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How To Talk To Your Child About Tragedy

Posted on: Tuesday, April 16th, 2013  In: Blog  |  No Comments »


1. Be Honest.  Your children are always better off hearing difficult and disturbing information from

their parents, rather than a peer.  It is important to take as much fear and anxiety out of your



2. Limit television and media as much as possible.   Children who are

exposed to gruesome details and pictures can become very disturbed and

anxious. This is something you need to be aware of not just in your home but in friend’s homes, restaurants, stores etc.


3. Express that things are going to get better.  This happened, it’s

horrible, but hopefully we will find out what caused this

terrible tragedy and whoever was involved will be severely punished.

This gives children a belief that in some way things will be ok.


4.  Instill hope and resilience.  Life goes on,  so must we.  Try

distracting children away from the worry by focusing on something more

positive.  Kids can only process so much.


5.  Just because your child is an adolescent or a teenager doesn’t mean

they can “handle” it better.   Many times they personalize these

types of situations and this causes a lot of fear and avoidance.  We

want children’s lives to be as normal as possible.


 6.  In a divorce situation, children need their parents to be on the same page in

these types of situations.   Parents need to come together as a united  front and talk about how

they are going to address these kind of topics so that they are presenting the information similarly.


7.  If you notice your children aren’t eating or sleeping well this is a

sign that they may be anxious about something.  Keep an eye out for

atypical behavior.  If this  behavior persists talk to your

pediatrician, psychologist, or therapist so they can help them work

through any anxious thoughts they are having as well as help you

manage their anxieties at home.


Got Prom Anxiety?

Posted on: Tuesday, April 9th, 2013  In: Blog  |  Comments Off

Prom time can be a very anxious time for teenagers. Not every teen has the confidence to ask someone to go on a date with them, in fact, most don’t!  It takes a lot of guts to ask that special someone to go to the prom with you!  Proms in general cause a lot of un needed stress in teenagers today.  Who  should I go with,? Will they say yes? Will my dress look good? Should I ask the guy out instead of waiting for him to ask me?  Will my hair turn out they way I wanted it to? What will everyone be doing after the prom that I may not be comfortable with? Will my parents approve of my date?  WIll the night be everything I dreamed it would be? List goes on and on….

Teens today are under enough pressure socially and academically, prom time should be a time to unwind and relax with friends after a long year of hard work at school.  However, many teens feel nervous and stressed about the big night!  In fact when you ask most grown adults they can still tell you stories about their nerves and anxieties they had about their prom night when they were a teenager!

Here are 10 helpful tips:


1. Asking someone to the prom is a HUGE stress for teens.  No one likes facing rejection!  Ask a date that you truly feel comfortable going with.  Pick someone who you can be yourself with, and you know will make you  laugh and feel good about yourself.  Ladies…. you don’t have to wait for the guy to ask you, if there is someone special you want to go with ASK them!

2. Will they say yes.. maybe?  If they don’t, it’s NOT the end of the world.  You will look back and realize this one day!  Just go with someone else, even if it’s a friend!  Put yourself out there, most teens are equally nervous to ask someone AND be asked!

3. Dress selection.  This is a fun night out with friends… not your wedding dress. Don’t obsess over “the perfect dress”, there are tons of beautiful dresses out there!  It is not a competition amongst friends, you can all look great and feel good about yourselves. Go with a friend or a family member who is honest and will make you feel good about your selection.

4.Girls look through magazines for days for the “it” hair styles today.  Many times your hair looks very different when you try a certain style on yourself.  Practice

photo_5428394_couple-taking-their-own-photo-with-cell-phone-camerabefore hand or if you are getting it done, have the hairdresser try it one time before the big day so you don’t get upset if it doesn’t turn out how you wanted it to.  Planning a head of time makes for less stress.

5. When doing your make up, remember you are 17 not 37.. make sure you look like yourself!  At 17 you are already a natural beauty!

6. Parents need to send their child off on any date feeling like the person they are going with is responsible and has a head on their shoulders!  Introducing your parents to your prom date can make many teens anxious.  Try picking a day BEFORE the prom to get it out-of-the-way so you don’t feel overwhelmed or anxious on the day of.

7. Prom nights usually never go as planned, ask your parents I am sure one or both of them have a funny story for you.  Often it may not be the fairytale you dreamed up in your mind.  If you go into the night with the mind-set that it’s just another fun night with friends” you will have fun and relax.

8. Don’t feel pressure to do anything you don’t want to do.  Whether that is sexually, drinking, drugs, or going somewhere you are not comfortable afterward to continue the celebration.  The more pressure you put on yourself to do something you are not comfortable with the more anxiety you will feel.  Your date should be someone you trust and someone you can be yourself with.  If not… pick another date!

9. Can’t find a date?  Go with a friend or a get a bunch of friends to go together!  Don’t miss out on a fun night you were looking forward to because there is pressure to go in the first place.

10.Too nervous to ask someone out in person?  This is where social media can come in handy!  Text or email something really creative and sweet, that should do the trick! Remember if you are anxious… PRIVACY is key!  Posting it on Facebook for the world to see is a definite NO NO!

Remember to laugh, smile, take pictures, dance, and have fun!  After all this work you put into planning, make it a night to remember!


Birthday Party Anxiety

Posted on: Wednesday, November 21st, 2012  In: Blog  |  No Comments »

Advice and Coping Skills To Manage Your Child’s Anxiety at Birthday Parties   As a mom of 3 kids, I have been to MANY birthday parties!  We buy the perfect gift and make sure that our kids are adorably dressed. Off we go to what should be an hour and a half of pure fun! We watch the kids run and greet each other, laughing and giggling, excited to be with their friends.  But as many of us know, there are always a few kids that aren’t behaving the same as the other children.  They cling to their mom’s hand, crying on the sidelines, refusing to participate in the festivities with the rest of the children. As the parents are dealing with their hysterical child, they can’t help but think, Why is it always MY child?  Is everyone staring at us?  Here is what you need to know….you are NOT alone!  Even though it feels like you are the only one, there are many parents grappling with similar situations. Here are some important tips that can be very helpful!
  • Respect that your child is uncomfortable.  Pressuring a child to perform in a social situation is unlikely to make the situation better. It will usually make it considerably worse!
  • Loud noises, crowded spaces, and new environments, can be intimidating to ANY child. These can be even worse for a child who has anxiety or sensory issues.  Bring the child to a part of the room that is less crowded and a little calmer.
  • Worry about YOUR own child, not what your friend’s children are doing.  Each child develops differently and reacts different in social situations.
  • Kids have different interests.  Children with anxiety may be nervous that they cannot do what the other kids are doing. Maybe they aren’t as comfortable with sports or don’t know how to dance like the other girls.  This may make them feel inferior to their peers.   Understand that a kid who loves science may not love going to a hockey party because they aren’t as confident in that area.
  • Have realistic expectations.  Not every kid is born a “Social Butterfly.”  Sometimes it just takes kids longer to come into their own. Be patient!
  • Give your child some Relaxing Techniques.  Try a game to distract them.  One of my favorites is The Candy Game. Start with the number one and take turns with them.  For example, One gummy bear, two Hershey kisses, 3 lollipops, etc… This type of game keeps their mind off of the anxiety and on to something else.  It refocuses their thoughts and allows them to relax.
  • Don’t make a scene by yelling and punishing your son or daughter because they aren’t participating like the rest of the kids at the party.  This can be very harmful and embarrassing to them.  Your child needs encouragement and support from you.   ·
  • Focus on the positive! Find something that they enjoy about the party. Maybe they’ll see a friend from school or experience a new activity that they have been wanting to try.  If all else fails… the goodie bag is always something that kids look forward to!
  • When planning your own child’s party, take into consideration what THEY want.  Just because you want to throw a big bash and invite all of YOUR nearest and dearest, doesn’t mean that this is what your child would want.  Don’t lose track of what’s most important- Celebrating a special day!  Sometimes an intimate gathering with their close friends is what will make your child most comfortable.
  • When you have exhausted your energy and patience, speak to a professional who can help you handle the situation.  It will help you be a better mom and give you the tools that you need to make the next situation more manageable.
     Moms, here is what you need to remember.  Anxiety is a normal part of childhood that every child will experience at one point or another. Realizing that your child has a genuine fear is so important.  Let your child know that you are always there for them!

    Oh… and a little shout out to the mom’s out there whose children run into parties laughing and giggling without a care in the world…Here’s a tip for you… DON’T give the mom with “that kid” the sad puppy-dog face or the “I Feel So Bad For You” speech. Don’t talk about her to 3 of your friends when she isn’t looking.  Be Kind! Remember this: What’s not on your plate today, might be on it tomorrow!
     Stefanie Weiss (Mental Health Consultant- specializing in children with Anxiety, OCD, ADHD, PANDAS and other related disorders) Follow me on Twitter- @askstefanie  and LIKE the Ask Stefanie page on Facebook

Back To School Jitters: Who’s More Anxious You Or Your Child?

Posted on: Monday, September 3rd, 2012  In: Blog  |  No Comments »

As we prepare to send our kids off to school this week, we are excited, overwhelmed, and yes, a little nervous. It is the start of a new year and a new chapter in our children’s lives. New teachers, schools, friendships, expectations, and my kids’ favorite…homework all come into play as we think about the start of a new school year. Importantly, it is our job as parents to make sure we give off a positive attitude to our children so they can relax and feel good as they walk on the bus and start off the new school year.

Here are some helpful tips on how to handle the situation:

1) Teacher assignments can cause kids (and parents) a lot of anxiety. You hear the teacher is the “mean” one and now your child is worried to go to school. RELAX- sometimes other kids or parents can over exaggerate how tough a teacher is and this can cause other kids to become anxious. Take this information with a grain of salt. File away the information but give it time to form your own opinion. Go in with a positive attitude and your child will follow suit.

2) New School- New Grade-New expectations. Change can be very scary and overwhelming for kids. The last thing a nervous child needs is to hear their parents talk about how much more is expected of them. Keep it low key! Talk about the positives that come along with a new situation. New friends, new teachers, new classrooms, can be just the reset a child needs to start them off in a new direction. Sometimes change is just what the doctor ordered.

3) NO one is in my class! I have heard this from so many kids this past week. As long as your child has one point person they are in good shape. You don’t have to be with all of your best friends to have a good year at school. Try encouraging them to make some new friends and explain that school is for learning. They will focus on schoolwork better when they are less distracted talking to their friends all day.

4) Too much homework freaks me out! Homework is a part of life. Some kids deal with lots of homework better than others. The best suggestion with homework is to stick to a routine. The structure will cause less stress for the kid’s when they get home. Have them grab a snack and start their homework right away while they are still in “school mode”. The quicker they start to do it, the quicker they get it done!

5) My mother always says…”Organization is the key to success!” It is so true. The morning can be a high stress time. You have to get the kids up on time, feed them breakfast, make the beds, teeth brushed, lunches packed, and help them get dressed. This can be a challenge for many! Set that coffee timer for 20 minutes earlier than your kids are waking up so you can enjoy a few minutes of “quiet time” before the chaos begins. Also, do as much as you can the night before. Lay out clothing, pack lunches, school bags, and writing teacher notes can all be done the night before. With more time in the morning, your child will see you more relaxed and will feel more relaxed too.

6) Last but not least… BULLYING. Many kids are worried about being picked on or made fun of. Maybe it’s an older child on the bus or a kid that bothered them in their class last year. This can be very unsettling for a child. Bullying is not something to be ignored and swept under the rug. Talk to your children. Encourage them to always come to you no matter what. You can help them stick up for themselves and help them handle the situation better. Explain to them that you will be in constant contact with their teacher so they feel more at ease and know that someone is in their corner. Your children need to know that you are on their side and will always comfort and protect them at any age.

Any new situation can bring on anxious feelings. Stay calm and be positive and most of the time your children will too. You are bound to hit a few bumps along the way, but that is normal. One day you will look back and remember how starting school was just one of those things that might have been a challenge at first, but wound up being a very positive and exciting new journey. Remember your child will be looking towards you to make them feel more at ease. Put a genuine smile on your face and tell them that they are going to be fine, and that you are there for them to help them make this new transition a successful and positive one!

The Camp Buzz Is In The Air! How To Help Anxious Kids Have A Positive Summer Camp Experience!

Posted on: Wednesday, March 14th, 2012  In: Blog  |  1 Comment »

Sleep away camp is around the corner!  Parents and children are in the thick of  what I call CAMP MANIA!! Every children’s store you walk into today in NYC, Long Island, Westchester, and New Jersey, has THE CAMP BUZZ going on ! Big neon signs, clothing, color war face paint, and fun accessories all pertaining to sleep away camp decorate every store in town. Parents and children are being inundated with the latest and greatest camp paraphernalia available. As you walk into each store, employees are busy asking kids where they are going to camp? Is this your 1st summer going away to camp? For some kids this BUZZ is just a bit too overwhelming!
For kids that have anxiety about going back to camp, or kids that are first time campers, this time of year can be difficult for them. Anxiety is building and they need to work on it NOW so by the time camp comes they are ready to enjoy a successful summer away! And remember…your child may SAY that she/he is fine and not feeling any pre-camp nerves, but sometimes that can be a front. Keep an eye open for less noticeable signs such as changes in sleep patterns (trouble falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep), difficulty separating from you, and/or the often-heard “What happens if…” questions.

Here are some helpful tips to help kids relax and have a positive camp experience:

  • Talk about camp! Not talking about it can lead to underlying building anxiety. Kids are aware that camp is coming, so don’t push it away because you are nervous for them to go. If your child is showing anxiety or emotion now, deal with it!  You have plenty of time to give him or her coping skills and strategies they need to be successful.
  • Countdowns to camp are great, but remember as it gets closer they don’t need to be reminded by having that countdown clock or calendar next to their bed before they go to sleep every night. You don’t want them feeling anxious about falling asleep and then associate that with camp.
  • Ask your child if he or she has any questions or concerns about camp NOW…waiting until a week before isn’t going to make them feel relaxed and prepared. Camp directors are more than happy to answer these questions so their campers can have a positive transition into camp.
  • If you have any concerns about your child, be honest with your director by having a conversation in advance so you all are on the same page. You are doing the camp a favor by preparing them with information about your child. A good camp director will appreciate your honesty. Full discloser is imperative!
  • Go with your child go pick out some accessories and decorations to bring to camp. Fun decorations for the wall are great way to brighten up the bunk! Boys love Fatheads, girls love posters- this will help them envision their bunk before they even get there.
  • Most children will experience homesickness at some point in camp. Even if its just for a day, make sure you tell them this is a normal and will go away. Don’t make them feel embarrassed or ashamed for feeling this way. Telling them that you too felt this when you were a child and how after a few days that feeling went away can be very helpful for your child to hear. One camp director has a favorite line that she shares with campers: “It’s okay to miss home AND have fun at camp at the same time!”
  • If your child is currently on medication for Anxiety,ADHD,OCD, etc. don’t make any changes right before camp. Make sure you have a plan in place with your child’s doctor at least 2 months in advance so your child does not experience any changes.
  • Send your child with a comfort from home. Even boys need a comfort that will help them fall asleep easier. A blanket, special pillow, something that will help them fall asleep with ease.
  • If you child doesn’t know anybody going to camp with him or her, call the camp directors and ask if they can set you up with someone that may live close to you or somebody that would be a good match for your child. They don’t need to be best friends, but having a familiar face at the bus stop can be very helpful!
  • If you see your child is starting to feel very anxious it may be a good idea to seek professional help. Having your child see a therapist for a few sessions can make a tremendous difference. Learning relaxation techniques can be very helpful to children who are anxious.

Follow @askstefanie on Twitter and check out askStefanie’s Facebook and website www.asktefanie.com

Will Going To Therapy Make the Situation Better or Worse ?

Posted on: Monday, February 6th, 2012  In: Blog  |  2 Comments »

 I spoke to a mom recently who has a daughter that is struggling with anxiety about going to school.  The girl had been having issues with her friends and seemed more introverted than usual.  The family had never been to therapy and wondered if  it would help or hurt the situation.  The mom seemed awfully concerned about her daughter but was also worried about the possibility that therapy could make the situation worse.  She wanted my opinion as to how she should handle the situation.  Needless to say, I conveyed that speaking with someone about her  daughter’s anxiety was the right choice. I believe that many other parents who are wavering with the same  question could benefit from this article as well.

  • Children who are suffering with anxiety and having trouble with their daily activities can benefit tremendously from the proper guidance and support from a trained psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist depending upon what their individual needs are.
  • When a child has a stomach ache or their throat hurts, doesn’t it make a parent feel better to go to the pediatricians office and get it checked out?  Even if it turns out to be nothing, you feel relieved to know that the belly ache was just gas and the strep culture was negative and there is nothing to worry about.  It’s the same thing when it comes to taking your child for therapy.  Being pro-active and giving your child a safe place to talk about their feelings and learn how to manage them is extremely beneficial.
  • Have you ever heard the expression, “things get worse before they get better”? Initially when sharing what is bothering you or your child, you may feel “exposed” and feel like- Why did I even bring this up in the first place, it would have gone away on its own!  But usually those feelings don’t go away.  Sitting with unhappiness, and sadness is uncomfortable and unnecessary.   Children need to be comfortable talking about what is bothering them so you can work together to make things better.
  • Sometimes telling mom or dad isn’t so easy!  You may be thinking… it’s me , my child can tell me ANYTHING.  Well many times that is not the case.  Children, especially as they reach adolescence, may be hiding things that they would feel more comfortable talking to a neutral party about.
  • Kid’s find it very helpful when speaking to someone who has experience dealing with other kids that have similar problems. It’s a relief to hear that they aren’t the only ones feeling the way they do.  Hearing about positive outcomes and solutions makes a child hopeful that they can get to a better place too.
  • Many times parents disagree about how they should handle a situation with their child.  Dad may be the strict one, while mom may be the softy , so a division is formed that is often felt by their child  This can be very difficult on a marriage when this happens.  When a family goes to a therapist, that third party is giving a professional opinion based on the child’s needs which helps mom and dad to learn to be on the same page.  This makes things in the home much more manageable!
  • Things suddenly come up in life.  A divorce, argument, death, a problem as school, or with a friend.  All of the sudden you are in a position where  you wish you had a therapist you can call and turn to, someone who knows you and someone you trust.  Having this person on speed dial is very handy!

Yes, at first it is difficult to muster up the courage to make that initial phone call, but once your appointment is made you and your child are finally on the road to feeling better because you are going to get the help your family truly needs.

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