Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Frustrated Child: When Imperfection Becomes a Catalyst for Behavioral Challenges

I started writing this article for a friend who was seeing her first grader act out in a way that was not in his character. She asked me if I had any tips and tricks on how to help him get through those moments when he is trying to learn how to write but cannot seem to get it completed the way he thinks it should be done. I can relate. I deal with these battles every day with my child and have had to become quite resourceful on how to diffuse the situation and stop it from becoming an even bigger issue.

If your child gets easily frustrated with herself over tying her shoes, drawing a triangle, making animals out of playdough - whatever the activity may be - I have a few tricks up my sleeve to make things a bit easier. Here are 8 kid-friendly ways to help your child go from frustrated to confident.

1. Make sure the task is age-appropriate. Children can get easily frustrated when something is too hard for them. If your son sits down to write a sentence but gets upset because it doesn't look the way he wants it to, make it one step easier. Instead of using pencils, pens and crayons, get him one of those dry erase boards with the lines already on them. This will give him an exact place to write his words and he can simply erase any mistakes he makes along the way. When he's ready, move him on to pencil and paper.

2. Build her confidence. Children typically want to please their parents. Don't wait until your daughter is excelling at her homework to tell her she's doing a good job. Make a big deal about her progress even when she's just doodling or doing something just for fun. Start instilling in her the self-confidence that she is capable of the task at hand. Encourage her and show her by example that her drawings and writing will get better over time.

3. Make it fun. I remember writing in those small blue books in school. I'm talking about the light blue, flimsy, white-lined books that you took some sort of awful test in. Some children need visual stimulation to get their brains going. Let your child decorate his notebook with action hero stickers. Encourage him to write a few sentences about what Superman is doing in the picture. Replace random words like pencil, kite, kitten or ball with cheap stickers you can pick up at the store. I see this done in elementary-aged books all the time. A sentence might look something like this: "I went to the [put a picture of a grocery store here] with my mom today."

4. If your child is encouraged by rewards, go ahead and have a stash of her favorite candy, chapstick or any other small item that will get her working towards her goal. Maybe it is a bigger reward that she cannot see yet. Tell her after she works on writing complete sentences for one week, she can go to the store and pick out a toy. Learning can be hard and challenging sometimes. Change it up and give your daughter something tangible to look forward to.

5. Get on their level. Something that has always worked with my children, hands-down, whether they are sad, mad, frustrated or scared is when I say, "I felt that way too when I was your age." Or, "Yeah, I understand why you feel that way. I remember when I had to learn that in school and it was really tough for me." This always opens the door for communication because your child will inevitably say, "You had to do this too? When you were my age?" Kids have no concept of their age and your age. Remind them that you know exactly what they are feeling because you experienced it too.

6. Take a timeout. No, I don't mean put your child in time out. Learning should be fun, not discouraging. If your child is getting upset over things that are out of his control, take a break from the activity and do something else. Get a drink of water, have a snack, run a lap around the house, pull out the rice bin and take a mental break from the assignment. Kids get overwhelmed with information just like adults do. Sometimes they just need a break.

7. Redirect their behavior. If your child has been acting out (think yelling, being defiant, rude, bothered, unmotivated, etc.) by all means, let him know that the way he is behaving is unacceptable. Explain that everyone gets overwhelmed at times but it's not okay to act out in a way that affects the family dynamics. This is going to happen. It just will. Kids are still learning how to control their emotions  and since everyone is born with their own temperament, this will look different from child to child.

8. A mood chart. This is a tool I have used over and over again with my kids. You know those silly looking smiley face charts you see in your pediatrician's office? The ones that say, "Rate your pain" and have a happy face with the number one all the way up to a sad face with the number ten. Yeah, make one of those. Most children do not know how to express what they are feeling. Teach them what it means to be upset, angry, frustrated, tired, mad, angry and bored. Keep this chart handy the next time your child is doing her homework and ask her to show you what she's feeling. Once you understand why she is feeling that way, validate it and move on.

Hang in there. Your child will get through this phase in their life and things won't always be a battle. The older they get, the easier it will be for them to channel their feelings in a more productive way. Revisit the writing activity with these steps and you will see immediate success.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sensory Rice Bin

The first thing I give my son when he gets home from school is his rice bin. This is a great sensory activity for children with Sensory Processing Disorder because it has such a calming effect on the brain. Putting one together is really, quite easy. Follow these 5 simple steps:

1. Head to the dollar store and pick up a plastic shoe box.

2. Buy a large bag of rice.

3. Let your child pick out a few cheap trinket-like toys to hide in his rice bin.

4. Dump the rice in the bin. Dump the toys in the bin. Let your child play. Volia! Sensory Rice Bin for your child.

5. To keep this sensory activity up-to-date, let your child pick out new toys from time to time to hide in the rice. Be sure to keep a lid on the bin once your child is done playing.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Invest in Yourself: How I Started

Good Morning! I've been getting a lot of questions lately about when I do my writing. Specifically, "How do you have time to write and build your platform with little kids at home?" Well, I'd be happy to share my secrets with you.

From reading my 'About' page on my website, you know that I have always loved to write so finding the time is really about priorities. Sure, when I had my first baby, I was still figuring out how to function on a daily basis but three kids later - I've got this down pat.

I was reading a magazine one day while I was nursing my son and came across someone's review of a book called, Writer Mama by Christina Katz. I went to my local library and checked it out. That book was the catalyst for teaching me how to continue writing (for profit) while raising my son. That book was so helpful that I decided to take classes with the author online. Fast-forward six years later and I am still working with her.

So, to answer your question, I find time to write by continuing to invest in my craft. The more I sharpen my skills as a writer - the more I want to write. The more I write - the more money I make. Simply put, you make time for what's important.

As I begin this exciting journey of website building, manuscript writing and public speaking, I can't help but get excited at the idea of reaching millions of women across the world and empowering them to be the best version of themselves.

This might look different for each woman. That's okay. My writing coach told me that time is my friend and not my enemy. So what's your dream? Are you pursuing it?

Invest in yourself and do what you love.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Integrating Special Needs Families within the Church: 5 Simple Steps that Helped Me

Today was a day of many firsts. I networked with my children's pastors from church to talk about ways to integrate special needs families within the church. How do we make families feel more comfortable? How do we share our resources? I was pleasantly surprised to hear that our church has access to sensory toys and has accommodated several children with special needs. I think this is a great thing. All we want is to feel 'normal' and fit in with everyone else. However, I think there is a negative connotation when it comes to the term special needs. Why is that?

Well, I think it's because we don't really know how to define special needs. If a child has a behavioral disorder - is he or she considered special needs? Or is that term only coined for those who have physical disorders that we can see? I mentioned on my web page that I didn't even know I had a child who was considered special needs until I was talking on the phone with a friend. I remember what happened after that phone call - clear as day. I thought, huh, why did she say that?

I took my question to one of our pediatric doctors and asked him what he thought. Does my child have special needs and I just didn't know it? His response to me was something that helped me process and make my own decision. He said, "I think any child who has special circumstances or needs some sort of additional help to allow them to succeed or function in certain settings/environments would be someone who we would consider to have special needs. Literally, what it says...this child has special needs in order to learn and behave the way he or she is supposed to."

Okay, that helps. It sucks. But it helps. It's helped me be more patient. It's helped me see things more clearly. And I think it's helped me be a better mom. When I know better, I do better. So back to my original question, how do we integrate special needs families within the church? Here's what I think based on my own experiences:

1. If you're looking for a church, get online and listen to a few different sermons. Is the pastor engaging? Is he saying something in a way that gets you excited about the Bible?

2. Once you've picked a church you want to visit, drop your children off in their rooms. When service is over and you've picked them up, check in with your children about how it went. There's no need to point out what this person has or that person has unless you feel like your child would benefit from their teacher having that specific information. I will say this, I don't walk into a room and announce that my son has XY and Z. But I do keep my eyes and ears open. What I mean by this is, if a teacher says something to me about something that may have happened, that's my opening to say, okay, yes, I'd like to talk with you for a few minutes about this. And then go on with whatever it is that you want to say about what would help your child in the future. This is a great opportunity for open dialogue between you and the children's pastor.

3. In my experience, most families don't want to talk about their child who has special needs. Often times, it was hard enough for them to just show up, in one piece, to attend church. They live the hard times every day and want church to be a place of rest for them. It's a place to recharge. Unless there is blood, or some sort of emergency, don't bother the parents in service. They need a break. On the flipside, if you have a child in the nursery who won't stop screaming, then by all means, bring it to the parents' attention and ask them what you can do to help. You can't make someone tell you what's going on with their child but you can show concern, empathy and sympathy for a situation that looks like it might need some prayer.

4. Small groups are a tough thing for me. I love the idea of small groups and up until just recently, it wasn't something our family could continue to do based on our situation. I've noticed that churches group people in common themes for small groups (young adults, 50+, singles, etc.) Offer a special needs group if you think there's a need for it, or if you don't want to call that much attention to it, make a group that provides childcare so the parents don't have to worry about watching their children while they're fellowshipping. Some families can fellowship alongside their children. But some families are in the thick of it and are getting diagnosis, medications, you name it...and just need some space from their kids. They need to feel like people again. For us, church was the only time when we could have time alone - away from our kids - and know that they were in the same building being well taken care of. So, I'm sure this is true for many other families. Church might be their only time together, to reconnect.

5. Acceptance. I think this goes without saying but we just want to feel accepted. What does this look like? This is, saying hello to every member of the family. This is smiling. This is encouraging and praying for the family. This is reaching out to the family and inviting them to something. I was just telling a friend today that it's been six years that I've been hearing the same message, "We have elders in the back and the front who are ready to pray for you and with you." And I still haven't had the courage to get up there and say, "Yes, I need prayer for my family." So, I know there is only so much that a church can do to extend their help - especially when the family chooses not to share it. But, keep asking, because one day, that family will say something and it will be life-changing for them.

xoxo Meagan

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Hi! Welcome to my writing area. I started this blog almost seven years ago when I had my first baby and now I'm back, ready to share with you what has happened during all that time.

This will be a place where you can come and read about what my days are like with a child who has special needs. Dylan will be seven this December and it's been a long road for the both of us. I've decided to go public with our struggles in the hopes of helping other families going through similar issues.

The things I share with you will be honest, and hard to read at times. This is the messy stuff. The growing pains and the drop-to-your-knees kind of confessions about parenting a strong-willed child. Please don't judge. Just join in me celebrating the reality that I've made it this far with my son!

I am not a medical professional, therapist or licensed health practitioner, but I am a mom of three children and I know a thing or two about what works and doesn't work. I'm happy to just listen, or possibly share my two cents if you have questions about what your walk looks like with your child.

Wherever you are in your parenting journey, know that you are the right parent for your child. You can do this!

 xoxo Meagan