Recently I shared a photo on my Instagram story. This photo had popped up in my Time Hop from 8 years prior, and honestly, there is absolutely nothing remarkable about the photo itself. I remember when it was taken; I was getting ready for a work holiday party.
Predictable days stabilize the lives of children and teens, but planning those days has been made more difficult for parents since the onset of the pandemic. Uncertainty, social isolation and parent distress all have on impact on the mental health of kids and teens. Join Peace At Home Parenting founder Ruth E. Freeman, LCSW and teachers Aaron Weintraub, MS and Denise Parent, LMFT and other concerned parents like yourself for a focused conversation to help you recognize symptoms and find solutions to address your child's emotional needs as well as your own.
View our last Facebook LIVE Panel event: Teens in Turbulent Times
By Katherine Bergamo
Maybe you are thinking about taking your child to see a therapist. Or maybe you are just wondering about whether your child’s behavior is in the “normal” range. Maybe a teacher or childcare provider has expressed some concerns. In any case, you probably have questions, the main one being, “how can I help?”
Here are some important tips to help you get started:
How do I know if my child needs therapy?
Your child may not vocalize that they need, or are interested, in therapy. If your child is displaying any of these signs, it may be time to talk to someone – ask yourself, Does my child…
- Have trouble managing emotions or behaviors
- Seem distressed or upset for more than a few weeks
- Have problems in more than one setting – like both home and school or school and childcare
- Display behavior is getting in the way of everyday activities
- And finally, if your efforts to support your child are not helping, it may be time to ask for help.
Every child is unique and displays their emotions and behaviors differently. Your child may display different signs than the ones listed above. You know your child best. If you feel they are struggling and in need of help, reach out and speak to a therapist.
How do I Choose a Therapist for My Child?
It’s important to choose a therapist that you, your family, and your child trust. Start by asking people you trust – medical professionals, teachers, or maybe even friends and family. Most professionals recommend a therapist that is licensed such as a social worker, psychologist, professional counselor, or a marriage and family therapist. A good place to begin is to find a therapist whose training matches your specific concerns. These concerns could be family issues, anxiety, depression, behavior problems, divorce, or other major family transitions to name a few. Don’t hesitate to ask the therapist about their experience in treating the specific concerns you have and ask about the approaches that they use. It helps to ask if the approach is “evidence-based,” which means research has shown these strategies to be effective with children who have these particular challenges.
Trust your instincts and listen to your child. Make sure you support your child to see the therapist for at least 4 weeks and then assess the person and the process together. As a parent, you want to be sure that your child is seeing a therapist who includes you in the process, invites you to be part of goal setting, and offers you specific guidance about ways you can support your child.
There are no wrong questions to ask the therapist, just as there are no wrong answers to give the therapist. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What is your experience treating this kind of problem?
- Do you expect us (parents) to be involved in sessions with our child?
- Will you meet with us separately?
- Will you develop behavior plans to try at home?
- Will you ask us to help our child practice new skills?
- Help us understand how therapy works and how it might be helpful for our particular child.
For more on this topic, please check out our class, “Children and Therapy: Let’s Talk.”
For many of us parents, he daily to-do list is so long that some things are bound to go undone. The things that end up getting scratched from the list are often what we so desperately need for ourselves, for our own well-being. Talking to parents, especially those with young children at home, I find that one of the first things to get ignored from that ever-present list is fitness.
There is just no time for yourself when you are doing everything for everyone else, and there is certainly not time for an hour or two at the gym, right? The truth is that while a 5k run or bootcamp classes certainly have their merit and value, fitness doesn’t always have to be structured or formal. There are many ways to include activity into your day on those days when spare minutes feel about as impossible as finding those matching baby socks.
There is plenty of pressure to have the perfect workout or spend an hour on your Peleton, but reality is a different story. Sometimes all we can muster are 5 minutes at a time in between house chores, distance learning, and outdoor play time. Those 5 minutes at a time can add up throughout the day. If you allow yourself the grace to let your fitness get a little bit messy, a little bit chaotic sometimes, we can lift that stress that builds up around working out and help ourselves make the most out of the limited time we have. Let’s figure out how to fit fitness into your life without it becoming a burden. Here are some easy suggestions we can follow to help fitness turn more into self-care and less into an added stressor.
Make moving the priority, not working out.
The most important thing to remember about physical movement is that it is an essential part of self-care, even during the busiest of times. Note that I used the term physical movement here instead of fitness, because sometimes just moving is enough. Focusing on “moving” instead of “working out” can decrease the stress of it all just by a mindset change. It can be a walk with the kids, running around in the yard with them for 10 minutes, or just staying on your feet and moving when at the playground, instead of sitting on a bench. (Of course, sometimes as parents, we do need that time to just sit on the bench too!). The point is, when life gets so hectic that the structured workouts simply aren’t going to happen, just finding ways to move must be a conscious decision.
Small bursts add up.
When it comes to fitness, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. All of your physical activity doesn’t have to come at the same time in the day. Ideally get 30 minutes to yourself for some exercise, but we all know that that can’t happen every day. Intentionally taking 5 minutes, 5 times during the day adds up to 25 minutes of physical movement that you wouldn’t otherwise have had. And you truly can do a lot in 5 minutes. Try making yourself a plan at the beginning of each day. You can spend 5 minutes alternating between squats and lunges, another 5 minutes working on your core. 5 more doing some push ups and plank holds, and there you have 15 minutes of full body exercise. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing. And some days that’s all we can hope for.
Give yourself grace.
It is so easy to get caught up in the mindset that you have to have the best work out every time you exercise. But life often has other plans, especially for parents of young children. I often don’t even have time to change into workout clothes, let alone plan and execute a killer fitness session. But forgiving myself for that is a huge part of being successful with fitness in this crazy season of life. If you get one or two quality workouts per week and the rest have to be “on the fly”, that is enough.
Physical movement is a stress reliever. Its a gift to your kids and a great way to take care of your mind and your body in one shot. The key is to find ways to keep it from being yet another stressor in your life. Let your toddler “lead” you in a workout, forget about the routines and just run like crazy around the backyard. Play leapfrog in the driveway or do sets of squats and lunges while your little one colors a picture. However you can fit it in, it’s the right way. Fitness doesn’t have to be formal to be physically and mentally beneficial.
By Cora Megan, M.A. and JoAnn Robinson, PhD
Many parents are asking, “How am I supposed to homeschool my child AND work from home? I am not a teacher!” This can feel overwhelming and impossible. You are not alone.
It is important to start small and plan no more than one or two activities for your child per day. Use items that you can easily find around the house- don’t reinvent the wheel. Here are some ways to set you and your child up for success:
- Organize your space to promote independent play. Remove hazards, and offer a variety of “open-ended” materials that your child can use independently. Cardboard boxes keep children of all ages engaged for long periods of time because they can be used in so many different ways. Use couch cushions for climbing or to build a fort. Offer buckets, Tupperware containers, or reusable shopping bags for filling up/dumping or transporting objects. You may be surprised at how simple activities like this keep your child occupied while promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
- Give your child an assignment or a task to accomplish. For example, ask them to go into the backyard and collect 5 acorns, 3 pebbles, and 1 twig. For toddlers, keep the tasks very simple, such as filling up a bag with stuffed animals. Encourage them to check in with you when they are finished. Together you can count how many are in the bag. Praise them for completing the assignment with high 5’s. Not only does this promote your child’s independence, but it also brings them back to connect with you – an important motivating factor!
- Set up a “workspace” for your child next to where you are working. Use materials such as legos, train sets, coloring/activity books, or even sorting socks. If you set it up as a “job” for your child, they will feel like their work is important, just like yours! To encourage this independence for longer chunks of time, use a timer. Try 10 minutes of independent “work” to start and adjust as needed.
- Be sure to praise your child when they complete a task or are behaving the way you would like them to behave. You will get MORE of the behavior that you praise. For example, “You are being so helpful by matching those socks.” or “You worked so hard to collect all of those trucks!” Talking about each truck is great to promote language development, too.
- Finally, make it a priority! Being in nature for a hike or playing outdoors reduces stress, and the exposure to sunlight and exercise helps to improve sleep therefore strengthening our immune systems. Find 20 minutes every day, even during a light rain shower, to be outside with your children. Stomp in the puddles together. Sing a song while you walk. Make some positive memories in the stressful time.
This is a challenging period for everyone, so be kind to yourself and to your child. The more practice your child gets being independent, the easier this will become.
Check out on-demand recorded class: Working from Home: How Can I Help My Young Child Play More on Their Own?
Toddlers are impulsive and have a hard time stopping themselves from doing things that:
- Feel good (yup, screaming feels good to little ones)
- Worked in the past (chances are that every time your toddler screams someone looks at them or reacts in some way – kids are built to seek your attention)
Learning to do something different, like use their words, takes patience, practice and repetition. Here are some effective strategies to use when your child screams:
- Remain non-reactive and matter-of -act. (Yes, this is challenging. You have mirror neurons in your brain and when your child gets aggressive, your brain wants to do the same thing. You’ll need some tools to be able to calm your own brain.)
- Say in a really calm voice, “You are having trouble getting your socks on” or “You really don’t want your diaper changed right now.”
This approach gives your child words to what they are feeling and trying to express, but doesn’t really pay any attention to the screaming.
Usually after you narrate what they are thinking/feeling, children stop the screaming and may give you some sort of affirmative sign. Then you can offer another option in a positive, expressive voice:
- “Instead of screaming you can say, Help me please or I need space!”
Your child may not be able to say those words right away, but the more you respond in a calm, matter-of-fact way with minimal emotion, offering a different method of communication, the more likely your child will catch on.
Learning to be your child’s calm center is a gift that will strengthen their well-being and your relationship for a lifetime.
For more strategies to help young children cooperate, check out our Flash Class called “Positive Discipline for Toddlers and Preschoolers.” If you are having persistent struggles with your young child, email us at email@example.com to arrange a private consultation with our early childhood experts.
No one can say how long we will be living in isolation. We don’t know if kids will be home from school for a month or if they will end up being home through the summer. What we do know is that children thrive on consistency. Consistent routines lead to more cooperation from kids. More cooperation from kids leads to more productivity for everyone.
To make this time easier for the whole family, create a new schedule and do your best to stick to it. Consider the following as you create a new family routine:
- Communicate Your Plan
Talk to your partner or other caregivers about how you want to create a new family routine while your kids are home from school. Discuss your individual needs and the needs of your children. Then hold a family meeting and communicate your plans with the kids. Let them know that you’re all in this together – you’re all adjusting to a new way of living for a while. Share what you would like your days to look like and ask if they have any thoughts or feelings they would like to share. Listen to their ideas and concerns.
- Start Your Workday Early
Get up at 3:00, 4:00, or 5:00 am, pour a cup of coffee, and start your workday before the kids wake up. Try to get your most important work done first. You’ll be happy to have finished pressing tasks by the time your kids start their day.
- Wake Kids at the Same Time Every Day
Let kids sleep in until a set time (8:00 or 9:00 am). Consistency is essential for young children and maintaining a sleep schedule is important for everyone. Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg, author of Become Your Child’s Sleep Coach: The Bedtime Doctor’s 5-Step Guide, is offering a free, online class about best sleep practices for school-age children. To sign up for her class, click here and look for Be Your Child’s Sleep Coach: Help Your Child Become a Great Sleeper.
- Set the Tone for the Day
With young children, set a playful tone for the day by doing some pretend. Ask your child: “Who do you want to be today? Bobby Bear? Or Little Mouse? Who should I be today? Daddy Bear? Or Poppa Mouse?” After breakfast, take 2-5 minutes to do some yoga and stretching together. Praise your young child’s participation using their pretend character. These moments of mindfulness will help you refuel and can set the tone for a calm start of your schedule. We recommend this guided yoga activity for kids on Spotify: Kira Willey – Dance for the Sun.
- Set Goals for the Day
After breakfast, talk about what each person in the family hopes to get done today. You can include something for school/work and something fun – connecting with a friend, finishing a puzzle, reaching a certain level on a video game, etc. Write down the goals and see what got done at the end of the day. If all the goals weren’t met, discuss what will help kids meet their goals tomorrow.
- Make Challenging Routines More Enjoyable
If waking up is tough, make it more enjoyable by smiling and cuddling for a few minutes. While getting dressed or preparing breakfast, you might try incorporating a song that suits your child’s morning energy – it could be rousing or soothing. If brushing teeth is always a battle, try to make a game out of it.
- Schedule in Connection & Fun
We recommend spending 20 minutes of one-on-one time with kids every day to strengthen connection and decrease misbehavior. Some of children’s misbehaviors are bids for attention. If you fill your child’s “attention bank,” he will be less likely to beg for your attention later – and you will have an easier time sending him off to play alone while you get your work done. If you can’t do it every day, schedule one-on-one time whenever possible.
In addition to family playtime, ask kids who they would like to play with or talk to this week. Then schedule virtual playdates and calls with relatives. Kids can play games like “Battleship” and “Guess Who” virtually if both parties have the game! Take advantage of the time that kids are entertained by someone else to get some of your own work done.
Try to schedule connection and fun after chores and schoolwork as incentive to get those more challenging tasks done.
- Encourage Independence
Once kids understand how to do a routine with your guidance, they can master it and do more of it on their own. Lavish praise for what you liked. “I like that you put your socks on yourself!” Encouraging independence will take some pressure and responsibility off of you.
- Anticipate Emotional Meltdowns
Right now, many people are experiencing anxiety about the future as well as grief about all the things that will no longer happen this year. Your kids are no exception. Check in with them to ask how they feel about everything that’s happening right now and don’t be surprised if they burst into tears when you least expect it. Turn toward your kids’ emotional displays. Hold them, look them in the eyes, and listen to what they have to say. These meltdowns may come at inconvenient times, but do your best to respond with gentleness and compassion.
- Schedule Self-Care
You have a lot on your plate and it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself when worrying about your kids’ needs and your work to-do list. But if you’re caring for yourself, you’ll have more patience and energy for your work and family. Don’t feel guilty about scheduling a little me-time into your weeks – it will end up benefiting the whole family.
Remember, this is new territory for everyone. If you’re a month into isolation, you’re likely just beginning to establish a new “normal.” Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your family to have it all figured out. Take it day by day and expect there to be some difficult times. For more support, check out our COVID-19 Parent Toolbox.
Set aside enough time for sleep.
When you create your quarantine routine, be sure to schedule enough time for sleep. Then spend that time in bed. Here are sleep recommendations by age group.
3 – 5 years old: 10 – 13 hours
5 – 12 years old: 9 – 12 hours
Tweens and Teens: 8 – 10 hours
Adults: 7 – 9 hours
Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine.
This could mean soaking in a hot bath or listening to soothing music. Begin an hour or more before the time you want to fall asleep
Create a sleep-conducive environment.
Try to make the environment: dark, quiet, comfortable and cool
Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
When it’s time for a new mattress, it is worth the investment. A restful night’s sleep will lead to happier, more cooperative family members.
Keep sleep stealers out of the bedroom.
Bedrooms should only be used for sleep (and sex, for adults). Try to keep phones and electronics out of bedrooms. Avoid watching TV, using a computer, or even reading in bed.
Don’t eat before bed.
Try to finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
The 2-3 hour rule applies to food, as well as caffeine and alcohol.
Exercise is important right now for a variety of reasons – one of which is that it will help you and your family sleep better.
Become your child’s sleep coach.
For more advice from a sleep expert, attend Dr. Schneeberg’s free, online class: Be Your Child’s Sleep Coach – listed under Free Parenting Essentials Classes. Dr. Schneeberg will provide parents with strategies to help their kids sleep better during the Coronavirus pandemic and always. We also recommend reading Dr. Schneeberg’s book: Become Your Child’s Sleep Coach: The Sleep Doctor’s 5-Step Guide, Ages 3-10.
(WTNH)– School looked different Monday as kids around the state set-up work stations in their own homes.
Charlotte Smith has five kids, ranging in age from 4 to 10. Their schools started “distance learning” due to the coronavirus update last week.
“Mom, Cruise Director, has a spread sheet about what subjects the kids have to do,” says Smith, a blogger in Southport, who encourages the kids to start the day with an active lesson like writing sentences instead of watching videos.
“Everyday we get better….both teachers, as to what they’re assigning, and parents, in terms of how we’re navigating it,” she added. Read more at https://www.wtnh.com/on-air/connecticut-families/coronavirus-closes-schools-expert-advice-about-how-to-embark-on-distance-learning-at-home/