Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tips For Dealing With Your Child's School Anxiety

School is a wonderful time for most children, not to mention parents. There are new teachers and classrooms, new experiences, and friendly faces. Most kids are eager to make friends and join the fun, even if they aren’t exactly thrilled about the work. But there is a small population of kids, from preschoolers to teens, who absolutely dread school because they suffer from anxiety.

For these kids, it is not as simple as jitters before the first day. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to not discount a child’s fears. “Because anxious children may also be quiet, compliant, and eager to please, their difficulties may be missed,” it says.

Anxiety can manifest itself in a number of ways — as physical ailments, outbursts, depression, or even anger. It can arise, seemingly out of the blue, in a child who was once previously happy and calm.

Children with anxiety disorder experience physical symptoms, some disabling, which inhibit them from being able to just shake it off. So telling a child he has no reason to be afraid may not help. In many cases, the child already knows that he shouldn’t be scared of the test or the teacher or one of many things that stresses him out, but he doesn’t know how to stop doing so.

Alternatively, understanding and validating a child’s feelings does help. That’s not to say parents should let their children avoid every anxiety-provoking situation. On the contrary, children need to go to school and find ways to be successful despite their anxiety. They also need to know that they can overcome it with help. Parents need to be their kid’s biggest support and cheerleader. Children who know that their parents are there to support and fight for them and are with them, who know their troubles are being taken seriously, and who know they are not alone, have a much better chance of overcoming anxiety long-term.

It is quite distressing to see your child suffer, but there are ways parents and teachers can help. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers the following tips for parents:

• Pay attention to your child’s feelings.
• Stay calm when your child becomes anxious about a situation or event.
• Recognize and praise small accomplishments.
• Don’t punish mistakes or lack of progress.
• Be flexible, but try to maintain a normal routine.
• Modify expectations during stressful periods.
• Plan for transitions. (For example, allow extra time in the morning if getting to school is difficult).

In some cases, anxiety in children is severe enough to impact their ability to attend school. The Association advises parents to “reach out to school personnel about any accommodations that may help your child succeed in the classroom. You have the right under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to request appropriate accommodations related to your child’s diagnosis.” Some of these include:

Safe person: This could be a counselor, nurse, teacher, or any adult that the child feels comfortable with whom the child can go to during anxious moments. This person can talk to the child for five to 10 minutes, help calm him down, and return to his normal school day. Often just knowing there is someone who understands and will help him is just the bit of reassurance and support a child needs.

Cool down pass: This allows the child to leave the classroom when he is feeling anxious to put some cool water on his face or wash his hands, restore himself, and return to class less nervous.

Seating: An anxious child will do better sitting in the most quiet spot in the room, away from louder and unruly students. He will also often benefit from being seated near the door. Parents can also request that their child be moved to a smaller class.

Testing conditions: The child can be allowed to take tests in a quiet room or have extra time to finish. Often knowing that they have extra time to finish allows their minds to settle down, and they often do not need to use the extra time.

Many schools are willing to help these children and their families, but many are not. Once a child is diagnosed with anxiety, a parent can fill out a 504. Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires public schools to provide medically compromised students reasonable and appropriate accommodations, so they may participate fully in school. This will protect the child by ensuring that his medical needs are addressed and also that accommodations will be provided. Parents are the first and strongest advocates for their child.

For more information on children and anxiety, 504s, and school accommodations for children with anxiety visit,

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Ninth Inning Of Parenting

I’ve been a mother now for more years than I’ve not been a mother. While I don’t consider myself old yet (and still feel about 25 on the inside), I know that the time in which my kids will need my hands-on mothering is quickly drawing to a close. Back when I was 20 and my oldest daughter was a newborn, I was a bright-eyed rookie marveling at this new role of mother. I recall saying “my daughter” and having it sound so fantastically novel. Ten years later, hearing myself utter the words “my son” also sounded peculiar to me after 10 years of mothering two girls, but I was still so eager to learn all I could, firmly implanted in the batter’s box.

This month, that baby boy will graduate from middle school and head off to high school, and I am feeling for the first time in 23 years that my mothering is taking a backseat to my life. Even writing that feels bizarre, honestly.

For 23 years, I proudly wore the uniform with capital MOM on the back.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Why Our Overactive Society Views Shyness As A Sickness

If you are raising a shy child or were one yourself, have you ever considered that being shy might not be a bad thing? While there are countless books on how to get your shy child to come out of her shell, and therapists scrutinizing children for signs of social anxiety, being shy has its benefits. There are many reasons why shy children not only grow up to be productive people, but many go on to be leaders and artists.
Susan Cain’s article, “Shyness: An Evolutionary Tactic” in yesterday’s New York Times‘ Sunday Review breaks open the stigma of being shy and replaces it with scientific evidence to support the evolutionary benefits that introverts, or sitters, bring to a world of extroverts, or rovers.
As Cain points out, the ads for social anxiety medications show pathetic views of shy people who apparently suffer from social anxiety. One has to wonder if children who are prescribed these medications even need them or if they just have a quiet way of being part of the world, a way in which they take in their surroundings through peaceful observance and introspection rather than immediate interaction.
Why does everyone have to be a social butterfly to be deemed normal or even acceptable?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Does Your Child Require Special Services in School?

Have you noticed that when you search for the term “special needs,” the main focus tends to be typically on autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? Those conditions certainly deserve a concentrated focus and increased awareness, but there are so many special needs that extend well beyond those two widely known areas. And there are so many parents with children who are sincerely desperate for information and support for their child’s specific special needs.
Remember, autism was not always widely known; it was through the huge effort of the many moms and dads, doctors and teachers, researchers and advocates, who stood up and demanded that more research be done, more money be allocated for, and more information become available for children with autism.
The same needs to be done for the many diseases, conditions, and afflictions of all children so every child can get the services, treatment, and accommodations necessary for her particular circumstance.

What is a special need?

A special need is required when a diagnosis in a child requires special assistance in order to help that child be the best she can be, physically, mentally, and emotionally. There are medical issues (chronic and congenital), developmental delays, behavioral issues, mental issues, and more. It is impossible to list all, but here are just some special-need conditions (some you may not have heard of) that warrant treatment and services at home, in school, and beyond:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sluggish, Anxious, Exhausted? It Might NOT Be Just the Baby...

Laura Faber of Soho was surprised by how tired she had become since giving birth. As a first-time mom, she initially denied her fatigue until it became unbearable. During her six-week checkup, she mentioned that she had been so tired she couldn't function. "I first thought that I should feel that tired because I was up all night with the baby, but even when I got sleep, I still felt wiped out," Faber explains. Because of this and her other complaints of body aches and dry skin, her doctor decided to run a quick thyroid panel in her labs that day. By 2pm the following day, Laura's doctor called to tell her that she had postpartum thyroiditis, a disease that commonly affects new mothers.

What is Postpartum Thyroiditis?
The thyroid is a central gland in the body, so it's no surprise that when it has problems, your whole body is affected. According to the American Thyroid Society, more than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime, a significant finding considering the thyroid produces a hormone that influences every cell, tissue, and organ in the body.

In postpartum thyroiditis, the thyroid becomes inflamed, which impairs function. The hypothyroid phase occurs when your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone to supply the body. The hyperthyroid phase is diagnosed when the thyroid produces too much hormone.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

POTS: A Debilitating Syndrome You Probably Never Heard Of That Affects Children and Teens (and Adults)

Not many know that POTS has directly affected my family. After years of fighting a chronic illness, we only recently found out that my daughter has POTS. Over the past year, I have learned everything I could about this horrible condition, which steals childhoods from kids and teens. It is life-changing and the ironic thing is that even though I have been a writer specializing been in parenting and health, and although I have three children (one of which has had chronic health conditions), I had never before heard of POTS until my daughter was thought to have it. You can read a bit more about our story with POTS here

The article below appeared in NY Parenting magazines and hit nearly 100,000 views within just a few weeks. That is how desperate our POTS community is for awareness, information, and ultimately, a cure. If you know anyone with POTS, or are a school nurse, teacher, doctor, or a parent, please read through the whole piece to gain a better understanding. There are several resources listed at the bottom of this article. Thank you to all the folks in my POTS community who helped us in those dark few weeks after diagnosis, and who continue to help us whenever a new symptom debilitating or scary symptom appears, and who are always there to lend their support and love for others who are battling this terrible condition.

Julia Swanson was a vivacious, smart, and fun-loving teen until, quite abruptly, she wasn’t. One day, she felt dizzy, nauseous, and her heart was racing before leaving for school. Thinking she was coming down with the flu, she brushed it off. After a few days, the flu never set in but Julia kept having these symptoms. Then she almost passed out in school after walking up the stairs. 

Doctor after doctor could not identify why a healthy teen was experiencing such debilitating symptoms. One said it was simple tachycardia — an abnormally rapid heart rate — brought on by the stress of school. Another said it could be anxiety or panic disorder. Another said it was irritable bowel syndrome. Yet another said it was a hormonal imbalance. The last one said it was allergies. Julia became unable to walk very far, be active, concentrate, socialize, or do anything she would normally enjoy doing.

Every doctor she visited missed the diagnosis. It wasn’t until her mother, Elaine, took her to a psychiatrist to rule out any psychiatric conditions, but the doctor said he didn’t think she had any mental issues at all. In fact, she was reacting very normally for someone going through such terrifying physical experiences day in and day out. “She may have POTS,” he said. It was the first time that Elaine had heard the term before.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What Finally Forced Me to Stop Being a People-Pleaser

I have always avoided confrontation. The thought of speaking up and asking for what I wanted or needed was a lost trait in my character.
When I was a kid, I had no trouble speaking my mind but somewhere around puberty, like so many others, I became a people-pleaser. And pleasing others often means denying yourself your true feelings, wants and wishes because they are the very things that might offend or put someone out.
There are a lot of us out there.
When I was managing editor at a monthly magazine, I quickly realized how many of our female employers and freelancers would apologize, not speak up for themselves, and settle for less than wanted, whether it be workload or salary. In stark contrast, male employees, even those with little experience, would rally for themselves consistently.
So what made me, after so many years of being non-confrontational, finally learn how to stand up for myself?