to say. Moreover, parents tend to correct their child’s thoughts and feelings instead of accepting them (“You certainly do NOT want to quite school! How could you ever consider an idea as crazy as that? You need to complete university if you want to find a decent job…etc.”) Rather than subject themselves to this kind of “conversation,” kids would rather keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves.

And yet, parents usually want their kids to talk to them. They want to know what’s going on in their child’s mind and life. They also want to be able to guide their youngster appropriately. Moreover, they want to enjoy the strong, positive bond that happens between parents and their children when communication is good. Interestingly, the more skilled a parent is at listening, the more he or she will be able to accomplish all this. Fortunately, it’s easy to become a skilled listener.

Consider the following tips for listening to children in positive and productive ways:

Pause
It helps to stop what you’re doing even for just a minute or two to really look at your child when you are conversing with him or her. Stop cooking or reading just for a bit while you look directly into your child’s eyes. Even if you go back to your task while continuing the conversation, those few minutes will have made a significant impact. Of course, if you have a bit more time, then give your child your undivided attention even longer. Focused attention is a precious gift – especially in today’s world!

Be Aware of Your Body Language
Try to lean towards your child when he is sharing, in a manner that communicates presence. “Presence” is a way of being with someone that is supportive – even healing. It conveys caring, interest, involvement and connection. “Presence” is conveyed with posture, proximity and eye contact. Don’t look down, fidget with papers on the table or check the mail. Just sit still for a few minutes. Again, it is not necessary to give your child an hour of your undivided attention. Any number of minutes is beneficial. Do what you can.

Sum It Up
Your child doesn’t know if you heard what he or she said unless you give feedback – a short summary of the words that were spoken. To communicate to your child that you are listening, just re-state his or her main message in your own words. This is a technique called reflecting or mirroring. It conveys understanding and connection. Moreover, this strategy also helps you stay calm in what might otherwise be a stressful conversation. Sometimes a child is saying something that might trigger worry, panic or anger in a parent. By repeating back the child’s general message, the parent allows his or her own emotions to settle down. In fact, allowing the child to talk and talk while you repeat back and repeat back, gives you plenty of time to turn off your own adrenaline. You might decide that you don’t even need to respond to the child in that moment – that you need time to think about what he is saying and you will get back to him in a few hours or a few days!

Look for Feelings and Emotions
Effective listening is not only about paying attention to the words that are being said, but also to the message that is being conveyed. The message is carried by feelings. Does the child look worried, relieved, upset or mad when he or she is speaking? These emotions are carrying the really important message within the communication. Summarize the words and then offer a guess at the feelings that the child is feeling as he or she is speaking. For instance,  you might say something like, “So you’re saying you really want to go to camp. I see how excited you feel about the idea,” or “So you’re saying you don’t want to go camp – you look pretty unhappy about the idea.” To get a sense of your child’s feelings, listen to his tone and of voice and volume, look at his facial expression and body language and consider the type of words he is using to make his point. Put all of these markers together to decide whether he is happy, sad, mad or scared. Then tell your child what you guess he might be feeling. If you’re wrong, the child will correct you. If you’re right, the child will feel really understood. In either case, the child will appreciate the work you are doing to try to connect at a deeper level. Keep in mind that all feelings are just feelings. Showing your child that you can name and accept his feelings creates safety and closeness.

After you have conveyed understanding of your child’s communication, be sure to ASK the child what he needs or wants. Continue to be on the listening side of the communication until your child asks you for your own thoughts and opinions. Or, after you have done a really thorough job of listening, you can ask the child, “Would you like my opinion on this?” or “Do you want to hear an idea I have?” and so on. Once the child has indicated an interest in your input, then you can offer feedback or practical suggestions. In short, name and reflect your child’s thoughts and feelings FIRST and solve problems SECOND. You’ll find that your child will be much more receptive to you and your ideas because you have done such a good job of listening!

Mainstreaming Vs. Special Education

Mainstreaming refers to the integration of children with special needs in a regular/ traditional classroom environment alongside children their age without disabilities. This is in contrast to giving them specialized/ individualized education separated from peers whether that takes the form of separate classes within the school, hospital separate specialized schools, homeschooling or any other segregated arrangement.

Is Mainstreaming for My Child?
Like any other educational option, mainstreaming has advantages and disadvantages. Advocates point to the unrestricted access to general education that mainstreaming provides. Children with disabilities can avail themselves of the same curriculum offered to other kids their age. Specialized educational opportunities, on the other hand, can be so expensive that they are out of the reach of many parents.

Another benefit of mainstreaming put forth by advocates is that it helps children with disabilities feel part of the whole; it promotes diversity and equality in the classroom. Feelings of normalcy and acceptability are enhanced when a disabled child is welcomed into the community of “normal” children. By contrast, when children with disabilities are given special classes, there’s a risk that they will feel ostracized and isolated.

There are those, however, who feel that mainstreaming does more harm than good. Instead of making children with disabilities feel that they can lead normal lives, mainstreaming may actually make these children feel “different” – self-conscious of their challenges and handicaps. Of course, some children with disabilities mix better than others, depending on their disability. For instance, “invisible disabilities” like learning and perceptual disorders, may be more mainstreaming-friendly than, say, a behavioral condition like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Asperger’s Syndrome.

Furthermore, there is the issue of qualified teachers and disability-compatible teaching tools and methodologies. Not all teachers in traditional schools are sensitive enough, knowledgeable enough or skilled enough to work well with children with disabilities. Specialized instruction in more appropriate settings may sometimes provide superior learning opportunities more targeted to the child’s special needs.

Considering all these factors, it is clear that the decision to mainstream must always be an individual one, based on considerations such as financial resources, the child’s unique personality, the nature of his or her disability, the suitability of the mainstreaming institution and its resources, and the qualifications of available educators. The question is not “is mainstreaming preferable?” but rather, “is mainstreaming preferable for MY child?”

What If I Do Decide to Mainstream My Child?
If you do decide to mainstream your child, it’s important that you constantly monitor your child’s adjustment. Depending on the child, increased socialization with peers without disability can be a good or bad thing. Some may feel challenged – and indeed mainstreamed kids do report being motivated to do better in a mainstreaming school – but others may just feel additional stress. Some may develop lasting friendships, others may get bullied, teased or ostracized.

But there are many things parents can do to prepare their children for mainstreaming. Enhancing their self-esteem and self-worth is a good start. If kids are raised confident of their person, they are less likely to bow down at the face of adversity. Parents must also emphasize that their children have their constant support and love.

On the technical side, parents must exert effort to educate the administrators, instructors and classmates in the mainstreaming school about the child’s disability – unless it is the deliberate choice of the child to keep it hidden, which is their right. If the people around a child with disability are aware of what are the child’s special needs, they would better be able to make reasonable accommodation.