* Preparing Older Children for the Birth of a Sibling

By Jordan Beach, MSW, Courier & Press, April 25, 2017 –

Having a new baby is a very exciting time. There is so much to be happy about.

Since there is usually a lot to be done before baby arrives, preparing for the newest member of the family can be very consuming.

When you have your first child it is possible to allow the new family member to take up all of your time and energy.  But when there are already children in the home, it’s important to get older siblings ready for the arrival of their new baby brother or sister.

Unfortunately, children are not usually as excited about a new baby as the rest of the family.  They understand at an early age they are going to have to share things they’ve never shared before.

One of the biggest changes they are going to face is sharing the attention of their parents.  There are plenty of things that you, as parents, can do to help make the arrival of the new baby exciting for everyone and help older children mentally and emotionally prepare for the changes occurring in their family.

During the pregnancy, it is important to discuss the new baby with older siblings.  Talk about when the new baby will arrive.  Depending on their age, you could tell them the month the baby is due or talk about the season the baby is going to be born. Help your child understand the amount of time it will take before baby comes.

Other activities that will encourage your child’s relationship with their future brother or sister include reading books about siblings, visiting friends who have infants, including them in prenatal appointments and encouraging them to help you think of baby names.  Many hospitals also provide sibling birth classes to help the older child prepare for the new arrival.

Most of the changes in your family will occur after the baby arrives.  It is great to talk to your child about the arrival of the new baby, but there is no way to really prepare them for the amount of time a new baby takes.

If possible, maintain a normal routine with your older child.  If your son or daughter attends a childcare center or school, continue sending them as normal.  This will help maintain their routine and also make your transition back to work easier when the time comes.

After baby arrives, set aside some special time each day for the older sibling to spend with mom and dad.  This might be bath time or reading a book right before bedtime.  It doesn’t really matter how you spend the time; it is just really important to give them at least 10 minutes of your undivided attention every day.

This would be a great time to talk to children about how they like being an older sibling to get a better understanding of how they are adjusting.  It is also important for them to receive this individualized time with both parents.

Another way to help your older child adjust is to allow them to help with the new baby.  They can help by getting diapers or other things you need for the baby, playing with the baby (appropriately), singing songs and telling stories.

There is no doubt your family is about to change with a new baby on the way, but by taking some of these simple steps you can make the transition as seamless as possible for your older children.

* Five No-Phone Zones – Are Cell Phones Coming Between Us and Our Family?

By Katie Omohundro, LCSW, Courier & Press, April 18, 2017 –

We all know cell phones and other electronic devices are here to stay, but do they have to come between us and our family? How do we balance the use of electronic devices and time with family?

It’s just as important to regulate our own use of devices as it is for our children to disconnect. So I’ve broken down some areas where cell phone and other electronic use can be specifically challenging.

Let’s talk about those five zones:

1. Bedrooms – Years ago, pediatricians recommended no televisions in bedrooms, and now we also include other types of electronic devices. To encourage sleep, charging phones across the room versus the nightstand will decrease the chances of checking that phone one last time. Having children charge cell phones and other devices in their parents’ room may also cut down on late-night conversations with friends.

2. At the table – If your family eats dinner together at the table, it’s great to have a rule for everyone that this is family time and to “unplug.”  This goes for parents, too!

3. Reading a Book – It’s difficult to truly get into a book if we’re going back-and-forth from reading to checking e-mail or looking at other applications on our electronic devices.  If you want to read more books or you are trying to get some family reading time in, you might allow e-readers, but keep other screens at a distance.

5. In the car – Of course screen time in a vehicle during a long trip is helpful, but limiting the amount of time would provide an opportunity for family discussions. Some of the most unguarded conversations take place when parents are chauffeuring, so it’s worth trying to limit screen time in the vehicle.  As far as car use by parents, of course texting while driving is not recommended and in many states is against the law.  If children know you do not text and drive, they will learn this is expected practice in your family.

So what now? Make sure everyone is on the same page by developing a family electronic-use plan that works for your family.

One step in my family’s plan is no cell phone use while picking our son up from school. I saw a report recently about a school that posted signs around the building asking parents to not be on their phones when picking up their children. Children often want to tell their parents about their day or show them work they did while at school, so give them your full attention. You will be glad you did.

Hopefully focusing on these five no-phone zones can help provide more quality family time. I challenge families to put their cell phones and other electronic devices down in the five no-phone zones for one week and see how it improves family communication. You can even have a little family competition – parents versus kids – and see who can successfully stay off their electronic devices in these five zones.

* What’s Going on Inside Your Teen’s Head?

By Heather Miller, LCSW, Courier & Press, April 11, 2017 –

If you are the parent of a teen, you have most likely thought, “You’re seriously worried about that?” a few dozen times.

The issues that worry adults are often completely different than the issues that worry teens.  Adults may often be confused about why a teen would be worried about a particular issue and may also wonder how to best give support.

It may be difficult to not trivialize a teen’s worries at times, but validating your child’s emotions is crucial to the adult-teen relationship.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, immaturity of the brain plays a large role in why teens worry.  A study utilizing MRI found that when attempting to distinguish between safety and threat, teens use the part of the brain responsible for basic fear responses.

When given the same scenario, findings indicate that adults utilize a more mature part of the brain responsible for reasoned judgments.  This suggests that teens may be more fearful in general due to their physical inability to adequately distinguish between safety and threat.

What do teens worry about the most? An article found on familyeducation.com notes that teens worry about the following:

  • What others think of them
  • Grades
  • Lack of time
  • Family difficulties
  • The future

Parents and caregivers can help teens get through worrisome situations.  This assistance will strengthen the parent-child relationship and teach the teen coping skills to use independently in the future.

Here are three ideas for supporting your worried teen:

  • Validate that your teen is worried and, without judgment, allow them to tell you what is leading to the worry.
  • Assist your teen in narrowing down the actual issue as well as brainstorming possible solutions.  Allow your teen to think of possible solutions rather than telling them what to do to solve the issue.
  • Remain focused on how your teen is feeling rather than trying to “cheerlead” them out of a worry.  Being positive and supportive is very important; however, comments such as “Oh, it will be just fine – don’t worry,” often feel generic and uncaring.

While some amount of worrying is a normal part of every teen’s experience, excessive worry that interferes with functioning or quality of life may require professional intervention. If you feel your teen is consumed with worry and this is affecting their daily activities, contact the Youth First Social Worker at your child’s school, a guidance counselor, an outpatient therapist, or your teen’s pediatrician to discuss these concerns.

Additionally, if communicating with your teen is difficult, Youth First programs such as Strengthening Families can help develop communication skills for families with children of all ages. Please call 812-421-8336 or visit youthfirstinc.org for more information about Strengthening Families or other Youth First programs.