Boy in White Dress Shirt

Parenting a Strong-Willed Child

Typically, when a child is called “strong-willed,” it’s not a compliment. Kids who bear this label might be viewed as difficult or demanding. Yes, that can be true at times but “strong-willed” means so much more if we broaden our perspective. Therein lies the primary challenge. No parent should aim to change or “break” such a child. Rather, the essential goal is to help them channel their gifts healthily and productively.

A strong-willed child can seem impatient or bossy to some. But this behavior can come from a place of integrity, a desire to excel. How, then, do parents foster their child’s spirit while also guiding them to develop positive social skills?

Who Is The Strong-Willed Child?

Boy in White Dress Shirt
Firstly, let’s not downplay the frustration that parents of strong-willed children can feel. You’re dealing with a child who can be stubborn, short-tempered, and who is determined to have the last word. This is not easy and you cannot let your kid have free reign. It can feel like a tug-of-war, a contest of wills.

Still, every problem is also an opportunity to nurture a strong and burgeoning spirit. Think about it, you’ve been gifted with a child who has:

  • Initiative and motivation
  • The heart of a leader
  • A desire to know “why” and to question norms
  • The need to find better ways to do things
  • A desire to improve and grow
  • Conviction, energy, curiosity, and commitment

How To Parent A Strong-Willed Child

Validate Their Opinions

What a gift for any of us to receive! Even when your child’s ideas run opposite from yours, you can respect them. Let them know they’ve been heard. Encourage them to think for themselves even as they conform to house rules. They’re free to disagree with you, but, in turn, you expect them to respect your opinions. Through it all, your child will be tuning into your energy, so stay calm.

Create Household Routines

When a strong-willed child is born into a disciplined home, they are greeted — from day one — with a rhythm. You and everyone else are leading by example. This sets an early tone that it’s okay to be independent but they must still remember that they are part of a team that works together.

These types of routines are an opportunity for you to establish credibility — especially with a child who is sensitive to inconsistency. Own up to your own mistakes. Being a role model of maturity and humility is an excellent way to build mutual trust.

Offer Them Choices

Making the effort to create trade-offs can reap rewards for everyone involved. Let’s say your child typically balks at their standard bedtime. Well, if that child wants something like a second serving of dessert, it’s a chance to put some power in their hands. Tell them they can choose between having more dessert or staying up a little later that night. They get a chance to decide something for themselves and you’ve avoided an argument.

P.S. If the extra dessert makes them feel queasy or a little less sleep causes them to be groggy the next morning, it’s also useful. You are giving them room to learn tough lessons safely.

You May Need Some Help

Despite all the upbeat messaging above, you will likely have some moments when things feel impossible. A strong-willed child will challenge you in ways you never imagined. No one should be expected to have all the answers. With that in mind, I invite you to reach out and talk to learn more about child therapy. Connecting with an experienced therapist is a proven path for discovering new ways to make the most of the situations and opportunities in your life.

Backview of Sad Child waiting on a Glass Window

How to Help Your Child After a Traumatic Experience

No matter how hard parents and caretakers try, they can’t protect a child 24/7. No one can be kept completely safe from traumatic events. When a child experiences trauma, however, it can be particularly confusing and long-lasting. What constitutes a traumatic event can vary widely and is mostly in the eye of the beholder. This can include abuse, natural disasters, loss of a loved one, and more.

Unfortunately, if your child has had to endure such a scenario, they will need some professional intervention. But they will also look to you for support, comfort, and guidance. How can you, as a parent, step up to this challenge?

How Trauma Affects Kids

Backview of Sad Child waiting on a Glass Window A powerful first step is for parents and caretakers to gain an understanding of how trauma typically works. Kids who are trauma survivors often display symptoms like:

  • Chronic worrying and fear
  • Shutting down emotionally or becoming very needy.
  • Anger issues
  • Self-blame
  • Grief
  • Flashbacks and nightmares
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Problems at school with behavior and academic performance.
  • In older kids, there can be risky behaviors and attempts at self-harm.

It’s heartbreaking to picture any child going through any of this, but for their parents, it feels like a puzzle they can’t solve. So, again, parents must do a deep dive into self-education to better understand what their child is feeling and how to be supportive.

How to Help Your Child After a Traumatic

Experience

Of course, your choices will be shaped by your child’s age, temperament, and personality. Even so, any of the following suggestions can be adapted to your precise situation.

Safety

Obviously, you want to take all reasonable steps to keep them safe. But post-trauma, your child will also just need to feel safe. An excellent step in this direction is the creation of soothing rhythms and routines. These can involve eating, playtime, meals, and outside trips. Trauma feels chaotic, so routines can be reassuring.

Another form of safety involves monitoring your child’s exposure to notifications and devices. Trauma survivors can be easily triggered by news stories. Depending on their age, do what you can to reduce the chances of that happening.

Calm

Maintain a calm home. Yes, this can get tricky if you have other children who were not impacted by the traumatic event but still aim to reduce friction and sudden surprises. Teach them relaxation techniques like breathing exercises and do everything you can to not let them feel your own anxiety. Get the help you need, but lead by example by choosing calmness when with the kids.

Learn

Every child will cope differently, so don’t expect your kid to fully conform to the research you’ve done on trauma. Listen to them and pay close attention. Validate their emotions by acknowledging them without judgment.

Fun

Trauma can be nightmarish, but it does not have to mark the end of laughter and play. Promote a sense of normalcy by watching funny videos, playing games, taking walks, and maintaining other healthy, upbeat distractions.

Talk

This is a delicate balance. You want to let them know you’re ready to talk and listen any time, but you don’t want to pressure them. Sometimes, a child won’t realize they need to talk until they start talking. It’s not about you having the “right thing” to say. Your child just wants to be reminded that they are loved and heard. Be affectionate, patient, and grateful.

You Do Not Have to Do Any of This Alone

No parent is going to have all the answers. If your child has undergone trauma, reach out to get them — and you — the professional help you need and deserve. Contact us to learn more about  trauma or child therapy.

photo of a parent reading to their child

What Is Positive Parenting?

Your first reaction to the title of this post might be dread. Is this yet another new trend in the world of helicopter parents and participation trophies? Fortunately, “positive parenting” is all about finding the ideal blend of empowering children while holding them to helpful standards. This approach has a stellar track record and is only gaining in popularity.

We’ll go into more depth below, but by way of introduction, it’s best to view positive parenting as a way to focus on your child’s strengths. It can feel natural to fixate on a child’s shortcomings and aim to eliminate them. However, it’s been shown that a positive focus is far more effective.

Why Do We Typically Focus on the Negative?

It is believed that humans are hardwired with negativity bias. As a method of survival, we pay closer attention to threats, risks, and bad events. There are times when this instinct can protect us. More often, in modern society, we end up ruminating over insults, memories, and negative experiences.

This can play a role in our desire to “fix” our kids. Fortunately, with practice, negativity bias can be overridden and thus, you are better able to aim your focus on your child’s unique gifts and strong points.

How to Positively Parent

It begins with defining and identifying your child’s strengths. That means more than what they do well. But also, do they do something well often and with joy? The “something” can be a particular skill. Just as often, however, it’ll be a characteristic like compassion, courage, humor, or curiosity.

Emphasizing and rewarding such positive talents and attributes encourages them to continue. They’re inspired to put in the work to improve productively. Some tips:

Be a Role Model

Be sure that your child gets to witness you focusing on your positive traits. They’re always watching, so it’s vital that you practice healthy coping skills, regulate your emotions, and play up your strengths. When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed or stressed, take note. Your energy very much helps to shape your children’s perspectives, so catch yourself before your mood escalates.

photo of a parent reading to their childPay Close Attention

Learn to recognize your children’s tendencies. Never let good behavior go unrecognized. When they do well, give them praise. This not only reinforces the positive behavior but also lets them know you care deeply about all they do. Also, the better you know them, the easier it is to see potentially bad behavior brewing. You can preempt it and redirect their energies.

Be Empathetic

Kids of all ages are a bundle of confusing emotions without the cognitive skills to fully explain what’s going on. They deserve our patience and understanding. Talk to them about their challenges and let them know you’re available to talk.

Set and Enforce Boundaries

Every home needs rules, but they should not be arbitrary or mysterious. Explain the rules to your children in a way that emphasizes how positive behavior is encouraged and rewarded.

Dig Deeper

Resist the urge to punish your child if you don’t understand the underlying causes of their transgressions. Work to find the factor at play and take steps to reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses.

The Benefits of Positive Parenting

Studies have found outcomes like:

  • Better cognition
  • Stronger physical health
  • Reduction of disruptive behaviors
  • Better school performance
  • Greater emotional regulation
  • Faster development of language skills
  • Less aggression and hyperactivity
  • Healthier coping mechanisms

Positive parenting is not about strictly following a preplanned blueprint. Rather, you can adapt this concept to the specifics of you and your children. To learn more, I invite you to get in touch for a conversation for child or family therapy. Let’s talk about the possibilities!

child hiding underneath pillows with only small portion of face looking out

How To Spot Depression In Children

Everyone, at any and all ages, feels sad at times. You may also experience edginess, isolation, and a sense of gloom and doom. This is inevitable and almost always quite temporary — for children or adults. Depression, however, is nothing to chalk up to life’s ups and downs. It’s a mood disorder that, while treatable, is considered serious.

At least 3 percent of children and teens (between the ages of 3 and 17) will experience depression. You may initially see it as mood swings or “growing pains.” But if two weeks go by with no relief, you will need to take a closer look.

What Causes Spot Depression In Children?

Quite often, children struggle with depression and anxiety at the same time. Therefore, chronic anxiety is the top risk factor. This is especially true for children from 12 to 17 years of age. Over three million adolescents (13.3 percent) in the U.S. have had at least one major depressive episode. Meanwhile, nearly 32 percent of those adolescents have an anxiety disorder. Other risk factors include having mental disorders in your family history and the typical, puberty-related hormonal changes.

This brings us to the role of life stressors. Childhood can be stressful and such stress has been found to increase the likelihood of being diagnosed with depression. Here are just some of the common life stressors for children of all ages:

  • Conflict or violence in their home
  • Parents getting separated or divorced
  • Academic stress and/or changing to a new school
  • Bullying – either in person or online
  • Struggling with a medical illness, injury, or disability

For adolescents and teens, you can add in:

  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Social pressures
  • Preparing to apply for college
  • Pressure due to academic and/or athletic performances
  • Dating and relationships
  • Not feeling prepared to move into adulthood

These risk factors cover a lot of ground and most kids will negotiate them without becoming depressed. This makes it all the more essential that parents learn how to recognize red flags.

child hiding underneath pillows with only small portion of face looking outHow To Spot Depression In Children

General Signs That May Emerge From Ages 3 to 17

  • Palpable sadness punctuated by crying spells
  • Losing interest in activities that once excited them
  • Becoming socially withdrawal
  • Explained physical symptoms like headaches, low energy, and appetite changes
  • Major shifts in sleep habits
  • Regularly being absent from school
  • Decline in academic performance and grades
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Prone to anger and irritability (tantrums in younger children)
  • Feeling hopeless with low self-esteem
  • Threatening to run away from home
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying, self-harm, and suicide

Signs of Depression More Specific to Adolescents and Teens

Besides all those listed above, an older child with depression may engage in risky behaviors like substance abuse or reckless driving. They seem overwhelmed by any decision they face and this leads to them having a short, volatile temper. All of these behavioral changes frequently result in extreme feelings of guilt, shame, or self-hatred.

Needless to say, each child’s situation and personality will play a role. But, again, if these red flags arise and stick around for more than two weeks, it’s time to sit up and take notice.

Do Depressed Children Attempt Suicide?

The short answer is sometimes. Roughly 9 percent of high school students have attempted suicide and even more think about it. These numbers are on the rise. Less frequently, younger children may experience suicidal ideation. This is not meant to instill undue fear but rather highlight the importance of noticing the signs above along with a child giving away possessions and partaking in extreme self-isolation.

For all of these reasons, parents are advised to pay close attention and err on the side of caution when it comes to asking for help.

Reach out to us to learn more about child therapy as soon as possible if you are seeing signs of depression in your child.

photo of a young boy sitting at a desk writing in a journal

How To Help Your Anxious Child About Starting School Again

It’s easy to get used to summertime. For kids, this is especially true — due to the absence of school as a daily reality. They are creatures of the moment and, even if they have lots of friends in school, they simply cannot imagine going back. Summer brings its own routines, of course, but rarely is that vacation break as regimented and structured as the school year.

With all this in mind, it’s no surprise that your child gets anxious as the new school year approaches. It’s a stressful transition and many children experience separation anxiety at the mere thought. Fortunately, there are some useful steps you can take to help both of you!

Signs That Your Child Is Anxious About Starting School Again

Anxiety can manifest differently with each child but some universal red flags exist. When it comes to back-to-school time, here are some signs to watch for:

  • Unexplained physical issues like fatigue, digestive disturbances, muscle aches, and difficulty sleeping (especially when alone)
  • Losing interest in normal activities
  • Agitation that leads to family conflict
  • Temper tantrums when being asked to separate from parents or caregivers

Do not dismiss these symptoms. Your child is asking for help in the only ways they know how. To follow, we’ll offer some suggestions about how to provide such support.

How To Help Your Anxious Child About Starting School Again

Preparation

As mentioned above, routines are about to change in a major way. Slowly introduce school-year structures into your home in advance. Set strict bedtimes and wake-up times to normalize that experience. You might even have your kids choose their clothes the night before or plan a to-do list for the next day. If your children have classmates they like but haven’t seen since school ended, set up a couple of play dates to get them back into that comfort zone.

photo of a young boy sitting at a desk writing in a journalA giant step toward easing anxiety involves test runs. Rehearse the entire dropping-off process. Leave home at the normal time and then replicate their commute. If you walk them to a bus stop, do that. If you drive them to school, do that. Whatever they will be doing five days a week, help them walk through it to get familiar again with the experience. If the school itself is open before the new year begins, see if they’d be allowed to enter and walk around. Do this as often as feels necessary.

Validation

Take their worries seriously. Show your child that you’re listening and ready to help. It’s tempting to reassure them with something like “You’ll be fine,” but this doesn’t address how anxious they are. Find out what their concerns are and talk about each of them. Talk to them about times you’ve felt anxious when starting a new job or transitioning from high school to college.

Self-Awareness

You might be more anxious about the new school year than you realize. If so, your kid senses it. Check on yourself and take self-care steps to manage your stress levels so they don’t become contagious. In addition, carefully monitor how you talk to your child about the upcoming semester. How you word your questions can directly impact how they respond and thus, how they feel. Asking them what they will be learning is much more calming than inquiring if they’re ready for tougher classes.

Get Help If Anxiety Is Not Just About School

The end of summer could be just a trigger. The anxiety your child feels might have deeper roots. If you sense there’s more going on than back-to-school jitters, we should talk. Let’s find out what help your child needs to thrive again with child therapy.

photo of children sitting in a classroom working on their homework

How To Help Your Child Deal With Anxiety About Going Back To School

Every child reacts differently to the prospect of going back to school. Those who feel anxiety usually move past it once a few days or weeks have passed. That said, the initial anxiety they feel is genuine. Then you have the children who don’t smoothly move past the anxious thoughts. The transition never seems to get easier.

A parent can play a critical role in these scenarios. They can validate their child’s emotions and, just as importantly, each parent must check in with themselves to make sure they aren’t causing more anxiety. There are countless ways to help an anxious child and this work begins with learning to recognize the signs.

Common Signs of Anxiety

Even when they reach high school age, your children can struggle with finding the right language to express their emotions. Therefore, it becomes crucial that parents learn to recognize anxiety symptoms. This is not about the occasional nervousness or worry. We’re talking about signs that persist for weeks and hamper the child’s ability to handle daily functioning, e.g.

  • Sudden disruptions in eating and sleeping habits (more or less of either)
  • Digestive problems
  • Short temper
  • Restlessness and an inability to focus and concentrate
  • Unexplained crying and/or agitation
  • Becoming more clingy
  • Active expression of concerns, worries, and fears

Left unchecked, anxiety can hurt your kid’s academic performance and social life. In an older child, anxiety can increase the risk of substance abuse. Obviously, it is essential that such children get the help they need and deserve.

How To Help Your Child Deal With Anxiety About Going Back To School

Validate

Listen to their worries and make it clear that you take them seriously. Acknowledge that starting school can make people nervous and remind them that they are not alone. Avoid phrases like “You’ll be fine!” It may sound encouraging to you but can add to your child’s anxiousness. They’ll begin to wonder if there’s something specifically wrong with them.

Self-Assessment

As mentioned above, you can unknowingly contribute to the tension. What stress are you feeling and expressing about the start of the school year? Your child can sense your emotions and may feed off of them. Also, watch how you phrase questions. If your child struggled with writing the previous year, don’t ask if they’re nervous about English class this year. You can gently inquire with something like, “What material will they cover in your classes this year?” Give them room to open up at their own pace.

photo of children sitting in a classroom working on their homeworkPreparation

Some suggestions:

  • Begin school-year routines (like bedtime and preparing tomorrow’s clothes) a week or so before school begins.
  • Do some practice runs of the commute. If your child takes a school bus, you can drive them on the route a few times to make them familiar in advance. If your child is a teen and will be driving on their own to school, urge them to do the drive a few times to get comfortable with the roads, parking, etc.
  • If possible, visit the school before classes start. Meeting one of their upcoming teachers (again, if possible) could be a huge relief.
  • If your child has classmates they haven’t seen all summer, arrange a play date to get them together before the school semester commences.

Stay Positive, But Ask For Help When You Need It

You can reassure your children and help them make lists of the positive aspects of school. But if your efforts don’t ease their mind, reach out to a professional. A counselor can provide so much solace and guidance for both you and your children. Let’s connect for a free consultation about child therapy.

children of different races sitting together in a circle

How to Talk to Your Children About Racial Issues

There are countless ways to talk with your children about important issues. As for choosing the “right” way, well, that will sometimes depend on individual circumstances. Keep this in mind as you approach conversations about racial issues. Sure, there are challenges when discussing such topics but do not postpone this duty. By the time your children are six months old, they can notice racial differences. It’s been shown that some four-year-olds are already displaying race bias.

The goal is not “color blindness.” You want your children to recognize differences. The key is being open to talking about what those differences mean and what they don’t mean.

5 Ways to Talk to Your Children About Racial Issues

1. Educate Yourself

This is the foundational step. Learn the facts, learn about history, and stay in touch with new developments. If you don’t live in a diverse area, go out of your way to expose yourselves to museums, films, and other cultural opportunities. Share inspirational stories with your children but don’t go over the top with sharing information. You want to avoid making them feel like they’re in school or under pressure.

Also, in your journey of self-education, you may face complicated questions from your children. If you’re not sure about the answer, tell them. Be a role model by doing more work and then coming back to the discussion.

2. Be Age-Appropriate

  • Preschool: Use simple lessons like right vs. wrong and fair vs. unfair.
  • School-Age: Give them examples they can relate to and, over time, apply those examples to society at large. Focus on basic emotions like empathy and compassion — encouraging them to think big when contemplating them.
  • Adolescents and Teens: This is where you can speak directly to real-life experiences. All across the globe, older kids will find themselves in situations where they have to make moral choices. You are in an excellent position to guide and support them.

3. Lead By Example

Children of all ages watch their parents closely. It’s one thing to talk about racial justice. The truth lies in your behavior. Empower your kids by giving them the opportunity to watch you in action. When you refuse to be a bystander, it not only speaks volumes but will inspire many more questions and conversations.

children of different races sitting together in a circle4. Welcome and Ask Questions

Never, ever shut down a question or a line of thinking. Developing a perspective on racial issues requires a fair amount of trial and error. A child cannot process nuanced issues without asking lots of questions and taking a few missteps.

In turn, be sure that you ask lots of questions, too. Ask your child for their thoughts and opinions on stories in the news or incidents at their school. Give them space to answer and use that as a launching pad for more conversations. If you settle on a topic that is unfamiliar to both of you, research together to learn more.

5. Make the Conversations a Regular Thing

Racial issues are not about a one-time conversation. Like all important aspects of being human, it is a process without a finish line. Find ways to keep the discussions going and make it crystal clear that your kids can come to you — anytime — with questions, ideas, and concerns.

What If You Don’t Know How to Start This Work?

Short answer: It’s normal. No one should be expected to have all the answers. The keys are intention and motivation. If you find yourself struggling and feeling unable to reach your children, it could be very helpful to get some guidance. Working with a therapist is a proven path toward more confidence and better communication. Let’s connect and talk soon about how child therapy or teen counseling can help.

How To Improve Communication With Your Neurodivergent Child

When someone is neurodivergent, it doesn’t mean something negative. Rather, the term applies to how they behave, learn, process, and think. To some degree, we are all different within those realms but there are neurodiverse conditions. These include but are not limited to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome, and even anxiety disorders.

About 20 percent of children qualify as neurodivergent. They have brain development adaptations and thus, adjustments must be made. In particular, this pertains to communication. Learning to best communicate with your neurodivergent child will enable you to support them and enrich both of your lives.

Some of the Many Challenges When Parenting a Neurodivergent Child

  • The child is often guided by emotions
  • They are very difficult to calm down
  • You must adjust your expectations
  • It’s important to practice self-care, self-compassion, and self-control
  • Communication

That last item covers a lot of ground. You may feel as if you are speaking different languages at times. But common ground can be found. It’ll be an evolving process but is very much worth the effort.

How to Improve Communication With Your Neurodivergent Child

Of course, the following suggestions are eternal in nature. Each neurodivergent child is as unique as each neurotypical child. Make adjustments where necessary and be sure to ask for professional help when it is needed.

1. Self-Education

This is an ongoing process. There is no one “right way” to communicate with your child. Not to mention, it automatically evolves as your child ages. Commit to understanding what you need to understand in order to make your interactions happen more smoothly.

2. Talk to Your Child About Their Condition

Be sure to help them grasp their differences. Explain that some people are more accepting than others and support them as they navigate a sometimes cruel world.

3. Include Them in Conversations

Never assume they are not interested or curious. For example, if your neurodivergent child is present during a family discussion, ask them if they’d like to participate. Let them know that they are neither excluded from the conversation nor required to chime in.

4. Create Signals For Difficult Situations

Neurodivergent children may be more affected by outside stimuli than others. It could be noise, lights, textures, or more. Work in advance with your child to come up with escape plans should they become overstimulated. To avoid embarrassment or having to explain too much, these plans could involve your own personal language, e.g. signals or facial expressions.

5. Don’t Force Them to Communicate “Normally”

Just because most people communicate a certain doesn’t make other ways abnormal. A neurodivergent child’s method of communication may be uncommon. But let your child know that “uncommon” isn’t weird or wrong. If your child has a preferred method of interacting, the onus is on you to meet them where they’re at. Create a safe space in which they do not feel judged or pressured.

6. Involve Other Families Members (and Teachers, Too)

Obviously, you are not the only person your child interacts with. Do your part to build a bridge between your neurodivergent child and their siblings, extended families, teachers, neighbors, therapists, and so on. Not everyone will be as dedicated and patient as you but every little bit helps.

Parenting a Neurodivergent Child is Not a Solo Act

You will need guidance from skilled practitioners. Your child will almost certainly have a therapist. But what about you? When you’re running on empty, who do you turn to? Your weekly therapy sessions can be a sanctuary for addressing your fears, doubts, resentments, dreams, and more. we’d love to connect with you for a free and confidential consultation soon for child therapy.

4 Ways To Begin Calming Anxiety In Those With Autism

Anxiety is very common in autism. Perhaps as many as 4 in 10 people with autism spectrum disorder struggle with high levels of anxiety. This reality further increases the challenges of interacting with the world. But why does it happen?

It remains unclear whether anxiety is part of autism itself. Observational evidence confirms that people with autism often display anxiety. This is true even when they are in a familiar setting. So, anxiety may be baked in or it could be a somewhat inevitable outcome of navigating daily life as a person on the spectrum.

What Increases Anxiety in People With Autism?

Social Norms

Human interactions are very nuanced. Plus, they can differ depending on the setting, timing, and location. People on the autism spectrum may feel steady anxiety when trying to gauge their place in all of this. This reality can create more anxiety due to fear of bullying.

Beyond Words

We each use more than words to communicate. For someone with autism, body language, tone of voice, sarcasm, and metaphor might be confusing or even invisible. Imagine the stress of not knowing if you’re truly grasping what’s being communicated around you.

Over-Stimulation

Some of the aspects of “normal” everyday life can be a source of anxiety for people with autism. For example:

  • Crowds of people
  • Flashing or bright lights
  • Loud and/or unpredictable sounds

Fending off such sensory assaults can also be anxiety-inducing.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety in People With Autism

The symptoms of autism and the symptoms of anxiety intersect. This makes it even more difficult to pinpoint cause and effect. For now, consider the following signs to be where both conditions dovetail:

  • Sticking to a routine even when it no longer makes sense
  • Rocking
  • Appearing frightened without an obvious cause
  • Sweating, shaking, trembling, and pacing
  • Repeating oneself in language or actions
  • Wanting to stay home alone and avoid social interactions
  • Covering your ears or eyes in an attempt to shut out the source of anxiety

Autism and anxiety evoke a “what came first?” type of situation. But you don’t need to have scientific certainty to be of help. If someone you know with autism is displaying increased anxiety, there are some basic ways to help them become calmer.

4 Ways To Begin Calming Anxiety In Those With Autism

1. Remove the Trigger

First and foremost, if you can remove the source of their anxiety, it will begin the calming process. Take another look at the list of causes above. Keep this in mind for those times when you make need to leave an over-stimulating situation or location or ask if something like lights or noises can be reduced or turned off.

2. Plan in Advance

This is a two-part effort. Firstly, do your homework. Learn more about autism and learn more about the specifics of the person in question. From there, you shift into part two. You do your best to identify in advance any potential triggers you may encounter. Having something like sunglasses on hand to block out bright lights can be a game-changer.

3. Share What You’ve Learned

As you do your research, talk with the person with autism to help guide them. Empower them with the same knowledge you have. This can allow them to be in control of their own needs.

4. Be Especially Aware With Children

If you have a child on the autism spectrum, become familiar with concepts like deep pressure, fidget toys, sensory toolboxes, safe spaces, and more.

It can be quite useful for you to meet with a therapist to talk about all of the above. You can air out your fears and concerns while learning more about being sensitive and helpful. Child therapy can help you learn how to help them, reach out to us to begin.

Is Social Media Worsening Mental Health In Adolescents?

Did you know that roughly 44 percent of American teens feel sad or even hopeless? In light of the lockdowns, etc., you might not be surprised by this number. But what if I told you the number was almost as high before the pandemic? In fact, the number of teens feeling sad, hopeless, or having suicidal thoughts rose the most between 2009 and 2019. So, if it wasn’t all due to the pandemic, what could be the cause?

By 2010, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and the hashtag were in full effect. What role did the advent of social media have in the state of adolescent mental health?

What is Really Going Viral?

The average child opens their first social media account at 12 years old. Within one year, according to recent research, that translates to 97 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds on social media. About half of these teens admit to being online “almost constantly.” Studies find that the more time a kid is online, the higher the risk of:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Isolation

The confusion lies in the reality that kids can gain benefits from social media time, e.g.

  • Access to information that can help their education
  • Access in general for teens with disabilities or illnesses
  • Awareness of current events
  • The ability to interact with peers all across the globe

But the same mechanisms that offer such upsides are placing adolescents in some precarious situations.

The Curse of the Algorithm

Social media platforms are created with the simple goal of making profits — lots of profits. To succeed at this mission requires them to keep people’s eyes on their screens. This is accomplished through a wide range of tactics managed by an artificial intelligence algorithm. Kids are naturally impulsive. They are still developing their identities and intellectual capacities while subjected to intense marketing and manipulation.

They are herded into small hive minds that can present a skewed perception of the world around them. As a result, there are impacted by negative factors ranging from bullying to fake news to body image problems and beyond. In other words, it is essential for parents and guardians to get involved in some way.

How You Can Help

  • Talk to Your Children About Social Media: Explain to them that such platforms are run by huge corporations that don’t always have your best interests at heart. If necessary, monitor their accounts.
  • Talk to Your Children About Mental Health: Don’t let this topic be taboo or stigmatized. Normalize conversations about your everyone’s mental well-being.
  • Set Limits: Sure, this will provoke some conflict. But consider the alternative. You have every right and reason to set boundaries, e.g. no devices at the dinner table.
  • Talk About Appropriate Behavior: There is so much a teen can get caught up in online. Bring these topics out into the open. Discuss difficult subjects like bullying, pornography, etc.
  • Set Up Face-to-Face Socializing: Do everything you can to get your children to maximize in-person social time.

You’re In Uncharted Territory

As the numbers above highlight, this is a relatively new issue. As a parent, you can be forgiven for not having all the answers. This makes it crucial that you take personal steps to learn all you can — as soon as you can. Of course, you need to be up to date on what your kids are doing. But, more importantly, you’ll need input from a professional.

Parenting was hard enough before social media and smartphones. In this brave new world, it is necessary to learn new skills in terms of managing your adolescent’s online life. If you feel concerned about the social media usage, child therapy can help both of you. Let’s connect and talk soon.