The Sensory Duct Tape Challenge for your Kids

You’ve probably watched the viral videos of the duct tape obstacle courses shared on facebook recently.

We are all looking for creative ways to keep our kids engaged and active. While this is a wonderful way to keep your kids active during this unprecedented time in our lives, there are so many skills you can work on with your children through this simple activity.

Children are not born with executive functioning skills, but have the potential to develop them.

Electronic devices provide immediate stimulation and feedback for children and may lead to difficulties in focusing attention, filtering out distractions and inhibiting responses. Having children follow multi-step directions helps to improve working memory, attend to detail, and improve emotional control.

by Rachael Berringer, LAC, MA

Silver Lining of Quarantine Life: NJ Moms Share the Bright Side

We asked our New Jersey mom friends about the moments they treasure most about staying home.

#NJstrong has taken on a whole new meaning since we started staying home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Finding the silver lining of quarantine life matters more than ever. Never before have we been more united in our gratitude for healthcare heroes on the front line of this pandemic as well as every essential worker making sure we are safe and have access to food, medicine, and other necessities.

Meaghan Murphy chalk art

These past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster. We’ve felt anxious, scared and hopeless. But we’ve also felt peaceful at home with our loved ones, grateful for all that we have through this tough time and more united than ever before knowing we are in this together. And we feel hopeful, knowing we will get through this and be stronger for it. We feel thankful knowing that the simple act of staying home is making a big difference and that we can pull together to help those who need it most by donating supplies, food and more.

In the spirit of positivity, we asked our mom friends to share the silver lining of quarantine life… 

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by Dina El Nabli

Promoting Thankfulness – Sharing my family traditions

I wanted to share two ways I promote being thankful as the focus of Thanksgiving!

In my family we have the thankful turkey which gets personalized messages from each family member.  It serves as a great reminder and our family dinner centerpiece!

You can purchase at Bed, Bath and Beyond if you want to add to your family traditions.

We also start a month long tradition of writing a thankful message for each day of the month and put on our Give Thanks tree.

​This is a great family activity that you can discuss on a daily basis and add to the tree.  It also kicks off a feeling of gratitude before the chaos of December’s holidays!

Whatever tradition you do with your family, we hope you find those special moments to be thankful as we are.  We at  PEC are thankful for all of you and wish you Happy Thanksgiving!

by Michelle Krowiak, LCSW

Summer Fun Arts & Crafts

With no ability in art, I still dive into the healing powers of arts and crafts. In my forties, the power of coloring still calms me like no other. I can literally feel my body decompress.

During the summer, I explore arts and crafts with my four children that are engaging and they get them off of their screens while also help soothe their tiny souls.

Here are some of my favorites:

Tie dye:
there are so many ways to take this simple activity and elevate it-
· Research different design patterns and try to create it!

· Use colors to represent a feeling and then create!
· Each person gets a color and is responsible for adding their mark on each family members creation!Rock/shell Painting & Gardens:
As we were down the shore, we collected oracle and shells. On a rainy shore day, we painted and created a unique rock design for each child.Chalk and Chalk Paint Drawing:
Have fun on the drive way and create scenes with each person adding their own flare for one grand master piece!Friendship Bracelets:
My 9 year daughter will spend endless amount of time creating and learning various patterns. This is always a summer joy for her!

Story Stones:
Gather a bunch of stones and paint small
Symbols of who, what, where. Then put in a bag and pick 5 to create a story or each family member picks one and adds to the story.
The fun tales that will be created!!

In short, not artist abilities needed to dive into these fun and therapeutic arts and crafts. The joy of specking time together and building stronger connections will be sparked!

Image from: Pexels

by Michelle Molle-Krowiak, M.Ed., LCSW

Educational/Therapeutic Arts and Crafts

When most people think of arts and crafts, they may think of a creative outlet, a stress relieving activity, or simply something to do to help pass the time. While all of these are true, arts and crafts have tons of therapeutic uses and benefits as well. From young children to adults, arts and crafts can be a significant part of the therapeutic process. They can also be used as educational tools for various reasons. Below are a few examples of some art activities that have some of these benefits.

1. Use Colors
Many people associate colors with certain feelings. Exploring this idea can lead to someone becoming more aware of their feelings and better able to appropriately express these feelings. Incorporating color into an activity that relates to feeling expression and exploration can enhance the therapeutic benefits of it. One example of this type of activity is to draw a circle on a piece of paper. As if it is a pie chart, begin coloring in portions of the circle to demonstrate how much you feel certain emotions. Each emotion should be assigned a different color. Creating something like this can help people understand how they can be feeling multiple emotions at one time, and can also show them how feelings can change. The circle they created one day could look completely different from one they draw on a different day.

2. Self Portraits
Any art and craft activity involving a person using introspection to reflect on themselves can be a very enlightening activity to take part in. It can be very interesting to see how one perceives themselves, physically or not, when asked to create a self portrait. A self portrait project can be a great place to initiate a discussion and exploration regarding one’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as to begin to explore any self-esteem difficulties.

3. Keep Those Hands Busy!
In a world where we are so often on our phones, the very act of putting down any devices to pick up art supplies alone can be therapeutic. Whether it’s knitting needles, colored pencils, or jewelry making supplies, it can be very beneficial to and anxiety soothing to occupy your hands with a productive activity. There is a reason that adult coloring books have gained so much popularity in recent years. Their benefits are undeniable.

Scientific studies have been carried out to determine just how much of a benefit art activities have on the human brain. Art can also be a significant part of treatment for those who have experienced trauma. A 2015 CNN article details the benefits of crafting, describing the process of becoming more mindful as one is engaging in craft activities as almost entering a meditative like state. (Wilson 2015). Not only are there are many benefits to crafting, but there are also many ideas and projects to try. Taking some time to create something can become the most enjoyable part of your day.

Image from: Pexels

by Nicole Filiberti, MSW, LCSW

Games That Help With Therapy

What comes to mind when you first think of the word “games”? Board games? Perhaps hopscotch or duck duck goose? For some, video games are the first to pop up in one’s head. What if I told you that games are more than just a way to entertain yourself and pass some time, or a recreational activity that can be enjoyable for some people? Games can actually be very beneficial in the mental health world and here are some reasons for that.

1. Games can enhance social skills
When working with those who are diagnosed on the autism spectrum and other developmental delays, games provide a fun and engaging way to strengthen social skills. Critical life skills such as turn taking, impulse control, and compromise are all skills to be utilized during game play. There are many teachable moments that can occur through game play. Processing the social implications of cheating in a game or inappropriately reacting to a loss can be impactful moments that are sparked through games.

2. Games provide a device-free opportunity for families to connect
Arranging special time and making it a priority for families to play games together can significantly enhance family communication skills and aide in strengthening challenged relationships between family members. Families who are in therapy can practice any techniques that were addressed in session while enjoying family game time. This relaxed environment provides an excellent opportunity to check-in with various family members and can enhance conflict resolution skills.

3. Games can assist in establishing clinician-client rapport
There are times when establishing a therapeutic relationship with someone can be challenging. Some children may be very anxious and not willing to open up to a stranger. Some may be defiant and purposely holding out on engaging with their therapist. It can be helpful for a therapist to have various games and activities available for use in session, especially initial meetings. Playing a familiar game can be comforting for an anxious child or teenager and may help them feel more relaxed, ready to open up and able to get more out of their sessions.

Games can be a very helpful tool for both therapists and families to use. Games come in a such a wide variety of styles and catered to different age groups, so take some time to find what works for you and your family’s needs. ​

Photo from: Pexels

by Nicole Filiberti, MSW, LCSW

Elevating Game Night!

Family Game Night. It’s on! We all love to spend quality family time with our children – whether they are younger or older or anything in between. Game night is a fun way to bond, be silly, and come out of the ho-hum of the daily routine. But did you know it is also a great opportunity to take everyday games and weave in social and emotional lessons for your kids?I find my kids are more responsive to an indirect teaching and modeling. Using board games is a fun way to incorporate this!As you may know already, I am a mom of 4. My goal right now is to focus on challenging my kids’ negative thoughts and bringing out more of the positive ones. This is an ongoing battle that impacts their self-esteem and increases their anxiety.

Starting young, I play Sunny and Stormy Daysby Peaceable Kingdom. Perfect for preschoolers and early elementary. This game encourages “sharing from the heart” to build communication. I really like that we all have parts of our day that can be “sunny” and parts that are “stormy”. I use this to help my kids fine the good part of the days because even if it was a bad day, there is always a piece of it that was ok or even great. It’s very easy for our children to have a difficult moment and generalize it to the entire day.  That’s what the stormy moment of  this day emphasizes – it doesn’t have to define our child’s whole day.

For a spin on the Classic game of Chutes and Ladders, I use this to help teach frustration tolerance and dealing with set backs. Model for your kids by verbalizing the feelings “oh no… down the slide I go”. Model positive thinking after like “it’s ok, I’ll try to find a ladder and catch up.” Simple externalizations of your own feelings and thoughts builds an internal dialogue for the future in your children. 
Children need to experience all ranges of emotions and failures …. sometimes that chute really sets us back. This is a great way to teach emotional regulation and focus on having fun together. Winning is not always going to happen.  This game of chance really tests everyone’s ability to deal with outside influences that are out of our control

Last, I have the Mad Dragon game (well, I am a therapist after all!). This card game is more directive on teaching anger management triggers and strategies. It allows for a back and forth discussion as well as self-reflection. It’s a game that’s played like Uno, but with the numbers, there are also questions. This is a great tool to talk about which situations or outcomes push your child’s anger buttons. Best of all, you are doing this at a time when your child is calm and regulated, so that back and forth can be really enlightening for you and your child. He may have not really talked about how losing a game can make him really angry. But now that he’s said that out loud, he knows… and so do you! My kids are not immune to experiencing and struggling with emotional regulation either. So I use this as a fun way to learn a little more about them and also help them build skills for the future.

All these games are from my private family collection and not part of any endorsement. I wanted to share a few games that I thought you could can find (if you don’t have them already) and play with your kids that encourage discussion as well as fun. Here’s to an awesome family game night!

Photo from: Pexels

by Michelle Molle-Krowiak, LCSW, Ed.S
"The various psycho-educational testing Dr. Liz conducted on our son gave us critical clues about where his learning strengths and weaknesses lie so that his needs could be better addressed at home and school. Moreover, because of their warm, kindhearted personalities, both Dr. Liz and her associate, Stephanie, formed an immediate bond with my son. He eagerly looks forward to his weekly therapy sessions. We are so lucky Dr. Liz came into our family's lives when she did! For stressed-out families trying to help their children as best they can, she is a calming voice of reason!"
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"Dr. Liz is the best! Our family was directed to her by our Pediatrician to assist with figuring out severe mood changes, severe anxiety, strange new fears and food aversion that had come onto one of our children literally overnight. After just a couple of visits, she suggested that the issues may actually be rooted in a physical issue and suggested we immediately take our child to be swabbed for strep, because Dr. Liz suspected PANDAS (a pediatric autoimmune disorder brought on by strep). The same Pediatrician that suggested Dr. Liz would not do the swab (they do not believe in PANDAS and we no longer go there) but I took my child to my doctor who did the swab and it was positive for strep. When our child went on antibiotics, within 24 hours all symptoms went away and our child was back :-) Dr. Liz then recommended a PANDAS specialist who helped us and our child is in complete remission and is happy and healthy. We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Liz for her knowledge of all things, even the most remote and unusual and for helping us so much! Thank you!"
- Anonymous
"The various psycho-educational testing Dr. Liz conducted on our son gave us critical clues about where his learning strengths and weaknesses lie so that his needs could be better addressed at home and school. Moreover, because of their warm, kindhearted personalities, both Dr. Liz and her associate, Stephanie, formed an immediate bond with my son. He eagerly looks forward to his weekly therapy sessions. We are so lucky Dr. Liz came into our family's lives when she did! For stressed-out families trying to help their children as best they can, she is a calming voice of reason!"
- Anonymous
"Thank you, Dr. Liz. Although we have told you countless times, it will never feel enough. You have listened when J could barely speak and continued to listen when he was sad, angry and confused. You've challenged him and directed us in our roles as parents. You've helped J face his fears while the list evolved and changed, and yet you've stayed committed to 'the course.' We pray that your children realize that time away from them is spent helping children learn and that vulnerability is a sign of strength and bravery."
- June I
"My son was admitted to an Ivy League school when only 2 years ago, you assessed him and saw his struggles, his Dyslexia. We are grateful that he no longer has to carry that deep feeling of inadequacy or shame that must have kept him so self conscious and from reaching his potential. He has the PERFECT program for him. He has A's in high math and economics. He became a Merit Scholar, a Boys State legislature, the HEAD captain of the football team and help a job ALL while studying and managing his classes and disability. I am PROUD of you, a young doctor, who knows and sees the vulnerability of children and helps them recognize "it's NO big deal" God bless."
- Anonymous

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