A Real Break on School Break

A Real Break on School Break

written by Nicole Filiberti MSW, LCSW

Navigating days off of school due to holidays or breaks can be a difficult ask for families. Children and teens can have a hard time with these changes in their routines. When adding on the continuing COVID pandemic, families may feel limited in their options in terms of activities and outings that are possible, especially during the colder months. Here are some ideas for dealing with these days.
Preparation is key
It can be especially important to prepare kids for the upcoming change in the schedule. The use of visuals can be very helpful in this situation and you can label the upcoming holidays in the calendar for them to see. Providing that knowledge ahead of time can potentially save students from the difficulty they may have dealing with unexpected change. Of course, there are also some kids who will jump for joy at the news of a day off of school so it really depends on the child!
Make a non-screen time activity a priority
With hybrid and fully remote learning models, children and teens have really experienced an increase in the amount of time they spend on a screen. It can be helpful to set aside some time on a day off to prioritize a non-screen related activity. If the weather permits, outside time is always a nice idea. If your family is more interested in an indoor activity, try to think of creative outlets for children to tap into. Making up a dance, a play, or creating a fun craft project can be a great way to enjoy the time off.
Treat it like a mental health day
Just like adults, children can also benefit from some self care and relaxation. Have a conversation with your child about the upcoming day off and ask them what they would enjoy doing to relax and unwind. It is beneficial for children to have the idea of self care normalized. Children have been navigating a ton of changes and challenges due to the ongoing pandemic and they deserve some time to relax just as much as adults do.
There are multiple options to try and make the best of these days off. Assessing the needs of your family as well as considering what is feasible is an important piece of this process. With some planning and preparation, school breaks and holidays do not have to be something to fear.

15-Minute Neck-and-Shoulder Stretch Relieves Tension

This Neck-and-Shoulder Stretch Relieves Tension in Your Body & Mind

by Erin Bunch, featured in wellandgood.com, 2/2/2021

After a year of moving from your bed to your desk to your couch—because pandemics are not conducive to much else—it wouldn’t be surprising if your entire body feels like garbage. Most specifically, your neck and shoulders are probably crying out for a massage. On the latest episode of Good Moves, Brooklyn-based BK yoga club co-founders Alicia Ferguson and Paris Alexandra demo just how easy it is to relieve such stiffness and pain with a simple yoga flow that serves as a neck-and-shoulder stretch.

A School Psychologist’s Guide to Supporting Your Child in COVID-19 Lockdown This Year

A School Psychologist’s Guide to Supporting Your Child in COVID-19 Lockdown This Year

Written by Dr. Liz Matheis/Featured in The Mighty 1/2021

The beginning of the new year usually brings hope, resolutions and plans. This January 2021, the new year feels different. More of the same. It’s been 10 months, almost one year of living through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Our lives are the most isolated they have been given the dark, cold winter and a holiday season that was “OK” and pretty much unsatisfying for many. As we continue to parent day by day with virtual learning, working from home, video meetings and chats and limited interactions with the outside world, our stress and exhaustion level is increasing.

What a Mess!

Continued Pandemic Parenting

Continued Pandemic Parenting

written by Dr. Liz Matheis, published on www.shieldhealthcare.com 1/25/21

The beginning of the new year usually brings hope, resolutions and plans. This January 2021, the new year feels different. More of the same. It’s been 10 months, almost one year of living through the COVID-19 pandemic. Our lives are the most isolated they have been given the dark, cold winter and a holiday season that was “okay” and pretty much unsatisfying.

As we continue to parent day by day with virtual learning, working from home, video meetings and chats and limited interactions with the outside world, our stress and exhaustion level is increasing.

What a Mess!

The struggles of parenting during this time have been immense. Think about how you and your family are coping. Are you, your significant other or children:

• Over eating?
• Under eating?
• Over sleeping?
• Under sleeping?
• Struggling to fall asleep?
• Feeling lethargic?
• Over exercising?
• Feeling anxious?
• OCD-like behaviors?

As we continue to not be able to identify an end in sight, we may be finding ways to cope that aren’t necessarily helpful. Take note of how you and your family are coping and discuss if your go-to ways of managing through this time are not bringing relief.

Many of us, as parents, and our children feel out of control, anxious, and our usual outlets are not available. Mom’s nights out, going to the spa, exercising at the gym or extracurricular activities, hanging with friends and other ways to have fun and decompress are no longer available to us, or are available with significant limitations.

When Should I Start to Worry about My Kids?

7 Strategies for Getting Through Virtual Learning During COVID-19

7 Strategies for Getting Through Virtual Learning During COVID-19

Written by Dr. Liz Matheis/ Published 1.18.2021 on www.shieldhealthcare.com

Virtual Learning. It’s become the bane of our existence.

As parents, we are watching our children struggle while we struggle with them. Our children are having a hard time paying attention, finding assignments, completing them, and turning them in via virtual learning. It requires additional skills such as typing, navigating email, portals such as the Google Classroom and grading portals. Prior to the pandemic, many of our children entered into the classroom, were supervised during each task, had the ability to ask questions, and were provided with handouts that they were able to complete and return without forgetting to click “Turn In.”

For middle school students and high school students, it is difficult for our children to sit for hours and complete written or online work. For example, if your child has ADHD, sitting at a desk or table for several hours will likely result in lost periods of time staring out the window, chatting with friends, or even staring at the riveting ceiling fan.

For younger students, it’s difficult to cover the multiple demands of being a student with little teacher assistance through a computer. Our young children are required to type some of their responses, or even essays. How many children in kindergarten do you know who are proficient typists? Not many. That leaves parents to type their children’s answers or incomplete assignments if parents are not available.

With teaching taking place via video screen, there is plenty of room and time for our children to log on to YouTube or watch videos while appearing to be present and attentive in class. For many adolescents and young adults, they are struggling to get started on assignments and end up having multiple missed assignments which is resulting in lower grades than in past years. Low motivation and anxiety and depression are also on the rise for many of our children. They miss seeing friends, walking to school, getting on and off the bus, participating in specials and playing on the playground.

5 Charts You Need If Identifying Your Emotions Is Hard

5 Charts You Need if Identifying Your Emotions is Difficult

Written by Gabrielle Ferrara, MSW, LSW/ Featured in The Mighty 9/17/2020

“How do you feel?”

No, really. How do you actually feel?

Identifying our emotions can be one of the most difficult things we do on a regular basis. It’s easy to say we are feeling “good” or “happy”; even saying we’re feeling “stressed” has become normalized. However, how we are truly feeling (and why) is often much more nuanced and complicated. Luckily, various artists, authors and researchers in the field of psychology have created charts and tools to help us out. Here are five charts you may need if you have a hard time identifying your emotions.

Diagnosis: Pandemic Fatigue

Diagnosis: Pandemic Fatigue

Written by Dr. Liz Matheis

Featured in: Psychology Today, 1/17/2021

I am so tired of thinking about COVID-19. I’m tired of having to think about masks, disinfecting, and all the consideration that goes into making decisions about things that were effortless.

A great many of us are anxious, sad, and feeling exhausted. There is no end in sight. We don’t know when life will return to “normal” or if life after the pandemic will ever return to “normal.”

Photo by Alex Green from Pexels  

Snow Volcano

Volcanos help kids understand their anger.  To help bridge counseling with home,  make a volcano together! Thank you Rose LaPiere & Quinte for a fun snow activity!
Michelle Molle-Krowiak Ed.S, LCSW
Snow Volcano
Materials:
2 spoonfuls of baking soda
1 spoonful of dish soap
A few drops of food coloring
1 ounce of vinegar
Snow
Small cup/container
Instructions:
Take the plastic cup/container and place it in the ground
Build up the snow around the cup, packing tightly. Be sure to keep the opening of the cup/container free from snow.
Add all ingredients except the vinegar into the container
When you are ready for eruptions, add the vinegar into the container
Stand back and enjoy!

Too Noisy – App Review

“Too Noisy” App Review

written by Nicole Filiberti, MSW, LCSW/ Psychological & Educational Consulting, LLC
A social skill that can be very useful for students with special needs and neurotypical kids alike is using an appropriate voice level for their current setting. The voice level used in a library is different than the one used on a playground. This skill utilizes both self-regulation (assuring I use the appropriate voice level even if I’m frustrated or very excited) and perspective taking (how does my voice level impact those around me?) An app that can be useful for this skill is “Too Noisy”. I downloaded the app and tested it out and I’m here to share my thoughts.
  • It’s very-user friendly
    There is no need to create an account to enjoy the free version of this app. You simply download the app and get to using it right away. It is very user friendly and easy to figure out the different settings. There are options to upgrade to the “pro” version which includes more background theme options, but I find the sunny blue-sky version that comes along with the free one works just fine to assist kids with this skill.
  • It’s visually engaging
    “Too Noisy” uses a cute little emoji face who reacts to the noise level received by the app. The facial expressions change in reaction to the voice level being just right and getting too loud. This is great because it strengthens the skill of interpreting how other people feel through facial expressions.
  • It’s easy to incorporate into the daily routine
    Downloading the app on a phone or iPad means you can easily set it up to be on while your child is completing homework, playing in the living room, or getting work done during a virtual learning day. Explain to your child that the goal is to keep the emoji happy which means they are using the appropriate voice level. There are different settings you can use with the free version that allow you to adjust the sensitivity of the microphone to best fit your needs at the time.
"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."
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"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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