Month: February 2014

Emotionally Preparing Kids for College

As we head into March, I am reminded that there are thousands of high school seniors around the country that are in the last stages of their senior year and preparing for college.  How to go about preparing kids for college is a question that I am often asked by parents. Often with the help of their parents, teachers, and school counselors, kids have focused intently on academics, sports, arts, extracurricular activities, and community involvement in order to get into the college of their choice.  Now, they are ready!  But, are they really?

Difficulties of a Freshman: Preparing Kids For College

One of the populations I have frequently worked with over the years are college freshman who are either having a great deal of difficulty adjusting to college or who have already experienced enough setbacks to actually withdraw from school.  Very often, we forget that preparing kids for college includes teaching them the coping skills needed to face the social, emotional and life-skills challenges they will face once they leave home.   So, in an effort to share some concise advice on this subject, I’d like you to keep a few goals in mind for preparing kids for college as they come to the end of their senior year.

  •  Give your kids opportunities to take care of themselves before they leave for college.  For example, send them on a class trip, sleep-away camp, or a summer job out of town.
  • Teach them and allow them to show you that they know about the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise routine.
  • Teach them basic money management skills, how to do their laundry, how to properly clean their personal space and how to shop for necessities.
  • Show them how to find the resources they need to overcome basic problems that may arise such as academic or even health-related challenges.

Preparing Kids for College Socialization

One of the most important aspects of college life is socialization.

  •  Arm your children with the ability to identify positive and negative influences among friends and other support systems.
  • Allow them to show you how to balance their social life with their academic and personal responsibilities.

Finally, make sure your kids know you are there for them at all times to answer questions, give them guidance, and help them get back on their feet if they make a mistake. Preparing kids for college is very much about letting them know that you will be there for them when they need you.

– Dr. Heather Rask, Proliance Center

Helping Anxious Children Overcome Their Fears

In my last blog post I wrote about an interaction between a mother and an anxious child and discussed what I might have said differently.  I’d like to continue to discuss that conversation.  At the end of the conversation, the mother told her child that nothing would happen to him if he went on the feared swings and that his brother was already doing it.  I think that there were two important things to learn from this example about helping anxious children.

Don’t Be Scared to Let Anxious Children Take Risks

The first is that the mother reassured her son that nothing would happen when instead she could have worked with the child on being okay with the feared results.  The truth is that the anxious child could fall off the swing and get hurt.   But just as it is for our entire lives, we simply have to take risks, and open ourselves to the potential of harm.  The best possible thing for an anxious child to learn is that they can handle getting hurt and being scared.  I know that as parents, our first instinct is to eliminate suffering and protect our children.  This is one of our most sacred duties but it can be taken too far.  If children, and especially anxious children, don’t experience (safe) pain and discomfort they can’t develop the confidence that they need to overcome them in the future.  The opportunity for the conversation that I overheard that afternoon was for the mother to say

“Yes, you might get hurt and that’s okay.  Do you remember that time when you fell off you bike and scraped your knee?  You were so brave and even though it hurt a lot, we put a bandage on and you were able get back on your bike.”

Making reference to an anxious child’s past successes is one of the greatest gifts we can give them in their struggle to overcome their fears.

All Anxious Children Are Unique

Lastly, an important opportunity in helping anxious children is to not compare them to children who don’t experience the same fear.  It is never meant in a mean way but it can be very deflating for a child when they are told that a different child does not have the same fears that they have.  Instead of comparing the child to his brother who did not share the child’s same anxiety about the swings, the most helpful thing would be to reference the child’s own strengths and resolves.


– Dr. Jeffrey Kranzler, Proliance Center

Treating Child Anxiety

This past weekend, I was playing with my kids at one of Boca Raton’s beautiful parks and couldn’t help but overhear a conversation that was going on between a mother and her child.

“I’m scared of going on the swings, Mommy.”

“There’s nothing to be afraid of, honey.”

“But I am!” the child insisted.

“Nothing is going to happen to you,” the mother continued on sweetly.  “Your brother is already there, look!”

Clearly this child was anxious about going on the swings.  Now at first glance, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the way the parent handled this but with a closer look we can understand how this parent, and many more, can handle a case of child anxiety.

How To Handle Child Anxiety

When you are dealing with child anxiety, the first step is actually to validate their emotion, in other words, to make it clear that the child is not wrong for feeling the way he or she does.  Instead of reacting to the child’s anxiety by telling them they have nothing to be afraid of, this parent could have said something along the lines of “boy it must be hard to feel scared of doing something you want to do.  You know, even grown-ups feel scared some time.”  What a wonderful way to make a child feel less anxious.  You let them know that their emotions are not strange or bad and you empower them to ask questions by admitting the truth- that even adults feel anxiety.  This allows them to ask you for help in coming up with solutions to their problems.   This conversation was also an opportunity for a parent to let the child know that bravery isn’t doing something that they are not afraid of, but rather doing something that they ARE afraid of, despite the fear.  Being mindful of opportunities to help our anxious children isn’t easy but it sure allows us to tremendously help them.

– Dr. Jeffrey Kranzler, Proliance Center

Eat Less and Feel More Full…Naturally!

When people speak to me about losing weight they usually talk about having to eat less.  In my opinion,  the more full you feel the better able you will be to lose weight.  The key in healthy sustainable weight loss is to eat more without actually eating more.  What do I mean by that? Well, simply put, if you change the way that you eat you will feel like you are eating more.

It really comes down to the attention you give food.  I talk to people about losing weight by choosing to eat less while feeling like they’re eating more when they give full attention to the food they eat.

I’ll challenge you to try the following experiment with one meal.  Take this meal step by step:

  • Turn off the television and radio.  Give your attention to each piece of food.
  • Start by looking at the food as you bring it to your mouth.
  • Before putting the food in your mouth bring it to your nose and smell the food.
  • Then put the food in your mouth and gently hold it on your tongue.
  • Pay attention to the texture and the weight on your tongue.
  • As you chew, be aware of the taste, texture and feeling of the food in between your teeth.

Not every bite needs to be as slow and intentional, but giving awareness to the way that you eat will make you feel like you are eating more without actually eating more.  No one has ever lost weight feeling hungry and the more full you feel with less food, the greater your chances are at achieving and maintaining your target weight.

Now trust me, this eating exercise can get tiresome and is not for every meal, certainly not when eating with friends.  But by simply eliminating tv watching and other distractions while you eat, and by slowing your eating down in general, you can make major strides to losing weight and feeling more full.

– Dr. Jeff Kranzler, Proliance Center

The Not-So-Fun Day – How to Deal with Adolescent Behaviors

The other day I went to Disney World on a family outing and had planned to spend the day at Epcot with one of my teenage daughters.  I had been looking forward to this for several months and she had to.  I love my daughter very much, but like all teens she knows how to get under my skin and was working very hard to do just that the night before our big day.  I was trying to be very patient, using all the very same techniques I try to teach the parents we council at Proliance Center, but none of it was working.  My teen was hell bent on driving me crazy.

You see I have trouble paying attention with a lot of background noise, but this one is a great multi-tasker.  She has the ability to watch TV, Instagram and play games on her phone, all while listening to her parent’s conversations without missing a word.  I truly do not have that gift and needing to concentrate on something important I asked her to lower the TV in our hotel room.

“No.  I am watching that show”, she said.

“I know.  It’s just for a second, because I can’t concentrate with it on”, I replied.

“Well, I can and you should learn how, because I do it all the time at home when YOU watch TV!” she said back

“I understand, but I can’t.  Please shut it off”, I said.

“No!  I don’t want to!  That’s one of my favorite shows”, she says.  [Now I’m starting to get upset.]

“You are being selfish, you have that show recorded at home, AND I asked you please”, I said.

“No YOU are being selfish!” she says.  [At this point my blood is starting to boil and I am thinking all kinds of things:  how she is acting like a spoiled brat, how I would never have dared to speak to my parents like that, how my parents would have likely.. Well, let’s just say it is a different time now, not to mention we are stuck in a single hotel room together.]

Lucky, for me (or maybe my daughter), in swoops my wife, having just gotten out of the restroom.  Tag team is one awesome advantage of having two parents, I must admit.  In any case, my wife tried unsuccessfully to talk some sense into her.  This conversation kept going back and forth, now with my wife on my side.  Finally, I gave her one last warning

“If you don’t shut that TV right now there is going to be a serious consequence!”  [Amazing how a simple thing can blow out of proportion and, reflecting back, I should have left the room to cool down, but at the time I wanted to make sure my daughter knew I was in charge.  Not to mention I had been nice all along.  Or at least I started off that way.]

“NO!!!” she said.

Fine then No Epcot tomorrow!!!” I said.

No sooner had the words left my mouth than I thought “Shoots there goes my day tomorrow”.  I didn’t really think shoots, but I am cleaning it up for you readers.  She seemed unfazed as we went out for dinner, while I was completely numb stewing inside of how the awesome day of fun we had planned for months was now ruined.  She kept it going all night with myself in silence, knowing the day of reckoning for her was coming.

The next morning she acted as if nothing had happened, until I dropped the bomb that we weren’t going.  Now the reality of it all set in for her and she cried and pleaded about the ruined day.

“Please, please, I want to go.  How about our day together?  Can I have another punishment?”

I, on the other hand had already mourned the loss of this day the night before, while she joked and laughed smugly at diner.  Nevertheless I really wanted to make a deal with her, but I didn’t tell her that.  As painful as it was I needed to stick to the punishment I gave her.  Even my wife in a moment of weakness and sadness for my daughter and I tempted me in private

“Are you sure you don’t want to give her another punishment instead?”

But I painfully kept my word and my daughter’s punishment.  My intent was to still spend the day with my daughter doing some other mediocre activity, but still with her.  After all I wasn’t going to take father-daughter time away, just the awesome location and fun part.  Remember here folks that this was super painful for me too.  In punishing her I couldn’t go on the super fun day either.

Well the hammer was dropped and she would now learn her lesson, I thought.  However, not without more pain for good ole dad.  You see now that she knew that I wasn’t taking her for super fun day at Epcot and that her pleas did not work, she was going to give ME hell.  She complained about anything and everything that we did for half the day and it was hell.  She was truly a bitter pill to be around, but I remained strong.  At least on the outside, on the inside I had a fleeting thought of why people don’t have kids.

In any case, the pain came and went and by the end of the day we manage to salvage it and have a great time.  “I’m sorry daddy”, she said.  “Me too, honey”.  We hugged, we laughed, took funny selfies and other photos and soon the day and weekend came to an end.  I can truly say we had a great time together, though we never went to Epcot.  Did she learn a lesson?  I hope so!  I don’t want to miss another super fun day.

The take home point for all you readers with kids is that:

  • We must be careful not to become engaged in pointless arguments with our kids.
  • We must avoid giving consequences in anger.
  • Time outs are not just for kids, they can help parents cool down too.
  • We must follow through with the consequences we give our children.
  • Never punish a child by removing time you spend with them.
  • Even the Child Psychiatrist at Proliance Center isn’t perfect!  LOL

– Dr. Michael Morejon, Proliance Center

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