Liza Rivas

Sep 05

What is Quality Time?

Recently I went on a trip with my two children and my husband.  What a blast!  Yes, two small children and vacation is not easy because you would probably need another vacation when you get home, but what memories and special time we shared.  Did you know that young children crave for attention and time to play with you. 

I am positive you have heard many times, it is not the time you spent with your kids, it is the quality time that matters.  To my surprise quality time is not as common sense as some people perceive it to be.  I have heard from many parents that they spend a lot of time with their children.  When I ask for specifics they mention doing errands, going to family outings, birthday parties and many others, but not necessarily it is a time to play a board game, or draw, or play with clay or sit in a pizza or ice cream parlor and simply talk.  I will never forget what one mother told me once after following my advice on quality time with her pre teens.  She said, “Wow, I realized my kids have grown up and they think very differently to what I used to perceive.”  This realization was only after her first pizza lunch with them.

I am sure many of you feel the day is a roller coaster; there are so many things to do when you get up and it is exhausting.  I have also had parents ask me, what else can they do if they are trying to do so many things at once.  It is true that quality time is time consuming, but I insist on those times.  Enjoy your family, embrace your childrens’ personalities and find the best out of each.  Take time to sit and talk, play their favorite game and most importantly focus on them.  These are simple communication skills; let them know they have your attention, keep eye contact and be receptive.  Do not assume they are not interested.  Every young child loves to be part of their families and to your amazement so do older children; there may be resistance, but usually it feels great to feel understood, supported, cared about and it gives our children a sense of security.

Sometimes quality time needs to be planned, make it a priority!

Jun 24

How to Study for Mathematics

I have taught and tutored children of all ages for Mathematics and I have learned that not many really understand how to study for Math.

I have had students that simply review the process of a topic or just read the practice problems.  There is only one way to really study for Math and that is to actually do the Math. 

These are my suggestions:

First, make sure the child is following through and has really understood all the topics that they have covered.  Remember, Math is continuous, most times you need to understand one part to be able to really understand the other.

Second, you should help them write a study guide of at least five problems per topic. 

Third, complete the problems.

Fourth, have the child correct the review with the answers.

Fifth, then have the child identify the problems he or she had incorrect and finally find the mistakes. 

If more than three out of the five problems per topic are incorrect; then the child should review that part until they can complete several different problems and get a final correct answer.

If the child is having great difficulty in Math, maybe it would be wise to have him/her review the basics concepts; that would be revising first to fifth grade curriculums.  Summer time is a great time to review those Math concepts.

If you are helping a child to review for Math, always try to simplify the problems and relate the process to real life circumstances; that way it is easier for the child to visualize and integrate the concepts.

Math can be great fun, especially if the child feels he or she is really comprehending!

Jun 15

The Importance of Academic Responsibilities

First is first. As parents, we need to define what our demands are.  Some parents assume that doing good in school is excelling academically related to grades.  I tend to tell parents to make sure their child completes his/her homework, cares about the outcome and is organized with school work.

The abilities we need to succeed rely more on the skills than an actual number.  Saying this, I am not implying that achieving high grades should not be a goal, but that it should not be the goal.  Definitely, getting good grades can result in great outcomes such as getting into a good college, applying for scholarships and most importantly, the habit of following through.  What would be most important?

I insist mostly on responsibility and organization skills.  Students that tend to do well in school have these skills and have a tendency of being motivated.  I have worked with students that do great in following through, but not necessarily those students get excellent grades.  All humans have different interests and abilities, so excelling in all areas may be difficult.  Have you ever heard a student say, “How will I use this in my life.”  Very true, but I usually answer, “This is part of your general knowledge, you never know when you will need different information and life has different processes we need to conclude to get to the next step and reach our goals.” 

Parents and teachers need to be able to observe and motivate those different interests and be able to find the opportunities and programs that fits their needs.   Most importantly recognize their efforts and improvements and let them know you feel proud as a parent or teacher.

May 31

Study habits

Many parents come to my office for advice on how to help their children with homework, responsibilities and completing tasks.  Here are some simple tips that have helped me with children of different ages.

Children need routine, a schedule and a place to work.  Why do some parents have so much difficulty with their children and school work and others do not?  Definitely our children are different.  It is important to create expectations and to begin as early as preschool years.  When your child starts going to Kindergarten and starts receiving homework assignments, it is the moment to begin.  Consistency is the key to success in any desire outcome. 

On the other hand if you were not aware on how to motivate positive study habits and your child is 10 years old or more and is having difficulty completing his or her homework, then you need to start from zero.  I tend to suggest a schedule posted around the house with eating, resting, bathing and homework time.  Sometimes an alarm clock helps with the discipline on staying on task until time is up and other times modeling how to study. 

I have had experience tutoring children that simply do not know how or where to begin, so take the time to make an organization plan.  Have organized notebooks, folders, agenda and strategies to complete the work.  Begin working with the longer assignments and then finish with the shorter ones.  You may start by being very present during the study hours and as time passes, start creating independence by leaving the child to work on his or her own and simply revising and guiding until it comes to a point where they can work completely on their own.

Building a habit takes time and dedication, so be patient and positive throughout the process.

This is not a simple task, sometimes you need to find things that motivate the child.  One thing is for certain; my experience has been that our expectations as parents should be clear and realistic, recognize and praise improvement and help them work and build their self-esteem.  Every child feels satisfaction when they realize that they can do it.

May 17

Why my child bites.

Working as a school psychologist one of the most controversial topics between parents and a preschool that I have experienced has been biting.  Yes, biting.  Parents whose child is bitten tend to get angry, frustrated and intolerant with the situation.  Parents of the child that is biting may be confused and ashamed sometimes also frustrated; believe me I have been there as a mom.  This has incredibly been one of the top topics that has created most conflicts in many preschools that I have assisted.  So let’s go over the possibilities of why a child bites.

When children do not have much vocabulary and feel excited, sad, frustrated they need a way to express emotions.  What do they do? In some occasions they bite and sometimes they bite consecutively.  What can parents do?

There are observation papers that indicate the when, how, where and why of the situation.  When the biting occurs that child needs to be taken apart for 1 or 2 minutes, the adult should explain that they may not bite and that it hurts, then the adult should ask the child to apologize. The adult may help the child role-play a positive way to handle the situation and finally let the child go back to the routine.

In other occasions you may have the child that stopped biting, but for some reason started again.  Sudden simple changes in a child’s life may be great changes in theirs; therefore they may be anxious or frustrated. 

One of the most important keys is that they should be observed; parents should get really involved and quality time is very important. 

I have expressed in previous entries that we need to find the reason behind a behavior.  The key to understanding and modifying a certain unwanted conduct is finding the root of that problem.

So, both parties should calm down and act upon the situation and positive outcomes will arrive.  They eventually stop biting!

Apr 27

My child is being too difficult.

Parenting has its wonders, but sometimes it is so hard to follow through challenging moments.  Have you ever lost your patience, piece of mind or control?  Our children go through different stages themselves. They go through a process of transition.  Some examples would be: the arrival of a new sibling, moving to another country, school or neighborhood.  What shakes a child’s life and emotions maybe a simple or an insignificant change in an adult’s life. 

When a child’s behavior changes drastically in a short period of time there is usually a reason behind it.  Children react to situations not necessarily work through it.  Depending on the age it is hard to work through a problem that they can not identify or understand.

What to do?  How to help?

It is always good that someone external to the family environment observes the child in school and receives feedback from family members of their daily routine.  A school counselor, teacher or child specialist may help in this process.  The first step to understanding a behavior is identifying the feeling behind that behavior.  What is causing that child to react, or feel inadequate or unhappy? 

Some parents want to deal with the behavior itself and that is understandable and definitely the child needs to understand what is incorrect and unacceptable, but the real solution underlies in the reason behind an inadequate conduct.

Sometimes families need to rearrange their environment or how they handle situations.  Many times the child is the symptom of a family issue or present circumstance.

Other times accommodations need to be taken into consideration at home and at school.

The specialist needs to identify where and when these behaviors are taking place to identify the trigger and eventually the reason behind the outbursts.

What I want to clarify today is that it is important to take the time to concentrate in a change of behavior and not overlook the situation as simply part of growing up.  Many children cry for help through behavior changes.

Apr 26

My child is Masturbating

I have discussed this topic with many parents of preschoolers.  Not an easy topic for many and definitely arises anxiety and worries.

It is true that children repeat patterns or situations, but masturbating, touching, rocking is not necessarily a sign of abuse.  Many children discover their bodies at a young age.  Socially they still do not understand or perceive that it is incorrect to express emotions or sensations in front of others in that way.

So what to do?  First you must take the child to the pediatrician.  You need to rule out infections, rashes or other physiological conditions.

Second, after ruling out a physical situation then you need to observe when this is taking place and simply distract your child by asking him or her to get something or to play with a toy.  Get your child busy and keep their hands occupied.

At school teachers may do the same thing.  If it is too constant or evident the teacher may ask the child to go to the bathroom and remind him or her that some things are private.

Some parents feel the need to talk to their child.  I have talked to parents that their child has simply said, “Mom it feels good to touch that part.”  Though it sounds shocking for a mother or a father, your child is being honest.  There is no need to reprimand him or her.  My experience is that as they get older they stop doing it publicly.

Do not assume the worst when you are told that your child is touching his or her private parts, just follow the suggestions above and take time to observe and talk to your child.  Children tend to be open and honest about their feelings; try your best to be comfortable talking to them.

Apr 25

First day of School

Have you thought about what your child feels the first day at a day care or in a Kindergarten?

Well, I like to relate to feelings we can not remember.  Think about what you felt in your stomach the first day at a new job or during a presentation about a new project.  It is a strong feeling and we have the ability to understand and control it, but our children simply feel it.  So what are some pointers to help them out through that first step to independence and away from all they have known?

First, make sure they have been at the school site before, or visited the classroom they will attend. 

Second, get them ready the day before.  Have their clothes ready, their backpack and lunch box organized.

Third, let them participate in the preparation.  It may ease their stress to deal new experiences.

Fourth, take your child to the door, let him or her know you are leaving and will be back soon to pick him or her up.

Fifth, try to pick your child up on time, it is reassuring.

Sixth and most importantly make sure you are ready to leave your child at the school.  If he  or she sees you crying or anxious then they will feel that there is something wrong, they need peace and security.  Your postive actions and emotions will make them feel safer.   

It is important you understand that it takes a child a few weeks to adapt to a new enviornment, so if he or she tends to cry when you leave, do not hesitate to keep on walking, it is a process of separation they need to overcome.

Apr 25

First time moms

This entry is for all those new moms who are having a hard time the first few months back from the hospital.  Wow, too many details and a baby to tend for his or her every need. 

Earlier today I was sitting with a few girlfriends.  We were going over those first few months and we laughed at our inexperience, some of us remember constantly crying in the bathroom feeling overwhelmed. 

In the baby showers people comment on the lack of sleep, constant washing, all the diapers and the physical exhaustion, but I guess somethings we have to live through to really understand. 

I am going over all these specifics on motherhood beacuse I want to relate to all those new moms; I completely understand. I have been there and so have many of the moms that have visited my office for advice. 

All those mixed emotions are completely fine; we need to embrace those feelings and grow with them.  It takes time to assume a new role of so much importance; a person´s life depends on us not only physically, but emotionally as well.  All new moms need to trust others around to help, you should not feel it is all up to you. 

Take sometime to fix yourself up, eat a nice dinner.  You may also invite friends over and have a nice get together.  Exercise by walking in the park and you may take the baby in a stroller. 

My suggestions rely on taking time to take care of yourself and understand that your life changed, but for the better.  It could be richer, more exciting and new everyday.

Moms that go through a rough time the first few months need to accept their different life style, enjoy it.  I remind my friends and patients that the first few years of their children are merely a moment in their lives, though tough and demanding, those years also pass by really fast. 

You are not alone many have surpassed those days and can recall with great joy.

  Congratulations to all new moms!

Apr 25

How do we avoid the pain?

When parents separate, it is hard on all family members.  There is a process of mourning we cannot avoid.  It is a drastic change for all involve and it may hurt, but how do you make it easier on everyone, how do you alleviate the pain and sadness?

Did you know that your children see the world through your eyes in the first stages of their lives.  How did you learn to relate, to love, to give and to respect?  Probably you learned it in your family enviornment. 

The hardest thing for children to surpass is watching two people that should love, respect and care for eachother, tear eachother apart and sometimes involve them through the process.

You will not be able to avoid all their pain, there will be moments you may only sit next to your child and listen, or hug them or just give them an ok look. 

What parents can control is the harmony through the process, the way they treat eachother and how they  communicate.  Be careful not to fall in the temptation to use your kids to get back at eachother, it mostly hurts them not necessarily your ex wife or husband. 

So, what is the most important job during a divorce?  Be civilized, communicate, be honest and act upon rationalism not emotions.

Lets try to ease the pain for all.  I have seen families undergo through the process with great sadness, but with maturity and emotional intelligence.