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Why your child could be suffering holiday stress

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The holidays can be an especially anxious time for anyone. If you’re noticing more tension than usual, your child may be experiencing similar feelings. Your child might seem a bit withdrawn or irritable, may sleep more than usual, or is exhibiting other signs of stress. Some stress is okay, but when these feelings start to overwhelm your child, it’s time to intervene.

Reasons for holiday stress and anxiety

 

fewer daylight hours and changes in routine

The ‘holiday blues’ are real, and have many underlying causes:

  • Fewer daylight hours. The decreased number of daylight hours can have a significant effect on mental health, including your child’s. Even in the Sunshine State, many begin to feel the effects of seasonal depression during these shorter winter days.
  • Changes in routine. When your child is off from school for winter break, the whole routine changes. Even if they don’t recognize it, your child could be affected when the familiar daily structure of school, bedtime, and mealtimes becomes less rigid.

Tips to help your child with holiday-related stress and anxiety

 

Even if your child isn’t showing any particular signs of holiday stress, these tips are great for fostering a healthy and strong family connection.

  1. Take care of yourself. Kids are attentive, and they pick up on family ‘vibes’ more than you might think. If you are in a bad mood, it can affect their mood as well. When you are stressed and anxious, it can increase their levels of anxiety as well and make them more irritable. Although the holidays can be a busy time, make sure you set aside time to take care of yourself and unwind. Your body and mind will thank you for it and so will your children. You can start by exploring these ideas for taking a break.
  2. Stay active. Staying active as a family can be difficult, but keeping up with physical activities is crucial for a happy family and healthy children – and parents! If your child plays a sport, winter break might be their off season, but that doesn’t mean that all physical activity should stop. Physical activities aren’t just limited to sports, either. Here are some ways to help your child and your family stay active:
    1. Start a dance party in your living room with a fun dance cardio routine
    2. Start a small garden and celebrate that we can do that in Florida in December!
    3. Do some family-friendly yoga
    4. Create a scavenger hunt
    5. Here’s a list of even more fun activities 
  3. Eat well. Eating well is another crucial part of living a healthy lifestyle, but it can be difficult and sometimes inconvenient for busy families. It’s also difficult during the holiday season when many want to simply indulge. Along with their holiday treats, make sure your children are getting the proper nutrition they need daily. Involve your children in menu planning, shopping, and cooking!
  4. Meditate. Meditation can be intimidating at first, but can be extremely beneficial to anyone experiencing high levels of stress and take time to relaxanxiety. A guided body scan meditation can be a great introduction to meditating because the purpose is to check in with yourself and your feelings. Try this body scan meditation as a way to relax for yourself, or for your family to unwind together.
  5. Foster open communication. Talk to your children about your holiday traditions and be open to their answers. If they don’t like a certain tradition, talk about ways to change it and make it more special for your family. If family dynamics have changed (such as a divorce, new partner, or a death in the family), talk about that too. Let your child know that it’s okay (and encouraged!) for them to come to you and to be open with their feelings.
  6. Give your child control. During winter break and without a set routine, life can feel a bit unsettling. Talk to your child about what they want the winter break routine to look like. Having a discussion with them about their new schedule will give them a sense of autonomy and ownership over their own lives.
  7. Manage gift expectations. Gift-giving comes with its own stress, both for you and your child. If you know your child wants something out of your price range, be honest with them ahead of time. If your child believes the gift will come from Santa, be ready to deal with those expectations as well.
  8. Get crafty. Being creative is a lot of fun and a great family bonding activity. Have your kids choose and help with a new recipe, make some cookies that they can decorate, or create some fun holiday decorations and gifts. The possibilities are endless and anything that gets the creative juices flowing is a great stress reliever.
  9. Enjoy holiday stories, movies, and music. Even though some favorite community and school events have been canceled due to the pandemic, there are still many wonderful events happening online and through the creative programming of libraries and museums. Enjoy!

Don’t let the holidays get you and your family down.

If you need help talking to your child about changing family dynamics or just want to learn more about parenting, browse our parenting workshops or call us to schedule an appointment.

Why Your Child Refuses to Do Homework (And How You Can Respond)

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Homework battles can turn into an exhausting nightly struggle that stresses both you and your child Addressing this family issue can be challenging, but good communication and early action can make a big impact.   

Get in the Right Mindsetparent stress

Before talking to your child about avoiding homework, take a step back. How are you feeling? Anxious? Angry? These emotions can affect how your child responds to you. Take a few deep breaths, stay calm and approach the topic with empathy.   

It’s important to be okay with your child failing a few assignments so they can learn that their choices have consequences. It shows them that failing is part of life, but it doesn’t make them a failure.   

Talk to Your Child 

You can make plenty of assumptions about why homework isn’t getting done, but your child is the only one who really knows the answer. Give them a chance to explain without the fear of your angry reaction or rapid judgment. Listen to their answer and work together to find a solution. Encourage your child to take ownership of their education.  

Why Your Child Could Be Avoiding Homework 

There are many reasons, major and minor, why a child might refuse to do schoolwork. Take the time to understand what could be affecting your child.  

  1. Academic Reasons

    Your child’s teacherare a valuable resource. Talk to them about how your child seems to be progressing with important concepts and skills. Work to understand details such as: 

    • Is your child struggling with a particular subjectunit, concept, or skill  
    • Is there an unreasonable homework load across all your child’s teachers? 
    • Is your child getting along with his or her classmates? 
    • How well is your child responding to his or her teachers? 
    • If your child struggles with a particular assignment format, would the teacher consider offering options for students to choose? (e.g. write a paragraph, draw a picturecreate a diorama)
  2. Behavioral Reasons

    Your child may be testing his or her limits. Make sure they understand what you expect as well as the consequences for not meeting those expectations. Be consistent with established boundaries and follow through with consequences. If they must complete homework before watching TV, stick to that. Your child needs a reliable, consistent structure surrounding homework routines.

  3. Family Pressures & Attitudes

    Look in the mirror. Think about how your attitudes might be influencing your child’s attitudes toward schoolwork. Are you contributing to the problem in any way? This might include nagging, hovering, or trying to do the work for the child rather than stepping back.  

  4. Health Reasons

    Your child could be struggling with health issues that make it harder to do homework. Sleep, physical activity, healthy eating, fresh air, and positive social relationships all influence success in school.  Issues with vision or hearing or physical issues such as wrist pain could deter your child from doing work, particularly if he or she is attending school onlineYou may also need to talk to your pediatrician about the possibility of a learning challenge such as dyslexia, processing deficits, or ADHD.  

How to Help Children Focus at Home create a routine

Some children don’t view home as a place to work, so the right routines and workspaces can help them settle and focusDon’t be discouraged if it takes a while for you and your child to find a structure that works. Ask for your child’s input and work together

Creating a new routine:
 

  1. Establish a schedule

    Plan an afterschool schedule with your child: for example, math homework 3 pm – 3:30 pm. English homework 3:30 – 3:45 pm, etc. Your child knows if he or she needs more time for one subject and less for another. Make sure your child understands which days the routine is in effect, especially as holidays come and go.

  2. Include breaks.

    Plan breaks in the schedule so your child can have a snack, play with a pet, or get some water. Ican be difficult to redirect attention away from devices, so avoid electronics such as TV, video games or phone time until homework is done for the day.

  3. Start homework together.

     Starting each homework assignment with your child can help them feel confident that they’re on the right track. If the homework topic is unfamiliar to youmake it a fun journey of figuring it out together. Even more empowering – get your child to teach you! 

  4. Change the homework location.

     Set up your child’s homework area in the kitchen, dining area or living room. You can keep an eye on their progress and be more available if help is needed. 

Encourage Your Child 

When you’ve found a routine that works for you and your childencourage your child with praise and occasional rewards 

Stickers aren’t just for little kids – tracking good habits can help to keep any child motivatedConsider offering rewards if your child collects a certain number of stickers. This could include a favorite meal or treat, picking the movie for family movie night, or hosting a sleepover with friends. 

Homework doesn’t need to be a daily battleground. Talk to your child. Listen with empathy. Create a plan and a new routine together. Once you find the system that works, your child and your family life will reap the rewards 

Online School: Making It Work for Your Child and Your Family

Girl in online school who may be struggling with mental health challenges from virtual classes

What we want back-to-school 2020 to look like: excited children, seeing friends and meeting teachers.

What back-to-school 2020 actually looks like for many Florida students: laptops, online platforms, and learning at home.

Whether online school is a temporary, permanent, or part-time experience this school year, it’s important to set up your children and the whole family for success right from the start.

If you’re having difficulty adjusting to a virtual school day, your children may be as well. Try these tips to help everyone settle into this ‘new normal’.

1. Build an online school routine.

Every family’s lifestyle, dynamics, and living situation is unique, and so is the routine that makes it all work, including remote schooling. As the school year begins, and as it progresses, hold regular family meetings, and ask your children for input. Creating and managing routines together will help them understand what’s expected, and also reinforces a sense of control and ownership.

Some online school options follow the school day period by period, while others allow students to work at their own pace. Be sure to understand the school’s expectations and those of the various teachers who work with your children. Communicate early regarding any issues concerning your children and the routine that works best for them.

As you work out your family’s daily and weekly routines, remember to block off specific times for your children to watch lessons, complete homework, and do assignments. Involve each child in determining the length of these timeStudent establishing routines for online school blocks. For example, one child may need more time for reading and less time for math, and the schedule you create together can reflect that.

Make sure you schedule plenty of breaks as well. Depending on the age of your child, take breaks for snacks, naps if needed, exercise and play, or just “doing nothing” to process and absorb what they’ve learned. Browse our Take a Break page for more ideas.

Remember, the plan works when not only your child but also you, the parent, follow it. Resist spontaneous ideas to alter the routine without good reason for doing so.

Routines and structure are helpful, even essential, but so is flexibility. Life happens. Children and teens have days when they’re tired or just feeling less than motivated – and, let’s face it, days that turn into complete meltdowns. It’s okay to adjust the routine, take the breaks they need, and if necessary, talk with teachers when it just isn’t working for you or your child.

2. Create your child’s remote learning workspace.

A designated workspace helps signal your child that it’s time to focus and to work. In deciding where your child can work most successfully, consider your home’s interior and exterior spaces, and the needs of working adults as well.

Think about supervision as well. Some children need more oversight, while others work well on their own. If you have an office in your home, consider making a space for your child to work alongside you. This may help to limit distractions from other family members and from phones, toys or other entertainment.

If your child’s workspace is part of a communal area, such as the kitchen, help family members understand the importance of staying as quiet and unobtrusive as possible during class time.

An inexpensive free-standing cardboard trifold poster, such as those used for school projects, is an easy, space-saving way to create some privacy, block out distractions, and serve as a bulletin board, all in one. Together with a kit of school items for each child, it creates a private workspace that is easily set up and put away at the end of each class day.

Try to make your child’s space both comfortable and as ergonomic as possible. If your child doesn’t work at a desk, consider getting them a comfortable chair cushion. No one wants to spend hours in a hard dining room table chair.

In a computer-based learning environment, physical problems can develop quickly. Look for ways to set up your child’s workspace with an eye to ergonomics. For example, when typing or using a mouse, your child’s shoulders should be relaxed, arms close to the body, wrists straight, and hands at or slightly below elbow level.

For further information: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/office-ergonomics/art-20046169

In addition, blue light glasses are helpful in reducing eye strain, and good headphones can both limit distractions and make it easier for your child to hear their teachers and classmates.

3. Become familiar with your online school platform.

Both you and your child should take time to get to know the online learning platform that your school uses. This may seem obvious, but in the chaos of getting used to a new routine, it can be easy to overlook. Take advantage of any training available. Make sure you review any parent-specific features, such as how to communicate with teachers and keep track of your child’s schedule, homework and project deadlines, and tests.

Even for computer-literate students and parents, every platform has its quirks, and taking time to understand it can avoid frustration later. Find out who to contact, should issues arise, and it might also help to pool your knowledge with that of other parents.

4. Understand that everyone needs to show extra patience and understanding.

Students and parents alike need extra patience for online school

It’s normal to feel increased stress during this time. Online school is still new for everyone involved in the learning process. It’s a time that calls for extra levels of stress management, patience with self and others, and regular communication with the school, teachers, and family members.

You are an advocate for your family and your child, but don’t forget to look after yourself as well. If you feel the stress building up, take a break. Take some deep breaths or go for a quick walk. Talk to your spouse or partner, or to a trusted friend. Hold family meetings to work out difficulties and adjust routines and expectations, if needed.

Professionals like our team at The Bougainvilla House are here to help. Explore our website resources or call us for support anytime. We are also continuing to offer our Wellness Wednesday webinars, with new videos every week. You can explore past topics and register for upcoming sessions on our Wellness Wednesday page.

5. Communicate with your child.

Your child knows what he or she needs. Check in regularly to see how they are doing. Cultivate a relationship that allows them to be open and honest, without fear of being reprimanded. Ask them how they’re feeling, and give them space to vent their frustrations.

If you’re not used to open communication with your child, try adding in a weekly check-in to your routine. Make it clear that their honest feelings are welcome during this time, and that you’re there to listen. This will go a long way toward helping your child feel supported.

6. Respect classroom relationships.

Online school offers you an unusual window into your child’s day-to-day classroom life. This can be useful and illuminating, but also requires restraint on your part. Respect the relationship that needs to exist between your child and his or her teacher, and between your child and other classmates. Before acting on anything you overhear, talk to your child, and resist the urge to intervene unless necessary. If ever there was a time to ‘pick your battles,’ this is it.

7. Work together.

This is a strange time, with few rules to guide parents, students, and educators. What may work for you may not work for your children or your spouse/partner. It’s okay to have disagreements and frustrations. Create opportunities to promote honest communication within your family. Listening, understanding, patience, a sense of humor, and an ongoing effort to work it out together will make all the difference as your family adjusts to the new normal.

 

Looking for even more resources? Browse our various Wellness Wednesday Workshops, which offer topics such as communicating with your child, dealing with family dynamics, the importance of role models and more.

How Is Social Media Effecting American Teenagers?

For many teenagers, social media is a fun and easy way to stay connected with friends. However, there are dangerous risks in every new profile created. And Child Psychologists are starting to take notice! While there is still much to be learned about the implications of social media, here are the facts…

  • Over 75% of teenagers in the U.S. are using social media. 
  • Over 50% of teenagers in the U.S. use social media on a daily basis. 
  • Over 25% of teenagers in the U.S. are considered “heavy social media users” 

Social Media Is Addicting 

According to scientists, American teenagers are becoming addicted to social media. Why? It’s all about the likes! A study at UCLA observed that likes, especially on personal images, send a positive signal to the reward region of the brain. The brain’s reward region is significantly more sensitive during adolescence, leaving teens vulnerable to the gravitating effects of social media and the risk it poses on their mental health. 

Behavioral Health Risks

At The Bougainvilla House Family Therapy Center, we work closely with our clients to identify and resolve sources of teen anxiety and depression. The 21st Century is a fast-paced and interesting time to grow up in! Phones now serve as mini-computers, social apps connect users with major influencers across the globe, and risky behavior is propagandized throughout every media outlet. 

Now, more than ever, teenagers are pressured to conform their bodies, minds, and habitats to follow mainstream status quo. Furthermore, expecting to capture every moment perfectly, creating virtually appealing posts and avoiding scrutiny from cyber-bullies. Bullying has long threatened the likelihood of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem amongst teens. And social media creates a new platform for bullies to lurk victims and attack users without confrontation. It’s difficult for anyone to handle! 

Working Together 

Social Media is affecting American teenagers in ways we haven’t even begun to measure. While we can’t do much to stop negative user activity, we can teach teenagers how to manage the anxiety they are feeling about their social media. The Bougainvilla House Family Therapy Center helps families to establish healthy routines together and dissolve risks of social media on adolescent behavioral health. 

If your teen is showing signs of socially induced anxiety or depression, please reach out to us. We’re always here to answer your questions. Fill out our online form or call now to schedule an appointment.

⦁ Over 75% of teenagers in the U.S. are using social media.
⦁ Over 50% of teenagers in the U.S. use social media on a daily basis.
⦁ Over 25% of teenagers in the U.S. are considered “heavy social media users”

What is a Community?

There are two popular definitions of the word community. The first is “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” This definition is how perhaps people from the outside might view people who come to a treatment facility. It is definitely true, on the surface, everyone is living there and they are there for the common purpose of beginning recovery from various types of mental health challenges and addiction.

However, at The Bougainvilla House, there is so much more to treatment than just people getting together in a shared space with a common characteristic. The sense of community is maybe not something that is visible on the surface. Rather, it is something that truly binds people together. When we choose recovery, we become more like the second definition, “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

More than Commonalities

It would be easy to come together with all that we have in common and just form groups of people in recovery. But recovery isn’t like having a barbecue or other social event. Recovery is where we dig into the depths of our souls. We find the very best and the very worst in ourselves, and everything in between. We suffer physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And we make life-changing transformations, too.

At The Bougainvilla House, we are never asked to do all of that alone. Amongst the people with which we have both differences and commonalities, we also find fellowship. We are all on this path together, even many of the employees, and so when one of us is suffering, we all suffer. When one of us has a breakthrough, we all rejoice. We cry together, laugh together, and help each other stand when maybe alone we didn’t feel like we could.

Although each of us has our own journey in recovery, it is impossible to do it all on our own. So we reach out to those around us who support us, and we support them. They are people with commonalities and differences, people with strengths and weaknesses, people who have good days and bad. They are just like us and yet different from us, but ultimately, we all share the same goal: to be well. It becomes a fellowship of freedom from our addictions and a family of warriors for life.

Building Relationships in Recovery

Friendships made in recovery are made stronger because of the incredible things we go through during the treatment and recovery process. Also because we are learning to be present, sometimes for the first time, we are able to learn about healthy relationships. We can ask for help, learn to trust, and we can reciprocate help, too. Despite the fact that we are all pretty raw, we can build a support system of friends that we can lean on and they can lean on us.

These friendships are different from some we may have had before because we are all healing together. We all share the same guidelines, we are learning together how to set healthy boundaries. We know better than to be distracted by romantic relationships because we are carefully rebuilding our lives and our hearts. Instead, the relationships we build while starting out in recovery are the kinds of friendships that will fortify us and help us to find our feet again. The kind of friends that we know we could call at any time, and we know they will be there for us.

The Community of Family

Within recovery, those who believe in us, stand by us, and lend us a hand when we think we can’t go on become closer than typical friends, they become like a family. They understand what we have been through, because they have been there, too. They understand where we are at, because they are right here with us, too. And we know they will be a part of our future because together, we are stronger. Not only do they reach out for us to lift us, but we can reach out and help them, too. 

The friends and family we have had prior to recovery may or may not understand us, it may not even be healthy to keep them in our lives. But the family that we make while in recovery will not let us get away with anything, will call us out when we need it, and love us for who we are, no matter what. And we can do the same for them. It is truly a gift in our lives to join this fellowship of wellness.

Do we feel alone and helpless?

At this time of the year, wouldn’t it be nice to become part of something bigger than ourselves? This is the perfect time to recover our lives and give ourselves a new kind of family,  the gift of community.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health challenges and/or addiction, don’t fight it alone.

Call Now: 954-764-7337

Do as I Say: A Message to Parents

parenting by example

We’ve all heard the expression, “Do as I say, and not as I do.” It means to follow the rules, follow what someone says, but don’t follow their actions. It means the person using the phrase is telling you to do something, but they, themselves, refuse to do it. Unfortunately, too many people are living by these words, but when it comes to parenting, this phrase can make or break the relationship we have with our kids.

We want our kids to be better than we are, to strive for more, and live a life of success, but when we follow this adage, we are forgetting what it means to be human. Kids, by nature, soak up their surroundings and internalize them. What they see is literally what they do because that’s exactly how humans learn, especially in their formative years. This means, as adults, it’s time to call our integrity into question, especially if we are doing the same for our kids. It’s time to ask ourselves if we are being the best role model possible, and if not, what can we do to get there?

How the ‘Do as I Say’ Method Backfires

There are two things that happen when we don’t act as role models, and they work together. First, whether we want to believe it or not, our children start picking up our behaviors because they live with us and see us every day. From day one, everything we do and say becomes an internalized narrative. Think about how kids learn to eat their food, speak, and play. We are the gatekeepers of knowledge, modeling all behaviors. But when kids grow older, the stakes grow larger.

For example, if you tell your kids not to get in a car with someone who’s been drinking, and you have a beer or two at dinner then drive your family home, you’re teaching your child it’s okay. If that doesn’t resonate, think about how you speak to your friends and even how you speak to your kids about others. If you are constantly name-calling, blaming, or refusing to take ownership of your behaviors, then how do you expect your kids to know any differently? You set the bar for kindness, compassion, and ownership because they have no other outlet to learn in the first 5-6 years of their lives. And the older they get, the more aware they become to who you are and what you are saying.

The next piece stems from respect. As parents, if we are constantly asking things of our kids, and we are doing the opposite, then we are providing mixed messages. Therefore, it’s easy for them to lose respect. You might say, “They are my child; they should respect me.” While that may be true if you’d tell your child to watch out for a specific behavior, yet you are exhibiting said behavior, your child is caught in a place where they aren’t sure what to think. And the more we act in ways we deem wrong, the more our child is going to pick up on it and see us in that light. For example, say you tell your child lying is wrong, but they watch you lie to your boss or your spouse. They may be young and naïve, but they can surely spot a liar. Now, since you’ve done it, they may feel it’s okay to lie occasionally, too.

This all boils down to integrity. Integrity means doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. If we aren’t doing the right thing when they are watching, they have no way to make the best decisions for themselves when we aren’t around.

How Can We Teach Our Kids to Have Integrity?

The easiest way to teach good behaviors is to lead by example. No one is asking you to be perfect, but the more we can model compassionate and morally sound behavior, the more likely our kids will pick up on those traits and behaviors, as well.

Think about it this way. Have you ever had a boss you simply didn’t respect? Think about the worst boss you’ve ever had and analyze those behaviors. Maybe they had an attitude, they didn’t follow through with their objectives, or simply did nothing to contribute. What did you gain from that environment? How did you feel when they didn’t follow through or simply did nothing in their position? Now, think about your kids. In a lot of ways, you are their boss for the first 18 years of their lives. You organize, you provide structure, and you give them the tools to succeed. How would they rate you as a boss? Are you following through? We can’t expect kids to follow a meaningless command and retain their respect. We wouldn’t want our kids to do the same with others in their lives, so it’s time to step up and be the leader we all need.

Leading by example can be hard when it comes to addiction. If you or a young adult you know is struggling with addiction, professional help is always a great option. The Bougainvilla House offers adolescent behavioral health programs for individuals and families. Call us today to see how we can help 954-764-7337, or use our convenient Contact form.