Develop a Self-Care Practice To Improve Your Relationships

Let’s begin by nixing the notion that self-care equates to selfishness. How difficult is that for you to do? Depending upon your upbringing, socioeconomic status, cultural beliefs, etc, it’s no surprise that attending to and meeting your own needs can feel like a self-indulgent luxury for some, and a foreign language to others. Consider, just for a few minutes, how your belief system about taking care of yourself is serving or harming your quality of life. What about the lives of those around you? I purport that developing a self-care practice is actually the antidote to selfishness. What’s more, developing a self-care practice could improve two very important relationships in your life and lead to a host of other benefits as well.

The What and Why of Self-Care

“Self-care,” has admittedly become a buzzword in today’s culture. I like to think of self-care as any activity that a person intentionally does in an effort to take care of their mental, emotional, and physical health. Research suggests that if you engage in self-care activities, you can expect to boost your mood and decrease anxiety. Not a bad trade-off.

The Message of Work and Rest

In my work as a therapist I provide psychoeducation to my clients about the pedagogy of rest. Beginning a self-care practice is not a choice praised by the mainstream, in fact the general pulse of our culture has strong opinions when it comes to productivity levels versus resting. Our society promotes business as a currency and loves to attach our worthiness to how much we produce (and how quickly we produce it). It connotes “rest” as an activity for the unmotivated and the weak. How alarmingly advantageous of our capitalistic market to promote such a message! I advocate that a person hold a dialectic of both rest and work in their life. Working is important and gives us some purpose. Some of us must work more than others, due to life circumstances, but I still hold that everyone would benefit from developing a self-care practice of their own.

Self-Care to Improve your Relationships

I invite you to get curious about your personal values, and the messages you tell yourself. You (not society) get to decide where you find your worth. Do you like the kind of parent you are? The kind of friend you are? How’s your family’s work-life balance? If any part of you feels inclined to create a little more space in your life to develop habits that promote your values, consider the following reasons why developing a self-care practice could be helpful to improve your relationships with yourself and others:

  1. When we learn how to take care of ourselves, we teach others how to take care of us,too. Remembering that sometimes we are the ones to console, but other times we need to be consoled, and that’s okay! When we allow others to help us, we build them up, too. Everyone likes to be needed! Feeling needed feels good.
  2. There’s wisdom behind the “put on your mask first” colloquial. We can’t give from an empty cup. Moreover, tuning into our needs builds trust with ourselves while simultaneously improving the relationship that we have with ourselves. This occurs, most notably, when we respect what our minds, hearts, and bodies are asking of us.
  3. Self-care lowers our stress levels. When we are less stressed we can access our healthy coping skills and find it all around easier to be more patient, understanding, and generous with those that surround us. Our attitude trickles down to those around us whether we like it or not. When we take care of ourselves, it’s easier to take care of others.
  4. We have the opportunity to set a powerful example with our children and spouses. One day our children will reflect back to how their parents took care of themselves as a measure of how they should be taking care of themselves. We are their first teachers. Was I a parent that was always working late? Was I easily “set off?” At the end of a long day, how did I relax? They notice our habits. We can foster the development of their healthy coping skills through our example.

 

Self-care to improve your relationships is not about just strictly eating chocolate and taking bubble baths (though I hope you consider adding those elements to your well-rounded self-care routine!) There are both blessings and burdens that come along with taking care of yourself. My hope for you is that you advocate for yourself so that you can be the best version of yourself. Watch your relationships improve and enjoy the added mood benefits as well! Self-care is a creative way to express yourself. Consider reading this article written by Dori Mages, for practical ideas on how to incorporate self-care into your lifestyle.

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Raise an Independent Child Comfortably and Naturally

Parenting strategies have been studied for over 50 years and come in all shapes and sizes- “Helicopter Parenting,” “Authoritarian Parenting, “ “Dolphin Parenting,” “Elephant Parenting, “Attachment Parenting,” and the list goes on.  Research does its best to provide us with the most effective strategies for how to raise an independent child. Sometimes with too much information though (and often conflicting), we find our heads are spinning with self-doubt, confusion, and worry that we aren’t raising our kids “right.”  Everyday is an opportunity for growth, but it doesn’t have to be a painful process. Here are some minor shifts you can make in your daily routine to raise an independent child comfortably, and naturally.

 Start with Awareness

When we want our child to shift their behavior, there is great power in adults changing their behavior first.  But what do we change? Where do we start? Far too often we are overwhelmed and stretched thin by taking care of every little task or rescuing every emergency that running a household requires.  Slow down, take a breath, and pay attention to responsibilities you could pass on to your child.  This small act of building mindful awareness can provide large opportunities for future change.  Does your child brush their own teeth?  Do they buckle their own seatbelt?  Do they choose which pajamas they wear at night?  Though teaching a child these skills is time consuming in the short-term, we benefit in the long-term by giving ourselves more time, reducing frustration, and providing opportunities for our child to foster their self-confidence.  Start with building awareness around what responsibilities you can let go of and pass on to your child.

 Then Move Toward Acceptance

Many times we step in to help our children when we observe them facing fear, frustration, or any type of discomfort. Their discomfort can lead to our discomfort, so we step in and rescue them quickly to minimize pain all around. Accepting their discomfort, and accepting our discomfort in situations can go a long way (while most importantly, ensuring everyone is safe and well cared for).  When we accept discomfort, we can learn to tolerate it and mindfully respond to situations from a problem-solving perspective versus a reactionary, “put out the fire,” frame of mind.

When working to raise an independent child, this part takes practice.  Again, slow down, take a breath, and pay attention to times you may be interfering with your child’s ability to problem-solve and respond to challenges on their own.  Acts as simple as letting your child try harder to reach that lego piece that is stuck under the couch, or continuing to practice putting their own shoes on can make a huge difference in the long run.  Learning any new skill can create uncomfortable feelings, but with more opportunities to learn, those feelings will fade and can be replaced with confidence and independent decision-making skills.

 Make Sure You Encourage Your Child!

Not only is it important to provide opportunities for independence and growth, but offering them emotional support along the way can help motivate them.  Children do not always know what they are capable of accomplishing, and we can support them by being their cheerleader and encouraging them to face challenges and accomplish goals.  Do we believe they can accomplish the task at hand? Maybe not, but children will often surprise us if they are given the opportunity to try.  Facing failure is not a great feeling, but it is a part of life.  The more we can support and encourage our children to try new things, experience failure, and learn from past mistakes, the more skills we are giving them to be independent and life-long learners.

These shifts might not sound comfortable or natural to you, yet.  Role-modeling goes a long way in parenting and when children can observe you trying new skills and persevering through the discomfort, they can better learn how to tolerate and grow from discomfort as well.  Become aware, accept the challenges, and encourage yourself!  There are many opportunities on any given day for your child to learn independent life-skills, and you will experience the benefits of your child’s self-sufficiency for many days to come.

 

If you would like extra guidance and support on your parenting journey to raise an independent child, please reach out to North Shore Family Services.  We are happy to help you and your family reach your goals!

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How to Recognize the Signs of Suicide

Did you know that suicide is the second leading cause of death for children, teens, and young adults? According to the U.S Center for Disease Control and Prevention, kids as young as 5 years old, all the way up to 24 fall into that category. Those numbers are alarming, yet there is still such a stigma around not only the topic of mental health, but particularly suicide. Is it that we do not know how to start up the conversations? Are we afraid of what our kids will tell us? Are we ignoring the signs of suicide? A big part of my job as a mental health professional is to educate not only the kids experiencing these types of thoughts and feelings, but also for the parents so that they know the signs of suicide, the steps to take if they feel there kid is unsafe, and ways to support their children. Learn how to recognize the signs and what steps to take if your child is at risk.

Suicide Risk Factors and Protective Factors

There are several risk factors when it comes to suicide. What does that mean? The way that the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention explains risk factors is that they are characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take their life. Do these risk factors mean your child will become suicidal? No, but they are important to keep in mind, particularly when there are limited protective factors. Protective factors are those skills and strengths that help people get through tough times. They are characteristics or attributes that reduce the likelihood of suicidal behaviors. Some examples of protective factors can be having supportive family and friends, effective coping skills to manage stress, being hopeful about the future, having a strong sense of self, good problem-solving and decision-making skills, pets, religion/spirituality, and a sense of belonging. Increasing protective factors can decrease suicide risk.

Below are some suicide risk factors:

  1. Family history of suicide
  2. Family history of mental illness
  3. A previous suicide attempt
  4. A psychological disorder, especially depression, bipolar, psychotic disorders, substance use problems
  5. Bullying
  6. Impulsivity
  7. Exposure to violence
  8. Family conflict
  9. Feeling hopeless
  10. Emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
  11. Stressful life events
  12. LGBTQ (suicide rates are higher for LGBTQ youth, particularly those who have limited supports in place)

Suicide Warning Signs

 There are several warning signs that may be present in your child if they are suicidal. There are more obvious signs such as a child making a verbal statement such as, “I don’t want to live anymore,” or “I wish I was dead,” or “I want to die.” There are also less obvious signs such as changes with sleeping habits – sleeping too little or too much. Knowing the warning signs of suicide and noticing any recent changes in your child’s behavior is very important. This is a time where professional help can be helpful, even if you do not fully understand what is going on. Often times, I hear parents say they feel that their child or teen just wants attention when they start throwing around the word suicide. Ignoring the signs of suicide can increase negative thoughts and feelings, which can make things worse instead of better. Knowing the signs of suicide, risk factors, and any recent changes in your kids’ behavior can save their life.

Here are some warning signs to look out for:

  1. Suicidal statements or talking about suicide in general
  2. Changes in eating and/or sleeping habits
  3. Isolative behaviors (staying in their bedroom more often, staying to themselves and no longer hanging with friends)
  4. Loss of interest in pleasurable activities (i.e. sports, clubs, socializing)
  5. Grades start to slip
  6. Ignoring or unable to identify anything positive, and seeing everything as negative
  7. Trouble concentrating
  8. Giving away treasured possessions
  9. Increased use of alcohol or drugs, or engagement in other risk taking behaviors
  10. Increased irritability, aggression, sadness, guilt, or shame

How to Help When You See Signs of Suicide

 If you notice any changes in your child’s behavior, you can start by asking various open and closed-ended questions to gather additional information such as, “tell me more about how you’ve been feelings lately,” or “are you feeling depressed?” or “are you thinking about hurting or killing yourself?” Some kids and teens may verbalize what they are feeling, while others may internalize their feelings. Keep the lines of communication open so that you can express your love and support when things are going well, and when there are concerns. If you feel that your child is having a hard time opening up to you and would prefer someone more neutral, it may be a good idea to set him or her up with a mental health professional. At North Shore Family Services our therapists’ work with children, teens, young adults, and adults who experience suicidal feelings. A mental health professional can help come up with an individualized treatment plan that can reduce their suicidal thinking and uncover the root of their problems.

 

Err on the side of caution and get your child or teen help right away if you are concerned. If there is an immediate concern and you feel your child is unsafe, you should take them to the nearest Emergency Department to be evaluated immediately. They can help guide your family in the right direction and direct you on what to do next. For more information on suicide, you can go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website , and you can also visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-TALK

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Feeling Unappreciated on Thanksgiving: A Parent’s Memoir

Are All Kids Ungrateful?

For many families, Thanksgiving is a time of year where we emphasize the importance of being grateful and thankful for the people and opportunities in our lives. However, as a parent, there are plenty of times where we feel unappreciated by our family members, specifically our children. It is very easy for us to acknowledge and know all that we do for our children, and the sacrifices we make. However, it feels as if it is not as obvious to our kids! This can leave parents feeling unappreciated, ignored, and disrespected. We feel as if we get no recognition for our efforts and hard work, which can lead to anger and resentment. I am here to remind you how magnificent you are, and to help you cope with feeling unappreciated.

Being a parent is a difficult job. One that, despite all the self-help books, doesn’t come with a manual that has all the right answers. Everyone needs validation to feel better about themselves, and have motivation to continue on with their efforts and hard work. As parents, we can forget that our children are just that, children! At times we feel our children should be more grateful for what we, and others, do for them. Below are some tips on how to cope with ungratefulness from our children, and help us teach them how to be more in tune with others and grateful.

Use positive self-talk

Remind yourself that you are doing your best! Focus on the positive things you do- even if that is not yelling when your child is throwing a tantrum. Remind yourself that you will never be the perfect parent, because simply that doesn’t exist. Speak to yourself with kindness. Acknowledge your mistakes, and focus on the lessons learned rather than the mistake itself. We cannot control our children being grateful towards us, but we can control us being grateful and appreciative towards ourselves. Give yourself recognition, even when others do not.

Focus on what you can control- you!

When we focus on attempting to make our child more grateful, we tend to end up feeling angrier and disappointed because we cannot control them. When your child is being ungrateful for a meal that you cooked, is telling them “You’re lucky I cooked anything at all!” helpful? The answer is simply, no. Trying to force our children to be grateful in these moments isn’t effective, but teaching them how to be grateful is. Use these moments as teaching and learning experiences. This way, when you do not get what you want (a thank you), you will not feel disappointed. Rather, when you teach your child that this is a moment where they could work on being grateful, you will feel accomplished, successful, and increase your chances of them being grateful towards you in the future.

Teach by example

When you have moments where you can be grateful, use them! A lot of the time we do not thank our children for things they “should” do. For example, if you asked your child to pick up his/her toys, and they do it, thank them afterwards. You are teaching your children to be grateful for others doing things for them, even if they feel others should be doing these things (like cooking dinner). Treating your children with the respect and gratefulness that you would like to receive will help them reciprocate that back to you. Treating others in this manner in front of your children will help them connect that this is an appropriate way to act towards others.

Remember that they are children

It is helpful to remind ourselves that our kids do not see the world the same way we do; their brains are not as developed as ours. Depending on their age, kids tend to be more egocentric and self-involved. They need to be taught empathy and how to consider others, and what better way to learn than from you! It is helpful to reminds ourselves they are not intentionally being ungrateful, rather they might not know how. Your child isn’t going to understand that you left work early to make their play, or that you skipped your self-care or alone time to take them to practice. We do not want children to walk around worrying about adult things, but we do want to teach them to acknowledge others and their efforts. Try to put yourself in their shoes.

Remind yourself that you most likely weren’t considering how your life was affecting your parents’ when you were younger either. Allow them to be children that do not have to worry about adult responsibilities, but teach them how to be considerate of others. Teach them through reminders, i.e. “It is still important to say thank you and acknowledgement someone if they give you a gift, even if you didn’t like the gift”.

Seek validation from your support systems

It is important to seek validation from your support systems- your partner, friends, or family members. Let them ensure that you are doing a good job. Let them remind you that you are appreciated, and that they care deeply about you. Relate to other parents who feel unappreciated to help you feel as if you are not alone, and it is only your child who is ungrateful. Our children cannot always vocalize and give us the desired responses and appreciation we would like, but adults can. Allow them to help you feel appreciated.

 

Lastly, remind yourself that you are very important to your children. They love and adore you, even if their actions and words do not match that all the time. Focus on the positive moments as well- the “I love you” that you receive at bedtime, or the “thank you” you receive after getting their toy for them. The more you teach your child how to be grateful, the better you will feel! Go be the amazing parent you are, and spread & feel gratitude this holiday season.

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Create a Daily Routine for Success for Your Family

The word “routine” often gets a bad reputation. It’s common to think of a routine as sterile, dull, or somehow lacking spontaneity. However, deep down we know that establishing and utilizing a daily routine for success has the potential to make life a lot easier, thus leading to a more productive and positive day. Many parents struggle with developing a routine that will work well for their families’ demanding schedule, as well as each family member’s individual needs. Our days are bombarded by a list of to-dos. Work. School. Zooming kids to extracurricular activities…the list goes on and on. It can become overwhelming. Sometimes it may feel easier to “just go with the flow”; particularly, when there are children throwing tantrums, adolescents giving attitudes, or just the daily demand to stretch yourself thin. Developing and sticking to a daily routine can lead to success, and I have five tips that can help you get your family on the fast track to success.

Fueling Up to Start the Day

Our cars need fuel to get us where we need to be; why wouldn’t our bodies? This tip may seem elementary, but many families do not start the day off with breakfast (let alone a healthy meal). Making time to eat breakfast can increase brain function and positively impact mood and energy.  This translates to less stress and more focus.

Make a Family Calendar (Organization and Executive Functioning Skills)

To avoid hiccups and unnecessary stress, creating a family calendar that can be viewed by the whole family can keep everyone on the same page. This calendar can include expected activities, such as: extracurricular activities, meetings, holidays, family plans, homework, etc. See more on school success here. The major benefit of having a family calendar is that it reduces stress for everyone by eliminating confusion. Including your children in the process of creating the calendar can also be a fun family activity!

Create a Space to Communicate as a Family

Busy schedules can impede on family time and negatively impact healthy communication. Having regular family check-ins built into your routine for daily success can be helpful with increasing communication and keep parents informed about their kids’ lives. This may look like talking about positives from the day while around the dinner table, before bed, or while in route to a scheduled activity.

Intentional Mindful Breaks

Scheduling a time for a personal check-in should be a part of your regular routine. Mindfulness has become very popular, and for good reason! It is a time for us to take an intentional pause and take stock of our thoughts and feelings, without judgment. I suggest scheduling several ‘breaks’ in the middle of your day. This check-in will prove helpful in building self-awareness and allow you (the parent) to address any thoughts or feelings that may impact how you interact with your family.

Establish Bedtime Routines

This tip honestly should be number one. How often do we burn the midnight oil getting trying to get things done? I know I have! Life can be demanding and it seems the 24-hours that we are given to complete our daily tasks is just not enough; however, stealing time from rest is not usually helpful. Just as we need fuel (food) to keep going, we need rest. This is important to everyone in the family. Kids of course need rest to grow and avoid those troublesome cranky tantrums. Adults need the same thing. Having an established routine before bedtime, including a scheduled time for bed, can help recharge us, decompress us from the stressors of the day, and directly impacts our mood and productivity for the following day. Setting appropriate bedtimes for each family member (e.g. 7:00 PM for elementary school-aged children) will lead to less fuss in the morning.

 

Here’s something really important to remember: what works for someone else, might not work for you. Our child and family therapists can work with you to identify what your family may need to include in your daily routine for success. The key is to create regular and consistent daily routine that will help your family achieve success

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Household Chores Help Your Child Succeed

Several long-term studies have shown that the best predictor of success in young adulthood, is, ……..whether children have been doing household chores.

The willingness and capacity to work in childhood is the most important forerunner – more than native intelligence, social class or family situation -of mental health in adulthood, according to the results of a newly published study.

Assignment of Household Chores has Declined

In a recent poll of parents, only 28% said they have assigned regular household chores to their children, even though 82% of parents said they grew up doing chores.  What has contributed to the decline?  One thought explaining the ebb in emphasis on household responsibilities is a focus on improved academic performance and participation in many activities e.g. sports, music, etc.   In an effort to raise more well-rounded children, we have appropriately addressed their scholarly and external pursuits.  Family schedules have become filled with activities and transportation leaving less time and energy for   household chores.  To be sure, a focus on academics and activities is worthwhile and recommended.  This article reports on published studies which make a case for adding chores to the mix of daily activities as a means for improving successful outcomes for our children.

Two Studies

Two long term studies provide guidance on this issue.  Both make a strong case for the importance of incorporating household chores into a child’s schedule.  The first study completed by the University of Minnesota, over a 20-year period, concludes that the best predictor of future success is whether children started doing chores at an early age!   Success was measured using the factors of improving chances that children will complete their education, have a successful career, and good social relationships. The second study, conducted at the Harvard Medical School, for over 75 years, concluded that the willingness and capacity to work in childhood, by doing chores and housework, was the best predictor of success in adulthood.

“When young people are expected to pitch in by contributing to the household, it leads to a mind-set of pitching in in other settings, such as the workplace” states Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of undergraduate advising at Stanford University. “Household chores help kids build responsibility, autonomy and perseverance, all traits necessary to becoming capable adults.” “Failing to give kids chores, deprives them of the satisfaction of applying their effort to a task and accomplishing it.” “Having to fit chores into schedules teaches kids to manage their time, a skill necessary in adulthood.

Harvard Grant Study

Dr. Richard Bromfield, faculty psychologist at Harvard Medical School, echoes the statements of Lythcott-Haims, “The payoff of assigning chores builds a sense of competency and a budding work ethic.” “Doing household chores also helps kids feel like they’re part of the team. Pitching in and helping family members is good for them and it encourages them to be good citizens,” said Dr. Bromfield.

One of the many conclusions of the study’s findings is that kids who are given household chores grew up to be adults who were more independent, better able to work in collaborative groups and equipped to understand that they are a valuable part of a community.  Essentially, chores give children the fundamental building blocks toward developing a willing attitude, which is what will fuel success in the workplace in interpersonal relationships.

As parents, we look for ways to improve the chances of success for our children. It turns out we do not have to look far.  Emptying the garbage, putting dishes in the dishwasher, helping with the laundry, etc., are excellent habits for lifelong success, and they do not require any driving!

For additional information on the subject refer to the books listed below.

How to Raise an Adult,” Julie Lythcott-Haims

How to Unspoil Your Child Fast.” Richard Bromfield

 

North Shore Family Services is here to support you too. If you would like a little extra guidance and care for your family, please reach out and schedule a therapy appointment today!

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5 Tips To Advocating Successfully for Your Child in School

Navigating the school system can be a tricky process, especially if your child has a disability. It can be challenging to avoid being ‘that parent,’ who may be combative and over-involved, or that parent who is naïve to the special education system. Very quickly the discussion can go to the question of an IEP vs. 504 Plan. What’s the difference? Each plan has its place, and they can get tricky.

Here are five tips to advocate successfully for your child when working with your school system. To ensure your child’s needs are being met, know that you are an equal participant in the decision-making team, and that there is space for your child to assert his or her academic needs.

1) Do your homework.

Be informed regarding your child’s rights. It is imperative to have the knowledge of the federal and state education laws in order to make the best and most informed decisions for your child. It is easy to get lost in the ‘lingo’ and the technical jargon, so familiarize yourself with the differences between an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) vs a 504 Plan  and the associated terms. This knowledge can inform the questions you ask. For example, “is my child receiving one-on-one time with the school psychologist or are they meeting in a small social skills group?”

IEP vs. 504 – what’s the difference?

An IEP, by definition, is a plan that details the supports and specialized instruction/special education services a school will provide to meet the needs of a child with a disability.

Children and teens with 504 Plans do not require specialized instruction, but rather specific accommodations (e.g.: seat in front of classroom, shorten assignments/work periods, allow test to be taken untimed with specified short breaks, provide fidget objects to meet sensory needs (squishy ball, putting, worry beads), provide daily/weekly progress checklist, etc.)

IEP vs. 504 – does my child need one?

If your child or teen struggles with one (or more) of the following areas, he/she may qualify for services:

  • Learning differences
  • ADHD / Difficulties with Executive Functioning Skills (organization, planning, memory, sustained attention)
  • Social / Emotional challenges (anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, social skill deficits)
  • Autism, Developmental Delays or Physical Disabilities
  • Hearing, visual, speech or language impairment
  • Gifted / High IQ

2) Prepare for your meetings.

Keep all your documents and paperwork in an organized folder, including medical records, any formalized testing or evaluations, letters or recommendations from outside professionals (e.g., therapists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, neuro-psychologists). Brainstorm a list of questions and points you would like to cover in the meeting. Administrators give you a short window of time to meet (thirty minutes to one hour), so you want to ensure you leave pleased with the meeting’s discussion.

3) Your input is valuable.

Remember that you, as the parent, know your child best. Do not succumb to the pressures of the school staff to make decisions. With that being said, it is important to be open-minded and flexible in finding the best solutions. But ultimately, you know your child’s needs and if certain interventions will suit his or her needs. Object when necessary and be an involved member of the decision-making team.

4) Be assertive and address your needs for support.

Don’t be afraid to speak up and asking questions about your child’s accommodations, services, or legal facts, as they arise. You, as the parent, are entitled to call a ‘recess’ in an IEP meeting if you need something doesn’t feel right. Keep in mind that is okay to request another meeting to re-convene, if you do not feel comfortable making a decision in the heat of the moment during a meeting. Furthermore, it is permissible for parents to bring your spouse or an outside professional (child therapist, etc.) to a meeting. It is imperative to ensure that your needs are being met and you feel supported.

5) Talk to your child and normalize their disability.

Check in with your child. Inquire if the accommodations/supports are being executed and if his or her needs are being met. You can ask “was there anything that could have helped you with that [difficult situation/problem] better?”

And most importantly, provide a safe space to talk to your child about their disability. Children oftentimes internalize their challenges and do not have the language to express sadness or frustration regarding their differences. Model positive emotional expression by saying “everyone needs help with something!” Encourage your child to ask for help, bond with their team of staff, and self-advocate when you are unable to speak for them.

 

If you think your child might need additional assistance from your school system, please check out our therapists at North Shore Family Services. We work with a number of clients in this situation, and we can help.

 

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Relationship Stress: Connecting With Your Teen

What happened to the sweet innocent child that wanted your attention all the time? They couldn’t wait to tell you about their day! Teenage years can be a difficult time for you and your teen and make relationships stressful! They will push limits, may seem moody, and can be the Kings and Queens of one word answers.  Connecting and building healthy boundaries can be challenging, but not impossible. Creating healthy boundaries and a healthy relationship can help your teen gain independence, feel safe, and make good decisions. Boundaries can be important for parents to have a sense of control, let them know they are cared for, while giving the teen their own autonomy.  How to deal with stress in your relationship and connect with your teen? There are factors to keep in mind while connecting with your teenager and keeping healthy boundaries.

Connect and Empathize

Spend time with your child to connect with him or her. Find an activity that you both enjoy and keep asking until they accept the invitation. Teens may be hesitant, but this one-on-one interaction is important for maintaining healthy relationships.  Make it a time for positive conversations, not a time for addressing concerns or problems. Creating an environment for open communication will help build mutual trust and respect. Set aside time with no electronics or distractions and be present with each other. Listen before responding and respond instead of reacting. Resist the urge to fix things and just be there to listen and validate.

Many times parents shrug off their teen’s stress as no big deal and don’t take them seriously. Remember how it was to be a teen. Think about your own barriers you had to telling your parents about personal things. Empathize how complicated life can be and validate their feelings. Stay away from saying, “I know how you feel”, imply that their feelings don’t matter, or that they will just change.  Acknowledge their feelings and needs and actively listen before sharing your own thoughts.

Natural Consequences

Problem solving is an important life skill that requires practice. If your teen is bailed out of every mistake, they miss out on the opportunity to practice. Let your teen face natural consequences as a result of their actions. Sometimes the natural consequences of their action are more of a learning moment then taking away the electronics. This will also help deter any power struggles that might come about when assigning consequences and make the relationship less stressful for both.

You are still the Parent

As we know, teens consistently push the boundaries that are set. This is the normal process of striving to be independent and there are still rules that need to be consistently applied. However, boundaries and rules can change in time or as trust and independence increases. Remember that you are the parent and they still need you. Even in the hardest days of crying and screaming, they will need to know you love them unconditionally and to feel your support and approval. Boundaries allow for structure and safety and remind the teen that they have your unconditional love. Try not to yell or scream, especially in front of their friends. Use set consequences infrequently and use rewards instead.  Figure out consequences and incentives together before any incidents happen. This way, they have a part in the discussion and have a “buy-in” to respecting the boundaries.  Teens look up to their parents. Research shows that parents have great influence on adolescent choices, including risk-taking choices like smoking or drug use.

Respect each other

Respect is another important factor in any relationship. Teens will more likely respect others when they feel they are respected. Even though teens may be dramatic and act silly, it is important to take their concerns seriously. Don’t belittle or dismiss them when they share a problem that seems trivial to you. Validate their feelings and let them know that you get it. You won’t always agree with them, but hold your compassion and respect for them as you disagree. Get to know your teen’s friends while not putting a negative label on them. Respect your teen’s privacy yet keep an eye on what is going on. Acknowledge your teen’s strengths and build them on. Let them know what you need from them, instead of what you don’t want your teen to do.

The Don’ts

We are all human with emotions that might take us to places we didn’t want to go. We want to show teens that emotional management is possible and can be done with healthy coping skills. We don’t want to show them disrespect by letting our emotions get the best of us. It is normal to get angry and frustrated and when this happens, respond instead of reacting and try not to yell and scream, especially in front of their friends. Setting up consequences is important, but don’t rely on just consequences. Use rewards and build on their strengths.  When you feel your emotions getting high, walk away. Model how to manage high emotions in a healthy way.

 

Stress in your relationship with your teen can be stressful at times! Teens can be moody, dramatic, and sometimes make poor choices, but they are just striving for independence, self-awareness, and figuring out how to navigate life. They need direction, support, and boundaries to feel safe and find the ability to make sound decisions. Listen, learn, and connect with your teen and build the relationship by listening and validating, not just trying to solve their problems. Have positive interactions with them, not just the negative interactions. Remember, it takes 5 positive interactions to balance out every negative interaction.

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When I Don’t Like My Child- A Letter to Mamas

Tears streaming down her face, she looked up at me pleadingly ‘I don’t like my child- help me. I am terrible’.

Hey Mamas- let’s talk. Real talk. Let’s talk about the moments no one prepared you for, the moments when you no longer recognize yourself, the moments you think ‘I have failed- I don’t like my child’.

Everyone’s story is different; some are full of tears for the first few weeks of infanthood, others feel the burden set in later. There are those who seem to parent effortlessly without failing, without fear, but I’d like to remind you, and encourage you that life and your child-, they are both full of different seasons and stages.

Do you remember when you first got married? No amount of books could prepare you for physically living with this particular person; the amount of dirty laundry left on the bathroom floor, the dishes left in the sink. Some fall into the pattern of cohabitation easily, others find it harder- but the truth is that it is an adjustment for all, and it gets easier.

The day you brought home your first puppy. He was scared. You were scared. After a few days of puppy bliss, you began to face the reality that your puppy missed his mother; he hated to be alone, his teeth hurt, he wasn’t house broken, and he peed everywhere. Now look at him, standing guard and keeping your family safe.

Then come the babies. The perfect little bundles of joy that were wished for, longed for, prayed for. The sweet angel adorned with love, kisses and the perfectly fitting name upon her arrival. Fast forward to sleep regression, sleep training and the IV of coffee in your arm. Was this what you signed up for?

Oh wait, this little person calls you “Mama!”. He dances when you come through the door. Long forgotten are the sleepless nights of infanthood. We are now into the ‘terrible twos’ the ‘I-do-it-myself-threes’ and here you are, a puddle of tears on the bathroom floor. No matter, pour yourself a glass, call a friend, dry your tears, and remind yourself tomorrow is another day.

Kindergarten; new friends, new rules, no nap. Crying for Mommy. (For help on separation anxiety, click here)

You get through it. You stand back and give your son a hug so tight you can still feel it when you close your eyes. Battle of the wills; who is this child? I don’t recognize him. I don’t like him. But you love him. And before you know it, its middle school, high school and college.

Mama, parenthood is hard. Every time you master a new stage, your child is on to the next one. Some days its lunch money, and other days you pat yourself on the back for packing lunches the night before! Infanthood is hard, but it does not last long. Pre-school may be full of tantrums, but it doesn’t last long.  (For help on taming tantrums, click here). You love your job, but somedays are harder than others. You love your children, but some days, you are lacking in the liking them department.

Please know that you are not alone; please call a friend and let them tell you their own horror stories until tears of laughter stream down your cheeks. Please reach out to the brand-new mama struggling with diaper rash, bottles and sleeping. If you are struggling day after day, and would like professional help, please check out the knowledgeable therapists at North Shore Family Services, and their blogs.

You can’t be a pro all the time; you are allowed to have days that feel too hard. But at the end of the day, remember to tell your children ‘I love you’. Today, this week, this season is hard- but I promise it won’t last forever.

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5 Ways to Help Your ADHD Child Tackle Boredom

Has your child ever come up to you complaining about being bored? Boredom is a common theme for children, yet ADHD boredom can happen more frequently due to hyperactivity and inability to maintain focus. ADHD boredom is not a symptom of ADHD. The ADHD brain fires off faster than another child’s brain making it easier to fall into inattention and distractibility. This is when ADHD boredom can set in. Impulsively acting-out and using attention-seeking behaviors is your child with ADHD way of expressing their boredom. When these behaviors take over it does not mean your child is bad; they just need help tackling the boredom.

Here are five ways you can help your child with ADHD tackle boredom.

Provide structure by scheduling after school and weekend activities

A child with ADHD thrives on structure and being busy with things to do. Scheduling afterschool and weekend activities can help them tackle their go-to of being bored.

Encourage your child to be proactive

A lot of time your child with ADHD gets bored and cannot think of all the things they can or like to do. It is never a bad idea to plan in advance with your child. Make a list together of what steps they can make at home and school of things they can do when they get bored. Having a visual list of free time activities for the home will help your child feel independent and proactive in times when their brain tells them they are bored.

Don’t drop everything to rescue them from boredom

Being a parent is stressful enough, try not to take on your child’s boredom. Giving your child choices can help them feel empowered and focus their attention to overcome their boredom. If you are doing something, the child can assist in doing ask them to help or direct them an activity you know is one their activity list to do until you are free to give your child your full attention. Remember it may take your child some time to come up with something or pick from the choices you offer them so try your best to not jump in with ideas of what they can do but instead choices for them to process and figure it out on their own.

Set Strict guidelines for Screen Time

Setting healthy limits with children around screen time is difficult and more so with a child with ADHD. It is essential screen time is not the go to choice to give your child with ADHD when they are expressing boredom. Be proactive and help your child make good decisions about technology.

Allow your child to be a part of the planning process

Find one day a week or a scheduled time every day to sit down with your child. During this time map out plans for the week or day, create to-do lists to help them know what has to get done in a day, and have a family calendar as a visual reminder to help with promoting about activities coming up.

 

Remember children with ADHD thrive off of excitement and stimulation. It is difficult for them to fill their free time because they struggle with executive functioning skills. Help support your child find ways to stay busy and locate things to do when they are experiencing ADHD boredom.

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