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Dear Friends of Quest,

I hope that this monthly installment of our newsletter finds you happy and healthy! Summer camp starts in 4 weeks! We are still accepting campers! Register NOW to reserve your spot!!!
Summer Camp Dates are:

June 27th to August 11
at the Central Library in Huntington Beach

This issue of our newsletter is about how parents can set the limits they want without walking on eggshells with their child. At Quest, we are proud to provide an innovative treatment program through our therapeutic summer camp and school year therapy groups that have been proven to reduce problem behaviors not only at camp, but in school, at home, and in everyday life.

We hope that our newsletter will be a source of support and applicable information to improve the lives of the amazing children and families in our community.


Jodie Knott, Ph.D.
Director and Licensed Psychologist
Quest Therapeutic Camps of Southern California

No More Walking On Eggshells: When Parents Set the Limits They Want

Setting limits with children is always a delicate balance and often a struggle for parents. I find that for all parents this is challenging because parents are trying to manage and balance what is an appropriate limit, how a limit might change or vary based on the setting or situation, and wanting to make their child happy.

Often, there is a fear about how a child will respond negatively to a limit being set. This fear can greatly impact a parent’s willingness to set the boundary or limit. I find that this is particularly true for parents of children with special needs. Despite these challenges all children need healthy limits and setting them can be one of a parent’s toughest and most important jobs.

How to know what limits to set:

  1. Parents can discuss what limits they would like for their children when they are calm and away from their children. It is much easier to have co-parenting discussions about issues such as times for bedtimes, if children might be ready for certain responsibilities or privileges, if and when any unhealthy snacks will be allowed that week, etc. when the children are not present. Some parents choose to enlist a professional to facilitate this process and discuss some of the research on what has been helpful regarding assisting children to thrive.
  2. Boundaries or limits that relate to health and safety should be “nonnegotiables” or “final answers” and discussed as such.
  3. Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel like the right choice for your child or you don’t think they are ready due to other choices or struggles they are having that rely on similar skill sets this is important information.

When you are using these three tips to plot your course it hopefully will be easier to set a limit and stick with it. Even though parents want to make their child happy and often try to give them things that maybe they didn’t have as a child, healthy limits are one of the absolute best gifts you can give a child!

It is important to think about all the benefits that you give a child when you set a healthy limit and stick with it:

1. Your child learns that you say what you mean and you mean what you say. There is so much safety in this for children. A lot of the children I specialize in working with have difficulties with anxiety and frustration tolerance. Trust is often developed in children when they realize that you have set a clear limit in very clear and direct language and that you won’t negotiate regarding a child’s safety.

2. Your child also can learn that you are not afraid to be their parent and set important rules, despite their emotions. Sometimes for children with anxiety or anger these feelings can feel VERY BIG

When we remove healthy limits we are setting due to unhealthy behaviors or emotional acting out, we can send children bad messages. Unfortunately, this cycle can become very reinforcing for families.

Example: A parent tells a child that he can’t stay up late and have candy, so the child throws a tantrum and the parent gives in and says, “Just this time.” Now, the child learns that he doesn’t have to listen to his parent’s words and using negative behaviors or showing big feelings can get him what he wants. Unfortunately, children with special needs are often the most likely to make this link — If it worked once (even if it hasn’t worked 50 times since), it will work again, where as other children are more likely to read their parents facial expressions and remember the 49 times that this negative behavior didn’t work.

It is important to not be overwhelmed by a child’s emotions or behaviors. Emotions and behaviors are ways that a child communicates information. We can use that information to help teach our children the skills they need to be successful, appropriately managing their emotions and making good behavioral choices.

There are many teachable skills that go into helping children have more emotion regulation, increased cognitive flexibility, and ways to use language to effectively communicate with your child. These topics are beyond the scope of this newsletter, but have been discussed in several past Quest newsletters which are on our website (Past newsletter articles include the Wild West of Parenting, Being Clear about the Nonnegotiable, Taking the Emotion out of Parenting, Helping Children to Recognize Emotions in Themselves and Others), and in other sources.

3. Life is filled with being told “no” and having limits placed on us. Having the skills necessary to deal with disappointment and be flexible are mandatory life skills. Every time a parent sets a healthy limit with a child, he or she gives that child an amazing gift way beyond the momentary benefit of whatever was given such as a toy or candy when it shouldn’t have been. It is not easy to deal with disappointment and be flexible. These are particularly challenging life skills, but are some of the most indicative of people who are resilient and successful as adults. When parents can think about setting healthy limits as great opportunities for growth for their children a lot of progress can be made.

Although children will initially try to negotiate new limits and will be disappointed when an adult holds firm, I have years of experience of seeing the transformation in children when they realize that boundaries are set and are consistent. At Quest, I often think this is a cornerstone of why children feel safe enough to take the risks that they do in our program to have the large successes they do (i.e. asking a new friend to play, scoring their first soccer goal, zip lining for the first time, asking for help, taking accountability in a new way, trying a new coping skill, etc.)

I often think our campers are willing to do these new and challenging behaviors that involve being vulnerable because the rules are clear, we have a lot of safety rules, staff are consistent with them, and they see us follow through with them. Parents can use these same strategies to have great effects in the home environment and get rid of the feeling of walking on eggshells.


School Year Programming

School year therapy groups are ten-week afternoon therapeutic groups that are designed to provide therapy by specifically targeting individualized goals for our campers.

A minimum of one hour includes therapeutic activities that heavily target the development of social skills, emotion regulation, and positive behaviors, while the next hour focuses on further skill development by providing a variety of experiential activities as part of a group to create opportunities to observe the child in a natural setting and intervene to facilitate change. Some quarters provide a special emphasis to improve skills, while other quarters have a more general offering based on the campers’ interests and often include programming in areas such as video game making, drama, art, movie making, etc.

Winter Group Dates are:
January 4th – March 8th
Wednesday Evenings 5:30 to 7:30
at the Central Library in Huntington Beach

Summer Programming

Quest’s intensive summer program offers 7 weeks of programming (6 weeks of day camp and 1 week of residential). The summer program includes individualized behavior plans, group therapy, occupational therapy, a social thinking curriculum, mindfulness activities, yoga, soccer, games in the park, and field trips (beach, boomers, rock climbing, ropes course, bowling, etc.) to create a fun and engaging, therapeutic camp experience for children.

Weekly parent meetings are also included. The summer program has been found across multiple studies to significantly reduce hyperactivity, impulsivity, aggression, and inattention, while improving peer relations, family relations, athletic competency, behavioral control and self-esteem. Quest has also been found to improve social awareness, social cognition, social communication, and social problems.

Summer Camp Dates are:
June 26 through August 10th