Improving Routines and Behaviors for Toddlers Through Elementary

Morning routines, evening routines, and even weekend routines… this is an ongoing challenge for parents of young children. We know the importance of keeping kids on a consistent schedule, but it can be quite stressful making the process smooth. As a mom of two young kids and a child therapist, including one toddler, making this process easier was important to me. As a therapist, I also saw this to be a struggle for many parents of the children I was seeing.

The Challenges with Routine

  • Distractions. The temptation for the kids to want to play instead of eat dinner, and for me to watch the news instead of prepare dinner, is one example of how distractions affect us at my house.
  • Stress. Getting yourself and the kids ready in the morning is no easy task and often very stressful. You do “what you have to do” just to get out the door on time.
  • Change. There’s no getting around the fact that changes in your family/life happen and adjustments have to be made. New babies are born, job schedules change, kids start new extra curricular activities… all requiring a modification to your routine.
  • Lack of Energy. I don’t know any parent who feels they get enough sleep and with all the activities of life today, disregarding a routine is very tempting, especially when you kids are resistant (bath, bed, etc.).

Continue reading “Improving Routines and Behaviors for Toddlers Through Elementary”

Rory’s Story Cubes… Why have I not found these sooner?!

I was scrolling through toys for my kids a couple weeks ago and came across Rory’s Story Cubes. I thought they sounded fun and wanted to try using them in session so I purchased them for around $7 plus shipping on amazon.com. Turns out… I love this game!

About the Game

There are 9 cubes in the box about the size of your typical dice. Each cube is white with a black picture, different one on each side of the cube. The player,or players, roll the cubes and tell a picture from the story.

Ways To Play and Use In Therapy

1. One person rolls all the dice and tells a story using the pictures on the tops of the cubes while the other person listens. I used this on a young male client and young female client (both middle school age ranges). These were individual sessions and not as a group. I asked the child to roll the cubes and tell a story about their life and try to incorporate some difficult things they have been struggling with. At first, I wasn’t sure how effective or easy this would be, given it takes some thought and creativity. But the stories, and process of telling the story was great! It allowed the children another medium to describe what they were experiencing and I learned more about them as well. For example, one child rolled a cube with an alien face and used this to describe their parents and why they saw them in that way.

2. Two or more people roll the cubes and take turns telling a part of the story with one cube at a time. This will allow the therapist to incorporate themes or characters in the story and see how the client responds.

3. Incorporate superheros and villains. This idea is directly off the Rory’s Story Cubes website and I love it.

1. Describe your superpower.

Each person takes a turn to roll 3 cubes.

Use these to describe your superpower. (And a name, a name is very important).

2. Create a backstory.

Next everyone takes turns to roll all 9 cubes.

Use these to give your hero a backstory. Remember to add a flaw or weakness, this is what makes your hero human.

3. Create a Super-villain

All superhero teams need an arch-nemesis or super-villain to go up against. To create a super-villain, roll all 9 cubes then, as a group, use the 9 images to describe this villain. give him/her or it a unique ‘calling card’ a modus operandi, so for example The Joker always leaves a card, Bomb Voyage from the Incredibles leaves bombs etc.

Give him/her/it a name and a reason for doing what they do. How does the villain justify their actions?

Now that you have your characters, you are free to create all kinds of super-powered stories featuring the heroes and their arch-nemesis.

Story Cube App for iOS and Android

While pulling up the website for this post, I found out there is an app. Why not? There seems to be an app for everything these days. I downloaded the app for $1.99 and it’s pretty cool too. You shake your phone to roll the cubes and move them around as you wish with a touch of your finger. There are also different themed cubes you can purchase for another $1.99 each with themes of voyages, clues, enchanted and prehistoric. Below are pictures I took from my phone using the app.

Does anyone else have any suggestions for using this game? I hope you enjoy it as much as I have! 🙂

For more information on my clinical practice, please visit www.kimscounseling.com. 🙂

Kingwood Counseling and Play Therapy

What to Say to Someone Who Is Grieving

My neighborhood is grieving the sudden and unexpected loss of one of our own this week- a devoted father, husband, and friend. This shocking news has forced the family and all of us to ask many difficult questions over the last week, such as “What do I say to the family?”, “How do I tell my kids their father has passed?”, and “How do I know if my kids are coping in a healthy way?” With these and many other questions in mind, I will be spending some time over the next couple of weeks posting topics related to such a tragedy. To start with, I dug up a post from last June.

griefWhat To Say To Someone Who Is Grieving (original post from June 2012)

I talked with a friend recently who has experienced a personal loss. As a therapist, I know the best thing I can do is to  offer support and sympathy. As a friend, this was difficult because I wanted so badly to have the right words to “make them feel better” and even an urge to “fix” their problem. It got me to thinking about how difficult this situation is for many people. What do you say to someone grieving a deceased loved one, or to someone fighting a terminal illness? I am even referring to people experiencing difficult life struggles, such as the loss of a job, divorce, or finding out your child has a terminal illness or disability. These all entail grief in some way and are highly distressful.

The unfortunate news is that we all will be put in this position many times throughout our lives. The good news is that knowing what to say and do is actually pretty simple. Let them know you care. That’s all. You don’t have to have magic words, or a solution, or an explanation. Just tell them you care.

Examples of what to say:

These examples convey to the person that you are sympathetic to their personal sorrow and that you want to be supportive for their needs.

  • “I’m truly sorry for your loss.”
  • “I’m here whenever you need me.”
  • “Although I can’t know exactly how you feel, I understand how difficult this must be for you.”
  • “I’m off all week if you need me to come over. Just call me.”
  • “Let me know when you are ready to talk or have lunch. I’m here for you anytime.”
  • “Your ‘loved one’ was such an amazing person and my life was blessed by their friendship.”
  • No words- just a sincere and warm hug or touch will do.

Examples of what may NOT be the right words:

These examples can convey that you think you know exactly how they feel, are trying to fix their problem, trying to find some reason for what happened, or minimize the grief. As a grieving person, these comments don’t typically feel good at the moment. But remember, everything has a time and place too.

  • “It was their time.”
  • “Maybe God is trying to teach a lesson in all this.”
  • “I know how you feel.”
  • “You can always have another child.”
  • “At least you had 10 good years.”

In the past, I have said some things that were not the best, but they were all with a good heart. If you have said some things in the “not good” example list, please don’t beat yourself up. It’s most important that you cared enough to even be there any say something. For the next time you are confronted with a grieving friend, remember to keep it simple and just be there for your friend or family member.

Have you ever experienced a loss or gone through a difficult time? If so, what were some of the most comforting words or actions you received from others?

References:

Supporting A Grieving Person

What Not To Say To A Grieving Person

Things To Say To A Grieving Person

You May Also Like:

Helping Your Child Or Teen Through Difficult Times

Our Times Of Struggle

Staying Connected As A Family

For more information on my clinical practice, please visit www.kimscounseling.com. 🙂

Kingwood Counseling and Play Therapy

Autism and the Benefits of ABA Therapy: A Guest Post by Spectacular Kids!

Autism and ABA

Autism is one of those words that was once rarely heard of, and now it seems to be all we hear. 1 in 88 children are now diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder; an alarming number, which has made drastic changes from the 1 in 150 reported in the year 2000. What is Autism? How did my child get Autism? What can we do to help? The questions are endless, and while scientific advances are on the rise, we are still limited in our knowledge of how Autism manifests, and why we continue to see this increase in prevalence.

 Autism is a developmental disorder, characterized by developmental delays, most apparent in language and social interactions. Since Autism is considered a “spectrum” disorder, characteristics differ from individual to individual. While some diagnosed with Autism may engage in tantrums and aggressive behaviors, exhibit little to no language, and show little interest in social engagement, others may have average language skills, show no aggression, and enjoy social interactions. As the saying goes, “Once you’ve met one individual with Autism, you’ve met ONE individual with Autism.” With an increase in awareness, parents are asking more questions, screenings are being done at 18 months, and professionals are creating Autism Assessment Teams to get thorough and comprehensive evaluations complete as early as possible.

The types of therapies available for an individual diagnosed with Autism are endless, however, those most often recommended include Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA, the only scientifically validated method of therapy for working with individuals with Autism, is a comprehensive therapeutic method, which encompasses: language, social skills, cognitive skills, self-help skills, fine & gross motor skills, and the management of problem behaviors. Throughout treatment, data is collected on all aspects of the treatment plan to ensure changes are made as needed to maximize success. Due to the extensive nature of the skills addressed in ABA therapy, it is most often recommended as an intensive approach; some individuals receive between 15 and 30 hours of therapy per week (intensity of services is determined after the initial evaluation). While ABA is generally done in a one to one setting, some groups that focus on building social skills may also be ABA based.

 Spectacular Kids ABA

Spectacular Kids ABA Therapy & Consulting, LLC, is owned by Dana Harris, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), who has been providing ABA services for 12 years. Spectacular Kids currently provides ABA, Speech, and Occupational Therapy to individuals with and without a diagnosis of Autism or related disorders. ABA therapy is provided on a full-time or part-time basis servicing both in-home and clinic-based clients between 12 months and 10 years. Our Speech and Occupational Therapy services are provided in clinic only by our partner, Brite Success; these therapies service individuals from childhood through adulthood. Our clinic is located at: 3059 Woodland Hills Drive Kingwood, Texas 77339. Contact Spectacular Kids for more information: 1-800-460-7459 ext 207 or visit our website at www.spectacularkidsaba.org.

Good Resource for Cognitive Therapy

Sorry for not having posted in a while. I have been busy! I’m missing my blog though and planning to get back into regular postings next week, so stay tuned! 🙂

I do have a new resource to share with those of you who use Cognitive Therapy and Cognitive-Behavioral therapy in your practice, and for those who are not therapists, but try to use more “positive thinking” in your every day life. The website is appropriately called Cognitive Therapy Guide. I liked this template on How to Write a Thought Record.

So this is a short post, but like I said, I’ll see you next week!

10 Ways To Nurture Your Relationships

FamilyDoesn’t it feel good when someone you love rubs your shoulders or surprises you with a warm bath? Hopefully you know this feeling of being cared for and loved. It’s often the little things that make a big difference in our relationships.

I am definitely referring to romantic relationships, but also relationships with our kids can be included here too. In a continuing education seminar I attended a while back, the presenters shared some of their techniques for improving and reparing relationships between caregivers (parents, grandparents, foster parents, etc.) and children. One of the ways they did this was to have the child and their guardian display acts of nurturing. These acts included rubbing lotion on each other’s arms and feeding crackers to each other. So simple, yet so effective.

  1. Rub, scratch, or pat their back.
  2. Prepare a favorite meal and/or dessert.
  3. Communicate how you feel. Tell your loved one how much you love them.
  4. Draw a warm bath. Throw in some bubbles, relaxing scents, or candles too.
  5. Smother in kisses and give great big bear hugs.
  6. Buy them something special. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but make it a meaningful gift.
  7. Be playful. Life if full of stress and tension. Making a funny face, bumping their hip with yours, or playing a silly joke can remind each other of life’s joys.
  8. Show interest in their day. Ask questions about their day. Show interest in what they have to say.
  9. Stroke their head or play with their hair. Who doesn’t feel special when your head is rubbed or hair is played with.
  10. Make physical contact when you walk by, such as rubbing their shoulders or touching their back.

Try these acts of nurturing as often as possible with your loved ones and notice how they help strengthen your relationship. Feel free to share your experience and ideas as well!

For more information on my clinical practice, please visit www.kimscounseling.com. 🙂

Kingwood Counseling and Play Therapy

Self-Care During An Unlikely Time

One of my colleagues started working closer to home this year. While a shorter drive is always a good thing, she said that being 5 minutes from home, instead of 20 minutes, didn’t give her enough time to rest and change her mindset after a long day of work before getting home to four young kids. This got me to thinking more about my own 15 minute drive work to home. This is a time of my day when I don’t have kids in the car or a reason to be on the phone. I often put on music that is quiet so I can wind down from the day’s events. I use this time to think about my sessions and clear my mind of anything that may interrupt my focus on my husband and kids.

How To Use Your Drive Time for Self-Care Time

What do you do with your time in the car? Here are a few ideas that come to mind!

PS: These are best during your individual time if you have any and not with kids in tote! 🙂 Also, if you rarely to never spend time driving, replace with walking, riding, boating… whatever works for your life!

Process Your Recent Day. Think about the people you interacted with, emotions you may have felt, and thoughts you may have had. When our minds are busy, this can take away from being in the moment with our loved ones, so if you have an opportunity to process the day’s events before getting home, take advantage of that time.

Plan Your Upcoming Day. Whether you are early or late in your day, consider things you want to accomplish, calls you need to make, and goals for the upcoming day.

Practice Deep Breathing. This is one of the best ways to relax, especially if you had a challenging day, or find yourself feeling anxious.

Notice Your Surroundings. Do you have a beautiful view? What interesting things do you notice? What sounds do you hear? Try using this time to practice being in the moment, even for this part of your day. I bet you will notice something around you that you’re glad you took a moment to find.

Listen to Good Music. My music varies depending on the time of day and my mood. You may choose upbeat, happy music to get you motivated in the morning, and relaxing, inspirational music at the end of the day.

Identify What Your Thankful For. Often times, we spend the car ride focusing on problems or thinking about what needs to be done, but this is a prime opportunity to think about what areas in our life are positive. List these areas in your mind and your will find yourself feeling joy from the positive thinking.

Listen to an Audiobook. I have always been a fan of book on audio, ever since I was little and listened to a Bengi cassette tape over and over. If you think about how much time you spend in the car over a year, it’s likely an incredible amount of time you could be spending getting through a good book! You may choose a good fiction novel (I loved the Hunger Games series), or a self-help book (my most recent was John Gottman’s book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work).

Learn a New Language. I’m sure Rosetta Stone has an audio series that works for traveling. If you spend enough time in a car, I think it would be awesome to use that time to learn something new!

Pray. You definitely want to keep your eyes open on the road, but talk to God on your way to your destination. You may want to express thankfulness or request help for a problem from a higher power. No matter your reason, prayer can bring a sense of peace and joy to your day, whether it is beginning or ending.

How do you spending your car time? I would love to hear your thoughts!

For more information on my clinical practice, please visit www.kimscounseling.com. 🙂

Kingwood Counseling and Play Therapy

Adventures Within Relaxation CD

Adventures Within Relaxation and Guided Imagery CD

I bought this CD many months ago and have finally taken the time to start listening. I love Adventures Within so much, I wanted to share it with you all!

Kids Relaxation (www.kidsrelaxation.com) is one  of my favorite blogs. It’s filled with wonderful ideas for teaching kids (and adults) relaxation techniques using quite a bit of guided imagery.

Here is what I love so far:

  • The CD was a purchase I made to use with kids in session, but I have actually found it to be useful for myself, and for adults too.
  • The female voice narrating is both calming, as well as kid-friendly. In other words, it is relaxing, but will still keep kids engaged.
  • The CD starts out by teaching HOW to relax through imagination, deep breathing (she calls it balloon breathing), and positive self talk.
  • There are numerous guided imagery scenaries on the CD.
  • I am still working my way through the entire CD, but so far my favorite is Finding Strength in the Storm. And Finding Strength in the Storm mp3 Downloadguess what? You can purchase each one separately on mp3. I linked you to my favorite, but certainly suggest listening to more than one.

If you have a relaxation or guided imagery CD or mp3 you enjoy, please share!

You May Also Like:

Creative Ways To Teach Deep Breathing to Kids

Creating A Calm Down Box

Self-Care Quick Tip (with a little comic relief!)

For more information on my clinical practice, please visit www.kimscounseling.com. 🙂

Kingwood Counseling and Play Therapy

Winning The Bedtime Battles With My Toddler

Bedtime BattlesWe did it! We finally won the bedtime battle with my two year old.

There are millions of parents out there who struggle with getting a child to go to bed, stay in bed, sleep through the night, sleep in their own room… and the list goes on. When you finally find the secret for your own child, it feels like you conquered the world. I want to share what we did to have success in our home. I’ll also preface this by saying these tools won’t work for everyone. You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again… every child is different!

Last month, I received this email from a reader, Sarah:

Kim,

  I have followed your blog for some time and I love all the great tips and advice you give out.
I am currently finishing my last semester of grad school and in May. I will have a master’s in school counseling.  Before this, I taught Emotional Disabled special ed middle school boys and have years of experience with kids from various races.  So I feel that I am pretty vetted when it comes to “knowing” what makes children tick…expect when it comes to my 3 year old.  I know that they go through phases and he is starting to test my husband and me, but HOLY MOLY!!  When it comes to disciplining him, you would think I have never met a child before.  I have excellent classroom management, but I can’t seem to “manage” him.
Bedtime is one of our biggest issues lately.  We let him watch a half hour of Scooby Doo after he has put on pajama’s, brushed his teeth and gone to the bathroom (assisted of course).  When it comes time to go upstairs, you would think we are sending him into a gas chamber.  His new thing is that he is scared.  We have a nightlight in the hallway, one in his room, we play soft music and keep his door open.  He looks for any reason to keep us in the room and screams bloody murder when we leave.  We have even offered the choice of letting him sleep on our floor.  Again, the screaming and tantrum.  He isn’t going to bed late, 8:30, so it isn’t that he is overly tired.  I just don’t want nighttime to become a stressful event.
He has also developed the art of back talk.  We don’t let it go uncorrected, reminding him how he is supposed to talk to us.  I would like to know where my sweet baby went.  Please offer some advice.
This email sounded just like me last month. In fact, I read it to my husband just to give us a sense that normalcy and we were able to laugh a little at the sheer similarity of our circumstances. Misery really does love company sometimes, right? Well, since this email, we have been bedtime battle FREE for at least three weeks so I thought it was time to share my experience here.
What We Were Up Against
Let me put it this way. Every day, I would literally dread the two-hour long bedtime routine and battle to get my toddler resting peacefully in his bed.
  • He screamed bloody murder when we tried to leave his room.
  • He tried to manipulate sleeping in my bed (sometimes we let him).
  • Toddler took forever to fall asleep so we waited in his room until he did so we could sneak out (if he was the slightest bit awake he knew we were leaving).
  • My husband and I both stayed with him through the entire routine (“We are in this together” mentality)
  • Everyone is exhausted at the end of the day so patience was running thin.
  • He  now has to wait his turn for attention since his little sister has arrived.
How We Turned Things Around
I received my regular post one day from one of my favorite parenting blogs, Sleeping Should Be Easy, talking about bedtime battles. I found some good reminders about what I should be doing to help my son go to bed with less of a fight and talked myself into getting serious.
  1. Routine. Routine. Routine. Establishing a routine for kids is so very important and I had let ours slip quite a bit. Like I said, we are tired at the end of the day and we have a new little one in the picture as well. However, giving up on a routine was not the answer. He was going to school at varied times, eating at varied times, missing baths every now and then… you name it. If I could cut a corner, I probably would. Now, we stick pretty close to a routine. Our evening routine looks something like this: Dinner, Bath, Books, 10 minutes snuggle with lights off.
  2. Divide and Conquer. My husband and I were sharing the evening routine, but going overboard. We both helped bath the kids, read the books, etc. This led to no one ever having a break or being able to take care of other necessities around the house. Today, only one person handles the bath and bed time and the other just gives a good night kiss.
  3. Communicate the Sequence of Events. Even though my son is only two right now, he understands a lot. We tell him what part of the routine is next. I even give him time warning, such as “5 minutes left of bath time, then we read books.”
  4. Call in the other parent in the end. This has actually worked miracle wonderfully for our son. At the end of our “snuggle” time, I tell him I am going to get daddy to tell him good night. He understands this well an doesn’t object to  me leaving because he wants to see his daddy. We then wait about 5 minutes before sending in the next parent. By then, he is pretty well tired and falls asleep soon after.

Like I said, these techniques won’t work for everyone, but maybe they will give you some ideas. If you have some toddler bedtime words of wisdom to share, please do!

For more information on my clinical practice, please visit www.kimscounseling.com. 🙂

Kingwood Counseling and Play Therapy

Guest Post: All About Psycho-Social Rehabilitation (PSR)!

All About Psycho-Social RehabilitationHello from the Potato State! My name is Stacey and I am co-runner of a little Idaho blog called: A PSR Gathering. I am here today to give a little insight on what we do!

In Idaho we have an awesome service offered to children and adults called PSR or Psycho-Social Rehabilitation. PSR is not available to everyone (it is a Medicaid only service and not in every state) which examples the blank stares I often get when I tell people what I do. Katie and I work with children (ages 4-19 is the general range of clients) but, adult services are available! Clients who qualify for PSR have been diagnosed with a Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED) for children, or a Severe and Persistent Mental Disorder (SPMD) for adults. I am going to keep this simple and sweet for you today, if you have a questions feel free to ask!

Who?

Have a Bachelors degree (in Social Services, Early Childhood Education, Sociology, Social Work, Psychology, and the like)? You can do PSR! You will have to gain a USPRA certification though, if you wish to work in the state of Idaho. Some states even require a master’s degree.

About us:

Katie (on the left): I graduated with a BAS in Child Care and Development from Boise State University in 2009. I have lived in Boise the majority of my life, am married with two dogs and with what spare time I can find love to travel, run, camp and read.  I have worked with kids for about 15 years in many different ways, from camp counselor to tutor to Pre-school teacher! I have been working as a PSR Specialist for about two and a half years now, and am just feeling like I’m getting the hang of it!

Stacey (on the right): I graduated from Boise State University in 2010, with my B.F.A in Drawing and studies in Psychology and Art Therapy. My family moved us to Boise when I was 10 and we have been here ever since. I just bought a house a street over from my childhood home and live there with my boyfriend of many years and our bully breed pup, Penny. I have too many interests to list but the tops are: creating, motorcycles, bargain hunting and kicking back! I have always had a passion for helping others, which has given me the opportunity to work in an array of jobs.  From working with animals, to slinging coffee or advising college students… I’ve done it all! I have been a PSR specialist for going on two years and can’t wait to see where it takes me.

What do we do as PSR workers?

PSR is individual skill based training, such as anger management, social skills emotions recognition, etc.

When do we work?

Each client qualifies for about 4-5 hours per week. We work in the community so our hours are outside of school hours–afternoons, night and weekends. As you can imagine we love summer for its flexibility!

So…an office? School?…where do you work?

PSR is a community-based position, no office (unless your car counts–I haven’t used my trunk for purposes other than hauling around ‘PSR’ tools for 2 years now-ha!). We work in the homes or take them out into the community to work. Libraries, malls, Barnes and Noble, coffee shops, parks–you get the idea.

Why?

Our goal(s) in PSR are simple. When a client comes into PSR a treatment plan is designed that consists of measurable and behaviorally specific objectives. PSR is there to build skills to better communicate, interact within society, build relationships, handle situations and overall be the best kiddos they can be!

How?

We do an array of activities with clients (based on age, understanding and needs). Being out in the community and in the homes, we get a good glimpse on what our clients are like when their ‘guard’ is down, which lends to a lot of  ‘real life training.’ We also get to be silly kids our selves by using play and art to teach our clients new skills! Check http://www.psrideaweb.com/for awesome activity ideas!

PSR Gathering