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Mental Health Blog Day – May 20th

Today is Mental Health Blog Day and I remember when my son was first officially diagnosed with ADHD, he was about 6 years old. Kindergarten. Hmm…. How to explain to him, “Yeah! You were diagnosed with a neurological disorder that makes you move, and fidget, and call out, and have some social issues with your peers!” No matter how smart he was, that wouldn’t go over well. So I started thinking; in life, everyone has something. Some people are good at sports, but not a reading. Some people have difficulty letting go of their blankie. Sometimes, people’s strengths and weaknesses don’t have a name: they are just a group of behaviors, while sometimes if we’re lucky, those groups of behaviors have a label. That’s good; in many cases that means that there are many other people who also have those behaviors and we may know how to help. Many times, when we give something a label or a name, it means that it’s real. It validates the experience. So that’s what I did for my son. What’s good about this approach is that it normalizes the experience for kids. It also gives parents much needed perspective. ADHD isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a thing…and everyone has to deal with something. Feel free to read more of my blog posts here: Long Island Child Psych Blog. Remember, don’t be ashamed of your story; it will inspire others. It’s time to think outside of the stigma. Today is the day: #mhblogday

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.

Ask Dr. Deena

Licensed clinical and school psychologist Dr. Deena Abbe has over a decade of experience successfully diagnosing, treating, and helping children and families live with ADHD/ADD, Autism, Depression, Anxiety, OCD, ODD, feeding concerns, and more. She has a thriving practice and is well-known for her sound and comprehensive mental health work. Dr. Abbe is a member of the New York State Psychological Association, Suffolk County Psychological Association, Association for Behavior and Cognitive Therapy, and American Psychological Association. For the next month leading up to National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, beginning on Sunday, May 3rd till Saturday May 9th, 2015, Dr. Abbe will be opening her social media pages for you to ask any mental health questions regarding children and youth. You can ask her your questions on Facebook, Twitter, the Long Island Child Psych website or via email. At the end of the month, Dr. Deena will choose a question and answer it in a vlog and post it on her social media sites during National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Ask Dr. Deena your questions through any of these channels: Facebook: Long Island Child Psych
Twitter: Dr. Deena Abbe Twitter Page (Tweet questions: @DrDeenaAbbe and hashtag #AskDrDeena, or send Dr. Deena a direct message)
Website: Long Island Child Psych website
Email: deena@longislandchildpsych.com Dr. Deena wants to help your family be its best.

Mommy/Daddy Guilt

There are so many things we want to pass along to our kids: love of music, love of sports, good work ethics, beautiful curls or blue eyes. Sometimes, our genetics adds little “bonuses” with our gifts, like ADHD. Or Celiac. Or any number of other genetic blips. It’s hard to parent a child in general, but adding the guilt on top of that makes it even more gut wrenching. I remember feeling terribly guilty that my son had ADHD. It’s because my husband has difficulty starting a project without being asked many times. It’s because I was bouncy and combative as a child. Maybe if we didn’t have so many kids. Maybe if we didn’t send him to school so early, or to camp. Maybe if I didn’t work. If I did ‘x’ differently, maybe then he’d be able to listen, and sit, and keep his hands to himself. I’m here to tell you that almost everyone feels some level of guilt. It’s normal to second guess yourself and your choices. But don’t let that overwhelm you or your ability to parent. It’s not anyone’s “fault”. It is what it is. It’s also important to know if you are consumed with guilt, or any sort of overwhelming emotion for that matter, you can’t parent effectively. Let’s play devils advocate. Let’s imagine, for example, that it is totally your fault. As in, you hand-picked these genetics to give to your child. You can get upset that you shouldn’t have done that and that you made a mistake. You want to wish it away but you can’t. Your child has green eyes and that’s it. However, if your child has diabetes or autism, your job changes; it gets more interesting.
How do you teach your children not to rail against their nature, but to embrace their strengths, their idiosyncrasies? It’s a tough job but you start with the fact that everyone has something that they come up against in life. It’s not that they have this, but how they handle it that makes them the person that they are. Who they are isn’t bad; each little negative has a flip side, a positive. Our job as parents is to find the positive and help them shine, even if our children can’t figure out how to do it for themselves yet. Feeling guilty comes with being a parent. You don’t want to hurt or disappoint your child, but no, they can’t have the $300 toy car. They will cry about it and you might feel bad. What makes you a good parent is the ability to know what is within your control, and what isn’t. The genes that are passed along to your child are not within your control, but how you love and live with your child is. That is what makes all the difference.

When People Make Comments About Your Kid

I remember the first time someone said they didn’t want their son playing with mine. They were both about 5 years old, and the mom said my son was “just too rough.” She didn’t want her son getting hurt. This was someone I considered a friend. The kids played well together often, I had thought. So when mom said this, I was absolutely taken aback. I spent the next few days just listening; watching how other parents and kids interacted with my son. I know he had issues, but I wondered how others dealt with him. To be honest, when kids are that young, parents aren’t often cruel. There is usually an expectation of “Oh, he’s a five-year-old boy”. However, when they get older society expects children to grow up and sometimes our kids don’t get that memo. They may not mature as quickly as their peers or act as other kids expect them to and then the hurtful words come. In addition to that, there are the sly glances and the avoidance. How you handle that as a parent effects how your children will handle these social games as well. Here are some tips that I hope will help you handle these difficult situations with aplomb. 1. Don’t worry so much about what other people think. This is true in general, but especially when it comes to your child. You are the expert on your child. Other people are merely consultants. This will also help you to be less hurt and upset by what they say. 2. Smile. A lot. It’s a great habit to get into. When you are angry, or upset at someone else, just smile at them. They get confused and don’t know what to do with that. And it keeps the tension of the moment off of you and yours. Imagine if that’s a skill your child could emulate? It’s such a great gift you can give to them! 3. Hug your Child. They are loved, and they need to know that. We may think they don’t hear the comments or see the glances, but they do. They need to know that you, their rock, their support, still loves them unconditionally. 4. If you must reply, be calm. See number 2. Yelling and getting emotional just makes everything a tangled mess. When you are calm and in control, you can control the situation. Whether you are stopping someone else from disciplining your child, or you are correcting a misperception, it should only be done when you can take a calm breath and maintain that mood. If you yell and scream, you lower yourself to their level. And now there are many children fighting, even ones that are really big and should know better. 5. If all else fails, walk away. That old adage is true: if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything. Some people aren’t happy and some people think pointing out other peoples flaws make them look better. You don’t have to be part of that. Leave. You and your child deserve better. Everyone is going through something, it’s just that sometimes those “things” are more obvious. Remember that you love your child, regardless of what other feel and that is what’s really important.

How to explain ADHD to your kids

When my son was first officially diagnosed with ADHD, he was about 6 years old. Kindergarten. Hmm…. How to explain to him, “Yeah! You were diagnosed with a neurological disorder that makes you move, and fidget, and call out, and have some social issues with your peers!” No matter how smart he was, that wouldn’t go over well. So I started thinking; in life, everyone has something. Some people are good at sports, but not a reading. Some people have difficulty letting go of their blankie. Sometimes, people’s strengths and weaknesses don’t have a name: they are just a group of behaviors, while sometimes if we’re lucky, those groups of behaviors have a label. That’s good; in many cases that means that there are many other people who also have those behaviors and we may know how to help. Many times, when we give something a label or a name, it means that it’s real. It validates the experience. So that’s what I did for my son. In a rare quiet moment I sat with him and spoke about my strengths and weaknesses. I told him how hard it was for me to do math, which is super easy for him. I spoke about how sometimes when I was younger, it was really hard for me to say “I’m sorry”. I spoke about how reading was easy for me. We talked about what a strength was and what a weakness was. I asked him what he thought his strengths and weaknesses were. In typical, insightful 6-year-old fashion, he shared that he loved reading, but had a hard time raising his hand. Perfect segue into ADHD. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, I told him and having these makes him who he is as a person. Our combination of strengths and weaknesses is absolutely normal. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, our pattern of strengths and weaknesses has a name. Fortunately, his does. It’s Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. That means, it’s hard for him to stop and think before he acts; sometimes his emotions are in control, and sometimes he just has to move. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just a thing, and that’s ok. Remember that everyone has something. What’s good about this approach is that it normalizes the experience for kids. It also gives parents much needed perspective. ADHD isn’t a bad thing. Everyone has something.

ODD (Pre) Teens

I love being a mom. I love that my five-year-old daughter says “Good morning Sunshine!” when I wake her up (even after she’s called me from the other room yelling, “WAKE ME UP, MOMMY!!!!”) I love that my almost 9 year old wants to share with me all the gruesome ways people have died while wearing Disney costumes (don’t believe everything you see on the internet, kid). I love how my 11-year-old son asks me how to make shakes in the morning, and to find out whether the ‘Farm to Table Restaurant’ is available for a special lunch, just for the two of us. I love my 12-year-old son as well. It’s just harder to remember that when he’s yelling at me to shut up and saying how untrustworthy I am, when he’s chosen to sneak on the computer to play games at some ridiculous hour in the morning. As I am so gently reminded by my husband, sometimes, I need to take my own advice. So here it is for my benefit and yours: some tips on living with an Oppositional (Pre) Teenager. 1. You love them. Sometimes it’s hard to remember this was the tiny infant you held until they fell asleep. Or played with on the swings for hours. But it’s the same kid. They are just buried in there under a tremendous amount of hormones. We need to remember that these kids are sometimes even harder to parent than typical teenagers because of their O.D.D. Remember, after the storm come the calm. Hang in there; it’s going to get better. 2. Tell them. When confronted, these kids will count the numerous ways they have been wronged, persecuted, maligned etc. Ignore it. Calmly tell them what they did wrong and walk away. Sometimes, it feels like they don’t hear you, but they are soaking in everything you say and do to incorporate into their adult repertoire. By telling them what they did wrong, in a calm manner, you are showing them that you are in control. Don’t take anything they say while they are in the midst of a “fit” seriously. They will say anything, and I do mean anything, to get your goat. Don’t respond. Stick to the topic at hand. Be short and sweet; then walk away. 3. Don’t fight, discuss sparingly. Even though they fight us every step of the way, we need to remember that these kids need boundaries. When we engage in fighting with them, those boundaries get loosened, and they get scared. Think of it this way: I’m going fight with you to push back against those boundaries (that’s what O.D.D. kids do), but if you fight back with me, those boundaries that I’m testing aren’t as secure as I need them to be, and now I’m lost. If you need to discuss something, or you think it’s a topic worth exploring, wait until both of you are calm and have a back and forth conversation. Always remain calmly in charge, and when you feel yourself getting tense, gracefully excuse yourself and walk away. 4. Let it go. I can hear Disney playing in the background…. But seriously, some things aren’t worth fighting over. Listening to a 12 year old interrupting, while a five year old sings “we don’t interrupt”, and an 11 year old continually trying to speak over him, and a 9 year old egging everyone on, trust me, I was tempted to walk in there and start yelling in order to gain control of the situation. You know what though, in two minutes, it all calmed down, and I didn’t have do a thing. It wasn’t worth me getting involved; they needed to figure this out on their own. My take away from this is, my 12 year old needs to learn from life, not from mom consistently stepping in and telling him what to do. 5. In Vivo learning. That’s fancy talk for learning from experience. Sometimes we want to tell our kids what to do, we want to reintroduce the rules AGAIN for the millionth time. Don’t. It’s more effective coming from someone who’s not you. You don’t want to sound like the teacher from Peanuts “wah wah wah”. Our kids learn so much quicker from real life experience. We can tell them if they play basketball in the rain, they are going to get sick, be cold, fall and get hurt. However, if we let them just do it, and they come in cold and wet and battling a sniffle, or if they fall and hurt their hand, they will think twice about playing in the next rainstorm. Kids learn so much more effectively from personal experience. Just as with neurotypical teens, it’s time to let our older kids experience things on their own. That’s not to say let them engage in unsafe behaviors or let them put themselves in dangerous situations. We still need to parent, but pick your battles and allow let them learn some important life lessons. 6. Take care of yourself. This is so important. I know I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but it’s so important to remember that if you are happy, you are more likely to be calm. The calmer you are, the less they will fight. (Not that they won’t fight, it’ll just be less intense and not last as long.) They will also feel safer when you are calmer, and you’ll be happier and able to deal with these adverse situations much better. Good luck. I promise you, it’s going to get better.

My top 3 resources if you have kids with ADD/ADHD

Having kids is tough. Having a child with ADHD can be especially challenging, but it doesn’t need to be. As parents we need to remember that we are not alone. There are lots of resources in our own communities to help us. We teach our kids that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it; well it’s time to take our own advice and take advantage of the resources available. 1. Find a local mental health professional. Preferably someone who works with kids if you can find it, but if not, that ok too. Keep in mind; if you are ok, your kids are ok. They look to you to gauge their moods; to see if a situation is worthy of stress. Speaking to a professional and learning how to cope with your stress shows your kids how to handle their stress. If that person happens to specialize in working with children who have ADHD, that’s even better. 2. Community Centers can be a family friendly resource. Parenting groups, swim classes, babysitting, Mommy/Daddy and me programs etc. These classes are often available at a community center or place of worship within the community. There are therapists or counselors available in these centers who can help you and your child unwind and have a good time together. You’ll meet parents who are going through the same thing you are, who understand who your child is and where you are coming from. Chances are, the two of you are like-minded, because you are both there! It’s nice to enter a room and know that you are not alone. 3. Find a Park or an outdoor space and go. Running around and playing are wonderful places for you and your child to meet other people. Not to mention the exercise will help your child eat, sleep, and socialize better. Most of the parks are free of charge or a nominal fee, so you don’t have to worry about spending tons of money. Parks are places of beauty and nature that allow you and your child to literally run around and practice all the skills you work on at home and in therapy, so go out and enjoy! Different communities may have more specific resources. Utilize them and remember that you are not alone.

5 Ideas to Help Parents of Kids with ADD/ADHD Stay Positive

Welcome to the New Year!! With a new year comes new opportunities to help our kids. Remember when your kids were young and people would say, “Happy parent, happy baby?” Same is true now. No matter the age of your child, the happier and calmer you are, the happier and calmer your child will be. It’s not easy but it’s worth it. When you, as a parent are calmer and happier, your child will be less easy to rile, quick(er) to calm down, and will seek to emulate your relaxed and cheerful mood. With that in mind, here are 5 helpful tips to help you stay calm and happy. 1. Remember that this too shall pass. You might crave sleeping in later or the freedom to go out for a leisurely meal and walk, but when your kids are out of the house and you’re on your own, you will miss the noise and chaos. Keep that in mind when you start to feel your shoulders inching towards your ears. 2. You love your child. As frustrating, annoying and maddening as his or her behavior is, it’s not who THEY are. Sometimes we need to take a moment or two out of our day to remember that. Pull out their pictures and look at these candid moments when your kids are happy and smiling, and go over a few of their wonderful qualities in your mind. Remember you love THEM, madly and completely. Be grateful that they are yours and that they are as wonderful as they are. The more you practice gratitude, the easier it will be to remember these important points. 3. Practice Meditation. Even a few minutes a day can help you easily clear your mind and focus on what’s important. I understand how hard it is to find two, let alone ten minutes to stop and think. Maybe you have to take a moment and do it when you first wake up, or just before you go to sleep. It doesn’t matter when, but taking those few minutes to just breathe and clear your mind will help immeasurably. 4. Practice Mindfulness. Be in the moment. Smile when your kids are running around playing super heroes. Maybe someone will cry out in a moment, but for right now, they are laughing and playing together and that’s one of the best parts of being a kid. 5. Do something together. Pick a LEGO project, or color a picture together. Don’t stress about whether it comes out “right”. The goal isn’t for it to look professional; the goal is to spend quality time with your child. So whatever the activity is, make sure it’s something that is enjoyable and something they want to do, not something that targets their weakness. Take the time to do this and the outcome will be wonderful, because you are doing it together. Enjoy the New Year, and take the time to enjoy your child. They are only young once, and time flies by way too quickly.

Happy Holidays!!!

Dr. Deena Abbe and everyone here at Long Island Child Psych would like to wish you a very Happy, Joyous, and Peaceful holiday season!

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