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5 Tips for a Successful Summer Break

5 Tips for a Successful Summer Break

With summer right around the corner, now is the time to set your family up for success when the school doors close. Planning ahead can reduce stress, align expectations, and make sure that everyone’s needs are met so that summer can be pleasurable for all involved.

Here are 5 tips for a successful summer break:

  1. Gain knowledge of expectations. Set up a family meeting to determine what everyone’s5 Tips for a Successful Summer Break expectations are. To plan ahead can alleviate stress and frustration, but it is essential to make sure that everyone is on board with the summer structure. Have each child identify individual wants and needs. If the child is scheduled for day camp and that is not something that they “want to do” have them also come up with alternative ideas that would make their summer fun (i.e. going to Six Flags, going to the beach, etc.). Also, if the child views day camp as non-preferred, the parent can then share positives about going to camp (i.e. getting to swim, play with friends, engage in sports) to challenge previous negative thinking and facilitate smoother, morning time transitions.
  2. Establish Routines. Arrange for everyone to come together to determine daily structure in the home so that there are no surprises. Calling a family meeting can be helpful to debunk the child’s “lax” expectations for summer vacation and reinstate a more appropriate daily system. If the child wishes to do art all day, or swim, or sleep, the parent can work to structure these unstructured activities to create routine and clear boundaries.
  3. Research activities as a family. Allow your child to collaborate on what activities sound like fun for the family to engage in. Asking for your child’s ideas about weekend plans can help them feel empowered and demonstrate the art of compromise.
  4. Get outside. Summer presents a great opportunity to maximize play-based skills and physical activity. Encourage your child to be outside at least an hour a day to boost their mood, release energy, and provide alternative means for parent-child bonding.
  5. Maintain academic skills. Although summer is a fun time to engage in a plethora of recreational activities, it can also include some reality-based activities. When a child is out of school for several months, it is important that some academic tasks happen regularly to reduce risk for losing skills and to maintain gains. Identify a variety of subjects or tasks for the child to pick from and determine a set frequency of engaging in this activity (i.e. math workbook, reading, writing tasks, etc.).

FOR MORE SUMMER BLOGS, CHECK OUT OUR COMPLETE COLLECTION!

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!

How to Make School Breaks Easier on Your Child and Your Family

School breaks can be a fun and exciting time for children, but they may be chaotic, stressful and dysregulating for them as well. The messy houseschool day is full of structure and predictability. While some kids may enjoy the continuous free time that vacations offer, other children may thrive during the school year and may regress academically, behaviorally and in their overall daily functioning and independence.

Here are some suggestions to help your child stay happy and continue to feel great during vacations from school:

  • Create a Daily Schedule: Outline a basic daily schedule for your child to follow. This can include an early time for them to wake-up, any household responsibilities they may have and activities that are planned for that day (grocery store, mall, movie theater, etc). Depending upon the age of your child, you may want to include precise times for the day. Pictures of the basic plan may be sufficient. This provides a level of predictability
    and structure that your child is accustomed to during a typical school day.
  • Provide responsibilities: Assigning your child specific responsibilities will give them a tangible task to not only be responsible for, but something they can also be proud of as well. It will also be a way for them to feel successful. When children are in school, they often have a classroom “job” as well as being responsible for their individual belongings. This helps them to improve their confidence and feelings of success and pride throughout the day. These feelings can easily be transferred to the home environment by assigning household chores (cleaning or organizing) For older children, writing the grocery list and having them help at the market are acceptable responsibilities.
  • Physical activity: Participating in heavy physical activity is a great way to help your child get and remain regulated. The school day offers multiple opportunities for kids to get up and move their bodies (recess, gym class, etc.). It can be simple to incorporate physical activity into your child’s day:
    • Animal walks
    • Push a full laundry basket around the house (to make it more fun setup a race course to push the laundry basket through)
    • Jumping jacks
  • Provide assignments/projects: Kids are accustomed to sitting at a desk and completing assignments each day that they are in school. They are given the opportunity to learn new information and then show what they know through their work sheets, quizzes and projects. This is another great structured activity that can also improve self-esteem and confidence in your child. A simple way to get assignments or projects for your child is to ask their teacher for any worksheets or ideas of tasks that can be done at home (worksheets, flash cards, reading). You can also incorporate more hands-on activities such as cooking, easy at-home science experiments, etc. If your child’s teacher does not have anything to help you, you can search the Internet for age/grade-appropriate projects and assignments.
  • Projects (younger kids vs older kids) cooking, art, science

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“I Don’t Know How She Does It!”: How Do We Balance Our Careers With Our Family Life?

High-powered finance executive by day, devoted wife and mother of two by night. “I don’t know how she does it!” How does she balance her career path with her family life? The movie “I don’t know how she does it,” starring Sarah Jessica Parker, sets out to explore this age-old question. So how do you do it? How do you successfully balance your professional and balancing work and familypersonal life? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers, nor is there one answer that works for everyone.

Explore these questions to decide what fits for you and your life:

1. What are my priorities at this point in my life?

  •  Priorities change over time. Your priorities may change based on your age, the age of your children, where you are in your career, and your relationships with partners, friends, relatives, and co-workers.
  • Exploring with yourself what your current priorities are can help you formulate a plan. If your priority is time spent with your children, for example, what will that look like when you have a deadline to meet? If your priority is advancement in your career, what will that look like when your family decides to go on vacation? Exploring these difficult questions beforehand can help you brainstorm possible ways to act based on your priorities.
  • Periodically asking yourself about your priorities is a helpful way to remind yourself that it is normal and okay for priorities to shift and for your answers to career/family balance questions to also change.

2. What are my boundaries?

  • Many parents discuss the importance of boundaries when it comes to their professional and personal lives. Setting boundaries is one way to maintain guidelines.
  • Questions of career/family balance occur often. Your boss asks you to stay late, but your child has a math test the next day. Your children want to spend time with you, but you have a presentation to work on. Having pre-set boundaries can give you something to fall back on.
  • Asserting and communicating your boundaries to your workplace and family is important so that everyone is informed and on the same page about the way you want to balance your professional and personal life.

3. How can I cope when things do not go the way I had planned or hoped?

  • Exploring your priorities and setting boundaries will not set answers in stone for you. Sometimes you make difficult choices in a way that you had not planned. Sometimes you cannot keep your boundaries. This is normal and okay—juggling a career with a family is extremely complicated and challenging, and no one does exactly what they planned or hoped to do every time.
  • Accept yourself as a human being that may have to make choices that you did not anticipate. Explore with yourself what can help you cope when this time comes. Do you write in a journal? Talk to a friend or spouse? Exercise? Take some alone time? What is it that works for you to feel hopeful, at peace, and confident in yourself as an employee and parent? How can you let go of possible guilty, sad, anxious, or hopeless feelings?

4. How can I gain support?

  • Balancing your career and family life is a constant process and journey, and as employees and parents, reaching out for help and support is vital for your well-being.
  • When do you need support? Recognizing when you need help is important so that you receive the support you deserve. What helps you feel supported? Take some time to think about what makes you feel refreshed, energized, calm, and happy. With busy schedules of maintaining the career/family balance, some parents may say they do not have time to engage in self-care activities. Taking time (even if it is just 5 minutes) to feel supported, however, can help you feel more energized throughout the day.

Exploring these questions about career/family life balance can help you to begin thinking about how YOU would answer the question of “How do you do it?” No two parents are exactly alike, and answering this challenging question in a way that fits with your unique beliefs, background, needs, wants, family, and career is important, rather than finding the “right” answer.

So, parents: How do you do it? Sharing your stories with each other can create connection, spark new ideas to try, and help you to see that every person balances their careers and family life differently.

Here is a list of how some of our very own North Shore Pediatric Therapy staff maintain the career/family balance:

CEO, Married, Father of 5:

“First, you can bring your kids to work once in awhile and let them experience your work world. You can also talk about issues that are age-appropriate with your children so they learn what you do and what you deal with so they become interested, learn, and grow from your work experience. This can also help them to work harder at school with their peers. Another suggestion is to ask your children if they feel they have enough time with you, and if not, ask them how would they like things to change for the better. Scheduling in one-on-one time with your children is a good way to help them feel important. Be interested in their work and what they do in school. It is important that you’re not just talking about your work but letting them know their work is also important—acknowledge their stresses and responsibilities.”

President/Founder, Married, Mother of 5:

“First, don’t forget your children at school! Oh boy, I have five and a few times when I was treating kids at NSPT late I got calls to work from the kids ‘Hi mom, I’m in the office, you forgot to pick me up!’ The best thing is that the kids knew I was working hard and loved it and they knew when I wasn’t working I was 100% all for them. Turn off all screens and concentrate on them when you are “off” and they will always be “on” for you! Second, kids actually don’t want SO MUCH attention from you. So, when they come home from wherever they are, just turn 100% attention to them. Tell them they have 20 minutes of YOU YOU YOU. You will see that after about 3-5 minutes of talking to you or hugging or whatever they need, they have other business to tend to like playing, eating, talking on the phone, homework, friends, pets, and will continue on their merry way! Third, work somewhere where you are happy. Happy mom equals happy family!”

Family-Child Advocate, Married, Mother of 3:

“We just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary on the 11th and have 3 children. Our oldest son Bill just graduated from medical school in June, our daughter Caitlin was married in May and our youngest Matthew has moved back to complete college at UIC for pre-med. All three have had learning differences so in addition to always working full time we had to factor in therapy and tutoring etc. We found that good communication and ORGANIZATION were the keys to getting it all done. In our case it was not “I don’t know how she does it”, it was always “This is mandatory for success” so it took priority and a schedule. We have a large centralized calendar and we had family meetings once a month to go over the schedule and we gave responsibility to the kids when they were old enough! Another thing that is key to getting it all accomplished is a sense of humor! Things happen and the wheels fall off of the best laid plans, but it helps to laugh!”

Clinical Consultant, Married, Mother of 2:

Make sure you leave work at work. When you come home and see your children for the first time, pay attention to them. Assign a time every night to hear about their day, talk about what they did and just spend valuable time with them. Save your work stories for your spouse after the kids go to bed. If you work from home it is especially important that your children know how long you will be on the computer for or on a conference call for. You can say to them “Mommy will be doing work for 45 minutes, but after I am done you get to choose an activity for us to do together”. You can even set a timer so they have a visual of when you will be able to bring your attention back to them. Leave weekends to family time. We call every Sunday “Sunday Funday Family Day” in our house. The children know that on that day they have our undivided attention!”

Neuropsychologist, Married, Father of 2:

“When I get home, my wife and I focus on our kids…getting them fed, going through routines, preparing for school the next day, spending time together…until they go to bed. Then, my wife and I have time together, where we process our days. Any work that I have to do, I do when everyone is asleep. So my time is spent first on my kids, then my wife, and then me.”

Occupational Therapist, Married, Mother of 2 toddlers:

“First, I love my career and my family. That helps everything. Second, I decided that the concept of balance, as it relates to career and family life, is unrealistic for me. So I have gone with the concept of seasons or synergy instead. Some weeks I’m going to come in to work early, stay late, and work on the weekends, some weeks the opposite will be true. If I expect that of my career and communicate that ahead of time to my family I don’t feel I’m disappointing them or myself during he hard weeks. Finally, I really value and prioritize my relationship with my husband – we are the ones running our crazy show together, so we need to be happy together for the most part.”

Speech Language Pathologist/Branch Director, Married, Mother of 1:

“As a mom of a 12 month old boy, I think the balance is all about finding a schedule and sticking to it. If you know what works, make sure to keep a routine that is predictable for you and your child. However, you also need to be flexible and able to change, so your schedule shouldn’t be too rigid. Most importantly, laugh! Keep a good sense of humor and go with the flow, even if things don’t turn out as planned. So what if the dishes aren’t washed and the laundry isn’t folded. At least my son went to bed happy and I have some quiet time to catch up with my husband and work!”

We would love to hear what you do, post a comment and tell us how you manage to balance work and family!

Helping Your Child Plan and Organize Their Daily Lives

The start of school brings many changes with children’s daily lives. Children must be able to transition between subjects, organizing their work, sitting at home, and independently taking the initiative to do their homework and monitor their own productivity. These above behaviors all fall under the label of “executive functioning.”

homework with mom and daughterMany children are able to complete these tasks and behaviors independently; however, a large portion of children also struggle with one or more of the behaviors and tasks. As a result, many children benefit from strategies to help develop their organization, planning, problem solving, time management, and monitoring of their work.

Parents vs. Children on Homework Assignments

As a psychologist, I often have parents inform me about constant battles that they have with their children to complete daily homework assignments. Specifically, parents often report to me that their children will do anything but start their homework (surfing the internet, texting friends from their cell phones, or watching television/playing video games).

Two major executive functioning tasks are involved with the child’s ability to complete daily homework: Initiation of action and time management. Children who demonstrate issues with their ability to complete daily homework benefit from strategies and interventions that target their ability to start and complete their work in a timely fashion.

Tips to help children complete daily homework:

  • Developing a daily “Need to” (homework, chores) and “Want to” (baseball practice, dance lessons, video game time) list of tasks
  • Prioritizing the list with estimated time requirements for each task
  • Verbally and physically prompting your child before starting each task by (e.g., “John, what is the next thing we should do?” while tapping him on the shoulder)
  • Positively reinforcing all self-initiating tasks by giving praise when your child starts a project on his/her own

Dealing With Your Child’s Forgetfulness About Assignments

Another major area of concern I hear from parents is that although their children are able to actually complete the work, they struggle with their organizational skills and will either forget about the assignments or lose the work between home and school. As a result of the difficulties with organization, all children benefit from strategies to improve this area of functioning.

Strategies that have proven to be effective with the development of a child’s organization include:

  • Structuring and scheduling designated ‘study time’ as part of your child’s daily routine.
  • Completing homework in a central location away from distracters including television, computer, telephone, and other people who might be disruptive.
  • Creating time-lines for long-term projects, breaking tasks down into basic elements with separate due dates for each task.
  • Discussing homework expectations with their teacher to determine the recommended amount of study time.

With the start of school, we want to help children be as organized as possible and ready to complete daily homework in a timely fashion. Following the above strategies and developing some of your own will ensure that your child will be more organized and less stressed!

Transition Trouble | How Family Routines and Rituals Can Help

If your child experiences difficulty with transitions, changes or any activity requiring flexibility, you may be wondering what’s making it so hard.

Your child may be hypersensitive to changes in routines or unexpected events for a variety of reasons. Some possibilities include poor organization orplanning skills, sensory issues, developmental delays, inadequate coping mechanisms, maladjustment or an anxiety disorder. If your child also exhibits any of the following symptoms, it could be anxiety that is causing all the commotion:

Symptoms of Transition Caused Anxiety:

• Negative, rigid, perfectionistic or unrealistic thinking patterns

• Irritability, tantrums, anger or aggression

• Constant worry about what might happen

• Avoiding new or unfamiliar people, places or activities

• Excessive clinginess or withdrawal from activities and socialinteractions

• Interruption in sleeping or eating habits

• Psychosomatic complaints such as stomach aches, headaches and fatigue

All children and adults experience anxiety at a natural level, and it’s considered normal until it negatively impacts a child’s functioning at school, home or with friends. If your child is overly anxious for what is expected at their age, it is likely interfering with family life. Adding routine and structure into your home, wherever the opportunity lies, will surely help an anxious child be more successful across his environments. Read more

Goals Are Not Just For New Year’s Resolutions, They Are For Kids Too!

Graduating girlWe create New Year’s resolutions because we want to make a big change in ourselves—but how do we get there? It’s all about breaking down that resolution into smaller steps! Your child can do this, too, and you might want to consider starting off the New Year with this conversation…

What are the benefits of creating goals for pre-teens and teenagers?

• Your children have been learning their health habits and establishing their lifestyle all based upon their life with you. As long as they still live under your roof, you have opportunities to set them up with good living habits.

• What you teach them now about making plans and following through will be beneficial to the development of responsibility for the rest of their life.

• When your child takes the steps necessary to achieve her goals, she is acquiring skills that lead to greater independence.

• The satisfaction that comes from being able to achieve a goal is a tremendous boost to self-esteem and happiness.

Tips for setting & achieving goals:

• Let them decide what they would like to achieve, and help them gather the tools to get there.

• All big goals should be broken down into small objectives. Make the small objectives achievable so that your child can jumpstart his/her plan successfully. Read more

Creating a Bedtime Routine for Your Child

Do you find yourself struggling with your child when bedtime approaches? If so, here are some tips for establishing a reliable bedtime routine:

 

Family BedtimeEssentially, a child’s evening schedule needs to be simple yet flexible so that in the even of a disruption, the basic routine can still be preserved. You could try something like this:

 

6:00 pm Dinner: Rather than indulging in caffeinated and sugary foods, encourage meals high in complex carbohydrates with a small amount of protein. Fruits such as apples, pears and bananas are always a favorite, while whole grain crackers, bread, and dairy- or soy-based products also help to promote great sleep. Read more

Visual Calendars & Schedules: How They Benefit Your Child

Summertime brings about a more relaxed schedule that is filled with fun activities: camp, family vacations, trips to the water park. However, children with sensory processing difficulties or any anxiety tend to prefer a very predictable schedule and may feel uneasy during this time. When there is a change in routine or something new is thrown into the day, that element of predictability disappears, and the child can become anxious, upset and possibly act out as a result. He or she may not know what to expect and how to plan for new sensory experiences. After all, with each new activity comes a plethora of new sensory input such as sound, touch, movement, and sight. A visual calendar that identifies daily and weekly schedule changes can help children with sensory processing difficulties or children who have a hard time transitioning feel more comfortable with their summer routine.

Tips For Using A Visual Calendar Or Schedule With Your Child:

  • Use a calendar large enough to write down daily and weekly activities.
  • Review the calendar with your child daily so he knows what to expect for the day and for the weeks ahead. For example, “Today we will go to the beach. In 5 days, you will start camp.”
  • Cross off the days as they conclude and review what is on the schedule for the next day at bedtime, and again in the morning.
  • Be sure to include the first day of school on the calendar to indicate the end of summer.

For children with sensory processing concerns, thinking in the future can be very abstract and overwhelming. The visual calendar will be beneficial to make your child’s day to day and week to week schedule more concrete and help him or her be more organized.

Below is an example of a successful visual calendar:

Visual Calendar

Visual Calendar

Feel free to comment with how a visual calendar has helped your child!