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Regular Features

Dr. Steven Richfield provides articles on many different aspects of raising a child with ADHD.                                   

Each month we our advocate will be answering questions from our visitors about yours and your children's rights in the educational system.    

A mother is trying to help her teenage son learn anger management.   

Five great ideas for motivation, including The Shoe Race, Trading Places and more.  

Organize your child at home, and maybe find some tips that will help you as well.  

Headlines about ADHD, Learning Disability and Mental Disorders

Study on ADD and TV
The recent study published on watching television between the ages of one and three and the possible link to ADD/ADHD did not take many considerations into account. The author of the study even admits that he cannot conclude that television watching and ADD/ADHD are linked.

Read the Article

Parent Coach Archives

The Parent Coach: Dealing With Your Children's Issues

by Dr. Steven Richfield 

A parent writes, "I can't figure out my son. He's so unpredictable;
sometimes when things don't go his way, he takes it in stride. Other times he falls apart over the same situation. I try to talk to him about it later but that leads nowhere. What's going on and what can I do about it?"

Situations that trigger strong emotional reactions in children sometimes serve to uncork accumulated feelings. To an observer, the intensity of these feelings appears very disproportionate to the event. To a parent, their child's reactions are confusing and bothersome. These "release valve reactions" occur when outside conditions, internal states, and foundation issues make for a combustible combination.

Foundation issues are to children as hot buttons are to adults. They represent the underlying reasons for the bottleneck of feelings, although it may be difficult to pinpoint the linkage between the issue and the event. A child's acute awareness of criticism, interpretation of events through the lens of jealousy, or the arbitrary assignment of self-blame are examples of such bedrock issues that contain anger, upset, or other painful feelings.
Children are more susceptible to acting out these feelings when they are at home, since this serves as their "safety zone" where they don't fear embarrassment. Consider the following coaching points when approaching your child about their issues:

"All of us have issues, especially adults, since we've had more time than kids to grow into them." This statement opens up discussion without pointing fingers. By offering examples of our own issues, you can make what is usually a very touchy subject a humorous and intriguing one. Perhaps you were bullied or excessively teased as a child by an older sibling. If so, this may have left you rather reactive to incidents touching upon this raw nerve. Explain how this issue lurks in the background of your personality just as other
issues do so in them. Reveal how the bully issue makes it hard for you to think clearly in certain situations since you get trapped in old feelings. Jumping to conclusions, misinterpretations, and narrowed thinking are some of the resulting problems that set the stage for trouble, in adults and children.

Use the STOP (Situation - Trap - Outcome - Plan to Prevent) format to process issues-based incidents. Processing is akin to "rewinding the tape" of what happened so that you and your child can calmly review the sequence of events. It begins by describing the situation in all of it's elements, i.e., child's expectations, people present, exact words spoken, etc. Next is a frank discussion of the entangling issue, i.e., sibling rivalry, rejection perceptions, sensitivity to criticism, etc. The outcome, such as punishment
or social embarrassment, is then identified. Finally, children can plan to be on the look out for those situations where their issues are triggered. Review past circumstances where your child was trapped.

The prevention of future troubles is aided by preparation, management, and processing. You can prepare your child for improved coping by speaking beforehand about what is likely to happen in a given situation. Rehearsal of "self-talk" strategies is the next coaching task. These are brief, pointed mental scripts that children can tell themselves when they face emotionally
challenging situations. Statements such as "Don't take the bait," "I can't always get it right," or "It's someone else's turn," help them manage the stirred up feelings. Issues management can also be fostered by rehearsing situations with your child so that they can practice these silent self-control strategies. Afterwards, process your child's experience by reviewing how well they coped with their issues.

Be patient, it requires a lot of practice for your child to learn
objectivity when their issues are triggered. As most adults already know, it is very difficult to desensitize oneself from our issues. Children have even more trouble. It's easy for them to get caught up in thinking that another person intended for them to feel the way they do. Gently point out that the "feelings effect" of what happened is not always the intention of the people involved in the incident.

Dr. Steven Richfield is a child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting. His column appears monthly. He can be contacted at 610-275-0178 or at: