DR. LAWRENCE BALTER
Dedicated to Bringing Psychology to the Public
|Home||TV and Radio||Books||Articles||Media Consultation||Memberships||About||Awards||Contact||Advice for Parents|
a topic to read some of Dr. Balter's advice
Choosing the Right Toys for Children
Toys are an integral part of a child’s learning and development. Good toys are not only fun to play with, but they also help children practice important skills. In addition to safety considerations, it is important to consider what children require and enjoy at different stages in their development. Some toy manufacturers make unfounded claims about the cognitive benefits of their products. With all the advertising and hard sell, it can be tough for parents to decide on the right toys for their children. Here are handy tips to take into consideration when you are choosing a toy for your child.
* For infants, the key is to provide items that stimulate their senses and their developing coordination. Toys that involve their seeing, hearing, tasting and touching. Mobiles, busy boxes, rattles, and stacking toys are ideal.
* When it comes to toddlers, the emphasis should be on action. Toys that help their physical skills are the most appropriate--especially toys to ride on like rocking horses and wagons and cars. Blocks are especially good for fine motor coordination.
* Preschoolers are into imaginary play and are beginning to like organized social activities which means that dress up clothes and dolls are terrific. Musical instruments and tools are popular, and audio tapes and books are also highly recommended.
* Young school-aged children like mental challenges so they are interested in board games, construction sets, and painting and drawing kits.
* Books are always a good idea since it is vitally important to encourage literacy in children. Becoming a proficient reader is something they will value forever.
An important rule of thumb is that a toy that is properly matched to a child's abilities is certain to bring joy and satisfaction.
Handling Holiday Hassles and Family Get-Togethers With the Kids
The holiday season is filled with gatherings among
families and friends. But these occasions can be stressful for
* Keep your expectations realistic. An energetic toddler is not going to be on his best behavior just because there is a family gathering.
* Plan ahead so the kids aren’t aimless. Be sure to have plenty of child-centered activities at the ready.
* Try to keep to particular routines like naps and eating times as much as you can.
* Protect your children from intrusiveness and over stimulation by relatives.
* Don’t expect small children to get along with family members they rarely see.
I suggest you allow some down-time when children can have peace and quiet and do not have to be sociable.
Halloween Can Stir Up Fears in Young Children
With Halloween just around the corner, some
kids’ thoughts turn to goblins and ghosts. Many
parents go to a lot of trouble to provide costumes and masks for a
joyous romp with their kids around the neighborhood, only to find
themselves confronted by a wailing, tearful youngster. The
transformation into fanciful creatures can be too much of a strain for
a young child's sense of what is real and what is imaginary.
Crying may be a reaction to having his sense of reality shaken.
* If your child is unable to express it verbally, have her draw or paint the things that scare her. These are safe and creative ways to give expression to inner feelings, and they help a child feel less vulnerable.
* With fears such as monsters in the closet or under the bed, try sprinkling "monster removal dust" around the room at bedtime.
* Conduct a search and destroy mission to demonstrate that there are no “intruders” in hidden places.
* At times, something as simple as a night light can do the trick.
* Never force a frightened child to confront a feared object.
* Do not trivialize or
joke about a
child's fear. Remember, the dread is very real to a
child. Ridicule, embarrassment and other coercive methods
will only make matters worse.
Summertime provides a welcome break from the routines and demands of the school year. Kids should enjoy freedom from the regular grind. But, being out of school doesn’t mean learning has to grind to a complete halt. Skills are lost if they are not used.
Here are some tips to make summer both fun and educational:
* If you are making day trips, involve your kids in the planning. Reading maps, choosing routes and figuring out the mileage are good ways to keep them practicing academic skills. They won't even realize they are doing it.
* Be sure to include visits to historic sites as part of any travel itinerary. In advance of a trip, your kids can read about the history of the place and the noteworthy facts.
* Between trips to the beach and the movies, check out county and state fairs. These provide excellent hands-on learning while being outdoors.
* Create nature projects in the backyard or on a windowsill. Whether you start an ant farm or grow vegetables or flowers, you don't need an elaborate set up for kids to learn some basic science while having a fun experience.
* Establish a regular reading time. Parents and children should take turns reading to each other. To maintain writing skills, children can make up stories and create a book or a personal diary of summer's highlights. Adding photos and drawings will make this an even more appealing activity.
* There are many computer games and software that offer fun ways to build academic skills. Since it is summer recess, they can have a little extra time with these activities as long as the appropriate software is available to them. Still, don't forget to keep the traditional board and card games on hand.
It is vital to allow sufficient down time for children. Kids need time to enjoy unstructured, independent time when they can be aimless, or alone with their thoughts, or engage in play with peers.
Coping with the Separation of Sleep Away Camp
Leaving for sleep-away camp marks the official beginning
of summer for lots of kids. Summer camp offers kids an
opportunity to meet new people, develop new skills, and to become a bit
* Expect some complaints during the first few days they are away--the usual targets are the food, the bugs, the counselor or the other kids.
* If a child is homesick, contact the head counselor or director. But don’t rush into any drastic action such as immediately taking a child home since most concerns are usually short-lived.
* Don’t make any important changes while they're away like cleaning out their room, or moving, or instituting a marital separation.
* Send plenty of letters
and a couple of
care packages to show them that you're thinking about them.
Dealing with Bullies
Bullying is no longer considered a trivial matter that children should handle by themselves. For some victims, schoolyard bullying is a crushing experience that can ruin their educational experience and can take years to overcome. Bullying can lead to devastating consequences. There are cases of internet harassment that resulted in a child’s suicide. Whether the bullying is cyber or face-to-face, parents and educators need to understand its significance and develop strategies for its elimination.
Bullying has many definitions, but they all seem to boil down to any form of physical or verbal aggression against someone who is weaker, smaller, less secure, and unable to defend him or herself. The perpetrator can be an adult, a child, or a group of people. Examples of bullying are hitting, taunting, or manipulating others into doing things against their will. Ostracizing is also considered a form of bullying.
Bullying is hurtful is numerous ways. Aside from a physical attack leading to bodily bruises, there are psychological damages such as a lowering of self-confidence and self-esteem, fearfulness, debilitating anxiety and depression, and despair.
Four basics for dealing with bullying follow.
*Report Bullying — Parents need to teach kids that when it comes to bullies, "telling" you about it is not the same as "tattling" on someone, just to get them in trouble. There is a mistaken stigma attached to turning someone in for bullying. Also, fear is involved.
*Avoid Confrontations — Let your kids know that it's OK to avoid confrontations by walking away from a situation. You are not a coward if you avert a confrontation.
*Avoid Being Alone — There is safety in numbers. Remind kids to travel in groups whenever they can.
*Don't Ignore — Children who see a child being bullied should get help and adults who see it should intervene. Knowing that something can be done reduces feelings of helplessness in the potential victim.
Many schools have introduced curricula to deal with bullying through educational workshops and school-wide measures to thwart bullies and aid their victims. These interventions are essential and should be emulated by all school systems.
Click the TV/Radio tab above to watch Dr. Balter discuss bullying on CBS TV with Bryant Gumbel.
Helping Parents Cope With Kids’ Holiday “Gimmes”
Kids need guidance to help them get through this time of
year. They build up their expectations and often get carried
away by their desire for gifts during the holiday season.
With all the hype and commercials directed at them as small consumers,
they can develop a strong case of the
“gimmes,” Here are sensible ways to
handle your children’s increased demands during the
Helping Children Deal with Disaster
Earthquakes, Tsunamis, droughts, famines, tornadoes,
hurricanes. Natural disasters are unnerving to people of all ages and
children are particularly susceptible to apprehension and worry when
the world around them appears to be an out-of-control place.
How to Talk to Your Kids about Financial Crises
The current economic crisis affecting Wall Street could have a profound impact on families of with young children. Every segment of society is affected by losses in the stock market, banks going under, and home mortgages in default.
Your job and financial status have psychological meaning that goes beyond just practical matters. These are parts of your identity. When they are jeopardized, it is natural to feel apprehensive and worried. Children pick up on parental anxiety. Financial crises also have a direct impact on children if they have to forgo services and goods they were counting on.
As a parenting expert and author of Not in Front of the Children: How to Talk to Your Child About Tough Family Matters, I urge parents take the initiative and talk to their children about the implications of this crisis.
There are a number of important practical ways to help your children weather the financial storm you are navigating. Don’t pretend that nothing is wrong or lie to them about the situation. The key is to design your explanations for your child’s age and level of comprehension.
* Explain truthfully what happened without becoming overly explicit. The company closed or didn’t need as many people, and I lost my job.
* Avoid burdening children with financial details. It is enough to say, “We won’t have the same amount of money as before.
* Spell out the steps you are taking and why. If you are moving to a smaller home, prepare kids in advance and explain the reasons. If Mom will be returning to work, or if a parent is taking on a second job, explain why he or she won’t be around as much and how this will affect your child’s routine.
* Report on your progress with a job search and other aspects of your game plan.
* Avoid emotional outbursts in front of the children, although expressions of concern are, of course, appropriate.
* Don’t deprive yourself and your family of all enjoyment during tough times. Plan innovative ways to have fun together without a large outlay of money.
Let them know you will pull together as a family. Be reassuring and point out that there are obstacles and setbacks in life, and we will get through this one.
Reducing The Back-To-School Jitters
It's that time of year again -- Back-To-School. Parents can do
a lot to make the transition from summer fun to the school routine a
smooth one. The key is good preparation.