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Top Three Tips to Help Your Child Build Better Friendships

As parents, we want the best for our children. We want the best education, the best toys, the best friends etc. However, what happens when we can’t give them that, when we can’t dictate their friendships or even help our kids to keep their friendships healthy and thriving? It’s the hardest thing to watch your child try and fail, or not try at all. Yet, there are things you can do and ways to help your child succeed in their friendships. I hope my top three tips prove useful to you and your child. 1. Check your ego at the proverbial door. It’s not about you. Sometimes we want our children to like whom we like, or be friends with the type of kids we weren’t able to build friendships with when we were younger. This isn’t about that, after all, they have their own needs and wants. Our job is to steer them into making healthy decisions. They don’t need to gravitate to the richest or the most popular kids, and that’s hard for some parents to understand. True, healthy, thriving friendships should always be the goal that every parent seeks for their child. Sometimes our children choose to engage in friendships that we think are not the best options for them. Step back, encourage and support them; let them know that you’re there. The friendship may continue for a long time or it may abruptly fail. It will be difficult to see your child hurt but this real life experience helps them learn best. As long as they are safe, let them engage in that opportunity to gain experience and learn more about healthy friendships with the group they have chosen to be with. 2. Find their group where they are at. If your child gets along better with younger children, so be it. The friendship skills are similar. Getting them comfortable in their own skin, with their own developmental peers, is more important. Remember, it’s best for your child to have one or two good friends than to continually try to break into many other unhealthy friendship groups. 3. Find their passion. This is often harder, because it may change monthly, or daily. So don’t go spending tons of money on hockey equipment at first, try to rent or find some used. Expose your kids to many different types of activities and know that something will stick. It may not happen today, it may not happen in a year and that’s ok. The more exposure to various activities, the better rounded your child will become. The wonderful added bonus in this approach is that it gives your child even more exposure to different peer groups and a greater chance for them to find their niche. Remember, above all, a calm, loving and supportive parent is most important. Everything else will come in time.

Dr. Deena: Interviewed on "Psyched Up" with Dr. Howard Gurr

Dr. Deena Abbe PhD, a leading clinical psychologist specializing in infant and children, was recently invited to talk to Dr. Howard Gurr, the host of Suffolk County Psychological Association's videocast "Psyched Up" about therapy with children. Dr. Deena’s areas of expertise include ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome, Autism, Social Phobias, and Aggression in children. She is currently affiliated with O’Connell, Selig and Associates, Island Therapies, and other Long Island Early Intervention agencies.

How to Choose a Summer Camp for Your Child

In our minds, summer is usually the time to break loose. Our kids get excited about having no more rules, no more books, riding around the neighborhood with their friends. However, let’s take the time to imagine if summer wasn’t that carefree. Our kids know the rules in school, they know where to sit, who to talk to and how to play. Yet, in the summer those rules don’t apply. It’s as though they are thrust into a world they aren’t yet ready for. They have a bundle of energy, they want to play but they don’t know how. For a child encountering these feelings, summer can be really stressful for them. Enter summer camp! It provides a structured environment that is wholly centered on fun. Like school, it clearly defines how to have fun, when to have fun and with whom. The right camp provides a structured, active environment that can help your child blossom and learn to have fun with their friends, whether they have ADHD or not. Now that we’ve established camp can be a lifesaver for you and your child, here are some tips on choosing the right summer camp for your little one(s). 1. Ask. The most important thing you can do is, ask your child. They go to school and try to listen/follow the rules all year long. This is the time to listen and find out what activities they enjoy? Do they want to meet new people or go to camp with familiar faces? If they are involved in the process of choosing a camp, they are more likely to enjoy their summer. Ask their teachers and school staff as well. They know your child and have a different opinion on how they interact with others at school. Remember to keep this information in mind when you are choosing a summer program. 2. Staff. There are a few important things you want to look for in a camp. The smaller the camper the counselor ratio, the more supervision there will be. Imagine everyone is off playing basketball and your child doesn’t want to. A small camper to counselor ratio will allow someone to take a walk with your child, cool them off, and maybe even tutor them on the game while sitting on the sidelines. This approach is wonderful because it doesn’t stress out the rest of the group or embarrass your child. This experience really happened with my son and it was the best solution possible!
You also want to know the age of the counselors and their training. You might choose to pay more for a camp where every counselor is a teacher, as opposed to a teenager but you know they have more patience and training to work with your particular child. You also want to know how many nurses are on staff. This is important if your child is going to be receiving medication. It’s reassuring to know that someone is on staff that can either administer the medicine or keep a trained eye on your child to make sure no adverse reactions occur in the hot sun while they are running around. 3. Activities. In this day and age, many kids want to spend the summer glued to an electronic device. Don’t let them. The more physical activities they are involved in, the better and happier they will be. This is true of all children, but especially those with ADHD. There’s something to be said about being outside, running around in the fresh air. There are tons of studies that say that one of the most effective treatments for ADHD. Outdoor exercise is highly beneficial, so look for a camp that provides outside activities, shade and access to water and hydration. On the flip side, you want to know that if it rains the fun doesn’t stop. A good camp will have an organized rainy day plan. 4. Types of Camp. There are camps that specialize in working with children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, learning disabilities, or Tourette’s Syndrome etc. These may be a great option for you. However, don’t rule out the local programs either. They may be just what your child needs. Remember, each camp is different, and each child is different. It may take some investigating, but there is a program out there to help your child have the best summer of their lives.

TS, OCD and Exercise

Packer-Hopke, L. and Motta, R. A Preliminary Investigation of the Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Childhood Tourette’s Syndrome and OCD, the Behavior Therapist, October 2014 Tourette’s Syndrome (TS) is typically diagnosed in childhood. Motor and vocal tics are the hallmark of TS, but there is often the comorbidity of OCD and ADHD. Studies have shown that 12 weeks of moderately intense exercise three to four times a week can reduce OCD symptoms drastically (as measured by a well-known Obsessive Compulsive Scale—the Y-BOCS).
That being said, what about those children who have both OCD and TS? OCD is an anxiety disorder, and tics can be exacerbated by anxiety. Aerobic activity decreases anxiety and OCD symptoms. Packer-Hopke and Motta looked to see what effect aerobic activity had on tics and OCD symptoms in children who suffer from TS, OCD, and Anxiety. They found that kids who were engaged in six weeks of moderately intense exercise twice a week had a significant reduction in symptoms of both the TS and OCD, and a moderate to large reduction in symptoms of anxiety.
It’s hard to live with TS, let alone its “friends and neighbors “OCD, ADHD, and Anxiety. Wouldn’t it be nice to let these kids, “just be kids”, and in the process help them reduce their symptoms? This isn’t the full answer, but it’s certainly a start.

Exercises of ADHD, OCD, and Tourette's

In my last post, I spoke about the link between lowering ADHD and OCD symptoms, as well as Tics, by increasing exercise. In their article, Packer-Hopke and Motta (2014) had children exercise for twenty minutes for six weeks, and saw a drastic reduction in their symptoms. When I talk to parents, they say, “Oh, my daughter plays soccer” or “He’s on a local baseball team”. These are great activities: kids get to interact with their peers in a structured and active way. But for the purposes of reducing their symptoms, I suggest something a little more active. In the article, children were asked to do a workout video, such as Tae Bo or Kickboxing. These videos combine an intensive cardio workout with fun for longer periods of time. Look for a video that appeals to your child, and that you would want to join in. Kids will be more likely to work out if you are doing it to!
Running is great exercise as well. Not the all-out sprints we used to do for the 200-yard dash, but steady, paced running. Think 1 mile. But start with something easy. There are many ‘couch to 5k’ programs out there that start out walking for 90 seconds and running for 30 seconds. They help you slowly build up your tolerance for running. And nowadays there are tons of fun family runs and 5K’s that you and your child can do together. Running/jogging can be done at any pace, anywhere. All you need is sneakers and sweatpants. I like music in my ears and watching the changing scenery. But a treadmill in front of the television will work just as well. Depending on your child’s tolerance for video games, Just Dance is a great alternative to running around outside. Fun dance songs with easy to follow choreography makes moving fun! The moves are as easy or as hard as you want them to be, and you don’t even realize you are exercising! You and your child will dance and laugh the entire time. The great thing about this is, the more you do it, the better you get. Exercising, especially with your child, is a great way to reduce symptoms of ADHD, OCD, and Tourette’s. It’ll also have the added bonus of helping build a stronger bond and fond memories between you. As with everything, talk to your doctors to make sure these activities are safe and appropriate for your child. If not, don’t despair!!! Call your local psychologist to get more information.
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