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.

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

Reflections from a therapist : Parenting during a Pandemic

Reflections from a therapist : Parenting during a Pandemic

Everyone seems to be saying the same thing since we have been in COVID-19 isolation: this homeschooling while working thing is impossible, infuriating, exhausting, overwhelming, annoying, anxiety provoking. And all that is true, I am learning, as I home school my 4th and 1st grader. I have become a master of flexibility, of letting go, of taking deep breaths and walking away. I have grown to appreciate my husband more in this past four weeks than I have over the past 12 years. I have scratched my head over new math and spent more time than I am interested in on first grade “fundations” (spoiler alert: there’s nothing fun about it). Continue reading

5 Benefits of Getting Outdoors Even During Social Isolation

5 Benefits of Getting Outdoors Even During Social Isolation

“Go play outside!”

You might have heard that from your parents. You might have thought they wanted you out of their hair, or to get away from the TV, but what if we told you they might have had a point? (Gasp, never!) It’s not too surprising though; before the onset of COVID-19, Americans spent more than 90% of their lives indoors. Considering the far reaching effects of coronavirus and social isolation, that percentage may be higher for some.

On the flipside, with many now working from home and children either out of school or participating in school online, many adults and children have rediscovered the outdoors and have used it to their advantage to combat the boredom that comes with social distancing. Continue reading

6 Tips to Declutter Your Mind, Body and Soul this Spring

6 Tips to Declutter Your Mind, Body and Soul this Spring

Birds are singing, the sun is shining and the days are slowly getting longer. You know what time it is? Spring time! And what goes hand and hand with spring time? You got it! Spring cleaning!

While you may dread household chores, there are some great benefits to decluttering your physical spaces. According to one study, women who viewed their homes as clean, were less likely to be fatigued or depressed than those who described their homes as “cluttered.” Tidying up has also been proven to help people to be more focused, sleep better and lead healthier lifestyles.

We sometimes forget that, while it’s great to clean up our physical spaces, we can all benefit from decluttering areas of our lives that aren’t in front of our noses too. Here are six tips that can help with some mind, body and soul spring cleaning. Continue reading

New Year’s Resolutions vs. Intentions + S.M.A.R.T. Goals

New Year’s Resolutions vs. Intentions + S.M.A.R.T. Goals

At the beginning of every year, we are bombarded with “New Year New Me,” and big goals such as

be healthier, run a 5K quit smoking
make/ save more money / spend less read 50 books, learn to play an instrument
find a new job, travel the world, find inner piece
give up soda or sugar forever date people who are better for me / better relationships with family and friends, go to the gym every single day,
Just to name a few.

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2020

New Years Reflections From Therapists

New Years Reflections From Therapists
Written by The Olive Branch Therapy Group Therapists

As therapists, we reflect on life often. This New Year, we asked our team, “What did you learn in 2019, that you will be bringing into 2020?”

In 2019 I continued my efforts of working on better understanding my relationships with family members and being more of a self with others in my life. Through this journey of awareness of my own emotional process I am able to be more present with neutrality and authenticity for my clients as I move into 2020.- Suzanne Devoti

To be honest with myself in order to honestly communicate with family, friends and professional relationships to advocate for my needs and also allow for my healthy relationships to flourish. Secondly, I’m also going to continue to push myself to learn how to listen better to all those around me so I can continue to be a healthy family member, friend, and professional! Lastly-continue to bring in gratitude and enthusiasm to everything I do! – Faith Ulsh
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11 Self Care Tips for College Students on a Budget

11 Self Care Tips for College Students on a Budget

It goes without saying that college can be stressful. Test anxiety, full course loads, financial worries, relationships, and much more can overwhelm anyone. It’s no surprise that nearly 39% of college students report struggling with at least one mental illness. So what’s a college student to do to help mitigate all this stress and anxiety, without worrying about spending too much money?

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What is Perfectionism:

What is Perfectionism

It’s actually hurting you instead of helping you succeed & what you can do.

Perfectionism is the belief that if we do things perfectly we can avoid pain that comes from blame, judgment, and shame.

It’s about approval, not self-improvement, and it seems that there is never an end point or a sense of relief when we’re stuck in perfectionism.

Research shows that perfectionism, despite what we possibly feel hampers achievement, is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction and missed opportunities (Brené Brown).

We learn the habit of perfectionism through messages we receive from school, family, friends, social media, and society.

It can prevent us from being present and actually enjoying the hard work we’ve done. At times when we are really stuck in it, perfectionism is the little voice that tells you not to try because you’ll never be good enough and people will criticize you or you’ll embarrass yourself.

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