September, 2017
Child Development Chat Next Week 

The next CDM Child Development Chat will focus on an important topic for fast-paced Silicon Valley families: "Anxiety and its impact on school and home functioning." The interactive evening chat session will be held Tuesday, September 12, from 7:00-8:00pm. Please bring your questions and concerns to share with the group. Adults only, please. 
CDM Educational Psychologist, Lara Zawacki, will be moderating the chat and has provided this article about Anxiety Management as a introduction to the session.

Anxiety Management
The return of the school year offers the promise of relief for many of us parents, as we anticipate on happily handing our children back into the safe hands of their teachers. However, many children very quickly become anxious as the back-to-school transition approaches or begins. Although we can't protect our children from feeling the stress around them, we can help them moderate their response. For most children, it is not the situations themselves that are the issue, but what their "thoughts" are telling them about the situation.
As parents, we need to be on the 'look out' for anxious children because they frequently seem to be fine to their friends, teachers, and sometimes even parents. In fact, anxious kids are often seen as competent and model students, thought this often comes at great cost. Worry is 'normal' in the sense that it is universal, was at one time biologically adaptive to help us avoid dangers that threatened survival, and can still be helpful to keep our kids from avoiding risk. However, at present, anxiety continues to be the biggest mental health problem in kids and adolescents, with the occurrence as high as 20% according to some estimates. Further, anxiety is completely disabling: it cripples executive functioning (attention, working memory capacity, planning abilities), it causes chronic fatigue, puts children at physical risks like hypertension, heart disease, general suppressed immunity, and gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders. It also is associated with depression and substance abuse.
Worry is an unavoidable part of growth and change. Here are some steps we can take to support our children's growth and resilience around anxiety:
  1. Limit overscheduling and excessive pressures. As parents, uncertainty about the future can place more pressure on kids via extra  tutoring, pushing high school students to take more AP classes, travel sports teams, and hiring tutors for college admissions. These supports may morph into overall higher levels of stress for our kids, and thus lose their advantage. What kids really need is help strengthening their emotional resilience by connecting in the actual "moment." Many children are so overscheduled that they aren't enjoying their childhood/teenage years. Make sure they have down time, as well as time to do things that truly make them happy.
  2. Manage parental anxiety. Children naturally look to their parents to know how to react. It's not what you say, but how you say it. We live in an anxious society with naturally provoking worries, such as news of school shootings, terror threats, and life-threatening illness. We not only need to manage the flow of information to them, but also model heathy responses to stressors that range from mild to severe. Children are watching our faces, feeling our energy, and looking at our emotions. Breathe deeply, speak calmly and honestly, reassure, and remember that as parents, we must take care of ourselves before we can take care of everyone else.
  3. Acknowledge the anxious feeling, but then help your child separate himself from the worry and see it differently.  Instead of saying, "What are you worrying about?" You can ask, "What's worry bugging you about, or what's worry telling you to think here?" "Is this really an earthquake level worry (10 on a 1-10 scale)? Or is this a smaller worry (4 on a 1-10 scale)?" Say, "part of you is worried. What does another part of you think?" By detaching your child from the worry, you are helping them develop flexible thinking and thinking realistically about the positive outcomes possible.
  4. Do not shelter them from exposure. When kids avoid something that scares them, they learn that the event or situation is too scary, dangerous, or that other kids can handle it but they can't. Avoidance makes fear stronger but experience weakens fear and builds your child's self-confidence.
  5. Reward your child for being courageous. It generally takes about three weeks to establish a new behavior, and positive comments should outnumber corrective or negative feedback at a 5:1 ratio. Be specific about what you are looking for and reward your child for cumulative successes (a total of five days in own bed) instead of consecutive successes (five days in a row). For example, you can encourage your child to order one thing with the waitress, stay in bed for half the night alone, or schedule and invite a friend over for a playdate. But, be flexible and reward any behavior that is close if they are only partly able to complete the task. Have them do at least some of the challenge and end on a "high!" The experience of success leads to positive feelings of self-worth and empowers children to feel they have control of their efforts/outcomes.
  6. Limit Media. Studies have shown that children who watch two or more hours of TV per day are more fearful of the world around them, display more aggressive behavior, and are less sensitive to the feelings of others. Media is problematic not only because of the content (and our culture of violence), but also because the screen blue light interferes with neurochemical regulation in the brain and can adversely affect sleep. Less sleep = dysregulated kids and they are more likely to experience anxiety.
There will always be things to worry about. We can't make worry go away, but we can guide and empower our kids to regain control of their negative thoughts, their consequential emotions, and their behavioral response. Kids crave our support through both modeling and coaching. As parents, we have the responsibility to teach our kids how their thoughts cause feelings, which result in behaviors. We need them to know when anxiety/worry thoughts are happening, parents are there to help them switch gears. Through practice, we all can strengthen our brain muscles to think more positively and make those worry thoughts more quiet.
For more discussion on this topic, please join Lara for next week's Child Development Chat!
New Classes and Groups Starting this Fall
The CDM is happy to announce that new sessions of two popular classes will be starting soon:
  • " Let's Get Organized," a daytime group for homeschooled tweens and teens that provides executive function skills, and
  • "Meltdowns to Shutdowns," a group that helps children, ages 9-11 years old, learn to recognize their feelings before becoming overwhelmed by them.
For the upcoming fall months, the instructor for "Let's Get Organized" will be creating groups for interested participants based on joint availability. "Meltdowns to Shutdowns" will have a four-week mini-session that begins on Oct. 25. Beginning the week of January 8, 2018, the sessions will have formal class times scheduled. More details about each class can be found on our website. Stay tuned for more information about the 2018 classes and please contact the front office to register for the upcoming fall spots. 
Check it out: New Patient Orientation Days  
The Center for Developing Minds hosts informal "CDM Orientation" days once a month at the clinic.  The short sessions are designed to give prospective clients a chance to see the facility and meet with some of our staff. Each orientation will be hosted by one of our behavioral and developmental pediatricians, and will give your family the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about our multi-disciplinary team of expert clinicians and the services they provide. 

The next CDM orientation will be on Thursday, September 14, at 9:00am.  If you know a family that has been considering working with the CDM, please feel free to pass along this information!