Inspiration/Advice

Here I am sharing some thoughts from my experiences in my clinical and forensic practice, as well as through my role as a mother of three children, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend.

Resilience Is The New Happiness

I love it when my inbox is filled with interesting psychological research.  It fuels my quest for knowledge in how I can best help my therapy clients, and it also provides me with unique and valuable information for my mental health bracelet designs.

I read this great article about how “resilience in the new happiness”.  The concept is that in order for us to be happy, we first must be strong.  We need to be able to pick ourselves up when we fall, and detach ourselves from sadness when we fail.  And the best part – resilience is a skill.  It is not some quality that is reserved for a select few.  Everyone can build up resilience skills, like a muscle, at any age. And it is well worth putting in the effort. Simply put, resilience can help us heal ourselves.

Here are some areas that you can work on in order to build up your resilience.  Let each of the blue beads be a reminder to focus on these daily.

  1. Boundaries.  Be mindful of how much you allow problems in one area of your life to affect other areas of your life.  Learn to set boundaries and avoid “spillover”.
  2. Self-Talk.  Pay attention to what thoughts are running through your head.  How to you talk to yourself?  When you catch yourself having negative thoughts, work on turning them into positive thoughts.  Use meditation or other relaxation strategies to help quiet the “chatter”, “static”, or “noise” going on in your head. If you’d like some help with this, here is an article I wrote on helping you identify what “cognitive distortion” you are using, and then applying “the fix”. http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/12-major-types-of-cognitive-distortions-that-can-affect-mood-and-behavior/
  3. Locus of control.  Remember that you are in control of your own thoughts and behavior.  The more you believe that you can effect change, the more you will be engaged in purposeful behavior to bounce back and improve a negative situation.
  4. Compassion and empathy.  We feel good when we help others, and building connections helps us build our own social networks.  A strong social support network is important to the resilient person, and the resilient person knows how to draw upon that support when needed.
  5. Stress Management.  Engage in whatever activity helps you relax and de-stress.  Yoga, meditation, hiking, deep breathing, listening to music, running, or spending time with your partner, family, pet, and/or friends.
  6. Gratitude.  Practicing gratitude on a daily basis will help you build resilience.  You then will not get caught up in the things that are going wrong, and rather be better able to celebrate the things that are going well. If you would like to learn some creative and fun ways to incorporate gratitude into your life, feel free to come to one of my upcoming workshops on fostering gratitude. http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/announcements/

Here is the link for the Resilience is the New Happiness Bracelet

http://peggysmidnightcreations.com/product/resilience-is-the-new-happiness-bracelet/

Here is a link to browse other mental health bracelets

http://peggysmidnightcreations.com/line/mental-health/

And here is a link to browse other bracelets for inspiration, encouragement, and support

http://peggysmidnightcreations.com/line/inspiration/

Speaking Engagements Fall 2018

WORKSHOPS/PRESENTATIONS

Please join me at one of these upcoming “feel good” workshops in northern New Jersey! Contact me if you would like me to bring a workshop to your community group, business group, group of friends, etc.

September 24th 7PM  “Fostering Gratitude“, Chester Public Library, 250 West Main Street, Chester, NJ 07930; register at http://host6.evanced.info/chester/evanced/eventcalendar.asp

September 26th noon “Finding Joy and Cultivating Happiness in Every Day Living,” The Coffee Potter, Schooley’s Mountain Road, Long Valley

October 9th “Fostering Gratitude“, Sisters in Entrepreneurship (members only presentation)

October 17th noon “Resilience is the New Happiness: Methods of Building Resilience Based on Research in Psychology,” The Coffee Potter, Schooley’s Mountain Road, Long Valley

November 1st 9:30AM “Fostering Gratitude“, Believe, Inspire, Grow, Bernardsville pod, California Closets, 9 Olcott Square, Bernardsville, NJ 07924

November 7th noon “Fostering Gratitude,” The Coffee Potter, Schooley’s Mountain Road, Long Valley

November 10th 1PM “Fostering Gratitude,” Journey’s Day Spa, 1930 Rt. 940, Pocono Pines, PA 18350

November 12 7PM “Fostering Gratitude“, Washington Township Public Library, 37 East Springtown Road, Long Valley, NJ 07853; register at http://wtpl.evanced.info/signup/Calendar (sign up not available yet)

November 14 9:30AM “Harnessing the Power of The Law of Attraction in Your Personal and Professional Lives”, Believe, Inspire, Grow, South Orange/Maplewood Pod, Work and Play, 19 Prospect Street, South Orange, NJ 07079

November 28 10:30AM “Harnessing the Power of The Law of Attraction in Your Personal and Professional Lives”, Believe, Inspire, Grow, Morristown Pod, Avalon Wellness Center, 25 Lindsey Drive, Morristown, NJ 07960

December 6th noon “Mindfulness Workshop: Beyond Meditation – Creative Exercises for You and Your Family,” The Coffee Potter, Schooley’s Mountain Road, Long Valley

December 13 10AM “Harnessing the Power of The Law of Attraction in Your Personal and Professional Lives“, Believe, Inspire, Grow, Basking Ridge Pod, St. Mark’s Church, 140 South Finley Avenue, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920

http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd

http://peggysmidnightcreations.com

First meeting of Believe, Inspire, Grow is free. Contact me if you would like to be my guest! https://www.believeinspiregrow.com/

 

 

Ten Practical Suggestions for Parents of Kindergarteners or Children Who Are Experiencing Some Anxiety Returning to School

Starting school at summer’s end can be both exciting, and a bit scary, particularly for those starting Kindergarten. Children are leaving behind comfort and familiarity of home, and entering new territory. While they may be developmentally ready and prepared with all necessary school supplies, it is not uncommon for children to experience uncertainty and anxiety. Here are some tips for parents in assisting their children with the transition.

  1. Likely, some of the anxiety that your child is experiencing is related to being separated from YOU. Home is comfortable. Home is familiar. Home is loving. It is natural for children, including older children, to experience some anxiety upon separation, especially after spending so much time with family over the summer. You can help her with this concern by acknowledging it and not minimizing it. Assure her that you will see her at the end of the school day or when you get home, and remind her of what great things are in store once she gets home. Often, having something to look forward to can help a child get through the day. Some other ideas for helping with the separation include drawing a heart on her palm in marker, so that she can look at the heart and feel your love when she is missing you. You can also read “The Kissing Hand” and kiss each other’s palms. Then when she is missing you during the day, she can place her palm to her cheek and feel your love. Another idea is to have matching parent-child bracelets. The idea is that she knows that you will be wearing your bracelet and thinking about her, and she will be wearing her bracelet and feel close to you, fostering a sense of connection despite the separation, helping her to get through her day. Here is a link to purchase a set: http://peggysmidnightcreations.com/product/when-we-cannot-be-together-bracelet/
  2. Whether your child is entering Kindergarten for the first time, or returning to elementary school, it is likely that some of your child’s worries are social worries. Questions may be running through your child’s mind, such as “Who am I going to eat lunch with?” “Will I see any of my old friends?” “Will the other kids like me?” “What if I have nothing to say?” Help your child to identify and verbalize these concerns. Your child may also be comforted in knowing that other children have these same concerns. Also, if your child is feeling shy and/or does not feel that she has something to contribute to a conversation, remind her that a simple smile and eye contact go a long way. You could also encourage her to ask a question to demonstrate interest. Many schools have “walk-throughs”, “meet the teacher day”, or ice cream socials before the first day of school. Participating in these can also help alleviate your child’s anxiety.
  3. Help your child to anticipate changes. School transitions are filled with changes. Your child will likely experiences changes such as different friends, increased responsibilities, and new interests. While this is positive and part of growth, your child may feel some uneasiness, especially if many changes are happening all at once. Your child is more likely to be accepting of these changes if he has an understanding that these changes are natural and healthy, even if they feel uncomfortable at times. Keep the lines of communication open, and check in with him about these issues.
  4. Resist the temptation to solve your child’s problems. It is natural to want to help your child out when he encounters problems at school, whether they be social or academic. It may seem like it is not a big deal to solve a small problem your child is having, but it is these very problems that are small that are the practice for the bigger problems. Solving small problems for your child deprives him of the opportunity to learn from mistakes, and to gain confidence from success. Instead of stepping in and solving the problem for your child, be a sounding board for him. Talk about possible solutions and outcomes, and then encourage him to take the necessary steps. (Of course step in if a problem becomes too big for him to handle on his own).
  5. Identify a trusted adult in the school setting. This could be a special teacher, guidance counselor, or administrator. Help your child to identify who this person is, and how to access this person during the school day.
  6. Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is essential to proper functioning, including academic, emotional, and social functioning. Limit screen time before bed, and keep electronics out of your child’s bedroom. Studies show that when devices are left in bedrooms, children check them in the middle of the night if they wake up, and this affects both quality and quantity of sleep. Most children need more sleep than they are getting.
  7. Show confidence. Remember the quote by Peggy O’Mara – “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” Your child is more likely to believe in herself when you show that you believe in her, and when you use words that support that. Here is a link to some encouraging words to use with children. http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/encouraging-words-to-use-with-children/
  8. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Help your child anticipate what is needed for the next day, and complete as much as possible in the evening for a smoother morning. Encourage your child to pick out her outfit the night before, make sure she knows where her shoes are, and have lunch ready. Get up earlier than you think is necessary. Your child will have a much smoother start of the school day when the morning is not rushed and chaotic.
  9. Positive affirmations. Studies demonstrate that positive affirmations help improve mood, increase confidence, and achieve goals. Keep affirmations written down on pieces of paper in your child’s bedroom. Keep affirmations in the present tense, not something that your child wants to achieve in the future. For example, instead of “I will make friends”, the affirmation should be “I make friends easily.” Positive affirmations are so important because they help children maintain positive thoughts and create a positive belief system, which serves as the foundation for their lives (adults too)! Here is a link to positive affirmations for teens http://7mindsets.com/affirmations-for-teens/ and one for younger children http://www.evelynlim.com/101-affirmations-for-children/
  10. Love. Show love. Talk love. In any way you can, show love for your child. Surprise your child with a special note. Sneak a love note in your child’s lunch or school folder. Or leave it on your child’s pillow. Yep, even for your teenager. Especially your teenager. Here is a link to some simple things to do today and every day to show love for your child. http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/five-simple-things-to-do-today-and-every-day-to-show-love-for-your-children/

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is difficult. Why is so hard to forgive? Part of the reason is that it is hard to forget. Research demonstrates that we tend to remember events and experiences to which we have a strong emotional reaction, whether it be positive or negative. Simply put, we remember situations that are emotionally impactful, where our emotions are aroused.

BUT, we do have the power to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice. It takes energy, effort, and time, but it is possible. In fact, in many situations, forgiveness is the very thing that heals us from pain and helps us move on. We are not able to control others’ behavior, but we can control our own actions and reactions.

The first step is understanding and believing that forgiveness is even possible. The next step involves an intention to forgive. Here are some points to consider:

  1. Consider your own anger. It is difficult to make progress toward forgiveness if your level of anger is high. Take steps to address your anger. This could involve deep breathing, meditation, and other relaxations exercises, talking to a trusted friend, writing your feelings, or consulting a professional.
  2. Consider the other person’s situation. Cultivate empathy. While there may be no excuse for the other person’s behavior, understanding the other person’s situation may help in achieving your goal of forgiveness. As the saying goes, hurt (emotionally wounded) people hurt people. How has that person been hurt? Not necessarily by you, but how has that person been hurt?
  3. Keep in mind that it is truly in your best interest to forgive. So if you are finding it hard to forgive for the other person’s benefit, remember that it is truly for YOUR benefit. Holding on to anger and resentment takes a toll on your psychological and physical well-being.
  4. Forgiveness does not mean accepting or condoning the behavior that hurt you. It is simply making a decision to not let it continue to affect you.
  5. Put your mental and emotional energy toward reaching your goals in positive ways. Stop re-playing the hurt in your mind and replace it with positive ways of coping with the situation to achieve your desired outcome.
  6. Part of achieving your positive outcome is focusing on the positive around you. Make a conscious effort to look for compassion, kindness, love, and beauty in other people and your environment.
  7. Pay attention to your benefits of forgiveness. Notice and reductions in anger, stress, and anxiety. Celebrate the increases in positive mood as well as an increase in life satisfaction and fulfillment.

Now go back and take a look at all these steps and consider forgiving yourself. What is it about yourself from your past that you are having trouble letting go of, that steals your joy? It is time to give yourself the gift of forgiveness.

For a wearable reminder and support: The Forgiveness Bracelet http://peggysmidnightcreations.com/product/the-forgiveness-bracelet/

 

 

Women’s Wellness Retreat 1/27/18

During this six hour relaxing retreat, you will rotate through three different workshops focusing on mind, body, and spirit wellness, presented by three experts in their fields, Denise Melito, Kathryn Higgins, and Peggy DeLong. There will be a social break for a nutritious lunch, provided by Ethos Health. There will also be vendors with products and/or services related to wellness. Please join us for this very special event!

Register at http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/services/community-services/

Coping With Loss During the Holidays

The death of a loved one can be the most traumatic and emotionally painful experience of your life. Coping during the holidays is a particularly difficult time for dealing with loss. The following suggestions are made to hopefully alleviate some of that pain, to turn a painful experience into a healing experience, and to make the experience meaningful.

  • Allow yourself to be fully present with your emotions and sensations. Even though grief can feel terrible and overwhelming, it is a normal reaction to death, and a healthy part of the healing process. Allow the tears to flow when you feel like crying. During grief, we sometimes experience our loved one through our senses. This can be in the form of hearing our loved ones’ voice, or smelling our loved ones’ scent. Allow yourself to take it all in and be fully present in those moments. It may be helpful to be keep in mind that that pain will be there, and to simply allow yourself the time and space to experience it.
  • Express your feelings. This can be done by journaling your thoughts and feelings about your loved one. Reaching out to a trusted friend and connecting on an emotional level may also be very helpful. Talking to another person who is also grieving can help in share in the experience and help you to feel less alone. Seek professional help from a mental health professional. This can be a valuable opportunity to process your thoughts and feelings in an emotionally safe environment.
  • Keep in mind that it is natural to experience an increase in grief and emotional pain during the holidays and during anniversaries. You may have been feeling better and making progress in your grief path, only to experience a heightened sense of loss during the holidays. Do not let this alarm you and make you feel that you are regressing, that something is “wrong” with you, or that you are not grieving “properly”. This is a natural reaction and part of the grief process.
  • Take time out to nourish your soul. Do whatever brings you a sense of peace and you have found in the past to enhance your mental health. This could be taking time out to exercise, enjoy a craft, read, or meditate. The holiday season can get so busy that we find we do not have time to do what nourishes our souls when we need it the most.
  • Take on a favorite characteristic or action of your loved one. Did your loved one tell jokes or stories during gatherings? Cook or bake? Lead a prayer or recite a poem? You may find comfort in carrying on a favorite aspect of your loved one. If you decide to do so, you may also wish to practice this before the actual event.
  • Although this may be a time when you expect others to support and comfort you, you may find yourself in a position of needing to forgive others. An example may be to forgive the friend you see at a holiday party who has not called since your loved one’s death. Death brings up our strongest vulnerabilities and fears, and not everyone will be capable of dealing with your loss and their own feelings about it. Forgive, try not to take it personally, and spend time with someone who does provide comfort.
  • Allow yourself to experience joy. Remembering your loved one does not mean sacrificing joy when it comes naturally. Allow yourself to laugh. It is not a betrayal to your loved one to experience happiness and joy.

 

  • Planning is important:
    • Consider how you plan to obtain additional emotional support. If being alone is too painful, invite someone over, or accept an invitation that you might not normally accept.
    • Sometimes people need to be told that it is okay to mention your loved one’s name, or that you especially want them to mention your loved one’s name. Do not be afraid to let others know what you specifically want and need. People mean well, but sometimes need to be told how to respond to you and the loss. Out of fear of saying the “wrong” thing, people sometimes say nothing of your loss, and this can be painful. Let others know and give “permission” if you would like your loved one to be freely mentioned and remembered.
    • Consider how you plan to handle rituals. If you plan to keep a ritual, decide how your loved one’s role will be handled. The role may be shared among family and friends, assigned to a different person, or modified in some meaningful way.
    • Consider making new rituals. The purpose is to create the opportunity for meaningful remembering of the loved one, and to express and experience thoughts and feelings. The new ritual can also be an action, such as planting a tree, or a ceremony, or both. This can be done privately or with family and friends.
    • You may want to create a symbolic remembrance of your loved one. This can be your loved one’s favorite holiday decoration placed in a special location, a new holiday decoration to represent your loved one, an object that belonged to your loved one, favorite music playing, or a burning candle.
    • Consider whether there will be an empty chair. If your family ritual or gathering involved your loved one being seated at a particular chair around the table, you may wish to discuss with the others who will be present what to do with the empty chair. Seeing the empty chair can be a painful physical reminder of our loved one’s absence, and preparing for this can make the experience less painful.
    • Anticipate your limits and do not be afraid to let others know what they are. This may mean telling a host/hostess that you are not making your usual dish or dessert this year. This could also mean informing the host/hostess that you may need to make an early exit, that this exit could be sudden, and that it may need to be done without making your usual round of good-byes.

Remember that your experiences, emotions, and reactions are flowing and changing, just as life is flowing and changing. What might feel right to do this year may be different next year. You can make a mental note of what felt good and what did not feel good based on your individual needs, and this is likely to change year to year. Also keep in mind that it is impossible to do all of these suggestions. Pick and choose what resonates with you, as the grieving process is intensely personal. The pain you experience is in proportion to the love between you and your loved one. The difference is that the pain will diminish over time, yet the love will forever endure.

Helping Your Child Through Friendship Changes

As children get older, it is natural for friendships to change. Children develop socially at different rates, and interests and activities change.   Associated changes include who they spend time with, and who they prefer to be around. As a result, they experience the loss of friendships, and this can be painful whether your child is the one changing, or her best friend is changing. For children, this loss can feel profound because they can spend hours on end in person or communicating with a friend, and then be suddenly cut off. Also, children tend to think in extremes. They catastrophize, and they feel like whatever problem they are going through is forever, or that the intentions of one person extend to an entire social group. In addition, children often lack coping skills to deal with these difficult situations. They are learning, and it is these experiences that will help them later in life. However, their skills are still developing, and they need support.

Here are 12 suggestions for assisting your child through these transitions.

  1. Notice

Your child may not readily come to you with a problem with friendships. Sometimes children are reluctant to let their parents know when they are experiencing emotional pain. Other times, they have difficulty identifying the source and articulating the pain. Pay attention and notice any changes in your child’s mood or behavior, and make a point to “check in” and see how things are going with friends. If you are concerned about getting one-word answers, you may wish to make it more playful by putting questions onto slips of paper into a jar, and then pulling the questions out of the jar. And your child gets to ask you questions too!

2. Be available

Your child may not want to discuss an issue when you bring it up or “check-in”. He or she may wait until the most inopportune time to bring it up. This could be as you are speeding out the door to run some errands, at 11:00 when you are brushing your teeth at bedtime when your child wakes up after sleeping, or while you are in the middle of making dinner. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to listen to your child. Sometimes children pick these times to test our commitment. There will be times when it is simply not possible to stop what you are doing. In these instances, set aside a specific time that day to discuss your child’s concern, communicate that time to your child, and make sure to stick to it. Have your child write down the time on a piece of paper, and a short phrase or sentence that is on your child’s mind to help her start the conversation at a later time.

Being available also involves being proactive. It is important to find ways to stay connected to your tween/teen on a daily basis. Here are some creative and fun suggestions to accomplish that: http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/ways-of-staying-connected-with-your-tweenteen/

3. Listen

Sometimes children do not want a parent to solve a problem. They are simply looking for someone to listen, empathize, and communicate understanding. Resist the urge to solve the problem or provide suggestions, unless your child specifically asks for that. You can also communicate understanding by providing an example of a similar situation from your own life. Feeling understood, and feeling not alone can go a long way. Sometimes your child may simply want to feel understood and less lonely in their feelings, rather than a solution.

4. Help your child develop a variety of interests

Friendships often change as children’s interests and activities change. Your child may experience a loss of a friendship because she is no longer interested in cheerleading, yet her close friends remain on the team. Help your child to develop relationships in a variety of settings. This way, when your child experiences the loss of a friendship, he or she will have other people to spend time with and feel less alone. If the friend from a former activity is very important to your child outside of the activity, and the feeling is mutual, help your child to find opportunities to interact with that friend in person.

5. Help child understand that relationships change

Help your child to understand the natural flow of life, including the coming and going of people. The loss of a friend does not have to mean that there is something “wrong” with your child or the other child, or that it is anyone’s fault. Often it is simply a reflection of interests and convenience. It is natural to form closer relationships with those we spend more time with. Also, children often change as they develop, and this impacts the child’s relationships. Some may grow and change similarly with the child, fostering the continuation of the friendship, while others may change and become different in a way that does not help to maintain the friendship. While this loss may feel painful for your child, help your child to see it as a natural flow of life, and not that your child did anything wrong.

6. Understand that it hurts

The loss of a friendship is painful. Avoid minimizing the emotional impact on your child. Acknowledge the loss. While it is helpful to have other friends, communicate that this is not a replacement for the missed friendship. People simply do not replace people. Provide opportunities for your child to talk about what the loss of the friendship means to your child, and how your child feels.

7. Teach your child to be an includer

Unfortunately, tweens and teens can often feel purposefully excluded. Your child may not only be feeling the loss of a friendship, but may be feeling unliked, and also that the former friend is influencing others and excluding your child. As we cannot force people to include our children, this can be an opportunity to teach your child about inclusion. Sometimes it helps to provide the very thing that we are looking for to others. For example, if your child is seeking support from peers, he might feel better by providing support to a peer.

8. Remember that your child’s on-line life is important

Keep in mind that we cannot always see the loss of a friendship. More and more, children are feeling losses and feeling excluded through on-line behavior. Pay attention to your child’s facial expressions while looking at social media. Maybe your child saw photos of a friend’s party, yet he or she was not invited. In addition, children often make more hurtful comments on-line than they would say to someone in person. Make a point to check-in with your child regarding his or her friendship experience on-line. In addition, be mindful that excessive use of social media has been associated with increased levels of depression and anxiety. Here is an article regarding managing children’s use of technology and social media: http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/some-suggestions-regarding-managing-childrens-use-of-technology/

9. Resist temptation to speak badly of your child’s former friends

Your child is feeling hurt, and it is hard not to react with anger toward the former friend, especially if your child confides that the former friend has made hurtful comments. Keep in mind that your child may suddenly be friends with this person again. Friendships change, and children can be resilient and forgiving. You may then find yourself in an awkward situation if in your attempt to comfort your child, you insulted or spoke badly of the other child. Instead, listen to and support your child, and help your child find ways to remain cordial. If the former friend continues to make hurtful comments toward your child, help your child problem solve and role play what your child could say or do to help diffuse the conflict.

10. Teach your child about qualities of a good friendship

The loss of a friend can provide the opportunity for a valuable discussion about qualities of a good friendship. What did your child value about that friendship that he may wish to find in another friend? What made your child feel good when interacting with the former friend that he can look to experience in other current and future friendships? Sometimes the loss of a friend can be an experience for your child to reflect upon what he or she wants out of existing and future friendships.

11. Help your child enjoy being by herself

While friendships are important, it is also an important developmental task for your child to enjoy being by herself. This may be an excellent time for her to discover solitary interests and hobbies. Enjoying being by oneself is an experience that has life-long positive benefits.

12. Show love

Your child is likely feeling vulnerable, and this is a wonderful time to shower your child with love. This can be done through words, non-verbal communication, and/or physical touch in the absence of words. Here are some very simple ways to show your child love: http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/five-simple-things-to-do-today-and-every-day-to-show-love-for-your-children/

Remember that physical touch is powerful and can be very healing. When your child does not feel like talking or the words are simply not there, physical touch can be a wonderful way of connecting while also providing emotional support for your child. A hug can go a long way. Here are some silly and fun suggestions to incorporate hugs: http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/the-hug-jar/

 

Ten Practical Suggestions for Parents to Assist Children Who are Attending a New School

Starting a new school can be both exciting, and a bit scary. Children are leaving behind the familiar, and entering new territory. While they may be developmentally ready and prepared with all necessary school supplies, it is not uncommon for children to experience uncertainty and anxiety. Here are some tips for parents in assisting their children with the transition.

  1. Whether your child is entering middle school or high school, it is likely that many of your child’s worries are social worries. Questions may be running through your child’s mind, such as “Who am I going to eat lunch with?” “Will I see any of my old friends?” “Will the other kids like me?” “What if I have nothing to say?” Help your child to identify and verbalize these concerns. Your child may also be comforted in knowing that other children have these same concerns. Also, if your child is feeling shy and/or does not feel that she has something to contribute to a conversation, remind her that a simple smile and eye contact go a long way. You could also encourage her to ask a question to demonstrate interest.
  2. If your child has academic concerns, try to avoid saying, “Do your best.” First of all, this is a vague statement, and the ambiguity may leave your child feeling uncertain, wondering exactly what his “best” is. In addition, if he feels that he has done his “best”, but the outcome is less than desired, he may feel an intense sense of failure and hopelessness that his “best” is not good enough, and then project into the future that he will never be good enough because it was his “best”. A more helpful strategy is to identify specific tasks that can help your child achieve a goal. For example, your child can study a spelling list until all words are spelled correctly.
  3. Help your child to anticipate changes. School transitions are filled with changes. Your child will likely experiences changes such as different friends, increased responsibilities, and new interests. While this is positive and part of growth, your child may feel some uneasiness, especially if many changes are happening all at once. Your child is more likely to be accepting of these changes if he has an understanding that these changes are natural and healthy, even if they feel uncomfortable at times. Keep the lines of communication open, and check in with him about these issues.
  4. Resist the temptation to solve your child’s problems. It is natural to want to help your child out when she encounters problems at school, whether they be social or academic. It may seem like it is not a big deal to solve a small problem your child is having, but it is these very problems that are small that are the practice for the bigger problems. Solving small problems for your child deprives him of the opportunity to learn from mistakes, and to gain confidence from success. Instead of stepping in and solving the problem for your child, be a sounding board for your child. Talk about possible solutions and outcomes, and then encourage your child to take the necessary steps. (Of course step in if a problem becomes too big for your child to handle on his own).
  5. Identify a trusted adult in the school setting. This could be a special teacher, guidance counselor, or administrator. Help your child to identify who this person is, and how to access this person during the school day.
  6. Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is essential to proper functioning, including academic, emotional, and social functioning. Limit screen time before bed, and keep electronics out of your child’s bedroom. Studies show that when devices are left in bedrooms, children check them in the middle of the night if they wake up, and this affects both quality and quantity of sleep. Most children need more sleep than they are getting.
  7. Show confidence. Remember the quote by Peggy O’Mara – “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” Your child is more likely to believe in herself when you show that you believe in her, and when you use words that support that. Here is a link to some encouraging words to use with children. http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/encouraging-words-to-use-with-children/
  8. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Help your child anticipate what is needed for the next day, and complete as much as possible in the evening for a smoother morning. Encourage your child to pick out her outfit the night before, make sure she knows where her shoes are, and have lunch ready. Get up earlier than you think is necessary. Your child will have a much smoother start of the school day when the morning is not rushed and chaotic.
  9. Positive affirmations. Studies demonstrate that positive affirmations help improve mood, increase confidence, and achieve goals. Keep affirmations written down on pieces of paper in your child’s bedroom. Keep affirmations in the present tense, not something that your child wants to achieve in the future. For example, instead of “I will make friends”, the affirmation should be “I make friends easily.” Positive affirmations are so important because they help children maintain positive thoughts and create a positive belief system, which serves as the foundation for their lives (adults too)! Here is a link to positive affirmations for teens http://7mindsets.com/affirmations-for-teens/ and one for younger children http://www.evelynlim.com/101-affirmations-for-children/
  10. Love. Show love. Talk love. In any way you can, show love for your child. Surprise your child with a special note. Sneak a love note in your child’s lunch or school folder. Or leave it on your child’s pillow. Yep, even for your teenager. Especially your teenager. Here is a link to some simple things to do today and every day to show love for your child. http://166.62.43.57/~drpeggyd/five-simple-things-to-do-today-and-every-day-to-show-love-for-your-children/

Helping Children Cope with Acts of Violence and Acts of Terrorism

Many children have heard about and/or viewed images of acts of violence and acts of terrorism.  Here are some suggestions regarding addressing your child’s needs and questions.

  1. Consider your child’s developmental level. Children have their own individual responses to images they may see on television or accounts of terrorism that they may hear based on their age and developmental level. Preschoolers may be the most disturbed by violent sights and sounds because they do not have the cognitive ability to fully distinguish between what is real and what is fantasy. In addition, they may become easily overwhelmed by exposure because they are not able to stop their distressing thoughts. Even older children may have difficulty understanding that a single event that is rebroadcast is not happening over and over. In addition, even when violence has occurred hundreds of miles away, children of all ages may feel as though the violence is close to home. Their concerns are, “Am I safe?”  “Is my family safe?” For all of these reasons, it would be wise to limit and closely monitor what your child is exposed to via the media.
  2. Consider your child’s temperament. A sensitive child, or a child who is more prone to anxiety is more prone to experience distress. These children may be more likely to experience nightmares, have difficulty concentrating, and have concerns about the safety of loved ones and themselves. It is important to limit exposure to the media. Also monitor your child’s distress. If your child demonstrates a change in eating and sleep habits, demonstrates excessive worries, suffers from nightmares, and/or loses interest in formerly enjoyable activities, your child may benefit from professional help.
  3. Reassure your child’s sense of safety. Some experts believe that it is OK to make promises that you may not be able to keep, such as “Nothing is going to happen to our family”. That may not always be the best approach, especially if you do not feel comfortable making such a promise. In that case, your child will pick up your cues of discomfort and receive mixed messages leading to confusion. You may feel more comfortable saying that leaders are doing all they can to keep us safe, and you are doing everything to keep your child and family safe.
  4. Talk to children about their fears. Some parents may think that bringing up the subjects of violence and terrorism and asking children what they think and feel may heighten their fears, when having children keep their thoughts and fears to themselves is actually more detrimental. It is helpful for parents to begin the conversation. Parents may begin by simply asking children what they have seen or heard on the TV or radio, and what they think about it. However, it is important not to pressure a child who is not ready to speak about it. The problem will not be resolved in one session. Keep open the lines of communication for ongoing dialogue. Remember that it is important to listen to whatever your child has to say. Provide opportunities for discussion, such as returning home from school or at the dinner table. Do not dismiss or try to minimize any expressed fear or anxiety. Simply listen to your child, communicate that you understand, and provide comfort.
  5. Stick to routines, or create new ones if you do not have a routine. This is helpful around mealtimes, bedtimes, activities, etc. Routines and knowing what to expect help provide children with a sense of security and familiarity, especially during times of stress.
  6. Monitor what your child views through the media. Young children may actually think that the attacks are happening again, and this can re-traumatize older children. Even if you think that your child is too young to comprehend words and images from TV, your child can pick up on your emotional reaction and be affected. You are better off to watching the news while your child is not around to hear or see it.
  7. Provide physical comfort and extra nurturance. Hugs, saying “I love you”, or an unexpected note in the lunch box can help a child to feel safe and cared for. Even teenagers, who may shrug your attempts of affection, need to be comforted.
  8. Be mindful of possible stress reactions. This includes regressing to previous behaviors, such as thumb sucking and bed wetting. Do not bring much attention or embarrass your child regarding these regressions. Also, address any misperceptions that you may see in your child’s play or conversations.
  9. Be prepared to answer questions. Prepare an answer to what your child might ask you so that you are better equipped to respond. You may want to consult with your partner and other important people in your child’s life for consistency in responding. These may include questions about death, why bad things happened, will anything happen to them or someone they love, etc.
  10. If possible, avoid major changes, major decision making, and separation from important caregivers during this time.
  11. Engage in an act of kindness. While we cannot take away the pain and suffering of others affected by the violence and/or terrorism, doing something positive to help others can alleviate some of the feelings of sorrow and helplessness.
  12. Incorporate soothing and relaxing activities into your child’s schedule. This may include exercise such as biking or walking together, or quiet times such as listening to music, coloring, and reading books together.Remember that adults are affected emotionally as well by acts of violence and terrorism in the world, and we may experience a heightened concern about the safety of our family and our loved ones. The better you are able to take care of your own needs and feelings, the better you will be able to meet the needs of your child. Take care of yourself.