Why Your Child Needs a Therapist This Fall

Why Your Child Needs a Therapist This Fall

Why Your Child Needs a Therapist This Fall

COVID-19 has ravaged our world. In New Jersey alone, more than 184,000 cases of coronavirus have been recorded, leaving more than 14,000 people dead. While very few of these deaths have been our children (less than 0.4%,) our youths and community are still suffering in countless and terrible unforeseen ways (1).

Isolation, unemployment, and fear has gripped families in our state for months, leaving us tired, frustrated, and anxious. With the end of summer and the beginning of school fast approaching, parents and children are being thrown into a whole new dilemma. While parents ask themselves questions regarding the safety of their children and whether they can afford keeping them home, children face their own mental crises.

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Question of the school year

The Question of the school year: To be hybrid or To be virtual

The Question of the school year: To be hybrid or To be virtual

This school year, parents and caregivers are faced with a difficult and highly personal decision. There is no cookie cutter, one size fits all response to the question of “should we send the kids in person or should we keep them home for virtual.” There are many things to consider when making this choice such as coordination of childcare, parent’s work schedule and demand, financial impact of decisions, the health of the family – mental, social-emotional, and physical, as well as other factors.

Regardless of your choice, here are some things to consider that would help your family to be successful this school year:

  • How can you create structure for your child? Children (and adults) learn, grow, and generally feel the best when they have a consistent schedule. This will not only be an investment in their academic health, but their emotional health.
    • Consider creating a visual schedule for your child and put it on the fridge or somewhere else they can easily see. This can include pictures or even your child’s drawings of each block within the schedule. Sections to include in the schedule include:
      • Morning routine – especially brushing teeth and eating breakfast.
      • School – whether in person or virtual.
      • Some form of movement – preferably at least an hour, and outdoors if possible. Ideas include doing yoga, walking, bike riding, roller skating, creating small structures with things they’ve found in nature, kicking a ball around, playing catch, dancing to a playlist or finding a dance along video to jam out to. Other ideas include doing this as a family and incorporating five-minute movement breaks between subjects.
      • Creative time – practicing an instrument, drawing, reading, writing/collaging, listening to a kid’s book or podcast, pressing flowers or leaves, journaling, creating a story, singing.
      • Reading time – with all the virtual time, it will be healthy for kids to pick up a physical book or comic book and read.
      • Social time – kid’s social-emotional health, development and learning is just as important as their physical health. Emotional health and physical health are linked, and we must consider what our options are to help children feel socially nourished instead of starved.
      • Dinner – preferably as a family in an age appropriate and safe way, include kids in the cooking and setting the table,
      • Wind down routine before bed – shower, brush teeth, and possibly reading a book as a family
      • Bed / Sleep
  • If your school will require kids to wear a mask or if you’d like your child to wear a mask: have them practice wearing a mask while watching tv. Kids are less likely to complain because they want to watch tv and it distracts them. Just as your child practices a fire drill before there is a fire, we as adults in their lives have to prompt them to practice skills such as emotion regulation, and trying new things before there is something big they need to do.
    • Let kids have a choice, if possible, on their mask. There are patterns that your child may be excited to pick out and wear, which will help the transition for them.
  • Do not only allow kids to express frustration but prompt them to express emotions about the situation. Admit to them that this is very hard. Focus on empowering your child and allowing them to express their emotions and thoughts. Point out positive behavior that they are having. Remind them they can do hard things and that you are proud of them because we are asking them to do things we did not have to do at their age. Model how although it is frustrating for you too, you remind yourself that “this too shall pass” and we are doing hard things right now for the safety and health of all of our family, friends, and community. We make a difference and an impact, and we can choose to make a positive one.
  • Add affirmations (positive self-talk) to the bathroom mirror so children can read them while they brush their teeth. These can include short empowering statements such as
    • I am loveable and capable.
    • I can do hard things when I try.
    • My mistakes help me learn and grow.
    • I can do it.
    • I am a master problem solver.
    • I am learning every day.
    • I can ask for help when I need it and after I’ve tried.
    • I do hard things to keep myself healthy, strong, and happy.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Humans were not meant to take care of children on their own. We evolved raising children as a community, the phrase “it takes a village” is literally what is in our DNA. Modern life puts a lot of pressure on two parents and it’s unhelpful. Perfection is unachievable, but there is a lot of guilt that parents report.

Symptoms such as irritability, body tension, outbursts, shutting down, frequent headaches, frequent stomach aches, sleep disturbance, mood swings, low mood, hopelessness, sadness, anger, stress, and worry can be warning signs that your child is struggling.

Some of these symptoms are to be expected if there are lots of changes recently in their life, but if they are frequent or preventing your child from their normal day to day activities more days than not, such as completing school work, engaging in and enjoying play, adequate eating or sleeping behaviors, and talking with their peers (which may look like video chatting or phone calling friends while we are quarantined), then therapy can help.

  • Before setting up your child’s first therapy session it’s important to do a few things so they can benefit the most out of it. Check Out Taking Your Child or Teen to Therapy blog post.

Joana Couto, LAC is a therapist at the Olive Branch Therapy Group. Joana works with children, teens, young adults and adults. Joana specialties include anxiety, life transitions, depression and trauma. If you are interested in working with Joana, contact us via email, phone or chat on our website.

Fathers Day

Reflections from Therapists: Dear dad on Fathers Day

Reflections from Therapists: Dear dad on Fathers Day

Dear Dad,

The words that come to mind when I think of you today are “thank you”. Thank you for being the man that you are and encouraging me to be the woman I am today. Thank you for always taking the time to listen, to hear, and to teach me without ever telling me what to do. Thank you for allowing me to learn that experiencing my own life, growing from my own mistakes makes me the strong resilient woman I am today. Thank you for always cheering me on, for being enthusiastic (you told me one day I would learn to love it), and rarely wavering in the midst of a challenge. Thank you for teaching me how to love myself by watching you love my mom, and being a role model for my husband to love me and my children. Thank you for being a caring Poppa, always enthralled in your grandchildren’s tosy, movies, and mac’n’cheese. Thank you for showing me true strength and power is that of empathy and compassion for yourself and others.

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The Now

The Now

“As I lead this army, make room for mistakes and depression” -Kendrick Lamar, “Mortal Man”

(For reference, I am a white female and go by the pronouns she/her)

As a student becoming a therapist, multiculturalism is a mandatory class in a graduate school program. The lectures and the classes emphasized that you and your experiences alone are not enough to empathize with those who not only look like you, but especially to those who don’t look like you. I loved the classes, and heeded the messages that the seasoned professors were imploring is to do…look inward, listen, learn and when you think you’ve learned enough-keep learning. I am now understanding I have not done enough. Continue reading

Reflections from a therapist: Taking Your Child or Teen to Therapy

Reflections from a therapist: Taking Your Child or Teen to Therapy

What you should do before the 1st session

1. DO NOT surprise them. Telling your child what to expect will decrease the anxiety they have about starting therapy. During the first session, you can tell your child to expect to be asked questions, so the therapist gets to know you. There are no wrong or right answers to these questions, therapy is not a test. It’s recommended to tell children about 1-2 days before the first session, and teens about 5-7 days before. Continue reading

How to Help Your Child & Family Come to Terms with this New Reality

Reflections from a Therapist: How to Help Your Child & Family Come to Terms with this New Reality

On May 4th it was announced that New Jersey schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year. For many, this is an unsettling time. Kids, adolescents, and teens are missing their peers, teachers, classrooms, sports teams, and clubs. Peer interaction and play are fundamental to their development, and it looks very different right now. Continue reading

Reflections from a therapist: Mother’s Day In Quarantine

Reflections from a therapist: Mother’s Day In Quarantine

Mother’s Day- a day to celebrate and honor mom. I have been having quite mixed emotions upon thinking about the day. Something that has been coming to the surface of my mind is how no matter what your lifestyle is like, whether you have children, single, spouse, etc. we are all currently taking care of ourselves the best we can, and you know who taught us that? Our parents-and most likely our mother, grandmother or some maternal figure. We are digging deep and utilizing the skills of how to survive, find strength, and carry on through the dark of night into the light of day. The basis or foundation of many mothers world wide. Continue reading

Coping for Couples during COVID-19

Reflections from a Therapist: Relationship Tips during Covid

Coping for Couples during COVID-19: 6 Tips to Keep your Relationship Healthy

The Covid-19 social isolation has had an impact on all of our daily lives. We are staying home and couples are spending more time together than before. While that can be great, it can also be challenging. Trying to balance working from home, childcare, household duties, and homeschooling can cause higher levels of stress and anxiety. This may lead couples to become overwhelmed and frustrated with each other. This is completely normal, especially during a crisis. So what can couples do to relieve some of the tension? Here are 6 tips to help from a psychotherapist: Continue reading

Ramadan During Quarantine: Creating a Sacred Place at Home

Ramadan During Quarantine: Creating a Sacred Place at Home

This year Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting from sunrise to sunset, will be a different experience for all of us. We won’t be hosting family and friends over for iftar dinners. We won’t be going to the musjid at night to pray. We won’t have that physical sense of community, a time when we usually strengthen our bonds with family and friends.

Despite these difficult and isolating times, I still wanted this holy month to be meaningful. Once I knew Ramadan would be at home due to COVID, I started to plan a Ramadan spent at home with intention. I chose to focus on what we would need to have a meaningful month and really invest in our home space this year to really follow in the Islamic tradition of ease and simplicity.

One night around the dinner table, I had my kids and husband list their duas, or individual prayers. Together, we then created a family master dua list. This way, all of our duas are connected to God and each other. Some of our duas included prayers for the entire worlds healing of Covid and prayers for ours parents who are in Pakistan. Continue reading

Reflections from a Therapist: On Slowing Down

Reflections from a Therapist: On Slowing Down

It’s so easy to get lost in our own lives.

This last month in quarantine has taught me so many valuable lessons, especially in the art of slowing down. Thus far, I have been blessed with a fast paced life, filled with love and joy. As I slowly approach 40, most of my life until now has been rushed. I always felt as though I never had a moment to sit with my thoughts, to truly process it. Continue reading