Oxford Consulting Services

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Fixing Nighttime Fears

Nighttime fears are highly common—and not just for little kids, either. “Studies show this is a very common issue, affecting up to three-quarters of kids from preschool through adolescence at one time or another,” clinical psychologist Jayne Schachter Walco, Ph.D. of Parsippany, New Jersey, says. “Parents think of fears as something only small children deal with, but that’s untrue.”
Young children aged three to six are more likely to complain of “fantastical” fears like monsters and ghosts, while older children fear things that could actually happen, like a fire, storm, or a home intruder, Walco says. That’s because small children have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality, while school-agers are becoming more aware of the sometimes-scary real world. Though fears vary for different children, parents can address them more or less the same way. Read on for how to slay the scariest of scary monsters at your house this fall.

Fear Faker?
Young children are champions at stalling bedtime; how can parents tell if monster fears are more of the same? “When a child learns that complaining about a fear is a successful tactic to postpone bedtime, he might continue to do this even without any real fear,” says Shelby Harris, Psy.D., director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. But parents can sleuth out a genuine phobia, she says.
A real fear will be quite intense and will be present during the day, not just at night. So if your little arachnophobe only fears spiders after seven p.m., the fear may be bedtime-related, while a fear that’s present at other times is likely authentic.
Fear fix: Treat your child’s fears (even ones you suspect are less than genuine) with empathy and understanding, Harris says. Never laugh at your child or humiliate her. Instead, say “I understand how this might be scary for you, but you’re always safe here.”

Routine Scene
Children with irregular sleep schedules are more prone to nighttime fears and nightmares, Walco says. Why? Overtired children have more difficulty reaching and maintaining deep sleep and spend more time in lighter, “dreaming” sleep, so vivid nightmares may come calling more often. These tired tots may wake more often during the night, resulting in more time spent pondering whether that shadow in the corner is really a monster in waiting.
Fear fix: Maintain a predictable, age-appropriate bedtime routine every night to boost relaxation before bed and help ensure that children get enough rest. Preschoolers need 10-12 hours of sleep each night; school-agers and teens need 9-11.
Bedroom Buddy
Nighttime fears can seem more frightening when children sleep alone, Harris says, which is why children often ask to sleep with parents when they’re afraid. Whenever possible, though, parents should avoid the “quick fix” of letting kids hop into mom and dad’s bed, as this can reinforce fear by communicating that a child’s bedroom isn’t a safe place to sleep.
Fear fix: Parents’ goal should be helping a child feel safe and comfortable in his or her own bedroom. “Whenever possible, soothe a child in the child’s bedroom, instead of in parents’ room,” Harris says. Once he’s calmed down, tell your child you’ll return to check on him in 10 minutes, and make sure to return as promised. Sleeping close to a sibling or pet can also help calm fears.

Creative Calm
Parents employ a variety of creative tricks to help fearful kids, from imbuing a stuffed animal with magical powers to dousing a room with pretend “monster spray” to giving children a pretend sword for “protection.” These tactics can be effective for the preschool set, says licensed therapist Robert Turner of the Rose Sleep Disorders Center in Denver, Colorado. But beware: parents’ willingness to play along with fears in this way might convince a child that the fear is real. (“If mom thinks monsters are real, they must be real!”)
Fear fix: For young children aged three to five, explore whether a transitional object like a special stuffed animal might help boost confidence and help a child fall asleep at bedtime, Turner says. But avoid reinforcing fear by hamming it up or acting afraid yourself.

Right Light
Night frights are often sparked by fear of the dark, according to Robert S. Rosenberg, D.O., medical director of the Sleep Disorders Centers of Prescott Valley and author of Sleep Soundly Every Night; Feel Fantastic Every Day. While babies under two lack the cognitive capacity to be truly afraid the dark—this comes later, when the “imagination” part of the brain takes off during the preschool years—darkness may intensify fears in older children, whether the child is scared of something pretend, like a goblin, or something potentially real, like a burglar.
Fear fix: Flooding a fearful child’s bedroom with nighttime light can backfire; too much light at night can disturb circadian rhythms, intensifying insomnia or overtiredness. Place a small, dim nightlight in a corner of the room, away from a child’s face. Better yet, choose a night light with a red bulb, and avoid blue lights—research shows they disrupt sleep patterns, Rosenberg says.

Rapid Reframe
Ultimately, the best approach is one that helps your child learn to manage fears long-term, says Walco. Help your child learn to take control of fearful, racing thoughts by reframing a scary mental image: a monster chasing your child with a knife (scary!) could become a friendly fairy chasing your child to offer an ice cream cone (sweet!). Arm your child with factual information, like the real causes of nighttime noises: spooky, creaky footsteps are really caused by your old floorboards, not an intruder. And practice self-calming strategies, like taking two deep breaths when afraid, or picturing a safe, enjoyable scene.

When a child masters the skills needed to self-regulate and actively dial down fears, he’ll be more confident, self-assured, and emotionally resilient—for life.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

How to Throw a Birthday Party for Your Sensory Sensitive Child

Image result for birthday party
Birthdays. They come once a year and are usually met with much anticipation and excitement by the celebrated boy or girl. When you think birthdays, you think balloons, cake, ice cream, friends and presents, right? Those are all wonderful traditions but what happens when you have a child who actually acts out (in a defiant) way, when all of these good things are going on around them? Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) want to be celebrated like any other child but for the parents who have to watch the tailspin of emotions that come from what was supposed to be a great day to what has now become a dreaded occasion – can be very tough. Let these 6 tips help you celebrate and enjoy your child on their birthday because when it really comes down to it, they want to be loved on just like everyone else.

1. Bigger isn’t always better. I used to tell myself that I had to invite every single one of my son’s friends to his birthday party in order for it to be a success. Wrong. The more kids I invited, the more hyper he got because there was just too much going on for him to focus on what the occasion was really about; him. Now we let him invite one friend to do one special thing and the focus becomes about the experience and not the behavior.

2. No hype. Remind your child that her birthday is coming up and that you are so excited to be celebrating her special day. Talk to her about her very first birthday and share photos with her from years past. Instill the idea that the day she was born was one of the best days of your life and that you are so thankful to have her has as your daughter. This special moment will prioritize what is really important about her upcoming day; that she is happy, healthy and loved. Sometimes when parents build up the big day, it can become too overwhelming for their child to understand. No need to down play the big day but do not build so much anticipation that your child is unrealistic about what to expect.
3. Kids who are sensory seeking (like loud noises, have a hard time understanding personal space, are loud, and in general, pretty hyper) are easily swept up in the chaos that can come with a birthday party. Think outside the box and invite one or two friends to keep the noise level to a minimum to help your child function on his special day.

4. Kids who are sensory avoiding (get stressed out by loud noises, do not like to be touched, get overwhelmed when there are multiple things going on) will most likely act out if they cannot process what is going on around them. Remove the obstacles before the party even begins and set your child up for success. Instead of latex balloons that pop easily and make loud noises that can scare children, opt for Mylar balloons. They last longer and are less likely to pop. Instead of buying your child 10 gifts that she will likely forget about once she has opened them, buy her two or three gifts that you know she will get lots of play out of and that are equally beneficial to her (necklace-making kit, dinosaur excavation kit or water beads). It is simply too much for a child with sensory issues to be expected to sit still in front of 20 people, opening gifts, saying thank you, and remaining calm. Know your child’s limits and work around them.

5. Pick the right time of day. If you know your son is usually grumpy in the morning but acts pretty happy in the afternoon, then plan a get together in the afternoon. If you have a big family and you know your child does not do well with lots of people around, turn his birthday into a birthweek and space out when he sees people. This will be more fun for everyone involved. Family gets a chance to celebrate and notice the birthday boy and you get to be around an equally happy child who is more likely to act appropriately when the attention is directed at him.

6. Don’t expect too much. If you notice that everything going on around her is overwhelming your child, then take a time out. Let your child have a few minutes to herself to collect her thoughts and take things down a notch. Maybe instead of playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey, you opt for a coloring contest where each person gets a prize for participating. Children with SPD have a hard time understanding social situations that other people just simply know how to handle. Take the drama out of a birthday meltdown and create an environment where everyone wins.
Celebrating a birthday can be bittersweet for the parents of children with SPD. Most likely, we have thought of every way possible to make the day a great one for our child, only to be disappointed when they act out from not being able to process all that is going on around them. This heavy weight of guilt washes over us as if we cannot breathe and we start to question whether or not we are good parents for only allowing our child to invite one friend to his party. Let go of the guilt and accept the reality for what it is. Your child functions better when things are simple. Celebrate that and while you are at it, celebrate the fact that you and your child have made it one more year growing in this SPD world together.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Great Gift for Dad this Father's Day

Father’s Day is right around the corner, and the time has come once again to begin searching for a gift for dear old dad. Father’s Day gift shoppers have long since abandoned the notion that a new necktie is what dad really wants, but finding a gift that expresses your love and appreciation for the old man can still prove somewhat challenging.

Oftentimes, the best gifts are the ones that fulfill a need or want, and Father’s Day gifts are no exception. The following are a handful of Father’s Day gift ideas for dads whose hobbies run the gamut.

The Sports Nut
Dads who can’t get enough of their favorite teams would no doubt appreciate some new gear or even tickets to see their favorite teams play. Since 1999, Staten Island has been home to the minor league team, the Staten Island Yankees. If you opt to buy tickets to a ballgame, make it a family affair, as dad would no doubt appreciate an afternoon at the ballpark with his kids and/or grandkids. For a father who no longer lives in the market where his teams play, consider purchasing a streaming service or television package that allows him to see his favorite team no matter where he’s living.

The Movie Mogul
Some dads simply can’t get enough of the silver screen, and a streaming service that allows dad to watch many of his favorite movies on demand from the comforts of home might make the perfect gifts for film-loving fathers. Services like Netflix and Amazon Prime offer hundreds of titles, and monthly or yearly subscriptions cost relatively little money. If Dad is the type who prefers seeing movies on the big screen, gift certificates redeemable at a local movie theater is a welcomed treat.

The Outdoorsman
Fathers who love the great outdoors might appreciate some new camping gear, a new fishing pole or even some comfortable hiking boots. When shopping for the outdoorsman in your life, consider which outdoor activity is his favorite (i.e., boating, fishing, kayaking, etc.) and try to find the latest useful gadget or newest product made for such enthusiasts. If you don’t share the same passion for the great outdoors and are hesitant to buy something you’re unsure about, a gift certificate to an outdoorsman or sporting goods store will suffice.

The Doting Grandfather
Some men simply want to spend more time with family, especially grandfathers who never tire of afternoons with their grandchildren. If dad has retired and moved away, a trip to see his grandkids might make the ideal gift this Father’s Day. Arrange the dates with mom so you are not surprising dad with a trip at a time when he already has plans, and make sure to schedule some fun activities for those days when dad is in town.

Father’s Day is a time each year when dads are told how much they are loved and appreciated. This year, a gift that implies both those sentiments is sure to make dad smile.