Helping The Anxious Child Using Exposure Therapy

Anxiety and worry serves a biological purpose. It helps protect us from potential danger by pumping our body with the chemicals and energy to fight or flight. However, sometimes children (and adults) experience anxiety over situations that pose no danger.BlogExposureTherapy-Main-Portrait

What’s a parent to do in this situation? When your child expresses discomfort or anxiety over something benign, like riding a bike or the neighbor’s friendly dog, a parent’s first inclination is to do anything to alleviate that anxiety. For example, a parent with a child who begins to develop worry over sleeping in their own bed might allow the child to sleep in their bed because it eliminates that uncomfortable, anxious feeling. This approach might help in the moment, but avoiding situations that provoke anxiety often further perpetuates that anxiety. This fact is the underlying theory for exposure and response prevention therapy, a treatment approach for anxiety that has been empirically validated through multiple research studies.

How Does Exposure Therapy Work?

Exposure therapy involves creating a hierarchy of situations around a specific fear with the most anxiety provoking situation at the top. In treatment, therapists can support your child in developing this hierarchy, learning coping strategies, and providing exposure to each trigger on the hierarchy starting from the bottom. While exposure therapy is typically a short term therapy for mild to moderate cases (8-12 sessions), the goal is to go slowly and at the child’s comfortable pace. You only move on to the next step on the hierarchy when the anxiety provoked by the previous step has faded.

What is the One Simple Step Parents Can Take to Help Their Anxious Child?

Help them face their fears and not avoid them. Talk to your child about how you want to help them feel comfortable in that situation and ask them to identify baby steps to slowly work towards that comfort. Exposure therapy should only be done under the care of an experienced clinician. If your child struggles with specific fears or obsessive-compulsive symptoms, seek a skilled therapist to guide you and your child in overcoming these symptoms and improving their daily functioning.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. 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 today!

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Teach Your Child to Pay it Forward

Teach Your Child to Pay It Forward

I get comments all the time like, “You are so mature for your age.” or “You have an old soul.” or “I can’t believe you’re a millennial!” Apparently someone in their 20s doing something kind or responsible comes as a big shock these days. It’s kind of sad. I’m living in a generation known as “Millennials,” but now the stereotype has grown to the point that we are also referred to as “The Entitlement Generation.” Children need to be taught about citizenship, community, and caring for others. Let’s work on bettering ourselves and our communities while teaching our children in the process.

Be the change you want to see in the World! – Mahatma Gandhi

Let’s show our kids how much good there is in the world, and how they can pay it forward. Random Acts of Kindness make the world a better place.

Ways to Teach Your Child to Pay it Forward:

  1. Lead by Example – Kids love “monkey see, monkey do” for a reason. They love to emulate thoseTeach Your Child To Pay It Forward that they look up to. Be the person you want your kids to respect. Show someone around you some kindness, and your kids will follow suit.
  2. Start Small – Let someone with a couple items in front of you in the checkout line, or hold a door for someone. Give someone a compliment or a nice note.
  3. Teach Empathy and Awareness – Watch a sad movie, read some books, or bring your kids to volunteer somewhere. Have a discussion afterwords about how thankful you are for the things you have and how life must be hard for the person or characters. When you go to the store or the mall, teach your kids to be aware of people around them. Something so simple can make a huge impact. Many people who act “entitled” may have just never learned to look at the world around them and see how their actions impact others.
  4. Help a Cause your Child Cares About – Is your little boy fascinated by firemen? Bake some cookies together and bring them to your local fire station. Your little one can meet his idols and may even get to slide down the firepole. Does your daughter want to be a doctor when she grows up? Look for a volunteer opportunity at a children’s hospital or your local pediatrician’s office. Does your child love GI Joe? Help him create a nice care package to send a random soldier. You can even find supplies at your local dollar store. – These are just a few examples, but there are so many possibilities. Keying  into your child’s interest will ensure he remembers it for a long time to come.
  5. Pass It Along – Encourage your child to go through his old toys to find things he doesn’t use anymore and donate them. Have a closet raiding “party” as a family and look for unused clothes or pantry item to donate.
  6. Make a Commitment – Work together as a family to come up with “pay it forward” ideas and goals. A good one might be that each family members agrees to find a way to pay it forward by the end of the week. At the end of the week everyone can share what they did, and how the experience made them feel.
  7. Keep a Balance – It’s good for your children to be happy when they help someone out, but make sure they learn the difference between doing something for someone else and doing it for themselves. If they want to do something for the praise they get afterward, then they haven’t really gotten the message. Paying it forward is about helping the other person. Doing this naturally feels good!

Pay it Forward has really become a movement in the last few years. I see stories every day about children asking for pet food donations to their local shelter instead of birthday presents, an endless line of people paying it forward in a Starbucks line, or people choosing to honor the memory of a loved one by holding a “Pay It Forward” day. It is so great to see these stories. They constantly inspire me to pay it forward myself, and hopefully this blog will help your family to do the same – to be the change!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. 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 today!

Books To Help Kids With Anxiety

Books To Help Your Child With Anxiety

There are so many books available today that talk about anxiety and children that it can be difficult to decipher which book will best meet your child’s needs as well as your needs as a parent. I often recommend the following books for children and their parents when I am treating child with severe anxiety.

Books About Anxiety For Parents:

Books About Anxiety For Children:

If your child continues to exhibit severe anxiety that is affecting his/her daily functioning at home and/or school I would recommend that you seek a consultation from a mental health therapist to further assess the severity of your child’s anxiety and to gain support for your family.

Anxiety Disorders

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. 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 today!

tantrums

This Is What Happens When You Give In To Tantrums

We’ve all been there.  You just have a few more things on your shopping list left to get when your child decides to have a huge tantrum right in the middle of the frozen foods aisle.  It can be a stressful and embarrassing situation for any parent.  In an attempt to quiet them down and get out of the store as quickly as possible, many parents offer their children candy or their phone to play with.  “Just this once!” they’ll say, promising they won’t give in next time.

While most parents will admit that this isn’t an ideal behavior management strategy, we can all understand that desperate times call for desperate measures.  Giving into a tantrum doesn’t hurt every once and a while, right?  Unfortunately, wrong.  “Every once and a while” is actually the perfect way to ensure that your child will continue that behavior again and again.   Behavioral psychologists call this a variable schedule of reinforcement.  This means that someone is reinforced, or rewarded, on an unpredictable schedule.  A perfect grown-up example of this is a slot machine.  Slot machines are so addicting because you never know when the machine is going to pay out.  It could be after 2 turns, or after 200!  Knowing that it happens rarely does not deter you from playing.  In fact, it keeps you going even after many unsuccessful tries!   When we variably reinforce a child’s behavior, we’re like their version of a slot machine.  They’ll think, “Mom doesn’t always give me candy when I scream, but I know it happens sometimes.  I better scream louder and louder until she does!”

Unfortunately, behaviors that have been variably reinforced can be the hardest to get rid of.  When we stop rewarding a child for the behavior, they will likely start behaving even worse in a desperate attempt to get what they want.  This is called an “extinction burst.” While it will past with time, it can be exhausting.  Here are some tips for getting through it:

  1. Offer an appropriate reward ahead of time. Instead of giving them candy or your phone toThis Is What Happens When You Give In To Tantrums stop a bad behavior, tell them they will only get that reward if they do not engage in the problem behavior.  If it’s going to be a long trip, offer little rewards for every chunk of time they go without misbehaving.  Make sure the behavior and reward is discussed BEFORE getting into the difficult situation or setting, and if you make a promise, follow through with it.
  1. Catch them being good! Many children tantrum in public because they are bored or want attention.  Offer a lot of praise and attention when they are being well behaved.  Make sure you tell them exactly what they are doing that you like!
  1. Make punishments immediate. If you feel that your child’s behavior merits punishment, make sure it is something that can be implemented immediately or very soon after the event.  If they normally get to watch a movie or play a game in the car, remove this privilege.  If they have already earned a fun activity in the store, take it away.  Waiting to give extra chores or take away something at home may be too far removed from the event to be meaningful, especially for younger children.
  1. Be confident in your parenting! For every judgmental glare you get in the grocery store while your child screams, there will be lots of sympathetic caregivers who are cheering you on.   Stay strong with the knowledge that not giving in means good behavior in the future!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. 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 today!

yoga for a better bedtime

Yoga For A Better Bedtime

Today’s guest blog by Erin Haddock, owner of Five Keys Yoga, explains how to have a better bedtime with your children using yoga.

During a busy school year, sleep routines become of utmost importance in keeping energy levels and mood balanced in both kids and adults.  Yoga is renowned for its ability to relax the body and the mind.  As a Yoga Therapist, I have seen many people start practicing yoga and improve their sleep.  As yoga is a tool that can benefit both kids and parents alike, it is important that parents practice these exercises with their child.  This builds a relaxing connection and gives the child a yogic role model.

Yoga Moves for a Better Bedtime:

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is a very popular recommendation, for good reason.  Deep, slow breaths trigger theYoga For A Better Bedtime relaxation response and slow our heart rate.  The mind is connected to the body through the breath, so deep breaths also keep the mind calm and content.  My favorite deep breathing exercise for kids is to have them imagine that there is a balloon inside their body.  When they breathe in, they fill the balloon and when they breathe out, the balloon empties.  After getting comfortable with this image, ask them to slowly fill the balloon in three smaller breaths.  Breath one fills the belly, breath two fills the chest, breath three fills the balloon all the way up, and then slowly let the air out of the balloon.  Repeat this breath at least two times, working up to ten or more repetitions.

Gentle Stretches

Stretching is a great way to release tension that has accumulated in the body over the day and prepare it for sleep.  Certain yoga poses energize the system and others relax it, so it is important to keep a before bed yoga practice slow, to allow the mind to unwind.  Forward bends are particularly helpful, as they stimulate the vagus nerve – a deep nerve that induces the relaxation response through activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.  A simple sequence I like to practice before bed includes:

  1. Reach to the stars: Start by standing with your child, relaxed but tall.  Reach your arms overhead so that your palms face inward, toward one another.  Start by reaching your right arm a little higher than the left, keeping both feet rooted to the floor.  Reach as high as you can for the stars, then relax your right arm, so that both arms are overhead, facing inward again.  Now reach your left arm high to try and touch a star, then relax.  Repeat this once more with each arm and then relax your arms down by your sides.  When your breathing has returned to normal, reach both arms up again.  Try to touch the stars with both arms at once and then reach your arms forward and down, to touch your toes.  It is a good idea to bend your knees slightly, especially if you feel any pain in your back.
  2. Gentle Twist: Sit on the floor with your legs crossed.  You can sit on a blanket or cushion if this is uncomfortable.  Sit up tall but relaxed and breathe in.  As you exhale, bring your left hand to your right knee and your right hand on the floor next to you, as you twist your belly and chest to the right, gently looking right or closing your eyes.  As you breathe in, instruct your child to imagine all the positive things that will happen tomorrow entering his or her body.  As you breathe out, imagine all the less than positive things that happened today leave her or his body.  Breathe like this a few times.  Inhale to bring your body back to center and then repeat on the other side.
  3. Child’s Pose: Child’s pose can be a very soothing pose, allowing us to draw our attention inward.  Kneeling, bring your toes together, as you sit your bum on your heels.  Lean forward and release your torso over your thighs, relaxing your head to the floor and arms down by the side of your body with your palms facing up.  If this feels claustrophobic, move your arms overhead, with your elbows on the floor.  Feel your breath as it moves your back and the sides of your body.
  4. Legs Up the Wall: This pose can be practiced in the sequence above or on its own.  Putting your legs up the wall is very relaxing and feels great!  Make sure that your bum is near enough to the wall, so you feel no strain in your back or legs.  Bending the knees slightly can further relax the body.  You may also try placing a folded blanket or small pillow under your bum and low-back or under your head and neck.  Try to make your body as comfortable as possible.  Focus on slow, deep breaths moving the belly.  Stay here for 30 seconds or longer.  Lie flat on the floor for a few breaths before standing up.

Click here to learn more about Five Keys Yoga.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. 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 today!

yoga and anxiety

Soothing Anxiety with Mindfulness and Yoga

Today’s guest blog by Erin Haddock, owner of Five Keys Yoga, explains how to help your child with anxiety using mindfulness tools.

Everyone knows the feeling – your heart pounds, your stomach flips, and you start getting sweaty.  No one enjoys the feelings of anxiety and it’s even harder to watch your child struggle with them.  But with the right perspective, experiencing anxiety can be an opportunity to meet and rise above a challenge.  Yoga and mindfulness are powerful stress relievers.  Here is a process I enjoy using during anxious moments.

Honor the Anxiety

Like all feelings, anxiety serves an important purpose.  It can alert us to when things are dangerous,Soothing Anxiety With Mindfulness And Yoga when we are pushing past our limits, or if something just doesn’t “feel right”.  Therefore, it’s important to honor your child’s feelings of anxiety as useful information and only then assist her in soothing its unpleasant effects.  Ask your child what she is anxious about and why she is anxious about it.  Get down to the root fear that your child is experiencing.  For example, if your child is nervous to go to school, perhaps she is worried about sitting alone at lunchtime.  She is anxious about sitting alone because she is afraid she won’t have friends. She is worried about not having friends because she is afraid she is unlikable.

Address the “unlikable” part.  Ask her if she really feels that is a true, intrinsic quality she possesses.  Then bolster her self-esteem with some examples of how she is likable: she had lots of friends last year or get along great with her cousins or the neighbor next door is always asking her to play.  Give her as many reasons to feel confident as possible.  Encourage her to think of her own examples.  Then, bring it all home.  What friend-making strategies have worked for her before?  How can she implement those strategies in this situation?

Finally, have your child either draw a picture or write (or both) about her root fear.  Ask her how she feels about her artwork.  Does it represent who she really is?  Next, have her draw or write about the opposite, positive quality and then reflect on it with her.  What would it look like to embody this quality?  How would it feel?  It is very powerful for parents to do this exercise thinking of their own fears, with their child.  This will help the child to realize that anxiety is a normal feeling that we all have to work through.  Post your child’s positive quality artwork where she will see it everyday, such as the bathroom mirror or next to her bed.  Teaching your child to be mindful through difficult emotions is one of the most empowering gifts you can give her.

Deep Breathing Techniques

Now that you have confronted and questioned the anxiety and its root fear, work on releasing the tension that has built up in the body.  Start with five deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth.  Now shift so that you are breathing in and out through only the nose.  See if you can lengthen the exhalation by a few seconds, without strain.  Continue for five to ten breaths.  Have your child imagine negative thoughts and the anxiety leaving her body as she exhales and calm feelings and positive thoughts filling her body as she inhales.

With older children, you can also introduce a technique called alternate nostril breathing.  Alternate nostril breathing may balance the “fight or flight” part of the brain with the “rest and digest” part.  It is also a very soothing practice.  To practice alternate nostril breathing, inhale and then gently plug the right nostril and breathe out the left.  Inhale through the left nostril.  Switch, so that the left nostril is plugged and the right is unplugged.  Exhale through the right nostril and then inhale.  Switch nostrils, exhaling through the left, and so on.  The pattern is exhale, inhale, switch.  This can be practiced for upwards of ten minutes, though just a minute or two of alternate nostril breathing can relax the body.  Make sure that throughout the practice, the breath is smooth and slow and your child is not straining.  If this is too difficult, return to the simple deep breathing, as above.

Click here to learn more about Five Keys Yoga.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. 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 today!

anger

Tips to Deal With Your Child’s Anger

Are you feeling frustrated by the grocery store meltdowns, refusal for compliance in basic tasks/demands, and the yelling and screaming that permeates the house? When I ask my clients if it is ok to be angry, more times than not they respond with “no.” In fact anger is the most readily available emotion we have as it functions like an umbrella that houses other emotions as well. It might be harder to access feelings such as resentment, jealousy, fear, or sadness without anger, and often times the response is filtered through anger. Since anger is a basic emotion we all experience, I strive to educate my clients that of course it is ok to be angry, BUT it is what we do with our anger that makes all the difference in the world. Read on for tips to help your child deal with anger.

Tips To Help Your Child Deal With Anger:

  1. Size matters. Not all “mads” are created equal and therefore, the reaction to feeling upsetHelp Your Child Handle Anger shouldn’t always look the same. Work with your child to evaluate the size and severity of problems to garner a better, more reasonable reaction. For instance, if the child was disappointed that there was no more chocolate ice cream left, encourage him to asses if this is a big, medium, or small problem. If it is small, there should not be an epic meltdown. Instead, help your child identify a small reaction such as asking for a different flavor of ice cream, identify the positives about alternative dessert options, and establish a different time to get his ice cream (tomorrow night, etc.).
  2. Use your words, not your body. The communication of anger through verbalization allows the child the chance to express their grievance and provide a forum for collaboration and resolution. If a child begins to emotionally dysregulate (i.e. temper tantrum) the problem cannot be solved as this is not seen as a productive medium. Encourage your child to de-escalate through deep breathing, counting, writing out his thoughts, and/or removal from the triggering environment to reduce behavioral reaction and facilitate the setting for calm communication. Give the child time to calm down before working through the issue.
  3. Check your own anger. If your child’s temper is escalating your own mood, take time away to cool off and recalibrate. Removal from the triggering situation will provide both the child and parent time to re-regulate and establish an effective solution to the problem.
  4. Validation is key. Regardless of the nature of the concern, validate the experience of anger but create boundaries about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior to communicate anger. Creating a de-escalation plan for child and parent can be helpful to reduce the duration and frequency of tantrums.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

Maternal Mental Health after the Loss of a Child

Today’s guest blog by Stacey Porter, founder of the Tangerine Owl Project, discusses maternal mental health after the loss of a child.

I have found these last three years to be particularly trying in terms of rebalancing my life.  Three yearsmaternal mental health ago I lost an infant daughter who was born at 25 weeks gestation due to preeclampsia. That was a profoundly impactful life altering experience, and it’s made me a different person. I learned to cope, gave myself permission to grieve, and began to shape that experience into a way that I can help others in my community who are suffering through the trauma of the NICU and/or child loss.  Since then, I have started to become very in tune with the amount of pain, devastation, confliction, perseverance and hope out there for these parents. I have witnessed and talked through the anxiety and depression that looms over these mothers like dark ash and exhaust from a fire that doesn’t allow one to take a breath.  I have seen how these losses can both defeat them and strengthen them all at the same time.  I can’t explain how that’s possible, but it happens. The thing is anxiety and depression aren’t just happening for those mothers who have experienced a trauma or loss, or even post-partum depression. Maternal mental health issues effect 1 in 8 mothers out there. That is a shockingly high number, yet these issues seem to fly under the radar so well. How is that possible? I can count right now, out of the number of women I know simply through my social network and family which would mean that at least a handful of them may be experiencing this (or have at some point) that I was/am completely unaware of.  How are we supposed to support the mothers who are struggling if we don’t even know they are struggling?

I have dealt with acute depression just out of college with all the transitions happening in my life, it was too much, too fast, and I was struggling to adapt to them all. This was situational for me and I was able to find my way out of if with the help of counseling and some short term meds, but that doesn’t stop me from wondering if It’ll come back again later. In fact, I’m actually pretty surprised that the loss of my daughter didn’t throw me into a well of despair. Don’t get me wrong, I grieved….hard….. but there is a difference between grief and depression.  I have long advocated for mothers to share their stories and their grief when they suffer loss, because knowing they aren’t alone in their feelings and that how they feel is absolutely OK, no matter what those feelings are. They are theirs and they are justified. It’s not surprising that this simple act works wonders in their processing of their emotions and figuring out how to work through them in rebuilding their lives. That holds true for mothers as well.  Much like trauma and loss, anxiety, depression and other disorders that effect mental health are not picky on whose life they descend and wreak havoc.

So why the stigma?  When can someone share that they are struggling more than normal and not get chastised or written off for it? Why is it not ok for a mother who seemingly has everything to struggle with getting out of bed in the morning?  Why does it take an extreme of a mother on the news who drowned her children to call attention to mental health?

Mothers struggle with these disorders. Every. Single. Day. So, why can she not open up to her friend and say, you know, this is a really terrible day and I am not quite sure if/how I will make it through..Maybe she can, and maybe she did. But are we listening?

Parenthood is hard. Motherhood is hard. It’s not because she doesn’t want to open up, but because she is afraid. She’s afraid of what other people will think, she’s afraid at how others will react, she’s afraid of who she is being compared to, she’s afraid that if she admits it then it will be real, and maybe she’s terrified that no one will be able to help her. It takes a lot of someone to admit they are dealing with these mental health issues, and there are too many things that play into the reasons behind these disorders, (social-emotional hard wiring, upbringing, life situation, etc.) but one thing seems clear:

When they exist, perhaps the most harmful thing for them is when their feelings aren’t acknowledged (by others or by their own logic). They may already be fighting with themselves thinking:

  • “I’m just overreacting or being dramatic”
  • “Others are much worse off than me, what do I have to be depressed/anxious/upset about?”
  • “Everything’s fine, I’ll be over in a day or two”, or “I just had a hard week”
  • “I’m just tired”
  • “I’m just feeling sorry for myself”

When others say these types things to them, it further invalidates their feelings so they are less likely to either realize that there truly is a problem or feel like their feelings are not appropriate. There is a fine line in determining what is actually going on in someone’s head and how to respond to any of these statements, that’s what the professionals are trained in and there for.  What WE can do, is be a human being.

In general, it seems that people have such low tolerance and patience they don’t see all the work that is needed to combat these feelings and move through life. Some do a very good job of hiding it and the smile masks all the chaos going on in their minds. For many it is a daily battle, and we need to be wiser, we need to be more patient, and we need to be open.  Many of us are not in the business to offer professional mental health counseling to the women in our lives that struggle, but all of us are certainly able to have a conversation with our friend, our sister, our co-worker, the mom to one of our kid’s friends, etc. Much like helping a bereaved parent, you don’t have to understand what they’re going through to be able to help them.

You don’t have to fix someone’s problem for them, you just have to be there to listen should she decide today is the day she opens up to someone the real answer to that question “how are you doing?”.  Sit with her on the floor as she cries. Let her talk about her fears, celebrate the small winnings of the day if you recognize it took a tremendous amount of effort to accomplish for her.  It may take more than a friend to help her through, but being there to listen will certainly go a long way.

For far too long, there has been an undeserved stigma associated with mental health, so if you are dealing with it please don’t keep it to yourself. 1 in 8 there is likely someone right alongside of you that is sharing a similar struggle. For those of us who are lucky enough not to be struggling with this, don’t halt the conversation if it starts, and pay a little extra attention.  Depression and anxiety are called “invisible” illnesses.  Are they invisible because they are hidden so well or are they invisible because we refuse to see them?

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

Helping a Child Cope With Death

Books to Help Children Cope with the Death of a Loved One

Books are powerful and serve a variety of purposes.  Reading books can provide individuals with entertainment, knowledge, and skills.  For children who are not yet able to read, books may represent special bonding time with a parent, caregiver, or older sibling.  You may not have realized it, but books provide a great resource for social-Book List: Help a Child Cope With The Death Of A Loved Oneemotional learning.  Examples include books about going to school for the first time, making friends, dealing with bullies, managing anger, and the list goes on.  Other children’s books are written about specific adversities such as divorce, death, or illness to name a few.  The focus of today’s blog is using books for helping children understand and process the experience of losing a loved one.  Below is a list of books that can be helpful in supporting children’s understanding of death, dying, and the grieving process.

Books to Help Children Cope with the Death of a Loved One:

  1. When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope With Grief by Marge Heegaard
  2. Remembering Crystal by Sebastian Loth
  3. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
  4. Everett Anderson’s Goodbye by Lucille Clifton
  5. The Saddest Time by Norma Simon
  6. Hold Me and I’ll Hold You by Jo Carson
  7. I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas
  8. The Purple Balloon by Chris Raschka
  9. Saying Goodbye To Grandma by J. R. Thomas
  10. A Taste of Blackberries by D. B. Smith

There have been many, many books written about the topic of grieving, death, and dying.  Some books are simple picture books that kids can read on their own.  In most cases, it is recommended to read the books with your children so that you, as the adult, can participate in the conversation that is sparked by the stories.  The grieving process is complex and does not look the same way for all children.  In general, when children are going through difficult times such as grieving the loss of a loved one, they will likely require more support than usual.  If you are concerned about your child’s grief reaction, or you yourself are struggling to support your little one through this experience, don’t hesitate to consult a professional.

Do you have other ideas about particular books or ways to use books to support children after experiencing a loss?  Please leave your comments below. 

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

impact of untreated mental illness

When Mental Illness Goes Untreated

Homelessness, incarceration, violence, suicide.  These terms bring dark and upsetting images to mind for most everyone.  You may be asking, what do these phenomena have in common?  The answer is that the chances of experiencing one or more of these adversities is increased when individuals with mental illness do not receive proper treatment.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines mental illness as “aThe Impact of Untreated Mental Illness condition that impacts a person’s thinking, feeling or mood may affect and his or her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis. Each person will have different experiences, even people with the same diagnosis.”

With so much variability, it seems nearly impossible to provide a truly comprehensive answer to the question: What happens when mental illness goes untreated?  However, in recent years there has been a growing amount of research studies analyzing the impact of mental health on both individuals as well as society as a whole.  The impact that mental illness can have on individuals changes throughout the lifespan.  Young children with separation anxiety, for example, likely experience significant challenges related to the transition from spending their days at home with Mom to spending their days at school.  This can take a toll on both the upset child as well as her or her parents.  An older child with depression, however, may struggle to stay focused in class, have difficulties forming and maintaining friendships, and even fall behind academically.

Although we, as mental health professionals, still have a great deal more to learn about mental illness and treatment, one fact we know to be true is that earlier detection and treatment leads to improved outcomes.  When untreated, mental health conditions can worsen and the impact on daily life (work, relationships, physical health) can grow significantly.  Often people with mental illness develop methods of coping that can have negative consequences.  The sooner individuals can gain understanding and learn to manage their mental health effectively, the smaller the impact that the mental illness will have on their lives.  After all, borrowing another quote from the NAMI website, “without mental health, we cannot be fully healthy.”     

Anxiety Disorders

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!