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.

Start the School Year Off Right with These Tips

With fall just around the corner, the time for school has started again. For many parents, this is a welcome relief to long days of “boredom” and daycare, and a shift back to learning. But for some families, back to school time is nothing but a battle. From bedtime to breakfast, check out these tips to make sure your child has a great school year!

Plan ahead

Most of the back to school woes can be headed off with effective planning. Does your teen struggle to get out the door in the morning? Time management skills can help!  Help her start the day off right by packing bags and choosing a great new outfit the night before. Once she’s prepped, all she has to do is roll out of bed, spend time on hygiene, and grab those pre-packed bags. This can also be a great tip for busy parents who are rushing around to get lunches in order, coordinate the carpool, and everything else.

Set expectations

Especially if your child has struggled at school in the past, set clear expectations to prepare for success. Focus on actions, not results: instead of demanding A and B grades in math, demand that math gets studied for 30 minutes or so per day. This will help your child to see how their hard work turns into real accomplishments. Involve your child in setting goals  so he learns the importance of monitoring and being aware of his own behaviors. Some great ideas to set expectations for the school year include homework time, study time, bed time, socialization, and behavior. If you need help with difficult or escalated issues, consider visiting a Littleton child behavior psychologist for custom help.

Down time

Didn’t the kids just get the summer off? Still, down time is important, especially when one has been used to unlimited amounts! Many schools have taken advantage of a partial week to start off the school year, and for good reason—down time helps to recharge and revitalize. Make sure that you promote balance for your children by letting them know that down time and fun time are still important.

For many children, these tips are enough to ensure success. Others may need more personalized attention. If the normal tips aren’t working for your child, or if you need special ideas for your child with learning differences or ADHD, consult a child psychologist in Littleton for more help. Dr. Lazarus has helped many families see success in all they do!

 

The Development from Child to ‘Tween

When you brought your baby home, you thought he or she would stay young forever… or at least until high school, right? But more and more parents are contacting their trusted psychologist in Littleton to ask where their darling little boy or girl went, and how to navigate the challenges of the little man or little woman that has replaced them! If your child has morphed from a little kid to an almost-teenager overnight, you likely have a ‘tween on your hands. Read on to find out more about what this is, why it happens, and how to survive with your sanity intact!

What is a tween, anyway?

A few decades ago, the concept of the “between” years became popular—the ages, usually between 10-12, where your child resents being called a “little” anything, and starts showing interest in adult or teen concepts. While professionals might call this time “preadolescence,” the word “tween” has caught popularity and separates this important developmental stage into one of its own.

What is happening to my child?

The ‘tween years are a time of big changes, whether we are talking about physical, emotional, cognitive, or social changes. Your child is likely going through puberty, flooded with hormones, and tasked with managing the adult responsibilities of increased self-care. School demands more as they are able to be more responsible. Friends may change, and dating becomes a pressing issue. Many people find that this stage is not unlike the “terrible twos,” and some parents will recall the familiar screams of “I can do it myself!” Your child may test boundaries that they had accepted for years, even though nothing else has changed. Why? Because they are changing, and they must renegotiate the world around them.

What can I do?

Just like any stage of parenting, your child will still continue to benefit from love, support, and clear expectations. However, your child may be more able to engage as a part of the decision-making process. Encourage this responsibility by helping your child make great choices. For example, if your child’s bedtime has always been 8 o’clock, they might suggest (or demand!) a later bedtime for middle school—even though most middle schools start earlier. Help your ‘tween work through the decision-making process by asking questions like “how much sleep do you need to be awake for your favorite class?” or “can you save time by packing your bag at night?” or other things to start a lifelong process of development.

The ‘tween years can be a challenge, but if you find that your relationship with your child is suffering greatly, or your child is demonstrating major changes at home and at school, seeking the help of a Highlands Ranch child behavior psychologist can be useful. Dr. Lazarus has helped guide plenty of kids through the ‘tween stages, watching them emerge as strong teens who grow up to be responsible, healthy adults.

Categories: Parenting Strategies

 

Harness Summer Learning With These Tips

With school out for the summer, children everywhere rejoice! At the same time, parents and educators tend to worry about the same problem: Where will all that new learning go? This is particularly true for children with ADHD, who not only have academic skills that have grown over the school year, but skills in terms of self-management, organization, and responsibility. Parents who bring their children to Littleton for ADHD counseling often ask “how can I keep my child’s brain active and engaged over the summer?”

Fortunately, the answer doesn’t need to involve summer school. It doesn’t even need to involve homework! In fact, there are plenty of fun ways to help your child maintain growths in learning, practice executive skills, and be prepared for the next school year without ever lifting a pencil! Read on to find out some of the best activities to keep learning active!

Math

Math requires a lot of remembering, so it makes sense that students will lose a little over the summer. Spice your child’s summer break up with some alternative math ideas! For younger children, quick reviews can help maintain gains. Consider asking your soon-to-be fourth grader to help you figure out how many hot dog buns to buy for the family picnic if 12 people are coming and each will eat two hot dogs, or have your middle school student learn financial skills  by calculating the tip at your favorite restaurant—without a calculator.

Science

With nothing to do all day, your children will have plenty of time to explore the natural world around them. To make it more exciting, consider staging a scavenger hunt, outdoor dissection, grow a garden, or even raise some animals, depending on where you live. This is the chance to interact with the environment.

Reading

The secret to raising a reader is to help them love reading. Model reading yourself, and seek out fun things that appeal to your child. They don’t have to read Shakespeare this summer—graphic novels, comics, or other “non-academic” pieces are perfect for summer fun. Check out your local library for reading promotions with prizes!

Social Studies

A vacation to a historic site or political area can leave memories for a lifetime, and your child will have the best “what I did last summer” essay ever!

Executive or Organizational Skills

Most ADHD counselors in Littleton will tell you that children with ADHD tend to do better with structure and routines. But tell your teen that you’re going to keep the school-year schedule all summer, and you may be in for a battle! Instead, work with your existing schedule and emphasize flexibility. Remind them how some routines (such as showering or tidying up the living space) continue year-round, and encourage the same self-management tools  you have used throughout the school year for summer management—those summer camps, marathon sleepovers, swim lessons, and more can be planned and prepared for just like anything else, and are usually easier to prepare for as well.

If you feel like your child has typically “lost” more learning over the summer than other children, your child may benefit from a psychological assessment to better understand strengths and limitations to learning. To find out more, or to discuss parenting and behavior management tips, contact Dr. Lazarus.

 

Turn Bad Behaviors Around: Time In Vs. Time Out

You’ve just brought the kids home from school, and before you can take off your shoes, there’s already a fight. When your little darlings turn into wild animals who hit, kick, and bite—or just yell the most hurtful things they can think of at each other—the standard practice for many years was a time out. Whether this involves a special chair, a corner, a song, or a set time limit, the idea was to separate the child from the situation and from others until he or she calmed down.

But for many parents, time outs just don’t work. They cause more fights, leave the child frustrated and angry, or turn into a battleground to “make” the time out happen. Many parents seek the help of a Littleton child behavior psychologist to figure out how to make time outs work better—or, to identify new strategies to help their child succeed. One tool that child psychologists use is the time in.

A time in accomplishes many of the same goals as a time out. The child is removed from the situation with the goal of improving behavior. The duration is short, and the child can return to having fun afterward. However, while a time out is usually done alone, a time in is done with the parent or caregiver present—both physically and emotionally. What does this mean? During a time in, you support your child by being next to him physically and listening to his words and feelings. Some kids aren’t ready to talk right away, but others can be gently coached to express feelings that came up during the conflict. For example, a child who is sent to “time in” for hitting her brother is not lectured on how hitting is bad; rather, the parent helps her to express the feelings of anger, frustration, or annoyance that were underneath that bad behavior. Sometimes, your child may surprise you and disclose that a big problem at school, with another parent, or with friends is really the issue that is bothering them the most. Praise children  for expressing emotions appropriately and make sure that they know how much you appreciate all the times they show good behavior.

For small children or those who struggle to express themselves verbally, drawing or play-acting with toys  can be helpful. This is similar to how children’s play therapy in Highlands Ranch looks, and works very much the same way. Children are guided through the process of making amends and thinking about what could be done better next time; for example, apologizing to the brother and or practicing coping skills when angry. The specifics will vary from child to child and from incident to incident, but the goal is to express, connect, and make better choices in the future.

If you would like to learn more about positive parenting strategies, including the benefits of “time in,” contact a skilled psychologist in Colorado. Dr. Lazarus has helped many parents find the best ways to connect with their children, building them strong to face all the hurdles life throws their way!

 

Teaching Your Child Time Management

As the school year winds down, your child is ready to be done with it all! Whether you have a pre-school child ready to move on to kindergarten next year or a high school senior embarking to college, both are going to experience major changes in their lives—including a shift in time. The end of the school year can be the perfect season to help your kids develop time management skills that are vital for success throughout their lives.

A Developmental Perspective

One of the biggest complaints that Littleton child behavior psychologists hear is that kids are slow. Slow to get dressed, slow to get homework done, and all of a sudden, things start getting rushed, done at the last minute, or missed entirely. To keep your wits and help your kids develop theirs, make sure that your expectations are appropriate to your child’s age. In the preschool crowd, time is generally limited to just a few minutes or hours into the future. When your 3-year-old asks “are we there yet?” and asks again just 20 minutes later (on your cross-country road trip!), don’t get frustrated. To him, 20 minutes doesn’t seem unreasonable to drive from Colorado to Maine… and that 20 minutes probably felt like 20 hours. As kids get older, learn to tell time, and experience more timed events (30-minute TV shows, 45-minute classes, etc.), these skills develop.

Teaching Skills

  • Help your child understand how long common tasks take. Getting a basic grasp of how long it takes to shower, finish 10 math story problems, walk the dog around the block twice, or style the perfect hair can help to plan effectively. Teens and adults, especially those with ADHD, often struggle to realize the amount of time they spend on tasks .
  • For your child to have good time management, they must learn a variety of steps. One of the biggest is the passage of time, which does come somewhat with age, but can be developed in other ways as well. For example…
  • Note the time frequently, and connect it with real events. “We are going to the park and play for an hour today! That’s as long as it takes to drive to Grandma’s house, but it will seem much faster!” or, perhaps “
  • Speed it up! For the “pokey puppy” out there, encourage speedy performance in a fun way . This can include the classic “last one there’s a rotten egg” sort of games, a personal “world record” for common tasks, and playing speed response games together. Teach your child to “turn on” the speed. This can be a great topic to pursue through play therapy in Highlands Ranch.

Taking Breaks

As a final note, remember that most people can’t perform their fastest, or their best, on a consistent basis. Sprinters go faster than distance runners. Encourage your child to schedule breaks, not only to keep themselves sane, but to keep productivity and time on track. If your child’s time management skills seem very much below that of his or her peers, or if simple strategies don’t work, consider consulting with a child psychologist in Littleton. Dr. Lazarus is skilled in helping children achieve at their highest levels.

 

How To Help Your Child Succeed Financially

As tax season is upon us, finances are one of the biggest things on many people’s minds. Many people would be surprised to know that many parents talk with their child psychologist in Littleton to figure out when, how, and why to talk with their kids about finances. Read on to find out expert advice for helping your children grow to be financially successful.
Be Responsible
The first thing you must consider when talking to your children about finances is if it is responsible to do so. While therapists in Highlands Ranch don’t like to start with a list of things not to do, it is important to keep the safety and integrity of your child at the utmost importance. As such, do not share frightening financial news with children who are not old enough to understand it, do not “guilt trip” your child by pointing out how much money they cost you, and for families of divorce, do not criticize your ex’s financial skills or contributions. In fact, don’t mention those at all!
Be Transparent
Keeping the above caveats in mind, you should try to be somewhat transparent with your children about finances so that they can see how handle them. For example, it is perfectly acceptable to tell your child “we are not going to buy that very expensive iPhone now, because it costs $700. We are going to buy you a nice refurbished one so we use our money wisely.” In general, you can also give your children an idea of the way adult finances work, such as explaining why adults have so many bills to pay, and explain that payment is like a reward for good work.
Set a Good Example
If you want to raise a child who grows up to be good with finances, start early. Set good examples, such as showing your child how the bank works and talking about why we save money instead of always spending it. Handle your debts promptly and make it clear that money must be respected, as must borrowing from friends or family members. Show your children what’s important by putting priorities first—even if that means waiting on new clothes or gifts. Promote the value of time and energy instead of just encouraging mass consumerism. Always convey an attitude that you, as a responsible parent, have the finances under control
Give A Chance to Practice
One of the things that child behavior psychologists in Littleton enjoy is giving kids a chance to practice and get hands-on skills with what we learn! To raise a financially responsible child, consider starting them with a junior savings account that earns a little interest. Most children enjoy visiting the bank, and most bank staff are happy to explain some things in a child-friendly manner. Use this account to work toward meaningful goals or purchases, and let your child experience the pride of watching their account grow. Praise efforts to delay gratification and spend wisely. Of course, if your child would rather spend, let them—this is all part of the experience.
For more tips on teaching your children life skills at any age, check back on this blog often. For a custom solution and advice, set up an appointment with a child psychologist today.

Harness the Power of Praise in 4 Simple Steps

Power of Praise

As social beings, we love doing a good job—and we love hearing the feedback on our successes! However, in an attempt to praise more, many people take the “easy” route—a simple “good job,” “nice work,” or “that was great” becomes a standard reply. And, just like other standard replies, this makes the praise less powerful and effective. Kids, being the apt little learners they are, catch on quickly, and tend to stop responding to praise. So how can you help your child to feel confident, proud, and accomplished, without “blowing smoke?” Read on to find out the 4 steps to harnessing the power of praise from a Littleton child behavior psychologist.

  1. Evaluation vs. Description. Consider these two statements: 1. “Your drawing is the best!” 2. “Wow! you used my favorite color, you drew a flower just like the one we saw yesterday, and everything is so creative and expressive!” Which would you prefer? The first is an example of evaluative praise, or praise that creates a judgment. The second is an example of descriptive praise, or praise that describes the reasons why you like something. Descriptive praise does not imply judgment, and clearly outlines what caused you to feel the way you did.
  2. Praise descriptively. Now that you know the difference between evaluative and descriptive praise, it’s time to start describing! Challenge yourself to replace at least one “good job!” or other generic praise statement with descriptive praise. It may surprise your child, and may be a challenge for you, but everyone can learn how.
  3. Observe your child “putting the pieces together.” Evaluative praise tells the child what to think. “You are smart,” “you are a great soccer player,” or “you are nice” all create a self-image for the child—that may or may not seem dependent upon effort or action. Worse, what if that “smart” child does poorly next time? Are they still smart? You know they are, but kids have a harder time. Instead, descriptive praise is more clear and effective, as it allows your child to put the pieces together to figure out their own judgment, and provides a great way for parents to model emotional reasoning. Instead of “that was nice,” try something like “when you offered to let your friend borrow your game for the weekend, that was a big sacrifice for you, I bet he is so happy and excited!” This will help your child see that his actions, not him as a person, are creating these feelings and making him a nice and generous person.
  4. Practice makes perfect! The great thing about praise is how many opportunities you have to practice it. This demonstrates your own gratitude and helps to point out the specific things that you want to see more of. Even when those things don’t happen, your child will not feel down on herself, but will continue to have a strong inner feeling of self-worth and pride.

When I work with children and parents in Littleton for ADHD counseling  or play therapy, we have plenty of opportunities to practice praise. Sometimes we try it out on Zeke, our therapy dog, and other times, we incorporate other evidence-based, proven strategies to help you and your child succeed. To find out more, or to set up an appointment, use the contact section on this website.

 

 

Top Four Active Listening Tips for a Strong Relationship

Strong Relationship

What’s the number one reason why people seek counseling and couples therapy in Highlands Ranch? Based on my clients, communication is the main reason! Too many couples find themselves constantly on “different pages,” missing one another’s messages, and struggling to communicate about the good, the bad, or the in-between. Some of the past blogs on this website have addressed ways to communicate with your partner in a healthy way , but that only deals with one side of the equation. When people seek to improve communication, they must address both parts: “sending” the message, or talking, and “receiving” it—listening. This post will review the five basic steps of active listening and how they can help you to build a stronger relationship.

  1. Pay attention! Easier said than done, but reminding yourself to pay attention is key to listening actively. This includes not looking at your phone, eliminating distractions, and setting your mind intentionally to listen. This shows the listener that you value their time and their thoughts.
  2. Show attention. How does the speaker know you’re listening? It’s usually obvious. Your body language speaks louder than words, so make sure you show it. You can accomplish this by making good eye contact, nodding or shaking your head at appropriate times, facing your speaker, and using small gestures where needed. This lets the person speaking know that you are actively listening and valuing their statements, strengthening the bond between you and the speaker.
  3. Check for understanding. A good deal of verbal communication is missed or misunderstood—check with the person speaking to make sure you truly understand what they are saying by asking a clarifying question (“is this your friend, John, or your brother, John?”), rephrasing their comments (“I hear you saying that your car is having problems and you’re not sure if you want to sell it”), or reflecting their emotions (“you’re sad about the business loss, but still feel motivated”). These statements demonstrate your understanding and open doors to correct miscommunications.
  4. Be polite. Don’t judge, interrupt, or dismiss someone who speaks to you. Easily said, but remember, this requires active, mindful effort!

Active listening means that you are focusing your thoughts, energy, and attention 100% (or close) on the other person and what they are saying. It requires your brain to be working hard, not to think of your next statement or argument, but working hard to truly understand and hear the person you are speaking with. This is just a small sample of the various skills that you would learn in intensive couples therapy in Littleton. To find out more or develop a personalized plan to improve relationships and communication, set up an appointment with Dr. Lazarus today.

 

 

Annoying Habits that Might Have a Purpose

Anyone who has or works with kids knows that they can do some pretty annoying things—in fact, most parents state that their children have at least one annoying habit that they would love to make disappear. But before you start digging out the reinforcements, you may want to consider the purpose of these annoying habits! That’s right, some of the most annoying things that your children do actually do serve a purpose—and those purposes might surprise you.

Putting things in their mouths. From thumbs, to fingernails, to pencils, some kids just love to put something in their mouth whenever they get the chance. For parents, this is not only annoying, but may trigger concerns about germs. The surprising finding? Kids who engaged in nail-biting or thumb sucking in childhood are less likely to have allergies by the time they reach their 30s, making this a potential immune booster.

Keeping a messy room, desk, locker, or other space. Do you feel like you are constantly begging for clean? Is it a battle to clear a walkway? If so, you may think your child is doomed to a life of disorganization . While this may or may not end up being true, recent research has found that messy people are often more goal-oriented—the effort that some would spend keeping a tidy space gets redirected into seeking order and goal achievement elsewhere. Turns out, your kid was right when he said “but mom, I have good grades even though my room is messy!”

Um… like… uh… If you have teens, you probably recognize these terms, otherwise known as “filler words.” Little sounds that fill in during a conversation are quite popular amongst teens, and can make even the most patient of listeners cringe. We have all been taught not to use these terms in presentations, but recent research actually shows that listeners understand and remember a speech better when there are a few filler words included, and that people who are highly conscientious often use these words in their conversations.

Chewing gum. Parents might remember the days when gum in school was linked with sticking on their noses—others just remember the “smack, smack, POP” noise that their children make  while chewing gum. But before you lose your cool à la the musical Chicago, consider this: kids who chew gum are more likely to feel awake and alert, which can help to support Littleton ADHD counseling. Some studies show that those who chew gum report a better mood and reduced stress hormones.

Do your kids have any of these annoying habits? By considering them from an adaptive, purpose-serving framework, you may just find yourself being a little more understanding… or at least resisting the urge to rip your hair out! Of course, any habit, big or small, that causes distress or poor functioning at school, at home, or with friends should be brought up with a trained child behavior psychologist in Littleton. Otherwise, try to see the silver lining—and don’t forget, adults have annoying habits, too!

If your child is showing a destructive or problematic behavior that goes beyond “annoying,” contact Dr. Steve Lazarus today to find out how to live a happier, healthier life!

[AC1]http://www.drstevenlazarus.com/2016/09/06/tips-to-keep-your-child-with-adhd-organized-this-school-year/

[AC2]http://www.drstevenlazarus.com/2017/05/01/how-noise-increases-your-stress-and-what-to-do-about-it/

Teach Your Kids to Set SMART Goals for the New Year

Setting “New Year’s Resolutions” is a tradition in many families, and for good reason: resolutions draw attention to the behavior that we would like to change and provide great motivation to do so. Unfortunately, most of the resolutions your kids make will likely fizzle out within a few days or weeks. While this is true for all children, children we see in Littleton with ADHD often struggle the most with following through with plans and staying organized. To help your child meet their goals, New Year’s or otherwise, consider helping them learn how to set SMART goals.

The acronym “SMART” comes from the business world, and refers to setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. For small children, the phrase “actually doable” can replace “attainable.” The idea is that, by setting better goals, behavior can be changed more easily. Consider this example: Your 10 year old is a motivated student, but always ends up turning in his math homework late because he forgets it. His New Year’s resolution is “turn my math homework in on time.” To change this into a SMART goal, the first thing that must be adjusted is the specificity. What is your child going to do to get that homework in on time? Is he going to put it in a special folder each night after mom and dad check it? Can he set a quiet reminder on his watch or phone to help him remember? Can he structure his environment so it is impossible to forget—such as by putting the math homework in the way of pencils and other tools? By being more specific, success is more likely!

The next elements that would improve this child’s goal-setting is to make it measurable—and, along with this, attainable and realistic. While some may strive for perfection, parents can help to set reasonable goals—and to update them over time! For example, if the child only manages to get his homework in on time once per week, a good goal might be to get it in on time three days per week. If he does well, the goal can always be changed! Finally, set a time-limit so the goal is not an endless chore. Good markers occur naturally, such as “for the month of January” or “until Spring Break,” and can be a good reminder to update goals.

SMART goal planning is not only a great way to express goals, it is a great way to process them mentally and ensure that all the steps are considered. For adults, this might come naturally, but kids can benefit from some assistance. If you are skilled in this area, teach these skills to your children; if you need more help, consider consulting with a Littleton child behavior psychologist for a parent and child skills boost. Dr. Lazarus has helped people old and young to feel more confident, achieve goals, and enjoy life to its fullest.