Resources

What You Need to Know About Taking a Child to Therapy

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Disclosure: CHOC Children’s is a Tiny Oranges Partner

This post will hopefully explain any questions you might have about taking a child to see a therapist thanks to the expert advice of Dr. Carlos Konishi Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist at CHOC Children’s. We will cover how to find a therapist for your child, what to prepare for your first session, some questions you might want to ask and most importantly, how to know you have found a good one.

 

Kids’ mental health.  We need to talk about it.

But there are still stigmas and misinformation around mental health because we don’t understand mental illness like we do physical illness.

If your child was complaining about a persistent physical pain, what would you do?

Make an appointment with your doctor.

You probably wouldn’t even think twice about it, right?

What if you noticed persistent and noticeable changes in your child’s emotional or mental state or behaviors, what would you do?

The answer is not as clear as a physical ailment, is it?

But it should be.

Make an appointment with your therapist.

If you have never seen a therapist before, the idea of taking your child to one might seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. The first step is often the hardest but the end results will be well worth it.

Here are some of the questions I had for Dr. Konishi. If you have any to ask him, please comment below!

My child needs therapy, where do I start? How do I even find a therapist? 

“The best place to start is often with your pediatrician who can give you a referral or provide you with list of providers contracted through your insurance. When researching therapists for your child, it is extremely important to find someone who specializes in working with children, because it takes a specific skill set. It is also helpful to see if the provider has experience working with the issue you are seeking treatment for,” Dr. Konishi explained.

I made an appointment, do I need to prepare anything for our first meeting?

“Just like an initial doctor’s appointment, there will be a good amount of paperwork to complete prior to the first session. It is helpful to ask if you can get the paperwork ahead of time to allow you to arrive with everything filled out,” he suggested.

You can also bring in any information that will help the therapist learn more about your child.

“Documents like IEP’s, grades, special testing results, teacher or coach feedback, any information that will help the therapist get a more complete picture of your child is extremely helpful.”

He also recommended writing down any questions you have for the therapist before going in so you can leave with all your questions answered.

To that point, what questions are good to ask the therapist?

Along with the questions you come up with, Dr. Konishi said there are some good ones to address in the first session:

How often will we meet?

Will the sessions include both myself and my child? Or will you also want to meet with us alone?

What are the specific goals of therapy?

How are we going to be able to identify progress in a way we can objectively track?

What’s the best way to communicate with you if I have questions or concerns in-between sessions?

Which led me to my next question..

How do I explain therapy to my child?

Dr. Konishi said you can simply describe therapy as going to see a person whose job it is to help them feel better.

“Some parents have helped prepare their child for a first therapy visit by comparing a psychologist to a school counselor. Most students know who a school counselor is and usually have a positive impression of them,” he explained. ” They also understand that they are there to help, even if they have not gone and seen one themselves. Using this example can help remove the fear of the unknown.” 

For those who like books as conversation starters, he suggested a book called “Feeling Better” about therapy on Amazon (affiliate link) you can get and read together with your child.

If your child is older, like tween or teenager, “It might be a good idea to ask them what they would like to get out of therapy and what their goals are? This gives them ownership and power over the process,” he said.

What should I expect in the first session with my child?

“The first session is typically spent building rapport with the child and family while gathering information about the child’s strengths, interests and life situations.”

The therapist will also likely cover any relevant history like asking about any family history of mental illness, traumas, developmental or social delays, etc.

It might seem very personal but all of this information will help the therapist devise a plan for therapy and treatment that will be most effective for your child.

“It is important to know that everything said in a therapy session, barring any information about the child being a danger to him or herself, to others, or being the victim of acts that put the child in danger, are kept strictly confidential by HIPPA law,” Dr. Konishi stressed.

How long will it take for therapy to work?

“It is really important for parents to exercise patience when assessing the effectiveness of therapy.  The first 2 – 3 sessions are generally spent building rapport with the child and making them feel comfortable,” he expressed.

Before making any knee-jerk reactions or conclusions about therapy not working, he said to give it at least 5 sessions and sometimes it might even take up to 10 before you might start to notice any improvements.

“Change is hard for anyone, and changes do not happen overnight, so it is important to trust the process and give it some time before evaluating.”   

What if I don’t think therapy is working for my child?

The most important component of therapy is having open communication with your therapist about the things that are working but also any concerns you might have.

“Knowing this information gives the therapist insight and opportunity to tweak their approach,” he explained. 

But Dr. Konishi, isn’t it insulting to tell my therapist if I don’t think they are being effective for my child? The therapist is the expert after all, right?

“Yes, therapists are experts in how to work with certain problems and behaviors, but you are the expert when it comes to your child,” he clarified.

No one else on this planet knows your child like you do, so it is absolutely appropriate to share feedback with your therapist.

How do I know if I have found a good therapist?

Your therapist should make you and your child feel comfortable and be able to lay out specific goals for therapy so you can work together to meet these goals and help your child feel better.

“A good therapist should view therapy as a collaboration between the child, the child’s parents and the child’s medical team with the goal of treating the whole child, mind AND body. Collaboration takes communication, so it is important to communicate with both your therapist and your doctor what is going on with your child to give them better insight in treating your child most effectively,” he stressed.   

Lastly, a good therapist will also be open to hearing your honest feedback and work together with you on the best way to treat your child. 

Any final notes?

Dr. Konishi answered, “Don’t expect perfect progress. Therapy doesn’t work that way.”

It’s not like taking an antibiotic for an infection, where you take it for 10 days and you are done. Therapy is a series of progress and setbacks. You might see some steps moving forward, but then a life stressor or situation might arise, and you might see a few steps back.

“What’s important is you continue to communicate these life circumstances so your therapist can integrate proper coping tools to help get the child back moving in the right direction.”

If you would like to learn more about CHOC Children’s Mental Health services and programs please visit www.choc.org/mental-health.

6 Conversation Starters About Mental Health

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Galileo Innovation Summer Camp Giveaway!

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This post is brought to you by Galileo Innovation summer camps for kids

This time of year something happens in the psyches of moms everywhere.

Once Spring Break is over we know what is coming. We brace ourselves and hold on to our hats and glasses because it is one wild ride to the end of the school year. I am convinced time actually speeds up.

For real.

Given summer will be here in the blink of an eye, the ubiquitous planning and strategizing to get the kids registered for summer camps goes into full effect about now. Are you there yet?

Now I am sure you have your same ‘ole favorite tried-and-true camps you do every summer, which is great. But this summer I urge you to consider sending your kids to a totally NEW, totally INSPIRING, totally EDUCATIONAL (but not boring educational) summer camp. It’s a camp that will inspire and expand their creativity and minds, Galileo Innovation Camps, where kids’ wildest ideas come to life.

For real.

Galileo Innovation Summer Camps are designed for Pre-K through 8th grade kids with the goal to create and nourish a love for innovation. At Galileo, they believe the world needs innovators, and in the imaginations of children is where ideas begin.

You in? Yes?

Then you don’t want to miss out on this opportunity…Galileo is
🎉 GIVING AWAY ONE FREE WEEK OF CAMP🎉
in Orange County or Carlsbad to one of my readers!!! Details below. Keep on readin’…

Galileo Innovation Camps

Galileo Camps can be found throughout Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and the Bay Area (for any of our readers up north). With over 20+ locations in SoCal, you are sure to find a location near you. For my friends with tiny and tween oranges, the Galileo Camps in Orange County and close-by in Carlsbad can be found in:

Costa Mesa @ Mariners Christian School
Irvine @ Northwood Elementary School
Ladera Ranch @ Oso Grande Elementary School
Newport Beach @ Andersen Elementary School
Carlsbad @ Aviara Oaks Elementary School

All camps officially run 9am – 3p, but extended summer camp care is offered from 8a – 9a and from 3p-6p for those who need it. I know finding quality Orange County summer camps with extended care can be a challenge. Look no further!

What is Galileo All About?

Powerful things happen at Galileo that don’t happen at other camps.

In the midst of having crazy fun, the kids are also learning. Through hands-on exploration and a revolutionary innovation process inspired by Stanford, kids learn how to dream, create, invent, and design giving them self-confidence and an internal boldness to try new things.

They also learn how to fail. Not in a dispiriting way. Rather, they are taught to embrace their mistakes, use them to learn and improve, try again, as a result build the skills it takes to be a risk-taker and problem solver.  You know, the things that take grit! Here’s a peek at what you could expect to find at Galileo this summer…

2018 Galileo Summer Camps Orange County

Camp Galileo (Pre-K – 5th Grade)

For younger innovators ages pre-K through 5th grade, Camp Galileo offers unique immersion experiences in art, science and the outdoors through different weekly themes.

The 2018 summer themes include:

The Incredible Human Body: The Art and Science of Being Human

Space Explorers: Cosmic Art and Astronaut Science

Materials Challenge: Art and Engineering with a Single Supply

Road Trip Adventure: Art and Engineering Along Route 66

Galileo Summer Quest (5th – 8th Grade)

For older innovators entering 5th – 8th grade, Galileo Summer Quest gives campers the opportunity to dive deeper into specific topics by choosing different “majors” for the week. Galileo Summer Quest is offered at the Costa Mesa and Irvine Locations.

Costa Mesa Summer Quest themes include:

Chefology: Supreme Sweets or Breakfast Club

Mystery Room: The Great Escape

Robot Pet

Go-Kart Builders

YouTube Producers

Irvine Summer Quest themes include:

Mystery Room: The Great Escape

Robot Pet

Go-Kart Builders

YouTube Producers

3-D Modeling & Printing

Catapult Builders

Register Now!

Registration is open now! But don’t wait. Spaces at each camp are limited, so if you see a camp that would be perfect for your kiddo, get them signed up today.

Have a friend that would like to go with your child? Make sure to look for any special referral bonuses at your location for bringing along a friend (or two, or three!) And, if you refer a new family, both you and your friend will receive a referral discount of up to $100 (varies by location, check website for details)!!

Camp For All! 

Galileo has a robust financial assistance program, and last year, they awarded over 4800 weeks of specially priced camp. For anyone seeking financial assistance to give their child the opportunity to attend a Galileo camp, visit www.galileo-camps.com to learn more. 

Enter to Win a Free Week!

Okay mamas, now we get down to the extra fun part! Galileo is giving away one free week of camp at one of the 4 Orange County locations OR the Carlsbad location. Good luck!

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CHOC Children’s Mental Health Inpatient Center

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CHOC Children’s is a partner of Tiny Oranges, but this is not a sponsored post.

As a proud CHOC Children’s partner, I was invited to tour their brand new Mental Health Inpatient Center before it opens its doors to patients this month. The desperately-needed facility will provide 18 beds to treat children ages 3 – 17 in a mental health crisis and allow them to receive care close to home.

An estimated one in five children has a diagnosable mental illness during childhood. That would be 150,000 children in Orange County alone. But until now, children under 12 that were a danger to themselves, others, or gravely disabled didn’t have any inpatient bed options in O.C.  The children would have to wait in Emergency Rooms until they stabilized enough to be moved to an inpatient bed outside of the county. That, to me is tragic!

This new facility will fill a big hole in the system and undoubtedly will make a big difference in the lives of local children and their families in the middle of mental health emergencies.


CHOC Children’s Inpatient Health Center, which will be a major component of the comprehensive system of mental health care CHOC is creating, was built to provide the highest level of patient safety in a relaxing environment that promotes healing.

All of the 18 patient rooms are private, and there is an option for parents to stay overnight with their children, both of which are unique for the state of California.

Every single detail has been considered with patient safety in mind. For example, the windows are made of shatterproof glass and every fixture is designed to not be a “tie-off” opportunity. You can see an example with one of the doorknobs in the photo collage below.

I can only imagine the peace of mind it would give parents knowing their child was in a safe place to get help during a crisis.

The average length of stay is typically 5 – 7 days and will include mental health screenings and access to care through CHOC’s mental health resources. In most centers, programming is not available on the weekends, but CHOC’s center will provide the full scope of programming seven days a week.

In addition to their medical care, patients will also have access to complementary therapies such as art and music therapy, mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, and two sensory rooms, high and low, for patients requiring sensory therapy.

When a child is discharged, care planning for the future has already been underway, including connections to outpatient therapy, schools, medical care, support groups, parent assistance. The goal is to provide support after a child leaves to reduce the risk of re-admittance.

Early Intervention is Key!

Mental health is just as important as physical health.

In childhood, many troublesome behaviors might be dismissed with the thoughts, “It’s just a phase.” or “He/She will grow out of it.”

However, as parents, we know our children best. We also have the gift of parental gut instinct. If you sense something might be wrong with your child, don’t wait to get seen by a professional.

There are a wide array of mental health services available to help children who are struggling to give them the tools they need to heal.

For more information visit: www.choc.org/mental-health

 

 

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How to Talk to Your Kids About Tragic Events

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In the wake of last week’s horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, this article on how to talk to your kids about a tragic event in the news is brought to you by CHOC Children’s

When tragic events happen in the news it is sometimes hard to know how to handle conversations about it with our children. How much information should we give? How do we answer specific questions? How does this vary with a child’s age?

Which is why I was so grateful to have the opportunity to speak with Dr. Nicole Vincent, PhD, a licensed psychologist at CHOC Children’s to get her advice to share with you today. 

 5 Key Things to Remember When Talking to Your Kids About a Tragic Event in the News

My very first question I had for her was,

“Is it better to bring up the event with your child at home first OR wait and see if they hear something from a friend or at school before discussing it?” 

1. Be Mindful of the Child’s Age

Dr. Vincent expressed how we talk to our kids about tragic events in the news will vary depending on the age of the child.

For preschoolers through about 1st grade, the chance a child would be exposed to information in the news is not as likely as it is for older children. So for young ones, a parent might consider not bringing up the event unless the child specifically asks about something they heard.  

For older elementary schoolers she suggested it might be a good idea to touch base with your child’s teacher or administrators to ask if the event has been brought up in class or if it is being talked about? Depending on the answer, this might cue you in to whether you might want to address it with your child at home. 

As kids become middle and high school age, it is very likely, especially with technology and social media exposure, to hear about tragic events and get information outside of the home. For these ages, Dr. Vincent said it is usually a good idea to take a proactive approach and start the conversation at home so you can discuss the facts and give them the opportunity to ask questions. 

Which led to my next question, how do you approach the topic about a tragic news event with your kids?

2. Consider Starting the Conversation With These Questions

The best way to start the conversation is to ask your child open-ended questions like “Have you talked about events in the news?” If yes,What have you heard about it? Tell me what you know.” 

The answers will help guide the conversation as to how much information to share.

For younger age groups, it is best to keep your responses honest and factual, but brief. Details are not totally necessary and often times these responses will be enough to satisfy their curiosity.

For older age groups, she advised to let your child take the lead with information they heard or questions they might ask. It is important to validate their concerns by letting them know they are asking great questions. It’s okay to not always have the answers, you can tell them as much, and empathize with also wanting to also know.  Being there to listen to your child is the most important. 

But regardless of age, she stressed you know your child the best and to pay attention to behavior and cues that might indicate they heard something or have questions. Even young children can pick up on information or overhear things that might surprise you.

Bottom line, take the above age suggestions as general guidelines. But again, you know your child the best.

For me personally, I was surprised my 8-year-old daughter had many more questions and wanted to talk about Las Vegas much more than my 11-year-old daughter. It also elicited more fear in her than her sister. For kids who seem to be experiencing an increase in fear as a result, I asked for suggestions on how to help.

3. Reinforce the Rarity of the Event

Tragic events often trigger fear and anxiety in people of all ages, and for children tragic events can be especially scary

Dr. Vincent suggested this could be a time to highlight the fact that a shooting like the one that occurred in Las Vegas is a rare event. And when rare tragic events happen there are many people that will work together to try to avoid it from happening in the future.

4. Teach Kids to Look for the Helpers

In times like this, I often see people quoting Mister Rodgers when he said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Dr. Vincent mentioned it is very helpful to highlight for your children the people that step up to help in crisis.  Teach them to look at the first responders, volunteers, or strangers helping strangers. These people show us the beauty of humanity in a crisis. 

For some kids, she suggested even possibly talking about what you can do to help as a family. Even a small act like choosing a Go Fund Me account to donate to, writing a letter to a first responder, or looking up supplies to donate can help by showing there are always things people can do to help. 

5. Keep Home Life as Normal as Possible 

One last parting piece of advice was to keep your routine at home as normal as possible.  When a child’s day to day routine is altered for whatever reason, it can cause additional anxiety to build. 

On this note, Dr. Vincent also stressed how important it is to allow yourself the time to process the events. Whether it’s talking to your partner, friends or therapist, it is important to be mindful of your own self-care so you are in the right state of mind to discuss it with your child. 

When To Seek Help

After a tragic event, it is not uncommon to experience a variety of emotions or symptoms like mood changes, difficulty with sleep, or increased headaches or stomachaches. If any of these changes persist in you or your child for more than a couple weeks, and if the symptoms are disrupting daily life, it might be a good idea to pursue help by a mental health professional. 

Get more tips from CHOC experts

For more information about CHOC Children’s and their mental health services visit www.choc.org/services/mental-health

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Getting Beyond the One Word Answer

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This article is brought to you by CHOC Children’s pediatric psychologist Dr. Carlos Konishi Ph.D on conversation starters for kids and advice on how parents can encourage communication beyond the one word answer. Getting kids to share more can be a challenge at times, especially for parents of teenagers. His information on how to get kids to open up gave me so many “AHA!” moments during my interview I actually had to apologize for saying “TOTALLY!”  so many times after he said something that struck a chord. I was like an 80’s teenager myself. Totally.

conversation starters for kids

One word answers.

Ugh.

How was your day?

Fine.

Good.

Okay.

What did you do?

Not much.

The process of trying to get more information out of your child can be painful at times, like pulling teeth. So how do you get beyond the one word answer?

Here is Dr. Konishi’s insightful advice… be ready to say TOTALLY yourself…

1. CHOOSE YOUR TIMING WISELY

Have you ever come home from a long day and had your spouse ask, “how was your day?” right when you walk in but felt too tired to even put a sentence together?

Dr. Konishi said children and teenagers are exactly the same.

Their school days and life in general require a lot of energy from them.  To have you chirp, “How was your day?” the instant you greet your child after school might not be the best timing.

If you sense your child is not in the mood to talk right away, he suggested giving them some wind down time.

You can let them know you really want to hear about their day when they are ready to talk, and then keep an ear out for other situations when conversation happens naturally. It might be in the kitchen when they are eating a snack, or in the car on the way to a sport practice, or right before bedtime.

Point being, don’t think the immediate moment you see them has to be the time to discuss all that happened in those hours when you were apart. Opportunities will arise, we might just have to exercise a little patience, and take the cues from our child as to when they are in the mood to share.

2. BE CREATIVE

“How was your day?”

Isn’t that usually the go-to question? Dr. Konishi said frankly kids might be tired of it and find it BORING which is why it doesn’t inspire more than a one word answer!

He suggested getting a little more creative in your questioning by asking different, specific questions about their day instead. More like bite size questions vs. a general one. Sometimes these types of questions are easier for kids to process and express.

For example, if you knew they had a specific project going on in one class or subject, you could ask an open-ended question about it.  Or, ask what activity they did at morning recess and who they played with?

You can also be creative in the timing of your questioning. During fun family activities like a walk, bike ride, or family game can be great times to talk.  Speaking of games, he highly recommends a game of conversation starters called TABLETOPICS which you can pick up on Amazon. There is a Family edition and Teen edition and it is a fun way to get the family talking. Not just the kids, but the parents too! (Amazon affiliate links)

tabletopics

3. BEWARE OF AUTOPILOT MODE

Many times the question, “how was your day?” simply comes from us being in autopilot mode – and it is possible that it in turn triggers an autopilot response of “good” or “fine” from our kids in return.

Dr. Konishi recommended that before starting a conversation with your kids, to first do a self-check as to whether you are able to really listen to what they have to say. Kids can sense when we are multi-tasking and not really listening. In this case, they might not want to answer because they know you aren’t listening.

Bottom line, 0ne way to improve communication with your kids is to start the conversation when you really have time to listen and be present.

4. DON’T FOCUS ON YOUR AGENDA. EXPLORE THEIR INTERESTS.

When starting conversations with our kids many times our questions come from the information we want to know. But these topics might not be super interesting to our kids.

Dr. Konishi said a powerful communication tool can be to tune into their interests and ask questions about the things that excite them. Kids are more likely to open up when it is a topic they want to talk about.

Making children feel like you share and acknowledge their passions is a great way to build better communication, because they know they can share things about it with you.

5. PICK AND CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES

Often times dialogue and conversation between parents and kids can start to go into negative spiral due to constant nit-picking from parents, which can be especially true as children become tweens and teens.  Naturally parents expect more out of older kids, but that can mean kids are constantly being told what to do, what they did wrong, or how to do something different.

If your child starts to feel like all conversations with you are negative, they can start to tune you out because they are conditioned to think you are just going to nag them again.

Dr. Konishi recommends pausing before approaching your child with something that is bothering you and ask yourself, “Is this really important?”

If it is, then by all means, start the conversation about it. But he then advises to keep your message concise and focused on the behavior – not your child’s character. When complaints are piled upon complaints the initial message can be lost. And when a child feels you are judging who they are (and not what they did), the doors will close.  

To take that one step further, he also advises parents to pause and assess whether you can approach the conversation and keep your own emotions cool.  If you can’t, your child will shut the door and go on the defensive.  This is a natural human trait when someone feels attacked. So, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if you can have the conversation without “losing it”? If the answer is no, it is probably best to wait to discuss it with your child.

 YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Dr. Konishi wants parents to realize they are NOT alone, and you don’t have to take on parenting challenges alone.

Parenting is hard. There is no instruction manual and every child is uniquely different. The truth is we don’t have all the answers, and it is OK to ask for help if you are experiencing problems with your child.  There is so much power in sharing your struggles because it encourages others to open up too, and gives us the the opportunity to learn from each other.

He wants parents to seek support…whether it’s from friends, a parenting class, or a family therapist.

One final note he also wanted to stress was that it is normal and natural for kids to go through phases where they are a little more quiet than usual, and it is normal for some kids to be innately less verbal and for some to be more talkative.

You know your child the best. What we always want to stay on the look out for are sudden changes in behavior and/or functioning. If a normally open child suddenly becomes more closed up or has challenges with daily functioning, it might be time to seek professional help. We are so blessed to have places to turn to, like the professionals at CHOC Children’s mental health services.

Get more parenting tips from CHOC experts

For more information about CHOC’s mental health services visit www.choc.org/services/mental-health

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