When parents bring their children in for medical care these days, there is no such thing as a casual, “Hey, how’s it going?” We doctors walk into every exam room prepared to hear a story of sadness and stress, or at the very least, of coping and keeping it together in this very hard year, full of isolation, loss, tragedy and hardship, with routines disrupted and comfort hard to come by.
Parents have carried heavy burdens of stress and responsibility, worrying about themselves but also watching their children struggle, and there is worldwide concern about depression and suicidality among young people. But it isn’t only the adults and the young adults and teenagers who are suffering and sad; young children can also experience depression, but it can look very different, which makes it challenging for parents — or doctors — to recognize it and provide help.
Rachel Busman, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in New York City, said that it can be hard to think about depression in younger children because we picture childhood as a time of innocence and joy. But as many as 2 to 3 percent of children ages 6 to 12 can have serious depression, she said. And children with anxiety disorders, which are present in more than 7 percent of children aged 3 to 17, are also at risk for depression.
Dr. Helen Egger, until recently the chair of child and adolescent psychiatry at N.Y.U. Langone Health, said that according to her epidemiologic research, between 1 and 2 percent of young children — as young as 3 — are depressed
Depression was originally conceived of as an adult problem. Maria Kovacs, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said that in the 1950s and ’60s, there were child psychiatrists who believed that children did not have sufficient ego development to feel depression, but that research that she and other colleagues did in the ’70s showed that “school age children can suffer from diagnosable depression.”
Before adolescence, depression is equally common in girls and boys, though among adolescents, it is twice as common in girls, and that predominance then lasts across most of adult life, until old age, when it again appears to equalize.
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What does depression look like in younger children?
When young children are depressed, Dr. Kovacs said, it’s not unusual for “the primary mood to be irritability, not sadness — it comes across as being very cranky.” And children are much less likely to understand that what they’re feeling is depression, or identify it that way. “It almost never happens that they say, ‘something’s wrong because I’m sad,’” Dr. Kovacs said. It’s up to adults to look for signs that something is not right, she said.
The best way for parents to recognize depression in young children is not so much by what a child says as by what the child does — or stops doing. Look for “significant changes in functioning,” Dr. Kovacs said, “if a child stops playing with favorite things, stops responding to what he used to respond to.”
This might mean a child loses interest in the toys or games or jokes or rituals that used to be reliably fun or entertaining, or doesn’t seem interested in the usual back and forth of family life.
“You’ve had a kid who was one way and then you see that they’re more irritable and sad,” said Dr. Egger, who is now the chief medical and scientific officer at Little Otter, a new online mental health care company for children. Children may seem flattened, have less energy or tire easily. And they may start complaining about physical symptoms, especially stomach aches and headaches. They may sleep more — or less — or lose their appetites.
A preschool-aged child might be depressed if she is having daily tantrums, with behaviors that risk hurting herself or other people. Depression “may look like a behavior problem but is really being driven by what the kid is feeling inside,” Dr. Egger said.
“It’s like walking through the world with dark-colored glasses,” Dr. Busman said. “It’s about myself, about the other person, and the world — I suck, this sucks, everything sucks.”
Should I ask about suicidal thoughts?
The irritability and the anger — or the flatness and the shutting down — can be signs of profound sadness. And while suicide attempts by elementary school-aged children are rare, they do happen and have increased in recent years. Suicide was the second leading cause of death in children 10 to 14 in 2018, and a 2019 JAMA study showed increasing emergency room visits by children for suicidal thoughts or actions from 2007 to 2015 — 41 percent in children under 11 years old. The presence of suicidal thoughts should be seen as a call for help.
The most problematic myth about suicide is the fear “that if you ask about suicide you’re putting the idea in their heads,” said Dr. Kovacs, who developed the Children’s Depression Inventory, which is used all over the world.
“If you’re dealing with a child for whom this is not an issue, they’re just going to stare at you like you’re out of your head,” Dr. Kovacs said. “You cannot harm somebody by asking them.”
But what if children say they have thought of suicide? As with adults, this suggests the child is living with pain and perhaps thinking about a way out. Dr. Kovacs said, children may imagine death as “a release, a surcease, a relief.”
Dr. Busman said that she works with children who may say, “I don’t want to kill myself but I feel so bad I don’t know what else to do and say.”
If a child talks about wanting to die, ask what that child means, and get help from a therapist if you’re concerned. A statement like this can be a real signal that a child is in distress, so don’t dismiss it or write it off as something the child is just saying for attention, she said.
How can treatment help?
“Parents should take child symptoms very seriously,” said Jonathan Comer, professor of psychology and psychiatry at Florida International University. “In serious forms it snowballs with time, and earlier onset is associated with worse outcomes across the life span.”
In a 2016 longitudinal study, Dr. Kovacs and her colleagues traced the course of depression starting in childhood, and found recurrent episodes in later life.
So if you see changes like withdrawal from activities, irritability or sadness, fatigue, or sleep disturbances that persist for two weeks, consider having the child evaluated by someone who is familiar with mental health issues in children of that age. Start with your pediatrician, who will know about resources available in your area.
Parents should insist on a comprehensive mental health evaluation, Dr. Busman said, including gathering history from the parent, spending time with the child and talking to the school. An evaluation should include questions about symptoms of depression as well as looking for other problems, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or anxiety, which may be at the root of the child’s distress.
Early treatment is effective, Dr. Comer said, “There’s terrific evidence for family-focused treatment for child depression — it focuses on family interactions and their impact on mood.” With children from 3 to 7, he said, versions of parent-child interaction therapy, known as PCIT, are often used — essentially coaching parents, and helping them emphasize and praise what is positive about their children’s behavior.
As much as possible, parents should try to keep children going outside, taking walks, even playing outdoor games, even if they are less enthusiastic about their usual activities. As with adults, physical exercise has both mental and biological benefits — as do fresh air and sunshine.
Depression does not necessarily lend itself to simple cause-and-effect explanations, but Dr. Kovacs emphasized that with a first episode in a child, there is almost always a particular stressor that has set off the problem. It could be a change in the family constellation — a parental divorce, a death — or it could be something more subtle, like an anxiety that has spiraled out of control. If a child does begin therapy, part of the treatment will be to identify — and talk about — that stressor.
How can I find help for my child?
If you’re concerned that your child might be depressed, start with your pediatrician or other primary care provider. Some clinics and health centers will have in-house mental health services, and you may be able to have your child seen there. Some doctors will have links to local therapists with experience with young children. Mental health specialists can be in short supply (and there’s a lot of need right now), so be open to the possibility of care being delivered remotely, through telehealth. Dr. Kovacs also suggested that parents who are looking for treatment consider clinical psychology department clinics at a local university, where students in psychology and counseling are supervised by licensed psychologists; she said such clinics often have good availability.
“Parents should see children’s struggles as opportunities to intervene,” Dr. Comer said. “The majority of early child mood problems will go away with time, sensitive parenting and supportive environments.”
Dr. Perri Klass is the author of the book “A Good Time to Be Born: How Science and Public Health Gave Children a Future,” on how our world has been transformed by the radical decline of infant and child mortality. @PerriKlass
Ms. Scott's Counseling Corner
Holidays During the Pandemic
Tips for reducing stress, helping kids cope, and making new traditions
As we head into the holidays, families everywhere are struggling to make plans appropriate for the pandemic. How do we celebrate when we can’t be together as usual? How do we resolve differences of opinion about what is safe? How do we deal with more disappointment and frustration — and help our kids do the same?
We can’t tell you what the right (or safe) choices are for your family, but here are some tips to make the best of holidays during the pandemic, whatever your situation. We asked our experts for advice about ways to minimize stress and help everyone in the family feel as good as possible about this unusual holiday season.
Don’t wait to make plans
Discussions about this year’s holidays can be painful, but making plans ahead of time will make the days themselves much less stressful. “I think some people are thinking, ‘Let’s play it by ear. We still have plenty of time before Christmas. Let’s see how the COVID numbers look later,’” says Kenya Hameed, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. But, Dr. Hameed advises, it’s better to work with the information we have now and plan accordingly. That gives everyone time to make good decisions and get comfortable with them, especially if they represent a big change in family traditions kids look forward to – like a shopping trip with grandma or a holiday party with friends.
“The more predictability we can create in this uncertain time, the better it is for kids,” notes Grace Berman, LCSW, a social worker at the Child Mind Institute. “By making decisions early, you can really help them be prepared for what’s going to happen.” She suggests outlining for kids what Thanksgiving or Hanukkah or whatever you celebrate is going to look like this year, and then helping them cope ahead with it — work through feelings they might have and come up with strategies to feel better. If you wait until the last minute to figure out plans, kids won’t have time to deal with any confusion or disappointment, which will make the holidays that much more stressful for the whole family.
Discuss rules in advance
Differences of opinion about how to gather safely may be a huge source of stress this holiday season. Safety measures for any kind of holiday gathering should be discussed clearly and decided in advance, advises Colin de Miranda, ASW, a social worker at the Child Mind Institute. “You need clear communication, maybe with everybody getting on a call beforehand and laying out who’s comfortable with what,” de Miranda says.
Will everyone be tested before coming? Where do we stand on hugging? What are our rules about masks? Avoid awkwardness and conflict (and unexpected risk to your family’s safety) by making explicit agreements ahead of time with everyone who’s going to be present. By setting those sorts of ground rules, Dr. Hameed adds, anyone who isn’t comfortable with the arrangements has a chance to excuse themselves from participating.
Knowing that safety rules have been considered carefully is especially important if you have a child with a lot of anxiety around COVID, notes Berman. Whatever you decide to do, it’s comforting for an anxious child to hear from you that the plan is a careful one: “We’ve thought about it and discussed it with everyone, and this is the decision we’ve come to. It’s okay for you to feel anxious, and here are all the steps that we’re taking to make sure that everyone can feel safe.”
Stay the course
And what do you do when a guest who has agreed to a socially distanced visit comes in for the hug anyway? Time to refer to those ground rules. “You can say, ‘Remember, we discussed this, and so as much as I want to hug you right now or as much as I want to be able to see your face without that mask on, I have to ask you to stick to the rules we set,” says Dr. Hameed. It can also be helpful give kids a script to use if someone isn’t respecting the rules: “My mom says I’m not allowed to give you a hug this year but we can wave!”
“Clarity and directness upfront will go a really long way in getting people to follow through,” adds Berman. “We see that with kids, and we see it with adults as well.”
Setting a clear timeline with guests can also boost compliance with rules, especially if guests are going to be drinking alcohol as the gathering does on. Invitations commonly come with a start time but not an end time, notes Dr. Hameed. “So this year, families might want to think about having a time where everyone is expected to leave.
Start new traditions
If you’re not going to be able to celebrate in the way your family is accustomed to, be proactive and find new activities to make the pandemic holidays special.
“If you’re not able to share a meal with friends and family, it could be an opportunity to share in other ways, like building photo albums for family members,” suggests de Miranda. Maybe you can cook and swap dishes with nearby loved ones or write letters to relatives you’re not able to see in person this year.
Helping your kids think about ways to be kind and generous to others can make this year’s changes easier to handle, says Berman. For example, try letting your child pick a charity your family can give to. “We know that when we’re dealing with difficult emotions ourselves, doing something for someone else can really help us feel better.”
Give kids a voice
When framing this year as special and creating new activities and traditions, says Dr. Hameed, let kids have a role. What would make this feel special to your kids in positive ways, not just in the negative ways that we’re all aware of? What would they like to cook? What games do they want to play? Do they want to set aside time for favorite movies or listen to special music? “Being part of that decision-making process helps offset some of those negative feelings,” Dr. Hameed explains.
“A lot of times, as parents, we are trying to come up with ideas for things for our kids,” adds Berman. “But really, if you just ask your child, they will have ideas, and that voice that you give them is really important and a strong protective factor.”
Remember that all the changes this year can also be a chance to make the holidays more kid-friendly. Maybe everyone dresses up in a costume. Maybe the kids get to try out a messy new recipe or help stuff the turkey, now that the stakes for Thanksgiving dinner aren’t so high. Maybe it’s a big game of hide and seek that everyone — adults included — participates in. “These might just be simple things that you wouldn’t normally do,” says Dr. Hameed, “but they can still make things more fun for the kids.”
Let kids express disappointment
When children are upset about cancelled trips or not seeing cousins, it’s tempting to tell them that it’ll be fine, and that they’ll have just as much fun at home. But it’s important to validate their feelings by hearing them out. “You want to really pause and acknowledge that you’re disappointed, too, and let them know that it’s okay for them to feel disappointed,” says Berman.
It’s also helpful to model coping with that disappointment in a positive way. Talk to your kids about what you’re doing to feel better (like scheduling calls with far-off friends or making a favorite recipe) and help them find their own ways to do the same.
And if kids are upset or angry about your decisions not to participate in a larger family gathering, it’s important to validate those feelings too. Dr. Berman suggests language like: “I understand that you’re mad right now. It’s okay to feel frustrated. We made this decision because we thought it was the best way to stay safe. But it’s okay to feel disappointed and mad.”
That validation can go a long way in bringing down those feelings, and it gives you an opening to calmly explaining your reasoning. “Sometimes kids get upset because we’re making decisions and not really giving them any information,” says Berman. Keeping your kids in the conversation and letting them know that you hear them can help them feel respected even in situations that don’t go the way they want.
Ms. Scott's Counseling Corner
What School Counselors Want Parents To Know This Year
School counselors are the understated superheroes of schools. They’re always there to lend advice, provide a shoulder to cry on, and to serve as motivators for students. Since they do give such wonderful and thoughtful advice and are fierce advocates for our children, what school counselors want parents to know this year could give you some serious relief. It doesn't matter what school looks like for your family this year, whether it's digital, in-person, or some kind of hybrid. What matters is that your children feel safe and loved and protected, according to counselors.
For kids who are doing some form of virtual learning, the most important thing to have is a routine and some sort of predictability. School psychologist Rebecca Branstetter tells Romper, “Routines and predictability are proven to be calming during times of stress. So that means the best thing to do is to provide structure to the days as much as possible. That doesn’t mean outlining a strict schedule that perfectly mirrors a school day, but more of defining a new normal for the time being.”
Frankie Lynn Clardy, a retired school counselor of 14 years says that routine can also help parents check their child’s social-emotional level. “When you establish structure, setting time and expectations, you can look for signs of shutdown or resistance.”
Some imperative red flags to look out for in your children who are distance learning include a drastic change in mood and lack of focus, according to school counselor Kelly West. “Students may feel reluctant at times to participate in virtual learning based on the loss of in-person social engagement with teachers and peers. It’s not the same, despite the ability to view faces and chat in an online learning room, however the adjustment behaviorally is one for parents to observe with their child to support during this adjustment period.”
Clardy says to also look out for any kind of behavior that isn't typical of your child, like talking back or refusing to do their work. “If you also see signs that your child has become a worry wart, having temper tantrums or unusual sleep patterns, these could also be indicators of some social-emotional problems," Clardy adds, suggesting that quarantine itself may be to blame for some of these changes, and not just digital learning.
West also says that it helps to be aware of your child's ability to focus while learning online. "A child learning at home may become easily distracted with various stimuli — TV on, loud noises , window views — so if at all possible, create a learning station/space designated for learning based on your child’s needs.”
To help combat any negative feelings, Clardy says it’s important for kids to be active and to walk outside or “do some type of movement” every single day at the same time. There’s that routine again. She adds that children need a lot of breaks when doing online learning. “Every child is traumatized in some way by this new normal. They may be traumatized because they never got to tell their teacher and their friends good bye all the way to trauma from a parent's loss of job or abusive home situation."
For kids returning to school in person, Clardy says that it’s imperative to use the school staff as a resource. “Schools are very aware of the social-emotional needs of every child in the building. Schools are planning extra training for their staff in this area, with some schools planning to have morning meetings with the students so they may discuss any social-emotional issues before the academics begin.”
She suggests that if you see a change in your child's behavior once the school year has resumed, reach out to their teacher or school counselor. "Maybe the child is not exhibiting that same behavior at school and can hold it together while at school, but loses control when they are at home. Let the school help you decide if you should be worried or not.”
West says that anxiety is a major red flag for kids who are returning to school in person. “Information regarding this pandemic has been the ongoing topic of discussion since March on all social media platforms and has changed our daily lives,” she says. So it makes sense that our kids are anxious about this, too, and might feel uneasy about being around peers and staff.
No matter how your child exhibits their nervousness, it's important to talk to them about it so they feel validated and heard. "Remember that your child is not giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time," Branstetter says. “The number one thing parents can do for their children right now is to ‘hold space’ for whatever they are feeling."
She says that for older children, you can ask them if they want to process or problem-solve. Processing looks like talking about their feelings and acknowledging that this is a difficult time, while problem-solving might look like collaborating on safe solutions for more connection.
For kids who aren’t necessarily into talking about their feelings, West says to “find a safe activity like walking or asking your child to help with a small task, like folding clothes, to share a bit of your feelings about working from home or any aspect about dealing with COVID." This can help them open up and realize they aren't alone in their feelings.
The most important thing for everyone right now is to always set aside time to talk as a family, Clardy says. “Ask what is going well and not-so-well. We are all in a place of uncharted territory. The more ways we can keep check on a child's social-emotional temperature, the more we can help them work through their feelings about what is going on. Do not be afraid of the tough questions,” she says. Children need to be heard and need their feelings validated. Always.
Frankie Lynn Clardy, a former elementary teacher of 25 years, and retired school counselor of 14 years
Kelly West, a professional school counselor of 10 years
Ms. Scott's Counseling Corner
Insights from Love & Logic
Now that schools have closed due to the Coronavirus outbreak, how can parents best help their children learn and complete work while avoiding counterproductive power struggles?
Much of the answer involves sharing control within the boundaries of firm yet loving limits. It’s an old concept made even more relevant by the current situation. Most of us feel that our lives have been turned upside down. We’re experiencing little or no control over so many things.
Do we all yearn for control? What happens when we feel like we’ve lost it?
Obviously our kids are also experiencing many difficult feelings, including a sense of losing much of their freedom. That’s why small choices around schoolwork represent one of the most powerful ways of minimizing the chaos during these already difficult times. Listed below are some examples. Please remember that the choices you provide will depend on your unique situation and value system.
Will you be starting your schoolwork now or in five minutes?
What do you want to start with? Math or reading?
Do you want to make a goal of working for 30 minutes before your break, or would 25 minutes be better?
Will you be doing your work while sitting or standing?
Do you think it would be best to draft something on pencil or paper… or begin your work directly on the computer?
Would you like my help or would you prefer working alone?
Do you want to learn in the kitchen or in the family room?
Will you be working while keeping your body still, or would you rather see how much you can wiggle while still getting it done?
Should we start with the hardest part first or the easiest?
Would you rather help me with chores or get started on your schoolwork?
The key to success with this technique involves remembering three things:
Give most of your choices before your child becomes resistant… not after.
With each choice provide two options, each of which you like.
Be prepared to choose for your child if they don’t select an option you provided.
While these ideas can’t solve all of the parenting challenges we face right now, they’ll increase the odds of getting through each day with fewer power struggles.
Thanks for reading. Thanks also for all of your support during these challenging times!
This is a time of uncertainy which can bring forth a range of emotions in you, as a parent, and in your child. Often as parents we want to take care of the uncomfortable feelings our children experience so they can feel better quickly. Their distress can cause distress for us. When we take the lead in managing their emotions, we are unintentionally telling them these emotions are bad and they cannot handle feeling them. The approach I take when I teach your students about uncomfortable feelings is these feelings are okay to have, we need to feel them and see if there is something to learn from them and then we need to use our coping skills to bring forth more comfortable feelings. You can reinforce this message at home by helping your child to feel the feeling, name it and how it is showing up (how it looks and feels in their body, words and actions) and then use a coping skill to help it move on. Examples of coping skills are Take 5 Breathing, Figure 8 Breathing, distraction, rest, play and talking it out. Coping skills are like any other skill; they need to be practiced to become automatic, just like math facts and reading skills. Please see the link on my page for examples of these skills and lists of other ideas.
The ability to recognize and manage emotions, known as emotional intelligence, is critical to lifelong success, psychologists say. Credit Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times
It’s hard to see a child unhappy. Whether a child is crying over the death of a pet or the popping of a balloon, our instinct is to make it better, fast.
That’s where too many parents get it wrong, says the psychologist Susan David, author of the book “Emotional Agility.” Helping a child feel happy again may offer immediate relief for parent and child, but it doesn’t help a child in the long term.
“How children navigate their emotional world is critical to lifelong success,” she said.
Emotional skills, said Dr. David, are the bedrock of qualities like grit and resilience. But instead of allowing a child to fully experience a negative emotion, parents often respond with what Dr. David describes as emotional helicoptering.
“We step into the child’s emotional space,” she said, with our platitudes, advice and ideas. Many common parental strategies, like minimizing either the emotion or the underlying problem or rushing to the rescue, fail to help a child learn how to help herself.
Dr. David offers four practical steps for helping a child go through, rather than around, a negative emotion and emerge ready to keep going — feel it, show it, label it, watch it go.
Feel It. While it may seem obvious to feel emotions, many families focus on pushing away negative emotions. “When we’re saying ‘don’t be sad, don’t be angry, don’t be jealous, don’t be selfish,’ we’re not coming to the child in the reality of her emotion,” she said. “Validate and see your child as a sentient person who has her own emotional world.”
Show It. Similarly, many families have what Dr. David calls “display rules” around emotions — there are those it is acceptable to show, and those that must be hidden. “We see expressions like ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘we don’t do anger here,’ or ‘brush it off,’” she said. “We do it with very good intentions, but we are teaching that emotions are to be feared.”
Label It. “We need to learn to recognize stress versus anger or disappointment,” she said. Even very young children can consider whether they’re mad or sad, or angry or anxious or scared. “Labeling emotions is also at the core of our ability to empathize. Ask ‘How do you think so-and-so is feeling? What does their face tell you?’”
As children get older, she adds, we can talk more about emotional complexities. “We can be simultaneously excited and anxious and frustrated, and we also need to learn to recognize that in other people,” she said.
Watch It Go. Even the hardest emotions don’t last forever. Dr. David suggests helping your child to notice that. “Sadness, anger, frustration — these things have value, but they also pass. They’re transient, and we are bigger than they are. Say, ‘This is what sadness feels like. This is what it feels like after it passes. This is what I did that helped it pass.’”
We can also help children to remember that we don’t necessarily feel the same emotion every time we have a similar experience. The high dive is scariest the first time. We might feel a lot of anxiety at one party, or in one science class, but have a different experience the next time.
“We’re very good, as humans, at creating these stories around emotions,” Dr. David said. “‘I’m not good at making friends. I can’t do math.’ Those are feelings and fears, not fixed states. People and things change.”
Finally, she said, help your child plan for experiencing the emotion again. “Ask, ‘Who do you want to be in this situation?’” she said. “What’s important to you about this?” Children feel stronger as they begin to learn that it’s not how they feel, but how they respond to the feeling, that counts.
Ms. Scott’s Counselor Corner
Parents have opportunities to engage their children in a variety of service projects within our own community!Quality, community-based service-learning is likely to benefit children in a number of ways.
Providing short or long term service to others helps children develop empathy.
It assists children in growing up healthy, caring, and responsible.
Young people learn that they can impact real social challenges, problems, and needs.
Service-learning enhances problem-solving skills, ability to work in teams, and planning abilities.
Here are some suggestions for ways you can involve your child in service projects outside of school:
Scouts: Boy and Girl scouts regularly engage in service projects.No open troop at your school?Consider volunteering as a scout leader.By participating in service themselves, parents model that they value working with others in a meaningful way.
Local Churches and Synagogues:Many of these provide service directly to the local community through projects similar to meals on wheels, food and clothes closets and visits to the elderly or homebound citizen.Contact one to see how you and your child may serve.
Donate gently used clothing, toys and books to community organizations:Encourage child to donate clothing, toys or books they are no longer using to local community organizations.
Young people are more likely to stay engaged with service-learning when they feel their participation is meaningful and that they can make useful contributions through their service.
Ms. Scott’s Counselor Corner
Children today live in a very stressful world. They often have more pressure, more uncertainty and more exposure to fearful events at an earlier age. Further, families face greater demands and often have fewer supports then in the past.Therefore, it is necessary for us to equip our children with the tools they need to cope with stressful life events.Whether your child is upset about a disagreement with a friend or is facing a life changing loss such as a divorce they can apply these coping skills and live a healthy, happier life.
Encourage the use of relaxation strategies:A child needs to be physically calm in order to cope with stressful life events.Although every child may prefer different relaxation exercises, deep breathing is a fast, effective tool for calming the body.To teach deep breathing ask your child to take a slow, deep breath in through his nose.Encourage your child to pay attention as his tummy pushes out and his lungs fill with air.After a few seconds have your child exhale through his nose and notice that his stomach will go in as the air leaves his lungs. Younger children often enjoy placing a pillow (or favorite stuffed animal) on their tummy and watching the object rise and fall as they breathe.Have your child practice deep breathing on a regular basis, so when stress presents itself, deep breathing becomes an automatic response.
Encourage your child to talk:Everyone needs a time and place to express and release their daily stress:Your child needs to know that someone understands and appreciates their feelings.Allow them to talk about what is bothering them, but do not admire the problem for too long.Instead, focus on possible solutions and offer different ways to think about the situation.
Promote optimism:Your child must learn that although she can not change certain situations, she can change the way she thinks about them.Encourage your child to view a difficult situation as a challenge instead of an impossible defeat.
Self Talk:Teach your child to talk themselves through stressful situations.This skill becomes particularly important when an adult is not available to help them with a problem.Teach your child positive self statements such as “I can handle this.”or “I know am going to be ok.”
Distraction:Your child should not become overly preoccupied with the stressors in her life.If this becomes a problem set aside a time of the day where she can think and talk about the problems.During the other parts of the day, encourage your child to keep herself busy with things that she enjoys.
Unconditional love:Your child will know that the love and care you have for him will always remain a constant despite the adversity he may face in their everyday lives.
Ms. Scott’s Counselor Corner
Bullying a term that is heard more and more throughout our nation, however the term is often used out of context.In Tredyffrin-Easttown, we use the Olweus Anti-Bullying program to help our students deal with and overcome bullying. The Olweus Anti-Bullying program defines bullying as:
oA person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.
oExpressed in more everyday language one might say: Bullying is when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending himself or herself.
Olweus also describes many different types of bullying, which can include indirect and direct forms of bullying.In direct forms, bullying involves relatively open attacks, usually in a face-to-face confrontation. Typical examples of direct bullying include verbal bullying with derogatory comments and nasty names, and physical bullying with hitting, kicking, shoving, and spitting.
In indirect bullying, the aggressive acts are more concealed and subtle, and it may be more difficult for the bullied student to know who is responsible for the bullying. Typical examples include social isolation—that is, intentionally excluding someone from a group or activity—and spreading lies and nasty rumors. Several forms of cyber bullying may also be considered indirect in the sense that nasty messages are delivered from a distance, not in a face-to-face way, and from anonymous sources. And in some cases, it may be difficult or almost impossible to find out who originally sent the message.
What you can do if you believe your child is being bullied:
1.Encourage your child to tell an adult when the bullying takes place.This can be the child’s classroom teacher, school counselor, principal, recess aide, or bus driver.
2.Contact the school counselor or principal as soon as you receive a report from your child.
MS. SCOTT’S COUNSELORS’ CORNER
The counselors of the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District elementary schools wish you and your students a successful and happy start to the new school year!Transitioning back to school from summer vacation doesn’t have to be stressful.It’s an opportunity for children to reconnect with old friends, make new friends, build greater responsibility, and tackle exciting new challenges.To help your child make as successful a transition as possible, here are a few tips and tricks:
Get enough sleep!Being well rested is a tremendous asset to children as they strive for their best performance at school.According to the National Sleep Foundation, elementary-school aged children require ten to eleven hours of sleep each night.Adults require seven to nine hours of sleep.
Keep a positive attitude and focus on the fun aspects of school.Children are very influenced by the attitudes of the adults around them.When we express excitement about the new school year and confidence that our children can handle any new challenges, our children will begin to model our attitudes.If your child is anxious, remain upbeat and provide reassurance with personal notes in lunchboxes or backpacks.
Handle rough spots with assurance.If the first few days are a bit tough, try not to over-react, as children can absorb their parents’ anxiety.Many children experience some sadness or anxiety initially, but the teachers and staff at school are trained to help them adjust.Help your child to come up with a few positive strategies to manage difficult situations on their own and reinforce your belief in their ability to cope.Model confidence and optimism.
Organize and prepare ahead.Having an established household routine can go a long way towards smoothing out some of the bumps in the road.Establishing a schedule for homework, bedtime, morning times, etc., can help alleviate some family stress and establish reassuring predictability for children.Preparing lunches and backpacks for the next day the night before can help to eliminate the “morning crazies”.
When in doubt, reach out.Don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s teachers, principal, or school counselor.Staying connected with the school helps your child to see that school and family are linked and that you care about their learning experience.Furthermore, school staff can also offer suggestions and supports to help identify and reduce any problems that may arise.
Best wishes for a fun and productive 2019-2020 school year!