Author and educational consultant Franki Bagdade isn’t afraid to let parents know that it’s normal and okay to have feelings for your children that don’t always fit the mold especially when parenting a child with different needs. Her recent book “I Love My Kids, But Don’t Always Like Them” explores current topics related to parenting our children through challenging times. According to Bagdade, sensory issues and anxiety are exploding in todays youth compounded by social media and the heavy use of technology like phones. Recognizing there was a large gap in the self help section at the bookstore, Bagdade began to focus her book on school aged children. Often this age group gets lost in the shuffle between toddlers and teens but it’s often the most critical time to recognize, diagnose and manage learning and behavior differences. This is the time many parents realize their child is suffering socially or academically but don’t have the resources to learn how to help them. Her book is a guide through various challenges and tips and tricks to manage them. Each chapter covers a topic that you may be struggling with and instead of having to read through the entire book, Bagdade designed her book so after reading the introduction, you can skip to the chapter that you need guidance from. Some of her chapters included parenting a child with ADHD, sensory processing disorder, autism and anxiety.
One topic Bagdade covers is sensory processing disorder which is recognized more now than in previous generations although she believes it’s always been as prevalent. One thing she noticed during her tenure at a summer camp was when she created sensory boxes with headphones, fidgets and sensory tools. Intended to help campers who were in the inclusion program of the camp she found that kids who were not diagnosed with sensory issues also seeked out the sensory processing tools to help calm them in the intense camp environment. The objects gave all kids a break while not removing themselves from the situation entirely. Bagdade says having fidgets and headphones are essential for children to learn how to calm themselves while being immersed in intense environments like school.
When it comes to managing sensory processing issues within the family Bagdade suggests finding ways to accommodate the child with the sensitivity. For instance if you know you will be in a loud place for a long time, bring headphones for the child or if you’ll be in a dark theater where there will be lots of bright, flashing lights you can bring sunglasses for your child. She also suggests that exposing a child to their sensitivities in small doses can help build their tolerance to those stimuli. While it’s important to choose activities as a family that everyone can enjoy, Bagdade suggests that you can also choose to do an activity with one child who you know will love the environment while letting the child who would not enjoy the activity stay home. That strategy helps you meet the needs of both children.
Anxiety is another issue that kids are experiencing in high numbers. Anxiety comes on a spectrum with some anxiety actually being good for you but when it becomes out of control then it needs to be addressed.
The first thing to do to gauge the level of anxiety your child is experiencing is to ask the right questions that will help you connect with them and allow them to express their feelings. Checking in with them on a daily basis about how they are doing is a good first step and when they do share their feelings with you, validating their feelings and experiences goes a long way in helping them process their feelings as well as sharing your feelings so they know as a parent, you also struggle with some feelings of anxiety.
So what are some strategies that we can use to help our kids recognize and manage their anxiety? Bagdade suggests the following ideas to begin the process:
- Help your child recognize when they do feel calm. What are they doing? Encouraging your child to engage in an activity that calms them can include playing with a fidget like slime, watching a TV show or being in nature.
- Use your senses to calm yourself. The example Bagdade uses is to find five things around you. Five things you can see or five things you can smell which can help the child be more mindful and present.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When strategies are not helping your child anymore then it’s time to ask for the help of a professional therapist. Her book has a guide on how to find the right professional to help your child.
Todays teens are dealing with some heavy issues at the same time they naturally pull away from their parents and family and seek out peers for advice. Keeping an open line of communication and reinforcing the presence of adults in your teens life that they can turn to for help goes a long way for them to know they don’t need to shoulder burdens alone. Teachers, guidance counselors, coaches, aunts, uncles and family friends are all people who teens could approach with an issue they may not be comfortable talking to their parents about and it’s important that we as parents let them know they have that option.
When it comes to technology and social media Bagdade says you need to parent based on the child. If one child needs time limits and restricted access then you need to put those in place. Other children can handle more freedom without abusing it. The most important thing is to let your children know that if they see or hear something that they don’t understand or are upset by, they can come to you to talk about what they learned. Teens today have so much information at their fingertips. Help them explore how their technology use makes them feel so they can begin to connect how they’re feeling to how much time they’ve spent scrolling social media.
Franki Bagdade is a wealth of information about parenting school aged children. I highly recommend her book “I Love My Kids, But Don’t Alway Like Them” as well as exploring her website for more tips. I will post links below so you can pick up her book and find her webpage. Tune in to episode 31 of my podcast to hear more from Franki Bagdade.
To get the book “I Love My Kids, But Don’t Always Like Them”
Learn more on Franki’s website:
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