Mary Tanner, Author MSW, LISW-S, M.Ed.
Talk of back to school can trigger parents as much as children. Going back to homework, lunch money, after school programs, car pool etc. etc. can evoke a stress response in even the most seasoned parent. So, what can we do? First of all, Moms, Dads, Guardians, Caregivers, relax. Everything will be OK. Have fun in the remaining days of summer!
When parents ask me what they can do to help their child get ready for back -to- school, I start with the basics. I call them the “Big Four” This is a recommendation I give year- round.
If you do those 4 things with and for your child, you are giving them the best chance to feel good about themselves and to perform well at whatever activity in which they partake. Sometimes, the Big Four gets put on the back burner during the summer. It is truly beneficial to be consistent and do these things year -round. You are helping yourself too, Adults. You will have less irritable, more cooperative kiddos with which to contend. The Big Four applies to all kids big and small and to their adults, as well.
I recommend limiting screen time. Children, young and old are spending way too much time on their screens. This is one of the biggest obstacles that interfere with sleep and exercise. I have had young clients who take their I-phones, I-pads, laptops to bed with them. This is a very bad idea! One little guy I was seeing was staying up all night playing games, watching shows and falling asleep at school. I got to the bottom of it and told his Guardian, who didn’t know. She put a stop to it by simply taking all electronics away at bedtime. It was a fight, but one that was necessary.
On the subject of screen time, it’s good to shut off all screens an hour before bed time. The blue light emitted from all screens interferes with our sleep cycle and makes it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. If your child is experiencing difficulty with sleep, talk to your pediatrician.
If your child is shy or seems to have trouble making friends, summer is a good time to practice social skills. Talk to your child about communicating with others. Demonstrating skills and role playing can help them learn and develop better interpersonal skills.
Playdates are also helpful. Spending time with friends during the summer can help with back-to-school worries. Knowing they have friends at school eases transitions.
If your child is starting at a new school, ask the school for recommendations, if there are summer activities that will allow your child to meet classmates. There may be a local recreation center or swimming pool where children from their school go. I love libraries. They offer fun programs that encourage reading and may be a good place to meet other children.
It's important to always talk about school in positive terms. If the previous school year was difficult for your child, offer them hope and encouragement that the next school year will be better and you are there to support them.
If your child has experienced something upsetting, or seems anxious or depressed, talk to your school. Most schools have mental health therapists and counselors on site. It’s good to jump on potential issues early. Don’t let concern that your child will be labeled stand in your way. School resources are there to help.
Covid has caused issues for everyone. Educators are concerned students aren’t as far along in their learning because of lock downs and conducting classes via computers. Children are resilient and they will catch up. We, as the adults in their lives, can be their support and can help them see the fun side of learning. Learning doesn’t just occur in the classroom, give your children experiences, nature walks, trips to the playground, regular trips to the library, time at the pool, a picnic in the park. All of these and more are opportunities for learning.
Have fun with your child! Again, enjoy the remaining days of summer!
Home for the Holidays…Or Not
For some, going home for the holidays is the most wonderful time of the year. But for others, it can be a mixture of stress, anxiety, excitement, fear, and a whole host of other emotions.
For members of the LGBTQIA+ community, the choice to go home for the holidays may hinge on whether they feel safe, accepted, and/or welcome to celebrate with their family of origin. For others, the choice may simply be to celebrate with their chosen family instead. Either way, developing a Cope Ahead Plan can be an effective way to navigate the holidays and keep your mental health intact.
4 Elements to Include in Your Cope Ahead Plan:
However and with whoever you celebrate this season, we wish you a happy and safe holidays!
Self-Care for the Holidays
By Jennifer Day, MSW Intern
During the holidays, our to-do-lists often pile up with tasks and taking care of others. It’s important to remember that we can’t pour from an empty cup, so we must take a few minutes to recharge ourselves too!
Self-care is more than just a checklist or the latest wellness buzzword. Self-care is the human equivalent of performing routine maintenance on a vehicle – we all know we have to fuel up a car to get it to run, but we also have to make sure the tires are inflated, check and change the oil occasionally, check the brakes… you get it. Good care in advance and throughout the life of a car keeps it lasting longer and running better. It’s the same with people, especially during a season that’s sometimes busy and difficult. Here are a few inexpensive or free things you can do to keep your engine running during the holidays:
1. Schedule time for you.
Think about the things you enjoy and make sure you set aside time for those things, rather than filling up your calendar with everyone else’s plans for you. Add some time to your day to practice self-care activities or just a few minutes of quiet before a gathering.
2. Practice being mindful.
Things can get pretty hectic during the holidays but incorporating mindfulness into your holiday can be as simple as paying attention to only the task you’re completing right now. Even grocery shopping can be done more mindfully by noticing your surroundings, such as the sights, smells, and sounds. Going over the river and through the woods to visit family? Try mindful driving!
3. Leave space for the tough stuff.
The holidays can be very difficult with grief popping up as we remember those who can’t be present with us or for situations that aren’t ideal. Since the pandemic, chances are there’s something about your holiday season you might wish looked a little different. It’s okay to notice your grief and leave space for it in your holiday. Consider whether these negative feelings come from expectations left unfulfilled and give yourself a break if you aren’t feeling festive.
4. Ask for help.
Need help with baking the pies or washing the dishes? Let someone know how much you’d appreciate a hand. It’s perfectly okay to give up some responsibilities and delegate tasks during this busy season… and all year long! If you’re struggling with holiday stress, you can always reach out and schedule an appointment with your CPCS therapist. We’re here to help.
However you celebrate, we wish you a holiday season full of relaxation and self-care.