3 Good Summer Activities for the Long, Hot Days Ahead

Written by Dr. Liz Matheis

Featured on Additude

The summer, we need new ideas for socially distant activities that will keep our kids active — and also learning. Here are 3 ideas for building valuable skills without sacrificing fun in ADHD households.

It’s official: Our hopes and dreams of a return to school — even if only for a socially distant Field Day or a quick graduation ceremony — have been squelched. For the weeks remaining in our academic calendar, we have now fully surrendered to distance learning.

As a parent, I was deflated when New Jersey officially announced schools would not re-open this academic year. Home schooling my 7-year-old son has been a challenge to say the very least. It has been difficult for him to understand and accept that schoolwork and learning now takes place at the kitchen table with his mom (and sometimes dad, older brother, or older sister).

If your child has an IEP, you are now the acting special education teacher and/or paraprofessional. You are modifying work, breaking it down, offering movement breaks, incorporating related services such as speech, occupational, or physical therapy. And if your child qualifies for an extended school year (ESY), you may be looking at keeping this going beyond the third week of June. With summer camps and programs in jeopardy, we are all digging deep to find a fresh supply of creativity, patience, and resourcefulness to keep our kids engaged until Fall.

Here are a few ideas we’re implementing in our home to encourage learning and movement while protecting the sanctity of a fun summer:

image by: pexels

Helping Children Thrive Academically & Emotionally During COVID-19

Helping Children Thrive Academically & Emotionally During COVID-19

During COVID-19, we have been serving as our children’s teachers and we have noticed signs that your child may be struggling with particular academic skills, attention/focus, or anxiety. Watch Dr. Liz discuss the signs of a learning disability as well as ADHD and anxiety and the types of support plans available to your child in school, as well as how to use your Psycho-Educational Evaluation to help your make those decisions.

Practical Ways to Help Your Child Combat Anxious Feelings

By Dr. Liz Matheis

Featured on Shield HealthCare

Living with anxiety is hard enough. Living with a child with anxiety can leave a parent feeling the urgent need to ‘make it better.’ As an anxious person/parent yourself, you know how hard it is to sit with the anxiety and the strong desire to decrease those negative feelings that make it hard to function.

Anxiety can often times look like ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) because of the negative impact it has on focus and attention. That is, imagine your child is presented with a math worksheet with 20 problems. She looks at the sheet and thinks, “I have to do all of this? I’m not good at Math? What if I get all of it wrong?” And the list of thoughts continues on. None of them are positive or encouraging. Now your child is internally focused and is not paying attention to the directions the teacher just provided (which may have been to complete the addition problems only, by the way!).

Anxiety also impacts comprehension and auditory processing. For example, your child is asked to take out his Science book, open it to page 57, complete questions 1-5, tear the page out of the book and place it in the wire basket on the teacher’s desk. For many children, that long list of instructions triggers an anxious response that leaves her unable to process because she is now thinking, “Oh my goodness. I can’t do all that. How am I going to remember how to do all of that?”

 

Focus on What You Can Control

Focusing on what we can’t control often takes our energy and attention away from what we can control.

Focusing on what we can’t control makes us less successful in achieving our goals because we consistently think about the outcomes we fear the most. The more time we spend on the things that are out of our control, such as COVID-19, the less time and energy we have to spend on the things that can truly help us and make a difference.

A great way to reduce these fears and feelings of anxiety is through being present in the moment. This can be done in various ways such as:

  1. Meditating
  2. Going for a walk
  3. Spending time with a close friend
  4. Listening to music

The Anxious Thoughts of an Anxious Mama During COVID-19

Written by Dr. Liz Matheis

Featured on TheMighty

The corona virus (COVID-19) has instigated anxiety for many. Some of us already experienced anxiety on a daily basis and didn’t need to be instigated. Being at home with our family members, working, homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, washing mounds of laundry and trying to find some quiet time amidst being home all together has been quite stressful, to say the very least.

For many of us, being in quarantine has created a sense of vulnerability and fear that may not have existed in this large-scale version. We are bored of staying home and scared to leave. There are so many pressures to be present and yet work and teach our children. There is pressure to take advantage of the time at home with our families and the time that has been created, and yet we may not have the energy or the desire to do much because so much energy is spent just trying to get through the day.

Image by Pexels

Jazzin’ it up during Quarantine

Feeling bored? Here are some fun and creative ideas to help keep you entertained.

  • Sign up for an online guided art class
  • Spice up one of the rooms in your home with a fresh coat of paint
  • Start a new TV series- if there’s a time to binge watch a show, its now!
  • Rearrange your furniture or add some new home decor
  • Listen to an audio book or discover a new podcast
  • Try a new recipe or bake your favorite dessert

How Do I Re-Enter the COVID-19 World?

Creating a plan as the world begins to open up.

Written by Dr. Liz Matheis
Featured on Psychology Today

As the number of cases of COVID-19 starts to level off, our world will begin to slowly re-open. For many, this is a huge relief, as it offers the opportunity to come in contact with real people in real-time rather than a video in which your friend or family member’s voice, words, and facial expressions that are not in sync. It provides a glimpse of the normality of our lives as we knew them pre-pandemic.

Quarantine has been this funny time where, although we were forced to shut down, we were also forced to slow down our life’s rat race that was leading to nowhere and fast. For some, quarantine has given us a chance to connect with our families, to play board games, to take walks and bike rides. It has given us time to declutter or finally get to work on that project or projects in our home. It has given us a chance to find books again. A chance to cook and find our love of creating meals for our families. A chance to re-connect via phone or video with family and friends because life was just “too busy.”

Image by pexels.

How I’m Managing My Anxiety and Parenting During COVID-19

How I’m Managing My Anxiety and Parenting During COVID-19

Written by Heidi Lynn Borst

I’ve lived with anxiety in varying gradients throughout my entire life. As a kid, I was considered “shy,” always hiding behind my mother or sister when introduced to new people. Throughout high school and young adulthood, I struggled to quiet my inner paranoia over how others perceived me, always “in my own head.” I averted my eyes when passing someone on the street, not comfortable enough to look up and say hello.

Now in my 40s with a child of my own, I’ve mastered the many challenges my social anxiety presents, finding healthy ways to keep my self-inflicted fears in check. No longer dependent on two to three glasses of wine to feel comfortable in social situations, I’ve struck a manageable balance of social engagements and “me” time. My anxiety is not a limit anymore, and I’ve flourished. Then came COVID-19, a worldwide crisis that has brought many of us to our knees. My anxiety has resurfaced to an astonishing degree, an ever-persistent lump in my throat that I can’t seem to eradicate.

Photo credit: Koldunov/Getty Images

Virtual Learning Is Putting a Serious Strain on Teachers and Parents of Children With Special Needs

Virtual Learning Is Putting a Serious Strain on Teachers and Parents of Children With Special Needs

Written by Murphy Moroney

For Jamie Croshaw, remote learning has been incredibly difficult. As a mom to a 6-year-old daughter, Emma, and a 3-and-a-half-year-old son, Jackson, who has cerebral palsy, autism, as well as other medical needs, Jamie initially thought she could handle stepping up as her children’s teacher. But now that she’s seven weeks into social distancing, Jamie is at her wit’s end.

“When we received notice that school was going to be doing remote learning, we thought how hard can it be?!” Jamie told POPSUGAR. “Boy, were we wrong. Suddenly overnight, I had to become a kindergarten teacher, a special needs preschool teacher, and a physical, occupational, and speech therapist. Plus, I had the regular duties of being a stay-at-home-mom and wife.”

For Jamie, the struggle of homeschooling two kids set in immediately. Although she was hoping to get the hang of distance learning as time went on, her frustration only grew. And she’s certainly not alone. In the US, 1 in 5 children have learning disabilities such as ADHD and dyslexia, and 7 million kids have individualized education programs (IEPs), a document that’s developed for each public school child who is eligible for special education.

Image Source: Getty / Maskot

4 Ways to Slow Down and Connect With Yourself and Your Kids

How the COVID-19 pandemic is giving many of us the opportunity to slow down and embrace our true selves.

Written by Heidi Borst

Here in the New Jersey area, at the epicenter of the global COVID-19 pandemic, life as we know it has forever changed. The things we once took for granted, like stopping at our favorite coffee shop on the way to work, taking our kids to swim practice, or having extended family over for a weekend barbecue, have become too risky. Instead, the pressing objective of every single thing we do (or, more accurately, don’t do) is to flatten the curve. Finding our new normal isn’t easy. As parents, we’re navigating a wide range of emotions: anxiety, anger, confusion, fear and more. At the same time, we strive to balance the demands of work or the stress of unemployment, homeschooling our children (a job none of us signed up for), and a few minutes of self-care—remember that?

Our job is to guide our children during this unprecedented time, even if we’d rather hide under the covers until it’s all over. Social distancing, aka being stuck at home with no end in sight, may feel impossible, but it’s also an unprecedented opportunity for us to slow down and connect with our families. Now more than ever, in this period of immense uncertainty, we’re yearning for truth, honesty and transparency. By being authentic and open during this surreal time, we can show our children the way through. Three authenticity experts weigh in:

Image by istockphoto.com

"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!"
- Julie C.
"Dr. Matheis has a remarkable ability to understand the unique needs of her patients and address them constructively. She builds strong, meaningful relationships with patients and their families, encouraging trust and collaboration. When working with my son who struggles with autism-related anxiety, she created an environment in which he was able to calm down and open up to her in ways I had not seen before. She was able to reach him and helped him work through his crisis/problem. Most importantly, she empowered him to move forward."
- N.L.
"Dr. Matheis is amazing. She has tremendous resources and loads of energy. She is not willing to accept anything less than the most effective results for her clients. She made me feel as if my son was her top priority throughout the entire process. I would, without reservation, give her my highest recommendations.  Thank you, Dr. Matheis!"
- Anonymous
"Dr. Matheis has an amazing ability to read kids and connect with them. She has been an invaluable resource for our family over the past several years and has helped us with everything from educational consulting, to uncovering diagnoses as well as family therapy. Working with Dr. Matheis never feels clinical and most importantly, our children love and trust her. We can not thank you enough Dr. Liz!"
- Anonymous
"My teenage son had been seeing Dr. Matheis through his senior year of high school, as he was only diagnosed with ADHD at 16 years old.  Dr. Matheis came highly recommended from our pediatrician and she has done wonders for our son as well as our family, navigating new ways for him to deal with his diagnosis without the use of medication.  She taught him ways to organize himself and even when something did not work for him, she patiently continued teaching him new ways to keep himself on track.  She has also helped us as parents to understand how his mind works so that we did not continue to blame his lack of focus on him, rather on his unique way of thinking.  Thank you Dr. Matheis!!!!"
- LG
"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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