Thursday, December 10, 2020


  1. What bothered you today? Why?

  2. Name three people that help you feel safe.

  3. Draw a picture of a happy memory.

  4. Write about three things that worried you today and explain why.

  5. Think about your favorite object. Use one word to describe how the item looks, sounds, smells and feels.

  6. What is something you thought a lot about today?

  7. Write about a person or place you miss.

  8. What helps you feel happy when you are sad or worried?

  9. What makes you special?

  10. What is one thing that has changed recently?  How do you feel about it?

  11. Think about your favorite memory. Describe how this memory causes you to feel.

  12. Write about three wishes you have.

  13. Name one thing you are looking forward to this week, and explain why it makes you feel excited.

  14. What helps you feel brave when you are scared?

  15. What can you do to feel strong and powerful this week?

  16. What is something that helps you feel calm and safe?

  17. What was the best part of today? What was the worst part of today?

  18. How did you manage your worries today?

  19. What is something you are grateful for today?

  20. What was the hardest part of your day?

  21. If you were a superhero that battled against a worry monster, what would your superhero power be?  Draw yourself as a superhero.

  22. Describe your perfect day – who would you spend it with and what would you do?

  23. Name three things that went right today.

  24. If you could change one thing right now, what would you change?

  25. Is there anything you are feeling worried about this week?

Saturday, April 18, 2020


(Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash)

Running low on ideas? Need some boredom busters to help kids stay distracted in healthy ways? Try these 100 ideas to keep kids entertained and engaged.

  1. YOGA - A staple on the list of healthy distractions, yoga is a great way to calm and engage kids. Cosmic Kids on YouTube offers fun routines that appeal to kids of various ages.
  2. DO A SCAVENGER HUNT - There are opportunities to do a fun scavenger hunt in your yard, home, or neighborhood. Come up with a list on your own, or check out the post on My Joy Filled Life for links to a variety of different printables. 
  3. OR A TREASURE HUNT - A treasure hunt is another fun way to keep kids entertained. The difference in this from a scavenger hunt is that instead of looking for items to match a category, you are solving a series of clues that will lead to a small prize. Wonder Mom Wannabe has free printable clues if you need clue ideas. 
  4. SET UP AN ESCAPE ROOM - Kids love escape rooms. Bring the fun to your own home with these ideas from The Activity Mom
  5. LEARN A NEW CARD GAME - Card games are a fun way to learn math skills. My kids are currently loving Speed and Trash. Check out this list of 75 card games at Confessions of Parenting.
  6. LEARN DICE GAMES - Dice games are an equally engaging way to integrate some math with fun. What Do We Do All Day has a great list of easy dice games to play with kids. 
  7. HAVE A DANCE PARTY - Break out the glow sticks and dance tunes and let your kids go wild with their own dance party at home. You can either cue up your own tunes or check out DJ Mel who is spinning dance music straight from his living room. 
  8. BE A SPY KID - Have you ever checked out the kids section of the C.I.A website? If not, check it out now! It is a great section with information about the C.I.A, real stories, and games for kids. 
  9. GO TO ZOO SCHOOL - Lots of zoos are offering streaming educational programs. You can check out local zoos, like The Elmwood Park Zoo for weekly virtual learning experiences.
  10. PRINT OUT MAZES - These a-maze-ing mazes at Krazy Dad are awesome for kids.
  11. SORT, PURGE AND DONATE OLD TOYS - If you haven’t already had your kids go through their books and toys, now is the time. Have them set aside old toys they no longer need, or use, to save for a future garage sale or for donation.
  12. MAIL A LETTER - Have your kids not been able to see their grandparents or other relatives during quarantine? Have them draw a picture or write a letter to send. This surprise mail is sure to cheer up a relative’s day! You can also have them practice addressing and stamping an envelope for an added life skills lesson.
  13. COOK SOMETHING TOGETHER - Have your child select, and plan, a complete meal and go through the process of cooking it with them. Kids will learn useful skills like cooking, math, patience and multi-tasking. Throw in a homemade dessert for a reward at the end.
  14. LEARN TO SET A TABLE - Another lesson to add on to cooking is the art of table setting.
  15. LEARN TO PLAY CAT'S CRADLE - Who remembers this school yard game? Teach your little one how to play an oldie but goodie. If you can’t remember how to play, check out this easy tutorial on YouTube from Mom’s Minivan.
  16. CONNECT WITH FRIENDS - Even if your child has siblings it’s also important to allow them connections to their classmates. Virtual playdates are possible with things like Kids Messenger (available from Facebook), video chats, and synchronous gaming.
  17. HAVE A CAMP OUT - Set up tents and a firepit in the backyard, or line up sleeping bags in a common area like the living room or basement and have a family camp out complete with s’mores and silly stories.
  18. HAVE A BOARD GAME NIGHT - Settle in for an epic day and night of board games for some quality family bonding.
  19. LEARN TO WRITE CHECKS - A perfect learning lesson in a life skill for kids of any age. Easy to pair with some imaginative “grocery store” play for the younger set. A Well Feathered Nest has a free printable to use.
  20. MAKE A MINI GOLF COURSE - All you need are some plastic cups, milk jugs, boxes and a little imagination. Have the kids create a fun mini golf course for the yard or inside the house. Check out Red Tricycle for some ideas.
  21. LISTEN TO A PODCAST - There are tons of great podcasts aimed at kids. A favorite in my house is: But Why? A Podcast for Curious Kids.
  22. PLAY WITH ALEXA - Alexa is a resource of games and trivia for kids. Some great skills to check out are Kids Trivia, Freeze Dance, Would You Rather for Family and Animal Workout. Also be sure to check out the Headspace for Kids skill for great guided meditations for kids.
  23. GROW A GARDEN - Create an indoor (or outdoor) container garden by using seeds, roots and scraps you have at home. Lettuce, celery and potatoes are reasonably easy to grow from scraps.
  24. HAVE A MOVIE NIGHT - Simulate a movie theater experience by using the biggest screen in your home, popping up some buttery popcorn (served in brown lunch bags), and turning off all the lights for darkness.
  25. HAVE A KIDS PAINT AND SIP - Have the kids channel their best Bob Ross skills by giving them some canvases and juice boxes while they paint to an instructional video. Check out Createful Kids for some great painting lessons that are easy enough for young artists to recreate.
  26. HAVE A FASHION SHOW - Let kids go to town in your closet and put together looks using your clothes and jewelry and have them share their outfits by giving a fashion show.
  27. PUT ON PLAY - Allow kids to write, direct and star in their own plays. This works well for larger families and builds on creativity as well as cooperation skills. Parent’s can sit back and enjoy the show and be a supportive audience.
  28. WHO DONE IT? - Engage kids in a fun game that allows them to use deductive reasoning. It’s a great way to bring board games like Clue to life. Check out Minature Masterminds for a Who Did It? Printable.
  29. MAKE YOUR OWN GEODE - What kid wouldn’t love one of these cool and colorful specimens? Parenting Chaos has a great guide on how to make them at home.
  30. MAKE YOUR OWN CROSSWORD PUZZLE - Kids can create their own crossword puzzle to stump family members. Education.Com has an online puzzle maker to make it easy, or kids can design their own on paper.
  31. MAKE A BIRD FEEDER - There are lots of great bird feeder how-to’s that kids can make using stuff from around the house. My favorite is this craft stick bird feeder on Animallama.
  32. CREATE A WORRY DOLL - If your kids are feeling a little worrisome, have them create worry dolls that they can “give” their worries to. Tiny Fry has ideas for 8 different ways to make them.
  33. ACCESS MARS - Kids can explore rover footage of Mars thanks to Google.
  34. START A PHOTO LOG - Have kids create a photo log/journal by allowing them to take several candid shots each day and selecting one or two at the end of the day to add to eventually add to a final photo journal.
  35. LEARN TO PLAY CHESS - If your children don’t already know how to play, Chess Kid has a great instructional guide!
  36. TAKE A DAILY WALK - Take a daily walk to explore the neighborhood, you’ll never know what gems you might find! Have them photograph interesting things they spot along the way.
  37. OR A BIKE RIDE - Break out the bikes, scooters and skateboards and cruise around to get some energy out.
  38. CREATE AN OBSTACLE COURSE - Let your kids tap into their creative minds to set up an indoor or outdoor obstacle course.
  39. BUILD A FORT - Because what kid doesn’t think a fort is awesome?!
  40. LEARN TO DO LAUNDRY - If your kids don’t already know how to do their own laundry, this is a great time to teach them how to do this simple chore.
  41. WATCH AN ASTRONAUT READ FROM SPACE - Storytime From Space features videos of astronauts reading from space while floating around.
  42. MAKE YOUR OWN BOARD GAME - Kids are less likely to cheat if they are making the rules… maybe.
  43. JOIN AN ONLINE BOOK CLUB - Get your kids engaged in some fun reading by having them participate in an online book club. Book Club For Kids is a great place to start.
  44. LEARN ORIGAMI - Kids will have fun making these paper creations at Easy Peasy and Fun.
  45. CREATE A COPING SKILLS BOX - Emotions are high and frustration tolerance is low. If your kids are having a difficult time with emotional regulation working on a coping skills box will serve two fold. Littles, Life and Laughter has instructions along with a free printable to get you started.
  46. PLAY SCHOOL - School is more fun when it’s directed by the kids. Have the kids take turns in creating and giving lessons to their siblings in math, science, social studies, art, health, etc. This works particularly well if you have multiple kids. If your child is a single, play student and have them give you a lesson. Kids love showing off their knowledge!
  47. JOIN A LEGO CHALLENGE - Give the kids a daily interactive “to do” by participating in the LEGO Quarantine Survival Challenge.
  48. LEARN MAGIC TRICKS - What kid doesn’t love a good magic trick?! Have them learn a few to put on a show. There’s lots of tutorials on YouTube - check out 5 Minute Crafts for a few or visit the Magic For Kids website.
  49. LEARN TO JUGGLE - What magic show isn’t complete without a juggling routine? Learn to juggle with this instructional video from Taylor Tries.
  50. PLAY INDOOR BALL GAMES WITH BALLOONS - Too cold to go outside but have a few leftover party balloons? Blow them up and have the kids play an indoor ballgame.
  51. MAKE SLIME - Remember when slime was all the rage but parents hated it because it ruined carpets? Pick and choose your battles here. Restrict slime to the kitchen or dining room table to keep the mess to a minimum. Check out this video from Courntey Lidquist for an easy recipe.
  52. MAKE A ROCKET - Playful Learning has instructions and a template to create an Alka Seltzer rocket to launch in your very own backyard.
  53. FLY A KITE - When was the last time you flew a kite? It’s been a while for most of us. Don’t have a kite? Have the kiddos make their own paper kite with these directions from Happiness is Homemade.
  54. CREATE A FAIRY GARDEN - Or a “wish” garden where kids can go and talk to the fairies and make their wishes or share their secrets. My Frugal Adventures has fun fairy garden instructions.
  55. CREATE NINJA STRESS BALLS - I make these often with kids at work and they are always a hit. Watch the King of Random video for the how-to.
  56. MAKE REVERSE TIE DYE SHIRTS - Little fashionistas will love to create their own colorful shirts. I love this reverse tie dye technique from Tie Dye Your Summer.
  57. CREATE A HALLWAY LASER MAZE - Kids will have fun testing their flexibility to get through a mom (or dad!) made maze. Real lasers are optional. Check out the Brassy Apple for inspiration.
  58. CREATE A STORY JAR - Stories are a great way to get kid’s creative juices flowing while also getting some insight into their wishes, fears, hopes and dreams. I love these printable prompts from Kitchen Counter Chronicles.
  59. PLAY CAPTURE THE FLAG - This is a fun game to entertain and get kids active. Kidz World has instructions and a video.
  60. OR MANHUNT - Manhunt is another fun game for the kids to get some energy out and can be played in or outside, although it is much more fun in a yard at night. Check out game rules on Instructables.
  61. MAKE A FLOWER SUN CATCHER - Engage kids in creating a calming mandala flower sun catcher and have them hang them in their bedroom windows so they can enjoy their creations. The Artful Parent has instructions on how to create on using things you most likely already have at home.
  62. MAKE SCENTED PLAYDOUGH - A bit less cringey than slime, homemade playdough is a great way to keep little hands busy. I often use the recipes from Fun Learning For Kids and Sea Lemon (no bake) and add a few drops of calming essential oils safe for little ones.
  63. PLAY MASH - Remember this simple pen and paper game? I recently taught my kids to play and it kept them entertained for hours as they came up with their own categories and spin on the classic game. Kids can easily create their own with paper and markers/pen/pencil, or you can print out this one from It’s Always Autumn.
  64. MAKE A GOD’S EYE - Talk about another blast from the past. I remember making these in my public elementary school. You can also consider it a yarn mandala if you want to leave the religious reference out of it. Positively Splendid has instructions!
  65. LEARN ABOUT CONSTELLATIONS - The sky offers endless learning possibilities along with opportunities to engage with our universe. Teaching kids about constellations is a great way for them to see the world beyond themselves. Little Bins For LIttle Hands has a great printable of constellation cards.
  66. PLAY VIDEO GAMES - Chances are your kid is already doing this. Chances are you think they are spending too much time doing this. While your kids certainly shouldn’t be in front of a screen all the live-long day, I promise they will be okay if they spend a few hours a day playing video games. There are benefits to playing popular games like Mine Craft and Civilization (as well as others) as they allow kids to flex their muscles in creativity, strategic thinking, spatial planning, critical thinking and reasoning. Video game play is also a great way for kids to stay connected to their friends.
  67. LEARN TO USE TOOLS - Does your kid know how to swing a hammer? Know the difference between a flat head and a Phillips head? Know how to use a wrench? These are the things that will come in handy! Have your kids help you with simple repairs around the house to get them familiar with tool use, or give them a simple building project to do with some guidance.
  68. LEARN OTHER SIMPLE HOUSEHOLD REPAIRS - While you are at it, this is a great time to demonstrate all the things we just tend to do ourselves because of limited time and patience. Need a light bulb changed? Batteries replaced? A picture hung? This is a great time for a little basic how-to lesson.
  69. DO TOILET PAPER ROLL CRAFTS - I hope you haven’t been throwing out all those toilet paper rolls, because there’s a gold mine of crafts you can do with them to keep little ones busy! Check out Ventuno Art for some great ideas.
  70. VIRTUAL TUTORING - Since many schools are closed for an extended amount of time, and most of us are working (or don’t understand common core math), how about setting your kids up for some extra school work help with free tutoring from Columbia University students through Hearts Over Hands.
  71. CREATE AN ART WALL - Let kids fill up an empty wall in the house with their art work. Tape up paintings, drawings and other creations. Use painters tape to create a “Featured Artwork” of the day frame to swap out daily.
  72. START A ROCK GARDEN - Have kids collect and paint rocks to decorate the garden.
  73. CREATE STORY STONES - Take the rock painting one step further and paint characters, places and things on each side of a rock to create your own story stones. Skura of America has a great video on how to create and use them.
  74. LEARN TO FINGER KNIT - Knitting is a great relaxation activity. Craft Train has instructions on how kids can finger knit.
  75. CREATE WITH AIR DRY CLAY - My kids (home and work) love air dry clay. I can’t keep enough of it on my shelves. Crafts by Amanda has some ideas to get kids started - although, I have never had a kid that hasn’t been able to come up with something creative on their own!
  76. MAKE YOUR OWN WATERCOLOR PAINT - Out of paint? Happy Hooligans has instructions for homemade watercolors.
  77. COLOR OR PAINT BY NUMBER - Put those new watercolors to work by printing out some color by number pages from Best Coloring Pages for Kids.
  78. CREATE GLOW IN THE DARK JELLYFISH - I love this cool project from Craftiments. This would be an awesome thing for kids to make and hang in their rooms.
  79. MAKE A MINI BANJO - The Craft Train has instructions on how you can make this mini musical instrument using lids and loom bands.
  80. MAKE A FAMILY TREE - Help your kids understand their family history better by creating a family tree. I love the idea of this thumbprint tree from Good Housekeeping.
  81. MAKE YOUR OWN SKEE BALL GAME - What kid doesn’t love skee ball?! Make your own using this tutorial from Frugal Fun For Boys.
  82. CREATE A BUTTERFLY HABITAT - Give these beauties a safe space to grow. Boys Life has instructions to get you started.
  83. OR A BEE HOUSE - Keep the pollinators pollinating by building a bee house out of things you likely have at home. Check out Instructables for directions.
  84. LEARN TO TIE KNOTS - Does your child know how to tie essential knots? Do you?! InnerBark Outdoors teaches you how to tie 7 essential knots.
  85. LEARN TO BUILD A FIRE - Teach your child not to fear fire, but to respect fire with a healthy sense of caution. Teach your child basic fire starting skills in your backyard fire pit or fireplace.
  86. TEACH THE PETS A TRICK - Give kids the role of instructor in having them teach the family dog one of these tricks from Love Your Dog.
  87. MAKE YOUR OWN ANT FARM - Nothing like a classic ant farm to combine fun, a free “pet,” and education all in one. Rule This Roost has instructions on how you can create your own using mason jars.
  88. BAKE COOKIES FOR NEIGHBORS - Spread some love by leaving fresh baked goods and a note of your close family, friends and neighbors.
  89. PLAY WOULD YOU RATHER - You can go the silly route, or make the game a little more detailed by asking questions that focus on more serious topics. Childhood 101 has a free printable of child friendly questions.
  90. LEARN JOKES - Parade has 200+ kid friendly jokes. That’s a lot of laughs!
  91. AND RIDDLES - Kids can stump their friends and family with these easy to learn riddles from Frugal Fun 4 Boys.
  92. MAKE FRIENDSHIP BRACELETS - It’ll be a sweet gift for kiddos to give to some of their favorite people once they can see them in person again. A Girl and a Glue Gun has a great video tutorial on how to make 4 different types and SaraBeautyCorner has a collection of 5 styles with a cute button closure.
  93. OR PARACORD BRACELETS - For kids who aren’t into the classic friendship bracelet look, paracord bracelets are a good alternative. Frugal Fun 4 Boys has a great post with instructions.
  94. DO A ROOM MINI-MAKEOVER - Show your kids that change isn’t always stressful. Allow your child brainstorm with you ways they can re-arrange and decorate their room using things they already have.
  95. HAVE AN EASTER EGG HUNT POST EASTER - Although the holiday may be over, I argue that Easter egg hunts are fun all year around. Instead of candy, you can add coins or create “tickets” for things like extra screen time, a chore pass for a day, or the power to choose dinner for the night. Or you can always leave the eggs empty and just allow kids to enjoy the hunt!
  96. MAKE PAPER AIRPLANES - These 5 from PPO claim to fly very far. Kids can also get creative by making cool designs on their planes.
  97. PUT KIDS IN CHARGE FOR THE DAY - Let them plan the day and find fun activities they want to do and create a plan to execute it.
  98. SNUGGLE - Snuggle up in bed or on the couch under a big blanket and talk… about anything. About how they are feeling. About school. About friends. About their hobbies and interests. Ask questions. Let them ask you questions.
  99. LET THEM BE BORED - It’s inevitable. They are going to be bored at some point and you have work, other kids, and life to manage. It’s okay if they are bored. Let them figure it out.
  100. PARTICIPATE IN VIRTUAL THERAPY - If your child is struggling with the changes, consider reaching out for professional help to guide your child through his/her challenges. Many therapists are offering virtual counseling sessions for kids!

Download this list to print at Dropbox.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020


There’s nothing wrong with a little Netflix binging, however keeping your mind, body and soul engaged in healthy and productive distractions will certainly fare better in the long run for your emotional and mental health. If you are at a loss of what to do, here’s a collection of engaging ideas that will help you cope with the extra time at home.

*If you would like to print this list, it is available for download at DropBox.

  1. YOGA - If you never have tried it before, now's the time! I recommend "Yoga with Adriene" for adults and "Cosmic Kids" for children. Both are available on Youtube. 
  2. BAKE / COOK - Find a new recipe and experiment! Remember Pinterest? Yes, it still exists and continues to be a goldmine of yummy and healthy things you can whip up in the kitchen no matter your experience level. 
  3. ORGANIZE YOUR SPACE - You know that closet/drawer/cabinet that collects junk that you never have time to clean? Guess, what? You have time now. Purge all the old you’ve been hanging onto and leave yourself open for the new. 
  4. LEARN A LANGUAGE - Practice a new language, who knows, you might find yourself bi-lingual after all this is over. Download the Duolingo App for a great interactive language learner tool. 
  5. MAKE A VISION BOARD - Have old magazines laying around? Create a vision board to inspire and motivate you. Get into it elementary school style and break out the markers and glitter and let your creative juices flow. Here’s some information on the how-to part of vision board making. 
  6. GET A GARDEN GROWING - Even if you don't have backyard space for a garden, consider starting an indoor small container garden. Look up how to grow fruits and veggies from table scraps.
  7. KNIT/SEW/CROCHET - Might as well get a jump on those winter scarves now. It’s easier to learn than you think. Raverly.Com is a great knit and crochet community that offers a lot of beginner patterns as well as support for new knitters.
  8. MEDITATE/DEEP BREATHE - Calm the body and mind with relaxation exercises. There are tons of free apps and YouTube videos that will help guide you. Headspace and Calm are two popular apps that can be downloaded on most devices and offer a library of guided meditations. I often enjoy this guided meditation with clients 
  9. SEND A SECRET GIFT - Know a family member or friend who could use some cheering up? If you have some funds, order a small gift to have shipped to them. 
  10. GET YOUR PHOTOS TOGETHER - Have printed pictures that need sorting through? Have 94543656 photo files? Go through, weed out, and edit those neglected photos. Bonus: You’ll also have the opportunity to relive some fun memories.
  11. CONNECT - Set up a FaceTime or Zoom chat with friends. Virtual friend dates are all the rage in 2020. 
  12. GET OUTSIDE - Go for a daily walk and explore your neighborhood. Most of us are so busy rushing to and from work, school, wherever, that we never fully take in the beauty of our neighborhoods. Maybe you’ll find a secret gem that you never noticed before.
  13. WRITE - Start a journal or a blog and let your thoughts flow. Bullet journaling is a great option for those who don’t like more in depth writing.
  14. TAKE A VIRTUAL TRIP - Many local zoos and aquariums have camera access to their animals. Several famous museums and other tourist destinations also have virtual tours.
  15. LEARN A NEW SKILL - What is something you have always wanted to learn but never had time for? YouTube can teach you anything.
  16. GO TO A CONCERT - In your living room that is. Tons of artists are streaming concerts that you can check out from the comfort of your own couch. Here’s your change to check out your faves live with no need for $40 parking, overpriced food, and being way-to-close-and-personal with sweaty concert goers. Sounds like a win-win
  17. RESEARCH PLACES TO VOLUNTEER - Once the quarantine is over, consider donating some of your time to a worthy cause by volunteering. Research local opportunities to find a perfect match for you
  18. LEARN TO DRAW - Check out YouTube for some great instructional videos.
  19. DUST OFF THE BOARD GAMES - Turn off the Switch, XBox, PS4, iPads in favor of some good old-school gaming interaction. Dust ff one of the board games that are stashed in the hall closet. See if you can beat your family at Trivial Pursuit, or engage in an epic game of Monopoly or Risk.
  20. CREATE A MAKESHIFT MINI GOLF COURSE - Use items around the house to create your very own indoor or outdoor mini golf course. This will be a testament to your creativity.
  21. BE BUDDIES WITH ALEXA - If you have an Alexa device, she’s got a lot to offer. Now’s the time to tap into all the gaming and skill offerings. Some of my faves are Word Master, the Categories game, Common Knowledge and Trivia Battle. However, there are tons to choose from if trivia isn’t your thing.
  22. EXPERIMENT WITH YOUR HAIR - If you have found yourself stuck in a hair rut, what better time than to try your hand at learning some easy new hairstyles. If you are really feeling brave, you might even want to attempt a new color. 
  23. BE YOUR OWN MANICURIST - Don’t just stop at your hair, break out all the nail polish and pretty up all your fingers and toes.
  24. DON’T FORGET YOUR FACE - Have the full at home spa experience. Don’t have a collection of mud masks handy - do a web search for some simple face mask recipes using kitchen ingredients.
  25. UPDATE YOUR RESUME/CV - Let’s face it, this is something we rarely ever think of doing until we are job searching. Even if your job is secure, it doesn’t hurt to brush it up so it’s ready to go if you should ever need it. Don’t forget to also update your LinkedIn information as well!
  26. CREATE AN AT HOME WORK OUT - Boost your happy hormones with a daily exercise routine. There are virtual work out’s galore for all levels, not to mention 30 day challenges. Get a few friends on board to keep yourself (and them) motivated.
  27. GO TO HARVARD - Or rather take an online learning class. Browse their collection of free classes for something that strikes your fancy.
  28. GO FOR BIKE RIDE - Spice up your walk around the neighborhood by jumping on your bike instead.
  29. READ A BOOK - Most of us are typically so busy with keeping up with life that we don’t have time for simple pleasures like reading. Brush off that stack of books you bought with good intentions and start digging in. It’s a great way to escape reality for a bit. If you don’t have any books on your bookshelf, check out OpenLibrary.Com for free books you can read online.
  30. SUNBATHE IN YOUR BACKYARD - Grab a book, a drink, and some music and lounge outside and soak in the sun when it bothers to shine.
  31. CREATE POSITIVE AFFIRMATION/MANTRA CARDS - Grab some index cards and markers. Create your own set of positive affirmation cards. Decorate the blank side of the card to give them an extra boost of personalization.
  32. TAKE A DANCE CLASS - It’s amazing the things you can find for free online. Even if you don’t have dancing feet, who cares, no one is watching you. Not only is it fun, but a great workout too. Check out some free dance tutorials at DancePlug 
  33. BOND WITH YOUR PARTNER - Engage in some relationship building discussion. There are a ton of free printables out there with relationship questions. This one from The Generous Wife has a year’s worth of questions, but you can easily break them up to do over the course of several nights. content/uploads/2017/03/365questions.pdf
  34. FIND YOUR LOVE LANGUAGE - What to better understand how you give and receive love? Do the love languages quiz and find out. There’s a version for singles, couples, teens and even kids!
  35. LISTEN TO A PODCAST - But not just any podcast, find new-to-you podcast that you can submerge yourself in. 
  36. PLAN YOUR MENU FOR THE WEEK - Eating healthy in quarantine is a little easier if you have a laid out menu plan for the week so you aren’t “stuck” trying to think of healthy meals three times a day. 
  37. REDECORATE YOUR SPACE - Changing up your space by decorating with things you already have is a cheap, and easy, way to renew your surroundings. Find new places to put things, use a stool as a side table, switch up artwork, swap out lamps and shades, restyle your bookshelf, change up your coffee table decor, rearrange your kitchen storage, figure out new ways to use old pieces. The only limits are your imagination! 
  38. DELETE CONTACTS - Why are you hanging onto the information of people who are no longer in your life? Now is the time to purge. Delete old contacts from your phone, and if you are brave enough, your social media too.
  39. UNFOLLOW ACCOUNTS - And while you’re at it, unfollow accounts from any blog, influencers, companies, etc that no longer float your boat. Cut down on your social media clutter by filtering out the things you have no desire to see.
  40. ELIMINATE SPAM - While you’re decluttering your social media, also take the time to weed through all that junk email you get and click that little “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of anything you no longer want to get 
  41. START A SAVINGS GOAL - Download some free budgeting printables and start working on your money management plans. 
  42. MAKE A PURGE PILE - Go through all the things and figure out what you don’t need or want anymore and create a purge pile of things to donate or give away. 
  43. MAKE A QUARANTINE PLAYLIST - Create a playlist of upbeat, inspiring and positive music to get you through these next weeks. 
  44. MAKE A TIME CAPSULE - Include a letter about the quarantine, print out relative articles, include a trinket and bury in your backyard (or closet) to be opened at a late date. 
  45. JOIN AN ONLINE BOOK CLUB - A quick web search will bring up a bunch of options, but the big name in virtual book clubs is, of course, Oprah  ( Also check out Reese Whitherspoon’s virtual book club at
  46. GO TO CHURCH - Some churches (and temples, synagogues, etc) are holding virtual masses.
  47. TAKE A PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS - Up your photo game with a free course. Nikon is offering free courses for the month of April. Alison also have an Introduction to Digital Photography course
  48. HOUSEWORK AND YARD REPAIRS - Fix all those little things around the house and yard that you have been “meaning” to fix. There’s no time like the present to get your house and yard in order. 
  49. DESIGN NEW BUSINESS CARDS - If you have your own business, revamp your business cards and stationary by coming up with a new design. If your logo hasn’t been updated in awhile, you also may consider giving that a facelift as well.
  50. CREATE A CALMING SPRAY - Tensions are high, so why not try a little aromatherapy to ease the stress. In a small spray bottle mix 1.5 ounces of distilled water and 1.5 ounces of witch hazel. Add 8 drops each of lavender and eucalyptus oil. Give a gentle shake. Spray as necessary. 
  51. CREATE A RITUAL- Maybe it will be meditation at bedtime, or a hot bubble bath each evening, or maybe it will be a gratitude practice each morning. Figure out what ritual of happiness and self care you can incorporate into your daily routine. 
  52. TEACH YOUR PET A TRICK - There’s a ton of awesome pet tricks out there that you and your furriest friend can learn to master together. 
  53. VISIT YOUR LOCAL GOVERNMENT WEBSITE - Some websites are listing free services and resources that are available. It might be worth seeing what’s being offered on a local level that might be helpful for you. 
  54. ORGANIZE YOUR PAPERWORK - Go through your filing cabinet and shred any papers, old tax returns, and all the things that you don’t need anymore to clear up space. 
  55. GOGGLE YOUR NAME - See what comes up when you Google your name and get any content remove that discloses any personal information you don’t want publicly share (address, email, etc) and find out what accounts you may still be linked to and don’t use anymore so you can close them. 
  56. DOWNLOAD GAMES - Download some games that let you challenge friends. Revive old classics like Words With Friends, Draw Something and Ruzzle. 
  57. TIE DYE A SHIRT - Get started on your summer wardrobe by tie-dying a couple of old white shirts you have lying around. Check out this tutorial for 3 different ways to tie dye  
  58. BLEACH DYE A SHIRT - If you want a modern twist on tie-dying, bleach dye instead 
  59. MAKE A COMPOST BIN - If you are lucky enough to have the space to create a compost bin outdoors there are loads of low-cost ways to create your own bin for your backyard. You can also compost if you live in an apartment. You can likely create a kitchen compost bin from some things you have around the home 
  60. HAVE A MOVIE NIGHT - I don’t just mean watch a movie, I mean have a whole movie experience. Make some popcorn, nachos, or other movie treats, break out a screen projector if you have one, turn off the lights and watch in total darkness. 
  61. LEARN ORIGAMI - Start out with some easy beginner projects and build your skills from there. 
  62. SEND A HANDWRITTEN NOTE CARD - When was the last time you used that dusty box of stationary you have in your closet? Break it out along with your address book and send a handwritten note card/letter to family and friends. It will be a nice surprise for the recipients and another way to remain in contact with loved ones. 
  63. WRITE A LIST OF COMPLIMENTS TO YOURSELF - Create a list of things that you like about yourself to refer back to when you are having a less than stellar day. 
  64. START AN ACHIEVEMENTS FOLDER - If self compliments aren’t your thing, how about achievements? Whether on your computer or in a physical folder, set aside a place where you can record all of your proudest moments. What obstacles have you overcome? What projects have you completed? What struggles have you managed to learn from? Record all of your successes to reflect on when you’re in a funk or feeling like a failure. 
  65. KEEP A GRATITUDE JOURNAL - Write down three things you are grateful for each day to keep your spirits in a positive place. 
  66. CLEAN YOUR CAR - Deep clean and detail your own car. Since you likely aren’t using it as much, the clean car look will last much longer! 
  67. SNUGGLE YOUR PET - If you’re feeling down, cuddle up with your favorite furry friend.
  68. SET SMART GOALS - Learn about the art of setting SMART goals. Use this printable worksheet as a guide 
  69. ENGAGE IN MINDFUL EATING - Being home so much can lead to eating out of boredom. Incorporate some mindful eating habits into your day. Start here for some simple ideas You can also try your hand at a mindful eating exercise 
  70. COLOR - There are many free, printable coloring pages. Here’s one of my favorites
  71. EXERCISE - Engage in an intense exercise routine to get your serotonin flowing. 
  72. GO ON A PHOTOWALK - On your next walk, take pictures of the little things you come across that you find interest. Share your images on Instagram. 
  73. START A NEW INSTAGRAM - Separate your personal photos with “public” photos by making a new Instagram account so showcase things on your photo walk, art projects, quarantine photo diaries, etc. Use this account to connect with others worldwide. 
  74. MAKE A SMOOTHIE - Part of feeling good mentally relies on feeling good physically. Start making daily (or almost daily) nourishing smoothies. 
  75. CREATE A COPING TOOL BOX - Get a plain box to decorate and inside add some calming items including pictures of favorite memories, a journal, pens, soft comfort items, essential oils, a stress ball, and anything else that will fit that helps keep you in a calm head space. 
  76. DO PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE RELAXATION - This tense and release exercise working your way from the top to the tip of your body is a great way to release some stress. 
  77. GET RID OF NEGATIVE THOUGHTS - Use 15 minutes to write out your thoughts about anything bothering you. Then burn or throw away the paper. Bonus points for being able to toss them in a fire pit. 
  78. MAKE S’MORES - Speaking of fire pits, now’s a great time to break out the s’more supplies and gather the family around the fire pit for some treats and stories. 
  79. DO A DATE NIGHT - If you live with your significant other, don’t let quarantine stop dates nights. Make a fancy dinner, dress up, set the table with candles and enjoy a date night at home. 
  80. RECONNECT WITH OLD FRIENDS - If you have friends that made your social media purge cut that you haven’t connected with in awhile, make the effort to reach out and check in with them and rebuild your friendship connection. 
  81. DISCOVER YOUR PERSONALITY TYPE - Gain more insight into your personality type by taking an Ennegram test ( and the Myer’s Brigg Personality test (
  82. BRUSH UP ON RIDDLES - Use this time to master your next party trick and learn some fun and easy riddles to share with others. 
  83. PICK FLOWERS FROM YOUR GARDEN - Bring a little life and beauty inside by snipping some flowers from your garden and making flower arrangements around your house. 
  84. LEARN THE CONSTELLATIONS - Stargazing can be so much fun, if not a bit intimidating at first. Learn some basic constellations and you’ll see the stars in a whole new way 
  85. USE YOUR DIGITAL LIBRARY - If you have a library card, use it to access some digital media from your library. You can borrow ebooks, music, movies and tv shows for free. 
  86. WATCH THE SUN RISE OR SET - Create a new ritual for yourself of watching the sun rise or set each day. You can even combine this with your new photography skills you have been building in suggestion number 47 and take a daily photograph. 
  87. LEARN THE MOON PHASES - The moon is a glorious astronomical body. You may know the basic moon phases, like full and crescent, but how much do you know about the other phases or what they look like? 
  88. MAKE INFUSED WATER - There are a lot of health benefits to infused water, plus it tastes great. It’s a great way to make your daily water intake a bit easier, and it’s fun experimenting with different ingredients to create a flavor that you love. 
  89. TAKE A FANCY BATH - Light some candles, put on some music, add some bath salts, bubbles or homemade bath concoctions, and enjoy a relaxing bath and some pampering time. 
  90. FOSTER A PET - Have room for new furry friends? Lots of shelters are looking to place their pets in temporary, loving, homes. Check out your local shelter’s website for foster options. 
  91. CREATE YOUR OWN MEMES - Everyone else is going it, why can’t you? 
  92. CREATE A DESIGN BOARD - Want to re-do a room, but are on a spending freeze or not quite sure what you want yet? Create a design board to gather some visual plans of your future room makeover. 
  93. CREATE A FASHION BOARD - While you’re at it, you can also dream up your summer wardrobe by creating fashion boards at 
  94. PLAY AN INSTRUMENT - Even if you can’t play it well, play. Download a music tutorial app if you need to. 
  95. DOWNLOAD A KARAOKE APP - Be a singing super star in your own home. Belt out your favorite tunes at the top of your lungs. If you have a karaoke machine, get the family together for karaoke night at home. Supply ear plugs as needed. 
  96. BAKE COOKIES FOR NEIGHBORS/CLOSE FRIENDS - Know a neighbor or friend who is quarantining solo? If they are comfortable, leave a baked goods basket and a note on their doorstep. 
  97. CAMP IN YOUR BACKYARD/BASEMENT/LIVINGROOM - Set up a tent in the backyard with a firepit and sleep under the stars. If that’s not an option, camp out in your living room or basement with sleeping bags and flashlights for some family bonding fun. 
  98. UPDATE YOUR EMAIL SIGNATURES AND VOICE MAIL MESSAGE - Find an inspiring quote to add to your email signature and record a new, updated, message for your voice message box. 
  99. PROPAGATE PLANTS - Plants are a great way to cleanse the air and give your space life. You can expand your plant population at home by growing more of your favorite plants from the ones you already own. 
  100. PARTICIPATE IN VIRTUAL THERAPY - If you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, isolated or depressed, or just need additional support, therapy options are available virtually. A therapist can help you process your feelings and experiences, and work with you to build a coping skills toolbox to be able to better manage all the emotions you are experiencing. You don’t have to navigate this alone. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Teaching Young Children Emotional Regulation

Young children often express their emotions in big ways. Often times a child's emotional experience can be very overwhelming for their adult caretakers. Anger and frustration become tiny fits of rage and tantrums; fear becomes loud, dramatic, inconsolable wails; disappointment may be stomping feet, kicking the ground and negative words. How to help children manage their emotions is one of the biggest questions I get from parents bringing their kids to therapy. Here are some of my go-to ways to helping children learn emotional management.

Help your child identify emotions. Helping kids label and identify their emotions is a first step towards giving them emotional control. You can help your child learn to identify and label emotions by offering suggestions that normalize the experience, such as "Many kids feel a bit nervous about the first day of school. It can be hard not knowing what to expect, but remember what a great first day you had last year? I am looking forward to hearing all about your day when you get home!" Games such as Moody Monsters and Feelings in Bloom Bingo are fun ways to engage kids in learning about emotions. Make a feelings chart by drawing blank faces on large poster board and writing an emotion word (ex. sad, angry, happy, shy, embarrassed, worried, bored, etc) and have your child draw in what each feeling looks like for them. Books like, The Way I Feel by Janan Cain, are also excellent for helping young children learn about emotional identification.

Don't minimize your child's emotional experience. Emotions themselves aren't the problem. Allowing your child to express their emotions - the good, the bad and the ugly - is imperative to helping your child be an emotionally healthy individual. We can say no to any negative behaviors that manifest from the emotions, but allowing kids to experience their emotions lets them know that feelings are not taboo. When a child experiences emotional dysregulation, it is because he or she does not have the verbal capacity to discuss the feelings behind the behavior. That is where your job as the parent comes in - it is up to you to identify and validate the emotions, while encouraging problem solving. For example, "I know you are feeling frustrated that you didn't win your baseball game. It's okay to feel that way, but it's not okay to throw your bat.  Let's come up with a plan for me to help you improve your batting skills."

Model healthy emotional expression. Suppress the urge to throw an adult tantrum of yelling, cursing and getting uncontrollably angry in front of your children. Children learn emotional regulation from the adults in their lives.  Demonstrate mindful responding versus impulsive reacting by using respectful words, a controlled voice and problem solving directives. Know when you need to take a break from frustrating situations. Children will pick up and imitate your emotional responses.

Come up with coping strategies. Engage your child in some brain storming to discuss what activites he/she finds calming. Activities can range in energy level and can include quiet activities like coloring, listening to soothing music, hugging a stuffed animal, making a craft, or playing a video game, to more energy externalizing activities like running around the back yard, bouncing a ball, dancing wildly to loud music or jumping rope. Make a list of coping strategies - or create a picture list for non-readers - to keep in a visible area. Teach your children to recognize their emotions by noting them, i.e., "It looks like this game is getting frustrating to you, why don't you pick something off your list to do for awhile and come back to play the game a little bit later?" For smaller children, keep a basket of "cool down" activities in an accessible area for instant access.

Practice coping strategies. Practice makes perfect. Child or adult, common coping skills such a deep breathing or meditation rarely work in the midst of a significanf emotional experience if it isn't a skill that has been practiced. I often equate calming coping skills, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, counting to 10, and meditation, to a performance. Very rarely can someone go out on the field or take the stage without hours and hours of practice and rehearsal. This holds true for coping skills as well. Practicing coping skills daily, in moments of calm, makes them more effective to use when needed. Set aside a minimum of 5 minutes a day to help your child practice some self-soothing skills.

Don't re-direct in the moments of a melt down. When your child is in the midst of a big emotional experience, reminding him of his calming skills is most likely going to fall on deaf ears. Children are never reasonable in the midst of a melt down. Your best bet is to allow the experience to happen, and only limiting behaviors that may be harmful to the child or others around him. If a melt down occurs in a public place, you can move your child to a more socially acceptable area, but remain with the child. Sending a child on his own for a "time out" only sends that message that he is alone in his experience. Remain nearby and wait it out. When your child is in a calmer state, validate their experience and help them identify more positive ways to handle those feelings in the future.

Recognize and acknowledge positive emotional expression.  Identifying undesirable behaviors is easy, but acknowledging desirable behaviors is beneficial. When your child demonstrates positive emotional regulation, verbal acknowledgments go a long way and is a positive way to reinforce desirable behaviors. So the next time your kid keeps his cool in a frustrating situation, let him know that you noticed and appreciated his calm approach. 

Emotional regulation is a process, but with patience, guidance, encouragement and appropriate modeling of positive emotional management, your child will soon successfully learn how to deal with big feelings on his own!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What No One Tells You About Having A Kid With ADHD

As a therapist, ADHD was never in my wheelhouse. That changed the year my then 6-year-old son was diagnosed with ADHD. This diagnosis did not come as a surprise, my husband has ADHD, but it did open my eyes as a therapist, and as a mother, to the challenges kids with the diagnosis face. Challenges that go beyond the stereotypical image of a child who is easily distracted or hyperactive. There is so much more to ADHD that I have learned along my journey, here’s a few of them:

My kid says "weird" things.  Kids with ADHD are often impulsive. This impulsiveness may manifest verbally. Children may blurt out things that may not make sense, or seem strange. They may even blurt out things that seem concerning.

One day, my son, who was having a particularly challenging day, was in the midst of a meltdown. With a glint of rage in his eyes, he turned to me and shouted, "I'm going to blow up this house and everyone in it!" The mom side of me immediately got alarmed and wondered if I had a future psychopath on my hands. The therapist in me knew that this wasn't my sweet boy speaking, it was the impulsiveness speaking. The part of the brain that doesn't pause before blurting out whatever words are running around in his mind. Sometimes what comes out of my son's mouth is funny in a "Kids Say The Darnedest Things" kind of way. Sometimes it is so cringe-worthy, I want to dig a deep hole and hide.

What to Do:
Teach children to take a deep breath and count to 10 before talking. This encourages children to not blurt out first thoughts, and gives your child a chance to consider their words.

When you observe your child making impulsive statements, pull him aside and discuss why the statement was inappropriate or harmful. Encourage apologies for any hurtful words. Speak with your child privately, rather than address the statements in front of an audience.

The challenge of friendships. Many kids with ADHD may experience difficulties in making friends. This is often because children with ADHD are impulsive in nature and these impulsivities translate to off-putting behaviors on the playground, such as making unfiltered statements, interrupting others, displaying thoughtless behavior or creating disruptions.

When my son entered kindergarten, his uniqueness became more apparent to peers. Kids were starting to notice that my son was different. Nothing is more heartbreaking than to have your child come home and tell you that the other kids don't like him. Unfortunately, my son, although a sensitive soul, has a tendency to speak without thinking, often saying things that are hurtful. He will intrude on, and interrupt conversations. He will disrupt a child who is quietly playing. He will walk away mid-conversation. Things that weren't as noticeable in preschool, began to raise eyebrows in elementary. My son's tendency to miss social cues will only become more noticeable with age.

What to Do:
Social skills groups are a great way to learn how to interact with peers. Check with your school or local counseling centers for age appropriate groups.

Role-play common social situations with your child. This will help ease any social anxieties and give your child the opportunity to practice appropriate interactions.

Evel Knievel has nothing on this kid. Children with ADHD can be the ultimate risk takers. Most people expect children with ADHD to be overly energetic, but most do not expect to be witness to impulsivity-driven, dangerous acts. A child with ADHD may run into traffic, climb on top of the refrigerator, hang from the second floor banister, whack a beehive with a bat - the possibilities are endless. The bigger the kids, the more dangerous things become. Teenagers with ADHD are particularly susceptible to engaging in reckless drug and alcohol use, as well as sexual activity.

When my son was still running into traffic at age five, I knew that this was way more than just typical hyperactivity. While you expect to have to use the death grip on a 2 or 3 year old in a parking lot, you don't think of an older child needing as much reminder and supervision about the dangers of moving vehicles. Or, so I thought. My son would catch the gleam of a penny or hear the bark of a lone dog in the distance and would be consumed with one thought - the thought to run towards whatever attracted his attention. He would bolt without warning into a sea of moving cars. My heart has stopped beating more times than I can count.

What to Do:
When a child displays severely dangerous activity, it is best to consult professionals. Seek specialists in ADHD. A variety of therapies are available to help decrease impulsiveness and assist in establishing safer outlets for your child's energy.

You thought nights with a newborn were bad, you ain't seen nothing yet. Children with ADHD often experience challenges "shutting off" their brain. That little mind is constantly filled with thoughts and images, and that doesn't stop just because the little hand on the clock hits 9. You may find your child is refusing to go to bed, stating that he/she is not tired, and if they do make it to bed, they are wide-awake for the majority of the night. Many kids with ADHD - those on meds AND those not on meds - experience sleep issues. For children who are on medication, stimulants are usually the culprit and decreasing or stopping the dosage will typically eliminate sleep issues. For those children not on medication, developing healthy sleep patters requires a bit more trial and error.

My son actually slept like a baby, when he was a baby. Not a peep would be heard out of him until the morning. Then somewhere around toddler-hood, a myriad of sleep issues crept in. Getting him to sleep was an exhausting experience, but only for me as he would be wide awake hours after I would drop into bed out of defeat. I would spend hours begging and pleading with him to go to bed, only to spend the majority of my night escorting him back to his room when he would wake me in the middle of the night requesting snacks, water or "something to do" because he was "bored." We finally found a rhythm that works for us, but the journey getting there was a long one.

What to Do:
Setting a routine will help define sleep expectations for your child. Set a reasonable bedtime and have a set routine for the 2 hours leading up to bedtime. Include quiet time with no electronics or stimulating activity, a warm bath, and downtime by reading a book or listening to soothing music in the routine.  Replace bright lights with warm, soft lights to create a serene sleep space.

Low self-esteem struggles. Many kids with ADHD experience low self-esteem. Kids with ADHD tend to have more academic and social struggles. At home, the symptoms associated with ADHD may lend to a tense family dynamic. An overwhelmed parent may become easily frustrated by ADHD behaviors. Children with ADHD are used to being criticized for their lack of attention, forgetfulness, poor social skills and behavior. This criticism from others quickly turns into a nasty inner critic that takes a toll on a child's self-esteem.

Being a parent of a child with ADHD is no doubt overwhelming at times. It's easy to feel frustrated when nothing seems to work to calm your wild child. Before my son was diagnosed, he struggled with an array of social, academic and behavioral challenges. The frustration my son was feeling over his lack of self-control, combined with the frustrations my husband and I were feeling over the challenges, led to a strained home environment. In the midst of all this I noticed that my son didn't seem as eager to try new things for fear of failing and didn't seem as confident. I'll never forget the day my son came to me and said, "I know everybody hates me because I always mess up. I'm dumb and I know it." Talk about a punch to the gut.

What to Do:
Take a step back and look at what you as a parent, may unintentionally be doing to feed your child's self-esteem monster. Don't compare your child to others. Recognize what your child is doing right, and stop focusing in what your child is doing wrong. 

Focus on your child's strengths and involve him/her in activities that will allow him/her to excel.

Allow your child to succeed by breaking up tasks into smaller steps, simplifying goals and directions and making accomplishments attainable rather than complicated.

ADHD looks different with every child, and every child's journey is different. With love, support and understanding each child has the ability to excel in their own way. I have learned to find the positive in my son's energetic spirit and cherish all parts of this journey we are taking together.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Getting Your Teen Ready for School – Academically and Socially

While many parents around the country are breathing a sigh of relief as summer slips away and school starts up again, many teens are groaning at the thought of returning to textbooks and teachers. The start of school can bring many mixed emotions – for some, excitement at daily social interaction and being one more step closer to graduation; for others the impending start of school may bring up feelings of anxiety. For teens that face social and academic challenges, the start of a new school year is often overwhelming, but with a little support and preparation your teen can conquer those anxieties and tackle the new school year with confidence.

Academic Preparation

 Poor academic preparation often sets teens off on the wrong foot when returning to school. Improving your teen’s organizational skills can help eliminate the feelings of anxiety that come with being unprepared in class. Start by sitting down with your teen to review their class schedule and engage your teen in a discussion regarding what classes he/she is most excited about and what class is the most dreaded. Come up with goals and objectives for each class (i.e. If your teen fails two tests, he/she will agree to have a tutor). Set clear and realistic expectations for the school year. If your teen has an after school job or partakes in an extracurricular activity, set expectations of the GPA your teen needs to maintain in order to continue the activity. Don’t be afraid to set some incentives for accomplishing academic achievements. It never hurts to reward positive behaviors and it’s human nature to be motivated by incentives. Would you go to work if you weren’t getting a paycheck at the end of each week? I sure wouldn’t!

Help your teen gather up needed school supplies at least two weeks in advance. There’s nothing like rushing around last minute for supplies to create feelings of anxiety. Teens with poor organizational skills may benefit from purchasing different color coordinated notebooks and folders for each class to help stay organized. Set up a workstation in the home that is free from distraction for teens that have difficulty focusing. Purchase an academic planner for your teen and make a schedule with your teen for homework and study time. Allow your teen the opportunity to have an active part in setting goals and schedules. The more control your teen has in setting their own academic goals, the more likely they will be motivated to achieve those goals.

Social Preparation

For shy teens, the social aspect of school often creates feelings of anxiety, particularly if your teen has experienced peer conflict in the past. Begin by establishing open dialogue with your teen about social anxieties. By letting your teen know that you are available to listen and provide emotional support, you can help ensure that your teen will continue to turn to you throughout the year when issues arise. Normalize your teen’s concerns and show you empathize with your teen’s experiences by acknowledging that there have been times when you’ve felt nervous, alone or left out. Engage your teen in a discussion regarding how you were able to successfully cope with those feelings and experiences. Don’t brush off your teen’s concerns by dismissing or minimizing them. Teens need to know their feelings and experiences are normal. During the last weeks of summer, encourage your teen to reach out to friends who they may not have seen recently.

If your teen is nervous about attending a new school, contact the school to arrange for a tour. During a tour, your teen is able to explore the school without being overwhelmed by a crowd, and can familiarize his or herself with the layout of the building which may help decrease first day jitters of being lost among the maze of hallways.

No matter how much you prepare your teen, there is always a chance that something may not go as planned. Remember for a moment that adolescents are awkwardly caught in the middle of childhood and adulthood and are often internally struggling with finding themselves and their place in the world. Offer compassion and support for your teen’s feelings and experiences no matter how trivial they may seem to you. Lend an ear, give a hug and be understanding.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reduce School Anxiety

As we enter the last month of summer, and September creeps upon us, many parents will be sending their little ones to school, and many will be sending them for the first time ever.  In most cases it's the parents that have the hardest time with this transition, but it's not uncommon for kids to experience their share of fear and anxiety regarding the first day of school. Parents of anxious kids can take a few steps to emotionally prepare their child in this last month of summer and the beginning weeks of school in order to make it the best start possible.

1. Have Discussions About School - Begin talking to your children about school and what to expect in a typical school day. Discuss the social aspects of school in addition to the academic aspects.  Talk about lunch time, recess, peers and what drop-off/pick-up will be like. Head to your local library or bookstore and select books about going to school to read during the remainder of the summer.  Talk about your own positive experiences from school. Dig up your old class pictures if you have any to add a few laughs to the discussion.

2. Check Out The School - Most school's have orientation days for new students that include a tour of the school. If your school does not offer this, call your school or district board of education and arrange for a tour of the school or a meeting with your child's teacher to establish some familiarity. At the very least, prior to the start of the school year, take a trip with your child to the school to allow him/her to see the building up close. Walk around as much of the school grounds as you can and point out areas that would be of interest to your child, such as the playground. Visit the school more than once if possible for a particularly anxious child.

3. Schedule Playtime With Future Classmates - If your child is entering school for the first time, scope out your neighborhood for potential classmates and arrange for some play time. If you are unable to find potential classmates, explain the unknown peers as a fun "surprise". Make a game out of it and have your child guess the number of boys and girls that will be in their class and the possible names of some classmates. If your child has been to school before but hasn't had contact with classmates since the summer started, invite a few school friends over for lunch or a play date. Acquainting your child with a few classmates will decrease feelings of anxiety regarding peer interactions. If you are feeling particularly ambitious, host a small "back to school" party the week before class starts.

4. Involve Your Child in Back To School Shopping - Get your child involved in school supply list shopping and other back-to-school items.  Present your child with choices on such items as backpacks, lunchboxes and clothing. Have your child help you plan out his/her lunch menu for the first few weeks. These small activities will allow your feelings a greater sense of control, which is important a child who is anxious.

5. Role Play - If your child has a particular anxiety (bullies, riding the school bus, interacting with peers, navigating a large school, etc), role play the event with your child.  For example, if your child has anxieties about riding the school bus, practice walking to the bus stop together. Have a relative or friend play bus driver and have them drive up to the bus stop. Practice saying goodbye and putting your child on the "bus."  If possible, have your friend or relative drive your child to school just like the bus would and drive back to the bus stop to practice drop off with your waiting. Coming up with a plan and brain storming coping skills for your child's fears will help him/her feel more confident when faced with the event. Practice often and problem solve potential solutions together.

6. Reward and Reassure - Reward for brave behaviors that your child exhibits. Reward for a successful first day of school. Reward your child for using the coping skills practiced. Now is the time to boost your child's mood and spirits with a special gift or outing in response to positive behaviors.

Sometimes all the planning in the world won't ease an anxious child. An anxious child may exhibit a variety of negative behaviors as the first day of school approaches including physical ailments, withdrawing, fighting with siblings, being defiant towards parents/caregivers, bed wetting, thumb sucking, and other aggressive behavior. Acknowledge that your child is engaging in these behaviors due to school related fears. Normalize your child's fears and anxieties, and encourage your child to discuss those fears and anxieties. Encouraging your child to continually and openly discuss any fears and anxieties with you serves as positive coping skill and gradually increases your child's confidence with continued parental validation and support. If there isn't a noticeable decrease in your child's school anxiety level as the school year progresses, reach out to your school's guidance counselor for additional support and resources.