Good Prescription: Fresh Air and Exercise

March 6, 2012 by · 4 Comments 

This morning I took my dog for a slightly longer walk than usual because I’ll be away much of the day.  We went to a local park, and I let him off leash (don’t tell the city fathers).  As I watched him bound away from me, I lengthened my step and breathed deeply.  As I did so, I began to feel more energetic.  I felt the “sludge” of early morning clear from my brain.  I am not a morning person.

This simple experience reminded me of what I have seen over and over with children who have ADHD or anxiety or Asperger Syndrome.  Getting outside to move around helps calm nerves, improve focus, help transition to sleep.  It might not do all of these for your child, but even some could be a big help.

You might wonder when your children could have time outside when they have homework, tutoring, music lessons, and two working parents. In addition, many people live in cities where getting outside to shoot some hoops or kick a soccer ball is not so simple.  This is just a simple reminder that it can be worth your while to find ways to incorporate outside activity in your day.  Perhaps your child could walk home from school with friends or siblings.  Or  perhaps you find a park nearby that you can visit a couple of days a week.

Incorporating outside activity into your family’s routine involves setting up some routines.  If your child has grown to expect to use TV, computer or video games, whenever he is not doing homework, you would need to change the expectation.  I don’t say this is easy.  But parents can do that if they make it fun and positive.

Notice that I am not recommending playing on sports teams, though this would serve much the same purpose.  If your child enjoys playing sports, that is excellent.  However, many of the children I see have poor coordination.  After elementary sports the teams get more competitive, and these children no longer enjoy the team sports.  But your child can still enjoy getting outside and running around or riding a bicycle.  This is a lifelong habit that you can help instill.  Fresh air and exercise — good for the nerves, attention and spirit.


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The Virtues of Board Games

September 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

I like board games.  One of the perks for me as a child psychologist is that I get to play board games in the course of a day.  It helps children relax and talk about their lives, and I learn about them from the way they play.  But I also like board games for interactions at home.  They provide great ways for parents to spend a little time with their children.  Let’s face it—most parents are not that skilled at video games to join in.  And I might be showing my age here, but I don’t believe that video games offer the same type of engagement.

Some parents report that their children are sore losers so that it is hard to play with them.  I like to tell children that we can alter the rules as long as both players agree, and the rules stay the same through the game.  (That means don’t change the game when you’re losing.)  It’s possible to offer to play with easy or hard rules, depending on how the child is feeling. 

Parents can also help by reining in their own competitive instincts and offering to teach during the game.  This isn’t the same as just playing dumb and letting the child win.  When a child is about to make a move that misses a really good opportunity or that gives you a tremendous advantage, you can say, “Wait, can I show you what happens if you do that? Want to make another choice?”  This way your child avoids the shame and frustration of constantly losing (after all he’s younger).  As he learns the game, you can negotiate about withdrawing the supports.  As long as you both agree on the rules, it’s still a fair game. 

So, enjoy a ten or fifteen minute respite over Sorry or Checkers.  Let me know what games you enjoy with your children.  It’s brief, and it takes you both out of the business of life.

Watch for an upcoming Parents’ Corner newsletter in which I talk more about games and their usefulness.