I love working with kids during their Senior Year in high school. It is a time of so much potential stress, and a time when cognitive-behavioral therapy can be SO beneficial. Each year, I feel an internal burst of happiness when I have finally helped to navigate each of my Seniors through the craziness of the college application process, the agony of choosing a school, and the preparations for leaving home (sometimes for the very first time).
I've had a really busy week with clients preparing to start a new grade in elementary school or make the transition to middle school, high school, and college. Although each of my clients is so unique, the concerns they tend to share at this time of year are very similar. The boil down to the Three L's:
-Who will I sit with at LUNCH?
-How will I get into my LOCKER?
-Will I get LOST (and as an addendum to that one, will I be LATE?)
For anxious kids, I think these fears point to a few very important lessons to be learned:
-All adjustments take time. Every kid is going to have a hard time getting into their locker the first week of school. Everyone is going to get lost on their way to class in the first few weeks of school (and might even be late). Every student is going to feel uncertain about who to sit with at lunch. I tell kids that by the end of two weeks, they will feel pretty good. With respect to friendships, it will take longer. For college freshman, it might take several months to find a group of like-minded kids who really make you feel at home in your new surroundings. All of this is normal and should be expected.
-The only way to succeed is to ask for what you need. If you can't get into your locker, ask a friend or teacher for help. If you are lost, ask an older student. If you are alone at lunchtime, ask to join some kids who look nice. What is the worst thing that might happen? Test out this fear. In all likelihood, this fear will not come to pass. For example, if you fear that someone will laugh at you if you ask where your next class is, test it out. In all likelihood, the student you ask will point you in the right direction or even walk with you to help you find the way.
-Anxious kids often fear doing the wrong thing and getting in trouble. Ask yourself, "What's happened in the past for me?" or "What would happen if this happened to another kid?" For example, in the first week of school very few kids get in trouble for coming into class late. Remind yourself that when you've made a minor mistake in the past, the world hasn't ended - you haven't even got a detention! These is generally wiggle room for kids to make little mistakes, and even if a teacher says some sharp words, you can handle it!
Good luck with the new school year - and send me any questions or concerns you'd like me to address!
One of the goals I have when working with each of my clients is to tailor treatment to their unique needs. I'd like to do the same with my blog! With the school year beginning, what is your child worrying about? Fill in this survey and I will write some blog posts to address YOUR concerns (confidentially, of course!).
Want some tips for coping with worry? Click on the link to hear me speak about putting your worries in a box!
Yesterday, we were on a flight and my husband and I were seated in front of a mom and her kindergarten-age child. As we were waiting to take off, this mom reviewed the seat back safety card with her son. She had him practice how to brace should the plane make an emergency landing. She talked about water landings. She discussed why it is unsafe to smoke on planes and reminded her little boy how nanny had died from lung cancer from smoking. We were relieved when the sounds of the engine began and drowned out the painful conversation behind us!
Even in the context of my work with anxious kids, this was an extreme example of how parenting can prime anxiety. This child did not ask a SINGLE question about air safety. In fact, he sounded like he was having a fun time on the plane. But, I have no doubt that as he gets older, he will become anxious about air safety. This experience made me think.....
How do we balance educating our children with preventing unneeded anxiety?
-Talk about what is likely to happen, instead of what is extremely unlikely to happen. Do planes crash? Yes, they do. But, with extremely low likelihood. Air travel is extremely safe. What should we talk about on an airplane? How about all the fun things we will be doing at our destination? The shape of the clouds? The beautiful sunrise or sunset? Rather than instilling a sense of fear in our kids, we can instill a sense of wonder.
-Let kids ask the questions, and answer as briefly as possible. I noticed yesterday that the little boy behind us did not ask a single question about air safety. My advice would therefore be - don't talk about air safety! If kids ask questions, answer them but as briefly as possible. Do planes crash? Yes, but barely ever. Why can't people smoke on planes? Because it stinks and pollutes all the passengers' lungs. Why do we go through the Xray machines before boarding the plane? Because those are the rules. Yesterday, my son asked why we can't take liquids through security. Before I could even answer, he said, "I know mommy! They want us to buy our drinks at the airport so they make money." I am totally fine with him thinking that rather than knowing about people using liquids to try to blow up planes. After all, he is nine!
-Make your answers age appropriate. Related to the previous comment, answers to our kids' questions are obviously going to vary depending on age. If a three year old asks if a plane can fall out of the sky, it is totally fine to say a simple NO WAY! If a thirteen year old, with access to the internet, asks the same question, it is appropriate to have a more detailed discussion about airplane safety.
-If you are a nervous flyer, try to not transmit that anxiety to your children. Children learn by example. If you are a nervous flyer, try not to share your fears with your kids. Wouldn't it be nice if they can grow up enjoying something that you fear? Read a self-help book on fear of flying. Attend one of the wonderful classes offered at your local airport. Seek treatment from an expert. Have your kids sit with the adult in your family who is not afraid of flying so that they can learn to associate flying with calmness and enjoyment. And, remember, the nice thing about kids is that they are distracting! You might find that flying becomes easier ones you have children and your attention is diverted from your fears to tending to their needs on the flight!
Last weekend, we went skiing for the first time as a family. Not only was it fun, but I also found it immensely helpful for both of my kids - in very different ways.
-Conquering fears - One of my kids tends to be on the slightly more anxious side. She has always been a little reluctant to try new things and a little fearful of bad things happening. On the way up the chairlift for the first time, she was scared of falling. At the top of the mountain, she was terrified she would not make it down. There were a lot of "What if's!" We had some really useful discussions on our way down this first run - great for skiing and great for life!
-Being Gritty! -- This child is also a typical "gifted kid" - so many things naturally come easily to her that she sometimes gives up on things that are really hard. Skiing is hard for everyone at first! It was great for her to see how she could build on new skills over the course of just two days and know that with more work and practice, she could get better and better. This lesson applies to skiing, and to really anything new that we want to learn.
-Maintaining Focus - My other child can be a little unfocused at times. He has a really busy, inquisitive brain. It is a super thing about him, and can also pose challenges when he needs to do just one thing at a time (like getting dressed in the morning without chatting with his sister, getting immersed in a book, or looking at a beautiful sunrise out his bedroom window!). We were so proud of his focus on the slopes! He was 100% in the moment, attentive to making those big C's across the mountain, filtering out unimportant information (like the annoying snowboarders swooping around him). Since we returned home, we have been talking about how this focus led to success! All that attention made him ski beautifully and he also saw how enjoyable it can be to have your brain and body do just one thing at a time.
-Being in the moment - We must all be teaching out children about how to be in the moment. Skiing is a beautiful exercise in mindfulness. When you are actually skiing, you can become completely immersed in the swishing sound of your skis, the wind on your face, the beautiful scenery. We can re-create that experience when practicing mindfulness at home. Picture a beautiful mountain and imagine skiing down it at a relaxed, even pace. In your imagery, you can remove the annoying snowboarders and the whizzing five year olds (who make us adults really notice our aching knees!). Just you, a gorgeous spot, and the side to side rhythm of skiing. Try it and have your kids try it -- it's really good for your body and mind!
I am happy to announce two new offerings for 2017:
Parent Introduction to Anxiety Group
This group is for parents who are new to my practice. It is a great opportunity for families who are waiting for treatment, or for families who are not sure that they need a full course of treatment but rather just want to learn the basics. We will cover the reasons that anxiety is maintained over time and discuss strategies for reducing the hold that anxiety has on your child and your family. Once you have attended the Parent Intro to Anxiety Group, you can attend the monthly Parent Anxiety Support Group.
Parent Anxiety Support Group
This monthly support group is for parents whose children are in ongoing treatment for anxiety with Dr. Ledley. There is no need to come on a monthly basis - come as you need to. During this group meeting, parents can bring up their concerns and questions about parenting a child with anxiety. Dr. Ledley will facilitate the group and parents will offer each other ongoing support.
Dr Penny Moldofsky, Director of the Literacy Institute at the Woodlynde School in Suburban Philadelphia is a super human being and an even better teacher (is that possible?). I love this summary she just sent around regarding the most recent Literacy Institute Speaker, Dr. Cheryl Chase. We all hear so much about EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS -- but what exactly are they?
The Literacy Institute Newsletter:
What Are Executive Functions?
Penny Moldofsky, Director of
The Literacy Institute
Dear Woodlynde Families, Friends, and Colleagues,
Most of you have heard the term "executive functions" and may wonder, "how is this different from a learning difference or a problem with attention?" On November 3, Dr. Cheryl Chase, a psychologist from Cleveland, Ohio, and a nationally recognized speaker on executive functions, clarified executive functions and provided specific strategies for parents and educators for helping students who are coping with executive function deficits.
Here are some highlights of Dr. Chase's presentation:
The Big Five
Dr. Chase follows the model of executive functions explained by Dr. Russell Barkley:
Some students have difficulties with one or two executive functions, but many have difficulty with many or all of these areas, and their difficulties depend on the setting. These students do better in settings that:
Don't overload working memory.
Tools are made available and students are shown and cued to use them with adult guidance and reminders gradually diminishing as students become fluent in using the tool. At home and school, we can provide consistent picture clues, consistent graphic organizers or note-taking forms, consistent schedules, and readily available reference materials. Separate note taking from listening - you may be able to do both simultaneously, but kids with executive functions can't. Don't pass around that cool geode you found in the desert while you are providing information that students need to hear and process.
Demonstrate again and again using the actual task.
When teaching new strategies, demonstrate in a step-by-step manner how they are applied in the real-life task you want the student to accomplish. If you show a video on a topic, you first provide the organizer that will help them enter the ideas from the video that they will need for the quiz/test/project. Then, pause the video frequently to demonstrate how to pull the information from the video and where to enter it in the organizer.
Explicitly teach when, how, and why to use one tool rather than another.
Demonstrate to help students understand when to use detailed notes in a comparison organizer vs. when to jot down a few key words. Demonstrate repeatedly how and when to use a tool like a calculator, a recording pen, or text-to-speech software, and be very clear in showing how each tool works better or not as well for different activities.
Predictable and consistent = reduced stress and anxiety.
When a student with executive function weaknesses feels stressed and overloaded, it is even more difficult to access skills they have practiced. Break down activities that load working memory into small chunks for the student. Have them work toward smaller, single day goals. Post activities in the same place and with the same format so that students don't have to copy or figure out your intentions. The topic and activity can be vivid and riveting, but the format should be predictable.
For more ideas from Dr. Cheryl Chase, visit her website.
Penny Moldofsky, M.S.
Director of The Literacy Institute at Woodlynde School
610.293.6628Upcoming Speaker Series Events
All Literacy Institute Speaker Series events are FREE and open to the public.
Thinking Differently: Reframing Learning for a New Generation
Presented by David Flink
Thursday, February 9
Registration opens December 1
Raising Kids to Thrive
Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg
Registration opens February 1
About The Literacy Institute
The Literacy Institute is one of only six Wilson® Accredited Partner Schools in the country. As such, it provides research-based instruction for Woodlynde students in the Wilson® Reading System as well as high quality professional development for the Woodlynde community and the greater Philadelphia area. Throughout the year, The Literacy Institute offers a free series of nationally-recognized speakers in the field of learning differences for area parents and professionals.
Woodlynde School | 445 Upper Gulph Road | Wayne/Strafford, PA 19087 | 610.687.9660
College Prep For Diverse Learning Styles ● Grades K - 12
Where Great Minds Learn Differently
Celebrating 40 Years of Changing Lives
Open Houses at 8:45 a.m.
December 13 - January 10 - February 14
Woodlynde School, 445 Upper Gulph Road, Strafford, PA 19087
Update Profile | About our service provider
Sent by email@example.com in collaboration with
Try it free today
Today, I saw seven patients - middle schoolers, high school students, and college students. Although they were all there for different anxiety problems, one theme ran through my day: anxiety about Election Day. Even my youngest patients have been voicing concerns for months about who is going to win the election and what the consequences of that outcome will be. These worries seemed particularly palpable today, with only two weeks to go until Election Day.
The New York Times published an interesting article about last week called, Talking to Your Therapist about Election Anxiety. It is a great read, but I felt it was important to write about some tips for kids and teens who might feel even more anxious than adults because they can't even vote!
-Acknowledge what our kids are feeling. Anxiety is all about the unknown and at this late date, the probable outcome of this election seems to depend on the source that one consults! Not knowing makes people feel uncomfortable. It is okay to say to kids, "Yup, it is hard to not know. It makes me feel uncomfortable and worried too."
-And, to the extent that we can, boss back that anxiety! Although we do not know who will win the election until Election Day, we can remind ourselves that our government is set up to prevent really bad things from happening. Kids have been expressing their worries in my office for months and I find that we can boss back many of these worries by saying, "Not gonna to happen!". The media has stirred up so many worries and kids need a reminder that there are checks and balances in place to prevent many bad outcomes.
-For some kids, DOING something in service of the electoral process makes them feel more empowered. One of the kids I met with today decided she would like to volunteer for her preferred candidate with her mom over the next few weeks. Many kids value going into the voting booth with their parents. Although they aren't casting a vote per se, they feel they have contributed by participating in the family vote.
-For other kids, tuning out is a better strategy. If reading the newspaper or watching the news is causing your child undue anxiety, it is okay to encourage him or her to stop for the next two weeks. If Election Day is going to be excruciating (especially for kids who have the day off of school), make a plan to keep your kids' brains busy with something else. Go to a museum. See a movie. Set up some playdates. Logging on to the computer every few minutes to check the polls is likely not a good strategy for making it through the day (for adults or kids!).
-Coach kids through the complex social aspects of this election season. Many of the kids who I work with have told me about conflicts among friends due to the candidate that their families are supporting. Some kids have told me that they have noticed an increase in disrespectful behavior toward girls and female teachers during this election season. Kids need our help with these situations. The best way to do this is to model appropriate discourse with our own friends, relatives, and work colleagues. We need to model to our kids how to respect people who hold different opinions than us.
Yesterday, I attended the Scholastic book fair at our school with my almost 9-year old son. Although he is drawn to those huge, pricey Star Wars books that come with mini-figures, we had already agreed that these were off limits! I find it interesting that he is drawn to totally different books than my 11-year old daughter. Whereas she loves fiction, he wants to learn about history, wars, how things work, and so on. This brings up a controversy in my house -- does reading fiction build better reading skills than reading non-fiction?
This morning, I decided to turn to the literature to find out. Here is what I learned:
I am a licensed psychologist working with kids, teens, and adults with anxiety disorders.