Category Archives: From the Real Experts at NYU

April is Autism Awareness Month

autismimageApril is Autism Awareness month as many organizations such as Autism Speaks and Autism Society promote awareness and acceptance of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is the fastest growing developmental disorder and now affects about 1 in 68 children (according to Autism Science Foundation). Considering this prevalence, ASD likely affects a family you know or your child knows. This is why Kidz Central Station is committed to helping educate our parents and community about both the challenges and the joys of children with Autism.

The Quad Manhattan is a top NYC school for children with learning differences. Teachers and clinicians work with students both one-on-one and in small groups to allow kids to move at their own pace of learning. Quad Manhattan offers a six-week summer camp for children ages 5+. Enroll in a free open house to learn more.

Music for Autism hosts FREE concerts for kids with autism and their friends, family, and loved ones. The Kidz Central team attended the March event and came away with a new appreciation for music in a loving and interactive setting. Our kids especially enjoyed dancing and playing instruments along with the music, as well as the tasty snacks. Two April events are upcoming in Park Slope and Manhattan.

Our partner NYU Child Study Center, a part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, offers many well-researched and FREE webinars for our parents on a range of helpful topics, including strategies for helping kids with social anxiety, safety awareness for kids with ASD, medication management for ADHD, or dating with ASD.

Please join Kidz Central Station this month and throughout the year by promoting understanding and acceptance of all of our children! Take a class, participate in a walk, donate, educate yourself with a webinar, or just spend time with someone with Autism.

Rewarding Kids for Good Behavior: A Bad Idea? (Part 1 of 2)

Close Up Of Girl Eating Iced Donut


This is the first post of a two-part series that aims to provide information to parents about rewards and how to use them strategically and systematically to teach children skills and modify behaviors.

Most parents have found themselves uttering something to the extent of, “If you are good, I’ll buy you a piece of candy,” at one point or another.  Although rewarding appropriate behaviors can help modify behavior over time, parent concerns about rewarding and incorrect use of rewards often get in the way.

Frequently, parent concerns center on the principle of rewards. Common concerns along with considerations for these concerns include:

“I don’t want to reward my child for something he/she should be doing.” This concern often arises when there is a mismatch between parent expectations and the reality of child behavior. While this can happen for a number of reasons, parents ultimately have a choice here of accepting the behavior as is or working to change the behavior over time. For instance a parent whose 3 year old tantrums in stores when she is told no could simply accept the tantrums as the reality of shopping with a young child. However, most parents will be compelled to either try things in the moment that may make the behavior worse or avoid stores with the toddler, which does not teach the skill of staying calm and listening in these settings. Rewards used strategically can help turn a behavior that a child is not doing but “should be” into a routine habit.

“My child will become dependent on rewards.” This concern revolves around the idea that a child will need rewards in order to do anything and may even refuse tasks in absence of a reward. Here, it’s important to remember that rewards help facilitate skills and change habits over time. Once habits are formed, rewards are no longer necessary. Many parents have experience with this if they used small prizes for toilet training and can chuckle at the absurdity of giving their teenager M&Ms for using the potty. It is true that some children try to negotiate for rewards once they understand how rewards work. Negotiation can be reduced by having a clear and specific reward plan in place from the beginning.

“Rewards ruin a child’s intrinsic motivation.” This concern comes from research on rewarding and motivation. Findings from this research have fueled a backlash against incentive systems. When considering rewards for your child, it’s important to remember that there are more details to these studies that have been overlooked at times. Specifically, one of the major studies examined motivation for tasks that were enjoyable to participants before they were rewarded. If you are considering rewards for your child, there’s a good chance that your child does not find the task enjoyable and motivating on its own.

“Rewards are unnatural and not the way the world works.” Some parents worry that rewards do not prepare children for adulthood. While there are a number of examples of rewards in everyday life including working for a paycheck, another consideration here is that the use of rewards to form positive habits in childhood helps increase the likelihood of success in adulthood.

“Reward systems don’t work.” Parents will often say that they’ve tried rewards and they don’t work.

Stay tuned for our second post on rewarding kids for good behavior, which will discuss tips to help you use incentives effectively to address problem behaviors.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Stephanie M. Wagner, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. She serves as the co-director of the Early Childhood Clinical Service at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.

How to Support Your Transgender or Gender Expansive Child

transGender is not as simple as boy or girl and is composed of many parts. A child’s sex assigned at birth is an assignment or classification given to an infant based on physical anatomy. Gender identity is an individual’s sense of being male, female, neither, both, or other genders. For many individuals, their sex assigned at birth and gender identity match (i.e. they are cisgender). For other individuals, sex assigned at birth and gender identity do not match (i.e. they are transgender or gender expansive).

Transgender and gender expansive youth face a number of challenges in the community due to stigma and discrimination. They are at high risk for mental health issues including suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression when they are not supported in their identities.

Here are some suggestions to help parents and caregivers best support their transgender and gender expansive youth. Regardless of where your family is on the gender journey, these ideas can help you provide the most supportive environment for your child.

1. Listen, validate, and accept: Parental acceptance is the single largest protective factor for transgender and gender expansive youth. Youth who have support from their families have similar mental health rates and diagnoses when compared to cisgender peers. Provide a space for your child to have open conversations. Ask open ended questions like: “How do you describe your gender?” or “What does gender mean to you?” Follow your child’s lead and provide a supportive stance. Use the name and pronouns that your child prefers.

2. Find support for your child (if needed): Your child might feel like they would like support from the community or from mental health providers, though it is certainly not required. If they do, look for clinicians who provide gender affirmative care. You might want to find a team of gender affirming providers including primary care, psychology, and endocrinology if your child is medically transitioning.

3. Require respect within the family and promote pride in your child’s gender identity: Always promote that family members and friends use preferred name and pronouns for your child. Celebrate your child’s identity and encourage others to do so.

4. Advocate: Transgender and gender expansive youth have a number of different challenges that they face on a day to day basis. For example, these children and teens might not know how to talk to their school about their preferred name and pronouns, what restroom to use, or how to correct someone who is misgendering them. Parents can play a huge role in helping advocate for their child by talking to the school administration or becoming more involved within the transgender community. Learn as much as you can through reading and take part in advocacy groups.

5. Find support for you: It is normal for parents to have their own emotional processes around their child coming out as transgender or gender expansive. It is important for parents to find their own support if they feel as though they are struggling with their own reactions. Parents can join support groups aimed towards parents or confide in friends and family.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Samantha Busa, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. She sees patients for evaluations, individual therapy, and group therapy as part of the Gender & Sexuality Service  at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone. She also conducts individual and group therapy for anxiety disorders, mood disorders, tics and Tourette disorder, trichotillomania and body-focused repetitive behaviors, and school refusal using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy, and habit reversal training.

Top Flu Facts to Keep Your Child Healthy This Winter

faverAs a pediatrician in a busy New York City practice, I have been asked lot of questions from concerned parents about how bad this year’s flu season has been. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I’ve been asked this flu season.

Why should I bother with the vaccine if it’s not effective?
While there have been a lot of headlines about how this year’s vaccine is not that effective, it is still a good idea to get vaccinated—while the vaccine is certainly not 100% effective, we still recommend parents vaccinate their children (and get the vaccine themselves!).  The latest midseason estimates by the CDC show that the vaccine is about 36% effective overall (25% effective against influenza A H3N2 virus strain – which is the most commonly circulating and virulent strain this season so far, 67% effective against influenza A H1N1, and 42% effective against influenza B virus strains). Among children aged 6 months to 8 years, the flu vaccine reduces the risk of seeking medical attention because of the flu by more than half – about 59%! Even if your child contracts the influenza virus after having received the flu vaccine, the severity of your child’s illness will likely be decreased. Additionally, the side effects of the vaccine are very minimal and significant adverse events are exceedingly rare, so the benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh the risks.

Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?
No, the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. The vaccine that is administered this season is the inactivated flu vaccine, which contains virus particles that have been altered such that it is impossible for them to cause infection. Generally, the vaccine may at most cause a low-grade fever, headache, nausea, or soreness at the site of injection. Remember that it is still possible to get the flu even after having received the vaccine, but it would likely be less severe. Also, keep in mind that we tend to administer the flu vaccine in fall or winter months when other viruses are already circulating so it is entirely plausible to fall sick with another virus shortly after receiving the flu vaccine.

Is it too late to get the vaccine now?
The earlier you get the flu vaccine the better, but I would still encourage anyone to get it now, especially as we are seeing such a high incidence of the flu. The flu season is likely to last several more weeks at least. The flu vaccine is one of the only ways to help reduce your risk of contracting influenza and spreading it to others. Keep in mind that it takes about 2 weeks after receiving the vaccine for your body to generate antibodies to help protect yourself from the flu virus.

I see in the news that people are dying of the flu—how worried should I be?
Influenza is a viral illness that can and does cause severe complications and possibly death in some patients every year. However, it is important to remember that most people who contract the flu develop relatively mild illness and recover fully within one to two weeks. There are certain individuals who are at high risk for developing influenza-related complications. These people include children under the age of 5 years (and especially under the age of 2 years), adults aged 65 years and older, pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals, and those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or kidney disease. That being said, there are ways to help protect yourself and your loved ones. Firstly, get the flu vaccine every year and encourage your friends and family to do the same. This is one of the most important steps in protecting yourself and your child from influenza-related complications. Secondly, practice good hand hygiene and avoid contact with anyone who might be sick. Thirdly, if your child does get sick with flu-like symptoms, please be proactive and bring your child in to be evaluated as soon as possible – there are things that we as doctors can do to help. Ask your child’s pediatrician if your child would benefit from antiviral treatment for the flu.

Should I avoid taking my child to the pediatrician, with so many sick kids in the waiting room?
In general, most practices have a way to isolate people who are sick and sanitize waiting areas and exam rooms. For children who have fever and/or cough, we offer medical masks for them to wear if they are able when they check in. If you’re setting up a well appointment for your child, I’d recommend you see if there is a time of day to come when there aren’t as many people in the waiting area, to minimize flu exposure. That’s especially important for small infants or newborns—I’d suggest coming in first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. You shouldn’t skip it altogether though; it’s still a good idea to see your doctor whenever you or your child needs to.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Madhavi Kapoor, MD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, and a pediatrician at NYU Langone at Trinity.

Teach Your Kids How to Win (and Lose) Like an Olympian

learn-to-skate-429537_1920Starting next week, viewers around the world will turn their attention to Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. If your children are watching the Games, they may aspire to compete themselves one day. If they haven’t already shown interest, your kids may suddenly want to try their hand at bobsledding, skiing, or skating.

There is a lot of conflicting data about competitive activities for children, but for the most part experts agree: it’s not about the competition itself, but about the values placed upon it.

Let your children try a variety of activities. Today’s kids have many specialty and school teams available, but focusing on a single activity too soon can lead to burn out and injuries. Even if they start out loving basketball, have them try baseball or dance or swimming, too. Young bodies shouldn’t repeat the same intense movements over and over; they should move in a variety of ways while they grow.

Don’t protect your kids from failure. The value of losing is a concept many of us struggle with even as adults, so start now helping your kids become comfortable with it. We’ve learned that children afraid of losing will quickly cease trying to challenge themselves. Instead they’ll “stick with what they know,” and only aim for goals they know they can achieve. Growth happens when children aren’t afraid to try something challenging just because they might fail.

Teach your children to value effort, responsibility, kindness, and discipline, rather than “talent” or “skill.” When a player on the other team scores, remind your child to celebrate his effort. When a member of the relay team lags behind, have your child thank her for never giving up.

You might ask, how do I do that? How do I acknowledge my child’s efforts without focusing on the win? What if my kid loses or gets embarrassed? We enroll our kids in activities so they’ll have fun, be active, and socialize, but if we aren’t careful, kids often end up playing to please their parents. Instead of celebrating their own tenacity and drive, kids begin to expect our celebration of them—and to be devastated when they don’t get it.

There are two types of praise that you can give your children. The first is called person-centered praise and includes phrases such as “you’re so smart!” or “you’re a good kid!” This type of praise places emphasis on traits that are assumed to be inherent and concrete—you are either smart, or you are not. You are a good athlete, or you are not. It does not leave room for skill-building, second-place trophies, or a failed exam.

These trait-based compliments become internalized by our kids, especially at a young age. Any result that doesn’t support the internalized narrative—say, a lost race—leaves kids questioning their inherent worthiness. (Am I a terrible athlete because I didn’t win?) This damages their sense of self-worth and creates a heightened sense of vulnerability. In short, kids who receive mostly person-centered praise are terrified of failure because failing might mean they really aren’t [smart/talented/an athlete/an artist]. So stop telling your kids how great they are!

Wait, what? Yep! Science tells us to stop with all of the “person praise” and switch to what we call process praise. It takes some time to develop this skill, but the results are invaluable. To do it:
1. Praise the strategy (e.g., “You found a creative solution to that problem even when you felt frustrated.”)
2. Praise with specificity (e.g., “I noticed you were very careful when you carried your friend’s bag to the car.”)
3. Praise the effort (e.g., “I can tell you’ve been practicing your leaps and turns!”)

With process praise, neither the trait (goodness, talent, intelligence, etc.) nor the outcome (a winning game or the aesthetics of the painting) are mentioned. With process praise kids learn that a terrible game doesn’t mean “I’m a bad athlete,” it means, “I tried really hard but I didn’t practice last week – how can I try differently?”

Remember, most of your children won’t ever compete at the highest level of sport, and even if they do, they won’t be able to do it forever. The values you instill in them now will long outlast their ability to play.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Hayley Adkisson, LCSW, is the senior social worker for the Divisions of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Rheumatology, Nephrology, and Infectious Disease at the Fink Children’s Ambulatory Care Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone. She also serves as a clinical social worker for NYU Langone’s Adolescent Gender Clinic and NYU Langone’s Pediatric Celiac Disease and Gluten-Related Disorders Program. Ms. Adkisson specializes in adolescent medicine, chronic illness, survivorship of sexual trauma, and mood disorders.

Baby Bonding Basics: How New Dads Can Jumpstart Their Baby Bond

baby-dadIt’s not unusual for new fathers to feel nervous that they aren’t bonding with their baby. Moms generally have biology on their side for the process of bonding and feeling attached to their newborns—first, they’ve had nine months of pregnancy to begin that process as they share one body. Then through birth, skin to skin contact, breastfeeding, and the sensitive dance of learning to respond to baby’s cues, mom and baby nurture that bond outside the womb. Dads may also have different messages from society or their own experiences that make their early involvement feel less important or less skilled than new moms, and this frame of mind is kind of self-fulfilling.

If a dad is having a hard time feeling the love for a tiny stranger, there are a couple of things that are likely to help. The first is, don’t beat yourself up about it and remember there isn’t just one way to be a great dad; bonds will form and grow and strain many times over the course of your child’s development. Be patient.

The second is, get to know your baby and put in the time you would to grow any new relationship. Here are some helpful tips on how to do that:

•Spend skin to skin time, what is referred to as “kangaroo care,” with your infant. There are numerous positive benefits to your infant’s health and biological regulation, and the tender moments with that little one on your chest will make sweet memories for you too.
•Start having those heart to hearts with the baby, even when he can’t talk back. Talking to infants stimulates their language development; the more infants hear and connect to the world around them, the better off their vocabulary, social skills, and cognitive development will be. Do this with face to face chats, and narrative play by plays as you go about your day with baby.
•Be proactive in asking your partner how you can divide up baby care responsibilities. There is a lot of attention right now on mothers feeling the weight of “mental load” in the family. New parents can try to avoid some of this uneven burden by working out a system for communicating needs and day to day responsibilities. Give yourself room to make your own approach to feeding or playing instead of feeling (or getting the message) that you have to do it just like mom.
•Do something you enjoy and find a way to incorporate your baby. For many dads, quality time can be taking a walk with baby in the carrier and telling him or her about your favorite spots. Maybe you can introduce baby to your love of cooking, or music. Sharing experiences and finding alone time to bond are helpful even when infants cannot yet respond as interactively.
•If it can be done in your family, take on some of the feedings to give your partner a break and let you in on the close contact as your baby eats. If not, try sitting with your partner during some feedings and provide moral support, a neck rub, or extra set of hands.

Bonding sets the stage for a secure attachment, one that is warm and responsive. For both moms and dads (and caregivers in any arrangement), a secure attachment that is formed in the first year or two of development helps promote a worldview for the infant that people can be trusted, the world is a place to explore and enjoy, gives them more confidence, and a host of benefits for social and cognitive development.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Lauren Knickerbocker, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. Dr. Knickerbocker specializes in treating selective mutism and anxiety in young children, ADHD and difficulties with organization and time management, disruptive behaviors, and parent management training. She is also the co-director of Early Childhood Service at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center, a part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital.

Holiday Help for Picky Kids

snacksPicky eating can be a huge stressor for parents and children alike throughout the year, but it may be particularly pronounced during the holiday season, especially when you’re around relatives who are overly zealous in their advice giving.

Here are 5 tips to get you through the next holiday party with minimal meltdown:

Model healthy eating. While you may not be able to control exactly what your kids are willing to eat, be open to trying new foods yourself! Remarking on your feelings as you scoop an unfamiliar vegetable dish onto your plate, then commenting on the different flavors, can help to reinforce your child’s openness to trying something new, without overtly targeting his or her behavior.

Tell stories. The holiday season is always a time for reflection, and food stories should be no exception. Kids love hearing about their parents’ and relatives’ childhood. Thinking back on stories of your own picky eating – with subsequent discovery of how delicious that food actually tastes – will help to encourage children to create their own narrative. Fun stories about cooking disasters or competitions in the past can also bring a light-hearted mood to food and mealtimes.

Maintain your routine. Parents will often prepare a separate meal for their picky eaters before attending a holiday meal to avoid the food struggle. This may be useful, but it can also backfire and throw your child off their usual eating schedule, leading them to be hungrier later at the party, loading up on the dessert table, and sugar crashing later in the evening. Encourage your child to survey the food options and seek out 1 or 2 items that he or she would be willing to eat. Gently remind them that this is dinner time, and if they don’t eat now they may feel hungry before bed. Even if your child only picks crackers and bread, these are healthier (and reinforce socially healthy behavior of eating with the group!) than skipping dinner and choosing 4 cookies with a slice of cake when the desserts roll out.

Avoid using dessert as a reward. Urging your child to take three bites of broccoli so that they can “earn” dessert sets the foundation for an unhealthy relationship with food. Offer a few choices to your child, particularly foods that they have accepted in the past, and then move on. Remember Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility – as the parent you are responsible for the “what” and “when,” children are responsible for “how much” and “whether” or not they will eat. Dessert may not always be an appropriate option to offer, and that’s okay too!

Mealtimes should not be a battlefield. Ultimately bargaining, cajoling and feeling frustrated with your child’s picky eating may take away from the spirit of the season. Remind your child (and yourself!) that family traditions and holiday parties are more about conversation and connecting with friends and relatives. Food and family meals are a vehicle to facilitate coming together, but shouldn’t overshadow holiday celebrations.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Bridget Murphy, MS, RDN, CDE, CDN is a registered dietitian and clinical nutritionist at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.

Tis the Season to Be Healthy: A Guide to Keeping Your Child Safe & Healthy This Holiday Season

cookies-xmasWith the holiday season upon us, here are some important tips to think about for a safe and healthy holiday season.

Check with your pediatrician to make sure your child has received his or her flu shot for the 2017-2018 season.

Keep in mind age appropriate gifts and toys. Games and toys with small parts or batteries should not be gifted to children under three since they are choking hazards.  You may even want to consider the ages of siblings in the house, since there is a good chance that a new crawler or walker could easily get ahold of an older siblings’ new toy.

Decorate safely. If you have a live tree, place it away from fireplaces and heaters, and keep a fire extinguisher close by. Live trees are highly flammable, so don’t forget to keep it hydrated as well.  If you do buy an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled “fire resistant.” Fire-resistant trees are less susceptible to catching fire.  Also, if you have little ones at home, it is important to place all glass ornaments out of reach and secure the tree so it will not topple over if pulled on. Lastly, turn off all lights when you go to bed and before leaving the house to avoid a short that could start an electrical fire.

Celebrate safely. Keep candles on a sturdy base to prevent tipping. Never leave a lit candle unattended.

Continue a healthy sleep schedule. Kids often have slightly altered sleep schedules during the holidays due to vacation and other factors. It is best to continue a sleep schedule as close to their typical routine as possible so that they get an adequate amount of sleep each night.  This will ensure an easy transition back to school when vacation is over.

Keep an eye on the number of holiday treats. It is very easy to get carried away with the number of holiday goodies that kids consume during the next couple weeks.  While some indulging is to be expected, it is important that they still strive for a healthy and balanced diet each day.  Encourage a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the day prior to indulging in an extra piece of chocolate or two!

Get up and move around!  Of course it’s cold out, and we’re all so busy, which can make it a little trickier to fit in our daily exercise at this time of the year.  Now’s the time to get creative with exercise! Have a holiday music dance party, bundle up and get outside for a walk in the snow, or just play a game of Simon Says! Even 30 minutes a day has been proven to improve your cardiovascular health.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Lauren Kupersmith, MD, is a clinical instructor in the Department of Pediatrics at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone and a pediatrician at NYU Langone Huntington Medical Group.

Stranger = Danger…Except for Santa Claus!

santa-blogKids love Santa! He brings them toys, and has great songs and stories that they want to hear over and over. Children often enthusiastically agree to visit Santa to tell him about their Christmas lists. But parents are then confronted with the dilemma of taking said kids to visit Santa only to have the same enthusiasm replaced with tears. There is no shortage of images on the web of children dressed in their holiday best, howling on Santa’s lap with outstretched arms toward a parent who has abandoned them just out of frame. I also remember being wary of a man entering our house unnoticed as a child, even if he was bringing presents. Here are a few tips for parents who want to help their children enjoy this holiday tradition and maybe even ace that holiday photo.

First, recognize that stranger anxiety is a healthy and expected developmental phase for young children. Toddlers and preschoolers are most likely to fear a visit to Santa. As familiar as the character of Santa becomes for young children through stories, images, and songs it still feels jarring to go up to a large man with a face-covering beard, in a loud red costume, and sit on his lap to have a heart to heart. Try to give your child more control in the situation. You can do this by letting them bring a lovey, decide whether they will speak or not, watch older siblings or friends go first, or letting them walk up to Santa and decide if they want to sit or stand.

Second, let your child know what to expect in advance and give them an out at any time. You can even do this by acting it out with your child during play at home. If your child does not feel overwhelmed by the novelty of the situation, he or she is more likely to handle the experience with less fear. The additional control and trust that is established if your child knows he or she can opt out of the Santa meet and greet at any time will also promote bravery and comfort.

Third, approach the event with your own anxiety in check. If you are worried about how your child will react, if it will go well, or if your child will be polite, that worry will register to your child and make them feel there is something to worry about. For example, if you follow the advice above and give your child an out, mention it but do not repeat it with pressured speech every time the line advances forward. After the 5th repetition of “we don’t have to do this if you aren’t ready,” your child will imagine terrible things they SHOULD opt out of at the front of the line and take your cue. Be relaxed, supportive, upbeat and open to hearing what your child is feeling. If you can take the pressure off your child will be more likely to enjoy him or herself.

Finally, don’t sweat it if your child gets upset when the moment arrives. Usually the fear of Santa disappears as children enter elementary school age with no lasting scars of Christmas’ past. And it’s nothing that can’t be soothed with a hug from you and perhaps a hot chocolate on the way home.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Lauren Knickerbocker, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. Dr. Knickerbocker specializes in treating selective mutism and anxiety in young children, ADHD and difficulties with organization and time management, disruptive behaviors, and parent management training. She is also the co-director of Early Childhood Service at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center, a part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital.

How ‘Slow Parenting’ Can Help Your Family

slowAs a parent, I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard, “Cherish these moments, children grow up way too quickly.” It’s true. I feel like it was just yesterday that my soon-to-be two-year-old was barely crawling. Yesterday he climbed a full set of stairs alone. I’m sure many of you reading this post can relate.

Today, many families are on a schedule from morning until bedtime, trying to get our children out the door, scrambling to meet job demands, ferrying our kids from one extracurricular activity to the next, grabbing dinner on the run, and squeezing in extra study or practice time. We thoughtfully program many aspects of our children’s lives in hope of giving them every opportunity we think can give them a leg up.

It’s no wonder many of us feel the end of the day comes way too soon and like life is just rushing by. Sound familiar? If so, it may be time to try a “slow parenting” approach to family life. Slow parenting embraces the idea of consciously pausing this constant motion and taking time to relish the special moments that might otherwise pass us by when we overschedule ourselves and our kids.

For example, I recently realized that I was trying to get my curious four-and-a-half-year-old from one activity to the next too fast. As we were heading out for ballet class one day, she said, “Mom, look at this bug on the floor! It’s so interesting. It’s crawling and falling over!” Normally, I would have rushed her out the door, but, with slow parenting in mind, I decided to stop and see what she was talking about, even if it made us late. We sat on the ground for 10 minutes examining this bug together. My daughter had a lot to say about it as she imagined different scenarios. This time together created a memory more special than watching her through a little glass window while she practiced ballet. We still talk about it, and a scrapbook now holds a picture I took of her with the bug.

Slowing down creates space for relaxation and quiet time, something children’s developing brains need to make sense of the world and integrate new information they learn every day. It also gives parents a chance to be mindful of and appreciate some of our kids’ more subtle developmental milestones like problem-solving and conversational skills. And, it gives us new snapshots of time that would have otherwise been ignored and swallowed up by more pressing demands.

Here are some ideas to help you get started with slow parenting:

1. Limit your children’s recreational activities like ballet or soccer to one activity per season, rather than two or three.
2. Make an effort to have sit-down dinners or even cook together on certain days of the week.
3. Prepare for the next day together the night before. This will allow some practice around choices in the evening (e.g., “Which outfit would you like [choice A or choice B]?” or “What would you like as a snack in your lunchbox?”) and more “together time” in the morning, when you can read to your kids, sing a song together on the ride or walk to school, or talk about the day ahead.
4. Rather than cramming weekends with birthday parties and other scheduled activities, spend a plan-free weekend at home and see what happens. We sometimes forget that there is so much to do together in our own living rooms: play family games, read books, or just chat.
5. Instead of rushing from one activity to the next, pause and say, “We are going to skip karate today and take some time to go for a walk,” or, “We’re just going to sit together and play a game.”
6. In the evening, talk with your kids about how their day went. If a book was introduced at school, read it together at home. If a special event occurred in the news, bring it up and see what their thoughts are.
7. Sit outside at night and talk about the different sounds you hear. Quieting down can give rise to important topics that would not naturally come up during an over-scheduled day.
8. Talk to your kids about your own childhood when the pace of life was slower. Share challenges you faced, fun experiences you had, and how you spent your time. Then suggest some simple, “old-fashioned” outdoor playtime: jump rope, toss a ball, play hopscotch.
9. Dial down the technology: turn off the TV, put phones away during dinner, simply be together and talk. Today’s kids are often whizzes at digital devices, but may be uncomfortable socially because they have little practice with back-and-forth conversation.
10. Pause and pay attention while your children are engaged in a project. For instance, if they are drawing, see how they are making sense of that activity and just appreciate who they are at the present moment.
11. Take time to give a hug and receive one. Just breathe your children in.

Slow parenting allows time to connect with our kids in a different, more positive way, and gives us a chance to quiet ourselves and feel less stressed. Today is a great day to start making the most of your time by doing less—together.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Daniela Montalto, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center, a part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital. She is the Clinical Director of the Child Study Center’s Institute for Learning and Academic Achievement.