Mum fleeing family violence says cohealth parenting course gave insight into children's trauma

Mum fleeing family violence says cohealth parenting course gave insight into children’s trauma

When Jane* finally fled her abusive marriage after years of family violence, she thought life would be peaceful.

What she didn’t expect was for her son to turn aggressive.

“My son has a couple of issues with emotions, yelling a bit from seeing his dad carrying on,” Jane said.

“Because if something happened … something minor, his dad would just lose it … just throw things … scream.

“My biggest reason for leaving was I didn’t want my children to think this behaviour was normal.”

Experts say when mothers escape an abusive relationship, they can find it hard to deal with the everyday challenges of parenting.

And with a lot of families living cheek by jowl under lockdown due to COVID-19, starting afresh can be even harder.

Seeing domestic violence through the child’s eye

The Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse 2011 report on the impact of domestic violence on children says children exposed to domestic violence experience emotional, mental and social damage that can affect their developmental growth.

The literature review found children’s responses to their experiences varied, including being fearful, with even minor changes in their daily routines upsetting them terribly, or losing the ability to feel empathy for others.

But the research also found that a child who had lived with violence and trauma was not forever damaged if parents helped their children recover.

For Jane, help came in the form of a parenting program that enabled her to understand the impact of domestic violence on the children.

She says it was crucial to unlearn a lot of the parenting techniques honed by years of trying to avoid the violence.

“When I was with their dad, I was always walking on eggshells,” Jane says.

“Always looking for any signs and trying to defuse the situation right away.

“So what I found difficult after leaving an abusive relationship was letting go of trying to control everything.”

Run by cohealth and targeted at mothers with children of all ages — from toddlers to teenagers — the Parenting after Violence course helps mothers understand domestic violence through the eyes of their children, guiding them to help the children’s and their own recovery.

Cohealth family violence counsellor Tina Guido said children responded to the stress in a number of ways, including hypervigilance due to the unpredictability of family violence and an inability to regulate their emotions.

“They are always on guard,” Ms Guido said.

“But … even when they don’t need to be on guard … they are still in that hypervigilant mode.

“Children [exposed to family violence] will have a meltdown for even mum yelling, ‘Go and have a shower’, because the brain has been so primed to reacting and not being able to, what we call soothing and self-regulate.”

Ms Guido said children also learnt to please and might align with the violent partner to avoid conflict.

“Perpetrators of domestic abuse frequently use strategies to undermine a woman’s authority to parent and have meaningful relationships with their children,” Ms Guido said.

How to help your child socialise after the pandemic

How to help your child socialise after the pandemic

A friend shared the feelings of her toddler as she took him out to a park recently for the first time since April of this year. The child expressed sheer joy as he explored and played outdoors. It was difficult to have him leave the park to come back home. He laughed and kissed both his parents because he was so happy to be out.

This small incident deeply reflected the need for all children to be playing outdoors and preferably with other children, something that feels like a luxury today as a result of the pandemic. This crisis has had a considerable impact on children’s emotional and mental health.

Many parents report that their child is afraid to go out after the pandemic. They are hesitant to go to places they once willingly went to. For some parents, getting their children to visit their friend’s or grandparents’ home seems like a struggle. Many young children are exhibiting more clingy and insecure behaviour.

We know young children need to socialise and play with other children. This is how they learn to interact, share their thoughts, develop language and make meaning of their world. Most importantly, playing with others is a joyful experience.

Instead, for many children, the pandemic has restrained them to mostly being around adults. Furthermore, with increased screen time, children have not been able to develop some key skills that play and interaction with others can naturally help develop.

As an educator with four decades of experience, I continue to observe that for young children playing or socialising isn’t separate from learning. In fact, it is learning. It is the best way for children to develop self-confidence, interpersonal skills, and a problem-solving mindset.

So, as parents and teachers of young children, how can we ease this quintessential socialisation process for our children? Here are a few ways:

Observe your child

The first thing all parents must do is observe their children in order to notice any signs of distress or any unusual behaviour. This could include clinging to you (the parent) more frequently, making excuses to avoid stepping out of the house, being quieter than usual, etc. To help our children, we first need to understand what could be going on with them even if they are unable to voice it.

Acknowledge their emotions

Children, like adults, can also experience stress and anxiety. We often downplay children’s emotions or consider them trivial in comparison to ours. That should never be the case. Children need to be seen and heard. To do so, parents should genuinely make time to talk to the child and understand cues. Then, we must acknowledge their emotions in a manner like: I understand you must be feeling sad because you are missing playing with your friends. Would it help if I played with you?

Be honest with them

Child Sleep Problems Affect Mothers and Fathers Differently

After the birth of children, fragmentation of parental night sleep and fatigue due to the nightly demands of the infant are common.1 Indeed, there is evidence that mothers’ and fathers’ fatigue increase immediately following the birth of their child.1,2 Resulting in insufficient, non-restful sleep, this poses a stress factor for parental health, daily well-being, and functioning.3 In contrast, good children’s sleep quality predicted good maternal sleep.4 Most often, this is a temporary problem and infants develop the competence to fall asleep independently in the evening and go back to sleep after night waking during the first year of life.5,6 However, about 20–30% of the infants and young children are affected by sleep problems during the entire first 3 years of childhood and need support by a caregiver to fall asleep.7–10 Consequently, many parents are concerned with difficulties pertaining to their own sleep as well as handling their children’s sleep problems.

Do Infant and Young Child Sleep Problems Affect Mothers and Fathers Differently?

Most research on the association between sleep in young children and parental outcomes focused primarily on maternal perspectives.11,12 More specifically, child sleep problems increased maternal stress, moderate and severe symptoms of depression, and decreased general health.13,14 Research and practical clinical experience show, that especially in the first 3 years of life, fathers are less involved in sleep rituals in the evening and night care of their child than mothers are.15–17Despite this, it is remarkable that fathers’ general health was also negatively affected by infant sleep problems.18 Earlier research has shown that fathers can also experience significant sleep disruptions and less total sleep time in the early postnatal period, which may be associated with low self-perceived sleep quality.19 Notwithstanding the extensive work on maternal sleep, little research is done regarding paternal sleep and an answer to the question about an association between children’s sleep quality and paternal sleep quality during infancy and early childhood is still outstanding.20 Moreover, a survey including data of 133 fathers of 0–6 years old children focusing on paternal wellbeing during parenthood found a statistical association between paternal fatigue and sleep quality and wellbeing, whereas sleep problems of their children were not assessed as potential influencing factor.21 However, there is little evidence to support the differences in how mothers and fathers perceive sleep problems in young children and their consequences.17,22

One example of research focusing on child sleep and parental functioning demonstrated that child sleep problems were associated with higher levels of, eg, parenting stress,16 which might be associated with different negative parenting characteristics as, eg, insufficient parental warmth or the use of harsh discipline.23 Another, less regarded but important domain of functional parenting is emotion regulation.24 As parents are argued to be the emotion socialization agents of their offspring,25,26 they should have appropriate emotion regulation competence, which is characterized by sufficient and effective emotional monitoring and evaluation, as well as modification of appropriate emotional reactions.27 Disproportionate emotional expressions while interacting with their children may contribute to a lack in the parent and child relationship as well as to a restricted emotion development in children.28,29 In general, high emotional competence and emotion regulation seem to be positively associated with social interactions, stress management, and effective communication.30–32 It is known that low sleep quality, in turn, might impair the ability to regulate emotions.33–36 In more detail, emotion regulation in mothers of children suffering from sleep problems was reduced in consequence of their low sleep quality.4 Therefore, sleep problems in children might reduce the emotional competence of the parents and thus create the basis for ineffective and negative reactions to the demands of the children. Because sleep as well as problematic sleep of children is associated to the children’s social field and their figures of attachment,3,6 it is surprising that only mothers were considered in this context.11 Disregarding the facts that the infant’s sleep seems to affect fathers’ general health18 and that fatherhood might negatively affect the paternal wellbeing,21 it is unexplored whether emotion regulation is different by parental gender in the context of infant sleep problems. One reason for this gap in research might be owed to the general acceptance that fathers seem to be less involved in care of their child throughout the first years of life.15 However, as parental reactions and consequences towards child behavior are expected to be independent of each other,37 science should take account of these potential differences.

What Type of Friend Are You? How ADHD Influences Friendships

What Type of Friend Are You? How ADHD Influences Friendships

Whether you collect new friends easily or lean on a few, long-term friendships dating back to kindergarten, there’s no wrong way to build relationships. This is true especially for people with ADHD, who often report that their symptoms complicate, challenge, and color friendships. The ones that work are the ones that accept and celebrate their ADHD.

What Type of Friend Are You?

“I fall in the Selectively Acquisitive Friendship Style category; I am very careful and particular about who I label a ‘friend.’ Anybody who I don’t refer to as a friend is my ‘acquaintance.’ My ex used to laugh at this distinction, but it’s super important because it helps me decide how much time I spend with these people, and if I make an emotional investment in them. Yes, I help everyone when in need, but I will do it much more for my designated ‘friends.’” — BAT

“I’ve always migrated toward long-term friendships that can tolerate long gaps in communication, as well as friendships where we can talk for hours about things we’ve read or learned, or be just as happy sitting on the same couch each immersed in our own hyperfocuses.” — Anonymous

“My husband says I’m like a semi-truck with an engine that’s too small. I genuinely want to be friends with everyone, but I have difficulty keeping up with the logistics of maintaining friendships (due to my executive function weaknesses and anxiety). So, I have a long to-do list of people I need to text, call, email, etc.” — Anonymous

“Since I graduated from college, I have had trouble establishing friendships. I feel anxious about reaching out to potential friends outside of work or other organized activities; I worry that they will be too busy or uninterested in doing things with me. I once invited a co-worker and her husband over for dinner with me and my family. She accepted the invitation, but a few days later told me, ‘My life is too busy — I don’t have time for any more friends.’ That really stung!” — Anonymous

“I prefer intimate hangouts because boisterous get-togethers often overwhelm me. I tend to focus on a few long-term friendships, but being a military spouse means I have to be able to pick up new friends easily whenever we move.” — Anonymous

“I typically gravitate toward people who excite me. I’m also a bit co-dependent and find I search for long-term, meaningful relationships.” — Anonymous

“I’m extremely nervous around quiet people. I start to do nervous chatter, and they don’t reciprocate so I move on. I dread being around them! But I also get overstimulated in noisy environments. I like intimate hangouts with a few good friends who like to talk. I was the one who got moved in elementary school for talking too much. But then I’d make friends with the new table.” — Anonymous

“I would say I’m an ambivert. I can be really social for a few hours and then I’m socially spent. I have lots of lifelong friendships but also make spontaneous new friendships. However, I often don’t have the energy to maintain new relationships.” — Anonymous

“When I’m in good social form, I love talking with everyone. I’m a little afraid to put all of my friends together in one room because I’m not sure how well they’d get along. I love my ADHD friends because they are a less judgmental bunch. If I’m late or crazy-spontaneous or any of the other quirks that come with the territory, they get it. And they like me, for me. Recently, I realized that I’m a social chameleon who adapts to the people around me, hiding the ‘unacceptable’ parts of myself depending on the company. As a result, I’m not sure who the unvarnished, unmasked me is — I’d like to find that person. It probably would be less stressful and not so freaking isolating.” — Anonymous

“I really need friends who don’t need me to call every day or plan things regularly, but when we get together there seems like no gap in our friendship. We trust that we are always there for each other. My best friend and I could talk forever (we’re both time blind), and the subject can change mid-sentence or at least every two minutes. I am sure she has undiagnosed ADHD; we understand each other far too well!” — Glenda

Gifted People Can Be Wounded Too

Most people would not think of being highly sensitive, empathic, intelligent, insightful, and inquisitive as a cause for childhood trauma.

Apart from being the target of envy and being the unwelcomed truth-teller in any social group, the biggest potential source of trauma for emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually gifted people often comes from their families.

Here are some of the less-known gifted trauma:

1. Subtle Rejection of the Gifted

The first layer of wounds for gifted people comes from their parents’ implicit rejection of them. Your parents may feel intimidated by your penetrative insights. In one way or the other, they may have felt a sense that you can see through them—their vulnerabilities, hypocrisies, mistakes, and weaknesses—everything they would normally hide from their children.

They might have felt threatened by your speed, insights, honesty, and intelligence. To protect themselves, they put a wall up and pulled back. For a child, however, sensing that your parents were, on some level, afraid of you can feel extremely rejecting and abandoning.

To your young mind, it was as though you had “lost” the parent who ought to be there for you.

2. The Inevitable Parentification

Since you have, from a young age, been knowledgeable, competent, and effective in getting things done, you have always stepped in to help your parents when they were struggling. These might have been actual physical tasks, such as with technology or language, but parentification could also take more subtle forms. You might have repeatedly witnessed one or both of your parents’ sadness and vulnerability and felt the overwhelming need to comfort or protect them. You were constantly worried for your family member, minding their needs, trying to cheer them up when they were upset, or managing the relationship dynamics at home so they would feel better. Once the pattern is set, you may find it difficult to change it even as a grown-up.

3. Having No One to Lean on

The third layer of childhood wound for gifted people is that a fundamental need of them as a child—the need to have someone stronger and bigger than themselves to lean on—was not met.

Most parents try their best, but not all parents have the maturity and resources to always act as their child’s anchor. They might have wanted your approval, they wanted you to emotionally caretake them, they wanted you to prove how well they have done. When you thrived and shone, they might have even competed with you.

As a highly competent child, you might have appeared independent, but deep down you carried a longing for someone that you could wholly lean on and relate to, so you could finally relax and be taken care of. You needed someone bigger than you to lean on and to seek guidance and answers from.

“Simple Tasks Seem Overwhelming to My Child”

Take your pick — the misconstrued labels for children with inattentive ADHD (once called ADD) are as vast and varied as the symptoms they manifest. Often misunderstood — or worse, neglected — at school, children with ADHD face unique challenges complicated by outdated ADHD stereotypes.

Here, ADDitude readers share the biggest challenges their children with inattentive ADHD face at school and home. What struggles does your child with predominantly inattentive ADHD encounter? Share your stories in the Comments section below.

“Mind-wandering is a challenge for my daughter when she needs to complete schoolwork, especially reading. She has a hard time focusing and will fixate on sounds around her (ticking clock, hallway conversation, foot-tapping classmate, etc.) rather than the one sound she needs to hear: Her teacher’s voice. However, her inattentiveness and mind-wandering are a total asset when she’s drawing, writing, or creating because it allows her to be fluid, make connections, and find flow.” — Anonymous

“Often our 5th grader doesn’t hear us, and it can be very frustrating. He is very gifted, but the inattentiveness has caught up to him. I see him wrapping his computer cord around his hand or doodling absentmindedly instead of completing his assignments.” — Anonymous

“The biggest challenge is my 16-year-old daughter’s room. I’m tempted to call it her ‘swamp’ because it is absolutely a mess of everything you can imagine — dirty clothes, clean clothes, wet bath towels, food and drink containers, jewelry, school supplies, make-up, unfinished crafts, papers that should have been signed and returned to school — scattered on the floor. We’ve tried everything from kindly reminding her to tidy up her room to doing it ourselves when we can’t take it anymore. It’s really exhausting and sucks so much energy from us.” — Anonymous

“The biggest challenge is my 16-year-old daughter’s room. I’m tempted to call it her ‘swamp’ because it is absolutely a mess of everything you can imagine — dirty clothes, clean clothes, wet bath towels, food and drink containers, jewelry, school supplies, make-up, unfinished crafts, papers that should have been signed and returned to school — scattered on the floor. We’ve tried everything from kindly reminding her to tidy up her room to doing it ourselves when we can’t take it anymore. It’s really exhausting and sucks so much energy from us.” — Anonymous

“My son misses verbal instructions at school, or if he hears them, he doesn’t remember them. He doesn’t want to call attention to himself by writing them down.” — Anonymous

“The biggest challenge for my daughter is accessing appropriate support at school. My daughter is quiet and intelligent so teachers assume she doesn’t need support. They do not see the hours of additional study and near panic and frustration that happens at home. The amount of time she spends on organizing and building routines so she can manage are mind-blowing. It is so difficult to watch her needlessly struggle. Also, her budding independence means she wants no interference from her parents. This desire for independence is mismatched with her not-yet-there social, money, and time-management skills. I see students with ‘extra energy’ receive a lot of attention and help, and the inattentive kids — especially girls — are left with messages that they are ‘lazy,’ ‘unmotivated,’ and just need to ‘try harder’.” — Anonymous

A Survival Guide for Parents with ADHD: Strategies from Preschool to High School

A Survival Guide for Parents with ADHD: Strategies from Preschool to High School

For any parent with ADHD, raising children, managing a household, and maintaining emotional health is a Hurclean task. ADHD impacts nearly every facet of parenting, so caregivers with the condition need distinct tools and resources to manage their symptoms and effectively meet their kids’ needs through every developmental phase. Here they are.

Parenting is hard. It’s rewarding, yes. But also difficult, demanding, and draining. When caregivers have ADHD, the challenges of parenting seem to multiply in number and intensity. ADHD symptoms like inattention, impulsivity, and emotional dysregulation inevitably impact the daily rhythms and responsibilities of parenting, not to mention the relationships we forge with our children as they grow.

From diapers to driver licenses, here’s advice for parents with ADHD on simultaneously managing their symptoms while raising happy, healthy, well-adjusted children.

How ADHD Impacts Parenting Skills

Parenting requires the daily, dependable execution of non-novel, repetitive tasks, a combination that’s kryptonite for adults with core ADHD deficits including fluctuating attention and poor working memory. More broadly, ADHD impacts these core facets of parenting:

  • Emotional availability: When children are experiencing big feelings or challenging situations, they look for guidance and protection from their parents. But with ADHD and its own emotional dysregulation, it’s tough to be consistently present and focused to support a child’s emotions.
  • Relationship-building: The parent-child bond is the nexus of any healthy family dynamic. But many parents with ADHD struggle to stay engaged and interested while spending time with their child, especially if CandyLand is involved.
  • Planning ahead for problematic situations: Parents are continuously making time and space to reflect on what’s been challenging for their family, and how they can alter plans, procedures, and schedules for future success. But caregivers with ADHD often lack the executive function skills to do this high-level analysis, planning, and execution. Impulse control deficits may also cause parents to lash out and complicate already-challenging situations.
  • Organizing supplies and schedules: Managing family logistics and routines requires unwavering organizational skills, a known difficulty with ADHD.
  • Keeping children safe: Parents need the attentional capacity to monitor their children, whether toddlers or teenagers, without distraction.
  • Shaping positive behavior: Positive reinforcement helps establish good behavior, but it requires parents to “catch” and praise their children quickly and with meaningful details.
  • Staying regulated in challenging situations: Emotional dysregulation, impulsivity, and intense emotions are part of the ADHD experience, which makes “calm” elusive in many ADHD households. Managing stress is also an issue for many parents with ADHD.
  • Setting boundaries and giving consistent consequences.

Parenting with ADHD: Tailored Approaches for Spirited Families

The charts below highlight critical areas in each of the four childhood developmental stages, plus strategies for caregivers with ADHD to employ for each.

ADHD Parenting Skills: Elementary School (Ages 6 to 10)

Forming relationships: Children start to form bonds independently and engage in parallel play. Reflective modeling: Children adopt the social skills they see at home — from their parents and siblings or on the TV. Model appropriate interactions for your child, and be mindful of what they’re watching.
Developing interests and hobbies: Children practice and start to demonstrate skill in certain activities. Create opportunities for practice. Think: How can I give my child whatever materials they need to independently practice?
Complex schedules: More activities require more planning and materials. Externalize information. It’s common for individuals with ADHD to forget verbal instructions. Use whiteboards, sticky notes, digital calendars, and other visual organizing tools to keep track of schedules and to-dos.
Academic responsibility: Homework, tests, projects, and elevated expectations place extra demand on organizational skills. Set up “help times;” To manage frustration and frequent interruptions, establish certain times when your child can check in with you. First, make sure that they have a clear workspace free of distractions. (No screens, all supplies in one place, etc.)
Social life: Play dates and parties are still facilitated by parents, which requires clear communication and planning. Set reminders: Schedule a time every week to verify and prepare for upcoming plans. Create multiple countdown reminders until the day of the event.
How Many Christmas Presents Should You Buy Your Children?

How Many Christmas Presents Should You Buy Your Children?

One of the most celebrated traditions of Christmas is sharing gifts with your loved ones. For that reason, Christmas is one of the holidays most favored by children, who are often treated to several toys and other gifts on the day.

Toy sales in the U.S. soared in 2020, with millions of families kept home by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a February 2021 statement from the Toy Association: “One silver lining of the pandemic is that it has helped families rediscover the joys of spending time together and find value in bringing play into their daily lives.”

The association projected that this year families would be “seeking new toys that promote togetherness, as well as inclusive playthings that can be enjoyed by kids of varying abilities and interests,” the statement said.

But can these toys and other gifts become dangerous for a child’s health?

Can Too Many Gifts Be Damaging for Your Child?

There are different factors to be aware of when it comes to giving your children gifts during the holidays.

While it is possible that lavishing your child with Christmas gifts can become detrimental, it isn’t likely to “supersede parenting practices that promote resilience,” Dr. David Palmiter, a board certified clinical psychologist, told Newsweek.

Similar to playing video games, spoiling your child is, of course, unhealthy “but not nearly as damning as some might have imagined, especially if other things are going well in the family,” Palmiter explained.

The psychologist said the word “spoiled” can be seen as the opposite of the word “disciplined,” which in America, “appears to have become conflated with butt-kicking—it isn’t,” he said.

The etymology of the word “disciplined” is “to teach” and Palmiter believes that a foundational teaching, “when it comes to the bullseye of the discipline dart board,” is training your children to do things when they don’t feel like it.

“That particular psychological muscle, when well-developed, goes a long way to helping adults to reach their personal and professional goals. At birth, infants are incapable of discipline.

“We hope, as parents, that our child is well capable of it [discipline] by the time they leave home. And, if they are not, they are at high odds to boomerang back home. In this arena, the number of presents a kid receives is unlikely to be a major player,” Palmiter explained.

How Many Christmas Gifts Should Parents Give Their Kids?

The short answer? There is no prescriptive formula and parents cannot be told what’s considered an appropriate amount of Christmas gifts for their own child.

Speaking to Newsweek, David S. DeLugas, the executive director and general counsel of the National Association of Parents (ParentsUSA), said it’s up to the parents to decide “the number of gifts, the extravagance (or lack thereof) of the gifts or the appropriateness of their gifts…so long as the gifts do not cause long-term emotional harm or physical harm.

“We certainly hope parents use their specific knowledge of their child or children to avoid hurting their children by gift giving,” DeLugas said.

Palmiter said: “I don’t believe our science can tell us X number of gifts is adaptive and Y number is problematic,” explaining that “one-on-one time with a parent is much more desirable to most young children than the latest and hottest toy or gadget.”

The magic of the holidays can be captured without spending significant amounts of money, the psychologist said, and advises against stretching your economic resources for presents.

“When parents do this, I’ve found, it’s in service of trying to create a magical experience for their children. But, executed creativity does this much, much better than spent cash,” he said.

10 Evidence-backed Tips to Teach Kids Focus and Concentration

10 Evidence-backed Tips to Teach Kids Focus and Concentration

Teaching kids to listen, focus, follow instructions, keep rules in mind and practice self-control

Adele Diamond, a well-known Professor whose studies have focused on self-regulation, argues that children should be taught to:

1. Develop self-control, i.e., they should learn to do what is appropriate rather than what they want to do.

2. Develop the working memory, i.e., they should be helped to hold information in memory while mentally incorporating new information.

3. Develop cognitive flexibility, i.e., they should learn to think outside the box.

Diamond believes that teaching self-regulation skills can help improve children’s concentration and focus. These skills can help your child learn to follow instructions and persist even when they encounter enormous challenges. Other studies have found that self-regulated children are able to listen, pay attention, think, then act.

Everything you need to know to help your child focus and concentrate better

“My child won’t concentrate on anything” is a rather common parenting complaint. While a child’s inability to focus is usually a common cause of concern, all children are easily distracted and generally have shorter attention spans than adults. They are more curious and more easily distracted when they feel little interest for the tasks and activities they are asked to do.

Children’s concentration tends to improve as they grow older and develop their self-control skills. That said, some children struggle more with focusing and resisting distractions. The problem with children’s lack of attention is that it contributes to their learning and to their day to day lives.

So first let’s look at what may be behind your child’s inability to pay attention.

Some of the common causes of children’s lack of focus and concentration

1) Anxiety may be the reason your child can’t concentrate

Anxiety is a common but often ignored cause of inattention among children described as “unfocused”, and this actually makes perfect sense. It is not uncommon for anxiety to “block” your child, meaning that listening to and following instructions may be more complicated for such a child. Your child’s separation anxiety or worry about doing something wrong at school or even embarrassing or humiliating themselves may mean that they are more likely to have difficulty paying attention.

2) Insufficient sleep has an impact on your child’s ability to concentrate

It is a well-known fact that poor sleeping habits have a negative impact on children’s focus and concentration. If you think that your child’s lack of sleep may be behind their inability to focus, ensure that they are getting the appropriate number of hours of sleep every night or taking a mid-day rest if they need to.

Autistic and Gifted: How to Support a Twice-Exceptional Child

Autistic and Gifted: How to Support a Twice-Exceptional Child

Autism and giftedness can go hand in hand. Twice-exceptional kids have great ability, but they also face certain challenges.

Giftedness and autism share some qualities, like intellectual excitability and sensory differences. Some kids have these qualities because they’re both gifted and autistic.

If your child is nonverbal and shies away from eye contact and touch but can play piano concertos after hearing them only once, it’s easy to spot the coexistence of autism and giftedness.

It’s usually not that obvious, though. Not all autistic kids avoid eye contact or shun hugs, and many are great conversationalists. Meanwhile, only a few gifted kids are prodigies with exceptional recall.

It’s more likely you’ve noticed that your child has some impressive, detailed knowledge about a focused interest, plus they show bouts of emotional intensity or sensory issues that are common in gifted children.

Giftedness is extraordinary ability, high IQ, or both. It’s a neurological sensitivity that changes the way a person experiences the world.

Gifted children:

  • learn faster and more easily
  • get bored very quickly
  • feel emotions and physical sensations more intensely
  • remember things more acutely
  • think and reason with increased complexity
  • need challenge, change, and novelty
  • experience social isolation
  • are detached from social norms

The IQ level that is considered gifted, or having higher intellectual abilities, is 130 or higher. This is within the top 2% of the population.

IQ isn’t the only factor used to assess cognitive level because IQ tests can measure only your functioning at the time of the test. If you are ill or distracted by stress or troubling thoughts, you might not score as well as you could.

This is why psychologists perform full assessments and not only IQ tests when they identify giftedness.

Giftedness and high scholastic achievement are not the same. With discipline and good study habits, a student with an “average” IQ can earn excellent grades in school.

Meanwhile, a gifted student can struggle in school and underachieve. This is often because they are:

Gifted kids aren’t always very motivated by grades. Instead, they may care more about the things they consider relevant, important, or interesting.

Without early acceleration, gifted children may experience lower grades as they get older. If their early schoolwork is too easy, they don’t have the opportunity to learn study skills and work ethic. As the difficulty level of subject material increases, their grades can drop.

Other differences between gifted students and high achievers include:

  • High achievers develop evenly as they mature, whereas gifted kids develop in an uneven way, with some abilities far surpassing others.
  • Gifted people have more sensitivity and emotional intensity than high achievers.
  • High achievers may be more extroverted than gifted people, who are more likely to be introverts.

Some school gifted and talented programs base entrance criteria on achievement rather than intelligence testing. Many also include a larger portion than the top 2%. This means that some students in these programs may be high achievers who aren’t gifted.

In the United States, 1 in 59 children is autistic. About 70% of autistic people have an intellectual disability, which means they have an IQ lower than 70. The remaining 30% have intelligence that ranges from average to gifted.

Autism and intelligence are two separate characteristics. A person can be autistic with any level of intelligence.

Should You Make Your Child Play Sports? There's No Easy Answer

Should You Make Your Child Play Sports? There’s No Easy Answer

Organized athletics have benefits beyond just staying active. Parents, a commissioner and a psychologist weigh in on forcing kids to participate.

On any fall weeknight, city parks and recreation fields across Central Ohio transform into a colorful and sprawling sea of youth sports matches. Sign-up flyers come home in your child’s backpack. Yard signs pepper busy intersections. Even local churches and other houses of worship play host to junior basketball leagues. Here in the athletics-minded Midwest, youth sports can begin to feel like a bit of an imperative.

As fall sports kick into high gear, the same question arises for many families: Should parents make their children try a sport? We asked a local mom, a coach/youth league board member and a pediatric psychologist with a sports concentration for their opinions. The answer, not surprisingly, isn’t as simple as “yes” or “no.”

Youth teams—while not without their critics for everything from costs to concussion protocols—are an easy sell for many families because they offer life lessons, exercise and personal growth in a generally fun and relatively accessible package. “Sports are great for social and emotional development, especially at an early age,” says Catherine Butz, Ph.D., clinical director for pediatric psychology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Tim O’Leary, a softball commissioner and board member for the North Columbus Sports league, agrees. “[Students in youth sports] learn hard work pays off and a sense of discipline. They experience teamwork. They build lifelong relationships and learn how to handle the ups and downs, or wins and losses, of life,” says O’Leary, who is also a softball coach and parent.

Be Flexible

For many kids, sports are fun and fulfilling. However, if students aren’t enjoying themselves, when should parents consider calling it quits? That answer can vary significantly, even within a single family.

Westerville parent and teacher Libby Schlagbaum grew up playing softball, volleyball and basketball and running track. “I enjoyed sports. That’s where I made my friends, and I believe I still have a healthy, active lifestyle because I participated in sports,” she says.

Understandably, she hoped her four children would have similarly fulfilling and formative experiences. There was only one snag: a lack of interest. “We enrolled our three oldest kids in a recreational soccer league when they turned 4. None were initially enthusiastic. All my kids are shy, so it’s a balance of ‘this will help you meet people,’ but also them not wanting to because they’re shy,” Schlagbaum says.

While none was gung-ho at first, a curious thing happened: Over time, three very different outcomes played out. The oldest eventually warmed up to recreational soccer as his skill level improved. He stuck with it and now enjoys playing on his high school team.

The second-oldest child left […]

Why unstructured free play is a key remedy to bullying

Why unstructured free play is a key remedy to bullying

October was National Bullying Prevention Month , and in my decade of teaching in high-poverty public elementary schools, I’ve seen strategy after strategy and initiative after initiative implemented to decrease bullying.

While every case is unique, having a general understanding of why a student chooses to bully can be helpful.

Kids usually bully for one of the following reasons: they are frustrated with life’s circumstances and don’t have the emotional tools to cope, they don’t have many friends and are lonely, they have issues with emotional regulation, or they feel powerless to control their life for any number of reasons. Our school’s approach to bullying is simple, yet effective: Unstructured free play. Seriously? Yes. Stay with me.

In the years since my school began incorporating more and more unstructured free play into our school day (before school by opening up our playground, during school by adding an additional recess, and after school by adding a Play Club), our students are happier, kinder, have fewer behavior problems, have made more friends, feel more in control of their day and their life in general, and in some cases have dramatically changed course from bullying behaviors and frequent office referrals to no bullying behaviors and no office referrals.

When we understand the root causes of bullying behavior, we can see why unstructured free play is helping our students so dramatically.

Unstructured free play addresses–head-on–making friends, learning empathy, learning emotional regulation, learning interpersonal skills, and it greatly empowers students by helping them find a healthy place in their school community–all while teaching them life’s most important skills like creativity, innovation, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, self-direction, perseverance, and social skills.

It turns out the skills our students need most can’t be learned through direct instruction from a teacher, but instead are acquired through real life experiences with their peers. When my school stopped treating students just as empty brains to fill with knowledge but instead holistic people with a huge social-emotional component to nurture, adding more time with their peers in free play was a no-brainer. So what have we seen, and how does this help fight bullying?
Let me tell you a story. A few years ago I had a student who walked around with a chip on his shoulder. He never smiled, never laughed, and always seemed angry. He was cruel to other kids, had frequent behavior issues in class, and in the course of one week had three office referrals from three different teachers for his extreme behaviors. Other kids would label him a bully, but where they saw a bully , we as teachers saw a hurting and lonely child in need of friends. He was the kind of student who was always disciplined by […]

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