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Separation Anxiety and Sleepovers

Distress around separating from a primary caregiver can be very common among children and a normal part of development. Children from 1-year-old to about 4-years-old are in the process ofBlog Separation Anxiety Main-Portrait gaining confidence to be independent. Because of this natural part of development, symptoms such as worry, tantrums and clinginess when separating can be common.

If as your child gets older the fear of leaving a parent or caregiver does not decrease that could be a sign that your child is experiencing separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can be defined as intense nervousness around leaving a primary caregiver. Obvious signs of separation anxiety vary from children verbally expressing resistance to go somewhere or displaying unhappiness through crying, fighting or physically holding on to a parent/caregiver. The not-so-obvious ways children can display anxiety around separation can look like silence in a child who is usually talkative, shutting down or physical symptoms like being sick.

There are a number of factors that can attribute to nervousness and hesitation around separating from parents or caregivers. Lack of familiarity in a new environment, break in routine, fear that something will happen when they are away from their family or an over-bearing and clingy parent. If a child feels that their parent does not want them to leave then they will be more likely to fear leaving as well.

As children enter middle school and high school, sleepovers become a more common occurrence among friends. This can be a fun activity for some children or a source of anxiety for others. A sleepover to a nervous child can mean sleeping in an unfamiliar environment, not being able to say goodnight to a familiar person and losing structure/routine often found around bedtime.

Recommendations for parents to help ease their children’s separation anxiety and embrace the pastime of a sleepover are:

  1. Acknowledge and identify the fears that your child’s experiencing. Figure out what are they most nervous about and what are their expectations for the sleepover?
  2. Support your child. Let them know you are proud of them for becoming more independent
  3. Plan a fun activity to do together the day following a sleepover. Planning an activity together reassures your child that though you are encouraging them to do something on their own you are still there to spend time with them
  4. Figure out if there is a parent or caregiver that your child separates more easily from, then try to have that person drop off your child

Children with a healthy attachment to their parent or caregiver are most likely to feel confident when leaving. As a parent, make sure you are promoting your child’s independence while also making sure to be available for your child when they need you.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140.

Social Work

Carole Mazius

Carole Mazius

Carole Mazius has her Master's of Social Work from Stony Brook University in New York. She specializes in working with children who struggle with behavioral disorders, learning disabilities and mental illness and their families. Carole's broad experience ranges from working abroad in Tel Aviv, Israel to Brooklyn, NY. In Israel Carole spent spent six months tutoring children in English, meeting the students' families and experiencing another culture first hand. Carole spent time in Brooklyn working at an alternative learning center with at risk youth, focusing on improving behavior and conflict resolution. Carole's strong interest in working with children stemmed from volunteer experience mentoring students combined with her strong interest in psychological development and the impact of environment on behavior.

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Managing Anxiety in the Classroom

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in our country, affecting millions of adults and children alike. Children with anxiety at school may be experiencing it for several different blog-anxiety-in-school-main-landscapereasons. A few common reasons children may be anxious at school revolve around separation from parents or caregivers, social anxiety or test anxiety. Sometimes, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the cause is, which is okay too. The important thing is that the symptoms are managed appropriately. Since kids spend the majority of their day in a classroom, it is paramount that teachers and other staff are trained to recognize, support and advocate for anxious students.

Identifying anxiety early on is a very important step as it can help mitigate larger problems later on in adolescence and adulthood.

Let’s start by discussing some common signs and symptoms that we may see in an anxious child. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Refusal or reluctance to attend school
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Negative self-statements
  • Perfectionist tendencies
  • Withdrawing from other children
  • Lack of participation
  • Tearfulness
  • Excessive worrying
  • Frequent trips to the nurse
  • A decline in academic performance

Over the years, our education system has made tremendous progress in identifying and helping children struggling with anxiety. One of the most common are accommodations under a 504 Plan. An example of an accommodation used in a 504 Plan would be adjusting the child’s seating arrangement (often referred to as “preferential seating”). An anxious child may feel more comfortable sitting closer to the teacher, or further away from a highly-energetic or rambunctious child. Another accommodation is extra time on tests (often referred to as “time and a half”), since test-taking can be a common trigger for anxiety. If you feel a 504 Plan might be helpful and appropriate for your child, it would be a good idea to plan a parent-teacher conference to discuss your options.

Close communication and collaboration between teachers and parents is a great way to ensure that your child is getting his or her needs met in the classroom. Sometimes, anxious kids just need a little extra encouragement and reassurance. Positive reinforcement is an excellent tool used for pointing out a child’s successes and efforts, and rewarding them for it. Many schools have a social worker or counselor on staff as well. Social workers and counselors are specifically trained to help children struggling with anxiety and other social-emotional issues. One-on one or small group sessions can be extremely beneficial in helping manage anxiety at school. Incorporating social work minutes into your child’s schedule is a great way to provide your child with extra support during the day.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Social Work

Rachel Warsaw

Rachel Warsaw

Rachel Warsaw is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with a strong passion for working with children and families. She earned a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Human Development and Family Studies, and a Master of Arts degree from Loyola University in Social Work. Rachel spent two years working in Early Intervention, serving children between the ages of birth through three years old with developmental delays. She also worked in Child Welfare doing in-home counseling and case management for families referred by the Department of Children and Family Services. Rachel has an Illinois Educator’s License with School Social Work Endorsement (Type 73), and was the School Social Work Intern at Deerfield High School during the 2011-2012 school year. Rachel is also proficient in the Spanish language.

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Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation Skills for My Child

Children aren’t born with executive functioning or self-regulation skills, rather their brain has the capacity to develop them. As a result, these skills that support a child’s capacity to learn, grow and develop can be inhibited by a number of factors including stress, environment, relationships, or delays. They can blossom and develop more fully with support from adults and the environment around them. Some children require more focused support to better develop executive functioning and self-regulation skills. Support can be through Early Education Opportunities and/or more formal intervention and support like Occupational Therapy, Behavior Therapy or Mental Health Services. blog-executive-functioning-main-landscape

How to Identify on Track Development for Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation Skills

Positive Engagement in School

  • Your child has a positive experience at school, cooperates with expectations and meets expectations most days.
  • Your child completes their work in a timely manner and typically understands the material.
  • Your child’s school work is typically organized and can be located easily.
  • For younger children, they attend school most days without difficulty. They can share what happens at school each day and can tolerate when things change.

Pro-social Skills

  • Your child can get along with others, can initiate interaction and negotiate play appropriately.
  • Your child typically understands and follows routine expectations and rules.
  • Your child typically responds to redirection without difficulty.
  • Your child can communicate his needs, wants, or wishes appropriately and effectively.
  • Your child can take responsibility for their actions and can understand the consequences.
  • For younger children, they engage in turn-taking, sharing, and show emerging empathy for others if they get hurt or sick.

Healthy and Safe Choices

  • Your child makes safe choices when interacting with others across settings (home, school, and in the community).
  • Your child can recognize and understand the importance of rules and safety.
  • Your child can make healthy choices for themselves (balanced eating, exercising or participating in activities that make them feel good).
  • Your child can access and utilize help when needed.
  • For younger children, they can talk about the rules at home and school. They can cooperate with important routines like sleeping, eating and toileting.

Communication and Coping Skills

  • Your child can express their needs, wants, and feelings verbally and effectively.
  • Your child can typically communicate or express their frustration or anger in a safe, appropriate manner.
  • Your child can accept support or help from others.
  • Your child can advocate for themselves appropriately.
  • For younger children they can ask for help, ask for their needs with words or gestures, and can calm down with adult support.

How to Promote Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation skills

  • Provide a visual guide for routine and rules at home.
  • Make expectations clear and concise; talk about what happened if expectations are not being met.
  • Provide 1 or 2 step directions when giving instructions.
  • Spend time together for multi-step activities like art, a puzzle or baking activity; talk about the steps needed.
  • Encourage and praise hard work and persistence especially when trying something new or challenging.
  • Use first/then statements i.e. First we put the toys away, then we can have snack.”
  • Take time for calm and quiet activities together i.e. reading, taking a walk and coloring.
  • Model how to calm down or take deep breaths when upset.
  • Model healthy living and safe choices.
  • Develop Family Rituals that provide time to reflect and share about thoughts, feelings, and experiences (i.e. Highs and lows from the day over dinner, 3 best parts of the day on the drive home, marking off days on a calendar to look forward to a family outing).
  • Talk and share about feelings. Be willing to share your own.

Resources:

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/executive-function/ 

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Social Work

Meghan Greeley

Throughout my education and career, I have sought opportunities to support the healthy growth and development of children and families. My education in and early experience involved developing a rich understanding of the important developmental milestones of children and helping them to meet those goals. I have had wonderful opportunities to work with children at the University of Illinois Child Development Lab, Chicago Children’s Museum, and as a child development and social work intern providing individual therapy and group support to 3 to 5 year old participants suffering from homelessness, poverty, and emotional and behavioral disorders. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I have continued to seek opportunities to support children and families by providing outpatient therapy to children 3 to 18 years of age. First, as a milieu therapist, providing stability, structure and routine in a group setting, then as a trauma therapist at La Rabida Children’s Hospital Chicago Child Trauma Center. I value play, learning, and developing relationships with children and families. Those values and interests lead me to develop a group work guide for 3 to 12 year olds, develop and implement a successful positive behavior management system designed to promote positive social behaviors and self-esteem in groups, and seek on-going training in work with children and families including: Attachment, Regulation, and Competency Learning Collaborative and Child Parent Psychotherapy Learning Collaborative.

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Teaching Children Mindfulness

By now, there’s a good chance that you have heard of mindfulness. It seems to be everywhere these days, but what exactly is it? Mindfulness is a meditation practice that begins with paying blog-mindfulness-main-landscapeattention to breathing to focus on the here and now. It means being aware of your present moment (thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations) without judgments and without trying to change it.

Why Teach Mindfulness?

In today’s world with TV, video games, computers and busy schedules it can be hard to focus on the here and now, however, the benefits of being able to be mindful are vast. Recent scientific research has shown the positive effects it can have on positive well- being and mental health. It has been shown to improve attention, reduce stress, and increase the ability to regulate emotions and feel compassion and empathy.

3 Benefits of Being Mindful for Children:

  1. Being mindful can give you more choices and more control over behaviors. Being fully aware is important if a child is overly emotional or impulsive. It allows them the opportunity to slow down and catch themselves before they do something they might regret later.
  2. Being mindful can increase compassion and empathy for oneself and others. When kids learn to be aware while being nonjudgmental, they can turn the criticisms into observable facts.
  3. Being mindful can help with focus and make kids more productive. When kids stay focused, they can stay engaged better in activities and school work.

How to Teach Mindfulness at Home:

An excellent way to teach mindfulness at home is to model and participate in mindfulness as a parent. Setting routines to take a few moments, close your eyes, notice your breath, thoughts, emotions, physical sensations without judgment can make a great impact on the whole family. Parents can encourage their kids to take a few moments during homework time, stressful times or just any transition time to practice being mindful. Being mindful can be fun too!

Try the following exercises with your child:

  1. The seeing game can be asking your child to take a minute to notice things around the room they haven’t noticed before. Did they notice anything new or different?
  2. Going on a nature walk can be turned into a mindfulness exercise encouraging your child to use their five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch) to be mindful of the world around them.
  3. The “tense and relax” exercise; in this exercise kids tense different muscles in their bodies for a few seconds and then release. This is a great way for kids to relax and be present.
  4. Breathing friends- Use a stuffed animal to help your child practice mindful breathing. Teach your child to take deep breaths and notice how their body feels as their chest and belly goes up and down. Then have the child teach the deep breathing to the stuffed animal to empower them.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18365029

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17940025

Rathus, J. H., & Miller, A. L. (n.d.). DBT skills manual for adolescents.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Social Work

Erilda Borici

Erilda Borici

Erilda Borici is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) with experience working with children, adolescents and their families. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee in Psychology and her Master of Arts degree from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology with a specialization in Children and Adolescents. Erilda has had the opportunity to practice in a variety of mental health settings. These experiences include facilitating an Adolescent Intensive Outpatient program at Chicago Lakeshore Hospital working with adolescents struggling with depression, anxiety, mood disorders and self-harm. In addition she has experience providing individual therapy, group therapy and family therapy to children, adolescents and families in outpatient settings. Erilda has a special interest in play therapy and working with adolescent girls struggling with self-esteem and identity issues.

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A Small Break from Therapy – What’s the Big Deal?

A major struggle in the therapist world is achieving consistent client attendance. Attendance consistency is needed to build relationships, identify challenging skill areas, make progression within areas of need, create a home program and make modifications to treatment based on the individual’s needs. Without consistency, it can be difficult to achieve long-term goals, and ultimately celebrate with course completion, or therapy graduation! blog-therapy-consistency-main-landscape

We all acknowledge that life happens and sometimes the regularly scheduled appointment time just does not work. Children deserve to have sick time, enjoy a day free of responsibility and schedule, or a chance to play outside on the first nice day. Additionally, summer and holidays are an exciting time to make memories and for the child to learn through experience (us therapists agree-cherish these moments!). When there is an occasional missed therapy day or a break is initiated, the time away can be harmful to their progress. Additionally, it can also be very difficult for the child and family to transition back into the routine of a weekly therapy session. Although it’s an exciting time for families, it’s important to remember how to maintain the progress that’s already been made in therapy.

Think about it this way- there are 7 days or 168 hours in a week. If you are scheduled for one appointment that is an hour long, the child has therapy for 1 out of 168 hours. When it is put into these terms this does not seem like a significant duration, does it? Now if the appointment is missed for just 1 week, then the child will receive therapy for 1 out of 336 hours. Therapy is just a small fraction of their life so their time in the clinic is critical for growth.

What can be done to increase progress and decrease our overall time attending therapy?

  • Increase your frequency to the therapist’s recommendation
  • Be consistent and on time!
  • Make a commitment to your home program and request for updated materials as needed!
  • Reschedule days that are missed (sometimes it may need to be on another therapist’s schedules- this is okay).
  • See if there is an appointment time that better meets yours and your family’s needs
  • Plan ahead and add in extra session if you know of an upcoming vacation

**Please keep in mind cancellations should be done at least 24 to 48 hours in advance, so other families also have the chance to reschedule.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Shelly Sears

Shelly Sears

Graduated from Western Michigan University with both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Shelly has a master’s of science in occupational therapy with a concentration in pediatrics. While in school Shelly had an opportunity to work closely with children who have a variety of functional challenges particularly those with autism, trauma backgrounds, and diverse physical limitations. She also had the opportunity to work as a pediatric home therapist and clinical instructor at a sensory motor facility for several years while in school. Shelly begun working at North Shore Pediatric Therapy at the Glenview location in 2014. More recently she has been certified in Therapeutic Listening through Vital Links to further assist children’s sensory development. As a clinician, Shelly is dedicated to individualize treatment with a concentration on parent education for a holistic experience and optimal care.

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Bullying Warning Signs

Bullying is an ongoing concern for parents, care givers and teachers. How to tell if your child is being bullied can be difficult, as bullying can take on many forms. The act is a deliberate imbalanceblog-bullying-warning-signs-main-landscape of power; and can be physical, emotional, sexual or verbal.

Having a working knowledge of warning signs is essential for supportive parenting. If your child has some of the warning signs below, it is not a guarantee that they are being bullied. Open and honest dialogue with your children will provide more insight into the potential causes of some warning signs.

Below are a variety of warning signs that could signify your child is the victim of bullying:

  • Noticing your child has damaged belongings; this can span from clothing, to book bags, to text books, etc.
  • Unexplained physical injuries like bruises or cuts
  • Tendency to isolate from friends and peers
  • An increase in anxiety or fear related to attending school and often will explore opportunities to miss school (i.e. Excuses, faking sick, etc.)
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns; suffers from frequent nightmares, poor appetite
  • Appears sad, upset or angry when returning from school
  • Decrease in academic achievement
  • Health concerns; most often frequent stomach aches, headaches, etc.

Beginning a discussion with our children about bullying can be challenging, as many kids tend to shy away from disclosing this information. The most essential component is that as a parent you remain calm and supportive, not reactive to what your child discloses.

There are several questions below to guide a conversation related to bullying:

  • There has been a lot of bullying in the news lately. How does your school handle bullying? Tell me about a time you saw someone being bullied, or experienced it yourself. How did you handle it?
  • I’m worried about [insert behavior/symptom/action]. I’m wondering if you could tell me more about what is going on?
  • Tell me about your friends this year. Who are you spending time with, and what do you like about them?
  • Who do you spend time with at lunch and recess? Tell me about your bus rides home. With whom do you sit?
  • Are there any kids at school who you really don’t like? Why don’t you like them? Do they ever pick on you or leave you out of things?

If your child discloses that they are being bullied, it is essential that you remain calm. Overreaction can result in regret of disclosure or a tendency to limit discussing such content in the future. As a parent, the strongest role you can take if your child is being bullied is to provide support and care, validate to your child that this is not their fault and that you are here to love and support them.

At times, children can be very hesitant about disclosing bullying due to fear of retaliation. If you notice concerning symptoms, but your child denies, it is appropriate to reach out to your student’s teacher and express concern.

The following questions may provide greater insight into your child’s experience during the school day:

  • With whom does my child interact on a daily basis?
  • Tell me about my child’s peer interactions. Which are going well? Are there any you find concerning?
  • Have you noticed any behavioral changes within my child over the past [days, weeks, months]?
  • What is one thing my child does very well in school, and what is one concern you have for my child.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, beginning dialogue and providing a safe non-judgmental space is the first step in supporting your child. If you have greater concerns, or have information that your child is being bullied, it is important that this be addressed as soon as possible. Reach out to your school, principals, teachers, and notify them of your concerns. Provide your child with support and listen when needed, and if appropriate, provide the access to a licensed mental health provider for additional care.

References:

https://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signs/

http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/bullying_warning_signs.page

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Social Work

Colleen Manuel

Colleen Manuel

Colleen graduated with both a Master of Social Work from Loyola University Chicago, as well as a Master of Arts in Addiction Therapy from the Hazelden Graduate School for Addiction Studies. Colleen has studied Attachment and Object Relations Theory, Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Solution Focused Therapy. Prior to joining North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Colleen provided trauma informed and attachment therapy to adolescents at risk for gang affiliation on Chicago’s West Side; as well as provide mental health and substance abuse treatment specific to members of the LGBT population. Colleen is passionate about providing culturally sensitive and empathic treatment to any client she serves. With specialties in trauma, attachment, children, adolescents, and addiction; Colleen remains dedicated to serving families and children and underserved populations.

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Creative Conversation Starters: Get Your Child to Talk to You

Having regular conversations with your child can be beneficial in many ways. You get to learn more about each other and further develop your relationship with them. Additionally, you can helblog-conversation-starters-main-landscapep
their confidence, self-esteem and their social skills.

I understand it can be difficult to find time between your busy schedule and their busy schedules, so we have to get creative! Some ideas of times you can maximize to get conversations with your child can be during a car ride to and from their activities, in a waiting room, during dinner and before bedtime as a part of their routine!

Get the Conversation Going

When I say conversation, it doesn’t have to be dry. Get creative with topics that may be fun or interesting to your child!

Here are some ideas to use as conversation starters:

  • Check in with your child daily. Ask about their day, what was something interesting that happened to them, what did they like about their day or what is something that could have been better.
  • Play 20 questions by thinking of an object, animal or person and have the child ask 20 questions to find the answers by only asking yes or no questions. Take turns!
  • Telling a story! If you or your child can’t think of one, you can go in a circle and say a word each to tell a silly story.
  • Take turns telling jokes.
  • Play would you rather with your kid. Ask age appropriate questions like would you rather not be able to go outside all day or not be able to go inside all day? Would you rather have a pool filled with chocolate chip cookies or Oreo cookies?
  • You can have a jar of questions at the dining room table. Place previously written questions in a jar and take turns going around the table answering them. The questions can be general like what is your favorite food, sport, vacation, music or movie? You can purchase one already made.
    • You can also incorporate specific questions if you are wanting to work on a particular area such as self-esteem. Then you can add questions such as: what do you like best about how you look? What do your friends say they like about you? What do you do that gives you confidence?
  • Play games that allow for open conversation. There are many out there including Chat Pack, Scruples, or Thumball are a few favorite.

Remember

Remember the point is to get the conversation going and have fun with your child! This helps further develop your relationship with them, because you are creating opportunities for them to share, problem solve and to know they can discuss anything with you. You are modeling appropriate behaviors, social skills and self-esteem. Who better to teach them this than you! Remember to really listen and respond in cool/calm way, there is no judging their response if they are being silly or answering sincerely. If you want to mold their response because you feel they could have done better you can ask: “What is another way you can answer that?” or “How would that feel if that was you?”

Resources:

http://idealistmom.com/raise-kind-kids/

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Social Work

Bianca Gonzalez

Bianca Gonzalez

Bianca Gonzalez is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) who earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago and who graduated with honors from her Masters in Arts program at Argosy University in Chicago in Community Counseling. Bianca has completed over 400 hours of clinical patient counseling during her student internship and provided individual therapy for adults and child outpatient clients. She has over 6 years of experience providing individual and family therapy for adults and children outpatient clients. Bianca has additional experience providing offsite counseling services for children and their families in the home and school setting. Bianca collaborates in IEP and 504 plan meetings. She is passionate about providing best practice outcomes across all domains to help children blossom.

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Kindergarten Firsts: Fire Drills, Lock Down Drills and Tornado Drills

It’s that time of year: backpacks are filled with new crayons and pencils, new shoes and outfits have been selected and are ready to go. Along with back to school clothes and medical check-ups, Blog-Kindergarten-Firsts-Main-Landscapethere is another important detail to remember to address with your kindergartner, talking about fire drills, lock-down drills, and tornado drills.

For some children, the idea of fire trucks arriving at school is thrilling and having a break from their classroom to walk outside is a welcomed break. For other children, particularly children with sensitivity to loud noises or changes in routine, fire drills, lock-downs and tornado drills can trigger uncomfortable feelings and even panic. Unfortunately, safety drills are a part of life, but the good news is, there are steps you can take to help your child be prepared for them.

The first step in preparing your child for safety drills is to have a conversation, or several conversations, about them. Approach your child at a time of day when he/she is calm and broach the topic. You can introduce the topic by talking about how excited you are for your child to begin school, reminding him/her of the fun of meeting his/her teacher and seeing his classroom. Next, talk about a variety of things he/she will learn about, like animals, letters and numbers. Then, mention that you want to tell him/her about something that teachers and students learn about and practice so that they are prepared in all situations. Explain that drills are routines that teach them steps to do to keep them safe in case of a fire at school or an unsafe person, or unsafe weather.

You will want to keep the language you use very simple and non-threatening. Emphasize that schools are very safe places and that these routines are practiced because “practice makes perfect;” and that practicing the drills will help them remember the instructions that will keep them safe and keep them calm. If your child has sensitivity to loud noises or changes in routine, you will want to alert your child’s teacher before school begins.

Finally, remember to use calm and reassuring words as you discuss the drills, reinforcing the idea that teachers and staff are trained and that schools are strong and sturdy. If you feel your child may need additional support or reassurance, notify your school principal and your child’s teacher. Remember that North Shore Pediatric Therapy’s services provide counseling and can address persistent worries or other concerns.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Social Work

Mary Seal

Mary Seal

Mary Seal, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Loyola University Chicago and her Master’s Degree at Jane Addams College of Social Work at UIC. Mary specialized in child and family services. Mary completed her School Social Work certification at Aurora University. Mary has worked with children in early childhood through eighth grades, teaching self- regulation, appropriate social interaction, and problem solving skills. Mary has worked with students, parents, teachers to facilitate communication and improve student functioning both inside the classroom and outside. Mary has worked with children who struggle with physical, emotional, communication, and cognitive challenges, as well as children on the Autism spectrum. Mary enjoys collaborating with other professionals and likes to “think outside the box.” Most recently Mary has worked with terminally ill patients and their families providing counseling, emotional support, and resource referrals.

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September is Suicide Awareness Month

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for kids, ages 15-24, and continues to be a developing concern. With roughly 1,700 adolescents annually completing suicide attempts, there has been a significant push towards increasing awareness, prevention, and support resources for students, parents, teachers and care givers. blog-suicide-awareness-main-landscape

The following outlines some warning signs as well as steps that can be taken to prevent adolescent suicide. It needs to be said that not all children who present with some of the warning signs below are suicidal, it is important that you communicate with your children and assess their individual situations and needs.

Warning Signs of Suicide

  • Talking about death and dying – Discussing death can be a normative part of a child’s development, but a sudden increase or fixation of death and dying could be a warning factor
  • No future planning – As children, and adults, we plan for our futures and often discuss them with others. Individuals struggling with suicidal ideation often feel no hope for their future, and cannot express thoughts, hopes, or wishes that things could change or get better.
  • Recent loss – It is always important to support our children when they have experienced a recent loss; attuning to our child’s grieving process is an important component of supporting them.
  • Changes in sleep or eating habits – Any drastic or sudden changes to sleeping or eating habits that cannot be explained by another medical/social condition should be monitored.
  • Changes in behavior – Unexpected changes in performance at school, home, work, or with peers; often noted as “difficulty focusing.”
  • Changes in mood – Presenting as down, depressed, withdrawn, reclusive, angry or lonely can be warning signs. Some individuals also become elated or very happy prior to an attempt; emotional presentation that may be inappropriate given circumstances

Things You Can Do

Develop a positive relationship with your kids: Talk to your kids on a consistent basis about their day-to-day life; encourage appropriate expressions of emotions; provide a safe and stable home environment; spend quality time; listen without judgment.

Provide a Safe Environment: Do not keep firearms or other potentially lethal means in your home, or if necessary, keep them securely locked away without access.

Take threats seriously: Regardless if you believe this to be “real” or not, the youth is trying to express a need and reach out for support.

Provide resources and support:  For kids struggling with mental health concerns, provide access to care and support. Have access within your home to crisis hotline numbers, or emergency contacts your kids can reach out to for support.

Resources:

Suicide Prevention Toolkit: http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA12-4669/SMA12-4669.pdf

You Matter Campaign: http://www.youmatter.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

References:

Berman, A., Jobes, D., & Silverman, M., (2006) Adolescent suicide: Assessment and intervention (2nd ed.) Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 456 pp.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or 1-800-273-TALK

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (847) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Social Work

Colleen Manuel

Colleen Manuel

Colleen graduated with both a Master of Social Work from Loyola University Chicago, as well as a Master of Arts in Addiction Therapy from the Hazelden Graduate School for Addiction Studies. Colleen has studied Attachment and Object Relations Theory, Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Solution Focused Therapy. Prior to joining North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Colleen provided trauma informed and attachment therapy to adolescents at risk for gang affiliation on Chicago’s West Side; as well as provide mental health and substance abuse treatment specific to members of the LGBT population. Colleen is passionate about providing culturally sensitive and empathic treatment to any client she serves. With specialties in trauma, attachment, children, adolescents, and addiction; Colleen remains dedicated to serving families and children and underserved populations.

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10 Tips for a Positive, Fun and Confident Transition Back to School

The next few weeks are full of big and exciting changes! Back-to-school time can be full of fun and excitement, but also can bring up worries and nervous feelings. It is normal for children to Blog-School-10Tips-Main-Landscapeexperience sadness, worry or feel unsure as they embark on new classrooms, new friends, and new experiences. With support and help to manage their emotions, young children can be successful and experience delight and fun in their new adventures.

Teachers work hard to provide children with the support and encouragement for a smooth and positive back to school transition and help to build comfort and confidence at school.

Parents and families can continue the support and encouragement at home to help their child feel successful and happy as they head back to school with the following 10 tips:

  1. Talk through the steps of a new situation so children can know what to expect and can feel prepared. It also allows you to see how they might be feeling about it. Children don’t need to repeat it or have a long conversation about it, just the basics on what to expect can help.

Talk about, draw or write down the steps to a new experience (even if your child isn’t reading yet), visuals provide a concrete guide that children like to follow. It is helpful to talk during a calm moment the night before, during meal time, or earlier in the day. Provide the steps clearly and concisely and let them know what you expect.

Talk about specifics that are new like car line and drop off. Talk through the steps of car line. “First we will pull up in line with the other cars, we will wait our turn, I will let you know when it’s time and then a teacher will come to the car door to walk you into school. We will wave goodbye and you will walk safely and calmly into school.” Provide specific cues on what you would like to see from your child.

  1. Practice! Children love to move and be independent. Physically practicing a new task gives them the confidence to do it on their own when it’s time.

Take a walk up the stairs and let them show you their new classroom. Give the children the opportunity to be the leader and teach you all about the new classroom, materials or a new rule. Walk through the front door or observe older friends during car line together.

  1. Acknowledge their feelings and listen to their thoughts and worries. We often don’t experience just one emotion around new experiences and they are all normal and okay! Remember to acknowledge, not fix.

Let them know you understand: I know it can be sad to say goodbye to your teacher and friends.  Share a time you felt nervous at doing something new. Children love to hear about adult feelings and know that you have different feelings too!

  1. Be encouraging and show confidence that they will be okay! Children take their cues from adults so our ability to manage our emotions and stay calm and positive is important.

A calming hand on a shoulder, practicing three deep breaths together to be calm, noticing our own body and actively trying to relax, and being consistent with the drop-off will model calm, consistency and confidence for your child.

  1. Consider a routine or ritual that can support a positive drop off.

Listen or sing the same song daily or have a special goodbye high-five upon arrival. Allow these moments to help cue to children that it is time to say goodbye.

  1. Make a calendar together that shows what day school starts.

Children can mark off the days with X’s or stickers to feel prepared and know what to expect.

  1. Share a plan for after school or when you get home so that your child can predict the end of the day. Knowing that they will have special time with you will allow children to feel safe and secure, to explore, and work hard at school.

Have a special after school activity planned on the first day like walking to the park, eating a favorite meal together or getting in PJs right after school to relax and watch a movie.

  1. Take time for quiet time or special moments and extra hugs leading up to the new school year and as they adjust to their new routine and schedule.

Plan for a fun snack together outside or listen to calming music in the car ride home.

  1. Anticipate that there will be upsets and tiredness. Transitions are hard for everyone. Young children are working hard to regulate and focus to meet the expectations of their new classrooms and get to know the rules. This takes a lot of work and often results in upsets and tiredness at home. Be patient and flexible.

Just like we may want to come home and relax on the couch after a hard day, children may need a little more time, support, and understanding to manage expectations and emotions they are experiencing during big transitions. Offer help to complete a task rather than another verbal reminder. Allow extra time to get ready in the morning or to get ready for bed. Slowing down and supporting will allow for a positive, peaceful transition for all.

  1. Focus on familiar routines and consistency at home. Stick to a morning and bedtime routine as best as you can (even if you have been able to move away from it over the summer or as they got bigger). Routine and rituals provide children with a sense of stability and safety so they can go out and explore their world with confidence!

Bring back that favorite book and read it nightly or add in time where each family member shares a feeling or experience from their day over dinner or before bed.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Social Work

Meghan Greeley

Throughout my education and career, I have sought opportunities to support the healthy growth and development of children and families. My education in and early experience involved developing a rich understanding of the important developmental milestones of children and helping them to meet those goals. I have had wonderful opportunities to work with children at the University of Illinois Child Development Lab, Chicago Children’s Museum, and as a child development and social work intern providing individual therapy and group support to 3 to 5 year old participants suffering from homelessness, poverty, and emotional and behavioral disorders. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I have continued to seek opportunities to support children and families by providing outpatient therapy to children 3 to 18 years of age. First, as a milieu therapist, providing stability, structure and routine in a group setting, then as a trauma therapist at La Rabida Children’s Hospital Chicago Child Trauma Center. I value play, learning, and developing relationships with children and families. Those values and interests lead me to develop a group work guide for 3 to 12 year olds, develop and implement a successful positive behavior management system designed to promote positive social behaviors and self-esteem in groups, and seek on-going training in work with children and families including: Attachment, Regulation, and Competency Learning Collaborative and Child Parent Psychotherapy Learning Collaborative.

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