As mentioned in the first part of this series, divorce and/or separation, for better or for worse, has a substantial impact on most children. Depending on the child, in terms of his/her age and individual characteristics, their reaction varies. Some children “clam up” while others “act out.” In my clinical experience, children who “clam up” tend to withdraw, show lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy, exhibit low energy or fatigue and often display somatic complaints, such as headaches and stomachaches. Often this child is seen as having difficulty focusing and “being in his/her own world,” almost detached from daily aspects of life. The “acting out” child displays more of an aggressive behavior by either becoming more verbally aggressive or, in some cases, physically. This child indicates low frustration tolerance and gets easily irritated or annoyed. Mood swings are also observed in these children. Clingy and attention seeking behavior is also reported. In both types of children, significant decline can be seen in social and academic functioning, low self-esteem, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness with frequent crying. Clearly no one child falls strictly into one or the other category and many children display symptoms of both.
Once the decision to separate has been made, it is important for parents to think about how to make this difficult transition less challenging for their children. How well children will adapt depends on several factors which was outlined by Hetherington et. al. (1998) such as:
Individual characteristics of parents (e.g. personality, education, psychological problems)
Mental transitions: divorce and remarriage.
Stressful life experiences/economic change
Individual characteristics of child (e.g. age, gender, temperament, intelligence)
Do keep consistency in your own and your children’s schedule. As mentioned earlier, children do not have control over many decisions relating to separation. It is important for them to have some level of predictability especially when it comes to a schedule.
Do make the “second” home their home as much as possible. Whether they take part in helping to choose the color to paint the room or choosing furniture, any gesture giving kids some power in decision making can be very helpful.
Do make sure that the second home has sufficient school supplies, even if the base home already has them. It is stressful enough to remember to bring books needed for homework and projects; there should be no added stress for kids to remember to bring needed supplies from one home to the next, if possible.
Don’t bad-mouth another parent or complain about your ex to your children. If you need to talk about your frustrations, it should be done with adults in your life that you trust.
Don’t’ ask your child about your ex’s social and/or daily life. For example: Did daddy have dinner plans? Who did he go with? What time did your mother came home? Did she pay or give you money? No matter how delicate or well intended your questions are about your ex, children often feel guilty and needing to protect parents, fearing that they may say too much or too little. If you have any questions relating to your ex, you need to ask him/her directly without putting your children in the middle.
Don’t shower your kids with excessive gifts as a way to make them feel better and, for some, to reduce their own feelings of guilt. Spending QUALITY time with your child is the most important gift. Ask your child how they would like to spend time. Give them several options that you know they will enjoy.
Most importantly, remember to reassure your child that things are going to be OK and that you are going to get through this, even though it is difficult. When you are not sure how to respond to some situations, stop and think: if you were a child what would you want? And when you are inadvertently placing your child in the middle, stop for a minute and think is this truly the best thing for my child or is this about my own pain and anger.
Hetherington, E.M., Bridges, M., & Insabella, G.M. (1998). What matters? What does not? Five perspectives on the association between marital transitions and children’s adjustment. American Psychologist, 53, 167-184.
Dr. Veronica Brodsky, licensed Child and School Clinical Psychologist, is founder and clinical director of Interactive Discovery Consulting and Psychological Services, P.C. Dr. Brodsky provides individual therapy, family therapy, parent consultations, school consultations, workshops, and group work, with children from preschool-age to adults. She uses an integrative approach, combining psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback and existential therapy. Her clinical interests include working with children and adults who are dealing with different life transitions by helping them to cope with stressors associated with these events. She also conducts neuropsychological and psychoeducational evaluations.
Tags: aggressive behavior, child, children, difficulty focusing, divorce, dos and don'ts, headaches, low energy, mood swings, reactions to divorce, separation, social withdrawal, somatic complaints, stomachaches
If you are a Park Slope or Windsor Terrace parent concerned about your young child’s speech, language, and/or communication development, you have come to the right place! Brooklyn Letters is proud to announce its newest member- Dr. Michelle MacRoy-Higgins, Assistant Professor at Hunter College and South Slope resident.
Dr. Michelle MacRoy-Higgins has worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist for nearly 15 years. She holds her Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCCs) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), her New York State Speech-Language Pathology license and is certified as a Teacher of the Speech and Hearing Handicapped (TSHH). She received her B.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Geneseo, her M.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Adelphi University and her PhD in Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences from the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center. In addition to being a private practitioner, Michelle is an Assistant Professor in the Communication Sciences program at Hunter College (CUNY) and teaches graduate students in the areas of language development, language, phonological, articulation, motor speech and swallowing disorders in children. Michelle has worked clinically in a variety of settings including home-based, preschool, elementary school and private practice clinics; and has enjoyed working with a variety of children presenting with language, phonological, articulation, and feeding disorders ranging in age from birth through adolescents. Michelle’s clinical and research expertise is with children who are late talkers. She enjoys working with children and their families to develop individualized and evidenced-based treatment, while having fun and encouraging communication success.
HOURS: Available weekends and Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings
LOCATION: Park Slope and Windsor Terrace
TYPE OF SERVICES: Individual therapy, group (2-3 children), speech-language evaluations, parent consultation
EXPERTISE: Speech-language delays, autism spectrum disorders, feeding and swallowing disorders
AGES: birth through elementary school
PAYMENT: Private Pay, Out-of-Network
Tags: autism, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Letters, child, communication development, feeding, Hunter College, language delay, Michelle MacRoy-Higgins, Park Slope, speech delay, speech language therapy, windsor terrace
Part 1: The Visual, Auditory and Tactile Senses
As a new parent to an 9-month old boy, I busy myself reading child development books and checking online resources, to assure myself that he is meeting his developmental milestones each month. While we are playing and having fun, I am assessing his emerging gross and fine motor skills, listening to his burgeoning language, and marveling at his cognitive gains. As an Occupational Therapist (OT), I have been encouraged to see that the books and online articles often reference the sensory skills that are developing in our babies; skills which continue to develop in children until their early teenage years. In this entry, I will discuss ways to support your child’s visual, auditory and tactile skills from an OT perspective. These are ideas that are easy to implement at home, and which can be enjoyed by children who are typically developing as well as assist those who are experiencing delays.
Definition: Our visual system allows us both to see and to interpret what we see. Developmentally, it is important for recognizing people, shapes, colors, and eventually letters and numbers. Socially, it helps us to read body language and facial expressions. For example, we must use our vision to guide our movement through the world safely and effectively.
Infants: Provide the baby with high contrast black and white images, bright colors (especially red and yellow), simple geometric designs, mirrors, and slow-moving mobiles. One of baby’s favorite things to look at is the human face (especially mom and dad). Books with pictures of faces are often interesting to babies and will stimulate their vision. As your baby grows, you can help their vision mature by presenting slowly moving items so that they have to track the item as it moves throughout their field of vision (first try horizontal movements, then vertical, then circular).
Preschool: Help your child learn shapes, colors, and begin letter and number recognition through activities like puzzles, blocks, and books. Children gain valuable “practice” with their visual system through activities such as rolling a ball, stacking blocks, pointing to pictures in a book, coloring and cutting with scissors.
School age: Higher-level visual skills are developing at this age, including figure-ground, visual discrimination, and visual memory. Hidden picture books (figure-ground), matching worksheets (discrimination), and games like Memory are all great for this age group. In addition to the school tasks of reading and writing, children can work on their eye-hand coordination at this age through mazes, connect-the-dots, and word searches.
For more information about the development of vision, visit the website of the American Optometric Association. It provides great information about what changes occur at each age and stage and development: http://www.aoa.org/x9419.xml
Definition: We use our auditory system (or sense of hearing) to identify both the quality and location of sounds in our environment. For example, our auditory sense alerts us so that we turn our heads when a car is approaching.
Infants: A baby is born with a very well-developed sense of hearing. Your baby can recognize (and prefers) the sound of parent’s voices. Talking to your baby is one of the best ways to help your baby’s auditory system develop. This can include your own singing, too! As young as one month, babies can remember sounds, such as a repeated lullaby. Parents should also talk to their babies as they go through their day, narrating what you are doing is a great way to introduce language. Babies respond to repetition, and to high frequency sounds (which is why many prefer female voices). As your baby begins to make her own sounds, repeat them back to her as this lays the foundation for the turn-taking of spoken language. Music, of course, is another strong auditory input that babies enjoy. This can be anything from classical music, to nursery rhymes and songs, to any music that mom and dad like! You can help your baby refine her sense of hearing by having her find (localize) a moving sound (slowly move a rattle or noisy toy). As your baby grows, introduce the following auditory/language concepts during play: animal sounds, names of colors, and counting (fingers, toes, blocks, etc.)
Preschool: Continue to explore music through playing simple instruments, learning finger songs, and singing. Playing with puppets and using different voices (high, low, silly, etc.) is a fun activity, and it also engages the child in pretend play. Have your child point to pictures in a book as you read it. Listen for and identify sounds in the environment (“that’s a car horn”, “hear the birds chirping”, etc.). Work on giving one-step, then two-step directions. As always, continue to talk to your child during your daily routines and continue to read books.
School age: At this age, you can help your child continually improve their auditory skills by giving him three- and four-step directions. Addressing the concept of voice volume may be an issue as children enter school, where they are asked to be quiet for long stretches of the day. Instead of expecting children to understand the term “inside voice”, a visual aid may be helpful. You can make a simple chart with the following information: 0 = silent, 1 = whisper, 2 = talking, 3 = yelling. Act out each volume with your child. Then, explain the rules of your home regarding when it’s OK to use each (i.e., yelling may be OK during play, or during an emergency; a whisper should be used at nighttime, etc.) One final piece of OT advice regarding school-age children and auditory input relates to that dreaded word…homework. My advice is to know how your child responds to noises and be aware how this impacts his/her focus during homework. Some children will require a quiet work space, away from distractions such as radio, TV, siblings, phone calls, or even a parent cooking dinner. However, other children thrive on “background noise” to help them. These kids may do well working at the kitchen table, or wearing headphones with music playing as they work.
To learn more about how your child’s hearing develops from in utero throughout childhood; visit the home of the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association: http://www.asha.org/public/
Definition: This is our sense of touch, which plays an important role in a child’s motor and social development. The tactile system provides information about the shape, size, and texture of objects. This information helps us to understand our surroundings, manipulate objects, and use tools proficiently. For example, you are using your tactile system when you reach into your pocket and find a quarter among several coins.
Infants: Touch helps promote parent-child attachment by giving your baby a sense of safety, security and love. Developing awareness of the nature and quality of a variety of tactile input also gives infant valuable information about the world around them, thus aiding their cognitive and fine/gross motor skills. Offer infants a variety of safe textures to explore (plastic or wooden toys, stuffed animals, soft blankets, “crinkly” toys, feely books, tactile mats, and tactile balls). Give her an infant massage (with or without lotion). Lightly rub her feet and clap her hands together. Expose her to different textures and sensations, such as a vibrating toy, a soft cloth, a feather, a scratchy piece of sandpaper or bumpy ball. Be sure to tell her what the textures are as you show them to her. Allow for some “naked time” every day, so that your child can feel textures on her arms, legs, back and belly. (If you are daring, you can go without a diaper for a while!) Also, be sure to have some supervised “tummy time” every day, so that your baby does not become too sensitive on her stomach (This position is necessary in order to prepare for crawling and develop upper body stability and strength).
Preschool: One activity preschoolers often enjoy is a sensory table (or at home, you can make a “sensory bin”). Fill a large plastic bin with a mixture of dried rice and beans, then you can hide small toys or “treasures”, puzzle pieces, or simply cups and spoons for empty-fill. Other fun suggestions include: modeling clay, Play-Doh, and finger paints. Don’t be afraid to let them get messy! They are working on developing their tactile awareness, as well as the small hand muscles needed for later activities such as handwriting. Finally, taking a nature walk to pick up and explore various outdoor items (leaves, rocks, petals, dirt, etc.) is a great way to enjoy a nice day, while promoting this important sense.
School age: The sense of touch is highly developed in this age. A few ways to challenge your older child to use and perfect this sense are: draw letters on his back with your finger and have him guess, fill a cloth bag with common objects and have him identify things (one at a time) without looking in the bag. Activities such as arts and crafts, stringing beads, and lacing cards can help children continually improved their tactile skills.
The neurological process that interprets sensations from the body and its environment is called Sensory Integration. The brain’s ability to process sensory information makes it possible to use the body effectively within any given environment.
The quick screening checklist below will help you assess your child’s sensory development. If you answer “yes” to one or more of these questions, your child may be experiencing difficulties with sensory integration:
• Was your child unusually fussy, difficult to console, or easily startled as an infant?
• Is your child over-sensitive to stimulation? Does he/she over-react to touch, taste, sounds, or odors?
• Does your child strongly dislike baths, haircuts, or nail cutting (screaming, crying, “melting down”)?
• Does your child use too much force when handling objects, coloring, writing, or interacting with siblings or pets?
• Does your child seem to have weak muscles? Does she tire easily? Does she prefer to lean on people or slump in a chair?
• Was your baby slow to roll over, creep, sit, stand, or walk, or to achieve other motor milestones?
• Is your child clumsy? (Does she fall frequently, bump into furniture or people, and have trouble judging position of body in relation to surrounding space).
• Does your child have difficulty following instructions or sequencing the steps for an activity?
• Does your child avoid playground activities, physical education class, and/or sports?
• Does he/she not enjoy age-appropriate motor activities such as jumping, swinging, climbing, drawing, cutting, assembling puzzles, or writing?
For further information on Sensory Integration and for children diagnosed (or suspected) of a Sensory Processing Disorder:
Check out Kids Health website for further information on the development of senses, as well as other great information: http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/index.html#cat166
If your child is experiencing difficulty with any of these areas of development, please contact your pediatrician and/or an Occupational Therapist to assess if there is an underlying problem. Children develop at their own pace, with a wide range of normal regarding skill acquisition. If he/she has difficulty in several areas of sensory development, it may indicate a Sensory Integration Dysfunction.
Stay tuned for Part Two of this discussion, which will address the ‘hidden’ senses that are developing in your child.
Lynn-Marie Herlihy is an Occupational Therapist in private practice in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She has over 12 years experience treating children from birth to school-age, with a variety of sensory and motor deficits, developmental delays, and learning issues. You can also visit her website at www.BrooklynOT.com.
Tags: American Optometric Association, American Speech-Language and Hearing Association, auditory senses, autism, babies, background noise, body language, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Letters, brooklyn occupational therapist, brooklyn occupational therapy, child, child development books, Child's sensory development, children, children with delays, cognitive gains, developing tactile awareness, developmental delays, developmental milestones, facial expressions, fine motor skills, high contrast images, homework, inside voices, language, learning issues, lullabies, Lynn-Marie Herlihy, mirrors, mobiles, motor deficits, motor development, nursery rhymes, Occupational Therapist, occupational therapy, online resources, OT, over-sensitive, Park Slope, park slope occupational therapist, park slope occupational therapy, pediatric, playing, preschoolers, Private, puppets, puzzles, repetition, sense of hearing, sensory integration, sensory Integration Dysfunction, Sensory Processing Disorder, sensory skills, singing, social development, tactile senses, talking to babies, toddlers, visual senses, weak muscles
“Mommy, the princesses won’t let me play with them.”
I pulled over and got into the back seat of the car with my 4-year old daughter.
“What do you mean?” I desperately asked her, trying to conceal the panic in my voice . . .
She then launched into the details of how, during recess at her preschool, the boys and girls divided into gender-specific groups: “Star Wars” and “Princess.” My poor girl, a fan of the Star Wars films, found herself in the nether-region of such “gender play” and was effectively banished by both Han Solo and Sleeping Beauty.
Over the next few weeks, I was transformed.
The next thing I knew, I–a pacifist and a social worker–was taking names and forming opinions about these 4-year old girls who, much to my chagrin, were on the receiving end of my dirty looks at drop off the next day and the days that followed. My feelings and passive-aggression towards the parents of these “perpetrators” was no less shameful.
I then began down the rabbit hole of self-blame: If only I had scheduled more playdates with girls. If only I wasn’t selfish in wanting to spend time play-dating with my friends, most of whom had boys. If only I hadn’t been a tomboy myself. If only I had somehow been a better parent, this would not be happening. She was an outcast, and it was all my fault.
In the weeks that followed, I withdrew from my regular mommy-friends and sought out play dates with the girls who had “rejected” my child in an effort to prove to them once and for all that my little girl was awesome and worthy of play. These efforts were not only unsuccessful (due primarily to scheduling conflicts), but backfired terribly. The feelings of rejection! The anxiety! The depression! The shame!
The reality was, my daughter hadn’t a clue. It was I who suffered the slings and arrows of this tragedy. She was fine. I was a mess.
After several weeks of this craziness, I took a step back to reflect. The inner chaos I was feeling had several layers. First, the Mamma Bear Instinct: protect my child from hurt at all costs. Ok. I’ll give myself that one. But it was more than that. I was fueled not only by my protective instinct, but by my own history. My own pain. My own experience of being an outcast, feeling banished, not fitting in. My own rejection from the princesses. My own desire to opt for the headstrong Princess Leah over Princess what’s-her-name who always needs to be rescued. Rescued. It wasn’t my daughter who needed rescue from this social calamity. It was me.
I then went back to all I knew about child development, and the fact that children at this age need to have their own social experiences. This is how they develop social skills, conflict resolution and communication skills, and foster self efficacy and self esteem. If I intervene here, she will not learn to fight her own battles and navigate the social matrix that is going to be the rest of her life. She needs to do this herself. My job is to be there to support her, comfort her, encourage her and guide her. Not to manipulate her for my own comfort.
Good lord! I thought the nursing, sleep deprivation and diaper changing of the early years were tough! None of those what-to-expect-when-you’re-expecting books said anything about this one!
Once I came out of my fog and regrouped, I began to share my ever-so-humbling experience, and found that many parents shared similar thoughts and feelings. I also began to formulate a theory based on my experience as both a psychotherapist and a parent. In psychotherapy, “countertransference” refers to the feelings the therapist has in response to (as triggered by) the client. It is the therapist’s responsibility to be aware of these feelings and to be diligent not to react to them, as they typically interfere with effective treatment.
The countertransference of parenting, then, refers to our tendency to react to our children based not only on what we perceive to be in their best interest, but also out of our own needs and past experiences. Mindful Parenting is the process of enhancing our awareness of these issues in an effort to be the best parents we can be. By ‘getting out of our own way’ and relying on our instincts and knowledge, we can foster our children’s independence and growth. Thus, once we are aware of our ‘triggers,’ we can tune in more effectively to our children and utilize our parenting skills more adaptively.
So how is this done? How, in the throes of emotional turmoil do I–as a parent–take the time to reflect, when all I want to do is act on my impulse rescue (or fix or change)?
The answer for today is this: Hindsight is twenty-twenty. Take a minute to reflect on some of the incidences your child has had where you felt driven to intense action (or feeling). What was happening? How did you feel about it? How did you react? Did the event remind you of something you experienced in your own childhood? Think about the situation again from an objective point of view. Would you have behaved (or felt) any differently about the situation if you took yourself (your history) out of the equation?
It is important to note that the initial goal of this process is less about resolving these issues, but more about creating a framework for understanding your own reactions so that you might approach these situations differently the next time. It is also an opportunity to tune into your ‘younger self’ and to recognize when she (or he) is being triggered and might be in need of some additional attention or self care. This might be where therapy comes in, or simply a chat with a supportive partner, relative or friend. At the end of the day, the more supported and nurtured we are, the more loving and mindful parents we can be.
*Please note that it could take up to 24 hours to publish your post.
Fara is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Park Slope where she specializes in working with children, adolescents, parents and families, coping with trauma, addictions, anxiety and depression. Utilizing both traditional psychotherapy and creative arts therapy in her work, she provides individual, couples and family counseling and has developed and implemented psychotherapy, psycho-education and creative arts therapy groups for children, adolescents and adults. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 917-359-3335.
Tags: Brooklyn, Brooklyn Letters, child, child development, children's growth, children's independence, communication skills, conflict resolution, countertransference, developing social skills, drama therapist, Fara Jones Psychotherapist and Drama Therapist, impulse rescue, LCSW, Mamma Bear instinct, mindful parenting, parenting skills, Park Slope, passive-aggressive, playdates, problem solving, psychology, psychology today, psychotherapist, psychotherapy, self esteem, social drama, social experiences, social matrix, social skills, social worker, therapist, triggers
My name is Craig Selinger, and I am a speech language pathologist, also known as a speech therapist, who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Starting in September, I will work full-time in the area; no more back and forth Manhattan commuting. My services include child speech, language, and feeding therapy and language remediation, e.g. reading and writing.
I am very excited to launch Brooklyn Letters! Seven months of steady work on the website and now it is live. Brooklyn Letters will be a dynamic forum: updated blogs, articles, and resources. We want to create services based upon your needs. Here are some future ideas/plans:
Dr. Annette Hernandez and I will soon be adding more professionals to our team.
Every member of the Brooklyn Letters team will contribute to our interdisciplinary blog. Check-in monthly for new entries.
Other ideas about the blog:
1) Contacting professors/researchers to make research more accessible to the public.
2) Extending our interdisciplinary blog to other pediatric professionals in the New York City area. If you would like to contribute to our blog, please email me your name, phone number, area of expertise, and the topic you would like to write about. I am limiting blog entries to one page and one per month. Each month will have a different professional contributor.
Did I miss an important resource? Please email me the link, and I will consider adding it.
We have a FREE Brooklyn (Park Slope and nearby neighborhoods) private business and local pediatric professional (for those offering unique services) directory.
If you are interested in small group services (3 children) please fill out this form and email it back to me. I teach language learning, literacy, and social skills to small groups. Creating these groups is cumbersome due to the difficultly coordinating schedules and matching learning needs. My goal is to organize compatible small learning groups.
If you are a pediatric professional interested in home-based services in the Park Slope and/or and nearby communities, please email me your résumé.
How can we improve this site? Email me your ideas.
I am very excited to see how Brooklyn Letters will help contribute to Brooklyn, and watch it help parents from around the world learn more about their child’s development.
Many thanks to Brent and Teresa (my amazing website designers), Amy Way (photographer), the families that allowed me to be photographed with their children, Evan, Noreen, Chino, and Maryam. It was a team effort and I appreciate everyone’s important contributions and endeavors!
We are now offering speech, language, and feeding services/therapy in Bay Ridge, Dyker Park and Dyker Heights, and Bensonhurst! If you are interested in Kristi, a speech language pathologist, coming to your home, contact Craig at email@example.com
We will be expanding our speech, language, and literacy services to your home in Queens- Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Astoria, and we will be expanding our speech and language services to your home in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick.
We welcome Emily Harms, M.S. CCC-SLP- a speech language pathologist that comes to your Manhattan home. She travels to Gramercy Park, Midtown, Murray Hill, Flatiron District, Chelsea, Nolita, Soho, Greenwich Village, West Village, Battery Park City, Financial District, Lower East Side, East Village, Williamsburg
Please contact Craig for more information firstname.lastname@example.org
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Craig Selinger is a pediatric speech language therapist with a private practice in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He works with babies and pre-adolescents with speech, language, feeding delays and difficulties. In addition, he provides specialize tutoring services (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) for struggling learners and those with unique differences. His speech, language, literacy, and feeding team travels to your home and your child’s school throughout Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Contact: email@example.com, 347-394-3485, www.brooklynlearning.com.
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