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No More Battles: Morning routines that work!

setting a morning routine

Over and over I hear from parents who feel like the life has been drained out of them before they’ve even made it through their morning coffee. Kids are sluggish and full of complaints from the moment they open their eyes; parents are nagging and panicking about being late (again); the whole family is angry and anxious and starts their day feeling awful. It doesn’t have to be this way! You can say goodbye to those morning battles and find a routine that works!

7 Tips for a Successful Morning Routine:

  1. Sleep. You know it and I know it. We are never going to be at our best when we’re tired. I know that this is easier said than done, but for your morning to go as smoothly as possible your kiddo AND you should be as well-rested as possible. It’s not enough to get one good night of sleep to make up for a weekend of late nights. That means working on your sleep hygiene, including going to sleep and waking up at the same times each day.
  2. Nourished Brain. Eat breakfast. The research is SO clear on this. Your child will be a more effective decision maker and have better attention and memory if they’ve eaten breakfast.  If your child rejects the notion of breakfast, try something sneaky… like a smoothie. It may not be ideal, but drinking their breakfast while getting ready may be easier than sitting down to eat for a child who would otherwise not eat at all. Relatedly, some kiddos’ brain chemistry is a whole lot more balanced with medication. If your child is taking medication, keep it consistent. Talk to your child’s prescribing practitioner. Ask about any tips they have for timing daily dosages to set them up for success. Also, speaking from experience with numerous teens and tweens, please help monitor their medication to ensure that they maintain consistency. Your child may be very responsible, but for some medications a missed dosage can have a lasting impact.
  3. Screen Time Limits. As I write this, kids all over the world are sitting in front of a computer most of their school day due to the necessity of distance learning. Parents are also exhausted and without childcare. What does that mean? A lot of screen time. Look, I am certainly not without compassion. However, too much screen time can cause epic cases of the grouchies, lead to lack of movement, and disrupt sleep. In excess, it can also wreak havoc on the frontal lobe of the brain. This is the part of the brain that helps us with things like planning, follow through and organization. I believe deeply in a few things when it comes to screen time: not all screen time is created equal (school is not the same as watching tv); screen time, when offered as a reward, makes us want it more; and  “Zoom Fatigue” is real. If your child will be using screen time in the morning before school, avoid it being a “reward,” consider your parameters carefully and check out some surprising secret solutions for setting screen time limits.
  4. Musical Associations. We are all creatures of habit and tend to respond predictably to cues in our environment. Think about it this way. Most of us have been exposed to one or another version of a clean up song often reserved for preschoolers. Have you ever witnessed it’s magic? When a teacher starts singing their version of the song, nearly all the students automatically go right into the task. They know what it symbolizes. These sorts of associations work for all ages and can work for any task. One easy way to do this is to create a household music playlist for the mornings (or have your child create one just for them). The lyrics don’t have to have anything to do with the specific task. The song itself will still operate as a symbol. You can time it out and designate, as a family, certain songs as markers for the start of a new activity. Just be sure that you use music that you enjoy and can tolerate listening to everyday.
  5. Visual Reminders. Technically, this is another form of association not so unlike the tip above. It’s one thing to “know” the routine and it’s another to follow it. Having the morning (or daily) routine written out or even displayed in pictures can give kids the reference point they need to re-orient themselves. I also find that visual reminders can take some of the pressure off of us to hold a list of tasks in our brain. This is great for reducing anxiety. It’s essentially a to-do list. In my household right now, we’re juggling several schedules. Some of these schedules change from one day to the next and can be really confusing! I find that having a morning huddle to review the day’s plan and reference the calendars we’ve put on our wall helps lower the morning anxiety and decrease the grouchies. The image included here is a sample of a weekly calendar that I might make in my practice with a family to help their young child know what they can look forward to during the week– fun activities, chores and tasks, tasty treats. You can include it all. Just be sure to keep some empty space and not overwhelm. Create Your Own Customizable Calendar!
  6. Individualized Routine. When I was still relatively new to the whole chaos of the morning routine with kids, I remember rigidly holding out on a morning routine. I was certain it made the most sense for us. Over time, however, I discovered that there was one task that always stopped us up in our household. We were late more times than I’d like to admit because brushing my preschoolers teeth near the end of the morning routine would go awry somehow. One day I was lamenting over it with a friend. She asked me– what if he brushed his teeth before breakfast? Before breakfast?! I could hardly fathom it. Then I considered the layout of my house. We would now end the routine closer to the front door. I also considered that my kid was food-motivated. He would do anything I asked with record speed to get to his first meal of the day. Suddenly, my friend’s suggestion seemed like such a brilliant solution! That’s my silly story about how I let go of rigidity. We found a morning routine that decreased our stress tenfold. You can do it, too.
  7. Be Kind to Yourself. Our children depend on us a great deal to help them regulate when they are overwhelmed by emotion. If you have a teenager, you know that the parent-child mood tangle is impactful, too. So, when I say “be kind to yourself” I mean seek support, take a moment for a few deep breaths, and find other ways to ensure that YOU are healthy and well. Your ability to regulate your own emotions during the morning routine (aka morning chaos) will be so much better if you are operating from a full cup. This will absolutely have an impact on your child’s mindset.

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, we’re here for you.

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School Dread? Change their mindset in four steps

As your kids get ready to go back to school (or resume online school), do you wonder what more you can do to help them succeed academically or thrive socially? In her updated 2017 version of her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck, the psychologist who researched and coined the terms “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset,”cautions us that true mindset change requires more than just “picking up a few tricks”. It requires us to take a journey and change our perspective. Before school begins, start that journey and change their (and your) mindset with four steps!

A few of years ago on this blog, we talked about “fixed mindset”, a belief that one’s qualities and abilities are fixed, and that one can’t readily change or grow. This belief leads to problems such as: acting up, perfectionism, and seeking constant reassurance. We explained how adopting a “growth mindset”, a belief that people can learn and improve through effort, can promote learning. We suggested some simple growth mindset practices you could try.

Now seems like a good time to check back in with you about this. Did you try some of the growth mindset practices we suggested?  Did you find your situation improved in the short-term, but eventually returned to the way it was before? Have you and your child fallen back into old “fixed mindset” ways of thinking and behaving? Changing behavior can be hard! It’s never too late to restart your journey and change your mindset in four steps. 

The Growth Mindset Journey

Dweck outlines the process to change mindset in four steps, summarized below. Read on for an in-depth explanation of each step! 

  1. Embrace your fixed mindset. 
  2. Become aware of your fixed mindset triggers.
  3. Give your fixed mindset persona a name.
  4. Educate your fixed mindset persona and take it on the journey with you.
Embrace Your Fixed Mindset

The first step, “Embrace your fixed mindset”, involves becoming aware of your fixed mindset thoughts when they arise, and acknowledging and accepting them for what they are.  Many people believe that they can solve their problems and become happier by changing their thoughts. Therefore, when people try to take up a growth mindset, they often try to suppress, replace, or avoid fixed mindset thoughts.  However, the principles of mindfulness tell us that trying to change our thinking in this way often makes us think unwanted thoughts even more. It creates more internal struggle. 

If you’re not convinced, try this little thought experiment: For a full minute, don’t think about popcorn. Whatever you do, don’t think about popcorn. Try to avoid thinking about it at all costs. Think about bananas instead. 

What happened?  Did you think about popcorn? Of course you did!  That is just the way the mind works. So instead of trying to avoid or change fixed mindset thoughts, try just noticing your fixed mindset thoughts with nonjudgmental awareness. Let them be just as they are.  Notice them. Note that they are there. You might say to yourself silently, “I’m having the thought that I’ll never be able to learn this,” or, “I notice I’m having the thought that Jake is never going to get better.” Try noticing your fixed mindset thoughts like this for a few days. It may help to remember, we all have fixed mindset thoughts sometimes. None of us embodies a growth mindset 100% of the time.

Become Aware of Your Fixed Mindset Triggers

In the second step of this journey, “Become aware of your fixed mindset triggers,” we start to identify when our fixed mindset shows up. Maybe your fixed mindset kicks in when you take on a new challenge, when you’ve failed at something, or when you hear about someone else doing something (like baking a cake or writing a report), a lot better than you can. For a week or two, notice whenever your fixed mindset is triggered and write down the situation that sets off your fixed mindset thinking. Then review your list of triggers and note any patterns. You may find that you have a number of fixed mindset triggers, but that there are some triggers that you are especially sensitive to. This is helpful information. You can use it as you continue on with your journey.

Give Your Fixed Mindset Persona A Name

For the third step, Dweck recommends you give your fixed mindset a first name and think about how your fixed mindset impacts your life and others. Some of you may find giving your fixed mindset persona a name to be helpful, but if this doesn’t feel right to you, skip it. Just be sure to spend time thinking deeply about how your fixed mindset affects your life and others in your life in different ways. 

If your family, friends, or co-workers who you interact with regularly are going on a growth mindset journey with you, you can sit down together and discuss how each person’s fixed mindset persona affects them as well as everybody else in your group. Alternatively, you can spend some time writing about the effects of your fixed mindset in a journal. However you choose to do it, see if you can approach this step with an attitude of curiosity and kindness. Perhaps explore why your fixed mindset has taken hold. Often, a fixed mindset develops to protect us from rejection and harm. Our mind tries hard to protect us!

Educate Your Fixed Mindset Persona and Take it on the Journey with You.

For the last step, we continue to be aware when we have a fixed mindset thought and accept it for what it is. We begin to apply our new understanding of our fixed mindset as we go about our daily lives. Begin a silent, internal dialogue with the fixed mindset part of you. When the fixed mindset shows up, try to empathize with it. Thank it for its input. Tell it you’d like try something a little different and and ask it if it’s willing to bear with you as you try a different way. If you’re working on adopting a growth mindset alongside others, you can help each other. When you find yourself becoming judgmental of others’ skills or abilities, let them know that your fixed mindset is active. When either of you fall into a fixed mindset, you can ask each other for support. 

Don’t Lose Sight of the Journey

So now you’re on your way! As you continue along this path, know this: Often when people start to change their behavior and notice improvement, they think the improvement will stick around without any additional effort on their part. They stop doing the things that caused the improvement. Then the situation gets worse again! 

As with any kind of behavior change, to see lasting change, we need to continue to do the things that help. Dweck advises us that change requires commitment, as well as time, effort, and support from others. When you find your motivation decreasing or your behavior slipping, gently remind yourself why you embarked on this journey. Be kind to yourself and remember we all misstep from time to time. Then revisit the process outlined here and step back on the path to growth and learning! Bon voyage!

Debby Urken, LMSW is a child and family therapist at Intuition Wellness Center in Tucson, AZ. To schedule an appointment, please fill out an online request . 

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, we’re here for you.

By Debby Urken, LMSW; Child & Family Therapist at Intuition Wellness Center

 

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Beat the Heat: 3 tips to keep your kids hydrated

Kids Hydration

Gosh, it is hot out there. I know I chose to live in Tucson, AZ and it comes with the territory but the heat of the summer always leaves me a bit sweaty, tired, and cranky. For our kids however, it is not always so obvious that the heat is getting to them. This is the time of year that not hydrating properly and maintaining a certain electrolyte balance can be dangerous.  We need to let our kids get outside in nature and playing every day. We also need to keep our kids hydrated. 

Signs of Dehydration:

There are two clinical stages of dehydration. Here are the things to watch for…

Stage 1 is when your child complains about being thirsty, begins to act restless or lethargic, and probably acts irritated if you try to touch them. Their eyes will be slightly sunken, mouth will be “sticky”, urine will be darker colored and they will have decreased tears.  

Stage 2  is more serious and requires hospitalization. This is the point when your child will act drowsy, limp, cold and sweaty and possibly even comatose. Their eyes will be very sunken and their mouth will be dry. They stop producing urine and tears. If they get to this point, please proceed directly to the emergency room.  

If you can catch your child in stage 1, there are some easy things that you can do.

3 Tips to Get Your Kids Hydrated:

  1. Popsicles: Sometimes with dehydration, your child can feel nauseated and will even vomit, especially if they drink water too quickly. This is why popsicles are such a win on hot days. They are cooling and hydrating at the same time and help with nausea by not overwhelming their bellies. Ideally, you could make electrolyte popsicles (see the recipe below) to have on hand but in reality, any sort of popsicle will do the trick. And, it will likely take them out of the cranky mood – a double win!Beat Dehydration
  2. Electrolyte Water:  At minimum, add a pinch of sea salt to any cup of water before giving it to your hot kiddo and have them drink slowly. The amount of salt shouldn’t be enough that they taste it too much. Electrolyte drinks, like Pedialyte or Gatorade, have weird colors and sugars in them. They are not my first choice, but they are definitely better than going to the hospital and will do the trick if you have them on hand. Coconut water is better but only for children over the age of 2-years as the sodium-potassium balance isn’t quite right for the littles. My family likes the Nuun tablets (no affiliation). They add flavor and electrolytes to water, taste good and work well.  Just be sure not to purchase the kind with caffeine in them too.
  3. Epsom Salt Bath: This one may sound weird, but it will definitely make your child feel better. In this case, use 1 cup of epsom salt in a warm bath (just warm enough to dissolve the salt) and let your child soak for 10-15 minutes.  It will calm them down, relax any tight muscles, and take away any headaches. Have them slowly sip on water or eat a popsicle while they are in the bath and they will soon be good to go in no time at all.

Watch For More Information on Getting Your Kids Hydrated:

Dr. Kate Sage is a naturopathic family physician at Intuition Wellness Center in Tucson, AZ. To schedule an appointment, please fill out an online request or visit give us a call at 520-333-3320. 

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, we’re here for you.

By Kate Sage, NMD; Naturopathic Family Physician at Intuition Wellness Center

 

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Four Movement Activities For Your Cranky Kid

Movement for Cranky Kids

There’s a lot going on right now for all of us. And by that, I’m definitely talking about the anger, sadness, grief and chronic state of crisis fatigue many are experiencing. Tired from trying our best to cope with our own big feelings, many parents are finding it difficult to navigate our kids feelings, too. However, all of us can certainly understand why our kids are cranky. I mean, who isn’t feeling irritable? When I asked our team pediatric occupational therapist, Anne Berkery, OTR/L, about recommendations for helping kids cope, she didn’t disappoint. Anne enthusiastically offered many suggestions of movement-based activities that can help kids with their crankies.

An occupational therapist (OT) is always thinking about the movement needs of their clients. A lack of movement often means big problems and Anne Berkery, OTR/L conceptualizes this as a contributor to irritability. With school remaining online for many and usual activities inaccessible, so many kids are more sedentary than usual right now. 

4 Easy Movement Activities to Help Your Cranky Kid

  1. Obstacle Courses. Anne says that we should get our kids running. Obstacle courses are a semi-sneaky way of achieving this goal. The especially great thing about obstacle courses is that you can make them in just about any space and using things around your house. If the kids start getting bored with it, just switch it up. Move things around. Level Up: For a personalized touch, help your kiddo trace their feet and cut out the shapes on colored paper. Use these cutouts to mark their intended steps or to represent certain actions during the obstacle course.
  2. Musical Chairs. Tried and true, a game of musical chairs will get them moving and laughing. This works especially well when at least a few family members can join in. All you need is one less chair than players, some fun music and someone who will hit pause from time to time. Level Up: Have your child choose the soundtrack to make it especially fun for them and have them dance and not just walk around the chairs.
  3. Beach Balls. Bop around a beach ball or two or a couple of balloons for another movement activity that’s hard to resist. Level Up: Create a challenge of how many times they can bop the ball before it hits the ground. See if you can add in a funny gesture or movement between hitting the ball.
  4. Jump Rope. A great test of coordination, the rhythmic nature of jumping rope can actually be soothing as well.  Also great about jumping rope? It can be done independently when others aren’t available to help turn the rope. Level Up: Add a song to your jumping or for a really big challenge try it out with a second rope double dutch style. For especially young kids, the rope can be placed on the floor to allow them to jump over.

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, we’re here for you. Call 520-333-3320 or request an appointment.

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Every Parent Needs This Right Now: Meditation Roundup

Hi. How are you? Like… really? Are you struggling as much as most parents right now? Look. I know you’re worried about your kid(s). I’ll give you some ideas for them, too. I’m pretty concerned about you right now though. The expectations on you are confusing and more than they should be. You know, your kids can’t be fully well if you aren’t. You need support, Mamas and Papas. And kindness and joy and quiet and presence. 

I don’t have anything very profound to say. Just know that we’re thinking about you and we’re here for you. And while I have your attention, maybe a meditation or two for you and the kids would be nice… 

8 Little Meditations for Parents and their Kids

  1. Get started with 10 Easy Steps for Mindfulness Meditation 
  2. Have just a few minutes? 8 Simple Breathing Strategies 
  3. Release Anger. Meditation with Your Feet 
  4. Sleepy time with deep breathing and visual imagery. Sleep Meditation for Kids & Parents
  5. Easy Relaxation for Kids using visual imagery and progressive muscle relaxation 
  6. Loving Kindness Meditation using compassion for self and others
  7. When you just need to Breathe, Mama
  8. And finally, register now for a FREE 15-min Virtual Meditation Break for Busy Moms on July 21

Busy Moms Meditation Break

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, we’re here for you. Call 520-333-3320 or request an appointment.

 

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Dads Don’t Just Wanna Have Fun (and Other Obvious Truths)

When I asked my children what makes a good dad, the first word that came to their minds was “playful.” At first, I wasn’t sure if I found their word choice delightful or annoying. I mean I’m a huge believer in the importance of play. It can be so healing and supportive of development. Yet, the old stereotype of dads as fun and moms as nurturing is getting tired in my opinion. Dads have been typecast even by the kids. But in fact, dads don’t just wanna have fun.

I switched tactics in case my kids hadn’t really understood. Re-worded my question. I asked them what things they think dads should be responsible for doing. Granted, my survey sample was pretty small, but my kids’ response is what cemented for me that yes, I was going to choose annoyance over delight. Their list included things like building legos and playing tag. What?! That’s a “responsibility?!”

yes… yes, it is.

I let that marinate and stew for a bit and decided it was best for my own wellbeing that I not ask them for the same list for moms right now. Even in my own household where gender roles aren’t always traditional, my very own children have bought into the stereotype. What I know to be real though, is that we have lots of dads showing up in our office to support their kids in really vulnerable ways. Sometimes it does, but many times it doesn’t include playing tag and building legos. Dads are much more than just playmates. So let’s set the record straight.

Here’s what dads are actually doing and saying:

In a 2015 survey, 57% of fathers (and 58% of mothers) said that parenting is extremely important to their identity. Also commensurate with moms, 54% said that parenting is rewarding all of the time (versus 52% of mothers). Lastly, 46% of fathers (and 41% of mothers) stated that parenting is enjoyable all the time. (Pew Research Center)

Pew Research Fathering Stats

As of 2016, fathers were reportedly spending an average of 8 hours a week on child care–about triple the amount they were spending in 1965. Sure, this still isn’t as much as moms who spend 14 hours a week. The gender gap continues to be an issue worth addressing. Yet, consider that fathers also don’t feel nearly as positive about their own parenting as mothers. Just 39% of fathers said in 2015 that they were doing a very good job raising their children as compared to 51% of mothers. And, in case their was any doubt, for both mothers and fathers, what others think of their parenting also matters to them.

Good Parents

How do we change the dad stereotype?

Let’s start out by acknowledging that the solution is mired by a lot of complicating systemic issues. Here are some big disclaimers: There are some deeply ingrained gender disparities impacting this dynamic. I fully recognize this and continue to try to wrap my brain around the nuances factoring into this stereotype. At Intuition Wellness Center, we also respect that each family has to decide what their perfect balance is and its not up to us to decide. There are things that dads can do directly and also that the system itself must do to allow for change.

  1. Dads must be willing to do it all. If they really want to change the stereotype that is. I am not suggesting that dads don’t play, by the way. Please do! I get that this is the obvious answer, but it’s not as easy to enact as the rest of us might think. Trust me. I’ve talked to a lot of dads and they are struggling with balance and feelings of inadequacy just as moms are. Don’t give up, Dads.
  2. Moms must be willing to not do it all. I’m tiptoeing here, but societal mom-shaming is a real thing that is contributing to this whole dynamic. Some moms get in an awfully sticky place of feeling that to be worthy as a mom they must take it all on. Not true, Mamas. We subscribe to a village mentality of parenting around here. This means that the community has to step up so that moms have the support they need in order to not do it all.
  3. The system, including education and healthcare, has to step it up. What do I mean by this? Well, this means having concentrated trainings for healthcare workers and educators on how to engage the whole family unit. Even at Intuition Wellness Center we have to remind ourselves, regularly, not just to engage the parent who is easiest to access or quickest to respond. This feeds into an exclusionary dynamic. Despite wanting to be involved, one parent (and yes, this is often the dads) is left out. And guess what happens after repeatedly being left out? Well… you start to believe that you deserve it. And this creates learned helplessness. While this responsibility should be firmly on the shoulders of the educator or provider, I encourage parents to remind them of their preferences.
  4. Expose children to examples that break the mold. Yup, the way to change stereotypes is to find exceptions. Choose books and movies that support dads and caregivers of all kinds and doing many different things. Though the heading is focused on children’s exposure, really we could all benefit from this.

What shows or books do you recommend for breaking dad stereotypes?

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

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Breathe, Mama

Breathe Mama

Oh, mama. I see you…  tangled up in a mess of emotions and putting on a brave face for the kids. Closing yourself in the bathroom in an effort to shelter your children from the eruption of emotion that is bubbling and threatening just under the surface. Trying hard to smile and show interest in yet-another-kid-inspired game of pretend even though what you actually feel is nothing. Numbness. Yelling at the kids for being too loud only to realize too late the irony of your actions. Trying desperately to retreat secretly to someplace— anyplace— that they may not find you for three glorious minutes. Breathe, mama. 

Breathe, Mama

 

Close your eyes and take a deep breath in, no matter where you are. Let it out. The whole breath.

Breathe in again, mama. Deeply and slowly. And with that breath, feel your stomach expand. Now hold and count. 1-2-3-4. Deep sigh all the way out… push that breath away and let it take just a small part of the stress you’re feeling with it. 

Imagine that stress swirling away from your body– floating away as if caught on a draft. Imagine in your mind’s eye that that stress, like a plume of smoke or a drifting cloud, escapes with your breath through your open mouth. Take another deep breath and hold. 1-2-3-4. And then watch that deep breath drift from your mouth and take with it stress and frustration. Unrest, distress and pain. 

Breathe in compassion, relaxation, contentment… and breathe out stress.

You’ve got this, mama. You are worthy and good. You can do this…

May is mental health awareness month and nestled in the middle is Mother’s Day. There is no shame in feeling your feelings. Breathe. Work on your village. Look for helpers. Acknowledge that being a mother is one of the toughest jobs on the planet.

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

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Parents: You can do this!

Social media is a dangerous place to hang out if you’re trying to avoid anxiety-provoking content at the moment. In particular, there’s been such contradictory advice about parenting during the pandemic. And it’s coming from every angle. Meanwhile, parents have found themselves very suddenly coping with their own waves of overwhelming emotions while also simultaneously trying to do what’s best for their children and find some way to make a living. It’s too much and, as Chloe Cooney eloquently put it, Parents Are Not Ok. My addition to her statement is a “yet,” as in “Parents are not ok yet.” In case you needed to hear it, you can do this, Parents!

Amid the extremes, sometimes there are also real gems– validating and connecting pieces– floating about in social media feeds. One recent message perfectly states a position I fully support, particularly for parents. We need community care and not just self care, reaching in and not just reaching out.

In the spirit of reaching in, here’s a little message for our clients and their families. It really isn’t the same at Intuition Wellness Center without you. We miss the chatter and the energy in our Great Room, but our team is still here for you.

Here’s a message from Dr. Kate Sage also who really wants to know “How are you?”:

 

Despite the pandemic, we are continuing to support children, young adults and parents through telehealth and, in some cases, through home visits. We’ve also made a commitment not to turn anyone away due to financial concerns. At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, request an appointment on our website or call us for more information: 520-333-3320.

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The Pandemic of COVID-19: A lesson to our kids that we are all connected

I didn’t understand– most of us didn’t– exactly how it would feel to prepare for a pandemic to sweep through. On Friday afternoon our team naturopathic physician, Dr. Sage, attended a special seminar hosted by the Arizona Department of Health Services about COVID-19 (aka. Novel Coronavirus). On Monday, Dr. Sage and I began putting together a statement for our team and our clients as well as a protocol for increasing cleaning measures in our office. By Tuesday, we became aware that a confirmed case of the virus is now in our county. And for the last couple of days we’ve been working out the details of a plan in case our team members or clients are quarantined. It’s been a whirlwind, but now we’re just waiting and thinking a lot about what’s to come. The spread of COVID-19 is a reminder and a lesson on how interconnected we all are at both global and local levels… for better or worse.

As a pediatric practice, most of our clients are children and young adults who seem to be the least impacted by the virus. This is a relief certainly. Yet, we believe in a community-based model of healing and wellbeing, which means that each of us– old, young, healthy and sick– has a responsibility to others. It’s up to all of us to make efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to respond with compassion to those who are suffering because of it.

Most of the kiddos we see are spending their days at school in what is often akin to a petri dish no matter how well school personnel clean. Many kids have or will get COVID-19 and they will very likely be fine. However, in order to be a part of protecting others in their community, they do need to understand that there is a virus coming through. They need to understand also that each of us could unwittingly spread it to others.

Looking for support in talking to your kids about COVID-19?

I encourage you to talk to your children about COVID-19 in a measured, compassionate and rational way. There’s some excellent content out there about how to do so that I’m linking below. My biggest tip is to monitor your own anxiety about it and be certain that your anxiety feels manageable in the moment(s) you have this conversation with your children. Filter their news intake and your own for that matter, as well. And don’t forget to talk to them about what they can do to help protect their community.

We can help support you in talking to your child about COVID-19 and if your child already has a provider, don’t hesitate to let them know that you would like this support.

If you notice that your child seems to be experiencing particularly big worry about COVID-19, it’s not generally helpful to tell them simply not to worry. Katie Hurley, a licensed clinical social worker who works with children, recently summed this up on her social media.

“During the past few days of therapy sessions, a number of kids have said something like this: Grownups are telling me not to worry because it only gets old people, but what about my grandparents? Will they be okay? …It’s up to us to help kids work through their anxious thoughts. Kids never ever stop worrying simply because adults say, ‘don’t worry.’ That’s not how worrying works.” — Katie Hurley, LCSW

What steps is Intuition Wellness Center taking to protect our community?

  1. Limiting exposures. We are asking that if you have symptoms, please do not come in for your appointments. In fact, stay home altogether. Call or email us and let us know if you have a fever or cough. Our team members are working hard to stay healthy and will be staying home if they have symptoms. Medical facilities are reserving tests for only those with severe symptoms, so, unfortunately, there will be no way for many of us to truly confirm if it’s COVID-19 rather than just a cold. Telehealth may be an option for your OT or therapy sessions if it’s clinically appropriate and it will definitely be an option for naturopathic medical sessions.
  2. Keeping a clean space. We’ve given each team member additional cleaning options and we’ve asked them to up their cleaning protocol. We’re also pulling out some of the non-essential play items and fabric items in our center so that we can concentrate our cleaning efforts. Lastly, we’ve also asked our nighttime cleaning crew to increase their efforts.
  3. Handwashing. You’ve heard it a million times now, but this may be one of the most important tips. Wash your hands… wash your hands… wash your hands. Simple soap and water is very effective at killing COVID-19. We’ve added a hand washing station and reminders and tips to make it more enjoyable for children. Please wash your hands when you arrive in our center to protect yourself and others.

Read our full statement about attendance at sessions and our precautions here.

The very short video here is of Dr. Sage and me with a quick acknowledgment of the symptoms to watch for and a general overview of how we’re approaching all of this. The resources that I mention at the end of this video are conveniently listed and/or linked at the end of this post.

https://youtu.be/dV4CWsEj6nE

Finally, a silver lining.

Here’s the great news. People really do pull together when there’s a crisis or devastating event. Research suggests that most of us become incredibly altruistic in these situations. We are even more likely to do things like wash our hands when we know it is for the good of someone else. Your children can understand this and are capable of great compassion. The recent spread of COVID-19 is also an opportunity to think through, perhaps with your children, the things that you can do to reach out to those who are directly impacted. Know an elderly neighbor without local family? Check in on them regularly to prevent isolation. Even if they’re quarantined, a phone call can go a long way. What about a family who may be especially financially impacted if schools close down and mom can’t go to work? Offer them childcare or groceries. As part of that practice of compassion and kindness, remember this in a time when many people are fearful:

“If you believe that somebody is overreacting, just try to remember that another word for ‘overreaction’ is ‘fear.’ Try to be compassionate, not contemptuous. We don’t all share the same fears, but we all know what fear feels like, and it’s a terrible sensation. I wouldn’t wish fear on anybody, and I know that a lot of people are genuinely afraid right now.” –Elizabeth Gilbert

Another silver lining in all of this is that, for some of us, this may be an opportunity to slow down life with our children and reconnect with them. Yes, that can also create stress, too.

What am I going to do with my children during this?

Here are some screen-free ideas for things to do with your kids if school shuts down or if they’re in a 14-day quarantine:

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

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Get Your Wakeful Child to Sleep… Finally!

healthy sleep

If your children (and you) sleep through the night, you are the envy of parents everywhere! So many things can get in the way of getting a consistently good night’s rest– overstimulation, anxiety, depression, difficulty with making transitions, etc. Maybe your sweetie pie repeatedly begs for one more drink of water, worries about the next school day, or can’t seem to turn off their motor at the end of the day. As a parent it can be so hard to keep your wits about you when you’re tired, they’re tired, and no one is getting their much needed rest. If you’re ready to be proactive in support of healthy sleep patterns for your wakeful child, keep reading.

How Much Sleep Should Kiddo Get?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you and your littles strive to get the following amount of hours of sleep per night:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
  • School Age (6-13 years): 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17 years): 8-10 hours
  • Adults (18-64 years): 7-9 hours
  • Older Adults (65+ years): 7-8 hours

Now, there is a reason that a range of hours is listed for each age group and that is that people are all different. If you have questions about whether or not your unique child is getting enough sleep, consult with your child’s physician.

3 Tips for Getting Your Child to Sleep
  • Be Consistent. You’ve most likely heard this tip before. Getting your child or yourself into a rhythm and routine each day is crucial for getting restful sleep. They should have a set bedtime and wake time regardless of whether it’s a weekday, weekend, or holiday. Additionally, get a routine in place for bedtime that includes relaxing activities such as bath time and reading, or meditation and journaling. These consistent rhythms and routines will keep your kiddo’s sleep cycles (circadian rhythm) in check and their natural melatonin production operating optimally.  For more information on balancing natural melatonin levels, check out the tips below from Dr. Sage, Naturopathic Family Physician at Intuition Wellness.

Video not working?  Try this: Get Your Child to Sleep: Rebalance Melatonin Production

  • Create a Sanctuary. Your child’s sleeping area should be simple and their bed should be a sleep-only zone. This means that they shouldn’t be doing their homework or even reading in their bed. Creating the right mental association for them will essentially train their brain to relax once they lay down in their bed. It’s ok for your child to have some sort of transitional object, such as a stuffed animal, in bed with them. Yet, keep the space uncluttered overall to maintain your sleep-only zone. In addition, create a home culture that doesn’t allow electronics in bed. The blue light emitted from screens can be especially problematic for sleep-wake cycles. Plus,  keeping screen distractions away from bed will also create healthy bedtime boundaries. It’s also best if your child can be awakened by natural light. However, most school days start so early that this often isn’t an option. If getting up before sunrise is truly necessary, consider purchasing a light box, which will also support natural melatonin production.
  •  Exercise and Movement. Children who stay active during the day often sleep more restfully in the evening. If your child has a tendency to be a couch potato, there are many strategies you can try to get them moving. Finding activities that they enjoy is especially important. They should refrain from heavy exercise close to bedtime. Activities such as slow yoga or stretching are ok in the evenings and you can even combine them with meditation or other relaxation techniques.

Looking for more? Check out a more detailed version of our sleep tips ready for print or to be bookmarked.

8 Tips for Healthy Sleep Hygiene
Printable Tips for Getting Your Child to Sleep!

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

 

 

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Why You Should Talk to Your Children About Race… Yes, Even if You’re White

Talking to children about race

My kids had a day off of school last month in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a natural opportunity for us to talk about who Dr. King was and why his tireless activism was so important. One thing led to another and we were deep in conversation about motivations for racism. I doubted myself. I stumbled on my words. This isn’t the first time that I’ve talked to my children about race, but the older they get the more complex their questions become. I know that it’s part of my white privilege that I don’t think of my race all the time. I also know that talking about race just once a year or just a few times during Black History Month is not enough. We have to talk to our children about race and yes, even us white people. 

Why you should talk to your children about race. 

Colorblind approaches don’t work. 

Well-meaning, but misinformed, many white parents hesitate to teach their children about racial constructs.  There seems to be a wish for a utopian “we’re-all-the-same” approach and by drawing attention to difference we worry that we will disrupt this. Many white parents worry that even saying something positive about race will highlight and create divisions. This assumes that children weren’t previously aware of difference, but this just isn’t what the research suggests. In fact, we’ve known for some time that children become aware of race around age 3 and some research suggests this happens even as early as infancy.

According to a 2007 study, nonwhite parents are about three times more likely to discuss race than white parents; 75 percent of white parents never or almost never talk to their children about race. In a study that asked white parents to address race with their children, some of the participants dropped out or were only willing to make positive general statements about equality, but not about race specifically. This isn’t enough. Research suggests that without specifically addressing race, children do not generalize these statements to race and, in fact, demonstrate racial bias from a very young age. 

Bias is in all of us. 

Bias exists for all of us. If we’re committed to eliminating it, we also must be open to examining our biases on a regular basis. We used to believe that bias was all socially constructed, but newer theories suggest that preferences for sameness may be more complicated and appear at a very young age. Without talking to our children about bias and specifically with regard to race, we limit their awareness and make them more susceptible to absorb bias. Normalizing this experience while encouraging inclusivity gives our children the information they need to develop self awareness and also recognize micro aggressions.

Interested in exploring your bias? Take a short test through Harvard’s Project Implicit.

Shushing creates shame. 

Children are notorious for fearlessly demonstrating their curiosity. I have a friend who once told me that, while waiting in a grocery store checkout lane, her young white child stared and stared at a black cashier with very dark skin. My friend silently cringed inside thinking about what bold statement her child was about to make. Yet something important happened. She didn’t stop her, rush her, or shush her. Instead, she allowed her daughter to ask the question on her mind and taught her the lifelong lesson that discussion about differences is valued and welcome. Had my friend suggested it wasn’t a topic to be talked about, she would have reinforced bias and suggested that there was something wrong with discussion about race or even with talking to the black cashier.

Mistakes are bound to happen in these conversations. Many white parents want to wait to talk to their children until the just-right moment or until they have the perfect wording. But it never happens. Waiting for the “right” way to talk about race allows for avoidance. Many of us worry that we’ll offend someone. What if my child says something hurtful? What if I say something hurtful? What if I’m perceived as a bad person? As a racist? This is part of the baggage that we carry from our own histories of being shamed, shushed, and shut down in our curiosity. Our children don’t have that same baggage yet. But unless we choose to engage in open dialogue, our kids will follow in our footsteps.

By the way, it turned out that my friend’s child really just wanted to ask how the cashier kept his teeth so white. 🙂

Creating allies. 

White people often don’t realize that NOT talking about race is part of their privilege. Many people of color and other non-white groups think about their race a lot more often than white people. They don’t have a choice because it comes up often in their environment due to a multitude of microagressions and systemic issues that pervade even decades after the civil rights movement. 

Teaching our children how to be allies, to question and evaluate their own and others’ biases, and to call out racism is teaching them to be change makers. They can’t do this without being informed and we, as parents, can be critical supporters in modeling what that looks like. It starts by creating a culture of open dialogue and learning.

Not sure where to start?  

Become informed by going to events and reading. Black History Month is a good time to start, but certainly don’t let it end there. Many public libraries offer programming in celebration of Black History Month and your librarian can make recommendations about books appropriate to your child’s age. Try some of the resources below, too.

For those local to Tucson, Arizona, Pima County public libraries are hosting a number of events in February: 

Reading for grownups:

Children’s books and videos by black authors, about black figures or focused on black culture:

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

 

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Sick of Being Sick: 6 Family-Friendly Natural Remedies

Natural remedies for children and families

When I was a kid, flat soda and Vick’s seemed to be my family’s go-to treatments for nearly all forms of illness. Now that I’m a grown up and making a lot of the medical decisions for my family I’ve learned to appreciate a few other tricks. Yet, this flu season has been a force to be reckoned with and, in my opinion, it’s demanded a diverse toolkit of remedies. Since meeting Dr. Kate Sage, our team’s Naturopathic Family Physician, I’ve learned a few recipes that seem likely to become new favorites for flu and other illness. These are definitely worth sharing! Here’s 6 great natural remedies when you’re sick of your family being sick.

6 Family-Friendly Natural Remedies

Elderberry Syrup

Research suggests that elderberries can shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms. They are high in vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. Elderberries can be found (or made) in many preparations such as gummies, lozenges, capsules, and liquids. One of Dr. Sage’s favorite forms is elderberry syrup, which can also be purchased in many big-box stores, specialty health stores or directly from Intuition Wellness Center. You can also make your own!Elderberry Syrup RecipeOnion Earmuffs

Onions can be surprisingly helpful! Onions have antibacterial oils that can fight infection. Using Dr. Sage’s steps for onion earmuffs can help soothe ear pain and also promote drainage when you or your child are battling an ear infection. Just follow these easy steps!
  1. Cut an onion in half and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until you can smell the onion cooking.
  2. Cover the hot onion with a thin cloth and place the cut side next to the affected ear(s), not against.
  3. Move the onion closer to the ear as the onion cools and, once on the ear, leave for at least 10 minutes.

Cold-Busting Soup

Feel a cold coming on? There’s a soup for that! Dr. Sage’s cold-busting soup is high in vitamin C and beta carotene, is warming, and is generally nutritive to help anyone get over colds or flu. Plus, it’s tasty! Dr. Sage warns “if you’re a breastfeeding mama, be sure to take it easy on the garlic and onions as the sulfur components can pass through breastmilk and can occasionally cause tummy troubles for itsy-bitsies.”Cold-Busting Soup

Lemon Cough Syrup

This cough syrup has great components many of us may already have at home. Honey helps soothe the throat, lemon cuts through congestion and the onion fights infection, soothes the throat, and makes the coughs do a disappearing act.Lemon Cough Syrup

Apple & Clove Tea

Cloves are sometimes referred to as a natural antibiotic. With anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, cloves may be effective as a supportive treatment for many forms of illness. Pair whole cloves with apple juice and you’ve got a yummy natural remedy that even your picky eater will enjoy! Simply simmer 10 whole cloves and 4 cups of fresh organic apple juice in a pot for 15 minutes. Serve your child half a cup 3 times daily.

 

Tea for sore throat
Magic Warming Socks

Magic warming socks work shockingly well for congestion. Though called “warming,” you actually cool the feet to experience a warming effect. Cooling the feet will cause the vessels to constrict and all the good nutrients there will be shunted away toward your vital organs to help stimulate healing. As the feet heat back up, the blood vessels dilate again causing a pumping system that carries infection-fighting white blood cells for an active immune system and improved circulation. Also good for: ear infections, sinusitis, headaches, migraines, sore throats, and congestion or other inflammation around the head and neck.

cool the feet to fight illness

Until February 29, 2020 Intuition Wellness Center is offering a 33% discount on all new patient naturopathic medicine appointments with Dr. Kate Sage! Schedule your child’s appointment before this limited-time offer comes to an end!

 

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

 

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Create Meaningful (and Achievable) Family Goals for the New Year

New Year Resolutions

It’s a new year and a new decade. For many people, that means it’s resolution time. It’s finding-yourself time. It’s creating-new-habits-and-setting-goals time. Maybe you’re one of the few who make your dreams come true at the start of each new year, but most of us live a different reality. Depending on the source, surveys suggest that up to 80 percent of new year’s resolutions may fail. But that doesn’t mean that using the new year as a time to clean the slate and set intentions is completely useless. It can be a perfectly natural time for your family to reset. Here’s a few tips to help your family create meaningful and achievable goals for the new year. 

Creating Meaningful (and Achievable) Family Goals

  1. Find Purpose. Allowing your kids to set their own goals and supporting them to find something that really speaks to them will set them up for success. When your child or family is working toward something that matters to them, their  investment will undoubtedly increase. Try creating vision boards and look to see what themes emerge for each family member. Read more about supporting your child to find their purpose.
  2. Think Habits. Reaching a new goal is generally more successful if you instead think of it as a new habit or series of habits. When creating a family goal create a habit around it and pair it with habits that your family already engages in. If your goal is to get into nature more often as a family, for example, you could look to your usual dinner routine as a place to pair a new habit of an after dinner walk. Read more about creating habits.
  3. Plan for Obstacles. Brainstorm with your family about the things that could get in the way of reaching the goal. Ask them, “If you feel like giving up, what will you do instead?” Teaching your child to stick to it is part of teaching resilience and planning for the hiccups will support you and your family in overcoming challenges.

Find tips for creating vision boards with your family (and other good stuff to support your wellness) in Intuition Wellness Center’s wellness handouts.

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults and families. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation. 

 

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Best Toys for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

It’s the winter holiday season. Perhaps you prefer to keep this time of year simple. Or maybe you have a go-big-or-go-home mentality. If you’re like many American families though, you’re probably on the look out for at least a few gifts for the young children on your list. We here at Intuition Wellness Center believe that the best gifts you can give a child are free. Yet, if you feel consumerism tugging at you, we certainly aren’t judging. Our pediatric occupational therapist, Anne Berkery, OTR/L has done the hard work for you and scoured the current toy offerings. Read on for the best toys for babies, toddlers and preschoolers as determined by a pediatric occupational therapist. 

Best Toys for Babies

If you’re looking for toys that will support the littlest of littles in reaching their milestones, look no further. Intuition Wellness Center’s pediatric occupational therapist, has wrangled and organized a few toys that will help your baby’s visual skills, hand-eye coordination, and healthy sensory processing

Visual Skills

Hand-Eye Coordination

  • Wimmer-Ferguson Learning Cube. High contrast black and white supports baby’s visual skills while ribbons, crinkle paper, flaps, rattles and other fun gizmos encourage baby to reach and grasp. 
  • Joyshare 4 Piece Hanging Rattle Set. Clips onto baby’s stroller or car seat and encourages baby to grasp and shake to make soft sounds. 
  • Toy Chest Nyc Penguin Ring Stacker. This solid wood rainbow stacker with it’s cutie pie penguin topper encourages babies 6 months and older to reach, grasp and stack while older babies and toddlers may enjoy a more creative and interactive take on this classic toy. 
  • Sassy Whimsical Wheels. The movement of this toy, high contrast, and mirror support baby’s visual skills while encouraging baby to reach and tug at wheels filled with multi-colored beads for improved hand-eye coordination. 

Development of Touch

  • Sassy Sensory Activity Panels. Clever fabric panels with high contrast images and touchy-feely panels that can be assembled into a fabric book or taken apart. It’s a delight for little one’s developing senses. 

  • Dophyranix Super Durable Sensory Balls. Soft and textured balls help develop baby’s tactile senses while promoting grip. Remains fun for baby as they age into a more mobile kicking and throwing toddler.

  • Taggies Little Leaf Elephant Lovey Soft Toy. Soft and soothing, this lovey has satin tags for baby to pull on and is the perfect size for little hands to snuggle. 

Best Toys for Toddlers

If you’re looking for toys for the young movers and shakers in your life, Intuition Wellness Center’s pediatric occupational therapist, has a few recommendations that will support hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills. 

Hand-Eye Coordination

  • Djeco Nesting and Stacking Blocks. This sweet and whimsical set includes 6 boxes to stack and 6 little animals to fit inside. The options allow for little ones to put the set together in a variety of combinations, all while practicing their hand-eye coordination.
  • Gleeporte Stacking Peg Board Set Toy. A Montessori-style toy that will encourage kiddo to stack and sort and is especially good for visual and fine motor skills. 
  • Fat Brain Toys Roll Again Sorter. Toddlers love sorting toys. This toy comes with 4 different balls that, with the child’s help, propel down a track to their color-matched basin. 
  • Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Piggy Bank. Comes with 10 “coins” that allow kiddo to make deposits into the bank that promote finger dexterity as well as visual skills. 

Gross Motor Skills

  • Fisher-Price Bright Beginnings Activity Walker. This is a versatile toy that has been around for awhile. While it allows for kiddos to flip open doors, turn gears, and slide beads for fine motor support, it will also transition to supporting gross motor skills when baby is ready to get-up-and-go.
  • Hape Wonder Walker Push and Pull. Touted as a busy-box on wheels, this walker provides a sturdy foundation for newly mobile little ones to pull up on or push around. Movable knobs, gears and colorful balls allow for fine motor work as well.

Best Toys for Preschoolers

If you’re looking for fun and useful toys that will support your preschooler’s development, Intuition Wellness Center’s pediatric occupational therapist, has already done the research and has compiled a list of toys that will support your preschooler’s visual skills, hand-eye coordination, gross motor skills and balance. 

Visual Skills

  • I Spy Everything Book. Though this book is marketed as helping children learn their letter sounds, we like it because it requires the child to visually sort through images. 

Hand-Eye Coordination

  • Unicorn Handwriting Workbook. This book is especially helpful for kids, 3-5 years old. It offers pages of letters to trace as well as fun images of unicorns to color. 
  • Scissors Skills Workbook. A budget-friendly choice that includes 64 pages with increasingly complex cutting tasks. This workbook is particularly geared toward children who haven’t quite got the hang of using scissors yet and is great for supporting those developing fine motor and visual skills. 
  • Kidcraft Wooden Backyard Sandbox. Sandboxes are great for so much more than hand-eye coordination. Sifting through the sand and burying and building are great activities for sensory processing, fine motor work and imagination!

Gross Motor Skills

  • Strider Balance Bike. Bikes with training wheels teach children how to ride while unbalanced whereas a balance bike, which has just two wheels and no pedals, keeps the child in control and allows them to lean and maneuver more easily. 
  • Hanging Pod Hammock Seat. For children who seek out movement, this swing can be a great cozy place to calm their senses. 
  • Saucer Tree Swing Seat. Another favorite swing that you’ll find in our pediatric occupational therapy room. This disc-shaped swing helps with balance, calms, and supports children who seek out movement. 
  • JumJoe Kids Trampoline. This 36-inch trampoline will help with coordination, balance, muscle strength and meet the movement and pressure needs of your kiddo. 

 

Would you like a pediatric occupational therapist to support you around your child’s special needs? Request an appointment or call us for more information at 520-333-3320.  

 

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults and families. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation. 

Contributions by: Anne Berkery, OTR/L (formerly Swiderek), Pediatric Occupational Therapist.

A Word about Affiliates

The recommended toys above contain affiliate links to products. If you click through and purchase, Intuition Wellness Center will receive a small commission on the sale. Rest assured, we only recommend products or services that our team members personally use or believe will be helpful to our readers or clients.

 

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Teaching Your Child Gratitude is Slightly Selfish

Teach your child gratitude

I can accept that parenting my kids can be a thankless job; however, watching them respond (or not respond) to others’ kindnesses can really put me on edge. I practically hold my breath when their gratitude is slow to show up. Those two little words, “thank you,” sure can be a relief to hear. While gratitude certainly leaves the person on the receiving end feeling good, there are also amazing benefits to the physical, social and psychological health of the gratitude giver. So, if you came here to read about helping others feel appreciated because it’s polite and kind, then let me stop you right there. This blog is really about revealing something supposedly altruistic as also self-serving– the other reasons to teach your child gratitude.

What is gratitude?

Robert Emmons suggests that gratitude is about both affirming goodness and turning our gaze outward. Specifically, he suggests that gratitude includes “recognizing that one has obtained a positive outcome… and that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves.” This might include gratitude for something nature-made, a chance occurence (“thanking my lucky stars”), a gift from God, or from the people around us.

As Emmons goes on to clarify, gratitude also “requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.” What I love about this explanation is that it’s in support of community care and not just self care. That means showing up for each other and truly embodying the it-takes-a-village mentality to raising children. I am a firm believer that caring for oneself is critical. Yet, I have also felt strongly that parents can feel a lot of shame and isolation when the prevailing message is about self care without also emphasizing community.

Gratitude is also complex. It is defined as a disposition or trait, as well as a mood with daily fluctuations or a temporary emotion such as feeling gratitude immediately after receiving a gift. Yet, it’s not just for humans. Gratitude is felt by several species of animals. For example, some animals may help another at a cost to themselves because they understand, instinctually, that they may be on the receiving end of a favor at a later date.

Why is gratitude important? 

Here’s where this blog will really cater to those selfish needs! There are so many ways that being grateful and/or showing gratitude will serve the gratitude giver! Gratitude is associated with:

  • Better physical health. For example, various studies have linked gratitude to better sleep, less fatigue, and lower levels of inflammation.
  • Better psychological health. Studies have linked gratitude to less depression, less envy and better resilience after a traumatic event.
  • Better social health. Research also suggests that individuals who demonstrate higher levels of gratitude are more socially integrated and have better social support. Researchers have described gratitude as a sort of “social glue.”
  • Better life satisfaction. Research suggests that more grateful adolescents are more interested and satisfied with their school lives, more engaged in schoolwork and hobbies, and less materialistic.

4 Fun Activities that Teach Your Child Gratitude

Parenting is so much easier when you don’t have children. (Yup, let that sink in.) Yet, finding ways to teach your child gratitude can be really enjoyable. It is true that more dispositionally grateful parents have more grateful children. It’s safe to assume that these parents may be modeling gratitude. We also know that these parents are more likely to place their children in situations that might evoke feelings of gratitude, such as volunteering for people in need. In addition to modeling gratitude here are other fun ways to support gratitude. 

  • Gratitude Jar: The gratitude jar is a great way to catch each other in shining moments and to revel in those positive moments. Quite simply, you and your family members track daily at least one positive action of each family member. You write it and collect it in a jar and then review it together as a family. It helps family members to refocus attention, particularly if you’ve been in a slump with these family members.
  • Gratitude Tales: Telling stories that elicit gratitude or demonstrate an example of gratitude can be a great conversation starter. For example, Aesop’s “Androcles and the Lion” shares the concept of “reciprocal altruism.” That is the idea that Androcles’ kindnesgratitude journals to the injured lion is paid back when the lion later spares Androcles life. There are many other similar stories as well!
  • Gratitude Letter. The concept includes writing a letter to people you’ve never properly thanked and then delivering the letter. This particular concept was first studied by the founder of the positive psychology movement, Martin Seligman. The effects of the gratitude letter can last more than a month for the writer, particularly when the writer is mature, such as an adolescent or adult.
  • Gratitude Journaling. You can also incorporate a regular practice of documenting the moments that evoke gratitude. If you prefer specific prompts for each day of journaling, check out 30 days of gratitude for daily prompts to last a month.

If you’re looking for more ideas, try Big Life Journal’s printable gratitude challenges for children!

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, professional trainings, and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

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Your Picky Eater: 7 tips for introducing new foods

Emerging science is making us more aware of the need to feed our children a wide range of foods with emphasis on nutritional content. The challenge we face as parents however, is actually having them eat this variety of nutritious foods. Often we end up finding ourselves in the role of their personal short-order cook because, let’s face it, cajoling a picky eater into trying a new food can feel really stressful for all involved.  

As you probably know, there are some problems with eating the same foods all of the time. The most obvious is that often there will be a nutritional component that is lacking, such as vitamins C, B12, or folate or minerals magnesium, calcium, or iron.  Not getting enough of these nutrients could cause a variety of different health issues, including anemia, slowed growth, or behavioral problems. Vegetables are our best source of nutrients, both vitamins and minerals. Getting them into your picky eater’s tummy is critical.  

If your child is suffering from a digestive issue, like tummy aches, constipation or reflux, it may be the foods that they love most causing the problem. Encouraging them to consume a wider variety of foods is often enough to resolve the problem.  

Tips to Help Your Child Eat New Foods: 

  1. Eat the rainbow! Choose fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors – like purple carrots, blueberries, papaya, chard, raspberries. Not only are these nutritious, they’re visually appealing and fun to eat.
  2. Get their buy in. Let your child help with grocery shopping as well as cooking and preparing the foods. They are much more likely to try something that they had a hand in choosing and preparing. In fact, allowing them some experimentation and autonomy in food prep, will up their investment in eating that food.
  3. Be a model. Show your kids how delicious you think vegetables are too! Be sure to let them see you also eating well. If you don’t love something nutritious you’ve put on your plate, it’s ok to let them know that you eat it to be kind to your body and not just for the taste.
  4. Keep trying. A child should try a food at least 15 times before they decide if they like it. What we like and don’t like changes over time, so it’s good to keep at it in case their preferences evolve as they get older.
  5. Practice mindful eating. Allow them to choose the amount that they try, then have them be as specific as possible in describing the aroma, taste and texture. This will get them out of the rut of judging food as just “good” or “bad.”
  6. Don’t get emotionally invested yourself. Your child can tell when you are getting anxious or upset. The last thing that you want is for mealtimes to become laden with frustration for the family. Visualize them enjoying the food, be patient and definitely respect their appetite.
  7. Include a favorite. Always include at least one thing on the plate that you know they will enjoy. This definitely takes some pressure off.  

Hidden Cause of Picky Eating

Picky eating can also be the result of a child having a sensory sensitivity. Some children have oral sensitivities that make it difficult for them to have certain textures in their mouth, such as eating particular foods or brushing their teeth. If a child has a hypersensitivity to smells, they may not eat foods that have a pungent odor or one they just don’t prefer. Occupational therapists can help kids and their families work through sensory issues by slowly desensitizing the child, building positive thoughts around eating food and through playing games. The old saying “Don’t play with your
food,” is not accepted by those treating children for these sorts of sensitivities!

In the short run, you may consider introducing a high quality multivitamin to make sure that all of their vitamin and mineral needs are covered. If you’re particularly worried that your child’s eating is compromising their wellbeing, make an appointment with your doctor. 

October 6-12 is Naturopathic Medicine Week! Visit us on the web to learn about Naturopathic Medicine at Intuition Wellness Center!

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults and families. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation. 

Written by: Dr. Kate Sage, Naturopathic Family Physician with contributions from Anne Swiderek, Pediatric Occupational Therapist.

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Building the Village: 4 steps to social connection

social connection

Many would argue that technology has made instant connection to others increasingly easy. Yet, in the last two decades, the amount of people reporting that they don’t have a trusted confidant has increased threefold. How can this be? It seems that there may be an illusion of connection when the number of online “friends” is in the hundreds or even thousands. What we really need is depth of connection. 

With loneliness and isolation on the rise we are all at greater risk for anxiety, depression, antisocial behavior, suicide and even physical disease and earlier death. It’s not enough to simply focus on self care. How do you create depth in relationships when social connectedness has gotten mixed up by social media’s definition of friends? Here are just a few of the ingredients to creating connection. 

Building the Village

Be patient. Being able to connect deeply with someone requires work and time. If you have identified someone with whom you want to become friends, you may need to start small with little gestures such as eye contact, smiles or a compliment. Deep connection and even the start of a friendship are not instantaneous. 

Be interested. If you have felt isolated or depressed, demonstrating interest in someone else may be especially hard to do. Depression impacts the very language used. People who are experiencing depression are more likely to focus on themselves in conversation. They often use “me,” “I,” and “myself” more regularly than those who are not depressed. To get to know someone, be sure to put adequate focus on learning about the other person.

Be vulnerable. If you find it hard to put yourself out there, you’re not alone. The images that you view on social media have often been packaged to meet a certain goal. In general, people tend to want to be viewed in their best moments. Remember this. If you’re comparing your darkest parts to what you see of others. Stop. Look for people who are willing to show their truth–who are willing to laugh (or cry) at their parenting mishaps–and then follow suit. The best way to get at another person’s real self is to be willing to show yours.

Be the village. Don’t just wait idly for people to show up in your village. Be that village to others. Offer help without being asked. Surprise others with your thoughtfulness. Offer words of affirmation– the very kind you wish to hear. All parents experience stress. 

You are not alone. Join us for a free Parents’ Heart-to-Heart on September 24, Be the Parent You Want to Be: Conquer your stress with guest speaker, Lindsay Johnson, MSN, RN.

September is Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide rates have been on the rise in the last few years and social connection is a critical factor to prevention. You are not alone. Find more information on suicide and prevention here.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation. 

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Fidgeting, Wiggling, Doodling: 3 reasons to encourage these ‘naughty’ behaviors at school

Remember a few years ago when fidget spinners were a big deal? If your child is the right age, you may have even been one of the families on the receiving end of a communication from your child’s teacher or school administration announcing the ban on fidget spinners. This is one of many things banned from schools with the explanation that they are distracting– gum, headphones, certain types of jewelry, etc.

Sigh. 

I understand how this comes to be. Think of the last time you were with a child and took a long car trip, or waited a long time for your food at a restaurant or stood in a long line. Did they wiggle? Fidget? Ask ‘how much longer?’ Of course. It’s developmentally appropriate. Now imagine that times about 25. Yes, 25 sweetie pies all wiggling and fidgeting 6-8 hours a day in their classrooms. Teachers deserve a crown, a throne, piles of treasure and donuts for their amazing abilities. It’s hard to manage that amount of movement and potential for distraction. I can understand why many schools create so many limits. 

Yet, fidgeting, wiggling and doodling are typically an attempt to adapt to the circumstances. Said another way, your child is probably engaging in these things in an effort to be GOOD not bad. To get their movement and stimulation needs met, not to be troublesome for the classroom. 

3 Reasons to Allow a Child to Fidget

  1. Your child probably isn’t getting enough exercise. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that only about 5% of children are getting the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity.  In addition, numerous pressures on schools have led to up to 40% of school districts within the U.S. reducing or cutting recess. Recess is associated with improved social and emotional outcomes as well as academic achievement (memory, attention, grades, attendance, and classroom behavior!). You can see why shortened recess is a problem. Less opportunity for movement can lead to excess energy.
  2. Your child probably feels anxious. Particularly at the beginning of the academic year, as children are transitioning to the new structure of school, to a new morning routine, to a new teacher, and perhaps a new classroom or building, they will be nervous. There will be unknowns for them as they learn about what’s expected of them. They may be standing up in front of a new classroom of peers or being called upon for the first time this year. Some anxiety is to be expected. Anxiety can look like restlessness, agitation, and tension of the body. Exercise, particularly frequent and short bouts, is a great natural way to reduce anxiety. Yet, this isn’t available to a child during the vast majority of their school day. What is? Wiggling. Little movements like tapping toes, clicking a pen, and nibbling on pencil all exert nervous energy. Doodling on the corner of their page may also be cathartic.
  3. Your child is probably bored. We’re all bored numerous times a day! This is actually NOT a bad thing, but it does mean that the brain is under-stimulated. The human brain will seek a cure to its boredom which can lead a person to their most curious and creative moments. Diagnoses of ADHD, anxiety, depression and sensory integration disorder (sensory processing) are all related to stimulation needs. The body tries to accommodate and get the brain to the just-right-place of stimulation and when it does, it can be present in the moment. This is why you may pick at your cuticles during a work meeting or drum your fingers while you wait for an appointment. Interestingly, research suggests that fidgeting can release neurotransmitters in the brain that mimic the effects of ADHD medications and support better concentration and sustained attention. A child who can fidget is actually more likely to be able to pay attention to the lesson in the classroom.

Tips for improving your child’s concentration and attention

  1. Appeal to your teacher, school administrator or district if your child’s school has cut back on recess, takes recess away as punishment or uses it as a time for kids to catch up on overdue work. 
  2. Ensure that you’re allowing plenty of movement time for your child elsewhere. Try an activity like yoga or taekwondo which both support physical and mental fitness.
  3. Find out what your child’s teachers do to encourage movement and share resources on ways to incorporate classroom movement.
  4. Find out if the teacher will consider gum chewing (or chewelry), standing desks and cozy corners that allow for various sitting positions or lying down (read: wiggling), midday walking breaks, standing up instead of raising hands, incorporating drawing during assignments, rotating stations in the classroom, listening to music or doodling as a way to fight boredom and attention issues.
  5. Teach your child mindfulness and meditation. Meditation also supports improved attention and concentration.
  6. Be sure that your child is getting enough sleep. Stay strong during bedtime battles. A rested brain operates from a full cup and won’t be distracted by tiredness or need as much stimulation to stay alert.
  7. Pay attention to your child’s diet and talk to a doctor about your child’s eating habits. A malnourished brain is also more susceptible to concentration difficulties. The gut is the second brain after all. Some people especially need predictable snack and meal times and need to eat more frequently. Many teachers are willing to offer snack times during school day (and definitely will with a doctor’s note).

Join Dr. Kate Sage for “Happy Belly, Happy Kid: A parents’ heart-to-heart

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

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Your Child Needs a Purpose

There are things I spend a fair amount of time worrying about in my professional work. As a psychologist and director of a child and family wellness center, I worry about whether families feel supported; about overscheduled lives limiting opportunities for connection; about the stress hormones resulting from the hurry-hurry-do-everything attitude of our society causing harm to young bodies. I worry about what children are eating and if they’re moving regularly throughout their day; about technology disrupting sleep and relational skills; about whether school expectations for children are developmentally appropriate; and about a trending tendency to avoid doing things that are effortful. Yet, my biggest worry is whether life is feeling less and less meaningful and purposeful to children. It’s not distinct from the other worries, but actually an amalgam of the other worries smooshied together. 

I have a great imagination. I can conjure up images of children playing video games, isolated in their bedrooms, shades drawn, from the time they wake up into the wee hours of the night every day of their summer vacation. Likewise, I can also imagine the rigidly scheduled teen turning down invitations from friends in order to get ahead of the upcoming school year with summer classes, private lessons, as well as part-time jobs, sports camps, and volunteer work to ensure that they’re well-rounded and marketable to colleges. Both of these children’s circumstances concern me. They each have goals– some centered around present-moment achievements on a screen and some oriented to futures that make the present seem like nothing more than a hoop to jump through. Yet, I worry… do either of these children feel passionate about something? Have they found something yet that feels meaningful and bigger than themselves?

Parenting a Child with Purpose

Defined Values. Purpose is wrapped up in what is meaningful and what is meaningful is centered around one’s values. As a family, you can start early by talking about what values you share and why. Be careful also to support your child’s developing identity and allowing for them to explore interests that differ from those of your family. Leaving room for exploration is part of their developing identity and values. You might also discuss with your child what they wish they could change about the world and what sort of adult they want to be. How do your and and your child’s values manifest through action? Talking about this is a good lead into your child developing goals.

Goal-Setting. Whether you’re a free range, helicopter, tiger parent or none of the above, your children need goals, though goals are not the same thing as purpose. Goals are about achieving something, purpose typically includes having goals but they are part of a bigger meaningful commitment and vision. How do you support your child in setting goals that really matter to them? Once your child know’s what’s important to them and why then you can help them take action. Developing smaller goals and reasonable timelines will support them in making concrete progress. At times, you might help them determine steps they can take that would be congruent with their values.  Consider creating vision boards together and ask them if there’s anything you can do to support them in reaching their goals.

Transformative Experiences. Some of the ways that young people find their purpose is through an important event or circumstance, service to others or other transformative experience. Patrick Cook-Deegan tells us that some of the most common transformative experiences are traveling abroad, spending time in the natural world, joining a social change project, or establishing a contemplative practice. As a parent, you can support these experiences for your child. Not all organized trips are expensive and many organizations offer scholarships.

Sometimes it can feel like a confusing line between supporting your child and putting undue pressure on them. Remember that purpose is about your child finding meaning, not about you finding it for them.

 

Join guest speaker, Dr. Kate Sage, for “Avoiding the Helicopter Parenting Trap

 

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

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The Emphasis on Self Care is Shaming Moms

Once upon a time, families of the neighborhood looked out for one another’s kids; sent a casserole down the street when their neighbor was down on their luck; called upon the mama with a new baby; and confidently sent their kids down the block for a cup of sugar from the neighbor. The days of Beverly Cleary characters are long gone. Lately parenting seems to be done more and more in isolation. Yet there is another shift occurring. Some quiet rumblings. A suggestion that the last couple of decades of parenting without the village may be lonely and counterproductive. There’s even been a few disgruntled mentionings of the term “self care” and a countermovement toward a new conceptualization— “community care.” 

The Rise of Self Care

At what point did we start talking about and using the term “self care?” I don’t know, honestly, but in my own musings it likely evolved from the same culture where parents are often expected to be well-informed, self-sufficient, and able to juggle all of their responsibilities flawlessly. In addition, they should not be irritable, exhausted, lonely and/or prone to feelings of inadequacy. If they are experiencing any of these “symptoms” then the commonplace recommendation is more self care because they must not be doing it enough and, of course, they should be able to juggle that, too! 

Parenting is hard, Dear Ones. I don’t know anyone who will argue with that! Exhaustion may even be a normal response to such an important job. Yet, I’m of the mindset that it could be a little easier. If only we still truly had the village mentality (and not the mentality where we just say “it takes a village” but then do little to actually embody this). And if we could also just be honest with each other about just how often we’re actually struggling to juggle all of it.

When someone is struggling and admitting to the exhaustion, I know I’ve certainly been guilty of asking things like, “when’s the last time you did something for yourself?” as if to suggest that feeling this way demands a remedy and that the solution is in their hands alone. Is encouraging self care wrong? No. In fact, doing right by oneself is VERY important. But it’s also not totally adequate.

The Fall of Self Care

Some say the emphasis on self care remains neglectful of that aforementioned self. By focusing solely on self care as the remedy, we fail to put some responsibility on the villagers as essential to supporting the mama, the papa, the caregiver, etc. Some say that stressing self care is shaming. Blaming even. Because it can sometimes seem to suggest that if you’re exhausted, irritable, feeling inadequate and can’t live up to your standards…. it’s both your fault and you should fix it. That you should have been able to do something to negate all of those feelings. Something for yourself. Some self care. 

Yet, where are the villagers? 

Where is the community to also care for the caregiver? 

By falling back on recommending self care to others does that give us an excuse not to step up and be the villager?

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

 

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