It is said that parenting is the hardest job one will ever have (with the least formal training). It is also the most meaningful job. Therefore, it is important for parents to feel empowered and supported to be able to deal effectively with all of the challenges that emerge throughout the journey and development of their child.
This blog is aimed to help parents increasingly become more equipped with the understanding as well as the tools and strategies to facilitate their child’s growth and development in all spheres of their life.
One of our main goals at the Kahane Center is to help parents to raise children who are fortified to deal effectively in all spheres of their lives – emotionally, socially, behaviorally, nutritionally and academically. We believe the first step to raising a functional, confident and successful child is to support the child in learning how to tune into themselves and the world around them.
We see the parents’ role as being a facilitator in this process of helping their children learn to understand their own emotions and bodily cues and thereby navigate their way through their world. Ultimately it is through this process of self awareness – the tuning into themselves and becoming effective CEO’s of their own regulation – that children can lead the most healthful and productive lives and succeed to their potential. This blog will highlight different aspects of a child’s path to self-regulation and the parent’s role as facilitator of that process.
Many of the ideas of this blog come out of years of practical, hands-on psychological work with children and their parents. Many have strong theoretical underpinnings. I hope that it will serve as a springboard for discussion and dialogue and ultimately as a way of sharing some of the meaningful work that we are engaged in at The Kahane Center with an even greater audience. Thanks for your involvement.
Dr Tamar Z. Kahane
We are at the crossroads of another transition. Summer is coming to an end, and the school year will soon begin. Summer is a time when we encourage our children to take a break from their regular schedules. We allow them to indulge in the extra dessert, later bedtime, more screen time, and anything else that may make them smile and further embraces their passions and individualism. However, the month of August and September can also be tricky because although our kids may want to continue the summer flow, we have to help them transition back to school.
Routines are the key. Kids do better with structure and setting up routines welcomes this. So even if you let your children indulge during the summer and allowed for less stringent structure, here are a few routines you can begin to establish to prepare them for the school year.
- Altering bed times. During the summer, many kids are allowed to go to bed and rise later than during the school year. In September, they will lose the flexibility to sleep in and we know that sleep is essential for academic success. Changing sleep times is best done gradually. So, begin waking them up earlier in the morning and have them engage in some set activities that can’t be changed to force them out of bed. Eventually, this will help them shift to an earlier bedtime, and things will gradually cycle back with greater ease to how it was during the school year.
- Bedtime reading routine. If your kids have not been reading right before bed, begin to set this practice into place. Make bedtime reading fun. Encourage them to read anything they prefer. If they would like you to read with or to them, please do so. If this routine is in your current practice, continue it!
- Daytime reading routine. During the day, ask your children to set aside two 15-minute periods where they will engage in structured reading. Here, ask them to read for ten minutes and respond to the reading in some way. The can either talk to you about what they have read, draw a picture in response to the reading, answer a self- or adult- created question, or journal thoughts triggered by the content. These fifteen-minute reading sessions should welcome a variety of writing. It could consist of a newspaper article, a blog post, an extract from a research journal, a short story, a poem, etc. If you can engage in the activity with them, even better. Aim for two times; however, once a day is fine. If your child wants to spend more than 15 minutes on the routine, bravo! The time limit is set for 15 minutes so that older kids (upper elementary and middle school) can complete it with success. Feel free to alter the time as needed.
- Writing routine. As your children get older, writing will be the vehicle they use to show their learning and understanding. Writing is a skill that needs to be continuously fine-tuned regardless of age, experience, and expertise. Provide your kids with a fun, new journal and have them write for ten minutes. You can provide them with topics, or they can generate their own. If nothing comes to mind, it is fine to connect this with the reading routine and have them respond to the prompt. However, it is best, if they can journal about their thoughts, or even use this time to write more creatively – perhaps a poem, a story, or a song. They can continue writing the same piece from day to day, or craft something new every time. It can be private, but if they wish to share, provide them with an audience and celebrate their writing, regardless of what it is. Cherish their ideas and don’t analyze or critique their work, especially for grammar errors. Let them use this time to write for the joy of writing. The more one writes, the more they will love to do so.
- Organization routine. School success hinges on organization. As students go from elementary to middle to high school, they are expected to be more organized and utilize tools that facilitate this with greater ease. Begin to set up some of these tools even before school starts.
- Lists are key. Help become a list-centered home. Co-construct lists with your kids about the things they will need each day in school. Set up a system that identifies who will make the list, its location, how it can be altered, and when and how it will be used. Model behaviors by using the lists (read, complete, and check off when complete) for kids who need the support and continue to do it regularly. Habits take time to form.
- Calendar. Create a clear calendar of events. In August, make one for September and October and start to include extracurricular activities and any known school and personal events. Also, include necessary materials needed for the activities and events. The materials could be listed in the margins or in the calendar itself, if there is room. Place this calendar in a central location, so it is accessible to all. You may choose to have a calendar per person or one calendar that is color-coded for different people or types of events.
- “Stuff” setup. There is so much “stuff” involved with school and other extracurricular activities. Begin creating systems on where and how things will be housed. Make it a family activity and welcome your child’s voice. Make it a problem – solution activity and create solutions together. You may want to begin by deciding where backpacks and extracurricular materials (i.e. sports equipment, uniforms, dance shoes, musical instruments) will be located. Afterward, set up a homework area and make sure that it is stocked with all essential school supplies. Create labels to identify the locations and start to place materials in the correct location.
- Fun routine. You don’t have to eliminate all indulgences simply because school is starting. Set up a regular time where you and your kids can break some of the routines. Instead of deviating from some of these routines listed here, use this time to plan a weekly or monthly activity that may not be part of the regular schedule. Perhaps it is a weekday ice cream trip or an extra 10 minutes on the I-Pad. Whatever you decide, be sure to be consistent with adding fun into your schedule, and remember to take suggestions from your child.
Transitions are not always easy. Taking some time to set up some routines and encouraging that these decisions are made by the family will help to make the great leap into this school easier. Enjoy this time and the beginning of the school year with your children. It is a transition for us all.
Pooja Patel, MA
The weekend before I first started teaching 15 years ago, I was filled with anxiety. I had trouble sleeping, my mind was racing, and I believe I found my body shaking from the nerves. My mother, my sweet and kind mother, gave me advice that I hold near to my heart to this day.
She told me to have faith in my abilities to teach. She said that I had been taught the skills, and each day would be easier as I learn to make the lessons I was taught in university my own. She then paused and told me that with everything I do in the classroom with the kids that I need to remember that I am affecting them. I had to make the decision to ensure it was positive.
My mom, a woman who was never a formal teacher (but, aren’t all mothers teachers after all?) taught me the most important lessons when working with students. She taught and reminded me about the importance of teaching from the heart.
She proceeded by asking me to never be upset with a child first thing in the morning because that affects her entire day. And, to always talk to my students about topics besides those pertaining to academics.
She also knew why I was extremely nervous to be in front of my students. I am a person who stutters and she knows that I am always afraid of people’s first impressions of me. Her advice was simple. It was to allow the kids in my class to know about me, know my struggles, my fears, and pain. It is the human experience and although the details may be different, we all know how these sentiments feel. In fact, all the students in my class hear the same story about me and my stutter, and each of them are nonjudgmental and approach me with empathy.
My mother, the sweet and kind woman, is wise. She may have not been using the appropriate educational terminology, but her advice was encouraging me to utilize social emotional learning practices. So, teachers, here it is. We all know this, but a little reminder, as we sift through curriculum, units, and class lists before the students arrive may be helpful.
Love your kids. On the first days of school, connect with them and continue throughout the year. Let them know who you are. Share your hopes and fears. Tell them stories about your past and current self. Allow them to share stories. Laugh with them. Ask them about themselves and learn who they are as a person, not only as the student they are in your class. Ask them about their day, previous evening, music recital, or birthday when they enter your room. Trust your gut, and take care of their spirits all the time, but especially when they are down. Begin the year slow, and get to know each other. Let them know you care about who they are from your actions and they will care for you. Deeply invest time in this. You will all be learning together.
Pooja Patel, MA
As the new school year rolls in, so does the stress associated with the transition from summer to fall. Stress and anxiety can seem like barriers, but in fact they are natural experiences that we all have and can use to our advantage. The beginning of the school year is no different!
I’ve included some thoughts and concepts below with the goal of helping bolster and empower the youth we care about to manage and find strength from their stress (They are likely also helpful for parents to consider!). We may want to ‘fix for’ our children when they struggle. Often, though, showing him or her that he/she can handle it for his/herself may be the best way to support success and health.
- Modeling ‘coping’ instead of modeling ‘mastery’ may be helpful in teaching how to approach stress and work through it. If a child doesn’t see the adults around him or her struggle with stress, he or she may start to believe there is something wrong when he or she struggles. This couldn’t be farther from the truth: stress is normal!
- Sometimes anxiety ‘pops out’ seemingly from nowhere. This is normal and does not last forever.
- Consider ‘riding the wave’ of the feeling. Although not comfortable, this may be the best way to handle it. By living through the uncomfortable, you teach your body and mind that you have the strength to manage it. Do your best to not avoid.
- Coming up with ‘scripts’ can often be helpful. Having a few lines that you can deliver to others to ‘get through’ the day can help.
- When in doubt, ‘fake it till you make it.’ Sometimes when you act the part, it can help you ‘ride the wave.’ know that at the end of the day, you will have relief, because you will get home and be able to take a huge, deep, breath.
- Give yourself credit and reflect. After getting through a tough day, reflect on what you accomplished and allow yourself to feel good. ‘Riding the wave’ is hard work, and giving yourself credit for what you have accomplished can be helpful!
- Be kind to yourself always.
- Some pointers from the American Psychological Association:
- When Anxiety does become a barrier, it may be advisable to seek help from a professional. Below is a recent article from the Washington Post on the subject:
Your child is nervous about the new school year, which may be normal — or not – Washington Post
- How stress can be helpful: Explanation of the Yerkes-Dodson Law (the relationship between level of stress and performance) from the Harvard Business Review. Applicable to both parents and children:
Are You Too Stressed to Be Productive? Or Not Stressed Enough? – Harvard Business Review
Dr. Kevin Giangrasso
One of the biggest struggles parents have is getting their baby to sleep through the night and establishing routines that lead to healthy sleep. In the first year of life sleep patterns change so often that it is hard to get into a consistent rhythm or routine. Learning how to be a good sleeper, is like learning any other skill; it takes times and practice. Understanding some basic tenants about babies’ sleep can help parents gain control and nurture healthy sleep habits for their baby.
1. Can I be of any assistance?
From the first few weeks of life a baby needs their parents help in some fashion to fall asleep. Whether it’s a swaddle, a hand on the chest, rocking/swaying or a combination, all babies need some assistance. In order to determine what your baby needs from you start with a small intervention (i.e. hand on chest or swaddle) and move up the hierarchy to more stimulating interventions (i.e. music or rocking). Once you know what your baby needs from you it will become that much easier to execute.
2. Wake-Sleep Cycles
Newborn sleep patterns are very different than those after the first three months of life. Newborns typically sleep for an average of 14 hours over a 24-hour period and their wake-sleep cycles are driven by hunger. In your babies’ third month of life, he will begin to sleep longer stretches in the evening and this will continue to increase until about 8-9 months when he should be sleeping 10-12 hours at night.
3. Night Wakings
It is important to note that all babies wake on average four times per night. Addressing these night wakings looks different for each family and requires a different strategy depending on your infant’s age and needs. As mentioned above, night wakings in the first three months of life are primarily driven by hunger and should be handled by providing your baby with breast or bottle. As your baby gets older and is eating more during the day breaking the association between night wakings and feeding is important. Helping older infants settle when they awake during the night may require giving them a pacifier or rocking them back to sleep.
4. Routine, Routine, Routine
It is never too early to begin a night time routine. This can include a few things (i.e. bath, story, music, bottle/breastfeeding) and should be executed in the same order every night. When the routine begins, this will alert your baby that night time and sleep are coming and their systems will begin to “power down.” Once you have established a routine, remember that consistency is key.
5. It’s time for some self-soothing
One of the most crucial pieces to nurturing healthy sleep is helping your baby learn how to self-sooth and put themselves to sleep. Beginning at around 5 months parents can put their child to bed drowsy, but not asleep. Once you have completed the night time routine, place your baby down awake. When your baby cries out and needs support remember to start with a less invasive intervention to help them settle. Once settled, continue to support you’re baby in falling asleep on their own. Falling asleep on your own is a skill that takes time to develop, so be consistent and patient.
6. Challenges Await
Situations and events in a baby’s life can lead to or worsen sleep difficulties. Separations or even exciting milestones being reached can cause disruptions in sleep. At around 4 months of age all infants go through a sleep regression which represents a shift in your infant’s sleep patterns. Unlike later sleep regressions, the 4 month regression causes permanent change in the way your baby sleeps. It is important to reevaluate the strategies you have been using to support your infant in falling asleep during this time. Overall, sleep regressions can be difficult to manage. Be patient and consistent. Stick to the routine you have established and your child will get back on track to good sleep hygiene.
Dr. Erica Samson-Pepose
As an expectant mother I have begun to think about the type of parent I want to be and the type of parent I will become. I reflect on the way I was raised; sifting through the techniques my own parents used, keeping the things I liked and rejecting the one’s I don’t want to repeat. I also look for inspiration around me, in my family and friends. I find myself saying, “I’ll never do that” or “What a great idea, I need to remember that one”. As a psychologist who specializes in infant mental health, I have great resources and knowledge to reflect on as well. I gravitate towards the books and research that are more reflective; ones that provide a way of understanding you’re infant, their development, and their needs. I try and stay away from prescriptive advice, telling me what I should and should not do which does not fit my belief that every infant is different and one size does not fit all. So what type of mother do I want be? I want to be reflective, attuned, responsive, patient, and thoughtful. I hope to empathize when my baby is distressed and hold those negative emotions for them. I want to teach my child how to tolerate stress and disappointment. I want to validate their experience and provide them with support. I want to play with my child every opportunity I have and foster their creativity. However, the reality of what will happen when my baby is born and when I actually have to put my ideals in practice remains an unknown. I am not disillusioned and I know that my ideals will at times fall short. I can have many hopes for the parent I will be, but the balance comes in the acceptance that I will not be the perfect parent. If I can hold this in mind and seek support when needed, I can tap into my capacities and be a wonderful mother.
Dr. Erica Samson-Pepose
On my regular run through Riverside Park I pass Eleanor Roosevelt. I have come to depend on Eleanor’s comforting and consistent stance leaning thoughtfully on her chin and reflecting pensively on life: predictable, dependable, steady and constant as only a statue can be. But recently I noticed something unusual and different about her. Eleanor was wearing a pink pussy hat on the top of her head. Undoubtedly, she had been enlisted to join with the hundreds of thousands of people who came out to express solidarity recently for defending women’s rights. I was struck by how poignant the symbolism was of her wearing this hat because in her own adult life she, too, had rallied for human rights and women’s causes in particular. Throughout her life Eleanor Roosevelt fought hard for what she believed in.
Unfortunately, Eleanor needed to learn to fight to overcome emotional hardship at a very young age. She had an unhappy childhood and both her parents and her brother died when she was very young. Her marriage was not without its own problems and her husband was diagnosed with polio at the age of 39. She taught him, too, to be a fighter and encouraged him to stay in politics and successfully run for President despite his illness and significant impairments. She herself transformed the role of First Lady, devoting herself to the pursuit of human rights as no other President’s wife had done before. Her ability to endure hardship in her life and yet act as an inspiring agent of change is truly remarkable. “She would rather light candles than curse the darkness and her glow had warmed the world,” said Adlai Stevenson on her passing.
Where did all this strength come from? How was she not beaten down by the adversity that she faced in her life? In a monthly column which she published she reached out beyond her inner circle by inviting women to grow by sharing their experiences. The column was called: I Want You to Write Me. Addressing her readers, she wrote: “I ask you to share the particular problems which puzzle or sadden you but I also want you to write me about what has brought joy into your life and how you are adjusting yourself to the new conditions in this amazing, changing world.”
Her request itself contained valuable lessons. She encouraged her readers to recognize the importance of joining together, developing a support system and connecting as a community of women. In addition, she invited her readers to use writing as a tool for emotional expression. She also recognized the value of learning to hold both the feelings of joy and pain simultaneously: an important, but, by no means, easy task. Finally, she requested that her readers reflect on what steps they had taken to accept and then to adjust to that which they cannot change in their lives. Undoubtedly these were the very tools that she developed throughout her own life in order to become the inspiring leader that she was.
While the pussy hat has since been removed from your head, your lessons, Eleanor, are eternal and we thank you for your comforting and consistent stance, leaning thoughtfully on your chin and reflecting pensively on life.
Dr. Tamar Z. Kahane
The majority of psychological research is focused on helping those who are already suffering with mental health issues. Stress is often seen as a trigger or significant factor that leads to emotional struggles. While it is worthwhile to understand the mechanisms of how stress affects mental health and leads to struggles, even more might be learned from looking at those who deal with the same adversity and for some reason are still able to thrive. At the center we believe in a strength based approach in helping every individual overcome their unique challenges. One of our core values is that through effective therapy people can learn to adapt and grow despite hardships. Life presents with many environmental stressors, our histories and prior experiences, and even genetics may present roadblocks that at times feel impossible to face, but none of these are enough to extinguish the hope for change. We all have the potential to grow and to develop resilience in our lives and become increasingly fortified to deal with life stressors.
The following article outlines the history of research on resilience, and relays the important lessons that we have learned about how to overcome the most trying circumstances.
DR. BLAKE KIRSCHNER
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can severely affect a child’s social, academic, and emotional functioning. In an opinion article on CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/01/opinions/adhd-pills-for-children-drexler/index.html) Peggy Drexler, a professor of psychology at Cornell University, discusses the vital importance of utilizing behavioral and psychological interventions in treating ADHD, and how medication alone often does not suffice. In the article she shares results from recent studies showing that children who started to receive social skills training alongside basic behavioral approaches fared significantly better than those who began treatment with medication.
In my experience children with ADHD initially have problems with inattention and hyperactivity, but it is eventually low self-esteem, strained family relationships, and poor social relationships that take the biggest toll. Medication can certainly remediate symptoms for a period of time, but what it cannot do is teach the necessary skills that children and parents need to improve overall functioning. That is why we firmly believe in an integrated approach here at the Kahane Center. Through parent engagement in therapy, mothers and fathers can learn how to set clear and appropriate boundaries in the house, provide consistent, positive feedback to their children, and prevent the negative patterns of interaction that all too often ruin relationships.
Individual therapy can give children a safe place to process the feelings they have about the struggles they are having in school and at home, and hopefully work on developing a sense of identity that does not include the words “dumb”, “incompetent”, or “damaged”. Finally, our social cognition therapy groups – supervised by Dr. Kahane, a pioneer in social cognition work – utilize a unique meta cognitive approach to teaching socialization. We provide children with a safe and supportive environment to engage in the process of learning how to regulate themselves successfully in social situations. They learn how to become aware of the many, many skills involved in making and maintaining friendships and in processing social information effectively. They learn how to be mindful of other people’s perspectives, problem solve and conflict resolve. Successfully treating ADHD requires an integrated and targeted approach but this approach reaps huge rewards for children and their families. Medication alone is not the answer.
DR. BLAKE KIRSCHNER
What is the secret to living a happy and healthy life? It could be that the answer is as simple as having warm, trusting relationships with significant others, family, friends, and community. In fact, in the link below is a brief video in which a researcher whom has followed more than 700 people over the arc of their lives found that the major determining factor in which people grew happily and healthily into their 80’s was having good relationships. In his words, “social relationships are good for us, loneliness kills”.
It is no coincidence that loneliness and social isolation are two of the hallmark signs of depression. We, as human beings, need companionship to survive…it is in our DNA. However, many times people find themselves lacking the skills, confidence, or experience to form healthy connections to others and therefore find themselves bearing the negative consequences. This is where talk therapy can help tremendously. At its essence effective therapy always involves forming a safe and trusting relationship between client and therapist. In research this has been called the therapeutic alliance, and it is often found to be the most important factor in whether therapy ends successfully. Forming this relationship can be difficult and uncomfortable for some at first, but inevitably it is an extremely valuable learning experience. This process, along with learning social cognition, emotional expression, and self-regulation skills, can form the foundation of a new way to connect with others. In turn this will lead one down the road to a much happier, healthy life, one filled with quality relationships to significant others, family, and friends. Check out the link below and feel free to comment!
DR. BLAKE KIRSCHNER
Over the past 25 years there has been extensive research into the benefits of living a more mindful life. What is mindfulness exactly? It is a state of active, open attention on the present. If this sounds pretty simple then, well, it is, but it also has very important implications for our mental health. It comes down to this – a wandering mind is not a happy mind. In fact, the more we ruminate on the past or worry about the future the higher levels of stress and anxiety we end up feeling. And the addition of multiple distractions in our lives (computers, cell phones, television, etc…) only makes this worse as we are more and more disconnected from the world immediately surrounding us. However, the benefits of mindfulness don’t end with reduced stress and anxiety. Practicing mindfulness also has the potential to address problems with impulsivity and focus, which are the core issues of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. This is exactly why we are incorporating this approach into our work here at The Kahane Center. Below is a link to some easy mindfulness exercises. Why not give them a try and see what kind of difference they make?
Dr. Blake Kirschner
How many parents struggle every day to get their kids to eat healthier? Undoubtedly this is one of the major battles taking place at the dinner table on a nightly basis…a battle many parents feel they are losing. It seems pretty well established that forcing a child to eat broccoli before they get ice cream just ends up making broccoli even more hated and ice cream that much more loved. And how is such a power struggle going to ever encourage children to make healthy choices for themselves? I think the informal data is pretty clear – it doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean we should give up hope! Children are not destined to give salads the stink eye or stick their tongues out at spinach. In fact, there are plenty of children and adults who appreciate and even love to eat healthy foods. The biggest issue at hand is not the vegetables themselves, but the fact that many parents are treating it as a battle in the first place. Power struggles, or worse coercion, rarely result in positive change and more often lead to a bigger standoff and lots of resentment. A new approach is needed if we want our children to make positive changes for themselves – engaging children in taking ownership over their relationship with food. What exactly do I mean? I will use an example from my own experience as a psychologist. Many times I have parents bringing their children to me and telling me that I need to change their children, to have them “behave” or “be more respectful” or “listen”. But these words have no meaning to children and adolescents, and they are just as likely to listen to me repeating these commands as they have been to their parents. Children only begin to make changes in therapy when they set their own goals and can clearly see how these goals can make a positive difference in their lives. They are really no different from adults in this sense. Eating 3 more pieces of broccoli before ice cream is the adult’s goal, and the child really had no say in any part of the process, and therefore no ownership. A different approach would be involving a child in the entire process of what it takes to bring a meal to the table. Take them to the supermarket and give them the power to choose a vegetable that looks interesting to them. If you are unsure what to do with it, look up recipes with them online and let them choose which one to try. Even involve them in the cooking process (of course at an age-appropriate level), because food tastes better when you cook it yourself (http://time.com/4162095/people-like-food-more-when-they-make-it-themselves/). And finally, let them decide if any changes need to be made to the recipe. In due time they will no longer see vegetables as their pathway to ice cream. Instead they will see that section of the plate as their special contribution to dinner, and something to be proud of and enjoy. That is a lesson they can take with them for the rest of their lives!
Dr. Blake Kirschner
“When I was in elementary school I had one teacher every day for the whole day and she told me what I needed to do that night for homework, and with the help of my mother I was usually able to get it done. When I got to middle school I had a bunch of teachers, each one with their own way of doing things and the homework was not always due the next day and it got a lot harder for me to keep track of everything. Now in high school they don’t even tell me what my homework is all the time and it is cumulative and overwhelming. I can only imagine what college is going to be like for me. I need help!” (Joshua, Age 14)
Joshua, like many, many children, is struggling with problems in executive function.
Executive function (EF) refers to a complex set of high-level cognitive processing that is essential for social and academic achievement. Three primary components of EF include inhibition control, working memory and flexible thinking (Diamond, 2013). Reasoning, problem solving, prioritizing, organizing, planning, as well as other routine daily tasks depend heavily on these three basic skills.
Inhibition Control is the ability to control behavior, attention, thought, and emotion. Working memory is the process of not only holding new information in mind but also being able to work with and manipulate the information. The third primary component of EF is flexible thinking, which allows an individual to shift perspective—both spatially (as in imagining an object viewed from a different direction) and interpersonally (as in imagining how someone else might feel in a given situation) (Diamond, 2013).
These primary components can be individually assessed using a variety of representative psychological tasks and can be improved with remediation. Furthermore, these skills and their underlying neurobiological systems are deeply intertwined, so even if individual EF skills aren’t severely impaired, small deficits can have large cumulative effects. Note that it helps to think of EF as a spectrum. For example, if emotion control (an Inhibitory skill) is overly abundant, it can result in anxiety disorders, and if it is impaired, it can result in disruptive behavior disorders (Hunter & Sparrow, 2012).
Recognizing and addressing executive dysfunction (EdF) early on in a child’s development will help prevent a detrimental reoccurring cycle in which the disorder negatively affects the environment and the environment negatively affects the disorder (Hunter & Sparrow, 2012).
The Kahane Center’s P.O.W.E.R. Program was designed using the field’s latest EF research in order to best help children and adolescents learn to compensate for these deficits. This unique, integrative approach provides young people ages 6-18 with strategies and tools that they can use to overcome struggles related to and resulting from EdF. This program takes place at The Kahane Center in August and will help your child prepare for a successful school year and future. Space is limited. Sign up today.
Diamond, A. (2013). Executive Functions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64(1), 135-168.
Hunter S.J., & Sparrow, E.P. (2012). Executive function and dysfunction: identification, assessment, and treatment. Cambridge University Press, 65-90.
Dr. Tamar Z. Kahane
Healthy living for parents, teens and children involves getting adequate sleep. This something we all know intellectually, but can be one of the most challenging goals to reach, especially given our 24/7 society. Sleep is critical for families to stay healthy and for children and teens to learn, grow, do well in school and function at their best. When children and adolescents do not get adequate sleep we can see behavioral problems, impaired learning and school performance, sports injuries, mood and emotional regulation difficulties and declines in health including increased risk of obesity. Studies in adolescents show that lack of sleep may be related to high –risk behaviors such as substance use, suicidal behaviors and drowsy driving. Adults are not immune to the effects of a lack of sleep, even if that extra cup of coffee lets you feel alert. Adults need adequate sleep in order to function at their best in the home, driving and at the workplace. In addition, for adults a lack of sleep has been linked to health issues including heart disease, diabetes and obesity. People never get accustomed to sleep loss, but they do become less aware of how impaired they are, even if they are having difficulties with school, work or home functioning and performance. Sleep has significant restorative functions for the brain and the body, so a lack of sleep can interfere with healing from both medical and emotional stressors.
SO, clearly sleep is important, but what gets in the way of a good night sleep? Let’s talk about the four most common reasons you’re not sleeping and what you can do about them.
First is LIGHT. Light at night can delay your circadian rhythm, also known as your body’s natural clock. The color of the light may make the biggest difference, with blue light, emitted from popular light sources such as energy efficient bulbs, televisions and computer screens being the light that has the most impact. The fix is to turn down your lights an hour or so before bed. Hang blackout curtains or wear a sleep mask if light shines continuously. You can also download programs like f.lux (justgetflux.com) that can change the spectrum of your computer screen to reduce the blue light.
Second is TECHNOLOGY. The National Sleep Foundation says that more than 95% of Americans use some type of gadget within an hour before bed. The more time spent on the devices, the more wired your brain will be and the less sleep you are going to get. It is both an issue of the light emitted and becoming involved in a text conversation or email exchange which can lead to increased stress or distract the user from the goal of getting to sleep. This is not just an issue for teenagers, but is one of the biggest impeders of sleep for adults. In fact, the issue goes beyond use before bed as a recent study revealed that 1 in 4 parents said they had sent or read text messages, emails or other electronic communications AFTER they initially went to bed in the week before the survey. Not surprisingly, children of these parents were more likely to have also send or read texts after going to sleep. The recommendation is to turn off small screen devices an hour before bed and give them a rest until morning.
Third is TEMPERATURE. The body’s core temperature decreases as we sleep. If it’s too warm in your bedroom, your body can’t cool properly and people with a higher core body temperature are more likely to experience insomnia and sleeplessness. The ideal bedroom temperature is around 65 degrees. As a bonus, a colder bedroom may boost your metabolism – even during the hours you are awake!
Fourth is STRESS. Unfortunately, anxiety and stress can create a cycle of sleeplessness; it makes sleep more difficult and sleeplessness drives up anxiety. Worrying does impact both the ability to relax and fall asleep and then can also cause middle-of-the night awakenings and waking up too early. There are several ways to address this including daily exercise (preferably not too close to bedtime as exercise raises body temperature) and a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine which includes listening to soothing music or reading. Studies have shown that people listening to soothing music for 45 minutes before bedtime spent more time in the restorative phases of sleep. Of course, the late night emails and texts do not help with stress and so again, turning off those devices can help with stress.
DR JENNIFER PETRAS, M.D.