Homework Issues

While homework sometimes goes smoothly for some children and their parents – it often doesn’t! Homework issues abound, from kids who forget to do their homework, to kids who don’t want to do it, to kids who simply can’t do it. Let’s look at some common homework challenges and their solutions:

Inborn Homework Challenges
Some children are naturals when it comes to homework. They enjoy school work and tend to be independent and mature. They know what their homework is, they bring it home and do it and they take it back to school – all with no or minimal parental supervision. However, there are two other genetic homework profiles to consider: the “average” child and the “organizationally challenged” child. The average child would rather play than do homework. Like the average adult, this youngster tries to avoid unpleasant tasks as long as possible. Parents have to provide encouragement and structure for this kind of child, teaching him or her to settle down to the task and apply appropriate attention and effort. In the younger grades, parents may actually set the homework time and participate in the work itself with some of these youngsters, although some children in this group simply need to be pointed toward their desk. The average child may balk or dawdle, but eventually he or she cooperates and the task is completed. Smart parents try to make the time pass pleasantly with plenty of positive feedback, good humor and maybe even little niceties like milk and cookies. The average child might also benefit from and be receptive to some parental advice when it comes to homework: encouragement to take short breaks, for instance, or reminders to do the work carefully and neatly.

The organizationally challenged child often doesn’t bring his or her homework home. If it is brought home, it is wrinkled, crinkled and half-missing. If it is in one piece, it is too long or too hard or both. If it gets done, it doesn’t make it back to school. No matter how the parent tries to organize this child – providing special notebooks, folders and systems – the same organizational challenges present themselves year after year. This child’s brain is wired for creativity and many other positive attributes, but not for boring, detailed tasks like homework and not for the organizational abilities required to see it through. The wiring – being a built-in feature of this kind of brain – normally affects people throughout their life spans. Although they may eventually learn some tricks to help themselves work around organizational deficits, the best trick in adulthood is to get a good administrative assistant and/or spouse!

Teenagers & Homework
As these three homework “types” move into adolescence, the challenge for parents changes. The “organized and responsible” child never presented a real challenge and that likely remains the same throughout the teenage years. The “average” child who needed some coaxing in the grade school years, is now an adolescent and, like all adolescents, has much less tolerance for coaxing. At this age, a young person has a strong distaste for being told what to do and when and how to do it. If the parent was an unpleasant coaxer earlier on – that is, actually fought with the child over homework – the topic will be even more contentious now. However, even if the parent had been firm and patient in those earlier years, the teenage child now balks at explicit instructions.

What can parents of homework-allergic teens do? First of all, it is necessary to adopt strategies that are appropriate for the second decade. Compliments are welcome throughout the lifespan, so the occasional positive remark offered for responsible behavior can be employed. Too much praise for doing homework at this age is inappropriate, however. It would be the same if your spouse praised you regularly for getting up in the morning – more insulting than helpful! Once the children hit the teen years, the most important strategy is standing back. By that time, you will have expressed your philosophy of life and homework many, many times over. The child knows your views. Now is the time to let the child experience the consequences of not performing well. Here is where it becomes very hard for parents. In the teenage years, children need to deal with their own problems in order to develop the muscles for doing so later in life. Indeed, adversity breeds creativity, ingenuity and other coping skills. It is better to have learning opportunities in the teen years than in the years of adulthood that follow quickly after.

Most important, be aware of the possible consequences of your interventions. While the occasional reminder may be tolerated, many reminders might actually erode your parent-child relationship (and thereby, your overall power to positively influence your children). NEVER use anger. Even if the homework gets done, the personality of the child and your relationship with her may both be damaged as a result of anger. Moreover, academic success achieved this way is normally a temporary exception in the child’s life. Once the child is left to his or her own devices, he or she will regress to the default non-performance position. The most important strategy of all may be to reinforce your child’s natural talents and abilities and focus less on academic performance. Help him or her to find and maximize natural strengths. People normally succeed best in life by utilizing their God-given gifts. Strengthen these and by doing so, you will strengthen your youngster’s self-confidence, self-esteem, positive mood and desire to do his or her best. And that’s the best that you can do.

Parenting Style
Some parenting styles can contribute to homework issues in some children. For instance, when parents provide insufficient supervision for younger children, the kids sometimes figure out how to “work the system.” They learn that they can just show Mom and Dad a little effort and then, with no further reporting obligations, they can get back to their games or computer to have some real fun! Problems like this can be addressed by being more conscientious about checking to see if homework is complete and well done when children are still in grade school.  Close supervision of this kind is not generally appropriate for teens however. That age group must deal with the consequences of their poor study habits (such as low grades or teacher feedback) and make corrections on their own.

Distraction
Sometimes, the learning style of the child affects the way homework is done. For instance, incomplete homework may be due to being too distracted to get the job done successfully. Perhaps your child’s study station is too noisy and busy for him to be able to concentrate for a long period of time. Some children do better with less hustle and bustle around them. If this is the case, try to make the homework location as protected as possible. This can sometimes be accomplished by putting a desk in a quiet part of the house or creating a homemade “study carol” by using cardboard boxes around the desk to block out the sights and sounds around. Of course, some children are distracted not so much by their external environment as by their internal environment – the chatter inside their heads. For instance, a child may start to do his arithmetic and then begin thinking about the numbers in a card trick he learned. This gets him thinking about what happened at recess and reminds him that he has to talk to his friend after school today. His mind flits on and on, from one topic to another and the arithmetic is no longer on the agenda. It’s just the way his brain works, moving from one thing to the next, making it quite challenging to focus on boring tasks like homework. The Bach Flower Remedy Chestnut Bud may help reduce the scattered tendencies when they are caused by an easily-distracted nature. or the Remedy Clematis might help if the child is prone to being “spacey” or engaging in daydreams. (You can find more information on the Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.) If neither help, a professional assessment is in order. Sometimes the cuplrit is ADHD – attention deficit disorder; treatment may involve behavioral modification and/or medication. If your child does get distracted on a regular basis, a professional psycho-educational assessment can help determine the cause of the problem and the most appropriate forms of intervention.

Learning Disabilities or Challenges
Incomplete homework may also be an indication that your child is having problems with the lesson. After all, it’s not unusual for teachers to combine easy and hard questions in the same assignment to both interest and challenge a child. Perhaps your child breezed through the simple problems and then struggled with the more complicated ones. If failing to complete homework is a chronic and recurring issue, then consider the possibility that your child is having some difficulty with the task. If this is the case, an educational assessment may help locate the source of the difficulty. Ask your child’s teacher or pediatrician for a referral to someone who can diagnose a child’s learning problem. Sometimes tutorial services may help the child perform better and parents can arrange this help with or without having the child assessed. However, an assessment can point the way to the best interventions for the particular youngster.

Perfectionism and/or Anxiety
Failure to complete homework may also be a sign of anxiety regarding failure and/or evaluation. Maybe your child is motivated to start assignments, but dreads the idea of you or teachers checking his or her performance. For some kids, it is less threatening to think “I failed because I have incomplete work” than feeling “I failed because I wasn’t good enough.”

If this is the case, do what you can to take some of the pressure off of academics; help your child to relax and enjoy life by focusing on extracurricular activities, hobbies, exercise and relaxation. If these steps don’t help your anxious child to calm down around schoolwork, consider the possibility that the youngster is more anxious than he or she needs to be. Again, professional assessment can help determine whether professional intervention of some kind might be helpful. If home treatment is sufficient, you can offer Bach Flower Remedies (or, try the remedies first and if they seem to help within a few weeks, then further assessment and treatment may be unnecessary. However, if after a few weeks of treatment with Bach Flowers, your child’s anxiety is still interfering with schoolwork, it is likely time for a mental health assessment.) For a child whose self-imposed high standards are interfering with completion of schoolwork, you might try the Bach Larch (for fear of failure) and Rock Water (for perfectionism). Alternatively, an evaluation by a Bach Flower Practitioner can help determine if other remedies may be useful. You can also read up on descriptions of the 38 remedies in books and online and try up to 7 of those you think might be useful. Mix 2 drops of each one in a single 1oz. glass mixing bottle and put 4 drops into liquid (juice, water, milk, chocolate milk, tea, coffee, soda, etc.) 4 times a day until the child no longer seems to be experiencing tension and fear around homework issues.

Assessment and Intervention
As we have seen, many factors can impact on a child’s ability to do homework. If you have done everything you can and your child is still having homework problems, do try to arrange for a psychological assessment to help determine the source of his or her difficulty and to receive remedial recommendations and interventions.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Parents may wonder if their child has OCD when they notice that the child seems overly occupied with worries and strange behaviors. If the parent has seen something similar in another family member who has already been diagnosed with OCD, he or she may suspect that this child may also have the disorder.  Other parents have no such frame of reference and are simply perplexed by their youngster’s behavior.

Small children are often anxious and ritualistic – they want their parents to give them 10 kisses at bedtime and stay with them the whole night! It’s very difficult for a parent to know whether such behavior is just normal childish behavior or something that requires professional attention. However, when a child starts demanding 24 kisses – exactly 12 on one cheek and 12 on the other – a parent may become suspicious. It doesn’t “feel” or “sound” right to him or her. The only way to know if the child’s feelings and actions are within the normal range is to obtain a proper assessment.

A  diagnosis  of OCD can only be confirmed or dis-confirmed by a qualified mental health professional. If you are concerned about your child, talk to your family doctor or pediatrician – this person can refer you to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist for an assessment. OCD will not normally be diagnosed unless the symptoms are causing the child significant distress or unless they are affecting the child’s school life, social life or home life adversely. Even if the child is diagnosed with OCD, there is much to be hopeful about: there are excellent behavioral treatments for OCD. People who receive treatment have a good recovery rate.

What is OCD?
OCD involves obsessions and compulsions (also called “rituals”). Obsessions are “sticky” thoughts – thoughts that just won’t go away (at least not by themselves). A teenager might obsess about whether she remembered to lock the door. Instead of just leaving the house like others do, she thinks about that door, asking herself over and over again if she remembered to lock it. Obsessions can also be sensations – a type of feeling. For instance, a child might pull his sock up over and over again until it hits a spot on the leg that feels “just right.” His mother might say that he is obsessed with getting just the right spot and she would be correct – the youngster cannot tolerate the feeling of the sock being at the wrong spot. Compulsions are actions that a person does that either “undoes” an obsession or ends it in some way. Spending lots of time arranging the socks is a compulsion. The teenager who is obsessing about whether or not she remembered to lock the door, may go back to the house 2, 3, or more times “to make sure.” The ritual of checking is called a compulsion.

A common obsession has to do with the fear of becoming contaminated. This may involve a fear of germs. “I don’t want to touch the money because everyone else has touched the money and it probably is full of germs and germs are dangerous.” Equally common is the ritual of excessive washing in order to clean oneself of germs or contamination. “My daughter washes her hands until they bleed.” This is not normal washing that is meant to remove surface dirt; rather this is OCD washing that is meant to remove spiritual impurities that can harm a person. In fact, in order not to HAVE to wash oneself, OCD sufferers start to avoid being near problematic triggers. For instance, they might only handle money while wearing gloves (so their hands won’t touch the contaminated money and they will then not have to wash off the contamination). Or, they  may not open a door with their hand – they might use a foot or an elbow or ask someone else to open it. Avoidance actually contributes to the illness – the more a person avoids OCD triggers, the stronger the illness of OCD becomes. In fact, the major aspect of treating OCD involves teaching the sufferer to avoid avoidance! A child must be helped to confront and live with his or her worst fears.

Most obsessions center around issues of health, safety, goodness and cleanliness. As stated above, they can also center around certain “right” feelings (like the feeling of having a shoe lace tied up “just right”).

For instance, children and teens can obsess about the idea they have might have made a religious error. To “fix” it they might pray for hours on end (missing school in the process). Some people want to do things perfectly; a child may write something, erase it, write it again, erase it, write it again, over and over and over again – destroying the paper and taking hours to perform a task that other children are completing in minutes. Some people with OCD need to have everything in a certain order – for example, in order from biggest to smallest. Again, trying to get it that way can take painful hours; if the order is messed up by someone else, the person with OCD can become hysterical. These are just some of the common variations of OCD. There are many others and each person can have his or her own unique version of the disorder.

Treatment for a religious obsession might be insisting that the youngster DOES NOT pray for more than the normal few minutes that prayer takes a healthy person. In other words, the youngster must just live with the worry that perhaps she did something wrong. Instead of making that worry go away by praying excessively, she must just have the worry without doing anything to fix it or end it. This sort of treatment has the effect of stopping the worry altogether. Therefore, no more excessive praying is required. No obsession leads to no ritual which essentially is no OCD.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
People who suffer from OCD, even kids, usually know that their thoughts and actions are irrational, and they often feel distressed over their lack of control. The obsessions and compulsions, however, feel more powerful than a person’s will. The obsessive compulsive person is trapped in a vicious cycle; he or she needs to behave a certain way (perform a ritualistic behavior) to relive stress and anxiety, but the behavior itself creates more stress and anxiety. This can lead to intense attempts to avoid situations that will trigger the compulsion. For instance, if someone knows that touching a doorknob will create anxiety that can only be soothed by repeated washing of the hands, then he will try not to touch the doorknob. Instead, he might ask someone else to open the door, or he might open it with his elbow or he might wear gloves in order to open it. The time it takes to perform rituals can severely affect a person’s life and the difficulty of avoiding triggers can make a person function in a very odd way. OCD is thus very stressful. Attempts to manage OCD can sometimes lead to other mental health complications, such as clinical depression, other anxiety disorders, substance abuse and/or other impulse-control issues. OCD is sometimes found in people who have other clinical disorders like anorexia, Tourette’s Syndrome or ADD/ADHD.

What Causes  OCD?
Current thinking suggests that that OCD is a biologically- based condition, possibly the result of serotonin deficiency in the brain and other chemical conditions. It has been observed that OCD tends to run in families (that is, other family members have OCD or they may have other anxiety disorders) and therefore it is thought that a vulnerability for the condition is passed on through the genes.  OCD can also occur in a form called PANDAS  (pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder) – when it suddenly appears following a streptococcal infection like strep throat. In this case it is believed that OCD is triggered by the same bacteria that causes scarlet fever and strep throat. Again, it might be that a person must have the vulnerable genes in order for the bacteria to have this effect.

What is the Treatment for OCD?
OCD is best treated with CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Although some teens and adults can relieve their own symptoms with self-help by reading books on OCD (see for instance, “Overcoming Compulsive Washing” or “Overcoming Compulsive Checking” by Dr. Munford), most people will have the best results by consulting a qualified mental health professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of OCD. Ask your doctor for a referral. Parents should read up on OCD and get professional counseling to know how to best help their child. Uninformed parents often accidently worsen OCD by helping the child AVOID triggers. As we saw above, EXPOSURE to the frightening element is curative – NOT avoidance! Parents need to know exactly how to help their child or teen in the home setting. The earlier OCD is treated, the easier it is to treat. On the other hand, the more one lets OCD fester, the more they will experience its symptoms. It is possible that intense stress causes certain physical conditions in the brain that then trigger the dynamics of OCD. Relieving stress may make it easier to treat the OCD. Therefore, psychotherapy may play a role in helping ease OCD by reducing overall stress and anxiety in the system (much like medication does) so that CBT can be effective.

Natural Treatment for Stress Relief

Bach Flower Remedies are one-ounce bottles of specially prepared water (see below for details). Although they are only water, they can affect the way people feel emotionally. In fact, they can help balance emotions so that a person can release stress, upset, hurt, anger, fear, sadness, irritation, jealousy, impatience  and any other distressed emotion. Indeed,  many people report that they have successfully used Bach Flower Remedies to feel calmer, sleep better, worry less, recover faster from upset and heartache, handle parenting stress and work stress better and so on. Many have also reported that they were able to see a reduction in their child’s tantrums, aggressive behaviors, moodiness  or fears because of the use of the remedies.

But the remedies can do even more than help a transitory bad feeling : they can also help correct the tendency to fall into those feelings in the first place. When the remedies are used to treat a chronic emotional issue (like a tendency to be stubborn or a tendency to be explosive), they might actually be assisting in a processes now referred to as  “epigentic healing” – the healing of the gene that leads one to experience chronically negative emotional states. We now know that genes can be turned on and off and this is what appears to be happening when someone takes a long course of Bach Flower Therapy. This means that a child who tends to be very shy can take the remedies over time to reduce the shy tendency altogether. The Bach Flowers do not change personality, however. What they do is enable a person to be their own best self. A very strong-willed, obstinate child will retain his strength of character but instead of just being difficult to live with he will be his best self: a born leader, a confident person, one who can take appropriate action. When the Flower Remedies help a childhood overcome chronic separation anxiety, they leave the child’s personality intact: it is the same youngster without debilitating fear blocking the expression of his true self.

It’s hard to believe that these little remedies can work and it’s best not to even TRY to believe that they will; rather, just try the remedies yourself and observe how you feel while taking them. Or, offer a remedy to your child and observe the child’s behavior over the next days and weeks to see if there is any difference. Bach Flowers sometimes seem to have a dramatically positive effect on both behavior and mood and other times seem to make little difference. (Of course, there is no medical or psychological treatment either that works equally well for every single person who employs it.) In the latter case, it might be that the wrong mix of remedies is being used, but it can also be that a longer period is necessary before change will occur or even that a particular person is not responsive to the remedies at the particular time that they are being offered (i.e. this could change in the future). It can also be that while the Bach Flowers are having some positive effect, a complete treatment  requires other interventions as well including strategies like nutritional support, exercise, psychotherapy and/or medicine.

How are Bach Flowers Prepared and Used?
Dr. Edward Bach, a prominent physician in Britain who died in 1935, was interested in preventative medicine. In his search for something that could boost the immune system to ward off disease or to help the body recover more quickly and thoroughly from illness, he discovered a water-based method of healing that became known as “Bach Flower Therapy.” Modern physicists use principles of quantum physics to explain how water remedies can affect human emotions. Dr. Bach, however, understood the remedies on a purely intuitive level. He felt their effects and he could see what they were able to do to effectively relieve stress and emotional distress.

Bach Flower Remedies are prepared by taking the head of a certain flowering plant and placing it in a clear bowl of pure water. The water is heated in sunlight or on a stove for several hours (depending on which flower is being used) and then the flower is removed. The water is the remedy. It is bottled (and preserved with a bit of grape alcholol) and – in our times – sold in health food stores throughout the world as well as on-line.

Bach Fower Remedies are a form of vibrational medicine, not herbal medicine. They are NOT medicinal. They do not act on the body at all. They don’t interact with other medicines or foods or health conditions or anything. They are the same as water is to the system. However, if someone cannot have even a minute amount of alcohol in their system, they should look for the newer remedies that are made using glycerin instead. In general, however, anyone can safely use Bach Flower Remedies – babies, children, teens and adults, pregnant women and elderly people. Even plants and animals respond well to the Bach Flowers!

How Does One Take Bach Flowers?
If a person is using only one of the 38 remedies, they can take 2 drops from the remedy bottle in a small amount of liquid. They should do so 4 times a day – morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening.

However, most people take anywhere from 2 to 7 remedies that have been mixed together in a “mixing bottle.” To prepare a mixing bottle, one places water in a glass bottle with a glass dropper – generally a  30 ml  (1oz.) amber bottle. (These bottles are sold wherever Bach Flower Remedies are sold and they are called Bach Mixing Bottles.) Then one adds 2 drops from each desired remedy bottle. If a person was using 7 remedies, they would be adding 14 Bach Remedy drops to their mixing bottle. To ensure that bacteria does not grow inside of the mixing bottle, a teaspoon of brandy or apple cider vinegar should be added to the bottle.

This Bach Flower Remedy Mixture is then taken, 4 drops at a time, in hot or cold liquid, with or without food. Ideally, these 4 drops are taken 4 times a day, for a total of 16 drops daily. A person takes them in the morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening.

Adults can put 4 drops of their Bach Flower mixture into coffee, tea, water, juice, soup or any other liquid. Children can take their drops in water, chocolate milk, juice, cereal or any other beverage.

A person takes their mixture until they start forgetting to take it and they no longer need it. (Or, parents give a mixture to a child until the child’s behavior or mood issues have resolved to the point where the parent is now forgetting to give it to the child)  If symptoms return (and they most likely will), the person starts taking the remedy again. In fact a person may end up using the remedy off and on for a year or two (less time in children) before the problematic tendency  disappears completely.

How Does One Know Which Remedies to Use?
Dr. Bach wanted to keep his healing method very simply. A person should be able to read the description of the 38 remedies and decide which ones he needs. Of course, some people feel that they need all 38! However, no more than 7 should be used at a time.

A person could pick up a book on Bach Flower Remedies and decide which flowers they need based on the description of who the remedy is for and what it can do. Also, most health food stores have a pamphlet that explain what the remedies can too. Alternatively, a person can make an appointment with a Bach Flower Practitioner who will be pleased to help them design a remedy for themselves or their child.

Bad Self-Image

Have you ever visited the “mirror room” in a circus? You know, the one where there are many different kinds of mirrors, each one reflecting an unreal and exaggerated version of the viewer, making the person look so much taller, smaller, fatter or skinnier than he or she really is?

For people with Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD, every day is like staring into a circus mirror. Except, people with the condition don’t realize that what they are seeing is a distortion – they believe their distorted reflection is real. They consider themselves physically flawed, although no one else would agree with this assessment. They preoccupy themselves about a perceived flaw in one or more of their features or body parts — their nose is too big, their eyes too small, their skin too light or too dark. They feel ugly — both from the inside and out.

While most people have some issues with their appearance — indeed, the beauty and fashion industry preys on our insecurities — the obsession about perceived physical flaws among those with BDD is excessive. In fact, most of their perceived flaws simply don’t exist, or if they do, they are barely noticeable. However, sufferers are absolutely convinced that they are deformed or ugly and feel shamed just by being in the presence of other people; they are often so anxious that they can’t work or enjoy life. Some are so intent on fixing their imperfections that they risk multiple surgeries and unproven treatments.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder often comes with other mental health conditions like clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, impulse control disorders like trichotillomania, anxiety disorders and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

What causes Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
BDD is more common than most people realize; it is believed to affect 2 in every 100 members of the population. It is most prevalent among teenagers and young adults, mainly because it is during these times that the pressure to present a “beautiful” front is most intense.

A family history of BDD or obsessive-compulsive disorders increases the likelihood of the condition developing in a person. This implies that BDD has an organic origin, such as chemical imbalance in the part of the brain that controls emotions and habits. Traumatic experiences, like physical and sexual abuse, can also trigger Body Dysmorphic Disorder in those who have the genetic vulnerability for it.

What Are the Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
The following are some of the signs parents should look out for:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Excessive pre-occupation with physical appearance
  • A pervasive belief that one is ugly or unattractive despite assurances and evidence to the contrary
  • A feeling of shame or self-loathing related to one’s body
  • Frequent examination of the body parts they consider as flawed
  • Eating disorders
  • Use of many cosmetic products or procedures, exercise regimens, with no pleasure at results
  • Social withdrawal or social anxiety
  • Inability to function because of preoccupation about appearance

What Can Parents Do?
If you see signs that a child or teen may have Body Dysmorphic Disorder, it’s best to consult a mental health professional. The obsessive-compulsive nature of the illness, as well as the pervasiveness of the perceptual disturbance make simple assurances ineffective. Counseling, therapy and medication are known to help. If the illness is accompanied by dysfunctional eating and exercise habits, then the help of a medical doctor, eating disorders specialists or psychiatrist will also be helpful.

Child Worries About School Performance

School is a high-pressure environment. The student must compete with himself as well as with his peers. He wants to please himself, his parents and his teachers. It’s intense! Because most kids spend the majority of their day at school (and have to deal with homework once home), it’s only natural for them to feel stressed throughout the academic year.

How can parents help children who worry about school performance? Consider the following tips:

Equip Your Child with the Right Study Habits
School performance can be enhanced by having the right work ethic and knowing the tricks to better learning. If possible, hire a tutor to teach your child how to learn. That tutor (or, you, yourself, if you have the patience, skills, time and energy!) can teach your child mnemonics, or aids to better memorization, promote conscientious note-taking, provide some test-taking tips. If tutoring is not and option, check with your child’s teacher to see if he or she can provide a tutorial on study skills. In some schools, the guidance department also offers this service. You can also help by creating conducive study spaces at home, and make sure your child is always well-rested during class (by getting a good night’s sleep). When kids know how to approach learning like a science, they can feel less anxious about their school performance.

Encourage Your Children to Communicate Early if They’re Having Problems
Encourage your children to come to you or to their teacher ASAP if they are having difficulty in understanding or keeping up with lessons. It’s better to deal with a problem early, rather than feel the pressure when the problems have piled up. Similarly, it is always best if teachers know which of their students is experiencing worry about school performance. Knowing that a child has anxieties can make a teacher more sensitive about the things he or she will say, and proactive at providing encouragement. Let your child’s teacher know if your child is experiencing performance anxiety or learning anxiety of any kind.

Adjust Your Expectations Based on Your Child’s Natural Gifts
All parents want their children to be the best in their class — and there’s nothing wrong with encouraging kids to seek achievement. But the reality is, some children are more gifted than others when it comes to academics. There are also those with inborn skills that make them better adept than peers at certain subjects like math or language. If your child’s strength lies in other areas, such as sports or arts, then still encourage him to be the best that he can be in school, but also help him fulfill their potential in other areas. Try to have realistic academic expectations so your child doesn’t feel unduly pressured; it’s painful enough for children to receive low grades – they don’t want to know that they’re breaking your heart on top of it all.

Try Natural Remedies for School Stress
Bach Flower Remedies can help ease a child’s way through school stress. Larch helps with fear of failing. Cerato helps with feeling judged. White Chestnut helps with obsessive thinking (the kind that keeps you up at night). Rescue Remedy can help with test anxiety. Mimulus helps with shyness that might create social problems at school. You can find more information about the Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.

In addition, the use of EFT (emotional freedom technique) can reduce text anxiety, social stress and academic stress. You can find more information about EFT online and in books.

Seek Professional Help
When a child is suffering from academic stress and support and natural interventions are not enough to relieve the pressure, do consider seeking the help of a mental health professional. Panic attacks, stomach aches, headaches, depressed mood and chronic stress can all be alleviated with the right help. Ask your child’s pediatrician for a referral. Your child will not only feel better, but will likely perform better as well!

When Mother Feels Guilty

We can start each day wanting to do better. In fact – lucky for us – we can start each minute that way! Did I just scream at you? Oops! Let me say that again more quietly. Did I just call you an unpleasant name? I’m so sorry! I’m going to take steps to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Whatever I did wrong (for the last twenty years), discount I can still set right. In fact, cialis that’s the purpose of my life – to continuously improve my ways.

Slow Progress
Good intentions, however, are not enough. They rarely lead to actual changes in our thoughts or actions. A parent can “wish” to be a better parent every day while making no real progress toward that goal. How many years can pass by while a parent “wishes” to remove anger from her parenting toolbox! Meanwhile, little psyches are developing, absorbing the parent of now, today’s level of competence. How long can they wait for us to become models worth emulating?

No Time for Guilt
Such thoughts might lead some mothers to fall into their favorite emotional dark hole: the endless pit of guilt. However, feeling guilty about our personal failings isn’t necessary or productive. Of course we have human faults and imperfections. That’s a given. Our children and spouses are no better. The task is not to become perfect but simply to move forward. We’re just supposed to be working on ourselves, inch by inch, day by day. So we can pick a small area in which we perceiving a lacking and construct a program of rehabilitation for that one quality or tendency.

For instance, perhaps a mother feels that she’s too critical with her kids. She knows she picked up the trait from her own mother and she doesn’t want to pass it on to her kids and through them, to her grandchildren! Her oldest is already seven, so time is of the essence. She wants to change this behavior NOW!

Clearly, feeling guilty will not help. In fact, after spurring one on momentarily, guilt can lead to discouragement, despair, hopelessness and resignation. It’s an emotion that is generated by one’s own critical inner parent as it voices disapproval: “You’re such an awful mother. Your kids are going to hate you like you hate your mother. You never learn from your mistakes….” After listening to such inner abuse, who wouldn’t feel guilty and doomed to failure? The trick in dealing with guilt is to send the inner critic on a little trip to outer space. Tell that voice that no abuse is allowed in your inner world, so it has to leave – and then picture it being tossed into a sound-proof, sealed box and thrust far, far out of your head. Then, replace it with a healthy, helpful inner parent – one that is remarkably like the parent you are hoping to become. This gentle voice offers encouragement and structure. “It’s a new moment in time – the perfect moment for change. Let’s start by drawing up a plan that will help you achieve your goal of becoming less critical” (more patient, more affectionate, less stressed, less reactive, more upbeat, less judgmental, better at saying “no,” better at setting boundaries, more flexible……or whatever particular trait you decide to tackle).

The Plan
Let your inner, compassionate parent help you create a structure for change. Together you can outline the strategy (read a book, take a class, seek counseling, set up a buddy system) and gently review progress on a daily basis. Purchase a little book to keep track of your target behavior – rate it each evening between 1 (needs a lot of improvement) and 10 (outstanding accomplishment) and make little helpful comments in the margin (“remember to eat 3 meals to maintain equilibrium,” “take a power nap before kids get home to help raise this score tomorrow,” “remember to purchase little treats to reinforce this high score,” “review chapter 3 in anger book,” and so on). Know for certain that you will achieve your goal if you track it this way and make the adjustments you need to make in order for you to be able to consistently meet your target behavior. When you’re consistently achieving your goal, then target a new aspect of personal development and start a new page in your book.

Hold onto your book and use it as proof that you can change. Use this evidence to encourage yourself for all the future programs of change that you undertake. Take advantage of the new moment, the new day and the new year – so many opportunities for beautiful new beginnings!

Anxious and Stressed Teens

Anxiety is an unsettled, restless, uncomfortable state of mind that can affect people of all ages. Anxious teens may feel worried, stressed or panicky and can experience anxious feelings occasionally or frequently, mildly or intensely. Teenagers who have a lot of anxiety – the kind that interrupts their sleep, interferes with their functioning or causes them intense stress – should be seen by a mental health professional for assessment. Anxious feelings range all the way from normal levels of stress and worry that most people experience, all the way to symptoms of bona fida anxiety disorders – it takes a professional to determine what is going on when anxious feelings are anything more than minor and occasional.

What Triggers Teen Anxiety?
The teenage years are times of high stress, hard decisions and strong emotions. Teen anxiety can be triggered by many events in the teen’s life such as a broken relationship, a parental divorce or academic pressure in school. In addition, teenagers are living in a fast-paced, constantly changing world which creates its own pressure – there is no time to be still and settle in. Social pressures are particularly intense for this age group: kids worry about fitting in, feeling accepted, developing relationships, handling peer pressure and more.

What Parents can Do to Help?
Parents can be part of the problem or part of the solution. For instance, parents can put excessive pressure on teenagers by being too disapproving, too critical or too punitive. On the other hand, they can help relieve stress by being both accepting and gently guiding. They can offer encouragement, praise and validation, keeping the parent-child relationship primarily positive in the ideal 90-10 ratio that is healthiest for this age group (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for details about building a positive relationship with teenagers). Empathetic listening, ready humor and general acceptance go a long way to helping teens feel confident and emotionally secure.

Moreover, parents can guide teens toward activities that provide stress relief such as sports, drama clubs, volunteer work, and even part-time jobs. Parents can also encourage downtime, family fun (board games, outings, hobbies) and even cooking! A short vacation or even a few hours out of the house for some one-on-one quality time can often work wonders with an adolescent. Parents can even play some relaxing music in the house to help set a calm mood. Of course, reducing family stress (no yelling, fighting, marital battles, etc.) will also help reduce teen anxiety. If parents are experiencing stress of their own, they shouldn’t share it with their teens but rather with other supportive adults.

Warning Signs
There is a difference, however, between normal levels of worry and stress and levels that would be best treated with professional help. If a parent notices the following symptoms of anxiety, he or she should discuss them with a doctor and/or ask for a referral for to a  mental health professional (preferably and adolescent specialist) for assessment:

  • Inability to follow through with usual routines  (like getting to class on time, doing homework, doing one’s household chores, keeping one’s room cleaned, grooming oneself properly and so on)
  • Compulsive thoughts (inability to stop thinking about/worrying out loud about certain topics)
  • inability to make a decision without excessive input from others
  • Peculiar habits (i.e. arranging things, checking things, excessive washing, lengthy praying, repeating words or phrases, needing excessive rituals, refusing to touch certain things, wearing gloves inappropriately, and any other strange behavior
  • Agitated behavior (shaking, inability to settle down, stay still, sleep)
  • Disturbed sleep patterns (insomnia, early waking, nightmares)
  • Strange or excessive fears or worries
  • Refusal to go certain places (like malls or parties) or be with certain people or engage in age-appropriate social activities due to anxious feelings
  • Chronic unhappy or irritable mood
  • Addictive behavior (may stem from anxiety)
  • Self-harm such as cutting oneself, picking at one’s skin (may stem from anxiety)
Anxiety Disorders
There are several different types of anxiety disorders, all of which are thought to have biological roots. GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) is a state of chronic worry about everything and anything. Panic Disorder is a focused type of anxiety that may involve panic attacks with or without fear of leaving home unattended. Simple Phobia can involve any intense fear of any one thing like fear of needles or heights or flying. Social Phobia is a type of anxiety that involves fear of being judged negatively by others. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is an anxiety disorder that is triggered by experiencing or witnessed a life-threatening event. OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) can occur spontaneously or after a strep infection and involves anxious thoughts and compulsive rituals. Often teens with anxiety have other disorders as well – depression, ADHD, eating disorders and addictive disorders among others. Fortunately, all anxiety disorders respond well to treatment. Today there are many treatments besides medication that are quite effective – therapies, stress-management training, meditation-based interventions, alternative treatments and more. The sooner you get help for your anxious teen, the sooner your teen will enjoy peace of mind.

Child is Anxious

Childhood anxiety is very common. Small children – infants and toddlers – routinely show fear of strangers, new places and people, animals, loud noises, the dark and many other things. Most of these fears will melt away by the time a child is five or so. However, some children will continue to experience significant amounts of anxiety because they are “anxious by nature.” They have inherited “anxious genes.”

Fortunately, there are many new techniques available to help anxious kids (and adults!). We’ll look at one in this article – an  intervention called “WHEE” which stands for Wholistic Hybrid of EMDR and EFT. For those unfamiliar with these names of psychological treatments, WHEE can also stand for Wholistic Healing Easily and Effectively.

WHEE is a self-help technique. A parent can learn it and teach it to their child or they can take their child to a psychological practitioner who is familiar with it. Parents can learn all about WHEE at www.wholistichealingresearch.com where it is explained in depth by its developer, psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Benor.

WHEE Basics
Here is an introduction to the WHEE method. Try it on yourself first. Once you see how it can help calm and relax you, then teach it to your child.

  1. Think of something you are worried about. Rate how worried you are about the issue between 1 and 10, 10 being “extremely worried.”
  2. Fold your arms across your chest so that your right hand is resting on your left upper arm and your left hand is resting on your right upper arm. This is called the “Indian Chief” position, or the “Butterfly” position. You will be tapping alternately on your arms, left/right, left/right, left/right throughout the treatment (one tap on your left arm, followed by one tap on your right arm, repeating continuously for about 30 seconds).
  3. Close your eyes and start your alternate tapping. Say, “Even though I’m worried about (name your worry in as much detail as you possibly can), I know I am a good person (and God is with me and will help me). Include that last bracketed phrase if you believe it to be true. Continue tapping and worrying for about 30 seconds.
  4. Keeping eyes closed, put your hands on your lap and take a deep breath in and out. Let your energy settle. Notice what thoughts, feelings, sensations and images are coming into your awareness. If you have more worry than before, or there is a new disturbing thought, or you are less worried but still worried, start at step 1 and do all 4 steps again. If all the worry is gone, tap on your lap (left/right, left/right, etc.) SLOWLY, for only about 10 seconds, stating a positive thought as you are tapping (i.e. “I know it will be fine” or “God will help us through this” or “I feel calm and confident” or any other positive thought that now comes to your mind. Pause after 10 seconds of tapping and then repeat another 10 seconds with the positive thought. Finally, do one more round.

WHEE for Everything
A parent can help a child using WHEE for a phobia. For instance, suppose you are going to be visiting people who own a dog and your child is terrified of dogs. Before you go, you can ask the youngster to picture the dog and feel the fear. While he is feeling the fear, guide him through the WHEE steps, until he feels calm and confident.

A child may be anxious about an examination or test. WHEE can reduce the anxiety to zero. A child may be afraid to stay alone in his bedroom. WHEE can make the monsters disappear! WHEE can be used for any sort of distress such as sadness about a friend moving away, a pet dying or parents divorcing. WHEE can be used to help reduce anger, jealousy and overwhelm. It can eliminate all kinds of fears – such as the fear of public speaking, first time experiences, being away at camp and so on.

Once a child knows how to help himself with WHEE, his confidence will soar. He’ll have instant healing whenever he needs it – right at his fingertips!

Can’t Decide

Not everyone finds it easy to make decisions. In fact, look some grownups suffer terribly over making a commitment to a purchase, price a person or an activity. “What if it’s the wrong choice?” “What if other people will laugh at me/think I’m dumb for making this choice?” “What if it turns out to be a very costly error?” These kinds of questions can paralyze decision makers. Exhausting second-guessing, ailment rumination and intensive research make decision-making unpleasant and anxiety provoking for this group.

For decision-challenged folks, the anguish can continue long after the commitment is made. “I shouldn’t have bought this one. The other one would have been better. Now I can’t take it back and it’ll be all wrong forever.” “Maybe I can take it back or back out of it and choose what I should have chosen before.” Self-recrimination and blame color the world of poor decision-makers. No one wants their child to suffer the life-long pain of struggling with decisions.

Helping Kids Decide
Parents can play a role in helping their kids make confident decisions or in fostering decision insecurity. Decision insecurity is fostered by offering frequent negative feedback to the child. “That sweater doesn’t go with that skirt.” “You should play with so & so more often.” “I don’t understand why you like that author.” The child begins to think “Maybe Mom is right; I don’t know how to dress/who to play with/what to read.” When an authority figure like a parent decides what is supposed to be appealing and what is not supposed to be appealing, a child can easily lose confidence in his or her ability to make that call. Parents should save criticism for when it really matters.

When it comes to matters of personal preference, individual taste should be encouraged rather than discouraged. Personal preference is personal; there is no right or wrong. One person may like a particular painting while another despises the same piece of art. One youngster may like ketchup on his peanut butter sandwich while another would gag at the thought. However, a parent who wants to help her child be confident enough to decide matters of personal preference by him or herself, will be careful to encourage that confidence. “Why, ketchup on peanut butter is quite original Zack! You will probably be a gourmet cook one day who invents all kinds of new delicacies!”

Decision Anxiety
Trouble making decisions can be aggravated by critical parents. However, like all forms of anxiety, genes play a role as well. Adults and children with serious difficulties in making decisions are likely to be people whose genetic make-up made them particularly vulnerable to critical parents.

Most families have either a set of depression type genes or a set of anxiety type genes or both, running through their family trees. Thus most individuals have a tendency to some degree of negativity or worry. This tendency is reinforced by parents who model negativity and worry by expressing these feelings out loud, including the expression of critical remarks. Parents can be critical because they are anxious. They are worried that their child’s perceived poor decision may have serious negative consequences. What will happen if the child goes out in public with the unmatched outfit? What will happen if he continues to put ketchup on peanut butter sandwiches? The parent, so eager to save her child pain, accidentally increases the child’s suffering by causing the child to become uncertain.

Sometimes a child’s poor choices do end up causing difficulty, embarrassment, financial loss or other trouble. However, this is true of some of the choices that anyone of any age will make. The error itself needs to be welcomed rather than reprimanded. “I told you that wasn’t a good idea!” is not a helpful remark to make to a youngster whose poor decision results in a loss of some kind. Rather parents can offer more supportive and less traumatic comments, “You made a choice and sometimes it works out the way you hope it will and sometimes it doesn’t – that’s just how it goes. It happens to your father and I all the time!” Welcoming errors as part of the decision-making process allows children to continue to take the risk of making a decision. They learn that it is not the end of the world if the decision turns out badly, whereas those children who are made to feel that poor decisions are disastrous may have a lot of angst about making decisions. Similarly, the courage to make a decision is more important than the decision itself. A child who picks out a color for her bedroom wall can be encouraged as an interior-decorator-in-the-making whether or not the parent likes the color in question.

Rewarding decision-making behavior can help kids become confident decision makers.