Thursday, December 30, 2010



I was talking to some friends and family over the holidays about 'consistency' and realized that A, it's a HUGE important concept in regards to kids and B, it's a term not many people are familiar with. I was mostly met with, "what?", "consistent about who?" "I don't understand." So, let me start with a basic definition when it comes to consistency and kids.

When you are consistent, your actions and words are almost always the same. So in regards to children, you say the same thing or perform the same actions before, during or after an activity (routine, etc) and it creates stability. Wow, when I actually type out the definition, it does sound confusing. So let me give you a few examples so you can see how it works wonders for kids.

When you are setting limits or disciplining your kids, consistency is key. When your child acts out, setting the limit, even if they are screaming and crying, is being consistent and not caving in. Say you are at the grocery store and you have told your child they can't have that Snickers bar, but after whining about it and asking 11 times you say "no", but on the 12th time you give in- then that child has learned that on the 12th time of asking, they will get what they want. See, if you had been consistent, as hard as it may be, they will learn quickly not to push mommy's buttons and when she says 'no' the first time, she means it.

Another example I gave my friends this weekend was about when your child is in a daycare, school or babysitting situation. Children need to have their caregiver drop them off at the same time and pick them up at the same time everyday- they need this consistency so they can trust their environment and it can prevent separation anxiety. If you pick them up at different times each day, they get highly anxious and scared. Imagine if you were waiting for a ride or the bus and each day it came 10 minutes late one day, 20 the next and then 15 minutes early the next day- you too wouldn't be too happy with them and definitely would not trust them!

Another example could be if you are moving to a new home and changing schools. Children usually regress when these changes happen, and if you as a parent are consistent in your actions and words, they will adjust much better. Keeping their routines the same as much as possible- they will regress a lot less.

I have worked with a lot of parents who are divorced in the past, and I have told them the best way to help their children through the drop off between households, is to have the same routine each time you drop them off at the other parent's and when you pick them up. For example, when you pick your child up from their dad's house, make sure you are always on time but also choose an activity to do every time afterwards. Such as playing a game like Candyland every time you get home, or take them to the park every time you pick them up.  They will feel so much safer and trust you if they know what to expect and what comes next and adjust to the 'back and forth' much easier.

When children don't have consistency and don't know what to expect or what comes next, it creates a lot of anxiety! Kids need stability like nothing else.  Plus, consistency is key to children behaving well. And we all love it when kids obey us, right?

Any thoughts on how consistency affects you and your children?
Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Best Feelings Toy, Kimochis!

I am so excited that the latest stuffed animal toy is Play Therapy friendly! It's called a Kimochi and they actually come in different animal types: an Octopus, ladybug, cat or the one pictured below, The Cloud.

When my daughter opened her's on Christmas day, most of my family laughed and wondered what in the world I had purchased for my child. So I explained the benefits of it and that I was so excited to have my little girl learn feelings with this new toy. Basically they come in 4 different stuffed animal styles and they have a pocket in front to store the feelings. The Cloud head also moves, so one side is happy and when you twist it, the other side is sad:

The pocket in front is where your animal stores its feelings. Ingenious!  Mine came with 3 different little feelings: Sad, Happy and Mad:

The feelings also have different faces on the other side of them:

The toy company also offers several other different feelings such as frustrated, cranky, brave, silly, left out and curious. And the different animals can signify things as well as: the Octopus is overbearing, the Cat is bossy, the bug is fearful (anxious), and the Cloud is moody. That way, you can purchase an animal that fits more with what behaviors your child displays.

So, you are probably wondering "what the heck do I do with this toy?"  Well, it is one super easy, fun and cute way for children to start learning their feelings.  This toy could be started with a 6 month old and older and can really help the non-verbal child. Just like you can teach your baby sign language, you can ask them what they are feeling and they can quickly show you the appropriate little feeling figure.  And it also teaches older children basic feelings with the matching faces.

One of the main goals of play therapy is expression of feelings- it is as important as learning your 1, 2, 3's and A, B C's. Happy, mad, and sad are the basic feelings that all children need to learn to identify.  Just by telling their mom, dad or other caregiver that they 'feel sad', is an excellent way to start teaching Communication! And we all know how important communication is, especially in a family and a marriage :)

The cloud that we purchased has a pouch where it stores the feelings inside of him, much like a lot of children do, and you can tell your child to release the feeling and not keep it stuffed inside of their tummies. And since it also changes faces, it is considered a good way to show how moods can easily change and how to control them.

So next time you see your child looking sad, mad, etc you can say, "Sally, you look really sad right now." That way they start recognizing their feelings with words and facial expressions.

In teaching your child appropriate expression of feelings, for instance, you can start praising your child for expressing positive and negative feelings. You can encourage your child by saying, "Sam, it was sure helpful when you told me you were mad by using your words and face instead of hitting your brother, you must be very proud of yourself!"

I can't wait to start using this! If you are interested in purchasing, I just happened to see them on, at HEB Central Market, and even the exclusive Barney's New York or you can go to the company website directly:

Have any of you purchased this toy and had any experiences with your children? Would love to hear how you've used it with your little ones!
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mom Empathy

Why is it that after you have children, you have a much harder time watching the news and any movie or TV show that involves children getting hurt?  I am sitting here watching some old Christmas movie I have seen a million times, and I am tearing up at the part where one of the children gets in an accident! Why did I not choke up as much at this part before I had a child?

I call this 'Mom Empathy'. They define empathy as putting yourself in one's shoes as if they were your own. Not 'if they were your own' but 'as if.' If they were your own, then that would be identification. So basically you are to imagine being that person, how they would feel, and what it would be like to be them.

I swear your empathy grows from molehills to mountains after you have kids!  You start imagining what you would do if the child that was kidnapped on the news was your child and then you start worrying, and then you're in meltdown mode by they time the news reporter talks about the outcome. You start cursing yourself for not having changed the channel, and now these thoughts are going to be stuck in your head all day!

One of the the things that drew me to the child counseling profession in the first place, was my understanding of children and my empathy and compassion towards them.  I always had such a strong heart for children and wanted to do what I could as a counselor to help them. With my hard cases of abused children, it took being strong and desensitizing yourself from the situation but still having empathy for the child.

And the same goes for after having children in my profession. It takes removing yourself from the 'drama' and meeting the child where they are at in their life. Basically it means not comparing the situation to your own child which takes practice, believe me:) I have to turn on counselor/professional mode and turn off the 'mom mode.'  I guess I have to start taking my own advice, "Don't take your work home with you, and don't take your home with you to work.'

If you are a parent reading this, have any of you melted into tears at shows you used to not even wince at before you had children? Does watching the local news send you running to your child and hugging them to death ?
Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Play Therapy Toy Gifts

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Okay, so being a play therapist I completely dropped the ball on posting about my favorite toys we use that you can purchase for your child at home! What was I thinking waiting until the last minute to post these?  Well, I guess that is the typical holiday thing to do, wait to the last minute! These are my top four, although there are so many it was hard to narrow it down.

If I was to chose my absolute favorite toy that I use in the playroom, it would have to be the generic doll house from Ryan's Room brand. It is gender neutral so boys and girls can play in it equally, (and boys won't feel like a girl playing with it ). I love how it really fosters creativity so a child can pretend the walls are pink or brown and that one of the rooms one day is the living room and the next could be a kitchen. Here is the cheapest link I have found at Amazon.

Or you can chose their smaller version and purchase all of the fun accessories at this link here:

I love how they have different races of doll sets like African American:

Or an Asian family:

And the accessories are really cute!

I also love the Bag of Air (Bobo) that we use in the play room. Kids can pretend it is anything or anyone they want and either are nurturing or aggressive towards it. I think they need one lifesize for adults too:) There's nothing like coming home after a hard day at work and just kicking it to take out your frustrations! You can purchase one here.

I also love using puppets in the playroom because children can act out anything with them. I usually like to have some aggressive type puppets like alligators showing teeth, and then some soft nurturing ones like little lambs or cats. This website has a lot to choose from:

Then if you want to add a real stage to your puppets and be able to act out in imaginative play, your children can put on a puppet show:

And lastly, I just love a good set of wooden blocks. There are endless ways that children can build and express themselves with blocks. This is the original site that started the block revolution by Caroline Pratt.

These are my top favorites out there, although I could go on and on about all of the other toys we use. The ones above are just your basic core items that I believe every playroom should have at home and in a professional play therapy room.

Have any of you used these items before and have any feedback about them?
Saturday, December 18, 2010


Mercury - Relax! Illustration by Emma Holister.

To vaccinate or not vaccinate? That question seems to be a hot topic these days with all the rumors out there that vaccines could be the cause of several disorders including Autism.  My husband and I have chosen to vaccinate our daughter, but every time she gets her shots, I wonder if she is going to all of a sudden burst out with some strange side effect.

Today I took my daughter to get her second flu shot and her third HIB vaccine.  When I first gave birth to her and the nurse asked if I wanted to give her the Vitamin K injection, it kind of blind sided me and I realized I had not really read up enough about injections but decided to give her the shot anyway.  A few weeks after she was born, I quickly ran out and bought the Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears and read it from front to cover.

I had no idea that there were so many strange ingredients in vaccines such as formaldehyde, aluminum and monkey kidney cells. Not to mention the debate about mercury in vaccines that many believe to have caused the increase of autistic children in the 1990's and early 2000's. The book discusses how most vaccines have removed mercury from them as of 2003 but a few still have a trace amount.

The new argument now is the ingredient aluminum and that it could be causing neurological problems and development delays such as walking, talking and gross motor problems. The book discusses how some vaccines have so much aluminum in them, that they are almost at toxic levels. So basically if you give an infant several vaccines at once, then they are surely going to reach toxic levels.

Dr. Sears has come up with a solution and developed a whole vaccine schedule that he recommends where you space them out and give your child 2 shots each month instead of 3-4 at a time every 2-3 months.  He also recommends choosing the vaccine that has the least amount of aluminum (there are several brands to chose from).

I have been following the Dr. Sears alternative vaccine schedule and I am glad our doctor is on board with this and has a separate walk in lab for this reason.  I know of a lot of parents that have chosen not to vaccinate, and everyone has their reasons. We have chosen to vaccinate our child as we feel we want to take the risk from the side effects of the shots over her getting sick from a rare but deadly disease.

And the scary thing is listening to moms out there, like Jenny McCarthy, that say one day their child was smiling and then after getting shots, nothing!  How scary!  So paranoid me, after each trip to the doctor's office I am looking at my daughter hoping there is not that 'change' that they keep talking about.  It's not like parents have anything else to worry about, right?

Has anyone out there chosen not to vaccinate their kids?  What are your beliefs about vaccinations causing neurological damage or autism spectrum disorders?
Monday, December 13, 2010

The Hurried Child

So as I was getting my baby dressed in her baby Adidas outfit today, it made me stop to realize how adult she looks at age 7 months! It reminded me of a great book out there called The Hurried Child by David Elkind. It's basically about how our Western culture is rushing our children to grow up fast.

The main point of the book is that children are being pressured to act and look more adult every year that goes by. Ever walked into a Justice store or even Gap Kids and seen all the adorable clothing that looks like a 'mini' version of us adults?

We all swoon at how cute the clothes are. Little 12 month old Juicy Couture track suits, 18 month old True Religion jeans, and on up to pre-teen clothing that looks like they are about to hit the clubs! Some of the clothes are just adorable and we have all been caught thinking how cute they would look on our kids. But it still begs the question of 'are we asking our kids to grow up too fast?"

We all get caught up in the next stage of developmental milestones as infants like walking, or talking and then as they get older, wondering if they going to be sports stars, or learn algebra and be scientists. I have to keep reminding myself to just live in the moment and not rush to the next stage. Because our children grow up so fast, we need to savor every moment!

I now understand why my parents did not want me to start wearing make-up in junior high as they thought I was too young and I of course got mad and threw a fit, "but all the other girls wear it!". I am stressed with my child learning to walk, but can only imagine the stress that will come when she is at the dating age, wearing make-up and being picked up by a boy for a date and getting into his car and driving off to who knows where, and, okay, I am getting ahead of myself here and breaking out in a sweat thinking about it.

How about you? Do you feel kids are forced to grow up too fast and our society pressures young kids to be mini-adults? Do you think we have more stressful demands on ourselves than 30 years ago (cell phones, cable, internet, dual incomes, etc.)?
Friday, December 10, 2010

Check It Out

We've all heard or witnessed the crazy temper tantrums that kids have at grocery stores and all the other over stimulating shopping places that exist these days.  It always seems to happen right when they reach the check-out lines. It's as if they are saying "I have had enough!"

I have a whole new appreciation for parents out shopping with kids. See, when you have kids with you, standing in line to check out can be a huge ordeal. Don't people know they better hurry up or our children will have a melt down? Why on earth do people still write checks when they get up to the cashier? Don't they see I have a baby in my arms and if they keep taking their sweet time my child will erupt in tears?

Before I had children, I always felt sorry for the kids and the parents in these situations as I figured they were both exhausted and overdone. Sometimes I would try to help distract the children to help the parents feel less embarrassed and to help the kids forget what they were upset about in the first place.

I knew that once you had kids, gone were the days of free time and the ability to run errands at any time and any where.  I knew that once I had kids my independent-do-what-ever-I-want-to-days would be over.

Yes, I do take my daughter out to run errands daily and the hard part is scheduling them to make sure she is not about to go down for a nap and is not starving (stopping in the middle of an excursion to eat is not fun). So the goal is to run out the door the minute she wakes up from her nap and is fully fed, because I know I only have a small window here before she gets tired again and hungry.  And sometimes we can't always be on their schedule.

I guess this is why they invented the concept of Mom's Day Out! Today was the first day I had a scheduled Mom's Day Out to run all of my errands. And my own mother came to the rescue. Of course she has watched/babysat my daughter before but today was the official scheduled visit and it was AMAZING!

I was able to do some Christmas shopping and go to Garden Ridge, the mall, the grocery store and a gift shop all in less than 2 hours!! That would never happen with a baby in tow.  I know I definitely could have taken her with me, but I always feel so bad for my poor little girl getting her in and out of the car and running in and out of the shops while she cries, moans and pleads- I imagine she is secretly crying, "take me home now, I want to play and take a nap!"

I realize that I have just typed a whole book and have not even gone into how to handle temper tampers out in public- one of the biggest challenges yet- I will have to save that post for another day.

What about you? If you are a parent, have you had episodes at the check out lines? Do you have a solution to finding free time either with mom's day outs or family? Even if you work and your child is in daycare or school all day, we all still need a break that is non-work and non-mommy related. I remember the first times I went out alone without my baby, and when I say out, I don't mean going out to a bar, I mean going out to Target and being so happy to be looking at the toilet paper and frozen food sans baby!