An occupational therapist for 25 years, Rivka Stern has plenty of experience working with children who experience a broad range of sensory issues, special needs and a variety of other challenges. These days, while she is carrying her work further through her new venture, Invite Calm.
Invite Calm is Stern’s new and novel approach to assist parents in not only getting to the root cause of their child’s challenging behaviors, but also helping them cultivate deeper and more meaningful connections with their child than they ever thought possible.
In addition to utilizing the tools and skills she’s amassed during her career, Stern also draws from her own experiences raising her six children, and has merged all these different pieces of her life into Invite Calm.
Unlike occupational therapy, where the focus is placed squarely on the child, Invite Calm’s strategy is to focus on the parents. Stern’s work is squarely with the parents and for the parents.
“I wanted to come over to the side of parenting because the parents are the ones that create the relationship between themselves and the child,” Stern said. She sees many parents struggling to cultivate close relationships.
“In our modern-day society, people seem to move at a frantic pace, trying to accomplish as much as possible in the shortest amount of time,” she said, adding that although we do seem to be living in a goal-driven society, parenting is about a process and not about reaching any goal. To develop the kind of connection we want with our children, it requires us to set aside goals and the need to achieve and instead learn to just be with our kids.
Then there is the problem social media creates by setting unrealistic expectations that have so many people convinced that everyone else’s child is “perfect,” while their own child simply just doesn’t “measure up.” This false idea can cause feelings of inadequacy and have parents mistakenly comparing themselves to seemingly perfect kids’ perfect parents.
It was this growing need Stern started to notice, coupled with her own personal journey towards self-awareness, that led her to form a new perspective of children, seeing them as “perfect the way they are.”
It’s not enough, she says, to simply address the behaviors and then try to fix them. She helps parents get to the root cause of their child’s challenging behaviors. “I go very deep. I believe that when we only address the actual behaviors, they can only be fixed at a very superficial level.”
Drawing from the concept of neurodiversity, the idea that people interact and experience the world in different ways, Stern observes children as completely separate from any diagnosis they may have been given. She looks at them and simply asks what a particular child needs.
“I don’t like focusing just on diagnoses because I am so interested in figuring out the child’s individual needs,” Stern said. She also feels that kids don’t necessarily need to be “cured” of things, but rather just need to be seen for who they are as a person, in an individualized way, in order to hone in on what their strengths are.
“What I tell parents is that the parent-child relationship is the foundation of every single thing regardless of the diagnosis.” By focusing on the positives and strengthening the parent-child relationship, the challenges become much easier to navigate.
“What I tell parents is that we are private investigators together trying to see the world through their child’s eyes,” Stern affirmed. “We get into your child’s shoes.” By helping parents see the entire world through the lens of their child, parents can develop a whole new level of empathy to help them better relate and respond to their child, which can ultimately lead to a transformation of their child.
Stern will offer insights and recommendations in order to facilitate parents’ own “aha moments.” She seeks to empower them by asking certain questions and works with them so that they can pull out the answers.
“Ultimately, what I really want is for the parents to be the experts on their children so that going forward they know how to respond to their child and what they need to give to their child, to meet not only their child’s needs, but also to meet their own needs.”
One of Stern’s clients was feeling “quite desperate, frustrated and upset” about her relationship with her 5-year-old daughter. “It felt like we were always on the brink of her getting angry or upset, no matter how hard I tried to be calm and patient,” Stern said. But within a few weeks of working together, she was thrilled to see a big improvement.
“We were smiling and laughing again,” the client said. “The best part about working with Rivka is she doesn’t tell you what to do—there are no quick fixes anyhow—she teaches you how to come up with solutions to issues you are having and pushes you to think outside the box. This makes total sense since as parents we are the ones who know our kids best.
“Rivka will really guide you to a happier and calmer family life and teach you the skills to do it on your own. I wish I had found her sooner. I am so grateful.”
According to Stern, when parents meet their own needs and are regulated themselves, improvement in their child’s behaviors will automatically occur.
“As they begin to transform themselves and follow the techniques I teach them, it is very likely they will start to notice transformative changes in their child. Sometimes, they discover that, as their kids get older, not only do they already have a great connection and solid relationship with them, but even the problems and issues kids face as adolescents may not necessarily come into play.
“I want to help families and their children be happier and have a better relationship that can carry them through their lives.”
To learn more about Invite Calm or schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation call Rivka Stern at 917-499-5882 or email her at [email protected]
By Jewish Link Staff