I love being interviewed for podcasts. Maybe it’s that I like to talk a lot, but they feel much more useful than short, tip-filled articles. Especially when the topic is as nuanced as body image. I also love that you can listen while doing something else like taking a walk or driving to work. Here are some other episodes of Healthy Family Project that I’ve been a part of:
We’re well into the school year, so those first-day-of-school jitters and nerves have likely subsided. But in case some still remains, here are some tips I wrote about managing school anxiety over at Produce for Kids:
You can also listen to an interview with me about the topic on the podcast: Healthy Family Project:
And if you want to hear more, check out the entire line-up of interviews:
I’m so excited to be joining up with Produce for Kids for our new series: Ask a Psychologist. Last month I wrote a piece about how to cope when your child’s appetite is affected by medication. Here’s the intro:
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 6.1 million children in the United States had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in the United States as of 2016. ADHD is a disorder that affects a person’s ability to maintain attention and concentration. Those diagnosed with ADHD can struggle to get work done in a timely fashion at home, work and school; social relationships can be tough to maintain as well.
Luckily, there are several, well-researched options for the treatment of ADHD. Behavioral therapy/counseling is typically recommended as a first option. This type of therapy involves a psychologist working with both the child and their family to implement strategies to increase desired behaviors (following directions, controlling impulses) and decrease those that are undesirable (disruptive behaviors). Accommodations at school are also an effective line of treatment. These might include: allowing for movement breaks throughout the course of the day, allowing extra time for tests, and strategically positioning the child in the classroom to reduce distraction.
Another option for the treatment of children diagnosed with ADHD is stimulant medication. Medication can be an important and effective tool for families, but a not-infrequent side effect is loss of appetite. If you notice your child’s appetite changing, or diminishing after starting a stimulant medication, it’s important that you contact the pediatrician or psychiatrist prescribing the medication immediately so that you can troubleshoot together. Some ideas your health care provider might suggest include:
Fat. Skinny. Over weight. Underweight. Chunky. Slight. Slender. Normal. Chubby. Short. Huge. Teeny. Average. Muscular. Frumpy. Flabby. Round. Skeletal. Portly. Tubby. Stick figure.
There are a lot of words we use to describe bodies. Ours, other people’s, everyone’s. And while we know that weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) can be an important piece of information when talking about someone’s overall health – those numbers are also so emotionally loaded that it can be tough to have a conversation about them without ending up with hurt feelings – no matter what our size.
I have recently started a new series over at Produce for Kids:
My first column went live not long ago and is about this very topic. Here’s the question:
Many schools across the U.S. check-in yearly with kids’ BMI (Body Mass Index). What if your child has a bigger build and is a very athletic/healthy eater but falls into the BMI alert category (of being overweight or obese) simply based on weight/height ratio. Do you have any recommendations on talking to kids about this touchy subject?
Want to read my answer? Check out the whole article here:
Most parents say they would like their children to be kind, thoughtful, generous adults. But it can be hard to know how to teach and model these traits. I was recently challenged to perform a “random act of kindness” with my family by Produce for Kids. They provided me with this list of 100 ideas to get our creative juices flowing.
After some compromise (another ability many of us parents prize!), my 3 kids and I decided to make “homeless bags.” There are about a million ideas online for how to put together these little care packages for people experiencing homelessness. And it’s actually something my kids had done a few times before with other organizations. But they had always wanted to host their own bag making event.
So we decided to go for it. On Thanksgiving. When we were hosting dinner for 20.
How did I get talked into that?
Anyway. What we did was text our Thanksgiving guests and asked them to bring something to contribute to the bags. We ended up assigning people various items like toothpaste, combs, water, snacks – so that we didn’t have duplicates. We provided gallon-size zip top bags, a whole bunch of travel-sized lotion, lip balm, and sunscreen.
We set everything up assembly-line style:
We gave everyone instructions to fill the bags with the various foods, toiletries and socks. And then I went to baste the turkey. When I came back, this was happening:
The last bag had been completed and was being zipped up! I missed the whole thing!
The good news is: this activity is easy, fast and suitable for people of all ages (we had folks from 1 to 71 participating!). The bad news is: if you blink, you’ll miss the whole darn thing!
At the end of the day, it was a fun activity that will allow us to provide just a bit of comfort to those experiencing homeless in our community.
Everybody got to take home a couple of bags (along with a few slices of pie!).
Want to try your own act of kindness? Here’s an easy one:
And once you do that, take a break this holiday season and spend some time with your family – maybe snacking on these little cuties?
I recently wrote an article for the National PTA’s magazine, Our Children:
Pretty fun opportunity! The topic was how to manage stress in families with school age children. There are so many things to consider when dealing with kids: Academics, activities, social pressures, safety – not to mention all the stuff that we as parents try to manage: work, finances, relationships, etc.
Here’s a bit about stress and teens in particular:
In fact, a 2013 American Psychological Association poll revealed that 31% of teens surveyed feel their stress increased in the past year. Concerningly, 42% said they either are not doing enough to manage their stress or they are not sure if they are doing enough to manage it.
So what can we do to help? Here’s one tip:
Ask your kids what they think
It may seem silly, but sometimes I forget to ask my kids what’s important to them. Questions like: “How do you feel about your piano lessons these days?” and “Is the swim team still something you enjoy?” are crucial to helping your kids maintain good mental health.
As our children develop their own interests and passions, we should be mindful of keeping them in the loop when it comes to setting up schedules.
To read the entire article – with more info about stress, kids and strategies – check it out:
Pinterest is pretty awesome. I love looking at the beautiful pictures of gardens and homes, crafts and cupcakes. I’ve even gotten a few useful tips and recipes for feeding my kids – particularly when they were younger. But now that they’re getting older and they aren’t so into the cutesy butterflies made out of watermelon; and they aren’t impressed when I make smiley faces out of bananas and oranges on their morning pancakes – it’s not nearly as useful to me.
In fact, my tween and teen aren’t impressed by much that I do. And sadly, Pinterest – and society in general – has kind of left me out in the cold when it comes to helping my older kids make healthy choices when it comes to food. So, I recently offered some tips for helping older kids navigate the world of food choices over at Produce for Kids.
Check it out:
I have a million good intentions at the start of each week:
- I’m going to exercise
- I’m going to meditate
- I’m going to watch less TV
- I’m going to cook fresh foods for every meal
- I’m going to finally weed the garden
- I’m going to clear out my email inbox
You know the drill: We all have the best intentions to live in calm, healthy ways. But then reality sets in and all the plans get blown up. I recently wrote an article about how to carve out time – at least a couple of times a week – to slow down and eat a meal with the ones you love. Here’s my favorite tip:
Want to read the entire article? Check it out:
Do you remember being a teenager? A middle schooler? Let’s just say it can be a challenging time in life. Bodies, ideas and emotions are changing at lightening speed; nobody understands you; and life can feel like an endless series of demands, trials and challenges. Everything from clothes to hair to after school activities can be put to the test:
Is this cool or totally dorky?
And yes, I know those aren’t the terms today’s teens would use to describe good and bad, so I am reverting to my own adolescence (cringe.)
Anyway, it wasn’t until a year or so ago that I realized that school lunches were also judged in terms of being cool, or not-so-cool. Here are how things work out for the teens/tweens in my house:
Buying lunch = cool
Taking lunch to school = not cool
But after discovering that my now-7th grader ate fried chicken sandwiches every single day for lunch last year, I decided we needed to make some changes this year. So when Produce for Kids issued their annual #PowerYourLunchbox Pledge, I decided to get creative. The goal? To find a cool(ish), healthy lunch that my tween and teen would actually eat for lunch. In front of their friends. And not blame me for ruining their lives. Tall order, I know.
And here’s what I came up with: Mason Jars. They’re cheap, functional and Joanna Gaines-approved (that’s a good thing in our house). You’ve probably seen mason jar salad ideas floating around online for the past couple of years. I had too, but I had yet to try them. Here’s how it went:
I pulled everything out of my frig and pantry that could go into a salad:
I read that you should start with dressing, so I put that on the bottom, then filled up the jar from there:
I put the dry ingredients (tortilla strips, croutons, etc) in a little baggy on top so they would still be nice and crunchy at lunch time:
Then I realized I could put anything I wanted into the jars and it would look cute! Leftover pasta salad, fruit salad – nothing in the frig was safe!
…you see where this is going…
One of my kids took this for lunch today, doesn’t it look delicious?
In about 20 minutes we made several lunches and snacks.
And guess what? The kids actually took these beauties to school, ate the contents and brought the jars back home to be refilled – a HUGE SUCCESS! Next time we might try peanut butter, hummus or Nutella in a jar, with some fruits or veggies in another jar for dipping. The possibilities are endless!
Want more ideas for healthy, yummy and semi-cool lunches? Check out Produce for Kids.
Want to help support Feeding America as they provide meals for kids in need just by lifting a finger? Take the #PowerYourLunchbox Pledge!
Are standardized tests in the news in your community? It seems to be what everyone is talking about around here. Federal and state-mandated standardized tests are given to almost all students in grades K-12 in the spring, as far as I can understand. I am not an expert in primary education, standardized testing or curriculum development so I can’t speak about the tests from that angle. But, I am an expert in anxiety and parenting and have a few thoughts about how testing affects those sorts of things.
I have watched standardized testing season come and go (as a psychologist and mom) for over a decade now. And here’s the thing: they cause A LOT of anxiety, worry and nervous feelings all the way around. In parents, in students, in teachers in administrators – probably bus drivers and custodians too – everyone’s feeling the tension. It’s almost impossible to escape.
Here are some ideas for managing the testing season in your home:
- Keep your routine normal. Kids thrive on routine. Chances are their school days will look a little different during testing season (different class schedules, dismissal times, etc) so it becomes even more important that routines remain the same at home. Try to keep normal bedtimes, mealtimes and activities going on as usual.
- Resist the urge to talk about testing. Your kids – whether in 1st or 11th grade – have likely been hearing about their standardized tests for weeks as teachers prepare them for what to expect. When they get home they might need a break from all the hype. A simple: “How did the test go today?” is likely all you need to ask about it. Grilling our kids, ranting about the philosophical flaws of their school system or putting extra pressure on them to perform academically is rarely helpful. Keep it light and give them a break.
- Teach stress management skills. Life is full of stressors. Mastering a couple stress management strategies in childhood can be a wonderful thing. If your child is a little stressed on test days, consider using the opportunity to teach him some basic stress management strategies: Take deep breaths; visual a soothing, restful place; Go on a bike ride or walk.
The vast majority of kids (and parents!) make it through testing season just fine and chances are you (and I!) will, too. If you are concerned that your child’s worry seems more intense than normal, or it doesn’t resolve after the tests are over, you might consider meeting with a psychologist. Read more about whether therapy is needed here.
*This post first published March 2015*