your child’s vestibular system

Many blogs are talking about the vestibular system of children The vestibular system is  obviously important in looking at the development of children.  It helps us orient our head against gravity (head righting), helps with gaze stabilization, postural adjustments, reflex integration, movement perception, the overall tone of our body (are we stiff? floppy?) and stabilizing the head.  

The general symptoms of vestibular challenges include vertigo (feeling like you or objects are spinning around) or dizziness (unsteadiness, lightheadedness).  Poor balance, nausea, headache, visual disturbances, hearing loss, pain in the ears can also be a part of vestibular disorders.  It can be very fatiguing, and cause challenges with concentration, memory, and thinking.   However, many times children cannot describe any of these symptoms very well.

Vestibular difficulties, however, can often be hard to recognize in children or can be part of other issues that parents notice, such as gastroesophageal reflux. Symptoms that can tie into vestibular system problems include a history of developmental delay or delayed integration of reflexes, low visual spatial abilities, hearing loss (although you can have vestibular problems without hearing loss), motion sensitivity, clumsiness or poor hand-eye coordination, nystagmus, history of seizures, history of vertigo.   There may be a medical history of trauma or head-jarring sports, ear infections, migraines, meningitis, medications that affect the inner ear such as antibiotics or chemotherapy.  Torticollis in infancy can sometimes precede vertigo and vestibular problems.

The vestibular system develops very early and by 8 weeks the embryonic inner ear is similar to an adult’s.  The parts of the brain that work with the vestibular system are among the first part of the the brain to develop, and myelination of the vestibular pathways are completed within 16 weeks after birth.  The vestibular system is developing most between ages 4-6 for more mature motor patterns, and inegrates with other sensory and motor systems like the visual, tactile, proprioceptive system by the age of six, but continues developing all the way through age 15.  

The vestibular system provides the input for the motor control of the eyes.  The vestibular-ocular reflex is usually adult- like by 6 months (which is what maintains stable vision on the retina when one’s head moves) and ties into eye movement.  There is also a vestibulospinal reflex that stabilizes the head and body for automatic postural developments.  

The main diagnoses for children with vestibular disorders is Childhood Paroxysmal Vertigo, which is the most common disorder for children ages 2-12, and often comes with a family history of migraines, motion sensitivity, and sometimes a prior history of torticollis.  Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo of Childhood usually is from whiplash types of injuries or injuries to the skull or neck, birth injuries, or inner ear or labyrinthine concussions.   Less common conditions include Vestibular Neuronitis caused by bacteria or virus infections, or Meniere’s Disease of Children, which is an imbalance in the fluid of the vestibular system. Most blogs about the vestibular system are not referring to these specific conditions, however, but an overall sense of development or sensory challenges in which the vestibular system may play a part.

Children who have vestibular dysfunction often become overwhelmed by  environments that are overstimulating or too fast.  The largest part of parenting children with vestibular dysfunction is to observe and notice what, where, when things become overwhelming and learning how to help children.  They may not want to be touched as it may make them feel even more dizzy, nauseous, or overwhelmed, and they may develop anxiety.  

Developing the functionality of the vestibular system involves more than just spinning or hanging upside down or rolling. These types of things are important for overall gross motor development, and we know that the vestibular system develops strongly between the ages of 4-6.   So, these gross motor activities, along with walking on different surfaces,wheelbarrow walking, activities with rhythm instruments, obstacle courses are wonderful but most components of vestibular system development also need a visual component.

Some of my favorite exercises actually involve things like having a target on the way and having a child commando crawl toward the target keeping the eyes on the target and then crawl backward once they reach the target still keeping their eyes on the target.  I also like things like using an eye chart  or letters on the wall and having the child walk toward the chart and call out different letters.  Hitting a ball or balloon in the air and keep it off the ground is a great exercise as well.

Tell me about your experiences with vestibular system development!
Blessings,

Carrie

the hardest part about parenting teens – and how to fix it

I talk to parents of teens all the time, from all different walks of life.  Some teens are going along with school and activities; some are struggling with self-esteem issues due to learning disabilities; some are dealing with more serious issues like alcoholism, toxic dating situations, self-harm, and more.  Parents tell me over and over that there is very little support for dealing with parenting of teens, mainly because each teen is a complete individual, and there is a need for privacy so not everything can be shared the way parents shared things their toddlers or even early elementary children were going through.

The hardest part of parenting teens is knowing what to do!  Any general instruction seems to apply less and less and what happens in conversation really can be a reaction to a situation that already has taken place, and it’s hard to know how much to hold a boundary or push for more responsibility.  Our oldest will be turning 18 this summer, and we also have a fourteen year old in the house, so I totally understand these feelings!

The number one way you can fix the hardest part of parenting teens, besides spending time WITH THE TEEN IN FRONT OF YOU, is to understand teen development.  Every teen is an individual, but there are archtypal patterns to teenaged development that can help us figure out how to parent more effectively!

Early Adolescence- ages 13 to the big watershed changes surrounding ages 15/16

  • there is often an obvious placing of space by the teen between himself or herself and the family.  This is an age when many families complain their teens are in their rooms and not coming out.  This is a safety measure for a gradually new emerging human being who feels the need to protect him or herself as they gain their own perspectives on life.
  • this is often an age of confrontation against authority and boundaries, but behind that is often a measure of uncertainty.  Using communication skills can be helpful.  If you are unsure how to react, try reading the book “How to Listen so Teens Will Talk and How To Talk So Teens Will Listen.”
  • it is often an age of emotional extremes.  Ninth graders are certainly very much more like middle schoolers than eleventh graders.
  • It is a time of measuring oneself against others, which is why social media can be so harmful for many teens.  Please use boundaries and know what your children are doing online!
  • It is a time of using safety and boundaries (self imposed or parent imposed) versus delving into a more open world.  

How do you parent this stage?

  • Respectful communication
  • Spending time with your teen; they are going to open up working side by side, in the car, or before they go to sleep. Spend time with them!
  • Play ho-hum with the emotional extremes. Be steady.
  • Don’t let the world just open up with no boundaries.  They are too young and need your support, encouragement, boundaries, safety net.
  • Let them fail and take the consequences of things.  You can only help to a certain point regarding things that have to be done. Do not do it for them!  This will impair the later stages of development unfolding.

Middle Adolescence – ages 15 or 16 to 18

  • This is a time of increased personal responsibility and realizing that not everything is someone else’s fault.
  • They are experimenting with finding emotional intimacy in friends, maybe with a significant other, but hopefully finding a way that their own personality and beliefs remains intact in the relationships.
  • They don’t want to be identified with their childhood for right now!
  • They have enthusiasm for a new challenge and want to experience that within themselves or out in nature or in academics
  • They can feel inadequate or inferior and may hide their innermost feelings
  • Sensitive teens might regress and turn to escapism

How do you parent this age?

  • Understand their vulnerability; help them deal with their innermost feelings if they are sensitive but also let them take actions and fail – do not do everything for them in an attempt to shield them
  • Artistic work,whatever that entails, is really important for this age – so theater, drawing, painting, woodworking, building things, modeling or sculpting, handwork, book binding – are all really important forms for inner self-expression
  • Help them get the wider context and the enthusiasm for a challenge in a safer way, especially for those 15-17 year olds.
  • Be there, be present.  They need you to not do things for them, but to help them, guide them, empower them!  Some older teens need more set parameters than others.  Be careful with your own boundaries as to what you will carry.

Late Adolescence – ages 18 to 21

  • They are grappling with the big questions:  Who Am I?  What Do I Want?  What Am I Capable Of?  
  • Then they have to follow up these questions with their own actions – the actions come from their own abilities, so if they have had everything done for them in early and middle adolescence, late adolescence isn’t going to look pretty.
  • They still find it hard to accept criticism.  This can still be an age of idealism.
  • They may start to explore and recognize that their personal development also intersects with a cause or community and get involved.
  • They may find their own place, their own work, a significant other or group of friends and community

How Do You Parent This Age?

  • Support them as they try out different healthy  paths.
  • Help them develop a love for responsibility – if you did the work in early and middle adolescence, this will come naturally!
  • Help them identify the abilities they carry that will help them move into action
  • Encourage them

Those of you with teens, what are the most successful and least successful things you have done in parenting or seen other parents do during these years? I would love to hear from you.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

 

easy ways to own your life

When I came back from the Waldorf Homeschooling Conference, which was held March 8-9 in the Atlanta area, I wrote a post about owning it.  I got some great feedback on that post, and families who are hungry to have a more peaceful life, a more satisfying homeschooling experience, a better outlook as a family are wondering HOW to do it.

These are the easiest ways I can think of to own your life

Figure out your goals.  Sometimes this is easier said than done.  If your goal is nebulous, like increased family peace, I think you need to think about what parts of the day are not peaceful? Which child is derailing the peace?  Are you derailing the peace with your own reactions?  If you can really break it down, then you can set goals to really address the smallest and easiest steps that would have the biggest impact.

Ask yourself, what is the ONE thing I can do today toward my goal?  If you have a bigger, overarching goal, it may be that you can  break it down into five baby steps and then you have five things you could do to address those baby steps – but most of us can’t do five things in one day!  We can pick one thing and work towards that one thing, and then move on to another baby step and finally all the baby steps are conquered and the goal is within reach.

Check where you are. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I am exhausted from life and I need to be very careful about what goals I set,  how I intend to address them, and the timing of everything.  Sometimes I need to pick a different time to start or to give myself a lead in period to build up when to start the baby step for my goal.

Find accountability.  If there is another adult in the house, maybe that person can be your accountability partner. If not, find a friend who will support you or someone also trying to accomplish the same type of goal.  Check in with each other, and encourage each other!

You might need to put money in the game, and you will definitely need to put time in the game. That’s just the reality.  I talk to parents all the time who want to improve their marriage, but they don’t want to spend money on counseling, dates, babysitting (but admit they are getting nowhere fast on their own without any of that), or homeschooling parents who want everything laid out for their homeschooling adventure but don’t want to spend any money on a consultation or resources.  Not everything takes money but the reality is that  some things do.  Decide for yourself what you need to invest in, how much your investment should be or can be, and if it is an absolute and essential priority how you will get it done with the schedule you have today and the budget you have today or what you can change to meet your goal.

I love this season of renewal, and to me it is the jumping point for reaching some new goals – I would love to hear your goals around parenting and homeschooling.  Let’s share and support each other!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

owning it

This weekend I had the pleasure of presenting three sessions at a Waldorf homeschooling conference in the Southeast.  It was amazing to be there with Melisa Nielsen of Waldorf Essentials, Jean Miller of Waldorf-Inspired Learning, Jodie Mesler of Living Music, Judy Forster of Mama Jude’s, Brian and Robyn Wolfe of Waldorf*ish, and inner work leader Sheila Petruccelli.

A whole Friday night and Saturday focused on Waldorf homeschooling  for early years through high school and creating a peaceful home!   Can you imagine?

And as I looked around, it struck me that these participants – who had come to the Southeast from as far away as Seattle and Denver and Missouri  and all over the Southeast – had come here to do the work.  This made me so happy because…..

If we want something , we have to own it.

We have to figure out the work that will go into our goal, and map out the plan to get it done, and then have the initiative to really dig in and follow through.

Nothing is going to just fall into your lap.  It takes some time and effort.

This includes concrete goals in business, homeschooling, homemaking, parenting,  and life and also the goals of such elusive things as “happiness” or “peace.”  I always tell my older children that happiness will not fall on top of them like an anvil falling out of the sky , flattening the cartoon character.  We create these things in our lives, and we perservere through the things that are up and down in life with a focus on finding these things even in the bad moments.

So, ask yourself:

  • What would that goal look like for me?  Are my expectations/goals realistic?
  • What would be the  baby steps that I need to do to break down this goal?  What is one concrete step I could take today today?
  • Who could I help be on my team to help me create this goal?  What part would they need to play?

Get out of your own way, put yourself in the game, and help your children do the same.  This is responsibility. For a good American football analogy,  put yourself in the game and run the actual play, so to speak.  If you sit on the sidelines, you will never contribute to the touchdown as part of a team or make the touchdown yourself. 

What are you struggling with today and how can you own that?

 If you need help, I will be opening a few consultation slots in April.  I do this only a few times a year, so if you have something burning on your mind to accomplish for parenting or homeschooling, email at admin@theparentingpassageway.com so we can talk by phone! (I put out all my lesson plans and childhood developmental tips for FREE on this blog, and I have for ten years, but the phone consultations for paid clients. :))

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

 

the winds of march -monthly anchor points

The Coltsfoot

The winds of March are keen and cold,

I fear them not for I am bold.

I wait not for my leaves to grow,

They follow after, they are slow.

My yellow blooms are brave and might,

I greet the spring with all my might.

When the snow is on the ground

Little bells are to be found:

Hush! Tread soft for I can see

Snowdrops sweet for you and me.

-From Germany, Spring Wynstones book page 18

March is a wonderful month here in the Deep South, typically warmer with flowers and trees blooming,  and sunny days.  I am looking forward to the renewing practices of Lent that begins this week.

here is what we are celebrating:

  • March 1- The Feast of St. David
  • March 6– Ash Wednesday, which we will mark at church and within our home by changing our nature table and setting up things for Lent
  • March 9-10 – I will be celebrating Waldorf homeschooling at the Waldorf Homeschooling Conference in Atlanta
  • March 25 – The Feast of the Annunciation, which we will celebrate at church
  • March 30– The Feast of St. Innocent of Alaska ( we will celebrate at home with some wonderful books about this saint)

ever shifting homeschooling:

Our junior is set for her senior year with mainly outside classes at our local hybrid school and finishing the last of a few subjects with me; I will be working on transcripts this summer and we started visiting colleges this past month.  Very exciting!

Our eighth grader is still seriously contemplating public high school due to it being within walking distance and the fact it has an animal studies program complete with equines and a barn, which is her area of interest.  So we have homeschooled one teen, perhaps public school will work out for this teen – this would be a new journey for us and I already had everything ready for ninth grade, so that feels a little sad, but  I am resting in that things will work out as they should ❤

Our rising fourth grader will be homeschooling in the fall and I am thinking of block rotations already.  Right now I am  thinking of Man and Animal 1, Man and Animal 2 with Local Geography, Fractions, Geometry (winter break), and then move into Norse Mythology, Birds of Prey, Math – with Weland the Smith as our read aloud and lots of art to come from that, African Tales, Math in the Garden or The Popol Vuh (undecided).

self-care

there is some stress going on with a pet’s illness so I am trying not to get so far behind on my self-care that I end up sick for six months which is what happened last year about this time.  Working on myself and my own discipline in self-care, is hard for me.  I find setting my times for self-care out for the next week helps, as does thinking of all those self-care times as appointments and marking them on my calendar.

I went to observe a pelvic floor practice this past week and hope to go again soon.  I am waiting to hear from a pelvic floor physical therapy certification I applied to, and if I get accepted I will  go from there into completing a clinical doctorate.  My goal is to have a tiny few times a week practice as our youngest child heads into high school and then to expand that as he goes off to the post-high school world.

marriage

i don’t normally talk too much about marriage on this blog, although I have a little in the past.  My husband and I are coming up on 27 years of marriage in May, and we are both in or close to our 50s, so it feels very real to talk about all the things of this stage of life – enjoying each other and this stage of life to its fullest, paying for college, young adult children, even the idea of retirement  and what we will be doing then (although that is quite a ways off with a rising fourth grader and me re-inventing my career).

Can’t wait to hear what you are up to this month!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lent: pilgrimage of the soul

Lent is an amazing time of renewal, self-discipline, inner work, fasting, self-education. Christians contemplate the sufferings and temptations of Jesus Christ as he fasted forty days in the wilderness, but nearly every culture and religion in the world has some kind of renewal period of fasting, or eating cleansing foods that celebrates spring.

We lead this time period with thought for what we are modeling for our children, and what daily vital practices we can show our children.  If you feel like the past few years haven’t been a great time for your family, or if you feel like 2019 is off to a rocky start, I think Lent can be a great time to get things back together for your family and yourself and really commit to it for forty days (in the Western Church this begins next Wednesday, on Ash Wednesday, and leading until Easter – the forty days excludes the six Sundays leading up to Lent).

Ideas for Lenten Renewal Practices that include children:

  • Eating cleansing foods; stricter fasting could or could not include children dependent upon your religious or spiritual tradition
  • Spending a few minutes each day at the same time silently in nature – maybe at sunrise or sunset
  • Having an unlit candle on the dining room candle that doesn’t get lit until Easter (some families use a small bowl of dirt that changes into a little Lenten Garden during Holy Week)
  • Having budding branches as a centerpiece on your nature table or table but replacing them before they flower (they can flower in a different part of the house)
  • Having a Lenten calendar of a caterpillar counting down the days to Easter, when the caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly.
  • If you are not already screen-free with your children, consider going screen-free during Lent.

Ideas for Lenten Practices for Yourself:

  • Find a spiritual guide in person – this is a time of repentance, fasting, confession
  • Choose fasting and what that means to you in conjunction with speaking with your spiritual advisor
  • Start taking care of yourself – exercising, preparing your food for the week ahead of time so you can eat healthy
  • Use Lent to practice setting boundaries.  I talk to more and more people who want to set better boundaries to improve their health and family life and realize the way they are living and parenting aren’t leading to healthy for themselves or their family members.

If you want to learn more about Lent or the idea of Lenten practices, please see these back posts:

With Children:  

What I Want My Children to Learn During Lent

Quiet Lent

Lent in the Waldorf Home

Lenten Ideas With Children

Favorite Books For Lent

For Adults:

Re-Commiting To Our Children

A Lenten Rule of Life

On Instagram @theparentingpassageway, I posted some of the Lenten resources I will be using myself, including these:

Fasting As A Family

Reconciliation (the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2019 Lenten Book Choice)

Less Plastic For Lent from Green Anglicans

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Book Study: “The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem in Your Children and Yourself”

“When I was a child myself, however, I was told and thus believed that my purpose in life was to be a nice little girl.  When I grew up, I found I was a very nice lady.  By being “nice” I avoided situations that called for much power and yielded to others to avoid power struggles…..Luckily, my children have taught me differently.” – page 105

This chapter is all about empowerment and the need for all human beings to feel confident and competent. Power comes from the Latin word poder meaning “to be able.”

We cannot have a winning family if it is constantly about power, in a negative sense, where there are attacks and counter-attacks so someone in the family wins and someone in the family loses. This is essentially what the author calls “power taking”- when people try to dominate or disempower others.  If this happens within a family, someone in the family will be victimized.

A winning family will “power share” – power is cooperative, mutual,nurturing. People share power within the family, and with this everyone’s personal power is expanded.

Power plays out in four different personality types:

  • Powerless – the person is helpless, dependent, insecure
  • Powerful – confident, capable, in control,
  • Empowering – supportive, encouraging, challenging
  • Overpowering – dominating, manipulative, arrogant, pushy

The author asks the question that if these were four people standing in a room, who would be attracted to each other?  Who would avoid each other?  This sort of reflection can help one look at the balance of power in the home, and look at the power distribution between the adults in the home and the relationship between the adults and the children.

The author  also talks about how in general society has become a place of disconnection and competition and how the easiest way to reclaim the power by being divided and conquered is to unite with others who share the same common experience. There is a section about violence and how this impacts women and children as the primary victims and how children who are raised in violent homes also become victims. Instead of wounding our children and perpetuating the cycle of violence, we can learn to heal ourselves.  The end of the chapter tackles gender and violence, and then has a section on “Family Empowerment.”  Under family empowerment, the author lists things to teach our children:

  • To be respectful of themselves and others
  • To be responsible for their behavior
  • That they have personal body rights
  • To be assertive
  • To be sensitive
  • To be nonviolent
  • To avoid dangers but to fight their battles
  • To have high self-esteem – people who value themselves and others do not tolerate abuse

The chapter ends with, “Our homes can be a refuge – a haven of love and safety, a source of strength and support.  You have the power to create a supportive and peaceful family where people are for, not against, each other.  Children need to feel safe at home. So do you.”

The next chapter is about discipline without damage, and you won’t want to miss it!

Blessings and love,
Carrie