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How to talk to kids about death

August 25th, 2012 | Posted by rcnash in Take 5 - (0 Comments)

A short time ago a beloved family member passed away and as I watched family members grieve I was taken aback by the diversity of responses; from quiet contemplation to protective humor and from avoidance to aggressive confrontation. While all the adults tarried about, trying their best to make sense of all that was happening, the one thing we all seemed to agree on was the need to protect the children from undue burden over the harsh reality of death. In hindsight this was likely unnecessary, as most of the children present were more traumatized by the increased anxiety their parents were going through than by the death itself; that is, for the ones that weren’t completely oblivious to the reason for the family getting together at all.

As I thought about the affects this experience has had on me and my family, I also thought about the importance of talking to our children about death and dying. Also on the appropriateness of how to breach the subject with our children. So here are a few ideas of how you could address this topic when your family has to confront it.

Breaking the News

Start by picking a location where you and your child can be alone for as long as needed without interruptions. Attempt to learn all the facts about the death, so you can explain them to your child and help him understand, if he asks. Once you tell your child that the death has occurred, answer any questions he may have.  You may also find your child would prefer to just sit quietly and think. He may need some time to fully comprehend what you’re saying. On the other hand don’t be concerned if he doesn’t seem to be deeply affected by the loss and don’t attempt to illicit false emotional responses. Remember, we all grieve in our own time and in our own way and your child may not be emotionally ready or feel the need to emote.

Openness

It is important to maintain open and honest communication with your child when it comes to discussing the death of friends or loved one. Do not avoid talking about the death; doing so may make your child afraid to bring up the subject for fear of upsetting you. It is important to remember that children are more invested in the emotional stresses and changes of their parents than we often give them credit for, or even realize. The key is to remember to keep the lines of communication open so that your child will feel free to come to you with any questions, fears, or feelings that he needs to talk about.

Clarity

Children should receive clear, age-appropriate explanations of the death. For children under the age of five or six, it is important to recognize that they think literally and don’t yet grasp the meaning of death. Talking to this age group about the death might involve explaining that the person died because her body stopped working. You might also explain the reasons, such as an accident or illness leading to the body’s breakdown. As children get older, they become more capable of comprehending the reality of death, but can also respond well to clear explanations of the death process. Though it sometimes feels like we are softening the blow by using euphemisms for death, such as “resting”, “gone to sleep”, “gone away”, etc. This can be confusing to children and some belive could lead to a child becoming afraid to go to sleep or cause him to worry that the deceased is actually just on a long trip.

Belief System

If available, you may want to share your own beliefs and views on death when discussing the death of a loved one. It can also be beneficial to tell children that other people have different opinions about death. This evidence of respect for other views may help children if they find an alternative belief system to be more comforting.

Dealing with Questions

It’s important to provide relevant, direct answers to all of your child’s questions about the death. Since children learn through repetition, your child may ask the questions repeatedly. If your child asks a question and you don’t know the answer, explaining your uncertainty is preferable to making up an answer. Be aware of any worries or fears underlying children’s questions and provide necessary reassurance.

Behavior Analysis: What is it?

July 9th, 2012 | Posted by rcnash in Take 5 - (0 Comments)

“Applied behavior analysis employs methods based on scientific principles of behavior to build socially useful repertories and reduce problematic ones”
(Cooper, Heron, and Howard, 1989)

Behavior analysis focuses on the fact that behaviors are learned through interaction and feedback from the environment.  Behavior analysts study the reasons why behaviors occur, using direct observation and experimentation.  The study of the science of behavior analysis is the study of an objective method to determine why behavior occurs and correspondingly, how to alter such behavior.   Behavior analysts use the principles of behavior to alter socially significant behavior by changing existing behaviors, teaching new behaviors, and teaching discrimination of socially appropriate uses of behaviors in different settings.  In behavior analysis, interventions are consistently evaluated to determine their effectiveness.

 

SO what’s the hype about ABA?  ABA is based on more than 60 years of scientific investigation with individuals affected by a wide range of behavioral and developmental disorders.  The National Standards Project provides critical information about effective treatments for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  ABA is a major methodological component for 3 out of the 11 treatments cited as being “Established” (i.e. established as effective).  ABA strategies such as reinforcement, prompting, and establishing motivation are components of 7 of the remaining 8 established interventions.

 

As a behavior analyst, I work with children and adolescents with behavioral and developmental disorders.  My clients often have a diagnosis of autism, but it is a common misconception that ABA is strictly for persons with autism.  Behavior analysts work in a wide array of areas including anxiety, parenting, marital conflict, gerontology, behavioral medicine, animal training, addiction, crime and delinquency, education, and organizational management- just to name a few.  The scientific principles are what makeup ABA, not the way in which it is implemented within any given setting or with any given individual.

To learn more, check out these websites:

Information about the National Standard’s Project

http://www.nationalautismcenter.org/nsp/

 

Information about certification as a behavior analyst and certificate registry

http://www.bacb.com/

50 ways to praise

June 19th, 2012 | Posted by rcnash in Take 5 - (0 Comments)

Many times, when a family brings their child in to work with me we discover that the child’s acting-out behaviors are the result of a lack of acknowledgement from their parents. In fact attention-seeking behaviors are some of the most common factors reported by parents and teachers alike for disruptions and antisocial interactions. Let’s face it, we all get busy and finding time and energy to praise our children is sometimes difficult. Though it’s easy to forget, it is important to remember that we all need attention at times. While it’s generally not preferred, negative attention is better than no attention at all and many children and teenagers learn over time that acting-out is a sure fire way to get needed acknowledgment from others. With that in mind, here are 50 Ways to praise your child that can be quick and easy. Here’s an idea for a game: Print out the list, check off each statement as you use it. See how long it takes you to use all 50 statements. GO ON – I Double-dog dare you!

1. Good Job
2. Way to go
3. What a great idea
4. Cool
5. You’re on a role
6. You’ve got it
7. Keep up the good work
8. That’s the ticket
9. You’re the man / You’re the woman
10. At-a-boy / At-a-girl
11. You go girl / You go boy
12. You are very good at that
13. Congratulations
14. You did it
15. Nice going
16. Great
17. Keep up the good work
18. That’s the way to do it
19. Fantastic
20. You’re on fire
21. Thank you
22. Right on
23. I’m impressed
24. That’s a good point
25. Awesome
26. You rocked that
27. I’m proud of you
28. That was 1st rate
29. Neat work
30. Out of sight
31. You’re blowing me away
32. Keep up the good work
33. It looks like you’ve got the hang of that
34. I couldn’t have done better myself
35. You make it look easy
36. Way to be
37. That’s is “A” work
38. Perfect
39. I think you’ve mastered it
40. That’s it
41. Nothing can stop you
42. Much Better
43. Best job ever
44. Outstanding
45. You certainly did well
46. Keep doing it just like that
47. You’ve got it made
48. Exactly Right
49. I knew you could do it
50. That’s good

Family Fun

May 19th, 2012 | Posted by rcnash in Take 5 - (0 Comments)

Family fun for under $5.00

Public Library (Cost: Free)

People frequently underestimate the value of reading to their children. Not only does it help to improve a child’s literacy skills it also helps to encourage a love of learning which can help your child to be more successful in school. Reading can help to stimulate your child’s mind by encouraging imagination and creativity which have been linked to increased IQs.  The public library system can provide a great deal of fun and help us, as parents, to get back in touch with our children’s dreams, likes, and interests. The only cost is gas, parking, and late fees – so be sure to teach your children about responsibility by getting your materials back on time.

 

State Parks (Cost: Free)

If you are lucky enough, as we are, to live in Arkansas, you are no doubt aware of all the wonders nature has to offer.  Taking a family trip to a state park can provide hours, and sometimes days, of enjoyment.  With options such as playgrounds, hiking trails, swimming areas, campgrounds, climbing, and the list just keeps going on; you would be hard pressed to find any other outings which can teach and engage your children quite so well. Be sure to check for special event on the Arkansas State Parks Website (http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/) for other special activities such as art & crafts, carnivals, professional demonstrations, etc. Please be sure to keep our parks clean to ensure future generations can enjoy them and to teach your children the value of conservation.

 

Family Game Night (Cost: $5.00)

Many parents forget about the simple joy of playing board games or cards because they seem so… well … simple.  Chances are you still have remnants of your youth in the form of old games from your childhood sitting in a closet collecting dust as we speak. Monopoly, Clue, Life, Checkers, just to name a few, are all sitting around just waiting to be played. Why not share these treasures of a bygone era with your children and let them experience the thrill of making and spending money or catching the bad guy without ever turning on the television set or computer monitor. All you need is some snacks, sandwiches and drinks and your set for the evening. This is a great way to teach your children about the concepts of fair play, taking turns, and strategy, not to mention all the opportunities to learn about their day and show them that you’re never too busy to spend some time with them.  Play is the natural communication style of children, especially young children and you might be surprised by what all you find out if you engage them through their natural tongue. Watch for form information on specific games and life lessons you can use in your home on our website. (http://www.nashtherapy.net/)

 

Catch a flick (Cost: $2.00)

While I don’t often advocate for the frequent mind-numbing experience of watching television for hours on end; it can be useful for a family to sit down together to watch a show, especially if the show has teachable principles or life skills that a parent can talk to their children about. Visual media can stimulate the brain in more effectively than other activities and if used successfully, can be helpful in bridging the gap with teens.  Parents should be especially careful about using visual media with young children, as there have been coalitions shown to exist between increased television usage and increased inattentiveness. With that said, I’ve always enjoyed a good Andy Griffith episode – don’t be surprised if your child does too.