Ringing in 2020 with Tourette Syndrome

Anne Frank News Years Quote

With 2019 coming to an end and the holiday season wrapping up, we look forward to the New Year of 2020 right around the corner. Traditionally during this time, many individuals and families create a New Year’s Resolutions to ring in the New Year with a motivating goal to aim for throughout the year.

Recognizing that families of children who are living with TS face unique challenges each year, as tics and the co-occurring symptoms wax and wane. Because of this, I encourage the families of children living every day with TS, to make a simple New Year’s Resolution that is focused on the four “P”s that are aimed at improving everyday satisfaction but also managing tic symptoms.

  • “P” Positive Start

Start each day with a positive. As hard as that can sometimes be, this is extremely important to do. It can be as simple as an affirmation written on a Post-It® or a positive quote on the bathroom mirror to something more complex with morning yoga exercises or mindfulness activities. It is important to remind yourself and your loved ones that they are loved, and start completing this in the morning can have a positive impact on the rest of the day(2).

  • “P” Praise the Positive

As children are growing up and learning their place in society, they struggle with attention and the need for power (6). During this time, it is common to see many unwanted behaviors. However, many studies have shown that it is important to avoid the desire to nag or point out unwanted behaviors (5). By rewarding positive behaviors and decrease externalizing the child’s negative actions, many behavioral programs have shown tremendous improvements in behavior (5). These types of programs can include simple things such as token systems, reward charts or sticker charts to something more complex such as a referred program of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy or the Incredible Years Program. Working with a local mental health specialist or occupational therapist can help guide you in the direction of positive parenting at home. The exciting news is that this type of positive feedback has been shown effective in decreasing tic. For example, pointing out a child’s tics can bring increased attention to the tics or worsen anxiety with the tics, which in turn can increase the tics themselves (3). However, pointing out and rewarding suppression techniques of competing responses or relaxation strategies can lead to decreased tics (3).

  • “P” Put Away the Electronics

In the digital age, it can be easy to get distracted by the vast options of home electronic and social media. Recently, researchers have studied the impact that amount of attention given by a family to the electronics and smartphones within the home has been shown to have an impact on the health and well-being of the person themselves and family dynamics (11). In relation to children living with tic disorders, it has been shown that in many cases, tics severity and frequency will worsen during video game play or when watching TV (10) and excessive electronic and video game use has been linked with health concerns, academic issues and increased anxiety (1). These reasons are why it is important to figure out an effective means for pulling your child away from the video games or tablet games, even though it can be a challenge. Importantly, modeling the behavior, and making electronic-free activities a family activity as a goal for the 2018 New Year can benefit everyone. Try to dedicate at least one time a day to put down your smartphone and electronics as a family. For more activities to do without electronics around the house, click here.

  • “P” Play together

Ever heard that phrase “families that play together stay together?”(9) That common phrase has critical backing in research on family dynamics. Long-standing exploration has shown that quality time spent with your children can have lasting impacts on their overall well-being (7). Whether it is exercising together, participating in a family game, starting a new hobby or leisure activity or even something as simple as creating a fun game to play in the car, safely, on the way to work, all create meaningful activities that have lasting impacts on your child. Remember, specifically with children living with TS, exercise has been shown to have an immediate positive impact on tics (8), and studies have shown that loneliness is associated with tic severity. Therefore, incorporating these simple “play together” moments can benefit the whole family but also have secondary effects on the tics themselves.

As 2020 approaches, remember, have fun, create memories and think about incorporating the four “P”s as part of your New Year’s Resolution to help your child living with TS improve their wellbeing at home.

Happy holidays and a happy New Years to you and your family.


  1. Caurín, B., Serrano, M., Fernández-Alvarez, E., Campistol, J., & Pérez-Dueñas, B. (2014). Environmental circumstances influencing tic expression in children. European Journal of Paediatric Neurology : EJPN : Official Journal of the European Paediatric Neurology Society, 18(2), 157-162. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejpn.2013.10.002
  2. Earnes, R. (n.d.) Four daily habits that build connections [Blog]. https://www.positiveparentingsolutions.com/parenting/four-daily-habits-build-connection#more-23572
  3. Eaton, C. K., Jones, A. M., Gutierrez-colina, A., Ivey, E. K., Carlson, O., Melville, L., . . . Blount, R. L. (2017). The influence of environmental consequences and internalizing symptoms on children’s tic severity. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 48(2), 327-334. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10578-016-0644-5
  4. Kettering, C. (n.d.) New Years Quotes. Brain Quotes.com. Retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/charles_kettering_181217?src=t_newyears
  5. Lessard, J., Normandeau, S., & Robaey, P. (2016). Effects of the incredible years program in families of children with ADHD. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(12), 3716-3727. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10826-016-0509-3
  6. McCready, A. (n.d.) 5 steps to put the brakes on back talk [Blog]. https://www.positiveparentingsolutions.com/parenting/five-steps-to-put-the-brakes-on-back-talk
  7. Milkie, M. A., Kendig, S. M., Nomaguchi, K. M., & Denny, K. E. (2010). Time with children, children’s well-being, and work-family balance among employed parents. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72(5), 1329-1343. Retrieved from https://login.lp.hscl.ufl.edu/login?URL=http://search.proquest.com/accountid=10920?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/759963813?accountid=10920
  8. Nixon, E., Glazebrook, C., Hollis, C., & Jackson, G. M. (2014). Reduced Tic Symptomatology in Tourette Syndrome After an Acute Bout of Exercise An Observational Study. Behavior modification, March 2014 38: p. 235-263, 0145445514532127.
  9. Rimm, S. (2010). Families that play together, stay together. http://www.sylviarimm.com/article_familyplay.html
  10. Stephens, R., & Zile, A. (2017). Does emotional arousal influence swearing fluency? Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 46(4), 983-995. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10936-016-9473-8
  11. Straker, L., Abbott, R., Collins, R., & Campbell, A. (2014). Evidence-based guidelines for wise use of electronic games by children. Ergonomics, 57(4), 471-489. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00140139.2014.895856

About the Author


Heather Simpson, OTR/L

Heather Simpson graduated with a B.S. in Exercise and Sport Science with a minor in Early Education from the University of Florida in 2007. Following…

Read all articles by Heather Simpson, OTR/L