Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Buddy System: A single close friendship can ease a boy’s passage through middle school. But what if your son can’t find a pal? (Courtesy of Slate http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2012/03/friendship_tips_for_middle_school_boys_.single.html)

The Buddy System

A single close friendship can ease a boy’s passage through middle school. But what if your son can’t find a pal?

By Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen |Posted Thursday, March 15, 2012, at 12:45 PM ET

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Research has shown that kids with close friendships are healthier, do better in school, and get don’t get bullied as often

Photograph by Digital Vision.

Recently both of our oldest sons switched schools for junior high. While in many ways each of their transitions were smooth, both of us were surprised that these two terrific, well-adjusted, handsome (natch) boys seemed at first—at least to their parents—to have no friends.

We reacted to this information in manners befitting our personalities. Josh gently encouraged his son to pick up the phone and call his elementary-school pals; his son resisted, saying he wanted to move on. Elizabeth, on the other hand, went full-on helicopter. After a call to her son’s adviser revealed the not-encouraging fact that he’d been eating lunch with that same adviser, she phoned the school counselor, who assured her that her son wasn’t roaming the halls by himself and that this temporary friendlessness was in the range of normal, especially for introverted boys like her son. “He’s still most likely putting all his energy into getting to the right classroom for each class, not to mention finding the bathroom,” she said. Needless to say, soon Elizabeth was asking her son for the names of everyone he ate lunch with, much to her son’s disgust.

We remember from our own treacherous passages through junior high how strong friendships can ease the pain of those change-filled years. Josh and his best friend from childhood, Dooley, lived on the same street and attended the same middle school. Though they both made other friends, the two were joined at the shoulder most days from breakfast, which Josh often ate at Dooley's house (where Carnation Breakfast Drinks were an accepted alternative to oatmeal), through dinner, which Dooley often ate at Josh's father's house (where reading a Tintin book at the table was by no means considered rude).
In fact, decades of research have shown that kids with close friendships are healthier, do better in school, and don’t get bullied as often. Friendships also can minimize the negative impacts of family problems and, according to Dr. William M. Bukowski, a psychologist who researches friendships at Concordia University in Montreal, make kids less anxious about trying new things. In one University of Virginia study, researchers placed students wearing heavy backpacks at the base of a hill and asked them to estimate its steepness. The participants who stood next to a friend gave lower estimates than those who were alone.

Perhaps most important, friendships can validate kids in a way that sticks more than their parents’ You rock! praise. “Kids know that parents are supposed to love their children,” says Bukowski. “But when someone shows you affection who doesn’t have to, it has a stronger effect.”
Given these benefits, it makes sense that we parents of boys should see the middle school years as an opportunity to encourage a life-long appreciation for friendship. Unfortunately, for boys growing up today, maturity is mostly defined as being cool and independent. You’re not supposed to need a relationship with anyone. In fact, the very idea of having a “relationship” with a guy friend, much less talking about it, seems icky to many boys.

“You have to shift the whole game and say that maturity should be defined as having quality, mutually supportive healthy relationships,” says Niobe Way, an NYU psychology professor. Way’s recent book, Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection, shreds the assumption many parents make that boys can take or leave their pals. Instead, her research shows that boys actually love their guy friends, and have the instinctive intelligence to be able to talk about those attachments. “We think boys are emotional clods who don’t know how to express their feelings,” says Way. “What I hear from listening to boys for almost 20 years is that they have an incredible astuteness about the emotional world. It’s not just that they can say they love a friend, but they can say things with more nuance, like ‘I can act like I’m mad but I’m really hurt.’ ”
Unfortunately, according to Way and other researchers, intimacy between boys vanishes as they progress through high school, in part because many boys this age are afraid of acting in a way that makes them seem girlish or gay. (Jocks, on the other hand, can openly show affection with their guy friends—especially on the playing field—because their popularity and status as manly men insulates them from being harassed.) It’s a loss that the boys Way interviewed mourn intensely and still grieve as adults. Since publishing her book, Way says she’s been surprised by all the letters she’s received from grown men telling her how much they missed their own boyhood chums.

The loss of close-knit guy friendships in middle school may lead to more than loneliness. “If you live in a culture in which the definition of manhood is independence and autonomy and where we aren’t valuing our social and emotional sides,” asks Way, “is it so surprising that we have this culture of bullying and cyberbullying and people being so brutal to each other?”
We agree. But encouraging authentic relationships at a time of life when kids just want to fit in is no small challenge. Here are a few friendship-encouraging strategies recommended by experts—and that would possibly be recommended by our sons, if they were ever willing to talk about this.

Don’t confuse popularity with friendship. If your son has one friend in whom he can confide, and who he trusts won’t talk behind his back, that’s all he needs. Research shows that to get all the benefits of friendship, one is the magic number. Don’t crusade for him to acquire friends the way he used to collect Pok√©mon cards.
Don’t freak out if your son doesn’t have friends from time to time. In his study of 350 kids, Bukowksi found that every single one went through a period when he had no friends. “There is going to be turnover in friendships,” says Bukowski. “These downtimes are a chance for parents to encourage the importance of relationships and take stock.” And so …

Talk about friendship. Even though most boys don’t want to have a heavy sit-down about their buddies, you can still talk about the importance of friendship in a way that will get your point across. Bukowski and Way both suggest talking about your own friendships: how much they mean to you; what disappoints you. Just don’t overshare! A simple, “I really care about my friendship with Mike and it bums me out when he doesn’t return my emails” will do. Elizabeth had great success recently when she told her sons that a friend is someone who can keep your secrets and doesn’t treat you well one day and then turn on you the next. Both of her sons told her which boys they knew who fit this description. And then they also were able to say which kids didn’t and how it makes them feel when that happens.
Give him a chance to bond over things he loves. You can’t stage-manage a middle schooler’s friendships they way you could when he was in elementary school. But you can provide boys with opportunities to do things with kids who share their interests—filmmaking classes, batting practice, hip-hop. But don’t think that just because your kid has met another LEGO robotics nut that your work is done. “One of the challenges for middle school boys is to change their friendship relationships from being activity based into experiences that are more relational,” says Bukowski. “If a 7th grade boy is playing basketball together with his friends, he should be aware that he shouldn’t gloat about it if he’s better than his friend. Boys who are friends compete with each other, but they can manage that competition.” If your son has a hard time not lording his greatness over others, Bukowski recommends watching the ESPN TV show Pardon the Interruption, which pits two sports reporters against each other to hash out the issues of the day. “They fight about everything,” he says. “But it never becomes personal. You always have the sense that they love each other.”

And how, over a year later, have our boys fared? Elizabeth’s son did make friends at his new school while also staying close to a few guys he’s known since he was little. He’s bugging her about seeing The Hunger Games with his pals on the day it’s released, is excited about being on the middle school tennis team, and is going to camp with four classmates this summer. Josh’s son took up the electric bass and made friends through his school’s jazz band. He and his friends have co-ed parties, go ice skating together, and never stop IMing. Proving, as is always the case with parenting, that solving one concern just begets another.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is Medication the “Cure-All” to Diminish Children with ADHD’s Symptoms?

Many children with ADHD take medication to diminish hyperactivity as well as to increase their attention span. Medication has been shown to be effective, according to the definitive research that has been done at the National Institute of Health, among other research institutions. However, medication is not the “cure-all” in terms of diminishing all of the symptoms of ADHD that are observed in our children. For example, one of the most salient symptoms that characterizes children with ADHD is difficulty listening to and following oral directions.

Certainly, medication does increase focus and attention span. That being said, medication does not teach children with ADHD how to listen to oral directions, as well as how to follow those instructions. Children with ADHD first and foremost, need to become aware that they have difficulty listening to and following oral directions. Once they are aware of this difficulty, they can then learn methods to increase their ability to follow those directions.

Teachers reasonably so, become frustrated when they give children with and without ADHD the same oral instructions, and the children with ADHD do not listen accurately and therefore, do not follow the directions, while the more typical children, both listen accurately and follow the instructions. Children with ADHD are not like children without ADHD, however, and need to be taught how to follow oral instructions by being given one and only one oral instruction at a time. After the child with ADHD is successful for a few days at listening to and following one oral instruction, the teacher may then add one more instruction, in order see if the child with ADHD can accomplish both of those directions.

Is this method time-consuming for the teacher? Absolutely. Is this method necessary in terms of helping the child with ADHD to listen more effectively and therefore, to follow the teacher’s instructions correctly? Absolutely. Just an added idea here: The teacher can speak the oral instructions into a voice recorder, so that the child with ADHD can listen to the instructions multiple times without the teacher having to repeat the directions over and over again.

After a few days, the teacher may add on one more instruction for the child with ADHD to follow. I would NOT add a fourth instruction, however. If the child with ADHD is asked to follow more than three directions at once, it is possible that the child’s level of success at following oral directions may diminish by becoming overwhelmed by the increased amount of verbiage that they hear.

 It is vital that the teacher is realistic in her approach to teaching children with ADHD and understand that even though they are very bright and can achieve at a high level, the amount of information that is taught to them at one time should be limited. Remember that the teacher’s goal should not be that the child with ADHD learns like the other students, but instead, to learn according to his own learning strengths and style.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Courtesy of the Huffington Post: "Should this Word ("Retarded") be Removed from the Language?"

Children with ADHD arguably become involved in name-calling, oftentimes, using offensive words such as "retard." Most of the time, they are not actually familiar with the real meaning of that word, but just use it in order to become accepted by their peers.

Lisa Belkin of the Huffington Post, wrote today about the fact that "Today is Spread The Word To End The Word Day -- and the word on the chopping block is "retarded." She writes that the Special Olympics has drafted a petition where individuals may "...pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities..."

Please check out both the article and the video at

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-belkin/remove-retarded-from-english_b_1327509.html?ref=email_share

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What would do you do if your Child with ADHD made Inappropriate Comments about your own Personal Behavior?

Children with ADHD arguably make comments to other people that may be construed as inappropriate. For example, I had someone say to me, “You laugh like a witch. Oh, I hear that cackle.”

How do you explain to this child that those kinds of comments are not only inappropriate but hurtful? I seriously do not think that anyone wants their laugh to sound like a witch’s laugh. Additionally, I can guarantee you that no one wants their laugh to sound like a cackle.
If you were in the same situation, what would you do? Would you have a talk with that child? What would you say to him that would not hurt his feelings, yet would discourage him from making those kinds of comments again? What would you do if his feelings were hurt? What would you say if he was embarrassed by your comments?

Please send me your comments, to which I will respond. Your comments will also help all of my readers to problem-solve those and similar issues that they have experienced with their child /teenagerwith ADHD.