Fear of New Experiences

To a certain extent, we all fear new experiences. We human beings like to know what to expect and what is expected of us in any given situation. The more we know about a “first-time” experience, the less fear we feel and the more confident and in-control we tend to be. Preparing for childbirth, for instance, helps first time parents to learn about the different stages of birthing and helps them acquire coping skills for each stage.

Children have many “first-time” experiences. There’s the first time with a babysitter, the first time getting a haircut, the first day of school (each year!), the first time at the dentist and so on and so forth. Every first-time event brings the child into contact with the unknown and the stress that accompanies it. What can parents do it help their children negotiate new experiences more comfortably?

Preparation
Just as it does for adults, information helps kids cope better with new experiences. Parents can use “bibliotherapy” (reading books)  to help prepare children for most new experiences; your public library most likely has a large selection of books about starting school, going to the doctor, going to the hospital, going on an airplane and so on. Similarly, parents can use the computer to show children pictures of virtually everything and in many cases, parents can actually take the child physically to the scene of the upcoming experience (i.e. to the hospital, to the classroom, to the barber shop) in order to become familiar with the setting and procedures before having to actually use them. Telling the child what will happen in a step-by-step fashion is also an excellent form of preparation (“First we’ll wait in a big room until a nurse calls our name. Then we’ll go into a small room and wait for Dr. Paulson. You’ll take your clothes off and put on a special hospital gown. Then Dr. Paulson will ask you to lie on the table and he’ll feel your tummy with his hands, sort of like this…”).

Alternative Remedies
Bach Flower Remedies and other similar preparations can be used to help children who are particularly fearful of new experiences. The remedy Mimulus can help as can the remedy Walnut. Two drops of each remedy in water or other liquid four times a day a couple of weeks before the new experience can help the child feel more relaxed and confident on the day of the event. Most health food stores carry the Bach Remedies. On the day of the new experience itself, whether or not the child has been taking remedies in the previous days or weeks, the mixture called “Rescue Remedy” can be taken as often as needed to help the child feel calm and confident (it’s great for adults too!).

Bilateral Tapping or EFT
Self-help techniques like “WHEE” or “EFT” (emotional freedom technique) can be used to help very fearful children get calm before a new experience. The internet is an excellent resource for these techniques and there are many therapists who can teach you how to help your child using a few minutes of these mind/body strategies.

Professional Therapy
Children who experience panic at the thought of a new experience or who have overwhelming fear during new experiences can be helped by a child psychologist. Often, brief therapy is all that is needed to provide the child with a set of coping skills.

Afraid to Wear Contact Lenses

The eye conditons that lead to a need for prescription lenses are hereditary; if you wear glasses or contacts, there’s a very good chance that your child will need to as well. While eyeglasses are not a bad option to correct sight problems, contact lenses are less obvious when worn and serve a cosmetic purpose. Contact lenses are also safer for people who play contact sports, and for those who engage in activities requiring an accurate side vision.

But What if Your Child is Afraid to Use Contacts?
As mentioned, eyeglasses work for most sight correction purposes. There are also those who think that eyeglasses are more practical; less effort to clean and maintain. However, some children and teens hate the idea of wearing glasses. Many kids feel they look more attractive wearing their “natural face,” un-bespeckled! When a child absolutely refuses to wear his or her glasses, the only alternative is contact lenses. However, some glass-hating children are fearful of using contact lenses.

Here are some tips for helping those with fears:

Encourage Patience
Contact lenses may feel strange for first-time users, even if they fit very well. Help your child to understand the concept of an adjustment period. Explain that putting the lenses in the eye for even a few minutes at a time will help the eye adjust slowly over some days.

Ask the Optometrist for Help
Your child may be afraid of scratching his or her eye. The eye doctor or optometrist can provide a contact lense tutorial. Internet resources can also be very helpful. Often, you or your child will know someone who has been successfully wearing contact lenses for years – ask that person for guidance as well! It is true, after all, that learning to put contact lenses on and taking them out can be tricky.  But there is a way of setting up the lenses so that one’s fingers would not even touch the eyeballs. A traditional method is to let the lens sit like a cup in one’s palm first, and then use the pad of the inserting finger to lift the lens by the “bottom of the cup” to one’s eye. If done properly, eye scratches will not be an issue. Keeping one’s fingernails short will also help.

Address Your Child’s Fears
Your child may be afraid that his or her eyes will dry out, and the lens will stick to the eye. Ouch! But that is an unreasonable worry. Our eyes are naturally wet, and capable of producing enough liquid to ward off irritation. However, saline solution is also available to wet the eyes in case they become irritated. As long as instructions on cleaning and wearing contact lenses are followed accurately, and the correct eye care solutions are used, having a contact lens stick to one’s eye should not be a concern.

Address the Practical Issues of Caring for Contacts
Your child might be afraid of losing contact lenses. Contact lenses may feel so fragile that it seems they can be blown off by the slightest rush of air. But only extreme situations, such a blow to the head or hurricane strength winds can knock a pair off. Wearing contact lenses past their expiration date can also loosen them. So if you buy a good brand, and you follow instructions for use, your pair will stay in place despite much stress.

Provide Pictures of the Eye and its Structure
Your child may be afraid that his or her pair will roll to the back of the eye. Loosing one’s contact lens to back of the eye is physically impossible; a thin membrane on the top of our eyes serves as barrier. While a lens may indeed roll underneath the eye lids, they can’t travel all the way to the back of one’s eye.

Teach Your Child How to Use and Care for Contact Lenses
The keys to a good contact lens experience is really buying good quality lenses, and following instructions as to how to properly wear and care for a pair. Problems often associated with contact lenses can be traced to the tendency to buy cheap brands that tear easily, not washing one’s hand before set-up, not using the right solution for cleaning and maintenance (tap water is not recommended!), and not disposing of expired lenses. As long as you and your child are conscientious about these things, there should be nothing to worry about.

Child Won’t Wear Glasses

Corrective eye wear – glasses or lenses – are often prescribed for children to help correct their vision problems. In some cases, a child needs eyeglasses because he or she is near-sighted; that is, the child has difficulty seeing objects that are far away. In other cases, the opposite is true. A child may be far-sighted (also called long-sighted); he or she has more difficulty clearly seeing objects that are close (like books). Nearsightedness is often accompanied by astigmatism, a condition that causes sometimes causes blurry vision, squinting and/or headaches.

If your child needs glasses but won’t wear them, what can you do about it? Consider the following tips:

Ask Them Why They Refuse to Wear Their Glasses
Different kids have different reasons for refusing to wear prescription eyeglasses, so don’t immediately assume defiance or misbehavior! Some kids just find it irritating to wear something on their face. Others think it makes them appear “nerdy” or “un-cool.” Some kids may be reacting to teasing by peers; being called “owl-face” or “four-eyes” can be very upsetting to sensitive souls. And some kids are experiencing physical side effects – they feel dizzy, suffer from headaches, or experience other symptoms. If you can surface your child’s specific concern regarding eyeglasses, you are in a better position to address the issue.

Check the Fit
If your child is physically uncomfortable with his or her glasses, consider a return trip to the optometrist for a re-fitting or even a return! Is your child’s pair too tight? Too heavy? Too loose? Are there any sharp or hard edges? Are the lens’ grades accurate? Well-fitting eyewear can be worn effortlessly, almost unnoticeably. 

Make it an Adventure
If your child is really young, consider making the wearing of eyeglasses exciting. Did you know that there are children’s story books specifically designed to help younger children adjust to having to wear eyeglasses? A quick search engine query will unearth some titles. You can also point out their favorite glasses-wearing TV and movie heroes (i.e. Harry Potter). And if you have a well-stocked family album (and a family history of wearing eyeglasses!), then identifying aunts, uncles and grandparents who wear a pair can be a fun exercise.

Educate Them About the Need to Wear Eyeglasses
If your child is old enough, arranging a friendly chat with their ophthalmologist or optometrist may be helpful. Knowing the actual health reason behind the prescriptive eyewear can make the wearing of them less of an imposition and more of a choice. The eye care professional may emphasize how common the need for eyeglasses is; it will make your child feel less alone. Identifying concrete benefits of an improved vision — no more waving to the wrong person across the playground, better grades, fewer headaches, more accurate dart games — can also help.

Consider Trendier Styles – even Contact Lenses
For older children (especially for teens and pre-teens), who are concerned mostly about what eyeglasses do to their appearance, try to let your child choose a more fashionable pair — or even contact lenses. As long as the eyeglasses are within your budget, and style doesn’t trump frame and lens quality, do encourage your child to express him or herself. Also keep in mind that even very young children like 5 or 6 year olds are quite self-conscious about their appearance. Make sure that your little child also really likes his or her glasses. Never decide for the youngster what glasses look good. As long as your child doesn’t pick something totally inappropriate or absolutely ugly or impractical, then let him or her have the choice. In other words, if your daughter wants pink frames on a normal looking pair of glasses, let her have them even though YOU think metal or clear frames will go with “everything.”

Make Eyeglasses a Normal and Expected Part of Life
Place your child’s eyeglass case alongside their school supplies and “expect” him or her to use them in a matter-of-fact way. “Please put your glasses when you’re doing your homework.” Don’t give up just because your child seems to be trying to avoid the issue. Persist, as if to say, “there’s no going back; you are wearing glasses now.” Of course, don’t use anger to get your point across. However, feel free to use positive reinforcement (“hey – you remembered to put your glasses on!”) or, if necessary, negative consequences (“if you don’t wear those glasses in school, I’m going to ask every teacher to place your seat in the front row so you can see the board.”)

Refuses to Go to a Mental Health Professional

In an ideal world, consulting a mental health professional would be as easy as consulting a medical doctor – and as stigma-free. Unfortunately, many people still feel an element of shame, embarrassment or other type of awkwardness about going to a psychological professional. Some people still think that mental health professionals only deal with people who are “crazy” and understandably don’t want to be an identified member of such a population. In fact, in the “olden days” mental illness was poorly understood and derogatory terms such as “crazy” were used to describe people who we know know were suffering from various biological disorders such as schizophrenia, manic-depressive disorder or delusional disorders. Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists can now help mentally ill people feel and function better than ever before. Moreover, modern mental health professionals assist not only those who are suffering from true mental illness, but also those who are completely mentally healthy. They help almost everyone to function in less stressful, more productive and happier ways, helping  them achieve their full potential in every area. People who access mental health services in order to feel and achieve their best, tend to be more emotionally sophisticated, open-minded and growth-oriented than those who do not. In other words, it is often the most mentally healthy people who consult mental health pofessionals today.

Although YOU may know all this, your child may not. In fact, your child may have the old misconception that going to a mental health professional means that there is something wrong with you. As a result, he or she may not want to see a mental health professional, even though you know that this is exactly what is needed.

If your child refuses to go to a mental health professional, consider the following tips:

Explain to your Child what Mental Health is and what Mental Health Professionals Do
As previously mentioned, there are many misconceptions that float around regarding the mental health profession — and even young children could have heard of them through playmates and peers. It’s important then that you explain carefully that mental health is just one aspect of our health. Emphasize that healthy people access mental health services in order to learn new skills, improve relationships, reduce stress and emotional discomfort, feel better physically, and achieve more in school or life. Be specific too – talk about the various tasks that mental health professionals perform such as psycho-educational assessments, mental health assessments, family counseling (to reduce conflict or help cope with stress), remove and/or manage fear, anger or sadness, and much more.

Your child may not recognize or agree that he or she has an issue that requires intervention. As a parent, you are in charge of your child’s well-being. If your child had an infection, you would insist on medical attention. Similarly, if your child needs help for an emotional problem, it is up to you to arrange it. If the child in question is a teenager, you might have to deal with resistance – be prepared. First try to motivate the youngster with reason – explain the possible benefits of assessment and treatment. If the child still refuses to cooperate, let him or her know that, privileges will be removed. For example, “No you don’t have to go to see Dr. Haber, but if you decide not to come, you will  not have the use of my car until you change your mind.” Think of whatever consequences might help motivate your adolescent to cooperate.

Tell children what to expect at their first session. If there will be art or music or toys, let your child know that the session should be very enjoyable, even while the therapist is learning about the child’s issues and learning how to be help. If it will be a talking therapy, tell the child how the therapist might open the conversation, what sort of questions might be asked and how the child might approach the conversation. Tell the child how to handle tricky situations like not wanting to talk or open up too much or feeling not understood or being fearful. In other words, prepare for everything!

Gently but Clearly Explain Why you are Referring Them to a Mental Health Practitioner
Tell your child why you have scheduled a mental health consultation. Explain that the consultation is meant to help the child and is not some sort of negative consequence! Kids who are caught breaking the law, or even family rules, are often scheduled for counseling in order to find out the reason for the misbehavior. Children who do not do well in school are referred to educational psychologists for assessment of learning disorders or other causes. Depressed or anxious teens may be sent to psychiatrists or psychologists for treatment. If you are having relationship difficulties with your youngster, make sure to participate in the counseling process in some way, either having joint sessions with the child or having individuals sessions just like the child is having, or both.

Negotiate Confidentiality Boundaries Beforehand
A tricky issue for children in therapy is confidentiality. It’s common for some kids to have hesitation talking to a mental health professional. For them, counselors are just their parents’ spies — a way parents can gather information about them. It’s important that parents (and maybe the mental health professional him or herself) clarify beforehand that all issues discussed within sessions are confidential, and that only the generic nature of issues discussed would be revealed to parents. Similarly, the mental health practitioner can specify what will remain confidential and what sorts of information cannot remain confidential, giving the child the opportunity to share or withhold information knowing the limits of confidentiality.

Tell your Kids that They can Terminate a Consultation Anytime
It’s important that kids actually enjoy their therapy experiences. Negative therapy experiences may affect them negatively throughout life as they refuse to get much needed help because of traumatic memories of therapy in childhood! Therefore, make sure that your child LIKES going to therapy or change the therapist, or the type of therapy, or even consider stopping therapy for the time being and trying again later. Usually, mental health professionals are good at establishing rapport with their clients and child and adolescent specialists are particularly skilled at making kids feel comfortable. Nonetheless, if your child remains uncomfortable after a couple of meetings, end the therapy. Adults also need to feel comfortable in therapy in order to benefit and they, too, have the right to “shop around” for a compatible therapist or therapy approach. Since there are so many different types of treatments and so many therapists, there; they will do their best to get your child feeling at ease before they start an actual intervention. But many factors can cause your child to be uncomfortable with a mental health professional. It’s helpful then that your child knows that you are at least willing to consider enlisting a different professional, or terminating sessions if there are significant concerns.

New Baby – Interfering In-laws

Parents-in-law can be wonderful assets in one’s family life but sometimes they can present tremendous challenge. Often,  it’s a little of both! And when one’s in-laws become the grandparents of one’s new baby, one’s relationship with them often takes on a new curve. Focus is diverted away from the adult children, to the new baby instead. But what does one do when in-laws are a bit too helpful or too opinionated, too needy or too intrusive?

If you have an interfering in-law, consider the following:

Start with Understanding
Babies are exciting! And if this is the first grandchild, you can especially understand the enthusiasm of your in-laws. In fact, you’d probably be disappointed if they showed no interest whatsoever in your new child. Moreover, if this is a first grandchild, keep in mind that your in-laws don’t yet know where to put themselves, don’t know the boundaries, don’t yet know the place of the grandparent. Even if this is not the first grandchild, your in-laws may not, for some reason, know how to behave appropriately. (In many cases, there are obvious reasons why they don’t know). You can, in a gentle and respectful way, begin to set boundaries in a way that your in-laws might be able to benefit from. For instance, you can say “Oh, thanks Mom – but we prefer to give the baby her bath ourselves.” Even if Mom-in-law is upset by this, you’ve done nothing wrong. You’re not responsible for her upset, unless you’ve abused her by being insulting, loud or harsh. Being quietly persistent with your wishes can set the boundaries over time.

Be One With Your Spouse in Planning How to Draw the Line
What if your in-laws are the stubborn type? They contradict your guidance, make major decisions without consulting you, and usurps what you feel is your role in child-rearing? Your spouse may be able to help. In some cases, your spouse is actually your best ally in negotiating boundaries. MAKE SURE YOU TREAT HIM OR HER LIKE AN ALLY rather than someone who is on the enemy team. Let your spouse know that you want to enjoy his or her parents  and have them actively in your family’s life. Ask for your spouse’s help in making the relationship workable and positive.

Your spouse knows your in-laws a lot more than you do. He or she will know how to approach them without creating further complications. Let your spouse deliver strong messages if he or she is willing to, so that you can stay out of it and maintain a good relationship with your in-laws. However, sometimes spouses cannot stand up to their parents or do not know how to properly support their partner. If your spouse will not draw the line, don’t despair: draw it yourself. Again, remaining respectful is the key. However, in the case of “difficult” in-laws, expect a more negative response. They will have to comply (because, after all, your baby is YOUR baby and YOUR kids are YOUR kids and YOUR home is YOUR home), but they might put up a big fuss. They can go ahead and do that if they want to and you can’t stop them. Again, their reaction is not your responsibility. Only YOUR behavior is your responsibility. As long as you have remained respectful, you have done nothing wrong. Be careful to NEVER raise your voice to them, never swear or use harsh language, never insult them. Suppose, for instance, that they want to feed your 4 month-old baby some solid food while you want the baby to be at least 8 months-old before starting solids. You see your father-in-law putting a spoonful of mashed food into your baby’s mouth! You go up to the man and say, quietly but firmly, “Dad. I believe I told you that I don’t want to give Jason food yet.  Doctor’ s orders!” You then remove the baby and resolve to yourself to stay in the same room with the baby and the father-in-law until the child reaches the ready-to-eat food stage.

Use the Parent Card
It’s possible that the reason why your in-laws are extremely hands-on with their child is because they feel they are the more experienced ones when it comes to parenting — and they are! Communicate with them that, while you appreciate their presence and their help, you also want to learn the thrills and frustrations of parenting first hand.

Their advice is welcome, but this is your family; you may do things differently than they did. Ask them to give you and your spouse a chance, and assure them that you both will do the best that you can because you love your child and your family.

Assure Them That You’re not Taking their Rights as Grandparents
If your in-laws express concern that you are preventing them from developing a relationship with their grandchild, explain to them that they are always welcome to bond with their grandkids. But when it comes to particular issues, you and your spouse will be the in the lead role, and them in the supporting role. Clarify that this doesn’t mean they are not needed, and that they their role is not critical. In fact, let them know just how loved, important and needed they really are.

Compliment your In-laws
Let your in-laws know how much you appreciate them. Be generous with praise (“You’re so great with the children. No wonder they love you so much!”). Express gratitude freely (“Thank you SO MUCH for babysitting. You are the BEST!”). Buy the occasional gift (“I picked up some of your favorite chocolate for you.”) Let them overhear you speaking well of them (“Grandma & Grandpa are very hands-on – we’re so lucky.”). Do whatever you can to make them feel loved and valued – this is usually the easiest and surest way to gain their cooperation and reduce conflict.

Don’t Blame your Spouse
Hopefully your spouse loves his or her parents. If you have complaints about your in-laws, try to share them with your friends or therapist rather than your spouse. Your spouse can’t help who his parents are. It’s hard enough having difficult in-laws – don’t make your life even more miserable by fighting with your partner about them. Keep your marriage strong by keeping your complaints as rare as possible. If necessary, arrange for a couple’s session with a professional therapist in order to address difficult in-law issues without hurting your relationship.

When Your Child Leaves Home

We normally think of children as the ones who suffer from “separation anxiety” – the panic that occurs when one is left by another. However, this phenomenon happens to parents as well as to children.

Moms who have to return to work after the birth of their babies may feel the pain of separation even more than the infants. Sometimes parents stay home with their infants and toddlers so that the first separations occur when the child is the one to leave for camp, playgroup or school. Little kids may cry and cling to their parents on these first excursions from home. However, parents may inwardly be doing much the same. After the child boards the bus or enters the building, Mom may find a private spot to shed her own tears. Many mothers find it hard to let their children attend out-of-town school. Giving up their ability to nurture their youngster on a daily basis can be hard. However, the hardest separation for parents to bear is often the one that occurs when a grown child leaves home for good.

Saying Goodbye
It is, of course, a good thing that children grow up and leave home. No one wishes for their child to stay at home forever. However, the fact that it is healthy and appropriate does nothing to lessons the upset for parents. Many mothers have very positive, close relationships with their older teenage children of both genders. When the child moves out, he or she will have adventures and experiences. If the child is moving out into a marriage, then he or she will have a new intimate companion and a new life. It is the parent who is left behind.

Marriage being what it is, it sometimes happens that the relationship one has with a grown child is closer, less conflicted and happier than the one that a person has with her own spouse! When this happens, the grief of “losing” a child is all the more intense. In fact, this is one reason that couples should always nurture their relationship to the utmost – to ensure that they HAVE a relationship when their youngsters move out to form their own. However, even if the marriage is fine, some women will enjoy a mother-child relationship that is quite different from the marital relationship; it may be fulfilling, satisfying and gratifying in a completely different way. When the tight bond is severed by travel, school or marriage, the mother can experience deep grief.

It is not uncommon for people to anticipate the loss ahead months in advance. Some women literally lose sleep over the thought of the loss of their child. Intense anxiety can occur in those who have been prone to anxiety in their lives. Depression can affect those who are prone to depression. Losing a child – even to good causes – triggers the old vulnerabilities and unfinished business of adults.

Coping with Loss
The first task in coping well with loss is to allow oneself to feel the pain. Becoming busy and distracted only prolongs the suffering. There will be time for extra projects later. When painful emotions are acknowledge and allowed, they float away. Just as a good cry clears up blocked emotions, listening to one’s own heart allows the heart to heal. There are many ways to begin this process. Talking to friends about grief is not the best way, since most people will want to talk you out of your feelings (“Don’t worry – soon you won’t want her back!”). Instead, keep a temporary journal. In it, write down – very quickly – your thoughts and feelings about your child leaving home. Do this for just a few minutes each day. The quick writing helps to get to your deeper feelings instead of staying on the calculated surface of the mind. Another exercise you can do is visit a counselor. The departure of a child can trigger many other issues – why not clean them all up now? Learning and using Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can be a very fast way to relieve the grief. Look for a local practitioner, book or course on this subject, or research EFT online.

Being compassionate towards yourself is essential. Of course this hurts. You’ve put your heart and soul into raising this child and you’ve invested endless minutes and hours for his or her well-being. Why wouldn’t it be monumental for the young person to now walk out of your life? Of course, many children don’t walk too far – their parents will still talk to them daily and/or see them often. And yet, it will never be the same. Honor the parenting journey by allowing yourself to feel those feelings at the end. You’ll free yourself up to feel the joy of the next stage of this awesome journey.

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!

When Your Child is Homesick

Home is where the heart is. When kids leave home – for a night, a weekend, a month, a school year, or for good – there are often mixed emotions. Excitement, fear and sadness are common feelings but may be confusing or even overwhelming for the youngster who is experiencing them. How can parents help their children negotiate departures most comfortably? How can they help them through the pain of homesickness when it occurs?

Homesick
The pain of leaving home has different sources for different children. Let’s look at three common origins of this type of sadness:

1. Leaving home for camp, school, vacation and travel means dealing with change. One is thrust out of one’s familiar, cozy, home environment and thrown into a new, different place. Kids who have trouble handling change will naturally have some level of difficulty in adjusting to living away from home because of that factor alone.

2. Leaving home also means leaving a place of security and familiarity. Children who tend to be fearful in general will often feel separation anxiety – the fear of being alone, separated from everything they know and love.

3. Leaving home for the first time is like any other “first time” experience; initially challenging and somewhat anxiety-provoking for almost everyone.

These three issues – difficulty handling change, general anxiety and the challenge of new experiences – require three different types of parental interventions.

Difficulty with Change
Some kids want to come home because they are having trouble being out of their familiar environment. If your child is like this, you can help prevent homesickness in the first place by helping your child become as familiar with the new environment as possible before he or she actually goes there. For instance, taking young children to see their new classroom before the first day of school helps the place to become somewhat familiar even though it is a new place. Taking children to see the hospital in preparation for a stay there is a similar concept. Sometimes, however, the child cannot go to the new location. In such a case, picture books or internet video clips might be employed to illustrate the general idea. There are, for instance, video clips of children preparing for surgery and recovery in a hospital – these clips show everything from the admitting desk to the surgical room and more.

Offering your child the Bach Flower Remedy Walnut can help foster an easier adjustment to change. Walnut is specifically indicated for those kids and teens who have a hard time with changing circumstances. Two drops in a little liquid, taken four times a day in the weeks before the change can help make the transition must easier and more comfortable. You can find more information on the Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.

If you have not been able to prepare your youngster for leaving home, you can help him adjust to change by sending along some familiar items (i.e. a favorite pillow, some family photos and so on). Once in his new location, it may be helpful for the child to be able to communicate with you frequently at first, simply to help ease the transition. As the child becomes more comfortable in his or her new surroundings, less communication will be necessary.

Allow your child to express his or her unhappy feelings. “I don’t like it here,” “I don’t like the food here,” “I don’t know anyone here,” I want to come home,” are all legitimate feelings. Acknowledge and accept them. “I know Honey. Yes it’s hard. Yes, it’s different. I understand.” Refrain from telling the child that he will soon get used to everything. Let that happen by itself. Also refrain from rescuing the child by bringing him home. He needs to master the experience of change. “You’ll soon be home again,” is enough – respond calmly to the child’s anxious and stressed state. Don’t offer too much reassurance, but instead convey through your calm responses that you believe in the child’s ability to handle the difficult feelings. “I know it’s not easy.” Say it sympathetically and just leave it at that. If the child is quite young, try to arrange for extra adult support. “Aunty Sara will let you sleep in her room for the first few nights.” Little kids need more help in adjusting to new environments. When they are given that help, their adjustment tends to be smoother. This is also why some nursery school classes allow parents to stay with a child for the first few days – or even weeks – of school. Gradual transitions to separation are easier on small children than sudden separations. Similarly, younger children do better with shorter stays away from home. It’s normally very hard on a four year old to be away from parents for more than a couple of days. Eight year-olds may be fine with two weeks away at camp. Fourteen year-olds can usually handle two months away with no problem. However, don’t be surprised to find your eighteen or nineteen year old child experiencing homesickness in College or other places away from home. They, too, can be bothered by the change or the separation issues.

Difficulty Separating
Children with separation issues need to build up their ability to leave home. If possible, help them to make short excursions before more lengthy ones: arrange for them to sleep over ONE night at Grandma’s house. Staying with familiar people helps in the early stages. Build up to two nights away, a few days, a week or two and a month – try to do all this before sending this kind of youngster off to college in another city. If you haven’t done this or if it hasn’t helped, and your child is painfully homesick missing YOU and the family, then it’s fine to help the youngster by providing as much communication as possible until he gets used to being away. For instance, there is no reason to avoid daily telephone calls or frequent texting (unless the child is at a camp that forbids this). Eventually the child will settle into his new environment and not need or want that much contact from you. Use some of the comfort strategies suggested above for kids who find change difficult – bringing familiar things from home can help at least a little.

The Bach Flower Remedy Mimulus can help reduce the pain of being away from loved ones. Give as described above for Walnut.

Again, it is important to help your youngster succeed at staying away. Bringing him home early should be avoided unless the homesickness is so overwhelming that the child is not functioning well in his new environment. Even an older teenager can be brought home if homesickness is interfering with his functioning – sometimes, he just needs one more year or two at home. People do develop at different rates. During that time, it would be wise to arrange brief separations as described above, in order to help prepare the child for a lengthier separation in the near future. Keep in mind that one 13 year-old is ready to leave happily to a boarding school while another is beyond miserable at the thought of being away. Your child is an individual who needs individual attention – there is no one right way to respond to serious homesickness. Do what feels right for you and your child. However, if a child is young (under 9) and homesick, go ahead and bring him home if it is possible to do so – he’ll do better with separation when he’s older.

The Stress of First Time Experiences
In order to reduce feelings of homesickness that are occurring due to the fact that the experience of being away is new, help prepare the child for the experience as much as possible. Use the strategies suggested above for kids who have difficulty with change.

Sometimes there is no time to prepare a child. A youngster might suddenly require hospitalization, for instance or he may have to suddenly stay at a relative’s house due to a family emergency. Explain what is happening in as much detail as possible. “Mommy and Daddy have to fly to New York for Grandad’s funeral. You will be staying with the Gold’s until we get back. We’ll be gone for four days. We’ll call you every morning to say good morning and every night to say goodnight before you go to sleep. You will have breakfast, lunch and dinner with the Gold’s. You will also have a bath there one night. I am sending your clothes and your school books. You’ll go to school as usual and they will pick you up afterward…” Giving the child all of this information can help him cope with the novel situation with less stress.

However, the child may still miss his home and his parents. Again, allow him to be sad – his feelings of homesickness are perfectly normal. Let him know you understand. DON’T try to talk him out of his feelings – the fastest way for him to feel better is for him to be able to say what he feels. Young kids can be encouraged to draw pictures for their parents or pictures of their feelings. Sometimes art is a better medium for the expression of their feelings than words.

For children who are feeling homesick, the Bach Flower Remedy Honeysuckle might help. When there is nothing else that can be done, go ahead and offer two drops of Honeysuckle in liquid four times a day until the child is feeling better – or until he is returning home!

Weaning: Starting on Solid Foods

Weaning refers to the process of transitioning an infant or a toddler from breast or bottle to solid food. While mothers do not have to begin this process by a certain time, the weaning process is inevitable, as babies will eventually want to eat food! Many pediatricians recommend the gradual introduction of a non-milk diet alongside breast or formula by age 6 months. Some others suggest that breast milk is a complete diet until the end of the first year of life. Mothers generally wean their babies whenever they want to – typically somewhere between 6 months and 2 years of age, with some weaning earlier and some weaning later.

Whenever it occurs, the weaning period can be a stressful time for both mother and child, and requires much patience and sensitivity. Sometimes mothers are resistant to stop nursing even if the child is showing signs of readiness to wean. At other times, it is the child who has difficulty adjusting to the change, enjoying both the sucking of the nipple on bottle or breast, and also the comfort of being held closely. Because of this, weaning is best done gradually, instead of implementing an abrupt stop.

The following are some tips for easier  weaning:

Start Before Age One
As mentioned, there’s no standard age for weaning babies. Breast milk can provide excellent nourishment for quite a long time. However, many experts have found that mothers who start weaning from bottle or breast after their child’s first birthday encounter more resistance compared to babies weaned earlier. This resistance lessens when the child is a toddler. At that point, parents can actually TALK to the child about weaning and even enlist the child’s conscious cooperation. Therefore, weaning is easiest if carried out either between 6 months to one year of age, or when the child is a toddler.

Facilitate by Gradually Transitioning to Bottles and Cups
One way weaning can be facilitated is by gradually introducing milk presented in feeding bottles or sippy cups. If you nurse three or four times a day, for example, you can change one breastfeeding schedule to a bottle-feeding one. And when your pediatrician has allowed it, you can use a bottle and later, a cup, to give your baby other substantial liquids. Usually babies enjoy having something novel so much, they don’t notice you gradually lessening nursing time.

Slowly Introduce Your Solids
At 6 months, your baby is ready for a taste of solid foods. For example, vegetables like potatoes and carrots may be given to your baby; just make sure that they are boiled soft, mashed and/or run through a food processor. If you can exchange a traditional nursing time for the feeding of these soupy solids, then your baby can gradually ease to the change. Some infants do resist — they can cry or become irritable until nursed. If this is the case then parents can experiment on the right amount of change their young ones can tolerate;  for example, they can start with feeding solids only after every two days instead of every day.

Distract
It may sound a bit manipulative, but distracting a baby from noticing a loss is one way to help him adjust to the change in his diet. Plan something interesting to do during what your child has associated to be nursing time. Don’t stay in the same room where you usually nurse. The less aware your baby is that something is different in the routine, the more willing he will be to accept the new schedule. Distract your child through daytime nursing periods first. Then, wean him off of nursing for his daytime nap. Then begin to wean him from his nighttime nursings or bottle feedings gradually, over the course of days and weeks. Don’t start the weaning process unless you are determined to carry it through to the end as mixed messages will seriously delay progress. For instance, don’t stop the weaning process because your baby has a cold or because you will be travelling. Instead, try to choose a period in which you feel stable enough to complete the weaning process. If your child needs extra comfort during this period for some reason (illness, upset, change), find a non-nursing way to provide it. After all, you will have to be able to do this from now on in any event as using the breast or bottle as the grand soother will no longer be possible for your weaned child.

Celebrate
If your child is old enough to understand and participate in the weaning process, include him! Let him know that nursing will soon no longer be an option but that when he gives up nursing altogether, there will be a weaning party and/or a special weaning present. As usual, give up the waking daytime nursing periods first, followed by the daytime nap nursing, followed by night nursing. If you have been nursing a toddler to sleep, start by nursing every other night for awhile, then every third night for awhile and finally stretch the non-nursing period to three nights off, one night on. When this is established, you can stop nursing altogether and hold the weaning celebration ceremony! A similar process can be used to wean toddlers off a bottle. Let the child know that you are working toward this, the bottles will be all gone, and there will be a celebration when there are no more bottles. If your child has been using a bottle to soothe himself to sleep at night, you will want to help provide different sleeping rituals during (and preferably long before) the weaning process. In order to wean successfully, do not let the baby go back to the bottle once you decide to completely withdraw it. Mixed messages prolong the weaning process and confuse the child. Consistency is the key to success.

Lastly, Be Aware of Your emotions!
If you experience some sadness or sense of loss from the process of weaning your nursing baby, don’t worry. These emotions are normal. Nursing can be such a huge bonding moment for parents and babies that letting it go feels hard. Allow yourself to feel these emotions. Weaning a baby from the bottle can also mark the end of an adorable baby stage and bring about some sadness on the part of the parent. However, weaning from a bottle – similar to toilet training – also brings about a new level of parental stress. The parent might find it harder to calm an upset little one. Now the parent will have to try words, distractions, toys, foods or other things to help a child calm down, whereas the bottle used to do the trick. Of course, this is all part of normal development and brings with it –  just like every other developmental milestone in your child’s life –  a whole lot more to look forward to!

Helping Your Children Adjust to a New Baby in the House

How exciting! A new baby will soon claim his or her place in the family. Many children are thrilled at the idea. Only the idea. The reality of a new baby may affect them differently. New babies bring tired mommies and peanut-butter dinners. New babies makes lots of noise and demand tons of attention. What is the best way to help toddlers and pre-schoolers adapt to the change?

Helping the Little Ones Adjust
Little children who have only recently left their own “babyhoods” behind benefit from a gradual stepping down strategy. These guys used to be the ones who everyone wanted to hold and cuddle, patient play with and smother with kisses. Now they have to take a back seat to the new comer. Adding insult to injury, they are often rudely ousted from the protective shelter of babyhood into the cold, crueler world of childhood: “You’re a big boy now,” parents will tell them. “You’re Mommy’s helper.” Children of two, three, four and even five, are actually not all that big. Fifteen is big. Fifteen is sometimes taller than you are, but toddlers and pre-schoolers are still quite small. They are small in size and small emotionally — they are still babies.

Respecting the babyish quality of this young group helps little ones make a much better adjustment to the newborn. Call everyone under 6 “my baby.” If all your kids are under 6, you can greet them this way, “How are all my babies this morning?” “Did all my babies have a good sleep?” If one of these “babies” protests that she is not a baby, she is a big girl, then go with it. As long as the child promotes herself then she’s ready to move out of her babyhood. However, when the child is still 5 years old or less, you can offer to extend the pampered years a bit longer by correcting her: “O.K. You’re not a baby, but you’re not a big girl either. You’re my little girl. My sweet little girl.” Now you may be wondering why the mother would want to make a self-defining “big girl” into a “sweet little girl.” The reason is this: there is a very short period in life in which we can be coddled, protected and nurtured – completely taken care of. When we are not rushed through that tiny window of time, all of our needs for infantile nurturing will be met appropriately. If we can’t be little when we really are little, then we may end up being inappropriately little when we’re actually big. Have you ever seen an 8 year-old competing for attention with a baby? Have you ever seen a grown man or woman do the same? Sometimes teenagers insist that other people take care of them: wake them up, stay at home with them, plan their schedules and so on. Wouldn’t it be better for older children and people to be independent? Independence comes when all of our dependency needs are met. The time for dependence (and “littleness”) is in the first five years of life.

No Promotions
Therefore, let the little children in the family remain little, even when you bring home an even littler one. This is not the time to suddenly wean a child. This is not the time to take a child who was in your bed out of it. If at all possible, let some months go by before you make any changes in the lifestyle of the other little people. If a new baby will be born at just the time that a child will first start playgroup, try to have that child go to camp or a children’s program before the birth. If a child will be moving out of a crib, either wait a few months after the birth or change the bed before the birth. Anyone who is still eating baby food, sucking on pacifiers or wearing diapers, can still do so for some months after the birth. When life with the new baby has become routine again, any change that is needed can be addressed.

Enhance Group Bonding
In order to reduce jealous feelings, it’s helpful to adopt an inclusive “we” mentality regarding the baby. Instead of “I have to feed the baby now” it can be “We have to feed the baby now. Let’s go to the living room.” “We have to get the baby dressed—let’s find his undershirt.” This technique helps the children bond with the baby and with the family unit. Everyone is in this together.

In order to reduce competition, never blame the baby for having to neglect another child. Instead of “I can’t play with you right now because I have to take care of the baby” try “Let’s take care of the baby so we can sit down together and play.” Don’t mention the baby as the reason another child can’t have what she wants. Instead of “I was up with the baby all night and I’m too tired now to go to the zoo” just try, “We can’t go to the zoo today. We’ll go later this week.” Instead of “I can’t feed you until I finish feeding the baby,” just try “I’ll make your lunch soon.”

Finally, don’t leave the baby at home in order to have quality time with another child. This gives the older ones the impression that there is not enough love to go around and that everybody has to have a “turn.” It also makes older ones insecure, knowing that you are willing to leave the baby behind — it triggers their own abandonment fears. Security is increased when young children know their parents will bring the baby too; family outings include the baby.

These strategies can help little children have a smoother adjustment to the new baby. Keep in mind, however, that the individual nature of a child also plays a major role in his or her adjustment to change in general and to new siblings in particular. Some kids will just find it harder. Be gentle with yourself as a parent and gentle with the kids too. And don’t worry: soon the new baby will be the old baby and there will be other issues to address!