Dr. Steven Lazarus is an expert child psychologist and teen psychologist in Littleton, CO. This page is dedicated to giving parents different parenting strategies in their work with their children and teenagers.

How Your Smart Phone Steals Your Smarts

With just a few taps of your finger (or thumb!), you can access more information than most people throughout history could ever conceive of. Without ever having to leave your couch, you can browse the libraries of thousands of universities, communicate with experts on a million subjects, and check out the latest scientific research. But is your smart phone actually stealing your smarts? More and more people say that this is the case, and when it comes to your relationships and performance, that tiny computer in your pocket may be doing more damage than ever before. Read on to find out how your cell phone steals your brainpower, relationships with others, and more!

Concentration and Memory

Many people in today’s world report difficulty getting through a chapter of a book, or even a whole magazine article. Why? Because we are constantly dividing our concentration. The thought of spending 15 or 20 minutes on just one task is almost unheard of—after all, you could check social media, reply to a quick text, glance at the weather, see if the nannycam for the kids is showing any activity… after all, if your phone can keep all these apps open in the background, can’t your brain? The truth is, you can’t. Even the best multitaskers are pretty bad at multitasking, because the human brain only has a single “processor” built in. You may think you can do it all (at once), but if you notice that it is hard to stay focused, remember the details, or keep a good timeline, it may be because your brain is in the habit of only giving partial attention.

Relationships and Connection

Your smart phone isn’t just sapping your brainpower, it’s affecting your relationships. When you check your phone in the middle of conversation or engagement with others, you are saying “this phone/person/thing is more important to me than our conversation right now.” It sounds ugly, but it is true. Sometimes, it’s okay—if you check your phone a few times to make sure the kids are okay while out with a friend, this is a good thing—your children’s safety is more important than rehashing the latest gossip with your friend. But when it becomes a habit, think of the damage it can do. Your device may be breaking the bond  between you and your significant other. Where a high-powered CEO may look more important when he or she takes a call or replies to an email during a meeting, you would be right to start looking for a new therapist in Littleton if this happened during session! If you are checking messages, you are not listening actively , and you may find that friends and family even stop talking with you.

Finding Balance

Even the most technology-avoidant therapist in Highlands Ranch isn’t going to tell you to ditch your smart phone. But can you find a balance that works for you and the others who are important for your life? One way is to turn off those push notifications! They aren’t there to help you—they are almost always there to sell you something or remind you to “do” something—usually, buying something. They take away your power of choice and leave you as a passive consumer. Shut them off, or set limits on when you can be interrupted. When you are busy with a task or with family, consider the ultimate: shut the whole phone off! Even if only for an hour or two, notice the change you feel without the constant demands on your energy and attention.
For some people, technology goes behind normal use and escalates into addiction. If you are having problems putting your smart phone away or if you feel like your use is affecting your relationships or functioning, seek effective, evidence-based counseling in Highlands Ranch today!

 

 

Get Ready for Back To School Season with these Top Tips!

It seems like summer just got started, but for many kids and teens in Colorado, the back to school season is here! Going back to the “daily grind” after taking a few months off can be a challenge for everyone—after all, the days of sleeping in late, lounging in the pool, and planning epic multi-day sleepovers are likely gone for another season. However, getting your children ready for the best year possible at school is no small task. Many parents seek the expert help of a Littleton child behavior psychologist for tips on managing friendships, getting homework done, and handing behaviors. Read on to find out some great tips for every age!

The First Timers: Starting Kindergarten

If your child is starting school for the first time, get ready for an exciting time! Hopefully, you have already prepared your young child for the fun he or she is going to have at school! Most schools have programs to let new students meet their teachers or tour the school early, and these can be great anxiety reducers. Always be positive while talking about school with your little one, even if you are as nervous as they are! And make sure to drop off with a big smile—you’ll be there at the end of the day to see how they did! For children who are fearful to start school, working with a play therapist  in Littleton can help to introduce scary topics in a friendly, supportive way.

The Importance of Routine

For kindergarteners, middle school kids, and even graduate students, having a routine is key to success in school. There is so much to do, so much to remember, and so many opportunities for stress to break through! Often, when you work with a psychologist in Littleton, you will discuss household and family routines that can be modified or added to increase success. Routines help by making certain things like morning hygiene, after school homework, or cleanup time “automatic” and predictable.

Plan For Success

For parents of students who have been in school before, you may notice the same problems creeping in each year. Does your son always end up with a stack of missing assignments by conferences time? Is your daughter usually in a “major fight” with all her besties before the fall break? Make a plan for how this year will be different and see how it helps! This might involve getting your kid involved in creating an organization system  that works for them, scheduling regular play dates or hang out times with a true friend, or establishing clear parent-teacher communications. Don’t wait until the problems grow into disasters, tackle them early.

Don’t Forget the Fun!

Finally, remember that starting a new school year can be stressful for you and your child! In between the scheduling, planning, and studying, make room for rest and relaxation! Think of starting a new school year like starting a new job and it will be easy to understand why your child or teen just needs some time to “chill.” If you notice that your child never seems to have fun, has fears or worries that keep her from attending school, or if you just need some extra help, contact a teenage psychologist or children’s play therapist in Littleton to see results today!

 

 

Get To Know Your Animal Helpers

Get To Know Your Animal Helpers

Kids and animals seem to go together naturally. Just put a child in a room with a puppy, kitten, or turtle, and see how they open up and explore! Throughout human history, we have interacted closely with our four-legged friends for safety, companionship, and entertainment. In today’s world, some of the best child psychologists and teenage psychologists in Colorado know that animals can go a step further  for some teens and children who are struggling with mental health. Read on to find out the amazing ways that therapists and families use animals for emotional health!

The Service Dog

Perhaps the best-known type of helper animal is the service dog! From canine assistants to the blind, to dogs that can detect seizures and call 9-1-1, these animals have been trained for a specific, useful task that addresses a physical or mental health condition. These guys can be fun, but remember, they are working!

The Emotional Support Animal

An emotional support animal provides an important emotional service, such as being used as a coping tool or emotional support. However, these animals may not have been trained on specific task, and may “work” only for their “person.” While service animal is often a “must-have,” similar to a wheelchair for people with limited mobility, an emotional support animal is more like a best friend.

The Therapy Animal

Those who have visited with Dr. Lazarus and Zeke know how amazing a therapy animal can be! Like a service dog, official therapy dogs have had special training and know just how to behave in a therapy setting. Children and teens often struggle with intense conversations, and a soft, furry dog in an animal-assisted therapy setting can be a great ice breaker or stress-reliever. Therapy animals also work well for metaphors, such as helping a child understand the need to care for and care about others. When a child is making the difficult transition through the “tween” years,  animals can help to alleviate the constant tension and awkwardness.

The Family Pet

Last, but not least, the humble family pet deserves a place on this list! Sure, your family pet may growl at strangers, have accidents when the family goes out too long, or bark at inopportune times, but if they love you and you love them, any family pet can be a valuable part of a healthy life. Pets remind us to be gentle, to show love with exuberance (and slobber!), to care for those who need it, and to love unconditionally.

If you think your child or teen would benefit from animal-assisted therapy, don’t wait! Find a great teenage psychologist in Littleton today!

 

 

Are You the Only Solid Thing in Your Child’s Glass House?

Ever hear the saying “don’t throw stones in glass houses?” For many teens and pre-teens, life feels like a glass house. All day, they make sure their hair is perfect, they are acting “cool,” they are supportive and nice and happy about other people’s ideas… and then they come to treat you like dirt! Many parents seek out teenage psychologist services and child psychologists because it seems like they are stuck taking the brunt of their child’s anger. How can you make sense of this and bring things back to being respectful ? Read on to find out!

The “Glass House” of Teenage Social Life

Your daughter’s “BFFs” may be anything but—in fact, many girls especially report friendships that end quickly, rumors that spread like wildfire, and low tolerance of “unusual” behaviors by peers. They are like delicate china, the kind you bring out for company but know not to be too rough on, or they break. Your son may have different challenges, but relationships with boys are just as fraught with jealousy, displays of pride and power, teasing, alienation, and demands for social compliance. As much as kids need the influences of their peers at this age, these relationships are unstable at best. The slightest pressure could cause them to crumble.

The Indestructible Parent

On the other hand, as a parent, you get to be the reliable, sturdy, unbreakable part of your child’s life. Maybe you are a support beam in the center of that glass house, or a foam ball, or a pillow. Not glamorous, not flashy, and even when you’re thrown against the wall or filled with negativity… you survive. You’re strong, so strong that your child sees you as indestructible! “Clearly” (according to your child!) you can handle the anger, the outbursts, the name-calling. You are not another fragile relationship that must be wrapped in bubble wrap—you are so much more.

A Reality Check

Many people lash out at those closest to them for these very reasons. When you keep in mind that your teen is still growing and developing, it makes sense that they sometimes still think of you as “SuperMom” or “SuperDad” who “clearly” can’t be hurt by their child’s actions. But just like you had to teach your toddler that hitting hurts moms and dads, you need to help your teen to realize that even SuperParents can be hurt emotionally by their child’s words and actions. Help her talk through her feelings and what she is really upset about, or encourage him to vent  about stress and vulnerability with friends. Sharing your own emotional experience and suggesting coping skills can help your child to manage these feelings more effectively—instead of using you as an emotional punching bag.

If you’ve tried your best strategies and still feel like your child’s behavior toward you is unacceptable, consider working with a skilled child psychologist in Littleton. Dr. Lazarus and his therapy dog, Zeke, have helped hundreds of parents and teens to see eye-to-eye again!

 

 

 

 

The Negative Effects of Video Games Interview

An elementary school student named “Zoey” had a number of questions that she asked Dr. Lazarus about video games and their effects on children.
Here are his answers (Audio).

For school, I have a project where I need to research the negative effects of video games. I was wondering if you could answer a few of the questions I have:

 
  • What is the main/most common effect/s of children becoming addicted to video games?

  • How are children’s social lives negatively impacted by video games?

  • What do video games do to negatively affect children’s mental health

  • What do video games do to affect children physically?

  • What is the main problem the children you see have as a result of playing video games?

  • What do you do to help children recover from video game addiction?

  • Do most children who are addicted to video games end up recovering?

  • What is the main negative difference between children who play video games to children who don’t?

  • What do you think a good time limit for playing video games would be?

  • Do the children playing violent video games that you see tend to be more aggressive than the average child?

 

The Importance of Physical Health for your Child’s Wellbeing

If your child sees a therapist in Littleton, you are probably well-versed in coping skills, bedtime routines, rewards, and ways to boost emotions. But how much attention are you paying to the everyday physical health of your child? This blog will focus on the importance of a variety of physical health needs and the ways that they may—or may not—affect mental health.

Sleep

One of the most important questions that child psychologists ask their clients is “does your child sleep well?” If we think of food as fuel for the body, sleep is more like a “reset” for a computer—it gets rid of lags, poor performance, and unexpected errors. When your child has not slept enough, or is not getting good sleep , he is much more likely to struggle to keep up mentally and physically, demonstrate tantrums and bad behavior, and make more mistakes. Even more, sleep is vital for effective learning and consolidation of memories.

Hydration

Dehydration drains your brain—literally! When your child does not drink enough liquids, she is more likely to feel irritable, struggle to concentrate, and become fatigued (and cranky!) much sooner. This is true for adults as well, but children often need reminders to stay hydrated.

Exercise

Some studies have shown that just 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise, 5 days a week, is about as effective as most antidepressants. For children, this can be an important, but easily overlooked way to help manage mood and energy levels. If your child would rather chill with a video game than play a game of soccer, try to encourage a variety of fun physical activities to get blood circulating and energy out. Especially for children with ADHD,  exercise is an important way to promote healthy activity that boosts concentration and focus.

Now that you’re familiar with some of the basics of physical health, how does your child stack up? Don’t stress too much if your child is not catching enough zzz’s, drinking enough water, or working out, just try to move him or her to a healthier place. For help creating structured routines, building strong self-care skills, and promoting the best achievement in your child in Highlands Ranch, contact Dr. Lazarus today!

How Active Listening Builds Your Relationship with your Child

Many parents seek the assistance of a child behavior psychologist in Littleton to help with issues of anxiety, learning, attention, behavior, or mood. While many factors can affect these various issues, underlying it all is the relationship between the parent and the child. Is it strong enough to provide a safe base for the child to support his or her environment? Hardy enough to withstand trials, tantrums, and teenage years? Even those parents who are not seeing problems in their child’s academic performance or behavior often ask how they can build a closer relationship with their child. A great tool to improve your relationship with someone of any age is active listening.
What is active listening?
Active listening is a conversation tool that is similar to mindfulness, in that it asks the listener to give 100% of his or her attention to the speaker. Sounds easy, right? Don’t forget, this includes both obvious attention (not playing on the phone, washing dishes, looking over work), as well as mental attention (thinking about the shopping list, wondering if you had finished your task, wondering about the future). It involves not just listening, but demonstrating with your verbal and nonverbal communication styles that you are listening and that the speaker’s message is truly being heard.
How do I do it?
1. Check your environment. Are there distracters? Get rid of them! Phones are the biggest, but TV, movies, music, and household clutter can distract if you let it!
2. Check your body language. Remember how you were taught to give speeches as a child? Use this same method! Face your speaker, maintain eye contact, and keep an open posture—no turning your head away or crossing your arms over your chest.
3. Listen like you mean it. Listening does not include thinking of what you will say next. Listening does not involve making judgments or accusations. Listening does not include trying to “one-up” the speaker with another story. Just listen.
4. Check your understanding. To show your speaker that you are listening, and to make sure you heard it right, try summarizing what they just said back to you. This is a tool that play therapists in Littleton use to help children express their true feelings. You might find when you say “it sounds like you are really angry about that group project that you got a bad grade on” that your child will refine it, saying “I’m not angry about the project, I’m angry at my friend who didn’t try very hard. He let me down.” Your child will realize that you are listening and seeking to understand fully.
5. Reflect and respond. If you listen well, the last step is easy. Is your face mirroring the speaker’s emotions? Are you responding appropriately to needs? You don’t always need to “solve” or “answer” problems—just hearing them can be enough.
Why does it work?
Just like adults, children have big ideas and they need to be heard and listened to. Sharing these thoughts and feelings helps to process them, and knowing that someone truly understands it makes it easy to handle. Even better, when you practice this sort of active listening you can help your child to build social skills and communication skills that will make them a better listener in the future. For more tips on communicating effectively with your child, set up an appointment with Dr. Lazarus today!

Why Doctors are Being Told to Prescribe Play

If you followed healthcare news over the summer, you may recall that pediatricians are being encouraged to prescribe play for children’s development. This isn’t just a fad—the American Academy of Pediatrics has actually done a lot of work to find out how play helps and if American kids are getting enough of it. The result? Many children aren’t getting the chance to play, and they are missing out on some important skills as a result. In the psychology field, child behavior psychologist incorporate a wide variety of tools to help children express themselves and learn, including a variety of play elements. In fact, there is a high demand for children’s play therapy in Highlands Ranch because play works! Read on to find out how play helps all sorts of kids.

Creativity and Critical Thinking

Today’s children are getting more hours of school, more hours of extracurriculars, and less original with every passing year. Now, colleges and universities are looking for rarities like creativity and critical thinking, which can be developed in play! From using a comb as a tiny ladder to building a bridge out of playing cards, play offers a chance to build these skills naturally.

Social Skills

Even when your child plays alone, social skills can grow. Particularly for children who play with “characters” (be those stuffed animals, action figures, LEGO people, or paper cutouts), social skills can grow as children explore conflict, resolution, and alternatives.

Language Development

Ever listen quietly from another room while your child plays? Those make-believe stories, voices, and sound effects are fodder for funny videos, but also offer your child an important outlet to try new words and phrases and explore communications in a setting where nobody will judge him.

Downtime

We want our kids to learn… but all work and no play makes a child dull, bored, irritable, or disruptive! Your child is likely in school for 6-8 hours a day and doing homework as well—allowing time to play is the equivalent of your boss “allowing” you to go home and relax on the weekends. Promote good self-care by encouraging play and downtime.

Ready to play? Your child sure is! Independent playtime is great, but if your child invites you to play, remember to be a good “guest” and follow her lead, get engaged, and have fun. For help using play to address problem behaviors and emotional upset, consult with a skilled play therapist in Littleton and Highlands Ranch.


A Tale of Two Households: The Importance of Consistency

Child psychologists help families navigate all sorts of challenges, especially those dealing with helping children to grow and develop as well as possible. When parents divorce, this can be twice as much work, because there are twice as many households! Most children do have a challenge with this process, but clear communication, consistent expectations, and predictability can spell success—no matter if parents like each other or not. Read on to find why having consistency between homes is important for your child’s well-being.

Structure and Time

Here’s a common situation that divorced parents face all the time: You go to pick your children up from your ex’s house at 10 a.m. on Sunday, only to find that they are all still asleep. After a chilly wait in the driveway, the kids come out, bleary-eyed, to share their exciting stories of staying up all night the night before. By the way, they haven’t eaten, all their clothes are dirty, and nobody has homework done. When you ask your ex, you hear “when they’re with me, we do laundry and homework on Sunday nights and it works.” What to do? There is no “right” structure, just what is “right” for your family. However, when kids report widely changing bedtimes, meal times, and not enough time to complete homework, the adults need to build in more structure. Sleep hygiene is just as important  as getting math practice in, so work together to find something that works for everyone.

Rules and Expectations

If you’ve divorced, you’ve probably heard the scream of “but Mom says I can!” or “we do it this way at Dad’s house!” at least once. Your kids are right to be upset—they thought they were playing by the rules, and all of a sudden, they changed! Imagine driving down a highway that had a speed limit of 55 mph for years and suddenly, without notice or changing the signs, you get pulled over for speeding, because in a certain section of the road, the speed limit is only 40 mph. You’d be outraged! This is how kids feel when rules and expectations change suddenly, and instead of taking responsibility and correcting their behavior, they are more likely to become angry or defiant. Help by setting common rules between households, especially for important rules around safety, hygiene, and success at school .

Calm and Anxiety

Human beings love to know what is coming next. This is even more true for kids, as they have very little control over their lives—for young children, often the most they can do is choose how they respond. So a predictable household and house swap will set him or her up for success by reducing anxiety and promoting calm. Even very young children may benefit from picture-coded or color-coded calendars to see when they will be with mommy, when they will be with daddy, and how much time is in the middle. Likewise, knowing that school, meals, playtime, church, soccer, and other activities will happen no matter where the child is at can help him to feel more secure.

Navigating shared custody after a divorce is always a challenge, but by working together and keeping the child in mind, you can do it successfully! If you need more help or support, consider working with a Littleton child behavior psychologist on strategies .


How A Learning Evaluation Helps Your Child

Now that the school year has officially kicked off  and gotten into the regular swing of things, it is likely that you have already met with your child’s teachers at least once to see how he or she is doing at school. For psychologists in Littleton, fall and early winter can be busy times, because this is the time when teachers and parents are starting to notice any challenges that children may have with learning. If you’re wondering if your child should have a learning evaluation by a professional psychologist, consider these important benefits.

Understand performance. The most important benefit that a learning evaluation will provide you, your child, and his or her teachers, is a full understanding of performance. For example, a professional may find that your child’s performance is stronger in some areas than others, which can explain why only some subjects are a struggle.

Identify areas of strength. Speaking of strengths, helping your child to understand her strengths is an important tip. Even when children are frustrated with challenges in one area, knowing that they are doing well in another area can help them to learn ways to work around less-developed areas. For example, a child who is struggling to develop early letter skills may harness her strong visual-spatial skills to remember how the “b” and “d” form a visual “bed” when the word is written.

Develop a plan to combat weaknesses. No learning evaluation is complete without an effective plan to address weaknesses. This may be the time when your child’s learning evaluation reveals a learning disorder, challenge in executive functioning, or an associated challenge such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)  or other underlying mental health concerns. By knowing what the challenges are, you and your child can work with a behavior psychologist in Colorado to develop a plan for success.

Feel better. When your child isn’t able to access learning as easily as his peers, he knows there is something “wrong.” Make sure he never thinks that there is something “wrong” with him by explaining the great plan you will come up with based on the results of the learning evaluation.

Dr. Lazarus has worked with many children and adolescents, providing evaluation and treatment of common learning, attention, and mental health concerns so they can show the world their best side. To find out your child’s learning strengths and weaknesses, find a skilled psychologist in Littleton today!