Kids, Appetite and Medication

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:

Talking to Kids About Weight

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:

ASK THE PSYCHOLOGIST

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:

Practicing Kindness and Generosity

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.

Ummmmm…

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Log into Facebook and check out what Produce for Kids and Feeding America are doing to help recent disaster relief efforts!

And once you do that, take a break this holiday season and spend some time with your family – maybe snacking on these little cuties?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the full recipe for these yummy Snowman Fruit Kebobs at Produce for Kids.

Happy Holidays!

Helping Kids Manage School Stress

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.

Photo Credit: National PTA

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:

 

Are You Worried About Your Teen’s Eating Habits?

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:

Are Work, School, Activities Getting In the Way of Your Life?

Is this what dinnertime looks like at your house? Yea, me neither…

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:

#PowerYourLunchbox – Teen Edition

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!

 

Standardized Tests – How to Help Kids Cope With the Pressure

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*

Preparing for a New Sibling

Several years ago – 6 to be exact – I got a call from a writer from Parenting Magazine.  She was working on a story about how to prepare older siblings for a new baby, and wondered if she might ask me some questions.  It was a fun interview – made even better because I had just found out I was expecting my third child. This meant I was trying to take my own advice at the same time I was giving it!

Anyway, this article has a special place in my heart because of the timing.  Check it out:

My favorite tip:

Who couldn’t use a gift?

 

Teaching Kids How To Love Their Bodies

How many of us love our bodies?

Not many.

But I think all of us would agree that we want the young people around us to love theirs.

Hmmmm….

I recently wrote an article over at Produce for Kids about how to model a healthy body image for our kids.  It’s actually easier than you might think to focus on all the things our bodies CAN do instead of what they CAN’T.  And it can be a fun challenge to talk about our bodies in terms of their FUNCTION (strong legs) instead of their LOOKS (flat stomach).  Check out the entire article, including all my healthy-role-model-tips here: